365 Day Song Challenge: Day 73 – “Shopping”

Day 73: A song from a band that you wish you could hang out with.

“Shopping” – Barenaked Ladies

ShoppingToday’s post didn’t take much thought. Although I would love to hang out with Genesis, they seem like they’d be on the serious side outside their inner circle. I love Tony Banks, but I think that he’d be pretty stoic until he got to know you, and that could take years.

In some cases, there are people who would be very interesting to watch doing their work in the studio, but that’s not the same as hanging out. For example, I think it would be a great learning experience to be in the studio with Jeff Lynne (from ELO) or Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), but I’m not sure it would be fun.

When it comes to fun, I think of bands like Rush and Fountains of Wayne. I certainly don’t know these guys, but based on what I’ve seen and read, they seem like they’d be fun to hang with. But who knows? Maybe they wouldn’t. It’s difficult to really know how people are outside of their public personas (personae?).

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Having said that, I do think it would be a blast to hang out with the guys from BNL. They all seem to have great senses of humor and they all seem just goofy enough that I’d be able to fit in with them sorta-kinda (in a way I probably couldn’t with Genesis or Rush). They joke around on stage, they joke around in interviews, and they joke around in the studio (this video is really what convinced me to pick them; I think it’s freakin’ hilarious).

They take their work seriously, even when the subject matter is lighthearted, but they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and I think that’s the key. It’s a good combination. It would prevent the whole experience from being a drag.

“Shopping” is an example of a tune that seems to showcase this light-heartedness. It comes from their 2003 album Everything To Everyone. The germ of the idea for the song came when, immediately after 9/11, George W. Bush said that people should keep going with their lives, like going shopping and so on. Everything will be all right, when we go shopping.

The lyrics are a bit silly, and the music goes along with it; it’s happy and silly, too. And I like that. I’ve liked it since I first heard it. But for those who can only handle so much silly, fear not, the rest of the album isn’t really like that. Songs like “Aluminum” and “Take It Outside” (which are also favorites from this album) have more serious topics to discuss, even if their veneer has some humor.

So, that’s my pick for today. And on the off-chance that someone from BNL reads this and wants to take me up on it, just let me know. I’m available.

Ty preps for “Shopping” backing vocals…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 72 – “Drive”

Day 72: A song someone has said reminds them of you.

“Drive” – The Cars

If you’re reading this, you probably already know, but I had to go out and ask people what song reminds them of me. Because no one has specifically said, that I remember anyway.  Realistically, who walks up to someone, even a close friend, and says, “Hey, you know that song? Yeah, that reminds me of you.”

I suppose if it’s something like “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen, you’re okay. But what if it’s “American Idiot” by Green Day or “Stupid Girls” by Pink (depending on your gender)? Not so nice anymore.

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Anyway, the results of my ad hoc poll were limited and mixed. But one person said “any Cars tune” and another actually specified “Drive.” Ding! Ding! Ding! There you have it, today’s winner.

The ironic thing about this? I’m not a huge fan of the song. I’m not saying I don’t like it, or that it’s not a good song, or that it’s not pretty. It’s just not one of my favorites.

I remember back in 1984 when this album was released. Late ’83 and ’84 was a big music discovery time for me, and the Heartbeat City album was part of that discovery. I’d already been hooked on “You Might Think” and “Magic” from that album and I knew “Shake It Up” from their previous album of the same name. But despite my early exposure to The Cars’ debut album, I was by no means an expert on the band at that time.

In the summer of ’84, there was this other song getting played on the radio, but I had no idea who it was. It was a ballad, and frankly, I thought it was just okay. And then one day, I found out it was The Cars! (It was “Drive” in case you didn’t get that.) I couldn’t believe it was the same band. (Now who’s the American Idiot?)

Sure, it was probably dumb of me not to know, but to be fair, the three songs I mentioned above were all sung by Ric Ocasek, whereas “Drive” was sung by Benjamin Orr. And The Cars had not been previously known for their ballads. “Drive” had a totally different sound—both vocally and musically—than any song of theirs I was familiar with. So I’m giving myself a pass, even if you don’t.

So yes, my fondness for The Cars is well-known. It makes sense that the people who know me would make some sort of association when the hear those songs. Fair enough.

In case you’re wondering, the other songs that were specifically named are:

So that’s it. The songs that remind people of me. Not a bad haul. And no “A**hole” (by Denis Leary) in the bunch. I’m going to take that as a victory.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 71 – “Slow Train”

Day 71: A song that you love that you first heard on a mixed CD made for you.

“Slow Train” – Shooter Jennings

Shooter JennignsI like trains. Both full-size and model. I actually have another long-neglected blog where I talk about the portable HO scale layout I’m building. This is not Sheldon-Cooper-stick-locomotives-in-your-mouth stuff. It’s serious, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s art. (And, as you may have discerned, I have some strong opinions on the topic.)

In addition to my modeling, every other year a group (consisting of me, my brother, my nephew, and a friend of mine) packs up and head out to Pennsylvania to watch trains. For the uninitiated (which I suspect is most of you), this is called railfanning. Most people don’t understand the draw of it, but that’s okay. It just means I don’t have to fight you for the best photo spots.

About a year after Laura and I met, the time came for one of these trips. (She doesn’t get it, either, but she humors me.) Being the nice person that she is (even though she suspected I was a loon) she went to considerable trouble to compile 3 mix CDs containing various train-related songs for the trip. She even grouped the songs so that each CD had its own category. That’s love right there. (Or insanity, which would explain why we get along so well.)

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While I was a little skeptical of the songs as a whole, we did make a point of listening to the CDs in their entirety during the trip.

There were a few songs I already knew (like “Train Kept a Rollin'” by Aerosmith), but most I did not. A few were intentionally god-awful. (Like “Railroad Names” by James Brian Coffey. It’s supposed to be a kid’s song but the guy doesn’t even have the nuances of rhyming down. What’s up with that?) Most were just okay.

And then there were the couple of standouts.

“Slow Train” was one of those standouts. I’d never heard of the song—or Shooter Jennings—before that (which is why it qualifies for today’s topic). And while I don’t think I’m going to be seeking out much more of Shooter’s catalog, I do really enjoy this song for some reason. Maybe it’s the train reference, I don’t know. All I know is I like its vibe. Enough that it’s in the top 2% in my most played list.

The other standout was “I Like Trains” by Fred Eaglesmith. It’s got an understated, driving power to it that I like. But “Slow Train” is the clear winner for this particular category.

Incidentally (and here’s your trivia for the day), Shooter Jennings is the son of Waylon Jennings, who may be best known to non-country-listening audiences as the guy who narrated and sang the theme song from “The Dukes Of Hazzard.” (The TV show, not that atrocity of a movie they put out.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to educate the public that most people who like trains don’t put locomotives in their mouth. (That should be easy.) And that all model railroaders are not wackadoodles. (That one’s admittedly tougher.)

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 70 – “Emotions”

Day 70: A song that gives you a headache.

“Emotions” – Mariah Carey

EmotionsI considered picking a Metallica song for today’s post, but then I realized it was only Lars Ulrich that gave me a headache. Not his drumming. Him. He’s a douchebag.

So then I had to think about an actual song that made my head hurt. It didn’t take long to land on this one by Mariah Carey.

There are three things I know about Mariah Carey:

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Sure, she’s a diva and that has its own ball of crap that goes along with it, but that’s all par for the course. I can live with that. What really bugs me is that she has to “prove” she has that five-octave range, especially with what they call the whistle register. Which is really just a fancy term for “those notes so high your dog can’t even hear them.” And this song is a prime example.

If you don’t know what I mean, take a quick look at this video:

This song—specifically that one part of the song—destroyed any possibility of me listening to anything else she did. Ever. For eternity. Because it’s just… so… freaking… annoying.

That was it. I wanted nothing to do with her after that.

It’s a shame, because on the face of it, “Emotions” isn’t a bad tune. And then she goes all supersonic on you. Your natural reaction is to cringe and duck like a gunshot went off. “What was that!?”

And then things get normal again. Her voice is below the threshold of pain, so you think you must have just imagined it, because, who would do that? Until the second time. “There it is again! What is that?”

Now you’re on the defensive. You’re thinking, obviously someone has infiltrated the music industry and is trying to kill people using a sophisticated supersonic weapon.

So you’re waiting for that phrase to happen again. You’re ready for it this time. But they’re way ahead of you, because that last progression she does is just thrown in as filler, not part of the verse. So you don’t see it coming. It comes on, your eardrums burst, and blood trickles down the side of your head. Game over. And that’s if you’re lucky. Some people’s heads just explode completely.

When all is said and done, maybe listening to Lars Ulrich isn’t so bad after all?

No, it’s worse. Because with him, you don’t get the benefit of your eardrums bursting halfway through.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 69 – “Hole In My Head”

Day 69: A song that you wish someone would cover.

“Hole In My Head” – Human Radio

Human RadioRemember yesterday when I said that I used to turn my nose up at music a lot more easily?

So one day in 1990 my roommate Pete comes in and says “I heard this great song called ‘Me & Elvis’ over the weekend, so I bought the single.”

Um. What?

I’m not an Elvis fan (Presley, not Costello, whom I do like), so the thought of a song talking about someone’s adventures with Elvis did not thrill me. But he insisted on playing it. My nose was summarily up. I insisted on dismissing it and saying I didn’t like it. And I’m not sure I was just being obstinate at that point, I’m not sure I cared for it much.

He proceeded to insist it was good and play it a lot more. And then he showed up with a whole friggin’ album (CD, really). Are you kidding me? I was having none of it.

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And then something strange happened. Over time it became apparent that the music on that CD (including “Me & Elvis”) was good. Some of it was really good. So good, in fact, that I went out and bought the album (CD, really) myself.

While I’d love to put the whole album in the post, just to do my part and promote the band (who seem to be trying to make a comeback), I do have to pick a single song, so I’m going to go with “Hole In My Head.”

When looking for a song to pick, I decided that the song had to meet at least one of three criteria:

As Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman said, “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.”

“Hole In My Head” fulfills the second and third criterion quite well, but fails miserably at the first. (I think Human Radio did a great job with it.)

Now, please stop and listen to the song before you read further. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Hey, welcome back. So, now that you’re intimately familiar with the song, listen to it again, and tell me you can’t hear Barenaked Ladies doing a great cover of this… I know, right?

No matter that it was released two years before BNL got a record deal, in some ways it seems like it was written for them. It has the right feel. It “fits.” I suspect BNL would do a great job with the rest of the songs as well. Except, ironically enough, “Me & Elvis.” I’m not sure anyone else could really pull that one off.

“So,” I hear you asking, “what happened to Human Radio? Why have I never heard of them?” Well, I’ll tell you. We kept waiting for a follow-up album, but alas, none appeared. For years I had no idea why. And then this little thing called the Internet (you may have heard of it) showed up where you can always find the information you want. (And many things you don’t.)

It seems Columbia Records, in their wisdom, did a crappy job of promoting the first album. So it didn’t sell. Since it didn’t sell they decided that the band must not be that appealing (because how could it possibly be Columbia’s fault?) and dropped them. And the other labels figured if Columbia couldn’t make it work, how could they? (This is really how labels operate, it has nothing to do with the music or any sort of logic whatsoever.)

I tried to find a list of albums Columbia released in 1990 so I could point out some hit album(s) that were God-awful that Columbia did promote, but I couldn’t find one. At least not easily. At least not in the first four Google search results. (The Internet sucks! You can never find what you want!) Further searching, however, uncovered a prime example: Step By Step. By New Kids On The Block. Yep. This is how record labels work.

At any rate, if you’re interested, you can have your very own copy of the Human Radio album (CD, really). Multiple copies are available here. (I recommend you go for the used ones.)

Don’t turn your nose up. I’m telling you, it’s really good!

And for those that are curious, here’s “Me & Elvis”…