Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) ~ Tex Williams

Sollie Paul Williams, known professionally as Tex Williams, was an American Western swing musician from Ramsey, Illinois.

He is best known for his talking blues style; his biggest hit was the novelty song, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)”, which held the number one position on the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1947. “Smoke” was the No. 5 song on Billboard’s Top 100 list for 1947, and was No. 1 on the country chart that year.   It can be heard during the opening scenes of the 2006 movie, Thank You for Smoking.

Williams’ backing band, the Western Caravan, numbered about a dozen members. They attained an enviable level of fluid interplay between electric and steel guitars, fiddles, bass, accordion, trumpet, and other instruments (even an occasional harp). At first they recorded polkas for Capitol Records with limited success. That was changed by the success of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke” written in large part by Merle Travis.

In April 1956 Williams appeared on the Chrysler sponsored CBS TV broadcast “Shower of Stars”.

His final radio show was a lengthy conversation taped by Bill Aken’s radio program The Country Call Line while Williams was in the Newhall, California hospital. His wife Dallas had asked Aken to call Williams in the hospital and try to cheer him up. He died two days later. Aken ran the entire hour and a half tape without commercial interruption, as a tribute to his long-time friend and former employer.

Williams died of pancreatic cancer on October 11, 1985.

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” is a Western swing novelty song written by Merle Travis and Tex Williams, for Williams and his talking blues style of singing. Travis wrote the bulk of the song.   The original Williams version went to number one for sixteen, non-consecutive weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart.   Recorded on March 27, 1947 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” was produced by Lee Gillette, and featured Deuce Spriggens, bass fiddle, harmony vocal; Larry “Pedro” DePaul, accordion; Johnny Weis, lead guitar; Cactus Soldi, Rex Call, Harry Sims, fiddler; Ossie Godson, piano; Spike Featherstone, harp; Earl “Joaquin” Murphey, steel guitar; Manny Klein, trumpet; Smokey Rogers, guitar, harmony vocal; Muddy Berry, drums.

A cover version performed by Phil Harris stayed on the charts for 23 weeks, and became a number one hit in August 1947 and remained at the top of the chart for six weeks.

Williams made a stereophonic re-recording of the song for Capitol in 1960 on the album, Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!.

The song can be heard in the opening of the 2006 film, Thank You for Smoking,   as well as in the 2011 video game, L.A. Noire, which was set in late 1940s Los Angeles. It has also been covered by Sammy Davis, Jr., Willie Nelson, Phil Harris, Jimmy Dean, Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel and others.

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! - Merle Travis and Tex Williams

Now I’m a feller with a heart of gold
And the ways of a gentleman I’ve been told
The kind of guy that wouldn’t even harm a flea
But if me and a certain character met
The guy that invented the cigarette
I’d murder that son-of-a-gun in the first degree

It ain’t cuz I don’t smoke myself
And I don’t reckon that it’ll harm your health
Smoked all my life and I ain’t dead yet

But nicotine slaves are all the same
At a pettin’ party or a poker game
Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette

Now in a game of chance the other night
Old Dame Fortune was a-doin’ me right
The kings and the queens just kept on comin’ round

And I got a full and I bet ‘em high
But my bluff didn’t work on a certain guy
He just kept on raisin’ and layin’ that money down

Now he’d raise me and I’d raise him
I sweated blood, gotta sink or swim
He finally called and didn’t even raise the bet

So I said “aces full Pops how ’bout you?”
He said “I’ll tell you in a minute or two
But right now, I gotta have me a cigarette”

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hates to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette

(Ah, smoke it! Hah! Yes! Yes! Yes!)

The other night I had a date
With the cutest little girl in the United States
A high-bred, uptown, fancy little dame

She loved me and it seemed to me
That things were ’bout like they oughta be
So hand in hand we strolled down lover’s lane

She was oh so far from a cake of ice
And our smoochin’ party was goin’ nice
So help me cats I believe I’d be there yet

But I give her a kiss and a little squeeze
And she said, “ah, Marty, excuse me please
I just gotta have me another, cigarette”

And she said, smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette.

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The Man Who Sold The World ~ Nirvana

nirvanaNirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990.

With the lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from the band’s second album Nevermind (1991), Nirvana entered into the mainstream, bringing along with it a subgenre of alternative rock called grunge. Other Seattle grunge bands such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden had also gained popularity, and as a result, alternative rock in general became a dominant genre on radio and music television in the United States during the early-to-mid-1990s. As Nirvana’s frontman, Kurt Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the “spokesman of a generation,” with Nirvana being considered the “flagship band” of Generation X. Cobain was uncomfortable with the attention and placed his focus on the band’s music, believing the band’s message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, challenging the band’s audience with its third studio album In Utero (1993).

Nirvana’s brief run ended with Cobain’s death in April 1994, but the band’s popularity continued in the years that followed. In 2002, “You Know You’re Right,” an unfinished demo from the band’s final recording session, topped radio playlists around the world. Since their debut, the band has sold over twenty-five million albums in the US alone, and over fifty million worldwide.

The Man Who Sold The World

The Man Who Sold the World” is a song by David Bowie. It is the title track of his third album, released in the U.S. in November 1970 and in the UK in April 1971. The song has been covered by a number of other artists, notably by Lulu in 1974, and Nirvana in 1993.

In common with a number of tracks on the album, the song’s themes have been compared to the horror/fantasy works of H. P. Lovecraft. The lyrics are also cited as reflecting Bowie’s concerns with splintered or multiple personalities, and are believed to have been partially inspired by the poem “Antigonish” by William Hughes Mearns:

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

The Man Who Sold The World – David Bowie

We passed upon the stair, we spoke in was and when
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend
Which came as a surprise, I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for a foreign land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazeless stare, we walked a million hills
I must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? Not me
I never lost control
You’re face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

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The Man Who Sold The World ~ David Bowie

david-bowieDavid Bowie is an English musician, actor, producer, and arranger. Active in five decades of rock music and frequently reinventing his music and image, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He has been cited as an influence by many musicians.

Although he released an album and numerous singles earlier, David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when his space-age mini-melodrama “Space Oddity” reached the top five of the UK singles chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era as the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona epitomized a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer identified as “plastic soul”. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low — the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. Arguably his most experimental works to date, the so-called “Berlin Trilogy” albums all reached the UK Top Five.

The Man Who Sold The World

The Man Who Sold the World” is a song by David Bowie. It is the title track of his third album, released in the U.S. in November 1970 and in the UK in April 1971. It was later re-popularised and introduced to a new generation by Nirvana’s cover on their MTV Unplugged in New York album. In the wake of this cover, Bowie bemoaned the fact that when he performed the number himself he would encounter “kids that come up afterwards and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing a Nirvana song.’ And I think, ‘Fuck you, you little tosser!'”

In common with a number of tracks on the album, the song’s themes have been compared to the horror/fantasy works of H. P. Lovecraft. The lyrics are also cited as reflecting Bowie’s concerns with splintered or multiple personalities, and are believed to have been partially inspired by the poem “Antigonish” by William Hughes Mearns:

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

The Man Who Sold the World – David Bowie

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You’re face to face
With the Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You’re face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

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The Jean Genie ~ David Bowie

David Bowie is an English musician, actor, producer, and arranger. Active in five decades of rock music and frequently reinventing his music and image, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He has been cited as an influence by many musicians.

Although he released an album and numerous singles earlier, David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when his space-age mini-melodrama “Space Oddity” reached the top five of the UK singles chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era as the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona epitomized a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer identified as “plastic soul”. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low — the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. Arguably his most experimental works to date, the so-called “Berlin Trilogy” albums all reached the UK Top Five.

The Jean Genie

The Jean Genie” is a song by David Bowie, originally released as a single in November 1972. According to Bowie, it was “a smorgasbord of imagined Americana”, with a protagonist inspired by Iggy Pop, and the title being a pun on author Jean Genet. One of Bowie’s most famous tracks, it was the lead single for the album Aladdin Sane (1973). Promoted with a film clip featuring Andy Warhol associate Cyrinda Foxe.

The Jean Genie” was composed and recorded in New York City, where Bowie spent time with the Warhol set’s Cyrinda Foxe. Bowie would later assert, “I wrote it for her amusement in her apartment. Sexy girl.” The song’s chugging R&B riff is often compared to The Yardbirds, especially their cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man”, while the lyrics have been likened to the “stylised sleaze” of The Velvet Underground. The subject matter was inspired in part by Bowie’s friend Iggy Pop or, in Bowie’s own words, “an Iggy-type character… it wasn’t actually Iggy.” The line “He’s so simple minded, he can’t drive his module” would later give the band Simple Minds their name.

The title has long been taken as a pun on the name of author Jean Genet. Bowie was once quoted as saying that this was “subconscious… but it’s probably there, yes”. In his 2005 book Moonage Daydream, he stated this less equivocally: “Starting out as a lightweight riff thing I had written one evening in NY for Cyrinda’s enjoyment, I developed the lyric to the otherwise wordless pumper and it ultimately turned into a bit of a smorgasbord of imagined Americana … based on an Iggy-type persona … The title, of course, was a clumsy pun upon Jean Genet”.

The Jean Genie – David Bowie

A small Jean Genie snuck off to the city
Strung out on lasers and slash back blazers
Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters
Talking bout Monroe and walking on Snow White
New York’s a go-go and everything tastes nice
Poor little Greenie, woh ho
Get back home

The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls
Jean Genie let yourself go!

Sits like a man but he smiles like a reptile
She love him, she love him but just for a short while
She’ll scratch in the sand, won’t let go his hand
He says he’s a beautician and sells you nutrition
And keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear
Poor little Greenie, woh ho

The Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls
Jean Genie let yourself go oh

He’s so simple minded he can’t drive his module
He bites on the neon and sleeps in the capsule
Loves to be loved, loves to be loved
Woh ho
Woh ho

Aoo Jean Genie lives on his back
The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
And he’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls
The Jean Genie let yourself go! go

Go

Jean Genie lives on his back
Jean Genie loves chimney stacks
And he’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls
Jean Genie let yourself go woh go
Go go

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The Boxer ~ Simon & Garfunkel

simon-and-garfunkelThe duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are American popular musicians known collectively as Simon & Garfunkel. They met in elementary school in 1953, when they both appeared in the school play Alice in Wonderland (Simon as the White Rabbit, Garfunkel as the Cheshire Cat). They formed the group Tom and Jerry in 1957, and had their first taste of success with the minor hit “Hey Schoolgirl”. As Simon and Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame in 1965 backed by the hit single “The Sounds of Silence”. Their music was featured on the landmark film The Graduate, propelling them further into the public consciousness. They are well known for their close harmonies and sometimes unstable relationship. Their last album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, was marked with several delays caused by artistic disagreements.

The Boxer

The original recording of the song is one of the duo’s most highly produced, and took over 100 hours to record. The recording was performed at multiple locations, including Nashville, St. Paul’s Church in New York city, and Columbia studios. Drummer Hal Blaine created the huge drum sound heard during the chorus by banging a heavy chain against the concrete floor of an empty storage closet.

The song’s lyrics take the form of a first-person lament, as the singer describes his struggles to overcome loneliness and poverty in New York City. The final verse switches to a third-person sketch of a boxer, who, despite the effects of “every glove that laid him down or cut him ’til he cried out”, perseveres.

It is sometimes suggested that the lyrics represent a “sustained attack on Bob Dylan”. Bob Dylan thought the song was about him in turn covering it on his Self Portrait album, replacing the word “glove” with “blow.” Yet Paul Simon himself has suggested that the lyrics are largely autobiographical, written during a time when he felt he was being unfairly criticized:

“I think I was reading the Bible around that time. That’s where I think phrases such as ‘workman’s wages’ came from, and ‘seeking out the poorer quarters’. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop.”

The chorus of the song is wordless, consisting of a repeated chant of “lie-la-lie”. Simon stated that this was due to a lapse on his part:

“I didn’t have any words! Then people said it was ‘lie’ but I didn’t really mean that. That it was a lie. But, it’s not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part… [softly], I’m a little embarrassed.”

It has sometimes been suggested that the words represent a “sustained attack on Bob Dylan”. Under this interpretation, Dylan is identified by his experience as an amateur boxer, and the “lie-la-lie” chorus represents allegations of Dylan lying about his musical intentions. Biographer Marc Eliot wrote in Paul Simon: A Life, “In hindsight, this seems utterly nonsensical.”

Bob Dylan in turn covered the song on his Self Portrait album, replacing the word “glove” with “blow.” Paul Simon himself has suggested that the lyrics are largely autobiographical, written during a time when he felt he was being unfairly criticized:

“I think I was reading the Bible around that time. That’s where I think phrases such as ‘workman’s wages’ came from, and ‘seeking out the poorer quarters’. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop.”

During a New York City concert in October 2010, Paul Simon stopped singing midway through “The Boxer” to tell the story of a woman who stopped him on the street to tell him that she edits the song when singing it to her young child. Simon told the audience that she removed the words “the whores” and altered the song to say, “I get no offers, just a come-on from toy stores on Seventh Avenue.” Simon laughingly commented that he felt that it was “a better line.”

“The Boxer” was originally written with a verse that is not present in the Bridge Over Troubled Water version:

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rockin’ evenly
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be and that’s not unusual.
No it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same

This “missing” verse was performed by Simon & Garfunkel when they went on tour in November 1969 (this version of the song is included on the Live 1969 album), and Paul Simon when he performed it solo after the group’s breakup. Simon & Garfunkel also performed the “missing verse” on Saturday Night Live in 1975 and when they reunited for The Concert in Central Park in 1981, and on Late Show with David Letterman.

The Boxer – Paul Simon

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told.
I have squandered my resistance,
For a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises.
All lies and jest.
Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy,
In the company of strangers,
In the quiet of the railway station, runnin’ scared.
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters,
Where the ragged people go.
Lookin’ for the places, only they would know.

Lie-la-lie …

Asking only workman’s wages I come lookin’ for a job,
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue.
I do declare there were times when I was so lonesome,
I took some comfort there.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Li la li …

And I’m laying out my winter clothes, and wishing I was gone, goin’ home
Where the new york city winters aren’t bleedin’ me, leadin’ me goin’ home.

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains.

Lie-la-lie …

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Amandrai ~ Ali Farka Touré

Ali Farka TouréAli Ibrahim “Farka” Touré  was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist, and one of the African continent’s most internationally renowned musicians. His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues. The belief that the latter is historically derived from the former is reflected in Martin Scorsese’s often quoted characterization of Touré’s tradition as constituting “the DNA of the blues”. Touré was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and number 37 on Spin magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

He was born in 1939 in the village of Kanau, on the banks of the Niger River in the cercle of Gourma Rharous in the northwestern Malian region of Tombouctou. His family moved to the nearby village of Niafunké when he was still an infant. He was the tenth son of his mother but the only one to survive past infancy. “The name I was given was Ali Ibrahim, but it’s a custom in Africa to give a child a strange nickname if you have had other children who have died”, Touré was quoted as saying in a biography on his Record Label, World Circuit Records. His nickname, “Farka”, chosen by his parents, means “donkey”, an animal admired for its tenacity and stubbornness: “Let me make one thing clear. I’m the donkey that nobody climbs on!” Ethnically, he was part Songrai, part Fula.

As the first African bluesman to achieve widespread popularity on his home continent, Touré was often known as “the African John Lee Hooker”. Musically, the many superpositions of guitars and rhythms in his music were similar to John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic blues style. He usually sang in one of several African languages, mostly Songhay, Fulfulde, Tamasheq or Bambara as on his breakthrough album, Ali Farka Touré,  which established his reputation in the world music community.

His first North American concert was in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. 1994’s Talking Timbuktu, a collaboration with Ry Cooder, sold promisingly well in Western markets, but was followed by a hiatus from releases in America and Europe. He reappeared in 1999 with the release of Niafunké, a more traditional album focusing on African rhythms and beats. Touré was the mentor and uncle of popular Malian musician Afel Bocoum.

Some of Ali Farka Touré’s songs and tunes have been used in different programmes, films and documentaries. For instance, his guitar riff on the song “Diaraby”, from the album Talking Timbuktu, was selected for the Geo-quiz segment of The World PRI-BBC program, and was retained by popular demand when put to a vote of the listeners. This song is likewise used in 1998 as a soundtrack for the film L’Assedio  (Besieged) by the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. His songs Cinquante sixGoye Kur and Hawa Dolo from the album The Source are also used as a soundtrack in the French film Fin août, début septembre (Late August, Early September) directed in 1998 by Olivier Assayas. The song “Lasidan” was featured in the award winning documentary “Sharkwater” by Rob Stewart.

In 2002 he appeared with Black American blues and reggae performer Corey Harris, on an album called Mississippi to Mali (Rounder Records). Toure and Harris also appeared together in Martin Scorsese’s 2003 documentary film Feel Like Going Home, which traced the roots of blues back to its genesis in West Africa. The film was narrated by Harris and features Ali’s performances on guitar and njarka.

In 2004 Touré became mayor of Niafunké and spent his own money grading the roads, putting in sewer canals and fuelling a generator that provided the impoverished town with electricity.

In September 2005, he released the album In the Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with Toumani Diabaté, for which he received a second Grammy award. His last album, Savane, was posthumously released in July 2006. It was received with wide acclaim by professionals and fans alike and has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “Best Contemporary World Music Album”. The panel of experts from the World Music Chart Europe (WMCE), a chart voted by the leading World Music specialists around Europe, chose Savane as their Album of the Year 2006, with the album topping the chart for three consecutive months (September to November 2006). The album has also been listed as No. 1 in the influential Metacritic’s “Best Albums of 2006″ poll, and No. 5 in its all-time best reviewed albums. Ali Farka Touré has also been nominated for the BBC Radio 3 awards 2007.

On March 7, 2006, the Ministry of Culture of Mali announced his death at age 66 in Bamako from bone cancer, against which he had been battling for some time. His record label, World Circuit, said that he recorded several tracks with his son, Vieux Farka Touré, for Vieux’s debut album which was released in late 2006.

Amandrai

Amandrai” was originally recorded on his 1994 album, Talking Timbuktu, but is now available on the soundtrack album, Feel Like Going Home – A Film By Martin Scorsese, or the World Circuit Presents album.

Amandrai translates to “little sister”, and is considered a love song.

There are no English lyrics, but what he does sing is translated to:

If I want to see my friend, I can’t enter her house. I play or sing something and she will know I’m there. She finds a way to meet me. I sing songs to flatter her and express the love between us. Then I must return home (the distance between Tamashek villages is great) to wake early for work. All day I think of the girl.



Amandrai - Ali Farka Touré

No English Lyrics

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How Soon is Now? ~ The Smiths

the smithsThe Smiths were an English rock band active from 1982 to 1987, based on the songwriting partnership of singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. Critics have called them one of the most important alternative rock bands to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s and the group has had major influence on subsequent artists. Morrissey’s lovelorn tales of alienation found an audience amongst youth culture bored by the ubiquitous synthesizer-pop bands of the early 1980s, while Marr’s complex melodies helped return guitar-based music to popularity.

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by two Manchester residents: an unemployed writer named Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first names) who was a big fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted punk rock band The Nosebleeds, and Johnny Marr, a guitarist and songwriter. Originally named John Maher, Marr changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer. Marr’s jangly Rickenbacker guitar playing became synonymous with The Smiths’ sound. After recording several demo tapes with the drummer from The Fall, Simon Wolstencroft. they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in fall of 1982. Joyce had formerly been a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr’s friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert’s bass playing or personality fit in with the group. Marr and Rourke had previously worked together in The Paris Valentinos along with actor Kevin Kennedy.

Encyclopedia Britannica comments that the band’s “non-rhythm-and-blues, whiter-than-white fusion of 1960s rock and postpunk was a repudiation of contemporary dance pop” which was popular in the early 1980s. The band also picked their name in part as a reaction against names used by popular Synthpop bands of the early 1980s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet, because they considered these names fancy and pompous.In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths “…because it was the most ordinary name” and because he thought that it was “…time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.”

How Soon is Now?

Written by Smiths singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, it was originally a B-side of the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing”. “How Soon Is Now?” was subsequently featured on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow and on American, Australian and Warner UK editions of the group’s second album Meat Is Murder.

Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr wrote “How Soon Is Now?” along with the songs “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” during a four-day period in June 1984. Marr recorded all three songs with bandmates Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce that July at London’s Jam Studios. After a night out celebrating the session for “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, the trio reconvened the following afternoon to record “How Soon Is Now?”. Producer John Porter was impressed by the basic riff Marr showed him, but felt the song needed something else. The pair’s discussion turned to the early recordings of Elvis Presley, which led to an impromptu jam session of the song “That’s All Right”. During the jam, Marr worked on his chord progression for “How Soon Is Now?”, which inspired the arrangement.

During recording, Marr created an oscillating guitar effect that plays throughout the song. After a break, Marr and Porter added a few overdubs to the track, including a slide guitar part that “gave [the song] real tension”, according to the guitarist.

That night Porter sent singer Morrissey a rough mix of the song in the mail. The following morning Morrissey arrived and laid down his vocals, culling lyrics from various works in progress in his notebook in the process. According to Porter, the singer completed his vocals in two takes.

The song contains only one verse which is repeated twice, plus a chorus and a bridge. The subject is an individual who cannot find a way to break out of his shyness. Two couplets from the song are well known in pop culture, the opening to the verse: “I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar / I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular”, and the chorus: “I am human and I need to be loved / Just like everybody else does”. The opening was adapted from a line in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch: “To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable heir to nothing in particular”. Music journalist Jon Savage commented that the song’s lyrics were evocative of contemporary Manchester gay club culture.

The tune is built around a guitar chord that rapidly oscillates in volume. As to how the distinctive resonant sound was achieved, Marr gave the following account to Guitar Player magazine in 1990:

The vibrato sound is fucking incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts… I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part — not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It’s doubled several times.

Rare 1986 live video – The Smiths perform How Soon Is Now at The National Ballroom, Kilburn 1986.. This song was omitted from the 1988 album Rank:

How Soon Is Now? - Morrissey, Johnny Marr

I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and the heir
of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

There’s a club if you’d like to go
you could meet somebody who really loves you
so you go, and you stand on your own
and you leave on your own
and you go home, and you cry
and you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
well, when exactly do you mean?
see I’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

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  • Audio from the 2009 album, The Sound of The Smiths (Deluxe):

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Purchase-Music How Soon Is Now? – $1.29

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