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Posts Tagged ‘musicians’

Repost: “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”

Posted by purplemary54 on June 16, 2017

This one is from way, way back on the jukebox’s playlist.  At a recent First Friday event, one of the musicians rekindled my childhood-nostalgia fueled love affair with Jim Croce’s music by playing “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” which naturally led back to this classic.  (Her name is Mary Bee, btw, and you can find her on Facebook.)  I left in all the stuff about satellite radio even though we don’t have Sirius in the car anymore.  

I don’t really know how well Jim Croce is remembered; my barometer for his level of fame is sort of broken.  Croce is one of those artists that has always been a favorite in my family, so I grew up knowing who he was and listening to his music.  The second single I ever owned was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”  Croce had a music hall sensibility.  His songs often told stories, sometimes sounding like something from the 1940s.  But then he could turn around and pen the template for the quintessential 70s love song (“Time In a Bottle”).  He wore a lot of musical hats for someone who died at 30.

“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is one of his story songs, full of the same kind of unsavory characters that made “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” such a success about a year later.  The plot is that a “pool shootin’ son of a gun”  named Big Jim Walker has cheated an Alabama man named Willie McCoy, “Last week he took all my money, and it may sound funny, but I come to get my money back.”  Everyone warns him that Big Jim is not someone to tangle with.  “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind.  You don’t pull the mask of that old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Jim.”  When Jim arrives, he is beaten, stabbed, and shot by Willie, who importantly goes by Slim.  Because at the end of the song, “you don’t mess around with Slim.”

These days, a tune with this subject matter and level of violence would be a rap song (and probably be more graphic and explicit).  It would probably raise the ire of some conservative parents group who would claim that children would be psychologically damaged if they heard this song.  The album would surely be labelled with a warning sticker.  It certainly wouldn’t get played on the radio.  In 1972, this made the Top Ten of the mainstream singles chart.  Times have indeed changed.

Looking back, there’s a lot of songs I knew all the words to when I was still in single digits that media watchdogs would be shocked about.  I mean, I remember sitting in the back of my aunt’s 1969 Duster (on top of the lowered back seat, no child safety restraints of any sort) singing “The Gambler” at the top of my lungs.  I had “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” memorized when I was four.  Of course, I had precious little comprehension of any of these lyrics.  “Afternoon Delight”?  That was just a fun song about fireworks as far as I was concerned.  I thought the razor kept in Leroy’s shoe was like the plastic kind my daddy shaved with.  I’m sure I asked the occasional uncomfortable question about the things I heard, but for the most part I was kind of oblivious.

I think most kids are kind of oblivious to things like that.  If they don’t understand it, they ask questions or they automatically translate it into something they understand.  Which makes me even more annoyed at the level of censorship I hear on broadcast radio these days.  A few years ago, around the time of the famous Wardrobe Malfunction, everyone became deathly afraid of the FCC and groups like Focus on the Family.  Radio especially began self-censoring to avoid even the slightest hint of something that might be offensive.  Suddenly, songs began getting cuss words stripped out.  Other songs, such as “Walk on the Wild Side,” which used to be relegated to the early morning hours got banned altogether.  (Funny story: Long before any of this, I heard “Walk on the Wild Side” on K-Earth 101, and to keep their wholesome image intact, they edited out the verse about Candy.  Never mind the transvestite, the overdosing junkie, or the male prostitute.  Just get rid of the girl performing oral sex.)  It’s one of the reasons I’m really starting to like satellite radio.  I can hear Roger Daltry ask “Who the fuck are you?”  I can hear about all the degeneracy of Lou Reed’s New York nightlife.  And I can hear about how Big Jim Walker got murdered by some guy named Slim.  And I don’t have to worry about anyone imposing their morality on me.

And once again, a song has taken me somewhere I didn’t expect to go.  And that’s just another reason why I love music so much.

 

Posted in Music, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gregg Allman

Posted by purplemary54 on May 27, 2017

In yet another blow to Rock & Roll, Gregg Allman has passed from this plane at 69.  He had a long career but he was at his best as the singer and organist for the Allman Brothers Band.  They were blues and rock and psychedelia rolled into one rollicking package.  While it can be argued that Duane Allman’s mythic guitar had a more lasting impact on music, you can’t say that Gregg didn’t help shape the Allman Brothers’ sound in equally crucial ways.

You also can’t say that Gregg Allman didn’t live the Rock Star persona to the hilt.  He was as hard-living as the characters he sang about, and he paid that price in more ways than one.  Losing Duane and ABB bassist Berry Oakley in eerily similar motorcycle accidents within a year of each other were not only a huge personal losses but ones that changed the sound of the Allman Brothers Band.  His tumultuous marriage to Cher and years of substance abuse made Gregg tabloid fodder.  And those years of drugs and alcohol led directly to the health problems that plagued him in his final years.  He spent much of the last few years playing as often as his body would allow him to.  His voice had grown ragged, but I’m sure the music gave him some measure of peace.

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Chris Cornell

Posted by purplemary54 on May 18, 2017

Fuck.

This is not what I expected to be doing this morning.

I’m going in for my annual mammogram this afternoon.  I’ve got to run a couple errands today.  Maybe a load of laundry.  I checked the news on my phone to see if there were any interesting developments in the Russia investigation.  I did not expect to see that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had passed into the next plane last night in what Rolling Stone’s website is reporting as a “possible suicide.”  Fuck.

Cornell’s voice was a force of nature, which was exactly what a band like Soundgarden needed to become a Rock powerhouse.  He could wail and groan like a hurricane, then drift down to a whisper of a breeze.  He was as relentless and undeniable as the wind.  And I cannot believe he is silenced.  He was only four years older than me.

I was never a Soundgarden superfan, although I always enjoyed listening to them.  My favorite Cornell song is actually “Hunger Strike” from the Temple of the Dog one-off, which was itself a tribute to late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood.  Cornell teamed with the surviving members of that band and some new kid named Eddie to play and sing for a life cut short.  Cornell’s voice meshes perfectly with Eddie Vedder’s.  And the chorus seems like an aptly fitting description of the musical landscape the last couple of years: “I’m going hungry.”

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Chuck Berry

Posted by purplemary54 on March 18, 2017

I’ve got two or three other posts I’m working on right now, one of them a much more personal remembrance, but this news today has to come first.  Dammit.

The passing of Chuck Berry at age 90 isn’t really a surprise; his health had been slowly failing for years.  But it is sad to see one of the original Rock & Roll greats leave us.  Even though I now concede Elvis Presley’s undeniable talent and status as the King, for many years I argued that Berry was the true King of Rock & Roll.  He did so much to create and shape the sound so many of us love so much.  He made some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard, and I never get tired of hearing it.  His guitar style was iconic.  His performances were magnetic and charismatic.  Yeah, he was kind of a jerk as a human being (and more than a little problematic for this feminist), but he was a legend.  The world is a slightly poorer place without him.

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“Tougher Than the Rest”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 13, 2017

My adoration for Shawn Colvin knows no bounds.  As a songwriter, she pens intensely, deeply, personal songs that are somehow universal. As a performer, she can take other artists’ songs and turn them into her own intensely, deeply, personal experiences.  It’s a gift that as a music fan I do not take lightly.

In 1994, Colvin released Cover Girl, a collection of songs she loved by artists she loved; it is to this day one of my favorite albums.  In 2015, Colvin decided it was time to collect a few more covers and released Uncovered.  I finally got a copy for myself and although I don’t think it’s quite as passionately felt as Cover Girl, I think it shows her gift of turning covers into her own quite nicely.

Take “Tougher Than the Rest” for example.  This song by Bruce Springsteen originally appeared on his Tunnel of Love from 1987, an album that is full of some of his most intensely, deeply, personal songs (it’s his divorce album, presciently written and released before his divorce from Julianne Phillips).  Colvin switches a few pronouns, and presto, it’s her song not Springsteen’s.

If you know anything about Colvin’s history, you know how utterly heartbreakingly poignant this version is.  She imprints herself all over the romantic yearning for a real relationship.  She’s had a rocky romantic life, due in part to her struggle with mental illness.  When she sings the title refrain, “honey I’m tougher than the rest”, you know it’s true.  The last verse really gets to me.  She delivers it so quietly, so matter-of-factly: “Well it ain’t no secret, I’ve been around a time or two.  I don’t know baby, maybe you’ve been around, too.  But there’s one more dance.  All you gotta do is say yes.  If you’re lookin’ for love, honey I’m tougher than the rest.”  Her eyes show all the hope and fear those words encompass.  Just one dance, just one chance to prove she’s the one for him.  I like to think she did, but of course, that’s where the song ends.  There’s room for both love and heartbreak.  How the story turns out is up to the listener.

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“A Whole New World”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 29, 2017

Some years ago (at least three, but probably more) the Disney behemoth began advertising its Hawaiian resort Aulani with this utterly enchanting version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Even in the little bit they played in the commercial, I was in love with it.

I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know much about Yuna, the singer who created this song (anyone who does can click here).  But she gives me the general impression of being quite charming.  I also believe she is a Muslim, which means she is persona non grata in Trump’s worldview; all Muslims are terrorists to him.  Even the one’s who sing songs as wholesomely American as Disney songs.  Of course, this particular Disney movie is now suspect in Trump’s vision of the world.  It is, after all, set in an Arab country and features brown people as characters.

I didn’t mean to make this one political at all.  The song is just an innocent romp meant to further the Disney-fied romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  And this cover is, as I stated earlier, utterly enchanting.  I just wanted to share it with you.  And to remind you that not all Muslims are out to get Westerners.  Some of them just want to create music.

 

Posted in Music, Pop, Soundtracks | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Borderline”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 7, 2017

Psst. . . over here.  Wanna here something really cool?  There’s this song called “Borderline” and it’s really awesome.

Oh, you thought I meant the original version by Madonna.  That’s okay; totally natural mistake.  And to be fair, Madonna’s version is a great song, one of her earliest and best hits.  It’s an 80s classic.  But in the hands of the Counting Crows, aka the Kings of Mope, “Borderline” turns into a loose, almost sloppy, Country Rock ramble.  A different song, not quite as good as the original but still pretty damn good.  Fun.  It sounds a little bit like Adam Duritz and the boys had a few beers, maybe smoked a joint, and let it fly.  Underwater Sunshine is the Crows’ cover album, released in 2012 to little fanfare (it also features their equally loose version of the Faces’ classic “Ooh La La”).  The Crows have long since lost any cultural cache they had in the 90s, but they’re still an awesome band, and Underwater Sunshine one of my favorites.  I like hearing musicians play the songs they like by other artists, the stuff they probably jam to when they’re hanging out in someone’s living room or backyard.  And that’s exactly what this song and album sound like.  It’s easy and relaxed, and you won’t be sorry if you listen to the whole thing.

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“Love is All Around”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 4, 2017

One of the things I love most about music is that there is a never-ending treasure trove of incredible, wonderful songs to discover.  While watching Jeopardy! today, I discovered this little gem from Husker Du.  It might sound a little familiar to sitcom fans.

Yes, that’s the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show performed with fuzzy guitar and whipcrack drums by one of the darling bands of the post-Punk 80s.  Husker Du, for all their rage and raging sound, could be surprisingly gentle and tender.  This is one of the most optimistic songs ever about one of the most optimistic TV heroines ever, played by one of its most wholesomely appealing stars.  But while Bob Mould and company manage to keep that optimism and wholesome appeal intact, they can’t help but add a slight edge of Lou Grant style curmudgeon.  “You got spunk.  I hate spunk.”  There is absolutely nothing about this I don’t love.

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Leon Russell

Posted by purplemary54 on November 13, 2016

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Unfortunately, it seems to be raining Manolo Blahnik’s lately.  What may go down as the crappiest year in history just got a hell of a lot crappier for me.

Leon Russell has left this world.

That might not mean much to a lot of you, but it breaks my already beat up heart into a million tiny little pieces.  I love Leon Russell.  He’s one of the oddest of the odd ducks in music, a musician’s musician, an influence and a mentor to so many others.  He had a brief moment in the sun in the 70s, but he mostly toiled in semi-obscurity.  He toured with Joe Cocker on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour.  He helped organize the concert for Bangladesh.  He wrote hits for so many others, and it’s a crying shame that not more people know who he is.

I’m crying, anyway.

 

Posted in Music, Obituaries, Rock, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Georgia Satellites

Posted by purplemary54 on September 28, 2016

It is entirely possible that I’ve posted this album before, but I’m feeling a little too lazy to search through my old posts to see.  It’s the kind of thing I would do, though.  I’ve been evangelizing about this band for years.  To be fair, they only made two really great albums and one really crappy one (with the exception of the song “Sheila”).  Their debut was just pure, perfect Rock & Roll.  Barroom style.  You know, the kind of place where the band plays behind chicken wire to keep the crowd from throwing things at them.  Where the band is happily drinking right along with the rest of the patrons.  You know.  The really, really good kind.

 

By all rights, the Georgia Satellites really should’ve just been a forgotten cover band playing–behind chicken wire, of course–in some humid bar somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta.  But they had a fluke hit with “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” in 1986, which led to a decent career and some pretty heavy airplay on MTV.  They were too loose to hang together for very long.  Lead singer and songwriter Dan Baird left after their third album, In the Land of Salvation and Sin in 1989; although the rest of the band reunited in the 90s, they were never the same.  Whatever magic there had been was lost.

But we still have these terrific songs.  Skip “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” if you’ve just heard it too many times (or think it’s really stupid).  Give “The Myth of Love,” “Red Light,” or the stunning combo “Nights of Mystery/Every Picture Tells a Story” a shot.  (The last recommendation is based on the fact that on the original album, those two tracks are bled together seamlessly; it’s just goddamn perfect.)  If you really enjoy their first eponymous LP, track down In the Land of Salvation and Sin.  It is arguably their best album and shows some signs of artistic growth in their hard rocking style.  No matter what else you might think of the Satellites, you cannot every accuse them of dishonesty.  They wear the barroom like a badge of honor.

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