Perfect Packet of Three : Fruit

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Right then health freaks, here are three of your recommended five a day.

The Lemon Song – Led Zeppelin

The third track on the 1969 album Led Zeppelin II, ‘The Lemon Song’ starts with the crash of a gong and a couple of bars of Jimmy Page’s ascending guitar riff before the bass and drums join in on the act. As a rhythm section John Paul Jones and John Bonham were always a force to be reckoned with, but Jones outdoes himself on this song. His beautiful fluid lines manage to weave elaborate textures whilst still doing the essential job of holding the whole thing down; it’s just incredible.

 “I could have quit you, long time ago”, brags Robert Plant on the opening line. The fact that this is the same opening line to the 1964 blues classic ‘Killing Floor’ by Howlin’ Wolf is no coincidence. A kind critic may suggest that Led Zep started playing ‘Killing Floor’ in their early live sets, applied their own unique twist on it, recorded it, and then ‘forgot’ to credit Wolf (real name Chester Burnett) for royalties. A harsh critic may suggest that they just nicked it (like so many white musicians did with black music). Either way, The publishers of ‘Killing Floor’ took legal action in the early seventies, an out of court settlement was made and Burnett’s name was added to the writing credits.

After the first verse the song goes into double time with Burnett’s original riff, where Page applies one of his trademark messy, yet effective, solos. After things slow down again for the second verse there is a glorious breakdown where Bonham shows he can actually play quietly sometimes. Page scratches and bends his way about the fretboard whilst Jones gives us a sublime tour de force lesson in how to play the bass. This is the part where the immortal line from which the song came (as it were…). “Squeeze me baby, ’till the juice runs down my leg. The way you squeeze my lemon, I’m gonna fall right out of bed.”

‘Nuff said.

‘Peaches’ – The Stranglers

Like the last song, ‘Peaches’ features a fruit-related anatomical reference and an awesome bassline. Released in the ‘Summer of Punk’ of 1977, this slice of lecherous, lewd genius was banned by several radio stations (including the BBC) for its rude words (ooh, he said ‘shit’!) and sexual theme.

Setting the mood from the off is JJ Burnel’s menacing, growling bassline (probably one of the most recognisable bass intros in history) sounding like a low frequency sexual predator. Dave Greenfiield’s organ then follows the bass like a partner in crime, with Jet Black’s loping beats giving a well needed laid back counterpoint to proceedings. Singer Hugh Cornwell takes up the role of a leering voyeur, prowling the beach, checking out all the bikini-clad women in a sort of pre-Loaded laddish monologue. “Walking on the beaches looking at the peaches”.

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

‘Blueberry Hill’ was written in 1940 and recorded by a whole host of artists including Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong. It was Fats Domino’s version in 1956 which popularised the song, selling over 5 million copies between 1956 and 1957. His boogie woogie piano style with it’s characteristic left hand bass figure was a big influence on many artists, not least Lennon and McCartney, who recorded and performed many of his songs pre and post Beatles. McCartney reportedly wrote ‘Lady Madonna’ for The Beatles as a tribute to Domino -listen to the left hand piano riff in this song and you can hear the connection.

Leon Wilson

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With a Little Help From My Friends: RIP Joe Cocker

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With the recent sad passing of Joe Cocker I came across his version of The Beatles’ ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ on the radio the other day.

Like most of my generation I first heard this track as the theme song from the tv show The Wonder Years. It has such amazing energy and knocks the original into a cocked hat.

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with ‘the Ringo song’ on a Beatles album. It was always a bit ‘here’s one Ringo can sing for the kids’.

It took Joe Cocker to realise the full potential of the song (it’s a Lennon/McCartney composition dammit – there was always a great song in there). He certainly did get some help from one of his friends with Jimmy Page playing guitar on the track.

The use of dynamics on Cockers version are amazing. The song starts off with a soft church-like noodlings by Tommy Eyre on the organ which are rudely interrupted by the rest of the band as they bang out the chorus chords with Page hitting some unison bends. This quietens down again to Cocker, accompanied by the organ and Chris Stainton’s persistent bass, asking us what we would do if he sang out of tune (you go right ahead Joe, I could listen to that gravelly voice all day, even if it was out of key). Drummer BJ Wilson then executes a fill which is exquisite in its power and simplicity to bring in the chorus (I defy anyone not to play air drums to that bit) and ramp up the volume. The female backing singers hold down the main melody whilst Cocker rasps and rants his way through the choruses (no doubt with arms spasming like a malfunctioning windmill to boot).

On the bridge section the girls ask Joe if he needs anybody. The first time he tells them he “just needs somebody to love”. The second time they ask him, he lets rip with a guttural, throaty roar which bends the needles on the VU meters. We’ll take that as a yes.

RIP Joe.

 

Leon Wilson