Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jack White -- "I Think I Found the Culprit" (2014)

I think I found the culprit
Looks like you
It must be you

(No, this episode of 2 or 3 lines is not about Ray Rice, who is the culprit du jour of the day as I write this.  I'm writing about a different culprit.)

Do you get most of your world news from stuff that your friends post on Facebook?  

I certainly do.  Let's face it -- daily newspapers and TV network news programs are sooooo 20th century!

So I was intrigued when a Facebook friend posted a link to a Huffington Post article about a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision.  You can click here to read that article, which had this headline:

All-Male Iowa Supreme Court Rules Firing Of Woman For Being Too Attractive Was Legal
You can imagine the outrage that was expressed by my Facebook friends -- especially my female friends.  "Sex discrimination!" they bleated, and some of them made shockingly rude comments concerning those male judges.

Even though I'm a very high-powered Washington lawyer, I have a lot of time on my hands.  (I couldn't write about three songs a week on 2 or 3 lines if I didn't have a lot of time on my hands, now could I?)   So unlike my conclusion-jumping friends. I actually located the Iowa high court's decision and read it all the way through.

In contrast to yours truly, the Huffington Post headline writer didn't have a lot of time on his or her hands -- or at least not enough time to actually read the Iowa Supreme Court decision.  While it's true that all the current members of the Iowa Supreme Court are males, the rest of the Huffington Post headline is just plain wrong.

Click here to read the Iowa Supreme Court opinion for yourself.

Those of you who live on the Left and Right Coasts may be surprised to learn that Iowa -- perhaps the quintessential "heartland" state -- is quite liberal when it comes to politics.  Iowa voters have favored the Democratic candidate in seven of the last eight elections.  And the Iowa Supreme Court has a reputation for being very progressive.

Iowa Supreme Court
For example, in 1868 that court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools were illegal.  (The U.S. Supreme Court came to the same conclusion 85 years later.)

The very next year, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

And in 2009, Iowa became only the fifth state in the country to strike down a statutory ban on same-sex marriage.  (Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and Hawaii were the only states to beat Iowa to the punch.)

If you knew all that, you might be suspicious of the Huffington Post headline and the story that accompanied it, which seemed to indicate that the Iowa Supreme Court is populated with right-wing male chauvinist pigs.  But most of you -- especially those of you who live in New York City, San Francisco, Boston, and other centers of condescension toward "Flyoverland" -- don't know all that.  So you probably would have swallowed the HuffPo piece hook, line, and sinker.

To get to the bottom of this story, you have to go back to 1999, when Dr. James Knight of Fort Dodge, Iowa, hired the 20-year-old Melissa Nelson, a recent community college graduate, to work as a dental assistant in his office.

Melissa Nelson
For more than a decade, everyone was happy.  According to Knight, Nelson was a good employee during those years.  According to Nelson, Knight treated her with respect.  She thought of him as a friend and father figure.

(NOTE: There's nothing more depressing for a male of a certain age than hearing himself described as a "friend and father figure" by an attractive young woman.)

In 2009, Nelson and Knight started texting each other outside the workplace.  Knight's wife -- who also worked in his dental practice -- found out about this texting over the holidays.  (Knight took the couple's kids to Colorado for Christmas vacation, while Mrs. Knight stayed home . . . which seems very odd to me.)  When Knight returned home, his wife confronted him and demanded that he fire Nelson because "she was a big threat to our marriage."

Dr. and Mrs. Knight
The Knights consulted with their minister, who agreed that Nelson should be given the boot.  A few days later, Dr. Knight called Nelson into his office -- another minister from the Knights' church was also present on this occasion -- and read a prepared statement to Nelson.  He handed her a month's salary as severance pay. 

The plot thickened that night, when Nelson's husband called Dr. Knight and said, "What the f*ck?" (or words to that effect).  

Knight agreed to meet with Mr. Nelson -- once again, the minister was present -- and told him that nothing had happened between the dentist and his assistant, but that Knight was afraid he would be tempted to have an affair with her if he didn't fire her.

Melissa Nelson sued Dr. Knight for sex discrimination a few months later.  But as both the trial judge and a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruled, Nelson had not been fired because she was female but because of the personal relationship that had developed between the two.  Knight had replaced her with another female dental assistant -- in fact, all his assistants were female -- so he clearly wasn't discriminating her on the basis of her gender.   

As one commentator noted,  

What happened seems unfair, for had Nelson not been female Knight wouldn’t have had the feelings he had and she wouldn’t be out of a job. . . . In the end, however, the case reinforces the fact that unfair is one thing and illegally discriminatory is quite another. 

That is exactly correct.  Employers can't fire employees because of race, or sex, or religion, or certain other specified characteristics.  Otherwise, employers are generally free to fire employees for any reason whatsoever -- or no reason at all.  (If the employee has an employment contract, or is a union member, the employers hands are somewhat tied when it comes to firing him or her.)

"I Think I Found the Culprit" is on
Jack White's 2014 Lazaretto album
As I read the court's decision, it hit me that Nelson was blaming the wrong person.  Dr. Knight wasn't responsible for her getting fired.  Dr. Knight's WIFE was the person who got Nelson fired.  

Now that they have a more complete understanding of the history, I think my female Facebook friends -- most of whom are married, and much closer in age to Mrs. Knight than to Ms. Nelson -- are probably seeing this case in an entirely different light.  

If my friends are honest, they will admit that they, too, would go on the warpath if they discovered that their husband is texting outside of work with a young, attractive female employee.

There's one other intriguing -- and amusing -- aspect to this case.

As far as we know, Knight and Nelson kept their hands to themselves.  But it's clear that Mrs. Knight had good reason to be worried about what her hubby was up to, as the following excerpts from the court's opinion will demonstrate:

Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing.  On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight.  After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going.  

(Oh, my!)

Dr. Knight also recalls that after Nelson allegedly made a statement regarding infrequency in her sex life, he responded to her, “[T]hat’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.” 

That is a great line.  I've gotta remember that one.

(Oh, behave!)
But then it gets even better:

Nelson recalls that Dr. Knight once texted her to ask how often she experienced an orgasm. 

You might think that such comments constituted sexual harassment, which is a form of sexual discrimination.  

There are two basic types of sexual harassment.  The first type -- usually referred to as quid pro quo sexual harassment -- occurs when employment or some job benefit (such as a promotion or a salary increase) is conditioned upon an employee providing sexual favors to a supervisor.  

There was clearly no quid pro quo harassment here because Knight never asked for sexual favors from Nelson, much less conditioned her continued employment on his receiving such favors.  

The second type of sexual harassment -- "hostile environment" harassment -- occurs when employees are exposed to unwelcome sexual behavior in the workplace.  I'm talking about dirty jokes, lewd comments, and the like.  

In the words of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment," but "the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious."  

Knight's conduct might have created a hostile environment if Nelson had found it unwelcome.  But the fundamental weakness in her case was that there was no evidence that she objected to the dentist's conduct or found his comments unwelcome.

In the end, the chief justice of the Iowa high court concluded that Nelson had not been harassed or coerced:

In this case, it is undisputed the relationship was consensual.  If it was not consensual, a turn in the analysis would occur.  Yet, Nelson made no legal or factual claim that a relationship with Dr. Knight was submissive, objectionable, or harassing in any way, and there was no evidence in the record to hint the relationship was not jointly pursued. 

For those of you whose hearts are bleeding for poor Melissa Nelson, let me just say one thing: would any among you care to trade places with Dr. Knight?  I imagine he is on a very short leash, boys and girls.

"I Think I Found the Culprit" was released a few months ago on Jack White's Lazaretto album.  2 or 3 lines has featured well over a dozen songs by White and his various bands, and I have plenty more worthy songs by him in my back pocket.

Click here to listen to the song.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Frank Sinatra -- "Summer Wind" (1966)

Like painted kites
Those days and nights
They went flyin' by

I'm not much of a dancer.  In fact, the last time I danced was at my son Nick's wedding last October.

But tonight I'll be dancing at my daughter Caroline's wedding.  She and I will take the floor for the traditional father-daughter dance sometime around 8:30 or 9:00 PM, and this will be the song we dance to.

It took me a long time to decide on the song for our father-daughter dance.  That's my nature – there's no decision so small that I can't overthink it.

My decision was complicated by the fact that my daughter Sarah (Caroline's twin) is getting married in November.

So I had to pick two songs for father-daughter dances – and those songs needed to have a certain symmetry.

I considered a number of other songs for my first father-daughter dance.  

For example, since Caroline's wedding is taking place on Cape Cod, and a number of the guests will be making their first trip to Cape Cod, I thought about using Patti Page's "Old Cape Cod" for our dance.  It would have been a safe choice, but it didn't really excite me.  (Click here to read the 2 or 3 lines post about "Old Cape Cod.")

I seriously considered "Caroline, No" from the Beach Boys' perfect album, Pet Sounds.

The fact that it has "Caroline" in the title would be the main reason for choosing it, but it's also an absolutely lovely song with lyrics that can be read as describing a father's sadness when he realizes that his little girl is all grown up and ready to leave the nest:

Where did your long hair go?
Where is the girl I used to know?

Of course, "Caroline, No" isn't sung by a father saying goodbye to his grown-up daughter.  It's sung by a lover to a girl who has dumped his ass because she's not really into him any more.

I wasn't surprised that my Caroline was not very enthusiastic when I mentioned "Caroline, No" as a possibility for the father-daughter dance.  She may have been taken aback by lines like "How could you lose that happy glow?" and especially "It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die."  

I think "Summer Wind" is a really good choice for our dance for several reasons.  For one thing, the Sinatra recording is just the right tempo for us to dance to.

But I liked it mostly because the incomparable Johnny Mercer's lyrics are just right for the occasion.

First of all, those lyrics are well-suited for a wedding overlooking a Cape Cod beach – you have the summer wind "blowin' in from across the sea" as "we strolled that golden sand" and gazed up at the "blue umbrella sky."

The song was written about a brief summer romance between a man and a woman.  But when I hear the lyrics, I think about a different kind of romance – the romance between a father and a young daughter.

The season of a father's life when his beloved daughter is young and he is the most important man in her life is a lovely and amazing interlude, sort of like a summer vacation on Cape Cod.

But as the song's lyrics go on to say,

Like painted kites
Those days and nights
They went flyin' by  

All too soon, the summer wind gives way to the autumn wind.

And all too soon, your child's childhood is over as well.  The summer of a parent's life ends when that happens, replaced by autumn – and when autumn arrives, winter isn't far behind.  

In the words of another beautifully wistful song,

Oh, it's a long time
From May to December
But the days grow short
When you reach September

To say that I'm in the September of my life may be a little optimistic.  After all, September 27 is almost October, isn't it?

Sadly, some of us are already in the December of our lives – my parents, for example.  They were unable to attend Caroline's wedding today because my mother suffered a compound fracture of her ankle last month.  Hopefully, they will be able to attend Sarah's wedding on November 15.

Here's Frank Sinatra's 1966 recording of "Summer Wind," which was one of his final collaborations with arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle and his orchestra:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Buzzcocks -- "Something's Gone Wrong Again" (1979)

Look at my watch, just to tell the time
But the hand's come off mine
Something's gone wrong again

(That's happened to me.  Has it ever happened to you?)

I've never been a big fan of live music shows.  Most of the time, I prefer listening to a band's recorded music than seeing them perform live.  There's usually no comparison between the quality of the music on studio albums and live albums.  

Of course, sometimes you want to be able to say you've seen a band in person.  I'm very glad I've seen the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks, and Blue Oyster Cult, and Leon Russell, and Doug Sahm, and the Flamin' Groovies perform live.  

(Not the Sonic Youth show I saw)
In 1998, I took my 14-year-old son to see Sonic Youth at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.  I love Sonic Youth and I was really looking forward to seeing them perform live.  But my timing was off.

Washington was the band's first stop on a tour promoting its new album, A Thousand Leaves.  The album was released one week after the Washington appearance, so I had no chance to hear it before the show.

I almost never like music the first time I hear it.  I usually have to hear an album two or three times before I start to respond to it.  Because I had no chance to hear A Thousand Leaves before seeing Sonic Youth perform that night, that show was a big disappointment -- with the exception of a couple of more familiar encore numbers, all they played that night were the songs from A Thousand Leaves

I bought that album shortly after seeing that show, and it became one of my favorite Sonic Youth albums.  But when I heard that music for the first time at the 9:30 Club in 1998, it was just a lot of noise.

Unfortunately, I had a similar experience when I went to see the Buzzcocks recently.  The Buzzcocks -- a British punk/pop band that was formed in 1976, broke up in 1981, and re-formed years later -- was in town to promote their new album, The Way.

The Buzzcocks then
We've come a long way in terms of digital distribution technology since 1998.  Back then, there was no such thing as iTunes -- if I wanted to listen to A Thousand Leaves, I had to go to a record store and buy the CD.

When I learned that the Buzzcocks had a new album out, I assumed that new album would be the focus of their live show.  That didn't make me happy, but I was prepared to make the best of it by buying the new album online and familiarizing myself with it before going to the live show.  

For some cockamamie reason, the new album wasn't available on iTunes or Amazon.  It was available exclusively through PledgeMusic, a website used by bands who wanted to pre-sell their music.  

Or I should say it had been available through PledgeMusic.  If I had known about the album earlier this summer, I could have downloaded it.  But by the time I heard about the Buzzcocks coming to Washington, PledgeMusic had raised 153% of the band's goal, and so had stopped accepting orders.

The Buzzcocks now

I could have purchased a CD or a vinyl LP -- assuming that I could have figured out how to do so on the PledgeMusic website, WHICH MAKES IT PRETTY MUCH IMPOSSIBLE TO ACTUALLY BUY ANY MUSIC.  

And even if I had figured out how to buy a CD or LP, it would have taken a week or two or longer to be delivered.  I didn't have a week or two or whatever before the show.

It is incomprehensible to me why a band would want to make it virtually impossible for someone to buy its music.  

Maybe it's just as well I wasn't able to buy the album.  From what I could tell at the show, the album sucks.

But I'm not really sure of that because the sound at the venue where I heard the Buzzcocks was so loud and so distorted that what I heard was a lot of undifferentiated noise and two songs at the end that I actually recognized.

In other words, it was a bad news-good news situation.  The bad news was that the Buzzcocks sucked.  The good news was that they played for a really long time -- so at least I got my money's worth.

("It was 35 years ago today . . .")
"Something's Gone Wrong Again" was released in North America exactly 35 years ago today on Singles Going Steady, a compilation album.  I don't think the Buzzcocks played "Something's Gone Wrong Again" at the live show I saw, but I wouldn't swear to it.  

Here's "Something's Gone Wrong Again":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dwight Twilley Band -- "Rock and Roll 47" (1977)

You're a girl
And in every way
I'm a man
Understand that I like it that way

How many times am I going to write a 2 or 3 lines post about a talented musician who never got the attention he or she deserved due to a record company's incompetence or just plain bad luck?

Today's featured song was recorded by one such musician -- Dwight Twilley.

John Greenleaf Whittier
I've quoted these John Greenleaf Whittier lines before, and I'm sure I'll quote them again:

For of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

Dwight Twilley, welcome to the "It might have been!" club.  Let me introduce you to Alex Chilton.  Say hello to Evie Sands.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Twilley because he was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1951 -- less than a year before I was born just 100 miles up Interstate 44 in Joplin, Missouri.

NE Oklahoma A&M
Twilley (who attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College) and his musical partner, Phil Seymour, met in 1967 at a Tulsa movie theater where A Hard Day's Night was showing.  

A few years later, they went to Memphis to seek their musical fame and fortune.  While they were there, they ran into Jerry Phillips -- son of Sam Phillips (founder of Sun Records).

Phil Seymour and Dwight Twilley
Their next stop was Los Angeles, where they signed with Shelter Records in 1974.  Shelter was co-owned by another Tulsa native, the inimitable Leon Russell.

The Dwight Twilley Band's first single, "I'm on Fire," made it to #16 on the Billboard singles chart almost by accident.  

The boys' follow-up single was rejected by Shelter.  Just before their replacement follow-up single was released, Russell and the other owner of Shelter Records sued each other and the record company collapsed.  The release of Twilley's debut album was delayed for ten months, and failed to break into the top 100.  

One of Twilley and Seymour's label mates was Tom Petty.  They contributed backup vocals to his eponymous debut album, which did quite well.

Petty returned the favor by playing guitar on one track of Twilley's second album -- Twilley Don't Mind, which includes our featured song -- which flopped commercially despite garnering great reviews.  

(Don't you love the word "garnering"?  It's one of those great words that you never use in conversation but is perfect to add a little style to a school essay, newspaper story, or a post on a wildly popular blog.)

Phil Seymour left the Dwight Twilley Band shortly after Twilley Don't Mind cratered.  Sadly, he contracted lymphoma and died in 1993, when he was only 41 years old.

Susan Cowsill and Dwight Twilley
Twilley soldiered on.  He recruited Susan Cowsill to contribute backup vocals to his first solo album, which didn't sell any better than his Dwight Twilley Band albums had sold.  In 1984, he had a second top 20 single with "Girls," but any forward momentum that song generated was lost when Twilley changed labels.  His next label went under when its owner was implicated in a payola scandal.

When his Wild Dogs album (1986) failed to sell, Twilley found himself without a label.

Several years later, he wrote a parenting book called Questions From Dad, which garnered this somewhat half-hearted review from one librarian:

A rockabilly musician ("I'm on Fire") and sometimes visual artist, Twilley here advocates and delineates the innovative and fun "Dad's Test" method he used to increase the amount and quality of communication between himself and his daughter, Dion.  The method uses intimate, serious, silly, and fun questions to solicit information or pass on ideas. . . . Parents who wish better communication with their offspring might want to try this unique book, though custody rules should be checked before using its nonstandard methodology.  [Emphasis added.]

Since then, Twilley has released albums featuring new original songs, compilation albums, cover albums, and the Rarities series of no fewer than seven albums of outtakes, demos, and live performances.

I bought Twilley Don't Mind after I graduated from law school and settled in Washington, DC.  I must have read a review of it in an underground paper somewhere.

My favorite song off the album was always "Rock and Roll 47."  It's very Big Star-ish: uncomplicated, a little ragged, and irresistible.

I have no idea what the "47" in the title and lyrics refers to.  (Twilley released an album titled 47 Moons in 2005, so the number must mean something to him.)

"Understand forty-seven in a nuke-u-lar way" -- say whut?

(The more photos of Susan 
Cowsill, the better)
By the way, "nuke-u-lar" may not be a mispronunciation of "nuclear."  According to U.S. News & World Report, 

In Physics for Future Presidents, Prof. Richard Muller of the University of California says the pronunciation "has been a tradition at some of our weapons labs since World War II."  He says it derives from the "combination of 'nuke' with the ending '-ular' inspired by similar words such as spectacular, popular, and molecular."  So there. 

Here's "Rock and Roll 47."  (I think this is an alternate take -- the version on my LP is slightly different.  But that version's isn't available on Youtube, and this one's close enough for government work.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jack White -- "Hypocritical Kiss" (2012)

You're the boy that talks 
But says nothin'

(Moi?  You really think so?)

And who the hell's impressed by you?
I want names of the people
That we know that are fallin' for this

(I take it you're not one of those people.)

Here's "Hypocritical Kiss," from Jack White's first solo album, Blunderbuss:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Seldom Scene -- "Rider" (1973)

I know you, Rider
Gonna miss me when I'm gone

Rarely does a day go by that I don't encounter music that makes me say to myself, "That song would be perfect for 2 or 3 lines."

Most of the times that happens, I'm talking a walk or riding my bike or driving in my car, and I forget the song because I don't write myself a note reminding myself not to forget it.

That happened with today's featured song, which I meant to write about a long time ago.  I don't recall quaffing a dram of Nepenthe any time recently, but something buried all thoughts of "Rider" deep within the flotsam and jetsam that inhabits my brain.  And there it might have stayed forever but for the fact that the previous 2 or 3 lines featured the Go Home Productions mashup of Blondie and the Doors titled "Rapture Riders."

In 1934, famed folklorists John and Alan Lomax included a song titled "Woman Blue" in their book American Ballads and Folk Songs.  

Their lyrics to "Woman Blue" -- ten verses' worth -- are prefaced with this comment:  "An eighteen-year-old black girl, in prison for murder, sang the tune and first stanza of these blues."  I have no idea where they got the other nine verses.

A folksinger named Bob Coltman arranged the song -- which he renamed "I Know You Rider" -- and began to perform it regularly in the late 1950s.  

Just about every folksinger worth worth his or her salt recorded it in the 1960s -- Joan Baez, Judy Henske, the Kingston Trio, Vince Martin and Fred Neil, Gale Garnett, and Judy Roderick among them.  

The Byrds, Hot Tuna, and even Janis Joplin recorded the song as well, and it was a staple in the Grateful Dead's live shows for years.  

There are many live recordings of the Dead performing the song.  All are pretty much equally lethargic and sloppy.  Here's an example:  


I think the Seldom Scene's 1973 recording of the song is BY FAR the best one out there . . . even though it doesn't include my favorite Lomax verse:

I'm goin' to de river, set down on a log
I'm goin' to de river, set down on a log
Ef I can'[t] be yo' woman, sho gonna be yo' dog

Bob Coltman altered that verse:

I'm goin' down to the river, set down on a log
I'm goin' down to the river, set down on a log
If I can't be your man, honey, sure won't be your dog

Sorry, Bob, but you've missed the point.  The singer isn't proud or defiant in the face of his (or her) rejection -- he (or she) is disappointed and bitter.  

The singer in the original version of the song is willing to be his (or her) lover's dog if he (or she) can't be her or (his) man (or woman), which is much more consistent with the rest of the lyrics.

(Geez.  2 or 3 lines is beginning to question its strict policy of gender-neutral writing.)

The Seldom Scene is an acclaimed bluegrass band that was founded in 1971 in . . . Bethesda, Maryland?

Hold your horses, Mr. 2 or 3 lines.  Are you trying to tell me that one of the greatest bluegrass groups ever doesn't hail from a hardscrabble Appalachian holler in western Virginia or Kentucky, but rather from a very affluent and tony suburb of Washington, DC?

That's exactly what I am telling you, boys and girls!

The Seldom Scene's original members included a medical student, a mathematician, and a National Geographic cartographer.  The band's mandolin virtuoso, the late John Duffey, was the son of an opera singer and a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, which has been ranked among the best public high schools in the United States for decades.  (The school has an orchestra, a concert band, a jazz band, and a number of chamber music groups.  I don't think it's ever had a bluegrass ensemble, or offered instruction in mandolin, bluegrass fiddle, or resonator guitar.) 

John Duffey (1934-1996)
It's a bit of a mystery to me how a bunch of kids from Bethesda became a great bluegrass band.

After all, environment usually has a lot to say about how what kind of music you get from a musician.  For example, "gangsta" rap was the product of the mean streets of Compton, California.  (Straight Outta Pasadena?  Straight Outta Anaheim?  I don't think so.)

That's why it's impossible to imagine a hardcore punk band from a place like Bethesda, where the kids are mostly spoiled little country-club types whose parents are deeply embedded in the federal government, military-industrial complex, and mainstream media.

What in the world did the sons and daughters of privilege who grew up in Bethesda have to rebel against?  Soccer practice on a really hot and humid day?  Too much homework in AP English class?  

Here's "Rider":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blondie Vs. The Doors -- "Rapture Riders" (2005)

Killer on the road
And you try to run but he's got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head

You're not getting tired of Go Home Productions mashups yet, are you?  I'm certainly not.

Like most mashups, the GHP combination of Blondie's "Rapture" and the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" was entirely unofficial.  But it struck the fancy of both Blondie and the Doors and was released as a single with the approval of both bands.

That single made it into the top ten on the Billboard "Hot Dance Club Play" chart, and was also popular in Europe and Australia.  

"Riders on the Storm" was released on the 1971 album, L.A. Woman, which was the last album the Doors recorded before Jim Morrison's death.  The song was never a favorite of mine.

I have a vivid memory of hearing "Riders on the Storm" on the radio while driving back during a thunderstorm from a night drinking 3.2% beer in Kansas.  But that scenario seems a tad too perfect, doesn't it?

"Rapture" was released on Blondie's 1980 album, Autoamerican, which also included an instrumental overture, a cover of a song from the Broadway musical Camelot, and a cover of the ska hit, "The Tide Is High."

"Rapture" was a combination of disco and hip-hop, with a Van Halen-style guitar solo at the end.  It was the first single that featured rapping to make it to #1 on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart.

The rapped lyrics sound like something a couple of hyperactive 12-year-old science-fiction fans might have written:

And you get in your car and drive real far
And you drive all night and then you see a light
And it comes right down and lands on the ground
And out comes a man from Mars
And you try to run but he's got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head

And then you're in the man from Mars
You go out at night eatin' cars
You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns, too
Mercurys and Subarus

Blondie's Deborah Harry at 67
Eventually, the man from Mars tires of eating cars and starts eating bars.  (Not candy bars, but bars where people go to drink and dance.)  

[T]he man from Mars is through with cars
He's eatin' bars, yeah, wall to wall
Door to door, hall to hall
He's gonna eat 'em all
The tastes of the man from Mars change one more time before "Rapture" ends:

'Cause the man from Mars
Stopped eatin' cars and eatin' bars
And now he only eats guitars
Oh my . . . I didn't see that coming, and I bet you didn't either.

The music video for "Rapture" is a hot mess.  If you are old enough to remember 1980, it will take you back and then some.

One final note -- happy birthday to my oldest child, who turns 31 today.  (Coincidentally, I was 31 when he was born.  Just sayin'.)

Here's "Rapture Riders":

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Beatles -- "I Am the Walrus" (1967)

I am he 
As you are he 
As you are me
And we are all together

Ever hear of a "Shepard scale"?  I didn't think so.

You've probably never heard of "Penrose stairs" either.

Penrose stairs
Watch this video, which features a Shepard scale and a Penrose staircase:

Note now the ball keeps bouncing up the steps -- never down.  And notice how the scale keeps ascending but never actually gets any higher.

The last 70 seconds or so of "I Am at the Walrus" feature a Shepard scale, which has been called a "sonic barber's pole."  

Watch this video for a brief explanation of a Shepard scale (also known as a "Shepard tone"):

There are Youtube recordings of Shepard scales that last for hours -- each note seemingly higher in pitch than the one before.  Click here for a TEN-HOUR-LONG recording of a rising Shepard tone.

(Who are the people who create such recordings and post them to Youtube?  Henry David Thoreau might have been thinking about them when he wrote in Walden of those men "who lead lives of quiet desperation.")

In 1980, John Lennon told Playboy magazine that the opening lines to today's featured song, "I Am the Walrus," were written during an acid trip.

Click here to read the entire interview.  If you want a good example of someone who was so full of sh*t that his eyes were brown, John Lennon's definitely your guy.  (Not to mention his charming wife, Yoko Ono, whose eyes were browner still.)

The very brown-eyed couple
One commentator speculates that the lines quoted above were inspired by these lines from the traditional British song, "Marching to Pretoria":

You sing with me
I'll sing with you
And so we will sing together

It's certainly possible that Lennon heard that song as a child, and that he remembered its lyrics when he sat down to write "I Am the Walrus."  But I would give most of the credit for the song's opening lines to the drugs Lennon apparently consumed in gynormous quantities.

Don't get me wrong.  I've always loved the lyrics to "I Am the Walrus," which is one of the songs that Mark Vidler of Go Home Productions used in his mashup, "(I Am The) Trampolene (To The Other Side)," which was recently featured on 2 or 3 lines(You can click here to read about that mashup if you haven't already.)

Those lyrics make even less sense than most rock lyrics of that era.  They make even less sense than most of John Lennon's other lyrics, which is saying something. 

Lennon wrote a song about a walrus because he was a fan of Lewis Carroll's poem, "The Walrus and the Carpenter," which is famous for these lines:

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
      "To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings."

"The Walrus and the Carpenter"
Years later, Lennon had an epiphany: he realized that Carroll's poem was about the evils of capitalism.  (John Lennon was reportedly worth about $150 million at the time, so he knew all about the evils of capitalism.)

To me, ["The Walrus and the Carpenter"] was a beautiful poem.  It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system.  I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles' work.  Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy.  I thought, "Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, 'I am the carpenter.'"  But that wouldn't have been the same, would it?  "I am the carpenter . . . "
When John was right, he was right: "I Am the Carpenter" most definitely wouldn't have been the same.

Here's "I Am the Walrus":

Click below to buy the Magical Mystery Tour CD from Amazon:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Doors -- "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" (1967)

Arms that chain
Eyes that lie
Break on through to the other side

"Break On Through (To the Other Side)" is one of the four songs that is combined in the Go Home Productions mashup, "(I Am The) Trampolene (To the Other Side)."  As I noted in my post about that mashup, "Break On Through" is the first track on the first Doors album, The Doors.  

Click here to read that post.

Here's the cover of The Doors:

Are you familiar with The Cat Doors album?

It was the Doors' first single as well, although it didn't sell for diddley-squat.  The follow-up single did a little better -- it was called "Light My Fire," and a few of you might remember it.

(By the way, a BYU professor figured out a few years ago that the album version of "Light My Fire" had a slower tempo than it should have.  He noted that the sheet music and all the live recordings of "Break on Through" were in the key of A, while the album version was in A-flat.  So when it was time for the 40th anniversary version of the album, the engineers sped "Light My Fire" up by about 3.5% to get the key up to A.)  

Jim Morrison
About halfway through "Break On Through," Jim Morrison repeats the line "She gets high" four times.  The suits at Elektra Records had the word "high" deleted from the original recording -- they were no doubt shocked to find a drug reference in a Doors song (zut alors!) -- but recent re-releases of the album include "high."

At about 1:20 of the "Break On Through" video embedded below, you'll see that Morrison didn't vocalize "high" when that video was recorded.

This famous photo of Jim Morrison reminds me of the joke about the husband who walks through the room while his wife is glued to the TV, watching her favorite soap opera.  After checking the show out for a couple of minutes, he asks, "Why is the surgeon operating with his shirt off?"

The 2 or 3 lines IT wizards produced this mock-up of what Jim Morrison might look like if he were still alive today:

The previous 2 or 3 lines introduced you to Julian Cope, whose "Trampolene" is also featured prominently in "(I Am The) Trampolene (To The Other Side)."  Mr. Cope -- whose eyes must be a very, very deep shade of brown -- has something to say about just about any topic you can think of.  Not surprisingly, he has a lot to say about Jim Morrison and the Doors:

Jim Morrison is a hero to me and should be a hero to anyone who loves rock'n'roll.  He was a God of the 20th century.  He was the most exceptional rock'n'roller of all time and paved the way for Iggy, Ozzy, Patti and every other shamanic weirdo – hell, he was chosen as a drinking partner by Gene Vincent.  Nuff said.  

No rock‘n’roll writer could ever have foreseen the music of the Doors and NO-ONE could have thought of juxtaposing a shamanic Death God baritone with the Las Vegas Basement sound that Manzarek, Kreiger and Densmore pumped out. It was more garage-y than any garage band, trashed forerunners such as the Seeds and Music Machine, took more risks than any previous rock band had ever dared, and pushed performance to the edge of its limits. 

While the Velvet Underground hid behind light projections, 4/4 noise and appealed to arthouses, the Doors took shamanism into arenas – and Jim bared his soul and his arse to people expecting Top 40 hits.  I tried this in 1981 with the Teardrop Explodes and got mercilessly panned – Jim did it 12 years earlier and got death for his pains.  

People tend to take Jim Morrison and the Doors for granted because they got so big, and that's dangerous – never overlook the Doors. They are worth re-visiting again and again and again.  Their music is shocking far beyond the noise of Krautrock and the Detroit bands, whom I adore without qualification, because the Doors also took silence to its limits, and in front of straight teenagers, too.  For that alone, they advanced the stomping heathen cause several light years in 6 splendid albums.  

No rock‘n’roll writer understands Jim, because they are so jealous that he was loose beyond the bounds of practicality and more beautiful than a man had a right to be.  So they cloud the issue and call him a bad poet, even though he was the first rock‘n’roll poet to dare to be that (Lennon cloaked his muse in Goon Show cop-outs as a defence) and managed to confront the whole of society through a medium such as rock‘n’roll, which most intellectuals still ridiculed as Kiddies’ Music. . . . 

Jim Morrison and the Doors are still my heroes and I think of Jim at least once a day.  And often with tears streaming down my face.

Here's "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" -- with all drug references included, so don't play it in front of the kiddies:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: