music friday: our 44th anniversary

Got married on May 26, 1973.

post-wedding

The #1 song in the U.S. that day was:

And at the wedding, I recited the lyrics to this song:

The lyrics:

I scare myself just thinking about you
I scare myself when I'm without you
I scare myself the moment that you're gone
I scare myself when I let my thoughts run
and when they're running
I keep thinking of you
and when they're running
what can I do?

I scare myself, and I don't mean lightly
I scare myself, it can get frightening
I scare myself, to think what I could do
I scare myself -- it's some kind of voodoo
and with that voodoo
I keep thinking of you
and with that voodoo
what can I do?

but it's oh so so so different when we're together
and I'm oh so so so much calmer; I feel better
For the stars have crossed our paths forever
and the sooner that you realize it the better
then I'll be with you and I won't scare myself
and I'll know what to do and I won't scare myself
and I'll think of you and I won't scare myself
and my thoughts will run and I won't scare myself


music friday

Hat tip to Alex McNeil. A handful of classics buried in here, along with some oddities.

 

The Youngbloods, “Dreamer’s Dream

Victor Lundberg, “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son

Rotary Connection, “Ruby Tuesday

Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made to Love Her”. If you only watch one video, make it this one.

The Ronettes, “I Wonder

The Beau Brummels, “Play With Fire

Traffic, “Paper Sun

The Incredible String Band, “Way Back in the 1960s

The Kinks, “See My Friends

Lorraine Ellison, “Stay With Me


music friday: can't get enough daily mix

This is “Daily Mix 4”. I think it’s safe to say this is a New Wave model.

Blondie, “Hanging on the Telephone.”

Patti Smith, “People Have the Power.”

Wire, “I Am the Fly.”

New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis.”

DEVO, “Jocko Homo.”

Talking Heads, “Wild Wild Life.”

Iggy Pop, “Bang Bang.”

Love, “No Matter What You Do.”

The Replacements, “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

X-Ray Spex, “Identity.”


rob sheffield, dreaming the beatles

Rob Sheffield writes about love. Look at the titles of his books: Love Is a Mix Tape, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love & Karaoke, and now Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World. Even On Bowie, the one book without the word love in the title, got right down to it in the introduction: “This book is a love letter to Bowie, a celebration of his life and his music.”

When asking yourself, “Do we really need another book about The Beatles?”, the answer should be “Yes, when it’s written by Rob Sheffield.” I can’t say I came to his books about Duran Duran, karaoke, and Bowie because I was a fan of any of those topics. But I’m a fan of Sheffield, and he has never let me down, to the point where now I care about Duran Duran et al.

Another thing I like about Sheffield is his age. He was born in 1966. The first batch of writers about rock music were of a different generation: Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, Jaan Uhelszki, Lester Bangs, Ellen Willis. (In terms of personal influence, I’d include Ralph J. Gleason, born in 1917.) Many of them came to our attention in the 70s ... “rock criticism” didn’t quite exist until then. But they were people who had lived when The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan for the first time. Thankfully, there are many great writers about music from Sheffield’s generation: Ann Powers and dream hampton come to mind. But their perspective is drawn from the times in which they live, and with pop music, the teenage years are especially important. As an example, Sheffield was 15 when Duran Duran’s first album was released. When I was 15, the White Album was released.

So Sheffield wasn’t “there” during Beatlemania. But to the extent this distances him from the subject, he is able to offer a new look. And he makes a great case in Dreaming the Beatles that the time of The Beatles has never left us. He has lived with The Beatles for most of his life ... in the book, he describes seeing Help! when he was five (“They entered my life”), and the enthusiasm with which he writes about The Beatles to this day demonstrates how they have never left his life.

Sheffield’s books all merge with memoir, and I guess if that bothers you, you might want to look elsewhere. In this case, though, it’s even more appropriate than usual, for the reasons I’ve already stated: He was only 4 years old when The Beatles broke up, so unless he’s doing some straightforward “and then they recorded this” type of book, his personal relationship with the band is crucial. Having said that, he takes the subtitle seriously. He tells the story, not just of his own relationship to The Beatles, but to the whole world’s love affair with the group.

While he writes a lot about the relationships between the band and their fans, he also talks about the relationships within the band, and not always by simply citing biographical trivia, as when he discusses a favorite of mine, “There’s a Place”:

You can hear John woke up with a stuffy nose; you can also hear how nervous he and Paul are, their voices quavering as they stretch out the vowels, “plaaaace” and “looow” and “goooo,” Ringo urging them on with his drum crashes. It’s another Buddy Holly homage, one they wrote on their guitars in the front room of Paul’s dad’s house on Forthlin Road. John and Paul sing about escaping to the place you go when you feel low – in your mind, where you hear the voice of the girl who tells you things you want to know, the place you go to remember the things she said that swim around your head, the place you talk yourself out of the fears you wouldn’t confess to your closest male friends. Except here are John and Paul, trading off the confession out loud. It’s done and dusted in under two minutes – no time for waffling or kidding around, the voices say, this is it, this is how I feel, let’s go, let’s tell it.

It’s a close reading that doesn’t depend solely on the lyrics, it’s a close reading that encompasses the performance. This happens throughout the book ... every time he points out something going on in a particular track, you instantly want to hear it. And when someone can help you hear a Beatles’ song with a fresh ear, well, that’s a lot harder than it seems.

Sheffield spends much of the second half of the book talking about the post-Beatles years of the four lads. This makes sense, since his own relationship with the band began after they’d broken up. But it also reflects the ways The Beatles as a band are still in our dreams ... just because they weren’t together after 1970 didn’t mean they no longer mattered.

Love Is a Mix Tape may always be my favorite of his books. But Dreaming the Beatles is right up there with the others.


music friday: one i didn't attend

If you’re on Facebook, you couldn’t have missed this one. List a bunch of acts you’ve seen live, add one act you’ve never seen, and ask your Facebook friends to tell you which one is the lie. Here was my list, with Music Friday tunes attached:

k.d. lang, “Crying.”
Malcolm McLaren, “Waltz Darling.”
Paul McCartney & Wings, “Live and Let Die.”
Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark, “Electricity.”
Sha Na Na, “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay.”
Ike & Tina Turner, “Proud Mary.”
Quicksilver Messenger Service, “Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder.”
Youssou N'Dour, “7 Seconds.”
Gary Wright, “Dream Weaver.”
Blondie, “One Way or Another.”
Hootie and the Blowfish, “Hold My Hand.”
Sun Ra, “Retrospekt.”

BTW, the lie was Quicksilver.


music friday: happy daily mix

From Daily Mix 2. No comments this week ... I wrote last night (4/20), and was in no shape to come up with words.

Etta James, “Tell Mama.”

Otis Redding, “That’s How Strong My Love Is.”

Ben E. King, “Stand by Me.”

The Impressions, “It’s All Right.”

Jimmy Reed, “You Got Me Dizzy.”

Isaac Hayes, “Theme from Shaft.”

The Ohio Players, “Skin Tight.”

Professor Longhair, “Cry to Me.”

Stevie Wonder, “Superstition.”

Otis Rush, “I’m Satisfied.”


music friday: return of the son of daily mix

This is from Daily Mix 6. Looks like it’s old-school country time!

Hank Williams, “Hey, Good Lookin’.” When I hear Hank Williams, I think of The Last Picture Show.

Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces.” Her first #1 Country song.

The Carter Family, “Can the Circle Be Unbroken.” Old folk song that A.P. Carter turned into the song seemingly every artist covered.

Don Gibson, “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Gibson wrote it, although Ray Charles is probably more in people’s minds today.

John Prine, “Lake Marie.” Bob Dylan’s favorite John Prine song. He has good taste.

Gram Parsons, “Sleepless Nights.” Recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960. Emmylou Harris joins Gram on this one.

Wanda Jackson, “Nervous Breakdown.” Old Eddie Cochran song, recorded by Wanda with Jack White when she was in her 70s and still rocking.

Jimmie Rodgers, “Blue Yodel (T for Texas).” The first of Rodgers’ “Blue Yodels.” A great video.

Trio, “Telling Me Lies.” The best song from the Parton/Ronstadt/Harris grouping, and arguably Linda Ronstadt’s greatest moment.

The Everly Brothers, “T for Texas.” Yep, the Jimmie Rodgers song, from their late-60s album, Roots.


20 years ago today: sleater-kinney, dig me out

Life-changing moments are often recognized only after the fact. The closest I ever came to a real life-changer was back in the winter of ‘72, when I realized in my heart that life could be summarized by Sisyphus as Camus described him in his famous essay. I whipped quickly from laughter to tears and back again, as I made a connection to that man pushing that rock for eternity. I try not to dismiss these kinds of moments in others (usually a religious awakening) because I had the same thing happen to me.

I think by the end of our first Bruce Springsteen concert in 1975 that we knew something had changed. It’s more obvious in retrospect, after 40+ years of concerts and albums and road trips, but there was something special enough about that first show that we came back for more. And more and more.

I did not know, on April 8, 1997, that Dig Me Out, the new album by Sleater-Kinney, would affect me in a similar fashion. Until that point I’d been aware of the band without giving myself over to them. Their previous album, Call the Doctor, had some impressive songs, with my favorite being “Good Things”, but I didn’t love it from start to finish. I liked the band enough to pick up Dig Me Out, though, albeit not on its release date ... I wasn’t hooked yet. I found that album to be more consistent than Call the Doctor, and there were so many great songs I could barely pick a favorite (if forced to decide, I’d go with “One More Hour”).

I saw them for the first time in August of ‘98, when they were still touring behind Dig Me Out. It might have been that night when I understood something special was going on. It wasn’t that they were an irresistible live force, at least not yet ... Corin let her voice make the statements, and what a voice it is, but she was fairly calm onstage. Carrie already had her rock star moves ... she was far and away the most charismatic. More important, they were loud in the classic punk manner, and the sound system was never sufficient, so it took years before I felt I could really appreciate their concerts.

But there was Janet Fucking Weiss. I’ve seen a few great drummers in my day ... Keith Moon was always my favorite, which is why I stopped thinking of the band as “The Who” after he died. Janet Weiss was knocking on the door of the great drummers. Often, the mix at S-K shows was bad enough that the drums were the easiest thing to hear, so I knew right away how great she was. And she had, and has, great drummer hair.

Since that night, I’ve never been able to hear their music without noticing how great she is. It was another step beyond fandom to something else.

They played a song or two from their upcoming album, The Hot Rock, but the Dig Me Out songs (six of them) made the biggest impression.

Something had happened between Sleater-Kinney and me. I saw them twice in 1999, twice in 2000, three times in 2002, and once a year between 2003 and 2006 (it helped that this Portland band played quite often in the Bay Area). By the time of their hiatus, I’d seen them a dozen times, and they fit the cliché of the artist who keeps getting better. They now had a confidence on stage (Carrie’s memoir showed how much that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t tell). Their unique sound combined three idiosyncratic talents, all remarkable, into a whole that was impossibly better than the parts. Corin’s astonishing vocals ... Carrie’s singular guitar work ... and Janet, the most traditional sounding of the group, she sounded like a Rock Drummer, except she was perhaps the greatest living Rock Drummer.

We know now how necessary their hiatus was. With the passing years, my hopes that they would return grew weaker. And, as I have said many times, I pined miserably because I knew at my age, I was unlikely to ever find another artist that would mean so much to me.

Which is another way of saying that they had changed my life. Not just because I missed them, but also because I thought they were irreplaceable. And I knew this in 2006, and in the following “hiatus” years, in a way I could never have imagined in 1997 when Dig Me Out was released.

So OK, it’s just a rock and roll band, and “life-changing” is a pretty big claim. Sisyphus changed my life. In music, Bruce Springsteen did the same. But Sleater-Kinney, great artists that they were and are, looked at the world with a pitiless eye, but also suggested a life worth living. It was rewarding to follow them. Life-changing? Maybe that goes too far. But they were a difference maker.

That the hiatus finally ended, that their new album was as good as what came before, that their concerts are better than what came before (I’ve seen them three times since the return) ... this is more miraculous than you might think. The world is full of artists who came back only to remind us of how good they used to be. Sleater-Kinney came back, and they were as good as they used to be.

And for me, it all started 20 years ago today, when Dig Me Out was released.

Here they are at 924 Gilman, a month-and-a-half after the album was released:

Here they are, post-hiatus:

And the best song from Dig Me Out:


music friday: beserkley chartbusters, vol. 1

Had dinner last night at Pizza Moda, and had a great conversation with owner Jeff Davis, who has been around the music business for many years. Jeff is a wonderful raconteur with plenty of stories about the biz, and this time the talk made its way to Jaan Uhelszki, the legendary rock critic who goes back to the days of Creem. Jeff and Jaan are friends, and Jaan is married to Matthew King Kaufman, who started Beserkley Records. This took me back to the label’s early anthology, Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1. Here we go. (Whenever possible, I’ve chosen the version that appeared on this particular album.)

Side One:

  1. Earth Quake, “Friday on My Mind.” Cover of the Easybeats’ song. We saw Earth Quake open for Lou Reed in 1974.
  2. Greg Kihn, “All the Right Reasons.” By the time Kaufman shut the label down, Kihn was the only artist still on the roster. He is probably the second-most famous person to record for them.
  3. The Rubinoos, “Gorilla.” They once filed a plagiarism lawsuit against Avril Lavigne. It was settled out of court.
  4. Jonathan Richman, “The New Teller.” More famous than Greg Kihn.
  5. Jonathan Richman, “Roadrunner.” Most famous song on the album.

Side Two:

  1. Earth Quake, “Tall Order for a Short Guy.” Cover of the Jonathan King song.
  2. Earth Quake, “Mr. Security.” They wrote this one themselves.
  3. Jonathan Richman, “Government Center.” We gotta lotta lotta hard work today.
  4. Jonathan Richman, “It Will Stand.” He did cover versions, too.
  5. Greg Kihn, “Mood Mood Number.” Turned up as the B-side to his cover of Bruce’s “For You.” Never turned up on YouTube, far as I can tell.
  6. Earth Quake, “(Sitting in the Middle of) Madness.” One last original.

Beserkley


music friday: son of daily mix

This time, it’s Daily Mix 1! Clearly drawn from all the 60s music I play.

Spirit, “Dream Within a Dream.” From the album The Family That Plays Together, which includes their greatest-ever song. This is not that song.

The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Hot Burrito #1.” “There's nothing new that can be said about dirt.”

Terry Reid, “Rich Kid Blues.” Supposedly, Jimmy Page asked Reid to join “The New Yardbirds”. Reid declined, but recommended Robert Plant and John Bonham.

The Rolling Stones, “Down Home Girl.” Stones Meet Brill Building (Jerry Leiber was a co-composer), faux Southerness appears.

Sly & The Family Stone, “Life.” From one of their lesser-known albums that wasn’t a hit, but it stands up well.

Bonnie Raitt, “Love Me Like a Man.” From her second album, when she was still known as a blues artist.

George Harrison, “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll).” All Things Must Pass was the shit in 1970. Now, I only like a couple of songs from the three LPs. This isn’t one of them.

The Grateful Dead, “Sugar Magnolia.” It’s proof of my lack of Deadheadedness that my favorites of their albums are Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. And I love “The Golden Road.”

David Crosby, “Radio.” From his first solo album in 20 years.

The Who, “Run Run Run.” Pop music from 1966.