Ah, me lads, I didn’t make Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade this year, even though it was today, Sunday (had a story deadline that damned near killed me; haven’t slept yet since Saturday morning, and I’ve no good excuse, like a hangover). Didn’t watch the Sanitary District boat dyeing the Chicago River green, either — but I have found us a gen-u-ine young punk-blues Irish band with a lot of energy called The Strypes doing a high-energy take of “Route 66.” It’s an arrangement in the Rolling Stones vein, which is really a tough version of the Chuck Berry rendition. The band sounds like a cross between the very young Stones and The Commitments (remember that Irish indie film made from Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name, with Star Trek: TNG’s Colm Meaney as the Da? Excellent, wasn’t it?), with a dash of The Pretenders thrown in for good measure (I don’t think Chrissie Hynde would mind; besides, she and I share a birthday, so there).
This ain’t your teenage boy band. For a group that formed barely three years ago, they’re incredibly mature, competent musicians, even if they are of the blues-punk-garage-rock persuasion. Moreover, they have a very thorough knowledge of the Americna blues and R&B songbook and have recorded some real classics on Mercury Records, their previous label, and Virgin EMI, their current label. Hell, they’ve even recorded vinyl, not that you’ll find it easily outside Ireland or the UK. Give us the rundown, you say? Sure: ‘Tis young Ross Farrelly on lead vocals and harmonica, Josh McClorey on lead guitar and vocals, Pete O’Hanlon on bass and harmonica, and Evan Walsh on drums, all from Cavan in Ulster in the Republic, near the Northern Irish border. They’re deadly serious players and have some big-time groupies: they’ve signed with Elton John’s Rocket Music Management firm, and their fans include guitarist par excellence Jeff Beck and ex-Who singer Roger Daltrey, among others, in addition to Sir Elton.
So: in honor of St. Paddy’s, here’s this week’s edition of the Route 66 SOTW with some rockin’ youth. Enjoy!
Bonus: Since we mentioned Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders and for the sake of sharing soome rock ‘n’ roll history and more road music, here’s a topic for discussion. I’ve always thought that great James Bond themes made for terrific road music. All you need is a fast Aston Martin tearing up the road before you and a good sound system. Think about it: the best of the Bond themes have a pulsing, driving rhythm that makes you grin, great lyrics and edgy singers, all calculated to keep you wide awake and thrilled. Classic example: Shirley Bassey belting our “Goldfinger.” Perfect.
But alas, not all Bond theme songs are worthy, just as a few Bond scripts were complete lemons (the godawful Licence To Kill comes to mind, which had a loser theme song, too). Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders recorded two fantastic tracks for Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights, but that limp Norwegian pop group A-Ha got to record the title track — a HUGE mistake that should have embarrassed composer John Barry. A-Ha’s tune was okay for indicental music in the middle of a scene, but decidedly weak for an opening theme. The really mystifying thing is that Barry had a perfectly wonderful opening theme from The Pretenders, called “Where Has Everybody Gone?” It has EVERYTHING that you could want in a Bond theme, and it just roars out of your speakers. The way the rumble of your sports car’s or muscle car’s engine should roar out of those tailpipes.
The Norwegians’ opening theme? Not so much, and that’s putting extremely politely. Should have been saved for incidnetal music while someone was making a clever escape, but no more than that. Even Wikipedia concedes that “the group and Barry did not collaborate well,” making it even more mystifying that the idiot producers actually thought A-Ha had a better chance of putting their theme on top of the music charts than The Pretenders did — ! Chrissie even sang a wonderful love theme that the band wrote for the film, entitled “If There Was a Man.” Exquisite. Which just goes to show you how stupid and uninformed said producers were. And they even considered The Pretenders first for the opening theme, then reneged. Tasteless idiots!! Given the results, it was clearly a mistake not to use their song instead of the by-now dated-sounding pablum offered up by measly A-Ha, who certainly never did well for long in the U.S. (hint to producers: Dudes, where the hell is your biggest market for Bond films? Didn’t you think to check out The Pretenders’ performance versus that of the forgettable A-Ha with a focus group of music listeners here?? No American rock fans remember the Norwegians, but they sure know who Chrissie Hynde is and who The Pretenders are. A-Ha was a flash in the pan, but The Pretenders are still around, still recording AND in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2005 (don’t count on A-Ha getting there any time soon, like within this century; you screwed up, Cubby Broccoli. Yes: YOU.). And don’t tell me the producers went by popularity in Europe, either: the Europeans have the bad taste to listen to David Hasselhof, for heaven’s sake. Enough said.
The really ironic part in all this is that just a year earlier in 1987, The Pretenders did a music video of their song “Don’t Get Me Wrong” as a clever homage to the hit British spy-fi series and cult favorite, The Avengers, complete with Chrissie Hynde in a catsuit as Emma Peel looking for Patrick Macnee’s John Steed (okay, this is when I admit to being a complete, lifelong Avengers devotee, and I don’t mean those idiot comics, either; I wanted to be Emma Peel when I grew up. Diana Rigg was simply unbeatable. Hell, I still want to be Emma Peel, but it’s not bloody likely now. Still, I did own a catsuit in my college years and 20s, at a time when I filled it out pretty fine, too. There’s always that). Seriously: wasn’t that music video/homage to another all-time spy-fi classic enough of a cosmic hint to the Bond producers and Barry to choose Hynde, et al.? Clueless bastards …
I give you The Perfect Bond Theme That Got Unjustly Demoted. Not unlike K.D. Lang’s wonderful “Surrender,” which was beautifully co-written by Lang and soundtrack composer David Arnold for the film Tomorrow Never Dies and which Lang suitably belts out in true Bassey idiom, but with even greater style (Sheryl Crow got the nod for the opening theme, supposedly as a result of a competitive process, which just means Barbara Broccoli flunked as badly as Dad had re: The Pretenders; and Crow didn’t acquit herself well at all — NEVER choose an opening theme by committee! — but still, Crow’s tune was good enough for incidental music and was nowhere NEAR as bloody awful as Rita Coolidge’s completely inappropriate “All Time High,” the absolute WORST Bond theme ever — had the woman never heard a Bond theme before, or what?!? — or Madonna’s severely underwhelming techno-ditty, “Die Another Day,” which now sounds hopelessly dated and slightly ridiculous. Ditto the highly disappointing “Golden Eye” by Tina Turner. Sigh … Then there was Eric Clapton writing an excellent, gritty theme for Licence To Kill “to match Dalton’s equally gritty performance,” per Wikipedia; but once again, the numbskull producers dumped hitmaker Clapton and instead chose Gladys Knight, who delivered an unforgivably bad, bland opening theme that is probably the biggest embarrassment of her career. Wow, do I wish I had a copy of that Clapton Bond theme. At least Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” for Casino Royale, “Another Way To Die” for Quantum of Solace and, especially, Adele’s truly excellent “Skyfall” have finally redeemed the opening theme series … but I digress too long). John Barry should have been ashamed of himself for letting the pointy heads bypass The Pretenders. And here’s the proof: rock on, Chrissie! Gotta have me some o’ dat!
[Would someone bring my Jag convertible ’round to the front now? What do you mean I don’t have one?? No Steed with Bentley either? Oh. How damned inconvenient. Oh well … the Honda it is.]
Your own highly literate spinmistress,