Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Valentine's Day Empoprise-MU music post on the de-evolution of choices

So on Valentine's Day I'm going to talk about a love song.

(Or, perhaps I should say a LOOOOOVVVVVVVVE song, as one of the students put it when I briefly co-taught junior high Sunday school.)

Not a song from Dove, the Band of Love.

But from a related band.

As the only person in the known universe who likes the Devo album "Total Devo," I was thinking about the song "Happy Guy" recently.

Then something hit me.

One portion of the song lyrics sounds like something I've heard before.

Let me tell you about a boy
An average spud
He was twice in love
With two very different girls
Knowing life is short
He told them both the truth
But they already knew

If you can't figure it out from the song title, this is a very happy circumstance.

But that wasn't the case for a song on the album that a lot of people liked:

In ancient Rome
There was a poem
About a dog
Who found two bones
He peeked at one
He licked the other
He went in circles
Then he dropped dead

Many would argue that the softer version of the story in the later "Total Devo" album provides proof that Devo had succumbed to its own de-evolution. If you follow this train of thought, then you would argue that the newer song should have been entitled "Sad Guy," and the guy's confession to his two loves should have resulted in a Kent State-like murder.

But it didn't happen that way. The bouncing disco ball wouldn't allow it.

Incidentally, Aesop was Greek. But we spudboys didn't think that hard about that.

Oh, and one more thing. If "Happy Guy" is a LOOOOOVVVVVVVVE song, then this is not a love song. Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 4, 2019

From secondary geographical perspectives - when an artist's music is released haphazardly in another country

DISCLOSURE: I live in the United States of America. And that affects how I view things.

For example, lately I've been thinking about Egypt a lot, and therefore this song has been going through my head.

And, as is my wont, as the non-Egyptian strings fade into the background, I immediately think of this song:


At this point, nearly 7 billion people are asking why I would connect the two songs. Yes, they are both by the English band Madness, but they were recorded several years apart and are different stylistically.

Well, go back to my disclosure.

Madness' recording career is a very odd jumble of things, with multiple record labels and the like. And that's just in the United Kingdom - cross over to the United States, and it gets even more jumbled.

In 1982, Madness released its fourth studio album, The Rise & Fall. A semi-concept album, it offered a more thoughtful perspective from the band - not that "Baggy Trousers" didn't have its own thoughtful lyrics, but it was, as the late Graham Chapman would say, rather silly. The album got very un-nutty in its pointed song "Blue Skinned Beast," and even the more rollicking numbers such as "Our House" had a wistfulness about them. While the album didn't place as high in the album charts as Madness' previous albums, it did hit #10, and is today a well-respected album.

The Rise & Fall was not released in the United States.

Perhaps because they were so danged English, Madness hadn't really made a dent over here, so when Geffen Records decided to build an album around the hit song "Our House," it created a compilation from most (not all) of Madness' existing UK albums.

This resulted in some oddities. As I know all too well, side two started with "Night Boat to Cairo," a track taken from Madness' debut album "One Step Beyond." On the Geffen album, this nutty track was followed by the title track from Madness' latest semi-conceptual album. Quite a divergence in style, and one that would only occur to American minds.

But what if Geffen had waited a couple of years to issue its compilation?

Familial DNA when the family is breaking apart

I recently read two diametrically opposed articles about familial DNA - a positive article entitled A popular genealogy website just helped solve a serial killer cold case in Oregon, and a negative article entitled One Of The Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies Is Working With The FBI.

The juxtaposition immediately made me think of the 1968 album The Beatles.

By Beat 768 - Own work, Public Domain, Link

What can I say? I'm obviously on a Lennon kick at the moment.

For those of you who consider early Taylor Swift songs as golden oldies, I should clarify that the thing that people love (and hate) about this album - popularly known as "The White Album" because of its black album cover - is the wide variety of stylistic changes from song to song. This happened for three reasons: (1) there were four songwriters on the album (yes, Ringo's first solo[1] composition is here), (2) there were a lot of songs, and (3) they felt like it.

For a small sample of the wide ranging nature of the songs, take Side Three. It starts with "Birthday," a rocker composed on the spot, followed by four wildly divergent songs that are all related to India in some way. Three of those songs are Paul's mellow "Mother Nature's Son," John's jumbled-word rocker "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey," and John's beautiful scathing attack song "Sexy Sadie." That was followed by Paul's unintentionally deadly rocker "Helter Skelter," and the record concluded with George's pastoral "Long Long Long" that ended with a lawn mower or whatever.

Whoops - I seem to have left out the song that appeared between the fast rocker "Birthday" and the slow soft "Mother Nature's Son."

By UDiscoverMusic -, PD-US, Link

This song was (mostly) slow, but not soft. And there's a bit of background behind this song:

The Beatles were just as observant of musical trends as anyone else was. One case in point was the re-emergence of the genre of music called the Blues. British groups such as The Rolling Stones, The Animals and The Yardbirds infused the Blues into their songwriting as well as incorporating classic Blues compositions into their repertoire. By 1968, a British Blues boom was developing, with Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience among others leading the way.

Now Lennon and the other Beatles admired Hendrix, and would work with Clapton on that very album. But that didn't stop Lennon from making a bit of fun at their expense. Hence the Beatles entered the British Blues movement with their over-the-top song that started as follows:

Yes, I'm lonely
Want to die
Yes, I'm lonely
Want to die
If I ain't dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

In the morning
Want to die
In the evening
Want to die
If I ain't dead already
Oh, girl, you know the reason why

White suburban British boys belting out Mississippi blues, just like the white suburban British boys had belted out Elvis a decade before.

Well, except for one thing. Lennon was lonely and did want to die:

“The funny thing about the camp was that although it was very beautiful and I was meditating about eight hours a day, I was writing the most miserable songs on earth. In 'Yer Blues,' when I wrote, 'I'm so lonely I want to die,' I'm not kidding. That's how I felt.” In his 1980 Playboy interview, John explains that the song was “written in India...up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.”

Add it up. He was meditating separately from his then-wife, he was about to confess all of his previous affairs to her, he was disillusioned with the Maharishi, his relationship with his songwriting partner was falling apart, and this weird Japanese artist kept on mailing him letters that sounded like

My mother was of the sky
My father was of the earth

And you know what it's worth.

[1] Ringo's first songwriting credit was for "What Goes On," which was a Lennon-McCartney-Starkey composition. And since I already included a video of The Dirty Mac singing a Beatles song, I might as well post this.

But in an effort to get ourselves back on the topic of familial DNA, Zak Starkey apparently did not perform with the band in this clip.