Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fifteen Minutes

It's Tuesday so let's have some tunes. I said that once before. God forbid this gets to be a regular thing. Although there's not much chance of that - it's back to work for me next week so there won't be many posts on Tuesdays from now on. Probably.

I'm almost to the bottom of the bucket of ideas for musical topics I filled up back at the start of Blaugust. About last on the list was songs about real-life people. Or real-life fictional people. Real is as real does.

I kinda went there a couple of times already with the posts about David Bowie and Superheroes but it's a deep mine to dig. I particularly like the more out-there celebrations of celebrity (or, occasionally, non-entity). There's no shortage of them.

Take Ladilla Rusa. They're a pair of Catalan journalists from Barcelona with a breakout hit (still their signature number) called Macauley Culkin. The band's name means "Russian Brick". It probably has some significance that's going right over my head, which, I guess, is pretty much what you'd want a brick to do.

The lyrics, not all of which consist of relentless repeats of the gurning childstar's name, appear to be a re-telling of the plot of "Home Alone", one of John Hughes' non-teen comedies that I've never seen. It's been quite hard work avoiding it but I've managed so far.

According to Google Translate one line reads "they gave me a pout tupper". No, me neither.

There's a connection between that choice and what's coming up next: don't try to guess it. You won't. It's Barcelona.

I was on holiday, alone, sometime in the early '90s when I conceived a desperate need to buy a CD. I had no means of playing such a thing and I'd never, before or since, felt any such desire in similar cirumstances, so the reason remains a mystery. Regardless, I went into one of the Catalan capital's largest record stores, FNAC, ("a large French retail chain selling cultural and electronic products" according to Wikipedia), where I purchased an album by a band I'd never heard of, something I am wont to do. 

I probably just liked the name, Pizzicato 5. They went on to become my favorite Japanese band, an admittedly restricted field, and this paen to sixties' icon Lesley Hornsby is one of their best. 

The video is also a cracker, or would be if you could actually see it through the VHS blur. It's "live" on The Word, an anarchic after-closing-time show equally loved and hated for its combination of lowbrow crowd-pleasing and scathing nihilsm. Bands always seemed to go particularly hard on its floor-level non-stage and Pizzicato 5 look about as animated here as I've ever seen them.

Since I appear to be on some kind of Barcelona tip, let's really go for it with an eleven-minute epic filmed at the city's Primavera Sound Festival last year. 

Let's Eat Grandma are one of my absolute favorite discoveries of the last handful of years. I came to them in a peculiar fashion via an interview with Boy George and I fell in love with their layered, hypnotic, histrionic, playful sound. They were famously young when they released their first, stunning, album and they're maturing incredibly quickly into one of the richest, strangest gifts modern music has to offer.

Donnie Darko is one of several coruscating jewels on the duo's second album, "I'm All Ears" and this live version really doesn't give it the full treatment, although it more than makes up for what's lost in emotional depth by what's gained in sheer performance power. 

Oh, what the hell... let's have it again. This is a much stronger version, performed live on JBTV, whatever or wherever that is. This one has a taste of the heartbreaking clarity of the recorded version in the coda, something that made me tear up the first time I heard it, as well as the bouncing exhuberance of the first nine minutes.

From the utterly sublime to... Transvison Vamp. Wendy James' glam-punk stylings were treated - at best - as something of a novelty act back in the late 80s and early 90s. I confess to not paying much attention at the time although I always thought they gave good value on Top of the Pops.

Rediscovering them on YouTube a quarter of a century later I find they've aged astonishingly well. Like Shampoo and Patsy Kensit's Eighth Wonder, there's a corrupted naivete to them that never really goes out of style. Also, I can forgive Wendy pretty much anything for "Hanging Out With Halo Jones".

Andy Warhol is one of those people about whom everyone has an opinion and his star just keeps on ascending, so I guess it's not surprising there are so many songs about him. David Bowie must surely have been the first with the eponymous "Andy Warhol" from 1971's "Hunky Dory"while Lou Reed and John Cale came up with an entire song suite with 1990s eulogy "Songs for Drella", Drella being Warhol's portmanteau nickname, derived from a cut and shut of Dracula and Cinderella.

There are two songs called "Andy Warhol Is Dead". Well, at least two, that I know of. Transvision Vamp's is positively cheery (and weirdly familiar...) compared to Sharon Needles' techno-goth impaling. Let's have 'em both!

As Andy aptly demonstrates, there's nothing like a celebrated death to see your name commemorated in song. Natalie Wood outlived Rebel Without A Cause co-star James Dean by a couple of decades but she was only in her early forties when she drowned in not-entirely clear circumstances off Catalina in 1981.

She was always something of an icon in France - what American movie star of her generation wasn't? - so it's no surprise to find this tribute to her by French Chanteuse Jil Caplan, who was an impressionable sixteen years old when the actress died. Very catchy chorus...

You don't have to be famous to find yourself passed down into history by means of song. You just have to know someone who owns an acoustic guitar. The folk tradition sometimes seems to consist of barely anything but tales of the everyday exploits of ordinary people, an extraordinary number of whom seem to have been away with the fairies, quite literally.

The brief and elusive Psych Folk movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s had rather more ethereal matters to contend with as it took to the astral plane (don't worry, it's not more Donovan...) but Bonnie Koloc found time to record this haunting tribute to her aunt in "My Aunt Edna".

Okay, it's not a title to rival "Jumping Jack Flash" or "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" but it's a good tune all the same. Sadly no video although there is one for the bizarre 2012 dance remix.

Finally, let's end with the ultimate in songs about people who may or may not be "real" - Poppy singing about herself. 

I've been following Poppy (literally - hers is one of only half a dozen YouTube channels I follow) since she was "That Poppy", which isn't actually as long ago as I thought, now I look it up. I did seriously consider joining The Church of Poppy but her merch is a bit on the expensive side. I'd still like one of those pins, though.

Nothing unusual in that. After all, everybody wants to be Poppy. Don't they?

These days, post all the Mars Argo trauma, Poppy and Titanic have gone a bit psycho-metal for my tastes. I preferred Poppy when she was, well, poppy.

That's probably enough name-dropping for one day. Don't worry, though, I have plenty more where those came from...

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