Thursday, April 24, 2008

GMVW # 16: "Spiritual Undertones"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 16: Spiritual Undertones
Song: Beware of Darkness by George Harrison
Covered  Here By: Eric Clapton
(Songwriter: George Harrison)
April 24, 2008

Way back when the depth of my rock music insight consisted of not much more than Sgt. Pepper & the Red Album, I remember a day coming out of church after a Sunday Mass with my good friend, Pete and his older brother Paul.  The three of us walked up to one of the parish priests, Father Buchette, who handed back an album that Paul had lent to him several weeks earlier.  The album cover, which I had never seen before, showed a heavily bearded man sitting in a chair in the middle of a field surrounded by a bunch of gnomes.  At the time I recall thinking that this must be a spiritual album, and although Father Buchette’s critique appeared mixed, I was impressed that Paul found it important enough to ask one of our parish priests to listen to it.

Paul was always an avid Beatles fan.  He had a collection of rare and valuable Beatles albums that were as amazing to look at as a great coin or baseball card collection.  Paul’s collection did not stop with the collective Beatles, however.  It carried through their solo careers.  The cover of John & Yoko’s ‘Two Virgins’ album was a bit tough to look at (as was the Beatles ‘Butcher Cover’), but the rest of the collection was pretty darn neat.  One time, as I thumbed through the collection with Pete, I came across that gnome-cover again.  This time I had the time and inclination to examine it.  The heavily bearded man was George Harrison, and the album was ‘All Things Must Pass’.

One of the many reasons the Beatles broke up was the tension between George Harrison and Paul McCartney over George’s 2-song limit per album.  Because of this limitation, Harrison had built up quite a back log of songs by the early 70’s, much of which he unloaded on this unprecedented 3-album set, his solo debut. 

‘All Things Must Pass’ was indeed spiritual, and so was the man who penned the songs.  It was hilarious to many (including Harrison) that the Beatles spoof movie ‘The Rutles’ has 3 British actors playing Paul, John and Ringo, but a dark skinned, sitar strumming actor from India playing George.  Harrison took his Eastern influences (including religion and sitar) very seriously and was not afraid to share his beliefs with others.  This was important to me growing up, because Harrison (along with a handful of other rock musicians) was connecting dots with other aspects of my life, particularly my own faith.  Without this added spiritual depth to rock music, I may have moved on to jazz or classical music long ago (Dad, I’m still working on the latter).  Songs like ‘Every Grain of Sand’ (Dylan), ‘Bargain’ (Townshend/Who) and this weeks Gem ‘Beware of Darkness’ (off  ‘All Things Must Pass’), along with many others, are to me, great, soul searching songs, often with a little edge to them.

Not long after Harrison was to ‘pass’ on himself, a number of great musicians got together to honor him.  The ‘Concert for George’ was exceptional to me since it’s not often I enjoy a tribute show.  Harrison’s own son is front and center during most of the show.  Harrison’s solo songs and his songs with the Beatles were covered.  Eric Clapton sings ‘Beware of Darkness’ in the linked Gem video of the week, which, despite the title, I believe is mostly a positive song/message.

To show that Harrison still had a sense of humor at the time of his ‘All Things Must Pass’ album, I’m also including another song from the same album sung at the same tribute concert. ‘Wah-wah’ (as in ‘blah, blah’) is a stab at Paul McCartney for all those years of holding him to 2 songs per album (or something along those lines).  I have to give McCartney credit for joining in on the chorus at the tribute show (a number of the musicians smile over at McCartney during the song).  It reminds me of a story I read in Rolling Stone one time about Don Henley jumping on stage at a night club to add backing vocals while a surprised Mojo Nixon sang his song ‘Don Henley Must Die!’. 

Enjoy the music and have a great weekend.


Gem Music Video: Beware of Darkness (the ‘Concert for George’ version with Eric Clapton has been temporarily lost *Dec, 09*.  This is Harrison in this link)

About the Video: “Concert for George” after his passing

Best Feedback: Tom

Hi Pete

This was an awesome write-up too - and I forwarded it to Tim, who's an avid Beatles fan, and Mike for education's sake.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

GMVW # 15: "Bass Lines"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 15: Bass Lines
Song: I’m the Man by Joe Jackson
(Songwriter: Joe Jackson)
April 17, 2008

Occasionally, the greatness of a song can be attributed to a single musical instrument. Most often, it’s the lead guitar or the piano.  Rarely is it any other instrument.  This is especially true for the bass guitar, which is typically in the mix simply to keep the beat, along with the drums.

It takes an unusual style for a bass player to step to the forefront of a rock song.  One bass man who can do it is The Who’s John Entwistle.  His bass playing has often been described as a lead instrument in the Who’s mix.  The same case can be made for Joe Jackson’s bass player, Graham Maby, and it is Maby’s bass lines that make Joe Jackson’s ‘I’m the Man’ this week’s Gem Music Video. The pace of the song builds up to a mid-riff crescendo, and it is the bass guitar that leads the way.

Listening again to the lyrics to ‘I’m the Man’, I can’t help but think of the great movie ‘School of Rock’, where the lead character (played by Jack Black) rails against ‘The Man’.  ‘The Man’ in the Joe Jackson song claims to have sold the public many a theme (hoola hoops, yo yo’s, skateboards, hit movies, etc).  The video appears to have been hastily put together, showing Joe Jackson as ‘The Man’, bragging about his lifetime of accomplishments. The off-synch lip synching could be intentional (considering the con artist character that Jackson is portraying). 

Other song’s for which playing ‘air bass’ in your living room is not all that unusual:

> Bill Wyman’s bass playing during the horn refrains in ‘Rocks Off’ (off the Rolling Stones ‘Exile on Main Street') 
> Graham Maby’s bass lines in Joe Jackson’s ‘One More Time’
> The entire Quadrophenia album (also extraordinary for the drums, vocals, song writing, and guitar... did I miss anything?)
> Wyman’s ‘vrooming’ bass at the end of the Stones ‘Paint it Black’
> McCartney’s 11-note bass line near the end of the Beatles ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey’ (off the ‘White Album’)
> Phil Lesh’s 5-note outburst near the end of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Truckin’ 
"Get out of the door and light out and look all around.... **1,2,3,4,5** "  (it helps to hear this one live)
> Entwistle’s mid-riff in ‘Substitute’
> Entwistle’s bass lines in the refrains of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
> Entwistle’s bass lines in ‘Dreaming From the Waist’ (off ‘Who by Numbers’)
> Mike Mills bass lines in REM’s ‘What’s the Frequency Kenneth’
> The bass lines in Van Morrison’s ‘Into the Mystic’

'I'm the Man' reminds me of the one time I can ever remember the stage getting rushed (through security) at Great Woods. So, pull out that air bass guitar, dust it off, and play along….

“I had a giant rubber shark and it really made a mark
   Didja looka, looka lookit all that blood”

Gem Music Video: I’m The Man


About the Video: Made for MTV type video (rare)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

GMVW # 14: "The Bride Knows Me"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 14: The Bride Knows Me
Song: I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock n’ Roll by Nick Lowe
(Songwriter: Nick Lowe)
April 10, 2008

Nancy and I are married 17 years this coming Monday.  Reflecting back on the big event brings back a great many memories.  Bob arrived a week early from France to keep me company.  Steve borrowed a company-owned vehicle to make the trek down from Canada and in the process vastly expanded his service area (international, no less!).  Fred gave a top-notch best man speech and put up with an oversized tuxedo.  Mom & Dad did everything imaginable to make the day a great one. 

…. and of course, Nancy married me.

Leading up to the wedding, the two of us put an awful lot of time into the reception song selection (what would and could be played and what would not be played).  We had a great band to work with, lead by Andy and Amy King.  They ended up learning at least 5 songs for us and weaved in others from our cd collection in cases where they couldn’t play the song of choice (the Who’s ‘Long Live Rock’ comes to mind, where Andy let me temporarily swing his microphone around ala Roger Daltrey).  At one time Andy stated to me that it was the best ‘Gig’ they every played.

Gem Music Video of the Week, “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock n’ Roll” by Nick Lowe is what I think to be the best wedding dance song of them all. The video goes a bit overboard with the sad state of the groom, and it cuts out a bit short at the end, but it’s great nonetheless.  Note the posters in the background at the pool hall.

I’ve also included some other memorable songs from that day all those years ago.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Nancy.  Everyone else, Happy Recollections.

- Pete

Gem Music Video of the Week:

It took me a while to track down a Van Morrison video of our 1st dance “Have I Told you Lately” ….and  I refused to play the unnecessary Rod Stewart cover version, which was released later:

Townshend & the Who rarely play Blue Red & Gray live (I never saw it, and I've been to many shows).  I hit the jackpot with this one.  Mom & I:

Nancy & her Dad danced to Red River Valley:

Cutting the cake to the Beatles "When I'm 64".. and what a cake! (baked by Nancy's Godmother)

A few more selected dance songs:
Linus and Lucy (Peanuts theme song):

"Stop Twisting my ARm" .... a band favorite:

Don McClean's "Winterwood" (for Mom & Dad):

Closing Song... Bob Marley "Is this Love"  (I had this slotted for it's own Gem
Video of the Week.... oh well):

Finally, I recalled Fred giving me a pop quiz early in the morning on Lake Street when we were just getting up.  He asked me what song came to mind as I looked forward to the day ahead.  I put World Party "Put the Message in the Box" on the turntable:

About the Video: The Gem is a made for MTV like video, but is very hard to find.  One scene shows Nick Lowe in a pool room.
Other videos:
“Have I Told You Lately” … made for MTV.  Has to be Van the Man.  Hard to find
“Blue Red and Grey”….Townshend sitting on a chair on stage, wearing glasses.  Appears to be some time in the late 90’s.  He’s playing the banjo and reading the words, getting a kick out of the lines he wrote.
Red River Valley” The video is no longer available.  I can’t recall the details.
“When I’m 64” Julian Lennon singing to still shots and old footage of the Beatles and his Dad.
“Linus and Lucy” Someone playing the piano, only shows the hands
“Stop Twisting My Arm”: Tommy Rivers and the Rapids Downtime live
“Winterwood” cover, unknown artist sitting in a living room (peacock feathers on the wall)
“Is this Love” Bob Marley, made for MTV type video
“Put the Message in the Box” World Party made for MTV type video (Atlas video, Seaview films)


Best Feedback: Steve


Its been a long time, we have been apart so many years, but you have an art of bringing back forgotten memories that we all cherish. I wish you and Nancy the happiest anniversary. 17 years years! Has it been that long since I stole a car! Maybe that's a good thing, eh?

All the best!


Also: Bob

Pete & Nancy,

Happy anniversary to both of you!  I wish you many more years of happiness together and hope to continue to share many of those years with you.

We are really looking forward to seeing both of you next summer.

Your below mail has brought back many fine memories.  I still remember the day you proposed to Nancy in Paris on top of the Eiffel Tower.  You wanted to leave my apartment to move into a hotel to have some private time after popping the big question to get a way from the snoring of Mac who was also camping out in my apartment.  But then you had a lot of explaining to do to Nancy as she felt you might hurt my feelings by moving into the Hotel as she did not know the reasoning of your motivation to get some privacy.  The episode brings a big and warm smile to my face.

Again, happy anniversary!



And: Tom

Hi Pete

What a nice review of that special event 17 years back already!  It doesn't seem we've advanced that far into our lives already - though I can't remember not having kids awakening us to another early-morning start to a day (Thomas turned four today, so he was extra exuberant :)  See how things happen - you have a strong and steady partnership as parents of two fabulous kids, soon to be young adults themselves (Mike told me on the phone about another great concert he had just driven to, and I sometimes have to pause and ask how my little "Mikey" can already be doing such).  So yes, the years just go on and on automatically and all we're responsible for is packing them up with good things to remember them by as they glide away like a train car on ice (or like the bus in Heart & Souls).  Here's to you and Nancy this coming Monday - Cheers for a job done super well!

Cuz Tom


And: Fred

great memories.  I had forgotten about the quiz in the morning

Happy Anniversary and many more.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

GMVW # 13: "Poetic Justice"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 13: Poetic Justice
Song: Closing Time by Leonard Cohen
(Songwriter: Leonard Cohen)
April 3, 2008

In the 60’s, a number of cultural centers sprung up out of nowhere.  We all know about Swinging London, Greenwich Village, and the San Francisco scene.  These locations experienced an explosion of music, arts, poetry, and fashion.  However, there were also lesser known hubs, including Montreal, Quebec.  One of the most influential poet/musicians of the era, Leonard Cohen, came out of this Montreal scene. 

For a city so close to Boston, Montreal seems worlds apart.  It’s a great place to visit if you want to experience something different.  A dead giveaway is attending a Canadiens hockey game.  When you look around, you notice the crowd are dressed in suits and ties.  There's a sense of Old World (Continental Europe) priorities, including the lyrics to song, which are more poetic than standard Rock music.  This was the back drape to the Montreal that Cohen came out of in the 60’s, and it’s this era that he seems to gain lyrical inspiration for this weeks Gem Music Video ‘Closing Time’ from his 1992 album ‘The Future’. 

Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame this past month (Lou Reed gave the induction speech), which was long overdue.  He’s an intense and highly influential figure who has gained far more popularity in Europe and Canada than in the States.  In the late 90’s he spent 5 years in seclusion at a cloistered Zen center.  He’s more of a poet than a musician, which is likely why he’s been banned from the music box at the annual Blob Squad gatherings in Humarock. 

I’ve also included a Gem Light still-shot video of an early Cohen song ‘So Long Marianne’.  The contrast in his vocals between the 2 songs, spread out between 25 years, is striking.  Below the URLs are a few of Cohen's lyrics that have stuck with me over the years.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Closing Time

So Long Marianne

"They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
for trying to change the system from within.
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin."
-- First We Take Manhattan (1988)

"I'm standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
is fastening my ankle to a stone."
-- So Long Marianne  (1967)

"But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet" -- Democracy (1992)


About the video: Made for MTV style video (although rarely if ever shown)  The Gem Light is a still-shot video put together by a fan.

Video Rating: 1


About the video: Made for MTV style video (although rarely if ever shown)  The Gem Light is a still-shot video put together by a fan.

Best Feedback:  Amy

Not to take even one of these gems for granted...this one took me by surprise.  Not only had I not heard it before, but I'm pretty sure I've never laid my eyes on this musician.  So, I thank you for that.  He's raw, unglamorized, husky talent.  And this gem was a learning experience for me.
Molly and Jack can't wait for this weekend.  I'll see you at our usual spot around 11:30 on Sat.