Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sidney Bechet – "Hold Tight (Want Some Sea Food Mama)" (1938)

If you don't have oysters, clams will do
I want a seafood dish!

As we learned in the previous 2 or 3 lines, man does not live by fried clams alone.  Fried clams are delicious, but so are fried scallops and fried oysters.

Earlier this month, I visited Lena's, a humble clam shack in Salisbury Beach, the northernmost town in Massachusetts.  

Lena's opened for business in 1958.  It was originally located on Salisbury Beach's thriving boardwalk, which featured a Charles I. D. Looff carousel,  roller coasters, and bumper cars.

The entertainers who performed in Salisbury Beach in its heyday included Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Liberace, and Frank Sinatra.

Salisbury Beach fell on hard times on the sixties, and Lena's moved to a new building located further inland in 1972:

From the looks of things, not much has changed at Lena's since then – which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

The prices at Lena's are certainly right – for just $12.75, I got 18 juicy and sweet fried scallops and a heaping helping of extraordinary onion rings: 

On weekends, Lena's offers fried lobster.  I've never seen fried lobster on a restaurant menu on Cape Cod or in Maine, but it seems to be a standard offering at seafood restaurants in northeastern Massachusetts.

Lena's also offers three types of chowder: clam chowder, fish chowder, and "clish" chowder (which I assume is a hybrid of the first two chowders).

A few days after supping at Lena's, I visited Captain Cass's, a venerable clam shack that overlooks Rock Harbor in Orleans, Massachusetts:

Captain Cass's is a tiny and somewhat ramshackle BYOB establishment with a diner-style counter and fewer than a dozen tables.  It's open six days a week from 11 until 2 and 5 until 8.

The service was a bit amateurish when I ate at Captain Cass's – the young waitress dropped a small condiment cup full of Tartar sauce in my lap – and the onion rings were frozen.

But my fried oysters came with a crispy exterior and a soft, juicy interior, and were full of flavor.  Even the most humble Cape Cod eateries can be pricey, but Captain Cass charged only $12.95 (cash and checks only, please) for a large plate of fried oysters, fries, and cole slaw:

Lobster prices in New England are still reasonable, which makes lobster rolls a popular choice at restaurants like Lena's and Captain Cass's. 

"Lobster roll:  all meat, no filler"
But as tasty as lobster rolls can be, I think they are a little overrated compared to fried clams, fried scallops, and fried oysters.  Not as overrated as the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen, perhaps, but overrated nonetheless.  

"Hold Tight" was a hit for the Andrews Sisters in 1938, but it was first recorded by Sidney Bechet and his Orchestra.

Bechet was a New Orleans jazz saxophonist and clarinetist who started performing publicly when he was still a teenager.  He moved to New York City shortly after turning 21, and toured extensively in Europe, eventually relocating to France.

Sidney Bechet
Woody Allen named one of his children after Bechet, and featured his music on the Midnight in Paris soundtrack.

Here's "Hold Tight":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 28, 2015

NOFX – "Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don't)" (2000)

No chowder for you
'Cause clams have feelings, too

Long before the English colonized New England, native Americans living near the Atlantic coast harvested and consumed huge quantities of clams.

The early-day colonists would eat clams when they were in danger in starving, but otherwise viewed the bivalves as more suitable food for their pigs than for themselves.

Fried clams
Today, in the words of food writer David Leite, "fried clams are to New England what barbecue is to the South."  

For some folks, the lobster roll is the ne plus ultra of summer beach cuisine.  But I think even a good lobster roll pales in comparison to a plate of belly clams fresh from the Friolator.

Lawrence "Chubby" Woodman, who hailed from Essex, Massachusetts, is usually credited with inventing fried clams.

"Chubby" Woodman
Woodman and his wife, Bessie, ran a small concession stand that sold homemade potato chips, fresh soft-shell clams that Chubby dug himself, and other items.  The story goes that on July 3, 1916, Woodman complained to a visiting friend that "business is slower than a couple of snails headed uphill."  The friend jokingly told Woodman he should drop a bunch of freshly-harvested soft-shell clams into his big lard-filled potato-chip fryer and see what happened.  Later, that day Woodman decided to give his friend's crazy suggestion a try.

Ninety-nine years later, Woodman's of Essex is still frying up clams.  

Woodman's of Essex, MA
Don't confuse the soft-shell clams used to make fried clams with the hard-shell sea clams that are dredged further offshore.  The "foot" of the hard-shelled sea clams was used to make the belly-less clam strips that were once sold by the now-defunct Howard Johnson's restaurant chain.  The squishy, briny bellies are what make fried clams special. 

Fried-clam aficionados think that clams from muddy environments are tastier than clams harvested on Cape Cod, where the clam flats are much sandier.

Earlier this month, I had muddy fried clams at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine – just north of the Piscataqua River that separates Maine from New Hampshire – and I had sandy fried clams at Kream 'n' Kone in West Dennis, Massachusetts, which opened for business in 1953.  

Both of these large, bustling clam shacks turn out excellent fried clams and delicious onion rings.

Of course, man does not live by fried clams alone.  In the next 2 or 3 lines, we'll visit two other classic New England clam shacks where I opted for fried scallops and fried oysters instead of fried clams.  

NOFX is a Los Angeles punk band that formed in 1983.  Despite the fact that they have never been signed to a major record label, NOFX has sold eight million albums worldwide.

The bands most successful album was Punk in Drublic, which was released in 1994 and eventually went gold.

Later, NOFX released a compilation album titled 45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records.  It contains 47 songs.

"Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don't)" was released on the group's 2000 album, Pump Up The Valuum.  (The band purposely misspelled Valium in hopes of avoiding a trademark lawsuit.)

It's not that great a song, but I'd like to see you come up with a song about clams that's better.

Here's "Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don't)":

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rolling Stones – "Who's Been Sleeping Here?" (1967)

Was it your boyfriend?  Your girlfriend?
Who's been sleeping here?

I was in the ninth grade when the Rolling Stones released the Between the Buttons album in 1967.  I played it to death, and I still remember the lyrics to every song on it.  

The album contained two songs you're probably very familiar with: "Ruby Tuesday" was a #1 hit single, while "Let's Spend the Night Together" made it only to #55 on the Billboard "Hot 100" because so many radio stations refused to play it.

The "Between the Buttons" album
Jack Nitzsche played piano on both songs, and also played piano (or harpsichord) on several other tracks on Between the Buttons.  He may have been the dominant instrumentalist on that album, which featured keyboards more than guitars.

Bernard Alfred "Jack" Nitzsche was born on a Michigan farm in 1937.  When he was 18, he moved to Los Angeles, where he met Sonny Bono.  The two of them wrote "Needles and Pins" for Jackie DeShannon in 1963; the Searchers covered it the next year, and their version was a #1 hit in the UK.  

Jack Nitzsche, Darlene Love, and Phil Spector 
Nitzsche then became an arranger and conductor for Phil Spector.  Among the songs he orchestrated for Spector was "River Deep, Mountain High," which Ike and Tina Turner recorded in 1966.  

Nitzsche also worked with "The Wrecking Crew," the group of Los Angeles studio musicians who provided the backing music for hits by the Beach Boys, Monkees, and many other recording artists.

Nitzsche met the Rolling Stones in 1964 during the filming of The T.A.M.I. Show, the greatest pop music concert movie ever.  He played on several classic Stones songs (including "Heart of Stone," "Play with Fire," "Stupid Girl," "Lady Jane," and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction") that were released prior to Between the Buttons, and also was responsible for the arrangements of the choral parts on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (which featured the London Bach Choir).

Nitzsche with Keith Richards
Later, Nitzsche worked closely with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, who recorded a number of albums with Young as well as albums of their own.

After having a falling out with Young, Nitzsche began to devote more and more of his time to writing film music.  He was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Film Score for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and later won an Academy Award for Best Song for "Up Where We Belong," from An Officer and a Gentleman.  (He co-wrote that song with Will Jennings – he composed "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic – and singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who was Nitzsche's wife at the time).

Nitzsche's personal life fell apart in the seventies.  There were reports of substance abuse and irrational behavior.  

In 1979, he was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend – and Neil Young's ex-girlfriend – actress Carrie Snodgress (who had been nominated for a "Best Actress" Oscar for her performance in Diary of a Mad Housewife).

Carrie Snodgress
According to Snodgress's testimony, Nitzsche placed a gun between her legs and threatened "to destroy that part of me."  He then hit her with the gun butt (she needed 18 stitches) and dragged her around the room by her hair.  Nitzsche was fined and placed on three years' probation.  

Click here to read a newspaper story about Nitzsche's assault of Snodgress.

Nitzsche suffered cardiac arrest and died on this date in 2000.  He was 63.

Here's "Who's Been Sleeping Here," featuring Jack Nitzsche on the piano.  

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Yardbirds – "Dazed and Confused" (1968)

Secrets are fun to a certain degree
But this one's no fun, 'cause the secret's on me

Once again, 2 or 3 lines has delivered.  I promised you nine consecutive narcissism-less posts, and that's exactly what I gave you.

Today, we complete the journey we started three weeks ago when we featured the Yardbirds' cover of "I'm Not Talking" by coming full circle to the Yardbirds and their cover of "Dazed and Confused" -- via the Misunderstood, Mose Allison, Sonny Boy Williamson II, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Jake Holmes.

The Yardbirds never recorded Jake Holmes's song, "Dazed and Confused," in the studio.  But there are several recordings of them performing the song live before they disbanded in 1968.  

The Yardbirds left some of Holmes's lyrics as they were, but changed other lines.

For example, in the original "Dazed and Confused," the second lines of both the first and the last verses begin with this question: "Am I being choosed?"

I think that's a brilliant little touch – the singer is so dazed and confused by the mind games being played on him by the (female) object of his affections that correct grammar goes right out the window.

But the Yardbirds' lead singer, Keith Reif, never sang "Am I being choosed?" when they performed the song.  I'm guessing the group thought that line would be misunderstood by their audiences.

The Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds
After the Yardbirds broke up, lead guitarist Jimmy Page formed Led Zeppelin, which recorded "Dazed and Confused" with entirely new lyrics – except for the words of the song's title.

The arrangement was recognizable as the same basic arrangement as the Yardbirds used.  That's not surprising since Page was largely responsible for the Yardbirds' arrangement.  But I think most people would say that Jake Holmes's "Dazed and Confused" is the same song as Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused."

But Led Zeppelin did not give a songwriting credit to Jake Holmes.  And although Holmes heard Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" shortly after it was released, he didn't do anything about it for for more than a decade.  

And when Holmes did finally write to Page to ask for a shared songwriting credit and some do-re-mi, he never heard back.

Led Zeppelin has been sued several times for copyright infringement.  In 1985, veteran blues musician Willie Dixon sued the band, alleging that "Whole Lotta Love" infringed two of Dixon's songs.  (The case was settled out of court.)  And only last year, the estate of the late Randy California claimed that "Stairway to Heaven" infringed California's composition, "Taurus," which was recorded by the band Spirit in 1967.

Holmes finally sued Page in 2010.  His complaint was eventually dismissed – probably because the two parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement.  

While the terms of any such settlement have never been released, it appears that Holmes won at least a partial victory.  The Led Zeppelin reunion concert album, Celebration Day – which was released several months after the presumed settlement of the Holmes lawsuit – contains this songwriting credit for "Dazed and Confused":  "Jimmy Page; inspired by Jake Holmes."

To read more about the controversy over the authorship of "Dazed and Confused," click here – or click here -- or click here – or better yet, click on all three.

The Yardbirds on "Bouton Rouge"
Click here to watch a wonderful video of the Yardbirds performing "Dazed and Confused" on a French television show called Bouton Rouge ("Red Button").  

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jake Holmes – "Dazed and Confused" (1967)

Give me a clue as to where I am at
I feel like a mouse, and you act like a cat

I closed the last 2 or 3 lines by stating that Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" may be the best track on the best rock album in history.

And I'm opening this 2 or 3 lines by stating that the lyrics to Jake Holmes's "Dazed and Confused" – which was released in June 1967 – are far superior to the lyrics of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" (which was recorded over a year later).

Jake Holmes
In fact, those lyrics are so good that I had a hard time deciding whether to open this post with the first verse (which is quoted above) or the last verse, which I will quote here:

I'm dazed and confused, and it's all upside down
Am I being choosed?  Do you want me around?
Secrets are fun to a certain degree
But this one's no fun, 'cause the secret's on me

"Dazed and Confused" was released on "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes, his 1967 debut album.  The ten songs on the album feature Holmes's vocals, two guitars, and a bass, but no drums.

Holmes released an album every year from 1967 to 1971, but none were very successful.  He also wrote songs for the Four Seasons and Frank Sinatra, but was most successful as an advertising jungle writer: his most famous jingles are "Be All That You Can Be" (for the U.S. Army) and "I'm a Pepper" (for Dr. Pepper).

Holmes opened for the Yardbirds at the Village Theatre in New York City on August 25, 1967.  Holmes performed "Dazed and Confused" that night, which he later described as the night that his song "fell into the loving arms of Jimmy Page" – who was then the lead guitarist of the Yardbirds.

The Yardbirds' drummer, Jim McCarty, said years later that he was so impressed by "Dazed and Confused" that he bought the Holmes album the next day so the group could work up a cover of the song.  

The author of a book about the Yardbirds quotes a man who says he saw Jimmy Page himself buying the Holmes album at a particular record store on Bleecker Street.

The next 2 or 3 lines will feature the Yardbirds' cover of "Dazed and Confused."  

Here's the original recording of that song.  It's fabulous, but it's very quiet at times – so turn up the volume!

Click below to buy the song from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Led Zeppelin – "Dazed and Confused" (1969)

Been dazed and confused for so long it's not true
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you

The Yardbirds went through three of the greatest guitarists in rock music history – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page – in their five-year history.

When Clapton decided to leave the Yardbirds in 1965, Page was asked if he wanted to replace him.  Page declined the offer but recommended his friend Beck, and Beck was hired.

Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck
In May 1966, Beck went into the studio to do some solo recording.  He called on Page to help him work up some songs to record.  

Page came up with the idea of basing an instrumental on Maurice Ravel's famous 1928 composition, Boléro (which became enormously popular when it was featured in the Bo Derek movie, 10).

Beck then recruited disaffected Who members Keith Moon and John Entwistle to play drums and bass.  Moon showed up for the session, but Entwistle did not, and John Paul Jones – who later joined Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin – played bass instead.

Keith Moon
The recording of "Beck's Bolero" went so well that Beck, Page, Moon, and Jones talked about forming a group and doing more recording.  According to Page, Moon quipped "Yeah, that'll go down like a lead Zeppelin," which gave Page the idea for the name of the group he did form after the eventual breakup of the Yardbirds.  (John Entwistle has also claimed credit for the quip.) 

Page got the songwriting credit for "Beck's Bolero," although Beck later said that he should have shared that credit.  Page also claimed that he was the record's actual producer, but he did not get the producing credit.

Click here to read more about "Beck's Bolero."

After "Beck's Bolero" was recorded, Page was invited to join the Yardbirds.  During the few months when both Beck and Page were in the group, Beck played lead guitar and Page shifted to bass.

The only comparable situation that comes to mind is seven-time All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez shifting to third base when he joined the Yankees, leaving shortstop to Derek Jeter.

A-Rod and the Captain
The popularity of the Yardbirds was declining by the fall of 1966, when Beck was fired from the band and Page took over as lead guitarist.  

The band finally broke up in July 1968.  Drummer Jim McCarty and singer Keith Reif authorized Page and bassist Chris Dreja to put together a new group – to be called the New Yardbirds – to fulfill a contractual commitment to play a series of shows in Scandinavia that fall.

Page wanted Terry Reid to be the new group's lead singer.  Reid said no, suggesting that Page use Robert Plant instead.  Plant then recommended his former Band of Joy bandmate, John Bonham, to be the drummer.  When Dreja decided to drop out of the new group, Page recruited John Paul Jones -- the bassist on "Beck's Bolero."

The New Yardbirds played the Scandinavian dates, then went into the studio and recorded an album in just nine days.  Dreja threatened legal action if the group continued to call itself the New Yardbirds, so they became Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin
Atlantic Records signed them to a contract without ever having seen them perform.  The first Led Zeppelin album was released in January 1969, and the rest . . . is history.

That album included a song called "Dazed and Confused," which also was the title of a Jake Holmes song that the Yardbirds had covered a number of times in concert.  The title was not the only thing the two songs had in common.

There's a point to all this exposition.  Actually, there's more than one point.

For one thing, the previous 2 or 3 lines featured a Who song, and I needed to build a bridge between that song and Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused."

I'm also building a much longer bridge between the first post in this series – which featured the Yardbirds' cover of "I'm Not Talking" – and the last one, which will feature (spoiler alert!) the Yardbirds' cover of "Dazed and Confused."  

Finally, there's the issue of the songwriting credit for Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused," which we will turn to in the next 2 or 3 lines.

2 or 3 lines is truly a seamless web.  Nothing on 2 or 3 lines is there without reason.  (Mind blown!)

Here's "Dazed and Confused," which is arguably the best track on what is arguably the best rock album ever recorded.  (I can't prove that statement is true, but you can't prove it's not.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Who – "Eyesight to the Blind" (1969)

Just a word from her lips
And the deaf begin to hear

Since the protagonist of the Who's brilliant Tommy is a deaf, dumb, and blind boy, I always assumed that "Eyesight to the Blind" – which is about a woman whose mojo is working so well that just encountering her can restore hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and eyesight to the blind – was written especially for Tommy.

But as we learned in a previous 2 or 3 lines, "Eyesight to the Blind" was written by Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1951, almost two decades before Tommy was released.  It is the only song on Tommy not written by the Who.

Tommy's father was an RAF pilot in World War II who was presumed dead after his plane was shot down over Germany.  His pregnant wife gave birth to Tommy, then met a man who became her lover.  When Tommy's father returned home after years in a Nazi POW camp, he found his wife in bed with her new lover and murdered him.

At least, that's what happened in the original recording of Tommy and in the 1993 Broadway musical based on the album.  In the 1975 movie version of Tommy, the lover killed Tommy's father.

From the 1975 movie: Ann-Margret (as Tommy's
mother) and Roger Daltrey (as Tommy)
Either way, Tommy witnessed the murder.  But his mother commanded him to ignore what he had seen and heard, and to KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT: 

You didn't hear it
You didn't see it
You never heard it, not a word of it
You won't say nothing to no one!

Tommy eventually overcomes his deafness, dumbness, and blindness, which are psychosomatic rather than physical in nature. 

Here's the Who's version of "Eyesight to the Blind," which is very different from the Sonny Boy Williamson II original and the covers that other blues musicians (like Mose Allison) recorded.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mose Allison – "Eyesight to the Blind" (1959)

Every time she starts to shakin'
The dumb begin to talk

Mose Allison was born on his grandfather's farm near Tippo, Mississippi, in 1927.  His family had a piano, and when he was only five years old, he started playing the songs he heard on the local jukebox by ear.

"Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute," you say.  (Allison's family grew cotton, by the way.)  "Did they even have jukeboxes in 1932?"

I'm glad you asked.  

The first coin-operated phonograph was invented in 1890.  It could play only one record, and didn't have amplification – you listened through a listening tube.

An eight-turntable audiophone
About the time Allison was born, something called the audiophone was invented.  The audiophone was a coin-operated device with eight turntables in a Ferris wheel-like configuration, with a different 78-RPM record on each turntable.  

When he was in high school, Allison's favorites included Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan and especially Nat "King" Cole.  He played trumpet in the school band and began writing songs of his own.

Mose Allison
By the time he turned 30, Allison had moved to New York City, where he performed and recorded with many jazz greats as well as his own Mose Allison Trio.  

"Eyesight to the Blind" was released in 1959 on Autumn Song, his fifth album for Prestige Records, a famous New York City jazz label:

Allison sped through "Eyesight to the Blind" in only one minute and 43 seconds.  His tempo is so quick that it forces him to elide the original lyrics considerably.  (You have to wonder if the recording studio – or maybe his piano – was on fire.)

Allison has a fairly high voice, and his singing style is not soulful – you'll never mistake Mose Allison for James Brown or Joe Cocker.  His singing on "Eyesight to the Blind" is fine, but what distinguishes this record is the piano solo, which covers a lot of ground in only 40 seconds.  

Here's Mose Allison's "Eyesight to the Blind":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sonny Boy Williamson II – "Eyesight to the Blind" (1951)

Every time the little girl starts lovin'
She bring eyesight to the blind

"Eyesight to the Blind" is a classic 12-bar blues song that was written by Sonny Boy Williamson and released as a single in 1951.

The Who included a cover of the song in Tommy.  Until recently, that was the only version of the song I had ever heard.  

By Sonny Boy Williamson, I mean Alex (pronounced "Aleck") Miller, not John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson.

Sonny Boy Williamson I
John Lee, who was born in Tennessee in 1914 and moved to Chicago in 1934, was one of the most recorded blues musicians of the thirties and forties.  He was the first great blues harmonica player.

Alex Miller, who was born in Mississippi in 1912 (or perhaps 1908, or perhaps 1899) was also a blues singer/songwriter who could play a mean harmonica.  The sponsor of a Helena, Arkansas radio show that Miller appeared on began billing him as Sonny Boy Williamson in what appears to have been a blatant attempt to capitalize on the fame of the Chicago Williamson.

Sonny Boy Williamson II
John Lee, who was killed by a robber in 1948 – his last words were "Lord, have mercy!" – is now referred to as "Sonny Boy Williamson I."

Miller, who died of a heart attack in 1965, is known as "Sonny Boy Williamson II."

Williamson II recorded a live album with the Yardbirds at a UK club in 1963, when Eric Clapton was that group's lead guitarist. That album wasn't released until two years later.

While he was in the UK, Williamson II supposedly set his hotel room on fire while trying to cook a rabbit in a coffee percolator.  (I'm guessing drugs and/or alcohol were involved, but that's just a guess.) 

Here's "Eyesight to the Blind":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mose Allison – "I'm Not Talking" (1964)

If I said things is splendid
Someone would be offended
If I said things were awful
It might just be unlawful
I'm not talkin', it just don't pay

Mose Allison had it right.  You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, so you might as well just keep your damn mouth shut.

Allison was born in 1927 on a farm near Tippo, Mississippi.  He took piano lessons when he wasn't picking cotton, and wrote his first song when he was just 13 (which happened to be the same year electricity came to Tippo).

After earning a B.A. in English at LSU and spending a couple of years in the Army, Allison moved to New York City in 1956.  He performed with jazz artists like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Zoot Sims before forming his own trio.

Mose Allison then
But he is best known for his blues records.  He is such a convincing blues performer that Jet magazine asked him for an interview because they thought he was black.

Allison, who is 88 years old, only recently retired from live performances.

I had never heard of Mose Allison until I ran across the Yardbirds' cover of his "I'm Not Talking" a couple of weeks ago. 

Mose Allison now
A few days later, his name popped up in Merritt Tierce's 2014 novel, Love Me Back

One of the characters in Love Me Back is Jimmy, the pianist at an expensive steak restaurant in Dallas whose patrons usually request show tunes or hits by Elton John or Billy Joel. 

Jimmy's tastes run more to Chopin and great jazz pianists that the restaurant's customers have never heard of, like Allison:

[W]hen Jimmy stepped out for his break at nine . . . [h]e would sit in the driver's seat [of his minivan] with the window rolled down, listening to Mose Allison.  

Mose Allison wrote some very good songs.  He was a voracious reader, and his song lyrics were always intelligent and often quite witty – one critic called him "the Mark Twain of jazz."

The musicians who have covered his songs include the Who, the Clash, Leon Russell, and Elvis Costello.  In 1996, Van Morrison recorded an entire album of Mose Allison songs.

"I'm Not Talking" (which was released on the 1964 album, The Word from Mose) is one of Allison's best original compositions.  Allmusic's Matthew Greenwald has written that the song "is a veiled threat of pure attitude, something that the author was never short of."

Here's Mose Allison's recording of "I'm Not Talking."  In the words of the late Stuart Scott, it's as cool as the other side of the pillow:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Misunderstood – "I'm Not Talking" (1966)

I'm not talking
That's what I've got to say

Dude, think about those lyrics.  The singer says, "I'm not talking."  But he IS talking, isn't he? 

It's like when that old guy Ulysses sharpened a wooden stake and used it to put out the single eye of the Cyclops Polyphemus, who was about to eat him, and then told Polyphemus that his name was "Nemo," which is Latin for "Nobody."

Ulysses blinds the Cyclops
So when the rest of the Cyclopes asked Polyphemus who had blinded him, he answered "Nobody," so they all thought Polyphemus was crazy and ignored him.

The Misunderstood has been called "The Greatest Lost Band of the 1960s."  

They were a psychedelic/garage band who got together in Riverside, California, in 1963, and moved to London in 1966 after being discovered by John Peel, who later became a legendary BBC radio DJ.

John Peel
The Misunderstood managed to record only seven tracks in London before they broke up.  Several of the band's members had issues with their UK visas and work permits, and lead singer Rick Brown returned to California after he got drafted.  (Brown hightailed it from Army bootcamp rather than go to Vietnam, and ended up in India, where he became a Hindu monk.  In 1979, he returned to the U.S. and was granted amnesty.  He is now a gemologist and jewelry designer in Bangkok.)

But despite having left behind so little in the way of recorded music, the Misunderstood are considered one of the greatest psychedelic bands of all time.

The Misunderstood
As Classic Rock magazine put it, 

The truth is that this band were so far out on their own, so individual and innovative, that you can only wonder at the set of circumstances that conspired to prevent them from becoming the iconic name that was surely their destiny.

The Misunderstood's cover of "I'm Not Talking" is out there.  It opens with a brief tape-played-backwards intro, then gives you a little psychedelic sitar and a double-time blues figure.

The tempo abruptly slows when Brown starts singing, then goes back into double-time for the instrumental breaks.

The Yardbirds' cover of "I'm Not Talking" had unpredictably herky-jerky rhythms, but I'm sure the band carefully sketched everything out in advance.  In their version of the song, The Misunderstood appear to be on the verge of a complete loss of control.

That's an illusion, of course – it's what they wanted you to think.  There's a fine line between a band leaving the impression that it has lost control, and actually losing control.  The Misunderstood didn't lose control when it recorded "I'm Not Talking" – not for a second.

Click here to visit the official Misunderstood website.

Here's the Misunderstood's "I'm Not Talking":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Yardbirds – "I'm Not Talking" (1965)

The things I say at midnight 
I ain't gonna say in daylight

(Actually, it's not the things I say at midnight that I worry about – it's the things I say at one in the morning, or two in the morning, or sometimes even later.)

The next nine installments of 2 or 3 lines are going to be all about the music.  (That's right – no tales of my misspent youth, no travelogues, no windy philosophizing.)  You think 2 or 3 lines is just a wildly successful pop music blog, and that it is.  But it's also a high-concept piece of performance art.

We'll feature three versions (the original and two covers) of three different songs.  (Three times three is nine, of course.)  One song is going to lead to the next, which will lead to the next . . . until we're back where we're starting – with the Yardbirds.

The original Yardbirds (1963)
The Yardbirds were ahead of their time . . . which wasn't necessarily a good thing for them.

They had five consecutive top-20 singles in the U.S. between April 1965 and June 1966 – all of which still sound great today – but none of their albums cracked the top 50, and they were miles behind the Beatles and Stones in popularity.

A few years later, the rock music landscape looked very different.  Rock groups focused more on albums than singles, and heavier, blues-inspired bands like Cream, the Jeff Beck Group, and especially Led Zeppelin were all the rage.

Cream's lead guitarist, Eric Clapton, got his start as a member of the Yardbirds.  He was succeeded as the band's lead guitarist by Jeff Beck, who was in turn replaced by Jimmy Page – the lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, which he formed in 1968 when his fellow Yardbirds decided to pack it in.

Beck, Page, and Clapton
Clapton, Page, and Beck are #2, #3, and #5 (respectively) on Rolling Stone's "100 Top Guitarists List."  All three have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than once – Clapton as a member of the Yardbirds, as a member of Cream, and as a solo artist; Beck as a member of the Yardbirds and as a solo artist; and Page as a member of the Yardbirds and as a member of Led Zeppelin.  

"I'm Not Talking" was a cover of of a 1964 song written by jazz pianist/singer Mose Allison.  The Yardbirds' version was the second track on their first studio album, For Your Love

Most of the tracks on that album featured Eric Clapton, who had left the band several months before the album was released in June 1965.  But three of the tracks – including "I'm Not Talking" – were from Jeff Beck's first sessions with the Yardbirds.

"I'm Not Talking" has a devilishly irregular rhythmic structure.  I've spent considerable time trying to count it out, but it's been all for naught.  (If you think you've figured out how to notate it, please tell me what you've come up with – I'd love to see it.)

The next 2 or 3 lines will feature an even more complicated cover of "I'm Not Talking," and then we'll look at the Mose Allison original.  That will lead to a post about a Mose Allison cover of a different song, another cover of that song . . . anyway, we'll eventually get back to the Yardbirds.

So sit back and prepare to enjoy three full weeks of 100% narcissism-free 2 or 3 lines posts . . . promise!

Here's "I'm Not Talking" by the Yardbirds:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: