music friday: middle class streaming bandwidth

Hat tip for this week’s Music Friday goes to Nick Farruggia, who posted this in the Expert Witness FB group:

You die and go to Heaven. Things are pretty sweet, but the Koch brothers are still in charge. You're granted Middle Class Streaming Bandwidth, which means you can only listen to three artists from each decade, 1950-2010. "When you stop to consider it, that's unbelievably generous. 21 partial discographies!" Who ya got?

It’s something of a desert-island disc thing, only way more complicated. I’m not going to just pick my 21 favorites, because I have to consider that this is all I will listen to for eternity. I’ll want to mix things up a bit. Also, I’ll probably change my mind on a lot of these choices before this even gets posted. Here goes ...

1950s: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. Sample: “Johnny B. Goode

1960s: The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Velvet Underground. Sample: “Dr. Feelgood

1970s: Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, Patti Smith. Sample: “Because the Night” and “Because the Night

1980s: Prince, Hüsker Dü, Madonna. Sample: “Dirty Mind

1990s: Sleater-Kinney, Nirvana, Tupac. Sample: “One More Hour

2000s: Pink, Eminem, The Gossip. Sample: “Sober

2010s: Kendrick Lamar, Adele, Chantel McGregor. Sample: “Voodoo Child

music friday: discover weekly

The streaming wars continue. Two of the last three Music Fridays had connections to the new Apple Music service. Now Spotify has a new trick up their sleeve: Discover Weekly.

“Every Monday, you’ll find two glorious hours of discoveries and deep cuts waiting for you in Spotify. It’s a tailor-made mix based on the tunes you listen to, and similar tracks discovered by fans like you. You’re going to love it.”

This week’s list contains 30 songs, with a running time of just under 2 hours. Some selected highlights:

Emitt Rhodes, “Somebody Made for Me”. An ironic “first-ever Discover” track ... made for me, indeed. This is just the kind of thing that should turn up on a list like this. I remember Rhodes from when I lived in Capitola in 1970-71, and probably haven’t thought of him more than twice in all the years since. I don’t have any of his songs on my hard drive, so this is Spotify making a guess. And hitting the target.

Patti Smith, “Redondo Beach”. Third on the list, and the first song that I have demonstrated affection for in the past, i.e. Spotify isn’t really guessing here.

Abner Jay, “Cocaine Blues”. This is recognizable as the song that Dave Van Ronk sang, but just barely. I had never heard of Jay, an eccentrie “one man band”. Again, this is just the kind of song I want to see in a list like this, connected to something I like but also something I’ve never heard before.

Link Wray, “Fire and Brimstone”. Another excellent choice. Growing up, I had a 45 of Wray’s “Jack the Ripper” that I played over and over. And of course, there was “Rumble”. This comes from a 1971 album he cut in his early-40s, and it’s a good one. I saw Wray in concert in the 70s, all dressed in leather and grinding noises out of his guitar.

Merry Clayton, “Gimme Shelter”. I’m someone who thinks Clayton’s best contribution to this song came with the Stones, not in her solo attempt, but I can’t argue with Spotify’s choice here, and I’m always glad to hear this version.

The Slits, “Instant Hit”. This came right after Clayton, and I’m not sure about the segue. But The Slits are yet another fascinating choice. This was the opening track from their debut album, the one with the band naked and covered with mud.

Lucille Bogan, “Shave ‘Em Dry”. I’ve played this more than once on Spotify, so it knew I’d enjoy hearing it again. Possibly the most dirty lyrics ever recorded ... the first line is “I’ve got nipples on my titties big as the end of my thumb”, and by the time the song is over, Bogan has told us that “I fucked all night, and all the night before, and I feel just like I wanna fuck some more” ... I can’t quit quoting, there’s also “Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell sapper, and your dick stands up like a steeple. Your goddamn asshole stands open like a church door and the crabs walk in like people. Ow, shit!” Thanks, Spotify! (Bogan recorded this in 1935.)

There were other fine choices from the likes of Jonathan Richman, Love, Courtney Barnett, Lucinda Williams ... even Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Jude”. It wasn’t all perfect ... nothing is going to make me like solo Scott Walker, although even there, I can see why they chose it. And there were oddities like William Onyeabor and Vashti Bunyan and Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. It really was a terrific playlist, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next week.

get it anyway, anyhow

So while we congratulate ourselves on not having political prisoners like China or Cuba, we do have what we might call prisoners of politics. Again, Obama described the incarceration crisis as “containing and controlling problems that the rest of us are not facing up to and willing to do something about.” Politicians have not been willing to face up to and do something about the underlying problems and all too willing to seek means of “containing” them—i.e., warehousing the people left behind. The political decisions made in the age of neoliberalism and globalization, concurrent with the War on Drugs, have resulted in a surplus population that cannot be absorbed by the sort of economy advocated by Washington and a severe criminalization of the one economy that does work in communities left behind.

-- Matthew Pulver, “Why America’s prison problem is so much worse than Barack Obama wants to let on


“Some folks are born into a good life. Other folks get it anyway, anyhow.”

music friday: gerry goffin

Still playing around with Apple Music. This is from a Rolling Stone playlist titled “Co-Written by Gerry Goffin”.

The Byrds, “Goin’ Back”.

Diana Ross, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)”.

Grizzly Bear, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)”.

The Hollies, “Yes I Will”.

Little Eva, “The Loco-Motion”.

Billy Joel, “Hey Girl”.

The Cookies, “Chains”.

The Drifters, “Up on the Roof”.

Aretha Franklin, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.

Whitney Houston, “Saving All My Love for You”.


Here is the Apple Music playlist, with 8 extra tracks:

music friday: 1983

New Order, “Blue Monday. How does it feel to treat me like you do?

Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. Who am I to disagree?

Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”. Tell all your friends, they can go my way.

Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”. Secrets stolen from deep inside.

U2, “New Year’s Day”. Under a blood red sky.

Run-D.M.C., “It’s Like That”. Whatever happened to unity?

Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House”. I’m an ordinary guy.

Shannon, “Let the Music Play”. What does love want me to do?

Lionel Richie, “All Night Long (All Night)”. Let the music play on.

Violent Femmes, “Kiss Off”. You can all just kiss off into the air.

music friday: apple music

No links to tunes today ... doing something different.

I’ve been using streaming music services with all-you-can-eat options for longer than I’ve had this blog. Spotify has been my choice for some time now, basically since it came out in the U.S., and we’re not an Apple family ... I’ve never had an Apple product, not because I don’t like them but because we got locked into a Microsoft world early on (and my mobile use has gone from Palm to Android). But three free months to try out the new Apple Music was enticing enough that I downloaded iTunes and am now giving it a spin.

One essential for me is to integrate my own collection with whatever the service offers. Think of it as the Beatles Syndrome ... I can’t choose to listen to specific Beatles music unless I use my own copies. Apple Music (I don’t really know what to call this ... to me, it seems like I’m just using iTunes) allows this, and while the interface for it seems clunky to me, that might just be my lack of experience with it.

The key thing for the program, in my eyes, is the “For You” section. (I’m interested in the ability to create playlists ... I have lots and lots of them on Spotify, I like making them ... this is different, using iTunes to create playlists for me, which Spotify also does, but which I’ve ignored because making my own playlists is so easy with Spotify. Again, so far this is a pain in the ass with Apple Music, but that might be me, so I’m not judging yet.) The first time I checked out “For You” (after running through the initial “what you like” stuff), it offered “Neil Young: Deep Cuts”. Here were the first ten tracks:

  • Organ Solo from Dead Man
  • “Journey Through the Past” from 1971 Massey Hall
  • “Powderfinger” from Live Rust
  • “Tired Eyes”
  • “Cortez the Killer”
  • “Pocahontas”
  • “Falling Off the Face of the Earth”
  • “Human Highway”
  • “Cripple Creek Ferry”
  • “Ambulance Blues”

Not bad, although if they think “Cortez the Killer” is a deep cut, I need to talk to them.

After a couple of days, the software theoretically knows me better. Here is what they are offering this morning in “For You”, in order they appear on the screen.

Playlists: “Still Crazy After All These Years” (“You’re never too old to feel a little younger” ... first song, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan); “Intro to The Who”; “Intro to Bonnie Raitt” (on the one hand, they realize I like The Who and Bonnie Raitt, on the other hand, I don’t need an intro to those artists)

Albums: Disraeli Gears, Fleetwood Mac’s Men of the World, Chicago’s Greatest Hits, Jackson Browne’s debut, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Howlin’ Wolf’s The Real Folk Blues. Gets it about half right.

Playlists: “Blatantly in Love: The 70s” (Wings, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, Queen), “Intro to Traffic”, “Eric Clapton: Live”.

There’s more, but you get the idea. They already know I’m a sucker for the 60s and 70s.

Besides “For You”, there are Playlists that seem to be connected to my tastes (everything from “’50s Oldies Mix” to “Indie Rock & Lo-Fi Mix”), and Radio, which I guess is supposed to be the big thing here, with a 24x7 Beats 1 channel with “live” DJs, along with the usual stuff like “Pure Pop” and “Country” that may be created algorithmically.

So far, I’ve heard stuff I might have missed, but it’s not notably different overall from other services. And if there’s no real difference, I can’t see sticking with it. I have three months to decide.

throwback the undertones

Not really fair to The Undertones, a fine band from Northern Ireland. They were headlining a U.S. tour for the first time in 1980, riding the success of their second album, Hypnotised. They came to the Keystone Berkeley, a tiny club (room for 500) that was a shithole, but it was our shithole. We saw several shows there ... it’s where I shook hands with Muddy Waters. If you go there now, you’ll find a copy store. Anyway, we didn’t come to see The Undertones ... no, we were interested in the opening act. I mention this partly to explain why we left only a couple of songs into The Undertones’ set ... again, no slight intended, that’s just not why we were there ... and to help understand why the band we wanted to see was mostly ignored. (This is turning into a Music Friday post on Throwback Thursday.)

That opening act was Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. Lane was a music veteran, already in her 30s. Her dad was Ken Lane, who played piano on Dean Martin’s TV show (old timers who saw that program will remember Lane’s weekly appearances accompanying Dino on a few brief novelties and then a romantic number Martin would sing from a couch). At one point, she became friends with Danny Whitten, who was a member of the band Neil Young dubbed Crazy Horse (Whitten died a heroin addict ... see “The Needle and the Damage Done”). That friendship led to a connection with Young, and Lane later sang backup on “Round and Round” from Neil’s second solo album. Somewhere in there, Lane found time to be married to a pre-Police Andy Summers for a couple of years. Eventually she moved to Boston and got involved in the new wave club scene. She formed The Chartbusters, which included two former members of The Modern Lovers ... their first major-label album came out in 1980, and we liked it enough to see the band at Keystone. That was (gulp) 35 years ago today, July 2, 1980. (There is some disagreement about this date ... one website that lists every show The Undertones ever played claims it was July 4, but honestly, I can’t imagine going to the Keystone for the 4th of July, and the holiday is nowhere in my memories of the night.)

Anyway, Lane and her band were touring behind that first album. It was a decent record, lots of good songs and Lane’s voice was interesting, but the production was a bit thin, didn’t really capture their intensity, and while “When Things Go Wrong” was an early hit, they disbanded after two more albums, one an EP. I’m guessing that I first heard of her from Greil Marcus, who wrote:

In her early thirties, bearing down with all she has on her first album, Robin Lane is a born-again Christian whose mission is not to save you from sin but to make life real. Goodness is not the issue here—nor, one might think, in Lane’s faith. Rather, the terror that motivates her mu­sic is rendered palpable; so is hope; so is hope abandoned. Strong as the Brains’ music is, Robin Lane’s music shows it up as the sound of young men who can’t wait to grow out of their fears. Such a premise isn’t a lie, nor is it as close to the truth as she gets.

Problem is, this is from the August issue of a magazine, so in theory I likely hadn’t read it yet. So who knows. (Marcus put the album on his Pazz & Jop ballot that year.)

Here she is live, about a year before we saw them:

Here’s a crappy copy of the video for “When Things Go Wrong”, which was the 11th video played the day MTV began:

Finally, here’s “I Don’t Want to Know”:

To find out about Robin Lane today, check out Songbird Sings.

music friday: capitola

Spent a couple of days at the ball park with my brother, which, combined with some friends who are spending the upcoming weekend in Santa Cruz, put me in the mind to devote this week’s Music Friday to music my brother and I listened to when we lived together in Capitola in 1970-71. This list will feature rather extravagant songs ... we didn’t usually spend a day listening to nothing but the classics, but those are what come to mind as I prepare this.

Pink Floyd, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”. Marmalade, I like marmalade.

Dave Mason, “Look at You Look at Me”. I’ve written about this enough times by now. The second guitar solo is one of my all-time favorites, and emulates the psychedelic feel more than anything else. Since I did a lot of psychedelic drugs then, this becomes an easy pick.

Janis Joplin, “Kozmic Blues”. Actually, I don’t remember which of Janis’ work we listened to the most, so I’ll offer this one.

The Velvet Underground, “I Heard Her Call My Name”. If my memory is correct, my brother found White Light White Heat in a garbage bin.

Boz Scaggs, “Loan Me a Dime”. Another one I’ve already written about several times. This is all about Duane Allman. There was an AM radio station that played music in the FM “underground” format. It went off the air at 6:00 each evening, and “Loan Me a Dime” closed off the broadcast day each time. The original of this on Scaggs’ album had Duane down in the mix ... if I have the story right, later remixes put Duane front and center, which was nice for hearing his work, but arguably not nice for the music as a whole. I think the link is to the original mix, but honestly, I’m not always sure.

Van Morrison, “Cypress Avenue”. This could be any of Astral Weeks, Moondance, or His Band and the Street Choir. The link is to a version that turned up on a televised special, which we watched at the time.

Otis Redding, “Try a Little Tenderness”. The Live in Europe version. The link is to a performance from a similar date. Sorry about the advertising on the video, but it’s one of his most over-the-top performances on the song.

music friday: there's a meeting here tonight

Yesterday, for a Facebook Throwback Thursday, I posted a video of Joe and Eddie singing “There’s a Meeting Here Tonight”, a song I loved when it came out in 1963. The only video anyone seems to have which shows Joe and Eddie “singing” the song (rather than just showing a 45 RPM record going around while we listen to the audio), from a movie called Hootenanny Hoot:

It’s an odd clip. Obviously, they are lip syncing, but that’s not unusual. What is weird is that Joe and Eddie were clearly filmed separately from the crowd scenes. Also, it is clear that if Joe and Eddie were actually in the same place as the audience, they would be the only black people in the room. And if there had actually been a Hootenanny concert featuring everyone who performs in the movie ... well, Joe and Eddie would still be the only black people in the room. Honestly, I’ve never seen the movie, but my guess is Joe and Eddie are the only people of color in the entire film.

I posted the video on Throwback Thursday because of a slight connection I have with the singers ... they met at a middle school in Berkeley that my mom and both of my kids attended.

This morning, the video exists within a disturbing context: the Charleston church shooting. In Hollywood, Joe and Eddie stopped by the hootenanny to sing their hit (after the place had been cleared of an audience of white people). In Charleston, a young white man entered a meeting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and started shooting. He murdered nine people.

I’ve got nothing. I don’t know what the connection is between the Joe and Eddie video and the atrocity in Charleston. I know that they connect in my mind in some unexplainable way. I know that when I was ten years old, I liked listening to that song. I lived in a town beyond segregated: it wasn’t that whites and blacks didn’t mix, it was that Antioch, California had no black people in 1963. Black people lived in the neighboring town of Pittsburg. I don’t know how that applies. I’ve got nothing. I know that this seems worse than other killings, not only because there were nine victims, but also because it took place in a church. But don’t be misled. Black people are murdered all over this country, in church and out. It always matters, it is always worse.

I've got nothing.


"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

-- Abraham Lincoln

like a rolling stone

I don’t write about it much, because it was most intense in that period from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, and I wasn’t a writer then. But I had a serious obsession with Bob Dylan in those days. I read and re-read the biography by Anthony Scaduto in ‘72 ... heck, I even read Tarantula and pretended to “get” it. We saw him for the first time in 1974 with The Band, and again in 1978 (without The Band ... ah, Street Legal, if nothing else you put a temporary stop on my Dylan obsession). I remember when the TV special Hard Rain was telecast (filmed at the end of the Rolling Thunder Revue), some person whose name I have long forgotten addressed the mostly negative reviews by claiming those critics were missing the point ... that the next day, all sorts of young while males would start wearing scarves on their head, emulating their idol.

And yes, the next time I showed up at work, I had on a head scarf.

Blood on the Tracks meant a lot to me, because it was the one great album of the early years of our marriage. I thought Planet Waves was that album, until Blood came along and showed just how far such an album could go.

And I’ve mentioned before that Bringing It All Back Home was one of the first albums I ever bought.

But towering above all of this was “Like a Rolling Stone”. I used to think of it as our generation’s National Anthem, and I probably don’t say that any longer because I don’t say that kind of thing any longer.

And it’s all over the Internet today, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the day “Like a Rolling Stone” was recorded.

Alongside all of the words being written, there are many photographs of the recording session. And for some reason, that’s where it hit closest to home for me. The pictures offer concrete proof that a group of people recorded that song.

Because when I look at the pix, I realize I find it hard to believe the session happened. It’s more that “Like a Rolling Stone” just fell from the sky.

Andy Greene at Rolling Stone called it a “venomous song”, and I’m not saying he’s wrong ... you can find a lot of people agreeing with that sentiment. Me, I think if you want an example of Venomous Dylan, check out his next single, “Positively 4th Street” (“You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend”). Or, what the heck, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.

Here’s the thing ... when I hear “4th Street”, I hear Dylan just crushing the object of his dismissal. And yes, there is some of that in “Like a Rolling Stone”. But the way the chorus line “HOW DOES IT FEEEEEEL?” is like a sing-along has always led me to believe Dylan included himself among the complete unknowns. This is why I thought of the song as a national anthem: it was the story of all of us. (“Positively 4th Street” could never fulfill that function.)