Hide / hiding / hidden … what do I hide? Secrets, I guess. And money. Forbidden love. (I share the wine and chocolate, so I never have to hide that.) I’m selecting a song by the great Beat Happening, a low-fi, sort-of-punk band from Olympia, WA. This is Calvin Johnson, who practically invented DIY in the 1980s and 90s. (Plus, there’s extra credit all the way at the bottom.)
Song: “Our Secret”
Album: Beat Happening
Artist: Beat Happening
Song Writer: Calvin Johnson, Bret Lunsford, and Heather Lewis.
My friend Williamasked me to assemble a list of my favorite albums. I’m up to the challenge, yet a little bit loathes to make such a list. I am sure to leave something off , and in a couple of years, it’ll be shuffled with new finds and old favorites. Thus, I’m offering a truck load of favorite albums, but not a definitive list.
I’ve settled on a handful of rules to pick 20 albums.
No compilations. This includes an album of multiple artists, movie sound tracks, or ’best of’ issues. The soundtrack for Until the End of the World is fantastic, but not on the list.
Make the collection, but don’t rate the albums. This is just a list, not an enumerated list; I am not suggesting that the second album is “my all-time second fav” or anything like that. The exception, as I’ve said before, VU is the best. Always.
A corollary to #2, I will bubble the best entries towards the top, so the #3 in the list, I think, is better than #17, but there is no way of knowing that #16 is preferred to #17.
One album per artist, even though we all know that all the Beatles and all the Velvet Underground could dominate the list.
Sometimes I break rules.
Plus, I’ve assembled a YT playlistwith samples from the first ten albums.
1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
This album is raw but learned. It is experimental, noisy, proto-punk, and beautiful. It combines the avant-garde with street-cred poetry and musical forms not yet identified in 1967. They’ve inspired others to form bands, others have tried to copy them, but nobody sounds like VU.
2. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Innovation rules, and a gravelly voice cleaned up just enough to not scare away the masses makes Rain Dogs a high-ranking favorite. The rhythms and instrumentation are insane. I think they’re literally hitting a brake drum with a rock to achieve percussion.
3. The Clash – London’s Calling
Joe Strummer made punk matter. Smart, righteous, and innovative, he surrounded himself with musicians and sang like he had something to say. This album is the pinnacle of an entire belief system.
4. Patti Smith – Horses
I was really struggling, Horses or Easter; which one makes the list? Easter includes “Because the Night”, which was her breakout moment. That’s important (although the song was written by Springsteen).
Horses documents the beginning of the band, and what she was trying to achieve. She started out at poetry readings, then added guitar accompaniment. Later, after a set, she exclaimed in the microphone, “We’re looking for a drummer. You know who you are.” They met JayDee. They turned into a punk rock band.
Both are important albums that I love very much, so you get them both.
5. Patti Smith – Easter
There’s something to be said for taking on taboo; spit in its face, throw it to the ground, and hold your foot to its neck. That’s what Patti does with the N-word; I still can’t say it or type it, but Patti can scream the fuck out of it.
6. Nina Simone – Sings the Blues
Damn Nina can sing! Received as part of a record-of-the-month club two years ago. Good grief, how had I never listened to this before.
7. John Cale – Words for the Dying
My interest in classical music began with John Corigliano’s movie soundtrack, Altered States. My devotion to what classical music could be was solidified with John Cale’s work. (Plus, I like Beethoven and all the rest.) Now, can people help me identify full-orchestra music that has the punk ethos and raw emotions? I’m still searching.
8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Good Son
9. Paul Simon – Graceland
Loved this album when it was released over 3 decades ago; I’ll listen now and it’s still fresh, innovative, and danceable.
10. Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
11. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
12. The Chameleons UK — Strange Times
13. The Pixies – Doolittle
14. Hoodoo Gurus – Stoneage Romeos
15. The Who – Quadrophenia
16. Nirvana – Nevermind
17. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
18. The Beatles – The White Album
19. The Psychedelic Furs – Mirror Moves
20. The Verve – A Northern Soul
I come across things very randomly. I’m always listening to this, finding that, oh-wow-check-this-outing. And then I’ll save stuff, and not figure out how to share or incorporate into a blog post. What follows is the only logical conclusion, an aimless, completely illogical collection of stuff.
Does anybody have a question?
Newen Afrobeat (featuring Seun Kuti & Cheick Tidiane Seck) – Opposite People (Fela Kuti)
I can’t get over how beautiful this is. All those sounds – I count 21 people making noise, and I’m trying to be careful to exclude cameramen and other staff. And what sounds they are making! And the sweat! I love sweaty bodies.
I had to go looking … turns out this album is 120 million years in the making.* “Newen Afrobeat is the first Afrobeat band in Chile, formed on 2009,” says their bandcamp page. Go there and you can buy their CD. (Except, aaaaaaaaaaacccckkkk, the shipping is more than the actual thing. I’ll try my local record shop first.)
There is a great compilation album of rock bands playing theme songs from 1970s Saturday morning cartoons. It’s called, Saturday Morning Cartoons. I listen to it with some frequency, but I’ve never gone looking for any associated videos. A friend’s comment on FB made think to go looking for this … and, OH what I found! (The astute observer will note a broken guitar string at 0:29.)
Yet again, I pull out the mental thesaurus … “search”; searching, looking, seeking, wishing, wanting; find …
The song I wanted is from Seattleite Christy McWilson, but “Wishin’” is not on YT. (She is not obscure, but she is local, and the album is ~20 years old. I’ve been thinking of her recently, for some reason.) I kept having a thought for some new wave song but couldn’t place it. I came across a song that I really love, but the lyrics have always been opaque. Is this OK when the challenge appears to be about interpreting lyrics? Then I read this Frank Black quote:
“It’s all nonsense, a bad Talking Heads imitation. Just like any other cool rock ‘n roll song or pop song, the CONTENT isn’t what hits you.” (Music Express, October 1990)
(I used to play the intro on guigar, too…)
Song: Dig for Fire
Artist: The Pixies
Song Writer: Frank Black
This is a theme that could go in a lot of directions. Sleep makes me think of the end of day and night time, which makes me think of the sunrise. Sleep makes me think of dreaming. Sleep is often a metaphor for death (ala Dylan Thomas), or the end of days. Of course, most rock ‘n’ roll is about some kind of party, antithesis to “sleep”; staying up all night makes me wish for sleep.
Let’s see what I come up with.
Song: “Sleeping in the Devil’s Bed”
Album: Until the End of the World soundtrack
Artist: Daniel Lanois
Song Writer: Daniel Lanois
The song comes from the acceptably weird movie, and astoundingly great soundtrack, Until the End of the World. Except for this song, I only know this guy as a producer. A recent discovery of mine is his production work with Bob Dylan on Oh, Mercy. Dylan’s description of working with Lanois, in the autobiographical Chronicles, Vol. 1, is one of the great things I’ve read this year.
The song appears to be about love and love lost, but sometimes interpreting poems is a sore point for me.
The portability of recorded music is unique in the arts. You can go to a museum to look at objects, go to a theatre to watch a play, or go to a venue to take in a concert. Recorded music can play in your home, your car, on your MP3 player for a walk, a run, at the gym; take it to the office, the woodshop, or the airplane. Your music collection becomes a soundtrack to your life: you select songs and albums for the setting, the mood, the time of day.
Planning for a road trip through part of Oregon, what should I take along? I’ve had a
separate stack of CDs for a few months, stuff that I hadn’t meant to ignore, stuff I’ve wanted to give a second chance, newer stuff that hadn’t made the home playlist yet. The stack grew to 3 shoeboxes. Finally, for this road trip, I cleaned out the CDs from my car, and picked out a couple of handfuls of the special stack for this trip.
Typically, “road trip music” interprets as music that is good to have on in the car when driving. Simple enough. I have expanded the meaning along a second prong, “music that I purposefully bring along, because I need to listen to it”.
Wordy, not pithy, but that’s what I’m doing.
The way I do it, until somebody has a better idea, the playlist is on YT, with the listing and liner notes below. I hope you find something new.
I guess the album is pretty good, but I really just like the one song … and it’s really good.
SuperOrganism Something For Your M.I.N.D.
I finally bought the CD, instead of listening to just 2 songs on YT, I can listen to the whole thing. The 2 songs I previously knew are the best by far, but it’s a good record for me to listen to; lots of fresh ideas.
There is one stanza, I’d swear she’s singing, “I know you think I’m a social path …”; in fact, she sings “sociopath”. Still, what might a “social path” be?
I think it would mean an avenue to meet people, or to be invited to a party, or to join a new clique. Something like that. I think “social path” should be added to the English lexicon.
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – “Master and Slave”
Formed in Eugene, OR, not far from where I am as I write this, in the late 1980s. When Brian Setzer gave us the mid-1990s Swing movement, CPD slid right into place. Cool band.
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – “Zoot Suit Riot”
Anybody that has heard of CPD knows the song “Zoot Suit Riot”; if you haven’t heard of them, it’s a good song.
NW ShoeGazzer Bliss
My memory might be ill, but I seem to recall receiving this as a gift for attending a show at The Crocodile Café. The Croc used to do this; I have other gift CDs from shows there. This is a 2002 release from Reverb Records. It includes, for example, The High Violets and “44 down”
In case you don’t know about shoegazz, Wikipedia says, “Shoegazing is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. Its sound is characterized by an ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume.”
Black Nite Crash – See Her Tonight
Elvis Costello – “Lip Service”
Elvis is a tough one. I was never really exposed to him, and then a few years ago my nephew made me buy This Year’s Model. It’s fun to listen to, but it never makes it into my home rotation.
Janáček – Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 (“From the Street”) – Lazar Berman
FB friend posted this while I was on the trip. Does listening to songs in the hotel count as part of the road trip? It must.
Get Well Soon – “If this Hat is Missing, I have Gone Hunting”
Do not watch the video whilst driving a horseless carriage, thou.
Tommy Good – “Baby I miss you”
Driving through the Umpqua Valley, from the Coast to Bend, Oregon, I stopped in Roseburg for lunch, and picked up the community quarterly, UV. There’s an article about a local guy that curates 1970s soul. I’m asking him to work on a playlist with me for Community Noise. Stay tuned. One song I learned from him, “Baby I miss you”.
Paul & The Broken Bones – “Apollo”
I just happened upon this, searching for YT videos. I love these guys.
Eighth Blackbird – “Variations”
I’ve featured this ensemble before; I think these guys are incredible. Far away from my roots in pop and punk rock, this music is complicated, intense, and learned, but remains enchanting.
My hope is that their music finds a touchstone for people that allows for the exploration of more musical forms. It’s fun to watch them play, unfortunately, I couldn’t find any live versions of this album, Thirteen Ways.
The Fiery Furnaces – “Quay Cur”
It was a trip to London in 2004, previously documented in these pages, when I stumbled upon the Rough Trade record shop. I asked the shop attendant for new music that I should give a try. The bloke behind the counter handed me this, Blueberry Boat. (This is one of my ploys to find new stuff – ask the attendant for whatever he or she is listening to.)
It’s a tough album to figure out. That’s why I lost it in the archives. It will take some time for me to find my way with it, the right mood, the right time of day, all that. There’s something going on though, and I think this is a record worthy of the time to work it out.
Nick Cave and the Badseeds – “The Good Son”
I don’t need to remember to listen to this one, it takes effort not to play it to death. This album is perfect; every song is beautiful and there is song-to-song cohesion. The voices, instrumentation, the emotions: perfectly intertwine.
This album, The Good Son, is a masterwork of Western Civilization.
I am coming to this week’s theme a little bit sideways, but I am not cheating. I am on a roadtrip in Oregon. Amongst my goals is to renew my interest in photography, and to refind some music in my archives that I have not meant to ignore. I will be compiling a playlist for my blog; this is a preview.
For the photo I am sharing here, I spent a lot of time trying to capture the angle and the timing. Clean, pure water was breaking right before my eyes. I got wet, but not as wet as you might imagine. Neat.
The song is from an oddly beautiful album that I’ve never made sense of it. Parts of it are amazing. The hook in this song, with that woman’s voice and change of tempo, always catches me. While the subject matter is dark, what really bothers me, is I have no recollection of how, why, when, or where I acquired this. It must be that somebody in a record shop suggested I check it out, but I have no memory. That is unusual for me – almost every record and CD I own, and I have a story behind it.
One final note: I’d never watched this video before searching it out for this post. Whacky thing.
Song: If This Hat Is Missing I Have Gone Hunting
Album: Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon
Artist: Get Well Soon
Song Writer: Konstantin Gropper
This time we will end it This life ain’t got no future, girl Don’t say it’s not my business It’s tragic you don’t feel my pity Just think of all the others What they think, they feel, they seen But the letters are not golden Till they write them on your tombstone, girl
Shoot, baby, shoot, Baby, pull the trigger Fire a bullet, an arrow or a poisoned dart, baby Shoot, baby, shoot, Free us from the pressure With a rifle or a gun, we can’t live forever
It takes just one second I’m trying not to cause you pain They say that this forest’s haunted You soon will find new friends in ghosts Just hope that I will aim right But if it’s over soon
Shoot, baby, shoot, Baby, pull the trigger Fire a bullet, an arrow or a poisoned dart, baby Shoot, baby, shoot, Free us from the pressure With a rifle or a gun, we can’t live forever
Any affinity I once had for The Boss is long gone. Missing. Perhaps my loss, he fell off my playlist when I added Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Smiths, X, Hoodoo Gurus, Psychedelic Furs, and on and on.
Struggling with this week’s theme – I was thinking through Gary Numan and Ric Ocasek’s The Cars – I finally, this morning, reached down into the dustier recesses of docile brain cells, and pulled out this lyric,
I’m driving in my car I turn on the radio
Who was that? It’s just a google search away.
Album: written in 1977, but not released until The Promise box set in 2010
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Song Writer: Bruce Springsteen
I’m giving two versions; the Pointer Sisters recorded this for a hit in 1979 (lyrics adjusted accordingly).
September skies come
Dry, soon wet, cold, dark; Winter
Will last seven months
But that’s me. September is a fine month by itself, but also an omen of days to come. Anyway, Happy September.
Lots of people have good songs about September, so let’s listen to some. “September Song” is very old, much covered, and people play around with the lyrics. I wanted to feature that, but extend to other songs, and keep the list at 5. (My rules don’t always make a lot of sense, and I don’t always follow them.)
It took me a few minutes, but “fear” brought memories of Julian Cope.
Julian sits in a special place for me. His early work with the Teardrop Explodes and his first two solo records were great back in the day – that was the stuff to listen to. It’s what the cool kids down the hall had. No small triumph, not to brag, but I found all 4 vinyl albums and a couple of singles in the record stores. (By the way, doesn’t “teardrop explodes” create the greatest mental image?)
I think a lot about “staying power” when I listen to music from my collection. It turns out that, while I still listen to a fair amount of 1980s music, a lot from that decade now sounds tinny or the synthesizers are simplistic, or it just isn’t as good as I used to think it was. Julian stands up a little better. He has a nice voice and he sometimes has an astounding way with words. Sometimes his music sounds naïve, but occasionally, decades later, some songs remain a real treasure.
Today’s selection is “Land of Fear’; originally found on a 7” EP. (Now you will find it on Fried re-releases as “bonus material”.) The song, to me, describes how it is to be in a relationship; scary, sure, but holding hands with the right person can make everything OK. Also, there is clever adaptation of a biblical phrase to a love song. (I guess it’s clever anytime someone does something useful with a biblical phrase.) There’s another version, from studio tapes, mostly him noodling, playing with the words. It’s an insight of how he worked through the scripture text to figure out how the words could work into his song. I can’t find version that on YT.
Song: Land of Fear
Album: Sunspots EP (7” vinyl)
Artist: Julian Cope
Song Writer: Julian Cope
when I walk through the land of fear beside you become over you walk with me through the land of fear I don’t look to my left I don’t look to my rear cause I’m not afraid anymore somehow I’m not afraid anymore cause when I walk through the land of fear there’s no one there, I make damn sure I judge the stakes against myself the count has grown up above the shelf I’m not afraid anymore somehow I’m not afraid anymore cause when I walk through the land of fear the crying and the glancing out abandon thee incorrigibly tamed they’ll never see beyond my gaze in the land of fear the land of fear