By The Landlord
Ready or not, showtime is imminent. The stage is all set. The posters are up. The sound checked, the lights gently dimmed. The bar is fully stocked, beer barrels near to bursting, optics carefully cocked. And then, as if before a storm, and just before I unbolt the door, a gentle hush.
But who's going to play at this Song Bar Special 2nd Anniversary Concert? Who's going to make an entrance? Will it begin with an ageing crooner, a Phoenix Nights warm-up comedian, a burlesque stripper, a tap-dancer, a juggler, a plate-spinner, a spoon-player, a puppeteer, perhaps a cap-rolling grandad?
And then suddenly I hear a kerfuffle, a crazy cacophony. From outside comes the sound of shouting, punching, stumbling, a quiet riot of screeching brakes, feet piling out of the back of a van, of bins being kicked over, and as I open the Bar door, a crowd of New Yorkers and their fans pour in, all leather jackets, pipe-cleaner thin legs in jeans, chimney sweep-thick jet black hair, a blur of limbs and guitars, sticks and three chords on the stage. "Take it Dee-Dee!" shouts the king of skinnies, Joey Ramone, and Dee-Dee screams: "Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!" and we're off.
"Hey, Ho! Let's Go! … They're piling in the back seat. They're generating steam heat. Pulsating to the back beat. The Blitzkrieg Bop!"
Bang! It's a blistering start from early '76. Now that's what I call an entrance.
But who's this swaggering down the street towards the door?"Fuck off!" shouts the snarling ginger one at the front. He's angry, very fucking angry, partly because when the rest of the band spotted him on London's King's Road, and asked him to try and sing, they laughed their faces off during the first rehearsal because he was totally shite. But then again he wasn't. And here, with their first recorded song, Johnny snarls and sneers like this:
"Don't ask us to attend, 'cause we're not all there. Oh don't pretend 'cause we don't care!"
It's the Sex Pistols with Pretty Vacant, also inspiring thousands of other bands, from the Buzzcocks the The Fall. The walls are already dripping with sweat. What an entrance. Can things get any better?
They might. In walk a bunch of young lads from 1970s Northern Ireland. If you're looking for trouble, they've come from the right place. But music is all about youthful dreams, and yearning. They've seen a girl down their street, and Undertones guitarist John O'Neil, writing about her, totally nails what music is all about:
"Are teenage dreams so hard to beat? Every time she walks down the street, another girl in the neighbourhood. Wish she was mine, she looks so good. I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight Get Teenage Kicks right through the night!"
Glorious. The portrait of John Peel above the bar is now smiling broadly with a tear rolling down from one eye. Everyone is dancing, everyone feels love and aggression and yearning and satisfaction all at once. What a debut. That's three in a row now. How can it be that these were not listed before? What an entrance.
But now it's time for something different, and maybe a shade calmer and cooler. How? We're going to go Dutch. With the next song you might picture a group of gangsters in suits and sunglasses walking in slow motion from Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. That's an entrance all right. It's a song to walk along the street to. But as well as that it's also a group of hairy guys from the Netherlands. Johannes Bouwens leads out the George Baker Selection with a groove that's so damn catchy it's impossible to ignore.
The theme? It's universal – you may be looking for one thing but you find something else. The song is an example of a mondegreen. Little Green Bag, if you listen closely, is really little greenback, in other words, the green back of a dollar bill. It was misheard by some and was taken to mean a green bag of dope. But some start off looking for money, but as the second hook, rising to a higher note reveals, it's really something else:
"Lookin’ for some happiness, but there is only loneliness to find." What a theme. What an entrance.
Who's on next? Moving from The Netherlands, we cross over to Belgium, and if anyone can make an entrance, it's Jacques Brel. Spotlight focused, Cognac in hand, a stylish coil of cigarette smoke coming off the stage, the inspiration to many Song Bar favourites, including Jake Thackray, Scott Walker and Marc Almond, who have all covered his songs and he has the audience in raptures. So let's enjoy the passion and charisma of the original La Chanson de Jacky, with orchestral backing, and his declamatory dreams of, sung in French of course, but translating to be:
" … a Spanish bum, who sings for women of great virtue. I'd sing to them with a guitar I borrowed from a coffee bar, well, what you don't know doesn't hurt you ... If I could be for only an hour, If I could be for an hour every day, If I could be for just one little hour, A-cute-cute in a stupid ass way."
Stupid ass? Not at all. Brilliant. And again what a personal, witty, ironic, aspirational theme, and what an entrance!
Jacques has brought his orchestra on, and has upped the entrance ante again. But can anyone match that? Well perhaps the Mohammed Rafi can, with this performance Jan Pehechan-Ho, with drums, a chorus of trumpets and rockabilly guitar, not to mention his troupe of masked dancers in the 1966 Bollywood film Gumnaam. Super cool and stylish. Totally tassle-tastic. And ... what an entrance!
Now then, it's not just people who make an impression here. In Jacques Brel's song there's mention of seeing pink elephants, but we can do even better. It's a Bollywood number on stage, and of course that means a stray baby elephant and total pandemonium breaks out. Yes, that be-trunked trumpter has awol and is spraying water all over and and shitting at random, a bit like that fantastically anarchic episode of Blue Peter with John Noakes, naughty Lulu and the zookeeper. And it's all accompanied with a fantastic jazz version of Baby Elephant Walk by Dave Grusin and his band, complete with lovely licks on the trombone, bass, piano and harmonica! Hard to beat that then. What an entrance!
That elephant-inspired tune was written by the great Henry Mancini, and so let's make it an animal double by him. No entrance and theme music would be complete without an appearance by the elusive Pink Panther. It starts off slow, featuring a prominent role for that much underrated instrument, the triangle, then builds into a swinging tune of saxophone swagger of stylishness with a brilliant blaring finish. So cool. What an entrance.
But where are the women, I hear you cry? They are here alright, but unlike the men, don't have the same insecure need to grab the mic, and make an aggressive entrance. They bide their time. They hang back for their moment and now, finally, it's arrived. And no one makes a more sublime or graceful appearance on stage than the great Etta James.
"You smiled and then the spell was cast. And here we are in Heaven. You're mine. At Last," she sings. And yes, we, the audience are completely in her hands. What a voice. What presence. What a woman. What an entrance.
As our concert, following Etta, takes on a moment of confidence, sensitivity and calm, we take an unusual turn. It's Over the Rhine, and singer Karin Bergquist, in a style somewhere between jazz and folk, enters with caution and a theme that might universally express the hopes and fears of all music lovers and playlist compilers:
"I hope this night puts down deep roots, I hope we plant a seed. 'Cause I don't wanna waste your time with music you don't need."
Humbly brilliant, definitely not a waste of a time, and an exceptionally appropriate, resonant entrance.
So let's pay tribute to all the great women of music and more, who have made astonishing entrances into or lives, from Sappho to Jane Austen, Rosa Parks to Maya Angelou, suffragettes to film stars, pioneers of science and study, rock stars and all women who refuse to take the shit that's thrown at them, and the many who march against Donald Trump and all he stands for. Donald Trump? No sir, you're not welcome here with your big orange head and pig-ignorant poorly written Twitter-feed propaganda. No entrance for you. Just the exit.
So, on that note, one woman we won't count for a nomination here is a previous Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann who actually did come on stage at a rally accompanied by the next song, but did it without permission. So maximum credibility goes in this case to the singer and his lawyers, ordering her to cease and desist from exploiting this music for her dodgy political ends. Nominated by reader treefrogdemon for her favourite and sadly departed Tom Petty, it's for that American Girl who is: "Raised on promises, she couldn't help thinkin', that there was a little more to life somewhere else …" So to all all the women out there being restricted or repressed or harassed, we say: Take that opportunity! Make that your theme. Yes, go girl! Now make your entrance!
The next number in our special gig is a bit of a cheeky extra entry. It's inspired by an extraordinary tale of calamity and pathos told by another fine regular reader, AltraEgo, who nominated it. But without dwelling too much on that, it is as much of an exit as an entrance song. It's also all about leaving your high school youth behind and starting a new life. It also appears in Richard Linklater's film Dazed and Confused (not be be confused with the final song, Slow Ride by Foghat). And it's a song that marks a turning point, perhaps the beginning of freedom and adulthood, of leaving school, to perhaps be able to get stoned as much as you like, but also, a bit sadly, it's also about responsibility and choices. It's a song to lead off into the next phase in a young life. It's the American dream and all that goes with it. It's the Edgar Winter Group and Free Ride, channelling the style of Sly Stone and more:
"The mountain is high, the valley is low, and you're confused on which way to go. So I've come here to give you a hand. And lead you into the promised land … All over the country I've seen it the same. Nobody's winning at this kind of game. We've gotta do better, it's time to begin. You know all the answers must come from within."
What a way to arrive and also depart, what an entrance, and a personal theme, a time of life we must all pass through.
But which way do we go now? I'm talking not merely of America and its dreams, but the world at large, and all the dangers it currently faces. So to address that, the stage is now entered and invaded, not by an elephant this time but the military. Is it coup, a takeover? No, more like a massive marching brass band. It's HM Coldstream Guards, playing The Liberty Bell by American composer John Philip Sousa. It's a triumphant piece associated with the American dream, with the 4th of July, but with an ironic twist also heavily associated as the Monty Python theme. And there you have it in one fell swoop: western culture – its hopes, triumphs, tragedy, humour and farce all rolled into one. A marching band and a massive foot coming down to squash us all, accompanied by an apocalyptic and colossal raspberry fart. What an entrance and what a climax. But what will happen next? Is it the end of the world as we know it?
There's just one thing for all to do. We began this gig with Dee-Dee Ramone counting off in German to Blitzkrieg. Now as the Bar becomes full to bursting with fans, bands, elephants, panthers, a giant foot and now even more musicians, the orchestra also swells to a massive number, crowding the Song Bar chaotic stage further, and we conclude with a key part of German composer Richard Wager's epic magnus opus, his operatic Ring Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Curtain, rig, lights, speakers and everything else collapses under the sublime weight and sound of Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla. It's an operatic appearance of massive, dramatic proportions, but as well as a universal theme, and huge entrance, it's also a dramatic ending, a climactic exit for the human race. So what happens to us all now? Do we all ascend to Heaven or descend to Hell? You decide. Either way, it all begins again, because each has an impressive entrance. Hey ho.
Entrance A: Access-All-Areas Main Event Playlist
The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag
Jacques Brel – La Chanson de Jacky
Mohammed Rafi – Jan Pehechan-Ho
Dave Grusin – Baby Elephant Walk
Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther Theme
Etta James – At Last
Over The Rhine – I Don't Wanna Waste Your Time
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – American Girl
Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride
HM Coldstream Guards (Philip John Sousa) – The Liberty Bell
Richard Wagner – Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla
Entrance B: The Big All-Night Stage Playlist
Meanwhile in a parallel universe of other playlists and parties …
James Brown & The JBs – Hot Pants
The Ronettes – You Came, You Saw, You Conquered
Peggy Lee – Big Spender
Jessica Rabbit / Amy Irving – Why Don't You Do Right
Echobelly – Great Things
Norma Tanega – Treat Me Right
Betty Carter – Open the Door
Al Green – Love and Happiness
Barry White – Let The Music Play
Van McCoy – The Hustle
Ron Grainer – Old Ned Theme from Steptoe & Son
The Intro and the Outro by The Bonzo Dog Doo–Dah Band
George Friederic Handel – The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
Joel Grey – Willkommen (from Cabaret)
Roy Budd – Get Carter, Train Journey & Opening Credits
Henry Mancini – Peter Gunn
Takeshi Terauchi and The Bunnys – Genroku Hanami Odori (元禄花見踊り)
The Stranglers – WaltzinBlack
Ken Nordine – Orange
Mick Weaver & Shawn Phillips – World in Action TV Theme
Dudley Simpson Orchestra – Blake's 7 Theme and Title Sequences
The Grateful Dead – Cosmic Charlie
CCS – Whole Lotta Love
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
The Mother Hips – White Headphones
The Feelies – The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness
New Model Army – Notice Me
Klark Kent – Don't Care
The Dogs D’Amour – Just An English Outlaw
Adam & The Ants – Stand And Deliver
Prince & The New Power Generation – My Name Is Prince
Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers (darts walk-on by Steve Hines, the "Muffin Man")
Volbeat – A Warrior's Call
David Rose & His Orchestra – The Stripper
Ethel Merman – There's No Business Like Show Business
Landlord Guru's Wildcard Pick (Definitely a Lock-in)
Welcome to the weird, wonderful, jaunty, and often saucy world of Gert Wilden. Take your pick of these assorted creams:
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: What's the next stage? Personal theme and entrance songs. 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.