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month of 70's GPMs: evergreen (barbara streisand)
Jan 22nd, 2009 by wrekehavoc

this one will get me laughed out of the he-man woman haters club fer sure.

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She Who Is Like Buttah did not put a lot of songs out in the 1970s that i particularly like. (i went off on one of them back in november, you might recall.) in fact, most of the time, i would prefer to focus on her movies of the 1970s — what’s up doc is one of the funniest films i have ever, ever seen (and which plagues hellboy to this day — whenever he mentions the name of one of his buddies from school, i immediately launch into dialogue from the film):

Howard: It gets kind of complicated now. First, there was this trouble between me and Hugh.
Judge Maxwell: You and me?
Howard: No, not you. Hugh.
Hugh: I am Hugh.
Judge Maxwell: You are me?
Hugh: No, I am Hugh.

yep. i’m sure little hugh can’t wait to come over for a playdate.

anyway, another extremely successful film of bahbra’s was the 1976 remake of a star is born. admittedly, i didn’t like it any of the times around. see, i have a big problem with a story about how a relationship disintegrates when the woman becomes successful and the man is in a period of decline. it grates on me nerves in the way only a wildly sexist plotline can.  yeah, yeah, sure, sure, people loved this remake. and babs does turn in an outstanding performance, though i never was able to suspend my belief long enough that kris kristofferson could be a successful rock star. he has all the charisma of a tub of cookie dough.

but i cannot lie: this academy award-winning AND grammy award-winning monster hit is also an incredibly beautiful song. sure, i found it smarmy when it came out, but i was also 11 years old at the time and easily grossed out by mushy lovesongs. paul williams lyrics are often simply brilliant: love, soft as an easy chair. whodathunkit? and barbara wrote the music, so props to her highness for that.

i wish i could say positive things about more of her music. i mean, anyone has to admit that, regardless of where you stand on her politics, the chick has got pipes. but she has chosen such unadulterated shlock over the years — or at least in the 1970s — that it makes it hard to cheer her on.

but i’m doing it here. bravely, in public.

i know snark awaits me.

bring it.

month of 70’s GPM: take the long way home (supertramp)
Jan 21st, 2009 by wrekehavoc

it was a tough choice. but i know i’m bloody well right.

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take the long way home would be a great song in and of itself. listening to it, however, makes me feel a bit maudlin. i always think about a murder that took place in my hometown in the ’80s. a fine upstanding member of the community, rob marshall, apparently killed his wife maria via contract to collect on an insurance policy. the evidence showed that he had been having an affair and apparently wanted to live happily and wealthily without mrs. marshall.

i still get shivers when i drive past the area where his set-up murder scenario went down. i also can barely look at the hotel where the alleged trysts took place. ick. so. very. sordid. and. awful. mr. marshall is currently eligible for parole in 2014.

anyway, the case became a book which, in turn, became an emmy nominated movie.

so what on earth does this have to do with take the long way home? apparently, maria marshall loved that song, and there’s a dramatic moment in the movie where her eldest son roby figures out that his dad offed his mom, thanks to the song. i never knew maria marshall (though if gossip be true, i knew who the paramour was), but whenever i hear this song, i think sadly of a bunch of boys whose dad was insane enough to kill their mom.

(incidentally, joanna kerns, who played maria in the movie, ended up introducing roby marshall to her growing pains co-star, tracey gold, who later married marshall. cue weird music here.)

anyway, guess i’ve shared not a lot about supertramp, a fabulous british prog-rock import with a roster of songs to make any band green with envy: dreamer (which plays in my head whenever i think of a pal of mine); the logical song; and probably the song that comes neck-and-neck with take the long way home for a place in my heart, give a little bit, which ends up being borrowed for a lot of charitable causes. (i cannot stand the cover of the latter done by the goo goo dolls, even if it was for a relief effort. the band messed up the words, for starters…)

various attempts of the band to get back together haven’t exactly resulted in a lasting musical production. pity, as the davies and hodgson team provided a clever point-counterpoint in their work together.

month of 70's GPM: border song (elton john)
Jan 20th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

this one’s for you, barack obama.

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it’s hard for me to remember a time when elton john wasn’t a chart-topper in the US. but this work, border song, a single from the 1970 album elton john, did only marginally well anywhere.  in fact, my girl ree-ree (aka aretha franklin) covered it the following year and did a bit better with it.

but i simply love this song.

whether you hear it as a song about alienation or about racial harmony, this song simply reaches in and finds something. i have spent countless hours sitting at the piano, playing this song. not as well as elton, of course, but definitely with some intensity. it’s almost like a do-it-yourelf exorcism for me, of sorts.

see, my kids get freaked out sometimes because it is definitely possible for a song to bring me to tears. and there is one song that brings me to tears each and every single time i hear it. this one.  it’s like my own personal prayer to the world:

holy moses, let us live in peace.
let us strive to find a way to make our hatred cease.
there’s a man over there. what’s his colour, i don’t care.
he’s my brother. let us live in peace.

i never thought i would live to see a day when our country would be in such jeopardy the world over. i never thought i’d see a day when the united states would undertake policies that would make me ashamed. i never thought i’d see a day when so many people would be in such horrible straits.

but then again, i never thought i’d live to see a day when an african-american would be elected president of the united states.

so there is hope left.

let us live in peace.

month of 70's GPM: superstition (stevie wonder)
Jan 19th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

and to think that i saw it on sesame street!

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only because happy birthday technically came out in 1980, i’ll pick a different stevie wonder song. (but happy birthday, Dr. King!) let me tell you — picking a stevie wonder pop hit for this is tough. this guy wrote some of the most amazing standards — and he’s still at it today, over 40 years after he started.

so i’ll just pick out superstition, a song originally meant for jeff beck. covered a zillion times by groups as varied as the jonas brothers (gah) and stevie ray vaughn — a phrase you can say about tons of wonder’s works, btw — it’s just a funky little jaunt into the world of old wives and the tales that love them.  when the song was recorded, stevie wasn’t little stevie anymore (the moniker must have driven him nuts when he was a teen), but he wasn’t exactly aged either — 22 or so. his clavinet just kicks, as does the horn section, as well as pretty much every damn thing about the song.

yep. so. damn. hard. to pick between this one and higher ground (for you power ranger fan kids, the red hot chili peppers covered this, not the other way around.)

or even harder to not mention my most very favorite wonder song — favorite, grand poohbah, top 10 favorite songs of all time as well — which he did but which wasn’t a hit. (but a song which i wrote, word for word, in my daughter’s first birthday card. i’m obsessive like that.)

okay, okay. i’m being completely and unalterably gushy. it’s hard for me not to be when it comes to stevie wonder, even though i just called to say i’m pregnant and you are black and i am white are two incredibly sappy songs which even i cannot tolerate. but then again, you get songs like my cherie amour, which played at my wedding when i danced with my daddy — but that song’s from 1969 and doesn’t count…

i’ll stop. but i think you get the picture. i’m a bit crazy about the wonder dude.

…not to be confused with the other wonder dude, whose birth we’re celebrating today.

month of 70’s GPM: we are family (sister sledge)
Jan 16th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

i got all my brothers with me. no sisters, though. can i still qualify?

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there’s nothing like the sound of philadelphia (except for the eponymous song, i suppose.) so many musical greats came out of that grey, grey city. while not in that league of greats, sister sledge certainly has had a decent career in the top 40, no thanks to me, of course. (i could care less, for example, for their song he’s the greatest dancer, which is utter drek.)

but i always love when families can put aside their sibling rivalries and form a band.  let’s see, there’s the osmonds, the jacksons, the cowsills, the partridges… such happy, loving people who always got along! and of course the sisters sledge, who really have been singing together since childhood. once the magical production team of nile rodgers and bernard edwards from chic took them under their proverbial wings, they came up with two hits. the latter i’ve already mentioned not liking.

but we are family? how can you NOT like this song? it’s joyful, it’s fun, and hell, it can even be construed as a feministic anthem for women everywhere.  (which may explain why it was also good enough for the pittsburgh pirates.)

anyway, my twisted mini-memory of this song comes courtesy of toms river intermediate west, which has since been renamed toms river intermediate north, which should ALSO not be confused with toms river high school north. (my hometown has a slightly screwy school-naming situation. it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg, one might say.)

the big excitement of eighth grade would be the year-end talent show. i still remember being one of the lucky kids selected to be in the end of year talent show, though i cannot, in fact, recall what my talent was or how i performed it. (i do remember the christmas show, where i performed a milquetoast song called christmas is a feeling while some high-pitched eunich boy sang along. yes, virginia, christmas is a feeling; a feeling of wanting to self-immolate.)

nevertheless, i do remember the big finale — everyone danced down the narrow stage to we are family. i still recall this one girl, angela, from south toms river who danced so amazingly. i wanted soooo badly to dance like her, but alas, as a nice jewish girl, i knew that i would not. i simply looked stellar in my white pants with attached suspenders (this was 1979, after all); in retrospect, considering there were strobe lights and such, i wonder whether everyone could see my underpants.  (thank Dog i had no idea at the time or i would have never, ever lived down my mortification.)

yep. we are family reminds me that no matter how stupid i looked, there were people in the world who still publicly admitted to being my relatives. lucky for me, they still do.

but just in case, i think i’ll avoid white pants at all costs.

month of 70's GPN: jackie blue (ozark mountain daredevils)
Jan 15th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

drummers who can sing while they drum make me feel unworthy.

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i don’t know much about the ozark mountain daredevils; in fact, i don’t think they ever had another hit after jackie blue.

no matter. jackie is a portrait of a alice in strung-out-land; a seeker of joy who never, ever seems to have the patience of finding it. the lazy slide guitar emotes some sort of druggy lethargy that pretty much clinched the song for me. everyone knows someone who, whether drugged up or not, seems to crave happiness but who is his or her own worst enemy in this department.

i just love people who ask me for advice, only to have them flout it afterwards. i mean, it’s not like i corner the market on sense, but if someone asks me what i think, i will take some time to consider things before i spout off my mouth. (well, if i care about them, lol. but seriously…) then, when they basically blow everything i said out the proverbial window, i wonder why i even bothered.

even better is when they return for MORE ADVICE. i sometimes wonder whether i ought to charge people. of course, as an amateur psychologist [read: kids, don’t try this at home], i’m really not permitted to charge a la Lucy Van Pelt. but maybe it would be a deterrent. it’d probably be better for my mental health, at any rate.

but i digress. per usual.

anyway, in sum: don’t know much about the ozark mountain daredevils. love jackie blue. and don’t ask for my advice or opinions on matters unless you are prepared to consider it.

and if you come back with more questions after ignoring what i said initially, come prepared with a nickle.

and don’t be mad when i tell you i told you so.

month of 70’s GPM: will it go round in circles (billy preston)
Jan 14th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

it will if you keep smokin’ that shit, dude.

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you know that keyboard solo in get back? you know, the one you compulsively play in your sleep, on your dashboard, on your kid’s head? (oh wait. that’s a thought that needs to stay inside my head. sorry, folks.) well, that’s the only non-Beatle to be credited as an artist on a Beatle album, the late, great william everett preston.

billy preston played keyboards probably before he was toilet trained, i suspect. at 10, he was playing in mahalia jackson’s backup band. 10. (10! that’s BC’s age. i cannot imagine girlfriend getting onstage with her flute to help out ian anderson.) he played with a lot of greats — you can pretty much name anybody, and i suspect he was there.

for a time, he had a great solo gig going, thanks to the continued support of his Beatle buddy, george harrison (hold onto your funky fresh ‘fro for outa-space.) for me, will it go round in circles is the best of his best. don’t really know what the hell the song is about. don’t really care, either. mr. man has included some amazing keyboard work, and the horns kill.

later on, he did a ton of work for the stones and others, but he returned to play at the stellar concert for george when his dear friend harrison died of throat cancer.  sadly, in spite of a kidney transplant, preston died only a few years later.

but his solos will spin circles around anyone else’s work forever.

month of 70's GPM: american pie (don mclean)
Jan 13th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

stifler’s mom never enters this discussion.

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oh, i know. i hear you all groaning.  and in truth, i’m not as fond of this one as i was when i was a pre-teen; when i discovered the real meaning of american pie.

::insert melodramatic music here::

but i still think it’s worthy of my guilty-fied love. see, my oldest brother, aka BTD, had done a report in high school on the what the song was all about. i think it was the first time in my life i had ever actually figured out that words could have more than one meaning.

::insert melodramatic music here again::

in short, it freaked me out. (but in a good way, i would add.) i remember the frustration: you had to turn the 45 over to hear the rest of the damn song.  i also wasn’t thrilled that mclean trashed MY beatles and MY stones in favor of some bug-eyed dude from texas (who i have since grown to appreciate over the years, thank–you-very-much.) but i was enthralled by the idea of allegory (even if my fifth or sixth grade self was not yet acquainted with the term). i couldn’t wait to write some epic poem using this sort of subterfuge.

of course, i never did, though i did help that older brother decipher  sweet baby james for another paper, scouring out the meaning from a few heroin-soaked lines of nostalgia. (or did i write the paper for my class? not entirely sure all these years later, and i’m quite certain BTD has blotted out most memories prior to 1985. so i guess we’ll never know, fair reader. ah, these deep and impenetrable mysteries of life.)

anyway, i’m not a huge fan of mclean’s career (though vincent is a gorgeous, somber song), but i can acknowledge that american pie is a sort of landmark experience on the pop chart. and what happens when you write a landmark-type song?

parodies.

too many to list, of course, but a song like this is clearly inspirational to many.

there’s bye, bye french canadian guy.

there’s kelso’s version.

and of course, where’s there’s a parody, there’s always weird al.

[note to readers: bear in mind that BS will now be walking around the house singing about one day becoming a jedi, or however the hell that last song goes. in short, i have just punished myself for the entire month of really awful music from back in november. you’re welcome.]

month of 70's GPM: everything i own (bread)
Jan 12th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

okay, i expect to take a lot of crap for this one, but i don’t care.

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you may find it utterly inconceivable that someone who likes this would also like this. and to be truthful, plenty of bread’s schlock rock output makes me want to hurl. but i have a soft spot in my heart for any song that has a really lovely melody. blame my dad: he’s the one who shared a ton of music with me at an early age. in the early 1970s, how many people had a dad who listened to prokofiev, leonard bernstein, scott joplin, and the beatles? and fraaaaaaaaankie, of course. show of hands, please?

i thought so.

now, i suspect my dad wouldn’t enjoy metal or punk much; and i don’t forsee him clamoring for country music any time soon. but over the years, he has been somewhat open-minded about music. i bet, for example, that if i made him a mixtape of some of the more melodic tori amos stuff i adore, he would enjoy it, too. (of course, he’d be baffled by the lyrics, but then again, isn’t everyone?)

but i digress.

anyway, behind the mellow sounds of bread, there was a whole lot of tension baking and burning. lead singer david gates also ended up writing the A-sides of singles, and singer jimmy griffith always ended up with the B-sides, in spite of the fact that he was an incredibly talented songwriter, partially responsible (under a pseudonym) for the academy award-winning song for all we know. yep, by 1973, you could stick a fork in this band; they were toast. (sorry; couldn’t help myself.) they reunited in various forms until griffith and drummer mike botts both succumbed to cancer in 2005.

but everything i own is gates’ beautiful tribute to his father. i don’t think i could ever write anything quite as beautiful for my dad, but i’ll keep trying. and as long as he tolerates my blather on these pages, well, that’s a start.

so here you go, dad. a song that’s melodic and just simply pretty.

enjoy!

month of 70's GPM: i can see clearly now (johnny nash)
Jan 9th, 2009 by wrekehavoc

reggae, meet wreke. wreke, meet reggae.

love at first sight.

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in 1972, plenty of americans had no earthly idea what reggae music was. pity, too, because this was a great time to hear bob marley and the wailers (before they split and then marley formed bob marley & the wailers. no, i don’t make this up.)  but american johnny nash was well aware of it, as he spent a ton of time in jamaica and knew marley, tosh, and others. in fact, several songs on the album from which i can see clearly now comes from are written by marley, including stir it up, which was first a hit for nash and NOT for marley.

but not i can see clearly now.

in an era where a lot of the pop was downer city, johnny nash’s bright, uptempo single simply shined. other 1972 hits were completely sad or very restrained — everything from alone again, naturally (a playful ditty about offing yourself) to the re-release of nights in white satin (okay, you got me on what this one’s about… but it’s very somber and takes itself waaaaay too seriously.) how couldn’t it shine with this sort of company?

it still shines, i think; and on days when i’m feeling especially sour, i listen to it in hopes that things will look up soon. (of course, that gets me nowhere during periods like this past fall, but it’s pretty to think it will work.)

anyway, it would be a few years before any sort of reggae would capture any bit of the american ear. (no, i don’t count clapton’s version of i shot the sheriff, which i loathe.) i know it seemed like love at first sight when i heard bob marley’s kind of music. i loved it so much, i asked for it to be played while i was in labor with BC. i thought listening to the wailers would keep me from needing pain meds. (seriously. delusional.)

but that music and i had met before. via johnny nash.


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