BastardChef: MasterChef Music

 

Matt-Preston-420x0

Here's the thing: after the initial success of Masterchef, they got Matt Preston to put his mug on the cover of a compilation CD.

It had a nice title with a pun in it: Music from Another Platter.

It had a varied line-up of artists old and new.

It claimed to be music for cooking and eating.

I think it was a missed opportunity, particularly given that Matt Preston set out as a music journo and ended up a food critic.

I reckon he should have compiled the best collection of songs about food.

But he didn't.

So I've done it for him: what with the premiere of the 2012 season of Masterchef, I present Bastard Chef.

It’s actually a boxed set.

This is the track listing of volume one:

  1. Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love In My Tummy - Ohio Express
  2. Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock
  3. Vegetables - Beach Boys
  4. St Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast/Father O’Blivion - Frank Zappa/Mothers
  5. Cook of the House - Linda McCartney & Wings
  6. Crawfish - Elvis Presley
  7. Cook Cook Blues - Rolling Stones
  8. The Raspberry Song - The Goons
  9. Popcorn - Hot Butter
  10. Beans & Cornbread - Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five
  11. Chewy Chewy - Ohio Express
  12. Agita - Nick Apollo Forte aka Lou Canova

If you want, you can listen to the album below. While you read through the track list in better detail. Go on, you know you want to. If you like them very much indeed to the point of wanting to own them, there are links to Amazon. You may prefer to keep your own local music store alive if you still have one; if you don’t, the Amazon purchase will aid the upkeep of this blog, which is nice.

By the way, the cover artwork is by Alex E. Clark. (If you can only see an expanse of white immediately below, check this out on a computer rather than your phone or tablet.)

 

Bastard Chef from standanddeliver on 8tracks.

 

 

1: Yummy Yummy Yummy - Ohio Express

Bubble gum’ is a genre of pop that came into being in the late ’60s when the kid brothers and - more importantly - sisters of the swingin’ youth were getting to a record buying age. So it mostly consists of producer- and session-musician driven, sickly sweet ditties designed for tweens and teens buying singles. ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ is a prime example – but don’t dismiss it. Fundamental truths are often communicated in the simplist aphorisms.

Even if ‘Yummy yummy yummy/I got love in my tummy’ doesn’t resonate with the authority of a quote from Shakespeare or Dylan – the ‘Love, you're such a sweet thing/Good enough to eat thing’ might get us into Rochester territory – often the truest food of love is, in fact, food. And there’s no denying that the love of food is one of the truest loves there is. (Just ask Matt Preston and his fellow judges.)


Find it: on the compilation Yummy Yummy Yummy: Best of the Ohio Express. Download it here.

 

2: Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock

If there’s one thing you learn from MasterChef, it’s the importance of fresh ingredients and the value of establishing relationships with providores: going to growers markets when you can’t grow your own. Of course, back in the day, they used to come to you – hence the 16-bar blues of ‘Watermelon Man’: inspired, according to composer Herbie Hancock, by the memory of the watermelon man who made his way through the backstreets and alleys of Hancock's neighbourhood in Chicago. He distinctly recalls the rhythm of the wheels on the cobblestones, apparent in the groove of the piece.

Recorded for Hancock's first album, the 1962 Blue Note album Takin’ Off, ‘Watermelon Man’ proved a modest hit before Mongo Santamaria turned it into a massive Latin pop hit the following year. It soon became a jazz standard. Hancock reworked it into an altogether funkier tune for his early ’70s album Headhunters. There is a vocal version that makes obvious use of the unmistakeable ‘watermelon man’ cadence.

Find it: on the remastered Takin’ Off. Download it here.

 

3: Vegetables - The Beach Boys

‘Vegetables’ – not only delicious, but good for you too. The hippies knew it. Hence this paean to the edible parts of plants. Originally intended for Smile, the long, lost Beach Boys masterpiece that was meant to be a follow-up to Pet Sounds. But Smile was shelved with much drama, intrigue and subsequent denials and recriminations, thought never to see the light of day again. Until Brian Wilson released a solo version of it earlier this millennium. And then the original Smile sessions were excavated for a mammoth boxed set that included a reconstruction of the lost masterpiece in 2011.

However, back in the day, when for whatever reason the original was shelved (Wilson’s paranoia, stoked by summer of love chemical refreshments; the rest of the band’s disinterest; the record label balking at the mounting costs of hippies frittering away their money…), the song was salvaged for the less spectacular album that was eventually released:  Smiley Smile.

Apparently the ‘tuned percussion’ of munched vegetables include the chomping talents of Paul McCartney, who happened to pop in to the studio during the Smile sessions.

Find it: On the remastered 2-albums-on-1-CD collection Smiley Smile/Wild Honey. Download it here .


4: St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast/Father O’Blivion - Frank Zappa/Mothers

In the early-to-mid-’70s Frank Zappa led his most jazzy line-up of the Mothers of Invention. They were (like all of Zappa’s bandmembers) musicially brilliant, irrespective of the silly lyrics they were called upon to underscore – and I say that as someone who digs the silly lyrics!

To give you some idea of how well-rehearsed the band was, it’s been told (by a local muso who hung out with Zappa’s trumpeter, Sal Marquez, on the 1973 Aussie tour) that at any time, Frank could call upon a bandmember, naming a song and a bar. The musician was then expected to hum their corresponding part.

‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ are two songs that make up the four-song suite that opens the album Apostrophe (’) (it begins with ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’, followed by ‘Nanook Rubs It’). Another track, ’MAH-JUH-RENE’, was recorded, but edited out of the final master before it was released; it may have fitted between ‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ but it’s hard to ascertain – a live recording from Sydney 1973 puts it after ‘St Alphonso’, but that rendition opens with ‘Father O’Blivion’ before proceeding to ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’ and ‘Nanook Rubs It’.

I’ll leave it up to you to find the deeper meaning; I just love listening to that band play - Ruth Underwood's percussion especially - with Frank up front, singing lead.

Find it: on the CD Apostrophe (’). Not available for download.

 

5: Cook of the House - Linda McCartney and Wings

This song, essentially a low-fi blues jam, was written in Australia during – or perhaps just after – the Wings tour of 1975. It was recorded in early 1976 for the album Wings at the Speed of Sound. The album came out in March, giving the band an album to tour behind when they went back on the road (their ‘Wings over the World’ tour culminated in the US in 1976).

The story goes that Paul and Linda were staying in a house whose kitchen had everything they could possibly need, laid out around them pretty much as described in the song. The white noise of frying oil that opens and closes the song is a nice touch.

Wings at the Speed of Sound has always stood out as a particularly ‘group’ album - with everyone getting a go on lead: Denny Laine sings lead on ‘Note You Never Wrote’ and ‘Time To Hide’; Jimmy McCulloch sings lead on ‘Wino Junko’; Joe English sings lead on ‘Must Do Something About It’.

‘Cook of the House’ was Linda's contribution. It also appeared on the flipside of the 1976 single ‘Silly Love Songs’. And hardcore fans of Linda McCartney will know ‘Cook of the House’ also appears on Wide Prairie, a posthumous compilation widower Paul put together in 1998.

Irrespective of your thoughts on Macca's missus, ‘Cook of the House’ has a certain charm. Matt Preston please note: it is the most cooking of cooking songs.

Find it: on Wings at the Speed of Sound and Wide Prairie. Meanwhile, download it here.

 

6: Crawfish - Elvis Presley

In January 1958 Elvis Presley was able to defer his entry into the United States Army to March of that year, in order to make one of his few critically and commercially successful films: King Creole.

It’s a bout a 19-year-old Danny Fisher whose mother died, and now finds himself having to help support his family after his dad dropped his bundle and the family was forced to moved to the impoverished area of New Orleans. Despite being well-meaning and diligent, Danny finds himself entangled with gangsters and two different women.

The film opens with ‘Crawfish’, a duet with jazz vocalist Kitty White on what sounds like the classic work song – the work song sung, say, by the fishmonger who’d push his icecart through the back alleys of neighbourhoods selling his latest catch. Those days are long gone, not so much because of the lack of pavement-bashing fish mongers, but because BP went and destroyed the fishing industry for good in that part of the world.

Find it: on the King Creole soundtrack.

 

7: Cook Cook Blues - Rolling Stones

As with all of the workhorse blues workouts the Stones are wont to record during album sessions, this is essentially an extended warm-up jam kept for a single flip-side. The lyrics are the customary underdeveloped sketches about sex, the music, an opportunity for the band to stretch out and have fun.

This one was committed to tape between 1982 and 1989 – meaning it could date from the sessions for Undercover (released 1983), Dirty Work (1986) or Steel Wheels (1989). Or perhaps all three, since the Stones still like to pull out an old song and finish it for a new album (or a new deluxe re-release of an old album, as the bonus discs of Exile on Main Streetand Some Girls demonstrate).

‘Cook Cook Blues’ saw the light of day as the flipside of the 1989 single ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ (from Steel Wheels), but features both the original Stones ivory tickler Ian Stewart, who passed away in 1985, and former Allman Brothers Bandmember Chuck Leavell, responsible for much ’80s Stones ivory ticklage, suggesting an early=’80s recording that was possibly polished and edited for late-’80s release.

I love the way it begins mid-song – as though what took place before the fade-up wasn't quite worth keeping. Or, perhaps, there was no initial plan to tape the jam, but it suddenly got good, so the person in charge of pressing ‘record’ suddenly did.

Find it: with difficulty! Completists will locate it on the 45-disc boxed set The Complete Singles (1971-2006), worth it for so many other hard-to-get gems!

 

8: The Raspberry Song - The Goons

In the late-’70s, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe – collectively known as The Goons thanks to their long-running radio program The Goon Show – had a reunion of sorts: they recorded a couple of tracks that were issued as a single, and then compiled on an album called Unchained Melodies. One of those songs was The ‘Raspberry Song’.

 

You know how important it is to health and diet to stick to the seasonal fruits and veges! ‘The Raspberry Song’ is about nothing, if not seasonal fruits. (That is, it’s about nothing!) Thus, just like the raspberry, that trademark sound effect so beloved of Spike Milligan, the song pretty much speaks for itself.

Find it: on the recently remastered and reissued Unchained Melodies: Complete Recordings 1955-1978.

 

9: Popcorn - Hot Butter

Popcorn is everyone’s favourite treat! And – apart from, perhaps, Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs – something that exists only in and of itself. What else can you ‘cook’ or ‘prepare’ with popcorn? Only other forms of candy, apparently. Fittingly, ‘Popcorn’ it’s also everyone's favourite instrumental – you know it, you've always known it, even if you never knew its name.

This legendary piece was originally written and recorded in the late ’60s by Moog maestro Gershon Kingsley for his 1969 album Music to Moog By . Hot Butter, an instrumental covers band who gave everything the Moog treatment, recorded it – along with other hits of the day like ‘Day By Day’ from the Jesus musical Godspell, Neil Diamond’s ‘Song Sung Blue’, the Tornadoes’ ‘Telstar’ and the Shadows’ ‘Apache’ – for their self-titled album in 1972.

It was a worlwide chart-topper, doing amazing business in unlikely countries. It was France’s fastest-selling number one single, for example. It was also number one in Australia for ten weeks. Which is why it seems to be etched into everybody’s psyche in Australia, irrespective of age.

Find it: as the title track on the album Popcorn. Download it here.

 

10: Beans and Corn Bread - Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five

Beans and corn bread sounds like everyman’s food – traditionally ‘poor people food’. The stuff MasterChef celebrates, as long as it has some sophisticated twist, or is plated up nicely. Fittingly, ‘Beans and Cornbread’ was everyman’s music, the distinctive tenor saxophone opening typifying the ‘jump blues’ genre of the 1940s: big bands have given away to smaller, tighter combos that play a faster and more furious groove. It was very popular inded, hence Louis Jordan making a name for himself as ‘The King of the Jukebox’.

‘Beans and Corn Bread’ sounds like there’s a message being imparted about friendship and getting along, but it’s all threat and bluster until they realise they belong together. Seems like there’s not enough substance to read anything into. The song proved a highlight in the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X. And, it turns out, there was a tradition where the Space Shuttle launch crew were fed beans and corn bread following a successful launch.

Find it: on the compilation Best of Louis Jordan. Download it here.

 

11: Chewy Chewy - Ohio Express

Really? Two songs by the same group on this compilation? What was I thinking? But ‘Chewy Chewy’ is the companion piece to ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’. In fact, I’d argue it’s the better song – ‘a mouthful of cute things to say’ is far more erudite than ‘having love’ in one’s ‘tummy’. (The other song that is easy to lump with those is the far superior ‘Bread and Butter’ by the Newbeats – look out for it on a future compilation, I promise.)

Find it: on the compilation Yummy Yummy Yummy: Best of the Ohio Express. Download it here.

 

12: Agita - Nick Apollo Forte, aka Lou Canova

This is where the collection should have begun – the ultimate song for people who are prone to fall madly in love. With food. (Matt, this should have been on your compilation!)

‘Agita’ opens the Woody Allen classic Broadway Danny Rose, about the biggest loser of a showbiz manager there is – the title character, portrayed by Woody himself. How can he make a living when his books include a one-armed juggler, a one-legged tap-dancer, and a ventriloquist with a stutter? His one chance at the big time is the lounge singer Lou Canova – except Lou’s got a thing for extra-marital affairs, and his latest mistress is a gangster moll (played by Mia Farrow).

Lou’s signature song, the theme to the film, is this ballad inspired by over-eating and woman trouble. Both lead to the heartburn known, in Italian dialect, as ‘agita’.

Find it: on the album Legacy, available from Nick Apollo Forte’s homepage. But do yourself a favour: enjoy the song in context, and watch the film Broadway Danny Rose. Best value is the The Woody Allen Collection boxed set.

 

Check Out:

Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too



The Elephant in the Room

  Elephantpresley

Elvis Presley’s birthday just passed, and it was a big deal – a significant birthday! – cos had he been alive today, he would have been about 1,765.

Kilos.

I admire Elvis like everyone should. Perhaps more than most, because I appreciate the fact that the Elvis we formerly considered ‘daggy’ – ’70s Elvis; Elvis when he was fat and forty instead of thin and thirty – deserves far more respect than he used get. We know now that musically speaking Elvis’s later oeuvre was far more sound. (Go. Get the CDs. Listen.)

But I was six when Elvis died. So I have no vital memory of how his life – or music; or death – affected me.

My most vital Elvis-related memory took place in a glorified pub. It was the Bank Hotel in Newtown, late one night in 1995. I was sat with a big group of friends when a guy dressed as Elvis wandered past our table.

By ‘dressed as Elvis’, I mean, clad in a body-hugging, rhinestone-encrusted, flared white jumpsuit. But that wasn’t all: he also had an elephant mask on.

Why was a man dressed as Elvis with an elephant mask? Perhaps it was a comment on white-jumpsuited Elvis’s size, perhaps. As the Doug Anthony Allstars’ Tim Ferguson used to say at the beginning of their song ‘Dead Elvis’: ‘he was big in the ’50s; he was bigger in the ’60s; he was bloody huuuuuge in the ’70s…”

Perhaps he was somebody’s birthday present: an elephantasy Elvis-a-gram.

Or seeing as we were in Newtown, perhaps it was just another colourful local going about his business.

It didn’t matter why – the important thing was, you can’t really catch sight of a guy dressed as jump-suited ’70s Elvis with an elephant mask and not make a comment. Not even in Newtown. But he was making his way past our table, so I only had about 30 seconds, tops. And nobody else seemed to be reacting. I was going to have to be the one to call it: to point out the elephant – dressed as Elvis – in the room.

But what do you say?

It has to be Elvis related, and yet, also elephantine.

So what’s it gonna be?

Time’s running out.

It’s now or never.

Could I make the call before he passed?

You betcha.

He’s got a trunk, a trunk o’ burnin’ love!
Just a trunk, a trunk o’ burnin’ love!


What’s that?

Did I sing it?

Uh-huh-huh!

Thangyouverimuch.


Joy McKean on Slim Dusty's Columbia Lane

When Slim Dusty set about recording his last album, he did so knowing the end was near. Despite terminal illness, he managed to lay down seven very fine vocal and guitar tracks before passing away. Slim’s widow Joy McKean saw the seven tracks to completion and release as Columbia Lane, album number 107 at the end of Slim’s sixty-year career.

Although not an ardent lover of country music, I come to it via the musicians I’m into: Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett’s country turn as ‘The Coward Brothers’, for the single ‘The People’s Limousine’, and Costello’s countrified King of America album, which Burnett produced; Bob Dylan’s excursion into country and the Rolling Stones’ excursions into dirty blues versions of the same. Nowadays, there is a respect given to country music via its rock ’n’ roll end, nebulously labelled ‘alt.country’. (“We keep hearing the words ‘alt.country’,” the Waifs’ Donna Simpson told me when I interviewed her. She had no idea what to make of the epithet with which her band had been tarred. “What is ‘alt’, ‘dot’, ‘country’? ‘Alternative country’? ‘Not quite country’? ‘Not quite folk’? I don’t know. It’s just acoustic music – a bit of country, a bit of blues, just whatever we’re inspired by.”)

Alt.country seems to originate with cool, sixties musicians realising that their country music equivalents were more talented, but not considered nearly as cool, mostly because they were on average ten years older, and it was kiddies and the serious men in suits marketing to the kiddies who were doing all the considering. Thus, the younger musician handed over some respect and borrowed some licks, riffs and sensibilities. The Lovin’ Spoonful paid tribute to such country musicians with their countrified spoof ‘Nashville Cats’, while the Byrds, under the influence of Gram Parsons, dedicated a whole album to them, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Dylan was recording with some of them on his acid rock album Blond on Blonde. Recently, fat, uncool, 70s Elvis Presley was posthumously exonerated, and with him, the country rock of his later years.

Why am I rabbitting on here? Because, if the only way you can bring yourself to give Slim Dusty a bit of time and respect is under the cover of an apparently ‘cool’ label such as ‘alt.country’, then be aware that Columbia Lane closes with a fantastic Don Walker song called ‘Get Along’. Otherwise, why not have a listen to a man who, in sixty years, recorded one hundred and seven albums – there's a lot there so something’s bound to appeal.

Oh yeah, this went to air on Saturday 6 March 2004.


Music: ‘Nature’s Gentleman’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Joy, this album ‘Columbia Lane’ consists of some of the songs that Slim Dusty was working on before he passed away. How much work had to go into the seven songs contained herein to prepare them for release?

JOY MCKEAN: Not a lot vocally, but some of the instrumental parts had to be completed because Slim was concentrating on getting down the vocals and his guitar. They were the main things he had to concentrate on getting done.

Demetrius Romeo: How difficult is it working with Slim’s legacy after his passing?

JOY MCKEAN: It is difficult at times and yet, over the years, I’ve always worked with Slim on projects and albums and I am training myself to try and look at this as another one his projects that I have to go ahead and do my normal work on. I think that is the way I’m getting through it because, of course, it’s difficult when I think of him, and of him working on these songs.

Demetrius Romeo: Are there other projects that you would continue with after this? I understand that there was a live album planned at one stage.

JOY MCKEAN: There was a live album planned. There’s not a lot of material. He’s not going to ‘do a Jim Reeves’ with stacks and stacks of things coming out of the woodwork simply because Slim was a very prolific recording man. As you know, this was album 107. As soon as he'd get things ready, they were more-or-less released, you see. So there’s not a big backlog.

Music: ‘Long Distance Driving’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: The title Columbia Lane I understand refers to Slim’s home studio, which itself was named after the studio Slim used to record at when he was first signed to Regal Zonophone. Was there a lot of sentimentality and love for his career throughout?

JOY MCKEAN: Yes, you see, Columbia Lane was the lane everybody had to walk down to get to the recording studios and it meant a lot to Slim because when Slim began recording, Regal Zonophone was the only label at the only recording company in Australia. So to walk down Columbia Lane in the footsteps of people like Peter Dawson, Gladys Moncreif, all the radio big bods was a terrific thrill for Slim.
Are there other songs that just couldn’t be completed for release from this project?

Music: ‘Long Distance Driving’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Listening to the songs, they’re all trucking songs. What was the project they were originally designed for?

JOY MCKEAN: Actually they were designed for a trucking album but you’ll see that ‘Nature’s Gentleman’ is very different. It was written by his mate James Blundell, and he’d had that one for a while and he wanted to get it on record, he really did. He hadn’t been able to fit it into a project in the previous year, but he was determined he was going to get that on record even though it wasn’t a trucking song. So he did that, and then of course, the Don Walker one which is so very different, but that is slightly trucking. And then of course ‘Blue Hills in the Distance’ is about being on the Gann, that new train. Rather, I should say it was a trip on the old one it was written about actually.

Music: ‘Blue Hills In The Distance’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Despite being a prolific songwriter himself, I see Slim does sing a lot of other people’s songs. How would he go about chosing what songs he would record for his next album?

JOY MCKEAN: He always looked for something he could relate to, that he felt the people he knows so well could relate to, he looked for something that had a bit of grit to it, something ‘real’ to it. He had a gift being an ordinary Australian bloke. He had that gift of relating to what he could relate to, and because he was like so many other Australians, they could relate to it. That’s what he looked for all the time: really good, strong lyrics. And even if he only got lyrics, he could set them to music that would bring out the story and what the lyrics were trying to say.

Demetrius Romeo: Joy, for a lot of people, the name ‘Slim Dusty’ tends to conjure those more well known songs like ‘Pub With No Beer’ or ‘Duncan’, songs that we all know or know of. But having had such an extensive recording career, there’s such a depth of songs to draw from. Do you think that this is a time that more people will come to get to know Slim’s work, and what will they find if they do?

JOY MCKEAN: Well I think that a lot of people may decide to have a closer look. It’s like I’m hearing from overseas people saying, “I’ve only just found Slim Dusty in the last month or so”. If they do listen, they’ll find a very different horde of work than just ‘Pub With No Beer’ and ‘Duncan’. Slim was recording for a period of sixty years and he was drawing from real-life stories and experiences, so if you listen to a body of his work, Dom, you’ll hear all sorts of changes: changes in people’s outlook, in the Australian culture, the way we look at things and all the different things we’re interested in. If you listen to a selection of Slim’s work over that sixty years, you really will be amazed at the changes his music portrays.

Music: ‘Get Along’ - Slim Dusty

Demetrius Romeo: Joy McKean, thank you very much.

JOY MCKEAN: Thanks so much, Dom, it’s been really nice speaking with you.

Music: ‘Get Along’ - Slim Dusty