/Tuesday Ten /500 /Tellin’ Stories

In a happy coincidence, my /Tuesday Ten series reaches post number 500 on my birthday: and having checked back, I’ve never posted a /Tuesday Ten on my birthday.

/Tuesday Ten/500/Tellin’ Stories

/Subject /Stories
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /300/Bring The Noise /400/Hundreds /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/275 /Used Prior/54 /Unique Songs/204 /People Suggesting/101
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/58:56

It’s been a long time getting here. 500 posts across fifteen years and (about) four months, since late-March 2007, with 5443 artists or songs included, 149 tracks of the month, seven reader takeovers, 151 suggestion request threads and 890 people offering song suggestions over the years. Thanks to everyone that reads, comments or contributes: I genuinely couldn’t do it without you.

So what’s this week about? Quite some time ago (October 2020, my records show), I asked for songs that were stories in themselves. It turned out to be one of the biggest suggestion threads I’ve ever had (see above: 275 suggestions were made in total), and for one reason or another, I put it on the (metaphorical) shelf rather than using it immediately.

The reason for this became clear when I revisited it last week: there were so many great suggestions that it took bloody ages to whittle it down to just ten. But hopefully, I’ve ended up with a real variety amid these ten songs, and some great stories told too.

A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.

Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).

/Dire Straits
/Telegraph Road
/Love Over Gold

The mighty, fourteen-minute track that opens Love Over Gold was inspired by Mark Knopfler travelling along Telegraph Road west of Detroit, and imagining how roads like this are the development and history of the US in microcosm. Across the epic length, a man makes his home in the wilderness, and in time a whole community develops, connected to the rest of the country by road and rail. But after the rise, there’s a fall, and perhaps this mirrors the late twentieth-century decline of Detroit, as the manufacturing industry contracted and white flight left a poverty-stricken inner city that has had to fight like hell to regenerate itself in the forty-years since this song was written – and it took a long time to even start.

/Whippin’ Piccadilly
/Bring It On

The perhaps unexpected winner of the 1998 Mercury Music Prize (particularly with the competition for it that year), and their origins were just as surprising, with their northern (English) roots being obscured by a loose-limbed modern blues feel, particularly thanks to Ben Ottewell’s deep, raspy baritone.

Ottewell’s voice is rather a subtle touch in Whippin’ Piccadilly, where the band recant a presumably true story of a trip from Sheffield to Manchester on the lash, and detail some of their observations on the day, all the way back home. Rather unexpectedly, too, a younger Toby Jones features in the video!

/The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
/Sign O’ The Times

One of the stranger songs on his magnum opus (and that’s saying something), it apparently was inspired by a dream (and Prince maintained that he knew nothing of the satirist of same name), and tells the story of – presumably – Prince kicking his heels away from a crappy home life, and meeting a sharp waitress who he has a platonic encounter with, before clearing his head and being able to face up to his troubles. The odd sound of the song is the outcome of a happy accident in recording that resulted in a mix that sounded so unusual Prince chose to keep it.

/Stan Ridgway
/The Big Heat

While I’ve known this song for many years, and indeed I’ve been aware of Wall of Voodoo too (mostly for their marvellously odd hit Mexican Radio), but I’d never made the connection that Stan Ridgway was the vocalist of both. Now I listened to them both back to back, the link is obvious, of course.

Anyway, this song takes us to a fictional Vietnam battlefield, where a mysterious giant marine rescues a Private isolated from his patrol and they fight through the night to get back to base. But the twist makes us doubt everything we’ve been told, and Camouflage is…well, maybe not what he seems?

/Warren G
/Regulate… G Funk Era

A great many rap artists made extensive use of sampling – often going to the point of using entire songs to rap over, and there were a number of surprising artists that were targetted for this. One such example was the white-boy soul of Michael McDonald, whose bleak 1982 ballad I Keep Forgettin’ formed the basis of one of the most striking G-Funk songs of the early 1990s.

Across the smooth rhythms, Warren G and Nate Dogg tell each side of the story, with Warren G riding through Long Beach before joining a dice game and being attacked and robbed, while Nate Dogg searches for Warren G and saves his life before they both hook with some women and move on. One of the more remarkable things about this song is the detail – like any great storyteller, you have to set the scene, and this does in spades.

/Philip Jeays
/Ed Is At The Ritz

Jeays has long been a master storyteller, with inspiration from his colourful life running deep through so many of his songs, so one of his songs being included here was perhaps a given, but which song? I eventually settled on the one suggested in the initial thread, a rollicking tale – and longtime fan favourite live – of Jeays, a friend and his girlfriend heading off to busk in Paris… a happy tale that is then rather derailed by his girlfriend’s friend Ed tagging along, with pots of money and using that wealth to rather seduce her…

/DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
/Yo Home to Bel-Air

The theme tune to the classic sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – that made Will Smith a star, and created countless internet memes in later years – gives you the basic premise of the entire TV series in one short track (the full single adds even more detail). Basically, Will Smith’s character has trouble in his West Philadelphia neighbourhood and is sent by his mother to live with his phenomenally wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel-Air, where he finds new ways to get into trouble with his new family (and untold wealth). Will Smith’s good-natured hip-hop creations with Jazzy Jeff in the following years would likely have been successful enough, but add to his film and TV work, and he’s become one of the most recognisable Hollywood stars of all since.

Also, if you’re of a similar age to me, it’s likely you still know all the words to this theme tune – at least the opening titles version (I didn’t realise the very first episode has a longer version, while the whole song seems weird to my ears). Go on, try it.

/John Mellencamp
/Jack & Diane
/American Fool

One of those American rock anthems, these days, almost didn’t happen. The story goes that it was resurrected from the discarded songs with a new arrangement (and those handclaps), and it gave Mellencamp one of his first hits – and certainly his most enduring. The story of a couple on the verge of adulthood in the kind of midwestern town Mellencamp himself grew up in, it spins a yarn of the couple realising there’s more to life than their small town and religious attitudes, so they decide to run off to the city to expand their horizons. The song leaves open their future, as if it’s difficult to tell whether it will all work out or not.

/Bobbie Gentry
/Ode to Billie Joe
/Ode to Billie Joe

Gentry’s debut single is shrouded in terror and unseen mystery, as she unleashes a tale from the past in the Mississippi Delta, where we piece together a tale of a suicide from a bridge, and the unidentified actions of the narrator and Tom, who may or may not have had something to do with the death: and a year later, tragedy has begun to befall the narrator, as if fate is getting revenge.

Bobbie Gentry remains one of the great mysteries in music, having appeared in 1967 with the remarkable darkness of Ode to Billie Joe, and finally vanished from public view in 1982, having tired of the music industry in the years before, and has successfully maintained total privacy ever since.

/King’s Daughters & Sons
/The Anniversary
/If Then Not When

A remarkable centrepiece to a remarkable album, this one-off album from a Louisville, Kentucky band has a quiet, elegant drama to it. Formed by members from about three different bands, they came together as post-rock meets alt-country, in some respects, but like certain other Louisville bands, they were also well aware of how to use silence as a devastating weapon in their arsenal. The Anniversary has a hefty story, which includes a disastrous wedding apparently ruined by an explosion at a whisky still, a whole lot of mistrust and mystery, an act of brutal revenge and someone praying that someone else will take the fall: as well as a devastating twist. Southern Gothic, if you will, but from a slightly different perspective to Bobbie Gentry…

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