Did you like me associate “Wild is the Wind” with the late, great Mr. Bowie? He does astonish, with his version on Station to Station. But it was my friend George, from over at Between Two Islands, who alerted me a few years ago to the fact that the song is an old one–from a 1957 movie of the same name–and was originally sung by none other than Johnny Mathis. I should have known this but then again one can’t know everything when it comes to music (unless you’re George). The song, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1958, was composed by the Russian-born composer Dmitri Tiomkin, who specialized in scores for American Westerns. The lyricist was Ned Washington, perhaps best known for penning the words to “When You Wish Upon a Star” and–who knew?–“Town Without Pity.” (The rabbit hole of forgotten songwriters and their work is deep and compelling.) Bowie by the way was inspired by Nina Simone’s version, which she recorded live in 1959, and then on a studio album in 1966. It isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to mix Johnny Mathis into a playlist that also includes Björk, Taj Mahal, and Warren Zevon but that’s my job–easing out into Jane Siberry’s majestic “The Valley” certainly gave it a smooth landing.
* The Tourists were a British band, most notable these years later for being the band in which Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart first met and played together. They were active from 1976 through late 1980. Eurythmics emerged in the Tourists’ aftermath, and released their debut album in 1981.
* I am not notably either a blues aficionado nor a Billie Holiday devotee, but Cassandra Wilson’s album of jazz standards associated with Holiday, 2015’s Coming Forth By Day, strikes my ear as monumentally good. Working with producer Nick Launay (known for his work with Nick Cave in particular but with dozens of impressive credits), Wilson imbues these old songs with smoky atmosphere at once quirky and incisive.
* Warren Zevon is celebrated mostly for his early (’70s) and later (’00s) work but the stuff in the middle, in retrospect, isn’t too shabby either. I have particular fondness for the title track to this 1991 album, as full of humor, chaos, and melody as any of his most memorable material.
* Sharon Van Etten’s new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, is pretty great, in part because she’s just pretty great in general. Did you read about how she’s studying to be a psychologist? In addition to her being a singer/songwriter, an actress, and a mom? I was already very impressed by her and now all the more so.
* The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose: two fantastic hit songs, and then a bunch of forgettable filler. How did this happen? Who knows. But now I’ve given you both of the good ones here, so their days populating the Eclectic Playlist Series are officially over.
* Speaking, earlier, of forgotten songwriters, or partially forgotten, or in any case under-appreciated, I give you Jules Shear, who has had a preternatural knack for pop-rock melodies. The Bangles made this one a hit a year after his version. Yup it’s very ’80s. And completely wonderful.
* Lastly: if you have somehow managed never to have seen the “Bachelorette” video, a classic directed by Michel Gondry, do yourself a favor and go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJnhaXwK86M. And this advice coming from a guy who never usually sees the video. What a sensational song this is, still.
Full playlist below the widget.
“O Lucky Man!” – Alan Price (“O Lucky Man!”: The Original Sountrack, 1973)
“So Good To Be Back Home Again” – The Tourists (Reality Effect, 1980)
“I Love You So Bad” – Ezra Furman (Transangelic Exodus, 2018)
“Treat Her Like a Lady” – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (single, 1971)
“How Soon” – Martha Wainwright (Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole EP, 2005)
“Billie’s Blues” – Cassandra Wilson (Coming Forth By Day, 2015)
“Bachelorette” – Björk (Homogenic, 1997)
“She Loves to Be In Love” – Charlie (Lines, 1978)
“Horse and I” – Bat For Lashes (Fur and Gold, 2007)
“If She Knew What She Wants” – Jules Shear (The Eternal Return, 1983)
“Kiss of Life” – Sade (Love Deluxe, 1992)
“I Scare Myself” – Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks (Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, 1969)
“The Mountain” – Dave Carter & Tracy Grammar (Tanglewood Tree, 2000)
“Mr. Bad Example” – Warren Zevon (Mr. Bad Example, 1991)
“Part Time Love” – Ann Peebles (Part Time Love, 1971)
“Last Wave” – They Might Be Giants (I Like Fun, 2018)
“Wild is the Wind” – Johnny Mathis (A Certain Smile, 1957)
“The Valley” – Jane Siberry (Bound By The Beauty, 1989)
“Take a Giant Step” – Taj Mahal (Giant Step, 1969)
“No One’s Easy to Love” – Sharon Van Etten (Remind Me Tomorrow, 2019)