Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Merry Go 'Round

Yup. Still diggin' her.

If you ain't got two kids by 21,
You're probably gonna die alone.
Least that's what tradition told you.
And it don't matter if you don't believe,
Come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like you're supposed to.
Same hurt in every heart.
Same trailer, different park.
Mama's hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother's hooked on Mary Jane.
Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go 'round and 'round and 'round we go
Where it stops nobody knows and it ain't slowin' down.
This merry go 'round.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dust in the Wind

Sadly, this is by far the most I've ever actually enjoyed Arcade Fire. I like some of their stuff, and I respect and admire and am semi-fascinated by them...but I don't actually enjoy them all that much.

But then there's this which, visuals aside, really is no kidding loverly:

Except that now, for the first time in 20 years, I actually kinda wanna hear "Point of Know Return," and that's just not right.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Oddfellows Local 151

Dear R.E.M.—

Please release an entire show from this tour. Thanks so much.



(Michael Stipe playing guitar makes me unreasonably happy. Also I seriously no kidding really dig his style.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lady in Red

The great Steve Coogan absolutely demolishes this song in a recent piece for the the A.V. Club (and casually suggests a way it could have been massively improved, which now has me yearning for the alternate universe where that version's the smash hit):
SC: [...] If it’s accidentally on the radio and I don’t have time to change it, I just feel like that’s three minutes of my life I’m never going to get back again.
AVC: Closer to four.
I’m banking on the DJ interrupting during the fadeout.
AVC: According to Wikipedia, De Burgh’s main inspiration was a realization he had that men don’t remember what women are wearing when they meet them. Deep, huh?
And that’s it. That’s the subtext I guess: Guys don’t remember what chicks wear.
AVC: He later had an affair with his kids’ 19-year-old babysitter while his wife was recovering from a horseback-riding accident.
Now if he said “Babysitter In Red,” that would have made it a much more interesting song. I’m thinking maybe he shouldn’t be looking at her. All of a sudden there’s a weakness there, a human frailty and a little dysfunction going on. “Babysitter In Sweatpants,” I’d listen to that. I’d like to see the lyrics for that. 

But way leads to way and we suddenly discover an interpreter to challenge ONJ's claim to utter supremacy.

I'm not sure I've ever laughed so hard at the very first millisecond of a video's visual. But then the camerawork somehow, impossibly, took it to an even higher level, as the split image makes the ghosted microphone look like he's wearing a shirt with pirate cuffs. And props also too whatever funeral home allowed them to film this masterpiece there. Hopefully he's not singing this to the recently dearly beloved deceased.

I've never seen an 11-year-old singing CPA before, but homeboy absolutely brings it; his humming alone should make Paul McCartney green with envy, and his pronunciation of "romahnce" may have been what killed Laurence Olivier. Meanwhile, I'd seriously squish ducklings for his hair.

Well played, player. Well played. Here's hoping this helped you land the social studies teacher of your dreams.

Monday, April 21, 2014

God Only Knows

It's not fair. To have a voice that surpasses Aretha's and interpretive skills that would shame Sinatra, Elvis and Dylan. I'm amazed Brian Wilson didn't just throw up his hands in defeat when he heard this.

Also, not entirely unattractive. I suppose. If you like that sort of thing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fat Man in the Bathtub

 I'm not sure it was possible for Little Feat to amaze me any more than they already do. Their flawless musicianship and their seamless melding of so many different musical styles all at once made them, at their peak, one of the most unique and brilliant bands of the 1970s.

But I was wrong. They can still stun me. Even in a clip that's nearly 40 years old. Or more to the point, late frontman and singer/songwriter/slide guitar savant Lowell George can still stun me. Even 35 years after he died.

And he does. Right here. Right around the one-minute mark of an awesome live performance of one of their greatest songs on The Old Grey Whistle Test, way back in 1975.

As you see, Lowell had been using a drumstick to hit the cowbell at the song's opening, in staggering syncopated time with percussionist Sam Clayton and drummer Richie Hayward (who deserves a post all of his own for his mesmerizing ability and signature technique). I had never noticed before that he doesn't put the drumstick down as he starts singing.

Nor does he put it down when he performs his first slide guitar solo, right around that 1:00 mark.

Again. He performs that little slide solo perfectly. While holding a drumstick in his right hand.

He eventually puts it down for his second solo during the second verse. But I mean...wow.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bay City Rollers We Love You

While the title of this here post is indeed entirely accurate, it's also the name of the first ever all-Nick Lowe single. That's right: the great Nick Lowe recording a mash-note to the Bay City Rollers. Which just...I mean.

Also, it's pretty swell.

[H/T: the amazing Dangerous Minds, which has the whole story.]

Monday, April 7, 2014

You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

This should not have aged as well as it did. And yet.

I mean, seriously.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Summertime Blues

I got into The Who sometime at the end of 7th grade—it followed my initial forays into rock-n-roll in 1980-81 that began with The Beatles and then morphed into The Doors, because I was in 7th grade and that was the law! And then I tested the waters of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd and, a short time after that, The Rolling Stones.

But then came The Who. And along with The Beatles, who I’d gotten into in the Summer of 1980 prior to 7th grade and became a full-on fanatic about (chronicled here), this was the only band in my pre-age 18 years that I developed a legitimate obsession with. Sure, I would later become obsessed with Peter Gabriel (at age 18-19) R.E.M. (at age 19-20) and the Replacements (also age 20). And my deep and abiding love of Bruce Springsteen rightfully began sometime around my 17th birthday, but even Bruce was a slow build that took place over 3-4 years before finally exploding in the late 1980s. 

But this was different – like with R.E.M. and the Replacements would become and the Beatles were before them, this was a band whose music I just had to gobble up all at once. Once I’d listened to three, maybe four tracks that my friend’s older brother played for me (“My Generation,” “Happy Jack,” “Magic Bus” and, I think, “Pinball Wizard” – all of which came from the 1972 compilation Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy), I had to hear not just more, but all. There wasn’t a moment to waste. I had to hear it all.

I went to Marty’s Music Mart in my hometown (Bloomfield, CT – the store would later sell out to the up and coming Strawberries chain, which remains the single most awesome record store chain in history and there can be no argument about that) and bought the new Face Dances and the decidedly old Live at Leeds. Why did I start there? I think it’s all they had. In the next few weeks I would add Who’s Next, The Who Sings My Generation, compilations The Kids Are Alright and the aforementioned Meaty, The Who By Numbers and Who Are You. Tommy I would receive as a Bar Mitzvah gift from my brothers, and Quadrophenia would later be purchased with Bar Mitzvah money. Some of the earlier albums were (forgive me, industry) recorded off of friends’ records, like The Who Sell Out. I even bought It’s Hard the day it came out in 1982. I was a full-on Who junkie.

What was it that appealed to me so viscerally? I think it was the danger, something I didn’t hear in the Beatles (although later, when I developed a better ear, it was there plain as day) and certainly not The Doors (that was faux danger, and by the time I hit 14 I was done with them). There was a ferocity about them that somehow didn’t take away from their musicality. The stories and the lore—the smashed instruments, the insane Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey’s muscles, the fact that they were recorded as the loudest band ever, even the tragedy in Cincinnati—added a layer of menace that, having not heard a trace of punk rock yet, was entirely new to me. Daltrey’s scream at the apex of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the single scariest and coolest thing I’d ever heard. John Entwistle’s lightning fast bass fill during “My Generation” made me want to play the bass just to learn how to do that (I never did). Everything Keith Moon did wowed me. Every power chord that Townshend hit inspired me. This was my band.

And it’s funny, because the other day I was trying to think back on the song that started it all. With so many bands I can pinpoint the very song that got me hooked—with the Beatles it was “Come Together,” with R.E.M. it was, oddly, “Time After Time,” with the Replacements it was “Talent Show” and with Bruce it was “Hungry Heart.” But The Who? I never really could recall.

Until last week, I did. And it should have been obvious, because it came off the first album of theirs I ever bought. The interesting thing was it wasn’t their song, but a cover. A live cover.

Great rock-n-roll cover songs is a favorite topic of mine. I love reading lists about the Greatest Covers ever. I love seeing these songs that were re-done so perfectly that the covering band basically came to own them. “Twist and Shout” just became a Beatles song. “All Along the Watchtower” just became a Jimi Hendrix song. Even “Jersey Girl” is more associated these days with Springsteen than its estimable author Tom Waits.

But for my money, this is my favorite cover song ever. And no, it was never done in-studio. Which is maybe why it eluded many “Best of” lists. But this is the sound of a band taking a truly great rock-n-roll song—to me this is a legitimate contender for the first punk rock classic ever written—and making it all their own.

Just listen to it. Moonie seems to take flight about halfway through, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he actually did. Daltrey’s voice is as commanding as any lead singer's has ever been. The Ox gets to do his playful on the chorus, yet gives the song a spine made of pure steel. And Townshend’s work on those little staccato fills between the verses is simply stunning. Not to mention the high harmonies, the inimitable power chords and, lest we forget, maybe the most shocking, turn-on-a-dime key change I have ever heard (at the 2:25 mark).

I’m not exactly the Who fanatic today I was from, say, 1981 to 1985. That would be impossible. But there’s a reason I loved them so and always will admire them. And there’s a reason they belong on the shortest of short lists of the Greatest Rock-n-Roll Bands ever.

“Summertime Blues,” which had been done to sheer perfection a decade earlier by Eddie Cochran yet somehow they seized for their own, explains why.