Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis Hop-Sing and I are off to the coast of South Africa (specifically, to the mouth of the Chalumna River) for a fishing trip on some filthy rich wog sultan's yacht with Dick Cheney. I'm not sure of the details, but I've heard tell that Dick is bringing his trusty shotgun for an old-fashioned coelacanth hunt. Anybody have any recipes? Seriously -- do we filet them and then broil them? Or just shove them on a spit and roast them over a fire? With some kind of tartar sauce, maybe?
Oh well, in any case, that means that posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.
But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:
BEST USE OF STRINGS ON A POST-ELVIS POP OR ROCK RECORD!!!!!
By "best," we mean most inventive, most emotionally moving, or whatever works. And by "strings" we mean more than one -- i.e., one solo violin or cello need not apply, but anything from a string quartet to full orchestra is perfectly fine. And they have to be played by live musicians -- no sampling or Mellotrons need apply.
Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Twelve:
12. Radiohead -- Faust Arp (arr: Jonny Greenwood)
Just because we needed something on the list recorded in this century.
This is nicely White Album-ish, I think, although I should add that I still haven't made up my mind whether I like Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood.
11. The Drifters -- There Goes My Baby (arr: Leiber and Stoller)
If I'm not mistaken this is generally acknowledged as the very first use of strings on a rock/r&b record. Hearing it on the car radio back in the day I remember thinking "Hey -- that sounds like classical music." Heh.
10. A tie --
Buddy Holly -- It Doesn't Matter Anymore (arr: Dick Jacobs)
and Buddy Holly -- Raining in My Heart (arr: Dick Jacobs)
The A and B-sides of the single from Holly's last sessions before the plane crash, if memory serves. Corny in both instances, but effective and catchy nonetheless....
9. Electric Light Orchestra -- Roll Over Beethoven (arranged: ELO)
For obvious reasons.
8. Smashing Pumpkins -- Disarm (arr: Eric Remschneider)
To be brutally honest, I've never much cared for these guys or even paid much attention to them. In fact, every time I've ever seen them play live on the tube, I've found them insufferably pretentious and actively wanted to slap Billy Corgan upside his cueball noggin. But as I was preparing the list yesterday this song came on the radio and I was a goner. Adding to the irony, if I had heard it the same time the previous week, it would have just as easily made that list for best use of bells.
7. Chris Farlowe -- Out of Time (arr: Arthur Greenslade)
Yes, the same backing track can be heard behind Mick Jagger's vocals on the Stones' Metamorphosis album. I think Farlowe's gruffer pipes suit Greenslade's uber-Phil Spector arrangement a lot better, but then what do I know? -- I think Heaven's Gate is a misunderstood masterpiece.
6.Lenny Welch -- Since I Fell For You (arr: unknown)
A guilty pleasure. Welch's vocals are Johnny Mathis on steroids, and those tremulous strings put the whole over the top. None of which has anything to do with Grace Kelly, of course, but a heck of a performance nonetheless.
5. The Beatles -- Eleanor Rigby (arr: George Martin)
Obviously, there are a lot of Beatles songs to choose from, but this one is my favorite. Sir George recently allowed how the semi-hysterical string bit toward the end was directly inspired by the similar riff in Bernard Herrman's score for the shower scene in Psycho.
4. The Pretenders -- 2000 Miles (arr: The Duke Quartet)
From the 1995 "Isle of View" live album. This was a gorgeous song in its earlier studio incarnation, but the sort of Brill Building strings here lift it into another dimension entirely.
3. The Left Banke -- Walk Away Renee (arr: John Abbott)
Baroque 'n' roll? Power pop? Whatever. It's a perfect song and record.
2. Bruce Springsteen -- Jungleland (arr: Charles Callello)
I don't know whose idea it was to get the guy who arranged most of the Four Season's hits to score Springsteen's most magnificently cinematic song, but if there's a better example of revisionist-60s New York City streetcorner romanticism extant, I for one haven't heard it.
And the number one most drop dead gorgeous, there's no fricking question about it, use of strings on a pop/rock record is --
1. The Rolling Stones -- Moonlight Mile (arr: Paul Buckmaster)
Elton John's long-time orchestral guy covers himself in glory here with what sounds like a deliberate evocation of the pastoral section of the Nielsen Third Symphony. [Could I be any more pretentious? Sheesh.] In any case, this is clearly the greatest Stones track that Keith Richards didn't play on.
Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?
[h/t's to Brooklyn Girl and John McPartlin]