365 Day Song Challenge: Day 88 – “Dim”

Day 88: A song that you love to work out to.

“Dim” – dada

DimIt should be noted that I find “love to work out to” is a strong statement. It’s the word “love” that I take issue with, really. I am not a huge fan of working out. I’m not any kind of fan of working out, to be perfectly honest. Like Chris Knight, I run only when chased. These are some of the reasons that “My Greatest Challenge” last year was to ride roughly 3700 miles. That much exercise was, indeed, a real challenge.

Which is not to say I absolutely hate working out. I just mostly hate it. I do enjoy riding my bike (once I learn to ignore that gasping for air) and a good spinning class (or a personal spinning session) feels good. I would prefer not to have to exercise, but I like food (and living) too much to completely ignore it.

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Which brings me to “Dim.”

I first mentioned this song back in the post about my favorite song of the 90s. It has an incredibly driving beat, one that made me promise myself long ago never to listen to it while driving at night. Just hearing it puts visions of passing other cars at 100 miles an hour in my head. My foot, which is often secretly in cahoots with my brain on these things, would quickly set the plan into motion. So it’s better just to avoid the temptation completely.

It is, however, perfect for spinning. When the song comes on, I can’t help but start cranking. It’s four minutes and twenty-two seconds of balls-to-the-wall pedaling. Followed by four minutes of rolling around on the floor clutching my stomach and struggling to breathe, and on rare occasions, three minutes of unconsciousness.

“Dim” is from dada’s first album, Puzzle. When it comes to dada songs, readers will be most likely to be familiar with “Dizz Knee Land,” which was the “hit single.” But much like many “one hit wonders” there’s a lot more to dada than that. They’ve actually recorded at least five albums and an EP (that I know of, there may be more lurking out there). I’m most familiar with the first four, and I’ve got to say, it’s another case of “I don’t get it.” As in, why weren’t they more popular? Their other material is just as good, if not better in some cases, than “Dizz Knee Land” but for some reason (I’m going with lack of promotion again) they just didn’t hit.

Many of their songs (“Pretty Girls Make Graves,” “Agent’s Got No Secret,” “Dorina” and many others feature the singers’ great harmonizing (they almost sound like two guys sharing the same voice, but it’s obviously not the case). Musically, they never fall into a rut. Their lyrics are intelligent (generally). Their catalog is varied, although not quite “eclectic.”

Maybe that’s the problem. People want mind-numbing sameness. And choreographed dancing. Yeah, these guys aren’t into that. Sorry.

So check them out. Especially their fourth album dada, which you’d expect to have been the name of the first album, but you’d be wrong. One of my favorites from that album will be the topic of a later post. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will look for more ways to avoid exercising, unconsciousness, and speeding tickets. I won’t judge you if you join me.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 87 – “Djäpana”

Day 87: A song that you like that’s from a different culture.

“Djäpana” – Yothu Yindi

DjäpanaToday’s choice may be a little sketchy, depending on your interpretation of the challenge.

“Djäpana” is a song by Yothu Yindi, a group composed of both Australian Aboriginals and non-Aboriginal members. The music has a western sound, but it is strongly influenced by the Aboriginal culture and makes good use of native instruments, such as yidaki (more commonly known as the didgeridoo). The video for the song also embraces and celebrates the Aboriginal culture.

When I returned to Australia in 1992, the group had recently released its Tribal Voice album, which spawned not only “Djäpana” but also another hit called “Treaty.” And both were doing well in the ARIA charts.

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This was a little surprising to me, because at the time, racism was still pretty rampant in Australia. (That’s not to say it isn’t here in the US, too, but I saw more blatant evidence of it there than I had ever witnessed personally here.) Hopefully that’s changed in the intervening two decades, but I can’t say for sure. In fact, some of the lyrics in “Djäpana” deal with that, as well:

Hey, you people
Out there
How come
You ain’t fair
To the people
Of the land
Try my, try my, sunset dreaming

Now, to be sure, it’s not all Australians who held those views. Bands like Midnight Oil (and others) were doing what they could to not only change the “mainstream view” of the Aboriginals, but also to work towards Aboriginal rights. I think they were attempting to bridge the gap, to varying degrees of success. (Some people will never change their minds.) Songs like “The Dead Heart” and “Warakurna” are in the vein of trying to get people on each side of the race line to understand each other (and their issues) better. Here’s hoping…

On a less serious note, “Djäpana” could have been a serious contender for the “song you change the words to when you sing it” post. I’ve been singing the native lyrics wrong for so many years, I couldn’t even begin to get them right at this point. For example, the song starts with (and it might be helpful to start the video now and listen as you read):

Wo-o-o djäpana
Wo-o-o warwu

Now, I stayed in a small town called Kiama, and there was a nearby town called Warrawong. The way “warwu” from the lyric above is sung, it always sounded like “Warrawong” to me (even though I knew it wasn’t) so that’s what I sang.

For mis-sung lyric #2, direct your attention to about 0:15 in the video. Tell me it doesn’t sound like they’re chanting “puffed wheat” (or “buckwheat”, take your pick, although given the stereotype usually associated with that it could be considered a little bit racist in itself). I honestly have no idea what they’re actually saying. So, “puffed wheat” it is.

Note the  didgeridoo in that passage as well.

Hmm? Why, yes, I am trying to draw your attention away from my idiocy, in fact. Did it work?

But back to the matter at hand. No, “Djäpana” is not a “pure” example of a song from another culture. It’s not really “World Music” as we’ve come to know it. I suppose I could have gone with something from Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel, but I don’t feel like that counts since it’s coming primarily from a very “Anglo” artist, even if there are World Music elements to it. My choice is not something from Africa or South America, but the Aboriginals have their own unique culture. One that should be respected and celebrated. Despite its Western leanings, “Djäpana” is about as close as I can come using songs that are actually in my collection.

And at the end of the day, I just like it.

Sunset dreaming…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 86 – “Industrial Disease”

Day 86: A song you wish you heard often on the radio.

“Industrial Disease” – Dire Straits

Industrial DiseaseBefore Mark Knopfler wanted his MTV and Dire Straits had massive (and I mean massive) success, they had “Industrial Disease.” It didn’t fare so well on the Hot 100 chart, but did reach #9 on the Top Tracks chart (now called Mainstream Rock) which measures airplay specifically on rock-oriented stations. It was during this buzz of airplay that I originally became acquainted with the song.

Unfortunately, it didn’t get then and doesn’t get now as much play as I would like, generally eschewed for more popular fare like “Money For Nothing,” “Sultans Of Swing” and “Walk Of Life” if Dire Straits gets played at all.

Dire Straits is a band I appreciate more and more as I get older. Mark Knopfler, in general, writes challenging, nuanced music that you need to work a little bit to get into. There are exceptions, of course. Most of Brothers In Arms, their 1985 breakout hit, was much more accessible compared to much of the rest of their catalog, and then there were the radio favorites such as the aforementioned “Sultans Of Swing.” And today’s song.

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Love Over Gold, the album from which “Industrial Disease” sprang, contains only 5 songs. At 5:55, “Industrial Disease” is the shortest of the lot, which tells you something right there. The album also includes “Telegraph Road,” a 14+ minute opus based around the theme of the roads that stretch across the United States. That song spends about seven minutes slowly building up (because, I guess it’s hard to spend seven minutes quickly building up) to its main story of a modern-day man and his struggles in Detroit (near the titular Telegraph Road). I’ve owned this album for about 15 years, and over that time my appreciation has slowly grown, but I have to admit, I still struggle with it a little bit (and this is from the guy who has no problem with “Supper’s Ready.”)

This is not an album that you immediately “get.”

“Industrial Disease,” though, was pretty accessible and a song I’ve always liked. It was really the only reason for me buying Love Over Gold. I didn’t know anything else on the album, and I bought it only because the song is simply not available anywhere else. Not live, not on greatest hits packages, nothing. It’s like Knopfler disavowed this song for some reason. Otherwise I probably would have skipped Love Over Gold completely.

As a keyboard guy, that’s what originally grabbed me, and I love the walking bass line but the lyrics are interesting as well. “Industrial Disease” is about a fictitious malady, but is symbolic of the state of the manufacturing industry. Or so I’m told. I’m in it for the humor, really.

Doctor Parkinson declared “I’m not surprised to see you here
You’ve got smoker’s cough from smoking, brewer’s droop from drinking beer
I don’t know how you came to get the Bette Davis knees
But worst of all young man you’ve got Industrial Disease”

But by far my favorite line in the song (and one that at various times I’ve used as my email signature) is:

Two men say they’re Jesus
One of them must be wrong.

That never fails to make me smile.

Once Brothers In Arms came out, this song had no chance of airplay, really. I mean, what are you going to pick if you’re a programming director? The massive, former #1 hit or the song that some guy in Massachusetts and maybe twelve other people like? (Being the guy in Massachusetts, I know what my answer would be, but I’m a little wacked anyway.)

Maybe I need one of the Jesuses (Jesi?) to intervene. The problem is picking the right one.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 85 – “Too Hot To Stop”

Day 85: A song you like by a singer who’s dead.

“Too Hot To Stop” – Benjamin Orr

Too Hot To StopAh. The solo album. There is nothing so likely to break up a band as individual members doing their own album. Especially if that person happens to be the primary writer in the group. While that wasn’t immediately the case for The Cars, I’m sure it didn’t help.

After the phenomenal success of Heartbeat City and the long tour that resulted from it, it seems as though the members of the band needed a break from each other. After that album, three out of the five members released solo albums before returning to do group work: Ric Ocasek’s This Side Of Paradise, Elliot Easton’s Change No Change and Benjamin Orr’s The Lace. (I would recommend all three, actually, although they may not be the easiest things to find these days.) That short span was a good time to be a fan of The Cars.

(The Cars got back together for one more album, 1987’s Door To Door, after this hiatus. I thought the album was good, but everyone else seemed to hate it. Rumors are tensions were very high within the band by then. They broke up for 23 years after that. Damn solo albums!)

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Now, more people are familiar with Benjamin Orr’s first single “Stay The Night” (not to be confused with the Chicago song of the same name and roughly the same era) than they are with today’s song, which is not surprising. “Stay The Night” was a Top 40 hit (peaking at #24) while “Too Hot To Stop” did not chart. That’s a shame, because it’s a catchy song, and one more deserving of attention and promotion than it got. (I suspect the record company released “Stay The Night” as the lead single because it’s a ballad, and The Cars’ ballad “Drive,” with Orr on lead vocals, would have been familiar to people at the time. If so, it seemed to work.)

The songs on The Lace are, overall,  similar in genre to The Cars’ music, but since Orr co-wrote all the songs with long-time girlfriend Diane Grey Page, these songs had a somewhat different feel from the band’s output (which was virtually all written by Ric Ocasek). “Too Hot To Stop” starts the album, and I’ve always thought it set the mood quite well. Fun, upbeat, easy to sing along to. In short, a good example of the New Wave-ish music popular at the time. Given that, I’m not sure why it didn’t do better.

I remember finding this album. There was no Internet, and I didn’t read Rolling Stone or the like, so I tended to stumble upon releases. There was always some weird sense of satisfaction when you discovered a new release. Even now I get a bit of euphoria when I discover one of my favorite bands is releasing something new. It’s either that or gas. I’m not sure which.) I remember checking The Cars’ bin at the local Record Town (because that’s what you did in those days; the only search engine at Record Town was you), and—shocker!—stumbled upon it. I remember being surprised to see it. I also remember grabbing it immediately.

I’ve loved this album since the first time I listened to it. I think every song is great, but I’m admittedly biased. I also suspect that if I was listening with more objective ears, some of the arrangements would sound dated. (I find that the better I know—and like—an album, the harder it is for me to tell if it sounds old.) But even to my jaded ears, the keyboards on “That’s The Way,” a song I love, sound a little cheesy. So listen to the samples. You tell me.

The Lace would be the only solo album Benjamin Orr released. He died of pancreatic cancer in October of 2000. The Cars 2010 reunion album, Move Like This, while very good, was missing a little something without him. And the music world is a little worse off without him.

Rest in Peace, Ben.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 84 – “Private Eyes”

Day 84: The first song you ever bought.

“Private Eyes” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

Private EyesThere may be some controversy about this post. First off, I’ve been trying to remember the first 7″ single I ever bought, and whether or not that predates this purchase. But I honestly don’t remember. And it’s bugging me, because I usually remember that stuff.

But, I know the first “real” album I bought was Private Eyes by Hall & Oates. (I’ve never been able to determine if their official name was “Hall & Oates” or “Daryl Hall & John Oates.” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Daryl, Get Out Of The John and Sow Your Wild Oates In The Hall.” But I could be wrong. Like I said, I’ve never been sure.)

This was back in the day of “Record Clubs.” At that time, there were two major ones in the US: RCA and Columbia.

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They both pretty much worked the same way: You got 11 records or tapes (cassette or 8-Track!) for 1 cent. (You could even tape your penny right there on the return card!). And then you only had to buy <some_number> more at regular club prices to fulfill your commitment. (Plus shipping and handling, of course.) Oh, and to make it a much better deal you could buy your first album at a low introductory rate (something like $5.99) and then get another album for free. (Plus shipping and handling, of course.) It was like getting 62 albums for free!

What they didn’t tell you was that “regular club prices” were something like $12.99 each (a hefty sum for an album or tape at the time) and shipping & handling was roughly the GDP of Liechtenstein.

The Columbia Music Club was the better of the two from the standpoint of selection. They had the exclusive lock on albums released on the Columbia label (or affiliated labels, of which there were many) while also offering just about everything else. But, they made you buy way more albums to fulfill your commitment. RCA, on the other hand, with no Columbia albums, took what they could get, but let you out of the “contract” with fewer purchases.

Anyway, at the time (early-80s), my mother belonged to the RCA club. It was her source of the various and sundry Country & Western 8-Track tapes she liked. And, at some point, she was trying to get out of the deal and “fulfill her commitment.” And thus, after making her selections, she needed another. So she asked me if I wanted anything. I picked Private Eyes, more on the strength of that song alone that any knowledge of the rest of the songs on the album. Which is why I believe this qualifies as the first song I bought (and if it doesn’t, tough, because I’m using it anyway).

I distinctly remember that the order forms had blocks where you entered the numbers and digits of the “catalog number” of the album you wanted. And then there were tiny little check boxes next to those big blocks where you identified whether you wanted to receive an LP, Cassette, or 8-Track (this was at the time when 8-Tracks were in their final death throes but stubborn people like my mother just refused to give up on what was essentially a dead medium).

Now, sometimes my mother had very binary ways of thinking about things. I remember her saying to me, as I checked off the box for cassette (or “CS” as the code was), “I belong to the 8-Track club. I always get 8-Tracks. They won’t let you get something else.” I assured her that they wouldn’t provide you with the check boxes if you didn’t have a choice, to which she replied, in her very best, motherly, you’re-too-young-to-know-what-you’re-talking-about-and-I’m-right-about-this voice, “Okay, we’ll see.”

They sent her 8-Tracks.

I got a cassette.

She was shocked.

Long story longer, Private Eyes was really the first full album (as opposed to some form of mix tape) that I listened to over and over. And, despite not knowing anything but the title track when I ordered it, I quickly discovered that I really liked “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” “Did It In A Minute” and “Head Above Water” as well.

Incidentally, over time, the RCA club became the BMG Record Club. And I must say, I owe a good chunk of my CD collection to them. You see, when in college, we did the math (being engineering types, this was something we did for fun). Even at the extortionate prices of the regular purchase and shipping & handling, it still worked out to a pretty reasonable price per album, provided you quit as soon as you fulfilled your commitment. At which time, you could promptly join again, getting another 12 free, and so on. (We also learned that even if you didn’t quit, they would give pretty decent “special offers” to get you to buy more.)

Over my time in college, I must have joined and quit the BMG club 20 times. And, since they also did the thing where you had to return your card or they would automatically send you the selection of the month, I probably wrote “Return to Sender” on about 20 CD boxes (since I never remembered to return the card) to send back. I was never quite sure if they loved me or hated me.

Either way, I ended up with a boatload of cheap CDs, so I don’t much care. I may very well be the reason those clubs are no longer around. (It certainly couldn’t have anything to do with the advent of digital music.)

Ironically, Private Eyes was not included in the boatload. I didn’t actually get it on CD until a couple of years ago. (Because I refuse to give up on what is essentially a dead medium.)

Love you, ma.