Friday, September 30, 2011

The Hold Steady "Sequestered In Memphis"

I had an interesting back-to-back concert experience. Nothing profound here, I just took note of the different approaches.

I went to see Wilco last week (yes, I seem to be going on, and on, and on about it).

In their nearly 90 minute regular set, they only played only one song that had ever been a radio single. And that was "I Might," their newest (and therefore, least familiar) single. Everything else was an album cut.

In contrast, I went to the Life Is Good Festival, and the one band I went out of my way to see, was The Hold Steady.

The Hold Steady opened the show with the beat poem/song "Positive Jam" and then launched into single after single after single.

I think they played every single off their last 3 albums ("Sequestered In Memphis," "Lord I'm Discouraged," "Hurricane J," "Stuck Between Stations"), filling the first half of their set. The effect was that every song was familiar to any mid-level fan. It was only later in the set that they dug a little deeper into their records.

I can only guess as to why each band approached their set list in such a way.

Wilco isn't really all about singles. They make some great ones, but they've really been an "album" band for a long time. Their singles are hooky, but the real power of Wilco is the artful noise and sonic dynamic the six guys on stage can make.

The Hold Steady, meanwhile, puts on a live show that seems designed to win you over by whipping you into a frenzy. They unload the magazine from the get-go, but have the power to keep up that pace even after delivering their hits.

Again, no agenda here. I just found it interesting.

Plus it gives me the chance to point out one of the funniest lyrics of the last several years, from "Sequestered In Memphis":
We didn't go back to her place.
We went to some place where she cat-sits

See the band on Letterman, on Youtube.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tom Waits "Back In The Crowd"

Normally, if I was on the fence about adding a song, I might post it here to solicit opinions.

But when you're talking about Tom Waits, nothing qualifies as "Normally."

Because the problem with decided to add or pass on a Tom Waits song, has to do with the specific listener's opinion of Tom Waits.

Oscar Wilde had an awesome quote:

"If you don't like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious. If you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won't mind."

If you are a person predisposed to liking Tom Waits, it's because you've come to appreciate the charm of his oddball approach.

Anything new he does, just reaffirms his quirky status, even if it's just a slight twist on a very straightforward troubadour-thing he's been doing for 40 years.

"Waits is doing a song like he's in a Spanish cafe? Fantastic!!!"

But if you've never been won over by his charm, stumbling onto a Tom Waits song is a guaranteed, "What the hell is mvy playing?" moment.

"That guy can't sing. And since when did this station start putting Mexican folk songs on the air?!?"

There's not really a middle ground here. People don't really say, "Tom Waits? Yeah, I could take him or leave him."

And there's my problem.

I can add a song that part of the listenership is thrilled about, and part is completely unmoved by.

It's harder to justify adding a song that part of the listenership is thrilled about, and part of the listnership can't change the channel fast enough.

And again, I could ask you what you think, but either you're going to say, "Tom Waits is a genius and anyone who doesn't like him is an idiot," or "This song is an awful mess and I couldn't listen to it all the way through, once."

What to do, what to do . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Otis Redding "Shake"

I DJ'ed a wedding this weekend.

I feel like a brain surgeon!

What I mean is, people find out that I am a radio DJ and they assume I do weddings.

Then, when I tell them that I don't do weddings, they are usually kind of incredulous. Like, "Why not?"

I get it. Both jobs are called "DJ."

But really, they are two completely different jobs.

The things you are called upon to do, and the skills you need, and the kind of personality you have, are very different.

I mean, it's not the difference between an astronaut and an accountant.

But it's at least the difference between a foot surgeon and a brain surgeon.

No matter how smart or talented your foot doctor is, you probably wouldn't ask him to operate on your frontal lobe.

Now, being a DJ (either kind) isn't exactly brain surgery, but I'm pretty good at one kind, and fairly inept (or at least under-experienced) at the other.

But my friends Craig and Srey got married this weekend, and they needed someone to DJ a short part of the reception, to do the introductions and hit the right musical cues.

I have to tell you, I was terrified.

You know, if I introduce The Allman Brothers and then accidentally play Crowded House on the radio, well, fuck it, it's gone.

But if I accidentally introduce the bride and groom and Sreg and Cray, well, that would suck forever.

But I didn't!

I got through all the names in the wedding party, hit all the music cues I was supposed to, and got the newlyweds off to their first dance, which culminated in "Shake" by Otis Redding.

All without a hitch.

So by virtue of a technicality, I am as smart as a brain surgeon!!!

See Otis Redding sing on TV, on Youtube.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lindsay Buckingham "In Our Own Time"

If I tell you that, when judging a song's merit, I listen to the whole song, you probably would simply say, "Yeah. Duh!"

But you know, that's not always the case.

Anyone who "judges" music for a living (radio station program directors, club owners who book bands, record label promotion people) can tell you that in most cases, they can listen to a song for 30 second, maybe a minute, and hear everything they need to hear.

It's true. By the time a minute rolls around, you've heard the verse and you've gotten to the song's hook, and either it's strong or it's not.

I mean, next week, we'll probably add two songs to rotation at mvyradio. But I have 86 songs on my iTunes playlist vying for those spots. If, in 60 seconds, a song can't establish itself in the mind of someone who cares deeply about putting the right song on the air, then the casual listener isn't going to hesitate to hit the next preset on the car radio.

But . . .

Once a song has passed the 60 second test, you still have to give it a full listen through, and today's song illustrates just why.

I think Lindsay Buckingham in a F-N genius. Genius writer, genius guitar player and a genius in the art of studio craft. And if it's possible to call one of the main creative forces behind one of the best loved, best selling albums of all time, "under-rated," well yes, I think his playing is wildly under-rated.

This song holds the line of previous Buckingham solo efforts of being precise, and a bit quirky, with a surprisingly catchy vocal hook and guitar figure.

And I think any serious guitar player would listen to this song and just think to themselves, "Fuck! That guitar part is so intricate/incredible/amazing!"

But, in the case of a genius, you can be too smart for the room.

Late in the song, Buckingham's guitar playing takes off, and the guitar figure gets faster, more intricate. The notes ping-pong back and forth between speakers. He keeps playing slight variations on the same theme, over and over again.

A trained ear, focused on the technical prowess of the playing, might be wowed by it.

But to a casual ear, it kind of feels like the repetitious noodling that a casual listener wouldn't have the patience for. It plays more like an irritant.

I guess it's another "context" question. The song is amazing as part of a Buckingham album. The end-of-song playing works really well in the live context, where it fires up the audience, and the response fires up Buckingham (as seen in the live video below). But as a song sandwiched between, say "Hungry Heart" by Springsteen and Mavis Staples "Wrote A Song For Everyone" I don't think it will work.

What do you think?

See the live performance on Youtube.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nick Lowe "I Read A Lot"

It had been a reeeeally long week, and I was ready to relax and enjoy myself at the show.

Seeing Wilco in Boston, felt like a bit of a reward. And, truthfully, a respite.

The last stretch of time has been pretty taxing on my family. Good things were happening, but the transition has been pretty bumpy.

My wife spent the last year, out of work. She got laid off from her teaching job at the end of the 2010 school year, and she's been drawing unemployment since.

But she got a new job, which she's very excited about.

We managed things pretty well, with just unemployment and my paycheck, but the money was running out. As I was heading out the door to Wilco, I looked at our accounts. The checking account, the mortgage account, the Christmas account and the kids college fund were all down to less than 20 bucks each. And the credit card had only enough space for me to put 4 gallons of gas in the car and pay for parking in Boston.

No worries, though. My wife's first paycheck would be coming the next day. And we will be able to get on track after that.

Just in time too. Her 11 year old car had to have an emergency repair last weekend---the brakes went. My my 10 year old car was basically kaput. But now that she had a job, we could get a loan and buy a replacement vehicle.

More than the money chaos, has been the family chaos. While my wife was home this last year, daycare wasn't an issue. Now we needed to find coverage. Moms and Mothers-in-law, pre-schools and home daycare, pick ups and drop offs and the whole rigmarole have suddenly gone into effect as of 2 weeks ago. It's been quite a task to make sure we had every day and time covered. Logistically, it was like planning an invasion.

And with both adults now working, the house has gone to hell.

Piles of clothes. Piles of toys. Piles of paperwork. Piles of bills. Piles of dishes. Piles of dirt.

The only time we have to try to get a handle on the mess, to sort the piles, to tame the chaos, is late at night, after the kids have gone to bed.

I was clearing a path to my closet, when I saw another pile. A pile of books.

Every year for Christmas, my sister and my brother-in-law and my folks get me a few books. Music books. Nick Hornby. Humor. And over the course of the next year, I plow through them.

But since my first child was born, I was getting to fewer and fewer books per year. And when my second kid came, I only read a couple that year. And this year, just one.

There is a pile of books in my closet, a dozen or more, and it feels like I'll never get to them. Finding time for such indulgences is rare. It takes the moving of a mountain just to schedule things so I can go into Boston for the night to see a band I love.

So I was happy to be walking into the Wang with my friend Dave, knowing that for the next 3 hours, no one would need a diaper change, no one would poke me in their sleep. There would be no dishes to wash. No stack of bills saying "Pay me."

The time was mine.

"Who's the opener?" I asked Dave.

"Nick Lowe."

Bonus! I had no idea he was touring with Wilco. I've always been a casual fan and I've never seen him. Frosting on the cake!

He played "Cruel To Be Kind" and covered Elvis Costello's "Alison." And, because he's got a new album, he played a few new songs, including this one, "I Read A Lot."

Here are the first lines:

I read a lot, nowadays
Much more than before you left me high and dry
in a loveless land
with nothing but time on my hands

I listened closely to this song about being out of a relationship, reading, just to pass the time.

And I remembered what life was like a decade ago, when I didn't have a wife or kids or a house or debt. When I could do what I want, when I wanted, at whatever time I wanted, in whatever way I wanted.

I remembered what life was like. It was a bit lonely.

The paychecks will come. The kids will adjust to daycare. The laundry can be picked up. The dust, swept. And someday, in a few years, I might have some time to read those books.

I loved my freedom.

But I love my messy, messy life much more.

Family, love, friendship, responsibility? Versus freedom? It's a trade-up.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jeff Tweedy "My Humps"

Well, I was a little surprised that I didn't hear anyone shout out this request from the audience when I saw Wilco on Tuesday, but I know people had to be thinking about it.

Have you heard that Jeff Tweedy performed some Black Eyed Peas songs recently? And "Single Ladies."

Pretty F-N hilarious!

Also, check out the last video. I found it on Youtube and by the title information, I thought I had stumbled upon something that would be akin to the scenario in Tuesday's blog entry, where Tweedy berates an audience member.

Instead, he says something pretty beautiful and powerful, about why people should shut the F- up.

Hear Jeff Tweedy read "My Humps" on Youtube.

"I've Got A Feeling" on Youtube.

See "Rock That Body" on Youtube.

Hear him do Beyonce's "Single Ladies" on Youtube.

Tweedy mocks some talking audience members, on Youtube.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Geraldine Fibbers "California Tuffy"

I saw Wilco in concert earlier this week.

It had been 10 years since I'd last seen them live. That was before Nels Cline had joined the band. So seeing him was the part of the show I was most looking forward to.

Cline has done a bunch of things in his career. I mean, you must be a hell of a player, if you're working with Charlie Haden and Sonic Youth and Willie Nelson.

I was reminded that he played in this kick-ass 90s band, The Geraldine Fibbers, who had the minor (but awesome) alterna-hit "California Tuffy."

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, September 23, 2011

R.E.M. "Electrolite"

"I'm Outta Here."

I thought it would have been such a fitting end.

That line is the last lyric on the last song on what could have been R.E.M.'s last record, "The New Adventures In Hi Fi."

Bill Berry, the band's drummer, had decided to leave the band, and R.E.M. was the type of group, the type of people, where, if one guy left, the whole band was over.

I mean, they made some pretty interesting, classy decisions in their career.

You know, every R.E.M. song's writing credit, is credited to all band members? Most bands have the person who wrote the lyrics, get the songwriting credit (and therefore, that part of the royalties). But R.E.M. wanted to acknowledge the equal contribution of all members.

When their longtime manager from the early days, left/was dismissed from the band, the band simply issued a statement saying they would not discuss the details. And never have.

And when Berry decided to leave the group, they called a press conference and all four members sat on camera for an interview to discuss Berry leaving the band, and to say that they would honor his wish that the group continue.

Think about that. Can you think of another band that had a member abruptly leave, and held an amicable press conference to calmly discuss it? Instead of sniping through the press (hello Van Halen, Rolling Stones, ad finitum).

And (well, so far anyway), this week's break-up announcement was devoid of the drama and/or opportunistic hype that a lesser band would have taken advantage of.

They could have announced this coming break-up ahead of a "Farewell Tour," to boost sales.

But they didn't.

The released a simple statement, with comments from each member, saying thanks to the fans. And calling it quits for the right reasons---they had said everything they needed to say as a group.


My greatest reason for appreciating how this band has conducted itself all these years, is a personal one.

Sometime I'll tell you the tangled story of the hostile corporate takeover of the first radio station I worked for. But let me jump to the R.E.M. part.

We were trying to block this corporation from taking over our little, family-owned, independent radio station, by petitioning the FCC to stop the sale.

The local community had been rallied, but we wanted to have some weighty voices from other camps. My job was to contact artists, and ask them to write a letter to the FCC on our behalf.

I wrote to 50 American artists, not necessarily expecting anything.

But one group got back in touch with me.

I got a call from an assistant to R.E.M.'s manager, Bertis Downs, who asked a few questions, and then said, "What do you need us to do?" and "When do you need us to do it?"

I asked if they could draft a letter, asking the FCC to help the community keep our radio station. I gave her a few of the salient points the letter should hit.

And that was it. To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, "somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white" of R.E.M.'s attention, commitment and honorableness.

I'm happy we have their many years of music. I'm grateful that it was made by people who have lived up to the reverence being shown to them.

See the video on Youtube.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

White Lion "Wait"

You have a really broad taste in music, don't you?

How do I know this?

Call it 30 years of market research.

I know you think you have a really broad taste in music, because everybody thinks they have a really broad taste in music.

It's a pretty straightforward question, "What kind of music do you like?"

And it's a question I ask pretty regularly to folks, and have for many years.

It's good small talk. And the subject matter is in my wheelhouse.

But I always laugh at the answer to the question, because the response is always essentially the same. The person believes they have eclectic tastes.

Sometimes they do. Often they don't.

How broad your taste is, is a matter of degrees and perspective, isn't it?

Whenever I ask the question "What kind of music do you like?" I always think of this one particular guy.

He was one of the dudes who worked in the circuit board factory that I wrote about on Monday. I little overweight. Mullet. Mustache that was not very full. Always wearing a heavy metal 3/4 black-sleeve t-shirt with a metal band name on the white front.

I was trying to find common ground during a coffee break.

"What kind of music do you like?" I asked.

"Oh, I like all kinds of stuff. I mean, I listen to everything from Van Halen to White Lion."

My face briefly flashed a "are you screwing with me" look, but I realized immediately, that he was sincere.

To him, Van Halen was on the spectrum at a point quite distant from White Lion.

Kind of like Fresno is quite distant from Martha's Vineyard. The two are very far away from each other.

Unless you think about the distance from Martha's Vineyard to The Crab Nebula. Then Fresno is actually pretty close.

But when you are in your own musical world, you're not thinking about The Crab Nebula out there in space. Your vision of your record collection puts the two artists farthest apart on the spectrum, and puts them each on a coast. And you think of yourself as broad.

Try it. Next time you are making small talk with strangers, ask them "What kind of music do you like?" Know doubt, each person will tell you they like all kinds of things.

See the video on Youtube.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jackson Browne "You Know The Night"

I've got a box full of letters out in the garage. And another box full of journals.

Do you keep that kind of stuff?

What about your kids? Do they?

One of the weird changes that we're going through, that will have some interesting ramifications down the line, is that no one writes letters anymore.

Now believe me, I love email. I love how fast and easy you can connect with someone.

But tell me, do you save your emails? Do you save them in a way that future generations could read?

There is a new release coming out this month, called "Note Of Hope: A Celebration Of Woody Guthrie." And on it, artists perform some of Woody's writings.

Now, these are not songs that Woody wrote. They are songs made from letters and other writings of Guthrie's.

Woody wrote a ton. And much of it was saved for the ages.

What about you? Are you like me? Do you still have old letters you wrote or received?

And what about 50 years from now? Will projects like "Note Of Hope," or David Mccullough's "John Adams" or the like, be possible? Or will the writings that exist in electronic form have no hope of being archived for posterity?

How will we gain insight into out leaders and our celebrities, if there are no records of their less guarded thoughts and feelings?

It'll be a strange, slightly less interesting, future.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wilco "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard"

An interesting artifact from the Newport Folk Festival history books . . .

Do you remember that they tried to jump on the 1990s "Let's put together a Lollapalooza-like tour package!" bandwagon?

In 1998, The Newport Folk Festival Tour made its way across the amphitheaters and sheds of America, featuring Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss, John Hiatt and a cast of rotating acts, all loosely associated with Folk music.

My friends and I made it to a show, somewhere in North Carolina if memory serves me.

It was a great, long day, where I saw great headliners, but also caught some side stage and early-in-the-day lesser-known acts like Mark Eitzel and BeauSoleil.

And Wilco.

Yes, in their pre-"Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" days, Wilco was a respected, but ultimately lesser-known band. They were consigned to an early slot on the main stage, during daylight hours before half the crowd had even arrived.

Funny enough, the thing I most remember about seeing Wilco that day was not any particular song. It was Jeff Tweedy, heckling an audience member.

I mean, it's not uncommon for an audience member to shout out crap at the band. But I don't know if I'd ever seen a lead singer, just zone in on an audience member and shred him.

Not that I can blame him.

We were way the hell back on the lawn in the cheap seats.

Between us and the stage was a sea of empty, blue stadium seats, reserved for ticket holders, most of whom hadn't arrived.

And right in front of the stage was a small clutch of fans who'd shelled out the money for good seats, and had arrived early enough to catch Wilco.

Then there was the guys who had gotten their early. Wanted to get in his seat. But apparently wasn't at all interested in Wilco.

Jeff Tweedy was laying into the dude, because while Wilco was playing, the guy who was sitting by himself somewhere in the first 20 rows, was reading the newspaper.

"I wouldn't come to your office and stand there and read the fucking paper while you were trying to tell me something you asshole."

And then, before starting the next song, he added this memorable non-sequitor:

"I don't care you if you do have a beard."

A few years later, Jeff Tweedy wrote a song with the great title "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard," and when I hear it, I wonder if it was inspired by the inattentive asshole who needed to read Dilbert while Wilco was on stage.

Needless to say, I won't be bringing a newspaper tonight, when I go to see Wilco in Boston . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Cult "Love Removal Machine"

I was ready to retire from ice cream.

I mean, I had worked 3 summers at Haley's, but now I was a college man. I needed a manlier job.

My friend Eric was working in a warehouse. Something about boxing up surf boards.

Cool. I could do that for the summer.

My first clue that maybe I wasn't in the right place, was during my interview with Ray, the foreman.

"Why do you want to work here?"

"Uh. It seems kind of interesting?"

"You're interested in circuit boards?"

Circuit boards? Not surf boards?! Well, I felt like an idiot, but I wasn't going to show my stupid, stupid hand.

"Yeah. It seems interesting. Sign me up."

And so it was. I spent a summer in a dirty, airless warehouse.

The gist of the work was this:

The company bought large sheets of copper circuit board from other businesses that had government contracts. If the board had a ding, or an imperfection, the whole 4 foot by 4 foot sheet had to be throw out.

My company made its business buying what was basically garbage to American companies, cleaning it up and cutting down the boards to get rid of the parts with the damage. They then sold the smaller, but perfectly good, pieces to the Japanese.

The business was growing in leaps and bounds as the late 80s demand for computer parts was rising. In fact, the company had recently moved from a smaller warehouse, into this warehouse.

Workers on forklifts, and with heavy machinery clanged away all day, pulling sheets from boxes, cutting metal, and shipping, shipping, shipping.

But the move had been so hasty, that they hadn't identified or marked what was in a number of boxes. I mean, a whole, cavernous aisle.

"Aisle 10 is yours. Find out what's in these boxes."

And that's what I did all summer. Grunt work. Opening boxes, testing copper, sorting, shipping. Grinding the days out.

Every morning at 6:30am, Eric would pick me up in his 1972 burnt orange Volvo station wagon. It was perhaps the ugliest, and therefore coolest, car in town.

I don't remember if the tape player was stuck, or if Eric just simply only had one tape. But we only listened to one album, every morning drive, every afternoon home, every day, all summer.

The Cult, "Electric."

And there were no complaints about this. We listened over and over and it felt right.

The warehouse was populated by guys who were older than us. Not much older, but older.

These were guys that had dropped out of high school. Burned out on drugs. Were hiding from warrants. Long dirty hair and mustaches that were thin and scraggly. And always outfitted in those concert t-shirts with the black 3/4 sleeves.

In the school halls, these would have been the guys on the fringes. In the warehouse, they were in their element.

They'd laugh at my lack of ability and agility with my tools, with the equipment. And on the rare occasion I'd commandeer a forklift, they wouldn't laugh, they'd yell, chasing after me because I was about to crash into something.

I was at the bottom of the hierarchy here.

They picked the music. They listened to classic rock and hair bands all damn day. The same stations playing the same songs every single day. And early every morning, and every late afternoon, I'll climb, tired (from the early morning, or the long work day) into the burnt orange 1972 Volvo station wagon with "Love Removal Machine" blasting.

Every day felt like the day before.

Somewhere near the end of the summer, as Fall semester was fast approaching, I said to my parents, "I will never, ever, ever drop out of college."

I was not cut out for manual labor. And I was not cut out for a life where every day from here forward until retirement, was the same thing, over and over and over and over.

Though I could still listen to "Electric" on loop for days on end, no problem.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paul Carrack "Love Will Keep Us Alive"

I wrote about Squeeze earlier this week, and it prompted me to write about Paul Carrack yesterday.

I'd had no idea that his resume was so extensive.

One of the most interesting stories, is that he did some sessions for a record with former Eagles Don Felder and Timothy B Schmidt.

However, the album was never completed, because "Hell Freezes Over," The Eagles surprising and/or inevitable reunion album happened.

But one of the songs from the Carrack/Felder/Schmidt session made it to The Eagles record.

"Love Will Keep Us Alive," co-written by Carrack, was the most-played song in America in 1995.

He was tapped again, when The Eagles put out "Long Road Out Of Eden" in 2007. Carrack's song "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore" was part of that hugely successful double album.

That's good mailbox money!

Here's Carrack, singing the song that The Eagles scored big with.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ace "How Long"

I wrote about Squeeze earlier this week, and as I was writing the post, I was listening to "Tempted" over and over, for the billionth time in my life.

And in watching the video, I was reminded that the bulk of the song is actually sung not by Chris Difford or Glenn Tilbrook, the main songwriters of the band. "Tempted" was sung by Paul Carrack, who was only briefly part of Squeeze.

I was really enjoying his vocal performance, how soulful and warm it is, and I starting thinking, "Why didn't this guy do more?"

I mean, I remember the band Mike & The Mechanics. "The Living Years" was sincere, but kinda sappy. And I knew he had a few solo hits.

But I didn't realize that "this guy" couldn't possibly have done more.

He was a member of Roxy Music for their late 70s/early 80s albums.

He was part of Noise To Go, which was a band put together by Nick Lowe, to back Lowe on his solo records, as well as Lowe's wife-at-the-time Carlene Carter. And they back Carrack on his solo projects.

Noise To Go changed it's name to Nick Lowe's Cowboy Outfit, and that band backed John Hiatt on his "Riding With The King" record.

He was a sessions musician for The Smiths and The Pretenders.

And Roger Waters recruited him as a player and singer for both an early solo record, and the massive "The Wall Live In Berlin" show.

Then there was the aborted album he was making with Timothy B Schmidt and Don Felder of The Eagles, which I'll write about tomorrow.

But it all started with this tune, which I'm sure you remember.

I'd forgotten that Carrack was the singer in the band Ace, who had this hit.

Nice resume!

See the video on Youtube.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sebadoh "Rebound"

I am certainly not one who should be giving advice on how to meet girls.

The truth is, I was pretty lousy at it as a young man. I mean, I had some really great girlfriends, but those relationships were usually ones I fell into, rather than pursued or created of my own will.

Unfortunately, I think most of us figure out useful information about dating long after our dating days are over.

Hence this advice.

Young guys, Get a dog.

I only say this because I had a roommate, Jeff, who had a dog.

It was a really good looking Husky, with 2 different colored eyes. Friendly, manly and handsome.

See what just happened there? The dog has these great attributes, that are automatically conferred upon the owner.

We (Jeff, the dog and I) would be out walking somewhere, and good looking girls would spot the dog and come over to talk to it. And the dog, being a good dog, was friendly and appreciative of the attention, and this opened the door for the dog's owner to chat up this girl.

First question she asks? "What's the dog's name?"

Advice line, #2, name the dog after an indie rock band.


The indie rock girls would immediately get weak in the knees.

It was quite a sight. Jeff would hardly have to say a word and the cool girls were already swooning.

Now this was the 90s, so maybe don't name your dog "Sebadoh." Go with "Bright Eyes" or "Calexico" or something.

But a dog with an indie rock name, will open doors, I swear.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trombone Shorty "Do To Me"

It's amazing how much math comes up in the process of picking songs for mvyradio.

I'm not saying there is a hard, fast equation for picking music.

And honestly, the values placed on things are sometime a bit arbitrary.

But I did do a little bit of calculating, when trying to decide if we should play the new Trombone Shorty single.

Troy Smith is an Amazing horn player and he's a great composer.

Plus. Plus.

He's only an adequate singer. And I've got a stack of CDs featuring great vocalists in the "considering" pile.


The lyrics are written by Ryan Montbleau.


The R&B groove he lays down isn't in-the-pocket mvyradio. But we do usually make room for a little bit of that flavor, on a playlist that otherwise needs to favor straightforward singer-songwriters to stay true to the station's heritage sound.

Slight minus, slight plus.

Peeking around the country, many different radio stations are playing this track. So it's working. People are responding.


Trombone Shorty is Amazing and there is always incentive to support true, quality artists.


Advantage: new Trombone Shorty, on mvyradio!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Squeeze "Tempted"

No one likes a Know-It-All.

This was one of those life lessons that I had to learn the hard way as a kid.

Someone would say "Why this?" and I could usually answer, "Because that."

I was a bright kid. I read a lot. I asked a lot of questions. And I retained an inordinate amount of information.

This has served me well in my career, where people are always asking me, "Do you know that song about the lighthouse keeper that jumps off the lighthouse?" or some such question about some forgotten details of a half-remembered song.

Yes. Yes I do know the answer to your question.

But when you're a teenager, knowing the answer to everything isn't always an asset.

Sometimes it makes you just sound like an asshole.

I was home from my first year of college on a rainy Friday night. Hanging out with my high school friends. We were shooting pool and drinking not-very-cold beer from cans in someone's basement. The radio was on.

"Can you imagine that?" one of the guys asked.


"Your wife leaving you for another woman?"


"You know. This song."

Squeeze, "Tempted" was on the radio.


"This song. It's about his wife leaving him for another woman."

"I don't think that's right," I said.

"Well," he said, "'Tempted by the fruit of another.' That's got to be about a lesbian."

"I don't think that's right," I said.

Now the other two guys had stopped playing, and were listening.

"I think he's just singing about her cheating on him. I don't think it has anything to do with lesbians."

He became a little more insistent. But I could also tell he was now a little unsure.

"I think it even says it somewhere in the song. At the end. I think he whispers, 'Lesbian, Lesbian.'"

I knew the lyrics. It doesn't say anything like that in the song.

But I also knew that the conversation had hit a point where I was either going to have to slam the door shut on him, or let him save face.

I looked to the other two guys for a split-second. Who were they ready to back up, the guy who offered an opinion, or the guy who shot him down?

I made my call.

"I gotta take a piss."

I headed out the slider into the cold night air, to pee into the shrubbery.

I can't really remember why we weren't using the bathroom in the house, but I remember looking back through the glass, the guys circling around the pool table, back in the swing of the game.

I knew I was right. Did it matter to me that I make everyone admit I was right?

In the past, that had been all the mattered to me. Knowledge was something that I was good at. It was my skill. It was my talent. And it was my priority.

But it was also something that could put a big, thick sheet of glass between me and other people when I chose being right, at the expense of all else.

It's tempting to choose to use your "upper hand," but sometimes lifting yourself up means pushing someone else down. For better and worse, companionship, friendship, love, basic human interaction, requires some amount of concession.

Where was I willing to give? Were the lyrics of a pop song so sacrosanct that I was willing to stay out here in the cold?

It was warm back inside. The radio was on. We played pool.

I totally forgot about the awesome "backup singers" in the video!

See the video on Youtube.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kathleen Edwards "Change The Sheets"

It's always thrilling, and/or nerve-wracking when news of two artists with distinctive, realized sounds, decide to collaborate.

Like, remember when you heard about Robert Plant and Alison Krauss working together?

Did you, like me, say, "Well what the heck is that going to sound like?"

Previously, both artists had developed an instantly recognizable sound. And those two styles seemed to have nothing in common.

But it all worked out, didn't it.

I saw Robert Plant in concert last winter, and Kathleen Edwards was there. Edwards, like Plant, is on Boston's own Rounder Records, so she was in town to check in with her label folks, as she worked on a new record.

She told us that her new record was being produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

And I thought, "Wow, what is that going to sound like."

Some words I associate with Bon Iver: Wintry, plaintive, lush

Some words I associate with Kathleen Edwards: Direct, profane, rootsy

I was having a hard time in my head, mixing the two.

Would the new Edwards record, smother her emotional and lyrical directness in atmosphere? (Beautiful, beautiful atmosphere)

I'm glad to hear the fruits of this collaboration did nothing to round out Edwards' edges. "Change The Sheets" is still showcases songwriting that cuts through. And the production does bear the mark of Vernon, by being full and warm, drawing a natural line to Edwards' rootsy side.

Peanut butter and chocolate. Not chalk and cheese.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, September 12, 2011

US3 "Cantaloop"

In my early days in radio, I worked for a small independent station in Virginia, an AM/FM combo.

I generally worked on the FM side, where we played Pop music in the daytime and Alternative music at night.

On the AM side, sometimes we'd just rebroadcast the FM. On Sundays it was all Gospel music (with live Preachers!). And we'd carry local high school sports and Virginia Tech Football.

And there was the Jazz guy.

He'd come in on Friday nights to do his thing. A nice enough guy. Odd fellow, I suppose.

He loved Jazz. He had absolutely no understanding for anyone else's love for any other kind of music. Listening to anything that wasn't Jazz, was as foreign and as bizarre as listening to your toaster for music.

I'd be on the air in the FM studio, and he'd wander into my space to see what I was up to.

Invariably, he'd ask for the name of the band I was playing, and invariably, he'd shake his head at how utterly ridiculous he thought the band name, the song and the whole genre was (the whole genre being, "everything that is not Jazz").

But one day, I got him, with this song.

I played it for him, I watched as he got ready to dismiss it out of hand, only to recognize the riff.

"That's from a Jazz song!" he said.

"Yep, Cantaloupe Island," I replied.

He was impressed that I knew a Herbie Hancock song (though, truth be told, I had just read about it), and he was impressed that modern, mainstream music could connect to something he could understand.

"I like it," he said.

"Me too."

"Who is it?"


Cue the ridiculous conversation . . .

Hear US3 on Youtube.

Hear the Herbie Hancock song on Youtube.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Joan Osborne "Love's In Need Of Love"

There were lots of musicians who responded to 9-11, with music. And I'm sure you are hearing a lot of that music today.

In thinking about what I wanted to post on this day, what mood or message I wanted to reflect, I landed here.

Though she was already working on the project before September 11th, 2001, Joan Osborne has said that her covers record, "How Sweet It Is," was her response to the events of that day, and it's aftermath.

It was her goal to make an album of songs that made her feel good.

I think it's a noble effort to write songs of remembrance, and to write songs that encourage sympathy for the victims, the families, the Ground Zero workers and for the Country.

But in the end, songs like the ones Osborne records are what music is for. It is here to lift spirits and to make us feel connected.

That is what I wanted from music, on this day 10 years ago. And on this day, today.

See the video on Youtube.

Today from 10am to noon, mvyradio will air a September 11th special, focusing on the music written about and inspired by that day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leonard Cohen "On That Day"

I've listened to a lot of 9-11 inspired songs these last few days.

Here's another one I wasn't familiar with, but am thankful to have heard.

I love that Leonard Cohen doesn't try to provide any answers, or mete out any judgment. He just lets you know he was effected.

That's all. Well done.

Hear the song on Youtube.

On Sunday, from 10am to noon, mvyradio will air a September 11th special, focusing on the music written about and inspired by that day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Suzanne Vega "Angel's Doorway"

I'm not all that surprised at the number of songs written about 9-11.

But I am a little surprised at the number of songs written about 9-11, by artists I like, that I wasn't aware of.

This song perfectly suits its subject matter---about the psychological toll taken on the home life of a Ground Zero clean up worker. But what makes it so effective is that it could apply to most any life/job/scenario.

Angel works all day at Ground Zero. When he comes home, he takes his clothes off outside the door. When he comes in, he doesn't discuss or acknowledge the horror of the work he spends his day doing.

I'm sure there are many folks out there---cops, doctors and social workers come to mind---who spend their day deep in trauma, and the only way they can deal with it, is to shed their clothes, compartmentalize and disassociate.

Hear the song on Youtube.

On Sunday, from 10am to noon, mvyradio will air a September 11th special, focusing on the music written about and inspired by that day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Steve Earle "John Walker's Blues"

I've been working this week, on mvyradio's 9/11 Radio Special.

It'll be 2 hours of songs directly about or inspired by September 11th, 2001.

So I've been up late the last few nights, researching, script-writing and organizing.

I've got songs about the attack itself as well as songs that became rallying cries or comfort food, songs about loss, and songs for reflection.

But I've got this one song that sticks out like a sore thumb, and I'm not quite sure how to fit it into the Big Picture.

Do you remember John Walker Lindh?

He was an American kid, who was found among Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Steve Earle wrote a song from the perspective of the young man, and because some people believed it to be a sympathetic portrayal of a traitor, the song became a source of much controversy.

On the surface, this song is probably the least about September 11th, of all the songs I've been listening to.

But though it's not about loss, or remembrance, or anger, or resilience, maybe, more than any song we'll play this weekend, it says something about the post-9/11 world we live in, the political world we live in.

Earle has flat out said that he does not condone Lindh's actions, but because Earle's own son was the same age as Lindh, Earle had to ask the question:

How did this happen?

The kid didn't just wake up one day, and leave his high school soccer team and glee club practice to convert to Islam and join the Taliban. It didn't happen in a vacuum. So what were the factors that went into this transformation? What was in Lindh's control, and what was beyond it.

The song imagines a kid who finds no comfort or reflection of himself in American culture and starts to look elsewhere.

The hugely negative response to the simple creation of the song pretty much lays bare where we are as a culture:

Complicated questions, with complicated answers, are not welcome.

Here in 2011, we, as a country, are hoping to correct our debt problems, employ the unemployed, protect Social Security and tackle a host of other complicated problems.

But no politician, and frankly, no voting public, is willing to listen to a complicated answer.

Or, perhaps worse, they may listen to a complicated answer, but are easily distracted by base (but often baseless) attacks.

Death Panels!

Class Warfare!

No New Taxes!

Those are easy things to shout. They are effective in getting nothing done.

And sadly, they are easy things to listen to and digest, instead of the complicated truth.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Old 97s "White Port"

You may or may not know that I met my wife because she won an mvyradio T-shirt Design Contest.

How excited was she to find out that one of her new favorite bands, The Old 97s, were having a t-shirt design contest?

The design had to be based on any one of the tunes from the band's most recent album, "The Grand Theatre, Volume 2."

And now she is a finalist.

If she wins, she gets backstage passes to meet the band at an upcoming show.

So may I invited you to go to The Old 97s' Facebook page, make sure you "Like" the band, and the "Like" her drawing, shown on the right.

It's for the song "White Port," which is written from the perspective of a rail-riding hobo, who loves his freedom and his beverage of choice.

Now, to be honest with you, I have mixed feelings about her
winning this one, as she is quite smitten with the handsome and charming lead singer, Rhett Miller.

I mean, she already has a track record of falling for guys who judge t-shirt artwork!

I suppose that my saving grace could be that she chose "White Port," one of the few songs on the record written by bass player Murray Hammond.

Anyway, wish us luck! And if you "Like" The Old 97s, be sure to check out their hilarious photo gallery.

Hear a live version of the song on Youtube.

Hear the album version on Spotify (but you have to be signed up to Spotify).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reptar "Stuck In My Id"

Yesterday, I was writing about context. Here's another story where I missed the point because of my age . . .

We took some vacation time in August. My wife and I packed the kids and convened with my wife's family, at my mother-in-law's newly purchased getaway place in Maine.

It's not a camping/cabin, but it's not a luxury mansion either. It was an as-is purchase, that's in pretty good shape, but also needs a bit of work.

Plus, it's outside of town in a place with no TV reception, no internet connection and no cell service.

And after a busy summer at mvy, I was happy to disconnect and be unreachable. Having my laptop around, even when I'm on a break, is too tempting. I'm apt to check my email, which is largely full of inessential messages from record folks, promoting this or that.

One of the charming-but-odd aspects to the Maine house, was that the previous owners left all the contents. That means we inherited a VCR and a large collection of VHS tapes. No DVD player.

So Sunday morning, we were just looking to drink coffee and sprawl and put something on that the kids could watch.

Someone found a copy of "The Rugrats Movie."

"Rugrats" was a show I just plain missed out on.

It was popular in the 90s. Kids loved it. And it had humor for their parents.

But in the 90s, I was neither a kid nor a parent, so I slipped through the cracks of their target audience.

Here in 2011 was my first "Rugrats" experience.

Part of the plot concerns a "Reptar" replica, that one of the parents has made.

"Reptar" is a Godzilla-like creature that the kids love to watch on TV. And one of the Dad's has made a robotic go-cart machine (with the voice of Busta Rhymes!), that the kids are off and running with.

As I was sipping my coffee, enjoying the quiet that comes from the entire family watching a movie, I kept thinking, "Reptar . . . Reptar . . . why does that name sound familiar?"

Post-vacation, it all came back to me.

One of the last emails I had gotten before my break, was from Nick at Vagrant Records, who'd sent me a download of this up-and-coming band, Reptar.

The band members appear to be in their mid-20s, meaning they were rugrats, when "Rugrats" was new.

Now that they're in a band, they've given themselves an age-appropriate pop-culture referencing name.

One that flew right over the head of a guy from another generation.

It works both ways. I'm sure they have no idea why that Americana band is named "Pinmonkey."

Hear Reptar on Youtube.

See the Rugrats Movie trailer, with glimpses of the Reptar Wagon.

And you can also click thru to see "Reptar On Ice"!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Godfathers "Birth School Work Death"

Throwing up a few songs for Labor Day Weekend.

Birth. School. Work. Death.

Enjoy your one day off!

See the video on Youtube.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

R.E.M. "Finest Worksong"

Throwing up a few work songs this weekend, in a Labor Day frame of mind.

R.E.M. + horns. Who would've thought that would work?

See the video on Youtube.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Insane Clown Posse "Leck Mich Im Arsch"

When you read a story, and whatever The Insane Clown Posse is doing is the second most bizarre thing in it, you know you've got a bizarre story.

Did you catch this story, this week, or did it slip by?

Jack White is producing a song with The Insane Clown Posse.

Now, on an average day, that would be odd enough. It's a pretty unusual pairing (except that they're both from Detroit)---one that is sure to be giving hipsters, fits.

Stranger, though, is that they are covering a song written by Mozart. Making this the first time that the Venn diagram of Juggalos and Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society members have been anything but 2 separate bubbles.

But no, the most bizarre part of the story, was a part that was left out of several of the articles I read about this collaboration.

The Mozart tune is called "Leck Mich Im Arsch” which, translated, is “Lick Me In The Arse.”


Mark this in my diary as the day my innocence was lost, for today I learned that Mozart like to write songs and letters about poop and about pooping on things.

There is an entire Wikipedia page about it.

Again I say: !???!?!?!?!!??!!??!?!!????!!??!!?!?!?!!!

Normally I'd say "Enjoy!" But I'm not sure that applies here.

You can read more details in this AV Club article.

Insane Clown Posse - Leck Mich Im Arsch by Third Man Records

Friday, September 2, 2011

Don Henley "Boys Of Summer"

In high school, I worked my summers in the the Ice Cream business.

If you were ever to travel old Route One, and you ventured through Newburyport, well, I may just have served you a double scoop.

I started at Haley's Ice Cream the summer after my Sophomore year and worked there up until the week I left for college, making sundaes and splits and frappes and soft serve with chocolate dip.

There were sooo many life lessons gleaned in those years, starting on Day One.

I'd never worked a cash register before, and no one had ever taught me to count back change. After giving back a customer too much change, Mr. Haley took me aside and said gently, but firmly, "I'll tell you what the Old Man who was my boss, told me on the first day I went to work as a kid, 'Do everything fast. Count money slow.'" And then he patiently taught me how to give correct change.

I also learned just how damn heavy 5 Gallons of ice cream can be. I dropped one of those old metal dairy canisters full of coffee ice cream on my foot. I spent the next several weeks on crutches, and even today my big toe is still noticeably deformed.

The best part of working at Haley's was the discovery of how a social scene develops around a workplace. It's obvious now, but it had never occurred to me that this loose connection of people in different grades, from different schools would form summer-long, and in some cases, life-long friendships.

When I hear "Boys Of Summer" I think of Stephanie. I also laugh a little bit at myself.

Stephanie and I went to high school together, started at Haley's at the same time, and wound through a path over the next couple of years that culminated in us being dates to the Senior Prom.

This song makes me think of her, and that time in my life.

At 18, I was wise enough to understand that this was a song about the end of something, and about the wistfulness left in its wake.

And as the summer of 1987 came to a close, it also meant the end of a huge chapter. We'd be leaving Haley's, leaving Newburyport and our families, going off to college, turning the page to adulthood.

End of summer as a metaphor for the end of high school.

Nearly 25 years later, I smile at what was my limited worldview. 25 years later, I hear that song, and understand it as a loss of so much more than losing a prom date to the upcoming Fall semester.

25 years later, Steph and I and all of the Class of 1987 are at a very different place in our lives, where there are bigger losses, harder truths, and where the innocence of a limited worldview isn't something that may be slipping away, it's something that is far in the rearview mirror.

See the video on Youtube.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mumford & Sons "The Cave"

What's more "Country" sounding to you? A mandolin or a banjo?

My instinct would be to say, a banjo. You can slip a mandolin into a tasteful rock song (think "Losing My Religion") but you can't hide the twang of a banjo.

I wrote about Nickel Creek last week, and a friend from high school commented that it was strange that a progressive act like Nickel Creek never found the mass-appeal audience that Mumford & Sons is finding.


Both are great bands with great songs. And both are driven by instruments that are country-music-associated.

But only one band gets airplay on Modern Rock radio.

I can remember when this Mumford & Sons song song came in to mvy and we had decided we'd play it, but I did note that it was pretty remarkable that a song with a driving banjo was receiving widespread acceptance.

But how is it different, or "less country" than Nickel Creek?

I'm not sure, but I'll share my theory.

It's a simple guilt-by-association.

Nickel Creek came up from the bluegrass scene, shepherded by the likes of Alison Krauss. No matter how many Nirvana or Pavement covers they went on to do, they were always going to be a "Country" act.

Mumford & Sons is from the U.K. They aren't associated with American mainstream country in any way whatsoever.

And here's where we get to the prejudice.

Just as there are many people who won't listen to the Grateful Dead because of the culture of Deadheads, there are people who steadfastly won't listen to anything Country music, because of some of the stereotypes that Country is associated with.

So even a cool band like Nickel Creek, gets the cold shoulder.

But a cool band like Mumford & Sons, one that's foreign and dynamic and whatever, catches the attention of folks because they are unfettered by that blanket bologna.

Listen to both songs, and tell me which is more "Country."

And tonight, listen to mvy Live at 9pm, as we play the Chris Thile (formerly of Nickel Creek) and Michael Daves set from Newport Folk 2011, at 9pm ET. You can also hear the set on demand, or even download it at mvyradio's Newport Folk 2011 page.

See Mumford & Sons on Youtube.

See Nickel Creek on Youtube.