WARMER MIXTAPES #1479 | by Astrid Elektra of Astrid's Tea Party
Having been asked to compile a list of 10 favourite songs, this of course is such a transient question. Saturday night, it’s definitely Buddha Bar centric. Sunday afternoon, it’s Leonard Cohen to soothe the wrinkles. Recognising this, I’ve compiled my list for today… Which if asked now that I've completed it, there is already an entirely new list.
Photo by Alex Lee Johnson
Photo by Alex Lee Johnson
1. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds | Red Right Hand
This is my fellow Brightonian Nick Cave at his most malevolent best, perfectly capturing the essence of the Capitalist Dichotomy (I hope that sounds sufficiently pretentious). However, it’s true. I heard a dance version that closed the Secret Garden Party last year; it was the best thing I've heard since the last best thing I've heard.
2. The Clash | (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
In my opinion, this was the moment The Clash transitioned from being the best Punk band to being the best band - period. In co-opting Pop Reggae with all the right cultural references, the band moved beyond the constraints of the two-chord thrash of their debut album and demonstrated an appetite and ability for divergent Music styles that would ultimately result in their masterpiece, London Calling. Interestingly, I went to a tiny pub in Shropshire, (where the middle of nowhere is visible) and astonishingly walked in and saw the great Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South doing a cover version of this in front of a tiny pub crowd. I remember the day, it was 7th May 2010 and Cameron was elected, which probably explains why this was done. In an early attempt to push myself forward, I gave him a copy of a song I'd done with my original band and he promised to get back to me… I'm still waiting.
3. Alabama 3 | Holy Blood (feat. The Kings Of Kaos)
I think Jake Black masquerading as D. Wayne Love is one of the most underrated and interesting of songwriters in Music today. The song crystallises for me what most of us on the road to Rock 'N' Roll suffer as a passage of rite, which is indifference and apathy from the audience. I used to sing this song as a 15-year-old kid in my covers band to be told by the pub manager to, singsomfinweknowor…geroff. It was a tad ironic even for me, to be actually abused whilst singing a song about being abused. Still, at least we weren’t bottled off and he paid good money. I also got into a bout of verbal fisticuffs at the Strummerville Festival in 2012 by shouting up for this after jumping the stage pit to dance with King Charles. Jake wasn't amused, I put him off his stride. Great memories.
4. David Bowie | Heroes
What can I say about this song? Don't believe the Mills & Boon story of the young couple on the wrong side of the Berlin wall, gazing upwistfully at The Hansa Studios everyday where Bowie was recording and unwittingly inspired this song. Yeah, like that fat guy walking 'round in a red suit with white fur inspired Christmas, it’s clearly nonsense, but a work of genius song writing from Bowie’s low period, inspired more I think by those masters of German Industrial beats Kraftwerk and the great Brian Eno. This, when coupled with Robert Fripp’s incredible volplaning guitar riff, becomes Bowie’s last truly epic work, and needs no cheap romantic mythologizing… It is a myth itself.
5. Joy Division | She's Lost Control
In today's world, it’s almost impossible to judge Joy Division’s work objectively. As the truly wonderful L. Cohen would put it, their greatness is, in the realm of the indisputable. A state of affairs brought on because of the Greek tragedy that was their story and makes any commentary beyond the fawning a very dangerous pastime indeed. Ask yourself how many people do you know who swear undying love for JD (Joy Division, not JD sports) and wear the T-shirts, yet have never actually listened to New Dawn Fades the whole way through? Now there’s a question. All this being said, I love and respect them as the icons they are. The original of She’s Lost Control is more punchy than the majestic 12 inch version, and with Peter Hook’s recurring masterclass in bass line simplicity, Steven Morris’ faster yet slower rhythm, and Ian Curtis’ lifeless monotone vocal, the song is simultaneously dead and enthrallingly alive. Alongside a lyrical narrative detailing a female friend of Ian Curtis undergoing a mental fit, this is chillingly prescient of what was to befall Curtis himself. I obviously never got to see Joy Division and always wanted to watch Hooky. I went to The Badger in Glasty about 3 years ago for a secret gig of Freebass, a bass trio of Hooky, Rourke (The Smiths) and Mani (Stone Roses/PrimalScream). They were supposedly on about 2 am… They never turned up. Mmm, I wonder why. I gave up after about 3 hours.
6. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five | The Message
Released in 1982, The Message was the first step of the nascent Rap Music Art form into social commentary, and remains a searing indictment of the lock down reality of Uncle Sam’s underclass. With its taught catgut tension and unnerving polemic, it’s more threatening than all the braggadocio of hoes and Bentley’s we've heard ad nauseum. Sadly, in my opinion, The Message has more resonance today than ever and illustrates that in the 32 years since its release, how little has changed. As Bey sang Etta James’ classic at Obama’s inauguration, a change is going to come. Yes, but sadly not yet. The best song Michael Franti never wrote... Am I off my high horse yet?
7. Leonard Cohen | Tower Of Song
I'm a big Jesus And Mary Chain fan and I first heard this as a cover by them, and not knowing the song realised this couldn't be them, (great writers, but not in a Biblical Old Testament poetic sort of way). This was when I discovered the God-like genius of Mr. L. Cohen. As a person attempting to be a songwriter, this lyric crystallises for me the consequence of choosing this endeavour and every time I hear it I'm reminded of the fact there is Dylan, Cohen and Waits… Then there is the rest of us mere mortals. I hitched to Dublin to see him at an outdoor gig in a hospital, Alan Rickman also attended - one of the highlights of my life.
8. Bob Dylan | Mississippi
With this guy, it’s where to start. In my opinion, rule number one for any aspiring songwriter is do not listen to Bob Dylan for the reason that you will almost feel like giving up, humiliated with burning shame at your total absence of comparative ability. It’s pointless to even try to compare, and as someone who tries to write… You just have to accept this. In choosing this song, I stayed away from the many and varied obvious choices that I won't insult you with listing and arrived at this. A song clearly about the dissolution of his relationship with his first wife Sarah - her of sad eyed lady of the low lands fame, and speaks of the intense sense of regret at events that occur that can't be undone. This importantly was released about 30 years after the events that led to the break up of his relationship, which is informative not of an ill requited love, more an ill requited regret. It’s an expression of an emotion most of us struggle with, but have to accept. As Frank would say, That’s Life. I've seen Dylan six times and, in truth, when you get past the thrill of breathing the same air, he can be disappointing… But would I go again? Absolutely, within a second. Why? 'Cause it’s Bob Dylan!
9. Tom Waits | Don't Go Into That Barn
Tom Waits is perhaps unique amongst the great writers, as his work has in my opinion become better with age. Not for him - the incendiary flowering of Creativity at 21, to be extinguished by the age of 27 and 40 years of living on past glories. I genuinely believe his work, post being released by Asylum. Yes, don't say anything. Dwarf the Dylan on piano ballads of his Rickie Lee Jones years, and this song is no exception. Taken from Real Gone, it’s Waits’ maniacal roaring refrain of, don't go into the barn, yeahhhh! (as only he can) set to a collage rhythm of Waits’ snorting, coughing and grunting and ends with the narrator of the song descending into schizophrenia, with a call and response to himself. If it’s true there is a wafer thin line between Genius and Madness, Waits is straddling it… Scary. Never seen him and when I do, my life will be complete.
10. Lou Reed | Strawman
No compendium of great songs could be complete without the cynic-meister himself, a Mr. Lou Reed song. There’s so many to choose from. Waiting For The Man, Sweet Jane, vicious Rock & Roll and of course, Walk On The Wild Side. My choice, however, is Strawman from his late 80s come back album New York. At the time, this chronicled Reed’s (shortlived) disaffection with his hometown. Strawman sees Reed raging against everyone and everything in his uniquely declamatory style, finally questioning the value of a self-righteous Rock singer leading us to God, which must have caused some embarrassed shuffling in a certain Dublin based mega band at this time. I saw him on his last two dates of tour in, would you believe it, Wolverhampton (I know…), not knowing he was dying. I was shocked when he came on, as he looked really bad. Being his farewell tour, he declined of course to play most the songs the audience actually knew. He was magnificent, and finished with a version of John Lennon's Mother, which remains one of the best things I've ever seen or heard. Sadly missed, but not I suspect by Jeremy Vine.