4/28/17: Monday Funday Dance Party (Friday Edition)

Stop your messin’ around, kids. And Happy Friday.

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4/26/17: The happiest man on earth

There’s a game going around Facebook today where you list nine bands you saw and one you didn’t. Your friends have to guess which band you didn’t see. Music nerd that I am, I’m having a blast with this (incidentally, the answer to mine is “Queens of the Stone Age”).

Anyway, this leading to that, I started thinking about Iron Butterfly, a band I had the unlikely opportunity to see. As a Gen X-er, I’m too young to have seen them in their late 60’s/early 70’s heyday, but in 1988 they did a reunion show at Atlantic Records’s 40th anniversary celebration.

I guess as a warmup show, they played at the Chance in Poughkeepsie. And I went with some friends from college and we had a great time.

The Cult Brothers, which was two members of Blue Oyster Cult and two other guys, opened up the show. Their drummer was not a member of BOC, and looked like he was about 20. And while they were onstage, that guy was the happiest man on the planet. He was having a blast. He was twirling his sticks and throwing them up in the air and catching them, and he was playing with BLUE! OYSTER! CULT!!! it made me happy just to watch him being happy.

I hope that guy had a long happy career in music, and I’m dedicating these two songs to him.

 

 

Image courtesy of the British Library.

9/12/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

If you’re on the East Coast, it’s pushing 3PM right now. Which means it’s just about time for some B-52’s.

See if you can get a conga line going around the office.

And BTW, the whole album is great. Treat yourself to a copy for the next time it’s 3PM and you need a conga line.

 

 

Image: JD Hancock. Creative Commons License 2.0

7/26/16: Playing favorites

A lot of the decisions I made as a teenager are burned into my memory. I guess it’s because this is such an intense time in your life; everything is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

For example, there’s boys. When I was in junior high school, Duran Duran were The Thing. Of course, my girlfriends and I all had crushes on them. Everyone had a crush on a different guy – mine was Simon LeBon.

I mention this because since then, whenever I hear about him, I recall that he’s my “official” favorite member of Duran Duran. This is in fact not true – John Taylor is my favorite, because he is a KICKASS bass player. But, like the Supreme Court Justices, Simon LeBon seems to have the title for life, as determined by my 13 year-old self.

I mention this because it’s Mick Jagger’s birthday today, and by the same preteen reasoning, the Rolling Stones are my favorite band. Starting at the age of 13, I was hooked.

I immersed myself in the Stones as only a nerd with excellent research skills can. I knew that (at the time) Keith played a 5-string tuned to an open chord. I knew that Charlie collects cars, but can’t actually drive. I knew about the 1967 bust at Redlands and the untimely death of Brian Jones.

Nowadays, I’m still a huge fan. Of their music. I’ll still go and listen to Stones albums with headphones on and pick apart the songs and figure out how they were recorded. But I don’t really follow the boys’ personal lives or look up how Charlie’s drums were mic’ed on a particular track. Still, like Simon LeBon, the Rolling Stones retain their title as my Favorite Band Ever.

So here are a few favorites from the official Best Band Ever as Determined by a 13 Year-Old Girl, chosen by the lady she grew into.




 

Photo by Steve Denenberg (Creative Commons license 2.0)

4/1/2016: No April Fool’s joke, just a regular old article about music.

I love listening to different versions of the same song, especially when both are terrific.

A couple of my favorites are “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was recorded by both Gladys Night & the Pips and Marvin Gaye (of course, a lot of other bands have covered it, too). Interesting that both artists were on Motown, and both released the song as a single.

Gladys released it first in 1967, and it went to #2 on the charts.

And Marvin released his version a year later; it went to #1.

Marvin Gaye’s version of “Grapevine” is more famous, but I love both of them. I don’t think I could pick out a favorite. He takes the sexy route on his version, and Gladys rocks out more on hers.

And then there’s “Viva Las Vegas.” I got to know the Dead Kennedys’ version first:

But then there’s Elvis. I love Elvis Presley, in a totally non-ironic way.

How can you possibly pick a favorite?

Listening to both versions back-to-back, I was struck by how similar they are. The tempos are almost the same, the arrangements aren’t all that different, and both Elvis and Jello Biafra really sell the vocals.

And speaking of Las Vegas …

January 11, 2016: David Bowie

David Bowie died on Sunday at the age of 69.

In an age of macho bullshit rock & roll, he moved fluidly between styles of music, fashion, and taste, while writing great songs and lyrics.

If you haven’t listened to much of Bowie’s music, 1969 – 1983 is recognized as being his “peak” period, but he kept on working literally until the end of his life. The last album dropped a couple of weeks ago.

Here are a few of my favorites, starting with a perfect “Monday Funday Dance Party” song:

My first exposure to Bowie was this album. One of my good friends from high school was (and still is) a huge Bowie fan, and we used to play this a lot.

David Bowie Fun Fact: One of the many cool things Bowie did was introduce Stevie Ray Vaughn to the world on this record. SRV wound up having to leave the “Let’s Dance” tour when his own album began taking off.

One of Bowie’s first singles was the hit “Space Odyssey,” which leaves the hero floating aimlessly in space. This is the sequel, and things have just gone downhill.

“Ashes to Ashes” was released in 1980 and is just dripping with ennui, Weltschmerz, or what you might call “disco hangover.” It’s perfect to listen to when you’re sad and don’t want to feel better.

With Queen. I love how Bowie and Freddie Mercury sing together on this. Bowie is no vocal slouch, but Freddie just had an incredible voice. With that perfect technique and huge vocal range, it would be hard for most rock singers to perform with him and not sound like an amateur.

But Bowie is terrific here. He doesn’t do the dazzling swoops and glides that Freddie does, but he is just as effective a performer. A much better duet than Bowie’s later collaboration with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Streets.”

One summer in college, my friend Jen made me a couple of mixtapes. Yeah yeah yeah, cassettes = old people, I’ll be dead sooner than you will, blah blah blah. ANYWAY, One of the tapes was a Bowie mix. It had some great songs on it, including this one.

It’s kind of fun and playful, very melodic, and vaguely threatening; just how I like a song. One of these days I’ll learn how to play it.

I’m really sad that Bowie died; my thoughts are with his loved ones during this time. I’m also very grateful that he made so much great music during the time he was here.

Okay, just one more:

 

 

Image: Nico Martin via Creative Commonshttps://www.flickr.com/photos/nico7martin/

January 7, 2016

My wallen was stolen yesterday, right out of my purse. I guess you’d call it pickpocketing, except this wasn’t my pocket. Maybe “pickpocketbooking?”

Anyway, it sucks. I’m fine, and very grateful for that, but I now face a grand adventure in replacing all those little plastic rectangles that make life worthwhile. My bank has given me two completely conflicting answers about my debit card, and I do not look forward to my visit with the DMV.

In times like this, there’s really only one thing you can turn to. Two, really. Double bass drums.

And remember kids – teacher says:

  • If you prefer not to carry a purse, be sure to keep your wallet in your front pocket.
  • If you do carry a purse, make surely it’s securely closed. Don’t hang it on the back of your chair; place it on the ground between your feet.
  • Report the theft to the police – you might need a police report to replace some of your IDs.
  • Thieves are fiendishly tricky. Don’t beat yourself up if you get robbed.

Remember this: In 1999, famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma was performing in Manhattan. After the concert, he took a cab back to his hotel. He got out, and then realized he had forgotten his cello. His $2.5 million, 300 year-old Stradivarius cello. In the cab. In New York City.

The good news is, he got it back. But just imagine that moment when he realized where his cello was.

The Scream

So don’t feel so bad. As long as you’re okay, you have everything.

 

January 4, 2016 – Monday Funday Dance Party!

Wishing you a 2016 filled with love and glamour!

 There are 2 Brians in this band – Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno. Very different, but both great.

Personally, I’m more of a Brian Eno fan – he left the band after a couple of albums, and went on to a massive career as a solo artist and producer.

I just watched a documentary about Eno’s career in the seventies, “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” which is a great watch. It really focuses on his music and how it evolved over that time.

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Bryan Ferry kept on with Roxy Music – it was really his beast. His stuff is great. I haven’t heard all of Avalon, but the songs I’ve heard are really romantic and lush.

I find it interesting to see how two people from the same group went on to make such different music.