Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three Steps To Heaven/Signed D.C.

Cover Stars-Arthur Lee and Love
"My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known—no wonder, then, that I return the love." Kierkegaard

I empathize with the first part of the above quote, but not with the second, the trick is not to love it back, my best loved moments have been joyous and that is what I want to dwell on- and yet still I find it easier to make mixes based around loss and sadness than anything else, maybe it's cathartic, let's hope so huh.  


1. Three Steps To Heaven- Eddie Cochran- This is an early version, different key, and a slightly different lyric structure from the single, can't decide which I like best so I put this and the single version both on here as bookends to the mix. They both sound like heaven to me! Both Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly would have been even more important and influential than they already are if death hadn't taken them so early. Both were great writers, singers, producers and guitar players.

2. Wedding Bell Blues- Laura Nyro- In a perfect world Laura Nyro would have been THE big sensation at the Monterey Pop Festival, see second video below. The way she says "Bill" as the song goes on becomes more like beale, which reminds me of how my grandmother would say my name. I think its a Southern thing, her background singers seem to emphasize it that way and they're probably from the South, obviously Nyro was a New Yorker. 

All of my family and friends who have known me since I was a kid call me Bill. And although I prefer my actual given name, William, it's nice to hear it cause there's a warmth there as it means, usually, that someone has known me forever. On the flip side if they haven't known me forever they're taking some damn liberties with my name! Heh. Two syllables is just too much for some folks. 

3. Get To You- The Byrds-Probably the most beautiful song the Byrds ever wrote, featured on what is arguably their best album. Only recently, after listening to this song for over 20 years, did I realize that the backing vocals were singing "that's a little better". 

4. Fokus- Liam Hayes- No uploads found for this one, but trust me everything this guy does is great, he's on my very short list of current musicians I dig. Just download the mix and see for yourself. This song is from a terrible film that Roman Coppola made, but the soundtrack to it is aces, all composed by Liam Hayes, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III - again its a truly awful film, avoid it like the plague, but get the soundtrack as it's a great introduction to the music of Liam Hayes. There's a decent vinyl pressing too.

5. November Night- Peter Fonda- Gram Parsons wrote this song, and its a good-un. Peter Fonda is another Pisces (like Arthur Lee) and a hep cat, I dig his style, especially in the film The Trip, button up shirt and v-neck sweaters with corduroys and desert boots.  Sharp.

6. Some of Shelly's Blues- Michael Nesmith- In Nesmith's songs its always either him or his woman leaving, guess we know what his love life was like. Actually a friend of mine's Mom dated Nez in high school, and apparently he held a torch for her even years later, so I used to always encourage him to get his Mom (a divorcee) to get remarried to Nez, that way his step dad would be my favorite Monkee. It was an elaborate scheme that I could not get him or his Mom on board with, heh. 

7. Five String Serenade- Mazzy Star- A latter day composition by Arthur Lee, I think he wrote it in the 1980's, and it was released early 1990's.  One of the more perceptive reviews that my band, The Soft Set, received for our first (self released) cd was a local Austin site that mentioned Mazzy Star as a touchstone-not that we actually sounded much like them, but there were some similarities in feel, especially on that first cd in terms of the atmospherics, consistent mood and the melancholy underlying the songs. Anyway it made more sense than comparing us to Belle & Sebastian.

8. Gather 'Round- Love- The Love records after Forever Changes, all have their moments, and this is surely one of them- its from 1969's Out Here on Blue Thumb Records. All I could find on youtube was the live version below, its pretty nice, I think from that out of print live c.d., wish I had it myself. The song is another story about an animal called man whose mind is all filled up with bullshit.

9. Blue Spanish Sky- Chris Isaak- Isaak sounds like a cross between Roy Orbinson and Ricky Nelson, and that's a winning combination jack. Looks like he's got a thing for Latinas. Can't say I blame him, I'm partial to them myself, if you're raised in Texas like me or Southern California like Isaak, its hard not to, they're all around being beautiful. Definitely the best thing about Texas is the Hispanic culture here, otherwise this damn place would be all but unlivable. 

A friend of mine from Chile, said I should leave them alone, "they're all crazy" he said, but I've heard guys say that about all kinds of different women, at least Latinas get crazy about stuff I can understand, not abstract nonsense. Anyway don't get me wrong, I love ALL women….problem is they don't all love me back, sad innit. 

"I only wish I could make you cry, like I do". The more I listen to this one, the more I like it.  

10. For No One- The Beatles- Obscure 1960's band, well worth checking out, if you can find their records. This is one of McCartney's crowning achievements especially the lyrics, which are not usually his strong suit- a perfect song, heartbreaking without being cloying, told with a sharp eye for detail worthy of a short story.  "For No One" is beautiful and brief, like the relationship detailed therein. Lennon, not one quick to offer praise, even to his songwriting partner, said of the song "One of my favourites of Paul's—a nice piece of work" - the work of course being song craft. "You find that all her words of kindness linger on when she no longer needs you". 

11. Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome?- International Submarine Band- Indeed I do! Christ I could give lessons in it! Or was the question rhetorical?  "Did you ever try to smile at some people, and all they ever seem to do is stare". 

12. Lonesome Boy- Gene Vincent- Damn, Gene Vincent was divine, listen to that quivering voice! The art of singing is getting your voice to convey as directly as possible the feeling behind the lyric, telegraph it right to their soul, so they feel what the song is about. This here is a good example of that.

13. Tristeza- Luiz Bonfa- Ah sadness. Why are Brazilians so talented? 

14. Listen to the Band- The Monkees- First video has the recorded version dubbed over some of the performance from the television special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. Second version is the actual performance from the special where in a process kind of the opposite of the Chambers Brothers, their country psychedelia gets soulified.  It's a pretty awesome freak out and either way this should have been a hit. 

15. Doggone (edit)- Love- Rhino had the good sense to edit out the long drum solo on this great song, so we all win! Full version below so you can judge for yourself.  I recently got a vinyl copy of this, and as drum solos go I gotta say this one IS actually pretty good- meaning I can listen to it and dig parts of it- their drummer at the time was a monster and funky as hell, still in all for a mix you don't want 10 minute solos of ANY instrument, at least not in my mixes.

16. Two Winters Long- Irma Thomas- I did a separate post end of last year that featured this song by the great Irma Thomas along with a Peanuts cartoon- simply beautiful. 

17. Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell- ZZ Top- All of ZZ Top's records from the 1970's are worthwhile, check them out if you haven't.  I love this one, great title for a song. Listen to the restraint in that guitar solo, lesser guitarists, myself included would be tempted to fill up space with a flurry of pentatonic scales, but Gibbons knows exactly what he is going for and leaves lots of space with a solo that captures the melancholy lonely feeling of the song. 

Sonically these records sound great on vinyl, original pressings that is,  avoid modern pressings if possible, that's a good general rule of thumb for all older bands. I have fond memories of collecting all of these records back when I could still drink (without migraines) -oh man, they go really well with tequila, beer and Tex-Mex, I mean just check out the inside gatefold for their 1973 album Tres Hombres (below).

Inside gatefold for Tres Hombres
18. Hazy Shade of Winter (single mix)- Simon and Garfunkel- I really love these guys music, though I've made disparaging remarks about Paul Simon in the past, it's all in good fun, actually no, he does annoy me , there's a story about him rudely walking away from Laura Nyro when she tried to introduce herself to him at the Monterey Pop Festival, and that's just one example off the top of my head. Alright the guy is a little prick, maybe its being short that makes him like that, but the music he made with the Garfunkel is nice.

19. Goodbye- Mary Hopkin-  McCartney can probably write catchy tunes in his sleep, in fact I think he later released many songs composed in just this fashion! Paul seems like a bit of a pain in the ass, check him out in the video gesturing and making a lot of movements to call attention to himself while Mary does her best to ignore him, oh well a lot can be forgiven when someone is talented.

20. The Goose Is Out- Liam Hayes- Another great one from Liam off the Bright Penny record which is also recommended, and it is included on the soundtrack I mentioned earlier as well- really all of his records are strong, pick one and buy it.  Though I like the soundtrack as a starting point because it draws from a couple of his records and has new stuff as well.  Anyway there's an upload for this song, so check it out. "Could have been together if I'd only known how to charm a snake". A little sting in that tale.

21. I'll Pray For You- Love- I hate when you try to console somebody and because they got a hang up with religion or whatever they get all uptight and even rude if you mention praying for them, its like damn I'm trying to be nice, take it for how it's intended. I'm not gonna modify everything I say just cause you got some axe to grind. Some people can't ever drop their bullshit. 

22. The Quest- Donovan- 70's Donovan, pretty good, pretty neat.   

23. Three Steps To Heaven- Eddie Cochran- Back where we started, yet the song and you aren't quite the same. That's time. Or maybe that's witchcraft. Zap, you're pregnant! That's a Kenneth Anger reference. Ciao kiddos. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fresh Kid Turned Rotten

Your host as a fresh kid chilling in the park in Houston sometime in the 1970's
Fatlip's "What's Up Fatlip?"single from from 2000 remains one of my favorite hip-hop singles-such a hilarious cat, a great sense of humor, voice and flow. And sadly there's a lot of wisdom in those self-deprecating lyrics. Check the video, documentary (made by Spike Jonze) and lyrics below. I think my favorite bit in the video is when he kicks the "chopping bliggy on the table"lyric in front of his mom, and then gets embarrassed.

Sadly the videos have been pulled

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Moving Pictures For Spring & That Awful J.D. Salinger Character

Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch photographed while enjoying each other's company
I recently saw the Wes Anderson short, Castello Cavalcanti, and thought I'd post it along with a  parody of Anderson's style in anticipation of his new film The Grand Budapest Hotel, due out in March, 2014.  I can understand why some viewers have grown tired of Anderson's films, but I still find them enjoyable, and it's not like they come out more than once every couple of years. I think he's actually been on a bit of an uptick since Darjeeling Limited, which I love (despite Natalie Portman, who I can't abide), though I seem to be in the minority on that one.

In other movie related news, Jim Jarmusch, my favorite, still active, director also has a new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, due out in April of 2014. It's a vampire film, and although I'm not a fan of this genre, if anyone can do something interesting with it, it will be Jarmusch. Trailers for both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive follow Castello Cavalcanti and the Anderson/Star Wars parody below.

In other news I tried to watch PBS's showing of Salinger but found myself bored and disgusted after about 30 or 40 minutes. What I did see confirmed all I had suspected about Salinger after rereading him as an adult, in short that he was a conceited creep who nursed an adolescent superiority complex and a contempt for his fellow man that comes through clearly in all of his fictional characters. Catcher in the Rye is the kind of book that when you read it at 15 seems right on but when you revisit it as an adult, you can't help noticing what a whiny spoiled prick the main character is- contemptuous of everyone around him and bereft of empathy. The book celebrates all the worst traits of adolescence. This article from the Nation does a good job exploring the problems with the man and his fiction and also ties in its ongoing fascination for killers like Chapman, Hinckley and Bardo.


But to Chapman, the nobody was Lennon. Chapman later reportedly said that in the week before the assassination he’d been listening to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, the raw and abrasive 1970 record on which Lennon purged his music of the gorgeous harmonies and studio lushness of the Beatles. And yet for everything that was stripped down about the record, it is, like the music it turned its back on, magisterial. The penultimate track, “God,” builds to a close with Lennon’s rising list of denunciations: “I don’t believe in Bible … I don’t believe in Jesus … I don’t believe in Beatles.” “Who does he think he is,” Chapman remembered thinking, “saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles? 
“I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it…. I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how I’d smash his head on the stone steps till he was good and goddam dead and bloody.” That’s not Chapman talking, though he had wished that it was. The voice belongs to Holden Caulfield, the name that Chapman signed in the paperback copy of The Catcher in the Ryethat he was carrying with him when he shot Lennon. The signature appeared under the words “This is my statement.”

In the months and years after Lennon’s murder, it was as if the secret life of The Catcher in the Rye came aboveground for the first time since the book’s publication in 1951. It was found in Hinckley’s hotel room after he was arrested, and in 1989 Robert John Bardo had a copy of it on him when he murdered the actress Rebecca Schaeffer. The next year, in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation, the con man protagonist holds forth on the book’s attraction to the violently disturbed, quoting Holden’s remark that his ever-present red hat is a “people-shooting hat.”

I hope to have a new mix up before the end of the month, if life doesn't get in the way.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bang On Byrds!

Lester Bangs in 1965, one year after the recording of the Preflyte tracks

Original 1969 cover of Preflyte on Together Records
Anyone whose followed this blog will know that the Byrds and Lester Bangs are two of my all time favorites, so I was pleased when I recently come across this glowing review Lester penned in Rolling Stone for the Byrds PREFLYTE album, a record released originally on Together Records in 1969 that consisted of demo recordings done in 1964 at World Pacific Studios before their signing with Columbia Records. In addition to loving the Byrds records, and note I love ALL of their records, even the last couple, they also happen to be one of the best dressed bands of the 60's so I figured I'd post some pics and videos in addition to Lester's piece. Enjoy!

October 18, 1969
The Byrds came along at a time when American rock needed a shot in the arm which would raise the music to the levels attained by the British groups and allow it to meet the emerging head culture. The Byrds did it; but the subtlety and aversion to gimmick that is found in their music and in themselves doomed them as a sleeper group, always popular and musically influential, but denied the superstardom conferred on more pretentious, melodramatic personalities by an industry geared to the Image. That they have survived at all (in whatever form, despite their own internal storms) is one of those joyous accidents for which we should all be grateful.
This album was recorded in August, 1964, at the very beginning of the Byrds' career and prior to their contract with Columbia. Slightly rough and sounding a bit dated, it still overflows with that unique unschmaltzy beauty and lyricism that has been the Byrds' trademark. Four of the eleven songs appeared on Mr. Tambourine Man, and they sound like less focused takes of something that later became masterful and transporting. But place this music in perspective: suppose it had been released in late 1964. Aside from the first two or three albums by the Beatles or the Stones, there was absolutely nothing out as good, as aurally visionary, as unpackaged as this.
By the time the Byrds were released to the public, several other groups — the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Spoonful — were working toward the same shift in the system, and few people realized what an innovation the Byrds were, both spiritually and musically. They took the basic lessons of the Beatles and the Stones, filtered them through Dylan and the less pretentious aspects of the folk scene, and came up with a big, new, visionary sound. Propelled by the ringing grandeur of McGuinn's electric twelve-string and Hillman's incredibly advanced bass playing, they created a stately, transcendent sound of magnificent brilliance, lifting listeners into bold new realms of dream, turning the stoned hordes from preachy, flatulent "folk music" to the vibrant new and old sounds of rock. And the Byrds' influence, in the years that followed, on everybody, from the Beatles to the Velvet Underground, is simply an undiminishing fact of life.
Preflyte: an album marking the beginnings, but an album of fine and fascinating music as well. Gene Clark's songs abound, and though Clark seemed for the most part a formula composer, all his songs had a certain lovely feeling that seldom palled. Declasse influences like Johnny Rivers turned to lucid, beautifully methodical harmonies in Clark's mind. "She Has a Way," for instance, utilized the "Spanish Harlem Incident" guitar lead and early Beatles composition, but like everything else the Byrds have ever done, it glided effortlessly over the puerility and crass, mindless imitation which dominated the scene in '64, to emerge as a shining, deeply felt piece of music.
Preflyte recalls the inception of a genius outfit that has contributed more to rock than anyone else on this side of the Atlantic. Even if you're not a hardcore Byrds freak, I hope you'll buy this album for that reason. At this late date, they deserve all we can give them.

For more on Lester's early years see this nice article at Ugly Things website.

Reissue of PREFLYTE from 1973 with cover art by Marvel comic book artist Barry Windsor Smith

Monday, January 6, 2014

Another Great Pete Campbell Moment

I've been re-watching Season Six of Madmen, yet another fine season that improves with repeated viewings- its been an amazing run for Madmen, due to end after this new upcoming season. Admittedly the last several seasons started slowly and even for me, disappointingly- to where I wondered if they might be losing their touch -but the show always picked up steam by the third or fourth episode with nary less than an, at the very least, interesting episode for the rest of each season. And with the large share of episodes of the last two or three seasons turning out to be some of the finest TV I've ever seen. This may sound like meager praise, but there's a lot of great writing going on in television these days, more so than film.

I've mentioned before how I find Pete Campbell to be one of the most interesting characters on the show, and this is in no small part due to the amazing job Vincent Kartheiser does in bringing nuance to his portrayal of Pete, very subtle shadings, that are there in the writing to a degree I'm sure, but would be lost on a lesser actor- things that make Pete frustrating, detestable, sympathetic, laughable and even at times endearing. Kartheiser achieves a lot of this subtlety with nonverbal bits of business; body language- especially posture and facial expressions, things that were almost certainly NOT written in the script but that create a real depth to the character.

In the Season Six episode, A Tale of Two Cities, Pete has another great moment of coping or rather not coping with the lack of respect accorded him by his co-workers and more importantly his superiors, who continually swat him away like a bothersome child, still treating him like the spoiled rich kid who was given a job as a favor, despite over the years having proven himself to be one of the few at the firm that continually pulls his weight and keeps his eye on the ball as far as business is concerned. In this episode Pete suffers the indignity of having new business snatched from under him by Joan (it was actually hers to begin with but she upended protocol and cut him out) and then failing miserably at his attempts to get her duly reprimanded for her actions- when he goes to Don for help, he tells him flat, if you don't like the business get out! Pete has yet again been made to feel small, unappreciated, lesser and like he's not playing by the same rule book as everybody else or is not privy to the real inside dope.

And so he wanders dejectedly into the creative lounge, stops, smells something, and then sees Stan smoking a joint and figures fuck it, grabs the joint from him, sits down and takes a long deep pull while watching a miniskirt go by and then exhales long and slow with an inscrutable expression- he's having  a moment, yet again Pete's having to get with a new program, a new way of handling things, seems like everyone is always moving the markers on poor old Pete, just when the thinks he has things figured. This scene makes me feel a myriad of things, some contradictory, most of which I don't have language or ability to express, which is why I find it so damn well written and acted and frankly moving.

The musical accompaniment for this Pete moment is Janis Joplin's version of "Piece of My Heart"- I'm not a big Janis Joplin fan, but this is an undeniably transcendent performance, and its also another deft Madmen pairing of image and and song that together conveys perfectly the mood of the character as well as tying in nicely with other themes running through the episode, most explicitly Joan having to reach out and grab hers in order to get a leg up in a male dominated work place. The scene of course works best when seen in context of the whole episode, but here's the clip, which frustratingly cuts a little too early, right when they cut to black and then have the credits ride over that verse that gives you chills "Didn't I make you feel, like youuu were the only man"- so I've also included Joplin's whole take of the song so you can sort of simulate this effect - pause the 2nd video at 23 seconds in and then hit it right after the first video ends. Or better yet buy Season Six or rent disc four and watch the whole thing. I've also included the original recording by Erma Franklin (Aretha's older sister) for historical interest and cause its damn fine!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's A New Day- James Brown Uptempo 1964-1970


It's a new year, and what better way to get on the good foot than a compilation of James Brown's uptempo classics from 1964 through 1970. This music is a sure fire cure for depression or whatever else may ail you. Get out of your mind and into your body. I have many fond memories of listening to these songs, most of which can't be shared in polite company, let's just say that if you got a woman who can't get to this music you should turn her loose. I make no claims for this being a definitive collection its just something I threw together on the spur of the moment from the digital sources I had at hand but I think it covers most of the uptempo high points of those years in roughly chronological fashion and I'm well chuffed with how it turned out. Now I'm off to eat some red beans and rice, a family tradition for New Years Day, my mom's family is from New Orleans. Track listing after the videos.

1. I Got You
2. Out Of Sight
3. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
4. Cold Sweat
5 I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)
6. I Got The Feelin'
7. Licking Stick- Licking Stick
8. Say It Loud- I'm Black And I'm Proud
9. Give It Up Or Turn It Loose
10. I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)
11. Mother Popcorn
12. Sex Machine
13. It's A New Day
14. Funky Drummer
15. Super Bad
16. Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved