Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It feels like nothing matters in our private universe (Crowded House)

Being a kiwi and being back in the Land Of The Long White Cloud (a.k.a God's own, a.k.a. Aotearoa, a.k.a. Nu Zild) makes me very nostalgic for kiwi music of my youth.

NZ is a long, long way from anything significant. Yes I know it's three hours flight time to Australia - I said 'significant'.

We are isolated and we have had to develop our own culture of films, TV and music. In short we've created our own private universe.

Some outrageously great bands and music have emerged in NZ and gone over the years. The biggies the world knows about - Split Enz and Crowded House in days gone by; Lawrence Arabia and The Phoenix Foundation are current critic faves in the UK.

A band of my youth that I love is Citizen Band. I recently found their song, My Pohutukawa, on a radio broadcast and linked it to my Facebook page. Old friends Kevy and GK wrote comments.

I reflected on this - namely that the song would mean something to only a very very few people in the world. It was an obscure B side to one of their songs and released, I think, only in NZ. Actually CB were an Auckland band and so even the rest of NZ wouldn't know about them much.

It's a great feeling knowing that KS GK and I share that experience and knowledge. It bonds us and I love that.

Citizen Band tried and failed to make it in Aussie and flamed out when original members started leaving.

My love for the band endures though and I hope Brent, Mike, Greg and Geoff dig that tex over Christmas.

Try the link and watch the boys do a note for note version of the old Larry's Rebels hit, I Feel Good.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

There's a splinter in your eye and it reads "react" (REM)

Today's workout culminated with REM's glorious Harborcoat.

This song always reminds me of living in New Plymouth, NZ, in the spring and summer of 1984. Jacky and I were newly married with a baby and Harborcoat formed the soundtrack of life at the pink house in List St.

I replayed the tune a few times after it came up on shuffle and tried to figure out the lyrics again. That's part of its charm - it's indecipherable. Michael Stipe sings great but the words are in a terrific murk. About the only bits I ever get is the line I used for the title and heaven only knows what it means.

I prefer to leave it that way as the Byrdsian guitars chime and roil. It all becomes this fab stew.

And a harborcoat? The imagination has to work hard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt (Mark Twain)

Sometimes uncool songs just stick in your brain all day long. They won't be denied.

The Scorpions is a heavy rock band from Germany (heavy metal? I don't think so but the distinctions are pretty pedantic ones) that is still going strong. Stronger than ever really. Sting in the Tail, supposedly their retirement album, is an awesome guitar rock album from a year or so ago.

The song that's got stuck in the membrane though is Wind Of Change. Their almost-but-not-quite big hair AOR radio bothering 1990 ballad. They've just done a 2011 version, pretty much a note for note copy but the guitaring sounds better, on their new album - Comeback. There goes the retirement then.

It has so many weird touches from the mannered vocal by Klaus Meine and the whistling to the Little Wing style guitar intro to the big rawk chorus. It all works though...somehow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm gonna fight, in the metal night! (Dream Evil)

'Tis the season of bad Christmas muzak in all the malls, tinsel, fake Christmas trees, and lots of fake snow on the shoulders of the stores' mannequins that looks like dandruff.

My apologies to Denene if she's strayed onto the music blog by accident and that sounds vaguely baahumbugish, but it looks and feels fake. To be in the middle of a desert with the malls full of festive cheer is surreal and weird, but there you go.

'Tis also the season of Christmas music posts. The Seventies Blog asked readers for their favourite Christmas songs recently.

Here were my first equals, now and for always:

John Ono Lennon and Yoko Ono Lennon - Happy Christmas (War is over)


Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby please come home)

I was going to add a heavy metal Christmas song but a quick search revealed what the general public would already suspect - Heavy Metal + Christmas songs = complete disaster.

A case in point - Twisted Sister? Please!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Angular banjoes sound good to me (Steely Dan)

Aja is a weird song on a weird album (also called Aja) with a weird cover (right), by a weird group that isn’t really a group at all – it’s a duo comprising Walter Becker and Donald Fagen plus assorted genius session musicians.

It’s the longest song on the album and the title song so it’s important right?

Musically it’s as smooth as silk with a very jazzy feel from the sax solo, but the lyrics are just…weird.

Does it actually mean anything? Or is it just oblique for oblique’s sake?

Starts off and appears to be literally on solid ground – the hill. Maybe it’s metaphorical though. Maybe it’s Capitol Hill where People never stare, they just don’t care.

But then – whheeeeeeeeeeee – we’re off into Chinese music, banyan trees, double helix in the sky, the dude ranch and, of course, those angular banjoes.

What the hey?

A quick read on the interweb of various theories about the song shows that nobody knows anything!

So instead – kick back for 8 minutes and let your mind wander while your feet do the tapping.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lily called another bet and drew up the Jack of Hearts (Bob Dylan)

I have been a big fan of Heather Browne's blog for a long time. It's called I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (check it on my blogroll). She often writes the kinds of posts where you think - I wish I'd said that (or heard that, or seen that). She's a joy to read and steal stuff from.

She recently posted on Adam Arcuragi. I'd never heard of him before - again the joy of discovering new things is just a visit to Heather's site away. She even added this clip.

I love the song and I love the video for a lot of reasons.

I love the way music can make you smile and make you warm. Clearly this is filmed somewhere cold but the music just seems to warm everybody up.

I love the almost guerrilla filming technique used. And it's a fresh idea - no hackneyed 'we'll film it on a roof like the Beatles and U2 did' Red Hot Chili Pepper rip off stuff here.

Don't forget to check out her blog - it's exceptional.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I believe in what I'm doing (U2 from Celebration)

The last copy of Q that I read had U2 on the cover. In the inside story Bono claims that U2 are 'the most loved and the most hated band on Earth'.

Now I can't claim to speak for the world (unlike Bono) but U2 is certainly a band I have had a love/non love (why would you ever hate a band?) relationship with over the years.

I seem to prefer the less bombastic corners of their oeuvre as you can sense from my top five selections. I'm thinking of Pride, Bullet The Blue Sky and all of Rattle and Hum when I say bombastic.

Often those corners shelter the love songs and more tender slithers of Bono's soul. Not just romantic love (Wild Honey) but love for lost ones (One Tree Hill), love for his universal brothers and sisters (One), and love of God (Gloria)

Gloria (1981)

The first U2 song I heard, the first U2 single I bought, and the first U2 video I saw (nothing matches your first time). I love the way Bono is throwing his rock star shapes and The Edge just looks cool.

One Tree Hill (1987)

I was born in One Tree Hill in Auckland (in a US military base hospital left there after World War 2) and I grew up and played in the shadows of an area called One Tree Hill, also known as Cornwall Park or Maungakiekie. The song is about the death of a NZ friend of Bono's. The emotions surrounding that and the location make this a rare U2 song - one that I can connect to in a personal way.

It's appropriate, then, that the video uses stills from Nu Zild in general.

Wild Honey (2000)

Bless him - Bono couldn't write a straight love song if he tried - it wouldn't work. Instead we are lucky to have fantastic songs like Wild Honey in the U2 canon. This is an example of a light touch U2 song - they don't appear to be trying too hard (and boy are they capable of THAT). This one just swings along really easily.

One (1991)

The well known stand out song from the great great Achtung Baby album. I love the way The Lighthouse Family used a fragment from One in their song I Wish. I'm a sucker for that kind of homage - like when Hootie And The Blowfish sing a fragment from Dylan's mighty Idiot Wind in Only Wanna Be With You.

New Year's Day (1983)

The live version from Red Rocks is my favourite (on the Under A Blood Red Sky album). It is so atmospheric and seemingly pessimistic - torn in two and nothing changes on New Year's Day but I prefer the optimistic view - that we can break through...we can be one. I like the way that Bono's lyrics feed back and feed forward. Interesting that New Year's Day contains ideas that he explores elsewhere such as One and With Or Without You.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

She tries to understand the things that I do (Edgar Winter Group)

I really really love the shuffle mode on my ppod. It spins me off into many forgotten corners of my music collection.

I was doing a workout on The Beast yesterday (our cross trainer) and I love it when a song emerges from the shuffle which is perfect for a workout and reminds me of great times.

Round and Round by The Edgar Winter Group came on and I smiled and smiled.

It's a gem from the big selling They Only Come Out At Night album released during 1972 (the one with Frankenstein on it).

I played the song three times back to back and charged into my workout.

The song always has good connotations for me and it pops up in my life when I most need it.

During the second and third listens I began to listen to the lyrics more and I focused harder on various bits while bopping on The Beast.

I tried to love her but she changes everyday
Wouldn’t be much fun if she was any other way
One day she’s warm next day she’s cold
One day she’s young and then the next day she’s old
I puzzled over this and especially the last line of this opening verse. Okay I get that the lover he's talking about can be hot or cold, but young and old? Just a convenient rhyme or something deeper?

Then I remembered a section from Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha when Siddhartha is talking to his old friend Govinda about the potential hidden Buddha that lives in all of us.

The world, Govinda, is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment, every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potentially old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people - eternal life.
Intentional or not, I read the song slightly differently at this point. The lover is whole, fully evolved with (maybe) a glimpse into something deeper.

Weird how a song can do that - shapeshift after many listens and in conjunction with other stimuli (Siddhartha) take on another life.