A very mixed bag of music on the train this morning from my now 16,307-song strong iPod, beginning with Keith Moon’s brave but ultimately imprudent stab at The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ from his ill-advised solo album Two Sides Of The Moon, released in 1975. There was something tragically comic about this whole episode of Moonie’s life, covered in enormous detail in Tony Fletcher’s Dear Boy biography, and in many ways the whole sorry business is captured in this track, wherein Keith – the greatest rock drummer of his generation – is reduced to crooning tunelessly along to John Lennon’s warmly resonant and rather nostalgic Rubber Soul song about the Liverpool he left behind. In Keith’s hands it is equally nostalgic and quite poignant in the light of the fates that would befall both he and its writer. He still couldn’t sing for toffee, though, and would have much been better advised recording an album of instrumental surf music with great drum tracks.
One thing Keith Moon wasn’t was boring so Morrissey’s delightfully titled ‘The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores’ from You Are The Quarry can’t have been aimed at him. I like this song a lot, especially the verse aimed at bland pop stars ‘thicker than pig shit… so scared to show intelligence it might smear their lovely career’. TV talent show contestants take note.
We move on to a track called ‘Green Lady’, a tasteful but unfulfilling guitar instrumental by the jazz guitarist Martin Taylor from a classical chill-out album that I was given a while back, and this is followed by Oasis, ‘Don’t Go Away’ from their 1998 album Be Here Now, an unusually downbeat song for them that I hadn’t heard in ages, nice too.
Next up is Bruce Springsteen with his Sessions Band, the folksy crowd, singing ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ from the live album recorded in Dublin in November 2006. Originally appearing on Bruce’s Human Touch album in 1992, ‘… Fall Behind’ was among the highlights of his output during this era, a touching love song about a couple on the eve of their wedding. Often used in concert as a post-encore adieu, with all the members of the E Street Band taking a line, it is here given a rolling waltz time treatment, its tempo reminiscent of barn dances in the Old West, and all the better for it. Its strength is in its simplicity, and I could listen to this again and again.
As the Bruce-inspired audience singalong fades away I’m brought back to reality by The Who’s ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, from their BBC Sessions CD, recorded for Saturday Club (BBC Light Programme), recorded on May 24, 1965 at the BBC Playhouse Theatre, London. Many years ago I was asked by Polydor to produce a feasibility report on The Who’s BBC tracks which I still have. For this I wrote: “This is a knockout live version of The Who’s second single which I had wanted to include on the box set. Indeed, after I played it to Roger Daltrey at Trinifold’s office in 1993 he remarked, ‘It’s better than the bloody single.’ Indeed it is. Killer solo too.” My opinion has not changed. (Memo to self: adapt this document as future JB Who post.)
This was followed by Duke Ellington, or at least the Duke Ellington Orchestra – including many original members – conducted by his son Mercer, playing ‘In A Mellotone’, a lovely 1930s jazz piece from a superb CD I bought years ago called Digital Duke that was released in 1987. Featuring many contemporary jazz stars paying tribute to the great Duke of Wellington, I can’t recommend this album highly enough for anyone wanting an Ellington primer. ‘Cottontail’ and ‘Take The A Train’, both featuring Branford Marsalis, are outstanding.
‘Fresh Feeling’ by Eels took me by surprise with its string-driven intro and uncharacteristic warmth as most of their Souljacker (2001) album is a bit of a challenge, but once Mark Everett’s began to sing I recognised the source. It was even easier to recognise The Shadows playing ‘Atlantis’, not one of their greatest tracks, from a hits CD I’ve had for years and picked up second hand for next to nothing. Nevertheless, there’s something awfully wistful about hearing ol’ Hank’s reverb-drenched red Stratocaster, the first one ever to cross the Atlantic I believe, even if tracks like ‘Apache’, ‘FBI’, ‘Dance On’ and ‘Foot Tapper’ are more representative than this melodic tune on which the rest of the band is subverted by syrupy strings. (Back in 1964 I played all those instrumentals in my own little band The Pandas whose illustrious career is outlined on this Just Backdated post I wrote as a tribute to their late drummer: http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-vicar-pandas-skipton.html)
From The Shadows we skip forward well over 50 years to the truly wonderful Courtney Barnett, a rising star on the Melbourne indie scene whose two CDs are among the most recent additions to my library. Uncompromising, with a touch of Chrissie Hyde mixed up with R.E.M., Nirvana and a nod to sixties bands like The Who and Kinks, Courtney’s second album Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit was acclaimed by my old pal Everett True in the Guardian earlier this year and on that recommendation I bought it and enjoyed it so much I got her earlier album too. This morning she sings ‘Dead Fox’ from the Sometimes… album, whose title is a quote from Winnie The Pooh I think. Much of Courtney’s appeal lies in her intriguing lyrics, this one about green ethical concerns, here married to her usual spikey backing.
Finally this morning, as Waterloo looms, we have Elvis and ‘Burning Love’, one of the last great rock’n’roll songs he ever recorded, and a nice way for my what’ll-it-play-next mini juke box to conclude its morning session.