Blog Entry


Posted on: September 26, 2009 10:22 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2009 10:51 am

                                 THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

In this version. I would like to continue with what I call complete songwriters, those who write both lyrics and melodies, that originated from some part of the British Empire. At it’s greatest, the British Empire included England, Ireland, India, Australia, parts of the Caribbean and the Asian islands around Indonesia and the Philippines. For argument’s sake, let’s include continental Europe so I have some place to put Mark Knopfler(I guess this would also make ABBA eligible although I won’t be writing that one!!!!) Once again, I’m asking everyone to hold back on songwriters who are primarily collaborators, such as JAGGER/RICHARDS, PINK FLOYD, U2, ELTON JOHN/TAUPIN, etc. as we can cover them in part 3. This should still give us a large amount of  songwriters to discuss. Again, I tend to be most knowledgeable in the mainstream rock genre from the mid 60s to the late 80s and will concentrate my writings in that area. Others of you who can fill in the niches I’m less familiar with or who have particular songwriters they feel strongly about please should feel free to extol their virtues as I don’t want my own point of view to dominate this too much. OK, enough rules, let’s try to have some fun.

I have a theory that much of the succcess of the British invasion and their point of view on life and art is the result of growing up in post World War II England. I have seen many interviews/shows on how many of this generation of English kids were fatherless and grew up in bombed out suburban settings that Americans can never duplicate or fully understand. It has to be more than a coincidence that so many significant musical figures come from England and were born between 1938 and 1950, including all of THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, THE WHO and THE KINKS. These kids didn't have playgrounds, they had remnants of bombed buildings to play in. A large percentage of them attended British art schools as well. Perhaps this required them to develop their creative imaginations at an earlier age, perhaps its all just a fluke. Regardless, this has to be the richest period for producing a new generation of artists that all longed for the paradise they thought America to be compared to their homeland and sought it out in the rhythm and blues of the black musicians of the American south.

Category: General

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2009 4:50 pm


Here's a guy who was very prolific in the British Invasion era, with his biggest hits including "For Your Love," "Bus Stop," "Look Through Any Window," "No Milk Today" and "Evil-Hearted You."
But Graham Gouldman is probably known most as a member of 10CC (The Things We Do for Love, Dreadlock Holiday, I'm Not in Love and Wall Street Shuffle.)

Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2009 1:51 pm


NIck Lowe, AKA The Jesus Of Cool has worn many hats:  the King of UK pub rock, producer of some of New Wave's greatest albums, member of Johnny Cash's family, member of great bands like Rockpile and Brinsley Schwarz, and last but not least--songwriter.  Name one other artist who could place a song on an Elvis Costello album--the only song on the album not written by Costello--and have it be the best song on the album!  Not possible, you say?  What if I told you he wrote "What's So Funny('Bout Peace, Love And Understanding?)"?  Impressed yet?

You should be, because Nick Lowe is a giant in the history of British music.  He was the undisputed King Of Pub Rock, the 1970s country/blues hybrid that eventually morphed iinto New Wave, one of the most important musical movements of the 20th Century.  He roduced Elvis Costello's first five albums, essentially sculpting the career and image of one of the century's most important musical figures and, as mentioned in previous posts, one of the greatest songwriters ever.  He also produced what is considered to be the first British punk rock single, The Damned's "New Rose."  His songs have been covered by Tom Petty, Costello, Johnny Cash and countless others.

As a solo artist, Lowe was responsible for some great songs, including "Cruel To be Kind,"  "I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock & Roll" and "Mary Provost," the story of once-famous actress who dies impoverished and is eaten by her hungry little Dachsund.  In the late 70s. thanks to his unbelievablly catchy pop songs and his velvety smooth voice, Nick Lowe truly was The Jesus of Cool.

As a band member, his accomplishments are almost as great.  In the 1970s, he defined British Pub Rock as a member of Brinsley Schwarz;  in the 1980s, he and Dave Edmunds made it cool to be retro with their band Rockpile.  Later in the 80s, Nick Lowe joined his friend John Hiatt's band, along with Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner.  This combination was responsible not only for the best album of Hiatt's career, Bring The Family, but also for the one-shot group effort Little Village.

Lowe has continued to record, write and produce since then, always maintaining a high degree of excellence in his songwriting, as well as his recorded output.

Randy's Picks:

"Cruel To Be Kind"
"And So It Goes"
"What's So Funny('Bout Peace, Love And Understanding?)"
"Mary Provost"
"The Beast In me"
"Heart Of The City"

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 30, 2009 12:46 pm


ROCK , thank you for the info on Richard Thompson. I had no idea who he was until you inspired me to research him. He certainly has quite an extensive catalog of songs and quite the reputation as a guitarist nonparallel. Turns out that Gerry Rafferty was also a big fan of his and tried to promote his career, but I see that his his solo album, HENRY THE HUMAN FLY was well received by critics but is listed as being the worst selling album in Warner Brothers history. Shows that popularity is probably the worst measurement of talent ever, as I have said many times.

CLEAN , I plan to write an entry for Cat Stevens soon as he is one of my personal favorites. I have seen him on several shows lately and in an hourlong interview/performance on the Chris Isaak show, he told a story about almost drowning while swimming in the Pacific Ocean off Malibu and promising Allah ne would change his life if he survived in 1977. He did survive and became a dedicated Muslim(he had always been pretty spiritual in a lot of his songs anyway) and didn;t pick up his guitar again until his son got it out of a closet sometime in the early 2000s. This prompted him to resume his musical career which he is now promoting as Yusuf Islam. Of course his denouncement of Salman Rushdie and Islamic faith have many Americans thinking he is alligned with the radical terrorists, a charge I find laughable as he lived for two decades in a monastery and has always preached pacifism, but then that's just my opinion.

BTW, Van Morrison will be the next person I write about unless someone else wants to write about him.

Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2009 11:51 am


Richard Thompson is one of those guys who is known by his fans and his fellow musicians as a great songwriter and guitarist, but is pretty much unknown to the general public.  Starting out as a folkie in Fairport Convention, Thompson was forced into songwriting, as there was no one else to handle the chore.  Turns out to be a good thing(at least for lovers of great music).  Thompson reminds me of Elvis Costello, in that he can mimic any style, from jazz to swing to blues to rock to folk to you-name-it.  Add in the fact he is a GREAT guitarist, and Richard Thompson is one the most entertaining unknown artists around.  Arguably, he produced his best work(both as a songwriter and as a recording artist) while performing with his then-wife as Richard and Linda Thompson.  This union lasted from 1973 to 1982, when the marriage broke up.  Much like Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, their tumultuous relationship led to the recording of what may be Thompson's greatest album, 1982's Shoot Out The Lights.

Since then he has recorded at least a dozen solo albums, many of them excellent.  For an introduction to Thompson's work, pick up Shoot Out The Lights or the new box set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009.

Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2009 11:22 am


Hmm. I came over here to write an article about my 2nd favorite British songwriter, Ray Davies, but Fans beat me to it!

I'll have to regroup and chose someone else.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2009 9:56 am


Here's one British songwriter more in the acoustic singer-songwriter mold - Cat Stevens. I know on a previous thread I wrote that it was unfortunate that once he became mnore of an outspoken Muslim in the 80s, radio stations stopped playing his stuff, depriving another generation of listeners of some terrific music. I started college at about the time his career took off, so I heard him just about everywhere I went.
One of his first songs was covered by the Tremeloes (Here Comes My Baby). I've heard Cat Stevens version of that, and it sounds more like the Tremeloes than the Cat Stevens who came of age a few years later. When MTV did that unplugged series, i would have loved to see him appear, doing Wild World, Miles From Nowhere, Where to the Children Play etc.     &

Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: September 29, 2009 5:04 pm


Beautiful post about Ray Davies!He has long been one of my favorites. I love the way you compared him to Warren Zevon. They both always seem to have some deep dark hidden meaning in those playful lyrics.
When it comes to the British Invasion I have always leaned more toward The Who and The Kinks then to the Stones and the Beatles.
It's amazing that the Kinks have been able to put out so much excellent music in spite of all of the in-fighting that has gone on in the band.

And I love that you quoted my favorite Kinks song - Well Respected Man. Always loved that one!

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 29, 2009 2:24 pm


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bsp;    RAY DAVIES

Ray Davies is like a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and Warren Zevon, an immensely talented songwriter with a twisted sense of humor, an engaging command of language and metaphors, and can’t get any respect. The Kinks have been a successful rock band as long as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but they seem to operate outside the notice of a large portion of music fans. Davies is definitely the most English of all the songwriters to be part of the British Invasion, perhaps because the Kinks were barred from America from 1965-1969, the pinnacle time of social upheaval. While the Beatles were releasing SGT. PEPPERS and the Stones were in BEGGAR’S BANQUET, Ray Davies was quietly longing for the peaceful VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY, a concept album about a non-existent quiet British country village that is every bit as introspective and thoughtful as SGT. PEPPERS. But since the Kinks couldn’t tour America to support it, it became one of the least known, great albums from a prominent group ever released. Filled with songs in the style of PICTURE BOOK, it is much more laid back than the version of the Kinks most people remember from ALL DAY & ALL OF THE NIGHT and YOU REALLY GOT ME that most Americans remembered. Those two songs probably invented the garage band sound and inspired the whole generation of punkers, but songs like A WELL RESPECTED MAN and WATERLOO SUNSET are more typical of the gentler, introspective person that Ray Davies became during the late 60s. Able the resume touring America again in 1970, the Kinks again became part of the mainstream with rock songs with a sense of humor like LOLA, DESTROYER, (WISH I COULD FLY LIKE) SUPERMAN, and APEMAN. The albums LOW BUDGET and COME DANCING both made the top ten in America. Ironically, while the Kinks actually outsold the Beatles in England several years in the late 60s, they became less popular there as they became more successful here. Perhaps it is the reflection on the irony and fleeting nature of what people call success that inspires Davies in CELLULOID HEROES to write

I wish my life was non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die

Songwriting just doesn’t get any more personal than that. Perhaps the softer sounds of COME DANCING were an attempt to gain back the popularity in England that had begun to escape them, but it ironically became the most popular album in the U. S. they ever released and failed to break the top 20 in England. The Kinks were always a volatile band with a split personality. Dave Davies, Ray’s brother and the only constant member of the band as the backup musicians were constantly coming and going. The Kinks were infamous for their infighting both on and off stage. Dave Davies is said to have cut slits in his speaker cones to give his guitar that raspy, grunge sound and hated to rehearse songs for studio recording, preferring the spontaneity that comes from essentially jamming. It’s remarkable that Ray was able to give the Kinks so much insightfulness and keep their songs so well crafted given this difference in approaches to song making. Similarly to Warren Zevon, there is a whole dark world of meanings hidden below the playfulness of Ray Davies playful lyrics. I think it is this lurking sense of danger coupled with humor that makes the Kinks uniquely British and distinctly different from the Who or the Stones. Unfortunately, the Kinks did not translate very well for the MTV generation and kind of slowly sailed off into the sunset of the late 80s, ultimately breaking up in the mid 90s. Ray Davies has gone on to write Broadway shows that border on opera, but has gained little popularity in mainstream music these days. Still, I think that Ray Davies has to be considered just a notch below the very best and most influential of the British Invasion songwriters with only Lennon and Townshend being better. I rate Ray Davies just outside my top 5 but solidly in my top 10.

'Cause he gets up in the morning,
And he goes to work at nine,
And he comes back home at five-thirty,
Gets the same train every time.
'Cause his world is built 'round punctuality,
It never fails.

And he's oh, so good,
And he's oh, so fine,
And he's oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He's a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: September 28, 2009 7:43 pm


You know fellows, I'm touched that you all like my Townshend post but I actually put a lot more work and research into my Lennon/McCartney post. I expected a lot of flack about treating them as solo writers instead of collaborators. The iamthebeatles website is a really interesting place to cruise around and read and links to a lot of neat stuff. Anyway, I have a few more almost written posts coming up but I want to give a couple of days for a few more visitors to come by.

Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: September 28, 2009 4:01 pm


Great review of Elvis Rock!
I like that quote about being the Scrabble Champion of Rock.
You can tell that he really puts a lot of thought into his songwriting and he certainly has a wonderful knack for it.

And fans. I am VERY happy to report that our cable company now carries the Sundance Channel. So I will be a regular viewer of that wonderful Spectacle show and we can discuss the episodes in here somewhere.
I am especially interested at the one that he just taped last week at the Apollo with one Mr. Bruce Springsteen. I read all of the very detailed reports and they talked and played for over 3 and a half hours!! How in the world are they gonna be able to edit that down to a one hour show?
I definitely  can't wait  to hear Elvis singing Point Blank, Brilliant Disguise, and The Rising.

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