i think that donovan more than any other artist has shaped my taste in music. his folky, hippy, jazzy ways are exactly the things i love in some of my favourite contemporary artists. my parents loved donovan and i fell asleep being sung his songs so often i couldn’t begin to count. i studied his album covers and practiced drawing my own versions for tapes i made from the records. who knows, the man could be responsible for my whole fascination with psychedelia! but i want to share some of his music with you today. you probably know mellow yellow, and you might’ve seen the spoof of atlantis on futurama (hail the sunken city of atlanta!), but he has many lovely songs you possibly haven’t heard….
sunny south kensington from mellow yellow
let us begin with a very groovy song with some rockin’ harpsichord. i love the name dropping of mary quant and ginsberg! wouldn’t you die to be there?! contrast the aforementioned british scene with the LA scene of the following song…
the trip from sunshine superman
sunshine superman was one of the first full blown psychedelic pop albums and it is an awesome blend of instruments and styles. you might know the title track, but this song ‘the trip’ is a very cool, bluesy account of the west coast (USA) psychedelic scene. it reminds me a lot of creeque alley by the mamas and the papas in that its an upbeat biographical ballad that name-checks people in the scene at the time (bob dylan and “joannie” baez). fun pop cultural fact 1#: donovan wrote the excellent song the fat angel for mama cass. fun pop cultural fact #2: notice the stuttering lyrics delivered similarly to the ’my generation’ by the who? could it be these two poor english boys were stutterers? no. speed, don’t do it.
And-a all in all, the seagull said,
As I look to where I’ve been,
The whole wide human race
Has a-taken far too much Methedrine
entertaining of a shy girl from hurdy gurdy man
of course it’s not all mind bending drug-addled name dropping epics. donovan was an influence on (amongst many others) the exquisite nick drake and this song couldn’t be more of a direct line between the two. my dad would sing this song to me when i was little, because believe it or not, i was a painfully shy child. there are a lot of sweet, fey songs by donovan, inspired by pretty girls, nature or celtic folklore that lend themselves to being sung to sleepy children at bed time! other sleepytime favourites include the sun is a very magic fellow and little boy in corduroy.
ferris wheel from sunshine superman
speaking of dreamy, this is my current favourite donovan song. its blissy and the sitar and drums are just psychedelic sixties enough to make me feel like i’m hazed out on a pile of moroccan pillows.
and the moral here, if any, my friend:
follow through your dream to the end.
dig the seagull fly across the sky
to build its nest in the ferris wheel
catch the wind from catch the wind
and lastly, the very beautiful ‘catch the wind’. this slow building, soulful version of donovan’s first single is – in my opinion – so much lovlier than the bob dylan-esque original. donovan’s early recordings attracted lots of comparison’s to dylan’s work, and in the original recording of this song it seems donovan is mimicking dylan’s nasal strummy style. i’m not really a fan of bob dylan’s music – gasp, i know – so this version of ‘catch the wind’ hits me so much more. its especially dear to me in a bittersweet way because it reminds me of my dad, who passed away a little over a year ago. he sung and played this on guitar to me many times and i hope wherever he is now, his old busted up guitar ‘gertie’ is with him.
to feel you all around me,
and to take your hand, along the sand,
ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.
did you know there is a radio station here in australia that ran a best 100 songs ever poll and not a single female vocalist made their list of ONE HUNDRED artists. i must admit that my musical collection is slightly gender biased, but come on! so today’s mixtape is dedicated to the fine females in my music library. it was tough to just pick a handful when there are so many diverse and talented female vocalists, and these aren’t my definitive top artists, but they are what i’m liking today.
sarah blasko – always worth it – from overture & the underscore
you might recognise this song from the finale of the tv show six feet under, or maybe you’re an aussie and you know sarah blasko from radio/tv play. this album is really reminiscent of 2004 for me. i love her voice and she’s managed to turn a few of my least liked songs into excellent covers! she has a magic touch, obviously.
feist – my moon my man – from the reminder
i’m sure everyone knows feist. and to be honest i as pretty sick of this album until it surfaced in a shuffle session and i realized i was ready to hear it again. i love feist’s voice, and the pounding piano beat in this with those intense keyboard parts in the chorus: superbueno! i saw her live and she was triple superbueno with a cherry on top. she even performed ’1,2,3,4′ with sally seltmann (who originally wrote it) for the first time! now that was exciting.
the sundays – here’s where the story ends - here’s where the story ends
sigh. jangly guitars: check. dreamy vocals: check. pilgrim in ecstasy: check. to be honest, this song reminds me of falling in love. perhaps it should be renamed “here’s where the story begins” eh?
nancy sinatra – the city never sleeps - boots
i adore nancy sinatra. if you’ve never heard her music (aside from ‘these boots are made for walkin’ which every living creature has heard multiple times i’m sure) you’ve got to listen. if you like ‘she & him’ then you’ll like nancy and lee hazlewood, i guarantee because its virtually a facsimile. this isn’t my most favourite nancy song, but youtube wasn’t offering much choice. seriously, go and get boots, how does that grab you, and nancy and lee. then we can be friends.
mary ford – hummingbird - the best of…
last of all a trilling little tune from the cutest lady a guitar pioneer could ever want! mary ford was married to les paul (inventor of the electric guitar) and they performed together. cute, right? and that fluttering mandolin sounding instrument is sped up electric guitar. it sounds like a futuristic django reinhardt gypsy song! mary’s voice sounds so practical and she really doesn’t seem too bummed out about this restless hummingbird lover of hers. i bet she’s give them a stern talking too and they’d change their ways!
what are some of your favourite female performers? recommendations welcome!
so much for forethought and planning – i sort of shot myself in the foot with regards to a birthday party mix by doing a dance! mix last month. and though i could do another similar ‘get the party started’ mix of all my favourite dancin’ songs, i thought i’d make it more of a challenge and restrict it to songs whose title contained the word ‘party’. its a mix that’s for sure!
party all over the world by ELO from xanadu: original soundtrack
every party needs a cheesy song in the mix. you cringe and yet you can’t stop your feet from moving. i really love ELO, and i do really love xanadu but wow, ELO sound like they checked-out before the record was done haha. anyway, put your skates on and join me for this groovy, but also kinda apathetic partying call to arms (i think ELO were saving their enthusiasm for something other than xanadu).
the party’s crushing us by of montreal from sunlandic twins
this is almost ELO-esque! don’t take those skate off yet. i’d quite like to have a rollerdisco party, but i’m not great on skates. this album, on the other hand is quite great. and i just realized it makes a great segue because of montreal are from athens, georgia just like…
keep this party going by the B-52′s, from funplex
the b-52′s cosmic thing was my first album, and i still love them many years later. how could you not?! there seemed to be mixed opinions on last year’s funplex album but i really liked it. it was campy fun, and what more would you ask from such a band? so they’re older, so they’re trying new sounds, so shut up and dance!
party hard by pulp, from this is hardcore
aw flashback! i was so obsessed with jarvis cocker’s yellow watch in this videoclip. i’m a pulp completist. they were my main favourites in highschool so i was a rabid fan girl and bought every single, hunted down every rarity etc.
when i came home from the party by the clientele from strange geometry
perhaps not the most ‘party’ spirited song, but beautiful nonetheless. the clientele are a very special band for me, i’m moved by their music. sigh.
so do you have any actual favourite ‘get the party started’ kinda songs? speaking of b-52′s you’ve gotta have love shack at a party, right? “sign says STAY AWAY FOOLS! cos love rules and the lu-uh-ve shack!”
dance! ok, now stop dancing and read this. is mixtape day, so this month i’ve made you a mix of my favorite songs about dancing that you can dance to. ok, resume dancing!
if you’d like to listen to a consecutive playlist, or if the youtube links become dead, click this link to be taken to the playlist on grooveshark.
by the pipettes from the album we are the pipettes
the pipettes: they’re so cute, and fun and phil-spector-with-a-modern-twist. this song is one of the singles from their first album. i saw the pipettes live a couple of years ago and they were super fun, with synchronized dance moves and co-ordinated outfits and even dance moves for the crowd to learn. a new album is apparently being released soon, but there’s no sign of it yet.
i’d rather dance with you
by the kings of convenience from the album riot on an empty street
ah kings of convenience! so lovely. i listened to their first album non stop for a month and fantasized about moving to norway and being more winsome. unfortunately those plans fell apart when i realized i’d never be winsome, anywhere. this track is from their equally excellent second album and despite their quiet ways, is really pretty danceable. and who could resist a cute norwegian hipster boy inviting you to dance?!
dance this mess around
by the b-52′s, from the album the B-52′s
the b-52′s have long held a place in my heart. my very first album was their cosmic thing which opened my tiny mind up to all sorts of greatness. i was about 13 by the time i finally bought this album and hoo boy, the b-52′s album had even greater greatness than cosmic thing!! this song remains on of my favorites of all time. its cool and measured then crazy and always danceable.
dance to the music
by sly and the family stone, from the album dance to the music
now we’re moving into classic dancing territory! i bet you can’t sit still while this song is on, i know i can’t. i have an epic 6hr playlist of soul, funk and disco on my ipod that i work out to (when i work out) because i can’t not be jumping around to its grooves. it makes me so energized and happy. and who can resist the line “al the squares, go home!” yeah!
by the mothers of invention, from the album we’re only in it for the money
i know, i know! i just did a zappa mixtape last month, but aww c’mon! this song is excellent, and its on topic. the song, like the album we’re only in it for the money, satirizes the hippie subculture of the 60s.
who cares if you’re so poor you can’t afford
To buy a pair of mod au go-go stretch-elastic pants…
there will come a time when you can even
take your clothes off when you dance
an instrumental version of this song finishes the amazing lumpy gravy album and in that context it’s kind of like goofy closing credits music. i heart it very much!
i hope you liked my mixtape. its always hard to narrow these things down to something less than 30 songs! what are your favorite dancing songs?
until my boyfriend introduced me to frank zappa’s music i’d had an impression of it being an impenetrable catalogue of kookiness. i love kookiness, but the rabid fans and wide ranging styles of music that zappa produced seemed overwhelming. all it took was one song to coax me in: peaches en regalia. it sounded to me like a sweeping orchestral piece played on cartoon instruments in the discotheque of another dimension. i was intrigued and my preconceptions melted away as i fell more in love with the range and depth of a collection of music like no other. i’m really loving working while listening to zappa lately. if you don’t know much of his work, he is so much more than his most commercial song ‘valley girl‘ (though like so much of its stuff is hilarious but bitingly satirical) or some two-bit novelty-song writer, or whacked out hippy. sure he kinda looked like a hippy, but no drugs fueled his creativity. there is something about his pure musical genius that really taps into my subconscious and tickles my creative bone (tee hee.. i said bone! but its ok because sometimes i listen to jazz, so i can make ‘bone’ jokes.) so if you think you might not be into this post thats ok, but at least give this first song a chance and tell me it doesn’t make you smile a little bit:
peaches en regalia, from the album hot rats
what do you think? its pretty i think. i love those sweeping piano parts and the honky horn section. if you like the go! team, i think you’d enjoy this song. something about it makes me think of sesame street too, for some bizarre reason. did i mention i love the organ section? its an incredibly original composition, executed with such precision by such talented musicians. a rare thing these days for sure.
who needs the peace corps, from the album we’re only in it for the money, by frank zappa and the mothers of invention
this song is goofy and it reminds me of peter sellers’ character in ‘i love you alice b toklas’ trying so hard to fit in with the hippies. its sung by frank who is channeling a hippy poseur detailing their plan of action once they get to the hippies mecca – san francisco:
first i’ll buy some beadsand then perhaps a leather band to go around my headsome feathers and bellsand a book of indian lorei will ask the chamber of commerce how to get to haight streetand smoke an awful lot of dopei will wander around barefooti will have a psychedelic gleam in my eye at all timesi will love everyonei will love the police as they kick the s#%t out of me on the streeti will sleep…i will, i will go to a house…that’s, that’s what i will do:i will go to a house where there’s a rock & roll band ’cause the groups all live togetherand i will join a rock & roll band and i will be their road managerand i will stay there with them and i will get the crabs
the delivery of the line “Oh, my hair is getting good in the back!” never fails to make me giggle. frank’s social commentary is largely done in a goofy way but always nestled in a brilliantly composed piece of music. hotcha! “how i love ya ‘frisco!”
i promise, from the album zappa in new york
this track is dreamy, and has such a great 70s sound. the start of it is quite cinematic and i’ve included this in my mixtape for you as an example of frank’s compositional prowess. not everything is goofy, or satirical. some things are just experimental, or beautiful, or all of the above. it reminds me a bit of some songs by air (the band) in terms of the sound of the keyboards, synth and the bass. halfway through this is just like some amazing space oddysey. its a beautiful, languorous track.
uncle remus, from the album apostrophe (‘)
as i mentioned, zappa was so good at writing lyrics that seem humourous on the surface but are incisively truthful. this is written shortly after the civil rights era and talks about the changes in attitude within the african american community. in case you didn’t know, uncle remus is a character from folktales that justified slavery or made an effort to convince people that slaves were complicit with the system. from zappa wiki jawaka:
“Uncle Remus” paints a picture of african americans as having largely given up the fight. They accept the fire hoses turned on them, and casually say that it’s not so bad as long as it’s not winter time, when the water is cold. Instead of standing up for themselves, the would-be nephews of “Uncle Remus” are excited about the potential of their afros growing out and enjoying how snappy they look in their new clothes. If that’s not superficial enough, their way of “fighting back” is by sneaking around in the predawn hours and vandalizing the yard ornaments of rich white folk.
doreen, from the album you are what you is
oh my, this whole songs makes me want to sing along super loud and rock out like a crazy lady. please note the amazing harmonies. please also note the awesome guitar solo. please dance about with me now. to-ni-yiy-yiy-yight!
what do you think? are you a zappa fan already or just considering dipping a toe in the water? to make it easy for you here is a starting point of what i would say are good albums to start with:
Freak Out! really great 60s sound, good songs with some pretty funny, very 60s quirkiness. find out what’s got into suzy creamcheese and immerse yourself in some excellent psychedelic rock.
this one could be a bit more challenging, but i love it. its essentially like falling into a tv or radio, alice in wonderland style. fragments of dialogue fade in and out and some excellent orchestrations pepper the hallucinatory soundscape. its conceptual but not unlistenable, if you liked ‘peaches en regalia’ you’ll enjoy the compositions.
One Size Fits All sounds both futuristic and of-its-time. its jazzy in parts (like ‘i promise’ i mentioned earlier) but has some really good 70s sounding songs.
Apostrophe (‘) this one is much more playful and gonzo yet still there’s some (and i quote my boyfriend) “crazyass musicianship”.
very approachable, not too challenging but fun and zappa being zappa. eg ‘montana’ is about becoming a dental floss farmer. where else are you going to find a really good song that just so happens to be about dental floss?
from the album l’ avventura by dean & britta
dean & britta are like the indie serge gainsbourg and jane birkin of our day (except britta can actually sing). you may know dean from galaxie 500 or luna, and britta from her work on morel orel or wait for it: jem and the holograms! yep! she was the singing voice for jem. i love their music together, and the hazy, warm, tones of this song should soothe you into a happier place.
from the album in the court of the crimson king by king crimson
i first heard this ethereal song on the soundtrack to one of my favourite films, buffalo 66. all i previously knew of king crimson was extremely prog rocky and not my cup of tea but this album has quite a few tracks i’ve come to really enjoy.
from the album sounds of silence by simon and garfunkel
this song makes me so nostalgic for when my boyfriend and i lived an eight hour drive apart. i would get the overnight bus to visit him and because i was too excited and lovesick to sleep, i’d compile epic bittersweet playlists to pass the time. its amazing the depth songs take on when you’re curled up in a bus seat, watching the dark countryside speed by, and pressing yourself against the cold glass to try and stargaze. who knew traveling the greyhound could be romantic? listen and imagine you’re drawing closer to your favorite person.
from the album the white album by the beatles
how could i not include this?! when i was little my parents would play the beatles for me to go to sleep to. i think this might have created some kind of pavlovian narcoleptic response in me, but even if you weren’t conditioned when you were young i think that this is a soothing late night listen. it might just be the aural equivalent of a mug of warm milk, being tucked in, and getting a kiss on your cheek.
i like the sunrise
from the album you could be born again by the free design
its so funny that i rarely talk about music on the draw! pilgrim blog, and yet in reality it plays a very big part in my life. since i was about 13 i’ve been quite obsessive about music. expanding my tastes and finding new favorite bands are one of my life’s greatest pleasures. as a teenager i’d spend all my time in my room making mix tapes (when there were tapes) for long suffering friends. curating each playlist, carefully charting the arc of the tape’s mood, hand making covers and cases and most importantly making sure there were no bits of songs cut off at the end of the tape.
i longed for the time when i’d be finished with school for good and could spend the rest of my adult life making mixtapes, i mean, that’s a job right? well, alas, real life intervened with my grand plans for full time professional mixtapery and though i enjoy throwing together a playlist and whipping up a cover in illustrator it just isn’t the same, is it? ten years ago i sent my boyfriend a lovingly minted david bowie mixtape that think i might owe our whole relationship to!
when i’d run out of school friends to make mixes for, i went further afield. i made mixes to post to new found internet friends, friends who lived in exotic and exciting locations like hull, in england (when visiting hull later, i discovered it wasn’t nearly as exotic or exciting as i’d dreamed) and in return i’d get mixes back from them. on the whole it was mostly bands i listened to already, i poured over uk music magazines like they contained hidden clues to the secret of life, so by that point i felt like i’d exhausted the britpop /post punk/etc. just as i was about to move onto avant garde jazz or grindcore metal, my friend dominic sent me a tape. he told me it was made by his flat mate, and he thought i’d like it. it didn’t have a name and it didn’t have a case.
‘like’ is probably the greatest understatement possible. i’m not sure i listened to anything but that tape for at least 6 months. it was like being ushered into a radio station of my favorite music that i’d never heard before. i took it to school and listened to it secretly in class. i slept with it on repeat. the tape got jammed in my player, and so i took it to the audio studio and bribed the technician with custard tarts until he agreed to magically restore its life. this tape was the lynch pin of my adolesence. it was the seed from which all current musical taste has grown. am i making myself clear enough? i really loved the tape!
i can’t send every one of you a mix tape – postage and law suit costs make it kinda prohibitive (remember kids: home taping is killing music!) – but i want to share some of my favorite music with you. so, i guess consider this part one of an (in)frequent mixtape feature. part one, my teenage bedroom top five, part inspired by that precious mix tape. if you’re interested in any of the songs, click the link below the album covers to find out more.
song: i’m in love with a girl (who doesn’t know i exist)
this was track one, side one from that well loved mix tape of mine. it introduced me to the sarah records label and ignited a love of fey indie music. as it says on the wikipedia page this song’s title really does sum up the mood of the entire sarah records catalogue, and epitomizes those angsty teenage sagas of unrequited love.
“now the centre of my so called being is the space between your bed and wardrobe with the louvre doors
i remember being so excited when tigermilk was re-released 4 years after its initial release. it took me 8 weeks of patiently waiting while the lousy music store ordered it in. ah! that sweet pain of being a teenager and liking an obscure band! does that even exist in this download generation? feel free to insert your own rant about ‘kids these days’ haha
how could we talk angst and not mention the smiths?! crushing misery paired with jangly guitars has never sounded better. and what a loaded sigh of a song title! can’t you just feel the teen ennui oozing out? this was one of my favorite songs on my VHS mixtape. oh yeah, i didn’t just contain my mix tape-making to one medium. i was a mix tape mixed media artist, taping music videos and making super tapes!
song: when you sleep
with lyrics like “i can’t help feeling it cannot last, i can’t help feeling you will break my heart, break my heart” and “on account of you i am able to forget how painful i find living” the field mice fitted right in with sarah records’ forlorn indie pop style. they did have their occasional electronic new order style leanings, but mostly it was heart-wrenchingly acoustic guitar based songs of love lost, and love never found.
i know what you’re thinking, “the beach boys?!” well when they weren’t wishing the world was populated with california girls, and singing about surfing brian wilson, was shut up in his room with his neurosis. the eternal angsty teenager gives us this harmony soaked song filled with all the melodrama and longing of those teenage years, in a hymn to every teenager’s sanctuary. my old bedroom is pictured at the top of this post, in all its messy, confused-self-expressiony glory!
i hope you enjoy this modern day mix tape. we don’t even have a tape player anymore, except in the car – which i can’t drive, but i still have my precious tape. there’s a jump in the middle of two of the songs where the tape got chewed, then healed by ron-the-magic-technician. the label i put on it has faded to a barely readable pink smudge, and still i love it. adolescence is a miserable, confusing time. there’s crazy hormones and you’re trapped for a while in that lonely chasm between childhood and adulthood, but this tape made it just that bit better. so dom’s flatmate from ten years ago, where ever you are, i owe you one magnificent mix tape.