'War Child: Heroes' Charity Album Released today!
War Child:Heroes brings together 15 of the hottest contemporary artists in the music industry to record cover versions of classic tracks by 15 musical legends who have collectively sold more than 1.4 billion albums.
This is War Chid's fifth album and since we released Help! back in 1995, and as usual they've been lucky enough to count on the support of the finest musicians on the planet. In devising the concept behind this album - inviting musical legends to place their faith in the next generation – we sought to mirror War Child’s work. We feel the reaction was fittingly awesome.
David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney were the first legends to lend their support and they selected two of 2008’s most acclaimed artists: Welsh singer Duffy, whose debut album 'Rockferry’ has sold 4m copies and marked her out as one of the year’s freshest talents; and New York art-rock outfit TV On The Radio, the coolest, most critically-lauded act of the year thanks to their outstanding album ‘Dear Science’.
These first selections would set a sharp template and a high bar. The rest of our stellar cast were not far behind in coming on board and their nominations did not disappoint. The pairings would throw up some astonishing, historic moments.
Last week we had a look at some of the artists who've been involved with this album. Here's a look at the others we haven't mentioned:
The Clash are legends for many, many reasons, not least because you can name 'em all… even the drummer. Jones, Strummer, Simonen and Headon. Few can claim such an honour - The Stones, The Beatles, erm, The Spice Girls – hardly a Litmus test for true legend status, but a half decent rule of thumb we'd wager.
And more importantly it's a rule that works for us as we desperately try to think of something new to say about one of music's true legends. The Clash, you see, are not only head and shoulders the best punk band ever, they were one of THE best bands ever. But don't take our word for it – 1979's 'London Calling' is more often than not cited as one of the greatest albums of all-time.
Formed in London in 1976, The Clash were light years apart from their punk peers many of who saw any chance of longevity evaporate before the Seventies were even out. For starters, The Clash could actually play their instruments. And write their own songs. Stand anything they did alongside anything produced by any punk band you care to mention (listen again to any Sex Pistols you care to think of first) and it really is like calling 999 to get a match put out.
Mixing politics with punk, dub, dancehall, ska, funk, rap and rockabilly, The Clash wriggled and squirmed musically for their entire existence setting the agenda for pretty much everything with guitars that was to follow. No mean feat. And they looked at cool as mustard. We're gushing aren't we?
Having made some of the most creative and interesting guitar music ever committed to vinyl, The Kinks are widely-hailed as the godfathers of Britpop and even had a guiding hand in the birth of Heavy Metal, placing them high up on any list of influential and important British bands.
Formed in 1963 and named after their unconventional dress sense (leather capes, boots, top hats…kinky), they were to make eccentricity a central part of their far-reaching charm.
The band’s debut number one hit ‘You Really Got Me’ was in its day the loudest, heaviest record ever made. The distorted guitar and shouted chorus was unlike anything heard before, let alone like anything capable of topping the charts. However, this artful noise was not to mark out the band’s sound - pure pop with lush harmonies would become their calling card, on classic tracks such as ‘All Day and All of the Night’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’.
The Kinks would later experiment with music hall and American rock which also served up classic tracks.
The line up changed even more frequently than the band’s sound. Only brothers Ray and Dave Davies survived for long, and their relationship remained tempestuous as the band played on through the next three decades.
During this time there have been two constants: the solid quality of Ray Davies’ songwriting and his music’s influence on emerging artists.
In the 1990s, Blur, Oasis and Supergrass were deeply indebted to The Kinks, as are The Killers, The Libertines, and Franz Ferdinand now. They were a band who constantly demanded attention, and they rank alongside only The Beatles as the enduring inspiration from the classic 60s British pop era.
To keep the classic, vintage quality of the original track, The Kooks' Victoria was recorded on a vintage Neve desk from around 1974.
“Victoria was an important track to me, and The Kinks, because I needed something with a bit of pomp but that yet still rocked. Simple yet with a big idea. Something to evoke another era and yet seemed modern. Innocence before the corruption. And now, The Kooks seem to have all those elements I looked for in Victoria.”
No greater myth and mystique surrounds a musical legend than that which surrounds Brian Wilson. But no other figure in popular music has lived a life that justifies such interest.
Brian Wilson was The Beach Boys (his official roles included lead songwriter, bassist, singer, producer, composer and arranger). Formed in 1961 with his brothers Carl and Dennis, his cousin Mike Love, and a school friend Al Jardine, the group defined American pop music in the 1960s.
Initial appearances of a squeaky-clean boy band were misleading: Wilson was a visionary. His unique use of vocal harmonies; his individual style of lyrics; and his fierce studio perfectionism would soon push The Beach Boys into unchartered musical territory. He rightly considered The Beatles to be his only rivals, and they looked up to his work as a major influence.
Taken from the aborted 1967 SMiLE album, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Song For Children’ were written by Brian Wilson and American composer Van Dyke Parks. The original version of ‘Wonderful’ centred around a simple harpsichord, with the finally completed, fully-orchestrated version only performed live for the first time in February 2004.
In accordance with much of the myth surrounding these sessions, Brian Wilson claims that he and Van Dyke Parks wrote the song in a giant sandbox with a piano in it which had been built in Wilson’s living room.
Fittingly, Van Dyke Parks has since worked with Rufus Wainwright on several albums.
Let's not mess around here. With a career that spans four decades and a discography that totals 28 studio albums, underestimate Declan McManus at your peril.
The son of a big band leader, Declan took his great-grandmother's maiden name and was performing as DP Costello when he was signed to the now legendary Stiff label in 1977. The Elvis bit came from the other famous Elvis, natch.
Recruiting a backing band, The Attractions, via an ad in the back pages of the Melody Maker and with the daft specs, shiny suits and awkward manner, he quickly became the misfit of punk rock.
Costello's first long-player, the phenomenal 'My Aim Is True', set its creator on a path that finds him regarded as nothing short of a musical maverick and a true legend. It's often said a debut album is a lifetime in the making and is rarely surpassed. With Costello it's rare that each new album doesn’t surpass the last. No mean feat when you've done everything from scoring ballet to killer performances of Bert Bacharach classics.
Cut the man in half, and it says music in neat little minty circle right through his core.
If anyone in their right mind should ever want to put together the perfect band, Blondie would be the blueprint they should be reaching for. Formed in 1974 by former Playboy bunny girl, Debbie Harry, and her boyfriend Chris Stein, they pretty much invented New York cool. With bells on. In real terms, all they did was take the Warhol/Velvet schtick and pour sex appeal all over it. Simple, effective and quite enough to earn the legend tag.
So effective was the sell - just ask any boy passing through puberty in the late Seventies – it was almost art… in fact it was quite literally art in 1985 when Andy Warhol painted Ms Harry's portrait using a new-fangled Amiga computer.
But there was more to Blondie than the former bunny girl thing. There were songs, boy were there songs. When the charts still mattered and finding yourself in the Top 10 was akin to realising you've scaled Mount Everest on a very cold day dressed only in your underpants and slippers, Blondie's major label debut, 'Denis', got all comfy at Number 2 in the UK charts in February 1978. A year later they topped the very same charts with 'Heart of Glass' and went on to have a further four Numbers Ones (answers, in order, on a postcard please), and not one of them was anything short of an absolute stone cold classic.
David Robert Jones was born in Brixton in 1947. In 1966, he was to change his name to David Bowie, to avoid confusion with the Monkees star Davey Jones. At the time it was a seemingly straightforward showbiz switch – but it was to be the first move in a series of theatrical reincarnations which would mark out the career of the most inventive, creative and forward-thinking rock star we’ve ever seen.
First came the flamboyant rock star, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke. Later came Bowie the film director, the visual artist, the internet entrepreneur and the actor, most notably as The Man Who Fell to Earth. But, it’s as a remarkable singer that we know and love him best. He’s sold an estimated 136 million albums: one of the best selling acts in UK pop history.
Bowie was rocketed into public consciousness in 1969 by “Space Oddity”, a track that showcased his grasp of psychedelic rock and the unique line he had in the theatrical, unique styling and eyeliner that were to become his hallmarks. His career has seen him embracing, and developing Traditional Rock, Glam Rock, Electropop, New Romanticism and a brief foray into MTV friendly 80's dance.
With his deliberately shocking onstage performances, risqué alter egos and flamboyant costume, Bowie brought camp glamour to the mainstream.
His music defined eras from glam rock to plastic soul to Berlin-esque new wave. He is one of the most referenced and sampled artists in contemporary culture. In July 1999 David Bowie was voted as the "Biggest Music Star of the 20th Century" in a poll of the Sun newspaper and in 2000, a poll of contemporary artists voted him the "Most Influential Artist of All Time" in NME magazine.
He's always been “ahead of the curve”. He's been an artist who's constantly reinvented himself. To this day, Bowie has pursued his own artistic vision and continued to develop as an artist. Always seeking out the new, the exciting and the other.
So arrived a sound that would shape guitar music for the next 35 years.
Formed in 1974, New York’s Ramones were at the frenetic, messy conception of punk rock. Starting with their earliest live forays in Queens and honed at the infamous CBGB’s venue in the Bowery, they would make their mark for 22 years, playing 2263 gigs before hanging up their logo-studded leather jackets. Their high-volume, high-intensity genes are among the most dominant and familiar in rock music today.
Marked out by short, sharp songs packed with simple, direct power chords and dead-pan lyrics, The Ramones’ 1976 eponymous debut album would set the blueprint for punk. The group’s sound was already perfectly formed on songs like “Beat on the Brat,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, all 14 of them clocking in at under 30 minutes.
Similarly, the band’s unified appearance - matching denim and leather outfits, Converse sneakers, lank long hair and pallid, skinny physiques - would be copied by wannabe punk rockers everywhere. Even their band logo would become iconic, shifting an estimated $6m of t-shirts a year today.
The group travelled to England in 1976, giving the nascent British punk scene the same boost they had provided to New Yorkers. Bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols were born of that - and every rock band from U2 to Nirvana would benefit.
The band released 16 albums until their split in 1996. With all of their peers either retired or having moved on to other musical styles, the Ramones stayed loyal to the same determinedly basic sound.
Sadly, the end of the 20th century saw the tragically early deaths of founding members Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitarist) and Dee Dee Ramone (bass). Tommy Ramone (drums) is the last surviving member of the original line-up.
Needless to say, their influence and legacy live on.
Only the late, great Marvin Gaye and the unpredictable genius of Prince can rival Stevie Wonder as the foremost R&B talent in music history.
Blind since a medical accident shortly after his birth, Stevie Wonder’s disability has never held him back.
It’s often been remarked that his heightened awareness of sound helped him create his mind-bending fusion of innovative beats, amazing vocals and vibrant melodies. He immersed himself in the world of music, developing a tireless fascination and passion for the widest range of rock, jazz, and reggae, as well as soul and funk.
As a child growing up in Detroit, the already musically obsessed Stevie began singing in his church's choir at six; from there he blossomed into a genuine prodigy, learning piano, drums, and harmonica all by the age of nine. While performing for friends he was discovered by the legendary Motown Records.
Wonder first made his name as a child star in the Motown mold - the irresistible, youthful exuberance of his album “The 12 Year Old Genius” gave Motown their first chart-topping LP - but he soon took control of his own career.
In the '70s a series of incredible albums - as popular as they were acclaimed -made his reputation. His unique voice, peerless ear for melody, gift for complex arrangements, and pioneering use of synthesizers revolutionised R&B. A virtual one-man band, Wonder forged his diverging styles into a trademark sound, putting his musical signature on an epic quartet of albums that would change music forever - 1972’s Talking Book, 1973’s Innervisions, 1974’s Fullfillingness’ First Finale, and 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life. They are essential listens today.
Wonder enters his fifth decade as one of the most prolific artists in music history, delivering 35 albums, totalling more than 72 million units. His contribution to worldwide social and political change is just as impressive, notably his championing of Martin Luther King’s work (in 1999, President Clinton remarked: “In so many ways Wonder has helped to compose the remaining passages of Dr. King’s legacy.”)
But it is Wonder’s song-writing legacy that has inexorably connected him to the world. From Motown prodigy to groundbreaking innovator, he has convinced the world of music’s power as a transformational force.
It’s a sign of Bob Dylan’s significance in the history of music that when he plugged in his guitar and ‘went electric’ folk fans would come to his gigs to boo and jeer ‘Judas’ at him.
Dylan was not only at the forefront of the most exciting music revolution, but also saw himself adopted as a (somewhat reluctant) figurehead of cultural and political upheaval.
Born Robert Zimmerman in 1941, he made his name as a singer-songwriter in the cutting edge New York folk clubs in the early 1960s. Yet he made his actual name by adopting a new surname, taking inspiration from the poet Dylan Thomas. This was particularly apt as his early lyrics incorporated political, social, philosophical and literary influences. At the time his political songwriting broke all existing pop music rules and made Dylan the idol of America’s emerging counter-culture. A number of his songs became anthems of the civils rights movements, including classics ‘Blowin' in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin'’.
Dylan’s shift in the mid 60s from folk into rock would change music forever. The albums ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965) and ‘Blonde On Blonde’ (1966) brought his unique combination of sounds to the broadest audience and would become constant fixtures in critics’ top ten albums polls.
Bob Dylan is still making vital music today. His most recent studio album ‘Modern Times’ entered the U.S. album chart at number one in 2006 and was named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine.
“The second most influential band to come out of Britain.”
Music critics argue that Roxy Music are the group following behind only The Beatles in the legacy they have left on current pop.
The evidence is compelling: the scale of U2 and Radiohead’s ambitions; the glamour of Spandau Ballet or ABC; the aesthetics of punks and goths; the art-school sharpness of Talking Heads or Blur; the whole of electro-pop as we now know it.
Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno were the creative forces behind a band who changed the rules of pop music. Eno would go on to be one of the most influential record producers ever, while Bryan would set the blueprint for wannabe cool frontmen. Music simply would not be the same without them.
At the peak of their seventies pomp, Roxy Music were a band apart. With the charts dominated by Led Zeppelin at extreme and the Osmonds at the other, they managed to break into the Top 10 with an astonishing mix of futurism, retro rock'n'roll, camp, funny noises, silly outfits, art techniques, film references and oboe solos. "The early 70s," John Peel said, "were kind of boring apart from Roxy Music."
So many of their singles – “Virginia Plain”, “Avalon”, “Love Is The Drug”, “More Than This” – have become classics. Although their fashionability has ebbed and flowed, Roxy Music’s influence has been strikingly consistent.
Only last year Morrissey was asked to name 10 great British albums by the Observer. He said he could only think of one - For Your Pleasure by Roxy Music.
And their frontman has remained impeccably dressed, super cool and a total star. Definitely the most important Ferry in pop music. (Even more so than the one Jerry & The Pacemakers sang about…)
Where to start? Iggy is the legend's legend. Without Iggy Pop there'd be no nothing. Well, Girl's no nothing with a guitar at any rate. He is the daddy of all rock daddies, the godfather of punk. He is a rare breed - even with a bus pass in his back pocket he's still doing it like he did back in the day, only a little slower and much less flexibly.
Born to an American father and English mother, James Osterburg began his career as a drummer in his high school band The Iguanas - that's the Iggy bit, the Pop bit, he claims, just sounded cooler than Iggy Osterburg. He had a point.
Iggy had a brief stint in The Prime Movers before forming The Stooges in 1967. The rest is the stuff of legend. Drug hoovers of the highest order, it's a wonder they got anything done among the punch-ups, nose-ups, smash it ups, leg overs and break-ups.
Following one of the many bust ups, almost all of which were drug-related, the Stooges finally split in 1970 following the release of the classic 'Fun House' album. Iggy moved to Florida, took up golf and became a greenkeeper. Like you do.
For many, his meeting with one David Bowie in 1972 is where things get interesting. By 1975, Iggy decided a spell in rehab to get him off the horse might be prudent. Bowie remained his one true friend throughout and got him back on his feet with an appearance on 'Low', before the pair invented New Wave with Iggy's debut solo outing 'The Idiot'. Produced by Bowie, natch. 'Lust For Life' appeared in 1977 and spawned two of the greatest songs ever written in the title track and 'Passengers'.
A true, true legend. Any questions? No. Good.