Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lynyrdskynyrdsville: Disaster in Granny’s Swamp

LS Pronounced

I was pretty proud of the term “Lynyrdskynyrdsville” that I coined to convey the musical flavor and tone of my adolescent environs, but then it dawned on me that it might not be all that nice or respectful of me to use it, because in 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed darn near right on top of my Granny’s swamp, killing six people.  I remember it well.

Front Page of Local Newspaper

Enterprise Journal

According to the wise sages at Wikipedia, the crash occurred in a “heavily-wooded swamp in Amite County, five miles northeast of Gillsburg, Mississippi”, i.e., Granny’s swamp.  It seems that there is a lot of controversy about what caused the crash and the events immediately following it.  There’s been speculation about a malfunctioning fuel gauge, pilot error, etc., but it doesn’t appear that any of that is substantiated.

What I do know is that the people in the area were completely overwhelmed as the world descended upon the swamp in unprecedented numbers, although that little corner of the still-wildish frontier has had oddly more than its share of weird happenings over the years.  If Daddy was still here, I could tell you more, but there was something about a fake diamond mine hoax back in the early 20th century that brought people from all over the country, sleeping on the side of the road and getting drunk and whatnot, plus there was “The Bunch Gang”, Bonnie & Clyde-style outlaws of the 20’s that holed up in the woods, wreaking havoc upon the little community of farmers, ending in tales of ghostly black dogs emerging from the fireplace when the outlaws died, and other weirdnesses reaching back beyond the Civil War.

Anyway, I was living up near Jackson at the time, where things were slightly less weird, but some of the survivors of the crash were in the orthopedic rehabilitation unit with friends of mine from high school that were recovering from a car wreck that happened on one of those many cruising nights described in my “I Dig Boy Music” post.  They were instant celebrities when they got back to school, regaling us with questionable stories of their supposed interactions with band members during rehab sessions.

I’m not the biggest fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, preferring my southern fried blues-rock more Allman flavored, but I do like this song a whole lot.  This is one of those songs where my hubby plays his guitar as I belt it out passionately with great gusto and emotion.  I agree wholeheartedly with its philosophy, which I was taught from an early age as the descendant of a long line of poor southern farmers and which basically can be described in the words of our hero Neil as “don’t be a breadhead”.  And if I use the expression, “Lynyrdskynyrdsville” in the future, which I probably will because it’s going to be hard for me to give it up, please know that I mean absolutely no disrespect – either to the band or to the simple, countrified culture to which it refers.  After all, no matter where I’ve been or what small achievements I’ve been fortunate to make in my life, it’s my own cultural background, and it will always be a part of me.  Here’s “Simple Man”…

crash site

The Crash Site

R.I.P.

Ronnie Van Zant

Steve Gaines

Cassie Gaines

Dean Kilpatrick

Walter McCreary

William Gray

Questions?  Comments?  Please Share!

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Welcome to my Slightly Less Ugly Blog!

Peaches

I’ve been admiring the fine, professional looking blogs of my friends and colleagues in blogland, like Jamie, Matt, and Bruce for quite a while, but being a cheapskate by nature and unwilling to pay for the “premium service” or whatever it’s called, I pretty much just told myself to be happy with what I had.  But honestly, things weren’t looking too good around here – the background was an ugly, garish shade of orange, the clip art header of autumn leaves that I found in my pictures file looked hideous, and there was absolutely nothing to indicate that I was talking about music.  That was probably the worst part.

So I told myself, “Marie”, I said, “you gotta try harder.  You’re really getting into this blogging thing now, you know you are, so step up to the plate, kid”.  I didn’t really call myself kid or tell myself to step up to the plate, though.  So I thought, “what kind of header can I use to show that I’m mainly talking about music here?”  And the Peaches Record Crate thing dawned on me.  As you may recall, o ye faithful*, that’s what I used to store my approximately 450 scratched records before I loaded ’em off on a college kid back in ’96.  So I thought that was a fitting header for my blog.  It’s a little blurry maybe, but definitely fitting.

The next part was easy – I just changed the garish orange to a nice, soothing shade of blue.  But the crowning glory was the setting up of the twitter account and linking it to my blog.  I read the instructions, squinting geezer-like in my reading glasses, tried several times, and eventually, it worked!  It was thrilling!  The little blue thing you see in my twitter profile picture is my first radio, the Panasonic transistor.  Also deeply significant, as you know, o faithful ones.

Panasonic radio

So I’m going to be posting some of my old posts along with the new ones to twitter, so that our brothers and sisters in twitterworld can keep up with my silliness and maudlin musical sentimentality as well.  I thought I would mention that, because I don’t want you, my WordPress-brethren, to think I’m double dipping or something, if that’s even a thing in blogging.  I really don’t know, because I’m basically still clueless, although I’m slowly starting to understand why and how to do this, I think.

So, since this is supposed to be a music-oriented blog, what song goes along with this blogging journey and struggle for improvement of which I speak?  I can only think of one right now.  Keep fighting the good fight, fellow bloggers, and give and take the best that you can…”Fight the Good Fight” by Triumph, natch.

*I’m going to try to stop calling thee “o ye faithful” after the oldies station quits playing Christmas music, but I can guarantee nothing, o ye faithful.  Ye know by now how these phrases get stuck in mine head.

Questions?  Comments?  Think the song is cheesy as heck or fabulously inspiring?  Please share!

 

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Dear Neil/Nigel – So Long, and Thanks for all the leonardcohensushi

untitled

I don’t really want to say so long to you, Neil/Nigel – I just couldn’t resist the gratuitous Douglas Adams reference, especially because in my mind, you and Douglas go hand in hand.  For a while there back in the mid-eighties, I was on a steady diet of Douglas Adams and your book, “Neil’s Book of the Dead”, interspersed with some Stephen King.  But I could only read Stephen King when I temporarily had a roommate or was defeatedly living at home with my parents for a short time, because I got too freaked out by it to read it while living alone, so that means that you were in heavy rotation with Douglas.  That’s a pretty high honor, Neil/Nigel, but I loved you deeply because of “The Young Ones” and I could read your book aloud using your “The Young Ones” voice, much to the entertainment of the friends and the roommate if there happened to be any/one.  Plus you were my favorite young one since I secretly had a crush on you because of the hair, although we both know it really needed a good trim.

Songs of Leonard Cohen

Songs of Leonard Cohen (Photo credit: svennevenn)

As you know, Neil/Nigel, you had a pretty hefty excerpt from Leonard Cohen’s “Beautiful Losers” in the section in your book titled “leonardcohensushi”, which blew my mind.  It was the best part of my “Neil’s Book…” performance.  Of course, living here in Lynyrdskynyrdsville, I had never heard of Leonard Cohen before, and I was amazed and amused by his juxtaposition of the sacred with the profane, the sublime with the coarse and crude.  Not that any of that prompted me to do any research on Leonard and try to find out more – that was back when you had to actually get off the couch/bed in your crummy efficiency apartment (that would be a bed-sitter to you, Neil/Nigel) and go to the library to do research, and I only did that for my classes and didn’t spend one minute more than absolutely necessary there, so I remained Cohen-less and clueless that he even wrote music at all.

Until “Shrek” came out, that is.  By that time, I was teaching on a college campus, where people knew stuff, and when I mentioned the amazing song “Hallelujah” that was featured in the movie, one of the people that knew stuff told me it was by Leonard Cohen, whom I immediately recognized from your book.  I was stunned at first, but then it quickly made sense.  Who else could have written those lyrics?  People were confused about “Hallelujah” – was it about sex or God stuff?  I, thanks to you and leonardcohensushi, knew that it was about both.

Shrek (character)

Shrek (character) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slowly, over time, it came to the attention of my tiny mind that there was a whole catalog of songs written and performed by the great Leonard Cohen, and now he’s got an entire playlist on my iphone.  I have you to thank for that, Neil/Nigel.  Your book was a masterpiece of sixties-spoofing silliness, but in the midst of it all, there was a shining Cohen-gem I could take with me through the years.  I’m glad you were on the rotation with Douglas and Stephen.  And it was great to see you on that episode of “Midsomer Murders” that I saw on Netflix a while back.  So long for now – I hope to see you soon on some other British TV mystery, because I really dig those and watch them all the time.  Peace.

The Marvelous Nigel Planer

English: Honorary Graduation with Doctorate of...

English: Honorary Graduation with Doctorate of Arts from Edinburgh Napier University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would post Cohen’s masterpiece that we all know and love from “Shrek” (which I also love, by the way – huge Shrekster here), but in an effort to be individualistic and appear to be one of those people that know stuff, I’ll post a lesser known, but almost equally magnificent song.  Here’s “Bird on the Wire”.  By the way, Neil/Nigel, if you’re still listening, this clip is of a 2008 performance in London, and I like to think you were there, thereby bringing us full circlesushi.  Heavy.

I have tried, in my way, to be free…

Okay, fine…who am I kidding…I’m a freaking lemming…here’s one of the most incredibly deep and beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my entire, sheep-like existence.

I’ve told the truth; I didn’t come to fool you.  And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah…

Questions? Comments? Please Share!

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In Every Dream Home a Mother of Pearl

Please excuse my Frankenstein’s monster of a post title – I have lost all self-control, apparently.  Since I started this blog about my love of music, my mind turns to each long-cherished song with the passion of a brand-spanking-new lover, as if I’ve taken some kind of musical hormone therapy drug.  But, in fact, we know that love itself is the drug.  Which leads me, of course, to Roxy Music.

Live (Roxy Music album)

Live (Roxy Music album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roxy Music weren’t all that well known here in Lynyrd Skynyrdsville. In fact, I was completely unaware of them until “Love is the Drug” started to be played on the radio circa ’75-’76.  I was so intrigued by the unique sound of that song that I asked the music gurus down at the local record shop the name of the band that did it.  They did more than answer my question – they played “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” over the store speakers, and I walked away loaded down with Roxy Music.  How fresh, how different was their sound – the way they changed moods and styles multiple times in each song; the cryptic lyrics; the drama and theatricality!  There’s just nothing like early Roxy Music.  Of course, ultimately, practically everyone tried to sound like Roxy Music it seems.  All those new wave bands of the eighties just sounded like pale, neutered imitations of Roxy Music to me, and sadly, eventually even Roxy Music started to sound like a pale, neutered imitation of Roxy Music.

It all started going awry, I think, when Bryan Ferry’s lounge lizard suit stopped being tongue-in-cheek and ironic and became his actual preferred form of dress and a symbol of his professional persona.  But let’s not think about that now.  I have a long list of favorites from Roxy Music, but here’s a couple of standouts – both of these clips are of incredible performances.

Here’s a man and his mate…I mean doll.  I just love the creepy keyboards and the increasingly cracked lyrics; the tension building until we reach the orgasmic release of Phil Manzanera’s solo…

This song has probably been stuck in my head more than any other Roxy Music song over the years…Oh, mother of pearl, I wouldn’t trade you for another girl…

And here’s a little bonus…a cool dub version of “Love is the Drug” by Todd Terje and amazing video by Ferry Gouw which I found on Bryan Ferry’s YouTube channel.  If you want to read more about Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, fellow blogger Greg K. over at seventies music has a great, detailed post and the original version of this song.  Here’s almost seven minutes of delicious Ferryesque musical hormone therapy…enjoy!

Questions?  Comments?  Please share!

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And Now for Something Completely Cliff

O ye faithful, ye should have seen it coming.  You were warned early on about my love of comedy.  You know about my Anglophile tendencies and my stint in England as a young college student.  I’ve alluded to my incessant MTV watching in the eighties.  It was just a matter of time, and today is the day…

I didn’t start out to do a post about The Young Ones.  I simply listened to “Move It” by Cliff Richard on YouTube, which led me to listen to Cliff’s “The Young Ones”, and things took their natural course.

Here’s the famous “University Challenge” scene – Scumbag College v. Footlights College.  Check out Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie representing Footlights.  Of course, they were poking fun at themselves, having been members of the actual Footlights at Cambridge University.  In fact, the whole skit was skewering the long-standing dominance in British comedy by the upper class – by the Footlights in particular.  Here’s a few names from the Footlights alumni roster besides the Thompson/Fry/Laurie powerhouses…Douglas Adams, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Peter Cook, David Mitchell, Robert Webb, and Julian Fellowes.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  Watch at your own risk – Lord Snot almost kills me every time, but we know about my abiding and deeply felt love for Stephen Fry, right, o ye faithful?

And how about some Motorhead while rushing frantically to the train station en route to the University Challenge?

Here’s the boys performing live with our hero Cliff, doing “Living Doll”. Check out Cliff’s masterful mullet. And this clip demonstrates one of the best thing about British audiences – they are consistent, enthusiastic clappers. Give ’em a steady beat; they’ll clap for you to the end. American audiences, though they can be wildly enthusiastic, are crappy clappers. They’ll start off strong, but they peter out quickly, like they’re too cool to really take it seriously and follow through all the way. Just a little “comparative cultures” observation for you there.

By the way, I’m pretty sure that Stewie Griffin from Family Guy is based at least in part on Rik Mayall. No doubt in my mind, actually.

Stewie Griffin

Stewie Griffin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One more thing – Nigel Planer (Neil) wrote a hilarious little book called “Neil’s Book of the Dead” in 1984, which is how I learned about Leonard Cohen. More on that later, I swear it on Neil’s book.

Questions? Comments? Please Share!

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The Jazz Band Countdown

Sorry if my title misled you, but this post is not about Coltrane, Charlie Parker and such.  No.  It’s about that high school institution, an offshoot from marching and symphonic/concert band, known simply as “Jazz Band”.  These bands generally play jazzed-up versions of popular songs, rather than ragtime, swing, bebop and whatnot.  At least, that’s what my jazz band did.  Well, I call it “my jazz band”, but sadly, I wasn’t actually in it, since there wasn’t a need for a jazz flutist.

More on jazz flute later, I promise.  Back to Jazz Band.  My best friend, Janie, was the drummer after Screwy Louie graduated.  Janie was my fellow digger of boy music and she played the heck out of those drums, practicing virtually non-stop.  She taught me a little about drumming, which has come in handy over the years, lending authenticity to my desk-top and air-drumming sessions.  So I attended all performances of  The Jazz Band, hanging out at their practices, running for burgers and so forth.  They had quite a repertoire by the end of the year, but there were three numbers that really smoked, and these three songs are the countdown that I am sharing with you today.  I’m giving you the original songs, but if you want to do so, they are all still being performed by high school jazz bands and you can watch them on YouTube.  Some are pretty good and some are terrible, but I’m still rooting them on because they are part of our brotherhood of musicians and music lovers everywhere.  Besides, who knows what the future holds for them?  They might be the next Miles Davis.  Now on with the countdown.

In third place, we have “Son of a Preacher Man”, by the beautiful and talented Dusty Springfield.  Now if you think of this song as just a little pop ditty, give it another listen.  First of all, in the hands of a good jazz band, it absolutely sizzles.  It starts with a smoldering, sultry sound and builds to a sexy crescendo.  Speaking of which, The Jazz Band almost was not permitted to play this song because of the “suggestive and scandalous” lyrics, but the band director went to bat for us and freedom prevailed. I mean, good grief, it’s not like the lyrics were even going to be sung. Here’s Dusty…The only boy that could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man, yes he was…

In second place, we have “Hey Jude”.  What can I say about “Hey Jude”?  We all know how amazing this song is.  It took the concept of building to a powerful climactic ending to a new level in popular music.  The Jazz Band could practically move the audience to tears with this song – it was so thrilling.  I’ve actually tried to figure out what it is about this song that makes it so compelling to the human psyche, dissecting it musically.  But I can only say this – when my daughter was just barely a toddler, I would play the Beatles around the house a lot, sort of like some people do with Mozart and babies, and I recall that when I would play this song, she would sway her little head back and forth at the beginning, and as the tension built, she would pull herself up on the coffee table and bounce and sway her whole body.  I can’t think of a better illustration of the innate power of music than that.  Here’s “Hey Jude”, the full studio version.

As great as The Jazz Band’s version of “Hey Jude” was, there was one song that topped even that, and that song was “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago. It was utterly euphoric and energizing. To this day, I can’t listen to this song without joyously drumming on my laptop-table or mom-dancing wildly around the living room. The Jazz Band knocked this one out of the ball park: they tore it up: they blew us all away.

Questions?  Comments?  Were you in high school Jazz Band?  Please share!

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