Saturday, 5 October 2013

Mawkish Mule: Marc Cohn: Walking in Memphis (1991)

"Now, Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said, "Tell me are you a Christian, child?"
And I said, "Ma'am, I am tonight!"

This comes off the back of my recent post on Marc Jordan's 'Tears of Hercules'.
Call me mawkish but, regardless of genre or lack of 'cool' there are some songs that just hit the sweet spot, songs that I'd defend to the death.
There'e been a whole spate of stuff about 'Guilty Pleasures' and I guess that this series would nestle there. The two bleeding obvious ones in my collection are too bleeding obvious to post but I'll reference them as a starting point: Glen Campbell's 'Wichita Lineman' is oft quoted as inspirational. It's just too good for categorization. "And I need you more than want you/And I want to for all time" just kind of speaks for itself. T'ain't just the genius of Jimmy Webb's composition, it's the arrangement and performance that renders it beyond reproach, uncriticisable.
And then there's the guitar solo on The Carpenters 'Goodbye to Love'. Two solos actually, don't forget the fade. Tony Peluso first played something soft and sweet, but then Richard Carpenter said "No, no, no! Play the melody for five bars and then burn it up! Soar off into the stratosphere! Go ahead! It'll be great!" John Bettis, who wrote the lyric tells that Richard Carpenter kept calling him, raving about the guitar solo and backing vocals. The lyricist said he cried when he first heard the song because he had never heard an electric guitar sound like that. He said Tony Peluso "had a certain almost cello sounding guitar growl that worked against the wonderful melancholia of that song. The way it growls at you, especially at the end" is unbelievable."

Anyway, my first 'Mawkish Mule' post is one of those songs that is so familiar that you almost don't hear it. It came on the iPod this morning as I sat in the Cinnamon Chair nestling my first cup of coffee and... it was a perfect moment. I'd forgotten the unforgettable piano intro, that wonderful moment 50 seconds when the rim shot and Hammond organ enter the fray. I'd forgotten what a fantastic vocal it was. The chicken skin twitches on the line "She said, "Tell me are you a Christian, child? And I said, "Ma'am, I am tonight!"...
Here, reacquaint yourself with the joy that is Marc Cohn's 'Walking in Memphis'.
22 years old and still sounding as fresh as this cup of java...


  1. Funny, but I was only playing this the other day too. It is a really great record, unfortunately tainted with the Cher version. It must be a killer to have your debut as your biggest hit. But as Noddy Holder says of Merry Christmas, it's me pension. :)

    1. Noddy also said 'two sugars please' when his tailor offered him a kipper tie...

  2. "Mawkish Mule" I presume refers to one who is stubbornly sentimental? Be prepared for a few darts in the arse with this series!

    However, nothing to feel guilty about with regards to Marc Cohn... His debut album was in fact floating at a fairly high position in my Desert Island Disc list until I realized my blunderous accounting error of having about 35 entries in my Top 30, and MC became a casualty of that mistake... reluctantly being thrown overboard.
    "Walking In Memphis" is by now a standard, and although it saturated the airwaves was never my favorite track. The whole album brims with wonderful storytelling and soulful tunes. Too many faves... "Saving The Best For Last", "Silver Thunderbird", "Walk On Water" and of course the lovely (mawkish?) "True Companion." All classics in my book...
    The follow-up 'Rainy Season" had a few excellent tunes too, but then he apparently had an serious attack of writer's block before putting together 'Burning The Daze', which I thought was plain awful. (Don't tell Di as I recall she likes it?) Then ten years later, after more writer's block, and surviving being shot in the head, 'Join The Parade', was a pretty decent return to form. Seems he may never reach the lofty heights of that remarkable first release, and hopefully he won't resort to more albums of cover tunes like his last one. He's playing at a little club here in a few days, and if you've ever seen him in concert you'll find him quite the talented entertainer; charming, witty, humble and a fine musician. About as prolific as Blue Nile, but I'm not giving up on him!

    Speaking of the Blue Nile... I finally picked up and read Alan Brown's bio, 'Nileism'. Well written, but plenty of redundancy and more than a little sympathetic bias towards PB. Lots of questions go unanswered, but seems to confirm the notion that their stubborn perfectionism, indecisiveness and unwillingness to tow the company line, combined with a chronic shyness, insecurity and sensitivity to criticism finds them shooting themselves in the foot ad infinitum. Also appears the dysfunctional relationships within the band hold little promise for reunion. Still... gotta love'em!

    1. Okay i warn you i am feeling grumpy today. Never took to w in m and i cant hear it now without the bloody cher version ringing in my head so little hope for a revision. Strange as i always kind of connect it to that's just the way it is which i love. I was a tad disappointed with nileism as it suffers from lack of access to 2/3 and the subsequent breakdown in the relationship brings this into sharp focus. There are some good bits but it left me thinking of the gaps rather than what is covered.

    2. Hello there grumpy stranger! I never heard the Cher version (where was I?) and, as I don't listen to radio I guess I never got swamped with it.
      I'll be buying Nihilism once I've removed the overwhelming pile of unread books at the bottom of our stairs... That'll be @ 2020 then!
      COS comeback?

  3. I saw him in concert way back TT (nearly 20 years) when he toured with just a guitarist. He was just as you describe. I guess a shot to head might put a spanner in most folks' works in progress... lucky still to have him.
    I've reached for 'Nileism' a few times but fear that it might remove some mystery. As you know TT; you should never get too close to your musical heroes; there are doomed to disappoint...

  4. Maybe worth a read Trev... Not much fear concerning loss of innocence/mystery with this one. Brown writes with great respect for his subjects, and tends to shine a light on the band rather than strip away the mystery. Focuses primarily on the music and struggles with expectations and the "biz." Virtually no dirty laundry to be found. Despite the group disharmony, the boys come off as very polite, but very enigmatic... gentlemen.
    The Book is subtitled "The Strange Course Of The Blue Nile" and after reading I guarantee you'll remain rather bewildered.

  5. Marc Cohn....wot a voice.....Paper walls.........loved that track....Tony Peluso!...oh my goodness now you have rung a major bell in my head....the first major guitar solo I learnt and played....along with jambalaya....please me postman....memories....a fine player with a sweet tone....Got the chance to see him I'm 1975/ Blackpool with the carpenters may have been even earlier...he was on crutches with a broken leg...sheesh now more memories are flooding back....time to go....lots of love Trevor

  6. The Carpenters in Blackpool? You'll be telling me you saw Elvis in Scunthorpe next! Ah, Blackpool! The only 'gig' I ever saw there was in the theatre under the tower; Jimmy Clitheroe and The Black Abbotts, with Russ Abbott on drums; I nearly swallowed my tongue. Also a very old and tipsy Joseph Locke who insisted on singing without a mic and, christ, was he loud!
    Good to hear from you Pete. Back on tour? Let us know if you are around these parts. You made some good friends at 'The Hat Club'. Di and I were out talent spotting last night. You're a hard act to follow, although... Marcus and Lucinda are playing the Xmas 'Hat Club', Dec 20th. Why not come join us?