Sunday, 27 January 2008

Lyrics & their meanings Part 5 - Jumpin' Jack Flash


Ever wondered what your favorite song was about? Probably not, which is good because a nice melody and tune are far more enticing than words. Church hymns have truly inspiring lyrics and meaningful messages but don’t really jump out of the record stores. At last a biased attempt is being made to determine what some of the best-loved tunes are really about. We will have a look at the background of these songs and see if history can tell us if any light can be shed on these cryptic verses, poignant prose or just Grade Two poetry

Jumpin' Jack Flash (1968) Rolling Stones

By the Mid-Sixties The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had reached the heights of popularity and would continue to stay there for decades to come. While the Beatles were already hugely influential, there was no denying the Stones their place in history. Great songwriters and performers in their own right the Stones biggest mistake was to try and match the Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Their Satanic Majesties Request The Rolling Stones answer to ‘Sgt Peppers’ was a self indulgent, drawn out piece of nonsense that took too long to record for very poor results. With the exception of She’s a Rainbow and maybe 2000 Man the album was not up to scratch for the usually consistent Stones.
The band had not seen the top of the singles charts since Paint It Black two years earlier. Jumpin’ Jack Flash was a kick-start for the floundering Stones. Recorded during the Beggars Banquet sessions it was released as a single to herald what was to come. It was far removed from the previous album as in much it contained harder, rockier song with Jagger’s trademark snide lyrics making a big comeback. With their Satanic Majesties album the only thing that ruffled a few feathers was its title. A song like Jumpin’ Jack Flash ’made the Stones dangerous again.
The story goes that this track wasn’t even a traditional Jagger/Richard tune. As Bill Wyman recalls “We got to the studio early once. And there was just myself, Brian and Charlie- the Stones NEVER arrive at the same time, you know – and Mick and Keith hadn’t come. And I was just messing about and I just sat down at the piano and started doing this riff, da-daw, da-da-daw, da-da-daw…. And then Brian played a bit of guitar and Charlie was doing rhythm. We were just messing with it for 20 minutes, just filling in time, and Mick and Keith came in and we stopped and they said, ‘hey, that sounded really good, carry on, what is it’
And then the next day all I can remember…. We recorded it and Mick wrote great lyrics to it and it turned out to be a really good single” Jagger was so inspired that wrote the lyrics almost straight after he heard the music. All up he took less than an hour to come up with the fractured fairy tale style of lyric. He was very economical with the words but what he wrote fit the song perfectly. Nasty words for a dirty riff. Nothing more, nothing less.
With the past year the band had become the human headlines, whereas the Beatles seemed untouchable with their OBEs: the Stones were on everybody’s hit list. In fighting over women and control of the band had strained relationships between key members Brian Jones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richard. And it was a well-documented fact Jones was so smashed during the recording of Satanic Majesties that he had virtually no input to the whole project.
This album was the last project Jones played before he quit the group a year later then to die tragically only a few days after that.
Alarmist blamed the Stones preoccupation with Devil worshipping on the current state of the band and the misfortune that seemed to befall those who were close to the group. Songs like Sympathy for the Devil, Street Fighting Man and Jumpin’ Jack Flash were all considered by the worry-worts to be songs designed to raise the public mischief, but it was just the Stones returning to their blues and country roots and being a proper rock band again. One good thing the Stones never followed the Beatles into was retirement from performing live.
When Jumpin’ Jack Flash was released in May 1968 Jagger only comment was that the song was ‘…the most basic thing we ever did’. In an interview in 1995 after he’d had a while to think about it he added, ‘ It’s a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things’.
Obviously Jagger had finally realised Their Satanic Majesties Request was as bad as every one had told them.
Jumpin’Jack Flash was a historic turning point for the Stones. Bill Wyman has always maintained what he contributed in the studio and to Jagger/Richard compositions was for the betterment of the group but steadfastly claims ownership to the riff. It can also be claimed and it was possibly the last great contribution from Brian Jones. Keith Richard in an interview with author Terry Southern said ‘when I play that first riff in Jumpin’ Jack Flash, something happens in my stomach – a feeling of tremendous exhilaration, an amazing superhuman feeling .An explosion is the best way to describe it. You just jump on that riff, and it plays you. It’s the one feeling I would say approaches Nirvana’
And that from someone that conventional drugs have been unable to kill.
But Mick Jagger’s affection for the song is a tad indifferent. Dave Jerden, engineer on the Stones’ Dirty Works album and Jagger’s solo effort She’s the Boss recalls that while working in Paris he was summoned by Jagger into the studio. Jagger was there to record new vocals for Jumpin’ Jack Flash for the Whoopie Goldberg film of the same name. Jagger had the original master with him.
“ Well I should make a copy,” Jerden said, noting there were no open tracks left on the tape for a second vocal. “No, I’ll just go over the original vocal” Jagger replied. Which he did, meaning the original master performance is gone forever. So much for history.


Monday, 14 January 2008

The Worst Album Covers of all time

The Worst album Covers of all time.

Cautionary note before you read this: This piece only refers to 12 inch vinyl albums and not CD’s, tapes, video or any other media.

Being the worst album cover and worst album tend to be in a separate category, whereas a Metal Head may think the worlds greatest Polka tunes are the epitome of crap and visa versa , both may think the cover of The Velvet Underground and Nico’s Banana cover album stupid.
I could write for days about what I think are stupid, bad and totally inappropriate album covers, but the chances are you have and will never see them because the majority of them belonged to my Father. Who , I believe, bought anything with the word bagpipes, polka or bawdy on it from the bargain bin.
Below is a list of Must See Sites that will take all the hard work out of my hands and allows you to browse at some of the recording industries worst atrocities.
As an example to what I consider a band album cover I don’t point to silly flares or terrible artwork, I choose those that have let the music down. For example the first, second and fourth Led Zeppelin albums. Brilliant music but the album covers are boring and have no information, you may as well stare at the wall than read the album cover. Also the Long Run by The Eagles I consider a crap album cover especially after the spent untold millions recording an ordinary album and then made the cover so bland.
I could go on, but won,t. Try these links below.
A quick note, some are fairly silly and are usually just photos from a period when dressing that way was the norm, so you may have to wade through some of the various sites prejudices or basic lack of humour.

1. Cover Browser Worst Album Covers
Looks like he actually found the original covers, usually a lot of these sites will just cut and paste a top 10 and post it as a filler in a Newspaper Blog. Not bad.

2. Rate Your Music
Some of these you may have to click on the link for them to show. A classic example of someone who just doesn’t get it. No sense of humour here.

3. Jim’s Collection A good selection and some funny comments from an amateur site, (some links are broken but you’ll get over it)

4. The Museum of Bad Album Covers
The best of the lot, this site categorises each album and tries to give them some semblance of order. They are not just placed on the site because they’re misunderstood. Check out his classic radio section, especially the backward messaging tapes.

NOTE: I thought I was being totally original in bringing these sites to others attention until I stumbled across an Old Jack Marx’s article. So credit goes to the great man and he wasn’t even writing about this subject.
Jack Marx

Monday, 7 January 2008

Lyrics & their meaning Part 4- Blinded by the light


This continuing story of song lyrics and there meaning in some of the worlds best loved songs.
Who are they really kidding?


Blinded by The Light first recorded by Bruce Springsteen and the E street Band in 1972 , was ignored by the record buying public when released as the first single from his debut album Greetings from Ashbury Park. As a matter of fact the album wasn’t very successful at all selling only 50,00 copies on fist release. It eventually went gold when Spingsteen’s popularity surged after 1975’s Born To Run and more so after the mega sales of the Born In The U.S.A album.
Manfred Mann 60’s pop star, leader and keyboardist for the Earth Band was obviously a huge fan of the Greetings album. He recorded three songs from it.
Spirit in the night on the1975 Nightingales & Bombers album, BBTL in 1976 and For You on The Chance album in 1980.
Manfred Manns version of the song was a world wide hit and making it Springsteen's first USA No.1.
It is interesting to note that Springsteen’s reaction to the cover version: according to his manager Mike Appel was “he held up his nose with his fingers and I agreed with him. It stunk”
Manfred Manns Earth Band (MMEB) has been credited in giving the attention to Spingsteen which he deserved and kick starting his huge popularity. Manfred Mann was renowned for his ability to rework other people songs most of his career. His covers of Dylan songs such as The Mighty Quinn & You Angel You were also international hits.
Even though Manfred Manns Earth Bands version is the most popular, to use it as a guide to what the song is really about would be futile as MMEB actually changed some of the words and only used some of the verses, with those also being out of sequence. To put a finer point to it MMEB reworked the song to the point were they could have left Spingsteen’s name off the writing credits.
The critics and fans alike have ignored the song when it comes to its status of all time Springsteen favourites.
Even in his un-authorised autobiography; Springsteen Point Blank author Christopher Sandford notes when reviewing Spingsteen's first album wrote “ Greetings in fact, bowed with just a crassly leaden Dylan lark (Blinded by the light)....and then went onto to be wordy"
That line being the only reference to the song in the whole book.
Bruce Springsteen had written a metered rhyme that somehow tries to explain life on the entertainment area around the beach and fair ground of Ashbury Park New Jersey. Manfred Mann had transformed it into a cleverly crafted pop song where the words are part of the production.
Prior to the release of Ashbury Park, Springsteen was touted as a new Dylan which leads to the theory that Bruce was trying a bit too hard to be a poet as opposed to a lyricist and crammed as many syllables into the verse similar to Samual Taylor Colerige’s Kubla Kahn or T S Elliot’s’ Waste Lands or still some of Bob Dylans free form moments. Spingsteen never attempted anything like BBTL again on any scale.

©Shidot Prod. 2003