music friday: what I like

Came across an article that prompted me to head straight to Amazon to buy a book. The essence is in the title of the article: “The Gap Between What You Like and What You Say You Like”. I felt this connected to last week’s Music Friday post, wherein I used, which tracks what I listen to, to see which tunes were my favorites of various randomly chosen artists. As I have noted in the past, doesn’t lie ... I may say I like one thing, but it will tell you what I really listen to. This isn’t exactly like that ... I’m not listing my most-played songs. I just find it interesting what songs I play most by artists I like. So here I go again, ten songs, in each case featuring my most-played track by the artist in question.

after they’ve seen paree

It’s a story I’ve told before, but it is Throwback Thursday, after all.

My wife and I made our first trip to Europe in 1984. We stayed with Robin’s sister and her soon-to-be husband Peter in England ... I want to say they lived in Little Bookham, but I’m not sure. As I recall (I’m only going to say that once, but imagine I’ve said it before every sentence ... this was 32 years ago, after all), we quickly took off on a car trip. We were staying for three weeks, so time was tight. We drove down through France after taking the ferry (urp, barf), and crossed over into Andorra, which I probably didn’t know existed at the time. Then to Barcelona, where Peter had family ... he was a true European, English heritage but with time spent in Spain and France at least, conversant in several languages. While in Barcelona, we visited the Museu Fundacio Joan Miro, where Robin’s sister took the following photo, which recently turned up on Facebook:

miro 1984

I’m not sure what order we did things, but either going to or coming from France, we shopped in Andorra, which was duty-free. We also spent a night in the Pyrenees at a place Peter’s family owned ... there was a town named La Seu d’Urgell, perhaps it was there. On our way back through France, we spent one night in Meung, a small town on the Loire where I had the best birthday dinner of my life.

Back in England, Peter took me to Wimbledon. I always say I saw McEnroe and Connors at Wimbledon, which is technically true, although it was in different matches. Connors beat a fellow American, Lloyd Bourne, on Court One, after McEnroe had dispatched Australian Paul McNamee. I have long forgotten this, but McNamee actually took the third set in that match, making him the only player to do so against McEnroe in the entire tournament.

What brings all this to mind is a different sport. Euro 2016 is going on right now in France, and when we vacationed in 1984, the Euros were taking place, also in France. Wherever we went as we drove from England to Spain and back again, people were glued to their televisions. Spain made it to the finals, where they lost to France, 2-0. It was then that I discovered my first soccer hero, Michel Platini, who scored nine goals in the tournament (no one else scored more than three). What I knew about soccer in 1984 would barely fill an English teacup, but I have Platini to thank for getting me interested. (Here's a link to all of his goals:

Platini was indeed one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and after his playing days, he went on to have a significant career in administration, spending eight years as President of UEFA. Sadly, not all stories end well ... he is currently banned for ethics corruption. Not to excuse him, but he was born at the wrong time ... it would seem that every soccer administrator today is steeped in corruption.

I retained a lot from that European trip. It was my first time in Spain (albeit we never got close to Andalucía ... that waited until 2000). When we went to Europe, I had just finished ten years in the factory. I guess it was a case of “How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?”, because within a couple of months, I had walked off the job, never to return.

music friday

Where did this come from? I was listening to a great Spotify playlist from Sasha Frere-Jones, “Perfect Recordings”. I took ten tracks from shuffle play and checked the artists on my page. This page tracks what I listen to, so if I enter, say, Sly and the Family Stone, it tells me that while “Everyday People” is the most-played song by the entire community, my most-played track is “Sing a Simple Song”. Now, if you asked me what my favorite Sly song was, it wouldn’t be “Sing a Simple Song”. But there’s no debating the part where I apparently listen to that one more than others. So, here are ten songs, in each case featuring my most-played track by the artist in question. These are not necessarily the songs on Sasha's playlist. (For what it’s worth, “Kerosene” comes closest to being my favorite song of the artist.)

taste preferences, or, you are what you eat

I just finished a Facebook meme, The 80s Music Challenge, where once a day for a week I posted a favorite tune from the 1980s. With each post, I also nominated someone else to participate. I’ve found their subsequent posts to be fascinating. Most of them haven’t finished all seven tunes yet, but here is what we have so far. I have no idea exactly what we can learn from this, but it seems like a peek into the lives of these people.

The first person I nominated was my sister Sue. She said the 80s were known by her kids for “riding in the car with Mom” songs. She’s posted five tunes:

  • Huey Lewis and the News, “The Heart of Rock & Roll”
  • Wham!, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
  • Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”
  • Taylor Dayne, “Don’t Rush Me”
  • Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”

Next, I nominated my old friend Marc:

  • Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Southern Cross”
  • U2, “I Will Follow”
  • U2, “With or Without You”
  • Bruce Springsteen, “The River”
  • Dire Straits (to be honest, I’m not sure which tune he chose)
  • George Harrison, “Got My Mind Set on You”

Then came a friend from way back, Barbara:

  • Electric Light Orchestra, “Calling America”
  • Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”

I tagged fellow Bruce fan Eileen:

  • The Go-Go’s, “You Can’t Walk in Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)”
  • Dexys Midnight Runners, “Come On Eileen”
  • Steve Winwood, “Higher Love”
  • Van Halen, “Jump”

And Ray L:

  • Fischer-Z, “So Long”
  • Wall of Voodoo, “Back in Flesh”
  • Our Daughter’s Wedding, “Lawnchairs”
  • Public Image Ltd, “Careering”
  • Blancmange, “Living on the Ceiling”
  • Screaming Blue Messiahs, “I Wanna Be a Flintstone”
  • Jerry Harrison, “Rev It Up”

Don’t you feel like you know these people, just a little bit, after seeing their lists?

OK, here are the seven tunes I chose ... analyze this!

  • Cameo, “Word Up!”
  • Laurie Anderson, “O Superman (For Massenet)”
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”
  • The Go-Go’s, “Our Lips Are Sealed”
  • Eric B. and Rakin, “Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness – The Coldcut Remix)
  • Pretenders, “Precious”
  • Bruce Springsteen, “Brilliant Disguise”

music friday: the 1980s music challenge

I’m participating in a Facebook meme, The 80s Music Challenge (“Post a favorite 1980s tune for each of seven days. Nominate someone to do the same.”). Here are ten tunes, one for each year of the 1980s. I won’t list any tune that I used for my Challenge. (All quoted material from the inevitable Wikipedia.)

1980: Kurtis Blow, “The Breaks”. “It was the first certified gold rap song for Hip Hop, and the second certified gold 12 inch single in the history of music.”

1981: Black Flag, “Rise Above”.Damaged ... has been recognized as a punk classic and one of the most influential punk records ever made”.

1982: Pretenders, “My City Was Gone”. “It has been used as the opening theme 'bumper' for Rush Limbaugh's popular American talk radio program since 1984”.

1983: Cyndi Lauper, “Money Changes Everything”. “It has been released in over 27 variations across the world”.

1984: Ashford and Simpson, “Solid”. “In 2009, Ashford & Simpson remade the song in honor of President Barack Obama, calling it ‘Solid (As Barack)’.”

1985: The Cramps, “Can Your Pussy Do the Dog? “The album was dedicated to Ricky Nelson”.

1986: Public Image Ltd., “Rise”. “The song contains the phrase 'May The Road Rise With You', which is an old Irish blessing.”

1987: Los Lobos, “La Bamba”. “When the Los Lobos cover of Valens' version peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1987, Valens was retroactively credited with writing a No. 1 single.”

1988: Lucinda Williams, “Passionate Kisses”. “Carpenter's hit cover adheres closely in tempo, feel, and instrumentation to Williams' original recording similarly relying on the catchy guitar riff to anchor the record.”

1989: Bonnie Raitt, “Thing Called Love”.Nick of Time topped the Billboard 200 chart, selling five million copies, and won three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year”.

music friday: may 26, 1973

Things will be a bit quiet around here for a few days, as we go away for our long anniversary weekend. Here’s a quickie: the Top Ten songs from May 26, 1973 (the day we got married), with thanks to the Weekly Top 40 website.

10: Focus, “Hocus Pocus

9: Skylark, “Wildflower

8: Dobie Gray, “Drift Away

7: The Sweet, “Little Willy

6: Sylvia, “Pillow Talk

5: Stevie Wonder, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life

4: Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree

3: Elton John, “Daniel

2: Paul McCartney and Wings, “My Love

1: The Edgar Winter Group, “Frankenstein

music friday: beach boys, not pet sounds

Pet Sounds is generally considered the best album by The Beach Boys ... it is #1 on the Acclaimed Music list of the top albums of all time (they collate critical opinion). It has some of my favorite Beach Boys songs ... “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Sloop John B”, “God Only Knows”. And the 50th anniversary of its initial release is upon us, meaning it’s getting a lot of attention, including a massive reissue.

But this post isn’t about Pet Sounds. To understand why, I’m going to talk about my childhood.

I’m going to rely once again on memory, that most fallible of tools. Much of the music I listened to in the early 1960s came from the records my older brother owned. Yes, the radio was the biggest influence, but when you just wanted to play records, he had a pretty large portable player, and he had what seemed at the time to be a LOT of records, both albums and 45s. The Rolling Stones were one of his favorites, perhaps his #1, and he was on them from the beginning. But he was six years older than I was, graduated from high school in 1964 and went off to college (when I was 11), and while he came back home for a bit a couple of years later (another story for another time), it was those years through the summer of 1964 that I associate most with the records of his teenage years. And he had what seemed like every Beach Boys album, because they were very popular, because they were California (although we were NorCal), I don’t know why. And The Beach Boys were there quite early ... their first album came out in 1962.

Looking at the covers for their first five albums (the best way to jog that fallible memory), I get the feeling he owned all of them. At least the covers look familiar. The fifth of those albums, Shut Down, Volume 2, was released in March of 1964 ... the next album, All Summer Long, came out in the summer of ‘64, and maybe by then he was already on his way to college, because that one doesn’t ring a bell.

What I’m trying to establish is that my brother’s collection was foremost in my experience of Beach Boys albums. Their hits still played on the radio after he left, but their albums quit showing up at our house.

By this time, I was tentatively beginning to buy my own albums, and The Beach Boys weren’t necessarily my favorites. I liked them, and “Good Vibrations” is probably my favorite of their songs. But my favorite band, outside of The Beatles, was The Yardbirds, and I remember buying Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds. And Revolver. And, to be fair, Herman’s Hermits On Tour. The one Beach Boys album I bought was ... Beach Boys Concert, which came out in late 1964.

There are reasons why this album stands out. It was “recorded” just before Brian Wilson quit touring with the band ... since it was the only “live” album they released in their early years, it was the only place to hear the classic lineup of three Wilsons, Al Jardine, and Mike Love in a live setting. It featured several “non-Beach Boys” songs like “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”, “Monster Mash”, “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow”, and “Johnny B. Goode”.

And, unfortunately, it sounds like crap. I’m listening now to a remastered version, and it still sounds like crap. The biggest problem is the crowd noise, for this was the heyday of screaming fans. The recording of the band isn’t any good, either ... better than a bootleg, I don’t want to exaggerate, but if you only know the band from the time when Brian Wilson used the studio like a master, you’ll be startled by how thin it sounds.

Also, I didn’t know anything about doctoring live recordings when I was 11 years old, but it sure sounds obvious, now. Doesn’t really help, either.

There was an updated version released last year, called Live in Sacramento 1964, which utilizes all of the material recorded for the original album. I confess I don’t have the heart to listen to it at the moment ... I’m listening to Concert as I type this, and those 32 minutes are enough memories for one day.

Before I link to a couple of tracks, here’s the cover. It made a big impact on me at the time ... I had shirts that looked like the ones they are wearing on the cover:

I love how, just like I did above, they put scare quotes around “LIVE”.

These songs aren’t worth taking up lots of space, so I’ll skip the embed and just include a link. This is “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow”:

Finally, just as a corrective to the “Pet Sounds Is the Greatest of All Time” narrative ... well, this has little to do with that album, but The Beach Boys cranked out a lot of albums in their first years: one in 1962, three in 1963, three in 1964, three in 1965. You know there’s going to be filler. But their filler was supremely awful. So when someone tells you The Beach Boys were great, nod your head in agreement, but then ask them if they’ve ever heard this one:

(May I add that the entire album is only 27 minutes long, and the above track takes up 3 1/2 of those minutes.)

music friday: winterland, 1978

On this date in 1978, we saw The Patti Smith Group at Winterland, with Greg Kihn and The Readymades as openers.

Two days before the show, Patti was on the Tom Snyder show:

(Snyder was one of the best late-night hosts for engaging popular musicians, esp. punks.)

The Readymades seemed to open every show we went to in those days, at least when it wasn’t Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Their singer was Jonathan Postal, who has had an interesting career as a photographer. It was The Readymades who headlined a show around 1980, maybe at the Longbranch, can’t remember ... I was going to see a shrink at the time, paying, I don’t know, $25/session or something like that. I went to see The Readymades for $5, slammed around in the pit, and walked out feeling great. The next time I visited the shrink was my last ... I told him I got more of my money’s worth at The Readymades show.

Greg Kihn wrote about his band’s performance on his blog a few years ago: “On This Date in Greg Kihn Band History – Winterland Ballroom”. This was a few years before their big hits, “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy”. Here they are performing one of their fave numbers of the time, “Sorry” ... this is from Winterland, New Year’s Eve 1976.

Smith was touring behind her third album, Easter, which included her biggest hit, “Because the Night”. It was the second of the four times we’ve seen her, the first coming in early 1976 (you can hear that show on YouTube). The biggest surprise of the night came when she sang this one: