Friday, November 25, 2005

Tri-Songs of the Week 11/25/05

Chris Whitley - “Big Sky Country”

Billy Paul - “Me and Mrs. Jones”

R.E.M. - “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?”

I know that it seems to defeat the purpose of a Song of the week when there are three of them, but I couldn’t write about this week without including all three. The first comes from a sad news story, the second brings back some funny memories, while the third is, well, just plain odd.

“Big Sky Country” is from Chris Whitley’s incredible 1991 debut, Living With the Law. I’ve written extensively about this album in 1991 and in the 10th anniversary edition of the Top 20, so I won’t rehash the story of the album and its meditative and healing powers. Whitley died Sunday night of terminal lung cancer at the age of 45, which is too damn young. Now Whitley had plenty of demons (his drug battles were certainly publicized throughout his career) so hearing that he didn’t die from an overdose was a surprise. Hopefully he’s a peace in the big sky country (if one does exist...which I’m inclined to think doesn’t).

On Tuesday I found out that my friend Chris, who I have known since my first days of college and lived with my senior year, was leaving the NYC area and taking a job in the Windy City, home of baseball’s World Champions. The sudden announcement was surprising, considering he would be in Chicago full-time FIVE days later. So as I walked to an impromptu going away party thrown by Chris’s co-workers, I listened to “Me and Mrs. Jones,” a soul classic is there ever was one. This was one of my favorite songs as a kid (even though I had no idea what Mr. Paul was talking about), and in 1991 I finally scored it on CD sampler from our friendly Rhino rep we dealt with at our college station, 92 WICB. Our sister station, 106 VIC, ran an annual 50 hour marathon for charity each spring. And in 1991 my roommate at the time Chris, and my sophomore year roommate Warren were chosen to host the event and be up for two days plus. The VIC airstaff would take turns engineering for the two folks hosting the marathon each year, and the previous year I worked the Saturday overnight. This year I choose the early Sunday a.m. shift since I would have to be on the air later that day hosting WICB’s Breakfast With The Beatles. The boundaries of the album rock format that VIC had at the time were always pushed on the marathon weekend, so I decided to bring in some of the cheesiest 70s songs I could find to give Chris and Warren an energy boost. At one point during the early morning shift, I started playing “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Somehow Chris gathered up enough energy to start singing along, and then he stood up and proceeded to belt out the song as if the original Mrs. Jones could hear him through our FM cable connection. It was magical, hysterical and ultimately, very memorable. Whenever I hear “Me and Mrs. Jones” I get a little smile and think of Chris. And Wednesday night when I stopped by one of my home away from home’s vegas, someone played it on the jukebox. And I sat there and raised a glass to Chris, and hoped that he and his family have a great time in Chicago.

Our last song ties into Chris’s departure as well. He was a producer for CBS News, and spent a lot of time working with Dan Rather. Mr. Rather showed up at the going away party, walked in, and realized that myself and Chris’s wife Jenna were the only people he didn’t know, so he decided to introduce himself to us and shook our hands, which I thought was kind of nice. Wednesday morning I get into work, pop on the WOXY Vintage stream and the first song that plays is “What’s the Frequency Kenneth,” which is of course titled after the infamous phrase a couple of hooligans yelled at Rather when they attacked him back in 1986. So, um, that was kind of weird hearing that tune.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Song of the Week 11/18/05

Guster & Ben Kweller - "I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today"

(Aww, the disco ball girl looks sad.)

This is one of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums (Keep It Together) of the past five years. Friday night I saw an entire Guster set for the first time. And somehow I didn't punch any of the frat boys and sorority girls who mindlessly rambled and yelled when the band didn't do one of the songs from their first two albums. How a bunch of talented (and really nice) guys could get stuck with such numbskull, Abercrombie and Finch wearing fans is beyond me. It's like they don't want these guys to advance musically at all. I have a feeling the band (officially now a quartet) will piss off a lot of fans when they make a big leap forward with their next disc. And I hope some of those people go home and grow up.

But I digress. Ben came out and sang this song with them Friday night, capping off a good show. And I couldn't find a picture of them together, so I thought I'd post this picture of Moria the concert pal from her days as a Guster employee instead.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Song of the Week 11/11/05

Madonna - "Hung Up"

Damn, the lady might annoy me with the children's books and the faux English accent, but this is one damn catchy tune. And she still looks good in the video, which I think I saw five days in a row this week.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Song of the Week 11/4/05

eels - "I'm Going to Stop Pretending that I Didn't Break Your Heart"

eels frontman E writes great, moving songs that are perfect to listen to when you're not feeling that happy. And this track from Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is no exception.

And yes, I will stop.