Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Orleans "Dance With Me"

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Larry Hoppen, member of the band Orleans.

Larry and Lance from the band came into the station a few years back, when the band was playing on the Island.  His voice was as good as ever.

You can hear the interview here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bon Iver "I Can't Make You Love Me"

Like the sound of thunder arriving long after the lightning flash, I finally got the joke.

Last year, Justin Vernon appeared on late night TV, covering Bonnie Raitt, and I scratched my head.  "That's odd.  What possessed him to do that?"

Sometime this weekend, I finally heard it in my head.

Bon Iver.  Bonnie Raitt.

Bon EE-vare.  Bon EE-rate.

Justin Vernon must've heard that joke more than a few times since naming his band. 

But I just got it.

And it gave me a great idea.

If I ever decided to give up the whole husband-father-DJ-blogger thing, and run away to become a cross-dressing burlesque performer I have an awesome stage name:

Bon Irate.

(I means good anger!)

Bon EE-rate.

Say it in your announcer voice:

"Ladies and Gentleman, welcome her to the stage, Miss Bon Irate!"

I'll give em something to talk about alright.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tallest Man On Earth "These Days"

"Who are you most excited to see today?" I just asked Barbara and Jess.

Both of them said (perhaps a little dreamily):  Tallest Man On Earth.

After yesterday, where I saw Jackson Browne standing side stage to watch Patty Griffin, Dawes, My Morning Jacket and others, perhaps Mr. Browne (who is today's main stage headliner) is also looking forward to seeing Kristian Matsson.

At least, he should be flattered by the lovely cover of  Jackson Browne classic.

For live audio and video from Newport Folk, go to www.mvyradio.com.  We are expecting to bring you The Punch Brothers, Conor Oberst, The Head And The Heart and Trampled By Turtles.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Robert Ellis "Photographs"

"Who are you excited to see?"

That's the question leading up to Newport Folk.

I'm pretty psyched that Robert Ellis is coming, after having a great experience seeing him last summer.

He's on right at the beginning of the day, so if you're coming to Fort Adams, get there early!

See the video on Youtube.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rage Against The Machine "Killing In The Name Of"

I was catching my breath after The Ramones.  It was Lollapalooza 1996, and earlier I had wormed my way to the front of the stage to soak up what I knew would be my last chance to see the Punk icons.  Now, sweaty and beat from the hot sun, I had retreated to a place a good football-field-away from the stage.

"When Rage Against The Machine comes on, we are moving back," said the Mom to her 10 year old boy.

"Aww, Mom!" said the kid standing next to me.

Now, God bless this Mom, for taking her 10 year old to Lollapalooza.  Fat chance of my Mom ever having done such a thing.

But I thought, Lady, give me an f-n break and just relax.

When The Ramones had played, there was a mosh pit that extended out in a swirl some 100 feet from the stage.  For Mom and the boy to be caught up in any of the mayhem, the pit would have to more-than-triple in size.  Not bloody likely, I thought.

An hour later, I was hoping that the kid had listened to his Mom.

Lollapalooza 1996 made a stop in a field outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, and I will tell you I have never, never, never seen anything like it in person.

And (let me apologize for this in advance) the only place that I've seen anything even comparable, was in watching "Triumph Of The Will."

"Triumph Of The Will" was Leni Renifenstal's Nazi propaganda film.  It showed Hitler at the height of his speaking powers.  They made us watch it in film school, and I remember really being struck, even though I didn't understand German, that Hilter had such a powerful way of speaking, and influencing his audience, that he seemed to be producing mass hysteria---and compliance---with his incendiary rhetoric.

There is nothing more frightening than 25,000 kids jumping up and down, in unison, screaming, in unison, "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME. FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME. FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME."

The mosh pit had more than tripled in size, and the dust from the dry earth rose up from the crowd.  Somewhere, far to stage left, a couple of people through empty "personal pizza" boxes in the air.  Within 30 seconds, pizza boxes went up by the dozens in that area, and the idea caught on.  Like "The Wave" at a baseball game, boxes and paper plates were spinning in the air from left to right across the field.

The band was in complete command.

I have no doubt that after a half-hour of the set, had the band said, "We'll storm Knoxville and burn it to the ground!" that the crowd would have done this, without a second thought.

But they knew what they were in command of and wielded the power carefully.

While Zach de la Rocha was speaking out against the government during a breakdown section of the song, someone raised the Rebel flag.

Can you imagine?  The f-n Confederate flag?

I think there was a moment, when he would have liked to say something.  A pause.

But instead, he just stopped.  And glared.  Like you've never seen a man glare before.

I don't know who raised the flag, what he was thinking or what happened next---I was too far away from it.

All's I know is, the flag came down quickly and decisively.


Ironically, he didn't have to say a word for the crowd to do exactly what he wanted.


Tom Morello plays the Newport Folk Festival this weekend.  It won't likely be as crazy, but it might be as powerful.  Listen in at www.mvyradio.com

Disclaimer:  I feel the need to apologize for comparing anything to Hitler.  Obviously, RATM's politics are as far as you can get from the Nazis.  I was only comparing how the audiences reacted to the speakers.

For a lighter take on the ridiculousness of a crowd chanting "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME" in unison, please see the scene from Monty Python's "Life Of Brian" below.

Hear the song on Youtube.

See the scene from "Life Of Brian" on Youtube.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Alabama Shakes "I Ain't The Same"

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Alabama Shakes at this weekend's Newport Folk Festival.

That's based largely on the rave reviews of anyone I know who has seen them.

And it's partially based on the record.

Barbara asked me my thoughts on the record, and I had a surprisingly thorough answer.  I hadn't even realized I had formulated a coherent thought.

"Wait for their 3rd record," was my answer.  "The 3rd record is where they'll really hit it."

I like "Boys And Girls."  I think there are plenty of strong songs on there.  I seems to be a really great first record.  But I don't think they've hit their full potential yet.  Based on what I know of their live show, they are soooo much more than what is on that record.

They're not going to get it on record #2, most likely.

One year ago, they were playing little clubs.  But the buzz has been so fast and so fierce, that they're playing on National TV and at major festivals and have jumped to a level of success that must be mind-boggling to them.

So the second record is likely to be either a) a product of frenzy, or b) a product of too many meddlesome outsiders.

I think of Robert Randolph And The Family Band.

Their first record (I'm not counting the live EP), "Unclassified" only scratched the surface of the amazing dynamic of their live show.  But it catapulted them onto some very large stages.

The 2nd record . . . "Colorblind" was very popular (and, in doing research for this entry, seems to have received mostly positive-to-glowing reviews), but something about it rang false for me.  It was full of co-writers and guest stars and smacked of producer-intervention.

It was the third record where I felt like I was really hearing the band that I had seen in concert.

Some of the credit, no doubt, comes from the band learning how to make records.  And some of the credit, for sure, goes to T Bone Burnett, who seems to make records by removing all the extraneous BS, to leave only the most organic, natural beauty of the talent.

So hopefully, Alabama Shakes can take some of what they have (like the Stonesy-"Emotional Rescue" feel of I Ain't The Same), and pair it with the Road Dog/Veteran status they will acquire, and bring it to a producer who can get their record closer to the electricity of the live performances.

It's likely that T Bone Burnett's Bat-phone is already ringing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Led Zeppelin "Stairway To Heaven"

It's starts very, very slowly, quiet and small, taking quite a bit of time to get going.

Everything about it seems to have deep, deep meaning, though you have no idea what that could possibly be.

Ugh, the middle goes on and on forever, and you really does feel like it could never end.

Then, all of the sudden it speeds up toward the end, which is both exciting and totally throws you off-balance, to the point where your not sure at all what the hell is happening, what you are feeling or what you are supposed to do.

And then it ends, as quietly as it arrived, leaving you to figure out what the hell to do next.

(Maybe you are the same) I went through a long period where I just didn't want to associate with it, but now, looking back, I have fond nostalgia for it.

Am I talking about High School or "Stairway To Heaven"?

My 25th high school reunion is on Friday.  I don't know who the DJ is (not me!), but they should probably play "Stairway," as it was our prom song.

How did we think that was a good idea?  Is there a worse song to dance to?  Sure it starts slowly enough, but what the hell do you do when Plant gets to the "As we wind on down the road" part?  Do you continue to slow dance with your partner, pretending that the tune has not turned into a rock song so you can hold onto those precious last moments where you are pressing your body against a member of the opposite sex?  Or do you give it up and do your "Rock Out!" dance?  ("Freaks And Geeks" explored the same issue with "Sail Away")

I haven't listened to "Stairway To Heaven" in years, but I felt like I should for this post.  And I think I'm finally past the hump of the song being a totally burned-out cliche.  I actually enjoyed it again.  Yeah, some of the lyrics are very hippie-dippy, but it's a helluva song.  I can even put up with the flute.

I kind of feel the same way about high school.  I had no desire to revisit the awkward teenage years for my 5th, 10th or 20th reunion---I steered far clear.

But my view of the long, long, seemed-like-they-would-never-end years (that still somehow managed to end abruptly, dumping me fully into another chapter of life), has softened considerably.

So I'll be in Newburyport on Friday, and hopefully I'll enjoy the trip back to a certain, somewhat cliched place and time, as much as I enjoyed revisiting "Stairway."

But if the DJ plays it, I'll be sure to sit that dance out.

Hear the song on Youtube.

See the "Freaks And Geeks" scene on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aimee Mann "Charmer"

I was really happy to hear the new Aimee Mann track, and even happier to read what her press release had to say about her new album "Charmer":
Influenced by what Mann calls the “super pop” of the 70s and 80s, the album is her first release since 2008’s celebrated @#%&*! Smilers . . .
I've enjoyed following Aimee Mann's solo work for the last two decades, and was happy to wind down the tributaries she wanted to explore on albums like "Lost In Space."  But, despite the clear craft behind the sonic landscapes and atmospherics she was laying down, I always hoped she'd return to a more straight-up pop arena.

It's not for nothing that she's been asked to participate in tributes to Harry Nilsson and Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  There can never be too much literate pop for my liking.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Van Halen "Hot For Teacher"

While I know that there are certainly people who regularly read this blog, I don't get too many posts or comments about it online.  Which is why the comments that are made, stand out.

My friend Scott and I have this running joke, where, if I blog about a song he will comment about it.  And it comment generally ends with ". . . and the girl in the band is HOT!"  Or, if there is no video, his evaluation of the song is qualified, with "Is she hot?"

Last week, Scott did my wife a kind favor.  He posted on his Facebook page, and his work's Facebook page, about my wife's new Art Workshops.

Of course, it was hugely appreciated.  But he couldn't resist baiting me . . .
Hey everyone, a friend of mine is giving private art lessons out of her recently renovated garage this summer (is the paint even dry?). She's super cool, wicked nice, extremely talented...and one other thing, what was it?...(help me out PJ Finn!) Check it out! http://www.facebook.com/theartshed
Okay, so how do you respond?

He's posting this to all his friends.  Most of whom, I don't know.

Do I sound like a douche, if I take the bait and say, "She's Hot!  My wife is Hot!"?

Then, thinking like a businessman, I wondered, if we're trying to promote Art Lessons would potential parents be turned off by the fact that we were promoting the teacher's hotness as a selling point?  It seemed unprofessional, and unseemly.

And then, my Father mode kicked in.  Did I really want to even think about the idea of pre-pubescent boys, oogling their art teacher, my wife?  Do I really want to encourage a "Stacy's Mom" thing?

Because here's the thing, I do think my wife is hot.  After all these years, and the kids, and the daily grind, I can still look at her and think that she's totally beautiful.  And I'm sure I always will.

(My very wise Aunt Peg told me that she and Uncle Joe still find each other attractive after 40-plus years of marriage, because their eyesight has failed in equal proportion.)

I thought about going for broke and responding to Scott by posting the "Hot For Teacher" video, and the thought of it made me laugh.

When this song came out 25 years ago, the Hot Teacher fantasy did run wild in my pre-pubescent brain.  And here I am all these years later, living with a totally hot teacher!

I kept looking at the thread below Scott's post, on and off for a good hour, before I finally settled on a comment that wasn't unprofessional, provocative, douche-y, and didn't miss the opportunity to tweak Scott back:
Does your wife read your posts?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Daft Punk "Around The World"

Here's another Weekend Post

I was sitting here, working on my blog.

My wife was sitting at her computer, doing some research on Frida Kahlo, because she is going to be doing a Frida-related lesson for her first workshop at our in-home Art Studio, The Art Shed.

"What does Daft Punk mean?" she asked.

"It's a band.  Where did you pull that name from?"

"Frida Kahlo is wearing a t-shirt that says 'Daft Punk.'"

Yeah, I don't think Daft Punk was around when she was, but it did give me an idea for today's Weekend Post . . .

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, July 21, 2012

Luce "Good Day"

I haven't written a "Random Ridiculous Songs That Have No Business Being Played In Public Again But I Heard In The Grocery Store Today" post in a long while, but I heard this one the other day and thought:

That's weird.

This is one of those songs that we played on mvyradio years ago.  We played it a little bit, but it never got a ton of traction, despite being reasonably catchy.  And I don't think it was a major hit anywhere else.

So why was it on the Grocery Store P.A. system, years after its shelf life?

My only guess is that some programmer, the kind that works for a satellite in-store-delivery station, liked the song.  And because it wasn't a big hit, it was cheap to license it.

It's a fun song for the cereal aisle!  Just random . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Everything But The Girl "Missing"

I had the strangest sensation as I drove by my old girlfriend's house.

My friend Tip had let me know that he would be visiting the East Coast with his kids and new wife, so I made plans to trek up to Rockport earlier this week for a visit with his family and my two small kids.

Tip had sent me directions, but I didn't give them too much thought until I pulled crossed the bridge into Gloucester, which I'd have to pass through on the way to Rockport.  I'd crossed that bridge many times in my early 20s, going to visit the girl from Gloucester that I dated through the end of college and into the first couple years of real life.

Mom always said, "Everybody gets one heartbreak," and this girl was it for me.  We had a deep relationship, and when it ended (and, to put the blame squarely in the right place, the end of things was largely my doing and fault), I was rudderless for a pretty long time.  Years, even.

It took me years just suss out where I had gone wrong, and more years to figure out how I was going to be a better person.  Years before the thought of her wasn't painful.  And years before every little damn thing---book, tv show, song, catchphrase, landmark, coffee cup, article of clothing, et cetera ad finitum---didn't remind me of her.

In my rudderless period, in the years I was living in Virginia, I had a roommate, who had the gone through the same kind of experience.  And for him, there was a house that he'd go by where all the good times had happened.  He'd drive by there and know that someone else lived there now and life had moved on.

When "Missing" came out, it struck a chord with him, and he'd play it when we was down.
I step off the train
I'm walkin' down your street again
And pass your door
But you don't live there anymore
It's years since you've been there
And now you've disappeared somewhere
Like outer space
You've found some better place
And because he played it often, whenever I heard it (mvy used to play it) I'd think of him and then think of me in my rudderless years.

So there I was, following Tip's directions to the beach house he had rented, realizing that I knew these streets, thinking that certainly the map would tell me to turn left at some point where I used to turn right.

But it didn't.  And soon I could see the hill that her house was on, off in the distance, coming closer.

This wouldn't be the first time I had gone by her house since our break-up.  At some point in the rudderless period, when I was home from Virginia visiting my folks, I was restless, unable to sleep.  I took the car and drove from my folks place in Newburyport, along the long and winding Route 1A until I reached the house where her parents lived, where I'd gone to visit her when we were on college break.  I knew she didn't live there, so I don't know what I was looking for, but I felt so sad inside.

She lived within walking distance of the beach, so I parked my car and stood on the sand.  It was late, but there was a woman off in the moonlit distance.  I knew there was no way it could possibly be my old girlfriend, but my mind kept telling me that, yeah, maybe it could be.  Then another voice from inside said, what if it is?  That thought terrified me.  I got back in my car and drove to Newburyport, far worse off, mentally, than when I'd just been restless in bed.

I wasn't thinking about this as I turned off my route to meet Tip, to get a look at the house.

I looked into the back seat and smiled at my kids.  "Daddy used to have a friend that lived in this neighborhood."

The house, on the whole, looked the same as it ever did, with a well-kept yard and a pretty set of bushes and a sloping driveway that tucked behind the house.

On the porch was a gigantic Red Sox banner.  And I knew right away that her parents must not live there anymore---that really wasn't their style.

I kept driving past, and got back on the route to see Tip.

I had the strangest sensation, as I drove away.


I didn't feel sadness.  Or pain.  Or regret.  Or hurt.

I had some warm memories of fun times we had, but it felt so far in the fuzzy past, that I couldn't help but notice that the feeling I was feeling, was missing.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pat Benatar "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

This one is not unlike last week's Huey Lewis/100th Monkey story . . .

Not only do different kids learn "cool" at different times, they learn about Sex at different times.

I remember listening to this song with my friend Brian, hanging out in my room.  My clock radio was cranked, and I was doing some badass 11-year-old pseudo-karate moves, in effect hitting things with my best shot.

Brian just looked at me and said, "That's not what she's talking about . . ."

She wasn't taking about boxing?  Or even some kind of metaphorical verbal sparring?

Good gracious! I thought.  She's talking about Sex!  **

Is it possible that other songs are about Sex too, and I have been completely unaware?

Long story short:  Yes.  Yes there are.

Hear the song on Youtube.

** Yes, I was the kind of 11 year old who might actually say "Good gracious."  It's no wonder I was late to Sex.  I was also really into Buddy Hackett.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Patty Griffin "I Smell A Rat"

Let the rumor-mongering continue!

It began earlier this week, when Robert Plant was talking to a journalist and said "I eloped and ran off to Texas."

His publicist later explained that Plant was just being "Cheeky" and was not actually married to singer-songwriter Patty Griffin.

If you've ever watched an unedited interview Plant, you know that he is hilarious, often wry, sometime deadpan, sometimes dry.  I'm sure the "eloped" quote was funny in the moment, but reads much more seriously than he meant it.

Okay, so he's not married to Patty Griffin.

But it does seem like the part about them being a couple is true.

Note that Griffin is on the bill for Newport Folk.

Shall we put 2 and 2 together and have it add up to unsubstantiated hysteria?

If you know anything about Robert Plant, you perhaps know that he is deeply interested in American Roots music, but has (to my knowledge) never appeared at the legendary Newport Folk Festival.

Do I smell a surprise appearance?

Or do I just smell a Jack-White-Is-Coming-To-Newport rat?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jenn Grinels "Right From The Start"

Here's another suggestion for those independent artists who want to protect their investment and coax good things from the universe.

Maybe you should name your CD something like "Indestructible," or "Safely In Your Hands" or "Delivered By The Post Office With Maximum Efficiency And Care."

Because it seems like you are just asking for trouble if you name your CD "Broken Heartbreaker" and in fact have "Broken" and "Breaker" in large print on the cover.

Care to guess in what condition Jenn Grinels CD arrived in?

And you think that's just a coincidence?

Care to guess in what condition a second copy of the CD arrived in?

Yep, the unthinking, unfeeling, unknowable universe does like a good ironic chuckle.

Both CDs weren't just scuffed or dinged.  Both were cracked into pieces.  And strangely, there was nothing wrong with the jewel cases.  Just the discs were damaged.  Hrumph.

So we requested a third copy, which did arrive intact.

But I'm a little nervous to put it in our CD player, without dressing in some kind of protective gear first.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Robert Preston "Ya Got Trouble"

There is a long-running . . . let's call it "debate" between me and my wife about what makes a good song.

She does not enjoy, and will not listen to any artist whose music and/or voice, is secondary to their lyrical ability.

I, on the other hand, enjoy artists who don't necessarily have a great singing voice who or deliver their songs is a strummy, unadorned way, but whose words pack an emotional wallop.

Despite the fact that it's over 40 years old, I can listen to Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding," and be stunned and amazed each and every time.

But to my wife, that song, with it's repetitive meter and bare bones instrumentation is about as interesting as a 4 year old humming through an empty cardboard paper towel roll (which we listen to a lot, due to having a small child).

To her way of thinking, if it is not musically interesting, it, by definition can not be a good song.  Period.  End of sentence.  End of argument.

Sure, "It's Alright Ma" can be considered great poetry.  But it is not great music.  And if it's not great music, she's not really interested in listening.  Or so she argues.

Naturally, I think that line of thinking is limiting, and a bit crazy.

I can easily love a song that that is musically wonderful, but lyrically vapid, or lame, or simply average.  "Wooly Bully" isn't Shakespeare, but it's a hell of a song.

Conversely, I am also totally willing to listen to a song that is simply strummed, or a bit monotone, or is delivered in a wavering or warbly voice, so long as the lyrics make me feel something.

Johnny Cash, or Springsteen's "Nebraska" or Gillian Welch might sound a little downbeat, or spare, or same-y from song to song, but the writing involved is incredible.

My wife and I will go back and forth about this for car trips on end, with no resolution in sight . . .

After we'd plumbed the depths of this discussion for the 87th time, I did start thinking about how both my wife and I grew up.

She always points out that her parents met, because they liked to dance.  Growing up, she was taken to shows like Sly And The Family Stone, and her folks played records from Earth Wind And Fire and Stevie Wonder.  The music was about the groove.

Meanwhile, over at the Finn household, growing up we listened to a lot of Show Tunes.  I loved Fiddler On The Roof, My Fair Lady, A Chorus Line and especially The Music Man.  (Yes, there weren't too many 4th Graders in my town, who loved Buddy Hackett like I did)

Here's the thing about Show Tunes:  Sure, some of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century, wrote some of the greatest pieces of music of the 20th Century, for Musicals.  But what the songs in Musicals are really about, are the lyrics.

In Musicals, songs are exposition, or show the character's true inner feelings, or resolve a particular plot point.  The songs are saying something, and the words are essential.

And that, I guess, is where we are coming from.  You don't need to know what Sly is saying, to love his music, but where would a musical be, without the lyrics?

Hear "Ya Got Trouble" on Youtube.

Hear Bob Dylan on Youtube.

Hear "Wooly Bully" on Youtube.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cornershop "Brimful Of Asha"

Here's another Weekend Post:

This one is just so charming and unique, and clearly the band is good.  But even though they've put out acclaimed music since then, they haven't really hit upon anything as accessible as this . . .

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, July 14, 2012

Elastica "Connection"

Here's another Weekend Post:

This one was such an insane smash, it's hard to believe that they never really got it together to produce anything half as memorable.

Due to lawsuits (from other bands claiming plagiarism), it took them 4 years to get a second album out, upon the release of which, they broke up.

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, July 13, 2012

The Kinks "Come Dancing"

When I first envisioned this blog, and settled on the theme of writing about single songs and the things they remind me of, the absolute first thing that came to mind was . . .

David's Fish Market and my sister Julie.

I feel like there are large parts of my childhood that involve being in the car with my mother and my siblings, and my mother pulling into the parking lot of a store and saying, "Can you guys just stay in the car, while I do this quick errand?"

Being a parent now, I totally get it---taking your kids into a store it is a total hassle, when you're just trying to get something done.

So when we were old enough, Mom would just leave us in the car.  And when we were old enough to be trusted, Mom would leave us in the car and let us keep the keys so we could listen to the radio.

It was on one such occasion, when Mom wanted fish for dinner, that she left me and my sister Julie in the Dodge Caravan while she went into David's Fish Market in Salisbury. 

The Kinks "Come Dancing" came on the radio and we sang along.

Honestly, I can't recall that there was anything too special about the moment.  We just sang along and enjoyed the tune, and the parent-free 5 minutes.

But for years after that, whenever we'd be someplace and "Come Dancing" would come on, Julie and I would look at each other and say, "David's Fish Market!"

Every Day, I write about what a song reminds me of, and usually it has some deeper meaning or context or metaphor.  But sometimes, the song is just a simple reminder of the pleasure of singing a song with your sister, on an otherwise mundane trip to pick up some fish.

It's Julie's birthday today.  Happy Birthday, Sister!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

John Mayer "Queen Of California"

As I've written before, I've got some ambivalent feelings about John Mayer.

At times, I've been a John Mayer apologist, saying that even if you don't like his Middle-Of-The-Road-Singer-Songwriter Stuff, don't write him off.  If he can stand on the Crossroads stage with Clapton, et al, then he's For Real, and someday he may make a record you'll like.

And at other times, I just haven't been able to embrace Mayer at all.

The problem with the former of the two arguments, is that there hasn't been a ton of evidence to support it, at least as far as radio songs go.

But with "Queen Of California" I feel like I have something to talk about.

Now, how much you like this song is entirely dependent on your appreciation for a certain Classic Jam Band, but for me, the playing, the music, the groove on this track brings out something I haven't felt before, about Mayer's music.  There's a level of substance there that was heretofore lacking for me.

Maybe in a few albums, the idea of being an apologist will fade, and I can just be a fan.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Postscript: While I wanted to write something positive, because I really, sincerely love this track, I can't let it go without saying that there's an amazing lyric, that drives me just a little bit nuts.  "Joni wrote 'Blue' in a house by the sea/I gotta believe there's another color waiting on me."  While, at first, I was struck by the cleverness of the line, I then was kinda put off because it sounds like John is equating himself with one of the most acclaimed songwriters of all time, suggesting that he probably has an album on the level of "Blue" within him.  Change the line to "I wanna believe . . ." and it takes out the certainty of his statement.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AC/DC "Jailbreak"

Here's how it went:  I would slip silently through the halls, doing my best to remain invisible.  I'd appear in her doorway, looking for sanctuary.  She would grab a loose piece of paper, from somewhere within her reach.  It might be from a roll.  It might be newsprint.  It might be a corner ripped off some instructions.  In pencil, she'd quickly scrawl an unintelligible line and say, "Come right back."

I'd present the piece of paper.  Which again, could be a tiny corner, or a sheet the size of a full newspaper.  Either way, her signature was only took up two inches of real estate.

"What is this?" the Study Hall teacher would ask.

"Mrs. Laganas says I can come to the Art Room for Study Hall."

"Can't she use a permission slip like everyone else?" the Study Hall teacher would ask, rhetorically.

This piece of paper didn't just grant me access to the Art Room.  Equally importantly, it granted me freedom from Study Hall.

Depending on who the Study Hall teacher was, Study Hall at my school was either a detention-like 45 minutes held in complete silence, or, perhaps worse, it was a kind of unrestricted social time, where the goal was to just basically keep the kids corralled for the period.  The latter was actually harder for me, as a teen, because I was horribly uncomfortable in all but the most familiar social situations.  I was fine among my few best friends.  But having to make conversation with anyone beyond that was an excruciating experience during my teenage years (which, if you've only known me as an adult who's profession is public speaking, you must find hilariously ironic).

So any opportunity to avoid social scrutiny, was welcome.

And Mrs. Laganas was welcoming.

If you had a free period, and she liked you well enough (ie. she knew that you weren't going to show that permission slip to your Study Hall teacher, then go to McDonalds), she'd let you come hang out in the Art Room.

So I went there at every free opportunity, found a corner to work in, and put my head into a drawing.  If Mrs. Laganas had a big class in session, she'd let me hide in the supply closet and do my work.

Sometimes, she'd have projects/assignments for me.  Perspective.  Figure drawing.  Oil painting.

This is from a photo take before the game after their famous brawlBut most of the time, I was on my own, drawing.

"You have an eye," she used to say.

I could draw.  Actually, I could illustrate.  I had this natural ability to look at a photograph or picture, and draw it exactly.

I wasn't all that imaginative.  I didn't paint from my mind.  I didn't even really draw from real life.

I drew album covers.  And Rolling Stone magazine pictures.  And Sports Illustrated photos.  Athletes and Rock Stars and Models and such.

For 45 minutes my head would be down near the table, my eyes darting back and forth between the photo and the white piece of paper.  And when the period ended, I'd pop my work back in the magazine, and head off to the next class.

You can see where I taped this to my bedroom wall
At home that night, I'd be back in the Art Room---this time, my bedroom---head back in the picture, AC/DC on the boombox (which was, ridiculously, set at the absolute lowest setting possible so as not to alert anyone that I was still awake at this late hour, drawing when I should be in bed).

I'd be in a world where I drew the lines and I didn't have to say a word to anyone.

It was a sanctuary and a coping mechanism that got me though the long awkward stretch of youth.

Postscript:  How cool is it that I married an Art Teacher?  And that my house is about to become an Art Room?  My friend Mike Palmer (with minimal help from me) spent last weekend renovating our garage, to make a studio space, and my wife is offering day camps for kids and evening classes for adults, right out of The Art Shed (the site is live, but not finished . . .).

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Delta Rae "Bottom Of The River"

My office is directly below the studio (trolls and Program Directors live in basements), and there's nothing more entertaining than when the DJ above is really rocking out to a song.

I can hear if they are tapping their feet, or hand-drumming on the console, or if they are jumping up and down to the rocking beat.  And if their singing or whooping is loud enough, I can hear that too.

I'm especially curious to hear these sounds, when I know that the DJ is experiencing the song for the first time.

I'm usually in my office during Barbara's "What's New For Lunch" segment.  And though she invariably previews the track, we know that you don't really experience the track until it's on the air, going out to the world, and you have the speakers up to listen.

So many times, I've checked out a song, not because I was listening to the radio.  Heck, I might have even had the radio off.  Sometimes I'm moved to go hear a band, because I heard the sound of someone first reacted to the song.

A week or so back, I needed some last minute coverage for Barbara who was not feeling well, so Laurel stepped in.  It's not common for Laurel to fill in for Barbara, but it happens once in a blue moon.

Barbara had already picked out the songs she was planning to play that day, so Laurel was able to jump right in.

I could hear some wild yelps of "YEAH!!! WOOOO!!!" coming from the studio, and at the end of the shift, Laurel emerged from the studio to tell me that she'd been moved by the spirit of Delta Rae's "Bottom Of The River."

I can see why she was moved.  I'm surprised she didn't stomp through the floor on this one . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Huey Lewis & The News "Do You Believe In Love"

Do you know what "100th Monkey Effect" is?

Here's the short version:

Scientists observed Monkeys in the wild.  They noticed that a few monkeys were washing their sweet potatoes.  And each day, they noticed that a few more monkeys were also washing their sweet potatoes before eating them.  This seemed to follow a normal pattern of simple observation and repetition.  However, at a certain point---when over 100 monkeys were now washing their sweet potatoes, an incredible phenomenon happened.  The following day, ALL the monkeys---thousands of them---were washing their sweet potatoes.

Their collective knowledge had reached a critical mass, and spread to the entire population via unknown means.

The 100th Monkey Effect explains how ideas flow into the stream of the collective unconscious to reach us all.

Of course, the 100th Monkey Effect story seems to be a complete hoax.  Having no real basis in scientific fact, it has been widely debunked.

And yet, I find it to be the most reasonable explanation for the awkward moment that occurred during an 8th grade sleepover.

I can't remember who's birthday it was, but I remember that 4 or 5 of my best friends were sleeping over someone's house for a birthday.  This was 1982, the when MTV was still brand new.

Bands that no one had ever heard of, were suddenly becoming hugely popular, on the basis of silly little film clips that aired round the clock on the channel.

My friends and I were excited about pretty much any fun band with a fun video, especially if the video featured a good looking woman---hey, we were teenage boys, you'd expect no less.

Quarterflash, Aldo Nova, Adam Ant, The Tubes, Wall Of Voodoo, we didn't discriminate.

But something weird happens when you turn from a pre-teen to a teen.

"We should go see Huey Lewis!" I enthused to the group of friends.

(The stage direction here should read:  Blank, slightly disdainful stares.)

I thought it was a great idea.  And I didn't understand what part of my statement seemed confusing to my friends.

"He's playing at Hampton Beach Casino next week!"

There was another long moment of silence.

The someone simply said, "Uh.  No . . ." and the other guys laughed weakly.  And the subject was changed.

Now I know these guys liked that Huey Lewis video.  I'd watched it with some of them before.  My God, it showed a woman in a bed!  And clearly the band was sleeping over.  Sexy!

But somewhere between being a pre-Teen and a Teen, Cool happens.

Cool doesn't become part of every kid's consciousness at the same time.  Some kids become Cool later than others.  And frankly, some kids never learn that they should wash their sweet potatoes.

I don't believe my group of friends ever had discussed it, but somehow a critical mass of them had arrived at the notion that Huey Lewis was not cool.

And unbeknownst to me, I had not yet stepped into the stream of Cool, leading me to an icy silence.

It's awkward, when you are the 101st monkey.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Morphine "Cure For Pain"

Here's another Weekend Post:

A friend mentioned that 15 years had passed (as of this week) since Mark Sandman of Morphine passed away.

And I thought of this song, when I was posting yesterday's tune. 

There may never be a cure for stupidity or apathy, but maybe someday, "there'll be a cure for pain . . . "

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, July 7, 2012

Harvey Danger "Flagpole Sitta"

Here's another Weekend Post:

I thought of this song this week, when I read about a poll on people's understanding of the Supreme Court's decision on the Healthcare Act.

Despite the fact that it was one of the most anticipated political news events of the year, despite the fact that countless hours of TV and radio and countless pages/bit have been typed in print and online leading up to and immediately following, still, 45% of the people polled either incorrectly thought that the Court struck down the law, or simply didn't know what had happened either way.

Like it, don't like it, either way, it seems like you'd have to actually go out of your way to not be aware of it.  And yet, almost half of your neighbors are clueless.

The line the came to mind from this song?

"I've been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding . . ."

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, July 6, 2012

Mary Lou Lord "His Indie World"

Exiting the Wilco show at The Orpheum, we had a nice after-show treat.

My brother-in-law and I were going to hop to T and head back to his place in Somerville, but we hung around the station, because Mary Lou Lord was there.

I know she's not a huge, worldwide name, but at that point in her career (2001-ish), she was well known enough that she could book gigs at respectable venues.  She didn't have to busk to get an audience.

But she did it anyway, which I always thought was pretty cool.

Actually, don't know why more artists aren't out there.

For those who say they play because they have to, it seems like a great way to work.  Kind of like a comedian who does an unannounced set at a tiny club as a way to try out material, busking is a great chance to try out new songs on an audience, without subjecting something un-vetted on a paying crowd.

She took requests and I called out for some Richard Thompson.  Later she played an updated version of "His Indie World" changing it to something like "His Roots Rock World" substituting the hip indie bands in the original, for hip Alt-Roots bands of the day.

I always wanted to work the line in the original, about "Give me my Joni, my Nick, Neil and Bob" into something for mvy, because it seemed to fit us so well.  And our listeners would be sure to get the reference of the title of her song "Jingle Jangle Morning."  And "Lights Are Changing" just sounds like a song we should be playing.

But I don't see her on mvyradio when I hear these songs, I see Mary Lou Lord in the Park Street Station stop of the T, just playing her songs, happily, for those who wanted to stop and listen.

Hear "His Indie World" on Youtube.

Hear "Lights Are Changing" on Youtube.

Hear "Some Jingle Jangle Morning" on Youtube.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Avett Brothers "Live And Die"

I remember when Mumford And Sons broke through a couple of years ago, with their banjo-led rock-and-roots approach, I heard more than a few people say:

If I were The Avett Brothers, I'd be pretty irritated.

So here we are, over 2 years since "Sigh No More" and nearly 3 years since "I And Love And You," and The Avetts are on the verge of releasing a new album, and Mumford And Sons has a new one due in the September.

Both records stand to garner a lot of attention, press, airplay and ear-time.

I just can't think of a time when the banjo had the chance to move to the fore-front of music in such a way . . .

Hear the song on Youtube.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Schoolhouse Rocks "Fireworks"

When my wife and I first became parents, we did a lot of reading to prepare ourselves.

Maybe too much reading.

There are lots of horrible, scary things to be horribly scared about, as parents.

One bit of advice for parents-to-be:  Don't read "What To Expect When You're Expecting" from front to back.  Just use it like a reference book, and look up stuff as you have question.  If you read the full laundry list of everything that can go wrong, about every possible orifice that can ooze fluid from, about every disease you and your baby might possibly have, you'll lose your f-n mind.

We read a lot about TV, and TV consumption by kids.

Most research says to limit your child's TV time.  Some suggest that an hour of TV is too much.  Others say that any kid until 2 years old should not watch any television whatsoever, for fear of warping their small brains.

So early on, we didn't even have the TV on, if the kid was awake.

But slowly, slowly, we started letting her watch.  And when the 2nd kid arrived, we were much looser about the whole thing.

The turning point for me, was when my daughter would start telling me about the things she learned on PBS.  Having a 3 year old explain to you what a herbivore is or what nocturnal means, did make me thing that her mind was not shut off when she was watching a show.

And I thought about my own childhood.

I can still recite the entire Preamble to the Constitution. 

How?  Not because of something I learned in a classroom.  I learned it from Schoolhouse Rocks.

They set the Preamble to music, and even today, I can still sing the whole thing.

I first learned that a noun is "a person place or thing" from Schoolhouse Rocks.  And I knew exactly what qualified as an interjection from their song on the subject.

So when I was thinking of a song to post for the 4th of July, I thought this one would be good.

Names like Phillip Livingston and Roger Sherman may not have otherwise crossed your lips today, but it's good to remember some of the details that make up Independence Day.

Happy 4th!

Hear the song on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Liz Phair "Dotted Line"

I can't think of another artist I have this issue with . . .

Liz Phair has done some work that I find exceptional.  And she has done some work that . . . well . . . I just can't make sense of.

Maybe its because she seemed to appear, via "Exile In Guyville" with a persona fully realized and in tact, that her subsequent  . . . uh, I'm not sure what to call them . . . reinventions?  Stabs at commercial viability?  Casting about for something that sticks? . . . whatever they were, they just didn't appeal to me, at all.

Because it hasn't seemed like she knows who she is, I don't know who she is.  And because I don't know who she is, I have a lack of trust in any of Liz Phair's new work.

Here's a new song that appears in the movie "People Like Us."

My first reaction upon seeing the CD come in was, "Ugh, a new Liz Phair tune?"

My reaction on listening was, "Hey, I think this is actually a pretty decent song."

My reaction on listening again was, "Is this a good song?"

That's the thing.  I feel like I can't trust my own judgement here.

Can you hear this song out of the context of all her previous work?  Is this a good song?

Hear the song on Youtube.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bill Haley & The Comets "Rock Around The Clock"

My Great Grandfather helped build Fenway Park.  How about that!

I had no idea, but learned this via the Baccari Family's Facebook Group, earlier this year.  My Mom's cousins started the group, to put together a family reunion for the many generations that have descended from my mother's mother's parents, and family members have been posting pictures and telling family stories online.

My Great Grandfather was a mason who worked on what sports fans consider the holiest of baseball shrines, to the most American of Pastimes.  He took pride in his work, and I learned (on the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park this year), and that he was apparently in the stands on opening day to enjoy the game!

You know what my Great Grandfather did not do very well?

Speak English.

Not that he was unintelligible.  Or non-conversant in English.  What I mean, is that he was an Italian immigrant.  English was not his first language.  He worked at it, and did his best.  But he spoke with an accent that any "Real American" would peg as "foreign."

I remember being in my early 20s, walking through a Mall with my Mom.  Two workers (wearing shirts from one of the local stores, but on-break, walking near the Food Court) walked past me and my Mom, speaking a language I did not understand.

"If you come here, you should speak English," my Mom said to me, off-handedly.

I spat out a retort:  "Did Noni Pa speak English when he was with his friends?  Did he speak English with a heavy accent?!  Would you say the same thing to him?"

To her credit, she got it.  And I think there is probably still a part of her that thinks about her own Grandparents, when she hears the sound of people who's first language is not English.

Bopping around Facebook, I see people posting "This Is America, Speak English or get the Fuck Out!!!" kind of blather, and yeah, I think of my Great Grandparents, who came from Italy as teenage immigrants.

My memories of my Great Grandather, Giovanni, who we called Noni Pa, are pretty limited, so I only have a vague sense of the quality of his English.  He died when I was young.  But his wife Donata lived into her 90s.  And despite her 70+ years in this country, her accent was so thick and her grammar could be so fractured, that I even in my late teens, I often had trouble understanding what she was saying.

Yeah, Noni Ma and Noni Pa didn't Speak English well enough by the standards of those who would post stuff like this:

You know what my Great Grandparents did do?

They loved the hell out of this country.  Noni Ma crotcheted "God Bless America" and proudly displayed it in their home.  They worked their asses off, starting their lives in America with virtually no money.  They raised eleven kids (I know, I can hear the anti-immigration folks screaming "Anchor Babies!" right now).  And those eleven kids raised generations of good Americans.

Giovanni and Donata begat children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are scientists and teachers and nurses and accountants and builders.  Baccari Family members served in World War II, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I just learned this week, a distant family member was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Noni Ma's nephew was Danny Cedrone, who was inducted in back in the Spring as a part of The Comets, Bill Haley's backing band.  Cedrone is credited with as lead guitarist on Haley's version of "Rocket 88," which is considered to be one of the first Rock And Roll songs.  And he played the solo on "Rock Around The Clock."  People like Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Danny Gatton, Brian Setzer and The Reverend Horton Heat are just a few of the folks who have cited that solo as an influence on their work.

You can't get more American than Rock And Roll.

It's the 4th of July this week.  People want to celebrate Real Americans.

The real Americans are the ones who built stadiums and fought in Wars and brought their instruments and fixed your wounds and ran the local charities and worked tirelessly to make sure their own kids grew up to be educated, hard-working, respectful citizens.

Our country was built by people who spoke with an accent you might find funny.  And if you are too stupid to respect that, then maybe you are the one who doesn't know what it takes to be a Real American.

Hear the song on Youtube.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bare Jr. "You Blew Me Off"

Here's another Weekend Post:

Like yesterday, more adrenaline.  Though this one resonated with me less.

In in 90s, if "she blew me off," it didn't turn me on.  No, it was more likely to send me into the studio to play the Velvet Crush song, and forget about her

But I still liked bouncing around to this one.

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.