Immerse your soul in love

Radiohead - 'Street Spirit (Fade Out).' (The Bends - 1995)

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In early November 1993, Radiohead appeared on Canadian TV and performed an earlier version of the song "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", then called "Three-Headed Street Spirit." Lead singer Thom Yorke spoke of Ben Okri's 1991 Booker Prize-winning novel The Famished Road and its influence on the song.

Hat-tip to CitizenInsane for hosting this video

The book's protagonist, Azaro, is a spirit child stuck between worlds, pushed and pulled between the two and how it imposes an otherworldly sense of anguish upon him.

I think “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” is a song about that feeling and pondering on the inevitability of death and the general pointlessness of living in the grand scheme of things. It's the most depressing song on a reasonably depressing album.

The song is a long time favourite of the band; no song appears more often in their setlists according to setlist.fm and several members of the band speak of it warmly in contemporary interviews. Guitarist Johnny calls it his favourite on the album, and Ed said there's no other song that could end The Bends. At the time, Thom Yorke spoke of releasing the song as a Christmas single, and it eventually came out in January 1996, as he loved Christmas so much. More recently, he's discussed the song as the band's darkest and how, despite the frequency of it in setlists, it sucks so much energy for him to perform it is often left to the end of concerts

…it hurts like hell every time I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of its meaning, like when you're going to have your dog put down, and it's wagging its tail on the way there.

This is also probably not something that many of my fellow students at university two decades ago were concerned about when they went to Ultimate Guitar for the tab and took almost every opportunity to play the main riff on their acoustic guitar.

[Intro/Main Riff]
 
   Am
e|---------0--------------0-------------0----------------------|
B|---------------3--------------1---------------0--------------|
G|------------2------2------2-------2-------2-------2--------2-| x4
D|-----2------------------------------------------------2------|
A|-0-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Yorke has spoken of that riff and how he enjoyed "stuff like Stereolab where they repeat riffs over and over again." I find it interesting that he called the song Radiohead's purest as it "wrote itself." That makes it sound like an ontological paradox where the music has inserted itself into Yorke's brain but from a different part of the timeline. Like Paul McCartney and 'Yesterday', it used Yorke as a vessel. I hope that the song didn't appear in Yorke's head overnight as it did for the Beatle; that doesn't sound like a (nice dream). "All of your fears die with you" as a concept for a UK top-five single is out there as well.

The final line(s), "Immerse your soul in love", is a relatively cheerful ending to the song and the album. You might feel that is the appropriate response to the existential angst the music had conjured up - maybe there’s a hint that even that is all another level of pointlessness to existence but let's not get too glum. I'm also tickled that the song doesn't Fade Out. in fact, not many songs on The Bends do; one even fades in like 'Eight Days A Week'.

Radiohead have spoken of banging their heads against the wall and going around in circles to complete the song. Between that, the riff and the way the piece was channelled through Yorke suggest many circles. Maybe Jas Mann of Babylon Zoo was too late with his ambition to write the first spherical song in 1997.

In the context of their next album OK Computer, what really interests me is the opening line about rows of houses and feeling weighed down by their inhabitants and their blue hands. - Are they cold? Are they near death, or is Yorke making a reference to the Tory Government of the time? This type of imagery would come up repeatedly in their next album as the rows of houses turned into gleaming skyscrapers, motorway junctions and airport departure lounges and it’s one of those tantalising glimpses we get on a final track that sets up well for the next part of the journey.

The other point of note is that it sounds different to the Bendsification of post-Britpop British guitar music. The likes of Travis, Coldplay, Starsailor, Turin Breaks, Keane, Athlete, Snow Patrol and others have all dug from the well of the album but much focus on 'High and Dry' and 'Fake Plastic Trees' and Yorke's other falsetto1 moments than on songs, and subject matter like this song, which is a shame. Muse did at least incorporate the title track and 'Sulk' into their sounds - Maybe that New Acoustic Movement from the very early 2000s would be more fondly remembered, not if they had a 'Just', 'My Iron Lung' or a 'Street Spirit (Fade Out).' in their repertoire.

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1

Yorke famously gained the confidence to sing in that register after seeing Jeff Buckley perform at The Garage in Islington in later 1994. He returned to the studio that night and recorded 'Fake Plastic Trees' Maybe the most influential second-order gig of all time - one person who went fanned the flames of influence to many of the singers in those bands.

The empty-handed painter from your streets is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets

Bob Dylan - 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' (Bringing It All Back Home - 1965)

(Before we start - some subscribers may not have got the previous entry via email as there were some non-swear words which may still have been red-flagged. The previous entry on The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “It’s So Hard” from Psychocandy is here.)

Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home, his fifth album and first to make the US top ten, marked a shift in his career. The protest songs of the first four albums took a back seat as more surreal, otherworldly, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and imagery moved to the foreground. We also can't comment on that transition without mentioning the one that took place on the first side; Dylan, backed by a rock and roll band and electricity, sacrilege to the folkies. Naturally, our focus is the second side, which is the acoustic side, and the final track, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue".

I consider Bringing It All Back Home Dylan's best tunes albums, by which I mean if I sat down and ranked all of his songs, despite Blonde On Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blood On The Tracks being more acclaimed albums, there are a good half-dozen on BIABH that would do well. The album was recorded across three days, with the final day yielding; "Maggie's Farm", "On the Road Again", "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", "Gates of Eden", "Mr Tambourine Man", "If You Gotta Go, Go Now1" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". Quite possibly one of the most productive days in his career or anyone else's2 at the start of a hectic year.

Musically, as most of the acoustic side, it is very sparse. There are no drums - just Dylan's voice accompanied by acoustic guitar, bass and harmonica. There's a dreamy, lilting to the song which Van Morrison's Them brought forward on their cover the following year, which, thirty years later, Beck would make similar hay with on Odelay's "Jack-Ass". 

Most Dylanologists would tell you that the song is likely not to be solely one individual but an amalgamation. From Dylan's contemporaneous love interest Joan Baez, The folk singer David Blue (which feels far too on the nose for Dylan) or Dylan's friend, at least in 1964, Paul Clayton. You can also take it up a notch and speculate that Dylan is singing and saying goodbye to his younger self.

The thought process on that last one is relevant to us here at The Run Out Grooves. Dylan had already released farewell songs on his previous two albums, The Times They Are A-Changin' and Another Side of Bob Dylan, "Restless Farewell" and "It Ain't Me, Babe", respectively. These kiss-offs we may come to another time. So even though Dylan may be singing adieu to his protest / Woody Guthrie incarnation, he has held over that trope.

Baby Blue may have been a placeholder; he has spoken of the influence of Gene Vincent on the song.

"I had carried that song around in my head for a long time and I remember that when I was writing it, I'd remembered a Gene Vincent song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue... 'When first I met my baby/she said how do you do/she looked into my eyes and said/my name is Baby Blue.' It was one of the songs I used to sing back in high school. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue."

The lyrics themselves really are pretty cruel in places; there can be no reconciliation - it really is over. Early in the song, we have saints coming through - perhaps an illusion to the funeral nature of "When The Saints Go Marching In". There's the spectre of Rimbaud's dreamlike poetry that also hangs over "Mr Tambourine Man", as well as maybe a hint at the social progress of 1962-64 hinted at in the line about the sky falling in.

Two interesting footnotes that could sway me to thinking that the song is a form of Dylan moving on is that it is a song he comes back to close his 1965 set at Newport Folk Festival after the less than enthusiastic response to the electric songs. The message of "Strike another match, go start anew" and that there's a vagabond "standing in the clothes that you once wore" is a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis moment if ever there was one. Secondly, if not intentional, it is pretty ironic - we see Dylan choose to sing this song to Donovan in DA Pennebaker's Don't Look Back. If this is Dylan's parting shot at his old personae, he is pretty much weaponising it by aiming it at a singer so often accused as being a copycat of Dylan, the protest singer3.

Dylan's following two albums feature an entirely different type of album closer, which takes up an entire side of vinyl; we will get to both of those in due course. One thing we can say is that even as Dylan leaned more into the surreal imagery and his lyrics became just as much about how they sounded as what they meant, there was always time for a break-up song. "4th Time Around" and "I Threw It All Away" would appear over the next couple of years and, more recently, "Most of The Time" from Oh Mercy. 

There is, of course, nearly everything on Blood On Tracks to contend with. As we like to do here, you can draw a path through the history of popular music that flows from the tributaries of songs like "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" to "Idiot Wind" through other classics of the genre. The road from this album closer goes through Blue, Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear, 13, Sea Change, 808 and Heartbreak, thank u, next and so on until you are bang up-to-date with Adele's 30.

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1

Not included on the album, "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" would be covered by Manfred Mann by the end of 1965 and released as a single in continental Europe in 1967.

2

Other contenders would be any live album from one concert and other albums recorded at a breakneck speed such as Please, Please Me, Pink Moon or Black Sabbath's debut.

3

Who has Woody Guthrie to thank for those clothes himself!

So. It's said

The Jesus and Mary Chain - 'It's So Hard' (Psychocandy 1985)

The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album is one that I’ve been a fan of since the very start of the 2000s. I was 16 for most of 1999, and for anyone that wasn’t around, the last three months seemed to be jam-packed with more “Top 100 XYZ of the 20th Century” than you could shake a stick at. Around early December, I had a magazine summarising a significant public vote on the music of the past 1000 years called Music of The Millennium. A useful enough framework for a sixteen-year-old to understand some of the critical and popular darlings of the previous 50 years, really with quite a lot of Robbie Williams thrown in. By the end of the year, even with the TV show and double CD that accompanied MoM. With the best of the 1990s on VH1 and MTV and so on, I’d turned my attention to another list.

This one from Melody Maker in very early 2000 - no full cover fanfare in the way Q did in early 1998 or Mojo in Aug 1995

With the walkman on my radio preset to either BBC Radio Five Live or Virgin Radio and access to VH1 on Telewest cable in my room, I had some idea of the cannon. The cannon influenced my first trips to HMV and Our Price some of the albums at the top of the list I was aware of through big famous songs, recency or I’d already owned or borrowed the albums.

The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy was the highest placed album on the list I’d never heard a note of - when you only have slow dial-up internet, that’s a fascinating place to be.

In the entry on Paul’s Boutique, I touched on how the language of music critics acted as a gatekeeper but only until MP3s and Napster started to become YouTube and streaming as the 2000s became the 2010s. I can now understand what is meant by the sentence “Psychocandy sounds like Phil Spector s0domising Brian Wilson in a sandpit”, even if I can no longer remember where I read it.

After thirteen tracks and 35 minutes of music, Psychocandy ends with “It’s So Hard”. It is the only song on the album sung by William Reid, and while he would go on to up his quotient to three songs on JAMC next album, Darklands, that is really the only jumping-off point we see from the band in future work. Compared to the fuzzy, thin and reedy (Reidy?) sound of treble meters going into the red, as much of the album, this song is not a template for the more polished work on their less brash, softer and nowhere near as abrasive second album. While a lot the shoegaze that goes after it, even some of their own material on this record, can be said to come to the listener’s ears in waves - people often think of bodies of water. This track, I think more of the waves you experience during a headache.

Along with the screeching guitars and infant Bobby Gillespie standing up behind a set of toy drums, we have a song that seems to have taken onboard some views on love and s3x, which are very much of the “Yes, I have a girlfriend, but she goes to a different school” variety. The references all sound like second-hand knowledge of bedroom activities. Ironically, for a song that is a minor stepping stone on the path from mid-Eighties indie to Shoegazing, I can imagine it being delivered with eyes fixed to the floor.

Not because William Reid is looking at guitar pedals, but because he is embarrassed to meet our gaze.

As there is over an hour of featured songs on the newsletter now, I’ve caved to requests and made a playlist which I will update as I go.

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He said it's been a long time comin'

Aretha Franklin - 'A Change Is Gonna Come' (I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You 1967

I've tried to avoid contrasting closing tracks with opening tracks so far on The Run Out Grooves, but this time, it feels tough not to. Aretha Franklin's 1967 album, I've Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, was her tenth, but it was her first for Atlantic Records. By this point, the shackles were well and truly coming off, and within 18 months, she'd deliver Lady Soul and Aretha Now, too, as she made the transition from gospel to soul music.

The opening track is one of the most famous songs in the history of popular music; A cover of Otis Redding's 'Respect' that was recently ordained by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest song of all time. For Franklin to take a piece from a performer like Otis Redding and make it her own is quite something. Where our focus is, on the closing track, she arguably falls just short of doing it again.

It was often said of Franklin, The Queen of Soul, that God came out when she opened her mouth to sing. By March 1967, Sam Cooke had already died1- so covering his signature song 'A Change is Gonna Come' was something that Franklin did as not just a tribute but as close as you can imagine to a eulogy for the soul singer - It is almost an act of public mourning.

I find this rendition fascinating because Franklin begins almost like she is quoting from Cooke's version, adding an introduction as well additions of "he said" early on. She starts to colour in some of the gaps that Cooke left in his performance of the song, adlibbing more as we move through successive sections. By the time we get to the bridge, those lead-ins are gone, the narrator's pronouns change, and the song dramatically switches to a less faithful rendition as Franklin takes on the narrator's identity rather than projecting it to her late idol.

She's also clearly preaching here; as much as she'd started to leave gospel songs behind at this stage in her career, she's not left the performance element go, and you can hear her black Baptist roots clearly throughout 'A Change Is Gonna Come.'

Matching Cooke's version would be impressive - surpassing it a miracle, and I think she wasn't far off. By the end of the song, she has taken such ownership of it that she starts singing that the change has come. Maybe you might think that's a stretch looking back from 2021. Still, in the two and a bit years between Cooke's death and this version of the song, change had started to come for Black America, slowly but surely - Cooke died before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had come into force. While the road ahead was to become rocky (I Never Loved A Man... was released before the riots of summer 1967 and chaos of 1968.), it wasn't just the hippies of Portobello Road or Haight-Ashbury who had reasons for optimism going into The Summer of Love.

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Otis Redding didn’t die until later in 1967 so was able to hear Franklin’s definitive version of his song.

Conductor done hollered, 'All, aboard'

Led Zeppelin - 'Bring It On Home' (Led Zeppelin II - 1969)

Have you ever done something that you really had no idea how much trouble it would get you into? How much effort would it take to try and unpick the unpredictable mess you'd gotten into? I suspect the members of Led Zeppelin might have since 1969 regarding 'Bring It On Home', the closing track on their second album.

The backstory is that the song was written by Willie Dixon in the early 1960s, and Sonny Boy Williamson recorded the song in 1963 though that version wasn't released until 1966. You may have heard that version featured in David Lynch's 2001 masterpiece Mullholland Dr. 

Led Zeppelin recorded the intro and outros of the song as a homage to Williamson - there are even elements of a vocal imitation by Plant. The middle section is either the meat of the song or the filling of the sandwich.  

Given that the song's credits have historically moved from "Medley contains 'Bring It On Back' (Jimmy Page/Robert Plant/John Paul Jones/John Bonham)" on 2003's live album How The West Was Won but by 2014's re-issue of the studio album the credit simply says, Dixon. By this point, the matter had been settled with Dixon and his estate, an area they had some experience in

The song itself is considered unremarkable in Led Zeppelin's back cannon, maybe due to the song writing, bruhaha (Though there are almost two dozen songs mentioned in this article). Still, I've only ever seen it ranked as high as 35 in a Led Zeppelin best songs countdown and often didn't make the top 40 or 50 out of the 100 or so that the band recorded.

When Page, Plant and Jones played at Jason Bonham's wedding reception in 1990, they performed the songs along with 'Celebration Day' and 'Black Dog.' So you can imagine the band held an amount of reverence for the track.

The riff is probably underrated in their cannon, as is the battle between Bonham and Page, and it is yet another early Led Zeppelin song that points in the direction of the whole genre of Heavy Metal. It is a shame that the lack of credit to Dixon for the intro and outro has ultimately detracted from the original middle section. On How The West Was Won is billed as 'Bring It On Back', and in isolation, that part displays much of the volcanic power of the band and Plant's stratospheric vocals that they would hone and perfect over the next few years into a template Led Zeppelin sound. 

A template for their middle period and subject to song writing credit lawsuits? Maybe it is more atypical a Led Zeppelin song than others would have you think!

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