Thursday, October 19, 2006

Finally - My Top Ten Best Songs

Believe it or not, I've been asked on this topic. Very tricky subject, but here they finally are. My list. Let me say that I will never be happy with my final ten choices, but remember this: Rock and pop music was given to us for celebration and joy. Pure rock songs will be recognized in another one of my widely ignored lists. This list embodies the best of what songwriting could convey - a profound, poetic message within a beautiful framework of melodies and harmonies.

#1: U2 : Bad.
The build-up and lyrical content is majestic. About losing a friend to heroin addiction. Gorgeous and daring. Climactic, emotional, and truly beautiful.

#2: Peter Gabriel : In Your Eyes
The greatest, emotional, passionate, and artistic expression of love. Not just love, but appreciation.

#3: Doors : The Crystal Ship
Arguably the SECOND most beautiful love song ever sung; a gorgeous ode to one's love, made even more profound within the context of The Doors' manic debut album tracks.

#4: Pete Townshend : Slit Skirts
A Pete Townshend gem, detailing his depression from aging, losing his beloved wife, and hating himself for the past excesses that led to his obvious loneliness, sense of dispair, and cries for help. The song was penned right around his true period of bottoming out, and eventual rehabilitation and rejuvenation into the 1980s. So many famous musicians thrived and lived untouchable lives in the previous decade, most of them died around 1980 or simply crumbled into decay. Townshend's document of his feelings of the time showed us a rare glimpse into how many rock stars felt upon entering the decade, and how one dealt with the ramifications of past insanity and self sufficiency.

#5: The Who : Another Tricky Day
Townshend at his lowest - sad and reaching outward for direction. He had a friend help write this track, saying that no matter what, somebody has it worse that you. It's a slap on the back and a slap in the face to all the self-perceived failures out there. "You can't always get it when you always want it...."

#6: Simon And Garfunkel : Homeward Bound
Again, emotional and truly passionate. Music should always express some type of emotion, and this one does it better than ever. They pulled us into the loneliness of being away from home with "I wish I was...". So many elements of doubt and fear, yet hope and passion for Simon's zeal for success.

#7: Suzanne Vega : Luka
Great songs are even greater when they incite awareness, and this song reminded us all of the ugliness of child abuse and the struggles such poor children must face at an age that is supposed to be devoid of worries and fear.

#8: Peter Tchaikovsky : Nutcracker Suite
Rarely has anyone portrayed more emotion and sense of plot than Tchaikovsky's work here. Once properly performed with its legendary ballet act, as well as its brief summary of plot, the final moments are incredibly emotional, beautiful, and rewarding. It's a journey of a girl finding love, fulfillment, and ultimately apotheosis - the ultimate sense of attainment.

#9: Gordon Lightfoot : The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
A 1976 piece which had a memorable melody and extensive lyrics reminding us of the 29 men who died in a horrible sinking within the angry waters of Lake Superior. This great loss would have never been so effectively regarded and commemorated if it weren't for Lightfoot's tribute.

#10: Led Zeppelin : Carouselambra
A shrouded, brilliant document of recent tours, especially that of their 1977 tour. Within its buried lyric track, we find descriptions of the hordes of groupies, the typical excesses of touring, and general exclusion from the rigors of reality. But, rather potently, Plant brings us into the harsh moment of the phone call from his wife in England, telling him that his young son has died. From then on, nothing mattered, and reality ultimately reigned in its harshest manner. In addition, the musical backbone of the song illustrates Jimmy Page's weakness from drug addiction, and his meager, contorted guitar segments speak loudly of his weak condition and painful search for the one thing that was no longer existent - inspiration.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Us Kids of the Seventies

Ah, to talk to people who were kids in the 1970s, that glorious time when it was still safe to go Trick or Treating without fear of being killed or molested. But do us thritysomething types remember all those great, insane, TV shows of the day?

- I'd get up and watch Ray Rayner, then the Bozo show. Bozo had Garfield Goose and Rayner had Chelveston the Duck. Ray would call local weatherman Roger Triemstra for the upcoming day's weather forecast. Ray's dead now, rest his soul.

- Electric Company. Wow, what a show. Airing on PBS in the 70s, it was educational but insane and creative. Who of us can forget Crank? Hey You Guys!! That was Rita Moreno, a well known, Tony award-winning actress of stage and screen. Morgan Freeman got his start here as well, portraying the infamous "Easy Reader".

- Does anyone remember the show called "Big Blue Marble"? What the hell was the point of that show?

- Worse yet, there was always Zoom. Write them at (remember the address?) PO Box 350, Boston Mass, 02134

- Sesame Street (see previous article) was so much more tolerable back then. There was Mister Hooper (Hoopah! Hoopah!) and ethnic diversity wasn't being shoved down our collective throats at the time. Sure, barely anyone (except for Hooper) was a heterosexual white male, but then again, we always had Oscar the Grouch. Remember when the guy that portrayed Mr. Bentley on "The Jeffersons" would be in a white coat and paint numbers on a piece of glass? One or more times he did it with mustard.

- Eleven Banana Cream Pies! (chef trips and falls down the stairs; I think that was from "Electric Company")

- One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twehehehehelve... That cartoon pinball snippet...

- Who can forget "The Adventures of Letterman" from "The Electric Company"? His arch enemy was the Spell Binder. Oh no! Spell Binder just turned a pear, into a bear! Roar.

- Electric Company also had that badassed detective, Fargo North, Decoder. Brilliant stuff.

- "Schoolhouse Rock" was another morning staple. That nostalgia was highly publicized, with the typical references to the conjunction, or how a bill became a law. "I'm just a bill...."

- Worse than the above, on ABC, they had these little spots that either told us "Beans and Rice is Nice" or how to make popsicles using orange juice, toothpicks, an ice cube tray, and a sheet of plastic wrap. It was rainy day fun.

- We all loved watching Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner on Saturday morning, but who decided that those hideous Popeye cartoons were worth continuing? The oldest episodes, in black and white, were just frightening and so outdated it was horrible. For God's sake many of those cartoons came from the 1920s. Kids aren't going to understand why Popeye and Bluto are fighting over this pasty, stringy, homely chick named Olive Oyl, wearing a flapper outfit and turning the crank on the front of a Stanley Steamer. The only thing that stopped the production of these disasters was the stock market crash of 1929.

- Going back to Sesame Street, there was just way too much sexual ambiguity buried within these characters. Ernie and Bert were doing it, that's been a persistent source of comedy for years. Big Bird was gayer than a french horn, no argument there. Bob, the one that married deaf Linda, ok, we already established his pillow biting status. Grover, not too sure about that one either.

- The PBS writers were so hell bent on shoving diversity down our young throats, it was painfully forced. Everyone was either black, puerto rican, with Downs Syndrome, deaf, invalid, gay, fat, retarded, or all of the above. Any normal humans around that part of town? It could drive an average waspy white kid to think he was the exception to the rule, based on all the freaks being paraded in front of the camera on those shows.

- Mister Rogers, oh don't get me started. I have tape recordings of myself making fun of this show when I was 11 years old. He had that stupid stoplight, his outdated kitchen, the unlocked front door, and his persistently starved fish in that tank. What was this show meant to convey to kids of the time? Yeah, great you're my friend. You're a very creepy friend, and clearly way too awkward in social situations around other people. It's NOT a beautiful day in the neighborhood, I live in Chicago. It's gray outside, there are scary gang type punks wandering around, it's cold, and just unpleasant. Don't tell me it's a beautiful day. And who the hell did Mister McFeely work for? Speedy Delivery? His employer didn't even give him a motorized vehicle; he had to ride around on a bike. Which brings us to the neighborhood of make believe...yes many have been waiting for this one...

- Ok, King Friday, he was a puppet. Humans would bow to this puppet. On very rare occasion, they'd cut to a scene inside one of the many rooms in the king's castle. It just wasn't too scale. And everyone feared this puppet king. Here's how you depose the king - pick him up and throw him into a shredder. Coup d'etat completed.

- X the owl lived next door to that annoying cat that would say "meow meow" amongst every rational conversation. Like those two weren't banging.

- Daniel the tiger was this idiotic thing that lived in a grandfather clock. Ok, it's proof positive that you're stupid if you can't find better accommodations than a clock. Then there was Cornflake, who was that hermit queer that lived in the rocking chair factory. Nobody ever bought one of his rocking chairs. The other deviant was Lady Elaine, the lesbian in the museum. Again, nobody ever visited the museum, nor wanted anything to do with her.

- I used to be terrified by the old 1970s weather bulletins that would cut in and be a black screen with terse words. Then this creepy guy would cut in and loudly announce "The National Weather Bureau has issued a severe thunderstorm warning..." Back then it was the weather bureau, not service.

- Speaking of scared, I used to be terrified when tv stations would play the national anthem then go to that solid high pitched tone with a test pattern. Why that scared me, I don't know.