Song of the Week – Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin; You Need Love, Muddy Waters; You Need Loving, Small Faces

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Today’s post is yet another in the ongoing Evolution Series.

Led Zeppelin left a huge influence on the development of Rock and Roll.  It seems ironic, then, that they’ve been accused so often of plagiarism.

I first wrote about this in February 2009 when the subject was “Dazed and Confused,” an obvious and undisputed rip off of Jake Holmes “I’m Confused.”  In June 2016 I posted about the lawsuit by the estate of Randy California that claimed the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” was lifted from Spirit’s “Taurus.”  I defended Zep on that one because, although there are similarities, there just wasn’t enough to justify calling it plagiarism (at least IMHO).

But let’s move on to “Whole Lotta Love.”

Most people attribute Robert Plant and Jimmy Page’s song to an original by Muddy Waters.  His 1962 release, “You Need Love,” was written by Willie Dixon and has lyrical similarities to “Whole Lotta Love.”

You’ve got yearnin’ and I got burnin’
Baby you look so ooh sweet and cunnin’
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Woman you need love, you’ve got to have some love
I’m gon’ give you some love, I know you need love

Although Page and Plant were steeped in the traditional American blues masters, I don’t think the Muddy Waters track was their inspiration.  Instead, it may have been the Small Faces “You Need Loving,” released in 1966.

The Small Faces recording clearly copped the same lyrical phrases from Waters/Dixon, but they modernized it into a blues-rock version.  Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott took writing credits for their song.  But aside from the lyrics, it is undeniable that Marriott’s vocal approach was an influence on Plant.  If you’re not convinced, check out the breakdown near the end of the Small Faces cut at about 3:35 in.  If that doesn’t seal the deal, I don’t know what will!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – That’s Just the Way That I Feel, Purple Mountains

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Purple Mountains was the latest project by David Berman, previously of Silver Jews.  Since Silver Jews released their last album in 2008, this was a comeback of sorts.  And the lyrics to the album’s opener, “That’s Just the Way That I Feel” confirm it!

Well, I don’t like talkin’ to myself
But someone’s gotta say it, hell
I mean, things have not been going well
This time I think I finally fucked myself
You see, the life I live is sickening
I spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion
Day to day, I’m neck and neck with giving in
I’m the same old wreck I’ve always been

Course I’ve been humbled by the void
Much of my faith has been destroyed
I’ve been forced to watch my foes enjoy
Ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude
And as the pace of life keeps quickening
Beneath the bitching and the bickering
When I try to drown my thoughts in gin
I find my worst ideas know how to swim

Well, a setback can be a setup
For a comeback if you don’t let up
But this kind of hurtin’ won’t heal
And the end of all wanting
Is all I’ve been wanting
And that’s just the way that I feel

This guy clearly knew how to turn a phrase.  But as amazing an achievement as Purple Mountains was, it clearly wasn’t enough to rid Berman of his demons.  He committed suicide on August 7, 2019 – less than a month after the release of Purple Mountains.  Substance abuse issues, marital problems, and a feud with his well-connected lobbyist father (Richard Berman) due to disapproval of his conservative, anti-regulation positions, all weighed heavily on his psyche.

It’s too bad he didn’t live long enough to enjoy the rave, critical notices for his final work.

Enjoy… until next week.

Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports, I’m A Mineralist

This post is about this odd project by Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, who was looking to do his first solo project in 1979. After kicking some ideas around, undecided which way to go, the great jazz composer Carla Bley sent him a cassette of some “punk songs” she’d written. He decided to record them because he liked them and they were ready to go. He said, ”  So I thought it would be much better to do that than to struggle desperately to find things that work together. The music is not punk rock (not close) and it’s not Pink Floyd (though closer). It is instead an odd melding of jazz and progressive rock that maybe tips its cap to Zappa, a little. But I’m not sure about all that. What I am sure is that they got it right, at least for me. This is a captivating synthesis of art rock and jazz that feels ornate and grand and yet not grandiose or bombastic. Maybe some of that is the lovely vocals by Robert Wyatt, who was once the vocalist for the Soft Boys. I’m A Mineralist is a good example of what’s going on here. Lyrical and then funky, by turns, maybe serious but then funny and not self-important. If you like it a little the album is worth checking out.
The most atypical cut on the album is the first, which is the only one Wyatt does not sing on. Curiously, I just discovered that one of the voices on this fun cut is that of my old friend Vincent Chancey, who back then was playing French horn in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. I don’t recognize which one is his.

Song of the Week – Ozark & This Is Not America, Lyle Mays

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Keyboard player, and long-time collaborator with Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays died on February 10th.

Although I never saw the Pat Metheny Group, of which Mays was a key player, I did see Mays, Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker in Providence, RI on August 27, 1979, as members of Joni Mitchell’s touring band on the Shadows and Light tour.

I bought the first Pat Metheny Group album, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, an album that featured songs that were all co-written by Mays and Metheny.  The first SotW is “Ozark” from that 1981 album.

I selected this track because it features Mays unique keyboard style.

In 1985, Mays and Metheny worked with David Bowie to write “This Is Not America” for the soundtrack to The Falcon and the Snowman

That song is based on a Pat Metheny Group instrumental called “Chris” (also included on the soundtrack) for which Bowie wrote lyrics.  The song reached the Top 40 on the Billboard charts.

Mays won 11 Grammys and received 23 nominations in his professional career that ended in 2011, when he pivoted to a career as a software consultant.

Enjoy… until next week.

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.