Wednesday, December 29, 2021

In Memoriam: Three Vaguely Prog Musicians

Jon Hassell/Brian Eno: Chemistry

Kansas: Cheyenne Anthem

Brand X: Nuclear Burn

Part of it, I guess, comes from the fact that prog rock era musicians are getting to that age, but it seems like almost every year at about this time, I’m writing about some of them. This year, I’m taking a broad view of the genre, with one musician probably best known for ambient music, one for a distinctly American take on prog, and one who is more from the fusion world, but I like to do group In Memoriam pieces, and this is the best excuse I could come up with to write about these three artists together. And for no real reason, I’ll discuss them in the order that they passed. 

For some reason, I assumed that trumpeter Jon Hassell was European, but he isn’t. He was born in Tennessee in 1937, but did study serial music in Germany, where he befriended the future founders of Can, before returning to the US, where he performed on Terry Riley’s first recording of In C. He also was part of LaMonte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music (which also spawned John Cale) and also studied Indian music. 

I first became aware of Hassell when he collaborated with Brian Eno in 1980 on an album called Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics (and he also played on Eno’s 1982 album Ambient 4: On Land). Hassell used the term “Fourth World” to describe his work as “a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques.” Hassell used lots of electronic processing and effects on his trumpet, leading to strange, otherworldly sounds. He also appeared on the track “Houses In Motion” on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, on Peter Gabriel’s Birdy and Passion soundtracks, along with a bunch of solo and group recordings, and guest spots with artists as diverse as David Sylvain, Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, Ry Cooder, Tears For Fears, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and k.d. lang. 

Hassell had been in bad health for about a year before dying on June 26, 2021 of natural causes. 

I’d argue that Kansas was, during their strongest period, the best American prog rock band (I also love Happy The Man, but most people have never heard of them). Kansas fused the mostly European prog sound with American music, fitting for their origin in the country’s heartland. Most reviews of the band refer to them mixing prog with “boogie,” and I’m not sure I can really describe what that is, but you know it when you hear it. Their albums Leftoverture and Point of Know Return were staples of FM radio during my high school years and one key to the band’s sound was violinist/vocalist Robby Steinhardt

Steinhardt was born in Chicago in 1950, but grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, where he started violin lessons at age 8, and was classically trained both in the US and Europe. In 1972, he joined a band in Topeka, White Clover, which eventually became Kansas. Steinhardt was mostly known for his violin work, but sang harmony on most of the band’s songs, and lead on more than a few. He also acted as the “MC” during live performances. 

I started losing interest in Kansas after 1979’s Monolith, after which the band turned toward a strong Christian influence and began to splinter. Steinhardt left the band in 1982 for “personal reasons,” although one article I read referred to his substance abuse during this time. He was part of a band, Steinhardt-Moon, and performed with other acts until rejoining Kansas in 1997, but tired of the pace of touring, and left for good in 2006. In 2013, Steinhardt suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery but began making guest appearances with Stormbringer (which had formed from Steinhardt-Moon). 

In 2020, Steinhardt began work on a symphonic prog-rock project that included contributions from, among others, Ian Anderson, Steve Morse, Billy Cobham, Patrick Moraz, Chuck Leavell, Liberty Devitto, Pat Travers, and Lisa Fischer. Unfortunately, the album, Not In Kansas Anymore, was not released until October, 2021, a few months after Steinhardt died on July 17, from complications of acute pancreatitis. 

Back in 2014, I wrote a short piece about Brand X for our “Side Projects” theme, because it was, for Phil Collins, a side project from Genesis. But one of the few consistent members of that band, and one of its founding members, was guitarist John Goodsall. Goodsall was born in 1953 in England and picked up the guitar at age 7. He went pro at age 15, touring with a few bands, including Atomic Rooster (which also included drummer Ric Parnell, who later played Mick Shrimpton in This Is Spinal Tap, the drummer who spontaneously combusted, and then toured with the Tap as Mick’s twin brother Rick). Brand X performed and recorded from 1975-1982, and to my ear produced a great deal of interesting music. 

Starting in 1979. Goodsall moved to Los Angeles, and also worked as a session musician, appearing on albums with Peter Gabriel, Bill Bruford, Bryan Adams, and yes, even on Toni Basil’s hit “Mickey.” He was a member of Zoo Drive in the mid-1980s, and after that, the Fire Merchants, before reforming Brand X in 1992. Later, he appeared with various combinations of musicians and recorded music as a leader and session musician. According to Wikipedia, Goodsall appeared on a few soundtracks, ranging from mainstream films such as No Small Affair, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Point Break, and the somewhat less mainstream Anal Intruder 9

Goodsall died on November 11, 2021, possibly of complications from pneumonia.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


When I wrote this piece, a little over 3 years ago, I had little inkling I would be now having to pen this one, so well did appear the near 80 year old I had marvelled at on stage only a few months before. And saw again, a year or so later, still in the same small Birmingham venue, once more marvelling at his dexterity, nimble fingers all over his guitar, and his voice, like ashes on a shovel, fresh out a furnace. 

So many have said so much about him, since his sudden and unforewarned death in September that it seems insidious to try and say anything more or to add anything. His obituary in the Guardian newspaper says enough. I was a fan, especially of his late life renaissance, and his last two records sit as proudly on my shelves as his first two, despite the near half century between their making. I had bought his first two releases, way back in the day, taken by his odd way with words, his strangely sibilant tones and his clearly masterful guitar play. Rainmaker came out in 1969, followed by Fully Qualified Survivor a year later, with 50 coming out in 2017 and True North just two years later. Sure, there were a host of releases in between, as he fell from his initial recognition, plugging away regardless, an increasingly lone voice, ahead of being "discovered" by a bevy of americans half his age, drawn back into a limited centre stage. He seemed to thrive on their acclaim, if also a little mystified. Which made for a delightful stage presence, as his self-deprecating tales of the road introduced his timeless songs and tunes, the old and the new entwined seamlessly. It was, frankly, a privilege to witness.

The SMM post I link to in my introduction contains, within its own body, a link to  a review I wrote, for a private members music platform I am a member of, of his 2017 show. Rather than to regurgitate that piece in full, I thought it may be apt to reproduce the addendum, following the show two years later:

"OK, so here I am again, 2nd time in a week, again revisiting an act already reviewed, a year or so ago, so tacked on here. This time Michael Chapman was with his band, who, minus the rhythm section, absent tonight, were the folk from his latest LP, True North. Namely Bridget St John on vocal and occasional 2nd guitar, Sarah Smout on cello and the incomparable B.J. Cole on pedal steel. Now the album is good, as good if not better than 2017’s North, but live this was a doozy. Despite a heavy cold, Chapman was on impeccable form, Smout and Cole incandescent. I was sitting perhaps a foot away from the side of Cole, watching his playing over his shoulder. :Phenomenal, and the bonkers freeform shimmers and chicanery he contributed was just stupendous, adding rather than detracting from the sense of wonder, evident aplenty all about the densely packed room of grizzled hipsters. 2 shortish sets, maybe 40 minutes apiece, each with about 5 or 6 long expositions based around, mainly, songs from these 2 albums. At one stage I wonder why St John, until a fabulous song where she sang lead, accompanied only by her own playing and of Chapman’s, getting it, and her, in a moment. (This was the song she does so well on the Chapman tribute album of a few years back, and which I commend.)

What a wonderful way to spend a monday night in, just, April. Michael Chapman is 78."

That was written in April of 2019. The song below could be his epitaph: 'Sometimes You Just Drive'.

R.I.P., Michael. 
And thank you.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Mary and Joseph > In Memoriam : Mary, Mary


purchase [ Mary Mary - the Monkees ]

This Mary-Joseph post was begun the day the theme went live. It's been sitting - waiting for inspiration and attention for two weeks. So long postponed that it now qualifies as a bridge between the last and next post. Which was actually part of the initial thought but not the intended outcome. (I've been struggling to keep up with the relentless flow of the SMM timeline. Here's hopng that as the days get longer, I find more time.)

I fess up: back in the 60s, I had a collection of Monkees music. Off the top of my head: I'm  Believer (for sure), maybe Pleasant Valley Sunday, and more than likely, this one.

Since we are now talking about bridging Mary-Joseph and Memoriam, Michael Nesmith is on the table. Not for autopsy here, but for musical contributions to Mary Mary. This is one written by Nesmith. One part of Nesmith's legacy is his working to counter the image generated by the TV version of the Monkees and the background noise that they weren't actually musicians: more than once, he offered up his own work only to have it turned down by the studio bosses.

Nesmith. as you may know, passed away a few weeks ago and thereby qualifies for our upcoming In Memoriam theme.

For many of those of my age, I'm a Believer will remain in the back of our minds as a classic of our teen years.

Aware that Paul Butterfield also released this on his East-West album, to me, the defintive version is the one by the Monkees.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Mary and Joseph: Let It Be

The Beatles: Let It Be
[purchase the basic version]
[purchase the Super Deluxe version

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, as we move toward year-end. I’ve had a bunch of work (yay!), there’s been tons of holiday prepping and gatherings, and my daughter and her boyfriend are visiting from Barcelona for a couple of weeks. And if that’s not enough, my 94 year-old uncle passed away, after a long, and mostly happy and healthy life, which required my wife and me to jump on a plane on Sunday night to get to Florida for the funeral, returning early Tuesday because, we thought, we had Broadway tickets for my family for that night. Unfortunately, the show got cancelled, because of COVID, which was disappointing.

All of this is in partial explanation of why I didn’t write last week, and why this piece is going to be a little shorter than my average Iliad-length posts. But I hate missing a theme, so I wanted to make sure that I put something up on the site before trying to figure out my [spoiler alert] In Memoriam post subject(s). 

Here’s the gist of what I want to say—if you like rock music, which you probably do because you are reading this, make sure you watch the Beatles documentary, Get Back. It’s worth the 8 hours of time, and you can usually get a free week of Disney+ if you don’t already have a subscription. It’s an incredible document of the four brilliant Beatles, and their world, in 1969. You can see their friendship, strained by their growing creative and other differences, their creativity and talent, their humor, and both their sophistication and naivete. And how much they smoked. Here they are, at the peak of their popularity and power, but clearly contemplating the end of their partnership. And none of them had celebrated their 30th birthday yet. 

I’m far from the biggest Beatles fan, but I was fascinated by the thing—not only the film itself, but thinking about how the director, Peter Jackson, chose what excerpts from the hundreds of hours of film he had available. Most critics have pointed out that the version that Jackson presented was more positive than the general received narrative—that the sessions were filled with bickering, and that Yoko Ono was disruptive. Instead, we see lots of camaraderie and collaboration interspersed with the bickering and nastiness, and mostly Yoko kept to herself and looked bored. What really happened? I don’t know, and unless you watch all of the raw film, there are really very few living people who actually do know. 

So, there’s a moment in the film where Paul McCartney sits down at the piano and starts playing what would become “Let It Be.” When I was watching, it seemed like he was creating it on the spot, but a little research turned up the fact that it was something he had been playing around with for a little while. Still, it was pretty cool to hear the song, which references McCartney’s mother Mary, in its embryonic stages. 

In addition to suggesting that you watch the whole documentary, I recommend that you read some of the many articles about the film and our feature song written by people who know much more about the Beatles than I do, and who are better writers. Use that Google thing—there are lots out there, discussing the film from many angles and points of view. Although I particularly liked this one, featuring a number of well-known songwriters discussing how they felt watching it. I mean, Jeff Tweedy said that he burst into tears a few times while watching it. And if that’s not an incentive to watch, what is?

Monday, December 20, 2021


I may have said this before, here if not here, but Hey Joe is my favourite song and has been for as long as I recall. The simplicity of the chord progression, allied to to the characteristics that make it immediately recognisable from the merest of snippets. My collection has expanded exponentially over the years, my i-tunes telling me I now have 70 versions, which is, arguably, plain daft, but it is still exciting to discover new takes on it. So, no contest, it had to be the Joseph that would be my go-to Joe. (The featured is a slight conceit, being a meandering extemporisation on the theme, actually entitled No More Guns, the Hey Joe Redux being in parentheses.) For those eager to acquire the source material, it comes from the New York based piano jazz maven, Vijay Iyer, on his 2003 opus, Blood Sutra. Here is what Thom Jurek of AllMusicGroup had to say, repeated as it makes me chuckle, being both so pretentious and prescient at once: 

 "Blood Sutra only adds more luster to Iyer's presence on the short list of forward-looking jazz creators these days. His muse still tends towards the severe but there's no denying the individuality and the fact he doesn't make the listening easy is also precisely what makes it so rewarding"

Much as I would love to leave it at that , wish you compliments of the season and move on, as ever, of course, I am unable, never appreciating the benefits of brevity, when I can have you languish in my longeur a bit longer. So, Joe, any more Hey to make this year?

Bitzen Trapper seep a glorious stoned insouciance into their slightly ramshackle country honk of a version. Blitzen Trapper, the band, I know little about really, beyond the couple of tracks I appear to own, but they sound folk I would appreciate to hear a little more of. Over on one of the other platforms I scribble on, I recently discovered they had performed Neil Young's Harvest as a live project, and, frankly, anyone who describes themselves as an "experimental country/folk/rock band" has only the barest of bumps to climb to whet my interest. 

Is it blues, is it reggae? Seamlessly bringing the two together, Mel Brown is just the sort of old blues man genetically programmed for songs like this, muscle memory delivering on of the finest I have and that you possibly don't. OK, it goes on a bit, but never too long. Indeed, it seems he can stretch it to twice the length, when in the mood, as youtube seems able to offer. Who he? Well, the first thing to know is that he died in 2009, which is a bit of a shock, but it seems his biggest claim to fame was as Bobby "Blue" Bland's favoured guitarslinger, although his wiki page shows he was also a sideman for, amongst others, Lightin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and two of the Kings, B.B. and Albert, as adept on keyboards as on the guitar.

So soporific is this, that I can't imagine Joe ever managed to lift the gun, let alone aim it and fire. Invoking a I don't know what she had, but I''ll have some of that vibe, it does eventually kick off, even if you question whether it actually is the full Billy Roberts. And, of course, it isn't, being one of those filing issues, whereby a well known song has had someone lift the same name for something quite different. Which, I think you'll agree, this was. So, I only have 69 versions. Os Mutantes were, arguably, the prog/psychedelic big hitters of the Sao Paulo scene in the 60's and 70's, if never then quite going away either, reforming after a 40 year gap in 2006. 

Or, actually, 68, as, yup, you got me bang to rights, that seeming such a good wheeze that I'm going to repeat that trick/mistake. This Liz Green song is likewise a completely different song. Or is it? (Yes, but, the lyrics sort of suggest it could have been a preamble to the homicide, perhaps even the context that led to the murderous act.) Liz Green I know, or, rather knew, nothing about until this piece, uncertain even how I cam to have this song in my collection. I have since learnt she is a singer and songwriter from Manchester, U.K., and was the "Emerging Talent" winner at the Glastonbury Festival of 2007. A couple of albums followed, in 2011 and 2014, but largely little has emerged since. Which seems a shame.

By now any other avid Hey Joe-ers are going to be feeling short changed, thinking this one of the more half-hearted of contrivances I have offered this year, with only a total of 3 versions offered. So be it, life can be disappointing. 

Merry Christmas and have some Jimi:

Sunday, December 12, 2021


Have you guys had Line of Duty yet? Any UK readers will, of course, be well aware the long running and entertaining police procedural, extolling the exploits of AC-12, the anti-corruption unit of London's Metropolitan Police, but I am uncertain whether it has yet been picked up, stateside. One of the enduring characters is that of Ted Hastings, played by the extravagantly hootered Adrian Dunbar, at his N'Orn best. (N'Orn? Northern Irish.) Much prone to idiosyncratic expostulations and ejaculations, often of a religious bent, perhaps his most celebrated was when he, annoyed and irritated by his team, came out with the wonderful "Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey", ahead of explaining his ire.

Mary of the 4th Form

No room here for Jesus or donkeys, or even, this post anyway, for Joseph, but there is one Mary who should demand our attention. She is also Irish, but south of the border, in the Republic, and made famous from the 2nd single of Dublin punk-rockers, the Boomtown Rats. But they weren't really punks, were they, having far more in common with, say, Thin Lizzy. However, back then, whatever 1977 wanted, 1977 got. So Geldof and chums discarded their flares, cut their hair (a little) and put on skinny ties. The attitude wasn't a problem, they, Geldof especially, had it in spades, even if he preens more like Mick Jagger than Johnny Rotten in the video. The song isn't even all that punky, but is probably their punkiest, being really little more than a bit of speeded up rock, with the characteristic man falling downstairs drum style of the day. I confess that, after their debut, I didn't particularly take to it, it seeming neither fish nor fowl. But it did well enough to keep their foot in the door until they had hosed down their influences and become defiantly new wave.

I Don't Like Mondays

The Boomtown Rats, named, incidentally, after the urchin gang described in Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory, were a much bigger act in the British Isles and Europe than ever in America. One hit wonders, if that, in the US; 73 or 84, depending on which chart you read, with I Don't Like Mondays, inspired and about school shootings, particularly the one on Jan 29 1979, in San Diego. When Brenda Ann Spencer was apprehended for shooting eight of her fellow schoolmates, as well as two adults, she is said to have said it was because she didn't like Mondays, and that her actions "livened up the day." A top ten in nearly every other territory, was it, I wonder, to close to home for the American audience? The version I post above is from the UK leg of Live Aid, for which Geldof is largely better known for than his singing, having come up with the idea and exhorted his music biz colleagues to deliver. Arguably past their 15 minutes of fame, the Rats were there more by default their frontman than their then rankings, but they put on a great show, the extended gap between the last line of the last verse and the chorus stretched to breaking point. Magnificently.

Rat Trap

But enough of that, what else did they do? At home and in the UK they had a solid run of 11 top 30 singles between 1977 and 1982, good by anyone's standards. Mondays wasn't even their sole exposure to the number one slot, Rat Trap having held the same place for a fortnight at the end of 1978. Thereafter their fortunes began to wane, the tunes disappearing , even if the lyrical bite remained. Their last single of any grit note was Banana Republic, a damning indictment of their home nation. I recall seeing them play live around this time, finding it a disappointing performance, any new material in a similarly reggae-lite vein, the hits trotted out somewhat limply.

Banana Republic

The band began to splinter and Geldof went in search of a solo career, embracing more of a raggle taggle celtic roustabout image, which failed to relight his flame anything much above a slow smoulder. Bowing to the inevitable, with having also to deal with his very public cuckolding by his wife, Paula Yates, her death and, later still, the death of his daughter, mindful of the adage that there is no such thing as retired band, only a resting one, the Boomtown Rats reformed, or most of them, for a further tread of the boards. Starting again in 2013, they even got as far as a new record, Citizens of Boomtown, in 2020, with it's lead single being Trash Glam Baby. No, me neither, but, in the interests of this piece, I think we should be prompted:

Trash Glam Baby

I think the moment has gone. It didn't chart. I am realising that this is beginning to read as a tale of riches to rags and, to some extent, that might be true, but, in their heyday, for a while, 1977 and 8, they were a force to be reckoned with. That fuse burnt swiftly but, whilst alight, was a delight. Geldof? Well, he will be remembered for his integral part in drawing the attention of the world to Ethiopia, and for swearing on primetime live TV.  Some will remember him also for his songs. I am one.

Let's finish as we started, with Mary, with a live performance from Geldof's solo years. Not the best of recordings, it's true, but it looks fun and, do you know, personally I prefer it this way, as a chugging rockabilly with added fiddle.

Mary of the 4th Form (live)

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Leftovers: 1971-Thank You Daniel Ellsberg


Since I started writing here almost exactly 10 years ago (my first piece, a holiday post about The Roches’ Christmas album published as a guest ran on December 18, 2011), I’ve written more than 400 posts (plus a few special pieces, like our annual “Top Posts” collection), but I don’t think that I’ve ever created one like this. I’m also not sure that I’ve ever written a sentence with two parentheticals, but I probably have. 

What’s so special—or at least different—about this post? It’s about a song that I never heard until I decided to write the this, by a band whose name I recognize, but I don’t think that I could name a single song that they released. For the Leftovers theme, we’re supposed to look back on the previous year’s themes, and write something that would have fit in one of those. It’s a tradition here, and a good one, because it not only is appropriate for the post-Thanksgiving slot, it allows us to revisit ideas that we might not have been able to get to before, because of work, or life, or general ennui. (It also gives us a break in thinking up themes during the holiday period—especially now that, after all these years, it has become increasingly hard to think of something clever for the Christmas period that hasn’t been done already). 

But that’s not what I did here. In looking back at the themes that I only wrote one post for, I vaguely remembered some unwritten ideas—I thought about writing a Woodwinds leftover about obscure prog-rock band Gryphon, which featured crumhorns—but I decided to go in a different direction. (As you will see below, though, I still mention prog-rock and woodwinds.) For out 1971 theme, I wrote about the Fillmore venues, but I didn’t write another piece for that theme. So, what were memorable things that happened in 1971? (not my 10th birthday party, which I don’t remember. Sorry, Mom.) Well, on June 13, 1971, The New York Times began to publish sections of the Pentagon Papers. In short, these documents demonstrated that the U.S. government had long been lying about many aspects of the Vietnam War. Now, I’ve written once before here about Vietnam, and I mentioned in that piece that my senior thesis in college was about television’s coverage of the war, so I thought that a piece about the release of the Pentagon Papers might be interesting. 

Like today, in 1971, American democracy was under attack. There were marches in the streets over the war, civil rights and other issues. It wouldn’t be long before a president and his henchmen tried to subvert the democratic process, for which he was impeached. Even as a kid in those days, I could sense the uncertainty, distrust and division. 

What became known as the Pentagon Papers was a report commissioned in 1967 by Robert S. McNamara, then the Secretary of Defense, on the political and military involvement of the United States in Vietnam from World War II to 1968. The conclusions of the report were explosive, and it was classified, so that it would not be seen by the general public. 

Daniel Ellsberg, a government consultant, gained access to some of the classified documents and leaked them to the Times in June of 1971. What happened next was complicated, and included court injunctions, a senator using his immunity to enter part of the Papers into the Congressional Record, other newspapers publishing the papers, more court proceedings, and ultimately, the Supreme Court upholding, 6-3, the right of the press to publish, and the high standard necessary to obtain a prior restraint. Justice Black wrote in his concurring opinion: 

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. 

That’s something that we need to keep in mind today, when some politicians have tried to bully or force the press to stop doing this critical job. 

Ellsberg was indicted on charges of stealing and holding secret documents. But a mistrial was declared when it emerged that the Nixon administration ordered agents to illegally break into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and attempt to steal files; that representatives of the Nixon administration approached the trial judge to offer him the FBI directorship, and, believe it or not, other irregularities. 

The Post, a pretty good movie about all of this, came out in 2017, directed by Steven Speilberg, and starring some lesser known actors like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, (and Matthew Rhys as Ellsberg) did a good job of explaining the situation, the risks that the various newspapers took, and the importance of their willingness to take the risks. I’d recommend renting it. 

Oh, yeah, this is a music blog, not a history or politics or law blog. Or a movie blog. There’s a song being featured here—“Thank You Daniel Ellsberg,” by Texas band Bloodrock, which emerged from Fort Worth in the late 1960s. Generally referred to as a “hard rock” band, their second album, 1971’s Bloodrock 2 hit no. 21 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, and they released two more albums with this lineup. But the band’s guitarist, Lee Pickens, and singer, Jim Rutledge, left the band, to be replaced by vocalist/woodwind (aha!) player Warren Ham, and the band’s sound shifted more toward prog-rock (aha!), jazz, and pop (although the band’s third album actually contained a Soft Machine cover. Of all things.) 

The first album with the new lineup, 1973's Passage, contained our featured song, which is a bluesy number that does exactly what the title says. Here are the lyrics, in their entirety: 

I wanna thank you Daniel Ellsberg
For all the notes that came from you
I said I wanna thank you Daniel Ellsberg
And maybe Louis Packwood too
For scheming out all the schemers
You now have set a trend for you 

I wanna thank you Danny boy
For what you said
For what you said and done
I said I wanna thank you Danny boy
For what you said and done
You've stricken from all the pages
But you don't know that you're the one

 I can’t figure out who Louis Packwood is. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 8, 2021


If you are of a certain age (old) and in the UK, there is the classic line: "They think it's all over; it is now!" It refers to the football world cup final of 1966, which the more jingoistic members of the community of football fans and union flag wavers treat, along with "the" war, as one of the twin pillars of an Englishness I have never subscribed to. Probably because I consider myself scots, but, anyway, these were the classic last lines uttered by the hoarse, excitable TV commentator, Kenneth Wostenholme, as Geoff Hurst scraped in a last gasp fourth goal, right on the blast of the referees final whistle. No football fan me, but I do remember watching the game, aged 9, as it was probably watched by near every adult and child in the country, assuming, that is, they had a telly. There wouldn't have been anything else on anyway. But it is a lovely line, bearing repeating whenever something seems to be at and and then, suddenly, perhaps with an additional slight surprise, now is.

Which set me thinking about all this break-up songs out there, and the differing responses to the news that may transpire. With good old i-tunes coming up trumps on that score.


Fool, If You Think It's Over

I had forgotten how impossibly young Chris Rea actually ever was. I remember thinking this song great, when it came out, back in 1978. From his debut album, which garnered him a grammy, Best New Artist, if actually little then much to further his career. Indeed, so prophetic was it, Rea was thinking of turning his back on music thereafter, returning to running the family restaurant his parents wanted of him. Luckily, it wasn't, and he would have been a fool had he thought so. It was only after he drove home, that Christmas, that he found a substantive royalty check on his doormat, sufficient to reverse his fortunes and set up a sensible pension plan. (Actually not; he bought a Ferrari, but, should you wonder, yes, it was that Christmas!)


Fuck You, It's Over

I still wonder whether I am allowed to spell that word out, so much a product of my times and upbringing I am. Sure, I say it a lot, and enjoy doing so. But, having got that out of the way, I believe it a totally valid use of the word in this context, the combination of dismay, contempt and dawning realisation, and I praise the sometimes somewhat histrionic Glasgow band for its use. I may be wrong, but they sound dumpee rather than dumper. Fuck is a common word in Scotland's second city, finding application as a noun, a verb, an adjective and probably many others, adverb, pronoun, preposition or conjunction. Heck, even a good old interjection too, from time to time. Glasvegas seemed only to have a brief window of opportunity, always seeming to promise more than delivered, but were fun. (Stop press: they tour their new, 4th album next year!)


Glad It's Over

A curious little number from Jeff Tweedy's Wilco, one that was initially pencilled in for 2007's Sky Blue Sky, later ditched, appearing on the Alpha Mike Foxtrot rarities compendium, as well as OST appearance for Heroes, the TV series about special powered mutants. Very Beatle-y, I feel, as well as containing considerably sour grapey misogynistic lyrics. Unless you subscribe to it being a reverse projection of 10cc's I'm Not In Love. Which it could be, I guess, I didn't listen to the end.

Dream (or not):

Don't Dream It's Over

I like this song, the sentiment being very much of reassurance and reconciliation, even if against all the odds. Old suckers like me are always up for that. of course, it is New Zealand's finest, Crowded House, who did the original version you remember better, but I like the salty tang of this version, Sarakh Blasko's voice full of antipodean charm. Can do without the choral oohs and aah, mind, but still a great version. It comes from a not half bad Australasian tribute to the music of Neil and Tim Finn, occasionally bandmates in both Split Enz and Crowded House, the former Tim's band, the latter seen as Neil's, even if Tim stayed around for a while, ahead of some classic sibling frictions got the better of the two of them.


Don't Tell Me That It's Over

Well, that was a surprise! I was actually looking for the Amy McDonald song of the similar name, she occupying possibly similar territory as Glasvegas, being remembered more for her 15 minutes than the fact she still plays and performs. Blink-182 are seldom my bag, but their snotty nose brat schtick can appeal on occasion. Like here. But, like most snotty nosed brats, I can only stomach small doses.

And, talking of small doses, this brief interlude of a post is over.

*So sue me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Leftovers: Break/Broken: Bad Liver and a Broken Heart


purchase [Small Change]

SMM has done a fair number of posts of Tom Waits' songs, but to the best of my search-ability, never this one. From the Small Change album, this is classic Waits: sung (if you can call it that) in the rapsy voice with his own piano accompaniment. 

Small Change, in my opinion is by far the best of his albums. Just about every track is a winner and SMM has done something about many of them over the years. But never this one - if my searching is right. One online source defined Waits' songs as singing about the "underbelly of society". Love it! The song titles from Small Change are all about the people you see on the street and then cross over to the other side to avoid.

Some folks point to Dylan as a poet. For Waits, the better definition of his word choice is "lyrical poetry". I would agree: Waits' lyrical genius involves the use of known phrases and others that are politically incorrect to the Nth degree: Tom Traubert's Blues/Waltzing Mathilda with its clear uses of the original mixed with Waits' ? perversions? of the lyrics. He says/sings something and you hear something else - he splits the syllabication so that at first you hear one thing and then it resolves to something surprisingly else

Waits's lyrics are  often irreverent -or politically incorrect : "the owner is a mental midget", but WTF - that is how he communicates his message

Small Change includes from SMM

I Cant Wait to Get Off Work

Step Right Up

The One That Got Away

The Piano Has Been Drinking

and also

Monday, December 6, 2021


I'm enjoying my leftovers this year, the opportunity to concentrate on individuals who have caught my ears and my heart these last several few decades. The late Dick H-S is one of these, and given he died very nearly 17 years ago, his may be a name may are unfamiliar with. However you may well be familiar with some of the bands he added his mercurial sax playing to, even if, again, only by their name or that of better known members. So he was a member of Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and then Colosseum, treading the boards with names such as Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, John McLaughlin and Mick Taylor. I first spotted him in that last band, as I flipped thru' the discs in the Eastbourne record store that indulged my daily appearances there, as a schoolboy, listening to all the weird and wonderful bands of the early 70s. The cover of their first album intrigued me: who was the old and bald bloke in city attire, alongside the rest of the band, all otherwise in de rigeur hair and flares combos?

Valentyne Suite was a very cool choice of record at my school. The second album by Colosseum, it also had the virtue of being cheaper than most other LPs, perhaps as it was the first release of the Vertigo label, an offshoot of Phonogram, and designed to make the label seem hipper, in much the way as other companies were doing the same, viz Harvest "disguising" its more staid EMI parent. Again, as was not unusual, it had a side long suite on one side, a popular step by the 'underground' (later 'progressive') bands of the day, like Pink Floyd and the yet to be uncool Emerson, Lake and Palmer. A mix of blues, rock, jazz and classical themes infused this title piece, and it remains one of my favourite nostalgic wallows. The other side contained four rather jazzier options, which, then at least, had fewer plays, my mind not yet ready for the J word. It was Dave Greenslade's organ solo that most instantly appealed, but, with time, my appreciation of the saxophone sounds of Heckstall-Smith that gathered most traction, alternately corncrake and clarion in turn. The bass and drums, Tony Reeves and Jon Hiseman, were pretty tidy also, with the guitar of (whatever happened to) James Litherland appropriately present and correct.

Valentyne Suite/Colosseum (1969)

Of course, there was a lot more to the band than just this piece, and I avidly devoured further releases, at least until the changes in band membership led to the unaccountable decision to bring in old foghorn leghorn himself, Chris Farlowe, which was a step too far, effectively ruining the b(r)and. But, to give a little more Dick, whilst you know the tune, I quite like here what they do with it:

Beware the Ides of March/Colosseum (1969)

Heckstall-Smith and his two simultaneous saxophones was certainly not done when Colosseum first split, in 1971, taking part in various group and solo projects, if all somewhat beneath the radar. Indeed, even when regrouping with old friends, acclaim and attention remained distant, at least until a 90s reformation of Colosseum, if marred, inevitably, by the vocal mayhem alluded to earlier. But welcome otherwise. A late solo recording, Blue and Beyond, also contained some moments to cherish, not least when linking up with old friends like Mick Taylor, in 2001. By now he was looking rather more the expected jazz daddio hipster look. 

Spooky But Nice/Dick Heckstall-Smith & Friends (2001)

Here he is again, with old mucker Jack Bruce, at a live festival appearance.

Mellow Down Easy/Jack Bruce & Friends (1988)

Plus, for good measure, here is the reformed Colosseum, with a live reprise of Valentyne Suite.

Valentyne Suite/Colosseum (1994)

He died in 2004, with a not insubstantial body of work, yet is more likely to be remembered for who he played alongside than for his own exemplary brand of woodwind. I hope this may tickle the odd palate into looking backward at his catalogue.

Those who enjoy lively lookings back at the life and times of the jobbing musician could do a lot worse than checking out his book, Blowing the Blues, from 2004, the year he died, itself an expanded version of an earlier volume, 1984's The Safest Place in the World. On that subject, the fact he died of acute liver failure, if aged 70, may possibly fit well with any image of the jazz, blues and rock scenes he inhabited for the 50 years preceding.


Saturday, December 4, 2021


 Well, if nothing else, a post here about Joanna Newsom has the opportunity to sidestep a similar piece appearing in the FUNNY VOICES theme, should the team ever take that one on. For too long her name has been a cipher for folk to take a potshot at her curious singing style, possibly to the extent that she is known better for that than for any of her music. (How I am helping is arguably not by starting off with this opener, but, hey, I have to find some traction.....) So, here I will do my best to avoid any reference to helium or to alleycats, concentrating more on her music. And her instrument, the harp.

Harps have only a small footprint in popular music, give or take the odd appearance, for texture and effect.    Like here and here. Folk music rather more, if more often the smaller Celtic harp: clarsachs and the like, thinking of the Breton, Alan Stivell, and the Scottish duo, Sileas. Folk then crosses over into classical with the afro-welsh chamber style of classical harp soloist Catrin Finch, in her works with Senegalese kora maestro, Seckou Keita. Jazz is mainly centred on the trance-like meanderings of Alice Coltrane, and then there are the hard to classify new-age ambient noodlings of Mary Lattimore. Newsom fits into none of these categories, although there is the attempt, or intent, to shoe-horn her into wyrd-folk territory, quite whatever that really means. 

Frank vs. Frank/Nervous Cop 

Classically trained in the instrument from an early age, she is proficient to a degree that can sometimes have you wonder how many of her are playing, or whether all that sound comes from just a harp. Just over a month away from her fortieth birthday, it was actually on keyboards the she began her musical career. But, having been drafted in to add her harp to the experimental rock of Nervous Cop. With the reception seeming promising, she self-produced a couple of EPs, which led her to be drawn to the attention of, initially, Will Oldham ( aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) who then alerted record label, Drag City, who promptly signed her up. 2004 saw her full length debut, The Milk Eyed Mender. All the usual right-on culprits, Pitchfork and that ilk, hailed it amongst the years best, as did the UK's Sunday Times, that level of acclaim lingering into the later end of decade credits, six years later. In 2016, NME, the erstwhile inkie indie bible for counter-cultural teens, voted it 12th best folk album ever. Sales? Less so, it failing to chart, ever the lot of a critic's favourite. 

Bridges and Balloons/The Milk Eyed Mender

Touring with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Vetiver, she was at the forefront of the aforementioned wyrd-folk movement. (Answering my own query, I guess, thus, it means a folk electronica garnished with a hippy dippy ambience.) Festival appearances, many in the UK, underpinned her footprint, with the follow-up, Ys, released in 2006. Heavy duty contributions from along the lines of Van Dyke Parks and Steve Albini added no small gravitas, and she broke into the lower end of the charts. Some backlash, relating to her vocal, also became more overt: "an acquired taste", a "too precious warble that either bewitches or repels." Ouch.


One can't help but think these criticisms hurt. Although she made occasional guest appearances on other records, it was again two years ahead of her 3rd record. However, rather than reining back in any tendency to the grandiose, this was a triple. Have One On Me extended her appeal to the converted, but was deemed overly ambitious by some early acolytes. This isn't stop it out performing her earlier output apropos sales and charting. Indeed, when her 4th album, Divers, dropped in 2015, this too sold more than its predecessor, this time also recouping any loss of critical sway, it deemed her best yet by many. Any perceived change in her vocal timbre on these last two releases seem down to circumstance than to unappreciative ears; vocal cord nodules required medical attention in 2009. Unlike, let's say, Rod Stewart, this may have worked in her favour.

You and Me, Bess/Have One On Me

I appreciate I have actually made little overt reference to her actual harp playing. This is better stated by listening to the clips above, I believe, and I think and hope that there may be rather more harpists appearing as a result of her putting this instrument into the front line, however much she has also diversified into playing rather more keyboard instruments alongside. It would be good to see why she has been doing, becoming a mother apart, these past six years.

Leaving the City/Divers

Take your pick......

Monday, November 22, 2021

Break/Broken: Broken Hearts and Auto Parts

Kevn Kinney: Broken Hearts and Auto Parts

Somehow, I almost completely missed Drivin’ N Cryin’, a band that emerged from Atlanta in the mid-1980s. Probably because they started after my college radio days, and because I don’t think they got much airplay in the northeast. But at some point, I heard the song, “Broken Hearts and Auto Parts,” by Kevn Kinney, who was the lead singer of the band, and I really liked it. (Which led me to investigate some of their music). 

It’s a profoundly sad song, and the title is explained by the very first line: “Ain't been the best year so far...I lost my girl, I lost my car.” And the song continues with a litany of loss and sadness, leading to a remarkable catchy chorus, despite its wistfulness: 

It's been broken hearts and auto parts and everything between.
I was on the move and in a suit, and on the silver screen.
Where I could hide for days, and live inside my dreams.
It's been broken hearts and auto parts this year.

Drivin’ N Cryin’ put out music through the nineties before taking a break, reforming in the late 2000s and releasing an album in 2009 and a series of EPs in 2012-2013. At that point, guitarist Sadler Vaden joined the band for a spell, before leaving to join Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, and a new album was released in 2019. Kinney’s solo career also continued through the 90s and 2000s, and his most recent release, with a version of Golden Palominos, A Good Country Mile, featured a cover of Isbell’s “Never Gonna Change,” (which was mentioned in a piece I wrote about Golden Palominos a few years back). 

As most of you who’ve read my work know, I’m a big fan of Isbell’s (and if you didn’t know it, the number of references to him in this piece about a Kevn Kinney song should clue you in a little). Back when the Georgia Senate races were the big political news, Isbell promised on Twitter that he’d do an album of covers of songs by Georgia artists if both Ossof and Warnock won. They did, and Isbell and his band, and a number of guests, actually made good on their Twitter promise (unlike the many people who have promised to leave the US if one or the other candidate won the presidency), recently releasing Georgia Blue. One of the tracks on the album is Drivin’ N Cryin’s “Honeysuckle Blue,” sung on the album by Vaden (who was not in the band when that song was released). And I was lucky enough to see him sing it the other night during a great set by Isbell and the 400 Unit: 

It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of “Honeysuckle Blue” on Georgia Blue leads to a revival of interest in Drivin’ N Cryin’ and Kinney, who have flown somewhat under the radar (although they are members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame). 

FWIW, Isbell has promised to do an album of Texas covers if Beto O’Rourke wins the governorship. Which is another reason to hope that happens.


Hmmm, possibly straying to close to the bone with this one, given I am currently "unwell" and away from work. Let's just say the NHS is a tough frontline to be patrolling at present, as we balance the (I wish!) post-plague demand with the ongoing per-plague issues, with much less than pre-plague resources or manpower. I'm OK, no walls hit, being able to recognise the signs and to get the help, but it set me thinking about how popular music tackles this phenomenon. Sure, I need to call it stress and burn-out, but it is, is it not, as much a cipher as was/is nervous breakdown. (And I'm sorta guessing, that the myriad breakdowns in bluegrass are probably a whole different kettle, if a shame, as there are so many good ones.....)

19th Nervous Breakdown/Rolling Stones

Clearly the template was the Stones. Far from number 19 myself, it is a cracking little number, prescient and surprisingly forthright for its day, when Jagger was singing about more than just chicks and whips. Indeed, it was, almost, a subject they stuck with for a while, but I'm eschewing the mother's little helpers for now. But that's enough about me. Where else can we find psych advice?

Breakdown/Grace Jones

I am uncertain if, in the the original Tom Petty version, this was a song that fits this concept/conceit, with the lyric sounding an almost passive aggressive exhortation to a possibly soon to be ex, but I so much like the idea of Grace Jones imparting wellbeing advice. I think she might, too. So, that being sufficient, Dr Jones is yer girl. Mind you, she has form in this arena. And her remedy, is it not, actually half the battle. 

Breakdown/Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Kris Kristofferson strikes me as a fella who knows a demon when he sees one, and he certainly captures the sense of oft accompanying melancholia that can sit alongside anxiousness, shame and guilt. He wrote the above song, arguably better known in the version by the Everly Brothers, but I like this one, the poignant pairing of vocals as evocative as the siblings, maybe, courtesy Oldham/Billy, that little bit more. 

Breakdown/Jack Johnson

I think this is probably allegorical, a characteristically bouncy song from the onetime surf dude. I think he is better than he usually gets credit for, and if he can't say stop, I want to get off, well, who can? It is an insightful lyric, actually, and one that heightens my opinion of him all the more. For perspective, however, i offer the below, a truly ludicrous song that has my tongue as far in my cheek as it goes. If I were ever to worry, ol' Eddie has me convinced I ain't. Which makes this indulgence totally therapeutic, don't it?

Nervous Breakdown/Eddie Cochran

So much better am I now feeling, care of the healing power of rock and roll, here is something that also popped up, something I have on an odd compilation, Beginners Guide to Asian Lounge, which is actually pretty good. The mix of instrumentation and internal rhythms are quite a good representation of the maelstrom of conflicting emotions that congress when the candle has burnt too hard. Unless I am just hearing that as I need, but, either which way, all things being equal, normal service to be returned sooner or later

Emotional Breakdown/Mo Magic

(You liked the Earl Scruggs at the beginning too, did you?)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Break/Broken: Convoy


purchase [  The Best of CW McCall ]

I would not have thought so, but apparently trucker CB radio is still a thing - even in this day of digital phones that do the same and more than Citizens Band radio. One source of internet information claims that CB use is fading. Another says that 90% of professional drivers call it a critical tool with about 6 million CB radios still in use in the US.

CB culture of the 1970s developed its own language, including the classic <Break> or sometimes <Breaker>: the code to interrupt all other comms on a channel and insert one's own message atop all others. A number of songs and movies dealt with the American fascination with trucker issues, many related to protests over the 55 MPH speed limit imposed to deal with rising oil prices during the 1973 energy crisis.

We got Smokey and the Bandit (Burt Reynolds), Steel Cowboy (James Brolin) and Over the Top (Sylvester Stallone). We got On the Road Again (Willie Nelson), Truck Driving Man (Buck Owen) and CW McCall's 1975 top of the charts hit Convoy:

The song starts, appropriately for our purposes with "breaker one-nine" and is peppered throughout with trucker-speak that might send you searching for a translation tool. The video here is scenes from the film of the same name based on the story in the song. IMDB rates the film a 6.3/10 with the comment "... the shallowest of Sam Peckinpah's films, but by no means the worst." Wikipedia says it was the most commercially successful of his films. C.W. McCall wrote a new version with "saltier" lyrics specifically for the film. Other musicians in the film's soundtrack include a veritable who's who of country: Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and Doc Watson. There's also various other - some politically incorrect - versions of the song

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


If I get this in before a 'heart', I'll be surprised, the sentimental old buzzards that we all are, over here at SMS, but I'll have ago, knowing the thrill we all get from smashing a piano. No? Never done it? But you wan't to, don't you. Can you imagine the pure recidivist pleasure, the crash, the chords, the cacophony? We've all seen it done, surely?

Well, that was refreshing. Given custom and practice, what we now need is some music. Handily one Frank Turner has thoughtfully written a song on the subject, or about the post-traumatic debris. Wondering, perhaps, whether the piano is a metaphor for something else, the lyric certainly gives that suggestion. A pretty good song, isn't it, folk in its structure and melody, his voice in the unstructured school of similar observationalists like Billy Bragg. As the rhythm section come crashing in, the whole mood changes, into a bit of perfect and powerful 21st century pop music, indelibly English.

Broken Piano (2013)

I'll bet this is Carter's first appearance in these pages. He is an artist I have come to quite like these recent years, as he has gradually fought his way out of anonymous punky thrashes into a songwriter of some nuance. He has had a far from usual trajectory: old Etonians are more likely to end up running the country than topping the bill at medium sized music festivals; Eton College is the ultimate toff school in the country, a term there costing the price of a small family car, even before all the add-ons. Like the school uniform. Given the standard expectation for any self-respecting rocker to disguise their background, with

Joe Strummer and Shane McGowan each preferring folk forgot their sojourns at similar, if ever so slightly less elite institutions, the average public (as we call our private) school boy has to affect rough and tough back street upbringing to make it in the music biz. An Eton accent must have decimated credibility at the Roxy in 1975, or whenever. Indeed, the number of Old Etonians in the annals of popular music are relatively small. I couldn't find any, if you exclude Prince William, a contemporary of Turner, who is said to be quite the demon axe shredder. (I lied; he isn't.) But let's move on, Turner must be as sick as anyone by this concentration of his background. But, before doing so, given Eton has also a reputation as a finishing school for posh thick, Boris Johnson and that ilk, Turner actually completed his studies and then attended Mick Jaggers's old uni, the London School of Economics.

The Half-Life of Kissing/Kneejerk (2001)

A metalhead by choice in his teens, Iron Maiden* were his go-to band. And, surprise, surprise, like every other school or college, even Eton had its own band, Kneejerk, subsequently described as short-lived. From then he moved onto the post-hardcore (no, me neither) London band Million Dead. Around the time that band was appreciating 'irreconcilable differences', we should be grateful Turner caught hold of a cassette version of Bruce Springsteen's 'Nebraska'. This led to his style becoming more measured, with the introduction of melody, even if the words remained as vitriolic. Two well received albums under his name came out in the middle to late noughties, ahead of relative breakthrough, with 2009's 'Poetry of the Deed', bolstered by his relentless touring tendencies, becoming a summer festival staple across the realm of folk, roots, rock and alternative. His next move was to strip back further into a near acoustic mode, for 'England Keep My Bones'. Mind you, he kept his hardcore hand in, simultaneous touring with the unfortunately named Möngöl Horde. Switching allegiances between how much electricity he was needing to perform, The featured song for this piece comes from 2013's 'Tape Deck Heart', which, yes, was his break-up album, after the demise of a longterm relationship, making my suspicions above seem correct.

Live Fast, Die Old (2009)

I Still Believe (2012)

Keeping his b(r)and alive, a stream of EPS and compilations followed, until 2015's 'Positive Songs For Negative People', which drew some criticisms of being blander and more platitudinous lyrically, but was just as reassuringly and rousingly lively in its anthemic choruses. By now he was a chart regular, the album attaining a 2 in its week of domestic release, gaining also some US traction, 69 on the Billboard 

The Next Storm (2015)

chart. I personally didn't get on board until 2019's 'No Man's Land', a concept album, the subject matter and songs referring to powerful women, which included, in the final track, a tribute to his mother. Before, during and since he has maintained his hectic touring schedule, both solo and with the Sleeping Souls, the constant crew of musicians with him since 2006. Having discovered his work, I have delved back into his catalogue and, covid willing, he is one of the first acts I plan to see live when normal service fully resumes, this being something I have had yet to manage.

Rosemary Jane (2019)

Mindful I have strayed far from the theme, outwith the sole song offered, please accept the below as some slight recompense, being a revisioned version, 5 years on, from 2018's 'Songbook'.

Broken Piano (2018)

*Little known fact, in 2014 Turner appeared as a guest on BBC's Celebrity Mastermind, a special edition of the general knowledge quiz, wherein contestants start with a specialist round of questions. Turner chose Iron Maiden as his subject. And won!

To be perfectly Frank.....

Monday, November 15, 2021

Candy: Candy Says


Purchase [ Velvet Underground ]

Star Maker Machine has been around Halloween-themed things before (including Trick or Treat back in 2018), at which time I wrote about the self-same first idea that came to mind this time around: Grateful Dead's <Candyman>.

OK, so .. back to the drawing board. Guess that song meant (still means) a lot to me since it keeps coming to mind. But wait, a little digging shows that the Four Tops had something similar:

Then again, after another look, I see a song that (somewhat surprisingly) appears not to have ever appeared here at SMM - and it is one that I used to listento and appreciate, for the Veklvet Underground's XXX album:

<Candy Says> is a quintessential Velvet Underground piece: understated, but harmonious/melodic. it must be because of these attributes [understated foremost] that the band never achieved top-of-the-charts status: IMHO the song is just about perfect, but it would never be a "hit" (too laid back?)

Never really got into the darkness below Velvet Underground myself - but I always appreciated that side of the spectrum. The same for Lou Reed as well - music needs people like this to move on, but too dark and outre for me most of the time.

That said, Wiki tells us the song is written in the voice if a transgender woman - way back in 69 - outta time/outta space

Monday, November 8, 2021


Duty bound to prop up this side of the atlantic, with candy, like movies and garbage, an americanism that has crept in and gained an increasing traction in the language over here. I feel I have to say we eat sweets, or, even, sweeties, when in need of a sugar kick. So, true to form, tapping 'sweet' into my i-tunes search, I anticipated reams of inspiration. Sadly, give or take this song, very little fitted the bill, even were I to turn a blind eye to the innumerable double entendres out there, as most of the sweetness and most of the honey referred to comes in a two legged form. Needing, thus, a quick reboot, and chocolate became my go-to. 

Courtesy disallows any discussion over the pros and cons of US versus UK in this confection, the age-old Hershey versus Cadbury, perhaps now academic that Cadbury, for chrissakes, are owned by the cheese paste magnate, Kraft. (The answer, by the way, is neither, my taste erring towards dark and interesting, the continental "plain" chocolate that actually bears some acquaintance with the cocoa bean.) So, with no further ado, here's a selection box of choccy treats, which I will deliver in the form of the once mighty Fry's Five Boys bar. This was a childhood treat in, admittedly, simpler times, a thin bar comprising 5 segments, each with a different boy at the different 5 stages of engagement therewith. Entitled Desperation, Pacification, Expectation, Acclamation and Realisation, the classic stages of how to bribe a small child. Once the most recognised bar in the world, it was launched in 1902, surviving until the late '70s, by which time it had become desperately low key and old hat. 


I Like Chocolate/Johnny and the Raindrops

Has anyone actually heard this monster before? Uncertain quite as to which demographic it was aimed toward, nonetheless it is so gallingly sickly as to deserve a place here. Johnny and the Raindrops, who "have been making music for children and their grown-ups since 2008", that quote giving away the game that they are in that small selection of bands for pre-school kids, like Australia's more famous Wiggles. (I'd love to say like They Might Be Giants, but I am aware their fans now come also in long trousers and are fiercely protective of the band and their oeuvre.)



An unusual piece from the Tindersticks canon. Unusual, in that it is spoken word, spoken with a voice that sounds normal and unmannered. The singing style of the vocalist, Stuart Staples, is not always so, with one of the, let's say, more curious timbres out there. Don't get me wrong, I adore the band, and his odd vocal style is a big part of that, this song somehow diminishing him a little, making him sound just a normal lad from Nottingham. The backing remains, of course, exquisitely characteristic, a mix twixt David Lynch soundtrack and european art-house film music. It is a long track; please bear with it. If you can't, well, skip to the end. With luck you will then want to hear the whole thing.


Chocolate Girl/Deacon Blue

The song that first endeared me to this ongoing Scottish institution. A terrific song from their debut album, the mere act of adding some sublime pedal steels ensured my interest and attention. I have written about them before, my belief maintained that their first work was their best, further albums never quite having quite the same hooks. But they play on, fairly big hitters, still, on the bigger UK indoor venue circuit: indeed, I caught them, if briefly, playing at  festival just this last summer. With a largely all the hits show, they had the audience lapping it all out of their hands. And, sure, they played this.


Chocolate Drops/Iggy Pop

A newer song, slightly, one of the highpoint of Mr Osterberg's 5 year old opus, Post Pop Depression. I like it, he coming on all over like a cross between his old mucker, David Bowie, and Mark Lanegan, the thoughtful use of chimes in the percussion department always a mood lifter in my house. It has intriguing lyrics, Pop's own, added to a riff album producer Josh Homme had had lying around for some few years. Basically a variation on the Monty Python song about looking on the bright side, here Pop muses on how, as you sink to the bottom, you become the top of that trajectory, inviting the then corollary that the brown stuff accumulating there might then become chocolate drops. Enticing stuff, eh? But it is a lovely little tune so, with that positivity in mind, who is to say the yellow snow isn't honey?


More Songs About Chocolate and Girls/The Undertones

I'm not sure whether this was written as a response to the Talking Heads' worthy sounding album, More Songs About Buildings and Food; I should check. (A: It came two years later and both bands were on the same label, so it seems a reasonable supposition.) No clever allegorical verbiage here, just a dumb yet smart ode to the simple pleasures of, um, chocolate and girls, sung in Feargal Sharkey's unmistakeable wobbly warble. At the end of this or any day, I am not sure if any of the greatest philosophers could put it better:

"Sit down, relax and cancel all other engagements
It’s never too late to enjoy dumb entertainment"

So, there you have it, 5 boys worth of chocolate. Before I finish, however, let me share with you the delight of discovery as to what the Scots Gaelic for candy turns out to be, sweeties being so integral in Scottish life and dentistry..... (Hint: try saying 'suiteas' aloud. And 'seòclaid' isn't heaven a million miles away, either!)