Category Archives: 100 of my favourite songs

suzanne vega -‘cracking’220px-SuzanneVegadebutalbum

That’s the link up there – this one goes back to Summer 1985; we thought we were being cool cooking up banana skins on a trangia ( I was quietly relieved it didn’t work) me,  James,  Alex, and Gutsy who had a tape-recorder and for some reason in the middle of the hot day put on a cassette of someone none of us had ever heard of – suzanne vega.  This was her first album and from the beginning of the first song to the end of the album she had us – no-one said a word.

It’s 1980’s New York, it’s female, it’s grown up relationships; basically I knew nothing about any of that, but like  the Woody Allen films I’d seen I kind of wanted to be in that world.

This is the first track from that album, delivered with simple conversational language, and stripped down (almost) to a guitar  a voice;  but sometimes when the song is strong enough that just gives it a sharper focus, like travelling straight into someone else mind.

It’s a one time thing
It just happens
A lot
Walk with me
And we will see
What we have got

My footsteps are ticking
Like water dripping from a tree
Walking a harline
And stepping very carefully

My heart is broken
It is worn out at the knees
Hearing muffled
Seeing blind
Soon it will hit the Deep Freeze

And something is cracking
I don’t know where
Ice on the sidewalk
Brittle braches
In the air

The sun
Is blinding
Dizzy golden, dancing green
Through the park in the afternoon
Wondering where the hell
I have been

there is at least one of mine which unconsciously probably owes her quite a lot it can happen to you  I think she might have sung it better than I managed.  I suppose this is one strand of what I’ve been trying to do in my own way ever since I heard her; write something so striking and clear that without a band or a big emotional delivery, I could grab even a tent of grubby fifteen year olds.

100 of my favourite songs: Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear


The problem with irony is nobody gets it; they get it in conversation, on TV,  but not in songs.


I know this from personal experience – there’s something about singing which everyone believes is personal, autobiographical and that can be great, but it’s not always what is happening, it can be interesting to pretend to be someone else, or to give yourself licence to say stuff you don’t believe to make a point.  A while ago I posted a song called  ‘Can I just Explain?’ for example, where I imagine I’m a man explaining his affair and partially blaming his wife. ‘You were acting like a stranger, turning your back in the dark’ etc. then I wonder why people are asking me if my marriage is OK 😉  Anyway believe it or not this blog isn’t about me…

‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’


Despite being covered by the Muppets (whose version I love)  it’s actually a pretty bleak song. Simon Smith is poor  ‘I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear’  (wonder if Morrissy nicked that line for ‘This Charming Man’?)  What’s Simon doing?  Well he’s off to entertain rich people ‘well fed faces’  by poking a bear with a stick.  Yes, sorry Fonzie that’s how they used to make the bear ‘dance.’   So two layers of cruelty the laughing rich cruel to Simon, making  Simon cruel to the bear. ‘It’s just amazing how fair people can be.’

There’s probably another meaning too as Randy Neman was struggling himself to make entertainment pay ‘Who needs money , when you’re funny?’  Well the song is funny but I think better for the darkness underneath. I like it when an up-beat melody is undercut by a lyric, I suppose I’ve done it myself with a song like ‘he paid to have himself murdered’

Anyway, Now by the Muppets!



Randy Newman went on to write so many great songs and was often misunderstood.

In ‘Sail Away’ he breathtakingly plays a slave trader luring Africans on to his ship with the promise of a wonderful new land.

In ‘Political Science’ he seems confused as to why everyone hates America and suggests they blow the rest of the world up (except maybe Australia ‘don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo.’ )

Then there’s the hit ‘Short People’ which ridicules discrimination but which got him sued. I still have a relatively short friend who can’t stand him because of it.

One more? ‘You can leave your hat on’ seems to me it’s a song about a darkly manipulative man; but then it had the meaning sucked out of it by vocal vacuum cleaner Tom Jones and is now mostly danced to by strippers. Ho hum – Randy did his best! All good tunes!


Catch up soon (and sorry if you like Tom Jones).  Another song soon – stay in touch!




100 of my favourite songs: the Waters of March

As a songwriter of sorts I want to write a bit about some of my favourite songs – things I wish I’d written or made me want to write in the first place.

Some are clever, some are stupid, some are old some are new.  Either way they’re all brilliant in their own way.  The idea is this will hopefully make you want to listen again or that maybe you’ll discover something you’ll want to keep.

 Waters of March (Aguas de Marco) 

by  Antonio Carlos Jobim

listen here! –  waters of March

(This is Art Garfunkels version there’s another beautiful version by TOM JOBIM & ELIS REGINA  down at the bottom)


Art Garfunkel                                                            Antonio Carlos Jobim


To me it’s got everything you want – melodic, simple and profound.

My Brazilian friend Nando tells me it was originally about everything that floated downstream after a devastating Spring flood; which is surprising because being a bossa nova it sounds like a fairly laid-back disaster.

I first heard because my parents  used to pirate-record albums from Plymouth record library, fitting them onto a C90 cassette by taking out the duff songs.  This made the cut; it reminded me then of picture dictionaries  ‘A stick, a stone’ etc.  It feels like a listed celebration of the mundane ‘a truck load of bricks in the soft morning light’ , ‘the plan of the house, the body in bed’ beautiful clear images; to me a least as beautiful as a William Carlos William poem like ‘the red wheelbarrow.’  and all these images exist within the repeated refrain of nature ‘ and the riverbank talks of the waters of March…’  The continuation of life in and through all change.  it’s poetic but with bright simplicity.

I suppose the instrumentation on this version may feel a little dated but Art Garfunkels  wry monotone delivery fits, it’s observational not emotional and more beautiful for that.

To me it says the most important things are small things in your everyday life; notice them and enjoy them before you yourself have to drop out of their cycle. It winds up into a great resolution  ‘the end of the run …the end of all strain/ it’s the joy in your heart’

You know it’s all  a great minimalist poem,  here it is:

A stick, a stone,
It’s the end of the road,
It’s the rest of a stump,
It’s a little alone

It’s a sliver of glass,
It is life, it’s the sun,
It is night, it is death,
It’s a trap, it’s a gun

The oak when it blooms,
A fox in the brush,
A knot in the wood,
The song of a thrush

The wood of the wind,
A cliff, a fall,
A scratch, a lump,
It is nothing at all

It’s the wind blowing free,
It’s the end of the slope,
It’s a beam, it’s a void,
It’s a hunch, it’s a hope

And the river bank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the end of the strain,
The joy in your heart

The foot, the ground,
The flesh and the bone,
The beat of the road,
A slingshot’s stone

A fish, a flash,
A silvery glow,
A fight, a bet,
The range of a bow

The bed of the well,
The end of the line,
The dismay in the face,
It’s a loss, it’s a find

A spear, a spike,
A point, a nail,
A drip, a drop,
The end of the tale

A truckload of bricks
in the soft morning light,
The shot of a gun
in the dead of the night

A mile, a must,
A thrust, a bump,
It’s a girl, it’s a rhyme,
It’s a cold, it’s the mumps

The plan of the house,
The body in bed,
And the car that got stuck,
It’s the mud, it’s the mud

Afloat, adrift,
A flight, a wing,
A hawk, a quail,
The promise of spring

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the promise of life
It’s the joy in your heart

A stick, a stone,
It’s the end of the road
It’s the rest of a stump,
It’s a little alone

A snake, a stick,
It is John, it is Joe,
It’s a thorn in your hand
and a cut in your toe

A point, a grain,
A bee, a bite,
A blink, a buzzard,
A sudden stroke of night

A pin, a needle,
A sting, a pain,
A snail, a riddle,
A wasp, a stain

A pass in the mountains,
A horse and a mule,
In the distance the shelves
rode three shadows of blue

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the promise of life
in your heart, in your heart

A stick, a stone,
The end of the road,
The rest of a stump,
A lonesome road

A sliver of glass,
A life, the sun,
A knife, a death,
The end of the run

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the end of all strain,
It’s the joy in your heart.

Not bad for a popular song.


Next time though something more stupid – Promise!!

As promised  I I couldn’t ignore this version  it may be in Portuguese but  so fluid, and they’re just loving singing together – Watch it Watch it!!