Song 183, Sunday, 1/26/2014 -- Poke at the Pope by Donovan, who also wrote the song, listed under his full name Donovan Leitch. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is a still of the Open Road cover, but even though that part doesn't move, the song sure does. I got Open Road not long after it came out, and I liked the new sort of direction that it took, which Donovan at the time called Celtic Rock. The long and checkered history of the Vatican has made it an easy target for accusations of hypocrisy, which for much of its existence it has very richly deserved, and in this song Donovan mentions how they've been hoarding their gold in Rome, as true in 1970, when he released this song, as it had been for much of the previous fifteen hundred years. The reason I wanted to post this song today, though, is because a new pope -- Pope Francis -- has brought a very new style to Vatican City, and it's one much more in keeping with the actual teachings of the New Testament. I don't have much respect for someone who preaches that the Christian message is about getting rich, or one who uses a Christian religious angle to get rich, because I've actually read what Jesus said about a rich man and the kingdom of heaven. Evidently, Pope Francis has read and understood that passage as well, along with some other very important teachings, so I commend him for caring more about the real message of Jesus than about hoarding the gold in the Vatican. I also enjoy watching all the usual greed heads now suddenly scrambling to drown out the very Christ-like messages coming from the Vatican because it hurts their ears to hear about how they should care about the poor and the less fortunate among us. So while the Pope in 1970 may very well have deserved a poke, this one, Pope Francis, gets no poke from me, but rather a word of thanks.
Song 182, Sunday, 1/19/2014 -- Rain on the Scarecrow by John Mellencamp, written by John Mellencamp and George M. Green. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. One of my Berkeley housemates gave me a copy of Scarecrow as a birthday gift, and not having heard the opening track until I put the album on my turntable, I almost couldn't believe just how good the song sounded that first time through, and how timely as well. I always respected John, along with Willie and Neil, for all their efforts to help family farmers, and this song fit right into that work, as a very clear telling of the sad story too many family farmers have lived through over the last 3 or 4 decades. At the time, I felt sorry for those family farmers losing their farms, and I took it as a bad sign for the future of the country and our food system, but I didn't realize then just how much the troubles at family farms could be traced to policies coming directly or indirectly from the D.C. area. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, working for Nixon and Ford in the 1970s, said it was time for farmers to get big or get out, and by the middle of the following decade we could see the results of what he had done by shifting national policies to favor big agribusiness over small family farms. Knowing this now magnifies my respect for those family farmers who have survived and who continue to grow real food for real people. If you're not buying food from local farmers, you can find out more about family farms, farmers markets and other related sources at LocalHarvest.org.
Song 181, Sunday, 1/12/2014 -- 11 O'Clock Tick Tock by U2, with lyrics by Bono and music by U2. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video is from the U2 Red Rocks concert, so it's slightly different from the track on Under a Blood Red Sky which was recorded at a Boston show about a month before the Red Rocks event, but the versions are pretty similar, and if you know the album version, then the Red Rocks one has a couple of interesting twists. Before I knew the lyrics of this song, I thought it was some sort of apocalyptic vision, rather than a song about a date gone wrong, but knowing the real story of the lyrics doesn't diminish my pleasure in the tune. At the time the LP came out, my friend Eddie Spitzer was running a music store in the back of a record store on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, so of course I spent some time there, and in doing so I got to hear some new music being played by record store employees, with the latest U2 album being in that stack. I only had to hear the record a time or two to decide I wanted my own copy, and the more I listened to it, the more impressed I was with The Edge's guitar work -- not only does he manage to cover his leads and rhythms without needing a second instrument to add texture, but he does so while taking his themes in a wild variety of directions. Adding to that, I didn't know I could be even more impressed with his playing, but when I watched the Red Rocks video of this song, I was -- watching him actually do it live, he looks even better than I imagined he did. If you watch the video, you'll notice that Bono had a pretty good time on this one as well, but for a different reason, and if he had a girlfriend at the time, she may not have found his performance so impressive, though it was a lot of fun for everyone else.
Song 180, Sunday, 1/5/2014 -- The Conductor Wore Black by Rank and File, written by Chip and Tony Kinman. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Sundown cover, but the song keeps things moving even if the visual part of the video doesn't. Hearing the Sundown LP at the record store once or twice around the time it came along in 1982, I liked it so much that I got my own copy not long after. This song is my favorite from the album, though the record has a lot of other good songs as well. I won't claim to know exactly where the brothers were going in the words, but I feel like I've had this same dark dream at least once, riding on a hell-bound train. You also don't have to look too hard today to find a general with some stars on his chest who also has a heart that's blacker than a mine, though of course there were plenty of them around in the early 1980s when this song first appeared. That man sitting in the rear to the left who has no heart but has a head that's working overtime pretty well describes another type we see a lot these days, from the Wall Street bankster to the billionaire Koch brother or Walton heir, but, as you'll know if you listen to the song, This train carries liars, this train carries thieves, so if you ever take that ride, you'll probably want to be careful where you sit.
Song 178, Sunday, 12/22/2013 -- Beneath The Christmas Moon by Josh Joffen, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. At this point I've decided to move from once a day to once a week on this playlist, since it's been taking up a lot of my time lately and I might have a few other things to do, so it now goes from Day xxx to Song xxx, and in the future I'll try to post here once a week. The last post was Thursday, and I had been doing Fridays as Friends Day, so I still plan to do every 7th post as a song by a friend. Accordingly, today's song is by my friend Josh Joffen, and it's both a song about Christmas and one with an implied message of peace, so what could be better? I went in much the same direction with my Christmas song Commoner's Carole (you can see the YouTube rough cut video of Commoner's Carole here), so I like hearing a friend do a song about connecting the celebration of the birth of The Prince of Peace with questions about why the followers of this Prince must always go marching off to a war somewhere.
Song 174, Monday, 12/16/2013 -- Been on a Train by Laura Nyro, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. This song has a similar story to the one from 2 days ago, about someone who dies after putting a needle into a vein. I haven't seen a lot of concerts, but I did get to see Laura Nyro do a show in Chicago in the fall of 1970, and when she got to this one, I felt it pull me right in. I didn't know the song before the show, but she conveyed a lot of power that night with just her voice and a piano, and I've never forgotten those moments. I think she did a few of her better-known hits later in the show, but I don't remember them as clearly as I do this song. The record sounds very similar to the way she played it that night, and every time I hear it, it takes me back to that show. I don't know the story behind the song, but I would bet she wrote it from a real-life experience, because a work that cuts this deep rarely if ever comes from just what a writer might imagine.
Song 173, Sunday, 12/15/2013 -- Looks Like Rain by Bob Weir, written by John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Ace LP and jacket, but the video has a very moving song on the sound track even if it doesn't have much to watch on the visual part. Continuing with yesterday's theme of sadness, which is how I feel today, having to put my pet rabbit Dolly to rest because of her death late yesterday, today's post is a very sad tune by Bob Weir. This song is about a lover leaving, not dying, but the feeling of loss is similar enough to satisfy the moment for me. Songs can give voice to the entire range of human feelings, and at a time when I feel like this, I thank the performers and songwriters on this piece for creating a track that sounds exactly like the way I feel. If you're curious about Dolly, I posted a video of her in happier times a few years ago called The Nose Knows on my YouTube channel, which you can watch by clicking here.
Song 172, Saturday, 12/14/2013 -- Me and Baby Jane by Leon Russell, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still of the side 2 label of Carney even though this track is on side 1, but the video gives you a really moving song to listen to even if it doesn't show you much. I had planned to put up a different song for today, but then my pet rabbit Dolly died late in the day, which left me feeling very sad, so I thought this song seemed more fitting for the moment. I don't know the story behind the tune, but it sounds pretty convincing, and I believe Leon wrote a true story here, not a fiction piece. My special girl is now gone forever, just as Leon's old girlfriend is in his song, and while I don't want it to sound as if I feel my loss is nearly at the same level as his, this song perfectly fits how I feel at this moment. If you're curious about Dolly, I posted a video of her in happier times a few years ago called The Nose Knows on my YouTube channel, which you can watch by clicking here.
Song 171, Friday, 12/13/2013 -- Long-Haired Radical Socialist Jew by Hugh Blumenfeld, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. The YT video visual is just a still graphic with the Rocket Science cover and a still of Hugh, but this song moves the video along pretty well even if the visual part doesn't. Friday being Friend's Day on this playlist, today's tune is one of my favorite songs by my friend Hugh Blumenfeld. With Christmas trees and decorations going up all over, I figured this would be as good a time as any to post Hugh's song about the person who the Christmas holiday is supposed to honor. A recent story about a group of folks calling themselves Christians who erected a monument of The Ten Commandments in Oklahoma City led me to wonder why they chose to make a display of Old Testament Jewish law -- why didn't they put up a monument to something Jesus said instead? Possibly because they don't know, or care, what Jesus said, or maybe they're not so comfortable with the words of that Long-Haired Radical Socialist Jew they claim to follow?