Almanac Music: The Music Labyrinth

 

About 19 months ago I retired from a 40 year career as a police officer. I wrote a piece about that experience which The Footy Almanac was kind enough to publish at the time. The essence of it was my expectation that I was about to begin gently daubing paint on the blank canvas that was the post-career part of my life. Do you remember those TV ads from years ago for Stainmaster carpets, which featured Pro Hart attacking carpet with gallons of paint applied by explosion, motor vehicles, shovels and his own body? Yeah; well, thats been the last 19 months for me.

 

Ever since I first joined this site my Footy Almanac profile has indicated my passion for music, and it has been that passion which has featured a lot in what I have been doing since hanging up the truncheon. A couple of years ago I fancied upon a format for a radio program, and the idea stayed with me. So I approached my local community radio station and (bless ‘em) they allowed me to pursue the project which has become for me whatever it is that you call those things which might amount to an obsession, but you would rather not call it that.

 

The program is called The Music Labyrinth, and last night I presented the 74th episode of it. The first of those was broadcast in July 2020, and the very simple concept was summed up in the first words of the first episode:

 

The Music Labyrinth is, quite simply, a journey without destination through music. Each waypoint on the journey will have some linkage, however tenuous, with the previous. Is there an exit? Probably not. Maybe we’re just destined to roam here forever – but there are worse fates. How do you get into a labyrinth? Well, often by accident. Sometimes without knowing. We’re going to enter via the track that happened to be playing when this journey first occurred to me. Come with me.

 

 

Track: Godless / Dandy Warhols

 

In the course of the program’s short history we’ve now played over one thousand songs, each linked to the last; a trail leading all the way back to Godless. Only once have I buggered up and played the same song twice (an act which my family described as reckless in the same way as taking the DeLorean above 88mph was reckless). Along the way we’ve discovered some interesting links between songs, and I thought it might be fun to share a few of them here. Because I’m hopeless at the ruthlessness of efficient editing, I’ve limited myself here to the first ten episodes. Who knows? There might be scope for another of these short essays in the future!

 

In episode one of The Music Labyrinth we found ourselves listening to the beautiful ‘Life On Mars?’ by David Bowie, and observed that:

 

‘Life on Mars?’ was produced by Ken Scott and recorded at Trident Studios, London, in August 1971. We could do several episodes of the Music Labyrinth on Trident Studios. For example, during the same month of 1971, at the same studios, Genesis recorded the magnificent ‘Nursery Cryme’ album – and I’m SO tempted to go there now – but there are other fascinating links to be explored. That beautiful piano on ‘Life on Mars?’ was played by Rick Wakeman. It was played on the famous Trident studios Bechstein Grand Piano, No. 44064, which can also be heard on the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, and on Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’. Here it is in all its glory on another classic, also produced by Ken Scott at Trident.

 

Track: Rudy / Supertramp

 

From episode 3:

 

That was Amy Winehouse and the song, ‘Rehab’, from her album ‘Back to Black’.  The song, and the album, were produced by Amy Winehouse’s friend and collaborator, Mark Ronson.  Ronson has an impressive CV in the music business, but for our purposes, we’re looking at his pedigree.  Ronson’s step-father is the English musician, Mick Jones, who is perhaps best known as the founding and longest serving member of this next band.  And, whilst it might be tempting to discard this song as a classic bit of 80s kitsch, there is a lot to like about it – not least of which is Junior Walker’s classic saxophone solo near the end of the track.  Keep an ear out for it.

 

Track: Urgent / Foreigner

 

Episode 7:

 

From 1968, that was the Jeff Beck Group with the whimsical, homesick, glorious melodies of ‘Girl From Mill Valley’.  The Jeff Beck Group offers us a great range of directions for moving on through the Labyrinth.  Just the lineup from the ‘Beck-Ola’ album includes Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, and – of course – Jeff Beck.  However, lets not do that.  Instead, lets walk over a bridge that is so tenuous it will make you roll your eyes and reach for your coffee.  The cover art for the ‘Beck-Ola’ album features a reproduction of the surrealist painting ‘The Listening Room’ by Rene Magritte.  This made me think of other albums which feature famous works of art on the cover.  There are plenty, but the first to jump to my mind is an album cover which features a reproduction of Titian’s painting Bacchus and Ariadne.  From the 1993 album ‘God Shuffled His Feet’, this is the Crash Test Dummies with their meditation on ageing.   This is ‘Afternoons & Coffeespoons’.

 

Track: Afternoons & Coffeespoons / Crash Test Dummies

 

A few moments ago on the Music Labyrinth we listened to the Crash Test Dummies from 1993 and the song ‘Afternoons & Coffeespoons’.  There are references by name in the song, which I’m sure you heard, to the English poet T S Eliot, and that gives me the perfect opportunity to jump onto one of my favourite music references.  In 1922, T S Eliot published his long poem, ‘The Waste Land’.  For those who are not familiar with the poem, it contains references to Arthurian legend and, in parts, laments the erosion of what might be thought of as “traditional England”.  What cannot be denied are the thematic similarities, and the lyrical links, to a fantastic prog rock track from 1973.  So, as a special treat to the listener, I’m going to play that track, which happens also to be one of my favourites.  Keep an ear out for those themes and references, as we turn to the mighty Genesis album ‘Selling England By The Pound’, and listen to ‘The Cinema Show’.

 

Track: The Cinema Show / Genesis

 

Episode 8, after listening to Cold Hard Bitch by Jet:

 

As mentioned earlier, the band Jet was formed by the brothers Nic and Chris Cester.  Nic and Chris’s uncle, Eugene Cester, has a recording career in his own right.  On most of Uncle Eugene’s recorded performances he was known by the unorthodox stage name of Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun, and together with Humphrey B Flaubert and Jock Cheese, they formed the core of the anonymous, underground, alternative, and bizarrely humorous band, TISM.  Here they are with ‘Greg! The Stop Sign’.

 

Track: Greg! The Stop Sign / TISM

 

Episode 9:

 

That was Tears For Fears with ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ from their 1985 album ‘Songs From The Big Chair’.  Five years later, at the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1990, the BBC deemed a number of songs to be inappropriate for airplay and produced a list of sixty seven which were banned from their stations for the duration of the conflict.  The list included ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’.  It also included this classic from Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

 

Track: Olivers Army / Elvis Costello and The Attractions

 

Episode 10:

 

That was the Allen Toussaint song ‘Working in a Coal Mine’, written in 1966 and reworked in the version we just heard by Devo in 1981. The band Devo commenced as something of a joke.  The name is short for the concept of “de-evolution” – a proposal that mankind is not progressing in evolutionary terms, but regressing.  The band developed primarily as a vehicle to deliver satirical performance pieces about that theme.  As we know, that joke developed into considerable commercial success.  In a very similar set of circumstances, in London in 1987 Steven Wilson and Malcolm Stocks set about inventing a fictional story of a successful prog rock band.  In order to add authenticity to the story, Wilson in particular, began to assemble musical compositions as “back-fill” to the main storyline. Those musical compositions eventually overtook the project of the fictitious prog-rock band, and became Porcupine Tree.  The band went on to release ten albums, and a high degree of artistic and commercial success.  Here they are with ‘Lazarus’.

 

Track: Lazarus / Porcupine Tree

 

So, as you can probably tell, I’m having a great deal of fun with The Music Labyrinth, and I am hoping to continue the project for as long as the community radio station will indulge me with it. No-one has yet thrown a brick through the front window of the station – which I am interpreting as an endorsement of the program! Should you wish to know any more about the program, a full history of all episodes, and links to Spotify and Apple Music playlists for each program are available at: www.themusiclabyrinth.com.

 

Enjoy your music. No matter what flavour it comes in.

 

You can read more from Danny Russell (‘non shedders’) Here

 

Check out Danny Russell’s  ‘Nonshedders’ website Here

 

 

Read more stories from Almanac Music  HERE

 

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About Danny Russell

Danny Russell, feet planted firmly in the island state, is easily led. "Scratcher" Neal led him to the Cats where his loyalty has remained (despite being sorely tested). The weekly magazine "The Story of Pop" led him to music beyond the focus of Tasmanian AM radio of the 70s.

Comments

  1. An intriguing concept. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m glad that I found this Danny. Elvis Costello can’t bring himself to play Oliver’s Army any more, but I’m sure you knew that already and why.

  3. Cheers, Greg A. And thanks, Swish, for your comment. If music is art (how could it be otherwise?) then Olivers Army is a piece of art that illuminates all those discussions about the true purpose of art being to challenge and provoke the observer. Nevertheless, its something of a shame, I reckon, that a song which opens up so many discussions about the nature of our society, also has the potential to offend. I dont know if that is right or wrong, but I did struggle with the appropriateness of playing it. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision.

  4. A fabulous and very clever idea, Danny. Love it!!

  5. Such a great concept Danny. I love the connections you’ve made between songs and artists. ‘Afternoons & Coffeespoons’ is one of my favourite songs and Brad Roberts’ voice is remarkable. A darkly funny essay on aging it features this couplet which always makes me laugh.

    I’ve watched the summer evenings pass by
    I’ve heard the rattle in my bronchi…

    How many other songs feature, ‘bronchi?’

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