Oct 06


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#293, 21 November 1970

I was playing this song and my wife walked in.

“Who’s this?” she asked.
“The Jimi Hendrix Experience”
“Oh. Couldn’t he have got a better singer?”

I’ve never really bothered trying to get into Hendrix. Guitar heroics don’t generally interest me, and by the time I got into music the churning vitality of his stuff had got lost under layers of rock icon varnish. For instance: at school we had three options on a Sunday morning – a solemn early morning service for the actual believers, a later standard-issue service, and a secular ‘talk’ for the agnostics. At one of these talks, the trendiest of the three chaplains delivered a lecture – nay, a meditation – on Hendrix, culminating in playing “The Star Spangled Banner” over the school’s PA system. I was excruciatingly bored and embarassed by the whole thing.

At the same time, though, I was listening to music clearly inspired by “Voodoo Chile” – ‘baggy’ music had rediscovered the wah-wah, and Stone Roses guitarist John Squire’s own personal rerun of sixties pop was taking him deeper into Hendrix territory. So this single is oddly evocative of the turn of the 90s, stabs at flares and bowl cuts and trying to reconcile a love of the Happy Mondays with a puritan horror of drink and drugs. (The horror lost.) Which might go to show that music lives better when well meaning fans try to make it than when they try to teach you about it. Even so I never wanted to dig back into the sixties source material – partly because I was sixteen and affected not to care about old stuff, and partly because Hendrix’ gruff blues mumble is quite unattractive.

I’m glad this single reminds me of something, though – it grounds my response to it, stops it sounding quite so freakish in the context of this pop procession. Freakish in a good way – the strafing solos, the grinding pulse of the drums, the way the sound drops in and out like some alien radio broadcast, the aggression. And also in a less good way – after the dramatic band entrance and first verse its five minutes meander, and I can’t get much of an emotional toe-hold on it. Maybe that’s not surprising – this is a rock album track, plucked from its parent to serve as a rushed memorial. As a pop single – something it was hardly meant to be – it works best as yet another farewell to the sixties, and a slightly awkward intrusion of the musical stories unfolding outside the singles chart.




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  1. 76
    wichita lineman on 20 Mar 2011 #

    I discovered a copy of this moody cover of All Along The Watchtower last week, released in March ’68 when John Wesley Harding was barely in the shops, and several months before Hendrix’s take. It’s the Nashville Teens, three years on from their last hit but still signed to Decca. They have the distinction of being the last record played in Mad Men, series 4:


  2. 77
    ottersteve on 7 May 2011 #

    Would anyone be interested in starting a thread concerning song lyrics that are never repeated during the course of the song?
    The only example of this that I can think of is “All along the Watchtower” (hence putting this comment in the Jimi Hendrix slot). Be interested to know of any others.

    Cannot count “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the line “Nothing really matters” is repeated at the end of the song.

  3. 78
    Mark G on 9 May 2011 #

    DO you mean “song titles mentioned only once during the song”?

    “Nothing Really Matters” is not the song title, so I don’t follow.

  4. 79
    ottersteve on 10 May 2011 #

    Sorry about the confusion. If you read the lyrics to “Watchtower”, you will see that no phrase or line of the song is ever repeated in the course of the song. I know of no other song that does this.

    In Bo Rhap. “Galileo” is repeated along with “nothing really matters”.

    Not referring to the title of the song – just that fact that it entirely avoids any repetition of any line.

  5. 80
    chelovek na lune on 10 May 2011 #

    Ah, durchkomponiert, you mean, but with regard to the lyrics. I see. Sure I could dig out some others. Big hits? Not necessarily. Will have to ponder it over.

  6. 81
    chelovek na lune on 10 May 2011 #

    So, a little bit of thought came up with these, with several near misses. I think all of these qualify

    Ride – Unfamiliar
    Ride – Like a Daydream
    Ride – Chelsea Girl
    Depeche Mode – Somebody
    Judge Dread- Big Five
    Frank and Walters- Happy Busman
    Nick Drake – Things Behind the Sun

    Rod Stewart – The Killing Of Georgie – right up until the repetition of the final lines
    Jesus and Mary Chain – Blues From a Gun – ditto

    I suppose really, songs that tell a story (and don’t have a chorus with repeated lyrics) are what we are looking for. As he is one of the great “storytellers in song”, I’m sure there must be some Rod Stewart songs that do this…

  7. 82
    Mark G on 10 May 2011 #

    Oh, right I see now. Will have to think about that one.

  8. 83
    DietMondrian on 11 May 2011 #

    Lots of Arab Strap stuff, I think. Many are story songs.

  9. 84
    Tom on 11 May 2011 #

    ISTR the Frank And Walters tune repeating “what an iddly-diddly crazy world” an infuriating number of times, but perhaps that was one of their other numbers.

  10. 85
    Mutley on 11 May 2011 #

    How about Bob Dylan’s Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts from Blood on the Tracks? As with examples above, it tells a story. I should think Dylan has quite a few that qualify.

  11. 86
    Erithian on 11 May 2011 #

    “repeating “what an iddly-diddly crazy world” an infuriating number of times”

    was that just the Ned Flanders remix?

  12. 87
    Tom on 11 May 2011 #

    A lot of Dylan’s songs – LR&TJOH, Desolation Row, High Water spring to mind – end each verse with a repeated phrase, though, working as a kind of refrain while avoiding the need for a chorus.

  13. 88
    Chelovek na lune on 11 May 2011 #

    @84 – that was “Fashion Crisis Hits New York”, I think.

  14. 89
    Cumbrian on 11 May 2011 #

    I struggled with this off the top of my head. The closest I got was When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You? by Marvin Gaye which almost manages this but he repeats the title (just once) right at the end.

  15. 90
    lonepilgrim on 11 May 2011 #

    Surprised nobody has mentioned ‘Virginia Plain’.

    I feel that ‘Stardust’ should qualify. Even though the title is repeated it’s always in a different context rather than as a conventional chorus

  16. 91
    Pete on 11 May 2011 #

    Tom you are confusing Happy Busman with Fashion Crisis Hits New York. Well not so much confusing as hoping to conflate to reduce the amount of F&W material in your head. I don’t think Happy Busman ever says Happy Busman in it. But it does repeat most of its lyrics at least once too.

  17. 92
    Mark G on 11 May 2011 #

    Yeah, and Roxy Music’s “Pyjamarama”

  18. 93
    Snif on 12 May 2011 #

    Dylan’s “Changing Of The Guard”

  19. 94
    Mark M on 12 May 2011 #

    Squeeze’s Up The Junction – a classic story song – has lines that are variants (developments, in fact) on each other (three mentions of “the telly” but not that are exactly the same, I think.

  20. 95
    hardtogethits on 12 May 2011 #

    Time by Pink Floyd

  21. 96
    Gavin Wright on 13 May 2011 #

    I’m thinking there must be loads of examples in hip-hop songs without choruses, ‘Triumph’ by Wu-Tang Clan springs to mind. Trying to think of a more recent one – was going to say ‘Roman’s Revenge’ but “starting to feel like a dungeon dragon” appears twice in the first verse.

  22. 97
    Mark G on 13 May 2011 #

    “Paid in Full” Eric B/Rakim

  23. 98
    hilker on 13 May 2011 #

    “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick.

  24. 99
    ottersteve on 14 May 2011 #

    Re: all of you above.

    Thanks for all those tracks with unrepeated Lyrics Guys! I guessed that a few Dylan songs would qualify. There are a few of those songs mentioned that I should have known. But it does hold up my theory that songs with unrepeated lyrics as rare as hens teeth in the music world.

  25. 100
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    I dunno, they just seem hard to recognise.

  26. 101
    Lena on 21 May 2012 #

    More than a slight return: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/real-rebels-don-fardon-indian.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  27. 102
    hectorthebat on 15 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 579
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 30
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 136
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 101
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 102
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 101
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 80
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 688
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 16
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Mauro Ronconi (Italy) – The Best Song from the 200 Best Albums (1998)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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