Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Posies “Grant Hart”

In all the ink spilled* in praise of Alex Chilton, on his passing a couple of weeks back, music writers/music lovers were making sure that Chilton’s work -- much of which went unjustly unnoticed for a big chunk of his career -- was noticed, remembered, codified into the canon.

Passed over, in much of the Chilton press, was the importance, and wonderfulness of The Posies.

It was Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer who stepped in, during the mid-90s, when Big Star was invited to reunite. The Posies songwriting team filled in perfectly for the 2 members of Chilton’s 70s band that were dead/out of the music business.

And it made such sense that it was The Posies who became part of Big Star, since they themselves were this incredible band, turning out the finest examples of beautiful, shimmering, sometimes wrenching, sometimes challenging, always interesting pop music. And who, like Chilton, seemed poised for bigger things that never came.

The story folds in on itself once more, with this song, about Grant Hart, one of two incredible songwriters in Husker Du, the beloved Minnesota trio whose influence reached farther than their record sales would suggest.

Need a fix? Take two Grant Harts, two Posies, two Big Stars, and call me when you die.

Music clips: "Grant Hart," Grant Hart and Jon Auer singing with Big Star

* Maybe it's time to retire this metaphor. Hardly any ink was spilled in this digital world . . .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu "Wiyathul"

You simply have to hear it.

Barbara Dacey and I had the exact same response to this song . . . it’s going to be just like that Hawaiian version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, which has become familiar to folks through YouTube and film and TV placement.

Check out the second video, which is a short bio that led into a performance at the ARIA Awards (Down Under Grammys), that tells Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s story, and gives you insight into the impact he’s already had in his native Australia.

Maybe the greatest promo hype line that I’ve ever read, was that this remarkable singer “will change the way you breathe.” And while that might be hyperbole, it’s not hard to figure out why people are so enamored of this music.

You simply have to hear it.

. . . and if you're not familiar with him: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ray Davies “Working Man’s Café”

I heard Whoopi Goldberg talking about her movie career, and how, the more famous she got, the harder it was for her to get cast in interesting roles---especially movies that were set in the past.

Essentially, she had gone from actor to celebrity, and in that transition, producers felt that her real personality trumped her acting talent. In her words, her presence “took viewers out of the movie.” You couldn’t be transported to the 1920’s, because as soon as she walked into the Speakeasy on screen, the viewer would think, “Hey, there’s Whoopi Goldberg.”

I kind of have that same problem with Ray Davies.

He’s always been a vignette-ist, sketching scenes and characters. But at some point, for me, he is Ray Davies. Ray Davies of The Kinks. And when he sings about meeting an old friend at a café, it’s not Everyman, or me, that I picture. It’s Ray Davies. Ray Davies of The Kinks. And it kind of takes me out of the story.

Which is too bad, because a writer shouldn’t be limited to writing from a solely personal perspective. He should be able to assume a character, to transform and become, like an actor.

But unfortunately, despite what the artist wants, it’s the audience that interprets the art, and for that matter, the artist.

Ray talks about his character sketches, in his tour diary

Friday, March 26, 2010

David Gray "Fugitive"

After you've lived with a song for a long period of time, you probably don't hear the parts anymore, and you experience it as a whole.

When you hear David Gray's "Fugitive," for instance, your reaction to the song probably has to do with how you feel about the song now that's it's been out for 6 months or so. You like the song, you don't like the song, whatever . . . you hear it as A SONG.

Meaning, you don't hear the individual parts. You don't think about the vocal take, or the piano riff, or the drum beat as elements that build on each other.

You see the forest, not the trees.

So it's fun to backtrack, deconstruct the song, and experience it as the culmination of multiple parts, worked and reworked to create a whole piece.

David Gray posted this "making of" video, that will give you the chance to hear the song anew, with each little pearl of a piece standing out to your ears, the next time you hear the song.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

R.E.M. "Crush With Eyeliner"

I was in the car, flipping through stations, and I hear a familiar riff.

I'm sure this happens to you all the time. You catch a portion of a song on the radio, and the familiarity bells ring, even if you don't have the artist and title right away. And a lot of times, from the feel and the style and the instrumentation, you can hazard a guess as to who the artist is.

I heard this rockin' feedbacky jangly guitar, that screamed mid-90s, and my first thought was Nirvana.

And I laughed a few seconds later when the vocals came in, and I recognized R.E.M.'s "Crush With Eyeliner."

On the surface, it's hard to imagine confusing the two. "Everybody Hurts" would never be mistaken for "Rape Me."

But for 1994's "Monster," R.E.M. DID go loud and rockin' and Nirvana-y, almost as if to remind the world, "Hey, we were alternative long before 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' came out."

Two other Nirvana connections---"Let Me In" on "Monster" was Stipe's song to Cobain (with whom he'd become friends) after Cobain's death. And Courtney Love claimed that SHE was the "Crush With Eyeliner" that Stipe was singing about (though Stipe has since said the song was a tribute to The New York Dolls).

Hear clips of all songs mentioned in this post:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Star "You Can't Have Me"

Did you go back and listen to "Thriller" for the first time in years, when Michael Jackson died?

Losing an artist often spurs you on, to go back and remember why you liked them, long ago. And sometimes there's a nice little surprise in that reminder.

When Alex Chilton died last week, I wrote about it here, and mentioned "You Can't Have Me" in the post, then realized it had been a while since I last listened to the album "Third/Sister Lovers." If I were going to listen to Big Star, I'd more likely put on one (or both) of the first 2 records, which are loaded with Power Pop classics.

"Third/Sister Lovers" is a more challenging record. I read this great book called "It Came From Memphis" which had a whole chapter devoted to Chilton. And I remember that the making of this album was difficult---the label was going bankrupt, Chilton was becoming increasingly challenging toward his producer Jim Dickenson, and many of the songs live on the dark side. And when I'd want a little Big Star happiness, I didn't necessarily want to be challenged, so I'd skip the final record.

But the day after Chilton died, I was on the Steamship, and thought I'd listen to the record on my ride. So rewarding.

Of course, there are plenty of bright spots that I remembered, like the shimmering Christmas song "Jesus Christ" and the affirming "Thank You Friends." And there were wonderful, complex moments that I hadn't thought about in a while, like the beautiful "Take Care" and the buoyant "O Dana."

But the real treat was hearing "You Can't Have Me" for the first time in years, and really being swept up in the defiance of Chilton's vocals, the swirling, chaotic Dickenson production with horns and backing vocals and piano and harmonica, and especially, especially, Jody Stephens wild, passionate drum fills.

A joyful noise that made me want to go listen to ALL my albums, to rediscover all those gems that I've let slip away.

(skip forward to about 2:40 for "You Can't Have Me")

Hear clips from all the songs mentioned in this post:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Warren Buffett sings

You can see yourself doing it. And your siblings. And probably some of your friends. Maybe even your Dad.

You've had rock star dreams. You've sung in the shower. I bet there has been some moment, however uncool it is to admit it, that you played air guitar.

And there are probably lots of people in your life who, you know for sure, have rock star dreams.

Everyone has rock star dreams, right?

But it's hard to picture certain people.

Your accountant? Maybe not. The Pope? Not likely to do air guitar next sermon. The funeral home director? Maybe, but you're not going to see it.

Previously, it would've been hard to envision the World's 3rd richest person having rock star dreams. But thanks to YouTube, please enjoy a loss of dignity that no billionaire could buy back: It's Warren Buffett, performing with his employees in a Geico commercial, dressed Axl Rose-style.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tom Petty "The Waiting"

Tom Petty at work. Tom Petty at home.

We spent last week on the air, promoting a Petty giveaway, so my head is ringing with Tom Petty talking points.

But at home, there is only one Tom Petty talking point:

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part.

8 and 3-quarter months. One week from the due date. We're all waiting, waiting, waiting . . . and singing Tom Petty.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alex Chilton “Il Ribelle (The Rebel)"

When an artist dies, it’s pretty easy for music writers/critics/fanboys to slip into hyperbole about that person’s influence.

And maybe you’ve heard that Alex Chilton died this week, and have balked at some of the reverential coverage.

You may have never heard of Alex Chilton, though, at the very least, you recognized his biggest hit, “The Letter” from when he was the 16 year old lead singer of The Box Tops.

But it’s a testament to his enormous influence, to check out the music sampler below, to hear who counted Chilton as an inspiration.

And his obscurity, is probably a testament to his attitude and obstinance. After feeling that he and his music, were poorly handled at the end of the Box Tops and with his next group Big Star, Chilton was willfully rebellious against being boxed in by styles, trends, and simple marketability. “You can’t have me, not for free,” he once sang.

Big Star was set to perform this weekend at South By Southwest, with the 3 original surviving members playing together for the first time in 35 years. No doubt, it would have introduce Chilton to a whole new world of music lovers.

For today, we just have to celebrate is influence.

Check out just a few of Alex Chilton's fans, singing songs he wrote or co-wrote:

(when you get to the "Various Artists" cuts, click through to the album to see the various bands involved)

"You want me to do some audience-pleasing old style rock n roll? Sure, let me sing in Italian."

For better or worse, this is Chilton's most famous songwriting credit:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

She & Him “In The Sun”

The bargain bin is littered with albums by actors who wanted a career as a pop/rock/country star. For whatever reason, we, the fickle public, often don’t want our movie stars to be good at singing, too. Or even average at singing.

It’s kind of ridiculous to somehow only allow someone to be good at one thing. I mean, movie actors so often start off in theatre, where they succeed in musicals. So yeah, they’d have to be pretty fine singers AND actors.

But it’s pretty rare that someone known as a solid actor, gets the kudos from critics as a singer, too.

The good news is, that when it DOES happen, it opens the door for a few things. Check out the video below. Who, of She & Him, is carrying this piece?

Musicians aren’t actors. We shouldn’t ask them to be. So M Ward does a very musician-ly non-acting acting job in his role as “Him.”

But “She” oh, “She,” who sings beautifully, gets to share her other talent---which is to be utterly charming on-screen, singing, dancing and acting.

So let a few through. Zooey Deschanel can’t be the only very cool singer, who is first a very cool actor. It makes for better videos.

Check out samples of 11 actors who made albums, including Leonard Nimoy, Minnie Driver and Robert Downey Jr. Some fare better than others.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Grateful Dead “Uncle John’s Band”

I was not a Deadhead growing up. I had the vaguest knowledge of “Casey Jones” and “Touch Of Grey” and a few other radio regulars. But the whole Dead culture was something I was not tuned in to. Or perhaps, in my suburban existence, was shelter from.


I had a girlfriend, and while she wasn’t a Deadhead, many of her friends were, and they were my introduction to the music and the culture and the attitude.

One hot Fourth Of July weekend, we were all invited out to a western Massachusetts backyard barbecue, by one of the gang, who promised that the food would be great, there was a pool, and a bunch of her friends had a great Dead cover band that would play in her backyard, into the night.

I remember sitting in a kiddie pool, drinking a beer, excited as I watched the dudes set up.

“When’s the band going to start?” I asked.

“It’s gonna be great!” said my hostess.

The band broke for lunch. Yes, the hamburgers were delicious.

“When’s the band going to start?” I asked.

“Oh, they’ll start soon!”

The band tuned up.

And tuned up.

And tuned up.

I played frisbee, barefoot on the grass.

“When’s the band going to start?” I asked out loud, but to no one in particular.

With dusk gathering, after much tuning up, the band took a stab at “Uncle John’s Band,” which was cool, because it was my girlfriend’s favorite.

After the one song “sound check,” they took a break to fill their beers.

The lonely amps sat in the corner of the yard, unattended, as the band filled and refilled their cups. I asked my hostess, “Are they going to play anymore?

She said, “You worry too much.”

And that was my introduction to Dead culture and attitude. There are those in life that soak up the sun, and the kiddie pool, and the beer, and the hamburgers, and their bare feet on the grass, and their college girlfriend, and their tribe that has migrated from a classroom to a backyard in Western Mass . . . and there are those in life that wait for the band to start.

If you’re a Deadhead, or a Friend of a Deadhead, this week on mvyradio, we’re offering a “Friend of the Devil, Friend of mvyradio” t-shirt for a donation. You can support the station, and show your pride in the tribe. And for more Dead, check out Shakedown Stream.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thee Headcoats “By The Hairs On My Chinny Chin Chin”

One of the great pleasures of living here in the future (“The year two thousand teeeeeeeeennnnnn!!!”) is that technology has advanced to the point that you can actual be two people in the exact same time and space.

In the old days, it was hard to be surprised by your own record collection.

I mean, you could blindfold yourself, reach into your stereo cabinet and fish around for an LP, fumble for the needle and be surprised by whatever sounds came out of your speaker.

But for the most part, in the old days, if you wanted to be surprised, you had to listen to someone else picking the music. Hello, FM radio!

Here in the future, I can hit random on my iTunes list and be surprised by one of the 8000+ songs that I---in a different space and time---put there.

There are lots of random tunes for me to surprise myself with. Things I’d forgotten about. Tunes I picked up along the way, but rarely listen to. You simply couldn’t do this, with a record collection.

I have no idea where I picked up this track. I don’t own the album or anything. But what fun to hit random, and have a little old school, pre-future Rock N Rock blast off.

We can also thank to future for this:

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Superions “Who Threw That Ham At Me?”

You can’t play everything. You just can’t.

You shouldn’t play everything. You just shouldn’t.

But even when a song is a can’t. Even when it’s a shouldn’t. Sometimes you want to.

Often, I post songs here, wondering if they are an “mvy” song or not, looking for your feedback. But today, I can say for certain that this is not a song that fits in the mvyradio universe. And yet, it’s a “you have to hear this” tune.

The Superions are a side-project of Fred Schneider of the B-52s. The song is about shoplifting at the grocery store. Inexplicably, it is NOT inspired by chef Paula Deen (see second video).

“Times They Are A-Changing” it is not. But it’s a hoot and deserves a home, if not on Mainland mvy, at least on this Blogger (Out)Post.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Francis Dunnery “Heartache Reborn”
Pretenders "Show Me"

There are lots of sentimental reasons to resist technology.

Just the other day, I was wondering about album art, and if it will be a lost art, now that the world increasingly buys their music in mp3 form, sans packaging.

But as a DJ, there are plenty of good reasons to happily say goodbye to the package.

This weekend, I was hosting a remote broadcast for the station. I was on the mainland, and Greg Martino, weekend DJ, was controlling things back at the station. As is the plan, we each had a copy of the list of songs to be played during my broadcast, so he could spin the discs, and I could come on the air an announce the songs, and do my shtick.

In the middle of the broadcast, I heard a song I didn't recognize. I looked on my list, then gave Greg a call.

"Should you be playing 'Show Me' by The Pretenders?"

"I am," he said, suddenly not so sure. "Track 5."

This was definitely not Chrissie Hynde singing.

When the song ended, he pulled the disc out of the player. "Gulley Flats Boys."

"Francis Dunnery! I've been looking for that!"

For the last 2 years, atop CD Player #2 in the mvyradio studio, has sat the Francis Dunnery album "The Gulley Flats Boys." Just the case. The CD had disappeared.

Saturday, when Greg had reached into The Pretenders' CD case, he assumed he was pulling out a Pretenders CD. He never looked at the label. He was spinning "Heartache Reborn" off the Dunnery CD, instead of "Show Me" off the Pretenders CD.

Fortunately, The Pretenders CD was also stuffed in the Pretenders case, so nothing is lost.

But this never happens with MP3s.

So for today, I'm not a Luddite.


Francis Dunnery

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Broken Bells "The High Road"

What do you think of this song?

Sometimes I hear it and I think it's a song mvyradio would never play.

And sometimes I hear it and think it's a perfect mvyradio song.

The weird thing is that I think both responses are right, because there's a lot going on in the song. A lot of different things.

The verse sounds very mvy to me, but when things switch over to the bloops and bleeps of electronic music, it sounds less like something that's a fit for us.

What do you think? Should mvyradio be playing it?

See this previous post, for details on how a song gets into rotation on mvyradio, then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

David Bowie “Golden Years”

There’s a story in Musical Notes today, about David Bowie, and how he’s suddenly gone silent.

Bowie has put out an album, or at least a single, pretty much every year, since the late 60s. But since his 2003 full length and the tour to follow, he’s been off the road and he hasn’t put out a new record (not counting reissues).

Pretty striking, for someone who’s output continued at a steady clip for 3 decades.

And the article suggests that nothing is imminent from Bowie, which is why the piece leads with a lyric from “Golden Years.”

So if Bowie kinda stops, can we expect “Run for the shadows in these Golden Years” to appear in any Bowie mention?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monsters Of Folk "Dear God"

Friday, I was writing about how people stopped making videos for a period.

Now, bands are asking YOU to make the videos. Good marketing? Or just lazy?

Monsters Of Folk held a "make our video" contest. You can see the winning video below.

Even though the contest is over, you can download a free copy of the track, offered as part of your participation.

Friday, March 5, 2010

OK Go "This Too Shall Pass"

Well. Thank goodness for Youtube, right? I mean, in the old days, we had to wade through hour and hours of Jefferson Starship and Wham! videos, to get to something good, right?

Then MTV and VH1 stopped showing videos, and bands stopped really trying. And we hardly saw ANY videos.

But here, in the future, with Youtube at their disposal, a few bands really make an effort. And OK Go---remember the treadmill video?---has done it again, with yet another single-tracking-shot slice of awesomeness.

If you haven't already had someone in the office show this to you, check it out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals "2.22"

Songs like "2.22" are what roped me in to Grace Potter and The Nocturals. A little tough, a little gritty.

At the station, we love that Grace is a Vermont-grow phenom, winning over one fan at a time with her powerful voice, infectious charisma and rock solid band.

And we've been long waiting for a new album, due this year.

What to make of the email I found in my Inbox last week, with only the picture in this post (on the left), and the date 04.05.10?

Grace has never looked like that anytime I've seen her.

It's only one picture, right? I doesn't necessarily say anything about the direction the band is headed in, image-wise or musically. Right?

I found the album cover for the new record on Amazon (on the right). Hmm.

What to make of the make over?

Best not to judge. Because whatever she looks like, she's always going to sound like she does in the clips below.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bob Seger "Downtown Train"

On Monday, I was writing about artists putting songs "On Hold," and was saying that it was an term I was not familiar with it.

Turns out, neither was Bob Seger.

In 1989, Seger supposedly had just completed the recording sessions for his new album, at the end of a decade that saw him achieve higher commercial success that ever before.

The story goes that he ran into acquaintance Rod Stewart. He told Stewart about this great Tom Waits cover he had just recorded.

Flash forward a couple of months later, Stewart has gone into the studio, recorded his own version of Waits' "Downtown Train," and gets it released before Seger's version.

It remains is one of the biggest commercial hits of Stewart's career, and even earned him a Grammy Nomination.

Seger, on the other hand, was reportedly PISSED. He pulled the planned album release and went into the studio, motivated to record something that would REALLY knock Rod's socks off. It took him until 1991 to get his next album out, and by that time, Nirvana had hit, and suddenly there was no room for Classic Rockers on Grunge radio.

His version of "Downtown Train" remains unreleased.

But lots of people have recorded it. Here are clips of Waits' original, Rod's remake, and covers from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Everything But The Girl and Patty Smyth.

The Rod Stewart, Pop-Up Video Version, with Seger story

Rarely seen Tom Waits video

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peter Gabriel/Lou Reed “Power Of The Heart”

Peter Gabriel picked a beautiful, unusually sentimental Lou Reed song, for his covers project “Scratch My Back.”

Lou started performing this tune live in the Spring of 2008, but it hasn’t made it onto a proper album yet.

I say unusually sentimental, but I can’t think it’s a coincidence that this love song first appeared in Spring 2008, right around the time the Reed got hitched to his longtime partner, Laurie Anderson. Perhaps it was a wedding gift?

Lou Reed's version

Peter Gabriel's version

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ellis Paul "World Ain't Slowing Down"

I heard an industry term I'd never run across, when I saw Ellis Paul this winter.

I've been in broadcasting for close to 20 years at this point, but every day I am reminded that (whatever your expertise is) there is always something you don't know.

As an introduction to his tune "World Ain't Slowing Down," Ellis mentioned that "this song is 'On Hold' for Tim McGraw."

I'd never heard the expression "On Hold" but I know what it means.

If you are a songwriter, shopping around your track to Big Name artists, and a Big Name artist is seriously considering recording a particular song, they will ask that you put it "On Hold," meaning that you should no longer shop the song around, so the Big Name artist can be the first to have a Big Hit with your song. It's "On Hold" until they decided to record and release it; a limbo state.

And if you listen to this song, yeah, I can hear Tim McGraw turning this into a Big Hit. And if THAT were to happen, well, Ellis' next album probably wouldn't have to be Fan Funded. I could be Royalty Check Funded.

Ellis has a Fan Funded record out called "The Day After Everything Changed," and mvyradio is giving it away as a Monday Free CD today. Listen to the station for your chance to win.

Hear "World Ain't Slowing Down" and clips from Ellis' new record: