29 September 2023

29 September 2023 - Bobbie Gentry - Fancy

I grew up on country music.  My parents were big fans.   So, in the 1970s, I spent a lot of time hearing that music.   

Bobbie Gentry was one artist that came up over and over.   This was one of her biggest hits, reaching the top 40 on the pop charts - the second time she had done that - and the top 30 on the country charts - well, she did that a lot.

Bobbie Gentry was also a feminist.  This song was about turning to prostitution to escape poverty - but also, more than that.  It was about a woman gaining financial independence.  The song was released in 1969, so it was a little racy for its time.  


Bobbie Gentry is still around, but she disappeared from the music business in the 1980s.  If you want the other half of that story, you'll want to head over to Totally Covered.  


28 September 2023

28 September 2023 - The B-52's - Private Idaho

Why did a band from Georgia do a song about Idaho in 1980 - a state that they did not play in live until 2011 -  and why did they take it private?

Written by the band, the song reflects the mystery that is the state of Idaho to these beatniks from Athens, Georgia.  It's just that simple.  They didn't understand Idaho - so beautiful! so conservative!!  They kind of romanticized the state - it's not parody.   It ended up being their second Hot 100 hit, and became a dance club staple as well.

Plus, Gus Van Sant was a fan of the song - so much so that he titled a movie of his My Own Private Idaho. He first heard the song while he was visiting Idaho - apparently, they like the song the B-52's wrote for them - and the movie takes place largely in Idaho....

....unlike the band, who, as I previously stated, did not visit the state until 2011.  


Idahoans actually attended that 2011 show and took video.... of "Private Idaho" in Idaho, where you probably needed a ticket to see them live.... so, yeah, private.

27 September 2023

27 September 2023 - Boston - Amanda

What was Boston's biggest hit song?

I know you probably thought "More Than A Feeling".

No.

It was the lead single from their third album, released in 1986 after an 8-year recording time, Third Stage. Guitarist Tom Scholz really built an epic album - and one that didn't use synthesizers.  All over the liner notes.  Tom Scholz really wouldn't shut up about that.

Written in 1980, the song existed as soon as 1981 and in a leaked demo version in 1984 - which raised the anticipation for Third Stage - which ended up being a massive hit.  

The song entered the US Hot 100 on September 27th, 1986, and I swear I didn't know that date when I chose this date to publish this.   In the era of MTV dominance, this song reached #1 - for two weeks - without a music video (although one is rumoured to exist).  

"Amanda" isn't a real person.  The name fits with the flow of the song.  It's also a power ballad - which isn't something Boston really did, so they were a little embarassed by the song.   Nevertheless, Brad Delp belted the hell out of this song.  


Brad Delp tragically took his own life in 2007 - and the band did go on after that, but it wasn't the same.  This performance from 2004 shows he still had the ability to sing such a beautiful song with the proper level of emotion. 

26 September 2023

26 September 2023 - Butthole Surfers - Pepper

This song is, believe it or not, a parody.  

Of Beck. 

This is the Butthole Surfers writing the type of song - complete with slowed-down guitar riffs, spoken-work verses, and backmasked endings a la "Loser".  

It ended up being the biggest thing this very fringe band ever did - reaching the top 40 and getting POP RADIO airplay in 1996.

Pop radio airplay.  Wow, I cannot imagine those pop DJs having to say "Butthole Surfers" every day.

Worse, Capitol Records expected them to follow their success - which, of course, they could not, so they got dropped.  Which, artistically, was a good thing.  Although on a 7-year hiatus, the band, which formed in 1976 and had their biggest hit in 1996, is still together and not broken up.


A song like this is not exactly built for a live performance - but they did it.  They sure did it.

On French TV.  And other places, too, but this was my favorite.



25 September 2023

25 September 2023 - Belly - Slow Dog

I know what you're going to say.


I sure did.  This is what I said.
"(The) EP (that was released overseas prior to the band's US debut), by the way, was called "Slow Dust", based on two of the songs on there - "Dusted" and "Slow Dog".  Belly later released a remixed version of the latter song in this country, and they even made a fun video for it.  Check out Tanya's jangly guitar work.  And lyrically, the song loaded with enough metaphor to make Kristin Hersh proud."  - Literally me, 7 November 2012 
C'mon.  That was a "Feed The Tree" post, though.

Plus, I was less than a year into this thing, and I didn't know I would still be writing this a decade later.

So, let's give "Slow Dog" its due.  Written by Tanya Donelly, she's also your vocalist here.  The lyrics are loosely based on a Chinese folk story about an adulteress who has a decomposing dog tied to her for punishment. 
  

But it wasn't meant to be a Belly song.   None of the songs on Star, Belly's debut album, were meant to be Belly songs. Belly never should have been.

No, this was originally demoed as a song from the Breeder's second album.  This demo didn't feature Kim Deal, but some of the Star demos did.  These weren't intended for a post-Throwing Muses band.  The timing didn't work out on that album, so The Breeders did Safari with Tanya and moved on, and then Tanya did this with Belly.

This wasn't a song that Tanya had recently written, so the name in the chorus was "Mariah" in this version.  Well, the label loved the song about Mariah Carey - who wasn't a thing when the song was written but sure was when the demo was recorded - so "Mariah" became "Maria".   


The Slow Dust version of the song is a little different than the one that was released in the US on Star.  It's a little more lo-fi - maybe a little more Muses-y.  

I do prefer this version, but only because I heard it first.  


Belly has not been consistently together since the 1990s - Tanya has been working on other stuff, like occasional returns to Throwing Muses and The Breeders, a lot of solo stuff, and being a doula - but in 2016, they were, and they were spectacular.

This performance is from Newport, RI - where Tanya grew up.  



22 September 2023

22 September 2023 - Sky Ferreira - I Blame Myself

Free Sky Ferreira.

In 2013, she released her first album, Night Time, My Time, which was excellent.  This was the second single off the album, which is about Sky's public image - and her taking control and ownership of that (even though this wasn't a single chosen by her to follow "You're Not The One").

It's a great pop song.

So she recorded a second album, Masochism, which she finished in 2015.  

Depending on who you talk to, Capitol Records or Sky Ferreira are holding up the release of this album, which was due in 2015, 2018, and then 2022.  

It's been so delayed that, in August, fans bought a billboard in Times Square to ask for her freedom from Capitol Records.


Well, we hope to hear the new album soon, but in the meantime, she's got her first album's music to sustain us.  


No, we're serious.  She hasn't disappeared.  She's performing.  This is from July of this year.  And her voice is still strong.

21 September 2023

21 September 2023 - Kansas - Portrait (He Knew)

This song is prog rock at its finest.

Written by Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, this song was featured on the band's fifth album, the huge hit Point of Know Return.  It is the single that had the job of following the band's huge hit, "Dust in the Wind".  

What better way to follow that song with Biblical references than with a song about Albert Einstein?

The song is absolutely huge, starting off with a vaguely orchestral opener, with straight-ahead rock and violin in the main part - and a frenzy of hard rock in the third act.  It did end up getting radio airplay, and I just heard it in the grocery store the other day, so you know it had impact.  

This version is from the band's 1978 live double album Two For The Show and is, in my humble opinion, the definitive version. 


Famously, Steve Walsh left Kansas in 1981 due to creative differences, and was replaced by John Elefante - an excellent vocalist in his own right who did Walsh proud with his version of this classic song. 


Walsh returned to the band in 1985, and the band went through various lineup changes.  This was a verison in 1992 that included a lot of the original band, but lacked Livgren - who had been in and out for a while.

Walsh didn't quite have as huge a voice as he once did, but he didn't do badly.


When I saw Kansas in 2012, Steve Walsh had lost his voice completely and could not hit these notes.  So, he adapted.  

He would retire soon after.  


In 2014, Ronnie Platt would take over as Kansas vocalist and remains so to this day - and yes, they are releasing new music, still.

In 2018, the band toured in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Point of Know Return by performing the album in its entirety.  And it was really good.  

20 September 2023

20 September 2023 - King Missile - Detachable Penis

I rarely start by talking about the video, but I'm going to here.

You see, this video is directed by Richard Kern, who is best known for cutting-edge erotic stuff like Submit To Me and Fingered, the latter of which features Lydia Lunch in a portrayal of being sexually assaulted by a revolver.   

He's known to be showy.  

So, this video, which fits right into his style, is a natural choice for him.  

The song, which is a heavy guitar riff and organ over John S. Hall's trademark deadpan delivery, ended up being the band's biggest hit - and a song that was hard for them to follow up.  I mean, it's objectively hilarious.  How do you follow that?

It did make their 1992 album Happy Hour a commercial success.  It, however, did lead to the end of King Missile's second incarnation.


Most people who watched MTV only saw the censored version of the video, which is above.  The uncensored version features a dildo, and not a particularly realistic one.  Still, it beats a black bar.


There have been various incarnations of King Missile over the years, but in 2015, this lineup reunited and performed a show at Shea Stadium.

Yes.  That Shea Staduim.

I mean, not on the field.  Clearly under the bleachers.  But still.

They had not lost a single beat.  

19 September 2023

19 September 2023 - St. Vincent - Masseduction

"Masseduction" was the fourth single off St. Vincent's late 2017 Grammy-nominated album (check notes) Masseduction.   

Co-written by Annie Clark (who, if you've been paying attention, IS St. Vincent) (by the way, Krist Novocelic didn't pay attention) and Jack Antonoff (they also co-wrote another song with someone else), the song is just.... beyond cool and beyond hot.  It was critically acclaimed (more on that in a minute) with the whole album appearing on a lot of year-end lists.

This song might just be the best thing from that great album.  


I have to be honest.

I was going to post St. Vincent today.  I wasn't going to post this song. Then I found this performance, which was St. Vincent performing this song at the 2019 Grammys leading right into being joined by Dua Lipa for her song "One Kiss" and weaving the two songs together.  Annie's very simple performance of the song is, in my opinion, better than the original - and yes, Dua Lipa's backing vocals help.

I mentioned Masseduction was nominated for a Grammy.  So was "Masseduction" - Best Rock Song - and it won that Grammy.  

Dua Lipa also won - for Best New Artist - that same night.  That's not a coincidence.  


Annie Clark does not, however, need Dua Lipa to be a rock goddess.  We offer this performance from the 2018 Austin City Limits Festival as evidence to that fact.

18 September 2023

18 September 2023 - Elton John - I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

A lot of you were expecting an Elton John song last week.

Not this one, of course.  

With lyrics by Bernie Taupin, and music by John and Davey Johnson, the song has a 50s feel, but the lyrics.... wow.  They are emotional and evocative.  The video tells a story of a couple separated and then reunited.   

It's a beautiful song, and it went to #4 on the US charts in 1983, with similar performance elsewhere in the world.  

There really isn't a lot to say about this song.  It's just a good song.


Except there's a lot more to say.  Mary J. Blige re-recorded the song with Elton John, and versions done by both of them have appeared on BOTH of their albums - this one from a 2000 live album by Elton John (it also appeared on a 2006 album by Blige).  


Mary J. isn't the only partner John has sung this song with.

Elton John has famously toured with Billy Joel a couple of times, and in 1998, this song was done by them, together, on TWO pianos.


In 1983, I was 11.  

I didn't appreciate a slow-paced emotional love song in 1983.

In 2023, I appreciate that Elton John has stuck with music long enough for me to appreciate and even like the song.  He's on what seems like his 94th farewell tour now, and this is him performing the song in 2022.  Yes, his voice has lost a little.  Yes, the song still hits.  

15 September 2023

15 September 2023 - Doja Cat - Boss Bitch

This song was the third single from the soundtrack album for the movie, and brace yourself for this title, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

I cannot endorse the movie, but this song, which is clearly tied to the titular Harley Quinn, is incredible.  It's an anti-hero anthem, it uses COWBELL, and you will be singing the chorus to yourself all day long.  

Also, "boss bitch" is a term of endearment.  Isn't language fun?

It's like racquetball for your mouth!

The song was a Billboard Hot 100 hit, peaking at number 100.  So, barely.  But it's still a banger, so here it is.  


Doja Cat rarely performs this song live, but when she does, it's spectacular.  



14 September 2023

14 September 2023 - Meredith Brooks - Bitch

Did you expect us to end this clearly themed week on this song?

We do not roll like that.

This song was Meredith Brooks's debut SOLO single (she previously had a hit with the band The Graces) and her biggest hit by far, becoming a worldwide sensation and a #2 song on the US pop charts.   She was 38 when the song was released - which, in a youth-centered industry like the music industry, is incredible.  

The song's single word title is frequently used as an insult, but Brooks, who co-wrote the song, was looking to reclaim the word as a term of endearment.  She certainly did not feel ashamed to release this as her debut single, although Capitol Records was hesitant, as, well, "bitch" is a naughty word.  She was right and they were wrong - and they did eventually relent.   

The video, by the way, is super-flowery.


"Bitch" was released in a time when Lilith Fair was a thing.  That probably helped the song's popularity, and definitely gave her a place to be to promote the song on tour.

The 1997 crowd loved it, by the way.


I appreciate an artist that doesn't make a crowd wait.  In this 2022 performance - when she's 64 and still freaking rocks - she performed the hell out of this song as the OPENING of her set.  By the way, stick around and watch the whole video - because she's got more than one song.

13 September 2023

13 September 2023 - Megan Thee Stallion - B.I.T.C.H.

Megan Thee Stallion is an artist who is pretty tough.  Her lyrics are empowering and sometimes angry.  This song, when she takes ownership of the word "bitch" and uses it in response to a not-so-great suitor.  The song is very much inspired by 2Pac's "Rather Be Ya Nigga", which she heavily samples.

This song also predates the time that she was shot by Tory Lanez.  Yes, that is a thing that happened.  

I have to tell you, it took me a while to get Megan Thee Stallion - I didn't like her much at first - but I'm on board now.   The more music she makes, the better she gets - and she's only 28.   She's got a lot of years go great music ahead of her.  We are here for it.

Anyway, back to the song.  It was a top 40 hit, even with the coarse language.  

12 September 2023

11 September 2023

11 September 2023 - Ludacris - Move Bitch

I know.  It's a sacred day for a lot of people.  Some people are going to think it is wholly inappropriate for us to start this week like this.  

I promise you there's a tie-in to what happened on this date in 2001.   

This single was released in 2002, the fourth single from Ludacris's 2001 album, Word of Mouf. The crass title - a reference to a common pejorative that either refers to a loud mouth woman or, more likely, just someone who was pissing Ludacris off that day - was frequently changed to "Move" to get it some radio airplay.  

Which it got.  The song was Ludacris's first Top 10 hit.  


Now, the song is at least potentially misogynistic, and is absolutely violent.  You can't sugarcoat that.

In 2004, the song was adopted by Democrats, with the titular pejorative changed to "Bush" - which made it the perfect song for people who were opposed to the Patriot Act and other slights to our liberties, as well as our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan regime change wards, that happened in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Move, Bush, get out the way.

In 2017, with Ludacris's support, the lyrics were changed AGAIN to target someone different.


The song, steeped in violence, became a non-violent way to protest a president who declined to denounce the racists in Charlottesville, VA. and fostered division in our courtry.  

08 September 2023

8 September 2023 - Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland - Dilemma

This duet was a bigger deal than you remember.

It spent ten weeks on the tops of the charts - replacing another Nelly song, by the way.  

The songwriting team behind the song was the same team that defined the Philadelphia Soul sound in the 1970s.

It won a Grammy.  

It brought the term "boo" into the vernacular.   

It gave Kelly Rowland her biggest post-Destiny's Child hit and made people remember that the group was a lot more than just Beyoncé. 

This single caused Beyoncé to delay HER album release, in order to get out of Kelly's way.  

It sparked a SEQUEL!  Yes, there's a sequel song.  

So yeah.  It was a big deal.    

But none of that matters, really.  It's a good song that tells the story of two people infatuated with each other, and does so in a smooth way.  


When you have two huge stars like Nelly and Kelly Rowland involved, it's not easy to get them together live, but it does happen occasionally.  

And when it does, it is spectacular.  

07 September 2023

7 September 2023 - R.E.M. - What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

In 1986, TV journalist Dan Rather was assaulted by 2 men in New York City - and these assailants kept repeating the phrase, "Kenneth, What's the frequency?"   

This phrase translated into a 1994 single, the first from R.E.M.'s 9th album, Monster. According to lead singer Michael Stipe, the lyrics are from the point of view an old guy who knows everything about Generation X based solely on what he's reading in the media, which, of course, is utter and complete bullshit.  

The song is a cautionary tale, people.  

It's also a complex song, with a lot of fuzzy guitar... but you might notice the pace slows down at the end, almost as if they are running out of breath. Well, that's partly true - as they were recording the song, bassist Mike Mills slowed down his pace... and the rest of the band followed along.  Well, it turns out that Mike Mills had appendicitis and was in a lot of freaking pain.  Rather than rerecord the song at full speed, the band chose to rush him to the hospital.

See if you can find the point where Mike's appendix started to burst.


Normally, I try to sprinkle in a live performance, but in this case, they all sound like the studio.  R.E.M. is funny that way. 

I figured you'd like to see what it looks like when Dan Rather tries to sing with the band.  Seriously.  This is Dan Rather, singing with R.E.M. He would go on to tour with R.E.M. keep his day job.

06 September 2023

6 September 2023 - Haddaway - What Is Love

What, indeed, is love?

Baby, don't hurt me..

This infectious song was #11 pop hit in the US in 1993, and again was a hit in 2008.   Written by a couple of producers, they drafted a guy named Nestor to sing the song.

Nestor Haddaway.  His name was Nestor Haddaway.   

It would be Haddaway's only significant hit, but if you;'re only going to have one hit, this is the one to have. Of German and Trinidadian descent, Haddaway created a hell of a Europop club classic that endures to this day.


You knew we had to get there, right?

That's right.  Haddaway performing his hit live in 2022.  And the crowd loves it!


No, no, you wanted Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell, didn't you?

Indeed, the two of them created a popular Saturday Night Live sketch about a couple of idiot club rats from Boston who had their own head-bobbing dance style when it came to this song.

They turned their characters into a terrible 1998 movie, A Night at the Roxbury, that ended up making about $30 million at the box office.  It also brought this song back into prominence again, as it featured on their briskly-selling soundtrack.

So, here you go.  A compilation of Chris Kattan and Wll Ferrell dancing like morons.

05 September 2023

5 September 2023 - Smash Mouth - Walkin' On The Sun

I have to be honest.

Going into the weekend, I had no plans to post Smash Mouth songs.  I mean, I did post ther biggest hit a couple of years ago.   

Then, on Sunday, news broke that Steve Harwell was in hospice care and near death.  I didn't read that news until Monday morning, and that news was quickly followed by news of Harwell's passing.  

So, that changed some plans for the week.

I saw Smash Mouth live several years ago, with Steve Harwell on vocals.  This song was, of course, a highlight of that show - it being their first single and a pretty big hit.  From San Jose, California, this song was written by guitarist Greg Camp and heavily influenced by the then-recent Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles - I have to imagine that hit differently in California, even in San Jose, which isn't all that close to LA.  


Of course, record labels will push songs with a little social consciousness with an organ accompanyment as a party song.  Even though it wasn't - the lyrics are a little darker than the music lets on - Steve Harwell sold it and made it a top-tapping classic.  His live performance of the song was always a highlight, and it was a highlight on this 1997 Tonight Show clip.  

01 September 2023

1 September 2023 - Willow - Whip My Hair

Willow was billed as Willow, but her name is Willow Smith,  She is the daughter of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith.  This single was released in October 2010.   She was born on Halloween, in the year 2000. 

So, do the math.  She recorded and released this single when she was 9.  

Nine.

Nine.  

I was still playing with my Hot Wheels at age 9.

Willow Smith was recording a top 20 song.  

And not just any song.  "Whip My Hair" was her debut single, and it not only was a hit, the song is absolutely a bop.  It was a club hit.  It was a kid's radio hit.  It was everywhere.  The song was, and is, iconic.  

And she did this at 9.


In this live performance five years later, I think it is clearer than in the original video just how talented a hip-hop artist Willow Smith is. She's got stage presence, and a command of the microphone.  


As of 2022, she wasn't really playing the song live with her band anymore - she's gone in a more rock direction - but does do it acapella on request at her shows, like this one at the iHeart Radio festival.


One thing Willow always wanted to do was shave her hair during a performance of this song, and, with her full gand playing, she did just that.

Also, this version really really rocks. Willow is a hell of a frontwoman and should still have a long career ahead of her.