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.)


it happened again

I’m going to have to add a new blog category for these things if they keep happening.

To recap: a little more than a week ago, I wrote a Throwback post about how twice in recent times I’d gone looking for something on Google and found that the source for that something was me.

Today, on the Greil Marcus website (which seems to be the genesis for a lot of this), they posted Marcus’ Rolling Stone obituary for the great Ralph J. Gleason. It was lovely, because Greil and Ralph were friends as well as colleagues. (And I connected with that obituary because Marcus and Gleason and I are/were all Bay Area-centric, so I knew what Marcus describing.)

I can think of two great music-related obituaries, each of which took a different approach. Lester Bangs’ piece on the death of Elvis is as good as anything he ever wrote. It is also, as was often the case, longish and rambling. And then there was Miles Davis, who was one of the many contributors to that Rolling Stone issue from which Marcus’ piece was taken. I’ve never forgotten it, because it was so perfect, but also because it was so brief, I could memorize it. Miles said, “Give me back my friend.” Five words.

I quickly googled to check the quote ... a silly thing to do, I know it by heart ... and the second suggested link took me to Rockcritics.com, where someone had quoted Davis in the comments section. Guess who was the person with the quote?

Yep.

Steven Rubio.


music friday: regina spektor

Regina Spektor was born in Moscow, and eventually made it to New Jersey, where she graduated from high school. Her music is often put in the anti-folk genre. Here are three of her bigger hits:

Fidelity”.

Better”.

The Sword and the Pen”.

Of course, there’s only one reason I’m including Regina Spektor on this episode of Music Friday. The new season of Orange Is the New Black, for which Spektor wrote and performs the theme song, was released today.

You’ve Got Time”.

The animals, the animals
Trap trap trap till the cage is full
The cage is full, stay awake
In the dark, count mistakes
The light was off, but now it's on
Searching underground for a bit of sun
The sun is out, the day is new
And everyone is waiting, waiting on you
And you've got time
You've got time...

Think of all the roads
Think of all their crossings
Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard
Remember all their faces
Remember all their voices
Everything is different
The second time around...

Animals, the animals
Trap trap trap till the cage is full
The cage is full, stay awake
In the dark, count mistakes
The light was off, but now it's on
Searching underground for a bit of sun
The sun is out, the day is new
And everyone is waiting, waiting on you
And you've got time
You've got time
You've got time...

Here’s a live version:

And the Season Three trailer for OITNB:


joy

My wallpapers generally follow two patterns. On my desktop, I have a rotating random selection of photos from the hard drive. On my phone, I usually have the latest cute picture of my grandson.

But right now, both desktop and phone have the same photo, cropped in the case of the latter to fit the screen:

carrie brownstein first pitch

I love this picture because of the look on Carrie Brownstein’s face. There is such joy, as she throws out the first pitch at a Mariners’ game. She has brought joy to a lot of people, but I don’t think it’s always been easy for her ... we’ll find out when her memoir comes out later in the year. In the meantime, look at that face:

carrie brownstein first pitch


music friday: marianne faithfull

Inspired by my Throwback Thursday post of yesterday, here are ten songs by Marianne Faithfull. These are deep cuts, I suppose ... no “As Tears Go By”, nothing from Broken English. It’s just that I went through the archives and realized I’ve written about Faithfull on several occasions, and thought it might be nice if the accompanying videos were something other than “Why’d Ya Do It”.

 

1977: “I’m Not Lisa”. From her first album since the pop days, Dreaming My Dreams, re-released in altered form the next year as Faithless. Her voice is closer to “Broken English” than it is to “As Tears Go By”. This song was #1 on the Country charts in 1975 when the writer, Jessi Colter, released her original version.

1985: “Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife”. From a tribute album to Kurt Weill put together by Hal Willner, with Faithfull teaming with Chris Spedding. By this point, she’d recorded two follow-ups to Broken English, and had become an established member of the international music community (other participants on the album included Sting, Van Dyke Parks, John Zorn, Lou Reed, Carla Bley, Tom Waits, Todd Rundgren, and Charlie Haden).

1987: “Penthouse Serenade”. Strange Weather was her first post-junkie album. Willner returned. This song had been recorded by the likes of Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett.

1995: “Losing”. On A Secret Life, she worked with Angelo Badalamenti. This is a dark song.

1997: “Falling in Love Again”. Marianne as Marlene. From 20th Century Blues, a live album with Faithfull accompanied only by a pianist.

1999: “Vagabond Ways”. She actually wrote this one, and named the album after it. There even seems to be an official video:

2002: “Something Good”. Marianne covers Goffin/King, with a song made famous by Herman’s Hermits, on Kissin’ Time.

2005: “The Mystery of Love”. Marianne covers PJ Harvey. From Before the Poison ... Harvey is all over this one.

2008: “Solitude”. Marianne covers Billie Holiday. From Easy Come, Easy Go.

2014: “I Get Along Without You Very Well”. Marianne covers Hoagy Carmichael. From Give My Love to London.


how throwback works

This isn’t really a “pure” example of Throwback Thursday. Instead, it’s a rumination on how the archival power of the Internet informs what we throw back.

A week or so ago, I wrote the following on Facebook:

How the Internet works:

I was listening to "Danger Bird", a favorite Neil Young song from Zuma, and recalled that Lou Reed had given the thumbs up to Young's guitar work on that track. I looked up Zuma on Wikipedia, and found a reference to Reed's comments. I clicked on the source, which took me to the Thrasher's Wheat website, where I read, "An interview long ago with Lou 'I Heard Her Call My Name' Reed, back when this opinion wasn’t very fashionable, and Lou got all secretive and told the interviewer 'you want to hear who I think is a great guitar player?' as if Lou was embarrassed to admit it, then put ‘Danger Bird’ on the stereo." I was interested that the source for THIS quote was an old blog by Michael Bérubé, a gentleman and a scholar with whom I am acquainted. It came in the comments section for a 2006 post.

And who was the author of the comment that was quoted at Thrasher's Wheat that was referenced on Wikipedia?

Steven Rubio.

Yesterday, GreilMarcus.net posted two old pieces about Marianne Faithfull. The first was from a 1980 review by Marcus in Rolling Stone of the then-new Marianne Faithfull album, Broken English. The second was from a 1994 review by Marcus in Interview of the then-new autobiography, Faithfull. In the album review, he wrote, “The lyrics of Broken English are not autobiographical, but the album’s power begins with Marianne Faithfull’s old persona and with one’s knowledge of the collapse of the woman behind it. Faithfull sings as if she means to get every needle, every junkie panic, every empty pill bottle and every filthy room into her voice—as if she spent the last ten years of oblivion trying to kill the face that first brought her to our attention.”

Reading it again for the hundredth time, I was especially taken by that first sentence, how it moved beyond the “facts” of Faithfull’s life, finding the “real” autobiography in Faithfull’s voice.

I thought of a friend of mine who seemed a kindred spirit to Marianne, and I did a search of her name and Faithfull’s to see if she had ever written about the singer. As far as I can tell, she has not. But I did find something else that interested me. Three years ago, someone had marveled at the Marcus quote. When I looked, I found myself repeating the “Danger Bird” story. For the person who was drawn to that quote was ... me.

Through it all, there was Faithfull’s voice. Yes, it was ruined, rough, scarred, very unlike what she had sounded like in the past. But she herself was not ruined. To be sure, she was rough and scarred, but she had come out on the other side, and she would not be denied. The power of the album was increased by our knowledge of where she had been, a one-time pop icon turned homeless junkie. As Greil Marcus wrote in Rolling Stone, “The lyrics of Broken English are not autobiographical, but the album's power begins with Marianne Faithfull's old persona and with one's knowledge of the collapse of the woman behind it.”

That’s twice now in a week where I went searching for something in the collective past, only to find that “the collective” was actually me.