The opening few moments are given over to Ade Edmundson and The Bad Shepherds - a quick burst of their opening gambit at the Cropredy Festival. All Around My Hat is a most irritating song for most - and it sums up the F word for many (er, that's folk - another kind of profanity). A great opening gambit destined to win the crowd over. 54 seconds of fun - I'm assuming some may turn it off as they "don't like that song" - well, try 54 seconds and accept that it's a bit of fun.
Oh yes, fun . . . every song on this cd brings a smile to my face for one reason or another. That's what it's all about. First up, Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. What can I say? I remember buying the album (that's on vinyl for you youngsters) the day it came out in 1975. I rushed around to a mate's to play it but I think he may have been less impressed than me. Or perhaps he was on a promise and me rushing around having latched on to yet another "passing please*" (see below) was par for the course: oh great, another future of rock'n'roll. Whenever I hear it, it makes me smile - a great opening: big, brash and VERY American. Okay, I'm not American - but I've stood on street corners in the States watching cars whizz by and the soundtrack in my head is usually The Eagles, Jackson Browne and . . . well, this really. I love it. I haven't seen him doing it live yet - but one day!
Mockingbird by Barclay James Harvest just brings back memories of seeing them live at Weeley in 1972. The band were squashed to the sides because of the 50 piece orchestra seated in the middle of the stage. As the members of the orchestra passed joints around the music got more and more stratospheric - Christ, we were only 15 and being transported to another dimension - who needed a Tardis? Fantastic song - more mood than anything, but makes me smile and has hung around for nearly half a Century. You don't need to be life-long fan of particular bands to enjoy their stuff.
I've always loved The Easybeats' Friday On My Mind, when Richard Thompson (okay, my hero) did it as part of 1000 Years of Popular Music, I was overjoyed. So much so that I forgave the fact that he included an ABBA track - ah well, even our heroes have flaws, of course. Just him and an acoustic guitar with two female backing singers, one of whom plays percussion. We're not worthy.
Rory Gallagher, god bless him, was around all the time in my youth. I saw him live so often yet I never bought any of his albums. A very good friend of mine used to play this quite often and I love it - it reminds me of being somewhere in the last century - about age 19, I guess. His little "guitar orchestra" is fantastic - again, it automatically brings a smile to my face whenever I listen to it. "Packed all my things in an Overnight Bag, toothbrush and guitar, got no tail to drag; gonna leave on the next passing please*" - it's about the loneliness of travelling and doing one night stands. Well, yes of course, I'd know all about that then, wouldn't I! This leads on to The Galway Farmer by Show of Hands. One of the few amazing acts to come out of the last part of last century - they wrote possibly the best ever song about being English and also one of the best actual folk songs of recent years. If you've not heard Roots, do. Download it and if you think it's crap I'll refund your 99p. I'll probably never talk to you again, but you'll not be poorer (I'm ignoring the irony here). A fantastic song that rushes through with the rigour of the horse in the song.
Next up, Brown Sugar, well, the only song I ever get up to and dance to . . . it always makes me happy because it's such a blast. Mrs Dave demands it at every do we go to - either just to embarrass me or to simply dance. Yes, of course, it's the latter - every time it comes on I smile and sing along. What more can I say? "Lady of the house wonders when this's gonna stop . . ."
I've included May I? by the inimitable Kevin Ayres because it really does light up my life. A one off. A totally unique character who I used to love going to see live in the 1970s. I first saw him supporting Pink Floyd at that amazing free Hyde Park Concert in 1971 (the first time Atom Heart Mother was played live to a London audience). I know I was only 15 and in those days you were very much a child. Either my mum thought I was very mature or couldn't give a shit. However, she did me a great service allowing me to see such things. Don't forget - I went up alone. My mum was a one off and I took her to see loads of great gigs in later years - she saw some gigs that people would kill to have seen nowadays! Anyway, back to May I? and Mr Ayres. I was at this live recording, so HAD to include it. Kevin Ayres, Nico and John Cale from the Velvet Underground with Mike Oldfield and Eno. I mean, come on? It cost about a quid and it was 25 minutes away from home. The late, great Ollie Halsall plays lead guitar. I'm smiling now as I write this!
Doing The Inglish by The Home Service is the first song recorded by this mighty ensemble. It may sound dated - it is! - but what a group. A huge mighty sound when they got going. They opened the Barbican with a fantastic concert supported - for Christ's sake - by Richard Thompson. You can't make this stuff up, you know. This song simply celebrates Englishness - a less earnest and cynical version of Roots, I guess. Good fun though. It was written by two of the greatest living Englishmen it has been my pleasure to meet: Bill Caddick and John Tams.
You only have to hear the riff from Reelin' In the Years by Steely Dan to smile. What can I say? I did think about putting Only A Fool Would Say That from the first album on instead. But - what a great song, the guitars are worth the entrance price alone. Of course (geek hat on), it was influenced by Wishbone Ash and their harmony guitars, as were Thin Lizzy. Which of these three bands is a) still going b) still releasing albums of original material and c) still matter? I'm looking forward to the Ash's next tour.
I could not imagine creating such a playlist without a John Martyn song. The obvious one was going to be May You Never and I just felt that I needed to be maybe just a little bit obvious. But "you've been such a strong brother to me" . . . rest in peace, John, I never, ever saw a bad gig. And your likes will not be seen in these parts again.
I drove my family both a) around Scotland and b) mad, playing The Stamping Ground by Runrig a few years ago (both at the same time). Wall of China really just makes me want to play air guitar around the kitchen. Well, actually it DOES make me play air guitar around the kitchen - and I may have only put it on purely to introduce the next song.
I stood in a field a few years back (last century?) watching Neil Young for the first time. I'd been a fan since 1970 but this was the first time I'd seen him live. So 30-odd years later there we are. My mate turned to me as this song blasted out across the rain-sodden park and said, "You could die now, couldn't you?" What he meant - and I knew full well, - was that I'd seen everything and couldn't be happier. Er, well, I think that's what he meant (help me out here Brendan). Like A Hurricane, my god what better song could he have played? Oh yeah, Cortez The Killer. Well, he played that too.
However despite popular belief, I did not shuffle off the mortal coil at that point and remain your humble servant.
By the way, the Man of Constant sorrow is a painting of Jesus in Scotland by William Dyce. A fantastic, late, Pre-Raphaelite Brother. And did those feet . . ?