Posts Tagged ‘music’

Nicks, Egan, Buckingham. 1977

Blasting from someone’s car radio last summer, I heard the familiar strains of Magnet and Steel by Walter Egan, a song from his Not Shy album. It reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) and #9 in Canada. “It spent 22 weeks on the American charts.” It was featured in the movies Boogie Nights (1997), Overnight Delivery (1998) and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999).

I’m a sucker for tracks that serve as the title of the album but only via the lyrics. For instance, the Nirvana album Nevermind contains the hit Smells Like Teen Spirit, which features the word Nevermind.”

Likewise, Magnet and Steel has the lyric:
With you I’m not shy, to show the way I feel
With you I might try, my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel…

As is true of a lot of Fleetwood Mac-related songs, this has a complex story. From Songfacts, Egan explains:

“In 1976 I was living in Pomona, California and I had a notion to write a song with the ‘stroll’ beat… and so began the rough outline of what was tentatively called ‘Don’t Turn Away Now.’ Now, this was also at the time of putting together my first album, Fundamental Roll, and my two new friends and producers, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and I were starting the recording process.

“On the night when Stevie did the background vocals for my song ‘Tunnel o’ Love,’ my nascent amorous feelings toward her came into a sharper focus – I was smitten by the kitten, as they say. It was on my drive home at 3 AM from Van Nuys to Pomona that I happened to be behind a metal flake blue Continental with ground effects and a diamond window in back. I was inspired by the car’s license plate: “Not Shy.”

“By the time I pulled into my driveway I had formulated the lyrics and come up with the magnet metaphor. From there the song was finished in 15 minutes.

Egan and Nicks dated briefly when Nicks and Buckingham had broken up.

“It was especially satisfying to have Stevie sing on ‘Magnet,’ since it was about her (and me).”

Listen to Magnet and Steel:

Walter Egan here or here

Matthew Sweet here with Buckingham on guitar

Third World here

At the end of December 2017, the family was traveling to Afton, NY to meet with a couple dozen of our Olin relatives for lunch – or was it dinner? (this WAS a source of conversation) – when I asked my wife if she were singing Flow Gently Sweet Afton in her head, since I was.

She had no idea what I was talking about, not entirely unusual. This surprised me nevertheless because I’d known it since fourth grade. It was included on a book of tunes that our music teacher, Mrs. Joseph, had us singing from. I must admit it was an old book even then. (I swear I bought a replica of this book in the last decade, but I simply cannot find it.)

There appears to be no question that Robert Burns wrote the poem Sweet Afton. “There is a small river, Afton, that falls into the Nith, near New Cumnock [in Scotland], which has some charming, wild, romantic scenery on its banks.”

The first verse:

FLOW gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I ’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary ’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

And I’ve also heard it with a tune by William James Kirkpatrick from late in the 19th century. It is a hymn tune called Cradle Song, which is a variant tune to the Christmas hymn Away in the Manger.

Now I have no idea which version I originally learned because these three not dissimilar tunes are all blurring in my head. And there are other tunes which may predate Spilman.

I’m curious: are you familiar with the poem Flow gently sweet Afton? And how’s your Scottish brogue when you recite it? What tune do you associate with it?

Listen to Sweet Afton:

Jo Stafford

Nelson Eddy

a Livervox recording

accordion player named Glenn

Nickel Creek

In November 2017, my wife and I were given tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra by friends who couldn’t use them. Coincidentally, another couple of friends were also given tickets.

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky was the piece played in the second half of the program. I used to play this music every vernal equinox. I fell out of the habit , but I don’t know why, as it’s one of my favorite pieces.

Andrew Appel’s review in the 20 November Times Union describes it well: “it requires that we listen to music in a way not demanded by any other work… Brutal energy, fragmented melodies, repeated rhythmical figures that are hard to define but impossible to ignore…”

Well, if you put it like THAT, no wonder The Rite of Spring incited a riot in a Paris theater premiere of the ballet in 1913.

“The tumult began not long after the ballet’s opening notes — a meandering and eerily high-pitched bassoon solo that elicited laughter and derision from many in the audience. The jeers became louder as the orchestra progressed into more cacophonous territory, with its pounding percussion and jarring rhythms escalating in tandem with the tensions inside the recently opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.”

As often as I listen to CDs and LPs and YouTube videos, there is something especially satisfying about hearing music in person. Even when a piece is familiar, and theoretically boring in the recording – think Ravel’s Bolero, which we also heard at the ASO a few seasons ago – it can really become vibrant in the live setting. After the performance of the Rite of Spring, conductor David Alan Miller rightly required about three-quarters of the orchestra, section by section, to take a bow.

So I loved it, my wife loved it. The guy who had gotten one of the other tickets did NOT love it, but I’m sure he did not riot.

Listen to The Rite of Spring:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi

London Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Bernstein, conductor

BBC Proms 2013 – François-Xavier Roth conducts, after 6-minute introduction

I have seen James Taylor perform live exactly once, at the anti-nukes rally in NYC in 1982. Strange since he’s performed several times at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at little north of here, and especially at Tanglewood in extreme western Massachusetts.

I decided that, since he would be performing in Albany for some benefit concert in January 2018, I would go see him, and John Legend, among others. The show got canceled for some reason, but Taylor made a $10K donation to the Albany Med pediatric unit instead.

Those of us of a certain age all owned the album Sweet Baby James in college, required along with Carole King’s Tapestry. I have almost all of James Taylor’s albums, the ones in the 1990s and later on CD, including his Christmas album, the earlier ones on vinyl. I need to listen to the last two, aside from the Covers album.

Some songs:

Back in the High Life Again (Steve Winwood: Back in the High Life, 1986)
Everyday (That’s Why I’m Here, 1985) – a Buddy Holly cover
Secret Of Life (JT, 1977)
Her Town Too (Dad Loves His Work, 1981) [this is a live version with with J.D. Souther]

Traffic Jam (JT) – I think it’s a hoot
That’s Why I’m Here (TWIH)
Home by Another Way (Never Die Young, 1988) – reference to the Three Wise Guys who visited thje baby Jesus
Sweet Baby James (Sweet Baby James, 1970) – the song is not about himself but about meeting his nephew James, the son of his older brother Alex, for the first time

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Gorilla, 1975) – Marvin Gaye cover
Walking Man (Walking Man, 1974)
Your Smiling Face (JT, 1977)
Copperline (New Moon Shine, 1991) – this is one of those songs that is effectively the title track of the album

Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor, 1968) – recorded back in his Apple Records days, then re-recorded for the first greatest hits album
Lo and Behold (Sweet Baby James) – interesting theology
Up on the Roof (Flag, 1979) – I gained a new appreciation of this song when James Taylor, at some program honoring Carole King, explained how her writing partner, the late Gerry Goffin, would go there to get away from the family troubles
Shed a Little Light (New Moon Shine) – namechecks ML King, Jr.

Mexico (Gorilla) – I probably heard this first on one of those Warner Brothers Loss Leaders
Mockingbird (Carly Simon: Hotcakes, 1974) – Taylor and Simon were married from 1972 to 1983
Handy Man (JT) – my appreciation soared when I heard how different this was from the Jimmy Jones original
That Lonesome Road (Dad Loves His Work) – sad songs say so much

Something in the Way She Moves (James Taylor)- Taylor seems cool with the fact that George Harrison pilfered the title as the first line for his biggest hit in the Beatles, Something; this is the WB re-cover
Fire and Rain (Sweet Baby James) – the quintessential JT
Shower the People (In the Pocket, 1976) – the bass harmony vocal is perfectly in my range, and I cannot help but to sing along with it
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King: Tapestry, 1971)

I was playing a compilation album from Sire Records’ Just Say Yes series and rediscovered Strawman by Lou Reed. The disc has a live version of a song that first appeared on his well-received 1989 album New York.

I was pained to note that the lyrics are as topical today as when they were first penned:

Does anyone need yet another politician
caught with his pants down and money sticking in his hole

Here’s a a rare Q&A from 1989, Lou Reed: A New York State of Mind.

Does anyone need another racist preacher
spittin’ in the wind can only do you harm

I don’t have easy access to my vinyl so I’m not positive I own the album. But there is another song from New York I must have on another compilation.

“‘Last Great American Whale’ is a ballad about a mythical creature who came to the rescue of an Indian chief, who was jailed for killing a racist youth. The whale saves the chief and stops the racism… But the great animal was then killed by a NRA member, who had been aiming for the chief. This is taken as a symbol of Americans lack of concern for the environment.”

From the Wikipedia: “Lewis Allan Reed… was an American musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. He was the lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground, with a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground achieved little commercial success during their existence, but are now recognized as one of the most influential bands in rock, underground, and alternative music.”

The Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and Lou Reed was, as a solo artist, in 2015.

Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see the latter honor. On “October 27, 2013, he died from liver disease at his home in East Hampton, New York, at the age of 71.” March 2, 2018 would have been his 76th birthday.

He was survived by his third wife, multimedia and performance artist Laurie Anderson, with whom “he had collaborated on a number of recordings.” They were married on April 12, 2008, though they had been romantically involved since the late 1990s.

Listen to:


Last Great American Whale

The New York album, in turn

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