Monthly Archives: July 2010

Song of the Day: “Chicago” – Sufjan Stevens

Sorry I’ve been lacking in my posting.  For right now I’m just going to post one of my all time favorite songs by Mr. Sufjan Stevens.  Enjoy.

 

 

Song of the Day: “Tobacco Road”

I must admit I hadn’t heard this song until I watched the season premiere of Mad Men the other night.  Perhaps because I love early garage rock, or just the way in which the song was used I immediately went and bought it on Itunes.

The version used on Mad Men is a cover performed by UK group Nashville Teens in 1964.  The original was written by John D. Loudermilk, who didn’t have any success with the semi-autobiographical song.  As it turns out he actually had more success as a songwriter for other people including the Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash & Marrianne Faithful among others.

“Tobacco Road” was the only hit for the Nashville Teens in the US (though they did have some moderate success in the UK.)  War had a hit with the song as well.  (Which is funny, because at first I thought that Nashville Teen’s version was actually The Animals.)

Song of the Day: “Steal My Sunshine” – Len

I’m going to forgo my “serious music snob” status for a day and post this song.  I’m really unsure of how I like this song.  Do I like it ironically?  (Being somewhat of a hipster – the answer is almost certainly yes.)  Do I like it sincerely and because I’m such a music-snob does that make it ironic that I do legitimately like it?  (The answer is probably also yes.)

Feel free to give me shit about it.  You know you like it too.

Song of the Day: “How Soon is Now?” – The Smiths

Is there ever a song with a more sinister opening guitar line?  You know right from the start, that this a dark song.  Then Johnny Marr’s over-dubs on a siren-like guitar cut through – cut through your soul – creating even more tension.  The song is propelled by the memorable guitar rhythm guitar, the siren like slide, and the machine like drumming creating a hypnotic effect.

And his is even before Morrisey tells his tale isolation, criminally shy, and wanting to be loved “just like everybody else does”.   “How Soon is Now?” is Morrisey’s declaration of being miserable (and this is coming from a guy who is famed for being eternally miserable).  Morrisey’s vocals seem detached and cold, giving his performance more of an edge than his normal croon.

I was probably 7 or 8 when I first heard “How Soon is Now?” and had no idea what it was about.  What young kid could?  But yet I could understand the feeling behind the song.  Even then I could tell that the guy singing the song was coming from a sad and lonely place.  This was some place that I clearly did not want to inhabit.   Little did I know that years later in my late teens and early 20’s I would be conjuring up some of those feelings that Morrisey expresses throughout.  When you’re feeling down and out Morrisey’s lines  -“you shut your mouth.  How can you say, I go about things the wrong way?” – seem like a mantra.  With that it’s easy to understand why Morrisey has such a cult following with goth kids and the gay community.

I’m also attached to “How Soon Is Now?” because it was in the background when I had my first whiff of pot.  I was with my older brother for the weekend and we were driving to a movie (I think) and the song was in the background.  The car in front of us wreaked of something which I had never smelled before – and it smelled kind of stale.  “That’s pot you smell,” My brother explained.  “That’s a smell you never forget.”  True enough.

Song of the Day: “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met” – Bob Dylan

It’s not one of Bob Dylan’s major works, but “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” ranks among my favorites of his.  Like may songs on Another Side of Bob Dylan, the song deals with Dylan’s relationship with a woman.  However, it is very clear from the beginning of the song that there was no relationship involved at all – other than a night of intoxicated love.  When the morning breaks, he’s in a bed by himself and possibly hung-over.

For a Dylan song of this era, “I Don’t Believe You” has a memorable and strong melody. Dylan sings it with a slight silliness (as if he knows the night before that got him in this situation in the first place is ridiculous) and a slight bit of anger (as if you were to agree with him that he got burned).  But he’s just angry  because he wants to know why the hell she doesn’t show some acknowledge of what transpired the night before – “And now morning is clear, it’s like I ain’t here”.  The Beatles wanted to be treated like they were the night before, but here Dylan just wants the woman to see him, and not act like they never knew each other.   Finally he has enough – and tells her that he can just pick anyone and act like they never have met.

There are two great live versions of the song to be found on the Bootleg Series.  The version found on “The Royal Albert Hall Concert” is completely transformed by an electric arrangement, and the melody is barely recognizable.

Dylan’s introduction to the song is hilarious on the 1964 show.  “This is about all the people that say they’ve never seen you,” He says with a laugh as he begins strumming the chords to the song.  “I’m sure everybody’s met someone that swears they’ve never seen them.  Hi!”  Cleared stoned then Dylan can’t quite seem to get the song started and then has to ask the audience if anyone knows the first words to the song, to which an audience member shouts out, “I can’t understand!” Finally pulling him together, Dylan gives a faithful but superb version of the song.

Song of the Day: “When Doves Cry” – Prince

Without a doubt, “When Doves Cry” is one of the best singles (and songs) of the 1980s.  It sounds conventional because it’s been played so many times, but a dance-hall track that starts out with a guitar, has no bass-line, not to mention the key-board solo near the end of the song, is anything but conventional.

The theme behind “When Doves Cry” is also conventional (love gone bad) but Prince delivers it in such a conventional way as well.  Comparing himself and his lover to his parents is almost terrifying – “maybe you’re just like my mother – she’s never satisfied”.  There’s also the stranger imagery of Prince telling the lover about animals striking curious poses, and “they feel the heat between you and me”.

When I was younger I must admit that I never liked Prince.  I was too young to understand his importance in the 80’s, and only knew him by “1999” – which I became tired of once it actually turned the year 1999.  Sometime in college, someone played me “Purple Rain”, and it blew my mind that Prince was not just that freak with the song that made me hate the turning of the millennium.

Song of the Day: “Here Comes Your Man” – Pixies

According to my Itunes stats, I’ve played “Here Comes Your Man” 146 times.  It’s not my absolute favorite song, but I consider it one of my “go-to” songs.  It’s utter-bliss power-pop.  It’s also unusual and not akin to the Pixies’ normal sound.  In fact, it sounds more like a Beatles’ song circa Revolver – with Joey Santiago’s lead guitar taking a page right out of George Harrison’s leads.  In fact, the opening chord is very reminiscent of the opening of the Beatles’ classic “A Hard Day’s Night”.

A friend of mine once said he was going to use “Here Comes Your Man” as the opening song of his wedding.  Title aside, it’s not romantic.  It’s hard to figure out exactly what Black Francis (Frank Black) is singing about, but the word “box car” appears several times.  Is it about waiting for a train, and the man who is coming is a train driver.   The wait is so long, Francis declares (with bassist Kim Deal echoing “so long, so long”) but not to worry, “here comes your man”.  Francis and Deal take the chorus together, in perhaps the Pixies most melodic one.  (Though not their most popular song – thanks to Fight Club “Where is Your Mind” remains the group’s biggest hit.)

What makes “Here Comes Your Man” so enjoyable, is that it is a pop song at heart, yet played Pixies style.  It’s accessible, yet it still retains most of their quirks – odd subject matter and the combination of Deal and Francis’ vocals.

Song of the Day: “Heat Wave”

I don’t know about anyone else, but it is has been scorching here in Baltimore lately.  Today I’m showcasing two different versions of “Heat Wave” by Holland-Dozier-Holland and popularized by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.  For my money, it’s one of the best Motown singles.  The “Yeahs!” at the end of the song are the stuff of legend.

The Who also did a cover of “Heat Wave”.  It’s not a bad cover, but it loses some of its appeal I think.  In The Who’s hands, a class R&B song becomes a standard cover that becomes unmemorable.   Even though Keith Moon might have been rock’s best drummer, I prefer the drums on the original Motown single.