Another Top 11 David Bowie songs

We’re in-between the anniversary of the death of and what would’ve been the birthday of one of the most awesome artists in music history. I, of course, am referring to David Bowie.

Some years ago following his demise, I had constructed what I considered the Top 11 greatest songs David has ever released. Unfortunately, he has released so many awesome songs in his life that it’s impossible not to call any of the following 11 that I’ve listed great. So here’s my personal Other Top 11 David Bowie Songs. Why top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond.

#11;

Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)

Album: Cat People soundtrack [1982] / Let’s Dance [1983]

Written as the theme tune to the remake of Cat People and also found on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Cat People (Putting Out The Fire) is a chilling masterpiece and I have to admit that I prefer this film version to the 1942 one, not only due to the storyline, but the song is a definite part of it.

I know that horror exists as a genre for films/TV shows/books, but I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as a ‘horror song’. If people agree, I’m guessing they’d bring up Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the Monster Mash song. I think Cat People could be classed as one, helped by David’s baritone voice and the lyrical content. Through the opening lyrics “See these eyes of green”, you can sort of sense that you’re picturing a panther who looks on the verge of committing an attack. “Don’t you know my name?” senses that the narrator recognises that the panther was once a human. This also relates to the film’s synopsis. And do I even need to mention the line “I’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline”.

I’m a little surprised that this song never got an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. It did get a Golden Globe though. But I can’t believe none of his film songs ever got recognition from the Oscars; not even Underground, or When The Wind Blows, or Absolute Beginners.

#10;

Station To Station

Album: Station To Station [1976]

The longest track on this list lasting just over 10 minutes and from the album of the same name, Station To Station is quite famous for introducing one of David’s characters, the Thin White Duke, who was a bit of a dangerous creation, hence the time he made statements about Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis in Germany and when he made what looked like a Nazi salute.

But enough of that. I think it’s amazing that David was able to write something so enduring and interesting at the same time. It commences with a smooth train acceleration sound followed by a slow and steady keyboard riff and a beautiful harmonica melody. After about two-ish minutes, in comes David’s vocal statements on the Duke. During the second half, it soon speeds up a bit as David quotes how “It’s too late to be hateful” and that “The European cannon is here”.

Station To Station is a classic album opener.

#9;

1984

Album: Diamond Dogs [1974]

1984 is named after George Orwell’s dystopian novel which is set in a state where a lot of people become victims of perpetual way, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda. To top it all, there is a guy known as Big Brother who acts like some sort of cult figure and puts harsh control on a group of residents.

David originally wrote this song for a planned musical which was supposed to highlight similar themes to the story, but the musical never came into production. So he put it in the equally dark dystopian album Diamond Dogs instead. With that said, the next track that follows is called Big Brother.

What I especially love about 1984 is the funky keyboard and what sounds like a string ensemble during the intro and the breaks. I also love the way David sings “Beware the savage jaw of 1984”. Them two elements reflect the dramatic subject matter. 1984 may come from a glam rock album, but it was an album that’s truly different to most albums relating to the genre which is considered a light-hearted one. Plus, Diamond Dogs was meant as David’s final album to contribute to the era.

#8;

Under The God

Album: Tin Machine [1989]

Under The God is one of two songs on this list which David released with his short-lived band from the late 80s/early 90s, Tin Machine. At that time, David’s material was failing to make much sales, so he went on to form the Machine, which I feel is quite underrated. Maybe they weren’t totally marketable, but the artistry within the music and lyrics certainly remained with David.

Under The God is one of David’s most political songs. You can sort of get the feel through the lyrics, although rather potty-mouthed, i.e. “Right wing d**ks in their boiler suits”, and the way he points out the “skinheads”, “beating on blacks with a baseball bat”, leading to “racism in the rule”.

David may not exactly have been viewed much as a political figure and it’s possible that stuff from this band and his album, Never Let Me Down, are overlooked, because the majority of his fans think apolitically when they think of David and that kind of stuff is less commercial compared to his huge hits, but David was all about being different and I’m sure he was a lefty in his personal life, let’s not think about the Thin White Duke’s infamous salute right now. So let’s give it some credit.

#7;

Miracle Goodnight

Album: Black Tie White Noise [1993]

If fans wasn’t keen on much of Tin Machine’s material, I guess they considered David’s next album Black Tie White Noise greater in a way. And it’s one of the greats from the 90s. Never mind Take That or the Spice Girls.

Miracle Goodnight is definitely one of the songs that proves exactly how awesome the album is. Whereas Jump They Say is about mental illness despite its groovy rhythm, Miracle Goodnight is a more gentle piece which highlights the beauty of the time when David married Iman Abdulmajid. Accompanied by a slow and smooth yet funky saxophone riff, Miracle Goodnight is a truly beautiful experience, which I often imagine hearing during the aftermath of my wedding, stargazing with my future bride from a balcony and I feel that I want this song played at my wedding.

That and the album was both considered a wedding present to Iman. Iman was certainly a lovely wife to David and I congratulate her for looking after him through the remainder of his life. Speaking of which,…

#6;

Lazarus

Album: Blackstar [2016]

If Miracle Goodnight is a song that would put smiles to faces, Lazarus is one that would spark tears to eyes.

Released from my all-time second favourite David Bowie album, Lazarus came out on David’s 69th birthday and a very short time before his end. From the opening lyrics “Look up here, I’m in heaven”, we can sense that he’s dangerously close to death. “Everybody knows me now” expresses the fame he achieved all through the years and we know how David lived a good life, that he lived “like a king” when he got to New York. Even the slow-paced saxophone contributes to the sadness of what’s about to happen to him.

I’d recommend you watch the music video, which is filmed with an unusual 1:1 aspect ratio, and pictures David with buttons sewn over his eyes, in bandages and lying on what appears to be his deathbed. He certainly looks like he’s wasting away as well by the way he’s shaking.

There is also a musical called Lazarus which was produced around the same time as the album, which I still have yet to see.

#5;

Tin Machine

Album: Tin Machine [1989]

And here we have another one of Tin Machine’s masterpiece, their self titled theme tune(?).

I can’t believed how overlooked Tin Machine is, compared to ‘classic’ guitar rock songs. C’mon, you can hear the magnificent guitar riff. I’ve had a go at trying to play that riff on my guitar and it’s rather difficult to do. How does Reeves Gabrels manage it?

I call it the band’s theme tune, not only does it have anything to do with the self-title, but despite it being the second track on Tin Machine… 1(?), it’s a sort of introduction to the music and the lyrical themes that Tin Machine would focus on for their next songs, ranging from the right-wingers’ abysmal schemes (“Working horrors-humping Tories”) to the other things that infuriate them, such as “The guy that beats his baby up” and “One sick deathless duty to remain endangered species”.

I repeat. Tin Machine deserve a bit more credit.

#4;

Where Are We Now

Album: The Next Day [2013]

For some time after his release of Reality, David Bowie took a lengthy hiatus from show-business, aside from his one-off duet with David Gilmour and cameo appearances in Extras and Sponge Bob Square Pants. He surprisingly returned on his 66th birthday with this nice gentle ballad, Where Are We Now.

It was lovely to see David come out of retirement and back into the music business. For this song, he reminds the listeners of the time he spent in Berlin during the late 70s (“Had to get the train / from Potsdamer Platz”). He also adds a reminiscent of time wasted (“just walking the dead”). Personally though, I don’t think he’s wasted time at all or his life. I don’t call art a waste. But what can I say? From what I get from the chorus, I get the feeling that he’s expressing the truth about now he ain’t getting no younger and feeling that because of that, life is getting shorter.

Where Are We Now is one of the greatest ballads which I definitely recommend checking out.

#3;

Everyone Says Hi

Album: Heathen [2002]

Next we have a space sounding song from the album, Heathen.

Apparently, fellow former Tin Machine member, Reeves Gabrels, stated that Everyone Says Hi makes him cry and it was the only one he heard of David’s at the time since he quit working with him. I’m not too sure whether he meant cry in a sad way or a happy way, but with that said, Everyone Says Hi does put a smile to my face. Maybe it’s the keyboards and synthesizers that place me in a space-like atmosphere every time I hear ’em.

In a way, I do get a feeling that the song centers on a couple living a long distance separately (“Said you took a big trip / They said you moved away”). The trip could be so long that maybe the protagonist’s friend moved so far away that one even moved through the universe. Further into the song, “Said you sailed a big ship” suggests obvious transportation, unless of course David’s referring to the giant flying ship in Disney’s Treasure Planet, which came out the same year. Or it could be a space ship he’s talking about. After all, it’s not like the friend literally “sailed away”, is it now? Later on, he reminds the friend that one’s always welcome home – “If the money is lousy / You can always come home”.

Everyone Says Hi – a truly underrated masterpiece.

#2;

Blackstar

Album: Blackstar [2016]

The second longest track on this list which is literally just under ten minutes, Blackstar is another glorious opener for the album of the same name.

The first time I came across the music video for Blackstar was from a film-making friend of mine who posted the YouTube link on Facebook. He described it as scarier than Labyrinth. I thank him for the introduction to the song, because although Blackstar is one of the very last songs David released, it’s also one of his best. It’s kind of like Queen’s Innuendo, except the music is obviously different.

Blackstar is a truly dark and haunting song. What I get from the title is that it’s about a celebrity who’s about to fade away. If you look at the video, we can see how much David has changed, age-wise, not in the way we often pictured him before then. Later in the video, we see a skeleton lying on the ground, which apparently resembles Major Tom, his old creation through Space Oddity. Even the lyrics sound like the song is resembling death – “In the villa of Ormen / Stands a solitary candle”. During the middle, David senses the beginning of the end and what he wants after death – “I see right, so wide, so open-hearted pain / I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes”.

And all the way through, David cleverly experiments through a variety of music genres including jazz, blues, avant-guarde, electronica and drum & bass.

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

Man Who Sold The World

Loving The Alien

Black Tie White Noise

Little Wonder

Valentine’s Day

 

And the number one song by David Bowie is;

I Can’t Give Everything Away

Album: Blackstar [2016]

And Thunderbirds are go! And yes, another song from Blackstar.

Yeah, I know. But Blackstar contains so much awesome material, even though it’s much darker and more dramatic than David’s previous material. I say that from and artist’s point of view.

I also understand how more pop-ish I Can’t Give Everything Away sounds compared to both the title track and Lazarus, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful closing to what would eventually become David’s final album. And considering that it’s also one of David’s final singles to be released, before I say this though, I’d just like to point out that it was released exactly on my 26th birthday. I was extremely traumatised when I heard about David’s death, considering that he was my favourite singer.

The accompanying video sparks a tear to my eye. All that’s required is swilling stars and pictures of David himself. Consider I Can’t Give Everything Away to be a final farewell to David.

So that was my secondary top 11 list of David Bowie songs. Don’t feel too disappointed if I’ve left any of your favourites out. Do feel free to leave your comments below. And may David continue to rest in peace.

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My Personal Top 12 Worst Christmas Songs

Christmas is often described as the most wonderful time of the year and it’s not difficult to see why. Many people have expressed this feeling through the beautiful atmosphere we experience in towns, gifts, cards, people dressing as Santa Claus and its employees, even through creative arts.

Through the last couple of years, I wrote what I considered to be the best Xmas songs. This year, I’m going to explore the worst ones.

I don’t mean to sound like Ebeneezer Scrooge, but surely you’d agree that not all Xmas themed songs are great and there’s always some bad ones. I’m sure there are even some poor ones in relation to Halloween and Easter and Diwalli and, er, Guy Fawkes Night. I’m also sure you have least favourite songs as well.

Well, I’m listing them anyway, no matter when. So here’s my humbug to the following 12 songs related to Xmas that I consider the worst. Why top 12? Because it’s Christmas!

 

#12;

any Xmas song by Cliff Richard

Cliff Richard may have had a singing career which has lasted for about six decades and he maybe a great musician, but this doesn’t mean that all of his songs are exactly up to the spirits. I feel that his music career has gone downhill ever since the late 80s following the release of Mistletoe & Wine, one of his Xmas themed songs. I’m sorry, but that song’s just so boring, as are his other Xmas songs; Saviour’s Day, Little Town, Millennium Prayer,…  none of those can compare much to those I listed as what I considered to be the best ones. There’s no depth in them, they’re too slow and quiet. I get that Cliff is a Christian and Xmas is a Christian themed vacation, but I’m not a very religious person.

If Cliff was to release something for Christmas, I think he should re-release that song he did about that shooting star which he did for that Thunderbirds movie. And no, I ain’t referring to that dreadful Jonathan Frakes version.

 

#11;

All I Want For Christmas (Is My 2 Front Teeth) – Spike Jones & His City Slickers

I think Spike Jones is alright. I especially loved his take on Der Fuehrer’s Face. That was hilarious. He’s a funny guy and I have nothing against the song. But I’m not keen on Spike’s take on All I Want For Christmas Is My 2 Front Teeth.

I’m all for humorous Xmas songs. I sure loved Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Dr. Elmo and Patsy, and Alvin & The Chipmunks’ take on Christmas Don’t Be Late and the Hippopotamus one by the Three Stooges.

For this version, Spike puts on a squeaky voice and sings it very slowly at a tempo of roughly 70rpm(?). I’ve known this song since my childhood and I know it’s supposed to be amusing, but I just couldn’t get into Spike Jones’ version. I couldn’t laugh or even crack a smile. Maybe if he increased the tempo, that might’ve worked and less repeating of ‘Christmas’ toward the end and not forcing ‘oh for goodness sake’. I’d have liked it better.

 

#10;

A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh

Apparently, Chris De Burgh took some inspiration from some book he read which led him to wonder what would happen if the ‘star’ of Bethlehem was in fact some sort of spaceship, hence why A Spaceman Came Travelling was born.

I did say that I wasn’t a religious person, but that ain’t the reason why I placed A Spaceman Came Travelling on this list. It’s slow and boring and it just sends me to sleep. I’m all for artistry, but I couldn’t feel much of the atmosphere of the subject matter or even Christmas itself out of this song.

 

#9;

8 Days Of Christmas – Destiny’s Child

8 Days Of Christmas is an obvious reference to the carol 12 Days Of Christmas and it’s just one of those R&B songs which has a very bad rhythm throughout.

I have nothing against hip hop. I did love Run DMC’s Christmas In Hollis. But that was way better than this clap trap. Who would’ve thought that three ladies; Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and that other one would ‘attempt to spice up’ a carol and make it sound like they’re forgetting what the words are for a second? Hence, why we have so many irritating staccatos and the vocalists sounding like they’re already running out of breath even though it’s simple enough to sing.

I don’t care for musicians lazily taking a famous tune and turning it into annoying crap like upping the tempo and shortening notes. That’s all I have to say for Destiny’s Child.

 

#8;

Merry Christmas Everybody – Steps

I never liked Steps. Not only are they a vocal group, the majority of which I’m not a fan of, but I thought they were just a group of air-headed ABBA wannabes who only entered the music business just to make money and made some forgettable and/or crappy cover songs, lacking much originality.

Merry Christmas Everybody is most certainly one of Steps’ low points. Just some cover of Slade’s famous and awesome Christmas song, it seems like Steps, much like most of today’s younger generation, only know of Slade through this song which is an absolute tragedy. They probably don’t even know who the hell Noddy Holder is. I just bet that if Steps were being interviewed and if there was any mention of the guy, they’d respond “I used to love that show!” and then I’d furiously be like “no you dumb asses, we’re talking about that guy from Slade!”

(sighs)

So anyway, in regards to this cover, it’s forgettable, dull and uninspired. It seems like the group didn’t carefully analyse the artistry of the original song and just thought “sod it, let’s just sing it.” It’s one that’s definitely worth skipping.

#7;

Santa Baby – Madonna

I love the song, but here’s the thing. Eartha Kitt pulled Santa Baby off so great. Kylie Minogue’s version was okay. But even so-called ‘pop icons’ like Madonna need to be careful about what they cover.

It’s not like Madonna’s never done awful cover versions, let’s not forget American Pie or Hung Up – for which she misused that ABBA song. The original Santa Baby was the right tempo, but it seems like Madonna just wanted to ‘perfect’ it by unnecessarily upping the tempo and trying to sound squeakier than Eartha and failing miserably at it.

 

#6;

I Believe In Christmas – The Tweenies

As if I really need to state the reason. But I’ll give a bit of info anyway.

CBeebies came out during the time when I was in my pre-teens, so I was kind of too old for it. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of the shows they broadcast on there and the Tweenies is one of them. It’s about four kindergarteners who look like them creepy looking characters out of the movie adaptations of Dr. Suess’ stories and sing nothing, but nursery rhymes.

This song is an obvious exception, but that’s not for here. I came across this song years ago. Recently the fears came flooding back. I Believe In Christmas sounds like S Club 7 totally gone wrong.

Let’s just be thankful that they ain’t duetting with the Teletubbies (shudders).

 

#5;

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Spice Girls

I used to love the Spice Girls, but that was so ages ago. My love for the band had nothing to do with the fact that they had a shed load of UK number one hit singles and albums.

But this version of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday oversteps the mark. The song was originally performed by an awesome glam rock band led by a really intelligent bloke (and he wrote it too). The Spice Girls sound like they’re drunk. Seriously, too much giggling and the way they sing it makes me sense that they’ve drank a lot of booze before the recording. If you ladies want to get high, why not go for Fairytale Of New York?

 

#4;

Jingle Bell Rock – just about any version whatsoever

There are various versions of Jingle Bell Rock; Bobby Helms, Girls Aloud,…
I was obviously familiar with the song Jingle Bells. I always sang the Batman version.

Ever since I first heard a version of Jingle Bell Rock (I don’t even know which one and I don’t care), I never liked it. It killed the original carol. I mean “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bell rock”, what’s that all about? And I don’t even like how it goes. It sounds like it was written by an amateur who wants to take carols and turn it into commercial clap trap. It’ll take me a bit of rocket science to explain the music in full detail.

It was awesome enough when somebody replaced the original lyrics with Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg” and so forth. That version was great. But just because Jingle Bell Rock was meant to be a rock & roll song, doesn’t make it superior.

 

#3;

Christmas Time – The Darkness

Glam rock is one of my favourite music genres and there were a number of musicians associated with the genre that released Christmas material.

But The Darkness is one of my least favourite bands. High gloomy voices and amateurish melodies simply do not make any of their material glamorous. They certainly don’t work with this song. It’s like Justin Hawkins cooked the voices and guitar music together to form a Christmas dinner which had gone wrong. Think of it like pizza with a curry topping. Like seriously, those two don’t go together.

The more I hear Justin’s falsetto, the longer I’m like; “Jesus, my ears hurt!”

 

#2;

The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

I’m just going to say that I find Frankie Goes To Hollywood one of the most overrated bands from the 80s.

There I said it. I didn’t even care much for the song Relax. But with that said, I’d take Relax any day over The Power Of Love. I don’t even know why the hell The Power Of Love should be considered a Christmas song. There’s no reference to the holiday or the season which Christmas is associated with. The religious tones in the music video doesn’t even catch my interest.

The Power Of Love is nothing, but a slow boring ballad which ruins every Christmas album I came across with that on it. It makes me so bored that I want to turn the radio over or off. There’s nothing interesting about the lyrics either. Though I suppose the line Dreams are like angels could suggest the theme. Apart from that, meh.

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable, or in this case, dishonourable mentions;

Shake Up Christmas – Train

Christmas Lights – Coldplay

Christmas Tree – Lady Gaga Feat. Space Cowboy

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Girls Aloud

Merry Christmas Everybody – Spice Girls

Mistletoe – Justin Bieber

 

And the number one worst Christmas song is;

All I Want For Christmas Is You (SuperFestive!) – Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber

Okay, let’s get this over with. When I was 16, I heard Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You. It was used for a Christmas themed school concert which was organised by myself and some fellow AS-Level Performing Arts students. It sounds strange considering that the song was released 12 years before then and I had no idea what Mariah Carey’s music sounded like, though I was interested in it. I did hear a bit of her stuff when she performed for Live 8, but then I forgot about it afterwards. Yes, her music is so forgettable with the exception of the Christmas song. Not in a great way.

Ever since I first came across All I Want For Christmas Is You, the song has been overplayed each season, more times than the airplay from any of my favourite ones and it’s been getting annoying. Adding to my annoyance was when I was forced to sing that song during a lecture I had at university, when I had an important pitch to prepare for tomorrow. Since then, I’ve done my best to avoid the song and sing/listen to more decent and less overrated Christmas songs.

But with that said, I’d take the original song any day over this dreadful version, which features (sighs) Justin Bieber(!); one of my least favourite singers of all time, who thankfully is loosing popularity. It’s no surprise since he has transformed into an arrogant jerk, though no more arrogant than Kanye West. I did like his performance in that episode of CSI. But we ain’t talking about that.

Every time I hear this version, I hear Justin’s annoying high pitch voice and it feels like he just teamed up with Mariah Carey just to generate some cash for both artists, to make our fears come flooding back and to shove the song back down our throats, plus to maybe even boost sales for Justin’s other material which demonstrates how cheesy and bleach his music is. All it does is remind us what a cash cow the song is and expects us to believe that Christmas ain’t Christmas without All I Want For Christmas Is You.

Well, bah to this song and humbug to all the others on this list! I heard awesome Christmas songs back in my day, and recently. There was that one which united a variety of musicians to raise money to feed the Africans. There’s also one about a guy who gets put in jail for nearly beating up some carollers while trying to have a nice quiet Christmas with his bird. Or that one about the department store Santa who gets mugged by some poor kids. And let’s not forget that glam-rock tune where one of the smartest musicians wishes to have Christmas everyday…

Those are masterpieces!

So thank you all for reading this post. I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Worst To Best: albums by Queen

I am very excited about seeing the new biopic film Bohemian Rhapsody which is coming out very soon. I also feel that the film is going to be way better than that musical which Ben Elton wrote which I found to be commercial clap trap, but that’s another story. So in celebration, I shall be exploring every album that was released by one of my favourite bands, which consisted of Brian May, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor. The band I of course am referring to is called Queen. I shall be ranking what I personally consider Queen’s worst to best albums. Many fans, or people who claim to be fans of Queen, have mostly paid more attention to their greatest hits, but I think Queen, much like David Bowie and other artists, have released some interesting material through their studio albums. Over the years, Queen has demonstrated a creative melodic and artistic persona. For this list, I’m excluding live-recorded albums and compilations i.e. the Greatest Hits ones. So here is my list of what I consider to be the Worst-to-Best Albums by Queen.

Number 16;…

Jazz (1978)

Tracklist: Mustapha / Fat Bottomed Girls / Jealousy / Bicycle Race / If You Can’t Beat Them / Let Me Entertain You / Dead On Time / In Only Seven Days / Dreamer’s Ball / Fun It / Leaving Home Ain’t Easy / Don’t Stop Me Now / More Of That Jazz

Style: Hard Rock, Pop Rock, Stadium Rock, Heavy Metal

Overall Rating: 63.5%

As rules are rules for this post, there’s always a worst album. And I give that point to Jazz. I’m not saying it’s a terrible album. It does have high points. Fat Bottomed Girls remains entertaining and I’ve always loved Bicycle Race. Not to mention the opening track Mustapha. But Jazz goes downhill by the second half by the time we get to Let Me Entertain You and no, it ain’t the same one Robbie Williams did. It’s the rhythm that brings it down a bit. Also, I’m just going to come out and admit it. I think Don’t Stop Me Now is an overrated song. Not that I have much against it, it’s pleasant, but I’m not keen on the way parts of it are sung and I don’t think it’s as good as their other hits. But the worse part is that this version has too much cheering in the background as if they’re in a live studio and it’s really distracting. Even More Of That Jazz doesn’t provide a clean closing to the album. It just ends with distracting snippets of the previous tracks. If you consider Jazz your favourite album, fair-play. But dude, did you hear the other ones?

Number 15;…

News Of The World (1977)

Tracklist: We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions / Sheer Heart Attack / All Dead, All Dead / Spread Your Wings / Fight From The Inside / Get Down, Make Love / Sleeping On The Sidewalk / Who Needs You / It’s Late / My Melancholy Blues

Style: Hard Rock, Pop Rock, Stadium Rock

Overall Rating: 66.6%

Next we have an album which was released during the time when punk rock was becoming dominant and even the loud mouthed Sex Pistols badmouthed the progressive rock roots. Queen was one of the targets. So Queen just had to make some money. Music isn’t about making money. It’s about the art of music. C’mon Queen, you proved exactly so through your previous albums. Basically, for the recording of News Of The World, Queen decided to keep things simple. We Will Rock You, which’ll obviously never be forgotten, mostly consists of the 3-note drum/clap rhythm, accompanied by Brian May’s closing guitar solo. The follow-up, We Are The Champions is another entertaining stadium anthem. But I don’t think I’d listen to that and We Will Rock You every day, at least for my taste. I personally love punk rock and Sheer Heart Attack does heighten my spirits and demonstrate that Queen is capable of trying new genres, just like David Bowie. All Dead All Dead, I presume, is about extinction, but a bit too quiet. Spread Your Wings is a bit slow. Get Down Make Love, very rhythmic. I give credit that News Of The World introduced the band to stadium rock, though I find it a little too simplistic, like they cut back too much on the music.

Number 14;…

A Kind Of Magic (1986)

Tracklist: One Vision / A Kind Of Magic / One Year Of Love / Pain Is So Close To Pleasure / Friends Will Be Friends / Who Wants To Live Forever / Gimme The Prize (Kurgan’s Theme) / Don’t Lose Your Head / Princes Of The Universe

Style: Pop Rock, Hard Rock

Overall Rating: 72.5%

Released a year after their performance for Live Aid, A Kind Of Magic gets to a good start beginning with the obvious inspired track, One Vision, also the first one to be written by the entire group. You may notice that some of the some of the songs are from the film Highlander; A Kind Of Magic, which I place in the okay category, One Year Of Love, a bit slow and quiet, Who Wants To Live Forever, so beautifully written and performed despite the absence of John Deacon, Gimme The Prize, which shares similar music sources with another track, Princes Of The Universe, a truly underrated hard-rock classic. That being said, the album could’ve been Highlander: Official Soundtrack. We do have one more soundtrack album on this list, but A Kind Of Magic is not quite as memorable. And from an artist’s point-of-view, I have mixed feelings about the album cover which to me makes the band members look like the genie from Aladdin and/or Lurch from the animated version of the Addams Family.

Number 13;…

Queen (1973)

Tracklist: Keep Yourself Alive / Doing All Right / Great King Rat / My Fairy King / Liar / The Night Comes Down / Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll / Son And Daughter / Jesus / Seven Seas Of Rhye [short instrumental version]

Style: Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal

Overall Rating: 74%

Next, we have Queen’s introductory album. I do have to admit, Queen did make a great start to their career. This was released sometime during the classic glam-rock era (1970-1975), another favourite genre of mine, and many of these tracks contribute to it. Queen gets off to a flying start. The opening track Keep Yourself Alive and Liar are thrashing hits which demonstrate that example. Other tracks such as Doing All Right and Modern Times Rock & Roll, the latter with amazing vocals from Roger, will also keep you entertained. Though Queen does feel more like an AC/DC album than something released by Queen, if you listen deeper to the music. It ends with Jesus, the band’s apparently only song to reference religion, not my favourite topic, plus a short instrumental version of Seven Seas Of Rhye, which I don’t think I’d listen to on its own. Fine album. I’d buy it. But I think Queen improved through their next album which I’ll get to later on.

Number 12;…

A Day At The Races (1976)

Tracklist: Tie Your Mother Down / You Take My Breath Away / Long Away / The Millionaire Waltz / You And I / Somebody To Love / White Man / Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy / Drowse / Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)

Style: Hard Rock, Pop Rock

Overall Rating: 79.5%

Following the giant success of A Night At The Opera, Queen released another one named after a Marx Brothers film, A Day At The Races. Compared to its predecessor, this sequel album is a bit of a boring one. Don’t get me wrong, I’d enjoy a listen. It gets off to a great start with Tie Your Mother Down which I never get tired of and I so want to learn the riff on my guitar. There’s also the underrated ballad Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy. And of course, we get the classic gospel inspired Somebody To Love. But the rest ain’t particularly that memorable compared to other albums. I can understand why critics and of course the Sex Pistols got nit-picky about it.

Number 11;…

The Works (1984)

Tracklist: Radio Ga Ga / Tear It Up / It’s A Hard Life / Man On The Prowl / Machines (Or Back To Humans) / I Want To Break Free / Keep Passing The Open Windows / Hammer To Fall / Is This The World We Created…?

Style: Pop Rock, Hard Rock

Overall Rating: 80%

Released during the mid-ish 80s, The Works is a fine album. Apparently it took Queen a bit of time to produce this one, partially because they had solo material to work on. Freddie for instance was working on his Mr Bad Guy album at the time. Radio Ga Ga is as awesome as hell. Tear It Up, a bit old fashioned, but nice one. It’s A Hard Life is okay. Machines, love it! Seriously, check out the distinctive percussion. Imagine if Gary Numan was doing that one, lol. I Want To Break Free, kind of overrated. I’m not keen on the way some of the lines are sung. But I’ve always loved the music video which has the members in drag. Hammer To Fall, which has more than just the hard rock flavour. It’s also an anti-war protest (“What the hell are we fighting for?”). The closing song Is This The World We Created, which is performed only by Freddie and Brian and expresses the poverty in Africa. The Works gets political at the end. There’s also an occasional sci-fi theme (Radio Ga Ga, Machines), though the music styles do get a bit jumbled throughout.

Number 10;…

Cosmos Rocks (2008)

Tracklist: Cosmos Rockin’ / Time To Shine / Still Burnin’ / Small / Warboys / We Believe / Call Me / Voodoo / Some Things That Glitter / C-lebrity / Through The Night / Say It’s Not True / Surf’s Up…School’s Out ! / Small Reprise

Style: Blues, Hard Rock, Pop Rock, Glam Rock

Overall Rating: 80.3%

I said I wasn’t excluding any of Queen’s studio albums from this list and Cosmos Rocks, which was released in partnership with Paul Rodgers, formally from Free, still counts as one. Many Queen fans consider their most recent and, to-date, only album recorded without Freddie’s presence, Cosmos Rocks, an inferior album. Maybe it’s because Paul Rodgers isn’t exactly Freddie or possibly because the album doesn’t relate to Queen’s traditional roots. Apparently Roger wasn’t exactly a fan of Cosmos Rocks. He did once say; “I just think that Paul’s more blues and soul – one of our favourite singers, ever, but, when it boils down to it, he wasn’t the perfect frontman for us. I felt the album was badly promoted by EMI, who were falling to bits at the time. We were on tour in Europe, and I went into record stores and we weren’t in them. And I remember being furious, thinking, ‘Why did we make this f***ing record?'” Either way, although I don’t think Cosmos Rocks is their absolute best, I still think it holds up fine. I had fun listening to it and there are songs that I do love. C-Lebrity, for instance, is a relatable rock song with a fantastic guitar riff from Brian and expressing the cynical way of becoming a celebrity, or as they put it, ‘C-Lebrity’. Small brings in a bit of style from Paul’s old band free and mixes it with a gentle atmosphere. Cosmos Rockin’ is a pure upbeat opening. Ideally I would’ve thought Surf’s Up…School’s Out would end the album better, but the Small reprise is okay I guess. Still Burnin’, though rhythmic, is a bit distracted by the drum riff of We Will Rock You. But my favourite song from Cosmos Rock is Call Me, not to be confused by Blondie’s song of the same name, which I reckon should’ve been released as a single.

Number 9;…

The Game (1980)

Tracklist: Play The Game / Dragon Attack / Another One Bites The Dust / Need Your Loving Tonight / Crazy Little Thing Called Love / Rock It (Prime Jive) / Don’t Try Suicide / Sail Away Sweet Sister / Coming Soon / Save Me

Style: Pop Rock, Classic Rock

Overall Rating: 80.5%

Although I felt that Queen went downhill a bit from A Day At The Races to Jazz, my thoughts on The Game, I think brought things up a notch. The Game is Queen’s closing to the 70s and opening to the 80s. But that’s beside the point. Play The Game is lovely, but is it me or do I sense a theme of prostitution? Well it isn’t really. But it was the feeling I got. Another One Bites The Dust was so definitely great on John’s resume. Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a fine rock & roll song. Don’t Try Suicide definitely provides an important message to listeners. Save Me, an underrated rock song, is about an affair that thankfully ended. There’s a mixture of love songs, which has long been a cliché throughout the music business. Some of the songs contain themes that are taboo. Another One Bites The Dust, despite its funky rhythm, you can guess is about death. Don’t Try Suicide, attempted suicide. But overall, it’s the music I give the most credit for.

Number 8;…

Hot Space (1981)

Tracklist: Staying Power / Dancer / Back Chat / Body Language / Action This Day / Put Out The Fire / Life Is Real (Song For Lennon) / Calling All Girls / Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) / Cool Cat / Under Pressure

Style: Electronica, Pop Rock, Synth-Pop, Disco, Dance, Funk, Rhythm and Blues

Overall Rating: 84.3%

Some of you will probably hate me for placing Hot Space quite high. Boy, has it generated some hatred for some time. Even Brian and Roger didn’t like this one. But I kinda like this one, and for a variety of major and minor reasons. Firstly, I’m very keen on the different take on the music Queen took. I always saw them as more than just a rock band and I don’t find anything wrong with that. They did plenty of songs considered pop or pop-ish before and after. Don’t Stop Me Now, You’re My Best Friend, Invisible Man, some to name. Now let’s discuss the songs. Under Pressure, which they did with David Bowie, that’s always a pleasure. Las Palabras De Amor demonstrates how well they can sing in a foreign language. Back Chat, very underrated – funny thing actually, John and Brian once had a heated squabble over that one. Body Language – gee this one gets so much hate mail. Am I the only one who likes this one? Sure the lyrics are a little goofy, but the smooth bass riff gets so much of my credit. Hot Space, a personal guilty pleasure for me.

Number 7;…

Made In Heaven (1995)

Tracklist: It’s A Beautiful Day / Made In Heaven / Let Me Live / Mother Love / My Life Has Been Saved / I Was Born To Love You / Heaven For Everyone / Too Much Love Will Kill You / You Don’t Fool Me / A Winter’s Tale / It’s A Beautiful Day (Reprise) / Untitled / Untitled

Style: Pop Rock, Soft Rock

Overall Rating: 89.7% Freddie may have been involved in the production for Made In Heaven, but alas, he did not live to see the release. But I’m positively sure he would’ve been proud of it. Made In Heaven is a fitting tribute to Freddie and you can definitely feel the sadness over the band’s loss, but realise that he’ll never be forgotten through most of the songs. Many of them are softer in music compared to previous albums. Heaven For Everyone, a soft rock song which Freddie and Roger originally did with a band called The Cross during their hiatus, you can get a sense that Freddie’s singing from heaven. Same with the title track, which has more of a harder tone through music. We should all know by now about Freddie’s cause of death. Too Much Love Will Kill You, a gentle ballad, expresses how painful AIDS is, although technically, Brian originally wrote it about the split from his first wife. Let Me Live is about the right to live without going through a hard life. Made In Heaven dos lighten up the tone a bit, through songs such as I Was Born To Love You, It’s A Beautiful Day and the lovely A Winter’s Tale, which could’ve made a great Christmas single. My only problem with Made In Heaven is the last two tracks which I don’t think needed to be there and they make it feel like the end of each Robbie Williams album which is just random stuff. But the rest of Made In Heaven is worth it.

Number 6;…

Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

Tracklist: Brighton Rock / Killer Queen / Tenement Funster / Flick Of The Wrist / Lily Of The Valley / Now I’m Here / In The Lap Of The Gods / Stone Cold Crazy / Dear Friends / Misfire / Bring Back That Leroy Brown / She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettos) / In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited

Style: Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Prog Rock, Glam Rock

Overall Rating: 91.5% Overall Rating: 91.5% Sheer Heart Attack was recorded sometime after Queen supported Mott The Hoople on tour, so I guess it’s not much of a surprise that the band altered their music roots a bit. I like this one better than Queen I, mainly because of the flavour and the memorability. Nothing to do with the fact that it contains some of their ‘bigger hits’ i.e. Killer Queen and Now I’m Here, because those two are so much more than just commercial. Killer Queen, I always thought was about a royal lady who performs voodoo, but through a clever bit of writing actually teaches people that upper-class people can prostitute themselves and not just the lower-class. Now I’m Here contains a Mott The Hoople style rhythm, but only much harder. On to the non-singles. Brighton Rock, good choice for an opening track, is very Who-like. It always reminded me of Quadrophenia, both album and movie. Maybe it’s due to the brief ambience at the start or the fact it takes place in Brighton. And here’s another thing. Compared to Queen I, Sheer Heart Attack feels much more like a glam-rock album as you can sense through Stone Cold Crazy, Misfire and Bring Back That Leroy Brown, the latter which experiments with the ukulele played by Brian and the honky-tonk piano played of course by Freddie. But all in all, I give the most credit to Freddie’s rhythmic keyboards throughout the album. If I’m to learn the keyboards again, I’m going to revisit Sheer Heart Attack.

Number 5;…

A Night At The Opera (1975)

Tracklist: Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To …) / Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon / I’m In Love With My Car / You’re My Best Friend / ’39 / Sweet Lady / Seaside Rendezvous / The Prophet’s Song / Love Of My Life / Good Company / Bohemian Rhapsody / God Save The Queen

Style: Hard Rock, Prog Rock, Classic Rock, Pop Rock, Heavy Metal

Overall Rating: 93.3%

Some of you were probably thinking that I was going to place A Night At The Opera really high on the list. Others may be surprised considering that it’s stalled at #5 and are maybe thinking; “wait a minute. This should be number 1.” A Night At The Opera most certainly goes by the book, nothing to do with the film, but it’s very operatic for a rock album. Queen experiments with harmonies through Death On Two Legs, The Prophet’s Song and of course Bohemian Rhapsody. Some of it does sound theatrical. Seaside Rendezvous’ ragtime style certainly adds to it, while Bohemian Rhapsody’s middle bit (“Scaramouche” etc) sounds a bit like British pantomime. The album experiments with different genres such as ragtime, skiffle (‘39), hard rock (I’m In Love With My Car), heavy metal (Sweet Lady), Japanese Rock (Prophet’s Song) and ballads (You’re My Best Friend, Love Of My Life). My favourite songs on the album include I’m In Love With My Car – it’s so amusing to sing, ’39 – which I believe is one of Brian’s most important writing achievements and Prophet’s Song – considering how damn epic it is. If I had to nit-pick, I’d be to do with the album cover. I reckon it should’ve been the cover of A Day At The Races and vice versa from an artist’s point of view, but I digress.

Number 4;…

Queen II (1974)

Tracklist: Procession / Father To Son / White Queen (As It Began) / Some Day One Day / The Loser In The End / Ogre Battle / The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke / Nevermore / The March Of The Black Queen / Funny How Love Is / The Seven Seas Of Rhye

Style: Art Rock, Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Heavy Metal

Overall Rating: 95.2%

Queen II is thankfully generating more credit than it used to. Part of why I place it so high on this list, even above A Night At The Opera, due to the forever incredible album cover, which would later become a staple for the music video to Bohemian Rhapsody. Some of the album contains darker themes than Queen I, especially through the second half, hence Ogre Battle, a purely epic hard rock song which I’m guessing is about a war between some ogres, who are fighting for some tournament (“You can come along/You can come along/Come to the ogre battle). Even Roger’s closing drum crash adds to the atmosphere. March Of The Black Queen doesn’t exactly provide a luminous flavour either (“My life is in your hands”), and I mean that in an awesome way. The rest is worth listening to as well. Brian May’s Procession is a nice opening. Some Day One Day is a gentle piece and Roger’s Loser In The End gets us in the groove. Queen II doesn’t contain many hit singles, but so what? Most of Pink Floyd’s albums didn’t, but they’re still hailed. Queen II does end with the beautiful and more-improved Seven Seas Of Rhye. I wonder why Funny How Love Is was never released as a single, but oh well.

Number 3;…

The Miracle (1989)

Tracklist: Party / Khashoggi’s Ship / The Miracle / I Want It All / The Invisible Man / Breakthru / Rain Must Fall / Scandal / My Baby Does Me / Was It All Worth It

Style: Pop Rock, Classic Rock

Overall Rating: 95.5%

Yeah, big shock, The Miracle is very high on this list. Many fans don’t consider this their strongest album, but I feel that The Miracle holds up brilliantly. Firstly, I want to offer my huge praise to the album cover. It’s very artistic. I admire how the four main members are morphed face-by-face. I got the sense that after their hiatus following A Kind Of Magic; with solo albums which didn’t sell very well, Brian’s relationship issues and Freddie’s HIV diagnosis, Queen still remained connected as a band, through both the cover and outside of it. The Miracle gets off to a groovy start with their Party. The theme of having a party maybe cliché, but Queen pull it off so well, helped by Roger’s incredible drums and Brian’s cool solo. The entertainment doesn’t end as we dive next into Khashoggi’s Ship, which I shall gladly come back and revisit. But there’s more than just the joy. The Miracle expresses some political views through I Want It All – which was used as a rallying song for young African people, Scandal – Brian rightly attacks the tabloids which dealt with his relationship with Anita Dobson. There’s a bonus track called Chinese Torture which despite mostly being an instrumental, concerns the harm victims get from the Chinese Water Torture. We also receive an artistic motivation throughout. Rain Must Fall, helped by John’s funky bass riff along with Roger’s percussion, I feel is a little more atmospheric than I Can’t Stand The Rain. The title track, I agree is a complex track and Freddie’s synth notes gives it a psychedelic feel. The energetic Breakthru, even without the video, you can get a sense that they’re either running from trouble or travelling on a very fast vehicle. And of course, there’s the criminally underrated and one of my personal favourites, The Invisible Man – I always got a sense that it was based on the book of the same name. It certainly has some sort of sci-fi theme, through the synth riffs, apparently played by Roger, and the lyrics (“Incredible how you can see right through me”). Oh and extra points for Brian’s impossible to play guitar solo. This song ought to be played on the radio more often! The biggest complaint from many people is how ‘poppy’ The Miracle album is, but there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of pop music. Was this light-hearted album all worth it? Yes it was.

Number 2;…

Flash Gordon (Original Soundtrack) (1980)

Tracklist: Flash’s Theme / In The Space Capsule (The Love Theme) / Ming’s Theme (In The Court Of Ming The Merciless) / The Ring (Hypnotic Seduction Of Dale) / Football Fight / In The Death Cell (Love Theme Reprise) / Execution Of Flash / The Kiss (Aura Resurrects Flash) / Arboria (Planet Of The Tree Men) / Escape From The Swamp / Flash To The Rescue / Vultan’s Theme (Attack Of The Hawk Men) / Battle Theme / The Wedding March / Marriage Of Dale And Ming (And Flash Approaching) / Crash Dive On Mingo City / Flash’s Theme Reprise (Victory Celebrations) / The Hero

Style: Pop Rock, Classic Rock, Soundtrack

Overall Rating: 96.9%

A more unusual studio album this one. It’s actually the soundtrack to the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon directed by Mike Hodges. But it’s entirely recorded by Queen, with some contributions from Brian Blessed and other cast members. Some people are going to debate my high ranking for Flash Gordon, but do hear me out. It commences with the obvious theme tune Flash and what a song it is! Every time I hear the “Flash! Arrrrh!” bits, I always get a sense of adventure, a very dangerous adventure approaching. I also love the laser firings in the middle and towards the end where Flash’s girlfriend is calling; “Flash I love you! And we have fourteen hours to save the earth.” In The Space Capsule contains a synthesised ambient tone, though joined by Roger’s drums to create the tension. Ming’s Theme, a nice smooth keyboard melody joined by a bit of dialogue. Football Fight – very upbeat and Brian’s guitar creates the atmosphere of the violence. Execution Of Flash – I don’t think there’s need to go into that. Vultan’s theme – something I’d definitely revisit. Some of the tracks do contain snippets from the theme tune, but that’s the same with the scores through a lot of blockbuster movies; Star Wars, ET, Jurassic Park, some of the modern Disney movies, I can’t name anymore right now. All in all, Flash Gordon gives us the sci-fi/adventure feel and you can easily meditate to what goes on even without watching the film, though I do recommend checking that out too. I have always loved listening to soundtracks to films and Flash Gordon is one I rate near my top list of favourites along with Fantasia and Saturday Night Fever. I really think Queen deserves a lot of credit for putting together a soundtrack and this one describes their genius. Many of them contributed to later soundtracks. John worked on Biggles: Adventures In Time, Brian did The Adventure Of Pinocchio. Oh and let’s not forget Highlander. I still think A Kind Of Magic should’ve been that.

And the number 1 album by Queen is…

Innuendo (1991)

Tracklist: Innuendo / I’m Going Slightly Mad / Headlong / I Can’t Live With You / Don’t Try So Hard / Ride The Wild Wind / All God’s People / These Are The Days Of Our Lives / Delilah / The Hitman / Bijou / The Show Must Go On

Style: Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Synth-Pop

Overall Rating: 97.7%

And Thunderbirds are go! It does sound strange that I’m placing an album from the early nineties which was released by a band whose music is more recognised from the seventies and a bit of the eighties. But I genuinely think that Innuendo is the greatest album Queen have ever produced. Innuendo is darker than most of Queen’s material, a true epic rock gem and even the themes relate so much to the tragedy that was occurring through the band’s personal lives. It was released the very same year Freddie was eventually beaten his illness. Some of the material makes clear on how sick he was, but Freddie does manage to keep his singing spirits up. The music also contributes to the dark moments. Starting with the title track Innuendo – an awesomely epic and truly haunting opening to the album. The E to F chord sequence is enough to make our epidermis show as is Steve Howe’s flamenco guitar solo. I’m Going Slightly Mad – mostly inspired by one of Noel Coward’s phrases, though I get the feeling that Freddie did literally go a bit ‘mad’ due to his illness. The keyboards even create a spooky feel to the song. And speaking of comedy, the video is definitely worth a look. Headlong – a pure fast-paced hard rock song which gradually lightens the atmosphere a bit leading to I Can’t Live With You. Don’t Try So Hard – a smother song which contributes to the hard work Freddie was putting in with the others, despite his condition as I just mentioned. Ride The Wild Wind – though a rock tune with a light tone, still would give us the feel that god’s calling Freddie. All God’s People, though slower, with a similar-ish theme. These Are The Days Of Our Lives – I sometimes wonder if maybe that should’ve been the last track because of how gentle it is and it could be considered Freddie’s goodbye song, just like David Bowie’s I Can’t Give Everything Away which closed Blackstar. Delilah – an amusing light-hearted song about Freddie’s cat. I don’t know why that song’s despised, even Roger hated that one. The Hitman – back to hard rock. Bijou – back to the dark atmosphere, helped by the smooth ambience, Brian’s melodic guitar bit and very little vocals. And finally we have one of my personal favourites, the Show Must Go On – an awesome way to close the album, though as haunting as Innuendo, which demonstrates that despite difficulties, things have to take place sometimes, hence, “the show must go on”. Freddie was certainly confident enough to complete things and he still had the stamina, until later on.

So that was my personal ranking of worst-to-best Queen albums. Do feel free to leave your comments below, if you agree/disagree with my choices. It’s just my silly personal opinion. As always thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing Bohemian Rhapsody as son as it comes out.

My personal other Top 12 Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year again! ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

Christmas only comes round once every year. Last year, I brought out what I considered my personal top 12 Christmas songs (plus top 12 episodes as well). I’ve decided to construct another list of Christmas songs that I truly admire. Why another one? Because there are so many awesome songs out there. So sit back and have a view of my personal other top 12 favourite Festive songs. Why top 12? Because it’s Christmas!;

 

#12;

Walking In The Air – Aled Jones / The Shadows

Now I’m cheating a bit. I’m referring to both the version by Aled Jones and the one by The Shadows.

Walking In The Air was written and performed originally for the short cartoon film The Snowman. For those who don’t know, the original artist was Peter Auty. That too was released as a single, but it does contain a bit of the score from the Snowman. To me, Peter’s version sounds better when you’re watching the film. Both versions by Aled Jones and The Shadows start off as much calmer before the bit that goes We’re Walking In The Air / Without My Underwear (just kidding!).

Of course, The Shadows’ version doesn’t include words. They’ve forever been an instrumental band. So why put that and Aled Jones together? Because they’re so equally atmospheric.

 

#11;

Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

Next, we have an epic Christmas song by an Irish punk band. Fairytale Of New York is more of a celtic folk/rock song and is very different to many other festive songs. This one has lyrics which sound much like a drunk conversation between two customers at a local Irish tavern. Obviously, Shame McGowan often sounded drunk when he sang. No offense Shane.

One thing that annoys me is that when it was played on BBC Radio, they censored out the terms ‘Slut’ and ‘Faggot’. C’mon BBC, they’re such harmless words. Either that or you’re just too Scrooge-y to understand the spirit of Christmas. Even Jesus Christ would’ve been more tolerant of so-called bad language.

The Pogues captured the spirit of Christmas just fine.

 

#10;

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie & Bing Crosby

Now here’s a fun fact; before the two deep-voiced music geniuses collaborated, Bing Crosby apparently had no idea who the hell David Bowie was. Plus, and alas, he died sometime after the recording.

This one is an impressive combination of two traditional Xmas songs, Peace On Earth and Little Drummer Boy, (duh!). David mostly does the Peace On Earth segment, while Bing stays focused on Little Drummer Boy. It’s quite hard to combine two songs together, but then, David was so musically gifted. He knew what he was doing and it’s a rare song for him. Probably the only festive one he’s done, I’ve yet to dig deeper. Of course, the guys who wrote Pack All Your Troubles and/or It’s A Long Way To Tipperary were able to combine the two together and it worked! And so does Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy.

There’s another awesome version of Little Drummer Boy, but we’ll get there later.

 

#9;

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo & Patsy

 

Here’s a song which I could class as black comedy, even the title says it all. When I first came across Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, I laughed so much and thought; “I’ve so got to check this one out.” And it’s comedy genius!

The title does say it all. It’s basically about a family celebrating Christmas Eve, then a grandmother gets high on egg nog and staggers outside the house, while still drunk. As a result, she is discovered to be trampled by Santa’s reindeer the next morning. During the next two verses, the family are debating whether the gifts for Grandma should be returned or not.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer does play part in the ongoing debate on the existence of Santa Claus. The narrator admits he never believed in him until the accident. The Jingle Bells-style melody also plays a festive part.

There was also a short animated film of the same name. I never saw it myself, but the Nostalgia Critic did give a hilarious review on it. Apparently, the film was first broadcast on Halloween. I suppose it’d make a little sense considering the dark theme.

 

#8;

The Little Drummer Boy – Johnny Cash

I did say there was one more great version of Little Drummer Boy, and this I believe is the one. Good old Johnny Cash!

Johnny Cash is without a doubt one of the greatest country musicians to have ever lived and it ain’t hard to see why. Ring Of Fire, I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, I could name so many of his songs, but let’s just stick with this song for now.

Through this version, Johnny goes by his traditional country roots, but adds something more unique to Little Drummer Boy. Considering the term ‘drummer’, there are some distinctive drum beats added and dominating the song. Not only that. Many of us know by now that Johnny grew up within a pure working class background and I believe that this can relate to Little Drummer Boy. The song is about a poor boy who gets involved in sort-of show business – in this case, the nativity play, and as part of his role, plays the drums.

Musician-wise, Johnny’s take on Little Drummer Boy is quite economical, but was so worth it! All that was need was drums, a guitar, some backing singers and of course Johnny.

 

#7;

Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M

There was quite a lot of versions of Mary’s Boy Child. The Boney M version, I think it’s the best one. Why?

If you compare this one to the Harry Belafonte version and a few others, including Matt Monro, they’re kinda slow and sound too much like a traditional/religious carol. Boney M’s one, on the other hand, has a bit more rhythm added to it. There are also a few more lines added; “Oh my Lord” etc. We know that Mary’s Boy Child is the obvious tale about Jesus Christ’s birth and I don’t listen to a lot of religious music, but a bit of gospel does often spice things up. And that’s exactly what Boney M did.

 

#6;

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

How’s about a bit of glam rock for our next entry?

For those of you who don’t know, Wizzard is an English rock band, formed by Roy Wood, ex-member of The Move and The Electric Light Orchestra. Is it wrong of me to describe them as epic rock? I wonder, because Roy Wood is joined by quite a lot of musicians for much of the material they released; Ball Park Incident, See My Baby Jive, and so forth. About eight musicians built up Wizzard, including brass instrumentalists.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is probably the first song that comes into mind each time Wizzard is brought up in conversation and, alas, the only one. It’s a shame, because Wizzard released so much more and my mom recalls growing up with Ball Park Incident and all that. With that said though, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is a marvellous treat and it ain’t just the beautiful sounds we hear. If you look at the above video, you’ll see that Wizzard are joined by a group of kids who take over during the second half, one of them playing drums, another playing a minuscule saxophone. Speaking of the video, what uplifts the spirits is that Roy Wood is dressed as Santa Claus.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday did face some competition with another glam-rock festive anthem, which I’ll get to later on.

 

#5;

Another Rock & Roll Christmas – Gary Glitter

Yes I know. Kid related crimes and all that. The reason why this song along with many other songs by Gary Glitter are no longer receiving radio play.

But let’s try not to think about what Gary did during his personal life for one moment. Yes, he’s done some sinful things and I don’t endorse his crimes.

I of course recall listening to this song when I was nine and singing along to it. I do love this song and have loved it since the time I first heard it. Some people are probably going to press stop on that. But of course if you listen to the opening melody of Another Rock & Roll Christmas, it’s quite similar to the traditional festive bells we sometimes hear each festive season and it’s done so well on the keyboards. The ‘Christmaaaas’ bit added to that certainly hyped me up.

Another Rock & Roll Christmas also harks back slightly to the times when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other rock and roll musicians constantly released some Xmas-themed songs, i.e. Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me and Run Rudolph Run, hence ‘Another Rock & Roll Christmas’. To me, rock & roll’s always a lot of fun and Gary did in fact prove so. Shame about the you know what. But surely, this one could get you in the groove and I’m sure personal lives couldn’t put us off. There was always some musicians causing some controversy. Gary’s certainly no exception. Would it make listeners better if there was a cover of this song? Because you could always pretend it was that artist who performed it originally. Just a thought.

Okay that’s enough said.

 

#4;

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – Ramones

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) is quite different to other Xmas songs. Most of them are extremely jolly, though in the Ramones’ case, things aren’t always okay during the holiday.

This punk rock song concerns a couple who have got issues with each other and want things to be okay during Xmas. They remind each other that Xmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s not the case between the couple; Where is Santa at his sleigh? / Tell me why is it always this way? / Where is Rudolph? Where is Blitzen, baby? / Merry Christmas, merry merry merry Christmas.

Even the video addresses the arguing issues. The lady bitches to the man about party arrangements and the man acts quite defensively, even though they do still love each other. It ends with them making up and giving each other a present only to discover that the gift happens to be inappropriate and then they start bickering again.

A lot of punk banks address some of the belligerence and problems that go on during the season. Blink 182 for instance released a song about a man who lashes out at a group of annoying carol singers and gets put into jail as a result. The Ramones sang a lovely song about an arguing couple trying not to fight over Christmas. More of those please!

There is one more coming up.

 

#3;

You’ll Know It’s Christmas – Deacon Blue

Here’s a fun fact. I saw Deacon Blue playing in Birmingham back when I was 17. And my god, they was amazing. And they continue to be.

In case you’re wondering who they are, Deacon Blue are a Scottish pop/rock band that started in the late eighties, with hits such as Real Gone Kid, Dignity and Fergus Sings The Blues. They took a break during the mid/late 90s and then reformed. They now work on a part time basis.

You’ll Know It’s Christmas is the most recently released entry on this list (2013). It’s gentle, atmospheric and also subtle for a Christmas song. It’s not so in-your-face. If you listen to the guitar melodies and occasional bells, you can still feel the Xmas spirit. Even the above video helps. So what if it’s in black and white.

You’ll Know It’s Christmas is an underrated festive song by an underrated band.

 

#2;

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

Always a lot of fun this one. And this is the song that kept Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday off the top of the UK Charts.

Shame that this is the only song by Slade that many kids of today remember. They was so popular once upon a time, during the early seventies, when glam rock was so dominant. Slade had so many hits i.e. Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Coz I Luv You, Gudbuy T’Jane and so forth. Merry Xmas Everybody was their sixth and, ironically, final UK#1 single. Soon afterwards, their popularity waned and their later material got ignored.

That being said, Merry Xmas Everybody was one of the first festive pop songs I ever heard on the radio. I remember myself and some mates singing that song on the way to and from school and we would make up our own versions. We would sing So here it is, Merry Christmas, Everybody’s having… and then we would replace fun with something nonsensical. Good memories.

It’s a very entertaining and catchy tune which never gets boring. And apparently it’s still charting. Even during it’s original release, many fans were entertained, despite the fact that the UK was suffering a financial crisis. I would’ve thought Slade calmed them down with the lines Look to the future now, It’s only just begun.

One thing I love about this song is when Noddy Holder (the singer that is) belts out It’s Chriiissssmaaaaaaassss (!) towards the end of the song.

Now some of you are probably wondering, what could possibly top Slade’s festive masterpiece on a list like this. But…

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

And the number one Christmas song for this list is;

Father Christmas – The Kinks

And Thunderbirds they are go!

I just had to place this one at the very top! And who says punk rock musicians can’t contribute to Christmas music, even from a band who inspired the genre, i.e. The Kinks.

Father Christmas tells the story of a department store Santa Claus who gets mugged by a group of working class kids who are desperate for finances and view the toys as futile in their lives. At one point, one of the boys asks if his dad can have a job, considering that he’s got a lot of mouths to feed. Either that or if he can have a machine gun to scare out all the kids on the street.

Father Christmas is an extremely entertaining festive song with a strong message and it amazes me why this one and so many other punk rock festive songs are so ignored by the public and radio stations. What’s the matter? Do you find that sort of music too rough? Is punk rock too anarchic for you? It’s only a genre for crying out loud!

And here’s the reason why I placed Father Christmas by the Kinks at the very top. Not only is it entertaining, but it does concern the working conditions that certain people have had to go through during the years. You can easily see from both sides; the department store Santa Claus who’s only trying to do his job and is probably poor himself, and of course the kids who mug him, considering that they need to survive, some of them who probably believe in Santa Claus.

And that’s another reason why I’m surprised this song is often ignored. If you think about it, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas is about the Ethiopians starving during the season. Father Christmas gives us the message that the working class deserve as much happiness as other people do at Christmas and they deserve survival. And we can easily relate to this song nowadays, because thanks to the Tories, people are out on the streets with nothing much to afford. Teresa May, if you’re reading this, think about it, it’s the truth.

Guys, I really think we should be grateful to the many punk rockers who have given us as much of a jolly time as the non-punk rockers have. The Ramones and Blink-182 and of course The Kinks. If the Stranglers or even the Aquabats were to release an Xmas song, I would buy it.

I would also recommend checking out the Man Overboard version.

So that was my secondary personal top 12 Christmas songs. If there are some I’ve missed out, there’s always my other list. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Top 11 Elton John songs

Today celebrates the 70th birthday of a great musician; Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton Hercules John. I ain’t calling Elton great, just because he’s released numerous UK number 1s and/or because he’s hugely popular, but because he’s released some songs which I can call plain awesome! In fact, when I wrote my personal Top 11 singles by David Bowie, I kinda compared him unfavorably to David Bowie and said that Elton was ‘a bit too ballady’. I guess it’s because David’s long been my favourite musician and I was so depressed when he passed on, and Elton, if you did read that blog, I apologise. I didn’t mean no offence. However, I’m glad Elton John didn’t die last year and that he’s at the moment still living. With that said, Elton’s more than just ‘ballady’. This is why I shall cut him some slack, actually since it’s his birthday, lots of slack. Here is my top 11 songs by Elton John. Why top 11? Because I’d like to go, as the guys out of Madness might say, one step beyond!

Number 11;…

Daniel

Album: Don’t Shoot Me (I’m Only The Piano Player)

Year: 1972

Daniel tells the story of a fictional brother of the narrator who is leaving for Spain, his favourite place and for some reason, I  had a feeling the character may have died or something, but then the narrator like sees things that look like Daniel. Apparently Elton got inspiration from an article about a wounded Vietnamese war veteran. He of course wanted to create sympathy to all the veterans of the pointless war, and my god he did a good job with this one.

Daniel is a rather sad song and I’d probably get that feeling if one/some of my relatives went to war and didn’t arrive back for sometime. The feeling is helped by Elton’s smooth flute melody.

Number 10;…

Bennie & The Jets

Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Year: 1973

Not a lot of people know what Bennie & The Jets is about, but what some of us can gather, it’s Elton’s Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. Bennie & The Jets is based on a fictional glam rock band (“She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit, You know I read it in a magazine Ohh…“). It also addresses the greed and glitz of the 70s (“We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around, you’re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.”).

And gee, listen to that glamorous keyboard riff. It always gets us into the groove.

Number 9;…

Circle Of Life

Album: The Lion King soundtrack

Year: 1994

And here’s a song written for the hugely popular Disney movie. Circle Of Life was used during one of the most spectacular openings to a movie in Hollywood history! Think about it, fade from black to a shot of a rising sun, while at the same time, we hear the Zulu chant which signals that a lion prince has been born. It catches every animal’s attention in Africa and they go over to attend the presentation of Simba. The tune continues until the animals bow to Simba and we see the opening title. Very well written.

Elton John’s own version of Circle Of Life is also worth a listen. Okay, it doesn’t have the chant, but he did write this song and most of the soundtrack to The Lion King.

Number 8;…

I’m Still Standing

Album: Too Low For Zero

Year: 1983

Here’s a bit of 80s glam rock. I’m Still Standing is one truly entertaining song. But it also feels like it could be used for a political message. I mean, I’m Still Standing. Love it!

Even the music video’s quite stylish. The opening reminds me a bit of the way the James Bond movies commence, considering the circle opening. And extra credit for the split screen.

Number 7;…

Sacrifice

Album: Sleeping With The Past

Year: 1989

Bernie Taupin described Sacrifice as one of the best songs he and Elton worked on. I tend to agree. Sacrifice is a smooth break-up song where the loss of a relationship is no sacrifice. Rather, relationships are lost unexpectedly or when we reckon that a relationship ain’t working.

Number 6;…

Can You Feel The Love Tonight

Album: The Lion King soundtrack

Year: 1994

Another song written for The Lion King. The reason why I place this one above the Circle Of Life is not because it was the one that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but it’s the one I sang through most out of every song included on the soundtrack. Again, there are two versions of Can You Feel The Love Tonight. The one sung by the cast and some chorus during the scene where Simba and Nala reconcile and their friends Timon & Pumbaa are emotionally observing their relationship. And talking about emotions, that’s how I feel when I see the two lions rubbing their faces together and Timon and Pumbaa in tears when they finish the song. Controversially, I always got a little more teary-eyed at that scene than the famous death scene.

Number 5;…

Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Album: Breaking Hearts

Year: 1984

Don’t let the title get you down. As so explain the lyrics, Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a sympathetic soft-rock-ish pop song that demonstrates that blues songs are there to help a listener who has recently experienced a break-up, a loss of a partner to death or is feeling depressed in any other way to relax and feel motivated through life. In a way, a bit like Sacrifice.

In other words, Sad Songs is a cheering-up song. In fact, it’s also from Elton’s 18th album, which happens to be titled Breaking Hearts. I’ve known this one since I was a kid and I thank BBC Radio 2 for introducing this one.

I’d also like to mention the music video, which reminds me of Schindler’s List. I say that because remember that girl in the red jacket. Exactly, the red was the only colour that was showing, black & white aside, during most of the film. Sad Songs is too filmed in black and white mostly, apart from a few bright colours. The visuals too contrast with the song’s tone.

Number 4;…

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (with Kiki Dee)

Album: n/a

Year: 1976

And here, we have a duet between Elton and a not-so widely known lady called Kiki Dee. The subject matter of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart maybe cliched considering it’s a basic love song. However, it’s more than just a love song. It’s an energetic song! It starts off that way, hence the heart pounding orchestra. Speaking of heart pounding, get it? The orchestra carries on that way through the song. Apparently, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was  inspired by the Motown musicians i.e. Marvin Gaye. His and Kim Weston’s song It Takes Two is similar-ish to this one, music-wise.

Don’t Go Breaking my Heart is one of Elton John’s classics which has remained since our earlier lives. Elton & Kiki’s version will remain the ultimate one. Not to say there’s no good covers. I’d also check out that comedy version by Arthur Mullard (I know, I know) and Hylda Baker. It’s absolutely hilarious!

Number 3;…

Crocodile Rock

Album: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player

Year: 1972

Crocodile Rock is always a lot of fun to listen to and/or play on guitar/whatever instrument you have. The farfisa organ adds a truly distinguishable tone to the song. The song is influenced by Daddy Cool, Del Shannon (a totally underrated rock & roll musician!) and Bill Haley & His Comets. I dunno the precise meaning of ‘Crocodile Rock’.My guess is that…

Apparently, Elton and Bernie Taupin were accused of ripping off a Pat Boone song called Speedy Gonzales, but thankfully the case was dropped. I have to admit, I’ve never heard Speedy Gonzales, nor do I know any other song that shares the same chord sequence as Crocodile Rock.

Number 2;…

The Bitch Is Back

Album: Caribou

Year: 1974

And this is the song that caused some controversy. Look, I know the term ‘bitch’ ain’t exactly a friendly word, but it ain’t a swear word. Anyway, nobody objected when David Bowie sang ‘so we bitched about his fans’ for Ziggy Stardust. So why bitch about The Bitch Is Back’s name?

Moving on, apparently the origins date back to some personal yet minor feuds Elton had with the music staff. Apparently, Mrs Taupin once referred to Elton as a ‘bitch’ whenever Elton arrived in not such a good mood, hence The Bitch Is Back. Funnily enough, I always saw Elton as more of the cheerful and/or calm type, but I’m probably over-estimating. I never met him anyway, yet. Rock Profile demonstrates otherwise, but because he’s played by Matt Lucas in that show, that doesn’t count. With that said, the title has been humorously referenced in other media, i.e. that Simpsons episode where he meets Apu, oh and in that Casper movie where Carrigan rises from the dead.

There’s a darn good reason why we need to petition the radio stations to cut The Bitch Is Back some slack. The Bitch Is Back is a massively underrated glam-rock anthem. Seriously, check out the guitar intro. Whoever played that is obviously skilled! The rest is also pure entertainment. Don’t believe me? See the above video.

If ever Elton did an Anarchy In The UK, The Bitch Is Back is pretty close.

Honourable Mentions;

And the number 1 Elton John song is;…

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Year: 1973

The moment many of us was all waiting for! Anybody up for some Rolling Stones/Who style rock? And speaking of Saturday, that’s what today is!

Every time I listen to Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, I always smile and get into the groove. Seriously, I never get tired of this one. It’s easy Elton John’s best! He probably prefers other songs of his to this one, but that’s a different story. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, like Crocodile Rock and many glam-rock hits in general, owes a lot to the 50s/60s rock & roll scene. Bernie once described it as an American rock & roll song set in Britain.

The ‘fighting’ part was inspired by Bernie’s witnessing of certain fist fights he saw in local pubs as a teenager, but I wouldn’t have said that he or Elton would mean literally fighting. I’m kinda thinking campaigning sort-of fighting, ya know, campaigning to have a good time on a Saturday night, hence, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.

What really stands out about this song though is the guitar and piano dominated bridge. I totally love that bit and I think many Elton John fans would agree. There’s a really hilarious reference to the bridge in that Vicar Of Dibley episode where the church community have apparently invited Elton to perform at a charity community fair; when Geraldine hears that he’s coming, she excitely plays the riff on the church organ. Awesome, ain’t it.

So that was my personal top 11 songs by Elton John. I hope Elton has a great time today considering he’s hit his big seven-o. And happy Saturday. Get ready for some fighting on the night!

Top 11 Album Tracks by David Bowie

David Bowie could’ve been 70 today. This is why I’ve decided to put together my personal top 11 list of his album tracks. Last year, I wrote my personal top 11 list of his singles, so for a change, these are his album tracks; I’m excluding his singles and including his songs that were featured on his studio albums and never got released as singles. Of course, in a few days time will be the 1st anniversary of when I woke up to the most traumatic news of my life, need I say.

So here’s my Top 11 Album Tracks by David Bowie. Why top 11? Because I’m going one step beyond.

 

Number 11;…

  • Girl Loves Me

Album: Blackstar (2016)

Taken from Blackstar, David’s final album, Girl Loves Me is one of only two tracks from the album never to be released as singles (the other being Dollar Days), unless they intend to have it released in the future. This one has a slightly different rhythm to most of David’s previous material. It contains some swearing; repeated uses of the f word – I ain’t saying it’s unusual for him to swear (he did say the f word once on We Are The Dead and one of his songs with Tin Machine), but then this is probably the most times it’s mentioned in a song. It also includes reference to A Clockwork Orange and 1984, again what’s new? But actually, what’s different about the song is the thumping bass rhythm and that it’s believed that David was inspired by a couple of young American rappers, one of them being Future.

 

Number 10;…

  • Scream Like A Baby

Album: Scary Monsters & Super Creeps (1980)

Scream Like A Baby tells the story of a guy named Sam who’s imprisoned in a futuristic political jail. The song is noted for its ultra-modern new wave/synth pop sounds and David was truly getting updated with the modern world of music!

 

Number 9;…

  • All The Madmen

Album: The Man Who Sold The World (1970)

All The Madmen is partially based on David’s half-brother, Terry, who had schizophrenia and later committed suicide in 1985. The tune starts off folky and then turns to a bit of heavy metal, as soon as Mick Ronson comes in!

 

Number 8;…

  • Queen Bitch

Album: Hunky Dory (1971)

It was a difficult choice between this one and Oh You Pretty Things, but Queen Bitch is so upbeat and gives its actual nod to glam-rock, demonstrating that Hunky Dory truly entered David into the era. This one, apparently influenced by Lou Reed and his then-band The Velvet Underground. Without David, Lou probably would’ve never been noticed. Lou would later cover this one, presumably his thanks to David. This one always makes me happy.

 

Number 7;…

  • Battle For Britain (The Letter)

Album: Earthling (1997)

How’s about a bit of industrial rock and drum & bass, Prodigy-style. What I got out of Battle For Britain was an anti-war message, hence why it’s also called The Letter, presumably a letter to stop a war from coming. Mind you, you’d probably remember the battle of Britain which took place in World War 2. Hell, there was also a film about it. Plus the instruments do sound as aggressive as The Prodigy.

 

Number 6;…

  • I Took A Trip On The Gemini Spacecraft

Album: Heathen (2002)

Back when the UK charts was so-so; dominated by the likes of Gareth Gates and Britney Spears and Blue and Robbie Williams and Atomic Kitten, you know the rest. David was one of the highlights with his album, Heathen, which included this lovely song, I Took A Trip On The Gemini Spacecraft, which I’m quite surprised was never released on its own. Yes, it’s a cover of a song by a guy named Norman Odam. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to listen to the original. For this one though, still nicely done.

 

Number 5;…

  • ’87 & Cry

Album: Never Let Me Down (1987)

I know, it’s from a rather unpopular album, yet as I described Never Let Me Down in one of my previous posts as a truly underrated one. I really think ’87 & Cry deserves some slack. It contains such a magical sound throughout and an aggressive political message; based on Thatcher’s harsh treaty to the dogs, as opposed to the citizens. While David’s resting in heaven, Maggie’s burning in hell!

 

Number 4;…

  • Nite Flights

Album: Black Tie White Noise (1993)

And here’s a cover of a song by Scott Walker. David did some pretty impressive covers back in his day; Dancing In The Street, Alabama Song, Sorrow, Nite Flights is no exception. This version contains heavy electronic sounds; one of the tunes I would put on to help me relax from stressful days.

 

Number 3;…

  • Aladdin Sane (1913–1938–197?)

Album: Aladdin Sane (1973)

No I ain’t referring to the Disney version of Aladdin. Actually, I’m talking about an endless, almost piano-dominated piano jazz-ish song, which refers to a guy who’s insane. Get it, A Lad In Sane? I’m quite surprised that Aladdin Sane (1913–1938–197?) was never released as a single, despite appearing on David’s ChangesTwoBowie album. Aladdin Sane is an apparent prediction that World War 3 may occur, hence the years in parentheses referring to the pre-dates of both World Wars. This would be the beginning of David’s interest in taking on experimental music. And was Mike Garson’s piano riff improvised?

 

Number 2;…

  • Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)

Album: Diamond Dogs (1974)

Diamond Dogs began with Future Legends, which introduced the album and went straight to the title track. Then along came the Sweet Thing suite. Okay, it’s three tracks, but if you put them together, you get one masterpiece. What can I say about this epic prog rock yarn; one of them songs where David reaches the lowest note as possible. Of course, his voice was beginning to lower as he aged. His voice is so in a similar boat to my voice! It also demonstrates his multi-instrument playing skills (guitar, saxophone, synthesizers). Any more to say on this one? I love the guitar riff near the start and it sure is a spooky one!

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

 

And the number 1 album track by David Bowie is…

  • Hang On To Yourself

Album: The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars (1972)

And Thunderbirds are go! What can I say about this one? This one always puts a smile to my face. I love the chord sequence and the high tempo. It’s a fantastic rock & roll and glam rock yarn. Only two minutes and just over a half, what more could you expect from Hang On To Yourself?

Special mention goes to Ziggy Stardust, which is from the same album. But I was a bit unsure whether it would count as an album track, considering the live version was released later on. Yet again, who knows?

 

So that’s my Top 11 list. I’m sorry I only provided limited information. I had limited time to write it. But by all means, check out the songs.

In a bit.

My personal Top 12 Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year again as we enter December and Christmas is once again on its way. Which is why this time, I’m reviewing what I personally regard as the best Christmas songs. Last year, it was films, so I thought I might have a go at the songs. So here’s my personal top 12. Why Top 12? Because Christmas is coming!

#12;

I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas – The Three Stooges

I begin this list with an amusing one by a classic comedy group from the golden age of film-making; I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas by The Three Stooges. Shame about Curly though, but with that said, the Stooges sang this version so darn well. It goes to show that just because one’s a comedian, doesn’t mean they don’t have talent in singing whatsoever, ditto Laurel & Hardy, Billy Connolly and the Monty Python team.

As for the song’s subject matter, we’ve all made our Christmas lists in the past and put certain items on them, including pets, And yes, the idea of wanting a hippo for Xmas, oh my god, that’s so funny!

 

#11;

Getting Ready For Christmas Day – Paul Simon

This is one of the more recent Xmas songs (from 2011) and Paul Simon remains as great a music artist as ever, even over four decades since he last performed with Art Garfunkel, hence his album Graceland. It does sound different to many other Christmas songs. I mean there’s no sleigh bells or percussion instruments imitating such a thing, traditional xmas melodies or church bells, but who cares? David Bowie proved that it’s okay to be different. One main difference from Getting Ready For Christmas Day is the awesome guitar rhythm!

 

#10;

Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney

I’ve got fond memories of this song. Okay, I maybe more into the Beatles stuff than them as solo artists, but this is one of Paul’s best songs as a solo artist. I may not have practised this song all year long, but all they years since I first heard it, I’ve known the lyrics and the impressive synthesised rhythm. It’s truly a memorable one!

What else to say about Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time, it’s just great!

 

#9;

Merry Jingle – The Greedies

How’s about a bit of punk rock Christmas music? Well, technically, it’s two bands performing together to form one band, one, a punk rock band, the other, an Irish hard rock/heavy metal band; Sex Pistols and Thin Lizzy, and you get the Greedies. And speaking of combining two things together; they manage to blend two traditional Christmas carols together; We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells and they turned it into an underrated Xmas masterpiece!

My only nitpick with the song is that I would’ve personally preferred the Jingle Bells bit if The Greedies sang the Batman version, ya know, Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg, the Bat-mobile lost its wheel and the Joker got away. It’s how I kinda remember Jingle Bells, but oh well. it still holds up.

 

#8;

Ring Out Solstice Bells – Jethro Tull

Another criminally underrated Christmas song. Jethro Tull, mainly remembered for their psychedelic/blues/folk material (i.e. Living In The Past), first performed this one back in 1976 and came from the album Songs From The Wood, later appearing on their final album, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. But the strangest thing is, it never charted. It’s possible that that’s the reason why it seems so overlooked.

Personally, I don’t think the charts should ever have to affect people’s views in music. I suggest you try and get hold of one of them two albums or even a Christmas compilation CD which features this masterpiece. It features a beautiful flute melody from Ian Anderson and piano riff which are enough to sound Christmassy. In fact, I’d also recommend it’d make a great Christmas carol to sing in church.

 

#7;

Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses

Earlier on, I mentioned a punk rock Christmas song. How’s about a new wave one from the American band, The Waitresses? Christmas Wrapping is one such jazzy yarn, I mean listen to them guitar riffs and especially them sax riffs!

But it’s more than just the instruments that make this song so awesome. The song is sung from the point of view of a woman who gets so stressed during the Christmas period. Patty Donahue starts off by singing Bah humbug! No that’s too strong, cause it is my favourite holiday, which shows that she does indeed love Christmas, but due to all the Christmas shopping and the many invites she’s received, she thinks I’ll miss this one this year, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. And while preparing Christmas dinner, she realises she forgot the cranberries (Oh damn, that’s what I forgot!). While rushing back to the shops for the cranberries, she meets the same man who she collided with through the song, who also happened to forget the cranberries, which leads to a happy ending to the song;

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Couldn’t miss this one this year.

 

#6;

2000 Miles – The Pretenders

Another new wave song, 2000 Miles is often considered just a song about a couple of lovers living such a long distance between each other. But this Pretenders classic has appeared on a lot of Christmas compilation CDs and there’s a mentioning of Christmas time through the choruses. Basically, the two protagonists want to spend a Christmas vacation together, but it’s hard for them considering the 2000 miles apart they live from each other and considering how bitterly cold and snowy it is outside.

Robbie McIntosh’s guitar riff adds a magical touch to 2000 miles. The song is dedicated to one of The Pretenders’ ex-members James Honeyman-Scott who died of heart failure at an early age.

 

#5;

Christmas Day – Squeeze

Here’s another Christmas song that doesn’t receive much to any attention. Squeeze’s Christmas Day is a modern retelling of the Nativity story (Mary & Joseph drove into town searching for a place to stay / they tried the hotels, motels, the bed and breakfast), which I believe that, through the lyrics, is so damn creative. I also love how the chorus is constructed; Where would be Christmas be without, Mary & Joseph, Morecome & Wise, Laurel & Hardy, cracker surprise, lights on a pine tree and no after-shave, and not forgetting Jesus who was born on Christmas Day. I find the chorus quite amusing, considering that Glenn Tilbrook mentions the comedy duos i.e. Laurel & Hardy, but also unique and subtle for a Christmas. They often show their material on British TV each Christmas.

One possible reason why this song didn’t sell so well was because it was only released in one country, the UK, and ironically didn’t chart, despite Squeeze’s previous two UK#2 songs (Cool For Cats and Up The Junction). And it’s possible that the mentioning that Morecome & Wise are not so well known worldwide than they are in the UK and therefore the public may have ignored this song. Or maybe that they don’t see the comedy duos as anything to do with Christmas. But so what? It mentions the nativity story, the stuff they show each Christmas, it has them harp riffs at the start and sleigh bells, what more could people possibly want from a Christmas song?

Folk,s we got to turn this around. We got to try and increase the CD / download / whatever sales. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

 

#4;

In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

Okay, more of an instrumental a song, but In Dulci Jubilo did use to be a Christmas carol. Years later, we had pop composer Mike Oldfield, best known for Tubular Bells, jazz the carol up a bit and turn it into something phenomenal! I mean, listen to the beautiful melody, two recorders, a kortholt, Mike Oldfield on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and ARP string synthesiser, and William Murray on snare drum. Every time I hear it, it makes me so happy. I can’t think of a better way to describe it!

Try and get a hold of a YouTube clip which features a Top Of The Pops performance from the Pan’s People.

 

#3;

Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie

As a kid, I never saw Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry as a Christmas, but considering that the chorus features the line; wish I was at home for Christmas, followed by a synthesised melody and sleigh-bells which add a snowy touch, and considering the opening which consists of a staccato synthesiser and drums also sound snowy, I’m convinced.

Though in actual fact, Jona never intended this song to be a Christmas one. More of an anti-war anthem. It’s set during the First World War and concerns a soldier who is caught in the tension between the West and Soviet Unions and has had to fight, almost every night, down throughout these centuries. Although the protagonist tries to be brave in attempting to ‘stop the cavalry’, it does go to show that war is not only hell, but can also interfere with families’ Christmas vacations (wish I was at home for Christmas). And speaking of cavalries, do I need to mention how atmospheric the trumpet melodies are?

 

#2;

I Won’t Be Home For Christmas – Blink-182

Good old Blink-182. How I love their music and their sense of humour. But those ain’t the only reasons why I place I Won’t Be Home For Christmas at number 2.

I Won’t Be Home For Christmas, not to be confused with a Simpsons episode, is an obvious parody to the classic song I’ll Be Home For Christmas (probably the same with the Simpsons ep). Its narrative follows a guy who lashes out at a group of carol singers for disturbing him and his girlfriend and gets put in jail as a result. In a way, I do empathise with the bloke. I know it sounds a bit Scrooge-like, considering that he claims to be growing tired of all this Christmas cheer and warns people that if they don’t want to get beat down, to just leave the presents and let me be alone and that the carollers don’t bring him joy. But all he wants to do is spend a nice peaceful Christmas with his girlfriend.

Then there’s the next act; the cops arresting the protagonist for snapping at the carollers and nearly beating them up. Yet he questions the arrest (they had an unfair advantage) considering that he didn’t even touch them (the lyrics don’t exactly state that he did). My guess is that he has uncontrollable anger management problems and not everybody who has them issues can help it. Then when he spends his time in jail, he tries to end a package (presumably a present for one of his relatives or friends), but a guy named Bubba (who I presume is a fellow jail-bird) intervenes.

I can’t believe how much I Won’t Be Home For Christmas is widely ignored. Even my family don’t seem to admire it that much and seem to dismiss it. Probably the reason is because it only charted in one country; Canada, at number 1 (lucky position!) and not anywhere else. Also because MSN Canada once called it ‘a high energy of punk war on Christmas’. But I’m sure Blink-182 were doing it, for their sense of humour, something I feel listeners lack. If they overlook it so much in music, what’s with their high admiration on them Christmas specials for them British comedies?

I Won’t Be Home For Christmas is a criminally underrated masterpiece which highlights the reality of things; that not everybody has a very merry Christmas each year. It has a great sense of humour, well thought through storytelling and a splendid tune behind the lyrics.

 

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

It’s Christmas Time – Status Quo

Silver Bells – Perry Como

Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

You’ll Know It’s Christmas – Deacon Blue

And One more for the kids;

And my number one favourite Christmas song is;

Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid

Ding Dong Merrily On High! In heaven the bells are ringing!

Some of you are probably smiling about the fact I put such a classic charity song on the very top. Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve loved Do They Know It’s Christmas ever since I first heard it. Maybe it’s because of the Feed The World bit which closes the song. It always brings a smile to my face. I of course am referring to the 1984 version.

But it’s more than the Feed The World bit which makes the song so awesome. Band Aid wrote it for charity for the famine in Ethiopia which was so serious back then and what a stupid cow Margaret Thatcher was to ignore such an issue. Luckily, Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure had a heart and he and his friends saved at least some Ethiopians from hunger. The whole point of Do They Know It’s Christmas is that no they don’t because they’re dying of starvation, which is what they’re trying to get across to the listeners. It still goes on there, but Do They Know It’s Christmas demonstrates how important it is that every person should have the right for a happy occasion. The fact that it reached number 1 isn’t important to this ranking, but it was great that it did, because more money was going to Africa and famine would start to decrease.

Another thing cool about Do They Know It’s Christmas is how Bob managed to get so many famous musicians to participate in the recording; U2, we of course know the line Bono sang, George Michael, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Wellar, Boy George, them two guys from Status Quo, Sting, you name it. And yet, they sang this anthem so darn awesomely! I’d avoid listening to the 1989 version, because it ain’t well constructed as this one.

I’d also recommend having a look at the Live Aid version as shown in the clip above. It may have been a strange time to perform a Christmas song in the middle of the summer period, but of course, Live Aid was a charity concert, also in aid of the Ethiopians suffering from famine, just like the song. David Bowie makes a great start on the song, with Bob singing the next lines. Bono still sings Well tonight thank god it’s them, instead of you. It’s as entertaining as the original recording, which will get you bouncing on your feet.

 

So after reviewing my personal top 12 Christmas songs, here’s to you all, let’s raise a glass for everyone, and to them underneath that burning sun. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!