KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #266: Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #266: Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

Since I have started blogging, I estimate that I have written almost 500 pieces of writing that I felt confident enough in to hit that Done/Send/Submit button and release them to the world. For a variety of reasons, every now and again, I go back and re-read some of my writing and, when I do, there are times when I find myself thinking that what I wrote was actually pretty good. I don’t get that feeling with every piece of writing I’ve published but, with some, I do feel a sense of pride. As a writer, I think that it is important to feel comfortable with what you publish for others to read. For at the end of the day, what you write is a reflection on you and the type of person you believe yourself to be so, if you want people to think of you a certain way then, always send out your best work to act as your representative. That’s what I try to do.

Warren Zevon got his start in the music business as a session player in Los Angeles. But, what really opened doors for him was his ability to write interesting and original sounding songs. Zevon was defintely a wordsmith. He began selling his own songs to singers; the most famous one being “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”, which he sold to Linda Ronstadt. Over the course of several years in the 1970s, Zevon wrote for and, played with, many of the LA music scene’s heavyweights such as Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Ronstadt, of course and, The Eagles. Over time, he started putting together his own collection of songs and, along with his fellow session player buddies, he started releasing albums of his own, original work. None of his initial albums sold really well but all were rated as being “critical” successes due to the poetic nature of his songwriting. Warren Zevon gained a reputation as being a “songwriter’s songwriter”.

For subject matter, Zevon tended to be drawn to characters and themes that resided on the darker side of life and, as such, he unwittingly became a champion of the anti-hero character. A really good example of this comes from a song called, “Desperado Under the Eaves”. In this song, which was never a best seller, he wrote about his own battles with alcoholism. For me, his writing reminds me a bit of folks like Hunter S. Thomson.

“I’m sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel.

I was staring in my empty coffee cup.

I was thinkin’ that the Gypsy wasn’t lyin’

All the salty maragaritas in Los Angeles

I’m gonna drink ’em all.

And, if California slides into the ocean

Like the mystics and statistics say it will,

I predict this motel will still be standing

Until I fully pay my bill.”

Warren Zevon produced a slew of songs of this calibre; none of which sold well but, all of which drew praise for their poetry. His list of admired songs includes “Veracruz”, “Renegade”, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, “Reconsider Me” and one of my favourite song titles of all-time, “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner”. For someone who regarded himself as possessing a certain level of skill as a writer, it ended up galling him that his most successful and popular song was the one he liked the least and considered to be something of a joke and a novelty song. That song was, of course, “Werewolves of London”.

“Werewolves of London” was written after Zevon accepted a challenge by singer, Don Everly (of “The Everly Brothers” fame) to write a song based upon the 1931 original movie starring Lon Chaney called, “The Werewolf of London”. Zevon sat down with fellow session players, Waddy Wachtel and LeRoy Marinell and wrote the lyrics fairly quickly. When the track was recorded, Mick Fleetwood played drums and Fleetwood Mac bassist, John McVie, played bass for Zevon. With the song recorded and the bet settled, Zevon went on to complete the remaining songs for his third album called, “Excitable Boy”. Of all of the songs included on this album, “Werewolves of London” was the song Zevon thoughts least likely as the album’s debut single. However, once the album was submitted to the record label, the release of singles was, essentially, out of Zevon’s hands. The record executives thought that there was something special about “Werewolves of London” and, over Zevon’s loud objections, they released that song first. As time has proven, the song did strike a chord with a segment of the listening audience who weren’t normally enamoured with Zevon. Consequently, “Werewolves of London” became “popular”. Zevon equated “popular” with “common and basic” and, as such, he was never truly proud of his biggest hit song.

Warren Zevon lived a conflicted life over the course of his entire career. His battles with alcoholism and his political views (which were often to the far right of the political spectrum) often caused his to be viewed as being “difficult”. No one ever doubted his creative genius but, as a human being, Zevon was, at times, a hard person to be around. He was at his best and most approachable when writing and playing songs that read like classic novels. Without question, one of his biggest supporters/fans/patrons turned out to be Talk show host, David Letterman. Letterman booked Zevon as musical guest dozens of times. He even had Zevon stand in as bandleader on those occasions when Paul Schaffer proved unavailable. In the entire history of Letterman’s late night career, only one time did he ever dedicate an entire show to a single guest….that guest was Warren Zevon and it was on the occasion of Zevon going public that he had an incurable form of cancer and only months left to live. Letterman asked him if he would play Letterman’s favourite song of his….”Desperados Under the Eaves”. Zevon declined. Even as he was dying. Even for his most ardent supporter. Zevon was difficult right up until the end.

“Werewolves Of London” is a song that speaks to many people. It is popular with the masses, just like summer blockbuster movies are, too. All Art doesn’t have to be lofty to be appreciated and enjoyed by others. For someone who often viewed popular music with disdain, Zevon died and left behind a legacy that begins with a song about an aristocratic scoundrel that was written as a joke in order to settle a bet. Which just goes to prove my original point….be careful what you write and release into the world. Your words often end up being a reflection of your character. For Warren Zevon….master wordsmith….his best known song was, literally, spit out in minutes, over drinks.

Not that my opinion matters now that he has passed away but, for what it is worth, I have always liked “Werewolves of London”. I hope you do, too. I, also, hope that our liking his least favourite song doesn’t impact his ability to rest in peace. Thanks, Warren, for a catalogue filled with excellent writing. Don’t beat yourself up for having written one song that became “popular”. It is ok to allow yourself to be liked, as well as, admired.

Here is “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon, can be found here.

The link to the video (Part #1 out of 4) of Warren Zevon’s famous final interview with David Letterman, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Warren Zevon, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for playing all of the best songs; whether they are “popular” or not. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #267: Papa Was a Rodeo by The Magnetic Fields.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #267: Papa Was a Rodeo by The Magnetic Fields.

***FYI: I write these posts on FB before posting them on my blog. Prior to putting the original post on Facebook, I posted an earlier link to a performance of a cover of the Magnetic Fields song, “Book of Love” by Chris Thile and friends, from his show, “Live From Here”. Chris does a good job of introducing who Stephen Merritt is, for those who don’t know of him. The link for that video…which was given as “homework” for my FB friends…is here. Watch it, if you wish. I shall begin the actual post for today’s song now. Enjoy.

If you were good and did your “homework” then, you will have been introduced to the exquisite writing of Stephin Merritt, the lead singer/songwriter of a group called, The Magnetic Fields. Music critics have thrown many bouquets his way, comparing him to the great American songwriters such as Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. He is a poet who writes songs about Life and Love and everything else in between, in the same manner that a poet like Leonard Cohen did. His singing voice is canyon-deep. His demeanour is detached and observational, rather than attention-seeking and loud. In a documentary about his life and career, there is a scene where he climbs into a NYC taxi, complete with videographer recording the scene. The cabbie asks what is going on. Merritt replies that it a documentary about him because some people feel he is famous. The cabbie asks for his name. Merritt replies, in kind. The cabbie snorts derisively, “Never heard of ya” and then, drives away without further remarks. So begins our story about Stevin Merritt and “Magnetic Fields”.

I had never heard of Merritt, either, until I started listening to the songs on the KEXP list of greatest songs of all-time. Most songs on the list I knew but, “Papa Was a Rodeo” was new to me. If I accomplish absolutely nothing from doing these 500 posts besides finding this one song then, the whole exercise will have been worth it. Simply put, “Papa Was a Rodeo” is one of the most crisply written, warmest and greatest storytelling songs I have ever heard. Period! It is an epic novel disguised as a song. A song that tells the story of the lifetimes of two separate characters in a rich, detailed, very human way that spans entire generations and yet, comes in at a reasonable 3-4 minutes in length. It is deeply personal and detailed yet, the stories are told in a breezy, conversational way. It is a song that borrows from the tears-in-my-beer style of Country music yet, it is not a country song at all. It is a painting…..a portrait of two people….with verses for brush strokes and delicate notes for textured hues.

“Papa Was a Rodeo”, as well as “Book of Love” that you heard of you did your homework, were both part of a debut trilogy(!) album set called “69 Love Songs”. The idea came to Merritt while sitting in various bars in NYC. He decided to attempt an exploration of the concept of Love in, as many musical styles and from as many story angles as possible. Merritt started out with 100 songs in mind and then, settled for 69 because, as we all know, 69 is one of the numbers of Love. In any case, Merritt, along with a cadre of friends, fellow writers and musicians, recorded all 69 songs and released the album to much acclaim a decade or so ago. And, like you, I had no idea of the magnificent writing this work contained.

“Papa Was a Rodeo” is not “hit song” material, in the same way that Shakespeare is not the same as the usual blockbuster summer movie fare. This song is a treat for anyone who likes “story songs” and tales that are well-told. I will leave you with the video for this song, as well as, the trailer for the documentary that was filmed about Stevin Merritt (several famous folks appear in the trailer so, please check it out). The setting for “Papa Was a Rodeo” begins in a dive bar at Last Call. One character is a trucker. The other is not. I will leave the rest of this stunningly-told story for you to enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Papa Was a Rodeo” by The Magnetic Fields, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the documentary about Stephen Merritt, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Stephen Merritt/Magnetic Fields, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping me to discover this excellent song. I am indebted. The link to their official website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #268: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #268: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is all the proof you need to know that the roots of Soul and R&B music lay in Gospel. Of the many rousing, soaring, Gospel-influenced songs written in the Motown era, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is one of the most popular. While this song is being sung, you can close your eyes and easily imagine that you are listening to a choir singing in a church, rather than singers on a concert stage. However, despite the joyous nature of this song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” has a ribbon of tragedy sewn into its’ fabric. That tragic tale involves both singers, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill and is remarkable for how devastating it all turned out to be for both.

In his early days with Motown Records, Marvin Gaye was often paired with female singers and, as a result, many of his early hits were duets. The way Motown was organized saw songwriters teamed with specific singers; the songwriters would write songs and submit them to CEO Barry Gordy who, in turn, would assign them to his stable of musical talent. Many of these songwriters, such as Smokey Robinson, went on to enjoy successful careers of their own, after they had “paid their dues” as writers first. Like Smokey Robinson, Motown employed a husband and wife team of songwriters, who went on to be successful later on, named Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Ashford and Simpson wrote many hits songs but, for the most part, they were assigned to write duets for pairs such as Marvin Gaye and whoever he happened to be singing with at the time. It was Ashford and Simpson who wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Gaye and Terrill. But, before we get into that, let’s get to know Tammi Terrill.

Her story began the very day she was born. Back in the 1950s, there were no such things as ultrasounds and, consequently, no such things as gender-reveal parties and the like. In those days, you went to the hospital and discovered the sex of your baby the second it was born. Terrill’s birth was the first experience at childbirth for her parents. Like many men of the day, her father hoped to have a son to carry on the family name. He was so convinced that his child would be a boy that he had picked out a name already. That name was to be Thomas. When Terrill was born and found to be female, the father was devastated! So much so that he refused to abandon his dream of a son and thus, his first born daughter was named, “Thomasina”. Her full name was Thomasina Winnifred Montgomery. She was called, “Tommie” up until age twelve when she saw a movie at a theatre that contained a character named “Tammi”. From that point on, she went by the name Tammi Montgomery.

Tammi Montgomery sang in church, like so many people of colour tended to do. She loved singing Gospel songs and became noted for her beautiful, delicate figure and strong, powerful voice. At age 17, she was noticed by one of the most influential men in America at the time, singer James Brown. He hired her to be a back-up singer in his “James Brown Revue”. As you may know by now, Brown was a man who demanded absolute obedience from his crew and was prone to fits of violence and temper should he feel that someone wasn’t pulling their weight or following his orders to a tee. One night, his wrath fell upon the diminutive, Tammi Montgomery. He accused her of not paying enough attention to him while he sang and gave her a severe beating that resulted in much loss of blood and multiple head injuries. Luckily, Montgomery had enough fortitude to walk away from her contract.

After healing, she left her musical career and enrolled in university. However, while at university, she was approached by an executive from a new record label and given a new contract to sing her own songs. She had several minor hits while still managing to keep up with her schooling. Soon, however, she came to the attention of Motown CEO, Barry Gordy, who signed her to a new, richer contract and, just like that, Tammi Montgomery became a Motown singer. Gordy demanded that she change her last name to something that sounded “sexier” and thus, Tammi Montgomery became Tammi Terrill.

Not long after she joined Motown, Terrill became involved with singer, David Ruffin, who, at the time, was with “The Temptations”. Unfortunately for Terrill (and for Ruffian, too, I suppose), Ruffin began drifting from the group, demanding more money and a bigger spotlight and, worst of all, he began dabbling in drugs. In the course of his addiction, he assaulted Terrill, striking her about the head with a motorcycle helmet. She was only 23-24 years old at the time.

Finally, she was paired with singer, Marvin Gaye. Gaye was always known for his lovely singing voice but, he was, also, known for being somewhat a quiet, introverted person when it came to stage presence. By pairing Gaye with the outgoing, vivacious Terrill, Gaye was able to step forward and command the stage with a little more confidence. The two became one of Motown all-time leading musical couples on stage. Off-stage, they became very good and trusting friends. It was to this partnership that Ashford and Simpson bequeathed their favourite song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. That song became a #1 hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill. It was just the first of many the duo enjoyed, in partnership with Ashford and Simpson, over the next year.

Then, as if happiness was poison, Terrill collapsed on stage one night into Gaye’s arms. She had always had a history of migraine headaches and, along with the head trauma she received from James Brown and David Ruffin, it turned out that Terrill was suffering from brain cancer. She underwent several unsuccessful operations to remove her tumours. At age 25, she passed away. Mrs. Montgomery, Terrill’s mother, was furious at everyone involved at Motown for contributing to the circumstances that, in her words, accelerated her daughter’s medical condition. At Terrill’s funeral, the only Motown personality allowed to attend was Marvin Gaye. His kind treatment of Terrill stood in stark contrast to how most men had treated her over the course her lifetime.

For Gaye, Terrill’s death touched him deeply. Many believe that his descent into drug and alcohol addiction that characterized his later years, all started with the loss of Terrill from his professional and personal life. As many of you know, Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his own father. He was only in his 40s.

As if to resurrect “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” from the pit of misery it suddenly found itself in, Diana Ross received permission to record the song as part of her first solo album. The result was a huge hit for Ross. Consequently, the song was such a hit that many people mistakenly believe that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is, actually, a Diana Ross song. It is not. It was a Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrill song…..until it was too heartbreaking to be theirs anymore.

I will play their version of the song first and then, for those who like Diana Ross’ version, I will play that, too. In both cases, please enjoy this beautiful, uplifting, joyous song. As you do, spare a few thoughts for the two original singers. May they both rest in peace.

The link to the video for the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Marvin Gaye, can be found here.

The link to more information on the life of Tammi Terrill, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Diana Ross, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting the very best musicians, from all eras and musical genres. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #269: I Will Dare by The Replacements.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #269: I Will Dare by The Replacements.

The Replacements are such an interesting and important band. They formed in the early 1980s in Minnesota. The line-up that existed for most of their career consisted of singer/songwriter, Paul Westerberg, brothers, Bob and Tommy Stinson on guitars and drummer Chris Mars. The band started out as a Punk band and spent the first few years of their existence barely making any money, playing mostly for their own amusement, often intoxicated on stage, getting banned from establishment, after establishment. But, the Punk ethos was not where their hearts completely were. There was as much of a Rock n’ Roll quality to their look and the lyrics of the songs that they wrote that, almost without realizing it, “The Replacements” began combining Punk and more traditional Rock in ways that helped launch the genre of music called “Alternative Rock”.

Over the course of their, at times, volatile career, The Replacements had a string of important and noteworthy hit songs such as “Unsatisfied”, “Dyslexic Heart”, “Bastards of Young”, “Alex Chilton”, “I’ll Be You”, “Merry-Go-Round” and, of course, one of their biggest hits, “I Will Dare”, which ended up being inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Song Category.

The song, “I Will Dare” is, ostensibly, about an older man contemplating a tryst with a much younger female. There is nothing in the song that says, explicitly, that the girl is a minor but, there is much in the song that gives the impression that the man, in question, is seriously tempted but, just as seriously, worried about the consequences of such a union. Despite the taboo implications of “I Will Dare”, the band has always maintained that the story told in the song is on the up-and-up and is more about a scenario that explores the limitations we impose upon ourselves because of our concern for how others may react to the decisions we make. Westerberg says that he, deliberately, made the storyline hint at being provocative to drive home his point that we self-censor our lives far too frequently instead of chasing our dreams with abandon. Many music critics have hailed “I Will Dare” as being very Beatlesesque; especially, in how The Beatles crafted songs in the later stages of their career. In fact, “I Will Dare” can be found on a The Replacements album entitled, “Let It Be”, which makes their Beatles tribute pretty clear.

The Replacements were a band that many claim to embody the true essence of what it meant to play Rock n’ Roll from the heart. They were dangerous, in the sense that, as an audience, you never knew what you were going to see when you went to one of their shows. When the band was playing well, they could showcase a setlist of songs that tapped into the lives of young people in America as well as any band ever has. When they were off, they could be notorious for their behaviour which culminated in their infamous appearance as musical guests on Saturday Night Live. G.E. Smith, who was SNL Musical Director at the time, loved the band and thought their were the best band in the entire country. He managed to book them as musical guests, the same week as actor Harry Dean Stanton was scheduled to be guest host. As it turned out, as the show was set go on air…..live…..on Saturday night, the members of The Replacements, along with host, Stanton, had prepared for their big moment on national television by indulging in copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, resulting in them all being too impaired to perform properly. The end result was a rare lifetime ban from the show by director, Lorne Micheals.

With The Replacements, you got a band that often existed primarily to please themselves. Luckily, much of what pleased them, in terms of lyrical content, turned out to please a great many fans, too. The legacy that they leave in their wake is a song catalogue that forms an important part of the foundation for the entire genre of, what came to be called, “Alternative Music”. I am not sure I would want the band staying at my house, if my house was an AirBnB but, I most definitely want The Replacements on the playlists that I listen to in my car and in my home and everywhere I want good music to be.

So without further procrastination or delay, here are The Replacements, with one of the songs that helped define music in the 1980s, “I Will Dare”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “I All Dare” by The Replacements, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Replacements, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting good music in all of its forms. The link to their official website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #270: Town Called Malice by The Jam.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #270: Town Called Malice by The Jam.

Just prior to the start of the pandemic, I read a book by a lady named Sarah Broom entitled, “The Yellow House”, which was about growing up black in pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans. Essentially, the book examined the concept of “home” and what it meant to live in certain neighbourhoods; what external and internal factors were at play that contributed to or detracted from that sense of community that sits as the bedrock of the towns and cities that we all call “home”. At one point, Ms. Broom was able to secure a job in the Mayor’s office as part of his Communications team and, as such, was finally earning enough money to afford a “decent” home. She found, what she thought, was a character-filled, primo apartment in the heart of New Orleans French Quarter and happily, joyfully moved in. In the book, she described life in The French Quarter as being akin to living in the middle of a staged play; all of the people either actors, working to maintain the myth of what The French Quarter once was or else, a never-ending audience of tourists streaming in for the show and off to other places when they had had their fill. Broom said it was impossible to exist in search of roots in a place as transient and ever-shifting as The French Quarter in New Orleans. So, after barely a year, she had moved again….this time, all the way to New York City, in search of somewhere to call “home”.

Now, for the purposes of today’s post, let’s shift our attention to England. If you travel due south from London for about two hours or so, you will arrive at the southern tip of the island at the bustling seaport of Portsmouth. Portsmouth is a large seaport that once served as home port for much of The Royal Navy at a time when the British Empire stretched to all corners of the globe. In recent times, Portsmouth gained notoriety as being the location from which the final known photograph of the Titanic was taken. In that grainy photo, the Titanic can be seen sailing toward the distant horizon; its’ passengers excited to be taking part, in what they all deemed to be, a grand and glorious adventure. Portsmouth remains a busy seaport today. There is a constant flow of people and goods, back and forth, between Portsmouth and London, which helps to supply the whole of England with goods which, in turn, helps prop up the national economy. At the mid-point of that trade and travel route, there exists town called Woking. The lead singer of The Jam, Paul Weller, grew up in Woking. The song, “Town Called Malice” is his take on growing up in a place that is, essentially, just a rest-stop for those going to other places they would rather be.

“Town Called Malice” describes the constant movement of trains through the town, the smell of the large dairy plant that packaged milk and other dairy products for sale in other parts of the country and, of course, the constant stream of people, coming and going and never staying longer than they had to. Weller wrote the song without bitterness, using more of an observational, “it-was-what-it-was” kind of tone. The title of the song is based on a novel called, “A Town Called Alice” and was not intended by Weller to say that Woking was a terrible place in which to have grown up.

However, a funny thing happened to the band when this song was released. “Town Called Malice” actually sounds like a happy, energy-filled song because of the use of back-up singers, brass instruments and the like. As The Jam grew as a band, each album of theirs grew in creativity and confidence. Eventually, tensions arose within the band as to the musical direction they should follow; should they stay true to their roots and continue creating a songs that “sounded like Jam songs” or else, expand their musical repertoire and try to take their music in new directions? “Town Called Malice” was seen as indicating that Weller’s vision of new growth had won the day. However, behind the scenes, the other band members (who had wanted to stick, more to their original sound) rebelled and as The Jam’s biggest hit was released and tour planned, the band broke up. Not long after, Weller continued on with a new band called, Style Council and then, after that, a solo career that remains active to this day.

But, the hit song, “Town Called Malice” provides a lot of insight into the mindset of someone whose formative years were sent in a town built upon the idea that greener pastures lay elsewhere and that the search for “home” was going to have to be somewhere other than where you were. Without further delay, I am proud to present an absolutely awesome song by “The Jam” that helped define the 80s sound as well as any song ever did. Here is “Town Called Malice”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Town Called Malice” by The Jam, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Jam, can be found here.

The link to the website for the Town of Woking, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for always knowing where the best songs come from and where they are headed. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #271: Jeremy by Pearl jam.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #271: Jeremy by Pearl Jam.

“Jeremy” by “Pearl Jam” is a song that draws its’ inspiration from a true and tragic event. In this case, it is two similar events that both involve separate shootings that took place in schools. However, the crux of the story of “Jeremy” involves how artists portray real people; be it in music or on film or whatever media the artist is working in at the time. How responsible are artists when it comes to the accuracy of their portrayal? How much “creative license” is implied when someone becomes the subject of someone’s creative vision? Let’s find out, as we discuss one of “Pearl Jam’s” first and biggest hits, “Jeremy”.

“Jeremy” was one of three big hits that “Pearl Jam” had on their debut album, “Ten”. The other hits were “Alive” and “Even Flow”. Pearl Jam, who hail from Seattle, were part of the famous, “Seattle scene”, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. They have had many other hits such as “Better Man”, “State of Love and Trust”, “Nothingman”, “Daughter”, “Black” “Yellow Ledbetter” and many more. They have sold millions of albums worldwide and were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. They have always maintained their artistic independence. That was evident right from their very first album when lead singer Eddie Vedder and bassist, Jeff Ament, teamed up to write a song about a young man who committed suicide in a classroom in front of his teacher and classmates.

The song, “Jeremy” is mostly drawn from a small newspaper article that concerned a boy named Jeremy Wade Delle. The article comprised one-quarter of one column and was tucked somewhere in the middle of the paper. As Vedder first read the article, he wondered what had pushed this young man to perform such an act but, at the same time, Vedder questioned the extent to which Delle’s act had the impact that he may had envisioned. So, Vedder wrote a song about the incident. That song and the famous video that helped launch Pearl Jam’s career, was “inspired” by the actual suicide but, it was never intended to be about the young man, in question, Jeremy Wade Delle. Thus, to most of us who watched the video and listened to the intense lyrics, our impression of “Jeremy” was that he was mentally-ill, that his parents never gave him enough attention and that his classmates thought he was a bit of a freak and treated him accordingly. In real life, Delle’s mother and several of his classmates have rallied to his defence and have gone public with their criticisms of the song and how he will be forever tainted by Vedder’s ill-conceived portrayal. They claim that Delle was artistic, quiet and that he actually had several good friends. Vedder has apologized for any harm caused to Delle’s family but, he is unapologetic about the nature of his creative license that allowed him to create a character and storyline based upon someone who actually lived and died.

But, the story doesn’t end there, either. The video that was made to accompany the song was censored by the record label and by the folks who worked at MTV. The original video ended with the character of “Jeremy” putting the gun barrel into his mouth. The next scene showed his classmates recoiling in shock, blood splattering their clothes and classroom. The implied violent death was deemed too graphic. This resulted in the scene with the gun barrel entering “Jeremy’s” mouth being cut. Instead, the revised video shows “Jeremy” standing up at the front of the classroom and then, the scene shifts to the blood-spattered classmates. This removed the graphic suicide but, it caused another issue to arise. Many who saw the new video mistakenly thought that “Jeremy” had shot his teacher and that it was his teacher’s blood that had splattered. The whole exercise in creating a dramatic representation of their song ended up frustrating the members of “Pearl jam” so much that they refused to make any more staged videos. From that point on, every “Pearl Jam” video was a concert video. Vedder maintained that the controversy over the video detracted from the point of the song which was, in his words, that the real “Jeremy” probably thought his act would be viewed as dramatic and impactful when, in fact, it warranted only one quarter of one column and would be forgotten as quickly as the story was first read. Vedder claims that living and improving and growing stronger, with help, is always better than suicide.

Regardless of the controversial nature of “Jeremy”, the song has become one of “Pearl Jam’s” signature songs. It is always sung with much intensity as Vedder sings of the difference between living and dying and of which path leads to a greater personal legacy in the end. In order for you to decide for yourselves as to the merits of this song, I will play the original, uncensored dramatic video, as well as, a live version of the song, too. Both videos are intensely paced and sung with great passion. The band is super tight and highly skilled; playing faster when the drama requires it and softly, when more nuanced scenes come along in the story. But, as I said, in the end, I will leave it for you to decide how you feel about how “Pearl Jam” portrayed “Jeremy”.

Is what they did justified because it resulted in a kick-ass song? Was the real “Jeremy” owed a better and more realistic portrayal or was he damaged goods and fair game to be portrayed as he was because his story lay in the public domain? Whatever the case, a young man died for real, by his own hand. Nothing about this discussion changes that fact.

Here is “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam.

The link to the “official” video for the song, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, can be found here.

The link to the video for the live version of the song, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Pearl Jam can be found here.

The link to the website for radio station, KEXP, can be found here. Thanks, folks, for playing the best music every day.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #272: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #272: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band.

I can remember watching American Bandstand on tv when I was a young boy growing up. The dancers on that show had a set criteria that they employed when it came to judging the merits of a song. That criteria was that “it had to have a good beat and be easy to dance to”. For a dance-oriented show like American Bandstand, it is no surprise that they leaned toward the type of songs that they did. However, in the grand musical universe, there are many different types of songs and differing ways of assessing them. Usually, there is some level of basic agreement about the nature of most songs; be it a great party song, like, “Shout: Pts. 1 & 2”, a funked-up Soul classic that gets you moving and groovin’ or, maybe the song is a slow, romantic ballad, meant to be shared, cheek to cheek, with that someone special. But, every now and again, a song comes along that defies categorization and resists judgement. An example of such a song is , “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band.

The Band consisted of singer, Robbie Robertson, drummer, Levon Helm, keyboardist, RIchard Manual, multi-instrumentalist, Garth Hudson and bassist, Rick Danko. All but, Helm, were Canadians. Normally, country of origin isn’t a factor in the quality of a song but, in the case of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, it is an essential ingredient in how the song came to be written in the first place. The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of great awakenings for many people. Television was bringing the world together in ways never before experienced by ordinary people. The Vietnam War caused the attention of the world to shift to a relatively unknown part of the world (at least, to most Americans). For Robbie Robertson, a Canadian, he turned his gaze toward America and desired learning as much about its’ history as he could. So, he started researching about the great US Civil War. During his research, he discovered that many of the people near where Levon Helm grew up (in Arkansas) had been impacted by the actual Civil War, as well as, the aftermath of that war. So, he asked Helm if he could visit his home state. Helm agreed to act as tour guide. Robertson saw battlefields and heard stories of families torn apart because of the death of loved ones and/or the destruction of their properties. Robertson was moved by what he heard and put pen to paper and created a song about the experiences of the US Civil War from the point of view of a Confederate conscript named Virgil. The over-arching theme of the song is one of suffering and regret, on the part of Virgil. The price of war was extremely high for the character of Virgil and the payoff of the fight never seemed to materialize, either.

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” has been hailed by music critics as being a “musical masterpiece that showed the human side of history better than any song, ever.” There is no questioning the emotion on display when Levon Helm belts this song out. As the sole American in the band, there was never a doubt who would play the part of Virgil. There is a passion in his voice that comes from living the History of which he is singing. When you get to see “The Band” perform the song live, there is, also, no questioning the musicianship on display, the calibre of the writing and storytelling involved in the lyrics nor, the rousing nature of the entire piece. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a song that plays like an anthem…..and, that is where the contentious nature of judging the merits of a song becomes tricky.

When Robertson wrote the song, he claims to have done so as a show of respect for his bandmate, Levon Helm, and, as an acknowledgement of the suffering Helm’s family had endured those many years ago. Robertson claims that his intentions with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” were never political. That may be so but, in the aftermath of the song’s release, three very political points of view emerged that all lay claim to the song.

First of all, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” was released in an atmosphere in America that was decidedly anti-war. So, naturally, there were many people who interpreted the song as being an anti-war message from “The Band”. Those who fall into this camp discount the fact that the song focuses on a Confederate soldier and point out that that soldier and his family endured many hardships and lost so much that, surely, the point of the song is that the concept of “War” is a destructive one. The price paid by ordinary citizens conscripted against their will, is far too high. The song must be an ode to peace as the antidote to the devastating nature of war.

A second group that laid claim to the song as being their own were those people who still hold the fervent belief that “the South will, one day, rise again”. To those people, with their Confederate roots, this song is an anthem that speaks to a tragedy that befell their entire culture. The respectful nature of how the character of Virgil is portrayed has served as inspiration to those who feel aggrieved by History’s judgement. There are whole generations who have grown up in the southern United States, for whom, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Sweet Home, Alabama” play like hymns. To them, these are no mere songs to sing and dance to. Instead, they feel as though Robertson peered inside their souls as he crafted his lyrics. Because of this song, many Southerners felt fully and truly seen.

The third group who have weighed in on this song and passed severe judgement are those who view “The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down” as being supportive of a lifestyle and a culture that oppressed generations of blacks via slavery. These people call Robertson and The Band out as “Confederate Apologists”. Some people who fall into this third category have actually taken the lyrics and tweaked them to reflect a less-tolerant and flattering portrayal of the southern Confederacy. The debates rage, even as I write these words.

Is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” a respectful ode to friendship, as Robertson claims? Is it an anti-war song, a Confederate anthem or a racist piece of music that ignores so many who endured systemic oppression at the hands of those the song intended to glorify?

I guess the answer lay in the nature of our own perceptions. We tend to bring our inherent biases to our own judgements regarding history. When History reveals certain events to be not as we imagined, are we duty-bound to revise our assessments? That is a question that bears examination in Canada, for instance, as we learn more about the horror of Residential Schools and the part that some of the Fathers of our Confederation had to play in that happening. In the U.S., the arguments over the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” in schools remains a topic of much contention at the moment I write these words.

How we end up judging songs steeped in History such as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ is nebulous. From a purely music point of view, it is a heckuva song and a wonderfully-told story. But, it is almost impossible to keep separate the historical implications from the musical ones when this song stirs up so many conflicting, heartfelt emotions. I guess how you view “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” depends upon your take on the History in question. If you care to make that sort of comment below, go for it.

For now, here is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by “The Band”, from their famous movie/musical, “The Last Waltz”. Enjoy. Contemplate. Judge, even, if the mood strikes.

The link to the video for the song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Band, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #273: Shout: Pts #1 & #2 by The Isley Brothers.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #273: Shout: Pts. #1 & 2 by The Isley Brothers.

I think that it is relatively safe to state that “Shout: Pts #1 & 2” by The Isley Brothers is one of the most instantly recognizable and most beloved songs of all-time. Even though this song was written and released almost sixty years ago, it remains as fresh and vital, as it did the day it was released. It is one of the greatest “Party” songs ever recorded and, once it is played in a crowd, it is guaranteed to get everyone up and dancing and singing along. While “Shout: its #1 & 2” was the biggest hit for The Isley Brothers, reaching all the way to #1 on the charts, it was, by no means, the only hit they ever had. The Isley Brothers left their creative fingerprints on some of the biggest hits you have ever heard such as “Twist and Shout”, “Its Your Thing”, “Summer Breeze”, “This Old Heart of Mine”, “Testify”, “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)”, “That’s the Way Love Is”, “Love the One You’re With”, “Lay Lady Lay” and so many more. It is amazing to me to note how many songs of theirs were, not only hits for them but, also, big hits for the artists who covered those songs. The Beatles, Rod Stewart, Seals and Crofts and so many more all owe much of their own career success to The Isley Brothers.

The story of The Isley Brothers is one that stretches well over six decades and began, as many of these stories seem to begin, as a Gospel group who made their early start singing in Churches and touring on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. The family was comprised of seven brothers who, at times, sang as a whole family but, most often, they sang and recorded music in combinations of 3-5 brothers at a time. The brothers were O’Kelly, Rudolph, Ronald and Vernon…….these were the original, older brothers who were joined later by the younger brothers, Ernie, Marvin and brother-in-law, Chris Jasper. *Brother Vernon was tragically killed while touring in his teens. His death caused the remaining family members to stop singing for awhile but, with much encouragement (especially from those who knew them from Church, the family reunited on stage and ended up influencing music history in a very profound way).

In the early days of The Isley Brothers, as a performing and touring group, the band sang Gospel songs, primarily. But, over time, they branched out into Soul and R&B. One of their most popular cover tracks was Jackie Wilson’s hit song, “Lonely Teardrops”, which was a song that they often used to close out their own live sets. Whenever they played, The Isley Brothers reacted to the emotions/response of their audiences and, as was often the case, if the audience was grooving then, the band would extend their songs; using an interactive call-and-answer approach. This is how the band came up with the original line in “Shout: Pts # 1 & 2” when they say, “Hey! Wait a minute!…” and the song takes off from there. “Shout: Pts #1 & 2” is a funny song, in the sense that, there isn’t the usual lyric structure that most songs possess. Instead, the song is, basically, a series of audience/band interactions and shouted directions. But, in this case, it is the relationship between the band and the audience that makes this interaction so warm and enthusiastic. This is one instance when a song doesn’t require a story to be told in order to be effective.

While The Isley Brothers ended up being inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and selling millions of albums on the basis of “Shout: Pts 1 & 2”, one of the biggest star turns the song had was when it was featured so prominently in the hit movie, “Animal House”. The song was played in its’ entirety during the infamous “Toga Party” scene by a fictional band called, Otis Day and the Knights. Funny thing about that, playing bass for that band was real-life guitarist extraordinaire, Robert Cray. In addition, the man who played the character of “Otis Day”, DeWayne Jessie, purchased the rights to his own character’s name and ended up touring with a real-life cover band. The most-requested song on their set list? “Shout: Pts #1 & 2”.

It is easy to love this song and then, forget about that vast swath of influence, The Isley Brothers cut across the popular music scene in the US and around the world. They were amazing performers, in their own right but, they were, also, able to craft songs in a way that others could use them as the foundation of their own careers, too. All you really need to know about how respected The Isley Brothers were can be found in the fact that, when they were inducted into the “Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame” they were inducted by, none other than, Little Richard who had campaigned for, what he called, “the honour of a lifetime” to induct them on such a national stage.

I am going to play two videos for you today. The first video will be The Isley Brothers performing “Shout: Pts #1 & 2” at their induction ceremony. *Note, Little Richard, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards and a whole host of musical greats all on stage with The Isley Brothers to help honour them as they have their moment. **It is Ronald Isley who is singing in this video.

The second video is the famous scene from “Animal House”, which gives an excellent rendition of how people react to this song at parties, weddings, bars, etc., when they hear it start to be played. It is, simply, one of the best “Party songs” of all-time and it is here for you to enjoy today.

The link to the video for the song, “Shout: Pts #1 & #2” by The Isley Brothers, can be found here.

The link to the video that shows the song “Soul: Pts. #1 & #2” by fictitious group, Otis Day and the Knights, from the movie, “Animal House”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Isley Brothers, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for playing the best party music of a;;-time. The link to their amazing website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #274: Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #274: Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) by Buzzcocks.

When it come to bands that are under-rated, “Buzzcocks” can be found at, or near, the very top of the list. The contributions made by this band toward the launch the Punk Rock, Punk Pop, New Wave and Alternative Music movements cannot be understated. Yet, when one thinks of the seminal bands from those formative days of the Punk movement, you often hear of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys and so on. You have to go a long way before the name, “Buzzcocks” appears. But, this band was innovative in many important ways so, let’s take a long-overdue look at one of the most important bands in music history…..Buzzcocks.

Buzzcocks were formed in the late 1970s by singer/guitarist, Pete Shelley and singer, Peter Devoto. Like most Punk bands at the time, Buzzcocks played fast, loud, raw-sounding songs. Their biggest epiphany came when they caught a Sex Pistols show for the first time. The energy and passion exuded by The Sex Pistols electrified Shelley and Devoto, so much so, that they approached the band and asked if they would come to their hometown of Manchester, England and allow Buzzcocks to open for them. The Sex Pistols agreed and, after a few false starts, the concert went off. Buzzcocks gained some much-needed credibility as they began their career and The Sex Pistols were able to broaden their audience reach and prove that they were more than just a London-based band. In all, it was a win-win for both bands and proved to be indicative of the forward-thinking nature of Pete Shelley and Peter Devoto’s minds when it came to how they wished to approach their careers.

Right from the start, Buzzcocks separated themselves from other Punk bands by not writing songs that were steeped in themes of social justice and often, anarchy. Buzzcocks weren’t an overtly “angry” band. Instead, they opted to write Punk-calibre songs about lifestyle issues and, specifically, about relationships. Although they received some criticism from other Punk Bands for being “soft”, in their terms, Buzzcocks actually tapped into the Pop music scene for inspiration and, as such, they reached a whole other market of disaffected youth in the UK who wanted societal change but, who advocated for Love, not violence. Because of the popularity of songs such as “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), other bands such as “Joy Division”, “The Smiths” and, even a few decades later, “Radiohead”, were given permission to sing of Love and Heartbreak in their songs, too.

At a time when many Punk bands had difficulty getting airplay on radio and television and, as such, had difficulty promoting and selling their songs, Buzzcocks took a bold stance and actually started their own record label. By doing so, they were able to release songs/albums on their terms, regardless of the content of the song and without regard to commercial sales terms such as “marketability”. Buzzcocks slowly gained marketshare by writing and performing in a way that captured a segment of the listening audience that usually only heard of them by word of mouth, after hearing the buzz generated from their live shows. However, things changed with the release of “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” which became Buzzcocks biggest hit; reaching almost to the Top Ten charts in the UK and earning them a slot of the popular TV show, “Top of the Pops”. That TV appearance boosted their image and helped secure their place in modern music history as an important band.

One final thing that made “Buzzcocks” important and helped them carve a niche in the crowded Punk music scene was their take on sexuality. Not many Punk bands approached the topic of sexuality and relationships in any type of nuanced manner. With Buzzcocks, you had a lead singer (Pete Shelley) who was bisexual in his own life. As such, he approached the topic of relationships from the point of view that gender-specific terms were limiting the scope of romantic possibilities and, as such, when he wrote his own songs, he avoided using gender-specific pronouns as much as possible. The song, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” is a good case in point. That song was inspired by a line spoken in the musical, “Guys and Dolls”. The subject matter of the song was a man that Shelley had been living with for awhile. When you listen to the song, note that Shelley refers to himself and the other man using terms such as “me”, “us” and “we”. There is no “he” or “she” mentioned at all. In this way, Shelley was able to create songs that were inclusive, long before that sort of thing became the flavour of the day to do or the politically correct way to think and be.

Not long after helping to launch Buzzcocks and getting their first album released, Peter Devoto left the band to form a new band called, Magazine. Both Buzzcocks and Magazine ended up have long careers; interspersed with brief periods of hiatus and solo projects and lineup fluctuations. Pete Shelley passed away in 2018 but is remembered for his innovative and pioneering influences on artistic independence (owning his own label), blending Punk and Pop (to create a new hybrid sound that still resonates with audiences today) and maintaining a spotlight on the politics of sexuality and relationships and love, in all of its many manifestations. It is a worthy legacy for any musician but, one thing we haven’t spoken about was, could Buzzcocks actually play well? I will leave that determination up to you but, allow me to direct your attention to the drumming that you will hear when you listen to “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”. The song is about Love and Sex and Passion. As we know, drum beats are often used to symbolize heart beats. In this song, you will note that at the drumbeats double during each note during certain segments of the song to indicate an increased heart rate due to the passions being sung about in the song. Such attention to detail in their song construction is just one, final measure of the greatness of this band.

Buzzcocks may never have had the string of #1 hits that other bands had in their careers but, they played for decades with much musical and political integrity and intelligence and are deserving of any and all recognition they receive. So, without further delay, here are “Buzzcocks” and their biggest hit song, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve” by Buzzcocks, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Buzzcocks, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting bands/artists regardless of musical genre. The link to their website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #275: Mamma Mia by ABBA.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #275: Mamma Mia by ABBA.

As always, every 25th song choice goes to one of my girls so today, the honour is Leah’s.

“Mamma Mia” by ABBA is Song #6 on her countdown Top Ten song list and it is indicative of her approach to music. While Leah likes all sorts of popular songs on the radio these days, she is also very fond of musicals. Among her favourite go-to sources for her listening pleasure are the musical soundtracks to such plays as “Come From Away”, “Hamilton” and, of course, “Mamma Mia”. If you know Leah at all then, her love of musicals shouldn’t come as a surprise. Leah is a storyteller and, as such, she often appreciates it when songs are sung in the context of an overarching story. So, without further delay, please allow me to tell you the story of “Mamma Mia” by ABBA because it turns out that there is more to the song than, simply, the movie soundtrack that Leah listens to. Here we go.

First of all, let’s talk about ABBA. The group, “ABBA” gets its’ name from the initials of the first names of the four people who made up the band. The four people ended up being two husband and wife teams; Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA was formed when Benny and Bjorn met and started writing songs together in Sweden. A year or so into their partnership, they met Agnetha and Anni-Frid, separately, as asked them to join with them as singers. Thus, a partnership that spanned both, personal and professional lines, was formed. In 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision song competition with their debut song, “Waterloo”. That brought them a fair degree of recognition in Sweden and across most of Europe but, in the UK, where they really wanted to be stars, their Eurovision win was met with a certain level of mockery. Apparently, winners of the Eurovision contest were regarding in the UK as being a novelty act. With ABBA being met by indifference by UK fans, Benny and Bjorn decided to re-double their efforts to improve their command of the English language (they spoke Swedish as their first language) so that they could write songs with greater depth and meaning, as opposed to more “disposable Pop”.

So, in 1975, ABBA released a self-titled second album that contained four songs that their record label thought could be potential hits. The four songs were, “SOS”, “I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!”, “Bang-a-Boomerang” and finally, “Mamma Mia”. In an effort to help promote these four songs, four simple music videos were made for each song and were distributed everywhere that ABBA was to tour. As it turns out, one of those places was far away Australia. In somewhat of a surprise to ABBA management, the Aussies really took to the songs from the new album and, because of the videos, the four music videos were played on high rotation. “SOS” was the first release and became a big hit Down Under. As a single, it was paired with “Mamma Mia” which, also, roared up the charts. The wave of acceptance from Australia eventually washed up upon the shores of Europe and the UK and North America and helped launch ABBA as one of the most popular Pop acts of all-time. Moving forward, ABBA produced a string of hits such as “Dancing Queen”, “Money! Money! Money!”, “Man After Midnight”, “Fernando”, “The Name of the Game”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “The Winner Takes It All”, “Thank You For the Music” and so many more.

Because many of ABBA’s songs were based upon the real lives of the couples involved in the group, the songs ended up chronicling their personal story and, as such, when they were packaged together in a Greatest Hits format, people noticed that the songs told the broad outline of a very compelling tale. Add a screenwriter to the mix and it wasn’t hard to transform ABBA’s Greatest Hits into a musical called, “Mamma Mia”. The success of the musical, “Mamma Mia” has been world-wide in scope and has helped keep ABBA in the public eye, long after both couples divorced and the group had stopped performing live. Their music is loved by people the world over; from all age ranges, all genders and socio-economic backgrounds, too. For proof of their appeal, look no further that any wedding reception you have ever been to and that moment when the opening notes of “Mamma Mia” or “Dancing Queen”, in particular, are played. The dance floor fills in an instant with smiling, happy people, having the time of their lives, as the song goes.

ABBA are well-loved the world over; that includes a young lady named Leah who lives in my house and finds her own joy in the stories found in the songs they have written. Whether it is an individual song such as “Mamma Mia” on her iPod or the musical on stage or a tribute band at our local Community Centre or the movie, on screen, Leah has seen them all and loved them all with equal passion and pleasure. Thanks, Leah, for picking such a great song for our countdown. Without further delay, here is “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Mamma Mia” by ABBA, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, Mamma Mia”, as sung by Meryl Streep in the movie, “Mamma Mia”, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Mamma Mia”, as sung by Lily James in the movie, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for ABBA, can be found here.