New Hallelujah The Hills video: The Memory Tree

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “The Memory Tree”

"The Memory Tree" - Hallelujah The Hills [Official Video]

Directed by Ryan H. Walsh. From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

It’s been almost a year since Hallelujah The Hills released I’m You. And what a year it’s been, right? It’s hard to remember that the first couple months of 2020 were relatively normalish.

It’s hard to remember anything these days.

I know folks had big plans for their downtime during this pandemic when responsible people were encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. Personally, I didn’t accomplish anything. But the guys in Hallelujah the Hills have been super productive.

Not only did they write and record a brand new song in a single day last month, but Ryan Walsh has also been working on a stop-motion animation video for album closer, “The Memory Tree.”

In the video a lonely little ghost has been too scared to leave his house for a full year until he’s finally inspired to go out and answer his call to adventure. The storyline reflects the themes of the album; my favorite detail is when our hero is a watching a music video on his little tv and asks himself, “Whoa, are they singing…to…me?” Don’t freak out, but yes they are.

Can you make a memory?
Without chopping down the memory tree?

Memories, dreams, ghosts, hauntings. What is a ghost other than a vivid memory or a lucid dream?

Can you do anything interesting without risking your life? Maybe not this year.

In a few years what are we going to remember about 2020? Anything at all? Maybe that’s a good thing. If we’re alive and trying to remember something, I guess that means we made it through.

Hallelujah the Hills: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Hallelujah The Hills video: The Memory Tree

Random Notes

You’ve probably received emails from the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post encouraging you to subscribe in order to support the investigative journalism that the papers perform. Yes, while there’s lots of stuff that you can get for free online, paying people to do the work is not free, so if you want to get that information, you have to support it. (Ironically enough, you are getting this for free and I am getting nothing for it. Go figure.)

I recently received a subscription solicitation in my inbox with the subject line:

Support the journalists speaking truth to power

One of those papers or The New Republic or The Atlantic or National Review or Mother Jones?

No. Rolling Stone.

While I know that the solid work of Matt Taibbi appears in the pages of RS, here’s the question: If the objective is to support solid political reporting (assuming, of course, that speaking truth to power doesn’t mean the heads of record companies or Daniel Ek), is getting a subscription to Rolling Stone the right place to spend?

Well, there is that tote bag.

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In 1997 David Bowie created, working with Prudential Financial, “Bowie bonds.” When issued, they had a face value of $1,000 and were a long-term investment, as they had a maturity of 10 years.

The purpose of the bonds was to raise money so that Bowie could buy back the rights to the music on albums released between 1969 and 1990.

There was $55 million raised.

This approach became something like the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) phenomenon that is now all the range especially in tech circles, as variants were created for James Brown and others. (One would have thought that the King of Soul could simply mint is own money, but alas. . . ).

Bowie bonds came to mind as the management company for BTS, Big Hit, went public on the Korean stock exchange and had an immediate valuation of initially $7.6-billion, which then dropped to about $4-billion, and while the number is probably something entirely different right now, odds are that unless something completely unexpected happens to the seven-member band that has been performing since 2010, odds are Big Hit will continue to be a big hit, as the members of the band are undoubtedly fungible.

The thing about music that isn’t often taken into account is the fact that it is the “music industry,” just like, say, the “auto industry.”

The $55-million of Bowie 1997 would be worth about $89 million today.

Or $3,911,000,000 short of Big Hit.

Continue reading Random Notes

New Jason Isbell video: Only Children

Video: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “Only Children”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Only Children (Official Music Video)

Directed by Kurt Simpson. From Reunions, out now on Southeastern.

My poor wife often sighs that she’s a mom with two only children. Our son and I are both onlies, and--apparently--we act like it. I don’t know entirely what that means but I think it has something to do with not liking to share. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re selfish, but we like to keep our stuff to ourselves. And we like to do things the way we like to do them.

A friend of mine likes to point out that the only reason he and his wife had a second kid was that every only child he knows is weird, and then he looks at me and adds, “Present company not excluded.” Fair enough.

Jason Isbell adds a new descriptor to those of us with a lack of siblings: “over-encouraged.” That’s about as accurate as it gets.

In Isbell’s song, the title characters are childhood friends who have a good time getting in all kinds of trouble, until they eventually grow up and apart: our narrator transitioning to adulthood successfully, his friend not so much.

Heaven’s wasted on the dead
That’s what your mama said
And the hearse was idling in the parking lot
She said you thought the world of me
and you were glad to see
they finally let me be an astronaut.

It’s a classic Isbell heartbreaker in the fine tradition of “Codeine” and “Elephant.”

The video tells a different story, but equally haunting. It’s mysterious without being silly. It’s moving but not in any obvious way. The acting is subtle and captivating. You’re rooting for these two kids and hoping they get away with whatever it is that they’re up to. It’s a mean world out there, that’s for sure, and the odds are stacked against them. But good luck!

Jason Isbell: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Mike Viola: Drug Rug

Video: Mike Viola – “Drug Rug”

Mike Viola - Drug Rug [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Caitlin Gerard. From Godmuffin, out December 11 on Good Morning Monkey/Grand Phony.

It’s Halloween season and things are getting spooky. All Hallows’ Eve is time of the year dedicated to remembering the dead and a lot of our traditions come out of the Gaelic pagan festival Samhain, when people went door to door in disguise performing party tricks in exchange for food.

Winter is coming. We’re all going to die.

But what if we were vampires? Would we be lonely? Would we break into Mandy Moore’s pool to have a leisurely swim? Mike Viola suggests exactly that. And heaven knows we could all use a little connection these days.

In a rug full of drugs and with nowhere to go
Only the dead get to heaven
Here on earth we just get lost
At least until this stuff wears off

Do what you gotta do to stay alive, people. Hopefully that doesn’t entail sucking people’s blood, but hey. Desperate times.

Mike Viola: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Mike Viola: Drug Rug

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Linda Ronstadt, Mac Davis, Jose Feliciano

The fourth episode of the final season of the Johnny Cash Show aired 50 years ago today on October 14, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Linda Ronstadt, Mac Davis, and Jose Feliciano along with the usual regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

R.I.P. to Mac Davis, who died a couple weeks ago at 78. He was a big songwriter who by the time of this show had already written a bunch of hits for Nancy Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and others. I will always think of him for his 1980 single, “It’s Hard To Be Humble,” which was one of my dad’s favorite songs. “I can’t wait to look in the mirror ’cause I get better lookin’ each day.”

Davis was considerably more humble in 1970 with no crossover hits yet as a performer. His single from earlier in the year, “Whoever Finds This, I Love You” had peaked at No. 53 on the Hot 100, and the single he’s promoting here did not chart. Both songs he performs would eventually see release on 1972’s I Believe in Music album, which flopped. But you can already see the twinkle in his eye.

There’s a great story about the first time Linda Ronstadt was on the show back in 1969. It was the third episode of the very first season and 22-year-old Ronstadt had a bit of a wardrobe tussle with June Carter. Entertainment Weekly shared hairdresser Penni Lane’s version of events: “At rehearsal, June noticed that Linda didn’t have any panties on, so she came running back to the dressing room, [saying], ‘Somebody get down the street and buy her some bloomers, she’s out there showing herself! When Linda was told she would have to wear underwear, she was very upset. She said, ‘I sing better bare-butted.’” June’s response at the time? ‘Not in front of my Johnny!’”

This time, a year and a half later, Ronstadt had a lot more clothes on.

Johnny Cash – “Five Feet High and Rising”

• June Carter shares a poem [Note: this segment is unfortunately not included in the GetTV broadcast.]

Linda Ronstadt – “Long Long Time”

LINDA RONSTADT ~ LONG LONG TIME 1969 HD VIDEO

From Silk Purse (Capitol, 1970).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Linda Ronstadt, Mac Davis, Jose Feliciano

New Quasar Wut-Wut video: The Tramps of Taro Sound (quarantine version)

Video: Quasar Wut-Wut- “The Tramps of Taro Sound” (quarantine version)

Quasar Wut-Wut- "The Tramps of Taro Sound (quarantine version)"

Original version on Taro Sound (Glorious Noise Records, 2004).

What are you supposed to do when you can’t hang out with your pals in real life anymore? Well, one thing you could do is take over your daughter’s bedroom and zoom your pals. Or take off your clothes and hide in some bushes. Whatever. The choices are endless, really, if you use your imagination.

I miss my friends in Chicago so much. This is the longest I’ve gone without at least visiting Chicago since I was a kid. Maybe ever. My folks had friends there who we would visit at least once a year. It’s where I learned to not take shit from bullies. (I’m looking at you, Randy.) I spent my twenties crashing on couches and inflatable mattresses in people’s studio apartments. Finally moved there right before my 30th birthday and spent my thirties there: Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Albany Park, back to Lincoln Square. Made so many great friends, including the Quasars. We had so much fun. Always a band playing a club somewhere. Big Horse, Gunther Murphy’s, Martyrs’, Beat Kitchen, Lily’s. Oh Lily’s, what a glorious shithole. That big shoe. Weird, hidden rooms upstairs where people could do bad things. Five-dollar Long Island iced teas. Bloody Mary’s made with human placenta. So many good times.

Now we’re all so damn old I can hardly believe it. But hey, at least these four guys still look good. And they’re still able to conjure up the mojo that inspired us to start a record label to release their album.

And maybe the lyrics are as applicable to today as they were back in the day.

They’re handing trophies out to all young things
Who can distract their country for the King,
And keep the vultures occupied…

Go out and earn some trophies, everybody!

Quasar Wut-Wut: web, bandcamp, fb, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Listening to The Drifters in the Age of COVID

Back in the 1960s, there were a number of songs that were about places rather than people, many of which were performed by The Drifters, a group that was highly influential but for some reason not as widely known as they should be (e.g., “Who’s singing that song?” “Don’t know.”). Their performances of these songs is often heard in things ranging from commercials to movies—and if it isn’t The Drifters, it is by performers who cover it close to The Drifters’ approach.

In 1962 The Drifters recorded “Up on the Roof,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, which became a hit in 1963, and later became named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock”. (The Drifters also made the list with “Money Honey” and “There Goes My Baby.”) The lyric of that song could have been written to describe this past summer, when New York City was a COVID-19 hotspot:

When I come home feelin’ tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat race noise down in the street (up on the roof)

In 1963 The Drifters had a hit with “On Broadway,” a song written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. While they weren’t the first to record the song—as The Cookies and the Crystals had beat them to it—their version was the most popular, having reached 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

What’s interesting about this song is that while “Broadway” connotes what is referred to as the “Great White Way”—the section of the street between 42nd and 53rd streets—because of the lights that shine from the theater marques (“They say the neon lights are bright/On Broadway”. . .”I’ll have my name in lights”), the lyric goes on to say that while the protagonist/narrator is told that the possibilities are dim—“They say that I won’t last too long on Broadway”—he (in The Drifters’ version) doesn’t believe that:

But they are wrong, I know they are
I can play this here guitar
And I won’t quit till I’m a star
On Broadway

While Bruce Springsteen performed at the Walter Kerr Theatre from October 2017 to December 2018, the notion of someone making it performing on Broadway with a guitar is certainly something that seems unusual today, as it must have been back in 1963, when shows that opened that year included Brigadoon, Oliver! and Pal Joey, things that are more of bravado than ballads.

Continue reading Listening to The Drifters in the Age of COVID

New Sincere Engineer: Trust Me

Video: Sincere Engineer – “Trust Me”

Sincere Engineer - Trust Me (Official Music Video)

Directed by Deanna Belos. Single out now on Hopeless.

Watch Deanna Belos recklessly ride her bike no-handed around suburban streets while mowing down some Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesars. Safety third, kids!

This is the band’s first single for Hopeless Records. Presumably an album will follow but no announcements have been made to date. Sincere Engineer’s previous album, 2017’s Rhombithian, was great and seeing them open up for the Hold Steady in Chicago was a highlight of 2019 for me.

Super excited to hear more! But listening to the lyrics makes me wonder, how can someone so young sing words so sad?

I wanna go outside. I wanna ride my bike, but I feel dead on the inside.
I put too much trust in future me. She can’t be trusted.

I get it. But I’m a jaded old grump, beaten down by life and a mean, uncaring world. It feels weird to identify with a young girl with such mad no-handed-bike-riding skillz.

Deanna take a bow. Boot the grime of this world in the crotch, dear.

Sincere Engineer: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Jeff Tweedy: Gwendolyn

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Gwendolyn”

Jeff Tweedy "Gwendolyn" (Official Music Video)

Directed by James Fleischel. From Love Is The King, out October 23 on dBpm. Vinyl/CD due January 15.

Featuring the mouths and noses of Fred Armisen, Courtney Barnett, Elvis Costello, Jeff Garlin, Tavi Gevinson, Jon Hamm, Robyn Hitchcock, John Hodgman, Yuka C Honda, Abbi Jacobson, Norah Jones, Gaelynn Lea, Scott McCaughey, Seth Meyers, Nnamdï, Nick Offerman, Molly Sarlé, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Jay Som, Alex Winter, Sammy Tweedy, Spencer Tweedy and Jeff Tweedy.

Who knows what’s going on underneath those masks? There could be some very attractive people hidden under there. Or maybe not.

If this new video proves anything, it’s that one’s nose and mouth drastically affect your appearance. It also proves that Tweedy knows a lot of famous people!

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy: Gwendolyn

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Joni Mitchell and Joe South

The third episode of the final season of “The Johnny Cash Show” aired 50 years ago today on October 7, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Joe South, George “Goober” Lindsey, and Joni Mitchell along with the usual family of regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

Joni Mitchell had been a guest twice in the show’s initial run in the summer of 1969, but since those appearances she had written a lot of new songs. Her classic album Blue wouldn’t be released for another eight months but she already has two of its highlights ready to go. Alone with a dulcimer on her lap (“California”) or seated at a piano (“My Old Man”), we see a songwriter completely in control of her craft. She’s still a good enough sport though to sing a Bob Dylan cover as a duet with her host!

And how about Joe South? He was a songwriter who wrote a bunch of hits, including my all-time favorite 70s Elvis jam: “Walk A Mile in My Shoes.” Once in college I was making a mixtape in a somewhat elevated state of consciousness and decided it was the perfect song to include on a deeply funky side that featured Funkadelic, Sly Stone, and something off Paul’s Boutique. The next day with a clear head I discovered that “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” wasn’t quite as funky as it had seemed. Oh well, it’s still a jam.

Have you ever listened to the lyrics of the Statler Brothers’ “Bed of Roses”? It’s wild. Basically the story of a young orphan who can’t get any help from any of the local churchy people, so he ends up crashing with a charitable sex worker named Rose. So the title of the song is missing the possessive apostrophe in order to appear less scandalous (and because country songwriters love a good pun)!

Johnny Cash – “Southwind”

• June Carter – poem: The world’s first fleas

• George Lindsey – comedy

Joe South – “Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do” [Note: this segment is unfortunately not included in the GetTV broadcast.]

Joe South (with Johnny Cash, June Carter, and George Lindsey) – “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home”

Joni Mitchell – “California”

Joni Mitchell - California

From Blue (Reprise, 1971).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Joni Mitchell and Joe South

Rock and roll can change your life.