Friday, June 22, 2012

Song of the Week #200

Welcome to my bicentennial celebrations. We'll have no land rights arguments, no mullets and not even a commemorative coin. But there will be some good tunes and at least the standard amount of navel gazing.

When I started Song of the Week it was a quick email to a few friends and colleagues with an mp3 attached. Times have changed. Thanks to DJ KOT for encouraging me to put my musings on the web. While most people read via email, my blog audience is increasing slowly but surely.

I played a gig with H and Chief last Saturday night. A good crowd turned up and I thought we did a pretty good job of playing the tunes in time and all in the same key. And with gusto. It's taken me a number of years but I'm finally pretty happy with my guitar sound. There is a lot of tinkering and nonsense in getting an electric guitar to sound right. I'm amused at the final makeup of my rig but it sounds and feels pretty comfy to me.

For those that are interested, here's the signal from guitar through to speaker:

Guitar (Burns Steer) --> MXR Black Label Chorus Pedal --> old Yamaha reverb/delay unit --> crunch channel of Marshall JCM2000 50W head --> Marshall JCM 1936 speaker box. Fairly simple really but it affords me a wide range of sonic mayhem.

Here's the reason I got this guitar. It's the best I've ever played. And I started playing quite a while now. 1978 I think.

Billy Bragg – Levi Stubb's Tears -

My motorcycle escapades continue much to my own amusement! So far I have discovered that the bike won't go anywhere if it's in neutral and also that the fuel switch needs to be turned on.

Unfortunately my ribs are still sore. I seem to be able to run reasonably but swimming and riding are a bit painful to say the least. It's making me a bit cranky – I really miss all those training sessions even though the weather is so cold. A shout out goes to DJ JoJo who hurt her calf muscle when we were running this week – let's hope it heals quickly.

So, 200 episodes and what have I got to show for it? Well I still have an unhealthy interest in a wide range of music so that must count for something. I don't think I've offended anyone overly either and that's no mean feat these days.

Here are some tunes that I think have had a massive influence on me. Cutting it down to ten was quite a task; I could've had a top 100 quite easily. It was so hard that I've ended up with twenty. They aren't in any particular order. The only condition I placed on the list was that I could only play a band or artist once. Otherwise you might've got 20 AC/DC, Steve Earle or Billy Bragg songs!

AC/DC – Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution. -

From the Back in Black record released in 1980. Apart from Hell's Bells I always thought that the B side of the album was the best. It started with Back In Black and finished with this tune. It's pretty much a variation on the standard blues riff. As a teenager the chorus resonated with me. It wasn't hip to be into rock and heavy metal when I was at school.

Steve Earle – My Old Friend The Blues -

I came late to Steve's music but I'm glad I took a chance on a Greatest Hits CD a few years ago. He writes such biting lyrics into angry, beautiful songs. That song was one that I sang a lot a few years ago and even recorded. It spoke to me then and it still does.

Billy Bragg – Walk Away Renee -

Billy is my "Desert Island Disc" guy. If I could only take one album with me it would be one of his. Again, more social and political commentary but it's the power of one man and guitar that hooked me in 1990.

Johnny Cash – Going To Memphis -

For a while it was very fab and groovy to be a Johnny Cash fan. He was a flawed man in so many ways but a man blessed with a magnificent voice and a song writing talent. Johnny struggled with so many demons and I've no doubt that's why his songs speak to so many people. I've got far too many Johnny Cash CDs and I'm sure I'll be getting some more.

Stevie Wright – Evie -

I remember DJ Broos teaching me to play this song. It's just such a fantastic riff. And it's written produced by Vanda & Young, the team responsible for the best AC/DC stuff.

The Proclaimers – Letter From America -

I've said it quite a number of times – there's more to this band than walking 500 miles. There's a musical based around some of their music called "Sunshine on Leith". It's about two Scottish soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and it's about to be made into a film. I reckon it'll be worth watching.

Tom Paxton – The Last Thing On My Mind -

My favourite player of acoustic guitars. A man with a light touch who makes his guitar absolutely sing. Very obviously my Dad's influence here but I wouldn't have kept listening to it if I didn't like it.

Dolly and Kenny – Islands In The Stream -

Well, was anyone expecting that? Written by the Bee Gees. Playing this song for a musical got me right out of the rock 'n'roll mode and made me think carefully about dialling down the overdrive pedal and expanding my playing. Thanks Chief for this one.

Stryper – Calling On You -

As a teenager I couldn't have cared less about this band's religious message. I loved their costumes, I loved their loud guitars and I loved the fact that they could sing. I have all their albums including one that took me ages to track down on vinyl (thank you eBay). They are still making great music.

Rollins Band – Tearing -

Raw, unadulterated aggression, jazz chords, distortion, volume, sweat, power, attitude. Seeing Henry Rollins play live in 1994 was the closest thing I've had to musical nirvana. I had no idea what to expect and I was just totally blown away.

KISS – Crazy Nights -

KISS were a mystery to me as a young boy. The makeup was fun but I didn't get the music. That was until they released the Crazy Nights album (long after the unmasking) and I just thought it rocked. Now they are back in makeup and it looks like they will be doing farewell tours forever.

Warumpi Band – Blackfella Whitefella -

This should be our national anthem. Or at least one of them. I think we need a national album. Different songs for different occasions.

Nick Barker – Time Bomb -

This is one of the few songs I've sung live to more than one audience. Probably because the vocal line has about three notes. One day I'll try it again, maybe.

Pink Floyd – Run Like Hell -

Going to see "The Wall" on the big screen at 18 was amazing. I'd seen it on video once before but it really hadn't made a lot of sense.

Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls -

When Queen rock hard they are a pretty hard act to top. That gritty guitar sound at the start of this track really made me love the band.

Ron Sexsmith – Hard Bargain -

I only have one album from Ron and this is the first track on it. It's so good that every time I have the album on I play this tune over and over. Mournful, beautiful, pop perfection.

Roxette – Lies -

Roxette do a great live show, they have a huge guitar sound and the pop writing sensibilities of Per Gessle are very clear. Listen without prejudice folks.

The Cult - Lil' Devil -

The riff for this song is so simple and so very effective. And while this is definitely more of a rock number than some other Cult tunes I love the swaggering feel. I had a couple of singles from the Electric album before I heard this tune. Best track on the album hands down.

The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God -

Punk rock meets Celtic music. The Pogues are probably the best exponents of this type of music and they've influenced a lot of bands. I like the energy of this track as well as the fact that they rock so hard with mandolins, pipes and an accordion. I'm also amazed that Shane MacGowan on vocals is still upright.

Armoured Angel – Castration -

Armoured Angel were a Canberra band. Funnily enough I saw them for the first time in Sydney (with DJ DJ). I'd never seen or heard anything quite like them and I may never again. In my opinion they had it all – fantastic hairy guitar riffs, great lyrics and a singing drummer! I saw them play quite a few times and they always put on a great show.

If anyone has made it to the end WELL DONE!

Thanks to all my readers and commenters as well as my many musical partners in crime.

I've got a gig to play so I'm off to do my hair and tune my guitar.

Have a great weekend,

DJ Rob

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