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OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (6)

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This was played at a funeral I attended just before Christmas.

It’s a song that was chosen by a good friend of mine as the final piece of music as he said goodbye to someone who had been by his side for 49 years since their first date. He and his wife had both been fans of The Kinks back in the day. It was a wonderful way to get across their love for one another and, as often happens with music at funerals, it choked me up:-

mp3 : The Kinks – Days

And yes, the early pressings of this #12 hit from 1968 did appear as Day’s, a grammatical error on the part of someone at Pye Records which must have infuriated Ray Davies.

Twenty-one years later, Kirsty MacColl recorded the songs and released it as single. Strange as it may seem, it too reached #12 in the charts:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Days

A little bit of research threw up that a few other folk have had a go at the song over the years:-

mp3 : Elvis Costello – Days
(as featured on the soundtrack to the movie Until The End Of The World, released in 1991)

mp3 : Petula Clark – Days
(released in 1968, just a matter of months after the original)

mp3 : Luke Kelly – Days
(not sure of the actual release date of this, from the late lead singer of The Dubliners; it’s proof however, that this is a superb folk as well as pop song)

Enjoy.

THE BOY DONE GOOD…THE GIRL DONE BETTER

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There’s a couple of reasons why I still adore this single more than 30 years after it was released (I know, I was staggered and left speechless by that fact too!!),  For one, crashing into the Top 10 took Kirsty McColl away from ever having the stigma of ‘one-hit wonder’ given her lack of chart success since the 1981 success of There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis. Secondly, it helped raise the profile of Billy Bragg and showed the world there was an awful lot more to his song-writing talents than rabble-rousing anthems for left-wingers.

I remember paying a few shillings extra to buy the 12″ version of this single at the time – a move I have never regretted. Yes, the song is more than double the length of the version played on the radio, but there’s not a single second wasted on what is a superb production by Kirsty’s then husband, Steve Lillywhite uber-producer of the 80s who was rich and famous from his collaborations with U2.

And the b-sides, both penned by Kirsty, aren’t bad efforts either:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – A New England (12″ version)
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Patrick
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – I’m Going Out With An Eighty Year Old Millionaire

Enjoy

CHECK OUT THE TALENT ON SHOW TODAY…

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It was just a week after the break-up of The Smiths that Johnny Marr penned a tune he quickly sent onto Kirsty MacColl who, at the time, was needing a bit of help overcoming a bout of writer’s block. It turned out to be exactly what she was looking for although it still took a few years, with the addition of lyrics, a bit of melody and a little bit of rap, before it was shaped into the hit single Walking Down Madison.

It reached #23 in the summer of 1991 with Johnny contributing guitar to the recording process. It was released in a number of formats and it is CD2 I’ve turned to today for the fact that it also enables contributions from Ray Davies, Billy Bragg and Johnny Moped.

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (urban mix)
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Days
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (LP extended version)

The second of the tracks is of course the record company being lazy by including Kirsty’s #12 hit from just two years earlier, the rich and gorgeous take on the song first made famous by The Kinks.

The third of the tracks is a duet with the Bard of Barking which sounds as if it was great fun to make. It’s a cover of a song by the infamously legendary Johnny Moped, a mid 70s pub/punk band considered by many to be pretty talentless in the grand scheme of things, although their number at one point in time did include the man who would become Captain Sensible of The Damned and then later on provide us with a novelty #1 hit single.

Woth mentioning too that Johnny Moped scored a #15 appearance in the 1977 edition of the John Peel Festive Fifty (which that year was NOT a listener’s chart but entirely the choices of the late DJ):-

mp3 : Johnny Moped – Incendiary Device

Enjoy

A POP SONG THAT STAYS JUST ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF NOVELTY

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I won’t insult anyone by recounting the life and times and ultimately the tragic and untimely death of Kirsty MacColl.

Like most of you who are aged 40 and upwards, I’m guessing the first time she would have appeared on your radar was when she took this into the charts back in the spring of 1981:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis

Released in an era when many refused to believe the ‘King of Rock’nRoll’ had really died four years earlier, this is a  humourous pop song that just stays on the right side of novelty from the pen of someone who Johnny Marr has described as one of England’s greatest-ever lyricists….and from a man who has worked so closely with Morrissey and Matt Johnson, then that has to be seen as praise of the highest order.

It’s a single I picked up cheap quite recently and outside of maybe a couple of plays on radio I haven’t heard it much over the past 33 years.  Sad to say, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by it – it was a lot duller and far more mainstream that I had ever remembered and I found it all a bit disappointing.

For a long time after ‘Chip Shop’ it looked as if Kirsty was going to go down as a one-hit wonder, but thanks to her cracking cover of a Billy Bragg song she was able to kick-start her career in 1984, and while she rarely made an impact on the higher echelons of the chart, all of her records were afforded critical acclaim and respectable sales.

There were two b-sides to ‘Chip Shop’, one of which is features an alternative take on the single:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Hard To Believe
mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (country version)

Again, I was left a little disappointed by these.  They are certainly not as good as the later material she would release.

Enjoy.

A POLITICAL PROTEST SONG

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The 1980s was a decade when pop and politics were mixed like no other, certainly here in the UK.

The threat of a nuclear holocaust, the miners’ strike, the struggle for democracy in South Africa, homophobia, the efforts to bring an end to the Iron Curtain, famine in Africa, the worries around the growth of a fascist state in the UK, the ever-increasing gaps in living standards between those who had and those who hadn’t, the Falklands War, the UK riots and the ‘greed is best’ ethos were common subject matters in pop music during the Thatcher-era which began and ended just either side of the 80s.

There’s loads of great and memorable songs from that era, none more so than Nelson Mandela which helped take a decades-old campaign to places it hadn’t been before or Ghost Town which perfectly captured the grim despair that many parts of the UK felt as the full effects of laissez-faire capitalism took a firm grip.

In 1989, Kirsty MacColl slipped out a tremendously jaunty sounding single whose lyrics encapsulate much of what the previous decade had been all about:-

I thought of you when they closed down the school
And the hospital too
Did they think that you were better?
They were wrong
You had so many friends
They all left you in the end
‘Cause they couldn’t take the patter

And I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by a struggle
Going down
You’ve got to walk into the water
With your sister and your daughter
In this free world

If I wore your shades could I share your point of view?
Could I make you feel better?
Paint a picture, write a letter?
Well I know what you’re saying
But I see the things you do
And it’s much too dangerous
To get closer to you

But I will see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
Going down
With a pocketful of plastic
Like a dollar on elastic
In this free world
I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
And the ghettos are full of Mercedes Benz
And you’d never hurt a friend
Who wouldn’t tell you

It’s cold and it’s going to get colder
You may not get much older
You’re much too scared of living
And to die is a reliable exit
So you push it and you test it
With Thunderbird and Rivin

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again
Women and men united by the struggle
In this free world baby
Got to take it got to grab it
Got to get it up and shag it
In this free world

Going down
You’ve got to get into the water
Like a lamb goes to the slaughter
In this free world baby
Going down
With a pocketful of plastic
Like a dollar on elastic
In this free world
I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care

Sadly, the single didn’t crack the charts and so has become one of the many forgotten political protest songs of the era:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Free World

The 12″ of this had an exceptional cover version:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby

Johnny Marr himself contributed guitar to this particular recording and in doing so, combined with Kirsty’s tremendous vocal delivery, has made this a rare instance of when the fresh take was better than the original.

The final track was this:-

mp3 : Kirsty MacColl – Closer to God?

I really wish the record bosses had made this a double-A side of Free World and You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby for I’m certain there would have been more airplay and sales.  And who knows, there might even have been a wonderful post-Smiths appearance for Johnny on Top of the Pops.

Enjoy!!

PS : I’d like to invite T(n)VV readers to contribute their own favourite or memorable political protest songs along with a few lines of explanation with the idea of starting up a new series.  If you fancy joining in, please send it over to thevinylvillain@hotmail.co.uk

Cheers.