Monday, March 31, 2014

I'll Give You Fish

Today's posting is short but to the point.  I have been on a B-52s listening binge recently, and no song of theirs floats my boat more than Give Me Back My Man.   Cindy Wilson begins in her lower range, vibrato-less and yearning for the man that got away.  By the time she gets to the chorus it is abundantly clear that there is not much that she will not do go retrieve her guy.   The great video shows her barefoot in her little black party dress, eventually dancin' and fruggin' next to spastic Fred.   And then on the last pass through the chorus she lets loose a furious set of pleas. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

If words could speak they'd mean even less

Any time is the right time for a dose of Jellyfish.   Absolutely one of my all time favorite bands, so very talented and yet they only made two albums before disbanding.  This nugget is from their first LP Bellybutton - The King is Half Undressed.  The vocal harmony work is top notch, and Jason Falkner delivers some amazing guitar licks.  A perfect song to bring my day to a close.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

They Laid Down the Law

My college friends and I were a little hot bed of new wave aficionados in the prairies of NW Oklahoma.   We saw the Talking Heads in Norman, OK during their "Fear of Music" tour, caught The Pretenders and The Go Gos at the OKC Zoo, and rented the local roller rink for a new wave/punk evening.   I cannot skate but I remember being plastered while skating to The Clash.

Of all the new wave groups that sprang forth in the late 70's, the B-52s were the most near and dear to my heart.   Total nerds.   Just like us.   By the time of their third release in 1982, some thought the bloom was off the rose.  As we now know, Mesopotamia was supposed to be a full fledged album with ten tracks.   Something went amiss and they tangled with producer David Byrne, so the release was cut back to an EP with just six tracks.  It was definitely a new direction, but they jettisoned the new sound immediately and never returned. 

Here is the title track.  From the moment that Fred mispronounces Mes-a-pa-ta-mia I was hooked.  The monster hand claps just sealed the deal.   This has to be one of the greatest grooves of the 80s, what with the funky bass and the counterpoint between the various vocal parts. 

 I'll meet you by the third pyramid!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Got a Big Surprise

When I was eight years old, I took on extra chores around the house so that my parents would give me enough money to buy tickets to the Enid, OK premier of A Hard Day's Night at the Chief Theater.  I was thrilled to be there at the premier and of course I loved the movie and the music, but was a bit too young to really understand what a great film it is.  Furthermore I did not see the gigantic song writing step forward by Lennon and McCartney.   For years I was a bit torn about the US LP by that name because it contained a generous portion of George Martin orchestrated instrumental versions of some of the songs.  I also purchased their Capitol LP Something New, which was really a scatter shot collection of songs left off the US AHDN album, plus some singles and b-sides.  And in some way I preferred that record because it had some amazing songs like Things We Said Today, Any Time at All, When I Get Home, And I Love Her, and If I Fell.

Then during my early college years in the mid-70s I acquired the British version of the LP.  And immediately I realized that Capitol records (and United Arists) had done us a great disservice.  The "real" A Hard Day's Night is perhaps the first true Beatles' masterpiece.   Even the running order is important to the experience of listening to these songs, and now I immediately know what will come next.

Tucked away at the very end of the LP is a song that just hits me like a ton of bricks every time I listen.   I'll Be Back is John Lennon at his early peak.  Not the upbeat closer that one would expect, but rather a thoughtful and beautiful exploration of how tenuous love can be.  The acoustic guitar work is just amazing, what with the three-against-four rhythms.  John sings it with a compassion that perfectly fits the lyrics.  A real hidden gem on an album full of first class song writing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I know that I miss you, but I don't know where I stand

Fairport Convention is one of those limey bands that flew under my radar for years.  Sure, I agree that Sandy Denny was a fine vocalist, but their music just never really clicked for me.  Recently I discovered their first album Fairport Convention (UK only), recorded in 1967 and release in 1968.  Prior to the arrival of Ms. Denny, Judy Dyble was the female vocalist.  And wow, does she ever have a lovely voice.   The Wikipedia article on this LP mentions that blueprint for the early version of Fairport was Jefferson Airplane, and sure enough the album is a veritable smorgasbord of summer of love songwriting.

My favorite from this LP is their cover of Joni Mitchell's I Don't Know Where I Stand.  It kicks off with a sparse guitar intro, then suddenly transforms into a Byrds-ish take on Joni.   From the opening verse, the lyrics are filled with that pensive feeling when you want to take that next step and let someone know how important they are to you, but you are not sure if the feeling is mutual.

Funny day, looking for laughter and finding it there
Sunny day, braiding wild flowers and leaves in my hair
Picked up a pencil and wrote "I love you" in my finest hand
Wanted to send it, but I don't know where I stand

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's a Crash Course for the Ravers

Today's post is a time travel trip to the near future, a time when humans have forgotten how to procreate.   They watch old porno flicks to understand how it was done.  From 1973's Aladdin Sane, Drive-In Saturday is one of my favorite glam-period David Bowie songs.   From the odd doo-wop opening to the fantastic sax solos, this was a never-to-be-repeated experiment in arrangement and mood.   The chorus is just perfect with its complicated walking chord progressions and hilarious lyrics referring the stereotypical hunk in the old sex films - "His name was always Buddy!"  "She'd sigh like Twig the wonder kid" is a reference to late 60's fashion model Twiggy.

There are two version here, the first the original release, the second a much more recent live recording, which starts with David explaining how Mott The Hoople turned down the song and he was so pissed that he shaved off his eyebrows.   It is a very different arrangement that he sings with a real passion, and the cutesy backup singers really bring a 60s girl group vibe to the proceedings.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Coca Cola Is All You Ever Drink

In the pantheon of power pop band, The Records are way up there on many aficionado's list due to their classic first single Starry Eyes.  And rightfully so, for that song manages to marry The Byrds with Big Star.   And it has some of the finest guitar work ever committed to vinyl.

However their follow up single Teenarama is just about as good in my book.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is quintessential power pop.   Jangling guitars, power chords, heavenly harmonies, and one of my favorite choruses.   Ever.   The Records had a decent initial run in the UK but did not make much of a dent here in the States with their singles, although their first LP The Records (aka Shades in Bed in the UK) made it to 41 on the Billboard charts.  But I have to brag a little for having the original 45rpm singles with picture covers for their first two releases.   As a dedicated follower of Stereo Review back in the day, I latched onto an amazing amount of great music in the 1970s.