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Monday, 21 January 2008

4.5 Songs

Hello everybody, today I am feeling adventurous- I shall start the first in a series of the ubiqitious 'song analysis' blog. . Hats off to Nick Hornby, who highlighted in his seminal book, 'High Fidelity', the predominantly male preoccupation with lists, song analysis and compilations. Nick Hornby also published '9 Songs' in 2002, which was a collection of nine musings on nine songs of his choice, thus here I present my '4.5 Songs':

1. "Somewhere In My Heart" Aztec Camera (1988)
In a 1990 radio interview, Roddy Frame the writer of this song, called it, 'a scuzzy little pop song'. This is a slight injustice, but when you hear the 5 note horn intro segue into a chirpy late 80s' drum pattern and some rather omnious lyrics about it being, 'Summer in the city, where the air is still/ A baby being born to the overkill': the tone is not so much scuzzy as muddled and elliptical. But all is redeemed when the anthemic chorus kicks in ( bizarrely accented with what sounds like Christmas chimes...?), Frame's impassioned declaration that, 'the closest thing to heaven is to rock n' roll..' at the middle eight, all topped with a guitar solo that soars, seemingly to heaven.

2. "Mack the Knife" Bobby Darin (1955)
I first heard this on the soundtrack to Quiz Show (dir. Robert Redford, 1994) ,obviously selected as a quintessential '50s song but it still sounds fresh and contemporary, as proved by the insipid covers of Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum and even Lyle Lovett . Bobby Darin's definitive interpretation is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and all-knowing, in recounting the unsavoury exploits of Mack the Knife, a character from The ThreePenny Orchestra by Bertolt Brecht. Kudos to Darin for revamping a Pre-war German showtune into a hit with bobbysoxers, and sneaking it in under the pop cultural radar of '50s post-war America.

3. "Boredom" Buzzcocks (1979)
Ever the bunch of self-contradictions, the Buzzcocks came up with this gem that eschewed punk's three chord thrash and anti-establishment sentiments. "Boredom" rails against, well, boredom and sounds hilariously incensed. The two-note guitar solo that tails off (most likely out of ennui) is a classic but the caustic lyrics still cause this writer much thigh-slapping mirth, for example: "So tell me who are you trying to arouse?/ Get your hand out of my trousers!!"

4. "Respect" Aretha Franklin
A big song sung by a large lady. Do not trowel any proto-feminist readings onto this tune and just revel in the sturm und drang of Aretha's vocal.

5. "Born To Run" Bruce Springsteen (1974)
Here's the .5 song as promised in the title of this post. It may sound sacrilegious but 'Born To Run' should be played from around the halfway mark (2:37): then you'll avoid the overwrought lyrics about youths on the beach stuck in a deadend town in the midst of the American Dream gone sour. After the halfway mark, its Springsteen at his most life-affirming and evocative, "Baby we were born to ruuuuuuuuuuuun!!!!!", even on the way to work in the morning. And on the way back.

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