Tuesday Tunes 130: A Few More Favourites

Having taken a couple of weeks away from that long list I created, I thought that for this week I would return to play you some more of my all-time favourites. There is no theme as such this week: just a load of great tunes! So without any further ado, let’s get started. They don’t come much better than this one:

I wanted to find a live version of this, and the one at the 1985 Live Aid concert is a great place to start today’s tunes. If you recall, Phil Collins was playing drums on this having previously appeared at the London concert. A helicopter ride to the airport, a trip on Concorde, and the five hour time difference allowed him to play in Philly too. A great day all round for music. In case you needed reminding this was originally released in November 1970 by Derek and the Dominoes, the band formed by Eric Clapton after he left Cream and Blind Faith, as the title track of their album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, It wasn’t an immediate success, though it did reach #16 in the US Albums chart. It was a different story in the UK, though, as the album didn’t make our chart at all, right up until finally making an appearance in 2011, peaking at #68. Layla was released a couple of times as a single, in 1971 and 1972, and it was the second of these that really took off, when it got to #7 in the UK and #10 in the US. A 1982 re-release made #4 here in the UK, too. It has become such an iconic track that those early days seem strange now, in retrospect.

Having started with one big name I thought I’d follow up with another. I think these guys might just tip it as my favourite band ever, and this is my favourite of their singles:

We Can Work It Out was part of a double A-side single released by The Beatles in December 1965. Naturally, it reached #1 in both the UK and the US, and the other side – Day Tripper – got to #5 in the US in its own right, due to their (to me) strange custom of splitting the listings. It didn’t feature on any of their studio albums here in the UK, though it was included on a North America-only release, Yesterday And Today, in June 1966, again getting to #1 in the US and also in Canada. It has since appeared on numerous compilation albums, of course. I love this video, in which at least two of them seem to be having a lot of fun, with John trying to make Paul laugh, and finally succeeding.

In compiling the list from which I’m taking these songs I made the decision to include only one by each artist. This has made for some difficult choices, and this next one is another in that category. On balance, out of all of her wonderful music, I went for this one:

Joni Mitchell has made so many great records, and I’m a huge fan, especially of her earlier albums: that run up to Blue and For The Roses includes some really beautiful music. Big Yellow Taxi was a track on Joni’s third album, Ladies Of The Canyon, which was released in April 1970 and reached #8 in the UK and #27 in the US. The song was issued as a single to coincide with the album’s release, and made #11 in the UK and #67 in the US. There have been many cover versions, my favourite of which is the one by Counting Crows, which made #13 as a single in the UK – the only top twenty single hit they have had here.

My next two tunes are from bands who may be less well known. I think they deserve to be much bigger, though! I have played songs by them before, though not these ones. The first of my lesser lights is World Party:

The band was very much the creation of Karl Wallinger after he left The Waterboys. They made five albums between 1987 and 2000, and I think they are all superb. Put The Message In The Box was a track on their second album, Goodbye Jumbo – hence the elephant in the video. The record came out in April 1990, and reached #36 in the UK and #73 in the US. This was the second single taken from the album, and it made #39 here, whilst also getting to #8 in the US Alternative Airplay listings. The song has a simple message, one of opening up our hearts to love, and the video is a beautifully joyous accompaniment for it. This was one of those albums that I played a lot in the car during my long commute, and is probably another etched on the memories of those unfortunate enough to have seen me ‘singing’ along with it.

Did I just mention that Karl had been in The Waterboys? What a coincidence – guess who is up next, though this was after his time with them. This is a later live performance of the song, and I think it also qualifies for the description of ‘joyous.’ Sound quality on the video is very variable, I’m afraid, and it gets cut off just before the end, but it is still a lot of fun to watch:

And A Bang On The Ear was a track on The Waterboys’ fourth album, Fisherman’s Blues, which was released in October 1988 and became their breakthrough record: their first to make the UK top twenty, getting to #13 here and also to #76 in the US. It is a fabulous album and I still play it nowadays. The band had already had a hit single here in 1985 with Whole Of The Moon, and two tracks from this album made the UK Singles chart – the title track got to #32 here and this song made #51. It was, however, #1 in Ireland: I worked with an Irish woman around that time and asked her its meaning. She assured me that it was a term of endearment, though with the Irish sense of humour you can never be sure, can you? It appears that one of the writers for the NCIS tv show may have had Irish roots, with Gibbs’ trademark parting shot to his team members.

Another band who gave me real difficulty in choosing a favourite were Crosby Stills & Nash, both with and without Neil Young. There are so many great songs in their catalogue but I think my favourite is perhaps one of their lesser known songs, certainly so here in the UK:

Southern Cross was a track on Daylight Again, their third album as a trio, which was released in June 1982 and reached #8 in the US, though it didn’t make the UK chart. The track was released as a single at the same time and peaked at #18 in the US though again it didn’t feature in the UK chart – you can see now why I think this one might be less familiar to British readers, can’t you. As with all of the songs I’m playing today I’ve loved this one since I first heard it: it is a beautiful piece of music, enhanced by those wonderful harmonies.

Today’s penultimate tune is by someone who only lived to 31, but has left us an amazing body of work to enjoy. I have been a massive fan of hers since her days in Fairport Convention and Fotheringay and through her solo career. This is from her solo days, appropriately enough:

I have previously described Sandy Denny as having the voice of an angel. The phrase gets thrown around a lot, but few live up to it: in my view. Sandy is one who does. This is a stunningly good song, about the break up of a relationship, with some incredible imagery in its lyrics. Solo was the opening track on her third solo album, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, which was released in June 1974 but didn’t make the charts anywhere. During her lifetime she didn’t enjoy much success in sales terms, but those of us ‘in the know’ were a loyal following for her. For those of you who know Fairport Convention from their early days, it will come as no surprise to learn that the blisteringly good guitar on the song is played by Richard Thompson. It is a beautiful song, and I think that guitar lifts it to even greater heights. It is rare for me to shed tears at the passing of a musical hero but I did for Sandy – taken from us by a combination of alcohol abuse and injuries from a fall on a stone staircase. Being a little self-indulgent, I’m adding in a link to what may well be her best known song, written when she was in Fairport Convention, and running this one a very close race to be chosen as my Sandy song for this set. Take a listen to Who Knows Where The Time Goes and see what I mean about her voice! And you get more of Richard Thompson’s guitar on that one, too.

Today’s final tune is also from someone who I think has been poorly treated in chart terms, especially in the US. I’d have thought he would be very suited to the market there but somehow it has never really happened for him. Try this one by Chris Rea and see what you’ve been missing:

Stainsby Girls was a track on Chris Rea’s seventh album, Shamrock Diaries, which was released in April 1985, and made #15 in the UK Albums chart. In the States? Nada, as usual. This track was released as a single in March, just ahead of the album, and peaked at #26 in the UK. For me, this is one of a whole string of great records this guy has given us. He has made twenty five albums, all but four of which have made the UK charts, two of them reaching #1. In the US, only three have made the chart – ironically his best performer there is his debut album, Whatever Happened To Benny Santini? which got to #49 over there but is one of the four not to make it in the UK. Record buyers can be strange, sometimes.

That’s all for this week, and I hope you’ve enjoyed another look at what I see as some of the best songs I know. I’ll be back with a little piece of whimsy in a couple of days, and then of course I’ll be here again on Sunday and next Tuesday. Have a good week 😊