Meme of Solace

I’m sure the title refers to a James Bond film; I’m swiping this from SamauraiFrog.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

There is something to be said for following the instructions in this case.

1. The Beatles
2. The Beach Boys
3. David Bowie
4. The Rascals
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Linda Ronstadt
7. The Supremes
8. The Temptations
9. Talking Heads
10. The Police

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

Something early, probably “Different Drum”.

What is your favorite song of 8?

“I Can’t Get Next To You”. From the rowdy opening to the Sly Stone-inspired shared vocals.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

Massive. I have a ton of their albums, both as a group and as solo artists. I know arcane things about their album releases. People say to me, “What album is X song on?” and far more often than not, I’ll say “American or British album?” And then peg both of them. There’s a picture of Lennon in my office and a photo of the Imagine imagine from NYC in my house.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

Probably the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” From Let It Bleed, probably my favorite Stones album. The organ noodling of this song during the early funeral sequence of The Big Chill cracked me up, while others in the audience wondered why.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

Never, though I’ve seen them live on TV once or twice.

What is your favorite song by 7?

“Love Is Like An Itchin’ In My Heart”. What an insistent bass line. there’s a version that’s about 30 seconds longer than the single I particularly enjoy.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

Ashes to Ashes
Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again

What is your favorite song by 9?

“Making Flippy Floppy”, probably because I saw the Talking Heads during the Speaking in Tongues tour in 1983 or 1984 at SPAC in Saratoga.

When did you first get into 2?

It’s really odd, actually. I had a compilation album with I Get Around and Don’t Worry Baby in 1965, and the Pet Sounds album in 1966, both of which I liked. But I never considered myself a real Beach Boys fan until I got Surf’s Up, which was a mainstay of my freshman year in college, 1971-72. THEN I went back and got into the earlier music, and bought the retrospective albums that came out in the mid-1970s.

How did you get into 3?

I was in my dorm room in my freshman year and somehow won Hunky Dory from my college radio station, WNPC on a radio call-in contest. I liked almost all of it; my roommate Ron only liked Changes.

What is your favorite song by 4?

“It’s Love”, the last song on the Groovin’ album, featuring flute by Hubert Laws, plus a great bass line. When I got a new turntable in 1987, the track ran so close to the label that the album would reject before the song would end; drove me nuts. Actually bought the CD five years ago largely for this one song.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, but it was one of the two greatest shows of my life, along with the Temptations in 1980 or 1981.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

A mixed memory actually. I had this friend named Donna George, and I bought her the Beach Boys box set. Before she died of brain cancer a few years ago, she assigned another friend of hers and me to divvy up her music. I took the Beach Boys box, and I always remember her when I play it.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

The Temptations with a Lot o’ Soul is full of melancholy songs, but I’ll pick No More Water in the Well.

What is your favorite song of 1?

A truly impossible question. Seriously. It’s dependent on mood, what I’ve listened to recently. I’ll say Got to Get You Into My Life, but reserve the right to change that.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Almost certainly listening to WQBK-FM, Q-104 in Albany, NY, a truly great station that also turned me onto the Talking Heads, the Clash and a lot of other music of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Student Demonstration Time

When I first started this blog four yeas ago, someone asked me, some point after May 4, 2005, to write about Kent State. I’d written a paragraph about it, but I didn’t have more to say. But now I do, and it’s all about that maligned (by me, and others) Beach Boys song, Student Demonstration Time.

For it reminds me that ten days after that headline-grabbing Kent State, there was Jackson State, though it appears earlier in the Mike Love narrative.

The violence spread down South to where Jackson State brothers
Learned not to say nasty things about Southern policemen’s mothers
Nothing much was said about it and really next to nothing done
The pen is mightier than the sword, but no match for a gun.

I always hated the glib tone of the second line, but now that I think on it, the third line was profound in its accuracy. How many of you who remember Kent State also remember Jackson State? I’m guessing not many, but it’s not your fault.

America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard
Though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree
The Bachelor of Bullets
I know we’re all fed up with useless wars and racial strife
But next time there’s a riot, well, you best stay out of sight

Well there’s a riot going on
There’s a riot going on
Well there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration time

I was in high school at the time, but both Kent State and Jackson State had a profound effect on me. Fear, yes, but also a sense of resolve to keep up the struggle against “useless wars and racial strife”. Yet this song, coming out a year after the events chronicled, totally undercuts it. Meh.

Student Demonstration Time

BTW, I found on the Internets lyrics to the song, but one source had replaced “The Bachelor of Bullets” with “badge of eternal rest”. Was that just misheard lyrics or something else?


Songs That Move Me: #1

1. God Only Knows – Beach Boys.
Ultimately, a song I know a lot about, from Brian and Carl Wilson praying before the recording to Brian’s obsessive orchestration. It’s Beach Boys and it’s beautiful.

I’ll tell you how strong it is. Its use as the ending of the movie Love Actually probably raised the movie’s enjoyment from a B-minus to a B-plus.

There are two things that really seal the deal for me picking this particular song. One was when I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in May of 1998 and came across the tribute to Carl Wilson, who had died a few months earlier. Coincidentally, there was also a tribute to another Carl who had recently died, Carl Perkins. Quite moving.

The other factor was listening to the Beach Boys’ 5-CD boxed set, which has a 9-minute version of “God Only Knows,” the first 6 of which is rehearsal, but the last 3 of which is a phenomenally beautiful rendition, ending in classic Beach Boys vocalese, which I hope sees the light of day as a separate release someday.
There are all sorts of artists whose music I enjoy, from James Brown to Led Zeppelin, the Police to the Talking Heads, who I enjoy immensely, yet somehow didn’t make this particular list. If I do it again – don’t hold your breath on that! – I will make a point of seeking other artists.
The Royal Guardsmen are finally going to England “After our hopes were dashed more than forty years ago, one of our desires has come to fruition.” Readers of this blog may recall a spirited but friendly debate I had with the Guardsmen’s drummer over the release of their song Snoopy Vs. Osama, which had a far more serious tone than the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron songs of the 1960s. Even though we disagreed, I’ve been wishing John Burdett and the group well, and even subsequently got hold of an RG greatest hits collection. Maybe it’s because the group and I have the same initials.


Songs That Move Me, 20-11

20. Strawberry Letter #23 – Brothers Johnson
Starts off with circus music, then kicks a groove. That swirling sound at the bridge is extraordinary.
Feeling: loving.

19. Eleanore – the Turtles.
The story goes that their record company wanted another “Happy Together”, so the group gave them one. It has the same minor to major transition, very similar – though lovely – harmonies, and the like. So why is this song, rather than “Happy Together” on the list? Two reasons, really. One: HT was really overplayed. Two: the line “you’re my pride and joy, et cet’ra,” a throwaway line if ever I heard one. (It rhymes with “better” or more correctly, “betta”.) Love singing along.
Feeling: swell.

18. Drive My Car – Beatles.
I read once the intricacy of the chord structure. It’s the minor key feel of the verse and major chord feel of the chorus that grabbed me from first hearing. First song that Paul McCartney played in some 23008 concerts.
Feeling: ironic.

17. Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Even before the great vocal comes up, an orchestral delight, as the melody shifts from section to section.
Feeling: damn right.

16. Can We Still Be Friends – Todd Rundgren
The changing meter in the bridge makes it.
feeling: You know the answer is no.

15. Sly & The Family Stone – Hot Fun In The Summertime
Harmonies, shared vocals and an “ooo-Lord” worth waiting for.
Feeling: sweaty.

14. Jerks on the Loose – the Roches.
The album Keep On Doing was produced by Robert Fripp, so there are odd sonic twists and turns throughout. this song has one of my favorite (and used) couplets:
“You work too ard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose.
This 30-second taste (Track 11) hardly gives the full sense of how great this song is.
Feeling: on my guard.

13. (Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon.
In the fall of 1980, when the single was released, there was a lot of anticipation about it and the forthcoming Double Fantasy album. I didn’t think it was a great song, but it was sort of fun, with that faux Elvis vocal in the beginning of the verse. Then John died, and the irony of the title – we waited five years and THAT had to happen? – made me tear up for months, if not years.
Feeling: still makes me very sad.

12. River – Joni Mitchell.
There’s a lot of Joni I could have picked, but this one, based on Jingle Bells, is just so beautiful. The piano variations at the end seal the deal.
Feeling: longing.

11. In My Room – the Beach Boys.
I liked being in my room when I was a kid. I could entertain myself for hours, reading, looking at my baseball cards and listening to the radio. Yet I was somehow supposed to feel guilty for doing so. Anyway, lives on the vocals, in this case – single voice, then two-part harmony, then full harmony; very effective.
Feeling: cloistered.


Songs That Move Me, 40-31

40. Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart – the Supremes.
Much of Motown lived on the bottom, and this did too, but had lots of other elements, including a great vocal.

39. Got to Get You into My Life – the Beatles.
The Fabs get soulful. I’d play the (US) Revolver album once through this song, then, if my parents weren’t home, play the song again very loudly. This made Tomorrow Never Knows particularly noisy.
Feeling: hopeful.

38. Barabajagal – Donovan (With The Jeff Beck Group)
It’s jazzy, it rocks, it has those sexy female vocals.
Feeling: love IS hot.

37. Hurt-Johnny Cash
If I included my feelings about the video, this would be even higher, maybe even Top 10. Still that insistent keyboard is quite affecting.
Feeling: sadness.

36. Season Of Hollow Soul – k.d. lang.
Very sad, very autumnal song from her pop breakthrough album, Ingenue. Unfortunately, this anime video cuts off.
Feeling: hollow.

35. Church-Lyle Lovett.
I feel like I’ve BEEN to church after this. The second song from the CD named after the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Bible, Joshua Judges Ruth.
Feeling: righteous.

34. Maybe I’m Amazed-Paul McCartney.
A song on the first solo LP as good as anything his old group did. the bridge and the end are especially strong.
Feeling: joyful.

33. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
Of course, there’s that quintessential opening hook. But it’s also the shared lead vocals, the oddly effective harmony, and the Blue Moon bridge.
Feeling: good.

32. ‘Til I Die – Beach Boys
While the verse and chorus structure is evocative, it’s the end part stating the title, and the vocals wrapped around it that is most moving.
Feeling: reflective.

31. Can’t Get Next to You – the Temptations
After David Ruffin left the group, it was the wisdom of producer Norman Whitfield to cop the shared vocals motif from Sly Stone, to great effect.
Feeling: mind-blowing.


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