Friday, August 14, 2015

That Used to be My Favorite Song

I don't know if it is just August, or if I have hit a snag, but I am having a hard time coming up with a subject for this month's Band of the Month. Probably mostly August and sloth, but I can see the shoals a-comin'. Not that there aren't plenty of bands left to write about (and list off songs) - but it might be harder to run out those 2000 word essays I am sometimes guilty of. And - I am starting to get to bands that, well, I think I need to do more work on before I write about. I may be forced to start researching these posts.

So far, I have had 3 criteria for this series: 1) bands I love, or have loved, or something like that; 2) bands that have some autobiographical significance - though this is starting to run out - quite a few of the recent bands have just been favorites, without a huge amount of biographical importance; 3) Bands that I have listened to pretty extensively, if not exhaustively - though a lot of them are pretty close to exhaustively, at least for their regular official releases. Now - 1 is not a problem - still lots of bands I like out there, love even - some quite devotedly. 2 might be harder to continue with - I got most of the extra-musical stuff done the first year. But it's 3 that's starting to pose problems. Maybe I should put up a 4) Bands that have put out a significant amount of music, that I am familiar with all the way through. Because when I look at the bands I haven't written about yet, that I want to - I notice a couple things. On the one side, bands that haven't got a very big library of material - Joy Division, Television, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, say. And on the other side, bands that have a huge mass of material that I have not listened to comprehensively. I have a fair amount of Bob Dylan records, say, but there is such a mass of it... David Bowie; Neil Young; Captain Beefheart; Frank Zappa; the Kinks - I have a reasonable amount of most of them, but way less than half their total output. It is a problem. Other than Johnny Cash and a couple acts I dropped in the middle of their careers (Bruce Springsteen; U2) I have, or at least have heard, more or less everything (at least the official everything) of the bands I've listed. To do that with Dylan or Young to the Kinks is going to cost me a pretty penny and lots of time. It poses a problem.

Not an insurmountable problem. I rather look forward to spending some time trying to fill out my collection of Kinks or David Bowie records. (Dylan is daunting.) And there are bands that fit the criteria pretty well, and I am shameless enough to do a top ten off a greatest hits record if I have to... Material is forthcoming. But this is a good time to mark the likelihood that I might shift the focus of this series a bit, from bands to other sets of music. I started it partly as a way to add a little substance to my weekly music posts - something I tried fitfully through the years (like this one about a particularly nice Television song), but only managed to do with this series. It is something we may see more of though. Other types of lists (by decades or years or genres or what have you) - or whatever I do to accommodate bands that have problems fitting into the top 10 format. There are quite a few of those - from bands that only managed a couple records (a top 10 Sex Pistols songs list?) to bands that don't work through conventional songs. I have listened to a lot of more experimental bands in the last 10-15 years - Earth and Acid Mothers Temple and Godspeed You Black Emperor and so on - that... work differently. Even some more conventional bands feel that way to me - Sonic Youth and Six Organs of Admittance and the Melvins and Boris - seem harder to make a top 10 of then, you know, Bob Dylan.

All right. So - sorry for the meta whatever post this month. We should be back top our regularly scheduled whatever next month.

And since I couldn't settle on a band to write about, and indeed began to brood about same - let's go the opposite direction. If I am stymied in writing about Dylan or Bowie (who are on my mind) because I am missing too much of their music - let's make a virtue of it: and write about the best songs I have totally in isolation. That is: songs I have in iTunes, rated 5 stars (and then listed in order) - that are the only song I own by the artist. Which yields an unusual set of material, actually. Peter Gabriel? I like Peter Gabriel! I like lots of Peter Gabriel songs - but this is the only one I have bothered to acquire in any form. There are a couple of those - the Eels, The Brothers Johnson - I should have more of their stuff. It's not impossible I do, somewhere in some box somewhere, a greatest hits record or some such - when I started using iTunes I stuck a lot of single songs on it. Who knows. That is certainly the case with the Hoodoo Gurus - there's a compilation somewhere in the stacks... I was worried there might be some cringy songs on here - there are - Kansas? I can imagine some pushback against the Starland Vocal Band - though at least I avoided Coldplay. A close thing, too - I like Clocks, a fact that grieves me sore.... Still: this is not a guilty pleasures kind of post. I have also steered away from outright novelty songs - Right Said Fred (song or band), that sort of thing.... And so, without further ado - here it is: best 10 songs on my computer by artists I only have one song by on my computer:

1. Hoodoo Gurus - Bittersweet [Somewhere in the past I took the rest of the record this comes from off the computer; I considered eliminating them because of this - I own more - but... no, I'll stick with the letter of the law - this is the only song on the computer, so it goes... And indeed, it should be here, since this as good a justification for this post as any: a song that is seriously perfect, by a band that is mostly forgettable. No - that's not right: I remember the rest of their material as very pleasant pop rock in the same vein as this - but this transcends the rest of it. Alex Chilton would be proud of this song. It deserves a list to top.]
2. Peter Gabriel - Games without Frontiers
3. Brothers Johnson - Strawberry Letter 23
4. Eddie Money - Two Tickets to Paradise [this is pretty much the perfect song for this list: Eddie Money is awful; this is a surprisingly good song, and the guitar solo is, of course, brilliant.]
5. Mamas & the Papas - California Dreamin' [I think I must be dreamin' I have heard Monday Monday on my iPod - apparently it's not there.]
6. The Eels - Novacaine for the Soul [I should listen to them more]
7. Roger Miller - King of the Road [sort of novelty, but who doesn't love Roger Miller?]
8. Blind Melon - No Rain [another perfect fit for this - I have never heard any other Blind Melon songs - has anyone, ever? But I do like this.]
9. Kansas - Carry on My Wayward Son [a bit surprising that Dust in the Wind, at least, has never crept onto the machine, but just as well really.]
10. Starland Vocal Band - Afternoon Delight [definitely a novelty, but it's a hell of a novelty]

Video? 4 aging Australians who have probably played this song 2-300 times a year for the past 25 years, and still hit it dead square. There is nobility in that, something positively moving.

it's a knockout.... I am rather surprised I don't have any more Peter Gabriel (or Genesis, in any form) - I'm not a huge fan, but he (and they) have made some good stuff, something I should have. I have this anyway:

As for the Brothers Johnson, I think I do have a greatest hits record buried somewhere - I might have to find that... Since I haven't put it on the computer, I can include this song in this post, and it is Ace,

Trailors for sale or rent, rooms to let 50 cents... Roger Miller performing on TV, with the kids squealing like he's a Beatle:

And I will end with Kansas - I think Steve Walsh wanted people to know he was working out.

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