Behind the Song

Behind the Song: ‘M’appari’ from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha

‘M’appari’ is the best-known name for the central aria from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha, a romantic comic opera in four acts. Flotow – who was born into a musical family, his mother playing the piano and his father the flute – composed some thirty operas during his lifetime, beginning his career after studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, before achieving his first…

Behind the Song: Chuck Berry – ‘You Can’t Catch Me’

‘You Can’t Catch Me’, one of Chuck Berry’s early singles, proved an unexpected commercial flop. It failed to chart upon its release at the onset of 1957 – despite being given prominence by the fledgeling rock and roll feature Rock, Rock, Rock!, which had opened in cinemas the previous month – briefly halting the run of success which Berry had enjoyed…

Behind the Song: Charles Mingus – ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’

Charles Mingus wrote ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ as an elegy for the pioneering jazz saxophonist Lester Young, who died in March 1959, two months prior to the recording sessions for what would become Mingus Ah Um. A darkly elegant ballad with a lone dissonant note full of pathos and pain, it contrasts sharply with the exuberant gospel of ‘Better Git It…

Behind the Song: David Bowie – ‘Subterraneans’

‘Subterraneans’ is the closing song on what has become perhaps David Bowie’s most critically acclaimed album: Pitchfork placed Low at number 1 on their ‘Top 100 Albums of the 1970s’, on Q’s list of the ‘100 Greatest British Albums Ever’ Low was Bowie’s highest entry at number 14, and while elsewhere it vies with Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, and occasionally Station to Station and “Heroes”, Low is the constant,…

Behind the Song: Animal Collective – ‘Summertime Clothes’

Animal Collective’s eighth studio album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, was released in January 2009. The album had been recorded over the course of one month the previous February, at Sweet Tea Recording Studio, the 24-track studio with a large control room in Oxford, Mississippi. For the record the band sought out producer Ben Allen, desiring his low-end expertise, and valuing both his…

Themes and References in Joanna Newsom’s Sapokanikan

Yesterday Joanna Newsom announced Divers, her fourth studio album and her first since 2010’s beautiful and generous Have One on Me. Divers is due out on 23 October on Drag City. Accompanying this revelation, she also unveiled the video for the album’s first single. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Sapokanikan’ shows Newsom strolling, striding, and sashaying through the streets of New York City. ‘Sapokanikan’ is…

Behind the Song: Robyn – ‘Be Mine!’

Beginning her career in pop music at the age of just sixteen, with her debut album Robyn Is Here first appearing in 1995, Robyn saw early commercial success in the United States. Though she had already released a couple of well-received singles in her native Sweden, and one too in the UK, ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ became her debut single in the…

Behind the Song: Van Morrison – ‘Crazy Love’

‘Crazy Love’ is the third track from Moondance, Van Morrison’s second proper solo release. Astral Weeks had appeared on Warner Bros. in November 1968; with Blowin’ Your Mind! a compilation of recordings Morrison had made for Bang Records, originally intended for release as four singles, but put out as an album in September 1967 by label head Bert Berns without Morrison’s consent. Morrison’s dispute…

Behind the Song: Leonore Overture, ‘Farewell Amanda’, ‘One Night’

Behind the Song: Leonore Overture, ‘Farewell Amanda’, ‘One Night’

This article is adapted from three short posts made at divergent points in time over on my Tumblr page, which is located at culturedallroundman.tumblr.com. The page summarises and links towards what I publish here, and offers photographs and images, some of my favourite music, quotations, and occasional short pieces of writing in the manner of the following song profiles. I thought these…