Category: Single of the week

All Right Now (Free)

Recently I did a round in my quiz of songs that the writers claimed were written in less than half an hour. The following day I got an email to write the story of one of them and this is the one. Can you believe that such a classic and worldwide radio favourite was written in such a short time? How come? Let’s find out all about All Right Now by Free.

In the late sixties, three music genres were starting to flourish which was good news because there hadn’t really been a new fad since Rock ‘n’ Roll burst onto the scene in the mid-fifties. Rock, prog rock and blues were suddenly upon us with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Creedence Clearwater Revival leading the rock category, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush and Genesis heading up the prog scene and Fleetwood Mac, Cream, John Mayall’s Bluebreakers and Free sang the blues.

Free were formed in London in 1968 and originally comprised lead singer Paul Rodgers, bass and keyboard player Andy Fraser, guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke. They released their first two albums, Tons of Sobs and Free in in 1968 and 1969 respectively but neither sold that well. I’ll Be Creeping was the first of five singles released in 1969 and not one of them troubled the charts. The band concentrated on touring.

All Right Now was featured on their third album Fire and Water in 1970 and only happened by chance. The song was written in the North East of England in the dressing room after a terrible gig. Andy Fraser, who wrote the song, told the story to Songwriting, “We’d driven up to Durham on a rainy Tuesday, it was cold and miserable and we got there in a pretty foul mood to be honest. And then we saw the audience… it was a venue that could hold 2,000 people, but there were only about 30 people there. And those 30 were all off their heads on Mandrax, it was pretty grim. But of course, we went on anyway. Now usually, we could get up there on stage and it didn’t matter who was watching or whether they were getting into it, we’d just play for ourselves, basically, and have a good time. But this night, it just wasn’t happening. We absolutely sucked. And the audience were too out of it to even notice, which just made it all the more depressing. Afterwards, in the dressing room, there was just this horrible silence – a really bad atmosphere, so, to try and alleviate the tension, I just started singing, ‘Y’know, all right now, baby it’s all right now,’ over and over, kind of like a parent trying to gee their kids along! But it worked, the rest of the band started tapping along and so I thought, we’re onto something here.

The music was made there and then too, “The chords of the song were basically me trying to do my Pete Townshend impression,” Fraser continued, “I actually wrote the riff on piano and then Kossoff transposed the chords to guitar, and he did a helluva job because that’s not always easy. Basically, the chorus wrote itself, the chords took me about 10-15 minutes and then Paul came up with the verses while he was waiting for a lift to a gig the next day.”

According to the liner notes of Molten Gold – An Anthology, Simon Kirke explained, “Our repertoire at that time was mostly slow and medium paced blues songs which was alright if you were a student sitting quietly and nodding your head to the beat. However, we finished our show in Durham and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. When we got into the dressing room, it was obvious that we needed an up-tempo number, a rocker to close our shows. So, All Right Now was created by Andy Fraser who sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes.”

The song took off and went to number two in the UK chart where it sat for five weeks behind Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime which took residency for six weeks. Its success, however, earned them an invite to the Isle of Wight Festival. As for a follow-up hit, that proved difficult.

Their next single was The Stealer, a great song that still gets an airing on Planet Rock but didn’t interest the record buyers. Thankfully they did have other hits, My Brother Jake made number four in 1971, Little Bit of Love got to number 13 in 1972 and their final hit, Wishing Well peaked at number seven in 1973 thus giving them four UK hits in four consecutive years.

By 1973, it was all over, the band split. Rodgers and Kirke continued together and found success as members of Bad Company with guitarist Mick Ralphs and Boz Burrell on bass. Paul Kossoff succumbed to his drug addiction and passed away in 1976 and Andy Fraser went to live in the USA but continued writing songs for other artists including Avenging Annie for Roger Daltrey, Every Kinda People for Robert Palmer and Be Good to Yourself for Frankie Miller. In the early eighties the song was used in cinemas to advertise Juicy Fruit chewing gum and was covered, not very well I have to add, by Pepsi & Shirley in 1987 who stalled at number 50 and the Scottish all-girl group Lemonescent who, in 2004 just scraped into the top 40 and left just as quickly.

It’s arguably the song Free will be best remembered for but not the one Andy Fraser wished for. He concurred to Songwriting, “I don’t know if it’s actually the song I’d like to be remembered by. Every Kind of People, which was one of the first songs I wrote when I moved to the States and which my dear, much-missed friend Robert Palmer, who I’d known from even before the Vinegar Joe days, ended up performing, that’s one I’m particularly proud of. But, by the same token, All Right Now has been such a durable song. I play it in my solo shows, I played it with Ringo Starr and I think one of the highlights of my career.”

Freed From Desire (Gala)

Every decade has its own music genre or two! The seventies had a bit of everything really, glam, disco, soul, prog rock, the eighties had new romantic, Chicago House and electronic and the 2000s+ seem to have grime and rap as for the nineties, especially the mid-nineties that had dance anthems. There were many of them with arguably the most played and well-known being Show Me Love by Robin S. Another one on heavy club rotation, especially by me, was this week’s suggestion – Freed from Desire by Gala.

Lyrically the song doesn’t have too much to offer apart from the memorable repeated line ‘My love has got no money, he’s got his strong beliefs’ although it did take me a few weeks to actually work out what she was singing, but nonetheless, its infectious dance beat made it very memorable.

Gala was not a band, she was a female whose full name is Gala Rizzatto who was born in Milan in Italy in September 1944. Her name comes from a combination of Salvador Dali’s wife and also from the Russian dancer Gala Ulanova. When she was 17 she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to study art and once she qualified she moved to New York where she chose photography. It was whilst on a trip back to Italy she was taking pictures of a DJ. She started singing and the DJ recognised her talent. Her debut recording was called XS and was featured on a compilation album called Originale Radicale Musicale, the response was so positive that she began her recording career and cut her first single Everyone Has Inside which went to number one on the Italian chart.

On returning to New York, she continued recording and started writing songs. “The original reason why I got into singing was because when I was in high school I realised that everyone was separated,” Gala explained to Tom Victor. “I felt ‘My God, we used to be so together and everyone is separating’ and singing was a way to connect all the people who travelled to Paris and to London. When I had this big hit, everyone would call me from all over the world and that gave me a sense of keeping the unity and the feeling that there was a community. That is not the same as having a real community, but it was my desire, my innocent young desire of bringing everyone together. So, the fact that this song is used and sung by many people together, to bring them together, is kind of the goal of that song. It keeps repeating in different ways. When I wrote this song I wanted to change the world, it was driven by a strong passion.”

Freed from Desire became the follow-up single and also topped the Italian chart for four weeks before exploding in Europe. She described the track as being, “Born as a chant, it is born as a prayer. I was very young, I wanted to save the world with the Buddhist concept of not wanting more. I believe the worst thing in the world is greed, it’s the beginning of all evil. I hate that.”

Gala is not a one-hit wonder as some would think although many would struggle to remember her second hit which got to number 11 on the UK chart. Anyone? No? Well, it was called Let A Boy Cry. She did have one further minor hit – Come into My Life which just scraped into the top 40 in 1998.

In 1998, she met Prince’s manager, Steve Fargnoli and signed a new deal with Universal music, but when Steve died suddenly in 2001 she broke her contract and returned to photography. Seven years passed and Gala returned to singing and over the following five years released a couple of albums Faraway and Tough Love. In 2010, Freed from Desire was used in both Spain and France for a Nissan television commercial.

It got another lease of life in 2016 when Sean Kennedy, a Wigan Athletic supporter, recreated the song under the title Will Grigg’s on Fire after he fired 25 goals for Wigan Athletic that season. He uploaded it to YouTube and it went viral and became a terrace chant. How did Gala find out about the new version? “This guy from England called me and said, ‘Your song has become my favourite chant ever!’ Gala explained to AOL.com. “I listen to many of these football chants but this one is my favourite one’. I don’t follow football so much but I said, ‘If you tell me it’s good, I trust that it’s good’. I think it’s not by chance that it gets used as an anthem. My intention was not soccer, and in one way I could say I don’t like that they changed my lyrics because the lyrics mean so much to me, but you have to see things from a different perspective. I understood music can be perceived on many levels, it doesn’t always matter. I remember being in a cafe in Italy and a guy said, ‘I don’t know what this song is about but I believe it’s about something important.'”

One Day Like This (Elbow)

Radio stations are often in danger of killing off the appeal of a good song because of the heavy rotation and people get fed up hearing the same song over and over again. So many people ended up hating Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You because, not only was it number one for 16 weeks, but it was on the radio on almost every DJ’s show for about six months. This week’s choice was a similar case, but I personally got fed up with it, not through radio, but because of o2. They used it as their holding music on repeat for months and you know how long you’re on hold with these companies? It drove me mad. Anyway, let’s delve into the story.

Elbow were formed in 1997 by lead singer and guitarist Guy Garvey and includes Pete Turner on bass, Craig Potter on keyboards, Craig’s brother Mark on guitar and Richard Jupp on drums. In 2016, Jupp was replaced by Alex Reeves. They were originally, but briefly called Mr Soft which was then shortened to Soft and finally to Elbow, a name which was inspired from a line in the television series The Singing Detective where the lead character Philip Marlow describes the word ‘elbow’ as the loveliest word in the English language.

If you surveyed 100 people at random to name three hits by Elbow, most people would struggle after one or two. The band had 13 UK hits to date of which One Day Like This was their 11th and only reached number 35. Their albums, however, have fared better having had 11 of them with three making number one. Their most successful was The Seldom Seen Kid from which One Day Like This was lifted.

One Day Like This was the last song to be written for the album, Garvey explained more in an interview with the Manchester Evening News: “We were buzzing, we’d just got our new deal and it was like a breath of fresh air. It was like ‘thank God that’s happened at last, let’s chuck this song together’. It was dead simple. We wanted to do something very uplifting and very positive. That’s where the line ‘One day a year like this will see me right’ comes from. It’s very northern, and that’s maybe why it’s not done as well abroad. Maybe they can’t get their head around it.”

But what actually inspired the lyrics, Garvey explained in a different interview, “It was about falling in love or actually the morning after falling in love specifically, you know, pondering it. It’s semi-autobiographical, I was single for a bit then I got together with the girl I was with for almost a decade, Emma Jane Unsworth and that’s when I wrote the song which I came up with in the bath. In the flat I was living in at the time, the shower was broken so I had a bath every day. I used to sit there and put my Dictaphone on record and sing in the bath. Even though the lyrics are quite bleak, I’m saying ‘I’m not having a good time most of the time but today is great.'”

Because of its rousing and anthemic nature the song was used as the soundtrack to the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as various nature documentaries, adverts for the National Geographic Channel and Sky UK’s Earth Day 2009, a scene in Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road and an instrumental version was also used by Apple in their 2010 video introducing the MacBook Air. In addition, it was also chosen to be the soundtrack to England’s 2018 World Cup bid. Garvey said, “It just ran away with itself.” It went on to win the award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically at the 2009 Ivor Novello awards. It was not the only win they had at that ceremony, they also won the award for Best Contemporary Song with Grounds for Divorce, another single released that reached number 19 in the UK chart.

In 2012, One Day Like this was used during the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games and such was its impact that the song re-entered the chart and reached a new peak of number four. It had been covered by only a handful of people including Sarah Brightman on her 2013 album Dreamchaser. She explained to Song Facts the reason she chose to cover it was, “One small experience can last you a lifetime and nowadays, we’re very greedy for experience. I just thought about the deeper meaning of the song, what it was trying to say.”

She wasn’t the only famous person it has had an impact on, Sir Michael Caine picked this as one of his Desert Island Discs songs which was broadcast on Christmas Day 2009. He said, “I was watching Glastonbury and I thought, ‘Who the bloody hell are this lot, they’re great.'”

Do Anything You Wanna Do (The Rods)

It’s quite amazing how bands, more than solo artists, launch onto the music scene with a certain style but find success hard to come by, then with a change of style, usually caused by an amended line up, bang! they suddenly find new fans, one good example of this was Genesis who, when Peter Gabriel was lead singer, had great album sales but only three hit singles out of 13 releases, yet when Phil Collins stepped up to the mic, 22 hit singles followed. The same is true of this week’s act; not a change of personnel, but a change of style.

Arguably, Canvey Islands’ most successful chart act was Dr. Feelgood, but Eddie & The Hot Rods weren’t far behind. They were formed in 1975 by lead singer Barrie Masters, bass player Rob Steele, drummer Steve Nicol and guitarist Dave Higgs, the latter having previously played in a band with Dr. Feelgood singer Lee Brilleaux. They emerged from the pub rock scene and played their first London gigs at the Kensington and the Nashville Rooms the same year. The NME described their brand of music as punk rock, bearing in mind they had formed a few weeks after the Sex Pistols. Masters remains the only constant member for over 40 years.

There was no real member called Eddie, so if you’re wondering why the name, well it belonged to a dummy they used in their very early gigs as a joke. But when they got bored of the joke, the dummy went, but the name stayed. Very similar to Iron Maiden whose mascot is called Eddie but he still remains a ‘member’.

There was certainly a rivalry between the Rods and The Pistols because at a gig at the Marquee Club in February 1976 with The Pistols as support, Johnny Rotten had tried to front up to Barrie Masters, but unbeknown to Rotten, Masters was a former school boxing champ, “I just went to give him a slap and he ran away, that was it. He was just a little boy,” Masters recalled in an interview with Gavin Martin.

Their first single release was Writing on The Wall followed by a cover of Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs’ Wooly Bully both of which failed to chart. But their next single was the first to chart and was the Live At The Marquee EP which comprised a cover of ? & The Mysterians’ 96 Tears as the lead track and featured Bob Seger’s Get Out of Denver and the third track was a medley; Them’s Gloria and the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The energetic EP just missed the UK top 40. A few months later Teenage Depression just made it into the top 40 but probably would have been higher, it had limited airplay due to its drug references. The next single, I Might Be lying despite making number 44 went almost unnoticed, but in the summer of 1977, their manager Ed Hollis, who was also their songwriter, came up with a blinder.

In 1977, guitarist Graeme Douglas, who had previously had chart success as a member of The Kursaal Flyers was brought in to replace Higgs and that’s what seemed to give the band their ‘new’ sound and style. It also inspired Hollis to enhance his song writing.

This was proved with Do Anything You Wanna Do which was more radio-friendly for a start and had Douglas writing the music and Hollis the lyrics. Given the band had ditched Eddie, Island records decided to release the track as just The Rods. The inspiration was taken from a book by the notorious mystic Aleister Crowley. He was also infamous for being an occultist and a drug villain and called himself ‘the most evil man in Britain’. He obviously impressed the Beatles along the way as he was featured on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (top row second one in from the left).

The song’s words are based on Crowley’s philosophy ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ a direct quote from Crowley’s Bible which he called The Book of the Law. Crowley had attended Cambridge University and whilst there he established an interest in mysticism, which would rule his life. He seemed to be a man who would doing anything he wanted to do and was very proud by being known as The Beast – a name his mother called him and The Wickedest Man in The World.

After Crowley’s father died when he was 11 years old, he’d left him enough money to be comfortable, but over the years he squandered the money and when he died on 1st December 1947 in a Hastings boarding house, he was a heroin addict and destitute. Crowley had a ‘to Hell with the rest of the world attitude’ and that’s what make the basis of the song.

After Hollis took the song to Masters he commented, “I didn’t even know who Aleister Crowley was, I’d heard about it, but I was an in-your-face rock ‘n’ roller, not into the magical mystical side of things. We came from a small town and there wasn’t much to do. We were bored young kids. The song means as much today as it did then: kids trying to break out of their town to find something to do, rather than being told what to do. Ed put into words what we were feeling. He’d listen to things we said and write lyrics about them. The Hot Rods had always been a real raw live band,” Masters continued, “Graeme was great for us as he added the tunefulness of The Byrds and things like that. We had the ballsy energy and he had the melodic side. On Do Anything You Wanna Do there are a lot of guitar overdubs, but the rhythm section and the majority of the backing track were recorded in one take. It’s the way we’ve always liked to work – get the feeling right and then just go for it. The thing we nicked from Springsteen was the idea of recording two guitars and slightly sharpening one. The result sounds like a 12 string. A great, easy idea, so we used that.” The other things that give that song its edge is the fact that Masters had a toothache when he recorded it. “I shouldn’t have been singing, really. There were two versions, one was technically right, the other had a few mistakes but felt right and that was the one that was released. I think the toothache gave me a bit more anger.”

In the 1980s, they changed label to EMI and had a couple of reformations, but Masters always recorded under the name Eddie & the Hot Rods or The Rods. In the 21st Century Masters formed a completely new band using the same name and recorded the albums Better Late Than Never (2005) and Been There, Done That (2006). Their 2011 album 35 Years of Teenage Depression was a remake of their debut original with three new songs. In April 2019, band members past and present, plus assorted musician friends, gathered for a one-off Done Everything We Wanna Do show at the O2 Academy in Islington, north London.

Barrie Masters died suddenly on 2nd October 2019 at him home is Essex. The inquest rules that it was by ‘intoxication by multiple agents’ He was aged just 63.

If you’re thinking, Ozzy Osbourne recorded a song in 1980 called Mr. Crowley, is there any connection, well, yes that song is Aleister Crowley too. Ozzy was also intrigued by Crowley’s strange behaviours which are said to include things like drinking the blood of a sacrificed cat as well as engaging in some very perverted sexual acts.

Back In The Night (Dr. Feelgood)

When you think of early punk, you immediately think of the Sex Pistols then maybe the Stranglers and the Clash and given punk was so different from anything we had before, you wonder who or what inspired these bands, well one act who influenced all three of the above was Dr. Feelgood. They had formed five years before back in 1971 and were one of the original bands on the pub-rock scene. This week’s track, which has appeared on two different albums, was more successful second time round after its inclusion on their 1976 chart-topping live album Stupidity.

Dr. Feelgood hail from Canvey Island and originally comprised, Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John B. Sparks and John Martin and acquired their name from a 1962 song called Doctor Feel-Good by Dr. Feelgood and the Interns which was written by their guitarist Curtis Smith. It’s believed that Lee Brilleaux heard the version by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates which was released on the B-side of their last UK hit, Always and Ever. A doctor feelgood is a slang term for heroin.

Wilko Johnson recalled the band’s influence on the punk bands of the time, “A lot of those punk bands, were young and they were like beginners and they were very influenced by the Feelgoods. What they took from Feelgood was the simplicity and the energy. Technically a lot of them weren’t too clever, but they had the simplicity and the energy, plus they had the fashion thing. The look. It happened like that. But Dr. Feelgood had a fair input into what happened there.”

Back in the Night was written solely by Wilko and originally appeared in their second album Malpractice in 1975 which made the top 20, but not all the band were impressed with it, “I remember when I wrote that song,” Wilko said to Toby Sligo, “I sat up all night writing that fucker – and I was so chuffed with it, and I went to the rehearsal the next day and played it to them and they just sneered at it. Well, they didn’t sneer. They just went, ‘Oh, it’s alright’. You know, ‘You bastards, it’s really good!'”

The song tells of the morning after a night of passion, seemingly with a one-night stand and they’ve then crashed out by the fireside. They wake up late and she rushes him out door after refusing him breakfast. Then it’s just a memory of what happened back in the night.

Back in the Night was released as their third single but failed to sell anywhere near enough copies to trouble the charts. Their most successful single came four years later when Milk and Alcohol, which was co-written by Nick Lowe went to number nine in the UK chart.

Wilko Johnson left the group in 1977 due to differences with Lee Brilleaux and was replaced by John ‘Gypie’ Mayo with Johnson briefly joining Ian Dury’s Blockheads.

In January 2013 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and chose not to receive any chemotherapy. It transpired that his cancer wasn’t the type originally thought and had a huge tumour weighing 3kg. The massive tumour was removed and he was completely cleared of the disease. Prior to what he thought was his imminent death, he speedily recorded an album with Roger Daltrey called Going Back Home which went to number three and gave him his biggest success outside of the Feelgoods.

Brilleaux died of lymphoma in April 1994, he was just 41. Mayo died of cancer in October 2013. The band are still going with Robert Kane on lead vocals and bassist Phil Mitchell and Kevin Morris on drums who have both been members since 1983.

You Do Something to Me (Paul Weller)

How many times have you to listened to a song and been in two minds as to what it’s about? There are a handful of songs where the songwriter has written it from one perspective and later learned that other people have interpreted it a different way leading them, when interviewed, to conclude that the song means whatever you want it to mean. This week’s choice is one of those.

Paul Weller is one of those musicians whose popularity hasn’t diminished one iota; whether fronting the Jam, The Style Council or a solo career his army of fans have stuck with him. As a solo artist he has chart 37 singles, but only five have made the top 10. Arguably, his best-known song is You Do Something to Me which reached number nine in the summer of 1995.

So, what is it about that song that stands out? “This definitely strikes a chord in people’s hearts, a song for lovers,” Paul said, “I’m told by so many people they had it played at their wedding, the first dance. Ironically, it’s really about unattainable love. But you can interpret it whichever way you want.”

It’s one of the standouts from the Stanley Road album which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary and, to date, has spent 87 weeks on the UK album chart. It stands out because it’s acoustic and it’s in a minor key. It resonates with people because people can relate to it. It’s the yearning for a love he hasn’t got. He knows what he wants but hasn’t found it yet confirmed in the first verse – ‘I’m hanging on the wire, for a love I’ll never find’.

Clearly not biographical as Paul explained, “It came about while I was working on Wild Wood at the Manor in Oxford. There was some sheet music on a grand piano there. I couldn’t read the music, obviously, but I could read the chord symbols above it; either an old standard or a classical thing. It had certain chord changes in it that I nicked, or appropriated, should I say, and that kick-started the song. I was just playing the chords as they were written and I thought, ‘They’re nice.'”

The sleeve for Stanley Road was designed by Peter Blake, the man famous for, among many, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Having Peter Blake work on the sleeve for Stanley Road came about through Simon Halfon, who’s done all my sleeves,” Paul remembered, “I thought someone like Peter would be unapproachable, but he was so down to earth. Simon and I told him what areas of his work we really liked – the collage work, which is his forte. So we brought in bits and pieces, and Peter added stuff. The cover is a painting of me as a kid, taken from an old photo, and in it I’m holding a photograph of me as I was then, in 1995.”

Paul had a European tour booked during May this year which was curtailed due to the Coronavirus, and it was to promote his new album On Sunset which is due out this month.