This is just a fun internet thing going around that I thought would make for an interesting set of columns. Week one is here, for those who came in late. For week two, we’ll pick up where we left off, with…..
Day 9: A Song That Makes You Happy.
This may seem like an odd pick. This is one from Arthur Brown.
Most people, if they are familiar with Arthur Brown at all, know him for his one hit, “Fire,” an LSD-inspired novelty tune released in the late sixties (“I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!”) My college roommate West introduced me to his debut album, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, back when we were freshmen, and the interesting thing about it is that Mr. Brown’s backup musicians are frankly quite extraordinary. Pete Townshend co-produced it and he recruited a lot of his buddies to play on it. (Among them: Carl Palmer on drums, before he found Emerson and Lake.) And Arthur had a terrific voice, too… he was just nuttier than a Costco-sized bag of trail mix. The result is that the Crazy World album was actually a pretty awesome blues record, albeit one with some truly bonkers psychedelic lyrics. I fell in love with it instantly and for years afterward West and I used to sort of test people with it… we’d put it on as background and if they were startled or upset at how weird it was, they were clearly not cool enough to hang out with.
Arthur Brown is still touring, over fifty years later. Here he is playing one of my two favorites, “Nightmare.”
Not really a happy-go-lucky number, granted, though most of the songs I’ll be listing make me happy in one way or another. But this one, played in the car, used to amuse our five-year-old godson; he would ask for “Crazy Arthur” and sing along, and that made me enormously happy. Watching it now reminds me of those days and that makes me happy… and seeing old Arthur, still doing his Woodstock-era dance moves and rocking out with the wonderful Hamburg Blues Band, even though he has to be in his mid-seventies, makes me pretty happy, too.
Day 10: A Song That Makes You Sad.
Lisa Koch is a Seattle performer mostly known for her hilarious cabaret shows, but this is a heartbreaker. In the 90s a lot of our friends in the arts community were dying, of AIDS and dope and lots of other stuff (Back then, a musician friend of mine once remarked in baffled disgust,”I think we must be the only band in town not on heroin.”)
I got clean and sober with a lot of those folks; in the early 1990s we were going to funerals every other week sometimes, and this song really sums up what that felt like. Not just the loss but also the awkwardness, the families that didn’t know how to react, all of it. This particular song is partly about being gay and coming out, but it will resonate with ANYONE who has difficult family. I’m not gay but for me this song still painfully evokes how my brother and I have dealt with each other for most of our lives, and the utter lack of understanding there.
It just gets to me. I bet it will get to you too, unless you have a heart made of anthracite.
Lisa Koch is terrific, by the way, and hugely recommended. Most of her stuff is a lot funnier and you can find more here.
Day 11: A Song You Never Get Tired Of.
I never, ever get tired of “Gimme Shelter,” originally by the Rolling Stones. But the original’s not my favorite. In fact, I’d be hard put to pick a favorite version or arrangement … because I love them all and never get tired of the song. I finally settled on two of them.
The first is a nice unplugged version from Puddle of Mudd.
The second is from Lisa Fischer, who actually performed the song with the Stones — that’s her killer backup vocal you hear on the version on No Security — but I think it turned out even better when she did it on her own.
Day 12: A Song That You Love From 2011.
This was a horrible entry for me because I don’t pay any attention to current releases at all. I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking up what was actually released in 2011 and felt about a thousand years old when I realized I didn’t know any of the artists that put out records that year.
That said, I thought this one was kind of catchy.
Day 13: One of Your Favorite 70s Songs.
70s music means different things to different people. Might be disco, or the ‘California sound’ of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, or the birth of punk rock, or the heavy metal renaissance of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple… but for me, when you say ‘seventies music’ it’s all about the pretentious art-rock types like King Crimson and Pink Floyd.
Here’s a fun one from that sub-genre of the seventies that might well be under your radar… a band called Camel. Their album Moonmadness was the first one I ever bought with my own money, back in 1975. This is my favorite track off that record, “Lunar Sea.”
Day 14: A Song That You Would Love Played At Your Wedding.
We actually DID play this at our wedding. Julie gave her brother-in-law Wayne, a fine musician in his own right, a list of songs and he put together a mix CD of the list that played as background music in the church when the guests were coming in. Mostly sentimental favorites from albums that we played a lot and sang along with in the car. One of those was the Lounge-a-Palooza CD, and for our wedding Julie included this cut from that record.
Day 15: A Song That Is A Cover By Another Artist.
This actually overlaps a lot of the previous categories. I never get tired of checking out interesting covers… just from the picks I’ve made so far, you can make the case that I almost always would rather check out the cover of a Rolling Stones song than the original.
But for a staggeringly genius cover version of a song you’d have thought they never could pull off, I give you the theme from “Shaft”…. as rendered by those well-known masters of funk, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
No, really. It’s genius. Check it out.
Honestly you should just check out ALL their stuff.
We’ll let crazy Arthur play us out with my other favorite of his, “Child of My Kingdom.” Musically, it’s a tour-de-force; Brown turns in one of his best vocal performances ever and the keyboards on this from Vincent Crane are AMAZING. The fact that the lyrics are silly shit like “see the hand wiping tears from my brain” is beside the point. It sounds great.
Enjoy. As always, you can have at it with your own picks down in the comments. Back next week with week 3!