My friend Tim hosts a radio show in Açık Radyo, the most progressive and diverse of Turkish radios, and he asked me to be a guest DJ on it. The show is called Connections; the point is playing songs that are somehow (by hook or by crook) connected.
It goes like this: first you play a song from say Iron Maiden, let’s suppose you play Hallowed Be Thy Name, a song about a prisonler on his way to the gallows. To proceed to the next song, the DJ has to find a connection to another artist. Let’s also assume that you have a schizophrenic taste of music and as well as Iron Maiden, you are also fond of Michael Bolton’s How Am I Supposed to Live Without You. This is a song about a man who doesn’t know how he’s supposed to live without her. There seem to be no connections but as a music buff (or a Google user) you know (or you can find out) that they might have shared record labels. Iron Maiden released Piece of Mind from Columbia Records, who also released Michael Bolton’s Time, Love and Tenderness and this is the connection between the two, Bob’s your uncle!
Here’s The Program For All Those (2 According to My Last Count) Listeners Who Missed It
In my case, since I’m only a measly guest and I only do this very rarely I wanted a second challenge: I wanted a connection that looks like a helix such that all songs are connected in series, but also they are connected through a common theme. This is 2013, I’m in Istanbul and this is the Turkish Summer of Discontent so naturally I thought of Rebellion as my theme.
Last Day of the Miners Strike by Pulp
My first song is from Pulp whom I’ve seen live twice in Istanbul. Their first concert in Parkorman was one of my best few hours, ever. So I chose Pulp as my first and last band for the show, as Tim likes to say, very zen.
This song, Last Day of the Miners Strike is about the Miners Strike in Northern England in 1984-1985. Pulp is from Sheffield, in the Yorkshire coal fields where the National Union of Miners have their headquarters. I like it here when Jarvis Cocker, the lead singer and poet for Pulp says ¨The future is ours for taking now, if we just stick together¨. This is a feeling I had during the Istanbul riots at Gezi Park in June of 2013.
Some Riot by Elbow
Jarvis Cocker hosts a music show called Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service for BBC6 Music and this connects him to Guy Garvey, the lead singer of Elbow who hosts Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour also on BBC6 Music.
My two boys and I are fans of Elbow, especially of The Fix – their song about race fixing for the Epsom Horse Races. The boys don’t know what the song is about but they like the chorus so our roadtrips always begin with this song.
But I didn’t play The Fix for The Connections but another song called Some Riot. This song isn’t about a riot at all, but it’s a beautiful song by an excellent band. Here Elbow sing about a friend who has a (drinking) problem and is ruining himself, slowly. I feel this way about some friends of mine who for the sake of economic stability accepted the current political situation, the brambles that twist around us and don’t let us move.
2+2=5 by Radiohead
When asked, Guy Garvey says that Radiohead is their biggest influence which provides my connection to Radiohead. Many musicians list Radiohead as an influence since they are such a revolutionary band, and the program couldn’t have been without a protest song from them. Guy Garvey discovered Radiohead with The Bends, in 1995 but he was floored and unable to breathe when he listened to Hail to the Thief, Radiohead’s 2003 album. So it’s only a tribute to both these bands that I played 2+2=5, the first song from Hail to the Thief.
The song title refers to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four concepts such as “doublethink” and “Big Brother” came up many times during the Istanbul protests. The song, like all the songs in Hail to the Thief, also has a subtitle: The Lukewarm. This refers to Dante’s Inferno where the edge of the inferno is populated by those laodiceans who did not interfere when they should’ve. In The Inferno they ask why they are there, since they didn’t do anything at all, but that is exactly why they were there. Sometimes we do not realise that to do nothing is also a way of acting and has its consequences.
2+2=5 also lets me move the tempo up a little bit and get to the higher BPM songs such as:
Uprising by Muse
Strictly musically speaking Muse is probably my favourite band at the moment, but I ‘m dissappointed by their simplistic lyrics so it was not easy picking a song – oh and they are connected to Radiohead through their lead singers’ main influence: Jeff Buckley OR also through John Leckie who produced Radiohead’s The Bends as well as Muse’s Showbiz in 1999. I chose Uprising from The Resistance, their fifth album from 2009, which is about Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell as well.
Uprising is about being dumbed down by propaganda and uprising against it. The lyrics talk about some common themes such as not being fond of being told what to do, being degraded and forced, precisely what the crowds in Istanbul were saying during the Summer of Discontent.
Guns of Brixton by The Clash
In NME Magazine’s 2006 article called Top 50 Rock’n Roll Heroes of All Time, Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of Muse comes right behind another lead singer: Ankara born Joe Strummer of The Clash who was at number 12. This connection leads us to The Clash’s Guns of Brixton.
Guns of Brixton was written and sung by Paul Simonon who grew up in Brixton, South London and it’s about the Brixton riots in the 80’s and the heavy handedness of the police – another reason of the Turkish riots in 2013.
Can’t Get The Best of Me by Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill connects to The Clash because they used the bass line from Guns of Brixton in their song What’s Your Number.
Can’t Get the Best of Me is not exactly a rebellion song but I wanted to get Cypress Hill in the list and there is a rebellion connection as well. I like Cypress Hill because they represent the limit for me along the axis between rock and hiphop, in other words I like hiphop until the end of Cypress Hill (Eminem with his poetic credentials is an exception).
The attitude in this song’s chorus ¨You can’t hold me down¨ was a common feeling near the tear gas lines during the clashes in Istanbul. The people would go to the front, get gassed by the police, come back and they would be replaced by others behind them. Those coming back from the gassing would be treated by volunteers with anti acid sprays, would feel better and get back to the front to get gassed again. (You) Can’t Hold Me Down, indeed.
Diane Young by Vampire Weekend
The connection from Cypress Hill to Vampire Weekend is through Mike Mothersbaugh, who has worked with both Cypress Hill and Vampire Weekend as a producer and as a co-writer of songs.
This is the first single from Vampire Weekend’s 2013 album, Modern Vampires of the City. The lyrics have many interpretations but Diane Young first got my attention from Kaya Genc’s interpretation that here, Vampire Weekend are flirting with radical chic. Some also say this song is about a breakup but I like to think about it as a song that tells us to seize the day.
Durduramayacaklar Halkın Coşkun Akan Selini by Cem Karaca
Vampire Weekend is connected to Cem Karaca, a Turkish Anatolian Rock musician from the 70’s through their parents. Cem Karaca’s father is a Turk with Iranian origins where Vampire Weekend’s guitarist Rostam Batmanglij’s both parents are from Iran. If you think this connection is too weak I’ve got a weaker one to add up: Vampire Weekend’s lead singer Ezra Koenig’s mother works in the film and TV production business where Cem Karaca’s mother Toto Karaca was an actress and an opera singer.
This is a Turkish Anatolian Rock classic from 1977 that has been revived after the Occupy Gezi movement. The song is about the people vs. the establishment that oppresses them. The establishment uses their their prison guards, their judges, their prosecutors, their laws, regulations, their decisions, their magazines, their newspapers, their press, their riot vehicles, handcuffs, arms, dungeons, jails, torture chambers, stockmarkets, companies, and their government against the people but they will not be able to stop the them, flowing like an ebullient flood. Here’s another connection to the beginning or the end of the program: if you watch the video above you’ll also realise that Jarvis Cocker from Pulp learned how to dress and dance from Cem Karaca.
Papa Don’t Preach by Madonna
It was tough connecting Cem Karaca to Madonna and I almost used my get out of jail free card here and said they connect through this radio program, but luckily there is a TV show on Turkish television called Benzemez Kimse Sana where celebrities dress and act like other artists and sing their songs. Hande Ataizi covers Frozen as Madonna where Erol Evgin, my childhood’s favourite Turkish pop vocalist impersonates Cem Karaca.
Madonna’s song is about a personal rebellion but it also reminds me of the relationship between many Turks and the PM. Mr. Erdogan believes that he is the father of the Turkish people and he tries to make them act as if they are his young adult children. Madonna does not want to have an abortion. Mr. Erdoğan wants Turkish women to have at least three babies and has discouraged abortion as well. Abortion is not a religious issue in Islam like it is in Christianity because the fetus is not believed to have a soul until it’s about 17 weeks old, but Turkish conservatives like to look up to their brethren in North America so we have an abortion debate looming here.
First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen (performed by Joe Cocker)
Madonna’s producer for True Blue, Like A Prayer, Ray of Light and other albums, Patrick Leonard also worked with Leonard Cohen for his latest album Old Ideas co-writing the first song, Going On.
First We Take Manhattan was written for Jennifer Warnes by Leonard Cohen in 1977. He later performed it himself as well in 1988 in his I’m Your Man. My favourite cover of this song is by Joe Cocker who breathes a new life into it with his husky voice and his anger. Think of Turkish politicians while listening to this song, especially when Joe Cocker says that he’s guided by the birthmark on his skin.
Getting from Leonard Cohen back to Pulp was a breeze, Jarvis counts Leonard Cohen among his influences as a songwriter who emphasises the importance of well thought out lyrics, has covered two songs (Avalanche and I Can’t Forget) by him and has even interviewed him for his album Old Ideas. When asked about songwriting he says the song must be rooted in your own personal experience but not take the place of it, and quotes Cohen, ¨Art is just the ash left if your life has been burning well¨.
The Day After The Revolution was a song I wanted to listen to during the riots in Turkey. Especially when Jarvis sings about not being able to sleep and that future is beginning that night. Before the riots, I felt quite lonely – a minority within a minority – until those protestors took to the streets and made me feel at home. Thank you all.