Archive | February, 2018

Certain Songs #1137: Midnight Oil – “The Dead Heart”

Album: Diesel and Dust
Year: 1987

Midnight Oil followed 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 with 1984’s Red Sails in The Sunset, a record that I found almost unlistenable, though I know that it got good reviews at the time, and at least one of you might lecture me about how great “When The Generals Talk” or “Best of Both Worlds” are.

And of course, I pretty much assumed that was going to be it with Midnight Oil: plenty of bands make records that I liked well enough and that was pretty much it: so in no way, shape or form was I prepared for how much I liked 1988’s Diesel & Dust, which stripped out much of the artiness that made their song structures so crazy, leaving pure delicious hooks upon which Peter Garrett could hang his radical leftist politics.

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Certain Songs #1136: Midnight Oil – “Read About It”

Album: 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
Year: 1982

After three practice albums that built up a huge fanbase in their native Australia, but didn’t do jack shit here, Midnight Oil had a minor breakthrough on MTV and a major breakthrough on college radio with their fourth album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, which combined lead singer Peter Garrett’s walked-it-like-he-talked-it politics with his band’s unique brand of beat-heavy post-punk.

And for me, no song resonated more on that record than the nuclear paranoia of “Read About It.”

As I’ve written before, the early 1980s was rife with songs worrying about when the bombs were going to drop, something I’m so glad we don’t have to worry about — ah, I can’t do that again: yesterday I read an article in Vox about what might happen if we went to war with North Korea, and it was fucking terrifying.

So a song like “Read About It” is relevant once again, where after a stop-and-start riff gives way to a river of guitars, Garrett sings:

The rich get richer
The poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you
When you’re down so low

One of those songs that’s continually shape-shifting while maintaining its original essence, “Read About It” piles on jangly guitar, cowbells, acapella, handclaps(!) and modulations, in a desperately transparent attempt to keep its message from depressing the fuck out of everyone with his existential problems.

Nothing ever happens
Nothing really matters
No one ever tells me what am I to know
So what am I to know

It even kind of works, in the way that getting run over by a tank also distracts you from your normal existential problems. Near the end, Garrett screams out “ah-ahhhh” over and over again while relentless drummer Rob Hirst powers through big drum rolls, and “Read About It” cycles back to its stop and start riff and crashes into it end.

BTW, the live version below is worth it just for Garrett’s manic dancing during the instrumental section.

“Read About It”

“Read About It” performed live in 1985

Official music video for “Read About It” (muddy sound)

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #1136: Midnight Oil – “Read About It”

Album: 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
Year: 1982

After three practice albums that built up a huge fanbase in their native Australia, but didn’t do jack shit here, Midnight Oil had a minor breakthrough on MTV and a major breakthrough on college radio with their fourth album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, which combined lead singer Peter Garrett’s walked-it-like-he-talked-it politics with his band’s unique brand of beat-heavy post-punk.

And for me, no song resonated more on that record than the nuclear paranoia of “Read About It.”

(more…)

Certain Songs #1135: Mick Jagger – “Memo From Turner”

Album: Performance Soundtrack
Year: 1970

This will be the only song from Mick Jagger’s solo career that I will be writing about.

And in fact, there might be some confusion as to whether or not “Memo From Turner” is truly a Mick solo song. Not only was it co-written by Keith Richards, the Stones themselves — or some semblance thereof — recorded a version of it in 1968 that ended up on Metamorphosis some years later.

But that version is a run-through, a trifle, when compared to the version that Mick put out as what stood as his only solo single until he actually thought he could sustain a career without the riffs of Keith Richards upon which to stack his vocal dexterity.

Luckily, not. And while 30 years of not being the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band should have taken its toll upon the Rolling Stones, it turns out that they’re like The Simpsons: you can’t kill them, but you can ignore whatever it is they’re doing now, because they were so great for so long it doesn’t even matter.

In any event, during the mid-point of that period where they Could Do No Wrong (I mean, except for Altamont, of course), Mick Jagger filmed a Nicolas Roeg movie called Performance, where he played a rock star called Turner, meaning that “Memo From Turner” was written to order for that character, so it’s Mick Jagger even more in character than normal.

So his vocal is near-manic, taking the piss out of the “gentlemen” — who are, of course, no such thing — he’s addressing with a slur and a tease.

Come now, gentleman
Your love is all I crave
You’ll still be in the circus
When I’m laughing, laughing in my graaaaaave

Also near-manic: Ry Cooder’s slide guitar, which spends the entire song dancing like Jagger over Gene Parsons nervous, jumpy beat, which is so skittery it nearly slides right off of the record.

If I was being honest: “Memo From Turner” isn’t anywhere as great as the songs from Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers it would have had to compete with had they decided to put it on one of those records.

But, of course, they didn’t — because it was during that period where the Rolling Stones Could Do No Wrong — and I do love “Memo From Turner” enough to write about it, even if it’s just an excuse to tell you how fucking excited I’m going to be to write about the Stones proper in 2020 or so if we ever get there.

“Memo From Turner”

Memo From Turner” in Performance

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #1135: Mick Jagger – “Memo From Turner”

Album: Performance Soundtrack
Year: 1970

This will be the only song from Mick Jagger’s solo career that I will be writing about.

And in fact, there might be some confusion as to whether or not “Memo From Turner” is truly a Mick solo song. Not only was it co-written by Keith Richards, the Stones themselves — or some semblance thereof — recorded a version of it in 1968 that ended up on Metamorphosis some years later.

But that version is a run-through, a trifle, when compared to the version that Mick put out as what stood as his only solo single until he actually thought he could sustain a career without the riffs of Keith Richards upon which to stack his vocal dexterity.

(more…)