Thursday, March 27, 2008

GMVW # 12: "The Awakening"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 12: The Awakening
Song: A Quick One by The Who
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
March 27, 2008

The Who have been a major source of entertainment for me for almost 30 years.  If I were to come up with a synonym to describe this band it would be 'circus'... a perfect circus.... a four ring circus.  Pete Townshend, lead songwriter, has always balanced nicely his humor with his deep convictions.  His commitment to the Who has fascinated me because early on he was aware of the fact that he would have been better off creatively by going it alone (think Dylan, Clapton, Mitchell, Young, Bowie).  However, every time Townshend pushed them the rest of the band rose to the occasion, and so he remained loyal (he was the last member of the band to release a solo album).  Lucky for many.

My admiration for this band goes back to 1980, my first year at North Adams.  Early on, I was not in a great position for meeting people, living in an off-campus house with the landlady (an elderly woman, Ma Betti) and 4 roommates who were destined to be footnotes in my life.  However, one of these roommates introduced me to a group of characters who lived on campus in townhouse # 1 ("TH1").  I was welcomed into the fold for several reasons, including that I played a good game of pool in those days and that I could eat hot peppers with the best of them.

If Phil and Mac kept me on my toes in my high school years with their wit and sarcasm, these guys brought things to another level.  Most everyone referred to each other by last name only (Swanna, Kershaw, B-Lee, McCabe, Pierce and Miller).  Kurt was the only one who kept his first name intact (as did I).  There was no sympathy for naive comments, which were responded to with a resounding "BAHHHHHHHH!!!!".  It was a friendship of brutal honesty, and I settled into this atmosphere rather comfortably for a couple of years (with an eye on my grades, I declined a sophomore year offer to move in) before heading up to Ottawa (others from TH1 also moved on, although not as voluntarily).

One evening we all headed downtown to the movie theater to watch the then 1-year old Who movie "The Kids are Alright".  I had no idea what I was in for. The movie started off with a bang (literally).  As I watched the smoke clear off the stage after the Who performed 'My Generation' in a clip off the old Smothers Brothers Show (this is the opening salvo in the movie, where it's said Betty Davis, another guest that evening, fainted while watching the Who's drums explode) I leaned over to Kurt, the only TH1-er I could trust to ask the occasional naive question.  I knew Townshend and Daltrey from some of their solo-music videos on TV, but now I needed to know more.  The exchange went something like this:

Me: <leaning in so as not to be heard by the others> "ok, that's Pete Townshend and that's Roger Daltrey.....but who's that playing the bass guitar?"
Kurt: <looking at me in utter disbelief> "PETE.... THAT'S THE OX! BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
The rest of TH1: "BAHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Me: <turning back to the screen> "uh, oh, ok"

I settled in for the long haul, and did not utter another word for the entire movie. I figured Keith Moon out on my own.

The movie/documentary continued at a torrid pace, each performance and interview leaving in ashes the one before it.  I had never seen anything like it, and this was not even a live concert.  Then, about half way thru, this week’s Gem Music Video "A Quick One" unraveled on the screen.  Now, most of the songs performed in the movie I had already heard many times on the radio (I just never attributed them all to one band), but this 10-minute 'mini opera' was new to my ears.  The performance was over-the-top astounding!  I was hooked.  It was the beginning of a long, fun process of album purchases, research, interpretation, volume, and air guitar.

A few additional comments:

> The Kids are Alright was co-produced by a fan of the Who, who collected together much of the video footage.  It was a brilliant idea, as the fan view comes thru in this movie documentary in a big way. 

> The "A Quick One" clip was from an abandoned 1968 Rolling Stones movie "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus".  It's been said that the main reason the Stones abandoned the movie was because the Who out performed them (the movie was finally released in the 90's).

> Along with his bass playing, John Entwistle (the Ox) also played a multitude of brass and string instruments on Who songs.  When the Who gathered to perform the studio version of "A Quick One", Entwistle forgot to bring his cello.  The result is that instead of playing the cello at the point in the song where it was intended, the Who chant "cello" (mid way thru the song).  A classic <improv> Who move.

> There is a point near the end of the song that I swear the Who must hold some kind of record for most notes to come out of 3 instruments in a ten second span.

This song must be heard loud, but if you are not up for 10 minutes of hi-decibel Who, I've included a Gem Light video ("Happy Jack" from the same 1966 "A Quick One" album and 1979 "The Kids are Alright" movie).

"cello, cello, cello"

- Pete

(you may have to piece together the url's.... they are long ones)

Gem Music Video: A Quick One
Happy Jack

About the video: The Who performing at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968

Best Feedback: Fred

You need to start saving all this for your memoirs.  Great writing


Also: Jeff

I was wondering how long it would take you to get around to those damned blokes, let alone fullblooded dylan, or jonathan R.  Did I ever get you any of those Dylan XM radio theme time shows?  I think there may have been one or two of them in the last batch of disks.  I have enjoyed that show a lot, listening to some of these comments.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

GMVW # 11: "Mulla Mulla Mulla!"

Gem Music Video of the Week #11: Mulla Mulla Mulla!
Song: It’s Money That Matters by Randy Newman
(Songwriter: Randy Newman)
March 20, 2008

At the core of every great song is some angle on truth.  I feel that way about all the 'Gems' I've rolled out thus far. 

.... and then there's the songs of Randy Newman.

Many Randy Newman songs bring an entirely different twist to the truth table.  Often, to get a point across, Newman will sing from the narrative of the...well, let's just say the alternate point of view.  There's 'Short People' (the racist); 'Sail Away' (the 18th century slave trader); 'Political Science' (the extremist); 'Cuyahoga River' (the industrial polluter) and many others.

Gem Music Video of the Week 'It's Money That Matters', from the phenomenal 1988 album 'Land of Dreams', is one of these songs.  I never knew this music video existed until recently and its a great video because it reflects the songs lyrics perfectly (as in the rare event when a movie captures the essence of a books story line).  There's also a lot of subtleties I did not pick up on until a few replays (like some of those old MAD Magazines you had to leaf thru several times to pick up on all the graphic detail).  That's Mark Knopfler doing the guitar bits.  The VH1 site that the video link sends you too occasionally previews it's songs with a commercial (which actually fits in nicely with the song title), so bear with the possibility of a 20 second lead in.  Most of the extras in the video are Bear Stearns employees (sorry, bad joke).

To show that there is also some straight-truth coming out of the music of Randy Newman, I've including another Gem Light video (with a third less calories than your regular gem) from the same 'Land of Dreams' album.

Below the links to the videos are the lyrics to 'It's Money That Matters' for your sing-along/clap along pleasure....

Have a Happy Easter


Gem Music Video: It’s Money That Matters (This VH1 video link has been temporarily lost *Dec 09*)
Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their back
Moving careful and slow

It's money that matters
Hear what I say
It's money that matters
In the USA

All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive

When I was a young boy, maybe thirteen
I took a hard look around me and asked what does it mean?
So I talked to my father, and he didn't know
And I talked to my friend and he didn't know
And I talked to my brother and he didn't know
And I talked to everybody that I knew

It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters
Whatever you do

Then I talked to a man lived up on the county line
I was washing his car with a friend of mine
He was a little fat guy in a red jumpsuit
I said "You look kind of funny"
He said "I know that I do"

"But I got a great big house on the hill here
And a great big blonde wife inside it
And a great big pool in my backyard
and another great big pool beside it
Sonny it's money that matters, hear what I say
It's money that matters in the USA
It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters whatever you do"

About the video: Both Gem and Gem Light are made for MTV videos

Thursday, March 13, 2008

GMVW # 10: "Irish Eyes"

Gem Music Video of the Week #10: Irish Eyes
Song: Zombie by The Cranberries
(Songwriter: Dolores O’Riordan)
March 13, 2008

I'd like to believe I'm not one for name dropping, but when the date is March 17 (or close to it) and your friends name is Pat Shea (or Patty O'Shea as I like to say for a day) it's hard to resist.  Now the date was St Patrick's Day, 1986 or 87 and for the first time in 3 years, I was not going to make the trek up to Ottawa Canada for a roaring good time.  In fact, it was the first time ever that I was facing the fact that work was unavoidable for the entire, normally festive day.  It was a hard pill to swallow, and as I dragged myself out the door around 7:30 am that morning, I stopped, turned around, and placed a call to Pat and the rest of the crew at their home on Gladstone Street in Ottawa to wish them a good day and a good time. 

Patty answered the phone and sounded more chipper than I would have expected that early.  I asked him how the day was going, not expecting much more than a discussion of events to come.  Pat's response: "Dave just blew his lunch" (or liquid breakfast as I was later informed).  Our conversation carried on a bit longer, but I cut things short; not only because I had to go, but because Pat’s reply made me feel worse.  The early morning image of Dave worshipping the porcelain bowl would not leave my mind for the entire day.

Now this is not necessarily about Dave (a normally sedate guy) or blowing lunch, or Pat for that matter (aside from the name dropping).  It's about the magic of St Patrick’s Day, a day where, if approached correctly, can play out in slow motion.  By starting the day the way they did, Pat and crew were doing the impossible: Adding time to an endless day.  Pat could have told me it was a beautiful Ottawa day (as St Pat's Day always is).  He could have told me the Pogues were playing that afternoon at Molly Maguires and they had tickets.  He could have told me that Pierre and Margaret Trudeau accepted the invitation to their evening house party on Gladstone Street.  None of it would have had the same effect on me than what he said.  The Leprechaun was already with them that day, and I was missing it. 

This weeks Gem Music Video of the Week had to be a band from Ireland, and so I choose one of my favorites, the Cranberries.  The song 'Zombie' is a bit heavy musically and lyrically (about the then fighting in Northern Ireland).  Although not the SNL version (likely my favorite music moment ever on the show), this Hard Rock Cafe version is also very good.  For those looking for a softer, gentler Cranberries touch, I'm including a "Gem Light" (with a third less calories than your regular Gem)...the song 'Dreams'. 

I believe I've had at least one great St Patrick's Day's with everyone on this list (Ruth, we have to work on this).  As always, there's still plenty to celebrate (the Celtics, Peace in Ireland, the Blarney Stone), so enjoy the day.   Maybe even call home and tell your spouse you are enjoying the moment in a local pub and will stick around for an extra pint of Guinness and good Irish music.  Better yet, invite them to join you.  Either way, you can blame me.  Just don't make the mistake of calling a party you can't make.  You may get a touch of regret after realizing you are missing out on some magic.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Gem Music Video: ‘Zombie’ (at the Hard Rock Café)

SNL version (just as good)


About the video: Live at the “VH1 Hard Rock Café” (some time not long after the song’s release).  The Gem Light is a made for MTV video

Best Feedback: Dave

Therein lies some passion...

Thanks, Dave


Also: Steve

Wow, Pete. You hit it right on the head.
St. Patty's Day - Ottawa in the spring - The Gladstoners Memories that will last a lifetime.

Cheers to you this St. Patricks Day!
I will be in Penticton, BC at a trade show. I will lift my glass that evening and give a toast to the laughter, song and stupid antics of the Gladstoner Gang!



And: Pat Shea

Thanks Pete

For a great letter and invitation.  Sure, add me to the list. I'm always open to checking out some good music and especially so is Sharon, whom I hope you will get to meet this summer.

My tastes in music have changed a lot since the days of which you spoke in your story. I've gone more to the jazz(lounge) and alternative route. Sharon and I just saw Pink Martini at the NAC on Friday night. It was incredible. Check them out at . And my favourite for some years now has been Tom Waits. I could listen to him all day long (and do so often.)

We are going to try to be in Maine around the second week of August. It would be great to see you then.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

GMVW # 9: "A Dylan Throw-Away"

Gem Music Video of the Week #9:  A Dylan Throw-Away
Song:  Seven Days by Bob Dylan
(Songwriter: Bob Dylan)
Covered Here By:  Ronnie Wood
March 6, 2008

There was a stretch of shows I went to see in the late 80's/ early 90's where 8 of 10 musicians covered a Bob Dylan song.  The shows ranged from small night clubs to arenas.  The artists were just as diverse.  I was already well entrenched in Dylan's music, but this stretch had me amazed at how far reaching his influence was.  When Atlantic Records hosted a tribute night to Dylan back in 1992 in Madison Square Garden, much of this diversity came together for a night.  I can't think of too many good tribute shows over the years, but this one was an exception. 

One of the great things about this event was that the 2nd tier performers stole the show. The heavy hitters (Harrison, Clapton, N. Young) were good, but they were not what made the night.  That recognition belonged to Richie Havens (can anyone find this clip on line?), Johnny Winter, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Lou Reed, the Clancy Brothers, and Ronnie Wood, who's 'Seven Days' performance is featured in this weeks Gem Music Video of the Week.

The sound is not as good as I would hope (as opposed to the official video) but I believe it gets the point across.  Ronnie Wood and the rest of the band (mostly members of Booker T and the MG's) are jamming and appear to be loving every second.  Wood, along with most other musicians that night, seemed to hand pick the perfect Dylan song for his given style and talent.  I love the interplay between Wood, members of Booker T, and others on stage.  Finally, like this song, there were quite a few deep-cuts chosen that night as well.

Listening loud helps.....

"Seven more days, all I gotta do is survive"

Gem Music Video: Seven Days

- Pete


About the video: Dylan’s 30th Anniversary with Atlantic Records live at Madison Square Garden, NY, NY.


Best Feedback: Tom

Hi Pete

Another informative post of great facts, thanks!

FYI - the below's this blogger's ongoing dedication to Mr. Zimmerman's creativity/works: