August 8, 2015

Mornings are tough, no matter what.

I only work part-time, and I don’t have to be there until 10:00 AM. But I still have to get up at 7:15 so I have enough time to painfully peel my eyes open with coffee and scandalous news stories.

For almost seven years, I had a job that required me to get up at 4:15. AM. Oh my god, it was awful. I loved the job, but that morning alarm was a dreadful thing.

I had three alarms set: my cell phone, a regular old radio/alarm clock, and a travel alarm that ran on batteries, in case there was a blackout (which there was, in 2003).

Along with the coffee and the cold showers, music’s a big help for me in the early early mornings, no matter what time that turns out to be.

Fugazi: “Five Corporations”

I love Fugazi. They have stayed consistently interesting throughout so many albums. Listening to them is always time well spent.

Staple Singers: “We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Together”

This song is just so inspiring, whatever time of day it is. So is the Fugazi track. These are both pretty idealistic songs, and the idea that I’m doing this daily routine for a larger purpose can often motivate me to brush those teeth and get out the door.

And for those mornings when only the smell of napalm will do:

Richard Wagner: “Flight of the Valkyries”

July 28, 2015

This was playing in the drugstore today.

Back when I was learning to play guitar, “House at Pooh Corner” was one of the first songs I learned.

This is Loggins and Messina, but the song was originally done by the Nitty Gritty Dirt band back in 1970. It was okay to be earnest and sincere back then.

Speaking of acoustic guitar music, sincere or not, I love it. One of my favorites is Leo Kottke:

This is from the album “6-And 12-String Guitar.” I used to have it on cassette.

Eliot Fisk isn’t so bad either:

This music was actually originally written for violin, but Fisk’s guitar version is just amazing. Damn, I wish I could play like that.

July 17, 2015

This just popped into my head, displacing “Thank You For Being a Friend,” the theme song to “The Golden Girls.” Thank you, Tony. Thank you, Dawn.

There was a point in the early to mid-seventies where pop songs became so hook-laden that they were almost annoyingly catchy. You hear it for the first time in 10 years and think “That’s a great song! I should listen to it more.” But then after two or three listens, you just can’t take it any more. It’s like skipping the cake and just eating the icing.

Three Dog Night can be like that. Some of their songs are great, and some are just not great songs. And no matter how amazing the hook is, it’s that musical skeleton underneath that makes it work.

Now this is a good song, with a great hook:

I just love that middle part, where they’re all singing in harmony.

I recently bought Three Dog Night’s greatest hits album. I’d had the chorus to “Shangri-La” going through my head for a couple of days before I figured out who the band was*, and they were all over my iPod for about two months. Then I just had to delete them. Too much icing.

But that’s the challenge of writing great pop songs – you have to take risks. And every once in a while you’ll fly too close to the sun, and your magic wings will dissolve into an icky pool of melted sugar.

On a totally different note**, here’s a great non-pop, non-sugary piece by Art Blakey & the Afro Drum Ensemble: