Tuesday, 30 September 2008

This Round's On You

Six More Drinking Songs

A few week's ago I posted half a dozen songs about booze. In reponse a few people suggested their own favourites, so here they are - plus one more of mine. (Apologies to Sam Jordison, I tried and failed to find a copy of your suggestion, The Dubliners' Jar of Porter. It would have been a nice tribute to the owner of folk music's greatest facial hair).

MP3: Half Man Half Biscuit - There Stands The Glass

Last time I posted Webb Pierce's 1950s country standard There Stands The Glass. One of the Sam's alerted me that Birkenhead's finest recorded a version of the song for an Andy Kershaw session a few years ago. You can hear that whole set at the HMHB website.

MP3: Ryan Adams - The Bar Is A Beautiful Place

Ryan Adams is a frustrating bugger. One minute he can write wonderful songs like this, the next he's in full thrall of his pal Phil Lesh and indulging in horrible Grateful Dead influenced noodling.

MP3: Arab Strap - Here We Go

Suggested by the anonymous Bartleby fan (reveal yourself!), this is a vomit-strewn piece of Glaswegian miserabalism. Choice lyric, "How'm I supposed to walk you home/ When you're at least 50 feet ahead/ 'Cause you've walked off in a huff/ And I'm that pissed I can't remember what it was I said."

MP3: Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking (live)

There are no shortage of Tom Waits tunes on this blog but that's no reason not to share another one. Martin suggested this classic from Small Change, but to keep things interesting, this is an inebriated live version from a radio appearance on New York's WNEW in December 1976.

MP3: Uncle Tupelo - I Got Drunk

Before my friend Amy swore off booze forever she went on a road trip around Scotland that involved a lot of Uncle Tupelo on the car stereo. With her boyfriend Ed at the wheel, Amy played a game that involved swigging from bottle of whiskey whenever Jeff Tweedy or Jay Farrar mentioned an alcoholic drink. No wonder she went teetotal.

MP3: The Gourds - Gin and Juice

I recently lent a friend the brilliant Rough Trade Shops Country compilation which includes this hilarious cover of Snoop Dogg's paean to booze and bitches. If a Snoop Dogg song can sound country then maybe his own recent foray into C&W wasn't so unexpected.

There you have it. Dust down your favourite glass and enjoy the songs. And, as usual, please let me know what you think and suggest any more. ¡Salud!

Related Posts

Six Pack To Go - another half dozen boozy songs

Buy & Hear These Artists
Half Man Half Biscuit: |Amazon | 7digital | eMusic

Ryan Adams: Amazon | 7digital | eMusic

Arab Strap: Amazon | 7digital | eMusic
Tom Waits: Amazon | 7digital | eMusic
Uncle Tupelo: Amazon | 7digital | eMusic
The Gourds: Amazon | 7digital | eMusic

Thursday, 18 September 2008

1600 Sunset Blvd

The White House in Hollywood

BBC Four had a great double bill of programmes this week about Hollywood's representation of the US president that I'd recommend any American Studies graduate or West Wing fan fire up the iPlayer to watch while they're still both available.

In Dinner with Portillo, the former MP chows down with the likes of Joe Klein, Peter Biskind, Republican speechwriter Lisa Schiffren, and journo Kurt Anderson (who gets enjoyably animated as the fine wine flows) to discuss "the enduring conflict between America's liberal Hollywood dream factory and its conservative heartland values" (which would have been a good dissertation subject).

Jonathan Freedland's President Hollywood begins by looking at how The West Wing's writers effectively ran the current presidential campaign in 2005 when they pitted a charismatic non-white Democrat (Jimmy Smits) up against an experienced Republican maverick (Alan Alda). It then argued that JFK and Nixon have provided the archetypal templates for fictional do-gooder and malevolent presidents respectively.

I was surprised by some of the omissions from the discussion of fictional presidents though. You'd have thought, for instance, that Barack Obama's favourite on-screen Commander-in-Chief would get a look in. Despite having The Contender director Rod Lurie as a contributor there was no mention of President Jackson Evans in the programme.

Jeff Bridges doesn't quite play the Prez as if The Dude got the keys to the Oval Office but it's not far off (I even vaguely remember a bowling scene).

The most Nixon-esque president I've seen in recent years was also absent. President Charles Logan from 24 is not only a weaselly criminal in the classic Nixon mold, he even has Tricky Dicky's hangdog expression down pat.

Another 24 prez who got less mention than you'd expect was President David Palmer, which is surprising since actor Dennis Haysbert has publicly stated that he thinks his portrayal of a stately black president may have paved the way for Barack Obama in the eyes of many Americans.

There are plenty more - Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks! springs to to mind as someone I'd like to see in office - so who are your favourite Hollywood presidents? And if you've seen either of the programmes I mentioned, let me know what you think of them too.

Related Links

Dinner with Portillo: American Elections Special

President Hollywood

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Read All About It!

Stupid News For Stupid People

*Rant Alert!*

Until last week I was unaware of the Daily Gossip section of the NME's website. It's mainly dedicated to what Amy Winehouse may or may not be up to, but at the end of each day's 'news' story there's also a mind-numbing digest of pop star sightings as reported by our glorious Red Tops.

The tabloids' endless fascination with racist thicko Jade Goody is just the most obvious proof that they have a disturbing definition of newsworthy but I was genuinely surprised to see that the following items warranted column inches.

  • The Ting Tings singer Katie White "hasn't cooked for months" (Daily Mirror).

  • Leona Lewis wore a selection of purple outfits on the set of her new video (The Sun).

  • Adele swigged pints of beer and wine at the Mercury Prize ceremony (Daily Star).

  • Alicia Keys asked for ketchup with her fries at the Marriott Courtyard, New York (Daily Mirror).

If your brain has not melted and you really want more of this nonsense, I've just noticed that the NME has another section called Tabloid Hell. Reading it might make you stupid.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Six-Pack To Go

Half A Dozen Great Songs About Booze

I watched Martin Scorsese's phenomenal Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home again last night. One of my favourite moments near the start of the film, when Bob's recalling the music that affected him growing up, is the clip of Webb Pierce, the best-selling country star of the 1950s, singing his Number 1 hit There Stands The Glass.

MP3: Webb Pierce - There Stands The Glass

I'd never heard of Pierce before seeing No Direction Home. Dressed in classic cowboy couture, he cuts an impressive figure and sings in a distinctive voice that Scorsese felt warranted subtitles. But what's most remarkable about the clip are the song's lyrics. This is the first verse: "There stands the glass/ That will ease all my pain/ That will settle my brain/ It's my first one to day". Even in the often maudlin world of country music, I'm not sure you'd get away with that today, let alone get to perform it on mainstream TV. This clip from the Grand Ole Opry is what's in No Direction Home.

In a culture where every beer bottle advises us to "drink aware" songs about boozing are less popular than they once were. By some distance. The excellent blog Barstool Mountain is solely dedicated to tipsy tunes, mainly of fine vintage, and last year compiled an impressive list of the Top 100 Drinking Songs of all time.

One of Bob Dylan's most enjoyable Theme Time Radio Hours was the episode about drinking. The best song I'd never heard of from that show was by a 50s R&B group called The Clovers. Their 1951 Number 1 hit One Mint Julep blames boozing for much more than a regrettable one-night stand: "I’m through with flirting and drinking whiskey/ I got six extra children from a-getting frisky".

MP3: The Clovers - One Mint Julep

Another song Bob played on his show portrays the darker side of the demon drink. Loretta Lynn is famous for her forthright lyrics and this song is pretty self-explanatory.

MP3: Loretta Lynn: Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)

Townes Van Zandt was a man who liked a drink. While in hospital to detox in the 90s a doctor told his third wife Leanne, "If anyone ever tries to dry this man out again, he will die." I know alcohol had an horrendous effect on Townes and those who loved him but I still find this song incredibly funny.

MP3: Townes Van Zandt - Talking Thunderbird Blues

People do still write songs about drinking. Carolyn Mark is a Canadian singer-songwriter I first supporting Po' Girl at the Borderline some years ago. I don't mind a Muscadet or a nice Sauvignon Blanc but I still love this song.

MP3: Carolyn Mark - The Wine Song

The Felice Brothers are a proper modern-day boozing band. Joanne and I saw them support Justin Townes Earle in Nashville on our honeymoon. They wobbled near us, hammered, during the opening act and their subsequent set was full of songs of drunken violence like this one.

MP3: The Felice Brothers - Whiskey In My Whiskey

Whether you're tea-total or salivating at the thought of your next lager I hope you enjoy the songs. Please leave a comment to recommend your favourite drinking tunes.

Beer Fact: Jax beer was brewed in New Orleans between 1890 and 1974. The old brewery off Jackson Square is now a touristy shopping centre but the sign on top of the building still evokes its boozy past.

Friday Round-Up

My favourite links week ending 12 September 2008

Photo of the Week

The picture above is of Salt Lake City in the 1950s that I found via my friend Dave Varley's delicious account. It's one of a dozen or so vintage photographs of American cities taken by a chap called Charles W Cushman that are posted on a forum about skyscrapers. I recall that buying booze in Salt Lake City is not straightforward.

News Item of the Week

"Laureate bemoans 'thankless' job" is a wonderful headline. In a surprisingly honest interview Andrew Motion has said that being poet laureate has been "damaging" to his work and moans that the Queen "never gives me an opinion on my work for her". He'll be spending Christmas in the Tower then.

Obituary of the Week

Farewell then Jack Weill. I hadn't heard of him either but do have much to thank him for. He invented the cowboy shirt. This is my favourite part of the Economist's obit: "When Reagan declared once that America had become a service economy, Mr Weil wrote to him complaining that “where I come from in southern Indiana, servicing meant when you took the mare to the stud.” Reagan gently pointed out to “Jack” that things were less simple in Washington."

Bob Dylan Item of the Week

The video for Bob's 'new' single Dreamin' of You is available to watch on Amazon.com. It's noteworthy mainly for featuring Harry Dean Stanton.

New To Me Music of the Week
My brother-in-law Kev emailed me during the week to ask if I'd heard of The Gaslight Anthem. I had not. They are four fellas from New Jersey who evidently are big Springsteen fans.

Funniest Link Forwarded To Me This Week

"Rod Stewart Apologises For 30 Years of Crap Music". Not before time.

Online Listening of the Week

NPR's World Cafe is streaming five songs by the brilliant Felice Brothers recorded live at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Justin Townes Earle, who coincidentally we saw play with the Felice Brothers in Nashville on our honeymoon, recorded a Daytrotter Session this week which you can download in full.

Video of the Week

My colleagues Lucy and Sarah produced a great site for the Mercury Prize. You can see videos of all the nominees, both from Wednesday's award ceremony and from the BBC archive, as well as highlights of previous years' events. This is who I hoped would win, 2008's token folk act, Rachel Unthank & The Winterset.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

SFX, Drugs & Rollerskates

Taking Off With Hawkwind

Last night I did something I've been meaning to do for some weeks. I watched a BBC documentary about 70s space-rockers Hawkwind I recorded last month. Until yesterday I knew nothing about the band other than they had a rubbish name and Lemmy had been among their number before he formed Motorhead. If you're equally ignorant, the All Music Guide nicely sums up their marijuana-scented essence:

Any sci-fi fan with long memories probably remembers those 1970s DAW paperback editions of Michael Moorcock's sword-and-sorcery novels, with their images of heavily armored, very muscular warriors, carrying large swords and standing against eerie land- and starscapes. Take that imagery, throw in some terminology and names seemingly lifted from the Marvel Comics of the era (The Watcher, etc.) and particle physics articles of the period, translate it into loud but articulate hard rock music, and that's more or less what Hawkwind is about.

Psychedelic guitar wig-outs would be banished to my Room 101 and I watched the programme more because a colleague described it as a real-life This is Spinal Tap rather than to learn more about Hawkwind's music. On that score I was not disappointed.

Hawkwind were obsessed with space-fantasy. Their allegiance with Michael Moorcock was more than inspirational; he wrote some of their lyrics. (The writer tells a lovely anecdote about introducing Arthur C Clarke to William Burroughs at a party. The scientist and Beat prophet got on famously). To hear the band recall their 1972 Space Ritual tour makes it sound like an audio-visual display to rival the final scenes of Close Encounters. Sadly no video exists, but Lemmy suggests that you can approximate the experience by dropping five tabs of acid, spinning the double live LP, getting out some oil and projecting it on the wall.

Lemmy was involved in many of Hawkwind's most Tap-esque incidents. While touring the American mid-west he wandered off, out of his mind, later to find himself abandoned by the rest of the band. He then hitchhiked across Michigan to meet his band mates. The next day he was busted for drugs going into Canada and fired. Lemmy and Hawkwind's Dave Brock tell the story most animatedly in this clip from another programme.

My favourite piece of nutty behaviour recounted in the programme involves sax player and Egyptoligist Nik Turner. He was fired from the band in 1976 for playing over other people's solos but re-joined in the early 80s. He memorably describes one of Hawkwind's appearances at the Stonehenge Festival where he wore a skin-tight bodystocking and careened around the stage on rollerskates. Turner thought this was the height of performance art. His band mates disagreed and he was soon fired again.

The documentary is full of these tragic drug-fuelled anecdotes. It's also fascinating about the Ladbroke Grove hippy scene of the 60s and 70s and makes some bold claims about Hawkwind's music: they were electronica pioneers and pre-empted punk and acid house.

I've got nothing against old music, I just prefer it played on a mandolin rather than a Mellotron. There weren't enough songs in the programme for me to make an educated assessment of Hawkwind's music but I still suspect it's not my cup of tea. Though that would probably change if, like most of the band's beverages seemed to be, it was spiked with PCP.


My friend Wayne, who DJs the brilliant Uptight night at the Albany on the last Saturday of every month, emailed me after reading this. He said they've played Hawkwind's cover of Gimme Shelter on more than one occasion. I looked it up and it turns I actually have a copy on a 2002 freebie compilation from Uncut magazine. Wayne suggested it sounds a bit like early Spiritualized. See what you think.

MP3: Hawkwind - Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones cover)

Related Links

Hawkwind: Do Not Panic - the BBC doc

YouTube: Hawkwind Doc - of course it's here to watch

Hawkwind - they're still at it; this is the official site

Space Ritual - Nik Turner and other former Hawkwind members' band

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