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Monday, May 25, 2015

You're a Better Man Than I by the Yardbirds

I first discovered this song when I was about thirteen or so, searching out music by the Yardbirds due to my interest in Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page), Cream (Eric Clapton), and Jeff Beck records. Any band with all three was sure to be a guitar onslaught, I reasoned. I was wrong, but mostly because it was far greater a band than I ever could imagine. I remember later seeing them perform late one night on TV when the 1966 Michael Antonioni movie Blow Up showed on PBS.

This track really jumped out at me because of it's obvious social theme, and remained with me throughout my life as one of the most important songs of the sixties, and all time, really. I had always assumed it was an original composition, but it was actually written by a member of Manfred MannMike Hugg, and his brother Brian Hugg

According to AllmusicHugg also emerged as a highly successful songwriter in his own right in 1966, when a composition that he'd written with his brother Brian, "You're a Better Man Than I," became a hit for the YardbirdsI would later hear another great version of this song on the second proper Sham 69 album, Herham Boys.




You're a Better Man than I (Hugg and Hugg)
Can you judge a man,
By the way he wears his hair?
Can you read his mind,
By the clothes that he wears?
Can you see a bad man,
By the pattern on his tie?

Well then, Mr, you're a better man than I.

Could you tell a wise man,
By the way he speaks or spells?
Is this more important,
Than the stories that he tells?
And call a man a fool,
If for wealth he doesn't strive?

Well then, Mr, you're a better man than I.

Can you condemn a man,
If your faith he doesn't hold?
Say the colour of his skin,
Is the colour of his soul?
Could you say that men,
For king and country all must die?


Psycho by the Sonics

It was the Rodney on the Roq show, sometime in 1978 or 1979 and the awesome Cramps were on his show. This crazy scream came out of the speakers and I was lucky enough to hear it. I was also lucky enough to have a memorex cassette in the box to catch one of the greatest, wildest, nuttiest song I have ever heard. From that moment, I was hooked.

The Sonics! Over the years I found more of their material and learned more about this amazing Tacoma, Washington band. Psycho was released as a single in 1965 (!) and was hardly a fluke, because they released a ton of other great songs, on a couple of albums. 

If you've never heard Psycho, you are in for a treat. If you have, then you already know. And then some.





Psycho (Payne/Roslie/Sonics)
Wow, baby you're driving me crazy
I said baby 
you're driving me crazy
Well you turn me on
Then you shut me down
Well, tell me baby am I just your clown
Psycho
Baby you're driving me crazy
I said I'm losing my mind
You treat me so unkind
Psycho

The Last DJ by Tom Petty

The Last DJ by Tom Petty doesn't chronicle just the end of the rebellious individuality of the DJ who refuses to sell out to the machine, it really laments the death of American radio altogether. 

It was inspired by DJ Jim Ladd (click here) the last of the free-form American DJs. Anyone who grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970's into the 1980's knows Jim Ladd from his stints at KMET and KLOS. While not my favorite DJ, his shows during the week played lots of stuff that would later be known as the staple known as "classic rock" in the present day.

But that is what is so great about The Last DJ. It's not about what I want, or you want, or anyone else wants. It's about the radio as an art form, and music as it's medium. It's about a fading art that is becoming as distant as the disc itself, and the disappearance of another piece of our rock and roll culture, independence, and history.

It almost sounds more like a lament, than a celebration.



The Last DJ (Tom Petty)
Well you cant turn him into a company man
you cant turn him into a whore
and the boys upstairs just dont understand anymore
well the top brass dont like him talking so much
and he wont play what they say to play
and he dont wanna change what dont need to change

Chorus:

And there goes the last DJ
who plays what he wants to play
and says what he wants to say
hey hey hey
and there goes your freedom of choice
there goes the last human voice
and there goes the last DJ

And some folks say there gonna hang him so high
cause you just can't do what he did
theres some things you just cant put in the minds of those kids
as we celebrate mediocrity all the boys upstairs wanna see
how much youll pay for what you used to get for free

Chorus:
And there goes the last DJ
who plays what he wants to play
and says what he wants to say
hey hey hey
and there goes your freedom of choice
there goes the last human voice
and there goes the last DJ

well he got a new station down in mexico
and some times it will kinda come in
and I'll bust a move
and remeber how it was back then

Chorus:
And there goes the last DJ
who plays what he wants to play
and says what he wants to say
hey hey hey
and there goes your freedom of choice
there goes the last human voice
and there goes the last DJ

To the Bone by the Kinks

Today I was driving home and I was listening to a CD on the stereo in the car. It sounded great, and reminded me of how much I miss that quality sound that comes from the CD format. 

In the age of the MP3, where everything is compressed and comes out of the tiny speakers on the computer, or the step up purchased speakers, or the headphones, or the ear buds, to hear a CD was just spectacular.

I miss the sound, the crisp sound. Every format has its charm. The tapes- cassette and 4 track and 8 track and cassette- and that ....... sssssss..... then thumpa thumpa thumpa as the leader runs over the tape heads. There is nothing else like it.

Ah, and then there is the Phonograph. The record player. The turntable. 

The record...... all variations from 33 RPM to 78 RPM all have a unique sonic quality. The beauty of the sound can't be denied.

Today's dish- the platter if you will, is almost a sad lament to the yesteryear, the tune on the record that is so perfect that it is an homage to another person altogether. 

To the Bone, a late entry to the spectacular Kinks output. A stand alone song, almost a single track, if such a thing truly existed when the song came out on the Kinks final album (1994). The track appeared only on the US release (1996), and it's a stunner.






To The Bone (Ray Davies)

In the back of a record rack
There's a old double pack
Twelve inches and black
With an old crumpled cover
But every track is stacked

And it takes me back
To the one who caused this melancholy mood
And every single groove
Cuts me to the bone
Yeah, she rocks me to the bone

I took her back to my bachelor flat
While the stereo played for two
She unwrapped her gift
And played me a riff
And said, "this old record was just made for you"

Then we danced to songs of passion and
The singer's velvet tones
On the gramaphone
While the record played
She rocks me to the bone
Knocks me to the bone

Those those rock n' roll romantic songs
Played all summer long
And she rocks me to the bone
Knocks me to the bone.

Yeah, she rocks me to the bone
Yeah, she rocks me to the bone

In dreams she's smiling in slow motion
Devouring all of my emotion
Angels singing rock 'n' roll
While demons take away my soul

Voices sound, her image fades
Every time that record plays
She rocks me to the bone
Knocks me to the bone

In my back room there's an old 45
That we played all summer long
Shakin the beams so loud it covered up the screams
When lover's harmony went oh so wrong

And in every word emotion is torn
And blood flows down the drain
Like she opened up a vein
And cut me to the bone
Yeah, she rocks me to the bone

And now i'm just a prisoner
In that stereo Hi-Fi jail
The needle pierced just like a nail
As she rocks me to the bone
Knocks me to the bone

Do do do do do do do
She rocks me to the bone

Yeah, she rocks me to the bone
Yeah, she rocks me to the bone

You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory by Johnny Thunders

There will never again be a songwriter as great, and tragic as Johnny Thunders. In the many times I watched him play, and the couple of times I talked to him, I could sense that ther was this brilliance being overshadowed by the absolute probability that everything was going to go terribly wrong at any given moment. 

Addicted to heroin, Thunders was the closest thing I ever witnessed to the blues in a straight ahead rock and roller. There will never be another like him. Anyone who never got see him when he was on fire missed one of the true great American rockers. Even on a bad night, I'd take Johnny over the 98% of the slop that was out there. 

This track was from his 1978 solo album So Alone. This is an incredible slab of wax that featured Thunders when he was on a climb, with the real possibility of breaking through- at least in the UK. Some of the record also featured another great singer songwriter, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy on bass. 







You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Thunders)
It doesn't pay to try,
All the smart boys know why,
It doesn't mean i didn't try,
I just never know why.
Feel so cold and all alone,
Cause baby, you're not at home.
And when I'm home
Big deal, I'm still alone.

Feel so restless, I am,
Beat my head against a pole
Try to knock some sense,
Down in my bones.
And even though they don't show,
The scars aren't so old
And when they go,
They let you know

You can't put your arms around a memory
You can't put your arms around a memory
You can't put your arms around a memory
Don't try, don't try

You're just a bastard kid,
And you got no name
Cause you're living with me,
We're one and the same

And even though they don't show,
They scars aren't so old
And when they go,
They let you know

You can't put your arms around a memory
You can't put your arms around a memory
You can't put your arms around a memory
Don't try, don't try

Unsatisfied by the Replacements

The other day I was trying to describe to one of my children how great a song was, and I realized they don't want to hear me talk about great songs, they want to hear the great songs, on their own time, and to search it out on their own. Music is something that is very specific to a time- whatever time the listener decides the music is valid.

So, I decided the best thing to do is introduce a song a day, and they'd get around to listening to them someday if and when they care, and the rest of the world could care for them until that day comes. 

First offering is to start with a great, great song from the 1984 Replacements album Let It Be. The title, of course, refers to the Beatles album of the same name, and an assertion that there are no rules. The Replacements had even considered calling the next album Let it Bleed to reemphasize the same "No Rules" ideology. 

I went to see the Replacements a couple of times in 1984 or so. Once at the Club Lingerie in Hollywood, another time at Oscar's Cornhusker's in Azusa. I talked to Chris Mars in back of Oscar's, I had gotten to the show early enough to watch them pack up and leave. 

They wouldn't let the band drink, and this was a deal breaker. Apparently one of them was too young (Tommy) and one or more of them didn't have ID's. They were pissed. I told them they should just drink in the alley like everyone else at the time, but that was not what they wanted to do.

They suggested I go to Club Lingerie, which I did, in time to miss the set completely. I talked to John Doe outside of the club, and he told me they blew the lid off. 

And so it goes.

Like so many of the 'Mats catalogue, this song just reaches into you and grabs you by the heart and squeezes until it hurts. The Replacements should have been the greatest band in the world, but it just never panned out for them. 

They never got the breaks they should of, and so for that reason alone, at least today in my little piece of cyber world, they can be #1. In my world, all of the forgotten and disenfranchised bands are the ones to be emulated. 




Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mia Brandenburg: Jub Up Family by Moonriders


There are many strange stories waiting in the annals of pop culture. This one starts in Tokyo, Japan with a man named Keiichi Suzuki.
In 1975 or 76 (depending on your source,) Keiichi Suzuki, Tohru Okada, Tetsuroh Kashibuchi, Ryomei Shurai, Hirobumi Suzuki, and Masahiro Takekawa formed the band Keiichi Suzuki and the Moonriders, later simply Moonriders. Their style is difficult to pin down, as they took influences from many styles of music, not unlike Yellow Magic Orchestra, whose former drummer Yukihiro Takahashi has played with Keiichi Suzuki in more recent days. Some would prefer to just lump them into the broadly defined category of new wave, but Moonriders almost justify their own category.


Though it is difficult to easily find their music in a format accessible to non-Japanese speakers (or legally,) I came across their delightfully odd song "Jub Up Family," off the album Nouvelles Vagues, through a favorite game of mine: EarthBound, known as Mother 2 in Japan. As it turns out, Keiichi Suzuki has done far more than playing in bands (though, given how famous Moonriders are in Japan, that is a feat in itself.) He has written everything from video game soundtracks, to movie scores, to commercial jingles. Of particular interest is his work in the Mother series, which has been widely praised as some of the most brilliant, unsettling, and catchy music in video games, period. (For a taste of this, I highly suggest looking up the battle tracks.)

In the U.S., he is still mostly famous for his work in Mother and Mother 2. But, for just this moment, let us take in the strange goodness that is "Jub Up Family."

Music video



  (I couldn't find the lyrics for it. I apologize. If I find them, I'll update this with the lyrics.)