Monday, May 31, 2010

"Your Woman" in this millennium (DJ Sunquest)

This blog has devoted a couple of entries to the White Town song "Your Woman," beginning with the 1930s origins of the distinctive riff in the song, up to the White Town take on the song.

But songs continue to mutate, and I recently discovered DJ Sunquest's remix of the song. Enjoy.

DJ Sunquest has also remixed Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Intersecting lives - Dennis Hopper and Ike Turner

I learned of Dennis Hopper's not-unexpected death this morning via a FriendFeed entry. Some remember him for his movies, some for his commercials. I remember him for a Saturday Night Live sketch that played on his hard partying during his younger years - in the sketch, Hopper didn't recognize Jack Nicholson until he introduced himself as one of the stars of the (Michael Keaton) Batman movie.

But the anonymous author of The Music's Over (I know who it is, but I'm not telling) has highlighted another side of Dennis Hopper:

Hopper was also a respected painter, sculptor and photographer who made a couple of significant contributions to the world of popular music as well. In 1966, he created the cover art for “River Deep – Mountain High,” the hit single for Ike & Tina Turner. And more recently, he portrayed the narrator on “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” from Demon Days, the multi-million selling album by Gorillaz.

Regarding the Ike & Tina (or, more accurately, Tina and Phil Spector) cover art, Songfacts quotes from a Rolling Stone interview with Bob Krasnow:

"Dennis Hopper did the cover on that LP. He was broke on his ass in Hollywood and trying photography. He said he'd like to do the cover. He took us to this sign company, where there was this 70-foot high sign for a movie, with one of those sex stars - Boccaccio '70 or something. And he shot them in front of that big teardrop. Then the gas company had a big sign, and Hopper took them there and shot them in front of a big burner."

Several decades later, Hopper hooked up with the Gorillaz (and no, the writer of The Music's Over is not one of the members of the Gorillaz). Eventually, Hopper ended up at the Apollo in Harlem:

I found one little bit of irony while reading up on the Gorillaz' Demon Days:

Somehow, though, Albarn and his new cohort Danger Mouse (who replaces the quickly fading-in-relevance Dan the Automator) have managed to develop something resembling a cohesive statement from parts as disparate as Neneh "Buffalo Stance" Cherry, Dennis Hopper, Martina Topley-Bird, the London Community Gospel Choir (because every true exercise in self-indulgence needs a gospel choir attached to it), and Ike Turner. Yes, you read right. Ike freaking Turner.

As I implicitly mentioned earlier, Ike Turner does not appear on "River Deep, Mountain High" because Phil Spector preferred to use his own session musicians. So while Ike and Dennis (the photographer) were only technically associated on the earlier recording, they did legitimately appear on the credits for the Gorillaz album.

And, unfortunately, Turner and Hopper have one other thing in common. There's a huge battle over Ike Turner's estate, and there's going to be a huge battle over Dennis Hopper's estate.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On being American...or not (Elvis Presley's "American Trilogy")

On this vacation day, somehow this song has ingrained itself in my mind - Elvis Presley's "American Trilogy."

As the title implies, this medley (originally conceived by Mickey Newbury) consists of three songs, each of which is bound to offend someone or another. Atheists presumably don't care for "All My Trials." Peace-lovers (especially atheist peace-lovers) presumably don't care for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

And then there's "Dixie," which has caused and still causes a variety of reactions:

"Dixie" -- a song strongly identified with the South -- stirs emotion and exposes timeworn rifts across American society.

It has been that way almost since "Dixie" was born in the days just before the Civil War. Adopted as a Confederate anthem, it was offered up by President Abraham Lincoln as a gesture of reconciliation after the war. It's accepted with affection by many whites and scorned by many blacks. And yet it's been recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley to the Robert Shaw chorale.

And Elvis merited special mention on the song "Fight the Power":

Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant ---- to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother---- him and John Wayne
Cause I'm Black and I'm proud
I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped
Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check

Later, in 2002, Public Enemy's Chuck D clarified:

Public Enemy frontman Chuck D derided Elvis Presley on the group's 1989 anthem "Fight The Power," but it turns out his feelings for Presley are a little more complicated than the song suggests.

"As a musicologist, and I consider myself one, there was always a great deal of respect for Elvis, especially during his Sun sessions. As a black people, we all knew that," the rapper told Newsday recently.

"My whole thing was the one-sidedness _ like, Elvis' icon status in America made it like nobody else counted ... . My heroes came from someone else. My heroes came before him. My heroes were probably his heroes. As far as Elvis being `The King,' I couldn't buy that."

Of course, a lot of this depends upon whether you believe that the actions of Elvis, and of Pat Boone and Dan Aykroyd, to cover black artists was a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On being rotten

It must be hard to be John Lydon all the time. People have their expectations of you, and what you'll do, and you always have to deliver. If someone catches you playing with a puppy or kissing a baby, your career's over.

So Lydon has to always act in character, whether he's reliving past glories on a Sex Pistols reunion tour (with Glen Matlock, inasmuch as Sid Vicious was unavailable) or reliving past glories on a Public Image Ltd. reunion tour.

“For your dubious pleasure!” John Lydon proclaimed as Public Image Ltd. started its set on Tuesday night at Terminal 5. That was Mr. Lydon’s famous cynicism.

Jon Pareles of the New York Times goes on to describe Lydon's history, then reviews the set.

Mr. Lydon sings the old songs with all their taunts, injuries, fury and sarcasm in a voice that’s as cutting as ever. And this lineup of PiL — with two members who joined the band in 1986, the guitarist Lu Edmonds and the drummer Bruce Smith, along with Scott Firth on bass and keyboards — finds its own way to make the songs bristle and churn.

Yet Pareles notes that this isn't a slavish copy of the original. See the review here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Belated follow-up (Al Bowlly's "My Woman")

OK, so I guess I'm not that talented a journalist.

On September 28, 2009, I wrote a post dedicated to White Town's song "Your Woman." The post included some information on White Town and Jyoti Mishra, and even resulted in a comment from Jyoti Mishra...although it's conceivable that the comment might have been made by ANOTHER Jyoti Mishra.

The post even included a link to White Town's page, which then (and now) notes that the White Town song "Your Woman"

sampled a 1930s song called “My Woman” by Al Bowlly, which was featured in the Dennis Potter drama Pennies From Heaven.

Yet despite all this, I didn't make an effort at the time to seek out the aforementioned song. But in a whole deja vu all over again kind of way, I found a video that included a chunk of "My Woman" by Lew Stone and the Monseigneur Band, with vocals by Bowlly.

The song itself was originally released by Bing Crosby in 1932, with lyrics by Crosby and music by Irving Wallman and Max Wartell. I don't know who the trumpet player was on Lew Stone's version of the song, but as of 1933 the trumpet players were Nat Gonella and Alfie Noakes.

As for Bowlly, he has his own website and MySpace page, despite the fact that he died in 1941. Lew Stone survived several decades longer, dying in 1969.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Belated follow-up (White Town's "Make the World Go Away")

OK, so I guess I'm not that talented a journalist.

On September 28, 2009, I wrote a post dedicated to White Town's song "Your Woman." The post included some information on White Town and Jyoti Mishra, and even resulted in a comment from Jyoti Mishra...although it's conceivable that the comment might have been made by ANOTHER Jyoti Mishra.

The post even included a link to a September 2009 blog post about a recent White Town appearance - a post that said, in part,

What made me beam was seeing people singing along with songs that weren’t ‘Your Woman.’ There was a lad right at the front and I swear he knew the lyrics to everything from ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ to ‘Death In Kettering.’ That’s basically 19 years’ worth of White Town covered! How flattering is that?

Yet despite all this, I didn't make an effort at the time to seek out any White Town songs that were actually recorded during the current millennium.

Until now.

I searched Mishra's YouTube account, and ran across this video for a 2007 song entitled "Make The World Go Away."

I don't know about you, but this song is as strong as that other White Town song that we've all heard. And the video itself is a self-produced affair:

I’m [quite] pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s obviously a bit rubbish as it’s the first time I’ve written and made a popvid with a story (the ‘Your Woman’-era ones were all by the godlike Mark Adcock) but hopefully I’ll get better with experience.

And the lyrics are just as happy-go-lucky as the lyrics for "Your Woman." (I'm joking here, of course - see my previous post for an excerpt of the lyrics from "Your Woman.") Here's the chorus:

Well you can paint out the sky
You can turn night into day
You can sleep as long as you like
But you can’t make the world go away
No you can’t make the world go away

And extra points to anyone who can work the word "provenance" into the lyrics of a pop song.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another year older and deeper in sleep (Johnny gets ready for The Griffins)

About a year ago, I wrote a post that talked about how older music lovers might not necesarily stay up as late as younger music lovers. This doesn't affect lovers of certain types of music - symphony orchestras usually don't have a midnight show - but if you want to Understand This Groove in an electro sort of way, you may have to stay up beyond 3am to do it.

In the course of that post, I mentioned the defunct Inland Empire band Alexa's Wish, some of whose fans were in their 30s and thus had jobs and things to go to the morning after a show. Well, Alexa's Wish bassist/songwriter Ralph Tomaselli has since moved to the Griffins, who have a show coming up on the evening of Wednesday, May 12.

The Griffins are the headliners, and they appear at 9:30. Musically, the Griffins go a little bit beyond what Alexa's Wish did, as you can see by this video.

And they (like Alexa's Wish) will do a cover now and again:

Other bands performing Wednesday May 12 include Joey Get Down! and Once Bitten. They're appearing at the Crazy Horse, which is now in West Covina.