Archive | June, 2011

Happy Father’s Day

19 Jun

I suppose there are more cheerful songs I could have picked for a Father’s Day post, but I can’t imagine that I could find a prettier one.

I know it’s sacrilegious for me to say that I’m not the hugest Springsteen fan – especially so close to Clarence Clemons’ death – but it’s also true that as the years go by, I am appreciating Bruce’s music far more than I ever have before.  So in case you were already going to attack me, register that fact and get off my sac.

Nowhere is my appreciation so strong as on the “Nebraska” album.  So while you won’t get any Clemons tributes with this post,  you will get the most introspective song you’re likely to listen to on this lovely but Hallmark-y holiday:  “My Father’s House.”

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Motorcycle Mama

18 Jun

I am a sucker for one-hit wonders.  But one-hit wonders with a concept album?  Well that’s something even more special.

Sailcat was a group who had a hit in 1972 called “Motorcycle Mama.”  The album that this song was on tells the story of a motorcycle drifter who steals, falls in love, settles down, but is still the same person at his core.  Each song had a motorcycle-related drawing to illustrate it.  “Motorcycle Mama” is a kind of breezy ’70s tune that somehow seems like it would fit right into a soundtrack from that era.

Fast forward nearly 20 years to 1990, when Elekra Records celebrated its 40th anniversary with a compilation, Rubåtiyåt.  That album was actually an interesting concept in itself.  It featured then-current groups covering songs made famous by past Elektra/Asylum artists.

The SugarCubes covered “Motorcycle Mama” and I think their version is a more compelling one than the original.  But download ’em both and see what you think.  In either case, I wouldn’t mind seeing the world from someone’s Harley right now. Not as much as I’d like to see it from a Ducati, of course, but the Harley view might be more comfortable.

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June 17, 1966. 2:30a. Paterson, NJ

17 Jun

Forty-five years ago today, two black men went into the Lafayette Bar & Grill in Paterson, NJ and started shooting.  Two people were killed instantly, another died several weeks later and one man, though he lost sight in one eye, survived.  Despite a lack of firm evidence, boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was arrested.

He wasn’t a good guy growing up.  By the time he was 25, he had already spent time in a number of prisons and was AWOL from the Army.  But he was good at one thing:  boxing.  And so five years before the murders, upon release from jail, Ruben formally started his boxing career.

He was promptly nicknamed “Hurricane” because of his aggressive punching style.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Though he quickly rose through the middleweight ranks, the year before the murders, in 1965, he was not at his best.  He was losing against the top fighters.  Despite what Bob Dylan later sang (and we’ll get to that soon), he almost certainly would not have been the champion of the world.

But back to the triple homicide.  He was convicted, retried and convicted again and was given two consecutive life sentences.  (That’s a legal idea that has always confused me, but I’ll table that subject for now.)  A lot of people believed he did it.  A lot of people still do.  And a lot of people thought his conviction was based on inherent racism and that no real evidence was ever provided to warrant a conviction.

Advertising legend George Lois did a campaign on Rubin’s behalf.  George Lois once described his work this way: “All I ever tried to do was kick-ass in a big proletariat way” and the Free Hurricane campaign is one of the clearest examples of that.

Of course Bob Dylan was one of the most outspoken critics of Carter’s imprisonment and his brilliant song “Hurricane” (from one of the best albums ever, Desire) brought tons of attention to the case.

In 1985, the second conviction was overturned and the current prosecutors declined to pursue a third conviction.   And so, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was released.  And here we are, June 17, 2011: 45 years after the fact, 36 years after the song was recorded and 26 years after his ultimate release.

So whether the conviction was justified or an innocent man spent a lot of time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, at least one good thing did come out of it.  Of course, if he really didn’t commit the crime, I can’t imagine that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter would agree that a stunning Dylan song justified his whole life getting messed up, but what can I say?  I’m just a selfish music lover.

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Just Say No

16 Jun

Remember when I said I went to see Brian Wilson the other night?  I forgot to tell you two very important things.  First, the “leader” of the band was from NRBQ and second, that Mark Lindsay from the ’60s group, Paul Revere and the Raiders, was in the audience.  I could barely see him, but he was singled out and introduced and I was incredibly excited from afar.  I meant to check out that side of the stage when the show was over and I am annoyed that, in a Beach Boys haze, I forgot.

Paul Revere & The Raiders might be quickly dismissed by people today just because of how they looked.  Sure Mark Lindsay was tall and cute.  But they also capitalized on the Paul Revere name and dressed in revolutionary era outfits and stuff.   I could see how someone today might think they were a novelty act.  That is, I could see them thinking that until the music was played. Their sound of suburban teens meet garage punk is absolutely irresistible.  They were huge back in the day; they sold more records than anyone except The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at the height of it all.

But to me, their greatest accomplishment  is that they very well may have recorded THE best example of  THE hardest genre to nail in all of rock music, period.  Of course I’m referring to making an anti-drug song sound cool.  There are a few other songs I’d put up for contention in this contest, but I’m pretty sure that “Kicks” by Paul Revere & The Raiders would take the title.  Download now and just try to tell me I’m wrong.  I’ll bet you a kilo of horse I’m right.

A Supernatural Delight

15 Jun

You may have heard that the second of the three eclipses in this crazy, stressful and powerful eclipse season occurred today.  The first was a couple of weeks ago and the third will be in a couple of weeks and were both solar eclipses.  This one is the first lunar eclipse of the year.  It was a really long one too – over an hour and a half – and if you were in anywhere from Eastern Africa to Western Australia it would have been an amazing sight.  Here in good ole NYC, we’ll have to settle for seeing a regular full moon.

There are so many full moon rituals that have existed through the ages, but you’ll have to consult with someone a little more Wicca than me to find any magical spells.  (Or is it magikal?)  But before you hasten to Google, here’s one better suited to us anyway.  Hey, it’s worth a try at least:  dancing.

Here’s Wolfe’s cover of “Dancing in the Moonlight.”  I used to hate it and now I completely love its breeziness.   And just because it’s always fun to compare, here’s the original 1972 version by King Harvest.

The lesson for this second eclipse is clear:  you can’t dance and stay uptight.

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Guess I’m Dumb

14 Jun

Last night I was privileged enough to be invited to see Brian Wilson perform Gershwin songs.  What this meant in Brian Wilson’s world was that I was privileged enough to see Brian Wilson perform a slew of Beach Boys songs (most notably God Only Knows and Caroline, No) and a handful of Gershwin songs which sounded precisely like Beach Boys songs.  Don’t take that as a criticism.  It was stunning and I still have the harmonies of “Rhapsody in Blue” in my head.

As luck would have it, I’ve already done a post on the Beach Boys – one of their lesser known songs, but one of my favorites and hopefully now one of yours.  I’m still not sure if I will be able (or want to) stick to my premise of not repeating artists and Brian Wilson is certainly someone who deserves more space.  But be that as it may, for the time being I am staying the course.

And for this specific post with this specific song, I can give you something just as good.  You know I mean business when I say something is equal to Brian Wilson in any context.

Let’s go back to 1964.  It was the eve of a tour and Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown.  He decided he couldn’t take the stress of touring and decided to stay home and concentrate on writing and producing.  A super talented (and handsome!) session musician was selected to take his place.  And so, for a short time, Glen Campbell became a Beach Boy.

As a thank you for stepping in so quickly,  Brian gave Glen one of the songs which he had written for the Beach Boys’ next album.  In doing so Brian gave us all a huge gift.  It is hands-down the best Beach Boys song never recorded:   “Guess I’m Dumb” by the impressive (and handsome!) Glen Campbell.

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Abitrary Memories

13 Jun

It’s funny how certain songs can take you back to the most specific, yet completely meaningless, moments.  Dr. Alban’s “Sing Hallelujah” does just that.  Every single time I hear it, I’m transported back a bunch of years.  I was in LA  and sitting in red convertible Mustang rental car with the top down.  (I know…I know…)

We’re stopped at a red light on Wilshire.  I’m in the passenger seat and my crazy Orange Country/Filipino gay art director is driving and my Westchester/Connecticut straight preppy blond copywriter is crunched up in the back seat.  The song is BLASTING and the art director is singing along with it twice as loud.

The weather is perfect and I’m laughing and the copywriter is annoyed at both of us, but in a kind of loving way.  Or at least in a not completely hating us kind of way.  (We were out there for 4 months together, so he was used to this type of thing.)

All of a sudden, I saw a huge rat climb up a palm tree and screamed and the art director looked at me and just sang, “Sing it!”

Then the light turned green.

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Vegetable Man, Where Are You?

12 Jun

I spent a good part of the day wandering around various North Fork farm stands and flower stalls.  I’m still compulsively memorizing all the Victorian meanings of flowers from that book I’ve previously told you about.  I’m pretty good with remembering definitions, but I’m massively unschooled in what the actual flowers look like.   Even common plants elude me.  Although I can tell you with certainty that a tansy (with a ‘t’) means ‘I declare war on you,’ I am just as sure to misidentify a pansy — even though I can tell you it means ‘think of me.’

My current fascination is really out of character.   I’m not someone who plants things.   I hate bugs and dirt and worms.  The meanings behind the plants that the bugs and dirt and worms surround at least give me a reason to try to overcome my squeamishness.   I’m guessing that this phase might not last too long, but I’m simultaneously hoping I’m wrong.

All of this is true but is just a prelude to what I really want to discuss:  Syd Barrett.   It’s about time Syd made an appearance, huh?  One of the original members of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett was one of the most remarkable musicians in all of rock music.  It was Syd who defined Pink Floyd’s early sound and their first thoroughly revolutionary album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was Syd through and through.  And through.

It’s hard to envision that the person who wrote almost all their material would no longer be a real member of the band by the second album, but that’s what doing a lot of LSD will do.  Syd’s behavior was becoming increasingly more erratic and pretty soon the band declared he was no longer a member.  Depending on what you believe, he was either schizophrenic, mentally unsound or just reclusive.  After Pink Floyd, he did release a couple of solo records but most of the material was written during his tenure with them.  He really had largely shut down by the time the split had occurred.

For the next 30 years, there was always some dabbling in the music world but none of it took.  He moved home with his mother, painted and gardened and shut out the world.  I wonder if Pink Floyd always suspected that he might one day return to what he was.   “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” are just two of their tributes to Syd.  In any case, he was a crazy diamond who died at age 60 leaving a lot of unanswered questions.

There are so many absolutely brilliant Syd Barrett songs I could pick but I’m going to go with the super psychedelic “Vegetable Man.”  It was supposed to be on Pink Floyd’s second album but wasn’t released.  Of course as it stands as an unreleased track, it’s not as fully realized or well recorded as the singles from the Piper at the Gates of Dawn album (“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play”) but it does go perfectly with my plant-obsessive day, no?

I’m also including another version of it by The Soft Boys because that’s a fabulous version (a) and (b) their production shows off the song really well.

Okay, while you’re downloading, I’m going to go eat some fresh-off-the-plant strawberries.  Not surprisingly, strawberries mean ‘perfection.’   Don’t believe me?  Send me some lavender (‘mistrust’).  Sick of me yet?  Yellow carnations.  (‘disdain’).  But beware (oleander), you already know I am familiar with tansies.

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Keep On Truckin’

11 Jun

When you hear Eddie Kendricks voice, it’s usually on one of the massive hits that he and The Temptations had when he was one of their lead singers. He’s the one you hear on “Just My Imagination, “The Way You Do the Things You Do, “Get Ready” and lots more.

I always preferred his solo smash “Keep On Truckin’.”  It’s a great song plus I am kind of obsessed with that phrase. Not in the R. Crumb way. And not in the old jazz way.  But in the disco era way.

I’d really like to bring it back into the vernacular.  I’m just never sure exactly how to use it. Do you say it when you are leaving someplace? When someone is doing something cool that you want to continue? I really don’t know.

Maybe I should just start incorporating into conversations and hope for the best.

I was originally planning to post Eddie Kendricks’ song “Date With the Rain” because, well, it’s classic disco magic and really, who doesn’t love a guy who hides his tears in the rain?  But my fingers started typing without my mind involved and so now you get “Keep On Truckin’.”  And not the “Keep On Truckin’, Part 1” that was the hit which is around 3 and a half minutes, but the full 8 minute extravaganza!

Okay, that’s all I have to say…except, of course, keep on truckin’.

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LANDSLlllllide

10 Jun

It’s hot.  I’m feeling melancholy.   My life may be crashing down on me.  Obviously the song for the day is “Landslide.”

I personally think the original Fleetwood Mac song is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, but there is something about this cover version by Smashing Pumpkins that draws me in.   It’s actually just Billy Corgan and a guitar and the simplicity and rawness and honesty is pretty powerful.  I’m not even a big Smashing Pumpkins fan and I don’t always even like Billy’s voice, but this gets my vote.

All in favor, say aye.

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