Tuesday Tunes 43: Wheels

A little bit later in the day than I usually post these, but we had a power cut this morning which took out just about everything for a couple of hours. As usual, we seemed to be the last area to be reconnected! But on we go with today’s dose of ‘msucucao.’ – see here for an explanation.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the football teams I support is Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs were top of the Premier League for a few weeks in the autumn, but form has dipped of late, culminating in three successive defeats prior to Sunday’s win over the team currently 19th in the league (out of 20). Last week, however, one of the tv pundits came out with the old phrase “the wheels have fallen off” to describe my team – he wasn’t far wrong, but it gave me the idea for this week’s theme: wheels. I thought for a few moments, and came up with six ‘wheels’ songs very quickly, so it seemed like a good idea. Here we go then, those wheels are rolling…

This week’s first tune is from Gretchen Peters, a woman whose music I have loved for quite some time, and who I think is criminally underrated. As evidence, the fact that this video has only been watched around 4,000 times in eight years is my proof! It is a fantastic Iive performance of a great song, with a spoken intro from Gretchen – the music begins at around a minute in:

This song was on the 2012 album Hello Cruel World, which was Gretchen’s first to chart here in the UK, reaching #70. As far as I can tell she hasn’t enjoyed chart success in the US, where she is better known as a songwriter whose songs have been covered by many well known artists: the most successful was probably Independence Day, which was a #12 for Martina McBride in the US country chart. This song was also the title track of a limited edition live CD/DVD following the Hello Cruel World tour. This was released in book format, and was sold at concerts in 2013/4 – which is when I bought my copy.

I have shared a version of this one before, by Julie Driscoll in Bonfire Night Tunes last November. As I mentioned then, it was first recorded by The Band, on their debut album Music From Big Pink, so I thought I’d give you their version this time:

Considering that the video is 50 years old, I think it has stood the passing of time well. It shows what a good live band they were, though I never got to see them – very few bands of their stature came anywhere near Dover (Kent, UK, the original), where I lived at the time! The song was co-written by Rick Danko and Bob Dylan – The Band had previously been his backing musicians. The album peaked at #30 in the US but didn’t make our charts – it is still a great album to me, though.

My next song is by one of my all-time favourites, John Mellencamp. He has been here before, but not with this song:

I view this song, and the accompanying video, as a positive affirmation of faith in the ability of the human race to continue to thrive, whatever it faces. And that means all types of human beings, as you can see from the video. The chorus says it well:

“Human wheels spin round and round

While the clock keeps the pace

Human wheels spin round and round

Help the light to my face”

This was the title track of Mellencamp’s Human Wheels album, released in September 1993, which peaked at #7 in the US and #37 here. It was also released as a single, reaching #48 on the main Billboard chart, but it wasn’t a hit here. He is another in that long stream of American acts who haven’t achieved the success here that I feel they deserve, sadly.

This next tune is a thing of absolute beauty, from one of the loveliest voices I’ve ever known:

The song was written by Anna McGarrigle and was the title track of Linda Ronstadt’s fifth album, released in 1974, which was a US #1 and spent a total of 51 weeks on their chart. As usual, at that point, it did absolutely nothing over here – please see the comment on the song above! Come to think of it, that comment applies to just about all of today’s featured artists. In 2011 she was interviewed by the Arizona Daily Star and announced her retirement, and then in August 2013 she revealed that she has Parkinson’s disease and “can no longer sing a note.” Her diagnosis was subsequently re-evaluated as progressive supranuclear palsy. That is so sad, but thankfully we still have her whole back catalogue of beautiful albums to enjoy. A footnote to this one: in case you were wondering, the pianist in the video is Andrew Gold, who in addition to playing in Linda’s band produced the album from which this came. He has also featured in this series, in episode 22 if you’d like to see it again.

Having kinda trailed them with the meme at the top, I couldn’t really omit this next one. I’ve featured it in posts before, though not in this series, but as it is one of my favourite Foo Fighters songs I thought I’d give it another spin:

There used to be an ‘official’ video for this song, but it is no longer to be found on the Foos’ YouTube page. This is pretty damn good though! The Foo Fighters are the one act in this post that stands apart from the others in terms of chart placings. None of their albums has ever reached a higher chart position in the US than it has here, and this song is a case in point. It has only appeared on their Greatest Hits album, in 2009: that album peaked at #11 in the US but was #4 here. Wheels was released as a single from it, reaching #72 in the US, but got to #22 here. Odd, that. However you view it, it’s still a great song, from another of my favourite bands.

I thought I’d leave you this week with a little bit of fun:

I absolutely love this video. There is so much to enjoy in it apart from the song itself, such as the stern ‘Madame,’ and all those visual jokes and side glances, some of which you’ll probably miss on first watching. It was released on OCMS’ debut album in 2004: the album was #1 in the US Bluegrass chart and #68 on the Country albums chart. The song has become the band’s signature tune and, although it didn’t chart as a single at the time, it has certified US sales of more than 1.1m. The basis for it was the melody and chorus for a tune part-written by Bob Dylan in 1973, for the Pat Garrett movie. Dylan said that he borrowed it from Arthur Crudup, and called it Rock Me Mama, but it was never officially released, though it has appeared on bootlegs. Ketch Secor of OCMS wrote the additional lyrics in 1998, and the rest, as they say, is history. There have been several cover versions of the song: both Nathan Carter (in Ireland) and Darius Rucker (in the US and Canada) have had chart hits with it, but my advice is to leave the inferior versions alone and stick with this one. In these dismal days, with snow gently falling outside, we need something like this to brighten things up!

That’s all for this week. I wonder if Spurs will give me a prompt for next time? If you see ‘rubbish’ or ‘useless’ as the theme you’ll know that they did. Until then, stay safe and warm. Take care.