Thursday, July 30, 2009

Something's Missing And I Don't Know Why

I am superstitious. I don't walk under ladders. I hmm when I see a black cat. When I see a magpie on it's own I search the sky and branches or as my friend Brian said to a sole magpie one day "Where's your little friend?". So it is important not to associate a song with number 13. However, I did read that Madonna said that 13 is the luckiest number of all in Kabbalah so song number 13 will be a Madonna song. Bad Girl is one of my five most favourite Madonna songs. It reminds me of the in between years. In 1993 I hadn't bought my house yet. I was living in a horrible bedsit. I was working in a job I didn't like. Those years when you are in a kinda relationship or a two night stand. So the words I'm not happy in Bad Girl has always stood out for me. The single cover for Bad Girl is above. I love that image. It is perfectly constructed. It was perfect for the Erotica album and for the film Body Of Evidence which was also released that year. The 12" contains a free poster, one of the only times I remember a poster being part of a single release. That's why Paul's free gifts in his Best of Madonna box set made me smile this week. Bad Girl reminds me mainly of all the mixed experiences of meeting someone on the scene in Dublin. Something family never knew about and sometimes friends didn't either. Some relationships lasted more than a few weeks and the ones that did were often good ones. One was with a guy called Frank. He was someone who always made me laugh. Thinking about Madonna songs in the 1990s reminded me of a funny Frank moment. One day Frank was here in my house and I was playing music. As always! I had got Human Nature on 12" on my record player and was playing it a bit loud. As you do! My house is very small, part of a terrace. I am lucky to have lovely neighbours on either side. On the sitting room side is a lady who back in the 1990s would have been in her late 60s. Frank commented that all my playing of Madonna music must have an effect on her. He said that one day she would be down in Tesco and some old friend or parish priest would come up to her in Tesco and start moaning and complaining as only some old dears do. My neighbour would listen for a while and then say loudly I'm Not You're Bitch, Don't Hang Your Shit On Me. Anyway! Here's song number 13. From 1993 Madonna and the David Fincher directed video of Bad Girl.

Tell Me Why The Road Turns

It would not be possible to have a list of my favourite songs without having a song from the many songs of Motown. I think that the majority of modern pop and especially r'n'b began with Motown and the world is thankful for that. All of my forty songs are really just snapshots of moments in music. I could pick 40 Madonna or Prince songs. 40 songs from just the 80s or 90s. I could also pick 40 songs just by Michael Jackson or Diana Ross. 40 songs from the world of Motown. So here are two songs from two of Motown's most famous. The first is Diana Ross. I would like to choose Someday We'll Be Together, Love Child, Upside Down, Reflections, Love Hangover or The Happening but the song I decided on was Missing You. This is the sort of song that gives you comfort and sadness at the same time. It was written by Lionel Ritchie and was a tribute to the late Marvin Gaye. The video included images of Florence Ballard of The Supremes and Paul Williams of The Temptations. It is from 1984. I always thought it was from much earlier. I have seen Diana Ross twice in concert. Both times in the old Point Theatre. here in Dublin. Once with my cousin Ann and our friend Maria, that was a really great evening, those two girls loved seeing a star in concert. The other time was with my darling Tommy. How I loved going to concerts and movies and just anywhere with Tommy. Where are you now? I have wondered that a few times recently. If you do a blog post like this it's easy to slip into the past but if I had a birthday wish it would be to meet Tommy again. So, if my blog was my radio show then this song would be for Tommy. Here is song number 11. From 1984, Diana Ross and Missing You.
The second song is by Stevie Wonder. He is not an artist that I listen to all the time but whenever I play his best of I always play You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. Yes, I am an out and proud romantic. A big part of the reason I loved this song was because of the fact that the opening lines were sung not by Stevie but by someone else. Their names are James Gilstrap and Lani Groves. (I looked that up!). . This Grammy winning song was a number one in 1973 in the US. It's gorgeous and perfect and sums up Motown in one song. Here is song number 12. You Are The Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder.

Riders On The Storm

The tenth song of my 40 goes back to the 1970s. I remember my sister Jane loved The Doors and I would think she still does. While Jane was listening to The Sugarcubes, Nirvana and The Sundays I was listening to, well, you know what I was listening to! My other sister Emma still loves her pop and as ever I am always so glad that she reads my posts. It was only when I saw Oliver Stones film The Doors in 1991 that I really began to like their music. Especially the song Riders On The Storm. It is such a dreamlike and dark song. There is beautiful menace in it. I think that Jim Morrison was the kind of star that both women and men fell in love with. As a gay man I can and will say when a star, male or female, is attractive. I think that many straight guys also fall in love with male musical heroes but some will never admit it even though it is really completely harmless. I love the way that straight men love their music, it is not a sexual love but it is almost that. A great passion. I have great admiration for all those legendary rock stars. I like that certain genre of rock music as much as my pop songs. Riders On The Storm represents all those songs such as a lot of The Rolling Stones early music and songs by Bruce Springsteen such as The River and I'm On Fire. It represents the great American rock songs. The songs of the 60s and 70s and in the 80s. Here's song number 10. From June 1971 The Doors and Riders On The Storm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If You Were A Dream Lover

Songs number 8 and 9 are both remixes. These two songs are without a doubt my favourite remixes of all time. They are both from the summer of 1993. I always remember hearing both songs in Dublin clubs at the time and I'm sure it was the same in America and the UK as well. The first is the Brothers in Rhythm remix of If by Janet Jackson. I liked the single version but this remix brought If into a whole new dimension. Janet already was one of pop music's greatest singers and dancers because of both her Control and the Rhythm Nation 1814 albums. The combined singles and videos from both albums are simply iconic. Her 1993 Janet album had great singles too especially Throb, Anytime Anyplace and That's The Way Love Goes. The various remixes of those songs were excellent too but by far the remix of If is the one I remember most. All of those mixes were released on the Janet Remixed album in 1995. So here is song number 8 of my 40 songs. From July 1993 this is the Brothers in Rhythm remix of If by Janet Jackson.
The second remix is the David Morales def club mix of Dream Lover by Mariah Carey. The majority of good pop songs of the late 1990s and early 2000s had properly amazing dance remix versions but Dream Lover was one of the first to use 70s disco, 80s pop and house and add it all in and make 90s dance pop. David Morales' remix of Dream Lover was a perfect example of how a classic radio version of a song could be a Billboard chart topper and could also be reimagined for the dancefloor. Mariah's vocals were re-recorded for the remix with her fantastic backing vocalists making a cameo near the end. Beginning with the wonderful psycho fairground piano notes and then in to the stuttering uh-uh vocal. Six and a half minutes into it it changes direction again. Gorgeousness! Here's song number 9 of the neverending 40! This is David Morales def Club remix of Dream Lover by Her Royal Warbleness Mariah Carey.

Come Around and Talk Awhile

The 1970s for me was Star Wars and Disney movies, action men and the Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie's Angels and the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew both on TV and in book form. It was in the late 70s that I remembered being aware of hearing songs on the radio. We didn't have BBC until the 1980s so a lot of the pop shows weren't on TV for me then. Today, I associate the 70s with disco and especially love songs. Those sweet, sad ones. There are some stars that created a genre of love song. One of those people was Olivia Newton John. My favourite song from Grease was Hopelessly Devoted to You, it was one of the few films of that decade that I didn't see in the cinema, it was all the Skywalker family for me then instead of the first High School Musical. My favourite song from Xanadu a few years later would be Suddenly, her duet with Cliff. Someday I might even meet someone who likes those songs as much as me! I'm realising that picking just 40 songs that are my favourites is not that easy. Ever since I rediscovered Sam by Olivia Newton John (through Last.FM) I really think it's one of the most gorgeous songs of the 1970's. It sums up a time in music that could only have been from that decade. So, here's song number 7 of my 40. From 1977 this is Sam by Olivia Newton John.

Charlene's On Lighting!

There are some songs that we have no idea exactly how old they are or when we started to like them. Song number 6 in my forty favourite songs is one I think I only really started to like in the past few years. It's Rock The Casbah by The Clash. What is interesting is the history of songs and sometimes you are best not looking up some details on the Wizard of Wikipedia. There is loads on the song here including the tragic connection to the song that is said to have had Joe Strummer in tears. Even if I had been aware of Rock The Casbah back in 1982 I would have been pretty oblivious to the political lyrics. Truth is I have been since as well. Rock The Casbah is a song that you find yourself singing along to even if you don't know the lyrics. I bet we all do that on some songs, put in our own words. So in the tradition of misheard lyrics in great songs, here's Rock The Casbah by The Clash. Video created by Billy Ray.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Will Buy!

Thank you so much for the recent lovely comments guys. One comment that made me stop and think about the 40 songs I wanted to share over the next few weeks was from Enda when he wondered; was there any songs before 1980 that made an impression on me. Most of my favourite songs are from the mid 1980's but there were many songs from the 1960's and 1970's that I will always love too. I just remember being aware of liking music from 1981 0r 1982 onwards. I then started to think of songs released since August 1969 when I was born. I grew up with a radio station in my back garden and we had the radio on ALL THE TIME! It was great. So, I heard a lot of ABBA, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, Crystal Gayle, Chic, Motown and all those songs have all stayed with me. I do remember loving songs that I would have first seen in movies on TV when I was a child. The best movies were usually shown at Christmas on Irish TV (we didn't have BBC) and the famous Disney, disaster movies, epics and musicals always made the biggest impression on me. I loved Oliver! It was scary and thrilling and wonderful at the same time. I remember wishing I was Oliver and feeling sad for poor Nancy. That film also made me think of London as a place of wonder. London and New York are still my favourite cities. Oliver! was released in September 1968. That was the month my parents got married. My Dad was 23 and my Mam was 21. My first home was a small flat in Dean Street in Kilkenny. It would be the first of our 8 homes. All in Kilkenny! We moved house more than Dawn French and Jim Morrison combined. The scene in Oliver! that I loved the most was the Who Will Buy? scene. It is happy and just full of life and music and dance and today it still reminds me of falling in love with the magic of music and cinema at the same time. I love the way how simply the choreography of the scene starts out and then, as more characters are added in that wonderful square, the whole spectacle of it all. So the other 38 songs of my favourite 40 will be a mixed bunch. Thank you all for your interest in my little personal project! So here's song number 2. The full Who Will Buy? scene from the 1968 musical Oliver!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pride & Joy

On August 27th I will be 40 years old. A lifetime of pop music. So between then and now I want to post 40 of my favourite songs. My life songs I guess. They are in no particular order, they are just songs that make me happy every time I hear them and that is why I think music is important. There will of course be a couple of Madonna songs. I couldn't imagine loving pop without loving her songs. The first is Dress You Up. I remember the day I bought the Like a Virgin album from Sherwoods in Kilkenny here in Ireland and playing it so many times. I love Shoo-Bee-Doo and Angel as much as Dress You Up but it was the imagery of the video of Madonna performing Dress You Up on her Virgin Tour that has always stayed with me. That jacket, her entire outfit in fact, the simple and yet iconic opening poses, the dance routine, the whole joyfulness of the performance. I think that video is a perfect popular culture moment. Dress You Up got to number 5 in the UK, US and Australian charts. It got to number 3 here in Ireland, it's highest chart position worldwide. There was more than one single cover and the one above is the one I have. Pop treasures.