Thursday, May 27, 2010

How I Fell in Love With Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire is my favorite band.

But there was a time I HATED them.

Back when they released their first full-length album "Funeral", I was reading Blender Magazine who used to print "20 Songs You Need To Download Now!" in each monthly issue. I always downloaded the songs because you never knew when you'd find a diamond in the rough. Usually out of 20 songs, two or three would eventually become somewhat successful hits. The rest were delusions of Blender's grandeur which is one of the reasons the magazine is no longer around ... I think the people that wrote there were high as kites.

They recommended Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)".

So I downloaded it. And I thought it was the most annoying piece of noise I'd heard in months.

Therefore I never bought "Funeral" or the follow-up "Neon Bible".

Fast forward a few years and there was one afternoon I was laying on the sofa and going through the recordings on our DVR and saw an "Austin City Limits" episode on there. It was Arcade Fire's show. Having heard the buzz about the band for years yet judging them on that one song, I figured I could give them one more try to impress me.

Started the show and within five minutes ... I was asleep.

Still not hooked on the band.

Twenty-five minutes later, I woke up from my power nap as people were applauding on my TV. Arcade Fire was still on. And the guitarist started strumming his guitar until a melody formed. I soon found out the song was "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)".

The Closed Captioning helped me decipher the lyrics. Two teens, in the middle of a massive snow storm, see their small town get buried and kill the entire population. So they go off to start their own society. Strange premise ... killer song. And as the song started building and the band started loosening up and having fun with it, my toes started tapping. By the end of the song as a tremendous joyous recap of the melody came blasting out of my TV speakers, I was in love. I rewound that song several times until it was embedded in my head. It's still one of my top 3 favorite songs. I even like "Laika" now to an extent. It's probably my least favorite song on the album "Funeral", but that album is now my favorite of all time.

All this to say that the band has released two new songs today from their upcoming third album "The Suburbs".

So here's three songs ... the song that started my love affair with the band and the two new songs I'll be listening to all summer long in anticipation of my first album released by the band WHILE I'm a fan of theirs.

ARCADE FIRE'S "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)(Live at Austin City Limits)"

ARCADE FIRE'S "The Suburbs"

ARCADE FIRE'S "Month of May"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Something Old Something New Blah Blah Blah

Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird (Dance Mix)"
It never fails. At almost every party, somebody has one too many drinks and thinks it'd be funny to yell "FREEBIRD!" at me when I'm DJ'ing. Okay. You want Freebird?? Here's my version of Freebird. They rarely ask twice.

Willie Nile's "Little Light"
I've liked this one ever since I first heard it. Reminds me of an old Irish drinking song with a catchy little chorus.

Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Tin Pan Alley"
I really didn't get into Stevie Ray until a few years ago. I used to think all blues guitarists were overrated. Now, thanks to B.B. King and Stevie Ray, I know different. This song is the soundtrack to a scorching hot summer night when it's so humid it takes effort to even nod your head. I just picture a sweaty woman of Mexican descent doing a slow dance in front of a small fan wearing a black teddy while this song plays.

The Flaming Lips'"Race For The Prize"
In a perfect world, The Flaming Lips would be second to the Beatles in historical impact. Alas, they're too weird for their own good and this is far from a perfect world.

Iron & Wine's"Such Great Heights"
As I told one of my brides this weekend, I'm a sucker for a great melody and this song has got one. She wants it played at her wedding and I'm really looking forward to playing it.

Broken Bells'"The High Road"
I'm not sure how much I like this song just yet. But for now, I like it. Ask me again next week and you may get a completely different answer.

Broken Social Scene's "Texico Bitches"
I love Broken Social Scene but I really can't put into words why I do. I guess when nothing else sounds good, I can always go to Broken Social Scene and no matter how many times I've heard an album of theirs, I always hear something new again.

Neon Trees' "Animal"
A couple of weeks ago I was flipping through some channels and as I skipped over NBC, I saw these guys performing on Jay Leno. I stopped and watched it. Then I immediately rewound the DVR and watched them again. And again. Then I bought the mp3 album off Amazon. And I listened to it again. And just when I thought Power Pop was dead, I listened to it one more time. Then I got up and danced around the room while playing it loudly. Then I listened to it again. Then I went to bed.

The B-52's "Dance This Mess Around"
The year was 1979. I was at Mitch Miller's house and Saturday Night Live was on in the background. The host said "Ladies and Gentlemen ... The B-52s". A lady with a beehive hairdo started singing this sexy breathy song. Then a flamboyant, skinny man started playing a toy piano like it was the most important thing in the world. Then the other lady started screaming "Why don't you dance with me? I'm not no limburger!" And I knew I had just heard the future of pop music. All of us in Mitch's basement den were transfixed to the screen. The guys in that room all walked away with a new appreciation for pop music that night.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Wave Hootenanny

Back in the late '80s my wife and I worked in a club by the name of Stagger Lee's.

The name would lead one to believe that the club played classic hits from the 50s and 60s. One would be correct in that assumption. It was a popular nightspot ... we held 350 people and on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, we'd pack the place full. It was a "meat market" ... this was before AIDS became the epidemic that it has become and back when people had meaningless sex with each other.

They'd come to Stagger Lee's to find people to have sex with. Let's call a spade a spade here. Some people got so drunk they had sex IN the club. Some tried on the dance floor. It was a wild decadent place.

The rule was that I played "oldies" until 11 p.m. At that point we'd switch out crowds ... the 30 and 40 year olds would go home and the music would get more current and the crowd would get younger. Back then, this was a rarity among clubs ... we were fortunate and managed to pull it off because we had an awesome team of bartenders, waitresses, managers, bouncers and moi (thats French for Jimmy D).

To make a long story short is a rarity in the blogging world but I'm going to attempt it here ... this is one of my favorite series of songs that I would play back then. It's not a "mix" as the beats are kind of all over the place. These are VERY upbeat songs that, back then, were considered new and daring. It's kinda cool how most of them have turned into classics now.

How many can you name, punk?


The Workout Mix

A friend of mine wanted a bunch of 80s songs that she could work out to. I made a 30 minute mix of songs that would keep her adrenaline going. The mix probably would have went longer but it kind of derails towards the end so I quit recording. In my defense, I was trying to make a mix on the computer without any headphones which is a MUST when you're mixing music live. Anyway ... enjoy ... at least until the end. :)

THE MUSIC GUYS' 80s Workout Mix

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Innocent Pleasures


Some of these songs are guilty pleasures ... songs you almost feel guilty for liking.

Then I realized ... I'm not going to apologize for liking any of these songs. Each of them have something completely awesome about them no matter how cheesy society may deem them. Like Shaun Cassidy. Hey, I still like singing the song in the shower sometimes. And Cibo Matto, a Japanese Punk duo. The drums on that track freakin' ROCK. They're hard, loud and powerful. So what if you can barely understand the broken English vocals? I can overlook that when the rhythm pounds you like a prize fighter.

Therefore ... innocent pleasures.

TOM WAITS' "Heartattack And Vine"

Tom's gravelly voice is full of phlegm and vinegar. And it fits this song perfectly. It's an acquired taste, but I promise you, if you give Tom a chance, he'll change your world.

PATTI SMITH'S "Dancing Barefoot"

Patti has songs that I like better and I'll get to those eventually. This one is kind of more melodic than the others. U2 covered it and did a really good job with the song, but Patti ... like Tom Waits ... just has a nakedness to her sound that makes you sit up and take notice.

THE MANSFIELDS' "Frankenstein Twist"

From my Garage Rock phase. Here's a dance craze that never caught on.

JASON AND THE SCORCHERS' "Absolutely Sweet Marie"

In 1982 I started college at the University of Tennessee. I went with a couple of guys to see this band when they were Jason and the Nashville Scorchers. This cover of a Bob Dylan tune was the first song in their setlist and it blew me away. I've loved them ever since.

THE REFRESHMENTS' "Banditos (Live Acoustic)"

These guys had everything they needed to become huge rock stars. Great catchy melodies, awesome and funny lyrics ... and a guitarist with a heroin problem that was the genesis of breaking up the band. Such a shame.

SHAUN CASSIDY'S "That's Rock 'n' Roll"

It thumps. At least for a minute or so.

THE OSMONDS' "Down By The Lazy River"

The Osmonds rocked this song. Seriously. While they were a cheesy family pop band, this song and "Crazy Horses" reached out to us rock fans and made them at least a little tolerable.

CIBO MATTO'S "Know Your Chicken"

The fuzzy guitar. The two-ton drums. The Yoko-like vocals. The nonsensical lyrics. Give it a chance.

FRENTE'S "Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In"

Where have you heard this song before? Pebbles and Bam-Bam sang it in a Bedrock Talent Show. Frente covered it. I loved it.


I saw R.E.M. close a show with this song in '86 or so. Pre-Internet, it wasn't easy to find out the name of an obscure song at an arena show. I don't remember how I found out it was a Velvet Underground song, but when I found out, I bought the band's entire library and listened to it for hours until I heard this and said "THAT'S the song!!" There's a reason the band was so influential on other artists ... they were so ahead of their time and yet, so in the moment.

I Only Get My Rocks Off When I'm Dreamin'

In honor of yesterday's reissue of the classic rock 'n' roll album "Exile On Main Street", here's the song I can't get out of my head today.


(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Oh yeah!

I hear you talking when I'm on the street,
Your mouth don't move but I can hear you speak.
What's the matter with the boy?
He don't come around no more,
Is he checking out for sure?
Is he gonna close the door on me?

I'm always hearing voices on the street,
I want to shout, but I can't hardly speak.
I was making love last night
To a dancer friend of mine.
I can't seem to stay in step,
'Cause she come ev'ry time that she pirouettes over me.

And I only get my rocks off while I'm dreaming,
I only get my rocks off while I'm sleeping.

I'm zipping through the days at lightning speed.
Plug in, flush out and fire the fuckin' feed.
Heading for the overload,
Splattered on the dirty road,
Kick me like you've kicked before,
I can't even feel the pain no more.

But I only get my rocks off while I'm dreaming, (only get them off)
I only get my rocks off while I'm sleeping.

Feel so hypnotized, can't describe the scene.
Its all mesmerized all that inside me.
The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.
Chasing shadows moonlight mystery.
Headed for the overload,
Splattered on the dirty road,
Kick me like you've kicked before,
I can't even feel the pain no more.

But I only get my rocks off while I'm dreaming (only get them off, get them off),
I only get my rocks off while I'm sleeping (only get them off, get them off).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Kids! Let's Break Some Hearts!!

Nothing can quite match a song written for the brokenhearted. Here's some obvious and not-so-obvious heartbreaking songs.

WILCO'S "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"

On first listen, this song is nothing but noise. Then around the 3:55 point, it all falls together to make sense. That lasts about a minute, then it goes back to an odd chaos. Kind of like the end of a relationship. I don't know. I'm trying to be cool here and failing miserably. I just like the song and it inspired this blog entry.


Roy Orbison could break a heart ... just by looking at him !!! (rim shot) This song is one of his most famous heartbreaking songs and k.d. lang really helps kick it up a notch.

THE CONNELLS' "'74-'75"

High school romances seem so real ... until you get to college (Can I get an amen?).

BARENAKED LADIES' "Break Your Heart (Live)"

I'll admit it ... this song made me tear up the first time I heard it. Such a well-written song about wanting to end a relationship but not wanting to hurt the other's feelings in the process.

ELBOW'S "Grounds For Divorce"

I have no idea if this song is really about divorce or not. I just like it and needed 10 songs to fill the playlist up. Sue me.

GEORGE JONES' "He Stopped Loving Her Today"

I guess I always thought this song was about heartbreak but it really isn't. It took me years to find out what the song meant. Seriously. The answer is all right there in the title and first line ... "He said I'll love you 'til I die" ... "He stopped loving her today". THE OLD MAN DIES. Jeez. I feel like such an idiot for not figuring it out sooner.

ROBIN ZANDER'S "Time Will Let You Know"
Robin's the lead singer from Cheap Trick and this is the only song I liked off his solo album decades ago. It's got a beautiful melody. Not sure if it qualifies as heartbreaking though.

I haven't heard this song in years and years. Found it tonight in a folder full of mp3s that I don't use much. I hope it breaks your heart. Can't say I really care though. Wow. I'm feeling pretty froggy tonight.

Okay ... I know for a fact this isn't a song about breaking someone's heart or having one's heart broken. Still ... the lyrics break my heart. A guy who just wants more out of life than being stuck in a dead-end town is begging a girl who's looking for the same thing to get in the car with him to escape this "town full of losers". The song isn't the best quality but I really like this version.

THE ROLLING STONES' "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"
FINALLY!! A song that I know is about a heartbreaker for a playlist about broken hearts.

Oh man. I forgot all about Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker".

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Plenty of Rhyme ... Very Little Reason

There's no real "theme" behind these next 10 songs other than I love each of them for their own little reasons.

Moby and Public Enemy's "Make Love F*** War"

...Ummm ... obviously Parental Discretion advised. This is complete chaos with a beat.

Beck's "Timebomb"

Beck doesn't get enough credit for his melodies.

Brandi Carlile's "Dreams"

Brandi rocks out.

The Charms' "Gimme That Shot"

I went through a small "Garage Rock" phase last year and this is one of my favorites that I found.

William Shatner's "Common People"

One of my favorite songs. Yes, Shatner's "music" has always been considered a joke and even he knows it. But this song ... with the help of Joe "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" Jackson and Ben Folds ... furiously rocks. A cover of a Pulp song, Shatner meets a hoity-toity woman in a bar who wants to live like the "common people". Bill tries to school her on the finer points of common life but I don't think it works out for him. I don't know because by the end of the song, I'm always thrashing around like a chicken with its head cut off, jamming to the frenzied beat.

The Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight"

Yet another "woman in a bar" song. This one is about seeing an ex in a bar (sometime around midnight), realizing that you're not quite over this person, and then making an idiot of yourself.

The Hold Steady's "Killer Parties"

The Hold Steady are my favorite band and this is my favorite song of theirs. I could go on and on for days about this song but the lyrics aren't going to make much sense to you because they use the same characters in most all of their songs. "Charlemagne" is a pimp, I can tell you that much. If you're interested, let me know and I'll tell you a whole lot more.

My Morning Jacket's "Dondante"

One thing this playlist may tell you about me ... I LOVE songs that start off slow and work their way into a crescendo. This song does it, "Sometime Around Midnight" does it, as does "Dreams" and to an extent "Common People". I really like how the lead singer here, Jim James, struggles to sing in falsetto. To the best of my knowledge, the lyrics touch on a friend that has died.

The Undertakers' "Just A Little Bit"

Another leftover from my "garage rock" phase. This song should make you shake your booty. If it doesn't, then you have no booty left to shake.

Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane (Live)"

From his classic live album "Rock 'n' Roll Animal", Lou takes one of the most popular guitar riffs of all time and shreds it. The fact that it takes 3-4 minutes before he cranks it into gear adds to the anticipation so that when it finally erupts, the audience rejoices.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Was (Not Was)

Back in the early 80s I happened to find myself in a record store which is a location I happened to find myself in more often than not as I have always spent a lot of time and money in these places.

I saw an album by a group called Was (Not Was) and it was called "Born To Laugh At Tornadoes".

It was an odd colorful cover by a band with an odd name and the album had ... you guessed it ... an odd name. So I bought it.

And the band changed my life at that time.

That album had Ozzy Osbourne singing a disco song. Mel Torme singing a song about a red-headed guy that got strangled in a park, Mitch Ryder singing about a dog ... this was some mind-blowing stuff.

I wore that album out. I bought another copy of it and then when CDs came out, I bought a Japanese import of it for something like $50 at the time.

Without looking at Wikipedia, Was (Not Was) (to me anyway) are an avant-garde pop band led by two guys who called themselves the Was Brothers. There was David Was and the now pretty-successful producer Don Was. The band had probably 12-15 musicians in it and was anchored by two awesome soul singers, Sweet Pea Atkinson and Harry Bowens.

They did awesome rock songs, pop songs, lounge songs, soul songs, rap songs, jazz songs, disco songs ... these guys did it all.

But their lyrics were strange. S-T-R-A-N-G-E.

Which is what really sealed their fate when it came to becoming huge stars. Because musically, you'd be hard pressed to find a more versatile band of artists that could cover so many genres and do them as well as Was (Not Was).

They had one big hit in '88 ... "Walk The Dinosaur". Just like most fans of one-hit wonder bands, that song is about my least favorite of theirs. It was almost as if they were selling out. The video was very MTV-friendly but still stayed true to their overall weirdness. So while America was falling in love with the band, I was preparing for them to take over the world of popular music.

As you can guess ... that didn't happen. There was no follow-up hit. "Walk" was actually the second single from the album "What Up, Dog", the first "Spy In The House Of Love" was a much catchier song but didn't catch on with radio and clubs like it should have. I know. I was working in the clubs then and I couldn't pay people to dance to the song.

Here's five samples of the band's versatility. My pipe dreams of the band ever making it big are gone so I don't expect anybody to listen to these and go "Oh my God! We have GOT to get this band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!" That's never going to happen.

But we can still enjoy the music.

Was (Not Was)'s (Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks
(The band released a song on every album called "Out Come The Freaks" that featured the same chorus but each time they were in a different musical genre ... funk, soul, pop ... this one's my favorite)

Was (Not Was)'s Papa Was A Rolling Stone
(Way too funky for its own good. I played this in the clubs to a lukewarm response which I never really understood.)

Was (Not Was)'s Shadow and Jimmy
(One of my wife's favorite songs, this sounds like something you'd hear in a Mexican cantina. A song about a lonely guy and his best friend ... his shadow)

Was (Not Was)'s Walk The Dinosaur
(The sole hit. You can have it.)

Was (Not Was)'s Hello Dad, I'm In Jail
(In my club days, at the end of the night I'd put this song on to run out the stragglers. This one manager would not close the club until we were down to five people and you couldn't really FORCE the people out, but put on certain songs and it'd clear the room. This was one of those songs. I'd say something along the lines of "Sure hope none of you have to make THIS call tonight!" and then let it play. Six dirty looks and 1:34 later, we'd be turning on the lights and clocking out)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I like quiet music just as much as the next Grandpa.

I just like to listen to quiet music LOUD.

Sigur Ros' "Festival"

Jason Castro's "Hallelujah"

Evan Rachel Wood's "If I Fell"

Al Green's "For The Good Times"

Pink Martini's "Hey Eugene"

Let's Go Honky Tonkin'

I don't think I've ever been to a Honky Tonk. Then again, I used to drink A LOT so I may have been in one while under the influence. In fact, now that I think about it, I've found myself in one or two Honky Tonks around 6 a.m. or so on a Saturday morning.

Regardless, here's some songs that if I were to hear in a honky tonk, I'd probably order another beer, kick back and grin.

Jace Everett's "Bad Things"

B.B. King's "Call It Stormy Monday"

R.L. Burnside's "Let My Baby Ride"

Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy"

Th Legendary Shack Shakers' "Swampblood"

Monday, May 10, 2010

So Here I Am

I'm fascinated with music blogs.

I have found some of my favorite music on blogs and I'm always excited to find more. But being technically unsavvy, I've never really attempted to do my own until now.

I don't really have any clear cut idea of what I'm trying to do with this blog at the moment. I plan on posting some of my favorite songs here with the hope that you take time out of your day to click on the link, listen to the music and maybe enjoy the songs too. If I can turn you on to some new artists, songs or genres of music, then I've done my job.

As always ... don't steal music, etc. I don't steal music and if you did, I'd be horrified.

So here I am and here we go ... click on the song title to listen to the songs:


Drivin' 'n' Cryin' --STRAIGHT TO HELL"

BACKGROUND: This is probably my favorite song ever. It's been my favorite for about 12 years now so that should count for something. I titled this blog after the first line in the song, so naturally it should be the first song I post.

THE SONG ITSELF: "Straight To Hell" tells the story of a young boy who comes from a broken family in a small town. His mother is the town floozy and because of that, he's regarded as a bad influence. He meets a girl and they decide to run from the town but before they leave he senses this girl is going to be as smothering and undependable as his own mother.

WHY I LOVE THE SONG: It reminds me of my days working in the bars back in the late 80s. The song was fairly popular in the deep south bars and when I'd play it, everyone would sing along with the chorus. Drivin 'n' Cryin is a rock band out of Atlanta who traipsed into a semi-country mode for this one song. And lead singer Kevn Kinney's voice is so damaged and broken that it lends credence to the lyrics.



BACKGROUND: This is a cover of a song written by Daniel Johnson. Johnson was a big influence on many of today's rock bands including Kurt Cobain. Johnson's original recordings are extremely melodic but practically unlistenable due to his lack of vocal prowess. In a nutshell, the guy can't sing at all. I'm not sure of his exact diagnosis (and am too lazy to look it up), but the man suffers from mental illness.

THE SONG ITSELF: "Story of An Artist" has a haunting melody and is sung very quietly by M. Ward. The lyrics detail how Johnson felt as everyone in his life tried to hold him back from his true ambition which was to be a creative songwriter or "artist". People are telling him to get a job while he knows that this is really truly the only thing he could ever hope to be a success at due to his mental health.

WHY I LOVE THE SONG: I'm the father of a son with Aspergers. It's fair to say that I worry quite a bit about his future and how he's going to get along in life when his mother and I are gone. I connected with this song immediately due to its melody and when I listened to the lyrics, it became a favorite for life.


Arcade Fire's "WAKE UP"

BACKGROUND: From Arcade Fire's "Funeral" CD, this song is truly an anthem. From its sound to its lyrics to its production ... it just sounds so HUGE. It was featured in trailers for the movie "Where The Wild Things Are" and played pretty prominently during this past Super Bowl in a few commercials.

THE SONG ITSELF: "Wake Up" is a call for kids to wake up and start planning for the future. I think. I don't know. The lyrics come along at a snail's pace and so I don't really focus on them. I just love the music.

WHY I LOVE THE SONG: For the reasons I've listed above ... it just makes you feel as if you can conquer anything if you put your mind to it. Also, the last minute or so where the song transforms from a majestic anthem to an impression of the Supreme's "You Can't Hurry Love" is really pretty cool and is something you're not expecting the first time you hear it.


Brandi Carlile's "THE STORY"

BACKGROUND: The song was featured on "Grey's Anatomy" a lot although I don't watch the show and can't vouch for that. I have seen the video where it intercuts scenes from the show with the actual music video.

THE SONG ITSELF: It's a love song about the wrinkles on your face with each one telling a "story". But the stories don't mean a thing without anyone to tell them to. Wow.

WHY I LOVE THE SONG: Ultimately, Brandi's voice as she kicks the song from a pretty singer/songwriter tone into an almost metal jam. She has said that while recording the song as she screamed "All of these lines ...", her voice cracked as she tried to start screaming and she wanted to do it over again. The producer said no because this version was raw and vulnerable and it is. I find it hard to believe that there are people on this world who would NOT love this song. It's just too awesome for words.


Jazmine Sullivan's "BUST YOUR WINDOWS"

BACKGROUND: I was driving home from Birmingham late one night and trying to find something decent on the radio. I landed about 30 seconds into this song and was drawn in from the rhythm. Then when I heard the lyrics I thought "This must be a novelty song". But the more I listened I realized what the song meant and was blown away.

THE SONG ITSELF: Hell hath no fury. This woman has been rejected and she makes no bones about it. She's driven to such anger that she busts the windows out of the guy's car. She conveys so much pain and hurt throughout the song that you feel sorry for her by the end. Even though that was a pretty messed up thing she did.

WHY I LOVE THE SONG: I personally love the groove ... that Amy Winehouse/Duffy/Sharon Jones type of retro soul. That's what originally sold me on the song in the first place. Plus, she just does an excellent job with the lyrics. Don't think I'd want to date her though.


Alright ... that's it for now. I've got about a million more songs to do and can't promise it's going to follow this same format as this was a pain to write. We'll see.