“It’s Raining Again”

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It promises to be raining off and on all weekend here in SoCal, and my internet connection gets a little fussy when it’s even a little stormy.  So if I don’t post, I’m okay.  I’m just stuck here with out my world wide web fix.

This was Supertramp’s last hit.  It’s a sweet little tune.  I always liked the fade out, with the children singing “It’s raining, it’s pouring. . . ”  Of course, they don’t finish that little rhyme.  Just as well; it’s not very happy.

Here’s hoping nobody bumps their head this weekend.

 

Got Live If You Want It: The Sex Pistols

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Well, I’ve got nothing today.  Which makes this kind of the perfect concert to post.  The Sex Pistols were angry.  They were young people in an England that was deep in economic trouble, just entering the Thatcher Era.  Between a government and economy that couldn’t function well enough to take care of its citizens, and the corporatization and commercialization of pretty much everything, they couldn’t see the point of playing by the rules anymore.  As far as they could tell, it didn’t get you anywhere.  So when Malcolm McLaren conceived them as a sort of performance art piece, they channeled that anger into music.  The result was the definitive punk band.

This was their final performance in 1978.  It’s not very good, frankly.  Punk really didn’t translate well to some venues.  And the Sex Pistols had already fractured by this point.  Sid Vicious would be dead not very long after, and the rest of the band would spend years fighting each other and McLaren.  They reunited with original bassist Glen Matlock and toured in 1996 on the Filthy Lucre tour (Johnny Rotten never did like to mince words).  They were all better musicians and performers by then, so the concert was a much better musical experience than their original shows.  (I attended their L.A. show, and it was awesome; only the second concert I got frisked at.)  But the later tours could never recapture the experience that was punk in its early years, or the Sex Pistols at their furious best.

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

A Double Dose of Birthday Goodness!

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Holy crap!  Today also would’ve been Jimi Hendrix’s 70th birthday.  (Let that thought blow your mind for a moment, I’ll wait.)

Every time a poll or a list of the Greatest Rock Guitarists comes out, Hendrix is on top.  (If it’s a typical list, then Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page is second.  If it’s an accurate list, the Duane Allman is second.)  No one could do what Jimi did.  No one could conceive of the guitar the way Jimi did.  I don’t know if it’s because he strung his guitar backward to play left-handed, or if he was simply that prodigiously talented (probably the talent).  The theory I’ve always like best is that he was not of this Earth.  Jimi Hendrix was from another planet.  It’s the simplest and fastest explanation for what he was and did.

Yeah.  He was from another planet.

“Linus and Lucy”

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Today is Charles Schultz’s birthday; he would’ve been 90.  He died about a week after his final original Peanuts strip appeared in the papers, and as sad as I was at the news, I thought it was rather fitting.  Peanuts was a masterpiece–a witty, charming, funny, existential portrait of America over the course of fifty years.  I grew up reading Peanuts, loving and laughing at and identifying with Charlie Brown and his friends.  It shaped a great deal of both the cynicism and optimism I have about the world.

No, Charles Schultz was not a musician, but he has forever been linked with one of the finest jazz musicians ever to grace the world.  Vince Guaraldi played other music beside this (my dad is a big fan of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”), but “Linus and Lucy” will be the one piece he is always associated with.  It is one of the most iconic, recognizable songs.  Ever.  That should tell you something about the influence of Charles Schultz and Peanuts.  And A Charlie Brown Christmas.

It’s sometimes referred to as the Peanuts theme, it’s so attached to the comic strip.  It was first heard in the 1965 Christmas special on CBS, but originally, Guaraldi composed the music for a proposed TV documentary about Peanuts and its creator.  That documentary was either never aired or never produced (I can’t remember which), but “Linus and Lucy” was used as part of Guaraldi’s score for A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It was annual viewing at my house.  I’m pretty sure my father ignored everything about it except the music, but the rest of us loved it.  My mom was the one who introduced me to Peanuts.  My brother and I would both read her seemingly endless collection of books.  Seeing them come to life on TV was special.  To this day, I cry whenever I see it.  I like the blend of humor and sentimentality, with just the right dash of spirituality and humanity that reminds us that everyone just “needs a little love.”

 

“Johnny B. Goode”

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I would’ve posted a clip of Chuck Berry playing this live because he was/is such a dynamic performer (and I adore the duck walk).  But I didn’t like the way he changed the phrasing and rhythm live.  And I didn’t like that most of the live versions I looked at cut off the opening riff.  That opening is one of the finest in rock history.

Berry plays guitar like no one else.  I know he doesn’t do anything fancy or special with his guitar.  He doesn’t use strings imported from Italy, or pad the insides with wadded up newspaper, or anything even remotely unusual.  But he made that instrument sound like no one else ever could.  Not the notes or anything.  There is just something so distinctive about Berry’s playing.  To quote my favorite line from the song, “he could play a guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell.”

Is this song about Chuck Berry’s own experience?  Who knows?  I know that this is one of the first songs I think of when I think of Rock & Roll.  I know that it helped define the genre, helped make it what it is today.  I know that to this day it’s one of my favorite songs; I can literally listen to it forever.  It would be one of the songs I had on my desert island iPod.  (Hey, that’s an interesting twist on the desert island them.  Maybe I’ll run with it one of these days.)

Oldies on Monday seems to becoming a theme.  Anyone out there have any opinion on whether or not I should keep it up?

 

“Way Down Now”

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Note: I will be doing some tinkering and updating of the jukebox in the next few weeks.  I need to make it easier to navigate the old posts and spruce it up a bit.  So you might notice things popping up every so often.  Check it out if you’re interested.  The updates might mean I take a few days off; I don’t anticipate doing this right away, but it could happen.  Just sayin’.

Karl Wallinger quit The Waterboys to form World Party in 1986.  That means very little to most people, unless they happen to be fans of either group.  I didn’t even know who The Waterboys were until a couple of years later when the put out the brilliant Fisherman’s Blues (I probably ought to do a post on that album. . . if I haven’t already; even I can’t keep track anymore).  Wallinger missed out on being part of that album, and The Waterboys missed out on this song.

That’s not a bad thing, of course.  The work would’ve been fundamentally changed if they’d still been together.  The first World Party album had a sort of anarchic quality to it.  “Way Down Now” is possibly the best example of that mood.  Over the fade out, Wallinger keeps repeating, “Something new, something true.”  He’s rebelling, but it’s unclear what he’s rebelling against.  He’s like Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

Okay, if you’re gonna let facts get in the way, the split with Mike Scott and The Waterboys was an acrimonious one, so he was probably reacting at least in part to his new-found musical freedom.  And there’s probably some important analogy to consumerism and wastefulness involved, what with the video being set in a trash dump.  But there’s something else there, something I’ve never been able to quite pin down.

It’s a sociopolitical rant.  Or it’s a break-up song.  Or it’s a celebration of being alive.  “Way Down Now” is all this and none of it.  Anarchy.  Really happy and joyful anarchy.  Because this song always makes me smile.  I feel like I’ve joined a really fun party, even if it might be the party on the eve of the Apocalypse.  “The clocks will all run backwards, all the sheep will have two heads, and Thursday night and Friday will be on Tuesday night instead.  And all the times will keep on changing, and the movement will increase.  And there’s something about the living, babe, that sends me off my feet.”

Going to hell in a handbasket never sounded like so much fun.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

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Yeah, this exists.

I first heard about the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain about a year ago, and I was instantly enchanted.  Only the British would come up with something this endearingly odd.  What makes it so much fun isn’t the ukuleles, but the obvious joy they take in the music.  Like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, they’re not trying to mock the music or artists they play.  They love this stuff, but they’re putting their own imprint on it, making the songs their own experience.  I chose their version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because it featured some awesome ukulele play.  (Side note: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of those songs that lends itself well to cover versions.  Tori Amos did a version that added both melancholy and dread to it–not any easy task.)  But watch any one of their videos over on YouTube; you will not be disappointed.  Or visit their website for information or purchasing purposes.

The ukulele is an underestimated, often maligned instrument.  It’s simple–just a few strings on a tiny body.  Played poorly, the sound can be tinny and annoying.  But the ukulele is wonderful and versatile.  It’s potential for entertainment is only limited by the person playing, and The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain proves that that potential really is unlimited in the right hands.