Just Giblets

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 1 & 2

27th June 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 1 & 2

No new, last minute appearances top this list, but there are a couple of insanely talented women appearing, one who is still producing terrific music today, and another who was sadly taken from this world far too early.

#2 – Madame Butterfly is in Trouble  by Deborah Conway

As talented as she is prolific, Deborah Conway makes her third appearance on this list with a beautifully rendered pop-song about self-examination. Taken from her second, and highest-charting (#18) album, Bitch Epic, Madame Butterfly is in Trouble features Australian performers Vika and Linda Bull.

#1 – Science Fiction by Divinyls

And going way back to their debut album, Chrissy Amphlett and Divinyls top my list of Australian songs with their haunting love song, Science Fiction. How can anyone resist the beautiful lyrics, “I thought that love was science fiction  until I saw you today. Now that love is my addiction. I’ve thrown all my books away.” Not only does that capture the exquisite feeling of discovering love for the first time, but it’s delivered with the unique vocal stylings that only Ms. Amphlett can provide. And that incredible opening with the cheesy, sci fi synth. Perfect. Truly, one of my favorite pop songs of all time.

19th June 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 3 & 4

Sorry for the break there. But I’m back to get one step closer to wrapping up my Top 20 Australian pop songs.

#4 – Guns and Butter by Do-Re-Mi

Do-Re-Mi was one of Australia’s most respected and successful post-punk bands. This Sydney band formed in 1981 and featured Deborah Conway on lead vocals. They hung around until 1988 when Deborah was signed to Virgin Records for a solo deal. Domestic Harmony, their first album on a major label spawned a surprise Top 5 single with Man Overboard, he success of which they were never able to duplicate.

The release of Domestic Harmony was followed in 1986 by a single-only release, the politically-minded Guns and Butter. This single peaked at #48, and was openly critical of then-USA President Ronald Reagan. In 1988 they capped their career with the outstanding album, The Happiest Place in Town. Here’s the video for Guns and Butter.

#3 – The Sound of White by Missy Higgins

Missy Higgins makes another showing on this list with this very early single and the title track of her first album. It was the fourth and final single to be released from the #1 charting album, and was written when she was a teenager about a friend of hers who committed suicide. It climbed to #22 on the charts in August of 2005. I couldn’t find an official video for it, but there are many live versions out there, so I’ve included one of those, as well as the studio version with the lyrics.

 

4th June 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 5 & 6

Here we are at the Top 6, and from here on out, the ladies rule. We’ve got a couple of first-time appearances on the list today, one band I’m sure you’re all aware of, the other act, probably not…

#6 – Jenny Morris – She Has to be Loved

Jenny Morris is a New Zealand born, Australian pop singer. In her native country she had some Top 20 success with her initial band, Crocodiles, before moving to Sydney and embarking on first, a career as a back-up singer for established acts, then as a in another band called QED before finally finding success as a solo artist. In the U.S., Jenny first appeared singing back-up for INXS on The Swing album. She then recorded a duet with Michael Hutchence, performing Nancy Sinatra’s hit, Jackson, which climbed to #2 on the Australian charts. She then joined the band on their world tour for the Listen Like Thieves album, where I discovered her. Her first of several fantastic solo albums, Body and Soul followed soon after.

She Has to be Loved is the second single from her second and most commercially successful album, Shiver. The jittery, propulsive dance number is infectious and delightful. It’s her highest charting solo single, reaching #5 on the Austrlian charts and #3 on the New Zealand charts. It’s feminist lyrics make it a favorite among her female fans.

#5 – Divinyls – Sleeping Beauty

What can I say about Divinyls? Formed in Sydney in 1980, with core members Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee, Divinyls were a formative force in my musical life from the moment I heard Boys in Town until Chrissy’s untimely death at age 53 from breast cancer and beyond. Chrissy’s unabashed sexual ferocity on stage was notorious as she lashed out at other band members and the audience. I remember an early club show I saw of Divinyls, women at the front of the audience would rest their purses on the edge of the stage, and Chrissy would go through them, pulling out lipstick and other items. Her voice, which seemed uncontrolled and strained was actually laser sharp and a tool that Chrissy wielded with precision and beauty. There are so many amazing songs that Divinyls performed over the years that it was difficult not to fill this list with all of them.

Instead, Divinyls get two in the Top 5, starting with Sleeping Beauty, a gorgeous love-ballad from their second album, What a Life! The album was a huge success climbing to #4 on the charts. In Australia, Sleeping Beauty was the fifth single from What a Life!, peaking at #50. In the States, the lead single, Pleasure and Pain written by hitmakers Holly Knight and Michael Chapman, became their first Top 1oo single, reaching #76. Sleeping Beauty was the follow-up single and while it didn’t chart, it got significant airplay on MTV. I love this song and video so much. It’s a great merging of Divinyls emotional sincerity and dark perversions to create a love song all their own.

posted in 1980s, Australia, Divinyls, Favorites, Lists, Music | at 9:14 am | 1 Comment
28th May 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 7 & 8

Took a little break from my list of Top Australian pop songs, but I’m back as we continue to move through the Top 10. These two songs even have a familial connection.

#8 – Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters & Collectors

The second song from Melbourne’s Hunters & Collectors to appear on this list is upon first look, a bit of an anomaly for the band. This beautiful ballad is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. It’s a song that talented songwriter Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House wished he had written. It goes against the propulsive, muscular, political rock songs Hunters & Collectors is usually known for. But frontman Mark Seymour definitely has a sensitive and romantic streak in him, and this song fully embodies it, with such lyrics as “We may never meet again, so shed your skin and let’s get started…”

Throw Your Arms Around Me was released first as a single only in 1984, then included on their breakthrough commercial hit album, Human Frailty in 1986. Many American audiences were exposed to the song during Crowded House’s first U.S. tour, and appearance on MTV Unplugged. Crowded House bass player Nick Seymour is Mark’s younger brother. It’s definitely one of my top love songs of all time.

#7 – Love This Life by Crowded House

Although led by New Zealander Neil Finn, Crowded House was formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1985. Crowded House garnered much success in its home country as well as here in the U.S. Their breakthrough international hit, Don’t Dream it’s Over climbed to #2 in the U.S., #1 in Canada and New Zealand, but curiously, only to #8 in Australia. Songwriter Neil Finn has written so many beautiful songs, and is well known for his songwriting talent. In addition to Don’t Dream It’s Over, songs like Something So StrongWorld Where You LiveBetter Be Home SoonWeather With You, and It’s Only Natural could all have appeared on this list.

I’m cheating again a little, because the song I have chosen to represent Crowded House isn’t even a single, but rather in my mind, one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written. Love This Life is an album track lifted from their second album, Temple of Low Men, and I just find the lyrics, and the gorgeous turn of melody from the dark verse to the hopeful and lovely chorus to truly embody was a lovely song is. And I also included by favorite single by the band, also taken from the Temple of Low Men album. When You Come was the second single released from their second album and it didn’t chart in the States, but it hit #27 in Australia.

This entry includes some really outstanding songwriting, and it’s lovely to have them all together in one post.

posted in 1980s, Australia, Favorites, Lists, Music | at 5:13 pm | 2 Comments
22nd May 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 9 & 10

As we enter the Top 10, we get an 80’s classic and the first appearance of a more recent musical find.

#10 – Shark Fin Blues by Missy Higgins

Born in Melbourne, Missy Higgins’ first full-length studio album was released when she was only 21 years old. Since that time she has released four albums, the first three of which have all climbed to the #1 spot on the Australian album charts. Something of a child prodigy when it came to music, she learned classical piano at age 6. She wrote her first song, All for Believing which was recorded on her first album, at the age of 15. Eight years ago, Missy performed alongside best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, at the Boston Public Library. It was delightful to meet such a down-to-earth young woman who learned of her second albums’ Australian gold status while I was chatting with her.

Missy appears twice on this list, both times in the Top 10. This first entry, Shark Fin Blues was lifted off her last full-length album, Oz, an album of covers originally written by Australian artists. Shark Fin Blues was originally recorded by the Drones, and released in 2005. Higgins offers a gorgeous and haunting rendition, accompanied by a stunning video.

#9 – Bitter Sweet by Hoodoo Gurus

Formed in Sydney in 1981, Hoodoo Gurus gained popularity in the States as a alternative/college act. A successful co-headlining tour with the Bangles in the late 80’s was well-received in the States as well. They have released 9 studio albums, their most recent in 2010.

Released as the first single in 1985 off their second album, Mars Needs Guitars, Bittersweet was something of a departure for the Gurus. Lead singer/songwriter Dave Faulkner was quoted as saying, “… I vowed to myself that I would write less comic narratives and try to express my sentiments in a more forthright way. I feel I succeeded with Bittersweet though at the time I didn’t think that a) the band would want to play it and b) our audience would want to hear it. I was happily wrong on both counts.” It climbed to #10 on the Melbourne Record Charts.

 

posted in Australia, Favorites, Lists, Missy Higgins, Music | at 6:54 am | 0 Comments
19th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs – #’s 11 & 12

As we close in on my Top 10 Australian Pop Songs, we get a blast from the past, and the first of three entries from someone who is still actively recording!

 

#12 – Hold On by Models

Formed in 1978, Models is a Melbourne band who released five studio albums in Australia, but only one, Out of Mind, Out of Sight in the U.S. That album, their fourth, was their highest charting album in Australia, climbing all the way to #3. That same album hit #84 on the Billboard Album Chart. Their break out single, the album’s title track was their only #1 song in Australia, and was a Top 40 hit in the U.S. hitting the #37 spot.

Their final studio album, Models’ Media, spawned three top 3o Australian singles, and the third, Hold On, climbed to #21 in 1987.

#11 Alive & Brilliant by Deborah Conway

Australian mainstay, Deborah Conway, got her start with the pop-rock band, Do Re Mi out of Sydney in 1981. Do Re Mi had a surprise Top 5 hit in Australia with Man Overboard and recorded two successful albums before disbanding in 1988. During that time Conway was involved with Paul Hester who would eventually move to the States to join Crowded House. After several other bands, and a career as an actor and model, Conway launched a solo career with the release of String of Pearls in 1991. She has remained active with her ninth studio solo album released last yea.

I could have picked many songs to appear on this list, and Conway does appear three times, twice as a solo artist, once with Do Re Mi. Coming in at #11 is Alive & Brilliant the lead single from her second album, Bitch Epic.

posted in Australia, Deborah Conway, Favorites, Music | at 10:06 am | 0 Comments
17th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs, #’s 15 & 16 – Here Come the Ladies!

#16 – Coma by Max Sharam

Were you thinking my Top 20 was awfully male-heavy up to this point? Well, don’t you worry, here come the ladies! Max Sharam was born in Australia, and began her recording career out of Sydney, but has lived and performed extensively all around the world. She released her first EP in 1984, and her second ten years later. Her sole full length album was released in 1995, and she followed up with a third EP nineteen years later in 2014! She toured for that EP opening for Cyndi Lauper on her She’s So Unusual 30th Annivesary tour!

Max’s first and highest charting single remains the eclectic number, Coma, which combines her rock & roll sensibilities with her classical voice training. The song reached #14 on the Australian charts in 1994.

#15 – Dive by Christine Anu

Born in Cairns, Australis, Christine Anu is a singer and actor who has one many awards in her homeland. Her first and biggest hit, My Island Home, was released in 1995. The song was originally sung by The Warumpi Band, and reflected songwriter Neil Murray’s life moving from an island to the desert. Anu changed the lyrics to reflect her own life moving from her island home of Saibai to the city. Anu released nine albums from 1995 to 2015, and appeared in 15 films and/or television shows.

Dive is the third song to appear on this list with a David Bridie connection. Bridie wrote Dive and sand it on his debut solo album. Christine gives Dive a little more spirit, lifting it out of its ambient sounds, and infuses it with the soul of her island upbringing.

But upon further persual of Anu’s catalog, I decided that a better representation on this list would be her song, Coz I’m Free taken from her 2000 album, Come My Way. Either way, Anu is a singular talent and deserves her spot on this list.

 

posted in Australia, Favorites, Music | at 6:40 am | 1 Comment
15th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs, #’s 17 & 18

#18 – Take Me Back by Noiseworks

Formed in Sydney in 1986, Noiseworks was a hard rock band with a melodic edge in the Honeymoon Suite/Bon Jovi mold. They produced four Top 10 albums in Australia, along with three Top 10 singles. Although their first two albums were released in the U.S. they failed to chart at all. New Zealand-born lead singer Jon Freeman, was of M?ori descent, and became the lead vocalist for Inxs in 2000 for three years after Michael Hutchence’s death. Take Me Back was their first and highest-charting Australia single reaching the #7 spot.

#17 – Breath by David Bridie

As mentioned in yesterday’s entry, David Bridie first rose to prominence in the band Not Drowning, Waving, which was active through the early 1980’s through the early 1990’s and released six albums. As that band was nearing the end of its run, Bridie started a second band in the early 90’s called My Friend the Chocolate Cake which also released 6 studio albums. In 2000, Bridie released the first of four solo albums, his latest as recently as 2013. Breath  is an atmospheric track taken from his first solo album, Act of Free Choice.

posted in Australia, Favorites, Music | at 10:30 pm | 0 Comments
14th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs, #’s 19 & 20

A friend of mine asked if I would send him my Top 10 Australian pop songs for an article he was writing on books about the music industry, and I jumped at the chance. I was a huge fan of Australian music in the 80’s and it was quite easy for me to come up with a lot of great songs for this list. In fact, I couldn’t stop at just 10, and ended up with a list of my top 20 Australian pop songs. I’m not sure if my friend was able to use my list for his article, but I thought I could definitely share it here.

So here they are, #20 and #19 of my Top 20 Australian pop songs!

#20 – Back on the Breadline by Hunters & Collectors

Formed in 1981, Hunters & Collectors was fronted by singer-songwriter/guitarist Mark Seymour. The band’s signature sound was their three piece horn section including a trumpet, trombone and french horn, and muscular blend of rock and funk. Seymour’s gruff, masculine presentation was underscored by a lyrical sensitivity that really elevated their music to something unique and special. I had the opportunity to meet Seymour backstage at the Channel in Boston, and he’s always been someone I’ve admired as a performer.

Back on the Breadline was one of three songs added to the U.S. version of their fifth studio album, What’s a Few Men? It peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. Funny story: the first time I heard it on the radio, I thought it was a new track by Joan Armatrading.

#19 – Spark by Not Drowning, Waving

Melbourne Australia band, not drowning, waving, was formed in 1983 by keyboard player/vocalist, David Bridie and guitaris, John Phillips. Their musical style combined rock, ambient sounds, and world music, and they released nine studio albums. David Bridie also released solo albums, and he appears three times on this list, once here, once as a solo artist, and once as songwriter for another musician. A couple of interesting side notes, Bridie and fellow members of not drowning, waving, formed a side-project, My Friend The Chocolate Cake to play more acoustic-based material. They also scored the film Proof starring Russell Crowe and Hugo Weaving in 1991.

Spark was a cut off their 1993 album, Circus.

posted in Australia, Favorites, Music | at 7:21 pm | 0 Comments
29th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 1 – 5

Here they are, my top 5 titles from Marvel that are currently being published. Five solo titles… unprecendeted. Four female-led titles… shocking. Four of these titles are brand new, having started publication within the past year. They are titles that I never thought would be published. The fifth has been around for a long time, but has radically changed beyond all my wildest expectations and is more fun than I’ve had with a comic for a long time. Two years ago I never would have predicted any of these titles to be in my Top 5.

Vision#5 – Vision
Tom King, writer
Gabriel Hernandez Walta, artist

As a kid, I loved the Vision. He was cool looking, had original powers, and his romance with the Scarlet Witch was legendary and dramatic. Of course, like most comics, and many written by John Byrne, the Vision (and the Scarlet Witch) were put through the ringer in the 90’s and in my opinion, came out the other end a lot worse for wear. I lost a lot of my interest in the Vision, and few writers have really used him all that effectively since then.

Then along comes Tom King, with an entirely new look at the android Avenger, penning a domestic, suburban, horror story that’s part Frankenstein, part Stepford Wives, and can only lead to misery and heartbreak. Vision want a family; so he creates one. A loving wife, and a pair of teenage siblings; all with the same abilities as his. Their behavior is modeled on a traditional loving, suburban family, but while the Vision has had years to perfect his humanity, the rest of his family is quite new to it, and must rely solely on the programming Vision has provided. Add to that, the very humanity Vision seeks to own, and provide for his family, sometimes results in decisions made form the heart rather than the head. King explores the rich history of the Vision’s past to create a disturbing and powerful examination on the desire to belong. Gabriel Hernandez provides beautiful artwork that conveys both the emotional needs and the horror of the Vision family’s situation.

Hellcat.jpg#4 – Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat
Kate Leth, writer
Brittney Williams, artist

If any character needed to capitalize on the movement Ms. Marvel started at fun comics aimed at teen girls, it’s Patsy Walker. Rich in Marvel history, but with origins in romance comics, Patsy became a superheroine in her own right in the 80’s adopting the costume worn by the feminist heroine, The Cat, to become Hellcat. She’s had a bumpy road to 2016, marrying the Son of Satan, committing suicide, and being rescued from hell, but now she returns to her roots, with a 2016 twist. Patsy, the comic book character, is embracing her past as a romance comic star, although it’s definitely something she’s embarrassed about. She’s also making some new friends to go along with her old friends that give the fun-loving Patsy lots of fun people to interact with.

Squarely aimed at younger girls, in both storylines and artwork, Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat really launches forward from where Ms. Marvel set things up. Friendships are paramount, whether it’s She-Hulk or her former Defender teammate, Valkyrie, or her new friends and roommates. Gay themes are front and center, reflecting a much more modern social society that lots of younger adults are comfortable with. Patsy has always deserved a fun book, and with her “cheese & crackers” personality, it makes total sense to aim this thoroughly at teens. I don’t know how long this book will last, but I’m hoping for a nice long run.

Scarlet Witch#3 – Scarlet Witch
James Robinson, writer
Various Artists

The Scarlet Witch was always one of my favorite characters through the 70’s and 80’s. Passionate and feisty, with interesting powers, she was a mutant that wasn’t associated with the X-Men. She was a good team player, and her romance with Vision was unique and well played-out. Then Byrne kind of ruined her, Kurt Busiek tried to rehabilitate her in a way I didn’t like, and Bendis utterly destroyed her character. It has taken years for Wanda to recover and become a viable character in the Marvel Universe again, so I was interested to see what James Robinson would be able to do with her character. Especially as the lead in a solo title, which she has never successfully accomplished before.

The result has been weirdly interesting and utterly enjoyable for me. Robinson explores her use of chaos magic, given Wanda a centered, assured demeanor, and sent her on an exotic journey throughout the globe. While using a different artist for each issue is an intriguing idea, it does make the look for the book less cohesive, but the overall design of the book is fairly consistent, thanks to David Aja’s gorgeous covers. For however long Wanda is able to maintain her title, Robinson has created a new, intriguing chapter in her life, one that gives further definition to a long-standing character, and gives her a platform from which to grow. Wanda should have a prominent place in the Marvel Universe, and I’m thrilled to see that coming to pass.

Mockingbird#2 – Mockingbird
Chelsea Cain, writer
Kate Niemczyk, artist

Perhaps it’s too soon for Mockingbird to appear so high on a favorite comics list, but never has a title so quickly provided me with so much enjoyment. After only three issues and a special one-shot, best-selling author Chelsea Cain has given Bobbi Morse a strong, three-dimensional personality, a fascinating story, and a book that’s fun, sexy, and exciting. Delving into her origins as a scientist and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and riffing on her period on the television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while deftly acknowledging, but not dwelling on her most definitive history as Hawkeye’s wife and an Avenger, Cain allows Bobbi to soar.

What it comes down to is that Cain has made Bobbi cool. Maybe not as cool as Black widow (yet) but certainly more fun, and just as competent as the Russian super-spy. I’m sure the book will eventually delve further into Bobbi’s past, and I’m looking forward to Cain’s view of her time as a more traditional superhero. The book is smartly written, with gorgeous art by newcomer Kate Niemczyk enhancing the experience. If Mockingbird comes in at #2 this early in its life, I can only hope the quality continues, and possibly even top this list in the months to come.

The Mighty Thor#1 – The Mighty Thor
Jason Aaron, writer
Russell Dauterman, artist

Marvel’s Thor, the Asgardian god of thunder, has been around for a long time. While Thor himself was never a favorite (although I liked him okay), I’ve always had a soft spot for the Asgardians. A few years ago when Sif headlined Journey Into Mystery, it was my favorite title, and remains, to this day, one of my favorite comic runs. Never would I have predicted that The Mighty Thor would top a list of favorite comics. Even when Marvel unexpectedly removed the usual guy wielding Mjolnir and replaced him with a mystery woman, did I expect to love it so much. The fact of the matter is, Jason Aaron has breathed now, vibrant life into Thor and reimagined the character as a kick-ass superheroine to boot!

I was already enjoying the Thor comic before the gender swap occurred. Things Asgardian have been well-handled in recent years, from the afore-mentioned Sif, to the outstanding books involving Loki. I was enjoying the Thor title before Odinson became unworthy and lost the hammer to the new Thor. The stories were interesting and fun; the lead character and supporting cast were entertaining. When the new Thor took hold of the hammer, her interaction with the Odinson was priceless, and her evolving relationship with Thor’s former family and colleagues has been so much fun to watch. Aaron has spent a great deal of time defining and exploring the new Thor, all while keeping the threads from the Odinson’s title percolating in the background, and ready to explode in coming issues. He’s also given us a great mystery and sense of drama with the new Thor’s identity and condition when not wielding Mjolnir. All of this adds up to one fantastic book that leads the charge of what is surely a Marvel renaissance for this particular reader.

And there you have it. My favorite Marvel titles being published right now, and a couple that recently concluded. I may continue this with my favorite DC titles being published right now, but as they’re about to relaunch their entire line, I may take a different look at them. I sure hope Marvel can maintain the quality and diversity of their output. I never would have expected this to be possible ten years ago. Now all we need is the return of the Invisible Woman and someone to fall in love with and use Mantis a bit more, and I will be the happiest comic reader around.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 8:39 am | 0 Comments
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