Swedish pop giants Abba scored their second UK number 1 in 1975 with “Mamma Mia”. The song was taken from the self titled ‘ABBA’ released the same year. It also hit the top spot in Australia, Ireland and Germany. Many of you will be familiar with it as it provided the title to the mega successful film musicals; ‘Mamma Mia: The Movie’ and ‘Mamma: Mia: Here We Go Again’. But did you know that the song was never intended to be a single and more importantly Abba had originally not planned to record it at all. The song was offered to the UK’s Brotherhood Of Man who won the Eurovision Song Contest two years after Abba. But Brotherhood Of Man turned it down, I wonder if they regret that? I also wonder what the stage musical and film musicals based around Abba’s music might have been called if Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid had not recorded it. The opening of the song features an African version of the xylophone known as a Marimba, an instrument used extensively by Earth, Wind and Fire in the 70s.
Talking of 70s soul and funk, Abba were apparently massive Stevie Wonder fans and they utilised and slightly reworked the bass line from Wonder’s “I Wish” on their sixth UK number one “The Name Of The Game”. In 1997 the Fugees sampled that Abba bass part on “Rumble In The Jungle”, a top 3 UK hit, which was the first time Abba had ever allowed one of their songs to be sampled.
Apparently the harmonica is the world’s best-selling music instrument. Who would have thought that such a small humble tool would be that successful? How many of you own a harmonica? Of those who do own one then how many of you can actually play it? While you’re thinking about that take a listen to ten of my favourite harmonica featuring tunes.
Back in 1984 the first ever UK number one single to be written, produced and performed by the same artist hit the top of the chart. Sadly it was a song that I really don’t care for, “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder. However Stevie has written, produced and performed so many brilliant songs I am happy to forgive him that one. If only that song had not reached the chart summit then the first single to top the chart that was written, produced and performed by the same artist would have been “A Different Corner” by the late, great George Michael. A far, far better song in my opinion.
Nag Champa have just released their first EP and this Yorkshire based British band produce authentic sounding jazz. “Authentic” did I really say that? It translates as bloody good jazz music! I believe that they are all students at the Leeds College of Music. Back in the olden days as my eclectic music taste developed I was very much into jazz funk. As a result I explored the music of a lot of jazz artists; Norman Connors, Roy Ayers and Herbie Hancock to name but a few.
Nag Champa seem to draw their influences from a lot of jazz greats, including some of those that I have come across before. The opening track on the EP, “Slow Me Down” builds up to a very funky workout reminiscent of the Crusaders. Maya Kally’s vocals are both easy on the ear and soulful at the same time. The band are very tight, but I would like to see them play in a live setting to see how well that recorded excellence translates in the live setting. I do have it on good authority though that they are even better live.
Is there a strong market for jazz music these days? Of course there is and the success of likes of Gregory Porter and Jamie Cullum are proof of this. Nag Champa take on Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” on this EP and they pull it off brilliantly. They handle a cover just the way I believe covers should be handled, by making them very different from the original and they take the song in a new direction. “Daydreamer” has a nice dreamy feel of chilled but funky jazz and along with the previously mentioned “Slow Me Down” has lyrics written by singer Maya Kally. I also love the synth and keyboard wig out towards the end of this track which is very Herbie Hancockesque.
If you like jazz or jazz funk then I am sure that you will love Nag Champa. If you don’t see yourself as a jazz fan check them out anyway, I don’t think that you will be disappointed. For a first release this is an accomplished set of songs and performances which highlights great potential for bigger things in the future. Definitely a band to watch out for. Check them out on BandCamp (where you can buy the EP) and Facebook. Can we see them at Live In Leeds and the Apollo Festival in York next year please?
The other day I decided to take a quick count of all the artists in my album collection where I have at least 10 albums by a single artist. I included CDs, LPs and cassettes (although the only non compilation cassettes that I have are David Bowie bootlegs). Oh and while I’m on bootleg recordings obviously I have included them whether they are live, studio outtakes or simply unreleased stuff. I have not included digital recordings. I was surprised to find that there are 4o artists where I have at least ten releases by them. The list is below, (artist followed by the number of albums) there are no real surprises for me, are you surprised at any on this list? Have you ever done anything similar? I have also added a song from each of the top ten artists 🙂
David Bowie 141
Bob Dylan 30 Johnny Nash 26 Bruce Springsteen 26
Neil Young 25
Elton John 19
Bob Marley 19
Rod Stewart 18
Pink Floyd 17
REM 17 Elvis Costello 15
The Eels 15
Paul Weller 15
Ryan Adams 14 Led Zeppelin 14
The Clash 13 Elvis Presley 13
Kate Bush 12
Lou Reed 12
Stevie Wonder 12
Tom Waits 11
ZZ Top 11
Jeff Buckley 10
Julian Cope 10
Johnny Cash 10 Michael Jackson 10
John Lennon 10 Manic Street Preachers 10
Kylie Minogue 10 Iggy Pop 10
Rolling Stones 10
Frank Turner 10
The Who 10
I once again had the honour of being on the Avalanche Party cheap list. It’s a badge I wear with pride! Anyway there’ll be more about Avalanche Party later.
First up tonight were Blind Eye and I think that it would be more than fair to say they were miles better than the similarly named and now defunct, Beady Eye. This band have funk, rhythm, talent and enthusiasm in equal measures. Their choice of cover versions suggests that they know their rock history or that their parents have great record collections. They played very good versions of Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” which was more in line with the Jeff Beck version of the song. They also gave us a storming version of the Beatles “Come Together“. But Blind Eye are more than just a covers band, their own songs are very good too. They seem very young but I think they have great potential. This century’s Cream one day maybe?
Now this blog (i.e. me) has raved about Avalanche Party before and I will continue to do so now. I have a question for promoters, festival organisers and their ilk; why are this band not bigger? Why have you not given them the opportunity to play larger stages? Could they handle that transition? Of course they could! Avalanche Party rock like proverbial fuck! The band was pretty damned good when I saw them last year and now they are even better. A really tight and well rehearsed band with powerful playing and great songs. “Mountain” has classic rock potential and their new single “Money” is superb and has a great lyrical play on some very familiar words from a rock ‘n’ roll standard. Have you seen Avalanche Party yet? If not I want to know why. I don’t want feeble excuses, your reasons for not having seen them should be accompanied by a letter from your parents. I mean you really do need to see them even if it means having to sell your Granny!
Tonight’s head-liners were the Voyeurs who recently signed a deal with Heavenly Records. They are a band who probably would not exist if there had been no Velvet Underground. The keyboard player even sported a Nico T Shirt. They are masters of drone rock and I do mean that in the nicest possible way. They suffered some technical problems with keyboards and the tiny audience would have put off many bands. But the Voyeurs took it in their stride. I don’t smoke dope, but if I did then the Voyeurs would be a great soundtrack for imbibing the herb. I would love to see them on one of the smaller stages at Reading this year. I would definitely enjoy them in that kind of setting. Have any of you seen them?
As regular readers probably know I really can’t be arsed to take video and pictures with my phone at gigs, I prefer to enjoy the experience. This means that none of the pictures or films shown here were shot or taken by me!
According to Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, his city’s artists can claim more UK number one singles per head of population than any other city in the world. There have been 57 so far, including 17 from the Beatles. Let’s stick to cities and not smaller towns and villages though, otherwise Westlife might put Sligo on top of the list with their 14 UK number one singles. Incidentally I wonder how many number one singles London has had? Or any other city for that matter.
Joe was writing in Q Magazine to counter London Mayor Boris Johnson‘s ridiculous claim that London ‘made’ the Beatles. Surely it was Liverpool and possibly a degree of Hamburg that ‘made’ the Fab Four? What do you think of Boris’ comments? I think he is a complete arse!
Here are those Liverpool acts and their UK number ones;
14 March 1953 : Lita Roza – “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?”
25 January 1957 : Frankie Vaughan – “The Garden of Eden”
14 February 1958 : Michael Holliday – “The Story of My Life”
29 January 1960 : Michael Holliday – “Starry Eyed”
7 December 1961 : Frankie Vaughan – “Tower of Strength”
11 April 1963: Gerry and the Pacemakers – “How Do You Do It?”
2 May 1963: The Beatles – “From Me to You”
20 June 1963 : Gerry and the Pacemakers – “I Like It”
8 August 1963: The Searchers – “Sweets for My Sweet”
22 August 1963: Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas – “Bad to Me”
12 September 1963 : The Beatles – “She Loves You”
31 October 1963 : Gerry and the Pacemakers – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
28 November 1963 : The Beatles – “She Loves You”
12 December 1963 : The Beatles – “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
30 January 1964 : The Searchers – “Needles and Pins”
27 February 1964 : Cilla Black – “Anyone Who Had a Heart”
19 March 1964 : Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas – “Little Children”
2 April 1964 : The Beatles – “Can’t Buy Me Love”
7 May 1964 : The Searchers – “Don’t Throw Your Love Away”
28 May 1964 : Cilla Black – “You’re My World”
23 July 1964: The Beatles – “A Hard Day’s Night”
10 December 1964 : The Beatles – “I Feel Fine”
22 April 1965 : The Beatles – “Ticket to Ride”
5 August 1965: The Beatles – “Help!”
30 September 1965 : Ken Dodd – “Tears”
16 December 1965 : The Beatles – “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out”
23 June 1966: The Beatles – “Paperback Writer”
18 August 1966: The Beatles – “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby”
19 July 1967 : The Beatles – “All You Need Is Love”
6 December 1967: The Beatles – “Hello, Goodbye”
27 March 1968 : The Beatles – “Lady Madonna”
11 September 1968 : The Beatles – “Hey Jude”
11 December : 1968 The Scaffold – “Lily the Pink”
23 April 1969 : The Beatles with Billy Preston – “Get Back”
11 June 1969: The Beatles – “The Ballad of John and Yoko”
30 January 1971 : George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”
3 December 1977 : Wings : “Mull of Kintyre”
20 December 1980 : John Lennon – “(Just Like) Starting Over”
10 January 1981 : John Lennon – “Imagine”
7 February 1981 : John Lennon – “Woman”
24 April 1982 : Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder – “Ebony and Ivory”
14 January 1984 : Paul McCartney – “Pipes of Peace”
28 January 1984 : Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”
16 June 1984: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Two Tribes”
8 December 1984 : Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “The Power of Love”
9 March 1985 : Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”
15 June 1985: The Crowd – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
29 August 1987 : Ferry Aid – “Let it Be”
20 May 1989 : Various artists – “Ferry Cross the Mersey”
22 July 1989 : Sonia – “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You”
26 May 1996 : Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds – “Three Lions”
14 June 1998: Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds : “Three Lions ’98”
March 26 2000: Melanie C featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes – “Never Be the Same Again”
August 13 2000: Melanie C – “I Turn to You”
February 4 2001: Atomic Kitten – “Whole Again”
July 29 2001: Atomic Kitten – “Eternal Flame”
January 20 2002: George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”
April 28 2002: Sugababes – “Freak Like Me”
August 18 2002: Sugababes – “Round Round”
September 1 2002 : Atomic Kitten – “The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)”
October 19 2003 : Sugababes – “Hole in the Head”
September 30 2007 : Sugababes – “About You Now”
Christmas number one 2012 : The Justice Collective – “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”
It’s December 16th and therefore day 16 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts. I’m enjoying the music in these advent posts and I hope that you are too. So on to two songs with the number sixteen in their title.
The first song for today is from Ernest Jennings Ford who was better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford. The song is about working in a coal mine and it is called “Sixteen Tons” it reached number 1 in the US charts in 1955. The song has been recorded by many artists; including Stevie Wonder, the Redskins, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley, Robbie Williams, Dandy Warhols, Tom Morello and the Eels. Whilst Elvis Presley never recorded the song he did play it live when touring the US in 1955. The Clash had the Ford version of the song played just before they came on stage during their ‘Sixteen Tons’ US tour in 1980.
The second for today features an artist that appeared as part of one of his earlier bands on day 7 of my advent posts. It’s Jack White with a track taken from his first solo album, ‘Blunderbuss’ released in 2012. White says that the inspiration for the song came from his daughter. When Jack asked her what she would like as a snack she said sixteen saltine crackers, he said she could have three. The singles B Side was a cover of U2’s “Love Is Blindness“. The single was sadly largely ignored in the UK reaching only number 129 in the UK singles chart. The album went to number one in the UK though and also reached the top in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and the USA.
Apologies in advance, but this came to me via amail earlier today and I couldn’t resist passing it on 🙂
Stevie Wonder is playing his first gig in Tokyo and the place is absolutely packed to the rafters. In a bid to break the ice with his new audience, He asks if anyone would like him to play a request. A little old Japanese man jumps out of his seat in the first row and shouts at the top of his voice “Play a Jazz chord! Play a jazz chord!” Amazed that this guy knows about the jazz influences in Stevie’s varied career, the blind impresario starts to play an E minor scale and then goes into a difficult jazz melody for about 10 minutes. When he finishes the whole place goes wild. The little old man jumps up again and shouts “No, no, play a Jazz chord, play a Jazz chord”. A bit irritated by this, Stevie, being the professional that he is, dives straight into a jazz improvisation with his band around the B flat minor chord and really tears! the place apart. The crowd goes wild with this impromptu show of his technical expertise. The little old man jumps up again. “No, no. Play a Jazz chord, play a jazz chord”. Well now truly irritated that this little guy doesn’t seem to appreciate his playing ability. Stevie says to him from the stage “OK jerk. You get up here and do it!” The little old man climbs up onto the stage, takes hold of the mike and starts to sing….. “A jazz chord to say I ruv you…
Last year I published a post about Bruce Springsteen having written the song “Hungry Heart” for the Ramones. Click here to read that post. I read recently of some other songs that were supposedly written with other artists in mind.
First there are two from the Eurythmics. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox wrote “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)” for Stevie Wonder. Stevie never recorded it although he did supply the harmonica break on the song. The band originally had Tina Turner in mind to join them on “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” but she allegedly felt it was too feminist and the gig became Aretha Franklin’s. Seriously? Tina thought it was too feminist?
Finally, and this one surprises me assuming it’s true; Prince wrote “Purple Rain” hoping to get Stevie Nicks to record it. Maybe it’s not too late. If you’re reading this Stevie Nicks (highly unlikely I know) then let’s hear it! I would love to hear of any ‘written for others’ stories that you might have.