Song of the Week – Somebody Help Me, Jackie Edwards, Spencer Davis Group, Everly Brothers

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW is another installment of the “Evolution Series.” The subject song is “Somebody Help Me.” It was written by Jackie Edwards, a Jamaican ska artist that was popular in the early ‘60s. He was an early “discovery” of Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records.

Edwards’ release of “Somebody Help Me” was on a 1966, UK album called By Demand. It has a big band sound, complete with a strong horn arrangement.

Blackwell signed The Spencer Davis Group to Island in 1964 and introduced them to Edwards’ songs. They released “Keep On Running” and “Somebody Help Me,” both #1 hits in the UK. In the US, “Somebody Help Me” only reached #47 in mid ‘67. But it shoulda been a bigger hit here too!

This take is more rock oriented and features guitar, organ, and percussion to emphasize the rhythm.

The Everly Brothers picked up on the cut and released their own take on their album Two Yanks in England (1966). This one also relies on power chords from the guitars but also highlights the Brothers trademark close harmony.

All three versions maintain the spirit of the song, yet each also highlights the unique personality of its recording artists.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Pale Blue Eyes, Velvet Underground

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It’s coming up on 5 years since Lou Reed passed away. When he died, many of my readers were asking me to pay him a tribute with a SotW selection. At the time, Reed received so much press that I didn’t feel like I had anything new or worthwhile to add to the coverage.

With the distance of time, I’m ready to weigh in by sharing my passion for a beautiful song that Reed wrote for the Velvet Underground’s third, self-titled album (1969) – “Pale Blue Eyes.”

The song has a very sparse arrangement – an organ lingers on long notes, simple bass figures, an electric guitar strums simple chords (and bends a few strings) and a tambourine keeps time with single shakes on the 2 and 4.

The delicate music is a perfect complement to the lyric about a passionate relationship that sounds like it’s ending. But the kicker comes in the last verse where Reed reveals the person he loves and wants to keep so badly is married.

It was good what we did yesterday
And I’d do it once again
The fact that you are married
Only proves you’re my best friend
But it’s truly, truly a sin

The influence of “Pale Blue Eyes” is justified through many great bands that have covered it. R.E.M. gave us a version on their 1987 rarities album, Dead Letter Office. (DLO also had 2 other VU songs on it – “There She Goes Again” and “Femme Fatale.”) A diverse group of other artists has performed the song live, including Patti Smith, Hole, Alejandro Escovedo, The Killers, and Crowded House(!).

“Linger on…”

Enjoy… until next week.

Bettie Serveert, Brain Tag

I got into conversation about a young rock prodigy today who named her band Snail Mail. She’s had a Tiny Desk concert, her new album comes out this week from Matador (a good label).

But Matador and journalists seems to be saying that Jordan Lindsay, the singer songwriter who is Snail Mail, is somehow someone body surfing in the legacy of Liz Phair. But this appears to be totally wrong. Maybe because Lindsay is only 18, and graduated high school like this week. She’s less than a sophomore. Right?

Apart from whatever virtues Snail Mail have, they exhibit none of the immediacy of Phair and any of her albums, including the challenged but actually overall okay Funstyle. I mean, Funstyle, once you excise track one and two, is pretty okay.

In any case, Liz Phair is a giant of plain speaking, rock making, self exposing, and none of that should be disregarded. Is it great art, great rock, great personal decisions are all good topics for discussion. But Liz Phair did this, and she didn’t have to.

In any case, this discussion reminded me of Bettie Serveert, who made a record I loved in the mid 90s, called Palomine, and another record I liked. The point here is that rock takes many shapes, but all should be judged on how far you push it.

Bettie Serveert pushed it modestly, but she rocked. It’s hard to know what to with the perfectly affable Snail Mail in that context. Like them? Maybe on Facebook.

Imperial Teen, Yoo Hoo

Rolling Stone has a piece by Rob Sheffield ranking the top 98 songs from 1998.

Since it’s a celebration of the diverse weird styles and songs of a year that he says was known for being diverse and weird, it’s a grab bag of the unknown, forgotten, and other songs that are fun to remember. Like this one, ranked 48th, which I think would be good (love those breaths) even without the video (which is an able promo for the minor at the time, classic in the end teen flick Jawbreaker).