Friday, 7 August 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 39 (Top Five): AAA Super Heroes

Faster than a speeding Grateful Dead guitar solo, more powerful than a Who live album, flying faster than Wings at the Speed of Sound, it’s....super heroes on our AAA top five! Whether its weedy humans yearning for superhuman strength, Paul McCartney reminiscing about his favourite comics or the Kinks doing the batman theme tune, there’s a nplace for it on our top five week. So sit back and leave the crime-fighting/record buying to us...

5) Hero (David Crosby and Phil Collins, ‘A Thousand Roads’ 1993): Classic latter-day Cros song isn’t actually about super heroes as much as its about fairytales but, heck, the idea’s pretty close so we’ve let it pass. In typical Crosby fashion, the pained narrator of this song can’t work out why life won’t follow the nice and simple good-versus-evil patterns laid out in his childhood books, where the heroes always win, the villains are always caught and the fair maidens are always grateful for the rescue. Close friend Phil Collins helped out with the track (a lot of the music’s meant to be his, although the words are pure Crosby) and why this much ballyhooed single failed to become a hit I’ll never understand. 

4) Batman (The Kinks ‘Live At Kelvin Hall’ recorded 1966, released 1968/ The Who ‘Ready Steady Who!’ EP 1966): To the Batmobile’s CD player, quick! The original series of ‘Batman’ looks even more dated than Paisley wallpaper and Carnaby Street shoes, but back in 1966 it made quite a splash – so big, in fact, that two separate AAA groups marked it’s arrival. Neither of these ‘projects’ are typical ones – the ‘Kelvin Hall’ LP is a marking-time badly recorded concert LP that was kept in the vaults for two years in Britain whilst ‘Ready Steady Who’ was a five-track goofing-off EP recorded somewhere between ‘A Quick One’ and ‘The Who Sell Out’ while the band wait for Pete Townshend to come up with his next masterpiece. Both of these riff-heavy bands are quick to seize upon the fun descending-ascending theme tune chords to good use and wrap their sweet-and-sour tonsils around the title phrase, but otherwise both are completely different. The Who do their ‘batman’ as if it’s a surfing song, with the peculiar rat-a-tat drumming as conventional as anything Keith Moon ever did (that’s still only by comparison, however) and The Kinks segue their ‘Batman’ into all sorts of goodies during an inspired nine-minute medley, including a raucous version of ‘Milk Cow Blues’ and a laidback ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’.

3) Legendary Heroes (Allan Clarke, ‘The Only Ones’ aka ‘Legendary Heroes’, 1979): The Hollies singer spends a whole album talking about his past (and present) before ending his 6th solo LP with this reminiscence about schoolboy comics and the magic lands it gave him. Like Crosby, the real world is found wanting in comparison to this easily-read make believe and the whole song sounds like some sort of requiem for childhood lost (not the first time the Hollies use that theme, either – see Clarkey’s B-side ‘Not That Way At All’ for a very different-sounding song on the same theme). 

2) Magneto And Titanium Man (Paul McCartney/Wings, ‘Venus And Mars’ 1976): It’s Macca’s turn to revisit his childhood comics this time – what with this and the ‘Rupert’ song, we know more about Paul’s childhood than most people’s. Typically Macca, though, this isn’t a lament on lost innocence but a cracking story song that might have come straight out of one of the comics. As far as I know, neither magneto or Titanium Man really exist (I heard they were in the running for the mineral-heavy TV series ‘Sapphire and Steel’ but got cut out) and follows the eponymous heroes thinking they’ve been sold out by their loved one – only to find it’s all been a set up. Ah-hah!

1) (Wish I Could Fly) Like Superman (The Kinks, ‘Low Budget’, 1979): Classic, typically Ray Davies-like song in the, err, untypical disco genre about a weedy, weak-kneed human who dreams of having the strength to put the world to rights and make it better for his loved ones. Afraid of heights but dreaming of being able to fly, this is more wonderfully vivid characterisation from The Kinks with the thudding drums and bubbling bass making the whole thing superbly claustrophobic.

Well, that’s all for another week. Must dash – there’s worlds out there to save after all! More vinyl shifting next week.  

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