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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Tune o’ the Day

According to members of the Canadian rock band The Guess Who, their 1970 hit “American Woman” is not, as many think, an anti-war song or an attack on U.S. politics (the lines about war machines and ghetto scenes notwithstanding). Rather, it’s a declaration that the guys in the band prefer Canadian girls because they’re nicer.

Lead singer Burton Cummings, who composed the lyrics, described American girls as “well, dangerous,” and after a long tour, “it was a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with.”

Cummings said both the music and the lyrics to “American Woman” were improvised. During a concert, the band paused while guitarist Randy Bachman replaced a broken string. When tuning the guitar, Bachman spontaneously played a riff the band liked.

Before resuming the concert, they paused for a brief jam session based on the riff. Cummings improvised the first of the lyrics on the spot, and the tune was finalized later.

That story seems plausible, considering that neither the melody nor the lyrics are what you’d call deep or sophisticated.

American Woman

By The Guess Who, 1970
Written by Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale, and Garry Peterson

American woman gonna mess your mind.
American woman, she gonna mess your mind.
Mmm, American woman gonna mess your mind.
Mmm, American woman gonna mess your mind.

Say A
Say M
Say E
Say R
Say I
C
Say A
N, mmm

American woman gonna mess your mind.
Mmm, American woman gonna mess your mind.
Uh — American woman gonna mess your mind.

Uh!

American woman, stay away from me.
American woman, mama, let me be.
Don’t come a-hangin’ around my door.
I don’t wanna see your face no more.
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you.

Now woman, I said stay away.
American woman, listen what I say.

American woman, get away from me.
American woman, mama, let me be.
Don’t come a-knockin’ around my door.
Don’t wanna see your shadow no more.
Colored lights can hypnotize.
Sparkle someone else’s eyes.
Now woman, I said get away.
American woman, listen what I say, hey.

American woman, I said get away.
American woman, listen what I say.
Don’t come a-hangin’ around my door.
Don’t wanna see your face no more.
I don’t need your war machines.
I don’t need your ghetto scenes.
Colored lights can hypnotize.
Sparkle someone else’s eyes.
Now woman, get away from me.
American woman, mama, let me be.

Go, gotta get away, gotta get away.
Now go, go, go.
I’m gonna leave you, woman.
Gonna leave you, woman.
Bye-bye.
Bye-bye.
Bye-bye.
Bye-bye.

You’re no good for me.
I’m no good for you.
Gonna look you right in the eye.
Tell you what I’m gonna do.
You know I’m gonna leave.
You know I’m gonna go.
You know I’m gonna leave.
You know I’m gonna go, woman.
I’m gonna leave you, woman.
Goodbye, American woman.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/american-woman.mp3

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The career of the late singer/songwriter Bill Withers, best known for “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” followed an unusual path. Withers stuttered badly as a child. He joined the Navy at 17 and overcame the stuttering with the help of speech therapy arranged by his commanding officer.

At age 33, Withers left the Navy and released his first album. He went on to win three Grammies, and he was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But his music career lasted only from 1970 to 1985. By the early 80s, he was butting heads with the bosses at Columbia Records (he called them “blaxperts”), who wanted to alter his style. When Columbia delayed a new Withers album and released one by Mr. T instead, Withers quit.

Ain’t No Sunshine” won a Grammy in 1971 for Best Rhythm and Blues Song.

Ain’t No Sunshine

By Bill Withers, 1971
Written by Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
It’s not warm when she’s away.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And she’s always gone too long,
Anytime she goes away.

Wonder this time where she’s gone.
Wonder if she’s gone to stay.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And this house just ain’t no home,
Anytime she goes away.

And I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know — hey —
I oughta leave the young thing alone,
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
Only darkness every day.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And this house just ain’t no home,
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.

———

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Tune o’ the Day

George Harrison’s first solo album after the breakup of the Beatles was “All Things Must Pass” in 1970. The album was a great success — as well as proof that Harrison was the creative equal of Lennon and McCartney, thank you very much.

The album also showcased Harrison’s Hindu spiritual and philosophical beliefs. “Beware of Darkness” is one of several examples.

In the song, Harrison warns against the corrupting influences of pop idols (fallen singers), con men (soft shoe shufflers), politicians (greedy leaders), and negative thoughts (thoughts that linger). For good measure, Harrison tossed in a line about the Weeping Atlas Cedar, a tree of which he was especially fond.

Beware of Darkness” is Harrison’s baby, but my favorite version is by Concrete Blonde. It was on the group’s magnificent 1986 debut album.

Concrete Blonde never recorded a dud.

Beware of Darkness

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by George Harrison

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of fallen singers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of thoughts that linger,
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night.

Beware of darkness.


It can hit you,
It can hurt you,
Make you sore, and what is more,
That is not what you are here for.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sideboards
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of greedy leaders.
They take you where you should not go,
While Weeping Atlas Cedars,
They just want to grow.
Beware of darkness.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/beware-of-darkness.mp3

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Crème de la Crème

I spent some time recently, probably too much time, reading up on the all-time best guitar work in rock music. Or, more accurately, various opinions on the subject.

A good guitar riff is a deeply satisfying thing. And, because tastes vary widely, the subject is gloriously, wonderfully subjective.

I’m partial to Hotel California, Bad Moon Rising, and Money for Nothing. I don’t care much for Iron Man and Smells Like Teen Spirit. But that’s just one dude’s opinion.

My research protocol consisted of reading countless online lists of favorites compiled by fans, music pros, etc. Sometimes, the lists ranked the songs in order, sometimes not. When ranked, Smoke on the Water appeared in first place most often.

My takeaway: regardless of personal taste and the subjectivity angle, most of the lists contained — would you believe it? — more or less the same songs.

Namely, these 25, which I list alphabetically; ranking them would be presumptuous and not cool.

———

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Back in Black, AC/DC
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Day Tripper, The Beatles
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Hotel California, The Eagles
Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Rolling Stones
Layla, Derek and the Dominoes
Money, Pink Floyd
Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

———

That, my friends, is a righteous list of tunes.

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Tune o’ the Day

Cowboy Junkies is a band from Toronto whose debut album came out in 1986. They are still touring today with the original members: Vocalist Margo Timmins, her two brothers, and a family friend.

The Junkies are categorized in various ways — country rock, alternative country, alternative rock, folk rock. Whatever they are, I’m a big fan. They’ve released 21 albums/CDs, and I have 13 of them.

For a love song, “A Common Disaster” is seriously bleak and gritty. But a love song it is. The singer is asking someone to forget about all that “happily-ever-after” stuff and embark on a relationship, even if, odds are, it will end badly. The Junkies excel at this kind of tune.

A Common Disaster

By Cowboy Junkies, 1996
Written by Michael Timmins

A candle burning for everything I’ve ever wanted.
A tattoo burned for everything I’ve ever wanted and lost.
I had a long list of names that I kept in my back pocket,
But I’ve cut it down to one, and your name’s at the top.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

I found myself a friend,
But he’s crooked as a stick in water.
So now I’m writing fairy tales
To catch the spirit of revenge.
He’s got a plan to steal my little sister,
But I’m not too concerned
‘Cause I will get him in the end.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

Going to find me someone to share a common disaster.
Run away with me from a life so cramped and dull.
Not worry too much about the happily-ever-after.
Just keep the Caddy moving ‘til we’re well beyond that hill.

Won’t you share a common disaster?
Share with me a common disaster.
A common disaster.

The Junkies today.

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Eye in the Sky” is a pleasing soft rock tune from the 1982 album of the same name by the Alan Parsons Project. The song rose to number three on the U.S. charts, the group’s all-time best effort.

The lyrics are considerably less cheerful than the melody. They tell of the end of a relationship when a man discovers that his girlfriend is not who he thought she was. He feels victorious and empowered, but also angry and disappointed.

Parsons said co-writer Eric Woolfson came up with the title after spending time in Las Vegas.

“He had a certain fascination with the hidden cameras that were there watching the tables, taping the games and what have you,” said Parsons. “It was more than just the hidden cameras. It was also kind of 1984 syndrome. It covers the fact we can never be left to our own devices; we will always be watched.”

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

By the Alan Parsons Project, 1982
Written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson

Don’t think sorry’s easily said.
Don’t try turning tables instead.
You’ve taken lots of chances before,
But I ain’t gonna give any more —
Don’t ask me.
That’s how it goes,
‘Cause part of me knows what you’re thinkin’.

Don’t say words you’re gonna regret.
Don’t let the fire rush to your head.
I’ve heard the accusation before,
And I ain’t gonna take any more —
Believe me.
The sun in your eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

Don’t leave false illusions behind.
Don’t cry, ‘cause I ain’t changing my mind.
So find another fool like before,
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore
believing some of the lies
while all of the signs are deceiving.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

 

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Tune o’ the Day

In 1987, Pink Floyd released “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” the band’s first album after founding member Roger Waters quit in a huff in 1985. The new album was David Gilmour’s chance to show his creative stuff and poke Waters in the eye.

Gilmour used the album to take Pink Floyd in a more political direction. An example is On the Turning Away,” which laments how humans ignore the suffering of others.

The song did well, the album was popular in the US and UK, and most critics liked it. Waters, of course, opined that it stunk.

While that was going on, Waters sued Gilmour and the rest of the band over the legal right to the name Pink Floyd. Late in 1987, in an out-of-court settlement, Waters backed down. No doubt he was compensated handsomely.

Momentary

On the Turning Away

By Pink Floyd, 1987
Written by David Gilmour and Anthony Moore

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand.

“Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering,
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away.”

It’s a sin that somehow,
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known,

Unaware how the ranks have grown,
Driven on by a heart of stone.
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud.

On the wings of the night,
As the daytime is stirring,
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord,

Using words you will find are strange,
And mesmerized as they light the flame.
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night.

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary.
No more turning away
From the coldness inside.

Just a world that we all must share.
It’s not enough just to stand and stare.
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?

 

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Tune o’ the Day

The British rock band Supertramp was, and still is, a rare group that performs without a front man. They are content to go on stage as musicians who get equal billing.

Actually, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson wrote all the songs and essentially were in charge over the years, but neither made a big deal of it.

A few years ago, I posted a Tune o’ the Day featuring “The Logical Song” from Supertramp’s best-known album, “Breakfast in America.” The tune below, “Goodbye Stranger, is also from “Breakfast.”

Supertramp is still around, led by Davies and minus Hodgson. Their glory days are over, but their songs have held up well. Memorable stuff.

Supertramp-3

Goodbye Stranger

By Supertramp, 1979
Written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson

It was an early morning yesterday.
I was up before the dawn.
And I really have enjoyed my stay,
But I must be moving on.

Like a king without a castle,
Like a queen without a throne,
I’m an early morning lover,
And I must be moving on.

Now I believe in what you say
Is the undisputed truth.
But I have to have things my own way
To keep me in my youth.

Like a ship without an anchor,
Like a slave without a chain,
Just the thought of those sweet ladies
Sends a shiver through my veins.

And I will go on shining,
Shining like brand new.
I’ll never look behind me.
My troubles will be few.

Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice.
Hope you find your paradise.
Tried to see your point of view.
Hope your dreams will all come true.

Goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, Jane.
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame.

Come tomorrow, feel no pain.

Sweet devotion, it’s not for me.
Just give me motion and set me free.
And land and the ocean far away.
The life I’ve chosen every day.

So goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, Jane.
Will we ever meet again?

Now, some they do, and some they don’t,
And some you just can’t tell
.
And some they will
, and some they won’t.
With some it’s just as well
.

You can laugh at my behavior.
That’ll never bother me.
Say the devil is my savior
But I don’t pay no heed.

And I will go on shining,
shining like brand new.
I’ll never look behind me
.
My troubles will be few.

Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice.
Hope you find your paradise.
Tried to see your point of view.
Hope your dreams will all come true.

Goodbye, Mary. Goodbye, Jane.
Will we ever meet again?
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame.
Come tomorrow, feel no pain.

Sweet devotion, it’s not for me.
Just give me motion and set me free
.
And land and the ocean far away
.
The life I’ve chosen
every day.

And now I’m leaving. Got to go.
Hit the road
. I say it once again,
Oh
, yes, I’m leaving. Got to go.
Got to go, I’m sorry I must tell you
.
Goodbye, Mary
. Goodbye, Jane.
Will we ever meet again?

 

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The German new wave/synth-pop band Alphaville was formed in 1982 by three guys from Münster. Originally, the band called itself “Forever Young,” but soon switched to “Alphaville,” the title of a 1965 French movie they liked.

The name “Forever Young” promptly went to one of the songs on their aptly-named debut album, “Alphaville.”

“Forever Young” is often misunderstood. It’s a beautiful ballad that extols the virtues of youth, but it was written during the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation could have ended everything at any moment. Young Germans were well aware that their country would be among the first targets.

Lead singer Marian Gold is “hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Are you going to drop the bomb or not?” From there, the song begins to lament the loss of youth and the likelihood of getting “old without a cause.”

Lyrics can be a bummer.

Alphaville

Forever Young

By Alphaville, 1984
Written by Marian Gold, Bernhard Lloyd, and Frank Mertens

Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while.
Heaven can wait. We’re only watching the skies,
Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever.
We don’t have the power, but we never say never.
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip.
The music’s for the sad man.

Can you imagine when this race is won?
Turn our golden the faces into the sun,
Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune.
The music’s played by the – the madman.

Forever young.
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever?

Forever young.
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever young?

Some are like water, some are like the heat.
Some are a melody, and some are the beat.
Sooner or later they all will be gone.
Why don’t they stay young?

It’s so hard to get old without a cause.
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse.
Youth’s like diamonds in the sun,
And diamonds are forever.

So many adventures given up today.
So many songs we forgot to play.
So many dreams swinging out of the blue.
Oh, let it come true.

Forever young.
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever?

Forever young.
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, and ever?

Forever young.
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever young?

 

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The 1966 song “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Paul Simon is a poet’s lament about the passing of time and his “manuscripts of unpublished rhyme.” The changing of seasons is a metaphor for the cycle of life, lost opportunities, and all that. Another pretty ballad that is bleak in tone.

Two decades later, The Bangles were asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack of “Less Than Zero,” a movie about drug addiction and wasted lives. The Bangles already performed Simon’s song regularly on stage (shortened to “Hazy Shade of Winter”), so it was the natural choice.

But at the recording session, oddly, their record producer objected to the line “Drinking my vodka and lime.” The Bangles accommodated him by shortening the verse that included itwhich deleted the reference to the poet. These lyrics were cut:

Funny how my memory skips
While looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme,
Drinking my vodka and lime.

If the deletion irritated Simon, and it probably did, I expect the royalties made up for it. The Bangles’ version was a much bigger hit than the Simon and Garfunkel original.

Bangles

Hazy Shade of Winter

By The Bangles, 1987
Written by Paul Simon

Time, time, time,
See what’s become of me…

Time, time, time,
See what’s become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities.
I was so hard to please.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside.
It’s bound to be a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned.
Carry a cup in your hand.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Hang onto your hopes my friend.
That’s an easy thing to say,
But if your hopes should pass away,
Simply pretend
That you can build them again.

Look around.
Grass is high.
Fields are ripe.
It’s the springtime of my life.

Seasons change with their scenery,
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me.

Look around.
Leaves are brown,
And the sky
Is a hazy shade of winter.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

Look around.
Leaves are brown.
There’s a patch of snow on the ground.

 

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