Monday, January 31, 2011

Robert Plant "Nobody's Fault But Mine"

Here's a clearinghouse of thoughts on seeing Robert Plant in concert last week. None of these notes merit a full on posting, but all are worth a mention.

I'd kinda forgotten that Plant can play a pretty mean harmonica, which he did in his capacity as a back-up musician, when a Band Of Joy-er got took the spotlight.

Plant gave Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott and Patty Griffin each a chance to front the band, while he stepped into the shadows, taking on the role of back up singer. How the hell did Patty Griffin not spend her whole tune thinking, "Robert Plant is my freaking back-up singer!!!" (Maybe she did)

Neither Buddy Miller nor Darrell Scott look like those incredible voices could be coming out of their mouths. They're both kinda rugged-looking, but their voices are both clear and clean.

I wasn't surprised that, if he were going to play a few Zeppelin tunes, "Ramble On" was among them. But did I detect a slight note of embarrassment when the 60-something singer delivered a line written by his 20-something self that was lifted from---how hippie-ish!---Lord Of The Rings? "Gollum, the evil one, crept up and slipped away with her . . ."

While I could go on and on about how beautiful Patty Griffin's voice is (my friend John said, "If God was real, he'd have Patty Griffin's voice"), I don't know that I'd have ever described her as "sexy." Until I saw her shaking maracas and singing back up to "Nobody's Fault But Mine."

Speaking of Patty's singing, her many roles on this tour were interesting. She can simply be a back up singer, providing a fuller, higher compliment to Plant. She can fulfill the Alison Krauss/female counterpart role on "Raising Sand" songs like "Please Read The Letter." Or she can be a substitute Plant, tackling the waaay-high notes that Plant sang near the end of the recorded version of "Gallows Pole."

Not that the House Of Blues is small, but it must be one of the smallest venues Plant has played in many years. When he was touring with "Raising Sand," they were in much larger places.

Boston was the first stop of Led Zeppelin's first trip to America, over 40 years ago. Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott both played around town for years. And Buddy Miller and drummer Marco Giovino have family in Boston. Bassist Byron House must've felt left out. Especially when Plant introduced everyone in the band, but forgot him!

We were invited to an After Party, and Mr. Plant was there to Meet & Greet. After hanging out for a half-hour or so, waiting my turn, I realized that though I love him, I really didn't have anything I wanted to say to Robert Plant. So rather than stammer something stupid, we left.

The show-opening "Nobody's Fault But Mine"

"Angel Dance"

"Ramble On"

"Rock N Roll"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Cure "Hot Hot Hot"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I was writing about The Cure earlier this week, and had this track on the brain at the Big Chili Contest yesterday . . .

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.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Champs "Tequila"

For those of you headed to the mvyradio Big Chili Contest today . . . how many times do you think you're going to hear this ditty?

And will you do the Pee Wee Herman dance if you do?

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Replacements "Kiss Me On The Bus"

The last thing I said to my wife before leaving the house yesterday morning was, “If you have a chance, read my post blog today . . .”

The morning has been the usual level of brain-scrambling chaos, getting the kids dressed and fed and ready for the day, shoveling the heavy wet snow from the driveway, attempting to empty the dishwasher, wrangle the scattered dirty laundry, scoop up errant Legos, and get out of the house and off to work on time. Or at least, not late.

We’re a long way away from those carefree days when we first met, and first started dating. Life has moved fast in 7 years.

In 2004, we met.

In 2005, we got married.

In 2006, we bought a house.

In 2007, we had our first child.

And life has only accelerated from there.

So to honor our 7 years, and recall how it all started, I thought I’d write the story of how we met, leading up to our first kiss.

When I sat down to write, I titled the post “The Replacements ‘Kiss Me On The Bus.’”

I got about halfway through, and remembered, Hey, it wasn’t “Kiss Me On The Bus” that she sang to win my heart. It was “Waitress In The Sky.”

I guess, because I was thinking about our first kiss, and because time and chaos have fuzzed out some of the details, I’d gotten confused.

After the post was published, I wondered if she’d have the chance to read it. The day can be quite full with two little kids running around. Finding 10 minutes to read a blog post doesn’t always happen. In fact, I wondered if she even realized the date, and that it was the Anniversary of our meeting. We don’t usually celebrate it. We’re more likely to acknowledge our wedding Anniversary, which is in August.

I got home at 6:30, and everyone was on the verge.

The kids had had a fun, active day. An afternoon play-date turned into dinner at our house, as my wife prepared pasta for 5 kids ages 4 and under.

The guests had left, and our worn out, strung out kids were ready for a quick wind down, and bed. And my wife was ready to sit on the Lazyboy and watch American Idol.

Everyone was corralled into the kids’ room. Tabitha got the baby into pajamas, as I rolled a ball back and forth across the floor with my daughter.

Having a moment of toddler inspiration, she grabbed her Little People toy bus, and started knocking the ball to me, with it. I suggested that she put the ball in the bus, and roll the bus to me.

Tabitha started singing, “Kiss Me, On The Bus.”

“What made you sing that song?” I asked, a bemused smile on my face.

“Uh, because you were playing with the bus?” she responded, looking at me like I was weird for asking an obvious question. Clearly, she hadn't read the post yet, or realized the date.

We did our synchronized-swimming-parenting routine, trading the kids back and forth as teeth were brushed, bottles were warmed, pajamas buttoned up, toys cleared from the floor, books picked out, and babies tucked in.

It’s a beautiful thing, to parent together.

When they were finally asleep, we moved to the living room.

“Will you make me an egg and toast?” she asked.

There are many, many things that my wife does well. But she says I make a fried egg better than she does. It’s a small point of pride for me, and I love that I can serve her a perfect little breakfast for dinner on the Lazyboy.

“While I’m doing that, read my post.”

“Oh yeah! Okay.”

I made a perfect plate of food and brought it to the living room, just as she was finishing. I hoped that she was enjoying the read, and not feeling bad that she hadn’t remembered our Anniversary.

“That was awesome. It was beautiful. Thank you.”

We kissed.

“Is it really today?” she asked.


“The 27th? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, isn’t it?”

“Well, our wedding Anniversary was on the 27th. August 27th. But we met on the 24th.”

“Uh, we did, didn’t we . . .”

Time and chaos have fuzzed out some of the details, I’d gotten confused.

That being said, be it the 24th or the 27th, "Kiss Me On The Bus" or "Waitress In The Sky," the heart was there.

Even if the brain is not.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Replacements "Waitress In The Sky"

How I Met My Wife, Part 1:

"You definitely don't know that song. No way. You're me."

"I do. You want me to sing it?"

There was no way she knew that song. No way. Then again, it had been a pretty remarkable afternoon already.

Rewind 4 hours:

I was standing at the mvyradio T-shirt table. It was the safest place to be, as the crowd poured in to the mvyradio Big Chili Contest.

The station holds this event every year. Ostensibly, it is an event to taste different Chili recipes. But in reality, it's just a good excuse to get rip-roaring drunk on a Saturday morning/afternoon in the middle of winter.

People come from off-Island in droves, to blow off some steam, dance up a storm and maybe, if the mood strikes them, vote for their favorite chili.

I was standing at the mvyradio T-shirt table when the crowd parted and a small whirlwind of girls popped forth.

"I'm here to see my T-shirt."

As a side contest to the Best Chili categories, we also have a T-shirt design contest. Artists near and far would send us their interpretations of the event, and a few days beforehand, we'd get the winning design printed up on a handful of shirts.

Standing in front of me, wearing sunglasses in her hair (on a cold cloudy winter day), was this year's winning designer, a woman with the improbable name of Tabitha Agneta.

She and her friends chatted with me for a few minutes, and then disappeared into the crowd.

An hour or so later, I found myself on the far, far side of the venue, tasting some chili, when I bumped into her again.

We talked more, about family and hometowns and jobs. Nothing earth-shattering, but there was a spark. We parted again.

An hour or so later, there she was at the bar. This time we talked baseball. The Red Sox. Nomar (this was the winter before he was traded).

I disappeared one last time, to get on stage and to participate in the Chili Award ceremonies.

And that's really the last time I ever left her.

When I found her (after the Horses Ass-shaped Chili Trophies were handed out), we talked about music, and she mentioned Jeff Buckley, who's album "Grace" is practically like going to church for me.

She asked me about my favorite band, and I said that she'd probably never heard of them.

"I know The Replacements," she claimed. Which seemed like B.S.

The only people I knew who liked The Replacements were guys who'd grown from awkward teen boys, to now be awkward young men. Good looking girls never knew who The Replacements were.

"No you don't," I said. "Name one of their songs."

"'Waitress In The Sky.' Do you want me to sing it?"

Hell yeah I did.

She sang it. She knew it. And I know on paper that sounds like a pretty tenuous thread to hang a relationship on. But if you were there, you would have known, too.

We left the mvyradio Big Chili Contest together, and even though she physically left the Island at the end of the weekend, from that point on, we've always been together, forever---spiritually, emotionally, psychically.

Starting 7 years ago today.

Happy Anniversary, my lovely wife!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Robert Plant "Angel Dance"

Last night's Robert Plant show at The House Of Blues in Boston probably merits a few different posts. But the thing that stands out to me, in the immediate aftermath, is The Band Of Joy.

Unlike a few of his contemporaries, Robert Plant has steadfastly refused to act like he's still a cocky 20-something. I knew this going into the show, and wondered, If he's not going to prance and pose a la the concert film "Song Remains The Same," how will he command the stage? How will his presence manifest itself?

It was through the power of The Band Of Joy.

Drummer Marco Giovino's kit was set to the back of the stage (as drummers usually are) and the rest of the band created a kind of square on stage. Guitarist Buddy Miller was at the front of the stage to Plant's right, bass player Byron House was set behind Miller. Patty Griffin was at the front of the stage to Plant's left, and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott was set behind her.

And Plant stood in the middle of this four-square style set up.

When the band was really cooking through an instrumental section of a song, they'd all turn inward toward Plant, and I swear it was like they were focusing light through a prism.

And when they all turned back to their microphones, each to lend their voice as a back-up singer, like the "Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!"s during "Angel Dance," I half expected Plant to be levitated off the stage.

Aging frontmen should take this lesson: the right chemistry can produce half the smoke but all of the burn.

(the stage plot is slightly different in this video than last night, but you get the picture)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Kinks "Do It Again"

I had a great night out on the town on Friday, when I went to The Woods Hole Film Festival's "Dinner And A Movie" series to see "Do It Again."

It's an off-Season, get-out-of-your-house-on-a-cold-night Deal. You pay a pre-fix price, you get a nice meal, and after dinner you can kick back with a beer and watch a movie in a local restaurant.

I hadn't heard of the evening's showing, the documentary "Do It Again," which is a little surprising, since it brings a bunch of favorite things to an intersection. But I sure did love it.

Geoff Edgers is a writer for the Boston Globe Arts section. And in this documentary, as he approaches 40 years old he decides he must achieve something great: He must reunite The Kinks.

On the way to trying to get a sit down with Ray Davies, he talks to many of the members of The Kinks, and many relevant non-Kinks, including artists who played with their brothers (Warren Zanes of the Del Fuegos), artists who's bands broke up but reunited (Sting) and artists who's bands broke up but refuse to reunite (Paul Weller of The Jam), as well as a few Kinks worshipers (Robyn Hitchcock, Zooey Deschanel). And hilariously, he concludes each interview by trying to get the interviewee to sing and play a Kinks song with him, to varying degrees of success.

It was a fun flick about fandom, reconciliation, musical passion, reckoning, aging and joyous obsession.

After the movie, I ran into a friend who asked our group the question, "What band would you do that for?"

Is there a band that you'd obsessively stalk, if you thought there was a chance to get them to reunite?

I didn't have the answer at the moment, but upon thinking about it, I know. And I start tonight.

I'm headed to the House Of Blues in Boston this evening to see Robert Plant.

If Led Zeppelin announces on Wednesday that they are reforming, just know that you'll have me to thank.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cure "Love Cats"

I had a bass guitar for about 5 minutes, during the college years. Mostly because all the guys I hung out with were musicians.

It was Kurt who suggested the bass guitar as an instrument. He could play a several different instruments (including the bass), and he thought the bass needed the least amount of ramp up to get to a point of being competent, so I could join in with the folks who already knew how to play.

What I quickly discovered is that while the bass is easier to pick up than, say, the guitar or the piano, it's also one of the least interesting instruments to play, and learn, if you're just by yourself.

Piano and guitar work great as solo instruments, and you can be entertaining and entertained while practicing. But plunking out basslines on your own could be pretty boring.

Or so I complained.

Kurt thought differently.

He picked up his own bass, and laid down the bassline to "Lovecats" as an example of a cool bass melody to practice.

Though it really isn't that difficult, I never did "ramp up" to the level that I could do "Lovecats" like Kurt did, but when I hear the song, I'm always reminded that Least Complicated doesn't necessarily need to be Least Interesting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Yo La Tengo "Sugarcube"

Here's another Weekend Post:

This is one of my favorite music videos. And it features the guys from Mr. Show!

The only drawback to the video, is that there is a lot of dialogue over the song. That happens to be its strength, too. But if you want to just hear the song in all its fuzzy glory, the 2nd video is just the music.

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, January 22, 2011

Transition Vamp "Tell That Girl To Shut Up"

Here's another Weekend Post:

This is one of those songs that I can't believe isn't deployed more often . . .

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, January 21, 2011

Cake "Sick Of You"

Homer Simpson once called them the two greatest words in the English language:

De. Fault.

In spite of Homer's claim, it's got to be a little a dispiriting/depressing/embarrassing to win by default.

To be crowned Miss America, like Suzette Charles who won the honor after Vanessa Williams had to relinquish her crown.

To win a playoff slot, despite a losing record, like the 7-9-but-division-winning Seattle Seahawks did in the NFL this year.

To have the Number One record in the country, like Cake, who also have the honor of selling the least amount of records by any band to get to Number One.

It's not a knock on the band. Like most cases of winning by default, it's that the bar has been lowered.

Cake is actually pretty consistent at selling a certain amount of records. But across the board in the music industry, sales have plummeted so far in the last decade and a half, that selling enough records to be Number One in 2011 wouldn't have even gotten you in the Top 10, in 1995.

In keeping with most of this week's posts, which all seem to relate to stories in the news, here's a New York Times story about this post.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Veruca Salt "I Want It Now"

I was reading this article that's flying around the internet about "Chinese Mothers" and I was, as many other commenters have been, horrified by much of it.

I'm not saying I should write a book about parenting, but I'm pretty sure that you gain nothing by calling your child "garbage," I recall thinking to myself, smugly.


We were talking to our three year old about proper manners, about not whining and about the way to get a positive response from your parents---or anyone.

Because . . . a few night before, at the dinner table, I asked her if she was enjoying her chicken. She held up her plate, looked me square in the eye and said, "GET. ME. MORE. CORN!"

She was instead offered a large helping of ABSOLUTELYUNACCEPTABLE from her otherwise usually-placid Dad.

In the aftermath of my quick outburst and the icy silence that followed, my wife and I have been gently, but more explicitly than ever, making clear the lines of what behavior is appropriate, and what is not.

Whining is a major topic. Three year olds can be whiny and demanding. Especially if you let them.

After a perfectly pleasant and well-mannered dinner, she started to whine about wanting dessert.

Though my child is not British, something about the way she delivered her line made me think of: "I want an Oompa Loompa NOW!"

I'm not sure why she whined. We explained that she'd had a good meal, and had behaved wonderfully, and if she simply asked nicely, we'd be happy to give her an ice cream sandwich.

We started talking about Veruca Salt, and how she whined and demanded and how she was a rude and unpleasant child.

To YouTube!

We found this scene from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, where Veruca demands a golden goose and a bean feast and whines and whines and whines (in song) until she winds up on top of the Chocolate Golden Egg Sorter Machine, and is declared to be a bad egg. And then she abruptly disappears into the floor.

"What happened to her?" my daughter asked.

"Well, uh, she was rude and bossy. So she went away."

"But where did she go?"

"Well, uh, she went down the chute."


"Because she was a bad egg."

"Where does the chute go?"

"Uh . . . Um . . . The garbage."

Yes, while trying to share some fun childhood pop culture morality with my kid, I inadvertently instructed her that bossy, whiny, rude children would end up in the garbage.

Amy Chua, feel free to be smug.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hayes Carll "KMAG YOYO"

"You're gonna love this track," a friend told me. "It's like a modern day 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.'"

He was right. I love the track. Actually, that's underselling it. I LOVE the track, with a Capital L-O-V-E.

So I was going to write about it here, and I went a-lookin' for it on Youtube.

I found the strangest damn thing.

Check out the video below, of Hayes Carll on the Fox Business Channel. His screen presence is nearly crowded out by Stock ticker crawls and graphics screaming about tax hikes and such, while Carll and his band boogie through his acid-washed tale of war gone wrong, drugs gone wrong and government gone wrong.

In its day, Dylan and songs like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" were the counter-culture at its most subversive.

And my brief, initial reaction to this video was "Jesus H Christ on a Popsicle stick, has Hayes sold out to The Man?!?"

My second thought was "Holy Shit, this waaay more subversive than Dylan in an alley with cue cards."

Did the execs at Fox Business know any of the lyrics to this song before they let him play it? ("Sample: I ain't no genius but I know it wasn't right, eatin' uppers in the morning and LSD at night")

Did they know what "KMAG YOYO" is an acronym for? (Kiss My Ass Guys, You're On Your Own)

Has anyone on Fox ever mocked Neil Armstrong, promised to swear on the Koran and join the Peace Corps. On FOX?!?

A first I thought the Corporate America had co-opted the Counter Culture. But I think, in this case, the counter-culture subverted The Man.

Totally. Frickin'. Awesome.

This video plays parts of the album version (which is tighter than the above live version) and includes lyrics on the screen. Interviews with Hayes are intercut.

Mr. Dylan doesn't let you embed videos, but his site has the original "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video.

Finally, I interviewed Hayes Carll a bunch of years ago.

He played a few amazing cuts for us, live and acoustic.

Find it in the mvyradio archives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dire Straits "Money For Nothing"

We're all familiar with The Grandfather Clause Of Language, right?

A regular, legal, Grandfather Clause, you know, allows the continued practice of a recently banned act, if the practitioner has been engaging in said practice for a really long time.

The Grandfather Clause Of Language basically means that you are willing to give an elderly person a pass on the offensive (or racist or politically incorrect) things they say, if said remark was not considered offensive in "their day," even if it is inappropriate now.

And there is an equivalent phenomenon in music.

Certain songs we play, going back 20, 30, 40 years, may contain a word that was allowed to be broadcast when it first came out. If a song featuring that same word came out today, the word would most certainly be censored.

How else to explain that no station that I've ever heard, ever censors the word "Nigger" in Elvis Costello's "Oliver's Army"? Cee-Lo Green certainly couldn't use that word (or several others) in his Radio Edit of "Fuck You."

And strangely, most Classic Rock stations have always kept the "do goody-good Bullshit" line intact, in Pink Floyd's "Money." But any current radio song with the same lyric, would have to arrive at the station, "Bullshit"-free.

At Christmastime, you never hear the word "faggot" edited out of The Pogues song "Fairytale Of New York." Yet, when KT Tunstall and Ed Harcourt covered it recently, they were requested to alter that line.

Weirdly, if a song has gotten by the censors all these years, it seems to get left alone.

Until now.

What to make of The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council's decision to ban play of "Money For Nothing" unless the word "faggot" is edited out . . . 25 years after the song came out?

Bizarre, eh?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Collective Soul "December"

Lyrics are kind of a Rorschach Test.

How you interpret the lyrics is often an insight to what is on your mind.

This Collective Soul song was out at about the same time my radio station was playing another alterna-hit, Poe's "Trigger Happy Jack."

To my roommate, I pointed out what I thought was a thematic similarity between the two songs and remarked that it was surprising that two mainstream tunes would so casually mention this subject.

The roommate remarked that my interpretation might only be symptomatic of what was on my young mind.

You tell me.

Do the 2nd and 4th lines of the chorus of "December" and the third stanza of "Trigger Happy Jack" suggest anything to you?

Or do I just have a dirty mind?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spacehog "In The Meantime"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I've written a couple of weekend posts about the band Self. These guys were out right around the same time, and the sound of their songs were similar enough that folks calling to request one or the other, would often confuse which artist did which song.

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, January 15, 2011

Self "Cannon"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Last weekend I wrote about a song that was a bit obscure, from a band some folks remember from the 90s.

If you were to remember them at all, you might recall this tune.

I don't know why we all thought this was funny, but we always like to call out "Beep!" at the points in the song where there are little electronic Beeps. Listen for them, buried in the mix.

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, January 14, 2011

Court Yard Hounds "See You In The Spring"

When people (who don't live on Martha's Vineyard) think about romance on Martha's Vineyard, I'm sure the phrase "Summer Fling" comes to mind.

But if you're here year-round, and you're single, there is a flip-side to the Summer Fling.

In August, the number of people on the Island stretches well pass 100,000. Dating choices are many. Good looking people are tan and on the beach and full of summer energy.

But by the end of November, the Summer People are gone, the Seasonal folks have left, and even the many young, single Europeans and South Americans working in the hotels and restaurants have had their work Visas run out.

There are about 15,000 folks left, and if you're not dating somebody by December, it's pretty likely that your long, cold, lonely winter is going to extend well into April, if not longer.

When I moved here in October 2000, it was all new to me.

Despite all odds, I did manage to meet a girl I liked.

She was interested, no doubt, but she was hesitant.

She'd started dating a guy near the end of that summer. But when mid-October came, he left the Vineyard, to go work someplace warmer for the next 6 months.

They had agreed: "See you in the Spring." They'd pick up where they'd left off, when he returned to the Island.

At the time, I probably thought it was my natural charm and charisma that won her over. She sent a note to the Summer boyfriend, letting him know that she was going to date me.

And she and I both thought she was just kidding when she decided we should give it a go, by saying: "You'll do, for the Off Season."

Are you surprised that the coda to this story is that Summer boyfriend returned in April, and Off Season boyfriend (me) was cut loose? No, you're not surprised if you've spent a Winter here . . .

Most of the time, if I identify with a lyric and it winds up on the Blog, it's because I feel relate to the protagonist. But in the case of "See You In The Spring," the girl and the Summer boyfriend are the protagonists, and I'm just the trouble in their relationship.

In retrospect, it's kind of a fun role to play.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stereolab "The Noise Of Carpet"

This popped up when I hit the ol' random button, and though I hadn't heard it in a long time, it served it's purpose.

There are songs you play for comfort. Albums that bring back good memories or warm feelings. Albums that are un-challenging.

But rarely do you, on purpose, listen to the opposite of that.

Too-cool-for-school critics in the 90s loved Stereolab's album "Emperor Tomato Ketchup," so naturally, when it came out, I had to check it out (hoping to find that I too, was too cool for school). And I had kind of a funny reaction to it.

I can't say that I loved, loved, loved it. But I found it artistically challenging.

It was like trying to read "War And Peace" or eat caviar. It was beyond my capacity and taste, but worth trying, if only to stretch my boundaries.

In the years that followed, if I was bored or in a rut with the music I was listening to, I'd put on "The Noise Of Carpet" and be jolted awake, engaged and ready to return to my more familiar musical world.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

John Gorka "I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair"

I was at Mom's house, a week or two after Dad's birthday dinner. I saw the package on her kitchen table addressed to Locks Of Love, and at first, it didn't phase me.

My sister Julie had quietly done this once or twice before. She'd grown her hair long, just like Mom's was in the 70s, and then she'd cut it off and donated the hair to Locks Of Love, which uses the hair to make hairpieces for kids who've lost their hair.

My sister Julie had come to Dad's birthday party a few days prior, with a new, short, haircut.

We had all kind of marveled at her. "You look like Mom, when she got married."

Mom had hair above her shoulders, in a very Jackie O kind of way, when she got married. But through her first years of being a Mom, she let it grow, and grow, and grow, until it reached Crystal Gayle proportions, stretching down to her rear end. It was a source of pride for her, and in iconic image of my Mom for anyone who ever knew her.

By the time we three kids were all in school, and Mom had regained a little of her life back, she hit that point that I think every mother hits---she wanted to cut it all off and get some kind of stylish haircut.

I think we all recognize the parental attempt to be stylish, doing exactly the opposite. Everybody knows the "Mom haircut."

No matter to Mom. She braided the 20+ inch tresses one last time, went to her stylist, and had the whole thing lopped off in one big chunk. She put it in an envelope and stored it, and the memories of her young Mom years, in the closet.

My sisters grew their hair long, too. Oh sure, there were attempts at perms and such, but most of the time they played to their strengths and let it grow.

So it was a blow to Amy to lose her hair.

Amy had to go through chemotherapy to treat three brain tumors that made their presence known at age 25. Her long thick hair came off in clumps.

And though we all thought she looked really, really cute in short hair, she kept a pre-cancer picture of her sporting long, long hair, on the refrigerator during that whole first round of treatment, hoping there would be a day her hair came back.

Her hair was never the same. But the cancer did come back.

Over the next several years, a fourth, and then a fifth tumor arrived, each bringing with it another round of chemotherapy.

She wore hats. She was too proud to wear a wig. "Somebody else's hair? That's gross."

When the cancer kept coming back, in ascending order of upset, she was upset that she might die, she was more upset that she was going to have to have more treatment, and she was most upset that she was simply never going to have her hair back.

When she passed away last year, I thought we should have buried her in her ski hat.

Back to the beginning of this story . . .

I was at Mom's house, a week or two after Dad's birthday dinner. I saw the package on her kitchen table addressed to Locks Of Love, and at first, it didn't phase me.

"Did Julie give you her hair, to send to Locks Of Love?"

Mom said "No, Julie sent her hair last week. That package has my hair."

Seeing Julie's haircut had sent Mom to the phone, and then the closet.

Though it had been braided and in an envelope for nearly 30 years, Mom's hair hadn't degraded a bit (most hair holds up pretty well over time), and the Locks Of Love people said they would be happy to accept it.

I know John Gorka's song is about a lost romance, but now when I hear it, I think about the stranger wearing my sister's hair, or my Mom's hair, a stranger who is not Amy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lucinda Williams "Buttercup"

Bands with two songwriters often have a split fan base.

Whether it's The Beatles or Uncle Tupelo or The Indigo Girls, there is frequently a vocal contingent of fans who have a preference for John or for Paul, Farrar or Tweedy, Emily or Amy.

In the Indigo Girls case, Emily usually writes the gorgeous, touching love songs, and Amy, punk rocker at heart, pens rough and tumble poetry.

Indigo Girls fans usually favor one over the other. I, myself, am an Amy fan.

And in the case of Lucinda Williams, I am a fan of Lucinda Williams. But not so much a fan of Lucinda Williams.

Yes, there is only one Lucinda Williams, but often it seems like she's two different songwriters.

Lucinda has laid bare her love live in good times and bad, with both wrenching portraits of her break-ups, and intimate, often openly carnal descriptions on Love on the upswing. In good times and bad, these songs are usually plainspoken and direct, like "Essence":

Baby, sweet baby, you're my drug
Come on and let me taste your stuff
Baby, sweet baby, bring me your gift
What surprise you gonna hit me with?

I am waiting here for more
I am waiting by your door
I am waiting on your back steps
I am waiting in my car
I am waiting at this bar
I am waiting for your essence

When she steps away from herself and first person adventures in love, she will write these devastating, poetic snapshots of times and places and people. Like this look at another singer she admires, in "Real Live Bleeding Fingers And Broken Guitar Strings":

I climbed all the way inside
Your tragedy
I got behind
The majesty
Of the different shapes
In every note
the endless tapes
of every word you wrote

Even if you don't know the songs, just reading the lyrics, dry, doesn't the 2nd set seem deeper, more complex, and more like something that would come from the pen of a woman who's been described as America's best songwriter?

Descriptive flashes like the scenes in "2 Cool 2 B Forgotten" and "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" are much more interesting to me than "Real Love"'s repetitive line: "I found the love that I've been looking for, it's a real love, it's a real love."

My theory on the 2 Lucinda's is that the closer the lyrics are to her real life, the more she relies on the emotion behind the words (not the words themselves) for their punch. She can repeat "it's a real love, it's a real love" over and over with exuberance and that conveys the joyous feeling she's trying to conjure.

As she gets away from herself in her writing, she turns more to the details to tell the story, and the phrases and descriptions carry the weight of the message.

How much of a Lucinda album is love/guy songs, verses the other type of tune, seems to depend largely on Lucinda's love life. If she's newly in or out of love, you get a lot of those songs. If she's in a stable relationship, or in a stretch of being single, the focus turns away from romance gone good, or bad.

So when we got "Buttercup," the first single from her new record, last week, I thought, "Okay, the new record is more love songs." And that's what I was going to write about.

Searching on Youtube for a version of the song, I happened upon this fan-shot video, where Lucinda let's us know that "Buttercup" is actually the only Bad Boy song on the new record. After the last record, she just had to get one more of them out, before turning to other lyrical matter.

Hear Lucinda explain it herself, and enjoy the charming way she messes up the song, and starts over.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bruce Hornsby "Rainbow's Cadillac"

My first radio gig was at an AM/FM combo station.

One little independent business, with two studios.

Truthfully, through large portions of the week the AM simulcast the FM, so whatever you heard on one, you hear on the other.

But there were a few exceptions. The AM station carried a live Jazz show that wasn’t on the FM. And the AM was the local home of the Virginia Tech Hokies.

But the most marked difference between the two channels was on Sunday morning, when the preachers came.

I think, if you grow up Catholic, you are accustomed to a religious style that is ordered, predictable, emotionally a bit muted.

And if you grow up in the North, your view of the Southern preacher is likely based on TV caricature.

So it was an education for me, to sit in as I did from time to time, and host the Sunday morning programming on the AM side.

Lord knows that I was pretty ignorant about Gospel music. So someone would have to pick out songs for me ahead of time.

But the real job of that shift, was to shuttle the Preachers in and out of their time slots.

Not unlike how the station would sell commercials, they would also sell blocks of time to the various area Baptist ministers, who’d come in every Sunday morning, to deliver the Word of God (as they saw it).

It could be real fire-and-brimstone stuff, and often, the preacher was overcome with the spirit to the point that he became unintelligible.

You had fiery guys like that, but you also had these weird, monotone, slightly-angry-yet-laconic-zombie deliveries. Those were the guys that gave me the creeps.

Meanwhile, on the FM side of the station, we’d play this Bruce Hornsby track, about a colorful, charismatic preacher and I’d wonder if they had different preachers where Bruce lived (at the other end of the same state).

These guys were the closest thing to monochromatic human beings I’d ever met.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ben Lee "I Wish I Was Him"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Like the Vanishing Point in perspective drawing, the last 3 posts (one, two, three) culminate here:

This is Ben Lee (look at how young he was) singing a song, about Vineyard-connected rock star Evan Dando.

At the height of The Lemonheads popularity, little Ben Lee became a little famous for this song about Dando. Then Dando himself went on to cover it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Self "Meg Ryan"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I was writing about Meg Ryan this week, and this nugget popped into my head, from a cool one-man-band that lived in the same area as my first radio gig.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ben Lee "Catch My Disease"

You know that old Chaos theory idea . . . a butterfly flaps its wings and starts off a chain reaction that ends up with a hurricane hitting the East Coast?

It's cool to see little things have a big effect.

I was familiar with Ben Lee from my modern rock show at my old station, where we played "I Wish I Was Him" and "Pop Queen."

When his "Awake Is The New Sleep" record arrived I was happy to see that he was on New West, a small but solid label, known for promoting quality artists.

New West has folks like Steve Earle and John Hiatt and The Old 97s---bands that will never sell a million records, but will always sell thousands.

But how would a less familiar name like Ben Lee fare? How could a smaller label have major promotional muscle?

Those thoughts crossed my mind in the flap of a butterfly's wing, Barbara played "Catch My Disease" on What's New For Lunch, and then I was on to thinking about something else.

Until a few days later when we got a call from the folks at New West for our support of Ben Lee.

Which was odd, because you don't usually get a call from a record company for just playing a song once.

But sometimes once is all that matters.

It seems that Vineyard frequenter David Letterman happened to be visiting the Island, and happened to be listening when "Catch My Disease" was on the air. The following Monday, he had his people book Ben on his show to play that song.

One play on mvyradio became a million eyeballs on Ben on CBS.

Sometimes it's fun to be the butterfly.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

John Mellencamp "Save Some Time To Dream"

We live on an Island known for celebrity visits.

But the Vineyard is also known for not making a big f-n deal about celebrity visits, so you kind of forget that there could be some famous person within earshot.

Yesterday, the gossip blogs were all blaring "Meg Ryan quietly dating John Mellencamp" (yes, quietly, until now) and making mention of the fact that they were together on the Vineyard last week.

I'd kind of forgotten that Meg Ryan is here. She keeps a low profile. But I would be unlikely to mention her name on the air.

John Mellencamp however . . . well, he's someone I might say something about.

I'm kind of here and there about John Mellencamp. I have gone through periods of really liking him. Stretches of not being able to listen to a note. And miles and miles of ambivalence.

So how relieved was I, to flip back through my mental notes, and recall that the only time I mentioned Mellencamp last week, was in a warm way, saying something to the effect of "(his new song) 'Save Some Time To Dream' is the loveliest song he, or anyone, has put out in recent memory."

Despite my generally "Meh" feeling about his recent work, that tune actually struck a pleasant chord with me.

So I was pleased to think that on the off chance he and Meg were listening, 59 year old Mellencamp, known to be the feisty sort, would not have been motivated by a snippy comment on my part to drive down the dirt road and stomp my 17-years-younger ass.

And in all the gossip about the visit, here's the weirdest note: They may be working on a musical together!

Even better, maybe they can get some help from Lady Gaga!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Evan Goodrow Band "Don't Lie To Me"

It was a hot and sweaty night and a friend of my wife's dragged us to a club in Hyannis, to catch her favorite area band.

The inside was hotter and sweater, with the crowd pulsating, grooving, in sync with the band, losing themselves to the music.

Years later (about a month ago) we were talking around the office about what kind of band we wanted for our Friends of mvyradio Valentine's Day Fundraiser Party.

We agreed that we needed an act that would get people up on their feet, give them a show, let them let loose, and feel like they got their money's worth for a night out in Newport.

"How about the Evan Goodrow Band?"

See Friends of mvyradio for details, and get your tickets today. If he's good enough to open for BB King, he's good enough for us!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Extreme "Hole Hearted"

It was one of the biggest hits of 1991, and yet, I can't tell you the last time I heard this bit of ear candy.


History is written by the victors, isn't it?

In 1991, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released and suddenly Hair Bands were out of fashion and Grunge Rock was in. Or, at least, that's how history is written.

In reality, the Grunge era was populated with songs like this. But here in 2010, it's not what we're nostalgic for.

If you are in Boston and you listen to that station that used to sound a lot like mvyradio, but now only seems to play Weezer and Live and other such 90s fare, you'll still never hear this tune.

It may have been out of fashion (and the people in the video sure can't dance) but THIS was the early 90s, no matter what the Rock History book says.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ray Lamontagne "Beg Steal Or Borrow"

We opened up the voting process for the Top 25 this year, several weeks earlier than usual, and it seemed to work---we got more votes than ever.

Particularly stunning, was the wide variety of votes that came in for Ray Lamontagne. In the end, "God Willin' And The Creek Don't Rise" had twice as many votes as the next highest vote getter. Even with 80-plus albums to chose from, Lamontagne appeared on nearly one out of every three votes.

I think that says something. But it's taken me a bit to figure out exactly what that is.

In the end, I guess it speaks to the timelessness of the music he is creating. It fits seamlessly, whether in the past or present. "God Willin'" was enjoyed by the folks who voted for James Taylor & Carole King. But modern music fans of "Vampire Weekend" found the record hip enough. And if you voted for a soul ticket, with Bettye Lavette, Sharon Jones and Janiva Magness, you could still have Ray on your list and be consistent.

It hardly mattered who was listening. They were able to hear a sound that connected with the niche of music they love.

It's an incredible illusion to be able to do that. But in this case, it's not an illusion, it's real. This record really is folky, modern, soulful, alternative, roots and so many other things.

And that's why it's Number 1.

See the full list at mvyradio's website.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jimi Hendrix "Auld Lang Syne"

Instead of the usual Weekend Post, on weekends in December, I think I'll post some fun, weird holiday tunes.

Yesterday, I was complaining that there aren't really any great weird New Year's tunes. At least, here's a cool version of "Auld Lang Syne" with Jimi Hendrix.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rudolph's Shiny New Year "Father Time's Song"

Instead of the usual Weekend Post, on weekends in December, I think I'll post some fun, weird holiday tunes.

With Christmas past us, I'd hoped for a selection of weird New Year's songs, but there's not much. Are there really any other New Year's songs, other than "Auld Lang Syne"? (Okay, U2 and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" come to mind)

Not everybody celebrates Christmas, yet there are a billion Christmas songs. But New Year's is a pretty universally acknowledged and celebrated holiday here in the U.S. You think there'd be more songs.