Best tunes of 1992: #16 Paul Weller “Uh huh oh yeh”

<< #17    |    #15 >>

You may recall that I featured a guest-written post on The Jam just over a month ago. My friend Andrew Rodriguez, aka the biggest Paul Weller fan that I know, delivered a thorough narrative on some of his favourites of The Jam’s tunes, their history, his thoughts on all of this, and he included some words on his experiences seeing Weller live as a solo artist in 1992 and 1994. It was Rodriguez that first played “Uh huh oh yeh” for me way back, on an evening he didn’t remember and that I could only vaguely remember. So I decided to go back to Rodriguez and ask him some questions, a sort of mini-interview via email exchange, to get his perspective and thoughts on this very excellent and breakthrough single by Paul Weller, the solo artist…

Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard “Uh huh oh yeh”?

“I can’t precisely recall. It was released on 15 August 1992, that summer I’d been away for 6 weeks – I was in the Army reserve at the time. My courses ended mid August, so I know I was home and able to listen to the radio. It was in fairly heavy rotation on CFNY 102.1 in Toronto when it came out. In those days, I used to keep a blank tape at the ready to record good stuff I heard on the radio. Plus side is I was able to record bits of it – negative side is it wasn’t ’til the album came out that I heard the whole song.”

What were your initial thoughts of it?

“Initially, I was blown away. It’s rare that the instant you hear a song, you know it know it will be part of your personal soundtrack. I liked the ‘comeback’ feel. Lyrically, like much of his material – PW was heavily introspective, but not in some whiney BS way. ‘The very roots upon which I stand’. Vocally soulful and powerful. Musically tight, jazz and soul elements combined with raw emotion, and tempered with a feeling of maturity and growth. It was what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. There wasn’t much going on at that time musically. And above all, it was incredible for me to hear something from him that was contemporary. All his previous material I had heard basically after the fact.“

What are your thoughts about it now? Has your perception of it changed over the years?

“That question is double-plus good! My thoughts haven’t really changed, I think the song has stood well against the test of time, both stylistically and production-wise. It is still part of my personal soundtrack. I’ve no idea how it would be received if it were to be released today – but I don’t think that it would be viewed negatively. The musicianship (ahem! Steve White’s drumming) is unimpeachable. My perception, well that’s a bit more difficult to determine. I still feel a RUSH when I hear it. My perception is likely different, I’m older now, my body chemistry has changed and my circumstances are different. But, again the positive and solidly introspective aspects of the song still move and ground me – its simply that there is more experience to be grounded by now, than there was for me in 1992. Also, this song now has to be viewed as BOTH the start of a new chapter in PW’s musical life (which at the time coincided with a new chapter in my life); and it has to be viewed against his large body of subsequent work. Viewed as a start, my perception hasn’t changed. Viewed as part of a larger body of solo work, it remains my favourite – if I had to pick one.”

You have referred to this as a “comeback” and “new chapter” for Weller. How is this album and this song in particular different from The Jam or Style Council?

“In 1989, The Style Council folded – PW also got divorced from DC Lee, a co-member of TSC. At that point, given a combination of factors: his personal and professional situations, and the overall snakelike nature of british music press/culture, he was effectively dismissed as being done. He was single, had no band and no job. If he had had a dog, his dog likely would’ve died too. By 1991, he had assembled a semblance of musicians to form The Paul Weller Movement (which included TSC drummer Steve White – brother of a future Oasis drummer). They started touring, playing a mix of Style Council and Jam songs. Energised by touring, PW gradually introduced new material, which was popular both with fans and critics; popular enough that he signed a new record deal – and that material made the bulk of the first proper solo release. Uh Huh Oh Yeh was one of the later songs to be recorded. I don’t know if the Movement ever played it live. But it was very much a comeback.

I said “new chapter” because that is what it was. Both the Jam and the Style Council had been formalised and established bands. Both bands were talented and competent. In the case of the Jam, Weller basically dissolved them when he realised that they weren’t keen on the direction that he wanted to go. In the case of The Style Council – they were highly creative and very much all over the place – the problem they encountered was that some of their material wasn’t considered to be commercially viable (in some cases rightfully so). SO by going solo the touring and studio personnel changed over time, and included many people of note, members of Mother Earth, and Ocean Colour Scene come to mind. The first show I saw him play, it was basically Mother Earth backing him. So very much a new chapter.

Now if you listen to the full solo album (the original – not special editions), you will note a few things. Uh Huh Oh Yeh is a fantastic opener, but it doesn’t really represent the overall sound of the album. Feel, yes. The album can be easily (and has) described as “Acid Jazz”. UHOY is the most uptempo of the songs, only Into Tomorrow comes close in that regard. But the album is seamless. It is very much one that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. In between songs are intros and outtros, at one point even the sound of a needle crackling and being lifted off a record. More so than any Jam or TSC album it is a very complete package. His influences at the time hadn’t changed much, it was simply that the application had tightened up and focused. It is a smooth and groovy album, moreso than anything the Jam put out, and not as choppy, date-able or manic as anything late Style Council put out.

Uh Huh Oh Yeh, and the album for which it was a single, basically set a mood that was grounded. Just retrospective enough to be credible without being a shameless ripoff or paean to some vague, hollow past. It set a mood that was perfectly suited both for the period, and the future.”

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

Best tunes of 1992: #18 Morrissey “Certain people I know”

<< #19    |    #17 >>

You may have noticed that I’m on a bit of a Smiths bender here, running through my “Complete” box set, one piece at a time, in my weekend ‘Vinyl love’ series. And if you did notice, you might be thinking that I’m a bit of a fanatic of the band, which, of course, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking. However, things didn’t start out that way. I actually came to them late. And it was long after I was fan of Morrissey’s solo material.

Back when I was in the dog days of high school, my friend John fed my suddenly voracious appetite for new music by getting me into bands like Depeche Mode, The Housemartins, and The Cure. He would loan me a handful of compact discs at a time and I would record the ones I enjoyed before returning them. A couple early Morrissey albums came to me in this way but he would never allow any of his Smiths discs to leave his possession. I later learned while living him with him during my last few years of university that this was because he was constantly playing them, ad nauseum, which further delayed my ability to form an appreciation of their music.

Morrissey’s third solo album, “Your arsenal”, was my gateway to his music, being, first, the latest of his works at the time, and second, being that it was a change in direction towards a more rock edge, likely appealed to my transforming tastes. Morrissey had formed a new backing band for this album and together, they infused some glam and rockabilly sensibilities to the work. Track number five, “Certain people I know”, our song of today, for instance, has that twangy slide guitar and swinging beat, a comfy bed that surprisingly feels tailor-made for Morrissey’s warbling vocals. And there he is flirtatiously playing upon words, sneaking a side-long and knowing glance, and dancing across the stage with abandon. He’s taking a cue from his heroes and other certain people he knows and having a blast while doing it.

“They look at danger and they laugh their heads off.”

I once bought a T-shirt with that very line emblazoned on the back. It was on a solo trip to the big city with birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. I had gotten the lowdown from friends on where to look for eight-hole Doctor Martens on Yonge Street and took the GO train in, listening to “Your arsenal” on my Walkman all the way to T-dot. After purchasing the boots, I happened into a store selling what I’m pretty sure now were bootlegged concert Tees and came out with a black one with “Your arsenal” album cover art on the front and said lyric on the back. I wore it countless times over the following months, that is, until it fell into the wrong laundry wash load and was shrunk a couple sizes too small. I ended up giving it to that same friend, John, who introduced me to Morrissey in the first place.

“I use the cue and then I hand it on to you.”

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

100 best covers: #72 Cat Power “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again”

<< #73    |    #71 >>

Just over a couple of years ago, I participated in a collaborative blog posting extravaganza, for which a number of bloggers around the world all posted words on the same day on Bob Dylan, a theme decided upon in advance. It was a fun exercise, albeit somewhat outside of this particular blog’s normally scheduled programming, and it was interesting to see how all these different writer’s chose to treat the chosen theme. In my case, I opted to write about the 2007 film “I’m not there”, an unorthodox biopic on the iconic singer/songwriter that chose to portray him using four different actors and telling bits about his life using multiple story lines. Of course, given my blog’s music bent, I spoke at length about the soundtrack as well, which is a super long (perhaps too long) double LP made up of covers, rather than the originals, by various artists across the musical spectrum. And perhaps both of these, the film and soundtrack, were as contrarian and confounding as Bob Dylan can be himself.

One of the three tracks I pointed out as amongst my favourites on the soundtrack was this cover by Cat Power of “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again”. Though to be honest, it’s definitely less about the artist performing it than it is the song itself. I know next to nothing about the American singer/songwriter but she definitely stands up to the gauntlet laid down by Dylan on this track. Hers is just shy of the seven and half minute mark of Dylan’s original but her honey smooth vocals keep the energy and the feel true to the original. Both versions bounce and jive along and bring a smile to my face every time. I actually fell in love with Dylan’s original just shy a decade earlier when I heard it on another soundtrack, the one for the very excellent screen adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson classic, “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas”.

It’s just one of those songs that could go on for ever as far as I’m concerned, even if either singer just devolved into gibberish. And well, I can’t actually decide which version I like better on this one. Thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

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