20th November 2020:
From the gravel pit voice of Tom Waits to a Brubeck take on a Stranglers classic – A Waterboys gem to an Apeman, and a trip to the swamp before saying farewell to Dame Vera Lynn. Its been an extreme ride over the past few weeks .
8th – 21st June 2020 – Featured Musicians:
Tom Waits – The Waterboys – Dave Brubeck – Chip Taylor and the New Ukrainians – Cam Cole – The Kinks – The Jimmy Castor Bunch – Tony Joe White – Jim Stafford – Vera Lynn
8th June: Tom Waits is one of those singer/songwriter geniuses that you either like, or you don’t. Of course, there are some who prefer the many covers of Tom’s songs that have been done by others, but for me, nothing compares the grittiness of the voice that brings his brand of poetry alive.
Tonight I am tipping my proverbial hat to the man who can make me feel like I could well have a hangover soon just by listening to his songs. It would be impossible to choose my top three Tom Waits songs, so I have chosen three tracks that, to me, represent his lyrical genius perfectly.
I’m starting with his 1985 Rain Dogs album and a song that paints a picture of the obscure way New York can box you in a world knowing everyone around, while at the same time leaving you feeling lonesome and alienated. ‘Here’s Tom Waits with Downtown Train
The second track honouring the lyrical genius of Tom Waits for this Monday comes from his 1999 Mule Variations album, the song What’s He Building in There?
In a 1999 Austin Chronicle interview, Waits said of this song: “It’s kind of tipping my hat to [voiceover and recording artist] Ken Nordine, who was a big influence on me. And I’ve listened to him since I started recording. Ken lives in Chicago. He has a peculiar imagination and tells remarkable stories. This one started out as a song, and I wasn’t able to get it to fly as a song, so I just took the words and started saying them. And it all just kind of came together.” Let’s join Tom’s nosey neighbours and the question What’s He Building in There
Closing tonight’s selection of Tom Waits songs is an early one from his 1976 Small Change album. It is way up there in my personal Top 20 and I think it shows the man at his lyrical finest. Again, you’ll either love it or hate Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen), but simply known by some as Waltzing Matilda.
In an NPR interview, Tom explained “the title character of the song was a friend of a friend who had died in prison, but the song’s subtitle (“Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen”) is a reference to the time I spent in Copenhagen while on tour in June 1976. I had met Danish singer and violinist Mathilde Bondo. She performed violin during a Waits’ TV appearance and said that she “of course had to show him the city” It was a lovely night and we waltzed a lot” Whatever the true story, I‘m sure a memorable time was had by all.
I managed to find a live clip of a young Tom Waits circa 1977 performing live at Rockpalast with decent sound quality. It’s a much younger Tom, but that voice is unmistakable. Thanks for joining me on a Tom Waits binge tonight. Maybe a bit heady for a Monday, but hey, everything is a little odd recently. Have a super evening music fans. Catch you soon. 😎
9th June: It was in those heady few months before ‘the virus’ that I featured The Waterboys latest album, Where the Action Is. It was also the time I was getting excited about seeing them live in April. We all know what happened then.
I was going through Mike Scott’s webpage earlier to find out if anything new was out there regarding the November rescheduling of their SA shows when I saw an announcement for a new album, ‘Good Luck, Seeker’, being released in August. Being good marketers, they have already released a taste with the audio track My Wanderings in the Weary Land.
As Mike Scott, founder member, says about the song on his site, “ the seven-minute mash-up manifesto My Wanderings in a Weary Land comprises of dramatic spoken-word delivery over wild genre-busting music, ‘My Wanderings In The Weary Land’ might just be the greatest rock and roll record ever made – and one that is darkly appropriate for our weird, wired times. Is it psychedelic soul? Is it trance? Is it punk? Is it poetry?
Whatever it is, it’s the first taste of Good Luck, Seeker, which will be released on August 21 via Cooking Vinyl. This is the only track available at the moment but I will keep you updated when I hear more. I’ve given this track a couple of listens today and although it isn’t a relaxing listen, it is bloody brilliant! Happy Tuesday music fans.😎
10th June: When I saw the title of the clip I was confused. I’m sure Dave Brubeck didn’t cover The Stranglers, but what was this? On viewing all became clear. This is a very clever mix, slice, cut, loop and over-track.
The creator, Laurence Mason, explains it as a little tribute to Dave Greenfield (keyboardist with The Stranglers who died from Covid-19 last week (May)) and Paul Desmond (saxophonist with the Dave Brubeck quartet – the anniversary of his death is at the end of this month). He goes on to give a description of how he achieved this remarkable feat on the YouTube page. This is a worthwhile watch.
After my earlier post today of the remarkable ‘Dave Brubeck’ Stranglers cover, I carried on down the YouTube rabbit hole and found a few more interesting clips. So, although not planned, tonight’s theme is ‘what I found on YouTube today’.
Again, it was the title of this clip that stopped me in my tracks. Fuck All The Perfect People by Chip Taylor and the New Ukrainians sounds like it could be a hard Metal/Punk song, but what I found was a plaintive ballad sung with a sensitivity that belies the surprising title.
And Chip Taylor? Apart from being actor John Voight’s brother and Angela Jolie’s uncle, this 72-year-old (when this song was recorded in 2012) penned such mega-songs as Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning and wrote hits for Janis Joplin (Try), Linda Ronstadt (I Can’t Let Go), Sweet Dream Woman (Waylon Jennings) and a host of other big names. He has also released 29 solo albums since 1971. A busy man indeed. Don’t be put off by the title. This is a sweet track.
We’re hitting the busker circuit for the closing track in today’s selection of ‘what caught my eye on YouTube’. I had seen some clips of Cam Cole busking around London in the past and thought he was pretty good. The trouble is that the sound quality of the clips was pretty shoddy.
I was happy to see that Cam has managed to get into a studio and the result is just what I was hoping. Set against a video of ‘a day in the life of…’ this guy oozes unabashed talent, personality and deserves to go places. Take a listen and let me know what you think.
There we are then. An unintentional threesome of songs that wasn’t planned and are all totally different. Sometimes things just work out the way they should. 🙂 Thanks for joining in today’s bit of musical fun and to all you fellow S’Africans, batten down the hatches and stock up on firewood. This cold front looks set to hit us all. Keep warm, safe and sane. Catch you soon. 😎
11th – 12th June: Tonight’s duo of tunes tips a hat to our distant ancestors. This song hit the world 50 years ago in November, and when you listen to the lyrics you realise that they were way ahead of their time. The analogies and the satire of the song are as pertinent today as it was then. Maybe more so.
The songs Lola, and tonight’s choice, Apeman, were huge hits for The Kinks and showed that they weren’t scared to tackle society head-on but in a tongue-in-cheek, well-respected manner. Here’s The Kinks and Apeman
The second and last track for this Friday night also honours our ancestors, but in a very funky way. The Jimmy Castor Bunch was a Pop / Funk band. Their biggest hit was the 1972 surprise million-seller, Troglodyte (Caveman). It’s distinctive narrated intro leads into a pure Funk driven tale of Troglodyte love. Many of the songs catchphrases have been sampled and often used in Hip Hop. Jimmy Castor passed away in 2012, but his legacy of troglodyte passion lives on. 😎
15th June: Happy new week everyone. With local temperature lows of around -6c, I have decided to start the week with some hot, steamy swamp music to warm your tootsies. It’s been a while since we visited ‘gator country and I’ve lined up a gumbo feast to take us there; two from an old favourite that perfectly sandwiches a great track from Jim Stafford.
There is a good reason Tony Joe White regularly pops up on this page; The Swamp Fox was the king of Swamp Rock and rumour has it that on the night he died, the swamp fell silent in respect. Here’s the master himself with the tale of Gumbo John.
The second dip into the swamp for today comes from Jim Stafford, who had a hit with this track in 1973 when it reached #4 on US Top 40. In addition to having a handful of hits back in the ‘70s, he is also known as a stand-up comedian and TV presenter.
Now 76 years old, he has been operating and performing in his own theatre, The Jim Stafford Theatre, along with his children since 1990. Sometimes you’re too talented to retire! Here’s Jim with Swamp Witch.
As promised, I’m closing today’s visit to the swamp with another track from The Swamp Fox himself, Tony Joe White. Close your eyes and think moonshine, gumbo and crawfish with Hootchie Woman
I hope that today’s selection has warmed your inner-redneck spirit and you are ready to face Tuesday head-on. I’m sure this isn’t the last trip we’ll be taking down South together. Keep warm, keep safe and keep sane music lovers 😎
15 June: The generation and country I was born into is the probable reason behind the emotions that I felt on hearing about the passing of Vera Lynn earlier today. Being a Baby Boomer with a Father who bravely fought in WWII, and a Mother who lived her teenage years through the horrors of the Blitz, it is unsurprising that Dame Vera’s music was played often, and loudly, in our house. And so it was for most of my generation. Her music was the spirit of England; the unity through hardship that enabled the servicemen and normal folk to get through a brutal period in history.
Tonight I am honouring The Forces Sweetheart with three of the songs that always remind me of an average Friday night in Boksburg 1964 when my parents, newly arrived in South Africa, would meet up with their ex-pat friends at ‘Immigrants Night’ at the Boksburg Hotel. Often, the whole crowd would end up back at our house where ‘one for the road’ would be accompanied by a sing-along to Vera Lynn’s Hits of the Blitz album.
I’m starting tonight with a song that mists me up whenever I hear it. I can’t help but think of how many servicemen, their families and their loved ones, sang this in hope that the lyrics would prove true. Here’s We’ll Meet Again
In honouring Dame Vera Lynn tonight, my second selection is another that always evokes a feeling of melancholy when I think of how many fleeting romances, stolen moments and hopeful feelings were shared to this song.
When I moved to Cape Town in 1980, my parents came to visit and asked what housewarming present I wanted. I asked for a copy of Vera Lynn’s Hits of the Blitz. I mentioned early home memories in my previous post, this album was essential to make my new city and new flat my new home.
Here’s another that I catch myself singing, usually with a Manhattan Transfer twist on my imaginary vocal back-up team. A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.
I’ve been sharing some personal memories tied to Vera Lynn’s songs tonight. For the final song we go back to 1964/5 again and a memory of the Friday Immigrants Night meetings at the Boksburg Hotel. The evenings would end with groups of ex-pats, parents and children of all ages, standing to sing Britain’s song of hope and courage, There’ll Always Be an England.
Written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles in 1939, this song and Vera Lynn’s voice resonated through the hearts and hopes of a nation, making it a second national anthem.
Thank you for helping me honour Dame Vera Lynn tonight. The legacy she has left our world after 103 years will be cherished and remembered in history. Stay warm and stay sane, it seems like things could be lifting soon. Watch this space… 😎
This article was first published on the Design Train website for Loving the Music
Words © Andrew Knapp
The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos or images used in the article