Monthly Archives: October 2009

Why I Don’t Love the Beatles

Do I have your attention now? Good. Because I like the Beatles. I do, I really do. And I absolutely love a lot of their songs. I love The White Album and I love Sgt. Pepper’s and I love Let It Be (but only the naked version. I only like the Phil Spector Wall-of-Mono). I really like Rubber Soul and Revolver and Abbey Road, too. Overall—and call me radical, call me profound, call me revolutionary—I’d say that the Beatles were a pretty phenomenal band.

But I don’t love ‘em. I don’t get excited about them. I don’t seek them out, memorize their class schedule and just happen to be in the hallway right outside the door and act surprised to see them. I don’t seek out obscure versions of songs and demos. I don’t bring them up in conversation when I meet someone—”Oh, you like the Beatles, too?! No way! I like the Beatles! Let’s be friends!” Beyond the three aforementioned albums, it’s actually very rare for me to actively and consciously choose listen to the Beatles. I own every album, and I enjoy them immensely whenever they come on, but I rarely think, “I want to listen to the Beatles right now.” Hell, just between you and me—seriously, don’t spread this around—but a little tiny part of me judges someone in my age bracket if s/he refers to the Beatles as his/her favorite band. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely met people my age who do genuinely love the Beatles, and mean it when they say it with the full-fledged passion of wedding vow, but I’m not talking about them. They’re fine by me. I’m talking about the people who say it, as far as I can tell, because it’s easy. Because it’s what they think they’re supposed to say, supposed to like. Because they lack a real passion for music. They’re the greatest rock and roll band of all time, without a doubt—but that doesn’t mean they have to be your favorite.

You see, the Beatles aren’t my band. They’re not my band, because, in a way, they’re everyone’s band. We all lay claim to them, in our own way, but as a result, we all have to share them (It is different for the people who were alive for that brief dimple in time when the group was actually active because they were there. They were a part of it). Maybe it’s some subconscious monogamy thing, but if I can’t claim the Beatles as my own, then I can’t love them. I love the songs, but not the band as a singular collective entity. It’s not about popularity; there are plenty of bands that I claim to love who are popular (not as popular, sure). But with these groups, it’s still something I can be there for, and it’s not nearly as universal. Maybe the Beatles are like air; it’s not very often that I really crave air, or desire it (except when I’m having an asthma attack. But that’s different) the way I do bacon, or beer, or a milkshake. It’s just a fact of life.

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part II: Happy When It Rains by The Jesus And Mary Chain

To briefly restate the case for this: what follows is a series of posts describing songs verbally, without musical accompaniment or auditory reference.  Enjoy, to the extent feasible.

Happy When It Rains by The Jesus And Mary Chain

The song opens with a machine-gun fire drum synth pounding away.  Then, a strident guitar riffs loudly on top of it, pushing the gain way up.  it feels very much like synth mets new wave meets rock and roll, and before the vocals kick in (which they do – kind of quickly), you’re really expecting them to be some 80’s balladeer style Brit-pop vox.

What you get, though, is almost-spoken lyrics.  The song quickly identifies itself as a torch song, just by the cadence of the vocalist’s notes.  The word “she” doesn’t actually come in until line 3 of the lyrics: “She can take my darkest feeling / tear it up ’til I’m on my knees” – but it doesn’t matter.  Just as the musical introduction puts this song in a clear frame in terms of style of music, the first utterances out of lead singer Mr. Reid make it clear that this is clearly a song about feelings from the heart.

The bridge to the chorus, and the chorus itself, identify themselves quite readily by major chord progressions, making it obvious that this is, structurally, little more than a simple pop song written with a loving nod to the music of the Second British Invasion in the early 1980’s.

Download link: Happy When It Rains by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Finding the Groove

I went to Rhode Island this week and spent time alone in my childhood home for the first time since my father had passed away. My mother had finally returned to work, my uncle found his way back to Memphis to be with his wife and daughter after helping my mother with a lengthy but much needed cleansing and redecorating of the house. No longer did my father’s couch rest against the wall in the living that allowed it to receive the last rays of the dying sun. Walls had been painted, floors redone, the furnace had been replaced and the basement was cleaned. As I walked around I noticed the empty shelf where he used to keep his records and thought about the writing I had been doing on 5×500 up to this point.

I spent some time today writing about Look Sharp by Joe Jackson before I decided to take a look back at some of the titles I had chosen. My original concept for these entries was inspiration in the form of a person’s personal collection of music. I had never wanted these entries to read like a review but some of the albums I have chosen are STILL reviewed daily.  It is time to re-write the formula and start listening to some albums that are a little less familiar to me and the general public.  Titles that won’t automatically remind people of other reviews, memories or opinions they may have already read/lived/formed.

I’m putting Joe Jackson away for now.  Canned Heat featuring John Lee Hooker is about to be cued up and it is already the 11th hour on Thursday.

See you next week!

part two of three

Broken from thoughts on mounting particles of air, Cerebus, in sudden and familiar feral haste, hears a roar.  A digital roar, howling from speakers, left and right combining somewhere between just out a child’s television set and C’s little ears; the mashing enters left and right, to split again in the brain.  Waves over a forest.  It happens everyday.   That far-off kid’s got bass; that imaginary wolf’s got a low end.  Except only, no tv.  No left-right.  It’s the kid.  He’s howling.  His waves, his rib timbre and tremolo, trigger another light.

Cerebus tries to reach, but he’s out of sound; his lungs muster carbon wind, sending pain as warning with the added push required for words.  The sides of his tongue tell him they’re dry.  His brain tells him to save.  He sees waters.  He sees rocks, and strangers kicking.  Here comes the door.  There are the boot crunches, no closer but shit there they are.  Tell Left Buttress to brace, tell Elbow to miss Ribs, tell Right Hand to loosen Fingers, ready Palm and not miss.  Door handle, left or right?  twelve to one.  twelve to one. twelve to one.

He slams it shut, summer pane cracking.  He heads to the faucet before turning back to guillotine the dog door before spinning back again.  Now he’s spelled and sliding along the counter-top to the faucet.  His hand hits the lift.  His hands hit the glass.  Cerebus stammers back, staring at a hideous young man, panting and lithe, staring back at him through the window above the sink.  It’s always a pretty big window, and it’s rarely shut.  Cerebus lunges and slides it, shaking it in new ways.  He knows the water’s been running as much as he remembers his thirst.  The young man, missing hair in shocks, speaks with heavy mist softly onto the glass.  Be.  Ware, he says.  Be.  war, he spells with quivering fingers.  He begins to cry.  Be-ee-e.  Wa-are, he says.

Cerebus’s brother runs into the kitchen, the tat, tat of the light wood swinging the door behind him.  What is it, what is it?!  Cerebus wonders how he knew there was a what before he came in.  He has little outside oxygen left and no water.  He nestles into a brainless burrow.  He sighs to his brother with smiling eyes.  His neck limps.  It’s OK, C.  It’s OK.  Look at me.  Don’t point.   There’s no one there.  It’s OK.  Look at me.  Close your eyes.  Remember your dreams.  I’m right here.  Just close your eyes.  Close em hard and it’ll all go away.

The knife was cheap, denticulate, serrated all wrong from wear.  They needed new knives.  They needed Cutco.  The man outside screamed and ran, pulling ribbon waves behind the brush.  Cerebus felt the tear of organs, detail, new depth, and overdrive.  He opened his eyes.  The blood ran over the Farberware blade, covering letters like wine legs, spelling “be ware”.  His brother mumbled at his father’s hands as they held the handle and didn’t shake.  He looked as hurt as C, who held his shoulders in kind.  They couldn’t brace his grip, and so his nails dug, through skin past small-time cloth.  His brother waggled round them.  The man came boring toward the pane door, the door to home, his boots almost silent in their speed.  His brother lunged at their father’s back, giving daddy a fistful of Cerebus, giving C a lumbar the other way.

next one:  Cerebus meets Alan Tims in purgatory.  And that’ll be the end of that.

Her Sky is Never Black

the city is beautiful tourists spend one night
with her go back home tell friends

the city is beautiful laid out
on maps helicopter rides

the city is beautiful from space
electric surface stars

the city is beautiful in spring
her light rain the dampness of her breath

the city is beautiful in summer
her heat rippling above the asphalt

the city is beautiful in fall
her hair blown back that girl walking

the city is beautiful in winter
her whiteness the warmth indoors

the city is beautiful the birds
perched along her windows

the city is beautiful she is on fire
the smoke loiters on her streets

the city is beautiful hazy
orange yellow suburb nights

the city is beautiful she is silent she opens
her mouth the first time each morning

the city is beautiful standing steel above
neck craned back take in her scaffolding

the city is beautiful she is cold
she is made of stone

the city is beautiful
her sky is never black

They Said They Found You With Your Headphones On

And all I can think about is which song was playing when you took your last breath. I hope it was something that at least put a smile on your face. Why Do They Rock So Hard? was always your jam, at least when we were kids, but you and I haven’t really talked music in a while, not for at least a year now. That’s just one reason why I was so really looking forward to tomorrow. Yesterday. Sunday. The day after—Fuck. Subjective time loses meaning; time’s objective when you’re out of time, when you’ve reached your final objective.

Time. I’m told your roommate found you around 11:30pm. I don’t even know who you live with these days. I got the call at 2am and ignored it, I was sleeping. Your youngest sister found out on Facebook, where wall posts have become electronic flowers on your profile tombstone. She called your mom, but she was already outside talking to the cops. And I was still asleep.

I didn’t know what to expect on Sunday when you weren’t there. I met eyes with Fish across the room, and excused myself from the corner of awkward catch-up conversations and we hugged. It was a hello hug, how are you, but without either one of us saying a word, it was an are you okay hug, too. “Did—” he started. “Yeah,” I said. He told me that he called you last night. That night. Saturday night. Around 8pm, for a pint. Maybe Delaney’s. I wish I went there with you more often. We could have talked about the ever-changing draught list, ruminating about our life, theatre, art, sharing scripts over goblets of Delirium Tremens. Or Nocturnum, if the season fits. But I don’t live here anymore. And I guess, neither do you.

When I got to your house—when I arrived at your parents’ house—your brother was doing homework, a worksheet on The Scarlet Letter for Ms. Ligouri. We both had a crush on her when she studen-taught us 7 years ago, and judging by the worksheet, she’s still a lousy teacher. Still, I was surprised to find that Matt’s not 8 years old anymore, but time will do that to you. I was paralyzed standing in the doorway, but I finally turned towards your mom and she ran into my arms and held me closer than I ever thought she would (at this point, if you were here, you’d be half-expecting me to quip about her tits, even if I wasn’t going to, and you’d call me on it, shut me up before I had the chance).

It didn’t really hit me until I saw your father. He was in the bathroom when I arrived because he wouldn’t let us see him cry—typical Gary—but when I shook his hand, firm and string and manly like he taught us, he pulled me in for an embrace. A bear hug to hide the tears, as he thanked me for being your friend, and asked me to pass the message along to anyone else. To the guys. Please. Just, thank you. For just, for being his friend. For being your friend.

Rest in Peace, MVA
June 23, 1986 — October 3, 2009

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part I: California by Joni Mitchell

Inspired by Porn For The Blind, a service of questionable value in which staccato-voiced gentlemen explain the visual goings-on of porn videos for the non-sighted among us (and not in a sexy way, either), I’ve decided to begin providing music reviews describing songs, without providing links to the actual songs.  In this way, perhaps the deaf can enjoy this music just as much as I do.

(And no, I will not provide a link to Porn for the Blind.  If you really want to hear it – and boy, is it awkward/disappointing/odd – go ahead and use the google goggles.)

Without further ado, let us begin.

Week I: California by Joni Mitchell

California is marked by Joni Mitchell’s voice.  It’s a simple folk song of the 70’s; yes, this is true.  But what makes the song so memorable is the way that Mitchell wields her own sound.

Her voice dips and swerves; it has a cadence all its own.  It stays on the beat, then deviates wildly from it in triplets and missed timings.  By fitting in four words or more on the upbeat of the fourth tick of a measure, she manages to cram each line with the potential  to go anywhere.

And, of course, she has some amazing range.  She’ll jump an octave and a half out of nowhere.  It’s an unbelievable thing to hear her go from a low alto to a high- maybe falsetto – soprano in the middle of one word: California.

The song opens with the slow, gentle pluck of a guitar, and the whole time, the guitar is held in mellow check.  At outset, it sounds small, like a ukulele or a box with a view strings stretched taut across it.  This high, tinny guitar is eventually joined by a bigger brother – an acoustic guitar with a fuller sound, but still, even this one has a very soft touch, like the guitar of a lovestruck James Taylor.

That’s that.  More to come.

Download link: California by Joni Mitchell

Before The Flood – Bob Dylan and The Band

I sang Stage Fright in the living room
Skipped over four to avoid the gloom
Of a beautiful song dressed in death while we were both alive
Casually and comically cast aside.

I Shall Be Released, from the car it dully roared
Engine under stress from the hill endured
Conversation about the life he had led
As we ignored what Dylan said.

The only track we skipped in the car that night
Was a song surreal with forward sight
The morning came much too soon
A dying man in a living room.

Part One of Two

It’s night time and there’s a new moon, which means no moon, and there are lots of trees and Cerebus knows he can’t see all of their outlines.  Looking up won’t do him any good.  No branches.  New moon.

There are houses that perimeter this forested area.  Most of them have sensor lights that very successfully keep them from being robbed.  The one’s without, are burgled, all the time.

Cerebus headlongs the brake.  Swiping ferns that are wet, so he’s soaked and slowing.  The ferns, doused and bowing, have done they’re job, which means the brush below is dry for cracking, yet slippery for slipping, and quiet enough for echoing.  The echoes travel relatively free to the west, which is right, save the occasional minor shock absorption in a trunk.  They do not, however, travel freely, in their upper arc, to the east, which is left.  These echoes meet those of another’s, heavier, swifter, and therefore producing larger waves, which means their waves win.  While whatever’s attached to those big shrushes can barely hear Cerebus, Cerebus certainly can hear them.

He cannot run any faster, but he’s closer to home than the bigger feet.  He can tell from the other’s footfall that they are not barefoot, so this isn’t a dream.  See, the bare foot has a curling, lifting of moss and leaves echo, while this noise is flat cracking, hard snapping foomp foomps, with an occasional squeak.

A clarification: Cerebus will not run any faster because he can’t let himself trip.  This much he knows.  When he hits little clearings he looks east, knowing the chances of his counterpart also having been cleared are slim, but it’s his only shot.  Matter of fact there are a couple joint clearings.  One’s black, thanks to the new moon, and the other’s lit up! a little too late, lit from a sensor message.  Cerebus has identified, indeed, a boot, a big boot, at a running, or about to kick the ground angle.  “This is what you see if you happen to be looking out the window when your perfectly placed sensor light triggers.”

He’s had a thought other than, “run”, “live”, or “h-h-h-h-h”.  He’s thought about a suburban light sensor.  Silly things.  Security.  Lot o money in that game.  When a game’s more than a game, like what football’s become, there’s a lot o money in it.  He wonders if adrenaline junkies and human prey think this way after being chased incessantly.  Does the brain settle into any situation after a given time?  And that brain’s time definition is based on what requisites?  They can’t be “pre-”.  At least not for Cerebus.  This is new.  It’s his first time.  And there went his brain, wandering again.

And does our little {we’ve assumed he’s little, yeah?} man suddenly kick that arching root, finding no time for his arms to flail, knees liquified, his feet vaining to catch his chest?  Does he slide like a shoulderless dead rhino, dragging his lower jaw, filling his pipe with soil, tiny rocks, bugs and a slug?  At least if that happened he’d been unable to emit an audible scream.  But it didn’t.  He pictured it worse than us.  He can’t decide to live, but he can choose not to fall.  And he has.  So his brain’s gone and he’s in a tunnel.

NEXT WEEK!!, Cerebus gets stabbed in the belly, run through his gut, stripped of elegance, and relieved of fear.  BeWare.