/Tuesday Ten /552 /Private Investigations

I got so many suggestions for /Tuesday Ten /550, on the subject of the police, that I realised I had a second post to come from it too.

/Tuesday Ten /552 /Private Investigations

/Subject /Detectives, Investigations
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /550/Caught By The Fuzz /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/44:39

Hence this week’s post. Spinning out from the police, this week is about investigations: be that detectives, detective TV shows and fictional pursuits. There is Film Noir, Science Fiction and plain old entertainment.

This is also Spotify playlist #700 that I’ve created.

Thanks, as ever, to everyone that gets involved and offers suggestions and/or inspiration.

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).

/Isaac Hayes
/Theme from Shaft

Where else to start, but with one of the greatest pieces of music to introduce a film? Isaac Hayes’ title theme is an incredible piece of work (and indeed saw him become the first person of colour to win an Oscar for best original song), and is the perfect introduction to Richard Roundtree’s macho private detective, with his iconic introduction leaving the subway and giving the finger to NYC taxi drivers. It’s easy to forget that as it was written as the intro, the lyrics are something of an afterthought (and arrive nearly three-quarters of the way through the track), but they set us up for the film nicely.

It’s been sampled, covered, referenced, but the original remains the king – and needless to say, this isn’t the only screen detective featured this week.

/Dire Straits
/Private Investigations
/Love Over Gold

Remarkably one of Dire Straits biggest chart hits – it reached number 2 in the singles charts at the end of summer 1982 – was also one of their most uncompromising singles. Even the single “edit” was nearly six minutes long, as Mark Knopfler begins the song as a grizzled investigator, muttering his observations and misgivings in the darkness, apparently tired working in the shadows. Despite the modernity of the music, it’s all film noir delivery, before the storm crashes and the instrumental close out is all chaos and fury.

/Elvis Costello
/Watching The Detectives
/My Aim Is True

One of Costello’s best-known songs is also one of his earlier songs, and one that owes at least something to the rise of ska, reggae and The Clash. And unlike most of the rest of the songs here, the detectives and investigations are very much abstracts in the background. In the foreground is a distant couple watching TV, and while the protagonist is pining for some form of attention from his partner, she is entranced and fully taken in by the detective show on TV…

/Thompson Twins
/We Are Detective
/Quick Step & Side Kick

Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the Thompson Twins did this song, bearing in mind that their name comes from Thompson and Thompson in the Tintin books. We Are Detective – amid the cabaret-infused synthpop that certainly makes the song sound distinctive and different – sees the band delving full-on into the filmic lore of noir detectives: complete with subterfuge, surveillance from afar, and fear of being caught.

/The Fall
/Detective Instinct
/Room to Live

A band often suggested, but not always featured – probably because Mark E Smith’s lyrics could be so bloody obtuse that it was difficult to work out what on earth he was going on about. Here, on this remarkably minimal track – for the first half of it at least, barely more than a bassline, scratchy guitar, and Smith’s growl – he takes the position of an observer, and if he’s not a detective, he’s someone who thinks he has the knack, as he identifies pertinent details of the people he sees…

/Gary Numan
/I’m An Agent

Perhaps not as fondly remembered as his earlier albums, Telekon completes the trilogy of man/machine albums that catapulted Numan to fame (and then, in the aftermath, back to obscurity for some years). Sonically, the droning synths and Numan’s distinctively robotic vocals are very much in evidence on I’m An Agent, as he appears to imagine dishing out orders as he digs in on a case, and even perhaps imagines secretaries being replaced by machines in some distant future.

As his stock raised again in the nineties – thanks to prominent nods by Trent Reznor among others – covers of his songs became relatively common, although I’m fairly sure Kenickie’s decision to cover I’m An Agent was unique at the time, and they play it pretty straight.

/Tom Waits
/Small Change (Got Rained On With His Own .38)
/Small Change

What an incredibly poignant line: “Small Change got rained on by his own .38“. Indeed such a marvellously descriptive line that there is an entire linguistic blog post devoted to talking about it. This jazzy, after-dark piece sees Waits telling the tale of Small Change – as I see it, a down-on-his-luck private detective who’s met his end by a malfunctioning Saturday Night Special, and after his death, other local ne’er do wells and even the cops add yet more disrespect by rifling through his pockets and taking whatever they can.

You just know that Waits imagined this as the narrator watching events unfold from a shadowy corner nearby, as they keep the brim of their hat low to not be recognised.

/Will Smith
/Men In Black
/Men in Black: The Album

Like many hip-hop songs of the time, little of the instrumentation was original – this one being basically Will Smith rapping over Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots. But this track was for the film Men In Black, one of the top ten grossing films of the nineties and very much the film that confirmed Will Smith as a top-level leading man.

And, as my wife pointed out when suggesting this, who said investigations needed to be grounded in reality? The Men In Black here investigate alien life forms on earth (and that first film in the franchise remains enormous fun).

/Destiny’s Child
/Independent Women, Part 1
/The Writing’s on the Wall

One thing that became pretty obvious as I collated this weeks’ post was that there is a distinct lack of women involved in this subject: so here’s one of the biggest all-women groups soundtracking the blockbuster remake of the classic 70s TV show. This song – an instant earworm, for a start – is a blaze of female empowerment and strength, a suitable tribute to a show that put women in the forefront of a crime show on primetime TV, something that was very rare indeed in the 1970s.

/Lucie Jones and Seth Lakeman
/The Ballad of Midsomer County

Finally, a fictional ballad for a fictional detective show. My wife and I have been avid watchers of Midsomer Murders for some time – my wife a whole lot longer than me, too – and indeed during lockdown watched every single episode more than once, and prepared a whole lot of data that we must share sometime this year (we have such charts to show you).

Anyway, the cosy show is set in a fictional county on the fringes of the Chilterns, and sees DCI Barnaby investigating the suspiciously high murder rate in the county of Midsomer. In series 17 (from 2015), The Ballad of Midsomer County saw murderous goings-on around a folk music festival (mostly filmed in the gorgeous little village of Dorchester-on-Thames, and yes, we’ve been there), and they even got in a well-known folk singer to write and perform (with Lucie Jones) an appropriate folk song that would be key to the plot…

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