November Rambling: Candy, Poetry, and 50 Shades

SamuraiFrog, bless his heart, is writing 50 Shades of of Grey, as Summarized by a Smartass.

An Opinion Piece On A Controversial Topic. “Pretty awesome meta.”

Gettysburg Address at 150.

Heidi Boghosian joins Bill Moyers for a conversation on what we all need to know about surveillance in America. “Spying on democracy,” indeed.

The defense should not be permitted to refer to the prosecutor… as “the Government.” It might sound… prejudicial.

Texas Man Sued for Defamation by Fracking Company that Contaminated his Water Supply.

“You could get better if you wanted to.” “You should just try harder.” “You’re being lazy.” “You need to be more motivated.” “You’re so needy.”

Methodist Pastor Has 30 Days to Renounce His Gay Children or Be Defrocked; it’s a matter of right and wrong.

Always Go to the Funeral.

Exclusive excerpt from Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix retrospective. Some lifetime ago, before Maus Continue reading “November Rambling: Candy, Poetry, and 50 Shades”

As though the Beatles needed ME to defend them

He claims Revolver is “pretty godawful.” Most critics would strenuously disagree, and since it’s my FAVORITE Beatles album, I do so as well.

I’m on Facebook Sunday night, and I get a notification that I’m mentioned in a post. This one from my friend Broome says: “I just wrote a Note about the Beatles and why they and their music are so important. I hope Roger Green or ANYONE ELSE will write something so I can take the drivel I have written and burn it.” I disagree with his characterization of his observations.

I purloined the whole conversation and placed it HERE because I don’t know that people who aren’t on FB can otherwise read it. (My biggest complaint about my historically favorite bloggers is that they put so much stuff on FB that I believe is inaccessible to some.)

Broome makes the odd notion that this issue needs to be litigated at all, instead of being noted as a settled fact. The Beatles were and are important because millions of fans and loads of critics believe them to be so. Beethoven was and is important because people long ago decided it, and his music appears everywhere from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever to, well, the Beatles.

Broome’s young friend Raymond, born in 1973, reviews several albums. The first is Beatles for Sale. I must say I agree with much of what he says about it. It’s the last major pillaging of the cover tunes they used to perform in their live shows in Germany, and most of them are not that great compared to the originals, and the Beatles DID do some great covers. As Broome noted later, the Beatles were generating a tremendous amount of product in a short period. Raymond does complain about the nasal harmonization, which has never bothered me. He also suggests that Every Little Thing is weaker than what he describes as the “bombastic” Yes cover, undoubtedly because that’s what he heard first; that’s usually the case that your first love is the greatest. Obviously, without the Beatles’ version, there wouldn’t BE a Yes version.

Indeed, the fact that the Beatles’ originals have been so widely covered alone makes a case for the group’s significance. “Yesterday” alone generated over 2,500 covers in its first decade.

Raymond admits liking A Hard Day’s Night, as well he might. Thirteen originals in a really short time frame, with great tunes like “If I Fell”, “And I Love Her”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I’ll Be Back”, and the title tune.

But then he started to lose me. He claims Revolver is “pretty godawful.” Most critics would strenuously disagree, and since it’s my FAVORITE Beatles album, I do so as well. The eclectic collection runs from the rocking “Taxman” to the story song “Eleanor Rigby”. It has a kiddie tune in “Yellow Submarine”, the haunting “For No One”, the plastic soul of “Got To Get You Into My Life” and the mesmerizing “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

He similarly writes off MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. This is a different situation altogether. The songs on Side One were realized as a double EP in the UK; the five songs on Side Two were all singles or B-sides. While he is correct that “All You Need Is Love” lacks real content, it was rather beside the point; I never found the “mocking trumpets… a bit creepy” though, but the first part of the joke. “‘I Am the Walrus’ is a triumph of studio work; without the production crew this would be an embarrassing proto-rap chant.” Don’t know what that means, exactly, but of course, it DOES have great production values. Still, I’ll concede his lack of affection for George Harrison’s “Blue Jay Way” corresponds with mine.

In responding to Raymond, Broome suggests that perhaps it’s a generational thing. Not that this the end-all of proof, by any means, but Glee, for cryin’ out loud, spent TWO shows on Beatles music the first two shows of the 2013-2014 season. I know people born in 1966 and 1987 nearly as versed as I in Beatles lore. Do you know what the #1 album for the first decade of the 21st century? The Beatles #1s, all their hits that went to #1 in the US and/or the UK; that wasn’t just boomers buying the music for themselves again. And Raymond, in a later comment, admitted Saturday listening to the Beatles’ work. “All the local kids loved it and sang along.”

I don’t disagree with Broome that the historical context of the Beatles mattered. In fact, I was musing again recently whether Beatlemania would have taken hold so strongly in the US at the beginning of 1964 had JFK not been assassinated a few months earlier; others have made the argument before. It’s also, I’ve come to believe, why adults so scorned the Beatles early on – too frivolous in those times when they were still mourning.

Broome noted that he has a “friend who is a humongous Springsteen fan. When Springsteen did the Seeger Project albums and showed his respect to Pete Seeger, Brian ran out and bought some Pete Seeger. He came in the next day and gave me the CDs and said ‘This stuff is crap…’ Now Brian loved the Springsteen albums, but didn’t like the music that inspired them.”

That’s too true. I saw No Doubt live in the mid-1990s, and the Specials, whose ska sound No Doubt emulated, opened for them. These 14-year-old kids literally turned their backs on them. I’m sure that blues artists were rejected in favor of Clapton or Led Zeppelin or the Blues Brothers.

The Beatles started as great imitators and blenders of their varied influences, from Motown to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Everly Brothers, and Buddy Holly, among others. Their true greatness derived from the rapid evolution from “Love Me Do” to the sitar on “Norwegian Wood” and backward tape loops on “Rain”, and the like. And because they were the Beatles, you see elements of that in other artists, both their contemporaries such as The Byrds and Beach Boys and the Buckinghams – the beginning of the Supremes’ “Reflection” was certainly Beatles influenced – and almost every pop band since, from REM to ELO to XTC to Oasis, and many more, have some Beatlesque qualities. Scandinavian Skies by Billy Joel is a Beatles song; I say Cheap Trick’s Everything Will Work Out If You Let It is too, especially the bridge.

Here’s a long response to say, Broome, that the Beatles don’t need me, or anyone else, defending them at this point.

Thanksgiving tunes

Listen to some songs of thanks, then go do what you do on this day, such as eat turkey, watch football, or quite possibly nothing special at all.

I wanted a quick post for today; after all, it IS a holiday. I found a Thanksgiving playlist: Top 20 songs of gratitude, which was a pretty decent roster. It contained some good, but obvious choices, such as Sam & Dave, though NOT the original version, and I couldn’t find that on YouTube either. There were also some nice finds, such as Ella doing that Bob Hope theme song.

I did notice, however, that while the Sly song is on the list, it doesn’t play on Spotify like the others. There is a live version of the videos, but here’s a studio version of Thank You…[LISTEN]. Also, a surprising omission: Thank You by Led Zeppelin [LISTEN], which DOES appear on similar lists.

Listen to some songs of thanks, then go do what you do on this day, such as eat turkey, watch football, or quite possibly nothing special at all because you’re not in the US, and it’s just another Thursday.
Here’s a little Thanksgiving art.

When Thanksgiving and Hanukkah Collide.


Randy Newman is 70, tomorrow

For someone once best known for the misunderstood song Short People, Randy Newman has had a not bad career.

Did I ever tell my “I sorta met Randy Newman” story? Probably.

I was at the Poughkeepsie, NY train station in mid-May 2000, returning from a conference. There was a guy at the station, with a woman and two children, and he looked very much like Randy Newman. So I walked over to him, and said, “Excuse me.” And he said, “Randy Newman.”

This is what I wanted to say: “Wow, I’ve loved your music ever since [the #1 song, below.] I sure hope you get that Oscar you deserve [he has since gotten two, in twenty nominations]. You know, that damn song on Toy Story 2[When Somebody Loved Me [LISTEN], written by Newman, sung by Sarah McLaughlin] made me cry! I even like you in those Band-Aid commercials [he was appearing in at the time].”

But I was so thrown off by his response that all I said was, “Oh, OK.” Ah, a treppenwitz moment.

Not only did the prolific songwriter and film scorer finally get Oscars, both for songs he wrote for Pixar films, but he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. He wrote, among MANY other songs, Mama Told Me Not to Come [LISTEN to his version], a big hit for Three Dog Night. Almost There [LISTEN] from the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog, sung by Anika Noni Rose, is a recent song of his I’ve enjoyed.

For someone once best known for the misunderstood song Short People [LISTEN], not a bad career.

Here are 10 songs:

10. You Can Leave Your Hat On [LISTEN]– Sail Away (1972). It is a song that sounds sexy when performed by someone like Joe Cocker but seems somewhat sordid when Newman does it.

9. Feels Like Home [LISTEN] -Harps and Angels (2008). This was originally performed by Bonnie Raitt on his 1995 Faust album, but I’m glad he decided to perform it himself. He’s ambivalent about the tune becoming a wedding favorite.

8. Potholes[LISTEN] – Harps and Angels (2008). The song is based on an embarrassing true story told about Newman by one of his loved ones to another.

7. I’m Dreaming[LISTEN] -free download (2012). “With lyrics from the viewpoint of a voter who casts his ballot solely based on skin color, the song draws attention to something Newman has noticed and written about for 40 years: racism in America.”

6. Rednecks[LISTEN] -Good Old Boys (1974). Wikipedia describes this as “a simultaneous satire on institutional racism in the Deep South and the hypocrisy of the northern states in response.”

5. It’s Money I Love[LISTEN] – Born Again (1979). Bluesy tune that may have been the best song on that album.

4. I Love LA [LISTEN] – Trouble in Paradise (1983): Is this Newman’s affection for Los Angeles, or sarcasm? Maybe both.

3. Louisiana 1927[LISTEN] – Good Old Boys (1974). After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this became an unofficial hymn of the disaster, covered by several artists.

2. Dixie Flyer[LISTEN] – Land of Dreams (1988). A look at his childhood, one of his early attempts at autobiography.

1. Political Science [LISTEN]– Sail Away (1972). 40 years after it was released, still a stinging indictment of American xenophobia, all in two minutes.

The Lydster, Part 116: Calendaring

Lydia is in the church musical of The Lion King. Not only is she participating, she’s going to play the pivotal role of the young Nala.

Most of the time, I try to come up with a narrative about the Daughter. This time, just the calendar.

This fall, she was playing soccer. Unfortunately, in the very first game, fairly early on, she got kicked in the foot, left the game in pain, and never returned. But she was back in action by the following week. She likes playing defense, and is more interested in protecting her team’s goal rather than making a goal. However, for her homework, she has to write sentences, and she has allowed that someday, she WOULD indeed like to score a goal. That phase ended on November 2.

Both last year and this, there were two weekends where she had soccer, PLUS two rehearsals of the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, in which she will again be an angel. The performance is Saturday, December 21 at 1 pm in Albany.

Much to my surprise, she wanted to try out for the church musical of The Lion King. Not only is she participating, she’s going to play the pivotal role of the young Nala, young Simba’s best friend. She gets to sing some lines by herself, and make a few dance moves. She has played the soundtrack – this is NO exaggeration – over a hundred times since rehearsals began in September. One day she played it FIVE TIMES, and she always goes to sleep listening to it. The production is on March 2, 2014 at our church.

Then there is the aforementioned homework. I have railed about it in my Times Union blog HERE and HERE and HERE In brief, the new Core Curriculum is making my daughter sad and anxious, and she’s not the only one. It’s not that I oppose standards. I do object though to inane questions (see third link just above) put together by non-educators, which what the EngageNY syllabus adopted by the NYS Department of Education has deemed appropriate. Homework takes too long, and chews up both her and my time. Makes me cranky.