30 November 2023

30 November 2023 (Special Edition) - The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God

When I think of the Pogues, I think back to my days at St. Bonaventure University.  I ran in many different circles of friends there, each of whom frequented a different bar.  The Pogues are a band that remind me of Hickey Tavern, in Allegany, NY - the smaller of the two towns that bordered St. Bonaventure, which was not legally in Olean, either.   

I don't really have a particular reason why I associate the Pogues with the Hickey, but I do.

I do know that there was one friend I have, who passed away several years ago, to whom a lot of our mutual friends will dedicate the first play of the season of "Fairytale of New York". That friend was Jonathan Fabian.   

Jon was a really kind soul, who I got to be a better friend to after the days of SBU and as Facebook came to be.  He announced the deaths of celebrities with "*celebrity* is dead.  Long live *celebrity"!"  So, when I heard of Shane McGowan's passing, there was only one thing to say.

"Shane McGowan is dead.  Long live Shane McGowan!"

Well, since Scott posted "Fairytale" 11 years ago, I felt this was an appropriate song for today.  McGowan will be missed by those he touched, as is our friend by those he touched.

30 November 2023 - Awkwafina - Pockiez

So, yesterday, Spotify released their Spotify Wrapped 2023 to all its loyal subscribers, which shows you what you listened to in 2023.   My top song didn't surprise me - I listened to "Sugar Water" like it was going out of style.

My top artist sure did.

A woman not really known for music so much as being that Asian foul-mouthed comedian woman from Queens, Awkwafina, the stage name for Nora Lum, was my top played artist on Spotify in 2023.


How many times did I freaking play "My Vag"?

Anyway, she DOES have more than the one song.  She released an entire album, and even made some videos, mocking how poor she was - a recuring theme from her music.  This doesn't really apply to her life anymore, as she is a successful actress with a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Vag... er, Actress.  It DOES speak to her modest upbrinigng... and love of cannabis.  

29 November 2023

29 November 2023 - Rihanna - Don't Stop The Music

I'm really late getting one out today because of Spotify Wrapped.  Wow, that's a lot of fun and I'm happy to say that 4 of the top 5 songs were featured in this blog this year.   

I don't want you think I'm going to shut down anytime soon, so let's keep the music going with one of the few Rihanna songs I find bearable.

28 November 2023

28 November 2023 - Creed Bratton - Rubber Tree

This link on this should have been www.creedthoughts.gov.www\creedthoughts

It was addressed during the TV show The Office, but Creed Bratton was playing a fictionalized version of himself on the show.  You see, he used to be in a band called the Grass Roots, and is a legitimate musician.  The SAG Award-winning actor also has albums, both solo and with The Grass Roots.

There's a podcast, called Office Ladies, which is hosted by Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela), who are also best friends in real life (and wrote a book together).  The theme song, if you listen to the end of each episode, is a song called "Rubber Tree" by Creed Bratton.  I always figured it was because they were supporting their good friend - and Creed has been a guest on their podcast.

But it's more than that.  You see, Creed performed this song with The Scrantones - who are best known for their big hit "The Theme Song to the Office (U.S.)" and their appearance on the episode titled "Booze Cruise" - at the wrap party for The Office.   Here is that performance.

Here is Creed performing the song live with special guest Ed Helms (Andy Bernard) on the banjo.   It's a sweet little song. 

27 November 2023

27 November 2023 - Daniel Moore - Shambala

We took a Thansgiving break.   We deserved it.

We're back with a lesser-known song by singer-songwriter Daniel Moore.  Released in 1973, there;s a reason why I call this huge hit song "lesser-known."  You seen the song went to #3 on the pop charts in 1973, and everyone was singing about this mythical place, supposedly in Peru.

This was not the version that made it to #3.  It's still a pretty good version, though.  The version that DID was covered very quickly after this release by Three Dog Night.  

If you know the Three Dog Night version (and you should - it's on Totally Covered today) you can hear a slight difference.  This version rhymes the title with "Ham Bala", and not "Prom Bala", as the Three Dog Night version does.

Still, it's good.  Here is Moore with JJ Cale live in 1993.

22 November 2023

22 November 2023 - Evanescence - Call Me When You're Sober

This song, Evanescence's third top ten hit in the US (and three years after their 2nd), was co-written by Amy Lee and Terry Balsamo - who started off working on very different songs musically.  They played what they were working on and decided to merge the songs.

What emerged was arguably their most heartfelt single, with both the heavy sound that was the band's hallmark and very emotional lyrics. The lyrics were clearly written by Lee, and were very clearly about her ex-boyfriend, Shaun Morgan of the band Seether - who didn't really appreciate a song that painted him under the influence of an addiction as a bad guy.  

I have to be honest - I was not a fan of Evanescence's 2003 debut, despite recognizing Amy Lee's huge voice.   Their 2006 album changed things for me.   It was simply better, more mature.  

This live performance form 2007, which starts with a quiet Lee on piano and ends with her whippin' her hair back and forth mid-stage, really showcases the power of the entire band - the ability to do the quiet and the loud, and that''s probably one of the things I like te most about this song.

Fast forward to 2021 - the band is still rocking hard, although Amy Lee is whipping her hair less.  The performance is largely identical, fifteen years after the initial single release.

21 November 2023

21 November 2023 - The Who - Behind Blue Eyes

I was never a huge fan of The Who.

This song is a noteworthy exception.  Written by Pete Townsend, it was originally meant to be part of a rock opera follow up to Tommy.  It's a beautiful song, and it was a top 40 hit in the US in 1971.  Was it their biggest hit? No.  It is, however, one of their best known songs today.

The Who are, believe it or not, still together, and still perform one of their fans' favorites.  Here they are from 2022.

20 November 2023

20 November 2023 - Tin Machine - Under the God

One day, David Bowie decided he didn't want to play alone anymore, so he put together a band.   It was a supergroup, too - with Reeves Gabrels, Tony and Hunt Sales - these were guys with illustrious resumes.  

This was their first single, from their 1989 eponymous debut, and their biggest hit.  They would stay together for two albums and a live set, before disbanding for good in the early 1990s.  

The music they made was noisy, and fuzzy, and energetic, the sound bordering on punk with obvious post-punk influence.  

Bowie, who wrote the song, is pretty clear in this live version what his song is about - racism.  I wonder if he'd think his song still applies today (hint: yes)?

17 November 2023

17 November 2023 - Alice In Chains - Angry Chair

Short one today.

This one is stuck in my head, and it was one of my favorite AiC songs when it was released, so I thought, hey, why not write a post that's all about it?

The song is kind of a slow burn of anger.  Written entirely by Layne Staley, the song is about a guy who is angry and has been for a while.... and has come to accept it.    It's brilliant, and showcases Staley's talents beautifully.

16 November 2023

16 November 2023 - Pat Benatar - Heartbreaker

Pat Benatar made her debut in 1979 - a hard rocking solo woman act who debuted just as music videos were taking off.

This was her second single, and the first of hers to hit the pop charts - reaching the top 30 in early 1980, while also sticking around for more than four months.  Is it her most recognizable song?  No, of course not.  But without "Heartbreaker", a great, hard-rocking song that also hit it big on rock radio - we might not have all the rest of the Pat Benatar early catalog that helped launch MTV.  

You know I always love to put a live nugget into these posts.  I felt the duet Benatar did with the country version of Pat Benatar - Martina McBride - was a good choice.  

No word if the country fans watching became apoplectic, but the fans in the audience loved it.

15 November 2023

15 November 2023 - Françoise Hardy - Tous les garçons et les filles

This song - a song of a lonely person looking in envy at those in love around her - was a massive hit in France in 1962 and 1963 - where it spent 15 weeks at number 1..... strangely non-consecutively, as it kept coming back to the top spot four times.   

What's really noteworthy about this isn't Hardy, who was and is a French icon.   I mean, she is - she was a leader of the yé-yé wave of music in France in the 1960s, and was a fashion icon as well.  No, what's noteworthy is that Jimmy Page - THAT Jimmy Page - was a session muscian on this song.

What's more noteworthy is that the song is absolutely beautiful and you know what the subject is wihtout being told, or knowing French.

After its success throughout Europe, Hardy rerecorded the song in several languages.  I personally think it translates well to English.  Titled "Find Me A Boy" in English, it's still the same theme, in an easier to understand language for English speakers.

The German version - "Peter und Lou" - tells a similar story, and brings a beauty that you don't normally see in German singing.  The song didn't do AS well in Germany, but was still a top 20 hit.

In Italian, the song is "Quelli della mia età:, which literally translates to "Those my age."  Again, same themes, different language, top 5 hit.

14 November 2023

14 November 2023 - The Cure - Fascination Street

The Cure are a British band, but this song was only released as a single in the States.  It was most noteworthy for what came next.

Written by the band, the lyrics describe a night on what appears to be Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which is probably why it was a US-only single.  It opens with an extended instumental opening, which was shortened for the radio edit.

The song hit #46 on the US pop charts, but was followed by their massive "Lovesong".  

I like this song better. 

13 November 2023

13 November 2023 - Malcolm McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team - Buffalo Gals

This one might take some explaining.

You see, Malcolm McLaren was a manager to a lot of punk and post-punk bands, like the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow.  It was the latter that brought him to New York City in the 1980s, where he went to an outdoor block party by Aftrika Bambaataa.  There, he discovered hip hop and scratching.

So he, Trevor Horn, and Anne Dudley got together, wrote a song that replaced guitars with scratching, got a whole bunch of then-unknown DJs and MCs to perform on it, and made a hip hop classic.

How a punk manager made a hip hop record might be strange, but there's no doubting its influence. Eminem made reference to it in one of his biggest hits.   Neneh Cherry based her biggest hit on this song.  The song was, and is, beloved and revered.

In 1998, McLaren rereleased the song as part of a larger record that featured songs based on and interpolated from "Buffalo Gals".  Our favorite reimagination of the song was by Rakim.

10 November 2023

10 November 2023 - The Go-Go's - Head Over Heels

The Go-Go's were rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.  This was the pinacle of their career, and they wrapped up their time as a band in 2022 - if Belinda Carlisle is to be believed.  They've broken up before, though, so we'll see.

At any rate, let's feature the band's last Top 20 hit - from 1984 - and the song Jane Wiedlin calls her "favorite Go-Go's song."   Written by Charlotte Caffey (the only one without a short haircut in this video) and Kathy Valentine (the bassist - who wrote herself a somewhat iconic solo), the song is pop-rock perfection.

In this 2001 performnace at Central Park, we get to see the problem with Go-Go's live performances - the camera is almost never on Gina Schock..... but when it is, you can see she's a bad-ass drummer.

09 November 2023

9 November 2023 - Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart

I'm never really sure if anyone reads any of this anymore - because Google has changed how they measure stuff.  On some metrics, it looks like people definitely read this.  Using others, it's clear they do not.

Anyway, that doesn't mean I'll stop shouting into the void.  Here's an early 1990s dance hit.  This song is widely considered a classic, but it really started when a couple of DJs - Super DJ Dmitry and Jungle DJ Towa Tei - got together with a vocalist who went by Lady Miss Kier and formed a wild collective.  

Their first single off their first album was a huge hit and is widely considered a classic.

08 November 2023

8 November 2023 - RBD - Ser O(u) Parecer

For a while about a decade and a half ago, this song somehow popped into my consciousness.  I'm not entirely sure why - despite my Spanish language studies, I don't usually listen to radio that isn't English-language based.  I don't watch much Univision or Telemundo.

And I certainly don't watch telenovelas, and since this is a band that got its start ON a telenovela, on the Televisa network in Mexico, I have absolutely no idea.

And yet this 2006 single is so damn catchy even the most fervent gringos will be singing along.  A song about unrequited love, you don't need to speak the language to understand the emotion.

The song DID end up making the Billboard Hot 100 (read: English-language charts) on its strength in markets with large Spanish-speaking populations.It was, of course, a top Latin radio hit.

Like I said, I studied Spanish.... so when I hear the Portguese version they also released in 1996, it kind of messes with me a little.  It enjoyed some success in Brazil.

RBD (short for "Rebelde") broke up for a bit, but they are back together and touring. This version was recorded a month ago in SC.   They still sound great and the crowd loves them.

07 November 2023

7 November 2023 - Suzanne Vega - Left Of Center

Today is Election Day in the United States.   Suzanne Vega's song from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack perfectly reflects a widely held political philosophy not held by either of the two major parties.  

Seriously, this was one of Suzanne Vega's first hits, reaching charts overseas but not in the US.  The piano in the background is brought to you courtesy of Joe Jackson.   

It's also one of my favorite Suzanne Vega songs.  

06 November 2023

6 November 2023 - The Decemberists - Sons and Daughters

Every day, it gets harder and harder to come up with new material for this blog.  

Thank God we have a lot of pop culture to digest.  Take the Season 9 episode of the popular NBC sitcom The Office - titled "The Farm" - where the Schrute family siblings inherit a farm.  In one poignant scene, they perform a song together as a family.

So that got me thinking - is this some sort of traditional folk song I should know?

It was not.   It was the 2006 song "Sons and Daughters" by The Decembrists, closing their fourth album, The Crane Wife.  It is a live favorite.  Which really shouldn't be a surprise - it's a beautiful song and it was on The Office.  

The song may not have been a traditional folk song, but it sure as hell is now.  The Decembrists are still bringing folk music to new and great places, and, all these years later, the Portand, Oregon band is still blazing new trails.

That doesn't mean audiences don't want to hear this song, though.....

03 November 2023

3 November 2023 - fIREHOSE - Time With You

I was bound to get here.   

fIREHOSE, which grew out of the ashes of The Minutemen after d.boon's tragic death, was never a huge band commercially, but they made a lot of great music.  This song, from their 3rd album fROMOHIO, was recorded in Ohio, which is where vocalist/guitarist Ed Crawford is from (the rest of the band is famously from San Pedro, California).  

The song is something of a love song - a simple, sweet love song.  You don't expect that out of fIREHOSE, who are usually all about the boom stick, but here we are. 

The band, which helped to bust Mike Watt out a deep depression over the death of his best friend, never really broke up - they just went into mothballs at times while everyone was doing other stuff.  In 2012, they toured and of course played this song.

Ed Crawford still looks like he's living his dream.

02 November 2023

2 November 2023 - Flower Face - Cornflower Blue

It's a little known fact that I have a lot of draft posts already written.  However, I have many MORE that are completely unwritten except for a video.  There exist a subset of those posts that have a date attached to them.

This one was in that subset.   It had "2024" attached to it.  It was slated for next March.  

And I've been staring at this post, at the top of my draft queue, thinking about busting it out early.  

Over the past two weeks, I have gotten repeated notifications that Flower Face - real name Ruby McKinnon - is recording the followup to her brilliant 2022 album The Shark In Your Water - released on Nettwork Records, her first experience with a record label  

This song, which reminds me slightly of my old Magnus Chord Organ, is beautiful and melancholy and deeply layered.   This song, which came out of a long writer's block and a depressed period for the singer/songwriter, makes me think of Mazzy Star, or even a little bit of a Cocteau Twins influence.  It's haunting, and fitting for today..   

Also, the sharp tone shift at about 1:36 will wake you up.              

The Shark In Your Water has made me a pretty big fan of what Flower Face is doing in music, and I find myself listening to her music a lot lately.   This is why I uncorked this one for post #1500.  It took me more than eight years to get to 1000.  It took me a little over two to get to 1500 - and I wanted to feature a great artist I had discovered in that time frame.  

So, I guess I need a new Flower Face post for next March.

Anyway, here she is, performing the song live.  You can see the emotion she brings to the song a lot more clearly here on her face, even as you hear it in her voice.  

01 November 2023

1 November 2023 - Wyclef Jean - Gone Till November

I have been waiting for YEARS to post this song.  

It finally happens today. 

Released in 1997, Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, ex of the Fugees, crafted a laid-back top 10 hit for himself.   

More impressive is the video, which features a cameo from Destiny's Child (who provide backing vocals).  The best part?  Bob Dylan showing up at the very moment he's mentioned in the lyrics - at about 2:27 of the video.

Of course, it being so laid-back and mellow, the song sounds great live and stripped down, with just Wyclef singing and playing guitar like Bob Dylan.