Posts Tagged ‘music’

The Lion Sleeps Tonight | Financial Times

3 July 2018

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A piece by me for the FT’s Life of a Song series on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”:

Solomon Linda recorded the spine-chilling isiZulu-language ‘Mbube’ in Johannesburg in 1939. Some he improvised as the tapes rolled. And for those moments, the song belonged to Linda.
 
Then he was bought out for ten shillings by Eric Gallo, the Italian wideboy who owned the studio, and who now owned ‘Mbube’. Even when it became a local hit, Linda could have had no idea what he had given away.

I am indebted to Rian Malan’s collection of essays, and we are all indebted to his indefatigability.

Here’s a playlist of the music mentioned:

Stand By Me | BBC News

21 May 2018

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A piece for BBC News about the use of Stand By Me at the royal wedding:

That’s why Harry and Meghan’s choice of song meant more than if they’d gone with, say, Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You. And the performance by the Kingdom Choir takes Stand By Me back further still, re-infusing it with the defiance as well as the devotion of gospel.

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Motörhead’s Ace of Spades | BBC News

29 December 2015

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Here‘s a quickie Smashed Hits for the BBC News Magazine about Motörhead’s Ace of Spades:

Never mind what Lemmy said – with respect, Ace of Spades can be viewed as a metaphor. You could look at it as the Lemmy philosophy of living just how you want, in the full knowledge of the inevitable consequences.

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Bob Dylan’s Forever Young | BBC News

17 December 2015

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A Smashed Hits piece for the BBC News Magazine about this year’s X Factor Winner’s Song, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young:

The Dylans decamped to rural New York state for some peace. They didn’t get it. The presence of Bob Dylan gave the tiny town of Woodstock such countercultural kudos that its name was given to an “aquarian exposition” – the famous 1969 festival in a neighbouring county which didn’t feature Dylan, but did bring half a million people into his back yard.

For some of them, “Dylan’s back yard” was no metaphor, and they never went away. The Dylans soon wearied of finding hippies in the trees around their home and Dylan became frightened that he might have to use his “clip-fed Winchester blasting rifle” to keep them from his family. Onwards, then, to an Arizona ranch.

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Louie Louie by Richard Berry, and the Kingsmen | BBC News

30 April 2015

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A piece about the origins of Louie Louie and the FBI’s investigation for the BBC News Magazine.

The Kingsmen noticed that their audiences now included middle-aged men in suits and shades and were soon questioned by the Feds, apparently being told: “You know we can put you so far away that your family will never see you again.”
They insisted that Louie Louie was innocent, but as ardently as they’d sought reds under the bed, and over the course of two-and-a-half years, the G-Men contrived a series of eye-wateringly unpalatable images and practices from Ely’s mumbles.

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Why Nick Drake’s is music of comfort, not of despair | BBC News

25 November 2014

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On the 40th anniversary of Nick Drake‘s death, a short piece for the BBC News Magazine:

His first album, the pastoral Five Leaves Left, correspondingly begins with the lines: ‘Time has told me you’re a rare, rare find / A troubled cure for a troubled mind’.

The second, Bryter Layter, is purposefully upbeat and the last, Pink Moon, ends: ‘So look, see the sights, the endless summer nights / And go play the game that you learned from the morning’. This is music of comfort, not of despair; rebirth, not death.

Here’s the documentary mentioned, A Skin Too Few:

And there’s a John Peel version of my favourite track, Cello Song, at the Guardian.

The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows | BBC News

9 October 2014

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A piece for the BBC about how Brian Wilson and Tony Asher composed God Only Knows.

These conversations were fractured. Wilson, who had been denied a childhood, would break off to show Asher his mechanical parrots or to watch episodes of Flipper, an “aquatic Lassie” series about a dolphin which invariably reduced him to tears.

In time, Wilson played Asher the pieces of music he had in mind for an album called Pet Sounds and Asher essayed some lyrics to fit the themes Wilson had in mind. When they got to God Only Knows, things didn’t start well. Wilson felt that “I may not always love you” was absolutely the wrong way to kick off a love song. Too negative, he insisted.

Indebted to Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff, Kingsley Abbott’s Pet Sounds: The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century, Timothy White’s The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and the Southern Californian Experience and Brian Wilson’s Wouldn’t it be Nice: My Own Story (with Todd Gold (and Eugene E Landy)).