Tag Archives: music

You know I feel alright

Over the weekend I watched A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles’ first film. I’d seen it before, years ago. Watching it now, I was happy to see it was as silly and plot-free as I remembered, but in many ways it also surprised me.

  • The movie has lots of surreal moments — jumps and shifts that are sort of goofy but maybe a bit more than that. John in the bathtub and then gone; the band in the train corridor and then running outside the train; John cutting the tailor’s tape. In the time between when I first saw this movie and now I’ve seen more film, particularly French film and film by bona fide Surrealists, so now I see better where the influences came from.*
  • The music is of course amazing — but it’s even more so if you believe the movie’s producer when he says in the DVD extras that the band wrote the songs in the few months between when the three-picture deal was signed and when the production started shooting. The title track wasn’t even written until near the end of production, and it was written overnight. Makes my all-nighters look like wasted hours.
  • The lads fell down a lot, especially George. And then they bounced back up and kept going, like Weebles. I mean, watch the opening sequence below: Happens 8 seconds in. Doesn’t that look painful? They do it a few more times during the movie. How George’s hands weren’t too bruised and scraped to play guitar I can’t understand.
  • I knew that footage from the Beatles movies and TV appearances were the source material for the visuals in The Beatles: Rock Band, but I didn’t appreciate how closely the game mirrors the footage, and sometimes improves on it.

Next in my queue: Magical Mystery Tour. Yeah, I know, it won’t be as good. Still, must be done.

BONUS: I came across this while seeking out a suitable clip. Nicely done.

* My brother suggested that I should watch the Monkees TV show again, to see if I have a similar renewed appreciation for its surrealism. Excellent idea. But I was always a big fan of the Monkees, so it’s hard to imagine I could like them more than I already do.

Fresh (on PSO Outside)

FOLHA FRESCA (Fresh leaf), originally uploaded by jonycunha.

I posted on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra blog today, “Fresh.”

I wrote about the lovely performance I attended Friday, the PSO performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with soloist Gil Shaham. In classic blogging form, I spent much of the post talking about myself, but it was to make a larger point (honest!).

This weekend’s concerts also included Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which was so lovely I didn’t know what to write about it. I think I’m storing up a bunch of Mahler thoughts that will come bursting out one of these days.

Bringing Mr. Sandman back to life

The first horror movie I saw in a theater was Halloween 2. I had seen nothing as terrifying before, and it scarred my psyche. One major result was that I could no longer hear the song “Mr. Sandman,” which was featured in the movie. Previously I thought of it — if I thought of it at all — as a light pop hit; now it had become a harbinger of extreme danger.

Today on last.fm I heard for the first time a newer version of the song, performed by the San Francisco band Oranger. “Hey,” I thought, “this is pretty good. Kinda rockin’. Maybe now I can finally overcome my irrational fear of Mr. Sandman.”

Then I looked up the video:

Oranger – Mr. Sandman (Stubbs the Zombie)

It seems that Oranger’s “Mr. Sandman” is on the soundtrack for the Stubbs the Zombie video game.

I may never sleep again.

This will be our year

Photo: “Hope” by kevindooley

For the last few years, I’ve greeted the new year with relief … not so much a sigh of relief but more like an exhausted collapse.

My go-to song for the past few New Year’s Eves and New Year’s Days has been “What a Year for a New Year,” by Dan Wilson. Pretty song, and well-matched to that sense of exhausted relief I mentioned:

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise

This year, I find a different song stuck in my head. It’s “This Will Be My Year,” again by Dan Wilson but with his band Semisonic. (Listen on last.fm)

Counting down from ten it’s time
To make your annual prayer
Secret Santa in the sky
When will I get my share

Then you tell yourself
What you want to hear
Cause you have to believe
This will be my year

Here’s the thing: I’m feeling more hopeful this year than I typically do. It’s not clear why 2010 looks brighter than past years have. I just have a sense the universe and I are heading in the same direction right now.

So why am I humming a dryly cynical song about self-delusion at the start of a new year?

This won’t do. I’ll do better to start the year with a theme song that is upbeat, hummable, and carries no whiff of cynicism. Have any suggestions?

Kooky Christmas #13: “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Today on Kooky Christmas, we learn that we must be careful what we wish for.

#13: “Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I didn’t know any new Christmas album released this year by artists that I like. More of my favorite bands should make holiday albums, I thought.

And then I saw this video by one of my favorite musical artists:

“Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

It turns out that Mr. Dylan released an entire Christmas album in October — Christmas In the Heart (click to buy) — and I missed it.

Some thoughts:

  • Yes, that really does look to be Bob Dylan in the video.
  • No, I don’t know what’s going on with his hair.
  • For me, Dylan’s voice has never been his strong suit, and it has not improved through the years. What I tend to love about his performance is his song-writing — lyrics in particular. So I wouldn’t expect to enjoy hearing him sing other people’s songs. But having listened to the album, I find I rather like some of them. Your mileage may vary. (FYI: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is not one of the ones I like.) (UPDATE: One of the songs I enjoy is Dylan’s version of “Christmas Island” — the original of which is #15 on our countdown!)
  • When I throw a party, it is not generally like the party in the video. One time, it was — my grad school friends and I threw a progressive party where we went from one of our houses/apartments to the next, all in walking distance, getting progressively wilder and weirder. In my heart, this is the kind of party I always want to throw. (See also The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March.)

Next year, I want there to be a Pixies Christmas album.

Next on Kooky Christmas: Not everyone likes the merchandising of Christma$.

Kooky Christmas #15 (take two): “Christmas Island” by The Dinning Sisters & Bob Atcher

Hawaiian Christmas, originally uploaded by coconut wireless.

Let’s try this again.

At #15 on our Kooky Christmas Countdown, we take a trip to the islands, for a holiday in a tropical paradise.

“Christmas Island” by The Dinning Sisters & Bob Atcher

Aloha! Grab your ukelele. I’ll bring the pina coladas. Meet me on the beach at sunset, by that palm tree that someone (island elves?) has strung up with lights and tinsel. We’ll strum and sing while we wait for Santa to come skimming up in his canoe.

You’ll find this tune on one of my favorite Christmas collections, Christmas Cocktails, Part 2, from Ultra-Lounge.

My sister Laura is spending Christmas in Tahiti, staying in a bungalow that’s on stilts over the water. This song is for her. Mele Kalikimaka!

Next on Kooky Christmas: The tale of a be-bop Christmas.

Kooky Christmas #15: “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

For today’s Kooky Christmas I promised a trip to the beach, but it’s been a contentious day. Something extra-comforting is needed. We need good cheer. We need words of peace and love. We need music that can bring people together.

We need the Ramones.

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

The song is terrific on its own, a three-chord punk rock classic. But what really knocks this out of the park is the video. Is it the terrible acting? The ridiculous characters? The wildly 80s outfits? The Santa “cameo” at the end? It’s all of that, delightfully juxtaposed against charmingly bland Ramones sound stage footage.

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

Oh, Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee, how we miss you.

If you enjoy this song, you need to pick up The Edge of Christmas, an unbeatable collection of punk and post-punk holiday tunes. Several upcoming Kooky Christmas tunes are on it, so you can study ahead of the rest of the class.

Coming up on Kooky Christmas: Our long-promised holiday trip to the beach.