Thursday 21 July 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 106 (Top Ten): AAA Sports Songs

So, anyone for tennis? The Beach Boys actually – and they weren’t the only AAA musicians with sport on the brain. So this week, to celebrate sports season, here are ten songs related to sports of all shapes and sizes, in strict chronological order. What a racket! (in the song about tennis we mean, of course!) Oh and an interesting fact for you – there are no spice girls songs about sports. Even those sung by sporty spice. I always said that band wasn’t fit!

1)    Karate! (a song from the Beach Boys demo tape 1961, later issued as ‘Lost and Found’ in the late 1990s): As far as I know none of the Beach Boys were karate experts, which might make the choice of this inoffensive instrumental number seem an odd choice – until you remember that only one of them actually liked surfing anyway! The Beach Boys sound pretty mature for a bunch of 14-20 year olds on most of the other ‘Lost and Found’ recordings – but not here; Brian’s shrieks of the title aren’t that convincing and even younger brother Carl sounds like he’s just borrowed his copy of the sheet music from someone rather than a song he’s used to playing. Still, in common with the other recordings, this is pretty darn impressive for the pre-Beatles era and delivers a few kung-fu kicks to what else was around in the early 1960s! Does it sound like people doing karate? Err no, it sounds like a bunch of young dudes surfing!

2)    The Boxer (a song by Simon and Garfunkel, included on their ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ album, 1970): Is boxing really a sport? Not here – it’s a way of life Paul Simon seems to be saying – with the title character pretending he can throw off everything life has to throw at him, whilst revealing glimpses of how hurt he really is every time something goes wrong. One of S and G’s greatest songs, this hymn to overcoming obstacles was recorded in various different places on umpteen different sessions and how they got the whole thing to work so seamlessly together I’ll never know. Every ‘thwack!’ on the drums really does sound like being in a boxing ring, but two people whacking great lumps out of each other was never as artful or meaningful than here.  

3)    Cricket (a song  by The Kinks, sung by ‘The Vicar’, from their rock opera ‘Preservation Act One’ 1973): This is a curious song by The Kinks which really interrupts their tale of corruption and politics in the village green. It’s sung by the ‘vicar’, a character we never hear of again and who isn’t one of Ray Davies’ more successful characterisations. His very English song is here to remind us that life is like a game of cricket, that we should always play by the rules and beware the spin-bowling given by the ‘devil’ and his followers (‘Beware the demon bowler!) Actually there’s quite a good extended metaphor to be had here, what with life and temptation trying to knock us off our safe perches, but it’s a puzzling song in the context of the rock opera and is something of an irritant seeing as the ‘rock opera’ has only just started getting into its stride. Does it sound like cricket? Yes, but only the most leisurely paced drizzling three-day event type! 

4)    Channel Swimmer (a song by 10cc, the B-side to their ‘***’ single, 1976): 10cc man Graham Gouldmann will go on to spell his end with the band working on a solo spin off album all about a bunch of cartoon animals at the Olympics, so it’s no surprise that even early in his stint with the band he’s delivering a song about the sport of swimming. This song, which like all the early 10cc B-sides never appeared on album, is a typical number of the time with the narrator moaning about all the awful little things happening to him – the solitude, cold water and uncomfortableness – before ending with the slightly bigger factor that he can’t actually swim. With it’s regular beat and fluid guitar lines, this song does sound a bit like the art of swimming – but it’s the early heats of a steady stately marathon rather than a frantic 50m race.

5)    Night Game ( a song by Paul Simon, from his 1975 album ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’): When asked what he most wanted to be if not a musician, Paul Simon once said he’s like to be a baseball star. It’s been a passion that’s run across much of his life (the musician in his ‘One Trick Pony’ film bonds with his son by playing baseball with him) but only once in song, with this curiously sombre piece about death. In the song a baseball team seems to be facing a rout, until you realise that the ‘two men down’ aren’t just poor players but actually dead, with the pitcher reverently given his uniform and shoes while in the grave. The idea is that the ‘in the moment’ feel of being involved in a sport happening in front of you is juxtaposed against time passing and the oldness of the stadiums in which the sport is played, which will outlast even the heroes who play inside it. Does it sound like baseball? Erm, not unless the grim reaper is playing the game!

6)    Roller Skatin’ Child (a song by The Beach Boys, from their 1977 album ‘The Beach Boys Love You’): From the sublime to the ridiculous, this is the fun side of the Beach Boys, with a stomp that mimics their earlier surfing records and the Brian Wilson-written Jan and Dean ode to skateboarding ‘Sidewalk Surfin’. The chorus line of ‘well oh my oh gosh oh gee, she really sets chills inside of me’ says where this song is going, as the narrator falls in love with a girl on skates. Dire Straits, of course, did their own hymn to skateboarding with ‘Skateaway’ – who’d have thought rollerblading would have been so popular in music? Does the Beach Boys effort sound like roller skating? Erm, sort of, at a rollerskating party perhaps! 

7)    The Matchpoint Of Our Love (a song by The Beach Boys, from their 1978 album ‘MIU’): The ultimate AAA sports song – a whole song about how the end of a romance is like a tennis match! Brian Wilson was on something of a health kick at the time, forced on him by the band’s ‘minders’ in order to bring his weight down – something which might explain this and the last track – although quite why he chose to make tennis his latest metaphor for dying love is anyone’s guess. Brian takes a rare lead vocal on this track, suggesting he was quite close to it, but sings it so so straight – is this a joke a la ‘A Day In The Life Of A Tree?’ or ‘HELP Is On The Way?’ (as in ‘you broke me just like a serve’). Or a heartfelt admission that his marriage to wife Marilyn was falling apart? (as in ‘No one could ever love me like you do?’) Does it sound like tennis? Well, not really, but there is a regular rhythm and lyrics about the two lovers responding to what each other does which could be heard in tennis terms. Really, though, music this slow makes it sound more like a chess game! See also the 10cc video for ‘Oomachasdooma (Feel The Love)’ which plays out the tennis match/romance scenario for real (the pun in the video is that the players ‘feel’ the ‘love’ score – ie they haven’t got anything on the board yet! And if you think that’s confusing, wait till you actually see the video...)

8)    Faster (a song by George Harrison, from the 1979 album ‘George Harrison’): Is it a bird? Is it a wasp? No, that funny buzzing sound you hear at the start of the song is George Harrison’s big extracurricular passion (no not gardening, the other one!) formula one. What a sport, as your AAA scribes can tell you, full of daring, intelligence, interesting characters, man with machines – and that’s just in the mechanics garages! Like many of the songs on this list, the sport is used as a metaphor for something bigger, with the bravery of the driver going out and driving fast whilst ‘living life in circuses’ juxtaposed against the bravery of his loved ones, helplessly watching events unfold onscreen. George, a real fan of the sport, is seen in the promo video being driven around Brands Hatch (back then the home of the British GP) by multiple champion Jackie Stewart, said to be George’s main inspiration for this track. One other little known fact is that George helped pay for Damon Hill to become an F1 driver, after his multiple champion dad Graham’s death left a financial hole – a fact the 1996 world champion Damon only revealed after George’s death.

9)    Stars of Track and Field (a song by Belle and Sebastian from their 1996 album ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’): There he was, playing discuss ‘for Liverpool and Widnes’ (poor bloke), with the starstruck weak-kneed narrator calling him and other athletes ‘beautiful people’. He thinks that that much commitment must take real talent – the hours of ‘empty training’, literally running nowhere – but is disappointed when he speaks to his idol and finds he only became famous in order to win sponsorship money and wear ‘Terry underwear’ for free as part of the deal. Yet another hero dies young because of all the extra exhaustion she puts her body through, ‘she had the moves, she had the speed, it went to her head’. But her head, too, is empty, her only qualifications coming from sleeping with the head of the college. As the chorus re-asserts, are these athletes really ‘beautiful people?’ Or are they only beautiful on the outsides, not on the inside? A fade in, a short burst of adrenalin and then a rather painful-sounding ending where all hell breaks this loose, this is pretty close to what running used to be like for me, although the song fades before the panting and wheezing finale. 

10) I Don’t Want To Play Football (a song by Belle and Sebastian from their 2002 film soundtrack ‘Storytelling’): That Stuart Murdoch really didn’t like sports did he? To be fair, though, he was quite a successful boxer when he was at school so can’t have been that out of condition and in this case at least this song isn’t from the heart but written to accompany a film. Sung to the sweetest tune possible, Murdoch tells us ‘I don’t understand the rules of the game, catching, throwing, taking orders from a moron, I’d rather play a different kind of game...’ Hmm, blue army! Does it sound like football  - again yes, but only the way I play it, slowly, haphazardly and with a tendency to fall aprt just when things are getting interesting. We also have to add here the presence of a real live footballer, Paul Gascoigne, on a remake of Lindisfarne’s ‘Fog On The Tyne’ which made #2 in the charts. Even more shocking, I actually bought a copy just to hear the B-side which features a sample of Alan Hull and Marty Cragg singing the title hundreds of times over, set to a horrible 1990s disco beat. Fog on the Tyne? Mine all mine? You can keep it sonny! Now what can I substitute for this record?!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
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2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

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171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

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227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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