2011 Song of the Year Candidate #1: Duran Duran, “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”

Welcome to a new column here at ESDMusic, which I created for the sole purpose of talking about new songs that make me giddy. First up: my boys from Birmingham, Duran Duran.

Last time we heard from Duran, they were, well, royally pissing me off. They had just shelved an album that was reportedly a harder-edged back-to-basics affair, modeled after the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party, two bands that Duran bassist John Taylor loved. Why would they do such a thing, you ask? Because Andy Taylor had left the band, again, because the band expressed interest in adding one more song to the album…featuring Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Now, I can see where a guy like Justin might appeal to them, but Timbaland? Really? Do they know what he does to the people he produces? He makes sure they all sound like him. You will use this drum machine; you will use this keyboard sound. And you will let him say “wicky wicky” at some point. Is there any place for that on a Duran album? Answer: no, and Andy knew it, so he bailed.


So the band started over from scratch, using the Timbaland collaboration not as a one-off but as a starting point (!). The end result: Red Carpet Massacre, where Duran Duran traded in their identity for one last attempt to remain relevant to the pop charts. The single stiffed, the label dropped them, and Duran went about making things right by doing what I’ve been wanting them to do since 2007: work with Mark Ronson. The band’s new album, All You Need Is Now, released on their own Skin Divers label – a curious name, considering it’s the name of the failed Timbaland collaboration – is the most traditional-sounding Duran Duran album since Seven and the Ragged Tiger (and is actually better than Tiger). And tucked away in the album’s back half is one of the best songs they’ve ever done.

“The Man Who Stole a Leopard”… Jesus, what do you say about this? It builds slowly, a la “The Chauffeur,” and features this gorgeous call-and-response vocal from Kelis that borders on haunting. The lyrics, based on an idea of John and Nick’s (and inspired by the 1965 Terence Stamp movie “The Collector”), tell the tale of a man who, you guessed it, kept a leopard in his apartment, and how his obsession with said creature fulfilled him like nothing else, but also led to his undoing. Ronson tones down the drum tracks some, making for one of those melancholy dance tracks along the lines of “Enjoy the Silence” or “Unfinished Sympathy.” With a run time of over six minutes, “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” is not likely to be among the songs chosen for release as a single, but you can bet that it will – and if the YouTube comments are any indication, already has – become a fan favorite. Give the video one listen, and see if you’re not running to the iTunes store seconds later.

Deep Cuts: The Clash

(Written by Una Persson)

For a band that was together for only 10 years, The Clash looms large in rock music history. They were one of the most successful bands to come out of the original wave of British punk rock in the late ‘70s, stand as icons for the entire punk rock movement (along with the Sex Pistols, of course), and, unlike most of their punk peers, could actually play their instruments. They also eschewed the nihilism and anarchy of many of their contemporaries for a more politicized, highly charged left-wing lyrical and ideological stance. Their seminal London Calling makes rock critics and Top Whatever list makers swoon. They only struck gold in America toward the end, with “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah,” but from the outset, The Clash infused their brand of punk with a variety of other musical styles, from ska, reggae and dub to rockabilly, jazz, dance and anything else they thought would fit their punky musical stew. In fact, this edition of Deep Cuts takes a deep dive into one of those musical styles: The Clash, reggae-stylee.

“Police & Thieves” – The Clash
Junior Murvin and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s mid-‘70s international club hit was recorded almost as an afterthought when The Clash were recording their first album (the band used to fool around with it in rehearsals), but it stands as one of the first instances of a rock band integrating reggae into their mix (the very first being Eric Clapton’s version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1974). Lots of first-wave British punks loved reggae and dub; The Clash were one of the few bands who actually incorporated it into their repertoire (one of the few bands of that era that had the musical chops to pull it off, most likely).

“(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” – The Clash
First released as a single, and only included on the US version of The Clash’s debut album, Joe Strummer’s commentary on multi-culturalism, violence, race relations, class distinctions and other state-of-Britain affairs showed the band to be already head-and-shoulders above their punk brethren both musically and politically. The slow reggae burn throughout most of the song is decidedly different fodder than their early fans had already gotten used to from the band.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope
A decent album, not their worst (Cut the Crap holds that distinction) but far from their best, marred as it is with heavy-handed production and mixing. But, sorry, nothing even remotely reggae-sounding on any of the tracks.

“Wrong ‘Em Boyo” – London Calling
A revisiting of the Stagger Lee myth set to a rollicking ska beat.

“The Guns of Brixton” – London Calling
A sick dread skank, and the band’s first real experiment with dub (a reggae offshoot that overemphasizes the bass and drums, and blends in myriad other sounds and production and engineering techniques not part of a reggae song that evinces punk’s political violence.

To view the rest of the Clash deep cuts, click here.

Deep Cuts – Paul McCartney

If you’re Paul McCartney, you’ve had a lot of albums and singles released under your name. Many of these have been worldwide hits, no doubt. But you’ve also found the time to put things out that weren’t released as singles or just became little bits of treasure to certain circles of fans. If you’re Paul McCartney, you can continue to do these types of things, as you have tons of money and at this point in your career it doesn’t matter at all if you get back on the charts. Your fans are there and they will embrace something of yours out there somewhere. Luckily, though, you happen to have some tasty non-chart topping album cuts that are worth discussing. If you’re Paul McCartney, we’re going to be discussing those bits right now. If you’re not, just read, learn, and enjoy it all just as well. As Clint Harrigan (whoever the hell that was) said in the liner notes on the back of the first Wings album, “Can you dig it?”

Check out the full run of Macca’s Deep Cuts after the jump.

Deep Cuts: Soundtracks

There was a time when the soundtrack ruled, dude. Bands would actually beg their managers to get them on the soundtrack to a hit movie. By the mid-‘90s, however, the tables had turned; bands would hold out for more money before they agreed to have their song appear on a soundtrack, since the bands figured that putting their next big hit on some nameless soundtrack would cost them untold thousands of copies sold of their next record. The labels wouldn’t pay, the bands kept the songs for themselves, and boom, the soundtrack was dead, just like that.

This list is a tribute to one writer’s favorite songs from his favorite soundtracks. The rules for what made a soundtrack Deep Cut were simple: it can’t have been released as a single and, in an effort to keep the pool of eligible songs somewhat reasonable, it can’t have been written for the movie in question. The beauty of a list like this is that it’s open to interpretation, so expect sequel after sequel of this list to appear in the near future. But for now, Mr. Brit Pop is in charge, and he’s taking names. Tom Hanks, please step forward….

“Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Boys,” Angel & the Reruns (“Bachelor Party”)
Any fan of the Waitresses will love this sax-filled New Waver. When explaining why bad boys like good girls, the answer, of course, is “he must want to be the first / To make her little bubble burst / Shock her with his attitudes / Get her hooked on beer and ‘ludes / Make her parents think she’s nuts / And all her friends will hate her guts.” Absolutely of its time, which is what makes the song so awesome.

“All the Young Dudes,” World Party (“Clueless”)
When Karl Wallinger decides to cover something, he is not one to stray too far from a song’s original arrangement – his version of “Penny Lane” is nearly note-for-note – and that’s a good thing. A World Party cover version is less about a radical reinterpretation, like our good friend Carmel did with the previous entry, and more about how incredibly cool Wallinger’s voice sounds singing, well, anything. Bullz-Eye associate editor Will Harris saw World Party cover “A Day in the Life” at a show once. I think I hate him.

“Kelly Watch the Stars (Moog Cookbook remix),” Air (“Splendor”)
No, I had never heard of the movie “Splendor” either, but when I saw its soundtrack in a bargain bin and read the track listing, it was the “Yoink!” heard ‘round the world. The general premise is that it features new remixes to various UK artists, along with a few assorted B-sides and single edits. What those pranksters known as the Moog Cookbook did to Air’s mellow jam “Kelly Watch the Stars” is hard to put into words, but I’m pretty sure that George Clinton has had made sweet, sweet love while this was playing in the background, if that helps.

“Papua New Guinea,” Future Sound of London (“Cool World”)
Much like “Until the End of the World,” the soundtrack for “Cool World” was received far better than the movie it represented. Look at that track listing: David Bowie produced again by Nile Rodgers, Electronic with Neil Tennant singing lead, the Cult produced again by Rick Rubin, Moby getting his first major label exposure, and Ministry just beating the snot out of everything in sight. In between all of these bands was a pair of British unknowns who turned a Dead Can Dance sample into something that could both pack a dance floor and seduce your girlfriend. Trust me, Brad Pitt would want you to remember it this way.

To view the rest of the list, click here.

Deep Cuts: Stone Temple Pilots

Written by Bill Clark

Stone Temple Pilots are one of those bands for whom, in hindsight, it’s easy to wonder how they did as well as they did, given the music scene at the time. 1992’s Core landed right smack in the middle of the grunge era, but STP’s sound from the get-go veered more towards hard rock – and fairly catchy hard rock at that. The band always wore its influences on its sleeve; from the Beatles to the Doors to the blues. They were a multi-faceted band, and one that can be even more appreciated when you dig deeper than the 15 Top Ten singles they released during their career. They may not have always been the most original band, but they were immensely talented musicians and performers. The following list is in chronological order and covers all five studio albums.

“Dead & Bloated” – Core
If ever there was a song to start off and set the tone for a debut album, this is it. Beginning with vocalist Scott Weiland singing “I am smelling like a rose that somebody gave me / Cause I’m dead and bloated,” the tune shoots into a heavy verse and soaring chorus. It’s an excellent audio personification of STP’s early days.

“Sin” – Core
Trapped between radio hits “Wicked Garden” and “Creep” is “Sin,” one of the most underrated STP tunes out there. It has the kind of intro that leaves you baffled as to where it’s headed, but soon enough it dives into a signature STP verse and an excellent low-end chorus. The acoustic interlude and subsequent explosive guitar solo is a treat that would pave the way for STP’s musical growth.

“Piece of Pie” – Core
Now here’s one rockin’ tune. Guitarists (and brothers) Robert and Dean DeLeo drive this monster home with every palm-muted chord, and Weiland’s expansive vocals compliment it to perfection.

“Meat Plow” – Purple
Talk about another killer opening track. The monstrous opening riff eventually molds with the chorus’ slide guitar (a method STP would go on to use liberally) seamlessly. This is down-and-dirty STP.

To view the rest of the list, click here.

Ruby Tuesday: Freiheit, “Tears Are A Girl’s Best Friend”

Back in 1989, when Cameron Crowe rounded up John Cusack, Ione Skye, and John Mahoney and produced one of the greatest teen romances of all time (duh, of course we’re talking about “Say Anything…”), he also found time to compose a rather memorable soundtrack as well. The film’s money shot, of course, belonged to Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” but songs from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Replacements were used to great effect as well. Hiding way, way at the end of the soundtrack album, however, was a song that I fell in love with about as hard and fast as anything I’d heard in awhile: “Keeping the Dream Alive,” by Freiheit…or, as they’re more commonly known in their native Germany, Münchener Freiheit.

I didn’t know the first thing about Freiheit when I discovered “Keeping the Dream Alive,” but, damn, that song was such a gorgeous, sweeping ballad of ELO-sized proportions that I immediately knew that I’d have to seek out more of their material. As it happens, there wasn’t anything else to seek out…well, not in the U.S., anyway. Not long after, however, the band’s debut American release, Fantasy, found its way onto shelves and, almost immediately thereafter, into my collection. To this day, I’m still surprised that it never scored much in the way of success; it’s a highly enjoyable pop album that owes as much to Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as it does Jeff Lynne. The only real explanation I’ve ever come up with is that it’s a bit heavier on synths and electronic drum beats than the kids were listening to at the time, but it still features heavily in my regular playlist even in 2007.

Unfortunately, Fantasy remains out of print in the U.S., and since that was the only Stateside release of the band’s career, Freiheit’s profile remains woefully low on our shores. Even the usually helpful All Music Guide gives them short shrift, with the bio in their entry simply reading, “This German band (orig. Munchener Freiheit) played power-pop music from 1982 to 1988.” That’s it. Talk about your inglorious retrospectives!

If you’re curious about the band, there are several import best-of collections available via Amazon, but you should be prepared to find them almost completely free of English-sung material. If you don’t speak German as fluently as the members of Freiheit, however, here’s a song from Fantasy that you might appreciate a bit more:

Freiheit – Tears Are A Girl’s Best Friend

Deep Cuts – The Cure

The Cure is one of those groups that seems to split its own fans right down the middle. Do you like the melancholy and gloomy side of Robert Smith’s creativity, or are you one of the listeners who enjoys his more accessible and pop-friendly work? Sometimes you can certainly like both, but there are definitely those fans who are deeply into albums like Pornography and Bloodflowers, two major works by the band that can often be impenetrable at times. As for this writer, I have to admit I’ve always enjoyed the poppier side of the Cure. Not that this collection of the band’s deep cuts won’t include some of the darker shades Smith has offered to his legions, but overall I’m one of those people that enjoys the Cure more when it isn’t all about the despair. Of course, I’m also 34 and don’t have that young angst to wade through anymore. Still, Robert Smith is older than that, and he can’t seem to give up the ghost at all. Ah well, here are the Cure’s deep cuts for your speculation. Note that I’ve avoided the density of the Join the Dots box set — as that’s one massive Deep Cuts collection in itself — and have just mainly stuck to the original albums, a couple singles and an EP.

“Plastic Passion” – Boys Don’t Cry
We’re working with the US debut album here, because frankly it’s better than Three Imaginary Boys. It was refitted with both A and B single sides and chopped out other stuff that dragged down the UK debut. “Plastic Passion” finds the Cure sounding positively New Wave unlike they ever had before or since. For that reason alone, you should enjoy this song. It also appears on the Join the Dots box set if you want to pay premium for it.

See the rest of the Cure’s Deep Cuts here.

Deep Cuts: Morrissey & The Smiths

They doth call him the Pope of Mope, and it’s a title he’s earned a hundred times over…and then some. Whilst fronting the Smiths in the mid-1980s, Morrissey quickly became known as the poster child for all those lonely teenagers who craved love and acceptance but were finding it hard to come by, and when the Manchester four-piece broke up in 1987, the majority of those morose music fans followed Mozzer to his solo career, where he further trumpeted his woe-is-me mentality. (C’mon, now: it’s such a hallmark of his work that even he makes fun of it sometimes!) Morrissey’s recording career has spanned almost 25 years, and although he’s been a staple of the UK charts – and of US college radio – for the majority of that time, there are plenty of his songs, both solo and with the Smiths, that can be readily classified as Deep Cuts.

A few samples…

“Work is a Four Letter Word,” The Smiths – Just Say Yes: Sire’s Winter CD Music Sampler

Does anyone else remember these great compilations that Sire Records used to release? They were awesome, particularly this first volume, which is as good a one-stop lesson on modern rock circa 1987 as you’re likely to find. In addition to tracks by Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Ramones, and the Replacements, you’ll find the Smiths covering Cilla Black. Johnny Marr declared the recording of the song to be “the last straw” — and given that it was recorded during what would prove to be the Smiths’ final session, that’s apparently exactly what it was.

“Get Off the Stage,” Morrissey – Piccadilly Palare single

While it’s not exactly the albatross about Morrissey’s neck that the line “hope I die before I get old” is for the Who, you can understand why this goofy but fun diatribe aimed at aging rockers with limited musical palates isn’t pulled out more often. It’s a little risky for a man which such a recognizable sound to be crooning, “And the song that you just sang / It sounds exactly like the last one / And the next one / I bet you it will sound / Like this one.”

“Sorrow Will Come in the End,” Morrissey – Maladjusted

Yikes, dude! Bitter much? Essentially a spoken word piece, with Mozzer launching into a tirade against the results of a royalties battle with his former Smiths bandmate, Mike Joyce. “A man who slits throats has time on his hands,” sneers Moz, “and I’m gonna get you!” It’s so over the top that it’s a laugh — but not as funny as Joyce’s scoffing response to the lyrical threatening: “If Lemmy had written it, I might be concerned.” Ouch!

Check out the whole piece here, then stop back by and offer your opinions and / or alternate suggestions for the list!

Flashback Friday #1 – Greetings To The New Feature

No one asked for it, but here it is, anyway: a new feature on ESDMusic which, hopefully, will become a regular reason for you to visit the site…provided, of course, that we can come up with enough material to maintain it. But, frankly, when you hear the premise, I think you’ll agree that with all of the music geeks we’ve got around here, that shouldn’t be an issue…

Borrowing on the same general concept as Bullz-Eye’s Mix Disc Monday, Flashback Friday will allow our writers to venture into the depths of their possibly-embarrassing personal histories by pulling out old mix tapes and writing about them. In theory, this should reveal a lot about where we were musically at the time we made the tapes; in reality, however, it may just indicate how limited our budget was at the time…or, at least, that’s what this tape of mine shows.

That’s right, as the person who came up with this idea, it’s only fair that I get the ball rolling, and lemme tell ya: I was attending Averett College in Danville, VA (go, Cougars!), and it was a real rarity for me to buy anything that wasn’t on its second or third markdown in the cut-out bin…and, believe me, you can tell.

Title: Greetings from Averett, Vol. 2
Date of creation: late March 1991 (approximate)

Side 1:

“Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner,” John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra (Star Wars: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I’ve always been of the mind that every mix needs to start off with something witty, clever, funny, or just, y’know, something memorable. Given that this was 1991 and we were on what would turn out to be a 16-year drought between new “Star Wars” films, beginning the tape with the familiar main titles from the original flick – now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope” – certainly qualified. Unfortunately, the title theme segues directly into another track, ”Rebel Blockade Runner,” and as a result, the whole thing ends up going on longer than most normal people would ever maintain interest. I mean, I love that soundtrack, and even *I* started to get bored. By the way, while I’ve attributed this to the actual “Star Wars” soundtrack, given my budget, I have to believe that this was much more likely taken from an el-cheapo recording done by, say, the Generic Philharmonic Orchestra…which means it’s almost certainly not John Williams conducting but, probably, his non-union Mexican equivalent. (Juan Williams?)

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. (Out of Time)

This is the track on Side 1 which most definitively dates the tape for me. As noted, I was a man with limited funds, and most of my purchases were CDs and cassettes that I’d rescued from the cut-out bin at the record chain in the local mall, but I sucked it up and bought Out of Time on its first day of release. I still remember writing a review for the Averett College newspaper, The Chanticleer, and declaring that this song’s lyrics sounded like a parody of the band’s style. (“I think I thought I saw you try” is the one that leaps immediately to mind.) I must’ve made this tape within a day or two of the album’s release and only known this song; otherwise, I almost certainly would’ve put “Texarkana,” “Near Wild Heaven,” or “Shiny Happy People” on here instead.

“This Is the World Calling,” Bob Geldof (Deep in the Heart of Nowhere)

Wow, did this album get reamed when it was first released. I’m sure Bob didn’t expect much else, though; after you’ve been held up as the pop star who fed the world, you ought to know that the press is going to tear your next LP a new center hole. Yeah, that’s right, Geldof’s fallible. So what? And, anyway, Deep in the Heart of Nowhere wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said; it just wasn’t as good as, say, your average Boomtown Rats album. I still say the first half of the album is pretty damned good, and this song, which leads off the record, is definitely a highlight.

Read the rest of this entry »

Deep Cuts: Squeeze, “Love Circles”

Inspired by the ever-interesting Jefitoblog, which has been offering up a lot of love to Squeeze lately (including the first half of his Idiot’s Guide to the band as well as some hard-to-find live MP3s), I thought I’d similarly pay tribute to one of my favorite songs by the band, taken from one of their criminally overlooked albums.

Frank was released in 1989 to a fair amount of critical acclaim, but precious little of that translated into sales for the band. After staging an unexpected commercial comeback with 1987′s Babylon and On, an album which produced two top-40 hits for the band (“Hourglass” and “853-5937″), it was actually rather shocking that Frank didn’t sell very well, but my theory has always been that the band’s label – A&M – had decided to ignore top-40 radio for the album and instead focus on Billboard’s latest and greatest chart: Modern Rock. It made a certain amount of sense, given that Squeeze had always been more college-radio darlings than a full-fledged mainstream success, but, still, to go from having 2 top-40 hits to being dropped by your label altogether within the span of two years…? Somebody screwed up somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t Squeeze.

There are, unfortunately, a lot of great tracks to pick from when it comes to spotlighting the unheralded numbers from Frank, including the Jools Holland piano stomper, “Dr. Jazz,” and Glenn Tilbrook’s ode to a woman’s time of the month (“She Doesn’t Have To Shave”), but my favorite has always been “Love Circles,” which offers Chris Difford the vocal spotlight yet still provides some downright fantabulous harmonies for the chorus. It was released as a single, but it did precisely diddley…but, thanks to the aforementioned Jefitoblog, you can check out the song here.

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