Thursday, 4 August 2011
FIFTY FOODIE TUNES (10 to 1)
#10 Rufus Wainwright with Antony: Old Whore's Diet
I never could see why people got so excited about Rufus and there are still times when I find him self indulgent and adenoidal but not here, on this song, with Antony Heggarty. Listening to this on the iPod as I commuted was what first got me to listen to more of his stuff and then I discovered The Art Teacher and Agnus Dei and Between My Legs and many more delights.
Isn’t ‘The Old Whore’s Diet’ a cigarette and a cup of coffee? That was my standard breakfast for many years. Now I just have the coffee.
#9 Booker T & the MG's: Green Onions
In the 1960s, they were members of the house band at Stax Records and played on many Stax artists’ hits. They also released instrumental records under their own name, of which Green Onions was the biggest.
Apparently ‘Green Onions’ are what we’d call Spring Onions in the UK, or Syboes in Scotland. Once had a tasty Laotian dish in Thailand that seemed to be made principally of chopped beef, chili, and chopped syboes, spiced. Called Laab Neua, very delicious.
#8 Burl Ives: Big Rock Candy Mountain
I heard this often on Children’s Radio as a kid, the Burl Ives version. It was originally a song about a hobo's idea of paradise, first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928.
Wikipedia tells me that McClintock appeared in court as part of a copyright dispute, where he cited the original words of the song as he had sung it when a busker in the street in the 1890s. In that original version, the tale of The Big Rock Candy Mountain was used to beguile a child into the hobo life, leading to disillusion in the last verse:
“I've hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
And I'll be damned if I hike any more
To be buggered sore like a hobo's whore
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
#7 Donna Summer: MacArthur Park
Stretching one reference to a cake left out in the rain to justify inclusion but, wtf, I love this, so here it is! I don’t think that I can take it, cos it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipé again, OH NO! I might have posted Richard Harris’ original because I love it too but I love Donna’s dance version more.
#6 Little Feat: Dixie Chicken
Smooth and sultry slide guitar. That will do nicely. They were never very successful commercially but this single and the eponymous album came the closest.
Dixie chicken is apparently a casserole of chicken breasts, mushrooms, bacon, and cream. The song also talks about Tennessee Lamb but I have no idea what that could be. Kebab, perhaps?
#5 Harry Nilsson: Coconut
When I was a teenager, I was a bit obsessed with this song and with Harry Nilsson. Just for a little while but it’s strongly nostalgic now. ‘Everybody’s Talking’ and ‘Without You’, his other big hits, were sophisticated ballads but this infectious little novelty tune is a calypso, where Nilsson tells a silly story with a series of voices.
#4 John Lennon: Beef Jerky
Lennon went on producing some great tunes and performances after the demise of The Beatles.
I’m not fond of any of these old fashioned preserved meats: jerky, biltong, pemmican, Iceland dried fish etc. I do like jerk chicken though. And one of the benefits of working in South London is you can buy jerk chicken and curried goat for lunch from the West Indian food shops. That will all stop, alas, when I move offices later in the year.
#3 Rosemary Clooney: Come on-a My House
George Clooney’s aunty sure could sing and she was a huge star in her day. She starred in White Christmas with Bing. All the food innuendo here is a little more risqué than you might expect for the period. Sparks stole her song title for their album Kimono My House.
Come on-a my house and you’ll be lucky to get a cup of tea and a biscuit, although I used to be quite good at producing pizza at 3 a.m. after Duckie for guests, before I succumbed to Atkins. The song was based on an Armenian folk song, written by the Armenian-American novelist and playwright William Saroyan (his only foray into pop music) with his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian (the man behind the original Alvin and the Chipmunks). The melody came from an old Armenian folk song and the foodstuffs referenced in the lyric are examples of the hospitality offered if you were to visit a traditional Armenian home: candy, apple, plum, apricot, figs and dates and grapes and cakes, pomegranate, peach and pear, even Easter egg. Apparently Clooney came to hate the song but had to keep singing her greatest hit all her life.
#2 The Smiths: Meat is Murder
WARNING: BRUTAL VIDEO!
Title track of their second album. Horrible subject, great song. These days, I am once more an omnivore but I feel guilty about it. When I watch this I do, anyway. Dear, daft, quixotic old Moz who, to his credit, has apparently remained fiercely vegetarian to this day. Maybe he goes offstage and munches on a Peperami in secret but I choose to think not.
#1 10cc: Life is A Minestrone
Great band, great song off a great album (The Original Soundtrack). Bumped into them in the queue at the old Turnhouse Airport (which was really just one big shed) in Edinburgh when they were just getting famous, one of my first ever celeb spots. I like that their name is a reference to the average volume of ejaculate per seminal emission.
The line about ‘Sipping tea by the Taj Mahal at dawn’ takes me back to doing more or less that very thing a decade ago with my Beloved, on the ‘Diana bench’.
Great lyrics and a particularly fine foodie and philosophical chorus:
“Life is a minestrone
Served up with Parmesan cheese
Death is a cold lasagna
Suspended in deep freeze”
Minestrone just means ‘big soup’ but what lovely stuff it is. First Italian meal I ever ate, in a restaurant in Southwark aged 14 on a school trip, began with minestrone.