Friday, July 31, 2009

Tom Morello “House Gone Up In Flames”

Some of our On The Road trips are to big, well know Festivals. But some are to events that aren’t really open to the Public. That’s where I met Tom Morello.

Every year, radio stations similar to mvyradio, go to something called The Non-Comm---it’s a Convention for Public Radio Stations to get together with their friends from the Music Labels. There are discussion panels, and good face to face meetings with people you talk to on the phone. But mostly it’s about the music.

If an artist has a new record, then their label brings them to the Non-Comm, for a performance in front of the very folks who are deciding what records are essential listening for their audience. It’s often a little awkward and a little less than glamorous, to see a legendary someone like T-Bone Burnett, sit in a hotel conference room, at 11am on a Friday, in front of a bunch of bleary-eyed radio folks spread out on folding chairs, eating lunchmeat sandwiches.

Even more strangely intimate, is what WE ask the artists to do. We invite them up to Barbara Dacey’s hotel room, where we’ve set up our On The Road recording scheme. Nestled in every nook and cranny is a person and some gear---recorders, laptops, microphones, video camera, etc.

The artist will sit on Barbara’s bed, or a chair in the corner, and we’ll ask them to perform their stadium-ready anthem for an audience of 4.

But Tom Morello is a pro. A super-pro.

When we met him, in a hotel room in Louisville, he couldn’t have been more gracious and sweet. He was out promoting his first solo record as The Nightwatchman. He was about the best interviewee you could ask for. He was chatty, he was effusive, he gave thoughtful, articulate, extensive answers. He was like my best buddy.

Then he played.

I’d heard the record, so I can’t say I was shocked, but it was still really remarkable to see this positive, thoughtful human being, become this tense, angry, righteous, singer-songwriter. His whole body language changed, as he spun some dark, violent tales. Then the song would end, and he’d go back to being my buddy Tom.

He played Newport Folk a few months later, and I got to introduce him, before he led a near-riot of hyped up fans under the Harbor Tent.

He’s back this year, and I can’t wait to see my buddy Tom, AND the angry Nightwatchman.

Hear Tom Morello “House Gone Up In Flames”

See the Interview and Performance, Here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer “Redemption Song”

What do DJ’s do in their free time? They DJ, of course.

Long before I worked at mvyradio, I was the guy who spent most of the Party fiddling with the stereo (which meant I was rarely the guy who took the girl home).

On the Saturday night of Newport Folk in 2008, the station hosted a House Party in Newport, featuring live music from Kate Taylor and Red Rooster and JP Jones. A really fun, loose time.

But by 2am or so, all the guests and bands and friends had gone to bed (or to other parties), and just a few of us hung on---Barbara, Nark, Jane the weekend DJ, Marianna from the office, and Joe, our President. And I sat in front of the stereo, trying to get the gang to dance (Naughty By Nature? No. Johnny Hoy? Yes.)

And when even this fighting few was worn out, I started spinning some wind-down tunes, to ease us out of a long, long day and night.

That’s when I played this cut, and I’ll always think of how Joe just nodded when the first notes hit, and he said the title, just the title, but with a weight that said way more than two words. His inflection said, “Yeah, this is the song. This is the song we need right now.”

Hear Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer “Redemption Song”

See the video Here

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jason Mraz “God Rests In Reason (live)”

There are certain women who wear too much make-up, and then you one day see them without make-up and you think, “Wow, she’s much more beautiful without all that schmutz on her face.”

A few years ago, my wife and I went to this music showcase that had ½ a dozen bands, and Jason Mraz was on the bill. I remember that in this old theater in Philly, he asked for quiet and sang his last song without any amplification whatsoever, just filling the room to the rafters with his natural voice.

My wife became an instant fan. I did not.

In the years since, she has tried and tried and tried to convince me that Jason Mraz is really great, and I have remained unconvinced.

I’ve always found his records a little too precious, a little too clever for his own good, and a little too slick.

And while she can point to his recent chart success as a reason to listen to him, I point out that it only proves my point. Slick is a musical version of too much make-up.

So in putting together another slide show of Amy and Adam (see previous post), Tabitha found the perfect song.

Jason Mraz wrote this for, and performed it at, his sister’s wedding.

And when he drops the clever. and he drops the production, and goes back to his unadorned voice, I have to admit, he can create a pretty fantastic song.

Hear Jason Mraz “God Rests In Reason (live)”

See the video Here

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weezer “Island In The Sun”

You know how you can hear a song for years, and suddenly something happens in your life and you hear it completely differently? Like when you get dumped and instantly every love song you hear sounds like it was written especially for you?

“Island In The Sun” has had a nice association for years. When my wife was still my girlfriend, and she was living on the mainland and commuting to the Island to see me every weekend, I made a CD of all “Island” songs, that was exactly the length of a Steamship Authority ride. Our “Island In The Sun” was our little cocoon of new love.

Then that changed.

We had a wedding for my sister Amy a few weeks back. Amy had been battling brain cancer for over 7 years. She and her Adam had been holding off and holding off on having their wedding, hoping for a break in her health.

(***Quick political side note: As health care reform becomes part of the National discussion, please consider that Amy and Adam could not get legally married, because if they did, her insurer had the right to boot her off my family’s health insurance, leaving her uninsured and uninsurable. How can that possibly be right?***)

Unfortunately, Amy’s health news just got worse and worse this year, as doctor’s found a 5th brain tumor. Three different courses of chemotherapy were tried, to no avail. In the last few months, Amy slowly lost her ability to talk, to move her right side, to remember what happened a just few hours ago.

Knowing that her time was limited, we threw together a commitment ceremony, as a way for the families to acknowledge Amy and Adam’s love. My wife and I were in charge of putting together a slideshow of pictures of the couple.

We asked the bride-and-groom-to-be what song we should set the video to, and they both requested Weezer. I know that was one band they had in common (Adam likes a lot of country). Amy even has a Weezer/Kermit The Frog t-shirt.

If you ever have put together a slideshow or video or something of that kind, you know you listen to the song over and over and over again. And my wife and I couldn’t help but be struck by the lyrics, and realize that this wasn’t our song any longer; that it was Amy’s.

On an island in the sun
We'll be playing and having fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain

We'll run away together
We'll spend some time forever
We'll never feel bad anymore

Amy died yesterday. 32 years old.

Her last few weeks were so difficult, as she became incapacitated and unable to communicate even the simplest of needs, that when she passed, right before my eyes, I couldn’t help thinking of that last line. As I felt the weight leave her, and us, I knew that she’d never feel bad anymore.

Hear Weezer “Island In The Sun”

See Amy and Adam’s wedding slideshow here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Decemberists “The Rake’s Song”

Cheers to The Decemberists for taking on the challenge of making an album that is more like a novel. “The Hazards Of Love” is a collection of songs that form a narrative about lovers and their obstacles. A tad pretentious? Yes. But definitely an “A” for effort.

But what to think of the band insisting that “The Rake’s Song” be the first single?

Obviously, Colin Meloy, leader of the Decemberists, is a smart guy. You’d have to be, to put something like this together.

So why would they choose, as the first single, the song where “The Rake” violently and graphically murders his own children? A smart guy would have to know that no radio station is going to play that.

The song works quite well in the context of the album, in the context of the story. But standing on it's own, or placed between other people’s songs on the radio, it sounds gruesome and twisted.

It’s would be like if the trailer for the movie Bambi consisted only of the scene where Bambi’s mother gets shot.

Where the Decemberists trying to screw with us radio folk? Challenge us? Mock us? Our are they oblivious to commercial concerns? Or resentful of them?

Whatever their motive, I thought that on it’s own, the song is so upsetting, that we shouldn’t even play it on What’s New For Lunch, one time.

But here it is, for your listening . . . uh, pleasure.

Hear The Decemberists “The Rake’s Song”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”

Bill Cosby used to open “Fat Albert” by saying “If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done.”

I've recently learned a little local geography.

First let me get out of the way that I know very little about this band. So this is not going to be musically informative.

I got tipped to this song a few weeks ago, by Jen Daunt, who promotes indie bands (and is in one herself). She’d actually called me for advice.

She said that this band Grizzly Bear had named their forthcoming album after an Island off Cape Cod. And she was looking for a pronunciation, because it was a strange looking word.


I’d never heard of it. I read that it was one of the Elizabeth Islands. Which didn’t make sense to me, because I thought I knew those names. Nonamesset, Uncatena, Naushon, Pasque, Nashawena, Penikese and Cuttyhunk.

I asked around the office, and beyond. Real Islanders, fisherman, cab drivers (who hold all local cultural knowledge). No one had heard of it.

But it turns out, you ride by it, every time you take the Woods Hold ferry.

Veckatimest is a tiny block of land, no more than a couple hundred yards in each direction, connected by bridges so that a vehicle on Nonamesset (the closest Island to Woods Hole) can drive over to Naushon (the next Island in line).

Thanks, Google Maps!

So how a band from Brooklyn knows about an Island that locals haven’t even heard of, I don’t know. And why they named their record after the place is also unclear, though I’m sure it will come out in some interview.

In the meantime, check out the song . . .

Hear Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Counting Crows “Einstein On The Beach For An Eggman"

This song should have been an antidote for anyone who dismissed the Counting Crows as taking themselves too seriously. It didn't appear on a proper album, but it was a Billboard Number One Modern Rock track in 1994, so it's not exactly obscure.

Then again, for those who dismissed the band as taking themselves too seriously should know that the song is inspired by a 5 hour Phillp Glass opera.

But then again, again, I'm pretty sure that in the last few seconds of the song, Adam Duritz is channeling Yogi Bear.

Hear Counting Crows “Einstein On The Beach For An Eggman"

Hear Adam Duritz sound like Yogi Bear

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Liz Phair "Jealousy"

"I know it's just a drawer of photographs. They're ex-girlfriends, I try to remember that."

When I young, 8th grade maybe, I remember my Dad telling me about one of his players. Dad coached high school baseball, and his star player had just quit the team, because the kid been dumped by his girlfriend. And the kid had gone into such a deep state of depression that he had stopped coming to practice or going to classes or talking to people. He was holed up at home, and the coaches were asked by the kid's folks, to come talk to him.

Dad said something to me, that he’d tried to relate to the player, that I've always held on to. "It's not always going to be like this."

No matter how you feel right now, no matter how much it hurts today, things will evolve and the state that your in will pass.

When I first moved in with my now wife, we had an issue. I had this file cabinet full of letters and journals. For about half of the 90s, I had written a daily journal, and sent and received letters regularly, and I saved every scrap. And the thought of a drawer full of ex-girlfriends, sitting right there in our one bedroom apartment, really freaked out my wife. So much so, that I moved the file cabinet over to my parents' basement for a while.

I forgot that "it's not always going to be like this."

Today, five years later, we sat at our computer, on Facebook, and looked up pictures of Ex's, and I didn't flinch, didn't think twice about it, until tonight when I hit random on the iTunes and Liz Phair came up. Our relationship to our past is different now.

But that file cabinet is still staying in the garage.

Hear Liz Phair "Jealousy"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson “Liberian Girl”

Okay so I’ve got the Michael Jackson funeral on the TV in the mvyradio News Room, and I don’t necessarily want to pile on to the whole Michael Jackson gawk-fest, but this IS just weird/interesting enough to share.

Have you ever heard of the song “Liberian Girl”? Me neither. Seen the video? Me neither.

But check out the video, and tell me how it’s possible---with all of the celebrity fire-power on display here---that this never hit the American Pop Culture radar? (And, for sport, see how many Faces-Of-The-80s, you can name without assistance)

See it here.

“Liberian Girl” is from Michael Jackson’s album “Bad,” but it released as a single only in the UK, not the US. Still, it’s hard to believe that MTV and VH1 never glommed onto this video.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bell X1 "Eve The Apple Of My Eye"

From their 2004 record, while the band was still finding their footing . . .

I think about how long it took for me and my wife to decide what to name our baby. My wife literally read aloud every single name in a book of 10,000 suggestions, to see what each would sound like. Months of lists, and secret ballots, and haggling, and the poor little thing came into the bright light, still without a name.

And we don't even have to put her name up on a marquee.

I'm sure Bell X1 spend plenty of time coming up with the right name for them. A band named after the first aircraft to break the sound barrier? Brilliant choice!

But when you pick a band name, it can't just be a cool concept, it's got to work when it's written and when it's read. And Bell X1 is prone to a few gaffes. Some people say "Bell Eleven"---because the X1 looks like Roman numerals. And some pronounce it "Bell Ecks Eye---because the one looks like a capital "i".

There was this local band where I lived in Virginia called "Toast." It didn't take them long to figure out that it looked pretty stupid, and not really clear, on a marquee, if it read "Toast Tonight, $5." They changed their name to "The Toast Band." I'm not sure that helped.

So think about it. That's how we managed to NOT name our daughter Ellie Finn.

Hear Bell X1 "Eve The Apple Of My Eye"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Smithereens "A Girl Like You"

The line on this song is that it was written specifically for "Say Anything," but the producer felt the lyrics gave away too much of the plot, so it was scrapped from the soundtrack. Probably a bummer for the band at the time, but since it turned out to be their biggest commercial hit, they were most likely psyched that it ended up on their own album.

I had a bass guitar for a few minutes, back in college, when I was surrounded by people who really knew how to play. I usually got tapped to sing, since, by default, I had the best voice. But I wanted to be able to thump on something, so I had a bass. And I'm pretty sure that "A Girl Like You" is the only song I ever learned to play. Not that I didn't try. Oh, the studying hours I lost, trying to figure out "Daytripper." But of the songs in our dorm Oeuvre, this was the only tune I could, well, not master, but at least play competently.

Does that speak ill of this song?

Hear The Smithereens "A Girl Like You"