You’d think that being stuck at home with diminishing work to do would have resulted in more writing on this blog, but you’d be wrong.
When it became clear that I’d be back to working from home–this time, with my wife doing the same–and with the gym and most other places closed, or reduced to takeout, or uncomfortable to be in, we started off with a head of steam. We reorganized some cabinets and drawers. We cleaned. My wife baked and baked and baked. I continued to work, and do some light music blogging, although I spent much of my time helping to organize a series of Zoom meetings of my Princeton classmates. I learned how to use Zoom, Slack and Spotify. And we binge watched TV like crazy.
A couple of weeks ago, the vision in my left eye, which had successfully stopped a hard shot on the soccer field back in the fall, was partially obscured, resulting in a diagnosis of a torn and detached retina. After getting pneumatic retinopexy, where a gas bubble was injected into my eye, followed by getting blasted by lasers, I’m on the mend, but I have to spend much of the day with my head tilted–and the easiest way to do that is to lie in be or on the couch, watching TV or sleeping. I guess that if I had to have to go through this, now is not a bad time.
Between that and the general malaise that has come from the long period of home stay, where taking a masked walk by the Hudson is the highlight of the week, and grocery shopping is both risky and frustrating, I’ve settled into a state of ennui. I tried writing an alternative history piece about what would have happened if Trump were president when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but that bogged down (ultimately, of course, the answer would have been, German would be our national language, and I’d never have been born, since my family would have been killed by our Nazi overlords or, more likely, their American collaborators). And, as you’ll see, I’ve continued to bang out music writing for the other blogs, because it isn’t that hard.
One thing that I’ve learned from blogging is that sometimes you just need to write something, and it opens the floodgates. So, I figured that a roundup of writing and other stuff since my last one in November might just prime the pump for some more interesting pieces. And stay to the end (or scroll to the end now, if you are already bored) for some more COVID themed Spotify playlists.
Even before the “current situation,” my Cover Me contributions were limited to staff compilations. I contributed to a best R.E.M. covers piece, writing about: No. 24, Old 97’s twangy “Driver 8,” No. 22, The Feelies’ live take on “Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars),” No. 18, folk trio Redbird’s folky “You Are The Everything,” No. 8, The Decemberists’ basically impromptu “Cuyahoga,” and No. 4, Jawbreaker’s grungy “Pretty Persuasion.” Next up was an impossible Q&A, asking for the best cover of the 2010s, and I wrote about King Crimson’s cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” because why not?
As we reached late 2019, the blog listed the best covers of the year. I wrote about No. 36, Rhiannon Giddens’ cover of Ola Belle Reed’s “Gonna Write Me A Letter” and No. 8, the Rhiannon Giddens-led project, Our Native Daughters, cover of Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver.” Yes, I like Rhiannon Giddens, and you should, too–Songs Of Our Native Daughters would have topped the list of my favorite music of 2019, had I gotten around to writing that. Then, we did a Q&A about covers of “One Hit Wonders,” and I wrote about The Inmates’ cover of The Standells’ “Dirty Water.” At my suggestion, the next Q&A was to write about a “cover of a cover,” and I discussed Robert Earl Keen’s cover of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” which was more a cover of Del McCoury’s bluegrass version than Thompson’s original.
Smokey Robinson was the next subject of our “Best Of” series, and I wrote about: No. 27, John Hiatt and Loudon Wainwright’s acoustic version of “My Girl,” No. 15, Billy Bragg’s also acoustic “Tracks of My Tears,” No. 6, The [English] Beat’s ska cover of “Tears of a Clown,” and the No. 1 pick, Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger turning “Don’t Look Back” into a reggae hit. And then we put a twist on the format, writing about covers recorded by Aretha Franklin. I wrote about No. 38, her version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” originally from Carousel, then covered by many, including Gerry & the Pacemakers, before becoming associated with Liverpool F.C. and football teams around the world, No. 25, her funky cover of “The Weight” featuring a pre-Allman Brothers Duane on slide and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, and No. 7, a full on gospel version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” that Paul Simon loved, but not as much as the original. Most recently, I wrote about Tom Waits’ “Way Down In The Hole,” which was used as the theme for The Wire, for a Q&A about covers used in movies or TV shows. Coming soon–Best John Prine covers.
Before the world shut down, I was able to sneak in one last show blog at Garcia’s, the small bar which is part of the Capitol Theatre. Yola, and opening act Amythyst Kiah, were amazing, especially since it was in a place with a capacity of only 275.
At Star Maker Machine, for an autumnal “Red. Yellow or Orange” theme, I discussed King Crimson’s “Red.” For the “Family” them, I wrote about Mike Oldfield’s “Family Man,” famously covered (and altered) by Hall & Oates, and the very different “Were A Happy Family,” from the Ramones. The traditional post-Thanksgiving “Leftovers” theme prompted a piece about Rockpile’s “A Knife and Fork” that qualified for two prior themes, “Cutlery (That Cuts)” and “Alabama,” and the wintry “Snow and Ice” theme led me to Hüsker Dü’s “Ice Cold Ice.”
We did the traditional “In Memoriam” theme in early 2020, and I wrote about three New Orleans musical icons who died in 2019, Dave Bartholomew, Dr. John, and Art Neville. And to honor the year, we did a “Something With Twenty” Theme, and I discussed Magazine’s “Twenty Years Ago.” That was followed with a “Rockets/Space” theme, which prompted some old sleep away camp memories of being awakened by Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space.”
A “Valentines” Theme followed, with posts about Old 97’s “Valentine,” and the standard, “My Funny Valentine,” focusing on Miles Davis’ version. I chose U2’s “An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart” as the subject of a “Superstitions” post, and for the “Non-Sense” theme, I discussed The Police’s “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” and The Blues’ Brothers’ “Rubber Biscuit.” The “current situation” inspired an “Alone” theme, and I wrote about what I’d been up to, sharing four playlists (two of which have already been shared here), and the Al Green classic, “Tired of Being Alone.” Our most recent theme was “Electricity,” and I discussed Gary Numan/Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric,” and “The Dark Don’t Hide It,” from Magnolia Electric Co.
As promised, here are four more COVID-82 playlists.
I hope to return with some original writing. But who knows.