Wang Dang Doodle

If you’re new to Town Full of Losers, I’d like to welcome you to the blog. If you’ve been here before, I’d like to welcome you back. And if you’re a regular visitor, I’d like to apologise for the lengthy delay between posts. Amongst other things, I’ve moved house and that took up a lot of my summer. I’ve been meaning to write a new post for ages and felt that today’s anniversary of John Lennon’s birth would be as good as any. I knew without looking it up that he was born on this day back in 1940, but curiousity made me check who else was born on October 9th. Iturns out that quite a few musicians and singers have shared this date as their birthday and I’m going to focus on half a dozen of them below

John Lennon‘s second son, Sean, was born on the day of his father’s 35th birthday in 1975. Lennon decided to give up performing and recording music that year to devote more time to his family, so the album he released that year would be his last one for half a decade. Rock ‘n’ Roll was a baker’s dozen of standards from that genre that Lennon had been forced to release after borrowing a line and the melody from a Chuck Berry song on The Beatles’ Come Together in 1969. It’s an inconsistent collection that nevertheless contains a few highlights. One of these is Lennon’s version of Gene Vincent’s 1956 single, Be-Bop-A-Lula. Incidentally, this Friday marks the 41st anniversary of Gene Vincent’s death

It was 50 years ago this month that The Beatles released their first single, Love Me Do, credited to Lennon and Paul McCartney. The duo went on to write many more hits throughout the sixties, including the first Top 20 success for The Rolling Stones. It took Mick Jagger and Keith Richards a while to write their first A-side, though it finally arrived in 1965. (This Could Be) The Last Time was based on a similarly titled song by The Staple Singers who, as far as I know, didn’t take any legal action against the Stones. However, the Stones’ publishers DID sue The Verve when they drew upon an instrumental version of the song for their Bittersweet Symphony single in 1997. In 1967, The Who released a version of The Last Time backed with Under My Thumb to show their support for Jagger and Richards, who had been arrested on drugs charges. Pete Townsend played the bass on the two songs because regular bassist John Entwistle was on his honeymoon. Entwistle, who passed away ten years ago, was born on October 9th, 1944

The soul singer, O.V. Wright, was born exactly one year before John Lennon and died 20 days before him in 1980. I first came across the Tennessee-born singer when Nick Hornby chose one of his songs for his 31 Songs book. I’ve never come across any of his albums, but his music often turns up on compilation albums. His wonderful version of Blowin’ in the Wind appears on 2010’s How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan

The next three artists are also amongst the cast of thousands who have paid tribute to Dylan over the years*. Birthday boy James Fearnley was born 58 years ago in the north of England. That’s no mean feat when you consider he was the accordion player in The Pogues. As a youngster, Fearnley had taken piano lessons, but lost interest in that instrument and picked up the guitar instead. He played with Shane MacGowan in The Nipple Erectors and, after nearly joining Culture Club, he was persuaded to learn the accordion for MacGowan’s next musical project. He certainly played the box a lot differently to the traditional Irish musicians I’d seen and he went on to become an integral part of The Pogues’ sound. He’s just published the first part of his memoirs and you can hear him below on the ramshackle version of a song that Elvis released on his third album when little James was only three. The song’s title seems to have become a mantra for MacGowan and can be found on a 1990 NME tribute called The Last Temptation of Elvis

Polly Jean Harvey is the only one on today’s list who was born after I was. She’s always ploughed her own musical furrow and has always been more of a critical success than a commercial one. Her take on Wang Dang Doodle was recorded for a 1993 Peel session and originally appeared on her Man-Size single that year. It’s a blues song that was written by Willie Dixon for Howlin’ Wolf, though Harvey may have also drawn upon Koko Taylor’s version

The American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne was born 64 years ago in Germany. Browne released a version of Lennon’s Oh My Love for a charity compilation in 2007, but I’ve gone for song he did for Electra Records’ 40th anniversary tribute, Rubaiyat (1990). It’s First Girl I Loved from the Incredible String Band’s second album (from 1967). Finally, Paris-born France Gall turns 65 today. I’m a big fan of her French pop numbers and also this little ditty that she recored during her German phase. I’ve got a few good friends in Bavaria and other parts of Germany and perhaps I’ll have a few more after Ireland’s match with the German football team this Friday. In particular, I’d like to dedicate France Gall’s 1972 single to Katrin and to all the other patient readers of this blog

Be-Bop-A-Lula (Gene Vincent cover) – John Lennon

The Last Time (Rolling Stones cover) – The Who

Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan cover) – O.V. Wright

First Girl I Loved (Incredible String Band cover) – Jackson Browne

Wang Dang Doodle (Howlin’ Wolf cover) – PJ Harvey

Got a Lot o’ Livin’ To Do (Elvis Presley cover) – The Pogues

Ich habe einen freund in München – France Gall

*Those other Dylan covers are: The Pogues – When The Ship Comes In on Pogue Mahone (1996). PJ Harvey – Highway 61 Revisited on Rid of Me (1993). Jackson Browne – Love Minus Zero/No Limit on Chimes of Freedom (2012)

I’ve borrowed the doodle of Lennon from here


6 thoughts on “Wang Dang Doodle

  1. Lovely to have you back! Finally those dreary days of waiting are over.
    As always, a great collection

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