Aug 31, 2012
The first official release from his upcoming new LP "Tempest", which is due to drop September 11. The guy who directed this video, Nash Edgerton, also did these two for Dylan from a few years back. The clip for "Must Be Santa" is a must watch. Edgerton's portrayal of Dylan as a strange, wandering hipster, or the "The Man In The Long Black Coat" in the Duquesne and Santa clips is about as right as you can get it.
Must Be Santa (2009)
Beyond Here Lies Nothing (2009)
Every man needs a woman... or sometimes a lad ... to shave their beard and keep their tractors clean, as Levon Helm sings, or to give out the cash, as Ray Charles said. Here’s a few songs about the whole thing... Like Muddy Waters sang on "The Same Thing", "What makes a man go crazy when a woman wears that ol' dress so tight. Must be the same ol' thing that make a tom cat fight all night. It's that ol' same thing, now tell me who's to blame. The whole world is fighting about that ol' same thing."
Levon Helm – Got Me A Woman (2007)
This is not to be confused with the more well-known “I Got A Woman” that Ray Charles wrote and recorded (along with Elvis and others under different titles). This is a country song written much later by a Brit, Paul Kennerley, more of a songwriter than a performer, probably best known for once being married to Emmylou Harris and writing and playing for her in the 1980’s. According to the sleeve notes on the Dirt Farmer LP, Helm was taught this song by Kennerley in person while they were both recording a concept album in 1980 called The Legend Of Jesse James, which also featured Johnny Cash and Emmylou herself. The recording of this song has a hell of a lazy backbeat by Helm that could make any old lady swing.
Howlin’ Wolf – I Got A Woman (Sweet Woman) (1952)
Before Wolf landed on Chess and made his name as Muddy’s main competition, he was down in Memphis recording for Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. And he actually croons during a few parts on this... but don’t worry kids, the growl is in fine form. Again, this is a completely different song than the Ray Charles penned “Woman” below. No shortage of muses back then.
Ray Charles – I Got A Woman (1954)
Still the greatest.
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers – I Want You To Be My Girl (1956)
This was their next single after the big hit of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” And this isn’t like Hollywood movies where 35 year olds play high school kids. These guys were literally teenagers at the time. They didn’t sing about “Women”, but they got the girls screaming. This video has an intro by Wolfman Jack.
Elvis Presley – I Got A Woman (1956)
From his first RCA album, but it still has the band and the fire from his Sun Studio work. This wouldn’t last long. This is the Ray Charles "I Got A Woman", and I think this is the only version that can withstand the heat of Ray's recording.
Jesse Fuller - I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad) (1959)
Fuller, the one-man band “San Francisco Bay Blues” man, tries the Freudian approach. I wonder if he ever found her.
Hershel Almond – Lookin’ For A Woman (1959?)
Tough to find info about this track but it seems to be from either 59 or 60. Just another great rock and roll number lost to time.
Fats Domino – My Girl Josephine (1960)
Always liked this one by Fats. Not many girls named Josephine anymore, is there?
Clifton Chenier – I Got A Little Girl (1967)
From his “Black Snake Blues” LP. The accordion is not exactly known as being a chick magnet, but Chenier makes it work for him anyways. I got a feeling this record was played at a few parties back in the day.
Some guys have high standards:
Blind Boy Fuller & Sonny Terry – I Don’t Want No Skinny Woman (1937)
“I got a big fat woman and I can’t use no lean woman no more.”
Merle Haggard – If You Want To Be My Woman (1967)
Strangely this sounds like Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 era Dylan. From Haggard’s “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” LP.
Some guys have a different idea on the subject:
Lee Dorsey – Get Out Of My Life Woman (1966)
Another New Orleans classic written and produced by Allen Toussaint, sung by Dorsey.
Magic Sam – I Don’t Want No Woman (1967)
From Sam’s great “West Side Soul” Lp. The final word on the subject for tonight.
Aug 24, 2012
It’s that mythical city in southern Tennessee where many of the greats made their names – Johnny Cash, Sun Records, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Stax Records, Big Star, Otis Redding, Roy Orbison, Booker T & The MG’s, Carl Perkins... too many to name.
And there’s a hell of a lot of good songs about or referencing the town itself. Here’s a rundown of some of the better ones, starting with my favourite, Levon Helm's cover of Chuck Berry's "Back To Memphis" from his Ramble At The Ryman LP. Levon and his band captured the whole disparate sound of Memphis in one performance.
Levon Helm – Back To Memphis (2008 Live)
Bessie Smith – Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town (1926)
Jimmie Rodgers – Memphis Yodel (1928)
Memphis Minnie – North Memphis Blues (1930)
Hoagy Carmichael – Memphis In June (1945)
Muddy Waters – Going Back To Memphis (1966)
Bob Dylan – Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (1966)
King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew (1967)
Chuck Berry – Memphis, Tennessee (1972 Live)
Sheryl Crow – 100 Miles From Memphis (2010 Live)
Another New Orleans based band – I’m drowning in this stuff lately – who had a minor hit with this song, although it’s baffling to me it wasn’t bigger. General Johnson had a voice that broke in all the right places as you can hear on this one. Outside of Buddy Holly, Johnson’s voice might be my favourite from this era (Buddy’s plane went down two years before this came out). He later went on to the 70’s band Chairmen Of The Board.
"It Will Stand" is another song about rock and roll itself which I talked about a few posts before. It’s right up there with Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” and the Stones “It’s Only Rock and Roll” as a sort of defiant statement on the form. But with Johnson’s earnest, breaking voice this one goes a little farther out there. To hear him is to believe him. And he was right.
Here’s the other semi-hit they had (both of these Showmen songs were produced by Allen Toussaint, the Willie Dixon of New Orleans):
The Showmen - 39-21-46 (1963)
If you like General Johnson you should check out Chairmen Of The Board, a much more conventional, Motown sounding group. Their biggest hit was Give Me Just A Little More Time, but I keep going back to this one more often:
Chairmen Of The Board - Everything's Tuesday (1970)
Despite selling millions of records with Brian Johnson as lead singer since 1980, the guy always has to live in the shadow of the now legendary Bon Scott who died of “misadventure” shortly after 1979’s Highway To Hell LP. They’ve had the biggest hits of their career with Johnson, especially with his first two records Back In Black and For Those About To Rock in the early 80’s but it’s tough to follow an icon onto the stage. They flatlined commercially a little in the mid-80’s even though 1983’s Flick Of The Switch is one of the best records they’ve ever done. The last, Black Ice, from 2008, was another solid record and rumours are the guys are going to crank out at least one more sometime soon.
Here’s five hidden gems from the Brian Johnson era that were probably missed by casual fans.
1. Burnin’ Alive (1995) From the Ballbreaker LP
Classic mid-tempo, menacing AC/DC, much like the Bon-era Sin City from 1978. Some have even said this is a Johnson-era rewrite of Sin City but I think it stands on its own. I think it’s the best song on this Rick Rubin produced record.
2. Let’s Get It Up (1981) From the For Those About To Rock LP
They at least did a video for this one but it was a live version and the song never appeared regularly in the setlist on any tour after the 81-82 tour. Another mid-tempo track (sense a pattern here) where they settle into a groove that’s almost self-guiding. The empty spaces in the chords on the pre-chorus is an AC/DC hook that works every time.
Here's the live version:
3. Meltdown (2001) From the Stiff Upper Lip LP
I thought this song was a little ridiculous when I first heard it but it’s grown on me to the point where it’s my 2nd fave track on the record (the self-titled song was a big hit so I can’t include it on this list). Everything is so big on this recording and it just lopes along, skipping two steps at a time. Something about Johnson screeching “It’s a meltdown!” is both funny and awesome the whole way through. A good walking song.
4. Badlands (1983) From the Flick Of The Switch LP
I’ve featured this song on the blog before but I can’t leave it off this list. Flick Of The Switch is such a great rock and roll record and Badlands is a good example of their back to basics approach for this album (saying AC/DC once went “back to basics” is kind of funny, but it’s not really a subtle change for hardcore fans who almost universally love this album). There were no hits from this album and even the videos they shot for some of the songs took place in their rehearsal room where they just played the songs without any flash. Badlands has a classic Malcolm Young riff could melt the face off George Thorogood.
5. Landslide (1983) From the Flick Of The Switch LP
See above, but this is more of a fast boogie riff, the kind which makes Angus tear into a Chuck Berry duckwalk across the stage. You can picture him doing it in the studio if you try hard enough. His solo on this song is insane. It’s a shame they don’t play this one live.
Aug 21, 2012
Eddie Bo had a long career and you can sort of track his styles from early rock and roll/R&B to 60’s funk, but he always had that New Orleans feel handed down from Professor Longhair and Dave Bartholomew.
I found this track while compiling a bunch of songs about rock and roll. It seems rock and roll and heavy metal are the only genres that have hundreds of songs about the genre itself. It’s a practice that has died out, although the Stones have valiantly tried to keep it alive with the most recent being “You Got Me Rocking” in 1994, although that’s a bit of a cheat. It’s more of a double entendre for the dirty deed in the tradition of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” etc. AC/DC still do it unapologetically, as they do everything in their career.
This Bo song isn’t a world-beater, but it works as Saturday night music, even in 2012.
Here’s a few other Bo numbers from over the years:
Hook And Sling Part 1 (1969)
Walk That Walk (1957)
Aug 19, 2012
Nobody really knows how old this song is but the last clue was sung by convicts, recorded by travelling folklorist John Lomax at a prison in Arkansas in the 1930's. The first version I heard was this one by Cash but it first hit big with the skiffle guy Lonnie Donegan in 1955 (Donegan and the skiffle craze would go on to birth the Rolling Stones in England... jeezus, everything is connected...).
The Cash version was recorded in Memphis at Sun Studios and it sounds just like a train hitting stride, a strange counterpart to Little Walter imitating a train whistle with his harp in the Muddy Waters Band up north in Chicago around the same time.
Here's the Lonnie Donegan version from 1955:
Aug 11, 2012
A solid slab of Philadelphia soul which gets better every time you spin it. I first heard this on the Philadelphia Roots comp on the pic above. Get it if you can.
Don't miss this one either:
The People's Choice - Party Is A Groovy Thing (1975)
Here's a throwaway cover they did in '87 while recording the Pleased To Meet Me LP - the rock and roll standard Route 66. When the Replacements did covers, it was usually a mess, haphazard or an out and out joke. Not this one. Should have been on the record.
The Replacements - Route 66
The Rolling Stones - Route 66 (Live at the El Mocambo, Toronto 1977)
Chuck Berry - Route 66 (1961)
Nat King Cole - Route 66 (1946)
Aug 4, 2012
Not much more can be said about this one. Ten years before rock and roll took off, Milburn perfected it from the boogie woogie side. A desert island track.
No surprise that Chuck Berry and the Stones went after it a few years later. Chuck's version is fucking incredible and is clearly the source for the Stones cover.
Truly one of the great American songs.
Chuck Berry (1960)
Rolling Stones (1964)
Not as appreciated as his peers on Chess Records from the same era, Lenoir was forced to work in kitchens to make a living until the blues/folk revival of the 60's got him back in front of people playing and singing with that great helium tenor. His catalogue is well worth digging into. Unfortunately he didn't get past his 38th year.
Born Dead (1966)
"Lord why was I born in Mississippi,
when it's so hard to get ahead
Why was I born in Mississippi,
when it's so hard to get ahead
Every black child born in Mississippi
you know the poor child is born dead"
The kids probably don't like old singing cowboys, but that high, lonesome voice is eternally young to me.
Doesn't matter that the band can barely hang on or that McGonnigle seems to be making it up as he goes along - this one moves. One of the most shambolic early rock and roll songs ever captured on vinyl but it somehow cuts Jerry Lee Lewis at his own game.
McGonnigle, a Boston boy, was 18 when he recorded this stone classic.
More unearthly boogie woogie piano from New Orleans. Yockomo is my favourtie of his but he's probably best known for another "Don't You Know..." song, also terminally infectious.
Don't You Just Know It (1958)
Buddy was only 20 years old when he recorded this version of the great Chuck Willis ballad. Of all the greats who have done this number, Buddy's is the most stark and earnest, despite the efforts of the Crickets to smooth it out on backing vocals. When Holly really bends into the chorus and the vocals start to distort, it's as good a glimpse as any into how great Buddy could deliver a song in the studio. Of all the original rock and roll stars, Buddy was unmatched as a singer, even by early Elvis.
Here's a few other versions, including the Willis original:
Chuck Willis (1956)
Otis Redding (1965)
Roy Orbison (1958)
A one-off session with the legends. Scotty Moore was Elvis Presley's guitar player on all his great Sun cuts and beyond, as well as Keith Richard's idol growing up. Keith brought along his old man Bert to the sessions so he could meet the legendary Moore, and the whole crew (including Garth Hudson and the rest of the 90's era Band) apparently played until 4 in the morning before splitting.