Wednesday, February 28, 2007

24/365 Did I Hear You Say You Love Me?/All I Do

My sister owned Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July, and I listened to it a lot in the spring and summer of 1977. Mostly up in my room. My favorite moment in the album is when they run the end of the first track—“Did I Hear You Say You Love Me?”—right into the second—“All I Do”—with no pause whatsoever, but no overlap either. It’s that tiny breath of no silence I’ve always loved.

And for some reason, it makes me think of that spring in ninth grade, even of a particular day. I’m in gym class with Pat. They call this class Lifetime Sports, making an attempt to offer us only-here-cuz-we-gotta-bees something beyond mangling team sports. Pat and I are off to hack away at some golf balls in high grass, and I think Lee is with us, and his cousin Vince. There we are: me, the saxophonist, two trombonists. Is it the instrumentation of the moment that makes Stevie go through my mind?

See, the thing is, I’m wrong. A couple of years ago I picked up the Hotter Than July CD, only to find that the album wasn’t released until 1980. OK, I guess that whole locked-in-my-room thing applied as easily at age eighteen as fifteen, but the ninth-grade-gym-class-with-jazz-band-
musicians thing? All I can figure is that “I Wish” was playing a lot on the radio that spring. I hope.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

23/365 Superstition

When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.
—Stevie Wonder

From clavinet to brass and sax, this song is so miraculous, it almost hurts.

Monday, February 26, 2007

22/365 Pablo Picasso

How could I not love a song that begins The woman that I love is 40 feet tall . . . ? A great song of delusion, Citizen Cope’s got me all on the narrator’s side of this story. Of course I’d do anything for the only one alive who knows that I’m not crazy.

Mr. Officer, if you’ve come to take her
Then that means one of us gonna end up in a stretcher.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

21/365 Into the Groove

This song is Chicagoland partying in 1985, in both straight and gay bars, but mostly at the one under the Marlboro man, where I saw more cocaine than ever before or since. (Afraid of how good it could be—have you ever heard anyone utter the phrase “I didn’t really like cocaine”?—I’ve still managed to avoid it.) Those cowboys sure loved their Madonna.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

20/365 Cubicle

Another commercial, another expensive import. Didn’t that iPod ad just make you wanna get the hell out of your cubicle and into some serious headbanging? Dude, the whole song is even better. Rinôçérôse. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Friday, February 23, 2007

19/365 Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World

This one’s so beautiful it can make me cry. Some toy commercial used the opening bars around Christmastime years ago. Then I heard it at the end of a film, Finding Forester, and I stayed for the credits. Iz Kamakawiwo`ole died ten years ago, but he left behind some great music. One of my gay friends, while listening, exclaimed: “But he’s got the words wrong!” To me, it’s endearing, improvisational. But to him, well, it’s the national anthem. Don’t mess with the Rainbow.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

18/365 Struggle

Another car commercial. This time Pontiac. Maybe American automakers know I’ve never bought one of their cars, cuz they’re getting to me with the music. It’s just another song in a minor key with a beat, but I had to hear more. The duo is Ringside. I just wanna move ahead, I just wanna free myself, but it’s a struggle.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

17/365 Get a Move On/Bird’s Lament

After the earlier discussion with lolololo/Otter about the heartbreak and wonder of popular music in ads, I’ve thought of a few more pieces I had to track down and own as the result of commercials (the posting of which will take me into the weekend). This first example led me not to one CD, but two, and both were hard to get.

It was a Lincoln Navigator commercial. I can’t find the commercial online, but it involved a New Orleans backdrop, I think. The tune was Mr. Scruff’s “Get a Move On.” Out of print. I bought a used copy for some ridiculous price but have never looked back.

Once I got the CD, though, I realized that Mr. Scruff had sampled (and sped up) an artist called Moondog, a song called “Bird’s Lament” (in memory of Charlie Parker). Moondog, aka Louis T. Hardin, was a blind street musician in New York. He recorded a lot, and he’s one of those guys I should have known about, but didn’t. I found “Bird’s Lament” listed on a CD called Sax Pax for a Sax—again, out of print. I watched used copies on Amazon til I could get one for $30 (for a long time, they started at $80—I am not making this up). The collection is quirky and astounding, as amazing an entwining of sax voices as I’ve ever heard.

All because of a Lincoln Navigator commercial. Should I be grateful I finally found this stuff, or horrified that it happened this way?*

*Rhetorical. Really.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

16/365 Sarah the Whale/The Whale Song

Maybe it’s because it’s winter. Maybe it’s because dancing Friday and cross-country skiing Saturday so crippled me that I haven’t had any exercise since. Maybe it’s because I’ve been eating like a bird (i.e., seven times my own weight in a day). But “Sarah the Whale” keeps looping through my head.

Burl Ives recorded it, and I’m guessing he wasn’t the only one. It’s sung to the tune of “Dixie,” and the verse I can’t shake is:

Her name is Sarah and she’s a peach
But you can’t leave food within her reach
Nor nursemaids
Nor Airedales
Nor chocolate
Ice-cream sodas.

Sigh. So true.

Maybe I’ll get to the ice rink today. If not, maybe onto the NordicTrack. I think my hip has stopped talking to me, and I can start balancing it all out again. If not, well:

What can you do in a case like that?
What can you do but sit on your hat
Or your toothbrush
Or your grandmother
Or anything else
That’s helpless?

Monday, February 19, 2007

15/365 Loaded and Laid

I was in a David Bromberg mood last night. Hanging out with Tim in Martini Lounge (aka my living room), we quickly tore through Midnight on the Water and How Late’ll Ya Play Til? Vol. 1. Every track is brilliant, of course, but as I am one for bawdy lyrics, I must here pay tribute to a song Bromberg may not have written but sure could deliver. It begins:

I finally figured out just what my problem is:
I need to get loaded and laid.

It’s a masterpiece of alliteration, as the second verse claims:

I wanna be ravaged and ruined.

And the third:

I wanna be tortured and teased.

Finally, there’s a near-apology close to the end, as he explains:

Believe me, I wouldn’t even’ve brought the subject up
Except it’s been up on its own now for days.

Breathtaking. Beautiful. Bromberg.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

14/365 Bohemian Rhapsody

I was 13 years old and had never heard anything like this Queen release. I sucked down its operatic pathos like a tincupful of icy well water on a sweltering day. An eighth grader had just killed himself, something almost unheard of. Nothing really matters, Freddie crooned at the end, anyone can see.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

13/365 Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing

Any time I hear Chris Isaak, I want to slap on a pair of tight jeans and some cowboy boots, go to a smoky dive bar, down a few brews, and lean seductively over a pool table, cue drawn, briefly frozen in a moment when I’m about to make a perfect shot.

Friday, February 16, 2007

12/365 Your Feet’s Too Big

It’s hard to pick a favorite Fats Waller song, but it would be hard to not pick this one.

’Nuff said? One never knows, do one?

Say, up in Harlem,
At a table for two,
There were four of us:
Me, your big feet, and you!
From your ankles up, I say you sure are sweet.
From there down, there’s just too much feet!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

11/365 Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)

For Susan

I read her first entry. How do I know that song? Memory delay. . . then a woman’s voice. Of course. Astrud Gilberto, on my most yummiest Getz/Gilberto album, featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Beyond the accent, there’s something about Astrud’s almost-hesitant attack on English lyrics that make it sound like she’d be more comfortable going native. I imagine myself trying to pull off singing in Portuguese. I don’t think I’d end up a bossa nova/jazz sensation.

I suspect Susan might.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

10/365 My Funny Valentine

I found this Rodgers and Hart classic in a book of show tunes kept at the piano. As best I can remember, the first time I heard it was by playing it myself, as a kid, learning what had to have been a relatively easy version. I don’t know when I first heard a true cover, and I’m such a devotee, I can’t think of a version I haven’t liked. Yesterday I spun Cleo Laine’s. Hers is so slow and starts on a note so low, I can barely reach it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

9/365 Cat Scratch Fever

When I told Tim about this project, he said, “Are you gonna do ‘Cat Scratch Fever’?”

For the record, I don’t really care one way or the other about Ted Nugent or this song. Tim’s referring to the memory I have of my friend Lisa, who thought the lyric was “Can’t scratch me there.” Not a ridiculous stretch, given the source.

There. This song is officially covered.

Monday, February 12, 2007

8/365 Pink Moon

In response to Otter’s entry today noting that nothing is sacred anymore, the proof in part being favorite songs showing up in ad campaigns (which I agree can hurt), I would like to quietly propose an upside: Embarrassing as it is, sometimes these ads introduce us to someone, god knows how, we missed. I hereby admit that when Volkswagon ran that Cabrio commercial with Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon,” my whole body asked, Who is that?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

7/365 Popsicle Toes

Of course, this song is the tour de force of Michael Franks’s The Art of Tea, and this verse falls under the category of “I wish I’d written that.”

You got the nicest North America
this sailor ever saw.
I’d like to feel your warm Brazil
and touch your Panama
but your Tierra del Fuegos
are nearly always froze.
We gotta seesaw til we unthaw those
popsicle toes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

6/365 Eggplant

Has this ever happened to you?

You have a tape. There’s no marking on it. Its contents are not identified in any way. You and your new lover play it all the time. Especially, it seems, while cooking dinner. You have no idea who you are listening to.

The lady sticks to me like white on rice. She never cooks the same way twice.

Eventually the tape wears out, or it is no more. You’d like to replace it. You wonder who and what it was.

I can’t reveal her name but eggplant is her game.

But these are the days before the Internet. You don’t really have many friends who are into jazz, and maybe, at the time, you wouldn’t’ve even classified it as jazz.

Maybe its the way she grates her cheese or just the freckles on her knees.

Almost a decade passes, and you are having dinner with friends. There is a voice coming from their stereo speakers that is familiar. It must be Him. Your friends tell you it is Michael Franks, and yes, you are talking about The Art of Tea, and no, they don’t have that one.

You get it as soon as you can. To this day, you still like to play it while preparing food. Or just about any other time.

When my baby cooks her eggplant,
she don’t read no book.
She’s got a Giocanna kinda of dirty look.
And my baby cooks her eggplant
’Bout nineteen different ways.
Sometimes I just have it raw with mayonnaise.

Friday, February 9, 2007

5/365 Songs from the Wood

Be honest: Doesn’t this Jethro Tull song just make you want to grab some maid or stable boy for a romp in the hayloft?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

4/365 Dixie Chicken

I came to Little Feat through a boyfriend (the music of a relationship may outlast all else). For my birthday, he gave me Time Loves a Hero, but I found Dixie Chicken all on my own. I could single out any song on the record, and might before this 365 game’s done, but the opening bars of “Dixie Chicken”—side A, track 1—immediately thrusts me into a world I’m not really from, even though a part of me believes that I am. When the Dixie Chicks named themselves after this song, well, I could only respect that.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

3/365 The Scotsman

Deloney’s mention of sea shanties in his comment on the previous entry made me think of Stan Rogers, who I thought had recorded the drinking song, “The Scotsman.” On a Google search for lyrics, though, my memory was jarred that it was actually on a Bryan Bowers recording I had (I was listening to both artists about the same time). I can’t remember for sure which I heard first: my friend Wayne belting this song in his beautiful baritone or Bowers on the album. Probably Wayne owned the album, because I think I had it on a tape copy.

The song, of course, is wondering if it’s true what they don’t wear beneath the kilt.

I went to see Bryan Bowers perform once, when I was briefly living in Illinois. The day is memorable because the morning of the concert, I woke up knowing I had to see a dentist. Immediately. It was a Sunday, but I talked someone into it. The dentist met me at his office, driving up on his BMW motorcycle. He gave me penicillin to get rid of the swelling and pain; within days, those pesky wisdom teeth were extracted.

The Scotsman woke up to something a bit more confusing than impacted wisdom teeth, but ultimately flattering.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

2/365 Joy to the World

It’s my first memory of finding out there was music on the radio that I was supposed to know about, music that had nothing to do with a Broadway production. I was in third grade, maybe fourth, when I became part of the obligatory belting of this song from atop the jungle gym. Everyone up there better know the words. (N.B.: This was my introduction to the term three dog night.)

The other contender for this first-awareness spot is Don McLean’s “American Pie,” but I believe it was released slightly later. All elementary school memory of that song is indoors. It’s definitely a more cerebral work, better suited for the classroom.

Monday, February 5, 2007

1/365 Tangled Up in Blue

In 1982, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks was the soundtrack of falling in love. The album was already eight years old then, already a nostalgia piece. Music can make you have nostalgia about nostalgia.

I love every bloody track of it, but “Tangled Up in Blue” grabs me at the start and brings me back to the whole album, to the whole early-80s-falling-in-love thing. “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew . . .” Now there’s a line for an Indigo Bunting.

My friend Sioux says that one morning, her daughter Aidan, who at the time was young enough to be sleeping in a crib but old enough to have language, called to her parents one morning from the other bedroom: “Mommy! I’m tangled up in blue!”