Monday, 22 July 2013

Otis Redding "Pain In My Heart" (1964) (Album Review)




“Pain in my heart, she’s treating me cold, where she is Lord only knows” “When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we’ll see, no I won’t be afraid, no I won’t shed a tear, just as long as you stand by me” “She got ruby lips, boy she sure got pretty hips, and when she walks down the street all the cats go flipitty flip” “I need your love every hour, I need it every hour, come on and set my little soul on fire, I say I need love, love love love” “Everybody needs somebody sometime” “These arms of mine are burning, they are burning from wanting you, these arms of mine, they are wanting to hold you” “Fine little girl she waits for me, me catch the ship for across the sea, me sail the ship all alone, me never think me make it home” “Three days and nights me sail the sea, me think of girl constantly, on the ship I dream she there, I smell the rose in her hair” “Me see Jamaica moon above, it won’t be long till me see my love, I take her in my arms and then, me tell her I never leave again” “I want security, without it I had a great loss, I want security, and I want it at any cost” “Don’t want no money right now, don’t want no fame, but security – I want all of these things, that’s all I want from you, and a little love that will be true” “You left me for another, you told me that was your lover, so I’m begging and I’m pleading, baby, I’m on my knees, that’s what my heart needs” “Lucille, won’t you do your sister’s will? When you ran away left, yeah, but I love you still” “Woke up this morning, Lucille was not in sight, ask my friends about her, but all their lips were tight, Lucille please come back where you belong, I’ve been good to you baby, please don’t leave me alone”
Otis Redding “Pain In My Heart” (1964)

Pain In My Heart/The Dog/Stand By Me/Hey Hey Baby/You Send Me/I Need Your Lovin’//These Arms Of Mine/Louie Louie/Something Is Worrying Me/Security/That’s What My Heart Needs/Lucille

There he stands, proudly on the album cover, looking more like a politician than a musician – the only time a picture of Otis will be used on the front of one of his records during his short lifetime. It’s a wonder Otis is on the front of even this record – here we are, on January 1st 1964, at a time when civil rights were perhaps the biggest talking point in America just two months after Dr King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech (along with who shot JFK and excitement about who’s going to be on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ a month before the Beatles make asking that question seem forever anti-climatical in the years to come) and no one black in America, not Marvin Gaye, not Stevie Wonder, is appearing on the front of record covers yet, nervous record company executives fearing that the sight of these singers might put off their white audience (Little Richard’s first LP and Chuck Berry’s second being the ‘other’ exceptions to this rule). Almost certainly coincidentally, but very fittingly, an unusual pose and a trick of the light make the clean-shaven, largely apolitical Redding look not unlike Martin Luther King at one of his rallies, standing at a microphone with his left arm held out to the audience and a circular ring of shadow giving Otis the look of a moustache he’ll never choose to grow. Now, this first Otis Redding record isn’t a political record by any means – it doesn’t have any political or social comment and, unlike most future Redding albums to come, doesn’t even feature a ‘black’ take on a contemporary ‘white’ song (‘Day Tripper’ and ‘Satisfaction’ being the two AAA examples), a half-genuine, half tongue-in-cheek recycling of the hundreds of white r and b bands who’ve suddenly started doing black music in the past few years. But just by being here, as early as 1964, with a mixed-race band already backing him on every song, ‘Pain In My Heart’ makes a strong statement even visionary Luther King would have been proud of. In the future it will be a case of one step forward and two steps back as Otis and his group Booker T and the MGs becomes worshipped, reviled and ignored in turn, but for now this mere 21-year-old is breaking new ground and isn’t keeping quiet about the ‘dream’ he wants to share with us.

Despite his tender years, Otis had already been through more ups and (mainly) downs in his career than most struggling young artists. Stints in other bands (including The Pinetoppers, where Otis only got the gig because he agreed to be the ‘driver’ too, for a band too young to have their own licenses) and a series of flop singles across 1962 and the first half of 1963 had meant that even the small faith some of his early followers and supporters had in him was failing. On the back of this sleeve-note there are some very comprehensive sleeve-notes by Bob Altshuler which (rightly) rave about this fresh new singer with the great new sound and (wrongly) make out that his path to stardom was both speedy and certain. It really wasn’t. The sleevenotes state of Otis that ‘his very first single was also his first hit!’ The first thing they don’t tell you is that ‘These Arms Of Mine’ – the earliest recording on this album – took five months and word-of-mouth support before it became a hit, not a costly flop, being released in October 1962 and finally charting in March 1963. The sleevenotes also hint that Otis went straight from this single to ‘Pain In My Heart’ and even greater success, but no: singles two and three were actually ‘That’s What My Heart Needs’ and ‘Mary’s Little Lamb’, little heard of flops that as far as I know are still unavailable on CD and feature an unusual, guttural vocal from Otis who is clearly still playing round with styles. The third mistake is saying that due to the success of single number four (title song ‘Pain In My Heart’, the one recording from this album casual fans might know) meant that Otis was ‘musically established’. It didn’t at all. Arguably the earliest of many an AAA plagiarism suit was brought against this record by the publishers of Irma Thomas’ ‘Ruler Of My Heart’ and as Otis was the composer the music industry began to distrust and dislike this young soulful giant with the giant voice. Had ‘Pain In My Heart’ flopped, or the court case been bigger than it was, then Otis’ career could have been over here and now, despite being all of 21 and arguably unlucky (there are some similarities between the two songs, but then you could argue that about any song and the only identical section is the way the word ‘heart’ is sung; surely a very common word to be used in soul songs!). It must have been with a mighty large sigh of relief from Redding that instead the song became a big hit.

Emotionally, though, Otis was already a man old before his time. He’d quit school at 15 despite being a promising pupil because his family badly needed some money; his father Otis Senior had been dying of tuberculosis for some years and only worked irregularly and with difficulty. Otis was never an autobiographical writer in the sense that so many of our AAA stars were – Ray Davies and John Lennon to name but two – but the lyrics of ‘Security’ from this record must surely be about the ‘security’ that Otis’ early success gave him, taking the threat and responsibility for escaping poverty off his shoulders. What’s more, Otis had a ‘second’ family to look after, meeting wife Zelma when he was 19 and she still a schoolgirl of 15; their first child Dexter was born in 1960 when money was still very tight (Otis only singing as a hobby at that stage and taking any odd job going to survive) and the fact that the parents didn’t get married till the year after, in 1961, was still a career-ending scandal by early 1960s standards. To put it bluntly, Otis might have been ridiculously young to score his breakthrough hit, but he probably needed it more than most and few singers – even this talented – would have been up to the pressure on Otis’ shoulders to ‘give it all up and get a real job’ (that awful soul-crushing cry that’s destroyed far more careers than it should). Otis clearly had a gift, and reviews of the bands Otis played in nearly always singled out his voice, but even that wasn’t always praised in these early days (many reviewers feeling that Otis was merely copying his idol Little Richard in the days before he discovered his ‘Mr Pitiful’ persona) and a spell of tonsillitis shortly before that first recording was a real jolt, briefly making it look as if Otis would never sing again. In fact, Otis wasn’t even the ‘lead singer’ the day that Stax Records heard him – he was merely part of the ‘Pinetoppers’ band, featuring lead singer Johnnie Jenkins, which Stax was grooming for stardom. With time to fill, though, Otis was giving his usual slot for a couple of solo vocals and brought the house down, a just lucky break for someone who’d had so much bad luck.

All that said, the combination of these flop singles and the fact that Otis was singing in such a revolutionary style meant it took many soul fans a while to get used to his voice and intensity meant that Otis was recording this album at the end of 1963, a full 18 months after he got his big break. In that time Otis’ style has come on leaps and bounds, despite the cul-de-sacs of singles two and three, and arguably this debut album is a lot more accomplished than it might have been. Otis is still clearly in awe of trailblazers Little Richard and Sam Cooke (and there’s more nods to Otis’ close friend Rufus Thomas than the single song of Rufus’ that he covers here) but already Redding sounds like no other soul singer around. When BBC4 (finally!) got round to making a programme about Otis one comment that came up often was that Otis ‘knew how to ‘worry’ a note’. There have, arguably, been technically better soul singers around than Otis over the years, but nobody sounds as sincere or as emotionally connected with what they are singing – to my ears anyway – and that’s all because of this curious ‘wobble’ with which Otis sings many of these lyrics, right from the first. Take ‘Pain In My Heart’ – on paper it’s a so-so song about heartbreak that’s not particularly original or developed; add in Otis’ tear-dripped vocal, though, and the song comes alive, especially the song ‘heart’ which is turned into a five-syllable word. We fully believe that this is a narrator who ‘can’t sleep’ because of the ‘pain in my heart’ and the sudden drop out of the song (which leaves Otis a capella, screaming out the remedy that ‘you can love me! Love me! Love me!’ with all his power) is electrifying. Not every vocal here is up to his best – this is a debut record after all, and Otis doesn’t yet have his template in place – but you can already hear the sound of things shifting into place as Otis tests out what to keep and what to drop from his act.

One thing he thankfully does continue is his songwriting. Otis ends up writing or co-writing six of the dozen songs that make up this album, which already puts him on a par with Lennon-McCartney and Brian Wilson and ahead of everyone else when it comes to a singer recording his own material for early 1964. Not all of these songs are gems yet – there’s no easily recognisable standards-to-be like ‘Respect’ or ‘Dock Of The Bay’ just now – but all half-dozen do far more than merely fill up the numbers and add up the royalty cheques. ‘Security’ ‘Something Is Worrying Me’ and ‘These Arms Of Mine’, especially, are already the equal of the ‘cover’ material here (except perhaps the standby ‘Stand By Me’, some ten years before John Lennon had a big hit with his cover of the song). Not many soul singers write their own material and those that do tend to prefer writing music to words (Stevie Wonder being the obvious exception), so it’s quite something that already, from the first, Otis is writing so much of his own material. Otis is less sure of himself on the cover versions, not quite possessing a character strong enough to compete with Sam Cooke and Little Richard at their game and Otis is too busy doing the ‘obvious’ cover songs for now (he’ll become quite famous for looking out unknown B-sides, flop singles and album tracks as his career goes on). In fact three of the songs on this album are ‘tied’ in first place of having the most AAA cover versions of all at three each including Otis’ (‘Lucille’ covered by The Beatles and The Hollies’, ‘Louie Louie’ covered by The Kinks and Beach Boys and ‘Stand By Me’ covered by The Searchers and John Lennon – in fact this last song is said to be ‘the 4th most covered song of all time’ – according to Broadcast Music Inc anyway!) That said, the crowning moment on the album might well be the title track, a purr of a song that might not have been the first version of this Allen Toussaint standard but is arguably the best, the ‘breakthrough’ moment of the record that you can’t imagine being sung by anyone else ever again.

You also can’t imagine Otis being backed by another band. Unlike some soul singers who take a while to find their backing buddies, Otis played with Booker T and the M Gs and horn section the Mar-Kays from the very first. It’s a match made in heaven from the first, the mixed race band who’d already made quite a name for themselves with the perennial single ‘Green Onions’ giving Otis the space to work but the same level of energy and commitment as their singer. I’m surprised, actually, that their name isn’t bigger on the album cover (they’re merely ‘mentioned’ in the sleevenotes, which most fans in 1964 probably never got round to reading anyway) because they were a much bigger box office smash than Otis in 1963 – or that as established songwriters already the band didn’t get one of ‘their’ songs onto the record (Otis won’t start his songwriting partnership with Steve Cropper until the next album). If I was cynical I’d assume that Booker T and co assumed the album wouldn’t sell (one hit, one eventual semi-hit and two flops are not what most careers are borne from) but no – every single source I’ve ever read reckons that the band had more belief in Otis than even Otis did. Certainly there’s no doubting their commitment here - especially Al Jackson’s inventive drumming, which is actually nearer rock and roll than ‘true’ soul, and the horn section, which follows Otis around this record like a tiny storm cloud, suddenly erupting into showers or ‘dampening’ the song with their minor key phrases.

In fact, the many ballads aside, ‘Pain In My Heart’ is arguably Otis’ most rock and roll record out of the five he released, back at a time when he could easily have gone in either direction. You can’t ask for a rockier song than ‘Louie Louie’ or ‘Lucille’ in 1964, both of which are covered on this album, especially if you view this as a ‘1950s’ version of rock and roll complete with horns. Otis was a huge fan of Little Richard and his vocal take on ‘Lucille’ is pretty close to the original, even if he refrains from doing the ‘wooh!’s and the horn parts are firmly in the soul genre. Almost every AAA band we cover have ‘rock’ somewhere in their description (even if its ‘folk rock’ country rock’ or – in Pentangle’s case – ‘anything and everything including rock’), which makes this debut album one of the more accessible albums for curious AAA fans who, like me, still consider ‘soul’ to be the thing that the Coalition don’t have rather than a musical genre they know and love. Otis won’t reach the majority of his ‘own’ audience of Americans until the Monterey Pop Festival of mid 1967 (only six short months before his death in a plane-crash) where his fast-paced energetic music really stood out amongst the exploratory jams and slow-burning epics of hippiedom and curiously was always much bigger in the UK where fans could perhaps trace his influence on the Merseybeat scene more readily than most Americans. Otis would never have gotten away with singing this set at Monterey, but this catalogue is perfect for the 1964/65 equivalent of ‘Monterey’, the ‘Ready Steady Go’ TV special broadcast in black-and-white where Otis was the main star, along with guests like Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe. Alternating burning ballads with up-tempo songs, you can really see a direct line between Otis’ music and the influence on British groups like The Beatles and The Stones obvious (the year before Otis repays the compliment by making ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘Satisfaction’, respectively, his own). American groups, traditionally, were more into folk than soul or Motown, but it’s easy to see why British fans loved this record in particular, featuring interpretations of many key songs of the early 1960s that every other young rock and roll band had in their setlists too.

However, there’s no getting away from it: this album is no ‘Otis Blue’. Otis hasn’t yet hit upon the ‘winning formula’ of writing songs that all stand out from the crowd and all go somewhere different, from empty ‘pop’ soul ballads to deep reflections over civil rights, gender rights and, err, mini-skirts. Great as most of his vocals are on this album – and fantastic as Booker T and co are on the backing – Otis hasn’t yet learnt to be himself on every track. The original songs are promising, but only ‘These Arms Of Mine’ are truly up to the standard Otis will reach later on, whilst the cover songs are often no replacements for the originals. However, like many debut records, the fascination is with hearing how much of the artist’s ‘future’ sound is here from the start and, at his best on parts scattered across this record, Otis is already a truly giant personality of soul, a talented interpreter and writer making the most he can out of his sudden big break and pulling on all the pent-up emotion of the past 21 years. He hasn’t quite learned how to harness that powerfully yet, or how to put his stamp onto every little thing he sings, but you can hear that talent and personality growing before your very ears and, like the best debut albums, the curious listener who heard this album the first time round before the peak of Redding’s fame must have known that a new talent was on the way. Given the problems of his young life, his lack the turbulence of his career to date and the fact that it was still deeply unusual for a black American to be the ‘star’ of his own record – never mind have a mixed-race band playing back-up behind him – the odd mistake on Otis’ first record is more than understandable and excusable and the occasional masterpiece here is all the more unexpected and exciting.


‘Pain In My Heart’ might not be the traditional album opener - it’s a slow, gradually-burning epic rather than a rocker or toe-tapper – but it does set out Otis’ personality from the first. Redding’s fourth single and second hit, it’s so perfectly tailored to his ‘Mr Pitiful’ image (the ‘nickname’ DJs gave Otis in 1965 after noticing how many of his hit songs were ballads) that it’s a surprise that Otis didn’t write it. The song was actually written by Allen Toussaint using his mother’ maiden name of ‘Naomi Neville’ (because, due to another song publishing mix-up, he wasn’t ‘allowed’ to use his own name for a few years) and is deeply unusual for his style (traditionally he’s more jazzy and lighter with his words than the clumsy-but-entirely-in-keeping-with-the-emotion lyric of this song). Otis ‘worries’ each line with real emotion – not shouting or screaming but wracked with worry, so that we really get into the head of this narrator looking for his loved one and wondering where she is. The Mar-Kays barely play a note in the song, but their guttural, asthmatic drawl on one note really sets the tone for the song, especially set in contrast with Booker T and Steve Cropper who are playing fun, optimistic flourishes on the piano and guitar. The song cleverly doubles back on itself every time Otis hits the middle eight of ‘Come back! Come back! Come back!’, the song all but going into reverse before hitting the opening 12 bar blues again. Ending the song with a last guttural ‘mmm-hmmmm!’ and a full 30 seconds of pleading over the fadeout of the track, Otis has marked his own personality song like few others on this album and this song is deservedly the best known song from the LP and one of Otis’ biggest hits right up ubntil his death almost four years later.

‘Do The Dog’ is an unusual choice for Otis to cover. Admittedly he was great friends with songwriter and DJ Rufus Thomas, an early supporter of Otis’ who no doubt wanted to pay him back for his belief, but all of Thomas’ ‘dog’ songs sound the same and are tailormade for a loud, exuberant personality, not for a singer with Otis’ subtlety. To be fair, Otis has a good go and the energy in this song is well up his street, but compared to ‘Pain In My Heart’ you can tell that Otis’ heart really isn’t in this song. I’m surprised, too, that Otis didn’t simply plump for the ‘obvious’ and do ‘Walking The Dog’ (a standard that everyone back in the day did including the Rolling Stones – Roger Daltrey will cover it too on his first solo album) seeing as the two songs are more or less identical (only this song wasn’t quite as big a hit). The horn section has fun recording an up-tempo song and growling, barking and snapping at Otis’ heels as he tries to steer them to the end of the song, and Al Jackson is having a great time on the drum-fills that puncture every verse and chorus. Really, though, it’s a waste of Otis’ talents to hear him give his full vocal force to such banal lines as ‘do the bird dog, yeah...everybody’s doin’ it’ and it makes for a curious choice for this first album and even more for the key ‘second track’ on the album (see many past ‘News, Views and Music’s where we discuss the importance of the second song on an LP) because it sums up almost the complete opposite of Otis’ character: quiet, subtle and emotionally involved.

‘Stand By Me’ is closer to Otis’ heart – he’s said to have been obsessed by the song – and he does put in a very strong performance that beats almost all of the many other cover versions of this song to shame (if not quite Lennon’s or Ben E King’s original). However, the backing musicians – who have clearly played this song before – are for perhaps the only time during their years with Otis playing against him, not with him, turning in a rather ramshackle accompaniment that’s faithful to the original but not to the new nuances Otis is dragging out of the original. A sweet ballad with a bit of a kick, it’s perfect for family man Otis who admitted in interviews he identified with this song and his young family and the troubles they’d already overcome together. The song was written by King with the famous partnership of Leiber and Stoller around the spiritual ‘Lord Stand By Me’, adjusting the lyrics to reflect a romance rather than a hymn to God and – shockingly – King is said never to have liked the song much at all, only recording it at the last minute when he was playing on a session with the Drifters and had a bit of time spare to mess around with it. Otis version is deeply faithful musically to the original – a little too much so, not giving the singer a chance to stamp his own identity onto the song – and Booker T and co never seem to vary their tempo or dynamics, whereas Otis varies pretty much from a whisper to a scream here. There’s an unusual stumble, too, near the end of the song when Otis kicks in again to soon singing ‘when.....whenever you’re in trouble’ which should, really, have been corrected (nobody’s quite sure on recording dates for this album anymore but chances are it was done very quickly given how unknown Otis was at the time and what a gamble getting a full LP was for him at the time). Ironic then – the one time Booker T and the MGs don’t ‘stand by Otis’ is on this song, so dear to his heart. I’m surprised the song didn’t last longer in the live set, though, as the arrangement only needs a couple of tweaks to be where it should be and it was already a guaranteed crowd pleaser after several hundred cover versions down the years.

‘Hey Hey Baby’ (not the more famous Bruce Channel song, but an Otis original) is arguably o n e of the better songs on the album, perhaps because Otis and the band had known it for longer than the others (this is one of the two songs Otis sang the day he got his big break in Johnnie Jenkins’ band). Only a smidgeon away from rock and roll, Al Jackson’s big heavy drumbeat and a twin guitar attack from Steve Cropper makes for an infectious backing track that really has a ‘swing’ about it. Otis absolutely soars over the top of it, enjoying the chance to let his hair down on a simple song and arguably sounding even more like hero Little Richard here than on ‘Lucille’ (just check out his squeal on ‘when I look at yoo-wooah’). There’s not much going on in the lyrics which take repetitiveness to new heights (the first verse is basically ‘Hey pretty baby, you sure is fine’ repeated over and over, while verse two adds that ‘she got big blue eyes’ and verse three ‘she got ruby lips’), but this is a song that’s more about having fun than saying any real detail and the band and singer are cooking up such a storm on the song’s very Chuck Berryish groove that you don’t really care. I’m glad Otis didn’t fill up all his albums with simple ‘groove’ songs like this one, but it’s a real shame that he never really tackled this style again, preferring to go for softer songs or one with ‘messages’ like ‘Respect’ (which is probably the closest original to this song in the Redding canon).

‘You Send Me’, a slow bluesy version of a Sam Cooke song, is another cul-de-sac on the way to greatness. Sam Cooke is best as a confessional, conversational singer who draws the listener aside as if to tell them a story. That’s not really Otis’ style and although again he gives a good go he’s not a natural at making this sort of intimate style work. One of the more faithful cover arrangement son the album, it gives Booker T the space to trill away on the chords like a bar-room pianist, but the rest of the band sound a little lost: Steve Cropper is simply filling in guitar parts to make up the sound, while Al Jackson seems to have gone to sleep on the drums. Only the Mar-Key horn parts really embellish the track, tugging at the heart strings whilst Otis is never quite sure whether to soar or talk to us instead. In the end he settles for both, only really coming alive on the ‘wo-a-oh-a-oh!’ chorus that seems to come out of nowhere the first time he sings it. Released in 1957, this is one of the older songs on the record and one of Cooke’s earliest hits. It’s not one of the better ideas on the record, though, although pleasingly whoever mixed this record has at last worked out what to do with Otis, putting him straight in the centre and merging the musicians around his central frame. At 3:15 this is also the longest song on the album, although it rather outstays it’s welcome by the last 90 seconds or so.

‘I Need Your Lovin’ is the least known cover song on the album and not much about it is known – my research tells me that it was written by no less than four composers (Don Gardner, Clarence Lewis, James McDougal and Bobby Robinson) but not much else. That’s a shame because this song is another step closer to the Otis Redding we come to know and love, contrasting a nonsense ‘a-wo-wo-woh!’ chorus with a verse that’s closer to Solomon Burke’s ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’. Otis is at his cheerleading best on this song, actually interacting with his band for the first time on record (‘let’s just hear that a little bit louder...now hear what I have to say!)’ and they support him well, especially Jackson’s Keith Moon-style drumming. There’s a false ending at 1:50 that’s especially effective, Otis wo-wo-wohhing things to a close, Jackson hitting a drum rattle and the band coming to a full stop, only for Otis to be so overpowered with emotion that he hits right back into the song for a further minute or so – a trick that will serve singer and band very well by the time of their ‘Monterey’ performance. This isn’t the deepest or longest-lasting song on the record, but like most of the up-tempo numbers on this record it’s a lot of fun and deserves to be better known.

‘These Arms Of Mine’ is Otis’ first hit and for it’s time is quite a revolutionary little song with an emotional honesty missing from most of the rest of the album. Otis is quite clearly writing from the heart here on how much wife Zelma means to him (its not for nothing that Otis’ children call their father’s work an ‘ongoing love song to their mother’) and to the best of my knowledge no soul singer had ever risked being quite this vulnerable on record before, on a genre when its customary to shout and huff and puff instead. Otis’ vocal is noticeably different to normal (perhaps because he’s a couple of years younger and still sounds a bit too much in awe of Sam Cooke, with a ‘conversational’ element to this song which will be unusual for his own style as the decade progresses), closer to crooning than the singing we’re used to, but it’s awfully good – you can easily see why this and ‘Hey Hey Baby’ brought the house down on that first Stax recording and why this record was chosen as Redding’s first single. If there’s a problem with this song that prevents it from being a true 100% classic, though, it’s the lack of variety – the best Otis Redding songs play cat-and-mouse with the listener, taunting cajoling and urging in bursts of emotional fire; this song simply stays the same throughout, which means the last verse in particular seems very flat. The MGs don’t have all that much to do here either, Booker T especially keeping to a rigid cyclical piano part that’s among his simplest on record, although they already seem to have a ‘sixth sense’ about the direction Otis is about to head in. Good but not great then, although the promise in both song and singer is undeniable.

‘Louie Louie’ is one of the most famous of all pre-Beatles rock and rol songs, originally recorded by the Kingsmen and actually written by Richard Berry, not Chuck (understandably, given the funky beat, most fans see the ‘Berry’ songwriting credit and assume its Chuck’s work). Indeed, it’s the only ‘white’ song on this first Otis album, a sign of what’s to come and Otis’ setlists and track listings become ever more varied, with several genres up for grabs. This song was banned from radio playlists for years because of a ‘rumour’ that the song was ‘dirty’ – actually it isn’t (all the narrator is doing is urging his girlfriend ‘Louie’ to go out on the town with him) but the majestically slurred vocals of the original, the ungrammatical verses, the muddy mix and the (for the times) sinister and very suggestive beat scared an awful lot of people. Some bands (even the Beach Boys!) have chosen to go down the suggestive path, others (like The Kinks) make this song all about the rhythm and turn it into almost a Bo Diddley number, but Otis’ is the only version I’ve heard that actually makes the song sound happy (rather than sarcastic). Perhaps Otis identified with the song’s final verse, where a sea-faring man finally comes home to the arms of his wife after a long time apart (unlike some rock and roll wives Zelma refused to have anything to do with life on the road). Reclaiming the ‘spoof patois’ of the original and singing it straight, Otis turns this white interpretation of early reggae into a show-stopping soul number, with the horns rather than the guitar parting out the famous jagged riff and singing the song solo throughout, instead of the more usual ‘harmony’ versions. It’s not quite up to the very different versions of ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Day Tripper’ (of which the former, especially, comes close to matching the original), but it’s evidence of Otis’ good idea and his courage at trying all styles. The MGs show again that, sans horns, they could have been a great little rock and roll band, especially the synchronised strut that Jackson’s drums and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn’s bass have going for them. Perhaps the best of the cover songs on the record.

‘Something Is Worrying Me’ might well be the best of the non-single originals on this album too. Picking up on the sleevenotes perhaps (that talk about how Otis could ‘worry’ a note like no other singer), Otis comes up with arguably his deepest early-period song. This isn’t a song about surface at all like most soul; songs – the narrator knows that his ‘girl’ has fallen out of love with him because of subtle things, little actions and responses that no one else would ever understand. Most soul singers writing their own material would simply come straight out with it and ask her what the hell she’s playing at – but Otis is a wiser, subtler man than that and keeps his worries to himself, getting increasingly concerned as the song progresses. Compared to Otis’ other songs on the record, this is by far the most original (it’s actually constructed more like a ‘Merseybeat’ song in terms of having the horns play at the end of most lines, instead of in bursts throughout) and Otis has rarely been better, on the verge of tears throughout. The song’s likeable tune is in the minor key, but it’s not knee-deep in self-pity; it’s kind of at the borders of major and minor, happiness and misery, forever trying to right itself throughout the song but somehow never quite escaping the gaping hole of the primary key. With the possible exception of ‘Stand By Me’ this is by far the most accomplished song on the album, with a memorable hook and three verses that go in similar but not identical directions and is staggering good for a songwriter on his first half-a-dozen or so songs at the tender age of 21. A key song in the building of Otis’ character, this song is arguably even more of a theme tune for Otis than the self-knowing ‘Mr Pitiful’, the narrator trapped in a hopeless situation he feels he can never bring up and yet plays on his mind the whole time. It’s such a shame that Otis never really writes a song like this again, preferring to write more in the line of ‘These Arms Of Mine’ and ‘Security’ instead. Perhaps the greatest highlight of the album, even with the worthy title track.

‘Security’ is up next, in fact, another Otis original that’s a cut above average and is clearly at least partly autobiographical. Far from the boozing, drug-taking women-seducing young tearaway that most singers in their early 20s are painted to be, for Otis a life on the road was an unfortunate necessity rather than an opportunity for a party. I can’t think of any other songs from this period (perhaps only ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ that look upon ‘security’ as being the main ambition of the singer, rather than love, power, riches or freedom. Of course, for Otis; narrator security represents all that and more anyway, Otis’ unstable childhood and teenage years meaning that security (enough money to live off comfortably, rather than well) is the ultimate dream: to go through life without having to look over his shoulder at either his wife or his taxman. Fittingly, the main riff for this song is less of the storm that runs at different speeds across this album than a relaxed breeze, the accompaniment to relaxing on desert island rather than the emotional turbulence of most early Redding originals. This song’s good natured trot will be recycled many a time in Redding’s career, often more developed than the sound we have here, but there’s something likeable about this song which isn’t after ‘money’ or ‘fame’, but simply after a break from the hard times of the past. The MGs aren’t quite as sure of this song as Otis – it’s a sound they haven’t really used together before although they’ll get to grips with it soon enough – and of the band only Al Jackson’s sudden bursts of fire are really on the money. Perhaps they were a bit taken aback by this song’s message, the ultimate contradiction to the usual all-or-nothing ‘soulful’ way of life.

Goodness knows getting one hit in  the ultra-competitive 1960s was hard enough - getting two in a row was enough to stump all but the best. Unfortunately for Otis his attempt at a follow-up to debut single 'proper' 'These Arms Of Mine'  was rather undistinguished and lost in the crowd amongst so many great soul classics released in 1963. [4] 'That's What My Heart Needs' is in a similar style to 'These Arms Of Mine' and features the same lovely walking pace piano-led melody as future classic 'I've Been Loving You Too Long', but sounds unfinished and rushed, a paltry solo horn part seemingly improvised on the spot and missing it's cue. Otis' voice, too, has lost the majesty of the earlier recording, perhaps with nerves getting the better of the singer who had been still in shock and caught off guard when asked to sing at his first session. As a recording, this is sadly a rather obvious flop, with neither Otis nor band getting their teeth into the song and singing full strength as he would soon became famous for doing. However as a song, this track is under-rated, the closest yet to what would become known as the Redding signature sound: a cry for help mixed with a dread of being lonely, wrapped up in a golden coat of emotional billing and coo-ing. Otis has been dumped, the love of his life having left him for another man, but Redding cares too much to give up, taking down all his guards and offering up his soul to her because she is the only thing his heart needs. Possessing by far the best Redding lyrics so far, it's a real shame the band never went for another take or that Otis didn't re-record this song at a later date. 

‘Lucille’ is a real curio – our only chance to hear Otis pay homage to his favourite singer on one of his most famous songs. It’s a brave choice for a singer who has already carved out a name for himself doing quite a different style of song and Otis doesn’t really have the joi de vivre that makes the original so affecting. In fact, a very traditional soul-style horn lick means that Otis ends up doing a far more unconventional stab at this song than either The Beatles (onm a BBC session) or The Hollies do on their cover versions. Arguabvly, though, Otis; rather downbeat take on the song is probably closer to the lyrics of Richard’s original: Lucille has, after all, gone – she’s ‘not in sight’ and all her friends aren’t talking, ‘their lips sealed tight’. The Hollies probably got it best by turning ‘Lucille’s name into a cry of pain, sung as if sobbing – in Otis version, though, he’s too busy barking orders at the poor girl and doing a Little Richard impression to get his point across. To be honest, Otis might have been better off tackling ‘Tutti Frutti’ or ‘Long Tall Sally’, songs that don’t rely so much on the ‘singer’ sounding happy even whilst sounding sad. Even so, you can see why Otis was compared so much to Little Richard Penniman: the two share a similar gruff growl that’s quite infectious, even if Otis’ is a good octave deeper!

Overall, then, ‘Pain In My Heart’ is a real mixed bag of Otis’ future-famous ‘Mr Pitiful’ style and a few experiments that got discarded along the way – some of them dropped for good reasons, others that sadly might have been every bit as interesting as the style Otis chose to adopt. Considering that, his singles aside, Otis has never been in a studio before (and indeed ‘These Arms Of Mine’ is his very first recording) Redding is a commanding vocal presence even when trying to tackle a style that patently doesn’t suit him and when things work across this album you can really hear him come alive. His life-long backing band The MGs work against him just as often as with him on these early recordings, but you can already hear the strong empathy band and singer have for one another and Otis is just beginning to be comfortable enough with the band to begin his trademark ‘calls’ to them. A little bit of that a lot sooner might have spared us from the worst moments on this record, but then this is a band more or less making this up as they go along, probably rather surprised after such an up-and-down start to their career to be making a whole album at all (and this back in the days, remember, when live shows were traditionally shorter than the running times for albums, especially in ‘soul’ circles). Perhaps the greatest achievement on this album is Otis’ songwriting – not every song is a classic but a good half of his six earliest songs are real gems that deserve to be better regarded and loved by fans, ones that are already dealing with deeper themes than the average records of the day and the choice of song material bravely tackling ‘white’ standards alongside the ‘black’ ones. Otis wasn’t really one for commenting on social, political or racial problems during his short four year career but often ended up being a talking point for all of these things by simply standing up there and doing his job, taking all the flack that came his way because of it. He probably wouldn’t have seen the connection but it’s fitting that its gentle giant Otis, who barely had a cross word about anyone, that ends up looking like the peace movement’s saintly Martin Luther King on the front cover. It might not be a topic mentioned anywhere on any of the songs but in the words of a song from the next Otis album, simply by being out there being what it was meant that, after this album, ‘a change is gonna come’. The world is still changing because of the ripples made by this album and the four after it and a whole host of similar albums of the same time and hopefully will for many decades to come. Overall rating – 6/10

Two other Otis Redding articles from this site you might be interested in:


'The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/if-youre-regular-tothis-site-you-may.html

'Otis Blue' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-4otis-redding-otis-blue-1965.html




Evolution Of A Band: Comparing 1st lyric with last lyric (NVM 203)




For this week’s top whatever-number-this-is we’ve decided to compare the first and last (at the time of writing) lyrics by each and every AAA band/star. Did they learn anything in the interim years? Did they come full circle? Or are we simply barking up the wrong tree? Answers on a postcard to the usual address! The results given are in strict alphabetical and chronological order and we’ve plumped for the first release that most collectors would count as a debut single/opening track on a debut album by the way (so The Beatles’ first release is ‘Love Me Do’ for instance, not ‘My Bonnie’ and the last is, fittingly, ‘The End’ from ‘Abbey Road’ not the cobbled-together-from-Lennon-leftovers singles ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’; we’re also treating Jefferson Airplane and Starship as separate bands and ignoring the three ‘solo/duo/trio’ LPs given as the conclusion and start, respectively, of both bands). Also, ‘bonus tracks’ not initially included as part of an album, live sets, ‘reunion’ albums always intended to be separate from a band’s canon, early recordings not released till after a band has made it, Christmas Albums and odd tracks specially recorded for compilation albums don’t count. Oh and 10cc really does mean 10cc in this case, not their almost-10cc album released as ‘Hotlegs’. So there. We’ve had to miss out a small handful of AAA groups because, well, it’s quite hard pinning down just exactly what their last song is – and shockingly I still don’t own the last records by the likes of Nils Lofgren and Lulu just yet and the internet’s not helping (well, that’s what happens when the likes of Neil Young insists on releasing three CDs a year!) Still we have covered 30 ‘first’ and ‘last’ lyrics so that should be enough for now!:

THE BEACH BOYS

First lyric: “Surfin’ Safari” (first single, 1961) “Let’s go on safari now, everybody’s learning how, come on a safari with me!” Latest lyric: “Summer’s Gone” (‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ 2012) “We laugh, we cry, we live then we die, and dream about our yesterdays”

What a sea-journey the Beach Boys took us on in 51 years! The opening lyrics to their debut single set out the stall of their early years as good as any pre-1966 Beach Boys song; this is a band of teenagers out for a good time and fun, sun and surf (although presumably many Californian listeners who lived inland a bit and weren’t ‘hip’ on surfing terminology probably thought they were an environmentalist band what with the references to ‘safaris’). By 2012 that innocence is long gone, the deaths of two founding members, various inter-band and family rows and rifts, Brain Wilson’s nervous breakdown and a spiteful hate campaign from the music press that lasted some twenty years taking their toll. The latest Beach Boys album, for the most part, tries to pretend that the intervening 50 years never happened and largely fails - generally older musicians never sound as old as when they’re trying to pretend they’re young. The album’s saving grace, though, is thisd last track which is actually 20 years old but was always saved by Brian in case the band ever got back together – the perfect ‘farewell’ to a band who provided the soundtrack to so many sun and fun-filled carefree yesterdays.

THE BEATLES

First lyric: “Love Me Do” (first single 1962) “Love, love me do, you know I need you, I’ll always be true, so ple-e-e-e-e-e-e-ase love me do!” Last lyric: “The End” (‘Abbey Road’ 1969) “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”

It’s hard to imagine now but ‘Love Me Do’ really was the best thing Lennon and McCartney thought they had to offer in their songwriting catalogue in 1962. After all, at the time this simple pop blues sounding very far advanced of anything else around, with its wavy harmonica lick and stop-start tempo, so anything more complex wasn’t likely to have been accepted by George Martin or EMI anyway. Seven long years later, however, The Beatles have changed the face of music as they saw it and end their career with a long complex medley which finally turns full circle with a coda that’s one of the simplest and shortest things the band had done since ‘Love Me Do’. The message of both songs is the same too, talking about the connection between people and the need to be loved, even if the complexity of both sets of lyrics couldn’t be more different, McCartney putting together all the philosophy he’s learnt and observations he’d made over the past few years into one pithy sentence designed to end the group’s series of messages on a moral and intellectual high. Interestingly McCartney is the chief writer for both these ‘first’ and ‘last’ songs despite coming from two records dominated by Lennon.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN

First lyric: “The State I Am In” (‘Tigermilk’ opening track 1995) “I was surprised, I was happy for a day in 1975, I was puzzled by a dream, stayed with me all day in 1995” Latest lyric: “Sunday’s Pretty Icons” (‘Write About Love’ 2010) “Every girl you ever admired, every girl you ever desired, every love you ever forgot, every person that you despised is forgiven”

Stuart Murdoch’s writing style has arguably changed little over the years – always writing with one eye over his shoulder to times past and regrets about how things went, there are impressively little differences between the theme of his first and last published songs despite being some 15 years apart. The one new element in his songwriting on last album ‘Wrte About Love’ is his new-found faith in God, however, which encourages him to give up his lifelong obsession with guilt over mistakes past and to absolve others for their mistakes to him. By contrast first song ‘The State I Am In’ finds the character ‘giving myself to God’ only to rebuffed by a ‘pregnant pause’ and a life of misunderstandings every bit as complex and lost as before.

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD

First lyric: “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” (first single, 1966): “Whose that stomping all over my face? Whose that silhouette I’m trying to trace? Whose putten sponge in the bells I once rung? And taken my gypsy before she’s begun to sing?” Last lyric: “Kind Woman” (last track on final album ‘Last Time Around’) “Kind woman, won’t you love me tonight? Won’t you say it’s alright?”

Buffalo Springfield only lasted for three years and a trilogy of albums so in theory there should be the least change of all out groups. Going by just their first and last songs, however, they seem to have gone backwards, beginning with a debut single that’s a complex Dylanesque lyrical protest song and ending with a laidback country-blues that’s one of the simplest and shortest songs the band ever did. This was, after all, one of the most eclectic of all AAA bands and with three writers who all switched from the simple to the complex, which might explain why the two lyrics above (about depression and kindness respectively) couldn’t be more different.

THE BYRDS

First lyric: “Mr Tambourine Man” (First single 1965) “Hey Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m going to” Last lyric: None (‘The Bristol Steamboat Convention Blues’ from ‘Farther Along’ is an instrumental; the next last is from ‘Lazy Waters’: ‘Oh to be wise again, get back to your lazy waters, never needed anyone but you”

The Byrds started their career in 1965 as fresh-faced youngsters singing Dylan cover songs to a Beatles-loving market and the height of cool; they ended it seven years later as troubled bearded old-men-before-their-time, switching from folk rock to country rock via psychedelia and prog rock. Roger McGuinn ios the only Byrd from the ‘Tambourine Man’ days still around at the end, although it’s a Skip Battins ongs that’s the group’s goodbye (instrumentals aside), a fittingly nostalgic song about a childhood place that used to be wise and which you can never find again in adulthood. Like many of the Byrds’ last recordings, it couldn’t be less like the gently optimistic freedom-embracing Dylan song that’s amongst the most uplifting Bob ever wrote.

CROSBY,STILLS AND NASH (AND YOUNG)

First lyric: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (opening track on ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’ 1969) “It’s getting to the point where I am no fun anymore, I am sorry” Last lyric: “Sanibel” (last track on ‘Looking Forward’ 1999) “On an island I will dwell, starlit nights in paradise on the isle of Sanibel, spend my life in paradise on the isle of Sanibel”

CSN kick-started their first album with a mammoth seven minute Stephen Stills epic in several movements that was a ‘letter’ addressed to main muse Judy Collins that Stills could never quite bring himself to post. Beginning with an apology before gradually switching through recriminations, anger, optimism and a sudden burst of pop nonsense in Cuban, it was deliberately placed first to ‘blow’ the three men’s image of pop star wannabes out the window. By 1999, however, and the last csn/y album (we’re not counting live, duo or solo albums – simply to make life a bit easier) things have changed and CSNY end their last album to date with a humble, anonymous cover song about a mythical mystical tropical island where everyone is nice to each other. I could make a gag here about how CSNY’s horizons seem to have narrowed over the years, but actually ‘Looking Forward’ is quite a progressive record (in the hands of Crosby and Stills anyway, if not Nash or Young this time around!) and fully in keeping with the elongated mania of ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’.

DIRE STRAITS

First lyric: “Down To The Waterline” (opening track on ‘Dire Straits’ 1978) “Sweet surrender on the quayside, you remember we used to run and hide?” Last lyric: “How Long?” (Last track from ‘On Every Street’ 1993) “How long until I’m gonna make you mine? How long before you wake up and find your good man gone? How long?”
Dire Straits are unusual in this list if only because sole writer Mark Knopfler knew for definite that ‘Down To The Waterline’ would be his first published song (Dire Straits made many demos before they finally got a record deal and this is always the first song) and ‘How Long?’ the last (‘Brothers In Arms’ was a hard album to follow up and Knopfler knew he would only ever make one stab at it; it was his choice to end the album with the biggest pointer towards his folky acoustic solo career). Like ma ny songs from first album ‘Dire Straits’ ‘Waterline’ is a ‘goodbye’ song, a kiss-off to Knopfler’s first marriage full of lots of imageries of the narrator being ‘lost’ around places the couple used to walk so confidently just a few weeks before – and fittingly, despite barely writing in this style again, ‘How Long?’ reprises the idea for the first time in 14 years, a weary narrator asking his new love to stop keeping him waiting or it’ll be another 14 years before they get together properly. Interestingly Knopfler puts his sentiments across much rawer and less image-based the second time around.

GRATEFUL DEAD

First lyric: “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion!) (First track on ‘Grateful Dead’ 1967) “See that girl barefootin’ along? Whistlin’ and singing’, she’s a carryin’ on!” Last lyric: “I Will Take You Home” (last track on ‘Built To Last’ 1989) “Ain’t no fog that’s thick enough to hide you, your daddy’s gonna be right here beside you, if your fears should start to get inside you, I will take you home”
The Grateful Dead start their career as teenagers, looking forward to a ‘golden road of unlimited devotion’ and then ending it as concerned responsible parents promising to protect their offspring – at least if the band’s first and last songs are anything to by. This sea change takes place across 22 years, of course, and is bookended by two very different writers so its probably not that simple, but its certainly clear that Brent Mydland’s last song (recorded less than a year before his sad premature death) is from quite a different perspective than the Haight Ashbury-embracing fun loving lyrics of the first one |(written by the rest of the band before Mydland joined).

THE HOLLIES

First lyric: “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me?” (first single 1963) “Mary had a little lamb, her fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go, well ain’t that just like me? Following you around?” Last lyric: “The Woman I Love” (last single 1993 – sorry but I refuse to count the two ‘Peter Howarth’ albums as ‘proper’ Hollies!) “The woman I love has eyes of blue, a face like heaven and money like you, the woman I love is standing right next to me and me and...”
Those of you who’ve read any of my many Hollies reviews on this site will know that I consider this band to be one of the deepest, greatest, most intellectual and unfairly maligned bands on the whole site, capable of wit and wisdom and subtlety like few other. The two examples here though are not their greatest hours by any means – the first is a silly novelty single that mentions lots of nursery rhymes and the second is a silly novelty single with an annoying tune that sounds like it’s come from some deranged nursery rhyme. On this evidence the Hollies didn’t progress at all in their 30 years – but we know better, don’t we, dear readers? By the way I’ve taken the ‘last’ Hollies release as the last with lead singer Allan Clarke – I’m not one of those fans who refuses to listen to anything else with The Hollies (the two Mickael Rickfors albums are wonderful) but the two 21st century Peter Howarth albums are pretty awful and have little to do with The Hollies (despite featuring two founding members).

THE HUMAN LEAGUE

First lyric: “Almost Medieval” (from ‘Reproduction’ 1979) “There’s something in your soul that makes me feel so old, In fact I think I’ve died 600 times!” Last lyric: “When The Stars Start To Shine” (‘Credo’ 2011) “It’s been a lovely day, don’t throw the night away, that’s when the stars start to shine”

The two main Human League line-ups are very different – the first released a load of a deliberately obtuse ‘experiments’ using synthesisers whilst looking glum and the second introduced two female singers and a lot of catchy pop hooks, but the latest, poorly-received (but we liked it) League album found them coming full circle to some extent, making an almost ‘dance’ like album (It’s what the first two League albums would have sounded like with access to modern technology and a couple of waitresses). As a result there’s not all that much difference between the styles of the two extracts outlined above- both sound like the work of older, mature years (although most of the League were in their early 20s when they came up with the first song) and the latter means something quite different in context, as the gap between League albums grows into decades and it might well be the last album the band ever make...

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

First lyric: “Blues From An Airplane” (first track on ‘Takes Off!’ 1966) “Do you know how sad it is to be a man alone? I feel so, a solitary being in my home” Last lyric: “Eat Starch Mom!” (‘Long John Silver’ 1972): “Man-made mechanical mover, it will move faster than you can, vegetable lover!”

The first folky Jefferson album is quite different to the ones that came after it – the band is largely a dictatorship led by lead singer Marty Balin rather than a democracy and Grace Slick has not yet joined the band. However the lyrics didn’t really change that much in the band’s six years together – the band’s opening song is a tension-filled paranoid rant against loneliness (that’s a style all of its own despite being called a ‘blues’) and their last song is a tension-filled paranoid rant against, erm, sex toys. I think. The lyrics of most songs on ‘Long John Silver’ are hard to decipher – Grace’s ‘Eat Starch Mom’ most of all. Perhaps that’s the biggest change in the Airplane’s songwriting then, going from a song that’s comparatively straightforward (if quite unlike anything else around at the time) to one of the most obtuse songs in the AAA canon!

JEFFERSON STARSHIP

First lyric: “Ride The Tiger” (first track on ‘Dragonfly’ 1974) “I’m going to ride, ride the tiger! Gonna be black and white in the dead of the night, whole world’s gonna come alive, when you ride, ride the tiger!” Last lyric: “Champion” (last track on ‘Nuclear Furniture’ 1984) “I’ll be the one, I’ll be the only one, in the aftermath of atomic fire, I was the champion!”

Starship, on the other hand, changed incredibly, starting out as one of the most prog-rock of all bands and evnding somewhere between punk rock and new wave. At least musically – the ‘first’ song ‘Ride That Tiger’ could almost be a punk song from the short snappy lyrics here (before moving on to debate the chemical compounds in crying tears in the middle eight anyway!), whilst the ‘last’ song ‘Champion’ was the one last great return to the prog rock sound of a decade before, imagining humanity crawling its way to a utopian future after a nuclear war.

JANIS JOPLIN

First lyric: “Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye” (First track on first album ‘Big Brother And The Holding Company”) “Bye bye baby bye bye, I gotta be seeing you around, when I change my living standards and move uptown!” Last lyric: “Get It While You Can” (last track on last album ‘Pearl’ 1970) “Hold on to that man’s heart, get it want it hold it need it, get it while you can!”

Janis used several songwriters during her short career, all of whom had their own agendas and came from different eras and backgrounds. As a result, perhaps, her ‘opening’ (pre-fame) and ‘closing’ (posthumous) statements couldn’t have been more different: the first song is a rare example of Janis taunting a loved one and dumping him for not being up to her high standards; the last is a lot more believable, Janis telling all of her female listeners that love is a rare and precious thing that can break all too easily. Whilst not my choice for the final track on a posthumous album (‘Me and Bobby McGee’ would have worked better), this song does at least sum up most of Janis’ work quite well and is a far more fitting conclusion to her career than ‘Bye Bye Baby’ was a beginning!

THE KINKS

First lyric: “Long Tall Sally” (First single 1964) “Well I told aunt Mary about Uncle John, they said they got the message but they had a lot of fun, oh baby, yeah baby, having some fun tonight!” Last lyric: “Scattered” (last track on ‘Phobia’ 1993) “To the Earth you are scattered, but you’re going home so what does it matter?
To an atomic mind, scattered here while you travel time?”

Talking of unfitting ‘hellos’, somebody at Pye needs their head examining for passing over Ray Davies’ strongest early material (include ‘You Really Got Me’, already going down a storm at gigs) in favour of this rather limp Little Richard cover the band had only just added to their set. The Kinks were told to record it because the Beatles had just scored a hit with their EP of the same name (yeah, right, because everyone whose a fan of the Beatles’ version will love to have an inferior cover by an audibly nervous and ramshackle new band won’t they?) and so ‘Long Tall Sally’ ended up as probably the least suitable debut single of all time. Much more fitting is the ‘first’ of three attempts at a ‘farewell’ song ‘Scattered’, about the death of the Davies brothers’ aunty and how each of us is just passing through a tiny moment in the grand scheme of life, ‘scattered’ across one particular century in the same way our ashes are when we die. Even better is the single ‘Did Ya?’, which references many a Kinks track before mocking the utopian memories many people have of the 1960s (although technically it’s a ‘bonus’ track on last album ‘Phobia’ so we’re not talking about it here) and ‘To The Bone’ in which a track from the narrator’s past kick-starts a range of memories as the record player needle ‘cuts me to the bone’ (which, as a studio track added to a live LP, doesn’t count either but is well worth digging out).

LINDISFARNE

First lyric: “Lady Eleanor” (opening track on ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ 1970) “Banshee playing musician sitting lotus on the floor, belly dancing beauty with a power driven saw, had my share of nightmares didn’t think there could be much more, then in walked Roderick Usher with the Lady Eleanor” Last lyric: “Driftin’ Through” (‘Here Comes The Neighbourhood’ 1998): “We’re all just driftin’ through, making the best of what we can do”

Lindisfarne went through several changes across 28 years – including a five year break and the loss of almost all their founding members – but they ended up almost at the same place they started, as a folk band quietly urging their listeners to move on from their bad times because something good might be around the corner. The main difference is that first song ‘Lady Eleanor’ is set very much in the past, at a Tudor court full of intrigue and exoticism, whereas the last ‘Driftin’ Through’ is set very much in the present.

THE MONKEES

First lyric: “Last Train To Clarksville” (debut single 1966) “Take the last train to Clarksville and I’ll meet you at the station, you can be there at 4:30 ‘cause I’ve paid your reservation, don’t be slow, no no no no nooooo!” Last lyric: “I Never Thought It Peculiar” (‘Changes’ 1970) “I never thought it peculiar that you helped me pass the time, and I don’t think it’s terribly peculiar that now little girl you are mine!”

‘Last Train TO Clarksville’ was written before there even was a ‘Monkees’ but along with the ‘theme tune’ for the series it helped set the tone from day one: breathless energy, excitement and effortless enthusiasm. ‘I Never Thought It Peculiar’ does much the same, rounding off the band’s original career with a comedy song about the nervous narrator dating his wife-to-be. In between, of course, The Monkees grew up, wrote their own wonderful songs (both these tracks were written by Boyce and Hart who went on their own up-and-down journey with the band), committed commercial suicide by drowning in a post-modern film called ‘Head’ and a TV special that laughed at their manufactured origins via Darwinian jokes about primates – but the Monkees began and ended in much the same place.

THE MOODY BLUES

First lyric: “I’ll Go Crazy” (first track on debut album ‘The Magnificent Moodies’ 1965) “Oh you know I feel alright! I feel alright children! ‘Cause you’re hanging me up baby! I’ll go crazy!” Last lyric: “Nothing Changes” (‘Strange Times’ 1999) “Nothing changes, and nothing stays the same, and life is still a simple game!”

The Denny Laine-era Moodies are quite different to the Justin Hayward era to come (substitute ‘Love and Beauty’ if it’s the second line-up you’re after), a rough and ready R and B cover combo with an emphasis on piano chords. Therefore jumping straight to their last song is quite a strange experience – a spoken word piece that has fan references a plenty, not much of a tune and is accompanied by an orchestra. True Moodies fans know, though, that most of these changes were put into place in 1967 and in truth there’s not that much change between ‘Days Of Future Passed’ and ‘Strange Times’ – it’s the change between ‘The Magnificent Moodies’ and ‘Future Passed’ that’s not just a gulf, it’s a chasm.

OASIS

First lyric: “Supersonic” (debut single 1994) “I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else, I’m feeling supersonic, give me gin and tonic!” Last lyric: “Soldier On” (last track on final album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ 2009) “Whose to say that you were right and I was wrong? Come the day, come the night, I’ll be gone, soldier on”

One day someone will write a fascinating book on how Oasis went from reflecting the hopes and dreams of a generation determined they were going to change the world to being one of the most cynical, despairing, drained bands of them all. Perhaps it’ll be me! The band’s music doesn’t change all that much – the guitar assault heard on ‘Supersonic’ is much the same as the one on ‘Soldier On’ some 15 years later – but the whole style and poise has been altered. The band start and end with nothing, but whereas ‘Supersonic’ is the manic laugh of a youth who knows he has the ‘answer’ to escape his backward world any time he chooses, ‘Soldier On’ is the sound of a band that had it all and watched it all go wrong, See if you can spot where the switch happens – some say its on ‘Be Here Now’ (the difficult third album released the day before the death of Princess Diana sent a country into mourning), others thats its on fourth album ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ (released at the time Tony Blair went from hero to zero and the band lost two of its original members). Either way, the differences between the band’s first single and their last album track is huge and fascinating.

YOKO ONO

First lyric: “Remember Love” (B-side of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ 1969) “Remember love, love is what it takes to sing, remember love, love is what it takes to meet” Latest lyric: “Early In The Morning” (last track on latest album ‘YOKOKIMTHURSTON’ 2012) XXX “Early In The Morning, early in the morning, early in the morning...”

The key to understanding Yoko’s art is to embrace its simplicity: which is just as well because that’s all you get on her first album ‘Yoko/Plastic Ono Band’, a companion piece to Lennon’s ‘primal therapy’ album that reduces all that’s wrong with the world into one long squawk. Her first released work, however, is this simple earnest ballad on the back of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ which some say inspired Lennon’s similar ‘Love’ from his ‘Lennon Plastic Ono Band’ LP. Zoom forward some 43 years and simplicity is again the key factor, Yoko repeating the same words over and over on a single that was a collaboration with Kim Thurston. Don’t be fooled, though: in her ‘middle years’ of 1973-81 Yoko made albums as complex and multi-layered as anyone, especially her one true masterpiece ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’ which tackles more taboo themes than a whole series of the Jeremy Kyle show.

PENTANGLE

First lyric: “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” (first track on debut album ‘The Pentangle’ 1968) “Come all you fair and gentle girls that flourish in your prime, beware beware, keep your gardens fair, let no man steal your thyme” Last track: “Lady Of Carlisle” (last track on final album ‘Solomon’s Seal’ 1972’) “...And when she saw her true lover coming, seeing no harm had been done to him, she threw herself against his bosom, saying ‘here is the prize that you have won’”

Pentangle never changed their themes that much, starting their career with a traditional English folk song from the 12th century (ish) and ending it with one from the 9th (ish, again). What’s notable is the feminist slant that seems to have snuck in by the last song: whilst Jacqui McShee is the innocent victim in the first, doing all she can to keep her virginity, she’s actively the mastermind in the band’s final song, setting epic tasks for her would-be suitors to perform to prove they are worthy of her love. This trend continues on the band’s reunion albums (which, for a time, only feature Jacqui from the original band) despite the fact that the band doesn’t often feature modern songs in their act (and when they do they generally sound like the most traditional on the album!)

PINK FLOYD

First lyric: “Arnold Layne” (debut single 1967) “Arnold Layne had a strange hobby, collecting clothes, moon shine washing line, they suit him fine!” Last lyric: “High Hopes” (last track on final album ‘The Division Bell’ 1994’) “The grass was greener, the night was brighter, the taste was sweeter, the nights of wonder, with friends surrounded, the dawn mist glowing, the water flowing, the endless river”

In a nutshell, 1967 was the golden year of innocence Pink Floyd sing about in their final song ‘High Hopes’ 27 years later, although actually the band’s debut is far from innocent. ‘Arnold Layne’, a novel novelty song about a man who steals women’s clothing from washing lines was close enough to the borderlines of taste in the 1960s to secure a radio ban from the BBC! No such problem for the band’s final album (to date) ‘The Division Bell’ which is altogether more nostalgic and sweeter (as you can tell from the lyrics above). That said, the two songwriters are entirely different, Syd Barratt writing the former (before his breakdown in 1968) and David Gilmour the latter.

OTIS REDDING

First lyric: “These Arms Of Mine” (first single, 1964) “These arms of mine are lonely, lonely and feeling blue, these arms of mine are yearning, yearning from wanting you” Last lyric: “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” (final single 1968) “I’m just sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the clouds roll away, sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time”

No doubt Otis would have given us a huge sea-change had he lived longer than his 26 years too, although even if he’d lived to the age of 100 we’d still be talking about his final, posthumous single ‘Dock Of The Bay’ as the start of this change. Most Otis songs are sad (that’s why they call him ‘Mr Pitiful’ after all), but the soul-based heartbreak of first hit ‘These Arms Of Mine’ is utterly more conventional and love-lorn than the one in ‘Dock Of The Boy’, a folkier quieter song where nothing is working out for the narrator so he’s simply ‘wasting time’ and whistling sadly to himself. The record company hated it, the band weren’t sure what to make of it and his own family was scared by it – but ‘Dock Of The Bay’ must surely (surely!) have been a hit even without Otis’ death to break it into the charts. A change is gonna come and it would have started here.

ROLLING STONES

First lyric: “C’mon” (debut single 1963) “Everything is wrong since me and my baby parted, all day long I’m walking because I couldn’t get my car started, laid off from my job and can’t afford to check it, I wish somebody would come along, run into it and wreck it!” Last lyric: “Infamy” (last track from latest album ‘A Bigger Bang’ 2005) “Yes you’ve got it in for me, I should have seen it right from the start, I should have seen it coming, fine fine heart, you got in for me!”

None of the Stones look back on their first single, a scatterbrained Chuck Berry single, with much fondness (true Stones fans reckon the band only really got going with ‘It’s All Over Now’ as late as 1964). Certainly it’s very very different from even the band’s second single (a super-charged version of The Beatles’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’) and most of the songs to follow because the narrator is a victim. It’s hard to think of another Stones song (until ‘Ain’t No Use In Crying’ in 1981) where the narrator isn’t the one causing the problems or instigating the break-up; instead this hapless lover dumped by his girl and an ex motorist whose car doesn’t work is having a truly terrible time and his weak, garbled ‘cmon’s sound more desperate than revolutionary. Fast forward 42 years and Keith Richards’ closing song isn’t that different however: the narrator is cleverer this time but his partner is cleverer still, outwitting and outfoxing him at either turn. Are we about to see the Stones embrace a new position as naive romantics? Erm, probably not – this is a one-off even for this later, vaguely mature LP!

SIMON AND GARFUNKEL

First lyric: “Go Tell It To The Mountain” (first track on debut album ‘Wednesday Morning 5 AM’) “Go tell it to the mountain, over the land and across the seas!” Last lyric: “Song For The Asking” (last track on final album ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water” 1969) “Thinking it over I’d be sad, thinking it over I’d be more than glad to change my ways, this is my tune for the asking, ask me and I will play so sweetly I’ll make you smile”

The first Simon and Garfunkel album is split between innocent enthusiasm and mature statements about war victims and the ‘spaces’ that prevent us from truly connecting with other human beings. By the end of their brief career S+G have made the latter genre their own and closing tune ‘Song For The Asking’ is a good example – a debate on the power of music to heal wounds – but that said final LP ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ as a whole is probably the most innocent naive album of the five.

Paul Simon

First lyric: “Mother and Child Reunion” (first track on debut LP ‘Paul Simon and first single 1972) “I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day, but a mother and child reunion is only a motion away!” Latest lyric: “So Beautiful Or So What?’ (last track on the album of the same name 2012) “Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant? How we seek out bad advice? How we jigger it and figure it , mistaking value for the price, and play a game of time and love like a pair of rolling dice, so beautiful – or so what?”

Paul Simon kick-started his solo career with a song about a chicken and egg dish he spotted in a restaurant and turned into a philosophical muse about human beings being in charge of their destiny and their ability to heal over time. Zoom forward 40 years and the same thoughts are still on Paul Simon’s mind, only this time he’s aware that time might be running out and that as a rule humans don’t prioritise the right parts of their life.

THE SMALL FACES

First lyric: “What’cha Gonna Do Bout It?’ (debut single 1965) “I want you to know that I love you baby, Want you to know that I care, I’m so happy when you’re round me but I’m sad when you’re not there!” Last lyric: “Autumn Stone” (‘Autumn Stone’ 1968) “So now I’ve found a living sound, that lives, that breathes, and then makes love to me”

The Small Faces lasted just three years and three-and-a-half albums (‘Autumn Stone’ was never finished), but still went on quite a journey in that time. The first single is all breathless R and B swagger, a three minute chat-up line to a pretty girl, whereas their last (or near last – given the jumble of contents on the finished record its quite hard to work out which is which) is a complex song about how music gave direction to the narrator’s life, effectively a love song written for a melody line. The gap is huge despite the short time difference.

CAT STEVENS

First lyric: “I Love My Dog” (debut single 1966) “I love my dog as much as I love you, though your love may fade my dog will always stay true” Latest lyric: “Dream On” (last track with lyrics from latest album as ‘Yusuf’ ‘Roadsinger’ 2009) “Dream on, dream on, dream on through the darkness!”

Cat Stevens is a mastermind at reinventing himself: he started as a teenage heartthrob sans beard with a penchant for ruffles and novelty songs played with an epic orchestra, switched at the age of 20 via a life-threatening illness to a bearded acoustic balladeer where each and every song had a deep message to convey and came out of retirement again after a 28 year gap as a Muslim teacher trying to offer his followers some ‘peace’. ‘I Love My Dog’ was released when Cat was all of 17 and naturally its quite different to the latest song released (when Cat/Yusuf was 62), although both songs share a simple optimism. ‘I Love MY Dog’ declares that, whatever happens in life, the narrator’s dog will always love him – the latest song ‘Dream On’ believes in a future happiness once present obstacles have passed; more or less the same message even if one is innocent and the other has come after many years of learning.

10CC

First lyric (as 10cc): “Oh, Donna!” (debut single 1972) “Oh Donna, you make me stand up, you make me sit down Donna, sit down Donna, stand up you make me break down!” Latest lyric: “Now You’re Gone” (discounting a remix of ‘I’m Not In Love’) (from latest album ‘Mirror Mirror’ 1995) “Now I’m sitting in the dark place, I got murder on my mind, say goodbye to the rat race, no more setting sun ‘cause soon I’ll be gone!”

10cc soon got pegged as a ‘comedy’ act, even though their first big attempt at a hit single wasn’t the 50s doo-wop pastiche ‘Donna’ at all, but the far more earnest and worried B-side ‘Waterfall’ (manager Jonathon King switching sides at the last minute). Really, most 10cc songs from this point on combined the two halves together for songs that made you think as well as laugh – and the band were still doing that 23 yes later on their second and final reunion album, when ‘Now You’re Gone’ is the sad tale of a murderer sobbing from loneliness because he’s just killed his true love (so do you feel sorry for him? Or not?)

THE WHO

First lyric (as The Who): “I Can’t Explain” (debut single 1965) “Got a feeling inside (Can’t explain!) A certain kind (can’t explain!) I feel hot and cold (Can’t explain) Right down in my soul, yeah (Can’t explain!)” Latest lyric: “Tea and Theatre” (‘Endless Wire’ 2005) “Won’t you have some tea in the theatre with me? One of us gone, one of us mad, one of us me – all of us sad”

‘My Generation’ might not have been around till single number three, but it’s punkish youthful energy and aggression is already here in single number one. As we’ve said before on this website, almost all Pete Townshend songs are deeper variations on this first song anyway, an actually quite articulate kid giving vent to the feelings of inadequacy, injustice and frustration he feels in everyday life (‘Quadrophenia’, for instance, is an 82 minute expansion of this 150 second song). However, final song (at the time of writing) ‘Tea and Theatre’ seems deliberately constructed as a farewell song, an updating of the years to reflect the fact that the Moon and the Ox are no more and that the other half of the band who once promised to ‘die before they grew old’ have ended up doing exactly that.

NEIL YOUNG

First lyric: “The Loner” (‘Neil Young’ 1969) “See him on the subway he’ll be down at the end of the car, watching you move until he knows you know who you are, no one can see him, nothing can free him, step aside, open wide, it’s the loner!” Latest lyric: “Walk Like A Giant” (‘Psychedelic Pill’ 2012) “I used to walk like a giant on the land, now I feel like a leaf floating on the stream, I want to walk like a giant”

Neil has worked in so many genres and worn so many personas down the years that it’s difficult to keep track. As it turns out his first, orchestral album was as much of a one-off aberration as any of the many to come (rockabilly, electronic, pure country, you name it!) but ‘The Loner’ was the song that came closest to summing up the inner Neil, even if it was track no 2 (the first, a lazy country blues named ‘The Emperor Of Wyoming’, doesn’t actually have any lyrics!): a paranoid frenzy of a socially awkward soul you don’t know whether to pity or avoid. His last song (at the time of writing – no doubt there’ll be another one very soon!) is a nostalgic wander down through the long and winding memory road, remembering how big neil and his pals once used to be and wishing that he could be that big and influential again and that people listened to what he had to say. Pointed squarely at old comrades CSN in the second verse, it’s actually CSN who helped Neil out the ‘rut’ of his first album by inviting him to join them in 1970, expanding his fanbase and giving him the opportunity to do something ‘different’ (Neil being Neil, he changed again in a matter of weeks by recording the first Crazy Horse album too).

Well, that’s it for another week. Whether we’re covering the beginning, the middle or an end of any of these band’s careers or not next week we’re not sure – but you’ll be able to read what we have to say in the normal place at the normal time. See you next issue!