28/09/2020: “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan

While researching this song, I learnt two important facts.

One: Donovan is Scottish. Not sure why I didn’t know that, but there you go!

Two: “Mellow Yellow” is about being chilled out. It makes sense, given ‘mellow’. I, along with many contemporary listeners, and because of its 60s origin, assumed it was about drugs.

It does have some naughtiness too it – but of a different nature…

Regardless of what it is or isn’t about, it’s a great tune. When the horn section kicks in, the track really bursts into life. There’s a slight novelty flavour to the song, but “Mellow Yellow” is a well written and well executed piece.

The song was released in 1966. It was most popular in the US, where it reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. A year later, it was included on an album of the same name.

21/09/2020: “She’s My Baby” by The Mojo Men

Raucous. 60s raucous, but undeniably, unquestionably, unshakably raucous.

That fuzz bassline is a centrepiece of the track. Probably why Kanye West chose to sample it for his 2010, ‘Hell Of A Life’. The musician behind this gem of a bassline is none other than Sly Stone. Of course.

The rest of song is played with… well, if not exactly elegance, then passion, at least!

And you can’t deny it’s catchy, from the iconic chorus to the bluesy harmonica.

Would you want a world where nobody ever lets loose? I wouldn’t, and neither would The Mojo Men.

The song was first released in 1965, with the second, more polished version released in 1966. It was the B-side to ‘Do The Hanky Panky’.

15/09/2020: “Man On The Corner” by Genesis

I would argue that this represents a zenith of the Genesis musical history. A lot of people would disagree…

However, that’s in great part because Genesis has a fragmented fanbase as a result of their development over the years.

As I’ve touched on previously, 1981’s classic Abacab was a big change for Genesis. It marks the real start of the Banks/Rutherford/Collins act held by many to be the band’s golden age.

A big part of that change was driven by Phil Collins. You can really hear his trademarks on this one – the familiar vocals, the stadium filling drums, the dark lyrics.

Abacab was written specifically to avoid the band becoming to stale, and drove at a more pop oriented direction. Certainly, this isn’t the most complex song musically, but it packs a punch!

The track is about a troubled homeless man who harasses passersby. I think it’s an effective take on the terrible loneliness of many homeless people – a side to living on the streets which is often forgotten about.

‘Man On The Corner’ featured first on Acacab, and was released a year later as a single, in ’82.

13/09/2020: “Day Of The Lords” by Joy Division

Joy Division are generally acknowledged to be years ahead of their time. As with many of the transitional bands of the late 70s and early 80s, they often get lumped with the amorphous ‘post-punk’ label.

But, in fairness, I’m not sure what else you could call this.

It’s dark. Moody. Slightly unnerving. More than a little sludgy?

If getting stuck in a bog late at night had a soundtrack, it could conceivably sound like this.

I love it!

The thunderous bass, the satanic vocals, the off key guitars, the manic drums: this song is fantastic!

You can find the track on their 1979 debut effort, the iconic Unknown Pleasures. 

08/09/2020: “Breathing” by Kate Bush

There’s three distinct sections to this brilliant track – the first single from 1980’s Never For Ever.

The first is a slow, creepy verse, bristling with paranoia and dripping with emotion. Then the chorus: a comforting and powerful ode to motherhood.

The final minute of the song is possibly the best – Kate Bush unleashes her voice and the track flares into motion, an angry, desolate hellscape painted vividly with her anguished singing.

Demonstrating the uncanny appeal of Kate Bush, the song reached number 16 in the UK singles chart despite being written from the perspective of an unborn foetus during a nuclear apocalypse. Stunning.

07/09/2020: “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” by Metallica

You’ve all doubtless heard your fair share of virtuoso guitar solos. Vocals get their time in the spotlight with dependable regularity too. Fans of jazz, rock and funk will doubtless have a favourite drum solo.

But where’s the love for bass guitars?

For most of the time, brilliant bassists, possibly with the exception of reggae and funk, are consigned to a supporting role.

Cliff Burton pulled this track together by stringing several of his bass solos into one piece. The distorted harmonies of the bass ring out on their own for the first two minutes of the track, and the other half sees an accompaniment by Lars Ulrich on the drums.

The end result is fantastic, slowly building to a familiar thrash metal tempo from a more sedate start. A treat for those of us who appreciate a good low end!

You’ll find this one on Metallica’s debut album, Kill Em All (1983). Cliff Burton, tragically, died in bus crash while touring 3 years afterwards.

06/09/2020: “Poor Man” by Five Revolutions

A country in Africa which I haven’t touched on so much in this blog is Zambia.

The ‘Zamrock’ scene is one shaped by the tumultuous history of Zambia, and represents something special in music terms.

The fuzzy bass, the funky drums, the strident yet harmonious vocals – it’s almost like a more punky version of reggae!

This track is unmistakably African, and has the familiar psychedelic feeling of 70s rock fusion on the continent. But once you’ve listened to Zamrock for half an hour or so, you really start to gain an appreciation for its uniqueness.

The song can be found on Welcome To Zamrock! How Zambia’s Liberation Led To a Rock Revolution, Vol. 2 (1972-1977), released in 2017 on Now Again records.