Saturday, February 26, 2005

Song of the Week 2/25/05

The Rolling Stones - “Loving Cup”

I have been on a huge Stones kick over the past month. I’ve listened to lots of Stones music over the years since I first got a disc player in 1987, but nothing as intense as the past four weeks. It all started when I got the new album from The Gentlemen. Brass City Band features some of the best Stone-inspired tunes I’ve heard in ages, especially “Flame for Hire” and “No Need to Leave,” both of which remind me of tracks I had heard years ago from the Stones 1976 album Black and Blue. Never having owned the album, I found myself compelled to buy it during a visit to Tower Records one night. Listening to “Hand of Fate” and “Memory Motel” made me want to listen to Sticky Fingers, which for some reason I didn’t have anymore. So one night at J&R I bought Sticky Fingers and -- just because it was on sale -- Goat Head’s Soup. And then I heard “Tops” (or maybe it was “Heaven”) from Tattoo You at the bar, so I had to listen to that album again.

All of this quality Stones time led me to make a Stones mix for the bar during the week. And just to be different, I put together 16 of their more mellow songs, like “Memory Motel,” “Winter,” “Moonlight Mile” and “Loving Cup.” On Friday I was meeting someone for drinks at the International Bar in the East Village, and before they showed up the jukebox went silent. So I grabbed a couple of bucks from my wallet and decided to play some songs from Exile on Main Street. I meant to play “Shake Your Hips,” but somehow goofed and played “Loving Cup,” which I already heard twice that day while giving my Stones mix a test spin. No big deal, I thought, I still enjoy that song. The person I was meeting showed up, and 20 minutes into our coversation someone went over the jukebox to play some songs…and played “Loving Cup.” And then 30 minutes later, “Loving Cup” was played again. And toward the end of our time at the bar, someone else played it too. And all I could think was, “Has there ever been a more obvious candidate for Song of the Week.” I would think not.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Song of the Week 2/18/05

Willie Nelson - “Always on My Mind”

“Always on My Mind” is the first song I ever heard from Willie Nelson, and for some reason it connected with the 12 year old Steve in the Spring of 1982. I certainly wasn’t old enough to understand the meaning behind it -- I just liked Nelson’s voice. The song’s meaning has obviously became apparent to me over the years, and since I got the song on CD about six years ago, I break it out at least twice a year. Last Saturday I was at Great Lakes (the bar I have referred to numerous times in Top 20 List writings) having a couple of Rolling Rocks when the jukebox went silent. That’s my cue to dump in some dough. I picked “Always on My Mind” to close out my 12 song set, and after my tunes were done I went down the street to the Loki Lounge to visit some friends that work there. I wasn’t there more than five minutes when “Always on My Mind” came on, but this time it was the 1988 Pet Shop Boys version. These weird musical occurrences usually happen to me in threes, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I got my mail at the office on Monday and found a copy of a new Willie Nelson compilation called Songs. And of course, the first song I played was “Always on My Mind.” I wouldn’t endorse a purchase of Songs, as it’s a subpar Nelson collection (too many duets for my liking). But if you really need “Always on My Mind” and his take on The Muppet Movie’s “Rainbow Connection,” this is the one to get.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Song of the Week 2/11/05

The Gentlemen - “Flame For Hire”

Life always gets better when The Gentlemen release a new album. Their third disc, Brass City Band, takes a slightly different tack than the hard rock bluster of Ladies and Gentlemen or Blondes Prefer the Gentlemen. The guys from Boston explore more of their love of the Faces and Rolling Stones this time, with the Stones worship never more apparent on “No Need to Leave” and “Flame for Hire.” Starting out with a riff that Keith Richards probably has a patent on, “Flame” would fit snugly on It’s Only Rock and Roll or Black and Blue. I just couldn’t stop playing this song over and over this week, even though I’m not sure what the lyrics mean in the slightest (except for the part about clearing snow off the porch). You can get this album now through the band’s website.
[If you’d like a FREE MP3 of the song, right click on the title above and hit Save Target As.]

Friday, February 04, 2005

Song of the Week 2/4/05

Van Halen - "Intruder"/"Oh Pretty Woman"

I love how a song can tie a whole week together. Monday night while cooking dinner I had the greatest channel ever on -- VH1 Classic. During their All Request Hour they played the entire "Pretty Woman" video, which includes the lengthy instrumental intro "Intruder." Then Friday I was listening to Q104.3, the classic rock station here in New York. They do a contest every weekday called "The 3 at 3," in which listeners have to guess what links the three songs together. The last song in "The 3 at 3?" "Intruder"/"Oh Pretty Woman," of course.

This medley appears on my favorite Van Halen album, Diver Down. I was having a discussion with a co-worker Wednesday night about how this album shouldn't even exist, considering the bizarre track listing (5 covers?!?). I do believe that my thoughts on this album will require an entirely separate entry. Look for it within the next week or so.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Song of the Week 1/28/05

Frank Zappa - “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”/”Nanook Rubs It”/”St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast”/”Father O’Blivion”

Ah, the first serious snowfall of the winter is always a wondrous time, especially if you’ve lived all your life in the Northeast. There’s always that initial burst of anticipation; the weather geeks get all excited about a “big winter event” and the TV stations go wall-to-wall with “Snow Team Coverage.” And finally when it starts falling, one can’t help but want to stand outside and watch it fall, erasing any evidence of garbage strewn across the sidewalks across New York. The storm that socked NYC on the 22nd was a sight to behold -- within two hours almost four inches of the stuff piled up on my front porch. It was the perfect night to go traipsing through the drifts and drink like a pack of St. Bernards had discovered us in the highest elevation of the Himalayas.

Alas, that initial rush always ends with the snow turning muddy from the sand on the streets -- and in the case of my neighborhood -- turning yellow in spots because of the numerous cats that roam free like they own the place. So as I attempted to tread to work two days after the storm (and having to walk 16 extra blocks because the train my neighborhood was not running), listening to this medley that opens Zappa’s 1974 album Apostrophe’ seemed perfect music to mush to:

“Dreamed I was an Eskimo
Frozen wind began to blow
Under my boots and around my toes
The frost that bit the ground below
It was a hundred degrees below zero... “

“And my mama cried
And my mama cried
Nanook, a-no-no
Nanook, a-no-no
Don't be a naughty Eskimo
Save your money, don't go to the show”

“Well I turned around and I said ‘Oh, oh’ Oh
Well I turned around and I said ‘Oh, oh’ Oh
Well I turned around and I said ‘Ho, Ho’
And the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eye
‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow’
‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow’”
(C) 1974 Munchkin Music

While the opening of the album lends itself to wintertime, there’s something else that makes it one of my quintessential snowstorm albums. I grasped the genius of this tale about Eskimo revenge and the power of urine-treated snow during the very first winter break I spent away from home. My friend Dave and I worked at the college station in Ithaca during the winter of 1988-89 and shared an apartment we borrowed from one of our friends. During one of those cold nights in that tiny garden apartment, he played me the disc that contained both Apostrophe’ and the 1973 album Overnite Sensation. This shit was dirty, funny, stupid, smart and had a great groove all at the same time -- and it was perfect for the brutal Central New York winter we had to trudge through everyday. And with our big coats, we probably looked just like Nanook. Except I never picked up the yellow snow, even in self defense.