Archive | November, 2015

Certain Songs #382: Eddie Floyd – “Big Bird”

Single, 1968

Supposedly written while he was sitting in a London airport to fly back to the U.S. for Otis Redding’s funeral, Eddie Floyd’s “Big Bird” is one of the most thrilling singles ever made.

Recorded with at least some of Booker T. & The MG’s — as always, the internet is sketchy on the details — “Big Bird” is a song that should have found its way to the top of both the rock and soul charts, as it contains dynamite elements of both.

The first thing you hear is a guitar taking off for the horizon, followed by a horn section flying in formation, until they drop into a garage rock riff as Floyd sings:

Open up the sky
‘Cause I’m coming up to you
So send down your wings
And let ’em bring me to you

And then the tempo picks up just a bit, as the background singers join in

You know I’m standing at the station, ready to go
Oh, big ‘ol aeroplane, I’m trusting you so

On the chorus, it’s back to that guitar riff, first just with a double-time snare drum, and then with organ, and then with the horns going ever higher as Floyd pleads:

Get on up big bird, to my baby’s love
Get on up big bird, to my baby’s love
Get on up big bird,
Cause I got to make it,
Just get on up
‘Cause I got to make it,
Get on up

Of course, I would remiss if I didn’t point out that when he sings “Get on up big bird, to my baby’s love,” he’s referring neither to the Sesame Street character or the airplane.

Somehow the fact that it’s a double-entendre just makes it better, especially as in the end, the background singers just end up screaming “Big bird” over and over and over again as the song fades into oblivion.

The first time I heard “Big Bird” was in on a Stax-Volt sampler, and it was unlike anything I’d ever heard. All these years later, its combination of garage & soul still is.

“Big Bird”

Certain Songs #381: Eddie Floyd – “Knock on Wood”

Eddie Floyd knock on wood Album: Knock on Wood
Year: 1966

In the early 1990s — around the same time he was playing guitar and singing with Joe, Doc & I in Sedan Delivery — my friend Don was leading a band called Rapid Transit, who specialized in old soul covers.

Among many other things, this made him maybe the only person in music history who was in two bands at the same time that were named after Neil Young songs.

Certain Songs #380: Eddie & The Hot Rods – “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

Eddie and the hot rods do anything1 Album: Life on the Line
Year: 1977

By the time mid-1979 rolled around, I was totally in the bag for punk rock or new wave or whatever the hell you wanted to call it. Not so much that I was gonna abandon everything else — never! — but enough that I scoured every month’s CREEM or Trouser Press trying to figure which unheard music I was going try next.

It had gone pretty well with The Clash and Television and Ramones. But what next? Maybe The Jam. Or Talking Heads. Or maybe The Sex Pistols. How about The Shoes? It was a whole new world of music, and I was on limited funds. What I needed was a good sampler. Enter the That Summer! soundtrack.


Certain Songs #379: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Angels & Devils”

Echo Silver B-side, 1984

Like a lot of their peers, Echo & The Bunnymen were simultaneously a singles band and an albums band. Which meant that they also were committed to putting out albums that were cohesive statements, and even a great song that didn’t fit one of those statements wouldn’t make it.

And it meant — at least until the reissue era — that they have a few lost songs in their catalog, especially b-sides like 1984’s “Angels and Devils,” which showed up on the “Silver” single.

Certain Songs #378: Echo & The Bunnymen – “My Kingdom”

Echo Ocean Rain Album: Ocean Rain
Year: 1984

Before “The Killing Moon” revealed itself to be an all-time classic, my favorite song was “My Kingdom.” An outlier on Ocean Rain, “My Kingdom” eschewed the strings that dominated the rest of the album.

Instead, it started with a cheesy-sounding keyboard, skittering drums and a mellow acoustic guitar lick. Completely inauspicious. But that’s just a fake-out, because the chorus of “My Kingdom” is as rousing as anything in their catalog.