Sunday, April 30, 2006

Throw Your Troubles To The Moon Trolls

Gene Clark was player-hated by his fellow bandmembers in The Byrds. According to legend, the jealousy came about because he was richer, better-looking, more prolific and more talented than the rest of the boys in the band, at least in their early days. He wrote most of their original songs and B-sides, and when you have a hit single with Bob Dylan's song on the A-side, it means the songwriting royalties go to Bob and Gene. Hence Gene drove Porshes around LA while David Crosby and Roger McGuinn did not. Some say Gene had a better voice than Roger, yet Roger took a lot of lead vocals anyway. McGuinn exploited Gene's fear of flying in a Lear Jet, asking the pilot to do tricks during the flight, thereby terrorizing Gene. Crosby wouldn't even let him play guitar on stage, just tambourine. But Gene pushed on, writing great songs one after the other. His best songs came after breakups with girlfriends, songs like Feel A Whole Lot Better. He also was primarily responsible for my favorite rock and roll song of all time, 8 Miles High, most of which he wrote after hanging out with Brian Jones one night. Just look for any Byrds CD reissues with bonus tracks. Check who wrote the song and if it's a Gene Clark composition then it's a winner.

Understandably, Gene quit The Byrds and moved on to do his first solo album. It's a great record. Check out the psychedelic lyrics while you listen to So You Say You Lost Your Baby:

Throw your troubles to the moon trolls
To swallow up like stormy dreams.
Gene Clark, if you'll forgive the John Madden phrasing here, was the Real Deal. I know a lot of cult figures may not live up to the hipster hype, but I'm here to tell you Gene Clark was for real. He was simply a great singer and songwriter, and there are loads of songs to prove it. Check out the American Dreamer compilation from Australia for a good summary. Or if you're willing to stay with Gene's problematic 70's masterpiece (which was literally trashed by David Geffen at Asylum upon completion) you will realize why the record is called No Other.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

In the Rooms of her Ice Water Mansions

This, like the Holy Sons, is another piece of surprise goodness from the people at Awful Bliss Records. It comes from a two-CD compilation called Songs For Another Place. One disc is mostly Italian artists, several of whom sound shockingly like Tom Waits. The other disc has your North Americans on it (I have to confess to not being too taken by the Italian indie rock). The Great Lake Swimmers are also released on Misra Records, one of those labels that consistently puts out great music -- see South San Gabriel, Mendoza Line and Centro-Matic.

It starts with some seething, lonesome, amp squall, but “Song For the Angels” by the Great Lake Swimmers quickly turns into one of those spare, spare, lovely/bleak guy-with-acoustic-guitar songs, with vocal harmonies like some almost-invisible gray wash of watercolor. Chinese ink brush painting depicting an empty galaxy.

The song is a mix of metaphysical despair and uplift. The dread and transcendence of ego obliteration.
“I know that I am just a grain of sand meeting water at the land,” singer/songwriter Tony Dekker sings. A speck-like part of something huge about to be washed away by something even greater.

"Song or the Angels," with its lines about electricity, outer space, pulses, charges, stars, physical change is also what you might call science folk.

Pick your free-flowing Driftwood stream to drop this beautiful frail dry reed into. The song is slight. With a let-me-fade-into-the-vast-cosmos reluctance, it almost asks not to be sung at all. And, I doubt it needs to be said, but the Great Lake Swimmers are Canadian.

"Song for the Angels" --
The Great Lake Swimmers

Friday, April 28, 2006

Fuckin A

I'm happy to report the new Neil Young album is actually great. Phew!


Monday, April 24, 2006

Space Is The Place

Despite my knee-jerk resistance to Jeff Tweedy's well-marketed anti-marketing aesthetic, the truth is that where I have demand, Wilco has supply. I want to resist the manicured indie-ironic chic they've perfected, I do, but then I hear Wilco's live cover of Charles Wright's "Comment (If Men Were Truly Brothers)" and I'm sold. It's transcendent.

I've long felt there's something disconertingly arid and tasteful about Wilco. But just as I'm edging away, Tweedy lunges out with enough believably ragged glory to break through. His morning-after crud voice is the stone continually thrown at his own well-built glass house. What makes this song work is heart. And love. And peace. But also ... space.

S. P. A. C. E.

Somewhere between the soundboard and the song, between the sun-baked Gibson and the tasteful organ, there's something magical about how Tweedy clears the air and lets a song breathe free. The instruments are clean, defined, each standing apart like modernist furniture, enhancing the negative space. The stage sounds so well-swept! When a kinky jazz riff or piano tinkle is placed, it's as if it's displayed on a clean, white bookcase. Tweedy has somehow fused gritty '70s soul with Architecture Digest.

I guess I actually like it arid.

Similarly, Jerry Garcia made excellent use of space in his cover of Dylan's "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)," a sensationally brooding performance. The brilliance is in the loping pace, the stonerific expanses he lets open between notes, each instrument treading quietly through the canyon, as if on an old mule, saddle-bagged, with Don Quixote leading, slumped in his saddle and stewing on something tragic. A silent osprey overhead. The dull plodding of hooves echoing up the sheer face of the equalizer. Is that iron cross still hanging from around your neck?

The guitar riff at minute 5:41 - 5:48 should be framed and hung in the Museum of Modern Art: "Gypsy With a Broken Flag."

A band that has become positively addicted to the power of space and spacing: Spoon. This song - "I Turn My Camera On" - came up in my mix today and seemed to prove everything I was thinking. Here the bass pulse and the snap drum open an existential expanse that you could slap just about anything on and create vivid landscape. It's a one-trick pony (the same one Jerry's riding?) that just doesn't seem to give out.

Love As Laughter's "Pulsar Radio" makes my point quite literally. It's unafraid to slow its heart rate, breathe easy, unfurl all the natural majesty that is just free for the taking, if you'll let it be. You hear the stars at night and the coming out of the galaxies.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bad Plus

We watched The Squid and the Whale the other day. The song that runs during the closing credits sort of evoked Lindesfarne. It turned out to be a Loudon Wainwright tune, which reminded me that I'd been meaning to post this tune, "School Days." It's a great song about being young and full of yourself, and then a little older and full of yourself, and still older and even more full of yourself.
I first heard a version of this song on the McGarrigle Sisters The McGarrigle Hour disc from a few years back. It's a very NPR kind of affair with all kinds of people, including Rufus and Martha Wainwright, making guest appearances. I'm sure none of you will be surprised to learn that Emmylou Harris shows up for some harmony vocals. But when doesn't she? I was initially planning to post a series of songs about different states. There can't be many songs about Delaware, and you have to wonder what Sufjan Stevens will do when he has to write a whole record about the place. Doesn't even really seem to warrant statehood to me, but maybe that's an ill-considered thing to say. I'm sure he'll at least cover this one. I noticed that Lee Friedlander took the photos of Loudon on the record jacket. This record is yet another one from the ever-growing stash that Alan Bisbort keeps dropping off at the office. I already liked LW for being the father of Martha and Rufus and for his appearances in the show "Undecided," but my affection cemented when I learned that he had a record called "Attempted Mustache."
"School Days" - Loudon Wainwright III

The connection to this Aztec Two-Step song. (... Yeah, that's right. Aztec Two-Step. Do you have a problem with that?) is the sort of Beat/poetic aesthetic. Wainwright plugs Keats and Blake. This song is about Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." That was another possible theme -- songs about Jack Kerouac and the Beats. But I couldn't think of anything besides that 10,000 Maniacs song and this. My first editor gave me this record when he found out I was an old-dumb-music obsessive (Aztec Two-Step definitely qualifies). He, my editor, also turned me on to the Left Banke and Music Machine (post to come). So, on the whole, he was pretty solid with his recommendations. I don't even think he was endorsing the Aztec Two-Step, just trying to pass off some old vinyl. Yeah, the opening conga action is borderline autistic, and songs about Jack Kerouac are possibly more, you know, terrible, than the actual writing of Jack Kerouac. But still.
"Persecution and Restoration" -- Aztec Two-Step

These last two are also from the Alan Bisbort stash. I had such high hopes for the Amazing Blondel when I first read about them -- period instuments, bad bald-mullets, soft-rock meets British folk revival, a nightmare mash-up. But I couldn't extract anything too compelling from the two-disc set featuring Inspiration and Mulgrave Street. But this song has a great tooting horn arrangement underneath it all, there's also a righteous baritone solo and a weird soft-serve do-wop vocal outro.
"Standing By My Window" -- Amazing Blondel

With this Dion track it feels like we’re in a death match with James Taylor and all of the forces of soft, effete, allegedly sensitive, but secretly demonic and callous, post-hippie consciousness that line up behind him. The Berkshires, all that. But what saves this is that it's not JT, it's Dion. One-time street-corner crooner, one-time junkie, one-time wannabe protest singer, one-time born-again whatever. Now I think he's got a blues record out. Dion has such a beautiful voice. You can hear the "My Friend Martin" phrasing creeping in. He did a Melanie cover, which shows good judgement.
"Running Close Behind You" -- Dion

I realize what unifies all this. If you average it out, it's basically 1972.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Best Bad Song of All Time

SCENE: The public swimming pool. Lowell, Ohio. Summer, 1982.

The FM station out of Parkersburg, West Virginia, had this on heavy rotation, crackling out of the Sanyo transistor that sat on the edge of my towel. Gnawing on a Bit 'O Honey from the concession stand, I'd basked in the sun, drip-drying after a few rounds of Marco Polo. The smell of chlorine, wet concrete. Coltish teenage girls congregating in bikinis. Dudes doing the cannonball. Probably 95 degrees out.

With "I Love You," by Climax Blues Band (right), the DJ was bringing the tempo down after, say, the jaunty oompa-loompa of the Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira." The first low ripples of the electric piano sort of quiet the pool, blue skies shimmering overhead. A cloud passes over. An airplane in the distance. It's, what, 3:30? Check the waterproof Casio.

And then that guitar solo hit. The first stirrings of something, not sure what. The perfect lilting note, the arc of it, how it ascended, then ascended again. Woop-doo-woooooop! woop-doo-woooop! And that was it. As if the solo suddenly became a pink animated laser cutting cursive letters in air, sparks shooting off it like an arc weld and revealing a Technicolor fantasia near the deep end: Coltish teenage girls congregating in bikinis!

Since then I never looked back
It's almost like livin' a dream
Ooh I got you

I was 11 years old. After that, I don't remember hearing the song again. They don't even have it at my local karaoke bar. It's like it evaporated - poof. But like a boomerang, it returns, making me woozy in that VH1 Classics kind of way. But now nostalgia strains against reality, the burnt cursive rusting away, those coltish teenagers of yore all cossetted in their BBQ-fattened suburban enclaves somewhere far away. The song's about a twentysomething longhair who gets reformed by some lovely gal he meets (in AA?).

You picked me up from off the floor and gave me a smile
You said you're much too young, your life ain't begun, let's walk for awhile ...

There's something very Christ-like about this moment. You kind of wonder if she carried him along the beach and there were only one set of footprints. Anyway, now this song is a recommended number on, where you can "learn to love." Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia calls this "arguably the best love song written." I should probably be embarrassed to admit it, but that's about right. Air Supply Nirvana. I admit it's prompted a slow dance or two with Dewey Dell. I do thank her for helping me not become a besotted bum. She doesn't even make me cut my hair!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Bloated Broadway Post

First, just recoil in horror and get it over with.

Second, please know there's a reward at the end of this. And it will set you free.

Ok. There. Now ... on to my favorite movie musical!

Let me declare from the outset, with annoying conviction and self-righteous authority, that "Singin' in the Rain" is probably a high watermark of our civilization. If you've never seen it, then I envy you for getting to see it for the first time. A lot of haters might assume it's phoney-baloney pap, but it's not. Gene Kelly was a god among men (see "An American in Paris," especially this number). The added bonus for people who think they're too cool or emotionally jammed up for "Singin'": Watching it will make you realize how false, empty, talentless and post-All-Things-Good the age you're stuck in truly is, which is something you can revel in later, like a cynical ass smoking a French cigarette and sneering at everything. Meanwhile, you can suck on this.

All of which is to say: Last night I had the great fortune of meeting Stanley Donen, the 82-year-old choreographer who directed the dance sequences in "Singin' in the Rain." A gorgeous sight to behold: dressed all in black, a deep tan, Robert Evans-style 70s sunburst shades, a medallion around his neck. On his arm was Elaine May, the comedienne and movie director -- Stanley's live-in "roomate," I was told by a source. I didn't inquire further.

This was at a staged reading of a play by Larry Gelbart, the guy who adapted M*A*S*H for TV. If I were penning a gossip column for Golden Agers, I'd also have to note the attendance of Arthur Penn, the 84-year-old director of "Bonnie and Clyde," to whom I was also introduced. What I love about people like Penn is how casually awe-inspiring their biographies are: "Penn made his feature debut with a Western, The Left Handed Gun (1958). A re-telling of the Billy the Kid legend, it was notable for its sharp portrayal of the outlaw (played by Paul Newman) as a psychologically troubled youth (it’s telling that the role was originally intended for the archetypal troubled teen James Dean)."

New York City being a place of great serendipity -- and a place that wears its history more in the memory of its citizens than its architecture, which is always getting torn down for shinier stuff -- you sometimes encounter huge stars from bygone times just walking about without anyone noticing. It's a disorienting experience, a momentary shift in the time-space continuum. You find yourself ... retro-starstruck. There he is! Just standing there! The guy who told Gene Kelly to do this!

And this!

A couple of years ago, I also met Betty Comden, one half of the songwriting team (with Adolph Green) who wrote all the music to "Singin' in the Rain," plus scads of other legendary MGM musicals. There she was! What a Glorious Feeling! I'm Happy Again!

More antique namedropping: I also once had breakfast with Betsy Blair, Gene Kelly's first wife, interviewing her for a newspaper story. We met at the Plaza Hotel, where she told me about parlor games they used to play with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their Hollywood manse. We walked out front to the Pulitzer Fountain, she lit a cigarette and showed me where Gene Kelly proposed marriage to her in 1940. They'd met during a Broadway production when she was a 15-year-old showgirl. Later she got in with European socialists and was blacklisted in Hollywood during the hunt for communists. Hard to believe this smile could be considered a threat to national security:

Yeah, so maybe it wasn't such a great time back then and maybe we're really, really blessed that all we have to contend with is a misbegotten war, a little wiretapping and Matthew McConaughey.

Which brings me to your reward for reading my bloated Broadway production: A track from the retro-metal outfit Early Man. This fetching number is called "Death is the Answer."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More Canadians

I thought Caribou’s Milk of Human Kindness was one of the best records of 2005.
It’s further proof of the animal-name/Canadian-band axiom, and so I thought it I’d just tag it on to the Ladyhawk post. You have to go in for the laptop auteur approach. You also have to get past the did-I-hear-this-on-VW-ad-? factor. And don’t really go searching for fully realized songs; Caribou is more about atmosphere and texture. It kept reminding me of the Silver Apples, and then I realized that was because there’s a Silver Apples sample somewhere in there. Also reminds me, vocally, of the Left Banke. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips pointed out in the most recent Mojo that Caribou seems to be vastly under appreciated. Caribou is Dan Snaith, who recently completed a PhD in math. Snaith used to record under the equally awesomely Canadian name Manitoba, but he was threatened with a law suit by litigious geezer punk Handsome Dick Manitoba.

Caribou - “Hello Hammerheads”

Friday, April 14, 2006


As I said, I might be on some sort of mid-90s nostalgia kick. I’ve been dusting off a few old Pavement records recently and deciding that I hadn’t moved on to the next phase after all. I even found myself enjoying a Silverchair video not too long ago. So much for adulthood. All that might explain why I’m obsessed with the forthcoming self-titled debut from East Vancouver’s Ladyhawk. The vocals have that catch-in-your throat quality, breaking just as they reach emotional rubbed-rawness. It’s just drums-bass-guitar rock. If it didn’t sound so dumb, one might call it grunge. Dumb to call it that I mean. But whereas grunge always seemed sort of callow, there’s a definite depth and maturity to Ladyhawk, especially to the vocals, which sound a lot like Richard Thompson or even Husker Du. Rage tempered by world-weariness, or maybe the other way round. Labelmates Okkervil River come to mind. Ladyhawk evidently has something to do with fellow Vancouver-izers, the kraut-rock stoner geniuses of Black Mountain. They're also all onto this whole zoological naming convention (you know, horses, tigers, wolves, bears). And there's a Neil Young thing going on, too. You know how Neil sometimes drops in a weird, I-didn't-know-that-was-a-chord chord. Close inspection of the CD art reveals a cover of Neil's futuristic-roboto masterwork Trans, tucked in amongst the distintinctly Pacific Northwestern flora and undergrowth. So the Canadians are still showing us how it's done.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this song packs the same play-it-a-thousand-times-in-a-row punch when it's pulled away from the record.

Ladyhawk - "Dugout"

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Ceiling's Crying

It rains here. Despite what we have seen on Baywatch and The OC and on postcards, it rains in Southern California. Makers of film noir know this, and so do Jane's Addiction, who do My Time on their debut LP, recorded live in Los Angeles circa 1987.

I remember being blown away by this album back in high school, even as I asked myself why this "Jane" chick was singing like the spawn of Janis Joplin and Axl Rose. Ah, to be young and musically opinionated. I still love the freewheeling quality of this tune, especially the harmonica, acoustic guitar and the lyrics:

listen to the sound
of the gutters runnin'

wash this dirty town
all fronts and no backs
give me my time
let me be
under the ceiling

Soon we would learn much more about Perry Farrell, and I never compared him to Janis or Axl again. He was no longer like the name he gave himself, peripheral, but front-and-center ringleader of Lollapalooza and the emerging Alt Nation.

Or was that just 90's media hype? I don't know. I've never met the guy but I can tell you he still stands out among Laker fans in the Staples Center. Also, just for the record (and just for the sake of doing some LA-style name-dropping), I did meet the real Jane once. It was about 5 years ago at a party in Echo Park. She was really cool. I think we talked about garage bands of the mid-60's or something. She was doing fine, much better than the portrayal in Jane Says.

Here are some more rain songs. They aren't LA rain songs. I'll have to look into more LA rain songs. Only MacArthur Park comes to mind right now, that and November Rain. Yeah. Anyway these are what I'm using to build my rain mix for 2006. These are for anyone who likes the rain around here. It's supposed to be back Friday.

Happy When It Rains by The Jesus & Mary Chain
Rain by The Beatles
Rainy Day In June by The Kinks

And big ups to my friend Rolldog who got me thinking of this album again!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Folk Off

Wun! Toe! Thray! Fo!

That's how Bruce Springsteen starts off his new album, We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions: a cornpone, Okie-by-way-of-early-Dylan countdown. "Old Man Tucker" is a banjo-driven jaunt, galloping along like a jallopy in a Cohen Brothers remake of The Grapes of Wrath, or a cut from a Broadway musical -- Nebraska!

If that sounds jaded, I'm actually won over by the thought of reanimating the Seeger/Guthrie American folk geneology. Having seen Springsteen during the 2004 "Vote for Change" tour, having heard his heart-wrenching 12-string acoustic version of "The Star Spangled Banner" seguing into "Born in the USA" and been entirely moved by it (these samples are from Cleveland, Oct. 2, 2004), I fully sympathize with the need to overcome. What remained of the tattered identity of the American left was destroyed by that election. Over the years, people have largely abandoned the idea of a "folk" music as a vehicle for anything other than chin-scratching pop criticism. If anybody could reconnect the spinal cord -- the vertebrae of the Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan lineage, which straightened Old Weird America into leftist history -- it would have to be Springsteen, right? Who else?

And let's not forget the power of that lineage. I was recently traveling through the rolling hills of the Catskills on a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to Seeger's "This Land Is Your Land" and found myself genuinely choked up, thinking: We really forgot about this. It IS our land! What happened to America? We forgot about this large-hearted Whitmanian idea of America, one that wraps its cosmic arms around the common peeps and brings down the hammer on the rich and corrupt. Just listen to Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ," which is almost shockingly candid in how it appropriates Jesus for an anti-authority world-view, a place where bankers, landlords, soldiers and cops are inherently anti-Jesus.

Poor working people, they follered him around,
Sung and shouted gay;
Cops and the soldiers, they nailed him in the air,
And they nailed Jesus Christ in his grave.

Well the people held their breath when they heard about his death,
Everybody wondered why;
It was the landlord and the soldiers that he hired
That nailed Jesus Christ in the sky.

This song was made in New York City
Of rich men, preachers and slaves
Yes, if Jesus was to preach like he preached in Galillee,
They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.

I love this stuff, even if that view of the Messiah has never really taken off. And to judge by this article in the Washington Post, the supposedly reconstituted religious left in America won't be a force anytime soon. "People who say they are frequent churchgoers vote Republican by a ratio of about 2 to 1."

With that established, back to Springsteen. If you squint a little and try to forget that he's not really from Oklahoma, these Seeger covers aren't terrible. I think his version of "Jacob's Ladder" is pretty compelling. But there's something more curatorial than true about them. They're forced. Or maybe the whole idea is forced. I've always known that Springsteen's a performer, unafraid to siphon Broadway pizzazz through the tube of the Holland Tunnel and transform New Jersey into his mytho-poetic Camelot. Or Nebraska into a grim, black and white independent movie starring Bruce Springsteen. I kind of love him for precisely that reason.

But in this case, we need him to take off the pancake makeup so we know he's not just playacting. Unless he intends to go around the country holding free folk rallies, teaching these songs to The People, selflessly dedicating his time and energies to preserving traditional song through education and musical proselytizing, he's just tipping his hat from afar -- or worse, coopting worn-out lefty idioms to make a self-righteous political point.

I can hear a counterargument out there: If you really dig into the history, you find that Woody Guthrie and Dylan also put on fake Okie accents and managed to make great, rousing folk anthems that people could latch onto. Yes, but I would argue that the use of the Okie accent as the lingua franca of American folk doesn't ring true any more. What Springsteen really needs to do is pay attention to who exactly the folk really are nowadays. He needs to start sing'em in Spanish.

Uno! Dos! Tres! Quatro!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Milk Cow Blues

Lone Pigeon is Gordon Anderson, a former member of the Beta Band who retired to his home in Scotland to work on this project. This is from the record Schoozzmeeii, a record that a colleague of mine said walks the fine line between brilliant and idiotic. “Brown Cow” is the track I keep returning to. It’s a great example of the truth that what you say matters less than how you say it.

Lone Pigeon - "Brown Cow"

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gnostic Gospels

How many misanthropic shut-in four-track geniuses are there? Sometimes the supply seems frighteningly limitless. I didn’t know anything about Holy Sons until I got a package from Awful Bliss Records. Holy Sons gives me a little early-mid-90s nostalgia, for the days when self-loathing, deep despond, spiraling despair, and giddy nonsense were sanctioned. Take away the occasionally jazzy drumming, the slowed-down loops of spoken word snippets, the wafer-thin programmed beats, and you might have a Palace Brothers record. The same things keep coming to mind when I listen to this – Steve Miller, Bob Welch, Grandaddy, Little Wings, Beck. Holy Sons is Emil Amos; evidently he appears on a Bread tribute record that came out last year (gotta hear that one). That’s about all I know. I read that he used to live in Chapel Hill. Dig the Max Roach/Buddy Rich cover art rip off.

Holy Sons - "Gnostic Device"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Rockville Rocket

As someone who’s lived and/or worked in Connecticut for eight years now (and someone who lived and worked for a stretch in the Garden State), I’ve always felt that the CT was basically Jersey without the stigma. Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford can compete with Patterson, Trenton and Newark any time. Bring it on. But, along with the stigma, CT is missing out on a whole lot more – namely, the likes of the Misfits, Bon Jovi and the Boss. Few states have such an empty slate in terms of pop and rock history (spare me the notes about the Wildweeds, or how John Mayer is from Fairfield). The Nutmeg State has only one inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he died this week. Gene Pitney was the Rockville Rocket. I’ve seen some pretty painful recent concert footage of Pitney on PBS fund-drives.

This track is from “Just For You,” Pitney’s third album, on the of which he stands a few steps up on a ladder. He’s got the collar of his pink shirt coming over the neck of his red sweater and he’s draping his checked jacket over his shoulder. They don’t make covers like this anymore. What’s he doing up there anyway?

The tune is called “Mecca.” I wish that Edward Said were alive. He’d have something to say about it.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Graham Gouldman, Professional Songwriter

I still remember being 16 years old and buying my Rhino compilation of The Yardbirds. I love this record, especially the songs written by hired gun songwriter Graham Gouldman: Heart Full Of Soul and the controversial For Your Love. Legend has it the latter was too much of a sellout pop song for bandmember Eric Clapton, who left the band in part because of this tune. But for me it's just another great hook-tastic song by Gouldman. Plus it has harpsichord. I've never heard a bad pop song featuring harpsichord. But that's another post.

Graham was also hired to write some tunes for the Hollies, like Bus Stop. Another beautiful piece of mid-60's pop. I've loved this song since I was 10 years old and I first heard it on oldies radio.

Gouldman went on to write more songs and became part of 10cc and then a solo artist. I can't say I've followed his career much after the Sixties. These 3 songs are still enough for me. Of course there are more GG gems from this era, like Evil Hearted You and Look Through Any Window, but this will do for now.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thy Neighbor’s Wife

Before there was R. Kelly and "Trapped in the Closet," there was Roger Hatcher and "Caught Making Love." I think it was God who said "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Still, it’s an ever- popular subject, and one that shows up in a million different ways in song. Roger Hatcher’s main claim to fame is that he was the cousin, or something, of Edwin Starr. But what makes Hatcher’s "Caught Making Love" so great is the unadorned honest simplicity of the situation. Hatcher doesn’t need to resort to any elaborate metaphor – there’s no sneaking in the henhouse, no new mule in the stable, no Sam the grinder. Sounds of female ecstasy -- heavy breathing, moaning, screaming – included.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Heavy With Child

You stack up the evidence: flutes; fairy tale content; high-calorie but low-nutrition sax; evocations of CSN, America, the Eagles, Loggins and Messina, even the occasional hint of the Doobie Brothers. The case doesn’t look good for Firefall. The quality of mercy may be strained in this instance. The band occupies territory on the frightening borderland between soft rock Americana, latin-jazz-tinged fusion bombast (someone in the band likes Carlos Santana’s guitar tone), and possibly a fringe of showboaty L.A. studiocat-ville.

Get out your rock pedigrees though. There’s some lineage connecting these guys to The Flying Burrito Brothers (but the same is true of Manasas) and Spirit (whatever).

Firefall - "Cinderella"

War of the Worlds
I'm just gonna have to clear the decks here. All I have to say about this next track is this: H.G. Wells, Sir Richard Burton, Justin Hayward (frontman of the Moody Blues) and Phil Linott (Thin Lizzy). There's a track on here called "The Red Weed," which I kind of wanted to share with you, but I had to go with "Thunder Child" instead. I knew a band in Charlotte, NC in the '90s called Come On Thunder Child. I always thought it was a brilliant name, but never knew the reference.