Monday, March 31, 2008

War -- "The World Is A Ghetto" (1972)

In 2002, journalist Barry Walter pretty much summed up the early 70's War musical phenomenon in Rolling Stone. I can't say it better than this:

It seems unfathomable today that War's The World Is a Ghetto was the best-selling album of 1973, a triple-platinum chart-topping blockbuster back in the days when few albums even went gold. Released in late '72, War's fifth album in three years had only six songs, three of them more than eight minutes long, all recorded live in the studio by six black Americans and one Danish harmonica player, who had the biggest Afro in the band. None were polished singers, and their sound was as much Latin jazz as it was funk or R&B, their sensibility more FM rock than AM pop.

The Los Angeles-based War was all about two things: the groove and the message. Walter talks about this album being six songs with three of them eight minutes long -- that was pretty much the description for every War album. They depicted not only the African American projects experience in a search for peace and brotherhood, but adapted the Latino barrio as their playground too.

Hands down, these guys were one of the all-time great rhythm sections of the decade.

Half the albums were filled with jam session instrumentals, fiercely locked into groove, often ascending with an upbeat mood, like an inner city summer street party. Even some of the songs that became hits were lengthy workouts, edited down for radio play.

While "The World Is A Ghetto" was following all their other hits up the charts, one night I was tuned into WNEW-FM in its progressive rock days and the familiar low wah-wah chords of the song come out. They are ticked off in measures by the snare's rim, the C#m7 flowing into the Dmaj7th chords. But the chords went on a little longer, and I said to myself, "Hm."

This was the first time I was hearing the album version of "The World Is A Ghetto," late one night. While the opening verses and choruses were straight off the single, they proceed to have an ebb and flow jam with Charles Miller's sax going long and slow, giving and taking with the band who gradually grow louder and more challenging, all over that same two chord verse pattern. The beautiful warm bass has that nice simple two note riff then follows the chorus melody, eventually spiraling into the jam's frenzy. Once they take the thing off the roof, they simmer down, for a final verse.

There's no need to search anywhere,
Happiness is here, have your share,
If you know you're loved, be secure,
Paradise is love to be sure.

Don't you know, that it's true,
That for me, and for you,
The world is a ghetto.

War sings that chorus like a mantra over and over as Howard Scott's electric guitar just does crazy rock solos around it. "The World Is A Ghetto" is War's self-proclaimed 10-minute journey to an imagined (or is it?) planet of peace and brotherhood.

Nowadays, you'd never hear a song like this on any rock station, but in the early 70's, these guys were accepted as hip by all radio formats.

Notable cover versions of this song include George Benson on his In Flight record and Ahmad Jamal's lengthy Fender Rhodes excursion.

While I could not find a live video of the band doing this song, I did find one showcasing this mesmerizing album version of "The World Is A Ghetto."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Delfonics -- Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) (1970)

Last week, this Delfonics classic played out over XM's Soul Street station while driving on the 678 and I couldn't help myself: I had to croon along loud and clear. If there's one song that forces a white boy to pretend he's a soul man, this is right near the top.

Definitely on my soon-to-be-posted list of "best song intro's,""Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" was one of many classics written and produced by Philly soul genius Thom Bell. The Delfonics had already hit the top of the charts with "La La Means I Love You" two years earlier, but this song truly set the gold standard for arranging and songwriting.

And all of it honored with the Quentin Tarantino Jackie Brown soundtrack seal of approval.

Rare do you find a song that actually announces itself, like royalty approaching. Two joyous solo bursts of a French horn (or is it a fluegelhorn?), pause, and then the chorus melody emoted by the bells and the immortal sitar at the same time. Got to love the 70's soul hits with the sitar!

In a slow swaying beat you want to finger snap to, you've got the prototypical torn man lyrics, you done him wrong, all in a cushy warm reverb:

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Didn't I do it baby.... didn't I do it bay-bay

Gave you the love you never knew, girl
Didn't I do it baby... didn't I do it bay-bay

I've tried so many times and that's no lie,
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Tempo and key shifts, announced by the several brief punctuated trumpets:

Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I, oh,
Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I...

That accusing falsetto, the accompanying guilt trip...

I thought that heart of your was true, girl
Now didn't I think it baby, didn't I think it bay-bay

But this time I'm really lea-a-avin' you-u-u, girl, wo-o-oah,
Hope you know it baby... hope you know it bay-bay

There isn't a bad note in the arrangement, right through the instrumental break of the verse, with its wailing French horn and silky vocals "Didn't I do it baby... didn't I do it baby!"

Here are two videos of the song, one straight from the 45, the way it was meant to be heard... the second from 1973, the Delfonics performing live with a distinctly slower beat and stripped down arrangement.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Gin Blossoms -- "Til I Hear It From You" (1995)

Every once in a while, a truly great power pop song actually does make the charts, somehow breaking through whatever the musical fad is of those times. And that song is so good, it defies whatever obstacles may surround it.

By the time the soundtrack to this film came out, the Arizona-originated Gin Blossoms already had a head of steam from their happily titled New Miserable Experience. That album had three FM radio favorites -- "Alison Road," "Found Out About You" and "Hey Jealousy." While the grunge movement was in full swing, these guys lightened it up with jangling electric guitars, sweet harmonies, and the emotional swagger of lead singer Robin Wilson.

The Gin Blossoms had the luck of contributing "Til I Hear It From You," co-written with singer/songwriter ace Marshall Crenshaw, on the soundtrack of Empire Records, a movie that opened dead on arrival. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember it opening at all in the New York area. It was notable for featuring babe-on-the-rise Liv Tyler, and directed by Alan Moyle, who had also done the same duties for the 1990 cult Christian Slater pirate radio/teen flick "Pump Up The Volume." Empire Records was the last of a dying breed, the "teens rebel against the big corporate giant and finally win" film. Yet, one of my former employees once told me this was her favorite film.

While the Empire Records soundtrack had the usual mix of name artists (Evan Dando, Better Than Ezra) and no names (The Ape Hangers? The Cruel Sea?), "Til I Hear It From You" burst out so hard and fast that when it was announced it was from the soundtrack of Empire Records, people probably asked "What movie was that?"

When you bring along Marshall Crenshaw to be your co-writer, you know you're upping the songwriting ante. As great a songwriter as he is, nobody would ever confuse him for pop songwriting machine Diane Warren. This song may have been Crenshaw's highest-charting success as a songwriter.

"Til I Hear It From You" was the Byrds reborn, more of those jangling guitars in a G-Em-Bm-D pattern and a straightforward catchy chorus based on the simple C and D chords. These guys were going for nothing less than the motherlode hit, doing the old pop trick of repeating that melody hook again and again and again. Even the instrumental break had the guitars playing the chorus melody line note for note behind an erupting marching snare drum volcano. And at the end, layered harmonies over and over that descending G chord pattern in the chorus.

Looking back, you'd have to say wow, what a miracle that a song like this crashed through the charts at all. Grunge still had rock and roll on the public's mind, and they sure did like it with their pop hooks (see Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life"), before it all gave way to boy bands, rap and hip-hop.

Bizarro band note: I thought I heard singer Robin Wilson say he now lives in Valley Stream, Long Island?

Here's the international non-Empire Records video of the Gin Blossoms'"Til I Hear It From You."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bloodstone -- "Natural High" (1973)

As with the earlier discussed Chi-Lites from Chicago, the early 70's was an overflow of doo wop-based soul and R&B acts who evolved with better production, more elaborate arrangements, and on-the-nail songwriting.

Like the Chi-Lites, Bloodstone came from the Midwest -- Kansas City -- and began as the doo wop group the Sinceres. in the early 60's. Toiling along for years in relative obscurity, Bloodstone actually did what the Stray Cats did nearly 10 years later, go to London to find fortune and fame. And when they came back, they came back big with "Natural High."

A prototypical early 70's soul ballad, "Natural High" had a piercing falsetto lead, light as a feather background vocals, and that kind of slow jam groove made for swaying back and forth. The song begins with a striking see-saw opening with the Strat playing the lead line, an occasional bell in the background, then in drops down with the bass, stops, and then three spectacular stuttering snare and kick drum fills for an intro. Throughout the song, there are jazzy guitar runs going up the fretboard, the group whispers "I... don't... know... you," and then the song changes tempo altogether for a melodic clean Gibson solo that races all over the high register, swallowed up by that old "ahh" breathing out vocal trick into the next verse.

There's also one of those "little things" that sort of watermark the song: in the verse after the first chorus, they sing: " If you have anything to do/Call me and I will do it for you/And I don't even know you." Just before he goes into the next verse, it sounds like they're whispering: "Hey Jeannie." You can definitely hear it on the "Soul Train" video below.

For some reason, despite having really shot their biggest load with "Natural High," Bloodstone convinced somebody two years later to finance a film starring the group, Train Ride To Hollywood. I remember the film vaguely coming out, and wondering how it actually got made and who would see it. I don't know if anybody did, but you can still get a used DVD of it from Amazon. Reading the IMDb plot description, I can understand why it wasn't exactly up there with Superfly and Shaft: "Harry Williams, member of the rhythm & blues band Bloodstone, is about to go onstage for a concert when he is hit on the head. The rest that follows is his dream. The four band members become conductors on a train filled with (impersonated) actors and characters from the 1930s such as W.C. Fields, Dracula, and Scarlett O'Hara. Patterned after movies by the Marx Brothers and the Beatles, 'Train Ride' features various songs. The thin plot requires the singing conductors to solve a mystery; Marlon Brando is murdering Nelson Eddy, Jeanette McDonald, and others by suffocating them in his armpits. Arriving in Hollywood, the Bloodstone boys are turned into wax sculptures by Brando."

However, the biggest compliment for "Natural High," certifying it as ultra-cool, is that Quenin Tarantino used it prominently in his film Jackie Brown, when Robert Forster first sees the title character, played by Pam Grier (see video below).

Before that video, Bloodstone performing "Natural High" on Don Cornelius' "Soul Train" TV show. I love that each guy is playing a different guitar, from the black and white Strat all the way ont he left, and then, from left to right, a gold-plated Gibson Les Paul, a Fender bass, a Fender Telecaster, and what looks like a black semi-hollow-bodied Gibson (I think). Am I imagining things when I hear the vinyl crackle on this lip-synch performance?
Soul Train 1973 - Bloodstone -Natural high

Friday, March 14, 2008

REO Speedwagon -- "Roll With The Changes" (1978)

The 70's were full of Midwest rock bands, endlessly touring every single night, a number of them signed to major labels, hoping they would break out with a national hit. I already discussed Ted Nugent in this category, and here's another one, REO Speedwagon, out of Illinois.

These were the days when record companies were extremely patient in developing their acts, that it's almost unheard of today. The album that "Roll With The Changes" came from, You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tune A Fish, was the band's seventh album on Epic Records. And this was before they became a total mainstream success.

"Roll With The Changes" fits the mold perfectly as an opening song on a rock album or even live. It shows that before they sold a bazillion records with power ballads in the 80's, these guys knew had to play. Produced by the band yet engineered and mixed to sound big and impressive, the song is all based on simple fast piano arpeggios played in a repetitive C major, F major, Bb major, F major, C major pattern -- a common chord pattern, yet arranged with a streamrolling pumping beat.

Once that curtain lifting piano section is introduced, the guitar comes scratching down the neck into the whole band leaping into the battle. Cronin, a curly long-haired dude whom I would not describe as a pretty boy or even looking like your traditional rock star, had this nasal voice with a heavy Midwestern accent (notably on his pronunciation of the letter "R" -- listen to the way he sings "forever" on "Keep On Loving You"). After several short beats, Cronin sings the opening lines in staccato, like he holding his breath and he's letting his words out a small group at a time.

As soon as you are able, woman I am willing
To make the break that we are on the brink of.
My cup is on the table, my love is spilling
Waiting here for you to take and drink of.

Then the pre-chorus, which is nearly all major chords, full force rocking, same staccato vocals, leading to a wide open G chord:

So if you're tired of the same old story,
Oh, turn some pages,
I will be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes, yeah, yeah.

One thing I love are songs that are meant to show off the band's different players, letting each one have a solo, showing off, you know? The J. Geils Band excelled in this, when you think of "Looking For A Love" or "Detroit Breakdown." "Roll With The Changes" was REO Speedwagon's version of this, stepping in with different toned-electric guitar solos and a wicked B3 organ turn.

The whole thing keeps building more and more steam, cue the female background singers for "Keep on rollin', keep on rollin', oo-ooo-ooo!" Then three big final chords, the drummer slamming it all around for a long fill, a theatrical pause, and then that last C chord where guitarist Gary Richrath forces his sunburst Les Paul to scream the word "Wow" (something many a radio DJ have mentioned after spinning it).

Here's the whole Speedwagon gang back then on the TV show "Midnight Special" getting the crowd whipped up on "Roll With The Changes."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Badfinger -- "Come and Get It" (1970)

Considered by some as pioneers of the "power pop" genre, Badfinger's star was blessed by no less than the Beatles, who signed them to their Apple label, and Paul McCartney wrote and produced their first single, "Come and Get It."

Badfinger's story has been told in many places -- four huge hit singles in the early 70's, loved by critics, but not selling enough albums, eventually signed by Warner Brothers, and then ending in the suicide of two its four members a year apart. I'm not going to review the sad tale, which can be read about here on the BBC's web site.

Eric, who drives me to the airport for business trips, has been been urging me for a while to rent The Magic Christian, the film where "Come and Get It" made its debut. Starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, the British film was never a hit and has been really a cult item, apparently still available on DVD. For Eric's sake, I'll probably have to indulge it on Netflix.

Badfinger, originally called The Ivies, was signed to Apple Records and were practically given their marching orders to record "Come and Get It" as their first single, and as the story goers, exactly like Paul McCartney's demo, which can be heard on the Beatles Anthology collection as well as the video below this post.

"Come And Get It," while being a typical McCartney toss-off of endearing melody and lightweight lyrics, was a prophetic blueprint of hits to come. Guitarist/keyboard player Pete Ham and bassist Tom Evans both wrote many fine pop rock songs, a few of which became very successful, and one of their compositions, "Without You," was re-recorded by Harry Nilson and became a #1 hit ballad. It was Badfinger's blessing to have that kind of talent that they did not have to rely on McCartney for more hits.

Compositionally, this is another one of those short, very simple 4/4 songs that incorporates unusual chord progressions so effortlessly. The verses and choruses are your basic Eb-Ab-Bb variations, but then it zips right into B major to Ebm and then E major to Eb and Bb, which from a musical point of view, is sort of all over the place -- yet it works seamlessly here, harmonies and all.

"Come and Get It" is one of those songs that when you hear it on the radio or CD player, you end up singing it to yourself many times long after the song concluded.

Below are two cool videos, the first of Badfinger playing the song live on a TV show called "Beat Club" at the end of February 1970. What caught my eye were Tom Evans' big Fender bass, practically as big as a bazooka... drummer Mike Gibbons intense focus... and Pete Ham's deliberate methodical piano playing. Below that, somebody was nice enough to post McCartney's demo, slightly slower in tempo yet completely laid out in arrangement, down to the cymbal crashes and maracas, for Badfinger's version.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Alice Cooper -- "Under My Wheels" (1971)

For about five years, Alice Cooper had the rock world in the palm of his hand and then dropped it. He had one of the most unsung talented bands around -- lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Mike Bruce, drummer Neil Smith, and bassist Dennis Dunaway all co-wrote songs and performed admirably complex arrangements and riffs that basically made the "classic" Alice Cooper period of the early through mid 70's.

Once Cooper started hooking onto the musical trends of the day in order to break out, the rock world slowly started losing its fascination with the man who wore lots of mascara and was famous for outrageous stage shows featuring snakes and ghoulish props. Cooper went into the ballad business, breaking the Top 40 with "Only Women Bleed" and "You and Me" and his rock cred just faded.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Cooper's humorous and satirical lyrics were clearly understood by his fans, while the parents and local authorities were purely focused on his off the wall visuals. Playing up their image as outlaws with a taste for kitschy horror movies, Cooper was fortunate to have an ace producer, Bob Ezrin, and that amazing band of his.

No matter how many times Cooper pleaded he was a "regular guy" who plays golf on the weekends, he pioneered the blend of bad taste, theatrical antics and great glam rock music, which would influence many metal bands to come. I can still here some of that T. Rex "Jeepster" sound during that period.

Killer was the first of a run of three huge records for Cooper (the others being School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies). "Be My Lover" was a very close second to "Under My Wheels" as my album favorite, its three chord riff underscoring Alice's tale of a talkative groupie who wants to know why the singer's name is Alice ("I said listen baby, you really wouldn't understand").

"Under My Wheels" has a grab you by the collar opening, alarming guitar chords, Smith's rumbling tom toms, pause and then Cooper belting out:

Telephone is ringing
You got me on the run
I'm driving in my car now
Anticipating fun
I'm driving right up to you, babe
I guess that you couldn't see, yeah yeah
But you are under my wheels
Why don't you let me be.

Did he actually run over his girlfriend? Does he want to run over his girlfriend?

It's right up the guitar neck in a typical blues progression of A-C-D-F, Smith's drums prominently hitting every nuance of the arrangement. Cooper's songs were more produced then one would like to remember -- "Under My Wheels" had a horn section as it drove on, and they peaked with bombastic power on Billion Dollar Babies. Yet, this was prime air guitar central because Cooper's arrangements had these stop and start nuances, often using the electric guitars as counterpoints and countermelodies.

Despite the sloppy camerawork during Buxton's solo, here is that raw army of Gibson SG's and Cooper himself in 1971 doing a live version on the UK program "Old Grey Whistle Test." Of special note: Dennis Dunaway's 5,000 piece drum kit and the glammy shiny outfits they are all wearing with all kinds of things hanging off them.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hurricane Smith -- "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" (1972)

This morning, I read the lengthy obituary for former Beatles engineer and Pink Floyd signee Norman Smith in the New York Times. I was shocked to discover that this man, who had such an influential role in 60's rock and psychedelia production, was the singer of the early 70's novelty hit, "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?"

It's hard to believe that the man who worked with producer George Martin on every Beatles song from 1962 through 1966, and then signed Pink Floyd to EMI Records and went on to produce their first two albums sang this campy silly hit song that was about as far from rock and roll imaginable.

The early 70's was a field day for novelty hits -- the British ate them up -- and "Oh Babe, What Would You Say" fit right in the mold of left field success. I should devote a whole blog posting to some of them: C.W. McCall's "Convoy," Loudon Wainwright III's "Dead Skunk," everything ever played on the nationally syndicated "Dr. Demento" radio show, The Pipkins' "Gimme Dat Ding," Ray Stevens' "The Streak" and "Gitarzan," and the audio clip job from Buchanan & Goodman, "The Flying Saucer."

"Oh Babe, What Would You Say" sounded like it was recorded in the late 40's or early 50's, a British dance-hall type mid-tempo number with a cheesy orchestra, sweeping jazz drum brushes, and Hurricane Smith crooning on the verge of being in on the joke, his voice slightly pinched to sound like it's coming through a megaphone. It as the kind of song you imagine your grandfather danced to when he came home from the war.

Paul McCartney composed and sang dance hall-influenced numbers which were either ignored or despised by Beatles fans, like "Honey Pie" (White Album) and "You Gave Me The Answer" (Venus and Mars).

Despite "Oh Babe, What Would You Say" sounding like an out of left field wedding song from another era, it actually climbed high onto the charts. I never knew who Hurricane Smith was, and frankly he could have been the same guy who pretended he was Jethro Tull. Was it a catchy song for what it was? Sure, like the way Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" was.

In keeping with the corny theme, I have two videos below to salute Hurricane Smith -- one is a montage of classic cars with a few photos of Smith cut in, and then an absolutely cheeseball 1973 black and white clip of an entertainer singing the tune in French wearing an outfit right out of a Jerry Lewis movie.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Steve Miller Band -- "Swingtown" (1977)

Steve Miller may be one of the luckiest rock stars of the 70's. He produced some spacey blues albums, had Boz Scaggs playing guitar in his band for a while, and could have remained a cult artist based on things like "Space Cowboy" and "Livin' In The USA."

Somewhere along the line, Miller must have drunk the Kool Aid and realized that he was not going to be be making any big bucks soon playing this progressive cosmic blues noodling. So he ditched a lot of the spacey stuff, focused on the blues part of the equation and added a serious dose of pop and the tables started turning.

First he broke through with the title song from The Joker, then went through the roof with Fly Like An Eagle (where he still couldn't help playing around on an echoed synth), and continued his hot run with Book of Dreams (aka more of the same).

Now Miller has had a handful of greatest hits albums, all repackaging the same catchy light blues-based rock tunes. He played tastefully, never really stretched out except in concert, and in their own funny way, they were perfect little pop songs. In retrospect, I don't know if Steve Miller had a profound influence on anybody except the Spin Doctors brief run of hits ("Two Princes," "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong), who showed you sometimes can't go wrong with a few basic major chords.

As much as I loved "Jet Airliner," which ruled the summer of 1977, I'm going to talk about probably the dumbest song on the album, "Swingtown," which was also deservedly a smash hit. I'd put "Swingtown" in the same category as Archie Bell & The Drells' "Tighten Up" and King Curtis' "Memphis Soul Stew" -- songs that were pretty much mostly instrumental, mostly about nothing except introducing one instrument at a time -- that was the entire point. You know, "show me some of that funky bass!" and the bass player goes thumbing around, then "let me hear the git-ar," and then the scratchy strings would join in.

"Swingtown" fades in with Gary Mallaber's drums playing this simple bouncy beat with sizzling hi-hats and a three kick thump. As far as I'm concerned, this song was Mallaber's show. He's grooving along on the drums, then some abbreviated guitars playing the three chord sequence, then the piano jumps in, the bass, and then three-stroke guitar chords. OK, the boys are all here. Then Miller yodels "woah-oh-oh-oh-oh" a couple of times for good measure. The three chords are working away with that steady bouncing beat, when Miller lurches right into the lyrics:

Come on and dance, come on and dance
Let's make some romance
You know the night is fallin'
And the musics callin'
And we've got to get down to swingtown!

Uh yeah. Then Mallaber is mixed right up front with a wicked fill across his snare and toms, and on the seventh chord, Miller adds this observation.

We've been workin' so hard
We've been workin' so hard
Come on baby
Come on baby lets dance
Come on, come on, come on
Come on, come on, come on
Come on, come on, come on

And if that's not enough, it's back to "woah-oh-oh" and another verse:

Come on and dance, come on and dance
We may not get another chance
You know the night is fallin'
And the musics callin'
And we've got to get down to swingtown!

Another Mallaber fill front and center -- which I always cranked up on the radio -- and then it just bounces its way into a slow fade, each instrument departing until it's just those drums.

I am sure it took these guys about, oh, a minute to write and arrange this song. Yet, and I say this in all seriousness, it's about as great a disposable a pop rock song that there is. Whaddya need in a rock song except begging your girl to go dancing? Didn't Bobby Freeman start it in the 50's (later to be redone by Bette Midler and The Ramones) with "Do You Want To Dance?"

So here's the Steve Miller Band doing it live in Georgia in June 2007, with everybody shouting the "woah-oh-oh-oh" part.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

XTC -- "Senses Working Overtime" (1982)

I do not recall any English band since the Beatles who raised pop to an art form as much as XTC. With what can be called a rabid international cult fan base, the Swindon group certainly owe a great deal to the Fab Four's psychedelic era, yet write very biting political and utopian lyrics, with a satirical streak.

What's remarkable about XTC is that they have succeeded despite the extremely British nature and subject matter of their music. They understood the tricks of writing pop songs, the twisty kinds of things that made them stick in your head. You may even call them "gimmick," although you could never call XTC "slick." They constructed their songs as pieces of a puzzle in which you could not look away. Yes, they were quirky, but with such strong pop hook sensibilities, that they were one of those bands that made it seem effortless.

XTC has ridden a roller coaster of record sales, with their early singles and albums leading up to the incredible Black Sea album, followed by English Settlement, which contains the single I discuss today. I first heard "Senses Working Overtime" on WLIR-FM, Long Island's alternative rock and pioneering New Wave radio station. A minor chord dirge on the acoustic guitar, a booming drum like the kind you'd hear slaves rowing a ship to, and Andy Partridge's slightly-off gurgling vocals:

Hey, hey,
The clouds are whey.
There's straw for the donkeys,
And the innocents can all sleep safely,
All sleep safely.

My, my,
Sun is pie.
There's fodder for the cannons,
And the guilty ones can all sleep safely,
All sleep safely.

The song then rang out in a major key, Partridge's chiming English voice swooping in for the build up:

And all the world is football shaped,
It's just for me to kick in space
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste

And I've got one, two, three, four, five...
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in,
I've got one, two, three, four, five...
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference 'tween the lemons and limes
The pain and the pleasure and
The church bells softly chime...

The brilliant "trick" is the chorus in which the drummer snaps his snare with each count of "One two three four five!" And then the whole thing goes into the upbeat chorus, accompanied by that tambourine, the key to any good pop chorus. The video below displays the song's intricacies, including the ringing black and white Rickenbacker seen clearly in the pre-chorus.