Peter's lockdown picks

Peter Bath lays down his lock-down listens

Peter Bath
26th May 2020
wikimedia commons user Raph_PH

I’ve finished all my exams so it’s officially summer, regardless of whether you’ve still got exams, it’s raining, or there’s a pandemic happening. As such, here are some groovy (and I don’t use the term “groovy” lightly) tunes I’ve been dancing round the kitchen to.

King Short Shirt – ‘Power & Authority’

There's nothing more summery than Calypso. The percussion driven groove is so busy and energetic that it makes you want to dance, but then it’s impossible to move your feet that quick so you get dizzy and sit down again.

The song is more than a simple dance tune though. King Short Shirt sings politically charged lyrics criticising the British colonisation of Antigua, like "prostituting the island to all and sundry, they're peddling my people dry", and the refrain "take it over, my friend." “Exploiting, oppressing, less freedom, more suffering. I wonder how we survive.” Like I say, a lot of fun.

David Byrne – ‘Miss America’

Another political toe-tapper. Part cheesy love song, part brassy Latin, with a 90s drum machine thrown in, David Byrne’s ability to make you dance and think at the same time is on show here.

Twenty years after King Short Shirt criticising British imperialism, 'Miss America' criticises America's foreign policy. The Latin style evokes the South American countries America has interfered with, while lines like “I’m not the only heart you’ve conquered” attack American imperialism in the guise of a love song. The video is also a brilliant send up of 90s pop videos, which I suppose is very 90s in itself.

Nina Simone – ‘Suzanne’

Leonard Cohen’s original is one of my favourite songs, but Nina Simone takes it to another level. Her voice gives depth to the poetry, but the main thing she adds is – the theme of today’s list – groove. The light, pushing percussion, the incessant rhythm guitar, and Simone’s repeated, rising piano part create a groove which would have Tom Moore dancing round his garden. Blissful, Euphoric, words like that.

The Meters – ‘Wichita Lineman’

“Is still on the liiiiiiiiiiiiiiine…” Glen Campbell’s original is so classic that it’s easily overlooked, but this cover by 70s funk band The Meters pumps it full of cool. I only discovered this recently and still haven’t entirely wrapped my head around it. Most of the song is laid-back and soulful, but occasionally the bass and drums kick in double time. The guitar solo is an amazing explosion of funkiness and testament to the fact that solos which just play the tune are all anyone needs.

Talking Heads – ‘Nothing but Flowers’

Only David Byrne could write a song about how nature is pretty good but also so is Pizza Hut, and make it great. Underneath Byrne yelping on about 7-Elevens, the bass, percussion and Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar weave in and out of each other to a very danceable effect. Even while you flail about embarrassingly, trapped in lockdown with your family, with this song you can feel safe in the knowledge that you are, indeed, one of the cool kids.

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