Tuesday Tunes 46: Winning

Three weeks ago I took my theme of Wheels from my football team’s recent performances, described by one pundit as ‘the wheels have fallen off.’ After two successive 4-0 wins I’m hopeful that those wheels are now back on the team bus, and have decided to do a counterpoint as this week’s theme. Readers, I give you: Winning.

Thinking about this, a number of songs with win/winning/winner in their title came to mind, as well as a couple of others that take this as their theme. Spoilt for choice, I managed to shrink them down to seven songs but couldn’t go beyond that, so here goes. The first is a longtime favourite of mine, from a singer-songwriter who has, I think, been largely underrated for much of his career:

That was the closing track on Chris Rea’s 1984 album Wired To The Moon, which reached #35 on the UK albums chart. Chris has had two #1 albums here, a #2, plus three more in the top ten, from a total of 25 album releases. Only three have had any US chart success, the best being his very first album, Whatever Happened To Benny Santini? which got to #49. With singles, 42 of his 72 records have reached the UK top 100, but only one, The Road To Hell, has got as high as #10. In the US, only 6 have made the top 100. I think you’d call that steady, rather than spectacular, and is why I think he has been underrated. To me, that is a real shame, as he has made some great albums. If you want to hear more, check out his Shamrock Diaries album, and especially the song Stainsby Girls – you won’t be disappointed.

In terms of chart success I’m going from one extreme to the other, with my next choice:

It may come as a surprise to see me include ABBA, but it isn’t the first time I’ve done so. Whilst my taste tends to veer away from the mainstream pop charts, there can be no denying the brilliance of their songwriting and performances, and this is no exception. It is a break up song, so is a little more downbeat than my reaction to my team winning a couple of games, but I just had to include it! What is there left for me to say about them, after all that has been written over the nearly forty years since they began? The basic facts are that this was from their Super Trouper album, which was released on 3 November 1980, and became the best selling album of 1980 in the UK – in eight weeks! The album was, of course, #1 here and in Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. It also made the top ten in a further seven countries, and reached #17 in the US. This song was released ahead of the album, in July 1980, and was #1 in the UK and #8 in the US. It is, simply, perfect pop music.

Bryan Adams has a couple of songs with ‘win’ in their title. One of them, We’re Gonna Win, is much used in the sports world as a motivational song, and there are several versions on YouTube, including one by a sporting superstars band including John McEnroe and Damon Hill. It is the obvious choice for this post – so I went for the other one:

Call me perverse if you like, but of the two songs I prefer this one. As you can probably tell from it being an ‘audio only’ video, it is very much out of the Adams mainstream: as far as I can see it has only featured as a bonus track on the 30th anniversary re-release of his Reckless album – the one which made him a big star, reaching #1 in the US and his native Canada, and #7 here in the UK. If you’re in need of sporting motivation, there are always the videos for the other song I mentioned – maybe that’s what has been playing for the Spurs team before recent games, just to remind them of the objective of the game?

As well as the Chris Rea song that I began with, I also know and like another with Winning as its title:

This was a track on Carlos Santana’s twelfth album, Zebop, released in 1981, which peaked at #9 in the US and #33 here in the UK. It was also a #17 single in the US. The song was written by Russ Ballard, who you may know from his days in the band Argent. The lead vocal is by a Scottish singer/guitarist/drummer by the name of Alex Ligertwood, who has many appearances on others’ records to his credit but doesn’t appear to have released anything under his own name. He was vocalist for Santana in five different spells between 1979 and 1994, so Carlos obviously rated him a lot to keep inviting him back!

I know of three songs with You Win Again as their title, so the problem was which one to choose. I quickly discounted the Bee Gees (of course), and another is by Hank Williams. There are so many cover versions of that song, by a Who’s Who of country artists, and the choice was very hard. So what did I do? I avoided that decision and went for the third song instead:

As you may have noticed if you’ve seen any of my posts before, I am a huge fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter, so this really wasn’t a difficult choice to make, if I’m being honest. This was a track on MCC’s third album, Shooting Straight In The Dark, which reached #70 on the main US albums chart, and #11 on the country chart, but didn’t do anything here. This was the first single released from the album, and it got to #16 on the US country singles chart. Sadly, it was to be a further couple of years before the British record-buying public noticed her, but her albums have since then consistently achieved respectable appearances in our album charts, though she has only ever reached our top 100 singles twice. She deservedly has a loyal following here, though: during the pandemic she has been releasing a video each week from her home, and the comments on these show that her appeal stretches far beyond her homeland.

The two final songs this week don’t have any version of the word ‘win’ in their title, but are nevertheless very appropriate for inclusion. This is about someone who never gave up, even when everything seemed to be against him, and is to my mind one of the best songs ever written:

A magical performance of a truly wonderful song. You get a sense from that of how much it means to both of them, from the facial expressions and the lovely moment when Art puts a comforting hand on Paul’s back. This was a track on the classic album Bridge Over Troubled Water, which was released in January 1970. It was #1 in 11 countries, including both the US and the UK, and was the bestselling album of 1970 in both countries too. The song was released as a single in March 1969, whilst they were recording further tracks for the album, and reached #7 in the US and #6 here, as well as making the top ten in ten other countries. It has been covered many times, but no one has ever got close to the original – how could they?

This week’s final song has a message for us all, whether that be in a sporting context or in the wider scope of life in general:

This was a track on Journey’s seventh album, Escape, released in July 1981. It was a US #1 that year and made #32 here in the UK in 1982. This was also a hit single in the US, where it got to #9, but only made #62 here on its original release. It has, however, had an extended lifespan here, as it has also been a chart single in 2007 (#97), 2008 (#93), 2009 (#71), 2010 (#6, after a copy by the Glee cast was a hit), 2011 (#74), 2012 (#88), and 2013 (#44). Odd, or what? I think the reason I’m including it is fairly apparent, though: if we don’t have belief in ourself, what chance do we have at success? Unless, of course, we are a certain ex-President who has so much misplaced self-belief that he can’t avoid ‘winning,’ as he sees it.

Spurs are playing again on Thursday. Is a third successive win too much to hope for? Come on, Clive, don’t stop believing…

That’s all for this extended edition of Tunes. Stay strong, keep believing, and we will get through everything that life is throwing at us right now. Take care.

Tuesday Tunes 45: Breaking The Law

Some weeks, the theme for these posts just drops into my lap. This is one of those weeks. Last Friday, judgement was given at the High Court that the government had broken the law, by not revealing within the correct timeframe the details of contracts it had awarded without competitive tender during the pandemic. This might sound trivial against the background of all that has been going on, but contracts worth many millions have been awarded without the scrutiny of a tendering process, with the claimed justification of urgency. But many of these have been given to people and companies with connections and friendships to the government, raising doubts about their validity – especially when many were awarded to companies with no previous experience in the products and services for which they had been contracted. One such was the contract given to a friend of the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who used to be the landlord of Hancock’s village pub before setting up a production company – but not for medical vials. Unsurprisingly, the medical health regulator is looking into this one! I thought about writing a separate piece on this, but it would have just degenerated into a rant, so I thought better of it. It did make a great theme for some tunes, though: breaking the law.

I could only really start the tunes with one, but which version? In my usual way, I decided to be indecisive and give you both, so this week there are going to be seven videos rather than the usual six. This is the version of this song which is probably the more familiar one:

I know it is only three weeks since I last featured The Clash, but this is too good not to include it. This was originally released as part of an EP, The Cost Of Living, in 1979: it reached #22 in our singles chart and #24 in Ireland. It was re-released in 1988 as part of the promotion for the compilation album The Story Of The Clash, when it charted at #29 here. The compilation peaked at #7 on the UK albums chart, and climbed all the way to #142 in the US. I love the song and the video, which looks like they had a lot of fun in its making, and it is good to see my old schoolfriend again, before drugs took him over and led to his sacking from the band – he’s doing well now, I’m glad to report.

The Clash decided to play that song after Joe Strummer heard the ‘original’ on a jukebox in a recording studio in San Francisco while they were mixing their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope. That version was by The Bobby Fuller Four:

The song was actually written by Sonny Curtis in 1958, and was recorded by The Crickets, after Curtis joined the band to replace the late Buddy Holly. It was only ever a B-side for them, but the Bobby Fuller version was a hit single in 1966, reaching #9 in the US and #33 in the UK. There have been a number of other cover versions too, notably by Roy Orbison, Hank Williams Jr, Nanci Griffith, and Green Day. It is also a favourite of Bruce Springsteen, who has often played it in live shows but hasn’t recorded it, to the best of my knowledge.

People who break the law often go to jail. I suspect that none of our government will suffer that fate (I wish!) but if they did, this may well be how it would go:

That was the title track of Thin Lizzy’s sixth album, released in 1976, which reached #10 in our albums chart and #18 in the US. It was also a #31 single hit here. I’ve never understood why they didn’t do better in the States, as I would have thought they were made for that market. The best Irish rock band ever (yes, I know of that other one). I saw Thin Lizzy twice, and they really were as tight a unit as this video suggests, and Phil Lynott was the epitome of cool. Sadly, he was one of those who succumbed to heroin but didn’t make it through. Last month saw the 35th anniversary of his passing: such a waste.

Taking the next step with the theme of our government in jail, I guess they could just stay there and entertain themselves:

That was released in 1957, and was #1 both in the US and over here. Those were very much the days when singles ruled, and I think I’m right in saying that the song has featured on compilations but wasn’t originally released on an album. I was never a huge fan, but that song and video are great pop music.

One thing that might not be advisable if you’re in trouble with the law is to admit one crime whilst denying another – it isn’t likely to go well:

Bob Marley was another one taken from us far too young: in his case, the cause was melanoma, and he was only 36. This is one of his best known songs – possibly from the Eric Clapton cover, which was a big hit, peaking at #9 here but hitting #1 in the US. Bob’s own version was on his 1974 album, Burnin’, which reached #151 in the US but didn’t chart here. Conversely, as a single it reached #67 here but wasn’t a US hit. Bob Marley remains a legendary figure in the music world, and it was fitting that his 1984 posthumous greatest hits album, which features this one, was called Legend. To date, that album has spent over 600 weeks in the US albums chart and more than 900 in ours. In total, Marley has sold over 75m records worldwide: few have ever done better.

If our government has been unlucky enough to be found guilty in a court of law, one of the fates that might have befallen them – in other locations – could have been to be sentenced to be part of a chain gang. This gave rise to thoughts that I might feature the Sam Cooke song of that name, or perhaps The Pretenders’ Back On The Chain Gang, but I decided it was a good excuse to include another video from one of my favourite bands:

Breaking rocks in the hot sun, eh? That was on the 2013 album R.E.V.O. by Walk Off The Earth (WOTE), which reached #7 in their native Canada and #90 in the US. It was also a #60 single in Canada. The song is typical of their style, and the video displays their usual creativity, with a few nods to O Brother Where Art Thou. But, joyous though the video is, the final message is that crime doesn’t pay and you’ll end up serving the time in the end. Not that our government cares: they have broken the law before and just stuck up the middle finger to the rest of us.

Which leads me to today’s closing tune. Not everyone who breaks the law goes to jail, and some make their living avoiding it. Here’s the best song I know about that:

Perhaps a route the government shouldn’t go down? Better stay away 🖕

That was the title track of Steve Earle’s third album, released in 1988. It reached #7 on the US Country Albums chart and #55 in the main albums chart, and was his first to chart in the UK, peaking at #42. This track was also a single, making #10 on the US Mainstream Rock chart (which is based on airplay on rock radio stations), and got to #45 here. Earle is very vocal on politics, stemming back to the days when he just avoided the draft for Vietnam due to a law change. It makes him what we here call a ‘Marmite’ figure – you either love ’em or hate ’em. I’m quite partial to the stuff.

That’s all for this week. Hopefully the government will have done something else to give me a theme by next week – the newly announced ‘roadmap’ is likely to present some opportunities. But I’ll just look elsewhere if not. Have a good week, take care of yourself and those you care about 👍