Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” by XTC:

No, not that XTC, but the 1970s/1980s/1990s band from Swindon, England. “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” is the first XTC song I remember hearing, though it may well have been 1979’s “Making Plans for Nigel.” At any rate, “The Ballad of Peterpumpkinhead” pumped out of my WXRT-tuned radio in 1992, and it seemed strange and enthralling to me. It seems less strange to me now, but no less an enthralling piece of guitar pop/rock.

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Song of the Week: “Functions on the Low” by XTC

by Douglas Cowie on 7 December 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Functions on the Low” by XTC:

No, not this XTC but the grime producer. I was rereading and teaching Jeffrey Boyake’s superb Hold Tight last week, and relistening to this infectious groove. I love its computer game esthetic. You might recognize “Functions on the Low” as the track that Stormzy freestyled over for “Shut Up,” the song that brought him to the attention of middle aged people like me.

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Song of the Week: “Ballad for a Child” by Archie Shepp

by Douglas Cowie on 30 November 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Ballad for a Child” by Archie Shepp”

Last week I went to the Barbican Centre to see and hear Archie Shepp. He’s 84 years old now, and plays and sings beautifully. For this concert he was playing with an ensemble, a choir, and organist Amina Claudine Myers. You can read the program here. It was an excellent, thrilling concert, and towards the end they played “Ballad for a Child,” from Archie Shepp’s 1972 album Attica Blues.

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Song of the Week: “Love Buzz” by Shocking Blue

by Douglas Cowie on 23 November 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Love Buzz” by Shocking Blue:

Kurt Cobain had a good ear for the cover version, often from obscure and/or little-known sources. Through Nirvana I learned about The Vaselines and The Meat Puppets, for just two examples. Because I’m a nerd who reads liner notes and song credits, I knew that “Love Buzz”, the fifth song on Bleach, wasn’t a Cobain-penned song, but I’d never actually heard the original until this week, when it buzzed in from 1969 and out of the speakers while I was listening to the radio.

I almost held my breath listening to it. The thing that struck me most was all the space–Shocking Blue are not afraid to use silence as part of their sonic palate, and it creates a serious tension that Nirvana’s cover version replaces with the big Melvins-y guitars. I really like the Nirvana version: it’s creepy and sleazy and big Melvins-y guitars light my fire. But Shocking Blue create a different kind of vibe–tense, longing where Nirvana is creepy, and building its set of psychedelic guitar sounds into a frenzied groove in that middle section. Listening to it feels like listening to the exact Venn diagram overlap of Jefferson Airplane and The Cramps.

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