Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11: Mud, "Tiger Feet"

Artist: Mud
Song: “Tiger Feet”
Album: Tiger Feet (single)
Year: 1973

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Though it is often attributed only to the dance and club scene of the era, across almost every genre, the early and mid-1970’s were one of the most outright upbeat points in all of music history.  “Feel good” music was overflowing within almost every style, and there was a freedom and positivity that has rarely been heard since.  While many were attempting to make outrageously grand rock anthems of extraordinary length, it was the handful of groups that put their energy into making more straightforward, almost more organic rock songs that stand as the true high-points of the era.  Though they remain sadly unknown within the U.S., one cannot overlook the superb music and overseas dominance of U.K. glam-rock masters, Mud.  Having already been playing as a band for nearly a decade by 1973, the group had honed their own sound, and yet there was still some aspect that was missing to complete their overall approach.  This final element came in the form of songwriters and producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, whose previous work with the likes of The Sweet made them a rather natural fit for the style of Mud.  Once they were all in the same room, some of the most memorable songs of the entire 1970’s were created, and the amazing live power and presence of Mud was finally properly captured within a studio setting.  Though a number of their songs are still as fresh as every today, there are few other songs of the era that can compare to the punch and drive found on Mud’s brilliant 1973 single, “Tiger Feet.”

The moment that “Tiger Feet” begins, the fun-loving nature of the song is completely apparent, as the shouts followed by the absolutely decimating guitar riff is easily one of the most energizing openings in history.  Rob Davis is absolutely amazing across the entire track, and the tone of his guitar is unlike that of any other guitarist.  There is an urgency within his performance that completely grabs the listener, almost forcing them to get up and dance.  This is a spirit and sound that can easily be seen as one of the major components in the development of U.K. punk, and yet his descending solos are just as fantastic.  The swing and sway provided by bassist Ray Stiles is equally spectacular, as his sound is as good of a side-to-side head shake progression as has ever been heard.  It is the way that he manages to be such a force whilst never dominating the mix that shows what a potent but patient band lived within the members of Mud, and it is also this balance that set their sound so far apart from that of their peers.  Drummer Dave Mount has a light touch to his performance, and this highlights the balance of the bands’ approach, as well as shows their wide range of influences.  Within “Tiger Feet,” one can hear traces of everything from Buddy Holly to T. Rex to the entire “Southern rock” style, and it is this diversity in influence that makes their sound so fantastic, and leads to “Tiger Feet” having a massive appeal across nearly every musical genre.

However, it is within the vocals of Les Gray where the clearest connections to the glam-rock sound can be heard, and his performance on “Tiger Feet” is without question the finest of his entire career, as well as that genre.  Perfectly straddling the line between speaking and singing, Gray has the swagger of a hard rock frontman, and yet there is also a slight restraint that manages to make his sound far more accessible.  On many levels, his performance on “Tiger Feet” is what truly draws in the listener, and the song is one of the most difficult in history to not sing along.  It is the upbeat, almost bouncing vocal delivery that is strangely endearing, and this enables the song to rarely be forgotten once heard.  It is also the fact that the lyric that Gray sings is so simple and universal that made it such a success in the U.K., as it perfectly captures the very essence of youthful nerves and hormones.  One can feel the energy in the situation he sets, as well as almost smell the club during which the song surely takes place.  The fact that the imagery is so vivid serves as the final piece to this fantastic song, and it is the chorus of “Tiger Feet” that pushes it to a rarely matched height.  The chanting of “…that’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, I really love your tiger feet” may seem somewhat nonsensical, but within the confines of the song, it works perfectly, and is perhaps the most lasting after effect of this true classic.

Scattered all across the history of every genre of music, there are countless classics that did rarely receive their due as they did not reach international impact for one reason or another.  This works across all international borders, and there is no question that some of the most enjoyable moments in all of music history live within these songs which some must seek out to experience.  This is certainly the case in the glam-rock movement, as the style in itself was somewhat overshadowed by the rise of heavy metal and disco, so a number of the styles finest songs are more akin to “cult classics” that anything else.  However, this In no way diminishes from their historical significance, nor their musical worth, and in most cases, the sheer energy coming off of these tracks is far beyond that of the more well known songs of the era.  Once one hears “Tiger Feet,” it is almost impossible to explain why the song did not reach the international level, as it easily equals or surpasses mot other glam-rock singles of the time, and the pure elation that comes off of the record is nothing short of superb.  From the brilliant musical arrangement to the fantastic vocal performance to the almost vigorous lyrics, “Tiger Feet” hits in a flawless manner at every turn, and it is just as fun and energizing to hear today as it was nearly forty years ago.  Though both their name as well as the song remain someone lost amongst the global music community, there is no other song in history that brings a similar musical exuberance that can be found on Mud’s exceptional 1973 single, “Tiger Feet.”

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