365 Day Song Challenge: Day 83 – “Blister In The Sun”

Day 83: A song you like that no one would expect.

“Blister In The Sun” – Violent Femmes

Blister In The SunI’m not really a punk guy. I have nothing against it, per se. Except that most “real” punk is noise designed to piss people off. (Pissing people off was known as “success” in punk parlance.) I’m not kidding, that was the point back in the day. Well, that and railing against society.

And then some punk bands figured out that you could get more people to listen (and make more money) if you actually had songs. (This was called “selling out” in punk parlance.)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and, once again, if you’re not, why not?) then it’ll probably come as no surprise that I am one of the people who gets pissed off by “real” punk. I’m not a fan of noise for noise sake (says the guy who likes “The Waiting Room” by Genesis). So the songs I like by punk bands are few and far between. Oh sure, there’s a bunch of stuff by The Clash and Green Day that I like, but it’s all the stuff after they “sold out.”

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So it would probably surprise people to know that I like “Blister In The Sun.” (I also like “Punk Rock Girl” by the Dead Milkmen. I know this surprised Laura back when we were just getting to know each other.) As punk goes, this is pretty tame stuff, I’ll admit, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

“Blister In The Sun” came into my repertoire through my friend Scott, who would also probably be in the list of people you wouldn’t expect to like the song. (I believe he’s responsible for “Punk Rock Girl,” too.) We were living together back when we first got out of school, and one day he says “You have to listen to this.” So I did. And I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I don’t think it was until the advent of Napster that I actually went out and found the song and started listening to it with any regularity.

Interesting fact about “Blister In The Sun” (Thanks go to Laura for this one): John Cusack wanted the song to be in the movie Grosse Point Blank. When it came time to do the soundtrack, the Violent Femmes could not locate the master tapes of the song, so they had to re-record it (as “Blister 2000” apparently).

Oh! Wait! While we’re at it (talking about punk songs I like, that is), I have to mention the Bruce Lee Band’s cover of They Might Be Giants’ “She’s An Angel.” The TMBG version may be my favorite song of theirs. (Frankly, it’s a tough decision.) And normally, I’m not a fan of covers when the original is a song I adore. (I wasn’t even a big fan of TMBG’s own treatment of it on Severe Tire Damage.) But there’s something about the cover that I really enjoy; it seems to lend itself to the whole punk treatment. You should check it out.

I dunno. Maybe there’s a repressed punk rocker in me who wants to get a red, spiky mohawk, pierce my nose, and run around in a black “Anarchy” T-Shirt with no sleeves, pogoing and slam dancing in the streets until finally someone screams out in pain because one of my hair spikes poked them in the eye.

But I doubt it.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 82 – “Drømmer Jeg?”

Day 82: A song that you like that’s in a language you don’t know.

“Drømmer Jeg?” – Johnny Deluxe (Featuring Anna Nordell)

Johnny DeluxeBack when I was in Australia for my student exchange, I became very good friends with a guy from Denmark. We were virtually inseparable. But, this was the late 80s, and nothing like Facebook or Skype existed. Even email was barely known. Since we weren’t great letter writers, we lost touch. For about 15 years.

Back on the mid-00s, I decided to try to find him on Google, and, you know what, there he was. We made contact and rekindled our friendship. During the rekindling, we came around to talk about music, and we would share songs back and forth via Skype. I remember him lamenting many years earlier that Denmark didn’t have any well-known bands. Norway and Sweden seemed to have the strangle hold on that. But, during one of our song sharing sessions, he was excited because he finally had a Danish band that he could share with me.

The song he shared was “Drømmer Jeg?” which in English is basically translated as “Am I Dreaming?” (For pronunciation, about the closest I can come phonetically is “droemmer yi”—with a long “i”.)

It’s a good song even if you don’t know the languages. Yes, plural. You see, the lyrics are basically about a couple who are geographically separated, with the guy in Denmark, and the girl in Sweden. So his parts are in Danish and hers are in Swedish. Here’s a sample (sorry, I couldn’t get the whole song to convert):

The singers both long to be with the other, and lament the fact that there’s a large body of water between them. (Check a map. There is.) Now, I have to say that Anna Nordell (who supplies the Swedish, female vocals) is a hottie, so on a completely shallow and superficial level, I can understand his desperation. (You can see her in the video, which, incidentally, also includes the full song.)

Him, I can’t judge. I can never tell what make a guy really attractive versus just good-looking. I will regularly ask Laura what category certain actors fall into. (My follow-up question is typically, “Why?”) I mean, I can sort of get the idea. For example, it’s easy to know that George Clooney is good-looking and Paul Giamatti really isn’t, but in between, it’s all gray to me. The point being, I don’t know if the male lead is worthy—on looks alone—of such misery that they’re separated by the Øresund. I suspect, no, however.

That said, if they’re both awful people, looks aren’t enough anyway.

One final thought. Having been to Sweden (and working for a company that has a significant Swedish presence), I feel it’s my duty to dispel a myth: not all Swedish women are gorgeous.

Just most of them.

Am I dreaming?

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 81 – “Move To Memphis”

Day 81: A song by your favorite band beginning with the letter A.

“Move To Memphis” – a-ha

Move To MemphisMost people know one song from a-ha—”Take On Me.” Most people (at least of my generation) know who Morten Harket is, maybe not by name, but because he starred in the video for “Take On Me” and that video is hard to forget. In fact, it’s iconic.

Despite the hit song and the iconic video, a-ha never got the attention they deserved, at least not in this country, and that’s a shame, because they were a very good band.

Okay, I’m done plagiarizing from yesterday’s post now.

I remember shortly after “Take On Me” was released, I went out and bought the album, Hunting High And Low. I really liked it. Excited about the quality of the music beyond “Take On Me” I told my friend Mark, “I bought the a-ha album.” His response: “Why?”

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Well, at least somebody out there seemed to agree with me. For a while. The album sold almost two million copies in the US, but I’m not sure how many people listened past the opening track, which happened to be “Take On Me.” Short of a minor hit with “The Sun Always Shines On TV,” a-ha dropped completely off the radar in the U.S., despite releasing a string of good albums (I seem to be the only one in the country who bought them), and writing and recording the theme song for the James Bond film The Living Daylights.

The rest of the world, however, seemed to like the band, and they were pretty successful internationally. (I really ought to live in some other country where people’s taste is better. Read: they agree with me.)

So it was that I happened to be in a record shop in Wollongong, NSW, Australia (the same one where I had greedily sucked up the single for “I Can’t Dance” with “On The Shoreline” as its b-side) when I came upon a-ha’s first greatest hits album, Headlines And Deadlines: The Hits Of a-ha. I bought it. Which was a good thing, because although I didn’t know it at the time, this album was not (and never would be) released in the U.S. (But you can get the MP3 version from Amazon.Figure that one out.)

Since I had all the albums up to that point, I had most of the songs (although the band did put a lot of remixes and edit versions on there, so at least it wasn’t total duplication). But of course there was the bastard child. As I mentioned in the “Hung Up” post, the Bastard Child Song is the song that was written specifically for the greatest hits album. In this case, it was “Move To Memphis.” The good news: it’s one of the cases where the new song is worthy of being part of the greatest hits collection.

I love the song’s bass line, the arrangement, and the mood. “Move To Memphis” immediately jumped into my favorites list. (It’s a large and amorphous list, where songs bounce in and out like fists in a cartoon brawl.) It even ended up on the Stratus Summer Mix along with “And She Was.”

Later, I got their next studio album, Memorial Beach and discovered that they re-recorded “Move To Memphis” for the album. I was frankly disappointed. They didn’t make it better, they just made it less raw and more slick. It simply doesn’t have the punch of the original. (And, after checking it out, the MP3 version of Headlines And Deadlines seems to have the Memorial Beach version. Luckily, I found the one I like for the samples.)

So, this may be one of those songs that I’m introducing you to for the first time. I hope you like it as much as I do. And if not, at least I tried.

And Mark, if you’re out there, this is why.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 80 – “Maybe Monday”

Day 80: A song you like with Monday in the title.

“Maybe Monday” – ‘Til Tuesday

'Til TuesdayMost people know one song from ‘Til Tuesday—”Voices Carry.” Most people (at least of my generation) know who Aimee Mann is, maybe not by name, but because she starred in the video for “Voices Carry” and that hair is hard to forget.

Despite the hit song and the hair, ‘Til Tuesday never got the attention they deserved, and that’s a shame, because they were a very good band.

It’s hard for me to gauge the actual reaction to their debut album, also called Voices Carry and also good, because ‘Til Tuesday was a Boston band, and, as you might expect, Boston bands got a lot of play on Boston radio. So I heard ‘Til Tuesday all the time when the album came out. Not only “Voices Carry,” but “Love In A Vacuum” and “Looking Over My Shoulder” (a personal favorite) as well. So to me, it seems like ‘Til Tuesday should have been more popular than they ended up being. But this apparently wasn’t the case in other areas.

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So, as I mentioned, Voices Carry was a good album. Not as good as some of the band’s later work, but I like it a lot more than most of Aimee Mann’s solo material. (Um, Aimee, there are other speeds besides mid-tempo, somber ballads. You remember that, right?) It was classed as “New Wave” but to me it never truly fell in to that group. There were always hints of something much broader than the mid-80s New Wave genre there. And, that hint came to fruition as Aimee Mann’s songwriting skills matured.

At any rate, “Maybe Monday” was another song on that album (and there was a song called “On Sunday” on the follow-up Welcome Home; seems they had a thing for days of the week). It was never destined for stardom. It was definitely an “album track.” But I like it just the same. There’s something vulnerable in the lyric which describes someone desperately waiting for the phone call from the person they like; a call that will never come. (This was something I could relate to in the mid-80s, when my luck with girls was, well, none.)

As the band’s work moved farther and farther away from New Wave (while the band simultaneously moved farther and farther from being an actual band and more toward a solo project) the interest from the record company waned. To the point where they barely acknowledged the third album Everything’s Different Now. (Another shame, because it’s probably the best of the bunch, despite having no songs with days of the week in the titles.)

After that, Aimee went solo, fought with record companies (yes, plural), toned down her hair, and married Michael Penn (whose “No Myth” is the only song most people know of his; the two-hit wonder couple).

She’s continued to write and record, with lots of critical success (and, as mentioned, many mid-tempo songs), but nothing approaching the commercial success of “Voices Carry.”

My advice: bring back the hair and the days of the week, that’s the key. Oh, and crank the metronome beyond 70…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 79 – “Dogs Are Talking”

Day 79: A song by your favorite band beginning with the letter A.

“Dogs Are Talking” – The Angels

Dogs Are TalkingI seem to have an affinity for songs about dogs. Not the cute, furry kind but the horny, human kind.

Both today’s song and “Who Let The Dogs Out” have lyrics dealing with guys that are just out for a good time. It’s a little odd, because I don’t tend to like people who are like that. This particular song’s lyrics are about nothing more than a guy trying to get lucky with a virgin.

While the lyrics are despicable, the music simply rocks. Hard. So hard, in fact, that many people who know me would probably be surprised that I like this song at all. But, much like the situation with “Who Let The Dogs Out” where I can’t help but dance, for this song, I can’t help but head-bang.

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I was first introduced to this song by my host-sister (she hates the term) Megan, who came to the US to stay with my family after I’d stayed with hers in Australia (and also before I stayed with hers in Australia). She was much more of a head-banger than I would ever be, but she did manage to introduce me to some really good stuff I’d have never been exposed to otherwise. There’s a line in this one that goes “Heartbreaker, heartbreaker, with the jelly roll skin.” She used to poke my spare tire every time that line came on. It used to embarrass the crap out of me at the time, but now I look back on it with amusement. Apparently I’ve come to terms with my GoodYear.

To be perfectly honest, even though I love this song, I never sought out any more music by The Angels. They are an Australian band and they are not well-known here in the US. (In fact, at the time of this post, “Dogs Are Talking” is ranked #1,223,009 in MP3 Downloads at Amazon. We need to remedy that…) Back when I was first exposed to the song, the band’s stuff had to be released in the US under the name “Angel City” (but, based on the Amazon links, this is no longer the case.). It was never easy to find. Maybe that’s the reason I didn’t dig deeper. Maybe I’m just lazy and never got around to it. But as I think about it now, it’s a little odd. It’s not my usual MO when I find a song that I like. Especially in this day and age of free song samples.

So I’m going to have to do that. I’ll report back in once I’ve done some research.

That, and I’ll have to find more songs about dogs. (Not the cute, furry kind but the horny, human kind.) Because I’m sure it’ll come up in some other day’s challenge. And, apparently, each one makes me do things spontaneously. Hmm… I hope “combust” is not the next thing on the list…