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Archive for August, 2015


Posted by purplemary54 on August 30, 2015

I’ve been going through some Richard Thompson CDs that I bought, but hadn’t gotten around to listening to yet.  (There’s always something that doesn’t get listened to right away in my collection.  Lots of somethings, usually.)  I adore Thompson’s work, and I got inspired to go back after watching an episode of Front and Center that featured him (great stuff; watch it if you get the chance).  When I was listening to 1994’s Mirror Blue, I found this devastating little number.  I don’t really recommend listening if you’re already depressed.

I like sad songs, but this one physically hurt.  A bone deep ache in your soul.  I felt all the sorrow and regret of lost love, lost chances, lost youth.  It’s perfect.  Richard Thompson (like his lovely voiced ex-wife Linda) understands how to draw intense emotion from his audience, and he plays this one like the master he is.  As the narrative unfolds, you know it’s going to end in heartbreak, but I don’t think any of the typical songwriting conventions prepare you for just how heartbreaking it is.  Not a word is misplaced, not a single note is superfluous.  He just weaves his web until you’re trapped in the silken strands just as surely as if they were chains.


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Posted by purplemary54 on August 28, 2015

Yeah, I know yesterday was Thursday.  I just got a little ahead of myself and posted my planned Friday post accidentally.  (Yes, sometimes I plan these things in advance.  Not often, but once in a while I think ahead instead of flying by the seat of my pants like I usually do.  Look where it gets me: Posting about “Le Freak” Friday when it’s really Thursday.  That’s it! No more planning for me!)

So to make up for messing up the calendar ever so slightly, here’s a little repentant Elton John for y’all.  It might be a little too sad and sorry, but it is one of my favorite musical apologies.

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“Le Freak” Friday!

Posted by purplemary54 on August 27, 2015

I’m not doing regular Freaky Friday posts anymore*, but I felt the need for a little freak out anyway.  What better to do that with than Chic’s great Disco classic “Le Freak.”

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards famously wrote “Le Freak” after being denied entrance to New York’s famed disco Studio 54, even though they’d been invited by the famous Grace Jones (who neglected to add them to the guest list).  The song’s famous chorus of “Freak out!” was infamously originally supposed to be two other words beginning with F and O.

Am I throwing a little too much fame around this fire?  Well, “Le Freak” is in a sense about fame.  Notice that even though the title is supposed to be a dance, no one ever does any specific moves in the video, and nothing in the lyrics describes how to do this nominal dance.  Rule number one of writing a song about a dance craze you want to invent is that you need to tell/show people how to do the dance.  There is no dance called “Le Freak,” at least not that I know of.  This is about the freak show of fame that was Studio 54 in the seventies.

And it was a freak show.  Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager made sure the cream of the celebrity crop was there, and filled in the rest of the space with only the best looking and most depraved unknown sycophants they could find.  If you weren’t on the list and you weren’t gorgeous, scantily clad, or somebody’s dealer, you didn’t get in.  The stories about what went on in Studio 54 are legendary (google it and see what you find, aside from a not-so-great movie in the 90s).  I suspect that the immorality and amorality of the disco are somewhat overstated, but probably not by that much.  There was a lot of money and drugs in that place, and the management went to great pains to make sure their guests had as much privacy as they needed to do whatever they wanted.

Mostly what people wanted was to be seen at Studio 54.  It was the hottest disco on the scene, so everyone who was anyone had to be witnessed going in, coming out, or enjoying themselves in (obviously) staged pictures inside.  It wasn’t about dancing or music, like many other discos; it was about being famous.  And like all fads, it was doomed to die an ignominious death.

After the club was raided by the Feds, and Rubell and Schrager did time for tax evasion, Studio 54 was essentially dead.  It closed briefly in 1980 and reopened in 1981, but it was never the same.  The shine had worn off.  Even though it served as a launching pad for many successful 80s music stars, no one really cared about what was going on at 54 anymore.  Freak out, indeed.

*Beware, though!  Freaky Friday could return at any moment, just when you least expect it.

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Something Mindless to Cheer Everyone Up

Posted by purplemary54 on August 26, 2015

Between lunatics with guns and baby pandas dying, the news has not been very happy today.  Not to mention the weather has been pretty stinking horrendous the last few days (and it’s only going to get hotter, according to all the weathermen out here).  Add in that I’ve started my classes at SJSU (yay!), and I’m feeling kind of brain-dead.  So a little mindless fun seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Of course, there has been some good news over here: Mom’s doing much better.  We went to the neurologist the other day, and he thinks she’s physically recovered.  He even said she was cleared to drive and go back to work if she wanted.  I think we should confirm that with the primary first, but otherwise it’s all good news.

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“No Telling”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 20, 2015

I tried posting on this long ago, but couldn’t include the song because I couldn’t find one that was actually sung by the tender, pure, crystal clear voice of Linda Thompson.  Well, someone was finally kind enough to put it up on YouTube, and I can’t be happier to share this song with all of you.  Just listen to it.  Trust me.

If this song doesn’t make you cry, even just a little, then I’m not sure you actually have a heart.

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Posted by purplemary54 on August 19, 2015

YouTube recommended this for me.  Who am I to argue?

Still pretty psyched about seeing Josh Ritter in October.  I even wrote it in purple ink on my calendar.

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“You Can Sleep While I Drive”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 17, 2015

I’ve been fighting a sinus headache off and on all day.  (I know it’s my sinuses because my ears pop whenever they clear for a minute.)  So this is a good level of noise for me.

I’ve never seen this video before, never even knew a video was made for it.  I was afraid it would be some overdone, melodramatic thing, a rip-off of your average Lifetime movie, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Although it’s clearly staged and a product of its time, it keeps the melodrama to a minimum.  The lack of anyone on the scene but Melissa Etheridge suits the loneliness of this song.

But this song doesn’t really need a video.  What it needs is darkness: a dark room, an empty highway, a horizon lit only by stars and a crescent moon.  There’s nothing about this song that lends itself to light or company.  Even though the singer is begging for her lover to come with her, I don’t think she means it.  She’s already halfway out the door when she starts the song; by the end, she’s in the car revving the motor, taking one long last look at wherever she’s leaving.  I love it.

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“Nobody Knows Me”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 11, 2015

I figured it was time for a little variety from Lyle Lovett.

I think this might have been the first song I ever heard by Lovett.  It’s so achingly tender and heartbroken.  Lovett’s hushed, almost whispered, delivery is perfect for the mood of this song.  It’s clear the protagonist has sabotaged his relationship, probably by cheating with “a dream made to order, south of the border.”  There’s clearly some racial implications here, which adds another layer to deconstruct.  It’s not the main point of the song, but Lovett is one of the few songwriters I would credit with creating such a complex world of race, class, sex, and privilege in just a few minutes.  (Randy Newman is tops on the short list of others, and Lovett is clearly cut from the same cloth.)  The guy knows he was wrong, but he can’t seem to bring himself to admit it, saying only “there weren’t nothin’ to it.”  He might hate being alone on Sundays, but it’s clear that he’ll be spending a lot of time without the baby that knows him so well.

This song really pushes all my buttons: it’s smart and sad and perfectly constructed.  The production is as muted as the vocals; anything else would’ve ruined it.  This song is a perfect example of less being more.

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“Girl In the War”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 9, 2015

If you’re not listening to Josh Ritter, then what the fuck is wrong with you?  You don’t like sublimely good, emotional, intelligent music?  If that’s the case, go away.  I want nothing more to do with you.

And I’d now like to apologize for those lines.  I don’t really want you to go anywhere, and you really do have the right not to enjoy Ritter’s music (but I’m going to question your taste just a little if you don’t).  I’m just kind of hyped up right now.  I just reserved myself a spot to see this wonderful singer-songwriter at Fingerprints in Long Beach, and on a scale of one to ten, my excitement level is something like 1,000.

I think I first found out about Josh Ritter from a review in Rolling Stone.  Or it might have been a piece on NPR one morning where they played a couple clips from songs.  However it was, I promptly forgot about him until I was browsing in a soon-to-close Tower Records one afternoon.  They had what was at the time his newest release, The Animal Years, at one of the listening stations so I cued it up.  “Girl in the War” was the first track, and I listened to the whole song right there in the store.  I sampled a few others (including the outstanding “Wolves”), and promptly added the disc to my pile of purchases.  I haven’t looked back since.  I’ve posted a couple of Ritter’s songs before, but if he’s new to you, please discover him the same way I did.  I’m pretty sure you won’t be sorry.

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I Hate to Repeat Myself, But . . .

Posted by purplemary54 on August 6, 2015

So apparently this is the second time I’ve reposted this song.  I’d apologize, but I really do love it.  I was reminded about how great it is when I heard a clip of it while I was catching up on Pop Culture Happy Hour.  I should probably move on to some other song by Lyle Lovett, though; he really is a terrific songwriter.

Lyle Lovett has always been an intelligent and quirky songwriter, sort of like Randy Newman for the country music set. I think he’s as misunderstood the same way Newman is, too, since his most popular songs tend to be very funny on the surface, and most people don’t look past the surface. Lovett is just considered something of a novelty act by anyone not really familiar with the depth of his music.

Lovett has always had a great range of emotions in his songs, from achingly sad (“Nobody Knows Me”) to bitingly sarcastic (“(That’s Right) You’re Not From Texas”). “If I Had a Boat,” from Pontiac, is full of Lovett’s usual lyrical wit and a yearning for freedom. It is a road song for the mind. The guy in the song imagines what his life would be like if he had a boat: “I’d go out on the ocean. And if I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat. And we could all together go out on the ocean. I’ll sit me upon my pony on my boat.” This clearly a fanciful daydream, possibly of a landlocked city slicker who harbors romantic fantasies about both the ocean and cowboys. He is alternately Roy Rogers and Tonto and lightning, a strange combination until you realize what they stand for and what he wishes he could reject. Roy Rogers stands in for conventional relationships and marriage, but if he were Roy, “I’d sure enough be single. I couldn’t bring myself to marrying old Dale.” Tonto becomes the working man under the Lone Ranger’s boss, “cause Tonto did the dirty work for free.” But his Tonto would quit, saying “Kemo Sabe, well kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I’m going out to sea.” Lightning stands in for the kind of freedom cowboys usually represent, “I wouldn’t need no sneakers. Well I’d come and go whenever I would please.” The only obligations he would have would be to himself and his pony, and they would be out on the ocean on a boat.

It sounds kind of nice really. Might be a little smelly and crowded. But to be beholden to only yourself and the companions you have chosen is the ultimate kind of freedom. Not nothing left to lose, as Kris Kristofferson once imagined it. This is freedom with everything to gain. All directions are open and all you have to do is go whichever way the wind blows.

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