Samui Wining & Dining
Milk & Alcohol
Sometimes a song’s title can leave a strange taste in the mouth.

 

Milk & AlcoholIf music be the food of love, play on.” said Orsino in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. And more than 400 years later, food still finds its way into music. There’re hundreds of songs with references to food in their titles but not all of them should be taken literally. Here are our top ten songs on the subject that deserve a little explanation.

 

1) American Pie by Don McLean is a folk rock song recorded and released on the ‘American Pie’ album in 1971; the single was a #1 US hit for four weeks in 1972. A re-release in 1991 didn’t chart in the US but did reach number two in the UK. The song is a recounting of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.). Contrary to rumours, the plane that crashed was not named the ‘American Pie’, McLean made up the name. And he has said in numerous interviews that the song represented the turn from innocence of the 50s to the darker, more volatile times of the 60s – both in music and politics.

 

2) Amuse Bouche by Fischerspooner might not be well known outside of a small circle of techno-clash fans. However, the track on their 2009 album, ‘Entertainment’, is worthy of mention because it’s actually about food – and modern interpretations of fine-dining in particular. I’m sure you’ll agree that, as a movement, the one thing molecular gastronomy has lacked, so far, is an anthem. And surely it’s crying out for a musical manifesto celebrating the joys of sphereification, savoury ice-creams and marshmallows made of Parmesan. One line goes, “It may be strange and a little bit frightening, an acquired taste but very enlightening.” And that’s a very creditable attempt to recreate, musically, the sense of anticipation which surrounds the first, tiny tastes of the world’s most adventurous tasting menus. It sounds like Fischerspooner knows what it is to sit excitedly waiting for your dishes to arrive in El Bulli or even Samui’s very own Twisted Thai restaurant.

 

3) Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino was an international hit in 1956. However, it was originally written for the 1941 cowboy movie, ‘The Singing Hill’, and was performed in the film by the legendary Gene Autry. It’s a love song about a place and it’s been recorded dozens of times and covered by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Andy Williams, The Beach Boys and Sir Cliff Richard.

 

4) Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones is still a classic and is played by radio stations the world over. The lyrics are about slaves from Africa who were sold in New Orleans and badly mistreated. The subject matter is quite serious, but by the way the song is structured, it comes off as a fun upbeat number about a white guy having sex with a black girl. According to the book, ‘Up And Down With The Rolling Stones’, by Tony Sanchez, all the slavery and whipping is a double meaning for the perils of being ‘mastered’ by Brown Heroin, or Brown Sugar. Its popularity overshadows its scandalous lyrics, which were essentially a pastiche of a number of taboo subjects.

 

5) Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs was a hit soul instrumental recorded in 1962. The tune is a 12-bar blues with a rippling Hammond organ line. According to guitarist, Steve Cropper, the name is not a marijuana reference; rather it’s named after a cat, Green Onions, whose way of walking inspired the riff. Over the years, it’s been used extensively in radio, television, movies and advertising. And the song was featured on the soundtrack to the classic British rock opera and movie, ‘Quadrophenia’, which was set in the mid 1960s.

 

6) Milk and Alcohol by Dr. Feelgood was a chart hit in 1979. Written by Nick Lowe and John ‘Gypie’ Mayo, it reportedly retells Lowe’s 1970s experience of drinking one too many Kahlúa-milk drinks at and after a concert by the legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker. However, whilst the song criticises Hooker (“Main attraction dead on his feet, black man rhythm with a white boy beat.”), it ironically was inspired by Hooker’s own lyric about “milk, cream and alcohol.”

 

7) Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday was released in 1939. It was written by a white, Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from New York City named Abel Meeropol, who was outraged after seeing a photograph of a horrific lynching in a civil-rights magazine. The photo was a shot of two black men hanging from a tree after they had been lynched in Marion, Indiana, on August 7, 1930. The men are the ‘Strange Fruit’. In 1999, Time Magazine voted it the ‘Song of the Century’. When it first came out it was denounced by the same magazine as, “a piece of musical propaganda.”

 

8) Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles was released in 1967 as a double A-side single with Paul McCartney’s ‘Penny Lane’. Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army home in Liverpool where John Lennon used to go. He had fond memories of the place and in 1984, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono donated $375,000 to the home. There’s a memorial to Lennon in Central Park, New York called Strawberry Fields. It’s located across from The Dakota, the building where Lennon lived. It turns out though that Strawberry Fields is not forever. In 2005, Britain’s Salvation Army closed the children’s home in Liverpool, stating that it’s preferable for children to be raised in a foster or small group home instead of a large orphanage.

 

9) Sugar Sugar by The Archies is quite unusual. It was recorded by the group that performed on the Saturday morning cartoon show ‘Archie’. The group itself was never seen, just the cartoon characters. Don Kirshner, a prolific promoter and producer, put the band together. Kirshner also created The Monkees, and wanted to do the same thing with cartoon characters because they were much easier to work with than people. It was the #1 song of 1969 in the US, beating songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder. It was also a huge hit in the UK, where it stayed at number one for eight weeks. Many people believed that the song was full of sexual innuendo. However, one of the band members, Toni Wine, has stated that, “Give me some sugar is a very old-fashioned saying. It can refer to people kissing each other or showing affection. Even your dog licking you, that’s saying ‘Gimme some sugar’; it’s just a form of innocent love.”

 

10) Vindaloo was a song by the British band Fat Les. The music was written by Blur bassist, Alex James, and the lyrics were written by comedian, Keith Allen. It was released as a single in 1998 and recorded for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The song was originally written as a parody of football chants, but was adopted as one in its own right and became a cult classic. Much of the song consists of the phrase ‘nah nah nah’ and the word ‘vindaloo’ repeated over and over by a mixed group, occasionally interspersed with lines such as, “And we all like vindaloo,” and, “We're England; we’re gonna score one more than you.” The song’s name comes from the vindaloo, a type of very spicy Goan curry. However, the song sounded a little too much like a hooligan’s anthem for some observers and the BBC (who commissioned the official UK Music Chart) believed the band were deliberately waking the ghost of an earlier incident on the BBC TV programme, The Late Show. Guest Keith Allen got into an extremely heated row with the panel over his view that comedy was now being hamstrung to appease rules of political correctness. Just before storming off the live broadcast, Allen stormed at an Asian member of the panel that, “It's not a chip you've got on your shoulder, it’s a (insert a swear word) vindaloo!” He later explained to press reporters that a vindaloo is as faux ethnic (this piece of Goan cuisine actually originated in Portugal) as those who masquerade as self-appointed spokespeople for ethnic minority communities’ rights in order to censor arts and culture according to their own pet prejudices.

 

Johnny Paterson

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