This clip is the sort of thing you’d think only existed in the “What if?” fantasies of music nerds, but it actually happened.
Shirley Bassey’s cover of “Something” got to #4 in the UK charts in 1970, the same spot The Beatles’ original reached the year before. I never heard the Fab Four’s version at the time and didn’t for years, but my mother had a 45 of the Shirley Bassey which she loved so that was the version I knew growing up. I even heard it by Frank Sinatra before the original too.
As a result I thought of “Something” as an adult standard instead of a pop song, so to my ears George Harrison sounded too young to be singing it. The Beatles’ version is great of course, but it feels more about the happy rapture of young love while Shirley brings a grown-up sensuality to it which I prefer. Instead of lovey-dovey infatuation, she sounds like she’s singing about sex.
Download: Something – Shirley Bassey (mp3)
Early footage of Neil Tennant before he cut his hair, got into synthesizers, and changed his name.
I’m no expert on the oeuvre of Cheap Trick but I do remember their 1979 album Dream Police being poo-pooed by some critics because of its big production and strings which made them sound like a Power-Pop ELO. Now I don’t know about you, but the idea of a “Power-Pop ELO” sounds great to me, and I’ve always loved every bombastic second of this record.
Download: Dream Police – Cheap Trick (mp3)
The new album by Miley Cyr… WAIT! COME BACK! COME BACK! Bear with me, I swear I haven’t lost my mind.
The new album by Miley Cyrus is a collaboration with The Flaming Lips called Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz that also features Ariel Pink. Intrigued by this team-up and wanting to be hip to the zeitgeist I gave it a listen online thinking I would last about five minutes and need an ear bleaching after. But instead I discovered that… (whispers) it’s actually quite good.
Well, about 75% good anyway. With 22 tracks clocking in at 92 minutes it’s way too long and weighed down with Miley’s self-indulgent need to keep telling us she enjoys sex and drugs. She obviously thinks this is edgy and controversial but instead I just want to give her a clip ’round the ear and wash her mouth out with soap. The album’s rambling, druggy nature makes me think of it as her “Exile On Main Street” but The Stones were mature enough not to record stoner nonsense like “Fuckin Fucked Up” and “I’m So Drunk” — I don’t think Mick Jagger ever sang a teary song about his dead fish either.
But cut out all that bollocks and you have a very strong collection of trippy spacepop that is as wonderful as you might think a young girl singer fronting The Flaming Lips would sound like. As the father of a young girl myself I have opinions about the way Miley dresses and behaves, but I do admire her balls in putting out something as quirky as this. As George Michael said, listen without prejudice.
Petite, beauty-spotted singer-songwriter Lynsey de Paul originally wrote this song for the vocal trio Thunder Thighs who were famous for their backing vocals on “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Roll Away The Stone.” It was only a small hit for them in 1974, but the same year Lynsey put out her own version on the flipside of her theme song for the TV sitcom No Honestly which made the Top Ten.
She shouldn’t have hidden it away like that because this is a terrific record. Not only is it miles better than the a-side, it’s better than Thunder Thighs’ version too: sophisticated, glittery pop you can imagine Sarah Cracknell singing. Despite its shiny surface the song itself is a strange, dark affair about a policewoman shooting a stranger in Central Park at night. Shame Lynsey didn’t do more idiosyncratic songs like this and fewer themes for naff sitcoms — and made them a-sides.
Download: Central Park Arrest – Lynsey de Paul (mp3)
Love this. A great Supersonic intro and one of the most sublime singles of the 70s.
Smokie (originally spelled “Smokey” until they were threatened with a lawsuit by a certain Motown legend) were a band from Bradford who had had been kicking around for years without any success before coming under the wing of the songwriting and production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman in the mid-70s. Though “Chinnichap” were famous for the Bubble-Glam hits they penned for Suzi Quatro, Mud, and The Sweet, they showed their versatility (and smarts) by not forcing the denim-clad Smokie into this mould and instead wrote some laid-back, country-rock songs for them that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an American FM radio station.
There must have been a gap in the market for a Northern English version of The Eagles — grey Yorkshire houses on the album cover instead of California hotels — because they were very successful. Their second album Changing All The Time was a big seller in 1975 down to the presence of the Chinnichap hits “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” and “Don’t Play Your Rock & Roll To Me.” They also wrote the title track which is a really lovely song, hard to believe it’s by the same guys who wrote “Blockbuster” and “Tiger Feet”.
Because of those hits my sister got the album for Christmas 1975 as a present from our Gran. She was 14 at the time and up until then had only owned Bay City Rollers and Osmonds albums so this might have been her first non-“teenybopper” record. Two years later she was into The Clash, but I don’t think Smokie were directly responsible for that. These days she really likes The Eagles which you probably can blame them for.
I’ve always loved the cover of this album, a nicely evocative bit of pre-Photoshop collage and hand-tinting.