22. chairmen of the board, "pay to the piper" why here? i wanted to end the disc on an upbeat note. why this song? after "band of gold," this is the finest thing holland-dozier-holland had anything to do with in the 70s. after they left motown, they set about creating a blueprint for post 60s pop/r&b that was as fabulous as it was short-lived. like many of those early hot wax/h-d-h numbers, the track itself is hysterical, motown laced with mania. lyrically, this is one horny-ass song: it's about this guy, the lead singer, who's seeing this chick, spending his last dime on her, and is getting no play. the pre-chorus goes, "i played the tune, you dug the beat, now come on girl, be nice to me"; if not for matters of censorship and of good taste, it should have been, "i played the tune, you dug the beat, now come on girl, and suck my meat." it even rhymes better. in the annals of pop, blue balls have never been made to sound so joyful.
21. shangri-las, "dressed in black" why here? see number 20. "dressed in black" segues into the unfettered horniness of the track 22 than it does into the refined jauntiness of "la vie en rose." why this song? the b-side of "he cried," "dressed in black" deserves to be spoken in the same breath with other shangri-las classics like "leader of the pack," "past, present and future," "give him a great big kiss," etc. it's something of a sequel to "leader of the pack," but stripped down to chilling effect. the lyrics read like pages from a teenager's diary as only shadow morton could write them. parents forbid girl to see boy. girl espies boy, dressed in black, from her window. girl is implicitly dressed in black because black is how she feels on the inside. the chorus is a towering, two-hanky affair, images of lips locked and embraces shared as painted from memory. best of all is the ending: a spoken vocal is accompanied solely by a knocking meant to symbolize feet climbing stairs. love has gone forever and the silence is disquieting.
20. edith piaf, "la vie en rose" why here? i fucked up, i admit it. i forgot that i had this song on the list. the question became not where do i want this, but what song would sound better seguing into the other? why this song? i was walking around the house singing, "deeeeeee de de de de de deeeee de de de de de deeeeee de de de de de deeee deeeeee" and that had to stop. compilation disc as exorcism.
19. derek & the dominos, "bell bottom blues" why here? at this stage in the disc, why not? starts sharply and ends sharply, can be sandwiched between most any song combo. why this song? this song was at the core of my derek & the dominos dilemma. it's remarkably well-made. in complimenting it, i sound like the rolling stone record guide: "stinging guitars...pleading vocals." and then further praise, "well-developed melodically...the band plays as one..." comes across as something you'd find on a rock 'n' roll report card. maybe it all boils down to passion: i have a hard time believing that someone as dull and as tasteful as eric clapton can really feel something; God knows i've rarely heard it in his guitar playing, and so i'm loath to say it's 'passionate.' maybe once i get past this stumbling block i'll be able to admit to myself why i like this album. it could be the passion.
18. beatles, "paperback writer" why here? similar in tempo to "home in your heart." a capella openings almost always make for good transitions. why this song? there seems to be something a cult around "paperback writer," and i never seemed to understand it really. yeah, released between rubber soul and revolver, it marks their departure from writing pop songs for the sake of writing pop songs, which isn't without a significance, but significance never made my captain beefheart records sound any better. a few days before making this disc, i heard it on cbs-fm and thought it sounded really great: bass high in the mix, scraggly guitars, classic wide stereo separation. sometimes i find songs just click like that when i'm in my car and at the mercy of the radio.
17. solomon burke, "home in your heart" why here? one of those mood-setters i'd mentioned earlier (along with track 22, it was the other song i considered opening the disc with). i decided that i had enough of the pussy shit and needed a rollicking soul anthem. begging in soul meant making a lot of promises to the loved one, but it rarely involves self-effacement. why this song? solomon just doesn't sing about it, he is about it. he'll travel over mountains and through byways; he'll give you candy-coated moonbeams and nights, ho ho, nights filled with love and sweet dreams. the rhythm section is bumptious in both the literal and onomatopoeic senses, trying to keep pace with burke, grooving all the way.
16. tim buckley, "song for jainie" why here? alpert fades long and slow; this track comes in very quietly with a rickenbacker. thematically, they're very similar. why this song? well, the last time i was at my sister's, they were watching not another teen movie. some of you may pretend to forget that, in the trailer, the boy decides to sing a song with his beloved's name in it and he chooses "jainie's got a gun." music idiot that i am, this was the first thing i thought of during that scene and it would've been just as unfunny as "jainie's got a gun," and it would've been quite bewildering as well. anyway, tim buckley courts his love with poesy and a clover ring, and if you examine the goods he brings, it seems pretty silly. but it's a lovely song and it only encourages my feeling that early buckley was little more than a florid micky dolenz. which is still a good thing.
there's something in axl's eyes that i can't quite describe, other than that they look different. he also seemed downright humble with kurt loder right after the show. and sounded almost philosophic during the interview. i guess that's what growing up does to a person.
best video: eminem, "without me." it'd been a bad year for videos. normally, the white stripes would be lucky to get a breakthrough nod. eminem looks genuinely chastened after that last outburst. too bad.
what joke? "fat joe ate one of the olsen twins." feel free to ask again, 'what joke?' he won't feel so good about himself if joey crack pulls a big pun. and he shouldn't forget that fat joe's under investigation in a beating case...
God, i hope the michael jackson thing wasn't meant to be the big 'surprise.'
there were rumors that guns 'n' roses were going to perform. i'd take it, even if axl announced, "we're going to perform something long and ponderous from our forthcoming album. but first, here's a video presentation."
has there been a highlight yet? i love springsteen but sometimes i just feel like you've got to be there. "the rising" seems like such a perfect studio creation that it's impossible to improve upon unless you're in the crowd.
shakira performing. but will there be LIVE puncturing of fake breasts? reason enough to stay tuned in for the next few minutes. unless you're the sort who goes for her hip-swivelling. in which case, it's just another reason.
breakthrough video is a category i don't understand. i always thought it to meant a video which makes the artist a superstar. i don't think any of these were really hits. it seems to be more about being a left-field video.
by the way, i hope b2k win the viewer's choice and best new artist awards as i still don't quite understand them. perhaps a win will give them a platform on which to explain what they want, who they are and, most importantly, why they are.
'P.S. DO NOT DISTURB THE SEXY.', or the ten commandments according to p. diddy, e.g. 'thou shalt wax thy bush.' the rules that one must respect and adhere to in order to make diddy's post-vmas bash 'the greatest party of all time.' from the smoking gun; thanks to maura for the heads up.
15. herb alpert, "this guy's in love with you" why here? electric pianos and electric light orchestras go so well together, i think. why this song? one of those 'frame of mind' songs. besides that, it's a beautiful, breathless, hopeful thing, comfortably resting on the edge of a precipice, piano lines cascading like waterfalls. why bacharach thought to give this to alpert, i'll never know, but i guess that's why he's the master.
14. olivia newton-john w/e.l.o., "xanadu" why here? "when the last time" ends with a squiggle, "xanadu" sounds like a synthesizer aping a jet take-off. at this point in the disc, it's enough for me. why this song? the best e.l.o. productions sound wind-swept, like sunshowers sweeping across fields, and this one is no exception. the octave pianos also make it sound like a low-rent abba -- which is what e.l.o. were, right?
just watched nikki's performance of "edge of seventeen" on american idol and this thought occurred to me: are karaoke bars to american idol producers what the mls is to the u.s. soccer federation? that is, developmental ground for talent that may never catch on with america?
thanks to matthew for the heads up on the new u2 single, "electricial storm" -- and if it were any good, he'd get a link too. (ha ha ha, just kidding.)
great title; a shame to waste it on what is very obviously a single for a greatest hits package. g.h. singles usually offer up everything that a band does well presented in the most ramshackle fashion imaginable. sen. bono displays his typical optimism in the face of overwhelming odds; he sings the chorus in falsetto, reminding the listener that he used to be able to hit those notes full-voiced, and to show that he hasn't lost all of it by smoking and singing the refrain to "bad," he does a bit of moaning. meanwhile, larry mullen jr. bashes away on the drums; adam clayton stands around looking intelligent and, like most aging rock bassists, is the dignified foil to the outlandish frontman and quietly brooding guitarist; and the edge makes like an electrical storm before bumping into the guitar break from "walk on" -- one can imagine the song ending the way it does because it becomes obvious to even bono that they're getting self-parodic. essentially, g.h. singles leave the listener to listen to the other songs on the compilation to see how good a band can sound when the parts are assembled properly.
i'm listening to a track by england's the music called "the truth is no words," and it's one of the most unlikely things i've heard in some time. rock scholars have put forth the question for years and now this leeds-based band, one of the music press's latest raves, has arrived on the scene with the answer. the question: what if led zeppelin were a BAGGY band? the answer: why, they'd be the music. it's a preposterous, unthinkable thing, something you couldn't imagine existing in this millennium. and yet it does and it's absurd and i'm finding its charms increasingly harder to resist.
baggy bands were always trying to be the stones or the beatles (and, sometimes, the zombies); i'm not sure why it never occurred to them to try to be led zeppelin...besides the fact that, well, you know, it's utterly INSANE. the 'e' is gone and in its place are the old tropes about squeezing the lemon and 'love' measured in inches (probably, i have no idea what the song is about). the singer is like jack white with a clamp on his scrote and the band emits a sense of groove that is decidedly, endearingly english. perhaps bell bottomed bluesmen derek & the dominoes explained it best, saying a little about their own appeal in the process: "it's all wrong but it's alright."
i bought two of the rolling stones remasters today, beggars banquet and let it bleed. i don't own any sacd equipment so i supppose my critique is akin to commenting on the digital technology of attack of the clones by watching it at a standard projection theatre.
what i can tell you validly about beggars banquet is this: it's faster, ever so slightly. the press releases have touted this as the first time the album will be heard at proper speed. the difference is just tiny enough to have a disorienting effect on the listener. to me, it was like experiencing the world when one is sleep deprived: everything seems a wee bit off. i did the math: every minute on the remaster is equal to 61.2 seconds on the old issue.
let it bleed is also a shorter album now: the new cd more closely resembles the original lp as the 3-4 second intervals that were inserted between tracks on the original cd have been deleted, so it's now as it was meant to be heard. and after my first listening, again it's a small change but it's a definite improvement.
so what does it sound like on antiquated equipment? having listened to both the original and remaster of let it bleed, certain things make themselves clear. it feels as if the masters have been scrubbed: after listening to the new, one can hear, as if they were at a latter-day stones concert, the rust and age clinging to the vocals and instrumentation. there's no hiss and it's a lot cleaner, but not less murkier -- i'll use "gimme shelter" as an example. the drum parts have been bolstered and given more heft. the bass, which feels flat and amorphous on the original, now seems almost palpable -- it's now like a living, breathing entity, an onerous cloud that ambles and menaces. the miasma is still present, it's just better defined now.
13. clipse ft. kelis, "when the last time" why here? because when he was young and passionate, this sort of thing would've pissed morrissey off, no end. why this song? the follow-up to "grindin" opens like it's about to break into "rumpshaker," a great thing. then it has this synth squiggle that sounds like a pissed-off modem. kelis is given a featured credit though she doesn't seem to do more than sing a "la la la" or two -- these variations on the smurfs theme seems to be a new neptunes songwriting tic. pharrell is featured a lot more -- maybe they're just trying to float kelis's name back out there so that her album may be one day released in this country. he gets to be a bad m.f, which is always funny because he listens to steely dan and seems to be as soft as double-quilted t.p. per usual, he commands some silly girl to move her ass and she does and so will you.
ms. dynamite's "dy-na-mi-TEE" = what erykah badu should be doing right about now, that is making entertaining, self-mythologizing records instead of singles with boyfriends retreading said boyfriend's past extended metaphors.
12. smiths, "paint a vulgar picture" why here? "the golden age" ends on one of those blips that radiohead made all the rage several years ago; the sharp beat of the drum seems a nice refutation of that. why this song? i recently compiled a smiths disc and that necessitated a relistening to, among their other records, strangeways here we come. i was struck by how shiny and spangly the track was. oh, sure, the singles, the smiths best of volumes 1 and 2 followed by the very best of the smiths has made a mockery of the song's intent but, still, they can never taint you in my eyes.
11. beck, "the golden age" why here? i just liked the way the strumming of guitar chords fit after the slow fade of "hold me tight." it's just chromatically pleasing. why this song? apparently, winona (allegedly) stole more than just handbags and hair accessories: she also absconded with beck's heart, and the forthcoming sea change seems to be the break-up album. ever savvy though, beck has the good sense to seem vaguely depressed so there are no embarrassing andy partridge-like demonstrations of spleen. musically, that gram parsons tribute had quite an effect on beck as he's set out to create the 'cosmic american music' parsons was always talking about but rarely creating, and in the refrain he quotes george jones ("these days, i barely get by.") the voice seems to have changed a bit, now falling somewhere between gordon lightfoot and bruce springsteen when he's being unbearably earnest; lines like "you got to drive all night just to feel like you're okay" recall the latter's dark night of the soul wanderings in nebraska. taken as a whole, "the golden age" is expansive, sighing, surprisingly sincere and, to my non-fan ears, the best thing he's done.