Last week, our esteemed, omniscient, know-it-all government changed the rules for lockdown. Again. Given that their policies of forcing schools to reopen and offering discounts to encourage people to eat out may have contributed to a rapid increase in the R rate of Covid infections – to levels last seen in May – this felt a little like shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted. But hey – what do I know? It’s not as if I have scientists giving me continuous advice that I’m free to ignore, is it? The change introduced the new ‘rule of six,’ which states that gatherings – both indoors and outdoors – must be limited to six people, all maintaining appropriate distancing and protective measures. Except for schools, that is, which must remain open. Or offices. Or for places of worship, gyms, restaurants or other hospitality venues. There may be other exemptions but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to look any further at the government website! Gatherings of more than six are not permitted within these locations, so if you have a large family you are, basically, stuffed. But you can always go grouse shooting as that, being the favourite ‘sport’ of rich Tory donors, is exempt from the new rule. Surprised? I’m not. Confused? I think we all are.
But there is one good thing that has come out of this change for me: it has given me a theme for this week’s tunes. I’m reverting for this week to a theme prompted by the news, and choosing ‘6’ seemed appropriate, somehow. So, all of this week’s tunes have a ‘6’ somewhere in their title. Opportunist? Me? Probably…
I always try to begin with a song with a bit of oomph, and I think this one fits the bill perfectly:
As David ‘Kid’ Jensen obligingly tells us at the beginning of that clip, before the band drown him out, that was the Tom Robinson Band’s debut single, which peaked at #5 on the UK singles chart in October 1977. As far as I can tell it wasn’t a hit anywhere else, and the band had a couple of smaller UK hits before they split in 1979. Tom has established a long career as a broadcaster, and has continued making albums under his own name, but he has never enjoyed the same success as that debut. That’s a pity, as that was a guaranteed floor filler at the discos of the time.
My second choice is from a musician I have long admired, and whose albums I always bought back in the vinyl days, as they were uniformly excellent:
As you can see from the video, that was a track (the opener, in fact) on Ry’s 1980 album Borderline, which was his ninth release. According to Wonkipedia it only charted in Australia, where it reached the dizzy heights of #43. The song was written by Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd, and was first recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1966, reaching #13 in the US. Ry’s version has never been released as a single, but it is the starting point of a very good album. It horrifies me to think that it is forty years old now, and that his debut, which I also bought, was ten years prior to that! He has made some great albums, of which Bop Till You Drop is probably my favourite, and if you can get hold of a copy of the compilation album The UFO Has Landed you’ll be doing yourself a real favour. He may not have enjoyed major chart success, but he has a loyal following and has played with a staggering roll call of fellow musicians, notably his collaboration with the Buena Vista Social Club – for which he was fined $25,000 for breaching the US embargo on Cuba! Six Grammy awards are a reflection of how good he is, too.
Slowing the pace a little now, as all the best albums do (check it out, if you don’t believe me), is one of those songs that I’ve always loved, from a superb album that went under most people’s radar outside the US. Proof, if needed, that having a fairly well-known father is no guarantee of success:
The Wallflowers are led by Jakob Dylan – can you guess who his Dad is? That song is the second track on the band’s second album, Bringing Down The Horse, which was released in 1996. The album reached #4 in the US and #58 here – my purchase must have helped! Those were the days when I had a long commute to work driving around the North Circular Road in London, and the album often kept me company on the journey. The track was the first single taken from the album, and reached #33 in the US, but failed to chart here. The follow up single, One Headlight, was a US #2 and #54 here – if they’d had six headlights I could have included it today, but do check it out: it’s a great song, and it won two Grammys.
On to tune four now. I’ve featured Steve Earle before, albeit a cover of one of his songs, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that I’m doing so again:
That was a track on Steve’s second album, Exit 0, released in 1987. The album peaked at #15 on the US Country chart and at #90 on the main albums chart, but didn’t do anything here. As a single, the song reached #15 on the US Country singles chart. It is typical of much of his early work, with its story of the guy in a small US town living his version of the American Dream. This was another album which spent a lot of time with me on those drives around the North Circular, though I can’t really lay any claim to living any kind of dream with it!
This week’s final song also comes from a band who have been here before. Having just chosen a song with ‘66’ in its title I couldn’t really leave this one out, could I? There are many versions of this song, but this one just gets my vote over Chuck Berry’s:
I know there is zero synchronisation with the performance clips, and the video is a little grainy, but I used it because I like the glimpses it gives us of rock music history. The song was written in 1946 by a guy called Bobby Troup, and was first recorded – and became a hit – that year by Nat King Cole. It has been recorded by many, including Bing Crosby (also a 1946 hit), Perry Como, Them, Depeche Mode, Dr Feelgood, Asleep At The Wheel, Manhattan Transfer and John Mayer, among others, in addition to the Stones and Berry versions. Quite a roll call! The Stones’ version is the opening track on their eponymous debut album in its UK incarnation – for the US the album was retitled England’s Newest Hit Makers (yuk!) and this was track 2, after Not Fade Away was added as the lead track. The album was #1 here and #11 in the US. At the risk of annoying American readers, I’m wondering why you had to bugger about with the album, and why you still can’t get over the fact that this is the UK, not just England! To be fair, though, all members of the Stones are English, so in this case I may give you that one. It’s still a crappy title though!
That’s your lot for this week. Please keep obeying the guidelines, if you can work them out, don’t go shooting any wild birds without a licence – or a lot of rich friends – and above all stay safe and well. Apparently, we are promised another statement from our Prime Minister today, if they can find him. It is therefore quite possible that the rules will have changed again by the time you read this. If so, please treat this as a little piece of history. Till the next time…