Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boys vs Girls

A quick scan through my CD collection reveals a bit of an uneven split between male and female artists. At a glance I'd say about an 80/20 split in favour of the blokes. Is it just me? Perhaps we all just want somebody we can sing along to and not sound too crap. With that considered the girls were always going to struggle with me. By and large my favourite music comes from the lead guitar/rhythm guitar/bass/drums configuration, a group format that you don't see fronted by many female singers. Well, not the ones that spin my wheels anyway.

Given that this blog has about an 80% chance of me picking a CD of a male artist or male fronted band I thought I'd better give a nod to the talent of the fairer sex portion of my CD collection.

Sinead O'Connor        -        Michelle Shocked        -        Billie Holiday

These artists are each incredibly talented and have been enjoyed at high volume through my speakers. Apart from that, what do they have in common? They each have in their repertoire that that most powerful of all songs, the protest song.

Sinead O'Connor hit the music scene in 1987 as an aggressive, bald headed force to be reckoned with. Her subject material on everything from religion to child abuse to her sexuality made us all sit up and listen. It's a shame that the first song most think of is Nothing Compares 2 U, a cover, she is so much more than that.

OK, Michelle Shocked is a bit of a stretch as a protest singer, I'll grant you that. Anchorage is one of only a handful of songs to give me goosebumps every time I hear it. It reminds me of of old friendships that have faded. The album cover on the other hand is pure protest as it shows Michelle dragged away from a demonstration by police.

Billie Holiday's life was always going to be a struggle. A victim of sexual abuse at a young age, a prostitute and abuser of drugs and alcohol she did it hard. Even without those challenges life was always going to be a struggle for a black woman in 1930's and 1940's America. When Billie released Strange Fruit in 1939, a song highlighting racism in America, in particular the lynchings of African Americans. The heads of Middle America must have spun.

Do I sing along to these artists? Of course I do. Kids scatter and the cat cringes but I do sing along.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mid Life Crisis

There comes a time in every man's life, usually somewhere around the middle bit, when one's attention turns to planning. Planning what you ask? Well, the music to be played at your own funeral of course!

I'm not entirely sure what prompted all this but the "You've reached that certain age so you'd better come in for a once over" letter from my doctor can't have helped.

Right, let's get down to business then. I'm not a religious man so no hymns thanks, even though I still know the words to so many of them from school assembly. I am fortunate in that I haven't been to many funerals but this does leave me a little in the dark as to how many songs I'll need. I reckon you don't want to overdo it (and I'm sure my kids will agree with me)  so I've settled on just three.

1. April Sun In Cuba - Dragon
It's a fun song about a warm place, seems a nice way to ease into the ever after.

2. Boys Don't Cry - The Cure
Being serenaded into the afterlife by an ex heroin addicted lipstick wearing goth will leave the funeral attendees (however many there are) seeing me in a more positive light I'm sure.

3. Asleep - The Smiths
This band ignited my passion for music, it seems right they see me out.

Sing me to sleep 
Sing me to sleep 
I'm tired and I 
I want to go to bed 

Sing me to sleep 
Sing me to sleep 
And then leave me alone 
Don't try to wake me in the morning 
'Cause I will be gone 
Don't feel bad for me 
I want you to know 
Deep in the cell of my heart 
I will feel so glad to go 

Asleep - The Smiths

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Irish eyes are smiling

It's months until St Patrick's Day but I'm in an Irish frame of mind. For the record, I do not possess even a single drop of Irish blood. I wish I did. Sadly I must get my doses of Irish from Irish music... and Guinness.

I'll save the Guinness until later, first up is choosing my favourite Irish CD. We all know of the Global phenomenon that is ( was!?!) U2. You don't get 5 albums in the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums Of All Time without being mega-stars. I love them, but if I'm forking out that much for a 4 pack of Guinness I want shamrocks flowing from my speakers. This leaves me no choice but to put on The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and The Lash.

You know for sure with The Pogues that you have bought a CD purely for the music. Nobody ever bought anything to do with Shane McGowan considering him to be eye candy.  Fairytale Of New York is rolled out every year at Christmas and it will still always beat Snoopy's Christmas, but The Pogues were infinitely more than that one song. Blending Celtic rhythms with punk energy their live shows (and I've been lucky enough to see one!) are legendary. The night I saw them Shane was so under the weather he forgot the words to Dirty Old Town. Fortunately he had a couple of thousand of us fans to fill in the blanks.

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed a girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

This CD above always brings a smile to my face. It reminds me of Friday and Saturday nights drinking snakebites and Guinness at Irish bars in Auckland singing, dancing and laughing. Slainte.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How come Rock Stars age and I don't?

I love hearing an old song that gives a kick to a dusty corner of my memory.  If you're stuck as to who the artist is simply point your iDevice at it, fire up Shazam and hey presto the work's done for you. Too simple really. Once I have the name, I love seeing what Wikipedia has to say about the artist. It quite often sets me off on a musical tangent exploring long lost or unheard of music, brilliant.

The one thing it also does a lot of the time is show you a recent picture of the artist. Holy cow, some of these guys have aged! I find it remarkable that in the 25 odd years that I've been listening to some of my favourite music I feel (and somethimes act) exactly the same age. They, on the other hand have gotten.... old. At least when Morrissey is accused of being a miserable old bastard he can relax in the knowledge that he was miserable as a youngster too...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Go on, try it, you'll like it!

There's something passionate about music that makes you want to share. Positioned as per normal for a Friday at the pizza making station it comes to music time.  Not content with enjoying myself alone tonight, I feel the need to drag in others.

As fate would have it, my middle child drew the short straw. As she slid through the kitchen she was set the following task. "go to the CD rack and bring me an interesting looking CD you don't know, I'm going to play it for you". Imagine my suspicion when she returns with a CD starting with "A". Apparently she chose them because "they looked geeky". I reckon it was because it was the first CD in the (alphabetised) rack. The Animals - The Singles Plus.

Well, she lasted all of about 1 minute of the first track "Baby let me take you home" and she was off, back to watch "20 Hottest Tracks Right Now" on Juice TV. To be fair, I'd last about a minute watching that. So, what did she miss? Track 3 is a classic, "House of the Rising Sun" ranked #123 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

But for me the track of the CD is "It's My Life"

And baby, remember  
It's my life and I'll do what I want  
It's my mind and I'll think like I want  
Show me I'm wrong, hurt me sometime  
But some day I'll treat you real fine 
I'll treat you so fine, dear, you're so real

Lyrics were so much simpler back then...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rule Brittania!

After 2 weeks of late nights cheering on our Kiwi Olympians we finally got to the musical part of the proceedings, the closing ceremony. Three hours of lights, theatre, dance and music. Hmmm, yes, the music. It was an easy avenue for the Brits to go down I suppose. The Chinese put on the huge drum bashing militaristic display because, well, they had no real engrossing pop culture to show the world did they? The Brits on the other hand are overflowing with the stuff. In fact, the whole thing was like an enormous Royal Variety Performance.

Now the thing with these performances is, you can't please all the people all the time. While I smiled at Bowie and Madness my daughter rolled her eyes and vice versa with One Direction. (or One Dimension as I call them).

I think we can all agree, the lineup was good but who could have been added in improve things? Well, I reckon the following would have been gold medal additions

The Housemartins - Happy Hour
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
The Stone Roses - She Bangs The Drums
The Style Council - Shout To The Top

I was going to say Spandau Ballet - Gold, but that'd be to cheesy. Any other obvious omissions?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ahh, the good old days

There's nothing like a visit from an old friend to warm your heart and make you grab for the old faves in your CD collection. You know what I mean. You're sitting down having a drink and a laugh with someone who you used to paint the town red with in the 80s. Someone who's seen you looking your best and acting your worst. This is not the time to explore new music trends, this is Memory Lane time. It's time to play those guilty pleasure CDs.

Memory Lane is an odd place to trip down. Why is it that music I used to scoff at a quarter century ago now makes me misty eyed and nostalgic? My music taste back in the day was what you'd probably call "alternative". The top 40 was something to roll your eyes at. Now, after a few drinks, or worse, a few too many, almost anything goes. "Woooo hooo... Working Class Man... yeah, go Jimmyyyyyy!"

Still, as I retreat to the kitchen to drink and cook and sing out of key, sanity prevails and I reach for a CD that helped define me in my youth. The Smiths - The Smiths. That magical blend of Morrissey's voice and lyrics with Johnny Marr on guitar, pure genius.

I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine - it owes me a living
But ask me why, and I'll spit in your eye
Oh, ask me why, and I'll spit in your eye
But we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
No, we cannot cling to those dreams

Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body ?
I don´t know....

I first heard this on cassette tape (Google it kids) copied and given to me in early 1984. I forget what was recorded on the other side as all I did was to play it, rewind it and play it again. Surely no other group has sung of the Moors murders and made it sound so sweet, crooned about Oscar Wilde or given us the lyrical beauty of Girlfriend In A Coma. No, they haven't and I'll wager they never will.

Friday, August 3, 2012

All praise National Roast Day!

In recognition of National Roast Day (this Sunday Aug 5th).. once again pizza is pushed aside... for the hind leg of a previously bouncing baby lamb.
This meal was my dinner every Saturday night when I was growing up. Dad would play golf all day and come home to a roast dinner that Mum had slaved over a hot oven to prepare. Now, a bit like myself, Mum would have music playing when cooking. Not so much during the week, but certainly at the weekend. Some of the oldest lyrics stuck in the back of my mind come from the AM broadcasts floating out of that Panasonic transistor radio. 

It would have been easy to pop on another Billy Bragg CD, especially with the news that he's coming to Dunedin for a concert in October. I'll save that listening pleasure for when I've had a lager or two, roast meals need longer prep and cooking time and even I can't start drinking this early in the day. So, today's trip down pre-2000 music memory lane is The Style Council - Our Favourite Shop.

Are you gonna be threatend by
The public enemies No. 10 -
Those who play the power game
They take the profits - you take the blame -
When they tell you there's no rise in pay

Are you gonna try an' make this work
Or spend your days down in the dirt -
You see things CAN change -
YES an' walls can come tumbling down!

Oh yes, Mr Weller is certainly out there on the left hand side of the political spectrum side by side with Mr Bragg. It's funny to look back at the music I was buying in the mid to late 80s and how much of it flag waving, fist shaking stuff. Ahhh, the folly of youth. Still, over a quarter of a century later and it all sits well as I contemplate roast lamb and a glass of pinot noir. Happy National Roast Day folks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music to sniff to...

We all listen to music for different reasons. Relax, unwind, kick start a night out or simply break the boredom. But what about when we're sick? I have a cold. Some in my house say things like "Awwwww, have you got man-flu?". No, but I am by no means 100%.

These bugs have a two-fold impact on me. I lose my lust for alcohol (those who know me understand that for this reason alone I do not fake illness) and my music listening habits go a little odd. Don't panic, we're not talking about a shift in musical taste to classical or Justin Bieber, it's more a case of very little patience. iTunes DJ on.... and.... Play! Nah, too loud, skip.... too jangly, skip.... too quiet, skip..... too fast, old, new, blah.... you get the picture.

So, what's the answer? Well one answer for me is Aweditorium app for iPad. I'm new to the iPad and shopping around the App Store in my desired price range (the free stuff area) was this gem. It offers the user an eclectic mix of music coupled with artist info, lyrics, clips and much more. But, best of all, as you tire of a track you simply swipe gently to one side on your screen and you're on to the next offering. Just right for my depleted energy levels... Now off to bed for me... sniff, sniff.