Archive | September, 2010

Melanie

26 Sep

My kids have no concept of time or age.

Whenever I mention something that I know about the 60’s they usually ask me, in all seriousness, if I was a ‘hippy’ back then. Let alone that the 60’s wasn’t my time period, I sometimes stand agape and startled with the realization that they think that I’m an old enough to have followed Timothy Leary, owned a Volkswagen Beetle and walked around with one hand holding up the peace sign and the other clenching a fistful of white daisies. But it’s the same with the 70’s; they ask me if I was a ‘Disco Stu’ – a reference to the Simpson’s character who dances in skates under a glitter ball with a mid-fro and silk shirt open to the chest hair. These are the stereotypes they have of a time period. I always reply back that I was both of those, and going back further, in the 50’s I was a greaser and back in the 40’s I was a bobby soxer.

I suppose that one day they’ll field questions from their own kids, who armed with the knowledge that their parents were born in the 90’s, will ask if they were skater punks with strategically torn jeans, metallic belts and oversized black t-shirts.

In my random shuffle play list, Melanie came on – which I turned way up and clapped my hands to it. Their X-Box and DS consoles were paused and they looked up and asked who it was – in their non-committal, blank stares so as not to let on whether they liked, or disliked, the song. That’s how the discussion of the 60’s came about. After a brief background about songs of peace, they turned away, the games came back on and they continued to further their pollex’s performing strenuous acrobatics.

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
Few songs can literally make me shiver because of synaptic waves fluttering through my central nervous system. This song is one of only a few that can do that.

Starting out with a tap of thunder, Melanie Safka, with the Edwin Hawkins Singers, join a pounding bass and sing adoration to the site she witnessed looking out from the stage when she played at Woodstock at age nineteen twenty two – the swelled masses lighting candles during her set. The lungs on this little lady, and those of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, are hard to be believed; they are a packed, powerful persuasion to slap palm to palm and levitate a few inches off of terra-cotta in folk/gospel spirituality.

I can picture the little hippie girl, a lone figure with an acoustic guitar donned with ribbon, wearing her fringe jacket in front of a skinny microphone, belting out this sonic hymn with the Hawkins Singers, all decked out in overflowing red satin robes, swaying back and forth, and singing powerfully enough that the back row could feel it as if they were first row, center stage.

Turn this, the full length album version, up to 11.

We were so close there was no room
We bled inside each other’s wounds
We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace

Lay down lay down lay it all down
Let your white birds smile
At the ones who stand and frown

So raise candles high ’cause if you don’t
We could stay black against the night
Oh raise them higher again
And if you do we could stay dry against the rain

Together Alone
Beloved quotes; heart-enlarging poems, remembered lines that we might not speak above a whisper, songs of lamented distinction, all adoring and joyously drowning in a chosen commitment to loving only one. There are so many ways to feel and interpret life-altering unity, but Melanie mines a new vein of obligation here. Particularly poignant are the lines “We know looking’s not seeing”, “We’ll learn living, like the words of a good song” and “I don’t want to sing it on my own”.

She’s saying that it doesn’t happen at first freshness and that it will take time and agreement to allegiance. It comes from the heart and not the head. A smoldering co-joining that becomes a glistening pinpoint of loving solidarity in a world full of those who struggle to find a “soul-mate”.

With this track as an example, it’s easy to see why such heavyweights as diverse as Nina Simone, Bjork, Macy Grey and Cher have chosen to cover Melanie’s compositions.

I crave for Mavis Staple to interpret this one.

We’ll grow old, we’ll take care of each other
I’ll be your sister, your mother, your lover
We’ll be friends during changes of weather
Let’s be together on our own
Let’s be together alone

We’re believers, we’ve been hurt by believing
Needing people, we know looking’s not seeing
I see needs that might be answered by forever
Together on our own
Let’s be together alone

We’ll learn living, like the words of a good song
We’ll learn timing, balance and rhythm
We’ll make it music
I don’t want to sing it on my own
Let’s be together, let’s be together alone

Let’s be together alone

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
Together Alone
From: Beautiful People – The Greatest Hits Of Melanie [1999]

Advertisements

Random Acts I

19 Sep

As with anyone who has a vast and always growing glut of music, I sometimes spend more time perusing my lists of albums, CD’s, off-line storage and internally stored tracks than I do actually getting around to choosing and playing something.   

I personally want to thank the person who invented the random button – you took away the need to actually make a choice.   

Love Is Only Sleeping
The Monkees were a bit more than ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, ‘The Dolphin Song’ and ‘I Wanna Be Free’. Thanks to a constant deluge of tracks submitted by not only Boyce and Hart, but by Neil Diamond and Harry Nilsson, to name just a few, they had lush fields to choose from and eventually record.   

This track was written by the great team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who had their songs covered by everyone from the Animals, the Coasters, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mama Cass … the list goes on.   

A breezy, pop-fused, stutter guitar offering from their Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album, it never received any airplay that I’m aware of, but retrospectively it’s one of those cuts that I’m glad to hear from time to time.   

It’s also a hopeful after relationship mint.   

She looked at me
And the emptiness in her eyes was cruel to see
Then she turned away and said,
“Once I loved, but love is dead”
And I whispered, “Sometimes love is only sleeping”

She said, “I cannot cry
And I cannot give or feel or even try”
And her voice was hard and cold
Then her sweet young face looked old
And I whispered, “Sometimes love is only sleeping”
  

Through the endless days and nights
Could not help but wrap herself in sorrow
Through the endless days and nights
She waited for a shiny new tomorrow
Love was sleeping, sleeping  

  

 

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Never a huge draw here in the States (vastly underrated and barely understood), the Frenchwoman Edith Piaf was a powerhouse of the subtle undertow of love and a peerless interpreter of the heart who extracted every last drop of sentiment from a song. It was simply kismet that her track showed up for me yesterday because I had just watched her autobiographical film at the urging of someone else a few days ago.  

  

Recap: neglected and tossed away by parents, lived as a child in a brothel, literally sang on the streets for her supper, performed regularly in dumps that made your local dive look like the setting for your parents’ 50th anniversary, lost her only child to meningitis at two, lost her greatest love to a plane crash, suffered from crippling arthritis which twisted her tiny body grotesquely, could regularly drink alcoholics under the table and as a side project, enjoyed the needle. She died at the age of 47. But her voice! Her nickname, in English, loosely translates into ‘Little Sparrow’.   

Toward the lonely end she recorded this track, which again, loosely translates into ‘No Regrets’. How fitting, and a loud crowd hushing slap in the face of life for a woman who continually lost everything but never gave in – even at the end. She was so popular that apparently, her cemetery services, attended by over 100,000 mourners, literally stopped traffic in Paris for only the second time – the other being the announcement of the end of WWII. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone else who had as many mourners in modern day.   

Such a shame that I don’t comprehend French because I’m sure that beyond what I can read that’s been decoded, I know that I’m missing quite a lot – ‘lost in translation’ as it were. But, sometimes, you don’t need to understand the lyrics, as any music whore will tell you. As with most great music, it’s the ability to ‘feel’ what someone is trying to say much in the same way you might interpret an instrumental. This is one of those tracks.   

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the grief doesn’t last
It is gone
I’ve forgotten the past
  

And the memories I had
I no longer desire
Both the good and the bad
I have flung in a fire
And I feel in my heart
That the seed has been sown
It is something quite new
It’s like nothing I’ve known
  

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things that went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong
  

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the seed that is new
It’s the love that is growing for you
   

The Monkees: Love Is Only Sleeping
From: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. [1967]   

Edith Piaf: Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
From: 30th Anniversarie [1994]

ZZ Top Blues

5 Sep

“Is it better to feel pain, or feel nothing at all?” was asked. I thought for a moment then concluded that it was better to feel pain. At least you know you exist.

But feeling vapid and void has its own low merits on occasion.

Stratocaster on lap, hands wiped clean of sweat and condensation from the short, sculpted glass that’s been seeing a lot of neat VO poured, a perfunctory deep breath that doesn’t come close to cleansing and the fingers lay waiting on clueless frets for cue to follow as the deflated day moans it’s last promise for tomorrow while evening has stealthily enveloped the room within her darkened grasp.

The blues always has a way of combining both the pain and the nothingness, doesn’t it? In either case, the blues are always there to gently cradle your damp and throbbing heart and also offer the experience of empty consolation. At least it’s with someone you have history with.

Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell
Blues, the real get down on your knees, tears mercilessly battering insignificant meteorite craters into the passé sun blistered dust, elbows to belly, overgrown fingernails digging in palms, incoherent caterwauling to the newly now believable God … these are the blues that deconstruct with a sinister scalpel to the soul.

Beyond the MTV antics, the fuzzy guitars and all, ZZ Top is a top-notch, righteous blues outfit that deserves more than an afterthought to the videos.

I especially enjoy the biting lyrics “Your worry’s superficial / Cause you slept on through the night”.

If you’re home early in the mornin’
You hear that rain to fall,
With thunderbolts and lightning
The wind begins to call.

Your worry’s superficial
Cause you slept on through the night
But stormy weather keep you wond’rin’
If ev’rything’s all right.

And it sure ’nuff got cold after the rain fell,
Not from the sky but from my eye,
Not from the sky, from my eye.

2,000 Blues
Meant to be heard live this one is, in a seedy, Pabst-flowing, not enough chairs for the few beat-up tables, shot dispensing, dank and dingy roadhouse known not for its ambiance, but for the house band that plays electric blues well past state law closing time.

Ten thousand clouds
On a rainy rainy day
Couldn’t wash away
All the dust and the haze.
But I tried and I tried
To search for all the clues,
Why I can’t wash away
These 2,000 blues.

Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell

2,000 Blues
ZZ Top: One Foot In The Blues [1994]

Addendum
Burned to a crisp. Both my skin after a week in Vermont (let me tell you that SPF4 is not good enough), and my body after the long, brutal and inhumane hours I worked to catch up on my own pile and then cover for someone else. Yesterday was a day I’ll have to account for at the end of my life when someone asks me why I was so lazy on 09/04/10. Did nothing but watch movies on Netflix, read, and kept falling in and out of sleep as if Morpheus was a treasured friend.

But, the thinking … the gnawing … the fantasy … still there and palpable. So unlike me.