Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Rounding up H.
JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – Hey Joe / Stone Free (Polydor 56139 1966)
This must have sounded like it was beamed in from another planet when it appeared just at the very end of 1966.
EDDIE HOLMAN – Hey There Lonely Girl / It’s All in the Game (ABC 1120 1969)
Some five years after it was released in the US this was a big British hit – the only one Holman had. It was a popular last-dance slowie on the northern soul scene, marked out by Eddie’s incredible falsetto.
SAM & DAVE – Hold On I’m Coming / I Got Everything I Need (Stax 189 1966)
It must be my dirty mind, but I always read a meaning into the title which really isn’t there :) Mind you, the blaring horns and the muscular rhythm section combined with Sam Moore and Dave Prater’s breathless vocals have more than a touch of the orgasmic about them, so perhaps I can be forgiven.
DEAD KENNEDYS – Holiday in Cambodia / Police Truck (IRS 9016 1980)
There’s no doubt in my mind that this was the band’s finest three minutes. East Bay Ray’s guitar sound is edge-of-your-seat gripping, and the track has a velocity that sends it hurtling into the heart of darkness. It’s also one of Biafra’s most furious lyrics, both eloquent and dripping with bitter sarcasm. Is he really advocating that complacent rich kids should be sent to be dealt with by the Khmer Rouge? Not really – it’s an angry tirade at pretend-to-care, look-how-ethnic-I-am-darling, deeply rotten Western pseudo-liberalism.
ESTHER PHILLIPS – Home is Where the Hatred Is / Til My Back Ain’t Got No Bone (Kudu 904 1972)
This is just as angry, but the fury is turned inward. When Gil Scott-Heron wrote this, it was a leap of imagination to put himself in the junkie’s shoes. His own crack nightmare was many years off. Esther Phillips had lived the life, though. She’d had an up and down career, starting when barely into her teens with the Johnny Otis Orchestra. She’d known spells of being addicted to booze, pills and heroin. And that experience told in her reading of “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”. The pain, hurt, desperation and self-hatred are all there in her voice. To my mind, it’s one of the very greatest soul vocal performances.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – Homeward Bound / Leaves That Are Green (Columbia 43551 1966)
Widnes in Cheshire’s one claim to fame is that this was written at the railway station during Paul Simon’s year spent playing the folk clubs up and down the UK. It’s a beautiful meditation on homesickness.
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – Hong Kong Garden / Voices (Polydor 2059052 1978)
Great riffs, great tune. The lyrics are cringeworthy. Every hackneyed stereotype about the Chinese is trotted out – chop suey, prostitution, pollution, junks, rice and Confucius. It reaches its nadir with the couplet “Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise / A race of bodies small in size”. It was a different era – we sometimes forget how much we’ve moved on from the seventies. At the time, nobody batted an eyelid. Still, like I said, great riffs, great tune.
ANIMALS – House of the Rising Sun / Talkin’ ‘Bout You (EMI Columbia 7301 1964)
The song’s original protagonist was a prostitute and the titular house a brothel. It doesn’t really make sense to sing it from a male perspective, even allowing for the lyrical alterations to make it appear to be about a gambling addict. Still, you can’t fault Eric Burdon’s gritty delivery, nor the inspired organ work of Alan Price.
FALL – How I Wrote Elastic Man / City Hobgoblins (Rough Trade 48 1980)
I never quite understood why it’s called Elastic Man when MES is clearly singing “plastic man”. Don’t suppose it matters. Actually asking that would make me one of the targets of Smith’s ire. It’s a classic Fall song. He’s always at his best when he has something to grumble about. In this instance, it’s journalists and fans asking dumb-ass questions about how he writes his songs and what they’re about.
SMITHS – How Soon Is Now / Well I wonder (Rough Trade 176 1985)
The Smiths always put some of their finest songs on the B sides of singles. This originally appeared (along with “Please, Please, Please”) on the flip of the twelve inch of “William It Was Really Nothing”. Both tunes were miles better than the A side. Sense prevailed, and it was issued as a single in its own right. The reverb-heavy guitar work owes quite a bit to Can’s “I Want More”. Fabulous tune, though – probably the only time that the Smiths got close to disco heaven.
MARVELETTES – The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game / I Think I Can Change You (Tamla 54143 1967)
Brilliant as they were, the Motown girl groups weren’t really known for making sexy records. This changed that. It’s got a sensual, almost cool-jazz groove, and lead singer Wanda Young sounds every inch the predatory femme fatale. The twist, of course, being that she gets ensnared in a trap of her own making.
MILLIE JACKSON – Hurts So Good / Love Doctor (Spring 139 1973)
There were plenty of instances in soul music where the standard role of deceit and heartbreak was turned on its head. “The Dark End of the Street” tells of an adulterous affair, and Clarence Carter virtually made a career out of songs about sneaking around cheating. But women were never allowed to directly take the bad girl role. Millie Jackson changed that. Her classic concept album Caught Up deals with a menage a troi from the points of view of both the wronged wife and the mistress. “Hurts So Good” doesn’t deal directly with adultery (although it’s alluded to), but the heroine is clearly ill-treated, but seems to feel the sex is worth it.
JAMES – Hymn From a Village / If Things Were Perfect (Factory 119 1985)
I’ve never really been a fan, but James’ second single is a great piece of rough-edged, folkish indie. It has an anthemic quality like their later records, but combined with an endearing, shambling quality.