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Posts Tagged ‘songs’

“King Tut”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 18, 2017

Note: The obligatory obituary post for AC/DC’s Malcolm Young will be coming soon.  But I’ve got to get this little rant off my chest first.  Plus, I think Malcolm would’ve really enjoyed hearing this tune again.

 

One of my dear friends on Facebook recently posted this article about some students offended by Steve Martin’s 70s novelty hit “King Tut.”  Something about the performance being “blackface” and akin to using the n-word.  Assuming they meant that literally, that means they’re assuming Tutankhamun was a black man.  That may or may not be the case; depictions of Tut pretty much run the gamut colorwise.  But seeing that he was born in a land of much sun, he probably had a bit more melanin in his skin than, say, your average Scandinavian.  (Skin color is directly related to how much sun your ancestors were exposed to when evolving.  Period.)  But the song wasn’t meant as a commentary on race.  It was meant as a commentary on the blatant commercialization surrounding the Treasures of Tutankhamun tour.  It came to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1978, and my family went.  (My original post of this song focused on that, written while Daddy the amateur Egyptologist was still around.)  It was glorious.  And it was also crass and expensive.  We alone purchased I don’t know how many silly souvenirs from it.  The entire country was gripped with Tut fever at the time.  Why shouldn’t Steve Martin have a little fun with it?

Of course, if the instructor of the class had played this version from Saturday Night Live, then they would’ve seen Martin’s introduction and contextualization of the song.  If they paid attention.  And if they didn’t decide to reflexively get their hackles up over the obvious stereotypes and pure silliness of the song.  He wasn’t making fun of Tutankhamun; he was making fun of all the idiots who acted like they knew something about him or ancient Egypt just because of one really spectacular art & artifact tour.

I don’t fault these kids for being aware of the bias against African-Americans in our society.  I don’t fault them for trying to fight for equality.  I certainly don’t fault them for fighting back against the brutality and violence many black people are faced with every day simply because of the color of their skin.  They’re right, dammit.  But I do fault them for not understanding the joke in this case.  They missed the point.  And the instructor probably missed it, too.  I imagine this was presented not in the cultural light it was meant to be seen, but as a case of racial stereotyping.

Really, these kids would be offended by pretty much anything from SNL back in the 70s.  You know, back when it was kind of offensive.  And really, really, really funny.  And truly insightful and satirical.  They only know about the tame buffooning that they see today.  They didn’t watch the good old days when the Not Ready For Prime Time Players and the show’s writers were both vicious and fearless.  If they’re offended by “King Tut,”  then they really better not ever see the Job Interview skit.  They’ll really lose their shit over that one.

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“We Built This City”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 9, 2017

I was channel flipping the other day, and stopped for a moment to indulge both my love of music videos and love of really bad music.  The 80s were a great time for both.

This song really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, which is sort of its appeal.  I think.  It is catchy.  I’m also pretty sure Grace Slick was probably high on something at the time.  It seems to want to be a protest against the ever-increasing corporatization of rock music, but comes out as incomprehensible pop glop. There’s a very tiny trace of the rebellion that once made the band that Slick sang for one of the symbols of rebellion and counterculturalism in the 60s.

Of course by the time “We Built This City” was released in 1985 that band had long since mutated into pop glop and had virtually disappeared.  The Jefferson Airplane was one of the leading bands of psychedelic rock–the aforementioned symbol of rebellion and counterculturalism.  They were also one of the few commercially successful psychedelic bands, so I guess pop glop was always in their veins.  In the 70s, they made their first major transition into the Jefferson Starship and became even more poppy and gloppy.  Marty Balin and Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen escaped, but Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas (Balin’s replacement on vocals) hung around. “Jefferson” was dropped, and the band just became Starship in the 1980s.  And the rest is pop glop history.

Really, most of Starship’s output is gloriously awful.  (Have you ever heard the song they did for the 80s “classic” Mannequin?  Well, you’re in for a pop treat that so sugary and gloppy, it might as well be the filling inside a pecan pie.  Not even the utterly adorable Andrew McCarthy at the height of his adorableness could save that movie.)  None of their music has aged especially well.  Which is too bad, I guess.  It really is quite catchy.

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“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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“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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“Thunderbolt’s Goodnight”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 22, 2017

This.  This is why I love Josh Ritter so much.

“Thunderbolt’s Goodnight” is one of the tracks off his forthcoming album Gathering, so I don’t really have any sort of commentary other than “wow.”  Ritter somehow manages to reach inside me and squeeze my heart until it feels completely wrung of every last emotion.  And he’s done it consistently, album after album.  There is always at least one song that just kills me.  It’s why I’m going to see him twice in the next few months–at Fingerprints in Long Beach in September, and at the Teregram Ballroom in January (I even splurged a little on the VIP package, which entitles me to a swag bag and an exclusive pre-show acoustic set with all the other VIP purchasers).  He’s just so. . . I hate to say authentic, but that’s what he is.  No.  “Authentic” has lost much of its meaning.  A better word would be genuine.  He seems to be singing from a place of genuine emotion.  Whatever his songs mean to him–whether they are drawn from his life or complete fiction, it makes no difference–they come from someplace real within him that he genuinely feels.  And that genuine feeling makes me really happy.  Even when it makes me want to cry just a little.

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“Blue Letter”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 29, 2017

One of the side effects of taking melatonin is an increased vividness to REM sleep.  And I have to say that in the few years I’ve been taking this supplement on a semi-regular basis that my dreams have become markedly more odd and much more vivid.

The vividness comes from an increase in senses other than sight and sound, although those senses have heightened in my dream world as well.  I can feel, smell, and taste things in my dreams now.  It’s disconcerting but also kind of fun.  I feel like my emotions and lucidity when I dream are also increased.  That doesn’t mean I’m lucid dreaming in the sense that I’m controlling what’s going on, but that I know I’m dreaming more often than I used to.  I suppose if I were prone to nightmares this would be less pleasant than it is, but for the most part my dreams are weird but not disturbing or frightening.  I find myself replaying recent actions and activities with dream logic, or symbolically dealing with my various anxieties.  One frequent trope of my dreams is that I am either watching or appearing in a movie or TV show–sometimes both simultaneously.  One part of me in the dream knows what I’m seeing/doing is merely fiction while another part is participating in the story being told.  Like I said, weird but not unpleasant.

Last night’s melatonin-induced oddity included the Fleetwood Mac song “Blue Letter.”  It was being played for some reason, though I can’t remember why.  I heard the opening verse quite clearly.  This wasn’t a case of the song being played just before I woke up and seeping into my sleep cycle; I didn’t have the radio on and the TV was tuned to the NFL network.  It’s more like the music shuffle phenomenon I’ve had ever since I got an iPod, although that usually happens when I’m awake.  The song basically just popped into my head.  As a result, I haven’t been able to shake the song all day.  So now y’all can sing along with me.

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