A Dozen Musical Givings

There are several lists of “Thanks” songs out there (though I haven’t found “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf’ on any of them), so I thought I’d do “Giving” instead.

Give Me Just a Little More Time, Chairman of the Board. Begging for a few more seconds on the clock, a perfect anthem for a day on which football is avidly played.

Simply Beautiful, Al Green: “If I gave you my love, /I tell you what I’d do /I’d expect a whole lotta love outta you.” This long just melts me, despite its arguably selfish intentions. Its romantic negotiations actually get rather complicated, despite the simple luscious chorus “simply beautiful” repeated a billion times.

Give It to Me, J. Geils Band. The cowbell percussion was to have some bad influence on future jam bands, but overall the J. Geils Band were tight and focused, not solo-hounds, a lesson in not overstaying at the party.

Simple Gifts, composed by Elder Joseph Brackett. The Shakers constantly came up with new music and artworks as vehicles of praise. They weren’t looking to build a canon, and most of their creations were considered disposable. The melody has endured due to the keen ears of Aaron Copland, Michael Flatley (by way of Sydney Carter),Weezer and others. “Simple Gifts” has been a gift to contemporary classical music, Christian folk masses and radio pop. What must it have sounded like when first sung at a spirited assembly by the controversial “Shaking Quakers”?

The Riddle Song (I Gave My Love a Cherry), Animal House soundtrack. When Steven Bishop plays this on the staircase of the fraternity house, John Belushi s grabs the guitar and smashes it into smithereens against the banister. I always wondered how those who understand such high musical standards and passions as to craft that joke could even have allowed the insipid singer/songwriter Steven Bishop onto the set. How Belushi reacted to Bishop’s as a bad folksinger is how I react to Steven Bishop albums.

Marvin Gaye, Got to Give It Up. Became more profound after Gaye’s subsequent songwriting work became more spiritual.

Madonna, Give Me All Your Love. The new current Madonna single, Greedy and garrulous, with a Toni Basil new-wave spin that Madonna eschewed herself as an ‘80s pop artist.

The Who, A Quick One While He’s Away. “You are forgiven.. forgiven forgiven forgiven…” Great family-based bombast in Townshend’s first rock opera.

Tenniscoats, Oetsu to Kanki no Nanoriuta (Given Song by Sob and Joy). I discovered Tenniscoats via their collaboration with one of my favorite bands, The Pastels. Winsome and whimsical, their bare-bones lo-fi approach is something I can’t stand in a lot of other bands but which I’ve come to appreciate through them. Thanks for that.

Keb ‘Mo, Hand It Over. Bluesy, prayerful and demanding: If your problems
won’t go away/ and you’re worried/ both night and day/ hand it over/ get on your knees and pray.

Gimme Dat Ding, The Pipkins. It’s a mystery why The Pipkins were a one-hit wonder band. Gimme Dat Ding is so obviously ripe for sequels and spin-offs! “Gimme Dat Other Ding.” “Gimme Dis Ding.” “Take Dat Ding Back.”

Indian Giver, 1910 Fruitgum Company. A true Thankgiving carol about racial misrepresentation, cultural stereotyping and neighborly relationships laced with suspicion. Covered by The Ramones and Joan Jett.

Rock Gods #234: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Sonny Blitt has been borrowing bands as if they are cups of sugar.
He attaches his name to the front of them, has them learn a few of his old Blats songs, leaves the stage so they can play a few of their own tunes, then brings them to Hamburg and—no, we made that last bit up.
Sonny’s done three of these shows now, with three different pick-up bands. He insists the variety is intentional, that this is another of his conceptual experiments in modern club music. This may be true, but the band members we spoke to haven’t seemed happy to repeat the “experiment” themselves.
“It’s not that he’s a taskmaster. He’s not,” says Ginger Jimi of the Lezzie Fairies, the first band to accept the Blitt challenge. “He gave us recordings and we had to rehearse and then he turned up for soundcheck.”
“You can’t call it collaborative,” echoes Jo Stunk of The Stunkbugz. “I’d love to write songs with Sonny. He’s just not interested. ‘Don’t call me with any changes,’ he told me.’”

Request Wisdom and Building, Furnishing and Dedication at the Bullfinch… Second Appearance and Military Commercial Activity at Hamilton’s; veterans get in free… The Ark Brought In and Leverett Street Jail at D’ollaire’s, but they’re not allowed to use the Theremins since the low-flying plane incident…

Listening to… The Doldrums

Doldrums, Empire Sound.
This is the kind of raw yet thought-through stuff that invariably knocks me out. It reminds me of a couple of my fave rock gods, Chris Butler and Chris Mars, not to mention Harry Nilsson at his most larynx-shredding. Snips, screams and screams keep the energy up. The beeps and boops of a landline phone dialing open “Life in My Head,” and it’s mesmerizing, especially when the tune then goes unexpectedly tribal.

Literary Up: Moore Thought

The magnificent Michael Moore visited Hartford Friday. I couldn’t go (there’s coverage in the Hartford Courant, if you’re curious, here), but the stars otherwise seemed properly aligned for a top-notch event. The sponsor was Hartford’s Mark Twain House, whose support for contemporary political satirists befits the legacy of its prime resident Samuel Clemens. The venue was a big auditorium at the University of Connecticut. Most importantly, Moore had put aside his distaste for Connecticut (based on policies and proclamations of former Senator Joe Lieberman) and was visiting for the first time in a while.

Instead of the high-energy rally buzz of a Moore live show, I’ve been reading his new book Here Comes Trouble. It’s his most reflective, most vulnerable, most heartwarming book, a big switch from his usual manuals on how and why to get mad at the government. Here Comes Trouble is a sensitive memoir about how Moore was first inspired to rouse rabble. Through understated anecdotes marking small yet significant shifts in his consciousness, we see a radical get radicalized. Moore explores the differing cultures (or lack thereof) in his Michigan neighborhood. He recalls, with admiration, the first homosexual person he remembers. As a seminary student, he gets in trouble for asking too many questions. By the time he reaches adulthood, he has entrenched values, and the stories become about him maintaining them. But even though the book starts with his adventures while winning an Academy Award, and notes his extraordinary success, this is not a rags-to-riches or how-I-got-famous tale. It’s about how Moore stayed grounded, didn’t forget his roots, and still fights for the rights of the unwell-off.

I’ve found Michael Moore’s other books to be exhausting, studded with bumper sticker catchphrases and propulsive jokes. This one is more in a Garrison Keillor or Sherwood Anderson mode, about the complications and revelations of everyday life in overlooked places.

For Our Connecticut Readers: Got Blitzed

“Get Blitzed,” reads the cover of the Harvard-Yale Game edition of the Yale Herald. Considering that the main “Blitz” of the weekend was death and injury due to a rented van reportedly carrying kegs to a fraternity tailgating party, it’s fortunate that this issue of the Herald basically didn’t go beyond that cover phrase in endorsing excessive partying during The Game.

For the past several years, the Harvard-Yale game has been preceded by a slew of articles in the Yale student press complaining of how the university administration has been cracking down on partying opportunities.

In the years when Harvard has hosted the game, Yale has derided its rival for its Draconian clampdowns on tailgating and drinking. Yale’s own efforts to control the mood outside the stadium have gotten steadily more serious, but not as severe as Harvard’s. It will be interesting to see how it’s handled from now on—and whether “blitzed” will ever return in a Game headline.

More Rhymes and Puns from Archie

I am soothed by the wordplay in titles of Archie Comics stories. These are all from Archie Comics Digest Magazine #97, August 1989:

Blink Think

Towel Howl

Money Honey

Heave Peeve

Acclaim Aim

Roman Omen

Drag Gag

Game Aim

Locker Lore

Motion Notion

Splash Bash

Snake Break

Game Gambit

Clock Yock

Brain Strain

Test Quest (in which Sabrina the Teenage Witch inadvertently aces a “Meanness Test”)

Wet Set

Handy Hound

Decoy Ploy

… and that old chestnut (beneath accustomed Archie standards) Double Trouble.

Rock Gods #233: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The photog’s anxiety at a crowded club show. Best not to get in close; your camera will be moshed. Best not to get on the side of the stage; even bassists emulate windmill-armed stadium rockers when energized by a crowd. Best not to leave.
So you find the calmest pocket of folks who happen to be close to the stage, the gang you know won’t jostle you. Amid this phalanx, you shoot creatively, framing the images around upthrust fists and bobbing heads and skanking knees.
Then, in a fever of inspiration, you convince the kind folks around you to hoist you bodily upon their soldiers, as in a beach game of Chicken, and you snap one of the shots of your career, capturing a split second of a roiling whirlwind of lights, sound, sweat and—yes—blood.
Happy to oblige.

Benevolence & Bandage at the Bullfinch, with Tribulation Periwinkle. Which side are these guys on?… Touched With Fire and the visiting Bostonians for Brown at Hamilton’s, some sort of college cover band exchange program… 5000,000 Strokes for Freedom (a quintet) and The Captive Toiling (a solo act) at D’ollaire’s…

Listening to… Zambri

Zambri, Glossolalaia EP.
Five tracks of strident soulful female vocals emerging siren-like from an echoey, lightly industrial mix. I get a Wizard of Oz Winkies vibe from the march beats and baritone sounds of “On Call.” Things lighten up, in the ethereal sense, with “Heather.” It’s swirling dark pop built from a very human base, which makes it creepier. The human sounds become forces of nature. Sounds like Black Album Prince then sounds like Bone Machine Tom Waits. If Dante Alighieri holds dance party in Purgatory, Zambri’s the house band.