Best tunes of 1992: #10 Suede “My insatiable one”

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There are certain bands who have been, at certain points in their career, so prolific that even their B-sides are phenomenal. Such is the case with London-based glam rockers, Suede (known as The London Suede in North America), and this is especially true of their early years. So it came as little surprise to me when I learned that “My insatiable one” was originally released as a B-side to Suede’s very first single, “The drowners”.

I first heard the song the year following this single’s release, when it was included on the soundtrack for the Mike Myers vehicle, “So I married an axe murderer”. Haven’t heard of it? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I enjoyed it at the time but really, the best thing about it is Myers’ secondary role in the film as his protagonist’s father, complete with the same outrageous Scottish accent he later reused in SNL sketches (“If it’s nae Scottish, it’s crrrrrrap”) and for the “Austin Powers” villain, Fat Bastard.

Oh yeah, sorry, the soundtrack for the film was fantastic too. The La’s original classic, “There she goes”, as well as a cover of it by The Boo Radleys, served as a theme of sorts for the film. And the soundtrack also included Ned’s Atomic Dustbin covering a Charlene pop song, Big Audio Dynamite II’s amazing single, “Rush”, a little early 90s hit called “Two princes” by the Spin Doctors, and of course, Suede’s “My insatiable one”.

The boys show here (on a B-side) why they were such a hot and exciting item back in those early days and why they are considered one of the bands that kickstarted the BritPop movement. Bernard Butler’s athletic and aggressive guitar playing is more restrained on this tune but still very much present, arpeggiating all over the place, climbing up and down the walls, roaring like a lion, while Brett Anderson prances about the stage, vocals operatic and theatrical, playing fey and falsetto, and well, daring, his listeners come along with him for the ride.

“Oh he is gone, he’s my insatiable one.”

The fact that Brett was singing about a “he” being his “insatiable one” raised a few eyebrows at the time and he riled things up even further by claiming at times that the song was about anal sex. Knowing Anderson, though, I would tend to believe his other explanation, the one that posits that he wrote it about himself from Justine Frischmann’s (whom many of you might remember as the frontwoman of Elastica and erstwhile girlfriend of Damon Albarn, but who got her start with Suede and as Anderson’s girlfriend) point of view.

Either way, this is a great tune. A B-side that plays as a single that should’ve been a hit kind of great tune.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2012: #24 John K. Samson “Heart of the continent”

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With apologies to my youngest brother Mike*, I didn’t really get into and start appreciating the songwriting of John K. Samson until somewhere between the time of The Weakerthans’ last record and when they went on the extended hiatus that continues to this day.

It’s not like I didn’t have my chances. I actually saw them live twice. The first time was in 2001, when I hadn’t yet heard of them at all. They were the opening act on a card supporting Billy Bragg and The Lowest of the Low in Toronto, the latter of whom I recall Samson claiming were a huge influence on his own songwriting. The second time I saw them was in 2008 and they played in the afternoon on the second day of Toronto Island’s Virgin Fest. I was much better prepared this time, having brushed up on pretty much all of their records, and even finding a few favourite tunes on these. Yet still, though I enjoyed their set quite a bit, I wasn’t quite as into it as was my friend Mark, though truth be told, his enjoyment might have been enhanced by the bit of cannabis he had partaken in just beforehand.

What really did it for me was a couple years after that second show when I happened to be in Winnipeg around the time of their renowned Folk Festival. One of the sets that I managed to catch there was an afternoon songwriting workshop that included members of Jon And Roy, Works Progress Administration, and Swell Season and which was led by a genial fellow that I thought looked familiar right from the beginning. It turned out that it was local legend and the unofficial poet laureate of Winnipeg, John K. Samson, and of course, the theme that afternoon was on writing about home.

This is something Samson does often. His hometown of Winnipeg and other bits of Canadiana often entered the conversational tone of the lyrics of The Weakerthans’ songs. And there is no good reason why he would change his thinking when he released his debut solo album, “Provincial”, in 2012, which is the host of today’s song, “Heart of the continent”. Indeed, the title of today’s song is Winnipeg’s slogan, which is why many consider it like a sequel of sorts to The Weakerthans’ “One great city”, which was, of course, Winnipeg’s old slogan.

“There’s a billboard by the highway
That says welcome to
(Bienvenue à)
But no sign to show you when you go away“

It’s a lovely tune. Samson’s lyrics take the front seat, his now recognizable voice all soft and wistful, while his fingers brush and pluck away at the strings of an acoustic guitar. It’s like he’s busking on his favourite street corner (perhaps on Memorial), complete with his foot stomping on the kick pedal drum. Little by little, the people passing to and fro join him in the chorus, perhaps there’s another guitar and snare that make their way out from the abandoned building in front of which Samson sings, his hat still empty in front of him.

Yep. With this tune and this album, I became a full fledged Samson fan.

*My youngest brother Mike is a pretty big Weakerthans fan and was behind “One great tribute”, a tribute album to the band that was released last year.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

100 best covers: #68 Echo And The Bunnymen “People are strange”

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So this here’s another example of a cover that I heard first and with which I was quite familiar before finally hearing the original. Interestingly, though, both discoveries were the result of films from my youth and their soundtracks.

Echo & the Bunnymen’s cover of “People are strange” was featured on the soundtrack for the original “Lost boys” film, which came out in 1987. I remember watching it (against my parents’ wishes) as a teenager with my adopted older brother as soon as it was released to VHS. Was I scared? A bit. Okay, maybe a lot. A young Kiefer Sutherland was quite terrifying as a vampire. But I was a big fan of two Coreys back in the day and they were hilarious as the intrepid vampire hunters.

A few years after that, in 1991, the big film of the summer was Oliver Stone’s biopic, “The doors”, for which I was still just a tad too young to see in the theatres. I watched it on VHS, again, months later but the film had already done its work revitalizing the public’s interest in the 60s psych rock band and I fell in line, copying a friends copy of their ‘best of’ to cassette tape. It was here that I put the proverbial face and name to more than a few songs with which I was already familiar and discovered a few new favourites, including what I learned (the hard way) was the original version of “People are strange”.

I love Echo & The Bunnymen and this cover but I think I might give the edge to The Doors here. The latter’s musicianship, especially that of Ray Manzarek, often takes a back seat in the shadows of their infamous poet/frontman but it really is good stuff. The carnival/side show feel of the original “People are strange” is a lot of fun but the cover shades up on the sinister feel exponentially, which is not necessarily a bad thing (especially given the subject of the film on whose soundtrack it appears). Ian McCulloch’s vocals are more overtly darker than Morrison’s and the sound bleaker, yeah, the organs have more reverb (but really, Manzarek needed none of that).

Okay. I give up. Both versions are quite haunting… though for very different reasons. Thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.