Monday, August 31, 2009

FSOTD #10/Big Yellow Taxi (2003)

Big Yellow Taxi...2003?? Dude...what are you smoking? That's a Joni Mitchell song from 1970. Well, yes it is. But the song I had running through my head this morning was the Counting Crows version. Not the first version they released on "Hard Candy"in 2002, but the re-release in 2003 with Vanessa Carlton's backing vocals added. Who is she? From Wiki, I learned she is an American piano/vocalist of modest note. She did, however, add a nice touch to the tune.

"They paved paradise to put up a parking lot"

This classic has been covered by many artists big and small. I also have a tasty cover by Keb' Mo' in my collection, and I learned that Amy Grant, Melanie and Bob Dylan also recorded the song. From the slightly lesser names (but certainly no less worthy): Kaya, Sandi Thom, Pinhead Gunpowder and Toxic Audio.

Back to the Mitchell original. In 1970, it reached a top position of #6 in Australia, #14 in Canada (from whence Joni hails), #11 in the UK, and - surprisingly - just #67 in the U.S. However, Americans had a second stab at good taste, with the release of a live Joni version from 1974's Miles of Aisles topping out at #24 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1975.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

FSOTD #9/This Boy (1963)

Yesterday the Beatles, today the Beatles...Beatles forever? Just like FSOTD #8, first song of the day #9 (fittingly enough) is a Beatles song. Over the years (decades), different Beatles tunes have come and gone from my "current favorites" list. "This Boy" is one that has ascended in just the last two years. Now I admit, I like every Beatles song ever made. I like Revolution #9. I like all the Ringo songs. But currently, I love "This Boy." Somewhat in contrast to the self-doubt of yesterday's FSOTD "I'm A Loser," this is a John Lennon song with hope, expressing thoughts of love. Two strums to start, followed by a beautiful mid-tempo melody and lush harmonies. I just love it.

It was recorded in October of 1963, released in late November. In between, JFK was assassinated. There is something of an argument to be made that The Beatles helped pull America (the world?) out of the post assassination malaise/bewilderment/funk...insert your own noun. I won't try to make the argument, except to note that the band appeared twice on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 2-3 months following the shooting, and the rest is music history. As it turns out, "This Boy" was performed on the second Sullivan appearance, Feb 16. 1964.

One other of the smallest of curiosities about this song...while the title is "This Boy," the opening words are "that boy." It must be genius, just like everything else they did.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

FSOTD #8/I'm A Loser (1964)

First Song Of The Day #8: "I'm A Loser" by The Beatles. Recorded in 1964, released in late 1964, but it came to the U.S. on the album Beatles '65. One of the early examples of what was to become a long list of less-than-happy John Lennon songs. It is also is one of many Beatles songs (I will make a playlist of them before too long) that start with vocals. And finally, a quick run through my Beatles collection revealed these five songs that were penned and released by the Fabulous Four AND all began with "I'm":

"I'm A Loser"
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
"I'm Looking Through You"
"I'm So Tired"
"I'm Down"

Sir Paul was playing "I'm Down" on his latest tour, or at least he did at his stop at the new Cowboys Stadium earlier this month.

Friday, August 28, 2009

FSOTD #7/Trouble (2004)

Please welcome the first contemporary FSOTD: "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne. Released in 2004, "Trouble" is the title track from the first of his three albums. The song has had something of renaissance in 2009, as the soundtrack for an entertaining Traveler's Insurance TV spot, featuring a dog worried about protecting his bone. If you watched any of golf's final 3 majors (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA), you saw the commercial - many times.

It was tricky when it popped into my half-awake head this morning. It wasn't the trademark raspy Ray voice I was hearing but the opening acoustic guitar riffs. I was mostly sure it was LaMontagne but had a suspicion it could be Natalie Merchant. It wasn't.

From Wiki, I got these small nuggets: Born in 1973, Ray 's a bit older than I thought; he lives in Maine in a farmhouse once owned by Norman Mailer; and "Trouble" has been performed twice on American Idol, more notably by season 5 winner Taylor Hicks.


Upon further review of FSOTD #6, two clarifications are in order. First, I think that would be "have written and/or produced over 170." They didn't write them all, and - probably more important to Kenny and Leon - they're still alive and making music. Second, all the big hits listed are songs they wrote, just to be clear.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FSOTD #6/Enjoy Yourself (1976)

I guess I really DO love the 1976 album The Jacksons. Today's FSOTD: "Enjoy Yourself," the hit from the album, making it all the way into the Top 10. As reported yesterday, the song was written by the prolific Philadelphia team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who wrote and produced over 170 gold and platinum records. One hundred and seventy! Among those, these giants: "If You Don't Know Me By Now"/Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes; "Backstabbers" and "Love Train"/The O'Jays; "Me & Mrs. Jones"/Billy Paul; and the instrumental classic whose title defines the writing duo, "TSOP"/MFSB. TSOP - that's The Sound of Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FSOTD #5/Blues Away (1976)

First song of the day: "Blues Away" by the Jacksons, from the 1976 CBS album "The Jacksons." I own this in vinyl, but also just recently bought it through iTunes. Just last night I put "Blues Away" into a playlist, and that was certainly the root of its being FSOTD for August 26, 2009.

At first, I was gonna write about attending the concert in support of this album. Probably early 1977, I saw the Jacksons, front and center, at the Tarrant County Convention Center. That's Fort Worth. Great show. Wild Cherry opened. I was gonna dovetail that - somehow - to an opinion or two on the recent gay bar bashing in FW.* But then I went to Wikipedia, and oh, the goldmine of interesting info on this album and this tune in particular.

Receiving mixed reviews, "The Jacksons" was the first album the brothers J released on CBS. They broke away from Motown, all except Jermaine, who was replaced by youngest brother Randy (not Idol Randy). For the first time ever, they were allowed to write some of their own music, but the two singles were Gamble/Huff. "Enjoy Yourself" was the band's first top 10 song in over two years. FSOTD "Blues Away" - while not played on the radio - is particularly noteworthy as the first song ever written and published by Michael Jackson. Who knew? Not me. And ya know what else? This was their first album ever to be certified gold. Huh? Really? Apparently, Motown did not submit data to the RIAA until 1976. No wonder they left.

I love this album, more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.

*IMO, that the whole FW bar thing stinks of macho cops out to "roust some fags". Bullies in uniform. On the Stonewall anniversary, no less! Jeez. I hope they get what they deserve.  Only time will tell.   JMO ~ Yab

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FSOTD #4/Little Lies (1987)

1987 is part of a music blind spot for me. During the late 80's, I was doing more than my share of Grateful Dead, to the exclusion of other music, especially other rock music. Add that I'm more admirer than fan of Fleetwood Mac, and it is a wonder that I know anything of the song "Little Lies." But there I was, dreamily scratching/rubbing one of my dogs, when consciousness interrupted and I noticed the lyrics "tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies" rolling through my brain. Those are the only lyrics I know, and as it turns out, there aren't that many more. I was pretty sure it was Fleetwood Mac, sometime after 1984, but I thought the name of the song was "Sweet Little Lies."

Enter Wikipedia. God Bless Wikipedia, and all those who contribute. "Little Lies," the third single from the album "Tango In The Night." Reached #4 on Billboard's Hot 100, #5 in the UK, but it was a #1 Adult Contemporary hit. Ah, the golden age of American radio formats.

A couple of random Fleetwood Mac notes... While I think of Fleetwood Mac as an American band, Wikipedia rightly refers to them as a British/American band. My favorite Fleetwood Mac songs: "Hypnotized" and "Oh, Well." Finally - and this is something everybody should admire - Fleetwood Mac is one of the very few bands that could legitimately put together and tour with two completely different concerts. Unfortunately, very bands would ever go to the trouble and expense of doing that. Now, if ya wanna talk Grateful Dead...

Monday, August 24, 2009


After lunch, I was watching some TV news and up came a story about pregnancy and depression. The female focus of the story had suffered severe depression with her first child, but pregnant again, she is following a new strategy. As the reporter related in the last sentence of the story, she missed out on many of the wonders of the first year of life with her first child, but she is not going to let that happen "the second time around." Coincidence? I think so, but fun for me nonetheless.

And as long as I'm posting...the word "obsequious" came up at lunch. A word I know of, a word I can spell, but not a word I use. I even had trouble pronouncing it the first couple of times. It's an adjective, and I'll just give the first definition from Webster's: exhibiting ready and proper compliance to the will of another: prompt and dutiful in attendance on the wishes of one in authority. Obsequious.

FSOTD #3/The Second Time Around (1979)

Bluegrass one day, disco the next...ah, the joys of the first song of the day. Today's entry is "The Second Time Around" by Shalamar. I didn't know it was by Shalamar, but I was pretty sure it wasn't in my collection. So, to iTunes I went. There were many songs named "second time around" - one by Sinatra and also a track from the Indigo Girls (whom I saw in Buffalo earlier this year). I didn't buy Frank, but I did purchase the Indigo's song.

As for Shalamar, I was given a choice of the original release or the 12" version. The meaning of 12" is a bit lost in the digital age, but what it came down to, of course, was the longer version or the shorter version. At 99 cents for either, I went for the 12 inch, clocking in at just over 7 minutes. The original was released in 1979, becoming a #1 hit in the US, and peaking at #8 in the UK. And something else I was delighted to learn is that the female vocalist in the band was Jody Watley, she of the 1987 hit - a song I really like - "Looking For A New Love."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

FSOTD #2/Freight Train Boogie (1973)

Sunday morning. Barely awake. I don't think I had opened my eyes yet. But there - stuck in my head - was the song "Freight Train Boogie" by Doc & Merle Watson. I also have a version of the song recorded in 1946 by the Delmore Brothers. Consulting the Doc & Merle discography, I found that their version was released in 1973, although recorded in '72. One of their studio mates for "Freight Train" was the great fiddler Vassar Clements, who in that same year of 1973 started playing with a group named "Old & In The Way." In 1975, the album "Old & In The Way" was released. It became and for many decades remained the top-selling bluegrass album of all time, due at least in part to the surging popularity of the band's banjo player...Jerry Garcia. A quality outfit throughout, it also featured David Grisman and Peter Rowan, and helped introduce bluegrass to a receptive new audience, including me, around 1980. But in 1973, the year of "Freight Train Boogie," I wasn't listening to any bluegrass and had never even heard of Doc & Merle Watson. I was raised a rocker, and remain so, but I enjoy and know all sorts of music these days, hence FSOTD.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


FSOTD - "first song of the day" - a blog built around the first song on a given day to catch in my head. However, today was set-up day and I don't remember what that song was. But I do remember a couple of tunes from "Inglourious Basterds," which I saw this afternoon. My grade for the flick: B+. The song I most remember: an instrumental of what I know as "The Green Leaves of Summer." It opens the film. I also know this song, in vocal form, from John Wayne's "The Alamo," a movie where the music (Dmitri Tiomkin) was better than the film, but the film was entertaining on a number of levels, if not exactly a critical success. "Basterds" is no "Pulp Fiction'" but entertaining to be sure. Brad Pitt has a gift for over-the-top dialect.

In the last hour, I found myself musing about "Surfin' USA," the 1963 Beach Boys' classic. Hurricane Bill has the Atlantic Seaboard surfing crowd buzzing, with once-a-decade swells. And they say that Bill will ultimately pass between Iceland and the UK, on its way above the Arctic Circle. Wow. For those who care, Surfin' USA topped out at 3 on the US charts, but only 34 in the UK. Alot less sex wax going on in the British Isles, I daresay.