Funeral Music Playlist

February 8, 2013

Maybe I’m weird but I worry about what music is going to be played at my funeral. I don’t want some really boring organ music playing in the background while I am being eulogized. This playlist is not my personal funeral playlist but it may give you something to think about when planning for the inevitable.

album

Atmosphere/ Joy Division

“Atmosphere” is another one of those prime Joy Division songs, like “Transmission” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” where Martin Hannett’s production becomes so essential to the end result that it couldn’t have been heard otherwise. Bernard Sumner’s low keyboard start and Peter Hook’s minimal, calm bass make a perfect counterpoint to the sheer, sudden power of Stephen Morris’s sudden drum parts — if anything, percussion is the heart of the song, the echo and near-tribal roll of the beats suggesting a futuristic ritual. Ian Curtis’s performance is another one of his best — one of his most controlled and calm, his deep moan suggesting both a will to continue and a sheer mournfulness. The killer touch, without question, has to be the sudden, shimmering keyboard sparkle Sumner adds after each verse, produced to sound like rays of light from the heavens, a beautiful contrast of light against the heavy rhythmic doom down below. It’s little surprise John Peel chose this song as the one to play on the air after announcing Curtis’s death — there’s a feeling of a requiem here, an awesome musical farewell.-allmusic.com

album

In my room/ Beach Boys

This sensitive pop gem was one of the first Beach Boys tracks to completely break out of the surf-and-drag mold. Indeed, the lyrics for “In My Room” tackle a subject that any teenager can relate to: the feelings of safety and comfort that can be found while relaxing in the sanctuary of one’s bedroom. The melody that supports these thoughts has a lullaby quality to it, building its verse on ascending note patterns that rise higher with each stanza before the melody resolves itself with the comforting descending notes of the chorus. The Beach Boys recording brings this sense of musical ebb and flow to life in a vivid fashion thanks to an inventive Brian Wilson vocal arrangement that starts with a solo vocal at the beginning of each verse and adds on voices with each line to create a grand harmony by the time each chorus arrives. The instrumental portion of the recording achieves a similarly hypnotic effect via a backing track that layers its circular guitar riffs with the gentle strum of a harp and a steady drum beat that anchors the song. -allmusic.com

album

Into my arms/ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

“Into My Arms” is one of Nick Cave’s signature-style dark piano ballads, a love theme at the core of the lyrics, cloaked in spiritual and religious language and imagery. Accompanied only by himself on piano and Martyn P. Casey on bass, Cave plays a simple piano melody that stays rolling, barely shifting throughout except to build toward the refrain, “Into my arms, O Lord.” Questioning his own belief in God and the angels while respecting the object of his desire’s affection for them, the singer makes the sort of plaintive plea to the gods he doesn’t believe in that differences aside, love may conquer all and keep the pair together. Capturing in voice, melody, and lyric the doubts, faith, fears, and hopes that love can inspire among the faithless, he returns to the idea that truth, strength, and love are values worth striving for. This is Cave’s strength in song.-allmusic.com

album

Soul meets body/ Death Cab for Cutie

For your consideration: a wildly successful indie rock band with a legion of followers on an equally successful, highly credible independent label makes the jump to major-label powerhouse Atlantic, leading to much chagrin and speculation among its fans as they awaited with bated breath for what would happen to the group. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it’s this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion.-allmusic.com

album

So Long Goodbye/ Sum 41

Sporting a similar-sounding but not as politically potent title in Underclass Hero, Sum 41’s fifth studio album extends upon its predecessor Chuck’s deliberate attempt at getting serious and relevant, containing just enough garbled commentary and political platitudes to not only give the impression that the bandmembers are saying something beyond their beloved clichés, but to give the impression that they’re telling a story, creating an anthem for the “underclass hero,” the slacker who can’t be labeled as an underachiever because he never attempts to achieve. – allmusic.com

album

At My Funeral/ Crash Test Dummies

Like an improbable kiddie cereal made with bran, this Canadian group gives you sprightly Irish jigs and earthy-crunchy folk music, all rolled into one addictively sweet confection—and it’s even good for you. Led by vocalist Brad Roberts’s laconic growl, this Dummies debut hops easily from the upbeat to the somber. The lyrics often sound as if they were written by the same people who see Elvis at fast-food joints. The ballad “Superman’s Songs,” for instance, is a wonderfully goofball discussion of why Superman makes a better superhero than Tarzan. While the Dummies’ mix of the silly and the sentimental, both musically and lyrically, may not suit everybody’s taste, The Ghosts That Haunt Me is one record that never gets soggy. (Arista)

album

Hallelujah/ Leonard Cohen

Despite the over-saturation of “Hallelujah,” the song’s recent chart-topping success on both sides of the ocean has given Cohen some sweet revenge. “There were certain ironic and amusing sidebars, because the record that it came from which was called Various Positions — a record Sony wouldn’t put out,” Cohen told the Guardian. “They didn’t think it was good enough… So there was a mild sense of revenge that arose in my heart.” Cohen can’t complain about the extra royalties either, especially considering he was forced to tour after a lengthy hiatus because his former manager made off with most of his assets. Meanwhile, we’re still surprised that Leonard Cohen is sitting around reading reviews of the superhero flick Watchmen.- rollingstone.com

album

Time to Say Goodbye/ Andrea Bocelli

Sarah Brightman, who enjoyed a European hit with “Time to Say Goodbye,” her duet with Andrea Bocelli,  constructed an album beginning with that recording and continuing in kind. The characteristics of the hit — a lush, melodramatic, mock-operatic arrangement complete with a crescendo out of Ravel’s “Bolero” and soaring voices singing in English and Italian — are repeated here, whether the material is drawn from Puccini, the Gipsy Kings, or Queen. Part of PBS’ long-running Great Performances program, Concerto: One Night in Central Park features legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli’s 2011 free concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn. With Bocelli backed by the New York Philharmonic  conducted by longtime musical director Alan Gilbert, the 17-track collection is also being made available in a deluxe edition that includes a DVD of the evening.-allmusic.com

album

All Things Must Pass/ George Harrison

“All Things Must Pass” was the title song of George Harrison’s 1970 number one debut album. Like several of the songs on that record, it has a slow, almost dirge-like air, though it is executed with a stateliness that avoids lugubriousness. And, like several songs on that record, it was actually written before the Beatles had broken up. A tentative, perhaps even feeble, pass through the song was attempted by the Beatles during their troubled Let It Be sessions in early 1969; one of those takes was issued on Anthology 3. Part of the problem the Beatles had in getting to grips with the song, perhaps, was that Harrison (and the other Beatles) were beginning to write compositions that were more well-suited for them as solo vehicles than as Beatles arrangements. When it was recorded for his solo album, the song benefited from Phil Spector’s orchestral productions, with subtle interjections of brass interacting with Harrison’s high slide guitar. “All Things Must Pass” has a pleasant, though not stunning, melody and a an air of calm resignation, as well as the kind of hymnal chorus that was found in numerous Harrison works of the period. The lyrics might be a reflection of Harrison’s Indian religious beliefs, but actually there is no specific mention or allusion to Indian religion. It is a simple but direct statement on the impermanence of both good and bad times, and, in fact, in tone is not far removed from the messages of faith and reassurance found in the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” “All Things Must Pass” is more passive and resigned than “Let It Be,” however. It’s the kind of song that fits the mood in November, when the trees are getting stripped bare of their leaves, the days are getting shorter and colder, and you have to resign yourself to knowing it’s going to be tougher and tougher in those regards for months, also knowing that those hardships will pass away come springtime.-allmusic.com

album

True Faith/ New Order

A tremendous single for New Order – a brilliant standalone effort and the triumphant conclusion of the peerless singles collection Substance – “True Faith” deservedly hit the charts in America, the UK and elsewhere, a marvelous valediction for a band with a core that had stuck to its guns for ten straight years. “True Faith” resisted being conventional for all that it was poppy, catchy, a radio-friendly song with its own unexpected edge. Bernard Sumner’s lyric hints at a strange desperation at play, sung with an unsure, nervous emotion (“I guess there’s just no way of knowing…I used to think that the day would never come/That my life would depend on the morning sun”). It’s the dramatic electronic drum start (memorably if cryptically matched in the heavily-screen video by mimes), Peter Hook’s strong bass line over deeper synth bass, Gillian Gilbert’s strong but not bombastic orchestral swells and keyboard chimes and more that really make everything connect, each verse building into the strong chorus with a sense of sudden anticipation.-allmusic.com

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Playlist, that’s what’s cookin’!

November 15, 2012

Here are some tunes to listen to while you prepare your Thanksgiving feast!

Cornbread and Butterbeans/ Carolina Chocolate Drops

Genuine Negro Jig is perfectly recorded, balanced between the best sound this century can deliver and the rustic, throwback feel of an old-time string band in action at a picnic, dance or rent party in the ’30s. That’s the accomplishment here. The next step, if the Carolina Chocolate Drops are willing to go there, is to stretch things from being a great facsimile to being a natural extension of an ongoing tradition. That’s when revival changes into evolution.-allmusic.com

Roll Plymouth Rock/ Beach Boys

Quibbles aside, everything about this package is richly detailed, immensely pleasing, and overall a wonderful experience. All of the CD editions include copious bonus tracks, such as nine minutes of a cappella vocals (“SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage”), whose beauty and fragility will help listeners realize that the Beach Boys obsessed just as much over their vocalizing as their music. Deluxe editions add essays from several angles, reminiscences from those who were there, and original artwork and photos from the period. True, no one will ever know what effect a SMiLE release in spring 1967 would have had on music or pop culture, and with the music so circular and the lyrics so obtuse, it’s likely that SMiLE would have become merely a curio of psychedelic excess rather than a work that transformed culture. But regardless, it shows Brian Wilson’s mastery of pure studio sonics and his ability to not only create distinctive pop music, but give it great beauty as well. Those qualities have inspired musicians for decades, and it’s clear they will continue to do so.-allmusic.com

Home/ Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

“Hot and heavy pumpkin pie… Ain’t nothing please me more you,” Edward and his Magnetic Zeros profess. This song has all the charm in the world, and sounds like something the settlers would have sung while caravanning along the Oregon Trail. Formed in 2007 by Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert, the mammoth 11-piece outfit embraces “the Summer of Love” with enough period beards, fonts, and Eastern mysticism to launch a thousand “Magical Mystery Tours,” but despite all of the analog equipment and peacenik grandstanding, standout tracks like “Home,” “Desert Song,” and the aforementioned “40 Day Dream” sweep you up in their grandeur like a patchouli tornado and dare you to take your clothes off and jump in the lake with them.-allmusic.com

Thankful/ Caveman

What do an indie rock quartet and a professional wrestler have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a groaner, but rather a genuine inquiry about what inspired Brooklyn band Caveman to reference WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware with the title of their full-length debut, Coco Beware. No immediate connections emerge upon listening, but the moods and textures of the record prove every bit as colorful as the pugilist namesake’s costumes and novelty parrot. Combining the sparkling majesty of later-era Animal Collective and the lush experimentation of TV on the Radio with the warm yearning of the Shins, Caveman cover an ambitious territory in the album’s ten-track, 36-minute run, balancing potentially conflicting elements like four-part harmonies, tribal drums, trickling keyboard, hazy guitars, and a lyrical focus on friendship and growth. Summer fades into fall with the moody, Talking Heads-meets mantra mashup “Thankful,” enveloping the mysterious refrain “Thankful all my friends with remorse” in shimmering guitar and propulsive conga drumming.-allmusic.com

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving/ Vince Guaraldi

Combining the whimsical yet elegant compositions of Vince Guaraldi and the mellow, restrained playing of George Winston, Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi is a mostly happy marriage of the composer’s and performer’s styles. On much of the album, Winston tends to tone down the breeziness of Guaraldi’s performances, opting for a gentler, reflective approach that sparkles on “Skating” and “Young Man’s Fancy,” but tends to make “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Treat Street” sound a bit washed out. However, sprightly renditions of “The Masked Marvel,” “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown,” “Peppermint Patty,” and “Eight Five Five” more than make up for the occasional lag and spotlight Winston’s virtuoso piano playing. Though it’s not necessarily intended as a best-of Vince Guaraldi collection, Linus & Lucy could certainly be used as one; however, it’s Winston’s distinctive style that makes it one of the best solo piano new age albums of the ’90s.-allmusic.com

Making Pies/ Patty Griffin

While 1,000 Kisses finds Griffin blending covers in with her own compositions for the first time, she proves to be a first-rate interpretive singer (her version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car” actually improves on “the Boss”‘ original), and her own songs are splendid, especially the moving widow’s lament “Making Pies” and the moody lead-off track “Rain.” And regardless of who wrote the material, Griffin’s voice — a tower of strength capable of expressing remarkable emotional vulnerability — remains a wonder to behold. 1,000 Kisses finds Patty Griffin at the top of her game, and one can only hope we don’t have to wait four years for the follow-up.-allmusic.com

Thanksgiving filter/ Drive-By Truckers

The Drive-By Truckers are a band that likes to do things the old-fashioned way. They proudly proclaim that they record their music “on glorious two-inch analog tape,” they still think in terms of albums with two (or four) sides, and their sound is firmly rooted in the traditions of Southern rock and the blues. They also hark back to a time when rock bands made an album every year followed by a tour, and if the DBTs haven’t quite held firm to that schedule, since they broke through with Southern Rock Opera in 2001, they’ve managed to release six studio albums, a live CD/DVD, another DVD-only live set, and a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, all while keeping up a demanding touring schedule. Any band that busy is likely to believe it deserves a rest every once in a while, and in a sense, 2011’s Go-Go Boots feels a little bit like a working vacation.-allmusic.com

Thankful/ Josh Groban

Vocalist Josh Groban delivers his first Christmas themed album with 2007’s Noel.  Once again produced by longtime “man behind the curtain” David Foster, the album features more of Groban’s  dewy, supple vocals set to Foster’s cinematic orchestrations. As per the holiday theme, these are primarily classic tunes of the season including such chestnuts as “Silent Night,” “Ave Maria,” and, of course, “The Christmas Song.” However, also included are a few lesser-known traditional songs as “Panis Angelicus” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Similarly, while most of the productions here should appeal to longtime fans of Groban’s particular classical-crossover sound, some cuts like soft rock inflected “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and the Celtic folk leaning “Little Drummer Boy” do expand upon the Groban/Foster palette in a pleasing way. Notably, also showcased here are guest appearances by country superstar Faith Hill, R&B stalwart Brian McKnight, and perennial holiday backing band the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


Tunes for Cruisin’ Playlist

September 20, 2012

We are in the car more than you think:

At an nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. So crank up the tunes and enjoy the ride!

Little Red Corvette/ Prince

Inspiration for the song hit as the musician napped in a pink Edsel, Prince notched his first Top Ten entry with one of the most sensual and frankly explicit hits ever to crack the charts. “Little Red Corvette,” a slow-burning funk-pop odyssey which is most definitely not about a sports car, is an after-dark masterpiece, aural soft porn rendered with the inextricable combination of perversity and sophistication which defines virtually all of his best work. Everything about the song is suggestive, from its moaning synthesizers to its bump-and-grind rhythm to the orgasmic squeals which punctuate Prince’s vocals; even the lyrical metaphors are so persuasive — in addition to cars, there are horses (Trojans, in fact, some of ’em used) — that it’s virtually impossible to discuss “Little Red Corvette” without lapsing into double entendres of one’s own. (Really, how else to describe the incendiary coda which closes the song but as a climax?) Making a brilliant case for innuendo as an end unto itself, “Little Red Corvette”‘s triumph is that even while the song — much like the body of its lusty heroine — is “just on the verge of being obscene,” it never succumbs to blatant tastelessness; even as an evocation of pure sexuality, it appeals to the imagination as much as the libido. Not just Prince’s first major hit single, “Little Red Corvette” may be his very best — only fitting that a song about staying power would have so much of its own.- All Music Guide

Mustang Sally/ Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett’s interpretation of Sir Mack Rice’s “Mustang Sally” quickly yielded the vocalist a career-defining side that ultimately climbed to the Top Ten R&B chart and into the Top 25 on the pop singles survey in December of 1966. Earlier in the year, Pickett had started working at Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, instead of the Memphis, TN-based Stax Records facility that had turned out the smashes “In the Midnight Hour,” “Don’t Fight It,” and “634-5789.” His initial outing in Muscle Shoals scored him one of the largest titles of his career, the infectiously fun “Land of 1000 Dances.” For Pickett’s subsequent session, he returned to Alabama to cut what would become the exemplary Wicked Pickett (1966) long-player. “Mustang Sally”‘s bouncy groove instantly developed into the album’s focus track, with the vocalist supported by the Fame house band, whose membership included Chips Moman (guitar), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), and Spooner Oldham (piano). Presumably, the horn section was once again supplied by the Stax crew, who had been in attendance for the earlier date as well. Although not as significant a crossover hit as “Land of 1000 Dances” or “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally” provides another good example of how complementary the material, artist, and musicians had become. -All Music Guide

Drive my car/ Beatles

“Drive My Car” was one of the best numbers on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, one which saw both their musical and lyrical horizons visibly opening. Although John Lennon was in general ahead of Paul McCartney in expanding his lyrics in more ambitious and experimental directions, this story-song was principally the work of McCartney, with some assistance from his contractual songwriting partner. The verse is based around a funky two-chord groove which ascends to a higher level at the very end, a suitable bedrock for a commanding McCartney hard rock vocal. Far more surprising is the chorus, with its tortuous jazzy key changes, a quality reinforced by the bursts of jazz piano that follow the first two lines. While initially the song seems like the standard macho boasting of some guy showing off his car, it transpires that actually the girl in the song is leading the narrator on by half-hinting that she’ll let him be her chauffeur, and maybe be his lover too. That’s a subtle, one might say almost O. Henry-like, slant that was most likely totally beyond the reach of the usual Californian hot-rod act, or most other pop and rock singers for that matter. The most ironic touch, however, was applied when the Beatles merrily sang “beep beep” at the end of the chorus’ punch line: a nifty way of making nonsense words compliment the images and the sounds. An especially wiry guitar solo was a nice cap to the understated, faintly nutty satire of what was nonetheless a very good-natured tune. The best-known cover of “Drive My Car” — not one of Lennon-McCartney’s more frequently interpreted compositions — was by jazz singer Bobby McFerrin in the 1980s.-All Music Guide

Cars/ Gary Numan

A personal road-rage incident inspired the synth-pop hit. Perhaps the most iconic intro of the entire synth-pop era (in 2003, an auto manufacturer set a commercial to the instrumental opening of “Cars,” knowing that its target audience would get the reference immediately), the throbbing, repetitive synths of “Cars” are all most listeners know of Gary Numan, especially in the US, where it was the musician’s only Top 40 hit. Taken in the context of the album The Pleasure Principle, the deliberate isolation of Numan’s lyrics fits in perfectly with Numan’s overarching obsession with alienation and depersonalization. In the context of a four-minute pop single, however, “Cars” is a novelty about on a par with the five-minute edit of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” that was a minor hit in 1975; in other words, only about one step above Hot Butter’s “Popcorn.” That said, it was arguably the first true new wave hit single in the United States, and the song’s slightly odd structure (the song proper is over in about 90 seconds, with the rest of its running time devoted entirely to an extremely long fade-out) and crisply modern electronic sound set the stage for the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” a couple years later, and the early MTV cavalcade of new wave smashes that followed.-All Music Guide

Little Deuce Coupe/ Beach Boys

The Beach Boys’ biggest hit in the hot rod rock genre found their budding blend of up-tempo pop/rock and sweet vocal harmonies flowering into something truly special. The lyrics of “Little Deuce Coupe,” which Wilson penned with DJ and car enthusiast Roger Christian, are a simple but lovingly detailed ode to “the fastest set of wheels in town” that divide their time between listing this car’s attributes and making boastful asides about its prowess (“If it had a set of wings, man, I know she could fly”). The melody behind this car-crazy narrative utilizes a doo wop-inspired sense of swing to create a song that cruises in jaunty fashion during the verses but soars into the stratosphere on its harmony-drenched chorus. The Beach Boys’ recording enhances the swing of the melody by building its foundation on a combination of boogie-woogie piano riffs and a pulsing bass line that pushes it along in a gentle but insistent fashion. However, the best part of that recording is its vocal arrangement: wordless harmonies add an extra melodic punch to the verses and Mike Love’s bass vocal and Brian Wilson’s falsetto blend in a sublime fashion to drive the chorus home. The mix of clever songwriting and stylish production made “Little Deuce Coupe” a Top 20 hit for the Beach Boys and inspired covers by every hot rod rocker from Jan & Dean to the T-Bones. It also became a seemingly eternal part of the Beach Boys’ live set, proving “Little Deuce Coupe” is more than just another hot rod tune.-All Music Guide

Rocket 88/ Ike Turner

In 1991, after a great deal of debate, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized this as the first Rock and Roll song ever recorded. Turner was in jail at the time for cocaine possession, so his daughter accepted the award. The song is about a car. The Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” came out in 1949 and was the fastest car on the road at the time. A small car with a big, overhead valve V8 engine, it was one of the first muscle cars and dominated NASCAR races in the ’50s. The car was advertised as having a V-8 “Rocket” engine, with the slogan, “Make a Date with a Rocket 88.” This song was produced by Sam Phillips, who formed Sun Records in 1952. Phillips later became famous for recording Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.-songfacts.com
Black Limousine/ Rolling Stones
This song features one of Mick Jagger’s best harmonica performances. This is based on a song by Blues musician Jimmy Reed called “You Don’t Have To Go.” The song is about The Stones’ Rock and Roll lifestyle of women, alcohol, and limousines. This was first recorded at the Some Girls sessions in 1978. Ron Wood got a writing credit for this. It is one of the few Stones originals not credited only to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. According to Wood, the guitar riff was influenced by a Texas slide Blues guitarist named Hop Wilson, who recorded in the ’60s.-songfacts.com
First recorded in 1955, this version cracked Billboard’s Top 10. This song was originally written by Charlie Ryan. It was first recorded and released by Charlie Ryan and The Livingston Brothers in 1955. It tells the second half of the story started by the song Hot Rod Race, recorded in 1951 by Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys, as referenced by the opening: “Have you heard this story of the Hot Rod Race, when Fords and Lincolns was settin’ the pace? That story is true, I’m here to say; I was drivin’ that Model A.” While the song tells of a race between a Lincoln and a Cadillac on the Grapevine grade in California, the actual location was on the Lewiston grade in Idaho.
The most iconic line from the song is: “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln!”
Was there really a “hot-rod Lincoln?” Yes and no. Actually, it was a rebuilt car with the body of a Model “A” coupe set into the frame of a 1941 Lincoln, along with a “hopped-up” Lincoln engine block. However, at the time of this song’s writing, Ryan built a second car, this time with a chop-shop melding of a 1930 Model “A” Ford coupe and a wrecked 1948 Lincoln. It is this second restored car with which has Ryan toured.Both the songs “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Hot Rod Race” are defining anthems of the hot rod community and 1950s car song culture. “Hot Rod Lincoln” has appeared in the soundtracks to The Beverley Hillbillies and MTV’s Beavis and Butthead.This was the only hit for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, who were a County-Rock group formed at the University of Michigan. Commander Cody is lead singer and piano player George Frayne.-songfacts.com
The Cadillac Ranch is a collection of 10 Cadillacs buried hood-first in a wheat field near Amarillo, Texas. Visitors are allowed to add graffiti to the cars, which are considered works of art.
This is one of many early Springsteen songs featuring cars. Some others were “Thunder Road,” “Backstreets,” and “Racing In The Street.” Bruce used the Cadillac image again in 1984 on “Pink Cadillac.” Junior Johnson is mentioned in the second verse. He was a NASCAR racer in the ’50s and early ’60s before becoming a championship car owner. He won the second Daytona 500 in 1960 and was one of the first people to discover the drafting method of racing at the super speedways. Cars were very important growing up in New Jersey. Springsteen’s first car was a ’57 Chevy with orange flames painted on the hood.- songfacts.com

Back to School Playlist

September 17, 2012

It’s always easier to do your homework while listening to some tunes, right? Here are a few suggestions….

Campus/ Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend started generating buzz in 2006 — not long after they formed — but their self-titled debut album didn’t arrive until early 2008. Vampire Weekend also has just a handful of songs that haven’t been floating around the ‘Net, which may disappoint the kind of people who like to post “First!” on message boards. This doesn’t make those songs any less charming, however — in fact, the band has spent the last year and a half making them even more charming, perfecting the culture collision of indie-, chamber-, and Afro-pop they call “Upper West Side Soweto” by making that unique hybrid of sounds feel completely effortless. “Campus” is another standout, with lines like “I see you walking across the campus…how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?” throwing listeners into college life no matter what their age.- All Music Guide

Rock ‘N Roll High School/ Ramones

Considering that the Ramones did desire mainstream success and that they had a deep love for early-’60s pop/rock, it’s not surprising that they decided to shake loose the constrictions of their style by making an unabashed pop album, yet it was odd that Phil Spector produced End of the Century, because his painstaking working methods seemingly clashed with the Ramones’ instinctual approach. However, the Ramones were always more clever than they appeared, so the matching actually worked better than it could have. Spector’s detailed production helped bring “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” to life, yet it also kept some of the punkier numbers in check. Even so, End of the Century is more enjoyable than its predecessor, since the record has stronger material, and in retrospect, it’s one of their better records of the ’80s.

We’re going to be friends/ White Stripes

The White Stripes turn down the volume, allowing a brief respite from the stomping roots rock that dominates much of the duo’s outstanding third album, White Blood Cells, with the sweet acoustic ballad “We’re Going to Be Friends.” Armed only with an acoustic guitar, picking out a lilting chord progression and accompanied only by a soft time-keeping tape, Jack White takes a nostalgic look back at the innocence of school days with a surprisingly sensitive vocal as he expertly paints impressions of days past with deft economy, “Fall is here, hear the yell/Back to school, ring the bell/Brand new shoes, walking blues/Climb the fence, books and pens/I can tell we’re gonna be friends.” White beautifully captures the gentle excitement of making a new friend and of sharing the simple joys of discovery that are the essence of growing and ultimately become memories that make a lasting impression. The last verse expresses the feeling perfectly, as he softly quips, “Tonight I’ll dream while I’m in bed/When silly thoughts go through my head/About the bugs and alphabet/And when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet/That you and I will walk together again/’Cause I can tell we are gonna to be friends/Yeah, I can tell we’re are gonna be friends.”-All Music Guide

Kids/ Childish Gambino

In the time before this wonderful album named Camp existed, the “actors who rap” proposition would have been all red flags. Brian Austin Green, Mr. T., Joaquin Phoenix, and many others are on the “cons” list, while the “pros” would have been Drake (barely counts, unless Degrassi: The Next Generation was your thing) and maybe AVN award-winner Dirt Nasty. These were the horrible odds Community star and comedy writer Donald Glover was up against when he took the Internet’s Wu-Tang Name Generator to heart and became rapper Childish Gambino, but anyone who right-clicked on one of his 2010/2011 mixtapes can tell you, he beat those odds, and with Camp, indie rap fans won the Lotto.- All Music Guide

We rule the school/ Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian’s first album, Tigermilk, was initially pressed in a quantity of 1,000 on their own label, Electric Honey Recordings. The record was intended to be the end result of Stuart Murdoch’s music business school course, but it became an unexpected word-of-mouth sensation in England, and the LP quickly disappeared from shops. As a result, once the group’s second album, If You’re Feeling Sinister, became a hit, there were no copies of Tigermilk available for newly converted fans and it remained unheard by the majority of the group’s audience. Those who have heard it say it is quite similar stylistically to If You’re Feeling Sinister and the songs match that record’s high standard. Tigermilk was re-released in 1999 to the delight of the often cultish fans of Belle & Sebastian.

I love college/ Asher Roth

Sold as hip-hop’s Great White Dope, rapper Asher Roth (“The King of the Blumpkin”) came on the scene with the great “I Love College,” an infectious slacker anthem as simple as “I love college, I love drinkin’, I love women” and with a “Chug! Chug! Chug!” chant in the middle. A hilarious 18-minute freestyle on Tim Westwood’s radio show made him all the more lovable, but Asleep in the Bread Isle is an everyday suburban rap album, if there is such a thing. The promising “Fallin'” pulls the rudder up at the last moment, making one believe the rapper could have made a knockout debut if the meteoric rise of “I Love College” hadn’t hurried things along. -All Music Guide

Alphabet Lost and Found/ They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants have always had a flair for educational songs. More than a decade after its release, the refrain of “Why Does the Sun Shine” (“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas/A gigantic nuclear furnace”) still has a pesky way of lodging itself in the brain. And, as the band’s wonderful first children’s album, No!, demonstrated, They Might Be Giants’ music speaks to kids in a way that few other bands’ work can; they never sound like they’re talking (or singing) down to their smaller fans. Here Come the ABCs makes the most of the band’s ability to teach and reach children, and more than delivers on its promise to “learn ABCs the fun way!” This is still a They Might Be Giants album, though, and the band’s catchy melodies and smart wordplay haven’t been dumbed down. “Flying V,” with its charming, Vince Guaraldi-like pianos and images of migrating geese and electric guitars, is another of John Linnell’s seemingly effortless but brilliant songs, and “C Is for Conifers” offers an extra-credit lesson in botany as well as the alphabet.-All Music Guide

Be true to your school/ Beach Boys

The Beach Boys had two minor single hits — “California Dreamin'” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll To The Rescue” — back on Capitol Records in 1986, and to mark their 25th anniversary, the label assembled this two-record set, adding the new songs to yet another selection of old songs.-All Music Guide