Morrissey – The First Of The Gang To Die

Morrissey wrote the lyrics, Alain Whyte wrote the music. Somehow one gets the feeling that they have never met, never spoken, never exchanged their respective ideas: quite unhappy lyrics about good ol’ Hector sung over the most cheerful music to come out of the UK & Ireland since The Beatles… Then again, perhaps that is exactly the point of it all. 

Either way, this single marked the return of Morrissey as it was the first time in 15 years he had two consecutive singles performing well. Good for him!

Great song no matter how you look at it though.

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Alice In Chains – We Die Young

The first song off the first Alice In Chains album is a true cold shower, no intros, no messing about – straight up raw heavy stuff, quite different to Black Gives Way To Blue. What a great band they were (are…), great riffs and among the best vocal productions of all heavy bands.

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Argent – God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You

God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You! Without digging too deep a hole in the global discussions and debates on religion, this must be one of the best “religious” statements ever and the delivery is truly divine! Unite! Rock on!

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Marvin Gaye – Don’t Mess With Mr. T

Together with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye was one of the artist who took the step out of factory-produced Motown-pop and got their own rights and creative freedom to create their own music, often charged with strong social commentary. Stevie did his Talking Book, Marvin his What’s Going On, both released in 1972.

After the success, Marvin had the opportunity to take on the soundtrack of the upcoming blaxplo film Trouble Man. The title song and a few others might be the most remembered from the soundtrack but this one should not be forgotten – pretty sweet and warm arrangement with so many things going on and then Marvin’s desperate and powerful vocals on top towards the end. Great stuff!

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Parliament – I Just Got Back (From the Fantasy, Ahead of Our Time in the Four Lands of Ellet)

This really does not sound like Parliament – but it sounds extremely good!

With lyrics turning to the fantasy lands of Yes, Pink Floyd and other progressive acts, and smooth folk-rock style harmonies supported by among the finest of piano playing from Bernie Worrell. And then there’s Peter Chase whistling – very non-Parliament, but very good!

Clearly a song that stands out from Up For The Down Stroke (1974), Parliament’s second album and first of the Casablanca albums.

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Little Richard – The Girl Can’t Help It

Top 5 most controversial individuals of the music industry? Probably. Sometimes gay, sometimes he states that gay men are unnatural and contagius…. Sometimes he invites other men in to have them have sex with his 16 year old girlfriend, sometimes he is a loving husband…

But in the midst of it all, he managed to revolutionise rock n roll music and influence a whole world after him. With a voice that kept every single recording machine in the reds and a smile that could kill, Little Richard Penninman – or “Little Cocaine” as he claimed hs should be called given his addiction – recorded hit after hit in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Girl Can’t Help It is from the Jayne Mansfield film from 1956 with the same title, a film that was material in John Lennon and Paul McCartney getting to know one another in the late 50s and subsequently forming The Beatles. The film, which is a musical comedy, also served as inspiration from Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock which came out the following year.

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Bill Withers – Use Me

Bill Withers is so much more than Ain’t No Sunshine. At the age of 28 Bill left the US Navy after 9 years and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. Give or take 7 years later, the album Still Bill (1972) was released including the wonderful Use Me.

A great example of how simple a song can be and still be brilliant. A funky bass line, two chords being strummed on an acoustic guitar, rhythmic drumming on the world’s smallest drum kit, master clav playing and Bill’s smooth unstressful vocals on top – such a nice way he stops a syllable only to then pick it up again. And the hand claps at 2.44… And the almost talking vocals from time to time… Yes, it all works pretty good!

Lyrically, the song deals with Bill getting sick and tired of people near to him trying to talk him out of a relationship while he is enjoying it so much he does not see it as being used – it’s mutual!

Don’t miss the great live version from Carnegie Hall, the way he stops the opening song of his concert only to then again go straight back into it. Must have been a great show to be present at!

There are a number of cover versions of the tune including everything from Esther Phillips via Al Jarreau to The JB’s and Bill’s influence on contemporary and later singers is unquestioned. One version which is definitively worth checking out is when D’Angelo joins the troups of David Sanborn and friends (friends including Marcus Miller, Eric Clapton and many more). Great sound including some amazing drum fills and a stellar performance by D’Angelo with a persona and grin on his face that suits the lyrics and vocal delivery so amazingly well.

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