Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, (never forgetting Lonnie Donegan!) : It Looks Like I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

In late 1962 the sun was setting on the commercial career of Lonnie Donnegan.

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The man who had run up an astonishing 24 successive top 30 singles (31 in total) including 3 Number Ones in the UK as well as 2 top 10 hits in America, now, it seemed, couldn’t get a hit to save his life.

Perry Como wasn’t calling up to invite him back on his show (where he had appeared alongside Ronald Reagan!).

The man who had strummed the first immortal chords of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain with Rock Island Line in 1956 and who had inspired thousands of teenagers to form a Skiffle group found that the caravan of popularity had moved on.

Moved on to the Beat Groups whose members had almost all been electrified, transformed, by listening to Lonnie from the mid 1950s.

Moved on above all to The Beatles.

But the Beat Group Boys never forgot their debt to Lonnie.

Listen to Roger Daltrey of the Who :

‘I wanted to be Elvis  .. I knew that. But the man who really made me feel I could actually go out and do it was Lonnie Donegan’.

Listen to Paul McCartney :

‘He was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No 1 in the charts. We studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man.’

Lonnie had adopted his first name in homage to the legendary Jazz/Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson after the Chris Barber Band shared a Royal Festival Hall Concert with the great man in 1952.

Maybe it was thinking back to Lonnie Johnson’s smooth vocal delivery and elegiac tone on songs from the 1930s and his own melancholic situation that set Lonnie’s creative juices flowing when he came to write, ‘(It Looks Like) I’m Never Going To Fall in Love Again’.

Lonnie Donegan had developed since boyhood a deep love and understanding of the heritage of American roots music – Folk, Blues, Jazz and Country.

Songs from that treasury swirled about in his memory.

One of those songs was a wistful ballad, ‘Wanderin” or ”I’m Never Going To Cease My Wandering’ which recurred from the 1920s on in versions by Vernon Dalhart, Eddie Arnold and Milt Okun among many others.

Using that template and collaborating with Jimmy Currie he took ‘Wanderin” to the  piano and crafted a timeless classic.

Lonnie didn’t have the vocal prowess to sell the song in the bravura manner that it would later receive.

No, his own version is distinguished for me by its hesitant charm.

This is a man, a man wounded by love, singing the song softly, tenderly, to himself in regret after the storm of emotion has largely subsided.

There can be great beauty and sometimes unexpected peace in the stillness after the storm.

The song wasn’t much played on the radio and it wasn’t a hit.

Lonnie carried on playing clubs and cabaret always singing his heart out.

Singing his heart out.

But, like I’ve said here before and will surely say again – a true message always gets through.

Sometimes, it just takes a while.

So, scroll forward four of five years and Lonnie runs into an old friend, Tom Jones, and he thinks – now here was a man who can sell a ballad!

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In Lonnie’s home the two troubadours sat down, no doubt fortified by strong liquor, and talked about songs they had loved growing up.

Lonnie took out, ‘It Looks Like …’ and said.:

‘ Tom, I have this song – you’d sing the pants off it. I recorded it but I can’t really sing it (like you could)’

Tom remembered that, ‘Wanderin” had gone down a storm as a singalong in the pubs of his native Wales.

Listening to Lonnie’s song he knew that the chorus was just made for his own Alpha male full throated style.

And, so it proved.

Tom’s version hit Number 2 in the UK Charts in 1967 and appeared twice on the US Charts – top 50 in ’67 and Number 6 when re released in 1969.

When Tom Jones takes on a ballad you know there will be no half measures.

Tom has vocal power and range aplenty and is capable of bringing shade and nuance to a lyric.

Here, he takes us on a passionate journey through a man’s bewilderment at his current situation.

Though he thought he knew the score and cast aside his pride now, now, he can’t take anymore.

There is time for tears in the wake of lost love.

And, then, it will feel like you’ll never fall in love again.

Yet, Tom’s version has such force, such strength, even in defeat, that you are sure this is a champion who will, though he has to take a count, get up off the canvas and get back in the game again.

The eternal Game of Love.

A true message always gets through.

For there are always those for whom the message seems personal, heaven sent.

So scroll forward to the mid 1970s when Tom Jones appears regularly in Las Vegas.

And, of course, no Tom Jones show is complete without his scintillating take on, ‘It Looks Like ..’.

Frequently in the audience for Tom’s shows is another Vegas Star – in fact the greatest Vegas Star, Elvis Presley.

And, Elvis knows a storming ballad when he hears one.

When Elvis comes to record the song it’s sadly near the end of his storied career.

Now, though he’s still a Lion he’s a Lion in Winter.

So, Elvis brings a depth of melancholy to the song that’s beyond either Tom or Lonnie.

Though his royal robes may have seemed threadbare in those days he was and always would be The King.

And, when a King sings we should all pay full attention for there are many pretenders but only one King.

Only One King.

So, Lonnie’s little regarded song from 1962 had proved a true wonder and before his death in 2002 Lonnie must have reaped some handsome royalty cheques to add to the pride he had in his song writing.

And, that is where I had planned to end this Post.

But, what do I know of the strange forces of synchronicity and serendipity?

For, as I began to write it happened that Lonnie Donegan’s son, Peter, a fine singer and musician in his own right, appeared on the UK talent show, ‘The Voice’ and that also on the show as Judge/Mentor was none other than Tom Jones!

The format of the show involves the Judges listening to the contestants with their chairs turned away from the stage so that they assess purely on the basis of the voice rather than looks and age.

Listening to Peter Tom’s interest was immediately piqued and he was the judge whose chair turned around.

Then, in story book fashion, Tom learned that Peter was the son of his old friend and writer of one of his signature songs – Lonnie Donegan.

And then to make the movie complete Tom and Peter put on a tear inducing impromptu performance of, ‘It Looks Like ..’ that brought the house down.

Somewhere, the shade of Lonnie must have smiled and thought, ‘I told you so …’

 

Notes ;

It is impossible to overestimate the influence of Lonnie Donegan on Rock ‘n’ Roll In Britian.

Billy Bragg’s book, ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers’ is a fine primer on Lonnie’s role in the Skiffle movement.

Chas McDevitt’s book, ‘Skiffle – The Definitive Inside Story’ is filed with wonderful anecdotes from those who were there.

There are many fine single CD collections of Lonnie’s hits.

I listen with great pleasure to the 5CD, ‘Lonnie Donegan Collection’ on the Spectrum label which amply demonstrates the breadth of his talents.

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival : Bad Moon Rising

‘Creedence were never the hippest Band in the world – but they were the best!’ (Bruce Springsteen).

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‘I know that buried deep inside me are all these little bits and pieces of Americana. It’s deep in my heart, deep in my soul.’ (John Fogerty)

 

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Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.

A water drop hollows a stone – not by force but by falling often.

Or, if you want to really master a craft you need to put in the hours.

Consider The Beatles in Hamburg forgoing sleep and comfort to play set after set until they were a band that had deep trust in each other and their abilitiy to hold and move an audience.

Consider, today, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In 1969/1970/1971 there was no doubt who the top singles Band in the World were; how’s this for a sequence of classics:

Proud Mary/Born on the Bayou,

Bad Moon Rising/Lodi,

Green River/Commotion,

Down on the Corner/Fortunate Son,

It Came Out of the Sky/Cottonfields,

Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain?,

Run Through the Jungle/Up Around the Bend,

Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See the Light,

Have You Ever Seen the Rain/Hey Tonight.

Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!

Boy Howdy!

That’s a streak of inspiration and connection with your audience on a par with Chuck Berry or Lennon & McCartney at their peak.

Their omnipresence on the radio and on the charts was the result of years and years of unheralded toil.

Their emergence on the national and world stage only came after a full decade of slogging up and down the Pacific Coast, round the punishing circuit of military bases, small town clubs and dingy dance halls following their formation by Tom Fogerty in 1959 as The Blue Velvets.

Thousand of miles and thousands of hours binding Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and John Fogerty together into a potent Rock ‘n’ Roll force.

Stu Cook and Doug Clifford forging a Zen rhythm section with Tom Fogerty.

Sometime, Somewhere along those endless highways, John Fogerty, the 14 year old kid who joined his big brother’s band transmogrified into a world class singer, songwriter and guitarist with a sound and vision of his own that resonated deeply with the society he lived in and zeroed into the heart of the Zeitgeist.

This was a young man who had been electrified by the visceral power of the 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll Masters and who wouldn’t settle for any music that couldn’t match that power – live up to that challenge.

He worked out a recipe for making sure fire great Rock ‘n’ Roll records and then with the fullest measure of inspiration and perspiration set about matching his idols.

First : You just gotta have a great title.

Think, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Great Balls of Fire!’.

So, he carried a notebook and every time a title popped up in his head that sounded like the title of a classic song, he carefully wrote it down and set his mind to writing the rest of the song.

Titles in John’s Notebook – ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, ‘Up Around the Bend’, ‘Green River’ and, yes, oh Yes – ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

Second : The Song has to connect with the real lives of your audience.

Think, ‘Schooldays’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Dead End Street’.

It should seem so true that once you heard it the first time you could sing it to yourself or a friend (you’d want to share it with a friend) even if the record wasn’t playing in the background.

So, John Fogerty songs are true and resonate whether you’re looking up at the stars in California, Calcutta, Carlisle or Khe Sanh.

Everyone has times when they wonder, for themselves and those around them, Who will stop the Rain?

Everyone has times when they hope, sometimes against hope, that they will be able to hold on and come through as long as they can see at least a glimmer of the light.

Everyone knows one of those Fortunate Sons who is protected by wealth and influence from the grim realities the rest of us have to endure.

Everyone, for humans are a Lunar People hungry for auguries, has at some time looked up into the night sky and said to themselves and to those around them, with dread :

I see a bad moon a-rising … I see trouble on the way … Don’t go ’round tonight
It’s bound to take your life … There’s a bad moon on the rise

 

Third : You just Gotta have a great Guitar lick.

Think, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Hello Mary Lou’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Gloria’.

So, John Fogerty spent hours and hours with his, ‘Black Beauty’ Les Paul custom searching for that Lick, That Lick, the one that would come roaring out of the radio or Jukebox speakers and turn every head, set every toe tapping, get every heart leaping.

And, time after time, time after time, John Fogerty found that magic Lick – the one you can’t argue about, can’t deny.

The Lick that thrills the first time and still thrills the thousandth time.

Nunc, if you get a great title that resonates with the real lives of your audience and you craft a great Guitar Lick and have a Band who will support you through every bar as you sing that Song with irresistible power you are going to make a great Rock ‘n’ Roll Record.

And,if you are John Fogerty with Creedence Clearwater Revival you will make a  Record in, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ that enters the very DNA of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

 

Emmylou Harris, Roy Buchanan, Tommy McLain & Patsy Cline : Sweet Dreams

Somewhere East of Eden Dawn breaks.

You open your eyes to greet The Sun.

That lucky old Sun, He got nothing to do but roll around Heaven all day.

All Day.

Now, you have lots to do.

You have goals and tasks and targets.

You have reflections and reviews to consider.

You have outcomes and KPIs to attain.

You have stratagems.

Things to do. Places to be.

Youre on the case. You’re in charge.

All day. Every Day.

Until, eventually, that lucky old Sun has rolled all around Heaven to set in The West.

Now, The Moon has dominion.

Now, you need your sleep before you can face another busy, busy Day.

And, with Sleep, unbidden, unstoppable, come The Dreams.

Everybody has them Dreams.

Dreamers find their way by Moonlight.

The Captain of the Watch and his Guards are no longer at attention – in fact they are carousing in the Town – AWOL.

And, if they should glance up from their cups all they will say is:

He is a dreamer; let us leave him : Pass.

Unfettered you slip the bonds of time and are free to wander the echoing halls of memory.

Free to peer into the open doors and to ascend/descend the Escher stairs to secret rooms.

Who knows who you will meet?

Perchance all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Perchance dreams are all you will truly ever own.

Poor as you are you have your dreams.

You have your dreams.

And, you have to dream if you are to live.

Though you are nothing you have in you all the dreams of the world.

Life without dreams is a broken winged bird.

Some dreams will not survive the fluttering of your opening eyelids.

Some dreams will stay with you for ever after and permanently alter the colour of your mind.

Some dreams, though you are yet to know it, will be the last, the very last, dream of your soul.

Some dreams are nought but the gleanings of an empty heart.

An empty heart.

Why can’t I forget my past and live my life anew …

Instead, instead, instead.

Instead I’m having Sweet Dreams about you.

Sweet Dreams about you.

 

Don Gibson, the Nashville Laureate of Heartbreak, wrote, ‘Sweet Dreams’ in 1955 and singers have been launching it into the ether ever since.

Don put it out first but it was Faron Young who had the first Hit.

Don had another go in 1960 and emerged with a nice morose version that got even more people listening.

But, in 1963 Patsy Cline, who sang supremely in the Key of Heartbreak took the song to another dimension of feeling.

Patsy Cline had a voice that seemed to possess ancient knowing about the human heart.

Every Patsy Cline vocal is an intense drama that commands you to listen with deep attention.

Her bruised and anguished tones tell you; this is how it is and you know it too don’t you?

You might not want to admit it but Patsy makes it plain.

No good pretending.

Troublous dreams this night doth make me sad.

I should hate you the whole night through.

The whole night through.

Instead I’m having Sweet Dreams about you.

Once you’ve fallen asleep none can know what dreams may come.

Should you be grieved in the spirit visions in your head may trouble you all your live long days.

Jacob and Daniel and Joseph.

And in 1966 from Jonesville Louisiana Tommy McLain.

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Tommy’s version of Sweet Dreams will play forever in your dreams from the moment you first hear it.

Surely this version was recorded direct from the soundboard of your dreaming soul.

Why cant I forget my past and live my life anew?

Why, Why, Why!

Tommy’s time banishing, heart stopping, ethereal vocal seems to surround your senses with the vibraphone adding further levels of sensual derangement.

Floyd Soileau recorded Tommy in his Ville Platte Studio but was not convinced this version would sell.

He changed his mind when it was reported to him by the owner of a local bordello that the song was No 1 on their Jukebox – a favourite of the working women and customers alike!

Later on as the song got picked up by national distributors and major radio stations three Million record buyers came to agree with the folks back in Ville Platte.

 

 

Emmylou Harris (a firm Jukebox favourite) has always found the sweet heart of any song she chooses to sing.

There’s an ache in her voice that it is even more emotionally affecting now that her hair has turned to silver and her knowledge of the trials of the world has deepened.

Here, live with The Nash Ramblers she sings like the angel always out of sight in your dreams.

The one you hope will return to those dreams again.

The one you could listen to the whole night through.

The whole night through.

 

 

Some dreams don’t need words.

Some yearnings cry out beyond syllables.

Roy Buchanan made his Guitar sound your deepest dreams.

Now some will tell you this is because he played a 53 Fender Telecaster and some will wax lyrical about overtones and pinched harmonics.

Maybe. Maybe.

Yet, there is something in Roy’s playing that’s undreamt of in philosophy or guitar manuals.

When he plays like this the valleys are exalted and the hills and mountains made low.

When he plays like this the hills and mountains are made low.

When he plays like this the rough places are made plain.

When he plays like this the crooked places are made straight.

 

 

I call that a Sweet Dream.

A Sweet Dream.

You can be in my dream if I can be in yours.

 

Todd Rundgren, Barb Jungr, Hal Ketchum & Mari Wilson : I Saw The Light

As we all know it’s a Wicked World.

As we all know it’s a Vale of Tears.

At the same time (we hold so many contradictory ideas at the same time) we all know it’s a Wonderful World.

We all know that on one bright day it is, indisputably, the best of all Possible Worlds.

Fiat Lux!

When you become aware of the light surrounding you no darkness can prevail.

Presence is more powerful than absence.

When you see the light of love in another’s eyes and can return that light the world is aflame anew.

Love divides the light from the darkness.

Eye-Kissing Light.

Heart- Sweetening Light.

Heathers and Jasmines surging on crests of Light.

You cherish colours on solitary hills that science cannot overtake.

And, you dance by the light of The Moon.

You dance by the light of The moon.

An exchange of light from the eyes lights the whole sky and never says – ‘you owe me’.

Then you gazed at me and the answer was plain to see because I saw the Light in your eyes.

In your eyes.

 

 

Aaah!

Todd Rundgren, now 70, was in the 1970s as his 1973 album justly proclaimed : A Wizard, a True Star.

Brimful of talent and absurdly proficient as a musician, singer and producer he issued gleaming pearl after pearl.

Sometimes it came so easily to him he thought can this really be any good?

As so often trust the tale not the teller!

I Saw The Light dances like dappled sunlight on the imagination.

Todd does all the singing and plays all the instruments.

The Guitar solo is so perfect you think even Becker and Fagen from Steely Dan would have said, ‘That’s it! – A keeper!’.

Burt Bacharach, Todd’s melodic guru, would surely have thought – this one’s good enough for Dionne (though Todd may have imagined Laura Nyro imbuing the song with her own special magic).

Though written in 15 minutes, ‘I Saw The Light’ has demonstrably had staying power both as a staple of Pop Radio and as a romantic standard calling out to be covered.

I Saw The Light called out to Barb Jungr – an artist who knows that songs are not dry texts but living, breathing things.

She’s alert, waiting for those special songs to come knock, knock, knocking.

And, when they do she’s ready.

Barb is a scholar of Song and Singing – she has written eloquently on these topics and has a Masters in Ethnomusicology.

A singer of enormous technical and emotional resource she lives with the song seeking out where the Song wants and needs to go to sound just right – irrespective of how anyone might have done it before.

This is an artist who finds truth and joy, passion and pain in Songs which she then delivers with theatrical elan.

There’s a wonderfully mature sensual sway to her version.

Surrender.

 

Hal Ketchum takes the Song Way out West for a Saturday Night Hoedown.

He brings some hardwood floor springiness to the party that I find entirely charming.

 

Mari Wilson , a favourite of mine since the early 1980s, follows in the distinguished tradition of Dusty Springfield as a British Singer who has the versatility to make songs come alive whether they are pop confections, simmering soul ballads or swinging Jazz.

She can sell a song with winning sincerity or arch a perfectly plucked ironic eyebrow to find the humour in a lyric.

This version has tremendous poise and no little emotion.

 

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Fiat Lux.

This Post for The one who floods my eyes with Light every day – Happy Birthday!

Notes :

Barb Jungr has made 3 superb Albums featuring the Songs of the greatest songwriter of our times, Bob Dylan. I like to think I’m very well versed in The Master’s canon yet listening to Barb’s, ‘Every Grain of Sand’, ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ and ‘Hard Rain’ have afforded me fascinating slant wise insights into classics.

’Just Like a Woman’ is a deeply considered and felt tribute to the work of the incomparable Nina Simone.

Mari Wilson : I particularly recommend, ‘Just What I Always Wanted’, ‘Dolled Up’ and ‘Pop  Dekuxe’.

Hal Ketchum : ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ is a near perfect collection.

Hats off to Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, Hafez and Ravindranath Tagore for Poetic inspirations.

Nick Lowe, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams : (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?

A true message always gets through.

Sometimes it just takes a while.

Over 40 years a Song can, starting out as an unremarked track on a little regarded album from a little known Band, become a veritable anthem recorded hundreds of times and exalted in concert by the great and the good from The Boss to Bill Murray to Mavis Staples.

My own relationship with today’s featured Song began many decades ago in my teenage gig going years.

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will know that I have made a series of House moves in the last few years before settling happily here in our South Downs hideaway.

One of the ‘finds’ of the moving process was a notebook with the title, ‘Gig Diary 1970 – 1975’ emblazoned in red ink on the cover.

Leafing through this historically important artefact I see that in that period I saw Nick Lowe with his then Band, Brinsley Schwarz, on stage at The Marquee, The Roundhouse, The Lyceum, The Hope & Anchor, The Torrington and The Edmonton Sundown among many other venues.

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I was, of course, also buying their Albums as soon as they came out and looking at the sleeve of, ‘The New Favourites of … Brinsley Schwarz’ from 1974 I see 2 large red asterisks next to track 1, ‘ (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding’.

I should tell you that the double asterisk was a very rare accolade indeed!

From the very first time I heard it I knew that this was a breakthrough Song for Nick Lowe –  a Song that would get up and walk away by itself into History.

A Song I have sung along with scores of times during Nick Lowe concerts and many hundreds of times at home through all the stages of my life.

Sometimes when the world did indeed seem a wicked place and this Song quickened my search for the light to counter the darkness all around.

‘ ….. There’s one thing I want to know:

What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

Ohhhh ….
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding’

 

Nick Lowe has said that this Song represented his first truly original idea as a songwriter and that having had that idea he realised that his task was then not to mess up the song by trying to be too clever – let the song flow naturally.

Brinsley himself on masterful rhythm guitar, Ian Gomm on chiming hats off to Roger McGuinn Guitar (and heavenly vocal harmony arrangement).

Bob Andrews on hats off to Garth Hudson keyboards with Billy Rankin on martial drums,

Together with Nick on Bass they hit a dead bullseye.

I remember walking back to the tube station in the rain after the first time I heard this song all the while serenading bemused passers by with:

‘ … Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I want to know:

What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?’

That’ll do as a definition of an Anthem for me!

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Once a true Song arrives it begins to find its audience.

In Liverpool in the early 70s when Brinsley Schwarz played their gigs an intense young man with a burning desire to get his songs heard was always at hand  – Elvis Costello (then Declan McManus).

In Nick Lowe he found an established songwriter who was willing to take the time to listen and provide encouragement to an unknown novice.

So, in 1978 as Elvis’ career began to gain momentum, he turned to an old favourite written by his Producer, Nick Lowe.

The result was a call to arms, flamethrower version, that launched Nick’s great song into the American market and the consciousness of American songwriters and singers.

Elvis, characteristically, located the anger within the song accompanying the philosophical musing of the Brinsley’s original.

No one can ignore this take on the Song!

In a sense sending a song out to the world is like throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean – the tides and currents take over and you never know where it will end up.

Remarkably, in 1992, Nick’s Song ended up as part of the soundtrack of the film, ‘The Bodyguard’ featuring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.

Everyone will remember Whitney’s Diva take on Dolly Parton’s, ‘I Will Always love You’ many fewer will have noted the presence of, ‘What’s So Funny ..’ sung by Curtis Stigers.

For Nick the bonanza was that the soundtrack LP sold an astonishing 44 Million copies transforming his bank balance at a stroke!

He must have reflected as the royalty cheques steamed in that his decision a decade earlier (prompted by manager Jake Rivera) to buy sole rights to his publishing was a very wise move indeed.

Among the song writing community picking up on the mysterious power of the song was Lucinda Williams.

For walk on, walk on, though you’re bruised and battered, just makes me want to cry, heart on the sleeve directness you just can’t beat Lucinda!

Now, if you want to be uplifted, to take heart as you ponder the trials and struggles ahead there can be no better source of inspiration than Mavis Staples.

Mavis’ voice with its inherent power makes you want to fight the good fight whatever the odds and however bleak the outlook.

With virtuoso guitarist Robben Ford she makes real the Song’s call for harmony – sweet harmony.

Hope will never slip away while Mavis is around!

 

Did someone say Anthem?

It is a truth universally acknowledged in the music world that if there’s an anthem to be sung, a rallying cry to be roared out, that Bruce Springsteen is going to be on hand to do just that.

It’s particularly pleasing to me to see him trading vocal lines and guitar licks with the great John Fogarty here.

Hard to be down hearted when this version gets cranked up!

 

Nick Lowe never concludes a concert without playing, ‘What’s So Funny …’ so its been a difficult task to choose the clip to showcase how he plays his masterpiece in his maturity.

But, I kept coming back to the Lion in Winter version where he is accompanied by fellow Brits Paul Carrack and Andy Fairweather Low.

There is wisdom and grace here aplenty.

Straight to the heart.

Straight to the heart.

What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

Few thing in life are certain.

Yet, one thing I can tell you – the next time Nick Lowe comes to town I’m gonna be in the front row and ready to sing with all the spirit I can muster:

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself

Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I want to know:

What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
And as I walked on
Through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?

Sweet harmony.
‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me want to cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me want to cry.
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

And then I’m gonna shake Nick’s hand and say Thank You.

 

Jukebox Jive with : Mark Bedford of Madness (Our House, My Girl)

I am delighted today to feature Mark Bedford, the Bass Player for Madness, in the ‘Jukebox Jive With … ‘ series.

It was a pleasure to converse with such a patient, thoughtful and generous interviewee. I would award Mark the high Jukebox accolade of RGB (Right Good Bloke) which in my estimation far outranks the OBE and such beribboned gongs handed out by the Queen!

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It is no exaggeration to say that Madness, now with a 40 year history as a Band with some time outs for rest, recuperation and diversions, have become fixtures in the imaginations and memories of the entire British Nation.

It’s not simply a matter of the 15 top ten hits in the UK and the ubiquity of their albums in homes all over the world.

It’s the way their presence through the folk like memorability of their songs,  the quirkily brilliant videos and carnivalesque live appearances has made them seem like part of more than one generations extended family.

In a real sense many of us have grown up with Madness with them sound tracking the joys and terrors of ageing.

Their role as, ‘National Treasures’ has been officially certified by their performances at such red letter day occasions as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, the closing ceremony of the London Olympics and the farewell celebrations to mark the last day of programming from the original BBC Television Centre.

What has impressed me most about them is their creative energy – their ability to continually grow as musicians, songwriters and performers.

They have emphatically not fallen into the trap, which has captured many veteran bands, of becoming witting or unwitting cartoon versions of their former selves.

Madness today are still properly restless and minded to surprise themselves and their audience with new material and the vigour with which they present their gem filled catalogue.

And what a catalogue!

Starting out as devotees of Ska and Rock Steady from Jamaica they expanded their tonal palette to include Music Hall exuberance, downbeat drama documentaries, lyrical and lovelorn romantic ballads, risqué end of the pier jollity, sharp situation comedies (a la Clement and le Frenais), surreal pantomime and state of the nation proclamations.

Oh, and you can sing along and dance to all of them!

On the very rare occasions when I can be persuaded to attempt karaoke (usually fuelled by too much Tequila) I always chose a Madness song – invariably, ‘Our House’ because I can be certain that as soon as I launch into:

‘Father wears his Sunday best, Mother’s tired she needs a rest ..’

my own reedy warbling will instantly become a full throated choir singing;

‘The kids are playing up downstairs, Sister’s sighing in her sleep,

Brother’s got a date to keep, he can’t hang round …

then the roof’s durability is tested as the whole ensemble (including the moody ones who never sing) roars out:

‘Our house in the middle of our street

Our house in the middle of …’

Our House has instant memorability yet repays repeated listening to savour the superb song craft and the layers of feeling embedded in the lyric, melody and performance.

We can all recognise this family – the nuances of the relationships and the truth that comfortable familiarity and subdued foreboding can coexist.

Naturally Mark has insights into Madness in all their dimensions denied to the outside observer. So, it as a genuine privilege to prompt his  thoughts in our interview.

IJ – Was there a musician who inspired you to want to be a musician yourself?

MB-

Well, indirectly, it was Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople.

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I had seen them on Top of the Pops. I liked their songs and I liked the way he sang – ’And you look like a star but you’re still on the dole’, from, ‘All the way from Memphis’ was really intriguing.

I found out he had a book out so I went to Compendium Books in Camden Town and bought ‘Diary of A Rock ’n’ Roll Star’.

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I read it and thought this is what I want to do. Unfortunately I was only 14, so I practised the bass and had to wait for a couple of years.

As far as playing Bass goes I, like everyone, adored Motown’s James Jamerson.

David Hayes, long time Bass Player with Van Morrison was an important influence.

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On the UK scene when I was starting out I took note of the playing of Bruce Thomas with Elvis Costello and Norman Watt Roy with Ian Dury.

The drummer Kieran O’Connor and pianist Diz Watson also taught me a lot.

Reflecting on my career as a musician I’ve come to realise how important it is to be generous to other musicians and how such generosity benefits all concerned.

IJ – What was the first record you just couldn’t stop playing?

MB

Technically, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

Given my age I straddled Punk, so there were key records pre and post.

At school I listened to Steely Dan, Neil Young (‘After the Goldrush’ is still one of my favourite records) and Little Feat.

Once Punk erupted I was a massive Clash fan and listened to a lot more reggae. 

I also couldn’t stop playing Elvis Costello’s first album.

IJ – Was there a radio station/radio show/live venue that was important in introducing you to the music you love?

MB

My first radio memory: Eating breakfast, before going to school and listening to Tony Blackburn play Motown records on Radio One.

Of course, if you were a music fan listening to John Peel was compulsory.

Things were a bit more lax in the 70s. When we were in our teens, me and a group of friends used to sneak into pubs and listen to music.

At the time it seemed that every pub in North London had a back room with a band playing in it. I soaked up a lot of musical education in the Hope & Anchor, Dingwalls and The Carnarvon Castle.

We widened our repertoire and then started going to the Sunday concerts at The Roundhouse. These were amazing.  

IJ What was the first record you heard by one of your contemporaries that made you think – ‘Wow .. they’ve really got it!’

MB

‘Ghost Town’, The Specials. A giant step forward. We felt this really raised the bar for our generation of bands. It was addictively listenable while putting over a strong political message.

 

 

IJ – Looking back over your career which 3 albums are you most pleased with?

MB The first one, ‘One Step Beyond’ because it showed us we could do it.

Going in to the studio to make our debut we were nerveless. We really had the songs down from playing them live so we didn’t go in for any timewasting, ‘noodling’!

Producers Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer made important contributions. Alan was very adept technically and Clive had a musically interesting and empathetic mind. They were an excellent combination.

The second album, ‘Absolutely’ because it was written under such time-pressure but produced some brilliant songs (it is my favourite Madness record).

And, of course, ‘the last one’. (which as of 2018 was ‘Can’t Touch us Now’)

IJ – Similarly which 3 songs are you most pleased with?

MB

These Singles, because they helped us take a step forward: ‘My Girl’, ‘Grey Day’ and ‘One Better Day’. 

 

My Girl showed the reflective side of Madness.

This is a domestic love song about the kind of real stop/go hesitant love so many of us have experienced.

Mike Barson’s melody owes something to Elvis Costello’s, ‘Watching The Detectives’ though the mood is more discomfited male puzzlement rather than noir threat.

‘I found  it hard to say … she  thought I’d had enough of her …

‘Been on the telephone for  an hour … we hardly said  a word  …

’Why can’t she see she’s lovely to me ….

’Why can’t I explain … why do I feel this pain?

Been there Brother! Been there!

 

 

Grey Day though recorded in 1981 was conceived in 1978.

It shows Madness were atuned to a sense of dread that seemed to hang heavily in tne air at that time for a host of economic and political reasons.

It might properly be called a dystopian diorama or Orwellian vision of a society where it’s casualties are treated as though they were invisible.

But, though the central character is made black and bloody he endures.

He endures . He endures.

 

One Better day was born with Mark running down a chord sequence on guitar. Given the era it was then recorded onto a cassette in Suggs house.

Something about the melody suggested the wistful atmosphere of the song.

Now it’s a rare person who doesn’t feel as if they’ve seen better days.

Yet as the song makes clear even in the most desperate circumstances one better day may be right before us.

If you take the time to look around.

The feeling of arriving when you’ve nothing left to lose.

One better day.

IJ – What was your greatest ever live show?

MB

Madstock, Finsbury Park, 1992. A home coming, a farewell and a rebirth, all at the same time. There wasn’t a dry eye on stage. (The concert reunited the original band for the first time since 1984).

IJ – Nominate one artist who you think is criminally under rated?

MB

Robert Wyatt. From Soft Machine, Matching Mole to his solo stuff – so much of it so beautiful. What a voice.

 

 

Mark plays the Bass on this classic recording. It’s probably Elvis Costello’s most poignant lyric perfectly married to Clive Langer’s plangent melody.

There were clearly powerful emotions present in the studio that day – beautifully offered up in Robert Wyatt’s vocal and Mark Bass playing.

One of those records that hangs in the air long after it has finished playing.

Mark told me that he would love to have Madness and Robert collaborate.

I fervently second that proposal.

IJ – Nominate one record (by yourself or anyone else) to take up an honoured place as A 100 on The Immortal Jukebox.

MB –  ‘It’s Too Late To Stop Now’, Van Morrison. Specifically, ‘St Dominic’s Preview’

It’s the record I learnt to play the bass to and still practise to. I know every single note of it. And I have such a close emotional attachment to it.

It’s the manual on how to play together as a band. The interplay between the musicians is fantastic.

And, as a lovely circular story – A couple of months ago I was sent a message, through Mez Clough Van’s current drummer, by David Hayes, the bass player who is on the record.

Speechless. 

Regular readers of The Jukebox will know my reverence for Van. I have written that ‘Too Late to Stop Now’ is the greatest double live album of all time.

I’m delighted Mark seems to agree with me!

Mark is right on the money in referring to the miraculous interplay between the members of The Caledonia Soul Orchestra as they support and inspire their mercurial leader.

St Dominic’s Preview seems to me to a prophetic prayer yoking dreams of youth and the enigmas of maturity.

No sense in trying to force a linear narrative on it.

Surrender, surrender and be uplifted.

Thanks again to Mark for participating in Jukebox Jive.

It seems to me that Mark and all the members of Madness have been fortunate in finding each other and in the chemistry of their combination.

And, fortunately for us they have shared their gifts generously with each other and with us.

Long may they run.

Notes :

The Classic line up of Madness:

Chris Foreman – Guitar

Mike Barson – Keyboards

Lee Thompson – Saxophone

Daniel Woodgate – Drums

Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson – Lead Vocals

Mark Bedford – Bass

In addition to the albums referred to above I am particularly fond of:

’The Rise & Fall’, ‘The Dangermen Sessions Vol. 1’ and, ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’.

Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins & The Chordettes : Mr Sandman

Lately, it seems that whenever I open a Newspaper or Magazine there’s a sober article warning that there is a, ‘Sleep Crisis’ which is increasingly manifested in physical and mental ill health.

People, working all hours and glued to glowing digital devices into the wee hours just aren’t getting enough shuteye!

I read such Jeremiads with much personal puzzlement.

I have never had any problem in sleeping 8 hours or more every night.

Some people have asked me how do I manage this?

Well, my infallible technique is to lie down on a reasonably flat surface and close my eyes!

Sleep follows within a minute – so long as there isn’t prolonged gunfire or searchlights trained directly at me I’m off in a trice.

Drinking alcohol or coffee doesn’t make any difference either.

When it’s time to sleep – I sleep.

Learning of how unusual this appears to be I am grateful for my good fortune.

I tip my hat to The Sandman.

 

Of course, on The Jukebox, I’ll do far more than that.

I’ll serenade him in jubilant song.

Let’s start with the charming, chiming, circle of fifths, Chordettes from 1954.

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Pat Ballard wrote the song and a scramble started to get the hit.

Vaughan Monroe was first out of the blocks closely followed by The Four Aces.

But the clear winner was the zing go the strings of my heart version by The Chordettes.

Jinny Osborn, Janet Ertel, Carol Buschman and Lynn Evans had a collective spellbinding magic that took Mr Sandman to the top of the Charts.

In late ’54 the record flew off the shelves and was an ever present on the airwaves and the jukeboxes.

The Chordettes magic beam gave everyone a peachy dream.

 

They came out of Sheboygan Wisconsin (like E E Smith and Jackie Mason).

National prominence arrived in 1949 when they were winners on the hugely popular Radio Show, hosted by Arthur Godfrey, – ‘Talent Scouts’.

The Musical Director for the show was Archie Bleyer who was struck by their winning sound.

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He also fell in love with and married Janet Ertel.

Archie was a canny cove who had been a professional musician/arranger/Bandleader since tne early 1930s.

To capitalise on his musical and business smarts he founded Cadence Records in 1952. His biggest sellers on the label were Rock ‘n Roll Immortals The Everly Brothers.

Archie became Phil Everley’s father in law when Phil married Janet Ertel’s daughter from her first marriage.

The  Cadence cash registers were also kept busy counting up the hits from Johnny Tillotson and Lenny Welch.

Mr Sandman benefit from an airy menthol cool production featuring percussion by Archie    Rhythmically slapping his knees!

It’s one of those records that instantly calls to mind the I Like Ike American 1950s.

I suspect the, ‘You Never Can Tell ‘ couple from a recent Jukebox post sashayed to this one in their two room appartment.

The great guitar stylist Chet Atkins cut a distinctive, characteristically fluid,  instrumental version in November 1954 which gave him his first solo hit on the Country Music Charts.

Here’s Chet fleet fingers playing the song live.

 

 

Now, loyal Jukeboxers will have guessed by now that I have more than a penchant for the divine Emmylou Harris.

In addition to her beauty and glorious musicality she is a Jukebox Star because she has exquisite taste across myriad genres.

Emmylou knows a good song when she hears one and she has the knack of making familiar tunes fresh through the purity of her vocals and the carefully chosen musicians she plays with.

Here she is magic beaming all our hearts away.

Roses and Clover. Roses and Clover.

Well there can’t be any doubt about who I’m choosing for Prom Queen!

Emmylou had a multi tracked vocal version solo hit with Mr Sandman but she first recorded it with her sisters in music Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton for their wonderful ‘Trio’ project.

Unfortunately the Corporate Dudes at Warner Chappel aren’t keen on any of their versions of Mr Sandman escaping their clutches so I’ll leave you to search out that ambrosial version for yourselves.

I’ll leave you with a perfectly peach instrumental version from yet another Wizard from New Orleans – Snooks Eaglin.

May you all get a good night’s nurturing sleep filled with inspiring dreams.

Turn on that Magic Beam!