Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bruce Willis (ft. June Pointer) – "Respect Yourself" (1987)

If you disrespect anybody that you run in to
How in the world do you think
Anybody's s'posed to respect you?

A young lawyer at my law firm sent this e-mail out last week:

A client is looking for guidance on [a certain federal regulation].  Has anyone put together an overview of that rule that they’d be willing to share?

(It should be “Has anyone put together an overview of that rule that he or she would be willing to share?” – but I have bigger fish to fry than bad grammar.)

I wrote back to the young lawyer – she’s someone I work with on occasion – attaching a memo that I had written twenty years ago about that regulation.  (The regulation at issue has been amended since I wrote the memo, but most of what I had written was still accurate – a little tweaking and it would have been good to go.)

It surprised me when the young lawyer – who has always struck me as being well-mannered and circumspect (almost to the point of being boring) – responded as follows:

Wow, twenty years ago I don’t think I even knew how to use a computer.  Thanks for sending!

In other words:

Wow, you are really, really, REALLY old.  Thanks for sending!

When I shared this with my children, one of them told me that the young lawyer should have written something like “It’s great to be able to learn from an expert with so many years of experience in this area!”

I appreciate her message of support, although I could have done without that “so many years” language.

She went to make a point that I had not thought of:

I get reverse remarks like this at work all the time since I'm often the youngest by far in work groups or meetings.  People will mention an event or a famous person from the past and say, “I BET YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT/WEREN’T EVEN ALIVE FOR THIS!”  Or if I'm with another young co-worker, they will ask our office administrator if she is “keeping the kids in line.”  I find that disrespectful, too! 

It’s probably true that young people are the victims of age-related disrespect just as often as they are the perpetrators.  Not that I ever am guilty of this – I am so bleeding envious of younger people that it would never occur to me to put them down.

Here’s how another one of my children responded to both our complaints:

As Stephanie Tanner would say HOW RUDE!  On both accounts . . . 

Haters gonna hate.  They hate you cause they ain't you. 

My children forever see the world through the prism of the late, great Full House television series.  (I’m talking the original Full House – not the dreadful Fuller House reunion show that’s currently airing on Netflix.)

Stephanie Tanner was our least favorite of the Tanner daughters, but her “How rude!” is one of the more memorable Full House catchphrases.

*     *     *     *     *

Stephanie Tanner was portrayed by Jodie Sweetin, who was only five years old when Full House debuted.

Jodie Sweetin then
Like many of the regulars on Full House, Sweetin’s on-screen persona had little in common with reality.  (For example, Full House dad Bob Saget is known for his X-rated standup comedy, while Dave Coulier – who played goofy Uncle Joey on Full House – inspired the quintessential “woman scorned” song of all time, Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know.”)

Sweetin’s life didn’t start well.  Both her parents were serving prison sentences when she was born.  

She started drinking alcohol when she was 14, shortly after Full House was cancelled.  She graduated to ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack.  

Jodie Sweetin now
Sweetin just turned 35, but she’s already been married and divorced three times.  But that didn’t stop her from getting engaged for the fourth time in 2016.

A year later, she called off the engagement.

*     *     *     *     *

Did you know that Bruce Willis had a #5 hit with his cover of “Respect Yourself” in 1987?  

The original “Respect Yourself” – which was recorded by the Staple Singers in 1971 – only made it to the #12 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”

Which proves that there is no accounting for taste.

Here’s the music video for the Bruce Willis version of “Respect Yourself.”  It has absolutely no redeeming qualities except for the presence of the Pointer Sisters, who must have been absolutely desperate for money.

Click below to buy the Staple Singers’ version of “Respect Yourself.”  I couldn’t live with myself if I though I was responsible for even one of my loyal readers spending their hard-earned money on the Bruce Willis version.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Argent – "Liar" (1970)

Hanging on every word
Believing the things I heard
Being a fool

The internet is so full of sh*t that its eyes are brown.

(Do you write “internet” or “Internet”?  The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word is a proper noun that should be capitalized.  But commonly used proper nouns sometimes lose their initial capital letters over time, and that seems to be happening with Internet/internet.  For example, the New York Times and Associated Press recently decapitalized the word.)

Here are some ludicrous but supposedly factual statements you can find on the internet:

– “Albert Einstein did not talk until he was three years old, when he told his parents that his food was too hot.”  (They asked why he never spoke before, and he said it was because everything had been in order until that moment.)  

Einstein as a child
– “The average female cannot keep a secret for longer than 47 hours and 15 minutes.”

– “Students at a Chinese university are required to write out 1000 emojis every time they are late for class.”

– “The familiar Olympic torch relay was actually invented by the Nazi organizers of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”
Lighting the torch at the 1936 Olympics
– “The word ‘Gorilla’ comes from the Greek name given to an African tribe of hairy women.”

– “Researchers discovered cannabis on several fragments of pipes excavated from Shakespeare’s garden.”

– “The little paper stickers on fresh apples, bananas, and other fruits are edible.”

Edible fruit stickers
– “The German ophthalmologist who invented contact lenses got the idea from popcorn kernels stuck in his teeth.”  (By the way, two-thirds of the people who wear contact lenses are females.)

Finally, my favorite:

– “Every human being starts out as an asshole: it’s the first part of the body to form in the womb.”

*     *     *     *     *

Well, it turns out that the joke’s on me.  All of those statements ARE true, with one exception: most sources report that Einstein didn’t start speaking until he was four.  (That thing about him finally being inspired to speak because his food was too hot is total crap, of course.) 

*     *     *     *     *

You’ll probably more familiar with Three Dog Night’s 1971 recording of “Liar” (which made it all the way to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart) that the original recording by Argent, which had been released on that group’s eponymous debut album the previous year.

“Liar” was written by Russ Ballard, Argent’s lead singer and guitarist.  (Ballard had previously been a member of Unit 4 + 2, whose “Concrete and Clay” topped the British singles chart in 1965.)

Argent was founded by Rod Argent, the keyboardist for the Zombies.  (Don’t tell me that “She’s Not There” isn’t a silly song, because it most definitely is!)

Anyone who hung out with me at Nina’s Green Parrot bar in Galena, Kansas in the summer of 1972 heard Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” on the jukebox about a zillion times.  

Here’s Argent’s recording of “Liar”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Outlaws – "Green Grass and High Tides" (1975)

Will you let me past your face
To see what's really you?

The previous 2 or 3 lines covered the outbound leg of my recent drive to Joplin, Missouri – including my stops at microbreweries in Columbus, Indianapolis, and Springfield, Missouri.   

Today I’ll tell you about the return trip, which was highlighted by stops at four breweries in Kentucky and Virginia.  

But first, let’s review the bidding . . .

Loading up
The first two days of my five-day odyssey were spent driving from my home in Rockville, Maryland to Joplin.  On the morning of the third day, I went to a title company to sign all the documents necessary to close on the sale of my mother’s Joplin house, then packed up what was left in that house after the estate sale agent had done his thing . . . dozens of framed family photographs, old 8mm home movies, my bronzed baby shoes, and a bunch of other flotsam and jetsam that I probably should have thrown away but couldn’t.  I spent that night in St. Louis with a high-school friend.

My 2250-mile route
On day four, I headed east on I-64, a more southerly alternative to I-70 (which is the highway I had taken west).  By the time the sun was over the yardarm, I was in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of Against the Grain Brewing.

Against the Grain is situated in the downtown baseball stadium that is home to the Louisville Bats, the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.  

Here’s the statue of Louisville native Pee Wee Reese – the famed former Dodger shortstop who is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame – that stands outside the stadium’s main entrance:

Pee Wee Reese
Against the Grain was spacious and well-appointed, with some interesting offerings on its menu:

Against the Grain's offerings
I especially appreciated their coasters, which took care of the age-old problem of how to prevent your half-finished beer from being poured down the drain by a too-eager bartender when you left it at the bar in order to visit the gents’ (or the ladies’, as the case may be).  Simply put the coaster on top of your glass and pee to your heart's content:

I had planned my drive so that I would be within reach of a Skyline Chili location when it was time for dinner.  As always, I ordered a plate of four-way chili and spaghetti and a Dr. Pepper:

Beans sí, onions no
My destination was Lexington, Kentucky – home to the University of Kentucky and smack dab in the middle of that state’s Bluegrass region, which is famous for producing bourbon and racehorses.

My Against the Grain bartender had recommended Country Boy Brewing, so that’s where I stopped.

At Country Boy Brewing
After quaffing an Amos Moses brown ale – named for the character in the Jerry Reed song, of course – I hit I-64 for another hour or so, overnighting in Morehead, Kentucky, a college town that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump west of the Kentucky-West Virginia border.  

The next morning, I took a quick hike on the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, a 290-mile long hiking trail that traverses the Daniel Boone National Forest.  (“Sheltowee” was the name given to Daniel Boone by a Shawnee chief.)

The symbol on the Sheltowee Trace trail markers is a turtle:

On the Sheltowee Trace trail
I had run clean out of Skyline Chili locations, but there were plenty of Arby’s restaurants along the interstate.  I stopped at the one in Beckley, WV, which had this monstrosity on its menu:

Roast beef, bacon, ham, turkey, chicken,
brisket, corned beef, a fish filet,
and a couple of different cheeses
$11.59 is a bit more than I'm used to spending on a fast-food sandwich . . . plusI wasn’t sure I was packing enough Lipitor to handle that bad boy.  So I opted for a boring ol' roast beef sandwich instead.

By 500p, I was in Lexington, Virginia, home to Washington and Lee University (the alma mater of my elder grandson’s father) and Devils Backbone Brewing, a large and very popular craft brewery that was recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch.

Devils Backbone
I sampled four very interesting brews at Devils Backbone:  Kilt Flasher (a Scottish “wee heavy” ale), Beyond All Raisin/Cocoa (a raisin barleywine that was aged on cocoa nibs), Neapolitan Stout (a dark ale brewed with chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry flavors, with added lactose), and Cocoa Bear (an 11% ABV imperial stout blended with raw coca nibs).  

My Devils Backbone tasting flight
An hour later, I exited I-81 for a quick visit to Redbeard Brewing, a homey little operation in Staunton, Virginia (which is the birthplace of our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson): 

Redbeard Brewing
I enjoyed a friendly chat with the Stauntonians at the bar as I downed a pint of 221B Baker, a brown ale obviously inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

221B Baker brown ale 
On the way to my car, I passed this sign in the window of a neighboring computer-repair shop, which reminded me of the pistol-packing drinker I had seen exercising his Second Amendment rights at Black Acre Brewing In Indianapolis, which I had visited on the first night of my odyssey:  

I didn’t want to push my luck, so I bypassed a few other breweries en route to my home, arriving safe and sound around 1000p.

I’m not sure I ever want to drive 2250 miles in five days again – at least not all by myself.  But the breweries I visited along the way gave me something to look forward to each evening.

Speaking of craft breweries, you can expect some y-u-g-e beer-related news from 2 or 3 lines very, very soon!

*     *     *     *     *

“Green Grass and High Tides” – which was released in 1975 on the Outlaws’ eponymous debut album – popped up on the Sirius/XM “Deep Tracks” channel after I left Country Boy Brewing.  

The song’s title was inspired by the first Rolling Stones greatest hits LP, High Tides and Green Grass.  (I bought that album when I was 14, and purt near played it to death.)

“Green Grass and High Tides” is one of my favorite guilty-pleasure songs of all times.  It’s almost ten minutes long, which isn’t nearly long enough.  (When the Outlaws closed their concerts with it, they often stretched it out to twice that length.)

The first five-plus minutes of “Green Grass and High Tides” is an up-tempo southern-rock tour de force.  It would have been a damn good song if the Outlaws had stopped there.

But they didn’t.  (Praise the Lord!)

The final four and a half minutes of the record consists of a single four-bar guitar riff that is repeated approximately sixty times.  I say “approximately” because I tried to count how many times that four-bar mother of all guitar riffs was repeated – not once, not twice, not three times . . . but four times.  

Each time, I eventually lost track of the count as a result of the aural bludgeoning the Outlaws’ three lead guitarists were delivering and had to start over again.  So I finally gave up.  (It was either that or say arrivederci to my sanity forever.)

The next time I’m at a bar on karaoke night, you can best believe I’ll be performing “Green Grass and High Tides.”

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Human League – "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" (1983)

The truth may need some rearranging
Stories to be told
And, plain to see, the facts are changing

(It goes without saying that every word in every 2 or 3 lines post is the truth.  But as today’s featured song notes, the truth sometimes needs rearranging . . . and sometimes the facts do change.)

I recently drove from my home in the Washington, DC suburbs to Joplin, Missouri and back, covering some 2250 miles in five days.  (My mother’s house in Joplin was sold recently, and I needed to empty it and sign a bunch of sale-related documents.)

A map of my 2250-mile odyssey
On the way to Joplin and back, I wet my whistle at seven different craft breweries (sometimes called “microbreweries”) located in five states.

On the first day of my trip, I stopped at Barley’s Brewing in Columbus, Ohio, and Black Acre Brewing in Indianapolis.  Both had some excellent beers on tap.  

A shared-bike station in Columbus
I stopped at Barley’s after riding one of the CoGo Bike Share bicycles around Columbus, and the “Blood Thirst Wheat” – a blood-orange flavored wheat beer – was as refreshing as all get-out.

After stopping for a plate of four-way chili (beans , onions no) at a Skyline Chili outpost in Indianapolis, I preceded on to Black Acre, which had a very interesting assortment of house-brewed and guest beers available.

Eating Cincinnati-style chili in Indianapolis
I opted for a flight of four beers: a chocolate-peanut butter porter, two versions of Black Acre’s fifth-anniversary Scotch ale (one aged in whiskey barrels, the other aged in wine barrels), and a very high-alcohol (13%) raspberry trippelbock from Mikkelson, a Danish company that markets a dizzying array of eccentric beers that are brewed at microbreweries around the world.  

A tasting flight at Black Acre Brewing
But the hit of the evening was the Boulevard “Rye on Rye on Rye,” a 14.6% ABV rye ale that was aged in not one, but two rye whiskey barrels.  Boulevard (which is located in Kansas City) is one of my personal favorites, and this beer was delicious!

I was walking back to the bar after draining the lizard when I noticed that the guy sitting a few seats down from me was wearing a gun:

Open carry at Black Acre Brewing
I’m pro-Second Amendment, although I’ve never owned a gun and probably never will.  But I do admit that I was a bit taken aback to see a pistol-packing microbrewery patron.  I’m not sure that guns and alcohol are a good combination.

I asked the bartender and the guy sitting next to me at the bar if it was common for someone wearing a gun to walk into Black Acre, and they assured me that it certainly was not.  Both of them were appalled to see a guy wearing a 9mm automatic there.

I pushed on the Terre Haute – which is about an hour west of Indy – before turning in.  

The second day of the trip, I stopped at only one microbrewery – the modest but charming White River microbrewery in Springfield, Missouri.

At White River Brewing (Springfield, MO)
There was only a small crowd at White River when I stopped there at 500p on a Sunday and ordered a tasting flight of five different beers, only one of which – a smoked pepper porter – was at all exotic.  

I'll tell you about the breweries I hit on my return trip in the next 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

Today’s featured song popped up on the “First Wave” channel on my Sirius/XM satellite radio about half an hour after I left White River Brewing.

The only thing between me
and hours of sports-talk radio
“(Keep Feeling) Fascination” was a top-ten hit in 1983 for the Human League, the British synth pop group best known for “Don’t You Want Me.”

Here’s the very striking music video for “(Keep Feeling) Fascination:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, April 21, 2017

ZZ Top – "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" (1979)

I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad
I’m nationwide

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my mother’s car – which is my car now, although I still think of it as her car – had a small oil leak.

I took it to a local Chevrolet dealership, where it was determined that whoever had last changed the oil had failed to tighten the oil filter properly.  Hence the slight leak.

At a Skyline Chili in Indianapolis, IN
I didn’t have to wait very long at the Chevrolet dealership, and they didn’t charge me a cent.

Best of all, I got an e-mail from the SiriusXM radio folks a few days after that:

Dear Gary, 

Thank you for having your Chevrolet serviced recently.  To show our gratitude, SiriusXM and your dealer are giving you a free 2-Month SiriusXM Select trial that includes over 140 channels of world-class entertainment.

No credit card needed.  No strings attached.  Really.

You’d best believe I jumped on that free trial like a big dog.

At a Dairy Queen in Sullivan, MO
So when I hit the road to drive from my home in Maryland to the house in Missouri where my parents lived until my father died last year, I was neck-deep in satellite radio channels – including the two Howard Stern channels, which usually are premium channels that cost SiriusXM subscribers extra.

At a gas station in Rolla, MO
Here’s a day-by-day summary of the trip:

Day 1: Rockville, Maryland, to Terre Haute, Indiana, via I-270, I-68, I-79, and I-70 – about 630 miles.

At an Arby's in Beckley, WV
Day 2: Terre Haute to Joplin, Missouri, via I-70 and I-44 — 450 miles.

Day 3: After cleaning out what remained in my parents’ house and attending the closing on the sale of that house, I drove from Joplin to St. Louis via I-44 – 285 miles.

At a computer repair store in Staunton, VA
Day 4: St. Louis to Morehead, Kentucky via I-64 – 400 miles.

Day 5: Morehead to Rockville via I-64, I-81, I-66, and I-495 – 490 miles.

Total distance: a bit over 2250 miles.

My route
As the photos that accompany this post show, it was an interesting trip . . . although I never want to drive 2250 miles in five days again.

I’ll be writing more about my odyssey in the next two or three 2 or 3 lines posts.

*     *     *     *     *

ZZ Top was always so full of sh*t that their eyes were brown, but I enjoyed some of their songs – especially “La Grange,” which was their first hit single.

Our featured song
I heard “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” on XM’s “Classic Rewind” channel while driving on I-64 between Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky.  

Here’s that song, which was released on ZZ Top’s 1979 album, Degüello.  

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arvo Pärt – "Fratres" (1977/1992)

The critics loved Rectify, a four-season television series that aired on the Sundance TV channel between 2013 and 2016.  (You can click here to read the New Yorker’s review of the show.)

In Rectify’s first episode, a thirty-something man from a small Georgia town is released from prison after spending years on death row for the rape and murder of his high-school girlfriend when newly-discovered DNA evidence calls his guilt into question.  

But that DNA evidence doesn’t prove the freed man didn’t commit the murder.  Even he isn’t sure what happened the night the girl was raped and killed.

Here's the trailer for the first season of Rectify:

I’ve watched the first three seasons of the show and I’ll watch season four as soon as my local public library gets it on DVD.  

I don’t love the show, although there are things about it that I like and admire.  On the whole, I recommend it – but it moves very slowly, and I sometimes find it puzzling.  YMMV.

*     *     *     *     *

I had never heard of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt until I watched the season two finale of Rectify, which features his quietly compelling 1977 composition, “Fratres.”

“Fratres” is a purely instrumental composition.  It’s rare that 2 or 3 lines features music without words, but I’m making an exception for “Fratres,” which has been aptly described as “a mesmerising set of variations on a six-bar theme combining frantic activity and sublime stillness that encapsulates Pärt’s observation that ‘the instant and eternity are struggling within us’.”

Pärt calls his approach to composing music “tintinnabulation.”  (A tintinnabulum was a Roman wind chime, and Pärt's music is built around the tones and overtones produced by ringing bells.)  He developed this compositional technique after suffering from writer’s block for several years.   

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt
According to conductor and music writer Paul Hillier, Pärt's tintinnabular music has two types of voice, “the first of which (dubbed the ‘tintinnabular voice’) arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion.”

It turns out that his music has been used frequently on movie and television soundtracks.  For example, you can hear “Fratres” in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Terence Malick’s To the Wonder.

I have to think that whoever chose “Fratres” for Rectify is a Malick fan.  There are many sequences in Malick’s movies (including To the Wonder) that can be described as “dreamlike,” and the same is true of Rectify – including the scene that is accompanied by “Fratres.”  

There are some 17 authorized versions of “Fratres,” each of which features different instrumentation.  For example, there’s the original violin and piano version; a cello and piano version; versions for four, eight or twelve cellos; a version for trombone, strings, and percussion; and a version for saxophone quartet.

The There Will Be Blood soundtrack features the cello and piano version of “Fratres”:

The soundtrack of the last episode of season two of Rectify features the version for solo violin, string orchestra, and percussion:

Click below to buy that version of “Fratres” from Amazon:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Drones – "Shark Fin Blues" (2005)

You are all my brothers
And you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?

The plot of the first season of The Affair – a Showtime series that premiered in 2014 – is pretty straightforward.  

While spending the summer on Long Island with his wife and four kids, a forty-something teacher and wannabe novelist (Noah) encounters a thirty-something waitress (Alison), who is also married.  One thing leads to another . . . hence, the title of the series.

But the plot of season two – which I just finished watching – is a hot mess.  

Noah (Dominic West) and Helen (Maura Tierney)
In season two, Noah leaves his wife (Helen), writes a best-selling book, and marries Alison, who promptly gets pregnant.  

A few episodes later, Alison goes into labor while Noah is living la vida loca at a spectacular party at the Long Island home of a Hollywood producer who wants to turn Noah’s book into a movie.  

While Noah is at the party, he climbs into a hot tub to join two naked young women who are making out.  But one of them turns out to be his crazy daughter (Whitney) – who had gotten pregnant by Alison’s ne’er-do-well ex-brother-in-law (Scotty) the previous season, then had an abortion.  

Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah
Noah is horrified, and tries to get the hell out of Dodge.  But Hurricane Sandy has hit the Hamptons while he was busy snorting cocaine and cavorting with supermodels, and the roads back to New York City are impassable.  Alison delivers her baby solo.

Alison then admits that she slept with her ex-husband (Cole) once after she and Noah were married, and that Cole could be the father of their daughter.  

In the last episode of season two, Alison is confronted by her shady ex-brother-in-law, Scotty.  They argue, he grabs her, and as she’s struggling to break free, she accidentally shoves him right into the path of Noah’s car . . . which Helen is driving.  That’s the end of good ol’ Scotty.  

The detective looking into Scotty's death knows that Noah had beaten the crap out of Scotty and threatened to kill him when he found out that Scotty had knocked up his daughter Whitney, so Noah is a prime suspect from the very beginning of the investigation. 

Noah's arrest
And when a witness tells the detective that he saw Noah washing off his car the night of Scotty’s death, Noah is arrested.

Season two comes to an end as Noah suddenly leaps up during his trial for vehicular homicide and shouts “I DID IT!” in order to shield both his new wife (the mother of his – or perhaps Cole’s – young daughter) and his old one (the mother of his four other children) from prosecution.

(Oops . . . did I forget to say SPOILER ALERT?  Sorry about that!)

As season-ending cliffhangers go, it’s not “Who shot J.R.?” but it’s not bad.  I'm counting the days until the DVDs of season three make it to my local public library.

Here's a trailer for the The Affair that includes scenes from all three seasons that have aired to date:

*     *     *     *     *

The best song on The Affair’s soundtrack is Lucinda Williams’s “Changed the Locks,” but that song was featured in the previous 2 or 3 lines.  

So today we’re featuring “Shark Fin Blues,” which is the best song on the soundtrack of the Sundance TV series, Rectify.

“Shark Fin Blues” was released on Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By, a 2005 album by the Drones, who hail from Australia.

Rectify is about a guy in his thirties who is released from prison after spending half his life on death row thanks to the delivery of some misplaced DNA evidence.  The show set in a small town in Georgia – not on Long Island – and is about as different from The Affair as it can be.

Here’s “Shark Fin Blues,” a hot mess of a song that tells a Moby Dick-like tale, except that the role of the great white whale is played by a shark “that's bigger than a submarine”:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lucinda Williams – "Changed the Locks" (1988)

I changed the number on my phone
So you can't call me up at home
And you can't say those things to me
That make me fall down on my knees

Lucinda Williams follows the "Keep it simple, stupid" principle.

“Changed the Locks” – which was released in 1988 on her eponymous third album – is about as simple a song as was ever written, consisting of a single musical concept and a single lyrical concept.  (If you’re a mediocre musician and you need to learn a song in ten minutes, I’d recommend “Changed My Locks.”)

The song consists of six verses, each of which is metrically identical – each has an AABB rhyme pattern, and the first line of each verse is repeated after the fourth line of that verse is sung.  

The verses are musically indistinguishable from one another as well.  In fact, the lines of each verse are musically indistinguishable – each line is sung over the same simple chord pattern.

When it comes to the song’s lyrical content, each verse is a variation on a single theme.  Each begins with the singer declaring that she has changed something in her life – she’s changed the lock on her front door, changed the number on her phone, changed the kind of car she drives, changed the kind of clothes she wears, and so on – ostensibly to keep her ex-boyfriend or ex-husband at a distance.  “I am sooooo over you!” seems to be the message she is trying to communicate.

There’s not even a chorus to complicate things.  

Just because a song is simple doesn’t mean it’s not good.  “Changed My Locks” wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if it wasn’t simple.

Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics to “Changed My Locks.”

Here’s the second verse, which is quoted at the beginning of this post:

I changed the number on my phone
So you can't call me up at home
And you can't say those things to me
That make me fall down on my knees

Why is the singer so afraid of getting a phone call from her ex?  Because he’s going to say something nasty or threatening?  

Hardly.  She hears that he’ll call her and go right into the kind of irresistible love talk that leaves her weak in the knees. 

Here’s the third verse:

I changed the kind of car I drive
So you can't see me when I go by
And you can't chase me up the street
And you can't knock me off of my feet

She’s not afraid that the dude is going to literally knock her down.  No, no, no – her concern is that an encounter with him will knock her off of her feet emotionally.

The final verse hammers this point home:

I changed the name of this town
So you can't follow me down
And you can't touch me like before
And you can't make me want you more

The first rhyming couplet is a little confusing if you take it literally.  What the singer means when she says that she “changed the name of this town” is that she packed up and moved to a different city because she realizes that if she runs into the guy and he touches her once more, it will make her want him even more than she already does.

Get the picture?  The singer’s not trying to avoid the guy because she’s sooooo over him, but because she’s not sooooo over him.  She knows that if they cross paths that she won’t be able to resist him – she’ll fall down on her knees to him.

Might as well face it, lady, you’re addicted to the dude.  Just like an alcoholic trying to avoid temptation doesn’t hang out where other people are drinking, the singer needs to avoid proximity to her ex if she has any hope of freeing herself from the emotional hold he has on her.

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Lucinda Williams never graduated from high school, but managed to get admitted to the University of Arkansas.  She dropped out after one semester.

Her father, Miller Williams, was an English professor at Arkansas for decades.  Williams was a prolific poet who got a lot of attention when he was asked to read one of his poems at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, but perhaps the most remarkable thing about his career was that he started out as a biology professor before switching to English.

Lucinda released a couple of albums when she was in her twenties, but they sank without a trace.  Her third album – which includes “Changed the Locks” – was released in 1988, when she was 35.  Neither it nor her next album (both of which were produced by someone named – I kid you not – Gurf Morlix) did much better.

Lucinda Williams and Gurf Morlix
She began to focus on songwriting and won the 1994 Grammy for best country song for “Passionate Kisses,” which had been a big hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Williams finally hit it big as a recording artist with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which was released in 1998.  She was an overnight success at age 45.  

If you’re good at math, you’ve probably already figured out that Lucinda Williams is now 64 years old – emphasis on the “old.”  (She’s barely six months younger than me, which means she is very old indeed.)

You can click here to read Bill Buford’s 2000 New Yorker profile of Lucinda Williams.  (Buford is a very good writer, but that piece is a little overheated.)

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I discovered “Changed the Locks” while watching the second season of the Showtime series, The Affair.  Here's a clip of one of the characters singing along with the song as it plays on the radio as she drinks a glass of wine (not her first of the day, I might add) and gets dressed to go out on a hot date:

I’ll have more to say about The Affair (which is a wonderful guilty-pleasure TV show) in the next 2 or 3 lines.

Here’s “Changed the Locks”:

And here's a video of Lucinda performing the song live in 1990.  (Her guitar player is the aforementioned Gurf Morlix.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: