Monday 28 January 2013

News, Views and Music Issue 180 (Intro)

January 30th:

We-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ell, have we got a lulu of a newsletter for you this week and it makes us want to SHOUT! (with happiness, obviously). Another thing that makes us want to SHOUT! With joy is the sheer amount of hits we’ve had recently (we’re on course to make 44,000 hits by the time I upload this column tomorrow). We’ve had some lovely comments too, mainly on our ‘Book’ and ‘DVD’ special which have both sailed into the top half of our top ten most read posts section, along with Cat Stevens ‘Foreigner’ from last week. Of course, this being the wonderful world of the internet, we’ve also had some bonkers messages, many of them spam obviously but some of them apparently in alien speak as well (it must be those clandusprods from our april fool’s day articles at work!)

Meanwhile something that’s making us SHOUT in horror: yes, the scourge of humanity in the UK, the coalition, the very people we voted in (or didn’t – hence the fact they’re a coalition) to keep us safe and free from harm are persecuting us all again. Now, the national office of Statistics don’t lie (and I don’t just mean statistically its unlikely – I mean they don’t lie, ever) so when they say that the Government have ignored their figures and made up their own to account for unemployment rates, benefit fraud, the price of the economic crisis and a thousand other things instead, I prefer to believe the office of national statistics. Why the media haven’t spent more time on that story I don’t know: instead they’ve gone with our beloved leader trying not to make a buffoon of himself over the EU crisis (and failing). Of course Cameron wants to remove us from the EU; it’s not because of any great economic policy or any daring foreign affairs statement, it’s because at the moment the UK have breached so many European Human Rights Laws it’s going to take the next Government fifteen terms in office to re-instate them all again. At the moment it’s illegal to make the unemployed work for free or face sanctions for up to three years in Europe (except the UK), its illegal to force the disabled to work for their benefits in Europe (except the UK), its illegal not to give prisoners the vote in Europe (except the UK) and ATOS has been banned everywhere from France to America for breaking the law (except, obviously, the UK). Cameron is gambling here that we’ll all keep quiet and let him take away the safety nets for our most vulnerable because of some media-friendly words about ‘shirkers and scroungers’ so let us give you the real truth of what’s going on, away from the Government speak (and easily verifiable if you check any number of other sources, including the national office of statistics). Benefit fraud accounts for 0.0007% of cases, the entire benefit budget actually costs 3% of all Government expenditure (slightly less than MP expenses and only fractionally more than funding the Royal Family) and the dreadful, awful economic situation we find ourselves in? Well its the worst since...erm...1993 (hardly a blink of an eye ago in historical terms), a mere fifth of the extent the UK were in debt after the Second World War (when we seemed to get out of that mess quite well without all this hoo-hah) and far from bringing that deficit down what Cameron and his cronies have been up to the past two years is spend more already in half a term in office than Labour did in three. Ladies and gentleman, we have been conned good and proper and I take no satisfaction in saying ‘we told you so’ three years and 150 issues ago. It’s not too late though. SHOUT! no, stand up for your rights, don’t get taken in by the stupid inaccurate statistics these chumps in power keep coming up with and above all else, hold on to your humanity. Those around you are probably going to need it!

Right, with that little lot over with its on to the news, available by clicking on this link:

A handful of other release dates for you too: AAA albums available in 2013 are as follows (and of course subject to last minute changes); Marty Balin (the Jefferson Airplane/Starship singer’s two solo albums ‘Balin’ and ‘Lucky’ on CD for the first time – February 5th), the Grateful Dead (two old shows on DVD for the first time: ‘Dead Ahead’ from 1980 and ‘Ticket To New Year’s Eve’ in 1987 – both February 15th, plus ‘Dick’s Picks no 28’ from 1978 – February 26th), The Byrds (‘Turn Turn Turn’ a DVD documentary – February 19th), Jerry Garcia (the Dead guitarist ‘Live At The Capitol Theatre’ – February 19th), Justin Hayward (the Moody Blues singer’s first solo album in a decade ‘Spirits Of The Western Sky’ – February 26th) and Stephen Stills (‘Carry On’, a four CD box set in the same series as Crosby and Nash sets from the past decade – February 28th).

Lulu "Something To Shout About!" (1965)

“Like a beam from an X-ray machine you see right through me” “My friends said you used to love me, well if you do why don’t you show it?” “You’ll never find another love like this love of mine, not in this whole world, someone who’ll be true and love you like I do, not in this whole world, someone whose always there through your ups and downs, someone whose near when all of your good friends can’t seem to be found” “Don’t keep me on a string, if your sweet love is a one-time thing, tell me like it is ease my mind, tell me like it is, don’t be unkind, do you really love only me?, tell me like it is baby” “W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ll, you know you make me wanna shout!” “I still remember when I used to be nine years old, ye-eah, I was loving you from the bottom of my soul, now that he’s old enough to know you are meeting me and want to love me so, I want you to know, I want you to know right now...” “You go to be a little patient baby, he’s nothing but a harmless flirtation baby, he’s something I don’t want to but I’ve got to see through” “As we stroll along together, holding hands walking all alone, so in love are we two that we don’t know what to do, so in love, in a world of our own” “Dream lover where are you, with a love oh so true? Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way, I hold a hope in my arms, automatic of his charms, because I want a boy just to call my own, I want a dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone” “ “If I’m just a toy you’re going to play with, If I’m not the girl you’re going to stay with, then don’t take all my love, don’t let me take all your love, ‘cause I want you to leave a little love in my heart”


You Touch Me Baby/You’ll Never Leave Her/I’ll Come Running Over/Not In This Whole World/She Will Break Your Heart/Can I Get A Witness?/Tell Me Like It Is/Shout!//Try To Understand/Night Time Is The Right Time/Chocolate Ice/So In Love/The Only One/Dream Lover/He’s Sure The Boy I Love/Leave A Little Love

We-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ell, where to start this review? Named after and dominated by probably Lulu’s most famous song ‘Shout!’, nothing on the album quite matches its most famous moment and yet I can still quite honestly say that it’s the best album in my collection made by a girl who should still have been at school. The rock world had already seen so many ‘firsts’ between 1963 and 1964 that everyone just accepted that the latest must-have best-selling single was by a 15 year-old Scottish schoolgirl no one had heard of. After all, who’d have predicted the year before this that the musical world would be turned upside down by a lot of teenage and early 20s Scousers who couldn’t even read music! The world is different now, people thought to themselves, and nothing surprises us anymore. But looking back now, 49 years on, Lulu’s sudden career spike isn’t just unusual, it’s unheard of – everyone laughed on last week’s Graham Norton show when Conor Maynard admitted he was only 20 and that all that week’s other guests ‘had underwear older than that!’ But Lulu (born Marie McDonald Lawrie) was 15! That’s five whole years younger! Lulu was a schoolgirl, for goodness sake, unable to vote or officially leave school (there’s a story that Lulu’s school m- who were only too happy to get rid of her after putting up with years of her singing her way through lessons - forget to tell a truant officer who turned up at Lulu’s parents house asking where she was during the middle of her second performance on Top Of The Pops, causing her mum to remark ‘that’s her – on the telly right now. Do ye nae read the papers?!’) And when you’re 15 then 20 year olds might as well be from a whole new generation anyway so wide is the gulf in that half-decade. To be fair, there is a precedent in Little Millie, whose ‘My Boy Lollipop’ still crops up on ‘best 60s songs’ shows – but at least her song was about her young age ; ‘Lulu’ could have been performed by an adult and been no less remarkable in its size and power. Add to this the fact that Lulu had already been persuaded by her manager Marian Massey to leave her home for a chance at success in London (at a time when the teenage singer had rarely ventured out of her home city of Glasgow) and you have one of the biggest stories of the decade. Follow this up with the fact that, unlike today or indeed many singles back then, ‘Shout!’ was released with little fanfare and a limited budget and then Lulu’s breakthrough is simply one of the most astonishing events of a decade that really did see it all.

Play ‘Shout!’ today to someone who doesn’t know the song (quite a hard task given how famous it is even now) and ask them to guess the age of the singer. I can guarantee they won’t get it right and, like all audio as opposed to visual mediums, Lulu’s age couldn’t matter less. Lulu’s problems came firstly when she had to appear in person to promote the song, looking the ‘young’ end of her 15 years and put to an end the stories doing the rounds in the press (was ‘Lulu’ a pseudonym for an authentic blues singer, possibly black and certainly American? Or a talented 30 or 40 something singer who’d seen life pass them by?) They came secondly when Decca ushered Lulu into the studio to record some more singles and this, her first album. Frankly, they didn’t have a clue what to do with her. ‘Shout!’ was a rarity as a song, a punchy raw r and b song full of energy and pizzazz that still sounded natural coming from the lips of a schoolgirl, featuring all of Lulu’s biggest strengths (that awe-inspiring first note that’s held much longer than expected, a sultry middle eight taken at a lower tempo to show off Lulu’s range and a beaty backing faithful to 50s rock but still fresh and contemporary in 1964). Lulu herself was ‘squeaky-clean’ to quote Lulu’s autobiography and ‘protected’ from drinks, drugs and wild parties by her proud manager and substitute parent who’d made a solemn promise to Mr and Mrs Laurie to keep their daughter safe. But while it wasn’t about drugs or booze or sex (well, only in a teenager way) ‘Shout!’ wasn’t a safe song at all – the reason for its success was its untamed rawness and promise of wild times to come.

Faced with a hard choice to make, Decca came up with a compromise that in the end helped no one. If you only know Lulu from ‘Shout!’ or from her later, more MOR pop songs from the Mickie Most era then hearing ‘Something To Shout About’ (Lulu’s only album for Decca) is something of a shock. Many of the songs Lulu is called on to sing are plain wrong, either because they’re cast for world-weary singers who’ve seen the world and are soul giants (covers of ‘Can I Get A Witness’ and ‘I’ll Come Running Over’, although admittedly that last song is the next best on the album after ‘Shout!’) or because they’re twee empty pop songs without teeth, ones that seem to date from another era entirely. The best songs here by far are the attempts to groom Lulu as another Dusty Springfield or (not that anyone knows her name for a few more months yet) Cilla Black, complete with orchestra and backing singers – although even here the listener misses the raw screams of ‘Shout!’ Lulu has never been the most consistent of performers (every record she’s ever made is a mixture of perfection and piffle) but even compared to the rest ‘Something To Shout About’ is a sea-sick rollercoaster of moods, styles and talent, featuring material as good as any she’ll ever record nestling next to songs that have been forgotten for good reason.
To be fair, none of this is Lulu’s fault. The one thing you can rely on throughout this record is that Lulu will give it her all, whether on the r and b standards she loves, the Bacharach and David-soundalike mature romantic love songs or the twee retro pop left over from the 50s. On a purely singing point of view this might well be the best album Lulu ever made, her 15 and 16 year old self mixed thankfully loud and upfront in the mix and . Lulu admitted years later that much of the material she was given to sing in the 60s ‘was a mistake’, but it’s one that you can understand that she made: no one listens to you when you’re 16, especially if they’re an established adult with several years of recording experience and in their eyes you’re just a lucky kid with a big mouth. As we’ve mentioned on this site before, the part of Lulu’s career I lose patience with is in the late 60s and 70s, when Lulu has the age, the following and the belief to record the songs she really ought to be singing – and instead ends up singing the worst UK Eurovision entry Cliff Richard never sang, turning into an ‘all-round entertainer’ on her TV show with guests from the 40s and 50s instead of her contemporaries (by and large) or recording some of the twee songs she ended up recording for ATCO. Still that’s to come – back in 1964 Lulu possesses all the talent and the mistakes made on this album aren’t made by her and despite all the distractions and the pressure Lulu herself never puts a foot wrong on this album, she’s simply made to wear the wrong shoes from time to time.

Talking of pressure, fans forget today what an up-and-down career Lulu’s was. Decca delayed making this album until Lulu had become an established ‘star’, but despite releasing eight singles after ‘Shout!’ only one of them (‘Leave A Little Love’, also the last track on this album) was actually a ‘hit’ (making #8 a full 13 months after ‘Shout!’ had been released). ‘Something To Shout About’ was cobbled together an amazing 17 months after that initial hit and it speaks volumes about the way Lulu’s career was being run that the songs from early 1964 sound fresher than the songs from late 1965, during a time when music was changing at such a pace that even a week could make all the difference. Why Decca waited this long is unknown – singles were king over albums at this point and Lulu’s track record was arguably worse than it had been the year before; ‘Leave a Little Love’ in May 1965 had revived Lulu’s career a little but follow-up ‘Try To Understand’ released the month before the LP, though well received, was one of her worst sellers. It might be simply that Decca wanted an album by someone into the shops by Christmas that year (this album being released to an October deadline, perfect for parents shopping over yuletide) and Lulu was the biggest star available By the time of this album Lulu is already a recording veteran of sorts (recording half a dozen A sides and half a dozen B sides) and at age 16 is beginning to reach the point where Decca are threatening to drop her if she doesn’t deliver (oblivious to the fact that its the weak material Decca keep offering her that keeps pulling her down). Lulu left school with no qualifications, so desperate was she to be a star and after a taste of the way of life as a music star she must have been more desperate than ever not to go back to her old way of life – so the pressure was arguably on her shoulders throughout this period more than any other. In the end, this album missed the charts too and Lulu spent a whole year – 1966 – away from the charts before being sent a lifeline by Columbia/London the following year and kick-starting her career again with ‘The Boat That I Row’.

Much of the blame has been laid by fans at the door of arranger and producer Mike Leander, nominally in charge of these sessions and the closest thing Decca had to a ‘George Martin’, although to be fair at least he tried to send Lulu in the right direction. Leander – best known to music fans as the arranger on Beatles song ‘She’s Leaving Home’, recorded By McCartney in an inspired hurry when Martin was unavailable – was also a songwriter of some note and the song of his that Lulu covered for this album, ‘Chocolate Ice’, is the raunchiest thing Lulu ever recorded! In fact the song would raise eyebrows today, being a rather loose metaphor for the ‘nicer taste’ of those with dark-coloured skin (!) although sadly this sort of thing was fair game for most singers in mid 60s Britain. The odd thing is that the sound of this one song, if not the song itself, is clearly a step forward for Lulu and the sort of thing she should be moving towards. The fact that it was actually written by the producer who came up with so many cloying, schmaltzy arrangements seems especially odd and suggests that Leander’s hands were tied every bit as much as Lulu’s were (he was, after all, only 24 himself when this album was made – no doubt implausibly old when you’re a 16 year old schoolgirl but not exactly an established, respected figure who could over-rule decisions made higher up the Decca ladder). Leander had a new lease of life in the 1970s when he teamed up with Gary Glitter and co-wrote almost all of the glam rock star’s biggest hits. However its probably just as well Lulu had stopped working with him long before then (‘We-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ell, you know I’m the leader of the gang I am!’ Hmm, can’t hear it somehow...)

One sound this album does have working for it – again, sadly underused – is the use of a young Jimmy Page on guitar, who gives the three or four songs he appears on the contemporary grunt Lulu should have been using all the way through. The nasty, raw sound of his playing on songs like ‘I’ll Come Running Over’ combined with Lulu’s throaty vocal is clearly at one with the new sounds of the day like The Kinks and The Who and indeed it was Page’s similar work on this song that led to the rumour that he played the solo on ‘You Really Got Me’ instead of Dave Davies (he does play on the first Kinks album, but filling in for Ray not Dave and was never present on any of the Kinks’ singles). Lulu has a musical foil more or less her own age at last and the effect is brilliant, inspiring Lulu’s best vocal after ‘Shout!’ The sound of this song especially sounds like the future and it’s an awful shame that this album so quickly reverts to looking back to the past.

Given the rather scattershot way that ‘Something To Shout About’ was put together there’s very little cohesion to any of it. One thing I have picked up on is the very Beatles-ish way most of the songs (on side one at least) feature personal pronouns like ‘I’ll Come Running Over’ ‘She Will Break Your Heart’ ‘You Touch Me Baby’ and ‘He’s Sure The One I Love’. The Beatles have only just dropped the idea themselves after the run of singles from ‘Love Me Do’ through to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a deliberate policy on someone’s part (having turned down the chance to sign the Beatles on New Year’s Day 1962 Decca are particularly open to ‘borrowing’ ideas from their competitors at EMI). The idea of being ‘personal’ (and that the singers are living rather than acting these songs) is in the end the most 60s thing about this album and it makes the lapse back into 1950s archetypal teenage blues on some of these songs all the stranger. Most of these songs are rather bland ideas of teenage life (most of them written by middle aged adults remembering their childhood from the inter-war years than any reflection of the youth of 1965) but there’s a surprising angst in some of them: ‘Tell Me Like It Is’ is not the sort of thing you imagine many 16 year olds having the nous to ask of their boy/girlfriends; the dismissive game-playing ‘You’ll Never Leave Her’ is surprisingly adult too while soul standard ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’ is about as close you can get to being banned in 1965 (Lulu’s ‘with the one I love’ ‘at night’ because ‘its the right time’ for...well...let’s just say Mick Jagger would have struggled to have got this song on the radio in 1964, though he was probably thinking it).

If only I had a time machine I could have made this a near-perfect LP. Surely the obvious thing to do if you have an unexpected hit is look again at the formula: ‘Shout!’, written by the Ilsey Brothers, is just one of their superb songs Lulu could have covered (‘Twist and Shout’ being another famous example). Never mind if The Beatles recorded it too – everyone sang ‘Twist and Shout’ in 1964 and The Beatles covered ‘Shout!’ for a TV special anyway (their version is much more faithful to the original than Lulu’s). Even better, I’d have fired the ‘Luvvers’ (Lulu’s off-on backing band who split shortly before the album’s release and who play on a handful of tracks) and got the Isley Brothers to back Lulu for an album (they were in dire financial straits in 1964 and might well have welcomed the chance; doubly neat as they were writing some of their best material in 1964 with songs like ‘Nobody But Me’ and ‘That Lady’ which Lulu would have done proud). Better still, why not get Lulu to record the song’s ‘predecessor’ and the song that inspired it – Jackie Wilson’s ‘Lonely Teardrops’. I’m the first to acknowledge that repeating yourself gets boring and that lightning doesn’t often strike twice – but better a failed attempt at lightning than some of the rather wet and foggy material on this LP. Even the period singles (especially the B sides) are tonnes better than most of the album, especially through 1966, any of which could point in a direction that could have been utilised by Decca earlier. Alas, though, the idea of giving a 15 year old schoolgirl songs written by black r and b soul stars (even though Lulu had scored her first international hit doing exactly that) seems to have been too strange to consider. A real shame, because we are robbed of what could have been the explosive debut album of the 60s and Lulu’s talent might have got the huge respect it so surely deserved. Smarter and more versatile than Cilla, more expressive than Dusty and more adult than Sandie Shaw, Lulu is my favourite of all the early to mid 60s singing female stars, possessing the power of the rock groups of the day whilst still having great technique and control for a singer so young. In fact, Lulu really was Britain’s Janis Joplin and had she come from a different background and had a different group of people around her might have eclipsed even ‘Pearl’ herself (or perhaps filled the void when she died in 1970). Alas we’ll never know as a series of misguided material – starting with this very album – drag her performances down, but if there’s one good thing to say about this album its that Lulu proves how much talent and promise there was inside her if only she’d met the right people or been old enough to work out her true calling for herself.

In the end, this ‘Shout!’ LP ends up little more than a whisper of Lulu’s career and only four or five of the generous helping of 16 songs truly point a way to where her career will go (and the r and b direction it could have gone in). Forgotten by many fans who skip straight to the ‘middle years’ with Mickie Most (where Lulu was an elderly veteran of 18), this album isn’t a long lost classic and at times sounds like exactly the sort of album you’d expect a talented 16 year old to make in this era, with very little control over what she sings or how she sings it. But there’s lots of period charm about this album and there are moments when this album shines so brightly – ‘Shout!’ is easily the best thing here by a country mile but Lulu’s recordings of ‘I’ll Come Running Over’ ‘Try To Understand’ and ‘Leave A Little Love’ aren’t all that far behind and deserve to be rescued from the rather unflattering surroundings they share on this LP. Better yet, if you’re a fan buy the very reasonably priced two CD set ‘Shout! – The Decca Recordings’ (out on MVP in 2009) and you can enjoy some of Lulu’s period singles too, many of which I’d been trying to track down for years. One of them, a forgotten B-side ‘Surprise Surprise’ is a bigger, well, surprise, than anything on this album – written by Jagger and Richards in the early days when the pair were too shy to give their songs to the Stones, it has a power and fizzle that just is the sound of 1965 in a way most of these rather out-of-step songs on this album fail to achieve and really point the way forward to the direction where Lulu could have gone. (The Stones recording, also made in 1965 but not released till the Decca outtakes set ‘Metamorphosis’ in 1975, is a pale shadow of Lulu’s distinctive performance).

‘You Touch Me Baby’ sums up the album’s strengths and weaknesses pretty handily. Lulu sings with the passion and swagger you’d expect and there’s a nice gritty beat to this song that sounds like a close relation of the boogie woogie surf instrumentals the Beach Boys were making in this period (‘Boogie Woodie’ particularly). However, compared to ‘Shout!’ this is pretty toothless stuff and Lulu doesn’t have the experience yet to really live the song which is moulded in the style of a Bo Diddley or a Solomon Burke. Interestingly it was written not by a hoary old blues singer or even a new up and coming teenager but by Sammy Fain, the composer behind several musicals including ‘Calamity Jane’ (although his best work was for Walt Disney on films like ‘The Rescuers’ and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and is presumably an attempt by an old hands to sound like a youngster. Either way, the song itself sounds authentic but Lulu is the wrong singer for it (so much so that I doubt the song was written with her in mind), with too powerful a voice for a song that’s all about the hypnotic beat and the build-up of emotion that Burke or Bo would have given the song. It’s also flirting with danger in its lyrics (for a 15 year old in 1964 anyway), with the idea that the narrator was changed when her loved one ‘touched me’ in a ‘new way’ on the dance floor. It’s an odd chance to kick-start the record, being nothing like the Lulu singles before or after or like much of the album to come, but it is at least well written and features quite a catchy ‘one...two...three’ chorus that gives Lulu a chance to gabble away in a pretty good impersonation of Mick Jagger on the early Stones recordings.

‘You’ll Never Leave Her’ is an attempt to cast Lulu as a Cilla or a Dusty. It’s a more mature, adult-orientated ballad than the last track’s teenage slang and features a backing choir and an orchestra that are exactly the sort of sound singles like ‘Shout!’ were put on the planet to erase. Lulu sounds slightly higher pitched here than normal – it could be that the master tapes for the recording have deteriorated down the years (the backing sounds ropey too in comparison to the rest of the album) but I would guess that they sped Lulu’s vocal up slightly on this track, perhaps to make her powerful vocal chords more in keeping with the folky, Peter Paul and Mary feel of the song. Again, full credit to Lulu for pulling off such a technical challenge at such a tender age and outperforming all the older and experienced session musicians around her (even dropping her voice to a whisper for the chorus Lulu out-sings everyone here) but the song isn’t built for her to sing. Written by Mike Stoller (as in ‘Lieber and Stoller’) with his ‘other’ writing partner Bert Russell (best known for writing ‘Twist and Shout’ and co-writer of a few of Lulu’s other songs including recent single ‘Here Comes The Night’) and manages to sound like its on auto-pilot without being bad enough to be offensive, simply bland ‘filler’ of the sort Cilla and Dusty record in their sleep. There is much to admire about the arrangement here though: the use of mariachi horns in the background are an inventive touch by 1964 standards, the use of a folky acoustic guitar (presumably by Jimmy Page) is a neat touch and the powerful drumming (sadly from an un-credited session musician) just about pulls this song out of the 50s into the 60s.

‘I’ll Come Running Over’ eclipses almost everything on the album and is exactly ther sort of direction we talked about Lulu going in. The backing band (not the Luvvers, who’d already split by this time, but the same group of session musicians who rather differently on the rest of the LP) are on fiery form and make the most out of the one track on the album that sounds like contemporary Merseybeat, with more than a touch of The Kinks about Jimmy Page’s blistering guitar-work. The rhythm section really do make the most of the song’s simple rock and roll beat, making it sound alive and vibrant despite being a near-copy of every rock song ever made (perhaps out of relief after so many sessions playing slow orchestral ballads!) Lulu drops the ‘nicely brought up lass’ image she’s been cultivating ever since her second single a year before and switches between femme fatale victim and sultry aggressive power-woman. We won’t hear a performance quite this unhinged and raw apart from ‘Shout!’ and it’s a delight, Lulu finally sounding like a hip teenage talent rather than a prematurely middle aged woman from a different age. By most accounts the musicians had a great time making this song and pitched it time and again to Decca as the lead single from the album - instead they went with the more adult ‘Try To Understand’, possibly the biggest mistake of the whole of Lulu’s career at Decca. If only the rest of the album had rocked with this passion and energy then we’d still be talking about Lulu’s debut in the hushed tones we reserve for ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Definitely Maybe’: the song really is that good. It’s hard to imagine that this is by half the same songwriting duo as before (Bert Russell writing under his real name Bert Berns , along with Eileen Stuart) and it’s a real shame that Lulu doesn’t make more of this writing talent during her time at Decca (poor Berns dies from a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 37, oblivious of the lasting impact his songs have made on the 60s generation; Janis Joplin’s cover of ‘Piece Of My Heart’ in mid 1968 is in part a tribute to one of her favourite songwriters).

‘Not In This Whole World’ sinks the good mood like a stone. This song is a typical inter-war creation: it drifts along quite neatly and with a perfectly good tune but misses the drama, the energy and the sparkle of the 1960s. I can’t find any reference to this song or to its composers Troy Davis and Joe Simmons so it seems likely that only Lulu ever covered this rather drippy song, but it’s clearly not written for her and sounds more like a Dusty Springfield song. Lulu sounds nice here, with her vocals dropped to a whisper and gets the chance to show off her powers of subtlety, but it would have been nice if there’d been a middle eight of her power to break through the rather limited range of the song and give it a bit of variety. As for the song itself, it’s a simple plea from the narrator that her loved one won’t pass her by – and that’s it really, with no real resolution or anything to build on the title phrase. A bit of a lost opportunity.

‘She Will Break Your Heart’ is another curious choice for Lulu. A Curtis Mayfield song dating from the soul singer’s early period before he broke big in the 70s, it’s another rather pedestrian song that doesn’t really give the chance for Lulu to show off her power and skill (though she still does a good job adding some character to the song). At least ‘Heart’ benefits from a catchy chorus, however, and an intriguing drum pattern where the bass drum and cymbals play at different metres and only occasionally meet up on the same beat (it sounds like a difficult part to play and, presumably, was done without overdubbing). The lyrics are slightly more adult than some of the other songs on the album too, Lulu stabbing the title phrase like a musical prodding finger and thematically is ‘She Loves You’ in reverse, Lulu’s narrator breaking up a relationship because the one she loves is treated badly by his current partner. All that said, though, ‘Heart’ is another one of those tracks so bland that it rather passes the listener by and the choir and orchestra parts are so clichéd and old hat (even by 1964 that they really drag the song down. Frankly I was hoping for better from this song the first time I heard it and all the ingredients within it, but somehow, nothing quite gels into the delicious cake you were expecting by the end. An anonymous fadeout on the third straight repeat of the chorus rather says it all.

‘Can I Get A Witness?’ adds a bit of swagger back into the album and features a return of the boogie woogie lick we’ve heard already a couple of times throughout the album. The backing musicians are in their element again and Lulu does a good job at her vocal (complete with the musical ‘wink’ in her voice which is the Beatles equivalent of the shaking heads and ‘woooh!’s of the period). However, as we said before, the 15-year-old Lulu is slightly miscast on a song that was written by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to be a song for a much more adult and Motown sound (Marvin Gaye recorded the original) than a white schoolgirl and some middle aged white backing band can manage. At least when Mick Jagger tackled the song on his band’s debut album ‘Rolling Stones’ his mock-Americanisms and some fine playing meant that the song ended up sounding like a fair attempt to restyle the original. This version simply sounds like a diluted version, though as far as Lulu herself goes I reckon she gets more out of the song than even Jagger does and injects this recording with much of the swing missing from the backing track. As we said earlier, this is definitely the direction the album makers should have gone with – though preferably with a group of sympathetic musicians able to give Lulu the backing she deserved.

‘Tell Me Like It Is’ is back to the rather more old-fashioned songs elsewhere on the album, although arguably it’s the most successful of the various attempts to make Lulu sound older than her years. Indeed, this Al Kooper song (back when the keyboardist was still a session musician and not the founding member of Blood Sweat and Tears or the occasional collaborator with Stephen Stills) was chosen as the ‘single’ from the album, about a month so after the record came out, so someone must have liked it. Lulu’s way of holding a phrase with power and control, before ‘yawning’ back onto the next line in more muted style is the best evidence yet of what a fine natural gift she had as a singer and is still one of her best vocals on record even now, despite the fact that she was all of 16 when she recorded it. A rather drab middle eight, which modulates up a key in predictable style undoes much of the good work, but the purr in Lulu’s voice as she crashes back down to earth in the second verse more than makes up for it. Good work all round, with for once the orchestra and choirs sounding as if they’re a natural part of the arrangement, not some scared executive’s response to a genre he doesn’t quite understand.

‘Shout!’ itself seems oddly placed at the end of side one (with Lulu audibly younger and filling the place where traditionally in 1964 a ‘ballad’ would go), but is still clearly the best recording here by some miles (indeed, Lulu arguably only comes close to this performance on ‘Morning Dew’ from her Mickie Most years). Lulu had been singing this Isley Brothers song in her concerts (amazingly she started singing in clubs at the age of 13) for quite a time, ever since seeing fellow Glaswegian Alex Harvey (some ten years before forming his ‘Sensational’ band) wow the audience with his interpretation of i and she lives and breathes this song after so many years of ‘bonding’ with it (as opposed to many of the songs on this album which she barely learnt before recording). Lulu sang the song on stage the night Marian Massey saw her and asked to manage her and sensibly the pair decided it was the best song to do again for Decca at her audition, but was surprisingly disappointed when told it would be her first single (being a naive 14 year old she assumed that she would be able to ask The Beatles to write her something!) As it happens The Beatles had performed the song themselves down the years, although they were surprisingly late in performing it in concert (they only ever did one ‘recorded’ performance during their ‘Around The Beatles’ TV special the same month of April 1964; the soundtrack is available on ‘Anthology One’ from 1996; strangely they never re-recorded it for any of their BBC sessions). Perhaps recognising that Lulu has already stolen a march on them, they completely blitz the original arrangement, turning it into an interactive singalong, whereas Lulu’s arrangement is pretty close to the original (although her version doesn’t have the elongated slowed-down fade of the original, skipping instead straight to the ‘...and I feel al-al-al-al-al-al-al-al-alright!’ section instead).

The most inventive change, however, is that opening note of ‘We-e-e-e-e-e-e-ell’, which deservedly won a Danny Baker show phone-in competition for ‘greatest vocal performance of a single word’. By pitching the introduction of the song as one long cathartic wail, Lulu has already invested the song with more commitment and desperation than the rather more laidback original before she’s sung the second word! If the Isley Brothers wanted to ‘shout’ about their love because they were feeling good about a relationship then Lulu’s narrator positively needs this change in her life and her hollered ‘(I feel) alright!’ (which so impressed John Lennon he borrowed them for the hook in the Beatles song(s) ‘Revolution’) are clearly an understatement – this is a changed person going through the best time of their life, not a simple love song. That Lulu could invest the song with so much emotion at the age of 15 says much about what this song meant to her: to my ears at least, this is Lulu’s love song to singing and the escape from everyday life that it can bring and, being the song in particular that inspired her to take up singing as a career, is a timeless celebration of joy and optimism. (Lulu had much to escape from at the time; many other sites will give you the details but Lulu had an alcoholic dad and lived in near-poverty surroundings, the sort of setback that in pre-Beatles days Northern working class families could only escape by either football or music; however as Lulu points out in her autobiography it was no different for the friends and family she grew up with and she never considered it strange or difficult at the time).

‘Try To Understand’ is a song quite unlike ‘Shout!’ - it’s a heartbreaking song about love going wrong with a muted, understated feel that’s the epitome of full blown heartbreak. Despite being such a different sound (and possessing by far the most 60s-ish vibe on the record, thanks to a Phil Spector-ised chunky echo-drenched sound) it’s arguably the next most successful thing on the album. Released as a single two months before the album, it was a middling hit at #25 (after two singles that missed the chart all together) and was Lulu’s last hit for some 18 months. Arguably Lulu gives an even better performance on a recording that doesn’t fit her natural bouncy persona so well, outshining many similarly doom-laden lead vocals from the period by more experienced vocalists at the tender age of 16. By 1965 standards this is quite a complex songs by anyone’s standards however: the singer spends most of the song circling around the subject, Lulu cooing, cajoling, flirting and pleading on the verses to try and get her message across without hurting her lover. However its the sudden lurch of aggression as Lulu snaps to on the chorus (‘It’s something I don’t wanna but I gotta see through!’) that offers the real insight into her feelings and how badly she wants to say goodbye. Lulu can use all the flattery and ‘its not you, it’s me’ lines she wants, but the listener still feels well and truly dumped. Nothing about this record sounds quite right: Lulu’s pitch is higher than normal on this song, suggesting the record’s been sped up at some point and the heavy use of echo on the piano makes it sound threatening and alien, less a family sing-song round the old Joanna than an ice maiden offering judgement from an ice kingdom. For once the arrangement is subtle too, with a female chorus that really add rather than detract from the song and the sense that everyone in this song except Lulu is working at half speed, with the singer herself the only one in control of the situation as the dumped lover’s head spins in confusion and guilt. A clever, clever song and one of the four absolute gems of the record along with ‘Shout!’, ‘I’ll Come Running Over’ and ‘Leave A Little Love’. It deserved to do a lot better in the charts than #25 and is a song that’s absolutely begging out to be made into Lulu’s new direction; alas it was not to be.

Alas ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’ misses the whole point. A slowed down crawl of an r and b song, its best known for performances by James Brown and Lulu’s favourite singer Ray Charles and is exactly the sort of record Lulu loved to listen to (so may well have been a rare example of her bringing her own choice of song into the studio). If true, then someone should have told Lulu ‘no!’: to work successfully this type of song needs to be rattled off by a singer so in control of his own life and persona that he can afford to rattle it off slowly, recklessly (Mick Jagger would have done it well, for instance). Lulu’s still trying to holler her way through the song ‘Shout!’ style and it simply doesn’t work – the sound of an over-eager younger sister celebrating having found a new toy rather than an experienced seen-it-all elder brother passing on his infinite wisdom. Despite barely reaching the two minute mark, this song has such little variety and joi de vivre in its performance that it’s actually quite a slog getting to the end. One of the low points of the album.
‘Chocolate Ice’ is a real mystery. On the surface its exactly what Lulu should have been doing: raucous, dangerous r and b she can really – err – get her teeth into. Having been composed solely by musical director Mike Leander, it really should have been tailor-fitted to Lulu’s talents too. Yet there’s something deeply disturbing about this song, which is depending on how you listen to it either deeply childish (a 15 year old singing about ice creams) or deeply disturbing (‘chocolate ice’ meets ‘peaches and cream’, complete with a suggestive ‘you know what I mean!’ nicked from the Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ which borders on racism). I’m willing to bet most people were innocent of it all at the time (in 1964 most people listening missed the point) but this was a song written by someone working in a blues-r and b-rock genre who’d have been more than aware of how old legends used to subvert their lyrics with sexual references only likeminded souls could hear. Lulu’s vocal suggests she’s in on the joke too, singing much more gruffly than normal and as far away from the ‘girl next door’ image she cultivates over the next few years as its possible to get – even though I doubt very much she realised what the song was up to. In many ways its the opposite of Lulu’s later hit ‘I’m A Tiger’, in which a clearly adult predator does her best to sound like a ‘cute little girl’ – this is the sound of a cute little girl trying to sound like a sexual predator and the result is just wrong, wrong, wrong . Never has a simple list of food stuffs sounded so...suggestive. Not until Britney Spears will a 16 year old school girl sound this sexual again. Oh me, oh my indeed.

‘So In Love’ is back to the more normal Lulu, sounding like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth and talking wistfully about innocent teenage love where walks hand in hand are as sexual as it ever gets. Lulu will sing lots of songs like this Cole Porter classic over the years, mainly unsuccessfully, although they kind of need to be there on the records – like ‘Til There Was You’ on ‘With The Beatles’ this was the song that was meant to encourage your parents that this rock and roll phase wasn’t the work of the devil and that these young musicians really could sing. They’re less necessary to the records nowadays, of course, and on a record already stretched by quality and style it’s perhaps a leap too far to think of Lulu as a 60s Judy Garland (in addition to a 60s Ray Charles, a 60s Ray Davies and even a 60s Madonna on the last song). However ‘So In Love’ is one of the better Porter songs around, successfully conjuring up a time that probably never existed but sounds fun to experience and Lulu copes with the song well. There are worse ways to spend two minutes, although there’s no getting away from the fact that this isn’t really the direction that shows Lulu at her best.
‘The Only One’ is the second Leander song on the record and is a much better fit for Lulu, even though it’s curiously backward-looking too. There’s a slight bossa nova feel about the song which dates it firmly to late 1964/early 1965 however (The Hollies’ ‘We’re Through’ is a good example of this style). The song is pleasant without being likely to win any awards: the tune is simple and the lyrics simpler, Lulu’s narrator announcing she’ll be ‘the only one’. A schlocky celesta accompaniment is a bad idea, although compared to some of the orchestra-and-choir mistakes we had on the album’s first side at least this arrangement is subtle and under-done. Again, Lulu is by far the best thing about the recording, belying her young age to get the most out of a song that doesn’t have much character (indeed, Lulu sounds too mature at times to be the love-struck youngster telling her husband-to-be that ‘we better get ready because we’ll be adults one day’).

‘Dream Lover’ is the old Bobby Darin song that sounds extremely close to the original (but with Lulu singing the lead vocal, obviously). As you’d expect for a song that was six years old, it doesn’t really fit the feel of most of the record (at least the inter-war stuff sounds like a memory in a way that a recently old song never can) and Lulu sounds unusually at sea on the vocal here, struggling with both the song and what sounds like the start of a cold in her voice. There’s a cheesy modulation of key near the end which kick-starts the whole thing over again from the beginning too just as it was already outstaying its welcome, pitching poor Lulu into an even higher and more unsuitable pitch for her. Not one of the album’s better ideas, although perhaps Lulu might have done the song more justice had she not been so audibly below-parr on this recording.

‘He’s Sure The Boy I Love’ is a Mann/Weill soing of the sort the pair wrote for The Monkees as the decade gets into full swing and is a fairly early song for the pair (who only began writing songs in earnest in 1962). The song is another of those cutesy songs that don’t really fit Lulu’s harder, more aggressive voice and she again sounds a little at oddsa with the song (the whole recording is taken at such a quick pace it might be that she’s simply having problems keeping up). Is it just me or does the song owe more than a little to both ‘Calendar Girls’ and ‘Palisades Park’, two 1950s songs that use the same sort of slightly off-set waddle? At least the arrangers seem to have been paying close attention to ‘Shout!’, though, allowing Lulu to start the song in epic fashion with a held ‘oh ye-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ah!’ that shows off her vocals at their best. There’s quite a sweet story going on in the lyrics too, about an old fashioned romance where the boy the narrator loves might not be the best looking or the sort of type her friends go – but she loves him for who he is and wouldn’t change him for the world.

‘Leave A Little Love’ rounds off the album in fine style. Lulu’s second most successful single of her Decca period, it came close to outperforming ‘Shout!’ at #8 in the charts. It’s a classy, adult little ballad that gives Lulu plenty of space to show off her heartbreak-induced vocals, full of characteristic swoops and glides, although it’s arguably not as good a fit for Lulu as some of her other songs (it would be easier to hear Cilla or Dusty singing this for instance). Lulu’s vocal is remarkably impressive though (she’s still 16 at this point) and hits every emotional note in the song, putting a clever contrast in between the ‘fluffy’ purring verses and the strident, more hopeful choruses. The backing track sadly lets her down againb, being a little anonymous (just think what Phil Spector or George Martin would have done with this track and all that space to use!) but does at least have a second use of that distinctive echo-laden piano effect that at least makes the song sound huge and exotic. Personally I don’t think this song should have done as well in the charts as some of Lulu’s other singles (‘Try To Understand’ and ‘Here Comes The Night’ especially), but at least Lulu’s being given some good material to sing here and she more than does it justice.

Overall, then, what an up-and-down record ‘Something To Shout About’ is! The makers of this set clearly didn’t know whether to groom Lulu as an all-round entertainer, mature balladeer or r and b soul sister. In the end giving us a little of all three styles only shows up how little anyone at Decca really understood all three approaches, thinking they could get away with using the same backing singers, musicians and ‘over-produced’ styles with all of them. Certainly, Lulu’s first record isn’t accomplished as some others she’ll make during the next two decades (and again in the 1990s), although I think it’s probably fair to say that Lulu was never truly given the belief and direction she deserved. It’s easy to sit here being rude nearly 50 years on about some of the mistakes made on this record (why would teenyboppers buy pre-war material? Why would anyone make a 15 year old white schoolgirl sound like a lecherous old man?) but the nagging problem with this album is that oh so casually gets things spot on from time to time. ‘Shout!’ is something of a given, a ready made present already well rehearsed and drilled and perfected by Lulu before she even met her future record label. But some of the other things on this record, recorded much later, are fabulous: ‘I’ll Come Running Over’ is the best single rock performance by a female star on record till Janis Joplin comes along (barring ‘Shout!’) and played with a band clearly revelling in what they’re playing. Elsewhere ‘Leave A Little Love’ and ‘Try To Understand’ show off what a remarkably subtle and delicate range of voice and emotions Lulu could pull off and they’re proper ‘adult’ songs crying out for a singer this mature to pull them off. If only similar material could have been found, one direction decided on and stuck to and of everyone involved had stopped trying to treat Lulu as an inexperienced 15 year old schoolgirl who knew nothing and as one of the best singers of her generation then, well, I wouldn’t need to be writing this review telling you what a star the young Lulu was because everyone would already know. Decca left it woefully late to make a full-blown record, some 18 months after that first hit, as if they were waiting to see what direction to go in. Surely the direction is obvious: decent, mature, quality adult songs with lots of songs like ‘Shout!’ to break up the tempo. Ah well, on a record generous enough to give us 16 different Lulus at least we get value for money and even if only a quarter of those songs really make an impact, that’s still better odds than we had a right to expect from a 15 year old schoolgirl and a record label that clearly didn’t know what to do with her! Overall rating: 4/10

Other Lulu album reviews from this site you might be interested in reading:

'I'm A Tiger' (singles compilation 1966-68, released 1988)

'Lulu's Album' (1969)

The Last 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically (News, Views and Music Issue 180 Top 10)

Here we are with a sequel to last week’s feature on the first 10 AAA songs listed alphabetically. What a cracker it was: we started off having ‘A Bad Night’ with Cat Stevens and ended up having ‘A Great Day For Freedom’ whilst in between covering the crashing chords of ‘A Day In The Life’ and enjoying ‘A Better Place’ with The Hollies. What could possibly compete with that lot? Well this lot, possibly, the last 10 AAA songs if you list them alphabetically (discounting ampersands, numbers, brackets and funny squiggles anyway), starting with ‘Y’ and running all the way up to ‘Z’! What surprises me is how many ‘lasts’ these songs represent in more ways than just the alphabet...(is there some sub-conscious nedd to use the last two letters of the alphabet to express goodbyes and signifigant endings? Or have I simply goner monkeynuts again?...) Hold on to your seats, record collecting doesn’t get more anorakky than this...

“Your Loving Flame” (Paul McCartney, ‘Driving Rain’ 2001)

There are, approximately, 2000 AAA albums out there (almost as many as there are stars in...well...a small patch of sky) so the odds of having the same album crop up twice in the same list seem pretty low. However this is the first of two entries by Paul McCartney’s ‘Driving Rain’ album for which Macca must have had songs beginning with ‘Y’ on his mind. This song is a classic piano ballad, the highlight of the album and by far the best song out of the handful Paul wrote for second wife Heather Mills. Intriguingly the piano chords are subtlety similar to ‘My Love’, his song for Linda and the lyrics are similarly dodgy (well, less ‘inspired’ than the music anyway) but the tune is one of those ‘sounds like its been around for five generations’ McCartney classics. The song was reportedly written in a hotel room in America who – hearing that they had a famous musicians staying with them – got the porters to bust their backs lugging a grand piano up to Paul’s suite ‘just in case’ any music happened while he was there. The medical bills were well worth it – this is arguably the last 100% classic of the McCartney canon to date.

“Your Mind Has Left Your Body” (Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Freiberg, ‘Baron Von Tollbooth And The Chrome Nun’ 1973)

A track from the last and most obscure record out of the Kantner/Slick solo spin off trilogy, this album came out pretty close to the release date for ‘Dragonfly’ the first Jefferson Starship record where all three musicians were on a real creative roll. This is a Kantner song, less political than his others for the record and recounting either a dream or a drug-induced stupor where nothing is what we think it is. Sleepy, slow and ominous, it’s an atmospheric highlight of a record that’s been ignored by Airplane fans for far too long. Kantner and Freiberg (once of ‘Quicksilver Messenger Service’) were never better, adding a bass rumble over which Grace simply soars. It’s a shame that the three of them never made another album and that indeed Freiberg will be all but silenced creatively by the time of Starship’s third LP with a split between Kantner and Slick already surfacing by the following year. Another song that’s more or less the last 100% classic Jefferson moment (well, except for ‘Dragonfly’ and some of the songs on Grace’s ‘Dreams’ LP anyway) but at the time was just one jewel among many.

“Your One And Only Man” (Otis Redding, ‘The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads’ 1965)

One of my favourite Otis songs, this is a groovy beat ballad which plays to all of Otis’ strengths: a lyric he can get his teeth into, an expressive vocal line that’s filled with tonnes of emotion but a slightly more subtle and muted backing than usual that enhances the realism of the song. This song from Otis’ second record ‘Soul Ballads’ is one of the singer’s own songs and it fits him like a glove, giving him a chance to get more and more emotional as the song winds out of control, only to slap back down to earth with an unexpected bump. There’s a neat early use of minor keys, too, that Otis was only beginning to use near the end of his career but it suits the singer well, his typical ‘Mr Pitiful’ character determined to break through every obstacle in his path to be with the one he loves.

“Your Possible Pasts” (Pink Floyd, ‘The Final Cut’ 1983)

How different the lives of all of us might have been with just a few accidental mist-steps down the road of life. For Roger Waters they flutter behind his main character for his final Floyd album (the teacher from ‘The Wall’, revealed to be a scarred war victim from WW2) ‘some bright-eyed and crazy, some scattered and lost’, warning his future to ‘take care’. This simple, emotional man is hardened by the battles he experienced in his youth and its left him unable to express love ort feeling, something that in turn he passes on to the unfortunate kids of the 1940s and 50s in his care. How different his life could have been had he not experienced death and injuries on such a scale; how different the pupils’ lives might have been without such an evil presence bullying them through their formative years. All this leaves The Teacher an unhappy but believable, coming home from a hard day’s corporal punishment to bark at his wife ‘do you think we should be closer?’, fighting his way past everyone in life because that’s how he’s been told to behave. One of the more thoughtful songs from ‘The Final Cut’, a rollercoaster stop-start ride that’s difficult to listen to but highly revealing about the characters within.

“Your Way” (Paul McCartney, ‘Driving Rain’ 2001)

‘Driving Rain’ is back on this list again with a sweet acoustic love song that was also written for Heather Mills. The opening bass descend while the guitar stretches upwards is an old McCartney trick (Wings used it a lot, especially on their first few B-sides) and the bouncy tune is very Macca, although the pedal steel is a nice, new sound to add to the mix. The lyrics are slightly deeper than they sound on first hearing too, the sound of a character used to getting his own way bowing before the might of a bossy power and accepting that for the sake of the relationship its better to ‘lose’ a few battles to win the war (thus making this song perhaps the best description of the brief Macca-Mills relationship). Unfortunately the song doesn’t really know where to go after its strong beginning and the song simply repeats itself therein, ending up on an uncomfortable chorus (‘Your way is mine, your way is right, your way is mine tonight’).

“Yours Truly, Confused, N10” (Ray Davies, single, 2008)

Ray Davies has been a grumpy old man since at least the age of 23. ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ is not the sort of song most youngsters from the 1960s thought to write and yet Ray wasn’t fooled by the talk of hippies and utopias (you only need to hear the very last Kinks song ‘Did Ya?’ from 1993 to see how little he thought of music’ greatest decade). However even the 1960s seem like paradise compared to the then-present of 2008, a world that’s gone mad and is obsessed by celebrities, has an ignorant media full of rampaging spin doctors, where politicians act as terrorists and where crime is so rife that no one cares about their fellow human beings any more. Ray’s narrator is distraught, writing this song as an ‘open letter’ to the press getting more and more passionate with every verse while the unexpected return of a brass section (for the first time since 1975) gives the song a traditional basis quite at odds with the noise overdubbed on top. Relegated to an EP and later a ‘bonus’ track on a solo best-of, this song is one of Ray’s best in years, a logical conclusion to the last 45 years of songwriting. The postcode, by the way, is one for ‘Muswell Hill’, the area of London in which Ray (and Dave) were born although at the time this song was released the elder Davies brother had been living in America for some time. Probably for good reason given some of the comments made in the song.

“Yvonne’s The One” (10cc/Paul McCartney, ‘Mirror Mirror’ 1995)

Fans of both artists forget that for a time Paul McCartney and 10cc’s Eric Stewart were best buddies and writing partners. They weren’t together that long (their album ‘Press To Play’ was received really poorly by press and fans who should know better – its actually one of Paul’s best five LPs and the pair had a falling out over whether Eric should ‘engineer’ the record as he had with 10cc) but still hit a rich vein of magic, some of which was still being recycled by the time of an ill-fated 10cc reunion in the 1990s (when Eric and Graham Gouldmann were ‘forced’ back into working together after their record company decided they still owed two more albums). Paul never released his version of the song, which is a great shame – its a catchy pop song with one of Macca’s best ever middle eights ful of regret and longing which has only ever appeared on bootleg and is probably the best single song in the McCartney canon yet to be released now that ‘A Love For You’ finally came out in 2012). 10cc’s later version is horrible by comparison, sped up and with a reggae limp for backing that seems at odds with the song’s good humour and sweet memories. Given the fact that the album was made at short notice (allegedly with Eric and Graham working in separate studios) you can understand why the song was revived, but why not stick to the original arrangement – Paul sang it in lovely falsetto on the original which is a good near-match for Eric’s own voice. Sadly this Yvonne really isn’t the one, but the first ‘demo’ version of the song is.

“Zilch” (The Monkees, ‘Headquarters’ 1967)

‘Mr Dobelina, Mr Bob Dobelina...China Clipper Calling Alameta...Never mind the furthermore the plea is self defence...It is of my opinion that the people are intending...Chickens...Elepehants...Zilch!’ If that isn’t the single weirdest lyric in the whole of the AAA canon then, well, I’m a spice girl (‘Writealot Spice’ how does that sound?) but it all seemed to make more sense back in 1967 when psychedelia was in the air and The Monkees caught the bug more than most. This song’s parent LP ‘Headquarters’ is a fascinating cornucopia of every sound available in March 1967 from pop songs to protest to rock to country, but it’s in the little segues (this song and ‘Band 6’) where the band’s humour and personality come through in an attempt to add more of ‘themselves’ into a record they were also writing, producing and playing on for the first time. All the phrases were ‘in-jokes’, overheard by the band on their world tour and cobbled together in a sort of low budget version of The Beatles’ ‘Revolution 9’, though quite why the band used ‘zilch’ as a title (slang for ‘zero’) is anyone’s guess!

“Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (The Hollies, ‘The Hollies’ compilation, 1985)

Yes, we really do mean the Disney track from ‘Song Of The South’. And yes, you’re right, that is a strange choice for a song which might be why it sat on a shelf at Abbey Road for some 20 years before being revived for a compilation. Actually, it’s pretty good, the song being revved up beat style with some superb drumming from Bobby Elliott and a throat-tearing vocal from Allan Clarke and Graham Nash that even makes lines about bluebirds sitting on shoulders sound like they are urgent and important. The Hollies had a thing about ‘birds’ at the time (no not that sort!) also recording ‘Rockin’ Robin’ in the same period.

“Zor and Zam” (The Monkees, ‘The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees’ 1968)

We return to The Monkees for our final song – and what a song it is folks! Betrayal, Royalty, wars, hatred and revenge, with two brothers going to battle over some minor falling out and expecting the citizens they ruled over to give up their lives for the cause. The song was written by Bill Chadwick (a Monkee audtionee himself who worked for a time as Micky’s stand in in the TV series) and was written as the title song for an animated TV series that sadly never happened (they’d probably have struggled to come up with plots every week but on the basis of this one song alone it would have been fab!) Micky (the real one that is) was rarely better than on this song, a perfect two minute miniature masterpiece where the citizens revolt in the name of love and peace, leaving the two kings of the title reflecting on their loss of power and status. They held a war – and nobody came.

And that really is that folks, the Alan’s Album Archive canon literally from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ in two compact weeks (although you’ll have to view the other 280 odd issues and counting to read about the songs in between!) We’ll have another dozen songs or so for you to read about next week in our usual review section – till then, so long for another week and see you soon!

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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Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

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154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

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