NB This post also included soundfiles, so if they don’t work on the browser you are using, try another browser. But then you’re way ahead of me, aren’t you?
Woke up this morning with good intentions and abandoned them within a minute or two. Was going to go to the gym - I got home on Monday night instead of tonight, Wednesday, because blah, blah, my daughter decided blah, blah, so I’m having a longer ‘weekend at home’ than usual blah, blah and didn’t get to the gym this week - and then retire to the genius centre, the newly decorated and inaugurated genius centre to do whatever I inteneded to do there, but, you know, as it is, one of those things, lay in bed a little longer, came downstairs, dawdled a little longer, you know how, we’ve all been there and anyhow, I got down to something else.
We’ve all heard of one-hit wonders and one-off hits, and I’m sure we all have a list of such songs, songs we like and get to hear every so often by chance, on the radio or in someone’s house. I don’t suppose my collection below, or part of my list because there are many more, can really be regarded as songs by ‘one-hit wonders’ because the artists involved most certainly had other hits and long careers. It’s just that apart from the particular song - of some of these - I like the song but had no more interest in the artist themselves and don’t really know - or care - what else they have done. Well, below are a few or my songs.
The first is Eric Carmen’s All By Myself which is a great, great song to listen to if you have a bottle of cheap red or white wine handed and, crucially, have been dumped. If it doesn’t bring you within a close sniffle of weeping, you are not human. I can’t actually remember listening to it as a new dumpee, but I have always liked it ever since Carmen released it in 1734 (a great year for pop, incidentally). This is a longer version I found on Spotify and which I had never actually heard before, and I am assuming it is an album version. The bonus is that there is a piano interlude of several minutes which, if you think it was great, you might like to know it wasn’t written by Carmen at all but by Sergei Rachmaninov.
Carmen was a mean pianist (and guitarist and violinist) who had been playing piano since he was very young and openly admits his song cribbed the chord sequence from Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. I’ve included a recording of that, too, so if you have the inclination (and you might already be familiar with it) give it a listen. It is well worth it. I don’t, as a rule, like an awful lot of late 19th-century Romantic music and find a little of it goes a long way. But I have a definite soft spot for Russian Romantic music which - at least the music I have heard - seems to avoid the often stodgy sickliness of some, especially late German. (For the record Richard Wagner leaves me very cold indeed, and then some.)
All By Myself - Eric Carmen
Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto - Second movement
. . .
After that, I’ve got a recording of Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes. What’s to say, it’s just a great song. And I haven’t heard anything else my Ms Carnes and don’t intend spending any time seeking out any more of her work.
Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
Then there is Fly By II by Blue, a band I have otherwise no interest in at all, but I love this song. I first heard it while using the gym at work and for catchy pop song it has it all. And there’s not much more to be said about it.
Fly By II - Blue
. . .
Blue also released a version of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word by Elton John (who also sang backing for their version), and that song is another of my favourites. Thing is my feelings for Elton John himself veer dangerously close to ‘can’t stand the cunt’, and I find his voice grating in the extreme, all phoney emotion and the rest. On his version it isn’t as bad as on most of his other song, but I was gratified to discover while looking it up on Spotify that there are several other versions, including one by Joe Cocker. But the one which really grabbed me was the one below, by Diane Krall.
Krall has a great voice and her take on the song would be great if it didn’t lose a little on points where a rather twee instrumental interlude takes the song from feelings to sugar and back again (it is those bloody flutes, never trust flutes. Oh, and strings can sometimes teeter on the edge). But it’s not enough to ruin the recording for me.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - Diane Krall
I was also pleased to find Ray Charles had made a cover version, then
less pleased to find it comes from an album of duets - and who should be
duetting with ol’ Ray but Elton John. But I have included it, or
part of it, because it highlights very well why I can’t stick Elton
John: Ray Charles starts off and sings as well as he always sings, then
Elton gets a verse, all fake emotion and the rest. It is his singing in comparison
with Ray Charles which makes the phoniness of it all so obvious. And don’t worry, I faded it
out once Elton ‘The Dickhead’ John had made my point for me
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - Ray Charles with Elton John
. . .
Another song I heard in the gym at work and which immediately grabbed me was Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner. Catchy isn’t the word. For some reason, and in a bout of odd enthusiasm I bought the his debut CD which has this song, and after listening to it once, have never listened to it again. But this one stands out. It’s simple, too, just three chords, and if I’m not mistaken the same three chords as George Michael’s Careless Whisper.
Cooler Than Me - Mike Posner
. . .
Kendra Morris’s Banshee, also grabbed me the first time I heard it, on Ray Donovan (with Liev Schreiber), and I have loved it ever since. I also bought the CD on which it appears, also I think a debut album, but unlike Posner’s I do listen to it again and again. She has a great voice.
Banshee - Kendra Morris
. . .
Then there’s another favourite of mine, again one I happened across while watching a film (I never finished watching the film, which wasn’t very good), and identified by googling the lyrics. It’s by a singer/songwriter called Lina who is from Denver, Colorado. She covers so many areas I love with her style, soul, jazz, R&B and her sound often oddly harks back to the Thirties (if that doesn’t sound too fanciful. The rest of her stuff isn’t half bad, either.
I’m Not The Enemy - Lina
. . .
PS It’s just occurred to me that is also quite interesting to do this process in reverse: list the songs I dislike (although, for very obvious reasons, not go to all the bother of tracking the songs down, working on them, lodging them in cyberspace so that they are available, then linking to them on my blog with the appropriate code). And there are quite a few awful songs, many of them sodding ‘classics’.
So, in no particular order, songs that make me grit my teeth, leave the room or otherwise avoid include John Lennon’s Imagine (drippy, dreary shite), Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Don’t They Know It’s Christmas by everyone whose manager could get them in on the act to win the brownie points going round, and coke, I should think, too.
By the way, as someone pointed out, the song was uniquely inappropriate for the starving of Muslim Ethiopia given that being Muslim, they don’t celebrate ‘Christmas’ and many are not likely to know what it is anyway. So, no, they probably didn’t know it was Christmas. The song is a useful example of just how self-centred the West is: even when attempting to do good - and their intentions were admirable - they still see the world from their perspective.
Then there’s Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, which almost makes my skin crawl, any song whose lyrics include the word ‘destiny’, anything and everything by the ginger-haired tosser from Simply Red (and do you Yank or other non-Brit readers understand the word ‘tosser’? I’m sure you have your own versions, but to make it clearer, it’s synonymous with ‘wanker’).
Now I’m trying to think of the songs I loathe, none are readily coming to mind, and I’m certain far more will occur to me once this addendum is posted and I am a million miles from a computer. But hey-ho, life is tough.