Music to Start the Week With #044
by: Diego Martínez
July 30, 2012
There’s not a single sports event that’s more appealing to me than the Summer Olympics. Really, I can’t even put my finger on what it is about them that keeps me frothing at the mouth with anticipation every four years: the bombastic planning? the star-studded lineup? the torch lightning? the support for our fellow athletes? Whatever it is, I am always positively hooked on them.
Last weekend, the opening ceremony for London 2012 was by all means amazing. People (of course, myself included) gagged for appearances by Mr. Bean, James Bond, The Queen, Arctic Monkeys, Emeli Sandé and Sir Paul McCartney, among others. Acclaimed film director Danny Boyle was the one responsible for such madness happening, and the climax of it all was a segment called “The Night Out,” in which a young couple flirt with each other via cell phones and other social media before finally meeting up and making out.
The context behind “The Night Out” was also a true tribute to the music that shaped Britain and the world for the past six decades: from the ‘Fab Four’ to The Who, Mike Oldfield, The Jam, OMD, Eurythmics and Amy Winehouse. It seems that everything was covered by Boyle…well, not really. A few things ended up missing from the picture, and that’s where we come in. Keeping in line with the Olympic spirit, this particular WILD playlist is dedicated to seminal British sounds that were sort of left behind from “The Night Out,” simply because they are just as brilliant as the songs included in it, and are representative of the music emerged from the other side of the Atlantic.
We kick things off with someone who’s just as fundamental for the Brits as the royalty itself. For better or worse, Sir Cliff Richard is one of the country’s first rock and roll singers. Sure, he’s now a full-on Christian but back in the day, he was just as rebellious as Elvis and Little Richard combined. At least, that’s the way he was marketed to the public. His 1958 debut “Move It” started a 53-year long career and is considered by large, even by John Lennon himself, as the first English rock song.
Right in the mix of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and Sandie Shaw, there was Lulu. Born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, this feisty Scottish gal is forever remembered as the one who sang the theme song for “To Sir, With Love” (a film starring Sidney Poitier) but she also had a string of hits during the 60s. One of those was “Love Loves To Love,” an exercise on psychedelic pop that fared well on the charts, later sampled by Fatboy Slim.
Another act missing from the Olympics’ soundtrack is The Yardbirds, notable for having started the careers of three of rock’s most famous guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Prior to Led Zeppelin, Page entered Yardbird zone in 1966, the same year they recorded ”Stroll On,” a rendering of “Train Kept A-Rollin’.” The song was included and performed by the band itself on the iconic Michelangelo Antonioni film Blowup, a gig originally intended for The Who, Tomorrow and The Velvet Underground.
Most of the pop world in Britain had changed dramatically by 1979. Gone were psychedelia, fluffy pop, glam and even punk at a certain degree, moving forward to New Wave. Buzzcocks were one of punk’s last survivors, an indelible influence on the Manchester music scene. “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays,” from their Singles Going Steady album, offers Pete Shelley’s witty look at optimism in your usual singalong sort of way.
Lots of interesting acts emerged from the constant use of synthesizers on pop melodies. While this was happening, magic cooked when the founding member of Depeche Mode teamed up with a bold, soulful belter from Essex. Yaz (known as Yazoo outside the US) only lasted one year but gave us a handful of singles and two LPs. “State Farm,” an album track from 1983′s You and Me Both, later enjoyed a life of its own as a dance classic across the board.
Kirsty MacColl has become somewhat of an urban legend since her untimely death in 2000. She was not the kind to enjoy a tremendous amount of sucess, but she’s often regarded as having one of Britain’s most unique voices, earning fans in Bono and Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Besides the perennial Christmas favorite “Fairytale of New York,” MacColl’s best loved tune is a cover of Billy Bragg’s “A New England,” released in 1984.
The late 80s saw an intense progression into alternative/indie rock and in the center of it all were The Stone Roses, one of the pioneering groups of the Madchester movement. You could blame the band’s self-titled 1989 debut as the responsible for the emergence of Britpop. The record’s atmospheric opener “I Wanna Be Adored” sets the tone with Mani’s recognisable bass line, John Squire’s droning guitars and Ian Brown’s hushed ominous vocals. Just now, they are in the midst of a reunion tour and they don’t mind at all about being snubbed from the Olympics’ playlist. After all, Ian Brown called her majesty “queen witch” during a concert.
Though the Spice Girls are a major institution, Sugababes are not left behind. Most music listeners stateside are unaware of the recognition these gals have in their native country, despite the plenty of lineups in the band’s history. When founding member Siobhan Donaghy was replaced by Heidi Range, they hit number 1 in 2002 with the edgy “Freak Like Me,” a mashup between Adina Howard’s song of the same name and Gary Numan & Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”.
When the hard-hitting “Club Foot,” a single off Kasabian’s debut LP, was released in May 2004, the indie movement was beginning to take form and would eventually dominate for most of the decade. The song was used in everything from films to series and video games, a proof of its lasting quality. Kasabian still remains an active live band in Britain, delighting fans to the point of going full circle with a live rendition of The Beatles’ “She Loves You” onstage.
We’ve come to the very end of our journey through British music with another seminal act, the most successful duo in UK history, Pet Shop Boys. Since 1986, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have sold over 100 million records worldwide, thanks to their distinctive style of emotional lyrics and electronic instrumentation. Their newest song is very much in the Olympic state of mind: “Winner” is the lead single from the PSB’s eleventh album Elysium, scheduled for September 17 via Parlophone. Nevermind Muse’s official song for London 2012, this is simply anthemic and proper for any sports event.