VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s like a mixtape, but in book form. Song Book: 21 Songs from 10 Years (1964-74) collects 21 backstories to some famous and not so famous tunes.
These days, Fiona McQuarrie is a Professor at the School of Business at the University of the Fraser Valley who frequently comments on labour and workplace issues in the news. But in a past life, she was a music critic at both the Vancouver Sun and Province and Victoria’s Monday magazine. You can find her most recent music writings in Shindig! magazine and now Song Book.
“Some of them were songs that I was assigned to write about and some of them were personal favourites that I thought deserved a little bit more attention and I was also conscious of trying to cover a specific time frame,” she explains.
McQuarrie hopes that readers, especially younger ones, will see the different forms songs like “Iko, Iko” and “The First Cut is the Deepest” can take. “It was quite fascinating to me, how there may be a hit version of a song, but there’s different ways to hear it and to play it and some of the very interesting things that can come up when people take adventures like that.”
“Sail On, Sailor” by the Beach Boys is an example of a little-known song with something of a chequered past. “It was so different from their surfing type songs that I really sort of wondered how did this song come about. And I didn’t know why it had five credited co-authors until I dug into the backstory,” she says. “But that was a chapter I very much enjoyed doing as well.” Like many of the songs mentioned in Song Book, Sail On, Sailor has been covered many times, including by the likes Golden Earring, Jimmy Buffett, and Shawn Colvin, just to name a few.
Another unheralded tune is “Everything Stops for Tea,” covered by Long John Baldry for his 1972 album of the same name. It’s not the typical fare you’d expect from a famous English blues singer. “No, no, and some of the source material that I read about him talked about how theatrical he was and how much he enjoyed that Vaudeville, Music Hall side of things,” McQuarrie recalls. “And I think one of the delightful things about that record is how Rod Stewart and Elton John were able to bring that out of him.” Stewart and John produced the album, as a way of giving thanks for their former mentor. Song Book is full of fun facts like these and is well worth a read.
Song Book: 21 Songs from 10 Years (1964-74) is available from New Haven Books.