Songs You May Have Missed #530


Kirsty MacColl: “The Butcher Boy” (1995)

Such was Kirsty MacColl’s gift that even when she tried her hand at traditional folk balladry–a form in which she had no real background–the results were transcendent.

This gem of a B-side, sparsely arranged and featuring the haunting penny whistle of The Pogues’ Spider Stacey, puts MacColl’s voice to the forefront to achingly beautiful effect, perhaps made sadder still in light of her own premature and tragic demise.

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Songs You May Have Missed #452


Kirsty MacColl: “My Affair” (1991)

From one of England’s true national treasures, cheeky and talented songwriter Kirsty MacColl, lost to us tragically and too soon in a controversial 2000 boating accident.

Kirsty gave us, among other great musical moments, the retro girl-pop classic “They Don’t Know” (popularized by Tracey Ullman) and the Christmas duet “Fairytale of New York”, recorded with Shane MacGowan of the Pogues.

Kirsty is the daughter of folksinger Ewan MacColl. “My Affair” was her first foray into a Latin sound–she recorded whole albums of Latin-tinged pop later in her career–and it perfectly displays the lady’s witty lyrical style, as well as her mesmerizing voice.

Electric Landlady? One of the greatest album titles of all time.

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25 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Fairytale of New York’


(Source: NME)

The very best Christmas song is, of course, also the only one to involve someone being called “an old slut on junk”. This December marks 25 years of ‘Fairytale of New York’, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s glorious drunken hymn to broken dreams and bitterly cold recriminations. In the last quarter of a century it’s become rightfully regarded as a classic, and this year it will be re-released as a limited edition 7” vinyl which The Pogues are supporting with a one-off UK gig at London’s O2 Arena on 20th December. However, when it was first released in 1987 it didn’t even take the Christmas number one slot. Who kept them off the top? That and more in our behind-the-fairytale guide to the 25 things you should know:

I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! Part 2

In the interest of the betterment of your overall pop music knowledge/ability to spout random trivia…here’s another installment in the always popular (with me) I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! series. Part 2 is subtitled: I Didn’t Know That Would Become a Series! Let’s dive in:


Our first three songs are examples of artists covering themselves; that is, revisiting songs they’d previously recorded with less well-known bands.

“Do Ya”-Electric Light Orchestra

Years Before Jeff Lynne’s “Do Ya” appeared on ELO’s 1977 A New World Record LP and peaked at #24 on the pop chart, he recorded a less polished version with The Move, a band that included English rock legend Roy Wood and another ELO member, Bev Bevan. Their version came with no strings attached.


“Somebody to Love”-Jefferson Airplane

Grace Slick’s band The Great Society recorded the original version of her “Somebody to Love”, as well as “White Rabbit”. Both later appeared on Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 Surrealistic Pillow album and are probably that band’s two most important/popular recordings. This clip suggests that Airplane was much the better band.


“Cherry Bomb”-Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Another member of The Runaways was mentioned in the previous post on this topic. This time it’s Joan Jett, whose “Cherry Bomb” was first recorded with that band. While both versions have their fans, neither exactly blew up (blew up I say) on the pop charts.


“Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)”-The Doobie Brothers

The Doobies proved their versatility in 1975 by following up their first #1 single–the bluegrass-flavored “Black Water”–with an old Holland-Dozier-Holland chestnut originally recorded ten years earlier by Kim Weston.


“They Don’t Know”-Tracey Ullman

British actress/comedienne and sometimes singer Tracey Ullman was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. although several of her singles were well-received abroad. Her schtick was to update the 60’s girl group sound, and “They Don’t Know” was an irresistible nugget of retropop. The backing vocals were supplied by the same woman who provided the song itself, Kirsty MacColl. Kirsty’s version is much the same–Tracey just upped the cute factor some.


“Big Ten Inch Record”-Aerosmith

This song certainly clashed stylistically with the rest of the classic 1975 Toys in the Attic album, but I think that was the point. It’s a safe bet to be the only Bull Moose Jackson song in most Aerosmith fans’ collections.


“Unchained Melody”-The Righteous Brothers

What we have here is your all-purpose guide to “Unchained Melody”, starting with the Righteous Brothers and moving backward in time. (We will ignore versions by LeAnn Rimes, Heart, The Sweet Inspirations and even Elvis Himself, all of whom recorded versions after the Righteous Brothers, none of whom should have bothered.)

The above clip is a little medley, a Bill Medley if you will, of snippets of the six versions of this song that matter. Here’s what you hear in succession:

  1. The newly recorded 1990 version done by the Righteous Brothers in response to demand created by the song’s inclusion in the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore film Ghost. This is not, however, the version which appeared in that movie. This version charted at #19 in 1990.
  2. The Righteous Brothers’ first hit version, which went to #4 in 1965 and climbed to #13 in 1990 after its inclusion in Ghost. Yes, incredibly they had two different recordings of their song chart at numbers 13 and 19 in the same year.
  3. Vito & The Salutations’ fast doo wop version from 1963. Sounds like a parody of the Righteous Brothers, but it actually came two years earlier.
  4. Roy Hamilton’s #6 hit from 1955
  5. Al Hibbler’s #3 hit from 1955
  6. Finally, Les Baxter’s #1 version, also from 1955 and the only time the song has gone to the top of the charts. If you count June Valli’s #29 hit of the same year, the song had four top 40 versions in 1955 alone, three of them top ten.

If you’ve always wondered why this song carries around such a strange title, it’s because Les Baxter’s original version was from the movie Unchained (which starred football star Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch).

p.s. Why don’t football players have nicknames like “Crazylegs” anymore?

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