Friday, October 24, 2008

"Viva! Sea-Tac" / Robyn Hitchcock

At last! Something in my head besides Nick Lowe ("I Live On A Battlefield" had just got in there and would not budge.*) Granted, Robyn Hitchcock appeals to exactly the same lobe of my musical brain, but technically it's a change.

I imagine Robyn knocking out this exuberant ditty in the taxi on the way in from the airport, whacking on the steering wheel with his non-steering hand (the bashing drumbeat is one of the best things about this track). Great opening line -- "People flock like cattle to Seattle after Kurt Cobain" -- far be it from Robyn Hitchcock to join the herd, but he's here anyway. And he loves it, but only in his own inimitable snarky ambivalent way.

This song has that written-on-the-fly quality that Robyn often gives us -- when he grabs a rhyme out of thin air and it's so absurd, he just has to go with it. "Viva Seattle-Tacoma / Viva viva Sea-Tac!" he exults. "Viva viva viva viva viva viva viva viva Sea-Tac / They've got the best computers and coffee and smack!" Thanks to that line, you'll never hear this used in an ad by the Seattle tourist board, which is really too bad, isn't it?

"Coming and going / It has to be Boeing," he rambles on (probably just as he drives on past the hulking Boeing plant), adding, "The best form of defense is blow them up!" So now it won't be bought for a Boeing ad either, I guess. And as the cityscape comes into view, he muses, "The Space Needle points to the sky / The Space Needle's such a nice guy / But you never know..." Whatever pops into his head is fair game. He ends with a Dylanesque talking blues that peters off into absurdity: "Long live everything / In Washington State, including / Everybody, may they live to a million years / May they reproduce until there's no room to go anywhere / Clustered under the Space Needle like / Walking eggs with arms and legs, yeah!"

Robyn, Robyn, Robyn -- you're one in a million, that's for sure.

Viva! Sea-Tac sample

* But hey, was I fighting it? You know me better than that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"I Read A Lot" / Nick Lowe

Lord I'm sorry, I've gone AWOL again. I've got one more week to finish this #&@$% book and then I promise.

But hey, all work and no play makes Jack Nicholson turn into an axe-wielding murderer, right? So I did take off Friday night to go see Nick Lowe perform at Carnegie Hall (or at any rate, Carnegie Hall's downstairs recital venue, Zankel Hall). A pretty classy spot for the old geezer, eh? He was in fine voice, relaxed and happy, and...oh, screw the set list and credits, I'm in love with Nick all over again (will this madness never stop?) and just had to post this little bit.

This is a new song he's trying out on the road. Although, as he said Friday night, since he already sang it the last time he was in New York, which was only last April (lucky me!) he can't really get away with calling it a new song anymore. Now it's a just a load of old tosh.


Anybody who thinks this guy isn't at the top of his game has to be tone-deaf. Watch, listen, and enjoy -- it's divine.

I Read A Lot video

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"We Should Be Making Love" /
Huey Lewis and the News

I've never really gotten over my 1984 crush on Huey Lewis. In those delicious early MTV days, you never heard his music without a visual image of this handsome, virile-looking guy with the wry self-deprecating grin -- like even he couldn't take himself seriously as a hunk -- remember that video of him in the bathtub? Ah, those were the days. Sting, Daryl Hall, Robert Palmer, Brian Ferry -- you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing some dapper broad-shouldered rocker with a craggy jaw and bedroom eyes. But Huey was always my favorite; that little bluesy rasp in his voice sent shivers up my spine. I guess I knew he was a musical lightweight, but who cared?

A little while ago, though, somebody sent me a DVD of an old British TV documentary about Rockpile, and in between all the footage of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds who should walk into the studio but Huey Lewis? I never knew until then that Huey was in the band Clover, which (I think sans Huey) functioned as a backing band for the earliest Elvis Costello tracks. For some reason Huey was over in London at that point, hanging with Nick and Dave. Now believe me, it's very hard for anybody else to get my attention when Nick Lowe is on the screen -- but when I saw Huey, my heart did a flutter sure enough.

So I scouted around and downloaded some old Huey Lewis stuff, and this song's one of the things I found. It's from their 1991 album Hard At Play, which I'll admit I never heard before. (It was supposed to be their comeback album, though it couldn't have been such a great comeback if I never heard of it.) This goes right along with John Hiatt's "She Loves the Jerk" as an ode to Unrequited Love, subgenre The Best Friend With the Secret Crush. It's the old When Harry Met Sally story -- Huey's talking to a girl he's best friends with, and they're always "talking to each other / comparing our heartaches /Confessing the ways we looong to be satisfied" -- that sudden little groan of desire he drops into "long" is purely electric. And now he's screwing up his courage and finally suggesting that maybe they should, um, after all -- "Maybe / there's something / going on here..." Does she feel it too?

That's about all there is to it. Great emphatic whacking drums and sweet pleading guitar licks, all at a sort of lazy bluesy tempo that's dead sexy. "We should be making love," he urges her, "instead of wasting time with someone else / We should be making love / Instead of going hooome all by ourselves." Well, apart from the fact that I can't imagine being Huey Lewis' best friend without having the hots for him . . .

We Should Be Making Love sample

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Please Please Please Let Me Get Get What I Want" /
The Smiths

It's killing me here, knowing that, out in San Francisco this weekend, Nick Lowe and Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner played together for the first time in nearly 20 years, coming just a John Hiatt short of reconvening their old band Little Village. Elvis C made a guest appearance, too. All this happening and me not there? It's killing me. The whole gang of them are playing the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival right about now (some year I seriously have to get out there for that festival), and then Nick's going down to Austin to tape a segment of Austin City Limits. I am so dying here!

And don't even get me started about how much I'd love to fly over to London for a night to see Ray Davies in his new musical, Come Dancing. The show is reported to be simply brilliant, but let's face it, the chances of it ever coming over for a Broadway run are slim-to-none.

But no, here I am stuck in New York cleaning up dog poop and nagging children to do their homework and trying desperately to finish this book I'm writing. Cruel and unusual, that's what I call it.

Well, here's a song that sums up my state of mind. You can always count on the Smiths to deliver a premium neurotic snit when you need one. Morrissey's petulant whiny drawl suits my frame of mind perfectly. It doesn't even really matter whether his affected pose is tongue-in-cheek or not -- I still get a kick out of his fey falsettos and vocal flutters, that sing-songy rehearsal of all his wrongs. "Good times for a change / See, the luck I've had / Can make a good man / Turn bad" and then later "Haven't had a dream in a long time" -- this thing is just drenched in self-pity.

Those dogged repeated "please's" sound so urgent, and yet so unhopeful -- just listen to the chorus: "So please please please / Let me, let me, let me / Let me get what I want / This time. " The kicker is that tacked-on "this time", a rib-jab reminder that every other time, he hasn't gotten what he wants. And just in case you were ever in doubt, he reiterates at the end of the song, "So for once in my life / Let me get what I want / Lord knows, it would be the first time /Lord knows, it would be the first time . . . "

What he wants is, so obviously, sex -- and not just sex, but a particularly furtive, groping, clumsy sort of adolescent sex. It's urgent as hell, but by the time he's done, I'm grinning too much to feel sorry for myself anymore. A dose of rock-and-roll therapy -- that cures me every time.

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want sample