What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!
It was 71 years ago that Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre scared the living you-know-what out of everyone with a radio production of H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds that fooled some people into thinking that Martians really were invading Earth. In honor of this Grade A chicanery, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up with everyone.
D.O.A. — World War 3 (The Dawning Of A New Era): This is old style punk from this Canadian band. The music is pretty basic, made for raising one’s fist in the air, with the requisite angry left wing political stance. This sound is dated, but the feelings and attitude still translate.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions — Brown to Blue (Almost Blue): This is my favorite song from Elvis’s country album from way back when. I think this was originally by George Jones. It’s a pretty classic honky-tonk tune — “you changed your name from Brown to Jones/and mine from Brown to Blue.” This album was produced by Billy Sherrill, an architect of the ’60s Nashville Countrypolitan sound. Sherrill was best known for producing Tammy Wynette. The Attractions fit uncomfortably with standard country motifs. And Elvis is not anyone’s idea of a classic country singer, but on this track, and a few others, he gets the emotions underlying the clever lyrics, and connects pretty well.
Nouvelle Vague — Friday Night Saturday Morning (Nouvelle Vague): Yes, this French band, who does mellow bossa nova versions of old punk and new wave songs, is a novelty. But, for the most part, they do a good job of capturing something in each song they choose. This Specials song was a B-side of their classic “Ghost Town” single. Unlike some of their interpretations, this song isn’t recast too much. Terry Hall was a hangdog loser on the original, and now it’s a cute French gal (I’ve seen them live — she’s a looker) doing the same thing. It still works.
Lush — Hey Hey Helen (Gala): Lush worked with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, who were a big influence on the band’s sound. They combined that airy, floaty Cocteau thing with some shoegazer guitars and the winsome harmony vocals of Emma Anderson and (major crush object) Miki Berenyi. I think this was an Abba song. It certainly sounds like it could have been.
The Minutemen — Swing to the Right (Post-Mersh, Vol. 3): A short buzzing live track from what may be the greatest American rock band ever. They were lumped in with punk, but incorporated funk, jazz, CCR and so many other things into their music. But this is a quick punk riff type of tune.
Buddy Holly — Peggy Sue Got Married (The Buddy Holly Collection): I wonder if Buddy would have dropped some of his vocal affectations if he hadn’t died so young. This sequel to one of his best known songs has some rock ‘n’ roll twang, but also has a little bit of a Latin flavor. A good, but not great, Holly tune.
Robert Gordon — Sea Cruise (Red Hot 1977-1981): Gordon was an early rockabilly revivalist, down to the duck’s ass haircut. He was generally reviled by mainstream rock critics. He wasn’t authentic enough. Perhaps. But he had a really good voice and worked with ace guitarists like Chris Spedding and the legendary Link Wray. This is a rocked up version of Frankie Ford’s one big hit.
k-os — B-Boy Stance (Joyful Rebellion): This Toronto hip-hop artist seems to come from the school of acts like A Tribe Called Quest, as his songs are pretty introspective. This was the first single off this album, and the rhythm track is sample heavy and constantly moving, with two big hooks in the chorus. The production is creative, and when he breaks into the flamenco styled middle eight, you get the idea that k-os isn’t going to play by anybody’s rules. His first three albums are all worthwhile.
XTC — This is the Way (Drums & Wires): This is a lesser track from the band’s first album with guitarist Dave Gregory replacing keyboardist Barry Andrews, who went on to form Shriekback. This almost sounds like it was written for one of the two prior albums, as it has a bit of that herky-jerk sound. But they slow it down just a bit, and then throw in this languid pretty instrumental break coming out of each chorus that is totally cool. A lesser XTC track is better than about 96% of everything else out there.
The Morrells — Beatnik (The Morrells Anthology “Live”): This ’50s style instrumental is a showcase for guitarist D. Clinton Thompson. It’s not quite surf rock, not quite Duane Eddy or Link Wray. But it’s insinuating. This comes from a limited edition 4 CD set with four full concert recordings of this Springfield, Missouri bar band.