Bizarre Tunes – Five of the Best

Just to cheer things up a little I’ve decided to share with you five of my favourite light-hearted numbers. They’re odd, strange but they always put a smile on my face. We’ll begin with the sultan of dank and dirty blues, the master of juju-, voodoo-tinted zydeco and the king of boogie woogie, Dr John. This little tune (number five on today’s Raffy top five), Jump Sturdy comes from Dr John’s phenomenal Gris-gris of 1968, and comes in #148 on Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 best albums of all time. It combines psychedelic sounds with bucketfuls of New Orleans soul. If there’s ever an album that makes me want to visit a city then this is it. Both Dr. John and New Orleans should be made saints for giving us this album. Check it the Jump Sturdy:

In at number four is my favourite Paul McCartney tune. Yes, it may seem odd to combine the words ‘favourite’ and ‘McCartney’ in one sentence but there you have it. Even though I believe him to be the lamest of Beatles he was a gargantuan songwriter. This man could fart songs out. Ask him to write a song about the price of cheese in the Vatican in the 17th century, give him 15 minutes and McCartney would write you an epic, pop-tastic opus complete with orchestrations and embellished with frog sounds. Love him or hate him, the man knows how to write a tune. This next little number does it for me. It began life as an experiment. McCartney was checking out a new machine he had just bought, hence, Check My Machine from his 1980 McCartney II album:

Now we turn to the female side of town. In at number three is the glorious, gorgeous and ground-breaking Peruvian delight Yma Surmac who rocks my world so much that I still find it hard to believe she can do what she can do. Born in 1922, she broke ground with her take on exotica music and together with Les Baxter and Martin Denny is regarded as one of exotica’s finest. This woman could belt out songs like no other and had a range of over four octaves ranging from baritone to soprano. This song Malambo No. 1 comes from her much-acclaimed 1954 album, Mambo!:

We move back to the blokes and to a legend. In at number two is one of my heroes. This man cannot be beat. One of the first shock rockers, a man who combined opera with humour, from the macabre to the ridiculous, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins had a voice that could shake buildings. His 1956 song I Put a Spell on You is regarded as one of the most influential and important songs in rock history and comes in #313 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Screamin’ Jay was and has been a huge influence on (the afore-mentioned) Dr. John, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, even Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson. This is why:

Number one (for no particular reason) goes to a band close to my heart. The J-pop, shibuya-kei maestros Pizzicato Five turned my musical world upside down when I unearthed them by accident in Japan. I would spend my Monday afternoons perusing round the (only) little music store in the charming town on Kobayashi. One day I happened upon an album with a gorgeous lady on the cover. I bought the album. I was hooked. This is what Japan does best – clone and copy, upgrade and improve. There is so much about Pizzicato Five which originates from the West but it is so, so, so very Japanese. From the 1997 album Happy End of the World, here is the high-tempo It’s a Beautiful Day:

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