Tag Archives: blues

The tracks of my years

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I thought I’d try to compile a playlist of songs that represent me, or that speak to me on some level, so here goes.  They’re in no particular order.

  1. Gone Cold by Clutch. Probably the first “new” band I’ve heard in a long time, though I’ve since found out that they’ve been going since the early 90s. I listen to podcasts a lot when I’m driving, and one work related podcast features this song as the intro and outro music. It has a lovely, laid back feel to it, with vocals which drawl gently through the opening lines, but which reveal more of an edge when singing the lines around the song title.  I think I am also pretty laid back most of the time, but can be steely as and when necessary.
  2. Doesn’t Make it All Right by The Specials. When you’re growing up in a pretty much exclusively white rural town in the Scottish lowlands, a song which is very much anti-racist sends a strong message,  This song combines one of my favoured music genres (ska) with a conviction that I felt strongly at the time and still do. Oh, and my favourite band, SLF, do an awesome version of it.
  3. Boogie Chillun by John Lee Hooker. Cut down, raw blues with a wonderful hook, this song is just brilliant. the lyrics, about a child’s desire to break free and get lost in their music at times exactly how I feel.  I go through peaks and troughs, and at their height I just want to be enveloped in listening to and playing great music.
  4. Born On The Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival. OK, I’m not entirely sure what a bayou is, and I’ve no idea what shoogling is (it’s one of the words in the lyrics), but this song has a similar sort of feel to me as number 1 above does.  It’s quite chilled, but at the same time full of a sort of restless energy which breaks out from time to time.
  5. Panic Song by Green Day. This song is not long, and it’s not complex: but the intro is nothing more than a build up of energy which eventually explodes into action. In a lot of respects, my anger is like that: it takes a long long time to build, then (and only very rarely) does it get released.
  6. Soul Man by Sam and Dave This mostly made the cut because a) the Blues Brothers did it, b) it’s a fab time and c) they say “play it Steve” (to Steve Cropper) and I am a Steve!
  7. Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet. Again, Steve gets a mention, this time in the intro, but I chose this because it was one of the first songs I remember by a band I used to really like. I think this and Teenage Rampage probably laid the path for me to follow in terms of melodic music with a strong drum line.
  8. White Noise by Stiff Little Fingers. As with The Specials number above, this is very much an anti-racist number, though oddly enough when it first came out radio stations refused to play it because it has a derogatory w-word in every chorus. If they’d checked the lyrics they’d have seen that it was protesting about discrimination for whatever reason, whether race, colour, creed or nationality. What a great message!
  9. In The Hall Of The Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg. I’m half Norwegian, half Scottish, and this is written by a Norwegian composer whose parents were Scots and has our hero encountering giants in their home.
  10. Donald Where’s Yir Troosers by Andy Stewart. This is a none too serious look at what it’s like to be a Scot from the sticks, and particularly when they venture down into the big city of London.  I’m a Scot who made the move from a rural part of the country away to England and to a big down. Oh, and if you want an Elvis impression, there’s one on here too – uh huh!

This was harder than I had expected, but I think I got there in the end. I hope you like the list!

Top bass players and bass lines

Dee and I have been making lists of all sorts of things which we’d like to do as a 30 day challenge.  (She’s just coming to the end of a month without refined sugar or sweeteners, and I’m about to embark on a month without coffee.)

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Though not a challenge, I thought I’d list a number of bass players and a separate list of tracks with great bass lines.  This is because, well, I’m a bass player and I like songs with kicking bass lines!  These lists are in no particular order, just go and check them out: at least some will make your hair stand on end if you concentrate on the bass line. Note, most are best played very loud!

Bass players

  • Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
  • John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
  • John Enwistle (The Who)
  • Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine)
  • Geddy Lee (Rush)
  • Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T and the MGs, Blues Brothers, Stax house band)
  • James Jamerson (Motown house band)
  • Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
  • Jack Bruce (Cream)
  • Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Bass lines

  • Ramble On (Led Zeppelin)
  • Sweet Home Chicago (Blues Brothers)
  • I Wish (Stevie Wonder)
  • Crossroads (Cream)
  • Hysteria (Muse)
  • Money (Pink Floyd)
  • Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble)
  • Pump It Up (Elvis Costello and the Attractions)
  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Ian Dury and the Blockheads)
  • Good Times (Chic)

There are so many to choose from, it’s really hard not to just keep adding players and songs!

 

It’s Jake and Elwood… Image #71

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When asked what my favourite film is, I don’t even have to pause to think about it for even a fraction of a second.  The Blues Brothers is the ultimate for me.  John Belushi as Jake (in case you’ve not seen it) makes me chuckle every time he appears on screen, without having to do anything.  Dan Aykroyd is Jake’s brother Elwood, and he just gets funnier in everything he does.

For those of you who haven’t seen this film (why not?  Where have you been?) the “plot” is loosely this: Elwood picks Jake up from jail, they put their old band back together, avoid some nazis and the police, and play some awesome music with a stellar musical cast.  All the while, you get to play “spot the famous person doing a cameo” – even Steven Spielberg gets in on the act (pun intended)!  There’s great comedy, bits of slapstick, silly jokes, one liners and just so much going on.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it, but there are always new things to see and hear – it’s one of the things that makes it so brilliant.  This film single handedly introduced me to blues and soul.  Seriously.  After watching it I went out and bought cassettes and LPs featuring all the major artists that appeared, even if they were just on the soundtrack.  I became aware of John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Ray Charles and loads more.

The Blues Brothers band is jam (again, pun intended!) packed with incredible musicians.  Just the fact that Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn (that’s half of Booker T and the MGs and part of the “house” band at Stax records) are in the lineup means you’re guaranteed awesome sounds!

If you’ve not seen it, you probably know at least one of the many quotes from the film.  I use them regularly!  I’ll leave you with a few examples, hopefully I’ll include a favourite of yours…

Are you the police? No ma’am, we’re musicians…

We’re on a mission from God…

Fix the cigarette lighter…

What kind of music do you have here? Oh, we got both kinds, country and western….

No they don’t got my address…

Don’t say a f****** word…

Boys, you gotta learn not to talk to nuns that way…

Car’s got a lot of pickup…

I’ve always loved you…

I hate Illinois nazis…

Do you have a Miss Piggy?

 

What is live music for?

Isn’t music a strange thing? All human emotion can be portrayed through it, whether it be a couple of notes or a whole passage, sometimes subtly and sometimes with great force. We’re exposed to that range from a very early age: think about cartoons and animated movies. I find it quite strange that though our early exposure is mostly to the instruments found in an orchestra, whether singly or en masse, for the most part we “grow out of” liking “classical” music and instead largely turn to more modern or contemporary genres. Do we ever recapture the joys of when a piccolo was used to indicate that the mouse has appeared in a cartoon, or the tuba whenever Reggie Perrin’s mother in law (younger readers may need to look this up!) is mentioned?

Movies are often successful in large parts due to their soundtracks. Just think of Jaws, Star Wars, Titanic, Pulp Fiction etc – just the mention of those makes you think of the music (and am I the only one who starts whistling The Great Escape only to end up with Indiana Jones?) Soundtracks can change your perception of the movie, but also change you for life. Imagine my surprise when, having existed almost entirely on punk and goth for years, I watched The Blues Brothers and was compelled to go out and buy blues and soul by all the artists in the film. It’s still my favourite movie ever.

My own musical journey is, I think, quite odd. When I was growing up, the radio was rarely on, and my parents didn’t have a collection of records, cassettes or 8-track cartridges (it’s Google time again youngsters 😀). But nearly every week, I would eagerly sit down to watch Top of the Pops and, later, The Tube. I’ve no idea why music had the effect it did, but I’m very happy that was the case. I didn’t often listen to Radio 1, so I wasn’t really exposed to what the youth of the day was listening to – TotP hardly covered it, did it? One of my earliest memories is of seeing Chuck Berry perform (the soon to be banned) “My Ding-a-Ling” on TotP.  I got into trouble for singing “Crazy Horses” at school (I know, The Osmonds – what was I thinking? But saying that, I so want to cover that in a band some day!) and my first favourite band was The Sweet. Cue Eurovision and Abba came along – I was hooked. I won’t say much more, other than “Arrival” was the first album I ever owned (hopefully redemption can be found in the fact that the first record I ever bought was “Funky Gibbon” by The Goodies) and a few years later salvation appeared in shape of punk rock.

I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of The Clash – sacrilege to some, I know – and I’m not sure why. The lyrics were awesome, bass lines were brilliant, but there was just something I couldn’t quite get. In comparison, I thought the Sex Pistols were brash, but seemed to keep things on a more simple level. The whole movement was antiestablishment, in your face, and shocking, but if you listen to the music now? Straightforward rock with attitude, no messing about. I still love listening to the Pistols today.

Out of this new found music style, there was a new experience to be had – going to see live bands. And I have to say, that sealed music into me. Seeing people who were passionate about what they had to say, who enjoyed what they were doing, entertaining others and mixing with other people who were like me, fans – what’s not to like?  The first band I saw was the UK Subs at Carlisle Market Hall when I was 14, followed soon after at the same venue by Stiff Little Fingers, who promptly established themselves forever more as my favourite band ever.

At about the same age, the inevitable happened – I had to become a musician! So I bought a battered old 3 piece Premier drum kit from a friend for £40, hung a couple of metal biscuit tin lids from the ceiling cos I wanted more cymbals, and started trying to play. I joined a band, which rehearsed in my attic, every Saturday. I think it’s fair to say we weren’t that good, and the drummer was shocking! I could keep a beat, was a good timekeeper, but that was as far as it went.

I also bought a Kay’s catalogue Rickenbacker bass copy, with amp, from another friend, but couldn’t really get into it. In the space of 18 months I learned a couple of tunes – the UK Subs’ “Warhead” being the first of those and, incidentally, when I picked up bass again some 25 years later, was the first song I played: I still play it when warming up or sound checking.

Inevitably, the bass was sold, the drums were burned (after I well and truly trashed them while listening to The Who), and I restricted myself to watching from afar. Initially sticking with the music I knew and liked, then branching out into other genres, live music invaded my being. Whether it was pubs and clubs or theatres, open air events in the park etc, I’d go and watch just about anyone playing just about anything. Having seen Big Country at Ingliston, and Simple Minds at the SECC, I realised that I didn’t like big venues where you struggle to see the band unless you join the crush in the mosh pit. Years later, I saw Green Day at the Milton Keynes Bowl, and Muse at Wembley, and that just compounded that view. I just don’t get the same vibe or feeling from a big venue.

About ten years ago I picked up the bass again, and pretty quickly regretted having ditched it all those years ago. I made a point of trying to learn, or at least try, as many different styles as possible. I found that irrespective of what I was playing, all other thoughts, worries and doubts left me and there was just the music. That’s still the case today. I may struggle to play some pieces, I may worry about making mistakes or letting my band mates down in some way, but at the heart of it all, the music takes me and I can forget about the rest of the world, in a way that I’ve rarely experienced other than when out hillwalking. I now pay more attention when I go to see people play, to see what I can learn, what are good things to do and what are bad, which means I don’t relax quite as much as I used to at gigs, but I view it all as a positive learning experience from people who enjoy what they do.

If you’re in a pub, club, beer garden, whatever, and there’s a band playing, please make sure you applaud them after every song, and at least show some kind of appreciation. At the end of the day, those guys and gals up there have put in time and effort, and have had the courage to get up there and do something for our entertainment. They are worthy of our attention and encouragement.