Tune in to Magic 101 FM for some wonderful songs I’ve been listening to this summer. Nothing says backyard chilling like Mike Oldfield! Keep reading for an in-depth annotated journey virtually no one has been waiting for!
1) Witchi Tai To
The melody of this song winds its way into my consciousness like an elusive whisper. I think we were in the car earlier this summer and I wanted to hear the song “One Toke Over the Line” for a laugh and some goodnatured irritation.
[“Mike Brewer gives this account of the origin of the song, 'One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, “Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.” I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it.’”]
I realize now I’m talking about Brewer and Shipley, which is not this version. The version here is by Harpers Bizarre, where annoying, intrusive bell sound effects compete with the lilting melody.
About the songwriter - “Songwriter and saxophonist Jim Pepper adapted the song "Witchi Tai To" from an ancient peyote chant that he learned from his Native American grandfather. "Witchi Tai To" was first recorded by Pepper's group, the short lived, Everything Is Everything. The group's producers encouraged Pepper to express his Native American heritage in his music, and helped him work out the arrangement and English translation. To this day "Witchi Tai To" is the only hit in the history of the Billboard pop charts (reaching #69 in 1969) to feature an authentic Native American chant.”
Apparently there’s an unreleased version of this song by The Supremes. Can you imagine? Can you also imagine if some ne’er do well updated the Witchi Tai To Wikipedia page with an unfounded rumor like that and unto the night another urban legend is born?
2) Cow Cow Boogie
This was on an episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse that I recently rewatched where footage of cows is doctored with animated lips so it looks like they’re singing. If there’s ever been a less awkwardly worded description ever written don’t tell me about it!
Sometimes you hear a song and don’t realize it’s a cover right away and that’s what happened here. John Denver is great for listening to in the car, but it’s better for the morning on the way to your destination, when you’re alert and looking forward to an adventure ahead. I don’t think it’s appropriate for sitting BQE traffic on a Sunday at 3 PM with the sun cooking you alive. But then again, despite repeated mentions of me being in one, I don’t own a car.
4) Never My Love
My friend turned me on to a treasure trove of Cambodian covers a few summers ago so I always thing of sitting around a fire upstate and having a laugh when I hear those songs. This one is so harrowing. The vocals are fraught and there’s a thread of a spacey synth caught in the strange reverb. I want to write a movie just so I can film a scene around this song.
5) Ommadawn Pt. 1
I first heard this album in 2016 in a kitschy trailer park resort in the Pacific Northwest on the coast near the Oregon/Washington border. I could google it and maybe even refresh my memory by looking at the pictures in the hopes it may trigger a sense memory or an important detail, but let me just keep going. We were nestled in an airstream in a grove of tall old trees very close to an expansive beach. The inside was done in a late-mid-century modern, (as I reread and proofread I remember the bedspread and curtains matched; green brocade) and a small sitting area had a receiver and turntable, with records. This was one of them. The text on the back talked about how Mike Oldfield never wanted to play live but he finally agreed when Richard Branson bought him a Lamborghini. There were also details about how there were so many tracks recorded onto the tape that the tape wore out and Oldfield had to re-record the whole album. It was nice to read about the record and listen to it on super warm old speakers in that strange setting. This May I found this LP for a few pounds in Glastonbury. This copy doesn’t have the story on the back, but as I examined the photo of the album personnel, I looked into the work of singer Clodagh Simonds, and discovered her wonderful band Mellow Candle, an album with which I’ve become utterly obsessed this summer, and is really what led me to have Ommadawn (Pt. 1) on this playlist in the first place; merely a vehicle to talk about Mellow Candle. Their LP Swaddling Songs is on YouTube and I really encourage you to find it and spend some time with it if it calls to you. It’s deeply majestic folk-prog with subtly fantastic basslines.
Weird Walk is an interesting UK zine that celebrates the psychogeography of the English countryside, neolithic stone circles, and walking to and within those places. They have an excellent Dungeon Synth playlist which is a new-to-me genre that ignites the fires of my soul. This is from a different Dungeon Synth playlist that, for the dungeon-curious also includes Burzum who sadly “only had a keyboard and computer” in jail to record on. Paysage D’Hiver is a 90s black metal one-man-band from Switz. This song sounds like icicles of peace forming at a former UFO crash site.
7) Summer Breeze Pts 1 + 2
I read once that Seals and Crofts are anti-choice and play this at rallies so I listen to them privately and sparingly now. This version rips and my local karaoke place has it so my son has learned to sing it with the Isley phrasing which is inherently better and more sophisticated. There might not be a better sound generated by humans than that direct guitar sound.
Sometimes you hear a song and you can’t place it, in the way that a familiar song sounds unrecognizable when you least expect it. I was taken with this song earlier in the year, even sitting down to learn it on guitar, which I didn’t do to completion. Months later and, “What is this song? I know this song.” Early Yes is good. It’s interesting to witness the deterioration of the human mind in real time.
9) Back in NYC + 10) Porpoise Song
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead covered both of these songs on an EP 15 years ago that I’ve only just now heard. Ah, the ravages of time. I am deeply moved by and devoted to their music, and feel myself inspired and moved in ways that are rare and that continuously amaze me. This week I’ve been spending a deep amount of time with their last few albums. But instead of including a Trail of Dead song for this month I choose the originals of their covers. Melodically these songs are perfect for them to cover and structurally they kind of fall into the canon, so if you didn’t know these songs before, which I didn’t, you would just think they were good songs of theirs. Definitely listen to the covers after you hear these. Or do what I did and listen to the covers first. I think I saw “Head” in high school. Some time ago I dismissed Genesis as inaccessible but the older I get the closer I get to Phil Collins, mystically speaking.
11) Mysterious Vibes + 12) Summer Nights
I found the Blackbyrds looking for something “similar to” Roy Ayers Ubiquity. As soon as I heard “Mysterious Vibes” I felt kind of angry for only just now hearing it. Instead of a bridge or a chorus, there’s just different sax solos. The synth is amazing and it sounds great on headphones.
I’m not going to pretend to be a jazzbo (but maybe that would be an interesting phase?), so I’ll let Summer Nights and the exquisite Lonnie Liston Smith do the talking.
I saw this record at the store (it’s a place where you can buy records) and was taken by the 70s style cover. Michael Rother is multi-instrumentalist and Krautrock legend having been in Kraftwerk and Neu! I’m not academically versed or an experienced enough listener about Krautrock to have a meaningful conversation with a real aficionado but I always like to come off like I am. Sterntaler is a great album for a summer soundtrack to the triumph of the spirit.