Monday 8 October 2012

Spoken Word Passages On AAA Songs (News, Views and Music Top Ten Issue 165)

The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and screaming or singing softly to express great loss. But occasionally musicians use their voices (and those of others) in quite different ways, using a normal speaking voice for variety, for comedy, for weirdness or to make a statement. Here, then, are the eight best examples of this we could think of, plus two good tries that, arguably, don’t work very well (keep your hand ready for the ‘skip’ button...) Only one entry per artist (or we’d have a top 50 with Pink Floyd alone) and each entry is listed in order of successfulness (in our opinion, anyway).

Pink Floyd “The Great Gig In The Sky” (from ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ 1973; ‘I am not frightened of dying, anytime will do, I don’t mind’)

‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ is a remarkable album in many ways, but for me its lasting claim to fame isn’t Roger Waters’ acerbic lyrics about the pressures of modern life or David Gilmour’s astonishing guitar solos. It’s the very adult, unique way that spoken word is used throughout the album. In an attempt to make their album more ‘universal’ the band invited a bundle of guests and local faces down to Abbey Road to answer some questions Roger had written out on sheets of cardboard and speak their answers into a microphone. Interviewees included members of Wings (recording ‘Red Rose Speedway’ next door) including Paul McCartney, although only guitarist Henry McCullouch was eventually used. The voice that works best, however, is Jerry Driscoll, the doorman at the famous studios, whose distinctive philosophy is all over this album. This is his crowning moment on the album, ruminating on death when asked by Roger ‘what are your thoughts about dying?’ with his usual aplomb, speech that makes for a great double act with Rick Wright’s beautiful chord sequences.

Small Faces “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” side two (an album from 1968; ‘Are you sitting two square fold on you botty? Then we’ll begin...’)

‘Professor’ Stanley Unwin, master of gobbledegook and star of the 1950s, doesn’t seem the obvious choice for a rock and roll album, but then again ‘Ogden’s’ is not your usual rock album. A spoof of every rock opera of the day, its second side tale of Happiness Stan searching for the other half of the moon (which has disappeared in the sky) is taken by many fans at face value today. A very quirky, eccentric English album full of charabancs and hermits and talking flies, it’s the perfect match for Unwin’s ‘upside down’ dialogue, which links all six songs of the suite. Unwin reaches his peak during his link before closer ‘Happydoystoytown’, relating the party that’s taking place to celebrate the return of the moon ‘and dangly’ (‘Little Boy Blue brought his mellotron and left his horn at home’). It’s Unwin’s thoughtful, funny narration that keeps Stan’s story interesting and – though not made for repeated listening – makes ‘Ogden’s the memorable little album it is.

Moody Blues “Late Night Lament” (from ‘Days Of Future Passed’ 1967; ‘Breathe deep the gathering gloom, watch lights fade from every room...’)

The first – and best – spoken word passage from the Moody Blues works best because, more than any other Moodies album, this work really is a ‘suite’ of songs linked by one theme (a period of 24 hours from first light to dusk). Despite containing some of the Moodies’ weakest songs, this album is well loved – partly because it contains ‘ Nights In White Satin’, no doubt, but also partly because of this haunting poem written by drummer Graeme Edge and spoken by keyboardist Mike Pinder. Edge’s poetic words ring more true here than on some of his later, more tongue-in-cheek efforts and the lines about the light of the day disappearing and flickering shadows across the room, leaving onlookers to decide ‘which is right...and which is an illusion’ is one of the band’s most haunting images.

Belle and Sebastian “A Century Of Elvis” (from the EP ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’ 1997; ‘We were sitting in the living room, on a sofa the wrong way round...’)

‘Oh look there’s Elvis, by the bike sheds...’ The best of the two eccentric spoken word comedy pieces bassist Stuart David came up with for Belle and Sebastian (we covered his spin-off ‘Looper’ albums on these pages a couple of issues back), this song tells the unlikely tale of how the narrator is convinced that a local dog is the re-incarnation of Elvis. Taking the dog home and adopting him, the narrator shows him some conspiracy programmes about Elvis’ demise and adds how much his dad looks like Elvis (both the dog and the rock icon). Stuart’s broad Scottish accent is muted throughout the song, causing the listener to really turn the sound up loud and it’s the whole straightforward ‘well, why wouldn’t he?’ ness of the song that makes it work so well. If the tune sound familiar that’s because its identical to the Stuart Murdoch song ‘A Century Of Fakers’, a track that didn’t actually appear until the next Belle and Sebastian EP ‘3...6...9...Seconds Of Light’ (both pieces are collected on the EP collection ‘Push Barman To Heal Old Wounds’).

The Monkees “Zilch” (from ‘Headquarters’ 1967; ‘Mr Doboliona, Mr Bob Dobalina...’)

The Monkees wasn’t like most television series then or now; improvisation and energy were the name of the game, with the foursome making up many of their lines and ad lobbing their way through often second-rate scripts (especially in the second series). Alas that energy didn’t often make its way onto the band’s albums, which are surprisingly comedy free for a band known for their laughs-a-minute on TV. ‘Headquarters’, the album where the band had the most control over their own work, comes the closest and even though songs like ‘Zilch’ and ‘Band 6’ confused as many people as they entertained they comes the closest to capturing that free-wheeling Monkees spirit on tape. ‘Zilch’ is my favourite, all four Monkees writing down various random phrases and in-jokes they’d come across while touring or listening to the radio and reciting them all at the same time while trying (unsuccessfully) to fend off the giggles. ‘Never mind the furthermore, the pleas is self defence’ is a phrase Micky had to learn for the TV series and hated; ‘It is of my opinion that the people are intending’ is a phrase Mike heard on the news; ‘Cghina Clipper Calling Alamita’ is something Davy heard while waiting for an aeroplane flight and goodness only knows where Peter first heard ‘Mr Dobolina, Mr Bob Dobolina’. There’s a shocking edit halfway through the piece and a lot of giggles towards the end (the ‘Rhino handmade’ edition of ‘Headquarters’ reveals that its probably because Davy improvises the lines ‘chickens...elephants’ instead of what he should be singing and Micky is busy making up gibberish words). The end result is very 60s and wouldn’t have been attempted today, but as with so much of this website, that’s no bad thing.

Jefferson Airplane “A Small Package Of Great Value Will Come To You Shortly”
(from ‘After Bathing AT Baxters’ 1967; ‘No man is an island...he’s a peninsular!’)

Another very 60s piece, this collage of noise and sound effects by drummer Spencer Dryden is a fascinating insight into life in a recording studio circa 1967. It’s mainly Dryden, Jorma Kaukanen and Jack Casady you hear trading nonsense words and blowing raspberries. The whole piece seems to be going nowhere until the band start trying to go all Shakespeare with the line ‘No man is an island...’ His serious reverie is interrupted by Dryden’s quick wit, adding ‘he’s a peninsular!’ in one of the best punchlines of any AAA album. Truly bizarre, although heard between the equally far-out but rather more serious songs either side of it (‘The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil’ and ‘Young Girl Sunday Blues’) its deliciously intoxicating, sounding like the start of an exciting journey that could literally go anywhere (‘Baxters’ remains my favourite Airplane album because, for all its faults, its the freest and most exciting of all the band’s albums, perhaps the most 1967 album of all the albums released that groundbreaking year).

The Kinks “You Make It All Worthwhile” (from ‘A Soap Opera’ 1974; ‘Would you like steam pudding and custard for afters? Darling that would be marvellous!...’)

Ray Davies’ concept album about the ‘star maker’s slow descent across an album from rock icon to tired and jealous office worker crops up a lot on these pages. A cod-musical, it works best on the unscreened television special (still the best thing I’ve ever found on Youtube) where so much more spoken word is added to get the storyline across. While words are used throughout on the lyric booklet and often on album, it’s not until the turning point of ‘You Make It All Worthwhile’ that the loose concept really comes together. The starmaker, aka Norman, comes home tired and stressed from the office and hates his wife’s cooking, before coming to his senses and realising he shouldn’t set his sights so high (her offer of ‘steam pudding and custard for afters’ is met with the line ‘darling, that would be marvellous!’ If nothing else, this little section adds a poignancy and warmth to a record that doesn’t sustain it across the whole LP.

Oasis “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” (from ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ 2000; ‘Nice, life, bright, music...I’m all for it!’)

Noel Gallagher has always been one of rock’s biggest historians, knowing not just his Beatles and Stones and Sex Pistols but interested in all the key changing points of the past five decades. The Isle Of Wight Festival might not strike the average worldwide fan as the most important nexus point in time, but for us UK fans its the closest we had to a ‘Woodstock’. Unseen for 25 years, the film of the festival (‘Message To Love’) was finally finished and screened in 1995 – just when Oasis were at their commercial peak – and the 1960s were all around once more (its no coincidence that the Stones’ Rock’ n’ Roll Circus, unseen since being filmed in 1968, was also screened a year later). The organisers thought audience members breaking down security put up for their own good and sitting on hills to avoid paying the entrance fees were a con; some of the audience, thrilled by tales of Woodstock and the idea that ‘music should be free’ tore them down and set burger vans alight. The result was more like a war zone than a peace and love festival, although what’s curious if you’ve seen the film is how supportive the (mainly OAP) locals are of the own affair. The quote above is from an elderly lady who loves the idea that the youth of the day hate war (she’s of a generation to be toiuched by both world wars), but its set against the rather more sneering tones of a festival organiser who adds ‘We put this festival on with a lot of love for you pigs...if you want to break our walls down, then you can go to hell’). A complete one-off in the Oasis canon, this largely instrumental song sounds like a war being fought between good and evil, with neither gaining the upper hand – a bit like the troubled (but under-rated) fourth album it comes from.

Simon and Garfunkel “Voices Of Old People” (from ‘Bookends’ 1968; ‘I got little in this world; I give honestly without regret...’)

‘Bookends’ first side is Paul Simon’s writing at its best. Looking at the lifespan of a human being, it looks at youth growing older and reaching old age, his ideals worn out, his passion spent. It’s a masterful creation for a songwriter only aged 26 and is spoilt by just this one song. Art Garfunkel, in love with the idea of the album, takes it upon himself to visit a local old folk’s home in America and capture the lost enthusiasm for life and the narrowed vision of small struggles for survival on tape for real. Alas his four minutes’ worth of war veterans bad-mouthing the care they’ve been given and re-counting all the unhappy moments in their lives works better on paper than it does on the record, where it rather undoes the good work of the middle-aged song ‘Overs’. The sad fact is, none of these people had the chance for redemption – some died before the record came out and certainly all of them are long since dead now – and somehow that gets in the way of the record’s main motif, which is basically ‘seize the moment before it goes’. Something of a mistake and in retrospect I’m surprised the record label Columbia allowed it through.

The Beach Boys “Cassius Love vs Sonny Wilson” (from ‘Shut Down Volume 2’ 1964; ‘A fight suddenly breaks out between Brian and Mike...’)

However the worst spoken word moment on an AAA record must surely be this staged fight between Mike Love and Brian Wilson, who were just beginning to have fights for real in the studio. Al Jardine introduces the latest (and worst) spoken word moment made to fill up another three minutes on a Beach Boys record recorded in a hurry (other examples include outtakes and an interview) in such an uncomfortable I-don’t-want-to-do-this-manner that yoiu know something is up and so it proves. Brian attacks Mike for singing through his nose, Mike attacks Brian for sounding like Mickey Mouse, Carl and Dennis chip in half-heartedly on different sides and so it rumbles on, on and on. At last the pair appear to make up, admitting basically that they need each other, but the fade-out of the record still features the two copying each other’s styles (parting shot from Brian ‘at least my nose isn’t on the critical list!’) A truly awful moment. The title refers to a real boxing fight of 1963 by the way – Cassius Clay is better known today as Muhammad Ali, but as he’s never been forced to sing ‘Fun Fun Fun’ for the world to hear (to the best of my knowledge anyway) the comparison seems rather pointless.

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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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands
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
163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)
164) AAA Songs About Islands
165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended
167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

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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