Top 10 Favorite James Songs

The history of James in my life started in high school. I was dating (that word could be used subjectively) this girl my senior year. It was Senior Skip Day. It was spring. We headed for Baltimore. To the Harbor. I think we went to the aquarium. Debby and Sarah. And John and I. John drove. He had a Mustang. It was green and had a CD player in it. I remember that was so bad ass. On the way there Debby popped in James. It opened with Sit Down. I was instantly hooked. Even though the song was swung I still totally dug it. The acoustic guitars were tremendous. I think it happened at the perfect time. Of course I was completely an emotional wreck because of the relationship with said girl. From there Sarah ironically lent me Laid. A year earlier I remembered hearing Laid at the Tower listening booths, but assumed the title track was more representative of their lyrics and never really thought much of them at that time. Little did I know.

  1. Sit Down – (James) Just because it was the first song I heard by them. I can still remember it. The Mustang. The blonde hair. The sun. Baltimore. It was perfection. Life was strangely so simple then. It’s also their swan song.
  2. Sometimes [Lester Piggot] (Laid)- I think the first time I heard this song, I had to play it over again. This repeated itself until I was in tears by the 4th play. “An old man is taking polaroids.” was the line. The verses are so vivid and real. The choruses however are asking for more. But it hardly distracts. The chugging layered guitars and the droney Eno synths move this song to another level. If it’s possible, I’d like this song to be played at my funeral. Brian Eno (who produced this record and subsequent James records) often speaks of this song as one of the highlights of his musical career. There’s a reason. Are you crying yet?

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  3. Seven (Seven) – While Seven as a whole was not the greatest, Andy Diagram’s trumpet playing makes up for it two fold. I think they were trying to make the greatest record and maybe got half-way there. 7 members and reverb that could fill any stadium. But there is something about the trumpet taking the lead on this record. It makes me melt. In the 2nd verse at 1:09 Larry Gott’s guitar is great. Very propelling. I always thought this song asked for more. I just wished there was a single with an extended edit of the song, but there are no such versions, sadly. I have since found a “remix” – but it’s sadly just another mix with slightly up in the mix background vocals and synth pads.
  4. Homeboy (Whiplash) – Definetly not the fans’ favorite record. The record is all over the place and the production at times is a bit below par and the use of drum & bass beats feel 3 years too late. But this cut always stood out for me. The bassist, Jim Glennie is clearly rocking the fuck out of this song. He’s definitely one of my 10 Ten bassists. I’ve always felt that this song could easily be covered by Jerry Garcia. If that makes any sense at all.
  5. Chunney Chops (B-Side to She’s A Star) – Basically a simple beat looped with a ton of synths and a bit of jamming and classic Tim Booth yodeling. The track must be named for Mark Hunter whose nickname was Chunney. “You will be sorry.”
  6. All My Sons (B-Side to Sound) – Yet another stellar B-Side. James was full of them. Clocking in at just under 2 minutes. This song packs a punch. Of course a great lead trumpet line from Andy. And classic syncopated guitars from Larry. A little cryptic, but the song was being critical of the Gulf War.
  7. Out To Get You (Laid) – Like Sometimes, this song has incredible verses and slightly cheesy choruses. The slide guitars are great. Bravo Larry.
  8. Skindiving (Laid) – I am a bit of a sucker for bookends that are mellow. This is no exception.
  9. I Defeat (B-Side to Just Like Fred Astaire) – I first heard this song while I was working at Discovery Channel. I instantly loved it. A waltz. A boy/girl duet. And I liked it. The girl harmony’s voice was so familiar. But I couldn’t place who it was. Hope Sandoval? Sonya Madan? Lætitia Sadier? No, no and no. I finally played it for a coworker who knew music. He had no clue too. Then he typed in some lyrics and “James” in to – And bingo. I think he coined the phrase “Google it.” Oh and the background vocals are from Sinéad O’Connor. Now, it completely makes sense. But it was the last person I thought to do song with Tim Booth and James. It totally works though. And this song so should have been on the album.

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  10. Avalanche (Whiplash) – Again, stellar basslines from Jim Glennie. And long drawn out up beat choruses. The mixed drum machine for verses and acoustic drums for choruses also totally turned me on when I originally heard this record. I really loved this record when it came out even if it was the album after Laid. They were such a different band in 1997. Did I say how incredibly amazing Jim Glennie is? I want to hump his basslines.

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And because I felt like I misrepresented my likeness for the song Laid, I have included my favorite live arrangement of this song from, I believe, 1994 on Atlanta’s 99X. Enjoy. Check out the vibrato on Tim’s voice. It’s butter.

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7 Responses to “Top 10 Favorite James Songs”

  • wow, never heard this stuff before. Good stuff!

  • One time, Jeff said that the chorus of “Sometimes (Lester Piggot)” was the best and most moving part of the song. I asked, “Uh, have you really listened to the rest of it?”

    Needless to say, he changed his tune (so to speak). I like to believe that you and i had a high-five over that.

  • I used to think the same thing about this band – they were okay, but I didn’t take them seriously because of the lyrics on “Laid.” Then my wife, who is obsessed with James, played me most of Laid and I was surprisingly impressed. Great band. Oh, and great list!

  • Sweet list! As a lesser-bassist, I’ve always liked James’ bass player. He gets the whole bass player mentality right — kicking ass in the background and connecting the drummer[s] and git-tars but jumping out here and there. (Wait, that’s a bad way to put it.) I always thought that he played like he was in a three-piece because usually the guys who play in big bands are like, “hmm, thump with the bass drum, eighth-note pump here, Okay, nothing too flashy,” etc.

    I have to dissent on Seven though:) I think that “Born of Frustration” is the song in the entire world that gets Scheler’s idea of “world resistance” just right. I’m with you on the trumpet, too.

  • And I guess I’m the only one who really liked Laid. The song. We actually covered it in the college band I was in. That probably makes me terribly uncool. But what can I say. I’m a sucker for catchy pop tunes. Anyway, nice list! Love the O’Conner B-Side.

  • Oh, I still (now) love that song… I have a version from 99x in Atlanta that is so stellar. It’s such a different arrangement. I’ll upload it here later tonight.

  • As promised. The live radio version has been uploaded and tagged to the end of this post. Would love to hear people’s reactions to this arrangement. Quite different, huh?


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