The ever expanding iPod now contains 16,226 songs and threw up a real mixed bag this morning, beginning with Prince’s ‘She’s Always In My Hair’, a pleasant pop song that could have been written by The Beatles, from a double CD I have called The Hits/B-Sides, with one of Prince’s sparky little guitar solos, not a song I was familiar with but very agreeable nonetheless.
The same can be said for ‘Goblin Girl’, a thinly disguised testament to the wonders of fellatio by Frank Zappa from his album Have I Offended Someone. This whole album is full of songs designed to get up the noses of the moralists who try to censor pop music, a deeply satisfying enterprise at which Frank excelled. On this doo-wop style song he celebrates girls who can ‘gobble it all’ to a tune that could have been written by the Brill Building composers who provided songs for The Drifters and their contemporaries. Of course the song masquerades as a Halloween party singalong but we know where you’re coming from Frank.
Still in doo-wop mode we move on to the always satisfying ‘Duke Of Earl’ by the Duke himself, Gene Chandler, from a compilation called The Essential Rock’n’Roll Album that I think I bought many years for £2 at a motorway service station. This can be dangerous as the versions of songs on these ultra-budget CDs are often re-recorded for copyright reasons and never a patch on the originals. Fortunately this is the original, a US number one in January, 1962, deservedly so.
Next up is Franz Ferdinand with ‘Take Me Out’ from their eponymous debut album from 2004, all riffy guitars that slow down until they seem likely to stop altogether, then crank up again into the now well-known and very catchy chorus.
Next, in one of those odd coincidences that my iPid seems to throw up from time to time, we have another track from that same Essential Rock’n’Roll CD, ‘Wooly Bully’ by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, a great song that reached number two in the US in 1965. A classic golden oldie, this is a lively 12-bar with a hint of bubblegum, guaranteed to get the feet tapping, even on the 0854 to Waterloo.
‘Positive Tension’ by Block Party sounds like Kraftwerk with much deep bass lines than usual but when the songs gets into gear they sound like Franz F, plenty of muscle, as is the case with ‘Changing Man’ by Paul Weller from a live CD recorded at Glastonbury that I think came free with a magazine.
This is followed by Abba’s ‘He Is Your Brother’, live from Adelaide in 1977, a poorly recorded bootleg that was among the Abba discs sent to me by my Abba pal/author Carl Magnus Palm. This a bit cheesy, with Bjorn on vocals and the girls held back until the chorus, so for the first time this morning I fast forward and up comes ‘I Shall Be Released’ from Dylan’s superb Before The Flood, the live album he recorded with The Band on his 1974 tour of the US. On this track his Bobness takes a back seat and lets Richard Manuel take the vocal, most soulful too. Beautiful.
I thought this would be highlight of the morning until David Bowie cropped up next, his re-recorded version of ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ from the unreleased Toy album that David Buckley sent me earlier this year. Originally written in 1967, Bowie excels on this, a coming of age love song that until ‘Space Oddity’ was the best song he’d recorded up to this time. In his new book about Bowie’s work, The Music And The Changes, David writes: “Toy, originally recorded in 2000, was leaked online 11 years later, and came as an unexpected treat at a time many commentators predicted no more music from Bowie ever again. It may not be the final version of the album, or the correct track list and running order, but it sounds mixed and ready to go. Quizzed about the album’s sudden appearance, Bowie’s office has refused to comment.”
‘Old Friends’ by Simon & Garfunkel follows, a track from their 1968 album, Bookends. It is the concluding track on side one of this album about which I once wrote: “All the best qualities of these two strangely disparate characters coalesced now on Bookends, the first vinyl side of which was the most cohesive series of songs they ever recorded together. This track finds two old men sat on a park bench, both of them turned 70, with nothing but memories to prop them up. Jimmy Haskell's string arrangement adds poignancy to the gentle pace as melancholia dominates the fade-out, a coda that returns to the Bookends theme which opened the album and which further echoes the theme of memories. Our two old men are not relishing their lot, and the sense of pathos is almost overwhelming as the song, and side one of the vinyl release, draws to a close.”
From Simon’s melancholia we switch to Boy George, on top form for Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’, always easy on the ears, from an ’80s Hits CD I picked up in a charity shop for £1.50 I think, and as the train slows down to enter Waterloo we just have time for the opening lines from ‘Dog Faced Boy’ by The Eels. I’ll listen to the rest tonight. The whole family went to see The Eels in Brighton a few years ago, and a fine time was had by all of us.