Influential Albums – Day 3

 

The Beatles – Meet the Beatles

The first Beatles album I heard was their 20 Greatest Hits. I remember hearing it when I was probably in 7th grade riding to a football game with a couple of friends and I was imitating the harmonica sound in “Love Me Do”. Sounds about right for a 7th grade boy. My favorite Beatles album is Revolver.

This album though, is influential because it’s the first one that I got for myself. Nowadays, I prefer the British versions to the American ones, but  back then I didn’t know any different and this was my exposure to any of their songs that weren’t greatest hits and any that I might have heard on Z-93 or 96 Rock growing up. I think my elementary school music teacher probably had us sing, “Yellow Submarine”, but that could be a shared memory of someone else.

The excitement of most of the songs on this album, to me, was electric. It has the hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and those are GREAT, but the deeper album cuts I really, really love. “Hold Me Tight” and “LIttle Child”. I can’t include music links because all the actual Beatles songs have been taken off YouTube. The slower songs on this album I don’t particularly love, but they fit. They are a snapshot of what the band was at the time – a group making their way through the world, trying to make it big. I’m sure they had NO idea; although, it was certainly starting at this time. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan show shortly after this was released in the US.

This album has LOTS and LOTS of “yeah”s. LOTS of them. There’s a whole lot of clapping too on these songs. It must have been pretty tiring to spend the time working out and recording  those claps.

The Beatles’ harmonies has always been one of my favorite parts of the group and they fascinated me when I heard this album. I love to sing and I am much more of a melody person than a harmony person, but I wish I could come up with harmony lines. I’m sure I could with practice or teaching or whatever. I guess with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen the harmonies were big here in America. I’ve always thought that Paul Anka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” had to be influential to The Beatles’ early work. I know The Everly Brothers definitely were, but the line, “I beg of you…” and all the intro lines to the verses are very Beatlesque, even though their originals were just starting to be developed at the time.

I listened to this album on my way to school this morning and there were parts I’d forgotten, but by and large it was as exciting and exhilarating today as it was more than 30 years ago. Good Lord, more than 30 years ago. I had a great time singing along and trying to hit the harmony parts right. When I was younger I used to play with the balance a lot and listen to just the vocal track in one speaker and then just the instrumental track at different times. Whether it was the instruments bleeding through the vocals side or the chorus coming in on the instruments side, I just dug it.

I’ll end with two songs, George’s, “Don’t Bother Me” and the closing song, “Not a Second Time”. I like George’s songs. He was kind of thrown a bone on the records. At first it was, ‘Here, George, sing this cover or sing this song John wrote”, but then he started writing his own. Imagine the courage it took to bring a song to Lennon and McCartney! “Don’t Bother Me” is a great first original for George to bring to the group. “I’ve got no time for you right now, don’t bother me.” I loved that line as a teenager and still love it today. “Not a Second Time” is such a great song because you can tell the character still really wants to be with the girl he’s singing about, but he knows he can’t. He was hurt too badly the first time, and he’s not going to do it, not a second time.

What it could have been

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

Harmonies? Check. Clever lyrics? Check. Pure pop awesomeness? Double check. I found Jellyfish when I worked at the UGA radio station, WUOG. I totally fell in love with them. After listening to them I basically decided they were a continuation of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was just a continuation of Paul’s experimental/baroque Beatles genius. I have Jellyfish Pandora station and as soon as I figure out how to work Spotify correctly, I will have one on that, too.

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Sometimes You Need A Horn (or Two)

Free digital image from  FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let’s just jump into this. I recommend you start off by listening to this first song.




I’m not sure if I’ve always loved songs with horns, or even more so, bands that have horns in them.  I didn’t grow up listening to jazz or even classical, so they were not necessarily part of my musical upbringing.  I can’t think of one record in my dad’s extensive collection that is jazz or classical. Well, that’s not true.  There’s the Willie Nelson jazz album, Stardust, that he tried to get me to listen to when I was younger.  I never did.  Willie was all good and fine, but the first few seconds of whatever starts that album off wasn’t for me at the time.


I can’t remember when it really hit me that songs with horns were just, just…so much more than a song without. Several of the 50s bands that I grew up listening to had saxophonist on the songs.  The guy from “Yakety Yak” really stands out in my mind. King Curtis is his name.  He played on that song as well as on a Buddy Holly song, “Reminiscing”. I guess, thinking about it, probably either Earth, Wind & Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band were probably my first real introduction to several horns in a band.  


I’ve heard all my life “Disco sucks!”, but you know what? When it’s a full-on band like those two then no it didn’t.  It rocked as hard as whatever rock ‘n roll songs were playing at the same time.

Earth, Wind  & Fire – “September”
KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes”

So, yeah. Those songs, those take me back to my young days.  When I’d ask my dad if we could pause a song on the radio so that it would start back up when we got back in the car from McDonald’s.

Paul McCartney always had some great horns in his music with Wings. A lot of people put down that music. A LOT OF PEOPLE. But I have to say it was such a huge part of my childhood that to me it’s just gold.

Paul, of course, had some good input in The Beatles. This is one of my favorite tracks of theirs. 

As I moved into my teens I discovered Madness.  I could easily write a whole entry about them.  They were such a great addition to my expanding musical palate.  I got the cassette of One Step Beyond and played it so much.  Then I got a double sided cassette of that with Absolutely on the back.  Whoa! I mean seriously. I could put so many songs of theirs on here, but I’ll stick with one obvious and one of my all time favorites.

Because I could literally go on and on and on I’m just going to list some of my favorite songs with horns in them.  I’m a little embarrassed by how 80s Adam Ant’s video is, but well, it was the 80s and he was one of the people making actually entertaining videos.  I was introduced to Benny Goodman through the Chips Ahoy commercial and then again in the movie, “Swing Kids”.   I heard Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” on Tom & Jerry when I was a kid.  Then I heard it again through Joe Jackson’s fantastic album Jumpin Jive. More late 80s, early 90s Fishbone and Cake came along and kept the horns going. Just recently through my Madness Pandora station I was introduced to this amazing Australian band, The Cat Empire.  Wow.  Amazing.

Benny Goodman Orchestra – “Sing, Sing, Sing”
The Cat Empire “Hello” & “Chariot”

So, below are some of the bands/artists that really hit home with their use of horns.  Most of course are not being played on the radio except for during the Retro hour, or on a station that plays jazz, real jazz.   I don’t think anyone plays Neil’s This Note’s For You album. This was his first release for Reprise after being on Geffen for most of the 80s.  His time with them ended with the company suing him for not being “Neil Young enough”. As if you can fit Neil into a box and expect him to stay there.  Sheesh.

I would find YouTube clip for them, but there’s only so much time that I’m going to spend on this.  I hope you go find some though.

Louis Armstrong
Dizzy Gillespie
Miles Davis

The English Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
Haircut 100 – “Fantastic Day”
Neil Young & the Blue Notes

Elvis Costello on Spike (he used the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for some tracks) “Miss MacBeth” & “Chewing Gum”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O!”
Brian Setzer Orchestra “Jump, Jive & Wail”


I’ll leave off with Van Morrison and a song off of His Street Choir

A Reluctant Hipster


I have recently come to accept something about myself that I have denied for a long time. Something that makes me fall into a category. Fit a label. I am…a hipster. To those of you who know me this probably doesn’t seem like a revelation to you. I still have a hard time saying it.

Why have I resisted? What’s wrong with being a hipster? I like the clothes from Urban Outfitters. I wear cool hats – Sharp Cats Wear Cool Hats. Honestly, I’ve only known about the current use of the word for a few years now. I associate it closely with another label. It rhymes with “smoosh rag”. Ugh. I actually had to take a three minute break after writing that. A Get Up and Walk Around break. I’m going to have to learn to separate these two terms in my mind.

Historically hipsters have been those on the edge of knowing about and being into what’s cool before it becomes Cool. Jazz guys, beatniks. I thought it was just recently that the term has taken such a negative slant, but apparently people have been deriding hipsters since the mid 90s.

It became clear to me over Halloween what I was when my costume was a Hipster. I was so excited because I think of hipsters as easily mock-able characters. I mean, there’s a Web Site, www.latfh.com, there’s a Facebook page dedicated to people mocking them. I would get the perfect costume and be totally in character; jaded, detached, pretentious. I had the costume part, but I couldn’t pull off the attitude convincingly. I thought that was bad, but I was wrong.

“Hey Thomas, what’s your costume?” friends asked.

“I’m a hipster!”

“…”

“How is this different from normal?”

“I don’t see a difference.”

/blank stares/

{Great.}

So instead of it being funny that I was mocking hipsters it became ironic that I was dressed as a hipster, but not actually in a costume, at least according to all present at the party.

In my mind hipsters are those guys that grow fuzzy beards, wear thrift store pants and t-shirts. They work hard at their image of Not Caring. Their attitudes suck. They’re indie record store employees as exemplified in the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. It’s nothing I want to have associated to me. It’s like I told Daughter One when she asked me what a hipster was. I told her it was someone who thinks they’re cooler than they really are.

So I guess since I’ve decided to accept this label then what I need to do is reclaim it from those people I’ve been talking about. The bearded, PBR swilling, fixed-gear riding thugs. They’re not hipsters. They’re pseudsters.

But then again, doing that makes me just like them, and that was the problem initially. I don’t want to be like them. As Robert Lanham points out in his The Morning News piece, “The rage and self-loathing associated with hipsters has become more annoying, more naive, and more artificial than hipsters could ever hope to be.” That’s not what I want. So what now?

I’ll tell you what. I’m going to kick up my pretentiousness level about four notches. Not really. I’ve never thought of myself pretentious; although, I’m sure I have seemed that way to some. Dear Wife would probably say I am about The Beatles. I suppose I wouldn’t necessarily argue that. Also, I’m going to use my newly accepted label as an excuse to get more of my pants tapered and buy me some skinny jeans. Not the super skinny ones though. They don’t give a guy a lot of room to breathe or move around.

Here’s a link to Lanham’s article – http://www.themorningnews.org/article/look-at-this-fucking-hipster-basher