Sunday, March 30, 2014

rain songs

I spent most of yesterday moving bricks in the rain. I couldn't help but thinking about songs that mention rain in the title. So if I were making a mix disc for rainy weather...

  1. Crying in the Rain (The Everly Brothers)
  2. I Wish it Would Rain (Wreckless Eric)
  3. Raining Raining (Nick Lowe)
  4. I Love a Rainy Night (Eddie Rabbit)
  5. Mandolin Rain (Pam Tillis)
  6. Walking in the Rain (The Partridge Family)
  7. It's Raining Men (The Weather Girls)
  8. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head (BJ Thomas)
  9. Have You Ever Seen the Rain (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  10. Rainy Jane (Davy Jones)
  11. Purple Rain (Prince & the Revolution)
  12. Freeway in the Rain (Sean Tyla)
  13. You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain (The Turtles)
  14. Thunder and Rain (Graham Parker and the Rumour)
  15. Here Comes the Rain Again (Eurythmics)
  16. The Rain (Oran "Juice Jones)
Your mileage may vary

Thursday, March 20, 2014

a poetic line

Until today I had never stopped to think about how poetic is a line from a Creedence song:

Have you ever seen the rain
Coming down on a sunny day?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

syd barret is not an outsider

In my last post, I wrote a little bit about outsider music, and listed a couple of the big names in the genre -- as if that's not an oxymoron.

Irwin Chusid's book includes a section on Syd Barrett -- the man best known as a founding member of Pink Floyd. At the risk of being tendentious, I do not accept the notion thatBarrett counts as an outsider. It doesn't matter how badly his mental state degenerated or how unhinged his solo works are. If you were the creative force in a band as prominent as Pink Floyd -- to the point where some hardcore fans consider Piper at the Gates of Dawn (the only Floyd album to include Barrett) to be the only "legitimate" Floyd album -- the, I'm sorry, but you can never qualify for outsider status.

Friday, March 14, 2014

intro outsider music

It's kind of hard to define exactly what is outsider music.

Certainly it has to do with msuicians and singers who are outside of the mainstream. But that definition casts a huge net. It has to do with honesty and earnestness. But there's more to it than that. There are many musicians who are really good but will never "make it." And being in the realm of outsider music isn't about being good. The best known and most beloved outsiders aren't great. Many are terrible (by most of the usual yardsticks). But not too terrible. There's some kind of sweet spot in there -- awful, but compelling. That's a tall order. I can't really define it. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you want. But I find that unsatisfying. Irwin Chusid is one of the leading experts on the genre. He wrote a book on the subject, titled Songs in the Key of Z. The companion CD and its sequel provide several examples.

Yet there are a handful of recording artists both past and present who are generally recognized as being at the epicenter of whatever outsider music is (and however it is defined. A few of those artists? 

The Shaggs
A band of three sisters who recorded what Rolling Stone once called the worst album ever. Now, I know what RS was getting at, though that classification was wrong. The Shaggs' album (both of them actually) sucked. The vocals were frightening, the rhythm was off, and the songs were disturbing. But that's better than many supremely boring albums.

Wesley Willis
A homeless schizophrenic street singer who somehow managed to record several dozen albums and tour extensively. His songs seem to all have the same elements: A tinny repetitious synthesizer track, a chorus that consists of him repeating the title over and over, and verses that consisted of him shouting sentences about the subject. Many of his songs were about celebrities he had met, and the lyrics were along the lines of "You are a great musician!" or "You are a nice person to the max!" My favorite of his numbers is the classic, "Shoot Me in the Ass."

Wild Man Fischer
Another schizophrenic homeless man. But Wild Man ("Larry" to its friends) was also severely paranoid and bipolar. He wasn't as prolific as Wesley, but he did have the distinction of recording the first release by Rhino Records. He also worked with Frank Zappa for a time, until they had a falling out.

BJ Snowden
BJ was (is? I'm too lazy to look it up) a music teacher in Massachusetts. She is best known for two songs -- "In Canada" and "America" which are tributes to their respective countries. Her enunciation is off. Her lyrics are off. So off that one would think that it was done on purpose. But as far as I know she was absolutely serious.

There are others, and I intend to talk more about outsider music in a future post. I have some definite thoughts to express. But this is the intro to whet your appetite. Following are videos of some of the better-known outsiders.

"Philosophy of the World" by The Shaggs

"Cousin Mosquito" by Congresswoman Malinda Jackson Parker
"Jailhouse Rock" by Eilert Pilarm

Thursday, March 13, 2014

work-music strategy

I like to listen to music while I'm working. For the most part I can let the music be background, and it makes work more pleasant. Of course, it can be distracting -- there are some records or bands that I just have to pay attention to.

I saw a tip on Reddit that says that if you want to listen to music while working, listen to soundtracks to video games. Those are supposed to be stimulating but nondistracting. I don't know if there's anything to it, and I doubt I'll try it. Still, I found it interesting.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

words fail me

I don't know much about them, and I'm not sure I want to. But there's a band, Hatebeak, whose lead singer is a parrot.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

need to make more demos

There are a couple of local musicians I need to talk to to arrange a recording session. Right now I have four demos of four different songs, but I want to record new versions for a few reasons. In a couple of cases this is because of some rewriting.

But another issue that I've become aware of is making tracks available for use in independent movies. I have a friend who used to act, and has some knowledge of the world of independent film. She says that one of the hardest things for filmmakers is finding music to use in their movies. If I can provide them with completed tracks that they can just plop down into the film then I'm golden. I'd like to have that possibility open to me.

The songs in question (listed in alphabetical order by title):

Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)
I have a great demo that was made by Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. It's definitely my favorite demo. But I am not sure that I can just tell independent filmmakers that they can use it in their projects. I emailed Eric and Amy to ask if I can allow such use (assuming the opportunity arises), and they responded that that would depend on the terms of the agreement. I think I need a new version that I can provide more readilly.

Five Missing One
The demo I have was recorded by HP Mendoza and me a little more than a year ago. I like the recording, but I think there might be complications in making it availabale. Which is probably just as well, since the recording that HP and I did is somewhat rough, and I rewrote one of the lines since then.

I have a great demo, courtesy of the fine folks at County Q studios in Nashville. But at the time they made it, I was told that it could not be used for commercial purposes. Something to do with the pay provided the musicians. I don't know all the ins and outs, but it was clear to me that this can't be put in a film. Too bad.

Music No One Else Can Hear
I like the chorus and the bridge, but I have grown to not like the verses. So I have been rewriting it. I converted the chorus to a verse and chorus, and have written two more verses to go with it. Then I modified the bridge to with the "new" song. It still needs a little polishing on the melody. And I have to work a little on piecing it back together. But what I have now is, essentially a new song. In a way, this change is bringing it full circle, since the chorus (turned verse/chorus combination) was originally a verse and chorus in the first iteration of this song. When Matthew and I rewrote it 20 years ago, we converted the verse and chorus into a chorus and went from there.

The musicians I'll be working with include Charlie Shaw (who was my daughter's guitar teacher for a brief time last fall, and who plays drums for The Wicked Messengers. He said I should call him and arrange a sit-down with him and Alan Lee Backer, the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Wicked Messengers.I've blogged about him before. The idea is that I can discuss with them, and play what I have. Then, based on what Alan thinks make sense we can arrange a recording session (in his home studio) involving other musicians. I am hoping that it won'tr be terribly expensive, and I will make clear that I want to be able to allow use of the recordings in independant films. That should all be workable.

I also have a few other songs I am working on. Maybe I can discuss with them at that time. They may be able to advise as to which ideas seem the most promising. And if it comes up I'd certainly be amenable to cowriting.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

meeting the space lady

Back in December I was on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Walking across the plaza, I noticed a street singer.

She was playing a small Casio keyboard and singing "Shakin' All Over." It was a bit minimalist, as necessitated by the circumstances. But what struck me was her voice. She sounded like a theremin. I stayed and watched and listened. I had to buy her album. Actually, I bought both albums that she was selling -- only to realize later that they had the same material. One was a rerelease of the other, with the tracks reordered. She insisted that I, a good customer, should take her card.

And that was my live experience with the Space Lady.

The liner notes on one of the albums explain it. Actually, they explain too much. Not that there's a lot of personal details that you don't want to know. But a lot of background details that you probably don't care whether you know or not. Let's just say that the liner notes are thorough. And illuminating. Her parents were living in Roswell at the time of the famous UFO crash, and she was born shortly thereafter. I won't go into all the details, but she spent some time living with her husband in a cave in California, before they relocated to Boston. In Boston they lived off of her busking until they could afford to relocate to San Francisco. There they lived off of her busking.

And the music? Intriguing is the best way to describe it. She sings, she warbles and she moans. Most of the songs are rock standards, though her theremin voice transforms them into things they were never intended to be. And there are originals (written by her ex-husband). I can't quite tell if they're good or not, since the arrangement is so overpowering.

After I listened to her album in its entirety, I decided that this was a true musical outsider, and I should bring her to the attention of Irwin Chusid -- chronicler of outsider music. I'll post about him some other day if I remember.

Of course, today I pulled out Songs in the Key of Z, Volume 2, a CD of assorted outsider performances assembled by Chusid. Lo, The Space Lady is one of the featured artists. I guess he already knows about her...

For your listening pleasure, here is The Space Lady, live in Santa Fe, performing "Radar Love":

Monday, March 3, 2014

with a nod to current events

listening to music this evening, I came across a television show theme song that mentions a certain former leader of the Soviet Union.

Just wondering if there are any other TV show themes that mention world leaders. Anyone know?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

born a woman and aging poorly

Going through some CDs, I found myself listening to Sandy Posey's 1966 hit, "Born a Woman." I can't help thinking that it hasn't aged well.

Let me back up a bit. My first exposure to the song was via Nick Lowe's version, which appeared on his 1977 EP, Bowi. Lowe's rendition is energetic and fun. The sound is very similar to that of "Marie Provost" which also appears on the EP. And, like "Marie Provost," it's jangly guitars and bouncy bass lines disguise the unpleasant subject matter. In the case of "Marie Provost," that subject matter is a has-been movie star fading from the public eye, dying in squalor and having her corpse eaten by her pet dog ("that hungry little dachshund"). In "Born a Woman," the topic is the mistreatment of women in society. "You're born to be lied to, stepped on, cheated on and treated like dirt." And in both, Ncik's smarmy presentation makes it hard to tell whether he's lamenting or celebrating.

It wasn't until years after I heard Nick Lowe's rendition did I actually hear the original. The two are -- how to put it? -- very different records. Putting aside the fact that Nick did some significant reqwriting of the song, the fact is that Posey's version is almost a dirge by comparison. But what gets me about it is that it could be a decent protest song, except that by the end she's singing that she wouldn't change a thing. Because, despite being under her man's thumb, it's worth it just be his woman.I don't think I like that message.

So you can judge for yourself, here are Posey's and Lowe's renditions.