1- Theme from the Urban Voodoo Machine (The Urban Voodoo Machine, Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop ‘N’ Stroll)
I first came across this multi-headed beast of epically debauched proportions when we play before them at Larmer Tree Festival. They go from strength to strength, theatrically as well as musically each time I see them, and we are lucky to borrow their trombonist, George Simmonds, occasionally.
2- Hold Me Now (The Polyphonic Spree, Together We’re Heavy)
I’ve loved the mad world of The Polyphonic Spree about as long as they have been going (since The Beginning Stages Of…). This is off the follow up, and never ceases to make me grin. I met Tim DeLaughter, and gave him a hug, and a copy of “Smiling Makes The Day Go Quicker”, which wouldn’t have been written if it wasn’t for his band.
3- Feels Like Home (Randy Newman, Harps and Angels)
Mr Newman has always been a songwriting influence, especially as he’s a piano player, and this tender song, off a recent record, is continuing proof he’s one of the greats, and can write a heartfelt lyric just as good as his biting satire.
4- My Love (Paul McCartney & Wings, Red Rose Speedway)
Paul wrote this for his wife Linda, and it’s always struck a chord with me. I first heard it on a live album, but this is the original studio version, recorded live with an orchestra and George Martin behind the desk. The guitar solo in it is an off the cuff improvisation by guitarist Henry Campbell Liken McCullough, who decided to scrap the solo he’d rehearsed and do a different one, there and then in the studio.
5- Floodwater (Tankus the Henge, Weather EP)
I generally only listen to our own music when we’re playing, but inevitably I hear it when we’re in the midst of recording it. Inspiration for this song came from the floods both in the South of England in 2014, and in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. We’ve played it in every show since it was written.
6- Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow (Every Time I Die, Ex Lives)
I’ve only been introduced to this band recently, (by my girlfriend @cupkaykie) so am slowly getting to know their music. In fact, we had tickets to see their show in London, but it’s been cancelled due to (probably management/police) fears for their safety after the tragic events in Paris last week.
In this song, Keith Buckley, while he is no stranger to absolute intense live performance, manages to convey his poetic ramblings over bluesy hardcore riffs from the rest of the band. (I used to be a holy man. “Once put an onion in a beggar’s hand.”) Clearly someone abandoning religious convictions during a love/hate relationship with alcohol and life on the road, in a band.
7- Thunderstorm (Whisky Moon Face, One Blinding Dusky Dusk)
Sung by Dakota Jim, this is simply one of my favourite songs. Jim is a character within the London music scene, and can often be found playing at Jamboree in Limehouse. This song gets performed by a few different groups, because most of the musicians I know around here love it as much as I do.
8- Into My Arms (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Boatman’s Call)
Here we have Nick Cave, the man in black, showing a tender side. Another piano player, who I respect for his self-built world of strange and wonderful characters. I believe this one is for his own reality, though. My dear friend Polly had her first dance to this song at her wedding, and the unexpectedness of the song choice and the beautiful situation drew a tear from a few eyes, including mine.
9- Nitrogen Pink (Polly Scattergood, Polly Scattergood)
Here’s Polly herself, from her debut album. It’s actually me playing the piano, and I’m sure Polly wouldn’t mind if I said I prefer it with just piano and vocals, but I’m not sure if that version exists anywhere. The song is about someone deteriorating from cancer, and the fragility of the subject matter would have been better illustrated without the pomp of the electronics, but it still has a certain magic quality to it.
10- Burning Low (Tobias ben Jacob/Lukas Drinkwater, Burning Low)
Tobias and Lukas have become firm friends with Tankus the Henge over the last year, and this is the result of Tobias’ heartfelt writing with Lukas’ intuitive and tasteful double bass playing. They are almost like one person.
11- Next (Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Next)
This take on Jacques Brel’s paranoid and confused recollection of a scarring incident in an army brothel is just as brilliant as the original. It’s in English, unlike the Brel version, but is ultimately hilarious and twisted, with the added groove of the SAHB behind it. Alex Harvey’s performance is wonderful and gets more and more manic as the song continues.
12- Winter Coat (Martin Harley, Drumrolls for Somersaults)
Ever since we toured Albania with the Martin Harley Band, have we loved Martin’s songs. Winter Coat is a gentle favourite, and has a lovely video to go with it. Martin is an excellent slide guitarist but here employs a different technique, as does the drummer (Pete, who plays balalaika) while bassist Jay plays upright instead of electric.
13- Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club (Duke Special, The Silent World of Hector Mann)
This story of the hapless character played by Hector Mann is perfectly told by Duke Special who employs his conversational and descriptive lyrics over a bouncy tune. It’s not the radio favourite which Freewheel was, but it’s definitely popular live, and should be heard more. I have been listening to Duke Special’s music for over ten years now, and had the pleasure of joining him onstage to play “Low” on the accordion at Bestival.
14- On The Sunny Side Of The Street, (James Booker, Junco Partner)
Anyone who’s seen me play on my own will know that one of my favourite tunes to play is this one, and it’s this version which has influenced my rendition the most. James Booker is one of the most gifted pianists ever to come out of New Orleans, and had a turbulent life ending in an early death aged just 44.
The other version of this song I really love is the one on his live album “Piano Genius”.
15- Jambalaya (Fats Domino, Sentimental Journey Live)
Fats Domino, one of my favourite piano players and singers. What a huge personality, humour and talent.
As well as playing in Tankus the Henge, I’ve been known to have the odd New Orleans inspired jam from time to time. Usually in front of an audience. Mostly with a lot of great NOLA inspired food. And a lot of rum.
This was one of the songs we often played at Kaff, Brixton, when these marvellous events happened. They’ll happen again one day.
I added this song for Tommy Hare, Joe Strouzer, Steve and the gang.
LISTEN to all of these on the attached Spotify playlist