A Song and a Story: Solve for X #AtoZChallenge


In algebra, the letter x is used to represent a number, so today I’m going to “solve for x” and write a song and a story about tunes with a number in the title.

First up,

1999

When I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I had a weekly appointment with my radio to listen to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.  For a time  in the spring of 1983, in order to get a bit of privacy for my Casey Kasem devotion, I would hang out in the garage.  It wasn’t quite warm enough to hang out outside, but the garage door blocked the winds, and with patio furniture in storage, I had a cozy place to recline. Obviously, the Billboard charts were not the place to find obscure music, but nevertheless I learned of artists that I didn’t hear anywhere else.  Among these were Prince and the Revolution and the breakout album 1999.  The title track was about nuclear apocalypse, but it still reminds me of chilling in my garage watching the sunlight filter through the dust in the air.

Ol’ 55

In 2000, I volunteered at the Falcon Ridge Music Festival in Hillsdale, NY.  One of my shifts was the overnight security shift at the main gate.  It seemed appropriate for me as an insomniac to work overnight, but it was lonely and it was cold.  Fortunately, nearby the main gate an artist named Terry Kitchen was leading an all-night campfire song circle.  When it was clear that absolutely no one was coming through that gate, he invited me over to the circle.  Among the songs they played were some early Tom Waits songs, which at the time I was not aware of.  “This was when his voice still sounded normal,” someone told me.  “Ol’ 55” forever reminds me of that overnight campfire song circle on the night when I wasn’t really needed to defend the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

 

Music Discoveries: Tom Waits


Tom Waits is a veteran singer-songwriter whose voice is a combination of sidewalk preacher, carnival barker, beat poet, and barstool philosopher. I first heard of Waits in the 80s when he was known as the guy with the crazy, gravely voice.  But then I heard the track “Innocent When You Dream” on a compilation album and fell in love with the heartfelt beauty underneath what sounded like a drunk guy crooning at a bar.  I got the album Franks Wild Years and it remains one of my all time favorites, and I’ve checked in and out on Waits’ career over the years.  This is the first time I’ve listened to all of Waits’ catalog from beginning to most current, and let me tell you it’s not easy to listen to all that Waits’ music back-to-back-to-back, although it is a worthwhile exercise.

Tom Waits’ career can be summed up into three basic eras:

  • 1970s – Waits was a little more eccentric than his contemporaries, but listening to his early recordings and he seems to fit in with the singer-songwriters of the era. You might even imagine an alternate universe where his career followed the paths of the likes of James Taylor, Elton John, or Randy Newman.  His trademark gravely voice didn’t even make its debut until the third album, and in the seventies it was more of an homage to Louis Armstrong or Doctor John as Waits recorded jazz and blues tinged tunes.
  • 1980s – This decade marked the emergence of the iconic Waits’ style, verging between lost recordings of American and avant guarde music with unusual instrumentation and tunings.  The decade is marked by the trilogy of albums he’s most remembered for: Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), and Franks Wild Years (1987).
  • 1992 to present – While Waits’ music in this period remains experimental by the standards of contemporary popular music, and inspiration for “alternative music,”  it doesn’t vary much from the template he established in the 1980s.  Similarly, while 1990s and 2000s recordings include numerous gems and good albums overall, Waits is own worst enemy as a producer in that he allows the albums to be bloated with excess tracks that should be judiciously trimmed.  In short, don’t do what I did and listen to everything, but definitely seek out the good stuff.

Tom Waits hasn’t released anything new since 2011 or toured since 2008, but hopefully he has some songs left in him and there will be another Tom Waits era to look back on in the future.

Five Favorite Albums

  • Closing Time (1973) – definitely one of the great all-time debut albums, and the first three tracks are a strong start to any album.
  • Rain Dogs (1985) – Waits’ masterpiece and one of the great albums of the 1980s.
  • Franks Wild Years (1987) – the soundtrack to a play I’ve never seen, it remains a sentimental favorite
  • Bone Machine (1992) – Waits charges into the 1990s showing the alt-rockers how things are done with haunting lyrics and aural soundscape
  • Blood Money (2002) – these are songs from another play, but also reflect the misanthropy and pessimism of the post-Sept. 11th world under George W. Bush

Twenty-Five Favorite Songs

 

1. “Ol’ 55”

2. “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You”

3. “Virginia Avenue”

4. “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)”

5. “Jersey Girl”

6. “16 Shells from A Thirty-Ought-Six”

7. “In the Neighbourhood”

8. “Jockey Full of Bourbon”

9. “Hang Down Your Head”

10. “Downtown Train”

11. “Hang on St. Christopher”

12. “Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)”

13. “Yesterday is Here”

14. “Way Down in the Hole”

15. “Cold Cold Ground”

16. “Jesus Gonna Be Here”

17. “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”

18. “T’ Ain’t No Sin”

19. “Hold On”

20. “House Where Nobody Lives”

21. “Misery is the River of the World”

22. “God’s Away on Business”

23. “Flowers Grave”

24. “Hoist That Rag”

25. “Chicago”

2013 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


With the top ten or so songs listed for every year of my existence, it’s time for the year-end review of my favorite songs of 2013.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 2012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

San Francisco – Foxygen

That’s ok, I was bored anyway

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GMF – John Grant

You could be laughing 65% more of the time

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.Number 9 – Moon Hooch

Please stand away from the platform edge

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A Tattered Line of String – The Postal Service

In the glow of the nights golden hue

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Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) – Shad

Now when you’re Third World born, but First World formed/
Sometimes you feel pride, sometimes you feel torn

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White Foxes – Susanne Sundfør 

For the gravy of your soul

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Indians From All Directions – A Tribe Called Red feat. Das Racist

To the L to the L to the L to the Ella

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Delicate Cycle – The Uncluded

And my heart started with a quarter

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Step – Vampire Weekend

The truth is she doesn’t need me to protect her

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Slyd – !!!

No, that’s weird

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Honorable Mentions:

Song Most Often Played at the Request of My 5 y.o. Son:

Feel this Moment – Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera

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Funniest Viral Song that You Can Dance To:

The Fox – Ylvis

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Best Boston History Lesson Set to Music:

The Great Boston Molasses Flood – The Dead Milkmen

[Listen on The Dead Milkmen website]

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Best Drunken Barroom Sing-a-Long of a Traditional American Folk Song:

Shenandoah – Tom Waits w/ Keith Richards

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Scariest Song You Can Dance To:

The Terror – Flaming Lips

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Best Song That I Was A Part Of Creating With a Video That’s Not Safe For Work:

The Wolf is on the Hill – Beck (arranged by Krissy Skare, performed by a 50 voice chorus, choreography by Sugar Dish)

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Let me know what you think of these songs in the comments, and of course, let me know you’re favorites for 2013

Ten Favorite Songs of 2002


And now the top ten songs of 2002.

Learn more about this project in the first post.

Banjo in the Rain – The Benders

[clip from CD Baby]

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Bob Hope & Charity – The Mekons

[clip from Amazon]

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Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips

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Losing My Edge–  LCD Soundsystem

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Misery is the River of the World –  Tom Waits

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Nuclear War (Version 2) – Yo La Tengo

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NYC – Interpol

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The Old Man Doesn’t Like It – The Operators

[listen here]

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Oliver’s Army – Peter Mulvey

[clip on Amazon]

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Stop Foolin’ Around –  Quicksound feat. Isabelle Rajotte

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And my song of shame for 2002: Whenever, Wherever – Shakira

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Favorite Songs Of 1974


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1974.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

1974 is an extremely challenging year.  I have hardly any songs from this year and I’m not really crazy about many of them.  Apparently, I’m not alone.

Autobahn – Kraftwerk

Boogie on Reggae Woman – Stevie Wonder

Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe – Barry White

Cat’s In the Cradle – Harry Chapin

(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night – Tom Waits

No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Nothing from Nothing – Billy Preston

The Payback – James Brown

Syl-O-Gism – Mary Lou Williams

Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Aretha Franklin

And the song of shame for 1974 is “Band on the Run” by Wings

What are your favorite songs from 1974?  Let me know in the comments!

Favorite Songs Of 1973


In celebration of forty years on this planet, I’m going to post my favorite songs from every year since I was born until now. There will be one list per day every day for next 40 days.  And yes, if you’re a long-time reader, I did try this project before but dropped the ball about halfway through.

The basic gist is that I will make a list in alphabetical order of 10 songs that I love from a particular year.  An artist or band may appear only once per year.  Since this is a retrospective exercise and I’ve learned about many songs and artists long after their work was release, I’m also going to list one song that charted that year that I loved at that time that it shames me to admit (although in some cases I may still listen to it as a guilty pleasure).

And so, for my first list, my favorite songs of 1973:

Baby We Got a Date (Rock It Baby) – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – The Spinners

Here I Am (Come and Take Me) – Al Green

I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You – Tom Waits

Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye

Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Over The Hills And Far Away – Led Zeppelin

Prisencolinensinainciusol – Adriano Celentano

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

Two Steps from the Blues – Bobby “Blue” Bland

And the song of shame for 1973 is Piano Man – Billy Joel

What are your favorite songs from 1973?  Let me know in the comments!

Song of the Week: “Shenandoah” by Tom Waits and Keith Richards


Tom Waits and Keith Richards pair up to sing the classic sea shanty “Shenandoah” with predictable results.  They sound like a bunch of  drunk guys in a bar, and it’s awesome.  This is the best pairing of two unique artists on a standard since Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan joined to sing “What a Wonderful World.”