30 June 2008

".... Some fools fool themselves I guess, But they're not foolin' me ...."

"Love Hurts" (-- Felice and Boudleaux Bryant),
from Gram Parsons with Emmylou Harris, Grievous Angel (1973);
also included on Emmylou Harris' retrospective Heartaches & Highways (2005)

Discussing this song, the All Music Guide notes, ".... As a vocal duo, Parsons and Emmylou Harris only improved on this set ["Grievous Angel" album], turning in a version of "Love Hurts" so quietly impassioned and delicately beautiful that it's enough to make you forget Roy Orbison ever recorded it. ..."

That's a good assessment, but what follows is a great one. One of my collaborators, who wishes to remain anonymous, reacted the same way I did the first time she heard this Parsons / Harris cut:
First, this version is infinitely better than the one I know from the radio. Why don’t they play this instead? I had never heard this version, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
The version I know (Nazareth?) is maudlin compared with this—wailing instead of telling the story from the heart. [Editor's note: "... (Nazareth?) ...." -- correct; also covered by "Incubus": both heavy metal bands doing this number as a "power ballad".]

This version is much more tender, which softens the message “love hurts” and makes it not a complaint but a wise acceptance of the risks of love. Emmylou’s singing adds something especially delicate; I just wish her voice were a bit louder in the mix.
It starts out beautifully—I loved it instantly—but then it gets even better. The phrase “Love is like a cloud: holds a lot of rain” is almost unbearably beautiful. Emmylou’s intonation is spot on.
You can check out "Love Hurts," performed by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, on my jukebox in the left column here.

25 June 2008

Good Morning, Internet!

Legendary Disk Jockey Wolfman Jack

{Different station, a digital world now; 12:11 am, any night you're listening:}

Yes, dudes and dudettes, this is the Sandman here introducing the new Gold Coast Bluenote jukebox. Tired of reading that Paco dude go on and on as he learns to write? Just check out our new expanded left column: there you will find the greatest little jukebox in the world. To get your mojo workin' this morning let's start with a blast from the past -- the ever sensual Miss Dusty Springfield leading you right down the path to solace and destruction, with "Breakfast in Bed," from her Ultimate Collection.

Note: This jukebox is made possible by the software engineer and fine folks over at The Golden Age of Hollywood.

23 June 2008

George Carlin, 1937- 2008

In his later years, Carlin could be brilliantly funny, sometimes bitter, and philosophically mind blowing.

George, rest in peace, you rapscallion you.

19 June 2008

"One More Cup of Coffee Before I Go, To the Valley Below"

Cate Blanchett
as one of six actors portraying a distinct aspect of Bob Dylan's Internal Personal Journey
in Todd Haynes' film I'm Not There.

As with many great films,
I'm Not There asks more questions than it answers. For example:
  • How would one get Cate Blanchett to look like Bob Dylan in his angry early 20s?
"Every picture tells a [thousand] stories, don't it?"

That is she in silhouette above. She truly channels the young, tortured genius (it must be noted, Mr. Dylan would rather I just wrote "Portrait of the Dog as A Young Artist," and shut up.) It's like a chocolate subway full of Canadian mucisians, a wanderer from Minnesota, Jesse James, and an Arkansas drummer. Nobody tells Blanchett, Dylan, or Me what to do, except our Muses -- as for me and Bob, our demons get a big say too.
  • Six actors to play one, real, living person?
If there was ever any doubt as to how important Bob Dylan has been to our culture, the fact that Hayes pulls this off settles that; Dylan is a legend in his own time. Are you down with that?
  • Yes, the remaining doubters might say, but what about that sandpaper voice?
That is the voice of you and me, of every man, woman, and child. When Dylan teaches us strident intolerance of any lie, you be glad he sounds like that. I'm thankful I got one overlapping reincarnation.

I'm starting to rant; let me wrap this up. To summarize:
This is a modern masterpiece for Dylan junkies and also a perfect introduction for those open to learning about our greatest living philosopher poet.

Now, how about one more cup of coffee while we wait for the city to fix the pump handle broken by the vandals?


Because of the fashion in which I'm Not There handles one of the five most important moments in rock 'n' roll -- Dylan, Bloomfield, Al Cooper, and The Hawks going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, see No Direction Home first. This Martin Scorsese documentary is also available on DVD and well worth buying.

15 June 2008

"Love in Vain": Before Mr. Johnson Wrote This -- There was Nothin' ...

Robert Johnson's Love in Vain performed by the best Stones lineup ever

After Robert Johnson wrote this song in 1937, there was rock n' roll.

Keef handles the arpeggios; Mick Taylor handles the Olympian duties on slide guitar, masterfully. Gram Parsons, working with Keef at the time, was a big influence on the final arrangement performed here.

"Welcome to the very first blues/rock song. Glad to see you! Settle back, can I get you a drink?" (-- Me)

Epigram: My editor, quite correctly, points out that a bold statement such as "first blues/rock song", from 1937 no less, deserves more discussion. When she's right, she's right.

The key dilemma here that lead me astray is that the story behind that "bold statement" is a legend. I am saved, however, because rock 'n' roll is, in essence, all legend.

Anyway: In the Mississippi Delta country, Mr. Johnson was just an average player, not even a match for his collaborator Sun House. Then, one moonless night, Mr. Johnson went down to a rural crossroads. At that crossroads, there he saw an apparition -- turned out to be The Devil.

Robert and Mr. D. got to talkin' -- a bargain was struck. Johnson got the original rock licks from The Devil, gladly trading his mortal soul for such a treasure. That legend continues to grow today, over three quarters of a century later.

10 June 2008

Music of the '80s That Matters: "Fortress Around Your Heart"


Fortress Around Your Heart: Sting & Co.

Fortress Around Your Heart is from Sting's first solo effort after The Police disbanded -- the trio has never officially broken up. That album, Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985),
is Sting's attempt to form a serious jazz band fused with, well, Sting.

In the film Bring on the Night, director Michael Apted documents the promotional tour preparation process. The live album Bring on the Night covers the tour itself; the clip above is from this tour.

And when I say all-star jazz band, I mean all-star jazz band -- just check out the lineup here. The Branford Marsalis saxophone mojo is just the start.

With such a timeless allegorical love poem as this, you deserve nothing less than access to the lyrics. They are reprinted below. Be prepared to totally dig this tune.

"Fortress Around Your Heart"
(-- Sting, album version lyrics)

Under the ruins of a walled city

Crumbling towers and beams of yellow light
No flags of truce, no cries of pity
The siege guns had been pounding all through the night
It took a day to build the city
We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I'd known
I recognized the walls that I once made

I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid

And if I built this fortress
Around your heart

Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge

For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire

Then I went off to fight some battle
That I'd invented inside my head
Away so long for years and years
You probably thought or even wished that I was dead
While the armies are all sleeping

Beneath the tattered flag we'd made

I had to stop in my tracks for fear

Of walking on the mines I'd laid

And if I built this fortress around your heart

Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire

Then let me build a bridge

For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire


05 June 2008

Bo Diddley (1928-2008)

Bo Diddley in 1997

I saw blues-to-rock pioneer Bo Diddley once, at Tipitina's in 1978. Tip's is New Orleans' premiere music venue (though The Warehouse had more industrial gothic charm, and was a larger venue.) The night I saw Bo, he was on fire in a way I'd never seen. With his trademark custom rectangular electric guitar, he put out the same you-gotta-move-to-this riff the whole night. Bo Diddley, for seventy of his years, could rock the house.

Bo, rest in peace.
References (found by "Salt Lick"):


Music of the 80s That Matters: Elvis Costello - "Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head"

From 1986s Blood and Chocolate:

Elvis Costello and The Attractions: Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head (studio version)

A deep album cut from the ever-growing, ever-evolving Elvis Costello, the singer/songwriter who helped a lot of us get through the 1980s.

'Everyday, [He] Writes the Book' -- who else helps the ladies handle it ...

Thanks Declan, thanks.