Category Archives: Music

Too Close For Comfort

Social distancing ain’t easy. It’s a struggle even for those of us who believe in it. Somehow the Greeks have pulled it off with great aplomb. Of course, they got used to making sacrifices during their economic meltdown. Plus, it gave them a chance to show up the Italians, always a good thing. The Greeks know how to hold a grudge. It’s where I get it from.

I’m a city boy and we’re used to living on top of one another. The 6-foot rule is essential to safety but will feel weird once whatever passes for reopening happens. Better distant than dead.

Repeat after me: don’t get Too Close For Comfort.

Too Close For Comfort was written in 1956 by Jerry Bock, George David Weiss, and Larry Holofcener for the Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, which is not about Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary even though he calls himself that. The song has nothing to do with the Ted Knight sitcom either. It’s much wittier than that.

We have versions of this song for the pandemic for your listening pleasure by three of my favorite singers: Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Ella Fitzgerald. One could even call them the Torrid Trio:

Lagniappe is always nice. The great Jazz saxophonist, Art Pepper, figures in the current season of Bosch. Here’s his instrumental take on today’s tune:

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

A recurring theme of the pandemic lockdown is how hard it is to keep the days straight. The usual landmarks of work, school, and major events are absent. A Tuesday can feel much like a Saturday right now. So much for the title of this old movie:

Of course, today is Wednesday. I’m adrift in a timeless and tourist-less universe, y’all. Btw, I’d forgotten that a young Ian McShane was in the above movie as was Patricia Routledge who later played Hyancinth Bucket and Hetty Wainthrop. Enough teevee trivia…

In New Orleans, Jazz Fest 2020 has been cancelled outright but WWOZ-FM is running what it calls Festing In Place. It’s been great fun. The festivities resume tomorrow. Check it out at their web site. They’ve even replicated the legendary scheduling cubes.

Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah, today’s Songs From The Pandemic entry.  I guess I lost track of time. It happens daily…

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was was written by Duke Ellington’s peers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1939 musical Too Many Girls. It’s been recorded too many times to count or is that countless times? I’m easily confused nowadays. What day is it? What time is it?

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is a haunting mid-tempo ballad with typically witty lyrics by Larry Hart:

I didn’t know what day it was
You held my hand
Warm, like the month of May it was
And I’ll say it was grand

May is on the way. I somehow doubt Hart foresaw a lockdown but, as I like to say, you never can tell.

We have four versions of this Rodgers and Hart classic by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Taylor and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with the great Wayne Shorter on saxophone.

Take your time and listen to them all. Btw, it’s Wednesday and we’re not in Belgium but some Belgian beer would be nice.

Stephen Miller’s Song

Shakespeare At Dusk by Edward Hopper

While we’ve all had our eyes on the pandemic, despicable White House aide and self-hating Jew Stephen Miller has kept busy. You can detect his hand behind President* Pennywise’s immigration “ban.” It was, of course, devised to distract attention from the regime’s supremely inept pandemic response. They’ve tried lying their way through it and it’s blown up in their pasty, white faces or in Trump’s case, orange.

The other reason I’m plagued by thoughts about Miller is a Slate piece by Jeremy Stahl that reminds us of Miller’s racist malefactions. It’s part of a series about Trump administration malfeasance. This post is full of M-words. Here are two more: Miller is a malodorous motherfucker. That felt mighty, mighty good.

You’re probably wondering what I’m on about with the post title. It’s down to Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month at Saturday Odds & Sods. I’ve been listening to RT’s back catalog a lot of late and one song in particular strikes me as relevant to this moment in time. Time is still on my mind as you’ll see later today. I’ve also thrown one more Hopper painting into the mix as the featured image. Never enough EH or RT.

The exact point-of-view of the 1979 Richard Thompson song, Civilisation, remains somewhat murky; something the songwriter is unlikely to clarify other than to state it doesn’t reflect his own political views. I’ve always interpreted it as a narrative tune with a far-right xenophobic protagonist spouting bigoted bile and nonsense about immigrants. Hence my idiosyncratic connection of it with far-right racist and xenophobic Trump aide, Stephen Miller. There’s occasionally method to my madness.

Civilisation is the opening track of the penultimate Richard and Linda Thompson album, Sunnyvista. It rocks like crazy and, as you might have gathered, has disturbing RT lyrics:

They’re not human, they’re with the Woolwich
They eat food I wouldn’t give to my dog
They’re hygienic, medicated
They wouldn’t live next door to no wog
They’re not human, where do they come from?
I don’t know what they’re living here for
They don’t belong here, on this planet
What are they doing in the house next door?

Wife’s tranquilized, milk’s pasteurized
Kid’s hypnotized by the t.v.
Dad’ll beat you, dog’ll eat you
They’ll treat you like family

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

They’re not human, they’ve got a new car
They’re going to polish it all the day long
Got a brand new rubber woman
They’re going to blow her up all the night long
They’re not human, it’s a double cross
They sold out for a handful of beads
They sold everything for nothing, just a
Headful of dreams and a handful of greed

Keep ’em happy, keep ’em drinking
Keep ’em laughing, no thinking
No dying, no weeping
Keep ’em hypnotized, keep ’em sleeping

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

Pack you off to school, get working
Get a steady job, no shirking
Get to sixty-five, get a handshake
You’re a vegetable with a heartache

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

I hear the sound of Stephen Miller clapping and nodding his head.

There’s an overly literal interpretive video of Civilisation on YouTube by a dude with a handle that I originally thought was German, Mehefinheulog. It turns out to be Welsh. He  uses images of movie space aliens and includes frequent nods to Sir Kenneth Clark’s genteel and erudite teevee series, Civilisation. RT’s protagonist may be wordy but he’s neither genteel nor erudite.

Stephen Miller and his ilk believe they’re stalwart defenders of Western civilization instead of malevolent bigots. I assume his family remains ashamed of him. They should be mortified. That’s the last M-word of this post.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Time Out

Time Out was a big hit in 1959 and thereafter because of Take Five. It was the only composition not by pianist/band leader Dave Brubeck. Reed man Paul Desmond took home the gold for Take Five. Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk is just as good.

There are many variations on S Neil Fujita’s cover art. This is one of them:

Here’s the whole damn album. It epitomizes the West Coast cool Jazz of that era. It’s a genuine classic:

 

In My Room

Brian Wilson is on the record as an admirer of Duke Ellington. I suspect Duke would look favorably on this entry. It’s certainly a tune for our times.

Along with Gary Usher, Brian wrote In My Room in 1963 for The Beach Boys Surfer Girl album. As with many of the best early Brian Wilson songs, it combines adolescent angst with sophisticated harmonies.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: The Beach Boys original; a 1996 Linda Ronstadt cover, and a pandemic era a capella version by former Journey frontman, Steve Perry.

Not Everything Sucks

Matthew Ryan and Brian Fallon put on a concert on Instagram and shot the shit and talked about music and then Matthew Ryan who’s probably my favorite living singer/songwriter sang Run Rabbit Run, and it was almost enough to make you forget the world burning down:

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Ghost Of You Walks

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month concludes with a perverse pairing of Hopper’s most famous painting and a lesser known RT gem.

There’s not a lot to report this week since we’re on lockdown like everybody else. The polls don’t seem to reflect the Impeached Insult Comedian’s notion that people are desperate to resume normal life and take another bite out of the COVID-19 apple. Even 70% of rank and file Republicans would rather not die. Imagine that. So much for the Trump Death Cult.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for his 1996 album You? Me? Us? Dig those crazy question marks. It also has a cool Max Ernst-like collage album cover, which may turn up some Wednesday. You never can tell.

We have two versions of The Ghost Of You Walks for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live teevee performance on the BBC’s Later with Jools Holland. The latter is just the two unrelated Thompsons: Richard and Danny.

I’m not afraid of ghosts but if you are, let’s jump to the break to escape.

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Living In A Ghost Town

I had other plans for this feature until yesterday. They can wait. The Rolling Stones just released their first original music since 2012. If we could dance in the streets, we would surely do that, but we’re on lockdown, so tapping our toes will have to suffice.

Unsurprisingly, Living In A Ghost Town is about the pandemic. I guess you figured that out by its presence in this feature. D’oh.

The video features eerie footage of empty streets and tube stations in London. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and its never this quiet; a scene replicated throughout the world. It’s just as imperative there as in the US&A. The Tory government of Boris Johnson engaged in the same sort of magical thinking as that of President* Pennywise. Boris, however, never advocated ingesting or injecting cleaning fluids. There’s stupid and there’s supremely stupid. The Kaiser of Chaos takes the cake.

As the lyrics of the song put it, “Life was so beautiful, then we all got locked down.”

Without further ado, ladies and germs, The Rolling Stones:

Here’s some musical lagniappe from Richard Thompson with The Sights and Sounds Of London Town. No, it’s not Saturday, it just feels like it. Warning: there are only sounds, not sights.

 

The Continuing Chaos Chronicles

Are you ready for a follow-up to yesterday’s post? I certainly am.

I focused on the GOP’s chaos principle and the wildly mixed messages they’re sending the public. I particularly had Georgia on my mind:

In Georgia, nitwit Republican Governor Brian Kemp thinks that there’s a safe way to get a haircut. I don’t know about you, but my barber gets up close and personal when shearing my locks. There will be blood on the floor, not hair if any barbers or hairdressers prematurely open their doors. Better shaggy than dead.

Kemp thought he was doing the  Kaiser of Chaos’  bidding but he was betrayed at last night’s campaign rally briefing:

During his daily press briefing on Wednesday evening, Trump said that he wasn’t on board with Kemp’s decision to allow non-essential businesses, such as gyms and salons, to reopen.

Trump told reporters that while he likes and respects the governor, “maybe you wait a little bit longer until you get into a phase two.”

“Would I do that? No. I’d keep them a little longer,” the President said of the social distancing guidelines that encourage non-essential workers to stay home. “I want to protect people’s lives.”

“I’m going to let him make his decision,” he added. “But I told him I totally disagree.”

In keeping with the continuing chaos principle, Kemp is sticking to his guns but Trump gave the Georgian’s enemies ammunition to attack him with. Since Kemp stole the election, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Totally.

It’s unclear what Trump’s reaction qualifies as: throwing Kemp under the bus? Backstabbing? Stabbing him in the front?

The last word goes to The O’Jays and Nick Lowe who have different theories as to what happened:

Another day, another last word fib. How can I skip the state song?

Wash Your Hands

The fine New Orleans band Galactic has joined in the remote pandemic recording craze. The results are pretty darn good as is the cause they’re supporting. I’m feeling slothful so I’ll just quote Galactic’s YouTube entry:

We are excited to share the release of our adaption of the 1930’s calypso song “Wash Your Hands” (Roaring Lion). Our version features Chali 2na (vocals), Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph (vocals), Ivan Neville (vocals); David Shaw (vocals), Zach Feinberg (guitar), Andrew Campanelli (vocals), Rob Ingraham (sax + vocals) and Michael Girardot (vocals) from The Revivalists, Eric Gordon (trumpet) and Mike Dillon (congas). Each video was recorded within our own homes.

The video is to benefit our Tip-It Foundation. Special thanks to Steve Kelly for video production and Andrew Campanelli for the Covid-19 adapted lyrics. Music produced and mixed by Robert Mercurio.

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling clean after that.

Let’s play the song followed by the Roaring Lion original:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Bing & Satchmo

By the time this album was released in 1960, the two American show biz giants had worked together off and on for 25 years. Bing helped Louis break into the movies and the two had a cordial and respectful relationship over the years.

The personal chemistry paid off whenever Bing and Satchmo worked together. It’s evident on this album where they collaborated with band leader/arranger Billy May whose name is on the cover of the original LP but not the reissue. People may have forgotten Billy but not Bing & Satchmo.

Here’s the original album in all its glory:

Digging In The Dirt

I don’t garden. I have a black thumb. The best way to kill a plant is to give it to me or ask me to tend it. I’ve drowned many a plant over the years so I stopped trying. Additionally, my much loved black cat Manet was a plant eater and Christmas tree attacker. It was either her or plants. I chose the cat.

I have friends who are into gardening. My friend Greg isn’t good at sitting still so he’s been building new flower beds in his yard. Who knew that they slept? I just bury them, how would I know?

This Peter Gabriel song is dedicated to all the gardeners out there.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Gethsemane

Night Windows by Edward Hopper.

Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month continues. We begin with with a weather bulletin of sorts. Y’all are used to my weather obsession by now.

We had a cold front in New Orleans this week. Nighttime lows hovered around 50 several nights in a row. That may not sound like much to people from the frozen north but by our standards that’s cold for mid-April. Some locals whined about the cold, but I like it. Some folks just like to bitch. You know who you are; piss off out of my virtual kitchen.

Every time I search for Hopper paintings online, I’m told he was an “American realist” painter. That’s what he called himself, but his work is deeply weird. The painting above reminds me of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. I’ve never thought of Hitch as a realistic filmmaker even if regular guy Jimmy Stewart starred in that flick. His character was a laid-up photographer turned peeping tom. That’s weird, not realistic.

Sunday is Greek Easter, so I decided to pick a Richard Thompson tune with religious undertones. According to Mark and other bible dudes, Gethsemane was the garden at which Jesus prayed before his betrayal and arrest. It still exists and is a tourist attraction with an elaborate web site.

Gethsemane is also the title of this week’s theme song. It was written by Richard Thompson in 2003 for The Old Kit Bag. It’s an ominous sounding song that opens with this ominous verse.

“Among the headstones you played as boys
Crypts and tombs like a roomful of toys
Just up the river from the smoke and the noise
Gethsemane.”

We have two versions of Gethsemane for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a recent solo acoustic interpretation by the songwriter.

There’s also a song from Jesus Christ Superstar called Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say.) Here’s the original cast recording with Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan in the title role.

I suspect playing Jesus Christ Superstar was nothing like working with Ritchie Blackmore. They did, however, produce some swell music:

Christ on a cracker, that rocked.

All this talk of Jesus and betrayal reminds me of this Asia tune:

Let’s flee the garden and jump to the break.

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Only The Lonely

The lockdown is hard enough but facing it alone must be extra hard. Those of us who are hunkering with their spouses, families, or friends face one level of stress but we’re not lonely. We may do some bickering but we’re not alone; even if there are times that we wish that we were.

This entry is dedicated to those who are riding out the pandemic on their own. It features three different songs recorded by three different artists with the same title. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Our first Only The Lonely was written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen for Sinatra’s 1958 concept album Frank Sinatra Sings Songs for The Lonely. It was featured in Album Cover Art Wednesday in 2013. I love the cover image of Frank as Pagliacci:

Roy Orbison’s Only The Lonely was a breakthrough hit for the bespectacled crooner. He co-wrote it with Joe Melson in 1960. They tried selling it to Elvis and the Everly Brothers but to no avail. A good thing as it helped launch Orbison’s career. They added the tagline (Know The Way I Feel Tonight) to avoid confusion but it’s rarely used today.

The new wave band The Motels had a hit with *their* Only The Lonely in 1982. It was written by lead singer Martha Davis:

 

Of Red Dawns, Unreliable Narrators & Putrid Protests

A lot of shit got real this week. The presidential race returned to the radar screen with endorsements of Joe Biden by former rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The latter stunned Rachel Maddow by giving a one-word answer when asked if she’d take second place on the ticket. The word was YES. I have mixed feelings about the idea. She’d be the best president in waiting BUT Dems would lose a senate seat and I still think Kamala Harris would be the best pick politically. Stay tuned.

I had planned to write separate posts about the subjects listed in the title. But as John Lennon once said, in another song better than Imagine, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Oh hell, I might as well post the video, it’s what I do:

That reminds me of another John Lennon tune from Double Fantasy, which is also much better than Imagine:

We’re all “just sitting here  watching the wheels go round and round” during the lockdown. It’s giving some people ants in their pants.

That brings me to our first subject. I know, it’s the last item in the post title but this fucking flows. Never mess with the fucking flow.

Putrid Protests: There are people tea-partying like it’s 2009. The Michigan protest was pure Teabaggery. It was intensified by Michigander MAGA Maggots who cannot abide a woman governor telling them what to do. I’m surprised nobody had a sign calling Gretchen Whitmer a Governess. That would require wit, which is a quality sadly lacking among the red hat set.

The most appalling thing about this idiotic protest can be seen in this tweet:

In a word: disgusting.

13,000 Michiganders died fighting for the Union in the War of the Rebellion. They died to purge the land of that fucking flag, you stupid motherfuckers. Fuck you. Uh oh, I’m turning into Jude. Fuck that shit.

Governor Whitmer was asked the Veep question by Rachel last night. She wasn’t having it and gave a wordy answer reminding the world that her plate is full right now. And Governor Whitmer strikes me as someone who always cleans her plate before moving on to the next task. Stay tuned.

It’s time for a visual transition:

Red Dawn was a fakakta 1984 movie hatched in the feverish brain of right-wing writer-director John Milius. It told the story of a Soviet invasion of God’s Country. Me, I prefer this comedic take:

Carl Reiner is wearing his angry rug in that lobby card. Fuck you, Alan Arkin.

Red Dawn is also an email string traded by concerned government scientists during the early days of the pandemic. The NYT published a story about it last weekend. It’s devastating to the political hacks and Trumper shitbirds who ignored their dire warnings.

My favorite bit came from an email

Dr. Lawler is an infectious disease specialist when not commenting on Trump’s March Of Folly.

Let’s try another visual transition. I really dug the last one.

The Ultimate Unreliable Narrator: The term unreliable narrator was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth. It often applies to a crime fiction narrator who lies to readers; something I never do in Tongue In The Mail. End of shameless plug.

This unreliable narrator *is* committing a series of crimes but they’re not fictional, alas. I’m talking about the Impeached Insult Comedian who says something one day, changes his mind the next, and denies ever having said it on the third day, which is also the title of an early ELO album.

People keep falling for this nonsense and not just the MSM. My social media feeds were full of people freaking out over Trump’s “I have the power to adjourn Congress” bullshit. He does not and the idea was shot down by the Turtle on the second day. Get a grip, y’all. As some smart ass said on Twitter:

That’s why I call him the Ultimate Unreliable Narrator, the Kaiser of Chaos, the Impeached Insult Comedian, and President* Pennywise.

The last word goes to ELO with a tune from On The Third Day:

 

Hiding Out

The lockdown is having some weird effects on people. I’m feeling spacey and forgetful. Other people are angry, still others are numb. One thing we have in common is that anyone with a lick of sense is Hiding Out.

Pete Townshend wrote Hiding Out for his 1985 album, White City.  I listened to that album incessantly after it came out. I was recovering from a different sort of trauma and it spoke to me. It still does.

We have multiple versions of Hiding Out for your listening pleasure. The studio original, a live version from the legendary Deep End concert, and an extended techno version, which was originally released only in Germany. It sounds like something Dieter would have put on Sprockets.

 

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Duke Ellington would surely approve of this entry as it features some nifty piano playing and swinging horns.

One abnormal feature of the new normal is the temporal confusion wreaked by the lockdown. People are used to knowing what time is it by reference to their work and/or school schedule. My regular features at First Draft help me know what day it is. As to time does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

This is the 33 1/3, not 45 version of Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? It features some pianistic brilliance from Robert Lamm. It’s a reminder of how good most of the early Chicago catalog is.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Alive and Well and Living In A Bitch Of A World

The word that sums up Wayne Cochran is outlandish. He had the biggest hair in rock and roll, influenced the Blues Brothers, and became a televangelist.

Alive and Well and Living In A Bitch Of A World is the longest title ever featured on Album Cover Art Wednesday. I’d call the Guinness Book Of World Records but they’re on lockdown too.

Here’s the front and back covers of this 1970 album recorded with his band the C.C. Riders:

The covers are deliberately blurry. It seems to be a concession to the times. Blurry was big in 1970.

I mentioned Cochran’s big hair and bible thumping. Here’s the proof:

Don’t call that phone number. The White Knight of Soul died in 2017.

Here are some clips of Cochran and his hair live:

Finally, Cochran with his musical hero, James Brown:

Shut It Down 2020

I’ll let Rolling Stone Magazine do the heavy-lifting on this one:

Neil Young has released a new version of “Shut It Down” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The track, originally released off last year’s Colorado with Crazy Horse, has been renamed “Shut It Down 2020.”

Young and his wife, actress Daryl Hannah, made a striking new video to accompany the song. It features clips of the band at Colorado’s Studio in the Clouds  — where they shot the Mountaintop documentary — interspersed with scenes of the world in crisis.

Healthcare workers are seen wearing masks and stacking boxes of medical supplies in England, as packed beaches in Florida flash across the screen. “People tryin’ to save this earth/from an ugly death,” Young warns. “Have to shut the whole system down/all around the planet.”

The “Shut It Down 2020” video was made “as a document of Earth’s reaction to 2020’s pandemic,” Young wrote on his Archives site. It was inspired by fans, who submitted letters to the site to express that the track has taken on a new meaning in this difficult time.

“Ignore the actions of world leaders who are too vain to wear masks,” Young wrote. “They are not leading. Put your own vanity away for the good of your fellow man; wear a mask in public to stop the spread.”

Thanks, Neil. We’ll follow your example and keep on rockin’ in the free world for the duration of the lockdown.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Walking On A Wire

Gas Station by Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper is associated with scenes of urban isolation and alienation. As you can see, the same thing applies to his rural scenes. That gas station isn’t hopping, which is par for the course for Hopper.

The Gret Stet of Louisiana is making progress with the pandemic. The curve is flattening slightly BUT there’s a big problem with racial disparity among the afflicted. Twice as many black folks have died of COVID-19 related illnesses as white folks. Terrible is an accurate but still inadequate word to capture the horror of this discrepancy. If I believed in using emojis here, I’d insert a sad face BUT:

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson in 1981 for the final Richard and Linda Thompson duo effort, Shoot Out The Lights.

Walking On A Wire is one of the ultimate breakup songs. It’s some serious shit, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a recent solo acoustic version by the songwriter.

I’m still feeling wiry. Time for some Leonard Cohen as channeled by Aaron Neville.

I’m a bit wired from all that walking on a wire. Keep your balance as we jump to the break.

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