As spring has finally sprung, Getintothis’ Will Neville picks out a top 10 of blooming great tunes to celebrate the season.
To start with, a load of spring clichés for you. Lambs gambolling. Chicks hatching. Stuffing yourself with Easter eggs.
So, spring – what’s not to love? First off, it’s not winter. No danger of getting snowed in during spring, eh?
You can debate whether spring starts on 1st March like the meteorologists say, or when the equinox falls, which this year was 20th March, but I’ll leave that to the spring nerds, should any be out there.
Suffice to say, spring is now finally here. This may not make music lovers salivate at the thought of all the spring-themed songs to enjoy in quite the same way as other iconic times of year such as summer, Christmas or Hallowe’en, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.
So, here are ten tunes to relish while gorging on chocolate at Easter, or taking your mind off anything you’ve given up for Lent.
10. The Go-Betweens – Spring Rain
Brisbane’s finest ever band? Surely. It’s easy to see why some cult favourites never broke through to the mainstream. Even at their poppiest, bands like The Fall and Pere Ubu, for example, were never going to be Top Of The Pops regulars.
However, it remains something of a mystery as to how The Go-Betweens failed to become a household name with their really well written songs coming from a pair of talented writers, that aren’t bland but whose tunes can still be whistled by the proverbial milkman.
This was the first single to be released off the band’s 1986 fourth album Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express, but it didn’t breach the UK charts at all. Even more surprisingly, it only made it as far as #92 in Australia.
This glorious Robert Forster tale of growing up is a perfect way to get you in the mood for spring. It features some perfect backing vocals from the late, lamented Grant McLennan and some fine Mo Tucker-esque drumming by Lindy Morrison.
9. Spring – Now That Everything’s Been Said
A spring top ten has to feature the band called Spring. Most of you out there are probably unaware of this group, largely because they were never a big commercial deal. Or even a small one, really. By the way, this is the US outfit produced by the genius that is Brian Wilson, later known as American Spring, and not the Leicester-based prog band who put out one album in 1971.
Spring were a duo of Brian’s wife Marilyn Wilson and her sister Diane Rovell whose sole album, also entitled Spring, came out in July 1972. This song, co-written by Carole King and Toni Stern, was released as a 7” in October 1971 and is a splendid example of frothy sunshine pop.
8. Johnny Cash – When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below)
This song was first released as a single in 1959 by Johnny Horton, becoming the first of his three country number ones. However, we’ve gone for the sparse Johnny Cash version, with significant support from wife June Carter, as featured on his 1965 album Orange Blossom Special.
It’s a classic country tale about coming to town after years in the wilderness, falling for another man’s fiancée, and then getting knifed to death, as ‘when it’s springtime in Alaska, I’ll be six feet below’. Unlike most murderous country numbers, this time we are hearing from the victim rather than the aggressor.
7. The March Violets – Snake Dance
Are we already getting a little tenuous? We’re certainly muddying the waters in terms of quality with this bunch of 1980’s goth also-rans from Leeds. But, March is firmly part of spring, so here goes.
Snake Dance was the March Violets‘ fourth single, released on Rebirth Records in 1984, reaching number two in the indie charts, but again not troubling the mainstream top 40. It was produced by Liverpool-born Gil Norton who later performed similar duties for the likes of Pixies and Foo Fighters.
Lovers of all things goth no doubt clasp lyrics such as opening couplet “take my hand said Cleopatra, take me to the fires to burn” to their blackened hearts. Truth be told, this is rather sub-Sisters Of Mercy or The Mission, but we needed something for March!
6. The Jesus And Mary Chain – April Skies
Where next from March? It’s a no brainer to head to April, and to a classic slice of 1980’s ‘indie’ that managed to break through to Radio 1 and Smash Hits. April Skies was the single that trailed the new feedback-lite sound of their sophomore album Darklands, being released as a single in April 1987 and making it all the way to #8 in the UK.
It’s also worth noting that it comes with a classic slice of JAMC noise on the b-side in Kill Surf City, while various formats included covers of Can and Bo Diddley songs. A pair of inspirations that help describe the band’s sound pretty well.
This was the Reid brothers’ biggest hit, and understandably so.
5. Lambchop – Your Fucking Sunny Day
Spring is the time when chicks hatch and lambs are born. To celebrate this, and the circle of life itself, here’s a portion of lamb chops.
And as the weather is in theory starting to improve, it’s a song about sunnier days. It comes off the ironically-titled 1987 album Thriller, which sold considerably fewer copies than the Michael Jackson record after which it was named.
Released as a single under the alternate name Your Sucking Funny Day, here’s the original ruder version, kicking off with some lovely brass work and Orange Juice-esque guitar as Kurt Wagner sings rather than murmurs as he tends to do these days.
4. John Coltrane – Equinox
A minor blues jazz standard first released on Coltrane’s Sound in June 1964, it was seemingly named Equinox because Coltrane was born just one day before the autumn equinox in 1926. However, we are claiming it for spring for the purposes of this top ten.
To get all pedagogical, the equinox is the time of year when the centre of the visible sun is directly over the earth’s equator, when day and night take up approximately the same amount of the day across the globe. It’s also seen as the start of the New Year in the Persian calendar.
All of that is not to say this writer can’t say anything insightful about jazz. Oh no. However, for the more fearful amongst you, this is not the extreme bebop you might anticipate by the name Coltrane, but something much mellower and easier to enjoy without being a jazz expert.
3. The Patti Smith Group – Easter
Easter is often synonymous with spring, though obviously less so if you’re not of Christian heritage. Still, whether Easter means Creme Eggs or Christ on a cross to you, we can all get behind this slice of Patti Smith intensity:
‘I am the spring, the holy ground, The endless seed of mystery’
Indeed. The lyrics also reference dying and rising, thorns and ‘the tears of Christ’.
This was the title track and closer of her third album that came out in March 1978, and is perhaps has the added ‘bonus’ of some bagpipes at the end, courtesy of Jim Maxwell. But it is called Easter, so we’re having it.
2. Ella Fitzgerald – It Might As Well Be Spring
This song from the 1945 film State Fair was written by Rodgers & Hammerstein, winning an Oscar for that recording. It’s been covered countless times since, including by Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone and this sublime Ella reading on her 1955 Sweet And Hot record.
1. New Fast Automatic Daffodils – Music Is Shit
This top ten nearly featured Judy Collins’ The Crocus, but instead here’s this floral-themed entry.
This Manchester-based band were formed in 1988, with their name coming from a cross between an advert for a Dutch car and a Wordsworth poem (presumably I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud).
This multi-part dub-influenced number is the title track to their 1989 second ep release on Playtime Records, before they edged towards Madchester with the likes of Big and Fishes Eyes, also recording three sessions for John Peel. Singer Andy Spearpoint apparently once appeared in Coronation Street, indie trivia fans.
So, with this utterly fallacious song title, we leave you to enjoy the rest of spring.