I record The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on the DVR, and the recording always begins while Letterman’s musical guest is still playing. The other day, Bob Mould was playing his brilliant song “See a Little Light”. Apparently there’s a 25th anniversary re-release of Workbook out that I’m probably going to have to get. The few seconds I saw just served to remind me how much I love this guy.
Sugar was his second band, formed some years after Husker Du dissolved into acrimony. They were terrific, and one of the best tunes they did was “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” which is one of Mould’s plaintive I-know-you’re-gonna-leave-me-but-I-don’t-know-why songs. Usually, I listen to it two or three times in a row. It’s like potato chips: you’ can’t have just one. But this isn’t just musical junk food. The jangly guitars and emo boy lyrics are the perfect combination, hiding the angry edge present in so much of Mould’s work. It’s one of those songs I can’t find a single thing wrong with.
I usually like to post the original version of a song when I can, and there’s a pretty good video for “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” that I’d never seen before. But my search also turned up this fairly recent (judging from Mould’s beard, glasses, and lack of hairline) performance for the A.V. Club which was just amazing. He’s so wonderfully self-deprecating in the little intro, so don’t skip it.
I shop at ThinkGeek on occasion (big shocker), and I get emails from them advertising sales and other assorted geekery. Today email mentioned something rather dear to my geeky little heart. 36 years ago tomorrow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy premiered on BBC radio.
You might be a bit curious about why I’d mark this particular anniversary. I mean, it’s not exactly music, is it? Maybe not, but as it was a radio program, I’m being rather liberal with my definitions today. The other peculiarity that might strike you is that Hitchhiker is best known as a book. Didn’t that come first?
No. Douglas Adams originally conceived the story as a radio series. After it’s success, it became a novel. And then there was a sequel. And another sequel. Eventually, the Hitchhiker’s trilogy became the best five book trilogy ever published. (Think about it. I’ll wait.)
The novel was used as the basis for the later adaptations for television and film. I will freely admit that I’ve never seen any of these. I don’t have to; the pictures in my head from reading (and listening, although I’m most familiar with the books) are good enough. It’s really just one of the funniest things ever created. I’ve only linked to the first episode, but YouTube seems to have the complete series posted. Good thing, too, since I think it’s out of production now.
So grab your towel, and enjoy the ride.
The Gits were a great band. They played hardcore, emotional Punk that didn’t pull any punches. They were from Ohio, but had relocated to Seattle and considerable success for a band without a major label contract. They had a sizable following in the city of Grunge, and in the early 90s looked to be getting ready to break through to even more acclaim But they aren’t very well-known for their music. The Gits are most famous for what happened to their lead singer, Mia Zapata.
On July 7th, 1993, Mia Zapata was raped and murdered by a stranger as she walked home from a night out. Her death was senseless and tragic, and it remained unsolved for a decade. Her friends, family, and bandmates continued to fight for justice until an arrest was made. Zapata’s killer was arrested and convicted in 2003; he was sentenced to 36 years in prison. It’s not enough–nothing would be enough, frankly–but as long as he stays locked up, it’ll do.
After her death, some of Mia Zapata’s friends started Home Alive, a non-profit group dedicated to helping teach women to defend themselves. (The group formally disbanded a few years ago, but volunteers keep the self-defense program alive.) I guess that’s the real legacy of her beautiful, angry voice. Her peers, including Joan Jett, Soundgarden, and Nirvana, kept Mia alive by singing and playing to help prevent other women from suffering the same fate. Jett even joined with the surviving members of the Gits to record Evil Stig (Gits Live backwards).
Today isn’t any kind of anniversary for the band or Zapata. The Gits just came up on the computer, and I thought y’all should hear them, and Mia’s story, if you haven’t already. She was talented, and I hate that no one is ever going to know what she could’ve accomplished.
Happy Fat Tuesday, Y’all!
Today is the big day down in New Orleans. I’ve never been, but it sure does sound like fun. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than listening to some Professor Longhair, one of the quintessential voices of the Big Easy. So get out your beads, eat some King cake, and dance around the living room. Eat, drink, and be merry, for today is Fat Tuesday. You can repent tomorrow. (Or not.)
I’ve written about this song before. But after looking at that post (from the early days of the jukebox), I think it only scratches the surface of what this song does. Problem is, I’m not sure I can dig any further down.
I can’t quite explain this song. Everything I said about flat land and stars and midwestern dirt is all true, but there’s something more to it than that. There’s a yearning to it. There’s hope. There’s fear. But naming some of the emotions it evokes still doesn’t quite sum up this song. Describing the gentle shuffle of brushes on drumheads or the murmur of the bass gives you some idea of the way the BoDeans arranged and recorded the song, but in a sense they’re just sounds. Great sounds, to be sure, but still just sounds. And the music is only part of what I hear when I listen to this song. I also hear twilight falling and crickets and the wind coming up.
Some music just defies explanation. No matter how hard you try, you will never quite hit on that one thing that makes it work. ”Looking for Me Somewhere” is more than the sum of its parts. It is as wide open as country plains and skies. I think that’s as it should be. Everything I’ve written about this song is what it means to me. It might mean something entirely different to you. Or it might mean nothing at all. You might listen, and hear nothing at all.
Funny, but I think I can hear silence in this, too.
Well, I ended up getting one of these right. So, if I were a baseball player, I’d be batting .500 and having an awesome year.
I try to give all the Oscar song and score nominees at least a listen, even if it’s just the samples on itunes. I heard U2′s “Ordinary Love” after the Golden Globes, and while it was serviceable, it really isn’t the best song nominated. At best, it’s third behind Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and what I think is going to win.
I must say I’m a little tired of Disney songs winning almost every time one gets nominated, but this really is the best of the batch. It fits the movie, the character, and it’s excellent musically. (There’s the added benefit of being kind of empowering for girls, something I always advocate.)
My pick for Best Original Score is Disney related, too. And like “Let It Go,” it was pretty easy to choose the soundtrack from Saving Mr. Banks. Compared to the scores for Gravity and Her, it’s lively and interesting. And unlike Philomena and The Book Thief, it’s not burdened by too much tradition. It’s the one score that seemed like something I’d be willing to listen to while not watching the movie.
That’s what I think should win; we’ll see if I’m right in a couple of hours.
As I was doing a little research for this year’s Oscar party, I found this short film, a nominee for Documentary Short. (I always have to look up the short film nominees, because I can never find them any other way.) This is a charming little film of an utterly enchanting woman. And it is a testament to the power of music.
My life will never be as endangered as Alice Herz-Sommer’s was. I will never experience what she has. But I feel the same way about music. Watch The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. You’ll understand.
I saw this on Dangerous Minds today, about Keith Moon guesting on a recording by Doonesbury‘s Rock star character Jimmy Thudpucker, and it got me thinking about my favorite comic strip. (Although, to be fair, it was already on my mind thanks to today’s Lio.)
Back in the 80s, Bloom County was the funniest, sweetest, most subversive comic strip out there (here’s a sampling). And no, none of those things are mutually exclusive. Berke Breathed skewered everybody, including himself. (He was forced to take several months off when he broke his back skydiving, and he wrote a broken back story into the strip for jerk lawyer Steve Dallas.) So it made perfect sense when he decided to make fun of the music business by creating a band comprised of several regular characters.
Billy and the Boingers was led by bizarre Garfield spoof Bill the Cat. They were ostensibly a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band, but the jokes drew on just about every popular style and artist from the late 80s. They even recorded a couple of songs. Opus played tuba.
Well, actually the songs were recorded by a band called Mucky Pup. This tune, along with “I’m a Boinger”, was available as a flexi disc in the compilation book Billy and the Boingers Bootleg. (For the younger readers, a flexi disc was a paper-thin sheet of vinyl that was used as a promotional extra. They were given away in all sorts of odd places, but usually inserted into books and magazines.) It was great fun, and really, by hiring an actual band of actual musicians to play the songs, it wasn’t the worst music ever. It wasn’t going to make the Top Forty, but it was listenable.
I hope you enjoy this little trip down my memory lane. And look up more Bloom County for yourself. It’s a bit dated these days, but it’s still one of the best comic strips ever.
Installment number one of this feature is a good one. In the book, the recordings are listed alphabetically, and it seemed counterproductive to just go through the book in order. (Also, I’m not so sure that’s how Tom Moon intended for it to be used.) So I riffled through the pages a couple of times, stopped, and slapped my hand down. It landed on this 1996 album by the Yardbirds.
Moon notes that Over Under Sideways Down (released in the U.K. as Roger the Engineer) was the first Yardbirds album conceived as an album instead of just a bunch of singles collected for release. It’s bluesy and rocking, with just a bit of psychedelia. Fairly typical for the era, actually, but executed with more skill and verve than many of the other, forgotten British bands of the mid 60s.
The Yardbirds’ biggest claim to fame, besides the awesome single “For Your Love”, was being the launching pad for three of the greatest Rock guitarists ever. Eric Clapton was their first lead, but he quit in a Blues purist huff when the band moving away from, well, pure Blues with songs like “For Your Love.” (I think he did okay for himself.) Jeff Beck was Clapton’s replacement, and was joined soon after by his friend Jimmy Page, then a well-known session man. The band was in the middle of a U.S. tour when they fired Beck, in spite of his massive talent, for being a bit of a flake. (Like Clapton, Beck did pretty well for himself after leaving the band.) Page took over as lead guitarist, but the band was doomed.
The Yardbirds broke up for the same reasons a lot of bands do: different ideas about their musical direction (differences that can be heard clearly on Over Under Sideways Down). Lead singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty were leaning toward something less heavy, while Jimmy Page had some hardcore hard Rock visions. Manager Peter Grant and Page had a looming tour in Scandinavia and no band, since bassist Chris Dreja had also left. They held auditions, and ended up hiring a young unknown singer named Robert Plant who recommended his friend John Bonham on drums. John Paul Jones, another well-known session man, rounded out the lineup. They toured under the moniker of The New Yardbirds in 1968, but I think we all know how the rest of the story turned out.
Even with all that historical baggage, Over Under Sideways Down holds its own as good music. If you’ve never listened to the Yardbirds before, this is as good as place as any to start.
I’ve decided this is my new favorite version of this song.
This is not to knock the original version by the incomparable Muddy Waters. His will always be the definitive version of “Mannish Boy.” But it’s formidable. It’s heavy, both literally and figuratively. The drums and bass pound into your skull like a sledgehammer. Waters voice calls out like a preacher from his pulpit, and there are very few listeners who are not converted by the end. But all his boasting and bragging is kind of off-putting; if I met a man like him, I wouldn’t give him a second glance.
But Jimi Hendrix’s version is, well, fun. He tones down the heavy rhythm, and speeds it up just a little, and naturally makes the guitar the foremost instrument. He makes it swing. This guy sounds like he’s playful and sexy. I’d at least let this guy buy me a drink, trade a few jokes with him. This version is from the posthumous release Blues, which helps paint a fuller picture of both Hendrix’s musical roots and his spectacular ability to innovate and create new sounds. I hate that his star burned out too soon, but we’re still getting light from it many years later.