Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rock 'N' Roll Revisited, Vol. V

As appeared in yesterday's issue of the New School Free Press

Blood on the Tracks
Bob Dylan

Whenever I speak to fellow Dylan fans and the subject turns to Blood on the Tracks, they invariably share a story, a piece of their past, associated with the album. It's a personal record, for Dylan and his listeners.

Recorded in September and December 1974 and released the following January, Blood was famously recorded twice—one session in Minnesota, another in New York. After he recorded ten tracks, Dylan thought they were too personal and decided to re-record them with a different feel.

Dylan's recasting of the album has sparked debates since its release, with fans arguing over whether the New York version of "You're a Big Girl Now" is superior to the Minnesota recording (it is), or if Minnesota's "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" packs more punch than the one recorded in our fair city (it does). Either way, it's a damn good album.

The album begins with "Tangled Up in Blue," one of Dylan's most popular songs. In his memoir, Chronicles, Dylan says he learned a new style of songwriting through painting, enabling him to travel between places and times without worrying about the song seeming uneven. Almost every verse takes Dylan to a new time and place, trying to "get to her somehow."

The song includes one of my favorite lines: "We always did feel the same/We just saw it from a different point of view/Tangled up in blue."

"Idiot Wind" (Or, "Ed-e-ot Wind") blasts violently off the record. The New York version is Dylan on acoustic guitar and a light stand-up bass in the background. The Minnesota version (the one actually used on the record) is louder and more venomous: "You hurt the ones that I love best, and cover up the truth with lies/One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes/Blood on your saddle." Even the humor is cutting: "They say a shot a man named Gray/And took his wife to Italy."

"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is an eight-minute tall tale about a bank heist, peopled with characters like a novel. "Shelter from the Storm" is one of Dylan's finest compositions, with every verse ending with a woman promising to give "shelter from the storm."

Soon after Blood was released, Dylan said, "A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It's hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?" Well, when I'm down and it's three a.m., the only music I want to hear is Blood on the Tracks.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Five Best...George Songs

#5. "George E. Porge" by Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel

He's born in Beverly Hills
But raised in Albuquerque
All the little girls, they thought him fine
But George E. Porge, he's kissed the girls
And felt he'd rather kiss the boys
And speculates if now is not the time

#4. "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits

You check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind he's strictly rhythm, he doesn't want to make it cry or sing
And an old guitar is all, he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

#3. "The Village Green Preservation Society" by the Kinks

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society.
God save Mrs. Mopp and good ol' Mother Riley.
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium.
God save the George Cross, and all those who were awarded them.

#2. "George Jackson" by Bob Dylan

Sent him off to prison
For a seventy-dollar robbery.
Closed the door behind him
And they threw away the key.
Lord, Lord,
They cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

#1. "Madame George" by Van Morrison

Down on Cyprus Avenue
With a childlike vision leaping into view
Clicking, clacking of the high heeled shoe
Ford & Fitzroy, Madame George

More George:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eight Best...Pixar Films

#8. Toy Story 2

#7. A Bug's Life

#6. Cars

#5. The Incredibles

#4. Ratatouille

#3. Monsters, Inc.

#2. Finding Nemo

#1. Toy Story

Thursday, January 24, 2008

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

Ever wonder what Danny Devito playing the air guitar looks like? Wonder no longer!

I was never a big fan of Heath Ledger. While I'm anxiously waiting to see how he fares as the Joker in The Dark Knight, I don't much care for a lot of his old work: A Knight's Tale is rather terrible, Brokeback Mountain is horribly overrated and his Bob Dylan in I'm Not There is decent, but nothing special. Frankly, the role I most associate him with is Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You. Not the greatest movie in the world, but one that features a memorable scene of Heath singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."

Steve Holt!

While home, I watched the first two episodes of American Idol, which will probably be the only two episodes of Idol I watch this year. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to hear the original song, "I Am Your Brother" by Renaldo Lapuz. Basically, Renaldo came into the studio looking like a homeless pimp, and sang his song to Simon about how they're brothers. It's one of the greatest Idol moments of all-time, right up there with Clay Aiken's performance of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

But now for some good music: "Maybellene" by Chuck Berry

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Faves

Yesterday, my dad sent me an e-mail about Frank Sinatra: The Man, The Music, The Legend, an anthology of essays about Ol’ Blue Eyes brought together at a 1998 conference held at Hofstra University. After reading the briefing by Benjamin Schwartz, literary and national editor of the Atlantic, I began to think of how much I enjoy Sinatra, although I hardly mention him on Five Best. From there, my thoughts drifted towards if I could only hear five bands or artists for the rest of my life, who would they be? Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order:

Bob Dylan
-If you’ve read my blog even once, you know how much I love Dylan. Plus, he’s got a long discography of fifty plus albums—and how could I go the rest of my life without hearing my two favorite albums, Blood on the Tracks and Blonde on Blonde.

Frank Sinatra
-Lots of albums, lots of different emotions he can stir up, amazing voice…need I continue?

The Beatles
-Although they didn’t release as many albums as Dylan or Sinatra, they’re the freakin’ Beatles! Of course I’d include them.

And here’s where it gets tough. Those three choices I thought of without even really, well, thinking, but for my final two, I’m left wondering whether I should choose two rock bands. Or maybe some jazz? Can I go the rest of my life without hearing Once More, With Feeling again? So, after much thought, here are my final two:

Louis Armstrong
-When I asked my dad who he’d have on his list, he included Louis (along with Dylan, Sinatra, Paul Desmond and either Bill Evans or Ben Webster) and I didn’t. In an e-mail I sent back to him after getting his choices, I mentioned that I’d probably pick Monk or Coltrane over Louis but upon second thought, I would choose Louis for one main reason: vocals. Although I might listen to Monk and ‘Trane more, I don’t think I could go the rest of my life without hearing his work with Ella Fitzgerald.

For the last slot, I thought about Richard Thompson, Miles Davis, the Kinks, the Ramones, Neil Young, the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and David Bowie, but my choice inevitably came down to two: The Clash or Tom Waits. And my last artist is:

Tom Waits
-I may actually like the Clash more than Waits, but it simply comes down to the amount of albums and how good they are. The Clash has two masterpiece albums (The Clash and London Calling) while Waits only has one (Rain Dogs), but there aren’t that many other Clash albums (I mean, I could go the rest of my life without Super Black Market Clash, and I wouldn’t too upset). As for Waits, he doesn’t have a bad album on his résumé, and has a lot more of them as well.

So here they are:

Who would be in your group?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Five Worst...NFL Mascots

#5. Steely McBeam (Pittsburgh Steelers)

#4. Ragnar the Viking (I love these wheels)

#3. Mid-90s San Diego Chargers

#2. Sourdough Sam

#1. Washington Redskins (pre-racism?)

Five Best...Songs from Closing Time

#5. "Rosie"

Well I'm sitting on a windowsill, blowing my horn
Nobody's up except the moon and me,
And a lazy old tomcat on a midnight spree
All that you left me was a melody.

#4. "Ol' 55"

And my time went so quickly, I went lickety-splickly
Out to my old '55
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy,
God knows, I was feeling alive.

#3. "Martha"

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.

#2. "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)"

I can see by your eyes, it's time now to go
So I'll leave you to cry in the rain,
Though I held in my hand, the key to all joy
Honey my heart was not born to be tamed.

#1. "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You"

Well I hope that I don't fall in love with you
'Cause falling in love just makes me blue,
Well the music plays and you display your heart for me to see,
I had a beer and now I hear you calling out for me
And I hope that I don't fall in love with you

Monday, January 21, 2008

Five Worst...Movies Based on Video Games

#5. Pokemon 3: The Movie

All Pokemon movies could easily have this spot, but the designation goes to the third one because of its subtitle. The Movie? How terrible is that? Maybe this should start catching: Great Expectations: The Book, Lost: The Television Show on ABC Not To Be Confused with that Dean Cain Movie or Herpes: The Sexually Transmitted Disease.

#4. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

I was never a huge Mortal Kombat fan, for I rather spent my time playing Mario or various sports game. But when I went to my cousin's house, I would play it for long periods at a time and loved hearing the oh-so-familiar "Let's fight!" This movie, a sequel, made me lose all fond feelings for the game with this kind of dialouge:

Jax: Man, you barbecued his ass!

Shao Kahn: You should have killed me... when you had the chance... brother.
Rayden: My brother died a long time ago. His heart, anyway.

Now that's intense.

#3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Angelina Jolie, hot. This movie, not.

#2. Super Mario Brothers

While I do have fond memories of this movie (especially the elevator scene where the Goombas begin to sway to elevator music), I can't give too much credit to a movie that has its main actor, Bob Hoskins who played Mario, say this about it: "The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers. It was a nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare." Yikes.

#1. Street Fighter

This poster says it all:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Five Best...Songs from Wilco's Sky Blue Sky

#5. “Either Way”

Maybe the sun will shine today
The clouds will blow away
Maybe I won’t feel so afraid
I will try to understand
Either way

#4. “Hate It Here”

I try to stay busy
I do the dishes, I mow the lawn
I try to keep myself occupied
Even though I know you’re not coming home

#3. “What Light”

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

#2. “On and On and On”

One day we’ll disappear together in a dream
However short or long our lives are going to be
I will live in you or you will live in me
Until we disappear together in a dream

#1. “You Are My Face”

I have no idea how this happens
All of my maps have been overthrown
Happenstance has changed my plans
So many times my heart has been outgrown

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Five Best...Richard Thompson "Snake" Songs

#5. "Don't Tempt Me" from Amnesia

He's got the looks, he's got the lolly
Driving me clean off my trolley
Doing the jitterbug, doing the jive
Doing the shimmy, snakes alive
That's not a dance, that's S-E-X
Ban that couple, certificate X

#4. "Bank Vault in Heaven?" from you? me? us?

Going to shine down from heaven right into your room
Take the minds of your children right off to the moon
Every mud hut and igloo, every penthouse and farm
I'll shine down from heaven and I'll do my snake-charm

#3. "Mother Knows Best" from Rumor and Sigh

She tells everybody she was born in a ditch
She back-combs her hair 'till she looks like a witch
Wolves in her train, serpents suckle at her breast
Don't forget to wash behind your ears, 'cause mother knows best

#2. "Put It There Pal" from you? me? us?

Some say you're a rattlesnake in the grass
But I say the sun shines out of your arse

#1. "Cooksferry Queen" from Mock Tudor

She gave me one pill to get bigger
She gave me one pill to get small
I saw snakes dancing all around her feet
And dead men coming throught the wall
Well I'm the prince of this parish
I've been ruthless and I've been mean
But she blew my mind as she opened my eyes
She's my Cooksferry Queen

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Five Best...Marlon Brando Songs

#5. "Close but No Cigar" by Weird Al Yankovic

And I loved her even more
Than Marlon Brando loved souffle
She was gorgeous, she was charming
Yeah, she was perfect in every way

#4. "Marlon Brando's Laundromat" by Pony Up!

Tonight, all my clothes are dirty
Tonight, Marlon help me wash my clothes
Tonight, I'm staying home and I'll sleep tight.

#3. "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" by Bruce Springsteen

I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun, then dance just like a Casanova

#2. "Pocahontas" by Neil Young

And maybe Marlon Brando
Will be there by the fire
We'll sit and talk of Hollywood
And the good things there for hire
And the Astrodome and the first tepee
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me
Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me

#1. "China Girl" by David Bowie

I feel tragic like I'm Marlon Brando
When I look at my China Girl
I could pretend that nothing really meant too much
When I look at my China Girl

Monday, January 14, 2008

Five Best...Songs from Help!

#5. "The Night Before"

When I held you near, you were so sincere,
Treat me like you did the night before.

#4. "Ticket to Ride"

She said that living with me,
Is bringing her down yeh,
For she would never be free when I was around.

She's got a ticket to ride,
She's got a ticket to ri-hi-hide,
She's got a ticket to ride, but she don't care.

#3. "Help!"

When I was young, but so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way,
But now these days are gone and I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind I've opened up the doors.

#2. "It's Only Love"

Why am I so shy when I'm beside you?
It's only love and that is all,
Why should I feel the way I do?
It's only love and that is all,
But it's so hard loving you.

#1. "I've Just Seen a Face"

Falling, yes I'm falling,
And she keeps calling me back again.
I have never known the like of this I've been alone and I have,
Missed things and kept out of sight
For other girl were never quite like this.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Five Best...Chain Songs

#5. "Chain That Door" by Mudhoney

Where do you think we've seen that girl?
Chain that door, I'm outta your world

#4. "Ball and Chain" by Big Brother and the Holding Company

Sitting down by my window,
Oh, looking at the rain.
Sitting down by my window now now,
All around I felt it,
All I could see was the rain.
Something grabbed a hold of me, honey,
Felt to me honey like, lord, a ball and chain.

#3. "Chain Saw" by the Ramones

Texas chain saw massacre,
They took my baby away from me
But she'll never get out of there,
She'll never get out of there

#2. "Chain Gang" by Sam Cooke

That's the sound of the men,
They are working on the chain gang.

#1. "Walking on a Wire" by Richard and Linda Thompson

I hand you my ball and chain
You just hand me that same old refrain

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Playlist, Vol. VI

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 put my iPod on shuffle and write down what’s played. Here’s what I heard:

"Carrying the Banner (Finale)" by Newsies
"Time Warp (1989 Remix)" by Rocky Horror Picture Show
"Streamline Woman" by Muddy Waters
"Clash City Rockers" by the Clash (live)
"Cotton" by the Mountain Goats
"Lovin' Blues" by Bobby "Blue" Bland
"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" by Bob Dylan
"Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles
"I Can Make Music" by Al Green
"Man of God" by Neil Diamond"
"Little Umbrellas" by Frank Zappa
"Ghost Wiring" by Neko Case
"It Takes One to Know One" by Johnny Cash
"Ol' Mac Donald" by Frank Sinatra

Friday, January 11, 2008

Five Best...Terribly Awesome Cover Songs

#5. Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" by Deep Purple

#4. Wings' "Live and Let Die" by Guns 'N' Roses...or...Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Guns 'N' Roses.

#3. Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" by the California Raisins

#2. Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by the Maynard Ferguson Big Band

#1. The Village People's "YMCA" by Gregorious

Here's an actual good one: I confess that I thought "Good Lovin'" was a Young Rascals original, but little did I know that it was first recorded by the Olympics. Here's there version, which is sort of like a cover for me, thinking the way I did. It's a great song, no matter who sings it--even the Dead.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fifteen Best...Fake Bands

As you'll soon notice, bands like Spinal Tap and Tenacious D aren't on this list. That's because they went on to perform, and became a real fake band. I only choose acts that haven't actually existed and, sadly, never will.

#15. The Shmenge Brothers from SCTV

#14. My Pretty Pony from Veronica Mars

#13. The Riverbottom Nightmare Band from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

#12. Dingoes Ate My Baby from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

#11. Brick Springhorn and the Tenth Avenue Band from a random Transformers comic

#10. Stillwater from Almost Famous

#9. Sonic Death Monkey from High Fidelity (Also known as Barry Jive and the Uptown Five or Kathleen Turner Overdrive.)

#8. Drive Shaft from Lost

#7. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show

#6. Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld/Faith Plus One/Fingerbang from South Park

#5. The Rutles from All You Need is Cash

#4. The Beets from Doug

#3. Dregs of Humanity from It's Your Move

#2. Dr. Funke's 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution from Arrested Development (I couldn't get a picture of the "band," so instead here's one of Tobias' résumé)

#1. The Wonders (or the Oneders) from That Thing You Do! (Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, as well)

Honorable Mention: The Dangles from Rocko's Modern Life, who, of course, are a band that plays at a nudist colony. Why that show was never more popular, I have no idea.