Thursday, June 26, 2008

GMVW # 25: "Inner Demons"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 25: Inner Demons
Song: The Beast in Me by Nick Lowe
Covered Here By: Johnny Cash
(Songwriter: Nick Lowe)
June 26, 2008

If you saw the Johnny Cash movie ‘Walk the Line’ you know the producers didn’t pull any punches.  There was no sugar-coating Cash’s life whatsoever.  In fact, one could argue the opposite.  Yet, though I never read a Cash critique of the movie, I got the sense that it was in line with how he wanted to be portrayed.  Why?  This weeks Gem Video explains it.

Honest song writing can be based on virtually any subject matter, but when the topic is self deprecation, there is little doubt as to its truth telling.  Few musicians however find the courage to open themselves up in that way to their fan base.  Richard Thompson is well known for writing lyrics about his inner turmoil.  So was Kurt Cobain.  I believe this was also the case with Hank Williams.  Pete Townshend got so personal on the ‘Who By Numbers’ album that Roger Daltrey struggled to find a voice for the lyrics to several of the songs, and outright rejected doing the lead vocals to ‘However Much I Booze’ (which Townshend ended up singing himself on the album).  Townshend also lit into himself thru other songs in his career:  ‘Don’t Let Go the Coat’, ‘Slit Skirts’, ‘The Punk and the Godfather’ and ‘New Song’ all come to mind.  Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ is pretty impressive as well along these lines.

And so, this week’s Gem Video, ‘The Beast in Me’ is a bow to all those musicians who aren’t afraid to reveal the warts in their lives.  Nick Lowe (Gem # 14) wrote the song, but it was clearly written for (and covered by) his one-time Father-in-Law, Johnny Cash, who gladly accepted it as his own, frequently telling audiences that the song had him pegged.

I’d like to think though that, despite all his regrets, Johnny Cash still had his bases covered at the Pearly Gates.  After all, handing in a resume with an accomplishment which reads “Famous for playing at prisons for prisoners for peanuts when he could have been playing to large sold-out venues’ would be a strong qualification for entry.  Speaking of prison appearances, I have also included the clip from of my favorite part of the ‘Walk the Line’ movie.  I can’t tell if the prisoners are real or actors.  I must have replayed this scene (including the lead up backstage scene) 30 times when I rented the movie.

“Sometimes it tries to kid me that it’s just a teddy bear
 and even somehow manage to vanish in the air”

- Pete

Gem Music Video: The Beast in Me (the original link is no longer there: This one is pretty darn good, though *But I will switch to the first link in a heartbeat*)

Cocaine Blues (from the Walk the Line movie) *Man, this is awesome*


About the Video: Johnny Cash in his later years, sitting on a stool surrounded by an audience in chairs.  The video starts in color, but soon switches to black and white

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Jack

Greetings my old friend.

Well, you know what I mean...we're not old yet.  :-)

I was reading your commentary below, and would like to give you some food for thought on the statement below.  First, you are absolutely right that Cash was self deprecating.  The reason he was so was because Cash understood that regardless of his talents, his abilities to reach to the downtrodden and yes, the choice of venues from which he ministered with music, all of this emanated from Cash' understanding that he was spiritually destitute, and that really there was nothing he could offer to God to redeem himself other than knowing the Son of God.  Otherwise, why would we need a redeemer, right?  Aside from his great talents, he knew that he was going to approach the pearly gates with empty pockets, and that it was Christ alone that justified him.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by me".  This is the core doctrine of what Cash believed.  Any way...just thought I'd throw it out there.... ;)

Take care,


Thursday, June 19, 2008

GMVW # 24: "A Moral Compass"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 24: A Moral Compass
Song: What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
(Songwriter: Marvin Gaye)
June 19, 2008

Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ album achieved a rare, often elusive goal:  A highly successful wire-to-wire commentary on society’s woes.  Not the type of subject matter people typically flock to the record store for.  In order to pull it off, Marvin Gaye had to enhance the product with something that has fallen many musicians with equally lofty ambitions: Great music.  No problem there.  ‘What’s Going On’ is a masterful album.

In most cases, albums with social-awareness subject matter include songs covering other topics as well.  Several classics include Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’; Mellencamp’s ‘Jackie Brown’; Neil Young’s ‘After the Goldrush’; The Kinks ‘Father Christmas’; Woody Guthrie’s ‘Deportees ‘; 10,000 Maniacs ‘What’s the Matter Here ‘; Springsteen’s ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’; the Clash ‘London Calling’; Leonard Cohen’s ‘Democracy’; Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If a Tree Falls’; the Pretenders ‘My City Was Gone’; Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’.  All have (and continue to) cut deep with me.

Rarely though, do you get an entire album that works on this level.  One that comes to mind is my favorite Lou Reed album, ‘New York’.  Another is Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ album. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ tops this short list.  This weeks Gem is the title track.


Gem Music Video: What’s Going On


About the Video:  This link is no longer working (actually, the most recent update in Jan 2010 works), so it’s hard to recall.  However, I do remember Marvin Gaye saying ‘Thank You’ in response to the applause and right after the first line ‘Oh, Mercy, Mercy Me’. The clip can also be seen in the Rolling Stone Magazine documentary of the first 20 years of it’s existence. 

Video Rating: 2


Best Feedback: Fred


Now that one is off the beaten track for you.  I love the diversity.

Got me to listening to "Let's Get It On", which I love

Thursday, June 12, 2008

GMVW # 23: "The Music Man"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 23: The Music Man
Song: Wavelength by Van Morrison
(Songwriter: Van Morrison)
June 12, 2008

There are only two musicians I’m aware of who, because of their philosophy regarding award ceremonies, snubbed their own induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.  Johnny Rotten (inducted with the Sex Pistols) was no surprise to anyone.  The other, Van Morrison, may have been a surprise to some, but not his fans. If the world of Rock musicians has a reclusive curmudgeon, it’s Van the Man. 

With this attitude, you would have to be good to survive in the business, and Van Morrison certainly fits the bill.  At one of his concerts, I mentally constructed a mathematical formula and it’s always stuck with me:  Van Morrison = Music.  Not quite E = MC2, but not too shabby.  There is simply no sound more melodic than a good Van Morrison song.  Just listening to the album ‘Astral Weeks’ is enough for me to come to that conclusion.

I’ve been holding off on a Van Morrison Gem up until now, because he has gremlins surfing the web, constantly searching for and then blocking his videos from sites like YouTube, claiming copyright infringement (while at the same time reinforcing his reputation).  A few songs, ‘It Stoned Me’, ‘Into the Mystic’, ‘Domino’ and ‘Real Real Gone’ are all Gems, but have come and gone on most web sites. However, one version of ‘Wavelength’ has survived (buried in wavelengths) and I just hope it avoids the detection of Van’s gremlins for a week or so.  There are some great videos on his official web site, but you have to sign up as a member.

Van Morrison revels in his Irish roots, but he actually spent a number of years living in Boston in the late 60s as he was struggling to make ends meet.  In a 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine issue filled with inspirational articles about the fifty greatest artists of all time (each written by an inspired musician), it was Peter Wolf’s article about Van Morrison that I found to be the most moving.  Wolf talked about Morrison’s relocation to Boston with his family, and his struggles to redefine himself in the States, after enjoying several early pop hits in Ireland.  Over a period of time, in front of very small crowds at a club called the Catacombs (which Wolf described as ‘subterranean’) Van Morrison slowly developed his true sound, which survives to this day, and comes out pretty clearly in this Gem.



About the video: Live Morrison from the mid 70’s

Video Rating: 2


Best Comments: Jack

I've been reading your clips and find them interesting and entertaining to say the least.  I particularly found the clip two weeks ago to be a good one...the Irish curmudgeon.  The only song I really knew from him was "Brown Eyed Girl".  This reminds me of an old show called, "Don Kirshners Rock Concert" but I think you're upstaging him. :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

GMVW # 22: "Always Running at Someone's Heals"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 22: Always Running at Someone’s Heals
Song: Bellboy by The Who
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
June 5, 2008

Back in 1996, the Who announced that they would be performing their 1973 double album Quadrophenia in it’s entirety for 6 shows only, all at Madison Square Garden, New York City (the tour was later expanded).  This was a certified BIG EVENT, and I was determined to get tickets.  Picking up on a tip, I called a local ticket agency (instead of one in NY) and was able to secure 4 tickets rather easily.  Mac and Kurt were also able to get tickets.  In the month or so leading up to the show I eagerly counted down the days.

Bec and Dave, Nancy and I made the trek down to Manhattan, with Dave driving.  The conversation swayed to home life and our kids.  It would likely have continued along these lines with plenty of driving ahead of us.

Dave had other ideas……

About half way thru Connecticut, roughly the demarcation between Red Sox fans and Yankee fans, as we entered the gravitational pull of the Big Apple, Dave casually reached into a side compartment, slipped disk 1 of Quadrophenia out of its sleeve and popped it into the his hi-fi player.  He turned up the volume.  Way up!  Conversation-impossible up!  It was clearly time to get focused on the task at hand.

The remainder of the ride proved to be almost as intense as the real event later that evening.  Dave’s timing was impeccable, as we sucked in the riveting sound of Quadrophenia all the way to the city.  The high volume ride was also a reminder of many a great road trip over the years, which at that stage in our lives, were already beginning to thin out. 

The concert itself was fantastic.  Zac Starkey, Ringo’s son, played drums, and for the first time I got a taste of what the Who must have been like with Keith Moon (I had already seen them with 2 other drummers through several shows over the years and neither compared).  The show picked up steam as it lurched through each song on the album.  Entwistle’s bass playing was superb. 

Quadrophenia is a concept album with a clear story line, but it’s great primarily because of the music.  Pete Townshend brings the best out of every member of the Who in this album, including himself.  Gem Music Video of the Week ‘Bell Boy’ was so well written and performed, that the Who were able to get away with Keith Moon singing half the song (as the Bell Boy character).  'Moon the Loon' was a horrible singer, but he pulls it off with Bell Boy, including this live video footage from 1974.  It’s the only footage I’ve ever seen of Moon singing on stage with the Who.  You can hear the backing track synthesizers playing thru the song, which Moon had to monitor via headphones.  The Quadrophenia tracks were difficult for the band to follow, and they soon scrapped the album from their shows, only to resurrect it 22 years later in New York.

I’ll say this about the narrative…. it’s a testament to Townshend that he was able to put so much passion into a story about the earliest fans of the Who (smart-dressed, scooter riding “Mods” from early 60’s London) 10 years after the fact, when so much had changed in his life in the interim.  Also, Townshend worked on Quadrophenia immediately after putting 2 years into a failed concept album, “Lifehouse”, that did not see the light of day until 20 years later.  It was quite a rebound.  The story is about a fictional Mod, Jimmy.  The song Bell Boy, one of many great songs on the album, is about the final straw of disillusionment, when Jimmy realizes the lead Mod daylights as a bell hop in a glitzy coastal hotel.

I’ve also included 3 other versions of Bell Boy: The studio version (with still footage from the Quadrophenia movie), the movie version (with Sting as the Bell Boy… this abbreviated version of the song can be seen between time stamps 1:10 and 2:40 on the 3rd url link); and finally, the 1996 version in Madison Square Garden, with Billy Idol as the Bell Boy.

“Ain’t you the guy who used to set the paces
Riding up in front of a hundred faces
I don’t suppose you would remember me
But I used to follow you back in ‘63”


About the Video: Live 1976 concert showcasing Keith Moon on vocals.  The others are explained above

Video Rating: 2

Best Feedback: Steve

I love your stories! Quad is still one of my favorite albums!