List: Top Five Story Songs — No. 4

4. King Horse, by Elvis Costello.

King Horse on Spotify.

This is, without a doubt, the best juggling song ever.

It’s from Elvis’ best album, Get Happy!, which I was listening to quite a bit in the winter of 1981-82, when I learned how to juggle. Besides being a great song, it has lots of wild starts and stops and timing changes, perfect for throwing in tricks. In fact, the lyric I quoted at the top of yesterday’s post is precisely the point of juggling nirvana, for this or any other song.

As jugglers go, by the way, I claim nothing but amateur status. I can keep three objects in the air pretty well, but try adding a fourth and there are soon four objects on the floor. But three, three I can do. And when I hear this song, my arms start itching to juggle.

My second favorite juggling song is Modern Love by David Bowie. Beyond that, really, any song will do.

Not much of a story, eh? Well, it is No. 4…

*****

By the way, I mentioned that what songs mean to us is often different from what the songwriter originally intended. So what did Elvis Costello intend with King Horse? Some interesting discussion here.

List: Top 5ive Albums Of The 1980s

Everyone loves lists, right? Well then, here comes a list: the best albums of the 1980s.

Any such “Top” list having to do with music is going to be controversial, of course. But this one may be less so than others, at least for me. These five albums simply stand out from all the rest. These were some of the strongest efforts by their creators, and helped shape both my life and the music business in general during that decade and for years thereafter. There are going to be other lists in Shoulblog in the future, some music-related, but I wanted to start with this one because it is, in fact, the most cut-and-dried.

Even though this exercise seems pretty …Keep reading

Covers

As a music lover (aren’t we all?), I’m sometimes surprised when I find out that a song I’ve listened to dozens or hundreds of times turns out to be a cover of someone else’s song. Surprised and embarrassed, because as a fan, I always feel I should have known better.

My most spectacular faceplant in this area came after I saw Bob Dylan in concert in 1979. After the concert (a great show, by the way) I commented to the person I was with, “that Jimi Hendrix song he did was great.” The song, of course, was All Along The Watchtower, which Dylan himself wrote and recorded  before Hendrix recorded what I believe is the definitive version. Definitive, but a cover nonetheless.

A more recent example of this is Elvis Costello’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” from his Get Happy! album. The song is full of the lyrical twists we’ve come to expect and enjoy from him, but it wasn’t until I got the reissue of the album a year or so ago that the song was actually recorded by Sam & Dave back in the 1960s and written, I see on Wikipedia, by Homer Banks and Allen Jones.

Another is the song Wrong ‘Em Boyo by the Clash on London Calling. I guess I’d never noticed that the song was written by Clive Alphonso, not Strummer/Jones like most of the songs on that amazing, amazing album.

A few months ago I was editing the “old boat column” for our magazine, and the author mentioned the steamboat Stacker Lee. It got me to thinking about Stagger Lee from that song, of course, so I got to looking through the legend of Stagger Lee and soon found that the song is a cover of a song by the Rulers. You can find an mp3 version of it on Amazon. Check it out — very cool.  Start all over again!