Friday, April 29, 2005

Song of the Week 4/29/05

Andrew Gold - "Lonely Boy"

This is quite possibly one of my favorite songs from the '70s.

It's also quite possibly one of the worst songs of the '70s.

When I was a kid, I loved this song, most likely because I was an only child raised in a small town with one traffic light. I had no friends anywhere near where I lived, so I spent all of my childhood by myself or thrown in with a bunch of adults in my house. When I went through my initial nostalgia for the '70s in 1990 and 1991, hosting a very popular show on my college station called Artists Only: The 70s, this song got played rather loud in the studio. And if you read the Song of the Week two weeks ago, you know I definitely considered myself a "Lonely Boy" back then.

The past two Fridays at work I played a bunch of '70s songs from ITunes to entertain me and my fellow co-workers, and "Lonely Boy" got stuck in everyone's heads at one point or another. And then I listened to it again last Saturday morning as I left a complete stranger's house after spending the night there (it's a LONG and bizarre story), and it seemed so appropriate that I started laughing out loud while walking down 2nd place in my beloved Brooklyn. Later that day I played it for my concert pal Moria after we saw The Shins and I had told the story of my crazy night. She had never heard the song, but I could tell by her head bobbing that its hookiness had snagged her, even if the song is three years older than her.

So you might be saying to yourself, "So why is it one of the worst songs of the 70s if you like it so much?" Here I ask you, dear reader, to take a glance at the lyrics:

He was born on a summer day,
And with a slap of a hand he had landed
As an only son.

His mother and father said
What a lovely boy
We'll teach him what we learned,
Ah, yes, just what we learned.
We'll dress him up warmly
And we'll send him to school,
We'll teach him how to fight
To be nobody's fool

Oh, oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy.

In the summer of '53
His mother brought him a sister.
And she told him,
"We must attend to her needs,
She's so much younger than you."

Well he ran down the hall and he cried,
Oh how could his parents have lied?
When they said he was their only son,
He thought he was the only one…

Oh, oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy.

Goodbye mama!
Goodbye you!
Goodbye papa!
I'm pushing on through…

He left home on a winter day,
And he hoped to find all the love
He had lost in that earlier time

Well, his sister grew up
And married a man,
He gave her a son,
Ah, yes, a lovely son.
They dressed him up warmly
They sent him to school,
They taught him how to fight,
To be nobody's fool…

Oh, oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy.

Whoa, whoa, whoa,
Oh, oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy,
Oh what a lonely boy.

WOW--talk about some of the most self-pitying, navel gazing lyrics even put down in a song! It slams his parents, his sister and his nephew, all in the space of four minutes. I wonder what family gatherings were like after this song came out. Maybe that's why he followed it up with "Thank You For Being a Friend"--he probably needed to mend some bridges.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Song of the Week 4/22/05

The Shins - "So Says I"

I came WAY late to The Shins party. I, like many unhipsters, had never heard of them until Zack Braff's great little movie from last year, Garden State. That's not exactly true -- I had heard them on the film's soundtrack (which I got a promo copy of) long before I saw the movie. One Friday night last summer I was talking about movies and music with my friend Rhett, and he asked me if I had seen Garden State, because he thought it would be right up my alley. I told him I hadn't, but I did love the soundtrack. Then he started raving about The Shins, saying that their second album, Chutes Too Narrow, was even better than their first, Oh Inverted World, which supplied two songs to the Garden State soundtrack. So the next week he gave me a copy of Chutes and said I needed to listen to it. And damn if he wasn't right.

I forgot about the disc and the band until my fellow concert collaborator Moria sent out an email asking if anyone wanted to go see The Shins with her. Since I was going to get us Doves tickets, I figured it would be a good trade, and quickly agreed. So a few weeks ago I finally picked up Oh Inverted World, and loved it. And then I started listening to Chutes again, and the one song that always stuck in my head was "So Says I." There's a part where frontman James Mercer sings "Oooo whoooo ooooo" through a wall of distortion, and that little two seconds of the tune has been stuck in my head all week. I can't get enough of it. And tonight I look forward to seeing them for the first time -- and hopefully the crowd won't be filled with too many way-too-late-to-The-Shins-party-folks like me.

(Right clink the link at the top for a free MP3 of the song from Sub Pop. And if you like that, check out a great live version from Austin City Limits by right clicking here.)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Song of the Week 4/15/05

Graham Parker and the Shot - "Wake Up (Next to You)"

Last Saturday -- for the first time in my life -- I was able to walk to a wedding. My friends Jessica and Kevin were getting hitched right off of Brooklyn's beautiful Prospect Park, which is a 35-minute uphill walk from my abode. It was beautiful and sunny day, so I grabbed the Ipod and -- clad in my Thinker tie and black suit jacket -- and started walking. Since I was going to the nuptials of two friends that I love dearly, I decided I needed to listen to some happy songs about love. I chose a playlist called "Sappy Songs," which starts out with "Wake Up (Next to You)." This was the first song I ever heard from one of England's best songwriters of the past 30 years, Graham Parker.

The track, from Steady Nerves, was Parker's only Top 40 hit in the U-S, and I discovered it via the Top 40 station out of Albany, FLY 92. It wasn't until I got to college that I heard more from Parker's great catalog, such as "Local Girls" and "Discovering Japan" from Squeezing Out Sparks and "Fool's Gold" from Heat Treatment. But "Wake Up (Next to You)" was always my favorite tune -- until I ended up playing it repeatedly about a girl.

(Gee, that's a surprise.)

My sophomore year (1988) I met a girl named Sarah who lived in the same dorm as I did. She had a serious boyfriend who lived on my floor, and she always came down (maybe it was up?) to visit him. They ended up breaking up that spring because, well, she was crazy and VERY flirtatious. It drove this guy nuts.

Fast forward to the summer of 1989: I'm working at the college station, 92 WICB, for the entire summer, getting some really good radio experience. In July our transmitter got struck by lightning, throwing us off the air for just over three days. So I found myself with some time off the air, and Sarah happened to call me at the station to see if I wanted to get together. She was working in Ithaca, and while we'd kept in touch, we'd never really hung out. So that night we proceeded to go to the only bar that I could drink at in town, TJ Tuesdays. 5 dollar pitchers ruled at that joint, and she and I drank many of them. We proceeded to drive (we were stupid, I know) to my pad, and then head back to her place. After making out while watching Rattle and Hum, I admitted that I was exhausted (I got up three days a week at 5am to work that summer), so she told me to get into her bed and she would follow me in in a while. A few minutes later I heard her roommate come home from his job at Dominos. I lied there for a while listening to them chat, and finally passed out.

I awoke at 6am and discovered I had slept alone all night. Puzzled, I got up and went to the bathroom -- and saw Sarah was in bed with her roommate, and it was obvious both of them were naked. I pissed, got the hell out of there and drove home. We were back on the air later that afternoon, which was my normal shift on a Friday. My fourth song of the day was "Wake Up (Next to You)," which I sarcastically dedicated to Sarah. I didn't see her again for the rest of the summer.

When school was just day away from starting at the end of August, I moved into my new on-campus apartment. That first night I discovered that my downstairs neighbor was none other than Sarah. When I bumped into her, I took the high road, asking her how her new boyfriend Jason (the roommate) was and how the rest of the summer went, and just trying to be cordial. The rest of that semester I rarely saw her, but we would be pleasant, even friendly to one another, which was fine with me since I had already found another woman to be fixated upon.

I stayed at the on-campus apartment during winter break of 1990-91 to work once again at the radio station, and surprisingly Sarah stayed as well to work at her off-campus job. We ended up hanging out evenings she was off, since we were the only two people in our entire apartment building that break. And -- you guessed it -- we ended up making out many of those nights, but she would always stop just before sex because she didn't want to cheat on her boyfriend. So about every third morning I would play "Wake Up (Next to You)" either in extreme frustration or total bliss -- I wasn't sure then what I was feeling, and I'm sure as heck not sure now. After that break ended, I never played the song again on air.

In the fall of 1996 The Figgs signed on to back Graham Parker on tour, so as a primer I went out and bought the two-disc Rhino collection Passion Is No Ordinary Word, and there was "Wake Up (Next to You)" on disc two. All the weird feelings I had associated with the song had melted away over those five years, and now it was just another great mushy song from my misspent high school days. So when I was putting together a playlist in I Tunes of "Sappy Songs," it seemed only appropriate for it to kick it off. I listened to the song twice while walking to Jessica and Kevin's wedding, which put me in a good mind set for what ended up being a great ceremony and an even better reception. (And for me, a man that believes marriage is a sham, to say that is pretty amazing.) And once again, WFUV read my mind, as the first song I heard the Monday after the wedding was "Wake Up (Next to You)."

Steady Nerves and Passion is No Ordinary Word are both out of print, but the song does appear, along with 19 other great tracks, on The Ultimate Collection, which you can still order online. So snatch it up, you won't regret it. (Well, unless you end up playing it over and over because you keep getting dissed by the same girl, then you might want to break the disc in half. Just don't blame me if that does indeed happen.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Song of the Week 4/8/05

Josh Rouse - "It's the Nighttime"

It's not often that one person's love for a certain artist is so strong that one would be compelled to go see that artist without owning a single piece of music from their catalog. Heck, I've tried for almost a decade to get people to see The Figgs using my my persuasive power, and in some case, alcohol bribery. Whenever I've succeeded, I feel like it's an amzing achievement.

Now I'm not sure how my fellow Brooklyn to Midtown commuter Moria feels about having done just that (somehow I'm sure I will find out after this post), but it was her pure love of Josh Rouse's music that directly led me to my activity for this evening--seeing Josh Rouse perform at Irving Plaza.

Now I have seen the man in the past--as a matter of fact, in the guise of my day job I interviewed him in 2000 about his second album, Home. I vaguely recall liking the disc, but I don't have it in my collection now. I think I may have given it away to a co-worker or (more likely) sold it on St. Mark's Place to feed one of my various addictions. What I do remember about the interview is that Rouse was big into cooking, and we spent the last third of the interview chatting about cooking and the recipes he listed on his site.

Fast forward to January 2005: I've known Moria for just over a month, and its already apparent to me that we have one of those very rare person-to-person music connections that come around just a few times in a person's life. I can count the number of people I've had this bond with on just one hand. (Check the 1999 Reynolds Top 20 List for those other folks.) Since Moria and I click on this level, I figure I should check out whatever she raves about, as there's a 90% chance I'm going to like it.

So in one of our numerous email conversations she mentioned that she saw Josh Rouse on the street in Brooklyn, and how much she loves his music. A couple of days later I got a copy of Nashville, Rouse's new album, and I immediately burned a copy because I know she needed this disc fast, just like an old booze hound needs his first drink of the day at 8:00 a.m. I also decided that I should give this album more than my patented "Listen For Two Songs And Then Eject It Rapidly, Mumbling Disgustedly Under My Breath 'This Disc Sucks'" treatment.

And here's the thing with Nashville--it doesn't suck. Rouse's diverse tales of heartbreak (some likely inspired by his 2004 divorce) are catchy yet uncomfortable in how close they cut to the bone in nailing failed relationships. I always thought of Nashville (the city) as a place where sadness thrived in music--and was commercially successful as the same time. Alas, most of America won't hear this disc as much as they would, say, the latest from Kenny Chesney, but that's the topic for a whole other site, nay, book.

So to get back to the Song of the Week, ever since I decided in late March that I should go see Rouse play based on the one disc that I owned, I found myself drawn to "It's the Nighttime." The entire track is masterful, but what reeled me in is when the last chorus rolls around. Rouse harmonizes with himself on the final line, "It's the nighttime baby/Don't let go of my love." But when he sings "love" this time, he streches the syllable out, and squeezes all the heartbreak out of it by singing "looooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvveeeee." (Gosh, that looks stupid in print.) I listened to this song everyday on my way to work this week, and I heard it twice on WFUV, as if they wanted to put an exclamation point on my story.

So thanks WFUV, and thanks to Moria for giving me a music passion transfusion that a cranky old man definitely needed.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Song of the Week 4/1/05

R.E.M. - "World Leader Pretend"

They say death comes in threes (The Pope, Mitch Hedberg, that feeding tube lady). Sometimes that works for the Song of the Week as well:

1) I spent my Sunday afternoon going through the DVD's that are part of each reissue of R.E.M.'s Warner Bros. catalog. The last one I watched was Green, which not only has the album remixed in surround sound but also includes three songs from Tourfilm, the concert movie shot at the end of their extensive 1989 tour. One was a clip for "World Leader Pretend," a song which the group deemed so important in 1988 that they included the lyrics on the album sleeve, which was a first for Michael "Mr. Mumbles" Stipe.

2) Tuesday morning I woke up to WFUV playing "World Leader Pretend."

3) I read some MP3 blog (which I would link to, but I can't remember which one it was) on Wednesday which mentioned a new EP from a band called (wait for it...) World Leader Pretend...who just so happen to have an album coming out on (wait for it again...) Warner Bros. (On that blog I listened to one track called "Bang Theory" that was pretty damn good. and I look forward to hearing more from them.)

Wow, that's pretty freaky when I see all of it put together on the page. I hope it doesn't happen with this song next week.