Monday, April 30, 2007

The 101ers

Considering yesterday was my 100th post, that would make this post number 101 and what better way to commemorate this then talk about Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band, The 101ers.

Coming together in 1974, The 101ers consisted (although it changed so often that no one's quite sure of who was in the band and when) of Strummer, Clive Timperley on guitar and vocals, Dan Kelleher on bass and keyboards, John Mole also on bass and Richard Dudanski banging the drums. But sadly, much like The Sex Pistols, only album was ever released of theirs, Elgin Avenue Breakdown.

During '74, performing before punk became "punk" (it would truly manifest itself with the release of The Ramones Ramones), The 101ers worked the pub-rock circuit. Sounding like a mix of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Pogues, the band would record very little--and actually only release one single in 1976 in "Keys to Your Heart"--and after hearing The Pistols for the first time, to quote Strummer, "5 seconds into their first song, I knew it was like yesterday's paper. We were over."

The aforementioned "Keys to Your Heart" is the band's most popular and catchiest song. A sample verse goes as such:

"I used to be a teenage drug-taker
I used to hate the taste of cheese
I was gonna be an undertaker
‘Til for your heart I found the keys keys"

The song is undeniably catchy and rivals post-London Calling Clash material in terms of quality. While the rest of the album is quite strong (check out "Letsgitabitarockin'"), "Keys" is clearly the best track.

No official album of The 101ers was released until The Clash became "The Only Band That Matters" and since then, only die-hard Clash fans would go out and buy the album. But thanks to a friend, I'm one of the lucky few.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My 100th post

Five Best...Moments Dealing with the number 100

#5. The Hundred Years' War, although it actually lasted 116 years, was fought between France and England from 1337-1453 and featured, among others, Joan of Arc.

#4. It's the number of verses in "99 Bottles of Beer"

#3. The record number of points scored by Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain on March 3, 1962

#2. Every top-100 list ever created

#1. The 100th worst movie all-time according to Monster a Go-Go

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Gettin' in the Hot Tub

Sometimes it's good to be reminded of how great Saturday Night Live used to be. The skit "James Brown's Hot Tub" with Eddie Murphy as Brown is one of those skits that makes you remember.

Song Suggestion

Today's post won't be much of a post because I'm busy working on my newspaper, and that's going to take up much of today. So, instead of a list, I'm just going to suggest a song: "Dance to the Medley" by Sly and the Family Stone. Appearing on Dance to the Music, it very close in structure to the title track but instead of being only 3 minutes long, it registers at 12:12. The song, much like The Who's "A Quick One (While He's Away)," is in different parts: "Music is Alive," "Dance In" and "Music Lover." The Stone were great at rising a song's tempo and then letting it crash with only the distinct "boop" vocals being heard.

If you feel like getting funky, listen to "Dance to the Medley"--if only because it's called "Dance to the Medley."

Friday, April 27, 2007

"So, do you like stuff?"

-Here's a pretty good Simpsons website with lots of clips. I've been enjoying the "Best of Ralph" video.

-Simon Cowell auditioning to The Simpsons to get onto American Idol.

Perfect Pop Pantheon: Song #1

*There are many songs out there that aren't immediately thought of as great pop songs. What I'm hoping to achieve is mention some of these great songs or, as I'm calling it, join the Perfect Pop Pantheon.*

"I Love LA" by Randy Newman

Although the song begins by knocking New York City, I can’t help but love this delightfully catchy track, which originally appeared on his 1983 album Trouble in Paradise.

For Paradise, Newman decided to ditch his typical, simple sound in favor of a more commercial pop feel. This included use of, among other instruments, the synthesizer. But while I normally loathe the synth (although The Who always seem to use it effectively), it’s a strong fit for the album—and this song.

Like much of Newman’s material, it’s an ode to something he loves (L.A.) while also dismissing lots of thing he doesn’t like—New York and Chicago, for instance. He also does a great job of listing places in LA (Imperial Highway, South Bay, the Valley, the West Side and the East Side) that along them contain some of the highest income in LA and also some of the lowest.

Much of Newman’s best album, Sail Away, is filled with great, ironic political songs and even in something as easy to listen to as “I Love LA,” Newman cleverly finds a way to get his message across.

And that’s why it’s the first song inducted into the Perfect Pop Pantheon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Early in the Morning, I'm Callin' YouTube, Vol. II

-By now, most people have seen this video of Kermit T. Frog acting out the Johnny Cash version of the Nine Inch Nail's song, "Hurt." But it's worth posting for all those haven't seen it.

-Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer does the best version of "Free Bird."

-A very awkard clip of Bob Dylan at a Chabad telethon in 1989.

-One of the best scenes from this season's Office.

-A live cut of the great Richard Thompson singing "Wall of Death."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

High Hopes

One of the more memorable musical experiences in my life occurred when I was in group therapy at psychiatric hospital in White Plains, New York.

I was the youngest member of a 15-person group, which ranged from stressed out mothers with three children to a woman in her 60s who enjoyed having a Bloody Mary or two between games of tennis. But the person I remember most vividly was a man in the later years of his life who possessed very few teeth and a sagging posture. He was depressed because his wife had married him not out of love, but because she was, I believe, Brazilian, and needed a green card.

His name was Frank and his idol possessed the same first name: Frank Sinatra. It was rare when I got to talk to Frank because intense socialization wasn’t the reason we were there. But the times that I did, he would tell me about seeing Ol’ Blue Eyes in concert or about how great Duets is.

The therapist leading one of the groups knew about Frank’s liking of Sinatra and one day asked him to sing one of his songs. After a little thought, Frank picked “High Hopes,” a song Sinatra recorded in 1959 and was released two years later.

You probably know the lyrics, but here’s a couple of verses:

“Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground
There’s a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time you’re gettin’ low
Instead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.”

It wasn’t just Frank that the therapist wanted singing, but the whole group. It’s one of those songs that everyone knows without really knowing why (very similar to fairy tales in that regard—I mean, I don’t believe anyone ever read me Hansel and Gretel but I know the story by heart) and by the time the song got to “chin on the ground,” the small room was filled with echoes of optimism—even if it was ant and ram related.

It all seemed a little sappy to me and I refrained from singing. It’s like when Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary came to visit my Dylan class and he made us sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” with him. It’s not that I don’t enjoy group sing-a-long’s (look no further than my having gone to the Buffy Sing-A-Long…twice) but it’s sort of like when you’re feeling depressed, you’d rather have it be rainy outside rather than sunny because that way the weather is matching your emotions and no one else can have fun either. I guess I didn’t feel singing the ultimate song of “Go Get ‘Em, Kid” at that time, and still really don’t but for different reasons. Then, I was depressed and now, it’s just because I don’t really like the song. I’m very happy for the now.

When I listen to Sinatra, I often think about Frank and wonder how he’s doing. At the very least, I hope he has “high hopes.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Five Best...Songs about Boxers

#5. “My Favorite Boxer” by Of Montreal

#4. “Boom Boom Mancini” by Warren Zevon

#3. “Boxing” by Ben Folds Five

#2. “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel

#1. “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan

Monday, April 23, 2007

Five Best...Songs Mentioning Mr. Jones

#5. “Yer Blues” by The Beatles

“The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bone
I feel so suicidal
Like Dylan’s Mr. Jones.”

#4. “Mary Lou” by Rednex

“You always make excuses, like Mr. Jones.”

#3. “Mr. Jones” by Talking Heads

“Mr. Jones
Put a wiggle in your stride
Loosen up
I believe he'll be alright
Changing clothes
Now he's got ventilated slacks
Bouncing off the walls
Mr. Jones is back!”

#2. “Ballad of a Thin Man” by Bob Dylan

“Ah, you've been with the professors and they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well-read, it's well-known
But something is happening here and you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?”

#1. “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows

“Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the barrio
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
‘She's perfect for you, Man, there's got to be somebody for me.’
I want to be Bob Dylan
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky
When everybody loves you, oh son, that's just about as funky as you can be.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Bad

Sorry for yesterday's lack of a post and today's non-post, but I left my computer charger at my office and won't have it back until Monday afternoon. Due to that, I have no accessible computer and am currently writing this at my school's computer center.

But I'll be back tomorrow!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Five Best...Literature References in Bob Dylan Songs

#5. “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word”

Taken from Tennessee William’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where one character says, “You don’t know what love is. To you, it’s just another four-letter word.”

#4. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”

Maybe it's just coincidence but you have to imagine that the "country doctor" that rambles is referring to Kafka's country doctor in the story of the same name.

“The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.”

#3. “Workingman’s Blues #2”

Dylan: "You are dearer to me than myself/As you yourself can see.”

Ovid: "Well, dearer to me than myself, you yourself can see."

#2. “Caribbean Wind”

It mentions both Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy.

“She was the rose of Sharon, from Paradise Lost
From the city of seven hills, near the place of the cross.
I was playing a show in the theater of Divine Comedy.”

#1. “Desolation Row”

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia is the love interest of the title character.

“Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession's her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah's great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row.”

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Dat?

I'm taking this idea from my Unkie Ken, although this one is a lot easier than any of his.

Playlist, Vol. 1

Although I'm nearing my 100th post, there's so many favorite artists of mine that I haven't spent nearly enough time talking about. So, yesterday, I put my iPod on shuffle and wrote down what I heard in order to show a "normal" listening for me. Here's what came up:

"I've Been Loving You Too Long" by Otis Redding
"Love is the Drug" by Roxy Music
"To Kingdom Come" by The Band
"Wiggle Wiggle" by Bob Dylan
"The Poor Ditching Boy" by Richard and Linda Thompson
"Cool Confusion" by The Clash
"Down Don't Bother Me" by Albert King
"Trompe le Monde" by Pixies
"Lover's Rock" by The Clash
"Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks
"Chicken Farm" by Dead Kennedys
"Sample in a Jar" by Phish
"Get Off the Road" by The Cramps
"Isreal" by Bill Evans Trio

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Trapped in the Drive-Thru

I must be the only blog to ever mention Weird Al in consecutive days, but for the video I just found, it's worth doing. The video is for his song "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," a mocking of R Kelly's not-so-brilliant "Trapped in the Closet" series that appears on Weird Al's last album, Straight from Lynwood.

The song tells of an eleven-minute tale that takes an unfortunate couple from watching television, to yelling about what to eat for dinner, to the local drive-thru and finally, to the greatest tragedy ever in a song. I won't ruin the ending but it's really worth your time (and effort?) to watch all of it.

Here's to you, Weird Al!

Five Best...Rolling Stones Songs

#5. "Paint It Black" from Aftermath

#4. "Gimme Shelter" from Let It Bleed

#3. "Let It Bleed" from Let It Bleed

#2. "Wild Horses" from Sticky Fingers

#1. "Sympathy for the Devil" from Beggars Banquet

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hey, Hey, It's Your Birthday

This post goes out to someone who has their birthday today. And I'm not talking about Jennifer Garner. Here's the list:

Five Best...Birthday Songs

#5. "Lisa, It's Your Birthday" by Leon Komposki and Bart Simpson

-If memory serves, I actually "recorded" my own version of this song when I was younger. Thank God that doesn't exist anymore...But this version sung by Leon (Michael Jackson?) and Bart is very touching.

#4. "Happy Birthday" by Weird Al Yankovic

Sample lyric:

"Well there's a punk in the alley and he's looking for a fight
There's an Arab on the corner buying everything in sight
There's a mother in the ghetto with another mouth to feed
Seems that everywhere you look today there's misery and greed

I guess you know the Earth is gonna crash into the sun
But that's no reason why we shouldn't have a little fun
So if you think it's scary, if it's more than you can take
Just blow out the candles and have a piece of cake."

Oh, Weird Al.

#3. "New Happy Birthday Song" by NOFX

For whenever you're wishing a happy birthday to someone you don't care about, think of this song and it's refrain of "you're not special."

#2. "Happy Birthday" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Cave tells of a birthday where the best present is a "wonderful dog chair" which can count "right up to eleven." I guess it's better than lame socks or, even worse, a certificate saying that there's a star named after you.

#1. "Birthday" by The Beatles

I can still remember my father playing this for me on my birthday during the summer I spent living with him and his wife, Sylvia, in Saratoga Springs, New York. This song is so much better than the standard "happy birthday to you" that everyone sings. I think it should be changed to The Beatles song--sort of like how if it were up to me, we'd change the National Anthem to something catchier.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Take Lang Out to the Ballgame

As appears in today's issue of The New School's newspaper, Inprint:

I figure that the three most unpopular things at The New School are God, Republicans and sports. Now, I tend to agree with two of those choices but when it comes to sports—specifically baseball—I must protest.

For millions of people, the beginning of April means the beginning of Major League Baseball. And after the freezing temperatures and dismal days of the winter, I’m pretty darn happy for this.

The most memorable part of being in a ballpark is getting to experience the things about the game that television can’t convey. It’s all the usual clichés: the green grass, the intensity of the lights pouring onto the field, the way an outfielder seems to glide to a fly ball, the crack of the bat and knowing automatically if it’s an infield pop-up or a home run, even the smell of the hot dogs.

If you’re looking for a good first experience, 2007 might be your year. For one thing, the record books will totally be rewritten. The best example of this (and most controversial) is Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants looking to break Hank Aaron’s record for most home runs in a career (755; as of press time, Bonds was at 735). There’s also Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, looking to become only the 27th player in baseball history with 3,000 hits, and New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, who hopes to be the 23rd pitcher with 300 or more wins.

Even if you’re not into stats there’s still plenty to follow. In baseball, questions abound: Will the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs suck for the umpteenth season in a row? Will Yankees’ third baseman A-Rod stop being a pussy? Will the Washington Nationals be the worst team ever? Will the Red Sox’s actually become the Yankees before our eyes with their obscene spending and obnoxious attitudes?

One of the best parts about going to a ballpark is being in a crowd of tens of thousands who are cheering for the same thing you are, and want the same thing too: a championship for their team. There’s a healthy You vs. Us mentality at the ballpark that gets even easier to see when your team is playing a rival.

So if you’re ever feeling bored, take the 7 Train to Shea Stadium or the 4 Train to Yankee Stadium, plop down 5 bucks on an upper deck ticket and just enjoy the game. Do it just once, and chances are you’ll understand our nation’s obsession with baseball. And who knows? Some day sports may get knocked off the three most unpopular list, and Ann Coulter will take its spot.

What a Drag

As appearing in today's issue of The New School Newspaper, Inprint:

Five Best...Drag Films

#5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Those “sweet transvestites” get to have all the fun: watch Tim Curry in drag, see Susan Sarandon run around in her undergarments and, best of all, get musical performances from Meat Loaf. That is, until he dies.

#4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

“Six inches forward and five inches back” essentially says it all.

#3. Killer Drag Queens on Dope (2003)

I rank this epic right up there (down there?) with Attack of the Killer Condoms. But for all the lame gay sex included in Killer Condoms, Drag Queens has the charm of the two main characters being named Coco and Ginger.

#2. Mulan (1998)

Disney has a long history of male figures dressing up as women (Little John in Robin Hood, for instance), but very seldom do they try women as men. With a little help from Eddie Murphy, the title character imitates a man to fight as a solider.

#1. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

The King and or Queen of the crop. That’s quite an accomplishment because people have found dressing in drag to be comedy gold for quite a long time. But the way Robin Williams delicately balances his hairy male self with his buxom female personality is totally Oscar-worthy. I mean, am I the only one who truly believes in Williams when he sings “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our Attention's Undivided/ Damnit We're Excited!

Tonight, I’ll be seeing The Queers playing at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Since I bought the tickets over a month ago, I’ve been counting down the days until the concert because they’ve become one of my favorite bands.

Playing a Ramones-inspired type of punk, the band—current members are Joe King on vocals and guitar (he also goes by Joe Queer), Dangerous Dave on guitar, Ben Vermin on bass and Matt Drastic playing the drums—has some of the most infectious sounding songs I’ve ever heard.

The actual music is straight-forward punk and the lyrics are normally about drinking, hanging out with girls, love, gay people or drugs—if not all of the above. For instance, here’s a verse from the song “Girl About Town” off their most recent album, Munki Brain:

“See the girl lying under the bar?
She used to be a rock and roll star
Smoked cigarettes with Joan Jett in America

She got her picture in Rolling Stone
She was third from the left behind Joey Ramone
You couldn't see her face but I'm sure she looked great anyway.”

Joey would have been proud.

Some form of the band has been around since 1982, with the formation originally happening in Portsmouth, News Hampshire. They’ve never received any kind of commercial success, but instead have a dedicated fan following that makes it possible for me to see them even though they’ve been together for 25 years.

If you ever get a chance to see them live or even just see one of their albums on the racks of a record store, put it on and for the following 35 minutes or so, you’ll have the time of your life.

Five Best…The Queers Songs:

#5. “Ursula Finally Has Tits”

“She went to the drug store, and I saw what she bought:
Maxi-pads, tampons, and a training bra.
Eye-shadow, lipstick, smoking cigarettes,
I think there's something that she needs to get off her chest.”

#4. “See You Later Fuckface”

“I wasn't looking for trouble,
But it came looking for me.
I may not have any muscles,
But I can move like Bruce Lee.

So when a bunch of these pussies started
Beating up on my friends,
I left the stage, and I aimed to land on them.

See ya later, fuckface.
See ya later, fuckface.
See you in the funny pages - fuck you!
See ya later, fuckface.
We hate you.”

#3. “Boobarella”

“Boobarella you turned my head around
You know you got my heart all upside down
I saved up from mowing all those lawns
To buy Tina Turner records that she wants.”

#2. “I Wanna Be True to You”

“’Cause I don't wanna be alone and sad no more,
And I've been through this before.
Can't you understand this much is true?
I wanna be happy with you.
It's all I wanna do.
I wanna be happy with you.”

#1. “Get a Life and Live It, Loser”

“You think that you're perfect, so lovable and cute.
But you're just so pathetic that it makes me wanna puke.”

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Five Best…Quentin Tarantino Films

#5. From Dusk Till Dawn

-If more people had seen this film which he worked with Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse would have came as less of a suprise. There's lots of T & A, zombie gore, Cheech and swearing. Tarantino also pays a rapist in this film--just like in the first part of Grindhouse.

#4. Grindhouse

-I felt slightly guilty enjoying this film because it's supposed to be bad, but he and Rodriguez once again manage to make something highly entertaining out of boobs, blood and beer.

#3. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2

-I can't choose which one I like more because although Vol. 1 is more fun, Vol. 2 is the better movie of the two. All I know is this: Uma Thurman and David Carradine are awesome in both.

#2. Reservoir Dogs

-One of my all-time favorite movie conservations is the one in the first scene about tipping:

Nice Guy Eddie: C'mon, throw in a buck!
Mr. Pink: Uh-uh, I don't tip.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don't tip?
Mr. Pink: Nah, I don't believe in it.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don't believe in tipping?
Mr. Blue: You know what these chicks make? They make shit.
Mr. Pink: Don't give me that. She don't make enough money that she can quit.
Nice Guy Eddie: I don't even know a fucking Jew who'd have the balls to say that. Let me get this straight: you don't ever tip?
Mr. Pink: I don't tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I'll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doing their job.
Mr. Blue: Hey, our girl was nice.
Mr. Pink: She was okay. She wasn't anything special.
Mr. Blue: What's special? Take you in the back and suck your dick?
Nice Guy Eddie: I'd go over twelve percent for that.

This is followed by:

Mr. Pink: I'm very sorry the government taxes their tips, that's fucked up. That ain't my fault. It would seem to me that waitresses are one of the many groups the government fucks in the ass on a regular basis. Look, if you ask me to sign something that says the government shouldn't do that, I'll sign it, put it to a vote, I'll vote for it, but what I won't do is play ball. And as for this non-college bullshit I got two words for that: learn to fuckin' type, 'cause if you're expecting me to help out with the rent you're in for a big fuckin' surprise. (Both with help from

#1. Pulp Fiction

-Best movie of the 90s.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Driftin' in the Wind

If you can listen to a song 1,000 times and still find something new and interesting on listen number 1,001, you know you have a great song on your hands. This morning, that song was Dylan's "Drifter's Escape" from John Wesley Harding:

"Well, the judge, he cast his robe aside,
A tear came to his eye,
'You fail to understand,' he said,
'Why must you even try?'
Outside, the crowd was stirring,
You could hear it from the door.
Inside, the judge was stepping down,
While the jury cried for more."

That verse almost works as slightly fragmented literature, or at least better than most law fiction.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


"If you really want to disappoint your parents, and don't have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts." –Kurt Vonnegut

Unlike many other people my age, I have never been swept away into another world by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. But I was saddened to read of his passing at the age of 84 in New York City due to serious brain damage.

To me, Vonnegut works the same way as Stanley Kubrick, because I never give either of them much credit and yet I’ve read or seen much of their work: Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Galapagos and A Man Without a Country.

His work was always very easy to read which probably resulted in my reading so many of the novels; I can remember reading Galapagos at the mechanics waiting for my car to be fixed and Mother Night in the uncomfortable, musty upstairs section of the Purchase College library.

My friend, Hannah, was the person who first got me to read Cat’s Cradle, which might actually be my least favorite. In a note she gave me right before I was to read it, she wrote, “Anyway, I hope you like Cat’s Cradle. It’s probably my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book. When I went to borrow it from Mr. Bright yesterday, I told him about our discussion/argument about religion and he said that you’re ‘definitely ready for Cat’s Cradle.’ So there you are, straight from the mouth of an English teacher.”

While Vonnegut may never be my favorite author, I am glad for his contributions and, as my father wrote this morning in an e-mail we sent back and forth, “For me, it's sad mostly as another sign of the passing of an era.”

Along those lines, who’s next to pass away? Philip Roth? God hope not.

RIP Kurt.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I'm pretty sure the internet was created for videos like this.

Five Best...Songs About April

#5. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder

"No April rain
No flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you."

#4. "George E. Porge" by Les Claypool and The Holy Mackerel

"Now baby's breath and orchids are a lethal combination.
When you get that girl, you got to go
And finger pie in April leads to penetration...
But June, she's apt to take it kinda slow."

#3. "November" by Tom Waits

"November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April,
To rescue me.”

#2. "What's Good" by Lou Reed

"What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good's a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good - no good at all."

#1. "April in Paris" by Frank Sinatra

"Till April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees
April in Paris, this is a feeling
That no one can ever reprise."

Monday, April 9, 2007

All Things Must Be Remembered

It wasn’t long ago that my musical landscape was shaped with bands like matchbox twenty, Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows and John Mayer, among others. Those were the people I listened to on a highly consistent basis; that is, until I heard The Last Waltz and everything changed.

I do still listen to matchbox or early Mayer from time to time (currently I’m listening DMB’s Crash) but they’ve been swept under the rug by The Velvet Underground, Pere Ubu, Dead Kennedys, Neil Young, etc.

But when I do put them on, it fills me with a sense of remembrance. For instance, matchbox twenty’s first album Yourself or Someone Like You is the first “real” album that I knew from first lyric to last (I say “real” because The Lion King soundtrack doesn’t really count) while I associate DMB’s Before These Crowded Streets with the summer that I spent at my Dad’s house in Saratoga Springs working at the horse track.

As many times as I’ve listened to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde or The Clash’s The Clash, it’s got a long way to go before catching up on some of these albums. I’ve also seen all of those artists more times than I’ve seen my current favorite, Dylan: 3 times for matchbox and Counting Crows, 2 for DMB and 1 for Mayer.

While matchbox may sound a little thin to me now, I can’t say the same for Counting Crows. They’re the one that I’m not ashamed to say that I listened to on a borderline-religious basis. Lead singer Adam Duritz, is still one of the more gifted lyricists around. Take this line from one of my favorite songs of all-time, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”:

“All the blue light reflections that color my mind when I sleep
And the lovesick rejections that accompany the company I keep
All the razor perceptions that cut just a little too deep
Hey I can bleed as well as anyone, but I need someone to help me sleep
So I throw my hand into the air and it swims in the beams
It's just a brief interruption of the swirling dust sparkle jet stream
Well, I know I don't know you and you're probably not what you seem
But I'd sure like to find out
So why don't you climb down off that movie screen.”

You don’t find that much depth in a lot of today’s music—let alone during the mid to late-60s.

Like many people I know, I’m not ashamed of what I listened to when music first started to become more than just a song I like, but rather something much more than that. Well, maybe I should be a little ashamed for I did Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP when it was released in 2000. If you don't believe me, ask my father who I believe is still mortified with me.

Anyways, to the list!

Five Best…Albums of pre-Last Waltz Josh

#5. Room for Squares…John Mayer

#4. Warning…Green Day

#3. Yourself or Someone Like You…matchbox twenty

#2. August and Everything After…Counting Crows

#1. Before These Crowded Streets…Dave Matthews Band

Sunday, April 8, 2007

What's In a Name?

Five Best…Bands With Acronym Names

#5. N.E.R.D.

-A hip hop group led by the amazing Pharrell Williams, their name stands for “No-One Ever Really Dies.” It’s very rare that I’ll give accolades to anything in the genre of hip hop or rap, but the songs “She Wants to Move” and “Rock Star,” among others, are just too catchy to not like.

#4. NOFX

-The punk band claims that they named themselves NOFX because they wanted to mock vague band names. Whatever the case, they’re one of the better (and truer) punk bands out there today.

#3. AC/DC

-Meaning Alternating Current/Direct Current, Brian Johnson & Co. aren’t the greatest band ever, but do release some good material. For instance, they’re the guys behind “Highway to Hell,” “TNT” and, what I consider their best song to be, “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll.)”

#2. NRBQ

-As heard on The Simpsons! Meaning New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, the boys of the band have never hit the commercial success they deserve but when you listen to them, you just have a fun time.

#1. REM

-Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills flipped through a dictionary and came up for the shortened way of saying “rapid eye movement.” They have numerous hits and a long, storied career, which may have hit its peak with the album, Automatic for the People.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Am I Wright or Am I Wrong?

Over the previous two months or so, New York Mets fans have been able to vote on the song 3B David Wright would hear during his at-bats. It's sort of a pointless idea, but a fun one still. Although the contest ended yesterday (I don't believe the results are out yet), here are my...

Five Best...David Wright At-Bat Songs:

#5. "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles

-This would actually be a terrible song to pick, which makes me have to put it on my list.

#4. "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who

#3. "Feel Good, Inc." by Gorillaz

#2. "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

#1. "Fame" by David Bowie

I should also mention that every one of these songs appears on the actual list.

Friday, April 6, 2007

What Has Marvin Gaye Got That Paul Butterfield Doesn't?

A while back, a friend asked me, “What’s the best song to have sex to?” and I didn’t know what answer to give. I wanted to refrain away from clichéd choices like “Sex Machine” by James Brown, “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye or anything by Barry White, but couldn’t think of a good answer. So, I told him some random song by Reverend Al Green.

But today at work, while delivering an envelope to 85th Street, I thought of the perfect choice: “East/West” by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Now before you dismiss my choice, here are the reasons why:

1. No pesky lyrics to get in the way. If you were looking for a way to seduce someone, words are the way to go but once you’re past that step, it’s all about the background noise because your mind should hopefully be elsewhere.

2. The ability to impress your lady or man. Most people have never heard of “East/West” or, for that matter, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band so if you play them, they’ll be impressed that it isn’t “Sexual Healing.”

3. Length. The song registers at over a healthy 13 minutes so you won’t have to worry about “The Black Rider” by Tom Waits coming onto your iPod while you’re making your move.

4. This is the most important reason why it’s a great sex song: it follows the rhythm of sex perfectly. “East/West” starts off at as a slow blues jam (I realize that maybe the genre of “blues” isn’t the best way to classify the song because I think it doesn’t fit into the typical blues structure, but considering they’re a blues band, it’ll have to do) and slowly builds its way up to a giant climax…then it falls and the same thing happens again a few minutes later…and then it happen again! There are three peaks to the song which, depending on how good and quick you are, just might make it the perfect song for sex.

5. Plus, don’t these boys just radiate sexuality?

Five Best...Songs about Money

As appeared in Tuesday's issue of The New School's newspaper, Inprint.

#5. “Money” by Pink Floyd

-I actually hate this song but not including it on a list about money would be like not including The Bad News Bears Go to Japan on a list of the worst movies of all-time or “existentialism” on the list of words stupid people use to sound smart.

#4. “Money, Money, Money” by ABBA

-Considering this song rhymes “money” and “funny,” it’s no wonder ABBA is in the top-20 for number of records sold. Ca-CHING!

#3. “Song for the Dumped” by Ben Folds Five

-When this song came out in 1997 , Ben Folds was money…and now he’s sunk so low that he recorded an alternate version of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” for the Over the Hedge soundtrack with William “James T. Kirk” Shatner.

#2. “Carrying the Banner” by Christian Bale and um…other Newsies

-As any self-respecting newspaper (or “papes”) person should know, it’s all about making the money. Or dough, scratch, bits, greenbacks, dead presidents, moolah, simoleons, and other clever names for the green piece of paper or shiny coin.

#1. “Money (That’s What I Want)” by…

-The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Buddy Guy, The Kingsmen, The Doors, Pearl Jam, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Smashing Pumpkins, Josie and the Pussycats (!), The Blues Brothers and The Supremes, among others. It’s definitely the king of money songs and yet, I’ve never met anyone who really likes this song.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

This Important Band

Meaning “Do You Remember?” in Norwegian, Husker Du has an immediate impression on all who listen to them. Band members Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton always manage to get the most sound of their respective instruments. A few years ago, when The White Stripes released “Seven Nation Army” as a single from their album Elephant, I thought to myself, “This is pretty good but Husker Du could have done it better.” I mean, any band that can make “Love Is All Around” (aka The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme) sound bad ass and catchy at the same time has to be pretty good.

Mould and Hart share the songwriting and as you look down any one of their albums, it pretty much goes that you get a Mould song followed by something Hart then back to Mould, etc. I happen (like most) to prefer Mould because his lyrics are that much more intense and I prefer his vocals.

Just like Bob Dylan and Prince, the band is from Minnesota and in 1980, they got a big break by having fans like the members of Black Flag and the great Jello Biafra, formerly of the Dead Kennedys. But the oddest endorsement I’ve ever seen for the band has to come from VH1, who once referred to Husker Du, along with REM, as “the two American post-punk bands of the ‘80s that changed the direction of rock ‘n’ roll.” With all due respect to VH1, I can’t imagine too many of their viewers (or employees, for that matter) listening to “Hate Paper Doll” or “Terms of Psychic Warfare.”

It’s a shame that they haven’t received a bigger following, but I suppose Mould, Hart and Norton are happy with their unofficial title as one of the great semi-underground punk bands. If you’re ever feeling unhappy, listen to any of the albums below and you’ll instantly feel that much better. And possibly want to start an awesome band yourself.

Five Best…Husker Du Albums

#5. Candy Apple Grey

Best Track: “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely”

#4. New Day Rising

Best Track: “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill"

#3. Flip Your Wig

Best Track: “Makes No Sense At All”

#2. Zen Arcade

Best Track: “Masochism World” or “Never Talking To You Again”

#1. Warehouse Songs and Stories

Best Track: “These Important Years”

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sing, Sing a Song

Five Best…Musical Television Episodes

5. “My Musical” from Scrubs
-It’s got songs about poop and guy love. ‘Nuff said.

4. “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” from South Park
-Best song: “Christmastime in Hell.” Best lyric: “Here's a rack to hang the stockings on/ We still have to shop for Genghis Kahn/ Michael Landon's hair looks swell/ It's Christmastime in Hell!”

3. “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” from The Simpsons
-With “original character[s] like Sherry Bobbins and Rickey Rouse”, this one of the best Simpsons’ episodes in their 18 years of running. Mostly because you hear Barney Gumble sing “Margaritaville.”

2. “Zanzibar” from Rocko’s Modern Life
-I learned the lesson of “You can’t fight city hall/ You can’t fight corporate America” from this cartoon about a wallaby. Thank you, Nickelodeon.

1. “Once More, With Feeling” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
-Outside of Alyson Hannigan’s voice, there’s nothing bad about this episode. If you haven’t seen it, please at least YouTube, “Walk Through the Fire” and “I’ve Got a Theory.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pulp Portrait

It turns out that Quentin Tarantino really loves Bob Dylan. And that they box!

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums of the 70s (#4)

#4. New Morning

The albums that I’ve most changed my mind about since their first listen are John Wesley Harding, Time Out of Mind and New Morning. I didn’t dislike any of those three when I first put them into my CD player but I wasn’t blown away either. For JWH, I just wasn’t prepared for its laidback sound (which sounds totally ridiculous in retrospect) while for Time Out of Mind, I listened to it outside in the sun—not the correct way to listen to that album. When I gave it another chance in the dark and while I feeling was slightly depressed, its greatness finally registered for me. As for New Morning, I can’t figure why it wasn’t an immediate favorite, although I’m still not sure if it is now.

The album begins with “If Not for You,” which began as one of my favorites on the album but has slowly slide down upon every listen. The officially released version sounds a little too lazy compared to the far superior outtake on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3, which is odd because although it’s dominated by George Harrison’s presence, it’s actually slower than the New Morning track. But Dylan sounds more heartfelt—as if it’s true that without “you,” he couldn’t “find the door.”

One of the odder songs in Dylan’s canon has to be “Day of the Locusts.” Inspired to write the song after accepting an honorary Doctorate of Music (which is rather ironic considering Dylan can’t even read music) at Princeton University with Sara and David Crosby, he hated to be there and this was his way of getting back to all, to use Crosby’s description of all who intended, the “dickheads.” I enjoy the song but its really dependent of the songs around it; it couldn’t work by itself but on an album of a similar song, it works rather well.

“Time Passes Slowly” is a rather fitting title because it’s just a rather boring 2 minutes and 35 seconds that the song takes on the album. But the next track continues New Morning feel and is, I think, an amalgam of songs like “Day of the Locusts” and the material of Planet Waves. Of course, I’m talking about “Went to See the Gypsy,” which is a rather thinly veiled reference to Elvis Presley. It has the weird imagery that runs prevalent throughout “Locusts” (not to mention never referencing an individual person by name in either song) but has the lyrical feel of “Something There Is About You” from Planet Waves. Take, for instance, this line from “Something”:

“Thought I'd shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth
Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin' the hills of old Duluth.
There was me and Danny Lopez, cold eyes, black night and then there was Ruth
Something there is about you that brings back a long-forgotten truth.”

And this one from “Gypsy”:

“I went back to see the gypsy,
It was nearly early dawn.
The gypsy's door was open wide
But the gypsy was gone,
And that pretty dancing girl,
She could not be found.
So I watched that sun come rising
From that little Minnesota town.”

It’s more than their both mentioning Minnesota, but also that they’re both about having something or someone and the next minute, they’re gone while leaving nothing behind but they’re memory.

(Tangent: Here's an interesting Wikipedia link that lists all songs that make reference to Elvis.)

Is it bad that “Winterlude” isn’t my least favorite song on the album? No, that distinction would go to “If Dogs Run Free,” which really has no redeeming qualities. We know through Chronicles that Dylan went to lots of Coltrane concerts but that should be the closest he ever comes to jazz. As for “Winterlude,” it’s typically considered one of Dylan’s worst songs (New York Observer critic Ron Rosenbaum said this in his review of Modern Times: “The new album is possibly the worst since Self Portrait, with songs that rarely rise above the level of Dylan’s low point (“Winterlude”)—and everybody seems afraid to say so.” I respect your word, Ron, but you’re pretty much full of shit there. But I’m not going to argue about Modern Times) and while it’s not good in the strictest sense of the word, it is much better filler than “Woogie Boogie.”

The next four songs are why I put New Morning as the fourth best Dylan album of the 70s. They are “New Morning,” “Sign on the Window,” “One More Weekend” and “The Man in Me.”

The title track and “One More Weekend” both have a backwoods bluesy feel to them that fits Dylan’s mood during 1970. I think “New Morning” is the best non-ballad on the album while the unquestioned best song on the album is “Sign on the Window.”

Most Dylan fans have a few songs that they think are genius but aren’t spoken about nearly enough (mine include “She’s Your Lover Now,” “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” “Changing of the Guards,” “No Time to Think” and “Black Diamond Bay”) and “Sign on the Window” is exactly that. One of the saddest songs Dylan ever wrote, it tells of a female ex-lover who spurned Bob at one point for someone else and, in wicked form, posts a sign on her porch stating that “three’s a crowd.” It’s clear that he knew the trouble he was in before getting involved with her (“My best friend said, ‘Now didn’ I warn ya’.”) but he still went through it anyways. Then, in the final verse, he sings:

“Build me a cabin in Utah,
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout,
Have a bunch of kids who call me ‘Pa,’
That must be what it's all about,
That must be what it's all about.”

But you know he doesn’t believe this—he’s just trying to convince himself of it. His disillusionment is the saddest part of the song, and of the album too.

“The Man in Me” is, outside of its semi-homoerotic title, a song that you don’t want to admit that you like, but can’t help it. It’s not particularly good but it has become wildly popular ever since being featured in The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski. A friend of mine once told me it was his favorite Dylan song…yikes.

The final two tracks on the album are “Three Angels” and “Father of Night” and neither is memorable. If you look at his discography, it’s the first album to not have a great last song (Self-Portrait is excluded because it wasn’t done with the same intention of, for instance, Another Side or New Morning.) Considering this is his 10th album (once again, not including Self-Portrait), that’s pretty remarkable.

Recap: Some clunkers but worth it for “New Morning” and “Sign on the Window” alone.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Simpson, Homer Simpson, He's the Greatest Guy in History

Interesting updates about The Simpsons Movie.

"And if I have a great concert/Maybe I won't have to sing those folk songs again."

One of the perks of being in New York during the spring and summer is the glut of concerts that you have to look forward to. On Tuesday, I’ll be seeing the legendary “proto-punk” band, Pere Ubu while on April 15h, I’m going to a concert by The Queers, who are about the closest things we’ll ever get to The Ramones in present day music. Other shows that I’m hoping to go to include Television in mid-June and Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (if the rumor is true) in September at Keyspan Park, the minor league ballpark of my New York Mets. My 1-0 New York Mets.

Since coming to NYC in late August of last year, I’ve only seen two shows: Sonny Rollins at Lincoln Center and Bob Dylan at New York City Center. This is rather pitiful on my part for every artist I enjoy normally swings around to the city at least once on their town. But either through sickness, laziness or obscene ticket prices, there’s many that I’ve missed. For instance, Lou Reed will be the first artist ever to play at the new HighLine Ballroom but with tickets being $85, it’s slightly out of my range. I did once pay $50 to see Lou but the show was cancelled due to him being sick—a non-event that still makes me sad.

A main reason that I want to stay here over the summer when school isn’t in session is because of all the concert series (some of which are free) that are held throughout the five boroughs. Some of the best names include Television, Neko Case, The Decemberists, Booker T. Jones & the MG’s and Ralph Stanley.

I’ll never get to see Zappa and the Mothers or The Band or The Clash, but by getting to see Ubu and Television, among others, I’m hoping that they can recapture their previous glories (not as if either one has lost their “groove,” so to speak) and that it’ll be one heck of a show.

Five Best…Artists I’d Love to See Live (That I Haven’t Already)

#5. Elvis Costello

#4. Levon Helm

#3. Neil Young

#2. Lou Reed

#1. The Rolling Stones

"Good night, boys and girls. Thank you for coming to our concert."
-Frank Zappa