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. 

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