Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil"

This Week: Excerpts From That Novel I'm Never Going To Write.

20 pages after looking at buttons, I delve into the history of The Zipper.

I wrote 2 possible endings for this chapter. I think the first one is a little truer to the whole premise, but relies on a "The Rolling Stones Are Old" joke. The second ending is a little snappier. Your pick.

The Amish think that zippers are the tool of the Devil.

What makes anyone think that the Devil uses tools?

Hell is pretty well known for its natural phenomena—the molten lakes, the brimstone-singed air, the occasional snowball-—but in no depiction of Hell is there ever any mention of a fine, handcrafted wooden cabinet or lawnmower go-cart.

The Devil never built a birdhouse.

No, tool of the Devil seems wildly inappropriate.

Really, if the Devil has any handicraft, it’s in the culinary arts.

He’s responsible for deviled eggs, deviled ham and devil’s food cake, among other sinful delights.

Yes, “appliance of the Devil” would be far more appropriate than “tool.”

Or “utensil of the Devil.”

The Charlie Daniels Band came close to popularizing the phrase ‘Instrument of the Devil’ with their 1982 hit “Devil Went Down To Georgia.” But the plan backfired when the Devil blew the fiddle contest and violin playing subsequently became associated with weakness, i.e. non-mastery of the forces of darkness.

Leaving us stuck with the nonsensical “Tool of the Devil.”

Really, even if you believed that zippers were evil, aren’t they more of a “Gadget of the Devil”?

So let’s examine this contraption of the damned. Go ahead, look at your zipper.

For love of God, please tell me you aren’t reading this book naked.

Can you believe that the first place you looked is the last place anyone thought to put a zipper?

Well, they say that inventions rarely end up being used for what they were originally intended. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph so people would be able to recall the voices of the dead. An intended use that seems lost on today’s music fans. Unless you listen to The Dead.

In 1851, Elias Howe patented the "automatic, continuous clothing closure,” a precursor to the zipper, but got distracted when another of his inventions caught fire. After dousing the flames and clearing the smoke from his workspace, Howe completed and patented the sewing machine, which then
figuratively caught fire among consumers.

It wasn’t until 44 years later that Whitcomb Judson created the “clasp locker” to replace those anachronistic “laces” in shoes. This complex eye-and-hook system-—only marginally like the zippers of today--was marketed by Judson’s own Universal Fastener Company, the place where in 1911 a young Gideon Sundback was making a name for himself as an electrical engineer. A recent widower, Gideon—-who knew the idle mind is the Devil’s playground--filled his lonely hours at the workbench. Two years later, he emerged from his grief with the familiar design that so frightens the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Yet to be called the “zipper” Sundback’s “Separable Fastener” set a zipping standard still adhered to today, consisting of about ten fastening elements per inch, with two facing rows of teeth that are pulled into a single piece by the slider.

It was the B.F. Goodrich Company that developed the name “Zipper,” using the Devil’s gadget on their rubber footwear. For reasons beyond modern comprehension, for the next twenty years zippers were used only on galoshes and tobacco pouches. It wasn’t until the 1930s that fashion designers put zippers on the crotch of children’s clothing. Soon zippers were replacing buttons on men’s “trousers.” Trousers, of course, would later be replaced by “slacks” during the Nixon administration, which would in turn be replaced by our modern day “pants.”

Through Howe, Judson and Sundback, from shoes to pouches to pants, the zippers’ journey from inception to acceptance took over eighty years.

The years following the trouser triumph have not been particularly eventful for the zipper. Oh sure, zippers can now be made of plastic and yes, they’re not just for the crotch anymore, but only one truly significant zipper innovation has occurred since the 1930s. That was The Rolling Stones 1971 release “Sticky Fingers,” which featured on the album cover an actual working zipper sewn into a photograph of leather pants.

(ending a)

Leaving it to the zipper to fulfill Edison’s promise of an invention that would help recall the voices of the dead.

(Note: as of this writing, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are still alive, but I’m hoping that this book will be in print for a long, long time)

(ending b)

Perhaps that was just Sympathy For The Devil.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Beatles "I Am The Walrus"

This Week: Excerpts From That Novel I'm Never Going To Write.

One of the good things about this story/project was that the loose format allowed me to toss in all kinds of scraps of ideas and lines from elsewhere.

Because you could go in-depth on a subject (buttons, for instance) that were only tangentially related to the plot, I had the opportunity to shoe-horn in all kinds of jokes and vignettes and poems and such, that I'd had in mind, or had actually written, before I started writing "Fruitless Minutiae."

I've long had this idea of a book of children's rhymes that had more mature/nuanced-themed morals. And the poem in the section of story below was one of my favorites.

I know these excerpts are a little out of context, but basically, 30 pages or so into the story, I break to clear up the action. On the previous pages, I've been jumping back and forth between scenes of meeting a girl named Alison and scenes conversation/arguing with my large friend Reilly, who I have described as looking like a bear.

Reilly had faith in you. The editors of America do not.

Are you having trouble following this story? The editors of America are concerned you might be. I’ve got a bunch of things going on at once and the editors of America tell me that my timeline is random and confusing. But you’re probably used to that sort of thing in real life—I bet you’re the kind of person who can simultaneously drive, shave and/or apply makeup, and sing “The Humpty Hump” at 75 miles an hour on the freeway.

But for the sake of clarity and highway safety, let me give you an overview.

Reilly is my friend. I’m relating to you a story about the time Reilly and I took a trip to the stereo place.

I’m also telling you about Alison. In a completely separate series of events that took place on a completely separate day.

And then there are the random rants by me. I am the author. I am the protagonist. And I am the walrus. Goo goo g’joob.

So as not to confuse you, let me point out that I am not a walrus. I’m a man. The walrus thing was just a snappy Beatles reference. But seeing as how I’ve asked you to accept that Reilly is a bear, I suppose it’s plausible that I am a walrus. Which I am not.

But how about a quick poem, where you can imagine that I AM a walrus.


The walrus had whiskers but was otherwise bare,
The bear was quite furry and proud of his hair,
The walrus’ jealousy and the bear’s hirsute pride,
Set the stage for a scene called “The Day The Walrus Dyed.”

The bear he was coaxed to a place by the dockside,
Where the walrus produced a small flask of peroxide.
“Pour this on your fur and do not wash it out,
And the smell will react like a magnet for trout.”

The bear, unaware that he’d just been conned,
Took a flask full of liquid to turn his fur blonde.
The walrus he rolled on his back on the beach,
Laughing, “Who doesn’t know that peroxide is bleach?”

By morning, the bear, to the walrus’ delight,
Had turned from all black, to a milky off-white,
But the walrus, it seemed, he fell short of his goal,
When the bear said, “Hey cool! Like I’m from the North Pole!”

The moral of the story, and there is one of course,
Whether porcupine, person, pig, penguin or horse,
Know you can’t contend with another’s mane vanity,
If the real problem is you’re a bald, bucktooth manatee.

Now let me remind you, again, I am not a walrus.

I’m a handsome devil, a luddite, a modern day Deney Terrio, an occasional family embarrassment, a chocolate monkey enthusiast, a sub-genius, and an editor’s nightmare.

But definitely not a walrus.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jonathan Richman "There's Something About Mary"

This Week: Excerpts From That Novel I'm Never Going To Write.

I don't think I mentioned in my first post, that this story was intended to a comedy. Or at least to make you laugh a bit.

This next segment was one of the first profile/asides where I really did some research and tried to write some funny lines around it.

And at the time (1996 or so) I was pretty pleased with my "YKK" line.

Unfortunately, two years later "There's Something About Mary" came out, with a much funnier zipper joke. And I realized that anybody who read my zipper reference would think I was calling back to Ben Stiller's painful moment.

I made a note to myself to come back and somehow rewrite that section.

Never got around to it.

So here is my exploration of that everyday object and its complex life and etiology, The Button, zipper line in tact.

I think about the Amish sometimes.

Not so much about the hats. Or the barn-raisings. Or “Witness.” Or Kelly McGillis when her hair springs loose from the constraints of that dowdy kerchief and softly falls along the nape of her neck and her innocent--but no less ferocious--dormant sexuality becomes a warm rush that seeps to her core and radiates outward ten-fold.

That's not really what I think about when I think about the Amish.


Buttons is the answer. When the question is "What do I think about when I think about the Amish?" the answer is buttons.

The Amish consider zippers to be the tool of the devil. Those of you snickering have obviously never caught your wee-wee in a metal YKK. Yowch.

When I think about the Amish I think about the beauty of simplicity. I think about the Amish man, blinking awake with morning's first light, propping himself up on one elbow, shaking off his slow dreams of floating and spinning above sunny yellow fields. He rises, grounding himself in thoughts of the tasks of the day ahead. A simple, honest, ritualistic existence restarts anew with the fastening of the wooden buttons on his shirt.

From the buttoned-down executive to the button-fly fly-guys, buttons clasp together the fabric of our cotton/poly-blended lives, our cotton/poly-blended history. When blackouts during World War II threatened American nocturnal movement, what was the fashion industry's response? Buttons, chemically impregnated to glow in the dark. What put the town of Waterbury, Connecticut on the map? Buttons. It was in Waterbury that a small factory produced buttons for the Army and Navy when imported button supplies grew short during the War Of 1812. What made Shirley Temple so cute? Her Button nose--cute as a button that tyke. Who held the unprecedented feat of holding five major world figure skating titles (Olympic, world, North American, United States and European) all at the same time? The answer is Buttons. Dick Buttons. So? So, you say? You say, So? I say, Sew Buttons on your underwear. And button your lip.

And while you're there quietly thinking, answer me this--What do sitcom writers call the snappy crack that ends the scene with a big laugh?

Answer: The Button.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers "I'm Not Your Man"

There was a time, a long time ago, when I wanted to write.

It's so long ago that I'm not even sure what my aspirations were. But I used to write.

Tucked away in folders and on floppy discs are a few dozen short, and not so short, stories that I worked on in the post-college years. It was the kind of thing I'd do when I got home from work, late at night, to both unwind and to feel creative.

Whenever I'd get stuck, blocked, or unmotivated, I'd put whatever I was working on to the side and do a little exercise.

I'd write a scene. Just one short page. And then I would pick some inanimate object featured in that scene, and I'd write about its story. Just one page.

Every object has a story that we don't think too much about. A simple pencil in your hand is the product of thousands of decisions made by lumberjacks and writing utensil designers and pencil company marketers and truck drivers and sales clerks and absent-minded co-workers who leave that pencil in your office. The pencil, as in invention, didn't exist at one point in history, but somebody dreamed it up. And others, maybe hundreds or thousands of others, refined that idea. The simplest thing has a complex history. I'd write about those things.

I started having fun, researching Corn Flakes and Bag Pipes and Donuts and Narwhales and soon the exercise became the project.

Characters started to form and a small storyline developed and objects (and jokes) would boomerang around from scene to profile to scene.

I never had a huge amount of time to work on this story, but because it only required a page or two at a time, I could put it down for months and pick right back up when I did find the time.

Unfortunately for my writing hobby, my other creative pursuits---radio and, uh, life---were getting more and more complex. As the years progressed, mvyradio demanded more of my time and creative energy (which is a good thing). And my life went from only being responsible for myself, to getting married, to becoming a parent of two.

Creative writing---and free time itself---stopped being an option.

Then, mvy asked some of the DJs to write blogs. And, because it was part of my job, writing became a daily thing again. And it made me think of my story.

I re-read it. It's about 80 pages long. It's better than I remember. I wrote more than a couple of jokes and lines that I'm proud of, and I wish I could say I'll finish it.

But shit, I started it nearly 15 years ago.

So this week, I'm sharing 5 excerpts from "Fruitless Minutae," the book I'll never get around to writing.

The main character is a college-age Record Store clerk, so there is plenty of music mentioned throughout the story. I was spent some time, while writing this section, trying to come up with some kind of obscure 80s pop-rock tune to reference, that even a snobby record store clerk might not recall. Anyone remember WBCN playing the heck out of the song mentioned at the top of the post?

So in this scene, he meets a woman who will turn out to be his nemesis and perhaps is the most wretched, annoying person on the planet. But for now he's intrigued, as she has just, dramatically, entered his store:

If Goth guy were here, he’d be all over this girl in the Misfits t-shirt.

Thankfully---for so many reasons---my co-worker has left the record store. He’s on a “coffee break.”

“So what is it, exactly, that you might, want to be, trying to find. Here.” I am poetry in motion.

“I heard you have inexpensive vinyl,” she says. “I need it. Armloads of it.”

“Well,” I tell her, “we have armloads and more. Carloads. Alpaca loads.”

“Alpaca loads?”

“Uh, Alpaca. It’s a small kind of llama.”

“Yes, I know. It’s just that I left mine at home. Couldn’t I use a shopping cart or something?”

She’s playing along, sure, but she seems to be looking right through my soul.

“Sure, sure.” My eyes begin to dart around her, shifting nervously from her eyes to her feet to her hands to the wall 10 feet behind her. “So what are you looking for? New stuff? Old stuff? We’ve got a few Misfits imports I think.”

“Misfits?” she asks.

“Here.” I lead her over to the M’s.

“Oh!” she says. “Classic vinyl.”

“Are you a big Misfits fan?”

“Of course, of course,” she says absently, as her eyes run over the cartoon cover. “This is a little more expensive than I had in mind.”

“Yeah, if you’re going for value, stay away from the imports. They’re basically just for collectors.”

“I’m much more in the mind for volume. I need to replace a whole bunch of vinyl that . . . that I . . .”

Her eyes begin to well. Internally I wince a bit, but turn that awkward moment inside out by smiling warmly and turning her to the back of the store.

“It’s gone, huh? That happened to me once, too.” My ex- took the REM singles and Prince’s Black album when she moved out. Technically, she was the one who paid for them. But I was the one who listened to them. “We’ll check out the used vinyl section and see if we can’t replenish your collection.”

I lead her to the back section, which is a step lower than the main floor of the store, lit by a couple of weak fluorescent lights. “Try to find some stuff here,” I say. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Cassie, it’s Cassie,” she says. She grabs my wrist and looks me straight in the eyes. “Thank you.”

For the next hour I watch her hunt and peck through the bins. She discovers the used 45s, which are only 25 cents apiece. I just sit on the stair, staring, and I pretend I don’t work there. Hopefully no one is stealing anything.

“You’ve got some great stuff,” I say, surveying her bounty I as ring it up at the front counter.

“Yes, yes. I think this shall do,” she says, the relief in her voice apparent.

“This Replacements 45 has ‘Date To Church’ on the b-side, with Tom Waits.”

“You don’t say? Interesting. I suppose you know a lot about these artists?”

“Many of them. You’ve got a few in here that I don’t know. Who is Tommy Conwell?”

“Oh, I’m not sure,” says Cassie with a flip of her hair, “I just liked the looks of it.”

“Well, you’ve got a pretty good collection going here, Cassie.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you.” Again she makes hard eye contact. “You must let me repay you.”

“Well, you just spent 40 dollars in my store.” I’m awe-shucks-ing. “You don’t owe me anything.”

“Oh but I do, but I do. You’ve given me such inspiration. I just must have you over. Will you come over?”

“Come over to your place?” I hope I didn’t just audibly gulp. “Sure!” Say it cooler. “Uh, I mean, yeah, sure, if you want. That’d be great.”

“I’ll make you a fabulous dinner. Oh, but it will have to wait until next week, until I get my remodeling done. Come next Wednesday at 8, won’t you please? Let me write down my address.”

Day after day we suffer countless indignities. But every once in a while you do the right thing, you say the right line, you make the right move, you’re in the right place at the right time, and, if only for a moment, your human spirit swells and those countless indignities melt into the distant haze for a moment.

I have a date.

Smoke that on your coffee break, Goth guy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brad "The Day Brings"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Yesterday's post about Shawn Smith sent me back to some other projects that feature his distinctive, emotional voice. Loved these 90s cuts . . .



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, March 26, 2011

Lo Fidelity Allstars "Battleflag"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Continuing yesterday's profanity theme . . .

I always thought this remix was just incredible. Never understood why this wasn't a bigger hit, though 1998's "bleeping out swear words" technology was still a bit primitive. But Shawn Smith's voice deserves a wider audience.

Caution: the unedited song is NSFW

Here's the original, pre-remixed version

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, March 25, 2011

William Shanter "F*** You"

I read this book to my kid, called "Olivia."

If you're not familiar with the series, Olivia is a precocious pig.

In one scene, Olivia is with her Mom at an art museum:

"But there is one painting Olivia just doesn't get. 'I could do that in about five minutes,' she says to her mother."

She's looking at a Jackson Pollock.

Yeah, to a kid, I'm sure what Jackson Pollock did seems like anyone could do it.

It's why people make fun of William Shatner's recording career. It doesn't seem like he's really doing anything that the average person couldn't do themselves.

But I maintain that, while seeming simplistic, what Pollock and Shatner do are so a product of their panache that, while you could mimic them, you could never reproduce it.

I mean, c'mon, this performance is ridiculous. But it's wonderfully ridiculous, and I can't really imagine anyone who could do this performance.

Thanks to my friend Teddy, for pointing me to this video. Note that it is uncensored and NSFW!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steve Martin "Best Love"

There are several "alternate History of The Beatles" projects out there in the film world.

One imagines that John Lennon faked his death and is still alive.

And other sends two time traveling Beatles fans back to the Sixties to prevent John from meeting Yoko, who they blame for breaking the band up.

And with altered history/reality movies being all the rage (Inception, The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code), I can see how my brain got a-spinning when I heard this new Steve Martin tune featuring Paul McCartney.

I started to wonder about that fateful day when Paul met John and they hit it off, going on to form the most creative, productive, influential songwriting partnership in music history.

What if they hadn't liked each other?

I mean, it's not impossible. John could be abrasive. Paul had an ego.

What if, on that one day, one of them rubbed the other the wrong way, and instead of playing off each other creatively, spurring each other to greater heights, they just bounced each other in opposite directions?

What would have become of them?

Well Paul, even without John, would still have had his incredible gift for melody. Though he may never have been challenged by an equal or by the pressures of mega-fame, to create a "Sgt. Peppers," he certainly would have seen success writing ballads like "Yesterday" and crowd-pleasers like the Wings track "Jet" (he didn't need John, George or Ringo for those).

Okay, so alternate-Paul has some mid-level success. He's not a Legend, but he's a moderate star through the 60s and into the 70s. The 80s and early 90s are a fallow period (they kinda were for the real Paul, too). But alternate-Paul doesn't have to carry the torch for The Beatles (who don't exist in this reality) and he doesn't have to trot out the hits on stadium tours.

So alternate Paul returns to his roots. As a young lad he loved the music of Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins and Eddie Cochran. It's a style he has a knack for. And his heritage, combined with his authenticity, leads to a small Paul revival in his mid-60s, as a Brit who can make American roots music.

Delving further, alternate-Paul rekindles a passion for Bill Monroe*, and proves to be a credible mandolin player. His surprising bluegrass release turns heads and garners new fans.

And if all this fiction were fact, the alternate-Paul's record might sound a bit like this Real-Paul guest spot on the new Steve Martin record** on the song "Best Love."

Real Paul sounds pretty in the pocket here, like he'd been doing this all along.

Maybe Paul wasn't dead. Maybe the Real Paul was in an alternate reality all along.

* Real-Paul does cover Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" on his "Unplugged" album

** Stand-up-comedian-turned-actor-director-writer-turned-author-turned-40-years-into-his-career-credible-Bluegrass-success seems like a few alternate reality stories of its own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beck "Loser"

When I was a kid, our house seemed vast.

I'd come home after school, and it would be quiet, still.

I knew Mom was in there somewhere, so I'd call out to her.


The reply would come, "Nobody here but us chickens."

When you're a kid, you don't think too much about the weird things your parents say. "Nobody here but us chickens" isn't any stranger than "See you later, Alligator," or any of a million other catchphrases.

But you get a little older and you realize that nobody else's Mom says "Nobody here but us chickens," so you ask:

"Mom, where does 'Nobody here but us chickens' come from?"

"I don't know. It's something my Mom used to say."

It was years after that, when I was listening to an oldies, "years of our lives" type radio station, that the mystery was solved.

"Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" is a song, recorded by Louis Jordan the year my Mom was born!

When my 3 year old girl is running around the house, over-sugared, over-tired, over-the-edge, she shouts:


I taught her that.

She doesn't know where it comes from or who wrote it or anything. She just knows it's something her Dad says.

In 2058, there will be a conversation. My daughter will have grown kids of her own, who used to say, "I'm getting crazy with the Cheese Whiz," too.

And those grown kids will say to their mother, my now-50-year-old daughter:

"Mom, did you know that comes from a song from some guy named Beck!?!"

The lyric is at the 2:15 mark.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smithereens "Sorry"

I got my first pair of size 9, low cut, white, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars sometime around 7th grade, That was 30 years ago.

And much to fashion-distress of many of my friends and family, it is really the only brand and style of footwear I sport.

I get a new pair every year, never updating or changing with the times.

And a funny thing happens. Every few years they come back into style. Then they go out of style. In and out like the tides.

They're practically cooler when they are out of style. I'm so far behind, that I'm ahead.

Size 9, low cut, white, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars---that was the first thing that popped into my mind when a new song by The Smithereens showed up.

Though the band has been plugging along for years, I associate The Smithereens with the late 80s and early 90s, their hey day.

But what made them stand out during their "hit" years was that they were making new music that recalled the classic pop/rock of the 60s.

Here in 2011, is there anybody doing this? It's actually refreshing to hear.

Are The Smithereens so far behind, they're ahead?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Led Zeppelin "Over The Hills And Far Away"

If you were to ever hear stories about the biggest Rock song of the 90s, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," invariably, the name of The Pixies is invoked.

Kurt Cobain said it himself:

"I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it."

The Pixies cool trick of quiet chorus, loud verse became a popular motif for Nirvana, in songs like "Come As You Are" and "Heart Shaped Box." And the connection reinvigorated an interest in The Pixies, who'd long since broken up.

But I always wondered, What about Led Zeppelin?

The quiet/loud dynamic wasn't exclusive to The Pixies (though it was deployed quite expertly by them). There had been other bands who used it.

What about Led Zeppelin?

Kurt Cobain? A suburban West Coast teen growing up in the 80s? He HAD to be a Zeppelin fan.

Maybe at that time it wasn't cool to admit you liked classic rockers Led Zeppelin if you were in the 90s Punk Rock/Seattle scene.

But when I hear "Over The Hills And Far Away" I think, Kurt Cobain had to have had this song in him, at least in his subconscious, when he wrote his songs, right?

I got my answer, in part, with the Nirvana Boxed Set "With The Lights Out" which contains these Zeppelin covers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Daft Punk "Da Funk"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I read this week that MTV is bringing back the show "120 Minutes," which is great news for those who enjoy the offbeat and esoteric.

I remember happening upon this video just after it had started (I'd missed the beginning), so I had no idea what is was, who it was, or what the hell was going on. But I think it's one of the most oddly compelling music videos I've even seen (emphasis on "oddly").

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, March 19, 2011

Velocity Girl "I Can't Stop Smiling"

Here's another Weekend Post:

It's been a long time since I lived the ups-and-downs of single life, but when I did (and when I lived among and with other young singles), this song was pulled out any time we'd met someone new that we were excited about . . .

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, March 18, 2011

Fastball "Make Your Mama Proud"

What's the name of that popular "Black Ops" video game? * (answer at the bottom of the post)

My housemate Mandy and I used to play this game.

We'd spend hours and hours trying to trick each other, casually working questions into conversation. Questions like: "What was the name of that marionette that Buffalo Bob had?"

If I was sneaky and subtle enough, she'd slip up and say, "Howdy Doody."

And I'd gloat, "YOU SAID DOODY!" (as is, poop)

Juvenile, I know. But we would go to great lengths to trick the other into saying the word.

"What's the shop at the airport where you don't pay tax?"

"He got called up to the Army for another, uh, Tour Of, uh . . ."

"What's the light on the top of that Taxi say?"

Right around that time, Fastball had their first record out, with the punk-pop ditty called "Make Your Mama Proud," which contains the line:

Now you're pushing 31/Duty calls you cut and run.

We'd sing along, and every time it hit that line, Mandy and I would scream "DOODY!!!!!!"

How psyched were we that we were seeing them in concert, and would hear the word "Doody" blasted through Amphitheater stacks?

We got a good position in front of the stage just as Fastball's set started. And we waited. And waited. And waited.

Maybe they'll do it for an encore . . .

And waited.

And then it was over.

No "Make Your Mama Proud." No "Doody."

We were pissed!

All the way out to the parking lot, we complained. How could they not play that song?!

But as I pulled the Toyota out into traffic, I popped the Fastball CD into the car player, put on "Make Your Mama Proud," rolled down my window and turned the stereo up to full volume.

At the top of my lungs I sang, "Now you're pushing 31/DOODY calls you cut and run."

Mandy rolled down her windows too, letting the music spill out into the cool North Carolina night.

And when the song ended, I hit "Repeat."

We sang again. LOUDER.


And when it was over, repeat again.

And again.

And again.

We probably sang it a dozen times in a row.

I should point out that Mandy and I weren't the only ones in the car. Fortunately, we were gently tolerated.

That show was one of the few concerts I'd ever been to, where the most memorable song of the night was the one the band didn't play.

To this day, I still don't know why they skipped it. It was the album's single. It was probably their most familiar song at the time. Fans were expecting to hear it.

You'd think they would have had to play it out of a sense of, you know . . . not obligation, but . . . a sense of . . . what's that word? *

* You said "Doody!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bell X1 "Velcro"

The number of songs on my "Going For Adds" iTunes playlist fluctuates from week to week, but is usually in 50 to 100 song range.

That's 50 to 100 recently released songs, in contention for the 2 or 3 new-song slots we have at mvyradio every week.

And while I will often listen to the tracks with the song list up (so I know who I'm listening to at any given moment, or I can jump around to songs I'm really curious to hear), sometimes I don't keep it up.

It's a good test of a song's potency to set the list to "random," minimize the screen and only look at the artist and title information if the song really grabs me.

Did you know The Cars (yes, The Cars!) have a new record? I put a couple of new Cars songs in the playlist, curious to hear what the surviving members are up to. I didn't know when they'd come up on the playlist, but I knew they'd come around at some point.

And when the song on today's post played, I wondered: Is that Ric Ocasek? Well then, The Cars have done a nice job of sounding a bit like themselves, but sounding modern, too.

Sufficiently grabbed, I pulled up the iTunes list, only to find that I was actually listening to Bell X1's new song "Velcro."

Does Bell X1 sound like The Cars? I wouldn't have said so. But listen to this track. Do you hear it?

(And hey! They're Irish! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!)

Here's one of the new Cars songs:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eddie Rabbitt "Driving My Life Away"

Think of the Top 40 station in your neighborhood.

Can you imagine them playing a song like this? Ever?!

Top 40 has changed so much since I was a kid. Back when we were young, listening to Casey Kasem meant hearing not just Pop, but Country and Rock and Disco and whatever. It really was representative of America, without walls.

I remember sitting in the station wagon listening to American Top 40 while Mom ran errands. She'd go in a store, but leave the keys in the ignition so I could listen to the radio. And when this song came on, I tried to get the windshield wipers/slapping out a tempo/keeping perfect rhythm with the song on the radio.

Turning the intermittent speed up. Then down. Up a little more. Too much. Down a hair. I futzed with it and almost got it right, but by then the song was over.

Getting the wipers to be in sync with the music turned out to be harder than a country song suggests it would be.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ben Harper "Rock N Roll Is Free"

While I was away, the mail piled up in my home mailbox. But what a nice surprise to dig through the pile and find that I had finally received this check that'd I'd been expecting for so long, I'd kinda forgotten it was coming at all.

While I was away, the mail piled up in my work mailbox. But what a nice surprise to dig through the pile and find that we'd received a new Ben Harper song. Not completely unexpected, but its not like I was looking for it either.

A great way to return from time off . . .

Monday, March 14, 2011

R.E.M. "Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight"

Over a couple of beers, I tried to explain "Interpolation" to two of my friends, to see if they could help me with a few examples that I could use on The Hot Seat.

Halfway through the conversation, I realized that, while I knew what it was when I heard it, I didn't have the language to properly explain it.

So maybe I should start there:

"Interpolation refers to using a melody, or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) from a previously recorded song, but replaying the melody instead of sampling it."

So samples don't count, because they use the original song. Just mentioning another song in the lyrics doesn't count. And we're not talking about a strict cover version either.

The best example I could come up with is "Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight," which uses the melody of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," as part of the song. But it's not a cover or a reworking of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It's just got Michael Stipe singing that one part of the old song, incorporated into the new one.

Tonight I'm doing a Hot Seat on "Interpolation" and I'll be playing the original song, followed by a song that incorporates an element of the original tune. Hear it tonight at 9pm ET on the stream, or find it later in the archives.

And while I have your attention about this song, check out this old article about the origins of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." When I originally read it years ago, I thought it was one of the most interesting pieces of Rock journalism I'd ever read.

You'll never hear that song the same way again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sebadoh "Rebound"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Since I was on the Dinosaur Jr. yesterday, I had Sebadoh on the mind, too.

When this song came out, I had moved from Florida and life was much happier.

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, March 12, 2011

Dinosaur Jr. "Start Choppin'"

I'm still on my Florida vacation, and I'm reminded of the brief, largely painful period that I lived here in the early 90s.

Though it wasn't the worst thing that happened to me, in a typically deflating young adult moment, I was totally rocking out to this Dinosaur Jr. song, and I got pulled over for speeding.

A $120 ticket. For going 37 Miles An Hour!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Girlyman "Tuning Songs Collection"

While PJ is on vacation, he's tossing out some improvised songs.

Ingrid Michaelson
can make comedy out of in-between song banter. Girlyman is willing to make a whole album out of it.

While their harmonies and vocal interplay are so incredibly, beautifully precise as a rule, it also speaks to their artistry that there is genius in their spontaneity too.

And while the faux Record Collection video is a joke, this release really exists, and you can download and enjoy the songs they made up on the spot, between the song they had planned to play.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Buddy The Elf "Song For My Dad"

While PJ is on vacation, he's tossing out some improvised songs.

On the surface, this scene from "Elf" might just seem silly or stupid.

But it is no easy feat as a performer that Will Ferrell manages to make his improvised song both totally hilarious and gut-wrenchingly painful.

Think I'm kidding? Try it sometime. You don't even have to sing. Just write a sentence that makes people burst out laughing, while filling them with empathetic sadness. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

That's genius.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jason Segel "Call Me"

While PJ is on vacation, he's tossing out some improvised songs.

Sort of unfortunately, one of the great improvised songs that I would put on this week's list, is a song I'd already written about.

The good news is that The Swell Season lead me to this. I would say that it isn't necessarily fully improvised, but I'd guess that this song wasn't written too long before this video was shot either.

And that's all I'll say, as the song otherwise certainly speaks for itself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ingrid Michaelson "Lost Song"

While PJ is on vacation, he's tossing out some improvised songs.

If you have the dual talent of being spontaneously funny, and musically talented, it can lead to some great live, improvised moments, like this one from Ingrid Michaelson, who between songs, tries to explain when the hell had been happening on "Lost."

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Replacements "Lovelines"

So I'm writing this post at the end of February, my vacation just hours away, and I don't have my blog covered during my time away.

What to do. Think, man, think.

And the word "improvise" comes to mind.

You don't have a solution? Improvise.

And that simple thought reminds me that I wanted to do a series of posts on songs with improvised lyrics.

So that's what I'll do! Here we go . . .

What a joy, after years of listening to this song, to discover this newspaper article, explaining the origin of "Lovelines."

From The Replacements sloppy masterpiece "Hootenanny," the song "Lovelines" is the band in a simple rock groove, with singer Paul Westerberg reading lines from the personals as his lyrics.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Men Without Hats "Safety Dance"

So you're headed to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, to check out the Next Big Thing? The cutting edge band of the future? The best 2011 has to offer?

Don't miss Men Without Hats!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Los Lonely Boys "Fly Away"

Jesse Barnett of Right Arm Resource is our guest blogger this week. He spends his days on the phone with radio stations across the country, advocating for records he believes in. While PJ is on vacation, Jesse talks to you about 5 new songs he thinks radio, and you, will love.

“The time has come when we must leave you, sorry we are but we must go.”

Bet you didn’t see a quote from the Casper theme song coming, did you? I’m like that.

Next week you’ll have PJ back, flaunting his encyclopedic knowledge in front of you like an SNL-era Dennis Miller emceeing the Newport Folk Festival. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts for the last few days as much I did writing them. At the very least, I hope I turned you on to some great new music.

For my last entry of the week, I’m picking a band I’ve had a lot of experience with. Back in 2003, my former assistant was the promotion guy at a little record label named Or Music. At a conference for non-commercial radio programmers in Louisville, KY, the label held an early morning showcase for a couple of their artists. It’s not common to have early morning artist showcases at conferences, you can imagine, because the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in yet.

When Los Lonely Boys took the stage in a too-small room, their harmonies, guitar antics and unique brand of “Texican Rock And Roll” was all anyone needed to get their hearts racing for the rest of the week. It’s rare to have a conference performance that everyone collectively points to as ‘the moment,’ but this was indeed one of them.

That performance was the beginning of a long successful road for brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza (yes, a drummer whose real name is Ringo. You can’t make this stuff up sometimes.) The single “Heaven” from that self-titled debut album rose to the top of the airplay charts and the disc went multi-platinum.

The band followed up with two more original studio albums, Sacred in 2006 and Forgiven in 2008, as well as an ep of covers from 1969 and an acoustic live disc.

Now on their own label, the band is back with Rockpango, their first original studio album in three years. A Spanglish word coined by the band, Rockpango translates more or less to “rock party,” and that’s exactly what the 11-track collection is. The first single, “Fly Away,” is everything you love about Los Lonely Boys, especially those crazy-tight harmonies that can only come from spending an entire lifetime (or three) singing together.

Relix has the exclusive first listen for the single. Check it out here:

Relix - Audio - Artist Exclusives - World Premiere: Los Lonely Boys "Fly Away"

Read a little more about Jesse in this previous post, and visit his site at Right Arm Resource.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sahara Smith "Are You Lonely?"

Jesse Barnett of Right Arm Resource is our guest blogger this week. He spends his days on the phone with radio stations across the country, advocating for records he believes in. While PJ is on vacation, Jesse talks to you about 5 new songs he thinks radio, and you, will love.

Penultimate [pi-nuhl-tuh-mit] adj: next to the last.

As in, this is the ‘penultimate’ blog post I get to write for PJ.

You’re sad. I know. Let’s not focus on that. Let’s just enjoy the little time we have left together.

I’ll start today’s post with a little primer. T Bone Burnett is one of the most celebrated people in the music business . An artist, a songwriter, a producer… just the first few things that come to mind. He has shepherded many of the most acclaimed projects of the last ten years including the soundtracks to O Brother Where Art Thou, Crazy Heart and Walk The Line. His production work on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand earned him Grammy statues for Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year in 2009.

So when T Bone Burnett calls Sahara Smith “the best new artist I have heard in many years,” folks should pay attention.

Sahara Smith grew up outside of Austin and started performing when she was just 12 years old. She garnered national attention at the age of 15, coming in second place in a contest for young songwriters for A Prairie Home Companion.

Burnett called in some of his key session players to work on Smith’s Myth Of The Heart and the result is a gorgeous collection of songs that invoke a steamy Texas night. The first single, “The Real Thing” had her cooing in your ear “why don’t we drive all night and wake up in Laredo?”

Um. Ok. Has anyone seen my keys?

Her new single, “Are You Lonely,” is at radio now and it’s another showcase of her fantastic songwriting:

And tonight I'm gonna go downtown
There's a bar on San Jacinto where all the lonely people go to get useless.
And if it's true what they say about you must be true what they say about me too.
God it's getting hard to know what the truth is.
If you forget me in the morning that's alright cause I'll forget you too.

Combine that with her sultry voice asking you if you’re lonely. Well, you get the idea.

Check out the video below to hear the song while Sahara winds her way around downtown Austin:

Read a little more about Jesse in this previous post, and visit his site at Right Arm Resource.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ivan & Alyosha "Fathers Be Kind"

Jesse Barnett of Right Arm Resource is our guest blogger this week. He spends his days on the phone with radio stations across the country, advocating for records he believes in. While PJ is on vacation, Jesse talks to you about 5 new songs he thinks radio, and you, will love.

We’re halfway to the finish line.

PJ’s coming home in a couple days and I can only hope he doesn’t regret his decision to let me sit in the captain’s chair.

The bad thing about vacations for radio programmers is, when you get back, the stack of the music on your desk is ridiculously high. Sometimes, without someone prodding you to listen to a particular project, it gets lost in the shuffle.

I can’t complain about this too much because I’m guilty of doing this myself. A manager I knew reached out to me at the beginning of the year about an ep for a band he was working with out of Seattle. And the download link sat in my inbox, ready to check out.

And sat there.

Then one morning I got an email from a regular client, whose impeccable taste and opinion is questioned by no one, telling me, basically “Hey idiot – would you listen to this guy’s band already? You’ll love it.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

It only took one listen.

The members of Ivan & Alyosha have been playing together since 2007. (Spoiler alert: no one in the band is named Ivan or Alyosha. They’re characters from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. You know, the book you lied about reading to the girl in the cute librarian glasses.) It wasn’t until the 2010 South By Southwest festival that they started to gain notoriety. NPR’s All Songs Considered picked them as part of their conference preview and one of their songs was later featured as NPR’s Song Of The Day.

Their ep called Fathers Be Kind was released last month and features five songs that celebrate the trend of glorious indie rock harmonizing. For a refresher, refer to the performances of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Bros that dropped jaws on the Grammys this year (and for a non-nationally-televised band, read up on personal favorite Good Old War).

The title track, “Fathers Be Kind,” is a plea to parents to do right by their offspring. “Fathers be kind to your children, you know it matters what you tell them, you gotta feel for them, you gotta steal for them.”

I’m a father of a ten-year-old son and a seven-going-on-seventeen-year-old daughter. Let’s just say it didn’t take much to suck me in to this one. Let’s see if it does the same for you.

Read a little more about Jesse in this previous post, and visit his site at Right Arm Resource.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Edie Brickell "Pill"

Jesse Barnett of Right Arm Resource is our guest blogger this week. He spends his days on the phone with radio stations across the country, advocating for records he believes in. While PJ is on vacation, Jesse talks to you about 5 new songs he thinks radio, and you, will love.

And we’re back.

Day two of PJ’s vacation, and the valiant effort to make our case for some worthy music continues. Thanks for being in this with me for the long haul. You’re a giver. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

Think back to the late 80’s. Pop radio is dominated by such timeless classics as Bobby Brown’s “My Perogative” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.”

Oh shush, you know you turned ‘em up. Just accept it and move on.

But then, in between the heavy beats and the raise-your-Zippo anthems, there came a simple song of personal acceptance, where philosophy was the talk on a cereal box and religion was the smile on a dog. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ “What I Am.”

And you were the one to correct all of your minions… “Nooo… not THE New Bohemians, just New Bohemians.” Like Smokey Bear, not Smokey The Bear. It’s true. Look it up.

“What I Am” went top 10 and the album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars went double platinum. Although the success of the song was never matched by the band again, Edie Brickell’s comforting and conversational vocal style was now ingrained in our heads forever.

For much of the next 20-some-odd years, Ms. Edie Brickell spent much of her time as Mrs. Paul Simon, focused on raising kids and having a great family life. She released solo work, another project with New Bohemians, and a project known as Heavy Circles with her stepson Harper Simon.

Fast forward to 2011. The kids are grown and Edie’s on a tear. Songs that have been in the works since her last solo album in 2003 are now seeing the light of the day on her new self-titled album that came out right after the new year. Not content to put out just one project, two weeks later saw the release of The Gaddabouts, a collaboration with Steve Gadd, Pino Palladino and Andy Fairweather Low.

The press has been kind to both projects, and Edie is starting to get some face time again. She appeared on Jimmy Fallon and opened for Iron & Wine at Radio City Music Hall in January, and is slated to play at Jazzfest this year.

The first single from her solo album is called “Pill,” a sardonic take on our need to find a quick fix to cure our daily woes. Edie’s warm vocals, timely lyrics and pointed chorus (“They got a pill for that”) make for another classic. The new animated video does a nice job of illustrating the point as well. Enjoy.

Read a little more about Jesse in this previous post, and visit his site at Right Arm Resource.