Single of the week

Don’t Change (INXS)

When INXS first hit the UK chart with What you Need in 1986 it went relatively unnoticed. The song only reached number 58 and their next three singles; Listen like Thieves (number46), Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) (number 54) and Need You Tonight (number 58) were all by-passed by the general British public. It was only when their next single, New Sensation, reached number 25 people took notice. What many won’t realise is that by 1988 when Never Tear Us Apart came along, they’d been going for 11 years. But this week let’s look at one of the early releases.

They were formed in Sydney, New South Wales in 1977 as the Farriss Brothers but not formed by them. Tim and Andrew Farriss were in different bands, Andrew in Doctor Dolphin and Tim in Guinness and each had future INXS members but it was Andrew who invited his school mate Michael Hutchence to join Doctor Dolphin and guitarist Tim was with sax player Kirk Pengilly. In 1977, Tim asked his brother and Hutchence to join forces, they also invited Jon, the youngest of the Farriss brothers.

This week I focus on their seventh release which was called Don’t Change which missed the UK charts altogether but did garner a little airplay in 1980 when radio stations dared to play something different especially shows like Paul Gambaccini’s American hits programme and Don’t Change did reached number 80 Stateside.

The song, although credits the writers as INXS, it was actually created by Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss in 1982 during the recording of their third album Shabooh Shoobah and is a very simple message, “Everything Changes, or does it? Nothing lasts forever and yet most of us at some point in our lives want it to.” Andrew said.

The accompanying video was meant to be shot on an airport runway in Southern Australia, but on the day it was pouring with rain and the plan had to be cancelled. The video was directed by Scott Hicks whom Hutchence wanted to bring in because he had worked with him on an Australian film called Freedom for which Hutchence had provided the tracks Speed Kills which was Hutchence’s debut solo single and Forest Theme. If was Scott who had the idea to use hangar in a nearby airport.

In 2014 Channel 7 in Australia aired the mini-series INXS: Never Tear Us Apart and on the back of that, the song was download enough times to allow it to creep into the lower end of the Aussie chart. Later the same year Bruce Springsteen included it in his Australian tour which was so well received that he then included it on the next leg of the tour in New York. It’s also made its way into the sports world by the Maryland-based Baltimore Ravens football team, who, when there’s a dispute during the game and the referee finds in their favour they play a snippet of the chorus. In the film world it was included in the 2009 film Adventureland.

INXS went on to have 26 UK hits and nine studio albums between 1986 and 2002. Lead singer Hutchence was often in the press because of his love-life and string of affairs which included Kylie Minogue and Paula Yates – with whom they had a daughter, Tiger Lily. It’s unbelievably just over 20 years since Michael Hutchence committed suicide and after Yates died of a heroin overdose in 2000 Lily was placed in Yates’ former husband, Bob Geldof’s care. The band continued after his death and had three difference lead singers, Jimmy Barnes in 1998, Terence Trent D’Arby in 1999 and Ciaran Gribbin from September 2011 until the group disbanded in November 2012.

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Broken Stones (Paul Weller)

Very few musicians have success with one band, success with another and then as a solo artist. Paul McCartney would be the obvious name, but it’s not this week choice. This man had 18 hits with his first band in five and a half years, then 17 during the following six years and then a solo career which began in 1991 and has so far racked 38 hits. Paul Weller is the man in question and his tally to date is 73 hits and that doesn’t include guest appearances. Incidentally McCartney has had 98, Elton John has 87, Glee – 100, Elvis – 119 and Cliff – 134, and so he’s up there with the best but still a way to catch up. Paul has also had 24 hit albums with 1995s Stanley Road being the most successful with 87 week s on the chart and from it, let’s talk Broken Stones.

In an interview in 1998 with Paul Lester, Weller said of Stanley Road, “I was really surprised at the success of the album because it was quite dark. I remember playing the demo to friends and they were saying ‘take it off’. I was conscious that there were a lot of sweet tunes like You Do Something to Me and Times Passes so I wanted to add a darkness to the album. It was one of those records where everything came together; you had the songs which are always at the heart of it, we had the right studio, a great sleeve and it was a boom time for music. Bands were back and it was the right time for me – it was the most complete thing I’ve ever done.”

“We were very buoyant when we entered the studio,” he told Lois Wilson, “a lot of the material had been written up front. There had been a good year-and-a-half of playing on the road in between Wild Wood and the making of Stanley Road so I’d written at home, on the tour bus, in hotel rooms, wherever I could snatch the time, and we had a chance to play a lot of the songs in on the road.” The first single released from the album the Out of the Sinking which stalled at number 20 in November 1994, it was followed by The Changingman and You Do Something to Me and, finally, the fourth single was Broken Stones.

The song’s idea came from a conversation he was having with his son whilst at the beach. “He was asking me where all the pebbles came from, Paul explained to Daniel Rachel, “I told him we were all part of one rock before and we all got smashed down in time and splintered and sent around the earth. I don’t know if that’s true or not, scientifically, but that was my explanation to him anyway. But even if it wasn’t true, as a metaphor for us as a human race, human spirit, that we all come from one source and we just got splintered and sent round the world, there was a sense of spirituality that we’re all seeking to get back to that core again or get back home. So that spiritual element I married to the gospel accordion chords in it. It’s like an old gospel or spiritual tune to me.”

It’s a simple song that, like Sting’s Fields of Gold, could have been written at any point in time. A beautiful track with a gentle guitar and littered with rimshots and fits in with the other tracks on Stanley Road.

Weller had a further three number one albums after Stanley Road which were Illumination (2002), 22 Dreams (2008) and Sonik Kicks (2012) and he released two albums in 2017, the much-overlooked Jawbone the soundtrack to a film which starred Ray Winstone and Ian McShane and featured the wonderful song The Ballad Of Jimmy McCabe, the other was A Kind Revolution which peaked at number five.

Paul keeps his finger on the pulse of the current music or recent music scene, in 2014 he wrote a song for Olly Murs’ new album Never Been Better, the song was called Let Me In but Olly wasn’t sure about it at first. He thought it needed to be a bit more commercial and so changed some lyrics and recorded it. He said, “I rang Paul with my version, thinking he’d say no, but he loved it. That gave me a huge confidence boost.”

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Green, Green Grass of Home (Tom Jones)

I do love it when there’s a discrepancy as to who recorded a particular song first. That gets me digging even deeper into the roots to find the origin and it’s not always the person who wrote it. John D. Loudermilk and Tony Joe White were two prolific songwriters who both tended to record their own songs after other people had recorded them first. This week’s suggestion, The Green, Green Grass of Home wasn’t written by either of the aforementioned person, nor was it first recorded by its author.

Marilyn Monroe made her screen debut in the 1950 film The Asphalt Jungle. It was a crime scene during that film that inspired Nashville songwriter Curly Putnam to write The Green, Green Grass of Home. It is the tale of a condemned prisoner who is dreaming of going back to the green grass home, but when he awakes, he remembers that he is about to face the electric chair. Like any archetypal country song, it makes references to the old hometown, a girl called Mary, a preacher, a death and a funeral.

So who did record the original? Well, scan as many books and websites as you like and it’ll throw up the names Porter Wagoner, Conway Twitty, Johnny Darrell, Roy Drusky and Jerry Lee Lewis. Indeed they did all record a version, but most popularly it will say Porter Wagoner – the man who Dolly Parton famously wrote I Will Always Love You about after seven years of performing together. Wagoner also had his own TV show in America and Darrell and Putman were good friends and drinking partners in the mid-sixties. The answer lies in Wagoner’s biography where he states, “I first heard the song when Darrell sang it on my TV show.” Wagoner then brought Johnny’s record home to get his wife’s opinion of the song when he was considering cutting it. But Darrell wasn’t the first choice. Putnam actually wrote it for another country singer Bobby Bare who disliked it and turned it down. Melodically it was inspired by the gospel song The Old Rugged Cross which was written in 1912 by George Bennard and first performed the following year. Hundreds of acts have recorded The Old Rugged Cross but the only UK hit version of it, albeit a minor one, was for Ethna Campbell in 1976 where it peaked at number 33 but did spend 11 weeks on the chart.

Jerry Lee Lewis recorded his version in 1965, a year after the original, as he was starting to move away from rock ‘n’ roll and into country music. It appeared in his album Country Songs for City Folks and it was Jerry Lee’s version that Tom Jones heard and recalled, “I said to my recording manager, Peter Sullivan, I’d like to record this. He said, ‘a country song?’ I said ‘yeah’, because I hadn’t done a country song up to that point. Les Reed did the arrangement and played piano on the track and made it more of a pop song than a country song, because when Jerry Lee Lewis did it, it was strict country. When I came back to England I recorded the song on TV and we did it like in a jail. But you don’t know it is a jail, until the camera pulls back and you see the bars, and there I am in this jail, singing The Green, Green Grass of Home.” Jones said, in a 2011 interview with The Mail On Sunday, “I used to collect anything Jerry Lee Lewis recorded, and still do. I was in New York in 1965 when I bought his country album Country Songs for City Folks. Green, Green Grass of Home just stuck out.”

Tom told Song Facts, “I got on well with Jerry Lee. I did have a bit of a dust-up with him one night in Vegas, but most of the time, we got on great. He came over to do a British tour in 1966 and I had just recorded the song. He told me he’d love to hear it, so I played it to him in his hotel room. He was knocked out with it and said: ‘You’ve done something different here, the arrangement is great. It sounds like a number one to me.’ I said: ‘I hope you’re right.’ He was. I think the lyrical content is important here. The guy in the song is really in a jail cell, but you don’t know until the end. That got to me. Good God, it paints a picture and yet a lot of people who love Green, Green Grass of Home don’t even realise that. This is about a man who is going to die and he’s just reminiscing on the precious parts of his life. It made me think of Wales when I recorded it – ‘the old home town looks the same’. When I went back to Pontypridd in those days, getting off the train from London, those words would ring true. It seems like a lot of people relate the sentiment to their home too.”

Tom had always claimed that his biggest regret was not getting into movies. Although he hated the film What’s New Pussycat, in 1965, he delivered the title song, which was very timely as it gave Tom’s chart career a much needed boost. In early 1966 he recorded another film title song and that was Thunderball for the James Bond movie of the same name.

Although the film was a success and Tom often opened his shows with the song, it failed to make the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic. Tom’s version of the song also inspired Engelbert Humperdinck to check out the country back catalogue and Engelbert found a 1949 song called Release Me written and first recorded by Eddie Miller and his Oklahomas.

Other big names who recorded the song were Dean Martin, Joe Tex, Johnny Cash, Nana Mouskouri, Joan Baez and Elvis Presley. During Christmas 1966, Elvis was driving from California back to his home in Memphis when Green, Green Grass of Home came on the radio. He couldn’t stop raving about it and got a friend of his in Arkansas to call the radio station and have them play it repeatedly. Elvis’ version charted in 1975 where it peaked at number 29.

It became Tom Jones’ biggest UK hit selling 1.2m copies and was the first Decca single by a UK artist to sell more than a million copies in this country.

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Chocolate Salty Balls (PS I Love You) (Chef)

A lot of megastars unofficially earn themselves a nickname and most of the time they are flattering, Elvis Presley was The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul and Andy Williams was the Emperor of Easy, but one that is not so well known was Black Moses, it doesn’t describe a lot, but that’s the moniker that became associated with Isaac Hayes and it came from the name of his fifth album.

The soul man was born in Tennessee in 1942 and his childhood must have been hard because his mother died young and then his father abandoned the family leaving Isaac to be raised by his grandparents. At the age of five he taught himself to play both the saxophone and keyboards and then began singing in soul clubs in the late fifties. In 1962 he joined the recently formed Stax record label whose house band were Booker T & The M.G’s and quite often Isaac found himself standing in for Booker T who would be pursuing other engagements. He turned his hand to song writing and teaming up with Dave Porter the pair wrote a number of songs for artists including Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, The Emotions and William Bell. He also launched a singing career of his own culminating with the 1971 song and film soundtrack to Shaft in which he wrote, produced and performed all tracks. At the following year’s Grammys the song won the awards for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical and Best Instrumental Arrangement – even though there was vocals. The film soundtrack won for Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. He also became the first black artist to win an Oscar.

Smashed at a party at Stax, Isaac Hayes went to the electric piano and talked his way through some standards. This led to some classic albums, notably Hot Buttered Soul (1969), in which he spent over 10 minutes on sensual interpretations of Walk on By and By the Time I Get To Phoenix. “It was like I was preaching a sermon,” said Isaac, “and when I did them in a club, I found that some people were crying during the songs.” Complete with his gold chains and medallions Isaac became a major concert attraction.

A whole younger generation would know very little of him until he landed the role of Chef in the adult cartoon South Park. Fritz the Cat, in 1972, demonstrated a market for adult cartoon features, admittedly aimed at the student population, but it wasn’t until South Park that the medium became really popular. It was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and recounted the exploits of the 10-year-olds Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny. Going against all conventions, Kenny was killed in most of the episodes, only to reappear in the next. The script was packed with vulgarities, sexual humour and comic violence, never more so than in the film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, in which the USA wages war on Canada. The film is noted for its grotesque parody of Disney musicals with Satan’s Up There. Isaac played Jerome McElroy, otherwise known as Chef.

Isaac Hayes had written music for the film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996), so landing the role of Chef in South Park was a natural progression. Trey Parker explained how he managed to get Isaac to agree, “I’m not sure how we managed it really, it was this really funny thing that happened, because all of a sudden we had this show and then we decided we needed a theme song.” A message had been sent to Isaac Hayes who then called Trey, “I couldn’t believe it, so I said to him ‘would you do a song for us?'” Matt added, “Initially we wanted to do his voice but that didn’t go down too well as we were both white and there’s this thing in America where generally black people will do black people and white people will do white people. We knew we wanted someone like Isaac or Barry White or Lou Rawls because we knew we wanted a seventies soul brother kind of guy.” Trey continued, “After Isaac agreed, we went to the studio and Isaac said, ‘OK guys what do you want me to do?'” Trey said, “Didn’t they tell you what this was, and he said, ‘no’ so I had to say to him, basically, you’re big and fat and you’re the only black guy in the whole town and you’re a total stereotype and you’re a chef and you sing love songs all the time, to which Isaac replied, ‘OK that’s cool!’

The main song was Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You) which was the title of a 1998 episode and was a recipe packed with innuendo: Oooo, Suck on my chocolate salty balls, Put ’em in your mouth, and suck ’em, They’re on fire, baby. The record was produced by Rick Rubin, who was noted for his work with The Beastie Boys and then Johnny Cash in his later years. Its success led to Chef Aid: The South Park Album and a celebrity book edited by Isaac Hayes, Cooking with Heart and Soul. One of the participants, John Travolta, offers Royale with Cheese. The single shot to number one in 1999 but never released as a single in the States. Within the song, Chef offers the recipe for his creation which is as follows in anyone wants to try it: two tablespoons cinnamon, two-three egg whites, half a stick of butter, one cup unsweetened chocolate, half a cup of brandy, one to two bags of sugar, a pinch of vanilla and one cup of flour. It doesn’t sound like it should work with that much flour and sugar, but in all fairness it doesn’t say how many balls he’s making.

Isaac Hayes had a cameo appearance in Blues Brothers 2000, but the film didn’t rekindle the excitement of the first. He continued making concert appearances and did a lot of humanitarian work for The Isaac Hayes Foundation.

In January 2006 it was announced that Isaac had suffered a stroke which was initially denied by his agent, but admitted by Isaac that he had. He died just 10 days before his 66th birthday in his home town of Memphis.

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We Just Disagree (Dave Mason)

One of the greatly respected band in the late sixties were Traffic who formed in April 1967 in Birmingham and comprised Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. They disbanded after just two years and Winwood went on to form Blind Faith. They had a brief reunion in 1970 but without Mason who did some session work for George Harrison, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix before forging a solo career in 1970.

Mason released eight solo albums in the seventies and a handful of minor hit singles in America including Only you Know And I Know, Satin Red and Black Velvet Woman and To Be Free, but, eventually, in 1977, he struck lucky when he landed a number 12 hit with We Just Disagree from the album Let It Flow. It was written by Jim Krueger a guitarist who had joined Mason’s band in 1974.

It’s a strong song with a strong message and so you would have thought it would be the leadoff single, but the record company, as always, think they know better and decided that So High (Rock Me Baby and Roll Me Away) would be better and so went with that, but that stalled at number 89. Mason explained what it was like when he first heard it, Kruger said to me, ‘Hey, I wrote this song, I want you to hear it.’ The first time it was kind of like, ‘shit! If I was going to write it, that’s what I’d be writing.” Any song about broken relationships will resonate with the public and this song is all about a couple who have split up but have agreed to stop blaming each other and try and get on.

Mason made the connection, not only in his personal life, but because of encounters with other band members and said of it in an interview with Song Facts, “I did it because I thought it was a great song, It’s a great song, a timeless song and I was going to cut it anyway, but I frankly thought it was too good a song to be a hit. It had an unusual chord arrangement behind it, and it stood up – it was a song that when he sang it to me, it was like, Yeah, that’s the song. Just him and a guitar, which is usually how I judge whether I’m going to do something. If it holds up like that I’ll put the rest of the icing on it.”

Krueger, who contributed backing vocals and 12-string guitar on the track, went on to write song for acts like Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, David Cassidy and Jennifer Warnes. In a 1990 interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Krueger said he left Los Angeles because it was “just too plain aggravating. The most important thing to me is songwriting, and I can write from anywhere. I don’t have to be in L.A. I can send a tape anywhere. So I sold the house and left.” He sadly died in 1993 from complications of pancreatitis, he was just 43.

What’s even sadder is that just nine months after he died, a Florida-born country singer called Billy Dean covered the track and took it to number nine on the Billboard Country chart but never saw its success.

As for Mason, in the mid-nineties he briefly joined Fleetwood Mac and recorded one album, Time which spent one week on the UK chart at number 47. In the mid-2000s he was touring North America and Canada performing at around 100 shows a year. He has already booked in a number of dates in 2018 appearing in Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Hawaii. Dave is now 71 and said in an interview in 2011, “Living is definitely not for the weak or faint of heart; it’s a constant work in progress”.

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