With the holidays receding into the ether, I was back on the commuter train this morning, a bit of a jolt but still with the iPod for company, now increased in capacity to 15,727 songs as a result of Christmas additions that included a 4-CD Jimi Hendrix box set, the 5-CD Elvis in the seventies collection, which I’d been meaning to investigate for ages, a couple of The War On Drugs albums and, Sam’s left-field choice for me, an album called The Campfire Headphase by The Boards Of Canada, a Scottish electro-pop duo.
So with 15,000+ songs in the barrel, anything can happen when I switch on shuffle and first up this morning was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s unnecessarily long version of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, not my favourite CCR track by any means but it wiled away 10 or more minutes while I chuckled over Prince Andrew getting into hot water over some sexual indiscretion which has been ‘angrily denied’ by Palace officials. As the late great Mandy Rice-Davies would have said, ‘Well they would wouldn’t they’.
CCR were followed by ‘Perth’, the opening track from the second album by Bon Iver whose records I discovered about two years ago and like a lot. Their music is on the ambient side, very haunting, ethereal, and this one benefits from a swelling brass section towards the end. I was happy to introduce their lovely debut album For Emma, Forever Ago to an Emma who worked in our offices for a while but now lives in Melbourne.
Clearly unaware that Christmas is now over, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles cropped up next with ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ but I was getting fed up of Christmas songs by now – I made a playlist of 30-odd for a party chez CC over the holiday – and don’t even want to hear Spector’s Christmas LP again, though I will never tire of The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’. So I fast forwarded to what turned out to be Derek & The Dominoes’ ‘Roll It Over’, a medium placed blues from the Layla album, the sort of thing Eric’s pal George Harrison would have liked to play I thought as Surbiton station flashed by.
Next up was Block Party’s ‘Where Is Home’, quite new to me as daughter Olivia had downloaded two of their CDs for me as she thought I might enjoy them. An unusual acapella opening leads to drum and vocals only, and some phased machine-gun guitar before the song breaks out with slightly off key vocals and an air of menace. A taste I have yet to acquire. This was followed by Simply Red, ‘Freedom’ from their Stars album which I at first thought was a cover of ‘How Long’, the 1974 hit by Ace. If I was Paul Carrack I’d play this to a copyright lawyer. Mick Hucknall takes song into Isaac Hayes territory as it develops, but I’ve never been a big fan of his blue-eyed soul.
‘The Line’ from The Ghost Of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen came next. I have a lot of Bruce on the iPod, 379 songs in all, but this album is among my least played which I ought to rectify as I enjoyed the fragility of this gentle song, another in that album’s theme of sympathy for dispossessed folk living on the Mexican-American border. The melody is simple but Brice sings earnestly about the border guards’ endless war against migrant families.
Two songs from The Who cropped up next as my train sped through Clapham Junction and into Waterloo. The first was ‘Rael’, the early mix from the bonus CD added to the last upgraded reissue of The Who Sell Out. This was the original recording produced by Kit Lambert at Talent Masters Studio, New York, July 1967, but it isn’t as developed as the later, better-known version and about half way through it descends into an unmelodic electronic work-out, just Pete I think, twiddling with the knobs on his guitar. An untitled advert for milk shakes spoken by Keith brought it to an end and, curiously (since consecutive songs by the same act are rare), it was followed by ‘Lubie (Come Back Home)’ from the bonus disc attached to the last upgraded reissue of My Generation. This was actually a cover of Paul Revere & the Raiders ‘Louie Go Home’, (previously recorded by Davie Jones & the King Bees as the B-side to their 1964 Vocalion single ‘Liza Jane’ – Davie Jones, of course, became David Bowie). For reasons lost in the passage of time, The Who revised the title to ‘Lubie (Come Back Home)’. Not the most accomplished Who cover but Roger gives it his all, and it reminded me a bit of the tracks he recorded with Wilko Johnson on last year’s Going Back Home album.
Just as the train hit Waterloo, The Who was replaced by The Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Let’s Go To War’ from their recent Futurology album. Though I was once deeply offended by Nicky Wire’s ill-judged remarks about John Lennon and Michael Stipe (I eventually put that down to immaturity), I’ve forgiven them now and I have a good deal of time for the Manics. This is a bit of a tub-thumper by their standards, not one of their better offerings, but in the fullness of time I will write more extensively about this Welsh group. After his disappearance I remember reading somewhere that Richey Edwards had been spotted busking on the streets of Skipton, my home town. Always fascinating to see this picturesque but otherwise dull little town mentioned in connection with rock.