Today we pay tribute to a member of one of the most influential post-punk bands of all-time, Wire. Graham Lewis has been playing bass for the band since its inception in 1976, and, he’s been typically steady, providing the pulse on so many great recordings. Lewis has been involved in a myriad of side projects, generally in a support role. He’s let his music do the talking, and that alone is worth saluting. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Sweet – Mr. Business Man (Great Balls Of Fire): Before they became glam rock stars, Sweet paid the bills singing (and not playing on) bubblegum songs composed by songwriter Mike Chapman. In their early live sets, they mixed the bubblegum tunes with covers. This is a nice rendition of a 1968 Top 40 hit for Ray Stevens (!), taken from a concert broadcast on Swedish radio in 1971.
The Wondermints – Darling (Wonderful World Of The Wondermints): The second Wondermints album was chock full of covers. This is a faithful rendition of a tune by The Stories, who had a massive hit with their cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Brother Louie”. While that hit was dramatic R & B flavored rock, this is pure pop, consistent with the fact that Stories’ keyboardist Michael Brown was the main songwriter for The Left Banke. I actually think the ‘Mints do a better version, with punchier playing and stronger vocals.
The Kinks – Tin Solider Man (Something Else By The Kinks): Jaunty observational pop from The Kinks from their peak era. At this time, almost every song Ray Davies put out had at least two great melodies and often a great middle eight.
The Kinks – Look A Little On The Sunnyside (Everybody’s In Showbiz): This deep cut from the early ‘70s sounds like a leftover from the great ‘60s era Kinks I just referenced and is a good companion to the song above. Nice brass arrangement.
Velvet Crush – It’s Been Too Long And It’s Too Late Now (A Single Odessey): This is a wonderful blast of guitar driven power pop, finding a nice intersection between Big Star and Cheap Trick, with a wee bit of Faces mixed in.
The Saints – Private Affair (Eternally Yours): A simple descending riff, some cheap studio vocal panning, and Chris Bailey’s nasty vocals make for darned good punk. This is bit less R & B based than a lot of Saints material, and has a sneaky melody.
Steve Earle – Wherever I Go (Transcendental Blues): This is a pretty typical slice of Earle, with his drawling vocals, and nice mix of country and jangle pop. For a while, it seemed like he rattle off gems like this in his sleep.
Leatherface – Kingsane (The Last): The album title referenced the fact that the band was ending, but that turned out to be temporary. Regardless, this was, at the time, a fine swansong. On this midtempo tune, Frankie Stubbs seems to sometimes be singing behind the melody, which makes his ultra sore-throated singing sound all the more forelorn. These guys have a real special sound, and have the weird ability to put out music that is simultaneously inspiring and sad.
Fats Domino – Whole Lotta Loving (Loud, Fast and Out of Control): By contrast, Fats Domino always seemed pretty happy. This number actually features two pianos, one playing the rhythm while Fats uncorks a fun solo. This is wonderful rock ‘n’ roll, New Orleans style.
Kelly Hogan – Haunted (I Like To Keep Myself In Pain): Hogan finally made an album that fully displayed her talents, showcasing her honeyed voice, which can handle country, R & B, rock, jazz and pop with equal aplomb. A lot of the songs seem very ‘70s centric in their approach, such as this really fine tune penned by Jon Langford. If the production had been a bit cheesier, this could have sounded like a 1974 Top 40 hit.