KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #330: Wolf Like Me by TV on the Radio.

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 #330: Wolf Like Me by TV on the Radio.

One of the real joys for me in tackling this project has been the ability to do a deeper dive into the background of singers and bands that, previously, I had only known at a glance. Forcing myself to examine some of these artists with greater focus has helped me uncover several absolute gems! “TV on the Radio” ranks as one of the shiniest of them all.

“TV on the Radio” got together in NYC around the same time as Interpol, Yeah, Yeah Yeahs and The White Stripes did around the year 2000. This whole scene was borne as a response or an evolution on the earlier Punk and Grunge scenes and was coined as Post-Punk Revival by music critics. The music scene in NYC was very vibrant; the musicians all knew each other and often helped out on each other’s records. Together, they grew as a collective force, appearing together at Festivals and helping to generate lots of buzz for themselves and for other artists from their area.

“TV on the Radio” is fronted by Nigerian singer and actor, Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone (vocals/guitar), David Andrew Sitek (guitar/keyboards), Jaleel Bunton (drums). *Gerard Smith was a guitarist with the band until 2011, when he passed away from Lung Cancer. “TV on the Radio” have produced several albums, from which came many hits songs such as “Staring at the Sun”, “Young Liars”, “Dancing Choose” and “Wolf Like Me”. The band are known for the poetry-like lyrics they write, the amazing live performances they give and the intensity with which they perform. “TV on the Radio” are, generally, regarded as one of the best, if not the best, live band in the US since the year 2000. They are definitely rockers but, they infuse their songs with Blues/gospel-like fervour, exquisite musicianship and harmonizing that, not only works on a vocal level but, also, in the way they blend/amplify their voices with their instrumentation. All in all, the effect is phenomenal.

“TV on the Radio” have appeared on late night talk shows many times; especially, the NY-based ones, like David Letterman’s show, when it was still on. The video that you will see for “Wolf Like Me” is from an appearance on his show, where the audience is on their feet and completely into it and the band…well, they absolutely rip it up! This performance is, easily, one of the best live performances on television that I have seen.

The song, “Wolf Like Me” is about werewolves but, more to the point, it is about being powerless in the face of a transformative event and, in the end, kinda liking the effect, even if the transformation yields deadly results. Werewolves and vampires have always had an underlying sexual element to them, which is conveyed nicely in this powerful performance.

So, I will end this post by thanking you for encouraging me to pursue this project. Because of you, I have come to know bands like “TV on the Radio” much better and am the richer for having heard them. They are sensational. This performance of “Wolf Like Me” nearly blows the roof off of the Ed Sullivan Theatre in NYC. Letterman is, obviously, a fan because he had them appear seven times as his musical guest. So, if it is good enough for Dave then, I hope it is good enough for you guys, too. Get ready for, arguably, the best live band in America, “TV on the Radio” with “Wolf Like Me”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio, can be found here.

The link to the official website for TV on the Radio, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for providing such a platform for live music. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #331: Bulls On Parade by Rage Against the Machine.

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 #331: Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine.

Even if you have never heard a single song by “Rage Against the Machine”, you would probably be able to guess, just by their name, that they have not become famous by producing songs for children’s birthday parties! Lol! No, “Rage Against the Machine” are a group from Los Angeles, that formed in the early 1990s. They have made some of the loudest, most forceful, anti-authority music of any group, anywhere in the world. The band consists of lead singer, Zack de la Rocha, lead guitarist, Tom Morello, bassist, Tim Commerford and rummer, Brad Wilk. This group has formed, broken up and re-formed several times. During the hiatus periods, the trio of Morello/Commerford/Wilk formed “Audioslave” with singer, Chris Cornell, and then, when “Audioslave” broke up, they formed “Prophets of Rage” with Chuck D. from “Public Enemy”. But, no matter who they form new bands with, in the end, the band that everyone clamours for, is the original “Rage Against the Machine”.

“Rage Against the Machine” has had several big hits, including their most famous song, “Killing in the Name” (which is about police brutality and conformity), “Testify”, “Sleep Now in the Fire”, “Wake Up!” and, today’s song, “Bulls on Parade”. Their brand of music has been termed as Nu-Metal but, whatever you wish to call it, RATM play loud, muscular music that always has something pointed to say. Not surprisingly, the band has not been without its’ share of controversy due to the nature of some of the lyrics to their songs. Because they often use profanity as a way of expressing disdain for authority figures, “Rage Against The Machine” have a hard time getting played on TV shows and on the radio, without agreeing to censor their own lyrics (which the band vehemently opposes, on principle). Thus, “Rage Against the Machine” has become one of those bands that is, almost, completely driven/motivated by their fans. They write for their fanbase (which feels they have lots that needs saying), they perform for exclusively for their fans (who are among the most rabid and devoted in the world.) and they exist to give voice to those who may feel voiceless and powerless.

The song, “Bulls on Parade” is a political statement on the current situation that exists regarding the border between the US and Mexico and the number of lives that have been lost and families separated because of US immigration policies. The video you are about to see is of a free concert given by the band in appreciation for their fanbase helping to rig a UK Christmas BBC radio contest in their favour by voting, “Killing in the Name” the #1 Christmas song in the UK. This video shows the band and their fans at their finest. If you watch, please note the unique way Morello plays his guitar in order to mimic DJs scratching albums during a Hip Hop show. The crowd is insane in this video! As for the song, “Bulls on Parade” tends to be constructed more on a foundation of repeatable phrases and chants but, none the less, the message gets delivered in the most raucous way possible. So, if you have something you want to get off of your chest and don’t know quite how to go about it then, watch “Bulls on Parade”, sing, shout, jump around and I guarantee you that you will feel better for having done so. Enough talking. Here we go! “Bulls on Parade” by “Rage Against the Machine”. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rage Against the Machine can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting great music, regardless of genre or volume! The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #332: More Than This by Roxy Music.

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 #332: More Than This by Roxy Music.

Roxy Music formed way back in 1970. The band was fronted by a former ceramics teacher from an all-girls school, Bryan Ferry. There have been various lineups over the years but, for the most part, the following musicians have been part of the Roxy Music family: Brian Eno (keyboards), Graham Simpson (on bass), Phil Manzanera (on lead guitar), Andy MacKay (on saxaphone) and Paul Thompson (drums). Ferry is the lead singer and principal songwriter and, as such, sometimes, what he writes ends up as material for Roxy Music and at other times, it becomes material for his own solo albums. The end result is that there have been a collection of hits with Ferry at the helm, including, “Avalon”, “Love is the Drug”, “Slave to Love”, “Do the Strand”, “Pyjamarama” and today’s song, “More Than This”.

Like many bands, Roxy Music tended to have a trademark “sound”. In their case, that sound was lush and romantic, with Ferry often donning stylish tuxedos and coming off as super suave. Originally, the band formed with the same intentions as many Punk bands did as the 1970s wore on and that was, to step away from, what they perceived, as the “heaviness” and “pretentiousness” of UK music at the time. But, instead of approaching their music from an anarchistic point of view (like The Sex Pistols), Roxy Music affected change by through Art. Image was always an important factor in everything that Roxy Music did so, it was not entirely surprising that Bryan Ferry would end up modelling himself after James Bond more that stripping it all down and ripping things up, as most lunks were doing then.

Neither Roxy Music nor Bryan Ferry (as a solo artist) were big stars in the US. But, they were big stars in Canada, the UK and the rest of Europe and the world. They have sold many millions of albums worldwide, over the course of their career and, in 2019, were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The song “More Than This” has been described as one of the most romantic songs of all-time and, as such, it is one of the most-requested “First Dance” songs at weddings since its release over forty years ago. Picture the scene: you are holding your love in your arms, dancing cheek to cheek, while a tuxedo-clad handsome man croons:

“More than this? You know there’s nothing.

More than this? Tell me one thing.

More than this.”

…and you melt into each other’s arms and hearts and your moment is perfect, thanks to Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. I m not sure if any of you had “More Than This” as your “first dance” but, if you did, let me know in the comments section below. For the record, Keri and I had “Home for a Rest” by “Spirit of the West” as our first dance song…..which is a whole other story for another day. For now, here is “More Than This” by Roxy Music. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “More Than This” by Roxy Music, can be found here. This clip was taken from the movie, “Lost in Translation”.

The link to the official website for Roxy Music can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their official website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #333: I’ve Seen It All by Bjork (Featuring Thom Yorke).

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 #333: I’ve Seen It All by Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke).

Back at Song #480, I introduced you to a singer named Elliott Smith and noted that he held a distinction attained by very few others in this list and that was, that his song, “Miss Misery” had been nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song” in a Motion Picture (Good Will Hunting). Well, today, we meet the second musician to be so honoured. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Icelandic singer, Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke) was from a Dutch movie called, “Dancer in the Dark”, directed by Dutch director, Lars Von Trier. The premise of the movie is that the main character, played by Bjork, is slowly going blind. Before she loses all sight, she is desperately trying to save enough money so that her young son (who has the same degenerative eye disease that she does) can have surgery that will save his sight. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” revolves around a discussion she is having with a friend/lover in which she tries to downplay the impact of blindness while he is encouraging her to live for the moment and see all she can see while she still can. It is a heart-wrenching bit of human drama being told in the form of a song. It was rightly given the honour of being nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song in a Motion Picture”.

And…that’s where all the trouble started.

One of the things that we tend to do in our part of the world that causes trouble is believing that how things are for us is how they are for everyone; that our History is everyone’s shared experience and that, what is important to us is, therefore, important to everyone everywhere. It isn’t always that way. Take, for example, the Academy Awards. The Academy Awards is the end-of-the-year award show for, mainly, North American movies. Many of us try and see those movies that are nominated for awards in our theatres (Pre-Covid, of course). We discuss the merits of the various actors and actresses up for awards. For a week or two, talk about The Academy Awards fills our social discourse. The event generates its own level of self-importance and we, as an audience, tend to buy into it. One aspect that tends to generate the most buzz is the Red Carpet. What will the Stars be wearing? Who will the Stars be wearing? Enquiring minds seem desperate to know. In reality, the Red Carpet parade is kinda stupid, in my opinion. When did we, as a society, demand to see actresses bare their backs or show their cleavage…..and then, rate it all, accordingly…..as the price they must pay for having acted in a serious movie? We should be better than that and, although we are slowly advancing forward as a society in this area, back when “I Have Seen It All” was nominated, judging the fashion choices of those on the red carpet was akin to a blood sport.

Did you know that when swans mate, they do so for life? Of course, you are probably aware of the story of the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. Bjork knew all of this when she opted to wear a dress in the design of a swan to the Academy Awards. Being from Iceland, the US movie awards do not generate that much discussion because the cultural influence of the US entertainment industry is not that great there. Popular US movies play there, on occasion but, as Bjork has told the story, she was more familiar with Busby Berkley musicals and Esther Williams swimming spectaculars than most of what was being honoured that night in Los Angeles. So, she wore a dress that looked like a swan to be glamourous and playful…..and, people lost their collective minds!!!

“I Have Seen It All” is a beautiful song and captures a special moment in the lives of two important movie characters…..and, very few, if any, cared in the least! I have always been a fan of Bjork and this song is no exception. I like it a lot. The fact that most people know faaaaaaaar more about her “swan dress” than they know about her movie or this song, says a lot about our value systems in this part of the world. If you have never heard “I Have Seen It All” before then, get ready for a slow, measured dance between two characters; each with differing versions of how best to make use of the light before it all goes dark. Songs can be powerful and moving, at times. “I Have Seen It All” certainly is both. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Bjork (featuring Thom Yorke) can be found here.

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

The link to the trailer for the movie, “Dancer in the Dark”…from which the song, “I’ve Seen It All” was used in, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #334: Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan.

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 #334: Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”……Abso-flippin’-lutely!

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan is a fantastic song in many respects. It was released in 1965. At that moment in US history, the Times were definitely a-changing. There was a growing sense of unease among many; especially, young people, about having blind faith in government officials, big business, etc., to act as stewards for democracy and the American way of life. Young people began to become “radicalized”; looking for new ways of living with each other, new ways of seeing the world (increasingly, through mind-altering chemicals) and, more than anything else, questioning the right of “the establishment” to exist as they presently did. It was a time of protest and challenges to authority that was captured perfectly by Bob Dylan in “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.

“Johnny’s in the basement,

mixing up the medicine,

I’m on the pavement,

thinking about the government.”

It was, also, a time where Bob Dylan was challenging convention

. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released on an album called, “Bringing It All Back Home”. What was revolutionary about this album for Dylan (who was already a well known folk/protest singer) was that the entirety of Side #1 of the album were songs backed by an electric rock band. Dylan “going electric” was met with a swift backlash from within the Folk Community. But, Dylan was nothing, if not a forward thinker. He realized that Music, as a idea, was a nebulous, ever-changing, living and breathing entity and, as such, submitting to the arbitrary dictates of society went against the very foundation of musical expression, itself. So, he introduced electric guitars to his inventory of musical skills and, by doing so, invited others to do the same. Thus, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is noteworthy, not just for the content of its lyrics but, also, for the way it broadened the scope of what was musically acceptable in the US at that time.

The song title, itself, comes from a story by Beat poet and author, Jack Kerouac called, “The Subterraneans”. At the time, Dylan was influenced by the Beat Poets such as Kerouac, Allan Ginseberg and so on. The Beat Poets often wrote in short sentences and phrases, using a stream-of consciousness-style of expression. As a writer wannabee, I love the lyrics in this song. Dylan is not just writing mere words here. He has constructed the lyrics and, in particular, the rhyming scheme in an, almost, Shakespearean manner. If you can recall from your High school English classes, William Shakespeare often wrote in a style called “Iambic Pentameter”. Without going into great detail, iambic pentameter is a way of structuring the words contained in verses of a song or poem, lines of dialogue in Drama, etc., in such a way that it results in a certain cadence coming forth when spoken aloud. If you listen carefully to the lyrics to this song, you will quickly detect the sing-songy rhythm. However, the rhyming scheme does not follow the traditional A-A, B-B or A-B, A-B style of rhyming that we are used to. Instead, Dylan has structured his song so that, sometimes, the rhymes come close together, sometimes, they are separated by several lines, sometimes they are at the end of a line, sometimes they occur in the middle but, always, always, always…. they come together to unify the verse and/or thought that he is expressing at the moment. This is an extraordinary feat of writing; with the end result being, an entire song comprised of very short phrases and sentences that weave in and out of each other, like a formal tapestry. Because of the shortness of the lines and the cadence that results, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is often hailed as being the very first Hip-Hop song! If you take a moment and look at any popular, classic Hip-Hop song, you will note a lot of similarities in writing style between it and what Dylan did. Bob Dylan may be a skinny white dude with a nasal voice but, truth be told, he may just have been the original rapper!

The final thing I wish to say about “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is that the video that accompanied the song is famous, too. Back in 1965, there were no such things as music videos. The Beatles and Elvis were just starting to experiment with the making of movie musicals but, neither produced stand-alone videos to support their songs. The video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is one of the very first pure music videos ever! It was made as part of a movie being shot about Dylan’s concert tour. In the background of the video, Beat Poet Allan GInsberg can be seen hanging around.

There is so much to say about the importance of Bob Dylan to Modern Music. I feel that this post is barely scratching the surface. But, if it helps inspire you to check out more of his work then, it will have been a worthwhile endeavour. For now, I will leave you with one of the first Hip Hop songs ever, one of the first music videos ever and one of the first songs of Bob Dylan’s “electric period”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

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

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for continually supporting the best that music has to offer. A link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #335: It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken by The Tragically Hip (featuring Leslie Feist).

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 #335: It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken by The Tragically Hip (featuring Leslie Feist).

I was going to do this as a post that was separate from the countdown but then, again, I remembered that I am the King and this is my musical castle and I can do what I want with these posts so, for today, I intend to veer away from the list and talk about a remarkable performance that happened this past weekend at the 50th Anniversary Show for The Juno Awards (which are Canada’s version of The Grammys, for those pals of mine from the US).

The theme of The Junos this past year was to honour those who have made an impact on Canada’s Music scene over the last half-century. While there are many notable musicians and bands worthy of praise, the one that seems to still rise up above them all is The Tragically Hip. It has been almost five years since Gord Downie passed away and, for many of us, it still doesn’t seem real. His death remains a wound that has not quite healed. The remaining members of The Hip (Johnny Fay, Gord Sinclair, Paul Langois and Rob Baker) have busied themselves with some small, side projects but, for the most part, they have kept a respectfully, small profile. So, it was with some excitement (and, some trepidation) that it was announced the remaining members would reunite on stage at The Junos this past weekend, supporting Canadian singer, Leslie Feist, who was standing in for Gord Downie.

The song they chose to sing was one of The Hip’s more quiet songs but, a popular one, none-the-less, called, “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”. The song was from a 2002 album called, “In Violet Light”. Originally, the song was written as a response to, among other things, the sombre atmosphere that ensued after the tragedy of 9/11. It is a song about recovery and about the importance of, among other things, friendship. For that reason, it was a good choice of song for a moment in which we still grieve for Gord but, acknowledge that we all need to move forward, too.

It is, also, no accident that the band asked someone like Leslie Feist to stand in Gord’s spot on this occasion. First of all, my her own admission, she was not their to replace Gord Downie. Leslie Feist was there to help friends honour his memory. In that, she was a well-chosen representative. The story of this collaboration is one that was born several decades earlier and is filled with connections and relationships and friendships. I will try not to be-labour my points but, there are deep ties between so many people connected with Leslie Feist and with The Tragically Hip.

Let’s start with Leslie Feist, herself. She has been a fixture on Canada’s Music scene for over thirty years now. Feist’s first foray into professional music was at age 15, when she won a Battle of the Bands contest in Calgary and, as a prize, got to perform live at a festival that was being headlined by The Ramones. At this festival, she met a man named Brendan Canning who, at the time, was in a band called “hHead”. A decade later, Canning and Feist would play together in a Toronto-area collective called “Broken Social Scene”. But, prior to joining BSS, Feist toured with an Indie band called “By Divine Right” which, at one point in time, toured with The Tragically Hip. The Hip were always known for being very good to their opening acts and, so, they got to know Leslie Feist very well and came to respect her for her skill at songwriting and with playing her guitar.

While The Tragically Hip are regarded in “Canada’s band”, in practical reality, they were an Ontario band. Their studio was in Ontario. They networked with many local bands, including the many members of Broken Social Scene, who were a talented and dynamic band but, also, were a collection of artists who all had solo careers, too. Because of the inter-connectivity of the many moving pieces to the Ontario Music community, Gord Downie turned to BSS leader, Kevin Drew, to produce his final solo albums, after he was diagnosed with cancer. Drew helped shepherd Gord through the process of recording two dozen personal songs. Drew and Feist were once a couple, too, if that holds interest for you. So, to review, Feist joined “By Divine Right” and toured with The Hip. Then, Feist joined friend, Brendan Canning and helped found Broken Social Scene in Toronto with Kevin Drew. Drew helped produce Gord Downie’s final solo albums, as Gord is dying. Leslie Feist stands in for Gord at the 50th Anniversary Juno Show on the weekend. The dots, they do connect themselves, sometimes.

So, when you look at the video of that Juno performance, you are looking at a performance of a song about recovery from tragedy, while still grieving. It is a song about friendship sung by people who know the true meaning of the word. It is Canada’s Musical Community coming together, without a word about it having to be said. It just is. *In the Comments section, I will post some bonus videos that relate to this post. Today seems like a good day to celebrate Canadian music and the Canadians who make it. First up, “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” by The Tragically Hip (featuring, Leslie Feist), as introduced by the King of Massey Hall, himself, Gordon Lightfoot. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” by The Tragically Hip (Featuring Leslie Feist), can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” by The Tragically Hip can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “1-2-3-4” by Leslie Feist, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Tragically Hip can be found here.

The link to the official website for Leslie Feist can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #336: Rock Lobster by The B-52s.

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 #336: Rock Lobster by The B-52s.

Today we take a look at one of the most unusual yet, most fun songs ever recorded……”Rock Lobster” by “The B-52s”. “Rock Lobster” was a song on the “B-52s” self-titled debut album in 1979. The song was written by the two men in the band, singer, Fred Schneider and guitarist, Ricky Wilson and, has gone on to be the band’s biggest selling single of all-time.

For all of the fun surrounding this song, the origin of how it came to be is based upon something of a personal nature for lead singer, Schneider. As a young boy, he and his family went to a seafood restaurant and Schneider recalls being horrified that live lobsters were being boiled alive for them to eat. The suffering seemed cruel to Schneider who ended up growing up and joining P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), as a result. So, what does this have to do with the song, “Rock Lobster”?

A decade or so later, as a young man, Schneider found himself at a nightclub that played rock music while, at the same time, showing slide shows of animals on the screens that filled the walls of the club. One of the images that came on screen was of lobsters being barbecued. This enraged Schneider who was heard to shout, “Rock this! Rock that! Rock lobsters, too!” Despite being whipped up into a frenzy, as soon as words “Rock lobsters” rolled off of his tongue, everyone stopped and commented on what a funny phrase it was. That phrase helped inspire Schneider and Wilson to come up with a stream-of-consciousness-type string of words, phrases, invented animals, laid over top of a stinging guitar track. But then, they reached for one last idea to help push the song over the top……Yoko Ono!

When you listen to “Rock Lobster”, you will notice that singer Kate Pierson contributes a steady array of high-pitched squealy sounds…..almost, dolphin-like, in nature. It was the band’s obsession with singer, Yoko Ono, that inspired Pierson to incorporate the high-pitched noises during the stretch where Schneider is listing off all of the strange creatures they can see, such as a “bikini whale” and a “narwhal”. For those unfamiliar, Yoko Ono released several albums upon which she “experimented” with sounds that often were recorded as squeals and squeaks. Ironically enough, once “Rock Lobster” was released and became a hit, one of the people most impacted by it was, none other than, John Lennon! By 1979, John Lennon had long since left The Beatles and had produced several solo albums. But, he had grown disillusioned with the music business and had been in “retirement” for almost five years when “Rock Lobster” hit the airwaves. But, upon listening to the song, John immediately noticed to the ode to his wife, Yoko Ono, that the “B-52s” had incorporated into the backing track of “Rock Lobster” and took that as a sign that young musicians still thought that he and Ono were relevant. This jolt of renewed self-confidence caused Lennon to return to the studio and produce one final album before his death. That album was called, “Double Fantasy”. Even after his death, the connection between the band and Yoko Ono continued, with her joining them on stage for “Rock Lobster”, contributing her own, unique animal-like sounds as the song goes on.

“Rock Lobster” is one of the most original and unique songs ever recorded. Arising from a wave of anti-cruelty outrage at the plight of lobsters in restaurants, forming on a foundation of adulation for a legendary singer and then, acting as inspiration for a legend to have one, last surge of creativity, is all very impressive for a song, whose title is about a crayfish…..which is what a “rock lobster” is called, in case you didn’t know. Here is “Rock Lobster” by “The B-52s”. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Rock Lobster” by The B-52s, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The B-52s, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting all genres of music. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #337: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin.

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 #337: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin.

Alright! Now we’re talking! “Led Zeppelin” makes its’ first appearance on the list and does so with one of its biggest and most recognizable hits, “Whole Lotta Love”. The song was released in 1969 and was from their second album, simply called, “Led Zeppelin-II”. The band was comprised of singer, Robert Plant, lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, bassist, John Paul Jones and drummer, John Bonham. As a band, “Led Zeppelin” has sold almost 300 million albums worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of all-time. They featured a heavy rock sound that incorporated many aspects of Blues (which becomes important, musically and legally, in this song, in particular). Some of “Led Zeppelin’s” hits are considered to be among the best songs of all-time such as “Stairway to Heaven”, Kashmir”, “All of My Love”, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll”, “Immigrant Song” and many, many more. “Led Zeppelin” was inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

The song, “Whole Lotta Love”, like any song, has lyrics and it has a music structure. It is worth taking a little time and examining how the aspects of both played a part, both famously and infamously, in the history of this song. Let’s start with the musical structure. “Whole Lotta Love” is driven by one of Rock n’ Roll’s best loved guitar riffs. Jimmy Page is at his forceful, vital best on this song. His riff reminds me of a powerful locomotive chugging on down the tracks to its destination. Muscular. Strong. Insistent. The guitar work on “Whole Lotta Love” has been ranked at, or near, the top of numerous polls over the years.

While Jimmy Page was creating one of the classic guitar riffs of all-time, Robert Plant was stealing the lyrics…..quite literally! The lyrics to “Whole Lotta Love” were copied, almost verbatim, from a song by Bluesman, Willie Dixon, called, “You Need Love”…..and, by “love” both Dixon and Plant mean, “sex”! Lots of sex! Way deep down inside….sex! Anyway, Dixon was not given any songwriting credit on “Whole Lotta Love” when it was released. But, those who know music and, in particular, those who know the Blues, immediately noticed how similar the lyrics were in both songs. Here is a sample of Dixon’s lyrics from “You Need Love”.

“You’ve got yearnin’ and I’ve got burnin’ Baby,

you look so sweet and cunnin’ Baby,

way down inside,

woman you need love.

Woman you need love,

you’ve got have some love

I’m got give you some love.

I know you need love.”

Robert Plant writes:

“A-way down inside,

A-honey you need it.

I’m gonna give you my love

I’m gonna give you my love

Wanna whole lotta love (x4).”

The lawsuit was settled in Dixon’s favour and he now receives co-songwriting credit for “Whole Lotta Love”. After the lawsuit was over, Plant commented by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “It was a nick, happily paid for”.

“Whole Lotta Love” is a song about sexual intercourse. There is nothing subtle about it. In the video, there are long sections where Robert Plant does nothing other than moan and groan, as if in sexual pleasure, while Jimmy Page pounds away on the guitar. Yet, as much as the Blues are a part of the foundation of Rock n’ Roll, so is sex, as this song makes abundantly clear. “Whole Lotta Love” is one of “Led Zeppelin’s” signature songs and just the first of several appearances they will make in this countdown. So, ready or not, here comes “Led Zeppelin” with “Whole Lotta Love”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

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

Thanks, as always, KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #338: Save It For Later by The Beat.

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 #338: Save It For Later by The Beat/English Beat.

The early 1980s was quite a time for music in the UK. The Punk Rock scene was fully establishing itself (with groups like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Soiuxsie and the Banshees all making names for themselves). Alternative/New Wave Music was flourishing (with bands such as Joy Division/New Order, Depeche Mode and Yazoo all doing well). Reggae was well-entrenched in the culture of the land (with bands such as Madness, The Specials and, the subject of today’s post, The Beat, all taking turns having hit songs and successful concert tours).

Within the Reggae Music scene, there were various sub-genres of music being played. Some of these sub-genres included Ska, Rock Steady and Tu-tone. These sub-genres stretch all the way back to the Island of Jamaica. In each case, there are common musical bonds between the sub-genres but, there is differentiation, as well, that allows each variation or style of music to have fresh, unique aspects to it. A comparative example, from closer to home, would be the sub-genres of Country and Western music that sees performers play styles such as Bluegrass, Rockabilly and Honkytonk…..all distinct variations but, all recognizable as Country music.

“The Beat” were considered to be a Tu-tone band because the members of the bands were both, black and white, with both races featured in prominent roles within the band and within each song they played. The band formed in Birmingham, England in 1978 and originally consisted of Dave Wakeling (vocals/guitar), Ranking Roger (vocals), Andy Cox (guitar), David Steele (bassist), Everett Morton (Drums) and, very importantly for this band, Lionel Augustus Martin (on Saxaphone). They had a string of hits such as “Twist and Crawl”, “Mirror in the Bathroom”, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” and “Save It For Later”. There is some confusion about the band’s name. In the UK and most of the world, they are known as “The Beat”. However, in North America, because there was already a band with that name in existence, they were dubbed “The English Beat” in Canada and the US. If you were to look them up on YouTube, for example, you would find much more material available under the moniker, “The English Beat”.

As for today’s song, “Save It For Later”, it came from their third and final album, “Special Beat Service”. It was written by singer Dave Wakeling as a teenager and dealt with the wealth of free advice he was being given about Music and Life by family and armchair critics early in his career before he even had a chance to experience these things for himself. His admonishment to those putting in their two cents was to “Save It For Later”, until he tried things his way and saw how it worked out. When I heard this song, I was impressed by how “tight” the band was, musically speaking. When I saw the video I am about to share with you, I was even more impressed that they could pull off the same level of musicianship live as they did in the studio. For what it is worth, I feel that “The Beat/”English Beat” is a highly under-rated band, in terms of who we come to think of when we start talking about the best bands of the 1980s and 90s. Dave Wakeling has a beautiful, rich singing voice and played it off of Ranking Rogers vocal style very well. So, get ready to have your day get markedly better by watching, listening and moving to the wonderful music of “The Beat” with “Save It For Later”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Save It For Later” by The Beat, can be found here.

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

Thanks to KEXP for always supporting good music; regardless of genre or sub-genre. The link to their official website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #339: Love Vigilantes by New Order.

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 #339: Love Vigilantes by New Order.

For those of you who have been faithful readers of these posts, you will remember that, as 1980 dawned, one of the biggest bands in the UK was “Joy Division”. Unfortunately, the lead singer of “Joy Division”, Ian Curtis, died just before the band was to go on their first North American tour. Rather than continue on as “Joy Division” or break-up entirely, the remaining bands members formed a new band called, “New Order” and still can be found playing today.

“New Order” have a “sound” that can best be described as “Synth Pop”. For that reason, fans and critics, alike, were surprised when the band released, “Love Vigilantes” from an album called, “Low Life” in 1985. “New Order” eschewed much of their trademark sound and replaced it with guitars and more obscure instruments such as a melodica (which you hear off of the top of the song). The lyrical content of the song was different for the band, too. “Love Vigilantes” is a song about a lonely soldier on leave, who is coming home to see his wife and children. When he finally arrives home, he enters his house only to find his wife, laying on the floor, clutching a military telegram that informs her that her husband has been killed in action. It is left to the listener to decide what is really going on here: has the wife fainted at the news and he is a ghost watching over her OR, is he very much alive and the telegram was sent in error and his wife has committed suicide? The band has never said anything declarative, one way or the other.

Despite the gloomy description I just wrote, “Love Vigilantes” is a peppy song. I don’t know about you but, I am always on the lookout for “Remembrance Day” songs that go beyond “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” so, I am happy to add “Love Vigilantes” to my own, personal list. If there are any unique and not-so-well-known songs that you like for Remembrance Day”, let me know in the comments section below. But, for now, here is “New Order” with “Love Vigilantes”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Love Vigilantes” by New Order, can be found here.

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

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their official website can be found here.