Song of the Week, 2/8/2020

I can say now in all honesty that in my time I have seen Courtney Barnett perform in a barn. Said barn is on the grounds of the Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma, and is equipped with a stage and a sound system; but still.

The whole thing was really rather strange. It was the coldest day I’d ever experienced in Sonoma County, with an icy wind whipping through the vineyards; fortunately the barn was walled in on three sides, at least. After an opening set by a charming little German who calls herself Hachiku, Courtney turned up with her electric guitar looking fresh-faced and chipper. She did some old songs, some new songs, some covers — including “I’m So Lonesome Could Cry” and a set-closing version of Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free,” which she said was “one of the best songs ever written.” I can’t disagree.

Song of the Week, 1/25/2020

Amazingly enough this song, which I learned about when it was used in Killing Eve, was written by the same guy who wrote “Seasons in the Sun.” That would be Canadian Terry Jacks, who at this time (1971) was playing with a unit called the Poppy Family with his future wife, Susan. Darkness seems to be his métier — this is just a fucking great, chills-down-the-spine banger.

Song of the Week, 10/26/2019

As we count down to Halloween and impeachment, this song from CCR’s 1969 album Green River seems appropriate to the moment, both chronologically and politically. With its dark subject matter and top-quality riffage, it’s every bit the equal of “Bad Moon Rising,” only a lot less overexposed.

It’s also fun to imagine that it’s actually called “Sinister Porpoise,” and go with the mental pictures prompted thereby. Try it, you’ll like it.

Song of the Week, 10/6/2019

Word came across the transom today of the departure from this realm of Ginger Baker, drummer extraordinaire. Although most of the obits led with Cream, a great band to be sure, that was only about three years of his 50-year-plus career. He also played with everyone from Brit jazzbos the Graham Bond Organization and Afrobeat godhead Fela Kuti, to Hawkwind and his own Ginger Baker’s Air Force, to post-punk bands like Masters of Reality and Johnny Lydon’s Public Image, Ltd.

Here he is adding a relentless, pile-driving rhythm to PiL’s “FFF,” circa 1986. Say what you will about Ginger — subject of the aptly named 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker — he was a force.

Song of the Week, 9/21/2019

The great and powerful Ric Ocasek left us this week, and we are all the poorer for it. Ocasek was not just a rock legend, not just an esteemed producer, but also a genuinely funny person who had become a late-night comedy staple.

The justly beloved first Cars album was full of hits, but “I’m in Touch with Your World” was not one of them. In fact when I first owned the record, on vinyl back in the day, I would go out of my way to lift the needle and skip over it; it was just too strange, too spiky, too different. Now it’s my favorite song on the album, and it is, indeed, a lovely way to go.