Friday, July 25, 2014

Well well, take off your face (Paul McCartney) #249 - 254

Paul McCartney Another Day/ Oh Woman Oh Why (Apple, NZP 3398, 1971)

Paul and Linda McCartney Uncle Albert Admiral Halsey/ Too Many People (Apple, NZP 3410, 1971)

Paul and Linda McCartney Eat At Home/ Smile Away (Apple, NZP 3406, 1971)

Wings Give Ireland Back To The IrishGive Ireland Back To The Irish (Version) (Apple, A 9866, 1972)

Wings Mary Had A Little LambLittle Woman Love (Apple, A 9924, 1972)

Wings Hi Hi Hi/ C Moon (Apple, NZP 3449, 1972)

Welcome to the wacky world of Paul McCartney singles. He used a number of guises along the way (you'll see what I mean as I go) so for ease of brain I've collected them all together under 'Paul McCartney'. 

This bunch forms his 1971 and 1972 efforts - from the parent album Ram and single only songs, or a combination of both in the case of Another Day. Good fun!

Now let me declare some prejudices at the outset: I'm a Lennon obsessive first and foremost, a Beatles collector second and a Beatles related product completist third (that explains all the Apple Records singles appearing in this countdown and the Ringo stuff to come).

That means that some of McCartney's stuff can be dodgy for me to listen to, even now. His quality control has never been a strength.

But having said that - McCartney had some amazingly awesome singles. There are five in the list above (one guess which one's the naff one).

Another Day didn't make the Ram cut and I can see why - it IS a natural single though. Even though Lennon has a pop at it in How Do You Sleep? it has a great pop hook and it's deceptively simple. It's McCartney in Rita Meter Maid third person narration mode which he's clearly a master of, but one which Lennon disapproved of.

Uncle Albert etc is one of my favourite Macca songs ever. In fact Ram is an terrific album which I've always loved. This brings back wonderful memories of my teenage bedroom at 18 Korma Rd. in Royal Oak, listening to the radio in my room, soaking up the oddities of this track. Something about it always brings me back to that teenage me.

Whatever your politics and whether or not you regard this as radical opportunism, Give Ireland etc is another wonderful song with a great pop hook. It was a single one off and displays Macca's genius in a glorious way.

Hi Hi Hi is McCartney as rocker and, my oh my - he sure can rock.  

Hidden gems: The first four B sides all come from Ram and are, for me, best heard on that album. The real hidden gem here is C Moon. Another example of Macca's tossed off genius for a catchy chune.

It's really hard to pick one track to highlight among these fantastic songs but this clip comes complete with some wonderful home movie footage of the McCartney's Ram days on their home in Scotland.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are stardust (Joni Mitchell) #248

Matthews Southern Comfort 
Woodstock/ Scion (MCA, MC/S 2095, 1970)

Ah Woodstock. Long time readers will know how much I revere those three days man, threee days - we just love ya, we just love ya.

This version of Joni's song is for me the definitive version.

There are only three released versions that I know about: Joni's own version on Ladies Of The Canyon; CSN and Y's on Deja Vu; and Matthews Southern Comfort.

Why definitive?

It manages to capture the spirit of the time for me - all those dreamy hazy soundscapes with a laid back to the country vibe going on. And there are the group harmonies which are just perfect.

Went to #1 in the UK charts too.

Hidden gem: Scion is something of a rarity as it didn't appear on the MSC album of the time Later That Same Year; naturally, it has appeared as a bonus track subsequently. It's an Ian Matthews song in the same general style as the A side - loads of lovely pedal steel guitar and harmonies. A great second side!

Friday, July 18, 2014

So hard to find my way now that I'm all on my own (Van Morrison) #247

Ian Matthews  Brown Eyed Girl/ Rhythm Of The West (CBS, BA 461677, 1976)

You may know him as Iain Matthews or Ian McDonald or as part of Matthews Southern Comfort (yes without a pesky apostrophe, although his first solo album was called Matthews' Southern Comfort). 

During the mid seventies he was Ian Matthews (if you're keeping up you may want to know his real name - Iain Matthew McDonald).

Clearly he had a restless spirit, a crisis of identity AND was challenged by grammar. 

One thing IS without doubt: his version of the great Van Morrison song is awesome. The rough edges of Van's vocal are replaced by a warm tone and a smooth as molasses vocal by Ian.

It was actually Ian's version that I heard first and, shock horror... I prefer it - yes even though I love Van the man.

Hidden gem: The B side is another song off the parent album (Go For Broke) and is a nice pleasant song in his laid back country rock style.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

True love's what it's all about (Marching Girls) #246

Marching Girls  True Love/ First In Line (Propeller, REV 4, 1980)

Marching Girls emerged from the wreckage of Auckland's The Scavengers in the late seventies. They moved to the other side of the ditch and Au Go Go records signed them up.

Somehow they licensed these two songs back to NZ's Propeller Records for a limited pressing of 400 copies. And I have one.

Not normally a big deal - except True Love is an amazing slice of kiwi pop with a punky edge.

The song hooks you from the start with the great line - I met her outside the IGA, true love works in funny ways

Side bar: The IGA is a kind of Aussie super dairy - like our Four Square or a 7-Eleven in America or a Tesco Express in Essex. I remember shopping at IGA's in NZ so it must have moved over here at some stage.

Anyway - I digress - the song's a ripper!

Hidden gem: The B side is okay but they peaked on that A side.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Another sick monkey with a saintly face (Magazine) #245

Magazine  Believe That I Understand/ Rhythm Of Cruelty (Virgin, VS 905, 1979)

I love Shot By Both Sides, it's become a real post punk classic but, again, perversely, I don't own it as a single. 

Instead I somehow own this one - a song from their second album - Secondhand Daylight, which doesn't appear to have been a single anywhere in the world apart from New Zealand. Typical.

I think the Virgin NZ team got it right though - like Shot By...this is a great pop single with a nifty hook.

Hidden gem: The B side WAS actually released as an A side in the UK but with a different B side. Weirdly enigmatic? You know nothing about the Nu Zild music industry my friend.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I've come to work, I've come to play (Madonna) #243 - 244

Madonna  True Blue/ Ain't No Big Deal (Sire, 7-28591, 1984)

Madonna  Die Another Day (four remixes) (Warner Brothers double 12", 2002)

I liked Madonna from the off, which in my case was watching here strut her stuff on Live Aid in 1985. 

There was something fresh about her approach in the eighties. For one thing, she was smart. Really smart.

Take the video for this bit of pop confection from 1984. It reaches into and uses dream archetypes (the stylised set is a genius move), forces us to focus on Madonna in platinum blond mode throughout, and the twice shy wink at the end bookends the wink and 'hey - listen' instruction from the start, all of which includes us as part of the fun/plan.

The James Bond theme song from Die Another Day gets the makeover treatment via a double 12 inch set. The A side remixes are pretty cool. Madonna by the early 2000's knew her market inside out and was full on into her latest dance phase. The parent album American Life is one of my favourite Madonna albums btw.

Does the world really need four remixes of this song though? I know I don't.

Why do I even own this? I hear you ask. Well my friend Roger Marbeck gave it to me along with a pile of other vinyl when he sold off his Marbeck's Music store. The vinyl wasn't selling at that point in the early 2000's so he generously gave it to me.

Hidden gems: If you blur your hearing a bit it's no great leap to hear the Michael Jacksonisms of Ain't No Big Deal. The song is reasonably rare in her discography as it only appeared as a B side. It has been compiled since but only on rarity compilations.

The various remixes of Die Another Day continue on the B sides but they don't do much for me really. They tend to over process Madonna's voice, one of her strengths surely, and concentrate on the dance beats.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The angels watch my every move (Lene Lovick) #242

Lene Lovich  Angels/ The Fly (Stiff Records, BUY 63, 1979)

Lene was part of the English new wave scene in the late seventies, early eighties. Her big hit was Lucky Number, which I don't have. 

Instead for some reason lost to the sands through an hourglass I own a copy of a single from her Flex album. Go figure.

I'm pretty sure it was the Patti Smithesque vocal mannerisms that I was interested in. Lene's vocal style certainly contains similar punkish quirkiness.

It's a nifty little pop number with a good hook but it's never going to go down in the history of rock as a landmark achievement. Which is fine.

Hidden gem:Also from the parent Flex album The Fly is a kind of instrumental pop song with those new wave synths like Ultravox et al. 

It's a nice pleasant song, good for the new wave disco dance floor and those eighties amateur hair and model shows we used to be involved in back in the day. I was often asked to supply music for said events and I'm sure I used The Fly at some point.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Was our love just an illusion? (Love Affair) #241

Love Affair  A Day Without Love/ I'm Happy (CBS, BA 461204, 1968)

I could happily listen to this song every day of my life. It instantly cheers me up, sets me free, keeps me alive! It's one of my all time favourites. In fact it's a dead heat between this and The Tremeloes' Here Comes My Baby for favourite non Beatle single of all time. 

Both songs are instant singalongs that recreate great periods in my life.

My main memory of A Day Without Love is playing it every morning for months when I was in my teens while living with my parents at 4 Ramelton Rd., Mt Roskill, Auckland. 

In my mind's eye it's always a blissful summer picture that's conjured up by the song.

Love Affair were in fact a real band (pictured left), rather than a manufactured band of sessioners, but many of the hits featured mainly Steve Ellis' vocals and minimal input from the rest of the band, so they developed that reputation.

They didn't last too long - a mere four years in their original state, but they left some songs that will give us everlasting love.

Hidden gem: The B sides to the hits usually contained the real band and were a little heavier sounding and were definitely more soulful. This one sounds like a long lost Small Faces track.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I can feel your sigh with my back to you (Jackie Lomax) #239 - 240

Jackie Lomax  How The Web Was Woven/ Thumbing A Ride (Apple Records, APPLE 9043, 1969)

Jackie Lomax  New Day/ Fall Inside Your Eyes (Apple Records, APPLE 11, 1969)

Jackie Lomax, who died late last year, had a terrific voice and a laconic scouse personality. He needed the latter when reflecting on what might have been for a few decades before his death.

The Beatles knew talent when they saw it. What with George's patronage, his and Ringo's participation, the Apple Records label, and the other stellar musicians who played with him, really - the guy should have been a major star. But the fates decreed otherwise.

These two A sides are exceptional. The music and Jackie's wonderful soulful singing should have meant hit songs. What a crime.

In a parallel universe Jackie Lomax is getting his rewards.

Hidden gems: George Harrison is the fab most associated with Jackie but Paul was also involved in producing Thumbing A Ride. That song is good but Fall Inside Your Eyes aces it with a great vibe and a heartfelt vocal performance that you can't fake. Well you can try but you'll fall flat on your arse.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I can feel you there (Julian Lennon) #237 - 238

Julian Lennon  Valotte/ Well I Don't Know (Charisma, JL1, 1984)

Julian Lennon  Say You're Wrong/ Bebop (Charisma, JL3, 1985)

We haven't quite finished with the Lennon clan yet. 

Cynthia and John Lennon's only son, John Charles Julian Lennon, embarked on an unlikely music career following his father's death. 

Both the A sides by Julian (named in honour of John's mother - Julia) come from his debut album, also called Valotte

The A side songs are actually pretty good in a poppy sort of way. Phil Ramone's production is sympathetic. 

The biggest distraction/ appeal is Julian's voice which can be quite similar to John's
with certain inflections but he has none of John's rawness. It's tough to be too hard on the kid though. Not his fault he shares DNA with the greatest rock and roller of all time is it?

Hidden gems: Well I Don't know is a song about his dad and Bebop is the rarity - it didn't appear on the parent album. Bebop suffers from the horrors of an eighties production but Well I Don't Know is pleasant. Can't call them gems though - sorry Julian.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

And when our hearts return to ashes it'll be just a story, it'll be just a story (Yoko Ono) # 234 - 236

Yoko Ono  Woman Power/ Men Men Men (Apple Records, 1867, 1973)

Yoko Ono  Walking On Thin Ice/ It Happened (Geffen Records, GEF 49683, 1981)

Yoko Ono  My Man/ Let The Tears Dry (Polydor, 2095 494, 1982)

The last few Yoko singles bridge John's murder in 1980. 

Walking On Thin Ice is the song he was working on the night he died so it has an extra poignancy. It's okay but it's dated a little, as anything that is aiming to be state of the (dance) art is. It's still far and away the best song of this bunch though.

Give me the more visceral early Yoko any day. Woman Power isn't that either unfortunately (although the music is pretty good, Yoko's performance is embarrassingly naive). By 1973 the pressure of being ubiquitous as a couple, literally together 24/7, told. They entered the so called 'lost weekend' phase and the music duly suffered.

My Man is also not for the uninitiated. The terrible synth sound of the early eighties is painful and Yoko's vocals don't help.

Hidden gems: Men.. is a coquettish trifling; It Happened is heartfelt but taken out of the terrible 1980/1981 context it's only a pleasant strum along. Let The Tears Dry starts with gunshots and a hint of Amazing Grace before a chorus about John. Somehow, strangely, these kinds of things from Yoko don't have any emotional resonance. Weird.