Fallen Angels by Buffy Sainte-Marie

Fallen Angels
Fallen Angels

I got a man in the business line
He power hungry, he’s a money mine
Smooth as satin he’s a big time shark
Fallen Angel
I got a brother, ooh he mean as sin
He got a brother who’s just like him
Livin’ over in Moscow, 2 of a kind.
How come the great power got the junkie mind

Fallen Angels
They never get enough
Fallen Angels oo oo
They got the addictions
Fallen Angels
They litter the skies
Fallen Angels
Don’t you wanna turn ‘em around
Turn ‘em around

I got a man in the USA
He runnin’ guns with the CIA
He’s the best that being bad can be
Who’d think he do it all for me
What’s it matter if you’re green or red
The Yankee dollar or the commie threat
When the real power in the real world
Gonna deny it all anyway

Fallen Angels
They never get enough
Fallen Angels oo oo
They got the addictions
Fallen Angels
They litter the skies
Fallen Angels
Don’t you wanna turn ‘em around
Turn ‘em around

You believe in the system from the top on down
Potential is a beautiful thing
It’s hard to keep believing in the big time
Now you’re sinking in the wind
Star light, star bright
Somebody going down tonight
Told the truth when it was time to lie
Got it right

Fallen Angels
They never gel enough
Fallen Angels hoo hoo
They got the addictions
Fallen Angels
They litter the skies
Fallen Angels
Don’t you wanna turn ‘em around
Turn ‘em around

Fallen Angels
They never gel enough
Fallen Angels hoo hoo
They got the addictions
Fallen Angels

One might  be lulled into believing this song is nothing more than a piece of pop with its lush strings and beautiful melody.  But it is not, by a mile.

Save Me From Life

Lifeguard – save me from life
Save me from life
Save me from life
Save me from the ails and the ills, and from other things – Morrissey

I know from personal experience that there are musicians that will try to turn every defeat into a victory, but that’s just not me.  Tonight’s show was one of those nights where it was a coin toss between suicide and slipping someone’s throat, watching them bleed out slow down the sewer drain.

There were some amazing moments.  Some of the people that came out to support me were truly exceptional.  Friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile, new faces that were a pleasure to spend time with.  One couple came out for their second show ever and gave me The Clash’s Sandinista on CD, along with two CD’s of rare track.  That is the kind of kindness that one can never forget.

But then there was a sound man that didn’t even know the set times and was rushing me the entire night.  I was supposed to play for an hour, but I only got 40 minutes.  I thought about sacrificing him to Beelzebub.  I would go to jail, and definitely hell, but I might live on eternally in local lore, creating the kind of darkly humorous story that would keep others alive in trying times.  A sound man sacrificed like a goat in front of horrified patrons.  Some of the other staff members were quite nice, so I decided not to create a local ghost story.  (Perhaps it will be a deeply held regret on my own deathbed.)

There were also certain patrons that looked like they had withered their lives away at the same barstool.  Indifferent to anything I played.  Indifferent to the songs booming out of the PA between sets, whether it was the Dead Kennedy’s or Iron Maiden.  They sat there like weather beaten wooden Indians.  These are the kind of people that, when they outnumber the living, can make a bar feel like a tomb.

Time has a funny way of healing all wounds rather quickly.  (Or as Nick Lowe sang, “Time wounds all heels.”)  I’m sure after a good nights sleep I will be ready for the next dash into the ring.  I actually played fairly well and there were some incredibly amazing souls in the room.  Usually nothing gets to me on stage.  I’ve played more shows than I could ever count and some are excellent, some are bad, and most are good.  That is the way of the world.  But something tonight left me feeling rather rotten and slightly evil.

One thing I’ve learned is, if you feel your mood darken, don’t try to prevent it. Embrace it and let it go as far as possible.  Eventually if you let it take you far enough, you will pass through the looking glass and emerge out the other side, cleansed and purified.  Laughing all the way to the…

Sleeping Like a Baby in ATX Tonight

Comedy is what happens to others
Tragedy is what happens to you
If I ever get through the gates of heaven
I’m gonna punch the first thing in view
Since the Ides of March, I’ve traveled far
Through Appalachia and Dixieland
Searching for the one who
Sees me as I am

I’m sleeping like a baby
Still chasing that dream
Never sure if what I’m wishing for
Is dignified or obscene

I went from Paris in the springtime
To Hitler in the first chill of the fall
Taking up arms against
All of nature’s laws
Maureen, oh Maureen, she was my first true love
And I often think of who will be my last
She’ll need an iron will and selective memory
If I’ve learned anything from my past

I’m sleeping like a baby
Still chasing that dream
Never sure if what I’m wishing for
is dignified or obscene

There’s snow on the pines and ice on the road
And it’s getting hard to steer 
And I’ve found myself laughing at
The things that I used to fear
The things that I used to fear…

I’m sleeping like a baby
Still chasing that dream
Never sure if what I’m wishing for
Is dignified or obscene

Sleeping Like a Baby by No Show Ponies.  This is the first song I wrote after moving to Austin, Texas.  It was on our first album we made here, The End of Feel Good Music.  The album as a whole is a mixed bag that didn’t turn out quite like we imagined.  It ended up being too alt-country in our minds, which was our fault, but we accidentally stumbled down that road.  However, this song, strangely also the most country of all the songs, was one that turned out exactly like it should have.

I’ll be performing it tonight down at Hole in the Wall in ATX.  Show begins at 10pm.

We Tried, and We Failed – Jeane Lyrics

Jeane
The low-life has lost its appeal
And I’m tired of walking these streets
To a room with a cupboard bare

Jeane
I’m not sure what happiness means
But I look in your eyes
And I know that it isn’t there

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried

Jeane
There’s ice on the sink where we bathe
So how can you call this a home
When you know it’s a grave?

But you still hold a greedy grace
As you tidy the place
But it’ll never be clean
Jeane

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried

Oh, cash on the nail
It’s just a fairytale
Oh, and I don’t believe in magic anymore
Jeane

But I think you know
I really think you know
Oh, I think you know the truth
Jeane, oh

No heavenly choir
Not for me and not for you
Because I think that you know
I really think you know
I think you know the truth
Oh, Jeane

That we tried, and we failed
That we tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
Oh, oh, Jeane

These are the lyrics to the song Jeane, an early Smiths composition.  Even though I’m a huge Smiths fan, I actually discovered this song through Billy Bragg.  I also really love the version by Sandie Shaw, which the Smiths played on.  (Featured above)

Morrissey, the lyricist of the song, was a fan of British kitchen-sink dramas and the work of writer Shelagh Delaney.  (Especially the must read play A Taste of Honey.)  These works were some of the first time that realistic 50’s and 60’s British working class life were displayed in drama.

These lyrics have never been far from my mind since the first time I heard this song.  I’ve never been great at writing the story song.  However, this song shows how lyrics, at least in my mind, can be so much more effective politically through the empathy that a story conveys.  The idea that life should be better for the working poor does not need to be conveyed in any obvious way.  In painting the picture that the lyrics do, one where you can’t help but notice the sad and demoralized state of its protagonists.  One can therefor empathize with the characters and be able to draw the political conclusion for themselves, which is always the more powerful way to come to an idea.

I also like how the small details of this life are interspersed with lines that could work as quotes unto themselves.  “I’m tired of walking these streets to a room with a cupboard bare”, does so much to paint a mental picture of the life the song is describing.    Yet the chorus line is so simple and Zen like that it almost seems carved from granite:  “We tried, and we failed.”  That is a line that if heard a few times, will pop up in your head again and again as life presents itself with an excuse to utter it.  It always brings one back to that song, whether consciously or subconsciously, and those characters.

Another thing to notice is that the lyrics are genderless.  Jeane could be both a boy or a girl and therefor anyone can relate to it.    This song is able to be sung by both male and female with equal conviction, without changing a line of it.

I picked the Sandie Shaw version above, as I could only find the Billy Bragg version with the faster tempo.  I’m used to the Billy Bragg version on the Reaching to the Converted album.  This song is one of the few times that I actually prefer the cover version  of a song rather than the original.  I also should note that the Sandie Shaw lyrics differentiate very very slightly from the printed lyrics above.  Again, there are at least four versions of this song recorded that I know of and I’m not sure which one the printed lyrics come from.  

I also found this version of Sandie Shaw and Johnny Marr performing the song for children on TV.  It is not the full version, so I didn’t want to put it at the top.  I like the idea of this song being sung for kids.  Teach ‘em real young what’s going on out there!

The Old Riverman’s Regret by Marah

Here is a video for The Old Riverman’s Regret by Marah.  Marah’s album Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, of which this song is featured on, was listed as one of my favorite albums of 2014.  This is one of my favorite songs on the album although, having grown up around the Susquehanna River, which the song mentions, I must admit I am slightly biased.

Devolving In Steamboat Springs

I have been holed away in the the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Steamboat MusicFest.  I intended to read several books, to update my blog regularly, and to get a lot accomplished in general.  However, this hasn’t happened!  I’d like to blame it on rock n roll partying, but alas, I cannot.  I only drank one night and although I felt like I had been raped by a werewolf the next morning, it really was probably due to my lack of drinking lately and not any excessive amount of alcohol abuse.  I have become older and shittier.  It is true.

The hours and minutes of each day have simply slipped through my grasp.  I don’t know if this is due to weather that is comparatively colder than what I have become used to in Texas or the higher altitude of the area.  Maybe it is just due to laziness and a subconscious feeling that I am on vacation.  I have no answers.  Books have not been read, knowledge has not been gained, and writing has not commenced at the usual rate.  In fact if anything, I think my mind has slowly devolved back towards ape status, although I cannot confirm this.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow
You’re always a day away…

The Genius of Joni Mitchell

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While I have been at Steamboat MusicFest, I have been listening to a great deal of Joni Mitchell.  She is simply one of my favorite songwriters of all time.  Her music is so unique that I both understand and don’t understand why she isn’t more popular.  I understand that her music can be challenging in the way that so very few singer songwriters are, with serpentine melodies and completely unique chord progressions.  But I also don’t understand as she is a giant in terms of talent and so very few artists have ever come close to what she has accomplished.  I think she is haunted by the tag of FEMALE singer songwriter, as in my mind, she is the peer and equal of someone like Dylan, whom I also love and respect.  In fact she is probably more original and talented on a purely musical level than Dylan is.  While someone like Dylan or Neil Young, who is also from Canada like Mitchell, are regarded as almost founding fathers by this point, I feel like Mitchell is acknowledged in a much more limited way.

Although everyone should own what many consider her masterpiece, Blue, I would also recommend that everyone check out her 70’s trilogy of The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.  This is not to say that this is the only work that she has worth hearing.  Although I don’t own every album she has ever made, I find something valuable in all the periods of her music.  Her last studio album, Shine, is simply fantastic, with a title song among the many that simply show she has never stopped being a master.  One of the hardest subjects to write about without coming across as cheesy is the environmental concerns of the day, but she does so on this album with a poetic depth that no one, outside of maybe Jackson Browne, has been able to do.

The 70’s trilogy that I mentioned is some of the most original music of all time.  It is expansive work, where each album seems like its own universe.  If one listens to pop music, like Nick Hornby suggests, until one can solve the puzzle of each song, I can’t imagine ever getting tired of these records.  They seem as if they were created by someone on another plain than most normal humans operate on.  This music is shape shifting as folk, jazz, pop, rock and occasional tribal music intertwine and emerge with a fluidity that very few could accomplish.  She holds her own with musicians such as Jaco Pastorius, and seems more than a capable leader of such talents.  In fact she takes someone like him, makes his work more accessible, and loses none of the musicality in the process.

Mitchell’s guitar playing is some of the most original in recorded history.  She uses a wide variety of tunings and creates chord structures that are simply one of a kind.  Rhythmically influenced by jazz at times, she has a style, combined with the tunings, that sounds unlike any other singer songwriter of her or any time period.  While most greats, like the above mentioned Dylan and Young, synthesize what came before them into their own style, Mitchell seems to use different elements of music as a launch pad to take off to her own unique stratosphere.

Her melodies are again a thing completely of their own.  Listen to one of her most popular albums, Court and Spark, and ask yourself how this album became so popular.  Not many humans could sing, let alone write those melodies.  While they eventually ingrain themselves into your subconscious, they are not the simple hooks of pop music.  That album alone makes me wonder if music audiences were more advanced in their tastes back then, then they are now.

Enough cannot also be said about her lyrics.  They are simply some of the most poetic ever recorded.  Listen to the wordplay, the intelligence, and the wit displayed throughout her career.  She is the equal of a Dylan, without copying him.  Sometimes it almost seems as if she came out of nowhere.  While Dylan built an entirely new language in pop music, it was definitely rooted in the traditions of the folk world.  Mitchell seems to create a language all of her own, especially once she got to the above mentioned trilogy, that is still relatable as often as it is complex.

Now there is no doubt that Dylan had a greater cultural impact.  I am also not trying to say that Mitchell is better than Dylan.  I am only trying to make the case that if you want to talk about truly originals in music, she is one of the few that should be put on equal footing with the all time greats.  And while better or greater mean something different than more original, I would argue that Mitchell is actually more original than most of the all time greats.  She has consistently turned out fantastic mind bending stuff.  I constantly put on her records and am left awestruck at the sheer mastery of each component of song craft and playing. If you are a real music fan, I am telling you to get this stuff.  If you can open yourself to what she is doing, and she definitely is an acquired taste at times, this is music that will open up entire worlds that no one else has explored.  We will not see the likes of her again.  She is a true one of a kind and should be realized as such.