Single of the week

Teenager (The Deftones)

Many artists go to great lengths to prevent their material from being leaked before they are officially released, but it wouldn’t have been too hard to get this week’s band’s material as the leader singer and primary songwriter has been very careless over the years about leaving their material in public places. He once left an advanced copy of the 1997 album Around the Fur in a Sony Walkman in a Times Square branch of McDonalds and then left a copy of the follow-up, White Pony, on an American Airlines flight. His bandmates know that he’s quite absent-minded and easily distracted – anyone would think he was a teenager – and that why that called him Waylaid! Anyway, the track in question is from the aforementioned 2000 album White Pony and is called Teenager.

The band are the Deftones and are a metal band from California who formed in 1988 and originally comprised lead singer/rhythm guitarist Chino Moreno, Dominic Garcia on bass, Stephen Carpenter on lead guitar and drummer Abe Cunningham. The line-up changed a number of times over the first few years, but Moreno and Carpenter have been the mainstays throughout. Cunningham have been there since the beginning but took a three-year break between 1990 and 1993. Chi Chang was the bass player between 1990 and 2009 but the current incumbent is Sergio Vega and they added Frank Delgado as the keyboard player in 1998 and he’s still there too.

White Pony, which is a slang term for cocaine, but there are apparently other meanings available, was a little bit of a change of direction from their previous album as the songs were melodic and Teenager is a prime example of that. Listen to it on the original album and it sounds scratchy is if playing if from an old piece of vinyl that had been skated on a number of times and has a trip-hop beat that gives it a great atmosphere, but the version on the 2005 B-Sides & Rarities album doesn’t include the scratching line but still retains the atmospheric texture. It’s a beautiful ballad of lost love.

Chino Moreno via the liner notes says, “This song, originally derived from a DJ Crook sample, had almost no real instrumentation. So when I heard the kids from Idiot Pilot covering this live, I got the idea to re-record it with them. The song itself is super simple, but I think that’s what I love about it. The lyrics were all written when I was 15 and living in Arizona with my grandparents. It’s pretty much about my first and only real date I ever had. It’s kind of corny, but it was the first time I got my heart broken.”

Chino took his inspiration from bands like Duran Duran and the Smashing Pumpkins, “I grew up with these type of bands, moody new wave and very melodic”, he explained in Mojo at the time. “Yazz and the old Cure stuff taught me how to write lyrics but the other guys in the band are a couple of years older and they grew up listening to Kiss and the like, I grew up listening to electronic music and that balance creates the records we make.”

In 1997, they signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, and charted five albums with the most successful one being their self-titled in 2003. They are still recording and their most recent album, Gore, in 2016, included a new ‘alternative metal sound’ but provided them with a number five hit album, their highest to date in the UK.

They’ve never really crossed over to the main stream in the UK. They continue to have a cult following because of the eight albums they’ve charted so far with a cumulative total of 14 weeks on the album listing.

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Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)

You hear it so many times about a song being written in a matter of minutes and this week’s subject is no exception. It was whilst this writer was taking a shower in 1979 that he ‘wrote’ this song and in just 20 minutes. He, at the time, called it “A kind of silly song” which he almost certainly wouldn’t have expected to have become a world-wide hit, that song was Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

Cyndi Lauper, who made the song famous, was born Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper in New York on 22nd June 1953 and has always been quite eccentric. She has always chosen to wear off the wall clothing and a variety of hair colours. From the early 1970s she had performed around the Queens area of New York as a member of various bands and performing in various styles from Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin as well as classic disco tracks. In 1977 she damaged her vocal chords and was advised that she may never sing again, but she was determined and did managed to regain her voice. Her manager introduced her to a saxophone player called John Turi and in 1980 the pair formed the band Blue Angel and recorded some demos of original music. Steve Massarsky, who was the Allman Brothers’ manager at the time, heard their demos and decided to buy their contract and thus became their manager. They recorded a self-titled album and the single released from it was a cover of Frankie Laine’s I’m Gonna Be Strong which was made famous in the sixties by Gene Pitney.

They split the following year and Cyndi almost gave up on a singing career, but in an interview with Irwin Stambler, she said “I decided to just go ahead and do it, though I hadn’t written many new songs. I broke my partnership with John Turi and I didn’t like the idea of just singing other people’s songs” In 1983 she began working with producer Rick Chertoff who was looking for material for Cyndi’s debut solo album, She’s So Unusual. “I selected song that allowed me to keep my integrity and I wrote some of my own songs too,” she said. Chertoff remembered the song and played it to Cyndi who loved it but wanted to make a couple of lyric tweaks, so Chertoff took her to meet the song’s writer, Robert Hazard. He was a Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter who had his own band Robert Hazard and the Heroes and were quite successful on the Philadelphia club scene in the mid-80s and he agreed to let her alter some lyrics to fit her wacky female persona. “It was originally about how fortunate he was ’cause he was a guy around these girls that wanted to have ‘fun’ – with him – down there, which we do not speak lest we go blind,” she said.

The track, which features legendary songwriter Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals, made number two both in the UK and the US. Over here it was kept off by Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax and in the States Van Halen’s Jump held her at bay. The song was on constant rotation on MTV because the video features the wrestler, Captain Lou Albano who was hired to play Cyndi’s father and her mother was portrayed by….her real mother. It was directed by Edd Griles and won the Best Female Video at the first ever MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. She said of the song in a 1999 interview with CNN, “I know some people dismissed the song as comical, but it wasn’t. The song was an anthem. It’s saying ‘We want to have a life, to have fun’. We don’t want to be wearing the shackles.”

Cyndi undertook a tour of the US and recalled in the Lucy O’Brien book, She Bop, “I was shocked at the reaction. I’d go out on stage and the audience would be filled with girls screaming, ripping at my clothes. I’d never heard girls screaming over a woman before.”

Her follow-up, Time After Time, reached number three in the UK, but  gave her the first of two number ones in America, the other being 1986’s True Colours. The only time Lauper reached number one in the UK was in 1985 as a part of USA for Africa’s We Are the World. She charted 17 UK hits, her last top 10 being a reggae-tinged remake of her debut hit this time slightly retitled as Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun) and samples Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love.

The song has been featured in various TV adverts including one for the Fiat Chiquachento and in films especially in the 1985 film which was named after the song and starred Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt and featured a cameo appearance by Lauper herself. It was also used in the 2014 film Walking On Sunshine where it was sung by Leona Lewis, Hannah Arterton and Katy Brand. There have also been a number of cover versions by the likes of Pearl Jam, Weird Al Yankovic who retitled it Girls Just Want to Have Lunch, Miley Cyrus and in 2000 Lolly took a version to number 14.

Hazard died unexpectedly after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on 5th August 2008. In the 2000s Hazard and his wife, Susan, ran an antique shop near their home in Old Forge, New York.

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Shame (Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King)

This week’s artist became a star by really being in the right place at the right time. Her parents both worked for a record company and when their daughter joined them one day she went to the bathroom and began singing where she was overheard by a producer who told her she was going to be a star.

It’s a fairytale story, but a true one. Evelyn King came from a family who were in the music/entertainment business, her uncle was an actor who had appeared in the first Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess and then went on to work with Lena Horne, her mother was a manager for a soul act called Quality Red and her father was a resident backing singer at The Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, so it’s not too much of a surprise that Evelyn was going to follow suit.

Evelyn was born in the Bronx in July 1960 but the family moved and she was raised in Philadelphia. Her parents both worked at Philadelphia International records and when Evelyn was old enough she got a job at the label as a cleaner. It was when an in-house producer, Theodore T. Life, a former member of the band Instant Funk, heard this voice coming from the ladies room that he discovered someone special. “I was cleaning the bathroom and singing Sam Cooke’s song A Change Is Gonna Come and this producer said he loved my voice and was gonna make me a star”, recalled King.

As a child her nickname was Bubbles due to the fact that as a baby she used to create spit and blow bubbles with it, which, when it came to preparing for her debut single and album, was changed to Champagne. Her debut album was called Smooth Talk and the lead single was Shame, a song written by Reuben Cross & John H. Fitch Jr. with lyrics seemingly about a man who is just using his woman for sex but she doesn’t want to believe it – ‘My mother says you’re playing a game and what you do to me is a Shame. Ooh, gonna love you just the same, mama just don’t understand’. “I was only 15 and I’s singing ‘Momma just don’t understand how I love my man’, my father wanted to shot somebody,” laughed King in an interview with Jason Lewis at L.A Sentinel. “My parents were listening to the words, but I wasn’t paying no attention. There’s a lot of that song that I never paid attention to lyrically because I just loved singing – and I would sing it.”

“I remember being at the Philly studios and Theo said he was going to introduce me to two guys who were Reuben Cross & John H. Fitch Jr. I was nervous and as skinny as a piece of straw and I just stood there and he said ‘I want you to sing this song we’re written to see how you can do it’. So I just started singing Shame and they loved it.”

The version that appears on Smooth Talk is quite different from the single that made the chart. It was only when two New York club DJs, Al Garrison and David Todd, gave the song a re-mix, beefed up the beat and extended it to a 12″ single version running to just over six and a half minutes that it gained airplay and became a hit single. In America it reached the top 10 on the singles chart, the dance chart and the R&B chart as well as peaking number seven in Belgium. In the UK, despite heavy club play – and I was one of them – it only just scraped into the UK singles chart at number 39 but spent an incredible 23 weeks on the chart. The nearest anyone has come to that was in 2016 when Joel Adams’ hit Please Don’t Go spent 20 weeks on the chart but climbed no higher than number 50. Can you hum it?!

She later signed to RCA and released several songs including I’m in Love which was the first to crack the UK top 30 but her biggest hit came the following year when club favourite Love Come Down reached number seven. By now she was no longer credited with ‘Champagne’, why? “As far as I’m concerned I’ve always been Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, it’s never been taken out…not by me anyway. I think the record company dropped it just to see what happened but I told them that nobody would know Evelyn King, but that’s what happened.

She continued to release albums, Face to Face (1983), So Romantic (1984), A Long Time Coming (A Change Is Gonna Come) (1985), Flirt (1988), The Girl Next Door (1989) and I’ll Keep a Light On (1995) and took a break when she married music director Freddie Fox. In 2002, Shame was featured in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and two years later became one of the first records to be inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.

She made a comeback in 2008 with the album Open Book and its lead track, The Dance, went to number 12 on the US dance chart. Her final album to date was 2011’s Outside the Skyline of which the single Everybody, a duet with Miguel Migs was released.

She said in a recent interview, “I haven’t stopped working since 1977, but, there are a lot of us that either gave up or said forget it. I refuse to say stop, give up or forget it. I haven’t left the scene,” she explained, “I love my fans, and I’m respecting them to say I don’t give up.”

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Somewhere In My Heart (Aztec Camera)

You would imagine songwriters like Paul McCartney, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello et al would never have to worry what other songwriters thought of their material or whether it would affect their career, but it seems that in 1983 Elvis Costello got a little anxious about a new up and coming writer called Roddy Frame and claimed, at the time, that it kept him on his toes. How does someone react to that? Let’s find out.

Frame was born in East Kilbride in 1964, started learning guitar at the age of four and cited David Bowie as one of his biggest influences. After leaving his first band, Neutral Blue, in the early eighties, he formed Aztec Camera bringing in a myriad musicians for various albums and tours. The most consistent member was bass guitarist Campbell Owens who was with him for the first five years. They signed to Postcard records, a small local independent label co-owned by Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins. This led to them being discovered and championed by both John Peel on Radio One and the NME.

Aztec Camera’s debut hit was Oblivious which stalled at number 47 followed three months later by Walk out to Winter, both songs gained a reasonable amount of airplay on Radio One particularly by Peter Powell and Kid Jensen but neither did well on the chart. Oblivious was re-issued towards the end of 1983 and did much better by reaching number 18. This is when Elvis Costello made his confession which Frame took in his stride and before-long was invited to join Costello as support on his Punch the Clock tour in America.

After nearly four years away from the chart and the limelight, the reason for which was he confessed he’d become a Coronation Street fan, “I was meant to be churning out these new songs and I was getting completely wound up in the Barlows and the Tilsleys, then I went down the pub and read a bit and got really lazy, then I had to start putting a record together,” he returned with the album Love and the first single released was the beautiful How Men Are. Roddy’s songwriting had taken a big step up and was being compared to many other legendary songwriters. To come out with the line, ‘Why does it take the tears of a woman to see how men are’ is very powerful. The song reached number 25 but the follow-up, Somewhere in my Heart, will always be his swansong.

“All I can remember was that when I was recording Somewhere in My Heart, we were in Boston,” Roddy recalled, “I was walking around with a Walkman playing Bruce Springsteen all the time. But it was all of his poppy stuff. I got into Springsteen back to front; I started with Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love and worked backward. I still like that period better than the Born to Run stuff, but I guess I was just trying to come up with something like Hungry Heart or something. Just something really strong and catchy. I was trying to write a pop song. When it came to putting Love together I tried everything to keep it off the album. I went to America and wanted to make a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis kinda record. I was listening to Sugar Free by Juicy, Anita Baker and Tender Love by the Force MDs. Green from Scritti Politti had just been to America and I wanted to marry that New York R&B electro thing with my kind of lyrics and style and that British thing.”

So, as Frame said to Tom Doyle in a Mojo interview, Somewhere In My Heart nearly didn’t make it to the album because it was deemed a bad stylistic fit. “I didn’t really get it until I was being driven down Ladbroke Grove one day and the sun was shining and someone was in a convertible and I heard it blaring out on their radio. It’s one of those songs.” On the recent Radio 1 Vintage pop-up station, Simon Mayo confessed it was one of his favourite singles and chose it as the first song he played on his first-ever Radio 1 breakfast show.

Roddy embarked on a solo career in 1998 and has released four studio albums to date; The North Star (1998), Surf (2002), Western Skies (2006) and Seven Dials (2014) the latter one reaching number 50 on the UK albums chart. On the back of that success he continued writing songs and played some live dates around the UK, but he’s been very quiet since Christmas 2015.

Somewhere in my Heart is still his most played hit and continues to bring him a handsome income, “It was my biggest hit but it was the runt of the litter,” he said, “that’s been the song that’s survived. My little baby, the orphan that no one wanted!”

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Matthew and Son (Cat Stevens)

This week’s artist grew up in the heart of London, played piano in his father’s restaurant, swept onto the pop scene, caught tuberculosis…and nearly died, then retired and all by the time he was 19. He recovered, returned to the pop scene and became one of the most successful singer/songwriters of the 1970s before giving it all up for religion. This week I look into Cat Stevens’ second and biggest UK hit, Matthew and Son.

Cat was born Steven Georgiou to a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother and has an older sister and a younger brother who all lived in a flat above the Moulin Rouge restaurant which his parents ran. His parents divorced in the mid-fifties yet they remained under the same roof and ran that same restaurant. Cat explained what got him going, “I think I was 15 when the big impact of life like The Beatles happened and, of course, it was then every young guy’s dream just to get a guitar and join a band. I lived in London and was lucky enough to be on the edge of Tin Pan Alley which was about 100 yards away from where I lived and there was all these guitar shops and it became my very first ambition to get a guitar. My father finally agreed and succumbed to give me eight pounds to buy my first Italian guitar. I had a lot of ideas and I found it easier to write my own material rather than sing other people’s and also I might get it wrong. Also, I had a lot of ideas I think because of the background and the musical textures I was surrounded by being in an area where there was a lot of Spanish and South African music as well rock, R&B and bluebeat, everything was here. When Dylan came along he made it all possible because of the poetry. Not everything had to be about love songs.”

In 1966, Mike Hurst of the Springfields was impressed when he hear Cat sing and helped him record some demo tracks and in-turn get a record deal with the newly-formed Deram label which was being launched by Decca. His debut hit, I Love My Dog which Cat said, “It was actually true, that song! I found a little dog, one of those sausage dogs, tied to a lamp post outside Foyles. No one was claiming it, so I took the dog home. The song was about him.” then came Matthew and Son.

Only a small part of that song is based on a truth – the title. It was whilst he was riding on a London bus that he saw a sign in a solicitor’s window and by the time his journey was complete he had the whole song in his head about the entire depressing life of a downtrodden office worker whose work was never finished. The story portrays his life from the time he leaves home and becomes part of the hustle and bustle of the manic London rush hour always thinking about what he had to do that day. Matthew and Son, which also became the title of his debut album released in April 1967, reached number two in the UK singles chart, only held off by The Monkees’ I’m A Believer. The track also featured the session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins on piano. Nicky had played with the like of the Kinks, Harry Nilsson, Donovan and the Rolling Stones.

Cat loved living in London, he said, “It was all very exciting, every day there was something new, a different challenge. I felt I thoroughly deserved it. I lapped it up.” He started living like a rock star, drinking and smoking a little too much. He was part of a package tour which included The Walker Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck and, yes, Jimi Hendrix. “Wow!” he said, “Who put that package together?” He said in an interview with Mojo, “Actually I got on well with both Engelbert and Jimi. Jimi was a very warm and friendly man, a soft-spoken fellow and a gentle man. It was only when he got on stage that all hell broke loose. It was like he was on one of those rapids – he just couldn’t stop himself. After the shows I’d mostly hang around with Jimi and we’d go to clubs and discos, Engelbert wouldn’t go to the same clubs as us!”

Cat charted a number of hits in the seventies including Lady D’Arbanville, about his girlfriend Patti, Moon Shadow, Morning Has Broken, Can’t Keep It In and (Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard where he was backed by Elkie Brooks. His only hit not written by him was a cover of Sam Cooke’s Another Saturday Night in 1974. As a writer a number of artists have successfully covered his songs; The Tremeloes did Here Comes My Baby (1967), Paul & Barry Ryan did Keep It Out of Sight (1967), P.P Arnold, Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow all had hits with The First Cut Is The Deepest, Jimmy Cliff and Maxi Priest did well with Wild World and Boyzone Took Father and Son to number two in 1995 and then Ronan teamed up with Cat (by now called Yusef) to record another version of the song and yet again went to number two.

It all changed in December 1977 when Cat decided to give it all up and convert to the Islamic faith, a decision he made following a holiday in Marrakesh in Morocco and a year later he changed his name to Yusef Islam. It had its drawbacks over the years like in 2000 when The Israeli government decided to deport him because of allegations that he was giving money to the Palestinian organisation Hamas, a claim he denied and again in September 2004 whilst on a flight to Washington he was told that he was denied entry to the USA because his name was flagged up as being on a ‘no fly’ list and the plane was diverted to Maine. He was held overnight and sent back the UK the next morning. Five years later he wrote a song about the incident called Boots and Sand and featured guest appearances by both Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton.

He slowly resumed his music career in the mid-nineties and in 2003 made his first public appearance in over 25 years when he appeared, with Peter Gabriel, the man who’d played flute on the aforementioned Lady D’Arbanville, at Nelson Mandela’s 46664 concert where he sang Wild world.

He began to perform more and more both on stage and in the studio and his latest album, The Laughing Apple, was released just seven weeks ago.

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