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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Back into a routine

Boy that was quite the list of songs I dumped on you last time, and if it got to a point where your eyes glazed over and you skipped to the bottom, I understand completely and apologize. I’m attempting to make sure that doesn’t happen again, although I am now six visits behind again, although it’s for a good reason–while I was preparing that massive list, I’ve found my exercise inspiration and have gone to the gym each of the last six days (so I have to go tonight to make it a solid week!). It feels great to be back on an exercise routine–it may be my imagination, but when looking in the mirror this morning, my face looked thinner. I think I’ll have a cheeseburger to celebrate!

Friday, August 24, 2012

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

  • Day Tripper–The Beatles
  • Day Tripper–The Beatles
  • Daybreak–Barry Manilow
  • Daylight–Drive-By Truckers
  • Days/This Time Tomorrow–Ray Davies
  • Days Go By–Keith Urban
  • Days Like These–Asia
  • Daysleeper–R.E.M.
  • Dazed and Confused–Led Zeppelin

There’s certainly no problem hearing a song two consecutive times when it opens with an amazing guitar riff like “Day Tripper”, which is certainly my favorite Beatle opening and is in the all-time running as well. As an added bonus, hearing the name of the song makes me think of The Daytrippers, a great independent movie from the 90’s featuring Parker Posey. (Boy, she truly was the Queen of the Indys back then–Party Girl, Clockwatchers, The House of Yes, and more.) If you are looking for a musical talent to pair with the Beatles, there aren’t many candidates that can hang with the power of Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr, but Manilow is one that works, right? (I kid, I kid, for the most part, but I still enjoy the occasional Manilow number.)

Two of the next three songs fit into the broad “country” label, with my preferred group being the Drive-By Truckers. The Keith Urban song is one I’m less familiar with, even though it was on one of my daughter’s first CDs she ever owned, Now That’s What I Call Music 17. Those modern-day K-Tel collections always collect 20 songs and 18-19 are pop, rock, or hip-hop, with one of two country songs thrown in, and Urban filled the quota on Volume 17. Sandwiched between the songs was one of my favorite numbers from the Ray Davies compilation of re-imagined Kinks numbers See My Friends, the medley of “Days” and “This Time Tomorrow” with Mumford & Sons. The Asia song “Days Like These” was an add-on song to their greatest hits collection (isn’t releasing a best of album after three studio albums a little ridiculous?).

After the R.E.M. song “Daysleeper”, it was time for some live Led Zeppelin. Usually I get to hear 12-15  songs during a gym workout, but today was only nine, owing to the 26-minute length of “Dazed and Confused”, meaning I thought this song would never end. (I guess when The Song Remains the Same was released as a double-record, this song was a side unto itself–easier to skip!)

Saturday, August 25, 2012 

3.12 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da–The Police
  • De Todo Un Poco–Michael Lloyd & Le Disc
  • Deacon Blues–Steely Dan
  • Dead–The Pixies
  • Dead–They Might Be Giants
  • Dead End Street–Ray Davies
  • Dead Hearts–Stars
  • Dead Horse–Guns N’ Roses
  • Dead Letter–Elvis Costello
  • Dead Man (Undertaker)–WWE
  • Dead Melodies–Beck
  • Dead Men Tell No Tales–Set Your Goals
  • Dead of the Night–Bad Company
  • Dead on Arrival–Fall Out Boy
  • Dead on Arrival–Fall Out Boy
  • Dead on Arrival–Fall Out Boy
  • Dead or Alive–Journey

Old school Police is an excellent way to get the exercise ball rolling, even if an instrumental number from the second Dirty Dancing soundtrack follows and attempts to kill all forward momentum. When I play the “worst CD purchase I ever made” game, that secondary bonus soundtrack is a strong, strong contender. It’s so bad that I even feel guilty trying to pass it off as something my wife brought into our relationship. I have to take full responsibility for it. I will also take credit for the Steely Dan in our collection, although it is only a greatest hits collection, which I think is more than enough for me.

The music of the “Dead..” starts next, and I’m talking literal titles, not selections from Jerry Garcia’s band. I own two simple “Dead” songs from great sources–The Pixies and They Might Be Giants. I’m more attached to the TMBG song historically, but who doesn’t love the source of the Pixies’ number, the amazing album Doolittle?  I then got another Ray Davies offering from See My Friends (it seems like an inordinate number of tracks on the album start with ‘D’–3 of 14 to be exact). I highly recommend this album, which has received a significant bump in plays in the family household recently.

“Dead Hearts” is an excellent number from the Montreal-based band who, if you’re looking for a new album to enjoy, will be releasing their latest, The North, next week (9/4/12).  This was followed by a hate/love combo for my wife, as she cannot stand Guns N’ Roses, but I think I could have gotten her to hang on through the song with the promise that Elvis was coming up next. Of course, a WWE theme following would have gotten her to leave post haste, even if it is one of the many cool variations on the Undertaker’s music. She’d eventually regret leaving, as she would then miss an awesome Beck number (it’s like the alphabetical list is playing tennis with my wife’s musical emotions!)

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Set Your Goals, one of the many new musical acts my son got into this past summer. I probably need to give their work more attention before making a decision. I do feel fine about one of my daughter’s groups, Fall Out Boy, but they’ve been part of our library for a much longer timeframe. (Although I’m not a big enough fan that hearing “Dead on Arrival” three times in a row made me happy.) My list closed with some Raised on Radio Journey, the album that made us realize that group was effectively “Dead…” and is now just a touring nostalgia act.

 

Family fitness–hey, wait up!

For the last two days of gym visits, I have brought my oldest daughter, who asked to come along. I was the kind, borderline-patronizing dad, explaining that she might want to bring a book in case she wanted to knock off before I was finished on the elliptical, and that for these first few visits she should go at an easy pace. 50 minutes later she had crushed me by going more than half a mile farther during the same time period. Perhaps I should just keep my useful tips to myself. Today my son decided to give it a whirl, and just like my daughter, he would have left me in the dust if we were out walking together at our respective cardio paces. But the key is just making sure I get in my exercise, not that I win a race.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

3.25 miles on the elliptical plus upper-body weight work

  • Cello Song–The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
  • Cells–They Might Be Giants
  • Celluloid Heroes–Ray Davies
  • Celluloid Heroes [live]–The Kinks
  • Cemeteries of London–Coldplay
  • Centerfield–John Fogerty
  • Century City–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Certain Leaders in Government Look Or Act Like Certain Pop Culture References!–David Cross
  • Ch-Check It Out–The Beastie Boys
  • Chain Gang–Sam Cooke
  • Chain Gang is the Click–John Cena
  • Chain Lightning–Rush
  • Chain Of Broken Hearts–Billy Bragg & Wilco
  • Challenge of the Love Warriors–Tom Tom Club
  • The Chamber of Secrets–The City of Prague Chamber Orchestra
  • Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends–Fall Out Boy

“The Cello Song” comes from the Dark Was the Night compilation, one of the later compilation albums released to benefit the Red Hot Organization, an AIDS charity. I’m a proud owner of two of their albums, including the original Red Hot + Blue, which was released in 1990 and featured current (at the time) artists covering Cole Porter standards. I get a science lesson next about “Cells” from They Might Be Giants. I like the new version of “Celluloid Heroes” from Ray Davies collaboration album See My Friends (he does this song with members of Bon Jovi), although they cut the superlong instrumental opening that built and built until the lyrics began (for reference, listen to the live version done by the Kinks). The lyrics of the song are so strong and I love getting multiple listens to it.

I am on the fence about Coldplay–I enjoy their music enough, but I don’t find it particularly memorable. It’s great background music for me, but I never say, “would someone please put a Coldplay album on!” John Fogerty is more of a must-listen for me, but I prefer his CCR music to his solo works, but “Centerfield” is one of his best solo tracks, particularly in the middle of summer. The must-listen meter continues to read higher ratings as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers top Fogerty & CCR for me, and “Century City” is a great early track from the band. There was a short break in the music as I got a comedy track from David Cross, the first track from his second album, It’s Not Funny! In a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” manner, I can connect Cross to my next artist, as Cross played a character in the Beastie Boys’ concert film.

It’s never a bad thing when you get some Sam Cooke on your playlist, and I still find listening to John Cena tracks to be a guilty pleasure. After a Rush track, I got another Billy Bragg & Wilco Woody Guthrie track, this one from the third and most recent volume of the Mermaid Avenue releases. Thing close with the Tom Tom Club, an orchestra number from the Harry Potter films, and a Fall Out Boy overly cleverly titled song.

 

Happy Hunger Games to You All!

My wife, youngest daughter, and I just got back from seeing The Hunger Games, tying us with my son with one viewing. The family’s clubhouse leader is my oldest daughter, who saw it at its midnight premiere, went to school 3 1/2 hours later, and then saw it a second time at a matinee twp hours after she got out of school> And I don’t think she’s done–in fact, if she hadn’t gone to a birthday party tonight, I assume she may have racked up a third viewing already. To go all Roger Ebert on you (or Pauline Kael for certain members of my wife’s family), I enjoyed the film, finding it a solid adaptation of the book. If you haven’t read the trilogy, I highly recommend them. They’re entertaining, and anything that get kids to read is solid in my book. For the film, the casting is spot on. Woody Harrelson is having an outstanding month, as Game Change, the HBO film about the Sarah Palin selection is another feather in Woody’s cap.

I also still managed to hit the gym for some cardio time…

March 24, 2012

3.12 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • All Day and All of the Night/Destroyer–Ray Davies
  • All Fired Up–Pat Benatar
  • All For Leyna–Billy Joel
  • All For One–High School Musical 2 cast
  • All Grown Up–Elvis Costello
  • All Grown Up (Home Demo)–Elvis Costello
  • All Grown Up (Stephanie McMahon)–WWE Themes
  • All He Wants to Do is Fish–The Replacements
  • All I Can Do–Jump5
  • All I Care About–Richard Gere & Cast
  • All I Have to Do is Dream–The Dandy Warhols
  • All I Need is Everything–Aztec Camera
  • All I Really Want–Alanis Morissette

The list starts with a new compilation, and a unique one in my collection. I own a number of tribute compilations where modern artists cover songs of respected bands, including Leonard Cohen (2), Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, Kiss, Richard Thompson, and more. See My Friends is the first one to involve the original artist, as its a 2011 release by Ray Davies where he re-recorded Kinks songs with new collaborators. For this song, it’s Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins.

I was sad that my high school didn’t have three Pat Benatars, but what are you going to do? The nice thing about “All for Leyna” is that the band in Stepbrothers can perform the song at a Catalina Wine Mixer, as it just sneaks in with a 1980 release.

There’s two songs on today’s list that are tributes to my daughters’ early music taste and one is a result of current interest. Soundtracks to High School Musical 2 gave us “All For One” and Lizzy McGuire led to “All I Can Do”, Disney properties that my daughters wholly enjoyed. The Richard Gere song is also from a soundtrack, the musical Chicago. I still can’t believe that won best picture, but the fact that a Nic Cage movie would have been a better choice is an even greater upset.

Again, thanks to the extensive Elvis Costello collection, we get a double shot of “All Grown Up”, followed by another song with that name–Stephanie McMahon’s theme music. I must say that juxtaposing the two and having Elvis Costello perform a WWE theme, has given me a few hours of enjoyment today. Another way to increase your day’s enjoyment is to get a Replacements song, so things were really rolling at the gym today.

Back when I first started with WWE, Sony was responsible for the distribution of our DVDs. One time, a few of us went into New York city for a meeting at their offices. At the end of the day, the let us look through their sample closet to see if we wanted anything. I found a single copy of a soundtrack to a video game I’d never heard of–Stubbs the Zombie. Apparently, it’s the story of a zombie back in the 50’s or something, but it lead to this collection of standards from the beginning of the rock era performed by current alternative artists. I grabbed it, ironically for the Dandy Warhols cover of “All I Have to Do is Dream”, as I loved their song “We Used to Be Friends”, which was used in Season1 of The OC, and later became the theme song for Veronica Mars. I wasn’t a big fan of the song on the soundtrack, but entries from Clem Snide, The Flaming Lips, Oranger, CAKE, Rogue Wave, and more made the acquisition a great one. That day, the odds were definitely in my favor.