If you ask any industry bigwig right now what’s gonna be the next big thing, they’ll all say the same, “Sea Shanties”. Every one of them. You think I’m joking? Well listen up ignorami because I’m not.
You might have noticed ripples rolling in from the Indie scene on both shores of the Atlantic, as The Coral, The Decemberists, and others, have romanticised the plight of the seafarer, but now Shanties are due to hit the mainstream, and hard. As I write this Richard X is in his London studio working on the final mix of ‘Salty Seadog’, an explosive slab of “neo-shant’ purred over seductively by Rachel Stevens. Cathy Dennis, my old pal from our days changing skates at Norwich Rollerama, told me yesterday that she’s just sold three ‘Shanties’ to some “top name artists”. For legal reasons I’m not allowed to say who, but let me assure you these are white hot names. The kind of names that kids get on their knees and pray to. So, you see, Shanties are big business. I’ve also heard that Jennifer Lopez, J-Lo, ‘Loopy’ Lopez, Jell-O, whatever, never one to miss a passing fad, is rumoured to be changing her name to One-Eyed-Jenny. Make of that what you will, might just be street talk. Now what concerns me is the forthcoming release from Britney Spears. This you may have heard about. It’s called, ‘Wingin’, Blingin’ and Not!’, and it’s a ‘fresh’ adaptation of the 19th century poem/song, ‘Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod’ by Eugene Field. I know this song from the glorious version by Cass Elliot’s pre-fame folk trio, The Big Three. It’s less a shanty than a bewitching lullaby, intended to lull a child into restful slumber, as Winkin’ and gang sailed not in rusting trawler through the bleak North Sea, but, “in a wooden shoe/off on a river of crystal light/into a sea of dew.” And it contains some of the most hauntingly beautiful oooh ooohs and aahh ahhs ever waxed, as Tim Rose and Mama Cass harmonise the rolling waves of slumber. Nevertheless because of it’s sea-faring theme (“we’re going fishing for the herring fish/that live in the beautiful sea”), it’ll probably get caught up in the nets of the inevitable ‘Sea Shanty Fever’ cash-in compilations that will soon litter our shores like syringes and floor tiling. I wanted to draw your attention to it now before it gets beaten blue and bloody by the Spears, and rattles out over supermarket tannoys the world over.
from The Big Three
15 Apr 05 ·n-jeff: Obviously Mr Scruff is well ahead of the field then, with three songs about Fish (ing) on his first LP... 15 Apr 05 ·tonyharte: Yo ho ho, me hearties. Well I never. Thanks for the tip/warning Rum (where's the bum and baccy?)
I predict that this year (in the UK) will belong to The Coral. 16 Apr 05 ·konsu: Um... what about Weens album "The Mollusk"? That was shit was shanty-city! So, whats next? Weavers laments??
Up fer listening to some snotty American teens brag about how utterly monged they all are?!... Lord, just writing that there sentence makes me want to clutch my head and groan… “well exactly, so how does no strike you?” Fair, it strikes me as fair. But hear me out. You see, these drug-addled Wailers set their braggings against a backdrop of the crankiest, mankiest rock’n’roll the wrong side of the Sonics. “Is that the tape disintegrating?”, “Do I hear the wallpaper of heaven being torn down?” No, you don’t, that’s the music. “And is that the ‘Satisfaction’ riff honk-honking like an ocean liner in a storm?” Aye yes captain, like the truest garage rockers they filch their riffs from the big leaguers (listen to that other meisterwerk ‘Psychotic Reaction’). It’s a genre that favours execution over original ideas, and man the Wailers execute that ‘Satisfaction’ riff alright. Yes, sir, by the end there’s black smoke billowing out like burning plastic. “…And I can hear a…a wicked organ swirling around in the cacophony. It sounds really big, like it was recorded in a church, you know like that Belle & Sebastian track… ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’?” …well, yeah… I suppose…
“Still these lyrics though…? I cannae bear kids, ANYONE, recounting their drunken, drugged, whatever, adventures out on the town. ESPECIALLY when every other word is ‘crazy’. I thought psychedelic drugs were meant to expand your mind?” Well, yeah, I agree, but like when you listen to any other drug-addled teen, your brain just switches them off after a time, “out runnin’ around/seein’ every crazy sight… ma na na na ma na ma ma!” At least until the chorus, when the kids notice you drifting, and jolt your slumbering brain by bellowing in your ear, “HEY! We gotta be… OUT OF OUR TREE!!! OUT OF OUR TREE!”… Yes, yes, it certainly sounds like it.
25 Apr 05 ·n-jeff: I really, really must get this. Just on this recommendation. 06 Oct 05 ·Gnasher: Yeah, this really is great.
I'd think of something more imaginative to say but I just pulled my brain out through my ears and beat myself about the head with it.
There is something magic about a song like ‘All Men Play On Ten’ in this post-Spinal Tap Metal world. Such an earnest rock anthem, in such an irony saturated market… You’ve got to have respect for Manowar. Is it a mark of defiance or of ignorance and stupidity? Hard to tell. Maybe both. But then this song is essentially about doing things their own way, and not listening to anybody. So who cares anyway? Well, it’s worth listening to Eric Adams for 4 minutes at least. He has a message for us all. He’s no puritanical, know-it-all, he’s a reformed character preaching a rock’n’roll gospel. Believe it or not brothers, he too has fallen. There was a time when he did it for the money, yes that’s right, he sold his soul to the loud music-hating devil. And the devil said hmmm Mr Adams, for your money I have some things I need you to do for me, adjustments as it were. Eric said, well okay, what do you suggest? The devil demanded that he turn down his amps, “why be proud, don’t play so loud, be like us and get a sound that’s real THIN”. OK, I reckon I could do that, just a bit, said Eric, a little put out. But the demands didn’t end there, Eric was pinched and plucked for his silver dollar, “wear a polyester suit, act happy, look cute, get a haircut and buy small gear.” And inevitably it all got too much. Eric’s no pigeon weaver, and he got real mad, and he turned to the devil and said, “HOLD IT, RIGHT THERE!” And good for him. For this is a great track. Very catchy.
from Sign Of The Hammer
20 May 05 ·frmars: Tried your recommandation. Very poor music. Erased it. 22 May 05 ·rum: hmmm... such a painfully earnest rock comment, in such an irony saturated market. I think you may have missed the point somewhat. Lighten up kid, and broaden your scope.
A bewitching song about a young woman who, to win the hand of a handsome knight, does her rival sister in. The dead girl then comes back to haunt the “black-haired bride” as a harp fashioned from her breast bone and three locks of her hair. ‘Cruel’ may seem too kindly a description of a girl who when her sister pleads, “Oh Sister, Sister, let me live, and all that’s mine I’ll surely give” says, “It’s your own true love I have and more, but thou shalt never come ashore” before abandoning her body to the rough North Sea. Cruel? Should the sister therefore be scalded for her little… transgression? She’s an evil and monstrous sister, surely? But then this is centuries past, a time when sibling murder and human harps were commonplace. I am not likely to understand in this more civilised 21st century. Which may be why the kids don’t really dig British folk music anymore, or the mighty Pentangle. And it’s a crying shame because this is a stunning track, hauntingly sung by Jacqui McShee. I hesitate to use the term ‘masterpiece’ in case that great oracle of musicaltaste.com, fmars, overhears and tells me that I’m wrong.
from Cruel Sister
02 Jun 05 ·konsu: Alright.In your own special way you've convinced me rum. I've been told for years to pick up some Pentangle by certain freinds (the ones who hear me playing Steeleye Span). Surely I must be missing out on something... I will consult the great one. 03 Jun 05 ·rum: Heh-heh, thank you. I’m certain you’ll appreciate these, you’ve got eclectic taste, you’re not gonna be out for my blood (unlike all those that have begged and borrowed, stolen from their dying grandmothers, to buy Manowar CDs). And they’re no way as folk folk as the Span, they spin out an equally eclectic mix of folk, jazz, blues, rock and Elizabethan dances. It’s time people stopped harping on how great it was that the Velvets, the Stooges, punk etc made you wanna go out and form a band. So simple they sounded. Pentangle are so incredibly talented, so learned, so jazz, but still so unassuming and cool, they make you want pack up the band, trash the guitar, and burn down your house. Or is that Jet? I don’t know now. Well anyway the ‘Sweet Child’ album is the one.
The late eighties wasn’t the ideal time for Mark & The No-Marks’ deranged hybrid of English folk, free jazz and ghost puppetry, but there never has been an ideal time. Exclamation Mark, dressed up in his ridiculous David Crosby-esque green cape, refused to pander to contemporary fashions and trends, and even seem to resent any acclaim or approval, as if it was a sign that he was doing something wrong. This may explain why he hated this live favourite, scornfully introducing it at shows as “our sell-out”.
I chose the track not only because it’s the only thing that was ever officially released (along with its b-side, an utterly spastic reworking of the Monkees’ Theme called ‘March of the No-Marks’ replete with Tube station announcements- “this is the Bakerloo line service to Elephant & Castle”- and girls yelling, “Mark NO! No MARK!!!” at the singer) but it is also by far the best thing they ever did. And it was still far, far from sell-out material (it barely sold any). It is the only No-Mark record you need to hear. All of their less grating eccentricities are here, the schizophrenic dialogues, the lyrical obsessions with pylons and German bunkers, the shoddy jazz drumming, the demonic chanting, the cackling, the mewing (!), but this time it’s all held together by an ace nagging riff, and a supremely warped and swashbuckling chorus where an increasingly unhinged mark sneers, “it’s cooool not to care, sooo cooool not to care…” before he eventually loses all sense entirely and barks breathlessly, “NOT NOT, it’s not sooo care! COOL!!!”
Mark of course was incensed that their label released it as a single and vowed never to “bow to the pound” again. And as a result retired to his studio cave, muttering that their forthcoming album, “a didactic concept album about animal reincarnation” would be their most progressive work yet. And disastrous. If the rumours are true ‘My Family Are Other Animals’ was abandoned after a record company executive visited the studio, described the tapes as “utter utter shit”, and then tried to throttle Mark with a microphone cable.
20 Jun 05 ·n-jeff: This would be your band perhaps?
I think I recognise the attempt to write about ones own music. 21 Jun 05 ·rum: good guess, but not my band no. i'm much too young. just used know a couple of No-Marks. local heroes/weirdos about town. they were very resentful of the whole experience, so i thought i'd give them their small dues. 06 Oct 05 ·Gnasher: Was this the same Mark from 'Mark and the Monsters' infamy?
I saw them once, in a mirror. Their sound made me want to pull my brain out through my ears and beat myself about the head with it.
Shame, really, they looked really mad. 09 Oct 05 ·rum: No, Gnasher, what you see in a mirror is a very troubled and confused soul, who needs alot of care and attention. Unfortunately musicaltaste.com is not the place. 12 Oct 05 ·gnasher: Be nice!