Friday, May 20, 2016

Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now

This essay has been a while in coming. It is time to address one of the Big Boys of American Music, that I have not yet addressed - the (other) pride of Minnesota (actually, the fourth pride of Minnesota post in this series, since I got to Husker Du and the Mats a couple years back), Mr. Bob Dylan.

It's been a while in coming because Dylan is a hard one to write about - I imagine for anyone, but definitely for me. I like old Bob - always have; I respect old Bob, always have, maybe do now more than ever - and he is obviously one of the great artists of the last 60 years - but it's still hard sometimes for me to get my head around him. He isn't obvious to me - even now - his virtues are elusive, sometimes. Or what should I say? I always heard Dylan on the radio, and always liked him - I knew how important he was almost from the start, and how good he was - I've always listened to him, and, I suppose you could say, taken him for granted. I guess it's that for some reason he never made that personal connection to me most of the bands in this series have - I can't come up with stories about listening to Dylan the way I can for almost everyone else. I always liked him, but there were never times when he took over my head for a while, again - the way everyone else here has. I've written similar things about some of the others - Bowie for example - but with Bowie, there was a jump, a point where I kind of sat down and listened, and kind of reevaluated him, upwards. Dylan - has just always been this major figure I agreed with everyone else when they said how good he was. I don't know if that makes any sense. Especially since you listen to the songs and of course he's one of the great ones. That's what makes it hard to write about him - as far back as I've cared about Dylan at all, I've known how good he was, never doubted it. It probably would be easier to write about him if I dismissed him, even just had a spell where I thought Dylan was overrated - but I haven't. I suppose he is overrated if you say he's as good as the Beatles or Stones, but otherwise, no. So -

Leave it then. Let's get to the good stuff. Because there is no denying his genius: as a writer at least, though he is not slouch as a songwriter, and though he is not what you would call a singer - he is most definitely a voice. But it is the words that make him what he is. I sometimes come across people who doubt the Bob - who try to show he wasn't so good after all - they are incorrect. They might complain about some aspect of his writing - the obscurity and obliqueness of some of his songs - but they complain about those things by ignoring the songs that are nothing like that: that get to the point and fast. What's obscure about Hurricane or the Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll? But plain or obscure, conventional or experimental - he was always sharp, dazzling, surprising and careful. The words make him what he is, the words and how he uses them. It's there in those piles of words, lines, images in the early songs - in the clear, direct statement of songs like the Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll - in the meandering narratives of 70s songs, from Desire or Blood on the Tracks. He uses words to make music - the way they clash and throng, jammed together out of time, their mysterious pauses and transitions, repetitions, all the poetic tricks he uses - rhymes and internal rhymes and alliterations and assonance - While preachers preach of evil fates/Teachers teach that knowledge waits... lay slain by a cane... (or those three tables, also in ...Hattie Carroll...) - they all add up. However they read on the page, he always wrote these words to be sung - or performed, anyway - they are rhythmic and propulsive, ragged (usually), fitted to his voice. It's as if the words were a musical instrument.

Musically, he is not as dazzling, but he is always interesting. He gets a nice sense of propulsion in his music quite soon - the early acoustic songs usually roll along pretty well, and when he went electric, he did it in style. Right out of the gate, Subterranean Homesick Blues, fast and straight and no looking back. You feel like you've stepped onto a fast train, rattling along, steady and relentless.... He picked good collaborators for his music, and all through his career, the backgrounds remain as interesting as his voice - moments spring out at you - the piano and sleazy horns in Rainy Day Women, organ on Like a Rolling Stone, the drumming on Tangled up in Blue or all Along the Watchtower, the violin haunting Hurricane (indeed all of Desire) - making the songs, always fitting them, adding to them, pulling them away, surprising you.

And finally - it's impossible to overstate just how important Bob Dylan has been as an artist. Some many artists came directly in his path - so many I have written about - Lou Reed, The Byrds, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Cave; and he had profound influence on almost all rock songwriters after - the Beatles and the Stones were shaped by him, and everyone after. He raised the stakes for songwriters - issued a kind of challenge to them, to make the words matter, and carve out your own space in your words. It's obviously something that was around before him - blues and country songwriters always worked with similar material, and greatly influenced him - though that was just one mode he worked with. He shifted things - bringing in ideas from modern poetry (subject matter and devices) - bringing in (and adapting) longer narrative forms - bringing in a lot of things. His voice is everywhere in rock and roll.

And so we come to the list: not easy, but that's not new. This is made more troublesome by the fact that while I have a decent collection of Dylan records, he's been at it for almost 60 years, putting out a pretty steady stream of music for that whole time. That's another reason to put this essay off - all that work, all that unexplored work.... But that's can't be helped (except by waiting a couple more years to do this.) So here you go:

1. It's Alright Ma (Im Only Bleeding)
2. Tangled Up In Blue
3. Subterranean Homesick Blues
4. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
5. Hurricane
6. All Along the Watchtower
7. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
8. Like a Rolling Stone
9. Buckets of Rain
10. It's All Over Now Baby Blue

Here he is in 1964 - Blowing in the Wind:



It's All Right Ma - another of those acoustic songs that rocks harder than any metal and punk you might come up with:



Electric Bob, not working on Maggie's farm no more:



One of the great music videos (I hope this one's legal, and sticks around, so this post won't look like the Prince post from last month, which is all blank YouTube links now...):



Dylan in 84 with Mick Taylor, Ian McLagan, etc. - Mick takes a pretty epic guitar solo here as well, a nice touch - one fo the most underrated guitar players in the business:



Latter day Bob, tangled up in blue - 2014:



And leave with - Bob's Christian phase? whatever - this kicks ass:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Post Sox Friday 10

Had a very late night last night, thanks to the Red Sox (4th game in a row with double digit runs! which includes games against both Sonny Gray and Dallas Keuchel! Plus Good David Price, the 1 run, 12 Ks variety, not the one with the 6.75 ERA), so this will be one of those minimalist Friday 10 things.

HAve a good weekend!

1. Gang of Four - It was Never Going to Turn Out too Good
2. Gang of Four - Ether - yes, it is random; well - no one ever complained about 2 gang of four songs in a row.
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Slowly Goes the Night
4. Ruins - Komnigriss
5. Lightning Bolt - No Rest for the Obsessed
6. Dungen - Err Skall Att Trivas
7. Carter Family - Wildwood Flower
8. Jack White - Take Me With You When You Go
9. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - the Boy
10. Joy Division - Ice Age

Well - that certainly came out well. Some video? Gang of four, comeback edition:



A later generation of the Carter family playing Wildwood Flower:



Here's Joy Division:

Friday, May 06, 2016

Friday Music, Randomly

Friday again, and I don't have a lot to say. I guess Donald Trump is now assured the Republican nomination, with Cruz and Kasich dropping out. They must be so proud, though I don't know what they don't like about Trump - he's got the core of republicanism down cold: racism and misogyny and tax cuts on the rich - that's American conservatism to the bone. He seems to have won because he gave the racists and misogynists exactly what they wanted to hear, in so many words, and because he's a TV star, and knows what the cameras are for. well - they can have him. I remain optimistic that once he's being voted on by the general public, not by the racist misogynists in the GOP, he will lost badly. One hopes.

Anyway - let's do some random music - iTunes appears to be restless today...

1. Big Kids - I'm Bored
2. Matthew Sweet - Don't Go
3. Interpol - Always Malaise (The Man I Am)
4. Lotte Lenya & The Three Admirals - Alabama Song
5. The Flaming Lips - Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
6. fIREHOSE - 4.29.92
7. At The Drive In - Arcarsenal
8. Xiu Xiu - 20,000 Deaths for Eidelyn Gonzalez, 20,000 Deaths for Jamie Peterson
9. Hank Williams - Your Cheatin' Heart
10. Mercury Rev - Queen of Swans

Video? Let's try the Big Kids - an obscurity I have thanks to a Mojo collection - a neat piece of retro rockin'...



I posted Bowie doing Brecht/Weill last week - here's Lottle Lenya:



And - let's end with Omar and Cedric and company, back in the day - Arcarsenal live:

Sunday, May 01, 2016

On Bernie Sanders' Success

Happy May Day! In past, I have used this as a chance to post musical videos and jokes about witches, communists and morris dancers, but this year, with Bernie Sanders, Socialist, running for president, and doing very well, thank you very much, I might try something more.

It seems, in the last couple weeks, that Sanders' campaign is starting to run down. He was never really going to win, I suppose - but he made a nice run of it, and has been relevant all along. The race has gotten uglier as it has gone along, but it's only May now, and there is plenty of time for the Democrats to get their act together and get on with the business of winning elections. The presidency, of course - though maybe just as important, maybe more, Senate and House races. The senate is in range - the house, probably not - but getting the Senate takes a lot of pressure off, allows a Democratic president to fill up the Supreme Court, move the country left (or at least, sane) there, generally force more stuff through. There is a lot of whining on the "left" about the horror or Hillary Clinton, neoliberal as the candidate, but I still hope that's just a fringe, dimwits looking for clicks, you know...

Because too much lamenting over Sanders' failure is not justified in the least. First - because he hardly failed. He didn't win the nomination, but it's hard to see how that was ever in the cards. But assuming he's smart enough to know that - he has succeeded brilliantly in getting his policies into the public eye. He has made Socialism respectable - made it possible to talk about socialism, socialist policies, and to call them socialist. (Even if most of them are just good liberal positions - tax the rich, help the poor, use government money to put people to work and keep the roads and trains and bridges functioning, don’t invade every country we disagree with, and pay for medical care and education for everyone.) He has gotten votes for those things - he has injected leftist ideas into the conversation - not the moronic kind of "conversation" dimwits like Walker Bragman (maybe the dumbest thing on the internet this week - which tells you how stupid some of the internet has become, if that's in question) babble about, but the actual things actual politicians actually talk about. We shall see how much of it makes it into the Democratic platform, and see how well Clinton (if she wins, which she should) sticks to them, either with some legislative support or without it, but it is there.

And this is the thing: Sanders likes to talk about revolutions, but that's just rhetoric, for all the Salon writers pretending to be confused. When he decided to run, as a Democrat, he made it clear that he is, in fact, smarter than that - revolution is for the choir; but better platforms, better down ticket candidates, more public pressure for liberal policies, that is where the action is. And for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the (alleged) Bernie true believers, all the Democrats in disarray nonsense being published - it's working. It's not just Bernie - in the past few years, we've seen the Occupy Wall Street movement, the election of people like Elizabeth Warren, Sharrod Brown and such, the emergence of Sanders himself as a national figure, the movement for a $15 minimum wage, along with a significant number of liberal social victories. Not much of this has made inroads as Federal law (since the Democrats lost the house in 2010 - before that, real progress was made), but it has made significant progress in states and cities. Minimum wages have gone up; tipped minimum wages have been eliminated; social policies have changed for the better in many cities, as well as Federally, thanks to the Supreme Court recognizing obvious truth. And it's important to remember that egregiously regressive laws, like North Carolina or Mississippi and so on, are, more often than not, defensive laws passed to try to hold back pressure from above and below. The Supreme court has joined the 21st century in some areas; and many cities, even in the Old Confederacy, are passing laws to raise minimum wages, to protect gay, lesbian, transgender rights - thus causing the states to try to reverse history again.

All of this makes it easy to get discouraged, I won't deny it. You look at Trump, running more or less explicitly as a fascist, certainly making white supremacy the one true issue of his campaign, and it is discouraging. Look at North Carolina (and a parade of other states) trying to stop their own cities from treating people decently, and it is easy to forget that these things come because their own cities are turning on them. But in the end, if change comes, it comes the way it always comes - by people voting for it. It's fun to talk about electing Bernie Sanders - but it's far more important to elect more liberal liberals to more offices. To take over city governments, state governments (though as always, the states are the most regressive forces in the country; you want a revolution? abolish states), get people into the house and the senate, and then you can change. And personally I think Bernie Sanders, running as he did, and succeeding as he did, has made it easier to do that - has legitimized the liberal side of Democratic politics, created an audience and a constituency for leftier politicians, policies and all the rest. Whining about how the establishment won again underestimates how much he has done to change the establishment - and underestimates by far the importance of simply voting to move the establishment.

Because when you get to the nitty gritty of it - if Democrats and liberals and progressives and socialists want to move the country (and the party) left, they do it by voting. Get 74% participations, and the Democrats will dominate government for the foreseeable future. Get that participation in every election, and it will move the Democratic party left as well. And moving the party is more important than electing one man. So - vote, people! Vote for Democrats! vote for the most liberal Democrat in the primary (if that's your thing), but for the love of god and the democracy, vote for the Democrat in the general. And if that means Hillary Clinton, well - that works for me. And anyway, the tea baggers all thing she's a communist anyway, so - who am I to doubt them?

All right. That said - may day is a day for jokes and music about commies, witches and morris dancers -and celebration of all things red. Not a good day on the soccer front, with Liverpool getting smoked - what can you do?

David Bowie singing Brecht?



Maybe Prince doing Red House with Maceo Parker (enjoy it while you can - Prince songs go fast off YouTube):



And don't forget Black Phillip, this may day!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Prince Not Prince

Friday is on us again, a very welcome Friday it is. We have survived a whole week now without Prince, which is a bit hard to believe. The flood of Prince posts is starting to wane, though not completely, and I can't say want to see them stop coming. I was thinking, how familiar it felt, to have everyone talking about Prince all the time - but that kind of makes sense. During his heyday in the 80s, I listened to the radio and watched MTV and V-66 and read about pop music, and every new record by acts at tht level got the saturation treatment. A Prince record, Madonna, record, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen record, was everywhere for a week, a month, whatever. Maybe it's still the case (didn't Beyonce just put something out? people keep mentioning it), but I don't pay attention the same way (people mention it on the internet; do I go tot he trouble of clicking on their links? not yet!) - you didn't have to do anything to hear Thriller 10 times a day. So all that is part of it - and the other part is that of those mega stars, Prince is the one I liked as much as the public did. So not only did you hear When Doves Cry or Let's Go Crazy 10 times a day, will you nil you, but I sought them out. Looked for them on the radio or TV; and people had the record (not me - I was in college and had no money - but my friends did. After college, I was the one getting Sign of the Times the minute it came out...) So yeah - you could live Prince for a couple weeks or a month.

Anyway, I'm not the one to stop the Prince talk. I've seen lots of posts about the songs he wrote for other people - this is a bit different. Here are some songs that he didn't write, but could have. Some are pretty obvious - Terrence Trent D'Arby? - some might be a bit far-fetched - but his influence was vast - and this might cover some of it. (Plus a young marble giants sound, with the organ sound, almost the notes, from Dirty Mind - more or less exactly contemporary, that...)

1. NERD - Don't Worry About it
2. Terrance Trent D'Arby - Wishing Well (everyone noticed this, of course)
3. Janelle Monae - Dance Apocalyptic
4. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
5. TV On the Radio - Wear You Out
6. Outkast - Hey Ya!
7. U2 - Even Better than the Real Thing
8. Wilco - Heavy Metal Drummer
9. Of Montreal - I was Never Young
10. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

And some video: Best thing I can find for the NERD song is just the song - but - this is pretty much Prince karaoke:



Terrence Trent D'Arby - one of the more obvious acts to take advantage of Prince's style to do their own thing, and, at least for one perfect song, to more than hold his own:



And another big fan - Janelle Monae:



And finally - Young Marble Giants, live:


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Easter, 1916

100 years ago today elements of Irish Republicans rose against the English, demanding independence. They seized the Dublin General Post Office, and a few other business, and held out a few days against the British army sent to out them down. It was not a very effective rising, nor a popular one, but the British - in the very depths of the Great War at the time - were in no mood to fool around, and set about executing the leaders without much ceremony. And that made the rising far more popular among the Irish, and, you could say, ultimately successful. The dead became martyrs; the living were more dedicated to their purpose, and would continue on, striving for an independent Ireland, that would come.

Abd Yeats, the poet, would brood on the rising, and the deaths, and would write about them. And get, I would have to say, the essence of revolution - its appeal; its folly; its ways of corrupting its adherents - too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart - but a stone that transforms the world, as well, perhaps. A terrible beauty is born.

Easter, 1916

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wing├Ęd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Was I What You Wanted Me To Be

Well, I wasn't planning to write about Prince this month - this is not the way it is supposed to work. But I have to. I have to find words to wrap my head around this news - it is beyond unexpected. And horrible.

He is, was (how awful to write that - "was"), like Bowie and Dylan (who I was planning to write about this month, and will get to), an artist I revere, but - find very hard to get my head around. He was in the air in the 80s - the dominant musician of the decade - others might have sold more, gotten more attention (Michael Jackson or Madonna, say); I might have listened to the indie punks I've written about here over the last couple years more... But Prince was the one who got on both lists. The biggest acts of the decade - the best acts of the decade - and my favorite acts of the decade. He defined the 80s. He redeemed the 80s (though I can't deny being pretty fond of a lot of the music of that decade, not just indie and punk, but it's best pop acts - Madonna at her best; Michael Jackson especially early; George Michael - new wave stuff, like The english Beat or ABC or Talk Talk - rap, obviously - etc.) Still: Prince redeemed it, transcended it, he was better than all of it. He did everything. He did everything as well or better than anyone else. Maybe more pop/soul/funk than anything else - but everything you could do in rock is in there. He claimed all of music history for himself, and bettered it. (Look at his Superbowl Halftime Show - playing a couple of his greatest hits, and running through a quick history of American rock music - Dylan and CCR to Foo Fighters and back to himself - making it all his.) The - what do you call them? middle early records? - Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999 - are pop/soul/funk to be sure, but they are also New Wave - clean and spare and tight - put them on headphones, and they sound as minimalist and precise as Young Marble Giants - and funkier than funk. Never mind something like Sister, which, spare as it is, is basically a punk song... Then comes Purple Rain, and he takes on and betters arena rock. And you get indie rock songs like The Cross, you get hiphop, you get Zep impersonations - everything.

And in the 80s, along with the music, there was more. There was always something explicitly Utopian about Prince - getting beyond race, beyond gender, beyond sexual preference, beyond the duality of spirit and body - though without ever losing any of it. He didn't transcend race or gender, he embraced all of race and gender. Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? - well - sure - why not? It's all good. And on a practical level, he played it out: he appealed to anyone who would listen. The rock kids, the dance kids, the pop kids - bringing all of those things with him to your favorite genre, which he played as well as anyone at home there. And always sexy and funny.

I'll tell a couple stories - this one is kind of sketchy, but the basics are this: I remember having an argument, sort of, with a girl in college. She was a Bowie fan. She was defending him - I don't remember the details, but I compared him to Prince, two chameleons, two brilliant musicians and writers who deliberately tried to be everything it was possible to be.But sShe didn't like Prince - or - maybe she liked the music, but she found him disturbing. The sex! the religion! the - something. I remember asking her how she could like Bowie for the very same things, and not like Prince. I wish I remembered the details - did we even finish the conversation? I remember thinking about it - thinking it came down tot he fact that she was religious herself, and I think it came down to the fact that she was religious herself, but Bowie's polymorphous perversity was safe because he never pretended to involve god or religion. He could be cool without being religious. But Prince didn't let her break things apart like that. He was everything Bowie was, and he was steeped in the church. He claimed everything, and claimed it was all continuous - black and white, male and female, straight and gay, spiritual and physical, sex and love and ecstasy - it's all a game; we're all the same; do you wanna play? I think that's what bothered her - he didn't let people keep their distinctions, he could recite the lord's prayer and then wish we all were nude in the same song. (And I think she was complaining, specifically, about Controversy.) He really did break down barriers - and the barrier between sex and the spirit is a pretty big one - and Prince wasn't going to let anyone out of it. "I am something that you'll never comprehend." Sex and god are the same thing. Worrisome, maybe....

The other story is clearer. This happened in 1989 - the opening of Batman, with it's Prince soundtrack. I saw it twice the weekend it opened. First time at a sneak preview at the old Cherie theater in Boston, the backbay - sellout crowd that looked like a Prince audience: white, black, Hispanic, Asian, all mixed up together, and everyone absolutely stoked. They cheered everything - they cheered the previews, they cheered the credits, they cheered all the stars, and they cheered Prince maybe louder than anyone. They cheered all the way through, every joke, every fight, every song. It was, easily, the best movie showing I have ever been to. The next night, I went to see it again, with a different bunch of friends (a couple black kids and 3 or 4 white guys, a fact worth noting.) This was at a suburban mall, and though the crowd might have been almost as diverse as it was the night before, the vibe was completely different. The white people and black people came in in separate groups, sat in mutually exclusive blocks, and (after a brawl before the movie started, when some white kids mouthed off to some black kids over holding seats for their friends), when the film started, cheered and booed in separate blocks. The white kids cheered Batman; the black kids cheered the joker; the black kids cheered Prince - the white kids booed Prince.

Who boos Prince? How do you boo Prince? That night was pretty decisive, I think, in making a city boy out of me - took a couple years to have the resources to afford to move to the city, but I got there... but after that second night - I never much cared about the suburbs again. I figured I'd take my chances in the city, with the city people, with the Prince fans...

And then, in the world, the 90s came - Prince got weird, changed his name, stopped sounding quite as vital. I stopped listening to the radio, MTV stopped playing music. And when Prince got weird, I let him go, and didn't really come back to him until the last couple records. Which have been pretty good in themselves - and of course, completely unlike each other. I have been hoping to dig through the last 20 years of his music before writing about him - I guess that's off, though the digging will still be on... But it gives this essay more of an 80s feel than it should have - and makes it sound as if Prince has been in hiding the last 25 years, and that's not true either. Sometimes weird, yes; probably not as immediately compelling as he was in the 80s; but still at it, and still a force.

Still, quite possibly, American's greatest rock and roll star. Which probably means, the world's greatest. Quite possibly.

All right.

Songs - a top 10? because that's the format, right? Hey, I did a Beatles top 10 - I can take a shot...

1. When Doves Cry - this is, maybe, the best single ever; I suppose you have the usual suspects - Hey Jude, say - but damn... Certainly when I was listening to the radio - seriously: was there ever a song that, the first time you heard it on the radio, came out and grabbed you by the neck like this?
2. Controversy
3. Kiss - this is a pretty damned good single too; and another example of what a light touch he had - the stripped down sound, full of space, all the sounds clean and precise, and always funky.
4. 1999
5. Sign of the Times
6. When You Were Mine
7. Dirty Mind
8. I Would Die for U
9. I Wanna Be Your Lover - though I remember the first time I heard this, too, on American top 40, Casey Kasem - I think i remember old Casey saying something about Prince playing all the instruments... I thought, ooh - listen to that dirty pun! and - cool song. Also - speaking of Casey Kasem, Richard Lyons, from Nagativland, also died today... these guys are from England and who gives a shit?
10. The Cross - yeah, I'm a sucker for tuneful guitar rock...

(Sorry, then, to many many songs - Head and Uptown, Sexuality, Let's Pretend We're Married, Delirious and Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain and Let's Go Crazy, Raspberry Beret - oh well...)

As for video - this is more trouble than it is worth, since old Prince made life hard for video posters. He had his reasons, and he had the right, but - maybe - youtube is kind of the radio of the 21st century, maybe - for some of us... It's all right. I will find what I can:

Like this full concert in 1982:



And Dirty Mind, from the same show:



Here's a live version of When Dove's Cry - I wish I could find the actual video, which is almost as much a kick in the ass as the song, but Prince's copyright lawyers have done their work - but this will do. From the period - Wendy on guitar...



Purple Rain live on TV (I had a different video here yesterday; it was gone overnight - but this one works):



Can't really ignore this video:



And here's Partyman, from the Batman soundtrack - playing Harvey Dent for the video. I remember thinking, they should cast Prince as Robin in the sequel. (Since Harvey Dent was already Billy Dee Williams). Oh well; no one listens to me. (And they even recast two-face when he got his star turn. Jesus.)



And a couple videos showing his mad skills on the guitar, on other people's songs: here he is doing Creep, with an epic solo at the end...



And here he is playing with various Traveling Wilbury's at a tribute for George Harrison - he comes in halfway through and - everything else disappears.... top this, mere Beatles!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Music on Tax Day

Well - I am late with this month's band of the month post - it's been a bit of a hectic month so far... Next week! definitely! for sure! Today? well - I guess we can say something nice about income taxes - hey! there are a lot worse ways to pay for a country! Things could be a lot worse: baseball is back... it LOOKS like spring out, though it's still pretty brisk out there... Liverpool pulled off a mind-boggling comeback in the Euro league... it's good! So here are some songs:

1. The Beatles - I Want You (She's So Heavy)
2. The Dictators - Baby Let's Twist
3. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
4. Six Organs of Admittance - Hold But Let GO
5. Decembrists - Summersong
6. Sly & The Family Stone - Life
7. The English Beat - Save it for Later
8. Boogie Down Productions - You Must Learn
9. Maximum Balloon - Pink Bricks
10. Thelonius Monk - Nice Work if You Can Get It

Video? First, let's honor the day - two very rich white men whining about taxes over Neal Hefti's riff. (But if you whine this cleverly, who is going to complain?):



And how about a little KRS-1? BDP, 1989, video:



And finally, coming to us through the generosity of Steve Wozniak, heres' the English Beat, saving it for later:

Friday, April 08, 2016

Merle Haggard

Well, it's felt like January the last week or so, snow and cold and all - and now comes news that would have fit too well back in January, when it seemed like every week some great artist was dying... Merle Haggard died this week.

He was a giant. In a better world, I'd be writing a band of the month for him - but in this one, I never dove into his catalogue like I did for others. I did for Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, back in the 80s, and early 90s - later, though, I was more inclined to browse through country, picking up familiarity with the other greats - the Carter Family, Merle, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and so on - without that immersion. I regret it, though, especially with Haggard, who had the weight and importance of Williams and Cash, and would have rewarded every minute I spent listening to him.

Though I got plenty of pleasure from listening to what I did. He was magnificent, and even when he was playing redneck, he was smart and funny about it. He will be missed.

Playing to the base, Okie from Muskogee, with Willie Nelson:



Mama Tried:



If We Make it Through December:



I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink, from October last year:



Sing Me Back Home:



Thursday, April 07, 2016

NL Baseball Predictions

And now, a couple days late (thanks to a power failure, a baseball draft, and some Comcast shenanigans), here are my National League predictions.

NL East:

1. NY Mets - if the Indians deserve consideration for their rotation - what about the Mets? it's obscene, really, how much starting pitching talent they have. Young and powerful? Personally, I hope they al stay healthy and come through, because I want to see what they can do, all fo them. The Mets, meanwhile, do have a decent team on the field behind them - Cespedes and Granderson and Duda - all solid to very good, a couple guys who could get better - a nice team.

2. Washington Nationals - they have been scorching hot this spring. They have Bryce Harper. They have Scherzer and Strasburg and depth. They certainly can win it. This might be their best chance - Dusty Baker has a good track record or wining, but has that other track record with pitchers - he might be tempted never to take Scherzer out of a game...

3. Miami Marlins - there is real talent here - Stanton, obviously, as well as Fernandez and Gordon and some others - enough to challenge the top two? I don't really think so.

4. Philadelphia Phillies - rebuilding; but they have some interesting players on the team - Franco and the like. They won't be any good, but might be fun.

5. Atlanta Braves - being dismantled, maybe so none of their current fans try to move with them to their new ball park in the suburbs. Freddie Freeman and his cats will surely be hoping for a trade...

AL Central:
1. Chicago Cubs - obviously. They were the third best team in baseball last year, and have added players while the teams ahead of them did not - indeed, the Cubbies took 2 of the Cards' best, in Hayward and Lackey. There's not a lot of downside, un;ess people get hurt - which is a possibility, especially among the starters. They are not as dazzling as the Mets, but Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, Hammel, Hendricks is pretty frigging impressive. The bullpen is solid. There are no holes int he lineup, there are defensive standouts at several positions, there are a couple superstars or budding superstars in the lineup. They have the best manager in the game. They are raring to go. It's hard to pick against them.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates - they didn't lose a lot from last year's second best team in the majors. Cole and Liriano, Melancon, McCutcheon, Marte - it's a good team, still. The NL is still very different from the AL - the AL is the parity league these days; the NL is extremely top heavy. That might be exaggerating the records of teams like the Pirates - they get to feast on teams like the Reds... But they are quite solid, and should b in the thick of the playoff mix again. Though like last year - they are going to have to get past 2 extremely good teams to win their division.

3. St. Louis Cardinals - they have lost a lot from last year - but they have Wainwright back - Lackey for Wainwright is a trade most of us would make (even those of us who love John Lackey.) If Wacha and Martinez can step forward - they could have a rotation that approaches some of the other great ones... The offense has its issues - though getting Holliday healthy would help. Thye are going to be hard pressed to match last year's success - they still have to take on two of the best teams in the league in their division - but they are still a strong contender for all of it.

4. Milwaukee Brewers - I forget they exist sometimes.

5. Cincinnati Reds - I bet they wish they could forget they exist. Though they have some punch still - Votto is aces, Bruce and Merrerro and even Phillips can still play a bit. They have some interesting young pitchers, though they are very young - Iglesias has talent. They are likely to lose a lot, but be interesting doing it. I think.

NL West:
1. SF Giants - it's an even numbered year. They had troubles in the spring, but whatever. Bumgarner is an ace, Cueto and Samardjia should do fine in San Francisco. The offense has issues, but they have players - Posey and Belt and Panik and Pence - not all bad. Other teams have issues too - so - why not?

2. LA Dodgers - Kershaw is somewhat lonely out on the hill, but they have enough talent around him to hang around, I think. They are fragile though.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks - last year I picked all the winterball champions to win - this year I am avoiding them all like a plague. So putting them 3rd is another way of picking them to win the division. Why not? Greinke and Miller, Goldschmidt and Peralta and Segura... I see AJ Pollock is out for a big chuink of the season with a broken elbow - that does not help. But they are an interesting team - they're probably more intriguing as dark horses than as favorites, though.

4. Colorado Rockies - why ahead of the Padres? Arenado, Gonzalez, Blackmon, LeMahieu, Paulson - right? reasonable, I suppose. In the end, they will mostly serve as fodder for the top 2-3 teams in the division.

5. San Diego Padres - another team that was trendy to pick last year, but stunk out the joint and unloaded a lot of their money guys - which means, they are likely to bounce back big, right? I don't know. I wouldn't rule them out, with Shields and Ross - even guys like Kemp could pull up the ghost of seasons past.... It's not really convincing though, is it?

Post-season then? Mets - Cubs - Giants, I say; Wildcards = Nats and - oy: Cards and Pirates tie, so they play each other for the right to play the Nats? why not. I think this is going to come down to the Cubs and Mets - one or the other is going to come through in the post-season, and get tot he series. Where - either of them - will be a pretty strong favorite. (Though the difference between the leagues - the Nats, Cards and Pirates, maybe even the Giants might be the favorites if they got to the series. On the other hand - only the A's have even an outside chance of being as bad as the Phillies, Braves, Reds, Brwers and possibly PAds and Rockies.) All or nothing baby!

MVP = Harper's to lose again, with the usual suspects - Goldschmidt, Votto, Bryant, McCutcheon hanging around.
Cy Young = Kershaw's to lose again. Scherzer and the Mets the likeliest contenders, I would say - maybe Bumgarner.
Rookie = let's go with Steven Matz, shall we? might as well!

Monday, April 04, 2016

American League Predictions and Such

snowing like a bastard out, but baseball season is here so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I am going to split the leagues this year, partly because I don't know how long it's going to take me to do the National League (now that I have gotten around to the AL) - so... here goes, part 1.

AL East:
1. Red Sox - this is obviously the homer pick - but the thing is, the AL East seems to me to be even enough that you could almost throw the names in a hat and draw them out and have a convincing order. Bad as Boston, and Tampa were last year, both finished near .500 - Boston within a bad series of it - and I can find plenty of reasons why they could win it this year. So: 1) David Price and the bullpen, Kimbrel and Smith - the starters are still iffy, but Price makes things a lot simpler at the top; the bullpen has gone from a weakness to a strength - though that could be gone if Smith and Koji both end up hurt... 2) They hit pretty well last year, in the end - and without really hitting as well as they could. You figure Ortiz might slip some, and maybe Pedroia - but both are likely to contribute; Hanley looks like he's found his bat again, and should be all right; Betts and Bogaerts look like the real thing - even if last year is at the high end of their potential, they were both so good, they could slip and still be valuable - but it's not unreasonable to look at last year as their true level - maybe even their starting point. Those are 2 really good ballplayers there. Offense shouldn't be a problem, and if a couple guys improve,t hey could be very good. All that - vs. the fact that they still don't have anyone other than Price you trust; Smith and koji have looked fragile already; and age and mediocrity could still leave the offense thin... But I will hope.

2. Blue Jays - they lost Price, but they kept the offense that was so good; tghey still have some decent pitching up there - Stroman, Estrada, Dickey isn't terrible - I don't know what to say about Drew Hutchison - he looked close to breaking out last spring, then - won 13 games without getting anyone out, as far as I can tell. (Which means he's probably due for a year where he has a 2.20 ERA, strikes out 200 and has a 4-12 records on the best hitting team in baseball... in triple A, apparently) Osuna looks promising, and their other relievers have talent. They aren't likely, in short, to win 95, but 88-92 is very reasonable, though I could say that for every tea, in the division this year.

3. Yankees - they have a killer bullpen, give or take a couple injuries and a suspension; they have guys who can hit, though more than one of them started hitting in the previous millennium; I don't know about their starters - they have more than their share of cripples, bastards and broken things, though they have some talent too... eery time I think they are done, they win the division - it's not impossible they do this year. One of these teams is going to get lucky, everyone is going to stay healthy, the long shots are going to pay off - it's probably a bit more likely it's the Sox or Jays, but the Yankees are certainly capable.

4. Orioles - So are the Orioles, though it's hard to see who's going to do the pitching. They could score a ton of runs if everything breaks - Machado and Davis and Jones, and Trumbo and Alvarez in the AL - who knows. I don't think it is likely, but it is not impossible.

5. Rays - they are harder to see winning - but they do have pitchers, they have some okay offense - luck and all could get them over after all. But it's definitely a stretch.

AL Central:
1. Indians - it's stupid to pick against the world series champs, but I'm stupid. And Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Timlin - that's four good reasons to pick against the Royals (and Tigers, who have sort of rebuilt.) But mostly, I suppose I just want the Indians to win.

2. Royals - the Tigers rebuilt, but the Royals are still a very dangerous team. They are flirting with disaster with their pitching - but enough starters could emerge to keep them close, they should hit, they have a strong bullpen still - so there's no reason to write them off. But it is hard to see them maintaining their position, unless someone like Ventura turns into an ace.

3. Tigers - they were awful last year, but they brought in Zimmerman and Upton, not a bad start, still have Cabrera and Martinez and Kinsler - they could be decent. A lot riding on Verlander coming back, maybe Sanchez - but there's no reason to think either is necessarily done. So they could get back into this thing. The AL as a whole was very bunched last year - and it's hard to say more than a couple teams are out of it completely this year.

4. Twins - a big surprise last year, but they have talent, they have solid pitching, some good young hitters - they are likely to regress, since teams usually do when they get that much better that fast - but who knows. Joe Mauer might remember how to hit - then where are they? I don't expect them to contend, but I won't be shocked if they do.

5. White Sox - they have some very fine pitchers, they have some offense - but what are the odds that a team that people would have forgotten existed if they hadn't staged a full scale clubhouse melt down in spring training is going to start winning when the games count? This year is likely to be most interesting for the speculation on when and for what Chris Sale gets traded.

AL West:
1. Rangers - really? well - Hamels, other decent starters - and maybe Yu Darvish in a couple months? nice bullpen; plenty of offense - they aren't bad. I think this is a very tight division (4 deep), and I suppose they get a bit of the edge here.

2. Astros - another team that might regress - but probably won't. They need to move forward in a couple area - better pitching behind Keuchel, more consistency in the lineup - but they have a lot of good young players who are more likely to get better than worse - I think they remain a solid contender.

3. Mariners - everyone overrated them last year, like the Red Sox - and that tends to make their eventual season look worse than it was. A couple guys turn, this way or that - they could be back in it. Why not?

4. Angels - the theme here is, again, that whoever gets a break or two is likely to take the division. A team with Mike Trout and even the aging husk of Albert Pujols can't be written off (and guys like Calhoun help too) - pitching might be a problem, but it isn't a disaster. Like almost everyone, they were hanging around the races last year - they will again, and a break or two and there you go.

5. A's - I don't see much hope for the A's though. Which probably means they win the division.

So what do we have: Sox, Indians, Rangers + wildcards: Toronto and KC. We all know what we want - the days of Red Sox/Cubs portending the apocalypse are gone, so maybe I should pick the Indians and Cubs - Tito vs. Theo! Actually, that's not ridiculous, if the pitching comes through for the Tribe. The truth is - I have less than no idea who could win this thing. whoever gets Chris Sale? The thing is - I can make a case for almost everyone being in the mix - maybe not the A's and White Sox, and the Twins, Rays and Orioles seem a stretch - but that leaves 10 teams that could contend - whichever one has the luck and a couple breakout seasons will win the games, whichever one is hot is October will get to face the Cubs. Right?

MVP = Trout's to lose, as usual. If he does, probably be to Donaldson again or Carlos Correa, Manny Machado - Mookie Betts?
Rookie of the Year = don't really know - say Buxton?
Cy Young = Danny Salazar! why not. I have him in 2 fantasy leagues, and wish I had him in more? maybe. Kluber and Price and Archer and Gray and Keuchel again and King Felix are all oging to be hanging around... Though based on yesterday - Marcus Stroman might be the next big thing in the league...

Friday, April 01, 2016

Aprile Fool's Music Post

USed to be, April Fol's day meant something - one day a year, you could write or do the most ridiculous things, and when it was done - April Fool's! Now? thanks to Donald Trump and the Republican party, every day is April fool's day!

Better not to dwell on that. Baseball is coming! though that has it's April fool's aspects as well - like the local 9 decided to sit $100 dollars (and 300 pounds?) of Panda for Travis Shaw? we'll see. Though asserting control over the team - you play according to how you play, not what we pay! - is a good sing, the opposite of folly. Right?

Anything else? Spring is here! for a day or so. Snow again by Sunday! ha ha ha! Anyway - that's just New England.

And so? 10 songs about fools:

1. Led Zeppelin - Fool in the Rain
2. The Who - Won't get Fooled Again
3. Frank Zappa - Dancin' Fool
4. Yo La Tengo - I was the Fool Beside You for Too Long
5. Billie Holiday - Foolin' Myself
6. John Cale - Ship of Fools
7. Neutral Milk Hotel - The Fool
8. George Michael - Kissing a Fol
9. Jay Farrar - Fool King's Crown
10. Camper van Beethoven - The Fool

Video: let's start with Lady Day:



I may be totally wrong, but I'm a -



And, John Cale, with Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde backing him:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Almost Spring; Almost

Friday has come around again. Spring is playing coy - the temperatures jumping around from day to day, hour to hour, all accompanied by rain. Had some snow at the beginning of the week, but before the day was out the sun was up and the snow all gone. March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb, all on the same day. It's like that almost every day! Fun stuff.

Baseball is coming - about another week. All is close to being well.

And some music, to round off the week:

1. Pylon - Very Right
2. Steve Almas & Ali Smith - The Lonely Sea
3. Pixies - No. 13 Baby
4. Richard Thompson - Little Blue Number
5. Grinderman - Go Tell the Women
6. Syd Barrett - No Good Trying
7. Rage Against the Machine - Settle for Nothing
8. The Kinks - She's Got Everything
9. OOIOO - Asozan
10. Sonny Sharrock - Fourteen

And some video? Always the Pixies, no?



Audio only, but this naturally suggests itself: Sonny Sharrock:



And a lottle more work on YouTube, and I found what I really wanted - Sonny Sharrock live, 14:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Marching Forward

Spring is almost here - it's looking and feeling like spring - but for how long? IS there a snow storm on the horizon this weekend? ha ha ha - who knows? On the other hand - only a couple more weeks to baseball - there is always that!

All right - I don't have much more to say. Politics? the usual grim litany of stupidity, and President Obama tramping straight ahead as if he were president, while the idiots around him flail and flounder... There will be plenty of chances to lament the stupidity of the Republican party, so I will let that pass for now. Let's just do some music today.

1. The White Stripes - In the Cold Cold Night
2. Prince and the Revolution - New Position
3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Tigers
4. Beck - Milk & Honey
5. Sleater Kinny - Funeral Song
6. The Strokes - Trying Your Luck
7. John Martyn - Don't Think Twice It's All Right
8. Tim Burgess - A Case of Vinyl
9. Ghost - Hanmiyau
10. My Bloody Valentine - Only Tomorrow

Video? In honor of yesterday's holiday - The Irish Rover, from the Pogues and the Dubliners:



And also: how about Beck?



And some MBV: