Singles n' Slices is an anthology of singles and unreleased demos from the band's career.*
The Santa Carla discography includes:
Dumb Show (2007) (unreleased)
..The Great 10p Mix Up (2006) (limited EP)
Earworms (2005) (EP)
Motion Picture (2003) (album)
Singer-songwriter Tom Odell joins us to discuss the writing of songs like 'Another Love', 'Hold Me', 'Wrong Crowd', 'Silhouette' and 'Somehow'. Tom talks about a range of strategies including writing on planes, co-writing with hitmakers like Rick Nowels and Eg White, and using pop's conventional limitations to your advantage.
In this episode, Robyn Hitchcock shares insights into his decades-old relationship with songwriting. Reflecting on the creative process behind such titles as 'Do Policemen Sing?', 'I Often Dream of Trains', 'My Wife and My Dead Wife', 'Balloon Man', 'Strawberries Dress' and 'Trouble in Your Blood', Robyn unpicks an array of Hitchcockian classics in his own inimitable style.
On the occasion of our 5th podcasting anniversary, songwriter, drummer, music video director and artist Kevin Godley joins us to talk about songs from the 10cc and Godley & Creme catalogues. During this in-depth chat, Kevin reflects on the creative process behind classics like 'Iceberg', 'Donna', 'Rubber Bullets', 'The Dean and I', 'Somewhere in Hollywood', 'An Englishman in New York', 'Snack Attack', 'Under Your Thumb', 'Cry' and more.
Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones talk about the writing of their excellent album Little Windows as well as tracks from their solo catalogues like 'Love Her for That', 'I Should Get Up', 'In My Arms', 'The One I Can't Have' and 'There Goes My Baby'. The pair also speak about collaborating with their co-writing partner Bill DeMain, and producer (and former Sodajerker guest) Mike Viola.
Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy sits down in London with Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of his fantastic new album Foreverland and older classics from his catalogue like 'At The Indie Disco', 'Our Mutual Friend', 'A Lady of a Certain Age' and 'National Express'. Neil also reflects on his love for vintage synthesisers and his work on projects such as The Duckworth Lewis Method and TV's Father Ted.
Peter and David Brewis of Field Music chat with Sodajerker about the creative process behind their critically acclaimed album Commontime and songs from their back catalogue. In addition to describing the writing of 'Disappointed', 'The Noisy Days Are Over', 'Luck Is A Fine Thing' and 'Let's Write a Book', the brothers also discuss the time that the late Prince Rogers Nelson acknowledged their music on Twitter.
Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers discuss the writing of their stunning album Cleopatra, including songs like 'Ophelia', 'In the Light', 'Angela' and 'Gun Song'. The guys also detail their approach to penning the worldwide smash 'Ho Hey' and their work on 'The Hanging Tree' for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, as performed by Jennifer Lawrence.
Multi Grammy Award-winning artist Alicia Keys sits down in London with Simon and Brian to discuss her new single 'In Common', her forthcoming sixth studio album, and her songwriting on a range of hits including 'Fallin'', 'A Woman's Worth', 'If I Ain't Got You', 'Put It In A Love Song', 'Empire State of Mind' and 'Girl On Fire.' Alicia also describes her relationship with the late, great, Whitney Houston, and the circumstances that led to her co-writing the singer's final hit, 'Million Dollar Bill.'
As principal songwriter and frontman for The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells has enjoyed a wide-ranging musical career. In this interview, Dan talks about the writing of The Feeling's recent eponymous album, and revisits his process on a number of classic hits by the band, such as 'Fill My Little World', 'Love It When You Call', 'Never Be Lonely', 'Join With Us', 'Blue Murder' and 'Rosé'. Dan also updates us on his progress with his forthcoming musical, Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
In this special episode, we meet with Paul Simon to talk about his stunning new album Stranger to Stranger and the writing processes behind songs like 'Wristband', 'Street Angel', 'In A Parade', 'The Riverbank' and 'Cool Papa Bell'. In this interview, the legendary singer-songwriter reveals a profound curiosity for musical experimentation that goes some way to explaining both his incredible influence in popular music, and his timeless catalogue.
Sodajerker are joined by Nashville great Beth Nielsen Chapman to talk about her approach to songwriting and creativity, and what it's like to collaborate with artists like Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond and Elton John. Beth also tells the stories behind her classic country hits 'This Kiss' (Faith Hill), 'Strong Enough to Bend' (Tanya Tucker) and 'Five Minutes' (Lorrie Morgan) and details the writing processes behind beloved solo tracks like 'Life Holds On' and 'Sand and Water'.
Ben Watt discusses the writing of his new album Fever Dream as well as his work on previous solo albums like Hendra and North Marine Drive. Ben also delves into the songwriting processes behind some classic Everything But The Girl songs, such as 'The Night I Heard Caruso Sing', '25th December' and the smash hit 'Missing'.
Justin Currie talks about the writing of Del Amitri songs like 'Always The Last To Know', 'Roll To Me', 'Driving With The Brakes On' and 'Nothing Ever Happens', as well as a range of songs from his three excellent solo albums. Justin also explains how he captures his ideas, the mental state required for good songwriting, and why you won't find him on a songwriting weekend or co-writing with boy bands.
Celebrated playwright and composer Willy Russell speaks with Sodajerker about his songwriting process for classic musicals such as Blood Brothers, film soundtracks like Dancin' Thru The Dark, and songs for his solo album, Hoovering the Moon. As well as sharing the life stories behind key moments in his work, Willy provides detailed insights into his creative process as a writer, his history as a musician, and his early influences.
Rapper, spoken word artist and podcaster Scroobius Pip chats with Simon and Brian about the writing of such songs as 'Thou Shalt Always Kill', 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped', 'Tommy C' and 'Great Britain', as well as tracks from his latest solo album, Distraction Pieces, including 'The Struggle', 'Try Dying' and 'Soldier Boy (Kill 'Em)'. Pip also provides detailed insights into growing up with a stutter, how it enhanced his skills as a wordsmith, and his plans for the future.
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez sit down with Sodajerker to talk about their writing process on the Disney smash hit Frozen, as well as a number of other projects. In addition to the stories behind songs like 'Let it Go', 'Do You Want to Build A Snowman?', 'Love Is An Open Door' and 'Fixer Upper', the couple also provide detailed insights into the thinking behind songs from Bobby's Tony Award-winning musicals Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.
Joe Jackson chats with Sodajerker about his latest album Fast Forward and the writing of classic songs from his catalogue like 'Is She Really Going Out With Him?', 'It's Different for Girls', 'Steppin' Out', and 'Be My Number Two'. Joe also reflects on his early career, his work on film scores alongside directors like Francis Ford Coppola, and why not every song needs an origin story.
Bassist, composer and superproducer Marcus Miller sits down with Simon and Brian in Liverpool to discuss his latest album Afrodeezia and his collaborative partnerships with renowned artists like Miles Davis, Luther Vandross and David Sanborn. In addition to describing the writing process behind tracks like 'Instant Love' (Cheryl Lynn), 'Jump to It' (Aretha Franklin), 'You're the Sweetest One' (Luther Vandross), 'Run for Cover' (David Sanborn) and 'Tutu' (Miles Davis), Marcus also talks about his early career as a session musician, his melodic approach to the bass, and key tracks from his solo career, such as 'The Only Reason I Live', 'Bruce Lee' and 'Blast!'
Celebrating the release of his new album, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, John Grant chats with Simon and Brian about the writing of songs like 'Snug Slacks', 'Voodoo Doll' and 'Disappointing'. In addition to describing his love for horror film scores, synthesisers, and languages, John also talks about his songwriting process on tracks like 'Pale Green Ghosts', 'Black Belt', 'Marz' and 'Chicken Bones'.
Singer-songwriter Nick Heyward discusses the writing processes behind songs for Haircut One Hundred and his solo career, including 'Love Plus One', 'Fantastic Day', 'Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)', 'Love's Got Me In Triangles', 'Whistle Down the Wind', 'Blue Hat for a Blue Day' and 'Kite'. Nick also talks about the recording of a brand new album that he has undertaken in Key West, Florida.
Motown legend Lamont Dozier sits down with Simon and Brian in Liverpool to discuss the writing of songs like 'Where Did Our Love Go', 'Baby Love', 'Stop! In The Name of Love', 'You Can't Hurry Love' (The Supremes); 'Heatwave', 'Nowhere to Run', 'Jimmy Mack' (Martha Reeves & The Vandellas); 'Baby I Need Your Loving', 'I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)', 'It's the Same Old Song', 'Reach Out, I'll Be There', 'Bernadette' (The Four Tops); as well as solo tracks like 'Fish Ain't Bitin'', 'Going Back to My Roots' and the Phil Collins smash 'Two Hearts'.
Actor/musician Kevin Bacon and composer Michael Bacon, aka The Bacon Brothers, sit down with Sodajerker to discuss the songwriting techniques behind songs like 'Hookers and Blow', 'Only A Good Woman', 'July Away', 'Ten Years in Mexico', 'New Year's Day', 'Guess Again', 'Unhappy Birthday', 'She is the Heart' and 'Go My Way (The iPod Song)'. In addition to the stories behind the songs, the brothers describe growing up in Philadelphia, their working relationship, and plans for the future.
Songwriter and producer Glen Ballard joins Simon and Brian to discuss the writing of classic songs like ‘What’s On Your Mind’ (George Benson), ‘Dance Electric’ (The Pointer Sisters), ‘Man in the Mirror’ (Michael Jackson), ‘Hold On’ (Wilson Phillips), ‘I Wonder Why’ (Curtis Stigers) and ‘Pink’ (Aerosmith). Marking the 20th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, Glen also talks in detail about co-writing and producing the landmark Alanis Morissette album, including songs like ‘Ironic’, ‘You Oughta Know’ and ‘Head Over Feet’.
Mike Scott of The Waterboys talks about the writing of his latest album, Modern Blues, detailing the processes behind songs like 'November Tale' and 'The Girl Who Slept for Scotland'. Mike also speaks in detail about classic Waterboys tunes like 'A Girl Called Johnny', 'All the Things She Gave Me', 'The Whole of the Moon', 'We Will Not Be Lovers' and 'Universal Hall'.
Singer, songwriter and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello shares details about her writing process on such songs as 'If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)', 'I'm Diggin' You - Like an Old Soul Record', 'Shopping for Jazz' and 'Conviction'. Meshell talks at length about her recent album Comet, Come to Me, her approach to the bass guitar, and her contributions to classic songs like Chaka Khan's 'Never Miss the Water'.
Celebrated singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan chats with Simon and Brian about his new album, Latin ala G!, and the songwriting process that has produced such classic songs as 'Nothing Rhymed', 'Clair', 'Alone Again (Naturally)', 'We Will', 'Get Down', 'So What' and 'All They Wanted to Say'. Gilbert talks in detail about his approach to writing melodies and lyrics, and explains how he developed his musical skills in the early days of his career.
Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian joins Simon and Brian for a chat about his songwriting process. Stuart talks about the work behind songs from his latest album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, as well as older classics from the Belle and Sebastian catalogue, such as 'The State I Am In', 'Seeing Other People', 'The Fox in the Snow', 'The Boy with the Arab Strap', 'The Model', 'Step into My Office, Baby' and 'I'm a Cuckoo'. Stuart also talks in detail about the process of writing songs for his musical film, God Help the Girl.
As the frontman and principal songwriter for Counting Crows, Adam Duritz has been captivating audiences worldwide for almost 25 years with his literate, melodic and introspective songs. In this special 70th episode of the podcast, Adam sits down with Sodajerker to talk about the writing of the recent Counting Crows album, Somewhere Under Wonderland, and the methods behind classics from their catalogue such as 'Mr Jones', 'Round Here', 'A Long December' and 'Mrs Potter's Lullaby'.
Singer-songwriter Josh Rouse joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of his beautiful new album, The Embers of Time, including songs like 'Some Days I'm Golden All Night', 'Pheasant Feather' and 'New Young'. Josh also talks about working as a songwriter in places as diverse as Nashville and Valencia and the writing processes behind older songs like 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska', '1972', 'Love Vibration', 'Quiet Town', 'Our Love' and 'Julie (Come Out of the Rain)'.
Pop mastermind Miranda Cooper of Xenomania talks about her songwriting process and the various techniques used to write hits like 'Round Round' (Sugababes), 'Sound of the Underground', 'Love Machine', 'The Promise' (Girls Aloud), 'Left My Heart in Tokyo' (Mini Viva), 'Love etc.' (Pet Shop Boys) and 'The Boy Does Nothing' (Alesha Dixon). In addition to speaking about her successful writing partnership with Brian Higgins, Miranda also talks in detail about her early career as a dancer, performing as one half of pop duo T-Shirt, and solo as Moonbaby.
Singer-songwriter and broadcaster Tom Robinson talks about his approach to songwriting and the stories behind classics like '2-4-6-8 Motorway', 'Glad to be Gay', 'Bully for You', 'Martin', 'Power in the Darkness' and 'I'm Alright Jack'. Tom also talks in detail about his early life, his experiences co-writing with Elton John and Peter Gabriel, and his plans for a new album.
Norwegian pop powerhouse Sondre Lerche joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing process behind songs like 'You Know So Well', 'Sleep on Needles', 'Two Way Monologue', 'Heartbeat Radio' and 'I Cannot Let You Go'. Sondre also speaks in detail about the influence of Prefab Sprout on his work and the writing of his recent album, Please, including the stunning single 'Bad Law'.
From his days as the frontman of alt-rock band Semisonic to his latter-day career as a solo artist and co-writer of songs for some of the world's biggest artists, Dan Wilson has proven himself to be an extraordinary songwriter. In this episode, Dan chats with Simon and Brian of Sodajerker about the songwriting processes behind 'Secret Smile', 'Closing Time', 'Chemistry', 'One True Love', 'Someone Like You' (Adele), 'Not Ready to Make Nice' (Dixie Chicks) and more. Dan also describes the writing of songs from his recent solo album, the excellent Love Without Fear.
Actor, singer-songwriter and playwright Jeff Daniels is the guest for this special holiday episode. Jeff joins Simon and Brian to talk about his songwriting process on songs like 'Grandfather's Hat', 'Allen Parkway Inn', 'The Dirty Harry Blues', 'The Michigan in Me' and 'Mile 416'. Jeff also talks in detail about his new album, Days Like These, and the ways in which his acting and writing inform his music.
Songwriter Jeff Barry chats with Simon and Brian about the writing of his many hits, including 'Tell Laura I Love Her', 'Leader of the Pack', 'Chapel of Love', 'Then He Kissed Me', 'Be My Baby', 'Da Doo Ron Ron', 'Doo Wah Diddy Diddy', 'River Deep - Mountain High', 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)', 'Iko Iko' and 'Sugar Sugar'. Jeff also discusses his work with Brill Building collaborators like Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector.
In this episode, Joan Armatrading shares details about her songwriting process and the thinking behind songs like 'Love and Affection', 'Drop the Pilot', 'Like Fire', 'Show Some Emotion', 'Me Myself I', 'I'm Lucky', '(I Love It When You) Call Me Names', 'Kind Words (And A Real Good Heart)', and 'Starlight'.
Singer-songwriter KT Tunstall joins Simon and Brian to chat about the writing of songs like 'Black Horse and the Cherry Tree', 'Suddenly I See', 'Uummannaq Song', 'Fade Like a Shadow', 'Difficulty', and songs from her recent album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon. KT also talks extensively about her approach to looping sounds using pedals, techniques for developing new ideas, and her plans for the future.
Dave 1 and P-Thugg of Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo chat with Simon and Brian about the writing of recent songs like 'Come Alive', 'Jealous (I Ain't With It)', 'Over Your Shoulder', 'Lost on the Way Home', 'Old 45s', and older songs like 'Fancy Footwork' and 'Hot Mess'. The guys also describe their approach to working with vintage synthesisers and the music that has influenced them.
Veteran singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III joins Simon and Brian for a chat about the writing of his latest album Haven't Got the Blues (Yet) and songs from throughout his career such as 'School Days', 'Motel Blues', 'Dead Skunk', 'The Swimming Song', 'Rufus is a Tit Man', 'Unhappy Anniversary', 'Hitting You', 'White Winos' and 'The Days That We Die'. Loudon also speaks about his illustrious family and his work as an actor.
Songwriter/producer Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne chats with Sodajerker about the songwriting process behind songs like 'Stacy's Mom', 'Hackensack', 'Strapped for Cash', 'Someone to Love' and 'All Kinds of Time'. Adam also talks about a number of songs he has written for film, TV and theatre, including the title song for 'That Thing You Do!', 'Way Back into Love' (Music & Lyrics) and 'There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In' (A Colbert Christmas).
Songwriter Eg White, the pop powerhouse behind songs like 'Chasing Pavements' (Adele), 'Leave Right Now' (Will Young), 'Once' (Diana Vickers), 'Nothing's Real But Love' (Rebecca Ferguson), 'You Give Me Something' and 'Wonderful World' (James Morrison), joins Simon and Brian for a chat about his creative process and the life of the professional songwriter. Eg also discusses the music he has made for himself, such as his solo album Adventure Man, and the critically acclaimed Eg & Alice album 24 Years of Hunger.
Lyricist and songwriter Chris Difford, known for his work in Squeeze, talks about the writing of such classic songs as 'Cool for Cats', 'Up the Junction', 'Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)', 'Tempted', 'King George Street', 'Hourglass', 'Some Fantastic Place' and more. In addition to describing his 40+ year songwriting partnership with Glenn Tilbrook, Chris also talks about some of the songs from solo albums like Cashmere if You Can, and his collaborations with a number of other artists.
Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer and guitarist for Squeeze, talks about the writing of such classic songs as 'Cool for Cats', 'Up the Junction', 'Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)', 'Another Nail in my Heart', 'Tempted', 'Hourglass', 'Some Fantastic Place' and more. In addition to describing his 40+ year songwriting partnership with Chris Difford, Glenn also talks about some of the songs from his new album Happy Ending.
Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright talks about the writing processes behind such songs as 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk', 'The Art Teacher', 'Zebulon', 'Out of the Game', 'Montauk', 'Swings Both Ways', 'Me and Liza' and much more. In addition to describing his collaborations with people like Guy Chambers, Robbie Williams and Mark Ronson, Rufus also provides details about his new album Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright.
Singer-songwriter Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout joins Simon and Brian for a chat about his songwriting process. Beginning with his latest release Crimson/Red, Paddy talks about the writing of songs like 'The Best Jewel Thief in the World', 'Billy', Devil Came A Calling' and 'The Songs of Danny Galway' before moving on to the processes behind such classic Prefab Sprout songs as 'Faron Young', When Love Breaks Down', The King of Rock 'N' Roll', 'Hey Manhattan' and much more. Paddy also discusses songs that he contributed to the Jimmy Nail television show Crocodile Shoes.
Singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg shares his thoughts on the songwriting process and details the writing of songs like 'A New England', 'The Milkman of Human Kindness', Greetings to the New Brunette', 'Levi Stubbs' Tears', 'Sexuality', 'Tank Park Salute' and 'Never Buy The Sun'. Billy also talks in detail about his guitar playing and songs from his most recent album, Tooth & Nail.
Songwriter, composer, arranger and producer Van Dyke Parks chats with Simon and Brian about his solo career and his work with other artists. In this interview, Van Dyke illustrates the writing processes behind his recent album Songs Cycled, as well as pieces like 'High Coin', 'Hominy Grove', 'Tokyo Rose', 'Trade War' and 'Orange Crate Art'. He also gives insight into his seminal work with The Beach Boys on SMiLE-era compositions like 'Heroes and Villains', 'Surf's Up' and later collaborations such as 'Sail On, Sailor'.
Songwriter and producer Nick Lowe, whose credits over more than four decades include hit songs like '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding', 'Cruel to be Kind' and 'I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass', joins Simon and Brian for a special 50th episode chat about the writing of those beloved classics as well as later works like 'You Inspire Me', 'The Beast in Me' and 'All Men Are Liars'. Nick also discusses his new Christmas album, Quality Street, which includes original songs like 'Christmas at the Airport' and 'I Was Born in Bethlehem'.
Suzanne Vega illustrates her approach to songwriting by talking about the processes behind songs like 'Marlene On The Wall', 'Tom's Diner', 'Luka', 'Men In A War', 'Book of Dreams' and 'In Liverpool'. Suzanne also discusses her early history as a dancer and musician, attending the Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange, the thinking behind the recent Close-Up series of releases, and her plans for a new album of original material.
Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones chats with Simon and Brian about the writing of songs like 'Chuck E's in Love', 'The Last Chance Texaco', 'Coolsville', 'Weasel and the White Boys Cool', 'Skeletons' and 'The Evening of My Best Day'. Rickie talks in detail about her approach to constructing lyrical flow, her recent covers album The Devil You Know, and her plans for a new album of original material, which you can now pledge to support.
British folk singer Linda Thompson joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of her new solo album Won't Be Long Now. Linda talks about songs like 'Love's for Babies and Fools', 'If I Were a Bluebird' (written with Ron Sexsmith), 'Paddy's Lamentation' and the maritime themes of songs like 'Never Put to Sea Boys' and 'Never the Bride'. Linda describes what it's like working with family members, especially her son Teddy Thompson, and the vocal condition that silenced her live performance career. The new album also marks the first recording with Richard Thompson in over a decade.
Singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith discusses his approach to the art and craft of songwriting by detailing the processes behind songs like 'Secret Heart', 'Speaking With The Angel', 'Words We Never Use', 'Strawberry Blonde', 'Gold in Them Hills', 'Imaginary Friends', 'The Grim Trucker', 'Brandy Alexander', 'Believe it When I See It' and 'Life After A Broken Heart'. Ron talks in depth about his love for artists like Bill Withers, his collaborations with producers like Mitchell Froom and Bob Rock, his work with songwriters like Don Black, and his ongoing pursuit of 'hit' records.
Singer-songwriter Chip Taylor picks up his guitar to talk Simon and Brian through the writing of songs like 'Wild Thing' (The Troggs/Jimi Hendrix), 'Angel of the Morning' (Merrilee Rush/Dusty Springfield/Chrissie Hynde), 'I Can't Let Go' (Evie Sands), 'Welcome Home' (Walter Jackson), 'Storybook Children' (Billy Vera and Judy Clay), 'Try' (Janice Joplin), and selections from his recent solo albums like 'F**k All The Perfect People', 'Dance With a Hole in Your Shoe' and 'Phoned in Dead'. Chip also talks in detail about the Brill Building days, his alternate career as a professional gambler and the writing processes behind his latest release Block Out The Sirens of This Lonely World.
Neil Finn of Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers and Pajama Club chats with Simon and Brian about his songwriting process and the writing of songs like 'Fall At Your Feet', 'Don't Dream It's Over', 'Weather With You', 'Four Seasons In One Day', 'Not The Girl You Think You Are' and 'Edible Flowers'. Neil also talks about his work on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and details the production of his forthcoming solo record, due in early 2014.
Singer-songwriter Rumer talks with Sodajerker about her approach to writing songs like 'Slow', 'Aretha', 'Come To Me High', 'Blackbird' and others from her debut album Seasons Of My Soul. Rumer also talks in detail about how events in her life have influenced her creative work, paying respect to great songwriters on her second album, Boys Don't Cry, and her plans for the future.
Songwriter and guitarist Johnny Marr, loved by pop fans worldwide for his work with The Smiths, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs, joins Simon and Brian for a conversation about the writing processes behind his fantastic new solo album The Messenger. Johnny also talks in detail about his musical influences, growing up in Manchester, his relationship with the guitar, his songwriting partnership with Morrissey, and his collaborations with artists like Kirsty MacColl ('Walking Down Madison') and Billy Bragg ('Sexuality').
Influential New Orleans songwriter, producer, arranger and pianist Allen Toussaint sits down with Simon and Brian to discuss his long and highly productive career including the writing of classic songs like 'Mother in Law' (Ernie K-Doe), 'Whipped Cream' (Herb Alpert), 'Working in the Coal Mine' (Lee Dorsey), 'Here Come the Girls' (Ernie K-Doe), 'Southern Nights' (Glen Campbell), 'Happiness' (The Pointer Sisters) and more. Allen talks in depth about his creative process and also gives advice for young songwriters.
John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants take an hour out of their busy tour schedule to talk with Simon and Brian about their new album Nanobots; their approach to songwriting; the Dial-A-Song service; writing music for children; their collaborations with production team Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley on songs like 'Birdhouse in Your Soul', and more.
Singer-songwriter P. F. Sloan, known the world over as the author of political anthems such as 'Eve of Destruction' (Barry McGuire) and popular hits like 'Secret Agent Man' (Johnny Rivers), 'A Must to Avoid' (Herman's Hermits), 'Summer Means Fun' (Jan & Dean), 'You Baby' (The Turtles) and 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' (The Searchers), joins Sodajerker to talk about starting in music as a teenager, his songwriting partnership with Steve Barri, the heady successes of the 1960s, and the many struggles that pushed him away from music for more than 30 years.
As one half of The Sherman Brothers, along with his late brother Robert, Richard M. Sherman is responsible for co-writing the most memorable Disney songs of all time. From the Academy Award winning compositions for Mary Poppins such as 'A Spoonful of Sugar', 'Feed the Birds', 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', 'Jolly Holiday', 'I Love to Laugh' and 'Let's Go Fly a Kite', to other landmark Disney works such as The Parent Trap, 'It's a Small World (After All)', ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ (The Jungle Book), The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Winnie the Pooh and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (non-Disney), the Sherman Brothers have enchanted people of all ages for half a century. In this hour of conversation, Richard M. Sherman joins Simon and Brian to talk through the writing of many of these classics in his own inimitable style.
Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 chat with Simon and Brian about the creative processes behind songs like '(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang', 'Let's All Make a Bomb' (Penthouse and Pavement) as well as hits like 'Temptation', 'Crushed by the Wheels of Industry' and lesser known gems from The Luxury Gap such as 'Let Me Go' and 'The Best Kept Secret'. Martyn and Glenn also talk in detail about their early lives in Sheffield, their approach to synthesisers and multi-track recording technology, and early songs for The Human League such as 'Almost Medieval' and 'Being Boiled'.
Paul Williams, the Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning Hall of Fame songwriter of hits like 'We've Only Just Begun' and 'Rainy Days and Mondays' (The Carpenters); 'An Old Fashioned Love Song', 'The Family of Man' and 'Out in the Country' (Three Dog Night); 'You and Me Against the World' (Helen Reddy), and songs for films such as 'The Rainbow Connection' (The Muppet Movie), 'Evergreen' (A Star is Born) and the scores for Phantom of the Paradise, Ishtar, and Bugsy Malone, sits down with Sodajerker to talk about his approach to the art and craft of songwriting. Paul also talks in detail about the documentary Paul Williams Still Alive, which chronicles his extraordinary life.
Harry Shearer, the actor, writer and musician known for his work on Spinal Tap and The Simpsons, talks with Simon and Brian about writing the songs for his latest album Can't Take A Hint. In addition to describing his process on songs like 'Celebrity Booze Endorser', 'Deaf Boys' and 'Autumn in New Orleans', Harry talks in detail about his work with Michael McKean and Christopher Guest on Spinal Tap classics like 'Big Bottom', and songs from A Mighty Wind, such as 'Old Joe's Place' and 'The Good Book Song'.
Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black talks with Sodajerker about his many collaborations on songs for films, musicals and pop artists alike. Don's credits include 'Born Free' (Matt Monro), 'Thunderball' (Tom Jones), 'To Sir, With Love' (Lulu), 'Diamonds Are Forever' (Shirley Bassey), 'The Man With the Golden Gun' (Lulu), 'Ben' (Michael Jackson) and 'The World is Not Enough' (Garbage). He also talks in detail about his long and hugely successful relationships with composers John Barry and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Celebrated songwriter and artist Carole Bayer Sager is the guest for this episode in which Simon and Brian quiz her about the writing processes behind some of her best-known songs, such as 'Nobody Does it Better' (Carly Simon), 'It's the Falling in Love' (Michael Jackson), 'Arthur's Theme' (Christopher Cross), 'On My Own' (Patti LaBelle/Michael McDonald), 'That's What Friends Are For' (Dionne Warwick/Elton John/Gladys Knight/Stevie Wonder), 'A Groovy Kind of Love' (Phil Collins) and her solo hit 'You're Moving Out Today'.
Mike Stock of Stock, Aitken and Waterman joins Sodajerker to talk about the writing of songs like 'Say I'm Your Number One' (Princess); 'Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)', 'Respectable' (Mel and Kim); 'Never Gonna Give You Up' (Rick Astley); 'I Should Be So Lucky', 'Better the Devil You Know' (Kylie Minogue); 'This Time I Know It's For Real' (Donna Summer), and other 'Hit Factory' smashes for artists like Cliff Richard, Jason Donovan and Bananarama.
Ben Folds, Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge, known collectively as Ben Folds Five, sit down in person with Simon and Brian for a special edition of Sodajerker on Songwriting. In this audio version of the video podcast, the band talk about the writing of songs like 'Brick', 'Battle of Who Could Care Less', 'Philosophy', 'Steven's Last Night in Town' and songs from their new album The Sound of the Life of the Mind, such as 'Do it Anyway', 'Sky High' and 'Michael Praytor, Five Years Later'.
Ben Folds, Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge, known collectively as Ben Folds Five, sit down in person with Simon and Brian for a special edition of Sodajerker on Songwriting. In this video podcast, the band talk about the writing of songs like 'Brick', 'Battle of Who Could Care Less', 'Philosophy', 'Steven's Last Night in Town' and songs from their new album The Sound of the Life of the Mind, such as 'Do it Anyway', 'Sky High' and 'Michael Praytor, Five Years Later'.
10cc's own Graham Gouldman joins Simon and Brian for episode 30 to talk about the writing of songs like 'For Your Love' (The Yardbirds), 'Bus Stop' (The Hollies), 'No Milk Today' (Herman's Hermits), 'Johnny Don't Do It', 'Wall Street Shuffle', 'I'm Not in Love', 'Iceberg' (10cc) and 'Bridge To Your Heart' (Wax). Graham talks in depth about his work with 10cc, the late Andrew Gold, and his latest solo album Love and Work.
Veteran singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop talks about the writing of songs like 'On and On', 'Save it for a Rainy Day', 'Looking for the Right One' (Art Garfunkel), 'Losing Myself in You', 'Red Cab to Manhattan' and his Academy Award-nominated song 'Separate Lives' (Phil Collins). Stephen also speaks about his work on a number of movie soundtracks, such as National Lampoon's Animal House, Tootsie and The Money Pit.
Valerie Simpson, one half of legendary songwriting team Ashford and Simpson, joins Sodajerker to talk about the writing of a range of songs, from Motown classics like 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', 'You're All I Need to Get By' and 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing' (for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) to 'Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand' (Diana Ross), 'I'm Every Woman' (Chaka Khan) and 'Bourgie Bourgie' (Gladys Knight & The Pips). Valerie also speaks about Ashford and Simpson's own hits including the seminal 'Solid (As A Rock)' and her new solo album Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again.
Singer-songwriter and producer Brendan Benson provides Sodajerker with insights into his songwriting process and creative life by discussing songs like 'Spit it Out', 'What I'm Looking For', 'Broken Boy Soldier', 'Bad for Me' and 'Keep Me'. Brendan also speaks about his many collaborations with artists like Ashley Monroe and Jack White of The White Stripes in their band The Raconteurs.
Pianist, songwriter, musical director and vocalist Patrice Rushen sits down with Sodajerker to chat about the writing of songs like 'Hang it Up', 'Haven't You Heard', 'The Funk Won't Let You Down', 'This is All I Really Know', 'Remind Me' and her seminal dance floor hit 'Forget Me Nots'. Patrice talks about her early jazz-fusion work, the Elektra albums and her eclectic approach to sustaining a career in music.
Veteran singer-songwriter and pianist Neil Sedaka joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of songs like 'Oh! Carol', 'Stupid Cupid', 'Calendar Girl', 'Breaking Up is Hard To Do', 'Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen', 'Where the Boys Are', 'Amarillo', 'Solitaire' and 'Laughter in the Rain'. Neil also talks in detail about songs from his new acoustic solo piano record, The Real Neil.
Level 42 bassist, vocalist and songwriter Mark King is our guest for this episode of the podcast in which he talk about the writing of songs like 'Lessons in Love', 'Running in the Family', 'Something About You', 'The Chinese Way', 'Mr Pink', 'The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)' and 'Dune Tune'.
Singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw talks with Sodajerker about the writing of songs like 'Wouldn't It Be Good', 'I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me', 'The Riddle', 'Dancing Girls', 'Don Quixote', 'Human Racing' and 'Wide Boy'. Nik also talks about penning hit songs like 'The One and Only' (Chesney Hawkes), 'The Woman I Love' (The Hollies) and 'Seventeen' (Let Loose) as well as his approach to writing his new solo album, Ei8ht.
Internationally renowned parodist, singer-songwriter, actor and accordionist "Weird Al" Yankovic takes some time out to chat with Simon and Brian about his approach to writing comedy songs and style parodies. Al discusses the processes behind songs like 'Trapped in the Drive-Thru', 'Hardware Store', 'The Night Santa Went Crazy', 'Pancreas' and 'Skipper Dan'.
Clive Langer and Steve Allen of cult Liverpool band Deaf School join Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of songs like 'What a Way to End it All', 'Taxi', 'Hi Jo Hi', '2nd Honeymoon', 'Knock Knock Knocking', 'Working Girls', 'I Wanna Be Your Boy' and 'Golden Showers'. Clive also talks about his work as a producer and the classic Robert Wyatt song 'Shipbuilding', which he wrote with Elvis Costello.
Prolific singer-songwriter and producer Mike Viola, also known as the man behind Candy Butchers, sits down with Sodajerker to talk about the writing of songs like 'Girly Worm', 'Falling into Place', 'Good Ideas Grow on Trees', 'Kiss Alive II', 'Soundtrack of My Summer', 'Field of Guns N' Roses' and 'Closet Cutter'. Mike also talks about his work with singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore on the Amanda Leigh album and his work on songs for movies like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Get Him to the Greek and Tom Hanks' directorial debut That Thing You Do.
Veteran writer Albert Hammond joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of his incredible catalogue of hit songs, such as 'The Air that I Breathe' (The Hollies), 'One Moment in Time' (Whitney Houston), 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' (Starship), 'When I Need You' (Leo Sayer), 'I Don't Wanna Lose You' (Tina Turner) and 'Don't Turn Around' (Aswad). Albert also talks in depth about the collaborative process and his work with songwriters and artists like Hal David, Diane Warren, Carole Bayer Sager, The Carpenters and Duffy.
Musician and producer Thomas Dolby is the guest for episode 18 during which he talks about his illustrious career and the writing of songs like 'She Blinded Me With Science', 'Europa and the Pirate Twins', 'Hyperactive!', 'Nothing New Under the Sun', 'Evil Twin Brother' and 'The Toad Lickers'. Thomas also discusses his work as producer on the classic Prefab Sprout album Steve McQueen (aka Two Wheels Good).
Singer-songwriter Nellie McKay spends some time with Sodajerker talking about her life, her work, and the writing processes behind songs like 'David', 'Sari', 'Ding Dong', 'I Wanna Get Married', 'Mother of Pearl', 'Columbia is Bleeding', 'Identity Theft' and 'Caribbean Time'.
Guy Chambers talks to Sodajerker about his work with artists like Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Beverley Knight, Cathy Dennis and Jamie Cullum, and the writing of hits like 'Let Me Entertain You', 'Millennium', 'Rock DJ' and 'Angels'. Guy also discusses his time in World Party and the intimate musical explorations of the Isis Project and Songs for a Boy.
Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon joins Simon and Brian to talk about the writing of songs like 'Put a Little Love in Your Heart', 'When You Walk in the Room', 'Splendor in the Grass' and 'Bette Davis Eyes'. Jackie also discusses her work with Bacharach and David on 'What the World Needs Now is Love' and touring America with the Beatles in 1964.
Songwriter, producer, drummer Narada Michael Walden sits down with Simon and Brian to talk about his work on pop hits like 'How Will I Know' (Whitney Houston); 'We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off' (Jermaine Stewart); 'All American Girls' (Sister Sledge); 'Freeway of Love' and 'Who's Zoomin' Who?' (Aretha Franklin); 'Jump to the Beat' (Stacy Lattisaw); 'I Love Your Smile' (Shanice); 'Sweetness' (Michelle Gayle); 'You're a Friend of Mine' (Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne) and his solo work on songs like 'I Shoulda Loved Ya' and 'Divine Emotions'.
Seven time Grammy award winning jazz/pop artist Al Jarreau spends an hour with Simon and Brian talking about the writing of songs like 'Boogie Down', 'Breakin' Away', 'Mornin'', 'Roof Garden' and the theme from TV's 'Moonlighting' among others. The trio are also joined by Al's musical director, Joe Turano, who offers further insights into Al's songwriting process.
Mike Stoller of legendary songwriting team Leiber and Stoller joins Simon and Brian for a conversation about the writing of timeless songs like 'Hound Dog', 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Yakety Yak', 'Love Potion No.9' and 'Stand By Me' among others.
Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Monty Python and The Rutles joins Simon and Brian for a conversation about songwriting, comedy, children's television, and the writing of unforgettable songs like 'Death Cab for Cutie', 'How Sweet to be an Idiot', 'I'm the Urban Spaceman' and 'Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik' among others.
Allee Willis, the Grammy award winning songwriter and multimedia artist behind such classic songs as 'Boogie Wonderland', 'September', 'In The Stone', 'Can't Let Go' and 'Let Your Feelings Show' (Earth, Wind & Fire); 'I'll Be There for You' (the theme from Friends); 'I Shoulda Loved Ya' (Narada Michael Walden); 'What Have I Done to Deserve This?' (Pet Shop Boys); 'Stir It Up' (Patti LaBelle) and 'Neutron Dance' (The Pointer Sisters), joins Simon and Brian for a conversation about the art and craft of songwriting and her fascinating career.
Kenny Loggins and Nashville greats Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr aka Blue Sky Riders join Simon and Brian for a conversation about their exciting new band and distinguished songwriting careers. Kenny also tells the stories behind some of his most celebrated songs including 'I'm Alright', 'Footloose', 'This is It' and 'What a Fool Believes'.
Andy Partridge of XTC and The Dukes of Stratosphear joins Simon and Brian for a conversation about the writing of some of his greatest songs, including 'Senses Working Overtime', 'Love on a Farmboy's Wages', 'Ballet for a Rainy Day', 'Scarecrow People' and 'Brainiac's Daughter' among many others. With his guitar at hand, Andy talks Sodajerker through his writing process in a way only he can!
Simon and Brian welcome Seattle based singer-songwriter Shawn Smith (Brad, Satchel, Pigeonhed) to the show to talk about the writing of some of his most enduring songs, including 'Screen', '20th Century', 'Land of Gold' and 'Wrapped in My Memory'. In this interview, Shawn speaks about his solo career, his numerous band projects, and his collaborations with Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.
Simon and Brian talk to legendary songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil about their incredible career from the Brill Building era to the present day, and the writing of songs like 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'', 'On Broadway', 'Saturday Night at the Movies', 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', 'Don't Know Much', 'Just Once', 'Here You Come Again' and 'Somewhere Out There'.
Simon and Brian talk to five-time Ivor Novello winning songwriter, composer, conductor, arranger and producer Mike Batt about his diverse career including projects like The Wombles, The Hunting of the Snark and the writing of hit songs like 'Bright Eyes' (from Watership Down) and 'The Closest Thing to Crazy' (Katie Melua).
In the third episode of Sodajerker On Songwriting, Simon and Brian talk to Grammy nominated and two-time Ivor Novello winning songwriter Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, Adele, Duffy, Jason Mraz) about his work as co-writer of a range of recent pop hits including James Blunt's worldwide no. 1 'You're Beautiful'.
In the second episode of Sodajerker On Songwriting, Simon and Brian talk with writer/artist/producer Todd Rundgren (Nazz, Utopia, Meat Loaf, XTC) about his approach to the art form and the writing of hit songs like 'Hello it's Me', 'I Saw the Light' and 'It Wouldn't Have Made any Difference'.
In the first episode of Sodajerker On Songwriting, co-hosts Simon Barber and Brian O'Connor introduce the podcast and talk to Grammy winning songwriter Billy Steinberg about the many pop classics he has written including 'Like A Virgin' (Madonna), 'True Colors' (Cyndi Lauper), 'Eternal Flame' (The Bangles) and 'I Drove All Night' (Roy Orbison).
I came to Odessey and Oracle, like most people, relatively recently. It was maybe 10 years ago I first heard it – an entry in some ‘classic album’ reference guide or other piqued my interest – and I was instantly bowled over by its brilliance. It was recorded at Abbey Road in the summer of 1967, in the immediate wake of Sgt Pepper (it even used some of the Fabs’ leftover instruments from those sessions) and was released in the spring of 1968 to almost universal indifference but, to my ears, it’s every bit the equal of Pepper, and perhaps even surpasses it in terms of its sheer cohesiveness and consistency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Beatles fan, and when Pepper is good it’s majestic, but it also has its share of fair-to-middling songs. Odessey on the other hand doesn’t really put a foot wrong; it has its lighter, breezier moments sure, but every song is so considered, inventively arranged & beautifully executed that you have to say its probably the superior record.
The album was recorded at what was, by all accounts, a pretty ‘make or break’ time for the band. They’d recorded a number singles prior to Odessey & achieved modest success (‘She’s Not There’ was their biggest hit to date), but felt stifled by their record company and the overbearing producers they’d been made to work with. Odessey was their one shot at a magnum opus, to prove their mettle as writers and recording artists while retaining full creative control of every aspect of the work, and boy did they take advantage of the opportunity.
The album covers so much musical ground. There are elements of pop, jazz, soul, classical, chamber music, choral music, and there are baroque overtones to some of the arrangements. The chorus to ‘Changes’ has an almost medieval quality. But none of this sounds out of place, which is remarkable. The band obviously had total commitment to & confidence in what they were doing, and that really comes across in the music.
It was this album that first introduced me to the breathy, mellifluous vocals of Colin Blunstone. If there’s a sweeter voice ever to emerge from British pop music then I’m yet to hear it. His voice has such a natural aching and yearning to it which, when allied to such beautiful melodies, makes for a truly potent brew. Listen to how he sings the intricate verse melody of ‘A Rose For Emily’; he wrings every ounce of emotion from it without recourse to vocal gymnastics. It’s a tricky melody to sing too, with some unusual intervals, but he makes it sound effortless, much like McCartney was able to do on contemporaneous Beatles songs like ‘Penny Lane’ or ‘For No One’. If you’ve not heard Blunstone’s first solo album, One Year (1971), I highly recommend tracking it down.
Bassist Chris White & keyboardist Rod Argent (who also divvied up the songwriting duties for the album) turn in some fine vocal performances too, the former on the haunting ‘Butcher’s Tale’, the latter on ‘I Want Her She Wants Me’. And the blend between the three vocalists is something to behold; some of the harmonies easily bear comparison with the likes of Pet Sounds or classic Bee Gees album of the period, like Odessa (released the same year). Listen to the a capella tag at the end of ‘Maybe After He’s Gone’ to hear what I mean. Rod Argent was a chorister in his youth and his experience in that discipline certainly seems to inform the vocal harmonies, which have a distinct plagal quality at times. Argent’s keyboard playing is also noteworthy; he uses some striking and unusual chord inversions, and his tasteful use of the Mellotron (the Beatles’ Mellotron, no less) adds so much colour and texture to the songs. Chris White’s melodic, McCartneyesque bass-playing underpins the whole affair beautifully.
As well as their musical and harmonic attributes, the songs are lyrically arresting too. The album’s opener, ‘Care of Cell 44’ takes the form of a letter to a prisoner from his/her lover, while the bleak but captivating ‘Butcher’s Tale’ is written from the point of view of a traumatised soldier serving in the First World War. These darker subjects are leavened elsewhere by the likes of the optimistic ‘This Will Be Our Year’ and the bouncy, infectious ‘Friends of Mine’.
You hear these songs, so filled with originality and creativity, written and recorded the best part of half a century ago, and wonder…where are their equivalents today? Has there been an album recorded by a British artist in the last 10, 20 years anywhere near this good? I’m not sure. What is for certain is Odessey and Oracle is fully deserving of its place in the pantheon of classic albums & should be in the collection of any budding songwriter or lover of melodic, affecting & inventive pop music.
My introduction to the work of writing/production team Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers came when, as a schoolboy in the early 90s, my classmate (and soon-to-be musical collaborator) Simon Barber enthusiastically thrust a C90 cassette into my hand in the schoolyard, one side of which was graced with a crackly vinyl transfer of CHIC’s second album, 1978’s C’est Chic. I’d recently taken up the bass guitar and, while researching some of the instrument’s greatest exponents, had come across Edwards’ name several times, so I was duly intrigued. What I hadn’t reckoned on was he and his partner being almost instantly catapulted into my personal pantheon of musical demigods.
The songs were almost uniformly catchy and funky, certainly – I’d anticipated as much – but I was also struck by the sleekness of the production and just how much space there was in the music. Then there was the unique, irresistable interplay between Edward’s bubbling basslines and Rodger’s chugging guitar, ably underpinned by Tony Thompson’s crisp drums. The vocals were by turns exultant and sensual. The overall mood of the record was joyous, even life-affirming. When I finally got a glimpse at C’est Chic’s cover, my conversion was complete; the elegance of the music was more than matched by the band’s visual style (inspired by Rodger’s admiration of Roxy Music’s striking aesthetic), and the portrait shot of Nile and Nard that adorned the inner sleeve was (and remains) the epitome of badass. I was, it’s safe to say, enraptured.
Eventually, thanks to snaffling a place on a course at a local performing arts college which (get this) paid me 100 quid a week to turn up, I was able to start building my own record collection, and began with the prompt acquisition of my own vinyl copy of C’est Chic, along with CHIC’s self-titled debut (1977) and their sublime Risqué (1979). The latter is easily their artistic peak, and worth hearing if only for the full, eight-minute-plus version of the hugely influential ‘Good Times’, arguably the apogee of the unfairly maligned disco era, featuring one the most memorable (and ripped off) basslines ever committed to record. Also worth a special mention is ‘My Feet Keep Dancing’, possibly the least musically complex track Edwards and Rodgers ever wrote but combining insistent strings, an unerring eigth-note bassline and a tapdancing(!) breakdown to dramatic, devastating effect:
From a songwriting perspective, Nile and Nard were masters of economy. Their tunes were simple, instantly memorable and often placed within a narrow melodic range (all the easier for people to sing along to), while their song structures usually adhered to a basic chorus-verse-chorus approach; they had little truck with middle-eights. They deviated little from this formula, but deviation simply wasn’t necessary when the results were of such a consistently high quality. One of the best examples of their writing style can be heard in ‘I Want Your Love’ (which opens side 2 of C’est Chic), originally written for Sister Sledge. Check out how the verses are based on just one chord, but the variation in the vocal melody holds your attention until that killer chorus kicks back in:
What’s most staggering is that, at the same time as they were crafting their CHIC masterworks, Edward and Rodgers were also heavily involved in the writing and production of a number of outside projects, chief among them being Sister Sledge’s We Are Family (1979), which boasts no less than four hit singles from its eight cuts: the title track, ‘Lost in Music’, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Thinking of You’. Not quite that album’s equal, but still a none-too-shabby affair is 1980’s Diana, produced by the pair for Diana Ross, which spawned further three hit singles, despite enduring a difficult birth thanks to Miss Ross’s infamously prima donna-ish tendencies (not to mention a botched remix which permanently erased a string arrangement from ‘Upside Down’). Each of their outside productions bore the unmistakeable hallmarks of the CHIC sound: the propulsive rhythm section of Edwards, Rodgers and Thompson, sultry vocals, big choruses, spacious arrangements and sweeping strings:
Though the music of The Chic Organization continues to be justly celebrated by fans and critics alike, not to mention discovered by new generations, oft overlooked is its creators’ social and political consciousness and the way in which they wove their ideologies into their work. The overarching message of the Edwards and Rodgers oeuvre is one of mutual acceptance and inclusivity, accentuating the positive and uniting as one in the face of all that’s wrong in the world. Nile & Nard didn’t just want us to move our dancing feet, they wanted to engage our brains into the bargain.
Sifted through my ever-growing Sky + backlog last night and decided to have a gander at the new Blur documentary, No Distance Left to Run, broadcast on BBC2 a few weeks back. In short, I was rather impressed. The framing device for the film is last year’s reunion of the band for a short run of UK shows, commencing at the venue where they played their first gig and culminating in their triumphant appearance at Glastonbury. Interspersed with footage of the reconvened four-piece’s rehearsals, the gigs themselves and archive footage of the band in its youthful prime are candid interviews with Messrs Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree. Each talks engagingly about Blur’s origins, their faltering early years, their stellar success as figureheads of the Britpop movement and, most affectingly, their relationships with eachother. What emerges is a touching portrait of four friends who somehow managed to survive the tumult and excess that accompanied being in one of the biggest bands of the 90s and emerge relatively intact, with a greater love and respect for eachother into the bargain. Superbly shot and edited, No Distance Left to Run is essential viewing, and not just for Blur fans. Anyone who’s ever experienced the unique camaraderie, the pleasure and occasional pain of being in a band with their mates will find much to identify with here.
Like so much of Paul McCartney’s solo catalogue, it’s taken those outside of his devoted fanbase quite some time to appreciate the eccentric brilliance of his 1971 sophomore effort, Ram. Actually credited to both Paul & Linda (making it unique in the McCartney oeuvre), Ram is Macca firing on all creative cylinders; in fact, the album contains so many ideas it at times threatens to collapse under their weight. Each song bursts with memorable hooks, killer riffs and audacious vocal arrangements.
Recorded in New York City from January to March 1971, the album was a marked departure from McCartney’s eponymous solo debut, released a year earlier. McCartney had been a self-played, deliberately lo-fi, largely homespun affair, its author seeking domestic refuge from the escalating tensions between himself and his then bandmates. By the time the sessions for Ram rolled around, however, The Fabs were no more and, though still embroiled in litigation with Beatles manager Allen Klein and his former colleagues, McCartney was in buoyant mood and bursting with ideas far too expansive for a primitive Studer 4-track. Recording at CBS and Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios in midtown Manhattan, McCartney had, via a series of top secret auditions, assembled a muscular backing band of crack session musicians to help bring the music to life, the core of which comprised drummer Denny Seiwell (later to join Wings) and first-call guitarists Hugh McCracken and David Spinozza. No less than the New York Philharmonic would supply orchestral overdubs for ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’.
The material is, for the most part, a typical Macca mix of guitar-fuelled rockers (‘Eat at Home’, ‘Smile Away’, ‘Too Many People’), folky acoustic ditties (‘Heart of the Country’), music-hall whimsy (‘Dear Boy’, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey) and lush balladry (the closing ‘The Back Seat of My Car’) all dispatched with typical breezy aplomb, a testament to McCartney’s musical versatility.
Then there are the album’s truly uncategorisable cuts. A real oddity in the Macca canon (and arguably the album’s zenith), ‘Monkberry Moon Delight’ is possibly the barmiest thing McCartney’s ever committed to record. Built around a seesawing guitar riff, pounding piano, and a series of nonsense verses redolent of Edward Lear, it’s rollicking good fun, McCartney barking out his vocal with gleeful abandon over the band’s lolloping groove; his demented ad libs during the fade out in particular are the epitome of inspired lunacy:
Another highlight on a record chock full of them is the atmospheric, ukulele-based ‘Ram On’, McCartney softly beseeching the listener to ‘give your heart to somebody soon, right away’ over a simple but effective three-chord vamp, a dash of ambient electric piano, haunting backing vocals, and a simple rhythm track made up of kick drum, handclaps and the sound of his own foot stamping on the wooden studio floor. It’s truly original stuff, and further evidence of just how adventurous and inspired McCartney was feeling during this period. According to its author, the song’s point of origin was the back seat of a New York cab during one of his many journeys to and from the studio; the ukulele’s portability meant he could take one wherever he went in case inspiration struck:
The wonderful ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ deftly fuses a number of song fragments into something approaching a mini suite. Though lyrically slight, it’s superbly arranged and performed, and as good a showcase of its author’s bounteous melodic gifts as any in his songbook, boasting more hooks in its 4 minutes and 55 seconds than most artists can manage in an entire album. McCartney’s ‘character songs’ and whimsical inclinations have often been used as a stick for his critics to beat him with, and admittedly he has occasionally lapsed into tweeness with such material, but here the balance is perfect and, again, the track is performed with such gusto it would take the hardest of hearts not to warm to it. Check out this article, which offers a welcome and all-too-rare glimpse behind the scenes at the Ram recording sessions with particular focus on ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’.
In promoting the album, McCartney was at pains to point out his wife’s involvement in its creation, and with good reason. How much of the songwriting she actually did might be questionable, but Linda’s vocal harmonies are inarguably a vital component in Ram’s overall sonic canvas. By her own admission not the most natural singer, she nevertheless manages to negotiate some hugely complex vocal arrangements with admirable skill. Listening to these arrangements, and Linda’s key role in their execution, one can’t help but wonder why her husband never again used her voice to quite the same extent on any of his subseqent albums. She’s unmistakeably present on those records, of course, just not employed quite as effectively. Check out her work on ‘Dear Boy’ and note the striking vocal blend she creates with Paul:
Though the three tracks highlighted thus far make for quirkier fare, Ram is not found wanting in the pure, balls-out rock department either. McCracken and Spinozza’s electric guitar work is exceptional throughout, and if my ear isn’t deceiving me, McCartney’s own distinctive licks are discernible on a number of cuts. Each turns out coruscating riffs and solos (check the outro to ‘Too Many People’) when required, but there’s also a considerable lightness of touch shown in their acoustic work on the likes of ‘Uncle Albert…’ and ‘Heart of the Country’, McCartney’s countrified paean to the virtues of rustic living. The latter also features some nifty, Chet Atkins inspired finger-picking.
Ram received a decidedly mixed critical reception upon its release (though unsurprisingly it sold very respectably indeed) and its lyrical content notably drew the ire of one John Ono Lennon, who perceived several songs on the record to contain a number of broadsides aimed at Yoko and himself. Paul denied this for the most part, but did admit to having the Lennons in mind when he penned the line ‘too many people preaching practices, don’t let ’em tell you what you wanna be’ from ‘Too Many People’. His aggrieved former collaborator responded with a number of barbed comments in the music press and, musically, with the infamously vituperative ‘How Do You Sleep?’ on his Imagine album, released the same year, as well as spoofing Ram’s cover photo (Paul holding a Ram by the horns) by including a picture of himself on the sleeve grabbing a pig by the ears. To say the relationship between the two was fractious at this point in time would be a major understatement.
The remainder of the 70s would see McCartney release a further seven long-players and a double live album, most of which contain their share of deathless gems, but none hang together quite so well, or are executed with such verve and panache as Ram. It’s vintage Macca, not to mention the very musical embodiment of arguably the strongest marriage in rock. If you’ve not yet been exposed to its sundry charms, procure a copy by fair means or foul, stick it on, crank it up, and smile away…
For me, a world without Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) would be a significantly poorer place. It’s a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking from one of cinema’s most gifted sons…and it was almost never made. Scorsese had actually been gearing up to shoot The Last Temptation of Christ only to have Paramount put the film into turnaround at the eleventh hour. Infuriated at the studio’s caprice, the restless director began looking for projects to channel his creative energies into while his pet project was on the backburner. The first of these was presented to him in the form of a Joe Minion script entitled ‘A Night in SoHo’, a blackly comic ‘New York nightmare’. Though he had a few issues with Minion’s ending, Marty’s interest was sufficiently piqued.
Shot almost entirely on location in SoHo, downtown Manhattan on a tight schedule and a tighter budget, After Hours is nothing short of a masterpiece, and this blogger’s favourite movie by some margin. The central conceit is instantly absorbing, the performances are flawless, the production design spot on, Scorsese’s direction typically kinetic and imaginative but always driving the story, the editing nothing short of immaculate. It’s also one of the great New York movies; granted, it’s not a love letter to the city in the traditional sense but it’s the kind of movie only an NY native could make, calling to attention its less obvious, more dubious charms. You won’t find any picture postcard shots of Manhattan’s famous landmarks here, just a stylised rendering of its darker, seemier underbelly. The city itself almost becomes a character in the movie, a malevolent, omnipotent puppetmaster toying with its victim.
Griffin Dunne takes centre-stage as Paul Hackett, a lonely word processor who clearly yearns to escape his joyless, quotidian existence. Following a chance meeting with the odd-yet-beguiling Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop, Hackett decides to be spontaneous and meet her later that evening at her apartment. In doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on course for the worst evening of his life as, following an unsavoury turn of events, he finds himself stranded downtown, a stranger in a strange land, his continued presence soon arousing suspicion among the locals that he’s responsible for a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood. It’s not long before this escalating paranoia threatens to spill over into a violent lynching.
It’s doubtful that any movie character in history has been put through the wringer more than the hapless Hackett. Thanks to one impulsive act he finds himself beset with outrageous misfortune, thrown from one disquieting scenario to another and forced to run a veritable gauntlet of oddball locals, all of whom conspire (consciously or otherwise) to prevent him achieving his prime objective, which is simply to make it back home. To this end, After Hours is an exhausting, frustrating watch, but this is by no means a flaw. In fact, it’s the film’s primary virtue; one becomes fully immersed in Hackett’s travails and the picture is all the more compelling for it. In addition, because Scorsese succeeds so spectacularly in creating a unique environment in which the story can unfold, even the most improbable of events seem perfectly palatable.
On the acting front, Dunne is fantastic, perfectly essaying Hackett’s increasing inredulity and desperation as he attempts to negotiate this waking nightmare (at times he’s almost heartbreaking in his vulnerability), and he’s ably assisted by a superb company of character actors- Catherine O’Hara, Teri Garr, John Heard, Will Patton, Dick Miller and Linda Fiorentino, to name but a few- all of which throw themselves into their respective roles with relish.
I first encountered this film whilst channel-hopping late one night in the mid 90s, and must’ve seen it dozens of times since, on each occasion picking up on some aspect I’ve missed before, be it a delicious visual flourish, curious character tic or neat foreshadowing of a later plot development. While the illustrious likes of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Raging Bull are frequently held up as Scorsese’s masterworks, After Hours is just as consistently overlooked. For me, it’s his finest work. Period. Now, anyone interested in buying one of my bagel and cream cheese paperweights?
Some fresh angel has posted the making of featurette from the Region 1 DVD on youtube. Part one :
Well, I went ahead and purchased Swedien’s book and, quite frankly, it was a total waste of 11 quid, an unmitigated dog’s dinner of a book to the extent that I literally cast it aside with a pantomimic flourish about fifty pages in.
Firstly, the book’s tone is unfocussed and, at times, plain muddled; it doesn’t know if it wants to be a dryly technical blow-by-blow account of the recording process or a warm, fuzzy, anecdotal remembrance of MJ, and so falls somewhere between the two. (For what it’s worth, the technical stuff is often so advanced that it will totally alienate the layman, while the anecdotal material consists almost entirely of sappy references to what a swell guy Michael was and how he always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.)
Secondly, it’s poorly written, riddled with grammatical errors, excessive use of exclamation marks(!), incongruous/erroneous punctuation, and some downright bizarre misprints. It’s clear this book has not been submitted for proof-reading- indeed, I doubt it’s even been given a second glance prior to hitting the shelves. Case in point: one paragraph finishes with a full stop, after which is written ‘analoganaloganalog’, then a new paragraph starts. Baffling and inexcusable.
Thirdly, information is often repeated over and over, sometimes in consecutive paragraphs. In several instances, passages are repeated word for word.
What else? Oh yes, the purported ‘exclusive, never before seen’ photos amount to little more than some grainy reproductions of tracksheets and scrawled notes MJ left for Bruce on the mixing desk, other than that there’s very little to set the mouth agape.
Other sins include the vast swathes of the book given over to tributes from the likes of Swedien’s wife and daughter, and a host of recording engineers he’s apparently inspired down the years. No disrespect to any of these people, I’m sure they’re all fine, upstanding citizens but I honestly couldn’t care a hang for what any of them have to say in this context. There is further blatant padding in the form of pre-existing interviews and reprinted magazine articles. The ‘Foreword by Quincy Jones’, as prominently advertised on the cover, consists of a few half-assed paragraphs that ‘Q’ seems to have dashed off under extreme duress, and dates back almost a decade. Again, you hardly get the impression that the book was a labour of love.
To be honest, I’m loathe to blame Bruce Swedien for any of this; he’s indubitably a genius in his field (as much of the technical material in the book attests, not to mention the preponderance of sonic evidence that’s widely available) but patently not a skilled, engaging writer, which is why his publisher, the usually reliable Hal Leonard, should have taken the material at their disposable and perhaps recruited a ghostwriter to turn this textual sow’s ear into something vaguely resembling a silk purse, something professionally laid out and readable to both the technophile and Joe Schmo Music Fan. It seems to me that, though the book allegedly wasn’t written to cash in on MJ’s death, Hal Leonard have rushed it out early to try and sell a few extra copies, checking their quality control at the door. Either that or they really are lying through their teeth, and have simply cut and pasted together this sorry attempt at a book from other sources in an attempt to make a quick buck. Whatever their motivation, avoid this book like a belt-wielding Joe Jackson.
As the grisly speculation over the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson”s untimely demise continues, the less ghoulish among us have opted to remember the self-proclaimed ‘King of Pop’ through his music. For me, nothing in Jackson”s discography better epitomises his singular talent than his 1979 offering, and first collaboration with Quincy Jones, ‘Off The Wall’. Though Jackson”s solo career had been underway for several years prior to its release, with four pleasant-if-unremarkable long-players already under his belt, ‘Off The Wall’ truly established him as a solo artist to be reckoned with and paved the way for the stratospheric success of ‘Thriller’ three years later. Though there’s no doubting the latter deserves its place in the pantheon of great pop records, and it doesn’t take a Paul Gambaccini to calculate that it’s by some margin the more popular of the two (as global sales of over 100 million copies to date will attest), there is a charm, exuberance and sheer joie de vivre about ‘Off The Wall’ that, for me, puts it qualitatively streets ahead of its follow-up.
From the breathy, faltering, slightly effete spoken intro to ”Don”t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” to ”Burn This Disco Out””s joyous fade, there is hardly a moment on the record (save for the balladic interlude of ”She”s Out of My Life”) that isn’t suffused with a sense of fun and vivacity; Jackson is having an absolute ball, every vocal peppered with whoops, yelps, cackles, or breathy, percussive vocal sounds, or a combination of the lot. Never again, bar a few such moments on ‘Thriller’, would a Jackson record sound so life-affirming. It”s perhaps no coincidence that the album was recorded as Jackson”s management contract with his father, Joe, was about to draw to a close, freeing him not just creatively, but from a domineering presence who”d cast a considerable shadow over his formative years in showbusiness.
Jackson”s bravura vocal performances notwithstanding, much of the album”s energy can be attributed to its ‘live’ sound and the stellar cast of session musicians assembled by Quincy Jones, among them bassists Louis Johnson and Bobby Watson (whose insouciant performance on ”Rock With You” is a key to that track”s silky charm), drummer John ‘J.R.’ Robinson, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, and a crack brass section led by trumpeter Jerry Hey. The term ”session musician” is much maligned by music purists, carrying for them a connotation of soulless, uninspired proficiency, but the man known to his friends as ”Q” elicits fine performances from all concerned- funky, tasteful, and never drawing too much attention from the real star of the show. Indeed, one has to listen very closely to ‘Off The Wall’ to even notice some of the breathtaking musicianship on display, so subtly is it woven into the mix by engineer par excellence Bruce Swedien. Only Louis Johnson gets to momentarily share the limelight with Michael, courtesy of the earth-shaking slap groove that dominates ”Get On The Floor”.
Another vital ingredient in the album”s enduring success is the astute choice of material. Jackson himself comes into his own as sole writer of several the album”s best cuts, not least the scintillating opener ”Don”t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and the propulsive ”Working Day and Night”. Of equal importance are the three tracks written by Rod Temperton, an ex-pat Brit (hailing from Cleethorpes) who”d already enjoyed considerable success as keyboardist and principle songwriter with Heatwave, as well as providing hits for the likes of Rufus and The Brothers Johnson. Temperton contributed the title track (which the musicologists among you will notice cannibalises the bassline to his own ”Boogie Nights”), the hugely underrated ”Burn This Disco Out” and the evergreen ”Rock With You”. Temperton would again prove his worth three years later, penning the title track to what would go on to be the biggest selling album in history. Go here to treat yourself to a smorgasbord of other Temperton-penned delights.
Elsewhere are contributions from such luminaries as Paul McCartney (”Girlfriend”), Stevie Wonder (”I Can’t Help It”) and Carole Bayer Sager (”It”s The Falling in Love”) which, though they make up the album”s relatively lightweight second half, were canny choices clearly intended to enhance the record”s soul/funk/pop crossover appeal. Again, this would act as a template for ‘Thriller’.
So if you”ve never dug deeper into this exemplar of the pop music idiom, now”s the time to educate yourself.