24/10/2019: “Gol-E Gandom” by Lloyd Miller

Sometimes, western attempts to blend Middle Eastern styles with Jazz can be a bit suspect. Especially if, as is the case here, the album title contains the word ‘Oriental’…

Aping traditional sounds and styles needs to be respectful – and importantly, it needs to work!

In this case, I feel that both criteria are satisfied – which checks out considering that Lloyd Miller is something of an expert in the sphere of Middle Eastern music. Of course, individual cultures have produced better players, but not many will have mastered such a diverse range of styles and instruments.

The song utilises a santur, which is a kind of dulcimer/zither thing (sort of like a guitar).

It’s a hypnotic effect. To start with, the song is a cascade of eerie twangs, until the more recognisable western jazz elements such as the bass and drums enter the scene.

This track is seriously catchy – no wonder the album this is from, 1968’s Oriental Jazz, is now so sought after!

23/09/2019: “Blue Moon” by The Ventures

This is a great example of how cool instrumental surf rock can be. Those echoey, twanging guitars evoke exotic locales, the frenzied drums inject a potent dose of energy into the song, and the bass relaxes into the song like a mai tai cocktail on a warm tropical evening…

It isn’t the longest song, clocking in at around 2 minutes. But it packs a lot into that time, moving from theme to theme quickly without losing the overall feeling.

The Ventures were a very influential band, especially in terms of inspiring guitarists. The interplay of guitars on their songs makes for wonderfully engaging listening, from the wobbling rhythm guitar to the sharp lead guitar.

At the time this was recorded, fuzzy, distorted electric guitars and other effects were not widely used. This gives the track a real vintage quality.

“Blue Moon” was released in 1961, as a single. The B-side was “Lady Of Spain”.

22/09/2019: “It’s Nothing To Me” by Sanford Clark

Country music has produced a slew of dark songs with lyrics about fights and murders. More than a few came from Leon Payne (aka Pat Patterson), a blind songwriter who also wrote the weird cult classic “Psycho”.

Sanford Clark released this song as himself, but it is also sometimes credited to “Harry Johnson”.

The song tells of a bar fight, caused by a drunk guy getting too close to the wrong lady, and getting killed for it.

The delivery is stone cold, a fantastic example of outlaw country music. The deep and matter of fact tone of voice used here is perfectly menacing.

The song is arranged around the country core of a simple double bass and unadorned drum part. But the distorted violin adds a darker tone, and of course, the cowboy-esque twang of the guitar.

“It’s Nothing To Me” was first released in 1957, by Loy Clingwood. Sanford Clark recorded his version a decade later, in 1967.

09/09/2019: “I’m Still Waiting” by The Wailers

This song is from 1965. That’s long enough ago for the credits to be to The Wailers or The Wailing Wailers without making any mention of their lead singer, one Bob Marley!

Bob Marley also didn’t have dreadlocks then. This song could have been made in America, as an R’n’B track.

The smooth vocal harmonies, plodding bass, soft brass and light drums are pretty far away from a more ska focused song from this era, such as “Simmer Down”.

It’s still beautiful music though, and it is evident that Bob is a singer of rare quality. As with much music of this style and period, the subject is love, or rather the difficulties of love.

The track was produced by Coxsone Dodd, and released in Jamaica. Luckily, the song appears on the Songs Of Freedom compilation, because it would otherwise be quite a rarity. In fairness, it also appears on the Studio One compilation The Wailing Wailers in 1966, which was re-issued in 2016.

06/09/2019: “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles

The official Beatles video of this demonstrates pretty well the kind of hysteria the Beatles caused among teenage girls at their height. In the video, the band is just calmly performing the song, as wholesome as you like, and the music is layered thickly with a wall of screams.

At some performances, the Beatles’ music could barely be heard over the screams. I can’t think of any artists today who inspire that level of fandom…

This song didn’t go to number one immediately in the U.K., because another one of the band’s songs was already there…

Rest assured, it did reach number 1 a couple of weeks later, and stayed there for 5 weeks. It was also the track that broke them into the American market, as it was their first number one hit in the U.S.A.

The song is a solid burst of happy energy, witnessing the Beatles at their most exuberant. The lyrics are very polite by modern standards, which stands the song in good stead, in my view.

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in 1963.

21/08/2019: “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry

This song, for me, will always remind me of the iconic dance scene in Pulp Fiction. John Travolta and Uma Thurman twist and jive together in breathtaking stylish fashion, in the middle of a diner.

It’s a song which commands a bit of dancing, in fairness. I can only imagine the effect of this song when it was released in 1964!

Everything about this song is bursting with life. The piano is especially brilliant, jamming away exuberantly. The horns are also a fine touch, embellishing unobtrusively rather than bellowing out.

Unusually for a Chuck Berry song, there’s no guitar solo. His singing makes up for it. Such a catchy refrain, but the melody was taken from Mitchell Torok’s 1953 “Caribbean”.

The lyrics tell a story of two teenagers who get married, and make a success of themselves, despite the misgiving of the elders. Heartwarming!