When I reached #50 in this series I treated it as a golden anniversary, which is what we know the 50th to be, and gave you a set of songs with golden as their theme. Today we hit #60, so guess what? Yup, it’s the diamond anniversary so this week’s tunes are all diamond.
As usual, I’m starting with something lively, and they don’t come much better than this:
As I’m sure you know, that was a track on one of the best albums of all time, Paul Simon’s Graceland. It was controversial at the time of release (1986), as Simon was accused of breaking the cultural boycott which had at that time been imposed on South Africa as part of the stand against apartheid. That may perhaps explain why it reached #1 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries, but not in the US, where it peaked at #3. It has, however, sold upwards of 10m copies, over 5m of which were in the US and 2.5m in the UK, so it hasn’t done too badly. I bought it at the time, and have always loved the spirit of infectious happiness which it generates when I listen to it.
My next tune is equally well known, having also appeared on one of the most famous albums ever:
My usual apologies for that being an audio only ‘video’ but, as I have said before, the Beatles’ record company keeps a stranglehold on copyright to their songs, and only the official videos are allowed on YouTube – when they didn’t make one specifically for the track, we just get the auto-generated one. That’s life, but hopefully this won’t be blocked where you are! Do I need to tell you about the album? Just in case, this was on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was released in May 1967, and reached #1 on album charts around the world. It was top in the UK for 27 weeks, and in the US for 15 weeks, and has sold more than 20m copies. That rather fits my definition of ‘successful.’
Next up is one which might not be familiar to you. This is from the Boomtown Rats, who were one of the bands originally labelled ‘punk’ but were much better than that, in my view. This was the follow up single to I Don’t Like Mondays, which was #1 in the UK and several other countries, and was the band’s only single to chart in the US, where it got to #73. This was on the same album – The Fine Art Of Surfacing – released in 1979, and reached #13 in the UK. It shows that Bob Geldof’s social conscience wasn’t limited to just one song:
He was well ahead of his time in calling out the vacuity of those whose lives were purely hedonistic, and contributed little to society: today’s ‘reality tv’ stars, perhaps? If you watch that on YouTube you’ll see a nice little piece posted seven years ago, by Michelle Gibbons-Price, who tells us that she was the girl in the video. She was apparently 15 at the time, and was also in the Mondays video – I’ve checked, and it is definitely the same girl in both. It didn’t lead to an acting career, though: in response to one of the replies to her post, she said that she was a chartered accountant in Somerset! Good to see that she didn’t party too hard and passed her exams…
(A quick update: that video may not work for American readers, though it might be possible to click the YouTube link rather than watch it here. If not, that would be a real shame, as it is a fine song and deserves to be heard: its message is just as relevant today. If you click here that may hopefully give you a lyric video that someone has made for it, as an alternative)
I’m throwing in an extra video this week, making seven in total. This is the bonus one. If you want to skip the orchestral bit and the dancing, the song actually starts around the two minute mark:
That was a scene from the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with the incomparable Marilyn Monroe. I felt it would be remiss to leave it out of a post on diamond songs.
This next one is a little different. I don’t often include cover versions in these posts – I save those for the Under The Covers series – but this is one which I actually prefer to the original. Again, I’m afraid it’s an audio only job, sorry:
The original was by David Bowie, the title track of his Diamond Dogs album from 1974. As you can see, this version comes from the soundtrack of the Moulin Rouge movie, and was recorded by Beck. The album was #1 in the director’s homeland, Australia, and also in New Zealand, and reached #3 in the US. It didn’t chart here in the UK, but has sold over 300,000 copies nonetheless – presumably, slowly. As far as I can tell Beck recorded this just for the movie, and it doesn’t feature on any of his own albums, so if you want to get hold of a copy the movie soundtrack is your only bet!
I featured the lovely voice of Shawn Colvin in my most recent Under More Covers post at the weekend. When I decided on this theme it reminded me of one of her early songs which qualified, so here she is again:
That was a track on Shawn’s debut album, Steady On, which was released in 1989. She wrote all ten of the tracks, six being co-written with the excellent John Leventhal, who is married to Roseanne Cash and has worked as a musician and producer with many artists. The album didn’t chart here in the UK, and only reached #111 in the US, but it won the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album at the Grammy Awards in February 1991. I bought the album when it first came out, and have been a fan of hers ever since.
For today’s closing piece, I’m being a little self indulgent, as I have never shared a piece as long as this one before. It’s worth it though:
This was originally from the Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here, which was released in September 1975, and was #1 in both the US and the UK. The album begins with a long instrumental preamble and segues into the lyrics for Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a tribute to Syd Barrett, whose mental breakdown had forced him to leave the group seven years earlier. Barrett is fondly recalled with lines such as “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.” This piece’s initial format comprised the first 13+ minutes of the album and the closing 12+ minutes, so this live version is a much shorter form, at only 11 minutes. But it is a majestic performance, and the harmony vocals of Crosby and Nash really add to it. I debated with myself about including such a long piece of music but decided that I couldn’t leave out an epic by one of my favourite bands. This version is from a DVD called Remember That Night, which was released in 2007, having been recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London in May 2006.
So, if you’re still with me, that’s it for this week. They are a bit of a mixed bunch but, as I like them all, I’m hoping you will too. Take care, and I’ll see you again soon 😊