If you haven’t already seen the movie Pitch Perfect, I have only one question for you: WHYYYYYYYYYYY???
Are you so cool that you can’t take two hours out of your life to watch this adorably awesome film about dueling college acapella groups? You are, aren’t you? I bet you’re the kind of person who spends their Friday nights sipping fancy cocktails at parties thrown in swanky art galleries rather than dancing around your living room singing along to Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign’, aren’t you?
If so, well…okay, good for you, I guess. I cannot deny that that art and fancy cocktails do have their appeal. But so does this movie! First of all, Skylar Astin is super duper as Jesse, the “nice guy” love interest to Anna Kendrick’s character, Beca. And then there’s Rebel Wilson’s ‘Fat Amy’:
My favourite though is Benji, Jesse’s incredibly awkward roommate:
Sob! Poor Benji! Fortunately, Benji gets his moment of redemption during the Treblemakers final performance:
They are performing their take on B.o.B.’s song ‘Magic’:
Which version do you prefer? B.o.B. and Rivers, or the Treblemakers? Me, I like them both. But I think the Trebles win for of the feel-good factor!
A couple of weeks ago I went to see a friend’s band play. Their name: More Cowbell.
I hadn’t seen a cover band in a long time and I had forgotten how good it feels to know song after song and be reminded of old favorites. There is a real pleasure in the experience of hearing the soundtrack of your life and sharing it with other people. The Cars, the Cult, Areosmith, Blondie, U2, No Doubt, the Foo Fighters, the Ramones… More Cowbell ripped things up for the duration of three satisfying sets. They didn’t play any Rush songs (it’s not often that you hear a band cover Rush), but my buddy on the kit was doing his best to sneak in fills when he could. I found myself singing along and grinning all night.
Weirdly, it felt like a vacation — a vacation from all the new stuff out there, and I don’t only mean new releases. I mean anything new to you – bands your friends suggest, albums that critics write about, music you hear on TV or in movies…There is so much out there and I really do want to give it all a try, but sometimes I just want to listen to the Cars’ first album for days and not feel like I’m missing out on something.
Seeing More Cowbell, and the happiness I experienced that night, made me realize that maybe I’m reaching my cut off point. I might be full, no more room for new stuff. I have assembled my musical cannon and I’m happy with it. I don’t like to believe this. I like to think that I will always be open to new music, but something inside me smirks and says stop foolin’ (immediately thought of Def Leppard) yourself. I remember when it began for me: in 1979, buying 45s at records stores with my allowance money…and now I’m buying my music on the internet with my credit card — innocence lost!
Am I really ready to end my search for new music? No, of course not…but I believe I have learned a valuable lesson: take a vacation, have fun, go out and see a cover band.
You guys! For my inaugural ‘Classic vs. Cover’ post I am very excited to be writing about this song! I grew up with the Tiffany version. I remember rocking out to it at sleepovers in grade six while we did each others’ makeup (peach lip gloss was big that year) and gossiped about the boys we liked (Aaron Prosser, in my case)*. Good times.
*Super embarrassing if he is reading this now.
Back then, I was not aware that the song was a cover. The original was done by Tommy James and the Shondells (their other hits included ‘Crimson and Clover’ and ‘Mony Mony’ – which was, of course, later covered by Billy Idol).
Here is the Tommy James version:
Pretty awesome, right? It’s got a great pop-meets-garage vibe, and I love how they do the ‘heartbeat’ part.
Now, the cover by Tiffany:
Right off the top, it’s way more poppy than the original, with those sweet synth beats and the hilarious/awesome ’80s overproduction. Also, I don’t think we can discount the amazingness of this video. I mean…the dance moves! The acid wash denim! Gumby!! Gah…it’s all so good!
So, which version is best? The classic is much more stripped down than the cover, and I would argue that since it’s a really great song to begin with, the original shows that off perfectly with no need for embellishment. On the other hand, Tiffany’s version is a pretty glorious piece of sugary bubblegum perfection.
One thing I really like about this tune in general is the fact that, for a song that’s all about sneaking off to hook up with someone, both versions are pretty innocent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude — but in this day and age of explicit sexuality and raunchy lyrics, it’s kind of refreshing to listen to a song that contains a line like “The beating of our hearts is the only sound” — rather than, say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me” from Rihanna, this generation’s incarnation of a pop princess (possibly being listened to at little girls’ sleepovers as we speak). I dunno, maybe it’s just the romantic in me.
As for these two versions of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ what’s your preference? Classic, or cover?
All right, got my ticket to the concert, check the calendar… 3 weeks to go, what’s next? Train man — train hard like Rocky would.
A typical training regime begins with listening to the artist’s latest CD, over and over again. Sometimes it’s easy. The songs come to you and you feel them immediately. Your body and brain react unconsciously, like Neo dodging bullets. You understand, accept and feel the music completely. This is rare. Training is usually difficult because you have your favorites from the artist and when the new stuff is not measuring up, it becomes work — like running in Siberia with a log on your back (Rocky 3).
I have been training very hard over the last few weeks, and at times have felt totally overwhelmed. I feel like I have given myself only 3 weeks to train for a marathon. Sometimes I question myself — do possess the endurance and mental fortitude necessary to rise to the occasion? Self-defeating thoughts have been entering my mind: I should have started training for this years ago (or maybe when I was 14)… it’s too big, too complex…I’ve never been challenged like this before, and I need more experience. But something brings me back each day to listen again and again, and search the interweb for different interpretations of the music. It is exhausting and excruciating, but then I feel my music muscle memory kick in and I’m starting to get the music version of a runner’s high. I just want to keep listening. I think can…I think I can — I just might be able to — get my mind and body in tune for The Musical Box‘s performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway this Saturday at the Danforth Music Hall.
This record is the New York Marathon of progressive rock concept albums. Genesis released the epic double album in 1974, and it is the sprawling storey of Rael, a streetwise kid from Brooklyn and his quest to make a name for himself. Transpose the “a” and “e” and it’s Real — or is it a play on Peter Gabriel? — and that’s just the beginning… I found pages and pages online written by people attempting to deconstruct the plot and explain the symbolism. I feel like I need an English teacher to help me understand this. And this has been the great fun of my current training exercise — remembering the things I love about concept albums. It’s pure escapism, suspension of disbelief, entering Rael’s world and following him along the gritty streets of 1970’s New York and through fantastical magical caves and endless staircases.
Spending time with this album has reignited my interest in revisiting some of my old favorite concept albums and taking a chance on some new ones. Maybe its time for me to give some of the contemporaries a shot – Coheed and Cambria come to mind. I took a break today from training and listened to Arcarde Fire’s concept album The Suburbs. I thought to myself “damn, Rush said all of this in one one song, ‘Subdivsions,’ and also released 3 concepts albums – one about necromancers, one about a dystopian society and one about Greek gods fighting for man’s conscience — and they still didn’t win a Grammy”. Maybe Arcade Fire’s Grammy for The Suburbs was more of a recognition of the brilliance of the concept album. A calling card to other artists to take an idea, add adventurous music, dare to be grandiose, and something special might happen. So special it is still being recreated 37 years after its’ release.
For more on the history of The Musical Box & their collaboration with Genesis, click here.
Whenever I hear a song by Cat Stevens, I think of the following conversation that DamnYouSkylon had in high school with his friend Brian:
DYS: “Dude, so Cat Stevens gave away all his money, converted to Islam, and changed his name to Yusuf Islam”.
Brian: “Really? He changed his last name to the same name as his religion?”
DYS: “Yeah man, I guess that’d be like changing your name to, like, John Christian or whatever”.
Brian: “Or Bob Hindu…”
DYS: “Richard Buddhist…”
Brian: “Ricky Jehova’s Witness…!”
Now every time I think of Cat Stevens I hear a little voice in my head saying “Ricky Jehova’s Witness!” and it totally makes me laugh. You could say I’m being disrespectful of Stevens’ (Islam’s) life choices, but to be honest with you I think that “Spencer Christian” has a nice ring to it, so I might change my name too. I’m not renouncing all my worldly possessions though. I’m no dummy. My collection of old Sweet Valley High books might be worth something someday*, you know.
*They will never, ever be worth anything.
Anyway, when it comes to Stevens’ (Islam’s) music, I am totally divided. I love some of his songs (‘Morning Has Broken,’ ‘Another Saturday Night,’ ‘Father and Son’ — which always, always makes me cry) but others annoy the f*ck out of me (‘Wild World,’ for example, literally makes me want to punch myself in the face).
However, my very favorite Stevens (Islam) song is this one, ‘Trouble’. The lyrics are so sad and dejected, and yet the song is somehow uplifting. You can hear the weariness in his voice during the verses, but then all of a sudden he’s got this amazing harmonizing thing going on and it sounds so pretty and hopeful. It’s the perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling down…in fact, I’ve always thought that it was written about depression. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, but with lines like “You have made me a wreck / Now won’t you leave me in my misery” I have to think that he’s pleading with the “black dog” of depression (as Winston Churchill so aptly described it) to move on and let him be. Anyone who has experienced a depressive episode will be able to relate to this sentiment, the feeling of being “Shattered and tossed and worn,” and the desire to have the cloud lifted.
But even if you’re not sad, it’s a great song — simple yet eloquent, haunting yet hopeful.
And as a bonus, here’s my boyfriend, Eddie Vedder, performing his take on the song:
Hola amigos, and Happy Monday! We hope you all had a great weekend & hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our California playlist, ‘California Über Alles’. If you missed it, you can listen to it here. And now we move on to Part 2! Honestly y’all, there are so many songs that have been written about California, it’s kind of crazy. I guess it still holds a certain mystique as the land of opportunity, probably a carryover from the old days of frontierism and the fervour of the California gold rush. You have to admit it’d be kind of cool to be out there prospecting for gold, and I can only imagine that when people got there and saw how beautiful it was they’d be hard pressed to want to leave.
I love Buddy Holly. When I was a little kid, my dad used to play his songs for me on the guitar, especially ‘Everyday’ and ‘Peggy Sue’. They were such amazing tunes — seemingly simple, yet so catchy — and they always made me happy. The fact that they could be equally enjoyed by a 5 year old (me) and a dude in his 30s (my dad) speaks volumes, I think. As an adult, whenever I’m feeling a little blue I always return to those songs that made me feel such joy when I was young. And Buddy Holly really did write joyful songs. You can hear the enthusiasm and optimism in all of his tunes. Even the ones about heartbreak are strangely (and pleasingly) cheerful, as if he’s saying “well, that’s the way life goes! You win some, you lose some”. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that for someone who was only 22 (!!) when he died, his songs, though straightforward, resonate with an emotional and lyrical maturity that is fairly extraordinary.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to review Listen To Me: Buddy Holly, a new tribute compilation featuring iconic artists such as Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Linda Ronstadt. There’s also newer artists included too, from Pat Monahan to Zooey Deschanel to The Fray and Cobra Starship.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the 16 tracks:
I hope that everyone had a good holiday weekend! The Finn and I were out of the city, at his dad’s cottage in Haliburton. It’s a beautiful spot. On Sunday night we sat around listening to old 45s and drinking shots of Grand Marnier, which is actually really good, you guys. I totally thought it’d be super strong and difficult to drink, but it turns out that it’s quite delightful. Or maybe I’m just an alcoholic! No matter. Anyway, as you may recall, a few weeks ago The Finn’s dad called me out for not including any Patsy Cline songs on my list of top breakup tunes. So this weekend I guess he decided it was high time that we ignorant youth received some schooling in some of the classics of his generation.
A little background information about the Finn’s dad — we’ll call him Finn Sr. If you are at all familiar with the Finnish as a people, you will know that even though they often have hilarious, subversive senses of humor, they generally appear fairly stone-faced. If you are not aware of this, hanging out with them can be a little intimidating. Before I met Finn Sr. for the first time, the Finn and his friends tried to prepare me. “It may seem like he doesn’t like you,” they said, “but don’t worry. He just doesn’t smile that often”. I definitely spent the first few years of my relationship with the Finn worried that Finn Sr. thought I was a complete fool, since he’s pretty no-nonsense, and anyone who has met me knows that my genetic makeup is about 80% nonsense. Anyway, over the years I have gradually gotten to know Finn Sr. better and have come to appreciate the depth of his humor and character. He is a very cool dude. This past weekend he was telling me about the Finnish word sisu. There’s no real English equivalent, but basically it means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity”. It’s a quality that Finns are very proud of. If you want to know more, you can read about it here. (The one example of the Finnish heavy metal singer injuring himself without noticing makes me laugh because it reminds me of the time that the Finn and his brother went out on a winter walk with Finn Sr. When they returned home after an hour and a half of tramping through the woods, Finn Sr. removed his boots and one of his feet was bleeding profusely. He had stepped on a large nail that had embedded itself in his boot and the sole of his foot. “Oh my god, Dad!” the Finn and his brother exclaimed. “Why didn’t you make us stop so you could get the nail out of your foot??” Finn Sr.’s reply: “I didn’t want to cut short our walk”. That’s stoicism, people).
Anyway, as I was saying, we listened to a lot of music on Sunday night (including some rather spirited Russian folk music) but the two records I enjoyed the most were Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison. I’ve always liked Orbison — Finn Sr. and I agree that he has the best voice of all time — but I’ve had only a casual acquaintance with Patsy Cline’s music. Well, let me tell you, Finn Sr. is right — no one does ‘hurtin’ music’ better than Patsy. Seriously, the emotion in her voice is incredible, and I love it how pretty much every song is about a man who’s done her wrong but she still loves him anyway. Even the song below, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” though relatively upbeat (for Patsy), is still about a woman out in the middle of the night searching for her (presumably misbehaving) husband/lover.
So please enjoy ‘Walkin’ After Midnight,” along with Roy Orbison’s cover of ‘Love Hurts’ (so, so good. GAH! That voice!!)
You know, life can be tough, kids. But with a little Patsy for the pain, a little Roy for the soul — and lot of sisu — we just might make it through.
When I was a kid, the Muppet Show was like, THE SHIZZ, people. I loooooved it so much. Confession: until about the age of 5 or 6, I TOTALLY thought the Muppets were real! Like, alive & breathing and running around and stuff. I used to have dreams that I was pals with them. I think this is partly due to the fact that my parents found a cassette tape somewhere that was a recording of all the Muppets telling bedtime stories and singing songs. I don’t know where it came from, but it had all sorts of great stuff on it. Each Muppet told a different bedtime story, and I remember particularly liking Kermit’s which involved a prince and a castle and a riddle. Anyway, listening to the tape as I drifted off to sleep was like having a little party in my bedroom every night with characters that came to feel like old, familiar friends.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was in a Starbucks recently (like, c’mon Spencer, do you live at Starbucks? Why don’t you just marry it?) and discovered that someone decided to make a record of bands COVERING CLASSIC MUPPETS SONGS!!! Amazing. Perusing the back of the CD jacket I could see that all the old standards were there — the Muppet Show theme song, ‘Movin’ Right Along’ (one of my faves — in fact I still sing it to myself on a fairly regular basis), ‘Mahna Mahna’, ‘Bein’ Green’, ‘I Hope That Something Better Comes Along’, and, of course, ‘Rainbow Connection’.
YOU GUYS. You have no idea how much listening to this record brought me RIGHT BACK to feeling like I was 6 yrs old again. I was amazed to see how many of the songs and lyrics I still remembered, even after all this time. I guess if you listen to something every night for years, it seeps into the old brain channels. Anyway, I think that they did a great job with these covers. Standouts for me are Alkaline Trio’s version of ‘Movin’ Right Along’, My Morning Jacket’s ‘Our World’, and Sondre Lerche’s ‘Mr. Bassman’, but I would say that the album as a whole is quite delightful. And I would imagine that for you parents out there, this is something you could play for the kiddies.
OK Go with my pal Kermit
Anyway, my Song of the Day is my favorite track on the album, Weezer and Hayley Williams of Paramore covering ‘Rainbow Connection’. Hayley Williams’ voice fits surprisingly well with Rivers Cuomo’s, and I love it when the full band kicks in about halfway through the song. (Sidenote: is anyone else slightly confused by the line ‘Why are there so many songs about rainbows”? Because the only other one I can think of is Judy Garland’s ‘Over the Rainbow’. Am I missing something — are there others??)
So Happy Friday everyone! This one goes out to all the lovers, the dreamers…and me!
**There’s no vid for this one — ya gotta click here to listen!
But here is a video, of OK Go performing the Muppet Show Theme:
I was in a taxi a few years ago, and my cabbie was the coolest-looking-ever Jamaican dude. I was chatting with him whilst surreptitiously staring enviously at his outfit when the music he was playing filtered into my consciousness. “Dude, this is awesome, who is this?” I asked. He paused for a moment and looked at me in the mirror, sizing me up. “It’s the Alarm Clocks,” he said slowly. “You’ve probably never heard of them. They are…from a long time ago. 1960s”.
Although I am hardly a stranger to music recorded in the ‘60s, he was indeed correct. I had never heard of the Alarm Clocks, but as soon as I got home I went to the internets to find out more about them and download their music. If you’re already familiar with this band then you don’t need me to tell you that they were literally the textbook definition of garage rock, three high school students from Ohio who got together in 1966 and played in school gymnasiums and at local events. Eventually they decided to make a record, despite the fact that they only had one original song, ‘No Reason to Complain’ (the rest of their repertoire being covers of songs by bands such as the Rolling Stones, Kinks, and Beatles). As legend has it, on the day they went into the studio they realized that they needed a b-side for their single and so they wrote ‘Yeah!’ on the spot and recorded it live, in one take. They had only 300 copies pressed of their self-released 45, and then disbanded in 1967.
It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that a couple of local musicians who collected old garage band records stumbled upon their 1966 recording and brought it to the attention of the owner of Crypt records, who liked the single so much that he included it on a compilation called Back from the Grave that was released in 1983. This brought the Alarm Clocks to the masses (or, at least, to a critical few) and ‘No Reason to Complain’ appeared on Mojo’s 1986 “Top 20 garage rock songs of all time” list.
The 45 was reissued in the ‘90s by New York’s Norton Records, and in 2000 they collected together and additional 10 songs recorded by the band in 1966 (all covers, including the requisite ‘Louie Louie’) to release a full-length LP titled ‘Yeah!’ If you haven’t heard this record, please go out and listen to it now. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll love it. It’s hard not to be enchanted by the Alarm Clocks’ boisterously loose energy, and lead singer/bassist Mike Pierce has a truly awesome scream that, to me at least, sums up the joyful freedom and unfettered spontaneity that epitomizes this genre of music.
You can listen to ‘Yeah!’ and ‘No Reason to Complain’ here: (but their covers are pretty rad too so check ’em all out!)