Back in the groove after a week’s holiday, with the iPod now boasting 15,178 songs, and first up this morning on the commute is Dire Strait’s ‘Going Home (Theme From Local Hero)’ from their live album Alchemy, an instrumental, melodious if a bit predictable as Mark Knopfler is joined by a saxophone and eventually his full band. Like most everyone else I discovered DS when I first heard ‘Sultans Of Swing’ back in ’79, on a car radio as it happens, and I actually thought for a moment that it was Bob Dylan until someone put me right. I admire the understated way that Mark K has managed his career, and I also admire the way he picks a guitar.
The appreciative DS audience fade away to be replaced by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’, probably the best single they ever made. More rock’n’roll than the folksier, jug-band style they seemed to prefer. This was a hit in 1966, but it doesn’t seem to date at all, unlike the next song, James Taylor’s ‘Your Smiling Face’ which is simply just too seventies LA session band AOR rock for me, far too twee, with James singing joyfully about his daughter Sally, conceived with Carly Simon. That must have been fun for him.
Far more challenging is John Lennon – a friend of Taylor and Simon – singing ‘Remember’ from his 1970 Plastic Ono Band album, unquestionably the most uncompromising set of songs released by any pop star up until that time. Inspired by his primal therapy sessions with Dr Arthur Janov, John explores his childhood over a throbbing, insistent beat, closing with a line about November 5th and an explosion, a reference to the annual English bonfire ritual that celebrates Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament on that date in 1605. As it happens I went to the same school in York as Guy Fawkes and bonfires were strictly forbidden, probably because this distinguished former pupil sat atop them.
Depeche Mode’s ‘Martyr’ follows John, adopting a similar tempo but without a trace of his menace, and as if on cue John returns, this time with ‘Walrus’ from The Beatles Love album, the symphony of segued Beatles tracks that accompanies the Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas (min price $79, max $180). I loved this album when it first came out and still play it a lot. Remarkably, it includes extracts from 130 separate songs, though the full list has never been disclosed, with solos and recognisable fills cropping up in places where you least expect them, and glimpses of music from backing tracks previously unheard, or at least not appreciated, on the original recordings. ‘Walrus’ sounds even more wonderful that did on the MMT soundtrack as I passed through Wimbledon, elementary penguins and crabalocker fishwives batting it out in Lennon’s fevered imagination.
And now it’s Chris Rea singing ‘Praise The Lord’, not a hymn but a track from his 11-CD Blue Guitars collection, this one Blues Beginnings, the first in the series. This was actually pretty straight blues, probably of the kind that slaves might have sung back on the days before abolition. I have always taken the view that the only decent thing about religion is the music it has inspired, and songs like this shore up that belief.
Next up is Bruce Sprinsgteen’s ‘You’ve Got It’ from Wrecking Ball, his 2012 CD, a fairly run of the mill power ballad by Bruce’s standards, followed by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ ‘Little Girl’, a Mayall composition featuring Eric Clapton’s fancy lead work in the left channel speaker. As it happens I passed Eric’s house only yesterday on my way pick up our dog from the kennels in Ewhurst where it has been staying while Mrs C and I were on holiday. I didn’t stop for tea and biscuits.
Chris Rea cropped up again as the train pulled into Waterloo, another track from his Blue Guitars set, ‘Talking About New Orleans from the New Orleans/Louisiana CD, this one enhanced with a bit of Dixieland jazz, and he’s followed by the under-appreciated Shawn Colvin singing ‘The Dead Of The Night’ from her Carry On album.
The penultimate song on this morning’s commute is the ever wonderful Dusty Springing singing ‘Losing You’, one of her earliest hits, and in the rather strange way that iPods operate we come a full circle emerging from Oxford Circus. I recognise that guitar… it’s Mark Knopfler again, this time accompanying The Everly Brothers on his DS song ‘Why Worry’, also covered by a few others, but no one can beat Don and Phil.