Thursday, May 31, 2012

Van Morrison "Moondance"

Drunken.  Angry.  Flute solo.

Well, there are 4 words that you rarely find together.

Which is why I was so confused at 3 in the morning last Saturday night.

We were staying at my Mother-In-Law's house, in Brewster.  I was dreaming, but I was hearing music.  At some point it occurred to me, that it wasn't a dream.  Then it occurred to me that it wasn't the TV---I had shut that off as I was falling asleep.  And it wasn't coming from a stereo inside the house.

And it wasn't a recording.

No, someone was outside of my Mother-In-Law's house, playing the flute.

Now, I can't prove that this person was angry.  Or drunk.  But based on the fierceness of the playing, as well as the number of missed notes, I feel reasonably certain about both.

Details in the light of morning were further convincing.

Apparently, without going into unnecessary detail here, my Mother-In-Law's next door neighbor is going through some very hard times.  And this was not the first time he had come out to his own porch in the middle of the night to exorcise his demons via his flute---in this case, loudly enough that it woke up all 6 of the adults that were sleeping in various parts of my Mother-In-Law's house.

Because of my half-asleep state, coupled with the I'm-wicked-annoyed-but-this-is-ridiculously-hilarious infectious laughing from my wife, I couldn't quite pick out what he was playing, though the tunes seemed familiar.

But somewhere, 30-plus minutes into the performance, he did launch into "Moondance."  I recognized that one.  Though it is pretty funny to hear only the flute part.  I can only imagine that he had learned it as part of a band.  So he wasn't playing a "solo" per se, he was just playing a "part," sans the rest of the band (thankfully, sans the rest of the band, given the hour).

And if you think this story is hilarious, know that, as part of his personal troubles, the mystery-flautist is soon moving---perhaps to you're neighborhood!

PS.  More than one person asked if my Mother-In-Law lived next door to Ron Burgundy.

Hear the song on Youtube.

What I think of, when I hear the flute . . .

See it on Youtube.

Well, she's not angry.

Hear it on Youtube.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doc Watson "Deep River Blues"

Of all the words that will be written about the passing of perhaps the most influential roots/Americana guitar players of all time, none speaks to who Doc Watson was, more than his own words.

At his request, the life-sized statue of Doc Watson that sits in Boone, North Carolina, has this inscription:

"Just One Of The Guys."

Thanks Doc.  Thanks for everything.

Hear the song on Youtube.

You can find 7 different Doc Watson performances in the mvyradio archives under "D," including sets with The Nashville Bluegrass Band and "A Tribute To Merle," his late son.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jon Cleary "Let's Get Low Down"

I'd love to be some extraordinary human being, who was completely unaffected by any kind of prejudice.  I'd love to be the kind of person who never judges a book by its cover.  Or more exactly, an album by its cover.

There are two things wrong with the album cover pictured above, from my perspective.  But before I tell you what they are let me show you this picture:

These are the boxes that represent the last, I don't know, 3 weeks of CDs that have been sent to Barbara Dacey and me for review.  There's 100-plus discs in there.  In this box you will find albums and CD singles from some artists that you know (like the new Bonnie Raitt single and a new Dr. John album).  And you'll find some albums and CD singles from artists that you've perhaps heard of and are excited to check out (like the new Kelly Hogan or Best Coast songs) and a whole lot of CDs from artists that neither you nor Barbara nor I have any familiarity with.

So yes, you approach the box with some priorities in mind.  If I'M excited about hearing something, because I've liked the artist's previous work or because I've read good things about them, then yes, those discs get heard first.  And you get to the others as best you can.

And just like shopping for food or clothes, the labels and packaging make a difference.  Is it on Anti- Records?  They send out quality stuff.  I'm going to check it out.  Did it come from an independent promo person who I believe has impeccable taste?  Top of the pile, then.

Did someone specifically ask me to listen to it and give them feedback?  Those are next.

What's left?  Well, usually it's some indie label stuff, some CDs that were sent to us by people who have never listened to the radio station (yeah, I'm probably not going to play that album of Sousa marches), and a whole lot of self-released records by artists just trying to get their music out there.

Those CDs do have a look to them.  To save on production costs (as any struggling artists does and should), the album covers are usually pretty simple.  They are not generally photographs.  And they only use a couple of colors.

Very often, the CD covers are designed by the artist himself/herself, or their friend, instead of by a professional graphic designer or by someone with an extensive background in marketing.

Should any of this presentation stuff matter?  No.

Does it matter?  Yes.  Despite my best wishes for full objectivity, it does matter.

So having shuffled past this Jon Cleary cd a few times in the boxes, my impression was that this CD would most likely end up in a pile of discs going to The Local Music Cafe, our indie artist show.

Speeding up that thought process?  The words "a capella."  We get a few cds every year, from college groups or whatever, with their fine a capella renditions of hits.  They are sometimes good, but rarely anything we'd play on a regular day.

Yeah, this record was destined to land on a shelf for Alison Hammond.

Thank goodness I'm not a total idiot, and I listened to it.

Holy Moly, this is a good record.

Now, I'm not a font nerd, so I missed that this is not an "a Capella" record.  It's called "Occapella," which is the name of an Allen Toussaint song.  In fact, all the songs on the record are Allen Toussaint songs.  He's one of America's great song writers!

Far from being a Capella, the album is filled with great New Orleans-style instrumentation.  And it features guest turns from both Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John!

Okay, so if you are a talented independent artist, who's got an album full of great renditions of classic American songs, featuring music business legends, for crying out loud, LET THE PEOPLE KNOW!

Even if you don't want to sully your album artwork, at least put a sticker on it.  Cleary has a great line that he uses elsewhere, "Having fun with the songs of Allen Toussaint."  Put THAT, and "featuring Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John" on the cover somewhere, and Music Directors, as well as folks who flip through the bins in record stores, will move you to the top of the pile a hell of a lot faster . . .

The single is "Let's Get Low Down" featuring Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John:
Let's Get Low Down by Jon Cleary on Grooveshark

Learn a little more about the record, on Youtube.

Monday, May 28, 2012

John Prine "Sam Stone"

The first instinct for a music blogger on Memorial Day, would be to post a song about a soldier that died.  That's the point of Memorial Day, right?  To think about the soldiers who gave their lives?

Maybe a more appropriate approach to the day, would be to think about the soldiers who gave their lives, but are still alive.  Some who have gone to war, came back, but were never the same.

We can visit graves and march in parades and fly flags and feel patriotic, but would we think about sending soldiers to war, if we, as a society, were on the hook for looking the Sam Stones of the world in the eye, and spending the day working to properly honor what they gave and what they lost?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Living Colour "Memories Can't Wait"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I'm pulling out "memory" songs ahead of Memorial Day.

I knew a few Talking Heads songs, but hadn't fully explored the band, when I bought the first Living Colour record, and was surprised to find that this hard rock band, was into David Byrne's lyrics.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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

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

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

R.E.M. "I Remember California"

Here's another Weekend Post:

What with Memorial Day happening this weekend, I went looking for some "Memory" songs.  Funny enough, I'd pulled this one out last week for Barbara, who was putting together a set of California songs.

Here's a cool live version . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

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

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

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Suzanne Vega "Last Year's Troubles"

I imagine (no, actually, I know) that when we play a song on the radio that has been in heavy rotation, that there are people who are listening who are saying, "This one again?!?!  Ugh!"

Imagine how WE feel?

We're not playing songs because we want to hear them (though usually, we do), we're playing them because the listening audience wants to hear them.  Unfortunately, there's a wide range of how much our listeners, listen.  For some, a song that is burnt toast, still sounds new and fresh to another passionate listener, who listens less often.

So we've got to play the songs.  And WE can't even turn the station!

I especially feel for the office staff.  They've got the station on (because the front office should have the station playing), and they're listening for 8+ hours a day.

It could make a man go crazy.

Craig Sherman worked at the front desk, while also working part-time as a DJ.  So he had to listen to songs he had a low tolerance for.

Craig was not a fan of Suzanne Vega, but what was he going to do?  "Last Year's Troubles" was a big song for mvyradio in 2001.

What could he do, but go crazy . . .

He invented what he called The "Last Year's Troubles" Dance.

I liken it to the story of "The Red Shoes."  Whenever "Last Year's Troubles" came on the air, he would start dancing in a clipped, hurky-jerky fashion that was seemingly out of his control.  It was like a malfunctioning robot motion that he couldn't resist. 

He'd do this regardless of what was going on.  If you were trying to have a conversation about a commercial contract or a phone message, forget about it if "Last Year's Troubles" came on.  And he committed to the "this is out of my control" aspect of it so much, that it was impossible to continue with him, until the song was over.

I asked him about the Dance recently, hoping that maybe I could get him to do a Youtube video of it.  He didn't even remember it.

Clearly, the trauma and torture of the repetition of this song has created some kind of diss-associative disconnect and the horror of The "Last Year's Troubles" Dance was completely blocked out.

So please, next time you curse the repetition, have mercy and think of the folks in the office . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

P.S.  Craig recently complained that my blog posts had not paid enough attention to his interests.  Hopefully, this resolves that issue.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phillip Phillips "Home"

I know a lot of you folks don't watch American Idol and really don't care.

Each year there is a special, new song written specifically to be the American Idol winner's first single.  And, almost without exception, they are terrible.

Yes, they are bad Pop songs.  But even for Pop songs, they tend to be just terrible.

So I'm posting this tune, by last night's American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.  And yes, I can imagine that the few of you who haven't already dismissed this post, are dismissing it now due to that improbable name.

But give this song a listen.  This is actually something that might sound good, respectable even, on mvyradio.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Motley Crue "Home Sweet Home"

I was so glad to read Chuck Klosterman's "Fargo Rock City," because, in a mix of rock criticism/analysis and personal biography, it explored some questions about 80s metal that I had had back, well, in the 80s.

Last week I was writing about liking U2, and how liking U2 (pre-"Joshua Tree" anyway) was not cool with the Cool kids.  No, the Cool kids liked Van Halen (which I liked, but didn't love) and AC/DC (who had a 1/2 dozen songs that were awesome, and a whole lot of dumb shit after that).

In the case of these bands, I felt like not liking them indicated that there was something wrong with me.

Then Hair Metal happened.

And for so many of the kids who had been preaching the liturgy of "For Those About To Rock," latching onto bands with big guitar riffs and lyrics about big lives and skanky girls, made perfect sense to them.

But in the case of these bands, I felt like not liking them indicated that there was something wrong with the rest of the world, not me.

While David Lee Roth could prance, there was no mistaking the fact that he was a manly man on the prowl.  Eddie Van Halen and AC/DC were just pure testosterone.

I understood why 15 year old boys gravitated toward that.

So what was with the bands of dudes dressed like girls, with pounds of make-up and huge, huge hair that had to have been fussed over for hours?  How did that connect to a hormone-driven teenage suburbanite boy?

I can't say that I could have articulated all this in 1986, but on an innate level, I knew it didn't make sense.

Beyond the make-up and hair spray, there was also some kind of cognitive dissonance about the music.

Plain and simple, Eddie Van Halen didn't play any fucking ballads, and Bon Scott would gargle rocks rather than croon a heart-sick love song (and probably did).

But these Hair Metal bands would put out a fluffy, hooky upbeat "rocker" and follow it up with some hokey Moon-June-Spoon weeper.  And while I was not a manly man, nor particularly testorone-y, I couldn't stand this maudlin stuff.

All this, to tell the story . . . whenever I hear Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" I think of this one guy I was friendly with.  A group of us were watching MTV, and the room was silent as this song played.  As it got to the fade out, he said, "Man, this is one of those songs that you wish would never end . . . "

Some of the guys nodded, meaningfully, in agreement.

I sat there, quietly imagining the pleasure of gargling rocks.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ryan Montbleau "Yeah Man"

I've gone through this incredible life change.

I had no idea unhappy I was, until just recently.  But then I was introduced to some ideas, some life concepts that really opened my eyes.

I've never been one who's been open to motivational speakers or self-help gurus or any of that.  But this guy is different.

And if you take just a minute to hear his word, his message, I think your life will be transformed, too.

Okay, okay, just kidding.  But I think this would be a fun prank for you to play on your friends.  I'm guessing you can do a better job than I can.  Send the link in an email with a note that lays it on thick, telling your friends that you've gone through some radical changes---increased wealth!  massive weight loss! dating a supermodel!---and tell that that the key to your success is in the motivational video in the link.

Good for a harmless bit of fun . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Foo Fighters "This Is A Call"

My friend Lori had this up as a status on Facebook last week:

I was in my bedroom up sorta late listening to the radio when I heard P.J. introduce a new tune from a new band that was fronted by that stringy-haired guy from Nirvana. It was the first time he had played it on the air, and I shared his giddyness. "This Is A Call." What a fresh new sound: poppy, upbeat & full of frenzy. I must admit, I haven't been too impressed with a Foo Fighters record in several years, but that song, that night, ignited a spark in me that I haven't forgotten in the 15 years since.
She's writing about 1995, when she was a kid still in school, and I was the host of a nightly alternative rock show on a local radio station.

WABN was a small, family owned AM/FM.  Sometime later I'll write the story of how I walked through their door, and was a DJ on the radio not long after.

Lori was an avid listener, who became a volunteer at WABN, then an intern, and then a board operator, then a fill-in DJ and by the time she was a senior in high school, she became the Saturday night host of my show.

Sometime later I'll write the story about how this little family-owned independent radio station ended, with all of us saying a tearful goodbye and turning the transmitter off, as the station had been sold to a larger group.

Lori posted the above last week, because it was the anniversary of that day when we all said goodbye to the only station in the small town of Abingdon, Virginia.  The company that took it over used the FM signal to rebroadcast their syndicated Talk station, and they simply turned off the AM signal.  12 years later, the building remains empty and no one is covering local sports, or broadcasting from the Abingdon Relay For Life or bringing in local teens to train them to be the next generation of broadcasters.

So then it was a shot in the gut to hear the news, on the same day that Lori posted the above status, that WFNX in Boston had been sold to Clear Channel.  Friday, I listened to Julie Kramer, who'd been on FNX for 25 years, play her last shift for the station and it brought back some pretty dark feelings.

There just aren't that many independent radio stations left anymore.  And there are those who think radio is dead, or who want radio to be dead, or who don't give a shit if radio dies.

Why rely on radio, when there are iPods and Spotify and Pandora and Youtube and you can program all this technology with songs YOU want to hear?

And the answer is simple.  It's in Lori's statement.

ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, fifteen years from now will say, "I vividly remember the first time I heard that song shuffle randomly on Pandora!"

I work for an independent radio station now, one that is struggling just like any other small business effected by the Recession.  So I do take it personally.

But I also have some firsthand knowledge that most people don't have, or don't consider.  I've seen what happens when a community, or an audience, loses an independent station in their midst.

Radio, even independent radio, is not perfect.  Sometimes it sucks.  It isn't for everybody.

But if you are a person that misses your local record store, because it's gone, or can't stand that the restaurant chains have replaced your local eateries, or have found that the places that used to have live music don't bring concerts to your town any more, or that you can't walk into a video store and ask a clerk for a recommendation because the damn video stores don't exist any more . . .

If you are that person, then this is a call.

If you love human interaction when you make a purchase, make a musical connection or want to put something in your damn stomach, then this is a call.

If you don't want to wake up one day and find that you and your neighbors have no participation in the process, the management or the creation of what is around you to consume, then this is a call.

Drive the extra mile for the cup of coffee from the local bakery, instead of the chain drive through.  Spend the extra 2 bucks on the CD at a downtown record store instead of having some online service ship it to you.  And support your local, independent radio station, by listening, by telling their advertisers when you frequent their business, by supporting their fundraisers when they have them.

There is so much human interaction slipping away from our every day existence, and people rarely celebrate it when it's here---they only complain when it's gone.

I can tell you that at no time in the last 6 months, did I hear anyone say "Thank God we still have WFNX."  But the web was filled with anguished cries over its demise when it was announced.  Too little too late.

This is a call.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Evan Dando "Ballad Of El Goodo"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Like yesterday's post, here's a 90s version of a throwback tune.  This one is from a pretty good soundtrack to a pretty lousy movie, Empire Records.

Hear the song on Youtube.

See the trailer on Youtube.

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

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

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

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blake Babies "Temptation Eyes"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Here's a fun 90s cover of a 60s song.

Did you know that the guy who plays Creed on "The Office," plays guitar on the original?

Hear the song on Youtube.

See Creed in purple, on Youtube.

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

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

U2 "Bad"

I read two books in the early Spring, Tina Fey's "Bossypants" and Chuck Klosterman's "Fargo Rock City."

Both books spend quite a bit of time in awkward adolescence, and both books stirred up a bunch of musical memories.  I would write down a note every time some anecdote popped in my.  I've got a good 15 to 20 upcoming posts that stroll down awkward avenue.

"Fargo Rock City" in particular made me think a lot about the music I listened to during high school, as it's part autobiography, part treatise on listening to Heavy Metal in the 1980s.

I was not a Heavy Metal kid.

But Metal, or at least Hard Rock, seemed to be the default position for popular kids in my high school.

Basically, you either liked Van Halen, or you were a fag.

That was the dividing line.  Which side were you going to be on?

(I'll say, that I think this was only really a necessary choice for boys.  Girls could like a much wider range of music and still be cool.)

So I came down on the side of "Yeah, Van Halen is cool."

But I have to admit, that I didn't really get it at all.

"Running With The Devil"?

Guys would go on and on about how great that song was.

I mean, I liked it as much as I liked any dumb rock song.  And I understood why my guitar playing friends were so crazy about "Eruption."  But I just wasn't there, otherwise.

I was a Sophomore in 1984, and while I could fake really liking certain things, to fly under the radar, I was really more interested in all the new music I was ingesting on MTV.

There was this up-and-coming band from Ireland that I and a few of my friends were excited about.  But it wasn't terribly cool to say you liked them.

I can remember being in homeroom, getting ragged on by kids were were cooler (and let's face it, tougher) than we were, for liking U2.  "The Unforgettable Fire" had just come out, and it was starting to get some attention, which, in retrospect, I think rattled these kids and their worldview a bit.

The band was gay.  We were fags for liking them.  It was stupid, fad music that would have no staying power.  It wasn't real Rock N Roll.

It's one of those moments where I wish time travel existed, so someone from the future could have popped into my 1984 homeroom to pass on the information that U2 turned out to be one of the biggest, most popular, most successful, most enduring Rock N Roll bands of the last 30 years.

See the video on Youtube.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bruce Springsteen "Rocky Ground"

Sometimes a record label will pick a single off the album and we'll say to ourselves, "Why did they pick that one?"

That was my first thought when I heard that the second single off Bruce Springsteen's album would be "Rocky Ground."

Honestly, it wasn't my 3rd or even 4th favorite off the record.

But, after thinking about it, I do get why they chose it as a single.  On some level, it's a smart choice.

The initial instinct when picking a single can be to pick the song that best represents the artist.  But if you pick the Springsteen-iest Springsteen song every single time, a) the new song invites unwelcome comparisons to previous singles, and b) you create the perception of the artist as a parody of himself.

So why not chose a song that has some pop crossover potential, and really has no antecedent in the Springsteen catalog.

There are more than a few atypical things about it for a Springsteen song, including the fact that it starts with a woman's voice, it has audio samples (of a preacher, preaching), and it has a rap/spoken breakdown, again delivered by a non-E-Street member.

Kudos to the label for trying something different.

But I didn't love it, and when I started considering it for airplay on mvy, my thought was "Maybe we'll pick something that's not the single.  What are my favorite songs on the record?"

The two standout tracks, for me, are "Wrecking Ball" and "Land Of Hope And Dreams."

Immediately, I could see why the label didn't necessarily go for these.  Both tunes are long for radio singles, at nearly 6 minutes and nearly 7 minutes, respectively.  And both, particularly "Land" are Springsteen at his Springsteen-iest.

It's probably no coincidence that these two tracks, my favorite two, just happen to be the two songs on the album that have Clarence Clemons playing saxophone.

So what do you think?  Give all three a listen.  Which one is the mvy-iest, do you think?

Hear "Rocky Ground" on Youtube.

Hear "Wrecking Ball" on Youtube.

Hear "Land Of Home And Dreams" on Youtube.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

AC/DC "Back In Black"

Yesterday's post reminded me of my "glory days" of high school sports.

We had a really great basketball team when I was a senior in high school.  A few good players in my class, and a bunch of really strong juniors to create a deep team.

These were the days of boom boxes and cassettes, and somebody usually brought one to the game.  I think there were varying opinions about what song the team should come out to, and I'm sure it changed frequently, but the one that really sticks out for me is "Back In Black."

I can remember standing in that sweaty, adrenalized, anticipatory hallway, my own nerves jangling, not just because we were about to play a Big Game (I wasn't one of the stars or starters, so playing wasn't something to be too nervous about), but because I was going to have to run out of this darkened hallway into a gymnasium full of peers and parents, wearing what amounted to just slightly more than a bathing suit (1920s-style, anyway).

Some Youth Basketball waterboy would be tasked with waiting outside the door, and hitting play on the boom box.

"Back In Black" starts with the cymbal count-off, and I can remember hearing that and feeling the team surge forward, toward whatever thrill of victory, agony of defeat and possibility of my shorts falling down, lay ahead . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Replacements "Left Of The Dial"

I went to Fenway Park for last night's Red Sox game (they won; 4 in a row!).

Even at a major sporting event, it's hard to stop being a DJ.

"Bon Jovi?  Really?  This song is older than he is."

Did you know that each Sox player gets to pick his own song that will play for 10 to 15 seconds on the Park P.A. as he steps to bat?

There are a surprising (or perhaps unsurprising) number of rap songs in the lineup.

But the only really familiar, popular song I heard was when Cody Ross stepped to the plate to the tune of Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer."

"Terrible," I said, each time he came to bat.

"They're baseball players, not DJs," said my sensible sister.

And in my mind, I briefly entertained the idea of a new career as a professional Professional Athlete Theme Song Consultant, where Major League ballplayers would pay me handsomely to work with them to find the ideal song to both motivate themselves and get the crowd going.

I quickly moved off that pipe dream, to ask myself what song I would use, if I were, say, a Minor League utility player suddenly called up from Pawtucket and inserted into the big game at a crucial moment.

I settled on The Replacements "Left Of The Dial."

Its first 15 second are ringing, anthemic and powerful, and would set the tone for my history making at bat.

Yeah, not going to happen, either.

Not coincidentally, "Left Of The Dial" is the song I'll put on the air for myself, if I am ever fired from my radio job, as they drag me kicking and screaming, my nails dug into the door frame, out of the station.

Hopefully, that won't happen either.

And, of course, I would want this one to be the track playing, as my casket exits the church, and I (metaphorically) let the static rise and say to my friends "see you on the other side."

That, I suppose, is the most likely opportunity I'll get to use this as a theme song . . .

Hear The Replacements on Youtube.

Hear Bon Jovie on Youtube.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Father John Misty "I'm Writing A Novel"

I'd been hearing great things about this record from a few trusted sources (thanks Jen Daunt, and cousin John Pike), but finally got some time to sit with it in the mvy studio, open the CD and ingest a little more.

"Ingest" might actually be a great word here.

Father John Misty was a member of Fleet Foxes, who's now out on his own with the crazy, entertaining solo project.

In this digital age, where people barely bother with CD artwork or anything of the like, this is a double fold out case, that includes a poster-sized fold out.  One side had all the lyrics, and the other side had some crazy, entertaining "explanations" of the songs.

I like first single, because it's like a hallucinogenic, semi-sequitor-filled Dylan-type tune.

Plus, I learned the meaning of the word "Ayahuasca"! 

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fountain's Of Wayne "Stacy's Mom"

"I wanna be Stacy's Mom," my wife will say whenever she hears this song.

Meaning, she still wants to be attractive and desirable, as our kids (and as we) age.

I don't know what the neighborhood kids are going to say, or how they are going to react, when their hormones hit and my wife is out sunning herself in the yard.

But she'll always be a supermodel in my eyes.

Happy Mother's Day.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Aerosmith "Mama Kin"

Still trolling for good Mom songs for Mother's Day weekend . . .

This week my 4 year old figured out how to get the iPod in the dock and make it start playing.

But she doesn't know how to pick a playlist, and she can't read so she couldn't pick a song if she wanted.

Instead, it just started playing all the songs, alphabetically by artist.

After one ABBA song (yes, I have "Waterloo" on there), we got into a long stretch of 70s Aerosmith.

Bizarrely, when "Mama Kin" came on, she said, "Oh, this is good cleaning music!" and went about picking up some of the dirty laundry that had amassed near (but not in) the hamper.

I'd never thought of it as good cleaning music, per se, but who am I to argue with a pre-schooler who wants to shape up the house?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Carl Carlton "She's A Bad Mama Jama"

I was rooting around for good Mom songs for Mother's Day, and, well, maybe this one applies to some mothers.

Anyway, seeing the song title reminded me of some fun trips to Nashville.  We'd head there from Virginia, for one show or another, and we'd always leave a little extra time to get out of the downtown area to go to this great record store called Phonoluxe.

They had a big selection of vinyl, even in the mid-90s when vinyl was at a pretty low point.

I remember picking up "She's A Bad Mama Jama" for 25 cents in a bargain bin of used 45s.  Score!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Willie Nelson "Just Breathe"

Lukas Nelson came to the mvyradio studios last summer, ahead of a show on the Island.

I had made sure to do my homework, to read up on him, know a little about his music.  But beyond getting the facts, I try to read articles about people I'll soon be interviewing, to get a sense of what kind of interviewee they might be.

Often you can learn if they are open or reticent, overly mannered or uncontrollably free-wheeling.  And you can often spot what questions they don't like, or won't answer.

That's especially good to know when you get to the somewhat touchy subject of family.

If you are the relative of a famous person, then yeah, it must be really f-n irritating that every interview has to include questions about your famous parent/sibling.  You are you.  You don't want your art or yourself defined via someone else.

Reading some interviews with Lukas, it seemed like he had a pretty good handle on being "Willie Nelson's son."  He didn't bristle at Willie questions, and he didn't brush them off.  He seemed to accept the fact that they were going to be asked as a matter of course.

So I was free to ask, if I wanted to.

On the other hand, how relevant is the question, "What's it like to be Willie Nelson's son?"  Answer:  No more relevant than "What's it like to be Paul Finn's son?" in relation to my line of work.

I figured I wouldn't ask, but it was safe to approach the subject if it came up organically.

Long story short, Lukas was a super sweet guy.  He did a couple of great live/acoustic tracks on the air with me.  And the conversation never really got near his father . . .

Until right at then end.

I asked him about when he learned to play guitar, he started talking about how his dad got him started.

Then there was a pause---a moment when he knew where the conversation would be going next, and maybe just a hint of  "damn, I almost got through the whole interview without being asked."

As expected, he was gracious in talking about his father and I was respectful in keeping the focus on Lukas for the rest of the interview.

If you haven't heard Willie and Lukas do this beautiful Pearl Jam cover, or heard how much the Nelsons sound alike, give it a listen.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carole King "Chicken Soup With Rice"

I heard and read a great many tributes to Maurice Sendak yesterday.  When talking about his work, they mostly focused on "Where The Wild Things Are."

Rightly so.

Because we listen to it a lot at home with the kids, the subject of "Really Rosie" comes up from time to time, with friends.  I've been surprised by the number of people who somehow missed Sendak's 1970s collaboration with Carole King.

If you felt a pang in your stomach yesterday when you heard the news, and you're NOT familiar with these songs, you owe it to your self to take a couple of minutes to revel in Sendak's wicked, playful, funny appreciation of childhood and children found in these songs.

You may recognize some of these kids.  You may even have been one of these kids.

As I posted on the station's Facebook page yesterday, "Thanks, Mr. Sendak. You gave us more than you can imagine (and that's a LOT) . . . A peaceful journey to you . . ."

Hear the "Chicken Soup With Rice" on Youtube.

Hear "Really Rosie" on Youtube.

Hear "Pierre" on Youtube.

Hear "One Was Johnny" on Youtube.

The "Really Rosie" TV Special, Part One, on Youtube.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Oh Susannah"

Barbara and I were having our usual conversation about the arrival of a new Neil Young track.

But this time, adding a layer of bizarreness/hiliarity, is the fact that it is/purports-to-be a cover song.

Young's forthcoming "Americana" album is a collection of traditional roots and public domain songs, with the sonic-attack of a traditional Crazy Horse album.

That's the information I had going into my first listen of the song.

I know the song "Oh Susannah" from my childhood.  And I have to say, on my first listen, I wondered if my understanding of what this record was, was wrong.

The second time I listened to it, I could hear some lyrics that I recognized, but it still seemed like he was only grazing the original.

Maybe if I keep listening to it, it will sound like the same song that they used to sing in grammar school.

Anyway, what do you think?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Pete does it like I remember it.

Hear the Seeger version on Youtube.

James does it like James and Johnny does it like Johnny, but they're closer to Pete than they are to Neil.

Hear James and Johnny on Youtube.

PS.  Does this song seem like a future candidate for "Let Me Ruin This Song For You?"  If you'd like to have it ruined, so that you'll never hear this song without thinking of a completely different one, then by all means, click here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Beastie Boys "Bodhisattva Vow"

As I watched friend after friend post on Facebook about the passing of Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys, I had two thoughts in quick succession.

"What should I write for the blog?" followed by "Most mvy listeners don't care about The Beastie Boys, so why bother?"

While there are certainly many listeners who have a broad taste in music, with a scope that includes rap music, I can also tell you that the category of music most likely to be despised by an mvy listener, is hip-hop.

For whatever reason (and there is a whole post, nay, a whole University study that could be devoted to the question), many many listeners over the years have expressed zero tolerance for the genre.  So it plays very little role in what the station does.

And if you're one of those folks, I guess I'm writing to you today.

I think it's pretty easy to define and dismiss a genre, based on the worst aspects of its shallowest contributions.  An intense dislike of Top 40 is built on a vapid, autotuned, moronic beat.  Your intense dislike of country is based on hicky, jingoistic, yeehaw twang.

And unfortunately, what can make a rap song really great, even something a non-rap fan could fully embrace and enjoy, is often the most impenetrable part ---  the lyrics.

If you're not familiar with it, listen to the first 30 seconds of "Bodhisattva Vow" before reading the rest of the post:

Hear the song on Youtube.

Chances are, you have not idea what he's saying.  It's just a jumble of sound.

Fair enough.

But if you've been a bit surprised at the outpouring of sadness over the passing of someone you were never able to musically connect to, the lyrics are a large reason why.

If your dislike of rap music centers partly on your idea that much of Rap music's lyrics deal with things that don't appeal to you (conspicuous consumption, violence, misogyny), know that you're missing out.  Because many, many artists use the form to say things that I think you might find intelligent, appealing and even profound.

Check out the lyrics below, go back and listen to the song and maybe find out why this guy got into the hearts of so many.

There are many, many great obituaries out there for Adam Yauch.  I really appreciated the one at The AV Club, which (astutely) called him "The George Harrison of The Beastie Boys."  It gave a lot of attention to Yauch's non-music endeavors, including his very successful filmmaking forays and his passionate commitment to his charitable organizations.

"Bodhisattva Vow"
As I Develop The Awakening Mind I Praise The Buddha As They Shine
I Bow Before You As I Travel My Path To Join Your Ranks,
I Make My Full Time Task
For The Sake Of All Beings I Seek
The Enlighted Mind That I Know I'll Reap
Respect To Shantideva And All The Others
Who Brought Down The Darma For Sisters And Brothers
I Give Thanks For This World As A Place To Learn
And For This Human Body That I'm Glad To Have Earned
And My Deepest Thanks To All Sentient Beings
For Without Them There Would Be No Place To Learn What I'm Seeing
There's Nothing Here That's Not Been Said Before
But I Put It Down Now So I'll Be Sure
To Solidify My Own Views And I'll Be Glad If It Helps
Anyone Else Out Too
If Others Disrespect Me Or Give Me Flack
I'll Stop And Think Before I React =
Knowing That They're Going Through Insecure Stages
I'll Take The Opportunity To Exercise Patience
I'll See It As A Chance To Help The Other Person
Nip It In The Bud Before It Can Worsen
A Change For Me To Be Strong And Sure
As I Think On The Buddhas Who Have Come Before
As I Praise And Respect The Good They've Done
Knowing Only Love Can Conquer In Every Situation
We Need Other People In Order To Create
The Circumstances For The Learning That We're Here To Generate
Situations That Bring Up Our Deepest Fears
So We Can Work To Release Them Until They're Cleared
Therefore, It Only Makes Sense
To Thank Our Enemies Despite Their Intent
The Bodhisattva Path Is One Of Power And Strength
A Strength From Within To Go The Length
Seeing Others Are As Important As Myself
I Strive For A Happiness Of Mental Wealth
With The Interconnectedness That We Share As One
Every Action That We Take Affects Everyone
So In Deciding For What A Situation Calls
There Is A Path For The Good For All
I Try To Make My Every Action For That Highest Good
With The Altruistic Wish To Achive Buddhahood
So I Pledge Here Before Everyone Who's Listening
To Try To Make My Every Action For The Good Of All Beings
For The Rest Of My Lifetimes And Even Beyond
I Vow To Do My Best To Do No Harm
And In Times Of Doubt I Can Think On The Dharma
And The Enlightened Ones Who've Graduated Samsara 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Julian Cope "World Shut Your Mouth"

Here's another Weekend Post:

This is one of those songs that I hear around occasionally, but I always expected it to have a much longer, bigger life, in the vein of "Laid."  It seems like the title is useful on more than a few occasions . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

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

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

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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, Ryan Adams and Hank Williams III "Dead Flowers"

What a great quartet, for Kentucky Derby Day!
Well when you're sitting back in your rose pink cadillac
Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day
Ah, I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon
And another girl to take my pain away

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Patti Rothberg "Inside"

Call this the prequel, to Wednesday's and Thursday's posts . . .

My friends would jokingly call it "The Day Patti Rothberg Saved Your Life."

But the lasting effects of that day were less dramatic, if no less important.

I had been dispatched to Washington DC, because I had started a Rock The Vote chapter via our radio station in Abingdon.  We aired PSAs and ran voter registration drives, getting young people involved and engaged in the political process.

Rock The Vote was holding an event on the National Mall in DC, and they had invited "local" chapters to attended.

We were only considered local to Washington, if you had never seen a map.  In fact, it was a 6 hour drive from Abingdon to the Capitol.  But I was up for the drive.  (Besides, on the way home I could swing by Chapel Hill)

Patti Rothberg was the musical act.  She'd just put out her major label debut, we were spinning it, and I was looking forward to meeting her.

I had packed a Sharpie and CDs by the bands I'd be seeing on my trip, because I wanted to get a personal connection.

Up to that point, I'd never been an autograph seeker.  But this thought had occurred to me early in my DJ career:

I could play music by artists who sang about their most personal thoughts and feelings, but ultimately, there was no actual connection to the artist.  The songs were a one way signal that only traveled outward.  And literally, the physical CDs that contained the songs, were never touched or seen by the artist who created them.  They were completely divorced from their origin.

To get the artist to sign the CD kind of pulled the connection full circle.  They were singing the songs, they had held that disc in their hands.

Thinking about it today, I wonder if I would have that same impulse now.

Here in 2012, there seems to be greater access to artists, through social media and the proliferation of podcasts and youtube and music magazines and such.

But for me in the mid-90s, musicians that I loved were hardly more real than my favorite fictional characters.

There was a small stage set-up on the National Mall, really only a few feet off the ground, near the Air And Space Museum, and Patti Rothberg was scheduled to play, the Rock The Vote folks would make a few short speeches (and introduced us radio folk), and Jesse Jackson Jr. would give a keynote address.

So I got to hang out "backstage" (which wasn't really separated from anywhere else, as we were plopped down in the middle of the mall, with no fences around or anything), with my little cassette tape recorder, waiting for Rothberg to come off stage so I could interview her.

There were a number of technical/power problems on stage.  At one point during the show, while Patti was speaking about the importance of Rock The Vote, her microphone went out, and in fact the whole stage lost power along the way.

I tried to stay out of the way as the tech folks scrambled to get things powered up and rolling again.

Patti finished up her set and retired to an area of folding chairs, where we could talk.  It wasn't my first interview, but it was still early enough in my career that the whole process was almost surreal.  The voice on the record was talking back!

I hung around while someone from Washington DC's alternative station WHFS asked a lot of the same question I did, but also got her talking about touring with Paul Westerberg, who was my absolute favorite songwriter.  I was happy to eavesdrop on those stories.

Next on the event's agenda, was a speech from one of the Rock The Vote honchos, with radio folks like me standing in the wings to be recognized as volunteers and supporters.

I was leaning on the metal rigging, listening to the speech, when I felt a tap on the back of my leg.

It was Patti.  She was down on the ground looking up at me.

"Hey PJ.  I don't know if I'd stand there.  They . . ." (she looked back toward the tech guys, still messing about with cables and wires), "don't really seem to have all the power stuff worked out.  I wouldn't want to see anyone electrocuted."

I thanked her, and hopped down the little metal staircase to "safety."

Was electrocution likely?  Probably not.

Did Patti Rothberg remember my name for more than another hour of her life?  Probably not.

But for a small stretch of time, the one way feed from artist to listener looped back, and she was real to me and I was real to her and it felt like some kind of breakthrough in my relationship with all those artists that I was playing, day in and day out

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jale "Despite"

Following up on yesterday's post . . .

The opening band that night was a Canadian 4-piece on the same label as the Scud Mountain Boys.

Jale had had a lot of success in their native land, and they were receiving great reviews here in the States for their jangly, tuneful indie-pop.

I was early to the show, hanging around the bar with a lot of time to kill, so I made sure brought along my copy of their CD "So Wound," and a sharpie.

I'd never been an autograph seeker, but it seemed like a neat thing to do, to get the 4 members to sign my disc and then bring it back to play on my radio show.

I approached Jennifer first.  She had a serious air about her, but brightened visibly when I started talking about the album artwork and photography, which I gathered she had a hand in.

Then she got serious again.

"Did you buy this CD today?"

I was a little embarrassed.  I stammered out that no, I didn't buy it.  I was in radio and I got it for free.

Eve, one of the guitar players was pleasant and answered some lyric questions I'd tossed out, but she was on her way to do backstage.

Laura was friendly enough to sit down in a booth with me and chat for a minute while she signed my disc.  But after a few questions, she asked the same thing that Jennifer asked, looking over my shoulder toward the merch table, which wasn't even set up yet.

"Did you just buy this?"

I felt weirdly guilty.  No, I didn't buy it.  I was totally riding free.  I was a leech-y, industry-type who'd got himself guest-listed and now had a free CD I was looking to get signed.

But my "no" was enough for her.  She smiled and excused herself with the very awesome line, "Well, nice talking to you, but I gotta go get glamorous."

Mike, the drummer was the last one to nab.  He'd recently joined the band and seemed kind of eager to chat about it.

I had lots of questions about Sub Pop and life on tour and he was pretty open.

The band was pretty disappointed with the support they were getting from the label.  And looking around the bar, it was hard to argue with that.  Up-and-coming Sub Pop band, with critical steam behind them, visits a major college/music town, and there's only 30 people there?

He talked about how the band was doing very well in Canada, coming from a vibrant Halifax scene, where they were selling out larger venues to enthusiastic audiences.  By contrast, this American tour had been a slog, almost feeling like a back-step, to thinner crowds and a fair amount of indifference.

He was doing his best to be the band's cheerleader, to keep his bandmates' spirits up, despite the demoralizing aspects of being an unknown band making its way across the USA.

And that's when it struck me.  They weren't asking about my CD because they noticed the notch on the bar code that pegged it as a freebie.

They were simply surprised to meet someone who had been listening to their record and came to the show with a knowledge of who they were.

This theory bore out later in the night as Jale played.

Each of the three women in the band wrote and sang and did quite a bit of harmonizing.  But Mike's voice did appear on one of the album's tracks, late in the record, called "Despite."

It's a "conversation" song that Jennifer sang, with Mike coming in after the first verse as the male response to the female narrator.

Because the show was sparsely attended, I was standing pretty close to the stage.  And when Jennifer started singing "Despite" I realized she was directly between me and Mike.  So when his first line came up, I leaned to the right, to look around her.

But he wasn't singing.  In fact, he wasn't even miked.

I looked back at Jennifer, who was singing Mike's lines, lowering her voice for the male parts.

Because I was right in front of her, she had noticed that I was looking for Mike to sing, and she cracked a smile, breaking, for a second, from the downbeat emotion of the song.

It was a sweet little moment.

Hear the song on Youtube.

The single from "So Wound" is one of my favorite pop songs of the 90s.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Scud Mountain Boys "Penthouse In The Woods"

I don’t think any of us imagine a modern road trip as a solitary event.  But it was.  This was the 1990s.  No cell phone.  No one to talk to.  No satellite radio.  Just me and a cassette deck.

And I was happy.

I had a pretty uncomplicated life.  Young and single with a job in radio.  And I was on my 2nd day of a road trip.

Yes, I know I’m my father’s son (the man does a lot of crazy driving), when I tell you that it didn’t really seem out of the way to go from Washington, DC back home to Abingdon, Virginia, via Chapel Hill.

But I had spent the day on the National Mall (more on that, later this week), and now I was heading toward the famed Cat's Cradle.

Two of my favorite indie bands of the moment were playing a show in Chapel Hill, and yeah, it wasn't exactly on the way home, but when you're young and single, what's an extra 5 or 6 hours of driving, if you get to see two great bands?

That night I'd see the Scud Mountain Boys and Jale, but I had rolled into town early.

My first stop was to find a good local record store, and yeah, I killed an hour or so there.

What to do next, with several hours to go before showtime . . . ?

Walking down the street, I happened upon a little movie house.

"When does the next show start?"

"In about 10 minutes."

"Lone Star" was the feature, written and directed by John Sayles, who was (and still is) one of my favorite movie makers.

Cut to 10 hours later, after a great movie, a cheap roast beef sub, and a wonderful (if sparsely attended) indie show.

It was well after midnight, at I was a good five hours away from home, but hell, I figured I'd just drive instead of shelling out some money I didn't have for a motel.

I know that's not much of a story, but I'm telling it for this reason---I remember it as one of the best days of my life.

In fact, just that 3 minute period, when I found myself wandering down a street and in front of a movie theater and I was in the position to say, Yes, I think I'll just go see a movie . . . that remains one of the best moments of my single life.

Is that a little sad? 

The objective voice in my head says it sounds a little sad to say that the best day of your life was about enjoying a drive, movie, meal and concert, by yourself.

But I can't really deny the feeling inside, when I think about how nice it felt to be so free that day . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

See the movie trailer on Youtube.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fiona Apple "Every Single Night"

One of those things that doesn't add up for people who are not in radio, is the sometimes strange math/ratio of radio airplay to critical acclaim.

Sometimes a band of moderate acclaim gets much airplay.

And very often, an artist of major acclaim is all but absent from radio.

I know when this happens, lots of people will accuse radio of being asleep at the wheel, or of lacking in taste, or simply just not getting it.

Such is the case with Fiona Apple.

She is critically acclaimed.  And she is feverishly beloved by her devoted fans.

But her albums have been largely ignored by radio.

This must seem all-the-more strange, considering that the singles of her first record (like "Shadowboxer" and "Criminal") were incredibly kick ass.

So on the surface, it seems like radio has just shunned Fiona.

But here's the thing, and I know I've said this before* . . . making a great song or a great album, does not necessarily translate into making a great radio song.

Give a listen to "Every Single Night."

Taken on its own merits, it's a cool, different sounding track.  And I bet it really will work in the context of a full Apple record.

But imagine driving down the road and switching on the station during the middle of this song.  Does it hold up?  If the station were on in your office while you're doing work, would you half-hear this song and think "What the hell are they playing?"

It's disappointing and frustrating, as a programmer.  Because we want to support artists who are doing interesting, challenging work.  But there's got to be some kind of meet-in-the-middle point, where the song is artistic, but also accessible, if it's going to work for radio.

I don't think this one comes anywhere close to that median . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

* Yes, there are some ideas that I feel like I've talked about a number of times . . . so now would be a good time to point out that I am closing in on my goal of 1,000 posts.  If I continue to post every day, I'll hit that number around the end of the summer.  After I get to 1,000 . . . well, I haven't decided what I'll do.

In the meantime, there are many posts that I've been meaning to write that I haven't gotten to yet.  And the reason I haven't put them "on paper" yet, is because they are some of the most meaningful and important stories of my musical life.  But with the pressure of just 120 posts to go, I guess it's time to get to work.