Just Giblets

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 5 & 6

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
18th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs – #’s 13 & 14

#14 – Another Day in the Big World by Eurogliders

Eurogliders are the first Perth-based band to appear on this list, and they came together in 1980. After releasing a first album that didn’t do much for them, their second album, This Island, exploded, peaking at #4 in Australia, and hitting #140 on the Billboard Top 200 albums. It spawned their first Australian Top 10 single, Heaven (Must Be There), which climbed all the way to #2. It reached #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. I saw Eurogliders live at a club in Boston, and had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with keyboard player Amanda Vincent and drummer John Bennetts at a ’til Tuesday show the night before. I think they were surprised anyone knew who they were, and even knew their names!

There are a lot of Eurogliders songs that I loved, and could have chosen for this list but the update single, Another Day in the Big World is definitely one of my favorites. This was the second of four singles released in Australia off This Island, and it peaked at #66.

And I’m sure many of you remember their single, Heaven (Must Be There)

#13 – Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) by Inxs

Certainly the most well-known band to appear on this list, Inxs were an international sensation. Forming in 1977 as The Farris Brothers, Inxs released their first, self-titled album in 1980. The band hit it big in Australia and made some waves on the alternative scene in the U.S. with their next two albums, Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing. But it was with their fifth album, Listen Like Thieves that they achieved true international success with the single What You Need hitting #2 in Australia, and climbing into the Top 5 in the U.S. They would go on to even greater success with their follow-up album, Kick, and their #1 U.S. hit, Need You Tonight.

For my list, I’ve included their fourth single off the Listen Like Thieves album, Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain). The song becaome their 10th Australian To 20 hit, peaking at #15, but it failed to chart in the U.S. It did however climb to #24 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks. The accompanying video was shot in Coober Pedy in South Austrlia. The flew direct form the U.S. to shoot the video overnight, then returned to the U.S. the following day.

 

posted in 1980s, Australia, Music | at 6:46 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 | 0 Comments
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
14th August 2016
by Michael

Kate Bush’s singles from Worst to Best

Kate BushRecently The Daily Telegraph ranked Kate Bush’s 31 singles from worst to best. I was struck how low some of my personal favorite were, and how well some of the ones I was more indifferent to were ranked. Perhaps it’s a function of being here in the States, where Kate never really broke out, as opposed to England where she did quite well. I thought I would offer up my own ranking, and will include The Daily Telegraph’s ranking and how high the song reached on the British charts as well.

#31 – Deeper Understanding (2011)

from Director’s Cut; ranked #21 by The Daily Telegraph; #87 on the British charts
This track utilized the Trio Bulgarka a Bulgarian vocal ensemble to great effect in its original version lifted from The Sensual World, and it was still a bit cheesy. When Kate re-recorded it for her Director’s Cut album, substituting her son Bertie as the voice of the computer it just didn’t work at all.

#30 – And So Is Love (1994)

from The Red Shoes; ranked #25 by The Daily Telegraph; #26 on the British charts
Kate gets bluesy with a little help from Eric Clapton on this album cut from The Red Shoes. I always used to skip over this song when I listed to the album. Not really my cup of tea.

#29 – The Man I Love (1994)

from The Glory of Gershwin compilation; ranked #14 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #27 on the British charts
This fairly straightforward reading of a Gershwin classic was one Kate Bush song I hadn’t heard until I found this Daily Telegraph list! Kate does a nice job with this song, but alas, it’s not a Kate bush song…

#28 – Wow (1979)

from Lionheart; ranked #8 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #14 on the British charts
This was the first single off the much-anticipated follow-up to Kate’s groundbreaking debut, The Kick Inside. It’s a daring little confection about trying to keep theatrical performances fresh while performing them day-in and day-out, week-in, week-out, with references to bitchy queens and vaseline, but it’s over-dramatic (appropriately so) howling chorus does wear on me after awhlie.

#27 – Lyra (2007)

from The Golden Compass (soundtrack); ranked #13 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #187 on the British charts
Lovely, sweeping vocals play over the closing credits of the sadly disappointing film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantastic teen novel, The Golden Compass. It hit the British charts on the strength of its Digital Downloads alone. A bit of a throwaway, but a nice song. (I wish they’d included Be Kind to My Mistakes, Kate’s offering from the 80’s film Castaway, wasted as a B-side. That would have possibly cracked my top 10!)

#26 – Wild Man (2011)

from 50 Words for Snow; ranked #12 by the Daily Telegraph; reached #73 on the British charts
The lead, and only single from Kate’s last album, Wild Man is reminiscent of her previous single, King of the Mountain — interesting and heralding something new from a notoriously slow to produce artist, but in context, rather straightforward although this one has a rather intriguing chorus with some funky vocals.

#25 – Rocket Man (1991)

from Two Rooms; ranked #28 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
Offering her own version of one of Elton John’s beautiful classics, Kate puts her own reggae spin on Rocket Man taken from an early 90’s tribute album. Nice to see Kate having a little fun in the video.

#24 – King of the Mountain (2005)

from Aerial; ranked #22 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #4 on the British charts
Twelve years or so in the making, King of the Mountain heralded a triumphant return as the lead single of a double album masterpiece. It’s one of Kate’s highest charting single, but strangely enough, I never really appreciated it until I saw it performed live with the majesty and menace that lay hidden within.

#23 – Don’t Give Up (1986)

from So; ranked #16 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #9 on the British charts
This duet with Peter Gabriel off his masterpiece album, So, features Kate as the solitary ray of hope trying to reach a defeated man. A review in Rolling Stone magazine said this about Kate: “Don’t give up,” she breathes with the voice of life itself…” That’s Kate. The voice of life itself.

#22 Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) (1985)

from Hounds of Live; ranked #11 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #3 on the British charts (#37 on the U.S. charts!)
Kate’s only Top 40 U.S. single, also cracked the top 5 in Britain, this propulsive, rumination on seeing the world through your partner’s eyes has a lot of mileage for a deceptively simple song… although Kate’s simplest songs are more complicated that most pop singers can even imagine. I was surprised that this didn’t make the Telegraph’s Top 10. One of her best videos though…

#21 – Them Heavy People (Live) (1979)

from Live at the Hammersmith Odeon EP; ranked #26 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #10 on the British charts
American audiences weren’t ready when Kate appeared on Saturday Night Live singing about Gurdjieff and Jesu. This live track taken from her first concert tour captured her musical talent, her dancing daring, and her wackiness perfectly.

#20 – Babooshka (1980)

from Never for Ever; ranked #9 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #5 on the British charts
Bush’s third album saw her reaching toward the gorgeous madness that culminated in what many feel is her masterpiece fourth album, The Dreaming. Yet somehow, even as the edges of her music frayed with brilliance, she retained a strong pop sensibility while howling out, “I’m all yours, Babooshka!” This is a fun song, but not deserving of the Top 10 spot that The Daily Telegraph bestowed upon it.

#19 – This Woman’s Work (1989)

from The Sensual World; ranked #5 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #25 on the British charts
Kate wrote this song for the John Hughes film, She’s Having a Baby, and it’s an interesting take on the power of childbirth from the man’s point of view. It’s a gorgeous ballad, with Kate’s voice at it’s most emotional, starting of tremulously, then building with a grand crescendo that will chill you. Still, I rank it far lower than The Telegraph, which has this song at #5!

#18 – Hammer Horror (1979)

from Lionheart; ranked #20 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #44 on the British charts
Kate mines her love of horror films, particularly the classics produced by this movie studio, to spin a tale of a dead colleague who can’t let go of life. It features her trademark swooping vocals that soar into the stratosphere before plunging deep into the ocean. And a great little video too.

#17 – Breathing (1980)

from Never for Ever; ranked #17 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #16 on the British charts
Here is the moment when Kate began to take control of her musical career, and it’s fitting that it’s where The Daily Telegraph and I agree. Tackling a powerful subject, a song sung from the point of view of an unborn child who doesn’t want to be born into a post-apocalyptic world, Kate starts to move away from the child-like vocals and introduce a darker element to her music. It’s a chilling song, and the video is a mini-masterpiece, complete with cheesy 70’s special effects!

#16 – Experiment IV (1986)

from The Whole Story; ranked #19 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #23 on the British charts
When Kate released her greatest hits collection to introduce her music to America, she included one new track, the haunting, dystopian Experiment IV. Kate likes to imagine a dark future, and in this track, she imagines a world where scientists have created a sound that can kill from a distance. In the dark vision of Ms. Bush, this takes the form of a demonic entity played by the musician herself. The video features appearances by Dawn French, Hugh Laurie and Gary Oldman.  I thought as a follow-up to Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) Kate might have another Top 40 hit in America. Shows you what I know.

#15 – December Will be Magic Again (1980)

stand-alone Christmas single; ranked #10 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #29 on the British charts
Only Kate could release a Christmas single that’s also a love letter to England. With her trademark vocal swoops and dives evident in full force, this is an easy song for non-believers to make fun of, but it’s just beautiful, and it captures the magic of Christmas and England beautifully.

#14 – The Dreaming (1982)

from The Dreaming; ranked #31 by the Daily Telegraph; reached #42 on the British charts
While it lacks the polish of Hounds of Love, The Dreaming may actually be my favorite Kate Bush album. It was a commercial flop, but  it is so audacious; so insane, that it pushes the boundaries of pop music. For the title track, Kate tackles the plight of the aboriginal in Australia, and the mystic place between life and death called the Dreamtime. This was The Daily Telegraph’s lowest ranked single, but for me it’s sheer boldness merits a place in the Top 20 — and it’s multi-layered sound is rather amazing.

#13 – Love & Anger (1989)

from The Sensual World; ranked #29 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #38 on the British charts (and #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rocks chart!)
To kick off The Sensual World, Kate chose a logical follow-up to her triumph of Hounds of Love. Lots of drums, guitar by David Gilmour, and a cool video kept Kate in the American consciousness. Kind of the grown-up version of the fuck-you/adolescent cockiness of Sat In Your Lap. It’s a solid Bush song.

#12 – The Red Shoes (1994)

from The Red Shoes; ranked #30 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #21 on the British charts
Kate’s 1994 album, The Red Shoes was pretty hit and miss with me, but the title track was a explosive, manic dance number driven by Irish melodies, pipes and strings, and Kate’s intense vocal delivery. It was the high point in a bold, yet nearly conventional album that left Bush with an eleven-year gap between albums. Here, and with the previous Love & Anger is where The Daily Telegraph and I really differ.

#11 – The Man with the Child in His Eyes (1978)

from The Kick Inside; ranked #7 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #6 on the British charts
She wrote this song when she was 13. That’s all you really need to know about this exquisite ballad that rivals those written by musicians years her senior. Simple, understated, and beautiful. It just misses my top 10.

#10 – Army Dreamers (1980)

from Never for Ever; ranked #24 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #16 on the British charts
As Bush started to spread her wings lyrically and musically on her third album, she tackles one of her most devastating ditties, about young men going off to war and coming back in coffins. Sung as a lilting waltz, she marries a light musical touch with serious lyrical overtones. I’ve always loved this song, and its accompanying video. It’s a strong anchor for my Top 10.

#9 – Wuthering Heights (1978)

from The Kick Inside; ranked #4 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #1 on the British charts
Here’s the song that started it all. The precocious Kate Bush released a debut single not about falling in love, or getting your heart broken (although really, it’s about both of those things) but about Heathcliff and Cathy, the characters from Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. More specifically, about Cathy’s ghost haunting Heathcliff forevermore on the moors. It was like nothing heard before on pop radio and it kicked off a career that is unparalleled still today.

#8 – Moments of Pleasure (1993)

from The Red Shoes; ranked #1 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #26 on the British charts
In what is most likely Bush’s most personal song, this beautiful, emotional ballad is clearly inspired by the death of her mother as she fondly remembers loved ones who have been part of her world. Although slightly overblown production-wise, you can’t deny the power of Bush’s delivery and turn of melody. And when she sings, “Hey there, Michael, do you really love me?” The answer is a resounding yet.

#7 – Cloudbusting (1985)

from Hounds of Love; ranked #3 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #20 on the British charts
Despite the mainstream success of Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) it was the other three singles from Hounds of Love that were the triumvirate of pop genius. Cloudbusting, coming it at #7 on my list, and #3 on The Daily Telegraph’s ranking, is epic in scope, complete with a 7-minute movie/video starring Donald Sutherland to accompany it. As the closing encore to her Before the Dawn concert in 2014, it left the audiences gloriously uplifted.

#6 – There Goes a Tenner (1982)

from The Dreaming; ranked #18 by The Daily Telegraph; did not make the British charts
The only Kate Bush single to miss the British charts completely, I attribute that to the backlash against The Dreaming album, which for me is sheer genius, and evident by the #6 ranking of this delightfully quirky, and hilarious ditty about a bank robbery gone wrong. I loved the videos from The Dreaming ear as well, and this, another mini-epic, is delightful. (In fact, my favorite non-single by Bush is arguably from this album, Suspended in Gaffa.)

#5 – Rubberband Girl (1993)

from The Red Shoes; ranked #23 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
I’m not sure why I love this song so much. Maybe because it’s such a mainstream, pop ditty from Kate Bush. It’s basically one chord with some funky instrumentation and trademark swooping Bush vocals. Why on earth EMI elected to release the far more mundane and less interesting Eat the Music for the American single is beyond me. This is a far better choice. I’ve included both the UK version (from The Red Shoes film) and the US version of the videos because they’re fun.

#4 – Sat in Your Lap (1982)

from The Dreaming; ranked #6 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #11 on the British charts
This was the single that heralded a new day for Kate. It was the lead single from The Dreaming, and I’m sure some people thought she’d lost her mind. Especially when they say this whack-a-doodle video (one of my favorites). I just love this song about the challenge of staying motivated to improve creatively. Something Bush clearly knew a lot about with this change in musical direction. It never stopped after The Dreaming. Nice to see the high ranking on the Telegraph as well… and that the British public responded pretty well too – almost getting her back into the Top 10. And come on, isn’t this the best video?

#3 – The Sensual World (1989)

from The Sensual World; ranked #2 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
There is no song out there that better embodies the sensual, the sumptuousness of lush, sexual beauty, than Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. And to add to that this song is actually the soliloquy Ms. Bush interprets for James Joyce’s Molly Bloom, plucked out of the novel Ulysses and set free to feel and experience that real, sensual world, as opposed to the literary world of words. And surely one of the most gorgeous videos ever made as Kate/Molly dances through the woods as the seasons change, in a gorgeous, form-fitting, velvet dress. The breathy vocals, and that last look into the camera as the song comes to a close. Wow.  Look how close The Daily Telegraph and I are on this one. There’s no denying it. You just need to experience it.

#2 – The Big Sky (1986)

from Hounds of Love; ranked #27 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #37 on the British charts
For the longest time, The Big Sky was my stock answer when asked what my favorite Kate Bush single was. As you can see, that has changed, but it’s still pretty close. I love the joy Kate expresses in this song… it’s so exultant and fun — a celebration of the sky, but at the same time a bit of a diss to the press, and a song about putting things into perspective. Such a gloriously fun video too. The audience is filled with members of the Kate Bush Club, and I remember thinking the first time I saw it, if I had been in the audience when Kate ran down the catwalk blowing kisses into the crowd, I would have swooned. I don’t know what The Daily Telegraph is thinking by ranking this single to low. They’re just wrong in this case.

#1 – Hounds of Love (1985)

from Hounds of Love; ranked #15 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #15 on the British charts
Over the past 10 – 12 years, Hounds of Love has emerged to be my favorite Kate Bush song. It’s a perfect song for me. From the spoken intro, “It’s in the trees, it’s coming” and the tribal pounding of the drums, you know something amazing is about to start. The rhythmic driving of the strings provide the perfect combination of propulsion and menace beneath Kat’s frantic vocal that is both filled with fear, and filled with longing. The song is a perfect allegory, the fear of love and commitment being likened to a fox fleeing the hunt… it’s the hounds of love are hunting… and Kate captures the range of emotions beautifully. The title track off her seminal album, this song just lifts me up to glorious heights until Kate’s final exultant cry, “I need love, love, love, love, love, love, yeah,” puts the transcendent cap on the this perfect pop song.

And there it is, Kate’s 31 British singles ranked from least favorite to most favorite according to me. I definitely skew to mid-career — The Dreaming and Hounds of Love being her pinnacle for me. Although I always thought How to Be Invisible from Aerial should have been a single, and it would have ranked very high on this list. I will leave you with one of my favorite non-singles from Kate that she also happens to have made a video for. Suspended in Gaffa was taken from The Dreaming, and I’m not sure why she made the video since it wasn’t released as a single, but I’m sure glad she did.

 

 

 

 

 

posted in Kate Bush, Lists, Music | at 11:35 am | 0 Comments
22nd August 2013
by Michael

Tusk!

Fleetwood Mac circa 1979I periodically go on a Fleetwood Mac jag, where I can’t get enough of their albums.  And not being a Stevie Nicks sycophant (although I do enjoy a lot of her work) but a Christine McVie fanatic, my Fleetwood Mac listening is not limited to their 1975 white album on, but goes back to the early 70’s, pre-Buckingham Nicks, when the likes of Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan were members.  My latest obsession from the last couple of weeks has been Tusk, their 1979 follow-up to the phenomenally successful, life-changing Rumours.

tuskTusk was a curious album.  There was no way the band was going to repeat the magic that emerged out of their personal break-ups and formed Rumours, number 10 on the list of best-selling albums of all time.  (You can see that list at http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/whats-the-biggest-selling-album-of-all-time/).  I’m sure the pressure from their label, Warner Bros. was pretty intense to do just that, but the band went in a completely different direction.  While it seems that Lindsey Buckingham was the driving force between the pseudo-punk, vaguely country tone of Tusk, certainly throughout all of his, the majority, contributions, his quirky production served Christine and Stevie’s compositions well.  Back in 1979, when Tusk was released, it was a rather shocking turn from Fleetwood Mac.  When listened to today, it seems even more incomprehensible juxtaposed with Rumours, but it works all the better for it.  The double album cost $1M to record, an exorbitant amount at the time, and with it only reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard charts it is considered a disappointment.  Still, it did sell over 2M copies, earning a double platinum certification.

The title track was released as a single in advance of the album, and should have been a good indication that this was not going to be a Fleetwood Mac album like anything we’d expected.  From the jungle beat of the drums, the bizarre lyrics mumbled, then half-shrieked, and the overlay of the USC marching band, this was something visceral and different.  I was transfixed.  I ran around my high school (I was a senior) shouting Tusk!  I even included it as one of my quotes in the yearbook.

Now as I listen to Tusk some 34 years later, I am struck by how forward thinking it was, and how I think it might be Fleetwood Mac’s best album.  Okay, maybe not their best, but certainly Lindsey Buckingham does his best work ever with the band, or at least, most original.  Stevie Nicks turns in some pretty interesting work as well, and while Christine McVie has always been, in my opinion, the most reliable of the Mac songwriters, she doesn’t disappoint on Tusk.  While Tusk is arguably Lindsey’s album, it’s the way he pushes Christine and Stevie to the far reaches of what could be their comfort zones that really shines on Tusk.  (Although, part of me hopes that they all had fun trying out stuff they’d never usually perform – just take another listen to ‘The Ledge.’)

My current obsession is Christine McVie’s ‘Think About Me.’ It was a third single off the album, and is considered a minor hit for the band, only reaching #20 on the Billboard singles chart.  When I first heard ‘Think About Me’ it seemed a typical McVie single, reminiscent of ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Say You Love Me.’ Listening to it today, I am struck by the rock ‘n roll and punk influences, and the sparse, powerful mix of the song.  Lyrically, McVie injects a little wry sarcasm into the song, something she is not usually known for.  ‘Think About Me’ really features the power of McVie’s piano driving the song rhythmically forward, and Buckingham’s chunky guitar blends to create something truly rollicking.  Once again, McVie choses to alternate vocals with Buckingham, the former taking the lead on the vocals, the latter leading the bands trademark sublime harmonies on the choruses.  The vocal mix is perfect, with each of the unique voices easily picked out when they sing together.  Add to that the solid foundation of Fleetwood’s drums and McVie’s surprisingly flashy bass and it thrills me every time I listen to it.  McVie’s other contributions include the album opener, ‘Over & Over,’ the haunting ‘Brown Eyes,’ the gorgeously simple and heartfelt ‘Never Make Me Cry,’ the intricate confection ‘Honey Hi,’ and one of the best album closers ever, ‘Never Forget.’

Stevie Nicks’ most memorable song on Tusk for most people is ‘Sara,’ the second single from the album, and the highest charting, climbing to #7 on the Billboard charts.  I’ve always found ‘Sara’ to be rather uninspired, overlong and little boring.  The fourth single from Tusk was Stevie’s ‘Sisters of the Moon,’ a dark, pseudo-sequel to ‘Rhiannon.’  Nice enough, but pretty standard Stevie-fare.  Her other three compositions for Tusk are some of her finest work.  ‘Storms’ is a gently rumbling lament, beautifully constructed, and more complex than much of her Fleetwood Mac work.  ‘Angel’ is probably my favorite song Nicks wrote for Fleetwood Mac.  It’s got a bouncy, bluesy chord progression that makes it sound like a Christine McVie composition sung by Nicks.  The hauntingly lovely ‘Beautiful Child’ closes out Nicks’ contributions to Tusk.  Powered by McVie’s gentle piano and flush with the vocal interplay Fleetwood Mac is known for ‘Beautiful Child’ is a heartfelt ballad that highlights Stevie’s strength as a songwriter.  While Nicks’ songs are possibly the least affected by Tusk’s strangeness, Buckingham keeps the arrangements sparse and raw lending an urgency even to her most gentle numbers.

But it’s true, Tusk is really Lindsey Buckingham’s album, and his creativity and originality really show through on his songs.  Penning nine of Tusk’s twenty songs, Lindsey’s short, energetic numbers are like exclamatory punctuation marks sprinkled through the narrative.  His songs burst with heavy, distorted guitars and raucous vocal shrieks that convey frustration, anxiety and anger.  In some cases the bizarre lyrics seem interchangeable (and in fact, listening to the demo tracks included on the 25th anniversary release, snippets of lyrics are used on various songs).  The first of Lindsey’s songs you experience is the punk/country hybrid called ‘The Ledge.’  You might think, ‘he’s lost his mind, what the heck is this?’ but it’s a powerful locomotive of a song with the three vocalists harmonizing with wails and whispers the likes of which Fleetwood Mac had never explored before.  ‘Not That Funny’ is Buckingham’s punk response to Rumours’ ‘Never Going Back Again.’  It’s a bouncy pop ditty that leaps off the record with a high-pitched acoustic guidtar part that sticks in your head.  Along with ‘That’s Enough for Me’ and ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’ these are three musical outbursts that highlight Lindsey’s new musical direction and his frantic energy.  ‘What Makes You Think You’re the One’ is almost traditional anchored by a pounding piano line that McVie once said made here wrists hurt after a day of recording.  ‘Save Me a Place’ and ‘That’s All for Everyone’ are lush, dreamy tracks that retain the quirky sensibilities of Lindsey’s current vision, but are less confrontational and again, use the trio’s vocal interplay to maximum affect.   Buckingham’s most beautiful number is yearning falsetto-powered ‘Walk a Thin Line.’  It highlights his adept vocals but it once again takes the expected Mac oohs and aahs and pushes them slightly left of center to remind us that we’re not listening to Rumours.

The first time I saw Fleetwood Mac live was during the Tusk tour at the Boston Garden.  It was a glorious show, and was the first of three (or maybe four times) that I was able to see them live.  I know they have had a bit of a return in the past few years, but without Christine McVie, it’s just not the same for me.  There was some sort of magic when those five made music together, and Christine McVie is one of my all time musical heroes.  I’m just glad the band has a long history of music to which I can return.

posted in Favorites, Fleetwood Mac, Music, Nostalgia | at 9:52 pm | 0 Comments
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