Into the second half of the alphabet things get trickier. Letters, and not just ‘X’, become less sought after and as a result the rules have to be relaxed.
Not Guilty. George Harrison. There is a version that he recorded with the Beatles and which they never used except as part of the scrapings assembled for Anthology, but this is from his eponymous album a decade or so later. It’s one of his best songs. If it is in the resentful mode of Taxman, Piggies and Don’t Bother Me, the tune and the delivery are glorious. It is extraordinary that the other Beatles rejected the song for The White Album. They obviously thought Bungalow Bill was better. Even stranger, George himself presumably thought Savoy Truffle and the appalling Piggies were better.
There is no repetition (rule 8) between Not Guilty and the Beatles’ track, Another Girl, as the slightly bossy lead guitar on Another Girl was played by Paul rather than George.
O-Mané. Tim Goulding from Midnight Fry. Tim Goulding is a third of Dr Strangely Strange, and I wrote about meeting him and Jimmy Bergin, who also plays here. I have a huge attachment to this song, partly because I played on it, travelling to Dublin with two flutes and a toothbrush, like a real musician. Since I am unable to be objective, I quote that estimable, if defunct, magazine, Be Glad:
“a rich ratatouille of dance grooves, jangly Irish folk, Miles Davis interludes, ethnic drum talk and the sound of falling water”
Pete’s Blues. Roy Buchanan from his eponymous and first proper album. Buchanan is one of the great unsung white guitar heroes. He taught Robbie Robertson to play and is said to have been offered places in the Band and the Stones, both of which he turned down. He wore golfing trousers and silly caps over a comb-over and had a problem with alcohol. He died in a police cell – either of suicide or police. His guitar will make you cry.
Quem Sou Eu, Nao Sei. Joana Veiga from Fado Eb Mim Guardado. “Q” is not a popular letter to begin a song title with, but there was nevertheless a decent set of songs to choose from. Joana Veiga is the fado singer whom we heard in Lisbon and whose CD we bought (in addition to the CD of the fadisto who got the better half’s name wrong). It turned out to be a treasure, entirely comparable with fado music from more famous singers and preferable to most of them.
Roast Beef Love. Earth Opera from The Great American Eagle Tragedy. Earth Opera was the band set up by Pete Rowan and David Grisman after they left Bill Monroe’s employment. This was their second album and the title suggests the contents: a lot of high-minded anguish about Vietnam. But it was beautifully played and Rowan has an extraordinary voice. Actually he did then, though later it settled down into something more ordinary. I always like to imagine the expression on Bill Monroe’s face when he listened for the first time to the awful path taken by his formerly God-fearing, bluegrass-playing bandmates. But of course things even out over a lifetime. Roast Beef Love is not about Vietnam; it’s a jolly song of outraged and rejected love.
Scarred for Life. Slapp Happy from Ca Va. This masterpiece of amour fou totally breaches rule three, but I can’t resist including it.
That’ll be Him Now. Peter Blegvad from Just Woke Up. This is sailing close to the wind as regards rule 8, since Blegvad wrote Scarred for Life, but he has written many great songs, largely ignored. This is about the Second Coming and is very funny.
Unicornio. Misia from Tanto Menos Tanto Mais. Misia is a great fadista, who has gone a bit MOR. Although she was already experimenting with strings when she recorded this it is from her best period. On the CD she does two versions of the song, one in Portuguese and one in Spanish – a generous gesture given the attitude of many Spanish people to fado – indeed to Portugal in principle. This is the Portuguese version.
Vampire Blues. Neil Young from On the Beach, his best album, a song of eco-sensitivity from the first fine flush of that movement, delivered in his best whiny voice, which his fans, including me, love so much. Revolution Blues, from the same album, is a much better song, and far far better than Roast Beef Love. So it goes.
The Winner Takes it All. Abba, from, in my case, The Definitive Collection. What is there to say?
Exit 109. Dale Watson from The Truckin’ Sessions. I was privileged to see Dale Watson performing at The Broken Spoke in Austin TX a year or so ago and he is a fine, muscular country singer who treats alt-country and neo-country with similar disdain. The album, like The Truckin’ Sessions, Volume 2, is entirely devoted to songs about trucks and those who drive them. In this song, which concerns a truck drivers’ brothel, Watson indulges himself with undoubtedly the broadest double entendres to be heard in the playlist.
Making it the song for “X” is cheating of course, as the creaky old iTunes software continually points out to me.
You Just Haven’t Earned it yet Baby. Kirsty MacColl from Kite. Kirsty MacColl is much missed and this I think is her best album, the song a contemptuous put-down of an optimistic male.
And finally Zydeco Train. Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas from Hang it High, Hang it Low. Mike Tolleson, the musical eminence grise of Austin TX who took me to see Dale Watson, also introduced me to the music of Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas. Zydeco music has been known to pervert the intentions of strong men, as indeed has New Orleans where it comes from. Here we have Nathan’s accordion presenting the Mystery Train that underlies all American music.
Except Milton Babbitt’s.