Wednesday, March 25, 2009

That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight

Ok, here's the deal. we here at the Monkey have been on a total R.E.M. kick the last few weeks. Squeezing every ounce out of their discography from Murmur to Up. We needed to find some reason to share the love across the Blogosphere. Hence the following.

On or around this date in 1991, R.E.M. had their first No. 1 with their 'breakout' hit, Losing My Religion. The group, were the zeitgeist of college rock, and had been simmering just below the mainstream for at least five years prior to the sudden, overnight, crossover success of the song. Props to the mandolin.

The song was the first single from their multi-Grammy winning, Warner Bros. release Out of Time. It was recorded at Bearsville Studio in upstate New York and released on February 19, 1991. It remained on the charts for a whopping 21 weeks. Nothing would ever be the same for the boys from Athens.

In an attempt to not turn this into a dissertation about my current disappointments with R.E.M., suffice to say they are not the band they used to be (drummers are important!), we'd rather celebrate the band and the song with a twenty ought nine mashup of R.E.M. and perennial diva Cher. Surprisingly, somehow it works.

I'm just sayin'.

Losing My Religion
Losing My Believe (R.E.M. vs Cher)

R.E.M- Losing My Religion (Out of Time, 1991)

REM - Losing My Religion Acoustic (& Accident) - 1991 - Click here for more blooper videos

R.E.M. vs. Cher- Losing My Believe (2008)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Actual monkey, man

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle! Hot on the heels of AM's excursion into Ska, we bring you a new version of an old Toots & The Maytals song that was first covered by the Specials back in 1979.

Direct from down under, Aussie pop sensation Kylie Minogue has teamed with fellow countrymen and kiddie sensations the Wiggles to cover the simian classic, Monkey Man. All the proceeds from the sale of the single go to UNICEF's Clean Water Project.

A little monkey business for a good cause.

I'm just sayin'.

Kylie Minogue & The Wiggles- Monkey Man (2009)

The Specials- Monkey Man (Something Else, 1979)

Toots & The Maytals - Monkey man (Wembley Arena, 1970)

So it goes

Happy 60th birthday to the Jesus of Cool, seminal punk/new wave/power pop pioneer, singer-songwriter, musician and producer Nick Lowe. Nuff said.

So It Goes
Teacher Teacher
Cruel To Be Kind
I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass

Nick Lowe & Rockpile- So it Goes (1978)

Nick Lowe & Rockpile- I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass (TOTP, 1977)

Nick Lowe & Rockpile-Cruel To Be Kind (TOTP, 1979)

Nick Lowe & Rockpile- Teacher Teacher (Seconds of Pleasure, 1980)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The last real single

On this day in 1996, The surviving members of the Beatles held the No.4 position on the charts with their 'frankensingle', Real Love. This pastiche was cleverly crafted from a demo initially recorded by John in 1979 and completed by the remaining Fab Four (plus Jeff Lynne) in 1995. Lennon's fifth take from that session was cleaned up, and subsequent backing and rhythm tracks were added, the result was released as part of the Anthology collection. More an excursion into technology than a great Beatles song, the tune was mediocre at best. The track, akin to a solo Lennon effort with a good measure of ELO slide guitar thrown in, was nevertheless well received by a legion of fans clamoring for any new material, no matter how shameless and contrived the origins.

The track peaked at No. 4 in the UK and 11 in The U.S. Not bad for a band that had broken up some 26 years earlier.

I'm just sayin'.

Real Love

The Beatles- Real Love (1996)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

(We Don't Need This) Facist Groove Thang

On this day in 1981, Heaven 17 held the No.45 position on the UK charts with their debut agitprop dance classic (We Don't Need This) Facist Groove Thang.

The Sheffield Synthpop trio formed in 1980, took their name from a scene in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 feature, A Clockwork Orange. When the protagonist Alex visits the Chelsea Drug Store in search of sounds (among other things), he is seen chatting up a few birds. Next to them on the Top 10 charts in the No. 4 position, just above the Bread Brothers is the ficticious band Heaven Seventeen.

The group released their first LP, Penthouse and Pavement in 1981. They would go on to release several more albums including The Luxury Gap, which featured their highest charting hit (No.2 UK), Temptation.

One of the most popular and successful of the New Wave exports from Sheffield, they were one of the first bands to utilize, almost exclusively, synthesizers and drum machines to shape their sound.

I think the Heaven 17 epitomize 80's New Wave. Their clean, driving beats coutesy of the Linn LM-1, coupled with lyrics touching upon timely issues of excess and politics, all delivered with the obligatory aloof, monotone vocals popular with the bulk of bands back in the day.

(We Don't Need This) Facist Groove Thang
Let Me Go
Play To Win
We Live So Fast

Heaven 17-We Live So Fast (Solid Gold, 1983)

Heaven 17- Let Me Go (1983)

Heaven 17- (We Don't Need This) Facist Groove Thang (Newcastle Academy, 2008)

Heaven 17- Temptation (TOTP, 25 December 1983)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Feeling's Gone

As we wind down our treatise of Ska's second wave, we here at the Monkey realize that we have only top lined the movement, there is so much more to explore, so many bands, big and small who contributed to that era, it warrants further discovery. Certainly our omission of The Selecter is glaring, but it's time to move on.

Our parting shot is courtesy of one of 2 Tone's lesser known artists that just happened to put out one fantastic 7". The band is The Apollinaires and the songs are The Feeling's Gone b/w Envy The Love.

After scouring the web and 2 Tone's site, there isn't too much history on the band, They began life as a six piece, progressed to an 11 piece and hailed from Leicester. Their sound featured a full, crisp horn section, the main ingredient in their delicious ska/funk confection.


I'm just sayin'.

The Feeling's Gone

Envy The Love

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

who stole my bongos?

Not a pure Ska band, but one of the best in the 2 Tones stable, The Higsons delivered a string of punk/funk/ska dance hits in the early 80's.

The group possesses all three elements to make them one of my favorites: 1. One fantastic album (The Curse of the Higsons) which distilled the dynamic sound of 80's New Wave with horns that sound like synthesizers and vice versa. 2. A fairly rapid decent back into obscurity. 3. A subsequent break up.

I'm just sayin'.

Run Me Down
Ylang Ylang
Tear The Whole Thing Down

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boy oh boy

Originally written by an Englishman living in America, Danny Boy is considered the anthem of the Irish.

The lyrics were written by Frederick Weatherly in 1910 and set to the Irish tune Londonderry Air around 1913. There are several different interpetations of the famed ballad, the more widely embraced being a father referring to his leaving Danny with the knowledge the father-figure will die. The phrase, "the pipes, the pipes are calling" refers to the tradition funeral instrument. The town of Danny is located just inland of Ireland's west coast in county Kerry.

The song has been covered by both Irish musicians as well as a host of others in a variety of styles. Here are just a few. Some sound better with a belly full of Jameson.

I'm just sayin'.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Danny Boy- Bing Crosby
Danny Boy- Elvis Presley
Danny Boy- Shane MacGowan
Danny Boy- John McDermott

The Muppets- Danny Boy (1977)

Gracie Fields- Danny Boy (The Jitterbugs, 1939)

Judy Garland- Danny Boy (1955)

Jackie Wilson- Danny Boy (196?)

Sinead O'Connor- Danny Boy (The Late Late show Christmas 1993)

Johnny Cash & Jimmie Rodgers - Danny Boy (196?)

Andy Williams- Danny Boy (195?)

Camille- Danny Boy (2008)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One step beyond

No respectable homage to Ska would be complete without a nod to the rockinest, rock-steady beat of Madness. This Camden group flourished during the 2 Tone era, delivering a string of hits, Ska and otherwise.

Madness holds the distinction of being the defacto house band for the British 80's sitcom, The Young Ones.

Yet another band celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2009. The band (which has been reunited for several years) will tour in support of their upcoming release, The Liberty of Norton Folgate. Bring back the...who is the...we want the...bring back the Prince!

I'm just sayin'.

The Prince
It Must Be Love
Our House

One Step Beyond

Madness - House of Fun (The Young Ones, 198?)

Madness- Our House (The Young Ones, 198?)

Madness- The Prince (TOTP, 1979)

Madness- One Step Beyond (1982)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ranking full stop

Next to the Specials, The Beat are my favorite ska band of the 2 Tone era. The Birmingham ensemble helped bridge the gap between the first and second waves of Ska with the inclusion of one of Ska's pioneers, Lionel Martin aka Saxa. This master of the tenor sax had previously played with the legendary Prince Buster.

The Beat was a rather large outfit, comprised of nine members. not uncommon for Ska bands of the era. The main songwriter for the group was Dave Wakeling, his counterpart onstage, supplying the toasting was Ranking Roger. The dubbed and skanked their way up the charts and became the most internationally reknown band of the British Ska revival (I would venture Madness was not far behind). This wide appeal was due in part to their excursions beyond Ska. Two of their biggest hits, Save It For Later and I Confess were mid-tempo pop gems, far from the frenetic, driving rhythms of their more familar Ska offerings.

The band only released three albums in their brief five year tenure, but left an indelible mark on pop music in general and Ska music in particular. Subsequent bands with direct lineage include General Public and Fine Young Cannibals. Both mildly successful 80's pop bands, neither was able to eclipse the impact or success of The Beat.

Not unlike the Specials, The Beat have an extensive tour planned in 2009 to celebrate their 30th anniversary, so break out your pork pie hat and come forward! I said ready, are you ready to go?

I'm just sayin'.

Rotating Heads
Ranking Full Stop
Big Shot
Mirror In The Bathroom
Save It For Later
I Confess

The Beat- Rotating Heads (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 1986)

The Beat- Ranking Full Stop/Big Shot (Dance Craze, 1981)

The Beat- Mirror In The Bathroom (Dance Craze, 1981)

The Beat- Save It For Later (1983)

The Beat- Too Nice To Talk To (1982)