I watched La La Land with the family this weekend. In a promotional interview, I was impressed to hear that Ryan Gosling learnt to play the piano for a number of impressive one-take shots. But his achievements pale into insignificance compared to the feats of Sapporo-based jazz pianist Ryo Fukui. Fukui started teaching himself the piano at the age of 22 and released his first album, Scenery, six years later in 1976. The ambitions of that album were not insignificant themselves. He included a cover of Billy Eckstine’s ballad standard ‘I Want to Talk About You’ that had been made superlative by John Coltrane’s sax in 1958. Just listen to tit. Fukui died last in March last year – I hope it was with a smile on his face.
In 1976, some sweeping strings, jazzy congas and choppy guitar riffs were mixed up to make something rather magical. ‘I Want You’ not only pulls on jazz, funk and disco, but also allows for an electric guitar solo by none other than Ray Parker, Jr.’s and, of course, Marvin Gaye’s peerless harmonies. The song was written by Leon Ware and featured as the title track off Gaye’s fourteenth studio album. Have a great week.
I read recently that Led Zeppelin are facing a jury trial this month over a copyright infringement. The question is whether they stole the opening chords for their 1971 song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from the 1968 instrumental ‘Taurus’ by the band Spirit. Whether or not to sue would seem to be arbitrary and may be as much to do with the circumstances of the plaintiff as to the strength of case. Earlier this year, Sam Smith settled a copyright dispute with Tom Petty over the likeness between ‘Stay With Me’ and Petty’s song ‘I Won’t Back Down’. Whereas Petty certainly gave the Strokes a pass for ‘Last Nite’ and its remarkably similarities to his 1976 classic ‘American Girl’. Have a good week.
Before he had started to love the sound of breaking glass, songwriter Nick Lowe had already metamorphosised into the Jesus Of Cool. Suddenly happy to quote Kurt Vonnegut, the pub rock veteran releases a stellar first single on Stiff Records. Now that is the transition of a man unleashed. And so it goes…
Speaking of homage, The Prodigy sampled the song ‘Chase the Devil’ for 1992’s dance floor beast ‘Out of Space’. However, Max Romeo’s original chorus is backed by Lee “Scratch” Perry’s house band The Upsetters. The Prodigy could only do their best to copy some of that Jamaican magic.
Good morning! Jack Lee wrote ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ three years before it became the lead track off Blondie’s Parallel Lines. His short-lived power pop trio The Nerves hailed from L.A. The song originally featured on the band’s eponymous and only EP. Have a great week.
Now for something a little less some substantial and much more jolly. ‘The Rubberband Man’ features on The (Detroit) Spinners’ 1976 album Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. Singer Philippé Wynne does a great job scatting his way through the track, helped by some clever call and response moments and those lush Philly strings. The song was written (and produced) by Thom Bell about his overweight son.
Bebu Silvetti left his home in Argentina to go to Spain to find work as a jazz pianist. In 1970s, after a few years arranging and composing in Mexico, he returned to Spain to record his first album El Mundo Sin Palabras De Bebu Silvetti. It contained the hit single ‘Lluvia de Primavera’. The song would get a full disco mix treatment by Tom Moulton and was released on Salsoul Records as ‘Spring Rain’. Have a great weekend.
Following the path of Donna Summer, Jamaican-born and Canadian-raised Claudja Barry was a long way from home when she found her disco feet. She had originally been discovered in Germany by Boney M creator Frank Farian. But in 1976, Barry struck out as a solo artist, having been tempted away from the lip-synching by rival dance producer and husband-to-be Jürgen Korduletsch. He wrote the 1976 hit ‘Love for the Sake of Love’ for her and it would go on to be remixed by Tom Moulton. The slower disco beat would have an enduring influence on Moulton and in the music he created with Grace Jones. Have a great weekend.
This song makes me smile. It reminds me of what an unexpected choice it was for long car journeys with my parents. Reminiscence has me believe that they liked Rod The Mod because he was the lad that pranced around to Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, his “unconscious” plagiarism of Jorge Ben, no less. But all the while, he also had the depth to write ‘The Killing of Georgie’. Released as an album track on A Night on the Town, the song was inspired by the death of a gay friend. Of course, there was more than a whiff of Bowie-Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side’, but hey ho, the man can spot a good tune.
It’s the weekend! Ooh, I Love It. The Salsoul Orchestra’s ‘Chicago Bus Stop’ not only inspired the likes of Silvetti to dabble with the instrumental sound of Philly soul, but also spawned the equally legendary Paradise Garage classic ‘Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)’ (Shep Pettibone mix) and Madonna’s derivative ‘Vogue’. Best in class. Have a great weekend.
Before it was reincarnated as a sample in Kid ‘N Play, Jamiroquai and 2Pac tracks, ‘Last Night Changed It All’ was the only real hit for Esther Williams. Written by Joe Wheeler, the song featured on her debut album Let Me Show You. It was a sleeper in disco circles and would be rereleased (without the alarm bell) as a B-side to her 1980 single ‘Your’s And Your’s Alone’. Have a great weekend.
Good morning. I have some bad news. Tommy Ramone has died. I have some good news. Here’s ‘Judy Is A Punk’. Thomas Erdelyi (Tommy) was born in Budapest, raised on the drums and died as the last living founding member of the Ramones. As the shortest song on their first, self-titled long player, ‘Judy Is a Punk’ is short-fused blast.
I learned recently that soul jazz legend Wayne Henderson died this spring. Henderson was the co-founder of The Jazz Crusaders, who later changed their name to The Crusaders as Henderson’s passion to experiment beyond hard-bop trombone progressed with the 1970s. ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling’ was the first ever vocal groove by The Crusaders. It features on the album Those Southern Knights. RIP Wayne.