My days as a commuter will draw to an end early next year, but in the meantime I’m still clamping on the headset as the 0894 pulls out of Guildford heading north east towards London. First up today is The Beach Boys and ‘Our Sweet Love’, a pleasant if unremarkable track from Sunflower which found its way on to my iPod via Summer Love Songs, a 2009 compilation of 20 of the BB’s more tender moments, newly remixed, that I can recommend for anyone seeking to successfully woo their partner on the beach in a warm resort where the sea laps the sand.
Next up is ‘Hong Kong Garden’ by Siouxsie & her Banshees, their very worthy debut hit from 1978, from a comp I picked up in the supermarket called Up Yours Punk’s Not Dead. Steve Severin plays a furiously strummed guitar over Chinese style percussion and more than a hint of the mysterious Orient while Siouxsie sings of Chicken Chow Mein and Chop Suey, evidently about a Chinese takeaway of the same name but there’s a deeper comment in there somewhere about the Chinese race. I haven’t heard this in ages but I’m glad I did again.
Siouxsie is followed by Abba singing ‘The Way Old Friends’, their Old Lang Syne pastiche that was used to close concerts late in their career. Led by Benny on accordion and Frida taking the lion’s share of the vocals, this the sort of stirring singalong anthem that patriotic crowds sing when someone has won an Olympic gold medal. This version is taken from the fairly recent Live At Wembley album, reviewed elsewhere on Just Backdated, and not the more widely known live recording on More Abba Gold. Serious lighters in the air stuff.
The wide variety of music on my iPod is no better illustrated by the fact that this is followed by ‘Fever’, the old Peggy Lee song, here given a reggae treatment by Junior Byles, very laid back indeed, and then one of my much-loved more recent discoveries, Tama Impala, with ‘Yes I’m Changing’ from their Currents album, released in July this year and a fixture in my car ever since. For this album Kevin Parker has largely abandoned his dreamy guitars for equally dreamy synthesisers, but not so on this lovely track which, as with much of TA’s music, puts me in mind of Lennon, or more precisely what Lennon might have got up to had not fate dealt him the worst card imaginable. Actually this reminds me a bit of ‘#9 Dream’, sumptuous, melodic, Spectoresque, with a swirling backdrop that would have been both unavailable and unthinkable in Lennon’s time.
And now it’s a touch of jazz, ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy’ by Oscar Peterson & his Trio from his 1963 album Night Train, a record that Chris Welch recommended to me many years ago when I felt like I wanted to learn more about jazz and needed a bit of guidance. He certainly did me a favour as this album is perfect if you like tricky piano jazz, ideal for a late evening.
Oscar is followed by folksy singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, ‘The Story’ from her debut album Steady On from 1989, a favourite of Mrs C, and then by JS Bach’s ‘Prelude In C Major’, one of those harpsichord pieces that you expect to hear in the background to historical plays based on the works of Hilary Mantel. No lesser authority than Jack Bruce once said that Bach was the master of the bass line, and this piece, a stream of arpeggios grounded by a descending left hand pivot, explains what he was getting at. Very medieval. Of the 16,000+ songs of the iPod these days less than 1% are classical but it makes a change.
From Germany long ago to what sounds like Africa, Deborah Harry with ‘Calmarie’ from Def Dum And Blonde, her third solo album released in 1989, on which she adopted ‘Deborah’ as opposed to ‘Debbie’ for her professional purposes. More like Blondie than her other solo efforts, this song is actually a sort of tone poem with indecipherable lyrics, very chilled out and very listenable.
Next up are R.E.M., always a favourite of mine, with ‘All The Way To Reno’ from 2001’s Reveal album though this version comes from Unplugged 1991/2001. It was at this point in R.E.M.’s career than guitars fell out of favour, not a move I welcomed but this still sounds lovely, as does almost all of this Unplugged CD, another one I reviewed elsewhere on JB.
Keyboards seem to dominate the ride this morning, for next we have Scott Joplin – ‘New Rag’ from an album called, surprisingly enough, The Entertainer. Very enjoyable as the train rattles along, even if most of these rags sound remarkably similar.
Finally, we have Kraftwerk and ‘Man Machine’ from Minimum-Maximum, their 2005 live album which I always though was a bit odd because, as David Buckley pointed out in his KW book Publikation, “although the authenticity of having a ‘best of’ of live performances masquerading as one show might be said to have been compromised (performances in Warsaw, Moscow, Berlin, London, Budapest, Tallinn, Riga, Tokyo, and San Francisco formed the composted aural whole), what cannot be levelled as a piece of criticism is that the music itself isn’t played. It just isn’t played with instruments.”
Nevertheless, the sound of Kraftwerk’s machine music seems somehow appropriate as I approach the towering arch of Waterloo and pull up alongside these great machines called trains that carry us hither and thither.