In 1977 The Sex Pistols were invited to perform on Saturday Night Live but had to bail because of problems getting the proper travel paperwork so Elvis Costello and the Attractions were booked as a last minute replacement. Elvis wanted to play “Radio Radio” but since he really wasn’t an established name in America at that time his record company insisted Elvis play a tune available to US audiences. Elvis agreed but then changed his mind about 30 seconds into the live television performance creating a classic SNL moment when he stopped the song “Less than Zero” and kicked into this one instead.
So when I’m picking these Matt Tracks every week I’m really at the mercy of what videos we have in our library. Granted, that library is a goldmine for music, but sometimes that isn’t enough and I have to go looking for certain videos/tunes and ask the artist to send them in so I can share with you…..this tune is one of those times. I had heard good things about Kingston’s Miss Emily but it wasn’t until I caught her on the main stage at Ottawa Blues Fest this year that I really got it. Think Janis Joplin, think Alicia Keys; great songs and a HUGE voice.
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff are one of the most successful songwriting and production duos of all time. They pioneered the “Philadelphia Soul” sound and in the 60’s and 70’s wrote countless hits for people like Dusty Springfield, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, The Jacksons and The O’Jays. The song “Now That We’ve Found Love” originally performed by the O’Jays in 1978 later became a hit when re-worked by the late great Heavy D for his 1991 album Peaceful Journey. One of the most underrated MC’s of all time Heavy D passed away Nov. 8, 2011. He was 44.
When Elvis Presley broke out of Sun Records and Memphis in the 50’s with his rockabilly vibed rock and roll there were many artists who were doing a similar thing but it didn’t quite catch on. Canada’s own Ronnie Hawkins was actually quite an influence on Elvis early on and was renowned among other musicians, but he never had a break out hit. Memphis born Johnny Burnette eventually abandoned rockabilly and did had a massive pop hit with “Your Sixteen” shortly before passing away at the young age of 30, but the beginnings of his short musical career was all rockabilly and sounded a lot like “Lonesome Train”. 60 years later he has played a role in the newest Black Keys album who cite his sound as an influence for their latest: El Camino.
This is another example of an artist I chased down to get a video from so I could introduce you to them. From Corner Brook Newfoundland-Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case have the potential to be a break out band right now with the surge of roots and folk tinged music like Mumford & Sons and the Civil Wars making a ton of noise. Banjo, accordion, mandolin, and sometimes a kazoo this is a great live band who will be touring Australia over the new few weeks with a sound that falls somewhere nicely between Paul Simon and Hank Williams. Sherman is making yodeling cool again. Ps…..his band is now called The Silver Lining but his first album was under the name The Ambiguous Case.
Thanks for listening
Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello (1983)
Today, Elvis Costello is considered an important and influential figure in the history of popular music; 35 years ago he started out playing in British pubs known as the skinny guitar player with glasses and the funny voice who looked like a computer programmer (which he was at one point). The music he was making helped him find a comfortable home within the punk and new wave scene that was emerging in the late 70’s and that paved the way for a unique career that has seen him tip toe the line between the mainstream music fan and the indie music snob. Into the 80’s he had a huge hit with the song Veronica (co-written by some dude named Paul who was in a band called the Beatles) which brought him an entirely new audience (which many of his original fans hated), and of the more than 30 albums he has released over the course of his career he has been able to find different pockets of fans with each group of songs he has released; we are talking about a guy who has recorded songs by Merle Haggard, collaborated with Burt Bacharach and performed with the Beastie Boys. Of course most recently he has become a TV star as the host of Elvis Costello Spectacle, in which if anything, you get to witness the respect he has from other musicians. I watched a taping of his interview with Bono and The Edge and the U2 guys were like two Trekkies being interviewed by Leonard Nimoy. He has just released a new album called National Ransom produced by T-Bone Burnett that I haven’t managed to get to yet, however, on the topic of his music you can’t really go wrong with any Costello track but I’m gonna go with an obvious one because it’s awesome.
Goddess on the Prairie – Hot Hot Heat (2010)
In 2001 everybody was talking about Victoria BC’s Hot Hot Heat and in 2002, along with a record deal from Sub Pop, they came to Halifax to play the Halifax Pop Explosion where in the shelter of a covered outdoor motel hallway I interviewed them under a crying sky. I’ll never forget this interview because I remember asking them: “What would you say to someone who suggested that you can’t look cool in a rock band playing a keyboard?” to which singer Steve Bays answered “I would ask them if they have ever heard of Emerson Lake and Palmer”-which I though was a fantastic answer. By 2003 they seemed poised to take over the world and then their song “Bandages” became one of a group of songs banned from UK radio because of the War in the Middle East, and you KNOW if someone sings the word “bandages” it HAS to be about war, right? Anyway, this potentially stopped that song from becoming a monster hit for them when it stalled around #25, and who knows what that could have snowballed into. Since that time they have continued to make music, did some record label shuffling, some bass player shuffling, spent a couple years building a studio, making a new record and now are supporting their latest album called “Future Breeds”. Yes, the Killers, Metric, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend are kings of the indie rock heap (puke I hate when people say indie rock; for the love of God, give it a category! Call it something!), but Hot Hot Heat were part of this scene/sound when it was just beginning to creep into our consciousness.
Tomorrow – Julie C (2010)
Sometimes music finds you in strange ways. I’m just finishing a book called “Bob Marley: The Untold Story” by Chris Salewicz which led me to some googling of a record label called Tuff Gong which was formed in 1970 by the Wailers (because I craved more knowledge!). The strange thing is however, it led me in a completely different direction; the Tuff Gong recording studio still exists in Jamaica and I found out that a singer from Montreal named Julie C recently did a remix of one her songs there and it’s called “Tomorrow”. The original version is pretty cool complete with a video paying homage to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, but you have to hear the Tuff Gong Reggae Remix.
Low Rising – The Swell Season (2009)
Eric Clapton famously said that the second he heard The Band, he stopped making music with Cream; that’s how good The Band was to his ears (he also tried to get into the group at one pint). Now I will admit there have been a few times I’ve felt so inspired by an artist or a song that it immediately made me want to pick up a guitar, but when I saw The Swell Season live I knew what Clapton must have been feeling. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová with an acoustic guitar and piano, as a duo, are more powerful than most full bands I have seen….and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are amazing. I could go on and on about the history of this duo, the story they created and lived since the movie “Once” or Glen’s musical life in the band “The Frames” and how that band’s T-shirt ended up in Pulp Fiction but I will leave it at this; anyone who only knows this duo because of their Oscar winning song “Falling Slowly” should start digging, and thank me later.
I Never Cared for You – Willie Nelson (1998)
Hello, my name is Matt Wells, and I’m a Willie Nelson-oholic. I’ve read the “Tao of Willie”; I used to quote it every week on TV for Christ’s sake, gems like what Willie says about water and how important it is to the body: “You can’t make a turd without grease.” Health matters aside, I also listen to everything he says musically and would need a book to try and explain why I think he is so great but that is not my goal here; my goal is to try and convert anyone who hasn’t given Willie a chance. For a second don’t think about your grandfather’s country albums Willie Nelson, let me take you back to 1998 to the Daniel Lanois produced album Teatro. For any skeptics this is a good place to either introduce yourself to Willie or re-introduce yourself to him. This album has no genre, it’s a beautiful meeting place between Willie Nelson, Latin inspired sounds, the angel voice of Emmylou Harris and some of the most perfect percussion and drumming you will ever hear. Just trust me. If you don’t like this song then you are dead inside.