Music

This is kind of awesome: New Year’s Eve party at Mala Restaurant in Wailea, where the audience got to hear “Come Together” as performed by Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, and…you won’t see this coming…Weird Al:

Note that Weird Al is the only one who knows all the words.

There are worse ways to start the new year.

I few weeks ago when I was driving to the Jersey shore it only seemed appropriate to dig out the old Springsteen albums. I had ripped his Live/1975-85 3-disc set to my iPod — if you’re at all a fan of his, it’s a terrific collection — and I enjoyed cruising through the mountains and blasting the Boss on the speakers.

One of the songs that stuck in my mind was “Candy’s Room”. Maggie McNeill had mentioned it in a post regarding songs about prostitutes. It’s one of those songs that I like because of the sound and shape of it, without necessarily listening to the words, so I hadn’t remembered that Candy was a prostitute, but it certainly makes sense from the lyrics:

In Candy’s room there are pictures of her heroes on the wall
but to get to Candy’s room you gotta walk the darkness of Candy’s hall
Strangers from the city call my baby’s number and they bring her toys
When I come knocking she smiles pretty she knows I wanna be Candy’s boy
There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own from which no man can keep Candy safe

We kiss, my heart’s rushes to my brain
The blood rushes in my veins fire rushes towards the sky
We go driving driving deep into the night
I go driving deep into the light in Candy’s eyes

She says baby if you wanna be wild
you got a lot to learn, close your eyes
Let them melt, let them fire, let them burn
Cause in the darkness there’ll be hidden worlds that shine
When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine

She has fancy clothes and diamond rings
She has men who give her anything she wants but they don’t see
That what she wants is me,
oh and I want her so
I’ll never let her go, no no no
She knows that I’d give
all that I got to give
All that I want all that I live
to make Candy mine
Tonight

Maggie contrasts “Candy’s Room” with John Entwhistle’s “Trick of the Light”:

Entwhistle has captured here one of the most common of client fantasies, that he is such a wonderful lover that he can impress a professional and thereby evoke emotions in her that will induce her to give herself only to him.  But while Entwhistle’s narrator seems to begin to glimpse the truth in the end (as evidenced by his plaintive “was I all right?” as she shows him the door), Springsteen’s narrator is completely lost in his fantasy that his inamorata will give up her money and freedom for him; he imagines he sees sadness in her face and that she values his poor clumsy affection over that of “men who give her anything she wants”.

With all due respect to Maggie, I think she has this one a bit wrong. The reference to “strangers from the city” suggests that the narrator is not one of them. I get the impression that he is someone who knew Candy from before she was a working girl, and that there is genuine affection between them. After all, he’s clearly not one of the men who gives her “anything she wants,” and yet she sees him anyway.

I’m not saying there’s going to be a happily-ever-after. The characters that fill Springsteen’s songs are people who lose at life, criminals and failures. But in order to fail, in order to lose, they first have to want to win, they have to have desire. And in order for it to be a tragedy, that desire has to be their downfall. And so the narrator of “Candy’s Room” desires Candy, he wants her all to himself, and that desire is the source of his torment.

I’m trying to put together a music playlist, and so I’m appealing to you, my Gentle Readers, to help me find songs of a certain type. I’m calling them protest songs, but that’s probably not a very good description. I’m not talking about, for example, ’60’s anti-war chants, and I’d like to avoid an excess of Dylan.

The only way I can think of to explain what I want is to give a few examples of the kind of song I mean. Probably the defining member of this type of song is Old Crow Medicine Show’s “I Hear Them All”:

Another good example is the classic Jimmy Cliff song “The Harder They Come”:

For something a little more hard core, I’ll take “Guns Of Brixton.” But not the Clash version. I prefer this haunting cover by Nouvelle Vague:

That’s not to say I don’t mind a little anger. Or a lot of anger, as in Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”:

I don’t know if there’s really a common theme running through those songs, but if you know of other songs that you think I’d like based on this list — or even if these songs just remind you of some other songs — let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

Well, maybe not for anyone else, but it is for me.

It was 1982. the Commodore 64 was the cool new thing, Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falkland islands, spymaster Yuri Andropov rose to power in the Soviet Union, and Vic Morrow and two chidren died in a helicopter accident while filming Twilight Zone. Disney opened EPCOT to the public, John De Lorean got busted for coke, the Unabomber narrowly missed killing people at Vanderbilt, and Larry Walters took his famous balloon flight in a lawn chair.

Ronald Reagan was president. I didn’t like him because he was a conservative, and conservative pricks like Jerry Falwell were trying to destroy rock music. Us kids thought that was a scary thing at the time, but of course he never had a chance: MTV had just launched, the Biograph theater on Lincoln was staging midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the airwaves were filled with songs like Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero“, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger“, the B52s’ “Rock Lobster“, and Golden Earring’s other hit.

(Follow the “Eye of the Tiger” link to check out what music videos used to look like. Yikes.)

There was also a hardrocking band called Axe, and they had just released their third album, Offering. The first cut on the album was “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party In The Streets.”

It was the end of my last year in high school. The hot summer was filled with good friends, fast driving, wild parties, and rock and roll. I was at the top of my game with the whole world ahead of me, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party In The Streets” was the sound of freedom.

It’s a purely personal reaction, I’m sure. I don’t know anyone else who had that reaction to it. Heck, I’ve never even met anyone else who remembers the song. But to this day it gives me a rush like no other.

It starts with a keyboard intro that I instantly recognize, then the guitars come in with power chords to punctuate the rhythm, and then the drums and Bobby Barth’s strained voice: 

You know, I know, this ain’t gonna last forever
Let’s take advantage while we still can
I’m sure that you’ll find the days couldn’t get any longer
Day after day it’s gettin’ old fast

Let’s have a knock down, drag out rock ‘n’ roll party in the street
Get all the boys together have them tell everybody that they meet
Friday night at midnight we’re all gonna get what we need
Let’s have a knock down, drag out rock ‘n’ roll party in the street

You know, I know, we ain’t gonna show no mercy
To anyone that tries to get in our way
I’m sure that you’ll find we got to put the word out for certain
Once the party gets started we’re all here to stay

Let’s have a knock down, drag out rock ‘n’ roll party in the street
Get all the boys together have them tell everybody that they meet
Friday night at midnight we’re all gonna get what we need
Let’s have a knock down, drag out rock ‘n’ roll party in the street

Axe broke up after guitarist Michael Osborne died in a car crash. Barth worked on other projects and then in 1997 he put the band back together and they recorded new versions of many of their songs for the album Twenty Years From Home. I think this was a work-around for a sticky rights issue or two, allowing the band to finally release CD versions of the songs.

In many ways, the newer version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party in the Streets” is a better song than the old one. Barth’s voice seems clearer and richer than it was in 1982, the guitar work is more crisp, and the whole thing has a more professional sound.

But the original version will always be my favorite. For most of a year, I lived my life to that song.

Axe – Rock ‘n’ Roll Party In The Streets – on YouTube

I haven’t done a Sunday Song Lyric in a long time, but I just recently heard a cut off the Scissor Sisters’ debut album, Scissor Sisters , and I found an insight that I have to share:

Creamsicle sky while the sun sets in the west
Where are the queers on the piers, heard they gave it their best
Now they got jobs at a local fast food chain
Flippin’ tricks for the burger, since Lady M jacked their fame
Flippin’ tricks for the burger, since Lady M jacked their fame

Cause you can’t see tits on the radio
I’ll give you five fingers for a one man show
Fasten those pants for the lap dance
Take a shot now this may be your last chance

There ain’t no tits on the radio (Oh no)
There ain’t no tits on the radio (Oh no)
There ain’t no tits on the radio (Oh no)
There ain’t no tits on the radio (No no)

You can’t see tits on the radio.

There is still truth in rock and roll.

Now that Michael Jackson is dead, I’m not going to miss him. I didn’t know him. I don’t think many people did. I do, however, miss the Michael Jackson I once thought I knew, back before it all got so weird. You see, there was a time…

I never really loved Michael Jackson’s music, but I loved his music videos. Back in the early 1980s, creating videos for songs was still a new and controversial idea. I liked the videos, but a lot of people, including a lot of artists, thought they were a distraction from the music. Record companies made videos, but they didn’t take them seriously.

Michael Jackson helped change all that. At a time when a music video might have a budget of $40,000, he spent about a half-million dollars on the Thriller video and got a major motion picture director to film it. Nowadays, many motion picture directors get started with music videos and think nothing of producing one for musicians they like, but back then nobody had heard of such a thing.

I admired Michael for taking this fledgling artform to heart and treating its fans with respect.

It may sound odd, but I also admired Michael Jackson for his willingness to let Weird Al Yankovic parody his songs. Musicians with considerably less fame and talent took themselves too seriously to let Al do his thing (I’m looking at you, Coolio!) but Michael Jackson was always willing.

That’s the Michael Jackson I miss. Something bad happened to him a long time ago.

Radley Balko tells us about yet another RIAA masterstroke:

[The] RIAA is suing a young transplant patient in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Nineteen-year-old Ciara Sauro has pancreatitis and because she needs an islet cell transplant, she’s hospitalized every week, a situation resulting in a huge accumulation of medical bills.

Now, “Because she didn’t defend herself against a copyright lawsuit, a federal judge in Pittsburgh ruled she’s a music pirate, and that could cost the Sauros almost $8,000 in fines,” says Pittsburg news channel WTAE.com.

As far as I can see, there are only two ways this trend can end:

  1. The RIAA gets permission to legally execute music pirates on sight.
  2. The rest of us get permission to legally exeucte RIAA executives on sight.

Write your congresscritters now, to make sure that vote goes the right way.

I hate Digital Rights Managed (DRM) music. For one thing, once I buy some music, I want to be able to move it to other devices or other computers without having to check with the rights management server every time.

The other reason to hate DRM music is this:

Yahoo e-mailed its Yahoo! Music Store customers yesterday, telling them it will be closing for good–and the company will take its DRM license key servers offline on September 30, 2008.

So, if you bought music from Yahoo, won’t be able to transfer it to new computers any more. On the other hand, if you bought your music on CD, you could then rip it to any computer you want.

That’s what Yahoo suggests you do with your music: Burn it to a CD so you can rip it later. Of course, since you’re re-compressing your music, it won’t sound as good as if you ripped it from a factory CD, and you’ll lose all the catalogging information. On the other hand, if you’d traded ripped MP3s, you wouldn’t be having any of these problems.

Google cancelled their DRM video business a while back, but they had the good graces to refund all their customers money, and when MSN Music went out of business a few months ago, they at least agreed to keep the servers running for a few more years. Yahoo’s less-than-customer-friendly approach will probably be more common as more DRM business models collapse.

(Hat tip: Balko)

The other day I heard an acoustic version of Pete Townshend’s “Slit Skirts” and actually got to listen to the lyrics. It’s depressing stuff:

The incense burned away and the stench began to rise
And lovers now estranged avoided catching each others’ eyes

And girls who lost their children cursed the men who fit the coil
And men not fit for marriage took their refuge in the oil
No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned
From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned

Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts.

Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
Have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance

I’m number one in the home team, but I still feel unfulfilled.
A silent voice in her broken heart complaining that I’m unskilled.

And I know that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me as him,
But, unlike me, she don’t work off her frustration in the gym.

Recriminations fester and the past can never change

What the hell? Did we really used to rock out to that?

I love cover songs. When one artist is covering a song with a well-known version by another artist, I can’t help but think of the earlier version while listening to the new one. The contrast between the old and new versions in my head creates musical tension unlike any original performance.

Case in point: Here is 70-year-old Shirley Bassey’s awesome cover of Pink’s “Get The Party Started”. By the time she gets to the chorus, she’s got all the rockin’ energy of Pink’s version, with a much bigger voice.

Play the Video

If her voice sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, it’s probably because she was the vocalist for the title themes to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.

(Hat tip: Alexandra Billings.)

You don’t have to be a big-time musician to understand how to show some class. Here’s Robbie Link writing about something that has to sting a bit:

It’s a running joke/sad truth amongst musicians about the shows where the band outnumbers the audience. I’ve been there. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eighty piece orchestra with fifty people in the audience or a quintet with an audience of three. It feels bad either way. But it can be good. I played in Dana Auditorium in Greensboro, NC, once. It’s a large concert hall. There were four of us. Well – the audience did outnumber the band but not by much – I think there were 15 of them. We put chairs on stage so they would be right up next to us and it was great – like a living room concert. I think they even had a sofa up there that was a prop for some theater piece. The audience loved the intimacy and we got to play acoustically just like playing at home.

I’ve been at a live show where the performer was whining about the small size of the audience, forgetting that we were the ones who showed up. I’ve gotta admire these guys for realizing their fans deserved the show they came to see. Bringing everybody on stage for a close-up show was a cool idea.

Thoughts upon viewing the video for “Sex Over The Phone” by The Village People:

  • I hope string ties never become trendy again. (Although, for all I know, they already are.)
  • Production values for music videos have come a long way.
  • Those guys have some serious mustaches.
  • Did phone sex lines really have to take your credit card number and call you back? What was that all about? 900 numbers not invented yet? Slow credit card check? Phone system couldn’t handle transfers to the women?
  • Sometimes you can hear that the singer has a pretty good voice.
  • The women don’t look really happy to be in the video.
  • The 80’s were a weird decade.

Oh, just follow the link. It’s really…something.

You’ll reach me everywhere,
I’m sometimes here or there,
I’m always in the air…

By the way, if you didn’t follow the Fabrice Morvan link in the post below, you really should follow the one in this sentence. Somehow it seems appropriate that the surviving frontman for Milli Vanilli would have a Flash welcome page without any other substance behind it…