The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2012

December 31, 2012

Now that I’ve wasted so much time here establishing a few traditions, I’d be remiss to honor not them…

Almost every artist in the history of mankind has at least one title in their catalog that is a compilation, a stopgap collection meant to maintain interest between releases (often to boost holiday sales) or to fulfill a contractual obligation.

This is the former, a chance to make use, one more time, of a lot of wasted time over the past twelve months.

Four years ago, I reflected on the annual, childhood tradition of spending New Year’s Day with a half dozen blank cassettes as Q102 played back the Top 102 songs of the previous year.

So, as 2012 begins its fade into a speck in the rear-view mirror, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during the past year…

10. The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)
If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

“On one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life.”

9. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
October 2, 1982

“At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).”

8. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)
“Am I the only one around here who gives a @#%! about the rules?”

“I know that Walter Sobcheck does, indeed, give a @#%! about them. He was willing to send Smokey into “a world of pain” for a foot foul in The Big Lebowski.”

7. David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
February 2, 1985

“In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.”

6. Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
May 22, 1982

“As I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.”

5. The Monkees- (Theme From) The Monkees
from The Best Of The Monkees (2003)
The Monkees And Me

“I suppose that for someone as fascinated by primates, both of the skyscraper-climbing and planet-ruling sort, as I apparently am, The Monkees should be a favorite band for, if nothing else, their name.”

4. Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)

“I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout. With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.”

3. John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1979)
Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

“The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.”

2. The Nails – 88 Lines About 44 Women
from Mood Swing (1984)
Cheese, Crackers And The Voigt-Kampff Test

“Having had a reaction due to the ingestion of a certain plant-based substance, I once rampaged my way through several boxes of crackers, leading my housemates to dub me ‘Cracker Vacuum.'”

1. The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy (1985)
Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

“In the last few days, I’ve rediscovered the music of The Dream Academy, a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums).”

If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

December 2, 2012

iawlOn one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life. Most years, since I first watched the seasonal classic in my mid-twenties, I’ve made an annual viewing a habit.

(Paloma finds the flick too depressing and annually doesn’t watch it)

Instead, I’m watching the alma mater’s top-ranked basketball team as they finally lower the boom on a plucky low major that has hung tough but is gassed.

When I went to bed last night, it was still November. The last remnants of the Thanksgiving bird are still in the fridge.

(Paloma wants to dispose of the remaining scraps; I’m having separation anxiety)

And though I have – surprisingly – already finished some holiday shopping, the windows behind me are open as it is twenty-five degrees warmer than would be expected for this time of year.

It certainly doesn’t seem to be time for It’s A Wonderful Life, just yet.

Meanwhile, across the street, a local university’s recital hall is emptying following a Christmas pageant. Since late afternoon, holiday-themed music has been blaring from a sound system that had been assembled earlier in the day which left us – particularly the three felines – feeling a bit like we’ve been re-enacting Manuel Noriega’s last stand.

(I’ve heard Greensleeves at least a dozen times since dinner)

During the past week, I did hear Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band barrel through a rollicking version of the Darlene Love staple Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) on Sirius’ Springsteen station and I also caught Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas on the ’80s channel.

I didn’t change the stations, but, as I stared up at sunny, blue skies through the open sunroof of Jeepster, the songs seemed a bit like green bananas.

(and, I should remind Paloma that while there is a Sirius station devoted to Bruce, there still isn’t one for The Smiths)

There’ll be plenty of time for holiday songs over the next three weeks and change and they’ll seem a bit more fitting when I can see my breath in the air.

And, I do hope that NBC will rerun It’s A Wonderful Life, perhaps a week before Christmas as I believe happened last year.

(and, I hope it’s on an evening when my school’s team isn’t turning an outgunned non-conference foe into steak tartare)

For now, here are four random songs…

New Radicals – You Get What You Give
from Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998)

Few albums tickled Paloma’s fancy more as the ’90s drew to a close than Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, the lone release by the musical collective led by producer Gregg Alexander. The group included former child actress Danielle Brisebois, who had been an addition to the cast of All In The Family toward the end of the groundbreaking show’s lengthy run.

So, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too came out, garnered comparisons to power pop icons like Todd Rundgren, notched a smash hit with the ebullient You Get What You Give – which took some shots at Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, and Hanson – and, then, Alexander promptly split up the outfit to focus on songwriting and producing.

The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin’
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)

I can’t say I’m overly familiar with The Beautiful South (despite owning several albums), but what I have heard is consistently wonderful. And, the British group’s version of the lovely, melancholic Everybody’s Talkin’ seems tailor-made for their classic pop stylings.

Fleetwood Mac – Think About Me
from Tusk (1979)

The last of Tusk‘s trio of Top 40 singles, the sassy, upbeat Think About Me serves as an excellent reminder that, although Stevie and Lindsey might have gotten most of the attention, Christine McVie was an integral part of the Mac’s period as a ’70s pop music juggernaut.

Shivaree – Stealing Home
from Rough Dreams (2002)

I became curious about Shivaree after reading reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. It was understandable.

The reviews were glowing, the band had named their debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump, and the outfit was led by a singer/songwriter named Ambrosia Parsley.

So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana.

“We have a piper down. I repeat – a piper is down!”

January 31, 2009

Well, not exactly a piper, but a drum major…

As further proof that everyone gets their fifteen minutes, John Coleman has popped up in headlines the last few days. Coleman has left the pipe and drum regiment of which he was a member because he waved to Barack Obama during the inaugural parade.

So, yeah, I suppose he violated the esprit de corps and broke ranks with his fellow pipers and drummers, but it’s an understandable, spontaneous lapse in decorum. It’s not like he molested a collie.

The article I read made me feel like this incident has left Coleman a broken man (“burned bridges” and “hurt feelings” are mentioned). Sure, it’s probably a bummer as he’s been with the band for 17 years and I suppose finding a pipe and drum band to join is probably in needle/haystack territory.

However, in the long run, I think he’s coming out ahead.

Thirty years from now, he’s retired and living in some condo enclave (though, he’s not entirely relaxed) in Florida (unless, due to a rise in the oceans, South Georgia is on the coast three decades from now).

Coleman will be the toast of the compound, though. He can regal them with embellished tales.

“Yeah, I was a drummer in a band…”

The women will swoon, their eyes glazing over (except for the ones who might once have dated a drummer), having spent decades married to bankers, plumbers, doctors, and others engaged in more mundane professions.

The men – most of who will have once aspired to be in a band – will take a jab to their egos (except for the ones who might once have had a drummer crash on their couch for more than a year).

The tale will conclude – each and every time – with him recounting getting kicked out of the band, how it was politically motivated by a controversial incident involving him and Barack Obama during his band’s gig on the day Obama was sworn in.

The chicks are going to dig John. I have no doubt.

He might even be able to put the band back together.

Todd Rundgren – Bang On The Drum All Day
Pound for pound, few artists over the past forty years have made as much wonderful music that has been as relatively ignored as Todd Rundgren. Sadly, Bang The Drum All Day, is probably one of his better-known songs as it seemed every radio station would play this song on Fridays.

The Beautiful South – You Play Glockenspiel, I’ll Play Drums
I can’t say I’m overly familiar with The Beautiful South (despite owning several albums), but what I have heard is consistently wonderful.

Peter Gabriel – A Different Drum
Peter Gabriel’s music for the movie The Last Temptation Of Christ is powerful stuff, drawing on Middle Eastern instrumentation. A Different Drum is certainly one of my favorite tracks from that album.

Bongwater – The Drum
Bongwater was a strange little duo (which is not surprising as they opted for the moniker Bongwater). Singer Ann Magnuson has popped up as an actress on a handful of mainstream movies and television shows, quite against type as Bongwater was as much avant garde performance art as music.