August 31, 2008

One of the strongest hooks of the vinyl adventure which Paloma and I have recently set out upon is the affordability of discovering music that had been previously unheard. Or, in the case of Gordon Lightfoot, familiarizing ourselves with the work of an artist with whom our knowledge is middling (although Paloma informs me that, via her grandmother, she has middled more with Gordon than I).

At a previous job, two of my closest friends and I would spontaneously blurt out “Lightfoot!” in a fashion similar to Jerry Seinfeld muttering “Newman!” I don’t think any of us considered Gordon to be an arch-nemesis and I doubt that any of us knew much more of the man’s music aside from his hits.

So, several weeks ago, while browsing for albums, when I came across a copy of his two-LP set Gord’s Gold for a mere dollar, I pounced. It’s proven to be worth several times what I paid, providing a calming effect on me as I commute to work down what can hardly be described as a carefree highway (Sting was more accurate when, in the song Synchronicity II, he referred to “rush hour hell” and drivers “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race.”).

As much as I’ve enjoyed Gord’s Gold, I’ve been hesitant to purchase other titles of his and much of it has to do with the album covers and his appearance which, to me, is a disappointment.

See, maybe it’s because of his signature song The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, but it is difficult for me to picture Lightfoot as anything other than a nautical sort. Note the contrast between the cover for Gord’s Gold and his 1967 album The Way I Feel.

The scallywag on the cover of the former could comfortably sit with Robert Shaw’s Quint in some coastal dive, telling bawdy jokes and recounting tales from the briny deep, punctuating things with a rum-soaked “Aye!”

The freshly-scrubbed, earnest fellow on the cover of the latter would likely risk being reduced to tears by a profanity-laced tirade for failing to double-bag Quint’s groceries at the A&P.

But, as I am greatly enjoying the man’s rich baritone and evocative lyrics and, as Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson have declared themselves to be fans of the Canadian troubadour, maybe I just need to stay focused on the music.

I haven’t spent enough time with Gord’s Gold to know much of it well, but I do quite like Canadian Railroad Trilogy , which reminds me, thematically, of Dire Strait’s epic Telegraph Road (which features some wicked playing by Mark Knopfler).

I know that I’ve come across the song on some music blog and I thought it had appeared on Echoes In The Wind. During a quick search, I couldn’t find it, but whiteray does appear to be in agreement with Dylan and Robertson as there are numerous appearances by Lightfoot, including a really nice entry on The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.

I also ripped Gord’s Gold from vinyl as album sides, so the four songs which I do have as individual tracks are ones with which even casual music fans are likely familiar.

Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
I would have to think that even my late grandmother knew this song. Is The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald the Stairway To Heaven of ’70s singer/songwriters? Can I get a ruling?

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald actually does not appear on Gord’s Gold as it was released the year after Gord’s Gold.

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind
I’ve read that this song is about the break-up of Lightfoot’s first marriage and it certainly is a somber affair. Of course, it also is a good example of the smooth-talking ways of Lightfoot, so I imagine he was fairly suave when it came to the ladies.

Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway
Gordon loves the open road, apparently as much as I love bacon. If Gordon and I were on a road trip, you can be damned sure that we’d be eating bacon along the way (and likely arguing over what radio station to listen to).

Oh yeah, apparently there is a stretch of interstate in central Arizona which is actually referred to as the Carefree Highway.

Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown
According to Wikipedia, Sundown is about Cathy Smith, Lightfoot’s girlfriend at the time, who even drove his tour bus. She later became a drug dealer and, most infamously, was involved in the death of John Belushi, allegedly selling him the drugs that killed him (and by some accounts being the person who injected him).

On All Music Guide, the reviewer interprets the song as being about the complications of falling in love with a prostitute (are there tour bus-driving hookers?).

Maybe Lightfoot is, indeed, a scallywag.

Eating Bacon With Paul McCartney

August 30, 2008

I’m not sure what I meant with this title. It’s simply something written on a Post-It note where I’ve scribbled ideas.

I do like bacon. I sometimes believe that if the possible consequences of global warming included a threat to the supply of bacon – as opposed to less exciting possibilities like famine, strife, war, and environmental destruction – there would be a great public outcry here in the West. (Hell, maybe it would even convince Sarah Palin that global warming is a threat).

There would be such a effort put forth to, literally, saving our bacon, it would make the Marshall Plan seem like putting together a model railroad countryside. It would have to be called The Homer Simpson Plan.

But eating bacon with Paul McCartney seems like a sketchy proposal. Isn’t Sir Paul a vegetarian? And quite committed to that venture? Because I don’t think I’d be willing to eat tofu or any other non-bacon bacon even with a Beatle. I would consider meeting him part of the way if we could agree on turkey bacon.

I do know that the title phrase came from a conversation between Paloma and me. I asked her if she recalled what I now refer to as The Paul McCartney/Bacon Conversation, but it didn’t seem to have made the same impact on her as me.

I suppose it was a rather unusual conversation. I’d just love to know why I was prompted to file the idea (there was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry had a similar mental lapse leading to a fateful trip to see Tor Eckman – “He’s an herbalist, a healer.”).

Obviously, this babble leads me to some songs of Paul McCartney, but I had to do a search to see if I had any bacon music. I have none (which is a bit unfortunate).

As for Sir Paul, I must confess that I am most familiar with his post-Beatles’ hits and I should become more acquainted the full albums. Also, as my late dog’s vet is a friend of Sir Paul (as well as my friend Michael), the possibility of eating bacon with McCartney might not be so far-fetched (so I’m glad I’ve given it some thought).

Paul McCartney – Silly Love Songs
Silly Love Songs is really the first McCartney song (aside from, of course, The Beatles) that I recall hearing. During the summer in which it was a hit (’75? ’76?), it seemed to always be playing over the loudspeakers at our local, public pool. Sure, it’s a bit flimsy, but it’s breezy and catchy and it makes me think of summer.

Paul McCartney – Let ‘Em In
Silly Love Songs and Let ‘Em In both appeared on Wings At The Speed Of Sound and the All-Music Guide review refers to the two songs as “so lightweight that their lack of substance seems nearly defiant.”

Substanceless defiance aside, Let ‘Em In reminds me of a childhood friend who had the 45. The only other 45 which I remember them having was The Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket which they mistakenly bought for the b-side, Space Invader, thinking it was a similarly titled novelty song about the video game which was popular at the time.

Paul McCartney – Take It Away
By 1982, music had become an increasingly important part of my life and Paul McCartney had reunited with the legendary Sir George Martin for his album Tug Of War. I was fairly ambivalent about the much-maligned Ebony And Ivory which was inescapable on radio during that spring.

I was equally ambivalent about Tug Of War‘s second single, Take It Away, when it proved inescapable during that summer. Looking back, the song was likely a bit too sophisticated for my undeveloped ears but now I can appreciate it as a delightful pop gem.

Paul McCartney – Band On The Run
Still one of my favorite songs of McCartney’s post-Beatle output (it is necessary to make that distinction, isn’t it?) A bit darker than much of his material, Band On The Run is darker still to me as I very much associate it with its use in the movie The Killing Fields

Some People You’d Rather Not Meet In A Dark Alley

August 24, 2008

Then, there are people like Icelandic singer Bjork, who you’d rather not meet in a well-lit international airport. No, she hasn’t throttled another member of the paparazzi as she’s done a couple times in the past.

From what I’ve read, the beatdowns (one in Thailand in ’96, the other in New Zealand this past January) were justifiable, but every time I think of them or come across their mention, the mental picture that comes to my mind is alternately comical and frightening.

Personally, I find Bjork to be one of the more fascinating humans of my lifetime. There’s certainly a unique musical and artistic vision. She’s like a post-punk Neil Young in that you never know what you’ll get, but it’s mostly pretty stellar.

She’s also instilled in me – and, I suppose many other music fans – a curiosity about her Icelandic homeland. Based on what little I know, it’s got to be on the short-list for future destinations. If Bjork’s music and imaginative videos are any indication, Iceland must be the place in this world which most resembles a locale in a Dr. Seuss’ story.

I won’t give too much away as I fear creating an immigration problem for Iceland. Imagine if the mass of humanity that is reading this blog relocated to Iceland (the chaos which would certainly ensue!), but I’ve read that roads are rerouted to not disturb areas in which gnomes are said to inhabit. Is there legislative debate on their version C-SPAN regarding such matters? I’d truly pop popcorn and be enthralled by such a discussion.

I also recall that some poll once named Iceland as the second least likely country in the world to be hit by a terrorist attack (North Korea took top honor). Not that I really fret such an event, but Iceland’s status – for what it’s worth – has to be considered a bonus.

For me, the idea of Iceland as the Dr. Seuss-like world which Bjork’s music conjures in me is compelling and it’s hard for me to choose a handful of songs as favorites (and as I’ve, unfortunately, lost track of her music over the past five years or so, who knows what I’ve missed).

Bjork – Human Behaviour
“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.

Bjork – Army Of Me
Army Of Me would lead a listener to believe that Bjork runs a tight ship – she demands self-sufficience and doesn’t want to hear your bitching. If she has to tell you one more time…well, she’d better not have to tell you one more time.

Bjork – Hyper-Ballad
Now, as I’ve mentioned, the fisticuffs Bjork has engaged in in airports ’round the globe seem justified, but this lovely song also reveals her to be a mischief maker. She openly admits to tossing all kinds of items – “Car-parts, bottles and cutlery, or whatever I find lying around” – off the mountain top where she lives. So, as delightful as she may seem, I suspect that it’s not always a picnic living in Bjork’s neighborhood.

Bjork – Joga

Bjork – Bachelorette
A pair of songs from 1997’s Homogenic album. The former is skittering and twitchy, a bit of a nervous wreck of a song with the lyrics given a spoken word treatment.

The latter is more string-laden, adding to the sense of drama, and the beats are more fluid giving Bachelorette a dream-like, melancholy vibe.