CATEGORY: TunesDay

From The Raveonettes to Belle & Sebastian? Streaming music algorithms shouldn’t suck this badly…

Predicting bands a user is going to like isn’t easy. But surely Spotify, Pandora and iTunes can do better than this.

I’m a freak for new music. Always have been. In a given day I’m usually listening to whatever cool stuff I have discovered recently, backtracking and catching up on bands I haven’t listened to lately, and trying to find new artists to fall in love with and suggest to my friends.

Finding new music is a different challenge than it used to be. Once upon a time you could turn on the radio and hear the latest and greatest. It’s been a long time since that worked, though – now radio is the last place you look for cool tuneage. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsWeek

Our favorite lyrics: S&R describes why we love certain lyrics, if not necessarily the song

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCultureOver the years I’ve come to a realization – some of my favorite songs have really stupid lyrics, and some of my favorite lyrics are in songs I’m not a big fan of or, in at least one case, I can’t stand. As a result, I put the following question to my fellow Scrogues: what are some of your favorite lyrics?

I’ve collected their responses below. Enjoy, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

Brian Angliss
While I enjoy Led Zepplin, they were never my favorite band. But anyone who puts a reference to The Lord of the Rings in a song is allright by me. From Ramble On,

T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her….yeah. (source)

In the last few years, I’ve come to greatly enjoy goth-influenced, techno, and industrial music. And one of the acts I’ve come to enjoy greatly is Assemblage 23. There’s one song on the album “Storm” that is very hard for me to listen to, as amazing as the lyrics are. Here’s the opening verse from 30kft:

Hello, if you’re there pick up the phone
I’m calling from thirty thousand feet above you
The captain’s just informed us that our plane is going down
So I’m calling for one last time to say I love you (source)

I’ll leave off with some of lyrics from what may well be my favorite song that I almost never listen to. Some songs just hit too close to home, in ways both good and bad:

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then (source)

Lex

In the season of boll weivel speakin evil in you ear
And pile of manure fertilizing all your fears
Yabadaba do all the way to Shangra La
Here it is with the rock and roll outlaw

Cause it’s just silly word play, otherwise I could just nominate all of the Clutch catalog for my favorite lyrics.

Lisa Wright

you’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird

it’s sooooo lame and cliche, and i cant believe that i am owning up to this, but the lyric has been something that i have held on to ever since i heard it when i was 14 or so.

Otherwise
Mine’s no better. Lyrics to Volunteers of America by Jefferson airplane, and the immortal, “let’s go on a picnic honey, we’ll have so much fun. You can handle the hotdog baby, I can handle the buns.” By wet willie (a regional band who got big for awhile)

saint in the city by springsteen. “rock hard look of cobra, born blue and weathered but burst just like a supernova, I can walk like brando into the sun, and dance just like a casanova…”

Alex Polombo
Call me out for being lame if you want, but “God give me style, God give me grace” sort of stuck with me from Coldplay.

Sam Smith

All the light that shines on you
Is from a dying star
The star’s been dead a billion years
Now it’s shining off your car
To light your way……

-Jeffrey Dean Foster, “Summer of the Son of Sam”

Reach out and touch me now
Aphrodite said
You aren’t the only one
with armies in your head

- Fiction 8, “Hegemony”

You’ve never dared where the angels tread
You think there’s time for heaven when you’re dead
But here’s the thing that the angels stole
A demon helix with a consecrated soul

- Fiction 8, “Winter Rain”

Now, maybe we should disqualify those last two since I wrote them….

I have argued – loudly and vehemently – that lyrics are almost never poetry. They’re simply different forms, and I don’t mean to denigrate lyrics in saying that. Painting isn’t dancing, but that doesn’t mean painting is useless. I say this as a guy who has done both.

Occasionally, though, lyrics DO stand as poetry. Like here, with Marillion’s “Pseudo Silk Kimono,” with the words by Fish:

Huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono
Wearing bracelets of smoke, naked of understanding.
Nicotine smears, long, long dried tears, invisible tears.
Safe in my own words, learning from my own words,
Cruel joke, cruel joke.
Huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono
A morning mare rides, in the starless shutters of my eyes.
The spirit of a misplaced childhood is rising to speak his mind,
To this orphan of heartbreak, disillusioned and scorned,
A refugee, refugee.
(Safe in the sanctuary, safe)

Mike Sheehan
John Lennon, Roger Waters, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Andy Partridge wrote more than a few of my favorite lyrics, as I enjoy clever imagery, ambiguity, innuendo, sarcasm, and (preferably scathing) social satire. Bernie Taupin can get tiresomely overwrought but “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is still a brilliant, liberating anthem. I love Van Dyke Parks’s words in “Surf’s Up” though I don’t really understand them (nor does Brian Wilson himself, I reckon). But there is one song and one album in particular whose lyrics still deeply impress me every time I hear them.

Grace Slick, “Do It the Hard Way.” She absolutely belts this one, written and recorded in the late 1970’s as she was struggling with alcoholism. You really have to hear her tear through the last two verses, with lines like:

She said, “I’ve got to make ‘em all think I’m winning, so I’ll just tell ‘em lies.
That way I can make sure that no one ever knows just exactly what I mean.
Then I can beat the drums and yell it to the skies:
‘I’m the queen of the nuthouse… I’m the queen!'”

Donald Fagen, the entirety of ‘The Nightfly.’ In Steely Dan, Fagen’s lyrics typically featured saucy double-entendres, clever drug references, amusing cynicism, etc. On his first solo LP, Fagen fully bared his sentimental teenaged soul, which longed for the idyllic late 1950s with the invigorating threat of the Cold War and the promise of the Space Age. The gorgeously recorded album is laden with wry reflections on the awkward audacity of youth, to wit:

Do you have a steady boyfriend?
‘Cause honey I’ve been watching you
I hear you’re mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes I like him too
He’s an artist, a pioneer
We’ve got to have some music on the new frontier.
(from “New Frontier“)

You’d never believe it
But once there was a time
When love was in my life
I sometimes wonder
What happened to that flame
The answer’s still the same
It was you… you… it was you
Tonight you’re still on my mind.
(from “The Nightfly“)

Mexico City is like another world
Nice this year they say
You’ll be my señorita
In jeans and pearls
But first let’s get off this highway.
(from “Maxine“)

On that train, all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
90 minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We’ll be clean when their work is done
We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young.
(from “I.G.Y.“)

Cat White
From left field:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

“This Land Was Made for You and Me,” Woody Guthrie

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Tony Asher

I see skies of blue….. clouds of white
Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world.

“Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong

Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That’s never been tried before;
Before you find you’re a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block.

“Open a New Window,” *Mame*, Jerry Herman
*Mame *was my first musical–I was 14. As I have gotten older I marvel at what a formative experience that 5 months was on my attitudes, outlook, and path in life.

Jim Booth
Hey! I want in on this “let’s promote our own lyrics” thing….

But seriously:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Bob Dylan, “Mr. Tambourine Man”

And this:

My hypothesis is that I exist, let’s test this.
Raise your fist if you experience consciousness.
Now let me hear you say cogitamus ergo sumus
Or if you’re not down with that say hell yes.
So thinking is being and knowing is seeing
Or hearing or smelling or tasting or feeling
Or otherwise dealing with external stimuli
Wonder why I’m alive. Hey you up in the sky,
I’m guessing if I can hear myself when I speak
So can that person looking back at me and listening
Which means I need a system of epistemology
To know what to call my LP, you follow me?

“Experimental Railroad” Doco

Frank Balsinger
I’m in with 2…first, something positive. This is of those cases where I think the video actually does add something by way of clarity. As to why it’s one of my faves, it strikes a certain mystical chord with me

Peter Gabriel, Sledgehammer

You could have a steam train
If you’d just lay down your tracks
You could have an aeroplane flying
If you bring your blue sky back

All you do is call me
I’ll be anything you need

You could have a big dipper
Going up and down, all around the bends
You could have a bumper car, bumping
This amusement never ends

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
Show me round your fruitcage
‘cos I will be your honey bee
Open up your fruitcage
Where the fruit is as sweet as can be

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
You’d better call the sledgehammer
Put your mind at rest
I’m going to be-the sledgehammer
This can be my testimony
I’m your sledgehammer
Let there be no doubt about it

Sledge sledge sledgehammer

I’ve kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won’t you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you
Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you
You’ve been coming through
Going to build that powerr
Build, build up that power, hey
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you
Come on, come on, help me do
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
It’s what we’re doing, doing
All day and night

Then something negative, this one from Legendary Pink Dots. I think Ed Ka-Spell does a lovely job of summing up most of my angst.
Damien

Seven seas he sailed on
With cannons blazing in the night
He had shiny medals
For his eyes in Kryptonite (with lasers)

With every nail he hammered
Came the rush of flying hands
They pasted fliers
They planted flags
We watched him hover higher (higher)

Crucifix and lyrics
Holy holy sense surround
Lord, he never touched the ground

From state to state he wandered
He could have been the boy next door
You could feel that patriotic roar
Come pouring through the cracks of our existence

He took the fear away with whitewash
And scorched earth
Majorettes and cool disciples
Cigarettes and red hot bibles
And the buses ran on time

Slaves of Kali Hari-karied
On bayonets in poison ivy
We held this torch up high
Can you see? Can you see?

All the girls he never had
And all the boys who stood and laughed
And all the dopes and
All the dealers, sheilas, peelers, squealers, feelers

Come watch me fall
Watch me drown
I’m kneeling in your mirror.
See me cower in the corner of your room.

Watch me desecrate the contents of your tomb

Jim Booth guest commentary over at Southern Creatives

If you’ve been paying attention you know that our boy Jim Booth recently published a novel. And that it’s really good. And that it presents us with the opportunity to consider fame and substance at war over the soul of an artist.

He has now authored a guest essay on “Southern Rock Stardom, Postmodernism, and the Persistence of Memory” over at Melinda McGuire’s outstanding Southern lit-focused site, concluding, appropriately enough that:

Here in the South, rock stars respect memory as all good Southerners do and, after all their wanderings, come back home where memory matters, Thomas Wolfe and postmodernism be damned.

Hear, hear. Give it a read.

The incompleteness of the soul: an insider's non-review of Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star

I’ve been thinking about Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star, the third novel from my friend and fellow scrogue Jim Booth. I finished reading it a few days ago, but for me it’s been a slightly disjointed experience because I’ve seen most of it in its pieces before: chapters like “Fins” and “The Balcony Scene” have been previously published as standalone short stories and there are sections (the “Rock Star Handbook”) that Jim originally developed as an offering for an SMS entertainment company in which I was a  partner. So I’ve been familiar for years with the component elements, but this was my first encounter with the unified book in context.

After several days of reflection, I find myself musing on things that many readers and reviewers might not have twigged on. Continue reading

Norwegian Wood: peace and love and senseless murder

By Patrick Vecchio

I have a jukebox in my brain that starts playing as soon as I get out of bed. It plays all day long unless my mind is occupied. Music at the start of the day is not necessarily a good thing, because sometimes I hate the song. This morning, for example, it was a song by Olivia Newton-John. It’s gone, and only now can I mention Ms. Newton-John, having purged the earworm.

Later, while I was driving, my shuffling brain cued up The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” I’m not a Beatles fan. Hadn’t heard the song in years. But there it was as I motored along:

I once had a girl
Or should I say, she once had me. Continue reading

TunesDay: Ryan Shaw is in the house

The new Ryan Shaw CD dropped today and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl at her first sock hop. Shaw has one of the absolute best pure voices in the entire neo-Soul genre – maybe the best. It’s like listening to Otis or Marvin or Wilson Pickett or, in more recent days, the criminally underappreciated Malford Milligan.

Still on my first listen, but in the meantime how about I share the wonderfulness with the S&R community?  Here’s “Karina.”

Continue reading

This just in: the surviving members of Aerosmith sell out (BIG TIME), and can somebody get Mr. Perry a tissue?

It has been observed, here and elsewhere, what a fucking embarrassment Steven Tyler has become. Once Aerosmith was among America’s greatest bands, and today they occupy the #5 spot (with a bullet) on my Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list.

It was refreshing, then, when Joe Perry brought the hammer down on his silly-ass 64-going-on-14 Teen Beat bandmate. Reports TMZ:

Perry went off on Tyler during an interview with the Calgary Herald — saying, “It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with [American Idol]. We have nothing to do with it.” Continue reading

TunesDay Special: a fond goodbye to Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs, the legendary master of the bluegrass banjo, is dead at 88.  It was just a few days ago that I was writing about the music that I grew up with, and rest assured, Flatt & Scruggs were welcome in the Smith household. There’s honestly not a lot I can say that I feel is worthy of the man’s genius – not on short notice, anyway – so I’ll keep it simple and let the music do the talking. Let’s start with the song that he was most famous for.

Continue reading

What the hell happened to country music?

Friend: Hey, Yogi, I think we’re lost.
Yogi Berra: Yeah, but we’re making great time! 

It’s probably clear to anybody who pays attention that I’m a rock & roll guy. But I was raised by my grandparents, two country folks who were born in 1913 and 1914 respectively and grew up through the Great Depression. There were two kinds of music in my house, country and gospel, and those aesthetics – the melodies and harmonies, the minor chord dips and the aching they signify, the constant battle between ignorant hope and blunt despair – they shaped my relationship with music in ways that will accompany me to my grave.

We listened to gospel quartets on Channel 12 Sunday mornings. The rest of the time, if there was music in the house, it was the likes of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff & the Smoky Mountain Boys or Cowboy Copas. Granddaddy and Grandmother liked to watch The Porter Wagoner Show (with Dolly Parton, of course) and Saturday nights meant Hee Haw, with Buck Owens, Roy Clark and some of Nashville’s greatest stars. Continue reading

Nota Bene #124: I'm a Doctor, Not an Engineer

“I don’t believe in this fairy tale of staying together for ever. Ten years with somebody is enough.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

If only there were an American Idol for grown-ups: how to market new, indie music to an adult audience?

Once upon a time, marketing music must have been so simple: in the ’50s you just bribed a local DJ and off you went. By the ’80s it was a little more complicated – in addition to cash you needed to bring coke and hookers, but still, it was a straightforward process and everybody understood the rules.

Maybe that’s understating the difficulty of getting discovered back in the Good Old Days®, but there’s no arguing that things are a lot trickier here in the 21st Century, as nichification, genrefication, segmentation, fragmentation, the consolidation of major labels, the profusion of new media and the ascendancy of coolmongering has so dramatically complexified the challenge facing new bands that it’s a wonder anybody even tries anymore. (And if you’re naïve enough to think that hard work and talent will ultimately win out, well, welcome to math class.)

Continue reading

Former REM producer comments on the band's break-up

Don Dixon and Mitch Easter co-produced REM’s first two (and arguably best) albums, Murmur and Reckoning. S&R contacted Dixon earlier today to ask if he had any thoughts on the band’s break-up. Here’s what he had to say.

I’ll miss R.E.M. but I completely understand why they’re calling it quits. I haven’t spoken with anyone in the band yet but I believe they’re sincere when they speak of this as a group decision and point to their mutual respect. I think each of them want to move on to other things and not end up hanging around too long like some bands we know.

One must remember when these guys came of age. Continue reading

Sunday Video Roundup: a 9/11 special

Today, if we choose to listen, we’ll hear a great deal about America, about the last decade, about the lessons we’ve learned. Football will be played. Flags will be waved. Tears will be shed.

And tomorrow we’ll be exactly what we were yesterday, only moreso. Maybe today is a bad time for critiques. Or maybe it’s the perfect time. Hard to say. But if you find a few minutes today and need a breather, here are some innocent distractions for you.

First, it’s true – we’re all living in Amerika.

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Alphabet City

Life on the road with punk funk trio Doco as told by bassist Josh Booth

New York is being overrun by time travelers. I’m pretty sure the band that played after us was an actual New Wave band on tour from the 1980s. There is a ban on smoking in public parks, but the time travelers are the only people who can afford cigarettes anyway.

We took the Williamsburg Bridge over to Brooklyn with Charlie, a New Zealand wine maker from the future, to Erin’s party in a new building that’s in default and under construction. We met the new neighbor who moved out the next day. Continue reading

What CD have you listened to more than any other?

We all have our favorite artists and songs and albums. Even those of us who listen to a lot of different styles and have thousands of CDs in our collections undoubtedly have a few we keep coming back to more than others. While I have never really had this discussion with anyone, I imagine that there are all kinds of reasons why certain songs and collections draw us back.

The albums I have listened to the most would surprise most people, I suspect. Those who know me would probably think I’ve spun U2’s War or Unforgettable Fire the most, or REM’s Reckoning, or maybe one of the Police’s CDs. Maybe even something by Queen. And they’d be close, because I have in fact played the hell out of those albums. My original copy of A Night at the Opera – back in the days of the vinyl LP – was so worn I was expecting the needle to carve completely through the record at any moment.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

How to win a meme, or how I avoided working this Spring but still managed to get all riled up

By Jennie Ver Steeg

I like Sam, of Dr. Slammy fame. Let me be clear on that, I am more likely to at least entertain the notions Sam floats out here than I would be those same notions from other like types: this to me is a character flaw, but I admit it freely. I’ve been playing along with his Facebook 30 Day Song Challenge Sequel the last few weeks, mostly because I like music and I live by the list: listing may be my only real skill. A friend points out to me that it’s not much of a challenge: he says challenges have winners, and wants to know what the prize is for the best. This challenge does have a winner, and as always, it’s me, motherfucker, or possibly those who get to read my challenge answers each day and feel… Jesus, how do they feel? Appalled, bemused? Continue reading

TunesDay: Music to pluck raw nerves

If you care about music at all, you’ve probably got a few tunes that are agony to listen to. Tunes that you just can’t listen to, or that are so compelling that you can’t change the channel or hit “skip” no matter how much your brain screams. Tunes that remind you of times in your life you suffered more deeply than you thought possible. TunesDay today is an homage, if such a word is appropriate, to some of the music from such periods in my life. I hope that some of you are willing to share with the us some of your music, too.

I love, and hate, Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The first time I saw it, it was with my sister, and it was a profound moment of awakening for me. I didn’t get it all, of course, I was only in junior high, but I got that Pink was a seriously screwed up dude right off the bat. And based on my first watching, I concluded that The Wall was one movie that everyone should see at least once, an opinion I still hold. I also went out, bought the album on cassette, and proceeded to listen to it so much that the cassette stretched and distorted the music. Continue reading