Women Singing

Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat

Here’s some good tunes written and sung by women that I’ve come across recently.

Seven Decades, Seven Songs

A buddy of mine tagged me on Facebook to post a good song every day for a week. Here’s what I came up with.

  • 2000s. Robert Plant’s (once of Led Zep) beautiful 2002 cover of ”Song To The Siren”. The original was first performed by Tim Buckley (Jeff’s dad) in 1968. Pay attention to the lyrics by Larry Beckett. Plant butchers them slightly, singing “unfold” for the actual “enfold”, and obscuring the fact that the lyrics are a dialogue between the poet and the Siren. She’s an unpredictable yes-then-no-then-yes woman who leaves poor 20-y-o Beckett “a foolish ship … broken lovelorn on your rocks”. This is an unabashedly literary piece of pop lyrics, referencing the Odyssey’s song of the Siren. I particularly like the lines “I am puzzled as the newborn child / I am troubled as the tide”. Note also the guitar solo by Porl Thompson, with effects and style straight out of the band he played in from 1983-94, The Cure.
  • 1990s. Here’s a really good & heavy Norwegian metal tune from 1999 in the tradition from Black Sabbath. If you don’t know Scandy, then that’s all the song will mean to you. But if you do, you’ll realise that the lyrics to “Åpent Brev Til Sporveisdirektøren” are a complaint in Bokmål about the time table of a bus service. Apparently the buses don’t synchronise at all with the Vippetangen ferry! The band is named Black Debbath and the song title means “Open Letter To The Director Of Public Transportation”.
  • 1970s. Here’s a psychedelic Turkish rock tune from 1975: “Gönül Sabreyle Sabreyle” (My Heart — Endure, Endure). The band consisted of the three Hürel brothers, who called themselves Üç Hürel, “The Three Hürels”. This is great musicianship: just listen to the darbouka drum fills. Awesome. And youngest brother Feridun Hürel not only sings his heart out, he also plays the fuzz guitar solo and the electrified saz solo on the same two-necked instrument (1975, remember), and wrote the song.
  • 2010s. Here’s some romantic pop from 2014: “Places” by the up-and-coming Atlanta duo The Electric Sons.
  • 1950s. “Rocket 88” from 1951 has often been pointed to as the first rock ‘n’ roll song. It was recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi by the Delta Cats, a band consisting of black teenagers including Jackie Brenston (who sings), Ike Turner (yes him, playing the piano, and who would later have a baby with Tina Turner) and Raymond Hill (who plays the sax and would also later have a baby with Tina Turner). And it’s got Willie Kizart playing one of the first fuzz guitars ever recorded (here doing rhythm duty), achieved by means of an amplifier broken during touring.
  • 1980s. Here’s “Brick Is Red“, a 1988 tune off of the Pixies’ first full-length album. Two minutes of sheer indie genius!
  • 1960s. Here’s a pretty deep nugget of 1968 folk-psychedelic gold: ”April Grove” by the one-album-only band Chrysalis. They were students at Cornell and their main song writer James Spider Barbour was a member of Zappa’s circle. He can be heard on the latter’s album We’re Only In It For The Money drawling “The way I see it, Barry, this should be a very dynamite show”. And he’s a biologist. So here’s a song of his about insects, sung in inimitable beautiful style by Nancy Nairn.

Young Autists Next Door

My house is near an LSS housing unit. Lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade, “The Law of Support and Service for Certain Disabled People”, mainly caters to the needs of people with autism and the like. In 6½ years on Boat Hill, the young people living there have never caused us any trouble at all.

But I still cringe a little when I recall my phone conversation with the man who runs the municipality’s LSS housing units. I called him because I was curious about who the young folks living next door are, what diagnoses they have etc. I made it very clear that I was not afraid of them, I was not hostile to them and I had experienced no trouble with them whatsoever. I just wanted to learn about them, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to ask the kids themselves. “Oi, woss wrong with you then?”

This guy immediately went on the defensive and clearly assumed that I was trouble. He explained what the law does, but refused to say anything specific about what sort of disorders will get you an LSS apartment in my municipality. He retreated into surly monosyllables.

But our conversation ended well after I told him I like prog rock and recognised his name. He’s the bass player of one of Stockholm’s longest-active 70s prog bands.

In My Earbuds Lately

Country Funk -- Country Funk (1970)
Country Funk — Country Funk (1970)

Here are some good albums that I’ve been listening to lately.

  • Country Funk — Country Funk (1970). Not country and not funk: folk psych.
  • GOAT — Commune (2014). Eclectic psychedelia with screamy female vocals and bongos!
  • Opeth — Pale Communion (2014). When black metal ages into virtuoso prog rock.
  • Pixies — Indie Cindy (2014). Eclectic alt-rock, does not look back.
  • Teenage Fanclub — Shadows (2010). Fannies doing what they do best.
  • Wooden Shjips — West (2011). Drony stony spacey.

In My Earbuds Lately

GOAT: the new groovy weirdness from Gothenburg
GOAT: the new groovy weirdness from Gothenburg

Here are some good albums that I’ve been listening to lately.

  • Dowling Poole – Bleak Strategies (2014). For all who miss the later Beatles and the Super Furry Animals.
  • GOAT – World Music (2012). Eclectic psychedelia with screamy female vocals and bongos!
  • GOAT – Commune (2014). Again!
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame (1971). Proggy jazz fusion with violin and odd time signatures.
  • Nashville Pussy – Say Something Nasty (2002). AC/DC rock with dirty funny lyrics.
  • Soundtrack of our Lives – Behind the Music (2001). Classic rock updated.
  • Starlight Mints – Change Remains (2009). Intricate queasy-sounding psychedelic studio pop.
  • Voodoo Trombone Quartet — The Voodoo Trombone Quartet (2005). Brassy loungy ska funk.
  • Voodoo Trombone Quartet — The Voodoo Trombone Quartet… Again (2009). Again!

Arrival Songs

The English language has a rich tradition of songs celebrating the joys of orgasm. Here are just a few examples.

  • Sumer Is Icumen In (anon., 13th century)
  • Come Again (John Dowland, 1597)
  • Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley, 1745)
  • Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson, 1757)
  • Come, Ye Disconsolate (Thomas Moore, 1816)
  • Oh Come, All Ye Faithful (English lyrics Frederick Oakley, 1841)
  • Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel (English lyrics Neale & Coffin mid-1800s)
  • Someday My Prince Will Come (from the 1937 animated Disney feature Snow White)
  • Come Dance With Me (sung by Frank Sinatra, 1959)
  • Come Together (John Lennon, 1969)
  • Here You Come Again (Dolly Parton, 1977)
  • Come Unto Him (Dan Carter, 1996)
  • Come Cover Me (Nightwish, 2000)
  • Don’t Know Why I Didn’t Come (Norah Jones, 2002)

The 1983 Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit ”Relax” must be seen as a reaction to this lyrical consensus, cautioning the listener to ”Relax, don’t do it, when you want to come”. It is perhaps no surprise that it was banned from radio play by the ever orgasm-friendly BBC.

Love’s Kind Of Crazy With A Spooky Little Boy/Girl Like You

The lyrics to Dusty Springfield’s 1970 song ”Spooky” are slightly odd. They have a woman describing her relationship with a fickle, unreliable, flirtatious man. ”Love’s kind of crazy with a spooky little boy like you”. She constantly finds him winking with his “little eye” at other women. “I get confused and I don’t know where I stand / But then you smile and hold my hand.” On the other hand, she won’t give him a straight answer when he tries to ask her out. For the time definitely, and largely to a 2014 audience as well I believe, the gender roles in the lyrics are confusing. This is because what Dusty recorded was a gender-flipped version of the original lyrics.

The tune to “Spooky” was written by Mike Sharpe and Harry Middlebrooks Jr. and released as an instrumental in 1967. Later that year it received lyrics by James Cobb and Buddy Buie and was put out by the Floridian rock quartet the Classics IV. In January 1968 Dusty Springfield recorded her version. The original lyrics are about a spooky little girl behaving exactly like she might be expected to in mid-60s pop lyrics. Also they have a verse that was omitted from Dusty’s version, clearly because it couldn’t be gender-flipped convincingly at the time:

Just like a ghost, you’ve been a-hauntin’ my dreams
So I’ll propose… on Halloween

There’s one final wrinkle to this story that makes it even better. Dusty Springfield, being gay, would probably have preferred to record the original lyrics. Love, after all, is kind of crazy with a spooky little girl like you.

Five Good Psychedelic Pop Albums

Junior’s buddy expressed an interest in psychedelic pop. Here’s a selection of good albums, one for each decade. There is of course also heavier psych rock with prominent blues guitar in the tradition of Hendrix.

  • 60s. Beatles, Revolver
  • 70s. This decade produced a treasury of psych rock, prog rock and space rock, but I haven’t got a recommendation for something both poppy and psychedelic.
  • 80s. Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 90s. Olivia Tremor Control, Music from the Unrealised Film Script ‘Dusk at Cubist Castle’
  • 00s. Of Montreal, Aldhil’s Arboretum
  • 10s. Tame Impala, Lonerism

See also my blog entry about good Swedish psych rock.

Depeche Mode Meets Tom Lehrer

In your room
Where time stands still
Or moves at your will
Will you let the morning come soon
As we dance to the Masochism Tango

I ache for the touch of your lips, dear
But much more for the touch of your whips, dear
There’ll be times
When my crimes
Will seem almost unforgivable
I give in to sin
Because you have to make this life livable
As we dance to the Masochism Tango

You caught my nose
In your left castanet, love
I can feel the pain yet, love
Every time I hear drums
And I envy the rose
That you held in your teeth, love

Will you take the pain
I will give to you
Again and again
And will you return it
As we dance to the Masochism Tango

Your eyes cast a spell that bewitches
The last time I needed twenty stitches
To sew up the gash
That you made with your lash
When I am in your arms
Know I will come to harm
As we dance to the Masochism Tango

There’s a new game
We like to play you see
A game with added reality
You treat me like a dog
Get me down on my knees
Which is why I perspire
When we tango

For some background, see my blog entry La Vice Anglais.

Making Peace With Kraftwerk

I used to be kind of angry and disappointed with Kraftwerk. The only album they put out after I started listening to them was 1986’s Electric Café which is OK but not great, and after that, no new material. But now I look at their catalogue and think, hey, from 1974 and for seven years on, they released five amazing albums. The stellar Computer World appeared in 1981, the year when Hütter & Schneider turned 35 and 34. In terms of the normal productivity and creativity arc of a band, Kraftwerk have nothing to be ashamed of. And there is that nagging question of what Ralf Hütter’s 1983 cycling accident did to his head.

I guess as a kid I had no good idea of time. My friend introduced me to this amazing band in the early 80s and I just assumed that “this is happening now” — when in fact I was listening to some of the most innovative music of the preceding decade.