Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (10-7-20)

Inspired by the passing of Johnny Nash and the October 7 birthdays of Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, John Cougar Mellencamp, Kevin Godley, Toni Braxton, Alfred Drake, Climax Blues Band’s Colin Cooper and The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner; and the October 6 birthdays of Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, Matthew Sweet, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Will Butler and Millie Small.

50 Songs Named After Real People

Today is the birthday of two music icons – Jam-Master Jay of rap pioneers Run-D.M.C. and disc jockey Wolfman Jack. Besides their place in their history of rock and roll, both men have another thing in common – they were the subjects of songs. That inspired me to put together today’s playlist – songs named after real people.

I found fifty songs whose titles are actual people. Actually I found more than fifty, but I didn’t want to subject you to Chiddy Bang or Mac Miller. I made a few rules for myself:
1) The title can’t have words besides the person’s name, hence no Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” or Sleater-Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.”
2) The title has to be the full name the person is known by, so no “Springsteen” by Eric Church or “Jessica” (about Jessica Simpson) by Adam Green. Allowed are “Galileo,” “Joan of Arc” and “King Tut,” as that is how most people identify Galileo Galilei, Joan d’Arc and Tutankhamun.
3) The song doesn’t have to be about the person after whom it is titled, so “Jack the Ripper” and “Rosa Parks” are in.
4) The track has to be on Spotify. This means I left out Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson” and Hoodie Allen’s “James Franco.”

Amazingly for a playlist based on such a goofy concept, it holds together quite well, if I say so myself.

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doggies + Pretenders 2014-09-07 13.11

The #30 Album Of All-Time

Back when Home Box Office was still referred to as Home Box Office and not by its acronym, the network showed music videos between movies. There was no MTV yet, certainly no YouTube. It was between movies on Home Box Office that I discovered Pretenders.

doggies + Pretenders 2014-09-07 13.11
“Brass in Pocket” was shown regularly and I was instantly taken by this woman playing a waitress, signing that she’s “got bottle” and a “new skank,” she’s “Detroit leaning,” and she’s gonna use her “sidestep” to get a guy to notice her. I hadn’t the foggiest what she was talking about.

In Pretenders’ 2005 box set, the woman, lead singer Chrissie Hynde, explained the lyrics. Having “brass in pocket” means you’re doing alright. “So reet” refers to marijuana. “Got bottle” means “I’ve got front.” “Detroit leaning” refers to an attitude with which people from that city drive. “Gonna use my sidestep” refers to a dance move. I still haven’t the foggiest what she’s talking about, but what a great record!

Hynde didn’t and doesn’t care for the song. The track’s producer, Chris Thomas, saw the band play at a club in London and afterwards told Hynde he especially liked “Brass in Pocket.” He insisted the band record it. After acquiescing, Hynde told Thomas “he could release it over [her] dead body.” She was convinced to let the song come out. It became the group’s first top ten single in the UK, where it hit #1 in January 1980, and their first top 40 single stateside, where it peaked at #14.

“Brass in Pocket” was included on the band’s self-titled debut album, released in January 1980. The album also includes their first single, “Stop Your Sobbing,” a Kinks cover produced by Nick Lowe, who declined to produce the rest of the album, supposedly because he didn’t feel the group were going anywhere. (A few years later Hynde would become romantically-involved with The Kinks’ lead singer, Ray Davies.)

“Kid” was the single follow-up to “Stop Your Sobbing.” Here is what AllMusic.com says about this song: “The Pretenders recorded a fair share of brilliant tracks on their first three albums, but ‘Kid’ is probably the band’s masterpiece.”

Other stand-out tracks on the debut album include “Precious,” wherein Hynde sings “But not me, baby, I’m too precious/Fuck off!,” a line that was supposed to end with “I had to fuck off,” but Hynde couldn’t get all the words out; “I Go to Sleep,” another Ray Davies composition, this one not released previously by The Kinks; “Private Life,” a song covered by Grace Jones, of whose version Hynde said ‘Now that’s how it’s supposed to sound!,” calling the cover a “highpoint of [her] career;” “Tattooed Love Boys” and “Mystery Achievement.”

Presently, Pretenders sits at #30 on my Top All-Time Albums list.

Chrissie Hynde turns 63 today. Here are twenty of her finest.

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Winston + Nick Lowe 002

Get Lowe. Nick Lowe.

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As a producer, Nick Lowe has worked with Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Pretenders, Graham Parker, John Hiatt, The Damned, Paul Carrack, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, among others.

As a songwriter, Lowe’s works have been covered by Wilco, Dave Edmunds, and most famously, Elvis Costello, whose version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” is a must for every music fan’s library.

As a musician, Lowe has played in Rockpile, Brinsley Schwarz (no relation to yours truly), and Little Village.

As a solo artist, Nick Lowe has had one top 40 hit in the US. Written with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “The Love I Lost” in mind, “Cruel to be Kind” reached #12 in 1979 and was one of the 206 music videos that aired on MTV’s first day of broadcasting, August 1, 1981. The song was written by Lowe and a Brinsley Schwarz bandmate, Ian Gomm. Coincidentally, Gomm also had his only US Top 40 hit as an artist, “Hold On,” at the same time as Lowe.

Today, Tunes du Jour celebrates Nick Lowe’s 65th birthday.