Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Manic Monday (redux)

I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream...again.

Artist: The Bangles
Year: 1986
Rating: Luke Hot
Last in my head on: 2/17/09
Noteworthy: Today is not a Monday.

Please Stop Dancing

Artist: Magnetic Fields
Year: 2008
Rating: Hot!

Monday, June 29, 2009

As Tears Go By

This isn't exactly a "cover." Though written by Jagger/Richards/Oldham, Marianne Faithfull recorded it first, and The Stones released their version the next year. I love this song - a wistful dirge of sorts for watching life pass one by. Watch for the giant teardrop! And here's the Stones' version, which I like just a touch more than Faithfull's. It's such a trip to see Marianne Faithfull in her earlier incarnation as a squeaky clean chanteuse. If you're not familiar with Faithfull's later work, her drug-addled life wore her into a raspier (and, fancy this, more compelling, singer) as in the hilarious bitch-slap Why'd Ya Do It? from 1979. Sample: "Why'd ya do it," she said, "when you know it makes me sore,"/"'Cause she had cobwebs up her fanny and I believe in giving to the poor." Artist: Marianne Faithfull/The Rolling Stones Year: 1964/1965 Rating: Luke Hot/Hot! Note: Why'd Ya Do It? written by Heathcote Williams.

Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 1

One of the most memorable and most evocative songs from NMH. See the fan discussion on song meanings here. I also blogged about this song's reprise in an earlier entry.

Artist: Neutral Milk Hotel
Year: 1998
Rating: Hot!

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Comma, comma, down doobie-doo down down...

Artist: Neil Sedaka
Year: 1962
Rating: Warm

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Hustle

Do it!

My favorite memory of this song is when my friend Julie taught us all how to do the Hustle at a very stoned party in Santa Cruz like, gulp, *eighteen* years ago, in the early '90s when '70s retro was boss.

Artist: Van McCoy
Year: 1975
Rating: Hot!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lay Lady Lay

A cool thing happened today. I woke with this song in my head, and didn't give it too much attention, 'cause it's never been one of my favorite Dylan tunes. I've always thought that the invitation "lay across my big brass bed" was sort of crass and bumptious. But then when I took my bike in for a tune-up today, the song was playing loud and clear on the bike shop's sound system. I thought it a sign to pay closer attention, and I realized that the sentiment is sort of close to the bone at the moment.

Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he's standing in front of you

While the word "love" is a bit too potent yet for the situation I'm reflecting on, this "seize the day" message nevertheless hits the spot. You really can have your cake and eat it too, you know?

Artist: Bob Dylan
Year: 1969
Rating: Warm

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Everyday I Write the Book

This is one of the songs that's inordinately in my head, but hasn't appeared in the wee morning hours in the last few months, and therefore has been disqualified from entry into the blog, til now. It's one of my favorite songs of all time, from one of my favorite artists, and it often materializes in my mind after I've been whistling a composition of my own making, a melody that is a near-daily companion to me, that Amber has heard me whistle dozens, scores, of times, that no one else is quite privy to. Maybe at some point I'll be able to record it and get my resident musicologist, Jon Schwartz, to put it into musical notation for you, but for now, this tune remains enigmatic. Anyway, it ends up rolling right into the melody of Everyday I Write the Book. This Costello tune is a welcome comrade in my daily goings-about-life.

The other association I have with this song is that my sister Jodi and I have a long-standing in-joke/intention/fantasy of writing a book about all the idiosyncratic family history and ephemera, and this song is sort of an ode in my mind to that perennially-delayed project. Shout out to Johd! Every day, we write the book.

Artist: Elvis Costello
Year: 1983
Rating: Hot!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who's Crying Now?

This is the case of a great rock ballad with lush Steve Perry vocals, memorable Jonathan Cain keyboard lines, and one of the most stellar guitar solos in the '80s rock canon by Neal Schon. And while the emotion conveyed by the music and vocals is palpable, the lyrics are just ridiculous:

So many stormy nights, so many wrongs or rights
Neither could change their headstrong ways
And in a lover's rage, they tore another page
The fightin' is worth the love they save

Can there be a bigger cliché about bad relationships than stormy weather? And where is the missing metaphor from which the "page" is torn? You shouldn't tear pages when it's storming out, anyway, they'll get all soggy. As in so many pop songs, the words seem to have emerged from the diary scrawl of an eighth grader. Nevertheless, the lyrics are the only complaint I have about this classic '80s brood.

Artist: Journey
Year: 1981
Rating: Warmly warm

Friday, June 19, 2009

Haven't Got Time for the Pain

Oh, Carly, and your straight-to-aspirin-commercial lyrics. I'm so vain, I probably think I'm better than this song.

Artist: Carly Simon
Year: 1974
Rating: Lukewarm at best.

The Boys Are Back In Town

Their live performances make me love Thin Lizzy way more than just catching them on the radio.

Artist: Thin Lizzy
Year: 1976
Rating: Luke Hot

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Here Comes My Baby

Woke up 'bout 4:00am to use the loo, and the Yo La Tengo cover of this early Cat Stevens ditty arrived in consciousness. Heard the original at a bar last weekend, so no mystery as to why it was in my head. It's hard for me to remember it's a Cat Stevens song, actually, 'cause it's so cute and bubblegummy. But it is indeed tinged with his patented air of mournfulness over a love never to be.

Artist (cover): Yo La Tengo
Year: 1990
Rating: Luke Hot

Artist (original): Cat Stevens
Year: 1967
Rating: Luke Hot

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happiness Runs

First learned this song as a camper at good old Camp Shalom, but we sang it a bit differently than the original. And then, us little hooligans intentionally bastardized the lyrics by substituting "happiness" with "diarrhea," since, you know, it runs in a circular motion...?

Still, lots of fond feelings for this lovely meditation. "You can be anything if you let yourself be." It's twoo.

Artist: Donovan
Year: 1969
Rating: Warm

Never Can Say Goodbye

Awesome footage!! This song is in my head, 'cause Amber and I were watching an episode of Tales of the City recently, in which "Mouse" dances to the song in the Mr. Endup contest for a hundred buck prize.

Artist: Gloria Gaynor
Year: 1974
Rating: Luke Hot

And whenever this song arrives dans ma tête, it morphs into the excellent original Jackson 5 version. Yep, that's an adolescent Michael belting out those dramatic pleas of yearning.

Artist: Jackson 5
Year: 1971
Rating: Luke Hot

Harden My Heart

Video is here. (And do click on the link - it's well worth it, complete with fire jugglers and bitchin' sax solo!)

This is one of the most surprising songs to hit my mental jukebox in some time. It's in my unconscious exclusively due to radio play in my formative years, and I didn't even remember the band's name before searching for it on the google. It's interesting thematically, when paired with the uncertainty of Will Anything Happen?, and yet, I'd like to think that what I'm doing in my life is opening my heart, not hardening it. Maybe my unconscious is telling me to protect myself.

Artist: Quarterflash
Year: 1981
Rating: Warm (Lukewarm with an extra dose of warming irony.)

Will Anything Happen?

Apropos video for this angst-inducing Blondie song using clips from Daria. It's not a surprise that this song is on my mind; finding myself in a state of not knowing lately, not knowing whether anything will happen.

Artist: Blondie
Year: 1978
Rating: Hot!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The State I Am In

Cute montage video - unfortunately the very very end of the song gets cut short. But this is one of my most dearly loved tracks from post-jangle pop twee band Belle & Sebastian. I love their ability to set serious lyrics to an uplifting Donovan-esque tune. And the chorus is absolutely cathartic.

Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Year: 1996
Rating: Hot!


The only thing to fear is fearlessness
The bigger the weapon the greater the fear
Hyena is ambassador to here

Reagan-era meditation on mass hysteria. Done in classic jangly call-and-response early R.E.M. style.

Artist: R.E.M.
Year: 1986
Rating: Luke Hot

Battle of the Broken Hearts

Sort of a spacious post-rock version of prog, with its many changing motifs and spacey synth lines. I dig 'em.

Artist: Mojave 3
Year: 2003
Rating: Luke Hot

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mozart as Reset Button

Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" Allegro from Serenade No. 13 is probably one of the most recognizable pieces of Western classical music. It came up in a conversation about this blog with someone I met recently (shout out to MK!). Seems M. has a friend who is a trained classical musician, and whenever she gets an unwelcome song stuck in her head, she just conjures up this piece, playing as much of it in her mind as she possibly can, and the unruly earworm is magically wiped away. I've been testing it out lately, and, by gum, it seems to work. Let me know your results!

Artist: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Year: 1787
Rating: Warm
Noteworthy: The first song from the 18th Century to make it into the blog!

Banks of Marble

If there were ever a song apropos of our current economic crisis, it'd be this timeless worker's lament by folk songwriter Les Rice, popularized by Pete Seeger and union folks everywhere. See the complete lyrics here.

Shout out to Lillitu for putting the song on a mixed tape for me about 15 years ago and thus inscribing the song in my memory for all time.

Artist: Les Rice (songwriter) Pete Seeger (performer)
Year: 1948 (?)
Rating: Hot!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bring On the Dancing Horses

Another perfect pop song. I've got this ideal in my head of what that means, but I'm not sure how to describe it quite. I think I'll bring in my resident musicologist, Jon Schwartz, to tackle this question for all you loyal readers. Look forward to a future entry on Sooze's idea of the perfect pop song. Til then, savor these angsty '80s lyrics from Echo and the Bunnymen written for the Pretty in Pink soundtrack:

Shiver and say the words/Of every lie you've heard
First I'm gonna make it/Then I'm gonna break it till it falls apart
Hating all the faking/And shaking while I'm breaking your brittle heart, Brittle heart

Artist: Echo and the Bunnymen
Year: 1985
Rating: Hot!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ana Ng (redux)

And we still haven't walked in the glow
of each other's majestic presence

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Year: 1988
Rating: Hot!
Previously in my head on: 3/24/09

Theme from Soap

Yet another TV theme song ricocheting in my brain for days on end. Perfect song for a fabulous show, though.

Artist: George Aliceson Tipton
Year: 1977
Rating: Warm

Best Friend

One of the most catchy TV theme songs ever! The video is a montage of the original version by Harry Nilsson, with covers by The Courtship of Eddie's Father stars Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz, the last of which is a punk version by Eddie, all grown-up. I actually had no idea til writing this that Brandon Cruz went on to become a punk artist, even replacing Jello Biafra's vocals when the Dead Kennedys reformed in 2001. Catch this interview with Cruz on the youtube.

Artist: Harry Nilsson
Year: 1969
Rating: warmly warm

You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine

Mmm, but Lou Rawls had one of the finest voices in popular music. This is one of the most indelible songs from my growing up years, such a perfect, soulful pop song. We all know by now that I'm not a big fan of the possessive sentiment in such cocksure lyrics as

You'll never find, it'll take the end of all time,
Someone to understand you like I do

...but who hasn't felt the grip of possession in the face of losing love? I've always thought of this song as the consummate male counterpoint to the powerful female perspective of the ultimate rise-like-a-Phoenix disco anthem I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. He thinks she'll never survive without him, and she thinks differently.

Thanks for the music, Lou.

Artist: Lou Rawls
Year: 1976
Rating: Hot!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue

Brilliant social satire takes no more than four lyric lines:

Now I wanna sniff some glue
Now I wanna have somethin' to do
All the kids wanna sniff some glue
All the kids want somethin' to do

Artist: The Ramones
Year: 1976
Rating: Hot!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I created a Facebook quiz recently in which I asked the following question:

What is Suzie's all-time least favorite song?
a) The Macarena
b) Land of Confusion by Genesis
c) Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
d) Oh Yoko by John Lennon
e) Here Comes your Man by the Pixies

Folks were seduced mainly by two answers. The generically and universally annoying '90s dance song The Macarena was a throw-away. Everyone hates that song, but it's hard to imagine a specificity that would elevate it to the rungs of one's all-time most hated, unless maybe you were a bartender in 1995 and were subjected to multiple playings every night on the house jukebox. It is certainly a top contender for annoying earworm songs, but it's not a song that chills me to my core.

Land of Confusion by Genesis was a more sophisticated answer for those who know me, as I've blogged about its irksome hold on my psyche numerous times, but it was a trick nonetheless. While it's not the historically most reviled in my memory banks, it does come in a close second.

Total Eclipse of the Heart, however, has been a song that has haunted me since my adolescence, and it's the song I'm most likely to tantrum about when it gets played in my vicinity. I hate Bonnie Tyler's cloying lyrical duel with the backup singer:

"Turn around," says he.
Every now and then I get a little bit (insert neurotic adjective here)," says she.

I hate its melodramatic atmosphere and general treacle. I hear this song every single motherfucking time I go to karaoke. I'm calling for a total eclipse of Total Eclipse of the Heart...except if you make a hilarious literal video for the song, in which the Macarena is also referred to:

Artist: Bonnie Tyler
Year: 1983
Rating: Stone-cold
Note: Oh Yoko and Here Comes Your Man are two of my all-time favorite songs, just so you know.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On and On

I've loved this song since its heyday, the maudlin lyrics somehow uplifting even though the singer "feels like dying" by the end. And I just now discovered that Stephen Bishop was born and raised in San Diego, California, which completely floors me. I always thought the "Aughn and aughn" pronunciation was a giveaway Jersey accent.

Artist: Stephen Bishop
Year: 1977
Rating: Hot!

Road to Nowhere

With the constant transitions in my life lately - unemployment, new clinic director, embarking on this crazy path of doing psychotherapy with clients but still not getting paid...this is a pitch-perfect theme song. Artist: Talking Heads Year: 1985 Rating: Luke Hot Note: Couldn't find a Talking Heads video for the song online, but this one's a nice David Byrne solo performance. Enjoy!