Listen to INDIAN SUMMER by The Doors.
Listen to BLANKET ROLL BLUES by Scott Walker.
John again. And just like that it’s Labor Day weekend. With that in mind, I thought I’d toss up a tune which reminds me of the thinning light and shorter days: The Doors' Indian Summer. Ah, The Doors... There has been a lot of effort invested in trying to figure out what that was all about, but I won’t bother. Instead, I’ll point out that Indian Summer is from August 1966, which puts it before the legends.
And with that out of the way, I’d like to point out that the waning of summer is the waxing of Scott!
Happy Labor Day and enjoy!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Listen to WINDY by Ruthann Friedman.
"Wendy" has been a very popular girl's name for ages. Its derivation from Celtic languages (Gwendi, Gwendoline, Gwendolyn, etc) accounts for that, obviously. But then, what about the name "Windy" (with an "i"), and how come it appeared all of a sudden in 1967 as a moderately popular girl's name for fifteen years?
I think it's safe to say that the person most responsible for this phenomenon is Ruthann Friedman. Ms. Friedman grew up in the Bronx, and made her way (via Denver) to California as part of the great "Hippie Migration." Doing her thing out there, she fell in with some members of The Association, who ended up recording a song Friedman had written, and releasing it in 1967, where it hit the top of the charts. Yes, everyone knows it's Windy.
Anyway, in honor of Windys everywhere, here is Windy. As much as I love The Association (as discussed yesterday), I couldn't inflict their version on you. Much more interesting is to hear Friedman's own recording, which is available on the excellent "Hurried Life" compilation.
Photo: Manhattan Towers (4).
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Listen to WINDY WEDNESDAY by Gordon Alexander.
It's a problem with music blogs (with reading them, and with writing them, to be perfectly frank), that every entry is like, "this is the greatestthingyou MUST LISTEN TO IT." So, one tries to be evenhanded in one's praise, and be honest about what you like and you don't, but it comes down to this: a blogger isn't going to waste all the time it takes to pick a song, upload the song, code the blog, write the post, and so on, if she's going to end up saying "here's a song I'm sharing with you I don't like it very much." What's the point?
Well, today, here's a song I'm sharing with you I don't like it very much. Some of you have picked up a theme to this week's posts, and that's why it's here. It's too bad, because I had high hopes for the album from which it's taken. It was produced by Curt Boettcher, late of The Association and The Millenium (which, thanks to John, I have been listening to nonstop for months). But, well, listen to the song for yourself. To me, it's an apparently unwitting parody of West Coast 60s psychedelia. Another title on the album, A Bunch of Us Were Sitting Around a Candle in San Francisco Getting Stoned and I Hope You're There Next Time, basically sums up how daft it is--the title isn't ironic, isn't a trippy sound collage or anything, it's a song about how a bunch of us were sitting around a candle in San Francisco getting stoned and how I hope you're there next time. Oh yes.
If it's any consolation, for once I'll rep today's photograph. I think it's the greatest thing you must look at it!
Photo: Manhattan towers (3).
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Listen to RIDING HIGH ON A WINDY DAY by The Paragons.
Well, Usain Bolt is the new Jamaica, but I'm still a fan of the old Jamaica. We've had the Paragons on before, and it frustrates me that, if I hadn't given it a quick read, I would have typed more or less the same entry. Basically, I think it's just too bad that more Jamaican music has never been in the mix on classic rock radio, so it would be generally well known and accepted. Get to know this great music, people!
Riding High was a hit for the Paragons, not their biggest, but high quality. The concept for the song and the recording are crystal clear--it has a clarity of purpose, if you will. Good melody, good performance, good production.
Photo: Manhattan Towers (2).
Monday, August 25, 2008
Listen to (LOVE LIVES ON A) WINDY HILL by The Futures.
I'm trying to come up with a song, as a basis for comparison, that is as calm, as placid, as this song by The Futures. Well, since a song-based metaphor is failing me, let's try something different. I listened to this one about six times in a row, and it was like having a soft fan blowing gentle pulses of air over you. If you've ever had trouble sleeping, and been up an hour or two, it was like that moment right before it happens when you realize that you're finally falling asleep after all that. Relief and bliss.
(Love Lives On A) Windy Hill is from 1975:
The first LP issued by The Futures -- a fine Philly vocal quintet who'd recorded a number of singles earlier in the 70s, but who finally cracked the LP racks with this 1975 release! The group's got harmony chops that are plenty strong -- with an ability to hit both a sweet soul sound and a deeper righteous groove that was being used by some of the funkier groups at the time.Photo: Manhattan towers (1).
Friday, August 22, 2008
Listen to NE ME QUITTE PAS by Jacques Brel.
Listen to LA CHASON DES VIEUX AMANTS by Jacques Brel.
Jason dropping in.
I usually start the selection process by reflecting on Bill's posts for the week. This week was Bo Diddley - and I have nothing to offer in this vein. There are a few of the "big" genres that I don't listen to - country, classical, opera - but I can at least name one or two things from those that I can appreciate. But I can't name a single thing about the blues that I like. For me, it is the most generic, unimaginative. formulaic, mono-themed, limited style of music I can think of. In fact, if anyone can steer me differently, I'd welcome it. Go on - name a single blues track that's worth it - I'll give it a shot - educate me.
So, instead, I turned to John's post of last Friday to influence this selection.
John chose the best "frivolous french pop" and it got me thinking......
Eight years ago, when I moved to New York City, Mojo magazine published their 100 greatest songs of all time. I had just discovered napster (with a dial-up connection) and this was my first list of songs to check out via download. Normally a list like that would have you had me trawling for weeks through second-hand stores - but with a PC I could get most of them in minutes and see what all the fuss was about. That list will live in my memory alongside the "first 7-inch ever bought" or "first album ever bought" mementos of my life. And it holds up eight years later- check it out.
I'll never agree that River Man (at #42) is Nick Drake's best song (for me, its "Northern Sky") but that list turned me on to great stuff like James Carr's "The Dark End of The Street", Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" and Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You"....
....and, at number 68 - "Ne Me Quitte Pas", by Jacques Brel (one of only two non-English language songs on the list).
I've never believed its a love song - I love its vulnerability - but I prefer its sister song used in the "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well" film - "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants" ("Song for Old Lovers").
You don't need to understand French to understand these songs.
Pour yourself a glass of red, light some candles....and listen.
Photo: Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, 2001. Taken by Jason Bryant.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Listen to SIGNIFYING BLUES (EXTENDED VERSION) by Bo Diddley.
Your 1959 single "Say Man" was, in a round about way, one of the first rap records?
Uhuh. But it wasn't called rap, it was called 'signifyin''. But the new kids today on the block call it rap and I guess you could say rap is a good name for it since you can't understand a damn thing they're sayin'. I think Eminem is the only one you can understand what he's saying. Will Smith was really good. Sir Mix-A-Lot, you can understand him. But the rest of 'em, you can't understand except that it's dirty,and I don't like the dirty lyrics. That's no good for our youngsters. Let a child be a child until he's no more a child and then he can listen to what he wants to.
Photo: Trip to Upper Manhattan (4).
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Listen to AFRICA SPEAKS by Bo Diddley.
Did you encounter much racism in the early days?
In the Fifties, you ran into some ignorant people down South — down behind the ignorant curtain, I call it. You was a sad son of a bitch if you couldn't fix you own car then, 'cause if it broke down, you'd be sittin' off in the bushes, and the service-station cat would just be sittin' up there lookin' at you. The crap that we went through to try to bring rock & roll to people. And all these dudes that's running around now tryin' to claim the shit — they ain't got no business claimin' nothin',' cause they didn't do it. We were the pioneers, and we went through hell and high water to make this shit happen. We went through some heavy changes. I had guns put up to my head, man; run out of town, and I still don't know why.
Where was that?
Right goin' into Arkansas, the day after President Kennedy got shot. We were runnin' out of gas, so we parked at this gas station at night and we were waitin' for it to open up in the mornin'. So by 7:30 or 8:00 there were four or five white guys standin' on the corner, like they were waitin' on somebody to pick 'em up, and we were sittin' there in this big, long, stretched-out Chevrolet with eight doors on it. They ain't botherin' us, and we ain't botherin' them. The gas station still ain't open yet, so me and the driver decided to mosey across the street to look at this thrift shop over there. Just about the time we got to the middle of the street, I heard this guy hollerin', "Hey, you! Whatta you lookin' at?" I looked around and didn't see nobody, so we went on across the street. Then we walked back, and just as we got maybe ten feet away from the car, we could see this old man run-nin' out across this field and down this hill, hollerin', "Hey, you all, what choo doin' there? What're you lookin' for?" So I stopped and looked at him, and I pointed — "Me?" He said, "Yeah, you. Wait a minute."
And when he got there, this old man pulled out this great big old gun and stuck it up to my head. Now, if you've ever had a gun put up to your head, the barrel of a .38 looks like a wind tunnel or somethin' when somebody stick it in your face — it gets real big, you understand? And this old man told me, "I want you to get out of town. Ain't none of y'all around here, and y'all get a-movin'."
See, again, that was a time when God carried my booty on his back. Because this was the most horrible experience a man could ever have, for no particular reason. Nothin' should have been that bad. But, see, people back then, this is what they thought — they were taught this. They were raised that way. They didn't know. They thought they were right. It's different now. The people down here in the South now is got their shit together. Everybody's fine; everybody gets along beautiful, and I'm so happy that that's what's happened. But you can always find a fool — you can find a fool in church, you understand? And there's some running' around right now, man, that's still fucked up, and it shouldn't be. I don't see color, you know? But that was the thing we had to go through. And not just black people; white people, too, if they let their hair grow long or something.
I don't understand why Americans do this — they love to pick at one another, you know? I think we'd be better off if we exercised the idea that that man's a free man, just like I am, and if he want to wear his hair down to his asshole, that's his business. It ain't botherin' me — I ain't gotta sleep with him, you dig? Leave him alone. And if you don't want him in your house, just say, "Hey, you can come in, but the hair gotta stay out."
Photo: Trip to Upper Manhattan (3).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Listen to LOOK AT GRANDMA by Bo Diddley.
"I tell young musicians, 'Don't trust nobody but your mama,' " he says as we leave the hotel and slide into the back seat of a car. "And even then, look at her real good."
As we run errands in Manhattan -- combing the street stalls of Fourteenth Street for bargain clothing and B&H Photo for discount video-camera accessories -- Diddley never stops trying to keep me entertained. Whenever a silence looms, he will ask, "What do you want to know?" or he will start singing one of his hits, or he'll just chuckle and say, "Rock & roll." His manner is easygoing, and despite the fact that the credit and royalties he wants will probably not come in his lifetime, he has not stopped caring or turned into a money-motivated hack, like many musicians on the oldies circuit. Every performance is just as much a battle to him as it was fifty years ago.
"I had a woman in the audience the other night in Oklahoma, sitting all stiff while everyone around her was moving and clapping," he booms as we drive through midtown. "She looked like she was married to some dude who had her stuck in the house for years. I told her, 'No, no, no, you can't sit on the front row and look like you swallowed a liver. You've got to smile, baby, because you are pretty.' " He concludes, "She started grinning, and she started clapping along with the music, man. I got her." He beams and claps his hands together. "I got through."
Photo: Trip to Upper Manhattan (2).
Monday, August 18, 2008
Listen to WE'RE GONNA GET MARRIED by Bo Diddley.
Nerve: Analyzing your music, I find that there’s been a lot of humor in there...
BO: Oh yes, I’m doing that again now. I have a girl that I’m working with called Tiffany (not THAT Tiffany) and we puttin’ comedy in there. I’m teaching her how to do it, so she doesn’t sing, so she’s talkin’ the song out. Like I got this song called “Leave”. It’s about a man, that his old lady tells him to leave, to get away from her, she’s had enough of his mess. You know? And it’s funny. Like my old songs where I used to have Cookie. Cookie’s deceased now. And Jerome (Green) is gone. You know, all the people that used to do that with me is gone. (the child on Bo’s end starts crying again) BO: Hold on a minute. (to the child): You got to leave baby, I’m talking on the phone. Go in the kitchen and sit there. You gotta quit cryin’ ‘cos I can’t hear the Man. OK? Look at TV... OK, go ahead man.
Nerve: Back to the humor thing, was Fats Waller ever an influence on you at all?
BO: No way! Don’t ever ask me if someone was an influence! I influenced other guys. I didn’t listen to nobody that I sound like. I sound like ME! Nobody else. (laughs)
Nerve: Back to the Chess era, I’ve always been curious about the artist that did the LP covers, Don Bronstein...
BO: I have no idea who in the hell he is. These guys did something when I was not in town, a lot of it. These guys came out with these screwed up paintings, drawings and shit. Y’know, something that I never OK’d or looked at until the damn thing was handed to me when I walked in... “Oh we got your new album”, and that’s depressing, you know? And I had no say-so.
Nerve: Some of your songs look at the political landscape of the day. Like “Hey, Khruschev”...
BO: That’s REAL old.
Nerve: What do you make of the world today?
BO: Well I got one that I was getting ready to do, and I quit foolin’ with it because I was going through a divorce. It’s called “My Eagle Is Pissed’”. About the Saddam Hussein mess, you know? Meanin’ the United States is pissed off. About what happened with the twin towers. I never thought that people would do that kind of shit.
Photo: Trip to Upper Manhattan (1).
Friday, August 15, 2008
Listen to L'AMOUR EN WAGON by Michel Delpech.
Listen to POUR UN FLIRT by Michel Delpech.
Listen to SHAMI-SHA by Mort Shuman.
John back again. In honor of the Olympics, I had a little contest of my own this past week. The competition was Frivolous French Pop. And, to be true to (admittedly past) Olympic form, the amateurish aspect was respected, and only current library tunes qualified – so no surfing for glory. The medalists are:
Bronze – Michel Delpech for “L’Amour En Wagon”. Narrowly beating out Patric Jouvet’s “La Musica”, “L’Amour En Wagon” is a light ditty about train dirty. He loves it and the effort shows with the bronze.
Silver – Michel Delpech for “Pour Un Flirt”. One man, two medals… good job Michel! Presumably, the chronology suggest ‘Flirt’ before ‘L’Amour’, but the La la la’s, the coronets, and the player piano sound bring the added je ne sais quoi to put it into Silver position.
Gold – Mort Shuman for “Shami-Sha”. Although born in Brooklyn, he saved his best stuff for the English and the French, and ‘Shami’ is the best today. Wonderfully frivolous (and in French) it just seems to glide over the ears. Anything more would be less.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Listen to BO'S VACATION by Bo Diddley.
We're going on vacation for a few days, but thanks to the magic of FUTURE POST, the blog (and Bo) will keep you company while we're gone.
Bo, if someone from Mars came down to Earth and wanted to know what rock & roll was, how would you define it?
What did you say?
If someone from Mars wanted to know what rock & roll was, what would you tell them?
That's what I thought you said.
What I mean is, What is rock & roll in your opinion?
It's music, baby. Happy music. And classical music is music-music. In other words, classical music is the stuff by cats that have deceased, but their music lives on. Rock & roll is the other range, the other step. And I feel like my music will live on after I decease, too. But wait a minute — I ain't plannin' on goin' nowhere too soon, you dig? 'Cause I'm feelin' like the Rock of Gibraltar, brother.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Why? Where am I gone? I don't like that question, sorry. Being remembered, like I'm goin' out the door any minute…
…well, hopefully not.
Hee! I ain't goin nowhere, man. I am so superstitious about that, as I am about wills. When you do a will it tells me that you've just started descending into neverland. Understand me? That's my belief. Alot of people say I shouldn't think that way, but let them do it the way they wanna do it and I'll do it the way I wanna do it cos I ain't ready to pull the plug yet. I'm chained to the plug. You could walk around the corner and somebody could say to you "Man, Bo's just dropped dead". And you'd probably say "What? You're full of shit, I was just talkin' to him two minutes ago". But that's the way it is.
We never know when we're gone, and I'm very superstitious about playing around with anything that means I'm out the door for the last time. I'll talk about anything but that. See, I remember Sam Cooke sayin' that he was hangin' up his rock'n'roll shoes and this chick killed him. The chick shot him, man! To me, superstition, that means something. You dig?
Photo: Street signs (4).
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Listen to CADILLAC by Bo Diddley.
From an obituary in the New Mexico Independent, discussing an interview Bo Diddley had given a few years back:
He said he'd had trouble collecting royalties on his Chess Records classics like "Who Do You Love" and "Diddley Wah Diddley", and even though he was happier with MCA Records, the money was "still not up to par."
"I'm talking about my livelihood.
The day of the interview, Diddley said he had discovered a "collections" type album featuring a Bo Diddley tune, and he and MCA Records hadn't been consulted.
"You know, if I went out and started making Cadillacs without the Cadillac company's OK, I'd be in jail before the sun came up." Diddley said the lack of decent royalties kept his children from going to college.
But several of those children followed in his footsteps as musicians and the music took Diddley all over the world and to some unlikely venues. One of the more unusual inclusions in his press packet from 1987 is a copy of the letter Diddley received from former Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater, thanking the rocker for performing and allowing Atwater to join him at the Celebration for Young Americans event during George H.W. Bush's inauguration. "You proved that you are the originator!" Atwater gushed in a handwritten note below his signature.
"That was beautiful. America is a beautiful country," Diddley said of the event.
Photo: Street signs (3).
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Listen to ELEPHANT MAN by Bo Diddley.
""I got some shocking things I want to do before I decide to say, 'Hey, I'm giving up,' " he says as we climb into his Ford minivan, which is equipped with a Diddley-built wooden console full of drink and map holders. "But I'm not doing anything at the moment because I have a very undecided problem. They call it a matrimony problem. I'm going through a separation, a divorce, whatever you want to call it." In his deep, rich voice, Diddley explains that he has decided to lay low creatively, in case the courts decide that his fourth wife should have a piece of any new project.
We pull into the driveway of an old white house. Lola, a white pit bull missing an eye, greets us.
There is only one item in his hallway: an overturned washtub with a three-foot board screwed into the side. Running between the center of the washtub and the top of the board is a nylon string. Diddley steps up to the washtub bass and begins picking at the string, adjusting the pitch by tilting the plank backward and forward. Whenever he gets a particularly resonant sound, he chuckles happily. We are in Bo Diddley's playpen now.
In the first room off the hallway is a giant amplifier, at least six feet long, that Diddley made. It sits next to another one of his inventions. "It's a board game," Diddley says, gesturing to a giant wooden tabletop covered with squares of writing. "The Bo Diddley Horse Racing Game."
"If I put the guitar down today or tomorrow, I would not starve," Diddley continues as he leads me to the next room, his studio. "I know too many damn things. I can decorate. I can cook. I can do electronics and wire any kind of electric shit. I can figure anything out."
Leaning against the studio wall is a gorgeous square guitar made of blond wood and covered with eagle stickers. His picks, which he rarely uses, are coated with Velcro and attached to a Velcro patch on the side of the instrument. Next to it is a guitar with a misshapen head that's at least two feet long. Inset into this surreal instrument is a CD player, which has been rigged to play backing tracks while the guitar is played.
"I built that motherfucker, but I built that motherfucker too big," Diddley says, sighing.
He sits behind a desk strewn with recording equipment: a Mackie mixing board, a sixteen-track reel-to-reel recorder, a cassette deck, keyboards and half a dozen effects. On a nearby shelf there are dozens of boxes of Ampex tapes stacked in unwieldy piles, dated from 1958 to the present. "See all that over there," Diddley says, gesturing lazily at the shelf. "That's stuff people ain't heard before."
Diddley turns on a drum machine and picks up a microphone. What follows is a rare insight into the musical mind that helped invent rock & roll. His performance lasts nearly two hours.
The man making music before me is not the Bo Diddley I've seen onstage countless times, leading a band through classic blues and rock numbers, with a little rap mixed in. This Diddley is a low-fidelity genius, a do-it-yourself musical tinkerer, a cross between a children's entertainer and a scatological comedian.
The drum machine churns out a "Rock the Bells"-style beat as Diddley raps verse after verse of a nursery rhyme involving the three little pigs, who call Bo Diddley for help when confronted by a big bad wolf. His voice, laden with effects to sound like a chorus of four, booms through the speakers. "I don't care who you are," he sings as the wolf. "Bo Diddley, I'll eat you and your guitar."
Without changing the beat, he begins rapping dirty rhyming verses. "Two old maids was playing in the sand/One told the other, 'I wish you was a man'/One said, the other said, 'I ain't no man/But hold still baby, I'll do the best I can.' "
In another verse, a rooster tells a bow-legged duck, "You ain't good-looking, but you sure can doo-doo-doo." He covers up a swear word in each couplet with innocent singing or an innocuous rhyming word.
When Diddley finishes, he tells me, "That's the stuff I used to do as a kid.""Photo: Street signs (2).
Monday, August 11, 2008
Listen to I'VE HAD IT HARD by Bo Diddley.
It's been a tough weekend for celebrity deaths, but I want to go back a few news cycles and reflect on a legend who passed not long ago, but whose death is no longer in the headlines: Bo Diddley.
If I was writing a novel or a term paper, I might go back and erase and revise that sentence (and this one), but since I'm not, let me restate what I want to do: Since Bo Diddley died, there have been a lot of interesting reflections and surveys on and about his music. I read a lot of them, and heard a lot of great music I've never heard before. So for the next couple of weeks, I'd like to share a little bit of what I've heard, and learned.
First up is I've Had It Hard. I haven't seen anyone blog about this one, actually. This is one of my own personal favorites. It's from the early 1970s, long after Bo was at the center of the music scene, and probably past his creative peak. I've Had It Hard certainly doesn't have any... progressive aspects, but that's the thing I love most about the song. Bo Diddley was so comfortable, so in control of his persona, that he could completely inhabit these songs, completely drive the song by force of personality (I feel like I've used that phrase before, but it still fits here), so much so that he used the sound of his own name as the main hook, and it completely works.
Photo: Street signs (1).
Friday, August 8, 2008
Listen to THESE DAYS by Nico.
Listen to THE FAIREST OF THE SEASONS by Nico.
Jason dropping in.
I don't know if there are any rules of blogging, but if I had to contribute to them, I would add "never youtube before starting your post"*.
Youtube case in point - this one. It started fairly innocuous enough - I launched youtube to grab the Royal Tenenbaums clip that got me in to these songs. At the same time, my subconscious must have reminded me that both of these songs are from Nico's "Chelsea Girl" album and I remembered that I'd been meaning to see if there was a video online of my favourite Chelsea song - (a very ELO-sounding) Blue Day by Suggs (lead singer of Madness and our official song for the 1997 FA Cup - which we went on to win).
In the "Related Videos" side-bar was another "Blue Day" by late 70s/early 80s Aussie/Kiwi new-wave/rock band Mi-Sex. Following that link, and then checking out the related videos took me on a trip down the particular lane of that genre and beyond. Through Mondo Rock and Dear Enemy, past The Swingers and Player One, on down The Eurogliders and James Freud, taking a left at Icehouse and Sherbet, over the hump at Kids in the Kitchen and Pseudo Echo, slowing down for Ganggajang and Redgum, across the Monitors and Dynamic Hepnotics, towards The Uncanny X-Men, Kim Wilde and Sharon O'Neil to pull in at Rose Tattoo and Max Merritt & The Meteors.
And if you were to only check out one of those tracks, I'd plump for the last act with their classic Slipping Away.
And then you can read what's left of this post about the Teutonic beauty that was Christa Päffgen - aka "Nico".
Nico sprung out of Andy Warhol's Factory films straight into the Velvet Underground and is most noted as being the voice of "All Tomorrow's Parties". Its a very distinctive voice. Low, droning, limited in range but utterly compelling. Only making one record with the Underground (the one that mattered), Nico released her debut solo album that same year (1967) - Chelsea Girl.
All of the songs of that record were written by famous "friends" - Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and even a few non-Velvets like Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne (the latter wrote these 2 songs).
Very simple songs. A guitar. Some strings. Chamber-music from another world. And, strangely enough, Nico hated them.
As for the Royal Tenenbaums clip that got me in to Nico as a solo artist - watch for yourself!
* I would also contribute "add a mandatory breathalyser test" to any rules for surfing eBay.
Photo: NEW ENGLAND, 2001. Taken by Jason Bryant.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Listen to Hibernation by Beachwood Sparks.
Listen to Theme from Mount Oread by Charley D. and Milo.
Sorry for the interruption yesterday. I'm going to end this little series by playing a song I have really high regard for from Beachwood Sparks' apparent swan song, the unbelievably psychedelic Make the Cowboy Robots Cry EP (2002). This record best captures the direction the group was heading before their untimely demise...and hopfully where they'll pick up again. These are the ambitious "dreamscapes" previously alluded to--it's all campfires, Ponce de Leon, eternal springs and good friends. The things I like best about the songs from this EP are their articulation of an interesting, spooky vision and their musical adventurousness. They remind me of some of the best stuff on Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle. In fact, these songs strike me as having the same sort of "feel" that Grizzly Bear (and Midlake) managed on their most recent records. I wonder if Grizzly Bear ever heard this EP? Well, even if they did, you can be sure they wouldn't admit it.
And, as promised, how do the Sparks match up against the elusive Charley D. and Milo, mentioned on Monday as an influence? In a word, very well. This stuff ain't so hot. Don't you just hate indie bloggers who get you all hot and bothered about some lost masterpiece that turns out to be mediocre at best? Well, at least we have the comfort of knowing that never happens on this blog! And, since there's been a recent trend of posting songs here that have a scary tendency to drop Tolkien references ("Hey guys, I bet we're the only ones who've read these books...let's blow their minds!"), take a listen to "Theme from Mount Oread". Dig this clumsy fusion of fantasy-prog and country-rock!
Photo: Animal Friends.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Real life intrudes for Corbett today so there won't be a song until this evening at the earliest. Hearty apologies.
In the meantime, you can check out a few blogs we've added to the blogroll. First, there's Amy's blog about her trip to Japan with the anime club from her high school. She just updated with the best picture of Mt. Fuji I've ever seen.
Next, there's "It Takes Two" by the mysterious Laura, who is blogging about her newborn twins, L. and H.
I caught up last week with Chris, who built this amazing pre fab house on a hillside in West Virginia that we've mentioned before. It's starting to get some great press, and the "official" website is now up. Any readers in DC or Virginia should consider a weekend up there. Tell them I sent you, you will be entitled to nothing.
Finally, there's my personal favorite, Cornerstones of New York, which appears to be going for the award for "most pointless blog in the world," though there's some tough competition. Even so, it's off to a good start, I think!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Listen to Old Manatee by Beachwood Sparks.
Listen to Disciples of California by Skygreen Leopards
"Old Manatee" is a song I've loved ever since I heard it. Its lyrics are willfully (I hope) outrageous, with their mention of trees that are "only in our minds." I also think the banjo part is lovely, adding color and atmosphere to the tune. What's more, the idea of losing one's way "deep in the pines" brings to mind a whole slew of satisfying musical references, from the Louvin Brothers to Kurt Cobain (and many more). Floating manatees, building fires, "sweet Tennessee"...I just love these nature-worshipping songs.
I came across the Skygreen Leopards, a Bay area group, in a search for vaguely Beachwood-related bands. Their 2006 record Disciples of California features songs with titles like "West of Shawnapee" and "Jesus was Californian". I figured that with titles like those they couldn't be too bad (and the album cover is pretty amazing too). Well, they do pastoral mumble-folk pretty well, but it didn't really measure up to the standard I had in mind. Anyway, enjoy the record's title song, with its similarly nature-worshipping (I think) lyrics and cool opening tape warp.
Photo: Williamsburg Wall.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Listen to SOMETHING I DON'T RECOGNIZE by Beachwood Sparks.
Hi everyone! Corbett here--I'm back after a lengthy hiatus due to twins duties, but I'll still be plying the same old country-psych-rock nonsense that you've come to know and probably dread. And this week's series is no different! Last week was kind of rough for me until I learned that my favorite band of this (lackluster) decade reunited to play Sub Pop's 20th anniversary celebration, do a small tour (including NYC) and possibly make a new record.
That group was (and now is) Beachwood Sparks, an LA band that went on hiatus back in 2002. The group had it all: great songs, a distinctive vocal blend, good looks and the proper degree of reverence for their forebears. However, the American record buying public were more interested in things like the Strokes or, um, Travis(?). Anyway, I don't think they got the audience they deserved. In reading about the aforementioned reunion, I came across a piece in Seattle Weekly that I think did a pretty good job of summing up the group's appeal. I'll excerpt a piece of it here to show you what I mean:
"...only Beachwood Sparks ever tried merging damn near every aspect of California pop history, from Hollywood Westerns to the Dead to the paisley underground, into a single sweeping aesthetic.
Interestingly enough, this ambition was born of the band's awareness of their limitations as children of indie rock, which has always championed amateurism over craftsmanship. Unlike, say, Jenny Lewis, who sounds like a suburban prom queen struggling to be Linda Ronstadt or Stevie Nicks, Beachwood Sparks knew they didn't have Nashville West's professionalism, the Beach Boys' voices, or Michael Nesmith's songwriting skills.
What they did have were all those classic California records (possibly including the elusive Charley D. and Milo LP), and the postmodern minds needed to edit their finest hooks into simple, but terribly effective, dreamscapes."
I love dreamscapes, but rather than thinking further about what this meant vis a vis indie rock, I immediately began searching for this elusive Charley D. and Milo LP! Anyway, this impulse got me thinking about the way I've always discovered new records--trusted band (or writer) drops a list of tantalizingly unknown names, and a quest--which respects no bounds of work responsibilities or cost--begins (these "quests" probably also have much to do with indie's limitations, but that's another series).
So, this week I'll be celebrating the return of Beachwood Sparks, as well as playing some records that I discovered in my own search for their antecedents and those they influenced (and maybe even some elusive Charley D.!).
Photo: Bear Flag in Soho.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Listen to I AM THE FLY by Wire.
Listen to FROM THE NURSERY by Wire.
John again. One amusing thing about music taste is how many unknowns are actually involved. For instance, today's group is Wire, one of those more or less 'important' bands that influenced blah blah blah... Normally, a line like that would either get me to a) shrug agreement or b) hit the net to figure out how it fits into my scheme. Unfortunately for both Wire and me, they were one of those bands that were adored by friends that said things like "Sure, The Beatles were decent, but the Velvet Underground was much more (nonsense)..." after which I tuned out and mentally marked things in their collection that I didn't know as 'eh, maybe later'. And there Wire sat for almost 13 years until I stumbled across 'I Am The Fly', slapped my head, and began to fill the gap. If only it was just the ears...
Enjoy, and Happy August!