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. The video here however features a different take from Pathé Studios, and here it is simply performed with the Russian-born pianist Monia Liter. Older listeners may be more familiar with the version featured in the 1978 BBC musical drama "Pennies From Heaven."
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, with an accompanying video [below], is for those who, in this digital age, perhaps do not know what a record player looks like... try this killer 1958 record by Link Wray with details of equipment used. "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 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. I remember her 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 Argentinian 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." Follow the You Tube link below to listen to "Frau von Ungefähr" and fall in love with accordion player Kiki Sauer.
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. For an accompanying video, I have chosen a performance recorded much later on the "Later ...." programme. Have you ever wondered how many artists Mr. Holland has played with? The list must be incredible. Here he is tinkling the keys with the legend that is the Reverend Al Green. 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 below video clip is from "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. The 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 Rodrio 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. For now just click on the video link for "Late Night Morning Light." It's soul music but not quite as you know it.
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."