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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

“The Best of Everything”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 8, 2017

I had to take a couple of days off before I could write this one.  It’s just a little too hard emotionally.  I mean, the song is a killer.  A guy reflects on a long-lost love and hopes her life is good and happy.  And while it’s a tad overproduced, the sadness of the lyrics and the melancholy with which Tom delivers them just makes my heart ache.

Of course, this song is a little bit of a double whammy for me.  The overproduction on “The Best of Everything” comes courtesy of Robbie Robertson.  During the lengthy recording of Southern Accents (they had to leave the studio for roughly a year after Tom broke his hand and basically had to relearn playing guitar; many songs from the original sessions ended up being scrapped or totally revamped), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were at the studio the same time as Robertson.  Tom asked him to produce one of the songs, which became the basic track for “The Best of Everything.”  Robertson took it away for post-production overdubs, and was very secretive about precisely what he was doing to the song.  Tom would regularly ask him how it was going, and Robbie would  tell him everything was fine and that it would be done soon.  When the track was finally finished, there was a beautiful horn section and a backing vocal from Richard Manuel.  (BTW, if you don’t know who Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel are 1) Google them, and 2) go away; I don’t think we can be friends anymore.)  That backing vocal ended up being one of the last things Richard Manuel ever recorded before his suicide in 1986.

So it’s safe to say I get a little weepy over this song on good days.

Last Monday, October 2nd, was not a good day.  Tom was gone.  Yes, his physical body was still lingering in this plane, but his energy, his spirit, had already moved on.  I could feel that little bit of emptiness left behind in the Universe.  And I sat on my couch with my iPod on.  As I scrolled and saw this title, I hesitated before I hit play.  I knew it would shatter the last pieces of my heart that were still being held together with spit and baling wire.  I knew it would physically hurt to listen to that song.  But I had to, because this was my good-bye to that voice.

Tom Petty gave me, all of us, so much joy, and there really is no way to adequately thank him for it.  Funny how he wrote the only thank you I could think to give over thirty years ago.

“So listen honey, wherever you are tonight, I wish you the best of everything in the world.  And honey, I hope you found whatever you were looking for.”

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“Swingin'”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 5, 2017

The one bad part about an artist as successful as Tom Petty, with or without the Heartbreakers, is that a lot of really great music gets overlooked or forgotten.  Such is the fate of the album Echo, which is to my mind one of TP & the Heartbreakers’ best.  It’s his divorce album, written and recorded after the end of his first marriage.  But unlike many great break-up albums, Petty gave himself a little time to absorb the loss before he committed his feelings to his music.  (He also gave himself enough time to almost drink himself into a deep, deep hole, which might have been a contributing factor to his divorce.)  It’s not as angry and bitter as these magnum opuses of lost love can be, nor is it morose and depressing.  It’s more elegiac and mournful, almost gentle.  More circumspect.  There isn’t any recrimination or blame, just damn good music.

“Swingin'” has always been one of the best tracks.  The defiance and swagger here are trademark Petty, but more muted.  He knows this isn’t a happy story and adjusts his typical attitude accordingly.  But it is a proud tale of a woman who wasn’t going to give in to whatever is beating her down.  She fights back even though she knows she’s probably going to lose.  Because in losing this way, she really wins.  And she might just take down her adversary, too.  I’ve always felt like it was about Jane; I don’t know what happened to their marriage, but I’ll bet that once she’d decided she wasn’t going to put up with Tom’s bullshit anymore, she made sure he knew it.  You can feel the blows landing in this song, but it’s okay because it was probably at least a fair fight.

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“Learning to Fly”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 4, 2017

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

“The thing about the Heartbreakers is, it’s still holy to me . . . There’s a holiness there.  If that were to go away, I don’t think I would be interested in it, and I don’t think they would.  We’re a real rock ‘n’ roll band–always have been.  And to us, in the era we came up in, it was a religion in a way.  It was about more than commerce, it wasn’t about that.  It was about something much greater.  It was about moving people and changing the world, and I really believed in rock ‘n’ roll–I still do.”

 

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“No Second Thoughts”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 3, 2017

Yesterday I did my laundry, folded it, and put it away.  I read a couple of the articles for this week’s unit in my class.  I ate leftover spaghetti for dinner and finished off a nice bottle of Spanish wine.  I watched the news.  And when Rita Wilde on 100.3 announced that Tom Petty had finally passed on a little before nine pm last night, I cried for ten minutes.

While I consciously cried over losing the voice and physical energy of one of my favorite musicians ever, I also cried all the tears I’d been holding in over what happened the night before in Las Vegas.  People doing nothing more than enjoying music were targeted and gunned down for no discernible reason.  And I’m still sitting on all the grief and anger I feel over that.  (I’m not doing that rant again; it’s just too damn much right now.)  I still want to cry.  I still might.  I slept with a teddy bear last night, which I probably won’t do again.  At least not tonight.

I went to yoga class this morning.  It’s a “gentle” class, so most of what we do is on the floor.  I felt unbalanced and uncentered the whole time, like I was leaning just a little bit to one side or the other.  I couldn’t get any equilibrium.  I still feel that way.  I still feel just a little bit like a hole has been torn into me.  It’s going to take a long time for the space Tom left behind will be refilled.

It will, though.  I will regain my psychic footing, put together more coherent thoughts, make it through one of his songs without bursting into tears.  that’s how the Universe works.  Nothing is ever really lost.  His energy is still there.  And I can still reach out and hold it in my heart.

I dug out the iPod so I could listen to Tom while I was watching the football game last night.  For whatever reason, I gravitated to the softer songs.  I cried then, too, but it felt like a balm on the wound.  This is one of my all-time favorites, from the second Hearbreakers’ album, You’re Gonna Get It.  A gentle song about moving on.  Time to start doing that.

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Tom

Posted by purplemary54 on October 2, 2017

When I was thirteen, I walked up to the counter at Big Ben’s music store and asked “Who is this?”  The bored clerk pointed to the red and black album displayed on the counter and said “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”  I was stone cold in love from that moment on.

No, he wasn’t especially good-looking.  But there was a gleam in his eye and a sly grin on his face that told you all you needed to know.  He was funny and sexy and he never took anything, especially himself, all that seriously.  Except the music.  He always took the music seriously.

I remember an interview with Petty back in the 90s.  He told his parents he was leaving school to become a musician.  His father said he might want to get an education anyway, just in case he needed something to fall back on.  But Petty replied, “I won’t fall back.”  There were a lot of rough times at the beginning, but he was right.  Tom Petty never fell back, he never backed down, and we have all his wonderful music because of it.

The song that was playing in the store when I was thirteen was “You Got Lucky.”  I was lucky my parents wanted to rent a movie that night so I could hear that song on the store’s PA system.  It’s still my favorite.

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Grant Hart

Posted by purplemary54 on September 14, 2017

I’ve always been a Bob Mould kind of girl, and he’ll always be my favorite from Husker Du.  But hearing of Grant Hart’s passing today was heartbreaking.  He was Mould’s perfect foil and partner in art.  He was also the kind of drummer I like best: clean and economical, even within the ramshackle chaos that marked much of Husker Du’s oeuvre.  I really should say more, but I don’t know how (Rob Sheffield sure as hell does, though).  This loss makes me so damn sad.  Like the song says, it’s not funny anymore.

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Don Williams

Posted by purplemary54 on September 8, 2017

It’s been a bad day for Country music, losing both a latter-day star and one of the old timers from the 70s.  While the death of Troy Gentry is more tragic, my own heart is a little heavier over the passing of Don Williams.  My mother wore out the grooves on her copy of his Greatest Hits.  So needless to say, Williams’ beautiful baritone is a fond and familiar one from my childhood.

At least Williams got the chance to live a long-ish and full life.  Gentry’s death at 50 in a helicopter crash seems so much more unfair.  As I get older myself, other people all seem to get younger, and 50 is too damn young.  Traveling is as much of a hazard to musicians as too much drugs and alcohol; they spend so much of their lives on the road it makes a sad sense that that same road claims so many of them.  My brain tells me this is just how it is, but my heart protests.  At least their music will survive for all who loved them.

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Walter Becker

Posted by purplemary54 on September 3, 2017

Steely Dan was always just Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.  Sure, they started out as a real band, but that eventually dissolved and the Fagen/Becker duo performed as Steely Dan with some of the best studio musicians ever.  They were also pretty much a studio band, a record band.  Yeah, they performed live and toured pretty regularly, especially after they reunited and found out how much money they could make touring the nostalgia circuit.  But they were at heart a duo that was best when they were recording.

The duo has now become a solo act with today’s passing of Walter Becker.  He co-wrote most of Steely Dan’s best work with Fagen, played bass and guitar, and was generally just a musical badass.  I am surprisingly saddened by losing Becker, and I’m not sure why.  I’m definitely a fan; they did some of coolest, funkiest, swinging-est, jazziest, most literary rock music ever.  Come to think of it, Steely Dan was pretty much a genre of one; no other musical act as been like them.  Which maybe is what makes Becker’s death so devastating.  No one else was like this act, and no one is ever going to replace him.  Donald Fagen has announced that he will keep Steely Dan’s music alive as long as can after losing his partner and friend, but it will never be the same again.  Half the heart of Steely Dan is gone.

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“The Commander Thinks Aloud”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 28, 2017

One of the podcasts I listen to is 99% Invisible, which is about design and how it affects and influences our lives (it’s way more interesting than the summary makes it sound).  I am still making my way through a LARGE backlog of episodes, so I’m still years behind in my listening.  Every so often, podmaster Roman Mars will include an episode from one of Radiotopia’s other podcasts and it’s always fun to get a sample.  Song Exploder is one of the most frequent add-ons.  I like this one because it panders to the music geek in me.  An 99PI from a couple of years ago included a Song Exploder about a song by an artist called The Long Winters that was already a couple of years old when it originally aired.

Yeah, I could’ve been way more concise with how I worded that.  One of my creative writing teachers called it “shielding your nouns,” a phenomenon that stems from trying to write about something that is profoundly uncomfortable or emotional.  That’s what this song is.

“The Commander Thinks Aloud” is about the Columbia disaster.  It is almost as devastating as the explosion that destroyed the shuttle.  I downloaded the song today, but not after some soul-searching.  I don’t know that I ever want to hear this song again, but I cannot forget it.  It is a stunning piece of work, in the sense that you will feel a little bit like you got hit over the head with a two by four.  It is also a very good piece of art.  Do not listen to it if you are depressed.  Do not listen to it if you have not braced yourself sufficiently.  This is not an experience for the faint of heart.  But it is an experience worth having at least once.

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“Good Man”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 24, 2017

I freely admit that I am currently just the tiniest bit obsessed with Josh Ritter.  Maybe it’s because the music is so damn good.  Maybe it’s because he seems so freakin’ happy when he’s onstage.  Joyful, really, and who couldn’t use a little more joy in their lives?

I was actually having a little trouble finding a Ritter song I hadn’t posted on the jukebox already.  Or reposted a couple of times (search “Snow is Gone”).  I thought about posting one of the more depressing songs (“Lawrence, KS”), but like I said earlier, who doesn’t need a little more joy in their lives?  And without a doubt, this is a joyful song.  “Good Man” is the rare song by Ritter that I love, but didn’t really connect with right away.  It kind of snuck up on me, like an outlaw ambush in a black & white Western where you can tell the good guys from the bad by the color of their hats.  I also happen to prefer the studio version, but that brings me back to the joyful thing again.

The song itself is kind of a low-key joy, full of sidelong glances and sly smiles.  But Ritter’s performance in this clip, like almost every single one of his performances, is overflowing with that emotion.  Besides Yo-Yo Ma, I have never seen anyone smile so much when they’re onstage.  He is practically bubbling.  And it’s infectious.  As I was watching the clip, I kept thinking how much I liked the studio version, yet I kept watching anyway.  And smiling.  Unconsciously, almost unwillingly, smiling.  Full on, crinkle up the eyes smiling.  Because that’s what Josh Ritter inspires in me.  Like he sings in the song, “I’m a good man for you.”

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