KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #365: The Sloop John B. by The Beach Boys.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #365: The Sloop John B. by The Beach Boys.

There is a lot to say about this song, the album it came from and the members of The Beach Boys so, there is no time to waste! Let’s go!!!

“The Sloop John B.” is a Bahamian sea shanty-type of song that was first written down over a hundred years ago, in 1916. It has been recorded by hundreds of singers and bands, including such well known acts as The Kingston Trio and Country star, Dwight Yoakim. But, it is The Beach Boys version that is the most famous and admired. The Beach Boys version of this song comes from one of the most famous albums ever created by any band, “Pet Sounds”. It is instructive to talk about why “Pet Sounds” is such a big deal, first and then, come back to “the Sloop John B.”. So, lets begin with The Beatles!

The Beatles and The Beach Boys both shared a fairly similar career path. In both cases, their early albums were filled with singles that could best be described as perfect little Pop songs. The Beatles has “She Loves You” and “Please, Please Me”, while The Beach Boys had “Surfing, U.S.A.” and “Fun! Fun! Fun!”, among others. But, as the 1960s unfolded, both bands released albums that changed the trajectory of their careers and added an whole new level of complexity, artistry and creativity to their music. For The Beatles, that album was “Rubber Soul”. For The Beach Boys, that album was “Pet Sounds”.”Rubber Soul” was released first. It was a creative warning shot across the bows of all other groups. “Rubber Soul” was revolutionary for many reasons but, two important ones relate to “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys.

First of all, prior to the release of “Rubber Soul”, albums were usually used as an additional way to package and sell “singles” which were the currency of the music industry at the time. In those days, albums often contained the successful singles and then, several tracks called, “filler” that were just included to help use up the space needed to balance out the time used on both sides of the physical album. *You may recall that earlier, when I profiled “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath that, that song was, originally, meant to simply be a “filler song” needed to complete their album. In any case, “Rubber Soul” was the very first album that contained no filler tracks. Instead, it was a unified album of songs that all connected by way of their musical construction and/or their lyrical theme. Because of the way The Beatles created “Rubber Soul”, it gave permission to all other bands to approach the creation of the albums bearing their name, with more artistic license and freedom.

Secondly, “Rubber Soul” introduced songs containing sounds not usually associated with singles of the past. “Norwegian Wood”, for example, used a sitar for the first time. There were bells, clocks and all sorts of new sounds integrated into the music The Beatles produced. This use of new sounds increased the parameters of what sounds were acceptable and usable in modern songs. When Brian Wilson first heard “Rubber Soul”, it blew his mind. He was the creative force behind The Beach Boys music. Once he heard how far The Beatles had expanded the range of what was possible in an album, he became determined to produce, what he deemed, “The Greatest Album Ever Made!” In order to start on a project of such magnitude, Brian Wilson stepped away from touring. He sent the rest of the group (Al Jardine, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson) out on the road, leaving him alone in the studio. Once freed from the social dynamic of being a member of a group, he began to create music unlike anything that The Beach Boys had done before. In fact, he often has referred to “Pet Sounds” as a Brian Wilson solo project (and that is not far from the truth). Not only was “Pet Sounds” influenced by what The Beatles did on “Rubber Soul” but, also, by what producer, Phil Spector, was doing with his “Wall of Sound” production techniques. Phil Spector, despite what a poor husband he turned out to be, was very innovative when it came to how he used existing sounds to create new sounds and, by doing so, change the aural experience for the listener. This will make sense when you finally get to listen to “The Sloop John B.”

All of the songs on the album, “Pet Sounds” employ sound recording techniques that were new at the time and that helped create a full, rich sound experience. The song, “The Sloop John B.”, for example, has a big, bold sound for such a traditional sea shanty song. Part of how Brian Wilson did that can be seen in how he changed the way harmonies worked. If you think back to the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for a minute and compare it to a style of painting…..stay with me…….the harmonies on that song are like a Rembrandt painting. Rembrandt was famous for creating portraits that focussed on the subject’s face which was, then, surrounded by darkness thus, making it stand out. Crosby, Stills and Nash used the same technique with sounds. Their harmonizing focused solely on the words in the lyrics, to the exclusion of all other sounds. As you may recall, they started their harmonies crisply on a note and ended them just as crisply on a note. There were no attempts to change the sound of the words they were saying. They, simply, used multiple voices to speak as one……just as Rembrandt used light and dark to focus on one image.

Brian Wilson turned harmonizing on its ear. In “The Sloop John B.”, if you listen carefully to the harmonizing sections of the song, you will note how much sound manipulation is going on during the harmonies. There are voices coming in and going out. There are voices and sounds that appear at differing speeds. Sometimes, he used incoming voices to amplify the harmony of the existing voices. The effect of it all is that the harmonized sections of this song appear almost to be living and breathing. He changed the way harmonies used to be, from “many voices speaking as one” to, “many voices speaking as many voices, all of the time, in a myriad of ways, all the while, sounding in harmony”. If Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonized like a Rembrandt painting then, Brian Wilson built his harmonies like a Jackson Pollock painting.

There are whole books devoted to analyzing the creative genius/madness of Brian Wilson, as well as, examining the beauty of “Pet Sounds” as a near perfect album. I can’t replicate that in this post. But, what I hope to have done is set you up for a more critical listening experience when you hear, “The Sloop John B.” momentarily. If you do nothing else besides critically listen to the harmonies and see how nebulous they were in design, then I will have done my job with this post. When I listened to this song, I did so with good headphones. I am not sure if that will make a difference for you if you listen to it out loud via speakers. But, when I listened to it through my headphones, sounds seem to come at me from all directions. There were so many “tings” and “pops” and “jingles” along the way. The construction of this song is truly miraculous. Although I have not read this anywhere, I am convinced that Brian Wilson saw the sounds of his song in 3-D. I think he could visualize how the various notes fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. He was a musical genius, without question. Anyway, I hope that this post has set you up for future posts that demonstrate the growth of both, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. It is not by accident that they are heralded as innovators who changed the course of modern music. So, for your listening pleasure, here is “The Sloop John B.” by The Beach Boys. Prepare to be dazzled.

The link to the video for “The Sloop John B.” by The Beach Boys, can be found here.

The link to an excellent, behind-the-scenes video of the recording of “The Sloop John B.”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beach Boys, can be found here.

The link to the website for KEXP, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #366: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #366: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Let’s dive right in by dealing with the title of this song which is clever, in and of, itself. The “Judy Blue Eyes” mentioned in the title was a real person. Her name was Judy Collins and she was a talented and respected singer and artist in her own right. Judy Collins had several big hit songs including, “Both Sides Now” (which was written for her by Canada’s own, Joni Mitchell) as well as, “Send in the Clowns”. At the time that this song was written by Stephen Stills, he and Judy Collins had been involved in a romantic relationship that was just about to end, as Collins had begun seeing actor Stacy Keach. This song, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was written by Stills in the hope that he could win back her affections. When he played it for her for the first time one evening, she is said to have remarked, “Oh, Stephen! It is such a lovely song but, I am not taking you back.” And so, Stephen Stills was left broken-hearted but, with an excellent song to show for the experience of it all.

The word “Suite” has two meanings for the song. First of all, it is a play on the word “Sweet”, which is how Stills felt Collins was. Musically speaking, a “Suite” is a composition that has multiple, distinct sections. In the case of this song. there are four singing sections that are separated by acoustic guitar solos by Stills of varying lengths and intensities. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is almost 8:00 long and has often been used to open or close live Crosby, Stills and Nash shows. This song is noted for how it showcases the brilliant ability that these three men have to harmonize when singing. In the video that you will soon see, you will note how completely in sync they are and how crisply and precisely they start and stop their notes. As the song goes along, you can even see, by their body language, that they are feeling good about how in harmony they are that night.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” has gone on to be one of the most recognizable songs that Crosby, Stills and Nash released. It is certainly one of the most personal. They had many other hits, though, such as, “Teach Your Children”, “Ohio”, “Southern Cross” and “Wasted on the Way”. They are credited with helping establish the “Folk-rock” sound and the West coast music scene in the 1960s, especially. Over the course of their careers (including, with Neil Young, as CSNY), they have sold tens of millions of albums. Crosby, Stills and Nash were elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and, as well, Stephen Stills was elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group, Buffalo Springfield, too. I am sure I am safe in saying that, although these awards and accomplishments mean a lot to Stephen Stills, he would probably trade them all away in a heartbeat for the love of his Judy Blue Eyes. For now, however, we are left with an epic ode to a love that was lost. As you listen to the song, note how he used the lyrics as a means of convincing Judy Collins to come home. If you have never heard the song before, get ready for some beautiful harmonizing, as well as, a raucous closing section to the musical suite. Without further delay, here is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Enjoy.

The link to the video for “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Crosby, Stills and Nash, can be found here.

The link to the website for KEXP can be found here. Thanks, as always, for supporting great music.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #367: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #367: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette.

When I was 19 years old, I was in the middle of my first year of university in Toronto. I can point to the fact that I was learning to shop, cook and clean for myself as being major accomplishments that I could be proud of. My schooling went well and I passed all of my courses. I had my first beers when I was nineteen, too. When Alanis Morissette turned nineteen, she released an album called “Jagged Little Pill” that turned out to be one of the biggest selling and most influential albums of all time. From that album came multiple hits songs such as “Ironic”, “All I Really Want”, “Hand in my Pocket”, “You Learn” and, finally, “You Oughta Know”. From this album, she won several Grammy Awards and is routinely name-dropped by modern female singers such as Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Pink as being such an important and empowering female role-model for them based upon this album. When Alanis Morissette released “Jagged Little Pill”, I was learning to wash and fold my underwear. I imagine, as 19 year olds, we both enjoyed our own, unique sense of accomplishment.

Alanis Morissette is from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Prior to releasing “Jagged Little Pill”, Alanis had already released two albums that can best be described as “Teen Pop”. She enjoyed a small but, growing following based on her early sound. But, that early sound did not speak to who she felt she was nor did it address the issues she felt she was being faced with. So, as a nineteen year old, Alanis Morissette moved to Toronto and then, to Los Angeles, where she met a producer named Glen Ballard. The two hit it off immediately and began writing songs together. According to Morissette, the lyrics to the songs that ended up on her album just poured out of her. Ballard, for his part, states that he had a lot of difficulty believing that she was only 19 years old because of the experiences she was writing about and because of how self-assured and forceful she was to speak her truth, so to say. The song, “You Oughta Know” is a fiery tour de force that talks about a failed relationship, in very forceful and explicit terms. It is sung from the point of view of a woman who feels she was mislead by the promises of a man who, in the end, used her and then moved on, leaving her to deal with the fallout. That fallout isn’t pretty. Morissette used this opportunity to speak for entire generations of women who felt taken advantage of by men who, in the end, didn’t deserve them. Morissette’s defiant lyrics resonated with many women, in particular, and helped inspire a whole new generation of singers to stand up for themselves, too. There would be no suffering in silence any longer.

***A small bit of music trivia for those interested in such things: bassist, Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guitarist, Dave Navarro, from the RHCP, as well as, Jane’s Addiction, both play on the original recording of “You Oughta Know”. When Morissette toured in support of “Jagged Little Pill”, current Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins, was her drummer.

There has been much speculation over the years as to who the male subject was in “You Oughta Know”. Alanis Morissette has never revealed who it was but, for years, I always heard that it was former Ottawa Senator hockey player, Mike Peluso. Later rumours seemed to indicate that the man who “promised to hold me until you die” was, none other than, Uncle Joey from the TV show, “Full House”, Mr. Dave Coulier. Other cast members added credence to this rumour by bearing witness to phone calls from Morissette that came during dinner….”Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity? I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner!” In any case, “Uncle Joey” has issued non-denial denials about his role and is, as things stand now, the man most closely associated with this song.

Alanis Morissette had a few other hits over the years but, “Jagged Little Pill” remains the album she is most known for. As time has gone on and the album reached the 25th anniversary mark, there was renewed interested in “Jagged Little Pill”, the album and in Alanis Morissette, the singer. Just prior to the Covid-19 shutdowns, Alanis was touring in North America with a complete replay of her album and, as well, there was a Broadway musical based upon the album that had launched, too. The legacy of “Jagged Little Pill” is an enduring one, for sure. As for my legacy well, as much as Keri and I share the household chores, she won’t let me near the washer and dryer so, I am not sure if I have evolved as much as Alanis Morissette has since we were both nineteen year olds making our way through the world. 🙂 Here is Morissette’s rippin’ rendition of “You Oughta Know” from her appearance (as a 20 year old) on The David Letterman Show. Enjoy.

The link to the video for “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Alanis Morissette, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #368: Panic by The Smiths.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #368: Panic by The Smiths.

“Panic” by Manchester’s, “The Smiths” was released in 1986. The song was written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr as a commentary on their view that there was a disconnect between what was going on in the world (politically and economically) and what was being played by DJs on the radio. All throughout the 1980s, “The Smiths” had built their careers by appealing to those who felt ignored or neglected by the greater of society. In “Panic”, they spoke directly to this by including lines such as,

“Burn down the disco,

Hang the blessed DJ,

Because the music that they constantly play

It says nothing to me about my life.”

“Panic” was, not surprisingly, met with mixed reviews. Fans of the band tended to support the notion that much of what passed for popular music of the day was nothing more than sugary confection and lacked meaning and substance. However, the music industry, in particular, took great exception to the song and, specifically, viewed it as a thinly-veiled attack on music made by black musicians. The reasoning behind these accusations was that “DJs and Discos” were often home to musical movements such as Reggae and Ska which were, primarily, Jamaican, in origin. Morrissey and Marr denied that there were any racial overtones to this song but, by now, Morrissey had begun to gain a reputation for pomposity and boorish utterances and, “Panic” did nothing to dissuade the critics of the band. While this song did not lead directly to “The Smiths” breaking up in 1987, it does highlight the growing emboldenment of Morrissey when it came to his politics and the growing sense of frustration within the rest of the band, who saw this as a distraction from their goal of making good music.

In the History of Modern Music, one of the more notable trends is for the lead singer of a band to “outgrow” the band. This can be the case when the record label believes there is more money to be made because of the talent/charisma of the lead singer (think, Diana Ross and the Supremes or George Michael of Wham) or else, ego becomes involved (think David Lee Roth and Van Halen or, in the case of this post, think Morrissey and The Smiths). When “The Smiths” disbanded, Morrissey continued on his own but never achieved the same level of success as a solo artist that he did as a member of “The Smiths”. In fact, as time has gone on, Morrissey’s politics have aligned themselves more with the right-wing views of people like Van Morrison and Eric Clapton, who view White Nationalism as the foundation of, what they claim as, a civilized society.

Morrissey’s story is a case in point where you don’t have to take my word for how things have turned out. When you end up in the bombsights of a satirical show like, “The Simpsons” then, you know your carcass has begun to bloat. Recently, “The Simpsons” devoted an entire episode to sending up Morrissey. The episode was called, “Panic in the Streets of Springfield” (which plays on the opening line of the original song which starts off, “Panic in the streets of London”.) In the episode, the Morrissey character is voiced by actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The character appears as Lisa’s “invisible friend” as she tries to sort out the confused feelings she is experiencing as she becomes a teenager. His views on life….that everyone else is inferior and that all other music is terrible…..wears thin for Lisa in the end, as she begins to make her own judgments and refutes his gaslighting opinions. As the episode concludes, the Morrissey character is seen clearly for the raving irrelevancies that characterize his worldview. Lisa Simpson, who has always been the conscience of the show, grows as a result of her dismissal of Morrissey’s beliefs.

When making good music was at the core of their motivation, “The Smiths” were one of the most important bands in the world. Consequently, we will see them again before this list concludes. However, when derision and condescension begin colouring one’s creative expression, the results are less impressive. “Panic” was meant to be an airing of a critical opinion of the state of music in the UK at the time and, that is fine. We are all entitled to airing an evidenced-based opinion. But, by invoking race into the mix, Morrissey tipped his hand and revealed that there were ulterior motives involved. Whenever folks catch wind that a public figure is being less that forthright then, their opinion should be held up to closer scrutiny and revealed for what it is (which is what happened to Morrissey). Thus, “Panic” became famous as a cautionary tale, rather than the scathing rebuke of modern music that it was intended to be. Not all songs, as it turns out, are meant for pleasure and enjoyment. Some serve as turning points in important careers and reminders to those in the spotlight that an attitude of dismissiveness wears thin after awhile. On stage, as in life, positivity trumps negativity and populism does, indeed, appear to have a shelf life. Here is “Panic” by “The Smiths”. Listen carefully and see what all the fuss was about.

The link to the video for “Panic!” by The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the video for the Morrissey/Simpsons episode can be found here.

The link to KEXP can be found here. Thanks, as always, for supporting good music.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #369: Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #369: Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill.

A few posts ago, I wrote about an all-girl trio named “Sleater-Kinney”. In that post, I spoke about how it was difficult for female musicians to crack the burgeoning alternative rock market around Seattle at the time that Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the like were all making their debuts, as well. “Sleater-Kinney” were part of a feminist push-back movement called, “Riot Grrrl”. But, while “Sleater-Kinney” were an important part of this movement, the face of the Riot-Grrrl Movement was a band called, “Bikini Kill”. The anthem of the Movement was their song, “Rebel Girl”. Here is the story of a feminist anthem.

“Bikini Kill” was formed in 1990 and consisted of lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, Guitarist, Billy Karren, Bassist, Kathi Wilcox and drummer, Tobi Vail. Their shows were centred upon feminist themes or, generally speaking, topics that they felt weren’t being written about in the mainstream media or by male-centric rock bands. They encouraged females to come to their shows and, once there, the band offered a very interactive experience for those women who did show up. The point of it all was to provide a safe environment for female musicians to express their own concerns/interests/ideas, as well as, a safe environment for women to attend a rock n’ roll show without fear for their safety from testosterone-driven males and their amped-up sensibilities.

While “Bikini Kill” was definitely involved in their own music scene, all of the members of the band inter-mingled with the boys in the other Seattle bands. In particular, lead singer, Kathleen Hanna was involved, for awhile, in a relationship with Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. He thought highly of her for her willingness to stand up for her beliefs, for the intensity of her stage performances and for the craftsmanship of her song lyrics. One of the legendary stories to emerge from their relationship is one in which Hanna helped inspire Cobain to write Nirvana’s biggest hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. There is a video clip that I will place in the below in which Hanna, herself, describes how this all unfolded.

The song, “Rebel Girl” was produced by the legendary rocker, Joan Jett and features Jett on guitar. The song is a lesbian-oriented song which was meant to take the traditional “Boy-Meets-Girl” format of most male-oriented Rock songs and come at it from a female perspective. Hanna hoped that, by singing about female-driven desire, “Rebel Girl” would become a song a female empowerment. She wanted women to take greater initiative when it came to their relationships and felt that many might feel safer and more willing to do so, if they object of desire was also female. As it turned out, “Rebel Girl” came to define the Riot Grrrlz Movement and is, definitely, “Bikini Kill’s” signature song. The song was, also, the lead single in the soundtrack to the movie, “Ghost World”, which starred Scarlett Johansson, Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi.

As Punk-Rock songs go, “Rebel Girl” is one of the best. The energy shown in the video below is the same energy that I enjoy so much when in attendance at live musical events. The action, the volume, the inter-activity between the band and the audience, the importance of the lyrics…..this is all what I love about live music! As with many bands who are defined by one big hit, “Bikini Kill” actually have many intelligent, high-energy songs to their name and as such, are well worth checking out on YouTube; especially, if you are someone (or you know someone) who would benefit from watching women rocking out as hard as any man and being totally in charge of their musical message. Good role models are important. This is, especially, true if you know young girls who may want to play music but, may be wondering if there is a place for women in the industry (besides, as sex objects). So, without further delay, here is “Bikini Kill” with “Rebel Girl”. Enjoy.

The link for the video for the song, “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill, can be found here.

The link to the video of Kathleen Hanna talking about how she inspired Kurt Cobain to write “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, an be found here.

The link for the video showing “Rebel Girl” as seen in the movie, Ghost World”, can be seen here.

The link to the official website of Bikini Kill, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting all forms of great music. A link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #370: Paranoid by Black Sabbath.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #370: Paranoid by Black Sabbath.

Welcome to your day, everyone! We begin our musical tour this fine day with a look at one of the pioneering albums in the genre known as Heavy Metal. “Paranoid” (the album) was released in 1970 and is regarded as one of the most important early Metal albums of all-time. At the time of its release, “Black Sabbath” consisted of singer, Ozzy Osbourne, Guitarist, Tony Iommi, Bassist, Geezer Butler and drummer, Bill Ward. In the history of Heavy Metal, guitarist Tony Iommi is widely considered one of the best to ever play. He is the only original member of the band to have stuck through all of the lineup changes over the years. He is still active today. Like many bands that make it to the top of their field, “Black Sabbath” did so on the talent of musicians, like Iommi and, on the personality of charismatic frontmen, like Osbourne. Unfortunately, Osbourne’s brand of “charisma” was often of the attention-seeking variety and usually was fuelled by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. By the time the 1970s came to an end, Ozzy Osbourne was actually fired by the band. He had a solo career of some note in the early 1980s but, since then, he has descended into physical and mental health problems and remains only a shadow of his former self.

But, in their heyday, “Black Sabbath” were a force to be reckoned with. When they released their debut album, the genre of Heavy Metal was generally regarded as a niche market. There was a devoted fanbase who were drawn to the loudness of the bands and their penchant for writing songs that dealt with the darker side of life. However, when “Black Sabbath” wrote their second album, they did something different which was, they wrote a song with political commentary called, “War Pigs”. This song dealt with the band’s distaste for the Vietnam War and was intended to, not only be the lead single but, also, the name of the album. Their record label had other ideas and didn’t want a protest song to define the album and risk alienating their fans. So, they sent the band back to the studio and asked for a new song to add to the album. Tony Iommi had been playing around with a guitar riff that he shared with the band. That riff formed the foundation of a new song called, “Paranoid”. The band thought that the song (less than three minutes long) was merely filler but, the record executives saw it as a hit and slated it to be the first single off of the new album. Furthermore, they decided that it would serve as the album title, too.

As it turned out, the song, “Paranoid” is about being upset about events going on around you and being unable to ease your mind. Like, “War Pigs”, it was, also, a song that had something to say and, once released, it resonated with Heavy Metal fans and with Rock n’ Roll fans, too. Thus, “Paranoid” (the album and the song) became the first cross-over hits to go from the top of the Heavy Metal charts to the top of the Rock charts. “Black Sabbath” went on to have a long and storied career that often straddled the line between the two musical genres. They had album sales in the tens of millions and were elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, too. Despite the notorious antics of Ozzy Osbourne, “Black Sabbath” are highly respected for their contributions to Heavy Metal in the early days of the genre. So, get ready to bang your head because, here is “Black Sabbath” with “Paranoid”. Enjoy!

The link to the music video for “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, can be found here.

The link to the video for “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, as covered by Foo Fighters and Zac Brown, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Black Sabbath, can be found here.

The link to KEXP can be found here. Thanks for helping to inspire the writing of this post. You guys, rock!

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #371: Save a Prayer by Duran Duran.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #371: Save a Prayer by Duran Duran.

I feel as though I have thoroughly discussed the “Duran Duran” connection I have already but, for those who don’t hang on my every post, here is the short version of the story. I left my Cape Breton home to attend university in Toronto in 1982 which was, coincidently, when “Duran Duran” released their second album named, “Rio”. The excitement in Toronto when the band came to play there on their world tour was something I had never witnessed before. Coupled with the music from their album, were some of the most evocative, lushly produced music videos of the video age. “Duran Duran” were among the pioneers of using music videos as part of their marketing plans and, because of them, music stations such as Much Music (in Canada) and MTV (in the States) were able to launch successfully.

“Duran Duran” were comprised of five members: Simon LeBon (lead singer), Nick Rhodes (keyboards), John Taylor (Bass guitar), Andy Taylor (Lead guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums)….*fyi, none of the “Taylors” are related. The origin of the name of the band says a lot about their mindset as they entered the musical landscape of the world. The name “Duran Duran” comes from 1960s movie, “Barbarella”, which starred a scantily clad heroine played by a young Jane Fonda. In many of their music videos, “Duran Duran” opted for scenes and storylines that are filled with visually-appealing settings, fashion and people. The members of the band were all viewed as model-handsome at the time “Rio” was released. They, also, used many female models in their videos. Fortunately, from my own perspective, the music they produced was good, too. Simon LeBon has a good, strong voice and the band members can all play their instruments well so, there was some actual musical substance behind the band’s sizzle. It wasn’t all just pretty boys singing about pretty girls in pretty places but, let’s be honest, it kinda was, too.

“Save a Prayer” was the third song released from the “Rio” album, after the title track and “Hungry Like The Wolf”. “Save A Prayer” was the highest charting single from this album. The video for it was shot in Sri Lanka and was completed just prior to that country lasping into civil war. Overall, “Duran Duran” have enjoyed a long and productive career that is still going on today. Their hits include, “Planet Earth”, “Girls on Film”, “The Reflex”, “New Moon on Monday”, “Ordinary Day”, “Come Undone”, “View to a Kill” (from the James Bond soundtrack to the movie of the same name) and many more. They have earned tens of millions in album sales since those early days when they were causing hysteria just as I was settling into university life in Toronto. So, without further delay, here is the official music video for “Save A Prayer”, shot on location in Sri Lanka and one of MTV/Much Music’s first super hot videos that they aired in heavy rotation. Enjoy.

The link to the video for “Save A Prayer” by Duran Duran, can be found here.

The link to the video for a live performance of the song, “Save A Prayer” by Duran Duran, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Duran Duran, can be found here.

The link for radio station, KEXP, which supported Duran Duran right from the beginning, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #372: Autumn Sweater by Yo La Tengo.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #372: “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo.

So far in our countdown, we have covered a variety of music genres such as Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk, Blues, Country, Instrumental, Alternative and now, a new one to add to the list, Coffee House. What is “Coffee House”, you ask? Picture yourself, pre-pandemic, in a cozy little cafe or bistro. The ambience is warm. The decor is artistic and worldly. An aroma of roasted coffee and baked goods fills the air. And, while you sip your warm drink and let your mind drift away from your troubles and toils, sitting off to the side, over in a corner, is a musician or duo playing softly and sweetly. Their music can be the soundtrack to your daydreams or, it can, also, be something that captures your attention and holds it steady because of the intimacy of the venue. Singers such as Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan all honed their songwriting craft in coffeehouses before moving on to bigger stages and brighter lights. In her biography that I am currently reading, Buffy St. Marie states that her days performing in coffee houses near Boston, while in university, were her favourite times to perform because of how close she was able to be to her audience. She always felt like the messages she was embedding into her songs were able to reach listeners better in that type of relaxed, informal setting.

Being adept at creating the meaningful music that goes over well in small venues is what the trio, “Yo La Tengo” have been known for for almost three decades now. They are an American group consisting of Ira Kaplan (lead singer), Georgia Hubley (drums and backing vocals) and James McNew (bass guitar and backing vocals). The name of this group means, “I Have It!” in Spanish and is not meant to sound as self-assured as it may come off as. It is actually a baseball reference that is used to help English and Spanish-speaking players communicate with each other when it comes time to try and catch a ball that has been hit in the air so as to avoid collisions. Baseball lingo aside, “Yo La Tengo” have been making Coffee House calibre music for many years and have become the darlings of music critics for the intricacy and lushness of their quiet sound. If you are a fan of this band then, chances are, you are a huge fan, an absolute devotee. Their fanbase, along with the critics of the world, are known for their devotion. If this is the first time you are hearing about this band then, you are in for a treat.

I am going to post a video below for a song called, “Autumn Sweater” that just shows the lyrics so that you can understand the live performance better when you see that below, as well. That live video is amazing because the band is performing in a record shop, making small talk with the crowd and then, just like that, they burst into this beautiful song, creating something lovely where, only moments before, there was only silence.

The question that some of you might ask, after having listened to this song is, is this really one of the best songs of all time? Well, I think the answer to that question is a personal one but, in general, I have always believed that our world is comprised of all sorts of different but, beautiful people. Well, so too is music. There is no one song that is the “right type of song”. If you are at all like me then, you will like all types of music depending on your mood or the setting you find yourself in. The same is true of “Yo La Tengo”. I am willing to place a very large wager that some folks have fallen in love while this song was playing or that babies have been made with “Autumn Sweater” as a soundtrack. There must be a place in the musical universe for small gems that uplift us and fill our souls. That’s what “Yo La Tengo” contributes to the world. So, prepare to listen to a small, perfect gem of a song this day. “Autumn Sweater” is a lovely sounding song and, as I said above, I really admire how effortlessly they create something wonderful out of nothing in the live video below. Have a soulful, relaxing day, everyone. Bye for now.

The link to the video for “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo”, can be found here.

The link to the video of the live performance of “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Yo La Tengo, can be found here.

The link to the official website for KEXP, who are known for playing small, perfect gems of songs, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #373: Groove Is In The Heart by Deee-Lite.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #373: Groove Is In The Heart by Deee-Lite.

In one of the YouTube comments for this song, the author stated that “Groove is in the Heart” is the exact moment when the 1980s and 90s merged. There may, in fact, be some truth to that sentiment. “Deee-Lite” were formed in the late 1980s and consisted of lead singer, Lady Miss Kier, and DJs, Dimitry (from Russia) and Towa Tei (from Japan). They created a form of music that combined Funk with Rave and Dance music. The effect of this mashup was a sound that pulsated with energy and movement and dancing and fun. “Deee-Lite” played with a full band and dancers and had as much in common with Funk pioneers such as James Brown and Parliment-Funkadelic, as they did with any of the forerunners of the Electronic Dance Movement to come.

“Groove is in the Heart” was their biggest commercial hit, going to #1 on the Dance charts and Top Ten on the Pop charts when it was released. The band had several other hits that charted such as “The Power of Love”, “Good Beat” and “Runaway”. The band was known for their live performances. They were often lauded for being “inclusive”; in the sense that they welcomed all manner of individuals into their sphere of influence. You could be into fashion and find a home with Deee-Lite. You could be into dancing and enjoy Deee-Lite. You could be exploring your sexuality and/or your sexual orientation and find safe harbour with Deee-Lite. You could be someone who admired the funk pioneers of the past and appreciated how Deee-Lite incorporated that into their performances. In general, there was lots to like about the band when they played live. For me, I am amazed at the deep bass tones and, overall, excellent sound quality of their live shows. As well, the lead singer, Lady Miss Kier” is extremely charismatic and aerobically fit and possesses a powerful, clear voice and, wow, can she ever dance!

As it turned out, “Deee-Lite” were one of those groups that burned brightly for a short while and then left a beautiful corpse. The band broke up after a couple of albums. DJ Towa Tei didn’t like touring and performing live; preferring, instead, to mix songs in studio. DJ Dimitry still is going strong in the Electronic Dance circuit but, often took a back seat to Lady Miss Kier, when on stage with her during their “Deee-Lite” days and, as such, is enjoying his solo time much more. As for Lady Miss Kier, I am not sure why she never became a bigger star. She had it all; stage presence, singing power, good looks, high energy dance moves and much more. But, the truth is, she has remained active in the Rave and Electronic Dance scenes but has kept a deliberately low profile since the breakup of “Deee-Lite”. That is too bad for them and for all of us because their music was the tonic for what ails our society these days; it was fun, funky, upbeat and extremely positive. But, in their wake, they have left us some incredible tunes and wonderful live performances to remember them by.

So, enjoy the official video “Groove is in the Heart” featuring rapper Q-Tip from “A Tribe Called Quest” and Bootsy Collins from Parliment-Funkadelic (in the star-shaped glasses). I will, also, post another song theirs; a live version of “What is Love?” In that song, enjoy the absolutely excellent sound quality. Once the bass guitars start up, this song roars to life. As noted earlier, Lady Miss Keir’s fitness level is off of the charts! What a workout yet, her voice remains powerful and clear all the way through (no autotune or lip-syncing here!). So, without further delay, here is “Deee-Lite” with “Groove is in the Heart” and “What is Love?” Have a sweet day, everyone.

A link to the video for “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite, can be found here.

A link to the video for “What is Love?” by Deee-Lite, can be found here.

A link to the official website for Deee-Lite, can be found here.

A link to the wonderful website for KEXP, supporters of all manner musical expression, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #374: The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #374: The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

As you may know, I am a big fan of Leonard Cohen as a singer, songwriter, poet, musician, novelist and anything else he may have tried his hand at. To me, his writing evokes sensual imagery and comes across as being very sensory-oriented, almost tactile, in nature. When I read his work or listen to his music, I often think of sidewalk cafes, skin brushing skin, thin cigarettes and mandolins and the luxury of all the time in the world.

Nick Cave was born in Australia to parents who were steeped in the Classics and, as such, he grew up a very literate man. However, unlike my boy, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave tended to view life from the seedier side. His songs and books and movies, while every bit as beautifully-worded as anything Cohen produced, were all shadowy cloaked, dealing with the wretched and unsavoury among us. He was a rebel in his youth; forming punk bands and lashing out angrily at his audiences and critics. As an adult, his desire to kick at the constraints and constrictions of society’s expectations turned him inward, to a more religious and/or philosophical outlook. Consequently, many of his songs deal with religious imagery and concepts. But, make no mistake, Nick Cave is not a Christian singer of songs, by any stretch.

“The Mercy Seat” is a fifteen verse song (!!!) that is based upon a book by Samuel Beckett called, “Murphy”. One of the main settings for Beckett’s book is a mental hospital called Magdalen Mental Mercyseat. The main character sees the insanity all around him via his patients as being a form of escape and salvation from the drudgery of his everyday life. In Nick Cave’s song, the same idea is at play, except that the song is about an inmate being electrocuted in an electric chair (which symbolizes the Throne of God, with the electricity coursing through his body as being God’s Mercy at work, freeing him from his imprisonment). So, this song is a far cry from “She loves you” by The Beatles. It is an intense song about the different forms mercy may take and the orgasmic effect it can have, depending upon who you are and what you troubles may be.

When you watch this video, you will note the growing, growling intensity of Nick Cave; especially, as the song goes along toward its conclusion. If bringing about a merciful end to personal suffering is a form of Love then, “The Mercyseat” is a love song for the ages. I would normally tell you to enjoy the song I am posting about but, in this case, the better term is to appreciate what you are seeing and hearing. “The Mercyseat” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is poetry. It is every bit the story that the likes of Leonard Cohen would tell…..only darker. It is death as release. It is freedom through pain. It is renewal by fire. It is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A happy day to you, all.

A link to the video for the song, “The Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, can be found here.

A link to the official website for Nick Cave and the Bad seeds, can be found here.

A link to the official website for KEXP, who have always supported original, well-written music, can be found here.