Top 10 Male Singers (of all time..sort of.)

I frequently have internal battles with myself about my favourite songs and records of all time. I place them into categories to make it easier, such as Favourite Debut Record of All Time to BEST SONG EVER PART 1 OF 100. Stuff like that you know? But earlier, I managed to come up with a solid list of my favourite male singers of all time. I basically narrowed it down to singers that were around before I was born because if I did recent ones, I’d firmly place Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles as my number 1. Maybe I’ll do a list for that.

So, I’m going to attempt to list my favourite male singers of all time (that existed before I was born..I was born in ’86. The golden era of Hip Hop.) Of course I may change my mind at some point, but hopefully I won’t fret and lose sleep over this. I’m a born worrier; but I keep it well hidden. Obviously I’ve just admitted to it, so it’s not a secret. Oh well.

10. David Johansen (New York Dolls.) I hate that I’ve had to put this in order because I want to jumble it all around. However, the love I have for David Johansen goes beyond him being my number 10. What I love about him is his flamboyant style and distinctive drawl. I remember my mum playing their first record round the house when I was younger. I didn’t know it was the Dolls but I was hooked on Jet Boy. I probably used to sing it, and get the words mixed up. Nothing has changed. Into my teenage years, I saw a copy of their debut record at my uncle’s. I was drawn to the cover, and I always stand by it being my favourite album cover ever. The sheer beauty of it just drew me in straight away. Utterly gorgeous. So, what is it about David Johansen that makes me adore him? I think he’s one of the best front-men of all time. His charisma and charm just leaves you in awe. The way he moves makes you want to emulate him in a dramatic fashion. He’s one of a kind, and undoubtedly inspired so many to express themselves in a way no one else dared to do so.

9. Townes Van Zandt. My love for Townes started only a few years ago, and it wasn’t his voice that got me hooked. Before I even heard his voice, I read his lyrics. His lyrics were that of a troubled soul. You couldn’t help but connect with him, yet at the same time feel uncomfortable that you connected with his words. Then when you heard his voice, you TRULY got all the pain. Some singers become actors and don’t believe in what they do. Some just want the money. With the likes of Townes, you could tell that music was everything to him. His life was dependant on making music. It didn’t really matter how the listener felt; he just needed to get it all out. We all need an outlet, music is one of the most powerful ones. Townes possessed a unique voice that no matter what, just sounded so vulnerable. He didn’t have to put on an act; everything about him was truthful. At times some of his songs became too painful to listen to, but at best- you just knew someone else understood some of the perils of every day life.

8. Nick Cave. Some singers you remember falling in love with, because it just stays with you for the rest of time. Nick Cave is a prime example of that. My gran used to look after me when I was younger, before I went to primary school. Before chewed up and spat out my soul. Or you know, before I ate paint and sobbed before swimming lessons. My uncle used to live with her in this house, and I always remembered going to his room when he was at work and staring at a poster of Nick Cave on one of the walls in his room. I’d stare at it in utter awe. I don’t know what my toddler mind was thinking, but it was fixated on this person. I felt like I was looking at something untouchable. I guess I knew of Nick Cave’s genius before I even heard his voice or read his lyrics. Fast forward to about 10 years old and I’m hearing Into My Arms and Henry Lee on MTV. Something was happening in my mind. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I wanted to be. A writer. I wanted to write words like this; but the thing is, no one can write like Nick Cave. The man is a genius. Sure enough his vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but his lyrics…I fail to find a song that anyone couldn’t relate to. Everything about him just makes you want to expand your mind and explore other worlds.

7. Leonard Cohen. One of the greatest writers of all time regardless of genre. Leonard Cohen and Morrissey were the two song-writers that truly made me care about words. Poets such as Poe and Rimbaud got me hooked on words too. But these two singers just made me see everything in the world in a different way. The darkness and love and romance of everything around us was made clearer by them. Leonard Cohen for me just creates a different world. A world that is free of everything but full of questions. I think that’s a good way to live. It’s hard to live that way, but it gets you through. I always place Leonard Cohen as a poet before anything else, but his voice is so powerful. Some may seek singers that hit high notes and have a stupid range. I don’t want that. I want you to sing in a way that makes me feel like you are telling a story to my soul. Leonard Cohen does this, and so much more. I’ve many reasons as to why I adore him, that’s just one of them. I don’t think I could put the rest into words to be honest.

6. Otis Redding. I’ve found a pattern in the singers I love; they all basically sing songs about loss and pain. I’m a cheerful soul. Of all the Soul singers in the world that have existed, it was Otis Redding that I truly found a life-long love for. Everything about his voice makes you wish you were around when he was starting out. Imagine being one of the first to have heard his voice all those decades ago. His sad songs could break the hardest of hearts, but his joyful songs could bring tears of happiness to your eyes. He had the power to make you feel every single word he sang. He died far too young, everyone knows that. And I also think most know that Otis, although he had a short career, he was truly one of the best. I’ve got a bit of an issue with the term “Soul” music because all music should come from there and you should feel music right in your soul, but regardless- Otis oozed more soul than most.

5. Joey Ramone. No idea how to get into writing about Joey because let’s face it- he possessed the greatest voice in Punk. The way he towered over the mic stand. Pulling it to and fro like a man under a spell made you want to start something of your own. Easily one of the most distinctive voices of all time. His voice was like no other. His stage presence has obviously been an inspiration to many over the years. From how he stood to how he dressed. He wasn’t just part of a band, he was part of a movement that fuelled the souls of so many lost people. Myself included, and also justifies why I was born in the wrong era. To be in New York in the 70s would have been perfect. What do we have now? Of course we do have wonderful things, but imagine being part of one of the most powerful movements in music (and possibly society.) One of my most prized possession are my Ramones records. I rarely play them as I don’t want to ruin them; but when I do, I can truly hear all they stood for. Joey was the voice for so many, and you know what, he still is.

4. Lou Reed. I’m going to try keep this as short as possible because I truly have no issues with writing a massive essay about my love for Lou Reed. However all I want to say and could say about him has been said before. Again, this is another genius my uncle got me into. He got me into Velvet Underground then after he saw my love for them he told me to listen to Transformer. Is Transformer one of the best records made? Damn right it is. Wagon Wheel is one of my favourites for sure. I just love Lou’s style of writing. He’s a genuine story-teller who takes you into the underworld of all around you. You think all you see is all that exists, then you listen to a Lou Reed song and it’s like you fall into a different world. Something quite dark, wonderful and weird. You never want out of it. I think, once you listen to Lou- that’s it for life. Once you give yourself over to his words, you feel part of something that no one or nothing could tear you from. You even forgive him for that Lulu record because Transformer exists.

3. Scott Walker. I guess like most I have already mentioned, Scott Walker is an acquired taste. His debut record is by far one of the greatest records ever made. My Death is probably my favourite Scott Walker song, you know, with me being a ray of sunshine and all that. But in all seriousness, my love for Scott Walker came from of course, The Walker Brothers. His solo work is just a work of art. Every record is a masterpiece. You really cannot deny that he’s a genius. The way his mind works, the way he writes, the way he sings- he’s just out of this world. He’s an enigma, for sure. I cannot wait for his new record to come out in December. Every record of his sounds entirely different from the last; but they always remain timeless and as important as each other. To have a career that reads like that is rare, and something that should be treasured.

2. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart.) A strange soul who made even stranger music. Safe As Milk changed a LOT for me. I think it honestly changed how I listened to music, and the ways it affected me. It opened up my mind. What did Trout Mask Replica do? Well, it freaked me out in the most pleasurable way for sure. I think it is one of the weirdest records I’ve ever heard.  I loved the way his mind worked. From his songs to his paintings- everything about him just oozed freedom and creativity. The two go hand in hand, but not many can make them work as perfect as Don Van Vliet did. He was a rare spirit that made you feel so free. When you listen to Safe As Milk, whether the first time around or if you’re a new fan, everything about it just gives you something you are never going to get again. I guess you can only get it from a Beefheart record. Certain musicians give you certain feelings, I think what Beefheart gave you is something that goes beyond words you know. I’ve tried so many times to pick a favourite song by Captain Beefheart, but instead I’ve narrowed it down to a moment. It’s when he says, “A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?” at the start of Pachuco Cadaver. No idea what it means, but it’s wonderfully strange.

Okay so for Number 1 I just couldn’t decide. Bob Dylan or Morrissey. I can’t choose. There’s no way I can do that. So, joint first place are Bobby and Morrissey. So I’m going to keep it brief.

1. Bob Dylan. Where do you begin when attempting to write about your love for someone so inspiring? I have my mum to thank for my obsession with this man. I’m proud of my Dylan tattoo on the back of my neck. It’s of a song that guided me through hell and back. Through hell some more, and back again. His words provide guidance through life- the good and the bad. It is like he is reassuring you every step of the way. My mum used to sing Forever Young to me when I was a baby before I went to sleep. His music is perfect for long train journeys or just walking around on your own. He makes you feel okay with whatever is going on. You stare out to all you see with his words echoing delicately in your ear, and you’re to restart/carry on. I hold Blonde on Blonde very dear to my heart, and I think it is possibly my favourite Dylan record. But with so many, I think it is hard to choose a solid favourite yet it seems to always be the one I go to for various reasons.

1.Morrissey. I’ve always declared Morrissey as being the one true love of my life. Mainly because his words/songs have been there when I thought I had nothing else. Speedway has been the song that sums up my life for the most part, as does Alma Matters. Everyday Is Like Sunday fully describes where I unfortunately live. I could honestly write an essay about every Morrissey song and still feel I had more to say. His words are a safety net and a force of hope to guide you through. He manages to release every unwanted and wanted feeling you have ever had, and will have had. Dismiss him as a moody sod all you want; but maybe you are scared to see yourself in his words. Seeing him live..every single time feels like a healing process. For some reason, every time before I have seen him- something shit has gone on in my life, and I’ve seen him and it all feels okay. His music goes beyond just being music, and I know every Morrissey fan feels like that. He’s not someone you just stick on as background music. He’s the soundtrack to all you do. He’s someone I don’t think I could actually sit and listen to with. It’s a very personal experience, mainly because I relate to a vast majority of his lyrics. I just adore everything about him, he’s the reason as to why lyrics are so important to me. I wear my Morrissey tattoo on my arm with unconditional love and pride. He changed my life and saved my life; that’s why he’s my number 1.

Captain Beefheart:”A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?”

“You look dandy in the sky but you don’t scare me.
‘Cause I got you here in my eye.”

Yesterday I had to explain to my 83-year-old Grandma who Captain Beefheart was. She said, “Well..I already know who Nick Cave is and I like him.” My Grandma is better than yours, for many reasons. Mainly this one. This is one of my favourites.

If something is strange; I’ll probably enjoy it. I just have a disposition to like things that are a bit mental really. I like mental people too. But the good kind. Not the kind who yell at stuff in the street and follow you home. I know they need love too, but my love is not for them. I know exactly who and what my love is for.

I really love mental music. I love music that makes me feel like I’m having an outer-body experience. I love music that makes me feel like I am being punched then hugged then swayed. Music that fucks you over with several feelings at once. I guess that’s what love is like? I’d say “I wouldn’t know.” But that’s unfair. My love for bands that are borderline insane is probably obsessive. I love bands such as The Orange Alabaster Mushroom to Frank Zappa. If it sounds strange, I’ll like it. If it looks strange, I’ll probably approach it. I should never go outside.

Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart in my mind was the greatest frontman of all time. His words, his demeanour, his everything was so enigmatic and captivating. I found his music on my own, I’m not sure how it happened but I developed a massive obsession. Thing is, I don’t think he is someone you can just stick on in the background. You can’t just play Safe As Milk in the background and go on about your daily routine. He made music that fucked up your soul and eased your mine. His lyrics were a strange form of seduction. His voice was not only distinctive, but so powerful. The strength he had in his voice just left you in awe. From the gnarly sounds in Dropout Boogie to the tenderness in I’m Glad.

Don was more than just a singer in one of the best bands ever. He was a TRUE artists. His fearless nature and his strange lyrics just made him someone you could relate to because you know what it’s like to be told “NO” but still want more, and to get what you want. The underdog is always refused because sometimes you’ve got to put an end to all the refusal you have been handed and do it your own way. If you do things your own way, then it feels better. Always.

Don’s work (art and music) was something (and still is) you could totally lose yourself in. Trout Mask Replica is one of the most enjoyable and strangest records I’ve ever heard. The songs are all over the place. Some may say the work of a mad man. I say it is the exposure of a genius. Safe As Milk is probably my favourite debut record of all time, and one of my favourite records of all time. His music gets you through. Not because you can relate to the lyrics. Half the time, I have no idea what is going on. But because I have no idea what is going on, I just love him even more. You don’t always need to relate. He just made you feel part of the strange, and you felt less strange.

You’ve got to keep people fast away from how weird you are, but keep your weird ways close at hand. Never let anyone tell you that you are wrong for being how you are. You get that vibe from listening to Captain Beefheart. I’m writing this listening to Trout Mask Replica, and I feel as if someone is entirely fucking with my mind. Not in a “someone’s going to get hurt, watch your heart” kind of way. Far from it. I can deal with this, this feels like a weird release. It’s been a long time coming.

Personally, there will never be another like Don. Everything about him was so rare and beautiful. He wasn’t scared to make music that wouldn’t be welcomed by all. He wasn’t afraid to do what he felt was right, you know? His fearless approach and his way of doing so is something that hardly any posses now. He was a rare soul, and one we must never ever forget.

“Be kind, man – don’t be mankind.”

It’s been just over a year since one of my musical heroes died. Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart was one of the few artists that from first listen, just captured me entirely. His lyrics don’t “describe my life.” His music just sends you off into a wonderful and lucid world. A perfect sense of escaping and finding something better. He merged so many genres of music together, and just made his own. His voice will always be one of the most distinctive voices in music. There will never be anyone quite as magnetising and inspiring as Don- it just wouldn’t seem right if anyone tried to even attempt to be like him. If you don’t have any of his records in your collection, you are depriving yourself of some of the most pure, brutual and honest masterpieces you will ever hear. Safe As Milk is my favourite record by Captain Beefheart, I also regard it as one of the greatest albums and debut albums of all time. You just knew that, if he could make something like this as his first record, then you knew he would be regarded as one of the greats.

I cannot remember the first time I heard Don’s music, but I do know I was listening to a John Peel show- when I probably should’ve been asleep so I could be functioning for school the following morning. Thing is, John Peel taught me more than any teacher ever could. I have no doubt in my mind that John Peel and Don are hanging out in that place we go to when our hearts stop beating. I have no idea where that place is; or what that place is- but it has to exist.

So this week, this mixtape is a tribute to Captain Beefheart. A selection of my favourite tracks by one of my absolute heroes and inspiration.

Captain Beefheart-Safe As Milk.

After brief thought, I think I know exactly where my love for anything that people may regard as “odd” may come from. They call it odd, I call it genius. I’m right; they are wrong.

It all comes from one artist, specifically one artist. Captain Beefheart. The guy was an absolute genius. Everything he did was a work of art. Offbeat, out of sync- who cares? The guy created one of the most distinctive sounds EVER. He also released one of the greatest debut albums ever in 1967. If I was around when this first came out, I reckon nothing in my world would have ever been the same. Nothing would mean anything.

I listen to it now as often as I can (yeah, I listen to it a lot) and I wish I was around back then. Those times seem much better for music. It had true substance then. Now? Well, there’s a severe lack of it. You have to look much harder for it, not that I mind spending my days finding music that blows my mind. It’s the best feeling ever.

Safe As Milk was released in 1967. It mixes blues with a highly psychedelic feel. It’s got this brutal tone to it that I have only ever found in one other band since. It’s no surprise that this band is influenced by Captain Beefheart. Of course, it is The Kills. The brutal beats and vicious vocals that Captain aka Don Van Vliet posses stay with you forever. You listen to Safe As Milk and damn near nothing will be the same again. I don’t care if this kind of music isn’t your thing, with one listen; your world will change. It’s always best to be an outsider because nobody ever expects us underdogs to do anything of worth. Oh how wrong you are Society, how very wrong you are. You see, if you leave someone to their own devices and they are highly creative- they will make something you fear. Fear is good in music; it’s a very good thing. If a band can scare you shitless or provoke ugly feelings then it is a job well done.

Safe As Milk is on the same level as the Velvet Underground’s debut album- extremely bluesy and just takes you off elsewhere. It’s beautiful, it’s poetic and best of all; Safe As Milk is scattered. It’s everywhere. Those that don’t get Music will just say it’s a mess. Those who can see the genius within it know it is a masterpiece. Don wasn’t exactly known for being the sanest man in the world. But they knew he was a genius. His vocals stay with you and his words are instantly etched upon your heart. Some of the frustrations that fall out of his songs jus tug at your heartstrings. This is what it is like to have your mind well and truly blown. Safe As Milk takes you on an unforgettable journey when you first listen to it. When you come to listen to it again and again (REPEAT!) you will be taken to that place straight away. It must be highly acknowledged that the album features THE greatest slide-guitarists of all time, Ry Cooder. He was only 20 years old when the album was recorded.

The arrangement on the album and the sharp yet strange lyrics on the album became Captain Beefheart’s sound; this is what he was known for. Now, a lot that knew of him probably listened. They probably just saw him as some oddball and didn’t pay him any attention. Oh I hope you feel foolish for your errors. Safe As Milk is a dirty, raw record. Typically, when it was released hardly anyone gave a damn about it. I don’t understand how an album like this could not be greeted with welcoming ears. It’s everything you want. You rant blues? This record has it. You want obscurity? This album oozes it. You want something that bamboozles you? Safe As Milk will do that to you, with every single listen.

Grown So Ugly, Call On Me, Dropout Boogie; seriously, these are tracks you need in your life. Safe As Milk is an album you need oh so urgently in your life. You know how life can be tedious and mundane? People like Captain Beefheart existed so we could escape all of that. He’s given us music that fucks with our heads (in a good way) and sends us off into a lucid dream. That’s needed, it really is.

The album opens with Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do which is heavily influenced by the Delta blues sound. Gradually the album becomes more and more strange; but it doesn’t deter you at all. It keeps you locked in. that’s what happens with every record by Captain Beefheart. Starts quite bluesy then just mashes up your head, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Why settle for something sane and boring when you can have this. The psychotic sound here is something that cannot be replicated, just admired.