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