All posts by Paul

REM’s first national television appearance

I’ve been listening to a lot of REM lately. Several of the blogs I follow have featured them recently (see here for Aphoristical‘s updated list of R.E.M Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best; and here and here for song features from badfinger20(Max). And so the other night I stumbled on this gem on YouTube – R.E.M.’s first national TV appearance on Letterman’s show on Oct. 6, 1983.

What a joy to watch this performance! In less than 10 years, R.E.M will be one of the biggest bands in the world, but here they are, just 4 guys from Athens, GA trying to make it. Peter Buck and Mike Mills jumping and bouncing all over the stage playing Radio Free Europe, while Michael Stipe anchors the whole song stationary, hanging on the mic, “murmuring” the lyrics, although you sense he could bound off the stage if he lets go.

In those days Letterman would often give his musical guest two songs, and so after the commercial break, they play a song the band says is so new it doesn’t have a title – and its So. Central Rain.

I found it interesting that the between song chatter with Letterman was handled by Buck and Mills – Stipe, the lead singer, is off to the side , sitting on the drum riser, so uncharacteristic of a lead singer who is usually the band’s spokesperson. I recall reading somewhere that Stipe said he viewed his voice as just another instrument in the band, and this fits with the idea that he’s just another bandmember.

I didn’t get into R.E.M. until Document in 1987, and was barely aware of them during my college years (82-86). On the other hand, I watched Letterman religiously during college so I’m not sure why I missed this. Although on reflection that was more in my junior/senior year, so this performance would have been earlier. What I can say is that if I had caught this performance, I am willing to bet I would have become a fan much earlier!

Enjoy the performance!

Favorite songs of 2020

Ok a couple days late but its still the weekend so I’m going to slide my list of favorite songs of 2020 in and hope no one notices my tardiness…

2020 was a terrible year in so many ways but it was still a great year for new music finds. Here are 10 of my favorite discoveries this past year

10. The Chats – Pub Feed

I stumbled onto this band from someone’s blog earlier this year – sorry can’t remember who. The Chats are a self described pub-punk shed rock band from Queensland Australia who remind me of the Ramones with their straight head no nonsense punk sound. Their song deal with everyday concerns – getting a meal at the local pub, getting the clap, getting hassled by the police. Ok maybe not the everyday concerns of a 50 something white guy from the US East Coast, but great music nonetheless. Plus it keeps my streak alive of having at least one band from Down Under on the list the last number of years!

9. Tami Neilson – Call Your Mama

Tami Neilson is a R&B throwback to an earlier time. As Popdose describes here – ” If you’ve ever wanted to know what Wanda Jackson duking it out with Shirley Bassey in a alley while Rosanne Cash, Sharon Jones, and Amy Winehouse egged them on sounded like, look no further..” This put down on a cheating man cracked me up – A ring a ding ding!

8. Spanish Love Songs – Kick

This LA based rock band has been around since 2013 but I had never heard of them til this year. Their lead singer Dylan Slocum’s voice reminds me of another lead singer, but I can’t place it. Any ideas? Great guitar head cleansing rock

7. Brandy Clark – Who You Thought I Was

Brandy Clark has written a number of songs that have been hits for other country artists (Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgrave) but has also put out several albums on her own. I’m not a huge country fans, but do appreciate the roots/American branch, and I found this song gorgeous.

6. Okay Kaya – Psych Ward

I heard this song on a new music playlist early in the year and couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. Then it seemed very topical as the year progressed as it felt like we were living in a psych ward what with the way our leaders were running our country. Favorite line – “I am a very patient patient” Video has alot of non song content so posting Spotify link instead

5. Best Coast – Everything Has Changed

One of my favorite bands is back after a 5 year hiatus and sounding as great as ever. Sounds like songwriter / vocalist Bethany Cosentino has found contentment and happiness as the songs are no long all about lost love and broken relationships

4. Marcus King – Beautiful Stranger

Marcus King is a 24 year old singer/guitarist from Greenville SC whose debut solo album El Dorado was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The album is a fantastic combination of country, blues, R&B, and rock, anchored by King’s phenomenal voice. Featuring Beautiful Stranger here, but also check out the rest of the album, including The Well.

3. The Beths – Dying to Believe

Another of my favorite bands from Down Under whose album Jump Rope Gazers is great from top to bottom. I had tickets to see them in DC in May, which got postponed til the fall, which got postponed to …. actually I don’t know.. One of many huge disappointments this year. I really hope to see them in the States one day. But at least we got the new album. My buddy Mike posted I’m Not Getting Excited on his year end best of list (see it here), so here’s another keeper, Dying to Believe

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Dreamiscle

Jason Isbell is one of those artists that I’ve been aware of for awhile but for whatever reason have never really checked out until recently – and geez what I’ve been missing. His 2020 album with the 400 Unit has a bunch of great songs on it that made it hard to choose just one, but this one was definitely my favorite. Great lyrics, great imagery, great chorus.

1. Bruce Springsteen – Ghosts

I hear the sound of your guitar
Comin’ from the mystic far
Stone and the gravel in your voice
Come in my dreams and I rejoice

I don’t think there could be a better song intro for me in the current year for me than this, as it signals that Bruce and the E St. Band is back, better than ever. Its been a while, what with his book, the Broadway show etc. Just a fantastic fantastic song, which for me ranks in my top 10 Bruce songs ever. As my co-blogger Mike says, the album Letter to You is easiest is best in 20 years. From Roy Bittan’s piano, Max Weinberg’s drumming, to Jake Clemons sax, you just know that this song is going to be a killer live – and its even got the count out towards the end of the song to tease you. A bright ray of hope to all the great live musical moments that awaits us on the other side of this pandemic.

Happy New Year everyone!!

Five of my Favorite Christmas Songs

Well, its Christmas Eve 2020 here and while this year has been unique (and not in the good sense) the holidays helps anchor us to the traditions that make our lives meaningful and that can carry us through these challenging times. Yes the pandemic has altered Christmas as well, but it won’t stop me from posting some of my favorite Christmas songs! While there are many to choose from, here are five of my current favorites.

Eurythmics – Winter Wonderland

From the very first A Very Special Christmas benefit album from 1987 – I really love Annie Lennox’s vocals on this track, a very Eurythmics take on this classic. While the album was a mixed bag (imho) this was one of the standouts.

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl)

I’ve heard plenty of other versions of this song, but for me the original cannot be matched. There’s something about Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl’s vocals, and the Irish instrumentation that does it for me.

Pretenders – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Another standout from the A Very Special Christmas album – love Chrissie Hynde’s vocals on this.

Bruce Springsteen and the E. St. Band – Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Of course this Bruce holiday classic would make my list – probably one of most popular rock versions of a Christmas classic ever. There’s nothing like hearing this song live in concert (which I’ve been lucky to hear several times) and hear old Clarence’s HoHoHo. Really miss the Big Man. Here’s a live version from 1978.

Bob Dylan – Must be Santa

I discovered this Dylan cover a few years ago and its my new favorite. To be honest, the video makes it for me – Dylan in the white hat/Santa hat, the accordion player, the unexplained altercation and escape and the exchange of glances between Dylan and Santa. Looks to be a fantastically fun Christmas party!

Hearing wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Song for our Times – Bob Mould American Crisis

A scream of rage in this dark time in the history of US.

I heard a story on the radio a few weeks ago (before we slid off cliff) about what this year’s “song of the summer” will be (last year it was Uptown Road)….

This song has my vote for song for this summer.

You’re one of us,

Or one of them

If you’re one of them

Don’t come near me again

RIP John Prine – another American treasure taken from us by COVID19

Just heard the sad news about the passing of John Prine this evening from complications from Covid19.  Prine was one of those artists that I knew of and appreciated the songs of his that I had heard, but I can’t say I knew more than a fraction of his work (that will change).  I remember really liking his 1991 album The Missing Years.  Here’s my favorite song from that album.  All The Best.

For Adam Schlesinger, RIP

Just heard the devastating news that Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of Fountains of Wayne, one of my favorite power pop bands, has died of COVID19 complications.  While Stacy’s Mom was their biggest hit, this was my favorite song of theirs.  Their brilliant combination of huge power pop riffs and witty lyrics will be sorely missed.  Sending my thoughts to his family, friends and fans worldwide.

How many more will we lose?

 

HT to Aphoristical for the heads up.

TBT Rainbow – Since You Been Gone

Going back to my high school days for this one – just popped into my head yesterday which of course makes it a great entry for today.  I remember hearing this on the radio back in 1979 and immediately loving the simple guitar riff that underlies the rest of the song.  I always thought this was a Rainbow song (although admittedly its the only song by them I know) but the Internet tells me that it was originally done by Russ Ballard in 1976 and subsequently covered by a number of bands before and after Rainbow’s version.