Let’s pay tribute to a French legend and the father of someone who we’ve played a fair amount of at CHIRP Radio (his daughter, Charlotte). Serge Gainsbourg is the poster child for post-war French decadence, his pop songs drenched in sex, cigarettes and copious amounts of alcohol (and come to think of it, copious amounts of sex). He evolved as an artist, making increasingly outrageous statements about many aspects of life, while steeping himself in controversy after controversy — the biggest, perhaps, being his duet with a young Charlotte, “Lemon Incest”. Many have tried, but no one can equal the sleazy cool of Monsieur Gainsbourg. So let’s pay tribute to Serge. Grab your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 tunes that come up.
Sparks — Saccharin and the War (Sparks): One of two songs on the original Halfnelson demos that made the band’s first album (with Halfnelson changing its name to Sparks a few months after their first album’s release). Producer Todd Rundgren captured the demo’s wiggy twee psychedelia on this bizarre song about women and weight loss that must have made sense to Ron Mael at the time he wrote it.
The Lilac Time — She Still Loves You (Paradise Circus): Stephen Duffy was an original member of Duran Duran who left to form the synth-poppy Tin Tin. After that well dried up, he did u-turn and put out pastoral pop music as The Lilac Time (and he obviously tired of double names). His songs have an elegant air with precise vocals that remind me a bit of Al Stewart. Really good folk pop.
James Brown — I Got You (I Feel Good)(50th Anniversary Collection): Hmm…a classic JB tune. But one that has been done to death in commercials and soundtracks of movies that aren’t so hot. Granted, they only play the first 40 seconds usually. Nevertheless, this is a great song that I’m tired of hearing. Maybe this will have to be taken off the iPod.
*Paul Revere & The Raiders — Just Like Me (Just Like Me): A classic Paul Revere garage rock tune. Songs like this had to have been influential on Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, as this sounds like the template for the garagier songs that duo penned for The Monkees. Mark Lindsey does a great job building up from his measured singing in the verses to more passion and frenzy as the chorus builds.
Roger Miller — Train Of Life (King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller): The ’60s revival on my shuffle continues. This is a wonderful country blues about a guy who is worried that he’s sitting on the sidelines while life passes him by. This has characteristically sharply observed lyrics, a great economy of language, and Miller’s singing has rarely been better. This builds on the great work of Hank Williams.
The Morells — I’m a Hog For You Baby (The Morells): A slice of roadhouse R & B from the great Springfield, Missouri bar band led by Lou Whitney and D. Clinton Thompson. When The Morells originally dissolved, Whitney and Thompson formed The Skeletons, who were a little less roots rock then the Morells. About 10 years ago, they revived The Morells, and the new stuff came a bit closer to The Skeletons’ sound. Regardless, this is simple fun rock ‘n’ roll.
Rod Argent & Chris White — Unhappy Girl (Into the Afterlife): A demo recording by two-fifths of The Zombies, from a cool compilation that collects the immediate post-Zombies work of Argent, White and Colin Blunstone. This song sounds like an outtake from the Odyessey and Oracle sessions — a classic moody mid-tempo ’60s pop song.
Roger Miller — When Two Worlds Collide (King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller): This is a tender ballad from Miller. Miller posits that opposites attract is not a truism. The lyrics on this song are so simple and say all they need to say, with the weepy music taking care of the rest.
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band — Alley Oop (Gorilla): A bonus track from a reissue of a classic album from the comedic British band. This is a cover of the old Hollywood Argyles’ hit, with Viv Stanshall practically narrating the lyrics in his veddy proper English. A band made for Dr. Demento.
Chuck Berry — Back in the U.S.A. (Gold): This oldies laden shuffle ends with a classic Chuck Berry song. Berry’s genius lay in his ability to: 1) rev up 12-bar blues into a pop context, while learning lessons from country and jump blues (especially the influence of Louis Jordan), helping create rock ‘n’ roll, and, 2) his amazing skill as a lyricist. Berry loved iconic images and notions, as exemplified on this celebration of America that looks at it from a contemporary teenage pop culture context. He simultaneously fueled and chronicled the post-war rise of youth culture, and because of that, his influence is still felt to this day, albeit indirectly.