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November 2017

December 2017

Cover Story: (33) Streets of London. Ralph McTell, or McTell with Annie Lennox for Crisis (homeless charity)

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For two special editions of Cover Story, Salut! Live's series on different versions of the same songs, I am in the hands of a good friend Frank Gallagher, an exceptional musician and musical producer I first met through his work with Mary Black.

Frank does not know, unless he read the relevant piece, how I massacred Streets of London in my first taste of public performance in decades in the south of France earlier this year.

But now he tells me he is the producer of one exceptional new version, with the song's composer Ralph McTell joined by the redoubtable Annie Lennox with massive help from the choir of the charity Crisis, which works to combat homelessness and help its victims.

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Cover Story (32): Fairytale of New York. The Pogues or O'Hooley and Tidow

Roll up for the 32nd instalment in my series Cover Story , which looks at different versions of the same songs ...

Why am I even bothering with Fairytale of New York? As good a Christmas song as you'll encounter, a stirring melody and chorus plus Shane MacGowan's eloquent portrayal of being down and out in NYC, executed with punch and panache by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. Nothing, on the face if it, to dislike. But it has been done to death by excessive airplay and as many people now cringe as cry for joy when it comes on yet again. But there is a good reason for my interest to perk up, a new interpretation that deserves serious attention.

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Johnny Hallyday: allumez le feu/ light the fire

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Buy this book at the Salut! Live Amazon link here
This has just appeared at another of my sites, Salut!. It is the promised Robb Johnson follow-up to his 2007 epic on Johnny Hallyday, reproduced here after news broke of Johnny's death at 74.

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Johnny Hallyday est mort: an essential essay on a French rock legend

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Click this caption to buy this and other Johnny Hallyday publications at Salut! Live's Amazon link


The French Elvis? Not quite. A French Cliff? Surely not. But when I awoke to news of the death at 74 of Johnny Hallyday, I was instantly aware that another important figure of contemporary music was no more. Massively important to some, hardly worth a thought to others, a choice guided by nationality and/or place of residence, Johnny was adored in France and much of the wider francophone world where his passing is being treated more as Elvis or Lennon than, say Roy Orbison or Freddie Mercury.

L'idole des jeunes, for the French of a certain generation in search of their answer to Anglo-Saxon pop and rock dominance; "poor Johnny remains the most famous rock star most people have never heard of" as a sceptical journalistic consoeur put it. I cannot say I warmed especially to his music but acknowledge he had a terrific voice and some style, though I could cheerfully have strangled the builder we once had in France who not only played Johnny incessantly on his ghetto-blaster as he worked but sang along.

Ten years ago, Robb Johnson - a very leftwing British songwriter wrote at length about his own, superficially strange love affair with Johnny's music. Robb may well be adding his response to the news (not unexpected; Johnny had been suffering from lung cancer and, clearly knowing his time was up, discharged himself from hospital against medical advice to spend his last days at home). His immediate reaction? 'Merde.' I have pulled together the three-part essay Robb composed for these pages ...

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Cover Story (31): The Little Drummer Boy. Sorry Bing, it's got to be Joan Jett or The Rural Alberta Advantage

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"The defendant shall stand. You have been convicted of serious offences and it is my duty to pass a sentence that serves as a deterrent. You shall be taken to a lawful place of punishment and made to listen non-stop for hours to Christmas songs by Slade, Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, Cliff Richard, Connie Francis, George Michael and an impossibly long list of other solo performers and groups, all of whom ought to have known better but fancied a whopping seasonal payday." Fairytale of New York would strike many as a rare exception to the dross, a good song well delivered by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, but how many hearts sink when it's played for the umpteenth time (52m visits to the two main clips of it at YouTube; 145,000 likes, 6,000 dislikes)? Today's judge is my friend, Bill Taylor. Let him take up the Bah Humbug story without mention of Fairytale (I reserve the right to return to it because of an interesting new version by an English duo of Irish backgrounds, O’Hooley and Tidow). And don't worry, he eventually gets almost sentimental about a song that some adore and others feel might have been best left unwritten ...

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