Music Labyrinth Episode 021
Mr Wendal / Arrested Development
Aloha; Ave; Bonjour and G’day. This week’s welcome to The Music Labyrinth comes to you courtesy of my paperback thesaurus from 1986, which informs me that any listener of New Zealand heritage will grasp my message of welcome when I say, “How are the bots biting?” - so a special welcome to anyone who understood that. This is episode 21 of The Music Labyrinth, and I can advise that in this episode, we will continue to wander from song to song and may even find some substance to some of the links that take us from one to another. Just this week I had a little look back through the first 20 episodes of this program and I can advise that we have strung 190 songs together into a (ahem) logical progression though the labyrinth. If you would like to look back at where we have been, jump over to www.nonshedders.net and click on the link to The Music Labyrinth where you will find all those details, and playlists of the songs from each episode. Now, onto this week’s journey. We started this episode where we ended the last, with Arrested Development’s 1992 song, Mr Wendal. The song encourages the listener to consider the life-stories of homeless and destitute people rather than to simply dismiss them on the basis of their apparent difference. At the time of the song’s release, hip-hip music was largely influenced by gangsta-rap, and the reflective and empathetic nature of Mr Wendal provided a distinct counterpoint to the boastful machismo which was so much a part of the gangsta-rap oeuvre. A percentage of the royalties earned from Mr Wendal were donated to the National Coalition of the Homeless, and the songwriter, who goes by the professional stage name of Speech, has contributed to other projects for social change such as One Giant Leap. The concept of using music to achieve social change took me immediately to the work of Steve Van Zandt to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. We’ll talk more about it shortly, but I reckon the listener might recall this song from 1985.
Sun City / Artists United Against Apartheid
Welcome back to The Music Labyrinth where, just before those messages, we were discussing social change brought about by popular music, and we listened to Sun City by Artists United Against Apartheid. That project came about when Steve Van Zandt brought together a coalition of more than 40 big name artists, including several of the biggest in Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and Bono, to record the message we just heard about boycotting resorts which supported the apartheid policies of the South African government. Sun City came on the back of similar projects such as We Are The World, but Van Zandt made the point that Sun City was specifically intended to change attitudes, not to generate funds for famine relief or charity. Let’s stay with the social change concept for now. In 2002 Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke established the Playing For Change project, and travelled the world recording local musicians in many countries playing the same song, then engineering those recordings into cohesive songs. They also established the Playing For Change Foundation, and profits from the sale of the recordings have contributed so far the the creation of 15 music schools in 11 developing countries. Here is an example of their musical output.
The Weight / Playing For Change
Isn’t that just a great big slice of magnificence! That was Playing For Change with The Weight, written by Robbie Robertson and featuring him on guitar and vocals, together with Ringo Star, and artists from Italy, Japan, Congo, Bahrain, Spain, Argentina, Nepal, Jamaica and various parts of the USA. The Playing For Change project was inspired when Mark Johnson was strolling through Santa Monica, California when he heard a street musician, the late Roger Ridley, singing this song.
Stand By Me / Ben E King
From 1961 that was Ben E King with Stand By Me. That song was famously covered by John Lennon in 1975 when he recorded an album of rock and roll standards which he called, aptly, Rock ‘n’ Roll. And that album included this song.
Slippin’ and Slidin’ / John Lennon
Welcome back to The Music Labyrinth where we recently listened to John Lennon’s 1975 cover of the Little Richard classic, Slippin’ and Slidin’. The original version of Slippin’ and Slidin’ was included on the soundtrack of the 1995 Martin Scorsese film, Casino, and so too was this track.
I Ain’t Superstitious / Jeff Beck Group
You probably recognised the voice of the vocalist in the Jeff Beck Group from that 1968 recording of I Ain’t Superstitious. It was, of course, Rod Stewart. Now, I have previously mentioned my highly subjective view of the career of Rod Stewart and the fact that his early work is highly valued by me, and his latter work - well, not so much. A week or so ago, I would have told you that as far as I was concerned, Rod could have racked his cue after the Atlantic Crossing album from 1975. However, in researching this link, I realised that I had overlooked a quite wonderful track from 1976’s A Night On The Town. So, in a happy outcome all round, Rod gets a year added to his period of relevance, and we get to listen to parts one and two of The Killing of Georgie.
The Killing of Georgie, Parts 1 & 2 / Rod Stewart
Congratulations! You have returned to The Music Labyrinth where we last heard the second part of Rod Stewart’s The Killing of Georgie from 1976. That melancholy coda to the song features a melody that bears great similarity to a Beatles track from seven years earlier. You make up your own mind. This is Don’t Let Me Down.
Don’t Let Me Down / The Beatles
From the 1969 sessions that resulted in the Beatles album Let It Be, that was Don’t Let Me Down. Rod Stewart has conceded the similarities between that song and the second part of The Killing of Georgie, but points out that there are probably plenty of other songs with the same chord structure and melody line. When John Lennon was asked for comment about the apparent similarity, he simply noted that the lawyers never noticed. Don’t Let Me Down was covered for the soundtrack of the movie I Am Sam by Stereophonics. In one of those labyrinthine reverse loops that we encounter every now and then, Stereophonics also scored a substantial hit with another cover version, of a song once popularised by none other than Rod Stewart. This is Handbags and Gladrags.
Handbags and Gladrags / Stereophonics
Stereophonics’ version of Handbags and Gladrags was a late inclusion on the album Just Enough Education To Perform. That album was mixed by the American studio engineer Andy Wallace. Six years earlier, Wallace had produced the fifth studio album for Faith No More, which included this track.
Evidence / Faith No More
We’ve arrived at Faith No More, and we’ve spent a fair bit of time tonight talking about cover versions. So, lets end this episode of The Music Labyrinth with the original version of a famous cover by Faith No More. As always, thanks for listening. This is The Commodores, with Easy.
Easy / The Commodores