Category: Single of the week

Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revial)

This week’s song was a big chart-topper towards the end of the sixties, but to another generation it’ll be best remembered for various films it appeared in especially the 1981 film American Werewolf in London. Unfortunately the band were often powerless to say what it did or didn’t get used in, “I objected to the song being strewn around on TV commercials and any old movie,” John Fogerty once said, “but we had no power in our contracts to veto where our music went. It was everywhere. And for every good movie that you’ve heard it in, there were at least 10 more that were awful.” That was one of the many things they had to endure without their own input.

Although their blend of rockabilly and country music conjured up a sound more suited to the Southern States, brothers Tom and John Fogerty were raised in the San Francisco Bay area and in 1959, along with bass player Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford, they formed a group called The Blue Velvets. During the British invasion, an executive at the label they were signed to, Fantasy Records, changed their name to The Golliwogs.

In 1968, they changed their name again, to Creedence Clearwater Revival. The first part after a friend of a friend of Tom’s, Credence Nuball, as Tom thought it invoked feelings of integrity, Clearwater originally came from a beer commercial, but it also mirrored the surging environmental development of the time and Revival was chosen for their goals and aspirations, that, after a decade of playing together, they could take themselves to new and greater musical heights.

Their first release, in 1968, was a cover of Dale Hawkins’ Susie Q which reached number 11 in the Billboard singles chart then there was a gap. John Fogerty recalled in an interview with Henry Yates, “At the start of 1969 we were walking the tightrope between fire and ice, we’d just put out Proud Mary, and in two weeks had gone from being one-hit wonders with Suzie Q (as they spelt it) to being on our way up. But I was looking ahead. I was desperately worried we were about to fall flat on our faces. In those days, you put out singles every few weeks, so when Proud Mary was on the radio I knew we had to write the next one.” So he set to work on Bad Moon Rising.

“I’d come up with the chords and melody and I got the phrase bad moon rising from this little book I’d kept song titles in since 1967. I didn’t even know what it meant, I just liked how the words sounded.” The song’s inspiration came from the 1941 film, The Devil and Daniel Webster, the story of a struggling farmer who makes a deal with the devil, Mr Scratch, to sell his soul in exchange for fame and prosperity. John continued, “The scene I liked is where there’s a devastating hurricane; furniture, trees, houses, everything’s blowing around. That story and that look really stuck in my mind and they were the germ for the song.” That hurricane, which wiped out most of a town inspired the line ‘I feel the hurricane blowin’, I hope you’re quite prepared to die.’ In an interview with Rolling Stone John said, “I wrote the song the day Richard Nixon was elected but it wasn’t written about the devil or the deal itself, but about the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us.” It’s also an homage to the echo-drenched sound created by Sam Phillips at Sun Records in the fifties, although, John Fogerty admitted later, “I really couldn’t do it like Scotty Moore did it.”

Naturally, given the times with Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy having been recently assassinated, there was a subtext to the apocalyptic conditions; “I don’t think I was actually saying the world was coming to an end, but the song was a metaphor. I wasn’t just writing about the weather.”

Whilst at College, Doug showed an interest in nature and ecology and was nicknamed Cosmo. At his home in California he had a back yard where the band used to rehearse. The area, which was cramped as well as smoky, was known as the factory because Doug once complained that, although it was smoky and cramped, it was better than working in a factory.  Doug’s nickname and the rehearsal area gave their biggest selling album, Cosmo’s Factory, its name.

Tom Fogerty left the band in 1971 and the group disbanded 18 months later. Much to John annoyance, Fantasy Records continued to release old tracks, so in order to prevent this, and to be released from their contract with the label, John was forced to sign away royalties from their catalogue to label boss Saul Zaentz.  In 1985, John released a solo album called Centrefield in which he vented his anger towards Zaentz on a track called Zanz Kan’t Danz. The title was later amended to Vanz Kan’t Danz when Zaentz threatened to sue for deformation. Zaentz filed another lawsuit claiming that the lead track on the album, The Man Down the Road, was a rip-off of a Creedence album track Run through the Jungle. Effectively, John was accused of plagiarising himself. John was angry and in turn, John sued Fantasy Records to re-claim his legal costs and to prove that you cannot plagiarise yourself. John appeared in court with a guitar, he played both songs and the jury agreed that The Old Man Down the Road sounded nothing like Run through the Jungle. Mr Greed, another track on the album, was also directed at Zaentz.

In 1981, the film director John Landis felt the connotations of the song were perfect for some of the scenes in his comedy/horror movie An American Werewolf In London and was used to excellent effect in the scene were David Kessler (played by David Naughton) is awaiting a full moon and waiting to see if he will turn into a werewolf or not. It also appeared the following year in Twilight Zone: The Movie but not as memorably.

Tom died of respiratory failure in 1990.  John continued with a solo career and continues to perform his own songs on tour. In 1975, he wrote and recorded the original versions of Rocking All Over The World and Almost Saturday Night, which were hits for Status Quo and Dave Edmunds respectively.

Both Doug Clifford and Stu Cook continued to work together producing and playing on other people’s albums and in 1995 reformed their own version of Creedence Clearwater Revival but, two years later, John Fogerty objected and took out an injunction. It forced them to change the name to Cosmo’s Factory but they reverted after a court found in Cook and Clifford’s favour.

Zaentz has also made a name for himself as a film producer with credits that include One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and, in 1997, The English Patient, which received nine Academy Awards. He also received the Irving Thalberg Award for lifetime achievement.

In his memoir, Fogerty admitted he borrowed the opening guitar lick for Bad Moon Rising from Scotty Moore’s work on Elvis Presley’s song I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone. Fogerty claimed that he wasn’t trying to hide that he’d borrowed but actually “honouring it.” Apparently at an award ceremony in the eighties, Moore approached Fogerty from behind and said, “Give me back my licks!”

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Wolly Bully (Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs)

There are many songs with normal sounding titles but have nonsense lyrics and equally there is a stack of songs with meaningless titles but meaningful words. They are usually quite catchy song that stick in your head all day and this week’s choice is probably one of them.

The song was written by Domingo Samudio and the majority of the lyrics are the title. Sam took the first three letters of his surname to begin the group name and as for sham, well that word has a different meaning in the UK generally meaning false or bogus, but in the States it means to dance whilst playing guitar.

Sam, who was born in Texas in 1937, had been in the Army in Panama and had become known as Big Sam, after being discharged he returned to the States and formed a group with a few friends who were Ray Stinnett, Jerry Patterson, Butch Gibson and David Martin. During one of their early gigs the band member decided to don some Egyptian outfits which went down really well and thus became known as The Pharaohs, it was inspired by them having recently seen the Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner epic The Ten Commandments. They were spotted one night by a representative from MGM records who signed them to a recording contract.

Work began on recording their first album at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis but they needed a couple more songs. Sam wanted to write a tribute song about a dance he knew from a few years earlier called The Hully Gully. He recorded a demo and played it to the label who were apprehensive about using the Hully Gully in a title so Sam rewrote the lyric as Wooly Bully – named after his cat.

The song opens with a mixed count-in of ‘Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro’ which Sam explained in an interview with Here ‘Tis magazine, “David and I, we’re half Spanish and half English, we’d gone to the same high school and we’d just shuck ‘n’ jive back and forth in both Spanish and English, so I counted it in Tex-Mex. I didn’t intend for that to stay there but the producer, Stan Kessler, said, ‘Man, that’s wild, let me leave that on there.’ We argued and he won. I’m kinda glad he did now.” An intro that surely inspired Bono when it came to writing Vertigo surely?

One of the few other lines which are not the title is, ‘Let’s not be L-7, come and learn to dance’, an L7 is a slang term for an unhip person, or a square as it’s come to be known and basically if you put and L and a 7 together it forms a square.

Sam followed it up with Ju Ju Hand and then Lil Red Riding Hood but neither fared as well. In 1966, The Soul Brothers recorded a sequel called Wooly Bully Again but that didn’t trouble the record-buying public. When Sam was contacted about it he showed little interest.

The group broke up in 1968 with Sam attempting a solo career with little success. He reformed the Pharaohs in 1974 which didn’t work either. He left the music business and moved to Mexico where he became an interpreter. He has since written some poetry and still makes the occasional appearance. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2016 and despite the song being featured in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket it’s never really resurrected his career.

In an interview in the eighties he reflected, “We did three takes of the song, all of them different but they took the first one and released it. From what I understand, it became the first American record to sell a million copies during the onslaught of the British invasion.”

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Nothing Rhymed (Gilbert O’Sullivan)

In 1984, Bob Geldof was watching Michael Buerk on the BBC news talking about and showing images of the famine in Ethiopia which moved him so much that it prompted him to write Do They Know It’s Christmas, which, in turn, led to Live Aid. The record became the biggest selling single ever in the UK, a record it held until 1997. However, 14 years before that Raymond O’Sullivan had been inspired by the same type of story.

Ray was born in Waterford, Ireland in December 1946 and when he was seven the family moved to Battersea, south London but they didn’t stay there long either, the following year they moved again, this time to Swindon. He attended Swindon Art College and was briefly a member of Rick’s Blues where he played drums. The Rick being Rick Davies, who taught Ray to play keyboards and drums and later went on to form Supertramp.

Ray said, “In Swindon I was sending songs to London but getting no response. London was the centre of it all, it was the place to be, so I moved there in 1967. I got a flat with some friends and looked to getting a deal. I just had that self-belief. I didn’t need people to tell me I was any good. I knew I was. I had songs I believed in. It was very important to have that as it took three years.” He was briefly signed by Stephen Shane to April music as a songwriter, Shane suggested he change his first name to Gilbert as a play on words based on the opera composers Gilbert & Sullivan. He released two singles, Disappear and What Can I Do? of which neither troubled the record buyers. He then signed a deal with Major Minor and released a great track called Mr. Moody’s Garden that went nowhere either. He sent some demo material to Tom Jones’ and Engelbert Humperdinck’s manager Gordon Mills who liked the songs. “Then I met Gordon and it started to take off. There are a lot of talented people out there, but who lack self-belief, but self-belief is what gets you through the day and gives you the discipline which is your validation. The five days a week you spend writing is justified.” Gordon then signed him to his own MAM record label. “He signed two artists at the same time; me and Dave Edmunds. In November 1970, Dave had a Number one with I Hear You Knocking and a few weeks later I had a hit with Nothing Rhymed. In Ireland it was a huge deal for me as I was a Waterford boy having success in England. Mind you, they went off me pretty quickly, but I won them back, they came back to me!”

“When Gordon took me on as a manager,”, Gilbert continued, “I hadn’t written Nothing Rhymed but, by the time we got into the studio, ’69 or early ’70 it was a magic session to be in there with top musicians. If it had not been released and never been a hit, I would have been so happy to have made a record that I was really proud of and it had that lovely bass intro by Herbie Flowers.” Herbie does that BOOM at the start of the song.

Gilbert explained in an interview with Jason Barnard how he came to write the song. “It was inspired by the first time that there’d been starving children shown on television and it really resonated with everybody who watched it. As a lyric writer I just write about what I read in the newspaper and what I see on television; I’m a good observer, so I incorporate all sorts of things that I see going on around me, which I like because it means that I’m not just sticking with the one subject. And songs like Nothing Rhymed are about the sort of things that you very often read about, the horror and the violence that goes on in the world, the starving, those issues are the day-to-day things which very often interest me as a lyricist.”

Mills suggested that Nothing Rhymed should be the debut single and it was released on the last week of October 1970. Three weeks later it peaked at number eight in the UK, number two in his native Ireland and topped the chart in the Netherlands.

A number of people have covered the song, firstly Tom Jones on his 1971 album She’s A Lady, later the same year, the Italian group I Profeti covered it with new Italian lyrics, Yvonne Elliman included it on her debut album in 1972 and Morrissey very often includes a cover in his live shows.

Gilbert had a five-year hiatus in the mid-seventies to deal with legal matters involving royalties he never received from Gordon Mills which was eventually resolved in 1982 with a court awarding Gilbert £7 million in damages.

He is still recording and just three months ago released his 19th studio album, Gilbert O’Sullivan which entered the chart at number 20 and giving him his first album entry of new material for almost 42 years.

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From Little Things Big Things Grow (Paul Kelly)

This week’s suggestion is a protest song for a little-known event in the southern hemisphere. The lady who has asked for this week’s story spent nine months travelling the world and one of her many stops was Australia. Whilst camping in the outback her tour guide would play a song by Paul Kelly called From Little Things Big Things Grow and told stories about Aboriginal culture and she wanted to know more about the song, so I set about finding out about his seven minute epic.

Paul, not to be confused with an Irish nor American singer of the same name, was born in Adelaide in January 1955. From a young age, he learned guitar and harmonica and began performing as a solo artist before moving to Melbourne in the mid-seventies where he began fronting a couple of bands including the Messengers and, after moving to Sydney in the mid-eighties he fronted another group called the Coloured Girls.

Paul is not generally a protest singer, even if he had supported Bob Dylan once on an Australian tour, and the song in question is not really a protest song as such, but a celebration of the life of a protestor. The song, with a distinct harmonica and the trademark didgeridoo sounds, is about the Aboriginal stockman and land rights leader Vincent Lingiari who was born in 1919 at Victoria River Gorge in the Northern Territory. The story, according to Ted Egan at the Australian Dictionary of biography explained that both Vincent’s mother and his father, who was also called Vincent, were employed on the 3500-sq. mile (9065 km²) Vestey-owned cattle station, Wave Hill, which is located approximately 600 km south of Darwin and was established in 1883 by Nathaniel Buchanan. Vincent Jr, who was known as Tommy by his employers, had received no formal education and by the time he was 12 he was absorbed into the station work at the stock camps, where cattle from the 80,000 herd were mustered, branded and drafted into mobs of 1200 bullocks to be driven to meatworks at Port Darwin. It wasn’t too long before he became a head stockman at Wave Hill, he initially received no cash payment. The first time he received any money was when he lined up with the other stockmen at the Negri River races and was given £5 pocket money, he was around 34 years of age.  At the same time, he was becoming a highly respected law boss.

In the Wave Hill region the majority of the Aboriginal people are known as Gurindji’s and Vincent was one of them. In August 1966, Vincent had grown tired of the Aborigines being treated like slaves in their own country so he decided to lead 200 of his people who worked under him, and their families, in a walk-off. This was encouraged by the Australian trade unionist and political activist Brian Manning and an Aboriginal man called Dexter Daniels who made a name for himself as a breakaway Aboriginal organiser of the North Australian Workers’ Union. Vincent demanded better pay and rations, and protection of the Aboriginal women. The group camped in the bed of the Victoria River and later moved to Daguragu, known to non-Aborigines as Wattie Creek.  The Gurindji strike was to last nine years, the longest in Australian history.

In April 1967, the Gurindji people sent a petition to the governor-general, R. G. Casey, asking that their tribal land be returned to them so that they could establish their own cattle station. Lingiari, alongside Galarrwuy Yunupingu a member of the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu people and campaigner for Land Rights and the folk singer Ted Egan recorded a song in 1969 called Gurindji Blues. It sold 20,000 copies and the royalties were divided between the Gurindji people and the Aboriginal tent embassy in the country’s capital, Canberra.

In March 1973 the newly elected Whitlam government, led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, reached an agreement with Lord Vestey to lease 3236 square kilometres of Wave Hill station to the Gurindji people for ‘residential and cultural purposes and to de-pasture stock’.  On 16 August 1975, Whitlam poured a handful of red soil into Lingiari’s hand to symbolise the legal transfer.  The Gurindji leader commented: “Now we can all be mates”.  In 1986, the land was converted and given a freehold title.

Vincent, who had married his wife Blanche Nangi in a tribal ceremony, had six sons and two daughters. In his later years, he lost most of his sight and became very frail but every year he attended the Gurindji’s annual re-enactment of the walk-off right up until his death in January 1988 at the age of 79.

In 2001, the Lingiari Foundation was formed to promote reconciliation and indigenous rights and to develop Aboriginal leadership; the Vincent Lingiari memorial lecture is delivered annually in Darwin and Paul Kelly’s song From Little Things Big Things Grow and Old Vincent by Ted Egan are performed every year to honour his memory. A Northern Territory Federal electorate is named after him, and a memorial to him in Reconciliation Place, Canberra, was unveiled in May 2004.

Paul Kelly is still active and in 2017 recorded Life Is Fine, his first solo album for five years, it gave him his first Australian chart-topping album and won him four ARIA Awards. His latest album Nature, was released two months ago.

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Sugar Coated Iceberg (Lightning Seeds)

A few weeks ago, I wrote the story behind When You Say Nothing At All, which clearly speaks volumes. That analogy could certain apply to this week’s story, which doesn’t really have a story.

Liverpool has given us some brilliant songwriters and Ian Broudie is no exception. He was born in August 1958 and his music career really began with the post-punk band Big in Japan in the late-70s. He immediately began producing acts like Echo & the Bunnymen, The Icicle Works and The Fall in the 80s. In 1985, he formed a new wave duo with vocalist Paul Simpson called Care and charted one hit called Flaming Sword. In 1989, in order to have an outlet for his own recorded material, he began using the name The Lightning Seeds, a name he took from mishearing a Prince lyric, and released his first single, Pure which reached number 16.

As well as continuing to record solo under the Lightning Seeds moniker, he additionally lend his production skills to Northside, The Wedding Present, Dodgy, Alison Moyet and Sleeper.  During the 90s, he racked up 15 UK hits including The Life of Riley, which was written for his son, Change, Marvellous, Lucky You and two versions of the chart-topping Three Lions. For live appearances, he created a touring band.

This week’s song is the 1997, number 12 hit Sugar Coated Iceberg, which, at the time, many suspected it was written about drugs, but Broudie said very little about, much like Colin Angus did about Ebeneezer Goode.

Not happy just to accept the rumour of what the song was about, I contacted Ian to ask him for the story. His initial reply was, “I’m really surprised that of the songs I’ve written you want to write about that one …is there a particular reason?” Having explained that it was a suggestion for my Single of the Week feature I awaited a reply. After a couple of days he came back to me and said, “Sorry but I have no insight or information I want to give on that tune… it’s pretty self-evident what it’s about.” Therefore, it seems that the rumours must have been true. For those not yet realising, it seems likely that it was about drugs especially with lines like, ‘I’m sinking deep, I’m going under that sugar coated iceberg tastes so sweet
until you tumble’ and  ‘Sweet and sour as gold and coal, a sugar iceberg stole my soul and hid it deep inside my heart, threw it through me like a poison dart,’ make your own mind up. He dissolved the band name in 2000.

In 2004, Broudie released an album titled Tales Told under his own name, but it didn’t have any hit singles and certainly no mention of Sugar Coated Iceberg.

He reformed the band in 2006 this time with a line-up comprising guitar Martyn Campbell, keyboard player Angie Pollack and Ian’s son Riley on guitar and in 2009 released the album Four Winds. In 2016, he added Abi Harding on saxophone and Jim Sharrock on drums.

Production continues into the 21st century where he has lent his hand to The Coral, The Zutons, The Rifles, The Subways, Miles Kane and the French rock band Noir Desir.

All I can say is that Sugar Coated Iceberg is a very melodic power-pop anthem. It opens with the line, ‘I don’t care what songs you sing or how you think up all those pointless things’ which sounds very Motown-like and as Robin Murray put it in a feature on clashmusic.com, ‘it pays homage to Berry Gordy’s home of the hits, but done in such an impish, gleeful, exuberant way it grabs a character all of its own.’

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Proper Moist (Dapper Laughs)

 

 

This week’s choice is an odd one with no real story. When I was asked for this I didn’t actually remember it being a hit. Well, I say hit, on 22nd February 2014 it entered the chart at number 15 and the following week it was gone. Do you remember Proper Moist by Dapper Laughs? I thought not!

If you Google Dapper Laughs you’ll notice immediately words like ‘offensive’ ‘vulgar’ and ‘controversial’ and that’s exactly what David Daniel O’Reilly is. He was born in Kingston in Surrey but grew up in Clapham, south London. He made his name as a participant on social media sites Facebook and Vine. Once he’d got around two million followers on the former he then continued on Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube. One of him first gimmicks was filming himself putting ‘wet floor’ signs in the sea which earned him the nickname ‘Moisturiser’.

Once upon a time, singer and comedians etc had to work the clubs and earn respect and a following. Singers had to impress record companies to get deals which, in turn, led to radio airplay in the hope chart success would follow, but with the advent of social media people don’t need all that now which was lucky for Dapper Laughs. With the astronomical number of followers he amassed he managed to undertake a series of one-man shows which completely by-passed the club circuit. Most of his act was centred around talking about the size of his anatomy and how sexually advanced he was. His patter was often ill-mannered, he once told a female member of the audience that she was lucky she had big tits because she was as thick as pig s**t.

His one and only single was in a similar vein which only has one offensive word in it where the F-word crops up a couple of times, but it’s more the directness of how he ‘raps’ to the listener of how the girl is loving the sexual act and of how good he is at adding in that she’ll be walking like Robocop the next day. Then he proceeds to explain that when he’s finished with the girl he’ll check out her mother and how he’ll f*** her mom so much so that at the end of the night she’ll need a wheelchair. Fully aware of the controversy, he even adds into the lyrics, ‘They’ll be hatin’ on me for just havin’ a bit of fun’.

The internet has done all the work for the track because virtually all radio stations completely ignored it. If it’s cleverly marketed, it can get onto ITunes’ own chart which this song did and the week leading up to its chart entry it hovered around the top 10 thus sparking interest and people downloading it out of curiosity. Much of the press he received at the time were likening him to eighties comic Roy Chubby Brown but more annoying than offensive. One of his own promotional tricks was a Tweet which said, “It’s gonna piss a lot of people off. Download and bang a bird to it. Hard!”

His television career was halted fairly quickly. He had his own ITV2 show called On The Pull but he was axed siting that his comedy routines were degrading to women. On one of his tours there was a report that he made a terrible rape joke which he later claimed was taken out of context but nonetheless he cancelled the rest of the tour. He was invited onto the BBC’s Newsnight programme and interviewed by Emily Maitlis where he revealed he was killing off the Dapper Moist character. But, just a couple of weeks later he’d resurrected it and released a DVD of one of his south London shows. In an interview with the Radio Times, he patronisingly said to the interviewer, “people like yourself need to have a lot more respect for the intelligence of my audience, they understand that Dapper Laughs is an exaggerated character.” Do they?

In 2016, he and his long-term model girlfriend, Shelley Rae had a baby which they called Neve, originally he had planned to Snapchat the birth to his followers, but in the statement he said that the event became “too emotional and private” for him to share. He also said in an interview with The Sun, that he had no intention of sharing pictures of his new arrival online – for fear of repercussions after he became notorious for his ‘lad culture’ character on Snapchat.

In January 2018 he was invited to appear on Celebrity Big Brother but he was soon in hot water after making a number of shocking sexual remarks about his housemate Jess Impiazzi. He was voted off much earlier than he expected and was called a hypocrite by fans after he reacted furiously to the decision, but he did leave in style by proposing to his girlfriend as he went down on one knee during his exit.

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