Tag Archives: The Smiths

Burn Down The Disco Kill The Blessed DJ

I don’t have much in the tank today as far as music goes. I have to really concentrate on writing the book today so I figured I’d give my loyal fans (all 3 of you) something to tide you over for the weekend. I haven’t always been a huge fan of the Smiths. When I was in High School many moons ago, I was a bit ambivalent towards, what I considered, a whiny sad bastard style of music. The older I got, though, the more I embraced what I realized wasn’t sad bastard music at all, but more alternative love songs.

We all have this notion that love songs have to be sappy & kitschy. What Morrissey, with the help of Johnny Marr do is create a musical universe where they can express all their frustrations, thoughts & feelings in an honest sometimes even violent way. Their new wave style changed alternative music & was part of the Second British Invasion Wave that came through in the ’80’s along with the Cure, Depeche Mode & Culture Club (I left out Wham! on purpose). So here’s a great concert of theirs from 1986 in L.A. where I wish I was right now.

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Thank Your Lucky Stars

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want

Still Ill

I Want The One I Can’t Have

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

How Soon Is Now

Frankly Mr. Shankly

Panic

Stretch Out & Wait

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

Is It Really So Strange

Cemetery Gates

Never Had No One Ever

What She Said

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

The Queen Is Dead

Money Changes Everything

I Know It’s Over

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Like A Little Drop Of Ink In A Glass Of Water

I consider myself a nostalgic person, but not overly so or is it overly such? Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy music from previous generations & probably even more than most of the music coming out today. I’m that way with a lot of things though, movies, baseball, radio, etc. Not everything is worse now that it was say 20 years ago, however, video games have dramatically improved, basketball & football are so much more exciting & television has climbed to heights many never thought it would with the emergence of edgy cable programming.

One of the things that I most enjoy about today is writing. Today everyone seems to be putting pen to paper or rather computer text to blogs & expressing themselves in ways the world has never seen before. 10 years ago I would never have had the opportunity to write everyday for the world to see my divergent opinions were it not for this utterly fantastic forum. Last week I decided again to break from my nostalgic rut once again & force myself to listen to something at least somewhat current. Actually it’s a couple years old, but I’d heard so much about it, but never listened to it.

From the ever reliable Wikipedia:

The National are a Brooklyn-based indie rock band formed in 1999. The band’s lyrics are written and sung by Matt Berninger in a distinctive, deep baritone. The rest of the band is composed of two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Aaron plays guitar, bass and piano, Bryce plays guitar, Scott plays bass and guitar, and Bryan is the drummer. Padma Newsome, from sister band Clogs, often contributes strings, keyboards, and other arrangements and instrumental flourishes.

I decided to listen to what Paste called, “The number 1 album of 2007” & that is Boxer. I will say that at first the aforementioned deep baritone of Matt Berninger threw me off as it sounded so much like Crash Test Dummies lead singer Brad Roberts that I almost couldn’t listen to it without fully expecting “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm” to break out in the middle of “Fake Empire”, but I pushed through & found this album so amazing that much like the Tom Waits album before I kicked myself for having been so close minded as not to listen to it before.

I found it to be very much like Joy Division musically who they list as one of their main influences & lyrically like Bruce Springsteen who was another influence. After a few listens I realized that the vocal style, while something I could not listen to every day fit perfectly with this style. it is so much of a collaborative effort that the vocals do not stand out as much once you are fully integrated into the style. You may say music is always a collaborative effort & to an extent I agree, but not to this level.

In this band it takes every single member to come up with the sound they are attempting to achieve while in bands like The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins or even Nine Inch Nails those aren’t as prevalent. Especially in the case of NIN who are really just Trent Reznor & session/touring musicians. On Boxer it’s almost like the lyrics are faded down so that the music stands out. My favorite song on the album was “Green Gloves” . it was so beautifully constructed & so pared down that you can hear the sliding down on the acoustic guitar (a sound I adore). Again, this album is a stellar album of grand achievement & I’m so glad that my year is starting off with new music that can guide me towards a more open-minded existence.

Fake Empire – The National

Green Gloves – The National

Start a War – The National

Brainy (Alt. Version) – The National

Santa Clara (Demo) – The National

Top 15 Cover Songs of the Decade

It’s come to that time of the year/decade where innumerable lists will come out touting writer’s knowledge of music by saying what the best album, songs or artists of the decade/year are. Some are interesting reads, others are banal wastes of time & yet others are pretentious attempts at musical superiority while showing you have little knowledge about “real” music. It is this final category that Paste Magazine’s 30 best covers of the decade falls into.

Covers are a delicate subject with me. A cover song must be at least similar to the original. Otherwise, you’re not covering another artist’s song you’re simply saying you think they did a shitty job the first time around instead of paying homage. Jimi Hendrix did not cover Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” he dissected it & made it better. Dylan provided the blueprint for Hendrix & Jimi ran with it. Dylan himself has said as much:

It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day…I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way…Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.

Paste has a reputation for thinking they’re better than everyone with obscure references to obscure songs & praising them from the mountain top as being immortal & themselves as fore bearers to the band’s success. Their list is full of songs that hold little relevancy to anyone except the artists themselves.

It’s a bit disgraceful to see a list of songs with The Polyphonic Spree at #7 with Nirvana’s “Lithium” or Calexico at #8 with Stereolab’s “Peng! 33”. What? Really? Stereolab was an obscure band from the ’90’s that never found success in part because they were bad at making music. The Polyphonic Spree is a band from today that suffers from the same problem. I’m all for opening eyes with new artists. I try to introduce new artists to the masses on this blog regularly, but to indiscriminately toss out labels like “best of the decade” is hyperbolic to the core.

There are a few I agree with on the list, but none above number 9 (they are 28, 20, 18 – which may be the best on their list, 10 & 9). In large part I think Paste is, once again, showing they’re rightly regarded as a magazine strictly for the arrogant hipster, who thinks he knows more about music than you. It’s like saying Sgt. Pepper is too commercial of an album to be the best of all time or the “Godfather” is too widely known to be the best film of all time. Everyone has their opinion & rightfully so, but when an opinion is there to show you how shitty your musical tastes are then it becomes a practice in musical bullying & I think it’s an abhorrent practice.

Music is there to spark conversation, to create unity, to educate, not belittle (unless you’re talking about Gangster Rap). Every time I give an opinion on this blog (or any other place I write) I try to give it context, not to dumb down my point, but to educate in one way or another. I happen to know a lot about music, mostly because I have no life, but also because it happens to be my passion. I do not claim to be the end all be all of musical critics. I’m simply a conduit to better understanding for those that have lives or seek some better form of musical knowledge.

So here is my list of the 15 best covers of the decade with short explanations as to why I enjoy them & why they’re great in my opinion:

#15 – Love Vigilantes – Voxtrot (originally: New Order)

A classic ’80’s song that is faithful to the original without being a complete replica. While expressing the emotion that many families are feeling, it is apropos of the moment in which we live.

#14 – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (Originally: Cyndi Lauper)

Another ’80’s song many consider trite pop, but Gibbard turns it into something much more. An anthem of parental & societal oppression. The audience laughs but if you really listen to the lyrics you realize that it is a plea to stop worrying about social mores that tend to pigeonhole people into groups that have no true bearing on who they really are. A beautiful interpretation.

#13 – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Counting Crows (Originally: Bob Dylan)

Redone by many artists, this is faithful to the original from Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes version with The Band. Marketa Iglova & Glen Hansard do a fairly competent version on the I’m Not There Soundtrack, but it really doesn’t compare to Adam Duritz belting this classic out.

#12 – The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (Originally: Tom Waits)

Tom Waits has that writing quality that makes everyone want to redo his songs. Norah Jones is a phenomenal songwriter in her own right & has the perfect voice for this Waits composition. There’s something to be said for a steel guitar & a Tom Waits song that just reeks of awesomeness.

#11 – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam (Originally: Nina Simone)

While the Animals may have popularized this song, it was written for Nina Simone by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus. The song correlates with Yusuf’s own struggles after he changed his name from Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam & his subsequent inclusion on the Terrorist watch list in the early ’00’s.

#10 – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – She & Him (Originally: The Smiths)

Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward covered this song for the 500 Days of Summer Soundtrack perfectly. The echo behind Deschanel’s voice creates a haunting version while staying succinctly true to the original. You can almost hear the anguish in her voice as she desperately emotes Morrissey’s plea for a change in his luck.

#9 – Glory Days – The Avett Brothers (Originally: Bruce Springsteen)

The issue I’ve always had with this song is that instead of saying fastball at the beginning he says speedball. When I hear Bruce say “He could throw that Speedball right by you.” it always makes me cringe as a baseball fan & someone who had a lot of friends who did a lot of drugs. That’s my only complaint, though, I love the song & the Avett’s doing it with a banjo, a kick drum & a tambourine is magical.

#8 – The Weight – Gaslight Anthem (Originally: The Band)

The seminal song in the Band’s career is faithfully done by the Gaslight Anthem’s lead singer Brian Fallon. There’s a lot to be said for a man & his guitar. Fallon has that kind of voice that is suited for a song such as this. It’s a story song, almost in the same vein as The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

#7 – Sunday Morning – Beck’s Record Club (Originally: Velvet Underground & Nico)

When Beck started his Record Club project it was considered a bit of a lark (especially when I read he considered doing Digital Underground’s album Sex Packets in it’s entirety), but when you hear this song you realize otherwise. I have never been a fan of Beck’s music. I’ve interviewed him a number of times, smoked out with him & find him to be a fascinating person, but musically I’m not evolved enough to enjoy what he does, though I do recognize his talent. Be that as it may I do love this cover so much. When stripped down Beck’s voice is incredible.

#6 – Dancing in the Dark – Pete Yorn (Originally: Bruce Springsteen)

Another Springsteen song covered by a talented musician. Pete Yorn’s first album spoke to me so much that I don’t think I listened to another album for a month after it came out. Yorn with a piano slowly singing this mournful song about escaping the everyday doldrums of life. It’s something we can all relate to, especially in this context.

#5 – I Don’t Wanna Grow Up – Cold War Kids (Originally: Tom Waits)

Hearing the Cold War Kids acoustically is a sound to behold. Hearing them sing Tom Waits’ song about having to accept responsibility as an adult & wanting to stay a child forever is a moment. It’s much like when the Beach Boys released A Beach Boys’ Party where they covered a few Beatles songs among others & made it a sing along. This recording, while much less hokey, has that feel to it.

#4 – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Originally: Bob Dylan)

While not completely factual this song still does speak to the injustice that was still going on in 1960’s America. Lead Singer, Peter Hayes, expresses the difficulty in remembering all the lyrics before he starts actually singing noting it is a Bob Dylan song. He doesn’t sing it with tonal precision which makes it even that much better. What he does give it is slightly more melody than Dylan (as many often have). The harmonica in the Bridge is not overstated or too intense to overpower the audience.

#3 – My Oklahoma Home – Bruce Springsteen (Originally: Pete Seeger)

When Bruuuuuuce decided to make a tribute album with all Pete Seeger songs I never thought it would work. I love just about everything Springsteen touches, but even this seemed like a stretch to me. I was wrong. The true merit of an artist is the ability to reinvent oneself & make it work. Dylan did it, the Beatles did it & Springsteen did as well. This song about the Oklahoma Dust Bowl holds as much connotation in today’s current economic climate as it did 80 years ago. No one today speaks of the hardships of the blue collar society like Bruce & before him there was no one better than Pete Seeger & Woody Guthrie.

#2 – The Drugs Don’t Work – Ben Harper (Originally: The Verve)

Ben Harper has a way of making songs better as with this Verve song about as Richard Ashcroft put it:

There’s a new track I’ve just written […] It goes ‘the drugs don’t work, they just make me worse, and I know I’ll see your face again’. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take ’em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape.

Harper brings a subtle vulnerability to this track as if he were actually speaking this to a loved one. The Verve version was a little more gruff, but beautiful nonetheless. Richard Ashcroft is a highly underrated lyricist & never was that made more evident than in this version.

#1 – Long, Long, Long – Jim James (Originally: The Beatles)

Earlier this year Jim James of My Morning Jacket, quietly released a 6 song EP under the moniker Yim Yames covering some of his favorite George Harrison songs. It went mostly unnoticed by critics as it was released primarily online, but it was perhaps the best thing recorded all year. This is one of my favorite Beatle songs from the White Album & James captures the essence of the track with the echoed brilliance of the vocals. If ever a cover song moved me I can not remember when one did it like this one. It is not merely faithful to the original, but luminous in it’s own right.

Top 250 Albums of All-Time 179-170

#179 – Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin

If I & II were their blues album, III was their folk/acoustic album & IV was the Celtic album then Houses of the Holy is Led Zeppelin’s foray into psychedelic music as witnessed with tracks like “No Quarter”, “The Ocean” & “The Rain Song”. This was also the first Led Zeppelin album not to be self titled & is regarded by critics as one of their finest albums. It stands out as one of Jimmy Page’s finest performances & shows off Robert Plant’s writing style as it had progressed dramatically even since IV.

No Quarter – Led Zeppelin

The Ocean – Led Zeppelin

#178 – In Rainbows – Radiohead

Is it one of the best albums of 2007 or 2008? Let’s see it was released in 2007 for a pay-whatever-you-want price on the band’s website, but was released on CD in 2008 & was given the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2009. Regardless, In Rainbows is universally hailed as one Radiohead’s finest albums. It has what Thom Yorke called “Seduction songs & Yorke also said, “the lyrics are quite caustic-the idea of ‘before you’re comatose’ or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion & getting fucked-up to forget…there is partly this elation. But there’s a much darker side.”

Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead

House of Cards – Radiohead

#177 – Cheap Thrills – Big Brother & The Holding Company

Big Brother obtained a considerable amount of attention after their 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and had released their debut album soon after. By early 1968, they began work on what was the most eagerly anticipated record of the year. The album’s overall raw sound effectively captures the band’s energetic and lively concerts. The album was released in the summer of 1968, one year after their debut album, and reached number one on the Billboard charts in its eighth week in October. It kept the number one spot for eight (nonconsecutive) weeks while the single, “Piece of My Heart,” also became a huge hit. By the end of the year it was the most successful album of 1968, having sold nearly a million copies. The success was short-lived however, as Janis Joplin left the group for a solo career in December, 1968.

Piece of My Heart – Big Brother & the Holding Co.

Summertime – Big Brother & The Holding Co.

#176 – Dire Straits – Dire Straits

The debut album by Dire Straits introduced Mark Knopfler to an eager American audience searching for a new sound with the awful taste disco left in people’s mouths in 1978. With their bluesy, lounge sounds Dire Straits captivated audiences with such hits as “Down to the Waterline”, “Six Blade Knife” & their gigantic hit “Sultans of Swing”. Dire Straits played a more conventional style, albeit with a stripped-down sound that appealed to audiences also weary of the overproduced stadium rock of the 1970s. In their early days, Mark and David Knopfler requested that pub owners turn down their sound so that patrons could converse while the band played, an indication of their unassuming demeanor. Despite this oddly self-effacing approach to rock and roll, Dire Straits soon became hugely successful, with their first album going multi-platinum globally.

Six Blade Knife – Dire Straits

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

#175 – The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

The Low End Theory is the second album by A Tribe Called Quest & further showed the Jazz/Hip-Hop stylings of Tribe led by Q-Tip & Phife Dawg’s lyrics which were on a myriad of subjects including: date rape, violence in hip-hop, jazz & exploitation of musicians by promoters. They set the style for artists such as the Roots, Common & even Kanye West with their jazz samplings & heavy beats. When the album was first brought to the studio heads, they hated the album and thought it was not very good at all. People such as Barry Weiss (the former president of Jive, now the Chairman of the Zomba Label Group division of Sony Music) told them that it would be a commercial and critical failure. However due to the label’s faith in Q-Tip and the rest of the group, the album was released mostly unchanged and it has since achieved worldwide critical acclaim.

Jazz (We’ve Got) – A Tribe called Quest

Vibes & Stuff – A Tribe Called Quest

#174 – Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams’ debut album after he left Whiskeytown. When it starts off you notice the dramatic contrast to the work he did with Whiskeytown. Whiskeytown was much more country, mellow where as there is definitely more of a rock twinge to Heartbreaker. That isn’t to say however that the country influence still doesn’t filter through. “Winding Wheel” is a perfect example with the acoustic guitar & a banjo to go along with the brushes being used on the drums. “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” was featured in the movie Old School & on Gap commercials as well.

Damn Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains) – Ryan Adams

Winding Wheel – Ryan Adams

#173 – The Last Waltz Soundtrack – The Band

The Last Waltz was the last time all five members of the band would share the same stage together. Richard Manuel would hang himself ten years later & they would never have a chance to gain the form they showed as Bob Dylan’s & Ronnie Hawkins backing band & then as an act all their own. Perhaps their best performance was their final one. Made as a film by none other than Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz gathered some of the finest musicians around to bid farewell to an influential rock/blues band. Never before had Canada provided such brilliant musicians & dare I say hasn’t since.”It Makes No Difference” is perhaps one of the finest live recordings ever done. It is Rick Danko at his finest. His voice quivers just slightly as you feel the pain in this beautiful break-up song.

It Makes No Difference – The Band

The Weight – The Band w/ The Staple Singers

#172 – Louder Than Bombs – The Smiths

The album was released as the American counterpart to their recent British compilation The World Won’t Listen and consisted of all singles and nearly all B-sides that had not at that point been available in the States, either on single or album, with a few other tracks added. The title is borrowed from a line in Elizabeth Smart’s extended prose poem “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”.The album was intended to substitute for both The World Won’t Listen and their 1984 compilation Hatful of Hollow as these had not been released in the United States. This is why the non-single track “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” from Hatful of Hollow was included.

Ask – The Smiths

Panic – The Smiths

#171 – My Aim Is True -Elvis Costello

Costello (born Declan MacManus) had been performing in clubs and pubs in Liverpool and London since 1970 and had created some demo tapes, but he had had little success in obtaining a recording contract. When Stiff Records was founded in 1976, Costello submitted his demos there and found some interest. Costello called in sick to his day job (as a data-entry clerk) in order to rehearse and record the album with Clover, which was cut in a series of six four-hour sessions for about £1,000.

Costello stayed at his day job as the first two singles, “Less Than Zero” and “Alison”, were pre-released without much success. Finally, the label decided to release the album in the summer of 1977, and he was asked to quit his job and become a professional musician. Stiff Records would match his office wages and gave him a record advance of £150, an amp, and a tape recorder. Three weeks after its release, Costello was on the cover of a music paper. He described this situation as being “an overnight success after seven years.”

Alison – Elvis Costello

Watching the Detectives – Elvis Costello

#170 – Nashville Skyline – Bob Dylan

If John Wesley Harding was Bob Dylan dabbling in country music then Nashville Skyline was his complete immersion in the genre as he reinvented himself yet again. Previously a Folk revolutionary, Dylan grew tired of being seen as the epic protestor that people conceived him to be & wanted to try something new. “I wasn’t the toastmaster of any generation”, Dylan wrote, “and that notion needed to be pulled up by its roots.” Sometime during that session, country legend Johnny Cash stopped by to visit. A friend and label-mate of Dylan’s as well as an early supporter of his music, Cash had been recording next door with his own band. The two wound up recording a series of duets, covering Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” as well as Cash’s own “I Still Miss Someone.” None of these were deemed usable, but Cash returned the following day to record more duets.

Lay Lady Lay – Bob Dylan

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You – Bob Dylan

Best 250 Albums of All-Time #239-230

Had a few issues with Les Computer last week moreover with the multimedia morons that run AT&T (the actual employees, especially the ones from India are great). That being said I am giving you ten albums in a row to make up for the time off. More to come in a couple days.

#239 – Trace – Son Volt

After Uncle Tupelo broke up, lead singer Jay Farrar put together Son Volt, a band he felt encompassed his vision more than uncle Tupelo & moreover the rising star of Jeff Tweedy that seemed to be eclipsing him. Trace, their debut is album is by far their best from start to finish as it revels in Middle America Alt-Country brilliance. Hailing from St. Louis lead singer Jay Farrar has stuck true to his Country/Western roots with heavy steel guitar sounds along with that familiar twang of Old Country. “Tear Stained Eye” & “Windfall” stand out as my favorites on the album while “Drown” got up to #12 on the Billboard charts.

Son Volt – Tear Stained Eye

Son Volt – Windfall

#238 – The Seeds – The Seeds

Called by Muddy Waters, “America’s Rolling Stones” The Seeds were a seminal garage band in the 60s & one of the biggest influences on early punk rock. It was a fitting comparison as lead singer, Sky Saxon, was so dramatically influenced by Mick Jagger that he would practice moving in the same way as Jagger did on stage.  The Seeds was their first album & had the classic track “Pushin’ Too Hard“. The song about a girl that pushes the guy she’s dating into becoming her boyfriend and when he finally does she runs around town dating a bunch of other guys.

The SeedsPushin’ Too Hard

#237 – Mixed Bag – Richie Havens

Before becoming the opening act at what was to become the greatest concert of the 60s, if not ever, Richie Havens’ raspy, baritone voice was introduced to a generation of hippies & beatniks alike. Though, many call Mixed Bag his debut album it was actually his third album ,but first under manager Albert Grossman, who also managed Bob Dylan. Mixing Jazz rhythms with folk inspired lyrics it speaks on a number of themes: the beauty of the day from morning to evening, depression & love. His performance at Woodstock is only second in my mind to Jimi Hendrix. I had the pleasure of seeing Richie Havens in Petaluma, Ca. with my cousins Kevin & Loni, I believe, at an amazing place called the Majestic & it was such a phenomenal experience.

Richie HavensFollow

Richie Havens – I Can’t Make it Anymore (Written by Gordon Lightfoot)

#236 Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

I remember first hearing Tracy Chapman’s debut album in my father’s car. Not sure where we were going but “Fast Car” came on and quite simply I was blown away. Never before had a song struck me so deeply. The desperation in her voice begging to get out of the town that has seemingly killed all her dreams. It’s a common theme on the album desperation, domestic violence, nostalgic memories of when times were better. I alluded to something like this in one of my previous posts. A brilliant album that she hasn’t even come close to duplicationg since.

Tracy ChapmanFast Car

Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout a Revolution

#235 – Porgy & Bess – Miles Davis

Porgy & Bess is an opera written by George Gershwin, but perfected by Miles Davis. What Miles Davis does is truly mesmerizing. His trumpet acts as a pseudo narrator while crescendos happen around it. The melancholy feel of “Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?” gives the feeeling of foreboding even to one that has never seen the Opera/Play. The trumpet playing ius flawless & it is Jazz, but Blues at the same time. You feel like perhaps you’ve been transported back to the early 20th Century in New Orleans. You can just feel the emotion from the trumpet or moreover the Trumpeteer.

Miles DavisSummertime

Miles Davis – Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess

#234 – Arthur or the Decline & Fall of the British Empire – The Kinks

Coming off the failure of their previous album The Kinks were in a dire place. The British explosion had given way to the Hippy/Free Love music of Woodstock & the Monterey Pop Festival. So Ray Davies wrote Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) as a concept album based on his sister, Rose’s, emigration to Australia from England with her husband Arthur. It’s was compared at the time favorably to The Who’s rock opera, Tommy & called by Mike Daly of Rolling Stone, “Ray Davies’ finest hour, the Kinks’ supreme achievement.” Seemingly out of place in 1969 the album did well & allowed them to come back to the U.S. & tour after a five year ban.

The KinksVictoria

The Kinks – Shangri-La

#233 – The Queen is Dead – The Smiths

With the rapid strum of Johnny Marr’s guitar we’re off into The Queen is Dead by The Smiths. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is the stellar track where Morrissey compares his frustration with his own words being used against him to that of Joan of Arc’s plight.

Now I know how Joan of Arc felt, oh
As the flames rose to her roman nose
And her Walkman started to melt

Morrissey is no stranger to the clever mixing of historic characters to himself nor is he averse to thinking of himself as a tragic figure. It’s what made the Smiths & to some extent Morrissey, solo, so brilliant. To have no genuflection to the things that people consider proper was part of their allure. One of the pleasures of my life was having seen Morrissey play at Coachella this year. One of the best shows ever.

The SmithsBigmouth Strikes Again

The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn in His Side

#232 – Raw Power – Iggy & The Stooges

Picking up where The Seeds left off, Iggy & The Stooges released Raw Power & while largely ignored it was the spawn of what was to become Punk Rock. With a touch of Lou Reed style vocals Iggy Pop led The Stooges through simple chord progressions & such vocal ferocity that the album is considered one of the loudest of all time being in the -4dbs range throughout.

Iggy & The StoogesSearch & Destroy

Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power

#231 – Siamese Dream – The Smashing Pumpkins

Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins came out when I was 16 years old & just getting over that Rap phase that seemingly every young suburbanite boy goes through. It was one of my first forays into alternative music & it opened my mind up to sounds that I’d never heard on a rock album before. The strings on “Disarm” make you revel in the ostentatiousness of such an attempt to make it different than anything else that was out there. Different it was with over 40 different overdubs of guitar alone on “Today” it is a musical anomaly in the realm of so-called grunge rock which while this album was given that designation it certainly is not Grunge whatsoever.

Smashing PumpkinsDisarm

Smashing Pumpkins – Today

#230 – MTV Unplugged in New York – Nirvana

Instead of going on MTV Unplugged and doing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” acoustically Nirvana opted to do things different. What they created is perhaps the best Unplugged performance that came out of the MTV series. Covering everyone from David Bowie to the Meat Puppets to Leadbelly, this album showed a side of Kurt Cobain that the world had not seen. Unfortunately, the world would never get to see that side again. Less than a year later, Kurt Cobain would be found dead from a self inflicted shotgun blast to the head & the world was left wondering what might have been.

Nirvana – Lake of Fire

Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night

I’m a Wicked Guy & I Was Born With a Jealous Mind

With a new album dropping May 19th Eminem is assured of two things: 1) people are gonna love his album and say it’s one of the best rap albums ever. 2) people are gonna hate his album & say his lyrics are too violent, misogynistic & just plain hateful. What they don’t realize is that it’s the same thing that’s been going on since the 60s. As a matter of fact I was listening to one of my favorite Beatles albums the other day, Rubber Soul & was taken aback by how violent the last song, “Run for Your Life” comes off. If you haven’t heard it, it’s John Lennon singing about how he’d rather see the girl he’s presumably dating dead than for her to be with another man. The song is actually a take off of a verse in an Elvis Presley song, “Let’s Play House“.

Now listen to me, baby
Try to understand.
I’d rather see you dead, little girl,
Than to be with another man.

Lennon, however, takes it to another dimension. Whereas, the Elvis song is less about jealousy & more of the pain of losing someone. The Beatles song is the stuff movies are made about.

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or I won’t know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That’s the end’a little girl

Well you know that I’m a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can’t spend my whole life
Trying just to make you toe the line

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I’ve said
Baby, I’m determined
And I’d rather see you dead

Where is the fervor over John Lennon’s misogyny? It isn’t filled with curse words, but still if you read the lyrics it’s an awfully violent song. The difference? The beat…Eminem is a rapper, his lyrics are paramount in the song. It’s what you pay attention to & granted they are more in your face, up front & graphic. In rock songs, if there’s a poppy beat, you could care less about what’s said. This obviously isn’t my first foray into trying to get people to read/listen to the lyrics. We all remember the Soulja Boy incident of 2007.

I digress, the point isn’t that John Lennon & Eminem are equally violent towards women. The point is that it’s a double standard. There’s other examples: Gary Puckett & the Union Gap’s song, “Young Girl” comes to mind.

Young girl, get out of my mind
My love
for you is way out of line
Better run, girl,
You’re much too young, girl
With all the charms of a woman
You’ve kept the secret of your youth
You led me to believe
You’re old enough
To give me Love
And now it hurts to know the truth, Oh,
Beneath your perfume and make-up
You’re just a baby in disguise
And though you know
That it is wrong to be
Alone with me
That come on look is in your eyes, Oh,
So hurry home to your mama
I’m sure she wonders where you are
Get out of here
Before I have the time
To change my mind
‘Cause I’m afraid we’ll go too far.

If that song were sung today Chris Hanson would walk into the recording studio with a camera crew & say, “Have a seat.” What the hell is that? “Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind”!!! I’ll translate for you, “Get out of here you hot young piece of ass, because I’m a pedophile & you’re looking really good right now.” They’re still play that song on oldies radio stations. Yet, Eminem is the antichrist?

Oh & let us not forget the great Frankie Valli’s song, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).” One of the few disco songs that I actually like, but it’s about losing your virginity to a whore!

Oh, what a night
Late December back in sixty-three
What a very special time for me
As I remember what a night.

Oh, what a night
You know I didn’t even know her name
But I was never gonna be the same
What a lady, what a night.

Oh I, I got a funny feelin’ when she walked in the room
Yeah my, as I recall it ended much too soon.

It’s not only that he sings about finishing prematurely but he goes on about how great it is to finally be having sex. likening it to some religious conversion:

Oh what a night, why’d it take so long to see the light
Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right
What a lady, what a night

Wouldn’t even know that if you didn’t see past the happy, poppy beat. It’s like people singing along to songs, but not realizing what they’re singing about. It’s just words thrown in like some fucking mad lib to a cool melody/beat. Follow blindly & we’ll lead you to the promised land. Where have I heard that before?

A song is a conglomeration of things, melody, beat & lyrics. Lyrics to me are paramount. Don’t assume, because it has an upbeat sound, that it’s an upbeat song. If you’re gonna let the words come out of your mouth you should really know what it is you’re singing or you could be saying something you don’t agree with at all. Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about. Keep in mind these songs are not for the faint of heart.

BeatlesRun For Your Life (Demo)

EminemKill You

Nancy SinatraRun For Your Life

Cowboy JunkiesRun For Your Life

Bobby DarinMack The Knife

Gary Puckett & The Union GapYoung Girl

The SmithsGirlfriend in a Coma

Frankie ValliDecember 1963 (Oh What a Night)