Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Good Songs XVII

Would? – Alice in Chains
Sabotage – The Beastie Boys
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles
Tones of Home – Blind Melon
Cannonball – The Breeders
Fire Woman – The Cult
Peace Frog – The Doors
Box of Rain – Grateful Dead
Rock N’ Roll All Nite – KISS
Alison’s Starting to Happen – The Lemonheads
My Sister – The Juliana Hatfield Three
Is There Any Love in Your Heart – Lenny Kravitz
LA Medly – Jane’s Addiction
Dazed and Confused – Led Zeppelin
Some Day I Suppose – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana
Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town – Pearl Jam
Fee – Phish
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic – The Police
End of the World as We Know It – REM
Rocket – Smashing Pumpkins
Deeper Shade of Soul – Urban Dance Squad
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
Fire – Jimi Hendrix

This is a very long (over an hour and a half) Good Songs mix, so I’m starting to write this entry as I’m listening to it. Technically this is a no-no, but since it’s my blog, I’ll allow it.

I recorded this mix in the spring of 1994 and when I was thinking of college-era Good Songs tapes, this is what I was thinking of. A good mix of newer grunge-era stuff, mixed with some older stuff. The good news is that aside from one song, there’s nothing there’s nothing really embarrassing. In fact, a vast majority of these songs appear on upcoming Good Songs, so this is kind of the back bone of the next generation of Good Songs.

That translates into, what I was listening to when I was 20 is basically what I’ve been listening to for the rest of my life. In retrospect, that’s more than a little depressing. The one thing that jumps out at me about this mix is that there is no rap or hip-hop. Another thing that jumps out at me is that the tracks (aside from Hendrix) are listed alphabetically by artist – which answers my question from earlier today, “Why did I start this mix off with Alice in Chains?” I like AIC, a lot actually, but I don’t remember liking them that much that I’d start a Good Songs with them.

Since the track listing is not based on how I was feeling, but the alphabet and these songs repeat in subsequent editions of the Good Song catalong, I’m going write out 24 quick thoughts (FIVE bonus thoughts!) on these 24 songs.

Alice in Chains – if there is a quintessential song that not only sums up the mid 90s and the zeitgeist that surrounds it, AIC’s “Would?” does the trick. AIC was one of the four most popular groups from the Pacific Northwest and this song is featured prominently in Cameron Crowe’s ode to Seattle “Singles”. With its tuned-down guitars and lyrics that are dark, depressing and full of self-involved angst, it perfectly captures the mindset of Generation X. Layne Staley essentially heroined himself to death a few years later, which also captures the mindset of that same generation.

The Beastie Boys – this is my favorite video ever. And there’s nothing even close. But when I think of the group, I think about the two times I saw them live: once at a gym at the University of New Hampshire (with the Rollins Band and Ice Cube’s group Da Lench Mob opening) and once at Lollapalooza. The former site was excellent, the latter was a dystopian hellscape that actually featured the death of a concert goer. In 1994 Lollapalooza was held at the Quonset State Airport in Quonset, RI. It felt like 100 degrees, there was no shade, no water and most of us were completely dehydrated thanks to the amount of alcohol we consumed in the 50-mile traffic jam on the way to the show. The lineup was awesome: A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, the Breeders, L7, Smashing Pumpkins and Georgeo Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars. The venue sucked. Hard.

The Beatles – pretty good band from Liverpool. Or so I’m told. This is their first appearance on a Good Songs tape and I’m sure the lads are touched. A real crowning achievement in their careers. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is the greatest psychedelic song ever recorded. Like the B-Boy’s “Sabotage” video, nothing comes close.

Blind Melon – the death of BM’s lead singer, Shannon Hoon disproves the axiom that the death of lead singer increases a band’s popularity. Blind Mellon released another album after this one (this is the one with the Bee Girl song, “No Rain) but it did nothing and people remember this band for their Bee Girl mascot. Hoon also shows up as a background singer in the Guns N’ Roses’ “Don’t Cry” video, so there’s that.

The Breeders -  I still enjoy this song. The bass line is infectious and I like to think that lead singer Kim Deal is singing to an actual cannonball. Or some guy doing a cannonball in a public pool. There’s probably some real interpretation to what the cannonball represents, but there are times where I like the Sigmund Freud version: “Sometimes a cannonball is just a cannonball.” Due to seeing this video (conservative estimate) over a thousand times, I think that even though the drummer in this band is a dude, I have a feeling that he used to get the crapped kicked out of him by the rest of his band mates on a regular basis.

The Cult – I think that the name “The Cult” is among the best names for a band. I don’t know whether it has to do with an extreme form of fandom or whether it harkens to spooky, mind-controlly type guru thing from the 60s, but loving a band is a lot like being in a cult. Especially when you’re young. I remember getting all fired up if someone said they thought the Doors sucked. The Doors! “How could you not like the Doors,” I’d wail. “They’re awesome!” And then I’d make up some bullcrap about how Jim Morrison redefined the role of rock star, was a thinking man’s* front man and how the rest of the band were extremely talented musicians (true). Then I’d start attacking the other person’s favorite band. Get a grip 20-year-old Byron, it’s just a band. Who cares?

* Yes, I actually once said that. God.

The Doors – I mumbled something about the Doors in a previous paragraph.

Grateful Dead – I have a couple of very long and thoughtful paragraphs about a band’s fans and how that can have an adverse reaction to that particular band’s music. But I think that I’m going to save that until I reach the Dave Matthews portion of the Good Songs universe – and that’s coming. But it’s hard to get past Deadheads (especially when you’re in college) and the Grateful Dead. This is a really sweet song that invokes a lot of things that one should be: a sense of community, sharing, helping out a person in need. And it’s not overly preachy too, which is nice. Juxtapose this with the scene in “Freaks and Geeks” where Lindsay is dancing in her room and you feel good about listening to this song. But talk to a Deadhead about this song (or any Dead song) and you’ll be lead down a labyrinth of bootlegs, concerts that occurred before you were born and minutia. Forest for the trees guys, forest for the trees*.

* That’s just not a Huey Lewis and the News song either.

Kiss – you know how I feel about Kiss. I don’t think that I need to restate my thoughts on this band. But I will say this, the only reason this song is included on this tape is because I was going through my incredibly annoying “Dazed and Confused” phase. To say that I was compulsively obsessed with that movie is just scratching the surface. I often wondered where the characters were right then (not the actors, the characters). Did they go to college? Did they leave their town? Did they enjoy the Aerosmith concert? How did the football team do that season? How did the coming of punk influence the incoming freshmen? The first thing I looked up on a search engine wasn’t porn (that would probably be the second), it was “Dazed and Confused”. And while I was thinking about the characters, I did everything I could to warp back to those times: lava lamps, beaded doors, the music, TV shows on Nick at Nite, it’s probably why I was equally obsessed with “Sabotage”. I felt as if I was a man out of my own time.

The Lemonheads – this was the first and only real band that played a concert at our college in the four years I went there. And it was the day after Kurt Cobain shot and killed himself, so there was a rumor that Evan Dando wasn’t going to show up, you know, out of respect for Cobain. I managed to get really wasted, almost fight someone in the mosh pit and spent a lot of time screaming for them to play “Mrs. Robinson” (they did not). Oh yeah, I had a friend, who didn’t go to college at Merrimack, came to visit me and got so incredibly wasted that instead of passing out in my room (like he said that he would) he walked 10 miles to his girlfriend’s house. He did not inform me of this change in plans until I found a note on my desk hours after the show ended – for awhile, I thought he was dead.  It was an eventful night. Years later I made a mix CD for my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time. This was the first song on the tape. I’m lucky she thought it was sweet.

Juliana Hatfield – if you were a woman and could play guitar, the early 90s were your salad days. I don’t think that there has ever been a time in popular music where women were so welcome to the show and weren’t treated primarily as sex objects. That being said, I had a big crush on Juliana Hatfield -- especially the image at the top of this entry. Feminism only goes so far, I guess.

Lenny Kravitz – as far as Lenny Kravitz songs goes, this is probably the best one out there. If that’s not damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is. From my understanding Kravitz is a notorious lady killer (I don’t mean that literally). But in this song he takes the point of view of jilted lover. He does a pretty good job of bitching and complaining about all the things she did to him. I bet Lisa Bonet tells people she doesn’t like this song, but really loves it. “Fuck you Lenny. How do you like it? Asshole.”

Jane’s Addiction – around this time, I really got into Jane’s Addiction. And this song was on a rarities album that my friend found in some rare record shop in Boston that cost at least $40 (big money back then). I downloaded it off iTunes for $1.29 a year ago. TECHNOLOGY! The beginning of the song is a cover the Doors’ “LA Woman” (which is still my favorite Doors song) and includes “Nausea” by X and “Lexicon Devil” by the Germs. At the time it married my two favorite bands and I still dig it. 

Led Zeppelin – this isn’t one of my favorite Zep songs, I guarantee I chose it because the movie was named after it. Man.

Mighty, Mighty Bosstones – in 1997 I was working at a job that I despised for a company that I hated. There was no email or internet connection (I worked for a bank and they were afraid we’d smuggle secrets out, I guess, no one knew who the internet worked back then) but we were able to listen to the radio. Most days I listened to Howard Stern in the morning (really low) and in the afternoon WBCN would come on and play music. This summer the MMBs blew up with the song “The Impression That I Get” and one day the DJ came on the air after the song and said, “Years from now when you hear this song, the first thing that pops into your mind will be the Summer of 1997.” And you know what, he’s right. Even when I hear another song by the MMB, that particular time pops into my head. I am so damn suggestible sometimes. I would have made a great cult member.

Nirvana and Pearl Jam – in 1994 if you were to ask someone who the more popular band was; Pearl Jam or Nirvana, I bet more would choose the former. Whether you base on album sales, concert sales or just accessibility, Pearl Jam was the clear winner, this is something that Bill Simmons writes about every so often. Pearl Jam had a friendly second album (“Vs.” over “In Utero”) and they were riding high. Cobain was unreliable, had a horrible wife and released an album meant to alienate fans*. Then Cobain shot himself and instantly became the martyred voice of a generation. Pearl Jam soldiered on, doing what they do and some how got slagged for not having a band member kill himself. It sucked that Cobain killed himself for a number of reasons (and this was always going to happen, I think) but the worst part was that there were a lot of “conversations” about what it meant to be a rock star and what were a rock star’s responsibilities and crap like that. Then OJ Simpson killed his wife and a waiter and everyone forgot about Kurt Cobain.

* I’ve read that In Utero was recorded to be the opposite of the “Nevermind”, in other words less poppy and relatable, because Cobain had grown to despise his new audience. The ones who were singing along to the chorus “Here we are now, entertain us” were the types of kids that beat the crap out of him when he was younger. While I’m sure he appreciated the irony, he knew that the audience were completely unaware.

Phish – I went to school with two guys with the last name Fee. They were both really funny, really cool dudes. I pray that’s the reason why I put this song on this tape because Phish is not my type of band. Though I will say that my skin still crawls when I hear the line, “Sliced him on the nipple” followed by a piece of paper being ripped. That’s just some good production, Vermont hippies.

The Police – I just finished a really good biography of the Clash called “Fashion is the Passion”. One of the things that made me laugh is just how much the Clash hated the Police. One example is when the replacement drummer for Topper Headon (I’m pretty sure it was Pete Howard) was brought on, he was on the bus minding his own business listening to a Police tape. The Clash’s manager bitched him out for a solid two hours, the dude was almost in tears. This is a good song though and I really like the ending parts where Sting is singing “There’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always me that ends up getting wet” over and over like a mantra. That’s some self-loathing any kid can get behind.

REM – in 1995 I saw REM in concert because I thought that everyone in that band was going to be dead within two years. They were not and the concert was actually pretty good and the coolest part was the next day I went on-line to an REM usenet group where I was able to get a bootleg of the concert from some girl in Chicago. That’s when I realized that the Internet was going to be a big thing. The opening act of the REM show was none other than Radiohead. I’m not sure if they played “Creep” but if they didn’t, I was probably pissed.

Smashing Pumpkins – I never knew whether the word “smashing” in Smashing Pumpkins was a verb or an adjective. There is a huge difference. I saw them at Lollapalooza with the Beasties in Rhode Island and they were terrible. Their sound was shitty, they seemed drugged out, they just didn’t care.  Lead singer and Smashing Svengali Billy Corgan made guitarist James Iha tap dance for us, which seemed incredibly demeaning. Until the Pumpkins broke into the collective conscious in 1993, they were always this weird, ethereal, mysterious group. As much as I loved “Siamese Dream”, I kind of liked it that way better.

Urban Dance Squad – when I was in high school I really wanted this tape, but didn’t have a set of wheels. I would bug my friend to drive me to the mall (about a half hour away) and see if Sam Goody or Record Town or Tape World got “Mental Floss for the Globe”. More often than not, they didn’t. One fine day, one of those places did and I will never forget my friend’s words, “I hope that this tape is fucking awful.” Even if it was (it kind of was) I would tell him how great it was. Pretty much every day. I’m a hell of a good friend.

Violent Femmes – this band and especially this song is so college, the Violent Femmes Greatest Hits CD should come with every acceptance letter.

Jimi Hendrix – I’ve written over 2900 words. I can’t write anything about anything any more. Sorry Rover. San Dimas High School Football Rules!

No comments: