Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Here’s the rest of the Gs.
CHI-LITES – (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People / Trouble’s a-Comin’ (Brunswick 55450 1971)
The Chi-Lites were best known as sweet soul balladeers, but in the early seventies there were few r&b groups who didn’t mix in some social comment. This ranged from the explicitly political music of the likes of Gil Scott-Heron and Eugene McDaniels to vague platitudes of the “let’s all live together in harmony” kind. Eugene Record was somewhere between the two – “Give More Power to the People” is a heartfelt plea for the redistribution of power and wealth, and one that remains unanswered nearly four decades later.
BILLIE HOLIDAY – Gloomy Sunday / I’m in a Low Down Groove (Okeh 6451 1941)
My first ever post was about this song and can be found here.
PATTI SMITH – Gloria / My Generation (Arista 171 1976)
THEM – Gloria / Baby Please Don’t Go (Decca 12018)
This is one of only two songs that occur in more than one version on this list. The readings are so different that they are only vaguely related. Them’s original is a piece of snotty, attitude heavy rhythm and blues with a near punk intensity. It’s no surprise that they were a huge influence on a lot of US garage acts, not least the Shadows of Knight who also did a storming version. Patti Smith’s is a whole different ballgame and oozes lust and blurred sexual identity, using the original song as a springboard for a passionate, stream of consciousness. It would be hard to imagine grumpy old Van Morrison singing “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”.
PORTISHEAD – Glory Box / Toy Box / Scorn / Sheared Box (Go Discs 120 1994)
It was Portishead’s performance of this on Later with Jools Holland that catapulted them to fame and fortune. It was eerie and ghostly, with Beth Gibbons sounding like a woman clinging on for dear life. They were obviously rooted in the Bristol Sound, but really sounded like no one else. They still don’t.
KIM WESTON – Go Ahead and Laugh / A Little More Love (Tamla 54106 1964)
This is a relatively obscure Motown tune, but it shows that the label could do deep soul if it wanted to. Kim Weston’s intense vocal performance and the brooding horns could have come straight out of Memphis or Muscle Shoals.
BEACH BOYS – God Only Knows / Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Capitol 5706 1966)
BEACH BOYS – Good Vibrations / Let’s Go Away For a While (Capitol 5676 1966)
These two songs probably represent the Beach Boys, or more accurately Brian Wilson, at an absolute zenith of creativity. “God Only Knows” will melt the very hardest heart with its depiction of pure and absolute love. “Good Vibrations” has less of an emotional pull, being more of a kaleidoscope of technical and harmonic wonder.
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – Goin’ Back / I’m Gonna Leave You (Philips 1502 1966)
The Byrds did a good version of this, but Dusty’s is the one – a beautiful piece of wistful nostalgia.
PAVEMENT – Gold Soundz / Kneeling Bus / Strings of Nashville / Exit Theory (Big Cat 70 1994)
Pavement are one of those bands that, when you strip them down to the basic parts, don’t seem to be any different to hundreds of others. The playing is adequate, the tunes are a mixture of lo-fi goofing about and browbeaten pop, and the singing is decidedly wobbly. Put it all together, and you have a catalogue of songs that have some kind of indefinable aura about them. “Gold Soundz” is just one example. It’s a magic that Stephen Malkmus hasn’t come close to reproducing in his subsequent career.
WYNONIE HARRIS – Good Morning Judge / Stormy Night Blues (King 4378 1950)
King of the blues shouters, and one of the archetypal proto-rock and rollers, Wynonie Harris had a similar sideline of ribald humour as Louis Jordan. “Good Morning Judge” sees him up before the beak on three occasions for hanging out with a fifteen year old girl whose dad just happens to be a cop (in reality, congress with blue-eyed Lucy Brown would probably have got him killed in 1950), evading income tax and refusing to pay alimony. Not to be confused with the dreary 10CC song of the same name.
RED GUITARS – Good Technology / Heartbeat Go (Self-Drive 6 1983)
When the Housemartins modestly described themselves as the “fourth best band in Hull” they may have had the Red Guitars in mind as one of the top three. For a brief moment the group took monochrome post-punk, socialism and African pop and mixed it into a shimmering, danceable but literate brew. Debut single “Good Technology” showed the band’s more sombre side – a blank verse litany of the fruits of technological progress with no moral judgements made about which are good and which are bad and which ends blankly detached with the words “there’s a TV show I’ve got to see”.
CHIC – Good Times / A Warm Summer Night (Atlantic 3584 1979)
Chic were both disco’s finest practitioners and also its last hurrah. Of all of their songs, “Good Times” is perhaps the best simply because of its extraordinary groove put together by Edwards, Rodgers and Thompson. It was almost ubiquitous in early hip hop, most obviously in the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”.
LAMB – Górecki / Trans-Fatty Acid (Fontana LAM4 1997)
Although it’s named after the Polish composer, “ Górecki” is a breathless and intense love song. What it shares with his celebrated third symphony is an epic melancholy and a brooding, emotional power.
R DEAN TAYLOR – Gotta See Jane / Don’t Fool Around (VIP 25045 1968)
Motown didn’t really know what to do with him, so R Dean Taylor was largely left to his own devices – an almost unique situation at the label. “Gotta See Jane” drives along in a desperate rush that echoes the protagonist’s desire to get home to the girl and the life he left behind for pastures greener that turned out to be anything but.
THE MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG – The Green Fields of France / Hush Little Baby (Imp 3 1984)
“The Green Fields of France” was one of two epic Great War ballads written by Scots-Australian Eric Bogle – the other being “And the Band Played Waltzin’ Matilda”. It concerns the contemplations of a man sat at the graveside of one of the fallen, and his questions about the soldier, Willie McBride, and the wider folly of war. The Men They Couldn’t Hang were tagged, perhaps unfairly, as the Welsh Pogues – not helped by both bands recording Bogle’s songs. They brought an anger and disgust to their reading that is lacking in more traditionally folky interpretations.
BOOKER T & THE MGS – Green Onions / Behave Yourself (Stax 127 1962)
Famously knocked up in a few moments of studio down time, it’s the rhythmic simplicity of “Green Onions” that gives it its power. It’s little more than an organ loop with some tidy bass and drums as rhythm and some spare, improvised guitar over the top. But it’s funky as hell.
UNCLE TUPELO – Gun / I Wanna Destroy You (Rockville 6069 1991)
“Gun” has the melodic thrills of Big Star at their best and the grit of the Replacements topped off with Jeff Tweedy’s little-boy-lost vocal. Their rep as the Godfathers of alt-country largely rests on the sublime old-time Americana of the March 16-20, 1992 album. They were also an exceptional rock band.
IMPRESSIONS – Gypsy Woman / As Long As You Love Me (ABC 10241 1961)
With Jerry Butler off for a solo career, Curtis Mayfield took over the lead role of the Impressions. Effectively, with him at the helm, they were a different group. The doo wop roots were downplayed in favour of a more sophisticated soul sound that owed more to Sam Cooke than to most of their vocal contemporaries.