28 February 2022

28 February 2022 - Death From Above 1979 - Black History Month

This song would have fit in February OR March.  We didn't have time in either month to fit it in last year, but I sure wasn't going to miss the opportunity this year.  

When I stumbled upon this tune by Canadian indie-rock darlings DFA 1979, I began to think that I should have done a thing for February last year, like I did for March.  I feel like we missed an opportunity there.  So, even though this song really doesn't fit this month's theme, it makes for a nice transition between months.

This song got its title not because it was about black history, but because it was written in February... maybe it was meant to be plugged in exactly where it was this year.  

No elephant masks were harmed in the making of this video.  Mostly because they left them out, for some reason.  

25 February 2022

25 February 2022 - Squeeze - Hourglass

Quick, what was Squeeze's biggest hit?

Did you immediately think "Tempted"?  Or "Black Coffee In Bed"?

Nope.  This song reached #15 on the Billboard charts in 1986, making it the biggest hit the band ever had in the US.   A rare songwriting collaboration by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, the song is lyrically word salad.  Musically, it's typical Squeeze.

24 February 2022

24 February 2022 - INXS - The One Thing

I was really late writing this today.   So, yeah, I dipped into my leftover Hall of Fame bag for this one.  Enjoy what was the first major international hit by INXS, Australia's greatest export.  Of course, after Vegemite.  And Paul Hogan.  And koala bears.  

The strength of this song in Australia led to record deals for INXS outside of Australia - and their worldwide fame.  

23 February 2022

23 February 2022 - twenty one pilots - Heathens

This song, from the 2018 movie Suicide Squad, is the biggest hit twenty one pilots have had thus far, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for five weeks in 2016.

The song is a fusion of straight-ahead rock and hip-hop. It's a dark song, for sure.  It is likely the best thing to come out of the Suicide Squad movie - and it ain't just me saying this.  

22 February 2022

22 February 2022 - XTC - Dear God

On this palindromic day, we bring to you a letter to God.

Written in the voice of an agnostic questioning his own existence, the song is an indictment of organized religion - mostly on the atrocities man has done in the name of God throughout history.  Eight year old girl Jasmine Veillette provides vocals for the opening and closing of the song, but most of it is normal XTC vocalist and songwriter Andy Partridge.  

The song was quite controversial, left off initial pressings of the Skylarking album over what ended up being completely founded (although misguided - threats of violence over disagreement are, in my opinion, really stupid) concerns over backlash. Its popularity got it added to subsequent pressings, and it is one of XTC's best remembered songs, even though others were bigger hits.

21 February 2022

21 February 2022 - Destiny's Child - Bootylicious

I'm not going to lie to you.  I almost did a double on Friday with "Edge of Seventeen" and this song.  They share a 16th note-filled riff - which co-writer Beyoncé heard on a plane and loved.  Originally, it was going to be recreated in-studio, but a decision was made to go with a sample instead.  

The song is primarily sung by Kelly Rowland (who hates the song, by the way), with Beyoncé taking the lead on the chorus and Michelle Williams on the bridge.  I know, in 2022, it's hard to think of Beyoncé being overshadowed by anyone - but these were three women who could harmonize and all sound great together.  

The release of this song resulted in the word "bootylicious" being added to the Oxford Dictionary.  I'm serious. Go look if you want.  

By the way, whether or not Stevie Nicks was on board with Destiny's Child sampling her famous guitar riff should be answered if you watch the first ten seconds of the video.... but she's also a credited writer. 

18 February 2022

18 February 2022 - Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen

This song was Stevie Nicks's third solo single, from her first solo album.  It just narrowly missed being a top 10 hit - peaking at #11 - but endures to this day.  The song was written as a reaction to the deaths of Nicks's uncle and also John Lennon - the "white winged dove" was representative of death, in this case.  

But c'mon.  We're here to talk about that guitar riff, right?  It's a bunch of 16th notes strung together, and it unrelenting throughout the song.  Those familiar with The Police know that the riff is remarkably similar to one featured in one of their songs, "Bring On The Night", but it wasn't a straight lifting and was done with complete authorization - as Andy Summers and Stevie Nicks had discussed it in 1981.  

17 February 2022

17 February 2022 - Dire Straits - Skateaway

In 1980, roller-skating was really cool.  

Trust me.  

So it was a good time to release a skate-themed song...  

But a rock band like Dire Straits releasing a song at the tail end of the disco era about something that was tied into the disco theme.....THAT was an achievement.  Sure, it was light rock, with pop overtones - and ended up being a minor radio and major MTV hit - but still.  Achievement.  

And yes, that's a steel guitar in this rock/disco song.  So, even more fusion.

16 February 2022

16 February 2022 - Fetchin Bones - Stray

This song isn't actually about a dog.  No no, it's about a guy.

This song, the lead track from their 1987 album Galaxy 500, is one of my favorites by them. Produced by the great Don Dixon, it's kind of like a country grunge romp - that, in 1987, the world was not ready to hear yet.   

The version here is a later live version of the song, which captures perfectly the energy that Hope Nichols brought to literally everything she did. 

15 February 2022

15 February 2022 - The Jody Grind - Eight Ball

The Jody Grind were from Atlanta.   They made a couple of great albums and then their band was struck by tragedy, when they lost two members in a car crash.

This ended the band.  It didn't end the music - a group called Kick Me rose out of the ashes, and then vocalist Kelly Hogan (Hogan Murray at the time) has had a solid solo career on the strength of her smoky vocals since.  

However, the music of The Jody Grind lives on.  They did a lot of wild and obscure covers, but this original song has something of an old-timey feel, which felt fresh and new in 1990. 

14 February 2022

14 February 2022 - The Judybats - Daylight

It's amazing to me that The Judybats - from Knoxville, TN - weren't a bigger deal than they were. Their music was delightful and deep.

This song, which wasn't a hit for them at all, is a sweet song about depression.  The subject matter is a woman who has recently 'up and disappeared' - presumably by suicide.  The tailspin she fell into is captured in this song that seems a little too chipper for the subject matter. 

Mental health is a real problem, and holidays such as the one being celebrated today can be a trigger. If you or a loved one finds yourself in a situation where suicidal ideations are apparent, please call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.

11 February 2022

11 February 2022 - Louane - Aimer à mort

This song, by French star Louane, is about a love that doesn't die, even without touching, even without breathing, even from afar, and is so strong it hurts.  You don't need to speak French to feel the emotion of this song. 

From her 2020 album, Joie de vivre, the song became yet another hit single for the French hitmaker, who in 2020 also gave birth to her first child, Isabel - which drove a lot of the subject matter of this album.   

10 February 2022

10 February 2022 - Madonna - Crazy For You

Do you remember the movie Vision Quest?  Released in 1985, it was a romantic drama starring Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino.  It was a moderate success, grossing $13 million at the domestic box office, with rental revenue doing a little better than that.

However, it wasn't called Vision Quest everywhere in the world.  In some countries, the movie was titled Crazy For You, and this song was the reason.  A young Madonna appeared in the movie and performed this song, which ended up being her 2nd number one hit in the US and her biggest hit to date.  The title change was put in place to capitalize on the success of the song.

When the song was recorded, Madonna was an unknown, but by the time of its release, she had a couple of big pop hits under her belt.  This was her first ballad - and broadened her appeal.  The song itself is a sweet, straightforward love song that captures that feeling that so many have experienced.  

09 February 2022

9 February 2022 - Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade Of Pale

What happens when Bach's "Air on a G String" is turned into a popular song?

Apparently, it becomes an anthem that's considered one of the greatest anthems of the 20th Century, and one of the theme songs of the Summer of Love of 1967.  Procol Harum's debut single, it is one of the best selling physical singles of all time - selling more than 10 million copies - and was one of the first SONGS induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  

All this, from a little song about drunk sex.  

08 February 2022

8 February 2022 - Beyoncé - Hold Up

Some days, I have a clear plan for what I'm going to post.   Sometimes, I don't.  Today's post is the latter.  

I'm not generally a huge fan of Beyoncé.  I mean, she's all right.  However, when I was writing this post about the song "Maps", by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I found that this song made a direct reference to it.  Repeatedly.  "They don't love you like I love you."  Karen O and the rest of the songwriters got a songwriting credit on this.  This song also interpolates "Turn My Swag On" by Soulja Boy, who ALSO gets a songwriting credit.

Since the song was Grammy nominated, that would have been a lot of statues had it won.  

The song is something of a joyful calypso.... musically.   It's really chill, really cool.  Lyrically, though.... whoa.  It's angry and heavy and, well, it explains why Bey is walking around with a goddamn baseball bat beating the shit out of everything.

Anyway, I'm a huge fan of this song.   Check it. 

07 February 2022

7 February 2022 - Rage Against The Machine - Freedom

This song, an early hit single by Rage Against The Machine, clearly states "anger is a gift."  It's a great song, and you should enjoy it.  

That's not what we're going to talk about here, though.  

No, we're going to talk about Leonard Peltier, Native American activist and mainstay of the American Indian Movement.  On June 26, 1975, two unmarked cars - which were driven by FBI agents who were investigating AIM - drove onto private property on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  A fire fight began, with two FBI agents and one Indian killed.  

A huge manhunt followed, and three AIM members were arrested.  Two were acquitted, but Peltier was extradited from Canada - based on documents supplied by the FBU that contained false information - and convicted, sentenced to two life sentences in 1977.  Key witnesses did assert that their testimony was coerced and later recanted their testimony against Peltier.  Evidence of Peltier's innocence has been brought to light, but ignored by the appellate courts and by Presidents Clinton and Obama, both of whom denied Peltier's appeals for clemency. 

There is worldwide support for clemency for Peltier, including from Pope Francis, the attorney who supervised the prosecution of Peltier, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the Dalia Lama, and many others.  

So, Rage Against The Machine used their MTV platform to bring attention to the Peltier case, and I'm going to honor that by bringing that attention here as well. 

04 February 2022

4 February 2022 - The Cure - Lovesong

The Cure were a leading alternative band in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  They didn't really get a lot of mainstream success..... until this single in 1989 vaulted them into the Billboard Top 10.  

It's not like they altered their style to get that hit.  The song was someone morose-sounding, but its subject matter.... well, it was a love song.  This wasn't a typical Cure song, because it was lyrically upbeat, and not trying to be clever - it was just a straightforward love song.  

And, it's one of the most beautiful, lyrically simple songs ever written and performed.  

03 February 2022

3 February 2022 - Kelly Willis - Baby Take A Piece Of My Heart

In hindsight, MCA Records did a really REALLY bad job marketing Kelly Willis.  She recorded three albums for them, plus there was a compilation (which included her fantastic version of Dave Alvin's "Little Honey").

Take this video, which was a minor country hit in 1991.  The song is an emotional powerhouse, about an imminent breakup, with some significant snark included.  How many wardrobe changes does she need for that?  Because there are no less than six of them, and probably a lot more. 

Still, the video does NOT detract from the great musical performance that is typical of Kelly Willis.  

02 February 2022

2 February 2022 - Lennon Stella - Older Than I Am

Yeah, I felt guilty about yesterday's post, because there are two Stella sisters and they are both fantastic.

If you are - were, I guess - a fan of the ABC/CMT television show Nashville, then you already recognize Lennon Stella.  She and her sister Maisy played sisters on the show - and are sisters and musicians in real life.  We featured them several years ago on Totally Covered.  

Well, these sisters, from Ontario, Canada, like so many of our greatest actors, still perform together, but they also have solo careers in their own rights.  Here is one of the great singles from the elder Stella sister's solo debut, Three. Two. One. Perhaps surprisingly, her music isn't generally seen as country music, but more quiet pop music.  This song's video features a lot of home movies featuring both Stella sisters.

01 February 2022

1 February 2022 - Maisy Stella - Riding Free

The Stella Sisters got way more than their share of musical talent. Her older sister has the more current record as of this writing, but Maisy Stella has multiinstrumental and vocal talent in spades.   

This was the younger Stella's debut single, her take on the theme for the Dreamworks series Spirit Riding Free.  It is an uplifting, happy song, and her youthful voice (she was 13 when it was recorded) is perfect for the feeling the song is trying to convey.  

I know it's technically a cover - she took over the existing theme song in season 3 of the show - but it's here.  Don't @ me.