Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Talking Happy Talk

A long time ago, we outlined the top 10 sad songs of all time here on Ruffhousing. However, while we all enjoy opening our wrists up every now and then, life can also give us much to smile about. Imagine, for example, the faces of George Lamb's parents upon wandering into their back garden one blustery Spring morning to find their son's freshly slaughtered carcass being clumsily raped by a one-eyed fox. Now feel that big toothy grin pulling your cheeks apart! Listen to the laughter tumbling out! Unfortunately, however, moments like this are few, far between and – in this case – fictional. So, in an attempt to peel back misery's vast inky cloak and slap some joy onto his moany torso, we present to you the Ruffhousing top 10 happy songs of all time, in no particular order.

1. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Frownland

“My smile is stuck”, growls Beefheart, “I cannot go back to your Frownland”. And do you know what? I don't think he ever did.

2. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Up Above My Head

Things would have to be pretty bad for this song not to make you feel like nothing could ever be that bad. Look at Sister Rosetta Tharpe: the fact that someone so brilliant once existed on this planet is surely the only sensible reason for believing there is or ever has been a God. You'd have thought the director of this video would have told the choir to cheer up a bit though, wouldn't you?

3. Funkadelic – I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody's Got A Thing

If you possess a human soul, one listen to this song should send you pirouetting madly down a wild, gushing river of happy, while George and Bootsy fire technicolour joy bullets at you from their neon dinghy.

4. Shonen Knife – Cycling Is Fun

Shonen Knife are a bouncy little Japanese band. You might think that sounds patronising, and you'd be right. It does. However, you'd be hard pressed to describe 'Cycling Is Fun' as anything other than bouncy and little. It's childish and child-like and littered with bike bells. The original track is not available on YouTube, so we'll have to make do with this slightly odd video and slowed-down version of the song itself.

5. Marcia Griffiths – Feel Like Jumping

There is no better goodtimes song than this one.

6. Jonathan Richman – I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar

Richman featured in our Top 10 Sad Songs, but he's much more at home here among the sunshine and the chuckling. 'I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar' gets our vote here, but there are many others in his canon that could have made the cut: 'Springtime', 'The New Teller' and 'Lydia', being the most obvious.

7. Josephine Baker – Blue Skies

“Blue skies, smiling at me/Nothing but blue skies, do I see”. This song is what being in a cartoon must be like. A kids' cartoon from the 1950s; not American Dad or something.

8. Professor Longhair – Tipitina

If you've ever wondered where Tom Waits got his drunken, fragmented piano technique from (and let's face, you probably haven't), then wonder no longer. 'Tipitina' is so wonderful and carefree and the Professor sings like no-one's ever told him about diction or tune or how most people tend to use actual words in their lyrics. You really can't fuck with New Orleans.

9. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – We Were Wrong

If you can manage to remain stony-faced while listening to this, then you clearly consider yourself too cool to smile. What sort of person thinks they're "too cool" to smile? You, that's who.

10. Devo – Peek-A-Boo

Again, many, many Devo tracks could have featured here. However, for sheer blissful jump-up-and-down-and-make-a-fool-of-yourselfness, 'Peek-A-Boo' muscled the others right out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can you judge a reggae album by its cover?

I recently bought two reggae albums purely on the strength of their front cover artwork. But is the old saying true? Is it really foolhardy to judge a book (or CD) by its cover? Let's find out!

1. Ranking Ann - Something Fishy Going On (£2 from Record & Tape Exchange, Soho)

So what's all this about, then? Well, let's break down the scene. Ranking Ann - a keen angler - is out on a fishing trip. Having baited her hook and cast her line, she waits patiently for a bite from an easily-duped mackerel or gullible cod. However, when she finally feels a tug at the end of her rod, she soon realises it's not a fish that's doing the tugging. Oh no. It's a bloody submarine! She's pulled up a bloody nuclear sub! As the vessel's bow penetrates the ocean's murky lid, all hell breaks loose. Torpedoes topple from the heavens like giant cylindrical raindrops; dark grey mushroom clouds explode on the horizon; great white sharks emerge from the depths in a surprisingly well-choreographed chorus line. It's at this precise moment that Ann decides "something fishy" is definitely "going on".

Understandably angered and confused by the day's events, she returns immediately to her studio in order to create an unflinchingly political reggae record. "Me hear a whisper inna Westminster", she claims on the title track, "Lord dem ah chat bout nuclear war".

However, despite this initial dalliance with Cold War rhetoric, in addition to the clear political agenda hinted at by the cover, there's actually very little revolutionary content on 'Something Fishy Going On'. In fact, Ann spends most of the album either rhythmically spelling her own name (on 'Call Me Ranking Ann') or bewailng the over-zealous sexual advances of today's disco-dwelling males (on 'Stop Romance Inna Dance').

So, there you have it. If 'Something Fishy Going On' is anything to go by, you CANNOT judge a reggae album by its cover. Here's 'Stop Romance Inna Dance' for your listening pleasure:

NB. It's also worth mentioning, as you can see from this link, that the flute parts on 'Something Fishy Going On' were performed by one Kate (Katie?) Holmes. Could this be the same Katie (Kate?) Holmes who won our hearts as Joey Potter, the attractive tomboy-next-door in 'Dawson's Creek', before wedding a diminutive cocktail-shaking Scientologist? Maybe. But - let's face it - probably not.

2. Professor Frisky - Rougher (£0.99 from Christmas Bargain Warehouse Sale, Leicester Square)

While there may be more action on the front of Ranking Ann's cover, Frisky's artwork is certainly no less amusing. Indeed, the name 'Professor Frisky' is in itself inherently comedic. The idea of a man who is so frisky that he's actually gained a qualification permitting him to deliver lectures on friskiness, is quite clearly a very funny one.

Anyway, listening to 'Rougher', we find once again that both the title and cover of this album are wholly misleading. While Frisky certainly looks the part of the ladykilling 'badman' in the picture above, many of the songs on this record are, in fact, of a deeply spiritual (and therefore not particularly 'rough') nature. 'God Alone' finds the Professor hammering home the importance of the Almighty in all our lives, reminding us - in case we've forgotten - that the Big Man Upstairs created "all the animals like you and me: cows, goats, horse and donkey". While his knowledge of the animal kingdom clearly doesn't extend much beyond the British farmyard, you have to admit that Frisky has a point here. Conversely, on 'Jah Is Not Sleeping', the Prof paints the Lord in a much more human light, depicting him less as an omnipotent deity and more as a weary insomniac.

So, there you go. Two reggae albums, two misleading covers. There's nothing on youtube from 'Rougher' itself, but here's the Professor in action on a song called 'Man Fi Strong':

NB. It's important to note that the creature in the video below is an altogether different Professor Frisky from the one discussed above:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

You look like you've escaped from Strangeways...

Mark E Smith reads the football results on Match Of The Day and then accuses Ray Stubbs of sporting a criminal's hairdo.

Here's theme from Sparta FC in full, because it's so brilliant.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guru Interview

In yet another Behind The Scenes exclusive, we catch up with infamous self-help guru (and female magnet), Anthony Robbins, to discover the secret to success.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Three Deeply Odd Men

1. Eek-A-Mouse

I wonder what Eek-A-Mouse thinks when he watches the video above. I wonder what his family think. Let's be honest, these are not the actions of a sane man.

2. GG Allin

His birthname was 'Jesus'. He acquired a cult following. He died quite young. He was often covered in blood. He had a beard. Apart from the fact that he made punk music and frequently defecated on stage, GG Allin was almost identical to God's preachy little lovechild.

3. Sun Ra

David Bowie was always banging on about how much of a massive 'alien' he was, but the reason no-one took him seriously is because he didn't quite get the look right. As Sun Ra shows here, all you need is some 'moon shoes', a couple of Hieroglyphic mates and a jheri curl made of cheap gold bracelets, and suddenly everyone's fished right in.

Some other brilliant madmen - Ol Dirty Bastard, George Clinton, Lee Perry, Captain Beefheart, Viv Stanshall, Hasil Adkins.