Song of the Week – I’m Not in Love, 10cc & She’s Gone, Hall & Oates

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

When I was in college there was a running battle between my roommates and me regarding our tastes, or lack thereof, in music.  They called me a wimp for liking the art-pop of 10cc and I criticized their lack of musical sophistication because one of their favorite bands was Black Sabbath.  Today I better understand there’s room for both — no shaming necessary

One of today’s SotW is “I’m Not in Love,” by 10cc.  While this isn’t a typical SotW selection – it was 10cc’s most popular hit – I’ve selected it because it is part of a segue I played a couple of times when I had a radio show at WZBC.

“I’m No in Love” in anchored by the “heartbeat” that starts the song.  But it is most notable for the multitracked vocals that give it its unique character.  Wikipedia has a vivid description of the process:

Stewart spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing “ahhh” 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale, building up a “choir” of 48 voices for each note of the scale. The main problem facing the band was how to keep the vocal notes going for an infinite length of time, but Creme suggested that they could get around this issue by using tape loops. Stewart created loops of about 12 feet in length by feeding the loop at one end though the tape heads of the stereo recorder in the studio, and at the other end through a capstan roller fixed to the top of a microphone stand, and tensioned the tape. By creating long loops the ‘blip’ caused by the splice in each tape loop could be drowned out by the rest of the backing track, providing that the blips in each loop did not coincide with each other. Having created twelve tape loops for each of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, Stewart played each loop through a separate channel of the mixing desk. This effectively turned the mixing desk into a musical instrument complete with all the notes of the chromatic scale, which the four members together then “played”, fading up three or four channels at a time to create “chords” for the song’s melody. Stewart had put gaffer’s tape across the bottom of each channel so that it was impossible to completely fade down the tracks for each note, resulting in the constant background hiss of vocals heard throughout the song.

Lyrically, the singer says “I’m not in love” but goes on to make it clear that he couldn’t live without his lover:

I’m not in love, no no, it’s because

I like to see you
But then again
That doesn’t mean you mean that much to me
So if I call you
Don’t make a fuss
Don’t tell your friends about the two of us

Now imagine as the song is ending, and the voices and “heartbeat” swell to a climax, it fades into “She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates.

“She’s Gone” also begins with an instrumental introduction that has a pulsating heartbeat and “oohs” sung in harmony.

“She’s Gone” is one of the best examples of blue eyed soul ever recorded.  It is right up there with the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” and anything by the Rascals.

Much credit should be given to Arif Mardin for his stellar production work and the string and horn arrangements he devised to complement the song.  Joe Farrell’s tenor sax solo is a thing of beauty.

Musically, “I’m Not in Love” and “She’s Gone” mix as perfectly as gin and tonic.  But thematically they are also similar.  “She’s Gone” is also a heartbreak song.  The singer is trying to figure out how he’s going to be able to carry on now that it’s clear his woman has left him for good.

Everybody’s high on consolation
Everybody’s trying to tell me what is right for me, yeah
My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon
But it’s plain to see that they can’t comfort me

Sorry, Charlie, for the imposition
I think I got it (got it), I got the strength to carry on, oh yeah
I need a drink and a quick decision
Now it’s up to me, ooh, what will be

If you can find a way to play these two songs together, with a fade out between (I think you can do that on iTunes), you’ll never hear them the same way again!

Enjoy… until next week.

Good Song, New To Me

It seems to be the fashion to knock the music streaming services, although not with you guys which is good. I have Spotify but I rarely listen because of the commercials. I already pay to have no commercials on Pandora, and since I have no serious complaints with Pandora I figured why pay twice? Indeed, almost all the great songs I’ve discovered in the last ten years I first heard on Pandora. When you subscribe for a long time and are specific in creating your “stations,” you WILL hear great music new to you. You can create stations based on genres, which is dumb and you’ll get dumb if you do, or you can use artists, which is good as long as you don’t get too broad like Rolling Stones Radio. And you can use songs, which is often what I do. These are my stations:

That Great Love Sound (Raveonettes)

X Offender (Blondie)

New York Dolls

Howlin Wolf

Viginia Plain (Roxy Music)

The Kids Are Alright (Who)

The Marvelettes

Lee “Scratch” Perry

You’re Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators)

Rock and Roll Sinners (The Pillows)

Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You (Wilson Pickett)

Finger Poppin Time (Hank Ballard/Midnighters)

Halfacre Gunroom (punk/country band)

Mike DeVille

Gimme Shelter

The Senders (NYC R&B)

Jeepster (T Rex)

Johnny Thunders

Of those stations, I had never heard of The Pillows, The Raveonettes, or Halfacre Gunroom until Pandora. And damn right the algorithm knows what to do with them.

I put it on mix and if I don’t want to hear a particular song I am virtually assured that I will love the next one. Turns out there is quite a bit of good new music out there. Of course it helps that I consider anything less than 20 years old as new – you know you’re old when you see nostalgia for Y2K. But anyway, this came up on my X Offender station. It’s got a boatload of influences but what it really really has is a killer chorus. Anybody know this babe, Santogold?

Roxy Music

We’ve talked about them before but there is much left to be said.

Roxy Music is right up there among the greatest bands of all time. I’ll put their first five albums up against anybody’s five albums, and you will be forced to admit it’s close. But unlike every other band I’ve ever loved, I didn’t love them at first. Or rather, I loved the music but couldn’t stand Brian Ferry’s voice. Then my friend Dee talked me into seeing them at the Academy of Music. Later known as The Palladium, it was the successor to the Fillmore East in New York and a great place to see a show.

Dee worked with a coke dealer named Jimmy Digs, an extraordinary character. First of all, the guy worked as a meat cutter in the old Brook Ave. meat market deep in the South Bronx, roughly four square blocks with decades of animal fat ground into the sidewalks and streets.One of the harder and nastier jobs on the planet. And yet he was a weight dealer who made a lot of money. I know because I saw his apartment. Sure, it was in the Bruckner projects, but it was huge and lavishly decorated in the Afro style of the 1970’s.  Second, he was a great guy, at least as I knew him. He liked us and gave us great deals. Jimmy (he was late-30’s, maybe 40) introduced us to his wife, got us some drinks, and led us to his getting high room, containing two sofas, a coffee table, and state of the art stereo and TV. He smiles and slaps a 3-finger bag of coke on the table. “You sniff?” he asks, and I say yes, I sniff. We sniffed a lot for about an hour, talking mostly about music and grooving to, as I recall, Bohanon. When we left someone was trying to break into D’s car. We yelled and started running to the car and the guy took off. He had done no damage. “When they see a white face the first thing they think is ‘cop’,” said D.

But that was another night. This night, on our way to the show, we were supposed to meet Jimmy at a bar on Lenox Ave and 146th St. Dee parks the car and we walk in and I swear at that second the song on the jukebox stops and every eye in the jam-packed joint is fixed on us. I was shitting bricks trying to act blasé. Dee just asks the guy next to him “Where’s Jimmy Digs?” “In the back,” he replies and we walk through into a back room where Jimmy was. “You should have come in the back door” he says. I was like, how silly of me. How could I fail to grasp the adventure potential in exploring a Harlem back alley on Friday night? So I took my chances with the front door. We did our business and left, got into the car and Dee says: “We were lucky.”

One more thing about Jimmy Digs: he had four thumbs. True. A second thumb grew from each of his regular thumbs.

So we arrive at the Academy in fine shape and we see Roxy. This was the Stranded tour, post-Eno with Eddie Jobson on violin and keyboards and (I think) John Wetton on bass. They were spectacular. I had to see Ferry live to understand his singing, which come to think of it is a strange thing. I can only say that what sounded mannered and overly stylized on vinyl sounded natural and highly emotional live. I understood: while so many singers pretend to care and they don’t, Ferry pretends not to care and he does. Nothing new really, it goes back equally to the blues and the sophisticates of the jazz era, and probably a thousand years before. Ferry gave the stance new context in the 70s. The context of their music. Seeing them opened up the whole to me, and I have loved them ever since.

Roxy Music is far, far more than Brian Ferry and the Roxies. Every musician who was ever in the band added heaps to the whole, including every single one of their endless parade of bass players. Which is amazing but I’m about to prove it to you. It’s one proof of their greatness: the least important member was always fantastic. I only say “least important” in band personnel terms, certainly not musically.

So here we go with five different bass players from each of their first five albums. The original bassist, Graham Simpson, was also with Ferry a co-founder of the band. Ferry (and anyone in his right mind) wanted him to stay, but Simpson didn’t like the Roxy image manipulation. A no-fun guy, but he sure could play. In demonstrating, I think it’s important to stray from the best-known Roxy tunes, because there are so many great songs that are lesser-known. “Ladytron” from the first album:

 

 

So Simpson leaves and in comes Rik Kenton or else John Porter, nobody seems to know, and I ask you: can you tell the difference? If I told you this was Simpson you wouldn’t think twice:

 

Great amateur video too.

I have to laugh when people say that Roxy became less experimental when Eno left. It shows that these people are not listening. Again I’m not sure if the bass player is John Wetton or Jon Gustafson but who cares, this guy plays his ass off too, and this one song has more cool sonic/musical experimentation than all of Pink Floyd combined:

 

Picking a tune from Country Life is tough because the bass is largely passed over in the high-end mix that Chris Thomas and Ferry imposed on that album. Maybe it was the right decision, for many people like Country Life above all others (Lawr is one as I recall). It is a dense album that must have been a bitch to mix. But the bass punches through on “Out of the Blue”

 

Ferry and others have pointed to Jon Gustafson’s bass on “Love Is The Drug” as the key to its hit status, so it must be true. But I wouldn’t say it was Gustafson’s best work on the Siren album. “Just Another High” and “Both Ends Burning” equally display his killer timing, and so does “Could It Happen To Me?”

 

See what I mean? Most of the time the bass is pure groundwork – there is so much else going on in every song – and yet it never fails to propel and fill and create space as needed, as the best bass players always do. And Roxy had like eight of them.

 

 

 

Bettie Serveert, Brain Tag

I got into conversation about a young rock prodigy today who named her band Snail Mail. She’s had a Tiny Desk concert, her new album comes out this week from Matador (a good label).

But Matador and journalists seems to be saying that Jordan Lindsay, the singer songwriter who is Snail Mail, is somehow someone body surfing in the legacy of Liz Phair. But this appears to be totally wrong. Maybe because Lindsay is only 18, and graduated high school like this week. She’s less than a sophomore. Right?

Apart from whatever virtues Snail Mail have, they exhibit none of the immediacy of Phair and any of her albums, including the challenged but actually overall okay Funstyle. I mean, Funstyle, once you excise track one and two, is pretty okay.

In any case, Liz Phair is a giant of plain speaking, rock making, self exposing, and none of that should be disregarded. Is it great art, great rock, great personal decisions are all good topics for discussion. But Liz Phair did this, and she didn’t have to.

In any case, this discussion reminded me of Bettie Serveert, who made a record I loved in the mid 90s, called Palomine, and another record I liked. The point here is that rock takes many shapes, but all should be judged on how far you push it.

Bettie Serveert pushed it modestly, but she rocked. It’s hard to know what to with the perfectly affable Snail Mail in that context. Like them? Maybe on Facebook.

Jackie Wilson

The man died onstage. But he didn’t die, he was resuscitated and lived another nine years. Tragically, a lack of oxygen to his brain made him semi-comatose for those years. You don’t see his name much these days, or hear his music, so I thought I’d post some.

This song is also an example of what I mean when I contend that the Beatles did not invent sophistication in rocknroll. No doubt the Beatles knew his work. This is from 1958:

 

And check out this live performance. Mr. Excitement they called him, and Elvis himself copped some moves from Jackie. The band here is stiff compared to the record but the vocal is simply amazing.

 

Song of the Week – Being Around, The Lemonheads

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

The Lemonheads strong 1993 album, Come on Feel the Lemonheads, had the Modern Rock hit “Into Your Arms” on it. “Into Your Arms” may be this underappreciated band’s most popular song – except, maybe, their cover of ‘Mrs. Robinson” is better known. That’s all the more interesting because he didn’t write either of them.

The album is a lot of fun, containing some of eye-candy frontman Evan Dando’s finest examples of “bubblegrunge.”.

Today’s SotW is the goofy but catchy, country flavored, “Being Around,” that comes in under 2 minutes!

The lyrics ask a bunch of questions from someone seeking attention from a person he /she wants to “be around.” It sounds to me like an awkward 4th grade boy trying to get a disinterested girl in his class to notice him.

If I was the fridge would you open the door?
If I was the grass would you mow your lawn?
If I was your body would you still wear clothes?
If I was a booger would you blow your nose?
Where would you keep it? Would you eat it?
I’m just trying to give myself a reason, for being around.

Really? Boogers!!! The other verses go on just like this.

The current popular rock star Courtney Barnett covered “Being There” during her 2014 tour. Versions of it can be found all over the internet.

If the album title – Come on Feel the Lemonheads – sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it was nicked from the Slade hit “Cum on Feel the Noise.” Sufjan Stevens took it a step further with the title of his 2005 album, Come on Feel the Illinoise.

Enjoy… until next week.