All posts by Paul

Song of the Day 7/27/18 Meg Myers – ‘Tear Me to Pieces’

Heard this song on NPR Music and loved it.  Myers does the quiet – loud contrast style beautifully in this song about staying in a relationship even though you fear it will destroy you.

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Today in Music History July 27

1944 Today is the birthday of Bobbie Gentry, US singer and songwriter, whose song ‘Ode to Billie Joe‘ came out of nowhere in 1967 and knocked the Beatles (All You Need is Love) out of the #1 spot on the US singles chart.  She was one of the first female country artists to compose and produce her own material.  ‘Ode to Billie Joe’s Southern gothic story line left listeners with a mystery – what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge and who was with Billie Joe.  The song was Gentry’s only hit.  For more on the song and the artist, check out this Rolling Stone story.

 

1974 Paul McCartney‘s post-Beatles group Wings started a seven-week run at No.1 on the UK album chart with Band On The Run. The two singles off the album, ‘Jet’, and ‘Band on the Run’ helped the album become one of the top selling albums of 1974.

 

1976 Bruce Springsteen sued his manager Mike Appel for fraud and breach of trust in a attempt to get out of his contract with Appel’s Laurel Canyon Ltd.  Appel in turn counter sued Springsteen, leading a judge to issue an injunction against Springsteen being able to record.  Coming on the heels of the success of Born to Run, this was potentially disastrous for Springsteen’s career.  The case dragged on for over 10 months, resulting the year after in an out of court settlement giving Springsteen control of his recordings and career.  But Springsteen’s next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, wasn’t released until 1978, and showcased a much different writing style than Born to Run.  Gone were the sweeping musical and lyrical epics, replaced with tighter, sparer, grittier character portraits.

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Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia.

Song of the Day 7/26/18 The West Coast Feed – ‘You Belong to Me’

The West Coast Feed are a Seattle band who describe themselves as swagger rock/soul at the intersection of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and New Orleans.  Guitars, bass, drums, horns, and a violin.  This is their debut single. Keep an eye out for them.
(HT to fellow music blogger Music Enthusiast for putting this on my radar)

 

Today in Music History July 26

1943 So You Say Its Your Birthday!: Mick Jagger, lead singer of The Rolling Stones. The man, the entertainer, the legend, the rock god.

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1975 Van McCoy and the Soul City go to No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘The Hustle’, one of several massive disco hits during this time period

 

1986, Peter Gabriel goes to No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Sledgehammer’,. off his massively successful album So.  Almost as well known is the video for the song, which is the most played music video in the history of MTV.

Today in Music History July 25

1958 So You Say Its Your Birthday: Thurston Moore, American singer and guitarist with  the noise rock band Sonic Youth.  Moore is known for his innovative guitar techniques, including unorthodox guitar tunings and guitar preparing techniques.

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1960 ‘Only the Lonely,’ Roy Orbison’s first hit, reachs No.2 on the US singles chart.  The song had been offered to both The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley, who both turned it down, so Orbison recorded it himself. The clip below is from the classic A Black and White Night concert – see if you can spot all the music legends in Roy’s backing band.

 

1965 Bob Dylan headlines the The Newport Folk Festival and plays a plugged in set with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that includes his new song ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’  Reaction was mixed with some folk music fans outraged while others in the audience cheered.  One writer noted that he had  “electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other”. The moment signifies Dylan’s movement away from folk and toward more rock influences.

 

1980 AC/DC release Back In Blacktheir tribute Bon Scott, their former lead singer who had died in February of 1980.  Brian Johnson stepped into the lead vocalist role, and the album went on to become the second highest selling album of all time.

 

Sources: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, HistoryPod.com

Frank Turner – Be More Kind

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Frank Turner is an English singer whose songs have been described as folk punk.  A former member of the punk band Million Dead, his songs as a solo artist are folk songs with a punk asthetic – fast paced, aggressive, fist pumping and easy to sing loud to.  What we really love about his songs though is the message inherent in his lyrics: to be true to yourself, experience life to the fullest, and be authentic.  Very inspirational and life affirming at any age, whether your adult life is just starting or you’re facing midlife and questioning what comes next.

Turner has never shied away from the political, but it hasn’t been as much of a focus as earlier in his career.

Early in his solo career he wrote  songs bursting with youthful indignation and righteous anger. They were sometimes political, sometimes blasphemous and occasionally profane.

The last two albums, 2013‘s Tape Deck Heart and 2015‘s Positive Songs for Negative People found Frank focusing more inwardly; somewhat pessimistically, on TDH and then with a somewhat  sunnier outlook on Positive Songs. Those albums chronicle a personal emotional journey from a darker emotional place to new promising relationships. 

2018 has Frank turning his gaze back outward to the rest of the world.

His latest album, Be More Kind returns to  earlier themes.  The election of Donald Trump in the US, and Brexit in his home UK, have made him contemplate the meaning of these events in our time, and how to continue to be authentic when the world is “slipping over the brink,” as he states in the punk tinged ‘1933‘, an allusion to the years before WWII and the start of the rise of Hitler in Germany.  The song is a direct slap in the listener’s face to wake up and pay attention to what’s going on, a pretty terrifying take on the current state of world affairs.

While 1933 (along with the one off song ‘Sand in the Gears‘ that he premiered right after Trump’s election in Jan. 2017) are directly confrontational, Turner’s larger question on his current album is how to move forward to a better place given the situation we find ourselves in.  His answer, as you may have guessed by now, is answered in the title track ‘Be More Kind‘.  Starting quietly with just acoustic guitar, the song slowly builds to a full  yet restrained melody as Turner implores us to show more kindness towards each other, try to better understand each other and find common ground, regardless of our political views or beliefs.

We’ve stopped talking to each other
And there’s something wrong with that
So before you go out searching
Don’t decide what you will find
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

 

In other songs, Turner explores this theme of connection by focusing on finding individual connection with another within a futuristic nightmare landscape where the world is already over the brink (‘20th Century Survival Blues‘)  or when faced with a literal and figurative ‘Blackout‘:

Meet me in the middle
Meet me in the middle
Bring a burning candle with you
Meet me in the middle
Meet me in the middle
I will be there waiting for you

Musically, this is Turner’s most expansive album to date, incorporating not just his trademark punk folk as well as rock style, but also the most pop influenced songs of his career.  While ‘There She Is‘ is a lovely slice of acoustic pop balladry, ‘Little Changes‘ uses an upbeat and bouncy melody to impart the message that “the big things stay the same until we make Little changes” – change, whether in your personal relationships or in society as a whole, cannot happen all at once but needs to start one step at a time, always moving forward.

In our mind, the highlight of the album and the song that brings it all together is ‘Make America Great Again‘, where Turner brilliantly turns the Trump slogan on its head, using the conceit of an Englishman using the US/England “special relationship” to give advice to his country’s former colony.  After suggesting in the chorus that we make America great again by “By making racists ashamed again, Let’s make compassion in fashion again” Turner ends the song by saying:

Let’s be a friend to our oldest friends
And call them out when they’re faltering
Remind them of their best selves and then
We’ll make America great again

Be More Kind provides a compelling reminder for finding our best selves again, for showing kindness, love and tolerance of others, as the only way to make it through these challenging times.