Archive | July, 2011

Oh, Hell-o

28 Jul

July hasn’t been a good month for consistency of postings here.  Good thing August is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, for me, I’m fairly certain that hell is around the corner as well, just waiting.  It stays dormant for awhile, and then poof! you have a visitor.  The worst kind of hell is the kind of hell like Tricky’s “Hell is Around the Corner.”

That’s the kind that seem so lovely and alluring, so sexy and great that you hit replay again and again until you realize too late that you’ve invited hell into your life. And made its supper and given it a warm bath.

Or maybe …. just maybe …. hell is actually lovely and alluring and sexy and great and just gets a bad rap for having, well, a hellish name.

We’ll see.  Something’s round the corner.  That’s for sure.


Here’s What Happened in Obama’s Speech Tonight

25 Jul

In a nutshell, Obama said that America is days away from reaching into its pockets and only coming up with lint.  He said it slightly better than that, but not quite as eloquently as Eric B. & Rakim did in 1987’s brilliant “Paid in Full.”

Oh, and it’s all the Republicans’ fault for playing politics.

And then Speaker of the House John Boehner said that he used to own a small business in Ohio and tried to hypnotize American citizens with his blue eyes.

Then Master Chef came on and I worried that suddenly the eggs benedict crisis might take precedence.


Pine Tar

24 Jul

I’ve had Kansas City on my mind today.  On this date back in 1983, George Brett and his infamous pine-tar incident brought disgrace to the city and baseball.  Or maybe it didn’t.  I guess it depends who you root for.

Let me set the scene:

The Royals were playing the Yankees in New York.  It was the top of the ninth with two outs.  Royal George Brett comes up to bat and hits a two-run homer.  The score is now 5-4.  The Yankees manager, Billy Martin, noticed that Brett’s bat had pine tar on it about 6 inches further than the rules allow.  For you non-baseball fans out there, a) shame on you, and b) pine tar makes the bat easier to grip.

The game was called in the Yankees favor.  There was a massive protest from George Brett and the Royals and controversy for weeks about whether or not the home run should have counted.  Eventually the game resumed on August 18th.  The Royals won.  But the tarnish remained.  Even though I think George Brett was an amazing baseball player, I still think of the pine tar incident first.  And when I think of Kansas City, that’s what I think of first as well.

I’ve never been to Kansas.  Nor Missouri.  So I obviously haven’t been to either Kansas City.  But I’m dying to go.  Naturally not because I want to see honest baseball players.  No, I want to go mainly because I can’t, for the life of me, comprehend why it’s figured so strongly in American music mythology.  My friend who grew up in Missouri describes it as a ‘modern-day cow city.’  And my friend who grew up in Kansas merely said, ‘it’s not a very big place.’  Hmmm.

But in the mid-20th Century at least, it must have been a destination.  There are about five million songs about Kansas City and probably two-thirds of them talk about K.C. women.  And I’m not just talking about the most well-known Kansas City song.  We’ll get to that momentarily.

There are tons of blues songs and lots of jazz songs that are all named after or are about Kansas City.  When I read about it, though, the most interesting thing I’ve found is that the Missouri side has more fountains than any city in the world except for Rome. And this disconnect between reigning supreme in pop culture and being a big ‘meh’ in life is why I want to visit so badly.  I’m sure that when I do get there, I will discover the secrets of the town and have learn all about its steamy underbelly just like all the songwriters must have.

“Kansas City,” the song you’re probably thinking of, has a pretty interesting story behind it.  Leiber and Stoller wrote it in 1952, way before they were huge successes.  They were only 19 – and they hadn’t been to Kansas City either.  They were from L.A.  They had West Coast rhythm and blues artist Little Willie Littlejohn record it.  Federal Records, who released the track, had it renamed “K.C. Lovin’” because it sounded cooler.  It didn’t chart, but I think it’s still  the best version out there.

Seven years later, Wilbert Harrison recorded his version in New York, changing one of the lines to the now-famous “they got some crazy little women there, and I’m gonna get me one” and reverting back to the song’s original title, “Kansas City.”  This version made it to #1, but there were not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 other versions of the song in market at the exact same time.  Ah, for the days of the Wild West of the music biz….  Can you imagine that happening now?  I love crazy stuff like that.

Sadly I just learned that 12th Street and Vine doesn’t exist anymore, which means one less instagram post to make if I do finally make it there one day.  But rest assured, I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot of pix of fountains.  Maybe I’ll even put some pine tar on one.


I’ll Drink To That

23 Jul

Maybe it’s because Amy Winehouse died and I’ve heard her name about 10,000 times today, but I’ve had the word ‘wine’ swirling around in my brain all day.  Usually when I use wine and swirling around, my brain is not getting used at all, so this is a special day indeed.

Whatever the reason, thinking of the word ‘wine’ soon changed to thinking of the song “Strawberry Wine” by My Bloody Valentine.  This song is hazy in the same way that I’d feel after a bottle of strawberry wine.  Of course, in reality, no one named Margaux could ever even sip something so pedestrian as strawberry wine, but if I did ever, I know I’d be extra hazy….just like this track.

This business about strawberry wine reminds me of something.  You may already know that I had a friend who lost her virginity on Immaculate Conception Day.  Well here’s another story about her:  we went to some party once that was hosted by older kids who were dropouts and drug dealers (read:  attractive bad boys).  She drank a bottle of blackberry brandy and had to get taken to the hospital via ambulance to get her stomach pumped.  I had left long before this eventful incident.  (Let the record state that I didn’t even drink back then and I was home on time.)

But I do remember that my first thought when I heard about it the next day wasn’t even one of concern.  That was my second.  My first was “Blackberry Brandy?!  Ew, gross!”  Even a non-drinker knew that.

So while I can pretty much say with certainty that I will never drink strawberry wine as I’m sure it’s in the same vein as blackberry brandy, I do love consuming it aurally.

And to that I say, cheers.


Liberation For Women -That’s What I Preach, Preacher Man

22 Jul

I just had a realization.  When it’s freezing out in, say, the middle of February, the type of songs about summer that I want to listen to are of the sweet variety.  But on actual days like today when it was 85 degrees at 5am and now is currently 104 (ahhh), the summer songs I want to listen to are of the slower and more hypnotic variety.  Like yesterday’s song for instance.

Or like today’s.  There is simply no better song for the moment than the steamy “Peaches” by The Stranglers.  It mixes heat and sand and sex all with the a plodding rhythm – and I say that in the most complimentary sense.  I’ve basically had it on repeat all day.   It so perfectly fits the moment that even though you may have it in your collection already, it needed to become an official resident of Margauxville.

But just in case you don’t have it, here’s something to mull over about The Stranglers as you’re downloading.  I cannot wrap my head around the fact that they started in 1974 and are still going.  Of course there have been some line-up changes, but even so…that’s crazy.

“Peaches” is from their infancy – 1977, although if someone told me it was recorded yesterday, or tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised.  It’s as in-your-face now as it ever was.  The only thing that could make it better for me is if I were actually walking down the beaches right now.

Your Summer Theme Song

21 Jul

Everyone was complaining about the heat today. And as I look at the 100 degree prediction for tomorrow, I’m guessing there will be even more complaints a-coming.

First thing this morning, I biked to Hot Yoga where I too complained about the heat – not enough. I thought the teacher was over-compensating and turning on the fans and opening the windows too much. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who goes to Bikram and cools down.

I just put away my down comforter a couple of weeks ago.  But I think even I may turn on the A/C tonight, mostly because I worry that my units just feel useless and unwanted and I certainly don’t want any of my inanimate objects to feel let down. I have enough living and breathing people in my life who feel that way.

So while I love the steamy, sultry, swamp-like weather, I get that most people don’t.  And so for all of you out there, here’s your theme song: “City Too Hot” by the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.


Knuckle Cracking and Other Bad News

20 Jul

I’ve been vexed all day.

The lion’s share is due to my having heard some news that has been eating away at me almost without me consciously realizing it.  My bad mood just snuck up.  Fuck you, damn news.  (Sorry, that was uncalled for.  I blame my mood.)

On top of what is really bothering me, there are the little things.  Missing yoga.  Screaming kid on the subway.  That sort of thing.  Nothing major, but because I’m already in a lousy frame of mind, all these unimportant things seem more annoying.  And on top of all that is what I’d like to refer to as The Knuckle Cracking Incident, but unfortunately will no doubt be the Daily Knuckle Cracking Incident.

I despise the sound of knuckles cracking.  It makes my skin crawl.  Even if I normally like to be around someone, it makes me want to run.  By the way, this is probably valuable information in case we are ever together and you want to get rid of me quickly.

Lately I’ve been around a knuckle cracker.  Wait, let me re-phrase.  I am around a knuckle cracker who knows how much it bothers me and still persists on cracking his knuckles.  I don’t think this is a good sign.  I think if this were a novel, his continuation would no doubt be the initial foreshadowing of some doomed future.  I don’t know – maybe it’s just my mood.  We’ll see, I guess.  I’ll check back with you in 50 pages or so.

The only thing good about the knuckle cracker is that I’ve had Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ “Finger Popping Time” in my head because of him.  Actually, that’s not the only good thing about the knuckle cracker.  The knuckle cracker has a lot of good things about him when he’s not cracking.  But as a knuckle cracker, well, Hank Ballard is definitely the only good thing about him.


The Back Seat of My Car

18 Jul

The other day I heard that Paul McCartney was playing Yankee Stadium and I realized I would have next to no interest in ever going to that.  Now I know a lot of people who did go to the Citi Field show a couple of years ago and loved it, but I can’t help but wonder why.

Now I’m as much (or more) of a Beatles fan as the next guy though, like many of them, I’d classify myself more as a John Apple Scruff.  But there are still plenty of Paul songs I think are amazing.  And there are several Wings tracks that are great too.  So why do I have to stifle an eye-roll every time I think of Sir Paul?  I have a feeling I’ll perfect my telekinetic powers sooner than I will be able to stop that eye rolling.  It’s just that the combo of the current Paul McCartney and the vast output of schlock is so distasteful.

But I realized I do in fact have a way to surmount this problem.  I will forgive “Wonderful Christmas Time,” “Silly Love Songs” and all the other crap  because Paul McCartney is, at the end of the day, responsible for one of the most epic and beautiful songs of all-time.

The Beach Boys-esqe “The Back Seat of My Car,” from ‘Ram,’ his second solo album, will erase all that and more.  ‘Ram’ was really under appreciated when it was released, but in the years since, nearly every critic who maligned it has done an about-face on the matter.

‘Ram’ was also hated by John Lennon, who felt that there were digs at him (including the line ‘we believe that we can’t be wrong’ from “The Back Seat of My Car”).   And to top it off, many fans hearing this for the first time in 1971 felt the album was inconsequential.  But they’re wrong.  I bet if I tracked down each one of those people who heard it when it was first released, 9 out of 10 of them would, like the critics, revise their initial reaction.

2011 ears are the perfect ones to listen to this.  I think rock critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine summed it up best:  Ram now “looks like nothing so much as the first indie pop album, a record that celebrates small pleasures with big melodies, a record that’s guileless and unembarrassed to be cutesy….(it) seems more like a unique, exquisite pleasure with each passing year.”

Okay, enough talking.  Listen to the pure beauty of this song.  It’s pretty amazing.

Plus it’s about having sex in the back seat of a car.

The Night I’m Sure I’ll Learn to Move a Spoon

16 Jul

I recently discovered Telekinesis.  Let me clarify.  I discovered telekinesis with a lowercase ‘t’ years ago when I was determined to hone my talent for remote influencing.  Tried as I might, however, I never did move a spoon across the table.

But Telekinesis with a capital ‘T’ is a band I just recently heard for the first time.  It’s actually not a band, but rather one person, Michael Benjamin Lerner.  He’s from Seattle as you could probably guess once you download the song.  Unless you thought he was from Williamsburg, an easily understandable mistake for which I won’t mock you.

I love the song “You Turn Clear in the Sun” and not just because it has a killer title.  That said, you may think it’s just another piece of fluff when you hear it.  It isn’t.  I urge you to listen to this three times in a row and its magic will open up to you.  I’m sure of it.  It’s a deceptively simple song that is actually crazy irresistible.  And it just reeks of summer.

But the bigger news is that I think I just inspired myself to try telekinesis with a small ‘t’ again.  Now I’m excited!  Thank you, Telekinesis the band-that’s-not-a-band for galvanizing me.  I’ll report back!


Sadism, Masochism and Bastille Day

14 Jul

Happy Bastille Day, tout le monde!

It is one of my top two favorite holidays along with Canada Day.  One of my most treasured Bastille Day celebrations ever was when someone planned a particularly romantic froggy date complete with having a crown of flowers made for me to wear – in red, white and blue of course.  It’s France’s colors too, you know!  We dined at the now sadly defunct restaurant Provence and although I don’t remember for sure, we probably drank a super swanky bottle of Margaux.

One of the many things I love about July 14th is that this date ensures that I spend at least one day thinking about the Marquis de Sade.  I went through an obsessive period where I read every piece of his writings as well as a couple of biographies.  Needless to say, he fascinates me.  Now laymen of the Marquis de Sade may be wondering right about now why I’m bringing him up on this day.

The Marquis was imprisoned in the Bastille and it is theorized by many that his incendiary shouts (“They are killing the prisoners here!”) had a direct effect on the storming of the Bastille 12 days later.  There doesn’t seem to be much debate that those words were actually spoken.  Well, in French, not English, but uttered nonetheless.

It saddens me to know that Marie Antoinette never really said, “Let them eat cake!” but while we’re on the subject of famous quotes, I must digress.  It truly bothers me that George Washington (as I said, I’m digressing) probably never said “I cannot tell a lie.”  My mother broke this news to me quite recently.  I cannot tell a lie, it really shook my world.  But back the French…

Bastille Day and the Marquis de Sade are thoroughly intertwined in my mind and given this, I have the perfect song for today.  “He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss” by The Crystals is one of the sickest and most lovely of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound outputs.  Now I’ve always loved this song for its sheer sonic force and the fact that it was the audio equivalent of a car crash.  I want to resist, but I am unable.  And this song is all I thought of during Phil’s murder trial.

Now don’t start thinking I’m advocating abusive relationships, but the balance between pleasure and pain in any aspect of life is a pretty fascinating thing to think about.  Theoretically speaking of course.  Anyway, I’m going to pour a little champagne now and toast to the Marquis de Sade, Phil Spector and The Crystals.  I encourage you to do the same.

And Happy Bastille Day!