Archive for Tracy Chapman

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Fairground Attraction- First of a Million Kisses

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2022 by 80smetalman

I’ve discovered an interesting point about 1988. Between the heavy metal and synth pop, if there was music that was new and a bit different, people would listen to it. It could be a reason behind the success of such acts as Tracy Chapman, Tanita Tikarim and the Proclaimers, although the fact that they all made some good music had a lot to do with it as well. Thus, the same could be said for London based band, Fairground Attraction, who made their mark on the UK music scene with their number one hit, “Perfect,” from their debut album, “First of a Million Kisses.”

The big single, “Perfect,” which the band is most remembered for, is indicative of what the album is. There is an almost 1930s or 40s jazz sound to many of the songs. Many of which has that ‘make you snap your fingers along to the beat’ vibe to them. Other tracks have more of a folk flavour, especially the more mellower songs like “Moon on the Rain.” Researching the album, Wikipedia describes the genre as skiffle, which is said to be a mix of jazz, country, blue grass and the blues, a very interesting combination indeed but it’s probably the best way to categorize the album if one feels the need to do so. Before now, I didn’t know such a genre existed. I guess you learn something new everyday.

What I find very amusing is the contrast in the lyrics between the two biggest singles, (four were released), the fore-mentioned “Perfect” and “Find My Love.” On “Perfect,” vocalist Eddi Reader, sings that she is looking for someone who is perfect and she won’t settle for second best. However, on “Find My Love,” she is desperately seeking a boy out there who wants this girl. A bit of a contradiction don’t you think? But that’s my weird mind for you.

Speaking of Eddi, it’s her vocals that are the biggest element on the album. She has an amazing voice and unlike some singers at the time, she could change her vocal style to fit the song. She can sing the ballads with as much convincing conviction as she does the more jazzy songs. On “Fairground Attraction,” she stretches her voice way out there. Another brilliant example comes in the form of the hidden gem. Come on, there has to be a hidden gem and on this album, it’s “Clare.” She does that jazz vocals really well and of course, the rest of the band backs her up very nicely. I definitely like the clarinet in the song. However, I am still not surprised that she would eventually pursue a solo career.

Track Listing:

  1. A Smile in a Whisper
  2. Perfect
  3. Moon on the Rain
  4. Find My Love
  5. Fairground Attraction
  6. The Wind Knows My Name
  7. Clare
  8. Comedy Waltz
  9. The Moon is Mine
  10. Station Street
  11. Whispers
  12. Allelujah
  13. Falling Backwards
  14. Mythology

The last two tracks were only on the CD

Fairground Attraction

Eddi Reader- vocals

Mark E. Nevin- guitar

Simon Edwards- guitarron

Ray Dodds- drums, percussion

Guest Musicians:

Kim Burton- accordion, harp, piano

Robert Beaujolais- vibes, glockenspiel

Anthony Thistlewaite- mandolin

Steve Forster- mandolin

Ian Shaw- backing vocals

Will Hasty- clarinet

Fairground Attraction did bring something unique to the UK music scene in 1988 as their album, “First of a Million Kisses” proves. Many people really dug their brand of skiffle and while they weren’t metal, I found the album rather enjoyable, even back then.

Next post: Night Ranger- Man in Motion

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at:

To see Bruce Dickinson receive a knighthood, click the link:

Great Rock Albums of 1988 (I Think): Michelle Shocked- Short Sharp Shocked

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2022 by 80smetalman

This post is going to be a little shorter than normal. It’s also telling me that I should have bought Michelle Shocked’s 1988 album, “Short Sharp Shocked” back in the day. I have tried to find the album on both Youtube and Spotify but it has been non existent on both. It has been suggested the reason for this is that many of Michelle’s music was taken down on account of supposed homophobic comments she made in 1990. Therefore, I am going to have to write this post on memory and the two songs which appear on Youtube, one of them being a cover done by someone else.

My introduction to Michelle came by the heavy metal hating Sun newspaper. Does anyone see a pattern here with the last three posts? The ‘critic’ was moaning that first there was Tracy Chapman, then Tanita Tikarim and now Michelle Shocked and the critic was tired of all these female protest folk singers. Maybe it was the fact that the social-political content of the lyrics of all three singers didn’t agree with the right wing politics of that paper.

Musically, my introduction to Michelle came from the single, “Anchorage.” If I can remember correctly, the song is about a young couple trying to make it in the Alaska but don’t take that as gospel. I do remember Michelle’s unique vocals and the folk rock sounding guitar. While I can’t say for sure, most of the songs on the album follow in the same folk rock vein.

The one song I was able to listen to on the Tubes of You was “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” This tempo is very upbeat and the violin in the background accents the song very well. It also has a strong and pronounced thudding bassline while at the same time, Michelle laments the hard life of coal miners and their loss of livelihoods as the coal industry began to shut down in the late 1970s and early 80s. Her vocals are well suited to the songs. I speculate if this and “Anchorage” are typical of what Michelle does on the rest of the album, then it must be a pretty good one.

Track Listing:

  1. When I Grow Up
  2. Hello Hopeville
  3. Memories of East Texas
  4. (Making the Run to) Gladewater
  5. Graffiti Limo
  6. If Love Was a Train
  7. Anchorage
  8. The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore
  9. V.F.D.
  10. Black Widow
  11. Fog Town (hidden track)
Michelle Shocked

Michelle Shocked- vocals, acoustic guitar

Pete Anderson- electric guitar, six string bass

Jeff Donovan- drums

Dominic Genova- electric and acoustic bass

Skip Edwards- piano, organ

Michael Tempo- percussion

Al Perkins- dobro

Byron Berline- mandolin

Don Reed- fiddle

Rod Piazza- harmonica

Kristina Olsen- hammered dulcimer

Banjo Jim Croce- banjo

Sophia Ramos- vocals

MCS- vocals on “Fogtown”

Apologies, I wish I could say more about “Short Sharp Shocked” but that’s not the case. I can say what I’ve heard from the album, I liked. If any of you have the album, feel free to further my education here.

Next post: Weird Al Yankovic- Even Worse

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at:

To sign the petition to have Bruce Dickinson knighted, click the link:

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Tanita Tikarim- Ancient Heart

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 11, 2022 by 80smetalman

It was said in 1988 and I eluded to it in my post on Tracy Chapman, that Tracy opened up a path for female folk singers. I can’t say for sure it was the case but one such singer to come through in regard to it was British singer, Tanita Tikarim. Some people even called her a British Tracy Chapman but I think that was a little off the mark. Tanita had her own voice and style and you had to look deeper into her songs to glean the messages behind them. Still, that wasn’t a bad thing because I liked Tanita as much as I did Tracy.

Her debut 1988 album, “Ancient Heart,” brought forth four singles. The best known of these was “Good Tradition,” which went to number ten in the UK charts. While this screams, “pop single,” it’s easy to see why to see the song had such mass appeal. The blend of instruments and her upbeat tempo make the song cool.

The other singles weren’t as successful at least in the UK. “Twist in My Sobriety” only made it to #22 in the charts but it was most successful song for her internationally. Critics said the song was too depressing and the message behind it was unclear but I don’t agree. It might have been sung in a somber manner but but Tanita has the voice and style to pull it off. However, the other two singles, “Cathedral Song” and “World Outside My Window” failed to break the top forty. Now as you know by now, I don’t really care about things like that and I actually like “Cathedral Song.” It’s a straight forward folk song about two swimmers finding love in a summer setting. “World Outside My Window” is more pop oriented but it does lack the energy of “Good Tradition.”

You know by now, and I’m not alone in doing so, but I look beyond the hits on an album, always in search of the hidden gem. I’ll get to the gem in a second but the runner up is “I Love You,” which has some good soft rock. It’s a love song but at the same time not one. The predecessor, “Sighing Innocents,” is the hidden gem. When I hear it, I picture myself in a smoke filled cafe, yes, I know you can’t smoke in them these days, with Tanita on stage singing into the mike. Like “I Love You,” it is a great folk tune with a message.

She does change things up with “For All These Years.” A horn is heard in the background which gives it a more haunting edge. The song is about two lovers aged 17 and 16 who don’t know how to express that love. But if you want contradiction, the track “Poor Cow” is about a person not wanting to celebrate their birthday but it’s done in a upbeat manner. The guitar in “He Likes the Sun” is a throwback to 1970s progressive rock reminiscent of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Halfway through the song, things change and she rocks out a bit. The change works because one second you’re kicking back digging the vibe and then get abruptly woken up. The shock doesn’t last long but you definitely rmember it. It’s also runner up as hidden gem. “Valentine Heart” is an excellent piano ballad.

Being in the folk rock vein with social conscience, the metal hating UK newspaper, The Sun, came out against her. It’s music critic stated that Tanita sounded like a bullfrog when she sang. True, she does have a deeper voice and maybe she wouldn’t make a great metal singer but her voice fits her musical style very comfortably.

Track Listing:

  1. Good Tradition
  2. Cathedral Song
  3. Sighing Innocents
  4. I Love You
  5. World Outside Your Window
  6. For All These Years
  7. Twist in My Sobriety
  8. Poor Cow
  9. He Likes the Sun
  10. Valentine Heart
  11. Preyed Upon
Tanita Tikarim

Tanita Tikarim- vocals, guitar

Additional Musicians:

Mark Isham- trumpet, flugelhorn

Paul Brady- mandolin

David Lindley- violin

Marc Ribot- guitar

Rod Argent- keyboards

Brendan Crocker- guitar

Pete Beachill- trombone

Mitch Dalton- guitar

Martin Ditcham- percussion

John Georgiadis- violin

Keith Harvey- cello

Noel Langley- trumpet

Malcolm Messiter- oboe

Helen O’Hara- violin

Brendan O’Reilly- violin

Phillip Todd- saxophone

Peter Van Hooke- drums

Clem Clempson- guitar

Mark Creswell- guitar

Ian Jewel- viola

Rory McFarlane- bass

Wow, that’s a lot of musicians! I’m surprised Steve Lukather didn’t play on the album.

While I won’t call Tanita Tikarim a British Tracy Chapman, she also helped breathed a bit of fresh air into a stale music industry back in 1988. Like Tracy, she proved that there could be a good alternative to metal or synth pop.

Next post: Michelle Shocked- Short, Sharp, Shocked

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at:

To sign the petition to give Bruce Dickinson a knighthood, click the link:

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Tracy Chapman

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2022 by 80smetalman

With music seeming to go into the bubblegum pop of Stock, Aiken and Waterman camp or to heavy metal and even metal was beginning to fragment in 1988, Tracy Chapman’s self titled debut album breathed much needed fresh air into the music scene. She didn’t need all the modern synthesizer gadgets or heavy electric guitar power chords. Just basic instruments, a fantastic singing voice and songs which had great messages and accurately described the times. It was no wonder she shot straight to superstardom.

Some thought a metalhead like myself wasn’t supposed to like Tracy’s music. Furthermore, one woman I dated for a little while was quite surprised that a man would actually like her music. Both philosophies are total rubbish! But just in case, I had a quick look down and all the bits are still there. My counter is what is there about Tracy not to like? Like I said, her music is straight to the point and her fine voice conveys her social observations going on in 1988.

It’s the messages behind her songs which I really like. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is a call for social change. It looks behind the smoke screen which was created by the American media machine and it makes you think. Some think the track, “Across the Lines” was a dig at apartheid in South Africa but it also highlighted the growing racial tensions in America and how nothing there becomes a problem until it hits middle class white suburbia.

Let us not forget the ultra number one hit, “Fast Car.” It’s about two young lovers escaping their sad surroundings and heading for a more promising life in the big city only to find that nothing had really changed and all the man had to offer was his fast car. A really disturbing track is the a cappella “Behind the Wall.” It’s about a woman suffering from domestic abuse but the police don’t seem to bother or can’t do anything because it’s a domestic issue. The lyrics are harrowing.

There is a calypso vibe to “Baby Can I Hold You.” This sounds like a genuine love song but there was no law that every song had to be a social or political commentary. That same vibe continues on with “Mountains O’ Things.” Tracy states she will be dreaming and the laid back rhythm makes this easy to do. On the subject of vibes, I get a Dire Straits one on “She’s Got Her Ticket.” Okay, the song sounds reggae but the lead guitar hooks had me checking the credits to see if Mark Knopfler had played on the song.

She goes back to more political lyrics with “Why?” and that’s another aspect of the album I love. Tracy’s songs stirred up some fear in the establishment. One critic poo-pooed this and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” on the grounds that Tracy was too good for left wing altruism. Even the right wing heavy metal hating UK newspaper, “The Sun” came out against her lyrics. Tracy was singing from her heart and what I believe is that then serving president, Ronald Reagan, had spent his entire presidency vilifying the 1960s and here come this black woman singing in the style that made protest music relevant back then. I think the establishment was a little scared.

Ronald Reagan

“For My Lover” is about a young wife trying to provide for her family while her husband is in jail and at the same time, trying to raise the bail money. It’s another moving song commenting about the times and is the climax to the album. The two remaining tracks are easy listening tracks which you can just float away to. A great way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Talkin’ Bout a Revolution
  2. Fast Car
  3. Across the Lines
  4. Behind the Wall
  5. Baby Can I Hold You
  6. Mountain O’ Things
  7. She’s Got Her Ticket
  8. Why?
  9. For Her Lover
  10. If Not Now
  11. For you

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman- vocals, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion

Ed Black- steel guitar

Paulinho da Costa- percussion

Denny Fongheiser- drums, percussion

Jack Holder- electric guitar, organ, piano, sitar, dulcimer, dobro

Steve Kaplan- harmonica, keyboards

Larry Klein- bass

David La Flamme- electric violin

Bob Marlette- keyboards

Tracy Chapman not only brought something different to the music scene of 1988, she brought a revolution of her own with her debut album. Once again, we had some simple, no nonsense music which conveyed thought provoking messages which both trendies and metalheads liked. She also paved the way for others, which I will be covering in the next few posts.

Next post: Tanita Tikarim- Ancient Heart

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at:

To sign the petition to give Bruce Dickinson a knighthood, click the link: