Friday, November 28, 2014


Jefferson Holt, the first manager of R.E.M., once said:
"They'll hate me for this," he says, "but to me the first time I saw them was like what I would have imagined of seeing the Who when they first started."
Taking each band as a whole, there are probably more stylistic differences than similarities—although both did go downill markedly once they decided to move on without their originals drummers—but one of the things both have in common are extremely distinctive lead singers and outstanding backing vocalists.

Note, for example, that at this early, pre-Murmur concert, Mike Mills is the one singing the wordless "ah"s in the verses, while Bill Berry is the one singing the (mixed too loud here) "lighted"s in the chorus. It's that melding of the three different voices singing different parts that's a not inconsiderable part of their magic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it—in fact, it may have been the first Peter Gabriel-era Genesis song I loved unreservedly. I've heard it hundreds of times since and if anything that's only grown stronger.

But watching Steve Hackett play it now, I don't understand how it was written. How do you write something like this? I honestly don't understand. I get how "Hey Jude" was written, or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or even "So What" but this is just beyond me.

Lovely little trolling of his erstwhile bandmates at the very beginning too.

(And, yes, I know its genesis, if you will, in the prelude to Bach's first cello suite. I still don't get it.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Running with the Devil

Talk about running with the devil: smooth jazz is, without question, Satan's tunes of choice. It resembles music but with absolutely everything good stripped away.

But as with most things, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Por ejemplo.

If that's not my all-time favorite Van Halen performance—and it may very well be—it surely comes powerful close. As well as being an interestingly instructive look at the power of a record producer.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blow Away

This is such a horrible video. Even granting that the medium was in its relative infancy, it's still pretty terrible, thanks to George looking typically tense and awkward as he's being forced to mime in extreme close-up, dance, and frolic with, among other absurdities, a giant bath toy duck.

If you've never seen this before, no, that's not a typo. A giant bath toy duck.

But saying he was "forced to," despite appearances, isn't actually right. The video's director was Neil Innes, best known for sharing a birthday with me and for working extensively with Monty Python—so much so that he was sometimes known as The Seventh Python, and not without reason, writing or co-writing many of their songs, and appearing as (among other characters) the lead minstrel following Brave Sir Robin around in Monty Python and— the Holy Grail. Oh, and of course, he was the creative mastermind behind something called The Rutles. So I guess it's safe to say George—producer of (and actor in) Monty Python's Life of Brian, had some idea what he was getting into when he tapped Innes to direct this thing.

But that's not why I posted it. I posted it because it came up in my playlist this morning and listening the opening few seconds I realized that while no one in the world would put George Harrison in a list of the Top 10 Best Slide Guitarists, I will say that he very well may be the single most distinctive slide guitarist ever. His tone, his style, his melodic approach bears no resemblance I can hear to Elmore James or Duane Allman, leaning instead on his pop instincts, as well as perhaps his beloved Indian music—which, given the slide's ability to glide to or lightly touch upon notes a regular fretted guitar can't, might have allowed him to more closely approach Indian music's use of microtones.

Also, the goofy smile he gives the very first time he sings "be happy" is itself reason enough for this video. This horrible, horrible, wonderful, glorious video.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Baby Don't You Do It

Good golly but these gents occasionally would commence with the musical kicking of ass. I'd love to know what Holland–Dozier–Holland thought of this assault.

Also a pretty clear template for "The Real Me."

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Dear Dhani—

You've done a marvelous job with your father's legacy. But it's really time for a spiffy official video release of this tour.


Reason to Believe

PS: I really like "Staring Out to Sea."

Thursday, November 6, 2014


This is, unbelievably, probably (only) the third best song on Hunky Dory, which was, unbelievably, David Bowie's fourth LP.

And he was all of 24 when he wrote this. Sometimes I can't even.

I mean, the slightly crazy chord changes which, especially towards the end, have a circular quality that makes them seem as though they'll go on forever (and I'd be just fine with that). The metaphysical lyrics which, okay, might betray his age in spots ("knowledge comes with death's release" sounds powerful deep when you're 24 or younger but is more likely to elicit a sardonically raised eyebrow much later) but still manage to be kinda shockingly literate yet not pretentious or clunky. And, most of all, that melody. My God, that melody.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Not Dark Yet (An Election Day Bob Dylan Fix)

"It's not dark yet. But it's gettin' there."

As I have indicated before here at Reason to Believe, Election Day brings me invariably to Bob Dylan. Not sure why. Maybe it's because he sees things that most of the rest of us never see. Maybe it's because he can make cynicism so irresistible. Or maybe it's just because he's been making music for more than 50 years and that is indeed one of the truly enduring things about the Republic over the last half-century.

I remember when Krispy Kreme came to New England a decade ago and everyone went gaga over it. I mean, hell, me too. Warm glazed donuts? Yes please. Why should only the south have something that you can only otherwise get by sticking a cold glazed donut in the microwave. (Yeah, I know—Krispy Kremes were orgasmic. I get it.) Cars lined up by the dozens to get inside the restaurant to buy 'em. There were two kinds of donuts once they arrived: Krispy Kremes and get the hell out of my face with that weak nonsense you're calling a donut. Krspy! Kremes! Forever! That was us.

But then suddenly one day a few years ago...poof. Krispy Kreme was gone in these parts. As if it had never been here. And time moved on. And now I just realized I have taken something of a digression off this Election Day topic.

The point, I guess, is unlike Krispy Kremes, Bob Dylan endures. He's endured Goldwater and Nixon, Afghanistan and Iran-Contra. He's gone from mockingly calling himself a "song and dance man" to hawking Chryslers on TV. But he keeps making music. All these 50+ years down the road and he's still making damn music. And there's something decidedly American about that, isn't there?

So Happy Election Day and go and do your civic duty today. And to make it worth your while, here's one of the best songs he's written in the last 25 years (from his exceptional 1997 album Time Out Of Mind), yet one that given how prolific he is probably wouldn't make it even into his all-time Top 50.

But still. This is a great song. Listen to it. Then go vote. Then listen to it again. Because this is Election Day. And Bob Dylan, like democracy, is still here. Even if Krispy Kremes aren't.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

ABBA: a rebuttal

This is one of our three most popular posts.

We now present a brief counter-argument from a new guest blogger: