Thursday, October 29, 2020

October Songs

The end of the month draws near, bringing with it that inevitable round-up of musical notes, wherein I attempt to illuminate, explain and, with increasing frequency, justify the abstruse and peculiar titles I foisted upon the preceding month's posts. It's quite possibly my favorite regular feature, not least because it's the only one I have. Maybe I should get some more.

I was back at work for October but only for two days a week. I still managed more than twenty posts (keeping the numbers a little misty here because as I write there are still three days left in October). Last year I posted two hundred and fifty times, an all-time record. Today marks post two-fifty for 2020 so suck on that, 2019!

What's the takeaway? I guess that life-threatening illness increases productivity but not so much as a global pandemic will. You're welcome, life coaches everywhere.

Moving on...

September Songs - September Song - Last time out, I found the pitch-perfect title in September Songs. I knew the title of course. Everyone of a certain age would. I just added the "s". I vaguely remembered it was a Kurt Weill composition but I didn't associate it strongly with any particular performer.

Turns out everyone's had a crack at it and most of the results aren't pretty. I guess the best-known might be Frank Sinatra's version. I have a conflicted relationship with Sinatra. When I was growing up he was old peoples' music, then when I was in my twenties I acquired a hipsterish admiration for him which lasted a decade or two. Now I kind of go song by song. 

I was looking around for a version I actually liked when I happened on the above live take by Lou Reed. The song was  composed by Weill and Maxwell Anderson specifically for Walter Huston to perform in a 1938 Broadway show called Knickerbocker Holiday. They tailored it to match Huston's "gruff voice and limited vocal range", which probably explains why it works so well for Lou. There's no recording of Huston's stage performance but he reprised it for the 1950 movie September Affair. Can't say it does much for me.

Know Your Rights - The Clash - I was a big Clash fan at one time. Kinda not so sure about a lot of it, now. They seem to have dated in a way some other bands of the same era haven't. It's easy to forget just how fast they moved from art-punk to stadium rock and how alienating it felt at the time. I think I prefer Primal Scream's version. Bobby Gillespie made much the same transition but handled it with a deal more sang froid. 

That 31st Century - Power (remix) - Kanye West feat. Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz - The two above came straight out of my memory but for this one, like most of what's to come, we have to thank I've almost come full circle in how I title these posts. I've passed the point where I scan through titles and lyrics looking for something I can use for a post. Now I come up with a title first, then run it through a few search engines to see if anyone's had the same idea. It's astonishing how well that works. Although, I guess ymmv.

When I put "31st Century" into I got three matches, which was three more than I was expecting. Public Enemy's Hitler Day is a great tune but it's a false positive. They never actually use the phrase. The third option, which I considered very seriously, was Deltron 3030's predictably futuristic Upgrade. In the end, though, that Kanye groove is just too mighty to ignore.

Fodder For The Cannons - Senses Working Overtime - XTC - I discovered Foxes and Fossils, somewhat inevitably, while trawling YouTube for all things fox-related. Judging by their many uploads they seem to occupy a bizarre niche - cover bands that play exclusively in car parks. Probably quite advantageous in current circumstances. Possibly because of the age/gender gap between the backline and the vocal trio (I think they may all be fathers/daughters/uncles/cousins or something. I haven't bothered to read into it too much) both their choice and interpretation of songs can be idiosyncratic, but in a much more instinctive way than someone like the irony-driven Nouvelle Vague.

I've Made My Plans - Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give A Damn - Sparks -I love Sparks but even I would concede they can be something of an acquired taste. This isn't one of their finest moments, either, although the performance is flawless as always. Still, even middling Mael bros. is beyond what most bands can hope for as a career best. 

She Bad - DJ Paimon - I can't remember how I found this. I thought it must have been from but apparently not. It must have come to light somehow while I was "researching" the meaning and origin of "Paimon". However I found it, it's a find, for sure.

Up There - Land - Patti Smith Group - Between the time I first heard this in 1975 and sometime in the mid-90s, this Patti Smith epic was my second-favorite song of all time, behind the Velvet Underground's Heroin. It may still be. I just haven't made a top fifty list since about 1995. Maybe I should. There'd be a lot of Lana del Rey on it now, that's for sure.

The album version, linked under the green highlight above, is sublime but the pullout video, from her 1976 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, is one of the seminal musical memories of my youth. I don't think I'd ever seen anything as boundary-breaking on tv at the time. Everyone talks about that Bowie/Ronson moment from Top of the Pops but this worked me over harder. In my memory it ended with the band still howling while Whispering Bob sheltered under his jacket, trying to make the next link but, like my memory of him capping Cockney Rebel's rendition of My Only Vice by promising "they will never appear on this show again", it seems to be something I dreamed.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin - Pumpkin - The Regrettes - Some things never change. This could be from the nineties, the eighties, the seventies, the sixties... The chorus reminds me of Mott the Hoople's 1974 chart-scraper Foxy Foxy, itself something of a fifties pastiche. Double helping because it's Halloween.

Spend Your Wishes - Dolly Mixture - Speaking of things that never change, my favorite band of all time, from my favorite album of all time. Didn't need to look this one up. Sadly, no video of this song exists, at least until they make that damn documentary publicly available.

I Remembered You Older And Taller - Older and Taller - Regina Spektor - One of the many artists who, when I hear them, I always think "I should really listen to more of this". And then I don't.

She's Crafty - Beastie Boys - Instead, I end up listening to more stuff by people I already know a lot of stuff by and yet I still always manage to hear more stuff I didn't know by them. Or, in this case, find insane fan-made videos of those songs I already know, that I didn't know, but now am glad that I do. There's just a lot of stuff out there now. It's been sixty-five years, after all. God forbid I get into jazz and blues. Then it'd be a full century.

In Exile - The Dream Academy - I always get the Dream Academy confused with the Dream Syndicate, the Paisley Underground outfit. I like them both but I like the Dream Academy more. If I hadn't wanted to use them, I could have gone with the ever-delightful Taylor Swift, had her otherwise delicious and delicate Exile not been ruined by the ever-abrasive Bon Iver. Or we could have had Savage Sea by all-time heroes the Pop Group (for whom my band played support, twice, which I may have mentioned before, once or twenty times). Even I find most of the Pop Group's ouevre heavy going these days, though, so I'll spare you.

Fix It - Grizzly Bear - Probably should have spared us all this, too. I'm not much of a Grizzly Bear fan at the best of times but this is like the stodgiest of mid-seventies prog. It could be Wishbone Ash! I wouldn't have used the title at all if it hadn't been for the Solex remix. I love Solex but honestly I'm not sure even she can do much with this. She has at least managed to lose nearly half the running length, so there's that.

Figuring It Out - Aviation - The Last Shadow Puppets - I was a very late convert to the Arctic Monkeys. I was, obviously, aware of their work but I didn't really start paying attention until 2018's Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, an album I totally love from start to finish but which I now discover represents a highly controversial change of direction for the band. As for the Last Shadow Puppets, I pretty much know nothing about them but the name. On this evidence I think I'd better get myself up to speed and fast. They make terrific videos, too, or so it would appear. 

Hard Time Walking - Never See Me Again - Vivian Girls - They don't even get started in this live clip until more than fifty seconds in and the whole thing only lasts 2.26. That's economy!

Out-Foxed - Surrender To Strangeness - Buck 65 -  It's amazing how many old favorites keep cropping up, isn't it? I mean, it made sense when I was pulling these titles out of my mental Rolodex (a reference already dated long before this blog even began) but even now I'm supposedly randomizing my reach the same names insist on surfacing. Here's Buck doing it live in front of some bemused Canadians while being filmed from the crowd by someone who appears to have had far too much to drink. Rock 'n roll, eh? Oh, no, wait, this is hip hop...

Twenty The Hard Way - I knew I wanted to use this title and I was hoping someone else might have thought of it but no. Not really surprising. Twenty is kind of a hard throw any way. Beastie Boys to the rescue, once again.

Dark Side Of The MoonBrain Damage - Pink Floyd - Oh, boy. I guess there's no point pretending it wasn't the Floyd's record-breaking chart botherer that put this one into play. I don't know, though. Post-Syd Pink Floyd? Did I want to go there? Really? So I started to do some searching. Surely someone must have done an odd or amusing cover of this barnacled old classic. A ukukele orchestra or an Italian synthwave duo, maybe?

After scrolling past what seemed like a thousand earnest acoustic endeavours, pepped up by the occasional full band effort, I was pretty sure no-one had ever wrung a moment's interest out of the old warhorse. About the most fun I had was watching the proto-Spinal Tap studio musings of Roger Waters and the boys in a clip from the infamous "Live at Pompeii" (see above).

Then it occured to me. Pink Floyd don't own "dark side of the moon". It's a stock phrase. I bet lots of people have used it. And they have. It crops up in plenty of songs. Some of them are even by people I like. For starters there's Bowling For Soup's trademark bittersweet nostalgia in Why Don't I Miss You, turned into something almost magical here by two Nepalese teenagers, Rysa and Maggie. If this doesn't prove the universality of human experience I don't know what could.

I think I might do a whole post about Bowling For Soup one day. There's certainly enough to talk about. It would be pretty easy to do one on Momus, too, but I'm not the blogger for that. Too much research. For example, it can't be a co-incidence that both he and Eno used "Mistaken Memories of Medieaval Manhattan" as the title for entirely different pieces, can it? Eno's is three-quarters of an hour of ambient noodling, as you'd expect. Momus takes just under five minutes for a version with words, some of which are "dark side of the moon" and others "knights in white satin" and "topographic oceans", which kind of tells you where he's coming from.

James Taylor is even further down the "really?" list than Pink Floyd but like them he sure has written some corkers in his time. Fortunately, he's also fared far better with covers. Almost any James Taylor song you can think of you'll think of first in a version by someone else. I have a lot of time for Melanie, who I still regret not going to see on one of those bizarre school music trips I was talking about last time. Here, or rather up there, she is, doing the James Taylor standard Carolina in my Mind and doing it a hell of a lot better than he ever did.

Skipping over Immortal Technique's possibly prematurely incendiary The Point of No Return we come finally to If I Could Be Your Star by PMDawn. If this isn't playing over a post-break up scene in a movie or tv show somewhere right now then someone really hasn't been doing their job.

And I think that's it for October. Couple of days to go, sure, but I've written this now and I'm not writing another post today. Tail-enders can go into next month's count. It seems there are several songs going by the name "October Song", so that's the title sorted. I wonder if I can find one for every month of the year?

As I'm sure must be obvious, Blogger's latest update allows me to resize video clips. I just spotted that today. Not sure about it yet. What I'd really like to be able to do, consistently, is place two smaller images side-by-side as I've occasionally managed to do in the past. The previous version would do that, when it felt like it. The new one won't do it at all. If I try and force either of them, things break. Ho hum. Onwards and upwards, eh?

Full song titles used as post titles (even if altered)  - Large, Bold, Green Quotes from lyrics used as titles (even if altered) - Large, Bold, Blue Original titles from which quotes were drawn - Small, Italic, Bold, Green All other music - Small, Italic, Green

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