Archive | May, 2011

Field of Dreams

11 May

The other day a friend and I were discussing what the worst job we ever had was.  Mine was a telemarketing gig for Lawn Doctor.  I didn’t make any money since I only got paid if I booked an appointment.  And I never did book a single one.  That job is notable also for starting me on my lifelong road of rejection, but I suppose that’s a subject better suited to my other (horribly neglected) blog.

Oddly enough, my second worst job also involved the phone.  One summer I worked for an answering service that covered doctors, plumbers and other folks.  You know, the professions that people only call after hours when they’re freaking out.  I’d relay the messages to the doctors and plumbers and other folks, but inevitably they wouldn’t return the calls right away.  And then I’d get called back and yelled by the person freaking out.  I’d call the doctor, plumber or other folk again and remind them to call the person and then they’d yell at me for disturbing them twice.  Fun.  Come to think of it, this job is also fodder for the future rejection post!

But all that aside, my friend had a much worse job.  His was hard manual labor working the cornfields.  I bet you thought I lived in an ivory tower and didn’t have migrant worker type friends.  Don’t be so quick to judge.  I’m actually much more well-rounded than I get credit for.

So although the my fieldhand friend only touched on it briefly, I couldn’t get his story out of my head.  Imagine a summer sweating, straining, reaching high up and getting eaten alive by bugs in the blistering sun.  I can’t believe I complained about being hung up on or yelled at.  At least I was sitting in an air-conditioned office.  I guess it’s good to walk a mile in someone else’s hot sticky sneakers once in awhile.

Why am I  telling you all this?  Well it’s really just an appropriate preamble to today’s song, “Workin’ in a Cornfield” by Junior Murvin.  It’s from the classic album, Police and Thieves, which is probably the song for which he’s most famous.  But that album is chock full of goodies and this one is proof.

And, later on, when you complain that you have so many emails to answer, just remember, it could be a lot worse.

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Am I the Same Song?

10 May

I really love the studio systems of the old record labels.  I’m sure it wasn’t the best for the artists, but there are so many things I think just wouldn’t happen today that I am so glad happened back then.

For instance….

Barbara Acklin recorded “Am I the Same Girl” in 1968.  It was co-written by her husband, Eugene Record, who was the lead singer for the fabulous soul group, The Chi-Lites.

Before her version was even released, the producer removed her vocal track, had a piano track added and released that instrumental as “Soulful Strut.”  It was credited to Young Holt Unlimited, but legend has it that neither Young nor Holt were even playing on the recording and that it was actually just the work of the record company’s session band.

“Soulful Strut” was a monster hit – and, incidentally,  the absolute perfect thing to play in your headphones when you’re walking around a very sunny NYC.  Yes, indeed.

But back to the story.  A few months later, they ended up releasing the original Acklin vocal version.  It did well, but not nearly as well as the instrumental version.

Of course so many people are familiar with this song because of Swing Out Sister’s hit decades later, but I’ll pretend I don’t know that.  These are really the only two versions you need.

Now, go on.  Download, sync and take a walk…a soulful strut.

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Margaux, R.I.P.

9 May

Illustration by Howard Margulies

Today is the 119th anniversary of my, um, Margaux’s death – and the 118th anniversary of my, um her ghost doing its once a year visit.

Don’t believe me?  I certainly don’t say this lightly.  I have proof right here:   “Margaux (The 9th of May)” by The Browns.  Please, download now.  It’s the least you can do for my reincarnated self, um, my namesake.  You’ll hear how the grisly death occurred on what should have been a very happy wedding day.  I have to admit, I kind of like that.  It’s such a romantic tragedy.

In between the death, in 1892,  and the present, there existed a little device called an answering machine.  And for eons,  the song’s refrain – “Margaux…Margaux…Margaux’s gone away” (beep) –  was my outgoing message.  It was so perfect – and this perfection made it obvious my, um, her death wasn’t in vain.

Of course I love this song.  But I think you will too.  And a huge thanks to Howard Margulies for his utterly fantastic illustration commemorating this all-important date, the 9th of May.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day!

Don’t think for one second that I’m not aware I stiffed you yesterday, but I was away and had no access to internet.  I’m making it up by giving you T-W-O songs for Mother’s Day.  Please forgive me?

First up, one of the the very best songs for this special day that I can think of, “Mama Used To Say” by Junior.  I have loved this song since the moment I heard the 12″ single years ago and every time I’ve heard it since, I have felt the exact same way.

Let’s keep it in the same vein for the second song with The Jackson Five’s “Mama’s Pearl.”

This Mother’s Day entry feels so musically cohesive now that you probably think yesterday’s lack of posting was actually intentional.  Phew, I feel forgiven!

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Oh Brother!

6 May

Poor Michael Penn.  He’s the most overlooked one in his whole family.  Imagine this:  first you grow up with celeb parents (Leo Penn, Eileen Ryan) and then your younger brothers become huge (Chris, R.I.P.) and huger (Sean).  Then you fall in love and get married to a star.  (Aimee Mann)

It’s not like Michael was unknown of course.  His records always get a mass of critical raves, but in the scheme of things, well…’nuff said.

It’s really a good thing that fame is so unimportant.

Here’s one example of why those critical raves always happen:  “Me Around” from his third release, Resigned.  Lovely, no?

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Cinco de Mayo

5 May

¡Happy Cinco de Mayo, todos!

While I can’t offer you margaritas or luchadores, I can offer you something else Mexican:  a song by Julieta Venegas.  “Me Van a Matar” may sound familiar to you as it was used in the fabulous film, Amores Perros.  I first discovered her a while before that, on some Spanish radio station that was barely coming in.   I was driving and had to hope I had scribbled her name down correctly.  Thankfully I did.

She went on to have big Latin success, winning a bunch of Latin Grammys and other awards.  Basically, she’s one of those artists that is really well-known in that Latin niche but is not that much out of it.  And that’s too bad.  You should check her out.  Maybe even while drinking a little tequila.

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Let’s Go Baby

4 May

There’s a lot of slow, stagnant muck in my life right now and I’d love nothing more than to invigorate it all with some forward movement.  And so I present the universe with “Let’s Go Baby” by Robert Parker.  This song was actually the B-Side to his monster hit “Barefootin'” and while not all that dissimilar, I like it better.

But back to me.  I’m thinking that if everyone downloads it and plays it three times in a row this will somehow stimulate The Action to start already.  It’s possible!

C’mon, try it.  For me.  One – two – three – go!

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Cherry Blossom Time

3 May

I feel like I may have been overly pop focused the past few days, so thought I’d add a little complexity here with some Tindersticks.

“Cherry Blossoms” is from their second album and I find the mumbly and atmospheric story-song absolutely hypnotic.  The piano alone is so pretty but in conjunction with the strings, the dense moodiness is ridiculously evocative.  It’s magical and sad at the same time – and therefore mirrors my mood exactly.

Gorgeous available for download here.

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66….6?

2 May

Don’t you think it’s an unbelievable coincidence that the deaths of both Hitler and Bin Laden were each announced on 5/1?  66 years apart.  I’m sure if we put our collective thinking caps on, we can come up with another “6” to make it 666.  Plus, the other weird thing is that whole stupid “Mission Accomplished” banner by Bush was done on 5/1 as well back in 2003.  So very strange.

Coincidences aside, such a momentous occasion gets you not one but two downloads today.

First up, “Somebody Got Murdered” from The Clash’s seminal album, Sandinista!  I’ve always adored this song.  Wouldn’t it have made a better choice for a single than “Hitsville U.K.”?   The violence of the lyrics is such a great contrast to the poppy melody.  Love!

I couldn’t resist also posting “Killing An Arab” by The Cure.  Now, stop getting up in my grill.  That is not a racist posting, just an obvious one.  You all know already that it’s about Camus’ The Stranger.  However, since I didn’t want it to be too much of a lame obvious choice, I actually posted the John Peel Sessions version.  That works, right?

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Workers of the World Unite

1 May

Billy Bragg is a staple round these parts and there’s pretty much no date that would make more sense to post him than today, May Day.  He’s not only practically synonymous with activism and worker solidarity, but he’s also a damn great songwriter.

Here’s “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards,” from the particularly amazing 1988 album, Worker’s Playtime.   It may not make you take to the streets, but I hope it makes you think a little bit.  He’s good for that.

Go on –  join the struggle while you may…the Revolution is just a t-shirt away.

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