Mahout

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 16 October 2010 by eT

Mahout: noun (in South and SE Asia) a person who works with and rides an elephant (from Hindi)

Drop the pilot
Try my balloon
Drop the monkey
Smell my perfume
Drop the mahout
I’m the easy rider
Don’t use your army
To fight a losing battle

– Joan Armatrading, ‘Drop the Pilot’, 1983

The first and best-selling single from Joan Armatrading‘s 1983 album The Key, ‘Drop the Pilot‘ contains the catchy but lyrically opaque chorus quoted above, which includes finishes up its trifecta of things that should be dropped by appending ‘drop the mahout / I’m the easy rider’.  It’s lucky that ‘Drop the Pilot’ is a supremely catchy track, because it doesn’t make a great deal of sense otherwise.  It was the last of Armatrading’s three UK top 40 singles (the other two being ‘Love and Affection’ in 1976 and ‘Me Myself I’ from 1980), and it was her only single to crack the Billboard Top 100 in the US, reaching number 78 in June 1983.

The original music video is sweet but takes a bit too literal an approach to the lyrics, featuring as it does a pilot dropping in by parachute.  While the live performance from Glastonbury in 2008 featured below may lack the tautness of the studio recording and perhaps a little of the zing in the suspense-building bridge, it’s great to see that Armatrading is still playing and that the song is still popular after 25 years.


Incomprehensible

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 24 January 2010 by eT

Incomprehensible: adjective not able to be understood.

I’ve had a few little love affairs
They didn’t last very long and they’ve been pretty scarce
I used to think that was sensible
It makes the truth even more incomprehensible
‘Cause everything is new
And everything is you
And all I’ve learned has overturned
What can I do…

– Abba, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, 1981 (recorded 1980)

Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ peerless songwriting ability rightfully dominated the pop scene from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.  ‘Lay All Your Love On Me‘ is another example of the seemingly effortless process by which they created expertly-crafted pop lyrics.  The fact that they were writing in a second language of which they had a strong command assisted them to pare down the lyrical content of their songs to deceptively simple structures, but the gift of many of Abba’s lyrics is the fertile emotion contained within.  The song has a fairly traditional theme: a jealous woman’s plea to a partner with a wandering eye, but the trick lies in the establishment of the narrator’s surprise at the speed with which her romantic guard has been circumvented: as Agnetha sings, ‘I still don’t know what you’ve done with me / A grown-up woman should never fall so easily’.  The taut, sparse synths propel the beat without overpowering the lyrics, and the innovative vocal fades at the end of each verse add a pleasing sci-fi excitement and dramatism.  It must’ve been a surefire floor-filler in the discos.

The song featured on the 1980 album Super Trouper, but was never intended to be released as a single.  It was eventually issued in 12-inch format in several countries to considerable acclaim.  In the UK it reached number 7 in the pop charts in July 1981, breaking a run of two previous chart-topping Abba singles from the previous year, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ and ‘Super Trouper’.  The specialised 12-inch format reduced sales somewhat, and in the end this was the first Abba single not to reach the UK top 5 since 1975’s ‘S.O.S.’ (and that only just missed, at number 6).

There was no official Abba video shot for the track, but one was cobbled together at the time from other Abba performances.  I’m not 100% sure the video below is the same as the 1981 issue, but it illustrates the song fairly well.

Vicissitudes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 24 January 2010 by eT

Vicissitudes: plural noun changes of circumstances or fortune — ORIGIN Latin vicissitudo, from vicissim ‘by turns’.

When our tellies are six hours away
Please call to say that you miss me, feel me, or whatever
Vicissitudes are boxing our heads
Like they just want to emaciate them forever
Forever
Forever

– Of Montreal, ‘Suffer For Fashion’, 2007

‘Suffer For Fashion’ is the opening track from Athens, Georgia indie band Of Montreal‘s splendidly-named eighth album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? Setting the scene for its glammed-out album stablemates, ‘Suffer For Fashion’ echoes the artful stylings of Roxy Music and the inventive pop synth hooks of Devo at their best, although it must be admitted that the lyrics are a tad obtuse.  Sigrid Astrup‘s quirky stop-motion video is linked below, or you can take in a fan video from the front row of a San Antonio, Texas, gig in January 2007, assuming you can cope with a bit of raucous noise.

Intermodulator

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 20 September 2009 by eT

Intermodulator: Invented compound word used to describe a guitar effects pedal.

I’m gonna push the button flick the switch today
Cause you got nothing I want
I got nothing to say
It’s been 16 days since I seen your ass
Heading to the city
You think you’re high class

A harmonic generator intermodulator
#HARMONIC GENERATOR INTERMODULATOR# 

The Datsuns, ‘Harmonic Generator’

From the self-titled 2002 debut album The Datsuns, Harmonic Generator is a throwaway stomper distinguished by its pleasingly retro lightshow video and its chanting two-line chorus, reproduced above.  The latter is named after the ‘Prunes & Custard – Harmonic Generator Intermodulator’ guitar effects pedal manufactured by Crowther Audio, and lends the song a certain air of authentic nonsensicality.

Realisation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 4 September 2009 by eT

Realisation: noun The act of realising; an act of figuring out or becoming aware.

There’s a preacher out there warned me about Satan
Could be that he knows him
Cause’ he acts like he’s possessed
I said ‘Hey man let’s hear about God realisation for a change’
He said ‘We ain’t got time for that,
First you must hear the evils of fornication’

George Harrison, ‘Horse To The Water’

‘Horse To The Water’ was written by George Harrison and his son Dhani Harrison, and its recording in November 2001 with Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra was Harrison senior’s last recorded performance, because he died on the 29th of that month.  It’s quite fitting that Harrison’s last performance was on a quintessential ‘god song’ – it wouldn’t be a Harrison performance without a bit of spirituality thrown into the mix.

sam brown concert for george

Sam Brown - Concert for George

You can see Dhani strumming an acoustic guitar in the performance of the song in the Concert For George held at the Albert Hall in London on the first anniversary of his death, 29 November 2002.  Lead vocals were taken by Sam Brown, who sold millions of her debut album Stop! in 1988.  Her performance was a welcome burst of female exuberance in a rock setlist otherwise dominated by aging male contemporaries of George’s, even if they were often rock superstars such as McCartney, Starr and Clapton.  The saxophone solo is also particularly noteworthy for its dexterity and panache; I think it was by tenor saxophonist Tom Scott.

MySpace video: Sam Brown – Horse To The Water

Pathos

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 16 August 2009 by eT

Pathos: noun a quality that evokes pity or sadness – ORIGIN Greek, ‘suffering’.

So that’s today’s memory lane
With all the pathos and pain
Another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless
And they’re always the same
A verse, then a verse, and refrain

– Aimee Mann, ‘4th of July’

The first solo album by Aimee Mann, the singer of 80s pop group ‘Til Tuesday, was a burst of tuneful and knowing guitar pop from an artist who would go on to craft a series of quality releases and be nominated for an Oscar for her songwriting for the film Magnolia.  The album Whatever, released in 1993,  contained the wistful ‘4th of July’, with its elegant verses displaying Mann’s deft lyricism to good effect.  This track impressed Elvis Costello so much that he raved to Q Magazine about it, burnishing Mann’s strong reputation in Britain.  It was certainly a treat to see her perform in London with support from Jenny Owen Youngs in July 2007.

Here’s a live performance of the song from the Jools Holland archive: 

Satiate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 31 July 2009 by eT

Satiateverb another term for SATE — DERIVATIVES satiation noun — ORIGIN Latin satiare, from satis ‘enough’.

Best of ! Most of !
Satiate the need
Slip them into different sleeves !
Buy both, and feel deceived.

(The Smiths, ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’)

From the final Smiths studio album, 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come, Paint A Vulgar Picture is a bitter assault on the fickle venality of the music industry, with Morrissey railing against the ‘sickening greed’ and ‘sycophantic slags’.  The album reached no.2 in the UK charts, but Paint A Vulgar Picture was not released as a single – Girlfriend In A Coma, I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish and Last Night I Dreamed That Somebody Loved Me being preferred.  Here’s a solo Morrissey performance of the track in question, recorded at a Swedish concert in 1997, ten years after Strangeways’ release.

[Lyric tip-off courtesy of Will]