Song 247, Sunday, 4/19/2015 -- Respect Yourself by The Staples Singers, written by Luther Ingram and Mack Rice. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. In the middle of the fall of 1971, you almost couldn't go anywhere without hearing this song (or at least anywhere in the Chicago area where I lived at the time), and I considered that a good thing -- a very good thing, actually. Previously, I hadn't known anything about The Staple Singers, but I really liked the altitude and the attitude of this song, from their Be Altitude: Respect Yourself LP. I especially savored the line Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day, with its implied thought that the members of the KKK did their dirty deeds with their faces covered so they could hide their identities, which proved that they didn't respect themselves. The track makes the fundamental point that if you truly respect yourself, then you will show that same respect to others, and conversely, if you routinely act disrespectful to others, then at your core, you don't respect yourself either. These ideas resonated strongly in that era with connections to both civil rights and feminism, but today, in a much different time and context, there still are, and will likely always be, plenty of people who need to hear and understand the message when someone says you ought to respect yourself. On a side note, this message of self-respect also relates to my political blog for this week, called Ayn Randed Part 3: The Hypocrites, which appears on both Politics 106 and Daily Kos.
Song 246, Monday, 4/13/2015 -- Girls Talk by Linda Ronstadt, written by Elvis Costello. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. Linda's LP Mad Love arrived in the fall of 1980 as a welcome surprise, and I felt it marked another high point in her recording career, in contrast to the previous 3 or 4 years when she seemed to be drifting along without a clear sense of direction. Critical reaction to the album varied, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride along both sides of the vinyl, and especially this track, plus one or two others. I felt that Costello really hit his songwriting stride during this era, and anyone who savors clever puns (as I do) can't help but smile on hearing lines like You may not be an old-fashioned girl but you're going to get dated. This week seems like an appropriate time to post a song with such a strong lyrical structure because I just reconnected with my old college roommate, who I've had no contact with for a good 4 decades -- I give him most of the credit for helping me to find my own lyrical voice, as well as bringing me to an understanding of the importance of doing so, as an essential key to the craft of songwriting. In that space of less than 6 months, he often opened my ears to the good and the bad lines of songs that I already knew, he introduced me to some other songs with strong lyrics, and he offered some good general advice that helped me to find my own direction with words. During the days, I would struggle with trying to get more chemistry and calculus into my head, and then, in the evenings, back at the dorm room, I was learning what I really wanted to know, because he was teaching me. Thanks mostly to him, I learned to figure out what to say whenever I've got a loaded imagination being fired by girls' talk, or whatever.
Song 245, Sunday, 4/5/2015 -- A Simple Desultory Philippic by Simon and Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. During my HS days, I spent a number of good Saturday afternoons hanging with my buddy Ed (the one who did the video camera work for my appearance in the But video) listening to his Simon and Garfunkel collection, and I soon got to know all of their albums by heart. I truly enjoyed Paul Simon's lighter side, even though I didn't quite recognize all of the names the first few times around. I felt I should know all, or most of them, and being a fan of the Mamas and the Papas, I did know who Lou Adler was, plus I recognized Roy Halee from the credits on the SnG LPs, but it took a while for me to connect Mick Jagger as the lead singer of the Rolling Stones. I wouldn't hear any Dylan recordings until I got to college, so while I recognized some references to Bob, I didn't know how much this track is really a parody of him. As I got to know Dylan's records quite well a few years later, I also came to appreciate an additional level to the understated humor of this track. Further on, in the fall of '74, I read Atlas Shrugged and a few more pieces by Ms. Rand, but at the time, I was still mispronouncing her first name, like many people do, as if it rhymed with Stan. A year or 2 after that, listening to this track, I realized that Paul Simon had shown us, a long time ago, that her first name actual rhymes with sign. By then, I also felt like I'd been Ayn Randed but had gotten past it, maybe because I too had learned the truth from Lenny Bruce. On a side note, I crafted this piece today as a companion to my political blog entry entitled Ayn Randed which appears on both Politics 106 and Daily Kos.
Song 242, Sunday, 3/15/2015 -- Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, written by Lindsey Buckingham. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. Fleetwood Mac had sounded pretty good to me the first time around with Buckingham and Nicks added to the mix, but I thought the next record they put together kicked it up a notch, and this track, as the first single from that LP, completely fulfilled the promises that their earlier efforts had hinted at. The match that lit the fire of anger in Buckingham's searing vocals and smoking leads on this cut came from the Rumours (U.K. spelling) of love entanglements swirling around the band. These whispers provided not only the title for their album but also the inspiration for the songs it contained, including one by all 5 band members. While I didn't often make it to major concerts back then, I did happen to catch the Mac on the Rumours tour, and they put on a very good show that summer, with each band member in turn showcasing their talents and creating a whole performance even greater than the sum of those very impressive parts. Lindsey B left the strongest mark, though, as he burned through the riffs of Oh, Well (an FM song that predated his membership in the band by about 6 years), deftly handling multiple guitar lines that the record version had needed at least 2 players to cover. My good friend and fellow music traveler Jeff Larson (who has appeared on this playlist a few times) recently visited the Record Plant in Sausalito, which is the place where FM began the Rumours recording and did much of the work. Jeff posted a picture on his Facebook page of himself standing at the door, but as he mentions in his post, it is sadly no longer a place where musicians craft magical recordings.
Song 241, Tuesday, 3/10/2015 -- Top of the World by Joe Canzano, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. Seven weeks after my last personal friend song post, this week's song is by my NJ friend and former neighbor Joe Canzano, also known as Happy Joe. I don't have much of a history with this one -- I actually only heard it for the first time 2 or 3 weeks ago, and I would guess that it's probably a fairly recent composition, but I also would rate it as one of his best. In fact, I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so -- the song made the short list as one of Cafe Improv's Best Performances of 2014. I know I'll be listening to this version quite a bit in the near future, and I look forward to a studio rendition when he gets around to it. Right now, though, Joe is otherwise occupied, promoting his first novel, called Magno Girl, and that will probably keep him busy for a while. I wish him luck on that enterprise, but I also want to include a small plug here for his most recent CD, Big Mouth, which comes rocking out of my iPod speakers on a regular basis -- it's definitely his best recording to date, and one I never get tired of hearing. You can find out more about Joe's CD, novel, live performances and other endeavors here.
Song 240, Sunday, 3/1/2015 -- That'll Be the Day by Buddy Holly & the Crickets, written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. I think I first heard of Buddy Holly from reading John Lennon's story about the origin of the Beatles name, which was inspired by the Crickets. At some point in my high school Beatlemania phase I also learned that my favorite musical quartet had covered a Holly song called Words of Love and I liked that cover quite a bit. I happened to hear Peggy Sue on the radio one summer night in 1965 and liked it, but didn't know that it was a BH golden oldie. Back then, I knew nothing about the day the music died, and in the early '70s when I started catching up on the '50s rockers that I had missed, I was saddened to learn about the plane crash that had cruelly cut short such a very promising career. The more I heard of Buddy's music, the more impressed I was about how much he had accomplished in so short a time, though for all the fine songs he wrote and recorded in that short time, I always liked his first hit (this one) the best. I recall hearing Dick Clark (American Bandstand) mention that he had heard the music of the Beatles initially described as Buddy Holly style guitar coupled with Everly Brothers style vocals, which seems accurate for their early recordings, and makes it clear how much this son of Lubbock, TX, influenced the English foursome that would become the most influential rock and roll ensemble of their era. It's sad that Buddy had to leave us as soon as he did, but that bad news on the doorstep on a chilly early February day in 1959 -- that would be the day that he died. Side note, added 3/10/15: When I posted this song on 3/1/15, I had no idea that 2 days later CBS would announce that the NTSB is considering reopening the investigation into that famous 1959 plane crash. For some reason, it just seemed like the right day to post the first Buddy Holly song to the list (well, maybe a bit late, at Song 240), so perhaps it's just that synchronicity thing kicking in.
Song 239, Sunday, 2/22/2015 -- Take It Back by Reba McEntire, written by Kristy Jackson. You can find a YouTube video of this tune here. In the early '90s I listened to a lot of country radio, and heard a lot of new cuts that I liked, with this track being one. This one also very well illustrates the way so many of the New Country records of the era leaned far enough in the rock direction that you could have more accurately called much of it country rock. Although Reba didn't write the words, she clearly enjoyed delivering the lines that tell her cheating lover how she sees through his obvious lies and now she has decided to make him pay the consequences for playing around. The lyrics fit very well with Reba's image as a no-nonsense kind of country woman who, if she did happen to find herself on the receiving end of some nonsense, would soon see through it and quickly turn the tables on any man who thought he could fool her -- she was nobody's fool, and she was happy to let everyone know that. On a side note, this track is my fourth sly reference to the first verse of my own song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, which begins with lines that mention Pam Tillis (Song 210), Johnny Cash (Song 218) and Randy Travis (Song 231), followed by the line does Reba McEntire-ly too much? You can find the As Long as Merle is Still Haggard video here.