A word that can be affirmation, confirmation, or exclamation.
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/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/44:29
So why haven’t I covered this before? Who knows, frankly, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to base a /Tuesday Ten around one word.
Here, the Yes is as much Yeah as it is Yes. It is the title of songs, it is the majority of the lyrics of some of the songs. This was a ten that was fun to do. Next week, we go negative with the opposite: No.
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).
One of those songs that has seeped into popular culture, thanks initially to prominent use in a legendary scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but also countless other films, TV shows (including recurring use as the motif for Duffman in The Simpsons) and adverts – and reputedly has made one of its creators millions and millions thanks to it being part of a wider investment portfolio.
That said, Dieter Meier was only adding to his pile, Yello being one of the few groups I can think of where the lead singer was a millionaire industrialist, gambler and playboy before he even started in music. The music created by Boris Blank and Meier, though, is playful – and sometimes downright odd – experiments in rhythm and repetition, and Oh Yeah is the perfect distillation of that, as it plays with Meier’s voice in fun ways, as it becomes part of the propulsive rhythm.
Nowadays part of the rock canon – as is the rest of Nevermind – so it is still weird to think about the first time I heard this, when I was aged just thirteen. A song that makes great use of dynamics to allow the full force of the chorus to crash through – which only uses the word “Yeah” repeatedly, while the verses are as calm as you like. The song itself is about how some people find solace in religion rather than love, as some kind of escape mechanism.
We’ve long held a view (my wife and I, that is), that the quality of Rob Zombie/White Zombie songs increases the more “yeahs” there are per song, although we’ve never quite got round to some form of test to record this. That said, Superbeast might be the one to buck the trend, as the rampaging opener to Hellbilly Deluxe barrels along, with the “Yeahs” restricted to the monstrous, anthemic chorus. Otherwise, it’s the usual schlocky, less-than-serious B-movie monsters in the lyrics, with a chaotic, bright video attached.
/The Sensual World
/The Sensual World
Kate Bush returned to literary inspiration for the title track to her 1989 album, but this time Ulysses by James Joyce. The song has a curious mix of modern electronics and Irish instrumentation that works brilliantly, while the lyrics take inspiration from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy – it was over twenty years later that the Joyce estate finally allowed Kate Bush to use the actual words always intended to be the base of the song. The word “Yes” ends most of the lines of the original song, enunciated as if they are exclaimations of sexual and sensual abandon.
/Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,
/Peace and Love
Maybe Shane MacGowan ran out of inspiration for the chorus here (which repeats the word “Yeah” no less than 32 times – the chorus appearing five times, that makes no less than 160 times the word is said in the song!), and in some respects, this was maybe a band running out of inspiration too. Rather than their celtic folk/punk hybrid that they were best-known for, this song is plainly and simply their take on 60s rock’n’roll (complete with a video that is one of many that takes notes from classic 60s music shows), and thus isn’t exactly the band anywhere near their peak. Less a “Yeah”, and more a “No”, from me…
Although it feels like more, this big hit by Usher (with Lil Jon and Ludacris along for the ride) only says “Yeah!” seventy-five times. Maybe it felt like more because it was everywhere in 2004, topping the charts in every major market, and the video was on constant rotation. Those high-pitched synths are the first earworm, before “Yeah” joins the party. Not bad for a song that was only cobbled together because the record label felt that Confessions as originally submitted to them didn’t have a solid-gold hit on it. Maybe, for once, the label were right after all…
/Step It Up
A group who’d already been around for a while before they broke through with their third album Connected, then became notable for not releasing another album for a decade or so (as they were busy on work with other projects and artists, and their own work just kept being shelved). They remain best known for the exceptional singles from Connected, of which Step It Up is the best and their biggest hit still, and that rising “Yeah Yeah Yeah” that takes you into the chorus is just *chefs kiss*.
This was the first single from the first album I ever bought with my own money, in the summer of 1988, and ten-year-old me absolutely didn’t know that this song is reputedly about oral sex (and some suggest that it was inspired by US comedian Sam Kinison’s lick the alphabet with your tongue sketch that was released just a year or two earlier). Anyway, this song is Prince at his funkiest, ribald best (and makes great and extensive use of the word “Yeah”), even if some of the rest of Lovesexy wasn’t perhaps his best – but that reflects the chaotic creation, which saw both Crystal Ball and The Black Album ditched at the last minute and Lovesexy rebuilt in their place. Both of the other albums eventually did surface after years of bootlegging, too.
While the song has reputed inspirations, more obvious are what it then inspired: Trent Reznor used obvious elements from it in Ringfinger, from the first Nine Inch Nails album Pretty Hate Machine – whether Prince said yes to that, who knows – while Arrested Development’s Tennessee made even more obvious – unauthorised – use and had to stump up $100k to solve the problem.
Any excuse to include the wonderful Morphine, and here’s the title track from my favourite album of theirs, which is done and gone in just two minutes. Down’n’dirty grooves are the order of the day here, with Mark Sandman’s deep voice sounding perhaps more lascivious than ever (especially that opening “Yes, yes, yes”), accompanied by Dana Colley’s distinctive saxophone playing as always.
We leave the last word this week to James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who over nine minutes manages to include “Yeah” no less than 479 times. This is one of his earlier tracks, and there are three versions of it (the main and “Crass” versions are nine minutes long, the “Pretentious Mix” various pushing it beyond eleven!), where Murphy leans into his formative influences fully, a distinct nod to NYC disco and house music forming the base of this quite brilliant song.