With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

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

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – Grand Opera House, York – Tuesday January 24th 2017 January 26, 2017


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Almost a year ago Billy Bragg and Joe Henry travelled from Chicago to Los Angeles, a journey of nearly 3,000 miles where they got deep into the largely American tradition of railroad songs. Their new album resulted from this trip as they stopped off at famous and yet dying stations en route to record. In America the aeroplane has effectively killed off long distance rail travel. As Billy and Joe informed us, it is no longer to get a passenger train to Nashville. They played two sets tonight. The first had both showcasing songs from the album and ended with a few solo songs from Joe Henry. The second started with some solo tunes from Billy Bragg and then finished with the two of them singing together.

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The show kicked off with “Railroad Bill” a chugging little traditional tune. My favourites from the joint part of the first set were “John Henry” a brilliant traditional song with a great story in the lyric. They did not confine themselves to old traditional tunes though, there was also a marvellous arrangement of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”. I had never seen this as a railway song, but listening to it at the gig and later it clearly is. The stories that Joe and Billy told between the songs were at times as entertaining as the tunes themselves. Both of them share an encyclopaedic knowledge of and passion for music and that makes the whole performance so meaningful.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry perform live at the 2016 Non-COMMvention in Philadelphia.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry perform live at the 2016 Non-COMMvention in Philadelphia.

I must confess that I knew little about Joe Henry before tonight, but I am most definitely a fan now. His own songs are incredibly good, especially “Trampoline” and “After The War”. But what really blew myself and my beautiful wife Catherine (a.k.a. Catwoman) away was his stunning cover of Allen Toussaint‘s “Freedom For The Stallion”. Joe was a close friend of the late, great Mr Toussaint which made this even more poignant. Williambloke took the stage after a brief interval to open the second set and he was on his usual top form politically. To showcase that he opened with a recently written take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin'”. He added “….back” to the end of the title and the new lyrics are a very clever and very effective dig at the new orange president in the USA. Billy covered and Anais Mitchell song called “Why We Build The Wall” and that is one of the most thought-provoking songs that I have heard in a long while. He also did some of his own songs; “Between The Wars” and “Accident Waiting To Happen”

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After that Billy and Joe came back together for some more railway tunes and stories. This included covers of Carter Family and Hank Williams songs “Railroading On The Great Divide” and “Lonesome Whistle”. There were also two Leadbelly covers, first with “Rock Island Line” which most people in the UK recall as a Lonnie Donegan song. The second of the Leadbelly songs was “Midnight Special” a song that I have heard many, many times but I never knew any of the history of it. Apparently it has its roots in the story of an US prison which was close to a point on the track where trains took a turn. If this happened at night the light of the train would scan across the prison and it was said that the prisoner who was bathed in that light would be the next one to be given parole. Now I don’t know whether that actually happened but it is a great story.

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Mr Bragg and Mr Henry left the stage briefly before returning for the obligatory encore. “Gentle On My Mind” a song made famous was first. This is yet another song that I never saw as a railroad song until tonight. Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” was nicely arranged and played. The show closed with a magnificent Woody Guthrie cover from his dust bowl years; “Ramblin’ Round”. This in many ways was more of a relaxing show than a rousing and loud one. But I bloody loved it and I urge you to go and see Billy and Joe if you get the chance, or at least get yourself a copy of their ‘Shine A Light’ album.

 

“I throw out any shit I want and no one trumps that card” November 8, 2016


A US ELECTION SPECIAL POST!

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Just in case we wake up to an orange bewigged world on Wednesday as Donald becomes US President I felt I had to run an appropriate post. America please vote sensibly tomorrow, please do not abstain. The fate of the world may rest on your vote, I hope that we can trust you to do the right thing. Look at it this way, it is not an election it is an IQ test. In case you need any help in passing that test let me tell you that the answer is NOT Donald Trump. The only good thing about Trump winning will be that it would make the UK referendum vote to leave Europe looking far less stupid, that is no good reason to vote for a lying, misogynist, racist, arrogant arsehole. Rant over!

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Here are a few songs which fit the bill, the mood and sum up my thoughts on the orange skinned idiot that is Trumpzilla!

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“And up ahead’s another town that I’ll go walking through with the rain in my shoes, searching for you” April 17, 2015


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Did you ever wonder why Elvis‘ home was called Graceland? Well it was named after the original owner SE Toof’s daughter who was called Grace. It also has the honour of being the second most visited private residence in the United States outside the White House. Really? Come on, surely the White House is only technically a private residence, right?

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“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with this blasphemy” January 15, 2014


The+Heavy+heavy2016webThe Heavy are a British band from Bath. They have been around a while but haven’t had massive success yet, although two of their three albums have made it into the US top 200. Hopefully they may now be on the verge of greater success after Guinness have chosen to use their 2012 single “What Makes A Good Man?” as a soundtrack to their new advert set in the Congo.

guinness sapeursThe advert is another Guinness advert to focus on real people. This time it’s the Sapeurs of Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, who are the stars. These are everyday working men who transform themselves into sartorial gods in the evening. Check out the advert and then the full song below.

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“Where did my baby go? Who’s gonna mend my rainbow?” – Advent day 24 December 24, 2013


Number 24This is it folks, we’re nearly there, it’s Christmas Eve and Santa has started his delivery schedule. I hope that none of you are on his naughty list! So let’s open the penultimate cardboard flap on the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent calendar shall we? It’s 24th December which means you’ll get two songs with the number 24 in their title. But today will be a little different from all my other advent posts this year as both come from the same artist. Who’d have thought that one artist would have two songs with 24 in the title? Well there is such an artist and his name is Gene Pitney.

Gene+Pitney+GeneThe first song from Gene today is one that I’m sure most of you know, it’s “24 Hours From Tulsa“. The tune was a number 5 hit in the UK in 1963, It reached number 17 in the US and also made the top 5 in Australia and number 6 in Canada. In my head I always thought that this song was a UK number one. But Mr Pitney didn’t top the UK chart until his duet with Marc Almond on “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” in 1989. That was 28 years after his first UK hit. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote “24 Hours From Tulsa” and it has been covered by Dusty Springfield and Jay And The Americans to name but two.

pitneyThe second Gene Pitney song in today’s post is “24 Sycamore”. This was a European only release from 1973 when it reached number 34 in the UK chart. Pitney was also a successful songwriter and among the hits he wrote were; “Rubber Ball” (Bobby Vee), “He’s A Rebel” (The Crystals) and “Hello Mary Lou” (Ricky Nelson). Sadly Gene Pitney passed away in 2006 but he lives on through his music.

 

“Come up off your colour chart, I know where you’re comin’ from” December 23, 2013


images“Call Me”, Blondie’s big hit from the ‘American Gigolo‘ film which starred Richard Gere in 1980 went to number one in three countries; the USA, Canada and the UK. It was also included on the band’s ‘Autoamerican‘ album. The writing credit goes to Giorgio Moroder and Debbie Harry. However the song was originally not earmarked for Blondie; Giorgio Moroder had written the instrumental track for the ‘American Gigolo’ soundtrack but had initially wanted to give it to Stevie Nicks off of Fleetwood Mac. I wonder how that would have turned out? I reckon that it would have been pretty good!

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“None of them received a heroes welcome” – Advent day 19 December 19, 2013


slide_19_2087154aDefinitely on the home straight now, we’re on the 19th December. So day 19 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem Advent posts brings two songs with the number 19 in their title. Can you guess what the f-f-f-f-first one is going to be?

Paul+HardcastleI’ll put you out of your misery the first tune is Paul Hardcastle‘s “19” which was his fifth solo single. It went to number one in the UK in 1985 and made the top spot in Ireland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Italy. It was also number one on the US Dance charts. Hardcastle was inspired to compose “19” after watching a documentary about the Vietnam war called ‘Vietnam Requiem‘. he was shocked that the average age of the US combat soldier killed in Vietnam was 19. That was his age when he saw the documentary. The song may have performed better in the US had it received more airplay. It stalled at number 15 in the Billboard charts after many US radio stations refused to play it as they considered the song to be anti-American. Hardcastle has always denied this and I believe he is right. He is quoting statistics. Although the average age of 19 statistic has been challenged and various sources have suggested that between 20 and 23 are more realistic. That is still bloody young though! Paul Hardcastle’s 1986 single “The Wizard” became the theme tune to Top Of The Pops from April 1986 to September 1991. He also produced Rory Bremner‘s parody recording of “19”; “N-N-Nineteen Not Out” which was released under the name the Commentators and reached number 13 in the UK charts in 1985.

1349963354063_1483409The second song on day 19 comes from those ancient geezers the Strolling Bones, well that’s what they look like these days right? I am talking of course about the Rolling Stones with their 1965 UK and US Billboard number two hit “19th Nervous Breakdown” It broke a run of five consecutive UK number ones for the band that stretched from April 1964 to September 1965. Those five songs were; “It’s All Over Now”, “Little Red Rooster”, “The Last Time”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get Off Of My Cloud”. The number 19 is an important number in Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower Series‘ and this song is referenced a few times within those tales. The song has been covered by the Standells and the Wedding Present. On the US TV show Saturday Night Live in 2012 Mick Jagger performed the song with the Foo Fighters.

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“Spike heels make a hole in a life boat, drifting away when I’m talking and laughing as we float” – Advent day 16 December 16, 2013


16It’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.

tennesseeeerniefordThe 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.

Jack White took over the cover of the May 2012 issue of Interview magazine-815282The 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.

 

“When the ink starts to itch, then the black will turn to red” – Advent day 13 December 13, 2013


13-StarWarsFriday 13th December, one step closer to Christmas and a fabulous day unless you are triskaidekaphobic. So on with the show and today that show comes to you courtesy of two iconic music legends. One from the US and one from the UK. One is sadly no longer with us and the other is very much alive.

johnny-cash-022112-doubleFirst up it’s the now departed Man In Black, Johnny Cash. The track I have chosen comes from the first of the albums that Cash recorded with Rick Rubin; ‘American Recordings‘ released in 1994. The song was written for Johnny by Glenn Danzig and it is called “Thirteen”. It took Danzig just twenty minutes to write the song. The album won a Best Contemporary Folk Album award at the 1994 Grammys. Cash joined the US Air Force in 1950 and for a time his role was to intercept morse code messages made by the Russian military. Apparently he was the first US radio operator to learn of the death of Joseph Stalin. The Cash family line could be traced back to 11th century Scotland.

Oct-Mir 33The second song for today comes from that spikey, scouse minstrel Declan McManus who most of you know as Elvis Costello. The title of that song is “Thirteen Steps Lead Down” it is taken from 1994′ s ‘Brutal Youth‘ album. This was the first album that Elvis had recorded with the Attractions for eight years. The song was released as the lead track of an EP; the “Thirteen Steps Lead Down EP” which included three other tracks. Those were, “We Despise You”, “Basement Kiss” and “Puppet Girl”. Did you know that the backing band on Costello’s first album ‘My Aim Is True’ were called Clover and that they went on to form the nucleus of Huey Lewis and the News? Well you do now. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr Costello play live in June this year and he was brilliant.

 

“You ask how much I need you, must I explain?” – Advent day 12 December 12, 2013


5978003639_50e93ae9fbI’m getting just a little bit more excited now it is the 12th of December after all. In keeping with this years With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts I have two diametrically opposed songs for you today. But obviously two that have the number twelve in their titles.

250px-Johnny_NashFirst up is the timeless song “Twelfth Of Never” which was initially recorded by Johnny Mathis in 1957. He apparently didn’t like the song and it was demoted to the B Side of “Chances Are”. The song has been recorded by many, many artists since then. The Mathis version made it to number 9 in the US charts and Donny Osmond took it to number one in the UK and number 8 in the USA in 1973. The list of cover versions is almost endless and includes; Nina Simone, Barry Gibb, Cliff Richard, Tammy Wynette, Chi-Lites, Glen Campbell, Cher, Dolly Parton, Roger Whittaker, Barry Manilow, Andy Williams, Olivia Newton John, Hank Marvin and Jeff Buckley. Jeff’s version can be found on the Legacy edition of ‘Live At The Sin E’ and remains very faithful to the Nina Simone version of the song. The regular readers among you will know that I am a big fan of Texan crooner Johnny Nash. In fact I would go as far as saying that his singing voice is my favourite voice ever. Anyway I haven’t posted about Mr Nash for quite a while so I thought I would use his version of the “Twelfth Of Never” taken from his 1968 album ‘Soul Folk’.

strokesThe second song today flows from the Julian Casablancas post from yesterday. It is “12:51” by the band that Julian is a big part of; the Strokes. The song was written by Mr Casablancas and was the first single released from the bands second album ‘Room On Fire’ in 2003. The song made it to number 7 in the UK and reached the top 40 in Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden. The songs original title was “Supernova”. The video for the song was directed by Roman Ford Coppola, the son of Francis Ford Coppola and the cousin of Nicolas Cage. It has a theme that is very reminiscent of the ‘Tron’ the 1982 movie. When the band played a number of Japanese dates to support the release of the ‘Room On Fire’ album in 2003 they included a cover of the Frank Sinatra classic written by Paul Anka “My Way”, only they sang it with Japanese lyrics!

 

 
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