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  • Writer's pictureR’nR With Rylo

Spin #95 : Back to Black : Amy Winehouse




SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #95


'Back to Black' is regarded as one of the must have albums to own if you are a collector of records and Amy Winehouse's album was picked as our 95th spin from the collection this Sunday. I feel like a test match cricketer batting his way to a century of spins and we are almost there. I don't know the official numbers for album sales but it would be safe to say that more people have this album in their collection then not. Similar to everyone seemingly having Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' or Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' albums. So many artists have been influenced in some way by this one in particular - Adele, Florence and the Machine, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey to name a few.


Sadly, she passed away at the age of 27 and we all lost her light in this sometimes dark world. There has been a lot of good things to come from this sadness, one being the Amy Winehouse foundation that helps children and young people have hope and self-belief. They have recovery housing for young women and offer music therapy at Haven House Children's hospice and other locations. This album in my hands is the 2007 pressing from Island records and heavyweight feel, 180gram possibly. I love it when a pressing comes with the lyrics and I will have to follow along to make sure that there are no mistakes. Have you noticed that a lot of albums the supply lyrics differ to what is actually being sung? Our little girl was walking around the hallway just then and put binoculars up to her eyes as she came around the corner. She then ran into the wall and put a nice shiner and cut under her left eye, poor thing.


The weather is supposed to turn into a monsoon (not really, but rain is coming this week). For this reason I will be putting the black wax of 'Back to Black' on the turntable in our front room. A nice breeze is blowing in through the windows, birds are snacking on our sunflowers and looking forward to showing our children the sounds of Amy. For all of you that aren't familiar with the front room set-up, we have an Audio-Technica turntable and Marshall Woburn II speaker that do a pretty decent job.


Image: Amy Winehouse


It's time to #dropthestylus on the 2006 album, 'Back to Black' and I hope that you have found yourself somewhere comfortable to sit as you follow along. The stylus has been placed onto the outer groove and it never gets old watching it work its way around to the opening notes. I hadn't noticed before spinning this record but the background on the front cover behind Winehouse is actually a blackboard. How many of you had noticed that before I pointed it out to you?


People cry out in different ways and Winehouse was letting us all know that she was not coping through the form of her music. 'REHAB' is that opening song that shows that Winehouse (or the persona she is writing about) doesn't want to go to a rehabilitation facility for her drinking. She has other problems that result in drinking in order to cope and is crying out for some help. The opening song has such a contrast of happy music and sad lyrics - " I don't ever want a drink again, I just, ooh, I just need a friend". Don't get me wrong, it's a terrific song and I love the live setting feel of the backing band - The Dap-Kings but there is just so much grief outpouring from her vocals that make it difficult to hear. Winehouse's vocals are incredibly iconic and a lot of artists have tried and failed to capture that sound of the Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington or Billie Holliday. Winehouse nails it while also making her own very unique style.


I like these songs because you can picture them as a different persona, like in a movie or play - instead of it being Amy. 'YOU KNOW I'M NO GOOD' is about a woman who is in love with multiple men and seems to fall in love with another, stringing them along. It has some very catchy bass and drum work by the band and sounds really clear coming through the Marshall Woburn II speaker, even though our kids are running around the place with walky talkys turned up very loud. Also, who doesn't love a song that mentions Roger Moore in the lyrics! One that grabs your attention but at the same time, the warmness of the vocals and beat could work nicely in a club setting. She had a way with lyrics and a good example of this is putting her own twist on the word little by saying, "Then you notice likkle carpet burn". We often rename things or parts of the house after what the kids have pronounced incorrectly. I bring these words into the blog so they are never forgotten.


'ME & MR JONES' is a take on, or inspired by the Billy Paul soul song, 'Me and Mrs. Jones'. Winehouse has added her own flavour and style to the song and even though the lyrics are about more affairs and acting up, the music is timeless. I laughed the first time I heard her sing, "What kind of fuckery is this?". The stylus is moving along the groove so smoothly and it really does feel like the music is flowing by. Night Kat Kiz and I were looking at baby photos and videos of our children last night and wondering where the time had gone. It was happy and sad to see how much they have grown, especially our 5 year old son. The next track on Side A is called, 'JUST FRIENDS' and brings a different style through the speaker. At one point we all thought that we were laying by the poolside or at a fancy resort. The song discusses her viewpoint of two friends who want more from the friendship. Will it ever happen? Probably not, and they both don't act on it because of various factors. The music makes this album bright and pop so much, credit to Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi for getting the best out of this album and letting Winehouse shine bright.


I was planning some trips for work this week and working it around the ever changing school and daycare schedules that we have. I've managed to not have to travel too far until next month and it gives me a bit more time with the kids and Night Kat Kiz. I'll get to see our sons first day of school and also our daughters first day at her new daycare centre. Right now I'm riding the wave of life and taking what comes our way when it does. I'm not trying to worry or ponder too much on what may or may not happen, as it will drive anyone mad. I felt really pensive as the next song came on and it is probably the biggest song from the album. There is a lot of emotion and sorrow filling the room through the Marshall Woburn II speaker as 'BACK TO BLACK' begins to play. Winehouse is pondering life, or the persona is, about living alone and knowing that the person that they love is with another.


The soul and jazz inspired sound pouring through is making me want to drum along to the beat. Night Kat Kiz and I were playing some darts and spinning some records for our Friday night. We turned on the television and I was happy to see it was the end of the movie, 'Whiplash'. How Good! I just had to watch the ending where Teller and Simmons are back and forth with each other while playing 'Caravan'. Always gets me jazzed up and was pure coincidence that we were listening to Jazz records that night too.


I think the last song on Side A reminds me the most of classic soul music, mixed with the lyrics of a Loretta Lynn country song. 'LOVE IS A LOSING GAME' would be my favourite track from the album and I don't want to overly explain it, the song is just smooth. Sadly, it is discussing the person realising that they have lost out on love and life. I've made some changes to our socials and also subtle layout changes to the blog that I hope you enjoy. While I'm flipping over the LP, check out the lyrics I've chosen below.


Favourite lyric:

"Played out by the band, love is a losing hand. More than I could stand, love is a losing hand. Self-professed, profound. 'Til the chips were down, know you're a gambling man. Love is a losing hand" ~ Love is a Losing Game - Side A 

I've dropped the stylus now on Side B and our kids are being absolute locusts today. It is very cute to see our little girl asking for snacks and taking one also for her brother, but they are eating us out of house and home. They have also managed to come up with a game out of nothing too. Our front room is an extension onto the front of the house and the old front window is now an internal window that brings light into the loungin (kids word for loungeroom). As the music is playing, I'm watching them communicate without talking through the window. Night Kat Kiz and I love that they play together and get along, most of the time. Sounds of 'TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN' have now started coming through the speaker and the horn section really drives this song behind her vocals. The drumming then changes the songs chorus and makes you feel happy while you listen along. Pretty sad imagery again with this track - a person is so sad that they don't even dry their own tears by wiping them away. Once again, Winehouse has managed to write a song lyrically to not match the instruments being played - but it all works. It provides the listener with that melancholy feeling is what I'm trying to say. I'd say that there would be a lot of people who saw a part of themself in this album's lyrics and that lead partly to its widespread success. By the ending of this song, the children hand managed to find each other in the same room and head clash or something like that.


The harmonies keep coming on next song, 'WAKE UP ALONE'. The style of music draws you in immediately. I like that she is keeping her mind busy so she doesn't have to cry anymore. Winehouse had a knack for writing songs and is sad to think that there won't be another album from her. The them of love gone bad, or love that in unattainable is the main them of this album and it shows where her mindset was at the time of writing. Has there been a tribute album for Amy where people influenced by her have covered her songs? Probably something that I should look up. Another track that if you casually listen along, will enjoy but if you get too into the lyricism, will feel sad.


A different take on the theme of love is the next song about a love gone bad. 'SOME UNHOLY WAR' has some nice drumming on the opening sequence and once again Winehouse's vocals are supported by harmonies. I haven't had any issues with this pressing and I've seen online that it was pretty hit and miss. Then again, people say it plays badly and they have a really poor set-up that may not play ANY records nicely. This one I imagine her singing into a wooden spoon while laying on a black and white tiled kitchen floor, and objects broken everywhere.


'HE CAN ONLY HOLD HER' has some really nice guitar work at the beginning that got our daughter bopping along. She has stopped crying now and is happy again, listening to Winehouse on this number. I wonder if Winehouse every performed this album in full at a concert. It would have sounded really relaxing. The world can be a big, or small place and sometimes you just need moments to feel appreciated and relaxed. It doesn't have to be for very long but it's important that you take it when opportunity is shown your way. That is the overall sense I feel right now with daughter in my arms and chilling out to the music. Final track on the album, 'ADDICTED' and there are some nice pieces of instrumentation on this one. Lyrically, its about her wanting to smoke weed but she does it in a way that it doesn't sound like that when casually listening along. In what feels like a pretty short album runtime, the stylus has now reached the end of Side B.


Thanks for joining us on your Sunday afternoon and spending it with myself (Rylo) and my little family. I know a lot of you probably have this record and if you don't, you're probably the last remaining 12 people who haven't purchased it yet. Take care of yourself this week and do something nice for a friend or family member if you are able to do so. If you know someone is struggling, be there with them and for them as much as you can, as I'm sure that they'll feel appreciated.


"Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen" - Amy Winehouse


Until our next Spin, be Kind to people with addictions and seeking help. Also, be Kind to your Wax!

 

YEAR RELEASED

2006

PRODUCED BY

MARK RONSON & SALAAM REMI

LABEL

ISLAND

PRICE RANGE

$60+AUD

SPEED PLAYED AT

33 1/3 RPM

ALBUM BEFORE

FRANK (2003)

ALBUM AFTER

LIONESS: HIDDEN TREASURES (2011)

FURTHER LISTENING

DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE'S A TUNNEL UNDER OCEAN BLVD - LANA DEL REY (2023)

FAVOURITE SONG

LOVE IS A LOSING GAME

RATING OUT OF 5

5

WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE

1 x BLACK HEAVYWEIGHT LP, LYRICS PRINTED ON JACKET


TRACK LISTING

LP / SIDE

SONG

TRACK LENGTH

​SIDE A

REHAB

3:34

YOU KNOW I'M NO GOOD

4:17


ME & MR JONES

2:33


JUST FRIENDS

3:13


BACK TO BLACK

4:01


LOVE IS A LOSING GAME

2:35

SIDE B

TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN

3:06


WAKE UP ALONE

3:42


SOME UNHOLY WAR

2:22


HE CAN ONLY HOLD HER

2:46


ADDICTED

2:45



Amy Winehouse doing what she loved






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