Musical Tuesday – Epics

Well, better late than never!

I’ve been really busy this week – I reinstalled Civilization III and have been conquering the world as the glorious Persians. So much more important than blogging commitments I’m sure you’ll agree.

In any case, this week I’ve decided to focus on two songs that can only be described as epic. Or possibly far too long. Long, epic songs that almost approach prog-rock in their sheer lengthy indulgence.

We’ll start with another from Sheffield movers and shakers of the 90’s, Pulp. Wickerman (from their last album, 2001’s We Love Life) is a phantasmagorical tour of the Steel City and its surrounds with Jarvis Cocker as your guide. Let him show you the hidden rivers that run below the streets, the viaduct that drunks used to jump off and the pressed in plastic letters at the cafe at Forge Dam. Feel the regret and try to track down the sample taken from the soundtrack of classic British horror movie The Wicker Man – I’m assured it’s in there somewhere.

If you’re thinking that the whole thing sounds like poetry, you can hear it as such too.

If eight minutes of Jarvis Cocker isn’t enough music for you, please carry on to our second song, Dire Straits’ Telegraph Road. Taken from 1982’s Love Over Gold it clocks in at an almost unbelievable 14 minutes 18 seconds. It’s not in bad company either, the entire album only has five songs on it, the shortest of which goes for over five minutes.

The interior album art shows a snuffed out cigarette in front of an Amstrad PCW 8256 – which is what a lot of the album sounds like – a dim, smoke filled room at 3:00 in the morning with grit in your eyes and only a monotone cathode-ray tube for company. The recording process got so grim in fact that the band had to cut loose and compose Twisting by the Pool just to stop themselves going mental. But the end result is regarded as one of their best, and Telegraph Road is the crowning glory of the album.

It’s a winding story that starts with the history and development of a town, then meanders off into bleak 1980s post-industrial collapse, which merges into relationship collapse, then wanders into a rocking five minute guitar playout. If this wasn’t enough to make it an epic song, it was also first performed live in my home city of Perth. So there!

Here it is, see you in a quarter hour…

Tune in next week when I may actually be on time for once! 😀

Musical Tuesday – I remember Every. Single. Thing.

Yes, it’s that time of the week again when I pick two songs for your aural delectation and try to justify some vague link between them – Musical Tuesday!

We start today with a classic late-disco track from 1982, Laura Branigan’s Gloria

It may surprise people to learn the the track was originally by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi. A hit in Italy in 1979 it was similarly successful in various translations around Europe, but it only came to the attention of English speakers with the massive success of Branigan’s version three years later. Take a listen to it, from the perspective of 30 years on the production is a bit dated, but that girl could sing! Sadly she passed away from a brain aneurism in 2004.

My second selection this week is Disco 2000 by those thoughtful pre-emos of the 90’s Brit-Pop scene Pulp. Released in 1995 it was one of the band’s biggest hits and tells the tale of a young man in love with a childhood friend who seemingly can’t see him for all the popular people she now hangs out with (not that you’d realise that from the video clip…). The story is apparently autobiographical, with Jarvis Cocker (Pulp’s almost supernaturally tall and thin frontman who was a hipster back when a hipster was someone cool and interesting rather than a dickhead with a beard and stupid hat) claiming that the only made up part is the woodchip wallpaper.

So, what’s the connection? Well did you actually listen to them? The main riff of Disco 2000 is taken direct from Gloria, with Jarvis even driving home the point by singing “Deborah – Deborah” in exactly the same way as Laura Branigan. This should not be any great revelation – it’s been known about for 17 years – it’s just an interesting way to link two very fine songs, that’s all.

(Good lord, I just realised that gap between now and Disco 2000 is longer than the gap between Disco 2000 and Gloria. Damn I’m getting old…)

Note that I’ve embedded the full version of the song, that includes the Cocker trademark of a slightly strange monologue which is cut from the radio version. They always cut Pulp songs for the radio, Common People is never quite as good without the vicious third verse about dogs and chip stains. Sad.

Finally, some years back I had four concluding notes (something like C B A B) from a song stuck in my head for months. After almost going mad I eventually tracked it down to Disco 2000, the very last place I would have expected. Neat.