Categories
Tunes

Eighties’ best 100 redux: #100 Happy Mondays “Wrote for luck (aka W.F.L.)” (1988, 1989)

#99 >>

So as of yesterday at noon EST, I’m off from work for just over two weeks, a break I am really looking forward to enjoying. I am also planning to take a similar amount of time as vacation away from these pages. Before I do, though, I wanted to get one last post in to start up a brand new series and it had to be done today.

Back on August 27, 2012, ten years ago today, I started up a new series on my old blog, Music Insanity, that counted down my top 100 favourite tunes from the 1980s and I’ve decided to revisit and revise said list (hence, the “redux”), starting today. I‘ll leave the preamble at that for now. To read a bit more on the the background, check here.

Starting things off at track #100, The Happy Mondays, and one of their seminal tunes, “Wrote for luck” (aka “W.F.L.”), are a band that I attribute more to the early 1990s than I do the 80s but they actually dug their proverbial roots in the dying days of the “Me” decade.

The Happy Mondays were at the forefront of the vibrant “Madchester” music scene that synthesized psychedelic rock with acid house and rave culture. Their music was rough and tumble but danceable and the Mondays were known for Shaun Ryder’s edgy vocals and their full-time dancer, Bez’s funky moves. They (or a fictionalized version of them) were featured in Michael Winterbottom’s excellent 2002 film “24 hour party people” (the title of which was taken from another Mondays song), a chronicle of the rise of Manchester as told from the point of view of Factory records founder, Tony Wilson. There’s no telling if the real Happy Mondays were as drug-crazed or as fanatic as the band portrayed in the film but my best guess is that Shaun Ryder and his crew partied like rock stars, especially given the legend that their coke and spending habits bankrupted the aforementioned Factory records before their long-promised fourth record could be released.

“Wrote for luck” comes courtesy of the band’s second album, 1988’s “Bummed”, produced by famed madman/producer, Martin Hannett, whose studio trickery gave the album its heavy, heavy bass. And though I think I may prefer the percussion forward remix by Vince Clarke (yes, that Vince Clarke) that was rereleased as a single the following year*, the album version is just as funky and dance club ready. Whenever I hear the tune, I always think of the millions of times I would race out onto our university pub dance floor and find Acid Head Scott** already out their screaming along and doing his best frenetic Bez impressions.

Listening to the song on my ear phones this week, I got to wondering how it didn’t place higher on the list and almost considered rearranging on the fly. Unlike a number of the songs that we may soon find on this list, “Wrote for luck” doesn’t feel like it’s aged a day.

This one goes out to Acid Head Scott and the rest of you old Baggy kids out there.

Original Eighties best 100 position: #93

Favourite lyric: “I wrote for luck, they sent me you /
I sent for juice, you give me poison” Tony Wilson once called Ryder the best poet since Yeats. I don’t know about that but it’s certainly a fun couplet to scream out on the dance floor.

Where are they now?: The Happy Mondays have gone through numerous breakups and reformations over the years. For their fourth kick at the can, the original and definite lineup reformed in 2012 with all kinds of lofty plans for their first new record in 20 years. Said record never materialized but they’ve toured regularly and did release one non-album single in 2015. Sadly, Paul Ryder, founding bassist and brother of frontman Shaun, died this past July.

*Mostly because I’d heard and loved this version first.

**Don’t ask me why we called him that. I have no SFW response.

For the rest of the Eighties’ best 100 redux list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #52 Depeche Mode “Route 66”

<< #53    |    #51 >>

I was pretty bummed a few weeks ago when I first caught wind of the news that Depeche Mode founding member Andrew Fletcher had passed away. It was merely incidental that I was just gearing up to write this very post. In light of the news, I pondered writing up something more specific towards giving due to the group’s quiet member but the one that purportedly held the whole thing together. In the end, though, I decided to continue on with my original plan and to simply give thoughts on the tune at hand.

I first heard Depeche Mode’s cover of “Route 66” care of my old friend John, many, many moons ago. In fact, it was right around the time that I was just getting into the band, just shortly after the start of the 1990s. He was a bit of an obsessive, my friend John. He already had pretty much everything the group had released thus far on compact disc, which was actually quite a bit. This included the three singles box sets that they had just released and a handful of the latter day CD singles not included in those sets. I remember one evening in his living room, he pulled out his extensive collection and spread it out around us while he played choice clips on his parents’ sweet stereo set up, the volume knob creeping upwards and then sliding back down again at his parents’ behest. “Route 66” was one such choice tune.

This cover was originally recorded as road trip themed b-side for the “Behind the wheel” single. It was recorded in one day and mixed on the next. It incorporated elements of “Behind the wheel” and on some remixes of “Behind the wheel”, we get smatterings of “Route 66”. It was so beloved by everyone (include the record execs), that some were pushing for it to be released as a double A-side, it found a spot on the “Earth girls are easy” film soundtrack of 1988, and it was liberally used throughout Depeche Mode’s tour documentary “101” in 1989.

“Route 66” was originally written by American songwriter Bobby Troup in 1946 after a road trip he took with his wife from Pennsylvania to California and he incorporated the names of places they had passed along the way. The song’s original recording came by way of Nat King Cole and his trio and has become a classic rhythm and blues standard since then, covered by everyone from Bing Crosby to Chuck Berry to The Rolling Stones. So it’s no wonder that this one was familiar to me, stood out amongst the many other tracks John played for me on that night, and I asked in particular for the Beatmasters mix that combined this with “Behind the wheel” for an extended groove to be included on the mixed tape he later promised me.

I only heard the King Cole Trio original for the first time this week and though it sounds great, his voice and the classic jazz instrumentation, I cannot in good conscience choose it over Depeche Mode’s cover. Alan Wilder, Andrew Fletcher, Martin Gore, and David Graham made this song their own. The electronic and driving beats really evoke the speeds of highway driving and the bluesy riffs of electric guitar only only accentuate the feeling. Sweet stuff.

Cover:

The original:

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

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: EDGE 102.1’s top 1002 of all time (1999 version)

Happy Friday!

If you’re looking for something to soundtrack your post-work activities this evening, I’ve got just thing. It’s something a little a different for these pages: a playlist that I didn’t make, but was instead put together by one of my friends.

It’s a playlist that I’ve been slowly making my way through since mid-December. I got into it because I was making a few solo trips in the car and I needed some good long playlists to keep me company. I somehow remembered that my friend Tim had put this one together a few years ago on Spotify so I slipped it on and it perfectly fit the bill.

The playlist is based on a feature that Toronto-based alternative rock radio station, EDGE 102.1, did back in December 1999, counting down what they called the “Top 1002 songs of all-time”. They had done a similar one eight years prior, in 1991, back when the station was still going by its original call letters, CFNY, and they were still truly alternative radio. However, at that time, I didn’t know a lot of the music, was just getting into alternative and indie, and so I didn’t appreciate it as much. By 1999, though, I was completely immersed in pretty much all of alternative rock but unfortunately, EDGE 102 had gotten a lot more commercial. Truthfully, I only listened to it because there were no other options.

Even though I may not have necessarily agreed with all the rankings, I still remember this Top 1002 feature fondly and vividly. We always had the radio at my work tuned to this station and those three or four days at the end of December 1999 were the best few days of commercial radio in memory. They were playing songs that would not normally get airtime on the station but definitely should have done. And listening to this mix of alternative rock from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, heavily weighted, of course, to the latter two decades, brings back so many memories from that time and the years prior.

When I mentioned to Tim that I was listening to the playlist and thanked him for taking the time (and it must’ve taken a very long time) to create it, he mentioned that he also did the 1991 list, which he preferred because it didn’t have all the grunge and post-grunge 90s alt-rock. And while I agree, there are some tunes in this playlist that I find myself skipping, there are also a lot of great 90s tunes that are missing in the 1991 version.

Yes, I’m still making my way through the playlist over a month and a half later but plan to forge ahead through to the end. Even though not all 1002 tunes were available on Spotify when he made the playlist, it’s still over 68 hours of classic alternative rock, some of which I’m very familiar with and some of which I’m still just discovering.

If you’re curious as to what was on the 1991 and 1999 lists, both are available on the “Spirit of radio”* fansite for your perusal, here and here. But if you just want to join me on this long road of a playlist, I’ve embedded it below for your listening pleasure.

I’ll thank my friend Tim for you. Enjoy.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the playlists I myself have created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.

*”Spirt of radio” was the slogan of CFNY in its early days and this inspired the 1980 Rush song of the same name.