5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, 5 FOR FRIDAY WILL, ROCK YOU.

We’re still in the midst of Battcon, and while the focus is on the inevitable writerly pursuits– writing, drinking, bitching about the successes of others, drinking, hanging around the pool, complaining that my career is over, drinking, watching TV and drinking, with the occasional bout of writing and self-hatred– it’s important that it all be done to the correct soundtrack, because, you know, generation that grew up on The Breakfast Club.

Queen is the first band for whom I ever felt a fannish attraction, predating even my all-encompassing and lifelong Madness love. Outside of Bohemian Rhapsody (the only song to realistically challenge Stairway to Heaven for the unofficial Greatest Song Ever Recorded title), their catalogue up until the demise of their hypnotic genius front man Freddie Mercury is a wall to wall layer of brilliance and bona fide superhits. I have owned their Greatest Hits Volume 1 album in at least 4 different media, and worn it through in each one.

Between Mercury’s voice, guitar god Brian May’s soaring riffs, and the joyous flip-flopping between whimsical Victoriana and tear-your-balls-off rock and roll, they are unforgettable, and simply impossible to recreate. What we can do, however, is take a moment to step outside the long list of radio staples we still teach our children (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…) and highlight five works that haven’t stuck in the general consciousness, despite their brilliance.

Here, then, are five of my favourites from outside the long, long list of giant monster hits we all know and sing regularly wherever there’s an outdoor event with a taped soundtrack (boom boom, CLAP, boom boom CLAP…)……

 

5 for FRIDAY: KILLER QUEEN

 

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5 FOR FRIDAY: XTC

Those of you who have been paying attention to my Patreon campaign will know that one of the rewards offered to patrons is the ability to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Colin Sharpe, this week I’ll be discussing five of my favourite songs by those master of British pop perfection, XTC.

Back in the 1980s, among the Chock Solid Block of Oz Cock Rock on which I was weaned, I uncovered a deep and lasting love for those British songwriters who defined the world in acid-etched clarity and humour: Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, Madness and the Specials all retain a special place in my heart. And alongside them, XTC, and three songs in particular that were FM radio staples– Senses Working Overtime; Making Plans for Nigel; and Generals and Majors are magnificent songs that remain close to my heart, and I could probably wax on about them until we’re both blue in the brain. (If you haven’t heard them before, follow the links now, then come back. We’ll wait, ready with a hearty I KNOW, RIGHT? at your return.)

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Now, in all honesty, we could begin and end right there, but those gateway drugs of songs were only the beginning of a life-long love. So here are five other songs that hit me right in the frontal cortex, and which I’ll be humming as they carry me to my grave.

Next week, thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my approach to writing, performance, and public speaking. But for now, get out the headphones and sink into 15 minutes of musical bliss as Andy and Colin do what they do best: swan around being brilliant.

 

LIKE A 5 FOR FRIDAY IN A FURNISHED CAGE

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5 FOR FRIDAY: LEONARD COHEN

Over the last week or so, I’ve been diving deep into I’m Your Man, the recently released biography of Leonard Cohen. Like many artists of singular genius, Cohen was nowhere near a saint, and the book doesn’t flinch away from his compulsive womanising, heavy drug use, and long litany of broken personal and professional relationships. But it also works hard to distill and analyse the brilliance of Cohen’s lyrics, and musical style, and the stories and methods behind them.

Naturally, the reading has inspired some serious musical bingeing, as I listen to the songs discussed over, and over. Frankly, I’ve been in heaven. So, by way of sharing the love, here are five of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs.

Turn the lights off, pour yourself a glass of whatever floats your spirit, silence the house, and drink in the words, the beautiful, glorious, words.

Five for Friday: Leonard Cohen

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5 FOR FRIDAY: AUSSIE WOMEN VOICES

There was sad news this week, with the death of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan. For many of us, hers was a voice of pure pop perfection that stood comparison with the likes of Annie Lennox and Sinead O’Connor: powerful, multi-ranged, and with a crystal clarity. What’s more, like O’Connor in particular, O’Riordan never felt the need to deviate from, or minimise, her natural accent. Her voice was not only beautiful, it was beautiful in an overtly Irish way.

Which got me thinking about Australian music, and the women whose voices come to mind when I think of that peculiarly Aussie way of speaking, and delivering lyrics. Here, then, are five Australian women’s pop voices that speak to me in the way the O’Riordan’s Irish lilt does.

5 for Friday: Aussie Pop Women

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5 FOR FRIDAY: ALICE COOPER SONGS

I came across Alice Cooper in the oddest way possible: at the age of 11 or 12, attending an end-of-season dinner for my soccer club at ‘Max Kaye’s Theatre Restaurant’– a dinner theatre affair owned by, and featuring the titular hero. Imagine a grubby, sleazy Ronnie Corbett with the sort of humour that appealed to Bernard Manning fans of the 1970s, and you’ll have a fair idea of the sort of entertainment that was on offer.

And in the middle of it all, an (to my childhood mind) utterly incredible dance sequence featuring human spiders and ghosts to the strains of Welcome To My Nightmare.

I was stunned. Within a week I had the album, and a lifelong love affair was born. At a time when the boganistas that surrounded me were sunk into the Chisel/ACDC/Aussie Crawl triumvirate, I was already on a far different cultural journey. If nothing else, my life-long love of the concept album was born with him, and for that alone I could be grateful, if not for the fact that he’s been my introduction into so much theory on the intersection of narrative, music, folklore, and theatre.

He’s had ups and downs: a critical flat spot in the 1980s, and despite the brilliance of later albums like Brutal Planet and The Last Temptation, he’s tailed off with sub-par albums like Dragontown and Along Came a Spider. But he’ll always be close to my heart because, even at his weakest, there’s a commitment to the strange that oozes out of his music, and his theatre, and his lyrics, that I respond to, over and over.

Here then, for no other reason than I love them and they’re not among his most widely known songs outside of Coop fandom, are five Alice Cooper songs that make my sense buzz.

 

5 For Friday: The Coop

 

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5 FOR FRIDAY: CONTEMPORARY CHRISTMAS SONGS

It’s that time again. When songs about frolicking in the snow make a mockery of your heat-stroke. When everyone spends the day shoveling down roast everything with lava gravy instead of acting sensibly and filling a paddling pool with ice cream. When the average age of the family playlist is ‘deceased’.

Balls to that.

Christmas isn’t white, Bing Crosby was an alcoholic child abuser, and the Elf on the Shelf is a streak-of-piss little snitch who should be knee-capped and fed to the pigs.

Who’s up for some real Christmas music? And I don’t mean the saccharine puke extruded by the likes of Wham and Mariah Carey. I mean real music: something with guts and rhythm and an authenticity that doesn’t make you want to gun down everybody in the shopping centre.

 

5 for Friday: Contemporary Christmas Songs

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A VERY BIG POST ABOUT AN AWFUL LOT OF SONGS: THE B-SIDE

On the A-side of this mega-list of songs, I listed 15 songs defined by a meme currently circulating on Facebook. If you haven’t already done so, check out numbers 1-15 and then jump back here as I flip the record and listen to the experimental stuff we let the drummer write so he can get a few royalty dollars to tide him over.

Song Challenge

Day 16: A song that’s a classic favourite.

In the Hall of the Mountain King, Edvard Grieg

Let’s substitute classical for classic. This is my favourite piece of classical music. It’s wonderfully evocative, and a superb example of how music can be used to create mood, narrative, and mental imagery. I adore it.

 

Day 17: A song I’d sing a duet with someone at karaoke.

The Wine Song, Cat Empire

It’s probably not actually suitable for karaoke, given the large sections without any lyrics whatsoever, but this is just such a carefree, riotous, leg-kicking romp of a song that it seems born for singing together with your closest friends, arms around each other, swigging from a bottle as you dance in a  circle around a roaring fire….. kind of makes me wish I still drank…… or had friends……

 

Day 18: A song from the year I was born.

Spill the Wine, Eric Burdon and War

1970. Hell of a year.

 

Day 19: A song that makes me think about life.

Death of a Clown, Dave Davies

This song has been such a steadfast pat of my playlist for many years, always with a Kinks by-line, that I wasn’t aware it was the first, sputtering shot at a solo career for Dave Davies.

There’s such a thread of despair running through it, a sense of dreams coming to an end in the face of a cold, grey, reality. I can feel the magic slipping out of the world when I listen, feel the cost of pursuing artistic dreams in a world that prizes conformity and stability above all else. I see mirrored futures, wherein I’m finally ground down and irrelevant, tucked into a dusty underground bar with all the other failed anomalies while suits pass by outside the window, oblivious.

Basically, it’s sad as all fuck.

 

Day 20: A song that has many meanings to me.

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Another mournful ode to things that were, and should have been, and could be. Pink Floyd do agonising self-reflection better than almost everybody. This stripped back, simple arrangement is a forlorn counterpoint to their usual lush, high-production songs. There’s a resonance here that has never left me, a sense of so many things unsaid, and so many potential paths missed.

 

Day 21: A song with a person’s name in the title.

Henrietta, The Fratellis

It’s rare that I become a solid fan of a band upon first listen, but The Fratellis is a notable exception. Their first two albums were such an infectious combination of high spirits, oddly quirky lyrics that often skirted the edges of fetishism, and licks that dug into your spine and kicked about forever. Plus, of course, there was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without the la-da-da, la-da-da, la-dada-dada-da of Chelsea Dagger playing from one speaker or another. This was their first single: setting in place a sound that was already mature. It’s rollicking good fun.

 

Day 22: A song that moves me forward.

Uncertain Smile, The The

Another song that’s gloomy on the surface, but with a subtle thread of positivity and hope running through the lyrics and arrangements. It’s a perfect song for down periods, acknowledging the current situation but offering a hand to lift the listener up. It doesn’t promise miracles, just the knowledge that someone will be there, as you climb back towards the light.

 

Day 23: A song I think everybody should listen to.

Dear God, XTC

The world has far too many anthems dedicated to the superstition of God. Here’s one that points out the ludicrousness of it all, and how it all comes down to the very human weakness of needing an external excuse for our behaviours. XTC was one of the most pitch-perfect pop groups of the 80s and 90s, with a slew of brilliant, acerbic, and laser-sighted slices of social commentary. This is them at their finest.

 

Day 24: A song by a band I wish was still together.

Innuendo, Queen

If there’s anybody alive who doesn’t understand the unbelievable storm of talent that was Queen, well, I hope it’s warm under that rock. And while they are, in the strictest sense, still together, let’s be honest: no, they’re not.

Listen to this. Listen to the sheer epic awesomeness of it. And then remind yourself that it was recorded while Freddie Mercury was dying. And still, as a dying man, still had that voice. This is my Queen. This is the Queen I wish was still with us.

 

Day 25: A song I like by an artist no longer living.

Never Mind, Leonard Cohen.

How can a guy in his early 80s still produce a work as seamlessly coherent, contemporary and damn well gripping as this? Cohen was a poetic and musical genius who only got better as he got older, as his voice sunk and deepened and widened into a bed of gravel, as his attentions turned away from lost loves and focussed upon the underlit grimness of his un-travelled paths. Two years after this, Cohen was dead at the age of 82. Just after releasing his final slice of brilliance,  the black-as-pitch You Want it Darker. What a loss.

 

Day 26: A song that makes me want to fall in love.

My Baby Just Cares for Me, Nina Simone

Just a beautiful, beautiful song about love, acceptance, and happiness.

 

Day 27: A song that breaks my heart.

Waltz #2, Elliott Smith

Everything Elliot Smith recorded was just awash in sadness. After his suicide, many of his lyrics were thrown into sharp relief, as if he was using them to reach out for help that never arrived. I’m not a firm adherent to the belief that there is no line between art and artist– I’ve written too many stories about subjects in which I have no personal experience– but the loneliness and hopelessness in this ballad of love-slipped-past just creases me over every time.

 

Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice I love.

Ode to My Family, The Cranberries

The Irish accent. The voice, so simultaneously fragile and whipcord strong. The lilt. The wild, wolf-like yodels and howls that haunt the background of their songs. Dolores O’Riordan has the most sublime voice in pop. Siiiiiiggghhhh……

 

Day 29: A song I remember from my childhood.

I’m The Urban Spaceman, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

I don’t know where I first heard the Bonzos, but I was more than aware of them before I saw Neil Innes sing this on the Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl video in early 1984. I’ve been an avid fan my whole life. There’s a peculiarly English eccentricity to the band’s material, but listen closely, and there’s an absurdist observation of everyday life that I find gripping and beautifully astute.

 

Day 30: A song that reminds me of myself.

Johnny the Horse, Madness

And how else could I end, but with my favourite song from the band that remains my lifelong love. This song resonates with me so much that I’ve utilised the opening stanza for my long-running blog The Battersblog.

 

 

 

And if you missed it up the top of the post, check out days 1-15 here.