The Who – My Generation  

What the hell happened in the UK in the early 60s? The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, all the wonderful bands me and my friends would read about each month in Beat Instrumental. The song has proved effective over several generations. When my son and I heard the first few bars of this 3 minute symphony coming from another room this evening we agreed with a nod: it's perfection. How did those Shepherds Bush wide boys (and Mickey Most) come up with that brilliant bass-led arrangement which still excites? Never mind. It was a rhetorical question. I find this is a good song to have on when I'm working on something big and loose, it's too exciting for concentrated small-scale filigree work.

Ry Cooder – Farm Girl  

A song that is fine for concentrated small-scale filigree work is 'Farm Girl' by Ry Cooder. A song of unsentimental tenderness off the album, 'My Name is Buddy' - a 'concept album' in which a hobo cat and mouse team up during the Depression and in the course of their adventures manage to effectively and movingly dramatize the plight, defiance and dignity of the working class. And the versatility and depth of what Cooder calls 'American vernacular music'. No mean feat.

Karen Mantler – My Cat Arnold Is Dead  

I've had the pleasure of working with Karen Mantler a few times over the years. One of the most original composer/instrumentalist/singers around, Karen confounds notions of 'insider' and 'outsider'- the daughter of Carla Bley and Mike Mantler, she flies like them beneath or over the radar of what's commercial or fashionable or even definable. I like working to her song 'My Cat Arnold is Dead'.

Soft Machine – Moon In June  

Robert Wyatt digs Karen too. Robert's opus 'Moon in June' blew my mind circa 1969 and was a big influence on Slapp Happy and Henry Cow- bands I was involved with subsequently. I still love this sprawling cellular song- if 'song' is the right term for it. The version I know is the one which took up an entire side of Soft Machine's 'Third' (a long song like this is good for working to, you can really settle into it)- Jimi Hendrix dug this song too, I believe...

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Red House  

If this is administered to me through headphones soon after I've croaked, methinks it might rekindle me. I use it to recharge when energy is flagging, working all night with a deadline the next day.

Nina Simone – I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl  

Her piano playing and voice kill me on this. Its grace is almost Mozartian. And how poignantly she moans "I want some steam on my clothes"...

Billie Holiday – I Must Have That Man  

Lady Day at her youthful peak, transforming what would a minor ditty into a masterpiece. A minor ditty with some great lyrics, though...
I'm like an oven that's crying for heat,
he treats me awful each time that we meet.
It's just unlawful how that boy can cheat.
I must have that man.

Lester 'Nijinsky of the saxophone' Young's solo is a GMM (Great Moment in Music).

Nick Lowe – I'm a Mess  

A corrective (the hangover?) to the boastful swagger of Muddy Waters' 'I'm a Man', 'I'm a Mess' lifts the mask from masculine. Exposed, aired with such unsparing grace, the mess beneath is maybe understood and forgiven- redeemed. It isn't a funny song, that would be too simple, though every line provokes a smile. It doesn't seek to validate failure, exactly, but it dares to suggest that being a mess is not incompatible with dignity, soul, poetry, a nobility of spirit, an aristocracy of hurt.

Uncle Earl – There Is A Time  

Wonderful all female blue-grass group. I love the slow sad songs best, titles like 'Sleepy Desert', 'Warfare' and especially 'There is a Time'.

Nick Cave – Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow  

Hair raising, energizing, simultaneously comic and tragic, sacral and nihilistic. Do I detect the influence of Edward Gorey's 'The Gashleycrumb Tinies' on the opening verse?
Where is Mona?
She's long gone
Where is Mary?
She's taken her along
But they haven't put their mittens on
And there's fifteen feet
of pure white snow?
Oh my Lord!
And the message/moral is hard to fault:
Save yourself.

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