Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last Stop to Nowhere

Five Best...Songs from Neil Young's Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

#5. "Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)"

#4. "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere"

#3. "Cinnamon Girl"

#2. "Down by the River"

#1. "Cowgirl in the Sand"

This album is the greatest collaboration between Young and Crazy Horse on record. The lyrics are almost beside the point which can't be said about many Young albums, as the guitar solos take precedent--rightly so.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Playlist, Vol. II

Here's another chance for all you readers to see the bands and artists that I may listen to but haven't yet mentioned in a posting. I do this by putting my iPod on shuffle but as you'll see, sometimes the iPod isn't very clever:

"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" by Warren Zevon (live)
"Man Is the Baby" by Antony and the Johnsons
"Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash (live)
"Stevie" by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
"My Heart Stood Still" by Frank Sinatra
"Heartland" by Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan
"What Is and What Should Never Be" by Led Zeppelin
"Mr. Scarface" by Wesley Willis
"I Want to Tell You" by The Beatles
"I Threw It All Away" by Elvis Costello
"Imperial Bedroom" by Elvis Costello
"Maggie's Farm" by Bob Dylan (live)
"Poor Folks" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
"Who Do You Love" by Bo Diddley
"(I Wanna) Call It Love" by Sondre Lerche

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Perfect Pop Pantheon, Vol II

Here are some aspects that make up a perfect pop song: Catchy, short, deals with love, has a memorable beat, lyrics are crisp, good chorus and, of course, has a memorable title. Well, coming in at just over 3 minutes, The Clash's "Train in Vain" fits all of those.

The last song on London Calling, "Train in Vain" (or, as it called in America, "Train in Vain (Stand By Me)") was mostly written by Mick Jones and peaked at #23 on the Billboard charts. But why didn't it peak higher? My best bet is that people still considered The Clash to be too "out there" or even too "punk" to make this a chart topper. But the lyrics certaintly are #1 material:

Say you stand by your man
Tell me something I don't understand
You said you love me and that's a fact
Then you left me, said you felt trapped

Sometimes even "The Only Band That Matters" can't catch a break.

"I Love L.A." by Randy Newman
"Train in Vain" by The Clash

Monday, May 28, 2007

Let's Mind the Bollocks

Five Best...Songs from Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols

#5. "EMI"

#4. "Holidays in the Sun"

#3. "Anarchy in the UK"

#2. "Bodies"

#1. "God Save the Queen"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Six Best...Star Wars movies

#6. The Phantom Menace

#5. Attack of the Clones

#4. Return of the Sith

#3. A New Hope

#2. Return of the Jedi

#1. The Empire Strikes Back

Friday, May 25, 2007

Paul and Portman

Paul McCartney recently released the first single from his new album, Memory Almost Full. The song is called "Dance Tonight," and though the video is rather corny (although it does feature my number one love, Natalie Portman, and, I think, Garth from BBC's The Office), the actual song is rather catchy. McCartney plays mandolin quite well and there's even some whistling, which is almost always an effective instrument of sorts

If You Don't Care, You're a Nerf Herder

Today is the 30th anniversary of Star Wars being released in theaters. Here's a BBC link of 30 facts about the greatest sci-fi trilogy of all-time.

Hangin' with the Spiders

I hadn't listened to Ziggy in quite some time, but when I visited Scranton, a friend and I put it into the CD player and I remembered why I loved it so much. The album is almost a musical cliche at this point, along with Sgt Pepper's, but when you've got a great album, why bother with worrying about cliches?

Five Best...Songs from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

#5. "Ziggy Stardust"

#4. "Starman"

#3. "Lady Stardust"

#2. "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide"

(I think this could be a perfect ballad if Bowie had made the song a bit longer, because it's a case in rock when a song is about to reach its peak and then inexplicably falls--much like The Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You")

#1. "Suffragette City"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Magnificent Movies

As I was sitting with a couple of friends eating ice cream a few days ago, a conversation about movies came up. We were talking about films that we had just seen when, as it inevitably always seems to, the talk became solely on Quentin Tarantino. As I would soon find out, one of the friends there had never seen a Tarantino movie or The Godfather or Citizen Kane or Casablanca or, well, you get the point. This made me think about if I could have 20 movies with me at any time, what would what be? And, by proxy, these are the 20 films I would give someone to watch. In other words, it’s your standard “Stranded on a Desert Island” question. So, here are the movies but in no particular order:

The Godfather
The Godfather II

-Arguably the two greatest movies ever made.

-There has to be at least one movie with Jack in it, and this is his best.

The Last Waltz
-THE concert film

Dr. Strangelove
-A Kubrick movie is necessary and this is his finest work. It’s also my favorite dark-comedy of all-time.

Duck Soup
Monkey Business
Blazing Saddles

-These three can make me laugh my ass no matter what mood I’m in

Star Wars: A New Hope
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

-There’s nothing more fun than the original Star Wars trilogy.

Pulp Fiction
-All movies made after 1994 seem to take at least something from Tarantino’s masterpiece.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Manchurian Candidate

-Two great political movies that mix comedy and drama.

Raging Bull

-The second and third movies by Marty on the list, but all are quite deserved.

My Fair Lady
Guys and Dolls

-Musicals are quite necessary

The Big Sleep
The Maltese Falcon

-One word: Bogart.

Birthday Bobby

I'd like to wish Bob Dylan a happy 66th birthday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Last night was the series finale of one of the better shows on television:

Yes, Veronica Mars. And I'm already missing her, Logan, Keith, Wallace, Piz, Weevil, Parker, Dick and all the other great characters that made the three seasons it ran one heck of a time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Body

Yesterday afternoon, I watched one of the best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes that I’ve seen in five plus seasons of the show: “The Body.” Originally airing on February 27, 2001, the episode revolves around the death of Buffy’s mother from an aneurysm after having surgery to remove a brain tumor earlier in the season.

Many episodes of different television shows deal with the death of a character, but the way Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy who also wrote and directed this episode, handles death is the best I’ve ever seen on television and rivals that of some of the best literary deaths.

The episode begins where the previous one, “I Was Made to Love You,” ends, with Buffy finding her Mom unconscious on the living room and meekly saying, “Mom? Mom? Mommy?” So begins the first of four acts the episode is separated into. The rest of the beginning stage is Buffy wandering aimlessly around her house, calling 911 and, while only being there in a physical sense, talking to the operator and later the paramedics. After Joyce’s body is pronounced dead, Giles, Buffy’s “watcher” and closest thing to a parent outside of her mother, comes to the house and he notices the body. While running over to it and not knowing that Buffy had already called an ambulance, he gets ready to administer CPR while Buffy screams, “We’re not supposed to remove the body!”—the exact thing the paramedics told her.

But the tone of the episode has already been shown. A rarity among television shows, there is, outside of a Christmas-themed flashback and wind chimes, absolutely no music in the whole episode. Whedon wrote the episode with the idea of the boredom and dullness after a death in mind. By this, he means that when you lose someone you love, you begin to feel dull in the mind and you walk around as if in a haze. This is fantastically shown in the episode by when the paramedic is asking Buffy questions, we don’t actually see his face but rather the point of view Buffy is staring absentmindedly at: the area around where his shirt pocket it.

This “nothingness” continues into Act II where the focus is shifted onto Dawn, Buffy’s sister. It begins with Dawn crying, which the viewer immediately thinks is because of her mother’s passing, but we later found out it’s because someone called her a freak in her school. At the time, these events seem so crucial (I can still remember certain moments in middle and high school that seemed monumental at the time, but are almost laughable with the benefit of hindsight) but really mean nothing when an event as large as your mother passing away happens. To me, this scene of Dawn tearing in the girl’s bathroom and extending into an art class where she pulls herself together and has to draw the “negative space” of a sculpture (a fitting choice considering Dawn herself is “negative space” due to her being “The Key,” which is something you’ll have to watch to truly understand) is especially powerful because it’s the first time the viewers has actually seen Dawn in school. The first three seasons of Buffy show the gang in high school and although there’s much saving-the-world events going on in the lives of the Scoobies (Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles), many of the scenes taking place within school walls were filled with laughter and, until it was blown up, almost a place of comfort—at least in Giles’ library. This is not to be in Dawn’s life because she’s already seen as outsider for supposedly cutting her wrist (an event that did happen) and after Buffy tells her of her mother’s death, she completely falls apart, an event that high school students won’t easily forget. Another first in the episode is a kiss between Tara and Willow, a lesbian couple. Whedon wanted to make sure that there kiss wasn’t the main focus of an episode and should be thought of as only an afterthought. Both of these tasks were accomplished and it takes place as Tara is trying to comfort Willow.

That scene takes place in Act III, which also happens to have one of my all-time favorite Buffy scenes. Xander’s girlfriend, Anya, an ex-demon but is now human and mortal, doesn’t quite understand the concept of death. Both she and Xander come to pick up Tara and Willow to meet Buffy at the hospital, and this exchange happens:

ANYA: Are they gonna cut the body open?
WILLOW: (horrified) Oh my god! Would you just ... stop talking? Just ... shut your mouth. Please.
ANYA: What am I doing?
WILLOW: How can you act like that?
ANYA: Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? (looks from Willow to Xander) Is that the helpful thing to do?
XANDER: Guys...
WILLOW: The way you behave-
ANYA: Nobody will tell me.
WILLOW: Because it's not okay for you to be asking these things!
ANYA: (desperate) But I don't understand! (crying) I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, (sniffling) there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid. And, and Xander's crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.

No one ever taught me how to react around death, it just sort of comes naturally to everyone. But to not know how to respond to it at all is a frightening concept. Anya is trying to grasp what it means to never be able to breathe again or for her to never be able to talk to someone, and she just can’t do it. Emma Caulfield, the actress who plays Anya, does one of the highest acting jobs in the show’s history.

Shortly after her speech, Xander, out of pure frustration and pent-up rage, punches a hole in the wall. It always bugs me when characters on television shows don’t freak out and do something physical after an important death, because most real people do. I mean, I feel like hitting something when a CD skip, let alone having someone I love pass away.

This frustration continues into Act IV where we see the gang at the local hospital waiting to hear the results of Joyce’s autopsy. Just as they suspected, the doctor tells them it was because of an aneurysm and that she felt absolutely no pain. Soon after, Dawn goes into the autopsy room to see her dead mother and while doing so, a body rises from a sheet behind her; a vampire. When Buffy looks for Dawn and sees the vampire about to bite into her, it becomes odd watching Buffy fight with no music or added sound effects. It’s like real life: when people fight, it becomes almost sad to watch at times, and when music isn’t there to heighten the moment, it’s frightening how quiet the moment can become. Just like death.

In the second or third season, I told the friend who I’ve been watching the episodes with that I really hated Joyce’s character (maybe this was after the episode where Joyce tries to burn Buffy on a stake?) because I found her boring and very unlikable. But during “The Body,” I forgot about that and actually wanted Joyce to magically come back to like—something that Buffy imagines in the episode. That goes to show just how powerful of a writer Whedon can actually be. And the fact that he or any other Buffy writer only got nominated for one Emmy for writing, the fantastic episode “Hush,” is just a damned shame.

For all the Buffy haters or simply the people who have never watched the show, I implore you to check out “The Body,” and although it’s in the fifth season, you’ll become so engrossed that you’ll want to watch all the episodes. After all, my first episode was one in the sixth season, “Once More, With Feeling.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Musical States, Vol. III

1. Aretha Franklin
2. WC Handy
3. Bessie Smith
4. Duane Allman
5. Tennessee Ernie Ford

1. Buddy Holly
2. Blind Lemon Jefferson
3. Lightin’ Hopkins
4. Janis Joplin
5. Phil Ochs

1. The Osmonds

1. Phish

1. Dave Matthews Band
2. Ralph Stanley
3. Bruce Hornsby
4. The Neptunes
5. Patsy Cline

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Nirvana
3. Pearl Jam
4. Bing Crosby
5. Neko Case

Washington DC
1. Duke Ellington
2. Marvin Gaye
3. Bad Brains
4. John Philip Sousa
5. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

West Virginia:
1. Charlie McCoy
2. Bill Withers
3. Frankie Yankovic

1. Les Paul
2. Violent Femmes
3. Woody Herman

1. Sadly, I can’t actually find anyone from Wyoming. Suggestions?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Five Best...NBC's The Office-Themed Songs

#5. "Jim" by Ella Fitzgerald

#4. "Andy, You're a Star" by The Killers

#3. "Oh, Jim" by Lou Reed

#2. "Let's Live for Today" by The Grass Roots (Creed is a guitarist in the band)

#1. "Polythene Pam" by The Beatles

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scranton Bound

I'm in Scranton, PA for the weekend because of Kevin and Angela from The Office visiting, so I won't have a real post today. Be back tomorrow.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Five Best...Movies That Are Always on Comedy Central

#5. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

#4. Office Space

#3. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad

#2. Airplane!

#1. Saving Silverman

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Musical States, Vol. III

1. Muddy Waters
2. Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett
3. Bo Diddley
4. Robert Johnson
5. John Lee Hooker

1. Chuck Berry
2. Charlie Parker
3. Sheryl Crow
4. Daddy Hotcakes Montgomery

1. Colin Meloy

1. Elliot Smith
2. Bright Eyes

1. The Killers

New Hampshire:
1. Ronnie James Dio
2. Mandy Moore

New Jersey:
1. Frank Sinatra
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Count Basie
4. Bill Evans
5. Paul Simon

New Mexico:
1. The Shins

New York:
1. The Velvet Underground
2. The Ramones
3. Talking Heads
4. New York Dolls
5. Richard Hell and the Voidoids

North Carolina:
1. John Coltrane
2. Doc Watson
3. George Clinton
4. Ryan Adams
5. Tori Amos

North Dakota:
1. Lawrence Welk
2. Bobby Vee

1. The Dead Boys
2. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
3. Pere Ubu
4. The Cramps
5. Chrissie Hynde

1. Woody Guthrie
2. Leon Russell
3. The Flaming Lips
4. Hoyt Axton
5. JJ Cale

1. The Decemberists
2. The Kingsmen
3. The Dandy Warhols

1. Philly Joe Jones
2. Sun Ra
3. Trent Reznor
4. Chubby Checkers
5. The Roots

Rhode Island:
1. The Cowsills

South Carolina:
1. Dizzy Gillespie
2. James Brown
3. Reverend Gary Davis
4. Hootie and the Blowfish

South Dakota:
1.Shawn Colvin

Not-So Evil Smell

The fantastic Bruce Campbell, he of Evil Dead fame, is in a new Old Spice commercial where he belts out Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." Normally, I could care less about Duran Duran and deodorant commercials (in that order), but there's something about Campbell that makes me love this ad. He was also one of the better things about Spiderman 3.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Musical States, Vol II

I'm leaving NYC to go back upstate today, so that's the reason only a few states are listed today. I'll attempt to finish the list for tomorrow's posting:

1. Louis Armstrong
2. Leadbelly
3. “King” Joe Oliver
4. Jelly Roll Morton
5. Dr. John

1. Ray LaMontagne

1. Frank Zappa
2. Billie Holiday
3. Adam Duritz
4. John Fahey
5. Ric Ocasek

1. Pixies
2. Modern Lovers
3. The Lemonheads
4. James Taylor
5. Harry and the Potters

1. The Stooges
2. Aretha Franklin
3. Stevie Wonder
4. MC5
5. Smokey Robinson
(and for Kayley, 6. Sufjan Stevens)

1. Bob Dylan
2. Husker Du
3. Prince
4. The Replacements
5. The Hold Steady

Monday, May 14, 2007

Musical States, Vol. I

Nearly a week ago, my father and I were talking about Dylan, Prince and Husker Du all being from Minnesota and I began to think to myself, “I wonder what other great artists are from seemingly random states?” Well, through much investigation, I’ve come up with a list (which will be done over the next 3 days) of the best musicians and bands from each state.

Here’s the criteria: For an artist, they have to be born in the state (except for the person listed under Alaska because, frankly, there’s no one from Alaska) and for bands, it has to be the state they formed in. For instance, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys can be listed under both Colorado, his birth state, and California, the state where the Kennedys formed.

I only did a maximum of five artists/bands for states that apply because, among others, California and New York can go on forever while for others, it’s quite tough to come up with even two people/groups.

If there’s anyone I’m forgetting, please let me know. Heck, until my Dad mentioned him being from Arizona, I completely forgot about Mingus, so I’m sure that I am forgetting many great artists.

List away!:

1. Wilson Pickett
2. Hank Williams
3. Nat King Cole
4. The Temptations
5. Emmylou Harris

1. Jewel (although born in Utah, she spent her childhood in Alaska)

1. Charles Mingus
2. Alice Cooper (moved there at a young age, but really from Michigan)
3. Meat Puppets

1. Johnny Cash
2. Louis Jordan
3. Al Green
4. Levon Helm

1. Tom Waits
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival
3. Dave Brubeck Quartet
4. The Grateful Dead
5. Dead Kennedys

1. Jello Biafra
2. Glenn Miller
3. Paul Whiteman

1. John Mayer
2. Liz Phair
3. Karen and Richard Carpenter
4. Michael Bolton (I had to…)

1. George Thorogood
2. Clifford Brown

1. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. The Allman Brothers Band
3. Debbie Harry
4. Against Me!
5. matchbox twenty

1. REM
2. Otis Redding
3. Ray Charles
4. James Brown
5. Little Richard

1. Don Ho
2. Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole
3. Jack Johnson

1. Paul Revere and the Raiders
2. Josh Ritter

1. Miles Davis
2. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
3. Benny Goodman
4. Patti Smith
5. Curtis Mayfield

1. The Jackson 5
2. JJ Johnson
3. Wes Montgomery
4. Cole Porter
5. John Mellencamp

1. Slipknot (ugh)

1. Joe Walsh
2. Kansas

1. Bill Monroe
2. Don Everly
3. Loretta Lynn

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Five Best...Lou Reed Solo Albums

#5. The Blue Mask

#4. Rock 'n' Roll Animal

#3. Transformer

#2. New York

#1. Berlin

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Five Best...Songs from Rubber Soul

#5. "Norweigan Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

#4. "I'm Looking Through You"

#3. "If I Needed Someone"

#2. "You Won't See Me"

#1. "In My Life"

This was actually a tough list to do because Rubber Soul is pretty much a perfect album. I'm not overly crazy about "Nowhere Man," but I appreciate the evolution in The Beatles' songwriting with it and others from the album, like "Michelle" and "If I Needed Someone."

It's far and away my favorite Beatles album.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Five Best...Rock Stars Visiting on The Simpsons

#5. Cypress Hill using the London Symphony Orchestra and Peter Frampton doing what Frampton does at a musical festival.

#4. "Have The Rolling Stones killed." Mr. Burns hears The Ramones and think they're someone else.

#3. Homer crashing U2's concert by saying he's the "potato man."

#2. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Setzer, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty teaching Homer at Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp (already posted this before, but no list dealing with The Simpsons and rock stars would be complete without it)

#1. Not the funniest clip, but it is Bob Dylan on The Simpsons...sort of.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hello Again, Mr. Diamond

My friend, William, sent me a video the other day entitled “Neil Diamond Goes Wild.” The clip is from a Neil Diamond TV special in which the crowd looks like it’s about to attack the stage because of its close proximity and how devoted to Diamond they are. It “Goes Wild” because Diamond is performing “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” and it looks like he’s about ready to speak in tongues at any second. He also has the crowd so under this thumb that it reminds me of a sermon Jerry Falwell or another evangelist would give to the needy thousands looking for salvation.

Very few artists can induce this kind of trance upon their listeners and, although I don’t exactly feel the need to throw my underwear at him, Neil Diamond has this musical-masochistic quality. By that, I mean that by no ways do I believe he’s a great songwriter, singer, actor, etc. but I still listen to his material on a pretty regular basis.

For instance, just the other day, I listened to Hot August Night II. The album has all the hits on it you’d ever want: “Cherry, Cherry,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” “Kentucky Woman.” And I absolutely love it. I know it’s not good, but I continue to listen to it in the same way that a masochistic enjoys hurting themselves even though they know it’s wrong.

Of course inflicting pain on yourself and Neil Diamond are rather far apart from one another, but I’m sure I can find plenty of people who disagree—and also give a comment about their ears being pain when hearing “Love on the Rocks” for the 357th time.

I mean, you’ve really got to love Neil Diamond in order to enjoy “Dry Your Eyes.” And, sadly, I do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Five Best...Wilson Pickett Songs

#5. "Hey Jude"

#4. "Mustang Sally"

#3. "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number Nine"

#2. "I'm in Love"

#1. "Land of a Thousand Dances"


There's nothing in this world I appreciate more than prospector humor, which is why this clip of Gus Chiggins, The Old Prospector from SNL makes me laugh. All at once: Awww peaches!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Five Best...Marlon Brando Films

#5. Guys and Dolls

-Surprisingly, Brando, as Sky Masterson, goes toe for toe with Sinatra. This film is also my favorite musical.

#4. Apocalypse Now

-His role as Kurtz is terrible, but the movie is just so damn good (and appeared on my Music in Film final too)

#3. On the Waterfront

-I can’t tell if I have a bigger man crush on him in this movie…

#2. A Streetcar Named Desiree

-…or this one.

#1. The Godfather

-The only film that could be ranked higher is, well, The Godfather: Part II, but while that would top most of my movie lists, it doesn’t this one because Don Corleone really isn’t in that movie.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Music and Work

As I work on completing my final papers for two classes tonight, my only companionship (intentionally so, because these things need to get done) at the UCC is my always faithful iPod. So far, I've listened to:

Siren by Roxy Music
The Heart of Saturday Night by Tom Waits
Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack

Considering how much work still needs to be finished, this list will be updated many a-time tonight.


Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Part of The Definitive Anthology of the Small Faces
Let Love In by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

After the Gold Rush

An album I’ve noticed has an immediate affect on all who listen to it is Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. I have a good friend who goes to school with me that is type of girl who goes Dead Kennedy’s or Black Flag concerts and dives into mosh pits, but she also lists After the Gold Rush as one of her favorite albums. I have another friend who is a part-time drug dealer but has spoken at length about the greatness of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” while I also know it’s one of my mother’s (who is neither a drug-dealer or mosher) favorites.

After the Gold Rush was Young’s third solo album (Neil Young and the magnificent Everybody Knows This is Nowhere being the first two) and it has become one of the most heartfelt albums in rock history. It begins with “Tell Me Why,” which has a “I was so much younger then”-type chorus of “Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself,/When you’re old enough to repay but young enough to sell.” That song is followed on the album by better ballads than anything Joni Mitchell could ever pen: “After the Gold Rush,” “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” “Oh, Lonesome Me” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”

That’s not to say the whole album is full of Sinatra-esque torch songs; “Southern Man” and “When You Can Dance I Can Really Love” are rock blazers that could have been on Everybody Knows.

The album only comes in at slightly over 35 minutes, so it’s brief enough to listen to in one sitting but packs enough punch that it becomes truly memorable. Although Young has released stronger material, no album of his has had the emotional impact of After the Gold Rush.

Five Best...Songs from After the Gold Rush

#5. "Don't Let It Bring You Down"

#4. "Oh Lonesome Me"

#3. "Southern Man"

#2. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"

#1. "After the Gold Rush"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil

In one of my classes, Classic and Modern Epics, we just finished reading Milton's Paradise Lost. During a discussion of the masterpiece, my professor--a rather intelligent man in his 60s or 70s but has a shabby appearance with disheveled hair and loose fitting polo shirts--began talking about how intriguing Satan is in the poem. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Satan is downright likable--at least more so than God. In an attempt to make the character seem more contemporary, he alluded to Satan being like "that rock star." Without a moment's hesitation, nearly everyone in the classroom thought to themselves to the same rock 'n' roller: Mick Jagger. This was, of course, who the professor was referring: the cockney stride, the attitude, the sexual lyrics and social life make up everything that we love about Mick and everything that he was thinking of. True, he could have also been referring to Elvis, but I guess Jagger is "cooler."

Five Best...Satan Appearances in Pop Culture

#5. Every Tenacious D song

#4. Beelzebub singing "Up There" during South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

#3. Jagger, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Brian Setzer and Lenny Kravitz driving around in a giant car shaped like Satan's head on The Simpsons (By proxy, this one includes "Sympathy for the Devil")

#2. Pixies' lyric "If man is 5 and the Devil is 6 then God is 7" in "Monkey Gone to Heaven"

#1. The Robot Devil from Futurama

Saturday, May 5, 2007

She Don't Believe What She Heard At All

Here's what I played on the Dylan radio show I mentioned in a previous post:

1. "Spanish is the Loving Tongue" (piano rendition)
2. "Black Diamond Bay" (with Emmylou's vocals more up-front)
3. "Careless Love" (w/ Johnny Cash)
4. "Never Let Me Go" (w/ Joan Baez)
5. "Song to Woody" (alternate)
6. "Hurricane" (original version that Dylan wasn't allowed to release)
7. "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kayley FitzMaurice (she came along too)
8. "She's Your Lover Now"

Friday, May 4, 2007

Five Best...Comic Book Movies

Five Best…Comic Book Movies

#5. Ghost World

More of a “graphic novel” than a “comic book,” Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World is about two girls who spent all of high school together making fun of the world only to drift apart when they become adults. Seeing the movie was the first time I had ever seen Scarlett Johansson, and it also solidified Steve Buscemi as one of my favorite actors. Here’s one of the better snippets of dialogue:

Rebecca: You actually like that guy?
Enid: I don't know, I kind of like him. He's the exact opposite of everything I really hate. In a way, he's such a clueless dork, he's almost kind of cool.
Rebecca: That guy is many things, but he's definitely not cool.

#4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Beginning as a comic 1984, these mutated reptiles have had countless video games, shirts, toys, televisions show and other assorted junk with their faces on it. For my money, the second film is the best (mostly because of Vanilla Ice’s song, “Ninja Rap”) but the third movie, where they time-warp and go to Japan, is close behind

#3. Batman or Batman Begins

In choosing what’s better, it’s comes down to: Jack Nicholson playing Prince vs. Christian Bale making a badass Batman. Too close for my call.

#2. American Splendor

Another “graphic novel,” this movie stars Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar. Filmed entirely on location in Cleveland and Lakewood, Ohio, the film boasts an impressive soundtrack (Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” is played over the opening credits) and amazing acting from Giamatti, Hope David and even Pekar himself.

#1. Sin City

Simply put: it’s a great movie.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Discussing Dylan

On Friday evening, I am making a guest appearance on the radio show of my Discussing Dylan professor, Bob Levinson. Called Deconstructing Dylan, it airs weekly from 7-8 pm on Friday. I have been a faithful student to Levinson’s class for the past two semesters and I suppose his inviting me onto the show is a way of almost thanking me--or at least being a teenager who respects Bob Dylan the way someone growing up in the 1960s did.

Sadly, last night was the last class of DD at The New School and it’s moving across Washington Square Park to NYU. But there will still be a Dylan class taught at The New School next semester; in fact, it’ll be taught by author/professor Greil Marcus and called The Old Weird America: Music as Democratic Speech-from the Commonplace Song to Bob Dylan.

Of course having Greil, a favorite author of mine and one of the seminal voices on Bob Dylan, Pere Ubu and The Band, among others, teaching a course will be fantastic, but I will still miss going to Discussing Dylan every Wednesday night from 8-10 pm.

As I mentioned before, last night was the final class at The New School and the finale song choice was “I Am a Lonesome Hobo” from John Wesley Harding. It goes:

"I am a lonesome hobo
Without family or friends,
Where another man's life might begin,
That's exactly where mine ends.
I have tried my hand at bribery,
Blackmail and deceit,
And I've served time for everything
'Cept beggin' on the street.

Well, once I was rather prosperous,
There was nothing I did lack.
I had fourteen-karat gold in my mouth
And silk upon my back.
But I did not trust my brother,
I carried him to blame,
Which led me to my fatal doom,
To wander off in shame.

Kind ladies and kind gentlemen,
Soon I will be gone,
But let me just warn you all,
Before I do pass on;
Stay free from petty jealousies,
Live by no man's code,
And hold your judgment for yourself
Lest you wind up on this road."

A great end to a great class.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Five Best...Songs about the Sun

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

Five Best… Songs about the Sun

5. “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks

The Kinks were masters of irony, and this song, which appeared on Face to Face, is one of their best examples of it. It tells of a rich man who is getting taxed heavily and has to rely on nothing but “this sunny afternoon.”

4. “House of the Rising Sun” by Duran Duran

Although the song was written in the 1930s, it didn’t become a Top 10 hit until, after hearing Bob Dylan’s version, The Animals covered it. Years later, Duran Duran would take a stab at it—and add a bitchin' guitar solo. And yes, I realize it has nothing to do with sun other than its title, but ain’t that enough?

3. “Who Loves the Sun?” by The Velvet Underground

Not everyone.

2. “The Sun Never Sweats” by Spinal Tap

I’m so pumped about Tap reuniting in July that I would have fit them onto any list. Too bad this Five Best isn’t “Best Album Titles About Smelling Inanimate Objects,” because Smell the Glove would have topped it.

1. “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles

I’ve written about The Beatles before in this column, but this is the ultimate song about the sun bringing brighter and happier times. It’s also one of the most literal songs ever, because George wrote it in Eric Clapton’s garden as the sun came out.

Perfectly Average Patti

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

Patti Smith

Covers have been an integral part of Patti Smith’s career. On her debut album Horses, “Gloria,” the first song, borrows some of its lyrics from Van Morrison’s pre-solo group, Them. Meanwhile, “Land” has Patti chanting the familiar melody of “Land of a Thousand Dances.”

So it should come as no surprise that the Patti Smith Band—consisting of Smith, Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty and Tony Shanahan—would release an album of songs by artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Nirvana and Jefferson Airplane.

What does come as a surprise is how average Twelve is. It’s an album that isn’t quite good but can’t be called bad, either. When that’s the case, you usually think it will probably only get better with time. But after the first few listens, it lacks something.

Part of Smith’s staying power for over 30 years, while having only released one truly great album (the aforementioned Horses), is because of her intensity in delivering songs regardless of who the artist is. But on Twelve, although it’s clear she has the utmost respect for songs like Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” or Neil Young’s “Helpless,” they come across with a forced restraint.

For that reason, all those in attendance, myself included, were glad to have seen the final show of her Bowery Sessions. On April 24, Smith and her band played three consecutive shows at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:30 pm at the Bowery Ballroom. Although I was only present for the last one, from what I heard by the audience, it was the right one to be at.

Kicking off the concert with a slightly stagnant “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones, followed by REM’s “Everybody Hurts” (a song that doesn’t appear on Twelve) and a decent version of a terrible Beatles song, “Within You, Without You,” I was beginning to worry that my reaction to Twelve: The Album would be similar to Twelve: The Concert. But the next (and final) four songs of the evening proved me wrong.

Although The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider” didn’t overwhelm the crowd, Smith seemed to care more about it than the songs beforehand. That trend continued with one of the highlights of both the album and the concert, “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. I’m no Airplane fan, but Smith gave the song everything she had—especially with her husky and powerful vocals reaching their peak in lines like, “Go ask Alice/When she’s ten feet tall.” The night ended with “Smells like Teen Spirit,” which sounded like it could have been right off Nirvana’s Unplugged album, and a great rendition of “Gloria.”

If Patti could have lent the same enthusiasm to Twelve that she did to works like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger,” “People Have the Power” and the version of “White Rabbit” I heard live, a good but safe album could have become a great and rockin’ tribute to the artists that have inspired her the most.