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.

 

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The One Good Thing About The Star Wars Prequels

So I get to open with some excellent news–I’ve started to weigh myself each Monday at the gym before my workout to see whether I’m making any progress, and between last Monday and this Monday, I’m down 3.4 pounds–a nice start, and the kind of news that pushes me to exercise harder with the hope of losing even more next week (plus, we’re getting closer to swimsuit season!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

3.33 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • American Without Tears–Elvis Costello
  • American Without Tears No 2–Elvis Costello
  • American Without Tears No 2–Elvis Costello
  • Americano–Lady Gaga
  • Amie–Pure Prairie League
  • Amigas Cheetas–Cheetah Girls
  • Amnesia–David Byrne
  • Among The Americans–10,000 Maniacs
  • Amongst the Waves–Pearl Jam
  • Ana–The Pixies
  • Ana Ng [Live]–They Might Be Giants
  • Ana Ng–They Might Be Giants
  • Anagram (For Mongo)–Rush
  • Anakin Defeats Sebulba–John Williams
  • Anakin’s Theme–John Williams

Three Elvis Costello songs to begin today’s run. It’s a problem that I don’t have a lot to add with respect to Elvis, but we have so much Elvis in our collection. I did enjoy both the original “American Without Tears” and the “No 2” versions of the song as well. (Fun but rare treat when you get a song sequel.) Lady Gaga really got me moving on the elliptical machine–I think the entire Gaga catalogue would be a solid workout choice.

“Amie” is in our collection thanks to Freaks and Geeks. I didn’t watch the show on the air during it’s only season, but I then received a DVD set of the complete series. Since then, every member of my family became a convert of the show. I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t–the show helped launch the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Jason Segel. An episode that featured laser shows at the local Planetarium closed with “Amie” playing, and I liked the song so much, I bought the single

One of the last concerts I’ve seen is the Cheetah Girls (the things I’ll do for my daughters!). I won them four tickets to see the group and got to be the chaperone. The worst part is that it was a lesser version of the group, as the tour lacked Raven Symone.

In an earlier post, I spoke of over-crediting Donald Glover because I want him to be super successful. I think the opposite occurs with David Byrne. I’m such a big Talking Heads fan that I undervalue Byrne’s solo work, as if a lack of success on his own will lead to Byrne returning to the Talking Heads and I’ll finally get to see them in concert. Another band I’d like to see get back together is 10,000 Maniacs, and by that I mean the Natalie Merchant version of the band. I actually think a Talking Heads reunion is more likely.

I got a nice run of rock with deep album cuts from Pearl Jam and the Pixies, and then leading right into studio and live versions of the first single off They Might Be Giants’ second album, Lincoln. I’m curious what Rush fans feel about Presto. I purchased the CD during a period of CD overbuying, and frankly, it doesn’t get a lot of play by me. The funny thing is, taken as individual songs, I like a number of the songs, I just always expect Rush albums to hold together better as a whole.

There’s a lot of anger about what George Lucas delivered to the world in the form of his three Star Wars prequels, and I understand. I’m a nerd, and I love the original Star Wars trilogy; so I was so excited about new Star Wars films. I saw each at midnight, and like most of the nerd universe, I was bitterly disappointed each time (I mean Jar Jar Binks? Really? The kid playing Anakin? A plot that hangs on trade federation politics? So much went wrong, but the music was not on that list. Once again John Williams delivered magnificent scores for each film, even the pieces dealing with the young, future mass murderer, Anakin Skywalker.