Thursday, August 28, 2008

GMVW # 34: "The Written Word"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 34:  The Written Word
Song:  Success Story by The Who
(Songwriter: John Entwistle)
August 28, 2008

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a desk drawer in or near the kitchen for quick-access to personal belongings.  Going back to my teen years in Franklin, the routine was; come in from a night on the town; keys, Swiss Army knife and wallet into the drawer; a conversation with old faithful Nicky by the wood stove; and off to bed.  I still have a drawer near the kitchen.  Occasionally I clean it out, throwing away some stuff, putting other stuff in storage (i.e. concert ticket stubs, letters, homemade cards from the kids).  Yet some things remain in that drawer year after year after year:  There’s an old watch I will probably never wear; a pair of John Lennon style sunglasses; a harmonica; a few cigars; a key to my first car; an old license; a Globe article on the team by team growth of the NHL (good trivia); Charlotte’s Baptism candle; an address list of all Smith-side cousins; a guitar pick; and, relative to this week Gem, a web-site print-out of the lyrics to all the songs on the Who’s 1976 album ‘Who By Numbers’. 

Albums often come without written lyrics.  When this was the case in the days before the WEB (as it was with ‘Who By Numbers’), one was left to his/her own devices when it came to interpretation.  This often resulted in hopeless or hilarious translations.  Cousin Jack may recall ‘Gypsy’s Tramps and Thieves’ lyrics “We’d hear it from the people of the town, they’d call us…” translated by me to “We are here for the people of the town named Cole”.   ** No worries, this is not this weeks Gem. **.  Yet, I was not the only one that struggled to understand a musician’s lyrics.  Ron Wood stated that when he prepared the first time to tour with the Rolling Stones, he got to read lyrics to many of their songs on a TelePrompTer as Mick and the boys broke him in.  Wood got a hoot out of the lyrics, many of which were completely different than what he had assumed for years.

Now it’s as simple as typing the song name in Google to get the lyrics to anything.  A few bands lamented this (R.E.M.), but I found it fantastic.  Before finding the words on the WEB, I had known that the ‘Who By Numbers’ must have had intriguing lyrics, the music was too solid to expect anything less, and when I finally got to read them in their entirety, I was not disappointed (I mostly had to fill in the gaps to what I already knew, or in ‘By Numbers’ case, connect the dots!). 

Most of the songs on ‘Who By Numbers’, like most of the songs in the Who’s entire catalog, were Pete Townshend songs.  This week’s Gem, however, was the sole John Entwistle contribution to the album, ‘Success Story’.  Entwistle (the Ox) always struggled to connect with the feel of a Who album with his one or two song contributions.  Sometimes he succeeded (his songs on ‘Who Are You’ fit perfectly with the rest of that album), and others he did not (he stayed clear of contributing anything to ‘Quadrophenia’).  ‘Success Story’ fit the rest of ‘Who By Numbers’ more lyrically than musically, as Entwistle, much like Townshend , wrote about the down side of fame and fortune. 

A few other comments on Entwistle….aside from John Lennon, The Ox’s passing was probably the hardest blow for me in the context of the loss of someone I never knew personally (the closest I came was a hand shake, eye contact, and a nod of mutual understanding).  The night of the news, I went out with Mac and Kurt. We convinced the bartender in one Boston pub to play ‘Live at Leeds’ loudly from beginning to end.  The next night I went out with Mac again and we caught a tribute event at a night club.  A number of bands played Who music thru the night.  

Mac and I also caught the Who on their first tour without Entwistle.  Townshend stated one of the hardest things he ever went through was looking over to an empty space when the Who played live for the first time without Entwistle (his ‘replacement’, Pino Palladino stands back in the mix and does an admirable, self-styled job).  Aside from being the best rock bass guitar player of all time, Entwistle was the anchor for the Who on stage (everyone else was a tattered sail flailing in the wind).  He was also a great backup singer (along with Towshend, which is a highly underrated aspect of the Who’s performances), brass instrument player, and when the Who needed a high vocal (‘The Punk and the Godfather’ refrain) or low (Boris the Spider), Entwistle was the one to do it.  I had a chance to see John Entwistle solo at least 5 times.  One of these shows, at Mama Kin in Boston, remains the best club show I ever saw.

The video is a goof, but gives a bit of insight into the Ox’s persona.  I’ve also included several other Enwistle-centric videos.  Below the videos are the full lyrics to ‘Success Story’ as accessed off the WEB.  Though not quite as profound as the lyrics of Towshend’s songs from the same album, nonetheless, they were equally as captivating to me when I read them the first time.  The video, which was made for the ‘Kids Are Alright’ movie, doesn’t quite make it through the entire song…. too many other songs to fit into the movie I guess.

- Pete

Gem of the week: Success Story

The Who at Woodstock:  A clip which showcases Entwistle's backing vocals (in this case high notes).  Don't confuse with Townshend's backing vocals, as he and Daltrey get more camera time than the Ox:

Entwistle's isolated bass during 'Wont Get Fooled Again':

The Who wrote this song, 'Old Red Wine, in rememberance of the Ox:

Lyrics to Success Story

Friday night, I'm on my way home
They oughta make work a crime
I'm home for the weekend
I'm gonna make the most of my time
There's a rock and roll singer on the television
Giving up his music, gonna take up religion
Deserted rock and roll
To try to save his soul

Saturday night, gotta gig with the band
Playing the electric guitar
Someday I'm gonna make it
Gonna be a super-duper-star
Get a flashy car
And a house for my Ma
The big break better happen soon
'Cause I'm pushing twenty-one

Just like Cinderella
When she couldn't go to the ball
A voice said, "I'm your fairy manager
You shall play the Carnegie Hall"
I gotta give up my day job
To become a heartthrob
I may go far if I smash my guitar

Away for the weekend
I've gotta play some one-night stands
Six for the tax man, and one for the band
Back in the studio to make our latest number one
Take two-hundred-and-seventy-six
You know, this used to be fun

Monday morning, I just got home
Six and the birds are singing
I need a drink and my clothes are wet
Ooh, and my ears are still ringing
There's a rock and roll singer boppin' on the TV
He used to be a preacher, but now he sings in a major key
Amended his decision to the new religion

Old Red Wine


About the Video: From the ‘Kid’s Are Alright’ movie.

Video Rating: 1

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GMVW # 33: "My Glory Days"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 33:  My Glory Days
Song:  Dangerous Type by The Cars
(Songwriter: Ric Ocasek)
August 21, 2008

I would think everyone has songs or albums that stir memories of their 'Glory Days'.  Few albums evoke these memories for me like the Cars Candy-O album.  The album seemed to be playing ceaselessly in the background during my senior year of high school.  This was particularly the case at basement gatherings of a neighborhood friend, George Lazano.  The gatherings were usually small groups of us, but occasionally the word would leak out, and it would seem half the town of Franklin would converge in on the Lazano home.  Not a surprise, considering George lived in a mansion (the word 'basement' does not do justice the size and style of the lower living space).  After a few of these parties got a bit unruly, George began assigning several in our group as bouncers, which on occasion caused some consternation at the entry way.  The inevitable scuffle would often ensue.  Inside the house and in the driveway, the party roared... and through it all, Candy-O played on and on.

Candy-O was the Cars second album.  The first self-titled album was a greater hit and money maker, but for me Candy-O was a more solid effort.  It also appeared to have a loose concept to it (which I could never verify), centered on a woman (Candy-O) and the singers infatuation for her.  The Cars never got all that deep on their albums, but this effort seems to have come the closest.

For many, the purchasing of original (non-greatest-hits) Cars albums stopped at the debut album, or for the more adventurous, Candy-O.  Not so for good friend Pete Faeza, however.  When Pete got into a band, he was usually there for the long haul.  His album collections were truly amazing to look thru because you would typically get to see the entire portfolio of some bands.  Since Pete was into the Cars, his collection included lesser known albums like 'Panorama' (with the great song 'Touch and Go'), 'Shake it Up' and 'Heartbeat City'.  Pete also loved Pink Floyd, and as such his collection included deeper cut Floyd albums like 'Ummagumma, 'Meddle', and 'Animals'.  Because I always respected Pete's taste in music, his explorations into the lesser known albums of some bands increased my own interest in digging deeper into the music of bands I enjoyed, as well as the bands in his collection. 

Gem Music Video, 'Dangerous Type', off of Candy-O, is followed by a few other cuts off the same album.  If you have similar memories, enjoy the time warp.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Dangerous Type

'Double Life'

'Lets Go'



About the video: These are all live videos, but no crowds shown.  ‘Dangerous Type’ has a heading at the beginning: ‘MuSiMax’

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Fred

Good memory.....

After a Lazano party, Mom caught me, for the first time, drinking.  She said she was "disappointed" in me.  That hurt me worse than anything she or Dad could have said/done

Thursday, August 14, 2008

GMVW # 32: "The Chameleon"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 32:  The Chameleon
Song:  Change Your Mind by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
(Songwriter: Neil Young)
August 14, 2008

Neil Young can surprise you, and he does it in a number of ways.  One is his versatility.  You look at him and think "that guy is set in his ways.  He's got the plaid shirt, the ripped jeans and the hippie hair.  He's a 60's guy through and through".   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Hanging out with Pat Shea in Ottawa several weeks back, we were in agreement that Pat's fellow Canadian is the gold standard for connecting with younger generations of musicians.  He's toured with and learned from younger bands like Social Distortion and Sonic Youth.  He has sung songs about Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain, and he does all this while maintaining his own musical integrity.  Neil Young is indeed multifaceted.  He's a chameleon.

Another way Neil Young surprises is his energy on stage.  The first time I saw him live was a show with his band Crazy Horse (the mid-80s Garage Band tour, complete with garage deco all around the stage).  I lucked out.  I could have been initiated into Young's live act thru a variety of other incarnations, including with CSNY, the Blue Notes, Booker T and the MGS, solo, with wife and friends or in several other flavors (all good).  Crazy Horse does the best job though of bringing out Neil Young's amazing stamina and physical exertion, taking some songs as far as they can go and then back again.  The man is energetic all right.  He's a force.

Finally, Neil Young can surprise with how revealing he is through his lyrics and stage presence.  He is a brutally honest, personal, and courageous musician.  Bruce Springsteen and U2 are known for these superlatives, but Neil Young is the one I connect with on this level.  He takes chances and does not always pull it off, but that's ok: You may luck out and see the best show of your life.  I'm usually willing to take the risk.  Neil Young is intense and thought provoking (check out the album 'Tonight's the Night').  He's an open book.

Which brings me to this week's Gem.  I dug around a bit, because Neil Young has many gems to choose from, but I wanted a video that showcased the feel of a live Crazy Horse song, which made the search a bit harder.  Finally I came upon this great song and video 'Change Your Mind' from the 1993 album "Sleeps with Angels".  The entire album lamented the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, which hit the grunge music scene and the rock world in general pretty hard.  A number of younger musicians wrote songs about this tragedy, but it was Neil Young who hit home the hardest, jumping across 2 generations to connect with the reaction and give it a much needed elders perspective that could only come from a sage like Young. 

The video also gives a glimpse (about half way thru) of the jam sessions that Neil Young and Crazy Horse will often break into in their sets.  The Grateful Dead, The Who, and The Allman Brothers are all known for their jams and they are all great, but Neil Young with Crazy Horse is equally superb (yet less recognized in Rock History).  Of all the qualities of a great live band, it's the ability to break into an eye-opening jam that separates the men from the boys.  It's in a great jam where many musicians can sound like one.  It's something that can only develop from years of playing together as a band (in Young's case this was enhanced with his studio music, which was often done with the entire band playing the studio song together from beginning to end, instead of relying on overdubbing prerecorded instruments together on the final record).  The sound of a Crazy Horse jam can be brooding and build up in intensity.  The band seems to relish these moments together on stage.  My friend, Bob Bouvier and I used to joke that Crazy Horse probably waited with bated breath by the phone to get the call from Neil to go on tour (I've often wondered what they did when Neil was touring with others or solo). 

Seeing Neil Young and Crazy Horse that first time in the mid 80's, particularly during songs like 'Powderfinger' and 'Cortez the Killer' was a jaw dropping experience....probably the biggest gap ever between what I expected out of a concert and what I got.  This proved to be reason to catch just about every Neil Young show that has come down the pike ever since.  Watching this video has me thinking that it has been too long....I've got to get myself to another Neil Young and Crazy Horse show.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Change Your Mind (this fantastic footage has been temporarily lost.  Need to find… need to find!  In the meantime, here’s the music with amateur video footage)

* A correction to last week's entry, when I labeled John a Yankee fan.  He denies this and insists his position has always been one of begrudging admiration.  You never want to make someone into a Yankee fan who is not.  Sorry, John.


About the Video: An amazing live video of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, performed in studio.  The light fades to dark at times, then illuminates the band again.  Billy Talbot is wearing a fedora.

Video Rating: 1 (a big, fat, 1)


Best Feedback: Amy:

Amazing Pete.
How I wish he could read this. 

Also: Paul:

Nice one Pete.  I still wish that I had seen Neil in California when I worked for Ken Fisher.  The bar he goes to is on top of "sugar mountain" next to my old boss's house (there is nothing else up there but a fancy restaurant almost accross the street - which Neal apprently never goes in).  I went in there several times to no avail.

Also: Tina:

dear pete,
thanks so much for sending me this weeks edition. i love it and i cant wait to share it with my friend kimberly. she is a HUGE neil young fan. so huge that when she saw him at great woods she fell to her knees and started chanting neil young is god, neil young is god. (there might have been a tiny bit of drinking involved, but i cant really remember...). anyway, would you please add me to your list? id love to keep in touch with you and in this way. i love reading your writing!
love tina
ps mine is at you go from the home page to the blog. still writing about the roadrace
pss i always have a blast when i see you and your family. it seems like we all say that, so why dont we do it more often???????????????????
pss have not stop giggling about lambie...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

GMVW # 31: "Blind Faith"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 31:  Blind Faith
Song:  100 Years by Five for Fighting
(Songwriter: John Ondrasik)
August 7, 2008

The Manny Ramirez trade this past week was a tough pill to swallow.  It took years, but in the end, I was a Manny backer, despite his transgressions, and it’s going to take a while to get over his parting ways with the Red Sox.  This is unusual for me because I almost always find myself in management’s corner when it comes to disputes with players. However, in a sport that’s way too uptight for its own good, Manny brought a laid back attitude that was refreshing (and will probably add 20 years to his life).  Red Sox fans will not likely see his kind again (after all, have we ever seen another Derek Sanderson or Don Cherry with the Bruins?).  For many, that’s a good thing.  Not me.  Visions of blasé teams and personalities dance in my head (and don’t think Yankees fans aren’t dancing in the streets!).

The Manny move had me reflecting back to the 2004 World Series.  I have to admit, I was a skeptic right up until the final game...too much water under the bridge.  The player strikes had done their fair share of curbing my appetite for baseball over the years, but at the core of my jaded attitude were all the years of Red Sox in-the-clutch futility and bad team chemistry.  I was a die-hard fan in the 70’s, but as the years rolled on into the late 80’s, it came down to too much invested with too little return.  I could role each painful memory out here, but we all know them (at least the Sox fans among us).  No need to re-live the gory details (well, maybe a little below).

Yet something happened that final evening of the 2004 baseball season.  Turning on the TV to watch the game, I caught a pregame nationally televised video montage of the previous 100 years of Red Sox baseball played to the tune of this weeks Gem, ‘100 Years’ by Five for Fighting.  There was amazing synchronicity between the song and Red Sox history.  It was apparent that Fox TV was already convinced of the outcome, and after watching the footage, so was I.  A flood of memories hit me at once as I jumped out of my seat and into the car to get a bottle of champagne at the local package store for the inevitable toast with Nancy later that night.  I’ve searched hi and low for this pregame video on the WEB but cannot find it, so I will attempt to do the play by play, and have attached the original ‘100 Years’ video.

These are all the numbers (ages) mentioned in the song and an attempt to piece together the footage that went with it:
15 (the refrain: “there’s still time for you”) The Ruth years.  3 World Series in 4 years.  Also, 1918 was the 15th World Series and the last won by the  Sox (until 2004).  Babe Ruth footage

The last place 20’s.  Harry Frazee sells off most of the team.  Footage of Ruth as a Yankee.

Things start to turn around.  1933 Tom Yawkey takes over the team.  Footage of 30’s additions Lefty Grove, Jimmy Foxx, Bobby Doerr, and the best hitter of all time, Ted Williams.

Footage of the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series (first Sox appearance since 1918): Pesky hesitating throwing the ball home in the fateful 7th and final game against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Footage of Williams as the last .400 hitter; Williams last at bat in 1960 (a home run).

The Impossible Dream but another 7 game loss to the Cardinals in the World Series (first Sox appearance since 1946).  Footage of Yaz, Conigliaro (hit by pitch), Lonborg.  The start of Red Sox Nation.

“Petrocelli’s under it, he’s got it! And the Red Sox Win!”

From there, the song spirals fast with footage from’75 (first Sox World Series since ’67 is a 7 game loss to the Reds), ’78, ’86 (first Sox World Series since ’75 is a 7 game loss to Mets): Bernie Carbo, Dwight Evans (“Evans going back…back, and….what a grab!”), Carleton Fisk (“If it stays fair!”), Fred Lynn, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner (yet another reminder of the stop sign which lost it’s post outside the Beacon Hill Pub that fateful night), Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs (down and out in the dugout), Pedro Martinez,

Grady Little, Pedro, Aaron Boone.  The Sox missing out by a hair the 99th World Series.

100 (the title)
The eve of the first Red Sox World Series in 86 years.  The 100th World Series.  Footage of beating the Yankees 4 in a row.  Footage of Shilling’s bloody sock, Pappi,…. and Manny.

One other thought:  This song, particularly the ‘15’ refrain, reminded me of what it was like as a kid to have blind faith, a believer no matter the odds. Seeing Peter last year, never wavering when his favorite new player, J.D. Drew struggled mightily most of the season, had me longing for those days. In the end, Peter’s faith paid off and it reminded me that despite my elation when the Sox finally won the big one in 2004, it paled in comparison to what the victory brought to those who never gave up.  I remembered those summer mornings in the mid/late 70’s, heading over to John Roche’s house, the 2 of us absorbing every word in the sports section and pouring over the stats and standings (although we were rooting for different teams, as John was a Yankees fan.  I’m not sure this is still the case… John?).  Those were the days when Peter Gammons wrote for the Boston Globe.  I was a believer.  I’d like to think Manny helped bring some of that back.  Adios, Manny.  I hate to see you go.

I’ve also included a song link from the Impossible Dream album.

“Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this”

- Pete

Gem Music Video: 100 Years


About the Video: Made for MTV video.  The ‘Yaz’ link is only audio

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Tom:

This was a beautiful and passionately written write-up Pete!  Should go into the Globe for all Boston fans to read.  It was hard to see Pedro go, and now with Manny gone it's just so different too - the end of a truly magical era!!!