Thursday, July 27, 2006

Obscure Gems - 3 in a Series - Martin Newell

I was talking with Bobby last night about his fantastic "An Easy Winter" and was reminded of Martin Newell. Odds are you’ve never even heard of Martin Newell if you aren’t an XTC fan (Andy Partridge produced his critically acclaimed "The Greatest Living Englishman*” which is a must have) or if you aren’t into modern poetry.

His music is intelligent, witty, eclectic and sometimes his singing is technically lacking, but (to my ears) in a very charming kind of way. I’ve included two (er - four - got a real Newell hamster in my bonnett this morning!) songs here. The first one is from 1995’s “The Off White” album. (Gotta love his ironic sense of humor.) It is a guitar driven mid-60’s power-pop confection that I can’t help but crank-up when it comes on in my car. In my world this song is a hit. Click here to listen to “Ursula in a Waiting Room.”

Next up is a track from 2004’s “The Light Programme.” All Music Guide says:

“…Newell's self-deprecating wit, magnetic personality, and amiably imperfect voice give each song a warmth and a wink that would make any listener want to throw another log on the fire, pour a glass of brandy, and share in some stimulating conversation with likeminded freethinkers.”

Sounds like a fine idea, except I’d prefer a glass of Frie Brothers Sonoma Cabernet - if only for the fact that the only brandy I like would break the bank. Next time Sound is in town I’ll invite MT over and we’ll do just that with Martin supplying the entertainment.

Some women might find this one offensive, but The Viscountess doesn’t and since she is the one who I ultimately have to answer to I offer no apology. Personally I think in some ways the song is as much a put-down of himself as it is to his unattractive friend. Click here to listen to “Blackout.”

Note:* After writing this post I realized a needed a track from "The Greatest Living Englishman" and then I couldn't pick which one, so I've included two.

Click here to listen to "Before The Hurricane." Beautiful.

Click here to listen to "A Street Called Prospect." If this tune doesn't make you want to go to England and hang with the locals, you're hopeless.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

They Didn't Have The Beatles

There is no shortage of words written about The Beatles. Books, magazine articles, more books, dissertations, graffiti, quotes in high school yearbooks. I have nothing new to add, but this is a blog. My blog, and over the years I’ve realized that The Beatles have had an incalculable influence on my life. My childhood memories are forever intertwined with The Beatles’ music, their words, movies, pictures, and their ideas. In my college years into my 20’s, whenever I’d have some sort of kerfuffle with someone who was 15 or more years my senior, I’d say, “Ah, they didn’t have The Beatles – that’s why they are the way they are.” Of course I was wrong, because now those who are running the show and ruining everything did have The Beatles – but this isn’t that kind of post.

When I meet a musician who tells me “I hate The Beatles,” it’s over. O-ver. When I have a friend who tells me "I hate / I don’t like The Beatles" their opinions about music become irrelevant, (and with one exception) I usually can’t be good friends with them. Probably irrational, but I can't help it. It is a chemical reaction that I can't get past.

My very first conversation with The Viscountess turned to music. It turned out that she loved The Beatles, Steely Dan and XTC just like me. When she said, “ (XTC’s) ‘English Settlement’ is one of my favorite albums,” she had me. If she had said, “The Beatles? I can’t believe you like them. I like Journey” it would have been over in that one second.

Anyway - I decided to come up with this list. Might be different tomorrow, today it is this:

Favorite Beatle: John Lennon
Favorite Side*: You Never Give Me Your Money
Favorite Album: Abbey Road
Second Favorite Album: Rubber Soul – American Version
Not My Favorite Like Everyone Else's On The Internet But Still Love It: Revolver
*Note: "Side" in this context means "record" or "recording" as opposed to "song."

Favorite Paul Songs:
Paperback Writer
Getting Better
Martha My Dear
All My Loving
Eleanor Rigby (with a little help on the last verse from John,)
Hello Goodbye
Golden Slumbers

Favorite John Songs:
She Said She Said
Dear Prudence
Yer Blues
Norweigan Wood
Tell Me Why
I Want You
It Won’t Be Long
I Am The Walrus

Favorite George Songs:
Here Comes The Sun
Don’t Bother Me
Think For Yourself
Favorite Cover Song:
Please Mr. Postman (John's vocal performance is amazing on that one!)

Favorite Song That Never Gets Played on the Radio: When I Get Home

Favorite Lyric: Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
I once closed a resignation letter with that quote when I made the letter public via an e-mail blast. They brought in this textbook AssClown in to "fix" what was not broken and he broke everything. He pretended to elightenment but in reality he was a buffoon. I probably should have quoted "Bodhisattva" but at the time it was the Lennon lyric that came to mind.

The One Song That Defines Who They Were: We Can Work It Out

Yeah, “We Can Work It Out.” If someone comes knockin’ from another planet and they only got time for one, that’s the one I play. Started out as two separate songs, one Paul’s, the other John’s. Paul the optimist and John the cynic. Great singing and harmonies. A little 3/4 time change (or quarter-note triplets - I never got the difference down - I count it 1-2-3 1-2-3) at the end of the phrases of the middle eight. Some understated accordian that adds warmth instead of comedy. How'd they do that?

"We Can Work It Out" is the definition of synergy. Shove that one in the [face] of one those “Relative Objectivist Ayn Rand Disciples” when they start going off on Howard Roarke.

I was there – young – but there. Just getting out of Zen and into Maya. That age. That song was once a new song – a new Beatle record as we called it – on the radio.

So long ago.

I feel privileged to have been alive when it was happening.

I’ve included takes 1 and 2. Take 1 is instrumental. For me it was a revelation to hear it in that form. I can't define what is special about it - some won't understand. Take two is a complete version, but it isn't really clean, so I've also included the final mono mix as well.

From the moment Paul starts singing on 1and (correct me if I'm wrong MT, Ned or Bobby) at the top of the final mix, the record just takes over the room. Pure magic.

The List (cont.)

Crazy opinions that piss off other Beatle fans sometimes:

Billy Preston's playing on "Get Back" detracts from the song.
(Beebadeep beep ba beeep beeep badeeba beep!)

Paul's Vocal performance on "Oh! Darling" is over-the-top.
He should have let John sing it even though Paul wrote it.

"Here, There and Everywhere" is not one of their best songs.
It is lame.

"Mr. Moonlight" is awesome!
It is.

Worst Thing They Ever Did:
Invite "The Anti-Lennon" (Jeff Lynne) to come in and produce, sing and play with them on the "new" songs they recorded in the 90's.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

...You Just Have to ROCK!

Ned reminded us that sometimes you just have to rock, and he does. Check out his very_respectable version of Johnny Winter's "Still Alive and Well," vox included.

I know just what he means.

One of these is not like the other.

A) Steely Dan
B) The Beatles
C) Rush

No doubt some people will not get that, but most of my regulars will.

No one is going to argue that Rush can’t play their instruments. If you ever picked up a guitar, a bass, or some drumsticks and heard these guys, you know.

Some people will argue that their music is overblown, derivative, bombastic tripe.

I’m too old to give a shit. I like some of their music and I forgive the shrill vocals (which got better as Geddy got older,) the pretentious lyrics (which also got better has life happened to Neil,) and the long songs.

A couple years back to celebrate their 35th anniversary as a band, they recorded an 8 song covers CD. They opened it with this, a remake of the hard-rockin’ Blue Cheer remake of “Summertime Blues.” (Check it out even if you hate their music.)

The Who’s “Live At Leeds” version remains my favorite, but this version prompted me to insist that my old-man cover band do this song. We mostly do early Beatles, early Stones rock and roll, but as the saying goes, “Sometimes…you just have to rock HARD!”

Speaking of Ned, his brother Bobby Lightfoot has written and recorded another gem, “Love Is Only Sleeping” (not the Monkeys song of the same name) and has graciously uploaded it for our listening pleasure. I think it is a great record.

Friday, July 21, 2006

You're Finished

"You're finished."

My favorite Stephen King adaptation has to be “The Dead Zone.” Christopher Walken is a fine actor, and he captured the protagonist perfectly, as did Martin Sheen with the antagonist.

Ralph Reed, the "Good Christian Man," has always reminded me of the Greg Stillson character. Stillson was a bible salesman who had aspirations to the Whitehouse.

Need I say more?

I did my part. I actually crossed party lines on Tuesday, held my nose and pulled the trigger for his opponent, a conservative Republican, as did my wife, my daughter, and my brother.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

We Can't Make It Here Anymore

Song By James McMurty

Caught this over at Crooks and Liars. Sounds like what should all over the radio if it wasn't in the hands of such a lot fools trying to anesthetize the way that we feel.

I wanted to get this up quickly - I don't who put together the video, but the song speaks for itself. I think the video could have been so much better (my opinion - flashing "Legalize All Drugs" at the end detracts from the message,) but parts of it are very compelling.

Crank it up so your coworkers can here it through the cubes...

James McMurty's website.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Obscure Gems - 2 In A Series - The Mommyheads

Chances are you’ve never heard of “The Residents.” I don’t have any of their records. I’ve picked them up in the record stores and looked at the covers. One of their records, “Meet The Residents” features John Crawfish, Paul McCrawfish, George Crawfish and Ringo Starfish with crawfish (and a starfish!) dressed up in the Beatle-suits of 1963.

Funny stuff.

The few tracks I've heard from them are low-fi and hard to listen to for my tastes. (Watch the comments section - they have literally dozens rabid fans who surf the 'net and pounce on anyone who doesn't think they eclipse The Beatles!)

But I digress.

Even more obscure than The Residents were The Mommyheads, led by eccentric singer/songwriter/guitarist Adam Elk, (born Adam Cohen.) Changed his name as singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen sired a singer/songwriter and named him "Adam." I think Adam Elk is brilliant. He isn’t starving. He now writes jingles for one of the majors.


The Mommyheads is an awful name, isn’t it? I have to admit that it took me over two years to listen to any of their records because I assumed (unlike the Smuckers!) “with a name like that, they’d have to suck!”


They didn’t have universal appeal. They weren’t promoted at all. I don’t have the statistics, but I bet they sold less than 25,000 records.

Too bad.

Here is a power-pop track from “Bingham’s Hole” called “Only Star.” (Listen.) When I first heard it, I didn’t know what to make of it, but after one or two more listens, I ended up loving it. Listen to the way they build the suspense for the finale.

Favorite lines:

You said that he was sane
He thinks he's flying an aeroplane
On the way to the clinic
Where they pump him full of ideas and misconceptions

What does all of this have to do with The Residents anyway? Here are The Mommyheads with their much-improved remake of The Residents' obscure record “Moisture.” (Listen.) I think it is awesome.

You can buy "Bingham's Hole" from Not Lame records here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Got Nothing...

Scared of Ralph Reed like I am? No? You should be. If you have ever seen the movie version of Stephen King's "The Dead Zone," you might remember Martin Sheen as "Greg Stillson." That's Ralph Reed. Garrison Keillor doesn't think much of him either. But, BUT, BUT he's a Christian! (Please, at least hit that link folks. It is SO OUTRAGEOUS that you would think it was made up by Karl Rove.)

I know that most of my readers visit Neddie Jingo - but in case you forgot today, take a trip over to his place and check out GWB starring in "Little Big Stupid."

Or, you might want to see what Soundsurfr has to say about christian's justification of biblical infanticide.

Think Joe Lieberman is a douche? Me too.

Ok, you came here for the music, did you? Fine. Check out the early 80's version of King Crimson doing "Elephant Talk." Adrian Belew (vox / guitar / other stuff) has a bit of David Byrne hamster in his bonnet, but we can forgive him for that. Bill Bruford on drums, Fripp on guitar and synthe, and Tony Levin on Chapman stick. That was a band!

Don't forget this week's Top 10 Conservative Idiots.

Thanks for stopping by. See you in a few days...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Excuses Excuses

Yeah, I'm still here. Been involved in an absurd religious debate over at a progressive music discussion group. Not that there is any other kind.

Anyway - something good came out of that debate. "An Atheist Manifesto" by Sam Harris. It is an excellent read.

I have his book "The End of Faith..." but I haven't read it yet.

Monday, July 03, 2006

3 Hours Closer To Death

It was back in February of this year that I got into a polite disagreement with my friend, Kevin Wolf. He had written an unfavorable review of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong.” In that review, he admitted that he was no fan of “The Lord of the Rings” films. This (for me) made his take on “Kong” somewhat suspect. I’ve read Tolkien’s books a few times over the years and counted them among my all-time favorites. When I saw the first film, I was more than happy with the outcome. I could have liked it half as much and still been satisfied. My appreciation increased with the second and third installments. Sure, they had their flaws (especially the 20 minutes too long “The Return of the King,”) but given the seemingly impossible task of bringing such an epic, complex and popular tale to the screen those flaws were easily forgiven.

I love those films.

Fast forward to this weekend. As I may have mentioned before, The Viscountess is my second wife, and I am her second husband. Our previous marriages were disasters, save for the fact that both of them yielded 3 great kids respectively.

Spare me the damn “Brady Bunch” comments.

Each summer, we get a couple of weeks alone. Her children go up north to visit their Dad, and mine live with their Mom year round, visiting every other weekend and one night per week. This passed weekend was the only one we got this summer with no kids. Yesterday, we grilled up a couple of steaks and ate them with a caesar salad and some watermelon, washing it all down with our favorite cheap domestic beer, I.C. Light. That had to be one of the best 10 dinners of the year. The steaks were done perfectly (Pittsburgh medium,) and they were tender and juicy.

We also bought some Ben and Jerry’s vanilla ice-cream, a bottle of A&W Root Beer and some popcorn with the idea of watching a movie at home, just the two of us. I had made a trip to Blockbuster with the intention of getting an easy-breezy movie to watch, one with good special effects. We had viewed the excellent but depressing “Capote” on Friday night, and my mission was to find something much lighter. When I saw “King Kong” on the shelf I thought that it would fit the bill perfectly.

In his review, Kevin compared the remake to the original film with a deft expertise that would make a professional critic proud. He examined social themes in and out of historical context that I was ignorant of until I read his review. Very interesting. Still, none of that would have mattered to me had the movie been good just on a “let’s have some fun and watch a stupid but entertaining summer-fluff blockbuster with the surround sound cranked in the privacy of our living room while eating popcorn and drinking some ass-kicking root beer floats” kind of level.

During the first 30 or so minutes, I imagined writing a post today where I said, “see Kevin it may not have been an excellent film presenting some old themes in a new light rife with social commentary and political overtones, but it was a damn good ride!”


What a piece of garbage. From the minute they set foot on the island the movie descended into a self-indulgent, over-the-top and into the abyss bombastic imitation of a second-rate Spielberg flick. The unrelenting, excruciatingly long action sequences made some of the chase scenes in the “Jurassic Park” movies seem reasonable. Calling them "implausable" would be like calling Darfur an "unpleasant place to honeymoon." They might as well have thrown Naomi Watts and Jack Black into a giant blender, set it to “puree” for 10 minutes and then have them emerge with nary a hang-nail or a lock of hair out of place. I’ve sustained worse injuries getting up in the middle of the night and walking to the bathroom. I could go on, but what’s the point? Peter Jackson's "King Kong" stank like an abandoned porta potty.

At least the A&W / Ben & Jerry's root beer floats rocked...


By the way, Bobby Lightfoot wrote one helluva good post last week. Check it out.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bring 'em Home

Bruce Springsteen on Conan O'Brien, performing Pete Seeger's "Bring 'em Home."

Bruce on CNN giving his opinions, including his opinion as to why he believes he should be allowed to give his opinion.