Gorecki, Symphony #3, “Lento e Largo”

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I swear I’m going to cheer up tomorrow.

After listening to Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous and mournful “Aurora,”  I got to thinking about some of the most sorrowful music I’ve ever heard.  Henryk Gorecki (sorry, I still can’t do accent marks) composed his third symphony, also known as the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” in 1976.  It is often interpreted as a tribute of sorts to victims of Auschwitz, although Gorecki himself resisted that and any other political/religious/spiritual interpretations of what might be his finest work.  He saw it as being about the relationship between mother and child, more universal than specific.  The lyrics, sung on the recording by Dawn Upshaw, are all based on lamentations about a parent and child separated by tragedy.  The second movement, “Lento e Largo,” was taken from an inscription on written on a wall in Auschwitz by a teenage girl.

It is a powerful piece of art, considered a modern classic.  The symphony as a whole creates an intense sense of sadness, but also leads toward hope.  It takes my breath away every time I hear it.  I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

“Aurora”

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Hans Zimmer, the composer of the score for The Dark Knight Rises, has composed this haunting piece in dedication to the victims of the Aurora, CO shooting.

All proceeds from the sale of this song goes to the victims and their families.  Here’s the link http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/aurora-single/id548715263?uo=4

Go buy it now.

“Different”

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So I was having a little trouble settling my mind on any one thing tonight.  Nothing appealed.  Heck, I couldn’t even decide what to make for dinner, so we had take out.  It’s just one of those days where my brain refuses to play along.  Then I go to my favorite rock history site for a little inspiration.  I noticed that on this day in rock history, there were quite a few marriages and quite a few deaths.  Since I don’t really care that Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour got married today (Happy Anniversary, Mr. & Mrs. Gilmour), I focused in on one of the deaths: Mama Cass Elliot.

I like The Mamas & The Papas, even if John Phillips was a controlling bastard with anger management issues, an extreme substance abuse problem, and a bad parent of epic proportions.  He might’ve been the creative force of the group, but he wasn’t the voice.  That belonged to all of them as a whole, and Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot as individuals.  When the group split up, Eliot went on to a pretty successful solo career that was tragically cut short by a heart attack in 1974; she was only 32.  She had a couple of hits, and did some live and voice acting, most memorably for me in an episode of The New Scooby Doo Movies. (Yeah, I still watch Scooby Doo whenever I get the chance.  Got something to say about it?)  What I did not know–and was tickled purple to find out–was that she had a role in the full-length feature Pufnstuf.

Yes, indeed.  Someone thought it would be a good idea to make a movie based on the psychedelic kids’ show H.R. Pufnstuf.  It was one of my favorites as a child–just about anything by Sid and Marty Krofft made it onto my viewing list–although I feel compelled to apologize to my mother every time I see it as an adult.  It really was awful but in a really good way.  (I can’t believe the Krofft’s weren’t high when they came up with this stuff, but they’ve always claimed they were sober as judges.)  I haven’t had the good/bad fortune to see the movie yet, so I never knew about this charming little tune before.  But it’s one of the most wonderful messages to send to kids ever.  It’s okay to be different.  There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re different.  Enjoy being different.  Different is good.

I think I might need to add this movie to my Netflix queue.

 

“English Boy”

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Many years ago, back when Terence Trent D’Arby was hot, Rolling Stone did a photo feature with artists who were currently on the charts and one of the artists that inspired them.  D’Arby said of Pete Townshend, “He’s not much for solos, but he plays rhythm guitar as if his life depended on it.”*  I can’t think of a more apt description of Townshend’s playing style than that.  Considering his life, and the mental and emotional struggles he’s had, I wouldn’t be surprised if his life actually did depend on it.

Townshend is one of my all time favorite rock stars, and not just because he’s created some of the most searing, beautiful, and transcendent music in history.  He’s one of my faves because of who he is (kinda like how I love Willie Nelson for the fact that he’s just Willie).  He is brilliant and troubled, coming to some sort of peace late in his life, although I doubt he will ever find it completely.  He’s never suffered from middle-age happiness like so many of his peers, so his music has stayed vital.  I’ll admit I don’t love everything he does, but he never stops trying to push the envelope.  Even when he’s touring with Roger Daltrey as The Who, playing all the hits to crowds who might not know anything else, he infuses new energy into songs he’s played thousands of time, bringing them to life with a wit and anger that maybe shouldn’t be possible for a nearly deaf guitarist in his sixties.  He has no internal editor, no brain-to-mouth filter: If he thinks it, he says it, even when it contradicts what he said five minutes earlier.  He’s gotten himself into some trouble with the law in the past for his extreme candor and his need to understand himself (I will not be rehashing the trumped up investigation from around fifteen years ago; just know that he was completely cleared of wrongdoing).  But he never, ever, ever stops striving for answers to his questions.

I also love Pete Townshend because of a painting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a Rembrandt titled The Raising of Lazarus.

“I get excitement at your feet.”

Look at Jesus in that painting.  Tell me he doesn’t look exactly like Townshend.  He’s even got his arm raised up like he’s getting ready to do his windmill move.

I can raise the dead, y’know

This song, chosen in part because of the opening of the London Olympic games, is from his concept album Psychoderelict, which can be viewed as something of an autobiography.  But Townshend is also one of those musicians that’s always writing about himself in some way, even when it’s a song about a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball wizard.  This is about an English boy, grown up on the streets, and all the pride and anger that comes along with him.

He really does need that guitar.  Kind of the same way most people need gravity.  It is the anchor that holds him to this earth.  Thank god he found it.

*Note: This might not be the exact quote, but I was too lazy to look it up and be sure.

“Eye in the Sky”

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Ever have one of those songs that you like when it’s on the radio, but you’re not sure if you’re willing to spend any money to own a copy?  “Eye in the Sky” is like that for me.  It came on the radio this afternoon while I was out running a couple of errands with Dad.  I remember liking this song enough back in 1982 to own the 45 (which was why I chose the supremely boring clip of this song to attach; I remember that label).  But I got rid of it some years ago.  Or I still own it and forgot.  That’s the problem with having a really large collection in a variety of formats: You forget what’s there and what isn’t.  I picked up the special Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at my local book store a couple weeks ago (more on that in future posts), and I couldn’t remember if I had some of the Dylan albums on the list; I still have to check.

“Eye in the Sky” is definitely a product of its time–all heavy synths and cool 80s production (cool as in emotional temperament, not hipness).  It’s a really good song when you’re listening to it, but it slips away almost as soon as it’s over.  Not forgettable, more like ephemeral.  It’s a wispy, mysterious song.  The more I think about it, the more I think it might be worth the $.99 to download it from itunes (unless it’s $1,29; then I’ll have to think a little harder).  There’s something engaging about the cold-but-conflicted rejection of the tune.  A love song for people who can’t even commit to breaking up.  That’s the kind of indecision I can identify with.

“All I Have to Do Is Dream”

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The Everly Brothers were awesome.  Their voices blended together so perfectly that is was occasionally difficult to tell there were two men singing.  It’s a pity that they’ve always had such difficulty getting along with each other in every other way.  Of course, they could also be considered pioneers in Being in a Band with Your Brother.  Brother acts are either very short-lived (and hence forgotten), or they last for decades but the brothers can’t stand being in the same room together.

Think about it.  The Kinks.  The Beach Boys.  The Black Crowes.  All of these groups had brothers who argued and fought and generally hated each other most of the time they were working together.  The Davies boys actually got into fist fights on stage.  (To be fair, there was a lot of strife in The Kinks. Drummer Mick Avery once threw a cymbal from his kit at Ray, who only avoided being decapitated by ducking.)  I think the Robinson boys got it straightened out for the most part.  Unfortunately, Brian is the only Wilson brother left to be on the beach.  I have no idea about the current personal status of Ray and Dave Davies; I do know they don’t play in a band together anymore.

So the fact that Phil and Don Everly essentially do not speak anymore is not really a surprise.  They briefly reunited as performers in the 80s, but from what I’ve heard, they’ve just decided to let sleeping dogs lie.  Maybe they’ve found a way to be civil at family gatherings.  Maybe not.  I can see where they’re coming from.  I have a feeling that when there are no other relatives left to keep us in contact, my brother and I will cease to talk (not that we talk all that much anyway).  It is entirely possible that they simply do not have anything besides genetics and music in common.  But there must be some kind of higher power to allow those voices to come together the way they did.  There is a timelessness to the Everly’s, a feeling that for a few minutes everything stands still so that even the rocks and trees can listen to them sing.

“All I Have to Do Is Dream” is probably my favorite.  A slow burning study in harmony and steel guitar, a sweet teenage lament to unrequited love and the power of fantasy.  The story of a boy lost in dreams of a girl who might not even know he exists, it manages to be both innocent and sultry, filled with tender longing.  He imagines “I can make you mine, taste your lips of wine, anytime night or day.  Only trouble is, gee whiz, I’m dreaming my life away.”  It’s one of those perfect moments in rock music.  This clip includes another one of those perfect moments with the utterly despondent “Cathy’s Clown.”

Dream on.

Steve Perry: Two for the price of one

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No, this doesn’t refer to any part of Mr. Perry’s anatomy (although it’s pretty obvious in one of these clips that he dresses left).  I was looking for a Steve Perry clip to include in today’s post, and came across full length versions of some of his videos.  Back in 1984, videos were still a pretty new art form without a lot of set rules, but they had developed to the point of telling stories.  Generally those stories ran the length of one song.  Steve Perry (and his video director and record company and whoever else had something to say about it) pushed the envelope a little bit by creating a story that ran across two different videos (oooh, how renegade).  It would’ve been a lot more fun if “Strung Out” had been released as a single before “Oh, Sherrie” but that can be blamed on the record company, I’m sure.

I had a friend in high school who was kind of obsessed with Journey in general and Steve Perry in particular.  He wanted to be Steve Perry (which wasn’t a bad goal in 1984).  Now I liked Journey okay, and I thought Perry’s first solo album Street Talk was pretty damn good (still do; I have five tracks from it on the computer).  He really did have a fine set of pipes.  It was just middle of the road rock-pop, but he sold it like it was the finale of the greatest Broadway musical ever.  That kind of belief in the music can’t be taught or bought.  Perry is one of the all-time classic voices of classic rock.  But, judging by his hammy performances in these videos, it’s a good thing he wasn’t an actor.

I’m posting them in the order they should be viewed in, not in order of actual release.  It just makes more sense that way.