Video Fridays: Saturation Point Edition

head-in-sand

Hiding Your Head In The Sand

It’s a saying that always has a negative connotation.

Literally speaking, there is some logic to that assessment. After all, when your head is in the sand your butt is in the air, highly vulnerable, and you are unable to see any threats coming your way.

And yet … I believe that the impulse to hide one’s head in the sand resides in a precious moment of self-righteous self-preservation, a moment when one reaches the saturation point, unable to take in one more portion of “real world” shit, no matter how wafer-thin.

Example: I’m driving my car, I have six presets on the radio, several of them are NPR stations, two air Democracy Now!, and all of them, during commute times, broadcast news/talk programs. Invariably, before I get halfway through my drive I’ve heard so many horrors that I can’t switch to music on my CD player, or from my phone via Bluetooth, fast enough.

I contend that at that precise moment I am most in tune with reality, aware that all of those horrors are an insult to reality, a violation of reality, the reality that all people, all beings, the planet, and the universe are all one and interdependent, that the optimal state, then, is one of mutual respect, cooperation, and preservation.

Besides simple silence — also a good remedy — music works reliably well for me as protection from all that does not earn the label “real”. As a musician myself, I know what it takes to make music, even more, what it takes to make good music, and good music is the product of a desire to make something beautiful, beautiful in that artistic sense, beauty that can sometimes include ugliness, but an ugliness made pure and valid as an expression of the human experience.

Anyway, I’m feeling this whole topic quite acutely today, feeling the need for music right now more urgently than normal, and making a selection for this installment of Video Fridays was very easy because I’ve been on a serious R.E.M. binge lately, during which I rediscovered and reveled over a YouTube treasure, an entire show from 1985, via the amazing German television show Rockpalast, from the European tour for one of my favorite of their early albums, Fables of the Reconstruction.

Watching and listening to this makes me feel good on SO many levels, though it does induce a powerful, potentially unfulfillable longing for a 12-string Rickenbacker.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: The Beatles In The Studio, “Hey Bulldog”

john-paul-bulldogThough there’s a risk here of hyperbole, it’s a risk I’m willing to take:

Today’s Video Fridays installment features one of the greatest videos of ALL TIME!!!

There, I said it, and I mean it!

Via GuitarWorld.com:

Even though the Beatles hired a film crew to document the 1969 recording sessions for what would become Let It Be, it’s a bit uncommon to see studio footage of the band at work before that time.

Which is why the “Hey Bulldog” music video is so unique.

The February 1968 footage seen in the clip was originally utilized in the “Lady Madonna” promotional video, until someone (perhaps a talented lip reader) noticed the band was actually recording “Hey Bulldog” (The band recorded both songs during the same sessions). The footage was later re-cut to fit “Hey Bulldog,” one of many standouts from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album.

I have LOVED Hey Bulldog ever since I first heard it as a kid, particularly because it was not one of their ginormous hits that have been played to death on the radio. And so, getting a glimpse like this, of The Beatles in the studio at their peak, performing this song, is a like discovering hidden treasure.

I love everything about Hey Bulldog: from the tempo and vibe-setting piano opening, to the James Bond-esque signature guitar riff, Paul’s punchy and bouncy bass, George’s wicked solo, Ringo’s stuttering tom work, John’s quirky lyrics, and John’s and Paul’s vocal harmonies (if ever two voices fit together as one!).

But without a doubt, the highlight of the video is watching John and Paul having so much fun singing this song together, a poignant contrast to the breakdown in their relationship that would begin very soon after this recording session.

Anyway, there’s a lot of crappy stuff going on in the world right now, so it’s more important than ever to celebrate the good things like this.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

 

 

Video Fridays – Inauguration Angst Edition: American Tune

statue-of-libertyIf you are like me (aka, a proud leftist), the urge to catastrophize today is considerable.


BTW, here’s a must-view Video Fridays bonus video: Samantha Bee and Masha Gessen getting right to the catastrophizing. LOL!


And yet, I find the strength to resist catastrophic thinking in the following:

With numbers like that, it’s not surprising that almost immediately after the election there were demonstrations with protesters wielding signs that read “Not My President“, signaling the beginning of a growing and organized resistance movement all over the country.

There’s no doubt in my mind that holding out hope for these resistance efforts and, better yet, joining in and actively resisting, are really better alternatives to resignation and waiting around for the apocalypse.

But it won’t be easy, and it’s only natural that there will be times of despair.

I didn’t go looking for a song for this post that captures the Trumpgeist. It just came to me this past week, a song I love a lot and have enjoyed singing in the past, but I hadn’t really thought of it in a while.

Because history tends to repeat itself, Paul Simon‘s American Tune, written in 1972 — with the Vietnam War still raging, racial conflicts commonplace, and Richard Nixon winning re-election even though five men paid by the Committee for Re-election of the President were arrested in June 1972 for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel  — the song sadly remains relevant 45 years later.

So, without further ado, here are the lyrics, following by the video for this installment of Video Fridays.

Hang in there, brothers and sisters!

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come at the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

Video Fridays: The Search For “Presence of the Lord”

blind-faith
Blind Faith

The strangest thing happened to me last night.

A fragment of a song that I hadn’t listened to in years popped into my head in the early evening, a very small fragment, a simple descending chord progression…

C  F/C  Em/B  Dm/A  C

…that opens the song and repeats as a kind of theme throughout.

The strange thing: I knew exactly what song this fragment was from — Presence of the Lord, by Blind Faith — I’d heard it many, many times and have loved it, I’d known all of the lyrics, all of the particulars of the arrangement — the gorgeous, pining vocals and Hammond B-3 organ of Steve Winwood, the swirling guitar work of Eric Clapton, the expressive drums of Ginger Baker that threatened to deliver thunder like Thor at any moment, and the steady bass of Ric Grech — but as this fragment popped into my head, inexplicably, I could not conjure up anything else from the song, and…

…it nearly drove me crazy!!!

Part of the problem stems from the fact that this fragment — these few descending chords — is a common musical element used in many songs, and every time I tried to pry the rest of Presence of the Lord from some mysterious, dimly-lit place in my brain, I stumbled upon other songs, but not the one I was looking for.

Despite my best efforts, I could not find the opening lyrics — “I have finally found a way to live, just like I never could before…” — perhaps because the lyric describes the finding of something, the exact opposite of what was happening to me.

I did have a memory that there was a dramatic instrumental bridge in the song, with a corresponding tempo change, but I couldn’t quite make it out.

I thought if I could only recall one other fragment — a slice of that bridge, a snippet of melody from a verse or chorus, some riff or phrase from Clapton’s epic solo — then I could follow it like a breadcrumb left behind by Hansel and find my way back home (Blind Faith fans will know that the pun here is intended) to the rest of the song.

But no, I could find nothing, and it tortured me.

At 2:00 AM, I awoke for some reason and immediately heard the presence of the Presence of the Lord, and my brain set to work straight away, continuing the search for the rest of the song, consequently preventing me from falling back to sleep for nearly two hours … on a work night!

Finally, over breakfast, I gave up, opened YouTube on my iPhone, searched for the song, found it, played it, and put myself out of my misery.

And, oh what a song to relieve misery!

I chose to listen to the version of Presence from the 1969 Concert in Hyde Park (video below), because, though I am by no means a religious man, if the Lord does happen to be real, his/hers/its presence is most certainly revealed in the tone of Eric Clapton’s Fender Telecaster guitar in that performance.

Interestingly, Presence of the Lord, and this experience I had with it, are symbolic — in a number of ways — of the meteoric history of Blind Faith, centered around the theme of brevity:

  • I could only remember a simple 5-chord instrumental sequence from a 4:5o-long song.
  • Trying to remember the song left me with too little sleep.
  • The song only has, essentially, one verse and one chorus, repeated three times respectively.
  • Blind Faith formed, recorded their one and only album which went to the top of the charts, toured Europe and the U.S., and disbanded … ALL between January and October of 1969.
  • The eponymous album contained only 6 songs, for a total running time of 42:12, average in those days, but all you have to do is subtract one song, the 15:20-long cut titled Do What You Like, and what remains would be an EP by today’s standards.
  • The very fact that Blind Faith had so few songs on their album was a contributing factor to their demise. Eric Clapton had quit his previous band, Cream, because he was tired of playing their songs and the baggage that came with being in that band, and yet, when Blind Faith toured, since there were so few Blind Faith songs, the band filled out their concerts with songs by Cream and Steve Winwood’s former band, Traffic. By the end of their U.S. tour, Clapton had had enough and moved on.
  • The first rehearsals of what would become Blind Faith, with Winwood, and Clapton & Ginger Baker, both from Cream, occurred just 9 weeks after Cream disbanded, despite Clapton’s promise to Cream bassist Jack Bruce that if any of the three members played again together all three would be involved.
  • The version of Presence in the video below, was performed before their album was even released, and Clapton was very unhappy with the concert, feeling that the band had not had enough time to rehearse.

So, ironically, all this talk of brevity and it’s taken me this long to get to what put the “video” in this installment of Video Fridays.

Enjoy the music, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Jeff Tweedy & Stephen Colbert

tweedy-colbertAfter my depressing post this morning, I thought I’d lighten things up, WAY up, with this sweet clip from last night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for this week’s Video Fridays installment.

I’ve been a HUGE fan of Jeff Tweedy, since his days in Uncle Tupelo, through his over 20 years in Wilco, and through his various side projects, which I’ve mentioned in multiple posts over the years here at Fish & Bicycles, and one of the many things that I like about him is that his soft, vulnerable side has been a major recurring element in his music, making him and his music eminently relatable.

Even though these are two grown men in this video clip, I couldn’t help thinking back to when I used to read stories and sing to my son, now 18-years old, at bedtime.

Having an 18-year old is a grieving process, their time living at home with you is winding down, nest departure is inevitable and nearing day by day. We may want them to stay until it’s two grown men doing bedtime together, but that’s just not the way the world works.

Happy Weekend, everyone.

Video Fridays: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Airplane's Paul Kantner At Altamont

Wow, January’s been one helluva month for deaths of musicians and entertainers that I’ve admired, so much so that I haven’t been able to keep up and post my reactions.

I managed to mark the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but then came Glenn Frey of the The Eagles (not someone I was a big fan of, but a ubiquitous figure who inspired a lot of people to listen to and make music); the lovable actor Abe Vigoda (this time, for sure), cuz face it, who didn’t love him as Fish?; and now, sadly…

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame.

Kanter, and Jefferson Airplane more generally, were — along with other favorites of mine, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and others — part of the extraordinary late 1960s San Francisco music scene, a scene that produced music of incredibly raw, wild, psychedelic power, thoroughly reflective of the explosive counterculture of the period.

Kanter was an archetypal rhythm guitarist, eschewing the spotlight that lead guitar players naturally attract in favor of playing an essential supportive role. Indeed he, along with a handful of other players, were my inspiration for becoming a rhythm guitarist myself.

One of the first vinyl LP records that I ever owned was the 1970 compilation, with its wonderfully ironic title, The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane, given to me in the mid 1970s by a cousin determined to rescue me from Top 40 music.

Though I listened to the album when I got it, the rescue ended up taking a few years. Eventually, after revisiting the record several years later, it was obvious just how fantastic the music was and how much better it was, by magnitudes, in comparison to most of what was popular at that time.

So, thanks, Paul Kantner, for all of the amazing music, for inspiring me as a musician, and for singing about revolution, still relevant to me today, as the candidate I’m supporting for President of the United States is calling for a non-violent political revolution.

Video Fridays: David Bowie

david-bowieSince I learned of David Bowie‘s passing earlier this week, besides writing an obituary post for him, I’ve been, naturally, listening to a lot of his music.

I started with and keep coming back to his last album, Blackstar, released just a few days before he died.

After my first time through the album, an admittedly less than focused listen, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, or whether or not I liked it much.

Some music, when I first hear it, I love it instantly, but some, arguably the best music, demands that you listen more closely, repeatedly, so as to unlock its secrets.

Now, having given Blackstar the time it deserves, I can honestly say that it is extraordinary; alternately haunting and beautiful and mostly both at the same time, especially when you consider that Bowie was dying when he made it and is gone now.

Additionally, songs like ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore and Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) bring to mind Bowie’s edgier side, replete with raw, uncensored scenes from the darker corners of life.

Since it came out, I’d heard about the following selection for this week’s Video Fridays installment, the video for the Blackstar track Lazarus, I heard it was rather creepy, but I was hesitant to watch it, because I tend to avoid creepy things.

Anyway, now I have watched it, and it has shaken me, as of course it was intended to, as of course it should. And yet, it’s achingly moving and beautiful.

It is classic Bowie. Brave and unique.