Song of the Week – Magical Misery Tour, National Lampoon; Ouch!, The Rutles

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

This has been a very Beatle-y year. We marked the 50th anniversary of Revolver and their last full concert at Candlestick Park. Then there was the release of the new Ron Howard film Eight Days a Week that celebrated the touring years. The Beatles has such a significant impact on popular culture that we can expect the next few years to be Beatle-y as well. 50th anniversary celebrations of events from ’67-70 will be commonplace. Expect a media onslaught when we reach the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper next June.

Still, this year’s focus on Beatle history has allowed me to indulge in a few esoteric aspects of Beatle fandom. For instance, I’ve been building a playlist of Beatles covers. I don’t expect this project to have an end but it currently has over 700 songs.

Another has been to listen to Beatle parodies. The first SotW is the National Lampoon’s John Lennon parody, “Magical Misery Tour” aka “Genius is Pain.”

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This song is a riot but if you’re offended by the “f” word, skip it! It was written by Tony Hendra (lyrics) and Chris Cerf (music). Hendra had the clever idea to take actual quotes from the famous Lennon Rolling Stone interview with Jann Wenner and set them to music. Brilliant!!! And that’s Melissa Manchester playing the role of Yoko at the end.

The greatest Beatles parody of all was the movie/soundtrack called All You Need is Cash by the Rutles. The 14 Beatle parody songs contained within were written by Neil Innes, formerly of Monty Python and The Bonzo Dog Band. You should check them all out but today I’ll treat you to the take-off on “Help” – the Rutles song “Ouch!.”

Of course there are other Beatles parodies worth checking out. In fact the Prince of Parody, “Weird Al” Yankovic, has done three himself – Generic Blues (Yer Blues), Pac-man (Taxman) and Gee I’m a Nerd (Free as a Bird).

Part of the charm that fueled Beatlemania was the Fab Four’s good natured irreverence. It’s only fair then that they take a little bit of their own medicine.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – These Words, The Lemon Twigs

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

The Lemon Twigs – teenage brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario — are a cool new band from Hicksville, Long Island. It’s no coincidence that their aesthetic is closely linked to their west coast brethren, Foxygen, since that band’s Jonathan Rado produced their debut album – Do Hollywood.

Today’s SotW is “These Words”, a song about self-identity, by the Lemon Twigs.

The brothers have told how their musician father, Ronnie, weened them on the music he grew up with and loved, primarily the Beatles. He taught the boys to avoid common, simplistic chord progressions and the value of vocal harmonies. Those lessons were learned well judging by “These Words.”

This song has a bit of everything thrown into it. It starts off with a funky piano, synth, bass romp that quickly evolves into a baroque rock power ballad. There’s a little honky tonk piano section in the middle that keeps growing to a massive crescendo of horns and harmony until it returns to the chorus.

Brian and Michael inherited one other thing from their dad… his vinyl record collection. These are boys after my own heart!

Enjoy… until next week.

Sharon Jones Has Died

In a week of sad deaths, I have no personal stake in the death of Sharon Jones.

I’m not heartless, I just mean that despite her gifts as a singer, and the obvious talents of the Dap Kings, I found much of their music more a simulation of other music than something organic. Music of nostalghia rather than experience.

I always put Sharon Jones in the same basket of imponderables that I put Gillian Welch, an Appalachian archivist who mimicked old styles more than create her own.

That said, Sharon Jones had a great soulful voice, as Gillian Welch did fine Appalachian holler, and with the Dap Kings made sounds that were totally derived from the old music, but live in real time. I think that means they made me think I was living in those days, though I won’t testify to that.

In any case, she has died, and left a funky body of work behind.

 

Song of the Week – Everybody’s Crying Mercy, Bonnie Raitt

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Wow! It has been a rough couple of weeks for music lovers. In less than two weeks we’ve lost Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and Mose Allison.

I planned to write about my favorite Leonard Cohen song, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, but I couldn’t find the time before my last post.

Then Leon Russell passed and I thought I’d write about his work with Marc Benno in the overlooked Asylum Choir. I especially like the Asylum Choir II album and suggest you listen to it on Spotify or YouTube if you’re not familiar with it. I already posted about Leon’s “Delta Lady” some time ago.

This past week has been full of MSM and social media attention to Mose Allison. Much has been duly focused on his own recordings. Other has drawn attention to cover versions such as The Who’s rockin’ take on “Young Man Blues” and the versions of “Parchman Farm” by bands as diverse as Blue Cheer, Cactus, Hot Tuna and Johnny Winter (among others).

So I’m left with few directions to take to pay tribute to these tremendous artists. But I think I’ve found a cut that hasn’t been overexposed that will do the trick. Today’s SotW is Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of Allison’s “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” from her 1973 album Takin’ My Time.

Bonnie’s recording is sultry and bluesy. The subtle harp, guitar licks, piano comps and late night bar bass all complement Raitt’s strong vocal performance.

Elvis Costello also took a run at the song on his covers album, Kojak Variety, from 1995. It’s not bad, but Bonnie’s hits the mark more effectively.

The SotW is all about exposure to songs that have been Ignored, Obscured or Restored. There are enough of those in the catalogs of Cohen, Russell and Allison to last for quite a while. Please treat yourself and go check them out.

Enjoy… until next week.

Mose Allison Has Died

I grew up in the town where the great jazz pianist lived. That would be Smithtown, New York. The reason we knew who Mose Allison was, however, was this blistering recording of his song Young Man Blues.

Allison lived in a development house next to the high school I went to, and we sometimes stood in the schoolyard looking at his house (or what someone said was his house) and imagine the Who stopping by for sandwiches and a jam session.

I later saw him in shows at jazz clubs and the Bottom Line in New York City, and there are special times when his music is awfully good to go to. Casual, bluesy, often funny, it’s cool jazz and warm blues. Maybe you’d call it amiable. Maybe I already did.

 

 

Helmet, I Love My Guru

I’ve never been a big metal fan, but in the dark ages of alt rock I grew to love Helmet. They, along with Come, pounded the head darkly, and I was happy to bang my head along.

I learned today that not only did Helmet play a show in NYC last night, but they have a new album out. I’ve only played a few of the songs, so this isn’t a review, but I get this one. Half the sound is Husker Du, the other half is something bigger and darker, but the combo sounds great, even if the song didn’t grab me the first time round.

Page Hamilton is an excellent and powerful guitarist, and I hope he saves us all from the crap we’re sinking in. Or, to quote Aerosmith, dream on.

Afternoon Snack: London Tornadoes/Bill Frisell, “Telstar”

I remember the big breakthrough of the London Tornadoes’ (note the Internet does not acknowledge the “e” in Tornadoes, but the band’s drum kit certainly does)  hit Telstar was that the song was 3:15, that making it the first top 40 song in a million years to clock in at over three minutes (Marty Robbins El Paso actually exceeded four minutes!).

The song, released in the throes of the space race, was an homage to the first communications satellite sent into outer space, and the Tornadoes did pretty good job of evoking spaciness with the Joe Meek headed production. Meek, a British producer and songwriter also produced Have I the Right? by the Honeycomb during Brit Pop’s peak, and he explored alternative sounds until a sordid murder/suicide ended things, rather un-meekly, in 1967.

But, guitar virtuoso Bill Frisell, lovingly covering the iconic guitar sounds of early pop, chose to include Telstar in his 2015 release, Guitar in the Space Age.

Its all good stuff, it is.