Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 57)

57. "Laid"
Artist: James
Year: 1993

If you're a fan of the Manchester band, this choice is going to feel uninspired and downright pedestrian. In my defense, without hearing this one I'm not sure I would have become a fan until more recent times with the advent of the Vinyl Villain's singles series. Prior to "Laid," I only knew "Ya Ho" and "What For" from Sire's late-'80s 'Just Say Yes' compilations. Frankly, these songs didn't make me run out and buy James' albums. In the early '90s, the band had a couple of minor hits in America with "Sit Down" and "Born of Frustration," but I somehow missed these completely and wouldn't hear them until I began digging after hearing "Laid" in 1993.

The song had everything the kids could want, including filthy lyrics, catchy jangle and short running time. The censors were still running amok (thanks, Parents Music Resource Center!), and there was no way "she only comes when she's on top" was going to make the cut. "Comes" was replaced with "sings" for airplay and, on the video, the word "hums" was used as a subtitle when it was quite clear what he was really lip syncing. All of this served to draw attention to the original line. So, well done, one and all! "Laid" peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and even managed a No. 61 showing on the Billboard Hot 100. This was James' only album to go gold in America.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 58)

58. "Your Fucking Sunny Day"
Artist: Lambchop
Year: 1997

I enjoyed the early work of Lambchop, but the band didn't really sweep me off my feet until the turn of the century. Since then, Lambchop has released at least three albums I consider essential, 'Nixon' (2000), 'Damaged' (2006) and 'Mr. M' (2012). There is something about the way frontman Kurt Wagner delivers words in that Tennessee drawl that takes me back to listening to my relatives spinning yarns at reunions back in the sticks of Illinois as a youngin'. Everything was just a little slower and a little simpler. Even when Wagner's tales are filled with melancholy, I still find the music comforting. Perhaps I also like Lambchop because I think this would have been a group my father and I might have actually agreed on.

As for today's pick, this is the second and last song on the countdown with the dreaded f-dash-dash-dash word (as Ralphie would say) in the title. If you only know Lambchop's more recent work, you might find the tempo of this one quite surprising. "Your Fucking Sunny Day" most assuredly doesn't sound like it was sung from a rocking chair. It comes from the band's third album, 'Thriller.' That's a little self-deprecating humor from a group that produced two earlier albums with few sales to show for it. On the off chance this song might have received some airplay, there was a clean version called "Your Sucking Funny Day," which is a smile, but I don't think Merge or anyone else needed to worry too much about such things.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 59)

59. "Something in the Air"
Artist: David Bowie
Year: 1999

Yet another fine artist that lost his way in the '90s. Well, perhaps he had already stumbled in the preceding decade, but that's an argument for another time. In fact, TheRobster at Is This the Life? has been grading Bowie's discography, and it's a fine place and time to chime in with your thoughts on his work.

Although I'm a die-hard fan that tends to like even the work that most detest, I would probably only recommend 'The Buddha of Suburbia' from this decade. There were, however, a couple of songs here and there where I thought he caught some of that old magic. I think this track from the 1999 album 'Hours...' would have made a fine single, but perhaps it wouldn't have mattered. At this point, the artist was so out of step with his fans that the album didn't even make the American Top 40. That hadn't happened since 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' in 1972. Fortunately, as we turned the page to a new millennium, Bowie would rebound... and with music that sounded a lot like today's pick. If this song seems familiar, perhaps you know the "American Psycho Remix" of "Something in the Air." It gained a little traction when the soundtrack to the film was released in 2000.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lucky Sevens (Part 2)

Here are the final four of the seven 7" singles I nabbed while visiting Wombleton Records in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. These aren't quite as impressive as the first three I wrote about early last week, but when you put them all together, I can't help but feel like it was probably my best haul since I hit the shops of Edinburgh and Glasgow in February 2012. Here's a quick summary:

One of my favorites in the collection is 'Boxed' from Hurrah! The album collects the first five singles from the first-ever band signed to Kitchenware. So, I already knew "Hip-hip" well, but I couldn't resist the 7" because of the famous question posed on the center label. "Hip-hip" was the first indie hit for the band, peaking at No. 21 in September 1983.

Hurrah! - Hip-hip

If you're a regular reader, then you know I was very late to the Wedding Present. I didn't buy my first album featuring Gedge until just a couple of years ago, but I have been making up for lost time. This time around I got the band's second single and first for Reception Records. In the past year, most of the Wedding Present's albums have been reissued. That's been great for me because all of you loyal fans have been trading in your old copies for these deluxe editions, and I have been right there to snatch up your used copies for next to nothing. So, in this case, my gaff has really paid off. Thanks! OK, back to this 7". "Once More" made it to No. 4 on the UK Independent Singles Chart in February 1986. I have listened to enough Wedding Present now to form an opinion on the entire discography, and I think 'George Best' and the songs just before and just after that brilliant album are my favorites. I like it loud and rapid fire. You can find "Once More" on the 'Tommy' compilation.

The Wedding Present - Once More

I don't place these last two singles quite as high as the others, but it was nice to see them in the stacks. If you already have the Sire-issued 'Hang-Ten!' compilation featuring those very early "Hang-Ten!," "Whole Wide World" and "Head Gone Astray" singles, then digging up the double-A "Hang-Ten!"/"Slow Things Down" single isn't going to impress you too much. Like all of those early singles, with the exception of "Whole Wide World" on the Subway Organization, this 7" is from the Raw TV label. Hey, at least it's on red vinyl. "Hang-Ten!" just missed the top spot, stalling at No. 2 on the indie chart in October 1986. The song is pretty great... before the guitars took over.

The Soup Dragons - Hang-Ten!

Of the six singles from Mighty Mighty, I would rank "Maisonette" sixth. Still, I like them all, and I was first in line when Cherry Red released the band's 2013 double-disc compilation 'Pop Can: The Definitive Collection 1986-88.' All six of Mighty Mighty's singles did well on the indie chart. The keyboard-heavy "Maisonette" was the last one, making it all the way to No. 8 in January 1988. Compilations have their place, but nothing beats a vinyl single, and I didn't have this one.

So concludes my haul from Wombleton Records. I wish I had a shop like this in my neck of the woods. Chances are it will be another year before I return.

Mighty Mighty - Maisonette

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 60)

60. "Telegram"
Artist: The Chamber Strings
Year: 1999 (recorded in 1997)

When you think of all the lousy acts allowed to churn out an album every year, it's a pity a talent like Kevin Junior has only had two LPs in nearly two decades. The orchestral pop of the 2001 album 'Month of Sundays' is the real masterpiece, but there were some fine moments on 'Gospel Morning' too, including this song about... vitamins? Well, I'll let Kevin explain it to you in the video below. This first album isn't lush like the followup. It's chock full of T. Rex, glam Bowie, early '70s Stones and Nikki Sudden influences.

Speaking of Sudden, in this video, Kevin mentions Nikki's brother, the late great Epic Soundtracks. Kevin was in Epic's band for a few years. They both developed similar off-stage issues. Unfortunately, Epic was never able to recover, and Kevin lost some years too, but it seems he is doing well these days. Perhaps the third album from the Chamber Strings isn't too far away. Here's a slightly different take of "Telegram," recorded in 1998, that was included as a bonus track on the Bobsled Records' version of 'Gospel Morning.' Oh, and you'll get to hear some Epic Soundtracks later in the countdown.

Bonus: "Telegram (Where's My Horn)"

The 100 (So Far)
100. Die Funf Fruende - JETZT!
99. Save Ferris - Come on Eileen (Night Mix)
98. World Party - Put the Message in the Box
97. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd
96. The Ocean Blue - Sublime
95. Puffy Ami Yumi - Wild Girls on Circuit
94. The Muffs - Oh Nina
93. Smoking Popes - Need You Around
92. The Feelies - Sooner or Later
91. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
90. The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
89. fIREHOSE - Disciples of the 3-Way
88. The Sugargliders - Letter From a Lifeboat
87. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
86. Vegas - Walk Into the Wind
85. k.d. lang - Miss Chatelaine
84. Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You
83. The Pretenders - I'm Not in Love
82. Jeffrey Foskett - Thru My Window
81. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker
80. Blondie - Maria
79. Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong
78. Brighter - Does Love Last Forever?
77. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - History of Lies
76. Squeeze - Some Fantastic Place
75. Paul Weller - Uh Huh, Oh Yeh
74. Maria McKee - I'm Gonna Soothe You
73. Marine Research - Parallel Horizontal
72. Morrissey - Our Frank
71. Annie Lennox - No More 'I Love Yous'
70. Jellyfish - The King Is Half Undressed
69. The La's - Timeless Melody
68. Jonathan Richman - Surrender
67. Kirsty MacColl - Titanic Days
66. Roddy Frame - Reason for Living
65. The Divine Comedy - Becoming More Like Alfie
64. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Kiss Them For Me
63. Electronic - Get the Message
62. Scritti Politti - Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder
61. The Clean - Draw(in)g to a (W)hole

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 61)

61. "Draw(in)g to a (W)hole"
Artist: The Clean
Year: 1990

Whenever I see or hear a reference to Flying Nun or the Dunedin Sound, the Clean is always the first band that pops into my head. With a roster that included the Chills, Sneaky Feelings, and the Bats, I can give no bigger compliment. I have to admit most of my favorite songs from the Clean come from the 1980s, but finally, after nearly a decade of recording a song here and a song there, the band released its first album in 1990. It was worth the wait. Today's choice is the opener from 'Vehicle,' and it's two minutes of blissful jangle. I have always heard some Feelies buried in there somewhere. If you're a youngin', let me put it another way. I hear some Real Estate in there somewhere.

There are a lot of heroes in the Clean's story... even through today. Geoff Travis, he of Rough Trade fame, was the one that made sure 'Vehicle' got recorded in the first place. Here in America, the Clean were relative unknowns, including in their heyday. A tip of the cap to Merge Records for garnering much interest over here in more recent times, particularly with the double-disc 'Anthology' in 2003 (and now it's available on vinyl too!). I have written about this before, but if you don't already own an original copy of 'Vehicle,' Captured Tracks lovingly reissued the album in 2013 with extras, including the five-song 12" 'In-a-Live,' recorded at the Fulham Greyhound on July 13, 1988. I have included some photos from my copy below. Well worth the big bucks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 62)

62. "Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder"
Artist: Scritti Politti
Year: 1999

For you regulars, I apologize for the rerun. I highlighted this song back in November as part of ever-popular series When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play. If you're new to Linear Tracking Lives, I should explain that the airwaves must remain free of all things Green when the Mrs. is around. Why? Put simply, she hates him. This is her only fault. So when my lovely lady hits the road for her job, which is quite often, I always take the opportunity to put away the headphones and turn up the Scritti Politti. Marriage really is a game of give and take, innit?

I don't have much to add since last fall. The '90s were nearly barren for one of my favorite bands from the '80s. There was one album, 'Anomie & Bonhomie,' and I didn't like it. The single was "Tinseltown to the Boogiedown," and that style of music just isn't my cup of tea. So, for me, Scritti Politti was nearly shut out of the entire decade. Fortunately, this song, the album closer, is absolutely beautiful. It has become one of my favorites. For those of us who love Green, we would have to wait seven years for the next album, but our patience was rewarded.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 63)

63. "Get the Message"
Artist: Electronic
Year: 1991

Electronic was always going to make this list, but for about 10 minutes I was torn between this "Get the Message" and "Disappointed" from 1992. Before the countdown I hadn't listened to either for a long spell, but about 10 seconds into the one fronted by Neil Tennant I remembered liking "Get the Message" much better. Man, remember how huge that self-titled debut was for Bernard Sumner and Johny Marr? More than a million copies were sold worldwide. This song was top 10 in the UK, and even though it didn't make the Billboard Hot 100, "Get the Message" was a smash on the Modern Rock, Dance Sales and Club Play lists over here. The version above was called the 12" on the CD single, but it's actually the same 5:21 running time as the album version. That's considerably longer than the 7", however.

Here's something for the trivia buffs: For a side project it's pretty cool that Electronic is one of only six bands to make both my '80s UK Indie Singles ("Getting Away With It") and Best Songs From the '90s lists. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I didn't bend the rules one bit on this one. No 'Regret'-era New Order made this countdown. If you're a die-hard fan, feel free to bash me for that one.

Friday, April 17, 2015


OK, here come a whole bunch of "ifs." If I was attending Record Store Day... and if I lived in the UK... and if I didn't already have all of the music on it... this is what I would stand in line at dawn to fight all of the ebay leeches (oops, I mean lifelong vinyl lovers) to buy:

Fire Records presents the triple LP 'Firestation Towers: 1986-1989.' That's both of Close Lobsters' albums, 'Foxheads Stalk This Land' and 'Headache Rhetoric,' plus one of the all-time great compilations, 'Forever, Until Victory! The Singles Collection.' If you have that one on CD (it's never been on vinyl before), you know all of the B-sides are included. I haven't seen what this incarnation looks like, but it's described on the RSD UK site as "3LP 12" in Wrap + Download." I assume that means you get the three albums with their original covers housed together in a "wrap" or soft box. I have to admit I'm curious about the presentation. 'Firestation Towers: 1986-1989' is limited to 1,000. Expect major price gouging online by Saturday afternoon. Check out the 39-song tracklist below. Impressive. If you don't have these three albums, it's worth setting the alarm, but don't snooze it too much. Anybody planning to go? If so, what do you want to grab?

1. Just Too Bloody Stupid
2. Sewer Pipe Dream
3. I Kiss The Flower in Bloom
4. Pathetique
5. A Prophecy
6. In Spite of These Times
7. Foxheads
8. I Take Bribes
9. Pimps
10. Mother of God
1. Lovely Little Swan
2. Gunpowderkeg
3. Nature Thing
4. My Days Are Numbered
5. Gutache
6. Got Apprehension
7. Gulp
8. Words On Power
9. Skyscrapers
10. Knee Trembler
1. Going To Heaven To See If It Rains
2. Never Seen Before
3. Lets Make Some Plans
4. What Is There To Smile About?
5. Loopholes
6. Nature Thing
7. Skyscrapers of St. Mirin
9. From This Day On
10. Don't Worry
11. Firestation Towers
13. Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)
14. Paper Thin Hotel
15. Boys And Girls
16. Pathetik Trivia
17. Get What They Deserve
18. Wide Waterways
19. Never Seen Before (Live)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 64)

64. "Kiss Them For Me"
Artist: Siouxsie & the Banshees
Year: 1991

Here is another in a long list of examples illustrating why the Billboard singles chart is a travesty. Siouxsie & the Banshees first charted in the UK with the divine "Hong Kong Garden" in 1978. There would be nearly two dozen hits to follow before the band so much as smelled the chart here in America. In case you're curious, it was "Peek-a-Boo" at No. 53 in 1988. In many cases, deep down, I didn't mind when a band I loved didn't "make it" here. They would be my little secret. I never felt that way about this band. The chart only told part of the story. Siouxsie & the Banshees always felt like a big deal to me. No, you couldn't find them on the radio, but their videos got quite a bit of play on cable channels, particularly late-night MTV (in its infancy), USA's "Night Flight" and TBS' "Night Tracks," among others. I'm guessing regular readers like Echorich and Uncle E remember seeing "Dear Prudence," "Christine" and "Cities in Dust" on the tube as much as I do.

So, I was quite happy to share Siouxsie with the rest of America when you could turn on the car radio and sing "kiss them for me, I may be delayed" right along with her. (I have a silly recollection of doing this in tandem with my pal Jeff on the way to an Elvis Costello show that summer.) This was no "Hong Kong Garden," but it was a fine pop song worthy of a mainstream audience. It would be the only Billboard Top 40 appearance for the band, peaking at No. 23.

Because you're such a loyal reader, today you get a twofer. If you like four minutes of "Kiss Them For Me," wouldn't you enjoy six-and-a-half minutes even more? I also have the 12" single featuring the "Snapper Mix." Personally, I do prefer this extended version. I think it's the '80s in me creeping into 1991. Actually, even now, I can't seem to shake that decade.

Bonus: "Kiss Them For Me" (Snapper Mix)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Songs From Elefant's Trunk

We just got a couple of teases from two impending releases I have been anticipating for ages. "Intravenous," the first official single from the Catenary Wires, is available now for download. The song will be included on the duo's 10" mini album (and CD), 'Red Red Skies,' in June. The B-side, "You Save Me From Myself," is exclusive to this digital download, making this a must purchase for those of us who can't resist each and every note from Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey... they of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap fame. You might be surprised at the stripped-down and mature sound from these legendary indie-pop purveyors, but I rather like the new direction. You can purchase the single on iTunes or at Elefant's Bandcamp page.


The School's 'Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything' was No. 2 on my list of best albums in 2012. We still don't quite know when the followup will be out, but Elefant says, "We promise, you won't have to wait much longer." In the meantime, we have this wonderful 4-song EP to whet our insatiable appetites for bands that pay homage to '60s girl groups and the Beach Boys. The label pressed 500 copies of the "All I Want From You Is Everything" 7" on beautiful white vinyl with download. The title track and "I Will See You Soon" will be on the new album, but the other two songs are exclusive to this EP. Here in America, ordering from Darla is your best bet. In Europe, grab it directly from Elefant. Now bring on the new album!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lucky Sevens

When the family makes the trek to Disneyland, as we did last week, I'm just about the most excited of the lot because it means I might be able to break away for a bit to visit one of my two favorite record shops in all of America. Wombleton Records is quite a drive from Anaheim, and it didn't look like it was going to pan out this time. Then, at the 11th hour, as we pulled up stakes to head back to Seattle, I managed about 30 minutes of happy hunting while my kids ate lunch. The clock said I wouldn't be able to explore every nook and cranny. So, I decided to hit the 7" singles. The photo above features a few of highlights from my very fruitful visit.

The Subway Organization was a great UK indie label best known as the home of Shop Assistants, Razorcuts and the Flatmates. In fact, Martin Whitehead from the Flatmates founded Subway. Although this trio got most of the attention, there were several lesser known bands worthy of a listen. The Rosehips only had two singles that made the UK Independent Chart, but the first one, "Room In Your Heart," peaked at No. 9 in the spring of '87, and it's a real favorite of mine. I have had it on a compilation for many years, and it popped up again on Cherry Red's 'Scared to Get Happy' box set a couple of years ago, but there was no way I was going to let this 7" get away. I know I gasped when I saw it, and I grabbed it like a hobo filling his tray in a food line. Did I mention I was the only customer in the store?

The Rosehips - Room In Your Heart

The Wolfhounds' claim to fame will always be appearing on NME's 'C86' compilation, but there were several memorable singles and a terrific album. That album, 'Unseen Pebbles From a Pebble,' was just reissued a few months ago by Optic Nerve Recordings, and it included a slew of bonus tracks, including the one-off single version of "Me" that was put out by Idea Records in the fall of 1987. So, yes, I already had the song, but there is nothing like having the original 7". I may not have gasped, but I didn't hesitate to add it to the pile either. "Me" peaked at No. 18 on the UK Independent Chart.

The Wolfhounds - Me

Do you know that wonderful feeling when you find a bargain in the stacks? Well, I got the opposite of that when I picked up this 7" from the Sugargliders. This isn't a Sarah recording. "Sway" goes back to the beginning when Josh and Joel Meadows were on the legendary Melbourne label Summershine Records. The fellas were still trying to get their footing with this first single, and I don't think you would consider this one of their best songs, but I am a completist. I had never seen "Sway" before, and I'm not sure I would again. So, I overpaid for it and kept the price to myself when I got back to the car. If you're a family man, you'll understand. If you don't want to pay out the nose, you can always get the excellent 'A Nest With a View 1990-1994' compilation released by Matinee Recordings a couple of years ago. So, yes, another song I already had, but I couldn't pass it up as a 7". It's a sickness. I'll have a part two to this spending spree a little later.

The Sugargliders - Sway

Monday, April 13, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 65)

65. "Becoming More Like Alfie"
Artist: The Divine Comedy
Year: 1996

Just back from vacation. Today is a scramble, but as much as I love Roddy Frame, I can't take another day with "Reason For Living" sitting at the top of the blog. So, rather quickly, let's move on with the countdown.

The Divine Comedy's mix of Britpop and chamber music wasn't for everyone, but it's how Neil Hannon was finally able to bust the singles chart. "Something for the Weekend," the first release from the Divine Comedy's fourth album, 'Casanova,' was the initial breakthrough. This was played to me by a pal at work called Jeremy. For whatever reason, it didn't do it for me. I know he was disappointed, and I felt bad for spurning his recommendation. He left the the job soon after (no connection to my rudeness, I assume). Then I heard follow-up single "Becoming More Like Alfie," and it just clicked. Maybe it was the sampling of Michael Caine. Perhaps it was the theme of jerks always getting the girls that resonated. More likely, it was just a perfect piece of pop.

Anyway, all these years later, I still haven't had the good fortune to run into my old friend. So, Jeremy, if you're out there somewhere, thanks for the recommendation. The Divine Comedy was up my alley after all. The impressive run of chart successes would continue for a decade. For me, there were hits and misses, but this song and "Absent Friends" from 2004 stand above the rest.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 66)

66. "Reason for Living"
Artist: Roddy Frame
Year: 1998

There was no reason for it to have been so jarring, especially since most of those later albums with the name Aztec Camera on it were basically solo jobs anyway, but I have to admit that even now I hesitate for a moment when I see the name Roddy Frame on a cover. 'The North Star' is technically the only solo album Frame released in the '90s. Some of you may know he's very nearly my favorite musician. Given my self-imposed rules of one song per artist for this countdown, this is all a not-so-clever way for me to get him on the list twice. So, yes, I'm letting the cat out of the bag. Aztec Camera will be coming up soon.

I'm not so sure I felt this way at the time, but today I enjoy the toned-down 'North Star' better than any of the Aztec Camera albums from the '90s. It all sounds less polished and adult contemporary than 'Dreamland' and, especially, 'Frestonia.' There are a number of songs from it that could have occupied this spot, including the title song, "Here Comes the Ocean" and "Sister Shadow," but I went with the safe bet of the optimistic "Reason for Living," Frame's first solo single. It would be about four years before we would get another Frame album, but 'Surf' turned out to be the best to bear his name.

Note: Just in time for spring break, our household finally seems free of illness. So, we are taking the kids to see a certain mouse with big ears. I'm out for the rest of the week, but I will be checking in to see if you think I'm nuts about 'Surf,' '90s Aztec Camera and the like.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 67)

67. "Titanic Days"
Artist: Kirsty MacColl
Year: 1993

My fandom for Kirsty MacColl goes back to the days when she was part of Stiff's stable of stars. Amelia Fletcher has always reminded me of her because both were always rich not only in talent but in friends as well. It would have been impossible to ever lose track of either one of them because, apart from their great albums, their names always seemed to pop up as contributors on the album sleeves of your favorite artists. MacColl left us far too early, but it seems obvious hers was a full life, both personally and professionally.

Why is it I seem to be attracted to the work of otherwise sunny artists during their darkest times? Much like Jonathan Richman at No. 68, Kirsty MacColl's 'Titanic Days' was an album shrouded in divorce. Her marriage to producer Steve Lillywhite had come to an end. There were other hardships during this period, not the least of which was the uncertainty of knowing whether there was a label out there willing to release this piece of work. In the end, the album was released as a one-off by ZTT, and it was one of her least successful, at least commercially, but I think the title track is one of her best from a slew of great songs.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

I couldn't believe a year had passed since I put together a mix of my favorite Let's Active songs to celebrate Easter. When I searched for the post, I was floored to find out it wasn't last year at all... it was 2012! Where has the time gone? For this round, let's put a little more bounce in that bunny's hop with some of Mitch Easter's work from behind the glass. Here's a small sampling of Easter's contributions as either mixer, engineer or producer. Don't worry. Plenty more goodies in the basket for next year. Enjoy your day.

Pylon - Beep (from 'Chomp')
Game Theory - Not Because You Can (from 'Lolita Nation')
R.E.M. - Wolves, Lower (from 'Chronic Town')
Pavement - Date With IKEA (from 'Brighten the Corners')
Dinosaur Jr. - Whatever's Cool With Me (from 'Whatever's Cool With Me')

Friday, April 3, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 68)

68. "Surrender"
Artist: Jonathan Richman
Year: 1996

Usually, you either get Jonathan Richman or you don't. 'Surrender to Jonathan!' wasn't all that well received by fans, but in an odd twist, I think it's an album that could actually be liked by those that wouldn't normally "get him." The so-called silly songs are at a minimum, "Rock 'N' Roll Drummer Straight From The Hospy-Tel" being the huge exception, and the tone is tender and often serious. Unfortunately, this is probably due to a divorce after 13 years of matrimony. He sings of a woman who didn't want to feel like a "plus one" on the guest list anymore. He opines in another song that "my little girl's got a full time daddy now." Although the love of his life might never come back, she's with him all of his days on "Just Look at Me." I saw Richman on this tour, and I will never forget how deep he dug for some of these songs.

It's not only tone and theme that leads me to believe this collection could and should have won over a legion of new listeners. So often on an album, Richman and his guitar are a party of one. When I say he was backed by a band this time, I don't mean Tommy and his snare. There's piano, even more organ and a bevy of brass. Andy Paley even brought polish to the producer's chair. So, yes, I can understand why old-school fans would have longed for the comfort of the more common lo-fi Jonathan, but this left turn completely worked for me. Too bad I was the only one.

One of my favorite moments in a Richman song is when he takes it to the bridge and announces it by actually saying "guitar!" before a solo. In "That Little Sleeper Car," he yells "horns!" at the bridge as the brass takes over. For that one second alone, which is such a smile, I almost chose the song for this spot. In the end, however, I wanted something heartfelt and one that has managed to leave such a deep mark nearly 20 years after I saw him perform it.

To win you must fight, or so they say
But with love things never seem to work that way.
With love you can't win
If love can't get in
And it can't pierce the heart of a defender.
To win in love you must surrender.

If you're angry then you can't surrender, no.
Your unwilling surrender's just a show
And unwillingly sweet means certain defeat
Better a fighter than a soft-spoken contender
To win in love you must surrender.

Now, I can be stubborn and draw the line
But now I've learned to pray thy will and not mine
Love has softened my heart and softened me
It's softened my eyes on the things they see
And my cheek has got much
Softer to the touch
Since I learned to be receiver as well as sender.
To win in love you must surrender.

I ask at night when the world is still
Be it done unto me according to thy will.
To summon Gabriel and Michaelangelo
Or to compete with Juliet or Romeo
Your armor, so strong
Is strategically wrong
Victory goes this time to the tender.
To win in love you must surrender.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fool's Paradise

Here's a little quiz. One of these quotes about fools has been attributed to Mark Twain. The other was said by Mr. T. Think you can you match them up?

"April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."

"Quit yo Jibber-jabber! You ain't hurt, yo pathetic!, Argh! If I ever catch you acting like a crazy fool again, you're gonna meet my friend pain! I pity you fool! You a disgrace to the man race! It's time to run like a real man! Do it again sucker, and there's going to be trouble!"

How did you do? Well, as Winston Churchill once said, "The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes." So, I saw a list today that was deemed the 10 best "fool" songs. It had Def Leppard on it. No foolin'. So, who's the fool, the list's creator or the one wasting time reading it? I immediately went to my iTunes library and searched the word "fool." Thirty-one songs popped up. From there, I picked this alternate list. Enjoy.

Haircut 100 - Nobody's Fool
The Bluebells - Everybody's Somebody's Fool
Blur- Fool's Day
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - You Little Fool
Rockpile - Fool Too Long
World Party - Ship of Fools
Joe Jackson - Fools in Love
She & Him - Fools Rush In
Grant McLennan - Haven't I Been a Fool

Bonus: Mr. T - Be Somebody (Or Be Somebody's Fool)