Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 11 – Chic Productions

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Two weeks ago, I said “God, I love disco.” God was evidently listening, and suspected that I was full of bullshit, which is why he sent this playlist to test me. Turns out God knows me better than I know myself. Apparently I don’t love disco.

Incomplete Spotify playlist.

After the first or second run through this playlist, I was aware that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as the week 9 playlist. Nothing that I could put my finger on, I just wasn’t getting the same buzz from it. In the interests of giving it a fair crack of the whip, I listened to the playlist again. But the more I listened to it, the worse it got.

There are lots of incredibly funky basslines on this playlist, but that’s not enough to justify listening for half an hour. I’ve always been a little critical of the “Let’s See How Long We Can Stretch This Out For” school of songwriting, and that seems to be what’s going on here. I can look down the playlist and say “ooh, *Good Times* is a good song, as is *Lost In Music* and *I’m Coming Out* by Diana Ross and *Why* by Carly Simon” but when it comes to actually listening to the song all the way through, I find myself reaching for the skip button after a minute, because I know that there’s just going to be more of the same for another four minutes.

This isn’t the first time that I have felt like God’s chewtoy.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 139
Two playlists on this page, a coin toss selected – Dodgy French. The book says:

> Somehow, putting a few French *mots* in an otherwise *anglais* song pretty much guarantees *sérieux* kitsch. Blondie managed to get away with it; way down at the other end of the scale, there’s Bill Wyman.

\#2 in the playlist is *Le Freak* by Chic, but we’ll ignore that one.

Spotify playlist, once again woefully incomplete, don’t know why I bother

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 10 – Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

We’ve listened to this playlist probably more than any of the others so far, as we went to Worcestershire at the weekend. I think this might be the first time I’ve left Berkshire in 2009. It gave us ample opportunity to listen to it. The Spotify playlist is so incomplete as to be mostly useless, but hey.

1. **Hey Jack Kerouac** from In My Tribe – off the bat, I’m aware that Natalie Merchant has one of those vocal styles which means that you’ll struggle to figure out the lyrics just by listening. There’s potentially lots of fun to be had here. Fairly pleasant, inoffensive song.

2. **Don’t Talk** from In My Tribe – more of the same, very jangly 80s guitars. It’s hard to categorise the genre of 10,000 Merchants, but I suppose my initial reaction was “that sounds a bit like Blondie”.

3. **Like The Weather** from In My Tribe – I’ve come to the conclusion that I really like this song. The guitar hook, the vocal melody, the rhythm, the handclaps, the bassline. There’s lots of cute details in the drum part too. Utterly dishy.

4. **Eat For Two** from Blind Man’s Zoo – decent song, but those jangly guitars in the chorus do start to grate after a while. There’s nothing particularly remarkable to single it out, except perhaps the bass run that leads into the chorus. Quite listenable though.

5. **These Are Days** from Our Time In Eden – this one sounds like the theme tune to an American TV show. I can’t listen without imagining a series of one-second clips of some impossibly-good-looking teenagers or twentysomethings with the actor’s name superimposed.

6. **Trouble Me** from MTV Unplugged – a fairly good song, but fairly uninteresting. Musically speaking, it doesn’t feel like much effort went into this. I guess Natalie wrote some lyrics and a chord sequence, and then the rest of the band just phoned it in.

7. **Because The Night** from MTV Unplugged – not terribly different from Patti Smith’s original, but definitely better. Perhaps a bit quicker, far superior vocal performance, much more sensitive drumming.

8. **Carnival** from Tigerlily – very strongly reminiscent of Texas (you know, the band fronted by Sharleen Spiteri). I think the main reason why I have this association is because the backing vocals mirror the main vocal melody, but an octave higher. That’s a very Texasy thing, in my head. This song has made quite an impression on me – it’s memorable, albeit at 6 minutes long, it’s not very lean.

9. **This House Is On Fire** from Motherland – Karen took the words right out of my mouth when she said “sounds like Kosheen!” Well, it sounds like one of Kosheen’s slow songs. The similarity is mainly in the vocal performance. Speaking of vocal performances, she sees to be enunciating a bit more clearly in her solo stuff. And the songs seem to be a bit more crafted than the thrown-togetheredness that was apparent in the 10,000 Maniacs material.

10. **Which Side Are You On?** from The House Carpenter’s Daughter – for some people, this kind of slow, miserable folk music is their kind of thing. Not me.

So, in conclusion: I know that Karen’s really enjoyed this playlist, but it’s a bit more her kind of thing than mine. For me, this is a 5/10. No strong feelings one way or the other, though *Like The Weather* definitely has a chance of making it onto my end of year highlights playlist (assuming that such a thing will come to pass).

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 68
Two playlists on this page. The Bernard Device chose the first, which is Chic Productions. The book says:

> In the late 1970s and early 80s the sond of the Chic production team (guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards) was the sleekest and most stylish in popular music. Some might even say that it was never surpassed.

Yay! More disco!

Incomplete Spotify playlist

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 9 – Disco

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

One of the problems with disco music is that there tend to be about 8,000 different versions and remixes of each song, so it’s hard to get hold of the definitive version. Still, here’s an incomplete Spotify playlist which hopefully comes close.

1. **Law Of The Land** The Temptations – the obligatory “historical significance” entry in the playlist, this one starts quite promisingly but goes downhill when you realise it’s just going to squat on a C chord for ages, with no direction or dynamic. There’s a cute little breakdown at about the 3 minute mark but it only lasts for 20 seconds.

2. **Ten Percent** Double Exposure – this one was relatively hard to get hold of, and isn’t on Spotify. It is on YouTube though. The version that I’ve been listening to all week is a thrilling 9:45, which has impacted my view of it somewhat. The version on YouTube is just over 4 minutes long, and much more bearable. Atrocious sound quality though. Anyway, to the song – all of the disco cliches are in evidence here – the brass stabs, the slow strings with the fast run in the chorus, a very funky bassline. Adds up to a very fine disco song.

3. **Don’t Leave Me This Way** Thelma Houston – words cannot describe how much I love this song. Utterly fabulous bassline, and the build up to the first chorus is so perfect that it makes me cry. If your only experience of this is the Communards’ version then you really are missing out.

4. **You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)** Sylvester – again, the original is far superior to the Jimmy Somerville version that you are more likely to be familiar with, but the difference is not so pronounced as with the previous song. That said, it feels a bit busy – I think there are some bongos in there, along with a palm-muted electric guitar (or something that sounds a lot like it) that just don’t let up, and it leaves the song without enough room to breathe. It’s also a bit long – a 3-minute version of this track would be far more listenable than this 6-minute version, but perhaps a bit less disco-friendly.

5. **Weekend** Phreek – the version that I’ve been listening to all week is shorter than the one on the Spotify playlist, provided. Which is the definitive version? I do not know. Anyway, this song is another hit, in my opinion. It takes the best part of a minute to get going, and you have the feeling that there’s something great about to happen. And indeed, there is. There’s a great melody here, with a most appropriate slap bass line.

6. **I Feel Love** Donna Summer – I think you probably already know this one. Very memorable, it’s a song that you think has been rendered lame and cheesy through overexposure, until you actually listen to it and realise the depth in the arrangement.

7. **I Will Survive** Gloria Gaynor – what do you mean, you’ve never heard the Shiny Tight Stuff version?

8. **Disco Circus** Martin Circus – this seems like a fairly dull house track. Not sure what it’s doing in a disco playlist. Maybe I’ve accidentally picked up a remix or something, but it’s all I could find with this title.

9. **Vertigo/Relight My Fire** Dan Hartman – okay, so I will try to put this as unconfusingly as possible. The song on Spotify is eleven minutes long ((it is referred to on Wikipedia as the Full Length Version)). The first half is *Vertigo* which is a sort of instrumental thing that’s rather groovy, and builds up the suspense nicely, and the second half is *Relight My Fire* but it’s a version that doesn’t seem to have verses. It’s too long, and fairly dull. However, the song that I’ve been listening to all week is less than four minutes ((I think this is the one referred to on Wikipedia as the Radio Version)), and is just *Relight My Fire* but with verses. So much more akin to the version that Take That did. Having explained all of this, I’m bored of the subject and can’t be arsed to bother reviewing it. Which is a shame, because if I *could* be arsed to review it, I’d actually have some positive things to say about it. TOO MANY REMIXES! TO THE BACK TEETH I AM SICK!

10. **Go Bang #5** Dinosaur L – another rather boring dance song, this one has delusions of artiness. It just comes off as pretentious and clumsy. Again, it doesn’t seem to belong on this playlist.

God, I love disco.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 233
Only one playlist on this page – Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs. And yes, that’s on the facing page to Memphis – I’m starting to wonder about whether this random number generator is really random. The book says:

> The Maniacs were a quintessential college-rock band, yoking good-time party-boy musicians to a solemn singer-songwriter… who finally took off for a solo career.

I could only find half of the songs on Spotify, but here’s the playlist anyway.

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 8 – The Pogues

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Karen and I have both, to all intents and purposes, taken a week off from the stunt this week, as after listening to this playlist once through, we both agreed that we didn’t need to listen to it again.

It has, however, got me thinking about the state of music. Again. When the Music Industry has completed its long, protracted suicide, and the Noise Levels At Work Regulations 2016 prohibit public music performances using amplified musical instruments or other amplified sound sources, there won’t be pop music any more. Pop music’s existence was made possible by the invention of the audio amplifier in 1906. Previously, there was (loosely speaking) two broad genres of music: classical music and folk music. Classical music was something you consumed. Folk music was something that you got involved in. There was a void in the middle, which was filled by pop music, which could be seen as a sociable form of classical music, or a form of folk music with more complexity in its structures. Classical music doesn’t need amplifiers because people sit in silence and listen to it. Folk music doesn’t need amplifiers because everyone in the pub is singing along, by design. But without amplifiers, pop music (and dance music) can’t be sustained in a live environment.

So in 10 years time (and this is entirely my hypothesis) you will have the following three options, if you want to listen to some music:

1. After clicking on the necessary EULA and paying the suitable fee, you will be granted a temporary license to listen to your music collection for the evening. Your locally-cached copies of the files will self-delete at midnight. If you want to listen with friends, you will have to pay extra.
2. Go to a concert. Remember that there’s no amplifiers, though, so you won’t be permitted to speak with your friends. If you speak during the performance, your Concert-Goers License will be suspended for three months.
3. Go to the pub, get drunk, sing along to folk music.

Options 2 and 3 are basically the same choices that you had before the 20th Century.

I suppose my point is that when (if! if!) all this comes to pass, then we will all be singing along to The Pogues, and probably enjoying it.

Here’s that spotify playlist again, if you really want it.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 95
Only one playlist on this page – Peter Shapiro’s **Disco**. The book says:

> Peter Shapiro is author of the acclaimed *Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History Of Disco* (Faber, 2005). The book is, in his words, a trawl through the roots, development and excesses of “the music that taste forgot”. It’s an amazing story. Shapiro asserts that “although disco may be the most maligned genre in human history, these are ten records no one should be ashamed of owning.”

Incomplete Spotify playlist

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 7 – Nina Simone

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Spotify playlist. There’s a couple of links to lyrics sites in here. I don’t know what sort of crud the pages will contain, so I suggest that you don’t click through without a thick armour of NoScript and AdBlock.

1. **Feeling Good** from I Put A Spell On You – a magnificent song, proven by the fact that I must have heard it a few hundred times but it’s still great to listen to.

2. **My Baby Just Cares For Me** from Little Girl Blue – I thought that I didn’t like this song. Something about the jaunty rhythm seemed just too hard to listen to. But I’ve learn to relax and embrace it. I wish that I could bottle the piano solo and take it with me everywhere. Glorious lyrics too – the rhymes don’t feel forced, the subject matter doesn’t feel trite.

3. **Mississippi Goddamn** from In Concert – as Nina remarks halfway through, “this is a showtune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.” I don’t think much of the music, but you’ve got to respect the lyrics and the sentiment behind them.

4. **I Put A Spell On You** from I Put A Spell On You – lyrically there’s not much substance here, though I’m sure that it will strike a chord with many, and they are well-delivered. The orchestration is utterly perfect.

5. **Strange Fruit** from Pastel Blues – I’ve spent most of the week listening to this song without paying attention to the lyrics, and consequently thinking of it as being slow and morose. The playlist book notes that *Simone found this song so harrowing that she broke down every time she sang it and eventually had to drop it from her repertoire.* I can understand that now.

6. **I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl** from Sings The Blues – this is the good kind of blues. It’s got a short tenor sax solo that makes me absolutely melt with its laziness. The vibe is basically what Norah Jones tried to emulate.

7. **I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free** from Silk & Soul – doesn’t do much for me. It develops at a steady pace, but goes a bit too far, and by the end it’s just all too hectic and busy.

8. **To Be Young Gifted & Black** from Black Gold – no disrespect to the sentiment, but I find this song a bit underwhelming. The lyrics seem cheesy, with uninspired rhymes, and the tune is a bit dull.

9. **Save Me** from Silk & Soul – it’s a really funky disco-pop tune, but it doesn’t do much, and the lyrics don’t seem to serve any purpose other than as a vehicle for Nina’s voice.

10. **Four Women** from Wild Is The Wind – see *Young Gifted & Black* only this one is slower, and thus more likely to send you to sleep.

So, in conclusion: probably my favourite of the seven playlists we’ve had so far, though that’s mainly because there’s some really ferociously good songs in here. I’m really enjoying this Spotify malarkey too.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 284
Only one playlist on this page – The Pogues / Shane MacGowan. The book says:

> The Pogues didn’t so much creep into the limelight in early 1980s London, but emerged seemingly fully formed with a pint of stout in one hand and an attitude in the other. At the band’s core was the UK-born, but of Limerick stock, singer and lyricist Shane MacGowan who, at his peak and before his love of pints of Martini set in, produced a stream of stupendously poetic songs, all rooted in the Irish tradition. The band still reforms for Xmas and New Year shows, but nothing can ever repeat the sheer brio of their mid-1980s gigs. You really had to be there!

Here’s the spotify URL, if you want to listen to it with me over the course of the week. The playlist lists track 10 as “The Snake At The Gates Of Hell” which I think is a typo. And if anyone out there fancies joining in with the stunt, let me know.

Daily Music Stunt 2009

Daily links for Saturday 14th February 2009

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 6 – Rick Rubin

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Only seven of these ten songs were available on Spotify but here’s the playlist anyway.

1. **I Need A Beat** LL Cool J – next…

2. **Rhyming & Stealing** The Beastie Boys – You either “get” the Beastie Boys or you don’t. Their appeal can not be explained in words. I know this, because people have tried to explain it to me in the past.

3. **Rock The Bells** LL Cool J – I’m clearly not the target audience here. Expecting me to enjoy listening to LL Cool J is like expecting a tortoise to enjoy a cigarette.

4. **Walk This Way** Run DMC – I kinda half-liked this song until I actually listened to it.

5. **Cross Your Heart** The Red Devils – by comparison to the previous 4 songs, this slow blues number is fantastic. But only by comparison. It contains a moment that is so bad that it is hilarious – the harmonica solo opens with a 20 second long note. That’s one high note, held for 20 seconds. Impressive lung capacity, maybe, but what were they thinking? Why do you want to punish your listeners so badly?

6. **Under The Bridge** Red Hot Chili Peppers – this is the best thing that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have ever done. And it’s fantastic. It’s perfectly paced and not too busy. It’s a great advert for Rick Rubin’s production skills. I never feel the need to skip to the end.

7. **The Beast In Me** Johnny Cash – it’s a nice song, but considering that this playlist is supposed to be all about Rick Rubin (producer), I don’t see the point in including a song that’s just vocals and one acoustic guitar. It’s hard to get that wrong really.

8. **By The Way** Red Hot Chili Peppers – I went through a phase of liking RHCP once, but it has long since worn off. Listening to this song, I feel like it’s crying out for a really delicate acoustic cover version that would blow the socks off of the original. In a moment of curiosity, I searched on YouTube but all I could find were cover versions of people playing it on an acoustic guitar, but in the same style as the original. Maybe I should step up and take the challenge.

9. **Hurt** Johnny Cash – I love this song. Especially how the vocals clip slightly, and not in a warm analog way, but in a harsh digital way. Over the course of the song, the clipping gets more and more noticeable, until the last chorus, when it sounds like the microphone is breaking. It’s so wrong, but it feels so right. The acoustic guitar is double-tracked with the channels panned hard-left and hard-right, but whereas standard doubletracking technique is to get the two takes as close as possible, on this song they are clearly intentionally different. It contributes to this song’s effectiveness.

10. **Oh Mary** Neil Diamond – the acoustic guitar is double-tracked in exactly the same fashion as the previous song. This is quite a beautiful song, as long as you’ve got the time to sit and take it in – it doesn’t go anywhere fast.

So, in conclusion: there’s a few songs in here that I like, and you can’t deny that Rick Rubin has breadth, but this playlist hasn’t had much depth. There’s only four songs that even registered on my adequatometer.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 336
Two playlists on this page, the randometer then fell on the second one – Nina Simone. The book says:

> She set her heart on being a classical pianist and never wanted to be a singer at all. But, despite her reluctance, she could sing her laundry list and make it sound soulful becoming one of the great vocal stylists of the last fifty years. These ten span jazz, blues, pop, swing and soul.

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 5 – Sly Stone

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

It doesn’t make sense to review these songs individually, because I’ve been enjoying this album by dancing around the living room to it, and making Bernard laugh, without knowing exactly what the name of the song that I’m listening to is. Tracks of note, amongst these 10, are:

* **If You Want Me To Stay** from Fresh – very funky, the bass is fantastic, both in terms of the bassline and the tone of the instrument.

* **Family Affair** from There’s A Riot Goin’ On – really stands out in this playlist, as it is more than just a three-minute funkfest. A very finely crafted song.

* **Que Sera Sera** from Fresh – enormously underwhelming cover version. Don’t know why they bothered.

* **Everyday People** from Stand! – I found this song incredibly dull and repetitive, which is strange, because *People Everyday* by Arrested Development (which used this song as a basis) is fantastic. It’s just too conspicuously monochordal. The bassline seems to be just one note (G) played on the off-beat, from start to finish.

* **Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)** from Greatest Hits – cute title, but I found it hard to listen to. The bassline is this slap-and-pop type affair which is annoying in its own right, but what makes it worse is that the timing doesn’t seem right to me. As a musician, I’ve got a highly developed sensitivity to poor timing and pitch. Tiny errors make me wince. It’s a curse. This bassline feels slow, like it’s being dragged along by the rest of the song, and not in an intentionally lazy way. It’s as if it’s always racing to catch up.

So, in conclusion: I am going to be getting an envelope filter to get some funkier tones out of my bass. And there’s more evidence of drums hard-panned in the stereo image, which is a problem when you’re listening through headphones. Good strutting music though.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 323
Two playlists – our random selection gave us Rick Rubin. The book says:

> “Reduced by Rick Rubin” read the original Def Jam production credits and Rubin’s minimalist style has reinvented rap, rock and country. Rubin dropped out of law school to set up Def Jam Records and follow his very individual instincts as a producer. Instantly successful, he’s taken hip-hop into the mainstream, promoted thrash metal, resurrected Johnny Cash and made the Red Hot Chili Peppers superstars. He’s done his share of forgettable money jobs (Mick Jagger, Melanie C, The Cult) yet rarely rests on his laurels…

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 4 – Elvis Presley

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

I’m a little bit torn. Should I be evaluating these songs, or should I just be evaluating Elvis Presley’s contribution to them?

This week, Lady P has helpfully generated a Spotify playlist so that you can listen along. If you use Spotify. Which I don’t.

1. **Lawdy Miss Clawdy** from Elvis Presley – only two minutes long, but after a minute of listening to this song you’ve already absorbed everything that it has to offer. It’s catchy, but shallow. I think that this song must be quite an early Elvis song, as his trademark vocal style is totally absent. It reminds me of the demo version of “Live Forever” where Liam Gallagher’s voice doesn’t sound like a sack of gravel down a blackboard.

2. **Mystery Train** from Elvis At Sun – Probably a bit better than last week’s version, but I still don’t find it terribly interesting.

3. **Long Black Limousine** from From Elvis In Memphis – I love the sentiment behind this song, the story that it tells. Nice gospel choir too. But I hate that the bass and drums have been panned hard right. I know that back then, nobody really thought that anybody would be listening to these songs through headphones, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable to listen to.

4. **His Latest Flame** from No1s – This song has been in my head quite a lot this week, but not in an annoying way. Which is quite a compliment, if you think about it.

5. **Tomorrow Is A Long Time** from Tomorrow Is A Long Time – A rather dull ballad which doesn’t have any kind of development or dynamic.

6. **Good Rocking Tonight** from Elvis At Sun – almost as brain-dead as your average song about cars. If you just wanted something to dance to then it would probably be fine, but it doesn’t bear up to any level of scrutiny.

7. **I’m Leavin’** from Burning Love – I wouldn’t say that it’s my kind of song, but I can appreciate what went into it.

8. **In The Ghetto** from From Elvis In Memphis – I wish I knew how I felt about this song. It’s a “protest” song, of sorts, and they fill me with such conflicting sentiments. On the one hand, I hate being pontificated at by a wealthy pop singer. But on the other hand, if you feel strongly about something, why should you stay silent? Anyway, leaving all that guff aside, good song. Though the bass guitar has been panned hard right again. Stop that shit.

9. **Heartbreak Hotel** from No1s – magnificent song, it’s ever so satisfying to listen to a song that’s barely over two minutes, and justifies every single second of it.

10. **One Night** from No1s – not really fussed about the song, but the vocal performance is exceptional. There’s a non-zero quantity of DaveGrohlishness in there, dare I say it.

So, in conclusion: it’s improving, and I’m grateful of the opportunity to sample some Elvis. I’m wondering if my enjoyment of these playlists is being impaired by the fact that I’m listening to them with an ear to reviewing them later. I’ve always felt that most things are spoiled by over-analysing. What can I do?

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 341
Two options, random selection is the second – Sly Stone. The book says:

> The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations and James Brown may have had more hits, but no-one epitomized the late 1960s/early 70s more than Sly & the Family Stone. While other bands paid lip service to such 1960s ideals as racial integration, sexual equality and fighting the establishment, the erstwhile Sylvester Stewart and his clan of brothers, sisters and ofays put the rhetoric into practice with some of the most radical, perfectly crafted, galvanizing music ever.

Stunt 2009


Seems like I accidentally scheduled that post to publish at the wrong time. In today’s feedy world, it’s hard to take back things that you’ve already published. Maybe I should switch to partial feeds 😉