Music Labyrinth Episode 022
Easy / The Commodores
Welcome along to episode 22 of The Music Labyrinth. Twenty one episodes ago we listened to a song, and since then we have made our way logically - no, sorry, that’s a bit of a fib - methodically from one song to the next in such a way that, if you hold your head on an angle and squint sufficiently, you might be able to imagine a continuous pathway representing our journey. So far that journey has taken us from Godless by the Dandy Warhols to Easy by The Commodores, with close to 200 stops along the way. This week, we press onwards from The Commodores into unchartered territory. Just before we do so, I should remind you that if you doubt any of the above, or wish to revisit any of it, I recommend that you jump onto www.nonshedders.net and click the link to The Music Labyrinth where you will find all the details and playlists for each episode. Now - back to the music. The Commodores, of course, were fronted by Lionel Richie, who’s contribution to popular music has seen him sell upwards of 90 million records and be awarded in 2016 the Johnny Mercer Award, which is the highest honour bestowed by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The list of Johnny Mercer Award winners is impressive, and includes most of the names the listener might expect it to include, however my eye was caught by the recipients of the award in 2014 because they were names not immediately familiar to me: Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. What I now know is that Gamble and Huff have written and produced 175 gold and platinum records, including many singles associated with the Philadelphia soul music scene of the early 1970s. And here is Billy Paul with one of them.
Me & Mrs Jones / Billy Paul
Written and produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff (together with Carey Gilbert), and sung by Billy Paul, that was Me & Mrs Jones from 1972. Now, whilst we know from the song that Mrs Jones was meeting her lover at the cafe at 6.30 each day, we aren’t told what was occupying the corresponding time of poor old Mr Jones. Well, rest easy. I think I’ve got it sussed. It appears that Mr Jones was down at the New Amsterdam with the boys from Counting Crows striking up conversations with black-haired flamenco dancers.
Mr Jones / Counting Crows
You are back aboard the good ship The Music Labyrinth where, just before those messages, we heard Counting Crows with Mr Jones. That song was recorded in Los Angeles in 1993 and produced by Joseph Henry Burnett III, better known as T-Bone Burnett. Three years later, T-Bone Burnett was producing the album Bringing Down the Horse for the Wallflowers. Now, in a first for The Music Labyrinth, we are about to establish a twin-link to the next song. Like the song we just heard, Mr Jones, the song we are about to hear was produced by T-Bone Burnett. PLUS backing vocals on this next track are sung by Adam Duritz from Counting Crows. This is 6th Avenue Heartache.
6th Avenue Heartache / The Wallflowers
In the first ever acknowledged twin-link between songs in The Music Labyrinth, that was The Wallflowers with 6th Avenue Heartache. In fact, I considered really pushing the boat out on this one and claiming a triple-link on the basis that the lead singer of The Wallflowers is Jakob Dylan (son of Bob) and that Bob Dylan had a famous song (Ballad Of A Thin Man) which heavily referenced Mr Jones. But - then I thought better of it. In 1997 6th Avenue Heartache was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal - but was knocked over by So Much To Say by the Dave Matthews Band. Now, so sensitive am I to criticism about playing favourites on this program, that I will regretfully skip past that wonderful track by the Dave Matthews Band, and instead jump to one of the other unsuccessful Grammy nominees in the same category that year. This is Garbage with Stupid Girl.
Stupid Girl / Garbage
From 1996, that was Garbage with Stupid Girl. If you check the songwriting credits for that song, you will find that it is credited to Garbage and The Clash, and the reason for that is that the song is built around a sample of the drum and bassline from this track from The Clash’s London Calling album.
Train In Vain (Stand By Me) / The Clash
This is still The Music Labyrinth and we are still wandering from song to song like keen gardeners amongst rose bushes. We just listened to Train In Vain by The Clash from their epic (in the sense of both adjective and record label) London Calling double album of 1979. Train In Vain was unlisted on the sleeve and the label of the original version of London Calling, and has become known as the album’s hidden track. However, its understated presence on the album was only due to it being included in the mix after the production of sleeves and labels was underway. Train In Vain was ultimately released as the third single from the album, and has been included in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Not bad for an afterthought! John Mellencamp similarly included an afterthought track on his acclaimed 1989 album, Big Daddy. It too as unlisted on the original album packaging. The song was a cover version of a 1967 song by The Hombres. Here is John Mellencamp’s version of Let It All Hang Out.
Let It All Hang Out / John Mellencamp
As I mentioned earlier, John Mellencamp’s version of Let It All Hang Out comes from his album 1989 Big Daddy. Mellencamp’s band at the time featured the American multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano. That same year Lisa Germano had been engaged by the Scottish group Simple Minds to contribute the moody, enigmatic violin to this lovely track.
Belfast Child / Simple Minds
Just moments ago on The Music Labyrinth we enjoyed Simple Minds’ 1989 song, Belfast Child, which was Jim Kerr’s reaction to the 1987 Enniskillen bombing. That song, and the album it originated from, were produced by the British musician, songwriter, producer Trevor Horn. Horn was a founding member of the Buggles, and spent some time as a member of Yes. He was also a founding member of the avant-garde pop outfit, Art Of Noise, who are probably most remembered for this fun collaboration with Tom Jones.
Kiss / Art Of Noise (feat. Tom Jones)
From 1988 that was Art Of Noise, featuring Tom Jones, with a cover of the Prince song, Kiss. The song sparked something of a resurgence in the career of Tom Jones, and in 1999 he released the album Reload, which saw him collaborating with fifteen different artists on mainly cover versions of known songs. On that album, Tom Jones joined together with the Swedish rock band, The Cardigans, to cover this classic Talking Heads song.
Burning Down The House / Talking Heads
From the 1984 album and film Stop Making Sense, that was Talking Heads with Burning Down The House. The film Stop Making Sense was shot over four nights of performances by Talking Heads in December 1983 at Hollywood’s Plantages Theatre. That art deco building was opened in 1930 and has hosted vaudeville productions, awards ceremonies (including Academy Awards), rock concerts and live theatre. From August to December 2017 the theatre was home to a new style of musical based on the life of an American founding father. Let’s end this episode of The Music Labyrinth with a track from that musical. Thanks for your company. Here is the original Broadway cast of Hamilton with The Room Where It Happens.
The Room Where It Happens / Original Broadway Cast of “Hamilton”