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 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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Ringo + Kinks 2014-06-21 15.25

A Hint Of Mint: The Kinks’ “Lola”

The Kinks were part of the British Invasion of 1964. Alongside UK bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks scored eight US Top 40 singles between 1964 and 1966, including the classics “You Really Got Me” (#7, 1964), “All Day and All of the Night” (#7, 1965) and “Tired of Waiting for You” (#6, 1965). After “Sunny Afternoon” peaked at #14 in 1966, the hits dried up. Their highest-charting single in 1967 was “Dead End Street,” which reached #73. They didn’t place any singles on the Hot 100 in 1968 or 1969. Their fortunes reversed in 1970.

Per the book The Kinks: The Official Biography, the band’s lead singer and chief songwriter Ray Davies came up with a song after a night out with the group’s manager, Robert Wace. Wace spent the evening dancing with a woman he met, and told Davies he was falling for her. When morning rolled around Ray noticed the woman had stubble on her face. In the song, Ray plays the part of Wace and the “woman” is given the name Lola.

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The song’s narrator recounts his meeting Lola in a club where everything is not what it seems. The champagne tastes like Coca-Cola (the BBC forced Davies to change the reference from Coca-Cola to cherry cola so as to not violate their policy against product placement) and the dancing happens under electric candlelight. Amidst these ambiguities he meets Lola, a woman who squeezes him so tight she nearly breaks his spine. A woman who “walked like a woman and talked like a man”. Our narrator is confused but continues to dance with Lola, who invites him to go home with her. He is falling for her, which frightens him, so he heads for the exit. Then he has second thoughts, turn back to Lola, and their eyes lock. He decides “that’s the way that I want it to stay and I always want it to be that way for my Lola.”

Accepting his destiny, he observes “Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola.” Lola knows exactly who he/she is.

We then learn that our narrator was a virgin who first left his home a week prior, to which Lola responds “Little boy, gonna make you a man.”

Then we get one of my favorite lyrics ever. The narrator sings “I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man, and so is Lola.” Lola is a man? Lola is glad the narrator is a man? The ambiguity of the character of Lola is reflected in the lyrics of “Lola.”

This is amazing songwriting. It is also amazing that this tale of a transvestite, not a popular song character today let alone in 1970, gave the Kinks their first huge hit in years and became an enduring staple of classic rock radio. The single went top ten in the United States and throughout Europe, hitting #1 in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa. The song made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Today Ray Davies turns 70 years old. Here is some of his best work.

Winston + Agnetha 002

Endorsed By Lennon, Townshend, Cobain, Davies And Sex Pistols

Winston + Agnetha 002
Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Agnetha Fältskog, one of the two women in ABBA.

Our playlist kicks off with “SOS,” a favorite of John Lennon, Ray Davies and Pete Townshend, who called it “the best pop song ever written.” It inspired the main riff of The Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.” My favorite piece of trivia about the song – it is the only record to hit the Hot 100 where both the song title and the artist performing the song are palindromes.

Enjoy this playlist of tunes on which Agnetha handled lead vocals.