Music Labyrinth Episode 052
Sledgehammer / Peter Gabriel
Hello Listener, and welcome to episode number 52 of The Music Labyrinth. 52 is, of course, the number of weeks in a year and - HANG ON A MINUTE - yep, The Music Labyrinth is a year old last week, the first episode having been broadcast here on Coast FM on 6 July 2020. [party blower] 52 is also the number of cards in a standard deck of playing cards - excluding jokers, which is not an exclusion we necessarily endorse here at The Music Labyrinth, so we’ll have no more of that analogy. In Manhattan, 52nd Street is a two mile section of asphalt which contained, amongst other things, the famous New York jazz clubs of the 1930s and 1940s. 52nd Street is also, of course, the name of a Grammy Award winning Billy Joel album from 1978. That album was one of the first released in the new, fandangled compact disc format. I must get myself one of those. So, as you can see, 52 has a significant pedigree in the discipline of modern music, and our mission during the course of this episode is to enhance the value of that pedigree. And - with such a mission in mind - could there be a better possible way to commence than with Peter Gabriel’s magnificent 1986 hit Sledgehammer? We all know that song and we have a fair comprehension of what it achieved. It was the mainstream breakthrough hit for Peter Gabriel, even taking into account existence of an army of rusted-on fans of his much earlier work. The video clip for the song was also a breakthrough contribution to the genre, winning all sorts of awards for the makers. Trumpet on Sledgehammer were played by Wayne Jackson, who was deliberately recruited by Peter Gabriel because of Jackson’s association with Otis Reading. Gabriel had deliberately set out to record a soul track as a tribute to the artists of Stax Records and Atlantic Records, of whom Jackson was one. Gabriel says that the song was a generic tribute, rather than being aimed specifically at Otis Reading, but I reckon a listen to this next track will give you a feel for the inspiration for Sledgehammer. This is Otis Reading from 1966 with I’m Sick Y’All.
I’m Sick Y’All / Otis Redding
From his 1966 album Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Reading Dictionary of Soul, and featuring Wayne Jackson on trumpet, that was Otis Reading with I’m Sick Y’All. That recording also features Booker T Jones on keyboards, Isaac Hayes on piano, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass guitar and Steve Cropper on guitars. If those names are not familiar to you, you will find them firmly filed under “B” for Booker T & The MGs; and also under “B” for Blues Brothers. But we are not heading in either of those directions. Instead, we are focussing on the writers of I’m Sick Y’All, who were Otis, Steve Cropper and David Porter. Porter has a list of hits to his name, particularly in partnership with Isaac Hayes, including this 1967 hit for Sam & Dave.
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby / Sam & Dave
Here we are in The Music Labyrinth where we last listened to Sam & Dave from 1967 with When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. If the listener is of a certain vintage, you may recall a cover version of that song that charted in Australia for Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham. But neither Farnsey nor Barnsey are on our radars (that was a pun which you will not get until I introduce the second element of it - so not a good pun at this stage really). Instead, we are turning our attention to the soundtrack for the 2017 movie Baby Driver, which featured the Sam & Dave version of When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, and also featured this next song. This is Golden Earring with their classic song, Radar Love.
Radar Love / Golden Earring
That was the Dutch rock band Golden Earring with Radar Love which was written and recorded in 1973. If you were playing close attention - and, by the way, those who do not risk being asked to sit in the naughty corner - but the attentive will have noticed that the lyrics of the song reference the radio playing some forgotten song, Brenda Lee’s Coming On Strong. So, who am I to argue? Here is Coming On Strong, by Brenda Lee.
Coming On Strong / Brenda Lee
From 1966, that was Brenda Lee with Coming On Strong. We arrived at that track because it is a song referenced by name in another song, in this case that other song was Radar Love by Golden Earring. So, two things are about to happen. Firstly, we are about to enter a super-room of the labyrinth that we have not previously visited - and its a big’n! Secondly, lets play a game. Our next song is also referenced in another lyric - in fact, I’ll even steer you towards the Beatles as the source. So lets see if, in the next 6 minutes or so, whether the very astute Music Labyrinth listener can nominate the Beatles song which references Ballad Of A Thin Man by Bob Dylan.
Ballad Of A Thin Man / Bob Dylan
Welcome back to The Music Labyrinth where we heard, from his epic 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan with the enigmatic Ballad Of A Thin Man. Just like Brenda Lee’s Coming On Strong, Ballad Of A Thin Man is referenced in this next Beatles song when John Lennon sings: I feel so suicidal, just like Dylan’s Mr Jones. This is Yer Blues.
Yer Blues / The Beatles
That was The Beatles with Yer Blues, which appears on the famous 1968 album which we all now know as The White Album. In December 1968, The Rolling Stones organised and hosted a TV concert event called The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus. The performances at that show eventually found their way to an album of the same name. One of the bands who performed at that gig and made their way onto the subsequent album performed Yer Blues. They called themselves the Dirty Mac, and the membership consisted of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience). That clip of The Dirty Mac performing Yer Blues is available on YouTube, and is very much worth a look. So, lets stay with the Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus for now. This next track is The Stones themselves, featuring the final public performance of band member Brian Jones, before his death in 1969 at the age of 27 years. You may recognise the voice making the VERY short introduction to this performance …
Jumping Jack Flash (live) / The Rolling Stones (intro by John Lennon)
As introduced by John Lennon in what is possibly the shortest introduction the Rolling Stones EVER received, that was Jumping Jack Flash, recorded in 1968 for their TV concert event, The Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus. Jumping Jack Flash is one of the Stones’ most recognisable songs, primarily because of the guitar riff around which it is built. So, if you keep an open ear to this track by the Kinks, you might see how we arrived where we are. This is Catch Me Now I’m Falling.
Catch Me Now I’m Falling / The Kinks
This is The Music Labyrinth, and we last listened to Catch Me Now I’m Falling by the Kinks, and it comes from their 1979 album Low Budget. The song has been described as a brilliant broad summary of the situation in the United States at that time; and also as an embarrassing novelty song which lacks irony. Proof right there that you can’t please everybody …. There is no doubt that the song proposes that America is in a state of decline. The American soul and jazz poet Gil Scott Heron had a similarly pessimistic view of his country when he wrote and released this next track 9 years before The Kinks. This track, in addition to its critique of the US, is considered to be a major influence in the development of hip hop music. This is The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised / Gill Scott Heron
In 1985 Steve Van Zandt assembled an eclectic group of musicians and performers for his Sun City project, which we have spoken about before on The Music Labyrinth. The Sun City album contained a track, Let Me See Your ID, which was co-written by and featured the vocals of Gil Scott Heron. During the recording of the album tracks, Bono, who was one of the big stars attracted to the project, became inspired by what Dennis Denuto would have called The Vibe of the project. In his hotel room he wrote this next track, which appeared on the Sun City album, and also became part of U2’s set list. This is Silver and Gold.
Silver and Gold / Bono, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Peter Wolf
From Little Steve Van Zandt’s Sun City project, that was Silver and Gold, performed by Bono, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Peter Wolf, who the listener might recall as the lead singer of the J Geils Band. In 2017, Peter Wolf was recorded live at the Brooklyn Bowl with Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul performing one of the greatest hits of the J Geils Band. I reckon you might know this one.
Freeze Frame (live) / Peter Wolf, with Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul
Welcome back to The Music Labyrinth where we last listened to Freeze Frame, which was a hit in 1982 for the J Geils Band. The version we just heard was recorded live in 2017 at a show by Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul at which Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band was a guest performer. Now you, being the discerning listener that you are will have detected that we have lingered a little while around the periphery of Steve Van Zandt, and I feel obliged to confess my long held admiration for his music. And so you will not be at all surprised to discover that our next track is one from Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, and the only issue for me was which to choose from my long list of favourites. For no reason, other than that it is a terrific song, I opted for the one which has the most difficult title to pronounce. This is Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared Ones).
Los Desaparecidos / Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul
Does a solid dose of 1980s, electro-funk social consciousness get your blood pumping? Or is that just me? That quite splendid tune was Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul with their song about the victims of state sponsored disappearances in South America during the 1970s and 1980s. The song comes from the 1984 album Voice Of America. Part of the ‘sound’ of the Disciples of Soul was a horn section known as the Miami Horns (they were named in honour of “Miami” Steve Van Zandt). The Miami Horns became their own recording and performing entity, and you can hear them on this 1986 single by one of the most over-hyped supergroups in the history of modern music.
Some Like It Hot / Power Station
You are back in the bowels of The Music Labyrinth, where we last visited the hyped up world of 1980s supergroups by listening to Some Like It Hot by The Power Station. The Power Station was a collaboration of A-list musicians featuring the vocals of Robert Palmer, the bass of John Taylor and the guitars of Andy Taylor (both of Duran Duran), the percussion of Tony Thompson and the studio skills of Bernard Edwards. Those last two, Thompson and Edwards, had been members of the group Chic, who had several major hits, but none bigger than this.
Le Freak / Chic
From 1978, that was Chic with Le Freak. One of the driving members and creative influences associated with Chic was the guitarist, songwriter and music producer Nile Rogers. He is a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, and a three time Grammy Award winner. Rolling Stone magazine wrote in 2014 that the full scope of Rogers’ influence in music is still hard to fathom. In 1984, INXS had the insight to engage Nile Rogers as a co-producer (with Nick Launay) for their album that became The Swing. From that album, because I’ve always loved the song, this is Johnson’s Aeroplane.
Johnson’s Aeroplane / INXS
From the 1984 album, The Swing, that was INXS with the lovely Johnson’s Aeroplane. When I was thinking of a way forward in the labyrinth after listening to that song, I turned my thoughts towards other songs about aircraft, and/or bands named for aircraft, and - due to a strong personal bias - I was thinking a lot about zeppelins. But, in a flash of inspiration, I appear to have unearthed a coin with two heads. For your listening pleasure, here is Jefferson Airplane with the VERY speedy sounding 3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds.
3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds / Jefferson Airplane
From their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, that was Jefferson Airplane with 3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds. Now, I’ve done the maths on this, and I calculate that the title of that song equates to 216 miles per hour, or just over 345 kilometres per hour. Which is more than double the speeds described in this 2016 song by Sting. This is Petrol Head.
Petrol Head / Sting
From his 2016 album 57th & 9th, that was Sting with Petrol Head. A co-writer of that song, with Sting, Dominic Miller and Lyle Workman was Josh Freese, and American drummer, singer and songwriter. Freese also played drums on the recording. In 2005 he contributed to the Queens Of The Stoneage album Lullabies To Paralyze, and part of that contribution was that he co-wrote this next song.
In My Head / Queens Of The Stone Age
From their 2005 album Lullabies To Paralyze, that was Queens Of The Stoneage with In My Head. The lead singer and driving personality behind Queens Of The Stoneage is Josh Homme, who is one of those identities in the music caper who likes to collaborate with a wide variety of artists. In 2012 MTV turned the attention of their “Unplugged” series of concerts to Florence & The Machine. In a concert filmed for that music network and subsequently released as a live album, Josh Homme joined Florence & The Machine for a rendition of this staple of country music.
Jackson / Florence & The Machine (feat: Josh Homme)
Thanks for returning to The Music Labyrinth as we head towards the end of episode 52. Just prior to those messages we listened to Jackson by Florence & The Machine, featuring Josh Homme of the Queens Of The Stoneage. That version came from the MTV Unplugged concert by Florence & The Machine, and the set list for that concert included one other cover version of a well known song. That song has been covered dozens of times by a variety of artists, but as far as I am concerned, the definitive version is the one from the film The Commitments. This is, of course, Try A Little Tenderness.
Try A Little Tenderness / The Commitments
From the soundtrack of the film The Commitments, that was Try A Little Tenderness. That film was directed by Alan Parker, and we will stay with the idea of films directed by him to take us to our final track for this episode. Before we get there, can I just thank you for your company tonight for episode 52 of The Music Labyrinth, and invite you to please come back again in a fortnight when we will continue our meandering through the vast chambers of modern music. If you know someone who might enjoy this blend of music, fact and subjective determination, please bring them along for the ride. Heck, fi you provide me with their details, I’ll even send them a personal invitation! Right then, for our last track lets return our focus to the movies of Alan Parker, which include The Commitments, Midnight Express, Fame, The Wall, and The Road To Wellville. And the fact that his list of movies also includes the 1984 film Birdy give us a perfect opportunity for a delightful moment of symmetry! You see, the soundtrack for the film Birdy was written by our dear friend who opened this episode, Peter Gabriel! So, lets bookend the episode with the second-greatest Peter Gabriel song ever! If you listen closely, this should tear your heart out. If it doesn’t, watch the film then listen again. If your heart remains in place and intact after that, you should consult a doctor because you are clearly no longer functioning as a human being. Please enjoy Wallflower.
Wallflower / Peter Gabriel