Friday, March 17, 2017

Middle: (Still) Stuck in the Middle with You

I got scooped by our own Seuras Og. I was preparing my own take on the elephant in the room when I saw his. However, he made the mistake of saying that most covers of Stuck in the Middle with You are dire. I couldn’t resist the challenge. To be fair, there are a large number of covers of the song that range from unnecessary to unfortunate. If you are going to cover a song, I feel that you should take possession of it, and show the listener something new in how you approach. But here are five versions of the song that do just that.
65 Mines Street: Stuck in the Middle with You
This one may be the weakest of my selections, but I had to find a ska version. 65 Mines Street gives this one a minimalist ska treatment; there are no horns, and they give the performance a punk attitude. Still, they do find a new infectious groove to replace the one in the original version.
Venice: Stuck in the Middle with You
Venice does the most straightforward cover of the song in this set. However, I love the accordion and bottle neck guitar here. This one is a change not of the groove but of the flavor, and it really works.
Sara Colman: Stuck in the Middle with You
How should you approach doing a jazz version of the song? Sara Colman and her small combo remake the song into a slow burner with real heat…
Michael Buble: Stuck in the Middle with You


…while Michael Buble can afford to give the song a big band treatment that really cooks as well. Alas, we don’t all have a major label backing us, but it’s great when that backing gets put to such good use.

Dale Ann Bradley: Stuck in the Middle with You
Finally, Stuck in the Middle with You turns out to be a popular choice with country artists, including versions by Keith Urban among others. But once I found this tasty bluegrass version, I stopped looking for more. There are probably a few more worthy versions in the cabinet of musical curiosities, and I hope our readers will let us know about some of those in the comments.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Cripes, I can't believe we have got this far without the elephant in the room, glowering impatiently, stuck, if you will, and awaiting attention. The boss has even pleaded vaingloriously, at least thus far, for the necessary wink to be tipped. So, by public apathy, let me bring you the late and the great Gerry Rafferty, paired with Joe Egan, together better(?) known as Stealer's Wheel.

But, I wonder, would anyone know the song but for it's mercurial appearance in the soundtrack of Tarantino's explosive debut, 'Reservoir Dogs' and of course I have linked to that scene. But, at least over here in the UK, the song had had a respectable life of it's own, hitting a 1973 number 8 in the charts. (Actually, a quick whiz to wiki shows me it did even better in the US, with a Billboard 6, no doubt abetted by the production of famed production team, (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller of Elvis Presley fame.) Although the album produced another couple of relative hits, they seemed destined to be placed in one-hit wonderland, fading from grace thereafter, 2 later records peforming fairly poorly. (But worth chasing out.)

The break up of the band did not bode well for Joe Egan, disallowed from recording for 3 years by a court order, such was the depth of 'musical differences.'  After a pair of barely noticed discs in 1979 and 1982 he left the business. Rafferty fared much better, again despite the 3 year legal albatross,cementing his reputation with the enduring majesty of 'Baker Street', eclipsing his earlier success with a 3 and a 2, respectively, in the UK and the US. His dreamy vocal enraptured me at the time, and I picked up most of his subsequent work. Sadly, in later years, he became increasingly dependent on alcohol, the media picking up on various chaotic scenes, probably leading to his, to all intent and purpose, disappearance in 2008, give or take further reportage. He died of liver failure in 2010. R.I.P.

The songs live on, a fitter memorial than the newsprint. A remarkable fact is that, at the height of Reservoir Dog-mania, the then still alive Rafferty refused a re-release of the song, which would undoubtedly have been again a huge hit. Quite what the thoughts of co-author Egan thought around that seems unrecorded, but I am sure, and hope, he got some reward from the back catalogue surge.
Plus, I guess, the slurry of covers that have subsequently appeared. Here are the best of them. (Thankfully, of the 3 dozen odd, most are so dire that there is very little chance of this post shoulda having been on Cover Me!)

I'm not even sure if this is that good a cover, being a near copy, albeit with rougher vocals, and a nod, at the intro, to Tarantino. And is that sitar? Whatever, boys, it's Susanna Hoffs. Relax

I quite like the way that this one starts off completely against the grain, before again just apeing the vocal lines. Badly. Still, the Eagles of Death Metal have shown themselves brave in the face of a good deal worse than Mr Blonde, so lets give them the benefit of the doubt.

Do you know, I'm going to leave it there. I actually think it is a song beyond meaninful reinterpretation. Actually as is Baker Street. (Have you heard Waylon Jennings?)

So stick with it. Buy

Middle: Children of the Moon

Purchase this song (link)

Once upon a time - 30 years or so ago - the Alan Parsons Project was on my Heavy Rotation list. That would have been about the same time as Steve Winwod's <Arc of a Diver>, so we are talking about the early 80 s-  the time that Parson's <Eye in the Sky> came out.

Although Parsons is still doing his thing, it's likely that few of you would recall it: he is the engineer behind the Beatles' <Abbey Road> album. And Pink Floyd's <Dark Side of the Moon>. And Al Stewart's <Year of the Cat>. 

So ... in this day of employment woes, you might ask: what does an engineer do? Is that a viable career path for me? The Internet tells us that recording engineers "shape the sound -- setting up the equipment and sometimes actually producing the album".  Musicians that worked with Parsons note that he is known for going beyond the "duties" required by the job.

Around the 80s, Parsons decided to put his energies into a band of his own- the Alan Parsons Project, making use of his various contacts. The Project was just that, rather than being an established band, generally not playing live, the band made use of revolving lead singers and a small core of regular musicians.
At one point, Parsons'  music made it as far as the top 10 in several countries: the album containing this hit song went as high as #7. From the late 70s to the mid 80s, his music was at- or near- the top (Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon, of course, hitting the top spot)

Style-wise ... you need to keep in mind the time-frame and associated influences of the time period- (this is the era of late Yes, Genesis and various other groups that were expanding the 3 minute/Beatles pop hot to a 10 minute extended oevre) - the music pushed the limits of what was expected/standard: more that 3 minutes long ... deviating from the standard I..IV..V chord progression - verging on jazz ... jazz-rock or beyond.

Hopeless world - that's what the lyrics say//

My tenuous link: the lyrics: lost in the middle of ...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MIDDLE: Malcolm Middle(ton)

Grant me some poetic licence here, the boss says anything loosely based around Middle is kosher, and what can be more Middle than Middleton, which sounds as if it should be a small town in the, um, middle of, well, the middle, maybe. (Is there a Middleton? Well of course there is. In fact there are oodles of 'em.....) But this isn't about places, this is about people. Or rather, about a person, one Malcolm Middleton. Not Max Middleton, I should add, celebrated Jeff Beck and Chris Rea sidesman, but, being a good egg, let's give him a quick shout too.

So who is Malcolm Middleton? Afficionados of the late 90's post-rock scene in Glasgow, Scotland, will be familiar with the name, he being half of Arab Strap, along with Aidan Moffat. Blending coruscatingly blunt subject matter: squalor, drugs, drunkenness and despair, sung in broad scots, over somewhat rudimentary instrumentation of acoustic guitars and primitive electronica, they were arguably an acquired taste, I loved them.

(Subtitles did I hear you ask?) Between 1995 and 2006 the duo produced 6 studio albums ahead of calling it a day, although there have been a couple of re-unions, in 2011 and just recently. Here's what the Guardian newspaper had to say about one such show last October. Sounds aa absolute delight.

Middleton had actually launched his solo career ahead of the end of Arab Strap, with 2002's '5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine.' Uncertain of the rationale of Seagull or John, I think the other words give away no small indication of his demographic. In fact he managed a 2nd record ahead of the break-up, in 2006, with another following fast in 2007, shortly after. This 3rd was remarkable in that it produced an initially strong contender for the U.K. christmas number one single for that year. This was the typically upbeat "We're All Going to Die":

Sadly it only made it to 31, not bad for an initial 1000 - 1 outsider, the exposure doing Middleton no harm.

Further records followed in 2008 and 2009 before he suggested he had had enough of the whole process. Thankfully there was some later reconsideration, with the last year or four showing a re-energisation, both under a new identity, the largely instrumental, 'Human Don't Be Angry', as well as, last year, under his given name. Here is a track from each, firstly '1985' by 'Human Don't Be Angry':

                                                 and 'Summer of '13'/Malcolm Middleton:

Picqued? Make a start