The Pendulum Demonstration Mix
1. Al Bowlly – Hang Out The Stars In Indiana
Ahem. Ready? Quiet at the back, please. Good. Watch closely. I draw this pendulum weight – this finely cast bronze pine-cone, imported from Switzerland – as far to this side of the stage as I dare. Over here, the far left of the stage is the polarity that represents sweetness, merriness, the soughing breeze, the dapple of summer. To put it unscientifically, but poetically. What could be sweeter, smoother and soughier than that gentle soul, old Al Bowlly?
2. Thaikkudam Bridge – Aarachar
So – I release the pendulum and it travels to the opposite pole, all the way over there to the right, smack into a gang of sweaty, heavily-armed men loudly defending their palace, a place so fierce that instead of using strimmers, they employ starey-eyed warriors to spin on the spot swinging long-handled halberds. What hope of restraining brutes like these guys in a giant wireframey orb-cage-thing? None at all. They’re straight out and yelling curses from the ramparts. But we’ve already left …
3. Kevin Ayers – Girl On A Swing
… and swung back to the left, a little less this time (such is the entropy of any pendular swing), where the honeyed, delicate cadences of a Kevin Ayers tune shimmers away. Albeit with a certain lemoniness in the reverb – even in this sheltered spot, swinging under the summer oak, a note of astringency has crept in. The reverb on the guitar sounds tired, plangent, wounded. However, just like Kev's girl, we too swing away …
4. The Stranglers – Hanging Around
… over to the right, to some more dodgy geezers, the self-confessed Stranglers. The tall foreign-looking one on the bass doesn’t so much pluck his instrument as wring the thing’s neck. The singer snarls. Men in grimy leather jackets 'hang around' menacingly. Will our coastal beach communities and clifftop girl’s academies sleep safely at night? There's no time to wonder – we’re already riding back to …
5. Nick Drake – Hanging On A Star
… sweeter territory, to the soft strum of a tune by Nick Drake, whose silken voice takes up that note of plangency again – and, this time, falling even more short of the swing’s extremity, some darker shadows. The song seems to get stuck in a seep of sadness, if not depression. As Drake’s voice fades in the slipstream, we swing ourselves …
6. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Reverence
… over to the right again, where, instead of thugs and punks, we now encounter that grating, snivelling, petulant, maladjusted gang that is The Jesus and Mary Chain. Of course, the heroic note of palace defending is pretty much absent now we’re closer to the centre, and instead a budding sense of solicitous pop begins to chime inside the din. ‘I’ll hang for this,’ they sneer, but we slide back …
7. Ella Fitzgerald – Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
… to the dulcet jazz of Miss Fitzgerald, where mention of spring, you’d have thought, would lend the song a seasonal lift. But no, turns out this is a psychologically thorny theme, and unhappy irony now taints the sentiments. Centre left, in this experiment, is the territory of the less than happy, it seems. We slide off …
8. Led Zeppelin – Gallows Pole
… rightwards where something a lot weightier than a bronze pinecone has begun to thrum and jangle – a Zeppelin made of lead. All the same, a folkish alchemy has been at work on that base metal, because what might have been elementally heavy, toxic and dull, is now bright, loud and ringing, all the way to the tune's rocking, lead-denting climax. It’s hardly mid-swingometer pop, but it's edging a bit closer.
9. Nina Simone – Strange Fruit
As we sweep back to a left-ish position, the theme of death spills across with us. Although gentle, patient, ostensibly resigned, here is a song twisted by dismay and maddened by injustice. Here, edged closer to the centre of the swing, we would expect to find a solid four-verse pop-song structure. But bitter irony lies at its dark blood-soaked roots.
10. Peter Blegvad – Hangman’s Hill
Back on the right, as Chris Cutler applies his flailing rock drill to a regular verse-and-chorus scaffold, a sharp-edged pop song emerges. Mr Blegvad shoves his wordplay and oblique psychogeographical musings into the neat boxing-in of something that might almost have been a hit. If it hadn’t been by Mr Blegvad, that is.
11. Solomon Burke – I’m Hanging Up My Heart For You
As the pendulum now shortens its reach (but never slows its tempo, as Galileo, or someone, pointed out), we can see the pinecone settling to the narrower radii of the middle ground, where pop rules insistently apply – sometimes a bit leftish, sometimes just right, but generally after that hit of slap, straddle, and pop. Who better then than Solomon Burke to belt out a belter?
12. The McCoys – Hang On Sloopy
And so back to the only-slightly-right position, where those cute McCoys (who don’t, themselves, come from ‘a bad part of town’) are looking out for a girl with an unfortunate background (and name). They give their charitable effort some well-dentured, sharp-suited, shouty-mouthed teamwork, and add the sort of jerksome spazmo guitar solo that Dave Davies sometimes did by mistake, when his brother was digging him in the kidneys.
13. The Supremes – You Keep Me Hanging On
And finally the bronze pinecone comes to a shivery stop, at the dead centre of the pop spectrum, in the sweet, hot, ecstatic, exalted space that only The Funk Brothers’ motortown groove can properly occupy. And, to top off that poptastic stew of backbeat and back-chat backing vocal, there’s the Grand Cru wine of all whiney voices, her divaness Miss Ross.
So, as we pack up the pendulum, what can we conclude from this experiment? Not every chariot swings low. Low fruit has funny pips. Things swing one way, then they swing the other. A hard woman is good to find. QED, innit?
The A-List Playlist: Pendulum Demonstration Mix
The B-List Playlist: The Urban Hang Sweet ’n’ Sour Mix
1. Chairmen Of The Board – You Got Me Dangling On A String
2. Salt – Hung-Up
3. Joe Simon – Just Enough (To Keep Me Hanging On)
4. Al Green – Hangin’ On
5. Chic – Hangin’
6. Sade – Hang On To Your Love
7. Loose Ends – Hanging On A String
8. Johnny Bristol – Hang On In There Baby
9. Richard Ace – Hang ’Em High
10. Simple Simon – Heng Down Your Head
11. Gregory Isaacs – Storm
12. MF Doom – Dragon’s Blood
13. Tortoise – The Suspension Bridge At Iguazu Falls
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
One of the best ever beats. ‘Hang the rich!’ – as she says in the song.
Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down That Crazy River
And finally … Z-List Playlist:
Lest they be offended.
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone
The Smiths – Panic
Richard Thompson – Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman
Elvis Costello – Let Him Dangle
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down On The Corner
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Kept in suspense? Songs about hanging – in all senses. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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