Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Good Songs XX

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – Lenny Kravitz
Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
Believe – Lenny Kravitz
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
It’s the End of the World As We Know It – REM
Instant Karma – John Lennon
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf
Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix
Fire – Jimi Hendrix
Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen
Summer of ’69 – Brian Adams
Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood
I Drink Alone – George Thorogood
O-O-H Child – Five Stairsteps
Is There Any Love In Your Heart – Lenny Kravitz

This is the most anonymous Good Songs tape I ever made. I don’t remember when I made it, I don’t remember listening to it, I don’t even recall where I got the CDs or tapes to make this tape because I can tell you that I didn’t own any of the original recordings that these songs came from. And that’s probably because I don’t really like any of these artists enough to buy one of their recordings*.

* That’s not entirely true, I do own a few Jimi Hendrix CDs. I do like John Lennon and REM, I’m not a complete monster.

When I look at this track list and listen to the playlist, I think that the only thing in my mind when creating this playlist, was that I sorta enjoy some of these songs and I should tape them now because I may never get the opportunity to do so again. Remember, this was before downloading music, so finding and keeping songs that you liked (or even tolerated) was a bit more difficult than it is now.

This is probably going to be a very short entry.

One of the artists from this list that jumps out at me is Bruce Springsteen. I don’t really like Bruce Springsteen’s music too much. It’s not that he sucks, because he doesn’t. It’s not that I don’t like him or that he seems like a jerk, from what I understand he’s one of the nicest guys in the business. It’s not that I think he’s lazy or coasting, he still puts on there-hour shows.

Everyone has that one band that the rest of the world is into, but that they just don’t get. And that’s me with Bruce. Maybe it’s generational, it could be geographical. And I do think Springsteen looks kind of silly singing earnestly about the plight of the working man while he’s made more money than God, though at the same time I don’t find him to be a hypocrite. It’s weird and hard to explain. He’s played on the radio a lot and was played on MTV a ton, but Billy Joel was played more – and man, am I sick of Billy Joel. I even like his politics, in fact I like Springsteen's political stances more than I like his songs, which is bizarre because his politics bleed into his tunes. There are people who I am big fans of sportswriters like Joe Posnanski and the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham* as well as comedian Jon Stewart who are die-hard Boss aficionados and folks around here went bananas for him when he played at Fenway Park a few years ago. But he just doesn’t do anything for me.

* There is no faster way to get Twitter blocked by a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) faster than ripping on Bruce Springsteen. They love Bruce Springsteen more than a 90s frat guy loved Dave Matthews. They wear that Springsteen Army badge on their sleeves and will defend the guy until their death.

I guess that the closest song that I relate to is “Glory Days” and it’s mainly because it’s about baseball—though calling a fastball a “speed ball” is a bit lame. But I have to admit, Bruce does a pretty good job of telling the story of a former high school hero who has fallen on hard times in the real world. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it works.

Speaking of clichés, for some reason I really bought into what Lenny Kravitz was selling in the mid 90s, eh? When I look at past versions of Good Songs, it’s pretty obvious that not only was I keeping up with new rock, I was really into classic rock too. Led Zeppelin, the Doors, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead all make appearances in past tapes. And it’s no surprise that I was into Kravitz, because he was completely derivative of anything that aired on typical classic rock radio.

The opening organ riff of “Believe” sounds exactly like the opening organ solo from “Your Time is Gonna Come” by Zeppelin. And the entirety of the song sounds like a psychedelic Beatles throw-away complete with the ascending strings and the new-age hippie mantras. “Are You Gonna Go My Way”* sounds as if Kravitz spent a lot of time listening to Jimi Hendirx and Jimmy Page. The guitar solo is pretty cool – I’m not made of stone, people! – but at the same time, it’s guitar-god-by-the-numbers.  We’ve all heard it before.

And I guess that’s why some people see Lenny Kravitz as a joke; everything he does has been done before. His crime isn’t that he doesn’t necessarily play it worse, but that he plays it the same. When he remade “American Woman” in the late 90s, it sounded exactly like the Guess Who’s version. If you want to hear that song sung the same way, wouldn’t you just listen to the original artist?

What do I know, Lenny Kravitz is a millionaire many times over who has slept with scores of beautiful women and knows Sherman Helmsley – his mom was on “The Jeffersons”. I’m sure he doesn’t care what anyone says about him.

* Someone told me that AYGGMW is about Jesus Christ. Wikipedia doesn’t say anything about that in its write-up, so I’m going to assume that this is an urban legend. However one can find the Christ imagery in this song if you listen. I’m not sure if that makes the song better or worse, your mileage may vary. I also thought that the girl Mitch Kramer made out with in “Dazed and Confused” (Julei Simms, real name Catherine Morris) has a cameo in the video. I do not believe that is the case either.

Quick hits before I put this forgettable entry to bed:

George Thorogood: you and your friends may have a song that you normally hate, but you like when you’re drunk. Neither of these two songs fit that bill for me and my friends. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why I would waste the time taping these two cheeseball tunes, but apparently I did. The only thing that I can think of is that back in the 90s, the Boston Bruins used “Bad to the Bone” as their song for that particular season’s marketing campaign. When a Bruins commercial aired, they’d play the “Bad to the Bone” opening guitar riff and show Cam Neely checking someone into the boards (probably a Nordique). Then the riff would play again and Ray Borque would unleash a slap shot past a hapless goalie (usually a Whaler). Again the guitar riff would sound one more time and there would be a fight between a Bruin and a Canadien. Maybe I was trying to recapture the glory of the 1992-93 Adams Division Champion Boston Bruins (sporting a 51-26 record)?

The Five Stairsteps: this song was on the “Boyz in the Hood” soundtrack and during this time in my life I was obsessed with that movie—I bet I watched it every day during the summer of 1992.  It’s still a very good movie (it was on yesterday, as a matter of fact) though it hasn’t aged that well. In any event, it’s the one song on here that I still enjoy.

Simple Minds: speaking of movie songs, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is one of those songs that are so identifiable with a movie, in this case “The Breakfast Club”, it’s difficult to separate one from the other. In fact, the song and the movie’s subject is so intertwined, that when I was listening to it today, it actually reminded me of my high school days. I am sure that the guys in Simple Minds did not want that to happen. But that’s what happen when you don’t say no to that sweet, sweet John Hughes money.

Brian Adams: he has been on two different Good Songs tapes, albeit with the same song. That fact hurts my soul. 

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