Tav Falco’s Top 10 favourite songs

Internationally celebrated American singer/guitarist Tav Falco, leader of the renowned neo-psychedelic rock ”˜n’ roll band Panther Burns, has penned below a list of his ten favourite songs exclusively for Louder Than War. It makes for fascinating reading, shedding much light upon the music that incessantly ignites Falco’s muse.

Tav Falco’s Panther Burns

Tav Falco Panther Burns

Tav Falco proves he is aman of exquisite taste

play the 100 CLUB, London, on September 15th.
Tav Falco also performs an aftershow DJ set at Point Blank club on September 15th

Filmmaker, writer and photographer Tav Falco formed Panther Burns at the instigation of the late, great Alex Chilton in the latter years of the 1970’s in Memphis. Both Chilton and musician /producer James Luther Dickinson featured in the early Panther Burns line-up. The first Panther Burns album, Behind The Magnolia Curtain, released in 1981, is now widely regarded as a fractured rock ”˜n’ roll classic. A timeless and highly potent Molotov cocktail of blues, rockabilly and abstract feedback noise, Behind The Magnolia Curtain (together with the 1982 Animal Records EP Blow Your Top) is being re-released this September as a remastered 2-CD and 2-LP deluxe 30th Anniversary special edition. If ever an album deserved such exceptional treatment, then Behind The Magnolia Curtain is surely it.

Tav Falco’s Panther Burns will be presenting two live sets at the 100 CLUB, London, on September 15th, featuring tracks from Behind The Magnolia Curtain, Blow Your Top and his current repertoire. Tav Falco will also present an aftershow DJ set at the Point Blank club, Charlie Wright’s, 45 Pitfield St, Hoxton, N1, on September 15th.

Finally, Falco has produced with journalist and author Erik Morse a twin, 450 page alternative history of Memphis, Tennessee, entitled Mondo Memphis. Creation books publish both Mondo Memphis volumes.

The Panther is definitely still burning…

Tav Falco’s Favourite Songs:
July 2011

1. “La Gran Muneca” (The Grand Doll) ”“ Carlos DiSarli, El Señor del Tango (The gentleman of tango).

The orchestra of Di Sarli had a lush, dramatically grandiose sound, and emphasized strings and piano over the bandoneon. During the 1940s he consecrated the El Maricaibo Club in Buenos Aires where he appeared behind in the piano wearing an eye patch or dark circular sunglasses. Such eye masking was worn, I was told when living in BsAs, due to an eye Disarli had put out over a tragic affair d’amore.

2. “The Last Steam Engine Train” ”“ John Fahey,

sorry, can’t find a proper youtube clip…

The greatest guitar artist to come out of America – period. Note that I say ”˜artist’ rather than musician, because only an artist of his ilk could leave us with such a towering conceptual, thematic, and lyrical legacy purely American, purely aesthetic, and intellectually innovative within the folk/blues/ragtime/chant tradition. He lived his music and his vision until the last breath. You can hear that in every string he finger-picked.

3. “Quiet Village” ”“ Martin Denny,

still a favorite to chill to after a long night at the club, with a Tiki cocktail in one hand and the other around the waist of my main squeeze. Nothing particularly cerebral here ”“ only exotic tonalities and weird bird calls of the lost and forgotten island paradise to which I’m irresistibly transported in the wee hours.

4. “The Fantomas Waltz” ”“ Marc Ellis’

Homage to the French master criminal, this tilted waltz synthetically evokes the movements and mystique of the Maitre de l’Effroi, le Tortionnaire, l’Empereur du Crime, l’insaisissable: Fantômas (Maestro of Fear, of Torture , the Emperor of Crime, the Imperceptible: Fantômas). As surrealist Robert Desnos wrote c. 1911,
Spreading like a mighty pall
Over Paris, over all,
Who’s the ghost with sombre eyes,
Silently observed to rise?
Fantomas ”“ a wild surmise:
Is that you, against the skies?

5. “Wiener Blut” (Vienna Blood) ”“ composed by Johann Strauss, the Danubian waltz king.

This tune wistfully celebrates the merry, sinister ambiance of Vienna, the old imperial city standing on the threshold between east and west where I now reside”¦ much like the positioning of Memphis on the Mississippi ”“ another river town where I once lived. The insouciant, carefree yet forlorn soul of the Viennese is portrayed here with musical timbres of utmost delicacy.

6. “Serenade in A Major” ”“ Fritz Kreisler.

Another composition penned by a Viennese violinist intoning the jaunty, although high-strung, nervous splendor of a city not easily understood by the Anglophile. The favored rendition is played with exquisite sentiment and virtuosity by the Hungarian gypsy maestro, Sandor Lakatos.

this is the closest youtube clip we could find…

7. “Harry Lime Theme” ”“ Anton Karas.

How can we leave old Vienna without tuning in our radio dial to the jocose sounds of the Slavic virtuoso ever to release a 45 rpm zither hit single. It was fortuitous that the production company of Alexandar Korda that sent Carol Reed from England to film The Third Man, would happen upon Anton Karas plucking his zither in a bombed out bistro. Karas crafted his blithe gavotte especially for the nefarious central character of the movie portrayed by Orson Welles.

8. “The Sky is Crying” ”“ Elmore James

One can hardly forget this haunting anthem to the darkness of the night sky over the Mississippi and the even more ominous sunlight that falls in scorching hopelessness over West Memphis, Arkansas, where Elmo hung out and recorded. The bars were jumping after war, and the joints there resounded with the eerie, reverb drenched slide guitar drone of James’ creation, but underneath the booze soaked veneer, it was a sad life. America is a sad country. That’s what Elmo’s guitar was saying”¦.

9. “Two Steps From The Blues” ”“ Bobby Blue Bland.

Real blues aficionados are the first to tell you that down south no voice is more prized than that of a sissy blues singer. If that singer grew up in the church around Memphis as Bobby Bland did, he matures into the epitome of the sanctified intoner infused with the devil’s minstrel. A rare concoction that’s incomparable, especially as personified by Bobby Bland who had the pipes to deliver the goods. Beyond his sweet operatic, golden tones one sensed immediately that Bobby had been mistreated”¦ in love and disappointed in life. Bobby knew that like no other, and everybody in Memphis, in LA, and in Houston who was really listening knew that Bobby knew just what it means.

10. “Guarda Che Luna” ”“ Fred Buscaglione.

When I feel like a slow dance, I play this waltz tempo ball-busting ballad, howl at the moon. From the man who wrote “Love in Portofino”, Sig. Buscaglione reaches for the stars in this high drama of futility in love turned suicidal. The saxophone solo is definitive for the instrument. In 1957 the deep-throated crooner crashed his new pink Thunderbird along the coast of Rimini. A blazing farewell to a star-crossed career.


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2 comments on “Tav Falco’s Top 10 favourite songs”

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  1. Thank you Tav for putting my waltz at #4.
    It’s a real honor.

    And yes, those Mississippi River nights are really inky-black. I’m from down-river from you, in Louisiana.

    It’s a real honor Tav. I’m grateful. When you’re at City Lights Bookstore, tell Peter hello. I look forward to reading your book, Mondo Memphis. Peter told me about it.

    Your friend in Fantomas,

    Marc Ellis

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