Great number nines

This isn’t an article about Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres, rather it’s a look at a dozen classic tracks that feature at number nine in the running order on the original album that they were released on.

Number 9

Firstly, a nod to the inspiration for this article – Scott D. Hudson has used this theme for some of his weekly radio shows called The Ledge that I have listened to as podcasts. He is based in South Dakota, doing a show for Real Punk Radio that I’ve been following since earlier this year.

He’s done track 6’s in June, 7’s in July and so on, so I decided I’d try an article for September based on classic track 9’s. Narrowing it down to just nine songs was too hard so I’ve decided to go for a dozen, to reflect the number of months in the year, and to make it fairer if I ever repeat this for January or February!

These are not necessarily my dozen favourite track 9’s as I’ve tried to have a bit of variety, and they are presented in no particularly logical order, but here goes…

1 – And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles (from Revolver, 1966)

P.S. I Love You, Hold Me Tight, I’ll Cry Instead, Words Of Love, It’s Only Love, Girl, When I’m Sixty-Four, Martha My Dear, You Never Give Me Your Money and One After 909. The competition for best Beatles track nine is curiously not all that strong. All of those other songs are clearly excellent songs, but far from the band at their peak.

Bird was later dismissed by author John Lennon as “another of my throwaways… fancy paper around an empty box”, back when he was deriding many of his older works of genius and inspiration. However, authors are far from the most reliable critics of their own output, and he was clearly wrong about this great track.

It has been claimed it was written in response to Mick Jagger boasting about his then paramour Marianne Faithfull, but that’s far from certain. The stand-out element is the extended dual guitar interplay of Paul and George which really makes the song stand out from almost everything else in the band’s catalogue.

Ian MacDonald’s fantastic book Revolution In The Head suggests that its sound may have been partially inspired by The MerseysSorrow, which was a top 5 hit in April 1966, exactly when it was being recorded, and you can definitely hear what he meant.

It was covered nicely by both The Jam as a B-side, and Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (together).

2 – Tugboat by Galaxie 500 (from Today, 1988)

A lovely understated, lyrically minimal gem from their debut album, produced by the then-omnipresent Kramer and released as a single in February 1988 before the LP came out.

The title could refer to (huge influence on Galaxie 500) The Velvet Underground’s guitarist Sterling Morrison, who skippered a tugboat after the band’s demise.

3 – Who Makes The Nazis? by The Fall (from Hex Enduction Hour, 1982)

Would there be a Fall track in this list? What do you think? This isn’t the best track on this record, but it’s probably my favourite of their many albums, and is still a fantastic number.

This was their first album to chart, at the heady heights of #71, and was the one Mark E. Smith sent to Motown Records in 1984 when they were somehow interested in signing the band. Their response of “I see no commercial potential in this band whatsoever” was perhaps harsh but hardly surprising!

The answers to the question in the song title include, as expected, a positive tirade of potential causes including “Benny’s cob-web eyes” and of course “BBC, George Orwell, Burmese police”.

A particular highlight of this unusually lumbering track are the rather Neanderthal backing vocals from one or several of Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Marc Riley and Karl Burns.

4 – Do Right Woman, Do Right Man by Aretha Franklin (from I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, 1967)

One of the greatest subtle soul performances of all time. Released as the B-side to I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) in March 1967, which was a #1 R&B hit in the USA – wow, what a double-sided treat! Written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn, it was produced by Jerry Wexler.

There’s a great mellow cover by The Flying Burrito Brothers on their debut album The Gilded Palace Of Sin, and more histrionic versions by the likes of Joe Cocker and Whitney Houston, but this is clearly the gold standard.

5 – Everyone Moves Away by The Posies (from Dear 23, 1990)

From their second LP, their first for a major label, this is a gentler, more acoustic number than much of the rest of the album, and utterly gorgeously melodic with lovely harmonies as Ken Stringfellow joins lead singer on this track Jon Auer.

This is a great power pop record by the Seattle band, sadly even less well known than its overshadowed-by-Nirvana follow-up Frosting On The Beater from 1993, which is a stone cold classic. Go check it out now!

6 – You Be Illin’ by Run-D.M.C. (from Raising Hell, 1986)

Their third album was their real commercial breakthrough, after playing at Live Aid the previous year, helped by the huge success of Walk This Way. Illin’ was released as the third single off the album, reaching the US Top 30.

The lyrics humorously scold someone for his ‘illin’’ behaviour, that is being uncool or crazy, such as ordering a Big Mac in a KFC, eating dog food for dinner or yelling “touchdown” at a basketball game.

7 – Animals by Talking Heads (from Fear Of Music, 1979)

Talking Heads have become one of the most underrated bands in history, to my mind. Their stunning run of the first five albums are all wonderfully innovative, with the sixth (Little Creatures) also very good indeed.

This is from their fourth album, which was actually named as the year’s best by both the NME and Melody Maker. This has an unusual lyric, focusing on how unreliable and sneaky animals are. So, typical David Byrne then!

8 – Vagabond Holes by The Triffids (from Calenture, 1987)

Another somewhat forgotten band, from Australia. Calenture was their first major label album. This is a more driving number than many of their more laid-back tracks, and has some very strident drumming by Alsy MacDonald, who is now a practising lawyer.

9 – Nine by Patti Smith (from Banga, 2012)

Not the greatest song on this list, and not Patti’s greatest song, but this had to be included due to its title. This was her eleventh album, and this song was written as a birthday gift for Johnny Depp!

This country-ish number features some wonderful guitar work from the legendary Tom Verlaine from Television.

10 – This Guitar Says Sorry by Billy Bragg (from Brewing Up With, 1987)

A cracking track from his second long player, and a great example of his poignant, thoughtful lyrics that can be overlooked by those who cannot get past his far-from-crooning vocal style. “The time that it takes to make a baby can be the time it takes to make a cup of tea”, indeed.

It also features some top notch chugga-chugga guitar work from the big-nosed bard of Barking.

11 – Take Me! by The Wedding Present (from Bizarro, 1989)

A nine-minute track from their second album, perhaps better in its Peel Session version from a year earlier. This has typical early-Gedge lovestruck lyrics such as the final “warm hands and the things you say, you get lovelier every day”, plus an intriguing reference to “orange slices and that Fall LP” which obviously gets my approval.

However, the real nub of the song is its six-minute guitar frenzy at the end. I recall this being a huge highlight of gigs of theirs at the time. I saw them promoting this album at Sheffield Polytechnic in the month it came out, and then took the then unusual step of a solo trip to see them a year later at Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre.

12 – This Will Be Our Year by The Zombies (from Odessey And Oracle, 1968)

Recorded at Abbey Road in 1967, the record was released the next year after the band had already split up. It was practically ignored when it came out, but has since rightly been acclaimed as one of the greatest albums of the decade.

This track was written by bassist Chris White, who actually wrote the majority of the songs on the album and was the B-side of Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914) off the same album when it was put out as a single in June 1968 in the USA.

Somehow this seems like the perfect closing song for a list, which is why I put it last!

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5 responses to “Great number nines

  1. some great choices there. Take Me is just about my favourite early Wedding Present track.
    Both Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” have their best songs on track 9.

    By the way, you might want to do a bit of extra proof-reading because in your list of great footballing number 9s, you seem to have mistakenly included Fernando Torres.

    • A Million Miles is my all time favourite Weddoes track. In fact it’s probably in my Top 20 songs of all time ( not a list I ever fancy trying to do properly!). I must say that Blue is one of those ‘classic’ albums I’ve never really managed to fully get into. Love Burn Hollywood Burn though and FOABP is an underrated album. Made up to get to see them in Liverpool in December!

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