Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

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The Guardian’s 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear concludes with their selection of party tunes. This time I hadn’t heard nearly half of the songs, but I’ve included five below that I tracked down. The complete list would make a good playlist for any party and would be sure to get people out on the dance floor. I’m a bit late with this post as I’ve been celebrating the Irish rugby team’s victory this weekend

Spike Jones was an American musician and bandleader whose band performed parodies of contemporary hits and humorous ditties from the 1930s through the 1950s. Cocktails For Two started out as a romantic number before Jones and co got their hands on it. They add lots of jokey instruments to it to create a version that did not make its original author too happy

Cocktails for Two – Spike Jones

I was fortunate enough to see Richie Havens perform twice in concert. Havens opened Woodstock in 1969 and still continues to perform and record. He has a wonderful voice, a unique percussive style and an unusual way of playing the guitar. Going Back to My Roots was written by Lamont Dozier and was a hit for the band Odyssey in 1981

Going Back to My Roots – Richie Havens

The Specials were an English ska band who formed in Coventry in 1977. In their short-lived career they had a number of hit singles, including Ghostown, a number one in 1981. Nite Klub appears on their debut album and was also the B-side of their version of Rudy, A Message to You

Nite Klub – The Specials

The Cramps were part of the New York punk scene in the late 70s, blending punk rock and rockabilly to form their own unique take on the genre. Over the years, the only two constant members have been Poison Ivy on guitar and Lux Interior on vocals, until Interior’s death in February of this year. Drug Train was a 1980 single and seems to recall elements of Night Train by James Brown

Drug Train – The Cramps

Manu Dibango is a saxophonist from the Cameroon whose style of music drew on jazz, funk and traditional Cameroon music. His Soul Makossa from 1972 was popularised in the US by New York DJs and covered by numerous artists as the original was unavailable at the time. The word Makossa is Cameroon dialect for dance and the song has been sampled frequently on hip-hop and dance records ever since

Soul Makossa – Manu Dibango

1000 songs everyone must hear

Party songs: part seven of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 51 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 162

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

The penultimate day of The Guardian’s 1000 Song Everyone Must Hear features songs about life and death. As usual, I hadn’t heard over forty of them but, unusually for me, I was only able to track down a handful of these.

Bertie by Kate Bush is not a tribute to Ireland’s former Taoiseach, but a song for her son. It appears on her double album, Aerial. I like a lot of Ms Bush’s earlier stuff, but I’ve only given this album a few spins, so I missed out on this one. I must check it out again

Bertie – Kate Bush

Chris Difford was one half of the singing/songwriting partnership that made up that quintessentially English pop band, Squeeze. I’ve always had a preference for Glenn Tilbrook’s vocals, but I quite like Difford’s voice on this one. I always liked Squeeze’s lyrics and that’s also true of this track from The Last Temptation of Chris (2008)

Fat as a Fiddle – Chris Difford

Dress Sexy at My Funeral is a nice piece of advice from the Bill Callahan-led American band Smog. I would not be too upset if this happened at my ultimate going-away party. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would go down too well with the rest of the villagers

Dress Sexy at My Funeral – Smog

Irma Thomas was a New Orleans soul singer who never became as famous as her contemporaries such as Aretha Franklin. I like her voice and am a fan of songs like It’s Raining and Ruler of My Heart. Wish Someone Would Care was a single from 1964

Wish Someone Would Care – Irma Thomas

Apologies for posting a reggae tune for the second day running, but the weather in Ireland has been unseasonably warm and sunny. I always like to play a bit of reggae as it goes with this type of weather and reminds me of my time in Jamaica. Jamaica is also the home of The Congos and it’s from their 1977 album, Heart of the Congos

Fisherman – The Congos

1000 songs everyone must hear

Life and death: 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 34 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 131

Fight the Power

Sit on This!

The Guardian continues its excellent series, 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear, with protest songs and political songs. Unsurprisingly, the most common themes represented are songs about opposition to war and about race relations. I had not heard over forty of the songs on the list. I managed to track down half of those and here are five that I particularly enjoyed.

(What Did I Too to Be So) Black and Blue is Louis Armstrong’s version of a song by Fats Waller, whose best known songs were Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose. Waller’s songs were mostly humorous in tone, but this is darker and this is particularly true of Satchmo’s version from 1929

(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue? – Louis Armstrong

Burning Spear is the name of a reggae band fronted by Winston Rodney, who was born in Saint Anne’s Bay, Jamaica, also Bob Marley’s birthplace. It was also the birthplace of Marcus Garvey, a very important figure in Jamaican culture and history. Garvey is considered a prophet in the Rastafarian religion and the band titled their 1975 album after him. Slavery Days is the second track on that album

Slavery Days – Burning Spear

Trouble Every Day is a critique of TV news in late 1960s America. It appears on Freak Out, the debut album from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Zappa never lost his political edge and twenty years later he would be involved in a protracted with the PMRC, concerning music censorship

Trouble Every Day – Mothers of Invention

Sam Stone appears on John Prine’s first album from 1971. It’s about a Vietnam veteran who becomes addicted to morphine after being prescribed the drug to help alleviate the pain of his war injuries. The song’s criticism of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war is not overtly political and is far more effective as a result

Sam Stone – John Prine

I got into The Decemberists around the time of their album The Crane Wife. I liked their story-songs, folky feel and Colin Meloy’s voice. 16 Military Wives is from their preceding album, Picaresque, and it is also a subtle protest about a war, this time the Iraq War. It also makes digs at the news media and celebrity culture in relation to the war

16 Military Wives – The Decemberists

1000 songs everyone must hear

Politics and protest: part five of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 20 that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 141

Between the Sheets

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When you have love and heartbreak and people and places, sex isn’t too far behind. The fourth part of The Guardian’s seven-part series, Songs Everyone Should Hear, continues with songs about nocturnal emisions, horizontal jogging or, if you’d prefer, shagging. All tastes are catered for and I was particularly pleased to see the presence of songs like I Touch Myself, Orgasm Addict and Turning Japanese, which are linked by their do-it-yourself approach to the subject in, er, hand

I had never heard over forty of the songs on this list previously, but I’ve managed to narrow that down to a number that’s one shy of a dozen. The songs that I’ve chosen have more to do with sexual politics and gender relations than bumping and grinding. They also share a common sense of humour and playfulness. Of the songs that I’ve heard for the first time today, five stand out and all are sung by ballsy female singers. This one’s for the ladies!

First up is one of the first female blues singers, the charismatic Bessie Smith. Empty Bed Blues comes from 1928 and is a classic blues number with a jazzy score. Bessie’s got the blues cause her bed’s empty and she misses her ‘coffee grinder’ and ‘deep sea diver’. Bessie died in 1937, still in her 40s

Empty Bed Blues – Bessie Smith

Twenty years later, Wanda Jackson released the incendiary (it’s the only word for it) Fujiyama Mama. In this rocking tune, she belts out lyrics that rather distastefully compare the American bombings on Japan to her the state of her libido. Amazingly, the song made it to number one in Japan! Jackson, known as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, went steady with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll around this time. In the 70s, she became a born-again Christian and spent the next few decades singing gospel

Fujiyama Mama – Wanda Jackson

The all-girl group, the Shangri-Las, are best known for their once-banned Leader of the Pack. The conversational lyric of Give Him a Great Big Kiss combines brashness and shyness quite nicely. I love the spoken intro: “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L.U.V.”

Give Him a Great Big Kiss- The Shangri-Las

Come Again by The Au Pairs treats sexual politics and gender relations in a far more brazen fashion. This post-punk Birmingham outfit’s lyrics were as angular and aggressive as their music. Come Again appears on their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen. In this live version, singer Lesley Woods leaves the audience in no doubt as to the its subject matter by introducing it with these words: “This song’s about faking orgasms”

Come Again (live) – Au Pairs

Elastica’s approach has more in common with the Au Pairs than the Shangri-Las. One of the few female-led bands to emerge during Brit Pop, Stutter was their first single and the version below was re-recorded for their debut album. In this song, the female narrator is quite dismissive of her emasculated boyfriend

Stutter – Elastica

1000 songs everyone must hear

Sex: part four of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 11 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 131

Songs About People & Places

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Day three of The Guardian’s 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear concerns tracks dealing with people and places. I hadn’t heard three dozen of them, but I’ve found over twenty of them since. I’ve included five of those that I particularly enjoyed.

As this post concerns songs about people and places, I suppose it’s appropriate that I begin with Kentucky by The Louvin Brothers. I lived in North Kentucky for a year, but it was nearer to Southern Ohio, so I didn’t get the full effect. I was familiar with country music before going over and I heard some there, but it was only after returning to Ireland that I discovered Charlie and Ira Louvin. I particularly like their Nashville Girl, which might turn up in a post about murder ballads

Kentucky – The Louvin Brothers

Anne Briggs was an English folk singer and Blackwater Side is the opening track of her eponymous album from 1971. The person who taught her the song had learned it from a 1952 BBC recording by an Irish traveller, Mary Doran. Briggs never achieved commercial success, but she influenced many English and Irish folk singers

Blackwater Side – Anne Briggs

Manu Chao is a French-born singer and musician who sings in a number of languages. Bongo Bong was a single from his album Clandestino and has been covered by none other than Robbie Williams. The song has its origins in a 1939 song called King of the Bongo Bong by the trumpeter, Roy Eldridge

Bongo Bong – Manu Chao

Despite favourable reviews, I hadn’t gotten into The Good, The Bad and The Queen, an album that features Damon Albarn, who wrote the songs, and ex-Clash man, Paul Simonon. The album is a themed collection of songs about modern London and Green Fields started life as a song that Albarn wrote for Marianne Faithfull, who recorded it as Last Song on her Before the Poison album. It was released as the third single from the album in 2007

Green Fields – The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Ramblin’ Man appears on Lemon Jelly’s Mercury Music Prize-nominated album, Lost Horizons (2002). It is an unusual piece as it features a conversation between Michael Deakin (band member Fred’s father) and the actor, John Standing, who plays “John”, the Ramblin’ Man. As the music rambles on, ‘John’ muses on his nomadic and lists the names of 67 places that he has, apparently, visited. I’ve only been to five of them!

Ramblin’ Man – Lemon Jelly

1000 songs everyone must hear

People and places: part three of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 11 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 145

More Songs Everyone Must Hear

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The second part of The Guardian’s series, 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear, continues with songs about heartbreak, the flip-side to its opening topic of songs about love. As I’m far more familiar with the concept of heartbreak than that of love, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard over forty of the songs on the list. I managed to find about three dozen of these without too much, er, heartbreak. You can check out five of them below.

It was great to see such an unassuming bunch of lads as Elbow walk away with last year’s Mercury Music Prize. The band formed in Bury in 1990 and it took them a while to get recognition. My Very Best comes from their third album, Leaders of the Free World

My Very Best – Elbow

Stephen Fretwell isn’t too far away from Elbow in geographical terms as he is based in Manchester, although he grew up in that bastion of rock ‘n’ roll, Scunthorpe. Emily was released as a single in 2005

Emily – Stephen Fretwell

Lua by Bright Eyes features frontman Conor Oberst on vocals and guitar. It originally appeared on their album, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. In November 2004, the song reached #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales chart. They also took the second spot that week with Take It Easy (Love Nothing) from their simultaneously released album, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn

Lua – Bright Eyes

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter and occasional actor, Will Oldham. Bed is for Sleeping comes from an album he did in 2005 with Matt Sweeney called Superwolf. This is a live version

Bed is for Sleeping – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

The Mountain Goats is primarily composed of lead singer and guitarist John Darnielle and bassist Peter Hughes. No Children comes from the 2002 concept album, Tallahassee, a themed collection featuring the “Alpha couple”. This song is angrier than the preceding ones on this list

No Children – The Mountain Goats


1000 songs everyone must hear

Heartbreak: part two of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 9 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 145

1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear

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The Guardian has just begun a series that runs from March 14-20, 2009. It’s called 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear and is divided into seven daily parts, beginning with songs about Love. Most of the usual suspects are present and, while I had heard most of the songs, there were about two dozen that I had to track down and listen to. I’ve included five of those below.

The Chi-Lites hailed from Chicago and are best known for their hit song, Have You Seen Her? The use of the word ‘stoned’ in song titles from the late 60s and early 70s was not uncommon. Two of the more famous examples are The Supremes’ Stoned Love and Van Morrison’s And It Stoned Me

Stoned Out of My Mind – The Chi-Lites

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland has opened many times for Van the Man. The two recorded a duet of Morrison’s song, Tupelo Honey

I’ll Take Care of You – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland

I had only known It Must Be Love from Madness’ hit version, which seems like one of their own songs. The Guardian’s list includes the brilliant original by Labi Siffre

It Must Be Love – Labi Siffre

Elvis Costello has so many songs and albums that it’s hard to keep track of them all. I’m in the Mood Again comes from his 2003 album, North

I’m in the Mood Again – Elvis Costello

Twinkle was a 16-year-old female singer whose song Terry was banned in 1964 by the BBC. It belongs to a tradition of songs where the singer’s boyfriend has just died in a car accident, such as another hit from 1964, Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las. Twinkle’s song was a favourite of Morrissey’s and it’s not too difficult to see its influence on The Smiths’  There is a Light That Never Goes Out

Terry – Twinkle

1000 songs everyone must hear

Love: part one of 1000 songs everyone must hear

The 13 songs that I haven’t heard from the Guardian.co.uk list of 139