Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Parquet Courts – "Sunbathing Animal" (2014)

Frying and abiding, I'm in your control
Like a sunbathing animal

Here at 2or3lines, we always go to great lengths to match up each post's subject matter and photographs with its featured song.

But we have never done that more successfully than today.

My yellow Lab, Lily, is a sunbathing animal of the first order:

Lily joins me whenever I dine al fresco.  (I like to take my petit déjeuner or déjeuner on my patio whenever possible.)

Whenever my daughter visits with her chocolate Lab, Remington, she and Lily get together for some joint sunbathing:

Lily, time to put on some more sunscreen!

Parquet Courts was formed in New York City in 2010.  "Sunbathing Animal" is from the album of the same name, which was released in 2014.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beatles – "You Never Give Me Your Money" (1969)

Soon we'll be away from here
Step on the gas and wipe that tear away

My law firm has sponsored a coed slow-pitch softball team for many years.  Each season, someone on the team volunteers to write an account of each of the team's games, which he e-mails to everyone at the firm.

Every reader of 2 or 3 lines knows that it is about a lot more than just the songs it features.  Likewise, the softball game accounts are not just about the games.  

The current scribe for my firm's softball team and I are kindred spirits.  For one thing, we both like to quote song lyrics.  For another, we are both show-offs and narcissists.

I'm always on the lookout for free content for 2 or 3 lines.  So I contacted the guy who writes the softball e-mails – who also is the team's coach – and asked him if I could do some wholesale cutting-and-pasting from his latest game account.  After lengthy negotiations (which threatened to break down in the middle) he gave me permission to do so.

I'll leave out the boring stuff in the e-mail about the game itself, except to note that my firm's team trailed 9-3 after three innings.  That's when the coach's mind began to wander:

As I sat in the bleachers swatting mosquitoes, I could not help but look out into left field and see the Lincoln Memorial.  

Now I could regale you with a story about how President Lincoln in 1864 was worried about the Confederates acquiring all of the Union’s gold and how he told the Secretary of the Treasury (Salmon P. Chase) to take possession of all the bullion that belonged to the U.S. Treasury and have it buried throughout the District of Columbia in case Washington was taken over by the Confederates.  This “buried gold” (projected worth today: $110 billion) would later be known as “Lincoln’s Gold.”  

By 1865, this gold went missing, and after the war prospectors and treasure hunters would travel to Washington with their own ideas of where they thought “Lincoln’s Gold” was buried.  

Yes, I could tell this story . . . but I will not.

[NOTE: The only possible source I have found for the legend of "Lincoln's Gold" is a 2000 episode of The Simpsons.]

The author continues:

However, just typing that story reminded me of a college friend named Alex Hidell who lived across the hall from me.  He was the first of many great social engineers that I would come across in my life.   

[NOTE: "Social engineering" refers to non-technical methods of intrusion used by computer hackers.  It relies heavily on human interaction, and often involves tricking people into noncompliance with normal security procedures (e.g., choosing insufficiently secure passwords).  It is one of the greatest threats to the integrity of modern-day computer networks.]

His view of the world was – and I quote – that “Life is a game where the rules are poorly written and designed for abuse.”  Now, with a life creed like that, he is probably viewed in most people’s eyes as one of the worst people you would ever want to meet.  I fell on the opposite end of the spectrum.  I found him fascinating.

[NOTE: "Alek Hidell" was an alias used by Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumed assassin of President John F. Kennedy.  I'm not sure if the author of this anecdote changed "Alek" to "Alex" because "Alek" is a much more common name in this country, or because he simply is a sloppy typist.]

I realized that Alex was not “normal” in the true sense of the word one night when we were a solid eight Miller Lites deep into old reruns of the TV show “Cheers.”  Suddenly Alex pulled out out a telephone book.  He picked a name at random and, with a smile, dialed the local electric company and pretended to be the person whose name he had chosen.  

His goal?  To get this guy’s electricity turned off.  Why?  He had no particular reason.

[NOTE: This reminds me of a friend of mine who used to call his landlady from bars and ask her (in a thick Mexican accent) "Ees Pedro there?"  When she told him that there was no one named Pedro at that address, he cheerfully replied, "Okay . . . I call later!"  He did this night after night, until the landlady was climbing the walls with frustration at his inability to comprehend that THERE WAS NO ONE NAMED PEDRO RESIDING AT THAT ADDRESS!]

Alex proceeded to pick a total of eight names, and was successful in six of his eight attempts to either have the electricity to that person’s house turned off, have the cable TV turned off, or have cable TV installed.  (While on hold during one of these calls, he explained to me that “the main motivation of a customer-service rep is to placate the customer and to get you off the phone as soon as possible.”)  

This is what Alex Hidell and his buddies did in high school for fun!  (Seriously!)  He would just get on the phone and act like a completely different person.  I also recall him saying, “If you believe your lie . . . well, then it’s not really a lie, is it?”  

What Alex did is reminiscent of what Mister Mxyptlk did to Superman in the comics.  Mister Mxyptlk was a trickster who created havoc in Superman's life no apparent reason, but whose actions were generally harmless in the end.  

[NOTE: Do you remember what Superman had to do to get rid of Mister Mxyptlk?  He had to trick the trickster into saying or writing his name backwards.  Once Superman did that, the annoying Mxyptlk had to return to his home in the 5th dimension and stay there for at least 90 days.]

Keep in mind that this was 1991.  Now you see this type of Mister Mxyptlk-type behavior almost every day in your e-mail inbox, with phishing, baiting and computer viruses.  Social engineering has gone electric just like Bob Dylan did in 1965, and the world was never the same. 

But I’m getting off topic.  This is no time to talk about the Mister Mxyptlk.  Let’s get back to the game. 

Actually, let's not get back to the game.  (It was the sixth inning, and my firm's team was down 20-4.)  Let's talk a bit more about Alex Hidell instead.

As for Alex Hidell, I heard that he may have died from a brain aneurysm back in 1996 at his desk at Raytheon.  However, that never rang true to me.  Knowing Alex, he probably just changed his name to Hisip Shin, moved to the suburbs, and quietly made malware just to annoy everyone.

The softball game account ends with the closing lines to "You Never Give Me Your Money" – namely, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven/All good children go to heaven."  

It is signed "Carl Lazlo," which was the pseudonym used in author Hunter S. Thompson's Where the Buffalo Roam for Thompson's attorney and friend, Oscar Acosta.

Here's the incoherent trailer for that incoherent movie:

By the way, Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas featured a character named "Dr. Gonzo," who was also based on Acosta.

Thompson used these words to describe Acosta:

One of God's own prototypes.  A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production.  Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

In 1974, when Acosta was 39 years old, he disappeared while visiting Mazatlán, Mexico.  According to his son, Acosta called just before his disappearance and said that he was about to board a boat "full of white snow."  Acosta is presumed dead, but his body was never found.  

Earlier this year, Time magazine included Acosta on its "Top 10 Famous Disappearances" list.  Others on the list included Jimmy Hoffa, the Lindbergh baby, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Amelia Earhart, and D. B. Cooper.

Here's "You Never Give Me Your Money," which kicks off the famous 16-minute-long medley from side two of Abbey Road

Click below to buy Peter Doggett's book about the post-breakup Beatles, which is titled You Never Give Me Your Money:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Three Dog Night – "Celebrate" (1969)

Dress up tonight
Why be lonely?
You'll stay home and you'll be lonesome
Why be lonely?
Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music

[Note: This post originally appeared almost exactly five years ago, just before my 40th high school reunion.  After some minor editing, I'm reposting it today –which is the day before my 45th reunion kicks off.  (Tempus certainly does fugit, boys and girls.)]

A 45th high-school reunion in Joplin, Missouri, is hardly a "celebrity ball."  And I doubt that any of the girls I'll see there will be wearing satin and lace.  (Sorry, ladies -- you may be 62 or 63 years old, but it's hard not to think of you as "girls.") 

But no matter.  It will still be an occasion to celebrate.  

What exactly will we be celebrating?  Some of us can celebrate success in a career or a business.  (I'm not just talking about money.  I'm talking about the satisfaction you get from doing something well, and the recognition and respect you receive from your customers or your employer or your peers.)  

Others can celebrate their children, or grandchildren, and the pride and joy they bring – and is there anything in life more celebrate-able?

At the very least, we can all celebrate just being here.  Some of us have already survived close calls, and know from very personal experience that life isn't something to be taken for granted.  The fact that so many of our classmates – not to mention parents and other loved ones – are no longer around to join the celebration should make that very clear to the rest of us.

What I'm especially celebrating this weekend is growing up in Joplin, where I spent almost every day of the first 18 years of life.   It was what I experienced here that made me the person I am today – for better and for worse.  

Certainly my parents were the most important influence in my life.  (I'm sometimes told – not necessarily in a complimentary tone of voice – that I am getting more like my father every year.  That is absolutely true, and it doesn't bother me a bit.  He and my mother have accomplished a lot after starting out with very little, and my sister and I owe them more than we can ever repay.)  

But my teachers (especially Mary Helen Harutun, a truly remarkable and dedicated woman who taught piano to quite a few of us) and my friends were very significant influences as well.

I moved to the Washington, DC, area after I finished law school over 38 years ago, so I've lived here a lot longer than I lived in Joplin (even accounting for for brief detours to San Francisco and Philadelphia). 

But where I live now is not really my home – Joplin is, and always will be.  For better or worse (in the words of Little Big Town's "Boondocks"):

You can take it or leave it
This is me
This is who I am     

The last few years have really brought that home.  I can't overstate what an impact all the old photos that have been posted to the reunion's Facebook page have had on me.  

I've seen familiar faces that have been lost to me for many years – I've allowed "out of sight" to become "out of mind" far too easily – but it turns out those faces were not really forgotten.  Seeing them has triggered all kinds of wonderful and surprisingly intense memories.  And the memories that have resurfaced have all been happy ones.

The Dugout Lounge at Mickey
Mantle's Holiday Inn in Joplin
The reunion will be a great opportunity to see many of the friends with whom I have kept in touch over the years.  Just as important, it will be a chance to really connect with other classmates for the first time.  I've already struck up some friendships with people I didn't really know in high school, or that I barely knew, and I hope those friendships will continue in some form after the reunion is over.  

It wouldn't be honest of me if I were to deny that this whole experience has also been somewhat bittersweet. 

One thing the reunion is forcing me (and, I suspect, many others) to do is to to look back and take stock of where I've been and where I am – and where I'm going as well.  It's impossible for me to look at all those pictures from 40 and even 50 years ago without regrets – regrets for all the mistakes I've made, regrets for all the things I wish I had done but didn't . . . but mostly regrets from (to quote from a book I recently read) "the realization there [are] a lot more leaves on the ground than on the tree."  

I can't resist sharing some quotes from my favorite poet and my favorite novelist from my high-school days, both of whom had a lot to say on this subject.

From William Wordsworth's "Ode (Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood)":

O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction . . .

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind . . .

In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

(I need that "philosophic mind" right now -- I hope I don't have to wait much longer for it to arrive.)

And from The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was laid to rest only a few miles from where I've lived for the past 25 years, and whose tombstone bears these words):

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.  

F. Scott Fitzgerald's tombstone
in Rockville, Maryland
That's not altogether a bad thing, in my opinion.  Life in Joplin when we were young was actually wonderfully multilayered and rich.  It was a time of intense curiosity and intense feelings.  To paraphrase the song I quoted earlier, you can take it or leave it -- high school is us, high school is who we are.

Well, that's it from me – my last post before the reunion.  I've been talking a lot, and now I'm going to concentrate on listening for a change.   I look forward to seeing – and listening to – all of you in Joplin (or elsewhere, if you can't make it to the hootenanny).

Get ready to celebrate.  And even if you can't be there in person, you can celebrate our shared history in spirit – and get started on our shared future.  I hope this song – the final cut from Three Dog Night's second (and best) album, Suitable for Framing – will help put you in the right mood:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kinks – "No More Looking Back" (1975)

But lately I've been going to
All the places that we once knew

[Note: I originally posted this last year, but am reposting it in anticipation of my 45th high school reunion, which is taking place this weekend.]

One of the highlights of my 40th high-school reunion in 2010 was a tour of my old high school with several dozen classmates.

Joplin High School (1958)
The building dated to 1958, but had been maintained so carefully that it looked as good as new.

Less than a year later, an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin.  It killed 161 people and destroyed the high school.

Joplin High School, after the 2011 tornado
Last October, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Duncan came to Joplin to dedicate the new state-of-the-art high school, which cost an estimated $121.5 million.

Vice President Biden, at the dedication
of the new Joplin High School
Biden is famous for sticking his foot in his mouth – the Washington Post has coined the word "gaffiness" to describe his proclivity for making verbal blunders. 

He uttered one of his most remarkable misstatements in Joplin, when he referred to the "161,000 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, [and] grandparents lost" in the 2011 tornado.

He meant to say there were 161 deaths in Joplin, of course.  

I went to Joplin to see my parents shortly before Biden's visit.  The first chance I had, I walked from their house to new high school, which had opened for business at the beginning of the school year despite the fact that a lot of work remained to be done on the building and the grounds.

The new high school
I'm not sure what I was expecting to see, but what I saw was something very different.

The new gym and football practice field
The old high school, its parking lots and athletic fields, and the adjacent Franklin Technical Center covered 16 square blocks.  The new campus is even larger, and the building has been repositioned because the old building sat on a flood plain.  So things look very different than they did when I was a student.

Here's an aerial view of Joplin High School (which was known as Parkwood High School from 1968 until 1985) when it was brand new:

Here's what it looked like after the storm:

And here's an aerial view of the new campus:

(The top photo was taken looking to the south.  The middle photo and the bottom photo were taken looking to the north.)

Schoolboys in Disgrace, the 14th studio album by the Kinks, was released in 1975.  I bought it at the Harvard Square "Coop" (the nickname of the Harvard Cooperative Society) shortly after its release.

My favorite song on that album is "No More Looking Back," which is about the hold that someone from your past can continue to exert on you: 

And just when I think you're out of my head
I hear a song that you sang or see a book that you read
Then you're in every bar, you're in every café
You're driving every car, I see you everyday
But you're not really there 
'Cause you belong to yesterday

Ray Davies, who wrote this song and most of the Kinks' many great songs, was a keen observer of humans and all their foibles.

Ray Davies with ex-girlfriend Chrissie Hynde
But while Davies could be sharp and acerbic, he was at heart a deeply sentimental man.  (Just like 2 or 3 lines!)

"No More Looking Back" ends with these lines:

No more looking back
No more living in the past
Yesterday's gone, and that's a fact
Now there's no more looking back

Yesterday is gone – long gone.  That is a fact.  But I'll never stop looking back . . . I'll never stop living in the past.

When I do look back, I'm usually looking back to my high school years and the people I knew then.

College and law school came and went but didn't leave much of a mark, it seems –neither did most of my career experiences.

I don't have the old Joplin High School building to serve as a trigger for my high school memories.  But I don't think I need it.  I still have a lot of the people from those days – they may look different to you than they looked 40-odd years ago, but they don't look any different to me.

In Seize the Day, Saul Bellow wrote that "[t]he past is no good to us."  That may be true, but that doesn't mean we can ignore it.

We may try to follow Bellow's advice to focus on the present, and to "[s]eize the day."  But one's past is a powerful and seductive force.  It's a lot easier to reshape the past to our liking – the present often refuses to conform to our wishes.

All things considered, I think I like the past better.

Here's "No More Looking Back," which I think is an absolute masterpiece:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Paul Revere and the Raiders – "The Legend of Paul Revere" (1967)

And all youth stations, across the nation
Please play our records for your congregation

[Note: This post originally appeared on July 18, 2010 – just before my 40th high-school reunion.  I'm reposting it because this week marks my 45th high-school reunion.]

Paul Revere and the Raiders were the biggest band to appear in concert in my home town (Joplin, Missouri) when I was growing up.  Fortunately, I went to the concert – which took place in either the late spring or summer of 1967 – when I was 15, and just about to enter high school.  (Unfortunately, I didn't go with a girl.  I went with a male friend.)

Paul Revere and the Raiders in Joplin
Between late 1965 and mid-1969, Paul Revere and the Raiders had a dozen hit singles – including four that made it to #6 or better on the Billboard "Hot 100" charts – and three gold albums.  

The Raiders were also the stars of a couple of Dick Clark-produced television shows on ABC ("Where the Action Is" and "It's Happening").  Their four biggest hit singles – including "Kicks," "Hungry," and "Good Thing" – were released in 1966 or early 1967, and they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on April 30, 1967, so they were pretty much at the peak of their national popularity when I saw them at Joplin's Memorial Hall. 

Which leads me to ask this question: Why in the world did one of the most successful top-40 bands in the country decide to play a concert in Joplin?  I have no answer for that one – I don't even have a remotely plausible theory.

*     *     *     *     *

To make the Joplin visit even more remarkable, it turns out that the photo for the Raiders' next album cover was taken on the porch of a house in Joplin.

Here's the album cover:

Why was the album cover photo taken there?  According to a 2010 Joplin Globe interview with Paul Revere (real name: Paul Revere Dick, who was then performing nightly in Branson), Columbia Records decided in 1967 that it was time for the band to get a new album out toot sweet.

Because their tour was going to last for some time, the record company flew a photographer from California to Joplin to shoot the cover of the album, which was titled "Revolution."  The photographer drove around town, looking for visual inspiration, and stumbled upon what Revere said he described to the band members as "a beautiful old colonial mansion."

The photographer must have flunked American history.  He may have flunked architecture history as well -- the house he chose looks a little bit like an antebellum Southern plantation but doesn't look remotely colonial.

Here's what that house looks like today:

*     *     *     *     *

As far as other notable Joplin concerts when I lived there, there's not a lot to say.  I mostly remember the concerts that were advertised and then cancelled.  

The Buckinghams were one band that cancelled – I heard the story was that their lead guitarist broke his hand.  Whatever the reason, it was kind of a drag that they didn't show.

Smokey Robinson was also schedule to appear in Joplin but didn't.  The rumor was that he was drunk or in a drug-induced haze in his motel room the night of the concert, and so was unable to perform.

One band that did make it to Joplin was one of the great one-hit-wonders of the psychedelic era, the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  Click here to listen to their one hit, "Incense and Peppermints."

*     *     *     *     *

Paul Revere and the Raiders were a terribly entertaining bunch.

In this video of the band lip-synching to "Steppin' Out" on a Canadian TV show, there is no attempt to pretend that they are actually performing the song live.  Look closely and you'll see that the boys are playing toy musical instruments.

Click here to see the band performing at a "Penguin for Mayor" rally on the old "Batman" TV show.

Click here to see a really odd TV performance of "Kicks."

And last but not least, you can click here to listen to "The Legend of Paul Revere."

Here's a link to use if you would like to buy this song from Amazon:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Auburn – "Perfect Two" (2011)

You can be the captain
And I can be your first mate

Earlier this summer, my son and his wife took me to a baseball game for my birthday.

The hometown Nationals were hosting my beloved Yankees, so made sure I got to the stadium early enough to see Alex Rodriguez and his teammates take batting practice:

A-Rod connects during batting practice
After batting practice ended, I had time to stroll around the stadium and do a little shopping.  (Some of you ladies are going to be very happy come Christmas!)

I also had plenty of time to check out the food and drink offerings at Nationals Stadium.

I had no interest in this vendor's vegetarian offerings.  (Does a veggie chicken cheesesteak have veggie chicken and veggie cheese?  Or just veggie chicken?)  "Fan favorites" my ass.

The menu at the grilled cheese sandwich kiosk was more to my liking:

This beer stand offered up excellent beers from four local craft breweries:

I like grilled cheese sandwiches and good beer as much as the next guy.  But since 1995, the best thing about going to a Yankees game was seeing the incomparable Derek Jeter in action.

Sadly, the Captain retired at the end of last season.  Never again will the "Perfect Two" (to borrow from the title of today's featured song) don the pinstripes and take the field for the Bronx Bombers.  

(Sigh . . .)

But as I walked through the crowd at Nationals Park that evening, I saw Derek Jeter wherever I looked:

He was here:

(He's not really Derek Jeter)
He was there:

(She's not Derek Jeter either)
He was everywhere:
(He's definitely not Derek Jeter)
Once I even saw two Derek Jeters standing side-by-side, hoping to snag a ball during batting practice:

(Neither of them is Derek Jeter)
Seeing all these wannabe Derek Jeters, I was reminded of this verse from the Kinks' "No More Looking Back":

Is it something playing tricks with my eyes
Or just an illusion deceiving me?
Or is it someone in a disguise
Or visions of things that used to be?

Unfortunately, the answer to those questions was "yes," "yes," "yes," and "yes."

In the midst of the multitude of Jeter jerseys I saw that night, a young woman wearing an Adam Warren jersey stood out.

Adam Warren is a young pitcher who toiled in relative obscurity in the Yankee bullpen in 2013 and 2014.  This year, he was promoted to the starting rotation, and it was his turn to start the night I saw the Yankees face off against the Nats.

Adam Warren's sister
I thought maybe the woman in the #43 jersey was Adam Warren's wife and girlfriend.  I asked her about the jersey, and she told me that she was Adam Warren's sister.  (She must have been very proud of her brother's performance that night.  He pitched very well.)

Given that the game was played in Washington, there were plenty of fans in Nats jerseys.  Here's a guy in an Anthony Rendon jersey:

(My favorite National is Rendon, who played in college for my alma mater, Rice University.) 

The Yankees ending up losing by a run that night.  (Don't blame Adam Warren for the defeat.  He gave his team an excellent performance, and I'm sure his sister was thrilled to see him pitch so well.)

But what saddened me much more than seeing my Yankees lose was watching them play without Derek Jeter on the roster for the first time in 20 years.  

Will I ever see a player in pinstripes who is as great as Derek Jeter was?  Anything's possible, but I can't believe that I will.

I tried to put melancholy thoughts out of my mind by heading out after the game with my #1 drinking buddy, Nite Owl Ray:

Nite Owl Ray – a fun guy!
As we left the stadium, I sang another verse from "No More Looking Back" to myself:

No more looking back
No more living in the past
Yesterday's gone and that's a fact
Now there's no more looking back

But I'm just fooling myself if I think I'm going to be able to refrain from looking to the years when Derek Jeter played for the Yankees.  :-(

Auburn (who was born Auburn Williams in Minneapolis in 1990) released "Perfect Two" as a single in 2011.

There are two versions of the song – a "breakup" version ("There's nothing we can do/We're not the perfect two") and a "best friends" version ("Baby, me and you/We're the perfect two").  

I'm featuring the "best friends" version, of course.  I would never break up with Derek Jeter!

Here's "Perfect Two":

(87 million views?  That's c-r-a-z-y!)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beach Boys – "Here Today" (1966)

You've got to keep in mind love is here
And it's gone 

When the rest of the Beach Boys went to Japan in 1966, Brian Wilson stayed in Los Angeles and wrote the songs that would eventually become the most remarkable pop music album ever recorded, Pet Sounds.

Beach Boy Mike Love was not impressed by his cousin's new music.  "Even the happy songs are sad," Love said.   

Perhaps the best illustration of Love's point is "Here Today," a song with sad lyrics that nonetheless sounds happy.

Brian Wilson and Mike Love
"Here Today" begins on an optimistic note:

It starts with just a little glance now
Right away you're thinkin' 'bout romance now
You know you ought to take it slower
But you just can't wait to get to know her
A brand new love affair is such a beautiful thing

The smitten young man that singer is addressing believes that his new love is perfection.  But the singer has news for him:

You know, I hate to be a downer
But I'm the guy she left before you found her
Love and Mercy is a new movie about Brian Wilson that offers a detailed look at the creation of Pet Sounds:

The movie was very good, but I would have liked it even better if the whole thing had been about the Pet Sounds sessions.  (You can click here to watch a documentary about Pet Sounds.)

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy
It's impossible to overstate how perfect Pet Sounds is.  The vocal harmonies were beautifully executed by Wilson and the other Beach Boys, and the all-star collection of highly skilled studio musicians known as the "Wrecking Crew" – drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, organist Larry Knechtel, and guitarist Glen Campbell were among them – handle everything that Wilson throws at them flawlessly.

Bassist Carol Kaye during the Pet Sounds sessions
God only knows what inspired Wilson to use accordions, a theremin, French and English horns, sleigh bells, bicycle horns, Coke cans, and an empty five-gallon plastic water jug on various tracks on the album . . . but it worked.

Pet Sounds was inspired by Rubber Soul.  "Rubber Soul blew my mind," said Brian Wilson, who was determined to exceed what the Beatles had achieved on that record.

Pet Sounds in turn inspired Sgt. Pepper.  "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened," George Martin said.  "Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."

Sorry, Beatles fans, but there's no comparison.  Pet Sounds is musically unique and has an emotional coherence and depth that Sgt. Pepper can't begin to match.  

In 1968, the Beach Boys released Stack-O-Tracks, an album containing the instrumental tracks to fifteen of their songs, including "Here Today":

Now let's listen to just the vocal track – perfection:

Here's "Here Today" in its entirety – perfection squared:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Savannah Jeffreys – "Key in Lock" (2014)

My hand fits in yours
Like key and lock

The Pont des Arts, a bridge that connects the Left Bank and Right Bank of the river Seine in Paris, became notorious over the past few years because hundreds of thousands of couples attached "love locks" to its grillwork.  

Adam Gopnik explained the "love locks" phenomenon in the New Yorker last year:

Lovers buy cheap padlocks from lock sellers, scribble their initials on the lock, shackle the lock to the bridge’s railings, and then throw the key into the river.  At first, there were a few, then there were a lot, and now they are everywhere, about three-quarters of a million in all, locks shackled to locks shackled to locks shackled to locks, every square inch of the bridge crowded with black initials, brass bodies.  Earlier this year, some of the grillwork of the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of all that love.

The city government has been slow to act, partly for the usual exasperating French bureaucratic reasons and partly out of a genuine bewilderment over how to constrain the passionate gestures of tourists on whose illusions of Paris as the best place to declare one’s love the city’s economy ever more depends.

City workers recently began the arduous task of removing the locks, which weigh an estimated 45 tons.  But the city has no plans to recover the three-quarters of a million keys that lie at the bottom of the Seine.  

The phenomenon has spread to many other cities – including New York City (the Brooklyn Bridge), Rome, Florence, Dublin, Melbourne, and Seoul.

I recently noted a handful of love locks on a fence on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, DC, just downstream of the Francis Scott Key Bridge:

It is customary for the lovers to put their initials on love locks before affixing them to a bridge or other structure.  But some of the love locks I saw would be more accurately described as "hate locks":

"Key and Lock" was written and recorded by Savannah Jeffreys, a Wesleyan University student who just happens to be the daughter of singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys.  

The song is one of a dozen-odd songs by young, undiscovered female singers that are featured on the soundtrack of the 2014 movie, Ask Me Anything.  

Here's "Key and Lock":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: