Friday, May 22, 2009

Strange Magic

On this date in 1976, Electric Light Orchestra's Strange Magic reached No.14 on the Billboard charts. It was the second charting single from their fifth studio release Face the Music.

Jeff Lynne's experiment of combining pop music with classical overtones was proving to be a success, the formula was quite successful for most of the 70's. Citing the Beatles as a heavy influence, Lynne's ability to put together radio friendly pop with lush orchestrations sounded very much like a direction the Beatles might have gone in had they stayed together. In fact, it was closer to the sound Paul McCartney and Wings had employed throughout the 70's as well. The only drawback was the 'soft rock' categorization ELO suffered as a result.

Lynne, named one of the top ten rock producers of all time, would go on to work with George Harrison and help form the super group The Traveling Wilburys.

What I find amazing all these years later, is how the music seems at once both fresh and frozen in time.

I'm just sayin'.

Strange Magic

Strange Magic- Electric Light Orchestra (Live, 2001)

Turn To Stone- Electric Light Orchestra ( Live, 1978)

Livin' Thing- Electric Light Orchestra ( Live, 1978)

Telephone Line- Electric Light Orchestra (live, 1978)

Rockaria- Electric Light Orchestra (1976)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The mother of all posts

I like to think of Mother's Day as a wonderful celebration of all things maternal. Problem is there are few songs if any that share this sentiment. Most are incitements of moms and mothering in general. Granted, I wasn't there while they were being reared, but everyone from John Lennon to Glenn Danzig paint a pretty bleak picture of their mothers.

With a little diligence, I was able to find a suitable expression of devotion for all the mothers out there, performed by Mr. T.

I pity the fool that don't love their mother!

I'm just sayin'.

Happy Mothers Day!

Treat Your Mother Right- Mr. T

Mother- John Lennon (Live, MSG, Aug. 30, 1972)

Bohemian Rhapsody- Queen (1975)

Mother- Pink Floyd (Aug. 9, 1980)

Mother-Danzig (1992)

Stacy's Mom Has Got it Going On- Fountans of Wayne (2003)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Trying to touch and reach you with heart and soul

On this day in 1973, Apple Records released Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), the lead single from George Harrison's Living in the Material World.

Always playing second fiddle to Lennon and McCartney, I think Harrison was actually the best songwriter of the group. While John pushed his peace/revolution agenda and McCartney was content with neatly crafted pop songs, Harrison married the two styles seamlessly. IMHO, his songs were as simple in their composition and as catchy as Paul's best (Yesterday, Penny Lane, Hey Jude, etc.) and more honest and thoughtful than Lennon's most cerebral and acerbic offerings (All You Need Is Love, Revolution, Imagine, etc.). Harrison's songs are pure truth in words and music, and this one of his best.

The track was Harrison's Imagine, only better. A sweet, simple diddy about peace and love, it touched upon Harrison's belief in reincarnation, a result of his practice of Hinduism and Hare Krishna. Where Lennon's 1971 Imagine is anthemic and far reaching in it's scope, it is equally a critical and unrealistic (albeit beautiful) grouping of hopes leveled upon the listener. The most striking being Lennon's musings of a world where there is no Heaven, Hell or religion, whereas in contrast, Give Me Love is a prayer, and appeal for love and understanding invoked directly to the Lord. Instead of abandoning faith, Harrison embraces it. More intimate in it's dimension, it's earnestness allows it to achieve a much grander and realistic vision of what we can achieve. I think it's an important distinction to acknowledge and the ultimate confirmation of George Harrison's deeply held faith as well as his masterful songwriting.

Bottom line is I think the ex-Fab Four spent a good part of the early 70's in a pissing contest played out on the pop charts. George had the biggest chip on his shoulders, residual resentment for the two-song quota, no doubt. Hell, even Ringo got in on the action (with a little help from his friends).

It's hardly subtle irony that this song reached No. 1 on June 30, 1973, replacing McCartney's My Love at the top of the charts.

I'm just sayin'.

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)- George Harrison (Live in Japan, 1992)

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)-Jeff Lynne & Co. (Concert for George, 29 Nov. 2002)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blue skies

To observe the second anniversary of the passing of my mother, I wanted to share one of her favorite songs and one of mine from an artist we both loved.

Blue Skies
, the Irvin Berlin classic covered by Willie Nelson on his 1978 crossover release of standards, Stardust, reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Country Singles in September 1978. What made this cover so remarkable, was Nelson's interpretation. His measured, saturnine delivery enhanced by his trademark nasal vocals and accompanied by Mickey Raphael's weeping, wailing harmonica transformed the upbeat melody into a poignant, wistful ballad. I am convinced it is the best cover of the song ever recorded.

When the album came out, my mom had it on 8-track, and would play it non-stop. I still remember exactly where the songs would fade, change tracks and resume playing.

The second song is one of my all time favorites, Angel Flying To Close To The Ground. An amazing, touching testament to love.

To me all songs are memories, and these will always be bittersweet.

I miss you mom.

Blue Skies

Angel Flying To Close To The Ground

Blue Skies- Willie Nelson & Family (Wembley Arena, 198?)

Angel Flying To Close To The Ground- Willie Nelson & Family (Honeysuckle Rose, 1980)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Four dead in Ohio

On this day in 1970, four students are shot and killed by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State University. The event was the culmination of several days of anti-war protests when the Govenor and college officials allowed soldiers on campus to control the throngs of students involved in the protests.

Neil Young, who next to Dylan was arguably one of the most influential protest singer/songwriters of the day, wrote the song after seeing the shocking images of the massacre in LIFE magazine. In less than two weeks, along with Crosby, Stills and Nash they rehearsed and recorded the song on one take at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. It is rumored that David Crosby wept when the take was complete. A dark day in American history, poignantly preserved by CSN&Y.

A terrible tragedy but an amazing song.

I'm just sayin'.


Ohio-Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Live, 1974)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Welcome back

In this time of uncertainty, nothing comforts more than the familiar. We take solace in things remembered, things that came before, the things that worked in the past. And nothing works better than pure, natural sugar.

To coincide with Pepsi's release of their 'Throwback' formulations of two classic colas, Actual Monkey joins in the sugary sweetness with John Sebastian's May 1976 hit Welcome Back.

Sebastian, former front man of the Lovin' Spoonfuls, a leftover of the 60's hippie movement scored an unexpected No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the sappy theme song from the wholly unfunny sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.

Who needs high fructose corn syrup when you've got Sweathogs.

I'm just sayin'.

Welcome Back

Welcome Back-John Sebastian (1976)

Pepsi Throwback Spot (2009)