Saturday, December 24, 2011

Five-star holiday songs

Ok! So, Your Older Brother must be too cool for Christmas music, right? That's just kid stuff. Right?

Wrong! I have a long list of favorite Christmas/holiday/winter songs that's much longer than this, but this is pretty close to my essential list. Most of the links point to the iTunes Music Store for easy purchasing.

I present to you Your Older Brother's Five-Star Christmas music list:

Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid - Sure it's a full-on 80's nostalgia tune, but it still gets to me.
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - BeauSoleil - A wonderful Cajun swing that gives this song a fresh feel.
Happy Holiday (Beef Wellington Remix) - Bing Crosby - I love these remixes.
White Christmas - Bing Crosby- It's not Christmas without Der Bingle.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - Bing Crosby
Jingle Bells - Bing Crosby Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth - Bing Crosby & David Bowie - Bing & Bowie. Come on.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Cajun Gold - The accordion really makes these Cajun songs for me.
Ave Maria - Chris Cornell & Eleven - I don't remember ever hearing this song before hearing this version, and it's the standard by which I measure all other versions. There are actually two different music variants, but this is the one I prefer. Chris' soaring vocals & the bombast are amazing together.
White Christmas - Corporal Blossom - Another fun remix, using many different versions of "White Christmas," but probably my favorite part of the song is the sample of the bass & snare from Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover". Follow the link to hear the track for free!
Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg - A gorgeous tune with sad, wistful lyrics. Makes me cry just about every time.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Dean Martin - Dean's boozy versions of winter songs are the reason for the season.
I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm - Dean Martin
Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley - My parents are from Memphis, so Elvis is naturally in my blood. This album played over and over and over when I was a kid.
White Christmas - Elvis Presley - I just watched the movie "White Christmas" for the first time this year, and I'd imagine that this song was heresy when it came out.
If Every Day Was Like Christmas - Elvis Presley
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) - Elvis Presley
She Won't Be Home - Erasure - Like the Prince song on this list, this song is kind of parenthetically related to Christmas, and isn't all that happy, but that doesn't mean it's not a good song.
Winter Wonderland - Eurythmics - The first Very Special Christmas record was a collection of popular 80's artists. Some tracks were better than others, and this is one of the better ones.
Feliz Navidad - José Feliciano - I remember this from the 70's. Just a happy song.
Iration - Fishbone - Fishbone was one of my favorite bands of the 80's, and when the It's A Wonderful Life EP came out, I bought it immediately and it's been a Christmas staple for me ever since. This is the serious song on the record, and one of their best.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Frank Sinatra - Frank sang a few good Christmas songs, too.
When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter - Gene Autry - One of my favorite Christmas records when I was a kid was "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other Christmas Classics" by Gene Autry. His simple delivery and emotive singing really connects me to the songs. They make me feel like a kid. That's why so many are included here. It doesn't hurt that he also was the owner of the California Angels.
I Wish My Mom Would Marry Santa Claus - Gene Autry
He's a Chubby Little Fellow - Gene Autry
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) - Gene Autry
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Gene Autry
If It Doesn't Snow On Christmas Day - Gene Autry
The Night Before Christmas Song - Gene Autry
Frosty the Snowman - Gene Autry
Santa, Santa, Santa - Gene Autry
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town - Gene Autry
Everyone's a Child At Christmas - Gene Autry
A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) - Glasvegas - Great new Scottish band with a tale that turns hopeful.
Winter Wonderland - Harry Connick Jr.- Not on a Christmas record, but a terrific no-vocals version.
When My Heart Finds Christmas - Harry Connick Jr.- I love Harry. Harry has three Christmas albums out. For some reason, the first one is the only one worth a damn.
(It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus - Harry Connick Jr.
Ave Maria - Harry Connick Jr. - The other definitive version of this song for me.
I Pray On Christmas - Harry Connick Jr.
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? - Harry Connick Jr. - Again, I think this is the first version of this song that I recall hearing, and it's fabulous.
The Christmas Song - Hootie & the Blowfish - Hootie's not a popular band to like amongst the musical tastemakers. This is a pretty good version off the third Very Special Christmas album. I like hearing it.
Last Christmas - Jimmy Eat World - I never heard the Wham! version until after I heard this. I love this version most.
Twelve Days of Christmas - John Denver & the Muppets - I was a huge Muppets fan as a child as well. And still am. This record got a lot of play as soon as I got it, sometime soon after it was released in 1979.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - John Denver & the Muppets - Just a simple version, John & Rowlf on piano.
Christmas Is Coming - John Denver & the Muppets
Little Saint Nick - John Denver & the Muppets - Janice starts with California cool on this Beach Boys tune.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon & Yoko Ono- Glad we have this song.
It's Christmas In Louisiana - Johnnie Allan - More Cajun Christmas. Just happy music.
Frosty the Snowman - Leon Redbone & Dr. John
There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays - Leon Redbone - Leon is always so laid back. This is one of my favorite versions of this song, but this whole record is a classic.
Christmas Island - Leon Redbone
Christmas Ball Blues - Leon Redbone - One of the great Christmas song lyrics: "Christmas comes but once a year/And to me it brings good cheer/And to everyone who likes wine and beer." Christmas Ball Blues - Christmas Island
Christmas Morning - Loudon Wainwright III - LWIII breaks it down like only he can do. Christmas Morning - Social Studies
Just Like Christmas - Low - Another almost anti-Christmas song, couched in all the trappings of a Christmas song. It's tough for me to figure out, but it's a pleasure to listen.
The Christmas Song - Mel Tormé - Gotta dig the Velvet Fog's version, yeah?
O Tannenbaum - Nat "King" Cole- I love hearing Nat rock the German.
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) - Nat "King" Cole - For as great as Torme is, Nat owns this song.
Merry Christmas, Baby - Otis Redding - Otis. 'Nuff said.
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney - A lot of people write this song off as schlock. And it probably is. But it's happy synthy almost-80's tune, so it gets a pass from me.
Another Lonely Christmas - Prince - "Baby, U promised me U'd never leave/Then U died on the 25th day of December" Way to bring the party down, Prince. Down and funky.
Christmas In Hollis - Run-D.M.C. - I remember a commercial that used to use this for background music. Maybe it was an MTV bumper. But it's a classic rap Christmas tune. Which begs the question - how many rap Christmas songs are there?
Christmastime - Smashing Pumpkins - I've fallen out of love with the Pumpkins the past few years, but this song always delivers.
Gabriel's Message - A Sting - Kind of a spooky version, but typical iconoclast choice for Stingy.
I Saw Three Ships - Sting - As spooky as his previous song was, this one is bouncy and joyful.
Up On The Housetop - The Jambalaya Cajun Band - Fiddle, accordion & Creole. Can't go wrong.
2000 Miles - The Pretenders - This just sounds like a Pretenders song. Which is fine with me.
Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes - You can hear Phil Spector's hands all over this. Ring-a ling-a ling-a ding dong ding, indeed.
Sleigh Ride - The Ventures - Reverb drips from almost every note. Fantastic guitar playing.
Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses - Such a great story delivered with such great music. And that bassline? Fugeddaboudit.
I'll Be Home for Christmas - Tony Bennett - In the same league as Bing, Frank, Mel & Nat. But you knew that.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - U2 - This is the first version of this song I heard, and it remains the definitive version for me. I'm sure I'll catch heat from Darlene Love fans.

Christmastime Is Here - Vince Guaraldi - No words needed.
Skating - Vince Guaraldi - I hear this song and think of winter.
Thanks For Christmas - XTC - Another simple Christmas song by a more contemporary band.

Big Rawk Christmas:
I Won't Be Home for Christmas - Blink-182
It's a Wonderful Life (Gonna Have a Good Time) - Fishbone- Listen to the words - he goes over the whole movie. One of my favorite lyrics: "Then I went blind in-a one ear" - talking about George Bailey losing his hearing after saving his brother.
Oi to the World - No Doubt
Father Christmas - the Kinks

Deck the Stills - Barenaked Ladies - This is the kind of funny stuff that made me love BNL to start with.
The Twelve Days of Christmas - Bob & Doug McKenzie - More Canadian Christmas humor.
Slick Nick, You Devil You (Vinyl Only) - Fishbone - "You put Mad Dog in my sock/I wanted candy. I wanted candy! I WANTED CANDY!!"
Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy - Garth Brooks - Pretty faithful cover of the Buck Owens tune.

New Classics:
Christmas - Blues Traveler - Heartfelt lyrics that aren't necessarily religious.
Merry Christmas Eve - Better Than Ezra - I usually cry when I hear this song around Christmas time. Seriously.
Christmas Just Does This to Me - Matt Wertz - Matt is one of my favorite discoveries from the past few years. Good songs, great voice, and he sets a wonderful scene here.

Just For Me:
Straight to Hell - The Clash - I got Combat Rock for Christmas one year, and while the whole record kind of reminds me of Christmas, this song does most of all. I mean, nothing says Christmas like tales of suffering.
(Just Like) Starting Over - John Lennon - I vividly remember hearing the news, live on the radio on December 8th, 1980, that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I had colored lights up in my room and I heard the news and even at 10 years old, knew the world had lost a very important person. The DJ broke the news and then played this song off John's new record, released not even a month prior. It starts with chimes - it sounds Christmas-like, but they also remind me of his death.

Beatles Christmas singles - My friend Adam is a huge Beatles fan and first introduced me to these Christmas messages from the Fab Four. They start out just sort of goofing around, and then they get weird. This YouTube video has them all strung together for maximum effect, 1963-1969.

And last but not least - one last remix, mixing LMFAO with Brenda Lee - "Party Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree". I listened to LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" so much this year with my kids that this is a natural must-have. :) The other songs on the Santastic Six mashup are of varying quality, but this one stands out.

So that's my list. I hope you enjoy Christmas music as much as I do. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, May your holiday be blessed, Happy Kwanzaa, festive Festivus, Cool Yule, Spectacular Saturnalia, Joyous Solstice, Happy Bodhi Day...and so forth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This is not a dead blog, thisis nota dead blog!

(Apologies to John Lydon, who wouldn't care anyway…)

So, yeah. NaNoWriMo took my time and then I got sick and then…it's the holidays. I'm writing this so that next year I remember how much work it is around this time of year to keep a blog going. I have all sorts of posts in the works but (insert excuse here). The main one I want to get posted is one on my favorite holiday songs - and it will be almost outdated when I post it. But! I don't care, I'll post it anyway.

I also found out that the person I was trying to contact about my next URGH segment has left that company, so I'll hopefully have some resolution soon on that front and I'll get back to my weekly posts.

All of this to say like it did on the old Carson Tonight Show: More To Come!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Songs to keep track of + Holiday records

Hi y'all! I'm back from my self-imposed NaNoWriMo exile. I "won" - which means I wrote 50,000 words of a story. I still need to finish the story, but I met the goal - and then I got sick. Well technically I got sick before I finished it. And I'm still sick. But I had most of this post finished and wanted to get it out there because it's not doing you any good just sitting in my drafts.

So, I program an Internet radio station and I came across "Everyone's Asleep in the House but Me" by Owen and wanted to remember to check it out again. The whole album (Ghost Town) sounded good, actually.

Thomas Dolby's new album A Map of the Floating City sounds eclectic, layered, and fantastic. Featuring Mark Knopfler, Imogen Heap and Regina Spektor (among others) it's a welcome return for an artist I've long had great respect for, well beyond the seeming novelty of "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Hyperactive!".

The holiday albums I want to listen to more: She & Him, Bublé, Biebs, Brushfire's This Warm December, might as well throw Weiland in there too (and I just found out that Bootsy Collins did a Christmas record back in '06!), but most of all I'm excited to hear Matt Wertz's Snow Globe. Wertz is an artist I've dug for years - he's a great songwriter and he's cranked out a couple of holiday type tunes the past couple of years, including "Christmas Just Does This to Me", which is included here. He's got enough integrity and talent (and confidence) to write his own songs in addition to the few standards that he tackles. I've previewed it a bit, but I'm looking forward to diving in now that Thanksgiving has come and gone. (I find it hard to listen to winter holiday songs before then.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Promise Ring reunion? Could it be?

A Promise Ring reunion just a few weeks after the Stone Roses reunion? I don't know if my heart can take it....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My musical thought tonight from #NaNoWriMo

- So I'm writing the pot smoking scene and "Bone Machine" by Pixies comes on my writing playlist.

It's on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quick new release hits - Angels and Airwaves, Noel Gallagher

So I listened to the new Noel Gallagher self-titled record (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds) and it was pretty decent. I think bands like Oasis and Pixies are always going to be a "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" sort of thing. Noel is always going to do his thing, and I think he's a good songwriter. He doesn't have the most dynamic voice or stage presence, but he gets by, you know? The song I liked most off the record was "The Good Rebel". I dug the tune & vocals & harmonies. "Dream On" is also a good listen. "AKA...What a Life!" sounds like a lite version of his Chemical Brothers collab. It's not that the songs aren't catchy - I'm not sayin' that. But if you've been paying attention to the Noel-fronted tracks during the Oasis years, I don't think you'll be surprised by anything here, except maybe "The Good Rebel". Whether that's good or bad is a decision for you to make, right?


The new Angels & Airwaves album is called Love, Pt. 2. The band gave away Love, Pt. 1 last spring in what has been a long run-up to the release of the movie Love. (Part 1 doesn't seem to be available for free anymore) While listening to Pt. 2, it struck me that I wasn't hearing anything that was grabbing me. I really dug the first three AVA albums with all their anthemic bombast. It was especially surprising to hear from one of the Blink-182 brats (and I mean that in the best possible way about them).

Listening today, though, I really like the opening song "Saturday Love". They've really got that U2 "Where the Streets Have No Name" chiming echo guitar effect down.

There's definitely a mood of stretching themselves it feels like, though. Tracks like "Moon As My Witness" feel different somehow. There are a more atmospheric outros/intros, but I suppose there have been those on other albums as well. This record is similar, but different. I'm sure that's helpful.

I'd recommend the other three AVA records before this one (We Don't Need to Whisper, I-Empire and Love, Pt. 1), and highly. But this one's not bad, just not quite as inspired.

I *am* looking forward to seeing the movie, though. It sounds like a cool concept. has my favorite interview with AVA, where the interviewer zeros in on the progression of the themes of the first three albums. I think it's really cool when there's a connection between a fan and artist like that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo and ThURGHsday

Hi all, just wanted to post a quick update. Hopefully ThURGHsday will continue next week. I'm hopeful anyway. And I think it'll be worth the wait!

In the meantime, I've started NaNoWriMo and that will probably be taking some of my time this month that I would otherwise be dedicating here. I was going to have one of my characters named Jerry and be a race car driver, but I accidentally named him Rick.

I have started creating a playlist that is helping me write - the songs fit the mood of the story a bit. So far it has a-ha, American Hi-Fi, Amos Lee, Angels & Airwaves, Billy Bragg, Dinosaur Jr., Garth Brooks, Matt Wertz & Talk Talk. 107 songs so far. There will be more, as you can tell I barely got out of the B's.

So the posts here might be these short stabs as I write between the swells of NaNoWriMo. But good things are coming! And the more disciplined I get as a writer, the better off we'll all be, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We can be heroes

This article first appeared in Three Hundred Sixty Degrees, a fanzine I wrote for while living in San Diego, in 1993. The magazine was published by Jeff Motch. I thought I'd repost it here as it was just brought to my attention that Girlfriend has just reached its 20 year anniversary. I'll blab more at the end.

matthew sweet

Mecca. Jerusalem. The Coach House. People make pilgrimages at crucial times in their lives, and mine was to the latter to meet Matthew Sweet. Mohammed. Christ. The hyperbole may weigh heavy upon his shoulders, but he will always be sort of a savior to me. About one and a half years ago I had musical differences with the band I was in (read: I got kicked out) and I started to wonder about my abilities and talents. Maybe some people don't care about how well they might do what they do, but I was kind of let down. "Evangeline" was the song that kicked off my gospel - I heard it on KCR. In reading the liner notes, I found that Matthew played nearly every guitar on the album, bass included, and wrote and sang every song. The idea that I could be like that, almost a one man band, appealed to me in my feelin' sorry state.

As a result, I sat in my apartment a lot, trying to write something slightly cohesive, while experimenting with guitar leads over the Richard Lloyd/Robert Quine lead guitar on "Girlfriend," Sweet's breakthrough album. I learned how to play guitar much better, more or less, thanks to that album. I then acquired the "Girlfriend" CD-5 and "Goodfriend," a promotional CD that showed more of Sweet's talent - home versions of songs with him playing drums as well as lead guitar. Mix his so-depressing-they're-uplifting lyrics with some personal problems I was having at the time, and yeah, I basically thought the guy walked on water. I even thought of writing a letter to him, but didn't, thinking "Why would he care what I had to say?"

So then I heard a new album was in the making. I called Zoo to see if I could get an interview, and they were pretty warm about the idea. Almost five months later, after attempting to get something together, after the release of his album and two videos, after much patience from the people at Zoo, after thinking that it would never happen, I found out he would be playing the Coach House, the closest he would get to San Diego for a long time. I set the interview up, showed up for the post-soundcheck chat and sat down with a personal hero.

"Why aren't I reading _his_ words, then?" you ask. "Why all the hero worship? I mean, that's so uncool, you geek." Yeah, I know. But in the mad, zany, kooky world of karma, I must have made fun of a retarded kid or smiled when I heard somebody I didn't like died, because the pause switch on my tape recorder was on for most of the interview. Justice had been done, and I felt like King Geek Boy in front of someone who healed my lovesick mind more than a few times. He couldn't have been nicer, telling me to have his record company reschedule another interview, but the steam had been taken out of me. Most people would jump at the chance to talk to their hero again, but I felt that there wasn't any point. (I really want to stress the fact that I'm completely rational about these things, I mean I never expected him to invite me on-stage or anything, but those are the things you dream about, and I don't think I would've felt happy with anything less. You could say I have unusually high hopes.)

Things I did learn about him (mostly from memory and a bit of taped stuff, so don't sue me):

  • He was interested in Mitch Easter, the producer of "Radio Free Europe," not necessarily R.E.M., when he met them after a show in Nebraska.
  • He met Lloyd Cole through Fred Maher, his longtime friend/collaborator. Lloyd suggested doing a one-night Beatles cover band.
  • MTV didn't really like his video for "Ugly Truth Rock," which was a tribute to a movie I can't remember. He ended up directing the video after arguing with the co-director.
  • The strange organ-like sound on the Sweet Relief benefit album is a backwards and sped-up steel slide guitar.
  • His song on the No Alternative album is "Superdeformed," the B-side to "Girlfriend." And speaking of that, he did meet the "Teenage Female" girl once, although she no longer writes.
  • Some of the tracks on the album version of "Someone to Pull the Trigger" were recorded at the BBC session that appears on "Goodfriend."
  • An actual quote? Okay.
Is the stuff you write really as personal as it sounds?
"Well, it's personal, but it's not technically personal, so you can't think each thing was happening to me in my relationship. But the feeling in the song is personal. It's kind of a hard thing to describe to people, the difference. I'm not saying it's not personal, but it's not autobiographical. Except emotionally."
He didn't seem to have a clue as to what was happening with how the record company was releasing his singles off Altered Beast. Not that he's stupid, he just didn't know what song they would release next, nor could he confirm or deny rumors of a box to hold the five singles from the album, color coded to match the five different CD covers. It seemed like he still doesn't have much control of what's happening around him regardless of the fact that he's the sole creative force.

So what does it all mean? Well, I don't think people should "kill their heroes." Then we'd have nothing to aspire to. I learned that heroes are people, too, and as dippy as it sounds, I guess what I mean to say is that I think musicians go from being excited that other people like their music, over a media-hype publicity edge, to a place where they know these kids look up to them, but they're people after all, and can't they have a few minutes to themselves? I think if he had known how I felt going into the interview, Matthew might have told me to settle down a bit, that he doesn't like all the attention, that he's a very shy person from Nebraska who happened to get lucky. Very lucky. And that it may happen for me someday, but it may not. It may not happen for him any more, but that might be okay. And that while a savior can help, he can't cure all that ails you, so don't expect him to.

Yeah, I'd still like to play with him someday, but on equal terms. Which means either he's comin' down

or I'm goin' up.


The Aforementioned "More Blab":

I don't think I've looked up to people in the same way since then. I might admire someone's talent, but I don't really have any "heroes" per se.

"4 : an object of extreme admiration and devotion : IDOL"

That's pretty hefty to lay on someone. As to why it's sports figures and musicians and actors a lot in our society, I don't know. They're the ones we see all the time. But I think it takes some growing up to see that everyone's fallible. Like that episode where Bobby Brady idolizes Jesse James and then has a dream where Jesse kills the whole Brady family. Jesse went from Bobby's object of admiration to...just another guy, doing what he was doing to get by.

Matthew Sweet had no idea what he meant to me then, nor what he means to me now. He's just a guy, doing what he does in order to get by.

Final thought: I think everyone needs to work on themselves, and if possible, to be a hero to themselves. Looking outside yourself won't work. It can provide a guide, but everyone ultimately needs to stand on their own.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bands that are following me on Twitter

Sorry, no ThURGHsday again this week, hoping that situation resolves itself soon. I'm doing what I can. :)

So, I write about music on my blog (duh), but I also have a Twitter account, a account where you can see what I'm listening to all the time - probably some other accounts somewhere, but I can't think where right now.

Anyway, bands follow me on Twitter, and I've started marking when those follow e-mails come in so I can go back and listen to them. Today is the day when I listen and start writing about them!

* * *
First up is the latest band to follow me, the Treading Lemmings. Kind of a cute name, maybe a little too clever, but what the hell do I know? I would have said "Pixies" was a crap band name if you'd asked. :)

The first song I listened to on their site was "Prostitution With A Twist". On their web page they say they're "American Brit-pop" but that song didn't seem to fit that bill for me. However, the next song "All She Wrote", does sound a bit like Pulp in the vocals & music. Good melody. I like it.

Song 3 - "All At Sea" - Definitely not American Brit-pop. I know Brit-pop good sir, and you are not it. Neither is song 4 "Tempest in a Trousseau", which sounds more like Men At Work than anything.

My advice? Lose the "American Brit Pop" tag. The songs are decent enough without trying to tie into a movement that didn't have a specific sound per se, but I associate the songs with good old fashioned power pop, like Badfinger, Rick Springfield, Material Issue, Fountains of Wayne. Stuff like that. Check out "Comeuppance", you'll hear what I'm talking about.

Treading Lemmings hails from Maryland, so look for them if you're in that area!
* * *
Next band is Deadsleep. The first song, "Chant" is definitely metal, kind of screamo sounding stuff which I'll admit I'm probably not the best judge of. The description on the bandcamp page says he's playing (programming?) all of the instruments & singing and it sounds pretty good. Talented metal guitar. The vocal melodies are pretty good, too.

Moving on to the second song, "Again", he's definitely passionate about what he's singing about, I'll give him that. I'm not being snide or snarky, it's pretty good. Kind of sounds Layne Staley in parts, which is a plus for me, I really like Alice In Chains.

Probably the best song to my ears is song 3, "To Your Soul". I would definitely keep an eye/ear out for this guy. Deadsleep, from Long Island. Check it out.
* * *
Last band for tonight is Tommy Marz Band from Detroit, Michigan. (Is there another Detroit I should be aware of? It just feels natural to say "Detroit, Michigan" and not just "Detroit".) "Destiny" kind of sounds like a nasal Kid Rock laid-back track. Not great, but not, you know, *horrible* or anything.

Second track is "Only Human" and has a cheesy programmed drum track. Eh. Sorry, Tommy. Not my thing. But you keep on, man. If you dig it, that's all that matters. Seriously. Good luck.
* * *
Ok, I'll try to do this from time to time, as long as bands keep following me on twitter. Hopefully they don't get mad if I don't like their music, but - you spins the wheel, you takes your chances.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What was your first favorite band?

I always like finding out who was someone's first favorite band. It doesn't tell me anything about them, really, and I don't use it as some sort of indie yardstick or whatever. I just like hearing how people have awakened to being a music fan, as opposed to someone who just hears music.

I have memories of a lot of different bands before my first favorite band. I recall hearing songs like "Wig-Wam Bam" and "Little Willy" by Sweet on FM radio in the Los Angeles area as a kid, but I never knew who sang the songs, just that they were catchy. Same with "Roxanne" by The Police (who I discovered with zeal as the 80's waxed).

1977 was kind of a watershed year for me, developmentally. I mean, I only turned 7 that year, but that's the year that Star Wars (Ep. IV) came out. At some point that year, I received the soundtrack, and also Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the climax of which was featured in the movie The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training. So I had a bit of an ear for classical, which is probably why the song "Livin' Thing" by Electric Light Orchestra resonated with me. Orchestral strings in a pop song? That just wasn't done! Well, it wasn't something my 7-year-old ears knew of, anyway. That sound was different and special. There were lots of strings being used in disco, I suppose, but this wasn't a dance beat, it was decidedly rock. So when ELO released Out of the Blue in October of '77, I was sold. This was my favorite band. They had spaceships on their album cover!

I mostly only listened to Side 1 ("Turn to Stone", "It's Over", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Across the Border"), "Jungle" off side 2, and "Mr. Blue Sky" at the end of side 3. (Little trivia - the vocoder voice at the end of "Mr. Blue Sky" is actually saying "Please Turn Me Over", signaling the end of that side of the record)

It was around that age anyway that you start laying claim to things being favorite. You had a best friend, a favorite glass to use for milk & cookies, a favorite shirt, probably favorite shoes. I had a favorite band, and so my passion for music deepened.

A couple of years later, ELO released a Greatest Hits record which, as I recall, I received for my 10th birthday. This record had a few songs from Out of the Blue, but most of the eleven tracks were from earlier albums. Funny, though, to this day, I still hear them as songs from 1980 even though most were from before 1977.

The memories I have of the songs on that record are varied, but I like them all. "Can't Get It Out of My Head" has somehow stayed with me as a love song, but I don't know that there's anything in the lyrics to support that. Maybe the "ocean's daughter" line and the "old world is gone for dead". I do know that in pining away for some girl I listened to this song and "Telephone Line" over and over and over again. The sadness conveyed in both songs - along with the vague lyrics - allowed me to mold them to my situation. I was fucking sad, man! Girls! Sadness! These guys understand me!

Note to self, though: Don't read any more ELO lyrics. Just read through "Strange Magic" and it's probably more ambiguous than "Can't Get It Out Of My Head".

I was excited when the next couple of ELO song was released - "Don't Bring Me Down". I remember my then next-door-neighbor taunting his dog - whose name was Snoose - when singing the "grrroooosss" part of the chorus. Big laughs, that. But it's big rock intros like this one & "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" and later on "Hold On Tight" that draw you in to the songs.

I suppose that I liked some of the Xanadu soundtrack as well, but didn't latch onto them like I did the earlier songs. I don't think it was any sort of "sellout" thing - I was 10, for crying out loud - but I did recognize that Xanadu was a very commercial effort for them.

"Hold On Tight" was their next big single, but it had a definite Jerry Lee Lewis boogie-piano throwback that didn't sound quite as fresh as some of their earlier songs did. I do also sort of remember "Rock and Roll Is King", which was pretty retro-sounding as well. "Calling America", their last US hit, is somewhat familiar as well and has the production value I would come to recognize as Jeff Lynne's stamp that's evident on a couple of Tom Petty albums from the late 80's, as well as the Traveling Wilburys first record.

I guess I had stopped paying attention to Electric Light Orchestra by the time "Rock and Roll Is King" hit radio, but I was intrigued by "Video!", Jeff Lynne's song from the movie Electric Dreams. The Police were my favorite band by that time, and I was also listening to Rush. Big Country's The Crossing came out the month after ELO's Secret Messages and I was captivated by the fresh sound of Stuart Adamson's guitar. There were other, more exotic sounds that were catching my ear.

ELO broke up in the mid-late 80's. I guess Jeff Lynne had moved on to other projects, too.

But you don't forget your first, do you? There's still a bit of a nostalgic rush when you hear the songs. You remember how you felt back then, how you felt every word in earnest. Your first favorite will always be special.

So, good reader - who was your first favorite band? Please leave a comment and tell me the story. I'd love to hear it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Animoog Madness!

My friend Michael told me the other day to stop writing about music and to start creating some. So I did.

"Animoog mmmadness" was created using Moog Music's Animoog app for iPad and GarageBand for the Mac.

Animoog is only 99¢ for a limited time, so go grab it and play!

EDIT: I see that some people are finding this page when searching for Animoog & GarageBand, so I thought I'd include a picture so people can see what I'm talking about for the iPad-computer connection:

That's not the cable I used, but the connectors are the same. I mentioned "computer" instead of Mac above because it should work for any system running Windows or Linux as well, as long as the CPU has an audio in jack.

Have fun!