The Supreme Court Finally Gets One Right

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Well, they actually got a couple right when you include yesterday’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act.  I’m kind of taking some time off to deal with some Mom health issues (more on that in the future), but I’ve been waiting for today for a long time.  I’ve thought long and hard about what song I would use if the ruling was in favor of marriage equality.  This was my favorite choice.  Play it REALLY LOUD and hug someone you love.

Joy to the World!!!!!!!

James Horner

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Longtime film composer James Horner was killed yesterday in Ventura county when his small plane crashed.  Horner composed music for dozens of films and television programs, but he is most famous for his Oscar-winning work on Titanic.

I’m not a fan of “My Heart Will Go On,” but I was pleased to discover that Horner scored one of my favorite movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer.  If you’ve never seen it, do so soon; it’s charming and sweet with a great cast.  The music isn’t the most wonderful I’ve ever heard, but it was so appropriate for this lovely family drama.

I think that was Horner’s greatest talent: fitting the music to the film.  It didn’t stand out because it wasn’t supposed to; the score of a film should work seamlessly with the story, action, and performances.  For that alone, Horner will be greatly missed.

Freaky Repost: “I Talk to My Haircut”

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I don’t quite feel like counting down favorite bands tonight, so I’ll continue the theme week, well, next week.  Maybe I’ll even expand it.  I’m crazy that way.  Because I spent much of the afternoon running errands, and since one of those errands was getting my hair cut (thanks, Frank!), this seemed like an appropriate repost.

So Dangerous Minds has once again turned me on to a little bit of insanity I’d never heard of. The two albums released by Reverend Fred Lane appear to be completely bananas. Which makes them pretty damn awesome in my book.

I freely admit that I choose this song because I dug the title, but it turned out to be a pretty fun listen. Although I was pretty entertained by the other clips I heard, too, so you should just search him on YouTube. It’s all pretty strange. What I hear most in Reverend Fred Lane’s music is the roots of another absurdist musical favorite, They Might Be Giants. I have no idea if John and John ever listened to this guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Of course, Reverend Lane isn’t a real guy. Or, he is real, but he’s not a reverend. Or named Fred. It’s a persona created by an artist named T.R. Reed. The music encompasses pretty much every genre of American music, while the lyrics are Dada-esque in nature (read: they make no sense whatsoever). This isn’t novelty music, per se, but more like performance art. What stands out most is the freewheeling abandon of these tracks. Reed clearly decided at some point to not limit himself in any discernible way. This is what the phrase “anything goes” was invented for. He just tossed everything in, including the kitchen sink.

This stuff is wonderfully weird, but it’s not mainstream in any way. The Reverend Fred Lane is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Which of course means that these recordings are currently out of print. I hope someone realizes there’s a market for this stuff and re-release it. Soon.

Emanuel AME Church

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I’ve been considering how to tackle this news all day.  I hate what has happened.  I hate that there are people out there who would deliberately mischaracterize this act of racist terrorism to further other political ends (I’m looking at you, Fox News).  I hate that the government of South Carolina continues to foster the racism that led to this horrific act by allowing the Confederate flag to fly in front of the state house in Charleston.  I hate that this lunatic was given a gun for his birthday just a few weeks ago—by someone who maybe should’ve noticed that he was kind of unhinged.  (It may or may not have been the gun used in the shooting, but that doesn’t matter; what matters is that a crazy racist was allowed to have easy access to weapons.)  I hate that there are nine people who are dead for no good goddamn reason.

The last time I remember using this song was back when the Sandy Hook massacre took place.  I will now repeat what I said then, and what I’ve said every single time a mass shooting has taken place since: Ban all guns now.  Ban them.  No more automatic weapons.  No more fucking assault rifles.  No handguns.  Nothing.  Anywhere.  Ever again.  Repeal the Second Amendment.  Formally outlaw the NRA as a terrorist organization.  I’m done.

I know there are people out there who will disagree with me.  And I grant you, wanting to repeal one part of the Bill of Rights is pretty radical.  But I am pretty radical, and it’s clear that this particular amendment has outlived any usefulness it might have once had.  Remember, back when the Second Amendment was passed, a majority of people still had to hunt for their food.  There was no standing federal army.  There were no regular police forces.  If something needed protecting, a militia was called up.  That’s what the phrase “well-regulated militia” stands for.  Well, now we have regular forces charged with protecting the citizenry; there is no need for any well-regulated militias among civilians.  Considering the way they’ve been acting lately, I don’t think 90% of police officers should be allowed to carry guns.  So let’s ban weapons for them, too.  Great Britain’s cops don’t carry weapons for the most part, and their homicide rate is a lot lower than ours.  Guns no longer have a purpose in our society, so it’s time to get rid of them.

Give peace a chance.  Please.

My Top Five Bands: Number 3

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I don’t actually care what anyone else says.  They can enshrine Nirvana and Kurt Cobain as the Gen X spokesmen all they want.  They’re wrong.  It’s the Replacements, led by the incomparable Paul Westerberg.  And this is our theme.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking Nirvana or Cobain, or their relevance to my generation.  But the simple fact is that the Mats were there first, and they captured the mixed emotions of growing up in this world far more poignantly, in my opinion.  Westerberg’s lyrics are sad, angry, sarcastic, ambivalent, tender, and often confused.  The music was great, if a little shambolic.  Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars, and Bob Stinson (later replaced by Slim Dunlap) just barely cohered most of the time, but it struck all the right emotional chords.

Of course, the Replacements were always their own worst enemies.  They were terrific and talented, and Westerberg had major Pop aspirations.  But they were also immature, unreliable, and inconsistent, mostly due to excessive drinking.  A live Mats show could either be transcendent or trash.  Their lack of commercial success has consigned them to the background, but I think they deserve to be pushed into the spotlight.  If Kurt Cobain were still here, I’m sure he’d be happy to share.

My Top Five Bands: Number 2

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I need to start this post with a minor clarification.  Yes, I am posting my five favorite bands this week, but after the Beatles at number one, the number ranking is kind of irrelevant.  I love all these groups, but their relative positions on any list will shift and change with my moods.  Which means stuff moves around a lot on this list.

Of course, the Band hold a place in my heart that’s almost as dear as the one the Beatles hold.  For a few years, from around 1967 to around 1975, they were magical.  It was like they could do no wrong.  (Of course they did do some wrong; Cahoots was released in 71, and it’s virtually unlistenable.)  Because of all the years they’d spent backing up first Ronnie Hawkins and then Bob Dylan, they were probably the finest live act ever to grace a stage.  They were sharp and tight and practically telepathic with each other.  Between Rock of Ages and The Last Waltz, they are responsible for some of the most electric and iconic live recordings this side of The Allman Brothers.

“Rag Mama Rag” sounds kind of ragged and chaotic, but if you listen carefully you can hear the perfect syncopation between the piano and drums and fiddle; the addition of the horns by the Tower of Power just makes it that much looser and more of a party (which makes sense, since this performance was recorded on New Year’s Eve).  The Band excelled in making music that seemed simple and unstudied, but really they were masters at making it all look sloppy.

Unfortunately, like all magic, the Band couldn’t last.  Robbie Robertson got too big for his britches (as undeniably talented as he is, he really could’ve been a better human being).  The rest of the guys were either too passive or too wasted.  Bad blood, addiction, and exhaustion took their toll and the Band fell apart.  I’m leaving a lot out, obviously, but that’s the gist of it.  Even when the majority of them played together in later years (after the official break-up in 1976), the feeling was never the same.  There was just that one shining moment, and then poof . . . it was all gone.

There are more obvious songs I could’ve chosen for this post, but I picked “Rag Mama Rag” and “Look Out Cleveland” partly because they’re favorites and partly because they’re not the songs the Band is best known for.  Dylan helped make the Band famous, but they stand just fine on their own merits.

My Top Five Bands: Number 1

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Let’s have another theme week, shall we?  Okay, so they’re not generally the most popular, and they almost always get interrupted by news of some kind, but why not give it another shot.  I’ve been thinking about doing some kind of top five or top ten list of my favorite bands, but that probably would’ve been too unwieldy.  So this week each post will be about one of the bands I consider my five favorites.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, most of these probably won’t surprise you—although I admit I did surprise myself just a bit.

Number one isn’t exactly shocking.  The Beatles are number one on a lot of people’s lists.  I could go on about how innovative and culturally influential they were.  I could probably spout off something about their songwriting and musical talent.  I could probably even muster up a decent postmodern analysis of their personal dynamics and deconstruction of the meanings behind their songs, if you give me enough time.  But all that stuff has been done to death.  And, really, the Beatles position as my favorite band of all time ultimately boils down to one thing: I like them better than I like anybody else.

Listening to a Beatles song, any Beatles song, makes me feel better than just about anything else.  If I’m feeling down, I get a little happier.  If I’m anxious, I relax.  If I’m angry at something, it just kind of dissipates in the face of their charming, lyrical, Liverpudlian onslaught.  “Ticket to Ride” happens to be one of my very favorites, but I could’ve chosen about a dozen others that I like just as much.  And dozens of others that fall not that far behind.  (I’m sort of proud that I managed to keep it to just my favorite 150 on the iPod.)  There’s really nothing and no one in music that I enjoy more than the Beatles.

In fact, I like them so much, here’s another song.  I dare you not to smile.