Write Here, Write Now: 4.23 – I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)

Candi Staton – I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool).  Horny song for Melania?

29 when she released this her first single, it’s got soul horns all over it. Starting with organ playing and  settling into a steady beat, the horns blare out to add emphasis to her every line.

She’s got a strong voice, which reminds me of Aretha singing ‘Think’ or  ‘Respect’. All over in 2 minutes, the 8 verses are all launched into with gusto and tailed with backing vocals and, of course, horns. There’s a neat little guitar solo somewhere around the 1 minute mark. But the best thing about the song is the singing. As well as tuneful and confident, there’s a stressing of words which is rhythmic and powerful, hitting the lyrics with the force of a professional tennis player striking the ball. The sound ricochets deep into the ear. The horns are like the clouds of chalk dust on the court floor, explosive ripples marking where the voice passed through. Even the pause before starting each verse adds to the anticipation – pulling the bow back to ready the arrow for its flight to the target.

If I was the old man targeted by Candi, I think I’d be mightily invigorated by her passion. Let those young men make fools of others, she’d have energy enough for the two of us.

Better conserve my energy now and get to bed. I’ve got two young daughters keeping me on my toes most days as it is.

 

Write Here, Write Now: 4.22 – What Kind Of Fool Am I?

Anthony Newley – What Kind Of Fool Am I? A big splash in a calm pond.

I only knew Anthony Newley as the singer David Bowie was compared to early in his career. And when I hear this song I am reminded of the Adam and Joe “Wozza Wozza” imitations of Bowie.  It gets pretty histrionic and wobbly-voiced from about halfway into this song from the soundtrack of “Stop the world – I want to get off”

But until then and for the last 30 seconds, there is a tremendous calm to the song. Starting with distant strings like an orchestra gently tuning up and a repeating piano riff, the song opens up a quiet space which rings with a clear piano motif playing across it. Within this space Newley begins to emote, accompanied by horns and more and more swelling from piano, strings and rumbling drums – a large, placid pond stirred and disturbed by increasingly urgent questioning and impassioned self-examination.

At 1.40, some minor key notes on the piano introduce a feeling of unease before the full sound burst explodes out. A minute later and it is over, just the piano tinkling, the horn parping softly, and out.

Although his voice appears somewhat comic in its vibrato, suggesting irony, the song is a sad one, and the sincerity can come through if given a sympathetic ear. What kind of fool, indeed? A comic fool, insincere, playing to the crowd, pratfalling to make people laugh? Or one prepared to risk true foolishness and embarrassment by opening up true feelings for the sake of love?

I like to play the fool, though whether that’s just for fun or to hide the real foolishness of who I am, I can’t really say.

I suspect we are all fools, just not always prepared to admit it. Whatever he might sing, Anthony Newley seems to wear his foolishness and his heart on his sleeve – good for him.

Write Here, Write Now: 4.21 – Get Yourself Another Fool

Sam Cooke – Get Yourself Another Fool. Sedate majesty

A few months ago I spent €25 on a whole CD case of classic soul artists (Arthur Alexander, James Carr, Otis Redding, O.V. Wright, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, Sam & Dave, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Solomon Burke, The Temptations, William Bell, Wilson Pickett) – some 347 songs, nearly 17 hours of music.

So this is 7 cents worth, 0.4% of the total time. I could spend the rest of this year, and quite a bit of the next blogging about just those songs. And it would probably would be worth it. If this is a representative song from the large collection, then I’d be in for a musical treat and I’d learn a lot about musicianship.

This is a Rolls Royce of a song. It glides along, all the constituent parts running smoothly and unhurried and looking so flush and styled as they do. It has a mood of sad disdain. I imagine Sam Cooke taking the relationship he describes and discarding it like a soiled silk handkerchief in a convenient wicker waste bin. It was fine, it still has beauty, but “GET yourself another fool” he sings.

The music is so perfect. From the opening bars of piano in one ear and following double bass lines in the other. 40 seconds in and, with a few brush strokes on the snare, the vocals oooh their way in, the organ then beginning its purr in the background and the first guitar notes dutifully adding emphasis to the words. Sam doesn’t need to wail, the music does that job for him, and the instruments are now all present and at work.

There are plenty of musical delights to discover – like the piano and guitar mirroring each other about 3 minutes in, and then taking alternate bars before the piano codas the song and it all fades gracefully to silence. Then there’s the idling drums, bass and organ, chivied along by the guitar in the second minute – adding to the sense of languor in Cooke’s voice. I feel I have just scratched the surface, but I feel I may want to explore the album, Night Beat, if the other songs are as good.

Oh, to have that confidence and calm in my life. Even the idea of being a fool was not a problem for Sam – it was just that he no longer wanted to be the fool in that relationship. Foolishness has its place, but not when it is abused. To know where one is, to be comfortable in how one fits into the myriad of different relationships – I’m not sure if that is a gift of character or a skill acquired through practice, but it is something to be admired and strived for – without undue effort, of course. I can’t imagine Sam Cooke breaking into a sweat, which makes the sad ending to his life seem so perplexing.

Write Here, Write Now: 4.20 – Fool To Cry

The Rolling Stones – Fool To Cry.

A song from the mid-seventies, this sounds very different from the riff-tastic songs that I know the Stones for. The falsetto voice adopted by Jagger in the choruses, the synths, the piano, the oozing bass, the wah-wah guitar, the slow hopalong of the drumming – I wouldn’t have guessed this was the Stones.

The sentimental daddy/daughter lyrics fit in with what I think of as the self-indulgent seventies, when music was easy. Mind you, I’m used now to being told what’s what by my older daughter. The younger one, once she’s mastered speech will probably be just as judgemental and free-dispensing of her worldly wisdom. It’s a small price to pay for the pleasure of their company, particularly when things are going their way, or they are fully engaged is some project (whether or not that’s their father’s moral improvement).

I like the way the song starts off straight away with most of the instruments playing as an organic whole – bass, piano, electric piano and drum taps, each playing a different part of the musical body. The vocals and guitar come in for the verse and then chorus respectively, but there’s the real feel of a group playing together.

A fool is one who cries. One who lets their guard down, gives in to the emotions, lets feelings overwhelm them. Allows weaknesses to show. These are not necessarily bad things, if one is at ease with being out of control. Fooling and feeling – these things are connected. What strengths do we get from letting ourselves be weak? Greater self-knowledge, or just self-indulgence?

Going against my general antipathy for the Stones, I quite like this mellow song, and am tempted to listen for more from this period of their music.

Write Here, Write Now: 4.19 – Foolin’

De La Soul – Foolin’ Not sure about the words, like the beats, love the flow

Their first album, 3 Foot High and Rising – a very popular album, the start of the ‘Daisy Age’, I never really got into it. Not my thing. And then, about a year ago, De La Soul made their entire back catalogue free to download for a limited time. When on random play, songs from Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump showed promise – they weren’t like what I remembered of the band.

Tight rhythms, like there are on this song. I like a good deep bass. The gap between beats is enough to stagger the song away from too simple a sound, event though there are few if any live instruments being played. It’s saying, “we are confident about our song – we re aren’t rushing into anything”. And the little sound breaks slipped in between extend and emphasize the beat.

Listening to the track, it’s the voices rapping in perfect sync with the beats that impresses. It just sounds good. Words just flow out well even in tight rhythm corners.

But the words themselves mean nothing to me. I’m not even so impressed by the rhyme words and phrases chosen. The whole thing seems to be status positioning, showing off their  achievements and putting down other people.

De La Soul don’t much like fools. I am of a different opinion – essential for escaping from the cerebral into the visceral. As and when I listen to other songs from this album, I just hope there’s a bit more substance.

 

Write Here, Write Now: 4.18 – You Don’t Fool Me

Queen – You Don’t Fool Me. “comforting … to have around in shaky times”?

The quote above is from a review of the album this song is from – Made In Heaven. It seemed appropriate after the announcement that Britain is to have its third election in three consecutive years. Things aren’t stable.

I must admit this isn’t a song I’ve heard before tonight. One of the last songs Freddie Mercury recorded with the band, a few songs on the album put me off wanting to hear more – ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’, in particular. I’m not so good with raw expressions of emotion – give me a pent-up goth number, or an instrumental, and I’m good.

Queen really were an amazing band. As soon as I heard this song, it was instantly familiar, easy to follow, listen to, nod my head, even sing along to. Such skills in a band shouldn’t be underestimated, even if the use of familiar tropes, like repetitive rhythm guitar, light synths chords and ambience, and rawk guitar balladry are cliches. Talent borrows, genius steals – and Queen seem to be stealing from their own back catalogue for this song – not that I know much about that beyond the many hits.

When I look back at the music of my younger years, some obvious chart hits polish up well in my ears from reevaluation, others reveal previously unappreciated elements. It was easy to be snooty about music that wasn’t in the indie charts, the festive fifty or rated in the NME, as being commercial and not artistic enough. Queen were entertainers, with the inevitable element of knowing kitsch and afore-mentioned cliche. They don’t fool me, but their musicianship and stage presence does impress me.

As for Theresa, “Sooner or later you’ll be playing by her rules. Oh, (fool you) oh, (rule you) she’ll take you (take you) and break you (break you)”? I hope she doesn’t fool the British public, but the track record of recent elections doesn’t suggest anything other than that.

Looking at the video below, Freddie really came across as a beautiful fool, an amazing performer, always on. Foolishness, when knowing, can be a generous quality, an offering for others’ pleasure. I should listen to more of their music with fresh ears – or more fool me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6IPluIJLpw

Write Here, Write Now: 4.17 – Fate Of A Fool

JJ Cale – Fate Of A Fool. Enigmatic and reclusive music.

I’m sufficiently shallow and impressionable that JJ Cale has long been one of those untouchable musicians I wanted to like and whose music I wanted to connect with. A blues guitarist who isn’t as naff as Eric Clapton, keeping himself under the radar, emerging every few years to release low key flashes from oblivion. Being a curious type, I had a half-hearted interest to find out if still waters do run deep, and he was someone I would have liked to hear live. Then, four years ago, he died. Oh well, not to be.

Various of his albums have found their way into my collection, and I’ve listened to them without anything rubbing off, except a general sense of quiet vocals, accomplished guitar work and polished accompanying instrumentation.

This song is no different from that. Easy on the ear, plodding bassline, clear plucked lead guitar, acoustic guitar in the background, occasional electric guitar effects, and JJ singing about an indolent, pleasure-seeking life. drinking and partying. I guess it’s a different take to the boastful Guns’n’Roses/Oasis approach to the self-indulgent rock’n’roll lifestyle. A party pussycat purring as opposed to party tigers growling.

I guess it’s somewhat subversive, like I’ve heard Steely Dan described – smooth music hiding tales of sleaze. But as to whether the quiet way he had with his music held within it pearls of great wisdom or clues to a remarkable life to be uncovered, the fool’s fate described in this song doesn’t reveal many answers. If anything, there’s something of a message of a wasted life, conveyed in an accepting, if vaguely rueful tone.

Maybe, after all,  all he did was write and produce good time music, simple enough to be open to any interpretation laid on it, but not needing overanalysis. Maybe that’s why his music won’t ever really suit my antsy temperament.