Friday 8 January 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 51 (Top Five): AAA songs about train journeys

I’m often asked where I get my ideas for the newsletter top fives. Well, no, actually, I’m not. That would be silly. After all, it’s not as if I’m some boring talking head on one of those ‘top 10 irritating people of the year hosted by the guy or gal who came 11th’ programme. But if I was asked then I could certainly reply where this week’s top five came from: cooped up at a station waiting for a train to arrive. So here is the AAA patent pending handy guide to the best train songs in the world, ever (or so I would be saying right now if I worked for the Virgin compilation CD market). We’ve only got space for five so here’s a list of honourable tracks that de-railed just before publication: Train In G Major (slow blues from Lindisfarne’s ‘Fog On The Tyne’ album), Terrapin Station (on which the Grateful Dead retrace the old Settle-Carlisle route with a medieval tale of love and a terrapin holding the world on its back while the fat controller axes trains or something like that; from the album of the same name); One After 909 (Beatles number written in 1961 but not recorded till 1969 and ‘Let It Be’ – the one after 909 is 910 by the way. And there’s a wrong location, to rhyme with station dontchaknow); Hari’s On Tour (Express) (George Harrison – not that you can tell from this rather weird instrumental which kicks off the Dark Horse LP); Rush Hour Blues (A Kinks song about commuters – Waterloo Sunset is outlawed as being a bit vague on the railway front- from the A Soap Opera album); No Expectations (gorgeous song of defeat from the Rolling Stones, waiting on a station to be taken to the Beggar’s Banquet no doubt); Casey Jones (the Grateful Dead again, riding that train high on cocaine with a track from Workingman’s Dead clearly written just to use the pun ‘Casey you’d better watch your speed’) and RRRRRRapid Trrrrrrransit (phonetic spelling) (by train fanatic Neil Young who, despite writing several car songs – including a whole album’s worth with ‘Fork In The Road’ – has only written this one ‘train’ song to date; check out the Re-Ac-Tor album for more).

5) Homeward Bound (Simon and Garfunkel, 1966; Heck not this debate again – some of you will own it on the ‘Sounds Of Silence album and some on the ‘Parsley, sage’ album – though most of you probably own it on a compilation or film soundtrack anyway): The perfect song of restlessness and a need for stability, this song was reportedly written by a pre-fame Paul Simon stranded for the night in Widnes railway station during his 1964 sabbatical in the UK and desperate to get home after another low-paying poorly attended gig. Having spent the best part of a year virtrually living on the empty platform waiting for the one train an hour to pass through while there’s nobody in the ticket office yet again, it’s easy for me to see why this might have been a true story. Whatever the circumstances behind the song, this is a very touching song and given just the right sparse treatment by Simon and Garfunkel’s wondrous harmonies. 

4) Last Train To Clarksville (The Monkees, ‘The Monkees’ 1966): ‘Paperback writer...’ No, we haven’t gone mad by quoting a song by the wrong. It’s just that Monkees writers extraordinaire Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart saddled, as they originally thought, with writing all the songs for a new TV series about pop wannabees decided to turn to The Beatles for inspiration and a lyric that one of them mistakenly misheard. Catching just the fade of the song on first hearing they heard it as ‘take the last train...’ and, on discovering their error, decided to write the song the Beatles track could have been. In a parallel dimension with trains. A driving, sorry training kind of pop song, effortlessly crafted, there’s a reason why ‘Clarksville’ became the debut single of the Monkees. And there’s a reason why millions of record buyers lapped it up – it was #1 in America a full month ahead of the TV series being screened in fact. Never has Micky Dolenz’s voice sounded better – and never have guitars been made to mimick the sound of a rollicking train quite so well.     

3) King’s Cross Blues (Lindisfarne, ‘Back And Fourth’ 1978): Lindisfarne seemed to have something against trains, appearing for the second time on this list courtesy of this rollicking pop effort from singer Ray Jackson. Stuck on a train with a lot of know-it-all passengers who seem to be using the carriage as an extension of themselves, this song doubles as an interesting character analysis of humans herded together and made to think the same things. As for me, I seem to share the same philosophy. Fasttalkingquickpacingtrackbracing stuff.

2) Shock On The Tube (Don’t Want Love) (10cc, ‘Bloody Tourists’ 1978): What was it with train songs recorded in the year 1978?! Anyway, here’s another one: a typically funny off-the-wall sketch of life from the world’s most hilarious band (after the Spice Girls). A bored commuter dreams of the gorgeous girl sitting in the seat opposite him and unbeknown to him falls asleep, unaware that all the sexual shenanigans are going on in his subconscious rather than in real life. A great tune that runs at a hundred miles an hour threatens to fall off the rails but somehow makes it through all the twists and turns intact. A classy throwaway.

1) 5:15 (The Who, ‘Quadrophenia’, 1973): Out of my brain on the train! And now, standing on platform one, its Keith Moon’s last great moment with The Who, turning his kit into a train that never sits still for a minute. The song, of course, is from our beloved concept album ‘Quadrophenia’ (see review no 60) and sees Jimmy the Mod travelling to the scene of his past heroics at Brighton, stuck in a carriage between two members of the upper classes he’s been doing his best to avoid and stoked up on various pills. It’s really about the journey in his mind of course and the long long journey he’s taken throughout the double album from fearless ‘face’ trendsetter top mixed-up mod. An exhilarating ride, with The Who at their rock and roll best, worth a return ticket anytime.

ERRATUM: now it sometimes happens that writing about a topic this wide about groups this varied means that you miss out the bleeding obvious and horrifiedly realise about a week after you’ve written an article that something major is missing. So here i9s what probably should have been no 1 in our list: Last Of the Steam-Powered Trains (The Kinks, ‘Village Green Preservation Society’, 1968): A cornucopia of train sounds from the brothers Davies – harmonica, guitar, a steady drum beat and a lead vocal sung against the grain of the backing – all contribute superbly to the feel of this song about museum pieces that are being replaced by something far faster and more streamlined but also uglier and less individual. A very Kinks theme for a very Kinks-like album which is nearly all variations on this same subject.  

And that’s that for another issue – see you in a fortnight’s time for a review of our other new purchase, the long awaited outtakes set from Stephen Stills’ Manassas band. Till then we leave you with news from Philosophy Phil, who has been tempted out of hibernation to give us this nugget of advice: and this is a true story folks: There really is a book out there entitled ‘Depression and Low Self Esteem – For Dummies’. I rest my case about the sad state of the modern world....see you next week! 

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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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

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

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

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

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

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

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

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

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

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

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

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

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

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

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

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

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

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

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

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

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

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

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

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

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

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

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

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

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

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

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

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

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

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

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

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

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

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

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

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

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock