Choice cherries from the Saturday’s 50 playlist tree

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Mott the Hoople – The Moon Upstairs: Shit fire, Ian ‘Unter and the lads mined a heavy seam when they recorded this way back in the mid 70s. Verden’s distorted organ (oo-er, missus), Mick’s fat guitar tone and Overend’s farting bass all combine to make one of the heaviest riffs ever recorded. No-one else quite rocked in such a shambolic way back then.

Van Halen – Ice Cream Man: I love the way this opens with Eddie’s acoustic and Dave’s smutty vocals and then crashes in after a few verses with the full band and some killer bluesy guitar. A bit of a studio knock-off but still splendid fun.

Johnny Winter – Mojo Boogie: Nice slide from the best albino bluesman of all time. This comes from Winter’s Alligator label years when he eschewed his early rock excesses and played all blues – with no loss of raw feel or excitement.

The Rezillos – I Like It: Scotland’s finest punks with a sense of humour and a unique approach to covers with a Gerry and the Pacemakers song. Short, snappy and poppy, this doesn’t outstay its welcome.

The Tubes – Let’s Make Some Noise: Not their best-known track but fun all the same. Nice synth bass and guitars combine to make a funky riffy track with fun vocals in the chorus.

Green on Red – Rock & Roll Disease: Stuart and Prophet with one of the finest examples of downer rock ever recorded and one of the strangest snare drum sounds ever committed to tape. Lyrics so dumb they’re clever…

The Cure – Friday I’m in Love: The Goth/Punk thing aside, Robert Smith can write a mean power pop song when he wants to. Beautifully multilayered jangling guitars and Smith’s breathlessly fey vocals make this a ‘feel good’ tune.

John Prine and Iris Diment – In Spite of Ourseves: This avoids being hokey with some genuinely witty lyrics. On the face of it a throwaway song but on careful listening nothing could be further from the truth. Nice harmonies with John Prine sounding as if he’s 70 (as he’s always done!) and some simple but effective acoustic guitar.

Hall and Oates – Had I Known You Better Then: Hall and Oates first two major label albums are stone classics. This is from ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ which is lighter in mood than the more intense ‘War Babies’. Acoustic rock, beautifully performed, arranged and recorded. It was downhill all the way for them from here on…

Joe Satriani – Back to Shala-Bal: Great shredding from Joe whose instrumentals always had an identity of their own and didn’t rely on technique over melody. Mind-blowing guitar playing with Joe’s tapping well-featured.

Flip Wilson – Ugly Baby: Stand up from one of the greatest comics ever. Wilson had a beautiful rapport with the audience and an endearing way of telling a story in such a restrained way that the punch line killed you when it snuck up on you. Available on YouTube.

Randy Newman – Baltimore: Randy can’t sing for shit, but he’s one of the US’s best song writers and knows how to meld melody and lyrics to produce highly idiosyncratic but memorable compositions. Particularly nice piano on this track too, with the verse chords having a nice tense quality.

Left Lane Cruiser – Wash it: As far as I can find out, this band are just guitar, drums and vocals. Imagine the White Stripes being able to produce credible blues music crossed with early ZZ Top and you’ll get an idea of their style. Raw, but extremely well-played and highly recommended to those people who think Seasick Steve is any good (that excludes me 100%).

Hamster Theatre – Comatose, Oye: Uncategorisable. Imagine some sort of Frankensteinian blending of Hatfield and the North, an avant garde accordion player, Blowzabella on some rather bad drugs and a Cardiacs fan who’s been listening to a lot of the more obscure instrumental works of Frank Zappa played backwards and you’re maybe able to appreciate what a total mix up this band is. Good though!

The Honeys – Surfin’ Down the Swanee River: Brian Wilson isn’t all about intensely beautiful tunes and harmonies. He also produced many throwaway pop tracks by a wide variety of acts, including the Honeys with a certain Mrs Brian Wilson amongst its 3 members. File under ‘dumb but fun’. Brian contributes some sublime backing vocals.

The Darkness – Get Your Hands Off My Woman: For a year or so the Darkness brought FUN back to pop music. As serious as a plastic dog turd, Justin and co produced an enduring classic album in ‘Permission to Land’, which still sounds fantastic today. Derivative? Yes, but what the fuck do people think Oasis are? Deeply missed.

Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom – U Rockin’ Me?: Big fuck-off Hammond B3 sound, jazzy funky guitar, horns…what’s not to like? Not much like this around these days but Ron and co are still flying the flag. Maybe just a 12 bar, but it’s how you play ‘em, innit?

Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t it be Good? (12” extended mix): Nik had it all back in the 1980s…great songs, voice, guitar and keyboard chops, studio skills, arrangements, etc, etc. This is better than the single mix as the harmony guitars are more prominent. Why he didn’t remain successful is beyond me – listening to the guitar doubling the horns in the solo I’m struck by how fantastically talented he is.

Ash – Shining Light: A lovely song from a band which has always impressed me with their choice of chords. In particular I love the way they stick in a minor chord when you’re expecting a major one. Not the most talented band instrumentally but the songwriting transcends this. Music like this reminds me why I love the whole pop/rock music thing. and, above all, why I started. Dammit, it sounds so young, fresh and optimistic!

Starclock – Glasses: More power pop from a particularly good album. Nice jangly guitars, melodicism and almost XTC’ish vocals, but not typical of the rest of this skewed but brilliant album. I know nothing about this band but they can sure as shit play. They even cover a Zappa track – ‘The Black Page #1’ with sax and guitar doubling. Zappa meets XTC…could anything be finer? I may have rediscovered one of the best albums ever made! 

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