I’m a little disappointed at the small number of views on my last Nostalgia post–I spent a fair amount of time on it and thought it was kind of interesting. But then, again, when you don’t blog regularly, it is hard to generate readership. Or, maybe it wasn’t all that great.
I haven’t done a summary post since March, so it seems high time for another one, before we head into the holiday season (although this year, October was the “Jewish Holiday” season).
My contributions at Cover Me have again been limited to participation in group posts, and I participated in the following: Best Joni Mitchell covers— I wrote about No. 29, The Cantrells’ bluegrass inflected version of “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” No. 25, Natalie Merchant’s faithful cover of “All I Want,” No. 18, Northampton’s Darlingside and Heather Maloney joining forces for a upbeat, folky take on “Woodstock,” No. 16, Adrienne Young and Little Sadie’s rootsy “Free Man in Paris,” No. 14, Okkervil River’s lugubrious and affecting “The Blonde in the Bleachers,” and No. 8, the mostly teenaged members of Fairport Convention’s version of “I Don’t Know Where I Stand,” which was released before Joni’s version. Then, we did a Q&A addressing the question of whether artists can cover their own song (the answer, by the way, is “no.”) I wrote about Nick Lowe’s various interpretations of his song, “I Knew The Bride.”
We then did a Best Cure covers piece, and I wrote about No. 27, Luka Bloom’s heartfelt cover of “In Between Days,” No. 21, Scala and Kolacny Brothers’ choral take on “Friday, I’m In Love.” and No. 11, Kate York’s countrified “Boys Don’t Cry. I participated in the blog’s Best Elton John covers roundup, contributing three: No. 22, The Indigo Girls’ very Indigo Girls sounding cover of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” No. 18, Bettye LaVette’s stunning, personal cover of the relatively obscure “Talking Old Soldiers” (which should be much, much higher on the list, IMHO–and was great when I had the chance to see her perform it), and No. 10, Time Timebomb (Rancid’s Tim Armstrong) and Friends-joyful, ska-punk take on “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”
Honoring the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we collected the 50 best covers performed at the festival (and there were many, many covers performed at Yasgur’s farm). I wrote about No. 39, Joan Baez’s cover of union song “Joe Hill” (featuring some a discussion about the unsuccessful assassination of a Tarrytown resident, whose mausoleum I saw last week during a lantern tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery), No. 25, Baez (with Jerry Shurtleff) turning the Byrds’ “Drug Store Truck Driving Man” from a revenge song into an antiwar anthem, No. 11, The Jefferson Airplane covering The Great Society’s “Somebody To Love,” which was also originally sung by Grace Slick, and No. 2, Joe Cocker’s legendary, John Belushi inspiring, cover of the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Next up was best covers of The Boss, and I wrote about No. 47, Shawn Colvin’s stripped down “Tougher Than The Rest,” No. 42, Graham Parker’s acoustic “Pink Cadillac,” No. 38, Two Cow Garage’s pedal to the metal “No Surrender,” No. 21, Lera Lynn’s twangy “Fire,”and No. 5, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ haunting “Born In the U.S.A.” Most recently, at my wife’s suggestion I proposed a Q&A about experiences with tribute bands, and wrote about my surprisingly positive attendance at a show by The Musical Box, a Genesis tribute band. I’m about to start on my contributions to a Best R.E.M. covers piece, so stay tuned.
At Star Maker Machine I wrote twice on our Australia theme, once about Midnight Oil and their album Blue Sky Mining, which I love, and about lesser-known band Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, the “Graham Parker of Australia.” The next theme was about Fake Bands, and I discussed The Wonders, from “That Thing You Do,” and Ming Tea, which included Mike Myers, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, among others, from the Austin Powers films. What?! was our next theme, and I wrote about “Be Thankful For What You Got,” the song that includes the lyrics: “Diamond in the back / sunroof top / digging the scene with a gangster lean,” and which many people think was sung by Curtis Mayfield, but isn’t. (That’s a cheap trick to get you to click on the link to find out who it actually was.) I also wrote about Miles Davis’ classic, “So What?”
For some reason, the theme decider picked Stones That Roll as our next prompt, and I went in a less obvious direction with Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” before doubling up on the obvious with “Rocks Off,” from the Rolling Stones. We then moved to Base/Bass, and I basically just referred people back to this post from this blog. I also promised to write another post for that theme, but didn’t, consistent with my regular promises to write more content here.
At the end of May, we started a Grass/Trees theme, to which I wrote about Belly’s “Feed The Tree,” in which the tree represented the place where farm families buried their dead. This tied into the very recent death of my wonderful father-in-law, who lived on property surrounded by trees, and who loved them. After that fairly personal piece, I dug back into my collection of prog obscurities to discuss “Stumpy Meets The Firecracker in Stencil Forest,” by Happy the Man, arguably the greatest American prog rock band (and more likely, the greatest American prog rock band that most people have never heard of.) And then, we tried Same Name/Different Artist, where I wrote about Ian M(a)cDonald, one of whom was in King Crimson, another was in Fairport Convention (who changed his name to Ian, later Iain, McDonald), and a third was a music journalist and lyricist, who changed is name from Ian McCormick. Got that? I also wrote about Squeeze, the popular British New Wave/Pop band, and the much less well-known Connecticut bar band Tight Squeeze and the Sydney band Squeeze, whose existence forced the better known band to originally have to bill themselves as U.K. Squeeze in the U.S. and Australia.
I then decided to take July and August off, in part to focus on writing here, which really didn’t work out, but also because I felt I needed a break.
September came, and so did my byline–for the Horse/s theme, I paid tribute to David Berman, who had recently committed suicide, by writing about his song, “Sometimes A Pony Gets Depressed,” credited to Silver Jews, and followed that up with a change of pace–the funk instrumental turned marching/pep band standard “The Horse.”
My next two pieces were clearly influenced by having watched Ken Burns’ great Country Music documentary series. For the Power theme, I wrote about Uncle Tupelo’s cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “Atomic Power,” with much discussion about Uncle Tupelo, the Louvins, and my tangential relation to atomic power. And after that, our theme was Strange/Weird, and I wrote about “Stranger In The House,” a country song written by Elvis Costello (who was in the documentary), with George Jones in mind, and the great, if troubled, country singer did record the song as a duet with Costello.
As we approached Halloween, the theme was “Witch,” for which I contributed a piece on Hole’s “Softer, Softest,” which mentions witches, and whose writer and singer, Courtney Love is often accused of being one (and her daughter seems to identify as one). And then I headed into the other end of the musical spectrum, with some prog from Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a piece about Anne Boleyn, who was accused of being a witch, but that was probably just her enemies talking. Our current theme is Spirit, and I discussed one of the few Rush songs that I really like, “The Spirit of Radio.” We’ll see if I get to a second post on that theme.
Finally, somehow, I have forgotten to mention that starting last summer, I have occasionally been blogging for the legendary Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. The deal is that they give me a free ticket, I write about the show, and they post it on their “Squirrel Blog.” I’ve written about Toots & The Maytals, Beth Hart and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, The Record Company, Hot Tuna and David Bromberg, and Jason Isbell. So, that’s been fun, although it is kind of weird going to shows (usually) alone. Note that the Cap has recently re-done its website, so there are some formatting issues.
Our feature song is a bit of a stretch, because I couldn’t find any songs about the third quarter, or even about three-quarters. So, instead, we’ll go with “October,” the quiet title track of U2’s slightly disappointing second album, because the third quarter ends in October. I mean, there are some good songs on the album, which is in large part about the band members’ struggles trying to reconcile their Christian beliefs with the rock star lifestyle, but it lacked the “holy crap, what the hell is this” feeling of their debut, or the mature strength of their third album, War, which is one of my favorites.