Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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When I sit and close my eyes, a gentle thought comes in my mind.

September 27, 2012

You’re gonna sit there and be pissy about something this idiot does? Really? You can’t find a better way to spend your time?

I don’t know why the news of Mike Love “firing” Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks from the Beach Boys touring band has caught such fire in the last 24 hours—the news is already more than a week old. And in a day and age where people can wake up and rant their heads off on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or whatever social media realm you favor and then forget what they were so angry about 15 minutes later, this seems like a horrible lag on the public at large’s part.

But here’s a quick hit of what comes up when you type “Mike Love” into Twitter’s search bar right now.

The last one made me laugh. But go ahead and see for yourself how much hatred and vitriol there is toward this guy.

Now think about this time last year before you even knew that the Beach Boys were going to be touring together again—let alone releasing a new album—and think about what your opinion of Mike Love was then.

If you are a Beach Boys fan of even modest repute, it was probably about the same.

So what, really, are we so pissed about? That a 71-year-old who’s had a long history of being a dick (here’s that famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction clip — go on to 3:49 for Love’s infamous rant) comes out and makes another dick move? Wow, and this from a crotchety old guy who decides the best place to defend his good name with cuddly old Bill O’Reilly! Never saw that coming …

I suppose the idea of Brian Wilson and Mike Love sharing a stage again this summer worked as some metaphor for being able to get through whatever bullsh*t threatens your bond during a lifetime. The fact that Love and Wilson are cousins and somehow found a way past 40 some years of disagreement, lawsuits and general backbiting maybe made it more special. I think the Stone Roses managed to pull off the “we really do like each other now” act a little more convincingly than the remaining Beach Boys did this summer, but that’s merely from my review of videos posted on the Internet. I didn’t actually see the Stone Roses this summer, nor did I see the Beach Boys.

So maybe I’m out of line in suggesting that the Brian Wilson ( … OK, and Al and David) not being part of Beach Boys anymore is really not that big of a deal. Maybe if I had made it to one of the shows this year, I’d have been impressed and/or inspired by what I saw before me. But the thing is, I saw Brian Wilson when he performed the whole of Pet Sounds with a symphony. I saw him on the SMiLE tour. And any day of the week, I would rather see this than I would this. I did see the Beach Boys back in 1994 when Carl was still around and to hear that voice sing “God Only Knows” live was something special. The fact that Uncle Jesse was the drummer at that show was a bit surreal, but it was still a show worth remembering. And even then, at 12 years of age and before I got interested in the band’s history and everything else, I sat that there thinking, “Mike Love is really not that great of a frontman.”

And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking Mike doing this is akin to him robbing the world of another SMiLE. Yes, Brian has recently suggested that he’d like to make another album with the Beach Boys (gasp, “a rock ‘n’ roll album” even!), but I don’t want any of you trying to tell me that That’s Why God Made the Radio was this year’s pristine gift to music lovers everywhere. I’ve heard it, and I’m sure you’ve heard at least some of it if not all of it, and I can tell you that I didn’t actually pay money for it and I’m pretty sure you didn’t either. Were there some surprises on it? Yes. I found myself in love with one of the tracks (it’s almost a shoo-in for a spot on the “15 of the Best” list at the end of the year), but when you’re expecting a possible catastrophe, a couple songs that would’ve made better-than-average fillers on the albums around the Friends and Wild Honey era sound that much more impressive. I’m all for Brian Wilson continuing to write and record, but I’m not expecting another “Cabin Essence” from a guy who’s more happy of late to give a Beach Boys swing to Gershwin or Disney tunes. Hell, I’m still demanding my money back for that goddamned collaboration with Paul McCartney 8 years ago. THAT is the result of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney getting together?! Does Brian Wilson have the right to do whatever he damn well pleases at this point of his life and career? Absolutely, and I’m not going to criticize it (unless you build me up with the thought that Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney have collaborated on a track for the first time in history and we get “A Friend Like You”). But I’m also not going to demand or expect any more genius from him. I think he’s given us enough.

So Mike Love wants to go back to playing county fairs and and village parties with a band of guys who, if it weren’t for Mike Love’s wishes, might instead be playing in a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute act or with 2 guys out of the Buckinghams on the same county fair circuit. Big f*cking deal. THAT’s what you want Brian Wilson to be part of? That’s where you want the Beach Boys legacy to have its final living flickers? Not in hushed reverence of Brian Wilson at the Royal Albert Hall or in some revered theater in a major American city? ‘Cos I, for one, think that’s a hell of a lot more appropriate.

But if you don’t, then OK, go ahead and get mad at Mike Love for denying Brian Wilson the chance to sing “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” as some dude in a tanktop and floral board shorts half-listens while he orders a $6 burrito and $3 cotton candy from a stand set up by a suburban Mexican restaurant.

It just seems like a really wasted emotion to me.

And trust me, there are better things to be angry about than a 71-year-old asshole being an asshole.

P.S. For all of Mike Love’s idiocy and dickishness, he did cowrite this. So there is that.

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We believe that we can’t be wrong.

May 22, 2012

Ram is back. And it’s high time you start loving the album if you haven’t already.

My first exposure to Paul (…OK, and Linda) McCartney’s Ram came when I was about 11 years old. My dad had acquired a Chrysler LeBaron convertible, which was the first vehicle to come into our family bearing a tape deck. To christen the tape deck the previous summer, he’d bought a cassette copy of the Beatles 20 Greatest Hits, which set my 10-year-old imagination on fire. That was the best music I’d ever heard. I became a Beatles obsessive, and started poring through my father’s old record collection at my grandparents’ house. It went beyond obsession for me, I had to know EVERYTHING about the Beatles. Every useless trivia factoid, every line of dialogue in their films, who actually played what on each track, so on and so forth. By the time I was 12, my dad once said to his own mother, “You know, I thought I was a fan. Goddamn, I’ve created a monster.”

Anyway, with the acquisition of the convertible, my father now had an ample reason to dive back into a box of cassette tapes that he’d had since the 1970s. Because he had a perfectly good turntable and speakers set up in our living room and a pristine record collection, there was little if any need to make use of the cassette deck with musty old dubbed cassettes with handwritten labels that had long-since worn off.

So the soundtrack to our family’s roadtrips became the music my dad listened to in his teens and early 20s. That meant a pretty constant rotation of Steely Dan’s Greatest Hits, Ray Manzarek’s The Golden Scarab (seriously, the solo debut from the Doors’ keyboardist … how hipster WAS my father?), a horribly worn down copy of the Beatles’ White Album, and rounding it off, Ram.

Now, among the Beatles records that I devoured at my grandparents’ house, there was an original Apple 45 of “Another Day,” which was the first solo Beatles record I ever listened to. And I loved it, it honestly seemed as good and catchy as most late-period Beatles stuff, just with a woman on backing vox instead of John. So given that that McCartney had released that single as a precursor to Ram 11 years before I was even born, it seemed like Ram would easily find its way into my favor.

(Quick aside: OF COURSE I picked up the reissue of the “Another Day”/”Oh Woman, Oh Why” 45 on Record Store Day. The copy that first introduced me to the song has long since disappeared after my grandparents made their run of old people moves, from Florida and then to Iowa after a particularly nasty hurricane and then to assisted living. And while it’s great to have the songs on vinyl again, I was really disheartened by the hot pink sleeve and record label. McCartney really couldn’t commission a reprint of the Apple label? Didn’t he basically drive all three Beatles in 1970/71 to hate him because he was the only one willing to SAVE the Apple label? OK. End of rant.)

But Ram proved to be a bit of a slow-grower for me. I vividly remember Dad using “Smile Away” to hook me because he thought his 11-year-old son would find the line “Man, I can smell your feet a mile away” funny in the same way his 11-year-old thought fart jokes were funny. And because fathers know this kind of stuff, he was proven right. I did think “Smile Away” was funny, but I actually liked the guitar part more than I thought stinky feet (or breath or teeth) were funny.

And I liked the sound of “Too Many People,” I liked how big and pretty “Dear Boy” was, I liked “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” for the same reason I liked “Octopus’ Garden” and I liked “Monkberry Moon Delight” because I had no clue what any of it meant but it sounded ominous in a cool way.

But the rest of the album didn’t really find much favor with my 11-year old psyche. The more acoustic numbers were boring, “Long Haired Lady” was kind of scary and way too long and “The Back Seat of My Car,” well … for a boy still approaching puberty, the thought of sneaking away anywhere with a girl in the back seat was just kind of boring. If not a little disgusting.

But the thing about Ram was that it remained a constant in my father’s car. And as you age and your brain develops and you learn to appreciate things, you find yourself liking things that previously put you off. The way McCartney scats along with the guitar solo in “Heart of the Country,” the unabashed pop beauty of the “Bring the love that you feel for me…” bit in “Eat at Home,” and the undecipherable vamping on “Back Seat of My Car.” Year by year, the songs that I’d written off previously found favor in my psyche. All because my dad kept the album in rotation road trip after road trip.

A few years later, when I was a senior in high school, I was talking to my friend Brian about “Dad” albums. That is, albums that everyone’s father is into. I think the surefire choices were Steely Dan’s Aja, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and either something by Yes or the Moody Blues. Late-era, mystic Moody Blues too, unfortunately. Not the good, Denny Laine-inclusive R&B stuff from the early years.

But we never counted Ram as a “Dad” album, because of its Beatle link. Anything Beatle-related couldn’t be considered “Dad,” because by the time we were 17, 18, it wasn’t our parents telling us how great the Beatles were. It was our favorite modern artists. (Seriously. Mine was Oasis.)

But for people like me, who were born more than a decade after Ram was first released, it is a “Dad” album. And it has to be. The reason we’re here celebrating a reissue campaign that features a 4-CD, 1-DVD and 112-page book box set is because this album has been handed down to all of us by the people who were there and loved it when it first came out. If we’d left it to Paul McCartney or any of the critics who slated it the first time around, the album would forever be consigned to all the bad/hokey stuff that we use to paint the stereotypical picture of McCartney.

My favorite Ram story has nothing to do with me personally listening to the music or having a connective moment to the album (like when I was learning guitar and I found out it was a C minor under that last “well…” in “Long Haired Lady”).

It goes back to my senior year of high school and my final year in the Youth in Government program. Every spring, the group would get on a stinky, closer-to-breaking-down-than-you’d-like-to-know school bus, and endure a 4-hour trip to Springfield, IL and pretend to be senators, representatives, lawyers and judges for the weekend. Now, as cool as that sounds (I say that with sarcasm), it actually was pretty cool (I say that with no sarcasm). The group of kids that went down was actually a mildly intelligent bunch who possessed a shared sense of humor and a great friendship founded on not quite being good enough to be in Model U.N. or some other academic powerhouse.

In addition to the minor academic insecurity posed by being in Youth in Government, the people who were part of it were also of that middle-to-lower-upper tier of popularity on the high school social totem pole. None of us were anywhere near attractive (or vapid) enough to be part of the platinum/athlete/cheerleader elite, nor were we brainy or antisocial enough to be part of the nerdy/awkward bottom dwellers. We were smart, we could be funny, but we were nice too. And let me tell you, that made the girls in the group even more attractive than they already were.  Some of the girls were under dating consideration for football players and wrestlers in that elite social stratosphere, and in that they were poachable, you kind of felt that much more elevated if they talked to you, let alone laughed at your joke.

So even though I was a senior and only a couple months away from leaving the high school social ladder and all the insecurities it brings with it behind, I was taken by surprise when one of these girls  came over to my seat on the bus ride back from Springfield.

“Can I see what CDs you brought?” she asked.

This was in the day and age of CD walkmans and CD wallets that maybe held 24 CDs (the people who brought the 60-CD wallets on those trips were helpful, but also kind of smug about it). The fact that this girl was going to look through my collection was a big moment. I was a Britpop kid and in middle America at the beginning of 2001, that didn’t mean I was anywhere near the center of cool. Titles by Oasis, Travis, Stereophonics and Ocean Colour Scene might send her away just as quickly and unexpectedly as she’d arrived. Then again, what if she too was a fan of OCS? My God, we’d share something that no one else in suburban Illinois would! The mind raced.

“Oh my God,” she said.

I looked down at my CD wallet fearing I’d forgotten to remove my Classic Sinatra CD and would have to make an impassioned defense of Sinatra to defend my grandmother’s honor from the dismissive (and ignorant) chortles of a high school girl. I didn’t see the Sinatra CD.

“What?” I asked.

“You have Ram?!”

From the way she asked, I couldn’t tell if I was in line for a pat on the back or a “My waste of a stepfather listens to that, you loser!”

“Y-yeah …” I stammered, mentally preparing the arguments to defend Paul McCartney against yet another likely passionate (but misinformed) bout of Lennon canonization.

“I love Ram!”

Wa-hey! Another unexpected surprise.

“Oh my God!” she continued. “My dad used to make my sister and I listen to this on road trips when we were little. I haven’t heard this in years! Can I borrow it?”

“Of course,” I said, in my best approximation of how Justin Timberlake would respond to a pretty girl’s request to sign her boobs.

She took the CD back to her seat, and began smiling uncontrollably. “OH! ‘TOO MANY PEOPLE!’ HOW GOOD IS THIS?!” she called out to me, in the upper-level volume that people who sport headphones playing music have to talk in.

I nodded in approval and watched her for a second as she played a bit of air guitar and moved from a lip-synch into a quiet singalong by the time “That was your first mistake…” came around.

STREAM THE REMASTERED VERSION OF “TOO MANY PEOPLE” HERE.

When she finished listening to the album, she gave it back to me. We never said another word to each other. I can’t remember her last name and once I got off the bus, I never saw her again in my life.

But for that moment, we shared something pretty cool. A piece of music that both of our fathers loved 30 years prior. Our fathers didn’t care what the critics said, about John Lennon calling it awful or Ringo Starr (where he ever got the f*cking nerve, I don’t know) dismissing it entirely. They knew it was great and once their kids started showing an interest in halfway decent music, they slipped it into our subconscious too. I hope someday I have a kid to pass it on to as well, because frankly, I can’t f*cking wait to play “Dear Boy” for him or her and go “Now, listen to this!”

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I see all kinds of sorrow, wish I only loved one.

February 29, 2012

1945 – 2012

It’s kind of strange that Davy Jones is the first Monkee to go, because much more than their 45th Anniversary tour could have last year or the “big” reunion album Justus could have in 1996, it’s going to really prompt all the talking heads and people who feel like they have a preordained right to tell you what’s what (Hi, my name’s Paul …) to wax on at length about the Monkees and the difficult line they wobbled across between “manufactured pop confection” and “legitimate artists.” I’ve met a lot of people in my life who would put sweat and blood into an argument about the latter, while I’m sure people like Jann Wenner will go to their own graves wholeheartedly believing the former.

Davy Jones is not now—nor was he ever—the Monkee to settle the argument.

Most actually goddamned musical? You have to defer to Peter Tork or Michael Nesmith. Best songs? Well, Micky Dolenz sang the lot of ’em (“Randy Scouse Git,” “Stepping Stone,” “Porpoise Song,” “As We Go Along,” many more). In the end, I’ve always felt that although the initial idea was to make Davy Jones the “face” of the group, he was really the “showbiz” facade to all of it. Sure, he sang “Daydream Believer” and “I Wanna Be Free,” but at the end of the day, he was just the short English dude out front shaking the tambourine and singing along, wasn’t he? (I still believe my soon-to-be-2-year-old cousin could do a better job miming bass.)

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. Jones did have some songwriting credits in the Monkees (“Dream World,” “The Poster,” “You and I”) and apparently could play a little bit of guitar.

But when it comes down to the Monkees’ best tunes, the selectest of the few of them were written by the Monkees themselves and doesn’t it seem a little obvious that for a group put together by a TV production studio, the “face” of America’s attempt to cash in on Beatle-related success would be English himself? If Micky, Michael and Peter had been joined by another American actor/musician, would the group have been as popular? Debatable, considering the market that executives aimed the Monkees at and that to this day, American girls of all ages have a bit of a weakness for that accent. Maybe somedays I do too. Shut up.

But after the decline of the Monkees, Davy was trading in on his teen heartthrob stature via Monkee-related reunion spots or appearances on a variety of shows from The Brady Bunch to Boy Meets World … even Dr. Phil. True, if you look deeply into his career, you will find some non-Monkee related music to his name, but from his teenage days working in various stage productions, up until the end of his life, Jones always seemed to follow a career path that would follow the spotlight as opposed to forging any deep-seated musical legacy.

Not that you could charge his former bandmates of doing things much differently. Tork and Nesmith both tried their hands at solo careers, but neither picked up much notice in their non-Monkee related outings (Tork’s various toilings eventually saw him release a solo version of “Stepping Stone,” while Nesmith was afforded the ability to do whatever he wanted or didn’t want thanks to his family’s fortune tied to Liquid Paper). Dolenz also took Jones’ multimedia route outside the Monkees, appearing in TV and on radio in various programs.

The basic truth is at one point or another, all these guys hated each other, but again at one point or another, they were all willing to put aside those differences for the payday a reunion show or tour promised. In the end, yes, the Monkees as a band—whether legitimate or not—are products of the celebrity that their creators set out to achieve.

Still, with Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith, you find yourself with something to say musically about the Monkees. Because of their collective push for creative control, the Monkees actually became a legitimate musical group as opposed to a bunch of actors singing along to prerecorded backing tracks. You can say what you want about Neil Diamond or Boyce and Hart writing the best Monkees material, but say Dolenz wrote “Randy Scouse Git” or Nesmith wrote “Listen to the Band” or Tork was actually a pretty talented multi-instrumentalist. Any of those three go and we can start breaking down whether or not Headquarters actually was a decent-to-good album (“they played all their own stuff!” vs. “much of the material was not written by them!”) or why Head‘s best songs never get the same amount of play as the best stuff on More of the Monkees.

With Jones passing on, yes, we’ve lost the guy who sang “Daydream Believer,” but Twitter’s already erupted into wars about whether “I’m a Believer” or “Last Train to Clarksville” should be used in tribute since Micky sang those songs. Does anyone want to push “The Poster” or “You and I” as proper tributes if they’re basically aimless songs? Is there a fitting tribute to be found if the first things that pop up on my Twitter feed are jokes about Marcia Brady, this happening the same day as Snooki reveals she’s pregnant or whether David Bowie now gets to reclaim his name? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that the Monkees debate to end all Monkees debates doesn’t start with Jones’ death.

For now we can remind ourselves that the Monkees outsold both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in 1967. Wait a moment. Allow that to sink in.

The debate about whether that puts them in the same league with their lesser-selling peers is a debate for another day.

Just know this: That success and every Monkee fan’s favorite argument for legitimacy never would have happened if Davy Jones wasn’t a part of it.

The Monkees – Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
Like “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” this track was actually written by Mr. Jewish Elvis himself, Neil Diamond. Taken from the Monkees’ 1967 sophomore effort More of the Monkees (a piecemeal attempt by Colgems to cash in on the Monkees success, Nesmith hated the album and once called it “the worst album in the history of the world ever”), I actually think this is one of Jones’ better lead vocals for the group. Dolenz’s backing vocal threatens to overpower Jones, but Jones rises to the challenge on the chorus—listen to the growl in that “I see all kinds of sorrow” bit. It’s kind of like he’s saying “Back off. Mine.” Then he kind of undermines that strength with those “I love you” whispers over the guitar breaks, but c’est la vie. Everyone’s going to be posting “Daydream Believer” or “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” in the next couple days (or, hopefully, that great performance of “Girl” from “A Very Brady Movie”—laugh out loud worthy). Here’s a cool track that helps stoke the “Hey, you know the Monkees were actually pretty f*cking good” argument. Even if they didn’t write this or play any of the instruments.

The Monkees weren’t about music, Marge. They were about rebellion, about political and social upheaval!

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I don’t care if the sun don’t shine—I do my drinking in the evening time when I’m in Las Vegas.

January 16, 2012

My Week in Las Vegas

Sometime in the first part of 2011, my boss told me that he would send me to Las Vegas in January 2012 to represent our publication at the Consumer Electronics Show. I’d never been to Las Vegas before (my friends who have beat me to the punch at the altar have never suggested the city as an appropriate bachelor party venue. Apparently, this makes my friends total losers or the most admirable bunch of guys to walk the face of Earth). Anyway, the prospect of this trip excited me on a few fronts:

1.) My job was guaranteed through at least January 13, 2012. In the print media world, you appreciate these kinds of things.

2.) I’d be the envy of every closeted- or overtly dorky friend I have. And I have a few.

3.) I’d get to see how the rebuilding effort had turned out since that oversized toddler decimated Las Vegas in 1992.

It also worried me on a few fronts:

1.) I’ve never in my life had an attraction to gambling. Never been supplied with a lot of expendable income and tend to be pretty protective of what I have and/or what the creditors are willing to advance me.

2.) I live in Chicago. The “Wow, big city” thing just doesn’t do it for me, no matter how many flashing neon lights you equip it with.

3.) If I’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that decent people inevitably lose their f*cking minds in Las Vegas.

But weighing the two, and considering most of my expenses would be comped, going to Las Vegas on business terms seemed to be a formidable excuse for visiting a city that had never posed any attraction to me whatsoever. Moreover, a trip to the sunny west in the middle of January from Chicago, really, was reason enough.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter (or do so from the live feed on this page down and to the right there), I apologize for retweeting myself. But Twitter proved to be the real-time depository for my thoughts and afterthoughts last week, and so they’ll be a good anchor for this recap.

Also, for anyone who’s hoping for a lot of CES inside information here, sorry. The job pays me for that. You don’t. But if you’d like to send me some bucks, hey, we can start a dialogue. God knows there was no lack of media coverage on the show. You’ll find a few allusions in here, but nothing substantial on gadgets, whozits, whatsits, thingamybobs and whatever else Ariel was storing up in her place under the sea.

OK, let’s go.

Jan 8

@snyderpaul: Attendant’s first words to us after touchdown: “We hope you’ve enjoyed our business as much as we’ve enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

At least their honest about it, right? For those of you who appreciate this kind of honesty in your carrier, I flew United, which charges $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for the second. Suffice to say, I took a carry-on stuffed to the gills and a computer case for my laptop. When CES gave press members a free backpack, this complicated my 1-carry-on and 1 personal bag restriction posed by United.

@snyderpaul: “The ultimate celebration of the Motown sound.” White guys. I’ve been in this city 5 minutes and I’m already confused.

I don’t want to sound racist, but something about this still doesn’t add up to me. OK, I spent the week in Vegas and found out that these guys were Australian (they kept making a point of that, like being Australian makes it OK somehow) and apparently they have good moves, nice suits and vintage dance steps, but you know, um … white guys doing Motown (uncomfortable groan). Now, fair’s fair. There’s a good chance these guys covered the back catalogues of Debbie Dean, Chris Clark, Rare Earth and Teena Marie—Motown’s token white acts. But one has to wonder if that would be worth the price of a Vegas show or better left for some panhandling on the Strip.

As it turns out, Human Nature had a residency at the very hotel/casino where my employers opted to put me up—Imperial Palace. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of visiting this Asian-themed diamond on the Strip, let me break it down for you. The casino’s motto is “Dress down, live it up.” I noticed in Las Vegas that people really don’t mind too much about what they wear. If you feel comfortable in a faded Jazzercise t-shirt and chocolate-stained sweatpants, then dammit, you wear a faded Jazzercise t-shirt and chocolate-stained sweatpants. You see all kinds of lazy outfits when you walk the strip, but depending on which casino you go into, obvious, the attire changes to suit the environment. The Imperial Palace is the place where a lot of the “Eh, it was all that was left in the drawer” outfits come out to play. Any preconceptions of well-dressed men with “I spent 2 hours working to make my hair look this messy” ‘dos put in your mind by “Ocean’s 11,” “12,” or “13,” you know, no. It ain’t happening. Though for my part, I tried. I like to dress up. I feel good in a suit. Plus, I’m representing my publication at a major industry show in Las Vegas. Suffice to say, the sight of a dashing man in his 20s with a Beatlesque hairdo and a suit (hand to God, a suit!) bought me a LOT of second looks at Imperial Palace.

The room I stayed in wasn’t much better than that of a Motel 6. Not that I needed a nice room, obviously. It served primarily as a place to sleep, so provided it had a bed and clean sheets, that was enough. They messed up my room reservation and gave someone else the room with the one king size bed, so I actually got TWO beds in my room. Everyone’s a winner in Vegas. But the TV was some relic from 1991 with ugly color washes that might look interesting on drugs or a lot of alcohol, but for a guy trying to catch a score on programming designed for HDTVs, they were absolutely useless. My room (and presumably, everyone on my side of the “tower”) also faced a blue spotlight that gives Imperial Palace its (very Asian?) blue glow at night. From the street it might look pretty (I honestly couldn’t tell in a week’s time there—every other hotel/casino on the Strip does a good job of dwarfing and/or blocking out Imperial Palace), but it set a feeling of permanent dusk in my room. Whenever I looked at the window, it looked like 5:30 p.m. even if it was 2:30 a.m. They might as well call that particular tower “Anchorage Summer Nights.”

Aside from Human Nature, Imperial Palace’s other major show is another exercise contradiction—Frank Marino’s “Divas.” Like Human Nature, Marino turns a popular notion on its head. This time instead of black/white, it’s man/woman. Marino’s show is him doing impressions (and songs, I guess) in the drag garb of Joan Rivers, Britney Spears, Madonna, Diana Ross, Cher and probably some other chicks I’m forgetting about. Also like Human Nature, I didn’t bother to see it. Vegas has a real hangup about celebrity impersonations. It’s odd. The Flamingo has Donny & Marie. The Imperial Palace has a guy who dresses up like Cher. Who comes back from Las Vegas and goes, “Oh and we saw this wonderful Cher impersonator …”?

Suffice to say, I decided to take in all the lights and “Wow, look at me”-ness of the Strip that night. Stopped in front of the Bellagio to watch the fountain show. Pretty.

@snyderpaul: James Stannage would probably appreciate Donald Fagen’s “I.G.Y.” blaring outside the Bellagio right now. We could scream along…

For Americans, and, well, anyone outside of Manchester, England, James Stannage was a formidable talk radio DJ who’s remarks about a hostage situation during the Iraq war went a step too far and ended up costing him his job. I don’t know what he’s up to these days, but I do know he spends time in the Crown and Kettle in Manchester because while I was off at Etihad Stadium seeing Manchester City shut out Arsenal 1-0 (remember that, Umaar?), Stannage was developing a little crush on my girlfriend. They talked Steely Dan (the music, obviously, not the device—thank God) and she conveyed to him my fandom. When I showed up at the Crown and Kettle after the game, Stannage introduced himself by barking obscure Steely Dan lyrics at me. We discussed the merits of “Home at Last” over a pint and a few weeks later, outside the Bellagio, I’m hearing the strains of Donald Fagen’s “I.G.Y.” pumped onto the Strip. Appropriate as the whole “What a beautiful world this will be” sentiment was as it bathed Las Vegas, I thought it’d be better if Stannage and I were screaming it down the street.

Jan 9

@snyderpaul: Wow. They’re playing the Smiths in a casino at 7.40 a.m. Must be consolation music.

For those of you who are wondering, it was “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side.” And perusing the mostly-deserted slots and tables of the Venetian and finding the solitary few gamblers who had quite obviously been at it all night and could no longer hide the desperation and misery on their faces, the song seemed a lot more appropriate than “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.”

@snyderpaul: At the Las Vegas Subway, they have $11.75 footlongs. Guessing that doesn’t make as catchy of a jingle.

Go ahead, try rewriting it. Seriously, more than $10 for one sandwich?

@snyderpaul: Just saw a street performer in very bad Buzz Lightyear get-up check out a teenage girl’s ass. Pixar’s innocence lost in fabulous Las Vegas!

@snyderpaul: Half tempted to ask Buzz if his mission of protecting the galaxy from evil Emperor Zurg is getting the full attention it deserves…

This was outside a McDonald’s during lunch hour. Some of these street performers have it dead easy. They alter the costumes just enough not to get anything above a warning letter from Disney (or Nintendo, or whatever other studio/conglomorate they pay “homage” to), then they sit outside with booze all day looking like they fell asleep on the sidewalk as the result of a bender and put up a cardboard sign that says “Laid off by Disney” (or Nintendo, or whatever other studio/conglomorate they pay “homage” to), and tourists laugh and think its so clever and drop some spare change or dollars in their case. These guys actually make money by sitting on the sidewalk and drinking all day. Just because they do it in awful costumes. Follow up tweet that I forgot to post: “Need I remind Buzz that if Zurg has his way, it’s ALL of our asses?”

@snyderpaul: Justin Timberlake just walked on as surprise guest at Panasonic conference. He’s pushing MySpace TV. Meh. #professionaljournalist

I should point out that Panasonic trotted out Ed Begley Jr. minutes before and that DID impress me (more to follow). But Justin Timberlake was surprisingly non-awe-inspiring for me. One of my very best friends in Chicago told me of an occasion a few years ago when Timberlake was in Chicago and spotted by my friend and a few girls he was spending the afternoon with. They chased him down the street to a nearby restaurant and, as my friend tells it, “the girls were right on the verge of freaking out, you know? They couldn’t form words, it was just ‘Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,’ and you knew the screams were coming. So Justin’s just all, ‘It’s OK, be cool. I’m just like anyone else,’ and he calmed them down and talked for a couple seconds and it was just cool, you know? Like, someone that huge. It’s something.” I’ve hung with my idols and big celebrities before. I’ve been starstruck and I’ve been non-impressed. It’s not always Justin Timberlake-level fame, but even with that level, I was surprised how unimpressed I was. Probably down to a crappy-looking beard and the fact that he was there touting MySpace (… really, dude?)

Oh, and this:

@snyderpaul: I’m the only one who didn’t think Dick in a Box was funny, aren’t I? Cos he’s still alluding to it as “your favorite SNL skit.” Notsomuch.

He followed that up with “Maybe you don’t like that song as much as you like one about moms.” Justin Timberlake gets more mileage off that Lonely Island stuff than he does *NSYNC, that’s for sure. But how much of a contender (popularity-wise) does “Dick in a Box” (or “Motherlover” or “Jizz in My Pants” or “3-Way”) pose to “Rock Your Body” or “SexyBack”? I’m open to your statistical breakdowns. Anyway, I just don’t like the attitude he poses about his SNL work. He honestly thinks he’s one of the best things to happen to SNL (and maybe in recent years he is, but that’s more a reflection on the show and not his own talents). But you know, I don’t think Chris Farley went around talking about Matt Foley as your favorite SNL character. If prompted, he’d break into it, sure, but that’s on the part of the audience. Has Eddie Murphy even done a Gumby impression since he left the show? So, Justin Timberlake, seriously, a little humility. Let fans tell you how great you are. Don’t tell them how great you are.

@snyderpaul: Sony trotted out Will Smith, Barry Sonnenfeld and Kelly Clarkson. Now with 18 other writers on the “I Walked Out on Kelly Clarkson Express.”

Sony’s press conference was big and it went on about 45 minutes too long. We got a preview of “Men in Black 3” in fancy Sony 3D and then they announce “And now, the stars of ‘Men in Black 3’ …” and I was seriously about to lose my sh*t at the thought of seeing Tommy Lee Jones in person. I was going to rush the stage. But they announced Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld. Now, there was a time when Will Smith would’ve prompted huge reactions, but maybe it’s the apparently-looming divorce or the “Is he?” scientology buzz or the fact that he can’t deliver (or move away from) a punchline anymore (and he apparently doesn’t rehearse much), but it was one of the most awkward public spectacles I’ve witnessed in some while. This video captures it perfectly, and yes, it’s mic’ed up for the people on stage, so the audience sounds nonexistent, but I was in the audience and can vouch. We were that quiet. It was painful. “I get it! ‘Cos the show! The Fresh Prince! I get it! It was like a pun!” Just get off the stage, man.

As far as the Kelly Clarkson performance went, well, I (and an innumerable amount of reporters and editors) didn’t even make it to the first chorus before we were rushing to the exits. I felt bad for Kelly Clarkson. In fact, there’s always been something about Kelly Clarkson that made me think, “I’d like to hang out with her. She seems like she’d be a decent enough person.” Her problem? She wears her insecurity way too much on her sleeve. After making a passing “joke” about how happy she was to see her face projected on Sony’s mega-display at the convention center, she went into a shaky acoustic performance of “Mr. Know it All.” She seems like a nice, Texan girl who just got thrown headlong into the world of manufactured pop idols and has never been able to find that right balance of nice plainspoken girl with pop star. Flagging record sales only seem to be exacerbating the situation. At any rate, the newsmen flocked toward the shuttle buses and when one jumped on board the one I had a seat on and breathlessly asked if he was on the shuttle back to the Venetian, a British reporter behind me responded, “Yes. This IS the ‘I Walked Out on Kelly Clarkson Express.'” It sounds phenomenal in a British accent. Try it.

Jan 10

@snyderpaul: Sir Mix a Lot just stepped on my foot. Insert your own clever joke here.

Yep, it was him. He was wearing an Anthony Ray nametag, but I knew. Sadly, I recognized him from all those horrible aughts “talk shows” VH1 once crapped out like “I Love the (insert decade here),” “Best Week Ever,” etc. and not “Baby Got Back.” This is the kind of random celebrity sighting you get at these shows. I didn’t get to see what company he was there to shill for, but I laughed at the thought.

“Hey, we got Sir Mix a Lot!”

“That’s great, Becky, considering it’s still 1992! You’re fired!”

He barely apologized for stepping on my foot, by the way.

@snyderpaul: This guy’s been in so many of my favorite shows and films its crazy. For the Arrested Development fans… Stan Sitwell!

Coolest celebrity moment I had, I had to put the professional journalist tag aside and grab a snap. Like Timberlake, Begley was there with Panasonic, talking about green homes and going on about Panasonic’s solar panels and home heating system. But the guy’s been in so many of my favorite movies and TV shows I had to say hey and tell him how much I admired his work.

@snyderpaul: Las Vegas Gun Store’s ad on cars: “Shoot a Real Machine Gun! Try One!” I gotta admit, I’m intrigued. Tempted, even.

I never did. But I still stand by that ad. That’s good advertising. And it was probably thought up by someone in-house.

@snyderpaul: Pretty sure that the staff parking garage for the Wynn Hotel is bigger than any parking garage in Milwaukee. Think about that for a moment.

Seriously. Think about that. By the way, the Wynn is absolutely gorgeous. First suite I got to see in Las Vegas and it made me consider doing some serious gambling to secure myself a room like that for the remainder of my trip. Then I heard Morrissey’s voice:  “when you sleep, I will creep into your thoughts like a bad debt that you can’t pay …” and walked away from the ATM.

@snyderpaul: This is sacreligious right? You couldn’t do this with Christianity. It’d be news. Is Eastern religion just more chill?

As much as I’d like to see “Mary of Magdalene’s: Where the Vegas Industry Prays,” you know it’d come up as a news story in the right-hand column of the Huffington Post with “SCANDAL!” above it.

@snyderpaul: Eating at an Asian restaurant. Only white guy in here. They didn’t bring me chopsticks. Just assumed fork. Only one with a fork. Racists.

This was at a restaurant in the Imperial Palace called, I believe, Ginseng 3. It served Chinese, Japanese and Korean fare. I was the only white guy in there and the only one they didn’t even offer chopsticks. Just a fork, as if even offering me chopsticks would be a complete waste of wood. I wonder if the boys in Human Nature get offered chopsticks? Luckily for them, the orange chicken was fabulous and I reserved my complaints. And no I didn’t ask for chopsticks, either, but why not give me the benefit of the doubt? What about my makeup says “This guy can’t do chopsticks”? I can. Not well, but I can. Dammit.

Jan 11

@snyderpaul: One woman to another: “Don’t make me f*ckin smack yo mouth. I will drag yo ass cross the floor out of here.” It’s 7.19 a.m. Vegas, baby!

That exchange took place at the Imperial Palace. I’ll let you guess how they were dressed.

@snyderpaul: The going rate for Krishna consciousness in 1972 was 250 pounds. Ringo was happy to pay.

Believe it or not this signed check (er, cheque)—and doesn’t it look like it was actually made out by George?—was on sale at Consumer Electronics Show. Some autograph dealer bought booth space right in the middle of a bunch of companies selling new state-of-the-art headphones, home theater systems, TVs, projectors and other gadgets to sell a bunch of gaudy framed merchandise. The guy had some damn obscure items too:

For those of you who are wondering what that is, let me explain. That is a framed guitar and picture titled “The Fab Four,” which, at least according to that little plaque at the bottom center, commemorates the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Despite the fact that the Beatles seldom chose Fender guitars (or as is the one framed here, the much cheaper Squier subsidiary)—and certainly didn’t any such guitar on the Sullivan show, the most glaring error here is that the guitar bears the signatures of the Rolling Stones. And not real signatures too, but as is explained in the nicely added paper note at the bottom of the frame—laser signatures! And I don’t know why they mentioned the Eagles, but there you go. I didn’t ask for the price on this one. I just thought, “Wow. A clusterf*ck framed!”

@snyderpaul: Just played it. Feeling so Gem.

Well, Gibson had a booth. What was I gonna do, NOT play it?! Still figuring out how I pitch this to my editors, but nevertheless. Got to play it. Gem looks way cooler playing his (if you don’t dig the performance, but want to understand the allusion, jump to 3:56):

@snyderpaul: This city has a real problem with keeping elevators and escalators operational.

Every day I was in Las Vegas, there was an elevator I could’ve used that was not operational, an escalator that turned into metal stairs or a moving sidewalk that became a stationary, metal grated sidewalk. Normally I wouldn’t mind a bit of additional exercise, but you try walking the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center and Venetian Hotel/Casino for 5 consecutive days and tell me how your legs feel.

@snyderpaul: I’m guessing whoever wrote “Viva Las Vegas” didn’t have to stand in one of these mile-long lines for transportation.

The Venetian could’ve done a little better job keeping the free shuttle that moved express between the hotel and convention center under wraps. I had a great little secret on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, everyone had cottoned on, but it wasn’t the first mammoth line I had to stand in for a ride. That was at the airport when I arrived and had to wait for a taxi. Did they move quickly? Well, that’s a matter of relativity. My point is that Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman didn’t write any verses like “Standing at the cab stand in a mile long line, never gonna get me to a meeting on time / And even if the meeting starts a little behind, I’ll still be standing in this unending wind / Oh there’s cabs to the airport, and cabs to the show, a thousand people standing all waiting to go / And I’m just warning you so that you know, oh VIVAAAAAA LAS VEGAS!”

It would’ve helped. That’s all.

@snyderpaul: Saw an ad for the best Beatles tribute band in the world. Does anyone really scour the Earth for Fabs tributes to fairly bestow that title?

It’s a question I’ve often wondered about. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen American English called the world’s best Beatles Tribute Band. And the Fab Faux. And the Beatless. And Beatlemania. And 1964. I know there’s a Battle of the Beatle Bands at Beatlefest (I’m sorry—The Fest For Beatles Fans) every year, but surely that can’t be the decider of the world’s crown. So who’s going around the world searching for Beatles tribute acts in an unending quest to find, truly, the best Beatles tribute band on Earth? I’d like this person to exist. If only to place a transcontinental call from someplace like Zimbabwe. “Joe, I’ve found ’em.”

@snyderpaul: Cool.

Nice to see some Bobby love on the Strip. This is right outside the Flamingo. For the extra touch of Vegas class, that piece of litter above the star is one of those prostitute trading cards that street dudes are all too happy to click at you and shove in your hand—even if your hand is in your pocket in a vain attempt to avoid their attention. Seriously, I’m still hearing that clicking when I fall asleep. But anyway, yeah. Love the love for Bobby. Especially dig that it points out he was also a songwriter. Too right. He wrote “Dream Lover,” you know.

Jan 12

@snyderpaul: Just heard on the radio: “…party goes ’til 10 p.m. Silverton Casino, where the party doesn’t stop!”

Certain restrictions apply.

@snyderpaul: I like that you can spot the off-duty Elvis impersonators in Vegas. Conviction. It’s about more than a wig and rhinestone jumpsuit, y’know.

I saw a couple of these guys at the Consumer Electronics Show. T-shirts, jeans, and huge black quiffs combed back, sideburns ’til next Friday and those gaudy gold shades Big E just had to wear to denote his fame. I like that though. It’s not often you can look at people and go in an out-of-work environment and know what they do for a living. In Vegas, sometimes you can.

@snyderpaul: Just got told I look like one of the Beatles. It works in London and Las Vegas.

For those who care, I never tire of hearing it either. But this is special—twice in the span of a month. Once by a 6-year-old girl in London and then by a 50-something woman in Las Vegas. I’m doing something right.

@snyderpaul: Was gonna say the coach bus drivers here are maniacal but then I thought “If it’s me or that guy in the Honda Civic, I like my chances.”

Riding the shuttle buses got to be an exercise in “I wonder how aggressive Vegas drivers really are.” Shuttle drivers just pull out into traffic. They have the “Oh, they’ll stop. Don’t you worry” mindset. No waiting for gaps in traffic, if they need to make a right, dammit, they’re pulling out. None of the buses I rode were hit, but I have to imagine that some guy in a compact car at some point in history thought, “No, you know what? I’m NOT letting him in!” And then ended up driving a rental for a week while the auto shop dinged out his car’s crumpled front end.

@snyderpaul: Alright. Frenchmen jumping around to Beatles songs. Let’s have it.

On my final night in Vegas, I decided to treat myself to a proper Vegas show. Never seen Cirque de Soleil show before, so as a complete Beatle nut, I thought it would be fitting to see this one. I walked by the Mirage everyday and this advertising just tempted me to a point of, “Dude. You’re in Vegas. This is your chance. Why the hell not?” I texted a friend in Chicago who’d seen it and asked if the $145 day-of asking price was really worth it. She informed me it was. I told her I knew she would say that and asked if it was really worth it. She informed it was and told me in no uncertain terms to go. She had previously told me she and her sister had cried. I was skeptical. I mean I like the Beatles, I know their music inside and out and once when I lived in Madison, a Cirque bus rolled through town, and the dudes on the top deck made weird faces at me. I got irrationally upset about it. Like “Who the f*ck do you think YOU are?!” angry. Pesci in “Goodfellas” angry. Totally at odds with your typical Madison personality. But “Love” made me love them. And, for a little while, everyone. I didn’t cry during “Love,” but there ended up being something in my throat on a few occasions. I can’t explain it. My tweet after the show explained it all.

@snyderpaul: Even at my most cynical, “Love” was f*cking amazing.

Make a special trip to see it. It is that touching. Although I will say it makes you a tad annoyed that the Beatles broke up in such a bitchy fashion.

Jan 13

@snyderpaul: Repurposed to be wholesome, but this was the apex of suggestive in the 40s right? Or maybe I’ve been in Vegas too long.

And that lets you know where my mind was as I arrived at the airport at the end of one week in Vegas.

In the end? I’m in no rush to get back, but I won’t knock it. I had an enjoyable time. And yes, “Love” was far and away the highlight.

Dean Martin – Medley: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes/I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine/I Love Vegas

Not sure I share Dean’s affection for Vegas, but I appreciate his sense of fun. From the brilliant set, The Rat Pack Live at the Sands, which was recorded at Dean, Frank and Sammy summit in 1963. Dean’s the far and away highlight of the disc.

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I really don’t think you could know that I’m in heaven when you smile.

October 18, 2011

… or, Why a Stone Roses Reunion Causes Me Trepidation.


Every time a major, or even an only-important-to-a-handful-of-asinine-music-snobs band reunites, there’s always some moaner who takes to the blogosphere and goes on about tarnished legacy and the ethics of cashing-in and why it’s stupid to believe that 50-somethings can recapture the spirit of their 20-something selves, so on and so forth.

Hi, my name is Paul and this is my blog.

Before we go any further, let me explain a couple things. This shall not be a tome on why the Stone Roses shouldn’t reunite or why my opinion and holier-than-thou opinion of my fandom matters anymore than any other journalist, blogger, Facebook poster or Twitter…er. It’s just that my emotions have been flung all over the place today and as I’ve pursued a career in writing, the act of writing itself usually helps me make sense of things. I’d bet that there’s a good chance I’ll be in full support of the Roses reunion by the end of this post. Of course, betting on chances, you know … dangerous.

If I recall correctly the reunion rumors started flying hard and heavy over the weekend. Actually, more than anything, they started flying hard and heavy in May when Mani’s mother passed away and both Ian Brown and John Squire attended the funeral. At a post-funeral celebration in a nearby pub, some chancer (either by pure chance or because he was smart enough to know what he was witnessing) grabbed this photo.

Now, if you go through the annals of interviews post-1996, you’ll find that Mani (center) was always the one who pulled for a reunion. Despite having the (arguably) steadiest career post-Roses as bassist in Primal Scream (where his credits included Vanishing Point, XTRMNTR, Evil Heat, Riot City Blues and Beautiful Future), he always seemed happy enough to talk about the Roses and suggest that one day the two men sandwiching him in that picture, Ian Brown and John Squire, would put their differences to bed and get back to making the music that made them so famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But Brown and Squire? That’s been 15 years of no contact, aside from Ian Brown’s 1998 imprisonment in Strangeways, when Squire reportedly sent him a box of Malteasers (a childhood treat of both theirs) and a note that said something to the effect of “I still love you.” While that kind of moment might conjure tears with an appropriate string arrangement in a movie, Brown’s heart was tough to thaw after John Squire left the Roses by fax in 1996 with nary a spoken word to his friend and longtime collaborator. Reading 15 years’ worth of interviews between the two, they seldom had nice things to say about each other (e.g. “Tuneless knob” and “He was once the greatest guitarist of his generation, now he’s pubrock sh*te”) and always inevitably ruled out the possibility of a reunion as they couldn’t even bring themselves to speak to each other.

So to see them in the same room in the above picture was enough of a miracle, let alone to see them both providing comfort for their grieving comrade. At the time, I posted the picture to my Facebook wall and wrote: “Honestly don’t care if they never play another note together again. Just happy that it’s 2011 and a picture like this can be taken.” I meant it. To see old friends get past the hate and just talk again always blows me away. I come from a family where some blood relatives haven’t spoken to each other in years. When you hear their reasoning, you go, “OK, but …” Inevitably you want to see a picture like that.

I smiled and thought it was done with. At least Brown and Squire could talk again. Maybe someday we would get a kickass DVD documentary of the Roses’ career with all four of them sitting around a table laughing and reminiscing. Honestly, that’s all I ever wanted. Then this morning, a press conference is announced. My music-loving friends are abuzz. There’s “…finally”s thrown about, rumors of a tour, and all the while I’m thinking, “For as much as I love this band, I don’t want this.”

That’s where you get into the legacy bit. No one’s going to argue with the band’s 1989 album The Stone Roses. It’s unimpeachable. But given the derision that befell the band when Second Coming arrived in 1995 (you can understand a music press and fans getting impatient when being made to wait 7 years for a follow-up), and the fallout that hit the band afterward … Reni (underrated is an understatement — finest drummer of a generation is more like it) leaves after the album, he’s replaced by a cheerleading drummer who yells at crowds to “aw yeah… get your hands in the air!,” Brown and Squire tour on separate buses, Squire crashes his bike and major gigs are cancelled (cocaine rumors abound), Squire leaves by fax, Brown and Mani soldier on to a final gig at the 1996 Reading Festival where the performance is so poor, you can’t even find fans to say good things about it …  it’s just amazing to think that anything positive would ever be said about Second Coming. But then it was spared during a makeshift zombie defense in “Shaun of the Dead,” and people thought, “Yeah, you know, I guess it isn’t such a bad album.”

And there you have the Roses legacy. Two albums, one perfect and one looking better and better with revision each passing year. Why mess with it? Hell, Ian Brown’s solo work is spotty at best, but you know with every album he releases there will be at least two tracks that will knock you out (seriously, if nothing else, get a greatest hits compilation of his solo work), Mani’s holding fort on excellent Primal Scream albums, and I may be the only one, but I really like John Squire’s 2 solo albums. Seriously. “Automat” is a good f*cking song. So is “Cape Cod Morning.” So is “Shine a Little Light.” His voice is odd, yes, but I can think of many down the pantheon of rock and roll of whom you can say that about. If Squire wants to paint now, let him paint.

And besides, Reni’s gone into hiding ever since the Roses breakup (I don’t think any of us can really count the Rub … was there ever a proper single released?), and you know Reni’s not going to be a part of this, so if Reni’s not involved how can it be the Stone Roses?

Then this picture leaks.

F*ck’s sake, that’s beautiful. It really is. It swells me up a little. And then the press conference? It’s hilarious! They’re joking around, their comic timing hasn’t changed. They’re overly complimentary to each other, but it always feels genuine (I swelled up even more when Squire–who said little of anything during the conference–said Reni “still has it” after Reni self-consciously went on about the dangers of a man approaching 50 trying to play a young man’s drum parts).

A world tour? New songs? Spike Island vets and long-lost indie boys had to change their pants, and for as much as I want to share their joy, alas, my pants remain unsoiled.

Should we pay mind to the years of scrutiny on Ian Brown’s diminishing returns vocally? What about the (believable) scuttlebutt that Brown’s been hit hard in a costly divorce and this is simply a vehicle to pay some ghastly court-ordered bills? Hardly should be the stuff that “Waterfall” soundtracks, right?

Liam Gallagher made a good point earlier this year that if the Roses ever did reunite, Brown wouldn’t have to worry about his vocals. The whole crowd would sing his parts for him anyway. And even if this is a cash-in to get Brown out of a post-marital cash drain, well, how can you poo-poo three of his oldest friends coming together to help him out of it?

I think my hesitation comes from an interview that Brown gave to Clash magazine in 2005 that hit very close to home. In 2005, a girl I’d dated for three years dumped me. It was unexpected and handled in a pretty cold and callous manner (2 a.m. on a cellphone … didn’t even have the decency to face me after three years). It sent me into a pretty crazy emotional tailspin. I’d lost one of my best friends in a car accident 3 years earlier, but by comparison, that rolled off me like water off a duck’s back. Thankfully, I was still in college and I had a roommate who sat me down and kind of policed me the following few nights. Every time I started talking crazy about wanting to call her or make desperate pleas to rekindle the relationship, he sat me down and willed me not to make contact. “This is a game,” he says. “This is the only thing you can win now. You’re wondering what she’s up to right now? Trust me, she’s wondering the same thing about you. It’s driving her crazy too, and if you call, she wins.” Suffice to say, I haven’t spoken to Allison in 6 years. And with every girl I’ve dated and split with in the years since, I’ve taken a hardlined stance to delete her contact information from my cellphone, computer, email accounts and address books. I let them know at the moment of parting that this will likely be the last time they will ever see me. Some people say it’s cruel and unusual, but it’s what works for me now. There are no drunk dials after the fact. No continuing petty dialogue of “Yeah? Well you were a bitch that one time we went to the city and…” No ways of finding out who she’s seeing or sleeping with now and the self-inflicted anguish that comes with that. It’s a clean break and although I by no means think it’s easy, it works.

So when Clash interviewed Brown in 2005 about reconciling with Squire, he said this:

“Say 10 years ago, you used to go out with a girl and you’d been going out with her for 10 years. She suddenly turns round and says, ‘I don’t want you no more’, but 10 years later phones you up and says, ‘I want you again’. What you gonna do? You’ve had 10 years of life, and might have had nine kids with five different women. You don’t just drop it and go back ‘cos they want it. So f*ck what he wants, I don’t care what he wants. He didn’t care what I wanted.”

It just made sense to me. I identified with it more than any lyric he ever sang (however, I did put ‘Stellify’ on a mix I made for my current girlfriend–yes, I still do mixes, shut the f*ck up). As much as I hated that Brown and Squire would never seem to make up, that analogy made all the sense in the world to me.

So now, there’s this. And a big part of my sense has been knocked out of whack. And I think about what people think about the Verve’s Forth album. And I think about how people moan that the Pixies have dragged this out a bit too long now. And I think about as much as I like “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” you just don’t put them in the same consideration that you do everything the Beatles recorded between 1962 and 1969, do you? And I think, God, this could be a disaster, it really could be.

And then I see a picture like this.

And GODDAMMIT I WANT THIS TO WORK SO BADLY. Make it so, boys. It’s on you.

Oh, and this doesn’t mean I’m calling Allison.

The Stone Roses – Standing Here
Everyone goes on about the debut album, but too many people have forgotten about the B-sides from that era. Seriously, if you think Oasis were the first band to make B-sides that made every single one of their releases worth purchasing, well, then you don’t know the Jam or Smiths and I don’t want to know you. But the Stone Roses’ B-sides get forgotten about too easily. Listen to this and tell me it isn’t as glorious as anything on the album. This was the B-side of “She Bangs the Drums” in 1989.

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And in the end …

August 2, 2011

The generic title of this post was going to be “Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field, July 31, 2011,” but a better title for this review might be, “A Guy Who’s Seen Paul McCartney Three Times Already Sees Him a Fourth Time and Said Spoilt Guy Just Might Need an Attitude Adjustment.” That seemed a little long.

And before we continue, there won’t be any MP3’s attached to this post. I’m sure a bootleg’s already surfaced somewhere, but you’ll have to use Google or some torrent site to help you find that. I can provide a few videos, though. And some pictures that my friend (who provided these photos AND hosts WSUM’s “The Heavy Petting Zoo”) Grandma Cyd managed to snap.

Well where to start? I suppose with the announcement back in early June that McCartney was going to play Wrigley Field. The Beatles are my all time favorite band, Paul has always been my favorite Beatle, the Cubs are my favorite baseball team and Wrigley Field has had a magical aura for me ever since my uncle first took me there when I was five years old. No brainer, I have to see this show, right? I’m not sure I could convey in words the mixed feelings of indifference and shocked indignance at my own indifference two months ago. Why wouldn’t I want to see my favorite Beatle at my favorite ballpark on a summer night?

McCartney’s last trip to Chicago—a 2005 stop at the United Center in support of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (critics are still trying to convince me there’s genius in it, but it ranks in the basement of my personal favorites along with Pipes of Peace … maybe one or two decent cuts, but overall, WTF, etc … and this is coming from a guy who will defend Press to Play and ranks Off the Ground as one of McCartney’s best solo efforts). I chanced into a ticket to that show. My dad was supposed to take my mom, but he got called away to work at the 11th hour, called me in Madison the night before and pretty much ordered me to drive down to Chicago the following night and take my mother to see Paul McCartney. Yeah … my parents still are masters of that tough love thing.

The 2005 show itself was a proper fan’s dream. I mean, damn, we were treated to “In Spite of All the Danger.” We got “For No One” and “I’ll Get You.” It was pretty stunning. Christ, we got THIS (Ram is another contender for favorite solo album):

The problem is that McCartney demands a high asking price. The 2005 ticket had been bequeathed to me—I don’t know exactly what it cost, but I do know that there was a row of corporate suits behind me that had probably had a block of tickets purchased for some kind of business deal and/or company outing. I don’t really care who goes to a show as long as they don’t start messing with my experience. Three songs into that show, McCartney tore into “Jet,” I went ballistic and before McCartney had even sung “I can almost remember the funny faces…” there was a tapping at my shoulder. One of the suits—an older gentleman—requested that I sit down.

Now I’m all for being kind to old people, but you don’t go to a rock and roll concert, much less one featuring a goddamn Beatle (even at his age) expecting a nice, relaxed evening. You wanna tell me to sit? Wait until he does “English Tea” or some soft duffer from the new record. Not “Jet.” I kindly reminded him that it was a rock and roll concert and I may have referred to him unkindly as a donkey’s patoot. (If I may name drop here, I once relayed this story to Ian McLagan of Small Faces fame, who was telling me of a similar experience that happened when he saw Elvis Presley. For the record, me calling the old dude “assh*le” was far nicer than the “F*ck off, you f*cking bastard” retort Mac said he would have offered).

But therein lies the problem of setting a base ticket price around the $100 mark. You make it affordable to a select group of people. When you’re talking about a venue that seats tens of thousands of people, even $50 tickets can return a nice paycheck. I know many friends that don’t have the means to see Paul McCartney and might have appreciated a solo version of “For No One” delivered at the piano with no other accompaniment far more than some of the people who could afford that show. But c’est la vie. He’s not the richest man in the world for no reason, is he?

So the idea of paying that much again and sitting in a stadium amongst a lot of people who could afford to live in in those lovely places on Waveland and Sheffield didn’t exactly peak my excitement. Plus, I’d seen him thrice before, so the novelty of it to me was starting to go a little thin (again, another part of me was surprised and a bit worried by this crotchety old curmudgeon creeping into the persona that’s been so Beatle-dominated for the better part of my 28 years).

My girlfriend, another sickly obsessed Beatlemaniac, had never seen one in the flesh. I’d also seen Ringo twice live, and I think she was getting a little tired of hearing my experiences and wanted one of her own. And yes, you do want to see a Beatle if you get the chance. I understood that, and it’s not like trying to scout out Paul McCartney tickets is high on the list of “the grating aspects of being in a relationship.” Through my dad’s friend’s Wrigley Field season ticket connection, we were able to get four seats in the presale. And yes, once the tickets were acquired, I did get that “Cool. I’m going to see Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field” vibe flowing.

My companions for the show ended up being my girlfriend, the aforementioned Grandma Cyd and my great friend Allan—all of whom would have their “I’m seeing a Beatle” cherry popped on July 31. I was excited for them. I popped mine at Milwaukee County Stadium in June 1993 when McCartney was on his “New World Tour” to promote Off the Ground. At that show, my dad and I were treated to all the classics, and then some. “Fixing a Hole,” “Coming Up,” “We Can Work it Out,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” most of the Off the Ground LP and “Penny Lane.” I was a 10-year-old Beatlemaniac. I was seeing one in the flesh. It blew my mind. Christ, we got this song, which I had only just memorized from repeatedly playing the dusty copy of my dad’s old 45:

(video from the Charlotte stop on that tour)

I remember he opened that show with “Drive My Car,” and at that time the only advanced graphics the jumbotrons could hold were pop-art style “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! YEAH!”s that danced around the screen. At 10 years of age, I thought that was unbelievably amazing.

So to get to see three friends have their first Beatle experience (even if they weren’t 10) on Sunday was going to bring me about as much enjoyment as the show itself did.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but summer temperatures usually end up being a tad uncomfortable on the warmness scale. The Chicago area’s been nailed by some pretty biblical rains of late, so I’m glad those decided to stay away, but it’s added a great humidity to what are already generally stifling temperatures. In my enduring wisdom, I wore pants to the show, holding out hope that once the sun left the sky, nightfall would bring some of those nice famous prevailing 30-miles per-hour southwest winds through Wrigley. I also encouraged my girlfriend, who gets chills when it’s 80 degrees, to wear jeans. She did so, and thankfully, wigged out enough about seeing a Beatle to forgive me for that advice.

The other issue with heat is that people forget not all consumable liquid actually hydrates you. Beer, for instance, does not. A cold beer sounds great on a hot day, but it’s gonna mess you up quick and only make you thirstier. Suffice to say, for the people who could afford the $7.50 a plastic cup bender, they went all out. If you’ve never been, let me assure you—there is some fabulous old, drunken white people dancing to be seen at a Paul McCartney concert, and some absolutely biblical attempts at singing, but not falling with any discernable key on “Let it Be” as well. An elder woman … I would put her in her mid 60s or so sat directly behind me and made a few attempts to make me sit down. These included a slurred “Dah ni frunt,” putting both her hands on my shoulders and pushing down, rubbing her hands up at down my sides (I’m convinced I could’ve pressed charges for that one), and tugging at my shirt. Although I turned around and gave her several judgmental looks, I didn’t say anything. One, she wouldn’t remember it (or anything else from that night) anyway, and two … it’s best not to engage drunks until they puke on you. It was a nervewracking 3 hours, let me tell you, but vomit was thankfully left out.

As far as merchandise, my girlfriend was also adamant about getting a T-shirt, and although I will say that this tour had the best selection of T-shirts I’ve seen, including song-specific designs, like for “Silly Love Songs” and “Band on the Run,” the starting price of $40 placed a soapbox right in front of me from which I felt I must deliver a little tirade. Again, my girlfriend waved off my grandstanding to get herself a tour t-shirt that hopefully won’t pop a hole after two runs through the wash and makes every cent of that investment worth it. I also got to deliver the first true “In my day…” sermon of my life when I saw the tour program’s asking price of $30. When I saw Paul McCartney in 1993, the tour program was free (“…dammit”). Conclusions to draw from this? I can only think of one. Heather did *really* well in the divorce.

With Wrigley Field able to hold more seats than the United Center, my concern about being surrounded by suits ended up being unfounded. Maybe because it was simply too hot to wear a suit, but regardless. Allan was astute enough to notice the racial makeup of the crowd going in, and remarked to me that he’d never been part of such a large gathering of white people. We searched in vain for different skin tones, but to my knowledge only one non-white made an appearance Sunday night…

For all I know, it might have been a commentary on the debt-ceiling deal that was reached Sunday night, but maybe McCartney thinks Obama’s still campaigning. Well, I guess he is, actually.

Now, the graphics for a stadium show are pretty advanced from what they were at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1993, although in terms of hokey-ness, they’re closer to dancing “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! YEAH!”s than anything. For “Jet” we got basically a video game animation of F-16s skywriting “Jet” and, you know, flying really fast. For “Drive My Car” we got a lot of stock footage of (you guessed it!) old cars. For “Dance Tonight” we got Polaroids of Paul McCartney’s children being children while the jumbo screens featured the dance stylings of Abe Laboriel Jr., who was nice enough to include a bit of the Macarena in his oeuvre.

The most puzzling really, was what we got for “Lady Madonna.” Images projected onto the big screen included Princess Di, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Mother Teresa, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and many others just as random as that list. I didn’t know what to make of it. In fact, I’m still analyzing it two days later. Maybe Paul McCartney thinks “Lady Madonna” is some sort of great women’s lib anthem, but I still think it’s nothing more than a song about a woman stuck in a weekly cycle of domestic servitude. You can’t even call it an ode, anthem or anything remotely resembling an empowerment song. And the only connection I can reasonably make from the host of women projected onto the big screen is that all of them are human beings who achieved some level of fame and failed to obtain the Y chromosome.

At 28 years of age, it’s easy for me to be snarky about the big screen animations (although the images of George Harrison projected while Paul performed “Something” were fabulous), but then I remembered how cool I thought the “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! YEAH!” was 18 years ago. And I remember all the young kids I saw as I worked my way up to my seat at Wrigley. Sure, Paul McCartney produces about as much cheese at his shows as the state of Wisconsin generates in a week, but you can’t fault him for appealing to all ages. He is a natural showman.

Which brings me to the most important part of the concert, the music. I can gripe about prices. I can gripe about aesthetics. I can gripe about the fact that the audience on other nights might have been mistaken for a Republican convention (down to the preposterously jingoistic “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chant when Macca waved the flag before his 1st encore—my stomach sank at the thought that “Freedom” might soon follow).

I can’t gripe about the tunes.

I can’t gripe about hearing “Let ‘Em In,” “Mrs. Vandebilt” and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” I can’t gripe about hearing “I Will,” even if he did it in 2005. I can’t gripe about hearing “The Night Before” or “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “Paperback Writer” (played with the original Epiphone he used on the 1966 recording). Who’s going to gripe when you realize a 69-year-old Englishman can still sound like that on “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “Helter Skelter”? Sure, you see McCartney a few times, and you can start clocking it (with sweat pouring down my neck and back, it was momentarily brutal at one point when I looked at my watch and realized we STILL had “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” to get through), but being able to stand in Wrigley Field and listen to the whole crowd sing right at the band’s level for the “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na” bit is kind of awe-inspiring. I wish I had that power over tens of thousands of people.

If I’m going to be a stick in the mud and bitch about there not being enough rarities, then I need to remember 1999, when my parents were invited by family friends to Hollywood to attend PETA’s Millennium Gala, hosted by Paul McCartney. My mom ended up not being able to go and told my father to instead take me as I would appreciate it more (man, did Will Smith ever hit the nail on the head when he said “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” eh?). In addition to meeting Roger Daltrey and getting kissed by Gillian Anderson, I got to see Paul McCartney perform live on the Paramount Pictures studio lot and do a 7-song set consisting of nothing but cuts from Run Devil Run. It was his only live US performance in support of that (awesome) album. Dave Gilmour was on guitar. It was a black-tie affair. I was in the audience for this.

So even making a passing comment like, “Oh it would’ve been nice to hear ‘Temporary Secretary’ on Sunday” would understandably make a lot of people want to punch me in the face.

Plus I got to see three great people in my life enjoy the hell out of seeing a Beatle in person. My girlfriend screamed, cried and danced like I did the first time I saw McCartney. We all sang along to “Maybe I’m Amazed.” The “wow” factor of seeing Paul McCartney for me might be gone. But the “damn” factor isn’t. “Damn! He’s gonna play this too?!” And I think Paul McCartney will always have the “damn” factor.

But I would say that, right? He is my favorite Beatle.

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Summer ’92, I remember it clearly, when he choked on the olive in his dry martini.

June 9, 2011

Well, it’s that time of season again. Though the posts have dwindled year to year (I’ve decided I can’t be faulted for developing a life), the summer mix is always here. As it should be. What is summer without a good soundtrack? Just a bunch of hot days designed to make you bitch about heat, that’s what.

I know I’m in that nowhere land of posting a seasonal mix. Perhaps I should have had this ready for Memorial Day weekend, but then again at the time, the Chicago weather was dwindling in the 50s with a lot of rain, and it didn’t quite seem opportune to post then. By that Monday, there was a 40-degree jump and it seemed like summer wanted to make an early statement (the official start is still 12 days away, you know), but as schizophrenic as the weather’s been here, I thought I might as well do it now before the snow decides to make a brief encore (you can never be too sure) and put me off the mixing mood entirely.

This year’s mix goes a bit of a different route thematically. While this is still fabulous road trip or cookout music, it also shifts focus away from hot sunny days and beachside drinks and so on and so forth to the goings-on once the sun goes down. After all, it’s like that Scientologist and that “Physical” Aussie said in that ridiculous movie: “Oh, those summer nights!”

Again, this is not a strictly nighttime mix (seriously, it sounds great during any one of the 24 hours a day allots), but more than any of it’s four predecessors, this year’s summamix pays tribute to summer moon and all that happens underneath it. So, as Krusty the Clown once said (for some reason attributing it to former President Ike Eisenhower): “Let’s get bizzzay!”

summer is a mixtape. vol. V
The “Ain’t Superstitious, But These Things I’ve Seen…” fifth annual summer mix

DOWNLOAD PART 1 (Mediafire) (Tracks 1 – 10)
DOWNLOAD PART 2 (Mediafire) (Tracks 11 – 20)

01. The Charlie Steinmann Orchestra and Singers – It is Such a Good Night
I firmly believe that this song rests on different production studios’ shelves for moments when a writer or producer bursts through the door in a panic, going “We got a great comedy bit that we need some bossa nova type kitsch to soundtrack!” Boom. “It is Such a Good Night.” The answer every time. Where it comes from eludes me, the earliest debut my research turned up was an album called Stereo Explosion, but suffice to say, I’m not a Charlie Steinmann Orchestra and Singers-phile, so I failed to dig deeper. However, I think it works as a great opening to a summer mix and actually if this song makes you think of slinging meth around the shadier spots of Albuquerque, I salute your television taste.

02. Raphael Saadiq – Staying in Love
It’s pretty easy these days to point to Raphael Saadiq and say, “That guy’s pretty damn good.” Everyone knows that. What perplexes me is why more “R & B” acts don’t follow his template. Sure, he’s pilfering the Motown sound with more audacity than even Oasis pinched Beatles’ tunes, but when you do it this well, it’s pretty hard to cry foul. Maybe this song isn’t the perfect summer love song, but if it doesn’t stink of truth, then I’ll be damned. But even a hard truth goes down easy when it’s got a 4/4 pocket like this and a fabulous bassline. Check out the rest of 2008’s The Way I See It—it’s all just as good.

03. Harry Connick, Jr. – (I Could Only) Whisper Your Name
I remember when Connick’s 1994 album She came out, and my mother—who roundly enjoyed his career of easy listening piano ballads and big band throwbacks—got a bit taken aback by the updated “funky” sound Connick was producing. As I recall, the album didn’t do as well as others, but it wasn’t without its charms, namely this song and the title track. Even though the album drifted somewhat amiss, this song was saved and put onto the soundtrack for the Jim Carrey vehicle “The Mask,” which garnered it a little more time in the public consciousness, and with good reason. It’s a damn good tune, and I’ve enjoyed it since I was 11.

04. Peggy Lee – He’s a Tramp
For everyone who finds themselves in the proverbial dog pound this summer, here’s one for you from the “Lady and the Tramp” soundtrack. While this tune does well to turn my image of Peggy Lee into a rather spent Maltese who pops Lady’s vision of her man, it’s also got a warm sultry swing to it that—salacious innuendo aside—is pretty damn endearing. May all you Ladies find your Tramps this warm season.

05. Good Lovelies – Crabbuckit
I’ve only just discovered these Canadian lasses, and earlier this year when I ran a series on modern tunes that sound like old timey classics with Grandma Cyd of WSUM in Madison (not nearly enough of you participated in that, by the way, but I hope you enjoyed the music all the same), another track from this year’s Let the Rain Fall found its way into that mix. “Crabbuckit” actually cropped up on my iTunes as I was putting the album together and listening to it, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes. This would sound right at home on this mix.” Hopefully I raise a little American awareness for these girls and help coax them into a U.S. tour sometime. They’re quickly winning me over.

06. John Hiatt – The Open Road
I’ve  recently discovered Mr. Hiatt, thanks to his connection with Lyle Lovett, and every song that floats into my ear from this man sticks there like a good dinner would stick in my stomach. Satisfying, like. This song is the title track to his 2010 album of the same name (obviously), and it always entrances me. Bit of a daytime driving song than a “good night out” tune, but here’s one for the road trips for sure. I also appreciate that he calls the open road a “sonabitch.” I share the sentiment. I have even less kind feelings for a congested road, however.

07. Stereophonics – Have a Nice Day
The runaway hit (at least stateside) from the ‘Phonics’ 2001 album Just Enough Education to Perform. Within the track, the Welsh trio release their inner Beach Boys and while Kelly Jones’ leather voice is not quite reminiscent of Brian Wilson in his prime, the “ba-ba-da-ba-ba-ba-da-da-da” backing vocals and sunny backing track more than compensate. I have a Welsh friend who informs me that the land is not quite as bright and cheery as this song would suggest, so maybe it’s significant that Kelly would use the sunny backing to go awful on a San Franciscan trip. The lyrics aren’t actually all that bright and cheery, but it’s usually the chorus that sticks with you, doesn’t it? And how can you not enjoy a bit of this under the sun?

08. Liz Phair – Never Said
It’s interesting living in Chicago again and getting into discussions about Ms. Phair. If whitechocolatespaceegg didn’t get right up this city’s hipsters’ noses, then certain her highly sheened pop albums since 2003 have left many people more than scratching their heads. But talking to them, you’d think even Exile in Guyville was a knife in the city’s back … something that was theirs but then became consumable for the rest of the country, if not world. I always opine that getting beyond a city’s borders is pretty much every artist’s dream, but some people can’t be convinced. For what it’s worth, people really love Liz in Wisconsin. So there you go. Anyway, I’ll still go to bat for Exile, and as “obvious single” as this is, you can’t argue. If the legend is correct, then this is the answer to the Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” and it seems about right to me.

09. Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs – Stay
I blogged about this years ago and implored readers to try to appreciate it outside of its connotations with “Dirty Dancing.” I revive that request right now. Just enjoy it for what it is, a perfect breeze of a pop tune that says everything it needs to say in a paltry 1 minute and 39 seconds and leaves you aching for more. I don’t know how they got that drum sound, and I don’t know why more artists don’t strive for it. Williams wrote this song when he was but 15 years old, and it hit the number one spot 7 years later in November of 1960. There’s a lot to the argument that rock and roll has digressed a bit from its formative days. Proof’s in the pudding?

10. The Clash – Rudie Can’t Fail
For as aggressive as their songs (including this one) were, the Clash knew how to bring a bit of sunshine to proceedings too. Critical as it may be of growing boys that can’t act like responsible adults (or maybe critical of those who are doing the criticizing), it’s all done over a horn-spiked bounce from the seminal London Calling LP and ranks as one of the best moments (if not THE best moment) from that album. Guaranteed to having you moving some part of your body for its duration and more than likely singing along by the end.

11. The Rifles – The Great Escape
This is from the Rifles 2009 album of the same name. I saw these boys open for Paul Weller back in 2008, and I can see why he would be behind them—they’ve got that observational aggression within which he’s so well versed. The lyrics read like a to-do list for summer (the British summertime’s just great—whatever), although I might advise against purchasing a brand new semi next door to the Taliban. The government’s just going to end up getting really annoyed about how you didn’t KNOW they were living so close.

12. The Bird and the Bee – Heard it on the Radio
Longtime visitors to the blog will know of my admiration of Inara George, so putting her voice in this mix should be no surprise. This catchy little ditty is actually an original that they included on a 2010 album consisting (otherwise) solely of Hall & Oates covers. And yes, it captures the H&O framework for a perfect pop chorus nicely. Part of me wishes they’d shot an appropriately cheesy video for it featuring superfluous hamminess from G.E. Smith. But life’s full of disappointments, isn’t it?

13. Dean Martin – Carolina Moon
This is the lead cut from Dean Martin’s first 12” LP for Capitol, Swingin’ Down Yonder, which was released in 1955. As one might guess from the title, all the songs revolved around southern states or cities. New Orleans and the Carolinas got three songs apiece, so maybe Dean didn’t take in as much of the south as he could’ve for a 12-song LP, or maybe songwriters from Arkansas and Tennessee were just a little bit behind the guys putting the likes of “Georgia on My Mind” or “Mississippi Mud” together. Of the three Carolina-based songs, this one’s far and away the best. Actually wants to make me see the moon in North (or South) Carolina. Could it be THAT much better than what I’ve seen over Chicago? Or the Northwoods?

14. Kula Shaker – Moonshine
If you don’t have access to a moon over North or South Carolina, then perhaps this should suit you just as well. Kula Shaker bring a bit of Eastern ambiance to this track, which was a B-side to the “Tattva” single before emerging in the United States as part of the (appropriately titled) “Summer Sun EP.” The guitar solo’s a bit undercooked, but the swelling organ and the catchy-as-all-get-out chorus are more than redemptive.

15. Gruff Rhys – Gwn Mi Wn
This is from Gruff’s solo album, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, which is done entirely in Welsh and makes for cool, but entirely incomprehensible, reading for Yanks like myself. Gruff’s description of the song: “It’s a bit of a long story. It literally means, ‘Yes, I know.’ It’s also a play on words; extended. It’s about this MC called Glyn Kysgod Angau, which means ‘The Valley of Death’ and his mate called D. Chwaeth [Ob Scene]. So it’s kind of biblical. It’s a track about these two fictional MC’s who have a battle with bows and arrows that shoot words, and they pour beer on their cornflakes in the morning. It’s just bragging really.” Beer on cornflakes and MC duals. Summer! Fact is, you’re going to have this thing stuck in your head for eons and we all owe Gruff a debt of gratitude for saving that drumbeat from forever being linked to “Mickey.”

16. Old 97’s – Bel Air
Certainly, the 97’s have written more summer-y themed material (“She Loves the Sunset” and “Melt Show” come immediately to mind), but something about this chestnut from 1995’s Wreck Your Life always reminds me of a night on the town after a sweltering day on the job. I suppose that it starts out in a boiler room gives it that feel, but from fooling around in the backseat to whiskey-spiked Slurpees to scaring kids on motorcycles, it just contains all the debauchery a good summer eve should. Maybe the chorus’ sentiment of “I’ll stomp a mudhole in your heart” doesn’t give a lot of hope for a sunny tomorrow, but hey, seize the moment.

17. Brenda Holloway – We’ll Keep on Rolling
I’m a huge, huge fan of Brenda’s and for the limited amount of material that was actually released during her heyday with the Tamla Motown set, it was all pretty top notch. Thanks be to the big one then, that she also left the vaults pretty well stocked. This cut, which I believe was recorded in 1966 was made available on the 3rd volume of the Cellarful of Motown series. Got everything the great Motown hits did as far as drive, a sharp pocket and sing-a-long-able chorus, but as 1966 went, a lot of potential classics had to be set aside (grave injustice to Tammi Terrell too) for what that label was actually issuing. The problems with having so much good material, you know.

18. Sleeper – Nice Guy Eddie
Ah, that ever present story of the seemingly sweet young British lass who takes up with an elder man with eyes on the man’s fat stacks. Sure he may be old, but he’s rich and kind. And rich. Because I’ve always held a spot of affection for Louise Wener (the video still knocks me out), I’ll assume that the olive-choking incident was purely accidental, but the tragic (or commonplace) story unfolds over an unflinchingly catchy backing track and the coquettish coos over the chorus, well… give me a moment.

19. The Stone Roses – What the World is Waiting For
The Stone Roses were unstoppable in that time surrounding their through-and-through perfect debut album, even stocking the singles with A-level non-album B-sides. So high was the swell after that debut album hit that they wanted to release a follow up single with this song destined for the A-side. The record company brass put on the other side first, however, which just happened to be “Fools Gold.” The rest is history. Even drunk college kids who don’t know who Ian, John and Mani are – let alone would care about the fact that the three recently shared the same room for the first time since 1996 – know this song. While “What the World is Waiting For” did achieve “Double A-side” status, it quickly got washed away in the tides of history too. Reissues of the debut include “Fools Gold.” This one can be a little trickier too find. But there it is … like a splash of cool water on a brutally hot day. Refreshing as ever.

20. Nat King Cole – Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
The perfect way to end the great summer evening … walking the gal back in the wee small hours. This tune was an early hit for Nat and featured on his 1952 album Top Pops, and with all the petting and talcum on the vest and whatnot, it’s amazing those tightly wound execs made any room for it at all it to become such a smash. Maybe they too had affinity for stopping at barbecue stands. The only part of this song I don’t get is when they park. The whole song is about a walk home. Then in the middle of the song they’re in a car for some reason. WTF? Regardless, still a good closer.

And so there you have it. Now load it up, bust the speakers out and get off your computer and into the sunshine (or moonlight).