Going For A Song: ‘Prince Alone in the Studio’

Smog – Prince Alone in the Studio

To claim I was a Prince fan would be misleading. I don’t own one album or a single by him. I liked certain songs, usually these were the hits – ‘Purple rain’, ‘When Doves Cry’. I sang along if these were played at parties, on the radio. But that doesn’t really make me into him. My overriding reaction when he died, if I’m honest, was surprise because he wasn’t at all old.

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Going For A Song: ‘Maps’

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps

I suppose saying I believe this single (UK no. 26, Feb 2004) to be up there with any of the great love songs released in the twentieth century and possibly one of the best released in the first decade of the twenty-first century could be considered quite a claim. And if I hadn’t just thought this this morning I would like to think I could go some way to explain why I believe this is; but then again even if I did have the time and struggled to explain I’d most likely be compelled to say it unsubstantiated. And it is for this reason at least why I think this song is so good.

Going For A Song: No Scrubs

TLC – ‘No Scrubs’

This song used to be on the radio a lot in the late 90s. Where I worked during this period the radio, tuned to Capital FM, was on throughout the day so I heard it quite a bit. At the time, being, let’s say concentrated in my musical tastes, I paid it only a mere passing attention, and this was done, I seem to recall, in perhaps a slightly ironical self-conscious way. But through reading the chapter on R&B in Yeah Yeah Yeah (what can I say? Bob Stanley’s book has given me a lot to think and write about for this blog) I returned to it and have, alongside Whitney Houston’s Rodney Jerkins produced ‘It’s Not Alright But It’s Ok’ (another fantastic song – this one completely passed me by), been listening to it a lot the last few weeks. And I’ve listened with vague notions of exploring, and getting in to, a whole genre, period of pop music that I completely bypassed. I’m not sure if it works like that, but for now these songs seem as exciting and bold (I was thinking of using the word fresh here, but as a choice it’s maybe ill advised for me) as they might have seemed when they were released; and this is maybe, due in no small part, to the fact I missed them the first time around.

Going For A Song: Capt. Bo Dignifies the Allegations With A Response

Oneida – ‘Captain Bo Dignifies the Allegations With A Response’ (08:07)

This week I was reminded, while reading the Quietus feature Quietus Writers’ Top 40 Noise Rock Tracks, how much I liked Oneida, especially their album Secret Wars which I bought unheard years ago as it was on sale and I knew the record label, JagJaguwar.

It’s all about the organ on this track.

Going For A Song: Beat It

Michael Jackson – ‘Beat It’

It’s almost too easy to play this to get people dancing; it feels like cheating because it’s just too good. When the vocal explodes in for the first time, one experiences it as a kind of physical jolt; part of this is to do with the knowledge of everything Michael Jackson was and what he would later become; and the other part is that which compels those to have a dance.

Going For A Song: Darling…

Songs: Ohia – ‘Darlin…’

Jason Molina died three years ago this week. He was 39 years old. The first record I bought of his was in the early 2000s, Songs: Ohia’s bleak but beautiful Ghost Tropic. From then on I bought everything he released, all the way up to 2009’s Josephine. And in those rare small gaps when he wasn’t touring or releasing a record I had his albums, split 7″s, EPs from the late 90s to find. So this is maybe why, when his illness, then eventual death, signalled an end I was taken by surprise at the depth of loss I felt. I suppose it speaks to that certain mystery music holds over the listener that the death of human being, ostensibly a stranger to me, could have had such an effect.

At the time of his death stories were told of him. Memories were recalled. I had my own. I met him once at All Tomorrows Parties festival. It was around the same time he had taken to wearing a Stetson hat onstage (he didn’t mean it ironically you sensed), so in my story I have him wearing it. I complimented him on the gig he had just played. Asked him where he was off to next. I meant tour wise. He pointed in the opposite direction to where I had just walked from. I let the confusion stand.

But the stories people told were mainly about his music. Molina was a talented songwriter. And this was evident in the many different musicians, working in quite different fields and genres, who wrote about how much his music had come to matter to them. His sometimes simple songs (songs such as ‘Darling…’), while hermetically sealed within each album by his recurring use of images and tropes, paradoxically connected to a wider sphere.

Molina achieves this connection on ‘Darling…’ by using the lyrics to the opening of Al Green’s ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’. Set to a different time, an austere instrumentation, Molina is able to negotiate through Al Green so the sentiment becomes part of the Songs: Ohia aesthetic. An aesthetic Jason forged carefully until he retired the group in 2003, and began again with Magnolia Electric Co. And that’s probably part of the loss identified there: even though the many recordings can be gone back to, it’s now always with the knowledge he will never begin something again.