Friday, January 21, 2005

Song of the Week 1/21/05

Bill Janovitz and Crown Victoria - "It Makes No Difference"

This is the first time that a Song of the Week entry is a repeat. Well, a sort of repeat. In September 2004 the original version of "It Makes No Difference" by The Band became a Song of the Week selection after I saw Janovitz and company cover it at the Mercury Lounge. Since I didn't have a recording of their version, I dug out The Band's 1975 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross and played their original recording over and over.

I've always been a big fan of The Band--their debut Music From Big Pink was one of the first 20 CDs I purchased in 1987 after getting my first disc player, and when their catalog was reissued in 2000 I was fortunate to have a friend at Capitol who sent me all of it. The first time I heard "It Makes No Difference" was on The Last Waltz soundtrack. The sound of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel's voices melding on the choruses into a cathartic cry stuck in my head. So much so that I needed to pick up the needle off the record and play it again, and again, and then a third time. As the years went by I forgot about the song until getting those Band reissues, and once again I played the song multiple times after my first spin through the disc.

Then came that sterling performance by Janovitz and Crown Victoria in September of 2004. I was so overcome with joy and sadness and amazement that I'm surprised I didn't break down into tears. I read an interview with Janovitz when Buffalo Tom's Big Red Letter Day was released, and the interviewer nailed exactly what I felt about the group--he called them a modern day version of The Band. These guys wrote simple songs about average people, and Janovitz delivered his vocals with a passion that recalled the best moments of Manuel and Danko. Ever since then I always thought that hearing Janovitz sing a Band song would be a great moment. And I was oh so right. Last week Janovitz and company came back into town to play a show at Sin-E and make an appearance on Vin Scelsa's WFUV program Idiot's Delight. And since Scelsa loves to have his guests perform a cover to close out the night, I knew I would finally have a recording of this stellar version. And so this week I made an MP3 out off my old-fashioned cassette recording of the show (which featured a two hour Janovitz segment, thank you Mr. Scelsa!) and have listened to their version over and over. I'm not sure what sort of romantic problems (if any) Robbie Robertson was having when he penned the lyrics, but as a man who has been through some hefty unrequited love in his time, this verse just nails it:

"Now there's no love
As true as the love
That dies untold
But the clouds
Never hung so low before"
(c) 1975 Medicine Hat Music

Alas, I have no link to provide you so you can hear Janovitz sing these words as if he was channeling every bit of my heartbreak (real and/or imagined), but if you want to hear it, email me and I'll see what I can do. And thanks Bill, for making perhaps the best cover ever.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Song of the Week 1/14/05

Death Cab For Cutie - "The New Year"

I arrived at the Death Cab party incredibly late. It wasn't until mid-2004 that I actually listened intently to the copy of The Postal Service album Give Up that my friend Mike copied for me. That Friday night at my desk I was capitivated by the singer's voice. That singer is, of course, Ben Gibbard, who is the singer-guitarist for Death Cab. I saw the group open for Pearl Jam on the Vote For Change tour in October 2004, and was rather impressed by their set. However, I still wasn't impressed enough to buy any of their albums. That changed the Tuesday after Christmas while I was killing time before going to visit a friend who works at a popular East Village bar in Manhattan. I stopped in this very tiny record store on Avenue A, and while leafing through the used section I came upon the most recent Death Cab album, Transatlanticism. Seven bucks seemed like a fair price to pay, and the next day I discovered that this Gibbard guy is damn talented, whether he's fronting a electronic duo and a standard four piece rock band. "The New Year" is the lead-off track on Transatlanticism, and that song became a the lead-off track on a New Year's day mix I made for the bar. That mix has become quite popular, and "The New Year" has come on the bar's stereo almost every night I've been there the past two weeks. It clinched Song of the Week honors once I heard it Saturday night on Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight on WFUV. Scelsa made a little speech that touched upon my exact thoughts about this song--even if you think you're turning on people to lots of new music, there's never enough time to discover everything, and each new year brings more that you don't know. The title of my New Year mix summed it up: Brand New Year, Same Old Trouble. As do thse opening lyrics:

"So this is the new year and I don't feel any different."
(c) 2003 Death Cab for Cutie

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The 15th Anniversary Party 1/8/05

So to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the Top 20 List, I threw a little shindig at my friend’s bar (and home of my part-time job) Vegas in Brooklyn, with me spinning for three hours. The night before I picked out three songs from each list to play, and decided to do it in chronological order. And I did that...until three hours become four on that night. After I was done with my initial 45 songs, I just played a bunch of stuff I liked, and closed with a healthy dose of ’80s hard rock. For those that couldn’t make it, here’s what you missed:

10:00 p.m.
“Suspicious Minds” - Elvis Presley (I had to start with this song -- It was The King’s 70th you know)
“The Days that Used to Be” - Neil Young and Crazy Horse (1990)
“When It Began” - The Replacements (1990)
"Deeper Shade of Soul” - Urban Dance Squad (1990)
“Gett Off” - Prince and the New Power Generation (1991)
“My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” - Dream Warriors (1991)
“So You Think You’re in Love” - Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians (1991)
“Teen Angst” - Cracker (1992)
“Rockin’ Stroll” - Lemonheads (1992)
“Waiting for Somebody” - Paul Westerberg (1992)
“Feed the Tree” - Belly (1993)
“Sister Havana” - Urge Overkill (1993)
“Easy” - Faith No More (1993)
“Cut Your Hair” - Pavement (1994)
“Star 69” - R.E.M. (1994)
“My Wave” - Soundgarden (1994)
“California” - Wax (1995)

11:00 p.m.
“Sick of Myself” - Matthew Sweet (1995)
“Just” - Radiohead (1995)
“New York City” - They Might Be Giants (1996)
“Only Happy When It Rains” - Garbage (1996)
“Outta Mind (Outta Site)” - Wilco (1996)
“Song 2” - Blur (1997)
“Volcano Girls” - Veruca Salt (1997)
“Staring at the Sun” - U2 (1997)
“Circles” - Soul Coughing (1998)
“Satan Is My Motor” - Cake (1998)
“The Way” - Fastball (1998)
“Utopia Parkway” - Fountains of Wayne (1999)
“Nineteen” - Old 97’s (1999)
“Debra” - Beck (1999)
“Even If You Don’t” - Ween (2000)
“The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” - Queens of the Stone Age (2000)
“Meltdown” - AC/DC (2000)
“Why Do I Need a Job?” - Bare Jr. (2001)

12:00 a.m.
“Sing” - Travis (2001)
“Island in the Sun” - Weezer (2001)
“What a Wonderful World” - Joey Ramone (2002)
“Hate to Say I Told You So” - The Hives (2002)
“Fell In Love With a Girl” - The White Stripes (2002)
“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” - The Darkness (2003)
“Gay Bar” - Electric Six (2003)
“Bright Future in Sales” - Fountains of Wayne (2003)
“Somebody Told Me” - The Killers (2004)
“Holiday” - Green Day (2004)
“Pain” - Jimmy Eat World (2004)
“Asshole” - Dennis Leary
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” - The Beach Boys
“Don’t Cry No Tears” - Neil Young and Crazy Horse
“Jeepster” - T. Rex
“Live Forever” - Oasis “Faithful” - Pearl Jam “Under Pressure” - Queen and David Bowie

1:00 a.m.
“Vicious” - Lou Reed
“Toxic” - Local H
“We Are Family” - Babes in Toyland
“Gentlemen” - Afghan Whigs
“Good Fortune” - PJ Harvey “U Mass” - The Pixies
“Glad Girls” - Guided By Voices
“Ginger” - The Figgs
“Top Heavy” - The Gentlemen “Breaking the Law” - Judas Priest
“Shout It Out Loud” - KISS “Godzilla” - Blue Oyster Cult
“Photograph” - Def Leppard “Here I Go Again” - Whitesnake
“Yesterdays” - Guns n’ Roses
“Home Sweet Home” - Motley Crue

Friday, January 07, 2005

Song of the Week 1/7/05

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Room at the Top"

So why is the first Song of the Week for 2005 almost six years old? That's because I'm still stuck in that end of the year nostalgia mode. Since I had to postpone my release party for the 15th anniversary list for family reasons, I shifted it to January 8th. And because everyone coming to the party already had the printed copy of the list and the radio show CDs, I decided I had to come up with some added value to entice people to schlep to Brooklyn. So I decided to make a mix CD of the #1 albums and #1 singles from the past 15 years. "Room at the Top" was the top single in 1999, and to me it always seemed like a perfect disc opener. The Petty album it is taken from, the highly underrated Echo, was inspired by Petty's divorce from his wife and finding a new woman that would become his second one. "Room at the Top" distills all of Petty's bittersweet feelings about his life into one gem of a song. And after getting the shutdown by my latest romantic pursuit during this week, the following lyrics rang true every day as I listened to it on the subway while returning to my own room at the top, the apartment/attic I live in:

"I got a room at the top of the world tonight
I can see everything tonight
I got a room where everyone
Can have a drink and forget those things
That went wrong in their life"
(c) 1999 Adria K Music

Indeed Tom, indeed.