Tres Songs

Wherein I take three songs I like and play them as kind of a mini-set. These all come out of a particular time, the ’80’s when rock still ruled the airwaves. For the most part. 

First up – The Jam. There’s probably a ton of songs I could do by them but I’m gonna feature the song that Paul Weller considered a not-so-happy “tribute” to his teen years in Woking, Surrey England. This is “Town Called Malice.” Love that organ that swirls throughout the song. And that drum roll at 2:07 that seems to last for an hour but is really, like, five seconds:

Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It’s enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious
In a town called malice, yeah

Spotify link

Who doesn’t know or like at least one R.E.M song? (A 100% definite series on these guys sometime next year.) From Athens, Georgia, interestingly they were active for about the same period as Violent Femmes. A terrific and highly influential band, they had a keen sense of melody and just enough edge and quirkiness to keep them on that side of new wave.

Anyway, fuck it. You know them and I’ll save all the good gossip and bullshit for the series. So many good songs but this one, “Pop Song 89,” is currently stuck in whatever is left of my brain.

“Shouldn’t talk about the weather
Shouldn’t talk about the government”

Spotify link

The Violent Femmes (pictured at top of post) were active for a good thirty years starting in the early ’80’s. They list their style as “folk punk,” a fusion of those two genres. While maybe not as influential, they got back together in 2013 and released an album last year.

Originally from Milwaukee, according to Wikipedia, “They were discovered by James Honeyman-Scott (of The Pretenders) on August 23, 1981, when the band was busking on a street corner in front of the Oriental Theatre, the Milwaukee venue that The Pretenders would be playing later that night. Chrissie Hynde invited them to play a brief acoustic set after the opening act.

“What the Femmes are,” says bassist Brian Ritchie, “and I think we always have been, is a repository for American roots music. Most people think of us as a kind of rock band but we’re a lot more than that and I think this album represents all that in a really natural, cohesive way. It just flows smoothly between all these ideas.”

From their eponymous 1983 debut album, “Gone Daddy Gone,” which has the audacity to borrow some lyrics from Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love To You.”

Spotify link

 

 

36 thoughts on “Tres Songs

      1. To me, the Jam were primarily a singles band. So my favourites tend not to be based around a particular album. Top tracks for me were Going Underground, Town like Malice, That’s Entertainment, Eton Rifles, Man at the corner shop, Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, Start, David Watts, and In the City.

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  1. Never really checked out Violent Femmes, but I like the other two bands a lot. It’s crazy how young The Jam were – they made 6 albums and lots of non-album stuff, but Weller was only 24 when they broke up.

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        1. I thought about this some more, and Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder all did a lot of great stuff before they were 25, and all probably eclipse Weller.

          Wilson turned 25 a little before Smiley Smile was released, McCartney turned 25 after Sgt Peppers, and Wonder turned 25 after Fullfillingness’ First Finale. Otis Redding died not too long after turning 26 as well.

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        2. I think, too, that writing songs is a young person’s game. It’s like math – you either have it when you’re young or it never develops. I read a book about songwriters once, famous ones. With maybe one or two exceptions, all of them had started writing songs when they were 14 or 15. McCartney wrote “I’ll Follow the Sun” when he was 16.

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        3. I also think you lose connection to your audience when you start to take advantage of the trappings of fame and as your life becomes more settled. Lots of rock and roll has an undercurrent of frustration.

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        4. Good point! And alienation. There’s a two-part series on HBO about Rolling Stone mag. I watched the first part. It’s pretty good. Jann Wenner makes that exact point about the SF bands being hungry when they were young and then not so much when they got married, had kids, etc.

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  2. CB has all those early Jam albums. Great tune. The REM is another good tune from a good band. Heard of VF but not their music. Couple things. Cool on the Dixon catch. I was watching Austin City last night and it was the most recent Pretenders appearance. Good show.

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    1. That first Femmes album is pretty good. Hear it on the radio fairly frequently. I gotta check Austin out more. Used to be a faithful watcher. Love the Pretenders. Saw them open once for Stones. Great pairing.

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      1. Hynde answered your question about rock n roll surviving. In her opinion lots of great bands out there still doing it. Also caught my buddy Alejandro Escovedo on Austin and Peter Buck was part of a smokin guitar band on ‘Horizontal’. Check it out. I think the Doctor will dig it. Austin still mixes it up with great stuff.

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  3. Always a fun feature to read and nice choices. I don’t know The Jam and The Violent Femmes. I like the Jam tune you chose, and based on listening into some of the other songs from “The Gift,” it sounds like a good album. My initial impression of The Violent Femmes is that they are probably more of an acquired taste to me. I definitely dig R.E.M. These guys had an awesome sound and a good ear for catchy melodies. From “Green” I’m only familiar with “Stand” and “Orange Crush,” with the latter being one of my most favorite R.E.M. songs.

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    1. If you read comments, Jersey Dreaming made some recommendations on other Jam stuff. I really dig that Femmes tune. Give it another spin sometime. Might grow on you. But my favorite of the three is undoubtedly R. E. M. I look forward to doing a workup on those guys. Good music, tons of integrity.

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      1. Will give Violent Femmes another look. It’s noteworthy to remember that some bands I now really dig big time didn’t excite me much initially. Zeppelin is perhaps the perfect example of that!

        Speaking of which, have you ever heard of Get The Led Out? They seem to be a pretty awesome Zep tribute band. Yesterday, I saw they will play right in my neck of the woods in couple of weeks and spontaneously decided to get a ticket.

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        1. I was the same way about Zep at first. Then I came to my senses. Heard of that Zep tribute band. Jason Bonham’s got one that’s touring too. Tempting.

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  4. Three songs, three hits in my book. I’ve only just started warming to The Jam – I think because I found Weller and his ‘mod’ thing so bloody daft in the 90’s when he seemed to be going through a faze of playing grandad rock and mugging alongside whatever Britpop band paid him a compliment…. my money is on Setting Sons as the highlight

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  5. Tony, I gotta say this. Forgive me, but I’ve never heard you say anything complimentary about any of your fellow Brits. At least the bands. The American bands you leave unscathed. But that special breed of Brits “taking the piss out of” fellow Brits – ah! If I’m wrong in this, feel free to tell me I’m a wanker. Worse yet, a Yankee wanker.:-D But I don’t think I am.

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    1. Really? Hmm. We had Guy Fawkes here this weekend and we saw the display at Henry VIII’s old gaff just on the edge of town and it was a Best of British theme music wise and while we’re as capable as producing some dross as the next land mass I’ll still wager our bands can kick seven bells of shit out of other acts 😉 Beatles, Stones, Floyd… Led fucking Zep?

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      1. Oh, we are in violent agreement there. Hell, if I removed the Brit bands from my collection it would totally suck. I’m just saying that in my travels and in my reading – especially about bands – Brits seem more than willing to take the piss out of other Brits just for BEING Brits than I’ve seen elsewhere. Again, if I’m wrong, feel free to call me a wanker or some other thing.

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        1. Yes, well, here we’re fond of saluting the flag and telling ourselves we’re the first in everything even though we’re the 47th in everything. We are essentially peace-loving and if we have to blow up every fucking country in the world to prove that, we’ll do that too.

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        2. Yeah, if we’re staying within the rock/folk/soul/blues theme, then many of the rockers you mentioned starting by emulating ’50’s American rockers then expanded on it greatly. Blues and jazz in common for sure. I think a bright dividing line is that you have that medieval folk thing that bands like Renaissance do so well. We are not old enough to have that tradition and we literally have nothing quite like it. But we have the folk scene that Alan Lomax drew upon and cataloged. Punk was popular here but nowhere near as much as the UK. And then the bands we loved all came from there. Frankly, pre-Beatles, Brit bands couldn’t get arrested here, post-Beatles, they have, for want of a better word, cachet.

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      2. BTW, at the end of one of his early solo songs, John Lennon sings, “Remember the Fifth of November.” Verily though I may ask my fellow Americans, relatively few know Guy Fawkes day.

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