Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season

 

Happy May the 4th! I do hate how commercialized this holiday has become. With all this starkiller base and pod-racer shopping, as well as Alderan key parties, people forget the true meaning of Star Wars Day–how many midi-chlorians you have in your bloodstream. Also, remember today is more than just Earth Day–remember that the Bluths also set it as Cinco de Quatro.

In honor of such a momentous day on so many levels, it’s time for the third set of songs from my top 100 list. If you missed the first two, well I’m making a sad frowny face in your direction, but I will help you overcome such an oversight with the help of the two links below to parts 1 and 2.

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

  • Mercy–TV on the Radio
  • Ruby Tuesday–The Rolling Stones
  • Smoking Gun–Robert Cray
  • Love, Reign O’er Me–The Who
  • Another Tricky Day–The Who
  • Mandinka–Sinead O’Connor
  • Days/This Time Tomorrow–Ray Davies
  • Man on the Moon–R.E.M.
  • Amie–Pure Prairie League
  • Silent Lucidity–Queensryche

The 2013 song “Mercy” by TV on the Radio is far and away the most recent song to make my list. It’s not even from an album–it’s a single they released that did not hit any charts. The song starts off great and intense, but it kicks it up a notch or twelve as the song goes on–the beat is relentless. I am not a big concert goer these days, but I think I’d go see TV on the Radio just to see this song performed live.

The British Invasion’s Fab 4 bands (the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Kinks) are a prominent part of this group of 10, with every group but the Beatles showing up in this list of 10. Of the four, the Rolling Stones is probably the group I listen to the least, but “Ruby Tuesday” is my favorite song of theirs (although I would probably have another three to five Stones songs if the list expanded to 500 or so–I just would be adding many more Beatles, Who, and Kinks songs).

When I first started listening to music, I was more about singles than albums. If I would listen to an album, it was often because three or more “hits” from the record had received radio airplay. The first album for me that was different was Strong Persuader. Sure, the song “Smoking Gun” first attracted me to the album, but it was the first album I remember liking from beginning to end. I think the fact that it was this blues sound I was not hearing in most pop songs that day. I loved listening to that cassette tape over and over, and would even say it was my first “Desert Island Disc.” It even resulted in me buying Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on its release date. I will admit that I did not enjoy that album as much as Strong Persuader, but I still love Robert Cray, with his cover of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” being my favorite number from the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll soundtrack.

Back to the standard bearers of the first wave of the British Invasion. I love the Beatles in total the most, but I think there’d be more Who songs on my favorites list in total. I know that I’ve said this repeatedly, but a longer list would be dominated by even more Who songs. A top 200 list would have 2 songs from Quadrophenia for example, but only 1, “Love Reign O’er Me”, made the top 100. (The other song that almost made the list was “5:15”.) I think most people would list Tommy as their favorite Who rock opera, but I am more of a Quadrophenia man myself. When doing some followup research for this blog posting, I was surprised that “Another Tricky Day” was never a chart hit. In my opinion, it is a much stronger single from Face Dances than “You Better, You Bet.”

Speaking of songs that weren’t hits, I was exposed to “Mandinka” through college radio airplay. I was the cliche kid who learned more about alternative music once I went to college. My freshman year in college saw the music acts 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., and Sinead O’Connor added to my musical rotation. After The Lion and The Cobra came out, I would have expected Sinead to be a much bigger artists, but her only big hit was the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

My Kinks entry in this batch is more of a Kinks-related entry. Ray Davies released an album in 2011 in which he re-imagined Kinks songs by performing them with other artists. The album has an eclectic batch of contributors, including Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Lucinda Williams, Black Francis [of the Pixies], Jon Bon Jovi, Paloma Faith, and more. But to me, the strongest pairing on the album is the work with Mumford & Sons on the medley of “Days” and “This Time Tomorrow.” Those that have been following this blog know I have a real soft spot for tribute albums (and my number two song of all time is from a tribute album–how’s that for a teaser?), and this is one of the more unique tribute albums as it seems to be an artist paying tribute to himself.

One of the other college alternative artists I began listening to as a freshman (thanks to my record album purchase of Document) was R.E.M. I have come to love their early work, but the two songs that make this list are later releases. The one in this group is from another desert-island disc candidate for me–Automatic for the People. Every song on the album is phenomenal, but “Man on the Moon” is my favorite. I also loved hearing it on the trailer for the movie by the same name. That’s a movie I have not seen in years, but I think it might be worth revisiting with my kids this summer when they are home from college.

When making these kinds of lists, it’s always interesting to think about when I first really connected with a song. For the Pure Prairie League’s “Amie,” it was thanks to Freaks and Geeks. (If you have not watched that show, go an do it RIGHT NOW, and not just because it launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Siegel, Busy Phillips, and Linda Cardellini. Every one of the 18 episodes is so powerful and raw–it was the first show that got the high school experience perfectly down. I believe it is on Netflix instant, so go and watch it. One episode featured them going to the local planetarium for a laser Pink Floyd show, but show up on the wrong date and end up seeing a country and western show instead. Sorry for the spoiler, but I promise it will not lessen your enjoyment of the entry. Over the closing credits, “Amie” plays–by the way, the acting and writing are the best thing about the show, but the soundtrack is also pitch perfect.

The last song on this batch is a power ballad and one of three songs that makes me think of my father. I already mentioned “My Way” by Frank Sinatra in part one, and “The Living Years” probably the most on-the-nose choice, by Mike + the Mechanics, did not make my 100 (but would make the 200). “Silent Lucidity” in specifics and the album Empire more broadly, feels like the closest another band got to re-creating the Pink Floyd sound. This song is one of my go-to numbers if I want something to help me drift off from a stressful day–it is the perfect capper to a tough day, and the perfect ending to a group of ten songs.

 

A son ten years older than the father?

BBoy am I getting behind on this thing–I am going to have to pull some all-nighters to get back on schedule! Well, I’m also going to give a bit of the short shrift to the songs that I heard the week of July 9th–when I get to them I think you’ll completely understand. Meanwhile, I hit the gym to make up for lost missing car time.

Friday, July 7, 2012

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Cheyenne Anthem–Kansas
  • Chicago Is So Two Years Ago–Fall Out Boy
  • Child In Time–Deep Purple
  • Child Star–Ron Sexsmith
  • Child’s Play–WWE
  • Childhood Memories–Iris DeMent
  • Childhood Remembered–Danny Elfman
  • Children Go Where I Send Thee–Natalie Merchant
  • Children of the Dark–Richard Thompson + Danny Thompson
  • Children Play with Earth–Arrested Development
  • Chimes of Freedom–Bob Dylan
  • Chimes of Freedom [live]–Bob Dylan

Boy isn’t “Anthem” a correct (if a bit pretentious) term when describing a Kansas song? Their songs are so sweeping and over the top–I can only take them a bit at a time and then I’m all set for quite a while (and my wife is just like me, except she can do just fine with no Kansas and then she’d be all set.) Speaking of pretentious, if the song title is long, overinvolved, too clever for its own good, and possibly not actually tied to the song itself, then you’ve probably got yourself a Fall Out Boy song. The funny thing is that I like their music; I just don’t get the titles. My list then swung back to 70s power rock with a Deep Purple track. Back in the 70s, when I wasn’t a big listener of music, I do remember hearing “Smoke on the Water” quite a bit, but that was the extent of my Deep Purple knowledge.

While my Ron Sexsmith knowledge is equally shallow, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve heard from the two albums a friend gave my wife years ago. “Child’s Play” is one of my least favorite WWE Entrance themes, as I never was the biggest fan of the Eugene character. It almost feels like Iris DeMent and Danny Elfman should combine the next two songs, as “Childhood Memories Remembered” makes a lot of sense, although seeing that Elfman’s piece is from the first Batman movie, and probably refers to Bruce Wayne thinking about the brutal murder of his parents, perhaps DeMent would like to stay as far away from that childhood as possible. Iris is probably a better match for the next artist, Natalie Merchant. (After all, Natalie did cover DeMent’s “Let The Mystery Be”.) Here, Merchant is contributing one of my favorite underrated Christmas songs.

The children’s section wraps up with songs from Richard and Danny Thompson and Arrested Development, both of which (I thought) have an extra touch of irony on the kid’s front. I was prepared to discuss how Danny is the son of Richard Thompson, and it’s nice to see him performing with his father, but actual research taught me that Danny is not related to Richard (and is actually 10 years older!) So thank God for research! The second “Child..” song, “Children Play With Earth” is from the Christian rap group Arrested Development, which is of course a great childhood term. My list closed with two versions of “Chimes of Freedom”, one of which closes the 4-disc Dylan tribute set we’ve been listening to often recently.

Saturday, July 8, 2012

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • China Girl–David Bowie
  • China Girl–David Bowie
  • China Girl–David Bowie
  • Chinese Democracy–Guns ‘N Roses
  • The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)–The Chipmunks
  • The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)–The Chipmunks
  • Chiquitita–ABBA
  • Chiron–All That Remains
  • Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns–Mother Love Bone
  • Chop Me Up–Justin Timberlake Feat. Timberland & Three-6 Mafia
  • Chop Suey!–System of a Down

Well, if you have to hear a song three times in a row when working out, “China Girl” isn’t that bad a candidate to fill the role. As aptly demonstrated in The Wedding Singer (the soundtrack of which produced one of the versions today), it’s a great song to sing along with, but I wouldn’t recommend doing in on an elliptical machine at the gym–people give you the strangest looks. The other interesting note on the three versions of the song is that even though they are all studio cuts, and none are extended mix versions or anything like that, each has a different song length, and while there’s only a 4-second difference between the two compilation versions, the one from Bowie’s greatest hits is 1:12 shorter–I guess he was in a hurry to get to his other classic songs.

Like many Guns ‘N Roses fans, I was so excited when they finally released Chinese Democracy, the title track of which came next. And don’t get me wrong, it is great to have Axl back in my musical life. But I think the band should have a different name, as Axl without Slash doesn’t feel like GnR. But I was pining for more from that album after having to hear the Chipmunk’s signature song twice. I do have two thoughts on this group. First of all, the Chipmunks sound awesome when you’re a kid, but one of the first signs of growing up is when you realize just how grating their songs are. Second, if the Department of Child Services also covered animated talking chipmunks, I think I’d feel obligated to call them to investigate David. He just sounds evil when pushing the boys to pay attention, sing their songs, and sing them RIGHT!

ABBA is definitely a “Greatest Hits only” band (.45 on the Simple Minds Scale), and I wasn’t even aware that “Chiquitita” was one of their biggest international hits–I honestly thought it was a song about a banana. All That Remains is a band my son likes–they’re frankly not for me. The Mother Love Bone song is great and of course two members of the band went on to form Pearl Jam, so I was probably predisposed to like the song. I also enjoyed the two songs that closed the list as Timberlake is always quality music and the System of a Down song is goofy and fun as well.

Road Trip! or dealing with Bob Dylan’s massive Bob Dylan ego

Did you miss me? A weekend featuring interstate travelling led to me not posting a blog entry over the last two days. On the bright side, travel did not prevent me from getting in a great workout at the gym on Saturday morning before we left. On the downside, I was not able to exercise yesterday, which means I owe 4 miles of walks thanks to the Red Sox taking two games from the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. That will be done today, if the rain lets up.

Friday, May 18, 2012

2+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #18 of the 2012 season

  • Blue Moon Revisited (A Song for Elvis)–Cowboy Junkies
  • Blue Morning, Blue Day–Foreigner
  • Blue Orchid–The White Stripes
  • Blue Period–The Smithereens
  • Blue Period–The Smithereens
  • Blue Ridge Mountains–The Fleet Foxes
  • Blue Skies–Willie Nelson
  • Blue Sky–The Allman Brothers Band
  • Blue Telescope–John Hiatt
  • Blue Train–John Coltrane
  • Blues Before & After–The Smithereens
  • Blues Before And After–The Smithereens

There are worse ways to spend time than walking outside on a nice day while listening to the Cowboy Junkies, particularly their great opening track to their 200 More Miles live album. My first interest in music in the early 80s was driven by the American Top 40 radio countdown show, and as a result my knowledge and interest in musical acts was driven by facts, numbers, and trivia. As an example, while I wasn’t a Foreigner fan growing up, I was always interested that their song “Waiting for a Girl Like You” was the most successful (as defined by Billboard) song to not hit #1 on the charts–it spent ten weeks at #2, largely due to the success of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”. Luckily both songs were able to set aside their animosity and long-standing rivalry and both be covered on Glee. Perhaps the folks in the Middle East could take a clue from these bitter, bitter foes.

The White Stripes followed with “Blue Orchid”, which is both a great song, and a great flower (I know, I know–pretty controversial opinion that latter one is). Four of the next nine songs come from the Smithereens as “Blue Period” and “Blues Before and After” were hits off their album 11 so they also showed up on the greatest hits collection I own as well. I saw the Smithereens in concert my senior year in college and while it was a great show, I think my ears were ringing for days after. After the driving rock of the Stripes and Smithereens, the folk sounds of Fleet Foxes was an excellent change of pace, and it started a nice run with Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers.

While owning a telescope seems like something cool, getting to see the planets and stars and all, owning a blue telescope would increase the awesomeness by a factor of 10. It makes you wonder why electronics and gadgets have to be black–why can’t they be bright and vibrant colors instead? John Hiatt is really on to something there. Thank goodness I still had half a mile to go, as “Blue Train” takes a bit of time to hear, but as with all Coltrane, it’s worth finishing off.

May 19,2012

3.32 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Blues Happy–Arrested Development
  • Board Meeting–Timbaland & Magoo
  • Boat Drinks–Jimmy Buffett
  • Boat of Car–They Might Be Giants
  • Bob–Drive-by Truckers
  • Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream–Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band
  • Bob Dylan’s Blues–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s Dream–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s Dream–Brian Ferry
  • Bobby Jean–Bruce Springsteen
  • Bobby Jean–Jennifer Glass
  • Bodhisattva–Steely Dan
  • Bodies–Drowning Pool
  • Body–The Presidents of the United States
  • The Body of an American–The Pogues
An interesting trend in more recent albums, particularly hip-hop and rap is the linking of tracks. It’s not an issue if you’re listening to the album in its entirety, but if you’re listening to a variety of music, it can be odd or even confusing. The Arrested Development song that started my gym team had one of those transitions, but it led to the Timbaland song, and although the two acts have very different hip-hop sensibilities, the transition actually worked. Things got a little interesting at the end of the Timbaland track, which also had one of those lead-ins to the next song on the album, but here it led to Jimmy Buffett. While on the surface it seemed like a goofy pairing, Timbaland has shown on his two Shock Value albums a willingness to work with a variety of artists. It just seems unlikely to me that Jimmy Buffett will ever be on that menu. Speaking of goofy, “Boat of Car” is a silly song from They Might Be Giant’s self-titled debut.
I’m trying to decide whether to imagine the “Bob” the Drive-by Truckers are singing about Bob Dylan so I can say that a half dozen of the songs on the list were “Bob Dylan” titled-songs. I guess there’s no point in stretching things where five songs like that is plenty. Plus I love the Truckers’ story of Bob, a confirmed bachelor that takes care of his momma on its own, so it doesn’t need to enter the Bob Dylan mix. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Dylan songs and their Chimes of Freedom covers. In fact, I’d challenge anyone to listen to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” and not smile at some point when following the entertainingly convoluted story (and the Taj Mahal version is wonderful). I guess I should feel fortunate that I only heard about Bob’s first and 115th dreams and not songs covering the 113 in-between. No one covered “Bob Dylan’s Blues” on the four-disc compilation album, so I only had to hear that song once before hearing his unnumbered (so I’m assuming original) dream twice, once by him and once by Brian Ferry.
After I was done with Dylan, I got a Bruce Springsteen original and cover combo with “Bobby Jean”. I know I’ve got Mad Men on the brain as the fifth season is both heating up and winding down, but I derived particular pride from telling my wife that this song title is a combination of the first names of Don Draper’s two sons. I guess that makes Bruce a big (and clairvoyant) fan, seeing that it predates the show by 24 years. Or maybe Matthew Weiner is a Springsteen fan. Or maybe it is a coincidence.   While I loved the Steely Dan song that followed, I’m not sure whether I struggle to pronounce the name of the song or spell the name of the song more–thinking about that, VH1 or Fuse or one of the music television channels should have a musical spelling bee game show. If people watch preteens struggle to spell words that no one will ever use, wouldn’t people watch contestants spell things like “Lynyrd Skynyrd” or Bodhisattva” for exciting cash and prizes? I know I would.
I’ll admit to enjoying the Drowning Pool song “Bodies” and having it pump me up with exercising, giving me a rush to push through the Presidents of the United States and yet another chipper Pogues number.

My uneasy distance from Radiohead

Short gym session today as I had to work 20 minutes of gym time between picking up one child at the mall and another at the movies (I was hoping for more, but got the taxi call earlier than I thought). But it’s important to do something every day,so

April 19, 2012


1.27 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over)–Radiohead
  • Backlash Love Affair–Richard Thompson
  • Backpackers–Childish Gambino
  • Backstreets–Bruce Springsteen

I think I’m supposed to really like Radiohead, but they’re a band I’ve never really gotten into. Any band than gets their name from a Talking Heads song should already have a big point in their favor, but I still never really took the leap. In fact, I realized that I didn’t have an of their albums, so I picked up “Hail to the Thief” from our local library. It’s not a great album to me, but I’m not sure if that is how I’d feel overall about Radiohead, or if I need to try another of their albums like Kid A or OK Computer. It’s an ongoing issue that I have yet to resolve.

Speaking of yet to resolve, I’m still formulating my opinion on the Childish Gambino album Camp. I did enjoy “Backpackers”, but I think I will spend the time here talking about Community. The last three episodes have been incredibly strong, and all went in three distinct directions, from the inspired Ken Burns parody to last week’s Britta as a junkie for a bad former boyfriend to this week’s less funny, but more emotionally touching, episode with Annie and Abed. I beg you to watch this show before it’s too late, although maybe it will never be too late, as we now know that the greatest sit-com in history, Arrested Development, is coming back next year. I recently rewatched five episodes from Season 1, and as much as I enjoy Community, Parks and Recreation, and Archer, Arrested Development is still the undisputed king of sit-com history.

Only managed to get through four songs today, with the other two coming from strong albums from frequent contributors Richard Thompson (Rumor and Sigh) and Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run).  I will definitely need to double up the exercise a few days this weekend, even if the Red Sox do not give me occasion to do so.