Joni Mitchell – The Jungle Line
When pressed for an answer, I’ll say The Jungle Line is probably my favourite Joni Mitchell track. It’s not really like anything else. It sounds like both the invention and end of a genre. Acoustic, Moog-riffing, Burundi-drum sampling poetry rock! Leaving aside the arrangement (if that’s possible), the song itself is a great example of what she’s capable of. The structure is definite but unconventional; melodies echo each other and seem to leap through the chords. The lyrics are great, too. Metaphors aren’t always easy for me to swallow, but this picture of city as jungle as Rousseau painting is smart, beautiful and rare.
Medications – Kilometres and Smiles
Just when you think the music world is out of ideas when it comes to guitar riffs, something like this comes along. Catchy, powerful, experimental yet accessible and unashamedly “rock”. Medications are for me one of the great underground American bands. A little too underground for my liking, as not many people over here seem to have heard of them. They, along with others bands on labels such as Dischord, Kill Rock Stars, Thrill Jockey and Drag City, were a big influence on me and my pals in the north-east of England when we were starting out in the early 2000s.
Punishment of Luxury – Puppet Life
While Field Music looked to the US for inspiration, we seemed to have missed a few older things closer to home. Punishment of Luxury were based in Gateshead around the post-punk era and yet I’d never heard of them till 2008. When I did hear them I was thrilled by their totally off-the-wall concoction of punk, prog, political theatre and dark humour. Their first album, Laughing Academy, is well worth tracking down and Puppet Life is one of the great tracks from it.
Richard and Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights
Every now and again I need something to get me back into playing the guitar. Richard Thompson has been responsible for this a couple of times now. His solo on Shoot Out the Lights is inspiring and gives credence to the practice of getting rock guitar ideas from places outside of the rock guitar world. There’s a great live version of this from an early 80s TV appearance where Richard Thompson’s guitar and Dave Mattacks’ drums are brilliantly wild and intertwined.
Donna Summer – Dinner With Gershwin
1987 was the year I started getting into the pop charts – taping them from the radio and watching Top of the Pops and so on. Everyone says this sort of thing about “their” year, but 1987 really was a hell of a year, right? (Check out the top 100 of 1987, wow). Although it wasn’t a super-massive hit, Dinner With Gershwin made its way on to one of my mam’s compilation tapes via its parent album and was played scores of times in the Brewis household and car. I’d not heard it for years, but when I recently raided my mam’s records it sounded even better than I remembered. Hard-hitting drums, multiple bass lines, funky clean guitar, crystalline synths and slightly ridiculous lyrics. I know much of my love for this track is nostalgia for 1987, but I don’t feel quite the same love for Star-Trekkin.
- Field Music play Electric Fields festival which takes place in Dumfries and Galloway on 26 and 27 August.