Category Archives: Music

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

We’re in a somewhat less isolated period of the pandemic right now. But since I’ve done songs with lonely in the title, it’s only fair to post some lonesome songs. I don’t want them feeling either neglected or, well, lonesome.

We begin with the King:

What’s a collection of lonesome songs without Hank Williams?

The last word goes to my favorite Jersey Boys:

Ode To Billy Joe

 

My friend Alison Fensterstock reminded the Tweeter Tube what day it is: June 3rd. That means it’s time to revisit a timeless classic:

Alison the aforementioned posted another version of the song. I like it:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: I’ll Remember You

Since the 76th Anniversary of D-Day is 3 days off,  I googled D-Day albums. I did not expect to find anything other than spoken word records. Instead, I found I’ll Remember You by The D-Day Darlings a British women’s choir. They, of course, specialize in the music of World War II and were 2018 finalists on the teevee show, Britain’s Got Talent.

Here are two videos from the album:

More Trouble Every Day

It’s the first day of the hurricane season. It may be an active one, which is particularly fraught during the pandemic. But neither the pandemic nor hurricane season is the subject of this edition of Songs For The Pandemic.

I think you know what I have in mind: the ongoing protests that were inspired by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis but have taken on a life of their own.

Frank Zappa wrote the original Trouble Every Day in 1966 after the Watts riots. It was the centerpiece of the aptly named Freak Out album, but I prefer the live More Trouble Every Day featuring the soulful vocals of George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock:

Bob Marley wrote Burnin’ and Lootin’ for The Wailers’ 1973 album, Burnin’. It was inspired by the same sort of rage and frustration that we’re seeing on our streets 47 years later. I don’t believe in second sight, but if I did, I’d think that Bob Marley had it.

Next up are two tunes inspired by the 1967 Detroit riots. First, Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot was so perturbed by these events that he wrote this song:

The last word goes to John Lee Hooker. The great bluesman lived in Detroit during the 1940’s so he always felt a special attachment to the Motor City:

 

 

Wake Me Up On Judgment Day

I wrote this post yesterday morning. Since it’s about the big picture, I’ve let it be. The details will remain in dispute for quite some time. Besides, I can’t top A’s Sunday eloquence:

I appropriated the phrase The Fog of History in 2014 during the Ferguson police riot. That’s why it fits our current situation so well even if the image from The Lady From Shanghai isn’t precisely on point; it’s still cool. There *are* echoes of 1967 and 1968 but the context is not the same. A lot of pent-up anger and frustration has been vented on the streets of many of our cities; both short-term and long-term.

The short-term frustrations involve the pandemic and economic calamity brought on us by the Trump regime’s grotesque incompetence. People have been cooped-up for two months, so part of the unrest is down to stir craziness as well as the Kaiser of Chaos’ need to constantly stir the pot. Chaos is all he knows. He has neither the foggiest notion of how to unite the country nor the slightest inclination to do so. He just stirs the pot: consequences be damned. Fuck you. Donald.

The long-term frustrations involve the original reason for the protests, police brutality and racist violence against people of color. The encounter between George Floyd and MPD Officer Derek Chauvin was brief and brutish. It cost Floyd his life and Chauvin his job, which is not a fair trade off for such a cold-blooded act.

Charges have been filed against Chauvin. Allow me to put my lawyer hat on for a minute. The reason he’s been charged with 3rd degree homicide and manslaughter is a pragmatic one. Prosecutors will not have to prove INTENT, which is one reason police prosecutions often fall short. Defense lawyers invariably use a combination of self-defense and resisting arrest arguments to defeat murder charges. Removing intent from the equation strikes me as wise. I think there *was* intent, but convicting Chauvin is the most important thing. The recent case of Philando Castile is a bitter reminder that juries almost always defer to the cop’s judgment.

I nearly leapt into the murky waters of this story on Friday. But I wanted to have a better idea of who was responsible for the arson and looting and why it happened. The fog has lifted somewhat, and it appears that the worst of the non-police violence was instigated by far right and far left extremists. Shorter Adrastos: I see white people.

For all we know, it’s an unholy combination of the extremes. The right-wing extremists want to provoke a race war and the left-wing extremists want to provoke “the revolution” whatever the hell that means in the American context. Thus far, they’re making the streets of some cities look like Berlin in 1930.

The far right and far left have often converged in our history. I’ve closely studied the post-World War II Red Scare and it’s replete with stories of committed communists becoming McCarthyite witch hunters. Whitaker Chambers is the best example. He went from being a Soviet spy to an editor at Time Magazine, which was a festering pit of anti-communist fervor back then. That concludes this brief history lesson.

Back to the current unrest. I’m relieved that much of the violence is down to white extremist agent provocateurs as I think looting and arson are stupid. As Minnesota native Bob Dylan put it in a 1966 song, Absolutely Sweet Marie: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.”

I expect the Kaiser of Chaos and his supporters will overplay their hand and the pot stirring will blow up in their faces. People want their president to lead, not tweet and incite violence from the White House bunker. Any other president would have urged calm and asked both sides to stand down. President* Pennywise is incapable of such leadership. As our Scout Prime said the other day on Twitter, “I wish we had a president.”

I’m not making any other political or legal predictions about recent events. I’m keeping my head down and rationing my news and social media intake. Shit was already hard enough before this shit went down. Repeat after me: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I realize Wake Me Up On Judgment Day is an odd title for an agnostic to use. It’s the title of a song on an album that’s been my “happy place” this weekend, Steve Winwood’s Back In The High Life Again. That’s why Winwood gets the last word with a song that reflects my unrealistic desire to hibernate until the shit is scraped off the proverbial fan.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Is That All There Is?

Self Portrait After The Spanish Flu by Edvard Munch.

My sleep pattern remains wacked out. This lifelong night person has become a morning writer. I’ve even awakened before Dr. A a few times and fed the cat. Both she and PD were disoriented. Such is life during the pandemic.

I decided to use one of Edvard Munch’s lesser known works as this week’s featured image. It’s a reminder than one can survive even the worst pandemic. It also explains why he was such a Gloomy Gus. Of course, he was Norwegian; it goes with the territory.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1968. They shopped it around before finding the perfect singer: Peggy Lee. I’ll have more about Miss Peggy Lee and our theme song after the jump.

We have two versions of Is That All There Is? for your listening pleasure: the Peggy Lee original and a swell cover by the woman whose name I cannot stop saying, Chaka Khan. It’s a mantra in my family and it should be in yours. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.

Our next musical pairing involves a title that’s similar to Miss Peggy Lee’s last hit. To add to the needless complexity of this post, they’re different tunes.

You say this, I say that. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Now that we’ve questioned everything, let’s take a dubious leap of faith and jump to the break

Continue reading

Friday Cocktail Hour: Whiskey You’re The Devil

Ever since I started this feature, I planned for it to transition away from the Songs Of The Pandemic. It’s here to stay; eventually we’ll even skip the drinking songs thing but not just yet.

While I love the song Whiskey You’re The Devil, I don’t agree with its message. Vodka is the devil. That’s why I call it Russian Death Juice.

Whiskey You’re The Devil is an Irish song and it doesn’t get more Irish than the Clancy brothers or the Pogues.

Dear Doctor

The Hotel Doctor post was a rousing success so it’s time for a few doctor songs. Given the times in which we live, these tunes will make house calls because office visits are fraught. I wonder if the hotel doctor would wear a mask?  .

When I throw these posts together, it’s usually off the top of my head. I make no pretense to be comprehensive in my selections. In fact, I enjoy having missing songs pointed out to me, especially if I’ve never heard them before. New music is always welcome. Today’s selections are mostly old favorites so I’ve contradicted myself again. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

We begin our journey with some country doctor honk from the Rolling Stones.

We move from a Beggar’s Banquet to a feast for one’s eyes. I’m talking about Jackson himself. He remains a sensitive sex symbol after all these years.

I hate the term yacht rock so much that I refuse to capitalize it. It’s vague, meaningless, and a slur on sophisticated bands like Steely Dan. It makes me want to call Doctor Wu to ask if Katy really lied.

I mentioned Doctor Feelgood earlier today. Here’s Aretha with the details.

Next up is one from some hometown heroes with one of their most Little Feat-like songs.  It’s followed immediately by a house call from Lowell George and company.

It’s important to get a second opinion. In this case it’s a dissenting one. The last word goes to Humble Pie:

Medicine

I wrote a rare, for me, angry post this morning. It felt good but I need a cure for what ails me. Music usually does the trick.

I’ve posted songs of loneliness, insomnia, time displacement, and other alienated anthems. This time, we’ll focus on that which makes us feel better: Medicine. I’m skipping the Mary Poppins tune because, while I’m feeling better, I’m not feeling chirpy enough for spoonfuls of sugar and the like.

We begin our medicinal musical entry with a song from the pride of Glasgow, Del Amitri:

Next up, the great Aimee Mann who’s busy spinning the medicine wheel.

We continue with two different tunes with the same title. The first is an instrumental written by George Benson and Crusaders’ keyboard player, Joe Sample.

The second Medicine Man was recorded in 1991 by the late, great Johnny Winter. It’s  a bluesy rocker written by Robbie Fisher and Henley Douglas.

Finally, the last word goes to one of my all-time favorite Traffic tunes. It was more often than not their opening number in concert:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Arnold Schoenberg

In addition to being a trailblazing composer, Arnold Schoenberg was a talented painter. Below are two covers featuring the composer’s artwork. The first is a self-portrait, which spoils my chance to make a joke about “long hair music.” So it goes.

Here’s one of the shorter pieces from the first album:

 

Friday Cocktail Hour: John Barleycorn

Let’s cross the pond for some bibulous folk music. Rumor has it that the Brits like to tipple even with all the pubs closed. At least I hope they’re still closed. I know some Thatcherites are getting antsy. Freedom, man.

We’re going to keep it simple this week and post multiple versions of the same song. It’s known as both John Barleycorn and John Barleycorn Must Die.

In case you’re wondering who the hell John Barleycorn is:

The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

It’s hard to be a metaphor but John Barleycorn has borne it with grace for centuries.

We begin with two of the finest recent practitioners of traditional folk music, Martin Carthy, and the late Dave Swarbrick:

Martin Carthy is one of the leading members of the Waterson-Carthy family. It has various branches and tributaries including his wife Norma Waterson and his fiddler daughter, Eliza Carthy. The next bit of Barleycorn comes from the Imagined Village album and features Paul Weller along with the odd Carthy and a more modern sound starting with the second verse:

Up next, a John Barleycorn I’d never heard until today. It’s a typically tricky Tull arrangement featuring the Greek singer George Dalaras:

John Barleycorn sung with a Greek accent? Now I’ve heard everything.

Finally, you didn’t think I’d skip the Traffic version, did you? It was the first rendition of John Barleycorn I heard as a wee laddie:

The last word goes to cartoon Frank, Dino, and Sammy:

Home Is Where The Heart Is

In this edition of Songs For The Pandemic, we focus on the home front. One home in particular, mine. It’s Dr A and my anniversary today. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be home bound with.  As Maybe Cousin Telly would surely say at this point:

That brings me to today’s music. Songs about home: being there, going there, losing your way, and finding your way home.

Our first selection comes from our friends in Fairport Convention. I say friends because Dr A and I met them on our grand English music tour in 2007 and they’re all nicer than nice:

While we’re on the subject of hearts and home, a tune from a former Fairporter or is that ex-Conventioneer?

Can you handle another Winwood song? Just lose yourself in the music:

After wandering about, it’s time to head home.

When you finally return home, it’s time to proclaim: This Must Be The Place:

Open

I’m skeptical about the efforts to “reopen” the economy. Why is it always the economy, not parks or schools? Oh yeah, money.

For your listening pleasure, we have three songs with open in the title. None were hits but I like them. Maybe you will too. The titles get longer as the post goes on. Do you detect a pattern or just patter?

First, Squeeze goes to church; a wedding to be exact. That’s right, a Difford and Tilbrook gospel song:

Next up is the title track of the worst album Yes ever recorded but what a title track. It features swell harmonies from Anderson, Squire, and Sherwood as well as typically stellar bass work by Chris Squire:

Finally, some fusion era jazz from the great Flora Purim featuring another great bass player, Alphonso Johnson:

The Age Of Overkill

It’s hard to know where to start some days. There’s so much happening that my mind reels like the drunk monkey in the ancient koan. Overkill is the koan of the realm in 2020. Pun intended; it always is.

It should come as no surprise that there’s rot at the core of the federal government. The Impeached Insult Comedian has been on a firing bender of late. A sinister one indeed: he’s been firing Inspectors General. They’re the ones in charge of keeping the various departments on the straight and narrow. That’s impossible during the Trump regime. Straight is out, crooked is in. It’s the age of overkill, after all.

The most worrisome of the firings is at the State Department where Mike Pompeo was being investigated for various abuses of power including turning his staff into servants. Inspectors Generals frown on civil servants walking their bosses’ dog. They’re only supposed to walk government dogs but since they don’t exist, dog walking is out.

I wonder if anyone in Trumpistan is literate enough to be familiar with Nikolai Gogol’s satirical play The Inspector General aka The Government Inspector. It mocked corrupt provincial officials in Tsarist Russia. In 1949, Hollywood reduced Gogol’s biting satire to imbecilic farce. Imbecilic farce certainly describes the Trump regime’s bumbling response to COVID-19. Make that deadly imbecilic farce.

Notice Danny Kaye’s orange skin in the poster below. I hesitate to make a Trump comparison since Kaye was a leading Hollywood liberal. Besides, he had much better hair than the Kaiser of Chaos:

Back to Gogol. Perhaps Mike Flynn discussed him in one of his many conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. You know, the ones he lied about to protect himself and President* Pennywise.

In other news, Trump has been making outlandish and untrue statements on a daily basis. No surprise there: he’s the personification of overkill, after all. He gave a whole new meaning to the term American exceptionalism with this deeply stupid remark:

When we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing — I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. … So I view it as a badge of honor, really.

Really? A badge of honor? The only good thing about this loony remark is that it gives me an excuse to post this:

Where is my badge? Indeed, sir.

You’ve surely heard the Trumpian claim that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine to keep the coronavirus at bay. He’s lying, deeply stupid or both. Given what Nancy Smash called his “morbid obesity,” I wonder if he’s ingesting these instead:

It’s hard to top that sight gag. Attempting to do so would be overkill.

The last word goes to Men At Work and Colin Hay with two versions of an insomnia song I forgot to post last week:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Little Games

I’ve had The Yardbirds on my mind since my friend Sam Jasper posed a trivia question about them on the Tweeter Tube. Here’s the question Jeopardy-style: Who are Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page?

Little Games is the fourth and final album recorded by the original band. Jimmy Page stepped forward as the sole lead guitar player but there was sonic confusion. The Yardbirds were evolving into a proto-Jam band live. This album was produced by Mickey Most who was best known for producing acts such as Herman and the Hermits. The result is something of a musical mess. So it goes.

As you know, I’m inordinately fond of psychedelic covers even when, as in this case, they don’t reflect the music.

Here’s the whole damn album:

Many A Mile To Freedom

Who knew one could be slammed while hunkering down at home? That’s where I find myself today. I’m working on a fairly tricky 13th Ward Rambler Column for the Bayou Brief and helping Dr. A research a new iPhone. Her current phone goes down to nothing when she does anything elaborate so it’s time for a change. I blame PD since it’s often caused by photographing that four-legged prima donna.

I did some good work at First Draft last week but one post hasn’t gotten quite as much love as the others. It’s feeling needy. If you haven’t already read it, check out Conspiracy Of Cretins, not Cretans, I like the latter.

On with today’s entry in our Songs For The Pandemic series. Every time we hear some Trumper whine about losing their liberties to the lockdown, Dr A and I say, “Freedom, man.” Those knuckleheads are among the cretins referred to above. Oy, just oy.

I had already planed to use one of Steve Winwood’s most underrated Traffic tunes, Many A Mile To Freedom, as a reminder that this shit is going to be around for awhile. Patience is in order.Then it occurred to me that Winwood has recorded two other outstanding songs with the word freedom in the title. Freedom, man.

I give you Steve Winwood’s Freedom Song Cycle. Here we go:

Since we’re glad to be free, I couldn’t resist posting the first two tracks from John Barleycorn Must Die. They belong together. Freedom, man.

I thought of this next song while watching Governor Whitmer deal with armed cretins in Michigan. Freedom, man.

Freedom, man.

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Friday Cocktail Hour: I Ain’t Drunk

We made it through another week more or less in one piece. Some New Orleans businesses are dipping their toes into the reopening. I’ll be on the inactive list until phase 2. I may not have the Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues but I’m cautious.

The Friday cocktail hour has arrived. We have three toe-tapping tippling tunes for your listening pleasure.

First, Albert Collins Ain’t Drunk, he’s just drinking. Thanks for clarifying that Iceman. This song is hot enough to melt your ice cubes.

This is in the nature of a rejoinder to the happy drunk in the first tune. The songs have one thing in common: a great guitarist. In this case, Robin Trower.

Finally, a song from Van Morrison’s Marin County period:

Cheers. Bottons up.

The last word goes to the Cartoon Rat Pack.

I’m Only Sleeping

I had another bout of insomnia last night. That’s a roundabout way of saying I lost the battle. That allows me to sneak a Yes reference into this post in a roundabout way. That’s a lose-win proposition in my book. Yawn.

We began our week of sleep songs with a Beatles tune. It’s appropriate to finish in the same power poppy manner. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

The opening lines of I’m Only Sleeping reflect how I felt when I awoke at 3:30 this morning, “When I wake up early in the morning. Lift my head, I’m still yawning.”

The tone of the song is cautiously optimistic. It embraces sleep and I need some. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

We have two versions of I’m Only Sleeping: the original and a cover by the great Rosanne Cash:

We have two more musical selections in this edition of Insomniac Theatre. First, wistfulness from Richard Manuel and The Band, followed by some no fucks to give bravado by Warren Zevon. It’s what WZ did best.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

The current wave of insomnia is caused by fear and worries over the plague. It’s hard to sleep as the death toll mounts.  A more common reason for insomnia in popular songs is breaking up, which according to Neil Sedaka is hard to do.

Today on Insomniac Theatre we present three breakup songs. We begin with one of the saddest torch songs ever recorded by Frank Sinatra. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning was written in 1955 by David Mann and Bob Hilliard. It became one of the Chairman of the Board’s signature songs and was the title track of one of his moodiest albums.

In what amounts to a neo-torch song, Tim Finn poses the eternal question: “How’m I gonna sleep without you?”

Finally, I’m not much of a crier or weeper but some of you are. We complete our breakup/insomnia song cycle with a number written by Difford and Tilbrook. It’s dedicated to everybody who’s crying in their sleep:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Pepper Pot

Jazz saxophonist Art Pepper had a string of album titles that punned on his first and last names including Modern Art and The Art Of Pepper. The goofiest one, 1959’s Pepper Pot, produced this goofy cover by Armand Acosta. Mercifully, the logs aren’t ablaze, they’re just artfully arrayed.

I’ll stop peppering you with puns and post the cover:

Here’s a later recording of the title track: