Friday, December 31, 2010

The Dismemberment Plan - "The Ice of Boston" from the CD The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified

The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified CD coverThat this bittersweet celebration song from the same guys who brought us the powerful and poignant "Time Bomb" is, along with The Standells' "Dirty Water," one of the best songs about the city of Boston is certainly true, but also something you might guess at from its title.

But what you might NOT guess from the title is that it's also one of the greatest New Year's Eve songs ever.

It's that, too. Perhaps THE greatest. Can't think of too much competition, actually, once you get past Guy Lombardo.

"The Ice of Boston" is not a perfect song. When our hero tells us that he doesn't want to admit these pathetic ridiculous and absolutely true things about himself, affairs DO get fairly maudlin. Maybe he followed her, maybe he didn't, I don't really care.

The Dismemberment Plan Ice of Boston EP coverBut no matter: when he pops that third bottle of cheap champagne open, pours its chill froth all over his naked self, lets it drip through his scalp and through his chest hair, then stares down through his kitchen picture window onto the scads of drunken Bostonians gathered below, well, it's an all-time classic image.

And no song, ever, has captured the unexpected and unwelcome Call From Mother so very well. And I'm here to say no song ever will, either.

So, as the clock ticks towards 2011, as our public places become more and more clogged with intoxicated celebrants, as the skies in Boston or elsewhere become thick with fireworks smoke, and tinted orange with celebration, as someone, somewhere, slips on the muddy ice, let me say to my readers, to The Dismemberment Plan, and to everyone else: Here's to another goddamned New Year.

File under: New Years Eve songs

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best* o' the Decade

The 30 best songs* of the decade that ends Friday, ordered only by year, one song per band. Actually I should say the best songs THAT I'VE HEARD, it's why I put the asterisk, because the way I get around to stuff, I'll be hearing the real best of 2010 sometime in 2015. But, anyway, these are good . . . .

British Sea Power the Decline of British Sea Power CD cover Panic! At the Disco A Fever You Can't Sweat Out CD cover
Gorillaz - "Clint Eastwood"
System of a Down - "Toxicity"
The Reverend Horton Heat - "Galaxy 500"
Songs: Ohia - "Blue Factory Flame"
90 Day Men - "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life"
British Sea Power - "Apologies To Insect Life"
Cat Power - "He War"
Killing Joke - "Asteroid"
M83 - "0078h"
Metallica - "Frantic"
The White Stripes - "Black Math"
Arctic Monkeys - "Cigarette Smoke"
TV On the Radio - "Bomb Yourself"
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Heavy Metal"
The Dead Hookers' Bridge Club - "Hung Like Whales"
Kylesa - "Eyes Closed from Birth"
Panic! At The Disco - "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"
Boris - "Woman on the Screen"
Disappearer - "Crownfire"
Neil Young - "The Restless Consumer"
Queens Of The Stone Age - "Battery Acid"
The Raveonettes - "Hallucinations"
Spoon - "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case"
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb"
Russian Circles - "Youngblood"
Assjack - "Smoke The Fire"
Pelican - "Ephemeral"
High on Fire - "Fire, Flood & Plague"
MGMT - "Brian Eno"
Violent Soho - "Jesus Stole My Girlfriend"
Ted Leo Living with the Living CD cover MGMT Congratulations CD cover

The list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy 28 of the 30 songs

The other two:

Dead Hookers' Bridge Club were probably the best South Florida band I heard during the aughts. They've long since broken up, and of course iTunes knows nothing about them. They were great though. I went up to one of the band members after a show this one time, and asked him if they'd heard of Pussy Galore. He said yes. "Hung Like Whales" is audacious, the way the best punk rock should be.


160 kbps mp3, up for six weeks

File under:Rock and roll

"Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" is 90 Day Men's best song of their latter day Whiskey Bar phase, and for some reason is not available on iTunes. It's probably not as good as "Methodist," but regardless of when it was recorded, "Methodist" seems to belong more to the 1990's 90 Day Men than to the 2000's version, don't you think?

90 Day Men - To Everybody - 08 Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for six weeks

File under: Stuff that's Inexplicably Titled

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vince Guaraldi - "Skating" from the album A Charlie Brown Christmas

We've all heard the old canard that the sense of smell is the most immediate one, the sense that is most directly and most vividly tied to memory.

And perhaps it's true. But I think it's still illuminating to note that when you talk to couples in love, they never describe something as "their smell." Yet most romantic couples with any kind of history at all together do have something they call "their song."

Sure, barbeque smells great, but music, to my mind, does indeed trump all in the way it can encapsulate memory and emotion.

Lovers share a life, and, to be sure, they share all the hassles and hardships which go with it. Having a song that you each can call ours, instant shorthand during stressful times for all the reasons you love each other, well, it's cement, a building material if you will for the lives together you've built.

One of the greatest joys of being in love is having a song you share. Conversely, and sadly, one of the greatest tragedies about falling out of love is how a song that was once a shorthand for joy becomes a shorthand for broken promises. You used to have the song, but it becomes lost to you.

Which is of course all the more reason to treasure what you have.

On the eve of Christmas eve this year, Melanie and I watched for probably the fifteenth time "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Melanie always gets a kick out of how the cartoon artists are credited in the titles not for art but for "graphic blandishment." And the stars in the nightskies above Linus and Lucy and Charlie and at the end of the long unfettered horizons past which they walk ARE beautiful.

Still from A Charlie Brown Christmas
Yet I think that the cartoon special is so universally loved because of Vince Guaraldi's music. They kept making Charlie Brown specials after Guaraldi's untimely death, but they're just not the same without his whimsical compositions and without his accomplished, syncopated playing. His music is as vital to the production as the characters themselves, probably moreso.

I was familiar with "Skating" long before it became cement for me and Melanie. It's funny actually: the very first time I heard the song, or at least the very first time I realized how great the tune was, it wasn't even "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that I was watching. It was another of the specials, not sure which one. It was probably one of the ones they made after Guaraldi passed. If I remember correctly, Charlie Brown won a spelling bee at his school and was rewarded with a trip to New York City for the championships.

He brought Snoopy along, and at some point the dog in his willful way decides to go iceskating at Rockefeller Center. It's late at night, and the rink is empty, Snoopy begins circling the rink, performing his pirouettes, and "Skating" begins to play. Though I like as well the scene at the beginning of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" where Linus and Charlie leave their wall and find the whole gang skating on the frozen pond, it is Snoopy at Rockefeller Center I see in my mind's eye when I hear the track unaccompanied by video*.

It's a fluid and glistening and wonderful clip, and "Skating" is a fluid and glistening and wonderful piece of music. But I think the most wonderful thing about the song is that Melanie and I call it ours.

To Melanie and to everyone else reading: Merry Christmas.

File under: Jingle Bell Jazz

*I still wonder what the name of that special was. It's probably the second greatest Holiday Cartoon mystery of my life. If you know the name of the Charlie Brown special or, especially, the name of the cartoon that had Jack Frost done all in angular pastels dancing on the icy rooftops, I beg you: please please leave a comment (Return)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Unique Pair

The only pair of songs as far as I know in rock and roll history:
song "a" by b, and song "b" by a.
The Fall of Troy Doppelganger CD cover Tom Waits Orphans CD cover

 2. Tom Waits - "The Fall of Troy"
The Fall of Troy - "Tom Waits"

Dead Man Walking Original Soundtrack Cover

Maybe you know of some others?

The short but distinctive list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy both songs

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tom Lehrer - "Wernher von Braun" from the album That Was The Year That Was

Tom Lehrer That Was the Year That Was album coverI guess anyone reading this would be aware that Captain Beefheart died Friday.

Interesting, actually, that I wrote the sentence above the way I did. I didn't write "Don van Vliet," I wrote "Captain Beefheart," though the man hadn't used the Beefheart moniker in almost 30 years. If you think about it, the man who died Friday was famous as a painter. "Captain Beefheart" stopped making music in 1982, and in a very real sense, ceased to exist around that time.

Captain BeefheartAlthough I can't claim to be a fan of Captain Beefheart's music, though I can't discuss his notoriously difficult work with any sense of familiarity at all, that decision he made in or around 1982--to stop making music and go do something else--has always fascinated me.

Plenty of artists stop making music because the marketplace stops caring. A significant-enough group of others stop making music because they got themselves killed. But how many stop simply because they decided to?

Not many, that's for sure. Beefheart comes to mind, and--even more intriguingly--so does Tom Lehrer.

It may seem a little incongruous to speak of Lehrer--who very famously mocked folk music and was bitterly disdainful of rock and roll--on a blog called La Historia de la Musica Rock. Yet, I've been a fan of Lehrer's music for as long as I've been a fan of anyone's music. The memories I have of hanging out late-night with my old man in his den, when he would play me tracks from Lehrer's records, and explain the references when necessary are foundations for me--most of what I am and most of who I am has been set on top of them.

And hell, if we can forgive Elvis Costello his racist remarks, or forgive for that matter Captain Beefheart treating his talented sidemen like dogs, then I can surely forgive Lehrer for the mistake he made of characterizing rock music as "children's records." So let's treat with the dude for a little before coming back to his Captain Beefheart moment.

Lehrer can be a little tough to decipher these days, and I don't mean because he rhymed "Helen Gahagan" and "Ronald Reagan," in such a way that made it clear he and his audience understood Reagan to be the lesser-known of the two. It's not his references that have dated. We have Wikipedia for those who want to know more about George Murphy or Hubert Humphrey. What actually makes it tough is his musical context: pre-rock and roll, yes, but also absolutely unconnected to jazz or the blues.

Charlie ParkerIt's a lot easier to savvy Robert Johnson from the '30's, or Charlie Parker from the '40's, than to dig Lehrer from the '50's, because the idioms Johnson and Parker worked in came to dominate popular music even as Lehrer's beloved show tunes withered away in the popular consciousness.

About a month and a half ago, a writer at wrote an excellent piece on Lehrer. It's much better than anything I could have written (or am writing now); straightforward, well-researched and direct in the point it wishes to make about Lehrer.

Nevertheless, this otherwise well-written piece makes two mistakes about Lehrer that I found somewhat humorous. First one was the writer's expressed belief that of all the barbs that Lehrer had in his pocket, the longest and sharpest one was for the form he worked in, that he was purposely trying to deflate pop convention.

And he wasn't. Lehrer loved his show tunes. He has made them the secondary study of his long life. These days, we've all come to assume that through its unique charms, rock 'n' roll long ago cornered the market on urgency and venom. Which may even be true, but Lehrer tells us it's a mistake to believe that no other form might have been capable of saying the same things. And if Lehrer might have been something of an Angry Young Man, keep in mind that he was a young man from Harvard: to Lehrer, the sophistication that someone like Irving Berlin brought to a pop song was an essential quality. Lehrer didn't want to disembowel the Tin Pan Alley showtune; he just wanted to use it in his act.

OK, I'll admit it: the second mistake the article made is funnier. Because Lehrer, always always clever, used hanging rhyme and internal rhyme and slant rhyme, the writer compares him to modern-day MCs, and actually says Lehrer was "an arrogant nerd rapper with a taste for shock tactics."

Cole PorterNow that IS funny. Clearly it is difficult these days to understand Lehrer's context, because it has all gone away. The joke of course at which I laugh is that you do not need to invoke music which would have assuredly filled Lehrer with horror to reference his tools.

The show tunes and popular songs that Lehrer loved, the lyrics to them written by Lorenz Hart, or Cole Porter, or Oscar Hammerstein, were, as a matter of course, full of the same creative rhymeplay that Lehrer used. It was to them, quite simply, that Lehrer looked. He was no proto-rapper, and he felt none of the contempt he had for rock 'n' roll when he looked at the music that had been popular before it.

Not that I'm saying I'm some kind of savant on the subject, while the talented writer over at is some kind of schmuck. I have no great expertise in Tin Pan Alley. I'm sure I miss plenty of Lehrer's callbacks to the form that he loved.

All I'm saying is that as funny as Lehrer remains, he's tough for any of us below the age of sixty to truly comprehend.

KissingerThere's an urban legend that my father used to repeat to me about Lehrer, and why he quit playing music sometime after the release of That Was the Year That Was. Lehrer, it was said, gave up political satire after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace prize in 1973.

Even as a ten-year old, even as I heard it from my father's lips, the tale made no sense. Here Lehrer wrote songs like "So Long Mom I'm Off to Drop the Bomb," riffing about "the agonizing holocaust," but Henry Kissinger was the last straw?

Not likely, I don't think.

The fact is--and here we're getting back to the Captain--Lehrer's decision to stop writing and playing the songs he was preternaturally gifted at creating remains mystifying to me.

Beefheart always said he was able to make more money painting, and even given that, his choice remains strange to me. But Lehrer's choice is unfathomable. Sure, he's a mathematics professor, and teaches the musical theatre he loves, to boot. He hasn't gone starving.

But how can you turn your back on something you're so good at, if critical and popular appreciation were not the issues? There may not be another musician of sizable audience anytime, anywhere, who has made such a cryptic decision, to staunch their muse.

Actually, the best comparisons might not be in the field of music, at all, but in sport. Lehrer not playing music is like Koufax not pitching.

Which brings up a question of its own: Might it have been some kind of pain which led Lehrer to walk away?

File under: Good Old American Know-how

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Cappella Top Seven

Cream Disraeli Gears Album cover Van Halen Diver Down CD cover
 7. Van Halen - "Happy Trails"
Yes - "Leave It (A Capella version)"
Todd Rundgren - "Lockjaw"
Suzanne Vega - "Tom's Diner"
Cream - "Mother's Lament"
TV on the Radio - "Ambulance"
Nomeansno - "Forward to Death"

TV on the Radio Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes CD cover Virus 100 CD cover

The list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy all songs

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elliott Smith - "Needle in the Hay" from the Album Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith self-titled CD cover
Just another workaday peon, that's me, another schmuck living a life constructed around sensible decisions, going to bed by 11:00 PM, so he can wake up by 7:00 and sit in rush hour traffic for 70 minutes, doing it over and over and over again, exchanging his life for a paycheck to exchange for a mortgage for what.

So as a person who has spent the majority of his adult life habitually fleeing from risk, and forever requiring of myself a moderation in indulgence, in behavior, in emotion, I have no idea at all how someone can become the vessel that a song like "Needle in the Hay" is poured from.

How is it that a man can be so stark and so desolate, how can he give himself so much over to the cold emptiness in constructing and conveying something so paradoxically beautiful?

When I hear Elliott Smith's music, when I hear the music of those like him, like Nick Drake, and Skip Spence and Syd Barrett, I don't think so much of fragility as I do of elasticity.

When I hear "Needle in the Hay" and think of Elliott Smith's life, I consider how we're all rubber bands, designed to expand and contract within reason, within the limits of our coefficients of expansion and retraction, never getting too crazy, never getting too melancholy, except for our artists and our insane, who stretch past the sensible limits habitually, in their ecstatic paroxysms and in their torturous depressions, and their band gets degraded, then they just snap.

File under: Live Fast Die Young

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snarky Advice for Aspiring Critics

I was over at Something Awful, checking out these designs they'd done for imaginary Criterion Collection DVD covers (you can see the rather amusing one they mocked up for that awful Cannibal Holocaust thing right here), and my eye was caught by a little featurette called "Everett True's Advice for Aspiring Critics"

Now, I'd never before heard of Everett True, but if he's famous enough to be asked by Something Awful to write something, you can be sure he's read by more people than yours truly. So, leaving aside questions of whether or not I myself am a critic, or even intend to be one, I followed the link to see if I might learn something useful.

Uh, nope.

I found Mr. True's 38-point list to be representative of that part of the Internet Which Sucks, snarky, superior, and most of all, of the very troublesome opinion that a cultivated apathy is the best attitude to take when approaching the arts.

Not to sound like Wavy Gravy or anything, but Back In My Day, people actually CARED about the music they listened to, and if they were driven to write about it, well, you could be sure they really, really, fucking cared.

Now, I guess not. And you kids get offa my lawn!

Anyway, I thought I might write a little rebuttal. I wasn't gonna go over all 38 of his points, and I only got through four before feeling the need to order a pizza, but these'll get you started, and I'll probably write some more tomorrow.

(To keep things compact, I've set it up where you click the point to see True's elaboration, and my rebuttal. Click it again to contract back.)

1) Don't ever attempt to apologise for holding an opinion.

2) 400 words good. 800 words fucking horrible.

3) Most musicians are cunts.

4) The music industry is not your friend. Unless you choose to make it so.

I May Not Be Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Pretty Awesome

Kyuss Blues for the Red Sun CD cover ZZ Top Eliminator CD cover

7. Cirith Ungol - "Finger of Scorn"
Pavement - "Best Friend's Arm"
Scratch Acid - "Eyeball"
The Raconteurs - "Hands"
Dinosaur, Jr. - "The Lung"
ZZ Top - "Legs"
Kyuss - "Thumb"

The Raconteurs Broken Boy Soldiers CD cover Pavement Wowee Zowee CD cover

The list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy all songs

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Talk Box Top Six

Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan album cover Paul McCartney & Wings Goodnight Tonight 12-inch cover
 6. Peter Frampton - "Do You Feel Like We Do"
5. Joe Walsh - "Rocky Mountain Way"
4. Alice in Chains - "Man in the Box"
3. Jeff Beck - "She's A Woman"
2. Paul McCartney & Wings - "Goodnight Tonight"
1. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - "Tell Me Something Good"

Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink the Player You Get album cover Peter Frampton Frampton Comes Alive album cover

The list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy all songs

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Killing Joke - "Good Samaritan" from the CD Revelations

Killing Joke Revelations album coverAh, Jaz Coleman! Ah, humanity!

What vital place in the soul does the mystic hold?

With the mighty Killing Joke having in the last fortnight released their 14th album, Absolute Dissent, and it being as apocalyptic, perhaps, as any KJ album since Revelations, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back at the centererpiece (to my ears at least--YRMV) of that third album, the masterpiece of bitter irony and hermetic paranoia that is "Good Samaritan."

It's no (heh-heh) Great Secret that KJ leader Jaz Coleman has been and remains postpunk's preeminent mystic. He claims to have organized his life and his band around Rosicrucian principles, The Rosy Crossto have in fact created Killing Joke, to have recruited guitarist Geordie and bassist Youth into the band as founding members, through the influence of Rosicrucian ritual magic. He claims to be a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn.

And of course Revelations is adorned with the symbols and the purported symbols of Freemasonry. The T-square and the compass--perhaps the Masons' most recognizable sigil--are displayed on the back cover. Too, featured prominently on each side of the LP's record sleeve are reproductions of the great seals affixed to the dollar bill and to the pound note, the Eye of Providence and the caduceus having long since been imagined by conspiracy-theorists and mystics to have been placed in these seals by the Freemasons who founded each country's bank.

The title that Coleman chose for the album refers of course to The Book of Revelations, which is itself known by a variant title The Apocalypse. And it is the Apocalypse with which Coleman is consistently concerned. In 2010, with the Cold War consigned safely to history, the apocalypse referred to in songs on Absolute Dissent is couched in terms of alarmist Malthusian principles (as on "The Great Cull") or in terms of a Kurzweilian singularity (as on "Here Comes the Singularity," natch).

But in 1982, with the United States run by a born-again trigger-happy cowboy by the name of Reagan, and with the Soviet Union on the edge of instability as Brezhnev lay on his deathbed, Coleman can almost be forgiven if he saw the future's dark horizon in nuclear terms. Read the lyrics and it almost makes sense to split for Iceland and wait for Ragnarok there:

Bright clothes and smiles and we'll talk sunshine
Although the light bulb's dim
And my beach ball is getting dusty
And the fun wears thin - thin.
It's much the same everywhere
Diversions right and we're ready to dance

Complacency seemed to kill the cat
Curiosity led me on
On what foundation is your pedestal built
The great architect to a tower block
And Uncle Sam says it's not long now
And we can play our way
My Marvel comic says a hawkheaded man
Led to a brighter day
It's much the same everywhere
We're getting ready and we're ready to dance

Happy, so happy, I just accept the way things are
I'll stick to songs - that's real
So happy

La la la

Dark indeed, and not just for the bitter, bitter sarcasm that puts such future exercises in cynical irony as The Minutemen's "Number One Hit Song" to shame. Coleman is not trying to write his lyrics plainly. To do so would be to violate the cryptic traditions he holds so dear. Note, though, that Freemasonry's GAOTU is reduced to designing high rises. The End Times are no Golden Age, that's for sure. And--most saliently--mark well how our good uncle can envision a playtime unencumbered by any longer having to deal with his enemies right around the corner.

I've never been a comic book kind of guy, and the internet codices of the Marvel universe seem at least to this surfer even more indecipherable than those of the hermetic. However, it seems to me that the hawkheaded man might be Horus, the same Egyptian deity whose Eye is reimagined as the Eye of Providence on the back of that one dollar bill on the sleeve. But be careful of that brighter day, though: it might be the one for which Timbuk 3 suggests you wear shades.

The slow sad bitter rumination that is "Good Samaritan" notwithstanding, much of Killing Joke has always been at its core dance music, and their idea of doing the Danse Macabre has been of much influence to other bands playing industrial or gothic music. But Coleman, unlike some of these other bands who have copied KJ for expedience' sake, really seems to buy into this, telling Quietus as recently as earlier this year that
I'd like to party at the end of the earth. But we will either way – if we don't die, great, and if we die we go out rocking
Coming from someone like Trent Reznor, Coleman's comment might seem like calculated nonsense, but when it's 2000 years of commentary on Hermes Trismegistus that are being referenced, rather than some Ministry tune from 1987, the nonsense Coleman spouts forth is at least a little bit enchanting.



File under: Proto-postpunk, Going to Iceland and Waiting for the End of the World Rock

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Soft Cell - "Memorabilia" from the CD Non Stop Erotic Cabaret

Soft Cell Non Stop Erotic Cabaret CD coverSoft Cell's larger FM radio hit notwithstanding, "Memorabilia" is in my estimation the high-water point for 80's synthpop.

Or at least, it's the point where the genre's aims best mesh with my own tastes, which admittedly run towards the somewhat dark.

And "Memorabilia" is no doubt that. Beyond its proto-electronica digital clicks, and beeps, and whirrs, the song gives us an evocative and disturbing first-person view of a collector-by-disposition who veers wildly into dysfunction when the physical relationship he'd longed for fails to materialize.

Interesting, how our narrator (and Soft Cell themselves) manage to imbue the most trivial of objects with an air of gravity that they don't in fact possess, how keychains and ashtrays and other trinkets of mass production transform through tenuous association into emotional markers, the real enough hoarded residue of a fantasy liaison.

His delusion yearns for reinforcement, whether it be through furtively snapped photographs, through cheap melmac souvenirs, or through malleable memory that must be altered on its demanding behalf.

If you polish your delusion strongly enough, I have never had you will gradually become molded into . . . I've been there

Places are collected in this way too, towns that he's passed through and their pretty postcards for sale, the snowstorms trudged through in winter recursively mimicked in Taiwanese plastic, resorts visited clandestinely on the Costa del Sol, and the girl with him there in her mantilla, or, really, markers for the monothematically deluded tourist placed anywhere else the fetishistic meets the obsessive-compulsive.

File under: Synthpop

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Please give a warm LHdlMR welcome to the newest version of my Blogger Last Child widget, now featuring fifteen songs, copiable text, fine-tuned colors that change from day to day, and a handy link to a well-formed XML file.

All so that y'all can have access to the songs I'm listening to on my iTunes.

Last.FM had thoughtfully provided a customizable widget for me to use, but I was never happy with that 'coz 1) it was an image, not a text file, and 2) the titles that were long enough to run past the edge of the image were simply chopped off rather than returned to be completed on a new line. So you most recently had entries like "They Might Be Giants - Sapphire Bull"

Not that there's anything wrong with Sapphire Bull, mind you.

Anyway, I decided to tgry and write something that would get it right, a PHP script that would parse the XML file my scrobbler generates, and once I had worked around the difficulties it had with Blöödhag, and had something I was happy with, I then--and only then--realized that Blogger won't allow you to post PHP scripts!

Ack, all that time wasted . . . but no, at the last I realized I could host the PHP file on my site, and run it here in an iframe.


Here's some code if anyone's interested:


$date = date("j");
if ($date %7 == 0) {$todayscolor = "#A47FCC";}
if ($date %7 == 1) {$todayscolor = "#0D3F04";}
if ($date %7 == 2) {$todayscolor = "#F7646A";}
if ($date %7 == 3) {$todayscolor = "#26388A";}
if ($date %7 == 4) {$todayscolor = "#EABF15";}
if ($date %7 == 5) {$todayscolor = "#000000";}
if ($date %7 == 6) {$todayscolor = "#408080";}

$i = 1 ;

echo "<body style=\"margin:0px;padding:0px\">";
echo"<table cellpadding=3 style=\"font-size:12px;width:218\">";
echo "<caption style=\"border:3px double black;color:#666666;font-size:18px;font-weight:700\">Last 15 Tracks Scrobbled at
ini_set('allow_url_fopen', 1);

$file = '';


echo "\r\n<tr


function contents($parser, $data){
global $spacer;
global $todayscolor;
global $fontcolor;
global $backgroundcolor;
global $i;
global $NAMEflag;
global $ARTISTflag;
global $dashflag;

if ($i % 2==0) {$backgroundcolor=$todayscolor;
$fontcolor="#FFFFFF";} else

if ($ARTISTflag==1) {

echo $data;

if ($NAMEflag==1) {


if ($dashflag==1) {echo " - ";}
echo $data;



function startTag($parser, $data){

global $i;
global $spacer;
global $NAMEflag;
global $ARTISTflag;

if ($data=="NAME") {$NAMEflag=1;
} else

if ($data=="ARTIST") {
else {$ARTISTflag=0;}

if ($NAMEflag==1) {
echo ""; }

if ($ARTISTflag==1 ) {
if ($i > 9) {$spacer="";} else {$spacer=" ";}

echo "<td style=\"vertical-align:top\"><b>".$spacer.$i.". </b><td><b>"; }


function endTag($parser, $data){

global $NAMEflag;
global $ARTISTflag;
global $fontcolor;
global $backgroundcolor;
global $i;
global $dashflag;

if ($data=="NAME" ) {
else {

if ($data=="ARTIST" ) {
else {

if ($NAMEflag==1) {

echo "</td>\r\n<tr

if ($ARTISTflag==1) {

echo "</b>"; }



$xml_parser = xml_parser_create();

$y = xml_set_element_handler($xml_parser, "startTag", "endTag");

if ($y == "NAME") {
xml_set_character_data_handler($xml_parser, "contents"); }

// make sure the remote file is successfully opened before doing anything else
if ($fp = fopen($file, 'r')) {
$data = '';
// keep reading until there's nothing left
while ($line = fread($fp, 1024)) {
$data .= $line;

} else {

echo "uh-oh";

// an error occured when trying to open the specified url

if(!(xml_parse($xml_parser, $data, feof($fp)))){
die("Error on line " . xml_get_current_line_number($xml_parser));

echo "</table>";
echo "<br><center><a style=\"color:#666666\" target=\"_blank\"

href=\"".$file."\">XML File Here</a></center>";




Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" (Two Different Ones)

I wonder whether anybody ever asked John McLaughlin what type of gun, exactly, it was that shot those sapphire bullets. Maybe it was the same one that shot that diamond bullet right through Kurtz' forehead?

Or maybe not. Maybe you need a different model gun for each precious or semi-precious stone. Or maybe it's that you need a different gun for each mental capacity, one for pure love, one for Kurtz' crystalline realization, maybe a third for bullets of acceptance, if you've heard of those.

Indeed, I'm kind of surprised we never saw a sequel song from the preternaturally talented Mahavishnu John, "Platinum Rifles of Inchoate Ecstasy" or some such . . . .

Alright, alright, alright, enough from me. "Sapphire Bullets" is a trifle of a song, actually, one that doesn't even display the Mahavishnu Orchestra's greatest calling card, which was their extreme instrumental virtuosity. It sort of blends UFO sounds with those of a guitar being tuned up, while featuring none of that fabulous pentatonic riffing from McLaughlin or Jan Hammer or Jerry Goodman or anyone.

It seems to exist, strangely enough, solely for the purpose of its silly little title, which on further reflection, seems to be a tad less little than the 21-second song itself.

I think the whole thing's pretty absurd, and I'm sure that McLaughlin himself--who's long since dropped the Sri Chinmoy nonsense--would agree.

But of course you don't need me to skewer the song, because They Might Be Giants already have!

Pistol shots
Gun shots
Pistol shots
Gun shots

Bullets from a revolver
Bullets from a gun
Bullets through the atmosphere
Here they come

John, I've been bad
And they're coming after me
Done someone wrong
And I fear that it was me

Sapphire bullets
Bullets of pure love
Sapphire bullets
Bullets of pure love

Anyway, the whole thing is kind of interesting to me, the way TMBG wrote a new song lampooning an older song and then had the chutzpah to name their tune after the song they lampooned.

Can't think of any other case quite like it, the Two Johns clearly had a blast with it, and now you can too.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire - 04 - Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love.mp3

File under: Ridiculous little snippets

File under: Nerd Rock

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Megadeth - "Set The World Afire" from the CD So Far, So Good . . . So What!

Red flash clouds
Choking out the morning sky
They said it'd never come,
We knew it was a lie
All forms of life die now,
The humans all succumb
Time to kiss your ass goodbye,
The end has just begun

Distorted figures walk the street,
It's 1999
Weeds once underneath the feet
Have grown to vines
Bodies melted like a candle,
A land without a face
No time to change your fate,
No time left, it's too late

The aresenal of Megadeth can't be rid of they said
And if it comes, the living will envy the dead
Racing for power and all come in last
No winning, first stone cast

This falsehood wordly peace
Its treaties soon will cease
No one will be left to prove
That humans existed
Maybe soon the children
Will be born open fisted
We all live on one planet
And it will all go up in smoke

Too bad they couldn't see this lethal energy
And now the final scene, a global darkening

Dig deep the piles of rubble and ruin
Towering overhead both far and wide
There's unknown tools for World War III
Einstein said, 'We'll use rocks on the other side'
No survivors, set the world afire!

The best song from Megadeth's somewhat disappointing third one makes me wonder whether Dave Mustaine might not be kind of nostalgic for the bad old days when nuclear bombs meant flotillas of Soviet ICBMs coming in over the Pole and the impending global Doomsday, rather than just some deluded lonewolf assclown in a keffiyeh dumping a dirty bomb down a toilet at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Not that I or even Mustaine would make light of the grave damage even a schmuck like Jose Padilla might be able to inflict, but let's face it: if you ply the heavy metal horror biz like Megadeth does, the old tyme Mutually Assured Destruction postapocalyptic thang was so much better as a go-to lyrical device on those days when you just weren't sure which version of armageddon you wanted to conjure in your newest metallic opus.

Heavy metal tunes invoking the horrors of the Aftermath are almost as old as metal itself--think "War Pigs"--but, like politically-charged punk rock, they appear to have gone out with the Reagan presidency and the Berlin Wall. And from a geopolitical standpoint, you can understand why.

Not that metal will ever be hurting for lyrical themes. The Judeo-Christian Hell with its tortured denizens ain't thematically tapped yet, and won't be anytime soon. But--even if you're a clever sonofabitch like Mustaine--archaic quotations from Milton and Dante are a little less easy to recast than ones from Einstein.

File under: Speedmetal

Thursday, October 14, 2010

John Lennon - "Meat City" from the LP Mind Games

John Lennon Mind Games album coverSo you might have noticed that the other day would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday.

Maybe you missed the news, if you didn't use a search engine on the 9th or you had smashed your clock radio with a sledgehammer by accident that morning, and then kicked in your WEGA for good measure. Oh, and if you live in New York, Hollywood, Reykjavik, or Liverpool, you would have had to have locked yourself in a soundproof closet for the duration of the day.

So, yeah, you probably heard, one way or the other.

Me myself I found myself savvy through my libero-techno-scifi-artsy-craftsy-civlib blog of choice, Boing Boing. Sort of a stripped down post, it was, that I'd stumbled across. Pescovitz had posted a drawing of Lennon linked to a place where you could buy a print of said drawing for a hundred and fifty bucks next to two words of text: "Imagine Peace."

Pretty poignant, is what I'm saying.

OK, no I'm not. I'm not saying that at all. But at least when I scanned the post I instantly knew the cheap sentiment that had been targeted.

So then, because I was under the weather, on the weekend no less, and feeling therefore a little grouchy, and also because I happen to believe it's true, I submitted my comment to the discussion of the man that had sprung up thereunder, which was in its entirety: "Overrated."

It was a sort of perverse thing to do, I know, posting such a cynical contribution to a thread that had been all Peaceburger and Genius before I arrived. Like I said, I was feeling sort of grumpy and--alright, guilty as charged--maybe wanted to spread it. I figured I'd be shouted down quickly, but since I had no intention of defending what I'd written--being headed for bed instead--no biggie.

So I verified my comment had posted and went to my sickbed.

I think it was Monday before I went back to Boing Boing again, and of course I couldn't help myself, I decided I should check out the post and see what the reaction to my provocative comment had been.

And a mod had deleted it. I saw the thing post, and there I was, same bat-time, same bat-channel, two days later, and it was as if I'd never even answered that Captcha challenge.

Now I was pissed. I hadn't been rude, I hadn't been antagonistic, yet here my comment had been deleted as if it were racist screed, as if it were obscenity.

Of course, it had been neither of these things. What my comment had been, now that I think of it, was sacrilegious. The Weekly World News convinced us long ago that Elvis had the whacko cultsters, but now I find it's been Lennon all the time.

Hair Peace, everyone!"Imagine" was a trifle, people, a barely pleasant ditty cloaked in vapid platitudes. "Give Peace a Chance" is at the least fun --you certainly feel as if you are in that Toronto hotel room with John and Yoko and Tom and Dick and everybody else, buzzed and smelling of incense--but it's not much more, a child's singalong, is this all that Lennon, on inspection, had?

No, of course not. He'd been in The Beatles of course, and I can't discount that too much, though that the Beatles were, are, have been, and must forever after be overrated is an unassailable truism. They were pretty fucking good, but no-one is that good, and if you disagree, consider for a moment the atrocity that is "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."

Or if a McCartney song seems incongrous, consider "Revolution # 9."

Anyway, my point, beyond the obvious one that the most popular band in the history of the planet can't help but be overrated, is that you can't judge the members by the band. It was all chemistry. It's impossible to say what influence Lennon had on "Yesterday," and impossible to say what influence McCartney had on "Across the Universe."

So if you believe as I do that you can't judge Lennon by The Beatles, what do you have left?

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album coverWell, you have Plastic Ono Band, a stark masterpiece in which you hear the layers of Lennon's personality being peeled away until you've reached his raw inner core.

And that's certainly something. Don't take me wrong: in the masterpiece department, the score stands

Lennon In His Own Write 1
rastronomicals 0.

But some of the scores from those faves listened to here at La Historia are a bit higher. King Crimson has two, possibly three, masterpieces to their credit, and Pink Floyd certainly have that many. Eno made three, then realized he didn't even like making them. Neil Young's probably tossed off five.

And I don't see Neil Young's self-drawn mug on Google, or Bob Fripp's.

Plastic Ono Band is awesome, but make no mistake: Lennon never followed it up with anything remotely as good. In this respect, Lennon is as a solo artist more like Joseph Heller than William Faulkner, more like Night Ranger than Black Sabbath. He did good work, but not enough of it, and you don't get the feeling that his murder, as tragic and reasonless as it was, really deprived us of anything vital he needed to express, not if you're straight up about what Double Fantasy truly was.

John Lennon Double Fantasy album coverAnd yet somehow it is Lennon alone who has been selected for sanctification. Lennon was at core a rock star like any other, perhaps most like Lou Reed in that he played guitar in a great band that broke up and his best song is about heroin.

Or perhaps he's more like Ozzy, in that he found a kind of contentment in being marketed by his dominant wife.

A rock star like any other is what he was, prey to the same pecadilloes and fetishes and hedonisms as all the ones you read about in the tabloids. If you doubt that, you might read up on his lost weekend one day. Yet we find he's been canonized to the point where muttering "overrated" under your breath at a major website will get you censored.

Yikes. I guess if you've gotta get murdered, you might as well be made into a saint.

Anyway, another characteristic of Lennon's original solo work is its frequent failure to rock, witness "Imagine" and Double Fantasy again, if you'd like. Presented for you here--and to show I bear no ill will--is perhaps John's rockinest solo tune, the tape loops don't bother me at all.

File Under: (Just gotta give me some) Rock and roll

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Steve Miller Band - "Mercury Blues" from the LP Fly Like an Eagle

Went out to the ballpark last night and saw Stevie Guitar Miller.

It's not too odd these days for major league teams looking for a boost to their attendance to host concerts by those on the nostalgia circuit after Friday or Saturday night games. And the Marlins I guess are a little more active on this front than some of their competition, other than considering the makeup of the area, half the shows they sponsor are salsa acts.

But last night was for the Anglos, and longtime readers who know I'm a Steve Miller fan should only be slightly surprised that I took Schfrank and Cerveza up on the opportunity presented when they invited me to the game.

In one sense, of course, a Steve Miller concert might be among the events I'd be least expected to attend. While a time machine or some other method of delivery to the late '60's would be greeted enthusiastically, as it would allow me to witness the band's set at Monterey Pop, the last thing I'm about when it comes to music is the warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. I'd rather be challenged with something new or at the least old and obscure than hear the number one hit yet again. So what if they played "All the Young Dudes" at my high school's prom?

I wasn't even fucking there.

Steve Miller Band Bingo! CD coverAnd yet, to me, Miller's formidable body of work prior to his mid-seventies' career peak makes him something of a titan--no-one from San Francisco was better, and no-one anywhere played a slow blues the way Miller could. And Miller might be a nostalgia act at this point, but he DOES have a new album out, and it IS good. It's called Bingo!, and it nods more in the directions of his late '60's work than his mid '70's stuff, being a collection of R & B and blues covers.

And while recognizing it unlikely that someone playing after a ballgame in Miami would stretch out and play their old and obscure psychedelic blues or their new and obscure R & B stuff in lieu of their massive radio hits remembered as tokens of their youth by the upper-middle class suburbanites who attend a ballgame in Miami in the first place, what clinched it for me is that I actually LIKE a lot of the radio hits.

Why, just the other week, I added "Take the Money and Run" to my iTunes after hearing it on the classic rock station during the three or four days when Jr. was dead but III had not yet arrived. Still love the way he rhymes "Texas" and "facts is" and "taxes." I was even telling Carlos the warehouse kid about how great those lines are . . . . though Schfrank would express a contrary opinion during the show.

So, fuck yeah, reservations be damned, let's go, Steve Miller, the Space Cowboy, the Gangster of Love, even though in all likelihood, he wouldn't actually be playing the songs which gave him those nicknames.

I got there early, and saw all the ballgame, and let me tell you this: Do not go to a ballgame in late September in which both teams have been eliminated, unless they've got some kind of a concert afterwards. The Marlins (long since eliminated from the playoffs) faced the Pirates (the worst team in baseball, v. 2010), and if it's possible to play a game in a more lethargic and less energetic manner, I don't wanna know about it. Marlins won 2 - 0 in perhaps the most boring game I have ever personally witnessed.

But hey! No worries! After a short fireworks show, it's Stevie Guitar Miller!

Let me say before proceeding that Miller looked good for a 67-year old man. Grey to be sure, but spry and still flexible in the fingers where it matters. His voice was more hit-and-miss, though, but what are you gonna do?

First song was "Jet Airliner"--no surprises there. But the second was "Mercury Blues" and that was a little surprising, especially in that Miller played it more in the country style of Alan Jackson's # 1 hit version than of the primo blues version he himself had released on Fly Like an Eagle. It also seemed to me that Miller was singing "Crazy about a Mercury Ford."

Weird, right? Turns out that right around when Jackson recorded the song and allowed Ford to use it to sell their pickup trucks in the early '90's Ford Motor Company actually bought the rights to the tune from the estate of KC Douglas or whomever. Now, no company anywhere no matter what rights they own can dictate the lyrics to a song performed live in concert, but--given that Miller conducted his own business transaction with Ford when he allowed the guitar intro to "Swingtown" to be played over commercials hawking the Ford Mustang in exchange for some Ford-built tractors--I have to wonder whether Miller has maybe cut another deal with Ford to sing the song that way in his appearances.

That's another one of the things about the nostalgia circuit, I guess: you can't ever pretend it's not about the money.

Miller would also go on to play a rather boring version of "Swingtown," though if Miller considered rewriting the lyrics to mention FoMoCo, he ultimately passed on the opportunity.

"Swingtown" was probably the least inspired tune Miller did, but later in the show came a song that he historically has failed to render properly. Back in the '80's, after "Abracadabra" had hit, Miller put out the Steve Miller Band Live! LP, and I remember being turned off to its eventual purchase by the video for "Living in the USA," which--recorded in Vegas or wherever in 1983--totally and absolutely failed to capture the groove it had on Miller's classic Sailor LP from 1968.

Twenty-five years later, with Sailor bandmates Boz Scaggs and Lonnie Turner and Tim Davis just as absent as they'd been in '83, it is kind of reassuring to me that Miller still can't get his old song right. And I won't hold it against him that he dedicated a song about the inauthenticity of a plastic land to our soldiers in Afghanistan, not given his audience for the evening, but I'm pretty sure he can't have meant that.

It might seem like this review is going in a certain direction, but let me nip that in the bud. If the "Mercury Blues" thing made "Swingtown" sound a little funny, or if the message on "Living in the USA" was a little garbled, that was it. Miller was never cheesy, always played and sang entusiastically, and rather smoked on the guitar. For me, the highlights of the show were when Miller took his solos. For example, I never much cared for "Abracadabra," but the version played Saturday night jammed. Miller's solo work was muscular throughout, and side deals or no, you can tell he loves playing the instrument.

And he played two songs from Bingo!, too, and got decent if not overwhelming responses, as well. I was glad to see that.

The show was hardly perfect, but regardless of the flaws, I had a damned good time. In saying goodnight, Miller asked to be invited back when the Marlins open their new stadium in 2012. I'll say this: if the team does invite him back, they can count on at least one fanny in their seats, even if it's a late season game without any playoff implications at all.

File under: Blues Rock, Concerts rastro went to