This is part of the Tiny Challenges series, each day choose a song and write about it for five minutes. So here goes!
Day Three: Sleepwalk, by Stray Cats. (Link to live Brian Setzer version.)
I had never heard Sleepwalk before I heard Brian Setzer’s version (with the Stray Cats). I have since heard some of the others, but since this was first I’m choosing this one.
It was one of those Moments, where you something that would otherwise be in the background suddenly commands all of your attention. Sometimes it’s a person, or a view, but in this case it was a song. Maybe it’s the slide guitar, which went basically unheard in most of the music I was listening to at the time, or maybe it’s the way the melody reminds you of Something Else, or Someone Else. It captured my attention completely as I stood there in the studio of KEOL-FM, pulling records (yes, actual vinyl, only some of it was on CD at that point) for my show which was next. And I stood in the record room totally transfixed by Brian Setzer’s guitar.
Keep in mind the only other time I cared about ANY instrumental music was the Star Wars Theme, and I’m sure we’ll get to that this month. I’d never heard a classical song or any other instrumental music outside of a movie that I wanted to pay attention to. So I asked Peter (the DJ on the air before me) what it was, and he told me. It got a LOT of airplay on my show after that.
This is part of the Tiny Challenges series, each day choose a song and write about it for five minutes. So here goes!
Day Two: Rico, by Matthew Good Band. (Warning: There’s some bad words in the middle.)
When I was in high school, it was the downward slide in hair band popularity and the Nirvana Explosion. This probably happened earlier for me being way closer to where Nirvana is actually from, but that’s a story for another day. Honest. If you ask me nicely I have some good Nirvana stories to tell, just not today. Today we’re talking about how plain rock music was popular when I was in high school.
(Stick with me, I’m totally getting there.) I was a huge fan of Penny Arcade back in the day, when Gabe’s hair was a feat of structural engineering and they had the weird “build your own comic” section with The Bench and whatnot, and at the bottom of each post was a lyric from a song, which linked to the MP3 for it. Through that I found this Canadian group that did a cover of Enjoy the Silence. I liked their take so I spent some time checking out their other stuff and found this song Rico. As a sucker for clever lyrics, I fell really hard for “Everyone’s gotta be something. Me? I’m loaded.” And well, that was that. Years later I had a chance to speak at a conference in Toronto and while I was there I went to an actual record store and bought every Matthew Good album I could get my hands on.
This song Rico reminded me of songs I heard when I was in high school. And I’ve heard it said that there are two immutable truths: The music, and the SNL cast, of your high school years is the Best Ever. And this song reminded me exactly of those things. So now it makes me think of the same things: Driving my car on a sunny day with the windows down and the radio up. Singing along. Passengers, maybe. On my way somewhere important or no place in particular, making up a reason to be in the car on a nice day. Can people see me? It matters not. Can they hear me? It. Matters. Not.
Whenever I hear this song, I am reminded of my 1981 Jeep Wagoneer Limited named Beefcake. Of going to Jon’s at a ridiculous hour to aid in some sort of ridiculous crisis. Of making no money and having an awful boss, but working with my friends so it sucked a little less. Of playing this song in the headphones of my Nomad MP3 player which held a staggering 64MB of music. Of being a lot younger than I am now and thinking about how much younger I used to be. Which is laughable now. But I remember that too. Laughing. We had a lot of fun. And staggering sadness. But mostly fun.
Today is a weird one.
Let me back up.
OK, my friend Jaimee does these challenges, and now it’s become a thing. They are Tiny Challenges, and this month it’s music. I’m using it as a reason to start writing on my site again too, so there’s that.
Anyway. I’m doing the medium challenge, where you pick a song and write for five minutes. Mine came to me today with a text from my brother.
“Do you know the name of the theme song from Ramblin Rod?”
Ramblin Rod, for those who don’t live in Oregon, and didn’t in the last half of the 20th century, is a kids TV show on channel 12. It starred, as you may have guessed, Ramblin Rod (Anders), who came in on a boat and stood next to bleachers with kids sitting on them. He spoke to every kid, and there was a smile contest, and sometimes characters from Chuck E Cheese, and in between all this festivity, you watched old Woody Woodpecker or Popeye cartoons. It came on right after The Great Space Coaster. And I always wanted to go there but it never happened. I was jealous of the kids that did get to be on it, and give Ramblin Rod a button for his sweater. It had SO many buttons.
So yeah. My brother asked and a quick search confirmed that the song he was looking for was Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini. You probably know it too, you just don’t realize that’s what it’s called.
That takes me back to a very specific time and place. Grade school, before school, if I was lucky getting to see the whole first cartoon because usually we had to leave by then. Listening to it start while I ate Cream of Wheat and tried to keep that same brother from pestering me while we were getting ready for school. Waiting for my mom to put the ribbons on my pigtails. Hurrying up so I had a couple of minutes to keep reading whatever book I was in the middle of. Or the occasional sick day where I got to see the whole show. Wondering if I would ever get to go to Chuck E Cheese’s, or drink a Pop Shoppe Pop.
I let this fall by the wayside, even though I made a list in December. What better time to resume the Advent Calendar than when summer is breathing down my neck? So here goes:
Bein Green, a love song to being different. Sure he starts out kinda melancholy about not being remarkable, but he makes his peace with it and decides that green is pretty danged awesome. “I am green, and it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.” I love this song so much. It’s one of my very favorites of all time. And I probably shouldn’t admit it but the video of Big Bird singing it at Jim Henson’s memorial service gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.
Some have said you can substitute black or gay for green, or any other characteristic that might make someone feel different or less than others. For me it happens to be “girl with a serious thing for Star Wars and tech and sci-fi,” your mileage may vary, and be a bit easier to substitute while singing along.
I adore Kermit’s version, but there’s two covers I feel I should point out: Ray Charles did a version (MP3 only, the CD is like forty bucks) which is lovely, and the one I never EVER expected to hear, a cover by Frank Sinatra. Both are fab, so figure out which one you like and pick it up.*
In the meantime, check out this version, unavailable for purchase (sadly) where Cee-Lo Green sang with Kermit on The Voice. Once you get past the outfit or the pet or whatever goofy thing Cee-Lo is up to at the moment, he is ridiculously talented. Just him and Kermit and a piano and he sounds amazing. Enjoy:
* Reminder that if you buy something after following a link from my page, I get a little piece of it.
This is exactly the kind of thing I love to share. A small thing someone figured out that has made a wide variety of workflows so much quicker.
My friend David Sparks posted a keyboard shortcut for Print to PDF. I linked to the original post because not everyone is running Mavericks, but if you are, there’s an updated link at the top.
I use this for all sorts of things, including “printing” email receipts for records. Anything super repetitive that can be a teeny bit faster is always helpful, so thanks David!
This one also reminds me of my dad. Mostly because he will sing along to it. Or just sing it. Randomly. It’s kind of his thing. I’m not sure why, and I’ve never asked. But in The Great Debate, I always come down Beatles, partly because my dad really likes this song. You can’t get digital versions from Amazon (that’s iTunes only), but on the off chance you don’t have a nice compilation already, The Beatles 1 is a good place to start.
I apologize in advance if you end up “naaaaa naaaa naaa nana na naaaa”ing your way through the rest of your day. Bonus: While I do enjoy a good “Hey Jude” every now and again, I have to say my favorite Beatles song is Here Comes The Sun. I also can’t ever skip Let It Be if it is playing. There’s usually a couple Beatles songs on my phone all the time just in case I need a quick hit of pop music brilliance. They really were something special.
This is one of my dad’s favorite songs. Some music will always take me back, a memory that is somehow hardwired into my brain in association with that song. I don’t know why that is, but it is. Which brings us to today’s hardwired memory.
Highwayman is a song from The Highwaymen, a group consisting of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. To call this a “supergroup” is understatement of a criminal nature. This song reminds me vividly of my dad’s green Chevrolet Silverado truck. He had those woven seat covers on a giant bench seat that I felt like I had to shout across to be heard from the passenger seat. It had wing windows and a cowboy hat over the 4WD gearshift which was rather dramatically decommissioned when I was still young. I can’t remember if was 8-track or cassette, but the truck was of a vintage where honestly it could have been either one. And in that truck I listened to The Highwaymen. A LOT. I also listened to Willie and his friend Julio tell me about all the girls they loved before, but I digress.
This song is a country song, make no mistake. But it is a great song which is why I break my general “no country seriously I mean it” rule for this song. How could I not? There is a staggering amount of talent on this whole album. It’s not an overstatement to say that some people spend their entire careers aspiring to the greatness of the worst song on this album. So check it out.
Again, a reminder that the Amazon links get me a little something. Full disclosure blah blah blah.
Oh, Day Seven. Today we come to…
THE SWANKY MODES!!!
I love The Swanky Modes. It is entirely possible they are my favorite fictional group. It’s Sam Moore (half of Sam & Dave) and Junior Walker (of Junior Walker fame) as a fictional two-man group the two main characters of the film Tapeheads absolutely adore. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. It’s an excruciatingly 80’s movie, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins and it’s clever and weird and entertaining. Jessica Walter (yes, THAT Jessica Walter, or perhaps you mean THAT Jessical Walter) plays a woman named Kay who married a man named Norman Mart. So she’s…THERE you go. See? I love this movie so very much. If I’ve ever spoken to you and said, “let’s get into trouble baby!” it is because of this film. And now you know why.
Anyway, The Swanky Modes are a big part of it, and one of the big scenes is them singing their big hit “Any Ordinary Man” which is a song I really enjoy. It’s hard to hate on a Motown song, be honest. You’ll bob your head a little. Maybe even tap a toe. And music nerds get how rare it is for a Motown artist and a Stax artist to be onstage together. Music nerds will also notice that the songs one of the other bands in the film are playing sound like Devo (because they are) and you’ll see Mike Nesmith in the film (he’s one of the producers and has a cameo) and Ted Nugent and Courtney Love and one of my favoritest cameos ever by Jello Biafra. Also Fishbone. And that’s not even everybody!
So enjoy Any Ordinary Man from the highly enjoyable film Tapeheads:
And remember Amazon links get me a little something back. Full disclosure and all that.
This is one of those songs that I want to share with EVERYBODY. If I had my way, when people meet they’d swap MP3s or something and you get to learn about them through the stuff they think everybody else should hear. On second thought that’s a terrible idea, I’d probably just frighten people.
So let’s get with today’s pick! I admit I don’t know much about this band, I had to go to Wikipedia to learn it was a Belgian group. Every time I hear this I can’t turn it off, and I am always smiling by the end of it. I don’t know why. But this is always a song I have loved very much, so now I want to share it with you:
Soulsister, The Way To Your Heart
Remember, those are Amazon Affiliate Links, so if you buy stuff I get a little something. And this song is totally worth the dollar. Enjoy. And if you end up shaking it a little, don’t worry, nobody will judge you. (:
Today we come to Sunshine, off Mike Doughty’s latest album.
If you don’t remember him, as M Doughty he was the lead singer of Soul Coughing. He’s had an interesting career since then, and I enjoy his new stuff. Now his latest record is all covers, and it’s called The Flip Is Another Honey. It does include one original song, but that song has a sample in it. See if you can guess which song. (:
For reasons I can’t quite explain, Sunshine is the song from this album I just keep listening to. I like the whole record, but this is the one song I never end up skipping.
As a bonus, because it’s a nice winter song, and I love this version, check out the Soul Coughing cover of Rosemary Clooney’s Suzy Snowflake. I’ve included it below where it got matched up with some neat stop motion animation from back in the day.
Soul Coughing: Suzy Snowflake from Ann Amelie on Vimeo.
And again, full disclosure: I get a kickback from those Amazon links above. So buy some stuff, k? K.