Saturday, December 31, 2011

Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon Levitt "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

I tried to measure this video with my Cute-o-meter, but the Cuteness Factor overloaded my machine . . .

Happy New Year!

See the video on Youtube.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tom Waits "New Year's Eve"

Back in the fall, I wrote about my concerns over the idea of adding the new Tom Waits track "Back In The Crowd."

But as we got to the end of the year, it became apparent that "Bad As Me" was going to top many a critics Best Of 2012 list. With the music biz going quiet in December, it gave me time to reconsider records I'd passed over earlier in the year.

And hey, despite my hesitancy as a programmer, as a music lover, I am a full on fan of Tom Waits.

So (will a little prodding from Barbara Dacey, who had fallen head over heels for the record), I got past my programming self, and added "Back In The Crowd."

Just in time for New Years.

So let's celebrate, with another song from the record.

And, if you're one of those folks who is still unsure about Waits, I'll mention that my old friend Dan just recently posted on Facebook, that he wanted to apologize for all the years he had ignored friends who'd tried to turn him on to Tom. But after seeing a certain PBS special, we was totally won over.

Try it! You might like it . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Watch Tom Waits on PBS. See more from Austin City Limits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kina Grannis "In Your Arms"

I had a nice exchange of Christmas gifts with my wife this year.

I made her a book, taking some of my favorite posts from this blog that related to her and filled the book with pictures of us and the kids and whatever I was writing about.

She made me a little video, a slide show of the same kinds of pictures, telling our story.

And she set it to a song that I'd never heard before. She always claims it's hard to surprise me with music, because I hear so many things. So she felt like it was a good pick, a good share.

Nah, I'm not going to post her video here---I post a lot of personal things, but I also like to keep some things to ourselves.

But the song has a pretty neat video.

And while I'm mentioning that yes, I post a lot, I'll note that I passed the mark of 750 posts last week. That's 3/4ths of the way to my goal. I've set the challenge to myself, to get to 1,000 posts. I won't necessarily stop completely, but I may not post every day after that.

So, 240-something posts to go. I should hit number 1,000 some time in August.

Til then, lots of stories to tell. Thankfully, no jellybeans required.

See the amazing video on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lisa Hannigan "Little Bird"

Jess and I once had this discussion about high heels.

She had mentioned something about an attractive woman in heels and I expressed a dislike for heels.

"Why?" she asked.

I wasn't sure. I'd never really explored my feelings about heels and why they don't make a woman look attractive to me.

Jess pointed out that heels made a woman look taller and slimmer. They make her calves look healthier and her butt look tighter. What's not to like?

I had to laugh at my own response:

"I'm always afraid she's going to topple over!"

Really. That's it. I watch women who think they are somehow looking sexy, wobbling down the street, teetering, one crack in the sidewalk away from going ass over tea kettle, and I think, "Someone help that poor woman."

I thought about that conversation about heels, when Jess shared this video for "Little Bird."

I want to like it, but I spend the whole 4 and a half minutes being unnerved that I'm about to watch a young singer-songwriter drown.


See the video on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jesse Harris "The Secret Sun"

Today on The Lunch Hour, as I fill in for Barbara, I'm playing tracks from some of the nice comebacks to 2011. Most of them are from artists who hadn't been heard from in a while, who have new records.

But this is a song that made a comeback.

It was originally recorded several years ago, but since it appeared in a new Corona commercial, Jesse Harris was motivated to re-record it and re-release it.

It's a lovely little tune, about the little world lovers create and the special places we go.

Hear it on Youtube.

Hear the Corona commercial version on Youtube.

See the commercial on Youtube.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Robbie Robertson "When The Night Was Young"

It's an office holiday Monday, so I'm staying at home with family today, but on Tuesday it's Nose To The Grindstone time, with only 4 days to go in the year.

I'm filling in for Barbara on The Lunch Hour this week, which means I've been thinking of some themes for "Essential mvy." And since we start our Top 25 Of 2011 countdown, I've got Year End thoughts on the mind.

So tomorrow during The Lunch Hour, I think I'm going to do a set of Welcome Comebacks.

There were a number of artists who returned, after long absences, with really strong efforts. I'll remind you of some of those on the show, Tuesday.

But perhaps topping the list of Welcome Returns is Robbie Robertson, who hadn't put out a solo record in over a decade.

I had an interesting conversation with Jess about this album, in relation to the Top 25 list.

I had said that originally, I loved the record, but my passion for it had cooled after multiple listens. I expected it to make the Top 25, but be on the lower end.

Jess said that she did not love the record on first inspection. But after subsequent listens, she was quite won over by it, and she expected it to be high on the list.

The difference between Jess and me? I'm a HUGE fan of Robbie Robertson and The Band. Jess is only a casual fan.

So our expectations, going into the record, are very different.

Which makes me wonder how the voters handled this record.

Were they more like Jess, or more like me?

We'll find out on Wednesday, when the countdown starts on mvyradio.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tim Minchin "White Wine In The Sun"

My cousin Rick, who now lives in Australia, introduced me to the music of Tim Minchin, who's known as a comedian (though he's more of a hilarious performer, songwriter, showman, etc). But here he's somewhat serious and a bit sentimental.

I thought I'd post this one on Christmas Day, because it shares a view of the holiday that's as beautiful as the idealized "Christmas Song" kind of holiday, with a more true-to-life set of conflicted emotions about rampant consumerism, qualms about parts of religion, and family baggage.

It presents those conflicts, and yet it does what most of us are able to do, if we're lucky---it sets them aside to get at the heart of what we really love about the holiday, which is the simple, lovely, warmth of interaction with the people we care most about.

I hope that's the kind of day you are having.

Merry Christmas.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Futurama "The Elves' Song"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

Time's running out.

There's a pretty good chance that while you are reading this, I am feverishly (and poorly) assembling a Puppet Theatre for my kids.

Thought you'd enjoy this song, as you slave away getting ready to let Santa take all the credit tomorrow morning.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Carly Simon "Night Before Christmas"

Here's a song for the night before the Night Before Christmas.

Carly often checks in with us around this time of year---I remember being totally wowed, the year she came to the mvyradio Christmas party and hung out with the staff.

And though, like a Mom who will insist that she doesn't favor one child over another, I think this song must be a little extra special to her.

I mean, she has a full album of lovely Christmas songs, but I've heard her mention this song a number of times.

We love to play it at this time of year . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bruce Springsteen "The River" (Live)

Christmas, 1986. My parents had been building up the hype of a holiday surprise. Which was kind of a joke. The opposite of the usual joke.

Usually every year, my folks would spend more money than they meant to, and starting in October, they'd say to us kids, "You know, we had a big Christmas last year, but we're just not going to be able to do that this year."

And we'd all say, "Yeah yeah yeah," because we knew that, despite their effort to downplay things, they'd still probably spend more than they meant to and we'd feel spoiled.

But this year was different, because they weren't underselling it.

Not that they were overselling it, either.

It's just that they kept alluding to the fact that they had come up with some special things for me, my sister Julie (the "forgotten" middle child) and my sister Amy (the precocious pain-in-the ass youngest).

Of course I was curious. But I wasn't the kind of kid who peeked, either.

Or, I hadn't been.

My sister Amy WAS the curious type. Also nosy. Persistent. Impatient. And not easily thwarted.

I knew where my parents hid the presents. And so did Amy.

If you are not a sibling, then I can't adequately explain to you the weird kind of sibling rivalry not-to-be-outdone feeling that came over me, when I found out that, Yes, Amy had climbed into the recesses of my parents' closet, to sneak a look at what "Santa" was bringing.

I didn't want to look. But shit, if my 9 year old sister was looking, well then hell, I wasn't gonna not look!

I got home from school early one day, before my folks were home from work, and I wormed my way through the narrow passage that was the long closet in my folks' bedroom. Under some coats and clothes was a big black trashbag, with unwrapped boxes inside.

It was dark and hard to see inside the closet, and honestly, I don't remember what else was in the bag, but I know that I reasoned out which present was for me:

Bruce Springsteen's "Live 1975-85" Boxed Set.

Was this my "big" present? Nah.

I only owned one Bruce Springsteen album, "Born In The USA." I doubted my parents even knew that. And I had certainly never professed any interest in Bruce, in front of them.

I mean, neat. They got me some Springsteen. But surely there was something else that qualified as my surprise present. Something so big that it couldn't be contained in the closet. So big, they hadn't gotten it yet . . .

Christmas morning.

After cracking open the stockings (which invariably contained the mixed message of lots of chocolate and a new toothbrush), we awaited the big announcements.

It was announced that Julie, who's best friend had just moved to Louisiana, would be going to New Orleans, during Mardi Gras season, for a week's vacation at her friend's house. Plane tickets and everything. And she'd get to miss school.


This was bigger than anything my folks had ever done.

Just, Wow!

Me next!

Hmm. The wrapped box sure looks a lot like that box I saw . . .

It was. Bruce Springsteen's "Live 1975-85" Boxed Set. On cassette.

Thankfully, my folks had really ingrained in us, the importance of being gracious. Because I felt like being a whiny little shit.

Bruce Springsteen? I don't even really like him.

And it sure as hell is not a trip to f-n Mardi Gras!

As I'm writing this, I'm wracking my brain, trying to think of what Amy might have gotten. No idea. I'm sure I was deep in my non-Christmas-spirit fugue and didn't even notice whatever nice and thoughtful thing my folks had done for her.

I understand a few things, now, as an adult.

First, I realize that my folks did something really big for Julie that year, but did big things for me other years, and Amy other years. They couldn't afford to go big for all of us at the same time, so they took turns.

Second, I realize that they realized that, to a kid, this seems like some kind of inequity. So they set about trying to come up with a wowzer of a present. It's hard, here in 2011, to remember a time when Boxed Sets were not a fact of musical life, but a whole blessed event (see the TV commercial below). "Live 1975-85" was the IT gift of 1986. Hard to come by, and considered very hip. I can give my parents credit for trying to be hip and cutting edge (something that, both then and now, they are decidedly not).

I can give them credit for something else too: My lifelong love of Bruce Springsteen.

I brought those cassettes to my room and put them in the little boom box I had, vowing to get some enjoyment out of them, even if I didn't recognize most of the songs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bruce won me over.

I was just wowed by those songs, his stories, the energy, the Sound. Discovering the songs that had appeared on albums 10 years previous ("before my time"), was like discovering a secret world. I couldn't believe something so fantastically well done existed, and I didn't even know about it.

Within 2 years, I would go out and buy each past Springsteen record, and get "Tunnel Of Love" on the day it came out. And then go to my first big, Arena rock show---Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band at the Worcester Centrum.

Sometimes I refer to that year as my worst Christmas. Peeking replaced the experience of being excited and surprised, with awkward expectation and anti-climax. I have never, ever again peeked, or tried to guess, at what a present might be.

But really, it was a pretty seminal Christmas gift, one that changed the way I approached artists, listened to bodies of work and integrated discovery into my habits.

So I didn't get to go to Mardi Gras. But I went down to The River.

This is the "Live 1975-1985" version, with the complete intro, where Bruce tells a story about his relationship with his Dad. Unfortunately, that means the end of the song gets cut off.

Hear it on Youtube.

See the commercial on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The cast of Twin Peaks "The 12 Days Of Christmas"


I was actually very organized about my blog this week, with posts planned for every day . . . and then I found this.

So you'll have to wait until next year, weird-Staples-Singers-Christmas-Song, because I just found something muuuuuch weirder.

I've known of KROQ in Los Angeles and their Christmas compilations for a few years now. A friend sent some AWESOME Johnny Cash fake Holiday PSAs. And I knew they had a lot of fun, original content.

But how had I never heard of this?

From 1990, it's the cast of Twin Peaks doing "The 12 Days Of Christmas" with David Lynchian-appropriate gifts.

Many of the shows characters appear on this track, including Cooper, Lucy, Bob, Bobby, Johnny, and Pete Martell.

I guarantee that this will be the only carol you'll sing this year, containing the phrase "A body, dead, wrapped in plastic!"

You can hear the song on Youtube, below, and I also found a free download.

It's a Christmas Miracle!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Leevees "How Do You Spell Channukkahh?"

With a call-back to last week's Hanukkah throw-down challenge from my friend Andrea, I'm posting this, since the Holiday begins at sundown tonight.

The Leevees record came out a few years ago, and I remember that some of the stuff was a little thin/light/but-enjoyable enough---songs about potato pancakes and whatever.

But going back to listen again, this is a pretty good tune, in line with its Guster pedigree (Leevees member Adam Gardner is one of the singer/songwriters in Guster).

Happy Chanukah, whichever way you decide to spell it!

See the video on Youtube.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lyle Lovett & Kat Edmunson "Baby It's Cold Outside"

One of the problems with Christmas tunes, is that there are only a handful (maybe TWO handfuls) of good titles, and they've been done to death.

It's hard to breathe life into these battered old tunes.

So it's refreshing when someone can pull it off.

Maybe it's Kat Edmunson's clear, fresh voice. Or maybe it's Lyle's endless, effortless charisma. But a song I'm pretty bored with, sounds really great.

Find it on Lyle's new Christmas EP.

Hear it on Youtube.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guster "Carol Of The Meows"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

Well, this is just brilliantly evil. Listen once, and then try getting it out of your head.

Thanks, Guster.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Laura Marling "Goodbye England"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

Found this one, while when I unearth yesterday's post. I like the occasional tune that is set at Christmas, but isn't exactly a Christmas tune.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Laura Marling "Roll Away Your Stone"

I have to admit, that even though today is the last day of voting for mvyradio's Top 25 Of 2011 . . . um, I haven't come up with my list yet.

Hey, I have until 5pm!

Off the top of my head though, two major favorites have been Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling. So how excited was I to find this version of Marling covering Mumford?!?

I hope you have a chance to vote today. We'll count down the winners on the week between Christmas and New Years.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lou Monte "Dominick The Donkey"

I've mentioned that my sister has a policy. A policy of avoiding children's toys that are battery-operated and make noise/songs.

Am I going to hell for this . . .

My nephew looovvvess "Dominick The Donkey." My Mom said, "Can you help me get a copy of that song, to give to him?"

What to do? What to do?

As a parent, it just seemed like the height of cruelty to give another parent the insane nightmares that must come from having a child play that damn "HEEHAW-HEEHAW!" song over and over and over and over.

As a brother, well, it just seemed like the height of cruelty too. But brothers thrive on torturing sisters, don't they?

My nephew got the CD.

And I am on the naughty list.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baccara "Yes Sir I Can Boogie"

Barbara and I were doing some research, ahead of our coverage of the Falmouth Christmas parade.

Her very wise plan this year, was to have some interesting Christmas music facts on hand, so that we wouldn't be stumbling through the dead spaces in the parade, live on the radio.

I learned the moderately interesting piece of trivia, that only 3 songs have ever sold more that 30 million copies worldwide, and two of them are Christmas songs by Bing Crosby (the third is "Candle In The Wind" by Elton John).

That was part of a list, still pretty exclusive, of the handful of songs that have sold over 10 million copies.

You know, if you sell over 10 million copies of your song, you'd have to be pretty ubiquitous/general knowledge-y, right?

How could there be EIGHTEEN MILLION copies out there, of this song, and somehow I'm hearing it for the first time right now.

Do you know this one?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matisyahu "Miracle"

So I got this message from an old friend, over the weekend . . .

I'm writing to throw down the gauntlet. I realize that you are turning to Christmas on your blog. However, in the spirit of our UMASS background, I'd like to challenge your musicological expertise to find a great Chanukah song. (Choosing Adam Sandler's song would constitute automatic forfeiture.) If you are successful, I will include your pick and blog link in my social media networks. If you are not successful, your having listened to all the heinous Chanukah music out there is punishment enough. My pick to date would be Stephen Page & the Bare Naked Ladies' Hanukkah Blessings.

Your former RA,

Well she's right. Despite giving a pretty thorough run-down of Jewish songwriters who've penned Christmas tunes, I haven't posted anything Chanukah-related. Is it because (as she intimates) there aren't any good Chanukah songs?

I wracked by brain for a bit, and the first things that came to mind were pretty goofy---nothing that could hold up to the religious reverence of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" or the secular reverence of "White Christmas."

Then again, the majority of Christmas hits are way over the novelty border, too (Rudolph, Frosty, Gramma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, You're A Mean On Mr. Grinch, etc).

So here are a few faves, ordered from most reverent to least (while still staying on the tasteful side of that fence, for the most part).

Let's start with painfully earnest:

Hear Peter Paul and Mary on Youtube.

This brand new Matisyahu song is also earnest, coming out of the artist's desire "to get across some of the depth and spirituality inherent in the holiday in a fun, celebratory song." Lyrically, it does that. So don't be fooled by the super-goofy video.

See "Miracle" on Youtube.

The Maccabeats also seem pretty earnest. But the "Glee"/Boy Band vibe isn't my style. But I suppose if you are trying to explain The Festival Of Lights to "Glee" and Boy Band fans, it's a pretty solid genre-effort.

Hear "Candlelight" on Youtube.

And while this scene from "Colbert Christmas" is slathered in holiday irony, it does neatly, sweetly, smartly portray the awkward compare/contrast game that inevitably ensues when Jews try to explain Chanukah to their unaware Christian friends.

Check out "Can I Interest You In Hannukah?" on Youtube.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Julian Velard "Last Christmas"

Go to Youtube and search for nearly any popular song, and after the first few instances of the official video, and the artist doing a live version or whatever, you start to see "Youtube covers."

It's such a modern-day convention. A person who plays acoustic guitar or piano or whatever, who sets up a camera in their room, and records and uploads a video of themselves doing their favorite song, acoustically.

People have a lot of fun turning big pop hits (like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" or Britney Spears "Oops I Did It Again") into strummy ballads. And it's propelled a few folks to some mini-online-fame.

But it's only natural that this fun exercise shouldn't just be the province of amateurs. So occasionally you'll find people like Ben Folds busting something out on the web.

One of my favorite sources is Julian Velard, who is a great combination of super talented and super hilarious.

He's made great use of the web, frequently uploading originals and covers and concert snippets and offhanded comments. It's a great release of creativity.

Enjoy this one. I like it because, despite the initial suggestion that it will be super-goofy, I think that deep-down, Julian sincerely loves this Wham classic.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pearl Bailey "5 Pound Box Of Money"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

There's nothing wrong with being direct about what you'd like from Santa.

This one gets a lot of play around our house . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Loretta Lynn "To Heck With Ol Santa Claus"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

Wishing that an accident befalls Santa, definitely gets you on the naughty list, Loretta!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nickel Creek "This Side"

Welcome to another segment of "Let Me Ruin This Song For You."

(If you missed the first entry, you should probably read this)

You, perhaps, remember this as the song that brought Nickel Creek from the bluegrass scene to a more eclectic, beyond-Americana stage. The kind of folks who say they don't like country music, but listen to Lyle Lovett and Lucinda Williams.

You remember it as a great leap forward to a wider audience from a promising young, forward-thinking band who had an exciting vision.

Let me ruin this song for you.

I saw Nickel Creek in concert around the time this album came out, where they sheepishly explained that the lyrics of this song were written after a viewing of "The Matrix."

Dude, this song is, like, totally about an alternate reality.

Whoa . . .

See the video on Youtube.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Morning Jacket "When The Bells Start Ringing"

After wowing folks/freaking people out with their most adventurous album yet, My Morning Jacket ends the year by going in the other direction: Traditional.

They are putting out a 7 song, iTunes-only EP of Christmas songs, recorded during a 14-hour studio session between tour dates in Europe.

This track is one of two that features collaboration with The Head & The Heart, and you can get it for free right now at iTunes!

Get the download.

And here's the other song the two bands collaborate on . . .

Hear it on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Billy Preston "Nothing From Nothing"

This is one of my favorite songs of the Christmas season!

Yeah, I know, it's not a Christmas song. But it's on the soundtrack to the movie "Elf," so when we start playing Christmas music at home, this one comes up (along with Louis Prima's "Pennies From Heaven").

Hey, it's good any time of year, right?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Death Cab For Cutie "Stay Young Go Dancing" (Part 2)

(Yesterday's post not withstanding . . .)

My wife is back to work, after being unemployed for nearly a year.

The upside of being unemployed was that she could be home, full-time, with our two small children. The downside to that was that, for a full year, she was nothing but Mom.

If you've never been a full-time parent, I think its hard to grasp what kind of mind-screw it can be to your perception of self.

When you spend your day fully consumed with taking care of your kids, little parts of yourself can easily go by the wayside.

People who aren't stay-at-home parents can compartmentalize a bit. I can be my work-self at work and be treated like an adult, and my home-self at home, where I am fully in service to others. If you're home full-time, you don't get the luxury of being treated like an adult for most of the day.

With my wife going back to work, and me working full-time too, it means we do some daycare now, and because my wife is a school-teacher, she leaves the house first, and I'm in charge of getting the kids out the door to daycare, before I go to work.

My wife has developed this funny ritual. Just a few minutes after she has left the house, the phone will ring. Inevitably, it will be because she has heard a song or a news story on the radio, and she wants to talk about it.

Most recently, it was George Harrison's "Taxman."

"He doesn't get enough credit. That song is amazing. I'd never really listened to it like that before."

But now that she has the forced sanctuary of her car, she takes the time to hear things like George's guitar playing.

"Remember when we used to do this all the time? Hear songs and talk about how much we loved them? I feel like that part of our lives is gone."

No doubt it is certainly obscured. The adult moments that we have these days, are inevitably devoted to "Business," meaning discussions about bills, Christmas shopping, the kids' daycare, problems with the house, etc, etc.

It's obscured, but I know it's not gone.

A few nights before, we were all in the car, and Death Cab For Cutie's "Stay Young Go Dancing" came on.

"Listen to this," I told her, putting my hand on her thigh as I drove. "It's one of the sweetest love songs I've heard in a long time."

She cocked her ear toward the speakers, straining to hear the radio, over the growing cacophony coming from the two kids in the back.

"It's got the line, 'When we move as one, we stay young.'"

She tried to hear it, but the distraction proved to great.

(In fact, to make a long story short, within a few minutes were were pulled over on a darkened sidestreet, so my 4 year old could pee on the side of the road, as she claimed she could not wait until we got home)

A few days later, all of us were together, before bedtime, in the kids' room. Legos and books and stuffed animals and trucks and balls and debris that is the result of a day-in-the-life, had been pushed to the center of the room, as we all tried to restore order before putting the kids to bed.

"I looked up the lyrics to that song," my wife said. "What do you think the opening line means?"

"Life is sweet/in the belly of the beast."

"This is it," I said. "We're in it. The belly of the beast. Life."

It's not always romantic. But it is sweet.

Hear the acoustic version on Youtube.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Death Cab For Cutie "Stay Young Go Dancing" (Part One)

Well, I had a post all ready to go for the Death Cab For Cutie song, but I hadn't posted it yet.

It was a little vignette about my wife and me, and our relationship to each other, now that we are in the thick of parenting. It's about love and romance and growing together, and it related directly to this song.

I hadn't posted it yet, when I heard that Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab) and Zooey Deschanel (his wife) announced their split up.

Does that news diminish this song for you?

This is probably my favorite love song of the year, with a bunch of killer lines ("When we move as one/we stay young").

And while I hear it and transpose my own life on it, I think I'm probably a pretty typical fan, for also imagining that Ben wrote this song with his wife Zooey in mind.

So if they are getting divorced, should I feel any apprehension about imagining myself in the shoes of the song?

I have to tell you, that just writing those words sounds stupid. I mean, c'mon, it's just a song.

But that's my brain talking.

From my heart, this song is a little less for me now.

That being said, tomorrow I'll post what I had originally intended to write.

See the video on Youtube.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Feist "Please Be Patient"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

It starts off sounding like a legitimate Christmas song, then it goes all Colbert on you!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Randy Newman "Christmas In Capetown"

For the month of December, my Weekend Posts (usually a look back at obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s) will turn to Christmas. Enjoy a few odd, off-color songs to enliven your holiday!

It was Randy Newman's birthday this past week, why not start with that jolly old elf.

(Note that this song has explicit and potentially offensive lyrics!)

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, December 2, 2011

She & Him "The Christmas Waltz"

Throughout the year, as we're picking songs to put into rotation on mvyradio, we go through the comparison process of "Great Song" versus "Great Radio Song."

And the same rules apply when picking a single from a Christmas album.

"A Very She & Him Christmas" has a number of highlights on it, and on first couple of listens, many of us really liked the opening track "The Christmas Waltz."

The advantages: It's a sweetly rendered version of a song that's not overly familiar, and to some will be "new," making it stand out from the pack.

The disadvantage: It's a little slow and spare.

Unfortunately, the cons win on this one. While it serves the album really well as a lovely start to a very enjoyable collection . . . if you put it on the station in the midst of regular programming, well, the pace drags everything down.

Ultimately, we choose "Sleigh Ride" which has a nice tempo and features vocals from both Zooey and Matt, plus a nice economical guitar solo. It fits much better, in the context of the station.

But here, without having to serve a larger mix, isn't "The Christmas Waltz" lovely?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Hear Sleigh Ride on Youtube.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Bangles "I Will Never Be Through With You"

I've blogged on The Bangles before, mentioning that it's easy to write them off as a bit of 80s silliness, based on their videos and their hits.

But I've come around to the point where I recognize what lots of their fans, past and present, acknowledge---they're actually a pretty rocking band, with a great 60-Pop sensibility.

If you can get past your burning desire to Walk Like An Egyptian and mock them, you'll find that this new track is a really well crafted, pop-rock song.

It's not really getting any attention anywhere, because folks are quick to dismissed an artist, based on 25-year-old feelings.

So really, discovering this song, is like discovering a new band that your friends don't know about!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mumford & Sons "Roll Away Your Stone"

There are a couple of musical things that we have been adamant about, as parents.

One, is crummy kid music.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's my wife that has zero patience for twee tunes. With the exception of a Sesame Street album, we really don't play any music for our kids, that was created for kids alone.

Instead we've worked really hard to find music that was made for adults, that appeals to kids.

The Beatles is kid music. Abba is kid music. Michael Franti is kid music.

The other thing we have strongly encouraged is unselfconscious dancing. And that's because my wife is a great dancer, and because I am a terrible dancer. We want our kids to experience the joy of movement.

I lost that joy somewhere along the way.

When I was a little kid, my sister and I used to dance around the living room. The kid songs we had, were Showtunes. We'd jump and groove to "The Music Man" and "Fiddler On The Roof" and such. We'd swing with wild abandon, until . . . well, I'll get back to that in a second.

My wife and I have tried to recreate that scene in our living room, and we were having a blast recently, with Mumford & Sons.

I can't really say that lyrically, Mumford & Sons is kid music. But musically? Hell yeah.

I was holding my daughter, and my wife was holding my sons, and we started shuffling to "Roll Away Your Stone," sashaying from one end of the living room to the other.

Then that instrumental part, right after the chorus, hit. The part that makes you want to stamp your feet. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

And that's what we did. We stomped our feet. Stomped from one end of the room to the other.

As the song built, so did out stomping.


Where I had been charging into the rhythm with abandon, I suddenly had a hesitation, and I stopped.

I stopped stomping. I stopped jumping.


I smiled when I realized what had made me want to stop:

I didn't want the record player to skip.

Back in the 1970s, when my sister and I were stomping along to "76 Trombones" like we were in a Sousa marching band, there was a point where you had to pull in the reins of your unrestrained thumps.

If you thumped too hard, the needle would jump off the record. Why, you could get bounced right back into "Goodnight My Someone" if you weren't careful.

So you had to tread lightly, pull back the reins, not dance with full abandon, in deference to the limitations of the phonograph player.

I can't say that this is solely the reason that I grew up to be a terrible dancer. But it was a pretty startling realization.

In the living room, with my daughter in my arms, I realized no matter how hard I stomped, that Mumford & Sons MP3 was not going to skip.

There was nothing holding me back.

See the video on Youtube.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jack Johnson "In The Morning"

The new Christmas songs have arrived, and now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel like we can start playing them in earnest.

Which doesn't necessarily mean we want to start playing them in earnest.

Truthfully, receiving a new Christmas album is often met with a bit of a tired sigh.

I like Christmas music just fine, but newly released songs tend to fall into two categories:

Standards, that have been done to death.

Originals, that are pretty darn weak.

Some years, we'll add one or two new Christmas songs to rotation. Some years, nothing makes the cut, and we just play the old favorites.

But this year, there seems to be a surprising crop of solid originals.

This new Jack Johnson tune doesn't necessarily sound like a Christmas song. You're not overwhelmed by jingling bells or whatever.

Instead, wisely, he goes for the feeling of Christmas, and does a pretty good job of conveying that. And I don't mean the feeling of the season itself. It's not a paean to wreaths and holly and whatnot. It's a simple song about that holiday moment when you have a chance to reflect on what is really important, and what you really have.

Nicely done. Much better than another version of Rudolph.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, November 28, 2011

David Bowie "It's Hard To Be A Saint"

Here are a few things I know about David Bowie . . .

He hasn't made a record in nearly a decade, hasn't toured in ages, and is mostly a homebody these days. His schedule is open.

He clearly likes Bruce Springsteen, having covered two of his song ("Hard To Be A Saint" and "Growing Up").

He plays the saxophone.

Do you get where I'm going with this?

Bruce Springsteen announced this week that he and The E Street Band are going to tour next summer.

And the first question on everyone's mind is, Who's going to play saxophone now that Clarence Clemons is gone?

I'm just saying . . . Bowie's available.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ray Charles "Sweet Potato Pie"

It's 4 days after Thanksgiving . . . quick, what kind of leftover pie do you have in the fridge?

(The Genius, with James Taylor)

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fat Boys "All You Can Eat"

It's a little weird to be thankful for a fractured family, but I do have to say that I have enjoyed this last run of days/meals.

Wednesday, we had dinner at my Mother-In-Law's house, which included her boyfriend's family too.

Thursday we had a traditional Thanksgiving at our house, with my folks and my sister's family, and my mother-in-law and brother-in-law's family.

Friday, we had another dinner at our house, this time with my father-in-law, my wife's sister and her family.

And Saturday, we're having a birthday dinner at my Mom's house, for my Dad, which includes my late sister's husband and his new fiancee, and my Auntie.

We couldn't corral all these folks into one room on one day. That would be nuts.

So instead, we've had a stretch of delicious food, and family love, for which I could not be more grateful.

(But the joyous gluttony did bring me back to this tune from "Krush Groove")

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steely Dan "Black Friday"

Uh . . . if you've been awake for hours and hours already, trying to get to those doorbuster sales . . . do you have this one on the brain?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arlo Guthrie "Alice's Restaurant" (Revised)

We always air the original "Alice's Restaurant" at noon.

And we'd hate to break tradition, on-air, by playing an alternate version, so I'm posting it here.

Sometime in the mid-90s, Arlo Guthrie re-recorded the song, with a few updates and a very funny post-script related to Richard Nixon.

Youtube usually only allows 10 minute files, but you'll find the whole thing here.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arlo Guthrie "Motorcycle Song"

Thursday is Thanksgiving, so of course, we're going to play "Alice's Restaurant," and I got thinking about where I first heard Arlo Guthrie.

And if these details don't lock the story in time . . .

We were in a large, white Econoline van, parked in a driveway.

We listened on 8-Track.

We didn't really know what The Draft was.

We thought "Father Rapers" was perhaps the funniest thing we'd ever heard.

Yeah, it was 1978 and I was about 9 years old. My best 3rd-grade buddy and I would go out to his driveway and sit in his parents van and let that 8-Track play over and over and over.

I can't say that we understood the full implications of Arlo Guthrie's anti-Draft, anti-War epic. But we surely understood the humor.

Hilarious littering, overzealous authority figures, pencil graffiti on benches---those were things a 9 year old could understand.

By 1978, we were post-Vietnam, post-Draft, post-Protest periods. But because were were stuck in the 8-Track age, it meant that we couldn't do what kids before us (with 45s) and kids after us (with CDs and MP3s) could do.

We couldn't just play our favorite song over and over.

So instead, we listened to the whole thing. The whole "Best Of Arlo Guthrie." And that's why, for me, Arlo could never be an artist who's history is a single song. Or even a single pair of songs (because "City Of New Orleans" is at least equally known). And he wasn't an artist I associated with only Thanksgiving, until I started working in radio, decades later.

So enjoy this one today from Arlo. At least give the man TWO days a year . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paul Kelly "How To Make Gravy"

There's a certain segment of the listening audience, that wants to hear new music, but wants to hear it from old artists.

Yes, that's a complete paradox. But these people exist.

They aren't quite up for the challenge presented by new artist. They tune into mvyradio because they are into Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello and they aren't willing to go down the road with Death Cab For Cutie or The Decemberists or some other young band that one day (in my opinion) will engender the same quality of feeling to this music listening generation, as those previously mentioned venerable artists do.

But in the meantime, I'm a little bit stuck, since there are no "new" old Bob Dylan songs. There are no new, never-before-discovered tracks on "This Year's Model."

For better or worse, the musically lazy aren't likely to look beyond the U.S. borders for that sound they're missing.

So that's what I recommend.

Paul Kelly is a legend in his native Austrailia. Depending on what review you read, he's Down Under's answer to Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen or Ray Davies.

And he's got a new Best Of double disc out now, in the States, featuring this song (which, though it's about Christmas, has a title that seems to better suit Thanksgiving).

So if you're looking for something new that feels like something old (or know someone old who wants to hear something new that is actually something old), this is a good place to start.

Hear the song on Youtube.

PS. Doesn't this sound just a little like last week's Belle Brigade tune?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alison Krauss "Paper Airplane"

Maybe it's a function of having a baby.

Or maybe this happens every year (and I have just forgotten, because I'm so damn tired, due to having a baby).

I was putting together a list of all the albums we put into rotation on mvyradio in 2011, for our annual Top 25 poll, and I couldn't get over the number of records---BIG records---that feel like they've been around for years, but have actually only been out for 12 or fewer months.

Lucinda Williams "Blessed"?

R.E.M. "Collapse Into Now"?

Bright Eyes "The People's Key"?

All released this year.

The Grammy-winningest woman in history puts out her first record in 7 years, and it's so far in the rearview mirror that I didn't remember that I came out in April?

That's the sign of a good year. That's the sign of a year so full of great releases, that even great records get pushed to the back burner.

You can check out the list of all albums we played in rotation, and vote for your top five. Voting automatically enters you to win CD copies of The Top 25 Of 2011.

Thanks for your help!

See the video on Youtube.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rick Springfield "Bruce"

"bruces . . . "

Hear the song on Youtube.

(If this post doesn't make sense, read Friday's post)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Muses "The Gospel Truth"

"muses . . ."

(from Disney's "Hercules")

Hear the song on Youtube.

(If this post doesn't make sense, read Friday's post)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Throwing Muses "Counting Backward"

For full enjoyment of the entry, play this audio now, and let it run while you read the post . . ..

I have one, simple memory that comes to mind, anytime I hear any Throwing Muses song.

It was another UMass Spring concert. I can't remember who was on the bill that year, but the student production company was always pretty good about putting together an eclectic mix of 4 artists, that would appeal to various campus demographics. That's how De La Soul and Bob Dylan appeared on the same bill.

There was usually a hip, indie rock act (in those pre-"alternative" days, we called them "college" bands), like Violent Femmes or something.

This particular year, Throwing Muses filled that slot.

My friend Kurt was a fan. And I trusted his musical taste enough that I made sure I was shoulder to shoulder with him, near the front of the stage.

I can't remember who preceded the Muses' set, but whoever it was, had cleared the stage, and the roadies and student crew, were readying the stage for Kristen Hersh and company.

Per usual, there was a 20 minute or so delay between bands. It was early in the day, so the crowd on the lawn was not yet packed, not yet rowdy (and not yet drunk).

A relaxed murmur filled the air, as friends chatted casually. As Kurt and I did the same.

I don't think I fully registered, the first 5 or 6 times I heard it, but somewhere along the line, I picked up on a noise from behind me.

I looked at Kurt. He heard it too.

Turning around, I saw a scruffy, bearded, grad-student aged guy, one fist in the air, saying, "muses."

Not "MUSES!!!" Not "MUSES." Not even "Muses."

It was more on the level of how you might say, "here" when the professor took roll call in a particularly dull class.


Twenty or so seconds would go by, and then he'd say it again.


Not shouting, not fanatical. Just loud enough to be heard over the crowd murmur. Just frequently enough that you knew it was the only thing on the guys mind.

"muses . . ."

(25 seconds)

"muses . . ."

It was the most lackadaisical show of intense devotion I've ever heard.

And to this day, I can't hear the music, without wanting to not-quite-shout "muses."

If you want to, try it out yourself this weekend in Woods Hole, when Kristen Hersh performs and reads from her book.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Belle Brigade "Losers"

I'm scratching my head over this one . . .

It is fully conceivable that the average music fan might hear a song, love it, and come to find out that it is months (or years!) old.

But it's not really conceivable that this would happen to me. Not because I'm some sort of super-hearing-music-goalie-that-nothing-gets-past.

It's simply because I have people who's job it is, to be on my case.

I spend every Thursday and Friday, from noon to 1pm, in my office. I take calls from Record Company folks and Independent Promoters, who's job it is to say:

"PJ, I have this great song by this great band. Have you heard it? What do you think?"

If there is a band making music for Adult Alternative/Triple A Radio stations, and they are on a Major Label, or a sturdy Indie Label, then there is a person (sometimes several people) who call me every single week, to make sure I have heard the song, and to convince me that we should play it.

The Belle Brigade definitely qualifies.

But here's the weird thing. I heard the song "Losers" on TV a week or 3 ago, and I thought, "What a great song. It sounds vaguely familiar."

I went to my iTunes playlist, where I store all these songs that the Promoters are sending me, and I was surprised to find out that I had received this song back in May.


That means I had heard this song, discussed it several times with a Promoter (Rene!), and decided, "Yeah, that's not for us."

And here I am, 6 months later, going "Great Song! How did I miss this?"

If it were a case of me not liking the song at first, and then having it grow on me, I'd understand.

But how did I hear it 6 months ago and not be moved by it, then hear it now and go, "Fantastic! I love this song!"

I'm scratching my head on this one.

(And, Sorry Rene!)

See the awesome dog-filled music video on Youtube.

Hear the acoustic bathtub version on Youtube.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wilco "Outta Mind Outta Site"

Let me introduce a new segment on the blog, called, "Let Me Ruin This Song For You."

Why don't we pause right there for a second.

I promise, in any blog post where I plan to ruin a song for you, that I will alert you at the beginning of the post.

So if you see "Let Me Ruin This Song For You" and you look back at the artist and title in the header, and you think, "Hey, I'd rather you didn't ruin this song for me. I like this song," then don't read any further.

That said . . . let me ruin this Wilco song.

Every time I hear this the opening of tune, I can't help but be reminded of the opening of the classic version of the Sesame Street theme song.

Sure, Wilco's tune is a little more rocking, but listen to the electric guitar tutorial, and you'll hear it even clearer.


Hear the original "Outta Site (Outta Mind)"
Outtasite (Outta Mind) by Wilco on Grooveshark
See the very fun video that Wilco's old label won't let you embed.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Learn how to play the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer "Chap-Hop History"

After yesterday's "Nerding Out" post, I had to continue with this . . .

A friend started posted Mr. B/Professor Elemental videos on Youtube, and well, I just laughed my behind off.

The English accents, the ukulele solos, the fact that Mr. B looks a lot like Ben Folds. Also the clear love of hip-hop . . . the whole ridiculousness of it all. It all makes me smile.

Hear "Chap Hop History" on Youtube.

Hear Professor Elemental's "Fighting Trousers" on Youtube.

Hear "Straight Out Of Surrey" on Youtube.

Hear the inevitable on-stage showdown on Youtube.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ben Folds "The Luckiest"

Total "Nerding Out!" weekend, bolstering my geek credentials.

I curled up on the couch on Saturday with a Charlie Kaufman movie.

I spent the weekend getting excited to hear Ira Glass of "This American Life" at a speaking engagement in Woods Hole (though he got hung up in that mid-West snow, and had to postpone).

Delved deeply into one of the most interesting interviews I've read in a long time, with one of the most thoughtful interviewees I've read, the "I'm A PC" guy, John Hodgeman, who eloquently illustrated that sports metaphors are nearly impossible to avoid, and that sometimes being a Democrat is like getting punched in the face, repeatedly.

Oh, and I'll wait to post a video tomorrow, but I discovered "Chap-Hop" (thanks Hugh!).

But I hit total geek Nirvana with this video.

Wait until you hear the sneaky, subliminal way Ben Folds managed to convey that the characters in the song are married. Brilliant!

Ben Folds discusses and performs "The Luckiest"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Less Than Jake "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts"

Here's another Weekend Post:

More 90s Pop Punk to Power thru the weekend . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Weekend posts are a chance to revisit songs that have happy memories, not of anything in particular, other than just hearing the tunes.

Many of these songs were tracks that I played during my 90s stint as an Alternative/Modern Rock radio show. They're tunes that I hardly hear these days, but are wonderful to revisit.

Click on the "Weekend Posts" label below, to see other posts like this.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NOFX "Philthy Phil Philanthropist"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I'm feeling a little pop-punky this weekend, for the throw-back Weekend Posts.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Weekend posts are a chance to revisit songs that have happy memories, not of anything in particular, other than just hearing the tunes.

Many of these songs were tracks that I played during my 90s stint as an Alternative/Modern Rock radio show. They're tunes that I hardly hear these days, but are wonderful to revisit.

Click on the "Weekend Posts" label below, to see other posts like this.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bruce Springsteen "Born In The USA" (acoustic)

It's Veterans Day, so I thought I would post this raw version of Bruce Springsteen's bleak view of a Vietnam Veteran returning home to no job, no prospects and no future.

Despite yesterday's show of solidarity in the Senate, approving a bill to help returning Veterans and their families find post-Service employment, Springsteen's song is sadly as applicable today as it was 30 years ago.

Unemployment for post-9/11 Veterans is at 13.3%, well above the National average.

There are "Support The Troops" rallying cries when we want funding for military spending, when we want our National interests protected, when we want a police action in a foreign land.

But does all that ring hollow, if we're even having this discussion?

Have a thoughtful holiday.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Travis "My Eyes"

We had a pretty good idea of what our kid was going to look like. There wasn't much room for guessing.

My wife and I look basically the same.

We're both Italian/Irish, favoring the Italian side, darker skin, brown hair, dark eyes. It has never been out of the ordinary for someone to think we are siblings. Or for people to think that my wife, is my mother's daughter. Young pictures of my father-in-law, look a lot like me, now.

It was a lock. We were going to have a little brown baby, with brown eyes.

And while my wife was pregnant, that's when we fell in love with this song from Travis.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Fran Healy had just had a child, too, and sang about the day he was born:

"You've got my eyes."

The only thing up for debate was, would our daughter have my brown eyes, or my wife's brown eyes?

Then she was born.

It's not uncommon for a newborn to arrive with blue eyes. And these eyes were blue. But yeah, they'd probably change to brown.


No. Months later, blue eyes. Years later, blue eyes.

It's not genetically impossible. My mother-in-law has blue eyes. And my Dad has blue eyes. Recessive genes do happen.

Today's her 4th birthday, and her eyes are still blue. My brother-in-law calls my daughter, "Blueberry eyes."

It was a good, early, lesson in parenting.

Even though you know better, when you have kids, there is a part of you that wants them to be a Mini-You. You hope they look like you and act like you and love the same things you love and become you, only better.

But it doesn't matter how much of your DNA they have. It doesn't matter how much you try to nurture them to be a certain way. It doesn't matter.

They are not a little you. And if you try to force that upon them, they'll spend the rest of your life, proving just the opposite.

There are so many things I want my daughter to see and do and be and love. And I'll guide her toward those things, hoping that she'll find some resonance in them.

But I learned on the day she was born, this day four years ago, that decidedly, she would see the world through her own eyes.

Happy birthday, little one!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock "Balloon Man"

If you asked me a week ago, what does "Balloon Man" remind me of, I'd write some warm, fuzzy memory of being in college and having some roommates/friends who were infatuated with this song.

But the personal meanings of songs can change, when some striking modern day event happens.

It's my daughter's birthday this week, and last Sunday, we had a party for her.

We had rented out the studio where she takes her dance class, and had planned on piling in a gaggle of 4 year olds, to eat cake and do an art project and bounce off the walls.

My wife left the house early, to go set up, leaving me and our teenage nephew to bring the birthday girl and her 18 month old brother to the party.

As I'm loading the kids into the car, my wife calls.

"I stopped by the grocery store and ordered a whole bunch of balloons to hand out at the party. Go by and pick them up. You can leave the kids in the car with my nephew, while you go grab them."

Being married to an artist, I have learned to roll with the punches and the plan-changes. So even though this sudden extra task was going to make the birthday girl late to the party, I tried to be good-natured about it.

And really, how could you not feel goofy, and perhaps a little joyous, walking through the grocery store, and out into a sunny day, across a parking lot, holding nearly 20 primary-colored, old-fashioned latex balloons?

It was really just wonderfully picturesque . . . a man, on his way to a birthday party, carrying balloons.

Then I got to the car.

How many balloons can you fit in a Honda CRV?

Uh, not 20.

And I found this out, because as I was trying to corral the balloons into the hatchback, one popped, loudly.

Naturally, the 18th month old was startled (hell, 4 year old, the 13 year old, and the 42 year old were startled) and he started screaming, sobbing.

So now I'm trying to work quickly, so I can get in the car and soothe the little guy, maybe give him his pacifier, when, POP!

Another balloon pops. And this one popped right in my face, with the latex snapping back in not just one, but both of my eyes.

Reflexively, without thinking, I just yelled, "SSSHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIITTTT!!!!!!"

I must say, the acoustics in the parking lot of my local grocer, rival Red Rocks, because there wasn't a person for 200 yards who didn't stop for just a moment to see what the deal was with the angry man holding the balloons.

Eyes watering, stinging, balloons now in the car, I got in the driver's seat only to realize that I didn't have the diaper bag with us. So no pacifier. Which meant that my boy just wailed and wailed.

With no other options, I just drove. It was only a 1/2 mile to the party. And yet we were stuck at a light for a solid 5 minutes, during which, yet another balloon burst. And this time, because the windows were closed, it was really loud.

It's this moment that we all recognize. The moment where things are just so bad, but there's nothing you can do about it. So you imagine you are somewhere else. You ignore the moment. You disappear inside your brain.

And inside my brain, pushing the fuzzy warm memories of college aside, was Robyn Hitchcock's song, singing:

"Balloon Man, blew up, in my face*."

See the video, with an awesomely free-associated intro by Hitchcock himself.

See the video on Youtube.

* the original lyric is "hand" not "face," but in this instance I imagine him singing the line more appropriate to this story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers "Gravity"

At what point does a song that references another song, lose you?

We live in a day and age of samples and remix and such, so the idea of one song sounding like another isn't especially foreign.

But in the singer-songwriter and rock world, if your song sounds too much like another tune, well, sometimes you're written off.

Or maybe, it's just that if you don't acknowledge the similarity, you're written off.

Because the melody rip-off worked well for The Old 97s, who openly admit the the melody of "Champaign Illinois" was lifted directly from Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row."

But people (radio programmers, at least) have been less forgiving on Stephen Kellogg And The Sixers' new song "Gravity," which seems to reference the Simon & Garfunkel tune "Cecilia" pretty directly.

So they did an interesting thing. They re-recorded Stephen's delivery for that one vocal hook. And traces of the original single have all but disappeared from Youtube, leaving only this new, less-"Cecilia"-like version.

Instead of going down, the notes go up, and it's changed enough that it doesn't sound like a rip-off.

Does it work?

You can hear the original vocal line at the 20 second mark on this promotional video.

Check out the 20 second mark on Youtube.

But now all the online videos have been replaced with the new version. You can hear the new hook at 25 seconds.

Hear the song on Youtube.

And check out "Cecilia" and "Gravity" right next to each other.

Hear the comparison on Youtube.

Hear the S&G original on Youtube.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frankie Avalon "Beauty School Dropout"

When I was middle school age, late 70s/early 80s, was there a bigger phenomenon that the movie "Grease" and its attendant Soundtrack?

I can remember being really into it, along with probably most every other 5th and 6th grader in my life.

But were we really aware how age-inappropriate it all was? The pregnancy/abortion issue, the sleazy TV show host hitting on the young girl, the drag racing, smoking, slutty leather pants outfit, the Italian swear word in "Sandra Dee," etc, etc?

No, we were not aware that this movie was not made for our age group.

At least I wasn't. Until the day our music teacher was sick.

I can't exactly remember why she was out, but it must have been something fairly sudden, because there was not a substitute teacher. Instead, one of the school administrators was the Sub for our music class that day.

I'm sure he thought he was doing a nice, "cool" thing, when, for lack of anything else to kill 45 minutes of class time, he acquiesced to the students insistent requests, to let us sit quietly, and play the "Grease" Soundtrack on the classroom record player.

Did I know the lyrics to "Beauty School Dropout"? Probably. Well, phonetically anyway. I'm sure I could sing along, but did I know what I was singing about?

I remember our sinking Sub's face getting a little redder and a little redder, as this song progressed.

But it was when Frankie Avalon really sticks the line "unless she was a hooker!" that his eyes just totally bugged out of his head.

Like a ballet dancer whose pants have just fallen off*, you could see him frozen, struggling to make a choice: Freak out and stop everything cold, making a scene? Or just keep going, as if nothing is wrong, and don't draw attention to it.

Maybe it was inertia or maybe it was his nature as an administrator, but he chose the latter, and did nothing except glower a little.

For many years, the thought of it made me laugh.

But now, I'm on the other side of the equation. I'm a Dad, with kids who are going to listen to things that will horrify me.

Am I really going to be the Dad that doesn't let his kid listen to the Soundtrack of a 40 year old beloved American Institution/Musical?

Or worse, am I really going to be the Dad that listens to the "Grease" Soundtrack with his daughter, and then "raps" about the issues it raises of female objectification, peer pressure, chastity and the importance of completing high school?

Can't I just go back to Middle School?

See the movie scene on Youtube.

* I know, I know, ballet dancers don't wear pants. But that's the line that popped into my head, and it made me laugh, so I kept it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Imperial Teen "You're One"

At the same time Imperial Drag was out, so was Imperial Teen. I always thought that was unfortunate. It's so damn hard to pick a band name---it sucks when a band with a similar name comes out at the same time.

Roddy Bottom was in Faith No More, and left to form this sweet quartet. A great 90s pop tune about his late friend, Kurt Cobain.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Imperial Drag "Boy Or A Girl"

I often think of this one around Halloween time, as inevitably, that gigantic woman that I just saw out of the corner of my eye, turns out to be a dude in a wig and sequins.

A catchy 90s nugget, courtesy of members of the at-the-time-just-broken-up Power Pop band, Jellyfish.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, November 4, 2011

David Wax Museum "Yes Maria Yes"

When bands are in a live setting, they'll often back-load the set, putting the stronger and more complex songs later in the show.

Part of the reason for doing this, is that while you want to hit the stage with something strong, it usually takes 2 or 3 (or more) songs for the sound engineer to perfect the mix, so that the band is firing on all cylinders. You'll see the players gesturing for more monitor, or less bass, or whatever, as the band develops a feel for that night's stage.

I'm always excited to hear that moment when the band has found the sweet spot and plays with a higher level of confidence.

I saw The David Wax Museum last night at The Narrows, and I was a little surprised that when they launched into "Yes Maria Yes" so early in the show. It's such a strong, fun song that wouldn't be out of place as a show closer, but here it was early in the set.

And, as a testament to both the band's skill, the Narrows sound engineer (Patrick!) and the room, it was one of the best sounding songs of the night. You could just hear that they had found their stride, and that they were going to gallop forth and slay this audience.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Black Keys "Lonely Boy"

I wrote about how it is sometimes incumbent upon the station, to play a new track from a veteran artist, regardless of quality, because to ignore it would be weird.

Like, we always play a new Neil Young track, if only to let the listeners decide for themselves that maybe this one wasn't Neil's best.

Similarly, there comes a point with certain new artists, where we may need to address them, whether they are "mvy-style" or not.

Personally, I like sound of The Black Keys. But I've never heard them do a song that made me think they should be on mvy. The noisy garage rock just isn't the right fit.

But the band has had quite a run in the last year or so, showing up in places that mvy listeners are hearing them (Saturday Night Live, Letterman). People are curious.

This new song is good, but, objectively it still doesn't sound like mvy to me.

As the song gets added to stations around the country that are similar to mvy, as the band shows up on TV programs that mvy-listeners watch, as positive reviews stack up in publications our listeners read, it may become weird that we're not playing them.

Their absence is noticeable. But their presence seems out of place.

It's weird to feel so awkwardly ambivalent about what is a seriously kick-ass song.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Winston Grennan "Island Vibration"

I just passed my 11th anniversary with mvyradio, and I have had lots of thoughts about the early days at this new job.

Even though, in 2000, I'd been a DJ for 6 years already, and had been in TV for 3 years before that, I arrived at mvy with enough humility to know that there was a lot I didn't know.

I can't say that I am perfect at always admitting to my limits, but after close to 20 years in broadcasting, I've seen more than a few people arrive in their jobs, so eager to prove that they are smarter than you think, that they wind up proving the opposite.

While Barbara Dacey, who had hired me, stood by on my first couple of airshifts, to make sure I was comfortable with the equipment, I began flying solo pretty quickly. And within a week, I was on a shift where I was the only person in the building.

Early Saturday morning. The phone rang. No one else was going to answer it, so I did.

The woman on the other end told me that her husband, Winston Grennan, had passed away. She was understandably upset. She didn't offer any details. She just said that she knew we would want to know.

I knew enough to know that she wasn't speaking to me, or even to a person. She was speaking to "MVY." To her, (to many) "MVY" is an entity unto itself. When the stations speaks, they don't hear the individual DJ, they hear what they assume is the full representation of the company thinks. When they call, the aren't talking to the person that picked up the phone, they are talking to the entire staff. And if they tell that one person, the whole hive should soon know and understand.

And I understood this.

I didn't know who Winston Grennan was. I wasn't familiar with his career or legacy. She hadn't even referenced that he was a musician. She just said we would want to know.

So, while I wasn't really sure what information I had, I knew it was information, something that needed to be spread.

I called Barbara. She knew what to do. She pulled together a news story to let people know that a reggae/drumming legend had passed away.

And I read it on the air, at the time not knowing the full significance, but knowing enough to know that there was more to know.

Click the song title to hear "Island Vibration."

And if you don't know who Winston Grennan was . . . well he was a drummer who played sessions and/or toured with Toots And The Maytals, Bob Marley, The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker, and also Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie and Peter Paul and Mary, just to name a few. Oh, and he was in the movies "The Harder They Come" AND "9 1/2 Weeks."

You can check out a profile on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

U2 "Blow Your House Down"

Well, it's the day after Halloween, so, in some quarters it's okay to start talking about Christmas.

I mean, for some of you, it's not appropriate to broach the subject until after you've had your Thanksgiving turkey, but c'mon, that's not realistic, if you're talking about preparing for Christmas as a shopping season.

In the world of the record industry, it has long been a tradition to shut things down when December hits. What with the flurry of the holiday, with holiday programming and other distractions, record labels recognized that December is a pretty terrible time to launch a new record project.

So if it wasn't out by November, it wasn't coming out until January.

But as we, as a culture, have started the Christmas season earlier and earlier, the label world has had to react.

Now, if the record isn't out by mid-October, then it's not coming out until next year. You just can't chance having a good record get lost in the holiday shuffle.

Sure, labels could then take a couple of months off/easy, and prepare for next year, but that's a pretty long furlough. So instead, they have really ramped up the no-brainer releases.

In the past, you could reliably count on a couple of popular artists releasing Christmas records. Because if I say (like last year) "Sting has a new Christmas record," you know everything you need to know. You know what it is going to sound like, and if you like Sting, or have a family member on the Christmas list who likes Sting, you'll probably buy it.

Labels also started pushing Best Of/Greatest Hits releases and Live albums to November.

Again, there's no ramping up or explaining necessary. "R.E.M. has a career-spanning Best Of coming out," has no ambiguity. If you like R.E.M., you'll probably want this.

And now, come the reissues. Albums celebrating their 10th or 15th or 20th Anniversary get the treatment, where the original album is remastered, and there is a generous package of songs from that era on a second disc.

You've probably never heard "Blow Your House Down" before, but if you've heard U2's "Achtung Baby" then you have a pretty strong sense of what this unreleased b-side is going to sound like.

That makes it an easy buy, if you're in some retail shop and you see the U2 display. You don't have to think about it, and you don't have to wonder if you'll like it, you don't have to deliberate.

You can just buy it, and the record label person behind the record can have a good holiday knowing they were doing their job all season long.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, October 31, 2011

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince "Nightmare On My Street"

I used to host a program call Request Radio on my old Virginia station.

Every night, for two hours, we would play only requests. And because we were independent, we didn't really have any restrictions on what we could, or would play.

Basically, if we had it, and someone asked for it, we would play it.

Spice Girls? Of course. Followed by Ozzy Osbourne? You bet.

One of the strangest phenomenons of Request Radio, is that within this little universe of fans who listened to the show every night, certain songs would become "hits." Maybe new songs, maybe old songs, but suddenly, something would catch on, and we'd play it every single night, night after night, over and over until the madness set it.

"Nightmare On My Street" was a silly novelty hit in 1988. WHY did it suddenly become hugely popular on Request Radio nearly a decade later?

Sure, it made sense to play it around Halloween. But people kept requesting it, night after night, into November, past Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and through months of winter into the Spring.

Now this was the old, pre-digital days of radio, when we had CDs, but we were just as likely to have a song on 45.

And one night, I just lost it.

I went on the air and said, "I am sick of this song, and I'm never playing it again. Listen closely."

Listeners heard a loud crack.

"That was the sound of me snapping the record in half. We don't have any more copies and we will never play that song again."

It was very satisfying. Even if it did mean that the kids would just get obsessed with something else stupid.

I'm smiling, thinking about the anachronism, feeling sorry for today's DJ.

Today, the DJ would have to say that he deleted the MP3 and could never play the song again. And before that sentence was over, some kid would have emailed a new copy of the song.

Hooray for analog technology!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Hooters "All You Zombies"

Nothing like a good ol' zombie song, on Halloween weekend.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Hitmen "Bates Motel"

We were driving through an off-Island town last weekend, and my wife pointed out a very cool Halloween decoration on one of the local houses.

The house had a replica of the "Bates Motel" neon sign in their window.

Very cool!

And suddenly, this song popped in my head. I haven't thought about it in a million years. I certainly haven't heard it since the 80s.


See the video on Youtube.