Archive for April, 2011


You seem to like me.

April 22, 2011

Well, we’ve reached the end of our series, dear readers. The last three tracks for your consideration. Download ’em all. Give ’em all a good mulling over and then head to The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page to vote on which of the 14 (Connick’s is already in HPZ rotation) should be added to Grandma Cyd’s playlist. Would Lyle Lovett sound good following Dean Martin? Can Good Lovelies provide a nice segue from Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters? Isn’t some of Paul McCartney’s stuff tailor made for the Zoo? If you’re not a fan of the Cute Beatle, do you go with the Quiet One and vote George in instead? Could we EVER hear Grandma Cyd proclaim the immortal words, “And next we heard U2” on the Heavy Petting Zoo?! It’s all a matter of personal preference, but we want to hear yours! Go on.

A great big thanks to Grandma Cyd for collaborating on this fun project. Here are your last 3 tracks for consideration. Hope you hadn’t made up your mind yet …

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

The Bonzo Dog Band – Tubas in the Moonlight (from 1969’s Tadpoles)
Paul: 4.5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 5 olives

Grandma Cyd: Off we go.
Paul:  I was impressed to learn you liked this one. I think soundwise it fits the bill of the show, but lyrically—as with many Bonzos songs—it’s a bit left field. And we’ve been pretty derisive of some of the songs’ lyrics this week.
Grandma Cyd: Derisive?  No way! Not you and me!You were surprised?  I’d say this was pretty close to what I think you were aiming for in terms of finding songs that would fit the 1930s-1950s style. In fact, of all the songs you picked, this one’s the closest to the 1930s feel, I think.
Paul:  Well in terms of how it sounds, sure. But I also expected the Russian judge to get a little uppity about the concept of love soundtracked by tubas. In the moonlight. I had this whole defense planned where I questioned who pets in the park, and so forth.
Grandma Cyd:  Sorry to make your whole arsenal go to waste. But maybe there’d be more pettin’ in the park if there were tubas in the backdrop. I mean, what’s more romantic than a little “Oompa-oompa”? We already established that “wahka wahka’s” appropriate (or did we?).
Paul:  The Al Martino version of “Volare” does not make me want to pet in the park. Maybe do a little goofy dancing. But not pet in the park. Tubas in the moonlight might. Although I think the sound of the Bonzos song is even more “come hither” sounding than actual tubas.
Grandma Cyd:  But it’s a subtle tuba presence. That’s why it works. It’s not some crazy Sousa march or something. You know?
Paul:  This is true.
Grandma Cyd:  There’s that cute little solo in the middle. That’s all you need. Smooooth.
Paul:  I should try to find more Bonzo songs that would be appropriate for HPZ. That could be a series unto itself.
Grandma Cyd:  Can we talk about this Bonzo business? Bonzo. What’s up with that? Is he a Muppet?
Paul:  I don’t know how they got their name, actually. And yes, I know that’s the kind of thing I should know. They were just a comedic act in the 1960s that actually turned out some really good songs. About hunting tigers and Ali Baba’s camel. And garbagemen. And falling in love to the sound of tubas. Actually, they wrote a song called “Death Cab for Cutie,” which they play in the Beatles’ movie, “Magical Mystery Tour.” And that’s where the modern band got their name. The Bonzos’ drummer went onto play with George Harrison. Neil Innes, who was one of the main songwriters, went onto do a lot of stuff with Monty Python and play the John Lennon part of Ron Nasty in the Rutles. They did a lot of good stuff.
Grandma Cyd:  Huh. Never heard of ‘em. But I like! I’m still surprised you thought I wouldn’t like it just because of the lyrics! Have you heard Cole Porter’s lyrics? They get played on my show all the time! (Sorry, had to get one more dig in there.)
Paul:  And that would’ve been part of my defense. Nah, I thought it had a chance, but you never know when you put a comedy record into the mix.
Grandma Cyd:  Well then, it turns out we’re allies after all. I can’t believe I’m about to do it—because I’m the Russian judge and all—but I’m thinkin’ 5!
Paul:  Wow, five olives for the Bonzos.
Grandma Cyd:  I know. Yet unmatched by anybody except Connick. Crazy, huh?
Paul:  I think I’m going to go 4.5. It’s near perfect. I just would’ve preferred another verse toward the end, instead of extended solos and repeating, “Tubas in the moonlight will bring my loved one home.” And you’re wrong, you gave 5 to Good Lovelies.
Grandma Cyd:  Oh wow. I’m slipping in my old age.

Ronnie Lane – Only You (from 1980’s See Me)
Paul: 4 olives
Grandma Cyd: 3 olives

Paul:  I have it on record now with the Edgar Jones discussion that you might be on the lookout for more of this kind of song, with that 50s vibe.
Grandma Cyd: It wouldn’t hurt to build up my 50s collection, especially now that my 1930s collection has gotten such a boost that it’s surpassing the other decades. But actually, this makes me think, “60s.” More specifically, it has me thinking, “The Wonders.”  That band in “That Thing You Do.” When they’re rehearsing for the state fair or whatever. Or weren’t they called the “Oneders”?  Oh-NEED-ers.
Paul:  Right. I can’t remember the slow song they do. “All My Only Dreams” or something like that? ‘Cos at the state fairs, they only play the upbeat ones. “That Thing You Do” and the one the guitar player sings. “Dance With Me Tonight” or whatever.
Grandma Cyd:  Oh wow, your memory of this movie is much better than mine if you’re recalling song titles.
Paul:  I don’t know, I get a late 50s, early rock and roll ballad vibe out of this. Much like I would from Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” or something.
Grandma Cyd:  Yeah, it’s hard for me to discern between the late 50s and early 60s, to be honest with you. It’s why sometimes you’ll hear a 60s song pop up on the show from time to time.
Paul:  Like “I’m Beginning To See the Light.” Time and time and time again.
Grandma Cyd:  Are you complaining, Mr. “Play ‘I’m Beginning To See the Light,’” as you said last Saturday? It’s the best version of that song ever.
Paul:  It is. I completely agree. But here, you played “(Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame,” and that recording actually sounds more modern than this.
Grandma Cyd:  I did that for you, too, since you can count on one finger how many Elvis songs you like. But I actually am not a fan of that track. I do get the most compliments, though, on shows that contain a lot of 50s and 60s tunes. I can’t figure out if that’s to say listeners don’t like the 1930s or 1940s as much, or if it’s that the 1950s-1960s songs are more familiar to them and it’s harder to hear on the radio nowadays. So then I wonder, “Should my show turn into more of an oldies show just because the commercial stations are shifting to the 70s?”  I’d rather not, but I don’t want to bore people, either.
Paul:  I don’t think you have that problem. It wouldn’t all go toward the 50s and 60s. That’d actually give it more variety. And with that variety, I believe this would fit in quite well. Even if it’s from 1980.
Grandma Cyd: Yes, the song could fit in a 50s set. But it’s also kind of a snoozer, no? The whole second half?
Paul: What, the sax solo and just repeating “Only you…”? You want to be careful what you say about Ronnie Lane. He is the patron saint of my blog, you know. He’s the dude in that banner pic at the top.
Grandma Cyd:  Ooooh, I could never read that handwriting.  What earned him this prestigious title?
Paul:  My adoration of him, basically.
Grandma Cyd:  How come I only have one of his songs—“Only You”— in my iTunes? You’d think there would be more given I download just about everything you share!
Paul:  I did a whole month of Ronnie Lane stuff years ago. It got kind of excessive. I didn’t want it to get to too much. But I know his song “Tin and Tambourine” was on one of my autumn mixes. And “Eddie’s Dreaming,” which is a song he did with the Small Faces, is on the first summer mix.
Grandma Cyd:  Oh yeah. I had that. Where did it go? Hmm, I had that too. If they’re not in my iTunes, I know they’re still on my iPod.
Paul:  Regardless, [“Only You”] doesn’t feature the standards for your show, that being orchestration or a whole bevy of horns, but I still think it wafts nicely into that dreamy, old-time romantic thing. Maybe more malt shop than moonlight in a gazebo or something. But I’d say it’s as much of a make out song as most of the stuff you play.
Grandma Cyd:  It seems like, as far as olive ratings go, I’ll have to take an average. It’s usable, but I would hope that it’s not a song that causes people to yell something like, “Be done with it already!” because of the repetitive lyrics at the end. I’ll give it 3 olives, though.
Paul: I’m gonna go 4.
Grandma Cyd: You do it to spite me, don’t you?

Paul McCartney & Wings – You Gave Me the Answer (from 1975’s Venus and Mars)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 4 olives

Grandma Cyd: Oh, yes. Well at least it’s a song we played on the show, so I do remember it.
Paul:  Now, again I’ll say this. McCartney’s a big Astaire fan, and he wrote more than a few tunes in this vein, dating back to his time with the Beatles. I would argue even songs like “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Honey Pie” could sound perfectly in place on HPZ. I like the production he gave this one though, because it’s kind of right in the middle of an arena rock album and it’s got that real thin, vintage production.
Grandma Cyd:  I was surprised to hear he’s an Astaire fan. Not something I expected to hear about McCartney.
Paul:  Really? You should check this out when you get the chance. [GOTTA SING, GOTTA DANCE] Didn’t quite have Astaire’s moves. But he’s big into that stuff.
Grandma Cyd: The risk of playing a McCartney tune in the middle of HPZ is that it’s McCartney!  People know his voice and they might ask, “Why are the Beatles part of a show that’s supposed to focus on the 1930s-50s?”  Or worse, they’d figure out that it’s Wings and then feel really duped! It seems hypocritical for me to say that, given that there are other songs in this series that I’d consider playing. The issue is that it’s McCartney. McCARTNEY. Big name. Recognizable voice. So very much tethered to the 60s (and the 80s).
Paul:  Well, I’d argue Harry Connick has a very distinguishable voice. And musically he may harken more back to your era. But is he tethered?
Grandma Cyd: He’s not as famous as McCartney—no way. I guess I was getting at the fame thing. I have played a Beatles song on my show, though.
Paul: I understand. But what about Elvis? You play Elvis.
Grandma Cyd:  I don’t remember how I incorporated it. But I got a couple “likes” on Facebook after I did it. Elvis is 50s. Why wouldn’t he count?
Paul:  Elvis was in the 1950s, but if you get into “Suspicious Minds” and that, that was all stuff he did in the 60s and 70s. I mean, actually, I’d argue most of his post-1950s stuff is more in line with the type of stuff you play on your show. The 1950s stuff is more rockabilly.
Grandma Cyd:  It is harder to smoothly incorporate him, yes. I usually have to do it next to a country set (Patsy Cline and others), or—with the rockabilly—next to Buddy Holly or some such. I think that’s why I don’t play him as often as other artists, much to my aunt’s dismay.
Paul:  I get what you’re aiming at. I know you said the same thing about U2 (had either of us liked that track).
Grandma Cyd:  Right.
Paul:  But if we go from a standpoint of “Would this song be out of place on HPZ?,” which is basically what this series is all about, I think it’s very, very, very, very hard to argue “You Gave Me the Answer” would not. I mean, it sounds more vintage than the Bobby Darin tracks you play. By the way, if you’re ever looking to do a show with a Beatles tie, you might be interested to know that Lennon and Harrison were huge Hoagy Carmichael fans. Harrison even covered a couple Hoagy tunes on his Somewhere in England LP. And Ringo’s first solo album was him doing a bunch of standards. Throw in an array of Macca tracks that have this feel (there are more than a few), and you got a nifty show.
Grandma Cyd: NO WAY. You mean I’m not the only one who cares about Hoagy Carmichael? And my company is George Harrison and John Lennon?  I never felt more awesome (in a nerdly way) than I do right now.
Paul:  Totally.
Grandma Cyd:  Well thanks for telling me that! Anyway, those reservations aside, I do like this song.  And there’s something in the melody that I can relate to an Astaire tune.
Paul:  Totally. I love his ad libs during the solo. “Shall we dance? … This is fun! … We should do this more often.”
Grandma Cyd:  I think when he drops an octave or so at, “You, you seem to like me,” or whatever the lyric is. Haha, can we call what Randy Newman does in his song “ad libbing”?
Paul:  Sure. Randy sounds like he’s just speaking off the cuff in “Shame” anyway.
Grandma Cyd:  Why didn’t Paul call his imaginary dance partner “bitch” or something? I mean, I think yelling at a woman in the name of ad libbing is really sexy. (Sarcasm).
Paul:  Haha.
Grandma Cyd:  I see you ruminating over this line.
Paul:  Well he doesn’t walk the “piss” line. Although in “Too Many People,” people think he opens the song with “Piss off, yeah.” But per your summation of FCC standards, that’s OK.
Grandma Cyd:  Yep, it is. Silly, huh?
Paul:  So it goes. By the way, Macca always gets a lot of slack for his lyrics, but can I say how much I dig the “You’ll never be crowned by the aristocracy. To their delight, you’d merely invite them in for a cup of tea” bit? I might be the only one, but I think that’s a nifty turn of phrase that fits the whole mood of the song superbly.
Grandma Cyd:  It’s cute! A cute little ditty.
Paul:  Big surprise – 5 olives.
Grandma Cyd:  I’m shocked. Utterly shocked. I’ll give it a 4. Heck, we played it last Saturday. I’d feel like a cheat if I went down to 3.5.
Paul:  Well I call that a series. And I think everything that got at least a 3 from you should enter into your playlist. But that’s not for me to decide, is it?
Grandma Cyd:  Although I think it could work, if I did that, my show might be due for an entire change of format. And I’m enlightened to see that in the recent polls where I asked what music people prefer to hear on my show (1930s, 1940s, or 1950s), the leader was 1940s!  We’re talking WWII, go-get-’em tunes. (And then some). Good choices there, Pabs.
Paul:  Always a pleasure, Grandma Cyd. Let me know when you want to do that Beatles show.

Go vote. And have a good weekend, all.


It’s just a song — always strings me along.

April 21, 2011

We’ve almost reached the end of our series, but with two days left, there are still six songs to consider for placement on Grandma Cyd’s weekly Saturday night show, “The Heavy Petting Zoo.” Here are three more contenders. Be sure to check out The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page tomorrow for your chance to vote a track posted this week into “The Heavy Petting Zoo”s rotation!

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

Good Lovelies – Lonesome Hearts (from 2011’s Let the Rain Fall)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 5 olives

Paul: Up to Canada with Good Lovelies. This song was actually just released this year. They got that Andrews Sisters vibe when they all get going after the first verse. Actually production wise, I think this sounds closest in terms of earthiness and “authenticity” to “A Wink and a Smile.” It’s a different instrumental arrangement, but it’s got that badge of authenticity to it.
Grandma Cyd: Yeah, I can hear that Andrews Sisters touch. Hmm. I wouldn’t have compared it to “A Wink and a Smile,” but I know what you mean.
Paul: Now that horn sound—do you think that’s an effected trumpet, or do you think that’s someone just making the sound with their mouth, like Uncle Joey used to do on “Full House”?
Grandma Cyd: Haha! It’s a muted trombone. Just based on the timbre of the instrument and how well the notes slide (and then the vibrato at the end). It’s so trombone-y.
Paul: Is it though? It sounds like someone pinching their lips and making a silly sound.
Grandma Cyd: No, that’s definitely an instrument. I think if it was some strange mouth noise, it’d be more identifiable that way. Trombone. We could do a sub-poll: “Uncle Joey or Trombone?”
Paul: Good idea. Uncle Joey’s Canadian, you know. This might not be as an out there a thought as it may seem. I do love this song. I really do. They hit the sweet spot and knocked it out of the park here. This sounds like a remastered track from the 1940s. Not something that was released this year.
Grandma Cyd: Is that a banjo too? Or some other twangy stringed instrument? Mandolin? At the beginning.
Paul: I think it’s a mandolin.
Grandma Cyd: Ah, OK.Yes, I agree with you. This is charming and not too kitschy in its attempt to harken back to a classic musical style.
Paul: How many olives, Grandma Cyd?! HOW MANY OLIVES?!
Grandma Cyd: I had to think about this. Because you know I’m “the Russian Judge” and all. But when I think about whether I’d play it on my show, and how well it could be integrated with the typical playlist, I think I’d be willing to give it 5 OLIVES! Holy moly, I just surprised myself!
Paul: FIVE OLIVES! ME TOO! They’ve charmed me. And here I was thinking I was handing them out like king of the olive factory. Good Lovelies make a breakthrough.
Grandma Cyd: Well, sometimes you are. You are the French Judge.
Paul: OK. I surrender.

Edgar ‘Jones’ Jones – Tenderly (from 2004’s Soothing Music for Stray Cats)
Paul: 4 olives
Grandma Cyd: 4 olives

Grandma Cyd: OK, which group does this remind me of? I can’t put my finger on it. But definitely something late 50s.
Paul: To me it sounds like Ray Charles’ early stuff on Atlantic.
Grandma Cyd: Ah, yes, perhaps.
Paul: Like the REALLY early stuff, before he started charting. But the production on this blows me away too. I didn’t think you could get that sound out of modern machines, but this was done in 2004 in a little portastudio.
Grandma Cyd: It was done in 2004? I was just about to ask. And I wouldn’t have guessed it was that new.
Paul: Now would it surprise you to know that Edgar Jones is a little white dude from Liverpool?
Grandma Cyd: Yes. If you told me he was the Walrus, I’d be surprised too.
Paul: Well, I suppose he’s kind of tall. But still a white Englishman. The melody actually reminds me a little of a Nat King Cole tune called “Send For Me.” The delivery and production is a million miles away, but it’s right in that 50s wheelhouse.
Grandma Cyd: Oh yeaaaahhhh. I hadn’t thought of that. But yes. Definitely. This is a style that doesn’t get played on my show very often because it almost demands its own segment, and my music collection is limited in that way. I’m not even sure how many times I’ve played “Send For Me” on my show.
Paul: That’s on the spring mix.
Grandma Cyd: I know. It looks like I’ve only played it once! On July 10, 2010.
Paul: Weak. Well there you go, you can run it alongside Edgar. Maybe get some lawyers listening and wondering if they have a copyright infringement case.
Grandma Cyd: Haha. Sorry. I’m working on expanding my 1950s arsenal now. So songs like this might make it on more often. Sounds like people would like to hear more of these things now that the oldies stations are focusing on 60s and 70s and forgetting about the 50s.
Paul: Exactly. And what the hell is up with that?
Grandma Cyd: Well, the people who like the 50s (and came of age in that decade) have probably moved onto the AM dial or something. Meanwhile, stations don’t want to use the term “oldies” anymore (when’s the last time you heard a DJ say that?) because they feel it would insult their audience, who still think they’re whipper snappers. So instead they call them “classic hits.” Or something milquetoast like that.
Paul: Huh. But you lose so much good stuff when you chop out the 50s.
Grandma Cyd: I know. I’ve stopped listening.
Paul: It’s all on you to save it, Granny.
Grandma Cyd: Sometimes I catch something on the AM band, but then they play crap like Carly Simon and Barbara Streisand and then I’m done.
Paul: TOTALLY weak.
Grandma Cyd: But I used to be anti-Oldies because other stations were taking care of that music for me. Not the case anymore, so I’m starting to warm up to the idea of playing songs that I’d otherwise classify as too “commercial.” Or too over-exposed. I don’t know. Still kind of torn about that in some instances.
Paul: Well… olives for Edgar?
Grandma Cyd: 4 olives.
Paul: I concur! Edgar’s the man, by the way. I love me some Edgar. He’s got better tunes, but this one I could see on HPZ.

Randy Newman – Shame (from 1999’s Bad Love)
Paul: 4.5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 2 olives

Grandma Cyd: I just started listening to it, forgetting who the artist was going to be, and I thought, “This sounds like Randy Newman!” Oohhh, Granny’s getting senile.
Paul: Well that’s appropriate
Grandma Cyd: So this guy always held a special place in my heart.
Paul: Really?
Grandma Cyd: Yeah.
Paul: So many girls I know can’t stand him.
Grandma Cyd: Why’s that?
Paul: I love him. I think he’s hilarious, I think he’s a genius songwriter. I can’t say enough good things about him. But [girls] immediately get turned off by his voice. Or “Short People.” Which isn’t supposed to be a REAL criticism of short people, but a lot of people still get sensitive about it. I just think it’s hilarious.
Grandma Cyd: Well might I remind you that in addition to being described as “the Russian Judge,” I’ve also been described as “basically a dude.” By a member of Icarus Himself at that. But yes, I find him to be a clever wordsmith, and I appreciate the stories he’s able to tell in song, even if they’re silly (or insulting).
Paul: I’m exactly the same way.
Grandma Cyd: Plus, he wrote the theme to “Monk”! When that happened, I was like, “Oh man. Oh MAN! This is too much awesomeness compressed in a 90-second block—Monk + Newman.” Well, I couldn’t play this song on my show. Wanna know the great irony?
Paul: Just because of the “Goddammit you little bitch” line?
Grandma Cyd: It’s not because he says, “Goddammit, you little bitch.” It’s because he says, “take a piss.”
Paul: Really?
Grandma Cyd: Yes. Thank you, convoluted and inexplicably strange FCC indecency rules. To “take a piss” is an “excretory act” and thus it’s indecent. If my show aired between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., then we’d be golden. No pun intended.
Paul: Haha! That’s too bad, because it’s so great though. “Do you know what it feels like to get up in the middle of the night? Sit DOWN to take a piss? You do know? So you say. I have my doubts, missy.”
Grandma Cyd: You could say on the air that the FCC’s indecency rules “piss you off.” But once you “piss on” something, you’ve crossed the line.
Paul: That sounds like it should be a Randy Newman song.
Grandma Cyd: I wish he’d write one. Does he improvise well? Maybe we could get him to compose a song about FCC indecency right there on stage (should we ever get to see him).
Paul: We could get his email.
Grandma Cyd: How?
Paul: I have my ways.
Grandma Cyd: Creeeepy. But I’m down with creepy. “Stalker” is my middle name. Wait. Make that “Detective.” It’s more respectable. Or something.
Paul: No, not creepy, I’m a journalist. I can find this stuff.
Grandma Cyd: Yes, I’ve played the “journalist” card too. But most people don’t know that I actually carry that card from time to time. So I’ll let you handle it.
Paul: Haha.
Grandma Cyd: I’m just a part time detective.
Paul: Well, pissing about lyrics aside, would this make your show if the FCC just pissed off entirely?
Grandma Cyd: Actually, I don’t think so. It’s a bit much and pretty far off-base for the music on my show. I’ll give it two olives, though, because it’s Randy Newman.
Paul: Travesty. Four and a half olives.
Grandma Cyd: FOUR AND A HALF? Have you heard my show before, Paul Snyder? Do you REALLY think this fits the bill?
Paul: You have breakup shows.
Grandma Cyd: I haven’t had one in eons. Though I’ve been meaning to.
Paul: And at the end, he says he wants her back. “I’d kill you if I didn’t love you so much.”
Grandma Cyd: Well, if she takes him back after he shouts at her like that, then she’s an idiot. Ditch the jerk.
Paul: Fair enough. I still say it’s a great tune.
Grandma Cyd: I’m not saying it’s not a great tune.
Paul: And it’s got that late 40s jazz lounge feel.
Grandma Cyd: I’m just saying it wouldn’t really fit well on the show. I thought I was supposed to be rating on that. And I know, partly on likability. Hence the extra olive. Because it’s Newman.
Paul: Well, I don’t have a show. So I go all on likability.

The conclusion to our series runs tomorrow…


It makes for a good day for some serious reflection, a massive rationalization for contemplating the future of the future and the last of the past.

April 20, 2011

Picking right up from where we left yesterday, here are the next 3 tracks for your consideration. Remember, on Friday there will be a poll at The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page where you can decide which of the tracks featured this week deserve future airtime alongside classics from the 1930s-1950s. Today we offer arguably the most inescapable band for college students, a Beatle and Julia Roberts’ ex. Do they deserve a shot alongside Clooney, Sinatra and Miller? Here are our thoughts. You give us yours.

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

U2 – Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad (from 1997’s “If God Will Send His Angels” EP)
Paul: 1.5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 1 olive

Paul: Speaking of Sinatra and the Only the Lonely vibe…
Grandma Cyd: First of all, can I just say I don’t know how I’d ever get away with back announcing a song on HPZ and saying, “And next, we heard U2…”
Paul: Haha, well, they wrote this for Frank. They intended for him to record it. But as my friend Umaar—who’s a U2 diehard fan—pointed out, “Frank had to go and die.” People can be selfish pricks like that.
Grandma Cyd: Really? This was for Sinatra? And, what, it just sat untouched until Bono was like, “Hey, I’m kinda like that Sinatra guy”?!
Paul: This performance is actually from a 1992 special, I think, the one for Frank’s 80th birthday. That’s why you hear Bono say, “Happy Birthday, Frank” at the end.
Grandma Cyd: Ah.
Paul: Yeah. And Umaar also told me (because if you get Umaar talking about U2 he won’t shut up), that this is the only U2 song to be entirely credited to Bono and The Edge as opposed to the whole band. And only Bono and the Edge play on it. BUT! Interestingly, the other 2 out of U2 played on a version of this song that Nancy Sinatra recorded on her 2004 album.
Grandma Cyd: The Edge? There’s a gent named “The Edge”? Am I an embarrassment to you when I ask you these questions?
Paul: Not to me. Umaar might be cringing.
Grandma Cyd: Sorry, Umaar. Then again, I’m used to the confusion and sound of crickets once I bring up certain artists myself. But again, I ask the question: What makes this arrangement “old-timey” or a throwback, other than that it was meant for Frank? If I played it among the other songs that usually make the rotation on HPZ, it would sound out of place. And probably more modern than it should on a show like mine. Because tossing an orchestra behind a singer doesn’t necessarily make it classic.
Paul: That might be enough. To be fair, it does sound like a song that could be on Only the Lonely. It’s a little tarted up with 1990s production, but I could see Frank doing this. Even in his heyday as opposed to the last few years of his life.
Grandma Cyd: Yeah, I could too.
Paul: I just don’t like U2 really. And I think it’s pretty pompous to go with something like this even for an 80th birthday show. “F*ck Frank’s songs! We’ll do one that we wrote that we think Frank should do! Happy Birthday, ya old bastard.”
Grandma Cyd: But wait, I can’t remember. Was Frank alive at 80? Or was this recorded posthumously? Your set-up/backstory here indicates it was recorded after he died.
Paul: Yeah, he was alive at 80.
Grandma Cyd: But then when you mention it was recorded for his birthday, I go and assume he was alive for it.
Paul: It was recorded before he died, released after he died.
Grandma Cyd: I see. I hate to be such a hater, but again: 1 olive. It’s just not reflective enough of the style of the time to pass muster. Wait, is that the right term? Or cut the mustard? Or whatever? Will I brood over this decision for a while?
Paul: You might. I’m gonna go 1.5. For Umaar’s sake.
Grandma Cyd: He might beat you up if not for that .5
Paul: Right. He’s nice like that.

George Harrison – Zig Zag (from 1987’s “When We Was Fab” EP)
Paul: 4 olives
Grandma Cyd: 2.5 olives

Paul: Now, “Zig Zag” was written for a 1986 movie called “Shangai Surprise” thatHarrison’s company produced. Actually starred Madonna and Sean Penn. Sucked pretty bad, but Harrison did a few old-timey songs for it, which were pretty cool. This is one of them and it was good enough to end up on the B-side of one of his singles. What I really like about it is that it was produced by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame. Lynne was a close buddy of George’s and he plays on this as well. But on the sleeve of the “When We Was Fab” single,Harrison said this song was performed by the “Gas Light Orchestra.” Ha!
Grandma Cyd: Huh. I don’t know why that movie title rings a bell. But I didn’t know Madonna was in anything besides “Evita” and what’s that detective movie from the late 80s? Or early 90s?
Paul: “Dick Tracy.”
Grandma Cyd: It just hit me: We’re talking GEORGE Harrison. Leads me to shake my head a little bit. This is a song I’d imagine Ringo Starr writing/performing.
Paul: One of the Beatles makes you shake your head? Now you gotta be careful, Grandma Cyd. Remember who you’re blogging with.
Grandma Cyd: The steady and constant pounding on the quarter beat. The same two notes in what I guess we’d call the melody by default. And—it’s official—there are only three words in this entire song, and they are “[Oh,] Zig Zag.” Somewhere in the world, there is a struggling bona fide songwriter ready to end him/herself because George Harrison made big bucks off of this song simply for being George Harrison [to illustrate what I mean]. OK, maybe not END him/herself. But something like that. They’re “brooding.” Let’s put it that way.
Paul: Well now, I think it was meant to be an instrumental for a movie. He didn’t put this song out as a single itself. Just a B-side.
Grandma Cyd: That’s almost worse, as the music (sans lyrics) is no better.
Paul: I’d be interested to see if this song made him big bucks. The movie certainly didn’t. And I can’t immediately remember how well the “When We Was Fab” single did.
Grandma Cyd: Well, despite the fact that it’s an earworm that I’d loathe to have stuck in my head, I could see it working as background music during a voice break or filler (just as I’m sure it was intended for use during that movie). So I’d be willing to offer it 2.5 olives. I’m being generous. Partly out of guilt.
Paul: I’d go 4. Four olives. Fun tune. Not classic. But good sounding and fun.

Lyle Lovett – Good Intentions (from 1989’s Lyle Lovett and His Large Band)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 3.5 olives

Grandma Cyd: Okey dokey.
Paul: My old buddy Lyle.
Grandma Cyd: Don’t you mean your old buddy “Lovett, Lyle”? “If I could forget the temporary weight gain due to excess water retention”?! Ha!
Paul: I see Lyle doing what Elvis Costello wants to do. And that’s different styles of music, but really well. Because Lyle isn’t super prolific. He ventures into different musical territories, but he does it well. Because he doesn’t go in unless he knows he can do it well. That’s my opinion at least. There’s a real refinement in his delivery.
Grandma Cyd: Why does all his music sound the same to me?
Paul: How much of it have you heard? But actually, if you think that this sounds the same as other stuff you’ve heard, I’d rather hear that than “Isn’t he just country?”
Grandma Cyd: I’ve heard whatever you’ve ever posted on your blog. So, limited.
Paul: Ah. So the good stuff.
Grandma Cyd: Must be.
Paul: I think this is a great lounge lizard delivery. I think the backing track has a nice understated feel to it. It’s a moody song, but he injects his humor into it.
Grandma Cyd: I could sip a martini to this.
Paul: It wouldn’t surprise me at all if (had he lived or known this song in his prime) Dean Martin did it.
Grandma Cyd: A rosemary infused gin martini, perchaps. Not that I’ve been craving one of those since joining friends at Praha Lounge inSoHo, NYC last June. * sigh *
Paul: So this is martini sippable. I ask you this: Does it sound like it could fit in on HPZ?
Grandma Cyd: I’d let it fly here or there. I’d say on a 5-olive scale, I’d give it a 3.5. I also know that if I didn’t give it the affirmative, you’d call Mr. Lovett (comma) Lyle up on his cell phone and inform him of my shenanigans.
Paul: Ridiculous! 5-olive all the way. Cos he’s such a dude. And the lyric about excess water retention. And Dean could do it with the exact same backing track and sound perfect.
Grandma Cyd: Oh, I didn’t know I was supposed to rate people on their “Dude” factor!
Paul: Well you don’t have to. But he gets dude points in my book. “If I forget the ‘Honey, I swear it didn’t mean a thing to me’ attempt at abstention…” This is a dynamite lyric. God bless Lyle.
Grandma Cyd: Takes one to know one, I guess. But as a lady, I’m sensitive to the water retention remark. (Actually, that’s a pretty kickass lyric.)
Paul: Oh, fair enough.

Check back tomorrow for Part 4…


We danced together as old lovers do.

April 19, 2011

Alright, picking right up from where we left off yesterday, it’s the next 3 tracks for your consideration on Grandma Cyd’s playlist. Remember to swing by The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page on Friday to vote on which of all the tracks posted this week you’d most like to hear played alongside classics from the 1930s-1950s on “The Heavy Petting Zoo.” And if nothing else, at least remember to listen to the show on WSUM 91.7 in Madison and online Saturday nights from 7-9 p.m. CST.

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra with Sam Brown – Valentine Moon (from 2001’s Small World, Big Band)
Paul: 2 olives
Grandma Cyd: 1 olive.

Grandma Cyd: Loading … OK.
Paul: Now I’ll start this off with an interesting fact. Sam Brown is Joe Brown’s daughter—Joe Brown being the dude who did your favorite version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”
Grandma Cyd: Ah, I see! I had to let that name sink in and ring a bell. So, as I listen to this song, I have to ask: What makes this seem like a song played in “the old style” versus simply being a ballad?
Paul: I think it’s the big band backing. The orchestration. I know that seems like a copout, but the Jools Holland band, it’s a proper big band thang. This song does feel like something out of the 1950s to me.
Grandma Cyd: Hmm. For me, it feels like something out of a “A Prairie Home Companion.” I mean that in the best of ways. And there’s something that irks me about her gringo French. Even though I’ve heard it’s not PC to say “gringo” anymore (I can’t keep up—how Granny is that to say?).
Paul: Yeah, the French bit is a little pretentious. British people like doing that I think. Not enough that they already have an accent. They’ve got to show off the foreign language too.
Grandma Cyd: She and Joe Brown are British? The things I don’t know about pop artists post-1965!
Paul: Yes she and Joe Brown are British.
Grandma Cyd: I wouldn’t have guessed from “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Or this, actually. Maybe I’m deaf to that or something.
Paul: Really? Joe’s got a bit of a cockney bite. She doesn’t.
Grandma Cyd: Oh wait… yes. Now that I’m listening for it, I hear it. I never picked up on it before. And now I hear hers too.
Paul: So you think it veers toward a typical ballad than proper “standard” type fare?
Grandma Cyd: Yeah, typical waltz ballad. I just don’t hear the distinguishing characteristics that some of these other selections have. But this could totally pass for a guest spot on “A Prairie Home Companion.” It’s just missing Garrison Keillor’s off-key “harmonization” that he insists upon doing.
Paul: Fair enough. So then don’t play it again, Sam, eh.
Grandma Cyd: Haha, yeah, I give this a 1. Not a bad song, but not a fit for HPZ.
Paul: Alright, I’ll give it a 2-olive rating.

Natalie Merchant – The Janitor’s Boy (from 2010’s Leave Your Sleep)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 2 olives

Grandma Cyd: So, I kind of forgot she existed.
Paul: Yeah, a lot of people did. This album came out last year and people were like “Oh, wow. I think I remember her.”
Grandma Cyd: And I can kind of see what she’s going for here. There are some throwbacks to the old New Orleans style. Kind of like Connick’s “A Wink and a Smile” arrangement. This just came out this year? I assumed you dug it out of some heap. Dust heap.
Paul: No, she did this album last year. Basically composed a bunch of music to old children’s poems. The story about this poem is that it was written by a 10-year-old girl in 1924. So she got Wynston Marsalis to do this old jazzy backing, suiting it to the era.
Grandma Cyd: Last year—that’s what I meant.
Paul: I don’t know if I believe a 10-year-old wrote this. I know there were some poetry critics who were really pissy about it. “There’s no way a 10-year-old could write this!” I think the line about “The only thing that occurs to me is to dutifully shiver in bed.” Maybe she was just talking about being cold.
Grandma Cyd: Ha!
Paul: But this is a song about being in love with a red-haired boy. So…
Grandma Cyd: So, it’s that a 10-year-old wrote these lyrics as a poem, or that a 10-year-old wrote a poem and [Natalie] based the lyrics upon that poem?
Paul: Lyrics as a poem.
Grandma Cyd: If it was the latter, maybe someone took some liberties with the plotline.
Paul: No, you can look up the original poem. Who knows, though? Maybe things were different in the 1920s. I don’t think I even got the innuendo for “Dutifully shiver in bed” until about 3 years ago. Very sheltered upbringing, you know.
Grandma Cyd: I’d be cold if it were the 1920s. They had crap for HVACs. In fact, they had no HVACs and had to crap in outhouses. So …
Paul: So it would be your duty to shiver.
Grandma Cyd: On the old sateen.
Paul: Anyway, onto the delivery, and this just occurred to me as I was listening to it today. The delivery REALLY reminds me of Peggy Lee. And I thought, you know… you’ve got men like Buble and Jaime Cullum and all these popular dudes trying to emulate some crooners. But no women really try to go for Peggy. The more in-thing seems to be like what the Ditty Bops (who incidentally sing on this song) do where it’s more Andrews Sisters-type harmonies. Or Lily Frost like, where you’re just singing fast over an old timey backing. That slow, clear, “hint-hint” delivery, you know, it’s not like that. It’s all about vocal acrobatics if you’re a popular female singer, isn’t it? Or is my idea of a diva still rooted in 2001 or so when I stopped watching VH1?
Grandma Cyd: My idea of diva involves the opera, so I’m not even sure what you’d be referring to regarding this VH1 business. We had divas in the 90s? I always thought that was code for, “Over-privileged pop princess.” I only hear seconds’-worth of hints of Peggy Lee, though. I mostly hear Natalie Merchant being Natalie Merchant. Which isn’t a bad thing.
Paul: Nah, I think this tune is great. I’m a huge Natalie fan. This song actually almost made the 15 of the Best list… but it was knocked off at the last second. I say 5 olives. Solid.
Grandma Cyd: Wasn’t there another song by her in your list? I’ve forgotten.
Paul: No. This would’ve been the one, but you know, Icarus Himself had to go and do “Digging Holes.” Which you had to introduce me to.
Grandma Cyd: I give it 2 olives. I appreciate the effort and the arrangement, but I’m still not quite buying it. I’m awful that way.
Paul: Wow, only 2?! I am under no obligation to dutifully shiver in bed with you.
Grandma Cyd: Maybe if you had, I’d be more inclined to give a higher rating. Isn’t that how this works?
Paul: Not at all. My taste is impeccable. Those who disagree with me must be banished.

Elvis Costello – When Did I Stop Dreaming (from 2003’s North)
Paul: 2.5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 1 olive

Grandma Cyd: But you banished me … I think you just killed the series prematurely. What ever will people do come Wednesday?
Paul: Yeah, banishment repealed.
Grandma Cyd: That was quick. OK, so the instrumental background on this track reminds me of something I’d hear off the Johnny Hartman Collection I play so often on my show. Something more along the lines of an actual jazz arrangement rather than what we think of as “big band.”
Paul: Now this song… Elvis is interesting, ‘cos he’s always gotta follow this random muse. “I want to do an old time jazz album,” “I want to write an operetta,” “I want to do another pop rock album,” “I want to do a piano album,” etc. So this was from his album North, which was supposed to be like a jazz piano album. I think it was around the time he was starting to see Diana Krall. But the interesting thing is he can’t really play piano well, so I’m imagining he was helped on the album.
Grandma Cyd: Doesn’t sound like this piece requires much piano prowess, though. Just a few chords here and there.
Paul: I got this album in college, ‘cos I thought it would be good and moody. I could be a moody little hermit in college. And this was really the only track on the album that I thought was any good. And I think even that assessment is kinder than what most critics thought of it.
Grandma Cyd: It does sort of drag on, doesn’t it?
Paul: Yeah, and I think the lack of prowess is pretty apparent. It sounds like a guy who’s just been shown a few chords on piano doodling around a bit.
Grandma Cyd: It’s not like—if we take the Johnny Hartman Collection as an example—Hartman’s version of “Lush Life” that he did with John Coltrane, where the song evolves and keeps you hooked, carrying you all along the way, of course with a wonderful sax solo by Coltrane. And who can beat that?
Paul: No one. This song could’ve used Coltrane.
Grandma Cyd: I agree. If you’re going to lay down a 5-minute track, I’d hope that it’s doing something to you emotionally along the way.
Paul: I think I used this song to fall asleep more than brood. I ended up using Sinatra’s Only the Lonely for brooding.
Grandma Cyd: You produced a family of small animals, such as chicks or larvae, from one hatching?
Paul: Brooding. Not breeding.
Grandma Cyd: “Definitions of Brooding on the Web: sitting on eggs so as to hatch them by the warmth of the body.” Granted, Google’s dictionary goes on to include: “Pensiveness: persistent morbid meditation on a problem” and my little Mac widget did not. But that’s neither here nor there.
Paul: Well you’re going to have to take my work that it means working through a period of unhappiness. I’m an editor, for chrissakes.
Grandma Cyd: Ha. P.S. As an example of how you do it.
Paul: I say 2.5 olives. I’ll go for my own personal sentimentality. Even though it never gave me what I wanted.
Grandma Cyd: I’m sorry to do this, Pabs. 1 olive.
Paul: Watch the readers vote this their favorite. Just you watch. This is going to be your albatross.
Grandma Cyd: As one who’s now crossed the mighty Drake Passage and watched the albatross soar along the sea, I still have yet to understand where that phrase comes from and what it’s supposed to mean.
Paul: Well, soaring across the sea is fine. You want the bugger hanging around your neck?
Grandma Cyd: Haha. If it saves him from being caught in the long lines of the Chilean sea bass fishing boats? What can I say, I’m a sucker for wildlife.
Paul: Fair enough!
Grandma Cyd: Anywhosies …

Check back for Part 3 tomorrow!


I got a fair bit of chat, but better than that …

April 18, 2011

Good Monday, everybody.

Hopefully you all tuned into “The Heavy Petting Zoo” on WSUM radio on Saturday (and if you didn’t, seriously, WTF?).

If you didn’t (shame, shame, shame), then you missed the great Grandma Cyd and I discussing a possible new direction for her show. What, I ask you, is the difference between playing a disco-fied, wakka-wakka tinged version of “Volare” from 1976 and playing a song from 1993 that sounds like it’s straight out of the 1940s? Nothing apparently, as Grandma Cyd sees fit to play both in her show that is regulated to play big band standards and all the good stuff from your favorite crooners in the era comprising the 1930s through the 1950s. But ah, we all know that when one does waffle on parameters, the rules might have to bend for other post 1950s songs besides “A Wink and a Smile” and said disco classic.

Ruminating on that, I went to my exceedingly huge music collection (you know what they say about guys with big music collections…) and started picking out songs that could easily fit alongside the Franks, Deans, Sammys, Bobbys, Ellas, Rosemarys and Dicks (um…) that populate “The Heavy Petting Zoo” each Saturday night. So I came up with an idea: 15 songs released between 1969 and 2011 that could merit inclusion in the HPZ playlist (or at least the library). So I culled together the 15, had a nice chat with Grandma Cyd about why (or why not) they should merit inclusion, and then thought, well, bloody hell, who are we to say? You are our faithful listeners and readers, and if we put the choice in your hands, what would YOU say? So this week we’ll post 3 tracks each day. On Friday, after each track has been posted, you can go The Heavy Petting Zoo’s Facebook Page (be sure to like it, friend) and vote on your favorite of the 14 of 15 tracks we post. (We’re including “A Wink and a Smile” for purposes of starting the discussion, but that’s already in the rotation, you see).

So get off the bench and in the game. Here are the first 3 (well, 2) tracks to consider. And our thoughts on them.

Which modern songs deserve placement alongside the classics?

Harry Connick, Jr. – A Wink and a Smile (from 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 5 olives

Grandma Cyd: Connick first?
Paul: Connick is playing. So, I ask you, since you always upset your 1930s—1950s qualifications by including this in the playlist… what makes this song a constant rule breaker?
Grandma Cyd: Alright, so when I first heard the song (in “Sleepless in Seattle” and on the “Sleepless in Seattle” soundtrack), I just assumed it was a cover of a song from the time period. Partly because I could swear I’ve heard the term “like a wink and a smile” before, as if it’d become cliché as a result of popular music. And also because this arrangement sounded so authentically classic that I figured it was a cover that stuck close to the original arrangement. When I started HPZ, my collection of music from the 1930s—1950s wasn’t very robust. I had all kinds of 1950s stuff, some 1940s stuff, and no 1930s stuff. So I thought, “Well, I’ll play this Connick version until I come across the original. And when I find the original, I’ll incorporate that into my show.” But I couldn’t find the original anywhere. It wasn’t until I met you that you confirmed my suspicions that perhaps this was a Connick original, not a cover. But by then, I’d been playing the song now and then, and I like it a lot. I didn’t want to ditch it for the sake of sticking to the rules. And yet, people (who may or may not have given birth to me) point to it and say, “You play HIM, why won’t you play Barry Manilow?!” And I don’t have a terribly good answer to that.
Paul: Haha! Well, I dig the fact that he references a “hip, double dip tip toppy two-seat Pontiac.” Because that’s what I drive. Mine has four seats, but it’s 2-door. So, same difference.
Grandma Cyd: And he incorporated the word “jalopy.” Mega points for that one.
Paul: But now Pontiac’s obsolete, so this song is going to date horribly.
Grandma Cyd: Never thought of that– I drive a Pontiac. But four door. So obviously I suck.
Paul: Well I wasn’t going to say anything … But yeah, Harry’d been honing this kind of sound for awhile. The “When Harry Met Sally” soundtrack is in a very similar vein. I don’t know if he has any originals on that one, but I know he covers a lot of standards in this style. Of course, until the mid 1990s or so, so many of his albums sounded like this.
Grandma Cyd: You mean they don’t anymore? I own one Connick CD (We Are in Love) and I think I only listened to it all the way through once. But I still respect the guy. Unlike others who try to pull this off (*cough*Buble*cough*).
Paul: Ah good, I was wondering when we were going to get a Buble dig in. Starting off right.
Grandma Cyd: Haha.
Paul: But yeah, Harry’s stuff has gotten a bit funkier over the years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s like, “Dude …” But he’s alright. As long as he’s not showing up on sitcoms. Then he bothers me. But in this format, or in “Memphis Belle,” I can totally dig the guy.
Grandma Cyd: You’re just mad that he messed up things with Will & Grace. Would you just get over it? It was, like, 10 years ago now.
Paul: Fine, fine. Interesting fact: This song was nominated for an Oscar. Lost to Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.” So at least a song from SOME Tom Hanks featuring film won that year.
Grandma Cyd: Huh. I didn’t realize those movies came out the same year.
Paul: Yeah, and then “Forrest Gump” the next year. Hanks was on fire. Anyway, we’re veering. Onto the next track?
Grandma Cyd: OK.

Lily Frost – Enchantment (from 2007’s Cine-Magique)
Paul: 2 olives
Grandma Cyd: 2 olives

Paul: Now, I know I gave you the “Lily Swings” album where she covered a bunch of Billie Holliday tunes. But this one is an original.
Grandma Cyd: Ah, yes. I was just going to say—this might be the first original I’ve heard from her (but I could be forgetting something).
Paul: The first time I heard this, I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of nice.” It doesn’t have a lot of staying power for me, though. The verses kind of lose me. The production’s nice. The sounds are good. It sounds nice and dusty. Plus, she drops the word “horny.” Not nearly enough artists do on a show called “The Heavy Petting Zoo.” But even at 3 minutes, I feel like it wanders a bit.
Grandma Cyd: There’s something about it that I like more than her covers. But at the same time, yeah, it loses my attention after a while. Her voices loses its torchiness when she struggles to get to the upper register of her voice range. Whoa, I missed the “horny” thing. I guess I got lost among her declaration of getting high?
Paul: Yeah, not enough artists talk about that on HPZ either. And that’s music from the days when you could get heroin at the corner drug store.
Grandma Cyd: Oh, that’s because I don’t play enough Cole Porter. I’m sure he wrote plenty of songs about being high and horny. But they got buried under the rated G stuff.
Paul: Right. Did those tunes show up in “De-Lovely”? I wonder if Ashley Judd had problems with that lyrical content …
Grandma Cyd: Am I the worst HPZ host in the world if I admit I never saw that movie? While we’re on the subject, might I point out that this song has a similarity to many of Cole Porter’s songs that I think our lukewarm reaction speaks to? Especially your assessment.
Paul: Oh yeah? Are you suggesting I’m lukewarm to Cole Porter? And no, you’re not the worst HPZ host in the world. Maybe in Botswanna, though.
Grandma Cyd: Is Botswanna not part of this world? All these things I’m learning tonight. I’m not suggesting you are lukewarm to Cole Porter, but I am suggesting maybe you should be.
Paul: It’s my world. Everyone else just lives in it.
Grandma Cyd: Nice. That is ever so true.
Paul: So Lily Frost, you uncover a Cole Porter debate on Madison radio. Bet she never thought that’d happen when she laid this track down.
Grandma Cyd: Anywhosies, it wasn’t till I read this essay on Hoagy Carmichael’s music (I bet you were wondering how long until I bring him up, too) in a book called “Easy To Remember” by William Zinsser that I recognized what it is that usually makes or breaks a song for me. Zinsser points out that many of Cole Porters songs have repetitive melodies—either depending on repetitive notes or on repetitive musical phrases (“Night and Day” is a really good example of this)—and it’s the chord changes underneath the melodies that actually make the songs interesting. But if you were to just look at the melodies alone on a sheet of music, you’d be bored to tears and wonder if an 8-year-old wrote the songs. I joke that a chicken could’ve pecked its way through “Night and Day” on Porter’s piano.
Paul: That’d be something for “MythBusters.”
Grandma Cyd: And I think what you were getting at here is that there are some interesting interludes happening underneath the melody of “Enchantment,” and this is especially apparent at the end. That caught my ear too, and I liked it. But overall, I thought the song was lacking. And I think the repetitive melody/elementary melodic composition that went into it is the primary reason why.
Paul: I see. So thumbs up or thumbs down? We should come up with a different rating system, in case Ebert’s reading this blog …
Grandma Cyd: Can I put one thumb up and one thumb down? One thumb plays the accompaniment, and the other plays the melody.
Paul: How about “Do we lift our glass to it or not?”
Grandma Cyd: Glasses do not play the piano.
Paul: Martini glass, you know. Apropos for the show.
Grandma Cyd: Haha. Or we could rank them in the number of olives in the glass. Okay, that’s stretching it.
Paul: That’s not a bad idea, actually. We’ll work on a 5-olive scale. I’d say this one gets 2. Harry gets 5.
Cynthia: Yeah, 2. And 5 for Harry. At some point we’ll have to disagree, so people won’t think we’re sleeping together.
Paul: A “Heavy Petting Zoo” scandal. Maybe we’ll become stranger bedfellows with the next tune.

Paolo Nutini – Pencil Full of Lead (from 2009’s Sunny Side Up)
Paul: 5 olives
Grandma Cyd: 4 olives

Paul: I’ll come right out and say it. I love this song. When I first heard it, I thought it was some lost Louis Prima recording that was finally unearthed in 2009.
Grandma Cyd: YES! When I first listened to it, the exact words I said to myself were, “Holy Louis Prima!” And I had to check the track info you sent me to make sure it wasn’t him. Second thought was, “‘License for my tele’? Holy British broadcasting system!”
Paul: I think Paolo’s first album came out in 2007 or so. He was this teenager with this songwriting prowess and his “New Shoes” was used in some commercial. Probably a shoe commercial. And it was all, you know, guitar pop. And he was all the rage with the girls I was dating at the time in Madison. And I thought he was OK, but it was like, “Well, he’s not that good. Here, let me show you Paul Weller.” Then I stopped dating those girls and he dropped off my radar. I heard this song a couple years later and was honestly thinking it was Prima. When I found out it was Paolo, it was like, “Oh, dammit.” As if I’d actually have to call up all the exes and go, “You were right about him.” But the kid’s like 21 here, and this is an original. I mean, kudos to him.
Grandma Cyd: The rhythm and style of this song (and maybe even that so-called sax solo at 1:40-ish) reminds me of the Brian Setzer Orchestra songs that were big in the 90s. On the one hand, I could see people swing dancing to this; on the other hand, if it reminds me of Setzer, I kind of want to gag (kind of an exaggeration and yet not). It was all the rage with girls in Madison in 2007? Really? I never heard of him till whenever he recently popped up on your blog.
Paul: Yeah, but it doesn’t got the big pompous sheen that the Setzer tracks do. I mean it’s a pretty minimal arrangement here. Drums, bass, sax, trumpet, harmonica.
Grandma Cyd: So-called sax. Sounds synthesized. OK, maybe not. I’m listening again.
Paul: I have a feeling it’s authentic. Maybe I’m misnaming my brass. I saw him perform this live and he always had proper accompaniment. Going back to the dated thing, isn’t it interesting that the lyrics he uses are also gonna date themselves pretty soon here? How big of a deal is a pencil full of lead or a shelf full of books going to be here soon? If you have a stylus and kindle, I think life is good. But I’m very glad he didn’t lyrically drop “stylus” or “kindle” in this thing. My verdict: 5 stars for the young Mr. Nutini. But I’m not telling my exes. Er, 5 olives. Sorry.
Grandma Cyd: I’m not convinced books are going the way of the dinosaur—it’s like how people keep saying radio will soon be irrelevant and it never is.
Paul: Good point.
Grandma Cyd: But point of order: Am I ranking this based on how likely it would be this song could be easily incorporated into my show? Or on how I like it overall regardless of that?
Paul: Both!
Grandma Cyd: And take an average of the two? Do we allow decimals?
Paul: Sure. They chop up olives.
Grandma Cyd: OK. 3.5 olives.
Paul: Ugh. This relationship is over.
Grandma Cyd: What? 4 for likeability, 3 for if I’d play it. I mean, close to 4, but I’m still unsure. Actually wait. Nah, I’ll give it 4 (just listened back some more). I think I was getting hung up on the Setzer association, but all in all, it’d easily fit in among a ’50s set with the likes of Prima, et al.
Paul: Rockin’.
Grandma Cyd: Bumping up its “usability” to 4.

Check back tomorrow for the next 3 songs under consideration.


Had to cool me down to take another round.

April 15, 2011


I don’t remember the first time I heard “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I can’t even estimate the number of times I’ve heard it in my lifetime (let alone the times I heard it blaring from barroom speakers during my college years in Milwaukee). But I do remember the first time in high school that my old friend Brian recited the lyrics to me as if he was cluing me into some really great secret about how subversive the lyrics were. “C’mon Paul. ‘She told me to come, but I was already there.’ How great is that?” I also remember the laughter that eminated from him—half hysterical, half sinister—as he recited titles to me from the Back in Black album. “‘Givin’ the Dog a Bone!’ ‘Let Me Put My Love Into You!’ HAHAHAHA!”

More than a decade after Brian harrassed me into buying Back in Black at a time when I wanted to do no more than spend my days discussing the merits of the Kinks and Kula Shaker, I got the opportunity through my day job to spend time having a chat with the finely weathered voice of AC/DC for the past 31 years. The meat of our conversation will go into a magazine article later this year, but when one has the opportunity to have a chat with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, well, one must think of his music blog!

This will be the inductory piece for a new series on this blog called “Give Me Five,” in which I ask musicians for five minutes of their time and pose five questions that tap into their own musical appreciation. I’ve already done two such questionnaires as addendums to my interviews with Murry Hammond of the Old 97’s and Craig Reid of the Proclaimers. There will be more interviews on this site in the future, but if I can’t get a full interview for the site, I’ll always be gunning for another addition to the “Give Me Five” series.

AC/DC last year completed their tour for the Black Ice album, and Johnson is currently talking up his induction to the literary world with Rockers and Rollers: A Full Throttle Memoir. Johnson himself admits it’s simply a few scribbles he wrote down while waiting to add vocals to Black Ice. The book is an an appreciation of automobiles and a collection of tales told as if he was telling you stories down the pub, but it’s his little asides that really make it worthwhile. Example: “You see, I don’t understand Saabs. They’re a bit like U2: you know they’re good but you just don’t get it.”

The morning after a night out with Ron White, he’s kind enough to let us in on what he wishes he could’ve written and the surprising crew with whom he’d like to collaborate. And no, Jim Breuer is not included.

Give Me Five.
Five burning questions with Brian Johnson of AC/DC

What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?

Ah, oh that’s a toughie. That is a toughie. But I’m gonna have to say, oh, “In My Life.” I think that one. (Sings) “There are places I remember …” I don’t know why. I just love it when I hear it.

Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Oh, um, gosh darn it. Cole Porter. Unbelievable. Richard Rodgers. Brilliant. And Lennon and McCartney—I’m gonna put the two of them down, ‘cos I can never make me mind up about them, they’re brilliant. And I’m sure there’s lots of others, I just can’t think of them all.

If you had to pick one song that you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter, what would that be?
Oh, one that I’ve written? I still think, and for sentimental reasons ‘cos it was the first song I wrote with AC/DC was “Shook Me All Night Long.” And you can tell the car influence in it immediately, which is just the way it came out. It was the first song I wrote with the boys and I still enjoy the song today, you know? It’s timeless. Timeless song, there.

What’s the one song you wish you could’ve written?
“Low Rider” by War.
Have you ever covered that? That’d be interesting.
No, you know, there’s very few bands to copy War. I mean, you’ve gotta remember these guys were black guys and Hispanic guys in L.A. gettin’ together and just makin’ a sound like, God dammit! It’s just brilliant stuff.

Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re really digging?
Oh, I just mix everything up. At the minute, I’m just filling me head with Frankie Miller, and it’s an old album, but I just dug it up again and it’s just been in me car for the last month and I just rock on to it, you know?

A big thank you to Brian for letting me technically ask six and making us all ponder what a Porter/Johnson or Rodgers/Johnson tune might sound like. Methinks it would’ve given a nice charge to “The King & I” … or at least “Oklahoma!” No matter what Hammerstein’s objections may have been.

AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long (Buy it here.)

War – Low Rider (Buy it here.)