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.

 

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

There’s a meme that’s been floating around Facebook lately, asking people to list 30 songs over 30 days. Each song comes with a subject, and the object is to list a song under that subject.

Honestly, I’d have forgotten what I was doing by about day 4, so I’m just going to list them all in two long lists, and then you’ll have a ready-made playlist of songs about colours, drugs, childhood, weddings, and more for your summer holidays this year.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Song Challenge

DAY 1: A Song with a colour in the title.

The Power of Orange Knickers, Tori Amos

I could have picked any number of songs to start this little journey with, but I thought I’d set the tone by picking something a little obscure, and a little away from the run of the mill. Tori Amos has a heavenly voice, and her lyrics skirt a fine line between fragile and proud. There’s nobody quite like her in modern pop music. This track, from her underrated 2005 album The Beekeeper, is close to my favourite track from the album.

 

DAY 2: A song with a number in the title.

One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, Ben Folds Five

If there’s a song that sums up my High School years, and how I view the idea of ever attending a school reunion, it’s this one. A perfect slice of outsider pop.

 

DAY 3: A song that reminds me of summertime.

The Party, Uncanny X-Men

Unless you were around in the 80s, it’s hard to explain The Uncanny X-Men. Imagine you threw a bunch of musical instruments and face paint into a paddling pool filled with hyperactive, drunk, toddlers with a collective reading age of about 6…. they’re the embodiment of the decade that taste forgot. As a teenager in Rockingham, their album ‘Cos Life Hurts was on high rotation over the summer of 85/86, and this song is still the one that brings me back to summers on the beach, bombying off the jetty, tyre-fire parties at Long Point on a Friday night, West Coast coolers….. good times.

 

DAY 4: A song that reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.

Another First Kiss, They Might Be Giants

I’d been a They Might Be Giants fan for years, so when they announced an Australian tour and new album in early 2001, I grabbed myself a ticket and pre-booked the album long in advance. One thing being another, my wife Sharon fell pregnant, and was booked in for a caesarean section on the morning of the concert. I had not intention of going, but by the evening she was sick of the sight of me and just wanted to go to sleep, so she told me: go to the concert. The baby and I will be here in the morning. So, with the CD in the car, and my new tour t-shirt on, I did just that. And it was brilliant. And the album stayed in the car while I shuttle back and forth to the hospital over the next couple of days.

Four days after our daughter was born, Sharon died. And while I’ve been able to listen to the rest of the album ever since– indeed, I embarked on a TMBG spending spree over the next couple of months as part of an obsessive bout of comfort spending– I’ve always found this song difficult to listen to. It’s too tied up with the events of that time, and what they brought to an end. And while I’m happily, blissfully, married– and have been for 12 years– this still brings to mind a dark, painful time, and a person who should never have been allowed to die.

 

DAY 5: A song that needs to be played loud.

Magic Carpet Ride, Steppenwolf

They might be better known for the legendary driving song Born To Be Wild, but for me, this is Steppenwolf’s greatest song– an insane mish-mash of psychedelic riffs, heroic levels of feedback, and lyrics that read like they came out of an LSD trip even Timothy Leary would have been proud of. And yes, it needs to be played loud— loud enough so that the feedback makes your fillings rattle. Do it.

 

DAY 6: A song that makes me want to dance.

Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars

So close to listing Play That Funky Music, White Boy here, but damn it: I love funk, this song is too damn fun, and I’ve spent too many car trips with this cranked up and the whole family shouting it out at the top of our voices not to include it. For a short while it was absolutely everywhere. It’s impossible to ignore, and if you don’t at least get your nod on, there’s something incurably

 

DAY 7: A song to drive to.

Radar Love, Golden Earring.

The quintessential driving song, for almost 45 years. And it still bloody rocks.

 

DAY 8: A song about drugs or alcohol.

People Who Died, Jim Carroll Band

Drugs, alcohol, guns, trains, rooves, more drugs, more alcohol, suicide, glue, other drugs, cancer, angry bikers, drugs…… This is the most unrelenting, single-tin-drum-note-banged-over-and-over again song about the junkie classes I’ve ever heard. I think it’s hilarious, possibly for all the wrong reasons.

 

DAY 9: A song that makes me happy.

Johnny Appleseed, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleroes

I’m a sucker for string sections in rock bands. And folk-rock. And The Clash. And joyous upswings when the chorus hits. And goddamn it, the Mescaleroes were only together for three years prior to Strummer’s death– you see hints of what they could have achieved in their albums, and no more so than in this beautiful, riotous slice of pop wonderment.

 

DAY 10: A song that makes me sad.

Have I Told You Lately?, Van Morrison

I can’t remember what the other song was, but when it came time to decide which song Sharon and I should dance to at our wedding, it was this and the other one. We tried this one: Sharon burst into tears. We tried the other one: it was lovely. We tried this one again: tears. The choice was obvious.

I can’t listen to this song any more. Like some other, small, things, the pain has dulled, but the reaction is instinctive: I simply can’t listen to it.

 

DAY 11: A song that I never get tired of.

Whole of the Moon, The Waterboys

Is there a more joyous, epic, uplifting song about feeling a bit shit in comparison to someone else? This is pure pop perfection.

 

DAY 12: A song from my preteen years.

I Love Rock and Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

The song that inspired a thousand crushes. well, one, at least. Mine. And it’s lifelong. The ten year-old me didn’t quite know what the angry, guitar-swinging, leather-clad lady was doing to the tingly bits of my insides, but he was bloody well sure he wanted it to keep happening. It’s a love affair, and a set of attractors, that’s still going strong 37 years later. And the song? Well, the song is a total banger. And still a goddamn rock and roll classic.

 

DAY 13: A song from the 70s.

Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel

I’ve been a Peter Gabriel fan since childhood, when his post-Genesis singles were FM radio staples, and I’d never even heard of Genesis so had nothing for comparison. He didn’t sound quite like anything around him, and over the years I slowly acquired his studio albums right up until Up. But this has always stuck with me– it’s another uplifting song about loss and bridges crossed, but there was enough ambiguity in the lyrics to send my imagination spiralling through love affairs, insane asylums (for a very long time, I thought it was about a man being released from a madhouse), death, and prisoner exchanges. Even now, it’s a song I use to let loose my thinking, and allow myself to be swept up by the lonely, windswept imagery. It’s a truly beautiful piece of pop.

 

DAY 14: A song I’d love to be played at my wedding.

The Ship Song, Nick Cave

A bit of a cheat: this is the song we did play at my wedding, to Luscious in 2005. We danced to it, in full wedding get-up, at the Swancon masked ball, while a dozen friends in fancy dress swayed in a circle around us. It still brings us together: it’s our song, compltely and utterly.

 

DAY 15: A song I like that’s a cover by another artist.

Tainted Love, Living End

Okay, so we’ve already had one cover, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I have another Madness tune lined up, I’d be using this spot for their version of It Must be Love, which is just about the greatest cover song in history, imho. However, I think we all need to take a moment to appreciate the sheer genius involved in taking one of the most insipid, limp, soft-focus synth ballads of the 1980s and turning it into a foot-stomping, barnstorming slice of rockabilly thunder. Talk about making a silk quiff out of a pig’s leotard.

 

If you enjoyed that, stay tuned. Days 16-30 will be along any minute!

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: ROCK IN PEACE, MALCOLM

There was news of considerable importance in Australian music this week. Malcolm Young, founding member and iron-wristed bass player for rock gods AC/DC died, aged 64, a few weeks after his older brother, founding member and multi-instrumentalist for the Easybeats, Flash & The Pan and Vanda & Young, George. Within just over a month, we’ve lost 2/3 of the first family of Australian rock: only AC/DC lead guitarist Angus remains.

I wasn’t an AC/DC fan as a kid. Growing up in Rockingham, AC/DC was the soundtrack of brutality: it was the band of choice for the plaid-clad, DB-wearing bogan thugs that made my life a misery– underneath that plaid shirt was invariably an AC/DC tee-shirt, and if you didn’t have at least a Back in Black poster on your wall, you were certified poofter and fair prey. As a result I spurned their music, and got my heavy fix from other quarters.

It wasn’t until I escaped my teen years, and was able to fit them into a much wider view of musical taste, away from the Holy Bogan Trinity (AC/DC, Cold Chisel, and oddly, Australian Crawl), that I came to appreciate them, and just how individual and epic their particular brand of thunderous rock and roll was.

They may have– to paraphrase one memorable review some years ago– ‘released the same album seventeen times’, but it’s a hell of a sound, and a hell of a ‘same album’. The band’s anthemic high points have become family favourites, with three generations of heads banging whenever we’re all around and they hit the playlist.

So to commemorate one of Australia’s great rock and roll bassists, and the lasting impact he and his men have had on Australian music history, here are five of my favourite AC/DC bangers.

Rock in peace, Malcolm.

Five for Friday: AC/DC

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IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY

It’s hard to understate the impact INXS had on my life. They were the first band I ever saw in concert by myself. They were the first band for whom I would call myself a fan. They were the best live band in Australia, and arguably the world. At the Australian Made concert in 1987 they came on as the headline act, after what is still the strongest concert line-up Australia has ever seen (Mental as Anything, Divinyls, Crowded House, The Triffids, the Saints, the Models, Jimmy Barnes, and more) and blew everything off stage.

For the better part of 9 years– from Shabooh Shoobah in 1982 to X in 1990, they were the band by which I measured all other bands.

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