With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

“When I get there she’s got incense wine and candles” July 11, 2014

Filed under: Trivia — justwilliam1959 @ 12:54 pm
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I love Rick James‘ classic funk single “Super Freak”, although perhaps not as much as Mr Baggy Trousers himself, MC Hammer did. Anyway did you know that Melvin Franklin of the Temptations provided backing vocals on “Super Freak”. Well you know now! Do you also know that Melvin is in fact Rick James‘ uncle? You know that too now!

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“I want to know who the men in the shadows are,I want to hear somebody asking them why” June 12, 2013


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This is not the first time I have posted about protest songs and I doubt that it will be the last. If you’d like to read my last protest post click here. My good friend Nick Horslen switched me on to the excellent work that one.org do; In particular a superb recent piece providing an extensive playlist of protest songs which range from the classic to the obscure. There are also some very interesting cover versions included. Click here for the protest playlist

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The protest song has been around for many years but for this post I’d like to focus on protest songs from the sixties onwards. The song in this genre that most people know is probably Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind”. The song has been covered by many people and remains a standard for buskers all over the world. The lyrics are essentially a set of questions which I am sad to say are still pertinent today. I recently watched the U2 documentary film, ‘Rattle And Hum‘ and was reminded of how powerful the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is. There is a heartfelt speech from Bono during that version where he berates Irish terrorists. This was filmed on the day the IRA murdered 11 innocent people at a remembrance day service in the town of Enniskillen in 1987.

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Whilst the early songs of the rock era, including Dylan, were rooted in folk music the fight for many causes has subsequently been taken up by almost every genre from rap to reggae and from soul to punk. I would like to focus on a few of my favourites in particular some that don’t get played too often and currently are not included in the one.org Agit 8 playlist. But before that I should mention two protest songs that I return to often; Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song

I believe that Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who wrote many classic Temptations songs for Motown were never recognised widely enough for their protest songs; The Temptations recorded “War” before Edwin Starr had a global hit with it. Whitfield and Strong also wrote “Ball Of Confusion” and “Take A Look Around”. But perhaps one of the bravest given when it was released was “Message From A Black Man” from their 1969 album ‘Puzzle People’

Many singer songwriters from Guthrie, Seeger and Dylan through to Neil Young, Billy Bragg and more recently Frank Turner have written and recorded some very strong protest songs. One of my favourites of that type is Jackson Browne‘s “Lives In The Balance”. In my opinion he was one of too few voices that were constantly critical of the Reagan regime in the 80s. This particular song focuses on America’s ongoing involvement in foreign wars which frankly they should not have been anywhere near!

My last song choice for this post is the very topical “Same Love” from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. A slow hip hop style song about being gay. In my opinion this is one of the finest rap protest songs that has been released for some time. It also helps to prove that rap can handle gay issues. It is a long way removed from the Tom Robinson Band‘s late 70s gay anthem “Glad To Be Gay” but no less powerful. If any budding songwriters are reading this and you have a protest song you’d like me to air, you know where I am. I would also love to hear from you with your own protest song suggestions.

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“The Beatles new record’s a gas” February 17, 2013


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With all the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first album, ‘Please Please Me’ back in 1963 it got me thinking again about the impact the fab four had on popular culture. I know much has been written about the Beatles from a social history point of view so I won’t be getting deep and heavy about that. But my thoughts are more around mentions of the mop tops in popular music.

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There have been some great songs that mention John, Paul, George and Ringo and to celebrate 50 years since the recording and release of ‘Please Please Me’ I thought I would mention some of those songs. Apologies in advance to Dora Bryan though as I won’t be including her ode to the band; “All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle”. The chosen songs are;

All The Young Dudes” – Mott The Hoople – for the line ‘My brother’s back at home with his Beatles and Stones, I never got it off on that revolution stuff’ I believe that this is probably the best song Bowie ever wrote.

Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” – Temptations – this was released when the band were just about still around and features them in the line ‘the Beatles new record’s a gas’

“1977” – The Clash – a summation of life in the UK in 1977. The line ‘No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones in 1977′ sums up the punk new boys.

“London Calling” – The Clash – a brilliant song that includes the line ‘Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust”

“(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” – Oasis – whilst this song doesn’t mention the Beatles it does mention a Beatles song from the ‘Revolver’ album; ‘Walking to the sound of my favorite tune tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon’. It’s no surprise that the Burnage Boys songs contain many references to their musical heroes from Liverpool.

There are plenty more songs that reference the Beatles, including solo Beatle songs that mention or reference the band. I’d love to hear what your favourites are too.

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“I wish the world were truly happy living as one” December 24, 2011


Happy Christmas dear readers and good people of the blogosphere. This is the last post in my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. It’s the 24th December and technically that means the letter Y, but I’ll throw in X and Z for free along with a couple of Motown Christmas songs. The big bearded dude in red arrives on his venison powered sleigh tomorrow. I hope that you get everything you want this Christmas and more importantly I hope that you have a really enjoyable Yule.

The first song for the letter X has been a tough one to find. But I have found one, I know hardly anything about it so if you have any information feel free to get in touch. I do feel like I’ve cheated you a little though, the song is called “Xmas Twist” although the chorus uses the proper phrase ‘Christmas Twist’. The song was released by a group calling themselves the Twisting Kings. So clearly no cynical tie-in with a popular dance craze then! The song was written by Berry Gordy and Barney Ales. Gordy was the producer for the song which was released in November 1961. It can be found on a couple of compilation albums to my knowledge; #A Motown Christmas Volume 2′  and ‘The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 1 1959-1961’ released in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

For the letter Y I have chosen a song from a superb act who haven’t yet appeared in this ABC of Motown. It’s Gladys Knight and the Pips with “You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You)”. The most memorable line up from the Pips included her brother Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight and two of her cousins; Edward Patten and William Guest. Her first pitch at fame came when she won a local TV talent show aged 7 in 1952.Gladys and the Pips were the first Motown act to record the classic song “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” which they took to number two in the US charts. In their early Motown career they were the opening act for Diana Ross and the Supremes. It is alleged that Diana had them kicked off the tour because Gladys and the Pips were far more powerful a talent and probably a very tough act to follow.  “You Need Love Like I Do” was an US hit in 1970 reaching number 25 in the Billboard charts and number 3 in the US R & B charts. It never charted in the UK. The song was another from the talented song writing partnership of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It was also recorded by the Temptations.

The final song from my ABC of Motown selection is a rather well-known album track from the Commodores who made an appearance in this Advent Calendar with the letter J on December 10th, click here to read it. The song is “Zoom” and should not be confused with the Fat Larry’s Band song of the same name. It was never released as a single in the US but made it to number 38 in the UK charts in 1978. The album it came from was released in 1977 and in the US it was called ‘Commodores’ whilst in the UK it was called ‘Zoom’. The song was written by Lionel Richie and Ronald LaPraed from the band. The album also included two other Commodores classics in “Brick House” and “Easy”. Fergie sampled “Zoom” on her ‘Duchess’ album on the track “All That I Got (The Make-Up Song)”

Finally let me wish you a Happy Christmas once again and to finish please enjoy two of my favourite Motown Christmas songs from the Jackson 5 and then Stevie Wonder.

Incidentally if you’d like to know the songs that came before in the ABC of Motown Advent Calendar, here they are;

  1. ABC – Jackson 5
  2. Bernadette – Four Tops
  3. Cloud Nine – Temptations
  4. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) – Frank Wilson
  5. Endless Love – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
  6. Farewell Is A Lonely Sound – Jimmy Ruffin
  7. Gotta See Jane – R Dean Taylor
  8. How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You – Marvin Gaye
  9. I’m In A Different World – Four Tops
  10. Just To Be Close To You – Commodores
  11. Keep On Truckin’ – Eddie Kendricks
  12. Let’s Get Serious – Jermaine Jackson
  13. Money – Barrett Strong
  14. Needle In A Haystack – Velvelettes
  15. Ooo Baby Baby – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
  16. Pops We Love You – Various
  17. Quicksand – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
  18. Rockin’ Robin – Michael Jackson
  19. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  20. Take Me Girl I’m Ready – Junior Walker & the All Stars
  21. Up The Ladder To The Roof – Supremes
  22. The Night – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (this is the only one based on artist name rather than song)
  23. War – Edwin Starr
 

“Induction then destruction, who wants to die?” December 23, 2011


Ho Ho Ho we’re nearly there, you’d better not be bad, you’d better not dare! It’ s December 23rd and Day 23 of my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. Which brings us to the letter W. This was a tough letter for me I had four songs in mind before I finally selected a song with a real message, it’s “War” by Mr Edwin Starr.

Edwin was born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Tennessee in 1942 and sadly died aged just 61 in 2003 at his home in Bramcote in Nottinghamshire. I never knew he lived in England, but apparently he moved here in 1973. Ironically his death came just a couple of weeks after the start of the war in Iraq. He started his singing career in the late 50s with a doo wop group called the Future Tones. He later signed to the Ric-Tic label where he had his first big hit with “Agent Double ‘O’ Soul’ in 1965 which reached number 21 in the US charts. He became a Motown artist in 1968 when Motown took over the Ric-Tic label.

“War” started life as a Temptations album track, but Starr’s version was his biggest hit by far when it was released in 1970 hitting the top of the US charts and going to number three in the UK. Motown and the Temptations were very reluctant to release such a controversial song by one of their most popular acts. But Norman Whitfield who wrote the song with Barrett Strong kept pushing for its release. Eventually Motown offered a compromise and said that it could be released if Whitfield recorded it with another act. He chose Edwin Starr who was seen by many as a second string Motown artist. But for many others, including me, he was seen as a fantastically powerful vocalist.

Edwin made the song his own and it became his signature song. Many other artists (including the Jam, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen) have covered it but none have reached the power and impact of Starr’s version. The Undisputed Truth supplied backing vocals on the song and once again those Motown stalwarts the Funk Brothers played the music in another excellent Whitfield production. Incidentally the Funk Brothers also played on the original version by the Temptations.

Enjoy Edwin’s version followed by a Baby Bollox remix of the Temptations original and some covers of this great song, ending with a live perfprmance featuring both Springsteen and Starr. It’s sad to think that the message still resonates today more than 40 years after it was released.

 

“In old Temptations’ rain, I’m duckin’” December 11, 2011


Hasn’t time flown? We’re already at 11th December and we’ve arrived at the letter K in my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar for 2011. We need to truck on for just a little while before Christmas so to help with that journey how about the marvellous “Keep On Truckin’” from the magnificent Mr Eddie Kendricks. The song was an US number one and a UK number 18 in 1973.

Eddie spent a several years with the Temptations and finally left in part because he was allegedly unhappy with the late 60s psychedelic direction the group was taking. The last Temptations hit single that he appeared on was the sublime “Just My Imagination”. It is also alleged that another 1971 hit for the Temptations “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” was directed at Kendricks and another former Temptation; David Ruffin.

“Keep On Truckin'” was written by Leonard Caston, Jr, Anita Poree and Frank Wilson. (You may recall that Frank was featured in this Advent Calendar on December 4th. Had he lived he would have been 72 in six days. But sadly he succumbed to lung cancer aged just 52 in 1992.

 

“As you board the train, you feel the pain That starts as you depart, yeah” December 6, 2011


Can you believe that it’s now less than 20 days until the big bearded weirdy in red arrives? Yes it’s December 6th and time to rip off todays flimsy cardboard flap on my Advent Calendar which regular readers know has an ABC of Motown theme in 2011. Today is celebrating the letter F in the Motown lexicon and it’s a Jimmy Ruffin classic “Farewell Is A Lonely Sound” which reached the UK top 10 in 1970. Like many of his contemporaries he is the son of a minister. He is also the older brother of the sadly departed David Ruffin, formerly a member of the classic Temptations line-up. Neither of them are related to reggae singer Bruce Ruffin. This was a popular misconception in the 1970s; well certainly to me and my teenage friends!

Jimmy and David began their careers by singing gospel songs in church. Jimmy had a stint in the US Army and when he returned home in 1964 he was asked to audition for a place in the Temptations. Which he may well have got had his brother not auditioned as well. David sadly died aged just 50 in 1991 after an alleged accidental cocaine overdose.

Jimmy is now 72 and his 10-year-old granddaughter may well be on the verge of a successful career as a singer too. Aiyana-Lee Anderson recorded a song “As One” earlier this year to raise money for victims of the Japanese earthquake. Aiyana-Lee has been given the chance to record an album in LA as a result of the on-line success of “As One”. She lives with her moth in North London (Kingsbury) and attends the Sylvia Young Theatre School.

 

 
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