My EPIC Top 10 Singers, Songwriters and Performers

This is my EPIC Top 10 Singers, Songwriters and Performers.

My Top 10 Singers, Songwriters and Performers

 

There will be songwriters that are missing. There will be songs you won’t agree with. If this is the case, do your own list. If you decide to read this and I really hope you do. Do me a favour if you listen to the songs. Listen to them loud. Ideally, with no lights on. Maybe have a drink or a little herb.

Enjoy.

 
I can’t decide. What to write about with my blog? On the one hand, I have been writing “How to” guides. Trying to share my limited experience and knowledge. The problem is, I am not very passionate about “How to” guides. I am however passionate about my music. I literally think that I could not live without music.
 
Its cheesy to say it but music is my best friend. It never lets me down. Its always there for me when needed. Your guaranteed having a good time at a concert. Unless the band or singer is shit but that’s your fault for having bad taste. This is my reason for preferring music to football. My team LFC have let me down loads.

#10 – Shack (Michael Head) – “Comedy”

Sometimes songs are like old friends. Old friends you want to pay attention too.  It was this song that inspired me to write this list.  I was a massive fan of this group and album when it was released in 1999.  Shack are a criminally underrated group. Then for whatever reason I lost touch with them.  To be fair they didn’t produce very much and when they did.  It was low-key with little fanfare.

Nobody I know, friends and family know about Shack.  Maybe one or two at a push.  They are a Scouse group.  The lead singer, Michael Head is from Kensington in Liverpool.  I grew up in Kenny from around the age of 6 until I was around 14.  Its rough, there is a fair bit of drugs and prostitutes.  Its not all doom and gloom though.  I had some great times living there.  

‘HMS Fable’ was a great album.  It was lauded by the NME at the time.  The album has some cracking songs on it.  ‘The Streets of Kenny’ about scoring smack around Kensington.  Michael beat heroin which is always an achievement.  I love ‘Re-instated.’.

‘Comedy’ oozes class.  It has a nice chilled intro.  A little country and western twang.  The strings fit nice.  His voice is class on this song. When he sings the line “When you cry it pulls me through” his voice sounds like its going to break.  It’s a beautiful and melancholic song. 

Michael, revealed in this interview that the song was about his relationship.

“It was about my relationship at that time, I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re showing that level of emotion, I guess we’re on the same level. I dunno?” 

I can relate to this.  For me it seems like it was one of them relationships where things breakdown without even trying.  Then getting to that point where you no longer care.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh because if you didn’t laugh.  You would cry.  A tragic comedy?

And you know the times we crossed the street
We’d rather laugh than greet
Honestly, it’s a forgone comedy
And you know the walls we tried and made
You know it’s never changed
Honestly, it’s a long-lost comedy

Fifty million reasons
Loving in the seasons
Fifty million lovers
Sitting at the doubles
Fifty million reasons
Loving in the seasons
When you cry it pulls me through

#9 – Bob Marley – “Redemption Song”

I love Bob Marley. I love Jamaica. The people are amazing. It blows my mind how this poor kid from Nine Mile changed rock. This powerful Rastafari who put Jamaica and reggae on the world map. Marley is a legend.
Sure, The Beatles where working class and plenty of other singers came from poor back grounds. But Jamaica in the 1940/50’s was wooden shacks on breeze blocks.
The thing is not much has changed. Jamaican’s are proud people. If you take the time to talk to them, they are really nice. We went on a culture tour on one of our holidays  to Jamaica. It opened my eyes. The lovely lady guide showed us where she lived.  It was  a wooden shack on breeze blocks. She was so nice. It was humbling for me.
 
Bob Marley’s father, was a white British/Jamaican sailor who didn’t see Bob very often. He did provide some financial help. Marley was driven to succeed.
 
When I listen to the Greatest Hits compilation. I always think it’s a good sign when you want to seek more. The first Marley album I bought was ‘Legend
 
“Three Little Birds” is one of the happiest songs ever. It’s such a good vibe. If you don’t like this tune, you’re a miserable sour puss.
 
The first time I became aware of Bob Marley, was when I was a kid. I remember when Bob died.in 1981. His music played all the time. I’m pretty sure ‘One Love’ went to number 1.
 
I also love ‘Stir it up’ with its spacey guitar solo on the full-length track.
 
For me the track that has always impressed me the most has to be ‘Redemption Song’. It’s like a history lesson in an acoustic protest song. Its different from a lot of Marley songs. In that, it wasn’t reggae. It’s a simple acoustic song with astounding lyrics.
 
I always thought Marley wrote the entire song. I found out last year after we went on a day trip on our Jamaican vacation.
Marley took the lines;  “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” and “None but ourselves can free our minds.”
 
From a speech given by Marcus Garvey.
 
This is one of the reasons why I love music. Especially when it has a message. Music teaches us and this song still teaches me many years after I first heard it. In England we didn’t get taught black history. I had never heard of Marcus Garvey. Garvey was a Jamaican born politician with links to the Rastafari movement.
 
When Marley wrote the song around 1979 for the Uprising album. He had been diagnosed with cancer which sadly took his life. His wife Rita explained “that he was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly in this song”.
 
The song deals with the Atlantic Slave trade which is rooted in Jamaican history. The threat of using Atomic energy. “Have no fear for atomic energy, ‘Cause none of them can stop the time.”
 
The main message is to free yourself from mental slavery. Summed up from the speech given by Garvey.
 
“The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind”

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look? Ooh

Some say it’s just a part of it
We’ve got to fulfill the Book
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs”

#7 – The Doors (Jim Morrison) – LA Woman

 

Jim Morrison. Mr Mojo Risin. The shaman. Lead singer of The Doors. He died in the year I was born. I would have loved to have seen The Doors live. Wow. Even now, over 50 years after they rocked. They don’t sound dated. Play ‘Break on Through’ very loud and tell me they sound dated?

Jim was punk before punk was even a thought. Jim influenced Iggy Pop who influenced the punk movement. I mean he got arrested for getting his cock out in a concert.
 
I became aware of The Doors as a teenager. Pink Floyd and The Doors where the music of choice. My school was in a rough part of Liverpool. I can’t explain why The Doors where so popular, years after Jim died? The only reason I can think is that they rocked. Really fucking rocked. That and the connection with drugs. Jim always came across as being high. His lyrics are very trippy.
 
Picking one song from The Doors wasn’t easy. ‘Break on through’ from The Doors debut album has one of the best rock riffs you will hear. ‘The End’ is a trip. ‘Riders on the Storm’ a moody masterpiece.
 
My favourite song has to be “LA Woman.”
The intro is immense. The engine turning over leading into chilled drum line. Each instrument introduced one at a time. Ray’s jazz-style keys and then Jim arrives. Robbie plays his riffs to match Jim’s lines Jim’s vocals sound rough and lived in. He recorded some of the vocals in the studio toilets. The reverb sounded right. Plus the bathtub held plenty of beer.
I love the way the song breaks down and gets funky around 3 minutes in. When Jim snarls “Driving down the freeway” its rock in its purest form. Then the song gets trippy around 4.30 mark – The  line “Mr Mojo Risin” – (anagram of Jim Morrison) repeated until climax is genius.
 
The song doesn’t have the best lyrics for a Doors tune. But wow, it’s a perfect cocktail of what makes The Doors special.
Play this song very loud. Driving alone at night. The road opens up in front of you and you press that pedal to the metal. That’s what makes this song bad ass. It rocks.
 
LA Woman was the title track for their last album recorded before Jim passed away. It was also one of the only songs to feature a bass player.
Ray explained in an interview from Uncut magazine. He considered the song was “A song about driving madly down the LA freeway – either heading into LA or going out on the 405 up to San Francisco.”
 
Robbie Krieger explained the song perfectly. In this interview for LA Weekly.
 
Krieger: “We were never stupid enough to ask Jim what his lyrics meant. He never would have given a straight answer. The L.A. woman was the city itself. When he’s talking about driving on the freeway, I always think about the intersection of the 405 and the 10. It was actually designed by a woman and it kind of opens up like a pair of legs.
 
I see your hair is burnin’
Hills are filled with fire
If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar
Drivin’ down your freeway
Midnight alleys roam
Cops in cars
The topless bars
Never saw a woman so alone, so alone
So alone, so alone
Motel, money, murder, madness
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness
Mr. Mojo Risin’, Mr. Mojo Risin’

 

#6 – Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone

It’s pointless trying to write something fancy about Dylan.  His lyrics stand on their own

A post about Singers and Songwriters could never be complete with Dylan.  He isn’t one of my favourite singers or artists.  He sometimes sounds like Mr Burns from the Simpsons.  He can be cranky and off the wall.  But his lyrics are masterpieces.   Some of his songs read like novels. ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Masters of War’ jump to mind.

The first Dylan album I owned was ‘Desire’ with the belter of a track ‘Hurricane’.  I bought the Greatest Hits collections. 

My favourite albums are either ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Blood on the Tracks’ For me, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ shades it.  I love ‘Tombstone Blues’ which sounds like a rock-a-billy folk song.  It’s the only album of Dylan’s which I can sing along to almost each track.  ‘From a Buick 6’ nearly made it.  The title track was close but for me it has to be ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.

Written in 1965 following a tour of the UK.  Dylan rarely interviews so we have to try and guess what the song is about.   The main theory seems to be that its about an ex-girlfriend of Dylan’s who cheated on him.  With Andy Warhol no less!  Dylan went on to fame and fortune, his ex a destitute drug-addict.   

The tour that followed ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ was infamous for the ‘Judas’ comment shouted from the crowd.  His fans angry as Dylan had the audacity to switch between folk to electric mid-concert.  He played a rocked-out version of Like a Rolling Stone’ in response.

Stand Out Lyrics

Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinking, thinking that they’ve got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything, he could steal

How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

 

#5 – Neil Young – Harvest Moon

 

“The world can be split into two camps: people that like Neil Young and people that don’t. And the people that don’t are fucking idiots” Noel Gallagher, Rolling Stone interview

High praise from one of the UK’s best songwriters.  Where do I start with Neil Young?  His guitar playing is epic.  His songs are fucking awesome.  For me it’s the melodies.  What I love about Neil Young’s tunes are the melodies. 

I’m not a musician (not got the patience) but I like to think I have a good ear for a melody.  You only need to listen to ‘Old Man’ or ‘A man needs a maid’ for starters.  Neil has been going forever.  He is still releasing albums at 73.

I discovered Neil Young around the age of 14 many moons ago.  My sisters partner had a couple of LPs’ that caught my attention.  The albums was ‘Zuma’ and ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Déjà vu’.  I had discovered pot and ‘Cortez the Killer’ was the soundtrack.  This song needs to be listened too loud.  I would guess that some critics would say its self-indulgent but its shit-hot.

I checked his back catalogue.  I bought ‘Decade’ at a record fair.  Wow, what a greatest hits album.  This being the age of vinyl.  I couldn’t skip tracks without having to get off my arse to change records.  I got to know each track well and there is no songs on there that should be skipped.

Picking a single song for Neil Young was tough.  A few things I discovered when writing this post about Neil Young. He never stops recording and has been in some great bands.

Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Still and Nash.  His own band Crazy Horse are awesome.      

I was close to picking ‘Broken Arrow’.  The chilled-out trippy song that floats like a feather.  A song within a song within another song.

‘Ohio’. The rocking protest song about the Kent State shootings. The Ohio State Guards shot and killed four students.

‘After the Goldrush’. The trippy dreamlike tune with time travel and chosen ones flying away on spaceships.  I guess that Neil was on some premium grass when he wrote this song?

My choice this week is something romantic.  Neil has written thousands of songs.  He has a handful of romantic songs.  I am not into romantic music as such, but I do love this song.  Its laid back and very chilled.  For this song, you have to move a little bit closer.

Harvest Moon

I am a sucker for this song.  Released in 1993 under the album of the same name.  The song features a moon motif, which features in several Neil Young songs.  The song is a tribute to his wife who also features in the video.   The album was considered by some as a follow up to the fantastic 1972 album ‘Harvest’.  The title track ‘Harvest’ could lead nicely into ‘Harvest Moon’

When I feel like unwinding after a busy week.  I like to have a few drinks on a weekend with my wife.  We sometimes have a bed picnic on a clear moonlit night. Either in the back garden or on a beach.  Depending on the weather.  This is my slow dance of choice.  My wife doesn’t like Neil Young but she likes this song.

Neil Young denied that it was a follow up. 

Here is what he told a Canadian radio station just after the album’s release:

“The whole idea of following up the Harvest album is something that’s contrived more from the standpoint of record companies… the thrust of the albums is different, even though the subject matter is similar.”

At the time of writing the song.  Neil was in his mid-40’s married and a father.  Maybe it was a mellow place to be.  The song was dedicated to his then wife Pegi. They later divorced.  Oh well shit happens.  Its still a great song.

Its also very, very chilled and for a good reason.  After touring ‘Ragged Glory’ in 1990 which also gave us one of the best live albums in Weld.  The reunion with Crazy Horse and following Sonic Youth on support.  The volume was high and the feedback even higher.  Neil developed tinnitus. 

He took a break.  He chilled and released Harvest Moon.  The album is so chilled and stripped back.  It might as well be a Neil Young solo album.  Which maybe what makes it special?

“What this album is about is this feeling, this ability to survive and continue and grow and get higher than you were before,” says Young. “Not just maintain, not just feel well. Not just ‘I’m still alive at forty-five.’ You can be more alive.” 

Source

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

 

#4. The Beatles – In My Life

 
I allowed myself a duet on my list because of the sheer amount of songs they wrote and performed together. Not just quantity but quality tunes. They changed rock music forever. Elvis was as important as The Beatles, but never wrote his own songs.
 
It’s an impossible task picking the best Beatles tune. Your favourite will be different to mine.
 
How could 4 ordinary working-class lads from Liverpool, be one of the most important groups of all time?
 
Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby” are two excellent songs that spring to mind. “Ticket to Ride” and “Help” are also favourites.
 
The mind-blowing “A Day in the Life” was close. The best song for me is, “In my life”
 
I can’t explain, what it is about this song I love so much? Its not very catchy and a  bit downbeat. But like most of my favourite songs its simple yet complex.
 
The song released in 1965 on Rubber Soul. It was mainly written by Lennon but credited to McCartney. George Martin played the piano solo bridge which was sped up to sound like a harpsichord.
 
Lennon called the song his ‘first real major piece of work’
 
The song started as a poem about the bus ride from his Aunt Mimi’s house. Listing some of Lennon’s childhood haunts.
 
“The words were almost irrelevant. ‘In My Life’ started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember,” said Lennon in a 1980 interview. “I wrote it all down and it was ridiculous… it was the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holiday’s Bus Trip’ song, and it wasn’t working at all. But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Paul helped with the middle-eight.”
 
He continues
 
“It was the first song I wrote that was consciously about my life … Before, we were just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly – pop songs with no more thought to them than that,” Lennon said. “It was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then it had all been sort of glib and throw-away. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric.”
 
So what started a lists of things that he saw from the bus transformed by the genius of Lennon into the song that we love today.
 
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
 
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
 
In my life, I love you more
In my life– I love you more

 

#4 – John Lennon – ‘Love’

Recorded in 1970 from the ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ LP.  This short but beautiful song is easily missed in the shadow of songs such as  “Imagine”, “Working-Class Hero” and “God”. 

I chose Lennon above The Beatles because this was his solo work.   He didn’t have McCartney to lean on.

A famous Lennon quote I learnt about via Matt Johnson from The The.  “Tell the truth and make it rhyme.”  This song tells the truth with its sheer honesty and beauty.

Lennon released the album following 3 experimental albums with Yoko.  The album also followed the breakup of The Beatles.  Lennon and Yoko both undertook primal therapy before Lennon recorded the album.  The therapy included reliving repressed childhood trauma.  Lennon never had an easy-childhood.  His natural mother Julia couldn’t cope with John. She gave him away aged five to his aunt Mimi.  His father abandoned them.  Worse of all he lost Julia yet again aged seventeen due to a car accident.

That trauma re-visited in the song, “Mother.” The album also contained the classics, “Working Class Hero” and “God”

It no secret that Lennon gave Cynthia (his ex-wife) a slap.  He was prone to mood-swings and jealousy.  There is no excuse for slapping a woman, but this was the 1960s. The way he treated Cynthia was awful.  To the public eye he left Cynthia for this weird woman from Japan.  

The Beatles broke up as well with many fans blaming Yoko. 

For me there are two sides to every story.  For all his arrogance and inflated ego.  John was not perfect. What did John and Yoko do so wrong? They fell for each other.  They experimented and challenged each other.  She stood up to John, and they fell in love.  That shit happens every day and nobody bats an eye. 

The simplicity and beauty of the lyrics alone define this song.  I could probably witter on, but I will let the words speak for themselves. It might be short but its perfect.

Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved

Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
We can be

Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needing to be loved

#3 – Roger Waters – Pigs (3 different ones)

Picking my favourite Floyd song is difficult. This song has always been in my constant top 3 Floyd songs. I could have picked “Wish you were here?”, “Comfortably Numb” or either side of Dark Side.
But I wanted to pick a one written by Roger.
 
The intro alone is worth the plaudits. The bass solo is immense. I always thought it was guitar until I saw him for the 3rd time in Liverpool Echo Arena. Strumming the snaking bass solo that leads into this fucking epic Floyd song.
 
Its bitter and spiteful. The guitar solo is amazing. You need to listen with headphones on. It goes on for 11 ½ minutes and even longer when played live. The song released in 1977 as part of “Animals” between, “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall”. The album for me is under-rated and one of my favourite Floyd albums. The concept based on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”
 
The 3 different pigs that are the subject of this tune. Are the rich and powerful that are top of the social ladder. Which is still just as relevant now as it was back then in ’77. Think how many followers you have on these so-called social networks. To understand the meaning.
 
The Pigs in question? The pigs that control the government and the press.
 
The lyrics rip into Mary Whitehouse. Which is one of the reasons why I love this tune. I was a kid in the 70’s. Mary was one of these miserable cows who had a face like a slapped arse who complained about stuff on TV and the like.
 
I only recently found out that Gilmour played the fretless bass guitar on the recorded version. Waters played rhythm guitar. I stand corrected which is why I enjoy writing music posts because I learn as I go.
 
Waters plays the bass line when playing live. If you ever get the chance to see Roger live. You might have reservations about the price of the ticket. Just do it. The man has more passion and stage presence than musicians half his age. Sure, he can come across as self-important and arrogant but that’s just a lazy perception. He gives a shit. Then there is the show. The man knows how to put on a show. You really do get your money’s worth.
 
My favourite lyric. The “Bus stop ratbag” was a potential reference to “Thatcher” who was gaining momentum in the Conservative party. Bear in mind this song was released in the year that punk blew up in the UK. The so-called hippy Pink Floyd posh boys calling the next prime minister a fucked up old hag is genius. Punk almost. Waters later confessed that the lyric was aimed at Thatcher when playing it live on the “Radio KAOS” tour in 1987
 
“Bus stop rat bag Ha, ha, charade you are
You fucked up old hag
Ha, ha, charade you are
You radiate cold shafts of broken glass”
 
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost worth a quick grin
You like the feel of steel
You’re hot stuff with a hatpin A
nd good fun with a hand gun You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry
 
Hey you, Whitehouse
Ha, ha, charade you are
You house proud town mouse
Ha, ha, charade you are 
Thanks for the music Roger. Just think no Roger, no Floyd. Sure, Floyd went on without Roger but for me they lost their edge when Roger left.

#2 – Matt Johnson (theThe) – Phantom Walls

For me, Matt Johnson from theThe is a genius.  Prolific is not a word that springs to mind when describing his ever-changing group. “theThe”. Their name alone makes them almost impossible to find on the internet especially more so in the early days of www.   I wrote a short article about the origins of there name here..

Never a best-selling artist.  Most people think you have a stutter when you mention their name.  I first came across Matt at 15 when a friend introduced me to them via their latest LP. “Infected” 

Channel 4 played the film that accompanied the “Infected” album.  It was so different to the shit that played on the radio.  Matt strapped into a rocking chair travelling down a river in South America.  A hooker with no knickers riding his face in another video.  What the f**k?  It grabbed my attention.  I was hooked.

Picking one song from their back-catalogue is almost impossible for me.  My first favourite TheThe song and still in my top 5.  Is “Heartland” the lyrics for this song are amazing.  This modern-day blues song.  The lyrics are outstanding with my favourite lines being.

This is the land where nothing changes
The land of red buses and blue-blooded babies
This is the place where pensioners are raped
And the hearts are being cut from the welfare state

Released in 1986.  I was a teenager, and this song woke me up to music.   This was a time of SAW, New Kids on the Block, Madonna and all that other 80’s shite that people get nostalgic about.  This song stood out like a sore thumb.  Matt singing about how the UK was losing its identity and turning into a glorified airbase for USA.  This song is an education. Give it a listen.

From “Infected” I discovered his earlier album, “Soul Mining”  Another gem with some excellent tracks.  If you have never heard this album or any other theThe albums.  Do yourself a favour, stop reading this and go and check them out.

This is the Day” another great song.  The song always brightens up my day.  No matter how down I feel.  This song lifts me up.  I love the song so much I named by domain after it.  The chorus alone.  “This is the day your life will surely change” is such a positive message and not in some cheesy way.  It’s in my top 5 theThe songs.

Soul Mining” the album is more personal than Infected and has some heavy songs on it.

Mind Bomb and Dusk both excellent albums.  With ‘August and September’ and ‘Love is Stronger than Death’ both excellent tracks.

Phantom Walls” is the song for me.  The words blow my mind.  Released on the under-rated “Nakedself” album back in 2000.   The album was just about released following issues surrounding the label.  It’s not my favourite album, but it has solid competition in the four albums that preceded it.

This album was the last album proper with singing to be released by theThe.

Then the silence.

A couple of soundtracks where released. Matt came back last year with The Inertia Variations.  I had the privilege of seeing them live for the 5th time.  Which was the dogs nuts.  I also met Johnny Marr at the screening in Manchester.

Six bloody albums.  Five if you don’t count Hanky Panky and the soundtracks.  Not that I am complaining. Quality not quantity.  What Matt lacked in being prolific. He more than made up for it in the quality of his music.  Being a time-served theThe fan.  You learn to be patient.  You learn to appreciate.

That’s why I love Phantom Walls.  The words are sad and haunting.  When my mum passed away 9 years ago this song helped me. As stupid as that might sound.  The song spoke to me.  I shed tears listening to this song.  Whether that makes me a wimp I don’t care.  Losing my mum was one of the worse things that happened to me.  This song was like a friend putting its arm around my shoulders and comforting me.

Sensed but unheard
As the curtain softly stirs
It is not just a memory
But it lives and breathes
Watching over you whilst you sleep

Kneeling beside you when you weep
Hey, don’t be afraid
Don’t try to run away
Because pain can be your friend
As it explains
The answers to your questions
Consoles you in blue reflections
Listens to your soul’s confessions
Then leads you in new directions

So open your heart again
And feel the walls dissolve
Something’s whispering to you
It’s time to let go
Because the only thing that stays the same
Is that everything must change
Everything must change
Hey, embrace your pain
You cannot run away
And pain can be your friend

As it explains

The answers to your questions
Consoles you in blue reflections
Listens to your soul’s confessions
Then leads you in new directions
And all the while that you were waiting
For love to keep the light from waning
It’s pain that stops the heart from hating
That cures the mind of hesitating
That helps the soul in separating
From everything that it’s been blaming
Everything’s changing

Having read the excellent “Long Shadows and High Hopes” biography.  Matt has suffered a lot of grief in his life which he has channeled into his music.   Not in a morbid feel sorry for me kind of way.  More as a way of dealing with grief.

In an interview from 2017, he revealed that he wrote the song for his late mother.

He said, “I’ve been faced with this kind of situation before, when I wrote ‘Love Is Stronger Than Death’ for my late brother Eugene and ‘Phantom Walls’ for our late mother. “

It’s strange because when I first heard this song, I didn’t realise the song was for his late mother.  The song spoke to me on many levels when I lost mine.  It helped me cope.

Which proves that music can speak to us and be your friend when you need it most.  Music never lets you down.  Thanks Matt.

 

#1 – David Bowie – Lazarus

 

I considered potentially placing Matt Johnson above Bowie on this list.  Matt’s lyrics are stunning.  But there has never been an artist like Bowie.  He will never be replaced.  Bowie had it all.  The image, the music and the lyrics.  Picking just one song from his back catalogue is an almost impossible task.  Picking my favourite album is near on impossible.  I narrow it down to top 10s.

I was introduced to Bowie’s music by mistake aged 11.  Somebody bought my dad the “Stage” album for Christmas.  My dad flung it and I listened to it and got hooked.  I grew up listening to Bowie.  He was like my cooler older brother playing this excellent and often mysterious music. 

The more I dug the more I found.  From Space Oddity to Ziggy.  Alladin Sane to the Thin White Duke.  The Berlin years.  The slight dip in the mid-80s to the return to form on his later 90s and 00s material.   His music took me away to another world.

Then he disappeared for 10 years following “Reality” in 2003.

He returned with “Where are we now?” which is a great song.  “The Next Day” was a welcome return.  He never toured again but I can’t complain I saw him 4 times.    It was great to have him back and best of all with a good album. 

Then Blackstar happened. 

My top 5 songs constantly change.  I love the obvious ones.  Life on Mars, “Heroes” and Ashes to Ashes to name a few.  I also love Teenage Wildlife, Bewley Brothers, Lady Stardust and Repetition just as much. I wrote a post on my favourite Bowie hidden gems here.

Not only did Bowie entertain me with his music.  His music lead to so much more.  Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and theThe. 

Bowie was the ultimate singer/songwriter and performer.  He sang and wrote his own songs.  Produced most of his albums with some help.  Tony Visconti and Brian Eno spring to mind.  He played the instruments and performed.  Driven to achieve.  Bowie was well known for changing personas.  Keeping fresh and ahead of the game.  How many other artists are as known worldwide? Who stayed in the game for as long as he did as a solo artist?  Dylan, Young and Springsteen.   There are others but Bowie was unique and different.

Michael Jackson had his songs written and produced for him.  Elton John had a co-writer.  Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones where bands. 

When I found out that Bowie died it really upset me.  It was almost like losing a member of the family. Without trying to sound dramatic that’s how it felt.  Bowie sadly lost his life to cancer. 

I picked my song based on a sentimental feeling.  I also picked the song because its fucking ace.

‘Lazarus’ is an excellent, mysterious and sad song that haunts me.  The simple strumming intro mixed with the soft saxophone. The opening lines.  “Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” kill me. Bowie knew he was dying.  He was riddled with cancer (I’ve got scars that can’t be seen).  Yet here is releasing an album days before he died.  A true artist until the end.  I struggle to watch the video.  He looks so fragile yet there is still that old twinkle in his eye. 

During his career Bowie sang and flirted with themes of death.

My Death” the Jacques Brel song was often played live. 

Space Oddity” the story of the doomed astronaut, Major Tom.

We are the Dead” from Diamond Dogs.

Five Years” from Ziggy, the earth doomed to die.

 “Time” from Aladdin.

Ashes to Ashes” 

There are lots of reference to death and rebirth in his music.  “Knowledge comes with death’s release” from “Quicksand”  I wonder if Bowie feared death?

Lazarus.  A follower of Jesus.  Jesus resurrected Lazarus a few days after dying.  When Bowie sadly passed away on the 10 January 2016.  It was just 2 days after his latest album “Blackstar” was released.  Even though his death came to a massive shock to us fans.  He was diagnosed around 18 months beforehand and knew his cancer was incurable.  This song and album are Bowie’s swan song.

It must be horrible being told that you have incurable cancer.  I have lost relatives and friends to cancer.   It humbles me to see how people deal with this awful disease.  Bowie carried on working.  Not just on an album but a Broadway play too.  Something Bowie always wanted to do throughout his career.

The song was released December 2015 as a digital download.  Tony Visconti his long-term friend and producer believed prior to Bowie’s death that Bowie was planning on following up Blackstar.  “At that late stage, he was planning the follow-up to Blackstar,” says Visconti in a Rolling Stone interview.  Visconti commented that he considered that the lyrics and video of “Lazarus” where intended to a self-epitaph.

 This post from Visconti’s Facebook page.

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

A song about your impending doom could be perceived as miserable and depressing.  The main difference being this was Bowie, and it was one of his best songs.

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain’t that just like me?

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass
This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me?
Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

These are not his best lyrics or even his best song.  But given the context of what followed.  The song took on a different meaning.  Bowie was a genius, and that’s why he is top of my list.  His death was tragic and affected me and so many others.  He worked until he couldn’t work anymore doing what he did best. His art.

 

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11 thoughts to “My EPIC Top 10 Singers, Songwriters and Performers”

  1. Well, you’ve got the best taste in music ever. The Doors are my absolute favourites. I think they were so ahead of their times and I just don’t think they get the credit they deserve. If only Jim had have been alive in my era i’d have been off to see all their concerts. Such a unique band. I agree with you also including the amazing Bob Marley, John Lennon etc etc. Really well written that. Loved it. I’m off now to listen to Strange Days…on repeat…for the rest of the day.

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      1. I really did. Great post. I’m such a doors and Marley fan. They just didn’t know how to write a bad song (although Light My Fire grates a bit). To have seen either of these live would be the dream…no chance of that!

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        1. Your so right I would have loved to have seen either bands but alas it can’t be still got the music. I will check out your blog.

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  2. Love this, you have such great taste and I have some new songs to add to my playlist. Music is always a good way to speak to my soul.

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