Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Back in the U.S.A" by Chuck Berry

In honor of Oldest Son who is returning from Italy tomorrow.

Written by Chuck Berry in 1959 after returning home after seeing how aboriginals in Australia lived. It was issued as a single in '59 and included on the Album More Chuck Berry in 1962.

Quintessential American Rock 'n Roll, the song highlights aspects of typical American life.

Linda Ronstadt actually had a bigger hit with it in 1978 on her double platinum album of the same name.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Estimated Prophet" by The Greatful Dead

Part of 1977's Terrapin Station and written in the late seventies by Bob Weir and John Perry, the song is about bugged eyed, drugged out, messianic dudes who used to hang out at the stage door of every Dead concert. And it wasn't Jerry Garcia.

Such men need to rave and Bob lets him rave on with pseudo-spiritual old testament verbiage about waters parting before him, wheels in the sky and "my words fill sky with flame".

The California part seems especially appropriate since all such crazies seemed to emanate from the left coast during these times. You don't see these guys too often these days and it makes you wonder what happened to them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Won't get fooled again" by the Who.

There is only way to listen to this one - at 11.

Pete Townsend's windmill powercords and first dabblings at the synthesizer, Keith Moon's animal like drumming, Entwhistle's understated and steady bass chords and of course the single best scream in Rock and Roll by Roger Daltry.

This is four pieces held together despite shearing and turbulence.

This song was supposed to be part of an overall piece like Tommy and Quadrophenia named lifehouse but when that fell through it was put on the subsequent Who's Next along with other lifehouse refugees like Baba O'Riley.

Thematically it captures a Ecclesiastical futility of revolution with lines like the "change it had to come, we knew it all along" and "meet the boss, same as the old boss". In it Townsend just decides to ignore politics and revolution and "pick up his guitar and play".

And play he does. This song is frantic ride on a junkyard built supersonic jet fighter that screams across the sky overhead yeaaaaaaaaaaah!

The real thrill of the ride is you know it could explode under you at any moment and eventually the Who did just that.

This was the final song that the original line ever play together live.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"American Pie" by Don Mclean

Epic rock and roll poetry ostensibly about the Feb 3, 1959 crash of the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper to the next stop of their winter concert tour.

It seems to mention many, many pop stars at the time including Janis Joplin (I met a girl that sang the blues), Elvis (the king), John Lennon (the Jester) and the Stones. It also gives an abbreviated version of early rock history with much poetic license. I couldn't confirm it but I recall hearing there were college courses that studied it at one time.

Weighing in a hefty 8:33, Top forty radio started with playing abbreviated versions from the single but eventually played the whole thing due to it's popularity.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bruce Springsteen, Live at the Mainpoint, Bryn Mawr PA, 2/5/75

Something a little different today on SOTHDFTI.

I'm still in Bruce mode so bear with me, but I think I have found a gem.

First a little story. When I was in High School, my home room was the "Home Economics" lab. I'm sure that they have a different name for this now like the "place where men can go too you know" or "foods" but back in the day it was the Home Ec lab.

In the Home Ec lab there were fixed tables that the students would cook and work at which seated about 4 students and since we were seated alphabetically, I sat for four years with a girl named Kim E.

Kim E was one of these girls that looked 22 when she was in 10th grade.

She was constantly coming in and telling of her latest club experiences and I especially recall her talking about seeing Bruce Springsteen at the Mainpoint in Bryn Mawr. She would rave on and on about how he played 2 hours and how exciting he was.

I had no idea. I had never seen him live and my chances of seeing him were slim to none especially on a school night.

After seeing him again last week, I decided to poke around on the Interweb and found this gem.

Bruce Springsteen and the E street Band, live at the Mainpoint. 34 years later, I found what Kim was talking about. Better later than never.

It was a benefit show for the Mainpoint which as far as I can tell was always short on cash since there were tons of benefit shows there for the place itself. This show was also simulcast live on WMMR, the station forever linked to promoting Springsteen in the Philly area, thanks to Ed Sciaky the DJ who just adored Springsteen.

It was recorded during the Born to Run recording sessions and has a good mix of stuff from Greetings from Asbury Park, The Wild, The Innocent and E Street Shuffle and Born to Run.

It opens with "Incident on 57th Street" with just Bruce and the Piano and then breaks into a raucous version of "Mountain of Love", a cover song. In fact there are a lot of cover songs. Dylan's "I want you" and "Back in the USA" are in there too.

The real gem of the concert has to be "Wings for Wheels" an early version of "Thunder Road" complete with Angelina instead of Mary and more of focus on the car and racing with lyrics like "I gotta get this 4/4 back on the street". It's a fascinating discovery in song writing all by itself.

The MP3s are easily found on the Internet so I won't post them here.

To Kim E, I now know what you were talking about and to everyone else, check it out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Bright Future in Sales" by Fountains of Wayne.

Another Jersey Band.

Mis-categorized as alternative, these guys write some catch pop songs. They tell vivid stories with well thought out characters like the young salesman in "Bright future is sales" who likely has anything but. He sounds like he has a one way ticket to future meeting where he says "Hello my name is X and I'm an acoholic".

Named after a lawn ornament store in Wayne, NJ the band was co founded by Adam Schslesinger and Chris Collingwood. Adam Schslesinger also wrote "That thing you do".

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Who'll Stop the Rain" by Creddence Clearwater Revival

IMG_1023:Bicycling in Brendan Byrne
In honor of six days of straight rain.

A thinly veiled reference to the War in Vietnam or is it about the deluge at Woodstock? I've heard both versions. Fogerty himself admits to writing it directly after Woodstock so it sounds like both are at least a bit true.

It's originally from the 1970 Creedence album "Cosmo's Factory", it is one of the songs now ingrained into American culture having appeared in numerous cover versions and films including one actually named after it.

Not to be confused with "Have you ever seen the rain".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Miss you so badly" by Jimmy Buffet

Steel Guitar and catchy lyrics.

"just watchin' the Gong Show, Waiting for Zorro"

An Alabama boy in Misoula, MT via Key West. This must be a song a bout travelling.

Recorded in 1977 on his eighth album, Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude, this is a classic Buffett tune about being on the road and how "absence makes the heart grow fonder".

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Over the Rainbow" by Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy is probably the highest selling talent you have never heard of.

She worked in a garden center in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. and as a furninture painter while trying to break into the music business. She was unknown outside of her native DC.

She recorded and played in local clubs mostly covers of jazz, folks, blues, pop, R&B and Gospel.

In 1996 she passed away from melanoma at the age of 33 and in 2000 a BBC show featured this song one morning on the radio.

Suddenly, she was an over night sensation in Europe. In 2001 a Nightline feature brought her to the attention of the US and by that weekend she was the highest selling artist on By 2005 she held the 5th over all place behind The Beatles, US, Norah Jones and Diana Krall on Amazon.

Every time I play this for a new group of friends, someone inevitably says "who is this?". The first time I heard it, it was one of those I-have-to-pull-over-from-tears moments.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bruce Springsteen at the Spectrum, Night 2.

No song of the day today. My ears are literally still ringing from the Springsteen concert at the Spectrum last night and I just couldn't strap the old iPod on this morning.

The 59 year old Jersey boy did not disappoint. Great set list, covering every era of his career.

The aging faithful were there in mass, holding their tickets at arms length to see what section they were in. They were well rehearsed and knew when to raise their hands, when to shout Bruuuuuuce and just the right woo-hoos at just the right time.

The Spectrum was showing it's age as well. It was like the Cincinnati Who concert crush in some of the more confining areas of the single main concourse. Northbound running smack into southbound, god forbid you ran into a old friend in the crush as the crowd would yell at you to move on. The old place seemed like the coliseum in Rome with it's steep narrow concrete steps, especially on the second deck where our seats were. IMG_0986:Bruce Springsteen Last show at the Spectrum 29 April

A Springsteen concert is 1 part tent revival, 1 part James Brown show and 1 part rock and roll. It would not have surprised me in the least if he'd had an alter call or baptism at any part in the show. Next time we'll all be issued choir robes. We know all the words and there is no need to project them up in front like they do in church.

Clarence is also showing his 66 years. He had a big cushy chair next to him so when the lights went down , he sat down. He also had a stool up there. Sometimes he stood.

He sang everything with all he had, even on "Outlaw Pete", a song I did not know but Bruce sang with the same fervor as Born to Run. After the third number he reminded me of when I cut the lawn, sweat stinging his eyes and constantly wiping his brow. Never mind James Brown, Bruce is the hardest working man in Show Business.

He did not play Fever which I would have loved to have heard and have never heard live. Just about every time I've been to see him here in Philly, he played Fever the night before. On the other hand I usually get to hear Thunder Road so it's a fair trade off. One of these times I'm going to have to go the first night.

These were highlights of the show for me:

1. During the stump the band portion of the show when Bruce picked signs out of the front rows and chose "London Calling". He and Steven did a great Joe Strummer/Mick Jones thing while the crowd stood slack jawed and screaming. I later found it out it was all fake since London Calling was on the hand written set list.

2. When Jay Weinberg, Max's son took over on drums about 2/3 of the way through. It wasn't that Max was bad, but when the 18 Year Old kid got on the drums, it was crisp and snappy. He got on right before Radio Nowhere and did not stop on drums until the house lights came up. He was a machine. Whit all that old stuff around him, the old crowd, the old band and the old building - Jay stood out.

3. The Harry Kalas tribute and the following Thunder Road. Bruce actually does not sing Thunder Road any more as much as he accompanies the faithful who know ever line. We sing it.

Bruce didn't banter from the Mic very much, just a pitch for Philabundance, a local charity and who much he loved the old buildings that don't have all the fat cat luxury boxes. It makes sense since you don't have luxury boxes in church.

Pics here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen

It's an invitation painted on a background of spiritual themes: redemption, salvation and the promised land. It starts out slowly and gently, as if to invite you in and then builds to a rollicking crescendo complete with all of the E street band joining in. It has no chorus.

It's about loneliness, longing and getting out of the hick-town you grew up in.

It's about letting the wind blow back your hair, even when you have very little to blow back.

The opening song of 1975's epic "Born to Run" album was named for a 1958 film noir that Bruce Springsteen never saw. He had only seen the poster and liked it. He was also openly trying to emulate one of his rock heroes Roy Orbison, whom he mentions by name in the opening verse.

In the words of Steve Van Zandt, it's a mini-movie. You can see Mary and her dress and the old beat up porch on some house in Freehold. You can see the dirty hood, the graduation gown at rags at her feet and the lonely cool before dawn.

I still sometimes get a chill on hearing the opening piano and harp chords if I haven't heard it for a while. It never fails to bring me back to 1975 going to High School with a gang of guys in Joey L's 1968 Corvair with the 8 track of Born to Run and the unfiltered tick of the distributor reving with the engine RPMs mixing with the music out of the speakers.

This, if simply by shear numbers of versions on the iPod, has to be my favorite song of all time.