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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

Loving the Music: The Sound of October 8th - 14th

We started the week in legendary style with a look at Joni Mitchell's 'Court and Spark' album and a journey through the career of Squeeze. Some Fleetwood Mac news and music entertained us, as did the storytelling skills of 10cc, Dylan and Chris de Burgh. We wished Abdullah Ibrahim a happy 86th birthday and heard some new releases of the week before ending with Gary Jules and a song that perfectly befits 2020.

Image: Stevie Nicks - Still gorgeous at 72

This series of blog articles cover a week of mini-feature posts from the Loving the Music Facebook page and group. This makes it easier for our music-loving community to search through our ever-growing archive of songs, backstories and trivia.

Musicians Featured - 8th - 14th October:

Joni Mitchell - Squeeze - Stevie Nicks / Fleetwood Mac - 10cc

Bob Dylan - Chris de Burgh - Abdullah Ibrahim - Fat Freddy's Drop

Kubix - Art-X - Gary Jules


Joni Mitchell Court & Spark - 8th October: It would be impossible for me to do a mini-feature on Joni Mitchell's full career. Her influence on my, and many lives, has been too far-reaching. Being in a Joni frame of mind today, I have decided to pare things down and share some tracks from my favourite album of hers, and one of my favourite albums full stop.

Many people favour 'Blue' as their top album, and although it introduced so many of us to her world, it was Court and Spark that grabbed me. This was when she started experimenting with the Jazz feel that she incorporated in later albums.

The album was written during a year’s hiatus that Joni Mitchell took after recording For the Roses in 1972 and contains a playlist of songs that explore different levels of relationships. It’s a very clever album, both musically and lyrically, and contains some surprising cameos, In fact, a brief look at the credits shows guitars by Jose Feliciano and Larry Carlton, with backing vocals from David Crosby and Graham Nash.

I’m starting today with a song she wrote for her close friend David Geffen, the music agent/promoter who she saw relax for the first time during a trip that the two of them made to Paris during the ‘70s. As the lyric of ‘Free Man In Paris’ says "I was a free man in Paris. I felt unfettered and alive. Nobody calling me up for favours. No one's future to decide. You know I’d go back there tomorrow, but for the work I’ve taken on. Stoking the star-maker machinery behind the popular song"

I wish I could have found a live video clip with decent sound, but unfortunately, it was not to be. Next best thing, the original from the album. It’s a great song – Let’s take a listen.

The second choice from Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark album today has been described a full-out Rock n Roll song and tells the woeful tale of a down-on-her-luck hooker who decides to unpack her rambling tale to an uninterested ‘mark’. 'Raised on Robbery' is a fun romp of a song and was the first single Asylum Records released from the album. They were a little worried about the theme but felt the cooking analogies were subtle enough not to offend.

Joni Mitchell had spent most of 1973 creating the new album with help of sound engineer, Henry Lewy. He was instrumental in calling in some of the top names to perform. This included members of The Crusaders, LA Express, Robbie Robertson who plays the guitar on this track, Cheech & Chong, and as mentioned previously, Jose Feliciano and Crosby & Nash from CSN&Y

The critics loved the song regarding it as a perfectly realized "short story in song" with "funny and saucy" lyrics., whereas Allmusic stated that "Raised on Robbery" " offers an acutely funny look at the predatory environment of the singles bar scene. In general it became known as the liveliest track on Court and Spark and a "surprising, but welcome exercise in humour. Here’s ‘Raised on Robbery’

I’ve saved my all-time favourite track from Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark album for last. This exploration into one's feelings after a one-night stand; ‘Down to You’, is one of those that have caused deep philosophical conversations over the years. I think that Music Professor, Lloyd Whitesell describes it aptly as "a wry meditation on the transience of love and moral certainty”. Lyrically it is one of the best examples of songwriting I know of. At the 1975 Grammy Awards, Mitchell and Tom Scott won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for "Down to You". The musical press couldn’t praise the song highly enough describing it as a "sheer masterpiece and "stunning in its complexity. According to author Larry David Smith, the final verse ends with "an acceptance of life's uneven qualities and the resignation of acceptance”. However you would like to interpret the song is completely your own choice, but one thing is for certain, it is a work of genius.

Court and Spark reached #2 in the USA and #1 in Canada. With double-platinum sales, it became Joni Mitchell’s highest achieving album of her career to then. In the UK it peaked in the Top 20 and was voted ‘Album of the Year’ in 1974 by The Village Voice and the P&J Critics poll. Rolling Stone included it as #111 in their ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’.

A few fun bits of trivia before closing: In a 1979 Rolling Stone interview she recounted playing the newly completed album to Bob Dylan, who promptly fell asleep! She did suggest that he was just ‘being cute’ in from of David Geffen who was there at the time.

Stevie Nicks also has her Court and Spark story, revealing that she dropped a cap of LSD and listened to the album on a set of speakers taller than her. She claimed it was a “pretty dynamic experience”. I can well imagine!

Again, I wish I could find some live clips with decent sound quality, but in the absence of such a thing, here’s a fan-made video that works kind of well. Thanks for letting me share one of my favourite albums, and artists with you today. 😎

Squeeze - 9th Oct: Because Squeeze has had three distinct periods in their career, compiling a mini-feature about them worked perfectly with our 'three post/three-track format'. Today we are going to listen to a song from one each of their distinct ‘ages’. We’ll be spanning over four decades in a short space of time so I will stick to basics, but there is plenty to read up on for those who are musical fact inclined.

When Chris Difford put an advert in a local sweet shop window looking for a guitarist to join a group, Glenn Tilbrook was the only respondent. They started writing songs together and recruited some friends, the now world-famous Jools Holland on keyboards and Paul Gunn on drums. They cut their teeth on the lively South-East London music scene and their debut EP, 'Packet of Three', was released in 1976. Their self-titled album followed in 1978 with the hits ‘Take Me. I’m Yours’ and ‘Bang Bang’.

Legal issues saw them being promoted as UK Squeeze in both Australia and America, something that has dropped away over time. It was the band’s second album ‘Cool for Cats’ that took the band to stardom. The album contained their two highest-charting singles, ‘Cool for Cats’ and ‘Up the Junction’.

The third album, ‘Argybargy’, was released in 1980 and was a UK hit. The release helped their breakthrough into the American market with ‘Another Nail in my Heart’ and ‘Pulling Mussels from the Shell’ received wide airplay on US rock radio stations.

1980 also saw Jools Holland leave to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Roxy Music’s Paul Carrack. Squeeze released two more albums in this first period of their career, ‘East Side Story’ and ‘Sweets from a Stranger’. Although Difford and Tillbrook carried on working together, Squeeze was on hold and would only resurface in 1985.

To start today’s musical selection I’ve decided on one of those mega-hits they had from the second album. Here’s ‘Up the Junction’.

After the success of a one-off charity gig that the band reformed for, they decided to pick up their career, which saw ‘Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti’ album released in 1985. ‘Babylon and On’ followed in 1987 and gained success on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the 1989 release ‘Frank’ was a complete failure and saw Squeeze being dropped form their long-standing label, A&M.

A stream of changes to the members makes it hard to unravel who was playing on what album during this period and they were not so much a band as a trade-name for an ever-changing line-up, However, the early ‘90s saw the live release ‘A Round and a Bout’ and ‘Play’. Although the songs ‘Satisfied’ and ‘Crying in my Sleep’ received US airplay, there were no UK hits. This saw them dropped from their new label, Reprise.

1995’s ‘Ridiculous’ album saw a change in fortunes with the singles ‘This Summer’, 'Electric Trains’ and ‘ Heaven Knows’ charting as minor hits. The band had returned to A&M for this collection. The popularity of ‘Heaven Knows’ was helped considerably when it was used as the closing song in the 1995 film, Hackers, with Angelina Jolie, but didn’t stop A&M from dropping Squeeze from their label yet again.

On 1998’s ‘Domino’ Difford and Tilbrook were the only remaining original members and days before touring the album, Chris Difford announced he was taking a hiatus from Squeeze. He and Glenn Tillbrook concentrated on their solo careers for the next six years

Time for some music, and the track I have chosen to represent this second stage of their career shows the loss of their tongue-in-cheek social commentary for a more commercial message. Here’s ‘Heaven Knows’.

Early in 2007 the announcement came from Difford and Tilbrook that Squeeze would re-form for a series of shows to support Universal and Warner’s reissuing of the band’s back-catalogue and also the first Best Of compilation, ‘Essential Squeeze’, to be issued.

The first live show since 1999 was at their original haunt, The Albany, in South East London’s suburb of Deptford. They called it a warm-up gig for their upcoming US tour. Their Five Live tour saw the release of a live CD. They toured and performed extensively through to 2010 when they started their ‘Spot the Difference’ Tour and CD comprising of re-workings of their hits.

The 2012 limited edition 20-track ‘Live at Fillmore’ has become a collector's item for fans, but changes were afoot again, and another shift in line-ups saw Difford and Tilbrook touring as a duo, with the full band only reuniting for festivals and events.

The 15th and last album they released was in 2017. ‘The Knowledge’ and its single ‘Innocence in Paradise’ propelled the band to continue touring until the present day. The album has a more up-to-date feel, but the sound is still that of a band from the late ‘70s. Although good, it’s not groundbreaking.

Squeeze is still active, with one line-up or the other, and although they may not be as relevant as they once were, they are a solid link to those late ‘70s days when it was Cool for Cats.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you before the final song. Many big names began their early days opening for Squeeze, the likes of which include Dire Straits, The Jam, REM, The Specials, U2 and XTC. That’s quite a collection of opening acts! Today’s last song is from The Knowledge, with what is, to me, one of the better songs from the album. Here’s ‘Rough Ride’. 😎

10th Oct - Fleetwood Mac: Two bits of news regarding Fleetwood Mac came to my attention over the past week. First, thanks to a TikTok post, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ jumped back into the charts for the first time since 2013. Second, Stevie Nicks released a new single with a powerful message. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a third bit of interest from the band or their members during the week, so to complete today’s theme I found a remarkable cover of ‘The Chain’ from Evanescence that they released late last year

I’m starting with Stevie Nicks new song, ’Show Them the Way’. She first wrote the song in 2008 after a vivid dream she had just prior to the US elections. With a very contentious election on the doorstep, she felt this was the perfect time to release it. She told Variety Magazine “I hope that this song and its words will be seen as a prayer — a prayer for our country, and a prayer for the world. It’s a pretty heavy song”.

She went on to explain the dream: “I was invited to a party to play the piano and sing a few songs. And nobody’s ever really asked me to come and be the entertainment for anything by myself, because I don’t play that well — so that’s how you know this was a dream, right? But I had done three benefits in the Hamptons before, so that was up there in my brain somewhere. There were all these political people there, in the dream. The next day I wrote down the words, and then I made it into a poem, then I wrote the music the next day. And since I never recorded it till now, I felt that now was its time, its reason. I understood what it meant then and what it means now.”

The video is a masterpiece of single image storytelling with a political undertone that is pertinent to today’s situation. By the way, the song features the Dave Grohl on drums. A fact that will please Foo Fighters and Nirvana fans. Here’s Stevie Nicks showing that at 72-years-old she still has the voice and writing skills to hold her own amongst today's musicians.

The second bit of news regarding Fleetwood Mac was thanks to a fellow from Idaho named Nathan Apodaca who decided to video himself skateboarding down a highway drinking cranberry juice to Stevie’s song ‘Dreams’ from the album ‘Rumors’. You may think that there’s nothing unusual about that until I tell you that after uploading it to TikTok it received over 23 million views within 6 days!

Firstly, I find it strange that what is actually a very dark song about the breaking up of the various relationships within the band at the time of recording was billed as a ‘feel-good’ video! Secondly, the video is kind of fun, if a bit repetitious, as you’ll see.

Drummer Mic Fleetwood joined TikTok to recreate the video with Nathan, who must be smiling with thousands of dollars in donations and sponsorship from the brand of cranberry juice he was drinking.

Also smiling is Fleetwood Mac who have suddenly broken the download streaming records in the US with 8,5 million streams of ‘Dreams’ and saw it returning to the UK Charts at #85. The album ‘Rumours’ hit #27 on the US Top 0 for the first time since 2013. Here’s Nathan Apodaca dreaming on his skateboard

As I mentioned earlier, I found an excellent arrangement of one of my favourite Fleetwood Mac songs to finish up today, that being The Chain. I featured a superb version from Jose Feliciano a while ago, and being my favourite of theirs, I just had to check Evanescene’s version they released in November last year.

Evanescence formed in 1996 by Amy Lee and Ben Moody, whose five albums have sold millions of copies. Their first, ‘Fallen’, sold 17 million copies alone and won the band 2 Grammys which is quite an achievement for a debut album.

Numerous line-up changes had resulted in the three studio albums they have released don’t feature the same musicians. Evanescence took a two-year hiatus due to the various shuffling of members, but when they returned with the 2011 ‘Evanescence’ album it shot straight to #1 on the Billboard Top 200, showing how strong their fan base is.

They released The Chain as a feature for the Xbox game ‘Gears 5’ and word is that it is a teaser for a new album, ‘The Bitter Truth’ due for release late 2020. Thanks for joining me for a bit of Fleetwood Mac inspired fun. 😎

11th October -The Storytellers: There are certain songs which fall into the category of pure storytelling. Dylan immediately springs to mind, and I have one track of his up my sleeve, but have also chosen two other excellent examples of storytelling in song.

Of course, when you consider it, all songs tell or imply a story to the listener, but my choice for today excel at it conjuring up strong mental images with clever plots with twists and turns along the way to keep you enthralled.

I’m starting with a track from 10cc’s third studio album, ‘Original Soundtrack’. Remembered mainly for the huge and enduring hit ‘I’m Not In Love’, It is the opening track that always takes me on a musical trip to Paris with incidents that are more suggested than explained.

The track has been cited to have influenced Queen to compose Bohemian Rhapsody. It was written by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme as a 20-minute epic, Graham Gouldman edited it down to just under 9 minutes for the album. It wasn’t so much an exercise in songwriting, as one in scriptwriting and took a full two weeks of playing around before the band was happy.

Let’s start today with a trip into the dangers that foreign travel holds. I truly wish an official video existed for this song, but I think this clip has been well put together. Here’s 'Une Nuit a Paris (One Night In Paris)'.

I mentioned that I had a Dylan track up my sleeve. Dylan, as most are aware, is known for his long rambling lyrics, after all, he did win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But of all his twisting tales the track that epitomises his art of storytelling for me is from the ‘Blood on the Tracks’ album, ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’.

To song is the musical equivalent of the closing chapter of a good Western novel, with sharply defined characters, each with their own agenda. The song is occupied by multiple characters, including the enigmatic bank robber, Jack of Hearts, who seduces Lily and Rosemary, both of whom are romantically linked to Big Jim, the wealthiest, greediest man in town. Big Jim is ultimately murdered by Rosemary, who is subsequently hung for her crime. Meanwhile, Jack of Hearts escapes into the night having accomplished his robbery, leaving Lily alone to ponder the events that have taken place. Quite simple really, but like all things Dylan, the song has been the subject of some remarkable interpretations.

Some fans have suggested Jack of Hearts is an embodiment of our closet criminal desires. Others argue Lily, Rosemary and Jack of Hearts are three facets of one individual and that the song, therefore, represents the struggle we have with social identity. Some claim gambling metaphors are used to represent abstract ideas of coincidence and fate. Others think the song is criticizing justice systems. Then there are some, like me, who think it's just a simple song about a simple bank robbery!

Here’s 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts', Decide the meaning yourself.

When Chris de Burgh's ‘Spanish Train and Other Stories’ was released in South Africa in 1975 it was promptly banned, making it (of course) the hottest property in town! Strangely, it was only the LP that was banned, while the cassette version was freely available, but not openly displayed. South African censorship – go figure! A dear friend gave me a copy for my 21st birthday and it was played to death while we rode the line between Guadalquivir and old Saville, playing poker with the Devil.

I don’t suppose the banning was surprising and today’s closing example of superb musical storytelling will show why. You see, the title track is a story about a train carrying the souls of the dead to the Underworld. Jesus and Lucifer are playing poker - gambling with souls. Lucifer cheats and wins the game. The song finishes with the stanza: ‘And far away in some recess, The Lord and the Devil are now playing chess, The Devil still cheats and wins more souls, And as for the Lord, well, he's just doing his best..’. Blasphemy of the highest order in those days!

So, to finish this Sunday with a well-written bit of blasphemy here’s the title track from Chris De Burgh’s ‘Spanish Train’. 😎

12th October Abdullah Ibrahim: Yesterday was the 86th birthday of a leading South African musical icon, Abdullah Ibrahim, and although maybe a little late for the cutting of the cake, it would be remiss of me not to pay my respects.

Cape Town’s District Six was a very different place in 1934 when Adolph Johannes Brand was born. He was exposed to a multitude of musical styles from an early age and started piano lessons as a 6-year-old and by the time he was in his mid-20s was a well-known figure on the local jazz scene.

He made local history when he, Hugh Masekela, Kippie Moeketsi, Jonal Gwangwa, Johnny Gertze and Makaya Ntshoko entered the Gallo studios to record the very first full-length Jazz LP by Black musicians. 500 copies of ‘Jazz Epistles Verse One’ were pressed.

At that time the apartheid government was increasing their harassment and targeting of dissident voices throughout the country. Although Ibrahim had remained quiet on the political front, he and many musicians were frequently targeted. After the Sharpville Massacre the Jazz Epistles broke up and Adolph and his future wife, jazz singer, Sathima Bea Benjamin, went into exile in Europe.

While in residency at the ‘Africana Club’ in Zurich, his wife persuaded Duke Ellington to come and hear the ‘Dollar Brand Trio’. Ellington was impressed and helped set up a recording session with Reprise Records and ‘Duke Ellington introduces the Dollar Brand Trio’ was released in 1963. The trio went on to perform at many top European festivals and received exposure on TV and radio.

He and his wife moved to New York in 1965 and amongst the highlights of the year was his first performance at the Newport Jazz Festival and standing in for Duke Ellington on five dates during a major tour. In 1967 the Rockefeller Foundation gave him a grant to study at the acclaimed Julliard School of Music where he met many of the big names he was to perform with throughout his career.

The rise of the Black Power movement and his South African background saw him introduce an African feel into his music. I’m starting today with possibly the earliest TV clip of Adolf ‘Dollar’ Brand from 1968. He is joined here byJohn Tchicai and Gato Barbien (reeds), Barre Phillips (bass), Makaya Ntsholo (drums). German Jazz show host, Michael Naura’s narration lasts for 20 seconds should you wish to skip it.

Adolph Johannes Brand converted to Islam in 1968 and took the name, Abdullah Ibrahim. He returned to South Africa briefly in the 1970s, but continued to tour internationally He met Rashid Vally who owned a record shop in Johannesburg, who co-produced the album that would start to show a new direction in Ibrahim’s music, from folk-infused Jazz to a fusion of Jazz, Rock and popular South African rhythms.

The line-up on the “Africa Underground’ album included the saxophonists Robbie Jansen and Basil Coetzee. With the success of the ‘Underground Africa’ Ibrahim asked Coetzee to put together a support band for the next planned album.

That album is possibly Abdullah Ibrahim’s most known album, ‘Mannenberg is where it’s Happening’. The main track, ‘Mannenberg’, is named for the area on the Cape Flats where the resident’s of District Six were forcibly relocated. It was recorded in one take during an improvisation session in a Cape Town recording studio.

We can’t celebrate Abdullah Ibrahim without listening to the song that became one of the musical themes of the anti-apartheid movement. Here’s Mannenberg.

I never realised until doing the research for today's feature, that Abdullah Ibrahim had written the film score for the award-winning film Chocolat. He has regularly appeared on TV, both as a performer and guest on discussion programs. He has also been the subject of two documentaries; A Brother with Perfect Timing’ (1987) and ‘A Struggle for Love’ (2005).

Abdullah Ibrahim returned to South Africa to live in the 90s. He was a favourite of Nelson Mandela, who referred to him as ‘our own Mozart’. One of the many honours of Ibrahim’s career was leading the symphony orchestra at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.

I have seldom come across a more prolific recording artist. While researching I found a reference to over 70 albums that he has released, not counting compilations and collaborations. With his never-ending schedule of performances, it stands to reason that there is plenty of material to choose from.

A historic performance at Emperor’s Place in 2016 Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela took to the stage together for the first time in 60 years. Backed by reunited members of the Jazz Epistles, the concert was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Youth Uprising.

To list the awards that have been bestowed on this local legend would take pages. Although he has slowed down his schedule a little, he still performs internationally. I like how The Guardian referred to Abdullah Ibrahim as holding ‘elder-statesman status as the African Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk combined”.

Thank you for paying homage to this South African great today. Let’s close with a live clip from the JazzAldia Festival de Jazz de San Sebastián in 2011. Here’s our own Abdullah Ibrahim with a top line-up of musicians performing the beautiful ‘Water from an Ancient World’. 😎

13th October - New Releases: The past few days have seen some lovely new videos being premiered on YouTube. What better threesome of tunes for a Tuesday? The nice thing is that they all fall in the same musical genre, that being Reggae/Dub.

I know I featured Fat Freddy’s Drop recently, but last week saw them release a teaser track from their new digital album available this coming weekend. Lock-In is a collection of songs recorded during a series of sessions at the MFC studio auditorium of the WGN Television network. For purists out there, don’t panic – there is a vinyl pressing planned for a later date.

The song is ‘Soldier’ and is a perfect showcase for Fat Freddy’s Drop brand of Soul, Reggae, Dub, Easy-Listening, Funk, and vocals as smooth as silk. Please let me know if you can categorise their style of music any better!

The second new release I’m sharing premiered on YouTube on the 9th of October – and that is about all I can tell you! The artist is Kubix and the song is 'Still Standing'. About the only concrete information I have is that he is French, and he’s a Grammy award-winning guitarist and producer. Apart from that, I know that he doesn’t share any information on his social media accounts or platforms.

What I do know is that this is a beautiful example of gentle Reggae / Dub with a great horn-section and some lovely guitar playing. This fellow knows what he’s doing and I promise that I will track down more info at some stage and do a full mini-feature. If anyone out there can point me in the right direction I would be more than happy. Until then, here’s Kubix and the song ‘Still Standing’.

The last of the newly premiered videos on YouTube only made it’s debut yesterday and comes from Art-X. It’s a happy instrumental reggae journey led by some very accomplished melodica playing.

Again, apart from being French and having quite a large YouTube following, the only info I could glean is that he has released 4 albums and a number of EP’s and singles since 2014. Tonight's song, ‘The Quest’, is a promo from a soon to be released streaming album, “Tales of Melodia”.

I like featuring artists I have never heard of. Hopefully we will all be able to look back and say “I first heard him before he became a household name”. 😎

14th October - Gary Jules: People mainly remember the name Gary Jules for his, and friend Michael Andrews, beautiful version of Tears for Fears ‘Mad World’, but there is more to the man than the one hit. Although he has only released a handful of albums, each one is packed full of beautifully crafted songs. Today I am featuring three tracks from the album that helped set him on the path to fame, ‘Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets’.

Jules is a native of San Diago and started playing the guitar seriously as a teenager. He and childhood friend, Michael Andrews, formed the early incarnation of the band Origin in highschool.

A one-year stint at UCLA and a hitchhiking trip around Aisa saw him settle in San Fransico where he joined up with Kofi, the band he had played with at university, who was creating a buzz on the underground scene. When the band dissolved he headed back to San Diago and started writing songs with Andrews. These became the demos that eventually saw them signed to A&M.

The resulting album, ‘Greetings from the Other Side’ was released in 1998 and although brilliant, poor handling from A&M saw the album disappear without ever really being promoted. The few critics that did get a chance likened Gary Jules to the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Nick Drake.

A&M dropped Gary Jules but thankfully he resurfaced in 2001 with ‘Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets’, but that’s for part two. In the meantime here’s ‘No Poetry’.

Having learned a valuable lesson about dealing with record companies, Jules and Andrews decided to keep their music independent. The new album sales took a while to gain momentum, but under their own control, and with solid distribution in Europe and Australia, ‘Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets’ started its journey to become Gary Jules first hit album.

The album included the haunting version of Tears for Fears classic, ‘Mad World’, which he and Andrews had recorded for the movie Donnie Darko. The Village Voice called it “the best album to be released this year, anywhere. Period.” Rolling Stone Magazine said “Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets is at once beautiful and haunting, depressing and inspiring, lonely and welcoming — delicately crafted folk music of the highest order.” In October 2001, Richard Kelly’s film “Donnie Darko” came out in theatres and quickly became a cult phenomenon. Not bad for an album created in a basement for less than $100.

The mainstream radio stations began to pick up on the album, and especially the song, and by 2002 Jules was touring constantly, sharing stages with the likes of Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Beck, Jewel and Todd Rundgren. The popularity of his year-long residency at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood is legendary. But more of the story later, time for more music from the album. Here’s ‘Boat Song’.

Gary Jules and Michael Andrews version of ‘Mad World’ was released at the perfect time to shoot it to the exalted status of the #1 Christmas hit of 2003. Apart from being used in the cult movie ‘Donnie Darko’, it was also used in various TV programs like General Hospital, Without a Trace, The O.C, Smallville, Jericho and various incarnations of CSI. By 2004 the album finally received the success it deserved and went platinum It was the biggest single of 2004.

And what did Tears for Fears think of the version? They LOVED it. I watched an interview with TFF while researching today’s feature and they both agree that Gary Jules version is the closest to the true expression and meaning of the lyric, even more so than theirs. Without the synth-pop underpinnings, the song’s statement is more powerful and honest. I’m sure that they are also pretty pleased with the royalty cheques.

Gary played more than 300 shows in the US, Australia, UK and Europe between the summer of 2003 and August 2004. This included a 3-week tour with Bob Dylan. The birth of his first child saw a slowing of his hectic schedule and after a self-titled release in 2006 he left LA and moved to the mountains of North Carolina to build a home-studio and family base.

According to his website, Gary hasn’t toured since last year. Hopefully, once all the mayhem in this mad world has subsided we will be graced with a new album or two from this truly gifted musician. Let’s finish today with what could be the theme song of 2020, ‘Mad World’, ala Gary Jules. 😎


I hope that you find these weekly recaps of Loving the Music mini-features make your musical world a little easier. Happy exploring! Join our Facebook Community here for a music group who does more than just post a link to a song. Please enjoy browsing through our archives:

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The Design Train is a social media marketing company run by music-lover Andrew Knapp, who also hosts the Loving the Music Facebook pages. The Design Train specializes in content creation on a wide variety of topics designed to compliment the client's objectives.

Words © Andrew Knapp 2020

The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos used in the article


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