We’re back on the soul train, destination Lonesome Town, this time to dig up some tracks from summers past, as well as some jams I discovered recently and have been playing on repeat.
This show features among others: a marimba version of Aretha’s morning classic (seeing as the marimba has been my most recent obsession in terms of instruments); some inimitable sounds by the great Mulatu Astatke, a surprise, disco-tinged soul gem by Hot Chocolate; the dazzling and soulful Jackie Shane, an American-Canadian transgender soul and rhythm and blues singer from the ’60s who is being given the much-appreciated vinyl treatment; the empowering Cuban temptress La Lupe, and Greek new wave artist Katy Homata (Καίτη Χωματά).
We also have the original superior versions of two tracks whose histories have haunted me for years: ‘Fever’ – written by Little Willie John but made grossly popular by Peggy Lee – and ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ – written by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and sung by Etta James, Gil Scott-Heron, Mark Lanegan, Beth Hart, and Drake and Rihanna among many others. Also, tracks by two singer-songwriters who sadly left us recently: the iconic though I suspect underrated Greek folk and new wave musician Arleta / Αρλέτα, with ‘Once, I Remember’ – a track whose composition, vocals and lyrics are on a par with those by world-class folk singers of the ’60s – and quintessentially American country musician Glen Campbell, here doing a moving rendition of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying,’ joined on vocals for this by, among others, Willie Nelson.
Mixed in we also have some shoegaze, indie and folk, and close it off with old flames the Magnetic Fields and Camera Obscura, and three queens of smooth, Bat for Lashes, Lana del Rey, and Sade.
I hope you are enjoying your summer. I have been working seven days a week pretty much, but sometimes I put my workaholic distractions aside and force myself go to the river and begrudgingly engage with the rest of society over a pint. Admittedly, Prague does have music and beer almost everywhere and, while neither are always my cup of tea, every once in a while I come across some darn good music – electronic mainly, but more on that at a future date. This episide we go back to the ’50s and ’60s with some soul, lover’s rock, reggae,and doo wop tunes.
Included is a track I came across a couple weeks ago, thanks to a riverside DJ who was spinning soul and dancehall 45s, and who spun the Katalyst song you’ll hear in this set – a nice little discovery that perfectly reflects my current mood. I’ve always loved the soulful sounds from the past, and my arrhythmic little heart goes back to them very often.
Ideal tracks to play to your crush’s answering machine, or when you’re making hungover Bloody Marys on a rainy Sunday morning, or when you’re smoking weed outside the fifth floor window hating tourists and wishing you were somewhere else. Until next time, stay posi, stay strong, wear sunscreen.
With love from the omniverse, where I’m jamming this all-time classic and lifelong favourite
BARRY BRIGGS – Work All Day
KATALYST feat. STEPHANIE MCKAY – Day Into Night
ALTON ELLIS – I’m Still in Love With You Girl
MIGHTY VIKINGS – Love Me Forever
BARRY BRIGGS – Wide Awake in a Dream
OWEN GRAY – Give Me a Little Sign
GAY POPPERS – I Want to Know
LIL BOB AND THE LOLLIPOPS – Nobody But You
WENDY RENE – Give You What I Got
BARBARA DANE – I’m On My Way
LEE MOSES – Bad Girl
BARBARA LYNN – You’ll Lose A Good Thing
THE WHISPERS – As I Sit Here
DAN JULIAN AND THE LARKS – I Want You Back
SUNNY AND THE SUNLINERS – Talk to Me
THE JACKS – Why Won’t You Write Me?
LEE ANDREWS AND THE HEARTS – Long Lonely Nights
THE SCHOOLBOYS – Please Say You Want Me
THE CHOIR – It’s Cold Outside
ZORBA AND THE GREEKS – One and Only Girl
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – I Only Want to Be With You
June is already here, the heat is setting in in Athens and I have so many tracks to share, I’ve got three shows waiting in the wings for you all. On this rather special-edition show we warm up with some early punk, psych rock and garage from the US, UK and Australia, we have some ’60s soul for those damn crush mixtapes, and we take a trip back to the 1920s and ’30s and explore the Greek blues, the Rebetika: heartache, drugs and outlaw life from the underground hash dens of Greece, Turkey and the US, as well as some other folk expressions from the regions of Epirus and Crete. Tracklist at the end. Download it here. (Let me know if you have trouble accessing the files, I will send them to you directly!)
Thanks to friends visiting from abroad, I went on a week-long roadtrip around the Peloponnese, and have also been walking around downtown Athens quite a bit, making some new memories in a city I left disdainfully hating. I felt a bit like a tourist guide (“Lydia’s Lonely Planet Guides” coming soon) pointing out sites and areas that were significant to the modern history of the country, which has included bloody civil wars, flooring fascism, population exchange, famine, genocide, military juntas, communist exile, student insurrections and the geographic and emotional uprooting of millions. And that’s just the first chunk of the 20th century.
Growing up only half-Greek in Athens—and in constant debate with myself about what parts and how much of my Greek identity I was supposed to embrace or reject—meant that for the better part of my childhood and teenage years I just ignorantly scoffed a lot of the things that were considered “traditional.” [My adolescent disinterest in the notion of “Greek rock” (whose bad renditions have plagued the Greek music landscape for decades) was also the reason why it took me longer than most Greek teen underground dwellers to discover and appreciate Greek punk (which claims a vivid and unique early history, in part thanks to the distinct sound of the Greek language).] After living in the US for almost four years and missing some aspects of Greek culture more than I thought I would, I warmed up to some of the sounds of my once-home, especially the rebétika, and would play them for hours on days when I felt homesick. After all, I wasn’t the first person to leave Greece for a land a few thousand miles away.
Rebétika can be best described as the Blues of the Greeks. In style it was an underground type of folk music, with varying sub-styles and also styles of dance to accompany it, and it was played by rebetes and rebetisses, who usually lived on the margins of society. However, in spirit it was so much more. It was in essence deeply personal protest music against the status quo and its allied bullies, against the prohibitions on personal freedom and expression. Rebétika became popular in the 1920s and ’30s, were banned in 1936 by order of the dictator Ioannis Metaxas (the apagorevména hasiklídika have reached cult notoriety), and then saw a revival and gained more popular acceptance during the German occupation of WWII, and then again during the Greek military junta (1967-73). The music is heavy on bouzouki, baglama and guitar, violin, cimbalom, lyre, clarinet and (my favourite) kanonaki, but also finger-cymbals, laouto and mandolin, among other instruments. The lyrics can get dark and heavy, as they usually describe the woes and worries of the poor, wretched songwriters. And while the rebétika captured a spirit of freedom and resistance that came about as the result of certain conditions and events of that time, the deeper emotions rebétika express are relateable and timeless, the roughened voices and profound, passionate words echoing true to this day.