Thursday, March 05, 2015

Good Songs XVIII

Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
Suck My Kiss – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Cut Your Hair – Pavement
Crush with Eyeliner – REM
Undone (the Sweater Song) – Weezer
Summer Breeze – Seals and Croft
Here and Now – Letters to Cleo
Rock N’ Roll All Nite – KISS
Down With Disease – Phish
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Run Like Hell – Pink Floyd
Would? – Alice in Chains
Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton
Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails
When I Come Around – Green Day
Crazy – Seal
Type – Living Colour
If I Only Had a Brain – MC 900ft Jesus

For some reason, the theme of television, and to a lesser extent movies, weaves its way through this edition of Good Songs. And that makes sense because TV is awesome. 

When I was a kid—and I’m talking really little, like three or four-years-old—I loved television. I love television now, but when I was a kid, I really loved TV*. However there was one problem with television back when I was younger, at around 1:00 am a majority of TV stations would stop broadcasting--especially the UHF stations (which were the only stations that broadcasted cartoons during the week). At the end of the day, there would be an announcement letting watchers know that the TV station was done with its broadcasting for the day, the National Anthem would play and that was it. Sometimes there was static, other times there was a test pattern.

If you’re too young or woke up after 6:00, a test pattern looked like this:

I’d wake up really early (5:00 or 5:30 am) and run into my parents room and demand that they’d turn on the small TV that sat on a little table at the foot of their bed. Chances are I wanted to watch New Zoo Revue or Romper Room or Underdog, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to watch TV, however there was no TV to watch. The only thing that was on was the test pattern. So I’d watch that for an hour (I thought that the test pattern was a show and I called it “The Wheel”) and wait for real shows to come on. The good thing was that WLVI was kind enough to simulcast an easy-listening AM radio station while their test pattern was running.

* My kids are just as obsessed with TV as I was, to the dismay of my wife. I understand their fascination and I do my best to stop them from watching so much TV, because I guess TV is bad for you (though I don't believe that at all). But it’s almost impossible to change something that is hard-coded into their DNA. Sorry about that Aly, at least they aren’t watching digital paint dry.

While watching The Wheel the one song that I most recall listening to was “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. As a kid I loved this song and I thought that it was programmed specifically to coincide with the early morning when the sun rose. I can vaguely recall sitting at the end of my parents’ bed (they were asleep, or at least they had their eyes closed) staring at the tube and once this song came out, I’d look out the window to see if the sun was rising yet. The way I have it in my head, this song meant cartoons were coming on soon (after a message alerting us that the broadcasting day was beginning, the National Anthem and a daily prayer). But that's probably not 100% true.

This is one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs and I’m sure it has a lot to do about my initial exposure to the tune. I’m 40-years-old and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a half second of excitement that cartoons are going to be on real soon when my brain recognizes that first guitar chord. But it’s not just that, at the same time I’m getting that cartoon anticipation, I also feel a warmth that I don’t get too much any more. The warmth one has when they’re three-years-old and they’re sitting cross-legged at the foot of their sleeping parents’ bed. I hope that my children get that feeling 20 or 30 years from now and they run across an old episode of “My Little Pony” or “Avengers Assemble” and remember watching TV together in mom and dad's bed.

Speaking of obsessions, as I was looking over this play list I noticed that there were three songs from the “Dazed and Confused” movie soundtrack. Like I said in my last entry, I was completely consumed by this movie, so it’s really no surprise that I included this many songs on one tape.

“Rock N’ Roll All Nite” is a defensible entry, I think at this point it’s beat out NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” or Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” as the song that’s been on the most Good Songs tapes. Although the live version is much better (Ace’s guitar solo is so awesome, I can’t believe they didn’t add it to the studio version) the studio version is fun too. I probably have listened to this song over 10,000 in my life and today was the first time I noticed that someone screams “Woo!” at the 1:53 mark. KISS, you always surprise!

When it comes to Peter Frampton, I was influenced by Janeanne Garofolo’s character in “Reality Bites” who said that everyone had that album. Also, it’s a pretty good song. It almost makes me want to see Frampton in concert. Again, defensible entry.

But “Summer Breeze”? I’m not sure what I was thinking here. I could say that I added as a mood changer, slow the tape down, in case I was with a lady and we were staring at my lava lamp and relaxing to some good songs. But that never happened. I could say that, like “Here Comes the Sun”, it harkened back to my days of watching the Wheel. And there’s some truth to that, I suppose. But I guess I really just liked this song, which is kind of embarrassing.

When it comes to finding the “next big thing”, I’m not that great. I was terrible at prospecting baseball cards*, a lot of the TV shows that I jump on early usually get cancelled and bands that I think have the whole package usually are one-hit wonders. Letters to Cleo was one of those bands that I thought were going to be gigantic and they never received any notoriety aside from this single. I remember seeing their video on MTV and just being blown away. 

* For those that don’t know, prospecting baseball cards involve finding a rookie at a low price, buying as many of the same cards as you possibly could and then when the rookie turns into a Hall of Famer, selling that stack of cards for a tidy profit. This never worked out for me and I’m stuck with dozens of Mike Greenwells, Wally Joyners and Todd Benzingers.

My take on LTC was that they had a really pretty vocalist (Kay Hanley) who sang well and looked great on camera, good musicianship and well-written songs. They came from Boston (always a plus in my book) and made a splash on MTV when women were making huge strides in the rock world. I bought their debut “Aurora Gory Alice” and was impressed with what I heard, unfortunately no one else was and they kind of faded into the ether of the 90s.

Hanley is a die-hard Red Sox fan, so she’s fun to follow on Twitter especially during baseball season. She’s a favorite of Peter Gammons and will perform at his annual Hot Stove Cool Music festival in Boston and Hanley writes the music for the kids’ show Doc McStuffins – which is where I hear her the most now. On the TV show “Parks and Recreation” one of the characters (Ben) wore a LTC t-shirt and they regrouped for a special Pawnee concert.

Oh well, like Todd Benzinger, Letters to Cleo had their moments too.

Quick hits:

There’s only one song on this playlist that I don’t particularly like any more and that’s Green Day’s “When I Come Around”. Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’m just sick of Green Day being ubiquitous. I don’t even care that they are “serious artists” now, that’s an inevitability. You can’t be a 40-year-old married dude with a couple of kids and still act like an irresponsible 23-year-old. People would see right through that and it’s a pretty pathetic mask. After the release of “American Idiot”, I needed a Green Day time-out. Ten years later I still do.

Is there a better name than MC 900ft Jesus? I wish that he was more popular. We need more 900ft Jesuses.

“Cut Your Hair” is still my favorite song on this tape—and did ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption ever admit that they stole that show’s opening theme from Pavement? It’s the same damn song and someone (probably Stephen Malkmus) needs reparations! One of my friends was a die-hard Pavement fan from the very beginning. I told him that I wanted to buy “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” because I liked CYH. He told me that I wouldn’t like the tape, everything else was way different. He wasn’t being a jerk about his assessment but I took it the wrong way and it only emboldened me to buy the tape and prove to him that I liked Pavement.

He was right, I didn’t like it that much. It’s weird how when you’re younger innocent remarks like what my friend said could get under your skin and how you need to prove to others that they were wrong. There are a lot of great things about being young, but things like this aren’t one of them. 

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