Playlist for July 2017

In June, Leigh-on-Sea hosts the UK’s largest free folk festival. On Sunday, I wandered to the Crooked Billet stage to see Martin Carthy. The whole area was packed, which meant I had to stand behind a railing at the side. Carthy played, picking his guitar beautifully, and introduced his songs by revealing some of the deep history behind them.

Halfway through his set, someone squeezed past me with a slight shove. I turned round to see if I could move in and let the gentleman pass. To my surprise, it was Wilko Johnson.

I say it was a surprise because I would have thought the pairing was unlikely. Surely Wilko Johnson with Dr Feelgood was musically the polar opposite to Martin Carthy’s folk leanings. But as I pondered it, they aren’t so dissimilar: both are incredible guitar players; each of their music has a rawness to it; both arguably pushed music into a new direction (Carthy allegedly inspired Bob Dylan’s Girl of the North Country, Dr Feelgood inspired the punk movement). After Carthy’s set, I watched as they both shook hands and chatted. Two men, hugely influential in their own sphere.

As you may know, I wrote about Zoe Howe’s brilliant Lee Brilleaux biography a week or so ago. It’s safe to say that I’m on a Dr Feelgood binge and this playlist would always have been weighed down heavily by R&B songs. But after seeing Martin Carthy, I couldn’t resist putting some of his songs in too, as well as other folk artists.

Here’s the playlist:

  1. She Does It Right – Dr Feelgood
  2. Mother Freedom – Bread
  3. Hangin’ Out – Betty Davis
  4. Wild About My Baby – Slim Harpo
  5. Big Boys – Chuck Berry
  6. Messin’ With The Kid – Junior Wells
  7. Roadrunner – The Pretty Things
  8. Bill Norrie – Martin Carthy
  9. Poison – Bert Jansch
  10. Let The Good Things Come – John Martyn
  11. White Freight Liner (Live) – Townes Van Zandt
  12. Scarborough Fair – Martin Carthy and David Swarbrick
  13. Sally Free And Easy – Oscar Dowling
  14. Wrecking Days – Kitty Macfarlane
  15. The Bedmaking (feat. David Swarbrick) – Martin Carthy and David Swarbrick
  16. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals
  17. The More I Give – Dr Feelgood
  18. Around and Around – Rolling Stones

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June Playlist

A lot of new music has come to my attention recently, since I’ve been writing here and at Songwriting Magazine.

I’ve been sent albums, EP’s and singles from musicians all across the musical spectrum, which is great. I’ve reviewed some of these albums and songs. Some of them I haven’t been able to write about yet. I thought it would be a good idea to create a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs from this month.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of these tracks:

  1. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan: My dad has always said that this is the song to test speakers. For that reason, it seemed appropriate to start the playlist with this song. I wrote about the Greil Marcus book, Like a Rolling Stone, on this blog.
  2. Ordinary Daze – Sea Pinks: Dream-pop, guitar-pop. A perfect song for a breezy summers day. Thoughts on Sea Pinks latest here.
  3. Asphalt Outlaw Hero – Lonnie Mack: I haven’t written about Lonnie Mack yet. But I’ve been wearing down his records recently.
  4. Hot Electrolytes – Love Ssega: A manic four minutes, which will raise a smile. Review here.
  5. Cormorant Bird – Fionn Regan: Super song. Appears on Fionn Regan’s long-awaited latest album, which I wrote about here.
  6. All Around The World – Little Willie John
  7. Love Survive – Michael Nau
  8. Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl – Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator was a change in direction for Hurray for the Riff Raff. The rhythmic build up is perfect. I wrote about The Navigator here.
  9. California Stars – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  10. Such a Night (With Clyde McPhatter) – The Drifters: I’ve been on a Clyde McPhatter binge after reading about Money Honey in Greil Marcus’ book Like a Rolling Stone. Marcus gives us a beautiful description about McPhatter’s vocals. I had to listen to the early Drifters songs and rediscover McPhatter.
  11. Soothing – Laura Marling
  12. Mental Cruelty – John Prine and Kacey Musgraves
  13. Far Below – Maria Kelly: Etheral Irish folk. Haunting music from Maria Kelly’s latest EP The Things I Should, which I’ve reviewed.
  14. Et Si Tu n’existais Pas – Iggy Pop
  15. The Best is Yet to Come – Bob Dylan
  16. Babushka-Yai Ya – Fionn Regan: Blisteringly fast. You can almost hear Regan scrawling the lyrics on the back of a cardboard beermat. Read all about it.
  17. Fire and Brimstone – Link Wray

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Like a Rolling Stone – Greil Marcus

Perhaps it is strange to start a website dedicated to music with a post about a book. But then that is the intention of this page: to catch the glimpses of music, be it in film, books, LP’s, radio or in nature. Whatever it is – or wherever it comes from – it will be pure, unadulterated noise.

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago when I was in the middle of nowhere. Greil Marcus writes about music reverently and with this work he takes us through the times and era that Bob Dylan recorded and released Like a Rolling Stone.

One thing which struck me from reading this account was how the master take of Like a Rolling Stone almost didn’t happen. Reaching for a bootleg of the session when I got back, I listened whilst reading Marcus’ blow by blow account. During the first few stabs at the song Dylan’s voice cracks, the musicians lose it. Then out of nowhere, the take is nailed and the song reaches levels which are rarely captured on tape. Then, bizarrely, several more takes are recorded. For an artist as notoriously fickle as Dylan, who has dropped tracks such as Blind Willie McTell from albums, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that he may have lost hope with the song and left it on the cutting room floor.

For someone who wasn’t born in those times, it is impossible to imagine Like a Rolling Stone being played on the radio for the first time. I guess this book is the closest we can get to actually being there. Greil Marcus gives us a snapshot of the period: a time shortly after the assasination of Malcolm X, the conflict in Vietnam escalating and the Civil Rights Movement in full flow with Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Would a song such as this have been created in anything but a turbulant time?