Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Ageless and

I hear the opening bars and how can I resist? I’m back in the 1970s again, Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” bringing me there. This transport is instantaneous. Resisting isn’t even an option; there’s no time for it. Hearing that song again after a long time, I think it would be fun to pull together a collection from Streisand’s peak era, that decade. I tried the same with Bette Midler and that failed miserably due to lack of quality material, but in this case it worked out, as it has recently for in-depth looks at Natalie Imbruglia, Laura Nyro, Lisa Loeb, Sarah McLachlan, and an over four hour sampler of Olivia Newton-John’s entire career. With Streisand, as I collect the songs I remember that I once owned her second greatest hits cassette. No wonder this is so familiar.

Streisand’s never meant too much to me. Stoney End is a great album I invested in some time ago. But, otherwise, of her films, her life, and her earlier and later songs, only her ridiculous version of “Jingle Bells” figures in my active consciousness as I find myself singing it once every year or two. And, although she didn’t write anything I can think of, she did have a way of making songs her own, as singers of earlier eras and her ilk do. (Sometimes—even in the era of sing-songwriters—it’s surprising to learn that they did write a lot of their own material, as is the case of Melissa Manchester.) In the 70s, Streisand’s songs were beautifully arranged and lovingly orchestrated—she definitely cultivated a sound.

So, spurred on, I started listening to a bunch of her songs from my early life and created a 17-song “golden hour” group. Some are from that old hits collection and some I’d never heard or heard of. I left out the duets with Neil Diamond and Barry Gibb, wanting to keep it her voice—although the Donna Summer song is included (“No More Tears: Enough Is Enough”) as they meld well in their womanly sentiments.

I wound up grouping them haphazardly, but by album. Along with “Evergeen” and “The Way We Were,” two songs written to make me want to cry, there’s “All in Love Is Fair” and the towering “Woman in Love.” I hadn’t heard “Prisoner” in ages. “Superman” and the touching “Songbird” were faint memories.

Hearing “My Heart Belongs to Me” again for the first time in decades is a grand reunion; it might be her very best song. Possibly more exciting, there were songs I’d never even suspected existed: “The Summer Knows,” the surprising (based on its eyebrow-raising title) “Wet,” and best revelation of all “Lazy Afternoon,” a truly amazing atmosphere you can enjoy during any season (winter especially?), which I link you to here.

With all of the music coursing through my veins and across my ears, I should be doing posting daily to squeeze this all into what’s left of my lifetime. One day I’ll pursue my “Women of Song” or “1970s Epitome” ideas. Maybe I’ll analyze just what this 1970s feel is; for now I think of it as beauty unfiltered by experience. But for now there’s this, the song that’s haunted me in and out, off and on, for days: click here.


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Despite lengthy inactivity due to other commitments, this blog still crops up in my thoughts and will continue. I originally planned to focus on music here, which I considered one thing I knew something about, and that the things I knew about it were fading. This led me to think that the “younger generation” or the international set might get something out of what I was writing, that maybe my personal recollections and opinions, and a healthy dose of links and images might bring some joy of discovery.

Now, I have often strayed from the blog’s intent into the personal realm, often thanks to the thoughts music has dredged (or conjured) up. Apart from these more meditative (or cathartic) entries, though, music remains the focus. It struck me the other day, though, how instinctively resentful I can be when someone recommends music to me. Music takes less time than a book or even a movie, so a music recommendation is easier to pursue, and there’s a broader pallet of music I want to spend time on than for books or movies, but there is still that knee-jerk reaction.

This resentment is not universal and it is not historical—a lot of my early musical taste came thanks to others and people to this day, especially if I like them, can send me in wonderful directions. I recently met someone who has had just this effect. There is great joy in discovering something for one’s self, but it doesn’t need to always happen that way.

So, when it comes to this blog, I am not necessarily recommending music to people when I write about it: I am mentioning it in the context of my life and tastes and if people latch onto it so be it and fantastic! I discovered a lot of music incessantly listening to the radio and poring over entertaining reference books on the subject, and people now allow some music service to shower them with similars. I prefer the album format, and will continue to push that here, but otherwise I am looking forward to just continuing to recount my personal taste and experience and letting it be for whomsoever.

Here’s to 2022.

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Can’t Change That

I was listening through my mix CDs the other day and came across these two classics:

Raydio, much better than Ghostbusters, “You Can’t Change That

Naked Eyes, of so many New Romantics, “Promises, Promises

After thoroughly enjoying both, I wondered which was better. Then I realized, of course, that luckily it doesn’t matter. Both are awesome!

So, back to the old station wagon car and little transitor radio tunes. Sometimes it seems it would have been good if the world had frozen sometime around then, but maybe the past can be much more thoroughly enjoyed when it’s pretty deeply buried, so I get luckier and luckier as the weeks and months move along.

Okay, logically-unsound-and-not-thought-through thought for the time being. But another post and a couple of great songs for whoever sees this.

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Bits of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “My Kingdom” looping in my mind while a sequence of overbearing buzzes, alarms, whirrs, and beeps, reminiscent of 1980s Atari games—the Combat cartridge springs to mind—take their turn. It ends with mighty, stabbed organ chords that are really impressive and appealing. It’s my right hip MRI, the quest for diagnosis making headway.

Afterwards, I played the rest of the Cure tape my sister had given me long ago by way of introduction to the group, over 30 years ago, driving down Ogden past vacant stores now torn down replaced by vacant lots bringing who knows what. It’s much-changed, even Ogden Avenue. Other than the familiar looping of the street, parts are becoming unrecognizable even though I traverse it often. At least I know where I am going even if there’s few places I want to stop along the way.

I head directly to the snowscape of Arrowhead Park, home to park district soccer games as a kid. I park with windows all down slightly to hear any birds. No sound, just the empty snowy field and hill and creek, with what looks like a raft of flood ice in the distance. Now I see it’s traversed by two sleek, bundled up figures. No sound, but my head pictures my sister and her best friend as those two out on the icy snowfield. The latter lived a block away from this park, and she’s the reason my sister can’t return here when I want to walk it for bird and nostalgia. How has 30 years passed? The breeze blows into the rolled-down window, I view the field through a snag of hair the color of the gray sky and think of that time, their friendship, what they might have been talking about. I drive home to “The Perfect Girl.”

A week later, back for the left hip MRI, this time spent singing the guitar lines of Will Sergeant and insistent, urgent, defiant choruses of Ian McCulloch in my head—”Over The Wall,” “Show of Strength”—thinking of just re-viewed Donnie Darko and a more than pleasant dream I had of a friend. And back to Arrowhead, with one finch sweetly singing somewhere in the trees behind where I parked, the ones you see below.

But this blog is called Music and More, so I will get back to music soon. More music, less more: A Promise.

Arrowhead: A Week Later

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As a kid I played the standard football, baseball, and basketball with my friends on the block, and was in the local soccer league through the park district, complete with reversible shirt, allowing us to be the yellow or blue team as needed. Gym class, a tiny bit of track, tennis lessons, and then softball and misc in college and after. Most of what I played in did not attract a crowd.

My parents I am sure did a great job cheering me on, and my dad certainly ran to my rescue when I was kicked in the jaw by my own teammate, but I can only think of two occasions when I noticed being cheered for while playing.

The first was in junior high, a day when for some reason we had to run laps around the school—state fitness standards or track tryouts? A certain tall, curly-haired KJ made a point of yelling my name and encouraging me, something immensely more inspiring than the binomial equation she wrote when she signed my yearbook. It must have been our Project Idea ties and general camaraderie in sharing a bunch of classes throughout our careers. I hope I cheered her on when she was similary forced to lap the school.

The second, still more treasured, a certain blonde-haired and blue-eyed BD in college cheering me on by name from the sidelines in an intramural basketball game. (Not the greatest basketball player, but I had my strengths.) We were most likely playing the fraternity whose members she hung around with, so her mentioning me from the sidelines was especially exciting and inspiring for me. Thank you, B.

What effect it can have when someone on the sidelines is there for you, especially unexpectedly. BD also majored in English, but, not surprisingly, we didn’t see much of each other as I seldom saw much of English majors and there was no apparatus tying such majors together.

Such tiny slices of memory taking on such a relatively large shape. The mind and heart are amazing. I could catalogue moments like these.

* Musical Interlude *

Two trios of songs joined me yesterday.

The first started with me listeining to Document after ages away from it. R.E.M.’s “Central America Triptych” has some of their best music and more intriguing lyrics and concepts, all seemingly inspired by Noam Chomsky’s Turning The Tide and the general 1980s anti-Reagan vibe I remember fondly.

Document offered “Welcome To The Occupation,” with “The Flowers of Guatemala” and “Green Grow The Rushes” from their previous two albums. The third has quite possibly my favorite R.E.M. guitar hook, the second a rousing solo, and the “Welcome…” just an all-around vibe and melody that easily lands it on my best of R.E.M. which should one day exist. Until yesterday I’d barely connected any of them to 1980s U.S. intervention in Central America. Oh well. Layers of meaning?

In the evening I played Dionne Warwick and pleasantly remembered she had recorded the Bacharach-David “This Empty Place.” Is it somehow only my third favorite version of this excellent song? I think so. I first heard it by The Searchers as an extremely catchy album track, backed up with their smoothly great instrumentation. Then, it came again later as a highlight album track for Swingin’ Cilla Black who has a way with the drama and nearly veering out of control, and this song is no exception. Her version’s modeled on Dionne’s and I can only say, woo-weee!

Think pink cover from Cilla’s 1965 U.S. album. (from Discogs.com)

Some old Sandie Shaw stuff is next.
We’ll see how that goes!
Long long live love.

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Noted Lyrics

My junior year independent study advisor—a Scot who taught at Leeds, but was enjoying a visiting year with us in Ohio with our “fortress in the middle of a cornfield,” as he described it—wryly informed me that I should have titled my work, Don’t Quote Me On That, as it was indeed an artfully strung together melange of quotations from Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, scholars’ comments, and a little me thrown in.

Continuing in that tradition, with even less reliance on my words, let’s start a list of some favorite lines in songs that always make me sit up and take notice, relish the singing along with, and hit the rewind button:

Beelzebub is aching in my belly-o
My feet are heavy and I’m rooted in my wellios
~Kate Bush, “Kite”

Suddenly my feet are feet of mud
It all goes slo-mo
I don’t know why I’m crying
Am I suspended in Gaffa?
~Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”

All my colors, turn to clouds
All my colors, turn to cloud
~Echo & The Bunnymen, “Zimbo”

It’s been cold,
This vein of blue is seizing me
~Shelleyan Orphan, “Century Flower”

The note I wrote, as she read
She said, “Has the Perrier gone straight to my head?
Or is life sick and cruel instead?”
~The Smiths, “I Won’t Share You”

Like a liar on a witch trial
You look good for your age
~Hole, “Plump”

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I got a lot done yesterday, accompanied by the music of three 80s gals.

Starting out with Annie Lennox’s Eurythmics, the 1985 album Touch. Who’s That Girl?

Then Suzanne Vega’s Retrospective, with this awesome 1986 single. Left of Center.

And winding things up with Tina Weymouth’s Tom Tom Club, eponymous first album from 1981. She just so happens to have some French-Breton heritage. L’Elephant.

In the outskirts and
In the fringes
In the corner
Out of the grip



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My Music Calendar

Turn, turn, turn, spin, spin, spin.

Certain music comes to mind at certain times of year, which is no surprise for a merry-go-round mind like mine. I am glad it is in tune with the seasons and not just completely random. Several years ago I noticed similar inclinations for the types of books I want to read at certain times of year, so I made a “book type of the month” that has gone well since then. Maybe I’ll make another post sharing that sometime.

This will be updated from time to time.


Shelleyan Orphan, We Have Everything We Need, spring awakens this their last album continues to grow on me.


Split Enz, the romance begins afresh


The Church, Uninvited, Like The Clouds, loud spring torrents and freshets

The Jesus & Mary Chain, Darklands, april skies, yes i’m happy when it rains



Shelleyan Orphan, Century Flower, a contender for first album I associate with a season, summer flies buzzin’ bees, heavenly.

The Trash Can Sinatras

Split Enz, Bic Runga, The Go-Betweens, the romance continued so long ago now…

Sly & The Family Stone, there’s a riot goin’ on! Never more true.


The Smiths

Morrissey, Viva Hate

The Church, priest=aura



The Zombies, Odessey & Oracle, see my previous post for the history of this.


Shelleyan Orphan, Humroot, quiet, close autumnal beauty


The Church, Seance, the Beardsley-esque cover image, it must be autumn soon


The Church, Untitled #23, as we near the end

R.E.M.’s Murmur took hold this year, as it often does in hazy, witching days in fall or late summer.

Herman’s Hermits Blaze, too, hit the spot with its rich music and blots of yellow gold and raw gray-green turf on its cover.

Sixpence None The Richer, Sixpence None The Richer, like clockwork every most beautiful month of the year


Echo & The Bunnymen, cool, slicing apocalypse

The Sundays, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, gray on grey on grey on gray


The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue, this may be the first album that always kept popping up at this time of year. When streets are ice crystalled after fallen snow, that is the time I think of this. Really frigid winter days.

Babacar, Babacar, a little slip of this Caroline Crawley free-form before we slip into…

Shelleyan Orphan, Helleborine, a summer holler in winter, ending in crystal Shelley


The Cure, I have vague memories that I listened to The Cure in winter first, on those cold cold days just before Christmas on tapes given to me by my sister and her friend, also informed by another friend for whom The Cure was her fave. All cozy and cats and poetry and cold and blankets.

Ian McCulloch, Candleland

Der Bingle



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This brings me back to when I wanted to take a special course on prosody: the metrics of poetry, the rhyme schemes, the rhythms, and all the technical stuff that went into this subject, captured best by reliable textbooks of the 19th century I used to own and peruse. A professor, uninterested, dissuaded me saying I could learn it on my own, implictly hinting as well that it likely wasn’t worthwhile. As a writer of poetry and student of older poetry especially, I was a bit disappointed, but did teach myself a thing or two.

How strange to think about that time and this topic after such a long time away from “home,” but the simple, deliberate poetic choices of “The Sun and the Rainfall” of our parallel post brings me back. 

Someone will call
Something will fall
And smash on the floor
Without reading the text
Know what comes next
Seen it before
And it’s painful
[The rhyme scheme is straightforward AABCCBD. The “someone” and “something” is a nice touch too.]
Things must change
We must rearrange them
Or we’ll have to estrange them
All that I’m saying
A game’s not worth playing
Over and over again
[ABBCC and A (almost). Two “feminine” rhymes, that is two-syllable rhymes, “-ange them,” for example. I like how the two “-ange them” rhymes are tied to the first line’s “change.” Assonance throughout, with the “ay” sounds, viz. -ange, -aying, -ain.]
You’re the one I like best
You retain my interest
You’re the only one
If it wasn’t for you
Don’t know what I’d do
Unpredictable like the sun
And the rainfall.
[Return to the first verse, AABCCBD, with the D here nearly the same as the first verse’s: “painful” and “rainfall” with the plangent consonance and variation of the vowel sounds, slant rhyme. Nice, harmonious touch as in the first verse, leading with “you’re” and “you retain,” which is even an eye rhyme: “you’re” and “you re”.]
Not only is this craft of this poetry charming and beautiful, the song is part of one of the great “hat tricks” (three great songs in a row): “Photograph of You,” “Shouldn’t Have Done That,” and the cap, “The Sun and the Rainfall.”
What better song, with it’s soft, slightly muffled production, complex layering, tiny tinges of sound, music in no hurry, subtly poetic lyrics, and highest of compliments? It brings to mind an A. E. Housman poem in style and atmosphere.
And what better album to listen to on one of those hottest summer days of the year with blearing sun and wistful memories and, as so often, rainfall on my mind?


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(This Is A) Love Song

Ask me in the 80s, or 90s, or 00s, and I never thought I’d be writing about a Depeche Mode song. Despite some comments I’ve seen elsewhere, and realizing we all have filters for taking in everything (especially art), I think Martin Gore wrote a love song here. My thoughts in [brackets].

The Sun and the Rainfall

Someone will call
Something will fall
And smash on the floor
Without reading the text
Know what comes next
Seen it before
And it’s painful
[He’s speaking generally here, with no specific relationship being referred to, just observations of close human relationships he’s seen and experienced. Tense disputes, conflicts.]
Things must change
We must rearrange them
Or we’ll have to estrange them
All that I’m saying
A game’s not worth playing
Over and over again
[To me, the “we” used here is not specifically the singer and his significant other, it’s the more general “we.” People need variety, change, growth; it’s healthy and keeps love alive, especially when a rut or chronic conflict arises. ]
You’re the one I like best
You retain my interest
You’re the only one
If it wasn’t for you
Don’t know what I’d do
Unpredictable like the sun
And the rainfall.
[The ultimate compliment, at least to nature lovers like me. Something as beautiful as two of those splendid ways we experience the atmospherethe sun and rain. Both are great nourishers and replenishers of life. And beautifully unpredictable—all the infinite permutations in the weather that are familiar but always fresh, and ever-renewing.]
More on this understated creation here.


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