Monday 1 July 2013

Comparatively obscure debut compositions from 10 future AAA stars (News, Views and Music 200)

This week’s album reviews has focussed on the first ever published songs by two leading AAA brethren: Stephen Stills and Neil Young, so for this week’s top ten we thought we’d look at ten other debut compositions by what we reckon to be ten of the most successful AAA writers. Now, some of these we’ve covered before (the ‘first’ songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, among others) and other ‘first’ recordings are quite well known in their own right, often as their band’s debut releases (The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’, Cat Stevens’ ‘I Love My Dog’, George Harrison’s ‘Don’t Bother Me’, Grace Slick’s ‘White Rabbit’, The Small Faces “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”, The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ and Syd Baratt’s ‘Arnold Layne’ among them). With some writers, who had to wait longer to find fame and fortune, we’re not actually sure what their very first song was (Noel Gallagher, Alan Hull, Graham Gouldmann and Mark Knopfler included). This list, though, is likely to contain the first fruits of ten songwriters/songwriting partnerships that will be about to go into hyperdrive but haven’t quite caught fire yet, with tips on where to hear this music and whether it’s any good! Here they are, then, in as close to chronological order as we can manage:

1) Paul Simon “Hey, Schoolgirl!” (written and released in 1956; since released on several compilations and box sets and by both Simon and Garfunkel and ‘Tom and Jerry’)

Garfunkel and Simon (as Tom and Jerry respectively) had their first hit, not in 1966 as fresh-faced 24-year-olds with ‘The Sound Of Silence’ but as even fresher-faced 14-year-olds with their debut single. While a local hit rather than a statistic-breaking chart topper, it was nevertheless a huge achievement for two kids still at school who’d never written a song before (Arty gets a co-credit for the first and almost last time). While you’d never rate it as one of Paul’s deepest or greatest songs, there is already a real sense of understanding about how songs work and the chorus-verse structure is already a lot neater and more flowing than almost all of Paul’s contemporaries. Only the lyrics don’t really fit well with later Paul Simon songs although even these (‘woop-bop-a-loo-chi-ba’) make a lot of sense in the context of Paul’s most recent work, which has gone right back to this doo-wop period in both ‘The Capeman’ and most recent album ‘So Beautiful Or So What?’ where, when Paul fades away in the afterlife, this snatch of nonsense lyric is all that’s left of him. Tom and Jerry released several more records, only some of them up to this standard (and sadly, as ‘experiments’, they were often relegated to B-sides) while Paul’s work gets more interesting still when he hits 16 and forms Tico and the Triumphs and starts singing about teenage angst...

2) Graham Nash/Allan Clarke “Little Lover” (written circa 1963 and released on ‘Stay With The Hollies’ 1963)

Few bands around as early as 1963 got their own songs onto their first records and while The Hollies only managed one compared to the seven Lennon-McCartney got on ‘Please Please Me’ this is still an impressive achievement. ‘Little Lover’ was written while Tony Hicks was still very new to the band and not yet part of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash songwriting team, with school-friends Allan and Graham writing this one on a day off from school (much like the first Beatles originals). It’s not one of their best either, a little bit too much like the 1950s records both loved to sound ‘contemporary’ even by 1963 standards (it’s exactly what you’d expect The Everly Brothers tackling a Chuck Berry song to sound like) and the rhyming of ‘lover’ and ‘discover’ is not the best rhyme this partnership will ever make. For all that, though, the pair of budding songwriters already know how to harness the rhythmic power they have in the band, giving drummer Bobby Elliott a better chance to show his stuff than most Hollies covers of the period, and Eric Haydock shines on the song’s walking riff. Not a bad starting point, ‘Little Lover’ holding its own with a good half of the cover songs from the first Hollies LP.

3) Mick Jagger/Keith Richards “Tell Me” (written circa 1963 and released on “Rolling Stones’ 1964)

Listening to this few people would be able to tell that this is the first fruits from a writing partnership that, within 18 months, will be writing songs like ‘Satisfaction’. Perhaps considering writing blues and rock songs sacrosanct and impossible for two middle class white boys instead the Stones try to sound like a cross between The Beatles and The Supremes. ‘Tell Me’ doesn’t even have a proper rhyme in the chorus (‘Tell me you’re coming back to me!’) and an uncomfortable ragged riff that’s light years away from Keef’s exhilarating ideas to come. For all that, though, ‘Tell Me’ brought a lot of kudos at the time when bands didn’t often writer their own material and Brian Jones felt sufficiently upset by his colleagues writing together that he effectively begins a four year huff. An odd but fascinating song, quite unlike even the next batch of Jagger-Richards songs (most of which are ballads written with other people in mind) never mind the rock and roll epics to come.

4) Ray Davies “You Still Want Me” (written circa 1963, released in 1964 as The Kinks’ second single)

Most people assume that ‘You Really Got Me’ was the first Kinks single, but actually it was the third – even if Ray Davies had written it long before ‘The Ravens’ (as they were back then) ever had a record contract. Timing is a little bit hazy, but most sources state that his first song properly finished was the A side of Kinks single number two, a bouncy hand-clapper in the ‘Beatles-do-Motown’ mould. Whilst more successful than their debut single (a rather limp version of the Little Richard classic, released because the Beatles were getting such attention from their cover of it), ‘You Still Want Me’ is a little bit tentative and raw, not possessing the flaw or the individuality of almost all Ray Davies songs to come. In actual fact its closer to the driving, relentless sound of the band’s 1980s work than the cat-and-mouse game perfected on ‘You Really Got Me’ and quite a few other Kinks A-sides to come. I prefer the B-side, a harmony-laden R and B foot-tapper ‘You Do Something To Me’ in which Ray and Dave mesh their harmonies to great effect and already sound recognisably like The Kinks. ‘You Still Want Me’, though, is the sound of a band in flux, not yet certain that their destiny lies in being not like everybody else.

5) Eric Stewart “Long Time Comin’” (written circa 1964 and released as the B-side of Mindbenders single “It’s Just A Little Bit Too Late” 1964)

Graham Gouldmann wrote so many songs covered by other artists that its hard to tell what his first song is; similarly Godley and Creme only really properly started writing songs for the ‘Hotlegs’ album of 1970 that’s the 10cc debut in all but name. Eric Stewart, though, first got his name on a songwriting credit on the back of the Mindbenders’ third hit, a song that features several Stewart trademarks to come (long held notes, a sweeping melody that goes from high to low and back again over a short sequence of notes; a general sense of optimism) along with a Merseybeat-ish rattling rhythm that 10cc never really used. Stewart shares lead vocals with the band’s lead singer Wayne Fontana for the first time, too, and the song clearly suits him much more than his ‘leader’ who treats this song as another R and B rocker instead of a more graceful Merseybeatish ballad. Not that distinguished yet perhaps (Eric will come into his own as a writer in 1966 when Fontana leaves the group and becomes the new de facto leader) but a good likeness for what’s to come.

6) David Crosby “The Airport Song” (written circa 1964 and released on The Byrds’ rarities compilation “Never Before” in 1988)

The biggest surprise of the various ‘early tapes’ of the Byrds around (collected first as ‘Preflyte’ in 1986, although this song only appeared on the second volume ‘Never Before’ a couple of years later) is not the band doing an acoustic ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ or Gene Clark revealing a rock and roll side that he’ll only ever use again on rare occasions. No, it’s David Crosby’s first composition which for some reason he and the other Byrds never returned to again, despite the fact that his next batch of songs (‘What’s Happening?!?!?’ and ‘Wait and See’) aren’t anything like this individual and ‘finished’. In fact it’s more like an early CSN song, cryptic in lyric but with a tension in the backing that seems to tug away at Crosby’s relaxed ‘smiling’ vocal’ in a way that Cros won’t re-learn for some years yet. The title, too, has nothing to do with the song (another harbringer for things to come) and the guitar tuning is best described as ‘eccentric’, whilst following an internal logic all of it’s own. If the middle eight sounds squarely borrowed from early Beatles that shouldn’t get in the way of what a surprisingly adventurous and pioneering song this is, one far too good than to have sat in the vaults for nearly 25 years.

7) Mike Nesmith “Different Drum” (written circa 1965, although Nez’s version won’t be released till the 1972)

Papa Nez might have been called a ‘young unknown’ in early publicity for The Monkees TV show, but he’d actually achieved a great deal already in his 24 years. As a performer he was an unknown: a series of single releases under the name ‘Michael Blessing’ and ‘John, Bill and Mike’ had gained good reviews but hadn’t really sold. As a songwriter though Nesmith had already scored a couple of top ten hits, with the Paul Butterfield Blue Bands’ heavy reading of his song ‘Mary, Mary’ (which The Monkees recorded on their second album with Micky Dolenz singing) and the first, ‘Different Drum’ (a song Nesmith won’t release himself until 1972, although it is heard briefly in the Monkees TV episode ‘Too Many Girls’ where Nesmith, playing a deliberately bad country performer, rushes through it at top speed). The song was covered by the Stone Ponys, a bit of a one-hit wonder act although lead singer Linda Ronstadt would go on to have a glittering career of her own (working with Neil Young on some of his best-selling albums as well as having hits herself). Unusual in being a) a ballad b) about love and c) featuring the title sung several times over (most Nesmith songs have titles that have nothing to do with the song), ‘Different Drum’ reveals a sweet and sensitive side that doesn’t appear in many other Nesmith songs. Notably Mike never released this song under his own name until much later on in his career, despite releasing almost a dozen ‘Michael Blessing’ singles, suggesting he deliberately wrote this song for someone else to sing.

8) Justin Hayward “London Is Behind Me” (released as debut solo single in 1965)

Justin’s first Moody Blues song ‘Fly Me High’ might have flopped but it changed the band’s sound forever: psychedelic, guitar-based, with its roots in folk rather than R and B, a sound the band build on for their next two singles, the more successful ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ and ‘Nights In White Satin’. Really, though, its just a poppier version of Justin’s three flop solo singles recorded for the ‘London’ label in 1965 and 1966. ‘London Is Behind Me’ is the first song (truer than he knew, given how the Surrey-born Hayward is soon to end up in a Birmingham band) but in truth they all sound much the same, Hayward the folkie singing quiet protest songs with just his acoustic guitar to accompany him. While not that successful in and of themselves, you can already hear Hayward’s ‘innocence-gone-wrong’ persona and although more Earth-bound than most Moodies songs to come the hapless romantic sounds much the same, looking back on his life with guilt and regret. Sadly all of these Hayward solo songs are unavailable on CD as of the time of writing – though Justin is understandably reluctant to let the world hear his ‘baby pictures’ they’re really pretty darn good for the period and considering his lack of experience at the time.

9) Jerry Garcia “Cream Puff War” (written and recorded circa 1967 on ‘Grateful Dead’)

When the Dead released their debut record in the summer of love they were still largely thinking of themselves as an r and b covers band, albeit a bit more psychedelic than usual. There are 11 songs on this first album and only two of them are originals: ‘The Golden Road’ credited to the whole band (via the ridiculous pseudonym ‘McGallahan Skjellyfetti’) and Garcia’s ‘Cream Puff War’. Noisier and rockier than most Garcia songs to come, this is one of the few lyrics Jerry ever wrote himself before teaming up with his old college buddy Robert Hunter and its’, well, a little over done. (‘No, no you can’t take my mind and leave! It’s just another trick you’ve got up your sleeve!’) Even though ‘Cream Puff War’ sounds different, though, its heart is still very much in the same place, standing up to the Vietnam War when few other bands dared to try and setting out an argument as to why ‘straight’ society are more mad than a band like the Dead would ever be. In a sense this song is folk-based protest poetry a la one of Garcia’s big influences Dylan, but Bob would never have used such ‘hip’ terminology or turned in such a rocky arrangement.

10) Roger Waters “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” (written and recorded circa 1967 on ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ 1967)

Syd Barratt dominated the first Floyd LP – the only one he was an active participant in making (although a few leftover songs from the first record make it to the second). In 1967 the rest of Pink Floyd were still ‘the tail of Syd’s comet’, with keyboardist Rick Wright the star-in-waiting after his keyboard and harmony vocals did the next most to shape the record. Already, though, future band ‘leader’ Roger Waters has slipped his first song onto a record and proved he will be much more than just the ‘bass player’. ‘Stethoscope’, though, is a clumsy song, without the love of words or big themes that Waters will come to be known for, although this long list of grievances and seemingly random words whose only link with each other is that they rhyme (‘Moon, June, Greasy Spoon!’) do sound a little like the ‘list’ lyrics Roger so loves to write (just think of the ending of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ for the most famous example!) The song is also quite nasty, something that won’t really turn up again in Roger’s songs until as late as ‘Animals’ in 1977 and quite at odds with Syd’s more childish and innocent songs, even if it gives the rest of the band more of a chance to show off their power and range (Nick Mason never bangs his drums quite so hard again in his near-30 year career!) In truth, the leap from this to the next album’s ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ songs are huge (almost all of which are written by Roger and almost all of which are other-worldly and epic) and Roger never ever sounds like this ever again.

Well, that’s it for another week, news and views lovers. See you next issue!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

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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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)

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223) AAA Grammy Nominees

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229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

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

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232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

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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

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255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

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

257) Tiermaker

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