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Category: music (Page 2 of 16)

peace, love & understanding

I really couldn’t think of words to say how I felt about the terrible event in Boston yesterday.

It was numbing. It made me angry. That any person or people would have such disregard for humanity, for joy, for happiness – it’s simply impossible to comprehend. Whatever message was trying to be sent, it was lost on me and on countless others.

The people of Boston are a tough crowd. In many respects, I see them as tougher than New Yorkers: slightly more resilient, less bombastic and more “dig in, we’re movin’ on.”

I leave it to songs to express the feelings of hope, healing, and promise I wish for the people of Boston, the friends and families of the Boston Marathon runners, staff, and volunteers, and the innocent people who were simply trying to enjoy Patriots’ Day, the race, and their lives.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water”

“The Boxer”

“Here Comes The Sun”

We share precious little space on this insignificant rock that tumbles through dark space. Peace and understanding – that’s the ticket.

ten on tuesday: sing a happy song

While some of Carole’s suggestions for “Ten on Tuesday” are, shall we say, not my speed, this one is perfect: songs that put you into a good mood.

Y’see, today I made the tough decision to withdraw from the Death Ride this coming July. Healing from my injury is taking longer than I hoped (and certainly longer than I like), and I had to make the choice: heal under the pressure of having a big event ride on the horizon, one that would test my physical and emotional mettle, without knowing whether I’d be physically healed enough for the challenge; or let it go and heal as my body tells me it should, however long that takes.

I chose the latter.

So some happy songs are on order – great timing, Carole! And, as Sarah did, I had problems limiting this list to just ten songs.

  1. “Here Comes The Sun” – The Beatles. An optimistic song, with such lovely acoustic guitar from George Harrison, great drumming from Ringo, and lovely harmonies from John and Paul. Abbey Road is The Beatles’ true swan song, and this song, which opens side 2 of the LP, is so, so great.
  2. “Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys. A song that is summer to my ears: such masterful work from Brian Wilson, Mike Love and the other Boys.
  3. “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” – Simon & Garfunkel. I can’t help but sing along and shuffle to this song. I’ve seen both Simon & Garfunkel and Artie, as a solo act, perform this. The latter was fun because he brought his then-four-year-old son on stage to sing it with him.
  4. “Little Lies” – Fleetwood Mac. Weird choice? Well, this song reminds me of skiing in Summit County, Colorado, as it was a hit when I first went to a fall ski racing camp at Keystone, back in 1987. Good times, those.
  5. “On The Road Again” – Willie Nelson. A song about hitting the road and traveling – love it.
  6. “Moving” – Supergrass. Britpop, with killer beats and hooks galore, is always a fave.
  7. “Linus and Lucy” – Vince Guaraldi Trio. No words, but how can you not dance to this song? Envision the Peanuts gang in A Charlie Brown Christmas as they “rehearsed” for the Christmas play: dance, dance, dance.
  8. “Good Day Sunshine” – The Beatles. Another happy song from the Fab Four, this one from Paul. Sure, it’s a rather simple love song, but it’s so infectiously happy – what’s not to like?
  9. “Love Shack” – B-52s. The Athens, Georgia, band’s consumate road song, and one that sticks in my craw from the old high school days. “Tin roof – rusted!”
  10. “That’s The Way God Planned It” – Billy Preston. You can hear the joy in Billy Preston’s voice in this song, and when he performed it live, he would dance his way around the stage as he really got into the moment. Sure, I’m an atheist, but this is religion in song, without a doubt.

Got your own happy songs? Share ’em in the comments.

(all those) 10 years ago

That’s when George Harrison left this mortal coil.

He was the “quiet Beatle,” but was also the most underrated. His songwriting was the equal of Lennon and McCartney by 1968, and his first full-on solo album, All Things Must Pass, was possibly the best album by a solo Beatle, ever.

There’s not much more to say, really, other than he died too young.

George Harrison (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001)

“All Things Must Pass”

“Beware Of Darkness”

“Taxman”

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

And a link to a live performance of “Something” from 1992.

ten on tuesday: headlines from the year you were born

I’m not a regular player in the “Ten on Tuesday” game, but this week’s topic is a good one. So, just like Sarah, I plundered the Internet to find some tidbits of intrigue from my birth year. And, just like Sarah said, I don’t remember any of these things actually happening, though many of them affected me and helped form the person I am.

1. Pink Floyd releases The Dark Side of the Moon. (March 1)

One of my favorite albums of all time, really turned me on to both prog rock as a teen and the lyrics (written by Roger Waters when he was 29) are wise beyond their years. I can’t wait for the immersion version box set of this album to come out later this month, because it should sound lovely and provide a ton of excellent live tracks and outtakes.

2. Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade. (January 22)

I’m a firm believer in the rights of women to have the final say on all of their healthcare choices. As a man, I have no right to tell a woman what she can or can’t do with her own body. Abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

3. President Nixon suspends all U.S. military operations in Vietnam. (January 15)

This senseless war had deep impact on my teenage years, as the baby boomers started to make sense of its aftermath via movies. And the anti-war protest songs make up a great deal of my favorite songs of all time. Less than a month after Nixon ended operations, the first POWs were released.

4. The World Trade Center opens in New York City. (April 4)

We all know the fate of these twin towers. But on this day, they were a symbol of new optimism in a world that was just getting its global trade system back in order after World Ward II. (Note: just one month later, the Sears Tower opened in Chicago, beating the WTC for right to “world’s tallest building.”)

5. Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees becomes the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball. (April 6)

Worst. rule. change. ever. Thanks for nothing, George Steinbrenner. The DH was brought about as a way to try and drum up fan support for MLB. Unfortunately, it ended up contributing to pitchers who are as wide as they are tall, with precious few skills other than throwing a ball. Thank goodness the National League hasn’t fallen for the DH (save for spring training and inter-league play at AL ballparks).

6. Skylab is launched. (May 14)

As a kid (and heck, even now) I was a huge fan of outer space, NASA, astronauts and everything associated with them. Skylab paved the way for the Space Shuttle and in the International Space Station – not a bad track record for a flawed space station. The Skylab exhibit at National Air and Space Museum is one of my favorites.

7. Secretariat wins the Triple Crown. (June 9)

The horse that many consider the greatest of all time won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in 1973. Sure, I’m not a big fan of horse racing, but it’s still quite the achievement for a young horse.

8. Gen. Augusto Pinochet leads successful U.S.-backed military coup in Chile. (September 11)

Proof positive that, throughout the years, the United States isn’t always on the “right side” of history.

9. Nixon orders the “Saturday Night Massacre.” (October 20)

Sure, there were plenty of Watergate moments I could have chosen in 1973. But this one is the first one that raised calls for Nixon’s impeachment. I mean, on November 17 he famously proclaimed, “I am not a crook!”

10. The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from DSM-II. (December 15)

One of the landmark decisions in the ongoing quest for recognition of and equality for the LGBT population of the United States – and an appropriate ending to this list, given today is the day that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” finally became history.

remembering jerry leiber

Yup – a music post.

I don’t have that much to say about Jerry Leiber, other than he co-wrote some of the most recognizable foundation songs of rock-and-roll. So many luminaries of rock – from Elvis to The Beatles, to Lady Gaga and Green Day – have plied the Leiber & Stoller catalog for the perfect tune.

And they certainly wrote many that instantly job one’s memory.

Here are a few to enjoy:

“Yakety Yak”

“Stand By Me”

“On Broadway”

“Kansas City”

Anybody else like Leiber’s stuff?

Also, RIP Nick Ashford – that’s two halves of two hit-making songwriting teams. Very sad.

things i used to love

A post on NPR’s All Songs Considered blog has me thinking about things I used to love (or, at the very least, like) but don’t anymore. The NPR post speaks specifically of bands, and I’ll start with that.

U2. This is a tough one for me, because I really like U2’s music. But I have a tough time getting too excited about their latest releases. I guess that No Line On The Horizon just left me… wanting. Wanting the band to be less ponderous, sounding more fresh. They always release a single that suggests a turn toward something new and different (e.g. “Vertigo” or “Put On Your Boots”), but the rest of the album sounds like the same-‘ol, post Achtung Baby U2. They’ve done well by this formula – I really like All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb – but they seem to be coasting along these days. And the new songs I’ve heard from their current tour don’t suggest anything new coming along anytime soon.

But the real point of my bringing up this post is to discuss something else where my support used to be somewhat strong, but has since waned:

Instant-Runoff Voting. I once was a believer in IRV. I even thought that it had a place within a PAC I helped form here in DC, to be used for endorsement of candidates – though even then, I was a bit skeptical about its merit. My biggest problem with IRV is the false sense of support it can create for the victor. I think that IRV (in a modified form, but still IRV) was suggested for the PAC because, under more traditional voting systems, the group seldom came to enough consensus to endorse candidates and initiatives in local politics. So IRV was a means to bring about endorsement more-or-less for the sake of endorsement, even if the bulk of the membership was divided.

Since IRV became the law of the PAC, endorsements have been handed out in many races. But these endorsements are often hollow. The IRV system can be played via political gamesmanship (e.g. not ranking all candidates, instead ranking just one and selecting “no endorsement” as the other option – a valid tactic, but one that can force a particular outcome). When the system is played, the outcome is seldom one of consensus; rather, it’s one the divides membership, dilutes support for the endorsed candidate, and makes the PAC and the endorsed look weak.

This folly was brought to the fore in my mind today by a post at Greater Greater Washington that suggested that IRV could be a solution to the quandary posed by the upcoming special (and open) election to fill the At-Large Council seat vacated by Kwame Brown. An IRV poll was part of the post, and wouldn’t you know it: supporters of two leading candidates embarked in the same political gamesmanship that makes IRV farcical in endorsement processes. Any “victory” in this flawed poll (it also allowed unlimited casting of votes by individuals, which is a flaw in the polling software used) is a hollow as an IRV victory would be in a real-world election.

Are current election models perfect? No. But IRV is not a great solution, either, and has the likelihood to produce hollow victories for candidates who will enjoy little real-world support.

So IRV, it was an interesting relationship, but I think that the promise of instant results and guaranteed compromise outcomes doesn’t really work in most real-world situations.

wednesday (not-so) random ten: 30 years ago today

30 years ago, at 11:07 PM Eastern time, John Winston Ono Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He was 40 years old.

“It was thirty years ago today…”

I remember that night quite vividly. Even though I was only 7, the news hit me via my parents’ reaction. Both parents, especially my mom, were fans of The Beatles, and as such saw “the dream” end with Lennon’s murder at the hands of a sick man. I remember this Nightline broadcast that night (it was on slightly past my bedtime, but I could hear the audio coming from my parents’ room):

Anybody who knows me is well aware that the only artists who eclipse Simon & Garfunkel in terms of fandom are The Beatles. I’ve written about Lennon before: on this date in 2009, 2006 and 2005, as well as other remembrances for his 70th birthday and in honor of his magnificent Christmas song, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

Lennon was a flawed genius, for sure. As with most prolific songwriters, he had his fair share of duds and misfires. In fact, a lot of his solo output was fairly forgettable (the same could be said of his former writing partner, Paul McCartney), but it stuck to a common formula: a wink and a nod to the rock & roll John heard as a teenager and played in his early-20s. He wrote what he was feeling from 1965 on, getting increasingly raw as the years went by. Some songs worked brilliantly; others failed miserably. Eventually, John took a break to raise his son, Sean, which had the upside of giving him a much-needed break from the music industry and the pressure to produce new songs every year. The post-break results were some of his best songwriting since The Beatles.

But now I’m repeating myself – read my 2005 remembrance, as it still reflects my opinion on Lennon and his legacy.

Paul McCartney’s initial reaction to John’s murder seemed fairly flip at the time (“It’s a drag.”), but how can you compose yourself when a loved one is suddenly removed from your life? Lennon and McCartney had made amends over the years since The Beatles’ breakup, reuniting first in 1974, and again in 1976 – the latter time exchanging bread baking techniques. He was aware of John’s plans to get back out on the road, touring behind Double Fantasy and rediscovering the rock & roll that both of them loved to the core.

Lennon’s murder affected McCartney quite a bit. The shock resonated with Paul, and the once tour-happy McCartney withdrew from his public performance schedule after John’s untimely death. He would perform one-offs (e.g. Live Aid), but it took until 1988 before he decided to take on touring again, burying himself in myriad projects, from albums to a movie to collaborations with other musicians. However, I think that McCartney saved his best reaction for a song, “Here Today,” which is one of many standout tracks on his 1982 Tug Of War album. And it took another decade before he started to perform “Here Today” in his shows. The song still moves Paul, even with repeated performances, as can be seen in this amateur video capture from a show at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles:

George Harrison was also affected by Lennon’s murder. He and Lennon drifted apart after the initial post-breakup years, and George’s Somewhere In England album received a somewhat cold reception from Warner Brothers after they heard Lennon’s Double Fantasy, a move that annoyed the usually “quiet” Beatle. But Lennon’s murder brought forth a slew of feelings and memories, and George rewrote the lyrics of a song for his now-delayed album, invited the McCartneys and Ringo to the recording session, and produced “All Those Years Ago”:

On December 8, 2000, I was in New York City doing some website work for Paul Simon. As such, I attended two of Simon’s shows at the Beacon Theatre, the second one on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s murder. The Beacon is only a few blocks from the Dakota, so there was a palpable sense of the gravity of the date and location.

Simon was a friend of Lennon, and was affected by the murder like many other artists whose careers bloomed in the 1960s. In commemoration of Lennon’s murder, he penned a song, “The Late, Great Johnny Ace.” The song connected three landmark deaths during Simon’s lifetime: Johnny Ace (and early rock & roll artist), John Kennedy and John Lennon.

And on December 8, 2000, Simon performed the song during the second of two encores. He rarely plays this song live, for reasons largely unknown as it is a beautiful song with poignant lyrics. Perhaps this on-stage incident at the public unveiling of the song (at Simon & Garfunkel’s Central Park concert in 1981) is a contributing factor:

Simon’s performance ten years ago brought the audience to tears, followed by a standing ovation that seemed to last for hours. To those of us who knew when John died, we realized that Simon performed the song ten years to the minute since John was pronounced dead.

Now to the not-so-random ten twenty, pulled from Lennon’s long catalog with The Beatles and as a solo artist:

  1. “A Day In The Life” – The Beatles (from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  2. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” – The Beatles (from Rubber Soul)
  3. “If I Fell” – The Beatles (from A Hard Day’s Night)
  4. “How?” – John Lennon (from Imagine)
  5. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – John Lennon (from Double Fantasy)
  6. “Instant Karma” – John Lennon (from Lennon Legend)
  7. “Yer Blues” – Plastic Ono Band (from Live Peace in Toronto 1969)
  8. “Mother” – John Lennon (from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)
  9. “I’m So Tired” – The Beatles (from The Beatles [White Album])
  10. “Watching The Wheels” – John Lennon (from Double Fantasy)
  11. “Tomorrow Never Knows” – The Beatles (from Revolver)
  12. “Across The Universe” – The Beatles (from Anthology 2)
  13. “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” – John Lennon (from Double Fantasy)
  14. “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” – John Lennon & Elton John (from Walls & Bridges)
  15. “Twist And Shout” – The Beatles (from Please Please Me)
  16. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” – The Beatles (from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  17. “Jealous Guy” – John Lennon (from Imagine)
  18. “God” – John Lennon (from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)
  19. “Imagine” – John Lennon (from Imagine)
  20. “In My Life” – The Beatles (from Rubber Soul)

A few Lennon quotes to round things out:

“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.” (8 December 1980)

“I go to restaurants and the groups always play ‘Yesterday.’ I even signed a guy’s violin in Spain after he played us ‘Yesterday.’ He couldn’t understand that I didn’t write the song. But I guess he couldn’t have gone from table to table playing ‘I Am The Walrus.'” (Playboy, September 1980)

“It was just a gradual development over the years. Last year was ‘All You Need Is Love.’ This year it’s ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ Remember love. The only hope for any of us is peace. Violence begets violence. If you want to get peace, you can get it as soon as you like if we all pull together. You’re all geniuses and you’re all beautiful. You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace. Think peace, live peace, and breathe peace and you’ll get it as soon as you like. Okay?” (July 1969)

And one last quote, said today by Sean Ono Lennon:

“Thank you for all the kind words. Let’s all just pray for peace on earth. That’s what he cared about most. Love, S.”

a bit of holiday cheer: mash-up style

I always look forward to the latest installment of Santastic, the mash-up album of holiday songs, mixed by some of the top DJs in the world. This year’s iteration, Santastic V: Snow, Man!, is full of fun stuff.

I’m especially fond of this mash-up of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and The Police’s “Roxanne” – enjoy!

wednesday random ten: winter’s arrival with a bang

This morning featured a rather dramatic entry for winter: high winds, heavy rain, and a dramatic drop in temperature over the course of 30 minutes. Good times. And here are ten songs that randomly popped up in iTunes this morning (per the usual rules: take the first ten songs that play in your music player, no skipping due to potential embarrassment):

  1. “Candy and a Currant Bun” – Pink Floyd (from The Pink Floyd Early Singles)
  2. “How Could I Be Such a Fool” – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (from Freak Out!)
  3. “Black Betty” – Joe Brown (from Down To Earth)
  4. “Whistle For The Choir” – The Fratellis (from Costello Music)
  5. “23 Mile Ride” – Mojo Nixon (from Frenzy)
  6. “Midnight Radio” – Dar Williams (from Promised Land)
  7. “A Method” – TV on the Radio (from Return to Cookie Mountain)
  8. “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” – Bob Dylan (from The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3)
  9. “Golden Bird” – Levon Helm (from Electric Dirt)

And since this is the first day of the meteorological winter, why not ten more songs? Seems right to me, given that winter is my favorite season:

  1. “Apartment Zero” – Mojo Nixon (from Whiskey Rebellion)
  2. “However Much I Booze” – The Who (from The Who By Numbers)
  3. “Day Tripper” – The Beatles (from Mono Masters [from The Beatles in Mono box set])
  4. “From Me To You” – The Beatles (from Anthology 1)
  5. “Skiing Billy” – Ray Conrad & Rosalee Sorrels (from “The Cotton Picking Lift Tower” and Other Skiing Songs)
  6. “Square One” – Coldplay (from X&Y)
  7. “They Made My Dream Come True” – The Who (from Endless Wire)
  8. “Birthday” – The Beatles (from The Beatles [i.e. The White Album])
  9. “Let It Loose” – The Rolling Stones (from Exile on Main Street)
  10. “Jesus Walking On The Water” – Violent Femmes (from Add It Up [1981-1993])

So what ten (or twenty) songs are playing in your workplace, living room or headphones today?

wednesday random ten: windy wednesday

The usual rules apply, though it’s awfully windy outside.

  1. “Run For Your Life” – The Beatles (from Rubber Soul)
  2. “Christians I Hate ‘Em” – Mojo Nixon (from Whiskey Rebellion)
  3. “Hung Up On Soul” – Death Cab For Maddy (from Mashups by Party Ben)
  4. “Bitch” – The Rolling Stones (from Get Your Leeds Lungs Out! Revisited)
  5. “Lasso the Moon” – Art Garfunkel (from Songs From a Parent to a Child)
  6. “Heretics” – Andrew Bird (from Armchair Apocrypha)
  7. “Satisfied” – Cee Lo Green (from The Lady Killer)
  8. “Sad Professor” – R.E.M. (from Up)
  9. “Where Would We Go?” – Rusty Anderson (from Born On Earth)
  10. “An Cat Dubh” – U2 (from Live in San Diego, 28 March 2005)

Got your own random ten? Share ’em in the comments.

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