Springsteen, Bowie, Richard Thompson & The EasyBeats all have Friday on their minds!

Damn that alarm! Always too early. Every day. Every day.
 
Funny how I know the alarm is bound to ring yet somehow it’s always a surprise.
 
Another day. Here they come, rolling out their carpet of misery.
 
Mournful Monday. Terrible Tuesday. Woeful Wednesday. Tormenting Thursday.
 
Still, still … I got Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.
 
Guess Mama was right – I should have listened in School.  
 
Maybe then I’d have a job that meant something to me instead of this endless grind where I’m treated as if I’m no more than a cog in a wheel.
 
Got to get through.

Monday morning punch the clock.
 
Monday night punch the clock.
 
Tuesday morning punch the clock.
 
Tuesday night punch the clock.
 
Wednesday morning punch the clock.

Wednesday night punch the clock.
 
Thursday morning punch the clock.
 
Thursday night punch the clock
 
Friday Morning punch the clock.
 
Friday night punch the clock.
 
One of these Friday nights I’m really gonna punch that clock!
 
 

 
 

I do my job. As well as they’ll let me.

Anyway they ain’t said I broke no rule.

Maybe one day if I keep my nose clean I’ll get that raise in pay they been promising for so long. Maybe.

Until then I’ll keep my mind fixed on Friday when I ain’t just one more guy on the shift.

My time. Off the clock.

My time. Off the clock.

Friday on my mind. Friday on my mind.

An undeniable hit from the first second of the intro!

And, a massive 1966 worldwide hit it proved. Top 20 in the USA, top 10 UK, No 1 in The EasyBeats Australian home and also in Holland.

In Australia it’s an iconic symbol of the emergence of a far away continent into pop culture consciousness.

So it’s been voted Australia’s best song of all time as well as being safely lodged in their National Sound Archives Registry.

The song was written by Henry Vanda and George Young lead and rhythm guitar respectively. Dick Diamonde held down the bass with Gordon Fleet behind the drums. The impassioned vocal courtesy of Stevie Wright.

All their energy and talents mesh together here perfectly to lay down a pop classic that always comes up no matter how many weekends it has kickstarted.

Friday on my mind is a wonderful adrenaline rush of a song that sums up a universal feeling. The sense of gathering excitement is brilliantly realised.

Perhaps they were able to capture such a feeling because as the sons of migrant families to Australia they were hyper alert, as migrants often are, to the signals of culture all around and desperate to make their mark in their new world.

They met up at Villawood Migrant Hostel and via intense practice and stints at ‘Beatle Village’ venue in Sydney they became a formidable live band ready to conquer a continent and take on the world.

Their second Australian release in 1965, ‘She’s So Fine’ had launched them into pop orbit and brought them adulation at near Beatles level at home.

But the epicentre of the pop world in 1966 was London. So it was there in September with Shel Talmy (producer of hits for The Kinks) at IBC studios that they recorded the record that will always define their career.

Let’s return to the term, ‘hyper alert’. Perhaps the single artist in the modern era who most exemplifies that quality is David Bowie.

Sharply intelligent, artistically omnivorous and hugely ambitious he hoovered up every influence in the 1960s air (and in all the decades thereafter) right up to his majestic sign off with, ‘Blackstar’.

His 1973 record, ‘Pin Ups’ celebrated the 1964 to 1967 world that David Jones/Bowie moved in before his own career ascended to the stratosphere.

Bowie lends, ‘Friday On My Mind’ his own wild glamorous sheen.

Now, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is well known to be tuned in to the blue collar life.

Growing up in New Jersey his ears will have pricked up at the skewering of working class realities captured by The EasyBeats.

And, Bruce pays his dues. So, arriving to tour Australia he has no hesitation in pulling out, ‘Friday On My Mind’ and bringing the full force of his personality and the drive of the E Street Band to lift the roof off!

As the 21st Century approached Playboy Magazine decided to ask a series of musicians for their choices for the music of the millennium.

Playboy assumed that the responses would be choices of music from the 20th century and for all but one contributor the assumption proved correct.

The exception was the list provided by English guitar and songwriting genius Richard Thompson.

Richard must have delighted in producing a list that included both, ‘Sumer is Icumen In’ and, ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’.

Richard as a teenager was playing and attending the iconic 1960s clubs like the UFO. And, who,knows that he crossed paths with The EasyBeats. He certainly recognised a classic guitar figure when he heard one.

There’s a caricature of Richard a misery laden, doom and gloom merchant. In truth he’s a serious musician with well honed wit who can turn his considerable gifts to any subject he chooses.

Listen to him give Friday another dimension.

Few songs appeal so powerfully to so many artists.

Vanda and Young with The EasyBeats have succeeded in keeping Friday on our minds eight days a week.

Mona Lisa must have had the Highway Blues …

‘The Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues – you can tell by the way she smiles’ (Bob Dylan)

Ah, The Mona Lisa. La Gioconda. Leonardo Da Vinci. Lisa Gherardini.

There is a fascinating post to be composed concerning the artistic, cultural and historical significance of the most famous painting in the story of art.

A painting of enormous influence which has beguiled artists, scholars and the public for more than 500 years.

Such a work would have to pay proper attention to; the signifance of the Renaissance in Florence, the relationship between secular and sacred art, the role of patronage in an artist’s life and the thorny subject of the role of the male gaze in the representation of women throughout the ages.

I wish the author of such a study well.

For my part, although I have an abiding interest in art history I must confess that when I hear the name Mona Lisa my initial response is not to reflect on the weighty matters outlined above but instead to launch, full throatedly, into my own rendition of a 1959 Rock ‘n’ Roll classic out of Sun Studios in Memphis.

‘Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?’

I refer, of course. to Carl Mann’s immortal, ‘Mona Lisa’.

Well, great googly moo! Ain’t that just a barn burner!

Texan Eddie Bush provides the overproof White Lightning guitar with Carl pumping out the setting the woods on fire piano underneath his amazingly assured vocal.

W. S. Holland on drums and Rob Oatwell on bass make sure that the song’s rhythmic attack never lets up as a few million synapses in your cerebral cortex flash and flash and flash until it’s permanently seared into your memory.

Carl and the boys recorded, ‘Mona Lisa’ at Sun Studios and it was issued, after some hesitation by Sam Phillips, in March 1959.

It went on to be a top 30 Billboard hit and to sell well over a million copies. It’s a certifiable Rock ‘n’ Roll classic and the record which will ensure that the name Carl Mann burns bright in history.

It might well have sold even more had Conway Twitty not put out his own version after hearing Carl’s far superior take on a visit to Memphis.

Astonishingly Carl was a mere 16 year old when he laid down, ‘Mona Lisa’. He had been born in the rural area of Huntingdon Tennessee in August 1943.

The Mann’s had a lumber business which Carl would return to after the heady months following the issue of Mona Lisa turned into a life sapping grind.

Growing up in Tennessee Carl; in church, through The Grand Ole Opry and from youthful forays into honkytonks drank deep of the living streams of Country, Rhythm and Blues and Rocksbilly music that were the virtual birthright of Southern musicians.

Inevitably the towering figures of Hank Williams and Elvis loomed large in his musical imagination.

Carl was something of a musical prodigy and while barely a teenager he had performed on local radio in Jackson and featured on WSM’s Junior Opry. It was in Jackson that he made his debut recordings for Jimmy Martin’s Jaxon label.

His output for Jaxon includes a prime slice of Rockabilly in, ‘Gonna Rock’n’Roll Tonite’ coupled with ‘Rockin’ Love’ which was issued under the name of Carl Mann and the Kool Kats.

It was when W S Holland, who had played with Carl Perkins, hooked up with Carl that the introduction to Sun Records was made.

Carl never managed to hit the mother lode again with Sun and his subsequent mainstream country music work is undistinguished.

However, the late 1970s Rockabilly revival in Europe gave Carl an opportunity to demonstrate that Mona Lisa wasn’t entirely a fluke. In Holland he made two eminently listenable albums with stellar guitar from Eddie Jones.

Tiring of travel and over fond of the bottle Carl wisely retreated to Tennessee where he remains.

Perhaps, as he rocks on his porch swing he sometimes, purely for his own amusement, croons a stately version of Mona Lisa and smiles as he realises that he created a lovely, warm and very real work of art all those years ago.

P.S. Through pure serendipity I wrote this post on Carl’s 74th Birthday. Many happy returns Carl!

Notes:

‘Mona Lisa’ was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. It was penned for the film, ‘Captain Carey’ and won the duo the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 1950 Academy Awards.

Nat King Cole’s typically poised performance atop a Nelson Riddle arrangement of the song was a massive No 1 hit in 1950.

There have been innumerable versions since with my own favourites being those of Willie Nelson and The Neville Brothers.

Fine CDs of selections Carl’s best work can be found on the Charly and Bear Family labels.

Carl’s revival period can be found on the CD, ‘In Rockabilly Country’ on the Rockhouse label.

Lavender, The Lark and The Sublime

If you grow it they will come.

Lavender that is.

Not so far away several acres of transplanted heaven glows blue and purple.

Hip high bushes tremble in the Summer breeze.

A Summer breeze carrying an intoxicating scent that lifts the heart and calms the spirit.

Peace comes dropping slow.

Rows and rows of nature’s glory climb towards a hazy horizon.

People of all ages and cultures walk the straight path between the rows with like devout pilgrims.

In the shimmering stillness there is an awareness of profound blessings to be harvested here.

Settling into the self, breathing slow, sloughing off the shackles of busyness.

Emerging into simple being.

Being.

The bonny birds wheel higher and higher in the sky making perhaps for Leith Hill.

Leith Hill where the young Ralph Vaughan Williams’ musical soul was quickened and nourished.

A musical soul which survived the horrors of war to produce quicksilver streams of tender beauty.

A musical soul which evoked in, ‘The Lark Ascending’ a sense of the mystical gyre uniting life and death.

Walking among the lavender it seemed as if this wondrous music infused the air.

I have chosen to feature an incandescent performance by by Nicola Benedetti.

Listening we are invited to enter the realm of the sublime.

Note: I would urge you to seek out the astonishing poem by George Meredith which inspired Vaughan Willians to create his own masterwork.

Nick Drake : River Man, Oh how they come and go …

I was woken this morning from a full five fathom sleep by the shrill steam whistle of a ferry boat about to depart for the tranquil sanctuary of some green Nordic isle.

As I floated upward into consciousness I carried with me a gift from my subconscious: no doubt inspired by the moon above the harbour the previous evening.

So .. luxuriating in the drowsiness of my summer vacation and not equipped or inspired to present you with my customary impeccably researched and deeply pondered musings I offer to you the gift given to me.

Nick Drake. For a spell in the 1970s I was deeply obsessed with the persona and music of Nick Drake (whereas now I remain merely mildly obsessed).

And, there is good reason to be obsessed with the music of a man who left to us, after such a short life, so much intense beauty.

I will have much more to say about Nick Drake later.

For now I will content myself with stating that he was a songwriter with a particularly English, romantic and lyrical sensibility who wrote songs of mythic power.

He was a superlative guitar player with a wholly distinctive tone and sound. And, he was a singer whose voice will haunt your imagination.

River Man has a beguiling pastoral grace demonstrating all the above virtues. I’ve chosen to showcase a live in the studio version recorded for the great British Disc Jockey and cultural bellwether, John Peel.

Nick Drake seemed to live his life drifting further and further away from the safety of the shore.

Yet, even as he heartbreakingly faded away from us into the unknowable blackness beyond he was able to pull from his inner being shafts of light that still blaze with creative fervour.

Like the the moon his music has a mysterious attraction that moves the tides of our hearts.