Essential 45rpm Records to Slot Into a Pub Jukebox
I prefer no music in pubs but just for a bit of fun I'm going to have a virtual pub jukebox to which I'll add a track from time-to-time. Listening to the audiobile in some of the boozers on the Isle of Wight whilst on holiday in 2012 convinced me that music in pubs is generally a bad thing because, more often than not, the selections can be infuriating. The Isle of Wight seemed to have a 70s and 80s fixation. I never thought I would hear Sweet Sensation's "Sad Sweet Dreamer" ever again but, to my horror, it cropped up twice on the island in different pubs. I wanted to find the cables to the loudspeakers so I could snip them in half.
The trouble with mainstream popular music is that there is just a hideous amount of pap, proving that 'People Like What They Know' rather than 'Know What They Like.' So, as publican and the person who inserts the records into this jukebox, I get to put on the tracks I like. All selections are from my personal music collection that has taken a lifetime to compile. I have wildly eclectic taste in music so there is a bit of everything - just as it should be in the pub where patrons can all select a favourite. From indie to country, and soul to bluegrass, I love every one of these tracks. Hopefully, at some point you'll be entertained, intrigued, amused or bemused. DO NOT e-mail me suggesting I add a track by some boy band or a winner of 'they ain't got talent' - it simply isn't going to happen.
Footnote : that aforementioned "Sad Sweet Dreamer" was arguably the forerunner of the trend for talent shows - you just have to delete Simon Cowell and Pop Idol and insert Tony Hatch and New Faces. However, the group did spawn the classic "Reach for Love" when youngest member, the late Marcel King, hooked up with Factory Records and produced a Hacienda club hit in the mid-80s.
With some sort of reference to how the records fit into the pub's weekly schedule, I will try to write a few words on some of the jukebox selections over time. I will kick-off with a classic from 1934.....
This is a perfect soundtrack for that quiet session during Sunday afternoon when the lunchtime crowd have gone home and it will be a while before the early doors drinkers venture through the pub's doors. "The Very Thought of You" remains one of the great songs of the 20th century and has been recorded zillions of times by many major artists. However, this 1934 recording is THE version to treasure. On this record Al Bowlly, crooning sensation of the inter-war years, provides the pitch perfect standard along with the orchestra with whom he performed for a number of years - and it was Ray Noble who composed this benchmark recording."
Al Bowlly, the Mozambican-born vocalist, had good reason to sing "I see your face in every flower, your eyes in stars above" as he married Marjie Fairless in the same year. This proved to be a more successful marriage - he found his first wife in bed with another man on their wedding day. Now, that could have been the basis for some interesting lyrics and vocal delivery! Arguably the first pop star, Al Bowlly was one of the early crooners who successfully made the transition from 1920s jazz to the early swing movement. He recorded several hundred songs in the 1930s, and tried his luck in Hollywood before returning to London prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. It was in April 1941 that he was killed by a German parachute mine that exploded outside his flat in Duke Street, St. James.
With Al Bowlly being played on a wind-up, the jukebox has just been delivered to the pub so it is that exciting moment of trying out the equipment. The first record I am putting in the jukebox is a killer 1958 record by Link Wray. "Rumble" is still a fantastic 45rpm packed with an undercurrent of malevolence. The record was actually banned in New York and Boston as it was feared that it would incite teenage gang violence! The track perhaps conjures up an image of 1950s bikers with blue jeans and leather jackets - or maybe down the drag for a hot-rod burnout. But, if you intend to listen with four wheels, please note that this should only be played in a car if you actually happen to own something like a '57 Chevy!
"The Drifter" is a mid-60s big beat number with an incredible soulful delivery by Ray Pollard, a veteran of the Korean war who had enjoyed moderate success as lead singer with The Wanderers, a New York R&B group. This song has something of a wall-of-sound orchestral arrangement akin to that used to support the Walker Brothers on records such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore." This is partly down to the production of Arnold Goland, a composer and arranger who worked with Phil Spector. However, the genius of this terrific recording is that, through just a few lines, it is a mini road movie, thus proving that songs lyrics can often work best when less is more, leaving the listener to fill in the spaces. An essential disc for the pub jukebox to end the evening.
"Payroll" by Reg Owen is a great record for the pub when some of the punters sat in the snug are hatching a plan to pull off a good old-fashioned robbery, the likes of which disappeared with The Sweeney. This 1961 British neo-noir crime thriller filmed in the north-east has plenty of flaws but could have been a classic. However, it has some fine vintage moments, not least this theme music. Mind you, if Maurice Ravel had lived to hear some of these notes he may have been on the telephone to his solicitors. However, scribbling away in Brussels, Reg Owen, the Hackney-born composer, blazed a trail here for the likes of the car chase music in Bullitt credited to Lalo Schifrin.
2012 got off to a great start with the release of "The Lion's Roar," the second album by First Aid Kit, an outfit featuring the close harmony delights of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg. The jukebox selection from this album is "Emmylou," a reference to the seemingly idyllic relationship between country singers Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons which was used metaphorically as a proposal to a young lover. Johnny Cash and June Carter are similarly thrown into the allegorical mix. The First Aid Kit sisters originate from Enskede, a southern suburb of Stockholm, but you would never be able to detect this from their output - on these early recordings they sounded like some kooky chicks from somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the deepest Midwest of America. Following the release of their debut, they were quickly compared to the Fleet Foxes so it was a canny move to cover "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and plonk it on You Tube. It went viral and quickly notched up over 3 million views. They went on to play alongside the Fleet Foxes, recorded for Jack White and collaborated with Bright Eyes. Consequently, they became genuine cool cats on the alt.folk circuit - and beyond. Their voices are flawless - indeed, ethereal to the point of pure perfection. Blimey, Sweden's gone and done it again - they win my Eurovision Song Contest year after year.
"High Flying Bird" by Judy Henske was a b-side that transcended its original obscurity to become an important song of social commentary during the revolutionary 1960s. Many a protest singer incorporated this song within their live set, most notably Richie Havens at Woodstock. Essentially, "High Flying Bird" is a folk song that was first recorded by top-drawer jazz musicians with a soulful vocal delivery by a woman dubbed "Queen of the Beatniks." "High Flying Bird" was composed by the folk and country singer-songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler, and Judy Henske was the first to record the song in 1963 but it was issued as the reverse side to "Charlotte Town." However, it was the title track of her second album recorded for Jac Holzman's Elektra label. If you check some live performances you will see how Janis Joplin was influenced by Judy Henske's style of delivery. The theme, of course, is looking up to the freedom of a bird whilst living a life of drudge on land, dreaming of a better life. One for the struggling publican to play whilst cleaning the beer lines or scrubbing the cellar. Noel Gallagher borrowed the song title for the name of his band but this was after listening to the version by Jefferson Airplane so we can brush over this bit of trivia.
Brit-Pop did not, as many assume, start with Blur and Oasis. In 1960 records such as this flew the flag and blazed a trail across the globe. Long forgotten now, "Look For A Star" was written by the legendary Tony Hatch, under the pseudonym Mark Anthony, and was originally intended for Norman Wisdom for the film "Follow A Star." However, it wound up being used in the British horror film "Circus of Horrors" and sung by Garry Mills, the Kent-born nephew of jazz band leader Nat Gonella. A pin-up of the coffee bar scene of the late-1950s, he covered a number of American hit singles before landing this, the biggest hit of his career. With its plinky-plonky instrumentation, "Look For A Star" is a lovely period piece. It was produced by Dick Rowe, the man who famously did not sign the Beatles when he worked at Decca. I love the understated organ bursts and the fine brass interlude. This is a jukebox selection for the pop historians in the pub.
It's Saturday night and there's a party in the pub so this choice is a no-brainer. A mid-60s scorching mix of latin, soul and jazz. The banality of the lyrics is more than outweighed by the outrageously infectious rhythm that will have everyone on their feet dancing, arms flailing whilst singing "At The Party!" If this record by Hector Rivera fails to move you then you're already on your way to the pearly gates. A hot, sweaty slice of boogaloo, "At The Party" is frenetic in all departments with several trumpet players interlinking with frenzied drumming. This single is the most famous recording of New York-born Hector Rivera and topped the American R&B charts in 1967. It is the title track of a 1966 album by the keyboardist, arranger and composer. He started out in the previous decade with the band of Elmo Garcia. Although he released his own records as a bandleader, his bread-and-butter was playing with the likes of Joe Cuba and Pacheco, plus vocalist Vincento Valdez.
I don't think we can have a pub jukebox without a record by Dame Shirley Bassey, or Saucy Shirl from Tiger Bay. Heck, I may even load an additional Bond record later. For now, I will load "Big Spender" into the machine. First performed in the musical "Sweet Charity," this disc followed Peggy Lee's recording of the number. And whilst that was a fine record, Shirley Bassey's version elevated the song to new levels. Her brassy voice was complemented by bold orchestration so that she totally owned the song. Penned by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, "Big Spender" would become a signature tune for Shirley Bassey. A record to be played when somebody elects to get one in for the house.
Billed as Aussie Dream Pop, in "He's 31" Geowulf managed to blend Kylie with Lana Del Rey, perhaps no coincidence as they had collaborated with Justin Parker, the Lincolnshire producer who had worked with the latter. "My Resignation," the 2019 album from which this track is taken, is perhaps too pop confection to consume in one sitting but the melody and Phil Spector wall-of-sound drum rolls in this song is 4:28 of loveliness.
One of the odd things about this record is that Rudy Martinez could never have envisaged that his pseudonym would create a headache for html editors and file labellers in the 21st century computer world. He is thought to have composed "96 Tears" four years prior to it becoming a hit single. Although it is a great recording, it is a little overstated in some circles where it is credited as the first punk record. I would look a little earlier than this .... say, "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen. ? and The Mysterians are also widely regarded as a garage band but, after listening to other material, I would say they were at the pop edge of the garage-rock spectrum - and by some margin. I would probably describe them as a beat group rather than a garage band. In my opinion most of their output was mediocre. Consequently, "96 Tears" confirms my belief that most artists have one great song within their body of work - there are innumerable bands that have largely recorded a pile of rubbish but have somehow produced three minutes of pure genius. This Michigan combo certainly pulled off some majestic moments when the tape rolled in the studio for this recording, a wonderful juncture in the history of popular music. I love the ridiculous quote of Rudy Martinez who once stated that "his soul had originated from Mars and that he once walked on Earth with the dinosaurs." His abduction of the keyboard player from another local group, The Trespassers, was however inspired genius ... those organ riffs still sound groovy sixty years on.
Back in the day it was harder to find certain records. There was no online searching in those days. Consequently, it could take years to track down a particular record. "My Hang Up Is You" by The Skull Snaps was one such disc that had me flicking through record boxes for some years. It's not that I am mad about the recording but it simply became a quest to find a copy. Actually it is not that easy to find these days and has sold between £60 and £150 a time when emerging on the Internet [bootlegs are available for much less]. I first heard this polished soul track in the late 1970s and it was 14 years before I stumbled across a copy at a record fair held in Birmingham's Central Hall. I was flicking through the S section and couldn't believe my eyes. I picked out the mint condition single with original paper sleeve and, feigning only slight interest, nonchalantly enquired for a price. I was told £4 by the dealer. £4! I would have given him considerably more just to end the mission to find the blinkin' thing. I casually handed over the money and headed for the tea stand before holding the record aloft like it was the F.A. Cup that I had just won. Incidentally, the album from which this single was taken has a few more funky tracks and "It's a New Day" has been sampled to death by hip-hop artists.
"Be-Bop-A-Lula" is a record that has to go in the pub jukebox simply because the disc was probably inserted into every British jukebox at some stage of its life. Recorded in 1956 and originally destined to be a b-side, "Be-Bop-A-Lula" made Vincent Eugene Craddock a household name after his discharge from the U.S. Navy following a terrible motorcycle accident. He also survived the car accident in which Eddie Cochran died. An early rockabilly recording, it was picked up by Capitol Records who were looking to rival the success of Elvis Presley. Despite selling more than two million records, the song never reached the dizzy heights of No.1. However, the seminal recording inspired thousands of wannabee rock stars for a generation.
"The Thrill Is Gone" by B. B. King is a record to open up the pub for those with the Monday morning blues. Riley B. King had been around the block for some years before he entered the studio with some ace New York musicians to cut this track in October 1969. However, this was the record that helped him on his way to becoming an international star. The original version of "The Thrill Is Gone" was an earthier blues number penned by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951. On this version the production of Bill Szymczyk brought a glossy style to the song, particularly with the string arrangement of Bert DeCoteaux. The single is an edited version of the track recorded for the "Completely Well" album. ABC, the American record label spotted the song's potential as a single for which B. B. King scooped a Grammy Award.
For those of us who went into mourning following the break-up of Galaxie 500, salvation came with the formation of Luna fronted by Dean Wareham. Nobody thought he could reach the heights achieved over a four-year period with Galaxie 500. The doubters were proved wrong as the New York adopted son of New Zealand rolled out audio gold like a 60s Brill Building pen-pusher. The line-up changed often and the sound evolved over the years but the magic pen of Wareham kept delivering the goods. Taken from the 2002 album "Romantica," "Mermaid Eyes," a bittersweet song with hook-laden melodies is a duet with Britta Phillips who had not long joined the band. The former band member of Ultra Baby Fat and The Belltower had a quite a music pedigree - her father was once the music teacher of Paul Simon. She would eventually marry Wareham and release a couple of albums under the banner Dean & Britta.
Check out the image above to see the catalogue number of "Wash And Wear Love" begins with B - incredible to think that this 1973 recording was issued as a b-side. It might have vanished without trace but UK music lovers picked up on the record by Lynn Varnado and it became a collectable item - to the point that bootleg copies surfaced at soul all-nighters. The A-side "Tell Me What's Wrong With The Men" is a funkier song and probably thought to have more chances of airplay and success. The singer with a powerful voice co-wrote "Wash And Wear Love" under her real name of Allean Varnado. After her 1970s recordings she turned to gospel music through her work as a minister and bible instructor. Here however, she brilliantly uses laundry metaphors such as "my washing machine is too tender and the soap powder costs too much" as a message to her lover who is reluctant to commit to a long-term relationship, and all to funky guitar riffs and resounding brass.
The pub's Wednesday evening eclectic mix is enriched by the late Issa Bagayogo with "Sayé Mogo Bana," a gorgeous mix of African and Electronica sounds. Featuring a thudding rhythm, this track is lifted from the excellent 2002 album "Timbuktu," one of four albums he released before his early death in 2016. Here he delivered a great vocal and superb licks from his kamele n'goni. He may not be as well-known as fellow countrymen Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, but if you have been impressed by the likes of Tinariwen on the festival circuit you need to explore Issa Bagayogo's rich back catalogue.
The 2005 album "In The Clear" is not the greatest of Ivy's albums but it does feature a few really good tracks like "Tess Don't Tell," a hook-laden, guitar-driven indie-pop number that many of the post-C86 girl bands would have died for. If you think that Dominique Durand sounds a bit ooh-la-la, it will come as no surprise to learn that she hailed from Paris but met fellow band members Adam Schlesinger and Andy Chase when she moved to New York to study English. They cited The Go-Betweens, Burt Bacharach, The Smiths, Velvet Underground and The Beatles as influences so you will know the sort of indie-pop they strived to deliver. Not all of their output was majestic but they often came up trumps.
World Circuit, the record label known for the legendary Buena Vista Social Club sessions with Ry Cooder, released a compilation album in 1999 which collected together the best recordings of Los Zafiros. Despite this, the group would still have flown under the radar of most, apart from a select bunch of music aficionados who had gathered together fragments of their recorded output. Influenced by American Doo-Wop and Rock'n'Roll played on pre-Castro Cuban radio, Los Zafiros fused the close-harmony of such music with the bolero and bossa-flavoured calypso of their native island. In Havana they became superstars but it went to their heads and they developed something of a hedonistic lifestyle. But during the early-mid 1960s they were audio gold. What brought them to an international audience in a big way was the inclusion of this track in "Breaking Bad," arguably the best TV show of all time. After this record played during the crushing of the camper van, people were rushing to Shazam the track, or freezing the screen during the credits. And when pub customers drop their coins into the jukebox and select "He Venido" the whole pub stops, grown men start to cry, and the uninitiated ask the publican for the title of this utterly beautiful record.
"I'm On My Way" by Dean Parrish is a typical Big Apple sound of the mid-1960s. This record has amazingly notched up one million sales. However, the blue-eyed soul boy from Little Italy saw little earnings after it flopped at the time of release in 1967. Dean Parrish later hung up his microphone, reverted to his birth name of Phil Anastasi, and enjoyed a modest acting career, supplementing his income as a session guitarist. The song was co-written by Doug Morris who earned substantially more in his career as a record label big wig, one of the biggest in the industry. He started out as a songwriter and boosted his early salary by penning "Sweet Talkin' Guy" for The Chiffons. The disc jockey Russ Winstanley was the person responsible for the huge sales of this record in later years. "I'm On My Way" was famously the last record to be played at Wigan Casino before the shutters came down, sealing this song's revered status with fans of the genre.
"Didn't I" by Darondo is a classic 1970s record for the jukebox that the more erudite patrons will select when feeding the machine with silver. However, after a few notes even the most unenlightened will recognise a song that was championed by Gilles Peterson in 2005 and subsequently appeared in the soundtracks of several films. William Daron Pulliam, a.k.a. Darondo, hailed from the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoyed a brief period of success but got messed up with cocaine. He left for Europe before spending some time playing guitar on a cruise ship. His unusual career path then saw him becoming a physical therapist and speech pathologist. Some of his other recordings from the early 1970s are really good but I guess the dude will always be remembered for this song. However, it is one heck of a legacy.
This may surprise some folks but, as I type, I am playing Madonna's debut album - the re-mastered version naturally. The album has some dodgy moments but has a commendable legacy - it is, of course, a record of its time. However, the bassline and hook on "Holiday" remains a classic. Producer John "Jellybean" Benitez used what was cutting-edge technology for the time, though probably antiquated by now. I remember Madonna miming and dancing to this track at Manchester's Hacienda in January 1984.
A great way to enjoy a shake-out after the previous evening's party is to go back to "Paradiso" a stunning track on the amazing "Congotronics" album by Konono No.1. Emerging from the vibrant Kinshasa scene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this group put together their percussion instruments by recycling materials from a scrap yard. On top of this is thumb pianos, chants forming the basis of Bazombo trance music. A great track for a session of leftfield bliss.
Like fellow country-mates The Radio Dept., Club 8 evolved from a melodic indie guitar band to an outpouring of electronica-pop of the highest order. Their early twee indie-pop material would have sat comfortably within the stable of Sarah Records. However, Karolina Komstedt's heavenly vocal delivery is far more suited to overlaying the hook-laden synth-electronics of Johan Angergård who knows how to melt an audience with a judiciously-positioned key change or two. Well, he did in 2003 when the duo compiled their magnum opus fittingly entitled "Strangely Beautiful." If they had continued in this vein they were in danger of becoming Scandinavia's biggest hitmakers since Abba. However, they later followed a similar melancholic path undertaken by Depeche Mode when the Basildon boys ditched Top of the Pops for their darker progression. Here, on "Cold Hearts," Club 8 managed to reach ethereal levels beyond the celestial.
Well, like them or not, the jukebox has to have a record by The Beatles. I have selected "And Your Bird Can Sing," a song that featured on my favourite Beatles long-player. There is many a prog-rocker who should listen to this and think of it as a lesson in how to burst in, say what you've got to say in less than two minutes, then exit the stage door. The Smiths learned this lesson for many of their classic mini-soap operas. Interestingly, for such a short piece of work, there is an endless stream of prose discussing the lyrics - with more conjecture than many a conspiracy theory. John Lennon dismissed the song as "another of my throwaways ...fancy paper around an empty box." However, for me at least, it is simply a majestic piece of guitar pop, almost out-Byrding The Byrds. This record no doubt inspired the likes of Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub to pick up their guitars and play.
"Cumbia Con Sabor" by Agrupación Ilegal Los Imparciales is a fantastic record for the beer garden during the summer months. The b-side of "Ni Chicha Ni Limonada," itself a fabulous recording, this Cumbia instrumental will have the punters bobbing up and down, spilling their beer, treading on the odd small dog or two. Formed in 2012 on the west side of Buenos Aires, this outfit fused traditional Cumbia, Peruvian Chicha with a splash of psychedelic undertones. A real old-school sound was achieved through the use of the Farfisa organ and percussion. Unlike many of the new Brazilian and Argentinean bands, they unashamedly tipped their sun hats to a past era which lends a lovely flavour of authenticity.
This is a Friday evening selection to send a jolt through the punters' audio senses. The late Charlie Gillett awarded Four Stars to "Heimlich" when he reviewed the CD for The Observer Music Monthly. When Charlie Gillett dished out four stars I generally sat up and took notice. I had not heard of 17 Hippies before but the review had me reaching for my mouse to press the 'add to basket' button on a music site. Accordingly, two days later, when the parcel dropped through the letterbox and the disc was shoved into the player, my life was considerably enhanced when the loudspeakers emitted the most wonderfully eclectic collection of songs. This is an album with which it is almost impossible to tire - there is seemingly something new and fresh to enjoy on subsequent listening. The band were a collective based in Berlin and played their material with a free bohemian spirit. I cannot better Charlie Gillett's references of a mixture of Cajun, Cole Porter, French chanson, and Leonard Cohen - it's all here and more. Inevitably, Bertolt Brecht springs to mind, along with sprinklings of Slavic folk music. There is even a corking cover version of Jerry Lordan's "Apache."
It's funny how some, or many, records can act as a photograph album. I was a very young teenager when I accompanied my mother to Birmingham for some reason I cannot figure out. She very rarely ventured into Birmingham so I am not sure of the purpose of the trip. Anyway, I had some pocket money to blow and I can recall buying the album from which this song was taken as a hit single at the indoor market next to Woolies. Most of my school mates were into the likes of Robin Trower and Wishbone Ash whilst I unashamedly was buying records by T. Rex, David Bowie and Al Green. Cradley Heath once had a brilliant soul shop on Reddal Hill and here I discovered some fantastic soul artists on obscure U.S. labels. I bought records by the likes of Bobby Paris, The Carstairs, Lou Johnson and Lenny Welch. Many of these records would later be dubbed "Northern Soul" but I didn't know this at the time. I just liked playing them on my record-player in the bedroom. Besides, I moved south - in terms of the music that is, and went all deep with ballads and gospel. Al Green is admittedly at the commercial end of this spectrum but I paid homage to the studio in which this song was recorded when I toured the southern states in the 1980s. Many years later Al Green showed he still had what it takes when he performed this song on the Jools Holland "Later ...." programme. Have you ever wondered how many artists Mr. Holland has played with? The list must be incredible. It you watch that clip, and without looking at the credits, see if you spot the guest guitarist.
The single "What's Inside A Girl?," by The Cramps is the fourth track from the ultra-camp and downright seedy "A Date With Elvis," in my opinion a highpoint of in the lifespan of this garage band. They spent the 1980s and 90s blending classic rockabilly with monster movies and sleazy sex lyrics to deliver the ultimate in American trash culture. I remember seeing them perform this on the arts section of BBC2's Newsnight and it shocked the presenter who didn't know what to utter following their strutting performance. From a slightly more innocent age of pre-Internet porn, the lyrics are completely outrageous ..... "pointed bra, ten inch waste, long black stockings all over the place, boots, buckles, belts outside ..... what you got in there you trying to hide?" And guitarist Kirsty "Poison Ivy" Rorschach Wallace dressed the part. She met vocalist Erick "Lux Interior" Purkhiser in Sacramento and, when they discovered a shared affinity for obscure rockabilly, surf records and junk culture, The Cramps were born. In the mid-70s they moved to New York and, along with guitarist Bryan Gregory and Miriam Linna, they became favourites at the legendary punk club CBGBs. The Cramps performed a great version of this on "The Tube." I remember coming home from work, sticking the telly on and seeing this one Friday teatime in 1986 - completely outrageous and totally brilliant. I love the sound of that guitar.
The 2016 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro may have brought a large haul of gold, silver and bronze medals for Team GB but the Brazilian sports festival suffered a number of setbacks and problems. Social media and the tabloid press reported on a variety of issues such as contaminated water, poor ticket sales and the closure of the Olympic Village's branch of McDonald's. However, for me at least, the biggest disappointment was the music played at the various venues. This was Brazil's big chance to showcase their cultural heritage to the max. Moreover, the games presented the country with the opportunity to show that, in addition to football, they rule the world when it comes to Coro, Samba and Bossa Nova. Yet, in the main, all we got was a string of globalised pop and rock that you can hear just about anywhere else on the planet. The BBC weren't much better, choosing to roll out "Mas que Nada" by Sérgio Mendes, just as they do every time the Brazilians appear during the World Cup. Sure, the Jorge Ben Jor composition is a classic but why not delve a little further into the record box marked Brasilica. The Beeb even thought that they were being cool by playing a record by Santana, a San Francisco rock band led by a Mexican. If we are going to have Santana as a factor then the publican's choice of a top-notch Brazilian record to be slotted into the pub jukebox has to be "Vim de Sant'ana," an awesome chunk of baião music from 1967 by Quarteto Novo, a group that recorded just one album before the members went their separate ways, thus adding to the cult status bestowed upon this heavenly piece of vinyl. Check out the guitar work, piano and percussion on this white-hot recording, particularly the second half after 2m.20s - if you have not heard it before then prepare to redefine your concept of musical genius. Listen to Heraldo do Monte letting rip on the guitar before a monster drum solo to conquer all drum solos. Over half a century later this recording still makes me go all tingly with joy. How many of your old records do that? The album from which this track is taken influenced a generation of musicians - and still does today! If Mo Farah ran with this on his headphones he would break the world record every time he went for a jog.
The clientele in this pub are an eclectic bunch and the lunchtime punters like to chill out a little when supping a pint and chewing on their pie. For my francs - they didn't do Euros at the time of this composition - this can justifiably be singled out as Debussy's best work. He first learned the piano in Cannes when living with his aunt. Her funding was rewarded when it turned out that he was rather good on the ivory keys. From an early age he challenged the conventions of traditional composition and, as such, moved the goalposts for successive generations. And it is for this paradigm shift that the Frenchman is considered a colossus of classical music. His work serves as a voyage between the late-Romanticism of the 19th century and the modernist arrangements of the following century. Almost inevitably, music critics have sought a correlation between his compositions and the impressionist art movement. In this respect, "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune" is viewed as the beginning of a new epoch in music. First performed in 1894, the symphonic prose was inspired by a poem penned by Stéphane Mallarmé. This interpretation by Herbert von Karajan is arguably the finest you will hear.
I guess many a patron of the pub would have "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," by Marvin Gaye in the machine if they were in charge of the selections. Every pub jukebox should have a Motown record as an option for the customers. In the Black Country, where Northern Soul still seems to have a scene in the Labour Clubs and Workers' Institutes, they would probably insist on Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You," whilst the less informed would select "Jimmy Mack." However, I think this track is perhaps the one with which most people find some enjoyment. Even rock fans will admit to liking what is deemed an all-time classic. Composed in 1966 by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, this was originally recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles but didn't make it through the strict quality control of Berry Gordy's in-tray. Indeed, he didn't rate that version when he first heard it and turned to Gladys Knight to record a hit version during 1967. Along with her Pips, she made a funkier uptempo number which enjoyed chart success in America. In this 1967 session, Whitfield slowed things right down and augmented the Funk Brothers instrumentation with a lush arrangement by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The track was buried on Gaye's 1968 album "In The Groove" but some things you just cannot hide and it eventually surfaced on radio playlists, thus securing the song's immortality.
It is not only pubs that are having a tough time of it. The retail sector in general is facing uncertain times. So, "Corner Store." is an apt choice on the pub jukebox. It is a 45rpm that relates to a hot topic on the radio - the sad sight of Britain's High Streets with empty shops and boarded up old flagship brands. All of which begs the question: "Do you miss your local shop?" I mean the old-fashioned store from yesteryear, the one that stocked absolutely everything. Well, seemingly at any rate. Or do you wish our High Street's still had plenty of independent retailers selling unusual stuff? Big chains and online shopping ruined it all. Now shoppers only have charity shops and pound stores in which to rummage - and what sort of life is that? But once upon a time, yes you youngsters, it's true, it was possible to have fun on almost every High Street no matter how small the town, an epoch of shopping adventure that had survived for centuries. It has all gone apart from a few diehards. Here Jonathan Richman laments the loss of the local store through the rise of the shopping mall. Sound lyrics amid a great song.
The Virginia-born singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne had been making records for over a decade before the release of "I Am Shelby Lynne" for which she received a Grammy Award as "Best New Artist." Accepting the speech, Lynne sardonically remarked "13 years and 6 albums to get here." Her roots lie in country music but she had always delved into an eclectic jukebox for inspiration. For those who insist on benchmarks, you can file this album somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Amy Winehouse. With a great sassy voice, this ranks up with the best soulful material of Carole King. Moreover, "Gotta Get Back" is the closest a white woman is ever going to sound like Aretha Franklin. Yes, she is that good. Perhaps growing up in Alabama helped? My choice for the pub jukebox is "Leavin'," the second track on this terrific album, a tale of a relationship's end of the road. With superb knob-twiddling by Bill Bottrell, the arrangement is sublime with space for Lynne's acoustic guitar. In a sense, this was recorded eight years too late, for it would have been the perfect soundtrack for Geena Davis as the goofy downtrodden wife Thelma Dickinson who hit the road with Louise.
Vujicsics' eponymously-titled 1988 album on Hannibal Records is, in the words of Al Green, "simply beautiful." Sometimes it seems terribly paradoxical that the war-torn regions of Serbia and Croatia can produce such serene music. This really is an astonishing piece. In recognition of the amiable nature of their mission, the President of Hungary once remarked that Vujicsics are "prophets of mutual dependence and interaction over many centuries of the nations of South-Europe whose homogenous melodies are integrated in harmony." Forming an ensemble in Pomáz during 1974, these Hungarian-based musicians have dedicated themselves to preserving and bestowing Southern Slav music to the rest of the world. When Q reviewed this album they came up with the wonderful line: "If these exhilarating string-driven things leave you motionless, it's only because you've already nailed your feet to the floor."
2017 got off to a great start and made Happy New Year celebrations in the bar on January 1st go down well after the discovery of New York four-piece Turnip King. Actually, the pub was a little behind as "Laika," their debut EP, had been released back in the previous August. It was on hearing the opening track "The Ho_Se" that first drew my attention to this band, an outfit that once featured Nick Kivien of the Sunflower Bean [another excellent combo] but it is perhaps "Carsong," the second track that will probably emerge as a shoegazing classic, forging auditory territory somewhere between prime-time Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. A track in which one is enveloped in their lovely guitar layers.
Once "Tourbillon" kicks in on the jukebox the punters will be rocking on their bar stools. Somebody may even feel compelled to jump on the pool table and gyrate wildly to the punchy rhythms. Born into an Algerian family, Soha hailed from Marseilles and claimed that her first loves included Brel, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday and dub-reggae and that she is influenced by American jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel soul and Jamaican dub. And much of what she had absorbed had been packed into the album from which this track is taken. And, as you would expect from her lineage and cultural background, you also get flavours of North Africa with French instrumentation, creating an electrifying melting pot of sounds - a heady resonating maelstrom of catchy rhythms. A video was filmed in Cuba in 2007 and features one scene with old men playing dominoes. I am not quite sure how they were supposed to concentrate on their spots whilst a sexy singer was strutting around the joint?
The pub jukebox has to include "Mack The Knife" by Bobby Darin as it is a song that can only be described as a showstopper. Walden Robert Cassotto, a former songwriter for Connie Francis, was advised not to record the former opera piece. A good job that the man known as Bobby Darin ignored this advice and, strolling into the Fulton Studios on West 40th Street in New York City at the fag end of 1958, belted out a version of the 1928 song by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Credit for this masterpiece of pop has to be heaped on the sound engineer Tom Dowd. Born in Manhattan he actually worked on the Manhattan Project, but later preferred to drop audio bombs with the likes of Ray Charles, The Drifters and The Coasters before teaming up with Bobby Darin for this multi-million seller. A record that has to be played after last orders has been called as it is a performance almost impossible to follow.
This is a bit of a no-brainer really. "Blue Monday" by New Order is an essential addition to the pub jukebox. It may be ancient but it remains an electro-synth classic. I believe it is still the best-selling 12" single of all time in the UK. I am ancient enough to claim that I bought my copy in the spring of 1983 as I was already a fan of the Manchester quartet. Indeed, this is a good time to roll out my claim to fame in that I saw Joy Division a couple of years earlier. All these years later I just cannot accept their denial of hearing "Gerry and the Holograms," a record released in 1979 with the same riff. Still, there is no denying that, wherever they claim to have taken their inspiration, this was, and still is, a total monument in the world of popular music.
"I Can't Make It Anymore," is a record that brings younger customers to the bar asking the team "what's this on the jukebox?" It is a track that will be familiar to many as it has been recorded by quite a number of artists. There was some symbiosm between Richie Havens and the Woodstock Festival. They desperately needed him to keep playing and, ultimately, he achieved global recognition for his opening set. He ended up playing for almost three hours! He also played the infamous Isle of Wight Festival before starting up his own record label. I grew up with "Stonehenge," the first album on this label and it was never far from my turntable in the early 70s. "I Can't Make It Anymore," taken from an earlier album, is a Gordon Lightfoot composition. I also have a fine version by Spyder Turner which I believe made it as a Northern Soul single at one time.
It is Sunday evening, trade is quiet in the pub so I am opening up the jukebox to slot another disc inside. Like many great ideas, the album from which this track is taken was conceived over a few pints in a pub. The concept was one of simplicity : "let's get a brass band from Stockport to perform a set of acid house monsters." When everyone had sobered up they appreciated the difficulty of such an undertaking. However, Jeremy Deller pulled if off by bringing in a couple of experts from Birmingham Conservatoire. Like many classical buffoons, Rodney Newton had little knowledge of the 'pop' world beyond the likes of Genesis and Lionel Ritchie. Consequently, he and Brian Hurdley had to undertake a crash course in house and techno music. However, it is possible that their detachment from club culture was the reason that "Acid Brass" proved such a musical success. The arrangements of tracks like A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray" and 808 State's "Cübik" present a fresh appreciation of these tracks for a younger audience, a key reason why the award-winning Williams Fairey Brass Band embraced the project with such enthusiasm. This performance of 808 State's "Pacific 202" is a smelting of copper and zinc to be enjoyed with, er, chemicals. A record that is quite mind-altering.
"Vikingman" by Rodrigo Y Gabriela is an excellent foot-tapping number with which punters in the bar may opt to stamp their feet to the rhythm. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero became something of a global phenomemon. In the words of Jake Cohen: "It wasn't the virtuosic fretboard acrobatics, which were remarkable and mesmerizing, nor was it the impressive and novel songwriting, a Frankensteinian mélange of flamenco guitar, Mexican and Irish folk music, rock, jazz, and thrash metal. There was just something so idealistic about their story: two Mexican metalheads go to Ireland to busk on the streets and end up as international superstars. There was also just something so unbelievable about so much noise coming from two acoustic guitars. Rodrio Y Gabriela made listening to "Stairway to Heaven" cool again." Naturally, critics have dismissed the pair's musical output for its lack of genuine virtuosity - I remember a similar outburst of resentment when the Gipsy Kings stole a march on Spanish music. The duo later teamed up with a 13-piece Cuban orchestra to further reinvent themselves and their back catalogue but here you can hear them as they first burst onto a worldwide audience.
"Can You Feel It?" is a tremendous track to play in the pub. At first the customers will assume that the jukebox is banging out some cool jazz, thinking that the publican is trying to impress them with some obscure rarity. But then they detect a few notes that gets them thinking "I know this track" - and they will because, along with the rest of the album from which this track is taken, this is a cover version in an uber-cool acoustic jazz style. In this sense the track works a bit like the Williams Fairey Brass Band [see above] in that the old cerebral matter goes into overdrive trying to name that tune. Well, this one is pretty easy to figure out - the hook of this Larry Heard track is unmistakable. Under the guise of Fingers Inc., this became a Chicago house classic in 1986. On this version, the timeless track is given reverential treatment by German keyboard wizard Christian Prommer supported by a tight backing band. You may have heard Prommer through his involvement in other projects such as Fauna Flash, Trüby Trio and Krüder and Dorfmeister. On the rest of this remarkable album he interprets the likes of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" and Josh Wink's "Higher State Of Consciousness" to awesome effect.
There is literally a party going on during this record so it will fit in nicely on a busy evening in the pub. The piano-led "Smokey Joe's La La" storms along in an Earl Van Dyke or Ramsey Lewis kind of way. Indeed, in many respects this is a companion to the latter's "Wade in the Water" but without the brass. Known as Googie from a very early age, Rafael Leon René was the son of a songwriter so perhaps it was inevitable that he would tinkle the piano keys from childhood. Along his father and jazzman Preston Love, he established Class Records in the 1950s before embarking on his own recording career. This is perhaps his best-known record.
I will never stop getting excited when the postman comes into the pub to deliver a new record to play. He arrived around noon with this album and I have been playing it for a couple of hours as both me and the customers are totally loving it. Released in 2013, "Bye Bye 17" and is something of a mini-classic. Up until hearing this I had completely dismissed Har Mar Superstar as something of a novelty performer in the contemporary R&B style that some described as tongue-in-cheek hip-hop. During this period his songs were overtly sexual and he often performed them whilst getting his kit off. But after a spell of song-writing in New York, Sean Tillman [his real name] took himself off to Austin, Texas to team up with a soulful band fully in possession of a retro-sound harking back to the classic 1960s deep south. The production is a bit lo-fi and consequently has a Phil Spector feel. It could have been sharper like the Dap-Kings but the rough-and-ready sound lends to its charm. Where it gets really funky the album sounds like an early-mid 70s affair by Stevie Wonder with Prince at the helm. "We Don't Sleep," for example, really packs a punch. Indeed, listening to this set one would think he had truly found his niche. However, his more recent "Best Summer Ever" wanders off into electronic-land. So perhaps this will be the defining moment in his eccentric and eclectic career.
Lurking in the corner of the jukebox is this 1964 record that still stands up today as a beat combo treasure. Except, of course, The Zombies were more than a beat combo. Many a critic claims that this debut recording is better than anything produced by the Fab Four during that year. Rod Argent, the song's author, puts in a sterling performance on the German-made Hohner Pianet electro-mechanical piano whilst Colin Blunstone delivers what would become a trademark vocal delivery. "She's Not There" leaves much to the imagination as, clocking in at a little over two minutes, the old adage of 'less is more' proves that sharp songwriting needs no Samual Johnson letter-length apologies.
Having won the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll, it would not be long before everyone knew of Michael Kiwanuka. The son of Ugandan refugees, he was born in North London and spent his formative years in Muswell Hill. He started playing guitar at an early age and meandered musically before listening to two key artists - Otis Redding and Bill Withers. This convinced him to follow a soulful folk path that inevitably led to his signing to Communion Records, the London-based folk nerve centre co-founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons. "Home Again" was a confident debut album that will, if the world was rational place, remain a timeless classic on playlists for generations, simply because the material is timeless. This is the sort of stuff that jazz, soul and folk singer and guitarist Terry Callier was putting out in the 1960s. Even the video for "I'll Get Along" has a 60s/70s vibe about it. But any video featuring a Ford Mustang, ducks, a road cyclist and a boxer dog needs to be viewed.
You do not need to go in search of the original pressing of this little treasure as it resurfaced on a CD that compiled the singles and rarities of Sleepy Township, a shambolic indie band that was formed near Perth, Australia, when members of Molasses and Sulk, art students at Curtin University, sort of fell in bed together. Technically, the band got going after a move to Melbourne. I have to admit to being old enough to remember bands like The Fall forming even though they could hardly play an instrument. Sleepy Township were a little more adept than the early punk generation but it is interesting to note their progression from the early material to the stuff made at the turn of the millennium. The simple fact is that if they had been around in the mid-1980s and signed to Sarah Records then they would be well up there in the cult status pecking order amongst the C86 jangly guitar scene. In some respects they were ahead of their time. If you think the voice of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Alec Ounsworth was unique then check out Sleepy Township's recording of "The Point." Self-confessed at being lazy and sloppy, the band put out two albums and stumbled along until breaking up in 2002.
The album from which this record is taken is arguably one of the best CD's issued in the 21st century so if you have not got a copy it is time to close this window and open up whatever favourite store you choose to buy from. I would recommend that you try your local record store but it is doubtful if they have this in stock. I can remember having a box full of their 1978 Paris Sessions album in my shop and trying to sell them for £2.99p and failing. In more recent times that CD sells for over £70! Anyway, you can pick up this beautiful recording for less than a fiver and, trust me, once purchased and played your soul will be uplifted and your life enriched. This Senegal outfit have been going for donkey's years - their story is a bit like the Buena Vista Social Club in that they split up for years and reformed when hip DJs started to revive their records. The other similarity is that the music is Afro-Cuban in style, the genre having returned across the Atlantic to fuse with the Congolese Soukous style predominant in the 1960s. Ibrahim Ferrer even appears on this album. There are other influences in the mix, notably from Morocco and at the controls is African cultural ambassador Youssou N'dour. Enough said really .... time to kick off your shoes and let fly around the saloon bar of the pub to the sound of Orchestra Baobab.
A novelty record for the jukebox - oh what the heck, let it roll. The issue, of course, is that novelty or comedy records wear thin after a while. Moreover, some of the worst records ever made are so-called comedy songs. With few exceptions, like say Morecambe and Wise's "Boom Oo Yatta-Ta-Ta," most comedy songs have a limited shelf life. However, this has other elements within the song that add some longevity to its appeal. It even received an Emmy Award nomination "Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics," though I wonder how that quite fits as they totally plagiarise "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys. But I guess this will make it a popular choice in the jukebox. Forming part of a HBO television series, the project was the brainchild of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, once billed as "New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo," as they come to terms with harsh urban reality in New York City. The album from which this song is taken, followed up on the Grammy award-winning "The Distant Future." The pair went on to feature in The Simpsons and enjoyed some success in cinematic appearances.
"Hammond Song" is a lovely example of three-part harmony vocals and perfect for the Sunday afternoon session in the pub whereby punters press the button to choose the odd esoteric selection. For the younger audience a suitable reference point for The Roches is perhaps First Aid Kit and The Staves, outfits that also produce spine-tingling harmonies in their work. For The Roches one has to rewind [and it was press rewind in those days] to the early 1970s when the two eldest sisters appeared on Paul Simon's "There Goes Rhymin' Simon." They subsequently became embedded in the Greenwich Village folk scene but did not commit an album to vinyl until 1979 by which time their younger sibling had joined in the fun. There are various interpretations of the lyrics floating about but I will stick with my original idea that it was college girls imploring their lifelong friend not to drop out in order to hook up with some douche bag loser in Hammond, Louisiana. Musically, moving to a location close to Baton Rouge and New Orleans would not be a bad idea. Well, that is until the arrival of Hurricane Ida. Like nature, "Hammond Song" follows a cyclical path and continues to inspire a new generation of singers. I am not sure why some artists have covered the song as it is near impossible to add anything to what is a masterpiece recorded in vérité by Robert Fripp who adds some guitar work midway through. Whitney, an alt-folk band from Chicago, produced a half-decent cover in 2020, a vast improvement on Terry Hall who murdered it when singing with The Colourfield.
When I have an opportunity to roll out my medals for attending certain gigs I am the envy of many people. However, if there was one night, just one single moment in time, when I can proclaim "I wish I had been there" it would have to be the evening in which John Peel and Andy Kershaw were stood in the crowd when The Bhundu Boys were in full swing. According to Kershaw, he turned to look at his disc jockey friend and mentor and saw tears flowing down his cheeks. I am sure that if I had been there I too would have been in floods of tears. I have been in such a state on a couple of occasions. Mind you, I am like a sobbing Italian at the opera in that certain moments in music can reduce me to rubble. I cry in films too so I am unashamedly a big sobbing mess. But it is good to let it all out at times. Kershaw and Peel championed this Zimbabwean band no end and undoubtedly this resulted in thousands of audio devotees finding themselves crate-digging for African music. Having lived with an African for a period of my childhood, I was already tuned in but the raw energy and beauty of their jit was nothing short of sensational in the mid-1980s, a period when they ruled the universe. Sadly, it all fell apart once the major record labels got involved and the story ended tragically when the main songwriter and original Bhundu Boy [guerrilla activist] hung himself in a psychiatric hospital. At the height of their success, The Bhundu Boys supported Madonna at Wembley Stadium but, oh, to have been at that college gig in Chelsea on that night in 1986.
Some folks may be surprised - or have simply forgotten - that John Peel dabbled with the UK Bhangra scene in the mid-1980s. He was not at the forefront of the movement as it really got going around the same time as punk in the UK. So, whilst the Brits were getting their Teenage Kicks, the descendants of immigrants from the Punjab region were tuning into the pioneering sounds of the Bhujhangy Group and the Anari Sangeet Party, two groups among a hotbed of the fusion of sounds familiar to their parents but with a western twist. Once the children of the 'three quid in the pocket' generation grew up in British cities it was all rather inevitable and we are all the richer for it. By the mid-1980s the second wave of Bhangra musicians started to fuse traditional instruments with electronic sounds and Holle Holle were one of the greatest exponents. Featuring a synthesizer, they may have broke new ground musically but they retained their culture and the Punjabi language in their sound. Naturally, I have no idea what the lyrics of "Chup Kar Ke" are. It may be right cheesey for all I know. However, when I first heard this song in 1986 I rushed to Cape Hill to rummage through the album racks for a copy of "Wicked and Wild." The small emporium was on Waterloo Road and whenever I ventured inside it caused a stir in the household. The children of the proprietor would suddenly appear from the living-room to witness the bizarre sight of a white bloke scoping the records. But it was here that I picked up my copy of the Holle Holle album for £4, an LP that now commands a price tag of £100 if in mint condition. Fret not fellow paupers as there are MP3 sites out there offering tracks like "Chup Kar Ke" for peanuts. Incredibly, there is some surviving TV footage of Holle Holle miming "Chup Kar Ke" Unfortunately, this does not feature the lengthy drum intro but it is a lovely thing to watch - click here for some real nostalgia.
When this classy number is spinning in the jukebox there is often a sudden reach for phones in order to click on Shazam. For those who feel the need for ownership of this epic slice of Brazilian music there is no need for crate-digging in search of the single. The track is lifted from the legendary 1968 album Tropicália-Ou Panis et Circencis, a remastered version of which can be hoovered up for the price of a few pints. The album contains some amazing material in a collaborative epoch-defining moment in the tropicália movement. "Baby" is a composition by the legendary composer and political activist Caetano Veloso. It is sung by Gal Costa who hung out with a cool set, including Veloso's wife Andréa Gadelha. Amid a lush string arrangement, Caetano Veloso cleverly intertwines English with Portuguese in what sounds like a simple song. However, the political situation in his country meant that he had to be suggestive rather than candid in delivering a message. Margarine, Gasoline, Swimming Pools are cross-referenced with cultural icons like Robert Carlos when asking to be understood in contemporary society.
The Wave Pictures had been going for a few years before the release of "Instant Coffee Baby" in 2008, the year in which I became aware of this outfit from the Leicestershire Wolds. And by the sound of it they were a bunch of nutters out there, living on the fringe of civilised Loughborough. What am I saying? According to frontman and lyricist David Tattersall, a man who sounds wonderfully unhinged, "Loughborough is as rough as houses." And the women in Walton-on-the-Wolds sound frightening! Tattersall's neck of the woods is often name-checked in his rich tales of life's underbelly; his warped sense of humour make this a record to treasure. The jukebox selection is Track 7 "Friday Night in Loughbourough," upholding a theory of mine that Track 7 is often the hidden gem. Despite Tattersall's stinging denigration of the area, I get the impression that these songs are his terms of endearment for The Wolds, his maps of meaning within a wider universe. Uniquely British in flavour, this set is up there with "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" in terms of social commentary. Tattersall's sharp observations drew comparisons to Hefner. I must also mention the laugh-out-loud lyrics on "I Love You Like a Madman," a track that deployed the best brass within an indie-alternative framework since Blaggers ITA's "Abandon Ship."
"Hilli" is an esoteric track which can be used when opening the pub doors for the Sunday lunchtime trade, a gentle 'hair of the dog' audio experience after the excesses of Saturday night. The track is lifted from the rather wonderful "Kurr" album released in 2007. For many, on initial listening to Iceland's Amiina on this debut recording, this was a fresh and novel audio experience, a sound like no other. But for me somehow, I just could not help recalling Jack Nitzsche's main theme for the "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" soundtrack. The use of singing saw and glass rims were a palpable link, though Amiina took this a stage further by employing a wide range of appliances within their minimalist soundscape. Formed in the late 1990s at the Reykjavik College of Music, Amiina started out as a classical music quartet but soon accrued more instrumentalists along their experimental musical odyssey. It was a journey in which they were leaving melodic footprints where no audio footsteps had previously been mapped, almost as if the unchartered territory of their homeland's topography was generating or influencing innovation in their output. They were almost cartographers of a new musical direction? It was a mini-thesis of mine in order to explain the extraordinary productivity of the more well-known Björk and Sigur Rös, in that it would seem that this music could not have been made anywhere else in the world other than Iceland.
Featuring an opening that almost pilfers an Eagles guitar lick from "Take It Easy," this glorious pop song by The Digger$ was released as a single in 1986 and featured on "Mount Everest" an album produced by Charlie Francis [of High Llamas' fame]. Midway through "Nobody's Fool" one can imagine this slotting into "Songs From Northern Britain." Despite the album's title, The Digger$ never did reach the dizzy heights of pop stardom achieved by their label-mates and fellow Scots Teenage Fanclub. Leaning more towards the pop spectrum rather than indie jangly guitars, they were seemingly inspired by the same record collection of sixties pop, particularly the Beach Boys and The Beatles mixed in with a dash of West Coast power-pop. Mind you, midway through this album they incongruously arranged Wilson-like harmonies over a track called "East Coast." Polished almost to the same degree as Del Amitri, there are so many hooks in their catchy tunes you have to file the album next to Matthew Sweet and the Cosmic Rough Riders. I imagine the band members all owned a copy of "Revolver" - the fun video for this song was even a homage to films by the Fab Four. "Nobody's Fool" is pop confection par excellence that would make have made it onto Sherpa Tenzing Norgay's i-Pod player.
Crikey, I am certainly not into sax solos but "Going To Where The Tea-Trees Are" has a meandering jazz-inflected outro that I can just about cope with in order to soak up the earlier folky-trip redolent of 1960s pastoral pop made by the likes of Lennon and McCartney at Abbey Road. I am only going to name check a few artists so that you can get a feel of where the album from which this song is taken fits into a record collection. So, drop in a bit of Air, Nick Drake, the aforementioned Fab Four and perhaps even Lambchop, given that Peter von Poehl's vocal delivery can be as delicate as that of Kurt Wagner. Horns, woodwind, strings and vocal choruses swoon in and out of the well-crafted songs by this Swedish singer-songwriter. Wow, another piece of pop heaven from Sweden - what are they having for breakfast over there? His eclecticism may be inspired by periods in Berlin and Paris. I believe that this, the title track of his 2007 album, was something of a cult hit in France. You can pick up the CD for a ridiculously cheap price so no excuses for not finding a loving home for this alluring album brimming with originality and admirable song construction.
For my money "Bullets," a single and fourth track on Tunng's third album showed the band at the height of their powers. The folktronica outfit had forged an innovative footpath since emerging from a Soho basement in 2003. The melting pot of pastoral and electronica, they were something of a disjointed collective at the outset but by the time "Good Arrows" was recorded they had gelled as a band. Bringing synthesisers and samplers to their melodic soundscape, they were always going to pick up the "experimental folk tag." However, with most people being unable to attach an exact label on Tunng, their intrigue intensified. Moreover, the multifarious characteristics of their song structures made the music compelling. "Bullets" is lyrically complex and ambiguous, not untypical of Tunng's artistic work, thus demanding further listening. A number of interpretations have been posted on meaning of the lyrics but I cannot escape the remembrance of the Belgian killing fields. There seem to be references within "Green hills and enemies, these things they make us sentimental inside" and "we beg for our forgiveness just before dawn."
A jukebox selection for the soul connoisseurs who patronise the pub from time-to-time. "You'll Never Be Sorry" was a favourite of the modern soul scene in its early days. Indeed, I believe original copies still exchange hands for a few quid. Composed and performed by Gerald Sims, it is a stylish soul number from 1973. Gerald Sims, a notable figure in the Chicago soul scene, was also a writer, producer and guitarist. As lead singer with The Daylighters, he came to prominence following the success of his 1962 composition "Cool Breeze." During the 1960s he wrote songs for Jackie Wilson, Mary Wells and Gene Chandler. He enjoyed some success singing with The Radiants on Chess Records. He would later acquire the label's studio when he established his own recording enterprise.
"Viaje A La Luna" has to be my favourite recording by Tulio Enrique León, the Venezuelan organist dubbed in his own country as simply El Artista del Teclado. As a young boy in 1947, he received some extraordinary medical advice that would change his life. He had travelled to the United States to seek an examination of his eyesight by the Spanish ophthalmologist, Ramón Castroviejo. The diagnosis was that he was in an advanced stage of optic nerve atrophy and that it would lead to blindness. However, the doctor, in light of the finality of the disease, recommended that he use the money for any surgery to acquire a piano and learn to play. He followed the advice but, after hearing the Panamanian organist Salvador Muñoz on the radio, he decided to exchange the piano for a Hammond organ. He gained notoriety after appearing on television which landed him a recording contract with Odeon Records. In his relatively short life he became a big star in Venezuela, his records selling well internationally.
"Introvert" by Little Simz opens with a dramatic cinematic orchestral arrangement that demands the listener's attention. The string arrangement coupled with militaristic drumming underpins the message of Simbiatu Ajikawo who tackles issues such as gang violence, church hypocrisy, family and womanhood. It is powerful stuff and a world away from those living in comfortable suburbia. The track opens the Islington rapper's 2021 album, a triumph of the genre and deservedly winner of the Mercury Prize.
As publican, my spirits would be raised if any of the punters selected "Let's Get Out" by Life Without Buildings and I would make a note that this customer knows their stuff. This was the second track from the only studio album recorded by a collective of students of the Glasgow School of Art. They came together in 1999, released a couple of singles, performed live to great acclaim, released one album, and went their separate ways, thus denying those of us who adored their free spirit a chance to hear more. Perhaps this is the reason that this one long-player is so precious. Named after a track by English the new wave band, Japan, they played with loose, almost improvised style with Sue Tomkins delivering a vocal that some would compare to Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. The instrumentation here is reminiscent of prime-time Pavement on, say, "Shady Lane." I absolutely adore this.
As publican, I might get twitchy when a punter presses this jukebox selection. I may have to get all the staff to duck under the servery in case a machine gun-toting madman bursts through the door of the tap room. "Tuyo" became universally known as it was the theme to the 2015 Netflix hit series "Narcos", along with the 2018 sequel "Narcos: Mexico." Although these programmes, much of which were based on actual events, were full of drug-running and murder on an industrial scale, they were as addictive as the white powder itself. And every time the programme kicked in there was Rodrigo Amarante delivering his beautiful narcocorrido, "Tuyo". Belying the carnage that was about to follow for an hour, this song, deeply sensual in places, is simply a beautiful recording. Odd perhaps that the producers did not choose a Colombian for the soundtrack or, indeed, a Mexican artist for the 2018 series as Rodrigo Amarante hails from Rio de Janeiro. He has been involved in a number of musical projects, notably with Los Hermanos. However, he may well be remembered throughout his life for the majesty that is "Tuyo".
When this record starts spinning in the jukebox, punters in the bar will say "ssshh, I'm listening to this record." "It's An Up Climb To The Bottom" by Walter Jackson is so jaw-droppingly beautiful it has that effect on people who hear it for the first time - or, indeed, for the umpteenth time. The Florida-born singer suffered much tragedy in his life but he was blessed with a most incredible voice. Even more incredible is the fact that he failed an audition at Motown. He grew up near Berry Gordy's hit factory but failed to impress the record label mogul who always had one eye on presentation. Walter Jackson had suffered from polio in his youth and, consequently, used crutches for the remainder of his life. Thankfully, he was heard singing in a nightclub by A&R man and producer, Carl Davis, who took him to Chicago where he was signed to O-Keh Records, the Windy City's own hit factory. But for one reason or another Walter Jackson did not enjoy many hits. But his mid-60s output is sprinkled with some gorgeous soulful deliveries. Sadly, the man with the golden voice died of a cerebral haemorrhage, aged just 45. His legacy, however, is so precious.
Back in the day it was possible for lucky punters to find "Mad Drums" by Rolley Polley in a charity shop record box. However, many years later, around the mid-1990s, when there was a resurgence of interest in the Easy Listening and Exotica market, the price of the 1960 album suddenly rocketed. A key reason was the album's inclusion of "Blue Rhumba" which, featuring some great work on the conga drums, ends too soon at just over three minutes. Just as the record is hotting up, it runs to fade. Brilliant but most frustrating.
Composed by Bob Dylan and allegedly about the woman walking arm-in-arm with him on the cover of his second album released in 1963, "Girl From The North Country" has been covered many times but this version by soul legend, Howard Tate, is a faithful rendition given a country-soul twist courtesy of producer Jerry Ragovoy. This version was included on Tate's so-called comeback album of 1972. It also saw the singer reunited with the producer with whom he had enjoyed some success in the mid-1960s. It was Garnett Mimms who introduced the young gospel singer to Jerry Ragovoy way back in the early 1960s. Major success eluded Howard Tate who retired from the music scene later in the 1970s. In the following decade his 13-year-old daughter lost her life in a house fire, causing Tate to spiral downwards in drug addiction and homelessness. He found redemption in the new millennium when Phil Casden, a disc jockey from Camden, New Jersey, tracked him down and helped him perform some shows. He connected again with his old producer and made an album in 2003 entitled "Rediscovered." If you have not heard him before check out some of his great 1960s output on the Verve label.
King Offa of Mercia once dug a massive earthworks fortification to keep nutters like Hen Ogledd at bay. This Welsh outfit would have been lumped in with those deemed to be beyond the pale. Indeed, their musical expression, to paraphrase Captain Kirk, explores frontiers where no band has gone before. Certainly, any group who cite 12th-century composer, Hildegard von Bingen, as one of their key influences, have clearly been brewing strange tea whilst watching Y Gwyll on repeat. Released in 2018, on the appropriately-named Weird World, an offshoot of Domino Records for artists hard to pigeonhole, "Mogic" is a wonderful melange of so-called wonky pop. I am not going to pretend that I like every song but there are several killer tracks buried within. The chorus and hooks within this song, "Sky Burial", absolutely melt me. I would probably select this for a Desert Island Disc. File Hen Ogledd next to Melys as one of the most engaging of Welsh bands.
What were they thinking releasing "Black Boots" as a b-side? Those running things at Deram somehow thought that the sugary "Dark Side Of The Moon" would rival the Brotherhood Of Man for chart success. Meanwhile the steaming flip side was lost in the vaults until pop-psych crate-diggers discovered the track many years later. "Black Boots" was arguably a logical progression from The Outer Limits, a band that had made the mini-classic "Just One More Chance" in 1967. Lead singer and songwriter, Jeff Christie, came up with "Yellow River" before this record was released. He offered it to The Tremeloes who subsequently recorded a version before ditching the track during their transition into their prog phase. However, with Jeff Christies belting out a vocal on the backing track, it subsequently became an international hit, topping the charts in 26 countries whilst racking up 30 million sales. Check out the bassline of "Black Boots" and then have a listen to "Nice 'n' Sleazy" by The Stranglers. One of the band members must have had a copy of this record in their collection!
James Carr managed to join the elite club of singers to fail an audition. Like Walter Jackson, who was turned down by Berry Gordy at Motown, James Carr was told 'thanks, but no thanks' at Stax Records. In later years, when his body of work was re-evaluated, he was lauded as one of the greatest of soul singers. Undeterred by his rejection at Stax, he turned up at Goldwax Records who, realising the gift that had descended upon them, welcomed him with open arms and signed him up on the spot. He remained with the label until it folded at the end of the 1960s. In 1967 Carr was the first to record the legendary "The Dark End Of The Street", the evergreen Dan Penn and Chips Moman composition. In the previous year he had enjoyed success with this track, "You've Got My Mind Messed Up", a song penned by Obie Burnett, the man who had forged a niche as a black country singer-songwriter. The writer, like James Carr, had come from a gospel background and were church singers. The singer had a troubled life. Suffering from bipolar disorder, he had difficulty appearing on stage and would, at times, completely freeze. Living with his sister in later years, he was forever in and out of hospital. Diagnosed with lung cancer, he died in a Memphis nursing home in 2001, aged just 58. Thankfully, he lived to enjoy later recognition for his contribution to soul music. Records such as this mean that he will forever by remembered.
Released in 2010, "Your Fortune As Told By The Stars" is the only record by The Echo Heights, a band spearheaded by guitarist and vocalist, Mark Matthews, former member of The Dentists, legends of the Medway indie scene. This album was released in 2008 and was a solid offering of indie guitar rock, laced with some elements of west coast paisley pop. However, they decided to round off the album with "Mayonnaise", a totally awesome magnum opus of organ-laced psychedelia with elements of prime time Thin White Rope, particularly with the drums. And throughout the masterpiece that fantastic organ sound provides a sound of which Ray Manzarek would be proud. It is no wonder that there was no second album ... how could they possibly follow this?
The pub jukebox needs a few disco records to reflect that hip-shaking epoch of the late 70s and early 80s when flares were flapped with wild abandon in nightclubs throughout the world. Everybody seemed to join in the disco craze, from Abba to the Bee Gees, along with lots of has-beens attempting to revive a flagging career. Disco even had a hit featuring a duck! There was no age barrier to entry and "Jingo" was released by 58 year-old Cándido Camero. Immersed in the post-punk world, I wasn't a club-goer but, through peer pressure, for some bizarre reason, whilst working in London, I heard this being played in some glitterball palace. The combination of Cuban instruments and beat stood out from some of the rubbish being played by the DJ. This was relatively new at the time so I asked him what he was playing - that was the analogue version of Shazam back in the day! Composed by Babatunde Olatunji, "Jingo" was originally a b-side but, through its popularity on the dancefloor, was re-issued as a 12-inch single clocking in at over nine minutes, providing a real workout for those who elected to gyrate throughout. For several years the track was, in DJ parlais, a floor-filler. Born in Havana in 1921 and moving to New York after World War 2, Cándido Camero had enjoyed a successful career as a Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer and the most innovative in exponent of conga drumming. He was recording albums up until 2014, dying at the age of 99 in NYC.
This bluesy-swing number will liven up the snug a bit when selected on the jukebox. Candye Kane sure was a sassy singer who delivered a knockout punch at the microphone. The former opera trainee and porn star was once known to pound the keyboards with her bare breasts as part of her live act. If it weren't for her appearances in adult entertainment films her music may have gone in a different direction. She was signed up by CBS who planned to market her as a country singer. However, when they learned of her onscreen career, the label dropped her. Determined to be a singing sensation, Candye Kane self-released a saucy album entitled "Burlesque Swing", a collection that included suggestive titles like "Press My Buttons" and "Big 10 Inch Record". This grabbed the attention of Antones Records who signed her up for a record deal. They brought in Cesar Rosas, of Los Lobos, and Dave Gonzales, of the Hacienda Brothers, to produce a collection of jazz-swing and blues. Not one to ditch her past, there were titles like "Seven Men A Week", though, in a more moderated approach, she sang of them doing the cooking and mopping the floor. The album opened with "It Won't Be Long", a brass-laden R'n'B number. Kane went on to enjoy a successful recording career with a relentless touring schedule. Fans were robbed of this larger-than-life character when she developed pancreatic cancer and died at the age of 54 in 2016.
"It's You" is lurking in the jukebox for any punter wandering into the pub donning a paisley-shirt, bell-bottom slacks, and sporting a Jason King moustache. The Millennium only released one album which, despite being an epic of sunshine pop, completely bombed when released in 1968. It would take another thirty years for "Begin" to be hailed as a classic. Featuring members of a number of Los Angeles pop groups, notably The Music Machine, the collective clocked up one of the most expensive studio bills up to that point, "Begin" being the second album in popular music to use sixteen-track recording technology. Label mates, Simon and Garfunkel, got first dabs on the equipment earlier in the year for the "Bookends" sessions. The production on "Begin" was such that it should have been an essential long-player for hi-fi dealers demonstrating their new-fangled separates to customers. This hook-laden collection almost out-harmonises the Beach Boys. "5 a.m." has proved to be the most popular download from the album but, for my money, "It's You", released as a single ahead of the album, is the essential track, particularly with its anti-establishment political message that is still relevant in the disinformation era.
Tanya Donelly has formed a key part of my listening experience since the 1980s so, as publican, I have a special place reserved for her in the jukebox. In fact, during 1989, the Throwing Muses, a band she formed with Kristin Hersh, was never too far from the CD player after the release of "Hunkpapa" in 1989. In February of that year I saw them at Portsmouth Polytechnic when supported by The Sundays - what a great double-bill. Tanya Donelly later teamed up with Pixies bassist, Kim Deal, to form The Breeders and released the excellent "Pod" in 1990. During the following year she formed Belly, another great indie-guitar outfit. "The Storm" is the 2nd track from "Beautysleep," her second solo album released in 2002, and has one of Tanya Donelly's most wonderful vocal performances, perhaps a career-high. A song to melt the soul.
A 1967 record that exemplifies the Jamaican transition from Ska to Rocksteady, "Perfidia" was one of a string of cover versions by Phyllis Dillon. Recorded with Tommy McCook and The Supersonics at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio, this song was a quarter of a century old when turned into a reggae smash hit. "Perfidia" was originally penned in 1939 by the Mexican composer and arranger, Alberto Dominguez, and was a his single for Xavier Cugat in the following year. The song was covered by many artists before it was a big hit for The Ventures who gave it their trademark surf-guitar treatment in 1960. Not long after Phyllis Dillon recorded the track, she left Jamaica for New York but occasionally flew back to the island to record with Duke Reid until the early 1970s.
Almost everyone over a certain age knows "I Go To Sleep" as it was made enormously popular by The Pretenders and was a UK Top 10 hit single in 1981. But how many know of this cover version by Marion from 1967? Written by Ray Davies, a demo version was made but was never issued by The Kinks. The song was recorded by The Applejacks and issued as a single in 1965 but it made little impact. Peggy Lee also recorded a version in the same year. Seemingly, the song was considered too good to be consigned to the studio bin and Larry Page, manager of The Kinks and producer of The Troggs, enticed the German pop singer and pin-up girl Marion Litterscheid to give it a whirl. After a few hits in Europe, her career had stalled somewhat so this was perhaps seen as a chance to get back in the limelight. She made a great job of the song and it is up there with the best of the female vocalists of the time. Sandie Shaw or Dusty Springfield probably wished they had been given the song. It is no coincidence that Chrissie Hynde ended up covering "I Go To Sleep" as she was in a relationship with Ray Davies in the early 1980s. Despite the success of her version, many regard the rendition by Marion to be the definitive recording.
You have to have some sympathy for Lou Johnson, the Brooklyn-born vocalist and keyboard player who recorded a number of universally-known songs that, for one reason or another, enjoyed greater success when re-recorded by other artists. In many cases his original versions are the best but recognition in the wider world was elusive. He came under the wing of Burt Bacharach and Hal David who penned his earliest recordings. And then in 1963 they came up with this wonderful song with Lou Johnson given priority in the recording studio. Sales were modest and it only reached No.74 on the Billboard chart. In the following year Dionne Warwick recorded a version of "Reach Out For Me" for her album "Make Way for Dionne Warwick." This was unquestionably a great version and the record company elected to release it as a single and the rest is history. Lou Johnson suffered the same fate with "[There's] Always Something There to Remind Me" when Sandie Shaw covered the song and trumped him for sales. The former gospel singer followed a familiar career trajectory in which he struggled to make it big only to become a legend in later years on the Northern Soul scene with records like "Unsatisfied."
A jukebox record to remind us all of the Covid pandemic. Reflecting on the state of the world around her, "Pictures Of Flowers" was stitched together from recordings made in the homes of Jess Williamson and Hand Habits a.k.a. Meg Duffy. With strict lockdown conditions, this was the only way the record could be produced. When talking about the song in an interview, the Texas-born singer stated that "Pictures Of Flowers" was a song that "spoke to the fear and uncertainty she felt in the early days of the Quarantine." In a stark reminder of those weird times, she sings of her career being put on hold amid a Los Angeles devoid of normal life and growing a garden in case the stores run out of food. It may not be selected that often but the disc stays in the jukebox lest we forget.
"Braziliance!", the album from which this single is taken, was released in 1966, towards the end of the Bossa Nova movement as Brasil transitioned into Tropicalica due to political unrest. On the album cover Marcos Valle looks like a young Dutch cyclist! Indeed, he was only in his early twenties when he came up trumps with this ambitious work, enhanced no doubt by the production of Louis Oliveira and Ray Gilberts, with arrangements by Emir Deodato, another relatively young musician who would become a household name in later years. The album followed in the trail of his collaborations with Sérgio Mendes and this is manifest in its style and scope. So, simply drop your coins into the jukebox and fill the entire pub with the glorious soundscape of mid-1960s Brasil-iance.
"Leaving Rome" is a lovely reggae record that forms part of my childhood memories. I first heard this song when, as a young boy, I bought "Tighten Up Volume 3" from Chapman's Electrical on Reddal Hill Road in Old Hill. They used to sell the Trojan compilations for 99p which was great for somebody depending on paper-round wages to buy records. In later years, when a little more flush, I would end up buying many of the cuts on the original singles. This was easily the best track on this compilation, a song that melted me back then and still strikes a resonance today. This is not just nostalgia on my part, it is simply a great tune and a rarity in that it features birds singing. Jo Jo Bennett learned the trumpet when attending school and played in a military band at a young age. He later became a Dragonaire behind Byron Lee, a spell in which he featured on a couple of albums. However, he later settled in Canada where he became an ambassador for Jamaican music. It was during a brief return to his home island that he recorded the album "Groovy Joe," from which this track was issued as a single. It is a recording that has brought much pleasure to me over the ensuing decades.
If Velocette had made mega-bucks, they may have faced a protracted lawsuit from some ghosts of the past. If George Harrison could be hauled into the courts for the rather tenuous connection of "My Sweet Lord" with "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons then the former members of Comet Gain, in making "Bitterscene", would be found guilty of ripping off the opening of "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, both with tune and use of castanets. And if they had survived the onslaught from the legal team representing Ellie Greenwich, they would have had to answer to nicking the "ooh wah wah ooh" from the end of "Leader of the Pack". Not that us, the listeners, complained as it was these elements that made "Bitterscene" such a brilliant pop song. The band with the sound of C86 girliness courtesy of Sarah Bleach, backed with great guitars and strings, were the darlings of the music press for their very brief spell in the stagelights. Sadly, it all ended too soon, leaving us with one magnificent debut album and four singles, all of which are on the long-player. You can pick up a copy for around a quid nowadays so there are no excuses for failing to enhance your music collection with a copy of "Fourfold Remedy".
Anybody who has flicked through the record box at most charity shops will have seen the fizzog of Herr Hans Last as he loved having his mush on the front cover. Almost all of his trademark albums of "happy music" are anything but and will incite the listener to kick in their speaker cones. However, amid the vast catalogue of awfulness is the odd nugget of genius, no more so than this version of "Boléro," a blistering disco-infused rush through Maurice Ravel's most famous composition. It was the Russian dancer, Ida Rubinstein, who commissioned the French composer in 1922 and this was the result of his doodlings and tinkling the keys, a work of the utmost majesty. If Rubinstein had appeared on "Strictly" with James Last standing in for David Arch to wave the baton, she would have struggled to keep up with the pace! And if Torvill and Dean had attempted to skate to this version during the 1984 Winter Olympics, the ice would have melted. As bold as brass, this is a white-hot adaptation of a classic. Herrlich Herr Last.
When the needle drops on to this record the newbie customers in the pub pause for a moment because this is not the version with which they are familiar. Dinah Washington's more widely recognised version of "Mad About The Boy" was recorded in December 1961 with Quincy Jones and his Orchestra. That version is the one that lodged into the earworms of most folks when it was used thirty years later in a Levi's television advertisement. This earlier recording was made in March 1952 with orchestral accompaniment by Walter Roddell. Of course, the song is of greater antiquity for it was penned by Noel Coward and introduced in the 1932 revue "Words and Music," expressing the adulation of a matinee idol by women queuing outside a cinema. Four singers, Joyce Barbour, Steffi Duna, Norah Howard and Doris Hare, took it in turns to sing lines including "On the silver screen .... he melts my foolish heart in every single scene." Naturally, many a young woman applied the lyrics to their unrequited love of a local boy for whom their heart skipped a beat.
This is a great addition to the pub jukebox on many levels. Firstly, it is one of those songs people know without really knowing they know it - if that makes any sense? Secondly, even those who recognise the song may not know the group or, more significantly, the singer. The lead singer in The First Edition was none other than Kenny Rogers. Yes, the same bloke who made "Coward Of The County" and "Lucille". Film buffs will smile when the song kicks in on the jukebox because it will stir memories of Jeff Bridges as The Dude in "The Big Lebowski". "Just Dropped In [To See What Condition My Condition Was In]", a song referencing LSD experiences, was written by Mickey Newbury, a top Nashville pen-pusher known as a country hippie. It was first recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis and formed part of his collection of country-soul songs on his 1967 album "Soul My Way". The album was an attempt by his record company to reinvent the rock'n'roller as he had become outdated in the 1960s. However, the album bombed so the experiment fizzled out. This song was, however, too good to be consigned to the reduced bins in record stores. In October 1967, under the supervision of Mike Post, The First Edition recorded their version and the single gave Kenny Rogers and his band a Top 10 hit. It was a great record then but the Coen brothers helped to elevate it to legend status.
It is time to slot in a record by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. In all, they were responsible for over 70 chart hits. They wrote a couple of hits for Elvis, including "Jailhouse Rock." Of course, he covered "Hound Dog" in July 1956. This was almost four years after it was first recorded by Willie Mae Thornton, an artist better known as Big Mama Thornton. Although she belted out the number in a Los Angeles studio in August 1952, it was not released until February of the following year. Recorded over 250 times, the song has notched up worldwide sales of over 10 million, making it one of the biggest hit songs of all-time. Of course, the majority of those sales are down to Elvis but Big Mama Thornton sold 500,000 copies, with the record spending 14 weeks in the R&B charts, including seven weeks at number one. However, aside from sales, "Hound Dog" is credited with shaping Rock 'n' Roll and a benchmark in popular music. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were fresh-faced teenagers when they were introduced to the singer. Leiber later recalled: "We saw Big Mama and she knocked me cold. She looked like the biggest, baddest, saltiest chick you would ever see. And she was mean, a 'lady bear,' as they used to call 'em. She must have been 350 pounds, and she had all these scars all over her face, conveying words which could not be sung." The lyrics, scribbled in less than 15 minutes, were genius right from the opening line of "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog," a euphemism, in which the bad-ass woman was taking no shit and throwing a waste-of-space out of her house where he could cook his own meals in future.
I have fond memories of the synth-pop of the early 1980s. I was living in Berlin at the time and loved seeing the likes of the Human League during their tour for the "Dare" album. The bars and clubs of what was West Berlin wore out their records by Depeche Mode and Soft Cell. I bought "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret" on release and it was certainly a record that defined the times - in Berlin at least. And it is from that long-player that I am adding the single "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" to the pub jukebox. Recorded on a low budget, the album was released in 1981 to some fierce criticism from the music press. However, the album, in which the audience were dragged through the seedy world of bedsits and filthy Soho romance, sold pretty well, probably as a result of the massive success enjoyed by "Tainted Love." This song was released in January 1982 and climbed to No.3 in the charts. It is a song that has endured pretty well. I particularly enjoyed Marc Almond's performance on the Jools Holland show in which he was backed by a full band rather than synthesisers. Perhaps this furnishes the song with the full roundedness absent in the early 80s electronic approach, thus realising the composition's true worth as a mini-kitchen sink drama. Personally speaking, I think Marc Almond's voice is somewhat underrated. He could produce a powerful note when necessary but oscillated his delivery in accordance to what was going on in the background. He may not have been born with the most gifted voicebox but his phrasing was up there with the best. Hell, one could almost paint the bar pink and plonk a flamingo on the pub piano.
"Samba Da Legalidade" is a jukebox selection for the uber-cool customer to show off their cool credentials by dropping in a coin and choosing a 1965 b-side that few others will recognise but soon fall in love with the Bossa Nova sound of Nara Leão. She made several superb albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of which should be in any serious music collection. The Brazilian singer, who died tragically young of a brain tumour, was a key figure in the early Bossa Nova period and hung out with the likes of João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. What makes the album, from which this track is taken, so special is the production by Luiz Eca of the Tamba Trio, along with the collaboration of guitar and songwriter Dorival Caymmi. Combined with Nara Leão's voice in the form of her life, this formed part of the most perfect studio sessions.
Featuring the San Francisco-born Francophile Brisa Roché, the Lightnin' 3 released an album of covers in 2012 and is almost worth buying for the Bo Diddley-inspired version of Magazine's "The Light Pours Out of Me." However, the most popular song amid this collection is the cover of Ruby Andrews' 1967 soulful "Casanova." I like her birth name better - Stackhouse has bluesy connections. For those who like the crossover/retro soul of, say, Amy Winehouse this is good stuff.
"Upa, Neguinho" is the opening track on an album that, when I learned that it had been re-mastered and issued again on CD I got awfully excited. I presented it to myself as a Christmas gift. On that day I played it twice and was reduced to tears, such is its beauty. On this recording Eduardo Lôbo teamed up with Maria Bethãnia to produce one of the great Bossa Nova albums of the 1960s. Sister of another Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethãnia probably never bettered this performance. This is a lovely version of the self-penned "Upa, Neguinho," though the more famous version is that with Gianfrancesco Guarnieri and the real cooking take was that by Quarteto Novo. A quite beautiful record.
"Where Can I Go?" by Laura Marling is a track from the singer-songwriter's fourth album, recorded when she was 22 years of age. By this time she was no new kid on the block for she first picked up a guitar at the age of 5 and was part of the new folk circuit in her mid-teens. A key element of the warm sound on the session is the job performed by producer Ethan Johns, no mean musician himself. His djembe underpins many of the songs. "Where Can I Go?", complete with sublime organ, is proof, I would suggest, that Laura Marling is one of the best singer-songwriters of her generation.
Well, we can hardly have a jukebox without a doo-wop record. Originally a b-side the version that became a massive hit was recorded as a demo in a garage at South Central Los Angeles. Recorded on a single-track Ampex tape recorder belonging to Ted Brinson, owner of the garage who just happened to twang the bass for the group. In what was a pretty basic set-up, the drums were muffled with pillows in order that they did now overwhelm the vocals. Legend has it that it took several takes to make a final recording as the group had to keep stopping when a neighbour's dog barked its head off. The original plan was to have a hit with "Hey Señorita," the A-side. However, local DJs flipped it over as they preferred to broadcast the other side. The result was a radio hit of epic proportions, the record racking up sales of more than ten million copies. Released at the dawn of the doo-wop era, "Earth Angel" is regarded as a classic of the period, a song that formed part of the soundtrack in the lives of every bobby soxer.
Time for a bit of Cosmic Orgone Engineering. In any case, if I do not put a record by Catherine Bush in the jukebox then many of the customers will be complaining. Luckily, I rather like "Cloudbusting," a single taken from Kate Bush's acclaimed "Hounds Of Love" album. Released in September 1985, the launch party for the record was held at the London Planetarium, an event in which guests could bathe in the sound of the album while watching a laser show inside the Planetarium. Now that was an experience many fans would have given their right arm for. "Cloudbusting," was inspired by Peter Reich's 1973 memoir, "A Book of Dreams,", and conveys the intimate relationship between the author and his father Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher who really did build a cloudbusting machine to unleash his deadly orgone radiation in the early 1950s. The second half of the song is darker and deals with Reich's arrest and imprisonment by the U.S. government. Filmed near The White Horse in Wiltshire, the video, directed by Julian Doyle, was conceived by Terry Gilliam and Kate Bush. She managed to secure the services of Donald Sutherland for free. The Canadian actor played the role of Wilhelm Reich, whilst Kate Bush takes on the part of his young son. As the cloudbuster inventor is driven away by government officials, [s]he brings on the rain by cranking up the cloudbuster, bringing joy to the father who peers through a soggy back window before knocking the hat off the government agent. If only I could muster up enough Orgone energy to power the jukebox.
Despite the United States going all rock-n-roll and the UK getting into skiffle, in 1955 the French just kept on doing their own thing. And what lovely records they made in this period. Written by Jean Renoir, with music by Georges van Parys, "La Complainte de la Butte" was originally performed by Cora Vaucaire as a single, and for the music of the 1955 film "French Cancan." The character of Esther Georges was played by the Italian screen siren Anna Amendola but the singing voice is that of Cora Vaucaire, dubbed by her French fans as the "White Lady of Saint-Germain-des-Prés." She was married to the songwriter Michel Vaucaire, who co-wrote "Non, je ne regrette rien," the song embedded in many an earworm by Edif Piaf. The lyrics of "La Complainte de la Butte" could hardly be more romantic ... "The pale moon lays a tiara on your red hair, The red moon, with glory splashes your petticoat full of holes ... And under your caress, I feel an intoxication that annihilates me." Combined with the flutes and street organ, it is a record that is packed with loveliness.
Up until the mid-1980s my record collection only had a smattering of country records. Sure, there were some fine records from back in the day but the 1970s had a little too much saccharine in the grooves for my liking. Then in the mid-1980s somebody hit the refresh button and 'New Country' was born. Or at least the term was coined to pigeonhole some of the new artists that emerged during the preceding years. At the commercial end of this movement were the likes of Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. But beneath the surface of glossy Nashville there were some excellent records being produced by artists with a few rough edges and a little grit in their teeth. As an avid listener to the John Peel Show in the 1980s, I first got to hear Lucinda Williams after the DJ had visited the Rough Trade shop and, once back at Broadcasting House, spun many of the tracks from her eponymously-titled 1988 album. Issued as a single, "The Night's Too Long" was the second track on what was a very consistent collection of songs. The daughter of a poet and literature professor, Lucinda Williams was born in Louisiana but moved around the States because of her father's work that took him from one place to another. Her mother was an amateur pianist and Williams was encouraged to delve into the world of music. By the age of 12 she was a good enough guitarist to play live and write her own material. Her first two albums were heavily influenced by the blues tradition and those delving into her back catalogue are often surprised by the different sound. After some years on the road and briefly being married to Greg Sowders, the drummer in the Long Ryders, she made her way to Nashville to record this album that proved to be a hard sell. Armed with demo tapes, she struggled to get a deal. She later stated that "The L.A. people said, "It's too country for rock," whilst the Nashville people said, "It's too rock for country." And so, the record ended up on the small Rough Trade label. Throughout the record Lucinda Williams, playing the rough diamond, is both melancholic and passionate, conjuring up images of honky tonks, boozing, feminism, and the hard road. Perhaps featuring elements of her own road movie, this song revolves around the life of Sylvia, a waitress working in Beaumont who hits the road to find her dreams. It could have been a contender for the soundtrack of "Thelma and Louise."
When "Flamenco Love" is selected on the pub jukebox, the licensee could wheel out a quiz round on the artist Al Caiola. In fact, one could have a whole quiz night built around the body of work involving Alexander Emil Caiola. Born in 1920 in Jersey City, he served in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a stretcher bearer. He also played in the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Division Band. After the war he became a session musician. However, he did release a number of records himself during the 1950s, this being one of his singles. But now, check out his curriculum vitae - if you don't think you have heard of this guy or own one of his recordings, think again. He features on Petula Clark's "Don't Sleep in the Subway," Paul Anka's "Diana," Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife," Al Martino's "Spanish Eyes," Del Shannon's "Runaway,' and Simon ' Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." And I am only skimming the surface here. The list of stars he worked with is mind-boggling, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, and Tony Bennett. The title of this 1956 single, "Flamenco Love," is a little misleading as it is more spaghetti western than Andalusian folk music. This track is way ahead of its time in terms of the genre. I cannot believe Ennio Morricone did not listen to this before penning some of the material for the soundtrack of "For A Few Dollars More" nine years later. In the 1960s Al Caiola would himself enjoy hits with the themes to "Bonanza" and "The Magnificent Seven." This 1956 7-inch flies under the radar of most music aficianados but it is a treasure.
Appearing on radio as youngsters, singing with their parents Ike and Margaret, Don and Phil Everly starting to write their own material in the mid-1950s. Their first single "Keep A Lovin' Me" was a more traditional twangy affair which sold only moderately. They followed up by recording "Bye Bye Love," written by husband-and-wife Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a couple who knew how to write hit songs. They would pen a string of hits for the Everlys. Boudleaux Bryant met elevator operator Matilda Scaduto in 1945 when he was playing violin at the Schroeder Hotel in her hometown of Milwaukee. They eloped five days after meeting. "All I Have to Do Is Dream" is sort of autobiographical for the woman he called Felice. The early years of their marriage were one of struggle. Living in a mobile home, they wrote dozens of songs, all being rejected until Little Jimmy Dickens committed one of their compositions to shellac in 1948. "Country Boy" subsequently went to No. 7 on the country chart and opened the doors for the Bryants. Over their long songwriter careers, more than 1,500 recordings of their songs were made by the likes of George Harrison, Eddy Arnold, The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Simon & Garfunkel, and, of course, The Everly Brothers. The lead guitarist on "Bye Bye Love" was none other than the multi-Grammy Award-winning Chet Atkins.
A perennial favourite with castaways on "Desert Island Discs," this tune was, if we believe him, composed by Charles Trenet while he was traveling by train in 1943. French singer Roland Gerbeau actually recorded it in 1945 but it flopped. Trenet's version was released in 1946 and it became a chanson classic. It has since been recorded over 4,000 times by a variety of artists, most notably Bobby Darin who had a hit with an English version "Beyond The Sea." However, the jukebox must have the original version for the pub's customers to swig along to.
I have mixed feelings about including "A Good For The Roses" by Elvis Costello & The Attractions. It is a half-decent cover version but Declan Patrick MacManus does not, by a long margin, possess the voice of George Jones who recorded this ballad penned by Jerry Chesnut, the Kentucky-born songwriter who based himself in Nashville and scored a few notable hits for Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and, notably "Four In The Morning" by Faron Young. Personally, I would like a hybrid version of "A Good For The Roses," ditching some of the schmaltzy strings of the 1970 version by George Jones but including the lovely organ work of Steve Nieve, an ace session keyboard player who spent a lot of his career with The Attractions. "A Good For The Roses" formed part of the country music project of Elvis Costello who was going through a career wobble following poor sales of the albums "Get Happy!!" and "Trust." Not all of his band members were convinced that "Almost Blue," the album from which this song is taken, was a good career move. Indeed, some of his interpretations are cringe-worthy. I have never been a great fan of his voice. However, as a songwriter, some of his work is top-drawer. For example, "Any King's Shilling," featured on the album "Spike" is a tremendous composition spoiled by a debilitated vocal delivery. Still, he has earned his place to sit among the pantheon of respected UK songwriters. "A Good For The Roses" artfully conveys some of the inner thoughts of a man who has been left home alone following his wife of three years walking out on him. But there's the rub, some of the nuance is lost in the vocal delivery, despite the singer going through his own relationship issues. To augment and instill some authenticity to the "Almost Blue" sessions, John McFee of The Doobie Brothers was brought in to play pedal steel guitar. Oddly, there is much more of this instrument on Costello's version than on the original George Jones cut.
I used to work with somebody who only led a half-life. One day, talking about music, it transpired that he NEVER played the b-side of records that he had bought. Flabbergasted, I asked him why not? After all, although many b-sides were the poor relative to the main act, some of them were real audio jewels. I bought a number of singles where the flip-side was the better cut. He had definitely missed out by ignoring potential treasures in his record collection. Ever heard of Yvonne Ann Burgess? The odds are that you definitely know her because she penned the lyrics of the theme music for the Australian soap opera "Neighbours." At the time she was married to the composer Tony Hatch. Known by her stage name of Jackie Trent, she and her husband co-wrote hit records for Scott Walker, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Wilson, Petula Clark, Des O'Connor, Val Doonican, and even Frank Sinatra. The daughter of a miner, she grew up in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a key reason for her co-writing a song for Stoke City when they reached the League Cup Final in 1972. I am not sure who thought that "Only One Such As You" should be the b-side of this single issued in 1964. "If You Love Me," the A-side, is far too busy for my liking but this arrangement is much more fun. It was not one of her compositions, the song being written by Chris Andrews, the man responsible for a string of hit singles for Sandie Shaw. A year after this single was released he enjoyed a big hit himself with the million-selling "Yesterday Man." And, of course, in 1965 Jackie Trent would top the charts with "Where Are They Now [My Love]," the first song she wrote with Tony Hatch. Adam Faith with The Roulettes recorded a version of "Only One Such As You" in September 1964 and, whilst that is a decent effort, this recording, enhanced by the magic touch of Tony Hatch as arranger, is the superior version.
Most traditonal pubs serving good real ales will always attract the odd motorcyclist or two. Consequently, the jukebox needs a great motorbike record and there cannot be anything to top this 1991 recording by Richard Thompson, a virtuoso guitarist and songwriter of the highest order. In "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" the folk-legend packs in what could be a 200-page short story into four minutes and forty-three seconds, proving the adage of less is more. Nothing else is required, the spaces are easily filled in with the listener's imagination as an armed robber named James falls for his girl, Red Molly, before it all goes pear-shaped. Well, for him at least. Red Molly, the woman in his favourite colour scheme, climbs aboard and rides off with one of the rarest and desirable motorcycles on the planet. And all while Thompson's fingers dance up and down the strings and fretboard in a masterly fashion. And it is all so British. Many songs about cars are based on American automobiles, or sung in some transatlantic twang. Here, however, Thompson stakes his claim as a national treasure.
I can remember chairing a pub music quiz back in the early 90s when, playing a Crowded House song as an interlude between rounds, a punter rushed up to me proclaiming that Crowded House were the new Beatles. And during their creative peak they did seem to have a knack of regularly turning out hook-laden records. However, although they racked up executive-pleasing album sales figures, their singles made little impact on the UK charts. Four Seasons In One Day could only peak at No.26 in Britain, though this was an improvement on No.33 in the songwriter's home territory of New Zealand. They did fare better with the earlier "Weather With You," another song to reference the meterological conditions down under. In this song, brothers Neil and Tim Finn used the notorious changeable Melbourne climate as a metaphor for fluctuating moodswings, apposite given the tensions within the personnel of Crowded House, rather like the latter-day fab four who could blow hot and cold in 24 hours.
Inserting this into the pub jukebox is a no-brainer. "Rocket "88"" was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1951. The recording was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm. However, it was saxophonist Jackie Brenston who delivered the vocals on this benchmark recording, and the Delta Cats were indeed Ike Turner's backing band. Many music writers acknowledge its importance in the development of rock and roll music, with several, including Sam Philips, considering it to be the first rock and roll record. The record above is an original 10-inch Shellac, though it was later released as a 7-inch single. RCA Victor really got this format going in 1949. Vinyl LPs were first issued in 1931, though not very commercially successful.
The jukebox needs a bit of Kenny and Dolly for those boozy New Year's Eve nights when many folks in the pub want to play duets with the one they fancy in the old smoke room. "Islands In The Stream" is cheesy and overdone, especially in karoake bars. But, hey, for one night only what the heck. In fact, the song is so popular that they could ditch the Auld Lang Syne rubbish and replace it with this number. More people like it and at least they know the words. "Islands In The Stream" was written by the Gibb brothers when they were churning out hit after hit for all and sundry. They are not mentioned in the same way as other trios such as Holland-Dozier-Holland or Stock Aitken Waterman but, like them or not, their songs have racked up millions of record sales. They actually wrote this for Diana Ross or Marvin Gaye and it was intended to be a bit more poppy-soul in style. However, it wound up being recorded by Kenny Rogers for "Eyes That See in the Dark," an album produced by Barry Gibb not long after he had completed "Heartbreaker" with Dionne Warwick. The man born on the Isle of Man was certainly in a rich vein of form. In the rehearsals it is said that Kenny Rogers tired of the song and commented to Gibb: "Barry, I don't even like this song anymore." And then he said, "We need Dolly Parton." And the rest, as they say, is Dollywood history. Anyone prospecting for gold in the Little Pigeon River at Tennessee [where she was born in a one-room cabin] would be better off trawling online auctions for one of her bagful of gold records. Once she waltzed into the recording studio and picked up the microphone Barry Gibb probably knew he was onto another million-selling record.
In 1978 I was busying myself buying records by Wire, X-Ray Spex, The Buzzcocks, The Clash and starting my collection of singles by The Fall. But, despite loving the immediacy and energy of these recordings, I still added records by the bloke from Shard End and his band. Yes, I am talking the over-the-top wall of sound created by Jeff Lynne and his Electric Light Orchestra. They reached an artistic and commercial pinnacle with the seventh album "Out Of The Blue." Apparently, the bulk of the album was penned during a fortnight in a Swiss chalet. I remember buying the album with its gatefold sleeve, complete with two inner sleeves, a poster and a push-out cardboard ELO space station. It was the complete polemic to punk, an anathema to those preferring the DIY raw approach to music. However, many different things went into my record boxes and I am glad I remained open to the audio world, wherever it took me. Despite having the album I had to buy "Mr. Blue Sky" simply because it had a picture sleeve and was pressed in blue vinyl. Who could resist such a temptation in the record rack? Jeff Lynne was not adverse to nicking a good line or two from somebody's pen. Check out the intro of "Do You Remember Walter" by The Kinks to hear almost the same launch into the song. There are also elements of The Beatles in here too, particularly "Martha My Dear". But do we care? Of course not, especially as the plagiarism is all mixed in with a cacaphony of sounds, culminating with a Rachmaninoff-esque symphonic finale. Even a fire extinguisher was deployed by Bev Bevan to create the bell sounds. It is simply a pop symphony epic, and a showstopping spectacle.
This 1972 single is lurking in the jukebox waiting for a cool dude to venture into the pub and drop some coins in to shake up the whole place with a terrific record straight outta Enugu in Nigeria. It was in the early 70s that my mother rented an adjoining flat, a part of our house, to an African guy who had not long come to the UK and was working for a car sales showroom near Burnt Tree Island at Dudley Port. I remember that he was dating a really exotic-looking black woman at the time. They were a wonderful addition to our humble abode. I helped him move his stuff up the stairs and put up some shelves for his separates hi-fi equipment. Separates I ask you. Nobody I knew had such an exotic sound system in those days. I then checked out his collection of vinyl records and was amazed at all this stuff I had never heard. This was the beginning of a rich period of musical enlightenment in which I learned that music did not revolve around the USA and UK. Guitarist and producer Goddy Oku, as leader of The Hygrades, was banging out singles like "In The Jungle" during this period, records that have become highly desirable with the current African music vinyl junkies. This is a great slab of Nigerian funk that will shake up the fuddy-duddies in the pub.
A record for the old school patrons of the pub. "Princesa De La Noche" is a beautiful bolero from Trio Los Panchos. Surprisingly, they were formed in New York City rather than Mexico. Mind you, the two of the original members, Chucho Navarro, and Alfredo Gil, hailed from Mexico, whilst Hernando Avilés came from Puerto Rico. Together, they recorded some of the most romantic boleros of the post-war years. They had been going six years when they released this record in 1950. Here they make an impassioned plea to the Princess of the Night, the angel of temptation. Over the years, the group sold millions of records and are regarded as one of the top musical trios of all-time and one of the most influential Latin American groups.
A jukebox selection for those feeling a little nostalgic towards the Madchester scene of the late 80s and early 90s. It is value for money too, as the change shovelled into the jukebox provides punters with the full eight minutes and twelves seconds of "I Am The Resurrection" by The Stone Roses when they were at the peak of their powers. Record-wise it could only go downhill from here. But, hey, whilst it lasted it was great fun. I had a record shop at the time and it was hard to keep up stocks of t-shirts and posters never mind the records themselves. Pinnacle, the distributors for the label, would ring up to check how many more copies I would like to buy. The rep visited in a car with a bootful of copies to flog. Could the label who were releasing stuff by Loudon Wainwright III and The Men They Couldn't Hang really have expected to hit the jackpot with this bunch or urchins who had been only really been famous in their own backyard for several years. But, the stars aligned with John Leckie at the sound desk for what was a remarkable debut album. If it had ended there it would have been great. What followed was legal battles with labels, a massive gap until the disappointing follow-up, the break-ups and, worse, the reunion.
In 1978, living in Yorkshire, I was spending my wages on punk records and hitting the towns of Darlo and Boro. There was a lot of good music that passed by my wild side and it took me a few years to backtrack and discover what else was going on in the heady and hedonistic late seventies. It took me even longer to find a nice copy of "Too Late" by Mandrill, a gorgeous three-and-a-half minutes of polished soul by a New York group that had forged a path of progressive and experimental funk through the early-mid 70s. "Too Late" is not indicative of their genre and far removed from, say, "Fencewalk," one of their big hits of 1973. Some listeners will know some of their work through samples on records by Public Enemy, DJ Shadow, Kanye West, and Eminem. "New Worlds," the album on which "Too Late" opens, was something of a disco affair, perhaps the group's attempt to enjoy commercial success. It is not an album I can enjoy but this standout track is wonderful.
Time for a polished pop song by the Scottish group Del Amitri. I get lambasted for liking them. But I am sticking to my guns - I may not like all of their material but "Twisted," the album from which this song was taken and released as a single, is tremendous. I am not even burying it in my guilty pleasures pile - I think it is a great record. Del Amitri were formed in Glasgow way back in 1980 so inevitably there have been some personnel changes. However, Justin Currie, the singer and main songwriter, along with Iain Harvie, main guitarist and co-writer, have been there all along. They have had some fine musicians over the years, notably Kevin McDermott who released a superb album only for it to vanish unrecognised. David Cummings is playing on this record - he is perhaps better known as a scriptwriter of the comedy series "The Fast Show." Surprisingly, none of Del Amitri's singles made the Top 10 in the UK. Like Crowded House, they struggled to sell more than the pap that made the charts. "Here And Now," for my money at least, is just about as good as it can get for this genre. Good intro with sublime organ, great piano work and some fine harmony singing. What's not to like?
This jukebox selection is a celebration of longevity. "Teatro" was the 45th studio album in the long recording career of Willie Nelson. A new approach to some of his older compositions was achieved by the producer Daniel Lanois, the man behind the sound desk for Emmylou Harris's "Wrecking Ball" album. She joined the party by providing backing vocals on a number of the tracks on "Teatro". Nearing seventy but still in possession of a comforting voice formulated with chocolate churned in a concrete mixer, Willie Nelson could still break the listener's heart with a perfectly-delivered line. On "Everywhere I Go" there is an metaphorical expression of endearment through a memento over Tex-Mex guitar coupled with harmonica and slapped drums to produce a desert sound of which Calexico and Giant Sand would be proud. Proof, if ever it was needed, that there was still life in the old dog and that one is never too old to swing!
Imagine it is 2010 and fans of early Depeche Mode, Talk Talk and New Order are yearning for a lost album to satiate their appetite for all things electro-pop. Then along come Mirrors and blow their synth-pop minds to pieces with a total homage to the early 1980s. There could be a case for plagiarism of the highest order but for those who yearn for the sound of analogue synthesizers twiddled to the max they care not a jot. Moreover, this Brighton outfit delivered a premier league set of gorgeous tunes with magnificent pomp on "Lights And Offerings." Released as a single, "Hide And Seek" is the sixth track from an album that, had it been released in 1981, would have knocked the Human League off the No.1 slot.
A jukebox selction that offers plenty of twangy nostalgia from the late 1940s. This song is regarded as a seminal piece and one of the best recordings by Hank Williams. However, unlike much of his work, this was actually written in the previous year by the blind country singer-songwriter Leon Payne who also wrote "I Love You Because," a song made famous by Jim Reeves. Payne is said to have given guitar lessons to Alabama-born Hank Williams. This version did not sell well at first but "Lost Highway" is now regarded as one of his defining records. Three years later he would die in the back seat of a car in West Virginia. His career was terribly short but his legacy was monumental. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, George Strait and Charley Pride, to name just a few, all owed Hank Williams a debt.
A new millennium of music did not mean everything from the past would disappear. In 2000 the Cosmic Rough Riders released an album of sunshine pop that combined the jangly guitar sound of The Byrds with harmony vocals deployed by The Beach Boys. I had listened to them on the radio and liked what I heard. I was visiting Porthmadog when I browsed the racks of Cob Records. And there was the album by the Cosmic Rough Riders for a bargain price of £6, a steal in those days when albums cost double that amount. Gathering together some older self-released material and a few new tracks, the album is packed full of hook-laden tunes and was played a lot on the pub jukebox. The band was formed by Daniel Wylie and Stephen Fleming in 1998 at Glasgow and enjoyed a run of moderate success for around six years in which they released a string of good records. I would say they are at the pop end of the spectrum explored by Teenage Fanclub, arguably making them more radio-friendly. Listening to this you'd be forgiven for thinking it was 1967, even if Kate Adie is referenced. The news remains as grim today but the sound of those guitars is a welcome constant.
Amid all this pop, soul, rock'n'roll etc., it is important to have a record in the jukebox for the ghosts of pub patrons who have passed to the tap-room behind the pearly gates. After all, we drink in the places they once frequented and enjoyed themselves. So, a big band number that is off the scale in terms of beauty. Just listen to the brass section on this and the hairs on the back of your neck will ping to attention. Russell Morgan was born in Pennsylvania in 1904 to musical parents. However, he had a tough upbringing and had to work in a mine to help fund his music lessons. He gradated from a local band to playing in some of the renowned orchestras in New York. He went on to lead his own orchestra and hosted a popular radio show. "So Tired", released in 1948, was one of four big hits he enjoyed during the following year. He was still playing in Las Vegas during the 1960s. The bandleader, who died in 1969, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Unlike today, when everything is available with a few clicks, back in 2013 it was still hard to get some CDs. I heard Bigott's "Blue Jeans" on an early platform streaming new music. Do you think I could find it online? In the end I had to mail some euros to Spain in order to receive my copy of the album. Hailing from Zaragoza but usually singing in English, Borja Laudo, better known as Bigott, was a folkie-hippie just doing his own thing. Although he had issued some records, hardly anybody in the UK had heard of him back then but, over the years, he has gradually garnered some cult status as an anti-folk hero. Before you worry about his alias, it is pronounced 'bigote,' as in the Spanish for 'moustache.' It was a handle bestowed upon him by the guy behind the bar at El Fantasma de los Ojos Azules [The Blue-Eyed Ghost], a legendary venue where Borja Laudo played a regular DJ set of Americana and weird shit. And it is from the eclectic mix of music that he absorbed during this period that he evolved into a singer-songwriter unafraid to interchange musical styles, exploring new avenues rather than following a singular path. On "The Reno Poem" one can bask in his lovely deep voice and Spanish guitar style. This song probably came about from his period listening to the likes of Smog, Sparklehorse, Daniel Johnston and The Silver Jews.
When they recorded "Won't Get Fooled Again," The Who included the lyric "Pick up my guitar and play." And, whilst that is a tenuous link to this 1947 recording by T-Bone Walker in that it has nothing to do with the record, this is the man who inspired many people, including the likes of B. B. King to pick up an electric guitar and play. Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker was a pioneer of the electric guitar and, in his day, played the instrument like no other. Indeed, by playing it behind his neck whilst doing the splits, he had the A&R men reaching for recording contracts. "Call It Stormy Monday" is a laid-back number that summarised the working week of many a soul. No wonder they called it the Monday Morning Blues. But, hey, Friday is payday and the jazzy rhythms suggest it was time to let the good times roll before repenting in church on Sunday.
Fusing old school country with southern soul, "I'm Just A Clown" was released as a single from the 2022 album "The Man From Waco" by Charley Crockett who, after bursting onto the scene in 2015 released eleven albums in seven years. This may have flagged up warning bells that there was plenty of filler. However, despite covering some older songs, there was plenty of good material to justify fans shelling out on his records. He is allegedly a distant relative of Davy Crockett which, whether true or not, is a good publicity angle. Born in San Benito in Texas, he grew up in a trailer park at Los Fresnos, his single mother raising him and two siblings in straightened circumstances. Before he was in his teens his mother bought him a guitar from a pawn shop and he learned to play on instinct rather than any musical teaching. He spent some time as a busker, first in New Orleans, before moving to New York City. When he landed a record deal he was more of a blues singer but drifted into country and Americana. A somewhat funky number, "I'm Just A Clown" sees Charley Crockett singing of betrayal in a rich baritone voice whilst The Blue Drifters, a tight band, delivers a punchy sound. The song was written on the tour bus and recorded in The Bunker, the studio owned by producer Bruce Robison.
"O Samba E O Tango [Chegou A Hora]" is a track from Brasil by the magical Waldir Calmon to blow the socks off everyone in the pub. Born in 1919 in Rio Novo, Waldir Calmon was not stuck in the past and remained innovative throughout his career. His peak was the 1950s when he repeatedly churned out audio gold. Indeed, he created a style that was imitated by many pianists who followed him in his blazing trail. A trademark of his recordings is his use of the Solovox. This was in the days before synthesisers. Designed by four engineers at the Hammond Organ Co., and largely made during the 1940s, the Solovox was a monophonic keyboard attachment built into a piano to create the sound of an organ. 1958 was the year in which Waldir Calmon teamed up with the singer Angela Maria to make the LP "Quando Os Astros Se Encontram," a masterpiece of Samba and Bolero. Born Abelim Maria da Cunha, she was the daughter of an evangelical pastor. In his Baptist church she learned the art of singing. However, his zealot-like tendencies forbade her to be a professional singer. In her teens she worked in a lamp factory and moved to be a weaver in the textile industry. But she ran away to follow her dream and, through a number of talent show victories, made her way into the music industry. She was voted "Queen of the Radio" in 1954 and became one of the most popular singers in Brasil.
Todd Michael "Leon" Bridges was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised at Forth Worth in Texas. He learned to play guitar during his time working in a diner. He started performing his retro-styled songs and was spotted by somebody from Columbia Records. He signed a contract with the label in December 2014. "Coming Home" was co-written by Leon Bridges, and issued as the first single from his debut album released in the summer of 2015. It became noteworthy for being a "Top 10 Most Viral Track" on Spotify, which is probably how I came to hear it. Unfortunately, it was featured in a 2022 commercial for McDonald's but I will try not to think about that when it is spinning in the pub jukebox.
"Green Onions" is a twelve-bar blues number featuring the spellbinding Hammond M3 organ riffs by Booker T. Jones who composed the tune when he was just 17 years of age. He was the keyboard player in the house band of Stax Records, along with Al Jackson on drums, Lewie Steinberg on bass, and Steve Cropper on guitar. Together, they were jamming in the studio when they improvised the tune of Booker T. Jones. Legend has it that the engineer realised it was too good to waste so hit the record button and let the tape roll. It was originally released on the Volt label as a b-side to "Behave Yourself" but a local DJ plugged the flip side in preference. And, as they say, the rest is history. Incredibly, it took almost 20 years for the record to climb into the Top 10 of the UK singles chart. Slight footnote ... when in town many years ago, I went to pay homage to the former cinema in which audio dynamite was created at Stax Records. Too late, the city authorities committed a heinous crime and had the place demolished. They had only gone and trashed a potential tourist magnet and hotspot.
I do not know if Pearl Charles has been played on Radio 2? If not, she should have been. In 2021 she released "Magic Mirror," a collection of songs immersed in the 1970s, the sort of material that once formed the bedrock of the Radio 2 playlist. The songs feature elements of Charlie Dore, Rita Coolidge, Carole King, The Carpenters and even Fleetwood Mac. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter was born in 1991 so the 1970s had long gone. I presume she raided the record collection of her parents, forming the basis of her inspiration to return to the MOR-1970s. Some music critics lambasted her for retreading this period in music history. Yet, the same journalists praise those who dip into the 1960s, churning out versions of The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Psychedelia. The opening track of "Magic Mirror, " "Only For Tonight" is not indicative of the album. On this track Pearl Charles has fun plagiarising the glam-pop of Abba and the schmaltzy-disco of Andrea True Connection, melding them into a completely outrageous pastiche of 1976. Even the video was shot as a 1970s period piece. Great fun.
El Jefe may have said "Bring me the head of anybody who doesn't like Bernard Cribbins." There can be few takers in the anti-Bernard camp. The former paratrooper, and national treasure, had created his own breaks in the theatrical world, making his way to the West End by the end of the 1950s. At the start of the new decade he landed a part alongside Anna Quayle and Lionel Blair in the revue "And Another Thing," written by Ted Dicks and Myles Rudge. This songwriting duo were to play a key part in the recording career of Bernard Cribbins. He was nabbed by the future Beatles-producer, George Martin, and found himself with a recording contract at Parlophone Records and creating his evergreen comedy songs at Abbey Road Studios. George Martin astutely drafted in the songwriting team of Dicks and Rudge, the remit being to pen some hit comedy songs. Clocking in at less than two minutes, "The Hole in the Ground," is a perfect example of the British class conflict comedy of the era. Cribbins effortlessly switches between the voice of the grafting digger and the pompous twit wielding a clipboard. Plot spoiler alert: the official in the bowler hat ends up in the 'ole in this faultless micro-soap opera. A record for the proletariat who pile into the pub for early doors after knocking off for the day.
Lesley Sue Goldstein was still in High School when she exploded onto the scene in 1963 with the American chart-topping "It's My Party." With Quincy Jones, vice-president of Mercury Records, at the controls, she enjoyed further hit records in quick succession, including "You Don't Own Me," a record that, because of its anti-patriarchal stance, became an early feminist anthem. The song was composed by John Madara and David White, a songwriting partnership famous for "At The Hop," released in 1957 and a massive hit for Danny and The Juniors in the following year. The rollover in years occurred with this song as it was released at the fag end of 1963 but charted in early 1964. Despite being an inspirational record for young women, the record failed to topple the Beatlemania of "I Want To Hold Your Hand," the mop-tops keeping her off the top spot. Despite her stardom, Lesley Gore continued her college education, studying English and American literature. Graduating in 1968, she ventured into the soul genre and found herself on the Motown subsidiary label Mowest. Exchanging a microphone for a pen, she turned to songwriting, her most famous material forming part of the musical "Fame". Along with her younger brother, she co-wrote "Out Here on My Own" for Irene Cara.
Time for a little 1960s ooh-la-la when Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien pitched towards the French market by releasing an E.P. of songs in their language. It proved to be a triumph. Aside from such forays into the French charts, she could also sing in Italian. Indeed, in January 1965 Dusty Springfield took part in the Italian Song Festival in San Remo. This record was released in the same year. A bonus is that it involves Carole King, the woman who co-wrote this song with Gerry Goffin. Incidentally, the original version was the first record by a black all-girl group to reach No.1 in the United States. And this despite some radio stations banning airplay due to the sexually charged lyrics.
I sometimes wonder who they would have turned to if Cilla Black had turned down the job of recording "Alfie". Paramount were determined to have the song performed by an English singer to complement the character played by Michael Caine. Sandie Shaw had already rejected the song and, in approaching Liverpool-born Priscilla White, Burt Bacharach told a little white lie when he assured her the song had been written specially for her. However, Cilla had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the studio to record the song. She had scoffed at the title of the track and came up with a scheme to wriggle out of the recording. She said she would only turn up at Abbey Road Studios if Burt Bacharach flew to London for the session, that he personally arranged the music, and that he would play the piano. To lay down such demands perhaps shows the confidence, or egotism, of the scally singer. She was confident that Burt Bacharach would find somebody else to sing "Alfie", but to her amazement he agreed to her terms and conditions. Consequently, Cilla walked into the studio where she found Burt organising a 48-piece orchestra, along with backing trio, The Breakaways, warming up. Cilla Black probably didn't know what she was in for. Ever the demanding perfectionist, Bacharach made her perform 28 or 29 takes - they lost count! Finally, Bacharach was content with the finished work and the single, a promotional tool for the forthcoming film, was released in January 1966. Worldwide sales were only moderate, largely due to another recording by Cher finding favour with the American audience. It was Cher's version that was used in the soundtrack with Cilla being relegated to the closing credits. Cher would suffer a similar fate for the 2004 remake. Her re-recording was put on the sub's bench with Joss Stone scoring the winner.
This recording of "A Taste Of Honey" by Lenny Welch was released in 1962, a couple of years after the original version by Bobby Scott. The latter co-wrote it with Ric Marlow for the 1960 Broadway stage adaptation of the 1958 British play by Shelagh Delaney. The film, a classic of the British kitchen sink genre, was released in September 1961. The first vocal version of "A Taste Of Honey" was recorded by Billy Dee Williams, the art student who played the role of The Boy in the Broadway production. He would later become a screen star as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise. Lenny Welch, the New York-born singer signed to Cadence Records, recorded his version with Archie Bleyer in 1962. It was this version that was picked up by The Beatles and included on their debut album. Indeed, the song was included on the debut album of Lenny Welch, the title track of which "Since I Fell For You," became a worldwide hit. Eleven years later I would find myself buying "A Hundred Pounds Of Pain," which remains one of my favourite funky tracks of the 1970s. What a voice!
Outside of the world of Northern Soul, Bobby Hebb is remembered for one song. Hopefully, he had all the legal stuff in place and lived on the royalties of "Sunny." And the royalties would have been colossal for it is one of the most recorded songs in the history of popular music. Bobby Hebb claimed that he penned the song in 1963 following the death of his older brother, Harold, who was stabbed outside a Nashville nightclub. He told journalists that he wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a "sunny" disposition following the murder of his brother. However, somewhat conflictingly, he also remarked that "All my intentions were just to think of happier times - basically looking for a brighter day - because times were at a low tide. After I wrote it, I thought "Sunny" just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in "Just Walkin' in the Rain," a song cooked up after prison exercise in the rain. Bobby Hebb did not record the song himself until 1966. It was originally recorded in a smoky jazz style by Mieko Hirota, a singer dubbed 'The Connie Francis of Japan.' Grady Tate, played drums on that version, and also played on another early recording by the marimbaphonist Dave Pike, on his 1966 album "Jazz for the Jet Set." Bobby Hebb's version of his song was a hit in no time and reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late August 1966. The success of the song resulted in Bobby Hebb touring with the Beatles.
Quiz question: What has "Hanging On The Telephone" got in common with "Come Back and Stay" by Paul Young? Well, technically there are a couple of correct answers. Firstly, they are both cover versions but, more importantly, they were both written by Jack Lee. And it was his power-pop/new wave band, The Nerves, that first recorded "Hanging On The Telephone" with a shoestring budget in 1976 at Los Angeles. It is also a tremendous record, even more so given the states of their economics. The bass player on that record was none other than Peter Case who would go on to make some excellent albums as a solo artist. Legend has it that Blondie discovered "Hanging On The Telephone" after hearing it on a cassette tape compilation given to her by the Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce. By this time Jack Lee was pretty much broke so probably welcomed the phone call asking if Blondie could record the song and include it on their album "Parallel Lines." It would be nice to think that he received a regular royalties cheque. With two albums behind them, the record label threw everything into the album and, despite great difficulties with the producer Mike Chapman, managed to deliver a set of top-notch songs. It is hard to imagine that Chapman thought they were incompetent as musicians. He later remarked that Clem Burke was an awful drummer. Yet, listening to this, his contribution is fabulous. Of course, Debbie Harry totally owned the record and made it her own. Amazingly, when issued as a single, "Hanging On The Telephone" flopped in the United States but it was a big hit in the UK and sold well in other territories. The home audience finally woke up to the pop phenomenon of "Parallel Lines," one of the all-time great albums.
This record is available for pub patrons wishing to let fly with some impromptu drumming on the table-top providing, of course, they don't spill anybody's beer. Indeed, the whole tap-room may end up doing a group hand-slapping on the edge of their tables for this number, with beer mats flying in all directions. Lyrically, it is the least challenging record that I can think of. Indeed, this is part of the appeal of this rockabilly classic. Everybody and anybody, singing voice or not, can give it everything they'e got. Originally released in 1959 by the Rock-A-Teens, "Woo-Hoo" is almost guaranteed to enliven the place, unless there is a genuine grouch propping up the bar for whom there is rarely any uplifting of their sorry soul. Some folks may have come to this record via Quentin Tarantino's 2003 movie "Kill Bill" with a version by the 220.127.116.11's. But for my money, this original recording has so much more vibrancy and vitality.
A record to completely divide the pub and cause a right old argument. Some deem "Honey" to be a period classic. Those at the other end of the polemic deride it for being a schmaltzy sick-bag howler. Where do I fit within this broad bandwave? Well, I can see both arguments but I have sung this many times whilst gardening, generally when planting a new shrub or to remark on one of several trees that I have grown from seed. My trees were less of a lifeform than the 'twig' referenced in this million-selling record. Make that multi-million-selling disc. United Artists shifted a million copies in just three weeks. The song was composed by Bobby Russell and first recorded by Bob Shane, a founding member of The Kingston Trio. Even the song title of this number isn't the original as it was first known as "Pledge of Love," apposite given the theme throughout the song. "Honey" would be the commercial highlight in the career of Bobby Goldsboro, formerly a guitarist in Roy Orbison's backing band. Produced by Bob Montgomery, a songwriting partner and friend of Buddy Holly, the song was reportedly nailed in one take. So, bung in your coins and create a furore in the tap-room with this marmite record.
There are a couple of ways to look at this single. Although it rode the wave of bubblegum music of the late 1960s, it has a hint of social commentary in what seems like a throwaway song. Understandably, it was championed by the rising feminist movement, but others saw it as a song that encouraged the square peg in a round hole. Certainly, Ellen Naomi Cohen a.k.a. Mama Cass Elliott broke the mould in the music industry. "Make Your Own Kind of Music" was composed by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the husband-and-wife hit-making machine. After getting together they wrote a string of hit records, such as "Uptown" by The Crystals and "We Gotta Get out of This Place" by The Animals. One of Mann's earliest successes was "I Love How You Love Me" by The Paris Sisters. "Make Your Own Kind of Music" was first recorded in 1968 by the Will-O-Bees, a New York City-based folk-pop trio. Sales of that disc were poor but the song was considered ideal for the upbeat second album of Mama Cass Elliott. Despite being plugged to death and gaining heavy radio play, her version enjoyed only moderate success, though as a period piece amid a blossoming anti-establishment movement, it would be revaluated in later years. One of the most curious elements of the tragic death of Mama Cass Elliott was that she died in the Mayfair flat owned by Harry Nilsson, in the same bedroom that, four years later, The Who's drummer Keith Moon passed away. One for the pub quiz perhaps?
A record that finds favour with the tree-huggers in the pub as they peruse the vegan options on the menu after enquiring if the beer contains isinglass, "Big Yellow Taxi" was released as a single in 1970 and included on the seminal "Ladies Of The Canyon" album. The song delivered a strong environmental message, though it is rather depressing than the world paid no heed and continued to concrete over all things bright and beautiful. Not that Joni Mitchell could claim the moral high ground - she wrote "Big Yellow Taxi" on Hawaii after burning non-renewable fossil fuels by hopping on a flight to the island state. But she did her bit by provoking thought amid the wider populace with great lines like "They took all the trees, and put 'em in a tree museum, and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em," her observation on Honolulu's Foster Botanical Garden. Throughout her artistic career in both paint and song, an awareness of environmental issues has been manifest, arguably more persuasive or influential than banging the drum. However, the pace of change now demands more outspoken activists because "you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."
Time for a record by the woman responsible for dozens of hit records, perhaps never to be equalled in terms of sales. The jukebox selection is a 1971 recording. Two versions of "You've Got A Friend" were recorded back-to-back in the same studio, first by Carole King, the songwriter, and, after a quick shuffle around of musicians, James Taylor. Joni Mitchell is said to have featured on both recordings. Certainly, Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar played on both recordings. The song was offered to Mary Hopkin who turned it down only to kick herself for years afterwards! Taylor's version was rushed out as a single and topped the U.S. charts, though Carole King won a Grammy as the songwriter. She apparently had a case of stage fright and avoided such hullabaloo so she did not go to the ceremony. Lou Adler, the record's producer and label owner, accepted the award on her behalf and then called her to tell her she had won. Incredibly, it was one of only four Grammy Awards bestowed upon one of the most successful songwriters of all time.
If one were to sift through the vast catalogue of recordings made by Argentina's Los Brios, there would unquestionably be some truly offensive sounds entering the eardrums. Satiating the middle-of-the-road audience, they have delivered some awful records. However, this early single taken from their first album has moments of tenderness, romance and loss, key ingredients of their balladry. Formed in 1971 around Buenos Aires, the group dabbled with a range of styles until settling into their romantic groove. Their debut album "Yo Se Que Te Acordaras" sold over a million copies and ensured success in neighbouring countries of South America. Underpinned by some plaintive organ notes, "De Muchas Cosas [Tengo Miedo]," [I am afraid of many things] opens with "I fear, that like a bird, You'll fly away from my hand." and continues with lyrics of regret and not having grasped the nettle until finally "I fear, that today in silence, Will be my way of screaming." A simply beautiful record and a mighty addition to the jukebox.
All sorts of pranks are played in the bar but if there is one thing that is verboten it is tampering with somebody's beer, worse still, actually drinking somebody else's ale. This is what happened to Dave Bartholomew in 1952 when he ordered a pint and then went to the toilets [with original fittings, including full dividers etc.]. He came back to find that his glass was empty so demanded to know "Who Drank The Beer While I Was In The Rear?" Man, he so was furious he claimed that he going to "dislocate the future" of the culprit. A lesson for anybody thinking of helping themselves to a free pint. It is a great rhythm and blues number from the man who wrote the huge-selling "I Hear You Knocking," and "My Ding-a-Ling", in addition to a string of hits with Fats Domino.
From behind the servery it is interesting to see the faces of the customers when a cover version of a familiar tune is selected on the jukebox. Arguably, despite being a cover, the best-known record of "Everything I Own" was that of Ken Boothe who topped the charts in 1974 with his reggae offering of the song. Unfortunately for him he did not get any royalites as the Trojan record label went bust. He reportedly recorded the song to fill a space on his album after he had heard a version by Andy Williams. He may not have heard the original and changed the lyrics slightly to "I Would Give Anything I Own." The song was originally written by David Gates, a key member of the soft-rock band, Bread. Gates had been around the block for a while, having once been in a band that had backed Chuck Berry. As a songwriter and producer, during the 1960s he worked with the likes of Elvis Presley, The Monkees, Bobby Darin and Brian Wilson. "Everything I Own" has been covered many, many times. The song is well documented and there are references to versions by Shirley Bassey, Olivia Newton-John, Georgie Fame, Boy George, Rod Stewart, and Chrissie Hynde. Accordingly, the lyrics have been interpreted as representing a broken relationship. However, David Gates penned the song in memory of his father who had died in 1963 and did not see the massive success he later enjoyed with Bread. The lines "You sheltered me from harm, kept me warm, you gave my life to me, set me free," references the paternal care his father provided. This version is a much-lesser known recording of the song but one that is packed full of soul. Born in Alabama in 1939, Oscar Toney Jr., a former gospel singer and soul veteran had been knocking on the door of success until hitting No.4 in the R&B chart in 1967 with an amazing cover of "For Your Precious Love" with backing vocals by none other than Melba Moore, Doris Troy and Ellie Greenwich. It was during a 1973 UK tour that John Abbey, music editor and record shop-owner, got him to record for the Contempo label. "Everything I Own" was the first single he recorded for the label. It was subsequently released in the USA on the Atco label. He cut an album for Contempo but success eluded him and he moved back to the states where he worked in a number of factory jobs. David Gates, the songwriter, retired from the music industry and bought a large farm which he ran with his childhood sweetheart whom he married in 1959.
Those pub customers with a leaning towards jazz can delight in finding this treasure by Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra when flicking through the jukebox selections. It is an explosive track that also appeals to fans of Lalo Schifrin. "Blue Pepper [Far East of the Blues]" was featured on the album "Far East Suite," recorded in late 1966 and released around the time of the early death of Billy Strayhorn, the composer and arranger who had collaborated with Duke Ellington for the best part of three decades. What a way to bow out - one of the best albums of The Duke's later career. "Blue Pepper" doesn't mess around and bursts through the speakers like a raging bull, carried along by the alto saxophone work of Johnny Hodges and hits a peak with the wild trumpet of William "Cat" Anderson. A record to cause the pub's pool players to strut around like Fast Eddie whilst the picked eggs sat in the jar on the servery bob along to the basslines.
Though I recognise the popularity of Abba, I am not a great fan. I like a few of their songs mind you. However, it would be a churlish publican to refuse an Abba record in the jukebox. After all, plenty of the customers love a bit of Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. Born in Stockholm in 1946, Benny Andersson was a member of The Hep Stars, Sweden's version of The Beatles. A year older, Björn Ulvaeus followed a folk-skiffle route in a band called The Hootenanny Singers. Agnetha Fältskog meanwhile was forging her own career as a singer-songwriter. In the late 1960s she was engaged to Dieter Zimmermann, a German singer-songwriter who enjoyed some cult status in the 21st century, particularly with the song "She's An Easy Rider." Anni-Frid Lyngstad met Benny Andersson when performing at Melodifestivalen 1969. Inevitably, their careers would lead to collaborations but, despite some earlier releases, it was not until 1973 that the stars aligned and they became known as Abba. Neil Sedaka was brought in to write the lyrics for an English version of "Ring Ring," but they failed in their bid to represent Sweden with that song at the Eurovision Song Contest. Introducing some elements of glam-rock, they bounced back in the following year with "Waterloo." Abba went on to sell 11.3 million singles in the UK alone. Their enduring marketability was given a boost with the stage musical "Mamma Mia!", a production that enjoyed long runs on both Broadway and the West End. Whilst they enjoyed massive success in most parts of the world, they totally ruled the UK with eight consecutive albums reaching the top spot. I have chosen this Abba song as it was memorably featured in "Better Call Saul," during a karaoke number performed by the characters Jimmy and Chuck McGill, the latter executing a show-stopping performance.
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