By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2021. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
Sometimes NOTHING can be a good thing.
And sometimes it’s nice to be with NOBODY!
I totally appreciate the Japanese concept of nothingness (mu).
Let’s begin with this kick-ass song! The Magic Plants from New York City have a great two-chord track from 1966 called ‘I’m a Nothing’! It has great lyrics about a rock star admitting that he is really ‘nothing’ when all the makeup is removed. This sounds like a cross between the Beatles’ ‘I’ Should have Known Better’ Wayne/Jayne County’s version of ‘In the Nighttime’ with a Flamin’ Groovies vibe! Tom Finn who sang back-up vocals played bass in the band The Left Banke, who had a hit with ‘Walk Away Renee’ also in 1966.
‘I Who Have Nothing’ with lyrics by Lieber and Stoller was made popular by Ben. E. King in 1963. The dramatic tympani is what really makes this song pop. A disco version was made by Sylvester in 1979. Other covers included the most popular one by Tom Jones in 1970, and by Shirley Bassey in 1963. Other versions include one by Status Quo, recorded in 1966.
Listen – Ben E. King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDsKusSGyxQ
Listen – Tom Jones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6aozpeiAZA
‘Nothing Song’ by The Velvet Underground was first only found on the bootleg box set titled Caught Between the Twisted Stars. Then it appeared on an official 6-CD box of The Velvets’ first album, which includes a live performance recorded in Columbus, Ohio, in November 1966. This is one of two live songs, released, at 28 minutes each. ‘Nothing Song’ is at once dirge-like and redemptive – especially after 28 minutes!
‘Nothing Takes the Place of You’ is a gorgeous, soulful 1967 recording by Louisiana’s Toussaint McCall. The organ sound is dreamy, and the lyrics are so romantic! This is my favorite slow song of all time. The singer appears lip-synching his song in the great 1988 John Waters film Hairspray.
Blues Magoos from the Bronx had a psychedelic garage hit with ‘(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet’ in 1967. The guitar solo on this is stunning!
‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby’ was a big Tamla R&B hit in 1968 for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. The song was written and produced by Ashford and Simpson. Tammi died of cancer at age 24 less than two years later. Marvin Gaye was devastated. He read the eulogy at her funeral. We all know the sad ending of Marvin Gaye in 1984.
‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin’’ by The Velvet Underground is on their third and final album Loaded – the one with the Pop Art album cover image of smoke emerging from a NYC subway station. The album was released in late 1970. This is sung by Doug Yule with Lou Reed. The lyrics tell us that having ‘nothin’ at all’ can be a sweet thing. This is one of several great ‘ballads’ on the album, others being ‘I Found a Reason,’ ‘Who Loves the Sun’ and the epic ‘New Age.’
Billy Preston released his No. 1 single, the light hearted boogie-woogie tune ‘Nothing From Nothing’ in the summer of 1974. He was the first artist to perform on NBC-TV show Saturday Night Live, with this song.
‘I Got Nothin’ is a great track on Iggy Pop & James Williamson’s album Kill City. The album was recorded in 1975 (Iggy and James were no longer considered as The Stooges, but this album followed Raw Power). Kill City was not released until 1977 (on BOMP Records). It originally was on green vinyl. The chorus of oooh ooh’s on this bluesy tune make it really soulful. Williamson’s guitar solo is extremely emotional, and the way Iggy sings the final word ‘Nothin!’ at the end of the song is incredible!
Man, I feel, feel so washed out today
Burn the sheets off my bed, man,
And throw that girl away
I got nothin’, got nothin’ to say
I got nothin’, I got nothin’ to say
Man, I feel, feel so used inside
Broken hearts and leather and empty pride..
I see a young girl coming down the road
But you ain’t got any chance against the things I know
Out of the cradle, straight into the hole
British band Jet recorded ‘Nothing to do with Us’ for their 1975 self-titled debut (and only) album, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The members of the British band included Andy Ellison and Chris Townson (of John’s Children and Jook), David O’ List (The Nice, Roxy Music) Peter Oxendale and bassist Martin Gordon (formerly of Sparks). Some members went on to form another band, Radio Stars.
‘Nothing to Do’ is on the 1976 Sparks album Big Beat. The Ramones expressed interest in recording this song (probably at twice the speed), but it never materialized. This is a great rocker, like many others on the album, with a fabulous cover shot of the Mael brothers taken by Richard Avedon. My favorite line is;
If I had a million thumbs, I’d twiddle, twiddle
But I just have two
Nothing to do…
My story about Sparks’ album Big Beat
My story about the Sparks documentary film made by Edgar Wright – The Sparks Brothers:
‘Ain’t Nothin’ to Do’ is on the 1977 debut album Young, Loud and Snotty by Dead Boys from Cleveland – one of the first punk bands to conquer New York City. It was great seeing them live. I remember them throwing slices of bologna around onstage at CBGB.
Elvis Costello includes ‘Less Than Zero’ on his 1977 debut album My Aim Is True, produced by Nick Lowe. It was also his debut single. This song has lyrics based a British fascist leader named Oswald. Costello references Lee Harvey Oswald in the revised lyrics for an American reissue of the album.
‘Ain’t Nothin’ At All’ was a mega-hit power ballad for Heart in 1986.
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was written by Prince, who recorded it in 1984 for his side band project The Family.
It appeared on their debut album in 1985. The sax in Prince’s performance is nice, but…
Sinead O’Connor had a worldwide hit the song in 1990. Her stunning rendition with a sparse arrangement completely conveys the feeling of tremendous loss. It was released as a single from her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. This version was accompanied by a wonderfully poignant video. Sinead’s sincere performance with her beautiful face in constant close-up is heart-wrenching.
Prince later released his own live recording of the song in 1993.
Watch – Sinead O’ Connor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-EF60neguk
Watch – Prince: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpGA0azFdCs
The hit song ‘Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All)’ was composed by Jim Steinman (the genius behind Meatloaf’s hits) who also produced Bonnie Tyler’s smash ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. The song was originally recorded by Australian band Air Supply in 1983, who took it to No. 2 on the U.S. charts. However, Steinman (whom we lost in 2021) had written the song for Bonnie Tyler, for whom he produced a stunning 8-minute version in 1995. It’s on Tyler’s album Free Spirit. A soprano aria from Madame Butterfly is sung at the beginning, and intermittently, by Bonnie’s mother.
Listen: Air Supply: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN12Emz4XfY
Watch: Bonnie Tyler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gcINfeq4eo
Listen: Bonnie Tyler – full version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ce2z7ruuNI
Listen A cool mashup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0hvEHRdUgQ
‘Nobody But Me’ was a hit in 1968 for The Human Beinz. This is another land of a thousand dances. This guy is bragging that nobody can do the Shimmy, the Shake, the Boogaloo, the Shingaling, the Skate, or the Twist as well as him. No no, no no, no, no no! Most of all, this song makes me want to do the Alligator! This has a wicked guitar solo and groovy bass. It would be this the perfect soundtrack to the episode of The Addams Family when Lurch learns how to dance!
Watch: A nice version with dancing girls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjwTJsAHkDg
‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen’ was popularized by many legendary artists, including Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson and Harry James. This is a spiritual dating back to the time of slavery. It remained unpublished until the late 1800s.
Listen: Mahalia Jackson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNXRU05nB1Y
Listen – Louis Armstrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHFveRxXfM4
‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ (a.k.a. “I’m So Sad and Lonely hails from 1915. It became a popular jazz tune, recorded by various artists. The most popular was by Louis Prima (1956) who coupled the tune with the standard ‘Just a Gigolo’. This medley has been covered by many other artists, including The Village People, David Lee Roth and Brian Setzer.
‘Nobody’ is a song from a Broadway play called Abyssinia dating back to 1905. The lyrics concern the plight of blacks in America. The 1964 recording by Nina Simone is stunning.
When life seems full of clouds an’ rain
and I am filled with naught but pain,
who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain?
When winter comes with snow an’ sleet,
and me with hunger and cold feet,
who says ” Ah, here’s two bits, go an’ eat!”
I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,
I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!
And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime,
I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!
Listen – Nina Simone: https://youtu.be/54LEm7X3uAw
‘You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You’ was written in the 1940s, and made popular by Dean Martin in 1964. This swingin’ tune brings back happy memories of my parents dancing to it, along with many other classic songs from The Rat Pack.
You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you
You’re nobody ’til somebody cares
You may be king, you may possess the world and it’s gold
But gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old
The world still is the same, you never change it
As sure as the stars shine above You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you
So find yourself somebody to love
‘Nowhere Man’ is a true nobody. The song is on The Beatles sixth album Rubber Soul, released in 1965. It also appears on the film soundtrack to Yellow Submarine (1968), in which the Nowhere Man is a cute, jolly little character named Jeremy Hilary Boob, Ph.D.
He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Nico recorded ‘No One is There’ on her second solo album The Marble Index in 1968, produced by John Cale, who plays multi-tracked viola on the track. The lyrics are allegedly influenced by The Doors’ Jim Morrison, one of Nico’s lovers.
Some are calling
Some are sad
Some are calling mad
Across from behind your window screen
Demon is dancing down the scene.
In a crucial parody
Demon is dancing down the scene.
He is calling and throwing
His arms up in the air.
No one is there.
Listen (2007 remaster): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWJJb95Xdek
Frank Sinatra recorded ‘Nobody Wins’ (written by Kris Kristoffersen) for his 1973 comeback album Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back.
Listen – Nobody Wins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5tjDiio4Y0
Electric Light Orchestra’s amazing classic 1974 album Eldorado includes the opus ‘Nobody’s Child.’ It’s a stunning blues symphony!
‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out’ is on John Lennon’s album Walls and Bridges. This was at a low point in John’s life. The song is autobiographical, like most everything he has written.
‘Nobody’s Fool’ is the first track on Glam band Slade’s sixth album, Nobody’s Fools released in 1976 and produced by Chas Chandler.
‘Nobody Does it Better’ is an Academy Award winning song released on the soundtrack to the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me’ in the summer of 1977, sung by Carly Simon. The music is by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. It was a hit worldwide. I always liked the innocence of Carly’s voice at the beginning, and how it is suddenly expanded by a sudden swelling and echoing effect, when the song switches gears to become a power- ballad. Now that I hear them again as an adult, the lyrics are overtly sexual. It’s also amusing that the spy is “keeping her secrets safe” just like the girl in Sparks’ song ‘Something for the Girl with Everything’ (Propaganda 1974) makes her lover bribe her with lavish gifts so that she won’t spill his secrets!
Not to be confused with Toussaint McCall (mentioned in the “Nothing” portion of this playlist), The Allen Toussaint Orchestra (from New Orleans) performed ‘Nobody Does it Better’ on a 2015 album, Celebrating over 50 years of James Bond themes.
Nobody does it better makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best
I wasn’t lookin’ but somehow you found me
I tried to hide from your love light
But like heaven above me the spy who loved me
Is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight
‘Nobody’s Hero’ is the title of a single on the 1980 album Nobody’s Heroes by Stiff Little Fingers. This was the second album by the band from Belfast. SLF always kicked ass – especially live! Screaming and snarling vocalist Jake Burns was so passionate! I have always loved the motivational lyrics…
Don’t let heroes get your kicks for you
It’s up to you and no one else
Try to take control of it, ’cause
What you see is what you get
Try to take control of it and you’ll see
Don’t wanna be nobody’s hero
Don’t wanna be nobody’s star
Don’t wanna be nobody’s hero
Get up, get out, be what you are
Watch on Top of the Pops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eoq3DB-uBTs
‘Nobody Told Me’ by John Lennon is on the album Milk and Honey, released by Yoko Ono after John’s death. It was recorded during the Double Fantasy sessions, as were all the songs on Milk and Honey. It was released in 1984. John had obviously anticipated the crazy times ahead. “Strange days indeed!”
‘Nobody Sees me Like You Do’ is on Yoko Ono’s 1982 album It’s Alright (I See Rainbows). This was her second solo album released after John Lennon’s death. (The first was Season of Glass in 1981). John had told Yoko that he liked the chords on ‘Nobody Sees Me Like You Do’ during the Double Fantasy sessions. It is his wife’s song of eternal love, apology and longing. The most poignant lines foretell the loneliness that Yoko felt prior to the tragedy that took John from her, and from us all…
Even with your warmth and closeness
This feeling of loneliness hangs over like a curse / thirst
On the remix CD Yes, I’m A Witch Too (February 2007) there is a beautiful reverberating remix of the song featuring The Apples In Stereo. The track begins with Yoko asking for a ginger tea. The gorgeous arrangement includes chimes and a lovely synth solo.
Listen: (with Apples in Stereo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7KbU9iCMxw
‘Nobody’s But You’ is a song from Songs For Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale. This was a tribute album to and about Andy Warhol, released in 1990 – three years after Andy’s death. Drella was their nickname for Warhol (combining Dracula and Cinderella). Andy didn’t like it! A special edition CD comes in black velvet packaging.
Bryan Ferry co-wrote ‘Nobody Loves Me’ with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. It appears on Ferry’s 2002 album titled Frantic. The album version is gorgeous. The unreleased version is really cool and different!
Unreleased version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agwXdLoZ8-U
Iggy Pop collaborated with Nick Cave and Thurston Moore on the song ‘Nobody’s City.’ This appears on the 2014 Jeffrey Lee Pierce tribute album Axels & Sockets, by Jeffery Lee Pierce Sessions Project.
The Psychedelic Furs released their first album in 29 years in July 2021. It’s called Made of Rain. The single is called ‘No-One’. It’s a great song with a spooky video.
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See more in my Playlist category:
About A Song
Eat to the Beat