Lyrically Evocative (16)

There are times when a song sounds so good, and is such a huge hit, it is actually quite easy to overlook the lyrics at first. And when it comes along with an outstanding video to promote it, I can find myself lost in watching, rather than listening properly. This was pretty much the case in 1990, when Sinead O’Connor released her version of Prince’s song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Written over six years earlier, Prince had never released the song himself, though he had performed it at some concerts.

Sinead’s version was a powerful and emotional rendition, stripped bare, and accompanied by one of the best pop videos ever made. It was a worldwide hit, and has become so associated with her that many people believe she actually wrote it. But she did something important, she made me listen to the lyrics, and be affected by them. This is a song about love and loss, and one that will endure.
It is so much more than the chart hit that it became.

Here are Prince’s lyrics.

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days
Since you took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since you took your love away

Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong

I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me?
Guess what he told me?
He said boy you better try to have fun
No matter what you do, but he’s a fool
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

All the flowers that you planted mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you
Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

“Nothing Compares 2 U” as written by Prince Rogers Nelson
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

And here is Sinead singing them, in that great video.

(If you can’t see the clip, try refreshing the page)

A Musical A-Z: P

Please play along with your own choices. Any artist, song, album, or group, as long as the name begins with ‘P’.

British pop duo The Pet Shop Boys had a string of big hits over here, after forming in 1981. They crossed many genres, from torch songs to disco, with the distinctive vocals of Neil Tennant always identifying them immediately. They were also know for their collaborations with other performers, and work on film soundtracks. They covered many songs by other artists too, and made skillful use of sampling and remixes. Still together today, and continuing to tour, this gives a flavour of their style.
Left To My Own Devices

In the late 1970s, British Indie band Pulp appeared on the scene. Fronted by the thin and energetic Jarvis Cocker, they soon got a large following, resulting in many chart hits. The band had some political leanings, and this can often be heard in some song lyrics. Cocker later became well-known for his insult to Michael Jackson at an award ceremony, something that overshadowed the band’s music. They broke up in the late 1990s, and later reformed. But they have never repeated that early success.
Common People

Python Lee Jackson was an Australian rock band. They are mainly known in Europe for just one record. But what a record. Using Rod Stewart as a session singer, they gave us this wonderful song, in 1972.
In A Broken Dream

Punky American female vocalist Pink has had a great career, in a relatively short time. Making superb use of the pop video, she has gone on to become a huge-selling artist, and part of the modern musical establishment. I always liked her cheeky look, and the fun videos that accompany her songs. But it is easy to forget that she is a very good singer indeed, so I would like to confirm that by including this powerful song.
Just Like A Pill

Portishead appeared in Bristol, UK in 1991. Three years later, they released their first album, ‘Dummy’. This took the charts, and the critics, by storm. It was a new sound; electronic yet mournful, and with the incredibly powerful vocals of Beth Gibbons. They have only ever released three albums, and although they still perform occasionally, they might be better thought of as a ‘music project’, rather than a chart group. Here’s a classic track from that first album.
Sour Times

I have a great fondness for this next track, although it is the only song I like by the band, The Psychedelic Furs. It is used on the soundtrack to the John Hughes film, ‘Pretty In Pink’, and shares the same name. A double ‘P’, and a personal favourite.
Pretty In Pink

My top choice today is another track from the late genius, Prince. It could never have been ‘P’ without Prince now, could it? I like so many of his songs, but this is the one I always return to. I could have had a double ‘P’ with Purple Rain, but I like this one so much more.
When Doves Cry

(I left you room for Pink Floyd, Eddy…)

Significant Songs (109)

I Feel For You

In 1985, I was watching a popular British TV music programme called ‘The Tube.’ Chaka Khan appeared on stage, to sing this song. I had heard of her before of course, as the lead vocalist of the band Rufus, and owned some of the singles that had already been released, including the huge chart success, ‘Ain’t Nobody.’ She pranced onto the stage, her voluptuous form squeezed into a tight basque, generous thighs on show, and legs forced inside high boots. Her wild hair was bigger than a lion’s mane, and her chubby face wore a beautiful smile. She performed the song well, even though her high-kicks and gyrations affected the overall quality of the vocals.

I was captivated, without doubt. I thought that she was cuteness personified, and as with many great artists, I believed that she was singing only to me. I became a fan, on the spot.

Chaka Khan is a stage name. Her real name is Yvette Marie Stevens, and she is almost exactly one year younger than me. By that time, she had already enjoyed a long career in the music business, signing with her first group in 1970, aged just seventeen. After a long spell fronting Rufus, her solo career was marked by big-selling albums, and huge hit singles, as well as collaborations with some other big names, including Stevie Wonder, Rick Wakeman, and Prince. In fact, this song was written by Prince, and released by him in 1979, five years before it appeared on the Chaka Khan album of the same name.

Like many singers, Chaka’s life had its ups and downs. Two marriages, broken relationships, alcoholism and drug addiction, all took their toll on her career, and her body. She came out the other side though, still recording and performing, and even appearing on Broadway, in ‘The Colour Purple.’ We don’t see that much of her in the UK these days, but I will never forget that moment when she appeared on the TV in my living room, and found herself a dedicated fan.

Here is the official video. Stevie Wonder is playing the harmonica.
I have also included the performance from the TV show I watched.

Significant Songs (68)

Nothing Compares 2U

As a rule, I don’t care for cover versions of original songs that I already like. There are some exceptions though, and this is perhaps one of the best examples.

In 1985, Prince, always the innovator, and searching for new ways to express his talent and ideas, released an album titled ‘The Family’. This was the result of one of his many diversions from his normal recording and performing, and something he hoped to run alongside his regular appearances and record releases. This track was included, but the album achieved only moderate success. The song was soon forgotten, and the project abandoned.

Five years later, Irish singer and outspoken advocate of womens’ rights, also known for her many controversial opinions on the Catholic religion, Sinead O’Connor, recorded a cover version. It was included on her best-selling second album, ‘I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got’, in 1990. Crucially, the accompanying video was produced to cinema quality. Almost entirely a close-up of her face, and shot in a muted colour palette, she was able to portray emotions rarely seen in the pop video output of the day. With her stunning looks, cropped hair, and amazing vocals, this combination took the song to the top of the charts in countries all over the world.

Even though I was already a fan of Prince’s original version, I could not deny the superiority of this recording. It took the song to a new level; the power of the vocals, combined with the emotion in the video, was irresistible. It is just sublime, and I invite you to enjoy it.

Significant Songs (16)

Betcha By Golly Wow

OK, I apologise in advance. An incredibly slushy, Philly Soul song, of little importance, with annoying falsetto vocals, and a silly title. So, what is it doing in my ‘Significant Songs’ category then? It is all about significance to me, and the particular relevance of this song, is that a cover version, many years after the original, actually made me like this song, and want to own a copy.  It isn’t even as if the cover changed the song, in any way, shape, or form. It is a faithful reproduction, and to an accidental listener, it might even be confused with the first version. I will try to explain.

In the early 1970’s, The Stylistics were one of the old-style male vocal harmony groups, following in the footsteps of such giants as The Temptations, and The Four Tops. They added the new ‘Philly’ sound to their performances, as did many of the new wave of soul groups hailing from the city of Philadelphia. This was a smoother, less punchy sound, and often had a falsetto lead. The suits were still awful; lurid colours, themed piping, and flowing bell-bottoms. The dance routines, if they could be called that, hadn’t changed in years, and the format was still successful, so these groups saw no point in altering those traditions. Other bands doing much the same thing at the time, included The Delfonics, The Trammps, and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. Most of these groups were doing nothing wrong. They churned out nice soul songs, and had hit after hit, with a large following for their sound, on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, The Stylistics just took it all too far. Too much sugar, too many falsettos, and songs of even less merit than most of the competition were recording. It didn’t matter though. They were a household name, and could do no wrong, selling millions of records. But I was getting overwhelmed by the syrup, and beginning to yearn for Motown to come back with something better. So I turned my back on the Philly Sound.

Almost twenty-five years later, Prince was going through a period of transition, something that has often happened in his long career. A dispute with his record company, in 1996, saw him then known only by a symbol, as he was not allowed to use any of his previous stage names, due to contractual difficulties. At that time, he was perhaps at his most irritating, yet also most productive, in many new ways. He was able to record and release songs and material previously denied to him by his former record company, and he finally released his cover version of ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’. When I first heard it, I just couldn’t believe that it was that good. Here was a song that I had always hated, and couldn’t bear to listen to, and I loved it! The arrangement was the same, and even the annoying falsetto was in place, so what made it any different?

Maybe it was the twenty-five year gap. Perhaps I was the one that had changed, not the song. I still didn’t care much for the original, so why did I like this one so much, that I went out and bought a CD single copy immediately? It had to be talent, pure and simple. Prince just felt the song, and sounded as if he really meant it. The production values were higher, and the overall sound, simply superb. I was drawn in, and couldn’t let go. He had turned around my feelings about a song, and made it into one that I still adore today. But only his version.

This video is almost a parody, so be advised. It is completely over the top, and I recommend listening to the song, without watching the visuals. As for the slush and sentiment, consider yourselves warned…

It appears that this has been removed from You Tube, and I cannot get a version online. Apologies.

Raining in my head

We have now had rain for almost three days and nights. Over sixty-four hours of precipitation, in varying degrees of intensity. From torrential, to steady, via just plain irritating droplets, it has fallen with relentless determination for so long, I can still hear it when it stops raining so hard. In fact, I am no longer able to tell whether or not it has stopped, as the sound of it falling has invaded my very thoughts. With this in mind (pun intended), I have considered a musical post, of songs appropriate to this nuisance.

Rhythm of the Rain. A massive hit for the Cascades, from 1962, this little-played song is actually one of the biggest hits of the 20th Century. The tinkling piano suggests the falling rain. It doesn’t sound much like what is falling here.

I Can’t Stand the Rain. Written and recorded by Ann Peebles, in 1973, this soul ballad pretty much sums up my last year in Norfolk. It also uses tinkling piano to suggest rain. Nowhere near fast or hard enough though.

Here Comes the Rain Again.  From 1984, Annie Lennox sings this Eurythmics hit. Says it all really…

Purple Rain. In the same year, Prince recorded this huge hit, which later became a film of the same name. I doubt my Norfolk rain is anywhere near purple, but it is making me blue. (See what I did there?)

Raining In My Heart. Back to 1958, for this Buddy Holly classic, which is actually about when it is not raining. If only…

Just the five suggestions tonight. It has already begun to rain harder again as I type, hitting the window of my small room. Anymore would be just too depressing.