Dizzy Heights #49: Hot Dog, Jumping Frog, Albuquerque: Royals, Volume I

I make a mention, right away, that I hadn’t played every possible royal family title in a song, which was a complete lie. The first five songs cover them all. I had about 10 minutes to record those first two bits before it was time to pick up the girl at soccer practice. Mistakes were made.

Speaking of the girl, this was her idea. Every song references one royal family member or another (by title, not specific people), and the biggest surprise? How few songs there are with ‘princess’ in the title. I thought there would be tons of them. I had maybe four.

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debut this week. ABBA, Charli XCX (as a solo artist), The Dukes of Stratosphear, Jude, King, The Kings, Juice Newton, and wait, Neil Finn?!?!?! What? (This is actually his ninth time on the show, but his first as a solo artist.)

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #49: Songs about Days of the Week, Vol. I

“Sunday Sunday, here again, a walk in the park…”
“Monday, I could wait ’til Tuesday, if I make up my mind, Wednesday would be fine…”

I’ve been toying with this one for months. So many choices! Most in the titles, but some in the lyrics. Everyone likes referencing days of the week, although Thursday needs to fire its publicist, because virtually no one sings about Thursday.

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debut: Bay City Rollers, The Easybeats, Kenna, Morphine, The Pogues, and Soulwax.

Oh, and here’s the clip I reference at the very end.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #47: Don’t. Just…Don’t (“Don’t” Songs, Vol. I)

Here’s another Name That Tune idea carried over (I’m afraid to even look to see how many of the same songs I used). There are LOTS of songs that start with the word ‘Don’t,’ and even after doing this massive, two-hour show, I still have 220 songs in iTunes set aside for future volumes of this theme. That is not a typo.

Bands making their Dizzy Heights debut: The Alan Parsons Project, The Communards, David Byrne, Devo (WHAT), Elvis Presley, The Flirts, Hamilton, Joe Frank, & Reynolds (one guess), Husker Du, Kenny Loggins (with special guest), Jane Child, Los Lobos, Michael Jackson, Night Ranger, Paul Carrack, Phil Collins, and Wang Chung. Dang, that’s a lot of debuts.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #46: Never, Ever, Always, and Forever

The idea comes from an old joke that an ex-girlfriend made long ago: “We should never use the words ‘never,’ ‘ever,’ ‘always,’ or ‘forever’ when describing us.” She was not wrong, but from the ashes of that (spectacularly) failed relationship comes this show, and over half of my defunct Mope Like Me column, so at least something good came from it.

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debuts this week: The Assembly, The Association, Shirley Bassey, The Buzzcocks, Aretha Franklin, Deborah Harry & Iggy Pop, Raphael Saadiq, The Stranglers, Walter Meego, and my cat Harvey! He hops up at the 1:05:55 mark.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #45: The Alliteration Show

No talkie bits this week. First day of school for the kids, birthday celebrations, picking the boy up at camp, blah blah blah.

This idea is definitely a one-shot thing, at least in its current form. I went after song titles that were two words, each starting with the same letter. And I went A to Z, almost literally (with apologies to the letters Q and X). Of course, I broke my own rules twice, when I used a song with an ampersand (hey, it was the letter U, I got desperate), and in one instance, I used a title that was the same word twice, which is not alliteration but repetition (again, letter Y, got desperate).

Multiple people asked me to use “Disco Duck.” And believe me, I thought about it, then thought better of it.

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debut this week: Ben Folds (solo), Burning Sensations, Elvis Costello (WHAT), The Go-Betweens, The Go-Go’s, Guided by Voices, k.d. lang, The Kinks (this cannot be happening), Neurotic Outsiders, Stone Poneys, Tasmin Archer, and Tom Petty. Seriously, thank goodness for Tom Petty, or I don’t have a ‘Z’ song.

Bands coming back for another tour of duty: Basement Jaxx, Franz Ferdinand, The Housemartins, The Jezabels, Joe Jackson, Pet Shop Boys, Propaganda, The Rolling Stones, Squeeze, The Ting Tings, The Trashcan Sinatras, and Tribe. Speaking of Tribe, I pull a segue that my 1993 self would high-five.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #44: ‘Blue’ Songs, Vol. I

This was originally supposed to be one show featuring songs with colors in the title, but about 600 suggestions later, it was clear that the colors needed to be split up into their own shows, and even then there is enough material to do multiple shows of the primary colors, and maybe the secondary ones as well.

I chose to start with blue so I can play a song from Tom Bailey’s solo album Science Fiction that stabbed my inner lovestruck teenager in the heart. From there, I went, well, everywhere, but there is a thread of melancholy that goes nearly from start to finish. Blue is more than just a color, I guess.

Artists making their Dizzy Heights debut this week: Billy Idol (wait, what?), The Charlatans, David Gilmour, Electric Light Orchestra, Fine Young Cannibals, Gus, Michael Johnson, Peter Murphy, Real Life (wait, WHAT?), The Smithereens (I have no words), The Undertones, and Yaz (even fewer words).

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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CD Review: Tom Bailey, “Science Fiction”

The words ‘first album in two decades’ are normally, and rightfully, met with extreme trepidation. Songwriting is a sport, and those who don’t continuously hone their craft will lose their edge, and with that, their spot on the roster (the roster in this analogy being a radio station’s power rotation). Tom Bailey, former Thompson Twin and Babble member (the status of his electronic project International Observer is unclear), doesn’t care about the roster spot at this stage in his career; indeed, his new solo album Science Fiction (his debut solo album, if you can believe that) appears to exist solely for funsies, with the added benefit of giving Bailey new material to play when he goes out on tour.

And this new material will fit right in with Bailey’s back catalog in a live set, to the point where it’s tempting to imagine how different the Twins’ fortunes might have been if this album had come out in the place of the band’s critically maligned 1987 album Close to the Bone. It’s not only much better than that album – it’s arguably better than their previous, and last hit record, 1985’s Here’s to Future Days. It may lack the killer one-two punch of “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “King for a Day,” but not by much, and the remainder of the album is far more consistent.

The opening song (and title track) sets the tone up front. Bailey made the album on his laptop, and it has suitably modern-sounding instrumentation. The song’s chord structure, a variation on Into the Gap track “Sister of Mercy,” gives the song a new-but-familiar vibe. This is a note Bailey strikes several times throughout the album, splicing the essence of one of his older songs into a new composition. “Bring Back Yesterday” bears little resemblance to “King for a Day” until the chorus kicks in, and then Bailey’s vocal phrasing draws yet another line between past and present. (Bailey, for the record, doesn’t hear a similarity between the two. I can’t help but hear one.)

The album’s first single is “What Kind of World,” and in another world (think the one where this album actually did come out in 1987), it’s a Top 10 hit, possibly bigger.

All of Bailey’s songwriting weapons are on display here, from the casual theft of a ‘70s California staple, a la the Twins song “Lies” lifting the bass line to “Low Rider” (in this song’s case, the victim is Santana’s “Oye Como Va”) to the Alannah Currie-esque backing vocals in the second line of the chorus, to that gargantuan wordless hook in the third line of the chorus. “Whoa whoa-oooo-whooooooooa!” That is vintage, none-more-Bailey right there.

For a band that crashed the charts courtesy of the Big Pop Hit, though, some of the Thompson Twins’ finest moments are the darker, introspective songs, and Science Fiction has a couple of those as well. “Blue” is one of the most heartwrenching songs Bailey’s ever written, with a simple melancholy string line serving as the hook/dagger. This, paired with album closer “Come So Far,” gives the second side of Into the Gap a run for its money in terms of downbeat factor.

For all of Bailey’s accomplishments after having not written a pop song in 20+ years, though, there are times when the lyrical assistance of his ex-wife Currie is missed. Bailey’s lyrics aren’t terrible, but they’re terribly basic, missing that extra level of nuance that the best Twins tunes sported. “Diamond rings, and all those things / They never sparkle like your smile”? As simple (and sweet) as that line is, Science Fiction doesn’t have a moment like that. He seems more focused on getting through the lyrics, rather than coming up with a line that rivals its musical counterpart.

This would explain why there is a song called “Work All Day” (a lazy song title that should never be used again, ever), which features the refrain “Don’t tell me to hold your gun,” with the sound of a gun cocking as a percussive effect. If there’s a duff track here, it’s this one. It comes late in the album, though, and it’s followed by “Bring Back Yesterday” and “Come So Far,” which suggests that even Bailey knew that the listener’s palate needed to be cleansed when the song was over.

That Science Fiction is the work of a man who hasn’t even tried to write a pop song in 20 years is unthinkable. Many of Bailey’s ‘80s-era peers have been trying to write songs this good as far back as 1984, and here he is, 34 years later, besting them at the top of their game. They must be furious.

The Popdose Interview: Tom Bailey

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Dizzy Heights #42: With the Prepositions, Vol. I

Started this show late last Saturday after spending the entire day driving back home from Wisconsin. I only had a handful of song ideas. And then BOOM. The show was basically finished before I went to bed.

That has never happened before.

Today’s word class is the preposition! There are TONS of songs that start with them, and I’ve included 25 examples here. And I’m going to do something a little different. I’ve tried keeping my set lists secret, but I was asked to list the bands played, and that seemed harmless, so here we go.

Making their DH debut: Billy Squier, Fleetwood Mac, Green Day, INXS (wait, WHAT?!), Joseph Arthur, The Outfield, Propellerheads, Tin Machine, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Veruca Salt, and The War on Drugs.

Coming back for another tour of duty: Blur, The Boomtown Rats, Cheap Trick, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, The Divine Comedy, Kirsty MacColl, R.E.M., Robbie Williams, Roxy Music, Simple Minds, Sugarbomb, The Tubes, and Underworld.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Dizzy Heights #41: When You Think It’s All Over, It’s Not Over — Questions, Vol. I

Big, super-ultra-mega show this week, as there are scores of song titles that are also questions. And of course, what do I do but practically lead off with a song that I’ve already played. I keep a list of songs played to prevent this very thing from happening, but here we are.

I also also lucky enough to secure a couple of liners/bumpers/whatever those in the biz call them from Dizzy Heights-friendly artists. I’ll give you a hint: one of them, like Jim Kerr, is a fellow Scotsman.

Tons of artists making their DH debuts this week, including The Lonely Island, Jesus Jones, a (killer) brand new song from former Thompson Twin Tom Bailey, Zebra, The Three Degrees, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Tower of Power, Monaco, Love Spit Love, Ben Folds Five (wait, what?), Band of Horses, and Travis (wait, WHAT?).

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Album Review: Midge Ure, “Orchestrated”

Under normal circumstances, an artist re-recording songs from their past with an orchestra is a ‘last refuge of the scoundrel’ sort of move, a cynical attempt at giving the fans something “new” while barely lifting a finger. In the case of Midge Ure, Ultravox frontman and co-writer of Saint Bob Geldof’s Band Aid benefit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” the idea of an orchestral album isn’t a question of when, but rather why it took this long for it to happen. Ultravox’s music drips with melancholy – hell, they had a violinist in the band – making his entire catalog fair game for an orchestral album. The question then comes down to, “Well, shit, which songs do we choose?”

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