5:10 p.m. - August 15, 2005
So anyway, I’m just pulling songs out of a hat – and here we go:
Martin Scorcese – King Missile. Now who doesn’t like abstract boho poetry set to music? I loved this band and this concept in the day, however, when I dug out their stuff recently there were a lot more misses than hits on their records – so I kept the hits. This one is a complete and utter classic. I wonder if John S. Hall and Martin Scorcese ever met?
Love Buzz – Shocking Blue. People around or near my age remember this song from the Bleach album by Nirvana. They copped it from this Dutch group that was famous for “Venus” back in 1970. I have no idea how Kurt Cobain found this song, though. This version has an interesting bass part and an electric sitar, if I’m not mistaken. (And I may be, but that’s what it sounds like). And of course, being Dutch and with the availability of certain substances, the electric sitar makes sense – it’s just so heaaaaaavy man…..far out.
Love Is – I Love You. MTV used to have a show called 120 Minutes. Every Sunday night they’d play two hours of ‘alternative’ videos, and once the very last video shown was by this band, and it was even cut off halfway through. I never saw it again (it was for “Hang Straight Up.” Their sound isn’t really alternative – standard guitar based rock with a very strong drum sound – but it was out of step in the hair-metal days. I somehow found the record and it had a lot of great songs with quirky, literate lyrics. I think only 23 people bought it, but somehow they got to make a second album. Only 8 people bought that – and mine was used.
Down Rodeo – Rage Against the Machine. Over the course of a full CD, RATM could be a bit wearying. Sermons shouldn’t be 75 minutes long, no matter how rockin’ the tunes are behind it. But in small doses, Rage was just phenomenal. This is one that I can’t play in the car with Katie, as I said earlier, as she’s liable to quote these lyrics in the Kroger and the blue hairs examining the cantaloupes would plotz. (Note: in Indiana, on the roadside, you can get cantilope! I wonder how THOSE taste??)
Never Say Never – that dog. Once, MTV2 was playing all of the videos ever played on MTV, VH-1 and MTV2 from A to Z. If you’re an old fart like me, you remember when VH-1 was going for the “adult contemporary” market and they really had some crap on there – soft rock and even softer country. Laughable. Anyway, since MTV decided not to show videos in the mid-90’s except between 2 and 4 AM on Shrove Tuesday, bands like this missed out. I had only heard the name until I saw a couple of their videos while MTV2 was doing this stunt. I loved it – rockin’ sounds, great harmonies and a violin! The albums tend to get really goooshy (technical term) though – like you’re reading a bad issue of “Jane” or “Sassy” – but if you pick your spots they were a great band.
Wargasm – L7. God, I loved this when it first came out. These were four women who absolutely rocked and gave no quarter. They even used a Yoko Ono sample to great effect. (Please read what I just wrote – Yoko Ono and ‘great effect’ in the same sentence. Shocking!) This was one of the most spot-on commentaries about the press coverage of the Gulf War. The rest of the album was just as great. However, I think they read their press clippings and the stuff that followed this record was just flat and dull. So find this record (and their Sub Pop release as well) and forget the rest.
Give It To Me Baby – Rick James. “Say what?” This was a #1 smash on the “Black Singles” chart (smartass comment – weren’t 98% of the singles pressed on black vinyl??) but only hit #40 on the top 100. “Say what??” The youth of America deserved to be funkified.
Miss Me Blind – Culture Club. In high school, I wanted nothing to do with them. But somehow their songs stuck to me. I had to spin them from time to time at the radio station I worked at in Crawfordsville, but I still held them in no accord. Well, except when the melodies for several songs wormed their way into my brain. Then, on VH-1 Classic, I saw a clip of a reunited Culture Club doing this song live. My gosh, I was mistaken (at least on this song). The bass line was great and the guitar work was tremendous (it’s more pronounced in the live version, of course) and funky. I soon started dancing around the room – drawing strange stares from my wife and our late cat. Say what you want about Boy George – he could sing and this song was well worthy of praise. (The 1984 version of me, I think, has just keeled over).
Half Day Closing – Portishead. This is totally eerie and mysterious sounding. It creeps into your mind slowly, and after a while resistance is futile. The effects that are put on the vocals add to the atmospherics, but alas you need to google the lyrics.
Blue – The Jayhawks. Sometimes there are songs that reach your inner soul. This is one of them. There are days when I could just hit repeat and play this song about 23,387 times in a row.
Love Is Like Oxygen – Sweet. For a bunch of bubble-gummers, they had a long career. Sure, none of their songs had any substance, but who can’t sing along to “Fox On The Run”, “Little Willy”, “Ballroom Blitz” or “Wig Wam Bam”. This one was when they were trying to get more ‘adult’ – which meant they changed the tempo for the verses. (Let me take it down a notch, here, ladies and gentlemen!) But they didn’t lose the sugary sweet harmonies or the pseudo-crunching guitar song. And by gosh, it is profound – because you get too much you get too high, but not enough and you’re gonna die.
Her Heads Revolving – The Three O’Clock. File this in the “if I ruled the damn airwaves these guys would have been Kings of the World” department. The Three O’Clock were part of the Paisley Underground movement in LA, which lasted a few years and all totaled, the bands sold maybe 20,000 records each, but got some press. Their first few releases were just divine for those of us who love power-pop goodness. Then they succumbed to record company pressure and released a couple of dogs that sound nothing like the good stuff. Sure, a lot of their stuff is cavity inducing, but revel in the sugary goodness! (This song, by the way, has one of the BEST guitar riffs under the verses that I’ve ever heard).
Dr. Wu – Steely Dan. My favorite Steely Dan record is “Katy Lied”. (I think it’s important to note that the spelling is not like my Katie, though.) Basically, they gave up trying to write for the radio and just wrote excellent songs. On this cut, Donald Fagan sounds totally creepy and slurs all his words. The lyrics make little sense – they sound like their taken out of context from a longer piece. It’s like you dropped into the fourth season of Melrose Place without any backstory or warning and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Of course, this makes it brilliant.
Puss – Jesus Lizard. Unhinged. One definition of the word unhinge is “to derange, unbalance”. That’s David Yow, ladies and gents. Hearing this song makes you feel a bit skuzzy – like you’re watching a creepy art house film that’s compelling yet distasteful. Yow, I think, sings through a bullhorn while the band pounds and grunts behind him (and they DO pound!) The Jesus Lizard is a contender for best band name of all time, to boot! (For you collectors – this song was on a split single with Nirvana – that’s how I found about it first.)
This Wheel’s On Fire – The Byrds. (Unreleased version). The Byrds, of course, did a lot of Dylan songs back in their heyday, so it’s not a surprise that they got a crack at doing some of the famous “Basement Tapes” songs. The released version of this song, on the album “Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde” had a buzzsaw guitar and enough bile to eat away your insides. This one is more country-esque, and features great guitar licks from Clarence White (who was a pure genius). There’s still a lot of bile in the lyrics, but the harmonies on this soften it up a bit. Those of you from the recent past may recognize the tune as the theme to “Absolutely Fabulous” (but not by the Byrds).
Crazy – Pylon. Sometimes people come early to the party. Pylon was one of the original new-wave bands from Athens. In fact, it could be said they blazed the trail for R. E. M. Pylon had a unique sound – strong bass lines, stalwart drumming, and semi-funkified yet jagged guitar lines. The star of the show was the singer, Vanessa Briscoe – Hay, who sometimes squealed, sometimes yelped and often times made herself incomprehensible yet fascinating. The lyrics, well, they were not always linear. But do you need linear, really? Do you need to go from A to B in a nice little package? Let’s get adventurous people.
Every Word Means No – Let’s Active. Boy, I’m stuck in the 1980’s now. This is another MTV song that I loved, and that the mass audience ignored. Almost too sickly sweet for their own good, Let’s Active was very bright and tuneful, but in those bright and tuneful tunes there was some sadness. Like this one – the melody will just stick in your brain forever. You may have to use a scraper.
Young And In Love – The Pursuit of Happiness. You know a song is a bit dated when it mentions Evan Dando as someone who is hotsy-totsy. At any rate…I do love this song even though the story is a bit sad. I am a sucker for good harmonies. I guess the moral of the story is never fall in love with a fourth-rate pretty boy alterna-rocker. He’ll steal your change.
Hands Off, She’s Mine – The English Beat. For those of you in England, they are the Beat. Us Ugly Americans made them re-badge themselves here because there was a group also known as the Beat that spawned about the same time. That group became the Paul Collins Beat (which also released some tasty records, as well). If any of youse wants a record to play where you just can’t stop moving and grooving, then pick up “I Just Can’t Stop It” and bounce along to the neo-ska goodness. (Well, the 1979 version of neo-Ska).
Maps and Legends – R. E. M. – Michael Stipe, please, for the love of god, enunciate. Oh, that’s right, he does now. On second thought, you should have just kept doing what you were doing in your first few records.