Friday, May 30, 2014

Celtic Walk

Man, I wish I'd seen this in time for St. Patrick's Day. Sure and begorrah but music/art transcends culture.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reconsider Me (maybe what Sir William was trying to write)

A couple of days back my partner here at Reason to Believe took a brilliant surgical look at of one of the more popular "love" songs of this past generation, Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." Like Scott I too have always been perplexed by this odd and unsettling track that pretty much led the way to mass stardom on BJ's finest album, The Stranger.

As Scott said, there is something off here, with these lyrics that Billy wrote in 1977. It sounds like a straightforward love song, and Lord knows it's been treated as such by countless newlyweds at their weddings, but it isn't. It just isn't.

Here's the part that always irked me, at the song's bridge:

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take 'till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you

The word that pops to mind as the best one-word to describe this song is pretty much right there in that first line: "need." Because this song, above all else, is remarkably needy. It is so terribly insecure. Which, hey, is right as rain in so many pop songs. What is "Yesterday" if not needy? What is "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" What is, for that matter, "Hungry Heart" and a huge chunk of Bruce Springsteen's catalogue if not plainly, desperately needy? Not to mention the Holy Trinity of troubling 1980s desperation: "Every Breath You Take," "The One I Love" and "With or Without You."

Billy Joel could have gone for this, the desperate route that knows it's desperate. But he doesn't. And that's my problem with "Just The Way You Are." It's needy, but it doesn't want to be. It wants to be in control, completely in sync with what the object of his desire is all about and is looking for. Only it isn't. And as a result it's totally unreliable.

Think of some of the lines that come earlier in the song. Like this one:

Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care 

I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

Nothing Joel has written earlier in the song (especially "although I might not seem to care") indicates to us that he does unconditionally believe in her. And yet that's exactly what he expects from her—"What will it take 'till you believe in me the way that I believe in you?" It's not true; it's simply inconsistent with everything else he's said in this song. And for the author of a love letter to demand one thing from a lover and not expect to give it in return? It's just not fair.

And this would all be fine if Billy Joel acknowledged his inconsistency here, and maybe attached a level of desperation to it. Which of course Isaac Hayes does in the extended, soulful version that Scott wrote about. But instead Billy just seems to want to play this out as a straight love song. He seems to think he's being sweet, when really he's being straight-out selfish. "I know I don't treat you right all the time. But I need—NEED—to know you still love me. I have no plans to prove this to you, but you have to reassure me. REASSURE me."

And it led me to this. Scott gave you the Late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington. I give you the even later Sir Warren Zevon of West Hollywoodshire.

And I give you the song that, I suspect, deep down Sir William may have been aiming for with "Just The Way You Are." I could be all wet, but this is how I hear it. Warren's lovely and regretful tune from his vaunted 1987 comeback album, Sentimental Hygiene

Here are the lyrics, which for a songwriter as challenging as Warren Zevon could often be are actually fairly straightforward:

If you're all alone, and you need someone
Call me up and I'll come running
Reconsider me
Reconsider me

If it's still the past that makes you doubt
Darling that was then and this is now
Reconsider me
Reconsider me

And I'll never make you sad again
'Cause I swear I've changed since then
And I promise I will never make you cry

Let's let bygones be forgotten
Reconsider me
Reconsider me

You can go and be
What you want to be
It'll be all right if we disagree

I'm the one who cares
And I hope you see
That I'm the one who loves you
Reconsider me

Let's let bygones be forgotten
Reconsider me
Reconsider me

And I'll never make you sad again
'Cause I swear I've changed since then
And I promise I will never make you cry

As I said, I'm not sure I am even in the ballpark here, but this seems to be the song that Billy was trying to write. Only he didn't.

There are a few similarities. Both eschew a traditional verse-chorus-verse setup and instead choose to punctuate each verse with the title of the song, rather than drop it into a repeated chorus. Both have a mid-tempo, pop feel to them. Both employ familiar structures of the eras in which they were produced. "Just the Way You Are" has that electric-piano, light jazzy sound so familiar with mid-70s pop songs, while "Reconsider Me" has that glossy 80s studio polish we've heard time and time again. Both are very much of their time.  

But with "Reconsider Me," Warren Zevon (or the narrator of the song) acknowledges how much he's screwed up in this relationship (it's right there in the title) and he's pleading for a second chance. He's not really making any excuses, and he's making it clear he'd rather forget all that old bad stuff and just move on. Which is not dissimilar to what Billy does.

And perhaps it's not fair to expect Billy Joel, who was in his 20s when he wrote "Just The Way You Are," to have the same level of self-realization that Zevon did at 40 when he wrote "Reconsider Me." That's important; writers need to have time to grow and mature into themselves. Could Bruce Springsteen have written "Tougher Than the Rest" at age 26, rather than age 38? Probably not.

Yet still, it's a failing in "Just the Way You Are" because the song is too contradictory for us to trust what the narrator is saying. To beat a tired and worn cliche into the ground, he wants to have his cake and eat it to. He wants unconditional approval from her, yet makes it clear there have been times and will be times when he's unable to give it in return. It's just too needy to be honest.

To the point where I can't help but think if Billy had written this one with the same sentiment in mind, the line "Reconsider me" would be replaced with, "But you still love me, right?"

Warren Zevon isn't seeking reassurance in "Reconsider Me." Earned or not, he's seeking a second chance, maybe a renewal. But in "Just the Way You Are," all I hear is Billy Joel seeking  reassurance. And it seems pretty clear from the words that he hasn't earned it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Green Fields of France

I've never paid much attention to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean, I have nothing against them at all, but I just never really paid them much mind.

Which is why I had no clue about this song's existence until this past Memorial Day Weekend, when my brother Jeff introduced me to it. They didn’t write it—it was written in 1976 by Eric Bogle—but they seem to have recorded one of the better known versions of it in 2005. Anyway this is the version he introduced me to. And now I just can’t stop listening to it. Thanks Jeff. Bastard.

And it stands to me as one of the more poignant anti-war songs I have heard. Interesting in how it focuses on a long, long ago war (World War I, known as "The War To End All Wars") and presents it as a basis to ask questions about not only why we fight, but who does the fighting and what impact does it all have. And like all of the best anti-war songs, it has an air of timelessness to it despite the specificity of some of the lyrics.

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow,
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard that's still no mans land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation were butchered and damned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just the Way You Are

I have very mixed feelings about the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington. On the one hand, I grew up liking a lot of his stuff—primarily, but not exclusively, the hits. On the other hand, even as a kid, there was often something about even the songs of his I liked that made me kinda squint and think, "really?" Sometimes it was an awkward lyric, or what I took to be embarrassing dressing up in new wave clothes for "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me." I was about 11 the first time I thought, "man, it seems this guy's trying way too hard to seem tough," an impression that (his amateur boxing aside) never entirely left me. But whatever. I've always preferred melody to lyrics—although in the best of worlds, both are good—and there was no question the dude could write a killer melody and I really liked Liberty DeVitto's drumming.

And what sums his problems up more than his multiple-Grammy-winning-electric-piano-laden-mega-smash, "Just the Way You Are"?

Don't go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you anymore
I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times
I'll take you just the way you are

Um. Okay. That's nice, I guess. Something about it seems kinda off, but okay. Let's keep going.

Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

OH. That's why it seemed off: she's imagining he doesn't see her anymore because he's acting like he doesn't see her anymore. What the hell else could "you always have my unspoken passion, although I might not seem to care" mean?

I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

Honest to pete, when I was 10 or whatever, this verse bothered the hell out of me. It felt like he was telling her actively wanted someone not very smart as a partner, someone he could not talk with, but talk to. And even at that age that just seemed totally jacked to me.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take 'till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you

Dude. The reason she doesn't believe in you is because you're acting like you don't give a shit about her. You openly say you actively do not want her to change or grow, but to just to stay in her place, like she's a bug encased in amber. This isn't rocket science, man.

I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from my heart
I couldn't love you any better
I love you just the way you are

You know, I'm not claiming I'm the greatest husband in the world. (I am, in fact, I'm just not claiming it.) And "I love you just the way you are" is a really sweet line. But when it's preceded by "I couldn't love you any better," well...I mean, the thing is, I do love my wife better than I did 10 years ago and I loved her 10 years ago better than I had 10 years before that. You do something a lot, you get better at it. So, sure, I realize that for some couples, it doesn't work that way—that's just reality. But if you're supposed to be writing a love song, you don't come right out and say that. (Or you do and you've got a subversive masterpiece. This ain't that.)

To be fair, I'm not the first to criticize the song, and my ambivalence is pretty unimpeachable: the late Sir William Joel himself has often claimed he never really liked the song much, and only released it either because Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow insisted he had to (his version of the story) or because the album would have been too short otherwise (his producer's version of the story). Either way, he seems to have had some idea that it was perhaps somewhat flawed. I'm sure he cashed the checks of course, as well he should.

Why am I doing a half-assed fisking of a 37-year-old song that does have a lovely melody and some, let's be honest, groovy 1970's electric piano and sultry sax? Because I just heard a cover version of it that throws into even more stark relief the issues with the original version.

Because I think this is what the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington was initially going for—same melody, same lyrics (but with a different time signature) and oh such a different vibe:

Leaving one to wonder: is there aught the late great Isaac Hayes couldn't cover and made sound amazing?

(The first 2:47 seconds—nearly as long as the 45" version of the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington's version of the song—omitted because, well...okay, the late great Isaac Hayes did like the sound of his own voice talking talking talking before getting down to the business of singing the hell out of something. And on the other hand, he's the one playing the sax solo because I mean really you know?) 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Wall

Cigarettes and a bottle of beer this poem that I wrote for you
This black stone and these hard tears are all I got left now of you
I remember you in your Marine uniform laughin’, laughin’ at your ship out party
I read Robert McNamara says he's sorry

Your high boots and striped T-shirt, Billy you looked so bad
You and your rock-n-roll band you were best thing this shit town ever had
Now the men who put you here eat with their families in rich dining halls
And apology and forgiveness got no place here at all at the wall

I’m sorry I missed you last year, I couldn't find no one to drive me
If your eyes could cut through that black stone, tell me would they recognize me
For the living time it must be served, the day goes on
Cigarettes and a bottle of beer, skin on black stone

On the ground dog tags and wreaths of flowers, with ribbons red as the blood
Red as the blood you spilled in the Central Highlands mud
Limousines rush down Pennsylvania Avenue rustling the leaves as they fall
Apology and forgiveness got no place here at all
Here at the wall

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stayin' Alive

Well. Learn something new every day.

Despite having heard this I don't even know how many hundreds of times, and unapologetically loving it every single time, I had no idea that it was Barry on guitar and Maurice on bass. That's some seriously funky playing. If this were your first time hearing it, you wouldn't be surprised if Curtis Mayfield started singing, or perhaps (after 12 minutes) Isaac Hayes.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Queen of the Supermarket

"Queen of the Supermarket" is one of Bruce Springsteen's most misunderstood—even hated—songs, off Working on a Dream, one of his most interesting but (seemingly impossible for Springsteen) underrated albums. 

(I'm about to post a full-throated defense of the song...and, even so, even I have to admit this is a really funny image. And, hell, it's not like it's worse than the official cover art for the album.)

The opening, with its soft piano and delicately strummed acoustic guitar supporting what sounds like a musical box-like glockenspiel, is lovely, sweet, giving hints of both the romance and the possible unreal nature of the rumination to come.

The opening lines are arresting:

There's a wonderful world where all you desire
And everything you've longed for is at your fingertips
Where the bittersweet taste of life is at your lips
Where aisles and aisles of dreams await you
And the cool promise of ecstasy fills the air

If we didn't already know the name of the song, we might almost think we were in sort of strange new gospel song. The language isn't quite right—"aisles of dreams"? "ectasy"?—but the general vision is certainly one of a heavenly afterlife.

But then we get to the first verse's last line:

At the end of each working day she's waiting there

Hm. Unless the narrator's speaking of the Virgin Mary—and certainly "Mary" is a name that's cropped up in far more Springsteen songs than is statistically likely—that's a pretty big tell that we haven't gone past the Pearly Gates.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket


As the evening sky turns blue
A dream awaits in aisle number two

Ah. So. What we've got, it seems, is one of those Springsteen songs that's not just humorous, ala "Local Hero" or "TV Movie," but flirts with parody, such as "Ain't Got You," "57 Channels" or "Crush on You."

Certainly the following lines would lend credence to this view:

With my shopping cart I move through the heart
Of a sea of fools so blissfully unaware
That they're in the presence of something wonderful and rare

These lines seem to be deliciously, delightfully taking the piss, as the Brits would say. They're so over-the-top in their descriptions and florid language that there's almost no way to take them seriously.

But then we get to the next few lines:

The way she moves behind the counter
Beneath her white apron her secrets remain hers
As she bags the groceries, her eyes so bored
And sure she is unobserved

And things become slightly less clear. Suddenly the description—"secrets remain hers," "her eyes so bored and sure she is unobserved"—is insightful, keen and unusual. Sure, we learn when we're young that everyone has their secrets, but it's something that's rarely remembered in a supermarket, of all seemingly unsecretive, mysterious places. And how easy is it to lose yourself in your own thoughts and forget you're surrounded by observers in that least isolated of locations? There's little sign of parody here, and even the humor's a thing of the past. Suddenly, this all feels sincere.

It's possible that, if nothing else, Bruce Springsteen is here finding and celebrating the extraordinary beauty in the most common, everyday place. He'd already paid tribute to the plain virtues of desert racetracks, illuminated turnpike signs, and baseball diamonds—why not a supermarket? The answer is both obvious and a little troubling. For what's more common and everyday than a supermarket? And yet what an unimaginable wonder it would have been to even the wealthiest people just a few centuries earlier, or technologically, just a few decades ago. And what a wonder it would be to huge percentages of the world's population. And yet somehow it obviously feel different to most Springsteen fans: lesser, somehow, not as worthy of a paean. Why would that be? It wouldn't appear to be a class issue, or one of rural v. urban, leaving the unsettling possibility that it's a gender matter.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket
There's nothing I can say
Each night I take my groceries and I drift away, and I drift away

Some of Springsteen's greatests triumphs as a recording artist have come when he's slyly juxtaposed an upbeat sound with a downbeat lyric, in such songs as "Glory Days," "Dancing in the Dark," "Hungry Heart," "Badlands," and so many others. And here's where the sound of "Queen of the Supermarket" becomes vital. It had been pretty, and unusually melodic for Springsteen, with the 60s baroque pop vibe of much of Working on a Dream, but here, as he sings "drift away"—with its subtle nod to the beloved Dobie Gray song he's sometimes covered—he not only swoops up into his higher register, the sound of the recording changes. His vocal comes forward in the soundstage, is doubled and joined by a sumptuous, heavenly chorus of oohing and aahing backing vocals:

With guidance from the gods above
At night I pray for the strength to tell the one I love
I love, I love, I love her so
I take my place in the checkout line
For one moment her eyes meet mine
And I'm lifted up, lifted up, lifted up, lifted up, lifted away

Unusual as the setting may be—although what's more "common man" than a guy buying groceries after work?—this all comes across as utterly heartfelt, and quietly, sadly beautiful. And as the final "away" fades out, Springsteen's earlier, lower, voice fades back in, falling down for the second line.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket
Though a company cap covers her hair
Nothing can hide the beauty waiting there

But come the repeat of the "beauty" line, he again soars upwards, lifted up by his majesty and grace.

The beauty waiting there

The backing vocalists sing the praises of the queen a few times, before almost everything dies out—an unusual move for Springsteen, musically. And to the heartbeat of Max's bass drum, the narrator—Springsteen, again in his lower register, and not doubled—sings the lines that send any lingering thoughts of parody, should any remain, away on the breeze:

As I lift my groceries into my cart
I turn back for a moment and catch a smile
That blows this whole fucking place apart

There's nothing funny here at all, not any more. Instead, we're left with something beautiful and sad, a narrator so very in love—and who's to say it's not real?—with someone he seems to feel is utterly unattainable, and given what we've learned in the past few minutes of his behavior, it seems as though she is, even if she just dropped a hint his way, a hint he's unlikely to ever act upon.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket

And then comes the strangest part of the song. After a few repeats of the refrain, everything shifts into an odd coda. Unlike "Thunder Road," or its antecedent "Layla," however, this doesn't seem to bring some sort of spiritual solace or thematic summation. Rather, its ethereal, somewhat spooky nature is reminiscent of the coda to "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight," by Springsteen's old friend Peter Gabriel's first band—or even more apropos, that song's musical bookend, "Aisle of Plenty."

Unlike the straightforward 4/4 of the main body of the song, the coda is in a dreamy waltz time. Instrumentally, it's almost all waves of strings, accompanied by disarmingly disembodied vocals of an almost Enoesque nature. The only instruments which are carried over from the usual Springsteen orchestration are Max's bass drum and ride cymbal, hints of piano here and there, and some barely audible echoes of single-string lead guitar, none of which are mixed nearly as high as the strings and vocals. But strangest of all is the most noticeable percussive element, a rather loud, familiar beep which seems to sporadically fall out of time with the rest, a beep which is recognizable to anyone who's spent any time in a hospital or even just watched medical dramas on television.

What does this mean? Has the narrator been in a coma, dreaming this entire time? Has none of this been real? "Queen of the Supermarket" is a wonderful, strange, complex, perplexing song, but never more so than in its coda.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket

This song, coming on the heels of the previous album's stunning "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," gives the impression that the narrator is middle-aged or even older, even though there's no textual evidence to support such a claim. Yet for me it strikes a chord that brings me all the way back to some of my earliest memories.

I remember being 4 years old and watching shows like The Brady Bunch, where little boys would do utterly incomprehensible things such as yell and run away from little girls their age, claiming an outbreak of cooties or some such nonsense. Later, when I began to go to school, I discovered that boys in real life were just as stupid as their fictitious counterparts, and was even more perplexed. "What is wrong with you?!" I would think. "Girls are awesome!" (True story.) A few brief years later, when I went to college, I recall feeling as though I were falling in love a dozen times every day—sometimes that many times just walking to a single class. (Turns out: it wasn't true love.) I had a crush on the teller at the bank. And the girl at the soft ice cream stand. And the girl at the record store. I was way too shy to actually speak to any of them, of course. All I could do was look forward to seeing them again the next time and pretend I'd have the guts to speak to them then. I never did, of course.

I don't know whether Bruce Springsteen was that kind of kid, but the narrator of the song seems to have been. And now that he's (perhaps) quite a bit older...he still is.

When we lived in New York city, there was a bagel place my then-girlfriend, now-wife stopped at every morning on her way to work. Amazing bagels, still warm, the kind that just melt in your mouth. After only a few weeks of going there, one of the old guys behind the counter began to wave her to the front of the very long line and hand her a bag, which always contained her usual—an everything bagel with a little cream cheese on the side—rather than make her wait for ten minutes, because he knew it was a simple order and would only take him a few seconds.

Or so she told me. But one day I went with her. He didn't know I was with her, so he waved only her to the front, while I stayed put way at the back. (She also had to be at work before me, so it was no big deal.) But I watched the way he lit up when she smiled and thanked him and told him to have a nice day. He got a look on his face that hadn't been there before. And it stayed for the next ten minutes as he helped the other people. One smile from a cute girl absolutely made his morning and turned his day around. Such is the power of beauty, even if it's a stranger and nothing ever comes of it.

I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Happy Birthday, Maybellene! You're 59 years old today.

And just like on May 21, 1955 when the great Chuck Berry birthed you, we're all still wondering, "Why cain't you be true?"

Few have had, or ever will have, more of an impact on this great expansive world we call rock-n-roll as Charles Edward Anderson Berry. From his signature guitar riffs to his coolest-guy-in-the-room terminology to his uncanny ability to blend rhythm and melody into something so thoroughly irresistible, Chuck has duck-walked his way through history as the living, breathing embodiment of the genre, and in doing so has put his stamp not only on rock but on country, funk, dance and even rap. And today, at 87 years old being one of the few seminal rockers to make it to old age, Chuck Berry continues to, in his own inimitable lingo, "motorvate" along.

And it all started in earnest today, 59 years ago in a studio in Chicago, when after inking his epochal deal with Chess Records he introduced us to "Maybellene," that Cadillac-riding trollop who loved driving fast and stepping out on her man, only to be caught, again and again, at "the top of the hill."

Let's fall in love with her all over again, from the very beginning when that jagged, distorted guitar sets the pace.

And then remember what Rolling Stone magazine said of Chuck's brilliant opening shot at history: "Rock-n-roll guitar starts here."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Both covers TV

My GOD. Stereogum is right: this is fun but ultimately really frustrating, because I would now give so much to hear Ted Leo sing the entire WKRP in Cincinnati theme song.

I can't believe how much I wish they'd do the full versions.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bigger Stones

One of the covers I brought to my college band (the late, likely lamented, legendary Übërsphïnctër), by the late, legitimately lamented, legendary San Diego band the Beat Farmers.

Listening to it now, I hear everything that made me love it then, but I also laugh at that idiotic 21-year-old who thought he really grokked the lyrics, man.

Now I feel the pain of growin' old, I hear the voices in the rain
I see a vision of doubt that keeps rollin' through my baby's eyes
When she calls out my name each time that she complains

Seems like we rolled bigger stones back then
Seems like we rolled bigger stones

Then again, the point, as always is: it's good a good beat and you can dance to it. (Also, dig the concision: says its piece and gets out, sneering dismissively at the notion of the three and a half minute pop song.)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Breeders Cannonball

"I come up with these really strange things that aren't exactly songs."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Weight

When it comes to shows I passed on, one of my great regrets is not going to see The Band when they reunited sans Robbie Robertson. At the time I'd bought into the critical consensus as Robertson being the band's Svengali. Oh foolish foolish youth.

I also passed on Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Bands which, again, in retrospect, seems so incredibly stupid. I mean, look at this line-up:

Ringo Starr
Joe Walsh
Nils Lofgren
Dr. John
Billy Preston
Rick Danko
Levon Helm
Clarence Clemons

Oh and while we're at it, let's toss in some dude named Garth Hudson now and then. Why not, right? What can it hurt?

Who in the hell in their right mind would pass up a band like that? I mean, who passes up a chance to see Levon Helm and Rick Danko together, in almost any venue or configuration? (Garth only joined them for a few shows on this tour.) An idiot, that's who.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Waterloo Sunset

Nothing revelatory in this cover, at least, not in the sense that it sheds light on the composition. But it is revelatory in how much it would seem to indicate Jackson Browne learned from Ray Davies. Other than the fact that so much of the song—which is to say any of the song—focuses on external characters, this sounds like it could have been written by Browne, down to the melody.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

She's Gone

Has there ever been a more amazing instrument than Lou Rawls's voice? It's like the Grand Canyon, the Sagarmatha / Chomolungma, the Victoria Falls of voices.

I just wish he'd recorded material more worthy of it and him more often. Then again, that's a pretty high bar.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Hard Girls' Night


Nope nope nope nope nope.

Look. My love of mashups is pure and true and well-documented. (Well...documented.) And, sure, John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's vocals sound great in just about any context, even laid atop an utterly witless piece of half-dimensional macho assdroolery. And Dammit, no.

It's not like the Beatles are some untouchable artifact. Mash 'em with metal, with bubblegum, with funk, whatever. Just make it worthy and not a mash for mash's sake.

Mash 'em with something old:

(How the hell did they think to put those two songs together?)

Or something new:

(Most bizarrely underrated bassline ever.)

No, if you want to see what happens when this same creator takes a pair of great and almost totally unrelated songs (yeah, I know: Australia), witness the glory that is this:

Now that's how it's done.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Brothers Under the Bridge

If someone'd asked me what Bruce Springsteen song David Lindley and Jackson Browne'd be most likely to cover, this wouldn't have been amongst my first 50 guesses. And yet it works beautifully. Obviously, Lindley can make pretty much anything sound good, but this straightforward take works, and Lindley's vocals fit the song perfectly, with spare but sweet harmonies from Browne. And, honestly, Lindley looks like he could be one of the characters in the song.

Come Veterans' Day I sat in the stands in my dress blues 
I held your mother's hand when they passed with the red, white and blue 
One minute you're right there 
Then something slips

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Early Led Zeppelin live

Imagine this:

You're a kid, a big music fan, and you've heard there's a band putting on a show for a television program and you can go watch. Maybe you've heard of the band, maybe you haven't—their debut album was only released about two months earlier, and this is the first time they'll ever be on TV—but what the hell, right? Might as well go. Nothing else do to, and the price is right.

So you all just file in, as the cameras are already rolling, and sit down in front of the band, that are themselves just sorta milling around, watching you watching them.

And then. This happens.

The guitarist hits a chord and then starts semi-casually strumming, soon joined by a bassist who's casually bringing it, and a drummer who keeps time on his hi-hat before coming in full. The singer's very first syllable, "hey," is in a low register, nothing impressive, before swooping upwards a few octaves for the following word—"girl," of course.

The band's good. They're really good. They're loud and they're tight. But they're just warming up.

Come the solo and suddenly you're watching a guy that just may be, on this night, the second greatest rock and roll guitarist in the world.

The band goes to an expected, and unexpectedly funky, half-time, before bringing the tempo back up to bring it all home.

Seconds later, the bassist starts a slinky bassline, to which the guitarist adds some strange, spooky harmonics and bends, and the singer begins moaning his lyrics. Then the drummer decides he's going to prove that, great as the guitarist is—and he is—he's not even the greatest master of his instrument in the band, and starts unleashing fills the likes of which you've heard before, for the fairly simple reason that no drummer in rock and roll has every played quite like this before, combining the right foot with both hands unlike anyone else ever, as speeds it's impossible to believe.

Just imagine if you knew the bassist might be better than both of them.

...what in the hell? A violin bow? Who are these guys?

They come out of it all and the drummer seems to be trying to beat his drums through the studio floor and the singer's lost any trepidation he might have had, howling like a banshee and the entire band's locked into each other and you're just staggered.

And the show's only a little over a third of a way through.

You watch this and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it's absolutely no surprise they went on to become the biggest band in the world for 10 years.