Song of the Week 4/22/2017

Posted in Somebody's birthday, Song of the week on April 22nd, 2017 by bill

Iggy Pop turned 70 this week, which is just rude.

But he’s still got a lust for life.

Song of the Week, 4/16/2017

Posted in Song of the week on April 16th, 2017 by bill

A few days ago this song came up on the iPod I keep in the bathroom, and every time that happens I end up listening to it a bunch of times because it is such a goddamn beautiful tune. It’s from Stephen Malkmus’ first solo album, which is now…wow…16 years old. Hit it, Steve.

Song of the Week 4/8/2017

Posted in Song of the week on April 8th, 2017 by bill

This week I find myself in New Orleans where, purely by coincidence, the French Quarter Music Festival is happening. This is how I came to see local legend Irma Thomas belting out “Time Is on My Side” yesterday at the “Abita Beer Stage,” sounding something like this:

Irma’s version is not the original — it was done first by trombonist Kai Winding and his orchestra in 1963. But it was her cover, recorded in early 1964, that provided the template for the version the Stones did later that year.

This song is used to chilling effect in the movie Fallen, which I think is about due for another viewing at our home. It also was featured in an episode of Treme, which was set in New Orleans, which brings us full circle and lets me get on with my day.

Song of the Week, 4/1/2017

Posted in Song of the week on April 1st, 2017 by bill

Now for something a little more contemporary…this week’s choice is a song from America’s most beloved rap duo, Killer Mike and El-P, also known as Run the Jewels.

These two guys are each talented on their own, but the chemistry between them is something special. This was on display a few weeks ago when they came to town in support of their latest album. It was flat-out one of the loudest things I’ve ever experienced – ribcage-rattling loud – but survivable with the help of earplugs and vastly entertaining. If they ever come to your town, you should check them out.

 

Songs of the Week 3/25/2017

Posted in Song of the week on March 25th, 2017 by bill

I was listening to the radio Thursday when the host teased an upcoming segment on the recently deceased Chuck Barris and I thought “No, you idiot, that was Chuck Berry who just died.” But alas, it turns out that both the Gong Show host/self-proclaimed CIA hitman and the co-inventor of rock’n’roll/ladies restroom video enthusiast departed the Earth this week, within three days of each other.

Both of these men led long and complicated lives full of triumphs and setbacks and a certain amount of just plain weirdness. I wrote about Chuck Berry on the Beatles blog today, but I did not have occasion to mention my very favorite Berry song, “Come On.” Just listen to the way he says “I wish somebody’d come along and run into it and wreck it”:

As for Chuck Barris, I recommend a spin through his Wikipedia page, where you’ll learn that in addition to being a television impresario, author, and “assassin” (the CIA denies it, but then they would), Barris was a musician and songwriter whose credits include Freddy Cannon’s #3 hit “Palisades Park.” Not exactly a lightweight.

Song of the Week 3/18/2017

Posted in Song of the week on March 18th, 2017 by bill

Recently I’ve been working on digitizing the aging cassette tapes of my old KZSC Santa Cruz radio shows, circa 1986–7, and it’s gotten me thinking it’s time to revive the old tradition of naming a song of the week. To honor the tradition I’m going to start with a classic from that era.

I first came to know Ashwin Batish when I started going to his shop, Batish Recording Enterprises, to buy blank cassettes. As my cassette needs were considerable in those days, I was a frequent customer, but to my regret I did not get to know him well and it took me a long time to learn what an interesting cat he was. And by the time I did learn my time in Santa Cruz was just about up.

It turned out, though, that Ashwin was not just the guy who sold me tapes by the case; he was a master sitarist from a long line of master sitarists. During my time at KZSC he released an album called Sitar Power where he laid classical Indian melodies over drum machines and electric guitars to create what might be called raga’n’roll. (He himself never called it that, though he did love to give his songs goofy pun names.)

My favorite song from it was one called “New Dehli Vice” on which Ashwin’s fleet fingers fly over the frets, shooting out bursts of cascading notes like sparks from a roaring fire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played air sitar to this song over the years; I was doing it again just now.

I find myself reflexively referring to Ashwin in the past tense because my memories of him are from long ago, but I just looked him up the web and he appears to be doing well. He’s on Facebook and Twitter (@sitarpower, naturally) has a website at ashwinbatish.com. He even has a new song called “Sitary Sitary Night.” It’s good to know some things haven’t changed.

Q: Why is David Bowie still David Bowie?

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on January 10th, 2017 by bill

A: Because he’s still David fucking Bowie, that’s why.

david-bowie-hunky-dory-album-anniversary-41c38ac5-f2fc-409b-9319-77f5bc07acab

It was one year ago today that the news came over that David Robert Jones a/k/a Bowie had shuffled off this mortal coil. Many of us actually learned of it in the wee hours of the 11th — I for one found myself strangely sleepless, ambled downstairs about 3 in the morning, and saw a text informing me of the news. Groggy and unsure how to process such a momentous event, I poured and downed a good-sized vodka and went back to bed, tossing and turning half-conscious for a few hours before awakening for the first time to a Bowieless world.

In the aftermath, I was surprised and gratified by the worldwide outpouring of love and grief. Gratified because suddenly it seemed like everyone was a Bowie fan, and while there was a certain amount of obligatory blather and groupthink, the vast majority of it seemed to be sincere. Surprised because, while I knew that we Bowie cultists were many, I had no idea it ran so deep and so wide.

It made me realize that Bowie, patron saint of the Outsider, had a special meaning to anyone who’s ever felt different or weird or alienated or marginalized. Which, it turns out, is just about everyone. It’s just that many of us, by definition, are not joiners, so we end up spread out in our various little tribes. But when you put us all together, we are legion.

For a while there — and it still hasn’t entirely gone away — everywhere I turned, there he was: As a mannequin in a display in the local thrift shop; spraypainted on the sidewalk; blaring out of hidden speakers in some unexpected place. It was almost enough to give you hope for humanity.

And we need that, always, but especially now. Thank you David, and thank you Earth people. Maybe this could be a good year after all? Let’s give it a shot.

 

Status Report, Sunday 11/13/16

Posted in Dancing about architecture on November 13th, 2016 by bill

Tough week.

For one thing, we lost another one of the greats: Leonard Cohen, master of erotic melancholia. As it happens, over the last week I’d been listening to Leonard’s latest (and I guess last) album, You Want It Darker, and the 90s LC tribute album I’m Your Man — the former because I just got it, and the latter because I was forced by water damage to replace some favorite CDs.

Like Bowie, Leonard pulled off the neat trick of releasing a new album just before departing this plane. It’s quite a satisfying piece of work, especially the title track, which in classic Cohen fashion manages to be dark, funny, spiritual, and sexy all at the same time:
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X-Post: Lennon Turns 26

Posted in Something about the Beatles on October 9th, 2016 by bill

This post also appears today on The Beatles Plus 50.

On this day in 1966 John Lennon — DOB October 9, 1940 — celebrated his 26th birthday in Spain with his wife Cynthia, Ringo Starr, and Ringo’s wife Maureen. He’d been through a lot in barely a quarter-century; at an age when most people were just starting their careers, he was in a band that was more popular than Jesus.

Looking over Lennon’s bio just now, it struck me that his life was organized pretty neatly into decades. He was 20 when the Quarrymen became The Beatles in 1960; 30 when they broke up at the end of the 60s; and 40 when he died at the dawn of the 80s.

A cynic might say that Mark Chapman mercifully spared Lennon his “Dancing in the Street” moment, but you have to wonder what he would have done with the years he lost. He would have been 50 just as the 90s started, a beloved godfather to the Nirvana generation, and 60 at the turn of the millennium. He’d be turning 76 today if he’d made it this far. I picture him as a grumpy but lovable old man, still wearing those glasses, yelling at Beatles fans to get off his lawn.
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What’s Blowing My Mind, 2016 Edition (Part 6)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on September 14th, 2016 by bill

Stranger to Stranger

I suspect that I’ve pretty consistently underrated Paul Simon for the last 40 years or so. Probably because that whole Simon and Garfunkel–type style — extreme softness and prettiness — was never really my gig. I recognize the beauty of it, especially now that I’m no longer a testosterone-addled young man, but it’s not generally what I choose to listen to. And some of Paul’s early solo work has that same feel, though there are other songs I quite enjoy — something like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” is pretty hard to dislike.

So when his profile began to fade a bit, I wasn’t super-motivated to keep abreast of what he was doing. Occasionally, though, I’d hear something of his that made me prick up my ears — a few years back he did an album with Brian Eno, which was a surprise. (In fact, it was called Surprise.)

This year, with it being easier than ever to check out music online, I decided to give Paul’s new album a good listen. And lo and behold, it is wonderful. Stranger to Stranger exceeded my expectations by several orders of magnitude.
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