Dion, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’

Dion

My mum introduced me to Dion. His music, I mean – she’s not a close personal friend. She might have had trouble with his drug years, if her attitude to my teenage smoking’s anything to go by. I’m not sure how this squares with her and my dad bringing back container-loads of duty free fags for my brother (13 years younger), but let’s save that one for another day.

So my mum introduced me to Dion a few years ago when she bought me 1975’s Phil Spector-produced Born To Be With You after reading a feature in the Telegraph. Great decision – it’s a truly stupendous record – although she was more into the rock’n’roll Dion and his Belmonts. This Dylan cover comes somewhere in between. It’s from Wonder Where I’m Bound, a cash-in collection of folk-rock efforts originally released in 1969 but reissued this year, and has that familiar, easy Dion swing. Something in his Bronx brogue is enormously warm and comforting and the arrangement sparkles, in a Byrdsian way perhaps.

This place should become a bit of a three-hander now. It’s Junior’s blog of course, but Junior 2 (three and a half to Junior’s six and a third) is increasingly the one who’s most interested in what I’m sticking on the stereo. Well, they’re different types of engagement, I suppose. Junior is now aware of the pop world around her and knows what she likes – and more and more it’s not what I’m choosing. That’s only right. But Junior 2 wants to know all about what I’m playing: she wants to see the sleeves, she wants to exchange croons of “baby blue”, she wants to compare with the Dylan original. Soon enough she’ll decide on her own stuff. That’s only right too.

In the meantime I’ll vainly carry on doing what I’m doing, possibly more frequently.

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[16] Bangles, ‘Manic Monday’

Bangles

On the other hand, this is “good and lovely and great”, so at least I got the order right. Maybe starting school has turned Junior all militant, because – on learning the Bangles were an all-girl group – she announced, “I only want to listen to music by girls now.”

So of course I told her this was written by a boy. Well, Prince anyway. Along with his ‘Take Me With U’, this was meant for the debut album by Apollonia 6, but the sly old dog kept the former for his own Purple Rain and used this as leverage for a go at Susanna Hoffs. Who can blame him? She was cute; even more so when perched all petite in front of her somewhat butch bandmates. Come on, one of them was called Michael.

‘Manic Monday’ is a pretty ditty, buoyed by rolling piano fills and the other girls’ Byrdsian harmonies. It broke the Bangles over here, but they could never consistently capitalise, only ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and ‘Eternal Flame’ providing sporadic highs while the rest of their output took the middle ground. Still, ‘Manic Monday’ was a No.2 hit in the UK, and runner-up in the US too, losing out Stateside to a certain purple pompatus and a certain record which we may or may not return to in a bit.

Wish it was Sunday (there’s football on):

Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’

Fleet Foxes

Another one that narrowly missed our 2008 chart, finishing around 23. It’s a gorgeous song, but that’s not enough, is it? It needs to be a single – not just a single – and this feels like part of an album. If that doesn’t make any sense, stick it on my list of hang-ups.

So, beards in popular music: do they make better harmonies? I’m thinking later Byrds, Fleetwood Mac (ok, maybe not Stevie and Christine, but who knows what Lindsey Buckingham and John McVie were trying to hide?), The Beach Boys in transcendental mode, erm, ZZ Top? Well, it has the doings of a theory. Fleet Foxes’ debut – an album of the year in all the likely places – is glazed in harmony, and nowhere is the melding of hirsute voice more lovely than on ‘White Winter Hymnal’, with its mercury lyrics (“scarves of red tied ‘round their throats/to keep their little heads/from fallin’ in the snow,” anyone?) and rising/falling chords.

It’s a soft hit with Junior who answers my “Do you like it?”s with “Stop talking, Daddy, I’m trying to listen”. I shut my trap and the album wanders on, with Junior recognising other tracks and pointing out I play them at home. She’s right – it’s been one of my favourites too. I’d like to see these bears perform live but I understand you need to be well over six foot to catch a glimpse of them, sitting down strumming their guitars. I’m not that tall yet.

[12] The Charlatans, ‘Can’t Get Out Of Bed’

The Charlatans are rather cuddly, aren’t they? Or is that just me? They make untaxing but rewarding records and thumb their noses at fashion. There were those initial dalliances with baggy, sure, but after that they settled into a decade and a half of filling songs with warm melodies and loose-limbed rocking. It’s all been faintly unremarkable, hasn’t it? Still, there was a mid-‘90s purple patch where everything Tim Burgess and the lads touched turned to Byrdsian gold, and ‘Can’t Get Out Of Bed’ kicked it off.

The verses are the best bit, slow riffs and hooks. A curious Junior asked for the song title, then took to lying on the floor, pretending she couldn’t “get out of bed”. That’s as far as her critical appraisal went.