Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 1 : Be My Babies

So this promised new feature, then. We've been toying with the idea of some sort of occasional downloadable compilation, because god knows we have to fight back against the mp3-touting tyrant blogs somehow, and we're also invenerate musical listmakers. So what'll happen is every so often we're going to use a popular download filesharing service to house a 74-minute compilation, perfect for home burning, on a particular theme or running strand. Your hard drives can take it.

We're starting with a thought that actually came to us almost by accident a few weeks ago, that in this 50 year history of pop music no single drumbeat has had the cultural impact of the four-beat Wrecking Crew seconds of intensity that kicks off the Ronettes' Be My Baby. (Alright, Funky Drummer has its fans, but that's more for its intricacy and the fact it's had the song named after its fill.) It seems resonant of an era, a genre and a possibility all at the same time, and with its comparative simplicity that even the most amateur of garage band skinbeaters can copy it's no wonder it's been co-opted so often in much. Once we'd got the obvious in as track one we found a good 35 or so songs that featured the beat in some way, shape or form, eventually cutting down to

a trim 21 replicants, all of which feature it in its purest form and use it at the start or near enough. Not all are attempts to take on the sound of the time, but nobody falls into the underpinning beat without knowing about it and it almost always brings about a feeling of knowing well-being when it crops up, we've found. It's interesting to ascertain why it's used too - some as a way of reinforcing the message of desperate love, some to turn that notion on its head, some to recapture the wistfulness at the original's core, some to blow that ideal apart. A lot actually utilise it a lot more than the original, and there's quite a bit of castanet use going on too. So, have we included your favourite? Yes, probably. Download it (click on 'Free' at the bottom of the first screen and then wait for the download to become available), unzip the file and listen in.

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 1 : Be My Babies

(Liner notes added February 2009)

The Ronettes - Be My Baby
Well, where would you start? Pitchfork's sixth greatest song of the 60s, Rolling Stone's 22nd best of all time, Brian Wilson's favourite song of all time, Hal Blaine, supposedly the more recorded musician in history, is your man starting the legend here. Plenty of Best Ofs if you want a fuller story.

Billy Joel - Say Goodbye To Hollywood
About as close as we'll get to a straight up musical tribute to Be My Baby, written as a tribute to Ronnie Spector, who actually covered it in 1977, a year after the original came out. It's on Turnstiles, deemed the album that saw Joel move into the pop songwriting big league.

The Magnetic Fields - Candy
Not Stephin Merritt's only attempt to channel the Wall Of Sound on a budget and not even the only one of his songs to feature trace elements of Blaine, but probably the most intriguing, from The Wayward Bus, Merritt's 1989 debut and impossible to find until reissued packed with Plastic Trees in 2004.

El Perro Del Mar - Oh What A Christmas
Timely. El Perro Del Mar is the solo band name under which Sarah Assbring of Gothenburg works, playing nearly all the instruments and mixing her Spector with Birkinesque French chanson pop to great effect on her European debut eponymous solo album. Later development into SMiLE territory is in truth less successful. As far as we can tell it was only ever been available as a free Christmas download from her once UK label Memphis Industries.

Camera Obscura - Eighties Fan
The oddly tender track that introduced many to Tracyanne Campbell and co's gorgeously bittersweet post-indiepop, from 2001's Stuart Murdoch-produced Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi, here with the metaphorical arm round the shoulder of a younger sibling. Must be something in the Glaswegian day air.

Lucky Soul - Give Me Love
Only to be found on the club night How Does It Feel To Be Loved?'s compilation The Kids At The Club, the swoonsome Greenwich sextet come on as Dusty In Memphis With The Shangri-Las. They run own Ruffa Lane label, a setup which makes you wonder how they can afford this enormous a string sound.

The Pipettes - Sex
We've already heard the lineup that fronted We Are The Pipettes referred to as 'the classic line-up', not tricky given the two since have at the time of writing not released anything. One of Rose's, this, apparently.

Kenickie - Millionaire Sweeper
We will, as stated many times before, go down fighting for At The Club and generally Kenickie's good name as brittle, acutely observational teen thrill providers - Lauren Laverne and Marie du Santiago were both eighteen when this came out as a single.

Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve
It actually reached number 50 in August 2004, but it's still a continuing source of pleasant wonder to us to find so many people just adore this James Dean Bradfield-produced track to this day. Took them nearly three years after this to licence the self titled debut album in the UK.

Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go
Despite statements made earlier in their career in fact Bradfield is by all accounts something of a Motown aficionado and the work on Sean Moore's drums on the number 5 single, their attempt to wipe the slate clean of their divisive past, actually does approach the original source's enormity even before he switches to the kettle drums. Title track of the 1996 album that sold them to Mondeo man.

Mercury Rev - In A Funny Way
They looked set to become major players on the back of Deserter's Songs but by the time The Secret Migration came out in 2005 Jonathan Donahue's old band the Flaming Lips had conclusively stolen their woozy Americana fire. At least they retained the bowed saw.

British Sea Power - To Get To Sleep
Never a band to take the easiest lyrical route, on the face of it this Open Season cut is a song about the effectiveness of sleeping remedies, namechecking Nytol and melatonin. Inevitably, it's not a song to fall asleep to.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey
Ah. We wonder how many of the above have been unthinkingly referred to as borrowing a drumbeat from Just Like Honey, so era defining to a certain generation was Psychocandy. Bobby Gillespie, of course, on louche standing-up drummer duty here making the original's visceral thrill sound like intimidating sludge.

Shimura Curves - Just Like Friends
We're not entirely sure they're still going, but in their day somewhere amid innumerable lineup changes with their sub-pro-am live show and universal description as "Stereolab do the Pipettes, perhaps literally" they were quite something.

Depeche Mode - A Question Of Lust
From their electro-goth menace phase, 1986's none more black Black Celebration to be exact, bleakly sounding as if it was recorded in a storage warehouse. We imagine a lot of synths were ordered in for this. Lyrically it's about the vulnerablility of love and jealousy that comes attached, so you can see where they're coming from at least.

Clinic - I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth
An example of a song that starts with the drumbeat just because it can. Now that Clinic are onto album five you wonder what anyone could have made of this mania, their first single from 1997, rootless as it often seems. An NME single of the week, ironically. Find it on the self-titled 1999 compilation of their first three singles.

The Long Blondes - New Idols
Now they're pinned down in memorial as a post-teen angst female Pulp who had a disco phase at which they lost it, it's worth remembering how offbeat their earliest material was as much as their early manifesto-ing. This was their first proper single, like dancefloor Blondie doing the Shop Assistants, and is now to be found on "Singles". Obviously.

The Dictators - Teengenerate
Using the template against itself - and no, it doesn't directly start with the drums, but near enough - the NY junk culture proto-punks comment with a small covering of irony on rock'n'roll itself, or something like that. From 1975 debut The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!

Guided By Voices - Ha Ha Man
From the mod-ish recesses of Robert Pollard's overactive songwriting hand, it's exactly what you want from them - it sounds like an indie Who, it's got Tobin Sprout on it, the lyrics nearly make sense and it lasts 79 seconds. Find it on their first out-takes box set - it is GBV, after all - Suitcase: Failed Experiments And Trashed Aircraft.

Hefner - The Weight Of The Stars
As with, we subsequently discovered, many others Hefner were 'our secret' for a portion of the late 90s, gravitating towards Darren Hayman's picking apart of the human condition to what he called "urban folk". What can we say, we thought he spoke to us. This is on 1999's The Fidelity Wars or The Best Of Hefner 1996-2002.

ballboy - Avant Garde Music
They'd prefer it if we were to typograph it like that, apparently. Gordon McIntyre's wryly funny tales of love, loss and love that never came so it could be lost make him one of Scottish pop's best kept secrets, from inception through 2002's standout A Guide For The Daylight Hours to date.

Smog - Permanent Smile
Closing with a bang? Not when Bill Callahan's involved, at least certainly around 2000's Dongs of Sevotion, although listen to those drums, seemingly recorded in an underground cave in North Korea. Over an ever looping backing Callahan sings about the permanence of death at heart, which by Callahan standards is remarkably cheery.


Iain said...

So that this isn't all comment spam, I had a listen this morning (er apart from the Smog one which my mp3 player disapproved of the format of) and enjoyed it a lot, thanks. The Ballboy song is great and I hadn't heard it before.

Simon said...

We can't now delete the spam without making Iain look slightly odd, can we?

Glad you liked it. Yes, we realised last night that the Smog track has been encoded as m4a, which should play on most computer applications and burn properly but if anyone else has problems with it we'll stick an mp3 up.

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