Get your excuses in first, my old Dad always told me.
First, a disclaimer: given this week’s topics, both A-list and B-list are not so much playlists in their own right. Rather each song should ideally be seen as a jumping off point to some imaginary playlist yet to be compiled. I’ve tentatively suggested follow-ups for each.
To begin at the beginning. A call-to-arms from the remarkable Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. Come All Ye is the opener to their album Liege and Lief. Following a horrendous car crash, the band carried on and came up with this marvel of an album. Opening track, a thing of beauty and worthy addition to the folk canon. Fairport Convention – Come All Ye:
“Come all ye rolling minstrels
And together, we will try
To rouse the spirit of the earth
And move the rolling sky.”
Iggy’s Lust for Life inevitably bring to mind a famous film soundtrack. Amazed to find it unzedded. A massive tune that would start any playlist with a bang. The riff was allegedly a reworking of the Armed Forces Network signature tune by Bowie on a ukulele. This sleek baby would be a good follow-up on a playlist: David Bowie – V2 Schneider.
Little Richard’s Ready Teddy is a real statement of intent. Curiously undervalued compared to some of his peers, he was (and is) a one-off, wrote and performed some of the best songs of the rock’n’roll era and also penned the funniest and most entertaining autobiography this side of Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy. Pair this with Jerry Lee’s Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and you’re guaranteed a party.
Next up, a guaranteed floor filler from the Temptations. Written by America’s greatest living poet, Get Ready, is one of the greatest songs ever made, from a band at the height of their powers. Dang! If John Snow had this there would be no war between the living and the dead – they would all be grooving. Paired with David Holmes and the Free Association (I Wish I Had) A Wooden Heart.
Hey, hey we’re the Monkees introduced the world to bubblegum. A fictitious band created for a TV series and modelled on the British invasion that had left much of the world in awe, this was an irresistible call to, ‘er, having fun! But wait, these boys could also play, witness Listen To The Band.
Rising from the ashes of bubblegum came Glam. Another one asking if you are ready (Steve? Andy? Mick? Ok fella’s…) A younger me would like to say I was instantly into Iggy, Lou, Bowie and Roxy, reality was inevitably more prosaic. For many of us in the 70’s, introduction to these bands was filtered through glam – Slade, Mud, T Rex and the Sweet. In hindsight, no bad thing as most of these bands had their moments (I still shudder at Mud). With thanks to Ravi, here’s one of ‘em, Sweet Ballroom Blitz. Then (a close call, but think this should be left to uneasy listening on one of her stints) Bay City Rollers, Saturday Night.
Which leads to the never understated Mr Loaf. Another entry in the honourable tradition of death songs. Overblown? Yes, but irresistible. Produced by Todd Rundgren and written by Jim Steinman, initially as part of a musical based on Peter Pan? It's Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell. OK Leavey, deal done! Perhaps followed by Leader Of The Pack.
After trying and failing to renegotiate his miserly contract following MCA taking over his record label ABC, Tom Petty threatened to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and hide the tapes for his forthcoming record. In a rare instance of the artist facing down his label, Tom won a new contract and went on to release his breakthrough album, Damn the Torpedoes in 1979. It kicked off with Refugee, a belter that should have been a much bigger hit. Coupled with the Byrds' I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better.
I was really tempted by the Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun. Karen Carpenter had a voice for the ages. Alas zedded, but another possible starter to a wedding playlist is here, courtesy Mr Bryan Ferry, Let’s Stick Together to be followed by Fred’nGinger in Heaven, Cheek to Cheek.
Precursor to Kind of Blue and losing little in comparison Milestones (Miles Tones?) was issued in 1959 and represented a departure from his previous works. Assembling an astonishing band John Coltrane (tenor sax), Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums), Miles continued on his merry way, gaining and losing audiences in a varied and always interesting career. How about this from one of his later albums, a reworking of a Michael Jackson tune, Human Nature.
Introducing me and many others to the sounds coming out of the west country at the turn of the 90’s, Massive Attack gave us the magnificent Unfinished Sympathy. One of my touchstone songs, Shara Nelson gives it her all in a beguiling setting. Lazy TV shows in need of ‘atmosphere’ would know where to go, but this shouldn’t devalue the beauty of the original tracks. To be followed by my next nom
Horace Andy was a well kent singer way before his brilliant contributions to Massive Attack. Witness Skylarking, here in the dub version (the version version?)
Also Sprach Zarathustra is already in the Marconium (covers by Deodato and the Portsmouth Sinfonia). I would argue this more traditional rendering is sufficiently different to be included. An amazing piece of music that has lost none of its power and is destined to be remembered by many as the bookending soundtrack to 2001 and a fitting closer to this wee effort. Perhaps followed by Hawkwind’s Time We Left This World Today?
I don’t want to listen to a dozen almost identical songs, so don’t have a Spotify account to reinforce my preferences. Best to listen to stuff you have never heard, or have been recommended by others with wildly different tastes to your own. So thanks to all at Song Bar. An interesting take here from Liz Pelly in The Baffler on how our tastes are steered.
It’s been a tricky one, this. On the one hand you want to do justice to the excellence and sheer variety of the nominations, but in the end personal preference wins out.
Arise and Arouse A-List Playlist:
Fairport Convention - Come All Ye
Iggy Pop - Lust For Life
Little Richard - Ready Teddy
The Temptations - Get Ready
Britney Spears - Baby, One More Time
The Monkees - The Monkees
The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Meatloaf - Bat Out Of Hell
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Refugee
Bryan Ferry - Let's Stick Together
Miles Davis - Milestones
Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy
Horace Andy - Skylarking (dub)
Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra
Blast-Off B-List Playlist:
Thin Lizzy - Are You Ready?
Ty Segall - Feel
The Jacksons - Blame It On The Boogie
Charles Mingus - II B S
The Gourds - Piss And Moan Blues
Stevie Wonder - Too High
Echo and the Bunnymen - Going Up
Crosby Stills and Nash - Carry On
The Allman Brothers Band - Statesboro Blues
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
The Emotions - Best Of My Love
The Monkees - Daydream believer
Inti-Illimani - El Pueblo Unido
John Barry - Midnight Cowboy theme
Guru's WIldcard Pick:
My introduction to a band I will always love. Track 1 of Born Sandy Devotional.
The Triffids – The Seabirds
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Grand openings: great tracks to begin albums, mixtapes or radio shows. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.