MIXTAPE: Rob Heron | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Rob Heron

There’s a lot of music I don’t like, but generally I have an annoyingly eclectic music taste. ‘Annoying’ because I like to own everything on vinyl, and it gets expensive, or often unobtainable. The bulk of my LP collection is blues, country, jazz and reggae (and their associated genres) but I also bits of Latin boogaloo, African stuff, punk, psych and folk. The other half of my record collection is 45s, which is mainly Northern soul and rhythm & blues…this is the stuff I usually DJ with, but at home I go through wild phases of discovery. There’s so much music in the world and it annoys me that I may not ever know it all, so I try my best. One way of doing this is by making genre specific Spotify playlists that are several hours long and then I go out and buy the stuff I like. Music should be paid for, but streaming is good to discover new things!

Van Morrison – Redwood Tree
My mum brought me up almost solely on Van Morrison, and he remains one of my all-time favourites. This song is one of the best, off one of his best albums, St. Dominic’s Preview.

The Contours – Just A Little Misunderstanding
It’s very difficult to choose my favourite Northern song, but this one is up there with the best.  From the piano intro, the thumping drums and the powerful chorus, it makes me want to dance…and I can’t dance.

Pat Kelly – Somebody’s Baby
One of my favourite rocksteady artists, and often over-looked. Just a beautiful song.

The Cramps – Bop Pills
I got into The Cramps after seeing a lot of old rockabilly songs I loved on their Songs The Cramps Taught Us and thought I should probably listen to them. I soon realized that they were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever, and Lux Interior was definitely the greatest front-man of all time!

Sinn Sisamouth – Cool Water Falling
This week’s musical obsession is Asian Psych. There are loads of great compilations out there of ‘60s and ‘70s music from places like Iran, Cambodia and Thailand. Sinn Sisamouth was from Cambodia, had a superb voice and made excellent music. He was killed in the late ‘70s by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, like most musicians and free-thinkers.

George Jones – Things Have Gone To Pieces
Probably my all-time favourite song by my all-time favourite country singer. My band covers this song, and I could literally sing it forever. The lyrics are heartbreaking but with a twist of humour and George’s voice is like velvet.

Gene Clark – Strength Of Strings
In my opinion, you can’t get much better than mixing country music with psych. Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds etc. did amazing and timeless albums under the ‘cosmic country’ sound, but by far my favourite is Gene Clark’s 1974 album No Other.  Strength Of Strings is the best of a faultless album.

The Skee Brothers – While I’m Away
I adore doo wop, and have a lot of it on 45s. Aside from the big stars like Dion & The Belmonts, The Coasters and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, there’s a huge amount of groups that only ever recorded a handful of singles, and they are often the best tracks. The Skee Brothers are a shining example, especially with this rockin’ minor key song from 1958.

Joe Bataan – Special Girl
No playlist is complete without some boogaloo; infectious Latin rhythms with American soul.  Joe Bataan is the king of Latin soul, and this is my favourite track from his most famous album Subway Joe. Everyone should own a copy.

Bob Wills – Stay a Little Longer
Bob Wills is the King of Western Swing, and probably the biggest influence on my band’s style of music.  We call our music ‘North Eastern Swing’, as a play on Western Swing. This song has great lyrics, a jumpin’ rhythm, hot licks, and of course Bob Wills’ trademark “ah haaaahhhh”, all in under three minutes!

Tom Waits – Walk Away
It’s extremely difficult to choose my favourite Tom Waits song, as he has produced endless perfection for over forty years. Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones, Blue Valentine, Mule Variations and The Heart of Saturday Night are all up there in my favourite albums, but there’s some often overlooked songs on his 2006 triple album Orphans – Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. This song is as simple as you can get, with just double bass, light electric guitar, hand claps and vocals. Tom Waits may have a rough voice, but the melodies within are some of the most beautiful ever written.

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