IT TAKES TWO BABY
I was flicking through the channels through the week and came across an old Top of the Pops. Elton John and Kiki Dee were performing their old classic everyone knows “Don’t Go Breaking my Heart”. Got me thinking about duets and some of the more well know one’s. Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley – “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (1987), John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – “You’re the One that I Want” (1978), “Endless Love”, Diana Ross & Lionel Richie 1981 or even Kylie and Jason, and as my sister mentioned the greatest partnership of all time “Peter’s and Lee”, maybe not ha-ha! The list of Duets is endless and we all have our favourites, however some partnerships have left a bigger impact than just two people sharing a hit song. These musical collaborations have left a huge impact on our music culture over the years. Names like Lennon and McCartney, Richards and Jagger, John and Taupin, Simon and Garfunkel, they go together like “Bread and Butter or “Fish and Chips”. The joining together of these forces have left us with some amazing music. Some have gone on to make it alone and well some maybe should have kept that magic alive as a twosome. Did they need each other to produce such magnificent hits? I believe Lennon and McCartney who are one of the biggest hit making partnership in the world needed each other, but that’s just my opinion. I think like any good partnership, you need someone to praise and equally someone to criticise, although ultimately this has led to some great partnerships going sour.
Let’s celebrate some of them, not always for their personal performances, but for their song writing and production and their knowledge and expertise. Here are some of my favourite writing, producing partnerships, not all of them legendary, but I like them, see what you think.
Oh and I will leave you to find your own Peter’s and Lee links J
ASHFORD AND SIMPSON – SOLID
Nickolas Ashford, 1941 and Valerie Simpson, 1946 were a husband-and-wife song writing-production team and recording artists. They met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in 1964. The duo essentially had two careers: one as a successful writing and producing team and the other as singers and performers themselves. They started their career in the mid-1960s, writing for artists such as The 5th Dimension, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. Their work with Charles brought them to the attention of Motown chief Berry Gordy.Upon joining the Motown staff in 1966, Ashford & Simpson were paired with the vocal duo Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and they wrote and/or produced all but one of the late-1960s Gaye/Terrell singles, including hits such as the original version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Your Precious Love”, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, and “You’re All I Need to Get By”. According to Gaye in the book Divided Soul, Simpson did most of the vocals on the last album he did with Terrell, Easy, as a way for Terrell’s family to have additional income as she was battling an ultimately fatal brain tumour. The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Ashford and Simpson were also recipients of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1999, and ASCAP’s highest honour, the Founder’s Award, which they received on March 18, 1996. The list of songs that they have written for the great performers is endless, as well and producing. They truly are musical legends.
As performers, Ashford & Simpson’s best-known duets are “Solid (As a Rock)” and “Found a Cure” (1979). This particular song I loved when it was in the UK charts. However it’s the first time I’ve actually seen the video. Oh my, it is a cringe ha-ha. However let’s not forget the legacy this couple have given us. Check out their song writing list, its mega.
PAUL HEATON AND JACQUI ABBOTT – ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
Written by the Bee Gees, this remains one of the best-selling country singles of all-time. But let’s face it, it’s not just a country song – there’s just the right amount of pop throw into the mix too. This duet is so familiar we feel as though we’re friends with Dolly and Kenny, but what about when Paul and Jacqui sing it?
Jacqueline “Jacqui” Abbott, from St Helens, Lancashire is a singer who was the lead vocalist with the band The Beautiful South after 1994, following the departure of Briana Corrigan. With Abbott, the band released several Top 10 singles. Abbott was discovered by Paul Heaton, the Beautiful South’s other lead singer, after she and a friend met him outside a night club. Heaton invited them to a party, where Abbot’s friend encouraged her to sing. Heaton was impressed with her singing, and later invited her to audition to replace Corrigan. She left the band in 2000, because of the pressure of touring, to concentrate on looking after her son, who had just been diagnosed with autism. Paul David Heaton was born on the Wirral in 1962. He was a member of The Housemartins. He then became a member of The Beautiful South, whose debut single and album was released in 1989 to commercial success and continued with a series of hits throughout the 1990s, including the number-one single “A Little Time”. They disbanded in 2007. He subsequently pursued a solo career, which produced three albums.
Abbott reunited with Paul Heaton in June 2011 to perform in his musical the 8th, while in 2013 they recorded a new album What Have We Become? Released on 19 May 2014. I loved this album although I was never a huge Beautiful South fan. I saw this performance on telly live and thought it was great, Paul and Jacqui seem to be great mates and have an ease on stage together and it makes their performance all that more enjoyable, see what you think.
WOMACK & WOMACK – TEARDROPS
Womack & Womack was the singing and song writing partnership of American musicians Cecil Womack and his wife, Linda Womack. The duo was successful as songwriters for other artists, and had several international hits as a singing duo in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1960s, Cecil Womack worked primarily as a songwriter and producer.
He first met Linda, who is Sam Cooke’s daughter, when he was thirteen and she was eight. Although Linda and Cecil were close, particularly after her father’s death in 1964, he married singer Mary Wells in 1967 and wrote material for her. They had three children, and he managed her career until their break-up in 1977. Linda Cooke also worked as a songwriter, co-writing Bobby Womack’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It.” Cecil Womack and Mary Wells divorced in 1977, and he and Linda married shortly afterwards.
In 1983, Cecil and Linda began performing and recording together as Womack & Womack, and released a successful album, Love Wars. As with most of the tracks they recorded together, the songs were written by the pair. Drawing from their own, convoluted, personal experiences, Cecil and Linda, knowing each other since childhood, were experts at capturing the trials, travails and tribulations of love. Their next album, the self-produced Radio M.U.S.C. Man, released in 1986, included songs which Sam Cooke had started to write and which Cecil and Linda completed, along with a cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun. They composed tracks for artists such as Teddy Pendergrass, The Dramatics, The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, Debbie Harry, Hall & Oates, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, George Benson , Eric Clapton the list is amazingly long. The Womack’s also wrote and produced for Culture Club and Bryan Ferry backup vocalist turned solo artist Ruby Turner. They have undoubtedly carved a career to be in awe of in the music business.
Their success in the UK and other parts of the world was rekindled in 1988 with the “naggingly catchy” single “Teardrops”, taken from their fourth album Conscience. The single reached no. 3 in the U.K. I loved this single and played it none stop when it was in the charts, it’s a classic.
THE BEATLES – DAY IN THE LIFE
John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the world’s most famous and successful song writing partnership in history. Between 1962 and 1969, the partnership jointly is credited to producing 180 songs, of which the vast majority were recorded by the Beatles, forming the bulk of their catalogue. Unlike many song writing partnerships that comprise separate lyricist and composer, both Lennon and McCartney wrote words and music. Sometimes, especially early on, they would collaborate extensively when writing songs.
John Lennon said in 1980 of McCartney, “He provided lightness, optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, and the bluesy notes”. By an agreement made before the Beatles became famous, Lennon and McCartney were credited equally with songs that either one of them wrote while their partnership lasted. The pair met at the local church fete, where Lennon was playing with his skiffle group, the Quarrymen. Paul brought along by a mutual friend, Ivan Vaughan, impressed Lennon with his ability on the guitar and his version of Eddie Cochran’s ’20 Flight Rock’. Soon after, John Lennon asked McCartney if he would join the Quarrymen. McCartney accepted, and there the legacy was born. Although Lennon and McCartney often wrote independently and many Beatles songs are primarily the work of one or the other, it was rare that a song would be without some input from both writers. This approach of the Lennon–McCartney songwriting team, with elements of competitiveness and mutual inspiration as well as straightforward collaboration and creative merging of musical ideas, is often cited as a key reason for the Beatles’ innovation and popular success.
Without a doubt Lennon and McCartney’s music changed the face of music back in the 60’s and generations of artists have gathered inspiration from their legacy. Love them or hate them and plenty do both, you have to acknowledge their talent and the impact they have had on modern culture.
SIMON AND GARFUNKEL – THE BOXER
The most successful folk-rock duo of the 1960s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel crafted a series of memorable hit albums and singles featuring their choirboy harmonies, ringing acoustic and electric guitars, and Simon’s acute, finely wrought songwriting. Simon & Garfunkel’s recording history actually predated their first mid-’60s hit by almost a decade. Childhood friends while growing up together in Forest Hills, NY, they began making records in 1957, performing (and often writing their own material) in something of a juvenile Everly Brothers style. Calling themselves Tom & Jerry, their first single, “Hey Schoolgirl,” actually made the Top 50, but a series of follow-ups went nowhere. The duo split up, and Simon continued to struggle to make it in the music business as a songwriter and occasional performer, sometimes using the names of Jerry Landis or Tico & the Triumphs. By the early ’60s, both Simon and Garfunkel were coming under the influence of folk music. When they reteamed, it was as a folk duo, though Simon’s pop roots would serve the act well in their material’s synthesis of folk and pop influences. Signing to Columbia, they recorded an initially unsuccessful acoustic debut (as Simon & Garfunkel, not Tom & Jerry) in 1964, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM They again went their separate ways, Simon moving to England, where he played the folk circuit and recorded an obscure solo album.
The Simon & Garfunkel story might have ended there, except for a brainstorm of their producer, Tom Wilson (who also produced several of Bob Dylan’s early albums). Folk-rock was taking off in 1965, and Wilson, who had helped Dylan electrify his sound, took the strongest track from S&G’s debut, “The Sound of Silence,” and embellished it with electric guitars, bass, and drums. It got to number one in early 1966, giving the duo the impetus to reunite and make a serious go at a recording career, Simon returning from the U.K. to the U.S. In 1966 and 1967, they were regular visitors to the pop charts with some of the best folk-rock of the era, including “Homeward Bound,” “I Am a Rock,” and “A Hazy Shade of Winter.” Their execution was so clean and tasteful that it cost them some hipness points during the psychedelic era, which was a bit silly. They were far from the raunchiest thing going, but managed to pull off the nifty feat of appealing to varying segments of the pop and rock audience and various age groups, not just limited to teenagers.
It was unsurprising then, that the duo’s partnership began to weaken in the late ’60s. They had known each other most of their lives, and been performing together for over a decade. Simon began to feel constrained by the limits of working with the same collaborator, Garfunkel, who wrote very little of the material, felt overshadowed by the songwriting talents of Simon, though Garfunkel’s high tenor was crucial to their appeal. They started to record some of their contributions separately in the studio, and barely played live at all in 1969, as Garfunkel began to pursue an acting career. Their final studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water, was an enormous hit, topping the charts for ten weeks, and containing four hit singles (the title track, “The Boxer,” “Cecilia,” and “El Condor Pasa”). It was certainly their most musically ambitious, with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer” employing thundering drums and tasteful orchestration, and “Cecilia” marking one of Simon’s first forays into South American rhythms. It also caught the confused, reflective tenor of the times better than almost any other popular release of 1970.
As you will know by now if you read my ramblings weekly that I am a huge S&G fan, so I had to include them in this obviously. Love this song, the harmonies and lyrics and the pain of loneliness this song evokes. Brilliant!
If you place your thumb or finger over the face of Paul Simon on this album cover, Art has a belter tache. * my family are daft.
JOHNNY MARR AND MORRISSEY (THE SMITHS) – THE JOKE ISN’T FUNNY ANYMORE
The Smiths were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1982. The band consisted of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. Critics have called them the most important alternative rock band to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s and they were the first indie outsiders to achieve mainstream success on their own terms. Marr’s guitar-playing influenced later Manchester bands, including The Stone Roses and Oasis. Morrissey’s lyrics combined themes about ordinary people with a mordant sense of humour. The Smiths had several singles reach the UK top twenty and all four of their studio albums reached the UK top five, including one which topped the charts. The band broke up in 1987 and since then have had several legal battles over royalties. However this hasn’t affected their following even now as they won a significant following and remain cult favourites, and have turned down numerous invitations to reunite.
“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” appears on the album Meat Is Murder 1985, the sole
track from the album to be released as a UK promotional single (July 1985). The song was composed by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer Morrissey. A combination of Marr’s guitar-playing on his Rickenbacker and Morrissey’s lyrics combined themes about ordinary people with a mordant sense of humour. This track has been cited by Marr as one of his favourites and one of mine.
Well that’s it from me for this week…………………..
Keep On, Keepin’ On …