31 October 2023

31 October 2023 - Cliff Richard - Devil Woman

If you know me, you know how much I love Halloween.

Not in the slightest.  

But I do love Cliff Richard, and this song, one of his biggest hits - and absolutely his biggest US hit - was a top 10 hit all over the world.  It sold two million copies worldwide, which was a staggering amount even when album and single sales mattered.  

The song is quite literally about a guy bewitched by a cat who goes to a medium - who, as it turns out, was the devil woman responsible for the bewitching in the first place.   There's no metaphor here.  It tells a story.   

30 October 2023

30 October 2023 - DJ Casper - Cha-Cha Slide

Did you even know this song had a name?

You might have, but more likely, you have danced to it at a wedding at some point.

Wikipedia says it best.  "As a line dance song, "Cha-Cha Slide" is often played at dance clubs, school dances, prom nights, birthday parties, ice-skating rinks and roller rinks, B’nai mitzvahs, Quinceañeras, weddings, and sporting events....."   

Let's face it.  It's a song with a group dance you don't need to think about much.  Mr. C tells you what to do.  Slide to the left.  Slide to the right.  Everybody, clap your hands.  Even your Aunt Tillie can do that one.

The song ended up being a legitimate chart hit in the early 2000s, all around the world.  It is, however, better known for making your grandma cha cha at your cousin's wedding.  

Sometimes, this song is billed to DJ Casper, and sometimes to Mr. C The Slide Man.  It's the same guy.  Either way, he passed away earlier this year, but his big hit lives on.  

It's such an enduring cultural phenomenon, it was featured on Orange Is The New Black.  Don't worry - Mr. C was there and he was safe.

27 October 2023

27 October 2023 - Pink Floyd - Learning To Fly

This song was the lead single from Pink Floyd's 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and was primarily written by David Gilmour, like so much of this era of Pink Floyd music.  

The song is often seen as a metaphor for David Gilmour taking over leadership of the band following Roger Waters's departure, and in that sense, it works.  But also, Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's drummer and a pilot, can be heard in the middle of the song, as if on an airplane radio.

The video was largely filmed in the mountains near Canmore, Alberta, which is a place I have been and mountains I have seen.  

The song was a big hit in the US - on the rock and, to a lesser extent, the pop charts.  This was due to a lot of MTV airplay.  It was NOT, however, a hit in their native UK.

In the post-Waters era, this song was a centerpiece of Pink Floyd shows.  It plays spectacularly live.

26 October 2023

26 October 2023 - Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet with Butterfly Wings

This is the last Smashing Pumpkins song I remember liking a lot.  I was a huge fan of theirs... for their first two albums.  Then they released the utterly self-indulgent Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album.

I was really excited to purchase that album until I heard it.  It was uneven and, well, overproduced.  

But the lead single from that album.... that was - is - a masterpiece.  It opens with Billy Corgan in acapella, as if to punctuate his sentence "the world is a vampire" with James Iha's guitar coming in on the last syllable.  The origins of the song do come from the Siamese Dream sessions, which probably explains why it's so much better than anything else on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

It also became a hit song - surprisinging, their first top 40 hit, reaching number 22 on the Billboard charts and rising on other pop and alternative charts worldwide.

This video is the last time Billy Corgan was seen with hair.  That's actually true - he shaved his head soon after the filming.

They did tour in support of this album, but the band self-destructed soon after.  This is a performance from 1995 that seems to interpolate their new sound as well - but it's still a great performance, one of the last with the classic lineup.

The band eventually broke up in 2000 only to reform in 2006 - and went through some lineup changes.  This iteration from 2023 does include the entire classic lineup except for D'Arcy Wretzky, who I , for one, miss - but that reunion is not likely to happen.

Despite using a different bassist, the band still sounds great, nearly 30 years after this song's initial release.

25 October 2023

25 October 2023 - T.I. ft. Kanye West, Jay Z, and Li'l Wayne - Swagga Like Us

If you know me in real life, you probably know where I'm eventually going with this post.  

This song is really T.I.'s by title, but it was written by all four artists - and there's a long list of people with songwriting credits on this one, including one Mathangi Arulpragasam, who goes by a stage name we're getting to - the song was written around a sample that includes her voice - and all the members of The Clash - because THAT sample contains a sample of one of THEIR songs.  We'll talk about Ms. Arulpragasam's song at another point.

The song was produced by T.I. and is pretty much nothing but a lot of boasting.  But it's a collaboration of four rap superstars and their massive egos sharing a song.  

The song won a Grammy for best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group - so all four of them are Grammy winners - and was nominated for Best Rap Song - so ALL those songwriters got nominations.

The song has only been performed live by all four of them one time by my knowledge, but here's where the fun of this post starts.

You know how I mentioned that song sampled by them that led to a songwriting credit for Mathangi Arulpragasam?  Well, that song was "Paper Planes", and Mathangi Arulpragasam is better known as M.I.A.  "Paper Planes", as it turns out, was nominated for Record of the Year at the same Grammy Awards as "Swagga Like Us".   

The same ceremony.

So wouldn't it make sense that she'd just do her sample for them live?

Slight issue: the Grammys happened to be on the same night as the night she was due to give birth.  

Which she did, a day and a half later.

So, you'd expect she'd do her little piece from the corner of the stage and rest?


She OUTSHINED those four gigantic egos with a massive pregnancy belly in what is arguably the greatest Grammy performance of all time.  She opened with "Paper Planes" and stayed center stage with the 4 of them the WHOLE time.   

24 October 2023

24 October 2023 - System Of A Down - Chop Suey!

Chop suey is a dish in American Chinese cuisine and other forms of overseas Chinese cuisine, consisting of meat and eggs, cooked quickly with vegetables ...

Oh, wait, that's not quite what we're writing about.  No, we're writing about "Chop Suey!"

This song is 22 years old as of this writing, which is probably a huge surprise to many of you.  It was released in 2001, and earned System of a Down a Grammy nomination - their first.  It is full of Biblical references - quoting Jesus on the cross at several points.  

But that title?  The song has nothing to do with Chinese food.  No, in fact, the song was originally titled, strangely enough, "Self Righteous Suicide"..... but they went with "Suey" - half of the word "Suicide" - or, in other words, "Chop"ped in half.  

Yep.  It's just that level of logic that makes for classic songwriting.

We haven't even talked about the song - which has several SERIOUS tempo changes, going back and forth between rock ballad and really fast speed metal.  It's like audio whiplash, and it's just fantastic.  

At the 2003 Reading Festival, the crowd seemed to enjoy the song.

When System of a Down performed the song in Armenia in 2015, they had not lost a single beat. The song seems to have softened ever so slightly - but still, the energy is really high.  

And also, the crowd is feeling it - in the rain!!!

23 October 2023

23 October 2023 - INXS - Devil Inside

Oh, crap, we're late on getting a post out.

Well, since so many of you love this spooky season so much (I very much do NOT), here's a spooky song for you. 

Written by Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence, it was the followup single to the breakthrough "Need You Tonight" in the US and became a worldwide hit, again.   It uses a super breathy Hutchence vocal over what Farriss called a ""Daytripper"-like guitar sound", which I don't really hear, but hey! I'm a blogger, not a musician.  Just enjoy the song.

Look at them go.

Look at them Kick.

This live version should also drive home that, although not the title song from the album, that the band was Kicking all over the place.

Also, the Hutchence stage presence is amazing, as always.

20 October 2023

20 October 2023 - The Rentals - Friends Of P.

The Rentals started off as a Weezer/that dog side project.  It turned into Matt Sharp's full time band.  

But who was P?  Who are they friends with?

Yes, P is not only a person, but a famous one. 

The debut album by Weezer was produced by former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek.  He did a great job on that album, and it was a bit of a family affair.  Frequently, Ocasek's wife, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, would join him.  In one of her conversations with Matt Sharp, Porizkova talked about how she had songs written about her... by bad metal bands.

So, Matt Sharp, friend of P., wrote a song about her.  

Turns out, she was better friends with Rivers Cuomo - at least according to Ric Ocasek, who called the song "silly".   He was not wrong.  

:Let's talk about the video.  None of these people were wearing glasses that actually matched their prescription.  If you go to about 2:40, you can see Petra Haden playing viola with a terrible headache because she was wearing such crazy glasses.  Ah, the pains of art.

Matt Sharp is the only constant in The Rentals, a project that still exists.  This live performance is from 1996, soon after the release of this song, and there were ALREADY lineup changes.

But also, live, the Moog synthesizer really shines through.  

19 October 2023

19 October 2023 - Santigold - I'm a Lady

It's weird that I start a post with a live version of a song, especially one that I have to start in the middle of a video because it's part of a longer performance - in this case, an NPR Tiny Desk live set.

Santigold is something of a weird artist.  She's a black artist making music that's a little punk, a little pop, a little rock, a little folk - not necessarily what is considered traditional black music - which, given that she started her career working for Epic Records's urban music division, is even more interesting.

She's pretty clear that this song isn't punk, though.  It's a song that wouldn't sound out of place in the Siouxsie and the Banshees catalog, or the Pixies - as would the rest of her debut album, Santogold.  That's not misspelled - that was her stage name at the time (her real name is Santi White).  

It makes sense to have you hear the studio version of the song, which features co-writer Trouble Andrew (probably better known as a snowboarder than a musician) as a second vocalist.  Since the song was never an official single, it was never released in an official video format - but that's OK, because these people in this video made one.

The video is wild.  The song is super cool.

Since this was her debut album, she immediately toured in support of it.  This performance is from the 2009 Lowlands festival in the Netherlands. Her stage presence is already felt at this point in her career.

Ten years later, she still had that stage presence.

It's important to note that she doesn't have Trouble Andrew and his husky voice to do his part of the song, so she has to adapt it to her voice.  She does so effortlessly.

18 October 2023

18 October 2023 - Sugar - Helpless

Once upon a time, there was a band called Hüsker Dü.  They were huge and then they broke up in 1988, because Bob Mould and Grant Hart had creative differences.  That happens.

Bob Mould went on to release two not-so-well-received solo albums.... but then, he formed a new band, Sugar.  Their debut album, Copper Blue, was grungy and dark and heavy. In 1990, the album would have been criminally ignored.   In a post-Nevermind world, it was a minor hit.  

This song was the big single from the album.It would be the band's biggest hit, rising on alternative charts worldwide.   It's a song that frequently gets stuck in my head, thirty years after its release.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album, Bob Mould went on a solo tour and played Copper Blue in its entirely.   Of course, that includes this song - and, in this performance, you can hear that the song was really all his.

17 October 2023

17 October 2023 - Ice Spice ft. Rema - Pretty Girl

Where the hell did Ice Spice come from?

She's everywhere now, even at your local Dunkin' Donuts.

I mean, who the hell thought to pair her with Ben Affleck?  But it works!

But really, she's making music - good, compelling hip-hop that she's writing (or, in this case, co-writing).  She does not shy away from bold collaborations, like this one with Nigerian artist Rema.  This song is both hot and cool at the same time.  Her current single - she's made four trips to the top 10 and this is sure to follow - it's got all the markings of a hit song.  

You know why I'm posting this, though.

She was on SNL this weekend.  She performed this song.  And her bestie interoduced her.

She's young,  she's new to the music business... and THAT is her new best buddy.  That should tell you everything you need to know about Ice Spice.

16 October 2023

16 October 2023 - Kendrick Lamar - Alright

Kendrick Lamar is possibly the most celebrated hip hop artist of his generation.  He's earned that, too - his rhymes hit a little harder than most, with a musical style that is unmatched.

This song, from his third album, To Pimp A Butterfly, was inspired by a trip he took to South Africa.  Co-written by Lamar, Pharrell Williams and Sounwave, it opens with lines from The Color Purple.  

The song's social consciousness and real beats brought Lamar two Grammy awards on its own in 2016 - the album won a third and another song won a 4th.  Lamar's performance in this video also earned a nomination - it's almost as if he's really rising above.

I don't usually like this generation of hip hop, but Kendrick Lamar is a notable exception, and "Alright" is a big reason why.

13 October 2023

13 October 2023 - U2 - Numb / Down All The Days

This is exactly what this blog was made for.

The Edge getting harassed.  

We keed, we keed.

When this song came out in 1993, the world was used to Bono as lead vocalist for U2 - so it was a little jarring for this song and video to be released with The Edge as lead vocalist (and Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. as backing vocalists).  He was also the lyricist, with the band writing the rather sparse backing music.  

The song actually started off as another song from the Achtung Baby sessions, but the band hated that song, sung by Bono. It wasn't until Flood and Brian Eno started remixing it and producing it with The Edge that it turned into this absolute masterpiece of minimalism and unhinged electronics.  It ended up being a centerpiece of the Zooropa album.  

I remember listening to this song with my girlfriend at the time, who I don't think quite liked the song at first.  (If my memory serves me correctly, she came around)  I always liked it - it was weird and interesting.

By the way, if you listen closely, you'll hear the song of a cassette tape in a Walkman rewinding - one of many samples included in the song.  

The video itself was so iconic, it was the subject of many parodies.   This one, made by VH1 to promote The New WKRP in Cincinatti.  The show was terrible.  The commercial was amazing.

This isn't a song that the band has performed live much - but they did on the 1993 Zoo TV tour.

The band did eventually release the original song they hated - "Down All The Days" - as part of the 30th anniversary reissue of Achtung Baby in 2021.  

They were probably right to not go with that song originally.  You can really hear the "Numb" in there, though. 

12 October 2023

12 October 2023 - Van Halen - Poundcake

This week has been a bit of a struggle for me.  Usually, posts come to me so quickly and easily.   This week, not so much.

For weeks like this, I like to have songs queued up - ones that appear to me in some way, shape or form.  Sometimes, that's helpful.  Today, that was helpful, because this is one of those songs.  

And this song really deserves to be queued.  Written by the band, it was the lead single of their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, which every kid on every playground knows spells "fuck" - you've tried to justify using the F-bomb because you were told it was a legal term, right?

That sound you hear at the beginning of the song is not Eddie Van Halen's Frankencaster (how the hell he played that thing, I'll never know), but a Makita power drill.  

Lyrically, this song ain't great.  Musically, the song is dense and interesting and one of the best guitar songs ever written and performed.  

Oh yes.  Eddie did use that drill live.  Take this performance from the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards - where the FrankenMakita is on full display.  

11 October 2023

11 October 2023 - Fatboy Slim - The Rockafeller Skank

It's been this long, and this is the FIRST time we've talked about Fatboy Slim in any real way.  Well, there was this remix, but that's it.  

Once upon a time, there was a band called The Housemartins.  They were a major label signed band that lost their bassist right before their debut, so Norman Cook stepped in for their five year existence.  The Housemartins were a guitar band, and that wasn't really what Cook wanted to do.

So, when The Housemartins broke up in 1988, a lot of the rest of the band formed another band called The Beautiful South, but Cook wanted to go electronic, so he formed Beats International, which was a loose collective of musicians.  That loose collective morphed into being just Norman Cook, and so he took on a stage name....

Fatboy Slim.

He hit his commercial success peak in 1998, starting with this song that everyone thinks is called "Funk Soul Brother", but it's not.  It's "The Rockafeller Skank".  In fact, the only lyrics is a sample from some Lord Finesse spoken word stuff.   The song features samples from eight different song.  

This song ended up being a top 10 hit in the US and worldwide, becoming Fatboy Slim's first major hit.

It's also impossible to not dance to this song......

.... which is clearly on display at the 2012 Olympic closing ceremonies. Yes, that's Fatboy Slim on the turntables.  

10 October 2023

10 October 2023 - Pixies - Velouria

I can confidently say this is probably the video that was filmed in the shortest amount of time.

23 seconds.

The band is running through a quarry.

You'd have to play it at about 10x speed to see it in real time.

MTV hated it SO MUCH they refused to play it.

It was made to be played on Top of the Pops, a UK show that required a video to list a song on their chart.

They didn't play it, either.  

Which is too bad.  The lead single from their Bossanova album was amazing.  It's got this alien surf sound going on, which is amazing.  The lyrics are odd, based in 1920's Rosicrucians folklore.  How Charles Thompson Iv - a.k.a. Black Francis - got his hands on 1920's Rosicrucian folklore is beyond me, but it makes for an interesting song.  

Yes, someone published the video at real speed.

Yes, they made another video.  No, it's not better.  Yes, it's the same quarry.

Yes, the song sounded amazing when the band performed it live in 2005 in an acoustic setting.

09 October 2023

9 October 2023 - Becky G x Karol G - MAMIII

Both Becky G and Karol G were at risk of becoming one-hit wonders in the US, with each of them individually managing a single top 40 hit - Karol with El Chombo and "Dame tu Cosita", and Becky with the out-of-character "Shower".

Surprisingly, this collaboration became the biggest hit to date for BOTH of them - Karol G would go on to have even bigger ones - but this song was a top 20 hit in the US, peaking at #15, and that's on English-language radio, so it's quite the achievement.  Additionally, the song was also one of the biggest hits of 2022 on Latin radio in the US and a huge worldwide hit, especially in the Spanish-speaking world.

The two artists co-wrote the song with Venezuelan artist Elena Rose. It is considered one of the greatest reggaton songs of all time.  That's not me saying that.  That's Rolling Stone.

The two artists have performed the song several times together live, the first time at the Coachella music festival in 2022.  I'd love to tell you it was groundbreaking, but it was pretty much as recorded, which speaks to the vocal strength of both women.

Becky G performed the song solo at the Billboard Women in Music Awards in 2023.  It hits a little differently as a solo song, but she's got a huge voice and can carry it.

06 October 2023

6 October 2023 - Olivia Rodrigo - bad idea right?

Posting about Olivia Rodrigo again?

It's a bad idea, right?

Fuck it, it's fine.

I've been posting a lot of Olivia Rodrigo lately.  I mean, a lot a lot!  I'm even considering pushing this post back as I write it.

But this song is just SO good.  It brings a strong 90's pop/rock vibe that still sounds fresh.  Written by Rodrigo and Dan Nigro, this instant classic keeps you involved to the end - and Petra Collins made a great video.

The whole Guts album is really solid and a strong contender for my favorite of 2023.  Literally every song on the album has been a US top 40 hit ALREADY, with this one making it into the top 10.   

05 October 2023

5 October 2023 - The Narcissist Cookbook - Courtney

I was in the car one day with my significant other and, well, her name happens to be Courtney.  We were browsing Spotify looking for songs with our names.  Of course, we found "Tony's Theme" but when we got to her name... we found this gem.

Matt Johnston is the folksinger who goes by the name The Narcissist Cookbook.   He writes some really sarcastic stuff.  After listening to this song and the spoken word diatribe after, I think he is convinced that Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain, but I cannot be sure.  

I am not convinced of that.  

I am convinced that this song is hilarious and will make you think.

Matt Johnston is also clearly a fan of In Utero. He also does a more stripped-down version of this song. 

04 October 2023

4 October 2023 - Phantogram - You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

It's been a while since we posted anything by Phantogram.  It's not because we aren't listening to them.  It's because we don't want to bore you with them.  

And yes, we know it hasn't been that long.  But we've posted Lights songs like three times since then.

Anyway, this was the lead single from their 2016 album, Three.  It was a minor radio hit - crossing over to mainstream charts and getting airplay in my hometown Rochester NY - on classic rock radio.  It was a more straight-ahead rock than their prior offerings, which were keyboard heavy.

You know, I don't remember Rochester radio ever mentioning that they were from Saratoga Springs....

Written by a team including Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel of Phantogram, the song is one to remember and is about relationships that get a little stale, as opposed to relationships tainted by getting high on one's own supply.  It's accompanied by a Grant Singer-directed video that's just great and leans heavily into the S&M imagery.  

As you all know, I saw Phantogram live when they toured in support of Three.  They are easily the second best band I've ever seen live.  (Elastica to answer the inevitable question).

I'd absolutely see them again, and they do actively tour.  Here they are in August 2023, performing this song... and following it with "When I'm Small" seamlessly.

03 October 2023

3 October 2023 - Minnie Riperton - Lovin' You

This is Minnie Riperton.  She was taken from us way too soon, dying of breast cancer in her early 30's.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976, less than a year after this single was released.  She was given only months to live.  

Despite that diagnosis, she continued to tour and record music, up until her death in 1979.  She did not tell the public she was terminally ill.  

But let's talk about this absolute masterpiece of a song.  Written by Riperton and her husband, Richard Rudolph,  The range she exhibits here is incredible, hanging out significantly in the whistle register.  It's a classic song that is remembered well, nearly 50 years after its release.  

It would be Riperton's biggest hit, reaching the top of the charts worldwide, and it remains in the culture to this day.

Also, she sings her kid's names in her songs.  In this one, she ends with the name of her daughter, Maya - who is pretty well known in her own right.   This song's melody was actually written to distract a baby Maya Rudolph, and that was a mom singing to her daughter to get her to settle down.   

This is the last known performance of this song, in 1979, just weeks before her death.  Her voice certainly didn't suffer.  Her right arm was paralyzed from complications to the cancer, but you won't notice that.  You'll just notice that exquisite voice.  And the addition of her son's name at the end.  

02 October 2023

2 October 2023 - The Muffs - Oh Nina

Four years ago today, the music world lost Kim Shattuck to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  What were we doing that day?

Nothing.  We didn't publish a goddamn thing in October 2019.  Partially because of Shattuck's death (seriously), I started posting on this blog more regularly.  I should have done an earlier tribute to her and her greatest achievement - not her couple of months with The Pixies, not The Pandoras - The Muffs.

The Muffs were a 4- or 3-piece band - depending on time period, but at the time of the recording of this song and their 2nd album, Blonder and Blonder, a 3-piece.  This recording here is not from the 1995 album, but 9 years later - but it sounds exactly the same.  Seriously.  Kim's voice was timeless.

I chose this song not because it was a big hit - it wasn't.  I chose this song because it was bombastic, and showcased Kim's raspy growl like few Muffs songs did.  

The Muffs toured until 2017, presumably stopping because of Kim's health.

She still had not lost a beat.

This is from the 2nd to last show the Muffs ever did. It sounds just as great as the first time they recorded it.

If you'd like to donate to the ALS Association, here's where to do that.