Song of the Day 11/4

Posted: November 4, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Time for a little 80s cheese. In 1981, Australian singer born Richard Lewis Sprinhthorpe released his biggest hit. From his album Working Class Dog, which also gave us the Sammy Hagar penned “I’ve Done Everything for You”, General Hospital star Rick Springfield released “Jessie’s Girl”

The multi-platinum Working Class Dog won the Grammy Award for Best Album Package, while “Jessie’s Girl” won the Grammy for Best Male Rock Performance. “Jessie’s Girl” went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. During the second of those weeks, MTV launched, the date was August 1, 1981. It was named number 20 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”

Springfield wrote the song while taking a stained glass class with his friend Gary and Gary’s girlfriend. Springfield wanted to call the song Gary’s girl, but changed it to Jessie when he saw someone with that name on the back of a softball jersey. Springfield never was introduced to Gary’s girl and says that he cannot remember her name, so the woman who inspired the song has no idea.

The music video pretty much follows the song with Springfield watching Jessie and his girlfriend from afar and wishing that she was his.

Many people think of Springfield as a one hit wonder, but that’s not the case. “I’ve Done Everything for You”, “Speak to the Sky”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Affair of the Heart” all charted with the latter two nominated for Grammys.

While some of you may remember him as Dr. Noah Drake, Springfield filmed General Hospital and toured with his band concurrently. The popularity of the show helped boost television ratings and the popularity of the show helped Springfield sell albums. It’s the circle of showbiz and Springfield was at the center for the early 80s.

Like him or not, there’s no denying the toe tapping power of the opening riff of “Jessie’s Girl”.

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 11/3

Posted: November 3, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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I’m a sucker for a cover song, that’s why I list the covers in my posts. I am always curious what other artists will do with a well-known tune. From Garth Brooks’ “You May Be Right”, to Volbeat’s “Only Want to Be With You”, to everything by Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, covers are great. The best thing about a cover is that if you don’t like it, the original remains. Today’s song is a cover that has been recorded by many artists. I will make mention of some of the other versions, but focus on one.

“Always on My Mind” was originally recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972. Written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson, “Always on My Mind” has been released over 300 times. One of the most successful was Elvis’s 1972 version, recorded just weeks after he separated from Priscilla. Originally a B-side of “Separate Ways” (fitting) the song was later listed as a double sided hit.

In 1987, Pet Shop Boys, an English dance duo performed a synthesizer led version of the song for a television special on the tenth anniversary of Presley’s death. The song was so well received that the duo recorded the song, which became UK’s Christmas number one single that year.

In 1982 the song was recorded by Willie Nelson. Upon its release, the song hit number 1 on the Hot Country Singles chart and number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nelson’s version won three Grammys, Song of the Year, Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance. It also won several country music awards. Nelson performed the song with Johnny Cash in 1998 for the VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson. Here’s the story you won’t find many other places: Songwriter Wayne Carson was in the studio as a session musician with Willie Nelson. Before Nelson came in, his agent spoke to the session musicians and told them “Do not try to suggest a song to Willie. We really want Willie to write most of his own songs, so just let him record what we’re here to record”. At the end of the session, Willie asked the musicians if they had anything. Reluctantly, Carson spoke up and said that he had a song that had been a hit for some other artists. The result was “Always on My Mind”. It ended up being the title track to Nelson’s 1982 album.

The song takes place either during a break-up or post break up. The singer is admitting his faults, but saying that despite the “little things [he] should have said and done” but never took the time; the subject of the song was always on his mind.

Today, let’s take the time to make sure the people, who are always on your mind, know that they are.

See ya on the “b” side

Song of the Day 11/2

Posted: November 2, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Today’s song is a classic folk rock ballad released in 1968. Written by one of the “100 people who shaped the world” according to Time magazine. Paul Fredric Simon wrote “The Boxer” as the follow up to their his “Mrs. Robinson”. The song is listed at number 105 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time. The song appears on Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water album, which reached number one of the charts, selling over 25 million copies worldwide. The album won the Grammy for Album of the Year as well as Best Engineered Recording. The album’s title track picked up two additional Grammys.

Known for the fingerpicking by Simon and for the refrain “lie-la-lie”, which was originally intended to only be a placeholder, “The Boxer” took over 100 hours to record.

The song is a first person story about the singer’s struggles with loneliness and poverty. The final verse changes to third person about the boxer who perseveres through his hardships. In his anger he cries out “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains”.

The song is one about standing strong in the face of adversity. Paul Simon has said that the lyrics were autobiographical and that he wrote it during a time when he was facing unfair criticism.

Bridge over Troubled Waters would be Simon and Garfunkel’s last album together as the duo split in 1970. They have reunited several times since the split, most famously for the concert in Central Park in 1981 which drew over a half-million people.

The next time you face unfair criticism (common for a comic and internet writer), think of “The Boxer”, and all of the blows he’s taken, yet “the fighter still remains” and stand strong.

See ya on the “b” side

Song of the Day 10/31

Posted: October 31, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Okay, I didn’t hear this one on the way in, but this song always reminds me of Halloween. The song wouldn’t have been what it was without the video. This video is the most influential video ever, the only music video to be inducted into the National Film Registry, the most successful video of all time, selling over 9 million units. Of course, the video is Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

I was 7 when this came out and my sister was 15. She loved Jackson and would play the video constantly. Between my sister and MTV, this may be the piece of film I have seen more than any other and if you know how many times I’ve seen Clerks, that’s saying something.

There is too much to say about Thriller the album, its sales and awards. I will note that “Thriller” peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released. Upon Jackson’s death, “Thriller” re-charted and reached number 2. It stayed on the charts for three consecutive weeks.

The iconic video was directed by John Landis whose previous works had been Twilight Zone: The Movie and Trading Places. In 2009, Landis sued Jackson as did female star of the video, Ola Ray, claiming that they were owed years of royalties from the video. Jackson died less than two months later.

Rick Baker, the only person is SFX I admire nearly as much as Greg Nicotero, provided the effects on the video shoot. Baker is known for effects in such films as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black and Hellboy.

I would say that “Thriller” along with Night of the Living Dead is responsible for my present day love of zombies. I am a bit of a zombie enthusiast, a quick look around my house or desk will show that. While most zombies I encounter in media today do not dance (unless they have electricity running through them, see Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead) the zombies in the “Thriller” video performed what is possibly the most well-known choreographed sequence on film.

For me, as a child, the scariest parts of “Thriller” were the warecat that Michael turns into at the beginning and the slow zombie walk, when they are amassing for the dance, with Vincent Price’s voice over. I can still remember “Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize your neighborhood.”

I know it’s a video and maybe not as informative as normal, but I want to keep this to a manageable length. Plus it’s Halloween, so it was either this, Alice Cooper or “The Monster Mash”.

Happy Halloween to all, I hope it’s as frightening as you want it to be.

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 10/28

Posted: October 28, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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On my way in this morning, I heard a song by a band that I believe is underrated. A British rock band formed in 1967 that initially began as an experimental blues band, they would, unfortunately, become known for one element of their music. Jethro Tull has sold over 60 million albums worldwide and has remained together for over forty years. Known for Ian Anderson’s vocals and flute, Jethro Tull, specifically Anderson, is credited as the man who introduces the flute into rock music and he is the only one (that I’m aware of) to use the flute as a main instrument. Don’t think that’s a big deal? Without Anderson many bands would be without the flute, such as Chicago, The Guess Who, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Traffic, The Marshall Tucker Band (try to imagine “Can’t You See” without the flute part) and early Genesis.

The song I heard this morning was “Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of a New Day)”, but I thought that too obscure. I chose their best known work “Aqualung”, a disturbing little tune from the 1971 album of the same name. The whole album is an interesting listen with themes of religion and faith at the center of each song, but Anderson states that it is not a concept album, despite widely held belief that it is. Aqualung reached number 4 on the UK Album chart and number 7 on the Billboard Music Chart. “Aqualung” was never released as a single. The album was recorded and released in quadraphonic sound, or what is now referred to as 4.0. This means that the 4 channels are basically independent of one another. It is best listened to with the four speakers equidistant from the listener, positioned in the four corners of the listening space.

The song “Aqualung” was inspired by some photographs taken by Anderson’s wife of the homeless on the Thames Embankment. A particular individual caught their eye. A painting of the man became the album cover and the man became the basis for the song “Aqualung”.

The majority of Jethro Tull’s songs are story songs. “Aqualung” is no different. It tells the story of a dirty, homeless pedophile, not your usual rock music theme. Opening with homage to Beethoven and including a great guitar solo by Martin Barre, “Aqualung” clocks in at six and a half minutes. At the beginning of the song, the title character is watching young girls play, “with bad intent”. The next portion of the song speaks of the pain and loneliness experienced by this man. The song concludes with him “snatch[ing] [his] rattling last breaths with deep-sea-diver sounds”.

This one may not be well known to many of you, but Jethro Tull’s importance to rock music cannot be denied. Just remember Jethro Tull is not a person, it’s a band. This fact may save you from a potentially embarrassing situation someday. You’re welcome.

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 10/26

Posted: October 26, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Yesterday I found out that my uncle is the new drummer for The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, who are apparently really big in areas of Europe right now. Those of you that know who The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are, I congratulate both of you. Anyway, that got me in a southern rock mood and what better way to celebrate that than by looking at a successful Texas trio that plays blues and boogie influenced southern rock. I am, of course, talking about the bearded ones, ZZ Top. I managed to find a ZZ Top song this morning on the radio, it was “Gimmie All Your Lovin’” from the 1983 album Eliminator. “Gimmie All Your Lovin’” reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was initially unsuccessful in the UK, but was re-released after the U.S. success and went to number 10 on the UK Singles chart.

ZZ Top formed in 1970 when Dusty Hill and Frank Beard moved to Houston and met Billy Gibbons. They released their first album in the same year, appropriately titled ZZ Top’s First Album. In 1977, the band decided to take a 90 day break from public appearances. This break extended to two years, during which time Gibbons and Hill grew their signature beards. (Strangely, the band member named Frank Beard does not have a beard).

Eliminator would spawn two top 40 singles, sell over 10 million copies and get ZZ Top on regular rotation on MTV with their videos for “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs”. The video for “Legs” won the MTV Video Music award for Best Group Video. The heavy rotation on MTV helped usher in elements considered classic ZZ Top today. The video showed the members playing at a gas station and featured the Eliminator car, a customized 1933 Ford coupe, the ZZ keychain, their “cheap sunglasses” and the three women that would feature in several ZZ Top videos.

In 1990, ZZ Top played “band at the party” in Back to the Future Part III. In 1991, the Texas House of Representatives declared ZZ Top “Official Heroes for the State of Texas”, and May 4th was declared “ZZ Top Day”. ZZ Top were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

There’s no way around the fact that most of ZZ Top’s songs are about sex in some way. Obviously, “Gimmie All Your Lovin’” is no different. There’s not much to say about the song itself. It does, however, give us a prime example of ZZ Top continuing use of synthesizers that they experimented with on their previous album.

Speaking from personal experience, ZZ Top put on an entertaining live show. It may seem gimmicky, but it just looks like three friends having fun and playing music. If you enjoy their music at all, I encourage you to check out a live show or to watch Live from Texas, their concert DVD.

ZZ Top, or “Zed Zed Top”, if you prefer, may not be the biggest album selling band, but they did break concert attendance records set by Elvis and Led Zeppelin and remain a large draw today.

The next time you’re in the mood for some blues influenced southern rock with boogie beats that’s heavily laced with sexual innuendo, there’s only one band you can trust, “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas” and they’ll be there with their beards, cars, spinning guitars and songs about things you can only imagine.

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 10/25

Posted: October 25, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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In honor of their album released yesterday, today’s song is the catchy, pop/rock single from British band Coldplay, “Viva la Vida”. It is, sort of, the title track from the 2008 album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, produced by super-producer Brian Eno. The album won the Grammy for Best Rock Album and was nominated for album of the year. The album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Coldplay formed in 1996 and their early releases are little known. It wasn’t until 2000 when Coldplay released Parachutes, containing the single “Yellow” that Coldplay became famous. Since that time, Coldplay have released six albums, collected six Brit Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, seven Grammys from twenty nominations and have sold over 50 million records. “Viva la Vida” is Coldplay’s highest charting single, reaching number one on both the UK Singles Chart and Billboard’s Hot 100. The song was only the sixth song in history to sell over 4 million paid downloads.

The song is about a king that is watching his kingdom slip away. He is lamenting his former glory and wondering where his once-great power has gone. The song is filled with biblical references, for example, “And I discovered that my castles stand/Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand”, is from Matthew 7 “…the foolish man who built his house on sand”, and from the story of Lot in Genesis. There are a lot of interpretations of the song’s meaning. Some believe it is about Jesus, others about Roman emperors. Some even believe it is about the French revolution. My take on the song is that no matter how much power we wield all of our choices count. One thing I have learned in my limited travels is that we are all two or three bad decisions away from the homeless we pass on the street. I will post the full lyrics at the end so that you can come up with your own interpretation.

Coldplay is very protective of how their music is used in the media. Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin, has said that the band wouldn’t be able to live with themselves if they sold the songs’ meanings for commercials. One exception is the use of “Viva la Vida” in an iTunes commercial. Coldplay viewed this more as a promotional partnership.

One thing I find fascinating about this band is their activism. Coldplay supports Amnesty International; Martin is a spokesperson for Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair. Coldplay are known for giving 10% of their profits to charity and ask that any gifts meant for the band be donated to charity. Coldplay supports Meat Free Monday, Paul McCartney’s initiative to help slow climate change. They have also auctioned a large quantity of memorabilia (including their first guitars…ouch) for Kids Company, a London organization. Coldplay has also performed at many charity events, including the Hope for Haiti Now event.

Love them or hate them, Coldplay is one of the biggest musical acts around and if nothing else, appreciate that they use their time and money for some good causes.

See ya on the “b” side.

J.C.

As promised, the lyrics to “Viva la Vida”
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world