Dad’s Vinyl #8: Good Vibrations

I  can tell ‘Good Vibrations’ has been played a lot, it pops and clicks all the way through – although there are no scratches, and it never jumps – and the paper sleeve is in a bit of a state.

This is one of the singles i think I heard being played when I was a kid, but I’m not sure*. It certainly wasn’t played as much as ‘Hotel California’ or ‘American Pie’, but nothing was (until mum’s Barbara Streisand phase in the early 1980s).

The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" 7" single

The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”

For such an upbeat track, ‘Good Vibrations’ has an unexpected air of melancholy.  It starts in a minor key ‘I… love the colourful clothes she wears…‘, and quickly moves to major chords, but even during those ecstatic stacked harmonies – good! Good! GOOD! – it seems somehow sad, like the minor chords have stained the positivity,  uncertainty spilling out over the three and a half minutes.

The song almost seems like instant nostalgia, knowing that this perfect summer, this perfect girl, this happiness, is fleeting.  Is the ‘she’ of the song even real?

 

 

 

*I suppose I could just phone him and ask, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Dad’s Vinyl #7: Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass)

This was one item in Dad’s vinyl collection I was determined that I, and not my brother, would take possession of.

the 12" vinyl album The Rolling Stones 'Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)

The main reason was ‘Paint it, black’ which I remembered was on there, which is a fantastic tune. Plus you can’t go wrong with punctuation in rock song titles*

the cover of Rolling Stones "Big Hits High Tide and Green Grass"

I’d forgotten what else was on it. That was a bit silly.

(I can’t get no) Satisfaction is on there, one of the greatest singles ever according to Rolling Stone (only beaten to #1 by Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’). I hadn’t owned any Stones until this vinyl, so actually hearing this song properly, at a decent (ie, slightly excessive) volume was an exhilarating experience.

back cover of Rolling Stones "Big Hits High Tide and Green Grass"

There are a few tracks I don’t love – ‘Come On’ is merely ok, ‘Have you seen your mother…’ is a bit of a mess, Lady Jane is a bit embarrassing.

On the other hand, ‘Get off of my cloud’ and ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ are stonking great songs, it’s amazing how much vitality is contained within these grooves, even though guitars are out of tune, the mixes are unbalanced, and things are distorted.  This stuff is alive!

The track listing:

  • Have you seen your mother, baby, standing in the shadow?
  • Paint it, black
  • It’s all over now
  • The last time
  • Heart of stone
  • Not fade away
  • Come on
  • (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
  • Get off of my cloud
  • As tears go by
  • 19th nervous breakdown
  • Lady Jane
  • Time is on my side
  • Little red rooster

 

 

*See also The Cardigans’  “I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer”

Dad’s Vinyl #6: Eloise

Some 60’s records get played over and over again, like ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ (you know the sort of record), and others just seem to have disappeared. I hadn’t even heard of this song until The Damned released their version in 1986, and got to #3 in the charts, and I’ve not heard it since.

'Eloise' by Barry Ryan, 7" single

‘Eloise’ by Barry Ryan

This is a properly mad record.

Barry’s singing starts off mildly frantic and breathlessly over-enunciated,  and 5 minutes later he’s sounding like a man with his extremities on fire and a gun to his head. The music is similarly ridiculous, arranged to within an inch of its life, with parping horn sections, angelic choirs, two drummers (one in each ear) and ending with a climax balancing on top of another, larger climax, balanced on a pyramid made of loud bits.

It is gloriously silly.

 

 

And for comparison, here is the Damned’s version.

Dad’s Vinyl #5: I Can See For Miles

'I Can See For Miles' 7" single by The Who, 1967

‘I Can See For Miles’ The Who, 1967

I’m not a Who fan, I’ve heard loads of songs over the years (Mostly ‘Substitute’ and ‘My Generation’, over and over) so while I’ve heard loads, I’ve not really listened. Dad must have been quite a Who fan back then, the boxes of vinyl he dropped off a few months back has quite a few 60’s Who singles.

He must have played this one a lot, as it sounds terrible – even after a good clean – a record played almost to death. Even though it’s a bit tinny and distorted, this rocks.  It rocks in a propulsive, chaotic – that’s not just Keith Moon, either, it’s all of them – even punk-ish way. Christ knows what this sounded like back in 1967.

It’s good to know that at some point in the distant past, my Dad – who hasn’t listened to anything more challenging than Don Henley for the past decade – once listened to music this raucous.

 

Note: It is the mono version I’ve been listening to. The YouTube version is stereo, and that sounds a bit sterile in comparison. I’ve included both, see what you think.

An Application For Rubber Grommets

If, like me, you’ve got cupboards full of small rubber grommets, I’m sure some days you sit around and try to think of a use for them. Maybe make an evening of it, open a bottle of wine, draw flow charts and diagrams in a vain attempt to just find some use for the things.

Well, I have it, the holy grail of surplus rubber grommet applications.

To stop sympathetic overtones on my mandolin.

Sorry, what’s that?  What the *** are you on about, Andrew?

Oh, I’d better explain a bit, then. With photos.

Sometimes the strings behind the bridge – the bits you don’t strum/pick – resonate in sympathy with what you are playing. unfortunately, since these bits aren’t tuned (or even tunable) the resulting tones are discordant and unpleasant. They are sympathetic overtones, or something like that.

Some players thread leather laces through the strings to damped the unwanted sounds, and some use small rubber grommets to stop the vibrations. So that’s what I’ve done. The grommets are slightly wider than the gap, so they get squashed slightly, but i don’t care.

 

Dad’s Vinyl: #4 This Old Heart Of Mine

Going through Dad’s old singles, I’m surprised at how much R&B there is. These days it seems he mostly listens to Don Henley. Back then – his late teens, early twenties – there was a fair bit of soul: some Marvin, Pickett, Smokey, Supremes, and a couple of singles by The Isley Brothers.

This Old Heart Of Mine - The Isley Brothers , 7" single

This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You) – The Isley Brothers

The Isley brothers may not one of the first bands you think of when you think of Soul/R&B , but they’ve been having hits since the 1950’s, and are amazingly still going (although they are now down to just 2 members, the others lost to death, illness or religion).

This was their second big hit, from the brief time they were signed to Tamla and had Lamont and Dozier writing, and the Funk Brothers playing.  A lot of Motown and Tamla singles from this time sound similar, not surprising when they were written and played – and often produced – by the same few people. The real character of the piece comes from the singer, in this case Ronald Isley, and what a singer he is. His voice is silky smooth, but not too smooth, there’s a bit of grit in there too.

A few hit-free years after this, they left Motown to (re)start their own label and had a big hit with ‘It’s your thing‘, which is ridiculously funky, and which went on to sell a million copies, which singles could do back in those days.

Dad’s Vinyl: #3 MacArthur Park

They did things differently back in the 60’s, things no sane person would even attempt these days. A six-minute four-section orchestral song sung by a man who can’t sing, with a central metaphor comparing a lost love to a cake? Yeah, why not.

Dad would have been about 20 when this came out, and it’s hard to imagine a 20-year-old buying something like this today. I’ve no idea what today’s equivalent would even sound like.

 

MacArthur Park by Richard Harris, 7" single

MacArthur Park by Richard Harris

The song was written by Jimmy Webb, probably better known for ‘Wichita Lineman’, another song with an unlikely metaphor at the centre. Although the cake references seem a bit odd, he claims it all represents actual things – “Those lyrics were all very real to me: there was nothing psychedelic about it.”  he told the Los Angeles Times.

I’ll be honest with you, Richard Harris wouldn’t have been my first choice of singer. He sings like the worst kind of hammy singing actor*  You could argue that at least you can understand everything he sings, he carefully enunciates every syllable, although the notes waver as if sung by a timid lamb perched on a tumble drier. But he gives it his all, even if he can’t quite get the high notes.

It was a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and was a big hit when Donna summer covered it a decade later, with a disco version that was even longer.

Yet, it’s frequently cited as one of the worst songs ever written. I think that’s a bit harsh. It’s a bit overblown, and to my jaded cynical 21st century ears, a bit silly. But it is all tackled sincerely by all involved, and it beautifully arranged (although the ‘groovy’ uptempo section I could live without)  and the melody is great. You just can’t help but be impressed.

 

 

* Although not nearly as bonkers as some of the performances William Shatner has given us.

 

Dad’s Vinyl: #2 Never Let Her Slip Away

There was a rather dubious idea going around a few years back: ‘Guilty pleasures’, those records that you like but don’t feel you could admit to in polite (or cool) company. This is one: ‘Never let her slip away’ by Andrew Gold, and I think it’s bloody marvelous. So there.

'Never Let Her Slip Away' by Andrew Gold

‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ by Andrew Gold

I’m not sure if there is something wrong about having a proper tune, or merely that the pop music of the 70’s is somehow embarrassing. Fair enough, there was some absolute dross released in that decade, but there is dross in every decade. I lived through the 80’s, and I’m still in therapy for that accidental slap-bass overdose I suffered in 1983.

I don’t remember Dad playing this at the time (I would have just turned 7) but then I don’t recall Mum singing ‘Summertime’ to me as a baby, and I grew up to love that song. Who knows what lies buried in the subconscious for that day in your mid-forties, when Dad drops off three large boxes of vinyl?

This has a tune, a proper melody, like proper songwriters write: it snakes about, it gently soars, it changes key (slightly*), and importantly it is a love song with lyrics that don’t make you want to be sick.

I think one of the reasons it works is that it’s not addressed to the object of his affection, which is usually a recipe for disaster (and nausea) – “I talked to my baby on the telephone long-distance, I never would have guessed I could miss someone so bad” – he sings, wistfully, over major-seventh chords. And I’m a big fan of wistful, and major-seventh chords. He continues – “I’m a little bit dizzy, I’m a little bit scared, I never felt this much aware, that I love her..” – and I’m reliably informed that love is in fact a bit like that.

When I first put this single on my nearly-new record deck, my memory told me to expect some electric piano. I thought there was a law that all singer-songwriters had to play electric piano in the 70’s, but it seems I was wrong.

This starts with a lovely crunchy drum machine shuffle rhythm – ahead of its time in a way – and then instead of the Fender Rhodes I was expecting, I get warm polyphonic synthesizers (an Oberheim or a Prophet 5, maybe?) playing the chords and the bass line. The record is warm and open sounding**. Lovely. He’s not trying to be cool, or edgy or any of that crap.

This is a feel-good record.

What better reason to listen to music, ’cause it’s good for you, and it would really make you happy?

 

 

 

 

*Ok, technically a modulation but you didn’t come here for lessons in music theory , did you?

**We get some great backing vocals as the song develops – fantastic doo-wop style falsetto on the second chorus – which are alleged to be by Freddie Mercury, although other sites contradict Wikipedia by claiming it is Timothy Schmidt and JD Souther.***

***Queen were one of the first bands I got into, I know some of the early stuff inside-out, and I know Freddie would have easily sung these complex multi-part harmonies, and he was a friend of Andrew Gold, but the voices just don’t sound like him. Unless he was deliberately trying to not sound like himself. Oh, I don’t know.

Dad’s Vinyl: #1 Ticket To Ride

Dad recently had a long-overdue clear out of his double garage, which isn’t where he keeps the car, as there is no room. He had threatened for years to offload his vinyl collection on my and my brother, and this year he finally did it.

It’s not a huge collection of records, but there’s some good stuff in there. There’s also some terrible stuff in there, which I’m going to leave in the box.

There have been some disagreements with my brother about who gets what, but mostly our tastes differ enough that things haven’t got nasty. He was adamant that he was having  the ‘Strawberry fields/Penny lane’ single, and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ EP.  This leaves me with all the rest of the Beatles stuff. Including this one:

'Ticket to Ride' by The Beatles 7" single

‘Ticket to Ride’ by The Beatles 7″ single

I don’t own much Beatles stuff (White album, Revolver. That’s it.) so I’ve not really heard much of their stuff, not since my 70’s childhood when they were on the radio all the time, or so it seemed. I’ve certainly not really listened to the songs, not properly.

This one comes bursting out of the speakers, sounding not unlike a less weird ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ with a better melody, and some great harmonies.

Someone once said that the secret of The Beatles’ best songs was that something happens every 5 seconds or so, either a harmony, a guitar hook, a drum fill, a standout lyric or even another section to the song*. It goes something like this:

Rickenbacker jangle – burst of drums – singing starts almost straight away – harmonies come on second line – harmonies move up a notch on 3rd line – chorus comes in – last line of chorus harmonies move up a notch – etc etc**  . The ideas never stop, and your ears aren’t given any time to get bored as there’s a new thing along in a few seconds. Ok, it helps that the melodies were pretty good.

 

Copyright reasons (I’m guessing) mean that the YouTube videos are blocked or taken down, so this is the best I could find. But you know how this goes anyway, don’t you?

* In this case the “I don’t know why she’s riding so high..” bit, that’s not only different from the verse and the chorus, but has a wildly different drum  rhythm. I’d say it was the middle eight, except they play it twice.

**I was going to go through the track and list everything – with timings – but that would be almost as tedious to read as it would be for me to do, and turntables don’t have pause buttons… so I didn’t.

Song-a-Day 07: Being Human

I’m not entirely happy with this one, but I’ve been in bed most of the day with the lurgi and I’m not in a very good mood.

I’m happy with the bass line, I should play more bass guitar.

This is possibly the last song from this week, I’m helping friends move house tomorrow so won’t have time for any music. I might be able to write a song on Sunday, I’ll see how it goes. And then next week? That’s Possible.