Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carry On Wayward Son

This one's been milling about in my head since playing Rock Band with Amber and the nieces and nephews last weekend. At the risk of tipping the vote on my geo-band poll, I will share that my nephew Jonathan said, "Definitely the best song by a 'location' band."

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high...

It should be mentioned that even more than the bitchin' guitar riffs, I love/loathe this song for its epic hero's journey lyrics, so emblematic of the crossover between certain proggy classic rock bands and the Ren Faire aesthetic.

(Right - the album from whence this song came; Left - another great example of prog-meets-medieval times on Jethro Tull's album The Broadsword And The Beast.)

Artist: Kansas
Year: 1976
Rating: Hotter than a bubbling cauldron of the witch's brew!
Link: Check out this survey of absurd prog rock album cover art at the Onion AV.

Pictures of You

Beautiful song. Perfect guitar lines. Brings tears to my eyes on almost every listen. It reminds me of a lover long gone from my life, who once put the song on a mixed tape* for me.

Artist: The Cure
Year: 1989
Rating: Hot!

*Some people refer to them, by the way, as "mixtapes," but "mix tape" and "mixed tape" are also in usage. I've always preferred "mixed tape" because it seems more grammatically correct, but I understand how "mixtape" just flows better. When I burn CDs for people these days, I call them "mixes."

Monday, March 30, 2009

That Little Sleeper Car

The Little Sleeper Car by Jonathan Richman
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A sweet ditty from Jonathan Richman's Surrender to Jonathan album, in which the proto-punk legend utilizes traditional pop form to tell the story of a sad little train car who the narrator believes has been given a bum rap. Quirk is the word.

Artist: Jonathan Richman
Year: 1996
Rating: Luke Hot

Piece of My Heart

Angel of the Morning continues to cycle through, and this song has been creeping in as a medley. Somehow, maybe the melody or the chord progression is similar, 'cause just as I come to "Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby..." I segue into, "You know you got it, if it makes you feel good."

Artist: Janis Joplin
Year: 1968
Rating: Luke Hot

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cemetry Gates by the Smiths

Cemetry Gates by The Smiths
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Already used in my post about my musical DNA, Cemetry Gates is one of my favorite Smiths songs, and it makes me utterly gleeful when I hear it. I love the jangly guitar melody, Morrissey's British pronunciation of "plagiarize," the assertion of the main character that his compatriot is on the (staid and canonical) side of Keats and Yeats, while he himself is on the (free and life-filled, and perhaps homo-) side of Wilde.

Year: 1986
Rating: Hot!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

That's All by Genesis

I'm fond of this song, even though the lyrics are admittedly not much beyond what an eighth grader could muster during composition class. It's a bit of nostalgia for loving the song as a sixth grader when it came out, mixed with my appreciation of Tony Banks's moody keyboards. Dig Phil's thinning-on-top, lion's-mane-in-back hair during this period.

Year: 1983
Rating: Warm

Edit, 11/8/09: Unfortunately, the live footage I originally posted here got yanked from YouTube, so now you only get this weak still shot vid. Sorry folks! -S

I'm Cold by the Cure

I'm Cold by The Cure
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The B-side of The Cure's single Jumping Someone Else's Train, released in 1979 (the demo version here is from '77). Piercing and raw, it's not a bad one to have on the brain. It allows me to identify with my callous side, a part of me I tend to disavow, as if I'm always all loving and kind.

Year:1977 (1979)
Rating: Hot!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mack the Knife by Louis Armstrong

The Louis Armstrong version of this song is certainly the definitive in my mind, though I will admit that it usually morphs into the McDonald's commercial eventually.

Year (original): 1928 (Weill/Brecht)
Year (Armstrong): 1956
Rating: Luke Hot

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wishing Well by Terence Trent D'Arby

Terence Trent D'Arby, née Terence Howard, now Sananda Maitreya is an outstanding singer, but this mediocre song doesn't quite showcase it. Nice little electric xylophone (?) synthesized pan flute (??) riff there in the middle.

Year: 1988
Rating: Lukewarm

Perfect Way by Scritti Politti/Digging Your Scene by the Blow Monkeys

Two songs have been entering consciousness the last few nights just as I hit the pillow in a melange of mid-eighties madness.

This one by Scritti Politti blends a rather sophisticated lyric which is by turns Lacanian and Derridean...

I don't have a purpose or mission
I'm empty by definition
I got a lack girl that you'd love to be

...into the most commercial, poppiest musical composition. Most of the song seems more a stream of consciousness, alliterative mish-mosh, but lyricist Green Gartside throws in the deconstructionist rhetoric whenever he gets a chance. Bully for him!

Year: 1985
Rating: Warm
Note: Do you like the anime? Couldn't find another video for it, but this is kinda fun!

This one by the Blow Monkeys (awful band name!) is cute, but way simpler (and whinier) lyrics

Tell me why is it I'm digging your scene
I know I'll die baby.

Year: 1986
Rating: Warm

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ana Ng by They Might Be Giants

One of the best geek-rock anthems ever about impossible love, from They Might Be Giants' brilliant album Lincoln. No other band could get away with cramming these words into a refrain without coming off as unintentionally hokey (you must listen to the song while reading the lyrics, I command it):

Ana Ng and I are getting old
And we still haven't walked in the glow
of each other's majestic presence
Listen Ana hear my words
They're the ones you would think I would say
if there was a me for you

Year: 1988
Rating: Hot!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel

If you ever made the mistake of thinking this was a Bob Dylan song, you were actually right. It was written by Dylan, but performed by Stealers Wheel, the lead singer sounding as Dylanesque as possible. But that crucial harmony part is none other than Gerry Rafferty who later went on to pen the mellow rock ditty I blogged about right here.

Love how literal the video is, with actual "clowns" to the left of him. What do you think about the jokers to the right?

Year: 1972
Rating: Warm

Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody by David Lee Roth

This is just a damned catchy song. For some reason, the David Lee Roth video ain't available, so here's some dude playing drums to the song. He's pretty good!

And here's the Louis Prima version upon which David Lee Roth based his. Check out the wiki page for more info about the song, which evidently was written in the '20s.

Had no idea the Village People covered it, too, six years before David Lee Roth. Too funny not to include here.

Year (Roth): 1985
Rating: Warm

Year (Prima): 1956
Rating: Lukewarm

Year (Village People): 1979
Rating: Warm

Friday, March 20, 2009

Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty

Well, since I've blogged about Summer Breeze, I'd Really Love to See You Tonight, and now this gem by Gerry Rafferty, I have covered what may well be the Trifecta of Mellow Gold hits that grace and/or haunt my internal landscape. Yet somehow, there are always more, as if the fount of '70s sensitive dude rock were an infinite source of smoothness.

Year: 1978
Rating: Hot!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Angel of the Morning, various artists

Despite wanting to rid my head of sappy pop ballads, there's been no controlling it over the last several days; they just keep seeping into consciousness, so I'm letting it flow. Angel of the Morning has been performed by a ton of artists, but I'm reasonably certain it's the The Juice Newton version (above) that I grew up with. This song came up a couple weeks ago w/ Scott, so I'm sure that's why it's cycling at the moment.

Year: 1981
Rating: Luke Hot

This was the first charting version in the U.S., by Merrillee Rush in 1968. I love the sad horn part, but the vocals are sort of a bland Nico with backup singers.

Year: 1968
Rating: Warm

P.P. Arnold's version is a great soul vocal, and charted in the U.K. in the same year as the Merrillee Rush version.

Year: 1968
Rating: Luke Hot

And of course, Chrissie Hynde on Friends! The song starts at about 1:37, but the whole episode is sort of edited down to the seven minute clip here, which is amusing if you've some time.

Year: 1995
Rating: Luke Hot

There's also a fantastic gothy-gay version from the '90s by performance artist Robbie D. which I used to own but can't locate for you at the moment. If I find it in the future, I'll certainly post it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We Built Another World by Wolf Parade

It took the indie noise downpour of Wolf Parade to get my head out of the '70s ballad clouds. I have little hope that tomorrow's waking will produce similarly new and compelling material, but I can dream.

Skyrockets in flight...Afternoon delight! ::shakes fist::

Year: 2005
Rating: Hot!

Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band

Someone sang it at karaoke last Friday, and it's stuck, sadly. This cheese anthem by the Starland Vocal Band always spins me into a medley of awful '70s/early '80s ballads involving various times of day/night: "Sky rockets in flight, Afternoon Delight...Midnight at the Oasis...it's gonna be a Cool Night, just let me hold you by the fire light."

Year: 1976
Rating: Brrrr! I could use some "afternoon delight" to warm me to this song.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Longer by Dan Fogelberg

Classic '70s mellow pop - an omnipresent radio song while I was growing up. I'm not as warm to this Dan Fogelberg tune as some of his others, but it's certainly representative of my subconscious soundtrack nonetheless.

Year: 1979
Rating: Lukewarm

Wave of Mutilation by the Pixies

Ooh, here's a nice acoustic version of one of the best darned Pixies songs. Ah, sweetness.

Year: 1989 (sounds more like the '90s)
Rating: Hot!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Geo-Rock Poll - Cast your vote!

Which band named after a geographical location will readers pick as the totem geo-rock band?

Will it be psychedelic-proggers Kansas, straight-up cock-rockers Boston, the mellow balladeering of America, the jazz-rock fusion of Chicago, the prog-pop anthem rock of Asia, or the sultry new wave of Berlin?

Cast your votes in the poll on the right-hand navigation bar!

Babe by Styx

It's about time Styx entered the mental soundtrack; alas, not a song I love. But my mood is melancholy, and I'm barely awake while writing this, and Amber just left for work, so the schmaltzy lyrics of separation are hitting me in a tender place.

Please believe me
My heart is in your hands
And I'll be missing you
Babe, I love you.

Year: 1979
Rating: Lukewarm

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cool It Now by New Edition

New Edition on Solid Gold - woot! I hadn't remembered how friggin' high the lead singer's voice was, nor was I aware of the Bobby Brown and Bell Biv DeVoe crossovers, 'cause I'm just that clueless and white.

Year: 1984
Rating: Warm
Noteworthy: Another 1984 song.

Missionary Man by Eurythmics

Charming and very strange video!

Odd concept to wake up with:

I was born an original sinner
I was born from original sin
And if I had a dollar bill for all the things I've done
There'd be a mountain of money piled up to my chin.

Year: 1986
Rating: Warm

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ping Pong by Stereolab

I really love Stereolab, but I've never had a good grasp on the names of their songs. Particularly when an instrumental passage gets in my head, like this morning, it may well have been one of several of their songs. I had to go into my itunes library and search a bit before finding the match to the melody in my head.

Year: 1994
Rating: Luke Hot

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blue Jean by David Bowie

Certainly not David Bowie's best; nevertheless, a fun little romp of a song, and a cheeky video to go with it. Probably haven't given a thought to this song since its radio play died down in the late '80s.

Year: 1984
Rating: Warm

Noteworthy: The third song from 1984 to pop into my head in the last three days, and the fifth song from that year to make it into my mental soundtrack since the start of this project. I'll have to put some thought into why I might be channelling that year.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Make the World Go Away by Eddy Arnold

A lovely and depressing song made a hit by country/pop singer Eddy Arnold, though it was recorded by many other folks.

The song is more appropriate to a lost love situation; nevertheless, this unemployment thing still makes me wanna sing

Make the world go away
And get it off my shoulder
Say the things you used to say
And make the world go away.

Year: 1965
Rating: Warm

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Red Rain by Peter Gabriel

Thank god my preferred ex-Genesis member, Peter Gabriel, came to mind in the shower this morning. This is a lovely dream-imagery song, appropriate for arrival in one's consciousness early in the day.

Year: 1986
Rating: Luke Hot

The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1 by Neutral Milk Hotel

This is the opening track on Neutral Milk Hotel's extraordinary album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The song, like the entire album, inspired by the story of Anne Frank, manages to be gorgeous and unsettling at the same time. One of my all-time favorite albums.

Year: 1998
Rating: Hot!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Head Over Heels by the Go-Go's

It's a 1984 kind of morning, I guess; this one from the Go-Go's was a song I was more likely to be warm to in the actual 80's, and Chaka Khan's, (from earlier today), was one that was undeniably catchy but that I didn't open up to til much later.

Year: 1984
Rating: Luke Hot

I Feel for You by Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan's awesome cover of Prince's 1979 song was a huge hit in 1984 when I was in junior high and completely oblivious to r&b and hip hop. Raps provided by Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash-fame.

Year: 1984
Rating: Luke Hot

Monday, March 9, 2009

LOC and Taking It All Too Hard by Genesis

LOC hit me in the shower this morning, as usual. Then mercifully it blended into another slightly more tolerable Genesis song, also, interestingly enough, about "confusion."

song sample

No, not this confused again
No, not the same mistakes again
You're taking it all to heart
You're taking it all too hard.

Year: 1983
Rating: Lukewarm

Last post (LOC): 2/27/09
Year: 1986
Rating: Cold

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Undone (The Sweater Song) by Weezer

One of the funniest and most brilliant refrains in rock. Weezer is one of those bands that I've always liked, but never really gotten around to listening to. Can anyone recommend a particular album to start with?

Year: 1994
Rating: Luke Hot

I Know It's Over (redux)


Year: 1986
Rating: Hot!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

He's the Greatest Dancer by Sister Sledge

Bitchin' performance by Sister Sledge with Chic in Toyko. This song cracks me up, it's such a great period piece:

He wears the finest clothes
The best designers, heaven knows
Ooh, from his head down to his toes
Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci
He looks like a still
That man is dressed to kill.

Year: 1979
Rating: Warm

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Know It's Over by the Smiths

People seem to think The Smiths are melodramatic and whiny, but I'm not in that camp. Well, whiny at times, but this song, which essentially equates thwarted or lost love with death, or the fantasy of death, is right up my philosophical alley (see: my graduate thesis on death anxiety in intimate relationships).

Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head
And as I climb into an empty bed
Oh well. Enough said.

While Morrissey's emotive crooning works at the pop level of melodrama, the lyrics tell a deeper story of love/loss and the ascendancy of heterosexual love (or perhaps normative relationships of convenience, as in "though she needs you more than she loves you") over implied "unnatural" loves (whether queer or celibate, as Morrissey claimed he was for many years):

Love is Natural and Real
But not for you, my love
Not tonight, my love
Love is Natural and Real
But not for such as you and I, my love

Wow. This is so much more fun to write about than Melanie Klein's theory of love/hate in the merger and individuation of the infant and its mother. But it's all layers of the same onion.

Year: 1986
Rating: Hot!

Even the Losers by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty came up in conversation last night, derisively, but I dig his early stuff, and this is actually one of the songs I really love. It's a shout-out to Julie in NC.

Year: 1979
Rating: Luke Hot

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maybellene by Chuck Berry

Truth be told, it was the Simon and Garfunkel cover of Maybellene in my head, but I can't find a video for it at the moment. It's great to see the original performed by Chuck Berry though!

Year (original): 1955 Rating: Luke Hot
Year (S & G): 1973 Rating: warm

Morning Train (Nine To Five) by Sheena Easton

Oh my god. This video is so silly. Watch for the phallic imagery! Sheena Easton's early '80s international hit is an ode to some serious co-dependence:

All day I think of him
Dreamin' of him constantly
I'm crazy mad for him
And he's crazy mad for me

The chorus is truly catchy, but it's not a catchy I want hanging around too much.

Year: 1980
Rating: Lukewarm

Noteworthy: The song was originally titled simply "9 to 5," but the decision was made to change it, lest it get confused with (the far superior) 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton, released with the film the same year.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'd Really Love to See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley

I've always been fond of this quintessential '70s love song by England Dan and John Ford Coley, and readers won't be surprised to hear that it's one of the recurring tunes in my mental repertoire. Ah, the summer of '76, with its red white and blue streamers, fireworks, special edition coins, and jingoist propaganda. At least we had England Dan and JFC keepin' it real with the buttery leisure suits.

Year: 1976 - the Bicentennial Year!
Rating: Warm (very)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dancing Barefoot by Patti Smith

Fuck, I haven't heard this song in a long time. I own Wave on vinyl, but haven't had a record player in at least eight or nine years, so it feels like this song emerged from my consciousness in a very random, organic way. I think it hit me when I woke up in the middle of the night to pee. Smith's performance above is incredible - her voice is still so rich and true.

Year: 1979
Rating: Hot!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm a Believer by the Monkees

I've always been fond of The Monkees; so glad their show was in syndication when I was a kid. Bit of sooze trivia: The Monkees' 20th reunion tour in 1986 was the first concert I went to all on my own. This song, like a number of others in their repertoire, was written by the prolific Neil Diamond. Please don't tell me you thought it was a Smash Mouth song.

Year: 1966
Rating: Luke Hot

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah...

One of the greatest popular-genre songs of the 20th century, as far as my knowledge of music goes. It's on my mind 'cause Scott recently requested this song as his funeral dirge for when he sheds this mortal coil. (This was thankfully just in a Facebook meme and not in a serious conversation about his death.) Scott's death is not something I want to think about; nevertheless, I don't regret the song being in my head.

The version knocking around in there is really kind of a pure, stripped down version, just really Cohen's voice and the voices of John Cale and Jeff Buckley intermingled. Cohen's original album version (above) is too churchy-sounding for me, but the vocals, and of course the lyrics, are indelible.

Cale's version is the archetype of most of the cover versions, in its more bare instrumentation and choice of lyrics (Cohen's drafts evidently filled several notebooks; he took a year to write the song.) Buckley took Cale's version, which appears on a 1991 Cohen tribute album, as his original source material.

Apparently there are more than 150 known covers, but I thought these would be sufficient for your listening pleasure.

Year (original): 1984 Rating: Luke Hot
Year (Cale): 1991 Rating: Hot!
Year (Buckley): 1994 Rating: Hot!