Saturday, June 30, 2012

Velvet Crush "This Life Is Killing Me"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Since I mentioned Velvet Crush yesterday . . .

Back when "Teenage Symphonies To God" was out, if I was having a bad day, I'd put this one on my show and turn the studio speakers up as loud as they could go.

I think it was great therapy (at least it was in my 20s), to take depression and inject it with adrenaline.  I may not have felt great, but at least I wasn't lying down, moaning.

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, June 29, 2012

Matthew Sweet "Girlfriend"

I was never a huge autograph hound, but I really wanted to meet Matthew Sweet.

We'd traveled from Virginia down to Winston-Salem's "Ziggy's," where more than a few of our favorite acts would come through.

It had been a hell of a night for Power Pop, as the opening band, Boston's The Gigolo Aunts killed it, and even tossed the crowd a jangle-pop nugget---a cover of "Feel" by Big Star.

And Matthew Sweet was in fine form, referencing the fact that he had recorded the "Girlfriend" album right in the general neighborhood with altern-Pop Producer/Guru/Guitar-star Mitch Easter.

Gilding the lily was the fact that Sweet's band was made up of two key members of another personal favorite at the time, Velvet Crush.

Now at that time, and hell, if you still ask me today, "PJ, What's Your Favorite Song?" I'll probably stammer for a second, to see which answer pops out of my mouth that day.

Some days, it's "Train In Vain" by The Clash.

And other days, it's "Girlfriend" by Matthew Sweet.

I can't quite remember how I scored it, but somehow, via a record company person, I owned a vinyl 45 of "Girlfiend."  I still have it.

Not only is it a happening shade of Red vinyl, but it contains some interesting b-side stuff, including the demo, which was called "Good Friend."  It even came with liner notes.  What 45 has liner notes?  But it was interesting to know that Sweet only changed the name (from "Good Friend" to "Girlfriend") because that's what his friends thought the song was called.  But he couldn't remember why the swinging piano part found in the demo, had not been a part of the final recording.

So, armed with my precious 45, I patiently waited in line after the show, to climb on Sweet's tour bus, to get a few seconds to say, "Thanks" and have him Sharpie-up my vinyl.

He was gracious and efficient, but you could detect that he'd rather be on to the next part of his night.  Goofing around behind him in the belly of the bus, was the hot, sweaty band, drinking and laughing.

But he did get a sweet and bemused smile on his face, when I pulled out my copy of "Teenage Symphonies To God," a Velvet Crush CD.

I didn't even have to ask, Sweet just turned around and called out, "Paul!  Hey, a kiss on the cheek for you . . ."

Paul  (the singer from Velvet Crush who provided much the additional vocal beauty in Sweet's set) looked a little sheepish, but also pleased, as he signed my CD, and the other band members called out to him, "A kiss on the cheek!  A kiss on the cheek . . ."

It's funny, I'd never heard the expression "kiss on the cheek" in that kind of context before.  But I knew what it meant, right away.  And funny, I've never heard that expression again, in that kind of context.  I don't know if it was made up on the spot, or if "kiss on the cheek" really is a thing, when a musician gets some secondary attention.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Hear "Good Friend" on Youtube.

Hear Velvet Crush on Youtube.  Featuring Mitch Easter!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mike Viola "Soundtrack Of My Summer"

I don't know why more people don't write aspirational tunes.  At a minimum, it seems like it would at least get some starter attention.

I mean, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show wrote "Cover Of Rolling Stone" and guess where they ended up?

Why not write a song called, "I Hope I Sell A Millions Singles"?

Or, "My Music Video Just Went Viral"?

Of course, if it's a lousy song, it's not going to go anywhere.  But if it's a decent song, hey, people love to make a Cinderella story come true . . .

Maybe he's got a smaller aspiration here, but I like where Mike Viola is going with this one.

Doesn't this seem like the perfect kind of tune to be blasting out of a car with the windows rolled down while the sun is shining?

Doesn't it seem like the soundtrack of this summer could easily be "Soundtrack Of My Summer"?

It would beat the hell out of having to hear "Payphone" ad infinitum.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rolling Stones "Mother's Little Helper"

My wife doesn't like taking her vitamins.

It's not that she dislikes its effects.  Or disputes its health benefits.

She just doesn't like to take it every day.

Moreover, she doesn't like to have to take it every day.

My wife is an artist.  Her brain doesn't work the same way as mine.

While I crave and thrive with routine, she bucks against it.  She actually finds it annoying that if she sees me brushing my teeth at night, then that means I am going to bed.  She brushes her teeth when they feel dirty, not based on a schedule or clock unrelated to how her teeth feel.

So she didn't like taking her vitamin in the morning, because she didn't like that she had to do it.

How does she feel when she doesn't take it?  Lousy.  She is completely aware of this.  But will she take it on her own?  No.

I tried to intervene.  Or do what I thought was "helping out."  In the morning as I poured myself a glass of water, I put her vitamin box out on the counter.  That way, she had to, at a minimum, move it out of her way to do anything on our small kitchen counter.  And maybe, because she had to pick it up anyway, she'd just take it.

That is not what happened.

Instead, she came to resent the fact that I was trying to force her to take her vitamins.  So she rebelled, and stopped taking them completely.

Such is the weird, silly, daily, endless negotiation of marriage.  You have two people who live together and love each other, but are completely different people with worldviews that invariably conflict.  And something as simple as taking a vitamin becomes a Battleground State.

It's a miracle that anyone can manage to stay married, when we are hard-wired to fight against the things we consider to be "against our nature" no matter how stupid those things are.

My Mom and Dad have been married for over 40 years.  They each have many entrenched habits and worldviews that drives one nuts that the other will never change.

"But I noticed something went we went to visit them last month," my wife said to me one day.

"Every morning, your Mom would come into the kitchen, pour a glass of orange juice and give it to your Dad.  At first, I thought it was just your Mom trying to force your Dad to do something healthy.  Then I thought to myself, 'Why doesn't he get his own damn juice?'  But then I realized, she was doing something for him, that he wouldn't do for himself.  And instead of resenting it, he accepted it."

She said, "In the morning, put my vitamins out for me.  And you can even tell me to take it.  I promise not to get mad at you."

So every morning, I pour myself a glass of water, and I get her vitamins off the shelf and I put one on the counter.  And she takes it, without feeling like I am trying to force something upon her.

But most mornings, as she takes it, perhaps as a nod to her rebellious nature, she hums this tune with just a hint of sarcasm.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Superchunk "Cruel Summer"

When it comes to records and record promotion, for the most part, the people I speak to week in and week out are not in a tourist town.

While some of them are in New York and LA, because Record Promotion can be done from anywhere, I speak to folks who are working major records from suburbs far outside Seattle and Detroit and Atlanta and Portland.

And not that they are without empathy (in fact, a great awareness of each station's unique circumstance makes for a great promo person), I think it's hard for them, sometimes, to fathom what the rhythms are for a station like ours.

While so many people that they talk to live in towns that have quieted down for the summer---people are on vacation, college kids have left town, the pace has eased---our lives on the Cape and Islands have sped up.

And while the personal lives of many programmers have slowed a bit---kids are on break, vacations happen---we're shifting into high gear, working like all the local businesses to have a great 10 weeks, so we can survive another year.

All this to say, I'm drowning in a pile of new music that I haven't properly digested, because I'm running full-tilt, toward next week's "Busiest Week Of The Year, 4th Of July Edition."

Usually on Tuesdays, I post about a new song that I'm considering.  But truthfully, I haven't considered a damn thing.

It's a cruel, cruel summer.

Superchunk to the rescue!  I think it's cool that even in the digital age, bands are releasing B-sides. 

So here's a tune I've barely considered, for your blog-enjoyment!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sugar "If I Can't Change Your Mind"

"What the hell happened to you?!" the kid behind the counter at Subway had apparently asked, with just a little bit of trepidation.

Looking at my roommate, it's not hard to understand why the kid would have thought a crazy, perhaps dangerous man had just been in the sandwich shop.

It had been a loooonng day, and it started early.

This was when I was living in Southwest Virginia, in the a big farmhouse called 7 Maples. Living out the post-college dream of being on the radio, drinking beer, staying up late, being with friends, watching a lot of sports and listening to a lot of music.

My roommate was both a huge Bob Mould fan, and (because he was an alumnus) a Virginia Tech football fan. And on a hot, hot fall Saturday, there was both a game, and a Sugar show to go to.

So we were up early, with his Dad. I didn't have tickets to the game, but I took the road trip two hours up I-81, to sit in a bar within earshot of the stadium to watch the game on TV, while they went to the game.

I knew it was going to be a long, long journey into the night so I sipped my beer slowly, as the frat kids around me got sloppier and sloppier.

The sight of my roommate after the game, made me laugh.

"You sat on the sunny side of the stadium, huh?"

Lane Stadium could be a cold, unforgiving place in November and December. But on this day, half the crowd was on a concrete cookie sheet baking in the sun.

And my roommate was quick to turn lobster red in those conditions.

We split with his Dad, who returned to Abingdon, and we traveled on to Chapel Hill for Sugar, who were touring behind "File Under Easy Listening."

The Cat's Cradle that night was like a convection oven---mostly airless, but except of gusts of hotter heat that swirled around the raucous activity of the crowd.

Sugar was just a singular kind of band. They had this focused, precise, tight type of anger---a really amazing mix of ferocity and control. And the audience acted accordingly, moving and swaying and sweating en mass, both exhausted and still frenzied.

With our ears still ringing, we started our long drive home.

We were both broke, having spent what we had on gas and beer, but we scraped together a couple of bucks as we pulled into a local Subway. My roommate offered to go in himself, while I kept the car running.

I wish I could have seen the look on the kid's face when this large, tired-looking, wrung-out red man, fully drenched in sweat, walked into Subway and said, "Can I have two Gatorades and a small bag of pretzels?"

But my roommate came out laughing, having been previously unaware at just how horrible and weird he must look to the rest of the normal world, a world that hadn't spent the day watching football, drinking beer, driving a few hundred miles, jumping around at a rock show and steeling himself for another few hundred miles of highway home.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Matthew Sweet "Do Ya"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Continuing yesterday's 90s Pop Nostalgia . . . There was this weird outburst in the 90s, when Saturday Night Live and David Letterman and some other late night shows decided to raid their archives and put out CDs.  For whatever reason, most did not go beyond a Volume 1.

This track is particularly awesome, since it wasn't part of a broadcast episode of Conan O'Brien.  The track was recorded during the afternoon's soundcheck, and was included on the Late Night CD.

Matthew Sweet doing The Move (ELO) . . . awesome.  Knowing this is live (sans any studio trickery) really puts the point on what a great and unique voice he has.

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, June 23, 2012

Papas Fritas "Hey Hey You Say"

Here's another Weekend Post:

While thinking about the forthcoming Girlyman record, due this month, my mind popped back a dozen or so years, to this awesome Boston-based, male/female trio (though I understand that Girlyman has become a foursome since their last record), with an incredible gift for harmonies.

I always thought it was brilliantly clever that the band name both means Potato Chips, AND is a homonym for "Pop Has Freed Us."

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, June 22, 2012

Tony Bennett "Fly Me To The Moon"

The first radio station I worked at was a very small, independent, family owned-and-operated outfit.  We did a lot with a little.

But in my early days with them, we didn't have the resources to be a 24 hour station.  And since I worked the last shift, it was my job to sign off the air, shut off the transmitters and close down the building for the night.

On weeknights, I had an alternative music specialty show, that ran from 10 to 12, but on Fridays and Saturdays, I got to expand it to a full 6 hours---on at 8pm and off at 2am.

It was a joyful and exhilarating task, to build that much live programming, on the fly, playing CDs and keeping the night moving.  By 2am, I was usually a little punch drunk.

I had a ritual to close out the night.

There was a checklist of things I was supposed to do throughout the building before walking out the door.  Shutting down certain computers, turning of certain lights, checking certain locks, and finally, turning off the transmitter.

And I did it to the strains of Tony Bennett.

Tony Bennett isn't particularly alternative, but this was the little window in the mid-90s, when he had gone through an image rehab.  He'd appeared with The Red Hot Chili Peppers and performed with kd lang and recorded an MTV Unplugged CD.

And let's face it, there just weren't that many people listening to an alternative specialty show on a 3,000 watt rural Virginia radio station at 2 in the morning.  So why not do something weird.

"Fly Me To The Moon" the MTV Unplugged version, was about 2:30 minutes long, and when I hit play on the track, I had just enough time to walk out of the studio and weave in and out of the other rooms in the building, flipping switches and securing locks, all while singing along with Tony, at the top of my lungs.

My loop around the building would get me back to my chair just as the song was ending and the roar of the audience surged.

The album left nearly 30 seconds of clapping, where I had time to say something along the lines of:

"That's What's The Alternative? for tonight, I'll be back on Monday at 10pm for more.  We'll be back on the air tomorrow morning at 6am.  For now . . . you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.  WABN concludes another broadcast day."

And I'd fade out the track, walk to the transmitter and shut it down, and then head out the front door and into the night, my throat a little scratchy from the Bennett-belting and my mind a little fuzzy from the fun.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Hear the Sesame Street version on Youtube.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jessica Pare "Zou Bisou Bisou"

Jess Phaneuf (she of the pHbalanced blog) is a big "Mad Men" fan, and she played the bottom clip for me, just after it originally aired.

The scene is Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) birthday party, where he is unexpectedly, bizarrely serenaded by Megan Draper (Jessica Pare).

Cut to two months later, when unexpectedly, bizarrely, the station is serviced a single of "Zou Bisou Bisou." 

I know this thing occasionally happens in the Pop world, but I can't really remember a time when our format was sent a single performed by a fictional character.

Check out the single version, and then the actual "Mad Men" scene, below.

Hear the single version, on Youtube.

See the video from "Mad Men" on Youtube.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Tubes "What Do You Want From Life?"

We were like twins, born 8 years apart.

My college girlfriend had an older sister who was married.  And her husband and I had this weirdly parallel existence.

Which was cool for me, because I got to see what life would be like for me in a few years.

He was in TV production, and I was just graduating college ready to start making videos.  He took me to a studio where he worked, and showed me what was cutting edge technology, never before seen by me---computer animation.  I got career advice and encouragement, with a healthy dose of reality (finding work is hard), doled out by someone who'd moved through life with a temperament and style similar to mine.

I also got to see what life was like, in the past.  Sort of.

Because he was 8 years older than me, he grew up with music that had come and gone before my musical awakening.  Sure, I hadn't missed out on The Beatles and The Stones---I could go back to bands like that---but what about the nooks and crannies of 70s weirdness that had already slipped into obscurity by the mid-1980s?

He was a prolific cassette-tape-maker, and though I'd made mix tapes before, I really upped my game, after seeing the care that he put into both the track listing, and the package design.

Mix tapes are a hazy memory in this (digital age) day and age, as is that girlfriend.  But I heard this Tubes track the other day, and knew that if I had taken a different (dating) path, "What Do You Want From Life" (which I first heard on one of his awesome mix tapes) probably wouldn't have registered in my mind at all. 

But instead, it invokes the warm analog nostalgia of cassette-tapes and video production and college girlfriends' families and musical friendships made and faded.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jerry Douglas/Mumford & Sons "The Boxer"

This is a cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song "The Boxer" from the new Jerry Douglas album.

Douglas is a celebrated dobro player, and the album is chock-full of guest performers, who come in to sing and otherwise fill out the songs that feature his amazing slide/picking.

This track features the band Mumford & Sons, and yes, the distinctive vocals of Marcus Mumford are front and center.

The track is listed as "Jerry Douglas, featuring Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon."

Paul Simon?!?  Where?

Give a listen.  Can you pick out Simon's voice?  Or his guitar?

Is it a little weird to have an iconic legend like Paul Simon on a track, promote that he's on the track, but then relegate him to a place where his imprint doesn't register?

Or is he there and I don't hear it?

Hear the album version on Youtube.

Hear a live version of "The Boxer" on Youtube.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Loudon Wainwright III "Daughter"

A Father's Day post, post-Father's Day . . .

This was our first, special, get-away trip, since she'd become a big sister.

A brother had arrived the previous April, and our formerly one-and-only child had been sharing the spotlight with a new brother.

She'd done surprisingly well.  Better than I'd expected.  Jealously and weirdness was fairly minimal.

And we'd reached a point where we felt comfortable enough to leave him with my parents for an overnight, so that Mom, Dad and daughter could have a little adventure.

The hotel had a pool.  My daughter had never taken a swimming lesson, but did like to splash around in a kiddie pool.

My wife had the idea to buy a pair of "Floaties" for her arms.  They had Nemo on them, and my daughter thought they looked kind of cool.

But nothing prepared her for how cool things were about to get.

My wife carried her into the pool, as she had in other pools on other occasions.  But then she put her down, holding just her hands.  Then she let go of her hands.

My daughter was shocked to find that she was floating by herself, without any help from us.

"I'M SWIMMING!  EVERYBODY!  I'M SWIMMING!"  She waved to the nonplussed pool-goers, who were unaware of the monumental occasion happening before their eyes.


She simply couldn't contain herself, or her pride.

And I thought to myself, "That's my daughter in the water."  I could barely contain myself either.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Francis Dunnery "Father And Son"

Here's a Father's Day Weekend Post:

"You will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not."

I'm soaking in the goodness of today's Father's Day, knowing in the back of my head, that I won't always be a rock star/genius in the eyes of my kids, and that being a Dad will someday mean dispensing advice that is unwelcome, unappreciated, and at times, unheard.

But today, I get pancakes, and a rock with "Dad" painted on it!

A thought about this version . . . I love how Dunnery, even better than Cat Stevens, alters his voice from Father to Son.

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, June 16, 2012

Adrian Belew "Oh Daddy"

Here's a Father's Day Weekend Post:

My four-year-old has picked up my wife's habit of displaying mock-disgust every time I make a lame joke:

"Oh Daddy . . ." she shakes her head.

And I always think of this song.

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, June 15, 2012

George Thorogood "Move It On Over"

You inherit things from your Dad.  Some of them stare right back at you in the mirror.

Like the way my temples are graying, as Dad’s did when he hit his 40s.  Or the kind of slouchy, no-ass posture figure that we both cut.

Some traits you can hear.  I can hear my Dad when I laugh.  Or when I exclaim, “Holy Mackerel!” which no normal person under 60 would say.

Other things are more ephemeral.  Like the quiet superstitions we both keep.

Growing up, Dad was neither the every-day disciplinarian, nor the more-likely yeller.  No, it was Mom who would drop the hammer if you were, say, eating cake in the off-limits living room, or if you left your winter coat on the kitchen floor instead of hanging it up.

What might Dad get upset about?

If you used his pencil.

Now, this was not any old pencil.

This was the pencil from the Scorebook.  And he’d been on a winning streak.

Dad coached high school baseball and basketball, and, like so many coaches and players, he had his superstitions.  And if his team was winning, that meant nothing was to be changed.

That pencil that was being used to record hits and strikeouts, or baskets and fouls?  It stayed with the Scorebook, and it was NOT to be used by my 8 year old sister to draw a picture.  Absolutely not.  Not without him freaking out. 

And the pencil stayed with the Scorebook, until his team lost.  After that, of course, he changed pencils.

What was he wearing when the winning streak began?  You’re damn right that he would be wearing that again on the next game day.

This proved to be a little weird on those years (and there were many) that he had a really great team, on a long winning streak.

The year that I was on the Varsity basketball team, and he was coaching the JV team, proved to be one of his best seasons.  The winning streak was stretching into weeks.

Did he win while wearing a pair of ratty old red plaid pants?  Yes he did.  Would he be wearing it the next game day, and the next?  You bet.  Would he allow Mom to sew up the ever-widening hole on the inseam?  Absolutely not.  That sort of thing could cause the winning streak to end!

Of course, pants aside, winning streaks do end, as did this one.  And Dad loves to tell the story of how, after the game, he overheard one of his players say, none too quietly, “Great.  Now maybe coach will change those f***ing pants!”

The next year, it was my basketball team that had the winning streak.  We lost the season opener, but proceed to rack up win after win after win.

And I could attribute it to a white t-shirt, some lucky underwear and George Thorogood.

I may have adopted some of my Father's fashion superstitions, but I was also a self-conscious teenager.  I couldn't get away with wearing the same outfit to school every couple of days.  Not without drawing unwanted attention to myself.

But no one would notice that I was wearing the same pair of underwear each time (washed between game days, I assure you).  And the repeat-t-shirt went unnoticed when I put different sweatshirts over it from game to game.

Before every home game, I'd have some time between when school let out and when I had to report to the locker room.  I'd go home, have something to eat and head up to my bedroom.  And me and the cat would listen to George Thorogood's "Move It On Over" album while I tried to nap.

I'm not exactly sure why it was that album.  It's certainly not good napping music.  But once the team got on a winning streak, I wasn't going to cause us to go off the rails by changing cassettes during naptime.

Let me point out, that my superstition-controlled destiny really wasn't much of a factor in my contribution on the court, since I wasn't exactly a star player.  I logged a few minutes in every game, but I wasn't a make or break presence.

Or was I?

We won 18 straight games and became the first Boys Varsity Basketball Team from Newburyport in nearly two decades, to win a game in the State Tournament.  Something must have been behind that streak of good fortune.

And if it wasn't me, then no doubt it was due to my Dad, who sat on the bench as an Assistant, who, I'm sure, had his own superstitions that he adhered to that season, that kept the winning streak alive.

So thanks, Dad, for the way I laugh and the distinguished gray and "Glory Days" basketball season and all the things that can and can't be seen, that you gave to me.

Happy Father's Day.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gotye "Eyes Wide Open"

So here's the follow up post . . .

After writing about Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" as a "phenomenon" song, the follow-up question in the follow-up post is . . . what do we think of the follow-up song?

Phenomenon songs don't have a great track record.  By definition, they probably can't . . .

Songs like Dido's "Thank You" caught on due to forces much larger than the song itself.  And those forces aren't in play on the second single.  Eminem couldn't have sampled Dido's "Hunter" too (which was her follow-up single to "Thank You").

Many of the phenomenon songs that stick out in my mind, like One Eskimo's "Kandi" and Primitive Radio Gods' "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand", relied heavily on guest vocals (in both of these cases, sampled vocals) for their weird phenomenonic charm.

And other phenomenon songs just struck a particular, peculiar emotional chord, like Yael Naim's "New Soul" or Des'ree's "You Gotta Be."

Both of these traits apply to the first (successful) Gotye song.

And then there are phenomenon songs that herald the beginning of a long career, not unlike Sheryl Crow breaking through with "All I Wanna Do."

Gotye could go either way, building on early, surprise, massive success . . . or, just fading away.

The only way to answer the question, I guess, is to listen to the song . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Joni Mitchell "Cherokee Louise"

I felt awful.  Awful.  Like the worst person in the world.

How could I have done it?  Because, in his mind, it couldn't have been accidental . . .

It was the Monday after Father's Day, and I was perusing my email Inbox.

Mostly junk mail, of course, but usually over the weekend, we might get an email from a station listener wondering "What was that song?" or "Can you tell me more about the event the DJ was talking about?"  That kind of stuff.

But then there was this email that made me feel awful.

It asked, How could you have played "Cherokee Louise" on Father's Day?


He was a step-father, who had worked tirelessly to earn the trust and love, of his wife's children.  He was a Dad to them, as much as any biological Dad could be.  And to hear that song on Father's Day . . . it was like a slap in the face.


I have to admit, I have never delved too deeply into Joni Mitchell.  She's part of the sound of mvyradio, and, as the station programmer I made sure we had several of her tracks in rotation, but beyond the big hits I didn't know to much about her songs.

So I looked up the lyrics of "Cherokee Louise."


It's a song about a young, teenage girl, who is being sexually abused by her Step-Father.  Not really great Father's Day fare.

We have a couple thousand songs in regular rotation, and play thousands more on an occasional basis.  So on the one hand, I could be forgiven for not knowing the lyrics and meaning of every single song we play.

But it really drove home a point that I think about all the time, when programming the station:

People's level of engagement is vastly different.

For most people, "Cherokee Louise" could play on Father's Day, and it wouldn't have any effect whatsoever on them.  Maybe the never knew what it was about.  Maybe they did know the meaning of the song, but didn't tie it together with the Holiday.  Maybe mvy was just on in the background, and the song floated by, with them unwitting.

But for one guy, the song and the context hit him.  And it hit him hard.

I wrote him an apologetic email, copping to the fact that I had no idea of the song's content, and promising him that we would never play it on Father's Day again.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Neil Young "Jesus' Chariot"

Sometimes, in the modern age of too much information, I feel like learning too much about an album/artist really takes away from making a fair and proper judgement of the work.

I mean, when I was in the Sistine Chapel, I wasn't looking at the ceiling thinking, "I wonder if Michaelangelo's recent breakup had a major effect on the tone of this work?"  Or even, "I wonder what kind of research Michaelangelo did when plotting out this piece?"

No, I was more thinking, "Holy smokes this work of art is incredible!"

So there is a part of me that wants to shut out all the extraneous noise about a record, and just hear the record as the artist's statement, rather than hear the artist in an interview making a statement explaining his statement.

On the other hand, sometimes hearing from the artist can improve your view of the art's intentions. 

I heard an interview that cause me to reconsider Neil Young's "Americana" and to disabuse myself of a previously-conceived notion.

Yes, Young has a reputation for being a provocateur---whether that means writing an anti-War album in the middle of a War, or excoriating Pop-Sacred-Cows on songs like "This Note's For You."

And when I heard "Americana" my first impression was that the Neil was messing with us.  Why record an album of Folk songs, using his most rocking, loud backing band, Crazy Horse?  Why plunk away at some of the most childish, rudimentary tunes around, for anything other than a lark?

My initial feeling was that this was not unlike Bob Dylan's "Christmas In The Heart" album, which seemed to have been created to deliberately defy expectations of what and who the artist is supposed to be.

Then I heard Young on Fresh Air, and I thought that I should reconsider my position.

Here's where the light-bulb went on:  Neil Young might be a provocateur, he might be occasionally cantankerous, he might willfully defy expectations . . .

But if there is one thing he is not, it's insincere.

I don't think he's messing around with us.  I don't think he did these songs on a lark.  I don't think he finds these songs rudimentary (in a bad way).

I think he's sincerely interested in the melodies, and the lyrics, and the origins of these songs.  And I think he's sincerely interested in sharing what he's discovered through playing them.

So I'll listen again.  Will I like the album?  I don't know.  Not necessarily.

But at least I now feel like I'll hear the album, in a manner closer to how Young intended.

"Jesus' Chariot" is "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain" closer to its original form.  Where I remember it as kind of a dumb tune about a woman on a wagon, Young peels back the lyrics to reveal that this is actually an old spiritual, about full of symbolism relating to the return of Jesus . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

neil young


Monday, June 11, 2012

Was (Not Was) "Hello Dad, I'm In Jail"

I was handcuffed to a railing on the wall in the Police Station.  I was in trouble.  The question was, Was I about to get into BIG trouble?  Did I trust my own athletic skills?

The night started innocently enough.

Okay, well, not innocently.  But pretty normal for a summer night, 1990.

I was headed out with my friend Maureen.  We were going to meet her brother Brian at a bar.

Brian had already turned 21, but Maureen and I were still underage.  Close to legal---20---but still underage.  However, we had fake Ids.

Maureen had the good fortune of having an over-21 friend, who looked vaguely like her, who was willing to give her a copy of an ID.  So she had a legitimate Massachusetts ID, even if the person pictured wasn’t exactly her.

I had a terrible, homemade fake ID, purchased for 40 bucks in one of the high rise dormitories at UMass.  We had paid our cash and were brought into a dorm room, where a giant, wall sized replica of the Maine Driver’s license was taped to the wall.  You stood in front of it and SNAP!  A few minutes later, the Polaroid was trimmed and laminated.

Not that IDs were necessary at this bar.  Maureen knew the bouncers, so they were happy to just let us in, no questions asked.

We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of beers, which came in cans---classy place.

I couldn’t have had more than half a beer when I turned around to see two Police Officers marching through the crowd, making eye contact with every college age patron in the place.

Here in 2012, with greying temples and all, I was still carded last week at the package store.

In 1990, I had trouble passing for 14 years old.

The cops zeroed right in on me.

“HOW OLD ARE YOU SON?” one of them barked.

twenty,” I said in my small, 14 year old voice.

“UNDERAGE HERE!” he barked to the now-grimacing bar manager.

As he turned to Maureen to start questioning her, the second officer directed me to head out outside.

He looked back at his partner to say something, and as he did I pulled my horrible fake ID from my pocket and shoved it in my underwear.

Perhaps it was stupid of Maureen and me to pick a bar so close to the Police Station.  I was cuffed, and instead of being put in a squad car, we just walked down the block to the precinct.

Maureen, who was much more savvy than I, simply told the officers that she didn’t have her ID with her, but gave them her Fake ID name and corresponding Social Security number.  So she was not handcuffed.  They would just bring her in, to corroborate her information.

But there was a snag in her plan:

“Pssst.  What’s you name?” I tried to whisper to her, as we walked a step-and-a-half ahead of the officers.  I knew she had someone else’s ID, but I never learned the name on it.

“What?” she whispered back.

“Your name . . .” but she couldn’t hear me.

Inside the Station, we were separated.  She went into the offices.  I was led into a hallway just outside the cells.  The officer uncuffed my hands from behind my back, and then cuffed me to a railing in the middle of the hallway.

He told me to slide off my shoes and spread my feet, as he’d be frisking me before putting me in the cell.

As I was doing this, he said, “What’s your friend’s name?”

Before he could finish the sentence though, someone from the office poked their head into the hallway and said, “Hey, can you come here for a minute?”

The officer gave me a look up and down, realized that this little bunny was not likely to cause any trouble if left alone for a minute, and said with a sarcastic laugh, “Stay here.”

So there I was.  I was handcuffed in a hallway with a fake ID in my pants. 

I knew that the fine for having a fake ID was in the hundreds of dollars.  Hundreds of dollars I didn’t have.

I knew that, if I were frisked, the ID was going to fall right out of my baggy shorts.  What a night to not be wearing tightie-whities.

I knew I had to take a chance.

At the end of the hallway, there was a large trash barrel.  My left hand was free.  I was right-handed, but from years of basketball, I knew I could make a left handed lay-up.

Could I make the shot?

Honestly, I didn’t really have time to think about it, so I just did it.

Years later, I recreated the scenario, to see how many times I could make a similar shot, in 10 tries.  I made 6---just better than 50%.

The odds were in my favor.  That night in the Police Station, I made the shot.

Not only did I make the shot, no one found the ID in the trash.  And for reasons still unknown to me, when the officer came back, he didn’t ask me about Maureen’s name.

I spent most of the night in a jail cell with two very drunk guys, one of whom shouted “Offisaahh! . . . Offisaahh! . . . Offisaahh! . . . Offisaahh! . . .” trying to get a cop’s attention, for about 2 hours straight.

Perhaps taking pity on me, of the dozen or so guys in these holding cells, they got me out and processed me first.  I didn’t even need to make a phone call---Brian and “Maureen” were waiting for me, to take me home, thus robbing me of the chance to call home and hilariously quote to my parents, a line from this song:

Hear the song on Youtube.

Postscript:  A month later I had to appear in court and face the charges.  Dad came with me.  I sat in the courtroom in a blue oxford pressed by my Mother and a tie borrowed from my Dad, amid a sea of dudes in Iron Maiden concert t-shirts (remember the ones, with the white bodies and the black ¾ sleeves?).

Dad turned to me and said, “You’re not going to believe this.  I know exactly one State Trooper, and he’s right over there.”

The Trooper recognized good ol' Mr. Finn (a high school teacher and coach) and said he'd be glad to put in a good word with the D.A.  He had one warning:

"This judge doesn't like any B.S. or stammering around.  Answer his questions quickly and clearly."

When my name was called, I stepped to the microphone in front of the judge.  With an arched eyebrow and a wry smile, he looked at my tie and shoes and said, "Representing yourself today, Mr. Finn?"  No lawyer?"

"Yes, sir."

After charges were read and I saw our State Trooper friend come up and whisper something to the D.A., she said, "I understand Mr. Finn regrets his actions . . . " followed by some lawyer jargon that I surmised to mean that if I paid a fine and stayed out of trouble, this would all be over.

The judge gave me a hard look.  "Mr. Finn will pay a fine of $100.  Is that agreeable to you, Mr. Finn?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you need some extra time to make this payment, Mr. Finn?"

"How much time can I have?" I asked.

His face flushed as he opened his mouth to speak I realized I'd said the wrong thing, and so I quickly added, "I-I-I can pay it today.  Sir."

The check was paid, the wheels of justice rolled to a stop, and I managed to stay out of trouble (and more exactly, out of bars) until I turned 21 the following March.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wolfgang Press "Going South"

Here's another Weekend Post: Much like yesterday's tune, this one's got a great groove to it, but somehow it has fallen off the map since it's alterna-hey-day.  I haven't heard this song in years . . .

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, June 9, 2012

Girls Against Boys "Superfire"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I always thought this groove was pretty sexy, for such a wall-of-guitar-noisy tune . . .

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, June 8, 2012

Rhett & Link "Rub Some Bacon On It"

Last year, I had some extra tickets to a concert, that I was happy to just give away.  So I posted on Facebook, to all my friends and family, "If you want these tickets, just let me know."

My cousin, Rick, who lives half a world away, in Australia, saw the post.

He called my Uncle/his Dad, who lives just a few miles from me.  And I met my Uncle the next morning, to give him the tickets.

It's an amazing time we live in, where information can travel across hemispheres, to be returned right down the street.

When Rick posted this video on his Facebook page, I expected that this was another Down Under comedy sensation.  But Rhett And Link are Americans.

Thank goodness we have Facebook (and cousins with a great sense of humor) to let us know what's going on in our own backyard.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Doc Watson "Milk Cow Blues"

When Doc Watson passed away, I thought of this story, but it didn't seem like the right one to tell as an obituary-type post, so I saved it for later/today . . .

I was headed somewhere with Jane.  Honestly, I can't remember where.

We were at Merlefest, covering the festival for the station.  And because Merlefest has 14 stages, spread out around the campus of Wilkesboro Community College, when you cover Merlefest, you spend a ton of time briskly walking back and forth, from the stages to our broadcast booth to the tents to the truck to the . . .

You quickly learn the shortcuts.  And if you want to get from one side of the Main Stage to the other, you could walk wide, all the way around the crowd.  Or you could walk behind the stage on a service road that wound behind.  Or, there is a narrow hallway, like a little artery, that tunnels through the heart of the building that houses the main stage.  To get from one side to the other, you can shoot right through that.

Jane and I were on our way . . . wherever, zipping through this empty hall when suddenly from the left, a door that I'd never seen open, opened.

Out, coming from the stage area, popped a small gaggle of folks.  Had we be been a half-a-step faster, we would have bumped right into them.

Jane gasped, then turned to me and said, in a stage-whisper with hand gestures, "It's Doc Watson!"  One of the people in the group half-looked at us and gave a quick smile.

We continued down the hallway, following Doc and his guide and friends, back out into the daylight of the other side of the stage.

Doc's group led him to a car, and Jane and I continued our forward trajectory.

When we were safely out of range where the group could possibly hear us (unlike when we were in the hallway), I looked at Jane and said, "You realize he's blind, not deaf, right?"

Tonight on mvyradio we are airing "The Best Of Doc Watson At Merlefest" featuring portions of several different sets we recorded at Merlefest over the years.  Stream it at 9pm ET on mvyradio.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

R.E.M. "Superman"

Last weekend, I was out for drinks with Craig Sherman, who likes to ask questions.

"If you could be anyone famous, who would you be?"

Strangely, the answer came to me quickly.

"Mike Mills of R.E.M."

Waay back in college, I had a next door neighbor from Georgia and a bunch of friends who were musicians.  So naturally, we learned a few R.E.M. songs.

Even though it was a cover, we thought "Superman" (a hidden track on the cassette!) would be a great addition to our repertoire.

Kristine had the best voice, so of course she would sing the Michael Stipe part.  And since I could barely do anything else to contribute (my bass playing skills were severely limited), I got to sing the Mike Mills part.

And here's what I discovered.

Despite the fact that Stipe get referred to as the "lead singer" and Mills as the "back-up singer," on "Superman" Mills sings just as much as Stipe does.

In fact, this is true on a ton of R.E.M. songs.  He never comes off as the "lead singer" (except for the couple of songs he gets to sing lead on, from "Out Of Time"), but he's not a background guy by any stretch.

I became more attuned his contributions to the band.

A casual R.E.M. fan might suspect that R.E.M.'s melodic sensibility came from either the lead singer with amazing pipes, or the guitar player (Peter Buck) who seemed to produce endless combinations to guitar (and later, mandolin) figures to build songs around.

But multi-instrumentalist Mills, was the main contributor of songs you know and love, like "Don't Go Back To Rockville," "Nightswimming" and "At My Most Beautiful."

So Craig Sherman asked the question, and as I flipped through names in my head, I stopped on Mike Mills.

As I told Craig, and the rest of of gang at the table:

"He's this awesome musician, in one of the biggest bands in the world, but he never had to live out front.  He's been super-successful, and never has to work again if he doesn't want to, so he's free to pursue whatever creative outlets he wants to.  He'll probably eventually make a solo record, but he'll be able to do so without the crushing expectations that will be heaped upon a Michael Stipe solo record."

I'm sure my therapist would have a few interesting thoughts about my reasons for picking him.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Joey Ramone "What Did I Do To Deserve You?"

I hate to do this to the late Joey Ramone, but I have to play "Let Me Ruin This Song For You" with his new single.

Before reading any further, you might want to read the "Let Me Ruin This Song For You" guidelines, so you can bail on this post, if you don't wish to think ill of the dead.

Yes, sadly, it's been over a decade since Joey Ramone (born Jeffry Ross Hyman) passed away, after a 7 year battle with lymphoma.  Within a year of his death, the record he'd been working on, "Don't Worry About Me" was released.  And that was the last I'd expected to hear from Joey Ramone.

But this Spring, a project guided by Ramones' producer Ed Stasium and Joey's brother Mickey Leigh was released.  Stasium and Leigh found a host of Joey's demos, stripped out everything but Joey's vocals, and then rebuilt the tracks.  The project includes load of Joey's personal friends, like Joan Jett, Steven Van Zandt and members of Cheap Trick.

I guess I have some reservations about anyone but the artist himself/herself completing a record, but I can appreciate that this was guided by family and friends.  And I loved Joey Ramone, so I'm rooting for this record.

But check out the single.  Musically, does it not sound a more than a little like The Traveling Wilburys?

Hear Joey Ramone on Youtube.

Hear The Traveling Wilburys on Youtube.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tears For Fears "Head Over Heels"

Just sitting here, thinking about writing this post is causing a horrible pit in my stomach.

I did promise myself that I would write about some songs that recalled awkward adolescence, so I'll go forward, despite my confusing mix of emotions.

Here's the short version.  I had a super-painful crush on a girl when I was 15 and I recall that this is the song that I felt best expressed my feelings for her.

Was she aware of my feelings?




If she was aware, then she didn't let on.

And by "let on," I mean that she didn't hit me over the head with a 2 by 4 and say, "I like you to, you sweet, stupid boy."

Even if she had done that, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have known how to read the situation for certain.  I was that clueless.

I was good at plenty of things, as a 15 year old.  I was a good student.  I was a decent athlete.   I could juggle a little bit (always a hit with the ladies!).  I was learning how to make ice cream at Haley's in Newburyport.

But while most of my guy friends had serious (for 15) girlfriends, or dated around a lot, I was still struggling, nay, still fully unable, to put two sentences together in front of a girl.

I guess that's why I identified with this video so much.

In my painfully earnest 15-year-old way, I understood the painful earnestness of the guy in the video who's best attempt at flirting with a girl he likes, is to look sort of wounded as he engages in a business transaction at the object of his affection's workplace.  And he seems somewhat mystified that she only returns his (obvious to only him) flirting, with a blank stare.

It was painful, because like him, I didn't get why she didn't get it.

Now it's painful to revisit, not only because of the original pain, but because I'm so aware of how corny and awkward it all is, both the video and my initial reaction to it.

I can't say that my lady-killing skills improved a whole lot in the ensuing years, but I did (mostly) learn to get out of my own way, on the occasions that a woman did hit me over the head with a 2-by-4.

Hear the original song, on Youtube.

See the literal version on Youtube.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shudder To Think "X French T Shirt"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I figured I'd pair this post with the Afghan Whigs mentions, because both bands were among the most musically complex stuff to garner heavy MTV attention.

This is one of those songs/albums, that had a record review that sticks in my head every time I hear it.

The writer commented that the drummer must've spent half the album, just "counting."

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, June 2, 2012

The Backbeat Band "Money"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Following up on yesterday's Afghan Whigs post, it's worth remembering this little Venn diagram of 60s/90s ephemera . . .

"Backbeat" was a decent-enough film about the relationship between John Lennon and original Beatles bassist Stu Sutcliffe, set during The Beatles pre-fame days in Hamburg.

How about the amazing band that was assembled to recreate the lean, tight, uppers-and-American-Rock-N-Roll fueled early days of The Fab (at that time) Five?

Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs sang the John Lennon songs and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum sang the Paul McCartney songs.  The rest of the band:  Dave Grohl (after Nirvana's "In Utero" but before the death of Kurt Cobain) on drums;  Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and Don Fleming (of Gumball, as well as a producer of loads of records) on guitar.  And Mike Mills of R.E.M. on bass.  Mills also voiced Sutcliffe's one spotlight song, "Roadrunner."

They recorded a really solid album's worth of 50s and early 60s rock, and made only one live appearance as a unit, at the MTV Movie Awards.

This record was totally not appropriate for my Alternative specialty show, except for its pedigree.  But when I needed to fill 2 minutes to ride out the hour, "Long Tall Sally" sure did the trick.

Hear the songs on Youtube.

Hear "Roadrunner" 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, June 1, 2012

Afghan Whigs "Going To Town"

Back in my 20s (in the early 1990s), I was dating a woman who worked for an Oldies radio station.  I accompanied her to a station event, at some kind of fair.

A reconstituted version of The Turtles, with a few of the original members and some other hired hands, were trotting out the classic hits of 25 years prior.

I was young, but I knew the music, via my parents.

The song "Happy Together" now crosses my mind any time a long-defunct band reunites.

Are their guys in their 20s, who now regard the early 90s alt-rock explosion here in 2012, the same way I regard the hits of the late 60s?

Is "Going To Town" an angry, alt-rock "Happy Together"?

The Afghan Whigs have reformed and are touring again.  And they've even recorded some new music.

You can refresh your memory of the very awesome songs "Going To Town" and "Gentleman" plus hear the new track.  And if you like it, you can get a free download at the Afghan Whigs website.

Hear "Going To Town" on Youtube.

Hear "Gentleman" on Youtube.

Hear "See And Don't See" on Youtube.