Sunday, 9 March 2008

What's Going On?

Evening all, (and perhaps even sundry). Been a while, hasn't it? This blog nonsense of mine is becoming almost as rare as Scotland beating England at rugby - oh, but hang on, that's exactly what happened today - and far more comprehensively than the scoreline suggested, too. Anyway, I'm writing this at the behest of my mate Martin, (who finally has some of his great new songs on-line!), although I must say he seems to be in something of a 'minority of one' where my blogging's concerned - I've hacked-out 39 posts, about 600-odd (very odd) individual folk have visited from over 20 countries (only 19 States of America to date though, but I have had contact from Aruba!), and nobody (except him) bothered to have a stab at the "Classic Soul Quiz Question"...

Ah well. I'm secretly working on some vague musical ideas of my own, which might eventually wend their way myspace-wards, and since I only have very limited time - after the kids are in bed and the flat is showing a passing acquaintance with the concept of tidiness, but before my eyes start closing involuntarily - something has to give way. 'Something' most likely being these witterings - but then, the viewing stats suggest that won't be the greatest loss the world has ever suffered...

Ok, then. Well, before I offer up the answer (that has precisely zero people in a hystrionic frenzy of antici...............pation!), a quick mention of something else that's largely Martin's fault.

Apparently, I'm in a King Crimson-related video on YouTube. Not, unfortunately, in any kind of impressive-performing-of-difficult-music sense, rather footage of a 1973/74 line-up King Crimson reunion-cum-Discipline Global Mobile album launch in London back in 1997. Martin (who had been fab and secured the tickets) and I traipsed down there on the night bus from Edinburgh, an unusually unpleasant, (not to mention almost entirely sleep-free) experience, complete with a 'Night Of The Living Dead' stop-off halfway-down the M6. (Not the most exciting zombie flick ever made - a bus-load of brain-dead semi-humans shuffles across a motorway bridge in search of the service station café, where they consume cups of an unidentifiable brown sludgy liquid in complete silence, before re-tracing their steps, and vanishing southwards into the night. About as interesting as an Andy Warhol movie, only with better dialogue and acting.)

Anyway, for anyone who's daft enough to want to see it (and to be fair, there are some snatches of Mr. Fripp being humourous, Tony Levin playing a Ned Steinberger EUB, John Whetton playing acoustic guitar and singing "Book of Saturday" in a most impressive manner, which are worth a gander), click here! I make several appearances in the last 30 seconds (starting at about 9'30"), chatting with Tony Geballe (who's a great guitarist, and a very nice man!), and asking Tony Levin a question of such spectacular banality, it's a good thing the audio track fails to pick it up. In case there's any confusion, I'm wearing a light reddish-brown 'ethnic' collarless shirt (my favourite shirt for over a decade!), and have severely short hair (I'd just had my shoulder-length ponytail chopped-off, and remember still being very aware of its absence - it's surprising just how much heat insulation hair can provide). Oh, to be 11 years younger again...

That'll do with the procrastination, onwards to the Great Answer!! What was it that all those incredible soul/funk artists had (still have, at time of writing) in common?

None of them ever had a 'number one' hit record in the UK.

Yes, yes, less than earth-shattering, but at least slightly surprising, I hope you'll agree? And yes, I know - they were much bigger stars in the USA, but still...

It all started when another (I've got a couple of spares locked away in the attic) mate of mine, Neil, and I were idly browsing around on the ChartStats website, and he thought he'd find out exactly how big a hit Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" had been. Imagine our shock (and a little bit of awe), when it transpired that this all-time classic had scaled the dizzy heights of...number 37!! This spurred us on to further investigation into the record-buying habits of the British public - "Respect" only made number 10, "Think" got to 26, and "Spanish Harlem" up to 14. (Now, it could be claimed that she did, in fact, make the top spot - but only thanks to 1987's [terrible] George Michael vehicle "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", and that's almost as far from 'classic soul' as it gets, so it was disqualified...)

I decided that this was a topic worth pursuing (there was nothing on telly the next evening), and the more I looked for details of 'classic' songs, the stranger it got - the original release of "My Girl" by The Temptations spent a single week in the chart, stalling at number 43. (It did, however, finally get them up to no.2 in 1992, thanks to Dan Ackroyd's cloyingly dreadful film of the same name...sorry, but I think I'm actually physically allergic to Macaulay Culkin). Their 1973 version (arguably the best-known?) of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" bailed out at no.14. "Soul Man" couldn't get Sam and Dave higher than no. 24 in 1967. That oft-requested-at-gigs ode to utter despair, "Sitting On the Dock of The Bay" came closer, reaching no.3, a position equalled in 1970 when Edwin Starr questioned the utility of "War". "Dancing in the Streets" needed two bites of the cherry (no.28 in 1964) to climb to no.4 for Martha & the Vandellas in 1969. Still, that's better than the "Godfather of Soul" ever managed.

Unbelievably (to me, anyway), James Brown's biggest hit was "Living In America", which peaked at no.5 in 1986. This was a feat that Brummie comedian Jasper Carrott had achieved 11 years previously with "Funky Moped". In fact, 1975 was a fine year for 'funky'-themed comedy songs, because The Goodies got one place higher singing "Funky Gibbon" (a true classic in its own right, it has to be said!). 1966's "I Got You" fizzled out at a pretty miserable no. 29, and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine)" - not the world's greatest song title, really - collapsed at a distinctly unsexy no. 32, four years later.

And then we can turn to the artists that only hit the top spot once, in spite of many classic songs to their names - The Supremes, for instance, with "Baby Love" (first time around, in 1964), Smokey Robinson ("Tears of a Clown"), or Marvin Gaye (it should be obvious which song it was in his case). Sticking with the sublime Mr. Gaye, "(Sexual) Healing" may have (briefly) touched no.4, but how come "Let's Get It On" only made it as high as no.31? And as for the great song that's the title of this incredible number 80...!?! Even Stevie Wonder, for all his earlier brilliance, had to wait until 1984's (frankly, musically quite tedious with anodyne lyrics) "I Just Called To Say I Love You" before he got an actual chart-topper.

It's made all the worse when you realise that back in the "classic soul" era, (1971 to be precise), "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" by Middle of The Road, (where's a lorry with failed brakes when you need one?), spent five whole weeks at no. 1 (and more than 8 bloody months in the chart, finally dropping-out at no. 48).

What the hell were my parents' generation thinking?

Still, we did redeem ourselves slightly when, in 1984, the nightmarish combination of Janet Jackson and Cliff Richard teamed up to offer us the sheer unmitigated horror of "Two To The Power". How did it fare?

Three weeks in the charts, with a high point of no. 83.

So we aren't completely devoid of taste, after all...

Before I go, I've always wanted to start an internet rumour (the more ridiculous the better), and since controversial politics seems to be the only way to draw attention to oneself these days, I offer you this (please feel free to pass it on to anyone you think might be half-way gullible enough):

There was a YouTube video that was uploaded on Feb 29th, that featured Barack Obama, tied to an office chair, being spanked, whipped and generally dominated by a leather-clad Hillary Clinton, while a third person, whose physique appeared identical that of John McCain (wearing only a gimp mask and a pair of powder-blue socks) watched. (Always include little details like the colour of the socks - the conspiracy nuts love that sort of thing). The video was only online for a matter of minutes before it got pulled, and neither YouTube, nor any of the alleged participants, have been willing to answer questions about it. Three of the major US networks are 'known' (a favourite 'woo'-believers word) to have copies of the footage, but since they're part of the 'mainstream media keep-us-in-the-dark, protect-the-establishment' conspiracy, they're denying all knowledge of its existence. All links, etc, to the video have, naturally, been deleted by those who are 'in control' of the web...

Now, who can prove it didn't happen?

All the best, for the time being, from this small corner of sub-standard reality.

No comments: