Song of the Week – Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye; Don’t You Want Me, Human League; I Never Talk to Strangers, Tom Waits; You Don’t Know Me, Ben Folds; July, Noah Cyrus ft. Leon Bridges

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Happy Valentines!

Back in 2011, Gotye had a surprise, viral hit with “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  In fact, it went on to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.

One of the features of the song that made it so appealing was the conversational nature of the lyrics.

He said:

Now and then I think of when we were together

Like when you said you felt so happy you could die

Told myself that you were right for me

But felt so lonely in your company

But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

She said:

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

This brought to mind another song that is structured around a dialog between two lovers – “Don’t You Want Me,” by Human League.

He said:

You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up
And turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Now five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don’t forget it’s me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too.

She said:

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
That much is true
But even then I knew I’d find a much better place
Either with or without you
The five years we have had have been such good at times
I still love you
But now I think it’s time I live my life on my own
I guess it’s just what I must do

The more I thought about this format, the more similarly arranged songs came to mind.  One of my long time favorites is the Tom Waits/Bette Midler duet, “I Never Talk to Strangers.”  This one takes place in a dive bar.

He said:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one
But I feel as though we’ve met before
Perhaps I am mistaken

She said:

But it’s just that I remind you of
Someone you used to care about
Oh, but that was long ago
Now tell me, do you really think I’d fall for that old line
I was not born just yesterday
Besides, I never talk to strangers anyway

Another, more obscure track that uses this ploy is “You Don’t Know Me” by Ben Folds and Regina Spektor.

This one is a little different.  Ben carries the dialog with Regina just making side comments.

He said (she said):

So, what I’m trying to say is
What (What?)
I’m trying to tell you
It’s not gonna come out like I wanna say it cause I know you’ll only change it.
(Say it.)

You don’t know me at all
(You don’t know me)
You don’t know me at all (at all)

This design was built to last.  The most recent song that fits this lyrical device is the late summer 2019 release, “July,” by Noah Cyrus (Miley’s sister) remixed into a duet with Leon Bridges.

She said:

I’ve been holding my breath
I’ve been counting to ten
Over something you said
I’ve been holding back tears
While you’re throwing back beers
I’m alone in bed

He said:

Feels like a lifetime
Just tryna get by
While we’re dying inside
I’ve done a lot of things wrong
Loving you being one
But I can’t move on

There are surely many more songs in this “genre” – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Petty/Nicks) comes to mind.  What can you come up with?

So that’s my opposite Valentine!  It’s the best I could do.

Enjoy… until next week.

Do You Like Boobs A Lot Meets the Pink Faeries

I’ve been listening to the Holy Modal Rounders, a band that is known for first using the word psychedelic in a song (!) and then became a big part of the Fugs for a while. So, the Rounders, East Village folkies with political and bluegrass roots, with a yen for spiritual awakening on many levels, and an antic sense of humor. A droll one, too. Also a love for songwriting and old timey music and new timey takes on old timey ways. Which doesn’t describe Boobs A Lot, a novelty song they wrote for the Fugs. The Fugs version is fun, a call and response thing. The Rounders version came out on their fifth album, Good Taste is Timeless, in 1971. As a college boy in Southern California in the mid 70s I discovered it as a staple on the Dr. Demento radio show on Sunday nights. What I remembered of the song was its delightful glee, but what I heard tonight was some pretty cool rocking, growing a solid Bo Diddley riff in a pretty clever way. A novelty song, sure, but a fun listen to for the music, too. At the end of the day, a rock song with novelty lyrics.
So, to make this a shaggy dog story, when the Rounders album finished (I was making dinner), I for some reason thought about the Pink Faeries, a band I learned about five years ago. They were British psychedelic rockers from the early 70s, they grew out of a band called the Deviants that I haven’t looked up, but they then made some records that are uniformly excellent. Not because they’re polished, but because whether they’re covering Chuck Berry tunes or offering their originals, they have an inexhaustible drive (two drummers) and weaving guitars (two lead guitars) and the chops to make propulsive memorable rock. This is rock that managed in its time to bridge the Allman Brothers and the punk scene that was soon to come. Check out my previous posts for Pink Fairies (that was my spelling then) for some choice cuts, but today let’s admire Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout, from 1971 as well, which is a heavy metal tune that morphs into an exemplary jam band tune without apology. Before heavy metal and jam bands were a thing. And back again on this live track from the John Peel show.
For me a big question is how much had Pink Fairies heard the Allman Brothers at this point. The Allmans were first. Part of this song leans heavily toward Morning Dew and Elizabeth Reed. And the double drummers compound the point. None of which is a bad thing, no matter who came first.

Song of the Week – It’s Her Factory, Gang of Four

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This weekend marks the 12th anniversary of the Song of the Week.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support over the years.

Andy Gill, guitarist and vocalist for the post-punk band Gang of Four, died on February 1st, exactly one month past his 64th birthday.

In his book ranters & crowd pleasers, rock critic Greil Marcus describes seeing Gill in concert:

“Dressed blandly in jeans and a shirt buttoned to the neck, with piercing eyes and a stoic face, he is a performer of unlikely but absolute charisma: his smallest movements are charged with absurd force.  He holds himself as if he’s seen it all and expects worse.  He communicates above all a profound sense of readiness.”

The music of Gang of Four isn’t for everybody, but I dig it for the same reasons I dig music by Pere Ubu (also not for everyone) – because it is intellectually challenging.  So, today’s SotW is for Gill.  “It’s Her Factory” was originally released as the B-side of the “At Home He’s a Tourist” single.  I first heard it on the Yellow EP (1980) which was a 4 song, vinyl release of outtakes and B-sides.  It was later included as a bonus cut on the 1995 CD edition of Entertainment!

“… Factory” is very typical of Gang of Four.  The guitar is as sharp as shards of broken glass.  The melodica is spikey and dissonant.  The lyrics are confrontational – in this case, a commentary on our patriarchal society.

Items daily press views to suppress
Subject story on the front page suffering from suffrage
Title unsung heroine of Britain position to attain
Housewife heroines addicts to their homes
It’s her factory it’s her duty it’s her factory
Paternalist journalist
He gives them sympathy because they’re not men
Scrubbing floors they’re close to the earth
In a man’s world they’re not men
In a man’s world because they’re not men x4
In a man’s world in a man’s world
A little of a lot keeps them happy
Avoid the answers but keep them snappy
That’s all

Gang of Four never achieved massive commercial success.  Their biggest “hit” was “I Love a Man in a Uniform” (1982).  But true to their name, their approach to the rock music of the late 70s/early 80s was like a coup d’état and had a profound influence on many of today’s indie rock bands.

Enjoy… until next week.

Follow Fashion Monkeys Rool

Steve Moyer named Rock Remnants. Our talks were beer besotted nights, but our confluence was Rock Remnants. The band Steve was in, Follow Fashion Monkeys, were huge in their local Lehigh Valley environment, and are gradually emerging as the history of Lehigh Valley hardcore emerges.

So, let’s start here. Tribute to Steve.

Song of the Week – Deeper Well, David Olney

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Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor, Michael Paquette.  Michael and I have known each other for over 40 years.  Our friendship has been based, in large part, over our mutual love of music.  When he was in college at Brandeis University, he had a radio show called Excuse Me While I Play The Blues that incorporated music by some of the great artists that inhabited the Austin music scene he experienced and enjoyed when he lived there in the late seventies.  He still finds the time to go to shows and favors folk and Americana.  That will be clear when you read his post.

David Olney was a Nashville singer-songwriter for nearly five decades.  He passed away on January 18th while on stage in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  He was a giant among the musicians in the Nashville scene.  “As soon as he moved into a room, he had a charisma that I would liken to Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. Oh, Olney’s here,” said musician/journalist Peter Cooper. He was admired by the brilliant songwriter Townes Van Zandt.  Even the Rolling Stones were compelled to attend one of his shows. His songs were covered by many renowned artists including Linda Ronstadt, Steve Earle, Del McCoury, and Slaid Cleaves.

Olney’s songs always make you feel something — sorrow, nostalgia or just the need to smile.  This song, “Deeper Well,” that was covered by Emmylou Harris on her transcendent 1995 release Wrecking Ball, is a dark and dirge-like composition performed here with Blair Hogan.

The “deeper well” in this song appears as the young man who seeks love in a deep, dark place.  It could also be a metaphor for making a deal with Satan in exchange for the inspiration for his music, much like Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues.”

Well, I did it for kicks and I did it for faith
I did it for lust and I did it for hate
I did it for need and I did it for love
Addiction stayed on tight like a glove
So I ran with the moon and I ran with the night
And the three of us were a terrible sight
Nipple to the bottle, to the gun, to the cell
To the bottom of a hole of a deeper well

On the night he died, Olney was performing on stage with Amy Rigby.  She wrote on her Facebook page that “he stopped, apologized and shut his eyes. He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a beautiful rust suede jacket…”  But he wasn’t sleeping.  An attempt was made to revive him, but he just drifted off.  Olney was 71.  A gentle and well-loved soul, the world has lost a great one whose music still inspires.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Little Bit O Soul, The Music Explosion; The Little Darlings; The Ramones

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Today’s SotW is the next installment of the Evolution Series.  Let’s start with the most popular version of the garage classic, “A Little Bit O Soul” by the Music Explosion.

The Music Explosion was a band out of Mansfield, Ohio.  In 1967 they left Ohio for New York to work with the Kasenetz-Katz production team that became the leading purveyors of “bubblegum music” with groups like The Ohio Express (“Yummy, Yummy”), 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Simon Says”, “1-2-3 Red Light”, “Indian Giver”) and Crazy Elephant (“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’”).

The Music Explosion’s recording of “A Little Bit O Soul” reached #2 in 1967.  I loved it as an 11-year-old and still love it now.

But most have never heard the original by The Little Darlings, from Coventry England.

It was written for them by Ken Lewis and John Carter in 1965.  These British songwriters also penned Herman’s Hermits’ “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (another favorite of mine), and they sang back up on The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” as The Ivy League!

The Little Darlings’ version of “Little Bit O Soul” is rougher and dirtier than the Music Explosions’.  It is the type of “nugget” that would later influence the early punk rockers.

So it’s no surprise that The Ramones latched onto it and laid down their own version on 1983’s Subterranean Jungle.

Now when your girl is gone and you’re broke in two
You need a little bit o’ soul to see you through
And when you raise the roof with your rock ‘n’ roll
You’ll get a lot more kicks with a little bit o’ soul

Ain’t that the truth!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Criminal, Fiona Apple

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When Fiona Apple sings “I’ve been a bad, bad girl,” I believe her.  The opening line from her 1997 hit, “Criminal”, is chilling.  Then she goes on…

I’ve been careless with a delicate man
And it’s a sad, sad world
When a girl will break a boy
Just because she can

That’s downright scary!!!  As is the chorus:

What I need is a good defense
Cause I’m feelin’ like a criminal
And I need to be redeemed
To the one I’ve sinned against
Because he’s all I ever knew of love

The song’s wicked sexy lyrics have a wicked sexy musical vibe to go with it.  (The controversial, official video is pretty sexy too.)  The opening bass groove sounds like a carnival version of Albert King’s blues classic “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

The jazzy romp builds to a lyrical climax, then continues for almost 2 more minutes with an Egyptian motif on organ and some dissonant chords banged out on the piano.  A very cool way to bring it all back down.

“Criminal” won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Last year Apple announced she would donate the royalties she earns from “Criminal” to  While They Wait, a social service agency that helps immigrants and refugees applying for asylum or other legal relief.

Enjoy… until next week.

The Left Banke, Walk Away Renee

Singer Steve Martin Caro has passed. Read an obit.
I spent a couple of days in Miami back in the 70s with a friend, visiting a woman who said this song was written about her. I had my first Cuban sandwich that week, too. I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t the Lefte Banke? EDIT: This Wikipedia entry suggests my friend’s friend wasn’t being truthful. Or was mistaken.