Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hippies, Herpes, Same Goddamn Thing

For a time I suspected Strawberry Alarm Clock of being a "band" assembled by the FBI, or CIA, or one of them rascally alphabet soups for the sole purpose of infiltrating and eventually destroying the menacing hippie subculture of the 1960s.  Strawberry Alarm Clock were not undercover agents, of course, but can you really blame me for wondering?  The distressingly nonsensical band name is right out of the "get high, pick out an item in this room, put another random word in front of it, and that's what we'll call ourselves" chapter of the handbook.  Then there's their most (only) famous song, "Incense and Peppermints."  Every aspect of this tune screams the decade in which it was written and recorded.  The hyper-self-aware mystical dope lyrics ("Turn on, tune in, turn your eyes around/Look at yourself, look at yourself, yeah yeah") mesh near-perfectly with the musical menagerie (harpsichords and vibraphones and cowbells) to create a song that was destined to become a sonic marker of its time and nothing more.

It's almost a little too trippy.

Mind you, I think it's a good enough track.  It's not as amazing as "Journey to the Center of the Mind" by Amboy Dukes*, but it's a fair pace ahead of "Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills**.  You can track down the album of the same name, but I found it it to be undistinguished and serviceable.  Not unlike strawberries sans sugar.

*AKA, the best thing Ted Nugent has ever been associated with.
**AKA, the worst thing Billy Preston has ever been associated with.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?

AIRDATE:  2/21/83

STORY:  In May of 1966, Charles Schulz sent his dedicated readers into paroxysms of disbelief with the arrival of a storyline that no one saw coming:  Linus and Lucy, moving out of the city.  It seems Mr. Van Pelt found a new job.  What is it?  No one says.  Hell, what was his old job?

Of course, Charlie Brown is sent into a spiral of stun.  He also, until the moving vans pull away, seems to be the only of the kids who actually realizes their cadre of fledgling neurotics is about to be coming up two short at the next head count.

Linus' initial phone call to the Brown household was received by Sally.  As ever, she is rendered starry-eyed by the mere voice of her sweetest baboo, and by the time she hands the phone over to her brother, is convinced that she and Linus have made a date for the movies.  Linus somberly  requests that Charlie Brown meet him outside.  It's there that he drops the anvil directly on his best friends fat feet.

Faced with the reality that his "very best friend" will be out of his life in less than 24 hours, Charlie Brown manages to squeeze in one more game of baseball and pay one more trip to Lucy's psychiatrist booth--where she announces her replacement, a goateed and bespeckled Snoopy, who is charging two full quarters in exchange for his invaluable counsel.

Lucy has more pressing matters to attend to, see, such as giving Schroeder a double-sided picture of herself for his precious piano, should he ever long to gaze upon her smiling face once more.  (Schroeder's devotion to his music is such, however, that he seems to not see the world in shapes. Leading to the following, perfect exchange:  "Who's that?"  "That's me!")

Then the time for the final farewell is at hand.  A so-long party is held, wherein all the kids are disgusted to discover that a catering company owned and operated by a dog serves up dog food.  Linus hands his beloved blanket over to Snoopy, and the Van Pelts (along with a large truck) ease on down the road.

Unsurprisingly, Sally does not handle being "stood up" well.  Perhaps more remarkably, Schroeder suddenly seems out of sorts without his raven-haired #1 fan around to appreciate his prodigious tinkles.  Charlie Brown is nonplussed.  All Schroeder can say is, "I never got to say goodbye."

Charlie Brown did get to say goodbye, and his soul has yet to recover (not to mention his shoulders).  Peppermint Patty picks up on his despondency and tries to recruit Marcie in a mission to cheer up Chuck.  Marcie picks up on her mentor's crush on the crushed, and makes either the grave mistake or genius move of confronting her on it.  Patty naturally denies it, but is bothered for the rest of the day by the idea that anyone anywhere at any time for any reason could be in love with wishy-washy ol' Chuck.  (Shades of There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown.)  She is tormented by this irreconcilable notion, and calls Charlie Brown in the early AM.  Still under the spell of Hypnos, Chuck is powerless as Patty manipulates the conversation and tells him she accepts his offer of a date.  Except he didn't offer it.  She did.  (Shades of two minutes into this show.)  Masterfully done, Patricia.

So now it's Peppermint Patty's turn to wait on the porch for her paramour in potentia, and her turn to feel the sting of rejection.  Charlie Brown is barely able to keep his eyes open long enough to read the latest postcard from Linus, much less keep a date, but more to the point he thinks his conversation with Patty was actually a dream.

Her pride smarting, Patty takes yet again to Bell's Baby.  And as before, it's a one-sided affair.  Charlie Brown can only mutter and wonder as the conversation goes from admonishment to forgiveness.  These conversations are easily the highlights of the special for me; Charlie Brown's passiveness and Peppermint Patty's aggression pair up like mismatched house shoes.  Garish, but somehow comforting.

Head still spinning, Charlie Brown is then greeted with a most unusual sight:  the Van Pelts vehicles pulling up in front of their former home.  Seems Daddy Van Pelt didn't cotton to his new job, so they're back in the neighborhood.  (Guessing that DVP didn't burn any bridges on his way out of the old job.  Or that he possesses a skill-set that ensures his services are always in high demand.)  It's all back to normal, then.  Whew!  Give Linus the blanket back, stupid beagle!

In retrospect, this special was overdue and a bit underdone.  The Van Pelts relocation doesn't really affect Charlie Brown any significant way other than to make him sleep-deprived and susceptible to the wiles of crafty girls.  Whereas before he was always fully awake for that.  Linus and Lucy aren't gone long enough for us to miss them, in either the newspaper or on the DVD, so Is This Goodbye stands or falls on what is the backbone of Peanuts:  Charlie Brown, with all his yearning sadness , utter befuddlement and giddy (if short-lived) excitement.  And always, always his big fat watermelon head.  I needed multiple viewings to be comfortable with a final grade of 7.5.  Watch it expecting to be entertained, and you will be.  Watch it anticipating some poignant emotional moment that touches your heart, and you will be let down.

MUSIC:  Judy Munsen's soundtrack is here and there, but fortunately not everywhere.  Takes an inevitable turn for the funky when Joe Cool Catering gets down to business.  Less explicable was her decision to fill the last minute and a half of the program with a rewrite of "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel.

Why does the title theme sound like School Band 101, anyway?  5

ANIMATION: The general palette is reminiscent of a spotlight, in its brightness; yet not really, since it doesn't draw attention to anything.  (The fateful call between Linus and Charlie Brown is so goddamn yellow it's like the cover of The B-52's smeared with mustard.)

Charlie Brown's sad, tired face is a Schulzian wonder--expressive to the utmost without being OTT.  7.5

VOICES:  Brad Kesten rises to the occasion, earning an 8 for his profoundly doleful Charlie Brown.  Jeremy Schoenberg and Angela Lee tackle the Van Pelt siblings, earning matching 7.5's to go with their muted portrayals.

"Muted" is never a word I should use to describe Sally, and surely enough Stacy Heather Tolkin outside-voices her way to an 8.  Kevin Brandon has the unenviable task of bringing both Schroeder and Franklin to life.  I'll give him a 7 out of pity (in fairness, he's one of the more memorable Schroeders, but that's like ranking the most memorable pieces of untoasted white bread.)

Michael Dockery' s Marcie is a straight-shooting 8, but it's Victoria Vargas as her sandals-and-shorts-or bust best friend who shines above all.  She goes steadily from an 8 to 8.5.  At first, membership in the "Retainer Club" seems to have sapped her confidence, but sure enough, the more lines she speaks, the stronger her voice becomes.


--Three phone calls, two broken hearts.  Each convo is a treat of verbal farce.

--Please note Linus' sled.

--Snoopy's "Hey!" marks the third time he has exclaimed such in these specials.  (The first, and still best, involved a ring of bunnies.)

--The blanket exchange between Linus and Snoopy is foreshadowed by the pre-title sequence, where (against a backdrop of pure, fluctuating color) Snoopy tries to snatch the little boy's security away.



Adults!  My presumptuous idea of how the Peanuts universe should be depicted has been horrifically violated!

--The absence of the littlest Van Pelt, Rerun, may strike the viewer as incongruous considering he had made his animated debut seven years ago.  But since he didn't make his actual strip debut until 1972--six years after the "moving" storyline--not including him makes sense.  What would they have done, shown him on the back of a bicycle tied to the top of the car?

--Again...what did you expect a catering company run by a dog was going to serve?  Fresh sandwiches and a cheese spread?  Cakes, mousses and pies?  Polkas, schottisches and waltzes?  Most kids don't even deserve Snausages.

--The ultimate scene between Lucy and Schroeder upon the former's return is underwhelming to me.  She walks up to his piano as he pounds away, assumes the usual position, waits a bit, and announces, "Your sweetie is back!"  She says it just loud enough to penetrate Schroeder's Beethoven bubble and frighten the poor boy.

I much prefer the sequence as depicted in the comic.  The first three panels are as animated, but the final one is truly Lucy.  Her speech bubble takes up the top half of the square, and the sheer force of it sends Schroeder tumbling backwards.  I'm going to assume (since that's all I really can do) that either Angela Lee wasn't up to the vocal task, or Schulz and co. wanted to avoid shrill Lucy.  But man, shrill Lucy can be amazing sometimes.

Hey, did someone say "party down"?

Monday, June 24, 2013

He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE:  2/14/68

Snoopy is making trouble!  Scaring Linus out of the placid lucidity he'd attained whilst sitting in the kiddie pool; ruining Lucy's reading of The Three Little Pigs by moving her from one place to another with the sheer power of his canine breath (eventually depositing her into yet another kiddie pool); kicking Schroeder.  Well, he actually kinda had it coming.  

From there, the mischievous beagle lies in wait, attired in Flying Ace gear, eyes trained on Patty and Violet as they unknowingly step into his trap.  He suddenly leaps out, blocking their path, and proceeds to "shoot" them with a hand-cannon worthy of Samus.  (This sequence features one of the few times Snoopy "speaks," bleating out "BANG! BANG!" so the girls realize they've been gunned down.  Rather sounds like he swallowed a duck.)

Then he scampers his cute beagle butt across the yard,  and launches right into his owner's chest.  Linus gets a boot to the butt, and finally Snoopy flees, satisfied to have brought Animals Being Dicks to life.

The kids have reached a consensus:  Curb Your Canine, Charlie Brown.  So the zig-zagged wonder makes arrangements for Snoopy to attend classes at Daisy Hill Obedience School.  For reasons known only to no one, 'cause this is not real life, he trusts his recalcitrant pet to make the trip on his own.  This goes as well as that one time and one time only that I tried Jagermeister.  Snoop stops by Peppermint Patty's crib and decides that he is in France circa the Second World War.  The gracious patio is a quaint cafe, and the root beer is quaffed to quenching.  Who'd want to leave, especially for a stupid school?  Soon, Chuck is hipped to his truant quadruped, and comes to retrieve him.  However, Snoopy the overly civilized underly dogified dog does not cotton to the leash that his owner brings, and Pep Pat orders Chuck to leave "my shortstop" alone.  

It's been a glorious week for lazy dogs with fantastical gifts, but soon Patty puts Snoopy to work washing a million dishes, which given that she and her father are the only occupants of the house, means the plates 'n things have been piling up for approximately three months.  

Snoopy misses his freedom; the kids, hearts grown plenty fond, miss Snoopy.  And if he doesn't get out of that house soon, Snoopy's gonna come up missing for real.  Charlie Brown's second attempt at retrieval is successful, and the neighborhood is back to normal.

I love He's Your Dog. My favorite Peanuts character hangs out with my second favorite.  Their warm spots for each other make me feel all cookie inside.  10.  If you have not seen this, watch it immediately.   It's on DVD now, as part of the Peanuts 1960s collection, and your money will appreciate being used for such a noble cause.

MUSIC:  Vince Guaraldi's fingers are having a frolicking good time.  I can just visualize them bouncing and dancing over the black-and-whites.  Straight happy jazz, homey.  9

ANIMATION:  Still in that classic style, with slight tweaks, giving the proceedings a familiar and pleasant look.  Unlike the star of the show, it's no trouble whatsoever.  8, with points deducted for the recycled Flying Ace footage from It's the Great Pumpkin.

VOICESHe's Your Dog is the last special to use the original voice actors.  Peter Robbins notches his usual perfect score.  His Chuck B. has never been surpassed, and most likely never will be.  (Oh that this young boy would grow up to be a man driven to violence by a botched boob job.   It does no good to ponder, I tell you.)  Sally Dryer's Lucy is an 8, and Christopher Shea's Linus a 9.  

Schroeder and 5 are seen but not heard from; same with Roy and his puzzling shirt.  (This is a nice gesture though, as Roy accompanied Peppermint Patty in her inaugural strip appearance.)  Oh, and about the sandal-ed one…Gail DeFaria does a fantastic job, her voice as sandy as the characters hair.  And it gets everywhere.  10, no question.


--The kids proclaim "Snoopy, come home!" Years later, he would make it a point to do just that, in one of the most morose kiddy films ever.

--Pep Pat is shown reading a Peanuts book with Charlie Brown and Lucy on the cover.  The meta melts metal.

--"A little chow," she just said.  Goddamn I love Peppermint Patty.  She and Snoopy, given their own strip, could have been a formidable entity of entertainment.

--Now that's a tummy just made to tickle.

--He refers to himself as "Chuck Brown."  You won't hear that often.

--Eatin' some Fluf!  

--When Snoopy rebels against the sudden domestic role that Peppermint Patty shunts him into, he starts bashing and smashing dishes at the sink.  Unsurprisingly, she is displeased, wondering "What's all this ruckus?" and then ordering, "You better ease up on that noise."  For someone who's growing up without a mom around, Patty sure does a great imitation of one.  Or of someone in the audience of a Grey Wolves gig.


--When Charlie Brown first attempts to bring Snoopy home, he remarks, "Tomorrow we'll see the kids.  They'll be glad to see you too."  Sounds like something one spouse would say to another as they bring their estrangement to a pleasant end.

--It took Daisy Hill Puppy Farm Obedience School a week to call Charlie Brown with the news that his dog had not yet arrived for classes.  

--There's being cool...then there's diving into a pool while wearing sunglasses.

--Characters that played a prominent role at the beginning of Peanuts but were relegated as Charles Schulz created more interesting children and devoted more time to Snoopy's wild mind get shot with dog-finger!  Not a coincidence!  Total visual metaphor!  It makes you laugh and reflect!  Garfield never did that!

Again, I implore you, watch He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown.  It takes the story in one Sunday strip (6/23/66) and extends it masterfully, imbuing the proceedings with humor and heart to spare.  This is why I love Peanuts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE:  10/24/1980.  (The second Peanuts special to debut the day after my birthday.)

STORY:  The circus has arrived in...whatever town the Peanuts gang lives in!  The kids are naturally excited, being kids and all, but Snoopy is in for much more than a night scarfing down popcorn and marveling at overwhelmingly whimsical death-defiance.  Our dear beagle falls for an acrobatic poodle named Fifi and inadvertently becomes part of the traveling showcase.  Renamed "Hugo the Great"--because the name "Snoopy" is simply too dull and wishy-washy to capture any audience's imagination--the wayward beagle warms up to his new environment, driven to heights he'd never before imagined (quite literally) by the love and affection of his diminutive (and frankly rather snooty-seeming) paramour.

Then the trainer, a simply delightful girl named Polly, tries to dye the pups pink for the purpose of visual coordination.    First of all, racist.  Second of all, nobody puts Fifi in a corner.  The lovestruck dogs run away, and get as far as the nearest bus stop (I'm done being gobsmacked at the ease with which animals board public transit in the Peanuts-verse, given that the number one bus service in America is named "Greyhound" and all).  Fifi makes the difficult decision to return to the circus, a place she's called home for an unknowable amount of time.  (Seriously, some back story would have been mega-cute.)  Snoopy returns to his home as well, content to let his heart heal (and his fur return to its nice normal color) with a quick refreshing shower.

This is a nice, mildly amusing special, one of those that I would never leap to watch but nor would I stop drop and roll to escape it.  I give it a 7; perfectly serviceable without being outstanding in any way, much like the music of the Smiths.  So can you believe that this was the fourth and final Peanuts special to win an Outstanding Childrens/Animated Program Emmy, joining the legendary A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, as well as the above-average You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown?  The stiff competition that year was Bugs Bunny:  All-American Hero and It's Magic, Charlie Brown.  Yeesh.

MUSIC:  Bogas 'n' Munsen.  Like vasoline on toast.  Like Vick's Vapo-Rub slathered on non-steaming cold buttermilk biscuits.  4.

Look, I don't hate this show at all, but this wins an Emmy and It's the Great Pumpkin doesn't?

ANIMATION:   The animators had a clear phobia of sharp corners.  The name of the game is "Smudgeworks."   The cadre of circus critters are drawn well, especially the gargantuan lion that doesn't cotton to being used as a blanket for a pathetic shivering beagle.  6

Look, I don't hate this show at all, but this wins an Emmy and She's a Good Skate doesn't?

VOICES:  The kids are true secondary players, playing runner-up banjo to the dogs.  Which is as it should be.  The blockhead is memorably handled by Michael Mandy, and that's not precisely a positive, as his Charlie Brown is much more high-pitched than his predecessors.  Although, ultimately, he does give good grief.  7

Earl Reilly as Linus, Kristen Fullerton as Lucy, Shannon Cohn as Marcie, and Christopher Donohue as Schroeder.  Each one made such a powerful impression on me.  I can barely type for my shaking hands.  I give them a 7.  Total.

Brent Hauer proves yet again that if you can't have Linda Ercoli voicing Peppermint Patty, the next best thing is a boy.  8.  Well done, youngster, I wish you'd had a larger role.


--Snoopy blushes easy-like me!  Aww, awkward hugs!

--When Snoopy first sets eyes on Fifi, he is struck with the thunderbolt of love, much like Michael in The Godfather when he spots the young, innocent Apollonia.  The two love stories diverge drastically from the point of initial contact, but I'd argue being forcibly dunked into a tub of pink dye is not demonstrably preferable to exploding in a car.

--School is closed so that the kids can enjoy the circus.  Needless to say, Charlie Brown is stunned when he sees his dog entertaining the crowd with acrobatics and general silliness.  He firmly insists that Snoopy return home and reassume his role as faithful companion, but feelings beyond either of their understanding compels Snoop to follow his beloved and board the train, onward to the next stop, the next show.

--Which just makes the scene at the bus stop, where Snoopy's heart visibly breaks as he waves a weak farewell to the departing Fifi, all the more sad.  Squeezes my chest-battery, I tell ya.

--"Okay, Hugo!  It took several seconds of hilarious ineptitude, but you've got the hang of that unicycle now!  You're ready for the high-wire."

--"Our Father, who art in Heaven...dude, you suck."


--Charlie Brown, deep in the throes of separation anxiety, regales Linus with the story of how Snoopy came into his little life.  Typically, some mean kid playing alongside him in a sandbox dumped a whole bucket of the grainy stuff over Chuck's rounded head.  To cheer their son up, the Browns went and bought a beagle puppy they named Snoopy.  Nice story, and straight from the source (specifically, the 1/30/72 daily strip).  But as Charles Schulz didn't hesitate to point out, the TV specials were not canon.  Meaning that twelve years later, a show was created which not only changed the "boy and his dog" origin story, but built its entire premise around said alteration.  The name of that special?  Snoopy's Reunion.  Is it great?  No, it is super-great like Hugo, and I look forward to reviewing it soon.

It didn't win an Emmy either.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It Was a Botched Boob Job, Charlie Brown


Charlie Brown's voice actor Peter Robbins was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty for stalking former girlfriend Shawna Kern and threatening her plastic surgeon Dr. Lori Saltz. Superior Court Judge Dwayne Moring said on Wednesday, May 8, that Robbins, who has already been in jail since January, could spend the rest eight months in a drug treatment facility.

But moreso than the pathetic crime, it's all about the picture accompanying the article.  

I always said Robbins was the perfect Chuck...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Worst Lyrics Ever: "Show Me What You Got"

To say Limp Bizkit's "Show Me What You Got" has the most horrifying lyrics of any song in the history of recorded music is pretty bold.  You've heard "Afternoon Delight," right?  I mean, it may not even be the worst collection of words to music done by that particular band.  Who, you may or may not know, have a new album coming out.  So yeah...I'm feeling bold.

"Show Me What You Got" is a knuckle-dragger near the end of the Bizkit's depressingly wildly-popular 1999 album, Significant Other.  Alleged singer/certain douchenozzle Fred Durst curses us with a cavalcade of crappy sentences that, for the most part, are not set to blunt force trauma faux-metal.   (And oh thank you, band, for being so unintrusive during the verses!)  It's a "shout-out" to all the fine folks who aided and abetted the crime of Limp Bizkit's continued existence, and I have wanted it dead for over a decade now.  "Show Me What You Got" is a sociopath's idea of a tribute.  Or a moron's.

Lyric by lyric breakdown.  I'm gonna kill this thing once and for all.

Keepin' it real

As meaningless back in '99 as it is now.  "I'm keepin' it real" is what assholes say to deny their asshole-ness to themselves.  'Cause they're assholes.

World wide baby
Limp Bizkit's in the house
So bring it on

Dependence on the cliche is a hallmark of the small mind.

I'd like to dedicate this song to you
For makin' my dreams come true
For the millennium 

Durst pronounces "millennium" in the dumbest way, like for a few years I thought he was saying "For the mellow neon."  

Are you ready?
Then get the fuck up

Where you at Jacksonville
Rochester, Louisville

Jacksonville is where LB are originally from.  Louisville is from where my mother hails.  So you tell me.  Tell me why you rhymed "ville" with "ville," you asshole, tell me now!

Columbia, Hartford 
Milwaukee, and Lewiston, Maine? 

Wait wait, what the fuck does "Maine" rhyme with?  I mean in this context?  Also, Milwaukee is the worst major city in America.  I wanted to grab all the cutesy, Packers-friendly dairy for sale at the airport and smash it underfoot whilst screaming "Fuck yo' cheese, crackers!"

Where you at Providence, Nashville
Memphis, Lauderdale
Portland, Orlando, Chicago, and Frisco? 

I saw Sonic Youth live in 3 of those cities!  

I left my heart in Austin with Mary Campbell

I have no idea who the fuck that is.

Got lost in Boston lookin' for the tea party

10 points for elementary school Social Studies retention!  (This was years before the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party adopted "Tea Party" to describe their merry band of hate-ridden and bloodthirsty cretins.)

And again...where is the rhyming part in those last two lines?  

Met a child molester in Worchester 

Remember this!

Need a Kleenex every time I'm leavin' Phoenix

Bad as that is, just remember:  he coulda gone with "penis."

I get silly when I play in Philly
Limp Bizkit committee down in Kansas City

SIGH.  Real loud, real long, my sighs are just keepin' it real in the house tonight everybody say "ho" with your hands in the air.

Never know what I'm in fer when I'm play in Denver

"Fer," he just said.  You are only allowed to say that if your name is Cletus and you have recently helped your lady birth a baby using pliers, dental floss, duct tape and gravy.

Hard rock don't stop down in Vegas

Ya know, 'cause of the cafe!

In Cincinnati the girls call me "Daddy"

Horrifying.  Those women also gave him syphilis.  Which they contracted from their actual fathers.

And I probably ain't leavin' the next time I'm in Cleveland
Found my lucky coin in Des Moines

You do not now, nor did you ever, possess a lucky coin!  That is something only pre-teen boys in places south of the Mason Dixon line ever did.  And it stopped being a thing after 1964.

And spit on a boy named Tina in Pasadena

Now.  This, in proper context, might be the worst line of the whole song, and thus, the worst lyric in music history.  I asked you, dear reader, to remember the earlier "Met a child molester in Worchester."  This is why.  

Fred Durst just casually mentions meeting a fucking kiddie rapist, but makes sure to tell us he hurled expectorate at a transsexual.  THE TRANSSEXUAL IS THE ONE THAT GOT HIM UPSET.

We get the swing from New Orleans

Bullshit.  This song is a pair of busted fake titties, no beads for Limp Bizkit.

Ft Worth and Dallas 
We toast when we're tippin' up the chalice

Just for the 99% of their audience who didn't know what a chalice was, or what purpose it served.

Tulsa, St. Louis, Sacto, Mesa, Norfolk, Lawrence, Minneapolis


St. Paul, North Hampton, Detroit, Omaha, New York, LA
What can I say, I can't name'm all

The infuriating thing is, that you tried.

So somebody
Get the fuck up!
Show me what you got
Whooo ha
Show me what you got
Hey ladies

Guarantee Durst got all three Beastie Boys tattooed somewhere on his wretched pudding body after Adam Yauch passed.

Who's hot who's not
Who? Who?

He says "Who?" in this strangled yell that brings to mind a pit bull choking on a kitten. I mean what non-Cincinnati woman is supposed to be turned on by that?  

I can't help but believe in these friends
These bands
These stories
And the places that I've been

Yes, yes, you've already mentioned the places!  So I'm assuming the friends are to come?

I thank God, mom & dad, 
Adrianna,for the love I feel inside

Even as a slant rhyme, "dad" and "inside" is stretching it further than Cincinnati vagina.

Jordan, my phat ass band
Without 'em I'd be nothin' but a pumpkin shoved inside a can

I don't want to know what inspired that metaphor.  If I wanna be really generous, I'll re-imagine it as a Billy Corgan diss.  I mean it's just crude enough.  But otherwise…a really big fruit shoved into a really small metal container.  I guess that's not exactly desirable but…why not go for something a bit more humanizing?  Or even just human?  

Without the fans there wouldn't be no show 

Double negative.  Also, fuck you and fuck them.

And if that was really so, than life would really blow
 To The Firm, you always got my back

The Firm were LB's management.  One of whom got knocked up and down some stairs by Sharon Osbourne, or so the rumor went.  I choose to believe the rumor.  

Korn for the love and the swappin' of the tracks
My brother Cory d, 
My man terry date
We brought it to the plate and you made it sound great

Hilarious!  And not only for rhyming three simple words over two lines, but because no you didn't and no he didn't.  

Scott Weiland the melody man
If you can't sing it nobody can

Ayo Pavarotti, hit a falsetto off this big Bizkit dick, bitch!  Man/can, cat/hat/, that's phat!

Wu Tang Clan, skills from the method 
The worlds best mc kills on this record

That was a compound rhyme…I'm kinda shocked.  Well, broken clocks…

Slim Shady, crazy ass cracker

Eminem visited the Bizkit during sessions for Significant Other and dropped uninspired lyrics to a Loverboy-sampling piece of dead skin called "Turn Me Loose."  It did not make the album because it sucked, at least by Fred Durst's standards.  As opposed to the rest of the album, which more or less sucked by normal standards.

Staind, a brand new drug for your brain

I'm on the outside/And I'm lookin' in/I can see through youuu/See the real you…

Did I get the song entrenched in your head?  GOOD.  

Les Claypool, for actin' like a fool 
And all of the bands for the demos that were cool

This is why Fred Durst sucks, no one in any popular band thinks the demos they get from aspirational fans are useful as anything other than a coaster/frisbee/implement for insertion when in Cincinnati.  But Fred Durst would.  He'd just be moved to fucking tears, I'd bet, and all excited for the future of rock!  

I'm so grateful for this life of mine


The ones I didn't thank 
I will some other time 

No, not a third verse!

Now i just want somebody
Get the fuck up! 
Show me what you got
Yeeee ha
Show me what you got
Hey ladies
Who's hot who's not
Who? who?
Who's hot who's not

I've been around this world and then some

Gah!  The music has picked up!  Please don't name any more cities, Maryland and D.C. have evaded infamy and I wanna keep it that way!

Dum ditty dum kid where you comin' from? 

I'm going to kill you.

I went from the garage 
To steppin' on these stages 
Outrageous rhymes left my mind and soon became contagious

He rhymed "stages" with "contagious."  I'm so out I just came back in.  This is what happens when bands aren't democracies.  Yeah, they'll be around for a longer period, but the music will be much worse.

An mc with bad habits I am

He's Freddy D the ball-cap man.

I see a mic then I grab it
Scary aint it? 

No.  That's how microphones work.

Comin' raw with no corrections
Savin' all perfections
For what I do with my erections 
So dream on!

Yeah, now that's the scary part.  Basically dude is saying he fucks immaculately.  Like all hail his wang, in excelsis deo.  And that's the menstrual clump on the adipose sundae.  The vision of Fred Durst's thrusting hairy sweaty ass.  Yeah, dream on to that.  One day you too can be an ugly talentless hick banging insecure broads with foreheads wide enough to land planes your own music, even!  One day you too can pay vastly more talented rappers to mumble with you on a song!  'MURICA!

But I doubt you'll ever write lyrics shittier than the ones to "Show Me What You Got."

Friday, March 8, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt.4)

5.  "Helter Skelter"
Appears on;  The Beatles  (preferably mono)

I dunno if "Helter Skelter" was the first metal song, or the granddaddy of grunge music, or whatever I read that one time in Rolling Stone/Spin/Alternative Press.  I do know, however, that the Beatles when inspired could obliterate for miles and miles.  This is music to destroy the soles of your shoes to, kicking and kicking away at headlight of every parked car until the last satisfying shatter.

Forget dingy sociopaths and their half-baked, half-fried dreams of war.  Marvel instead at the chug and snarl that sounds remarkably fresh even after 40+ years.

4.  "A Day in the Life"
Appears on:  Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

Jesus Christ.

John Lennon's recitation of the news is alienation verse that hiccups the occasional rhyme.  "I'd love to turn you on," wobbling aside, still doesn't sound either all that promising or threatening.  Honestly our hero sounds rather resigned to the daily cavalcade of the gory and mundane.

But then the orchestra ascends from the bowels of discontentment, climbing as if in a fight for just one more day of its life.  (Mal Evans' countdown in the first transition is, in this context, the intonations of a faceless, feature-free, and omnipotent shadow figure.)  The final curlicue once sounded, Paul enters, and I can damn near see him skipping along to the dum-dum piano.  It's all very cheerful and engaging and then it all just evaporates.

2:49 to 3:15 strikes me now--it did not always--as a struggle against the morass rather than a free-form interpretation of Paul's smoky dream.  Inarticulation as the last line of defense.

The end, when the orchestra gives way to the infamous crashing piano chord, which the Beatles would not let die, turning the sound levels in the studio up until a time hole appeared.

When I was a young Jenn that final chord bothered me terribly.  If the orchestra had hit my ears as impending doom cloaked in grey-and-black, the pianos were termination.  The end.  The empty.  No greys allowed.   I knew nothing of death as transition, how a slamming door somehow jimmied open the nearest window, the idea of transmigration of the soul, what could I even comprehend of the soul?  "A Day in the Life" still renders me breathless.  I hear euphoria in the confrontation between man and world, between the artist and their infinite resources versus the rigid clock of the universe.  The one that demands days must go on.

3.  "Here, There and Everywhere"
Appears on:  Revolver

A Paul ballad so undeniable, even John had naught but effusive praise to bestow.  A Paul ballad so unassailable, not even its inclusion in the "Phoebe's wedding" episode of Friends could tarnish its luster.  God only knows what Paul would have done without Brian Wilson.

"To lead a better life/I need my love to be here."

Songs about love tend to be superior to those about just sex simply because if it's an honestly romantic relationship, the couple will spend much more time doing things that aren't sexual acts:  share meals, hold conversations, travel, actually sleep in a bed.  Just being there with and for another.  The deep, long vibration of a routine, and the security to jostle it aside when need be.

"Changing my life with a wave of her hand."

Nothing about "Here, There and Everywhere" is less than gorgeous.

2.  "Strawberry Fields Forever"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour

You know the cut/paste origin story, do you not?  You are aware of every step Messrs. Martin and Emerick to make John's wish a reality, still remember how you smacked your forehead upon realizing you were listening to two distinct takes.  Oh my hell, he buried Paul in cranberry sauce!  Right.  I've detailed it myself on this very blog, so I shan't revisit.

I mean...come on.  Dazed and confused, sure, but amazed and amused as well, John was very skilled at exploring the hazier patches without becoming a sanctimonious twat.  "Nothing to get hung about," indeed.  Strawberry Fields is anywhere you wanna be.

Listen to the lyrics, that man does not have the answers, nor does he purport otherwise.  Instead of a half-hearted wish to turn ya on, Johnny wants to take us down, down, down.  Everyone with their own unique tree to hang out in, their own nest to construct, their own inner peace to realize.

Musically, "SFF" is a marvel.  The mellotron.  Ringo has probably never played better in his life.  He is off-the-wall good.  The trumpets and the cellos, especially the cellos.  I don't know precisely why their syrupy slashes press all the right buttons with me, but I can't deny what happens.

1.  "Things We Said Today"
Appears on:  A Hard Days Night

Yep.  That one.

It's not so much I'm out of my mind, as it is more that this song is massively underrated.  The innovative and mesmerizing harmonies, the quixotic chord changes, the conceit of "future nostalgia."  Not to forget, it contains my personal favorite chorus of any song, ever.   How does a 21-year-old rock 'n' roll demigod frolicking on a yacht in the Bahamas, hot-ass actress girlfriend in tow, conjure up such a world-weary song?  It goes from strength to strength, following its bliss from one glamorous locale to the next, go on and on...

Happiness gleaned from love is fleeting; contentment hopefully less so.  The echoes to be heard and traces to be glimpsed might be sufficient to keep a soul satisfied.  But is Paul, at the age of 21, already thinking of a day many years ahead, when he and/or his love in their halcyon days will reminisce upon the wilder, luxurious times of their youth?  Long, long way from "I Want To Please Please Hold All Your Loving Me Do."

Bless you, Beatles.  Forgive me what I am about to do.

Wait, what?  Worst Beatles songs?  Yes.  Please close your mouth before any gnarly manner of insect flies in there and finds home in some warm bacteria-infested areas.  Of course the Beatles had some worm in the corn.  Mediocrity is a consistent critter, y'see, while genius oscillates 'tween triumph and tragedy.  Which explains why the White Album on its own contains numerous songs that make my nerve endings sing with the glory of being a fully-functioning biped and still other songs that fill me with a very real sense of relief that one day, this hell-ride will end.

So understand that this list is not a childish reaction to promiscuous praise or a contrarian riposte to the litany of honorifics that have been bestowed upon the Beatle boys (by people who were alive back then, nonetheless!).  If I'm willing to acknowledge the apex and nadir moments of my favorite band, then I have to do it for my second-favorite.

5.  "The Ballad of John and Yoko"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 2

Vis-a-vis "Taxman," this manages to be only a mildly annoying entreaty to please oh please spare a kind thought for the poor put-upon rock star and his misunderstood artist wife.  But while George's anti-avidity anthem at least had Paul's glissando fest and a ripper solo besides, "Ballad of John and Yoko" has...John making reference to being crucified in the chorus.  I'm not even a Christian, but I loathe that sort of inflammatory, and frankly lazy, lyrical tactic.  It's throwing an itchy pox-ridden blanket of faux-controversy over a chilly, twitching body of mediocrity.

The killer is...the tune itself, freed of John's crap, is pretty cool and even a li'l funky in parts.  (The guitar even sounds as annoyed and fidgety as I am towards the end.)  But it doesn't fit with John's crap!  I don't care about his honeymoon hijinks.  It is amazing to me that anyone ever did.  People get paid to follow celebrities around and ask dumb questions?!  Are you for real, that can't be!  Let the artists eat their chocolate cake in peace you animals!

Longest three minutes in Beatle history.

4.  "Please Please Me"
Appears on:  Please Please Me

AKA, "Blow Me Do."

My best friend--you may recall him as the unabashed hater of "You Know My Name" from a few posts in the past--really likes "Please Please Me."  He digs the urgency, the barely-restrained passion.  I dig...the "come on" call-response part.  Reminds me of "I Like It Like That" by Dave Clark Five.  They should have scrapped everything else around that and rebuilt.  'Cause otherwise I find this a trite attempt at salaciousness that really just makes John come off like a typical young asshole.  It's the throbbing dullness of this track paired with its status as a beloved classic that puts it so high on my list.

3.  "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Hey guys I'm gonna play "Classical Gas" real fast, check it out...HEEEYYY BUNGALOW BILL!  WHAT DID YOU KILL?

More Spirit Camp fun.  Well golly gee, seems this middle-aged woman and her college-aged son came all the way from America to get them some peace and enlightenment...and then go out and shoot some wild life!  A very interesting song could have been written from this, but John Lennon decided that as a Beatle, and thus as someone used to defying all the conventions of songwriting, he would slap together a very irritating campfire sing-along.  Why bring kids into this, John?  Hell, why bring Yoko into it?  And I like Yoko!

Uh-oh, they're doing another round! Aim directly for my heart, Bill!  Remember me for the great S'mores I made, everyone!

2.  "Wild Honey Pie"
Appears on:  The Beatles

I am a Paul McCartney fangirl.  I have many comrades.  It is my personal opinion that he was the best songwriter in the Beatles, had the most artistically successful post-Beatles career, and ranks on the shortlist of greatest composers of the 20th Century.  I defend him to the death on so many occasions.  His "granny shit songs"?  Magnificent!  Wings?  Band on the Run is a masterpiece!  And on it goes.  But I cannot, will not, shall not raise even finger one to help "Wild Honey Pie."  No, actually I will raise a digit up.

I like dissonance as much as the next obsessive Sonic Youth fan, y'all, but oh the drear this horrid genre-exercise engenders inside of me.  As brief a bit of spastic flail as "WHP" is...I still want to rip my toes off with lobster claws every time I put the first disc on and inevitably forget that not only is this ode to drug-induced stupidity on there, but it's followed by "Bungalow Bill"!  Oh huzzah!  I'm gonna take off my fingers too, a digit-free life is the life for me!

It's like eating shit, puking the shit back up, then eating the shitty puke.  It almost beggars belief how this ended up on an album, even one that totals 30 songs of wild variety and quality, but then I remember the drugs and it all makes sense.

1.  "All You Need Is Love"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour

This is what happens when you sign up for Philosophy 101 and spend valuable class-time doodling on the desk, ogling tits 'n' ass, and deciding that reading the back jacket of each assigned book is sufficient to pass all the tests.

Lennon fucked up here.  "All You Need Is Love" could have been a very powerful statement, and the Beatles were uniquely qualified in terms of both ability and popularity to deliver that statement, but the ball was well and totally dropped.  It's not that he, Socrates, does not know how to express what he means.  It's that the method is lacking.  The lyrics are immoderate and clumsy, to the point where either Lennon is saying give up on trying to imprint your own unique stamp on the world because everyone deep down is capable of doing what you can do if not better so you should abandon any fanciful aspirations and just give in to love, or that your potential is limitless so long as you believe in the power of love.

Regardless what John was trying to express...the sentiment is wrong-headed and even dangerous. Love is not all you need.  You need love, yes.  But you need hate as well.  You need trust, and distrust.  You need to be able to discriminate between gold and brass, understand?  Not all shiny things are fucking gold.  You need money.  You need other people.  You need dreams.  You need responsibilities and boundaries.  You need not to look towards filthy rich, obnoxiously lavished-upon musicians to tell you the secret to a happy life.

And you most certainly do not need to listen to writers like myself.  But if you've made it this far, that means you wanted to, and I appreciate it.  After that last blast of negativity, I'm going to slip into some Abbey Road and enjoy a nice day.  See you next time...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt.3)

One and one and one is...

10.  "Abbey Road Medley"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

Eight songs, in various stages of completion, over 16 minutes...the Abbey Road medley/suite/hodgepodge was conceptualized by Paul and true fifth Beatle George Martin to wrap up the last recorded Beatles album.  I love Paul for several hundred reasons, and if I ever ranked the top 10 reasons--and I would--his unassailable status as the Beatles legacy-maintainer for their last couple years of active musical life would be there.

I found it impossible to separate these songs when considering this list.  How could I rip "Polythene Pam" and "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" apart?  "Golden Slumbers" to "Carry That Weight" to "The End" don't mess with that.  That's perfection.

From a disarmingly nectarous ode to sour negotiations, to trippy gibberish...but Mean Mr. Mustard knows people far more interesting and actually alive than ol' King Louis the Whoever.  Why's John sound so bored?  Surely it's just my imagination, running away with Pam, gleefully sleazy and oh yeah, wide-eyed now Johnny boy!  Pam would never have been an Apple Scruff, but she still admires their chutzpah.

Enough about the others, the extraneous skin-slappers.  The last bit is Paul's love letter to the Beatles.  "Once there was a way"'s less the boy that's gonna play Atlas, more the boys, you dig?...the solo bug has inevitably bitten them all, and they'll be successful for sure, but the Beatles mystique will never disappear.  Buck up, fellas, sing yer hearts out, face the future.

Oh yeah!  All right!

Going out like heavyweight champions, baby:  Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense.  We're the Beatles, bah, it's done fuck the Beatles!  But hey, we're the Beatles, so fuck you!  John, George and Paul take turns flipping V's.  But then...

"And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make."

Internecine drama and bitterness be damned.  It's still about love.

9.  "Something"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

My favorite George tune for sure, an exquisite gossamer slow dance that manages to give itself over to passion while still keeping its cynical head.  I much prefer this to his preachings on  shallow material fetishism.  Best intro to a Beatles song? Best end to a Beatles song?

8.  "I'm So Tired"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Whilst at Maharishi Spirit Camp, our hero John fell into a nasty funk indeed.  Head fulla intense thoughts and body weighed down by even more intense insomnia exacerbated by stunted lust, our begrudging noctavigant warrior squeezed out a universal lament.

"I'd give you everything I've got for a little piece of mind."  No metaphors or similes.  No extravagant imagery.  Just sludge of the soul.  Funny as John's brief snipe at Walter Raleigh is, both poets used their gifts to express the contemptus mundi* attitude for a wide, largely appreciative audience.  Brothers always fight.

*(translated from the original Latin, "The world sucks and I hate it.")

7.  "Your Mother Should Know"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour (stereo version, crisp and clear; the mono is flayed with flange and practically unlistenable, even as the aesthetic fits tighter with that of the MMT album)

This one has its detractors.  Paul was the Beatle to rely on for meretricious populace pleasers (and what could bring a smile to one's face faster than thoughts of mom?) and mileage varies for certain.  "Your Mother Should Know" wears a monocle, top hat, pink feather boa hat, and ball gown all at the same time.  Sing it again?  Aw yeah, again and again!

6.  "Two of Us"
Appears on:  Let It Be

Paul penned this one for Linda, but Beatle freaks can't help but hear a tribute to a friendship that changed the world. (Bittersweet to consider that Paul has been without either of his partners for years now.)  J and P are perfectly matched here (and the fact that by and large the Beatles were even at this point able to check their mutual enmity at the studio door and lay down classic after classic is yet another check in their column), two troubadours content to ride it out side by side, gazing out at the extremely long stretch of dotted and streaked grey ahead, heads flashing with wispy fragments of thoughts and memories.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt. 2)

Phase Two, in which Doris gets her oats.

15.  "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite"
Appears on:  Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

The circus is in town!  Scratch that, actually, the circus is the town.  Everyone lives in Big Top tents and rides elephants to and from work, which is either constructing an aerial apparatus or reading Nancy Drew mysteries to the caged freaks.

As stirringly off-kilter is the patchwork of harmonium 'n' Hammond 'n' glockenspiel 'n' loopy-loops, it's really John's performance that makes it such a personal favorite.  Even double-tracked up he still sounds resolutely blase amid such blithe proceedings.

With all this barmy somersaulting and horse-dancing going on, the listener might not expect Paul and Ringo to show up high-stepping it in their rainbow suspenders and flaming top hats, but they do.  Why this was never sold as a kiddy song alongside the likes of "Octopus' Garden" and "Yellow Submarine" I'll never figure, as it blows both the aforementioned away.

Any song that irritates Lou Reed so intensely that he is rendered seemingly literally unable to attack it with any critical substance has something going for it.  Something very real and worth investigating.

14.  "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 2 (not the Anthology version, which has a friggin' ska section.  Whimsy has its limits.  Ska music violates each and every one of those limits.)

A legendary pastiche, I call it.  A legendary piece of shit, my best friend retorts.   I tell him, I tell you:  hating this song is a strong indication that you are also nauseated by the very thought of having a good time, AKA "fun."  And you don't care much for Statler and Waldorf, AKA the crotchety old bastards in the Muppet Show balcony.

This is a classic comedy song in four distinct parts, united only by the title and the fact that the J & P Show are having the actual time of their collective creative life.  Starts off as a piano stomper that fools the unsuspecting ears into thinking some throwback good times are afoot, then LOUNGE NUMBER!

I'm not an idiot; I understand that people have good reasons to convulse in distaste at this track, and despite the conviction of my opening paragraph up there, said reasons likely have little to do with the phlegmatic existences their soulless shells demand they endure.  Because while the the first half of "You Know My Name" is at its worst in love with its own distorted reflection in the fun house mirror, the second half is like the Kool Aid Man bust right through said mirror.  Except the Kool Aid Man in this instance an obese middle-aged man with a comb-over and walrus stache who is wearing naught but an adult diaper.  I can understand how this might disturb some listeners and cause them to turn away in disgust.  After the lounge section, it truly ceases to be a "song" as we would accept from the Beatles, and becomes an exercise in goofball self-consciousness.  It's scatterbrained, it's silly, I half-believe Paul was wearing drag for that third part, and that the entire thing birthed Monty Python full stop.

Fun!  Not lowercase, and not with a period at the end, you grant that?  Brian Jones' sax solo on here is the best thing that fella ever did in his too-short life.  Which is saying something, really, 'cause dude had like 9 kids.  Or 6.  You can look up the number.

13.  "I Feel Fine"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 1

Forget the famously non-incidental feedback, what about Bobby Parker?  What about joy, namely the unabashed kind of joy that we seem to lose the handle on the older we become?

"I Feel Fine" is another Beat-all-y'alls track that benefits from early exposure to my li'l ears.  It had a shuffle not dissimilar from those classic country songs my dad loved and the middle eight sounded like magic.  It was distinctly different from MTV.  For one, there were no carefully calculated images suggesting ways that I should react to the song.  I could just hang out by the stereo and pay it allll of my attention.

It's that shuffle that really deserves some extra shine here.  Legendary drummer/perfectionist Buddy Rich is on record dismissing Ringo's skills as "adequate," and so often, the degrading words of a famous musician towards another of his or her tribe will be referenced when one of us little non-famous folks want to validate our similar opinion.  But that's lazy thinking/debating.  I also don't put too much stock in artists talking crap on each other, as their personalities tend towards insecurity and hypersensitivity anyway.  I'm sure as long as there are sticks to wield and skins to beat, drummers far less famous than Mr. Starkey will bemoan how a "mediocre" thronesman could be considered one of the all-time greats when clearly he's not even top 100 all time, man!  

But the man never fucked up a Beatles song.  Okay, at least not with his drumming.  And in more than a few instances, "I Feel Fine" being one of those, he was able to give a performance that was precisely what the track needed.  No superfluous fills, no showy cymbal crashes.  Feel over technique.  Vibes over virtuosity.

12.  "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

A greatly unsettling scream for sensual healing.  Lennon had this disquieting tendency to make natural human desires sound like Satan Devouring His Son.  "She's So Heavy" is basically 8 minutes in the hazy maze cave, trying to navigate through the reeking clouds of lust and pools of blood that once stepped in begin to draw out your own.

I don't recommend trying to complete your own unique puzzle with the pieces of another person.  Of course my advice sounds pretty lame next to this masterwork of form-experimentation.  When I discovered Abbey Road as a teenager, this song helped me put all those metal tapes my brother would begrudgingly let me listen to in proper context.  As in, those guys were wimps.

"Heavyyyyyyyy!"  The exultation to settle it, once and for all.  Saxon?  Motley Crue?  You get nothing.  Good day!

11.  "Michelle"
Appears on:  Rubber Soul

One of those cloud-puff Paul ballads that divide the super-opinionated fanbase.  I fall firmly on the side that J.P. McCartney is the greatest writer of pop songs that's ever lived.  This does not mean he's batted 1.000 in his career, that would be a silly claim, no one ever bats 1.000 ever, especially if they're not actually playing baseball.  Which would be the case here.

"Michelle" is quite repetitive, quite carefree, and undeniably French in parts.  It gets nitpicked to hell for all of these qualities, and I've more than once come across the fan lamentation that no matter how gently gorgeous the track itself is, truly memorable love songs should display a bit more commitment and devotion than is evident in these threadbare lyrics.

There's a reason so many damn girls were named after this song (including one of my nieces) and it's not just because their parents thought it would be funny to say "my belle" each time they called their name.  This song is immaculate.  That "I love you" at 1:26 certainly strikes me as being borne from the heart.

Monday, March 4, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt. 1)

Well…I did it for my favorite band ever,  might as well do it for my second-favorite band ever.  But where Sonic Youth got the 30 Best/10 Worst treatment, the Beatles get 5 off both sides.  The reason for this, simply, is that I did not want to feel hemmed in by a template.  

I encourage you to sit back and enjoy not only this post, but also the next two that will be put up in the coming days.  This is my listed opinion on the greatest and most grating musical moments that the most influential racket-gang of all-time had to offer, and I do not gussy it up to be anything other than that, so please--calibrate the scales before you weigh in.  

25.  "Love Me Do"
Appears on:  Please Please Me (Andy White on drums; Ringo Starr on tambourine)

The primacy of the Beatles is not a myth perpetuated by a bunch of old assholes and/or lazy people.  Over seven years they went from squeaky-clean, similarly-suited purveyors of good ol' rock'n'roll, running away from screeching lasses while barely holding back their own hysterical laughter, to turned-on/tuned-in harbingers of one of the most fascinating eras in world history.  

"Love Me Do" was their first single released as the Beatles (a rather forgettable version of the traditional "My Bonnie" was released the year before, credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers) and while it did well in their homeland (#17 on the UK singles chart) it wasn't until "Please Please Me" that they topped the charts for the first time on either side of the pond.

Their first US #1 was "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which is a song so harmlessly drawn up and executed that, truly, having it drowned out by screaming young girls is my preferred way to hear the damn thing.   Later in 1963 they earned their second chart-crowner with "Love Me Do."

Much like its predecessor, "Love Me Do" does not appeal to anything particularly profound.  It's a stark toe-tapper, though, and more of the boys' personalities--which combine to create one large super BEATLE personality, of course--comes through.  It is also the resounding answer to the timidly-asked question, "What would the Everly Brothers sound like if they performed actual good songs?" 

Vocal delivery is key: 

"Love, love me do
You know I love you
I'll always be true"

The way the J & P Show stretch out "please" is also 10/10, A+.

And as embarrassing as the title is, it's a sight less cringe than the repeated desire to grasp one's fingers between your own.  

24.  "Don't Bother Me"
Appears on:  With The Beatles

The first George Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles album, but the man himself didn't like the track much, and honestly there might not be more than let's say six people who hold it in the esteem I do.  As George's confidence and abilities expanded, his songs tended towards matters of the spiritual world, not this "I had a girlfriend now I don't I'm sad" stuff that the non-enlightened folk tend to obsess over.

Lyrically it's a dryer sheet in a hurricane, but that's par for the course when dealing with pre-Rubber Soul material.    I love the snarling vexation oozing from George's vocal delivery, a psychological state heretofore unheard in the band's young catalogue.   Anyone who is gobsmacked by its inclusion here, I beseech you, go back and watch A Hard Day's Night.   'Cause honestly I can't be the only one whose mental projection screen shows those scenes in my head when I hear "Don't Bother Me"--especially Ringo and Paul's play-pugilism.  So wonderful.

23.  "From Me To You"
Appears on:  Past Masters Volume 1 (Mono version, aka "The version with the harmonica part")

Pretty sure the only reason the NME is still permitted space on this here planet is due to the fact that its old letters column inspired the title for a Beatles song.  It surely cannot be the writing.

So many Beatles songs have melodies that knock me out, listen after listen after listen.  Songs that, much like the elderly couple whose daily morning walk down North Market Street I find absolutely adorable even as I'm also kind of wishing they were able to just step a little faster, give me no choice but to believe in love.  The yearning, the bliss, the uncertainty, the comfort, the agony, all of it and oh so much more.  

22.  "Help!"
Appears on:  Help!  

With an exclamation point so you know it's real...

A new jive here, some Lennon desperation set to a soundtrack suited for beach-romping.  George's arpeggios are just the backwards pitch into ditch, abyss diverted 'cause help is always around the corner.

21.  "Blackbird"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Delicate treatment of a delicate topic.  As long as it's just Paul's voice, hands and feet, this haunting call-to-arms stays golden.  The added chirps are pure second-prize, but just a mild annoyance in the end.  This was my favorite song the first time I ever listened to the White Album.  As you'll see, it didn't stay that way as the years went on.  Which is not the fault of "Blackbird."  

20.  "Got to Get You Into My Life"
Appears on:  Revolver

This song is about weed, yo.  It's also tighter than an expertly-crafted sushi roll.  The horns, I swear!  Especially when they go staccato.  Refreshingly clear and short for a tune proselytizing the plant.   I mean, I've never smoked, and have no plans to start, but goddamn this one's a dandy.  I like the visuals I get:  Paul "suddenly see"(s) the marijuana.  That's awesome.  Like he was just cleaning up around the house, picked up a book from the coffee table and oh my, there was a bag of mean green under there!  The second verse is the best, though, as Macca basically spells out why weed will forever have his heart over any of us feckless, irritating havers of boobs.

"And I want you to hear me/Say we'll be together every day."  Marijuana! Are you listening?!  I really do hope Paul speaks to, and perhaps even on occasion raises his voice to, all of the pot he smokes.  

Weed-Off between Paul, Willie Nelson and B-Real, who wins?  Redman.

19.  "I Saw Her Standing There"
Appears on:  Please Please Me

The shimmery shimmy of the swingin' Sixties, the decade when not even the remotest of damns was given, 'cause "She was just seventeen/Well you know what I mean."

Oh yes, I feel you on that one.  Hey, Paul was only twenty years of age himself when he sang this, it's not like he's in his seventies now and singing this, except he is and it's like Mac, you are lucky this is a super-good chunk of white-boy boogie with the exuberance in abundance or otherwise the squick would smother us all.  

The use of "woo" instead of "yeah" makes a world of difference.  The long "o" sound is fresh and vivacious and everything the Beatles represented to all those shrieking skirts and, lest we forget, to all the young boys who ran out and bought guitars.

The hand claps are unnecessary and fantastic.  My heart goes boom.

18.  "Cry Baby Cry"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Crazy underrated, this.  Took me years to even appreciate what Lennon was saying.  Why is the weeping young'un making his mom lament?  The emotional and physical weariness of motherhood?  Cynicism?  How can you be cynical towards a baby?  Hey, I was a baby once, and I don't remember ever dreaming up any devious manipulations designed to age my mother ten years in just two.  

'Course I additionally don't recall any of the stories she recited to me, or any of the songs she attempted to soothe me with.  Guaranteed none of the words she spoke where on the level of this fairytale nonsense, with all manner of royalty captured in their majestic banality.   

One of my favorite Beatle choruses and, concurrently, Lennon vocals.  He apparently didn't care much for this "rubbish"; frankly, I adore it and wouldn't mind more, sir.   It appeals to the same part of me that so enjoys that classic Macca fluff.  You know, far more concerned with matters of the heart over those of the head, able to see the beauty and importance of the basic human elements and urges.  

Who do you think changed the world more profoundly through their music--John Lennon or Barry White?  Seriously.

17.  "Tomorrow Never Knows"  
Appears on:  Revolver

Behold, the deleterious effects of fully-realized genius!  Holy modal rounders, Beatleman!  

Revolver as a whole can be appreciated in the context of history as a damn-near salacious peek at the dolce stil novo the boys were about to flip music on its head with--again.  Imagine falling in love with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" then you get to the likes of "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows"!

The lyrics never struck me like that, 'cause I'm one of an exclusive group indeed (Beatles nuts who never have ingested illicit drugs; seriously, isn't there only like 11 of us?) but I can still hear most, if not all, of the lysergic supernovas.  Droning and looping layers of play indicating this is the Beatles "blue period" because the sky just fell down.  Clearly.  

It ends with "The beginning."  Which I could go off on this whole thing about Triple Stage Darkness, but!  I don't want to soil the panties, so I'll stop.

16.  "Let It Be"
Appears on:  Let It Be

Oh and isn't this just a lovely segue from that last sentence.   

One of the very first Beatles songs I ever heard when I was but a young 80s baby…"Michelle" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" also stand out as early exposures to a band that, honestly, no one in my family was all that nuts about.  My parents were Kentucky hillbillies, see.  My father much preferred Bill Monroe and Chet Atkins to any rock musician (interestingly, though,  "Nothing From Nothing" by fifth Beatle Billy Preston was his favorite non-country/bluegrass song ever).  My mother didn't mind the odd song by the Carpenters or Abba, but anything more abrasive than that?  Forget it.

My sisters (the oldest of whom was born in 1958) had fonder memories of the Monkees.  My brother thought the Beatles were okay, but he liked much heavier shit.  His cassette case was loaded with Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Black Sabbath, et al.  

Of course, one need not have an inside connection to fall in love with the Beatles. They are no one's best kept secret.   I listened to the radio religiously, and well, discovery was inevitable.  

My initial impression was the "mother Mary" was a nun or something, as I couldn't really comprehend that the singer was referencing the woman who gave him life.  It struck me then as unbearably sad, and the organ's presence just reminded me of all those church recitals that were linked in my mind with the frightful unknowns of God and Satan and death.  

Older and ostensibly wiser, I no longer connect "Let It Be" with anyone wearing black-and-white duds telling me how horrible I am and how any second not spent in repentance is just a minute more I'll burn in Hell.   The element of the ineffable is not only still present, however, and it still suffuses my senses every single time I hear the song, but even more powerfully.   Paul's mother with her no-nonsense, hard-won wisdom is so many mothers, throughout time.  When I thought this song was about God, I felt horror at the prospect of a day I would no longer exist.  When I evolved, so to speak, and understood it more as a song about my own mother, I felt abject terror at the very strong likelihood of a day she would no longer exist.  

It's the difference between wanting to scream so you don't cry, and crying just so you keep from screaming.  

Cry I do.  Put "Let It Be" on tonight as I was writing up this review and didn't make it through the first verse before the tears completely blurred my vision, and I threw my suddenly-useless pen to the floor and gave myself over fully to my sorrow.  It's done that to me for several years now.  I'm okay by the time Billy Preston comes in…funny how that all sounds like hope and peace and life and all that great stuff to me now.  

It's simply gorgeous.  The piano was an instrument created solely to break our hearts.  

I just love this song so much I never want to hear it again, you know?  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE:  2/1/1974

STORY:  The first special not directed or produced by Bill Melendez is an underrated minor gem.    (Kinda like the malachite to A Charlie Brown Christmas' amethyst.)  Phil Roman takes over and...does a bang-up job, just in case you thought the praise contained in the prior sentence was somehow disingenuous.  Heaven forfend!

The premise is flimsy, whimsical, and fun.  Woodstock's nice new nest is nicked right outta the tree, and the distraught yella fella calls upon Snooplock Holmes to solve the mystery of the missing bundle of domesticity.  Together, the pair canvas the neighborhood; Holmes is decked out in cloak and deer stalker cap, blowing insouciantly on a bubble-pipe, all the better to on occasion give flight to a monumental bubble that bursts and drenches Woodstock with uncanny timing and precision.

Their investigation doesn't go very well at first, given that in addition to entering homes without a search warrant, nosing around for physical evidence and dusting for fingerprints ('cause Holmes has his own "Original Fingerprint Pad" wouldn't you know) the investigator must also ask questions of the suspects, and they cannot answer the questions, because they are being asked by a dog, and dogs cannot form words.   Almost all the children are by turns confused and irritated by this inquisitive animal invasion, with the exception coming in the form of one Peppermint Patty.  She engages Snooplock in a rather one-sided round of "cops n' robbers," donning an eye-mask and fake-shooting at the beleaguered beagle as they run a mini-marathon around the spacious Reichardt homestead.  

Upon making their escape, Snooplock and Woodstock trudge on, following some pre-teen-looking footsteps to the elementary school.  Peering in, they spy what appears to be the room used for science class:  there are beakers, Bunsen burners and...a "prehistoric birds nest" in a display case! 

Amazingly, one of the windows is open, allowing the pair to just sneak on in and retrieve the nest.  I guess the school operates under the philosophy that they should only worry about security during actual school hours.  

The next morning, Sally is livid--her science exhibit is missing!  She found a nest "so self-respecting modern bird could have built it!" and now it's gone and she demands restitution.  Enter Judge Lucy Van Pelt, who turns her booth into a bench to settle this heated dispute of finders-keepers vs. losers-weepers.  (Lamentably, Snoopy is not wearing his Joe Attorney bowler hat, but rather his...dotted bow-tie?)

The court rules in favor of the bird, naturally, but all is not lost for poor whiny Sally.  While she can no longer present a not-quite prehistoric bird nest for her exhibit, her big brother provides a boss solution:  Pavlov's Experiment, with Snoopy as the conditioned hound.  

Peanuts specials in their second decade were still consistently strong.  While this is not a tale of any great emotional resonance, It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown is still highly amusing and well-paced, earning a 9.

MUSIC:  The Guaraldi soundtrack is funky as the bottom of a Denny's dumpster, popping bass like corn and massaging the electric organ into a contended nap.  At the start, a key-happy version of "Little Birdy" segues into a rendition of "Snoopy and Woodstock" that would make the Fatback Band very happy indeed.  First heard in It's the Easter Beagle, "S & W" remains bliss unblemished.  A friendship as fun and true as this deserves a theme song that makes you wanna ram your face into a plate of sausage biscuits swimming in gravy.  MMM.  Perfect 10.

ANIMATION:  '70s Nuts, which can be read as:  Super Fantastic Colossal Tremendous Bacon Pancake Burger with Sweet Potato Fries and a bowl of mayo dip it all in.  The brief scene of developing storm clouds in the first act of the special is, on its own, more interesting to watch than three entire other Peanuts specials I could name.

Everything is rendered warmly, and the character movements are near-flawless, especially with regards to Woodstock and his fluttering flits.  9

VOICES:  Here, we encounter some struggle.

Todd Barbee does a perfectly fine Chuck (8), and Lynn Mortensen is a classic Sally, pissed off as ever over the educational system and its unfair expectations (such as assigning homework, for example) for a well-earned 8.5.   

The Van Pelts are a bit more uneven.  Stephen Shea steals the whole show in his too-brief cameo as Linus (9).  His steadfast faith in canine detective is a joy to behold.  As is his insistence on speaking solely in rhyming couplets and irritating his big sister.  Speaking of her...Melanie Kohn is nondescript and would be a mediocre 6.5 if not for the glorious organ-shredding scream she gives her rhyming-ass little brother earning her an extra half-point.

To round out the good stuff, I have to talk about Bill Melendez' Snoopy here.  Yes, he's outstanding in every one of these things because, um, it's Snoopy, and Snoopy is awesome.  But there's a couple scenes here where, as Snooplock, he goes above and beyond vocally.  There's his brief but hilarious interrogation of Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens, a thoroughly confused 9) but especially his "A-HA!" upon finding a broom straw that he suspects might be a nest-remnant in the Van Pelt living room.  Amazing work, Snooplock.  

This leaves two rather underwhelming performances.  Tom Muller isn't around much as Pig Pen, but oh Lord, kid, the trick is to sound like you're not reading off a piece of paper.  4.  But more irritating still?  I can't believe I'm typing this, but Peppermint Patty.  Donna Le Tourneau was not made for this character, at least not at the age she's animated to be.  Maybe Patty at awkward-age 13.  She sounds like Bea Arthur doing an impression of Thurl Ravenscroft, I'm sorry!  She needs a throat lozenge as desperately as the city of Philadelphia needs the plague.  It's especially galling since she has the best sequence here with Snoopy, the cops 'n robbers chase.  Just watch it with the volume low, is all I can suggest.  Good grief...4.5.


--If nothing else, the viewer can take away the lesson of friendship, as Snoopy truly loves his bird buddy and would do anything to right his ship once bumped off course.  Up to and including elongating his arm.  

--So how long ya think Snoopy's been waiting to use that detective get-up, anyway?  

--Invisible elevator!  Almost as amazing as popsicle-stick skyscraper next to escalator that goes nowhere.  

--Charlie Brown's pajama top has some incriminating hairs on it!  


--I'm with Sally when it comes to school.  The teachers don't get their due so they don't really care, the kids don't get their due because the teachers don't care.  What is school?  Institutionalized ritual that revolves around an agreed-upon set of life skills that, if not acquired, will lead to the damnation of all humanity.  The implicit lesson of school is that individuality, if heartily and stubbornly pursued, will doom one to a life lived on the margins.  The bereft, filthy, despairing margins.  That we are also taught never to write on the outside of.