Labor Songs

This One's for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010Today, the first of three Labor-Day-themed posts.  Here’s a mix of songs about work.  And, yes, I’m aware that many other songs that could be included here — I came up with enough additional songs to fill a second CD, and then some.  Since much of this blog is devoted to children’s literature, I should also note here that a couple of the songs later in this mix have lyrics that include obscenity (mostly f-bombs): I’m thinking specifically of Cake’s “Nugget” and Cam’ron’s “My Job.”  To begin the mix, here’s a song from the start of the Great Depression….

This One’s for the Workers: Labor Songs, 1929-2010

1)     How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?  Blind Alfred Reed (1929)      3:12

Probably the best-known song by West Virginia singer, songwriter and fiddler Blind Alfred Reed (1880-1956).  Ry Cooder recorded it on his self-titled debut album (1970), and Bruce Spingsteen recorded a revised version of it for the reissue of his We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (subtitled American Land Edition in this version).  Springsteen retained only the first verse from Reed’s original; new verses address the failed government response to Hurricane Katrina.

2)     Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?  Bing Crosby (1932)      3:15

To give you a sense of how popular this song was, two versions were hit singles in 1932 — one recorded by Crosby and the other by Rudy Vallee.  With music by Jay Gorney, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg’s lyrics tell of working people abandoned by the country they helped to build, and for which they fought.  During the third year of the Great Depression, the message resonated with the public. Harburg may be better-remembered today for “Over the Rainbow” (and other songs from the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz), “Old Devil Moon” (and other songs from the musical Finian’s Rainbow), or for “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but this is one of his most powerful lyrics.

3)     Talking Union  The Almanac Singers (1941)      3:06

Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell — the Almanac Singers — recorded this song for their second record, Talking Union (1941; re-released with additional songs, 1955).  Written by Seeger, Hays, and Lampell, the song uses a “talking blues” style later adopted by Bob Dylan.

4)     Farmer-Labor Train  Woody Guthrie (1948)      2:51

An idol of Bob Dylan and sometime member of the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) here sings in support of Henry Wallace, Progressive Party candidate for President in 1948.  As the liner notes to Hard Travelin’: The Asch Recordings Vol. 3 (on which this song appears) tell us, Guthrie “was certain that if farmers and laborers joined together they could elect Wallace; they didn’t.”  Guthrie is best-remembered today for his “This Land Is Your Land.”  Of songwriting, he once said:

I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built. I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.

5)     Get a Job  The Silhouettes (1958)      2:27

A #1 hit in 1958, the Silhouettes‘ “Get a Job” has an upbeat sound that masks the more serious subject matter — unemployment.  As the song’s protagonist says, his girl is “tellin’ me that I’m lyin’ about a job that I never could find.”  The band Sha Na Na took its name from the backing vocal.

6)     Chain Gang  Sam Cooke (1960)      2:34

Another pop hit (#2 on the U.S. pop charts), this one about prison labor.  Written by Cooke (1931-1964), the song is said to be inspired by his encounter with a chain gang.  Cooke’s biggest hits — “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “You Send Me” — tend to address more conventional pop-music subjects.  But “Chain Gang” and the posthumously released “A Change Is Gonna Come” display Cooke’s social conscience.

7)     Them That Got  Ray Charles (1960)      2:50

Co-written by Ray Charles and Ricci Harper, “Them That Got” features a tenor sax solo by David “Fathead” Newman.  The song reached #10 on the R&B charts and #58 on the pop charts.

8)     Maggie’s Farm  Bob Dylan (1965)      3:54

“He hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime. / He asks you with a grin if you’re having a good time. / And he fines you every time you slam the door.”  From Dylan‘s album Bringing It All Back Home.

9)     Working in the Coal Mine  Lee Dorsey (1966)      2:51

Co-written by Dorsey and Alvin Toussaint, “Working in a Coal Mine” was Dorsey’s second top-10 hit and remains his best-known song.

10)  When Will We Be Paid  The Staple Singers (1970)      2:39

The Staple Singers ask when African-Americans will be paid for their contributions to the United States.  From the group’s We’ll Get Over.

11)  Gonna Be an Engineer  Peggy Seeger (1970)      4:31

The half-sister of Pete Seeger and an accomplished folksinger and songwriter herself, Peggy Seeger sings of how gender discrimination prevents women from getting the jobs (and salaries) they seek.  Compelling narrative, strong message.

12)  Career Opportunities  The Clash (1977)      1:55

Joe Strummer sings about jobs he doesn’t want to do.  “Career opportunities are the ones that never knock. / Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock.”  Co-written by Strummer and Mick Jones (who actually had worked a government job opening letters to make sure they didn’t contain bombs), the song appears on the Clash’s self-titled debut album.

13)  9 to 5  Dolly Parton (1980)      3:01

One of Dolly Parton’s three #1 country hits in 1980, this was also a #1 pop hit that year.  It inspired the successful film of the same name — which starred Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin.

14)  The World Turned Upside Down  Billy Bragg (1985)      2:34

Bragg covers Leon Rosselson’s song about the Diggers, English agrarians (1649-1650) who sought to establish a more egalitarian society whose members could farm the common land for their mutual benefit.

15)  Heigh-Ho (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song)  Tom Waits (1988)      3:36

In his cover version, Waits recasts the song as a minor-key lament, reminding us that those dwarves in Snow White were in fact miners. And mining is a tough job.  From Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.

16)  More Than a Paycheck  Sweet Honey in the Rock (1988)      3:57

The African-American a cappella group delivers a beautiful, incisive song about jobs that endanger the worker’s health.  From Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Breaths.

17)  I Love My Boss  Moxy Früvous (1990)      3:04

One of the greatest bands of the 1990s perform a song from their The B Album (1996), a collection of b-sides & rarities.  These guys were truly fantastic live.

18)  Job Application  Meryn Cadell (1992)      1:25

From Cadell’s Angel Food for Thought, which featured “The Sweater” — a top-40 hit in Canada, and a college radio hit in the U.S.

19)  The Ghost of Tom Joad  Bruce Springsteen (1995)      4:27

Inspired by John Ford’s film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (novel, 1939; film, 1940), Springsteen‘s song paraphrases Tom Joad’s speech near the end of the film.  Joad, played by Henry Fonda, says:  “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too.”

20)  Nugget  Cake (1996)      3:58

“They cut you from their bloated budgets like sharpened knives through Chicken McNuggets.”  From Cake‘s Fashion Nugget.

21)  We Do the Work  Jon Fromer (2000)      2:46

According to Classic Labor Songs (Smithsonian Folkways, on which this song appears), “Californian Jon Fromer has spent a career working in television and radio.  He is an active officer of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Communications Workers of America…. He is a member of the Freedom Song Network, an organization of San-Francisco-area musicians dedicated to social change.”

22)  Worker’s Song  Dropkick Murphys (2003)      3:32

The song from which this mix takes its title.  Appears on the Dropkick Murphys’ Blackout.

23)  My Job  Cam’ron (2009)      3:47

From Cam’ron’s Crime Pays.

24)  Low Light Low Life  P.O.S. feat. Dessa (2009)      3:15

“It’s the flight of the salesman, death of the bumblebee, nothing left for the attorneys and the tumbleweeds.” A song about the Great Recession, featuring a rap from one of the best lyricists working today: Dessa.

25)  Money  Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (2010)      3:22

“Money. Where have you gone?”  On I Learned the Hard Way, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings contribute another song to the music of the Great Recession.

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Wordplay: A Mix About Language

Wordplay: A Mix About LanguageIn North America, those of us who are teachers or students are thinking about school.  In August and September, the summer holidays end, and a new term begins.  To commemorate (or commiserate?) this season last year, I posted Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom: A Back-to-School Mix.  This year, I’m posting a mix about language.  Enjoy!

1)     The New A B C  Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (1959)      3:06

Leading the mix itself and its “ABC” section (which concludes with track 7), it’s the vocalese trio of Dave Lambert (1917-1966), Jon Hendricks (b. 1921), and Annie Ross (b. 1930).  From their album Lambert, Hendricks & Ross! (a.k.a. The Hottest New Group in Jazz!).

2)     ABC-DEF-GHI  Big Bird (1970)      1:48

On Sesame Street, Big Bird (voiced by Carroll Spinney) tries to pronounce the alphabet as a single, 26-letter word.  From Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music.

3)     African Alphabet  Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit the Frog (1991)      1:51

In another one from Sesame Street, the voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo join Kermit the Frog (voiced by Jim Henson).  This song can also be found on Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music.

4)     Alphabet of Nations  They Might Be Giants (2005)      1:27

“West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe!” They Might Be Giants’ alphabetical trip around the world, from their second children’s album, Here Come the ABC’s.  If I weren’t restricting myself to one song per artist, I would definitely include other TMBG songs in this mix.

5)     “A” – You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song)  Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae (1949)      2:25

I don’t know much about Gordon MacRae, but Jo Stafford was a popular vocalist in the 1940s and 1950s.  With husband Paul Weston, she was also half of the deliberately off-key comedy duo Jonathan and Darlene Edwards.  This song appears on the compilation Small Fry: Capitol Sings Kids’ Songs for Grown-Ups.

6)     Alligators All Around  Carole King (1975)      1:54

From King’s great collaboration with Maurice Sendak, Really Rosie — an animated TV special that first aired on CBS in 1975.

7)     Crazy ABCs  Barenaked Ladies (2008)      3:49

Steven Page mocks Ed Robertson’s attempts to write a new alphabet song.  Appears on Snack Time!, the first BNL children’s record. Word is that the group (now sans Page) is working on a second children’s record.

8)     Dictionary  Muckafurgason (2004)      2:14

Having concluded the “ABC” section of the mix, we turn to the dictionary, courtesy of New York trio Muckfurgason.

9)     The Books I Like to Read  Frances England (2006)      2:13

“These are the books I like to read / Because reading suits me. / With every page I turn, the pictures coma alive.  / Imagination takes what’s possible to new heights.”  And the song name-checks both Harold and the Purple Crayon and Green Eggs and Ham!  From Frances England‘s Fascinating Creatures.

10)  A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing  Lynn Ahrens (1973)      2:57

The first of 6 songs from Schoolhouse Rock on this mix.  Since I encounter students (yes, college students) who do not know what a noun is, I often wish that these were still airing during Saturday morning cartoons.

11)  C Is for Cookie  Cookie Monster (1973)      1:29

“Hey, you know what? A round cookie with one bite out of it looks like a ‘C.’ A round doughnut with one bite of it also looks like a ‘C.’ But it is not as good as a cookie. Oh, and the moon sometimes looks like a ‘C,’ but you can’t eat that.”  Words of wisdom from the Cookie Monster.  The song appears on Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music, and (I expect) on many other compilations.

12)  Silent E  Tom Lehrer (1972)      1:31

One of several songs that Lehrer did for Sesame Street. Available as a bonus track on Tom Lehrer Revisited.

13)  All Together Now  The Beatles (1969)      2:11

This always sounded to me a bit like a combination of a nursery rhyme and a reading primer. From the end of Yellow Submarine, where the Beatles appear on screen and talk to the audience:

14)  Onomatopoeia  Todd Rundgren (1978)      1:35

From Rundgren’s Hermit of Mink Hollow.

15)  The Noise Song  Tex Ritter (1953)      1:48

Putting onomatopoeia into practice, Mr. Tex Ritter tells us all about noises — those made by cows, pigs, ducks, sheep, railroad trains,… even college boys.

16)  Tonguetwisters  Danny Kaye (1951)      2:17

Though I expect this song appears on more than one compilation, it appears here via the 3-CD set The Great Danny Kaye.  Can anyone sing this lyric at the pace that Kaye does?  I doubt it.

17)  Tip of My Tongue  Fatcat & Fishface (2008)      2:41

Appears on the New Zealand group‘s album Dogbreath, and again on the compilation The Bestest and Horriblest.

18)  Wordplay  Jason Mraz (2005)      3:09

Cheerful pop from Jason Mraz.  Appears on the album Mr. A-Z.

19)  A Word a Day  Phil Silvers & Rose Marie (1952)      3:32

A song of malapropisms, a term named for Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals (1775).  This particular song, however, is from a different play — the Broadway musical Top Banana (1952), with music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer and book by Hy Kraft.

20)  The Ballad of William Archibald Spooner  Logan Whitehurst & the Junior Science Club (2006)      0:55

From Logan Whitehurst’s final record (Very Tiny Songs, completed just before he passed away), a tribute to the man who gave us the term “Spoonerism.”

21)  Bob  “Weird Al” Yankovic (2003)      2:29

A Dylanesque tribute to palindromes or a palindromic tribute to Dylan?  Either way, the results are funny.  From Yankovic‘s Poodle Hat.

22)  Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla  Jack Sheldon (1976)      3:00

The second Schoolhouse Rock number on this mix addresses pronouns.  Actor, jazz trumpeter, and singer, Jack Sheldon also sang the Schoolhouse Rock numbers “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill.”

23)  Green Eggs and Ham  Moxy Früvous (1992)      3:45

From the band’s debut — a 6-song cassette.  This Canadian quartet were my favorite group of the 1990s.  Their live shows were something to behold. Below, an example of their improvisational stage shows. The song itself starts at around 4:30.  Warning to our underage listeners: in the live performance below, Jian Ghomeshi drops a bunch of F-bombs at around 7:40 or so.  The audio-only version (above) is clean.

24)  Mother Goose Étude #6  F’loom (1998)      1:20

From the band‘s self-titled debut album.

25)  Nursery Rhyme Rock  Wynona Carr (1956)      1:59

Gospel, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll — Carr sang it all.  This is from a collection titled Jump Jack Jump!

26)  The House That Jack Built  Aretha Franklin (1968)      2:21

Continuing the nursery rhyme theme, here’s a #6 pop hit for Aretha Franklin.  The B-side of “Say a Little Prayer,” the song appears on 30 Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1985).

27)  School Days (When We Were Kids)  Louis Jordan (1949)      2:34

The jump blues of Louis Jordan (and others) helped create the sound that would become known as “rock ‘n’ roll.”  From The Best of Louis Jordan (MCA Records, 1975), a solid single-CD collection of his work.

28)  Patty Cake, Patty Cake (Baker Man)  Fats Waller and His Rhythm (1938)      3:16

The final song in our “nursery rhyme” sequence appears on A Good Man Is Hard to Find: The Middle Years Part Two (1938-1940).  One in Bluebird/RCA’s fantastic series of Fats Waller CDs — now, alas, out of print.

29)  Maroon  Ken Nordine (1966)      1:40

The song for which Barenaked Ladies named their 2000 album appears on Ken Nordine’s spoken-word/jazz classic, Colors.  I’ve placed it here because, like nursery rhymes and playground chants, the song is as much about the sound of words as what they mean.  And, linking us to the next song, the theme of the record is Nordine trying to describe colors — the sort of task for which one might want to unpack some adjectives….

30)  Unpack Your Adjectives  Blossom Dearie (1975)      3:01

The mix concludes with four Schoolhouse Rock songs.  I generally don’t like to use so many songs from the same record (in this case, a 4-CD set), but since each track is performed by a different artist, I’ve given myself a pass here.  Here, the late Blossom Dearie — of “Peel Me a Grape” fame — teaches us about the adjective.

31)  Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here  Bob Dorough (1974)      3:02
Bob Dorough — who had previously worked with Miles Davis on “Blue Christmas (To Whom It May Concern)” — sang (and wrote) a number of Schoolhouse Rock songs, including “Three Is a Magic Number.”

32)  Verb: That’s What’s Happening  Zachary Sanders (1974)      3:00
“A verb tells it like it is.” In addition to teaching us about verbs, this cartoon features an African-American superhero — not a common sight on television either in the early 1970s or today.  Zachary Sanders also sang the Schoolhouse Rock song “Electricity, Electricity.”

33)  Interjections!  Essra Mohawk (1974)      3:01
“Darn! That’s the end.”  Essra Mohawk also sang the Schoolhouse Rock song “Sufferin’ Til Suffrage.”

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What You Need: 9 Lost Songs from the 1980s

They were hits.  They were available on vinyl.  But you can’t buy them now.  They’re unavailable on CD or in digital form.  Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix),” Opus’s “Live Is Life,” the English version of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” (“99 Red Balloons”), the English version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home),” the American Version of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” Blue Clocks Green’s “Hemingway.”

I have most of these on vinyl (photos below are from my collection unless otherwise indicated).  But the audio comes from persons unknown who have shared the sound files.  For the record (pun! pun!), I don’t condone piracy: I’ll only seek a “bootleg” copy of song if it’s unavailable commercially.  As always, if you are the owner or if you represent the owners of this material, just ask and I’ll take it down.

Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes" 12-inch

In Your Eyes (Special Mix) Peter Gabriel (1986)

Let’s start with the best unavailable song: Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix)” (1986).  Here is an 8:20 version, which is longer than the 7:14 on my 12-inch. With the exception of the extra minute, both of these versions are very similar in that they’re a vastly different version of Gabriel’s original — a new arrangement, with much more of Youssou N’Dour’s vocal.

Nena, "99 Red Balloons" ("99 Luftballons"): single cover

The 7:14 version is also available as a b-side to the original single.

99 Red Balloons Nena (1984)

Nena‘s original “99 Luftballons” (in German) can be found on the CD of the same name, along with a remix of “99 Red Balloons” (in English) — but, oddly, the original English version is not to be had.

Video (English):

Video (German):

Out of Mind Out of Sight Models (1986)

Perhaps this can be had in Australia (the band’s home), but it’s out of print here in the States.  At the time, I liked the song (I own the original 45) even if it sounded a bit like an INXS knock-off.  Now, however, this Models song sounds like a lost INXS classic. Time has shifted my aesthetic evaluation, or perhaps I was unfair to the song when it was first out. The video (below) reflects fashions I would have thought were hip in the 1980s and which now look like… they were hip in the 1980s. Um, yeah.

What You Need (Extended Vocal Mix) INXS (1985)

The Australian rock stars just before they became superstars.  From the 12” of “What You Need,” here’s a very 1980s remix by Nick Launay.  I enjoyed it just as much as the original version, which was a top #5 hit in the U.S.  It (the original) appears on INXS‘s Listen Like Thieves. The title track only made it to #54 on the U.S. pop charts, but their next album would yield four top ten singles in the US.  That record was, of course, Kick.

Opus, "Live Is Life" singleLive Is Life Opus (1985)

A big hit in Europe, and a smaller hit in the U.S. — made top 40 over here, but Opus‘s song topped the charts in France, Germany, Sweden.

Major Tom (Coming Home) Peter Schilling (1983)

Like Nena’s hit, the German version of Peter Schilling‘s song is readily available.  The English version is not.  A sequel to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (1969) and “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), “Major Tom (Coming Home)” appears on Schilling’s record Error in the System.

Hemingway Blue Clocks Green (1988)

Blue Clocks Green‘s song was on college radio, and (I think) a club hit.  A cheerful “new wave” pop tune with a dark lyric about Hemingway’s suicide.

Blue Clocks Green, "Hemingway" 12-inch

Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Version Short) Falco (1985)

This is the closest to the “American Version” of Falco‘s song that I can find — it’s about a minute and a half longer, but it includes the spoken-word narrative of major events in Mozart’s life, and the other elements of the American release.  And, yes, the video is as ridiculous as the song.

Walk This Way (Instrumental) RUN-DMC with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (1985)

The b-side to the 12” single, this is not strictly instrumental.  It’s absent RUN-DMC’s vocals but does include Steven Tyler’s vocal.  On the original record, the inner groove had just the beats.  So, when the needle reached the end, it simply repeated those beats endlessly.

RUN-DMC, "Walk This Way" 12-inch

And who can forget the video?

Well, that was fun.  Perhaps, in another post, I’ll share other forgotten (but still available) music from the 1980s: Big Pig, Royal Crescent Mob, Toni Childs, David & David, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Red Rider, and so many others….

Image credits: from my record collection except for Nena (Wikipedia).

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Summertime: The Box Set

Happy First Day of Summer!  Here’s a “Summertime” box set.  I will now take your questions.

Q: Are there good “summer” songs omitted from these four mixes?

A: Yes, of course there are.  I came up with an additional 133 songs that I did not use.

Q: Will you assemble more mixes including those songs?

A: If I had world enough and time,… I would.  But….  [Long pause.]  Yes — the young man in beige?

Q: Beyond “Summertime,” does each mix have any additional theme or mood?

A: Yes.  The first three are all uptempo.  The fourth is more midtempo, even quiet, and contains the highest proportion of melancholic songs.  So, if you want something a little more calm, head for the fourth one.

Summertime, vol. 1: Let’s Get Away from It All

Summertime 1: Let's Get Away from It All1)     In the Summertime Mungo Jerry (1970)      3:33

Named for a line in a T.S. Eliot poem, this band had its biggest hit with this song.  Shaggy also recorded a hit version of this in the mid-1990s

2)     Heat Wave Ethel Waters with Bunny Berigan, trumpet; Benny Goodman, clarinet (1933)      3:03

Written by Irving Berlin for the musical As Thousands Cheer, where it was performed by the great Ethel Waters — whom you hear in this recording, backed by Bunny Berigan and Benny Goodman.

3)     (Love Is Like A) Heatwave Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (1963)      2:43

Composed by the crack songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland Jr., this song was a top ten hit in 1963.

4)     Summer in the City The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)      2:43

A #1 hit for the Lovin’ Spoonful.

5)     Vacation The Go-Go’s (1982)      3:00

“Now that I’m away, / I wish I’d stayed.”  The title track to the Go-Go’s second album.

6)     Holiday Vampire Weekend (2010)      2:18

“To go away on a summer’s day never seemed so clear.” From Vampire Weekend’s Contra.

7)     Island in the Sun Weezer (2001)      3:20

“We’ll never feel bad anymore.”  From Weezer [The Green Album].

8)     Let’s Get Away From It All Gene Krupa with Anita O’Day and band, vocals (1941)            3:08

“Let’s take a kayak / To Quincy or Nyack” or, no, “Let’s take a powder / To Boston for Chowder.”  Love the couplets, and the band’s shouted responses to Anita O’Day’s vocals.  “Let’s take a trip to Niagara. / This time we’ll look at the falls.” Band replies: “What? No romance?”

9)     A Mid-80s Lower-middle Class Family Summer Road Trip The Very Most (2010)      4:17

From A Year with the Very Most.

10)  Hot Fun in the Summer Time Sly & The Family Stone (1969)      2:38

A #2 hit from the summer of 1969.

11)  I Wanna Be a Lifeguard blotto (1980)      4:15

I first heard this song on the Dr. Demento Show.  MTV also played it, back in the early days of the network.

12)  Rockaway Beach Ramones (1977)      2:05

Ramones’ homage to the Beach Boys.  See also “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”

13)  Surfin’ U.S.A. The Beach Boys (1963)      2:29

The Beach Boys’ first mega hit borrows its melody from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

14)  Magic The Cars (1984)      4:00

“It’s like a merry-go-round.’  Also, “Twisted under sideways down.”  Indeed.  Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange.  Below, the deeply silly video.  Enjoy!

15)  Summerfling k.d. lang (2000)      4:16

From lang’s Invincible Summer.

16)  Jogging Gorgeous Summer Islands (2006)      2:48

From Islands’ Return to the Sea.

17)  Girls in Their Summer Clothes Bruce Springsteen (2007)      4:19

From Springsteen’s Magic.

18)  It Must Be Summer Fountains of Wayne (1999)      3:19

“And the sun keeps shining ’til it’s dead and gone. / And it must be summer ’cause I can’t go on.”  Power pop with melancholic lyrics. Fountains of Wayne’s new record, Sky Full of Holes, is due out later this summer.

19)  The Other Side of Summer Elvis Costello (1991)      3:56

“I feel glad in my own suspicious way.”

20)  Cruel Summer Bananarama (1984)      3:37

In the U.S., this song and their cover of “Venus” were this group’s biggest hits, but they had more chart success in their native U.K.

21)  Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran (1958)      1:59

Covered by T. Rex, Blue Cheer, and many others — but here’s the original.  For a guy who only lived to be 21 years old, Eddie Cochran had a remarkable impact on popular music.  In particular, check out his “Somethin’ Else,” “C’mon Everybody,” and “Nervous Breakdown.”

22)  Sunny Afternoon The Kinks (1966)      3:34

Ray Davies, adopting the persona of a petulant millionaire.  A #1 U.K. hit, and a #14 U.S. hit.

23)  Sunshine Atmosphere (2007)      3:37

“Feelin alright, stopped at a stop sign / A car pulled up, bumpin’ Fresh Prince’s ‘Summertime.’”

24)  Summertime DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)      4:32

Borrowing Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (a.k.a. Will Smith) score their final and biggest hit.

Summertime, vol. 2: Good Vibrations

Summertime 2: Good Vibrations1)     Why Does the Sun Shine? Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans (1959)      2:41

You’ve probably heard They Might Be Giants’ cover of this, but have you heard the original?  It appears on Space Songs, one of several educational records Tom Glazer cut in the late 1950s.

2)     Why Does the Sun Really Shine? They Might Be Giants (2009)      1:52

Turns out scientists now know more about how the sun works.  For their album Here Comes Science, They Might Be Giants updates “Why Does the Sun Shine?”

3)     Summer Sun Koop (2001)      3:48

From the Swedish duo Koop.  Appears on their album, Waltz for Koop.

4)     Blue Skies Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (1941)      3:18

Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

5)     Good Day Sunshine The Beatles (1966)      2:10

“I take a walk, the sun is shining down. / Burns my feet as they touch the ground.” From Revolver.

6)     It’s a Sunshine Day The Brady Bunch (1972)      2:32

“Can’t you dig the sunshine?” This ersatz pop group perform this song on a talent show (on their own hit TV series, The Brady Bunch), and place third. Hmm.  I guess the judges had no appreciation for camp.

7)     Automatically Sunshine Swan Dive (2002)      3:45

From the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder (a.k.a. Swan Dive), a bit of happy summer pop.  I knew Bill when I lived in Nashville.  He once made me an incredible mix tape of Italian film soundtrack music.  Someday, I should try to recreate it on CD — it was (and remains) one of my favorite mixes.

8)     Mambo Sun T.Rex (1971)      3:41

The opening track from Electric Warrior, the record that brought you “Bang a Gong (Get It On).”

9)     Blister in the Sun Nouvelle Vague (2009)      3:12

Love the ESL nonsensical lyrics in this — a cover of the first track from the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut.

10)  Too Darn Hot Ella Fitzgerald (1956)      3:51

From Ella Fitzgerald’s The Cole Porter Songbook, Vol. 1 — which I recommend to any fans of Fitzgerald or Porter.

11)  Some Like It Hot The Power Station (1985)      5:05

This “supergroup” (the late Robert Palmer, Chic’s Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran’s John Taylor and Andy Taylor) also had a hit with a cover of T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong.”

12)  Summertime Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (1999)      2:10

With music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, this song from Porgy and Bess gets a punk make-over.  This version appears on Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ Are a Drag — all covers of show tunes.

13)  Here Comes the Summer The Undertones (1979)      1:43

Punk legends who really should be better known than they are.  If you’ve never heard their “Teenage Kicks,” you’ll want to go and listen to it.  Now.

14)  Ice Cream Man John Brim (1953)      2:49

I’m a devotee of cover versions and I’ve heard the Van Halen rendition of this song, but I’ve yet to hear a recording that beats John Brim’s original.  And yes, Mr. Brim is talking about what you think he’s talking about.

15)  Ice Cream The Jolenes (2006)      2:43

Unlike the last song, this one — as far as I’m aware — is just about ice cream.  I mean, I’m aware that one could perform it to bring out other meanings.  But, in this rendition, it sounds quite literal (to me, at any rate).

16)  June-teenth Jamboree Fatso Bentley (1950)      2:02

Juneteenth (celebrated June 19th) commemorates the ending of slavery, and is recognized in most but not all U.S. States.

17)  On Vacation The Robot Ate Me (2004)      3:00

From the album of the same name.

18)  You’re An Ocean Fastball (2000)      3:18

Powerpop from Fastball’s The Harsh Light of Day.

19)  Wipe Out The Surfaris (1963)      2:41

The Surfaris’ biggest hit.

20)  Good Vibrations The Beach Boys (1966)      3:37

Bringing the theremin to rock music!  Yeah!

21)  Soak Up the Sun Sheryl Crow (2002)      3:18

Is Sheryl Crow’s “friend the Communist” (in the first line of this song) the “vending machine repair man” who is “high on intellectualism” (in her “Everyday Is a Winding Road”)?

22)  Sunny Bobby Hebb (1966)      2:49

Such a lovely song from the late Bobby Hebb.

23)  Summer Nights John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John & Cast (1978)            3:37

From the film version of the musical Grease.

24)  Red Hot Moon Rancid (2003)      3:36

“Take the bus downtown to the graveyard shift tonight.” From Rancid Indestructible.

25)  Starless Summer Sky Marshall Crenshaw (1996)      3:25

Known for his sole hit “Someday, Someway,” Crenshaw deserves a larger audience.  By way of introduction, I recommend This Is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw.

26)  Long, Sweet Summer Night The Thorns (2003)      3:15

The Thorns are: Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins.  Or I should say “were” — they did one album (and a tour)… but that’s it.

Summertime, vol. 3: Sunshowers

Summertime 3: Sunshowers1)     Holiday Road Lindsey Buckingham (1983)      2:11

The theme to National Lampoon’s Vacation.

2)     Walking on Sunshine Katrina & the Waves (1985)      4:01

Written by Kimberley Rew, who was also a member of the Soft Boys.

3)     Feel the Sun The Goldbergs (2008)      2:41

Mmmm.  Power pop.  From the Goldbergs’ Under the Radar.

4)     Catch a Wave The Beach Boys (1963)      2:11

From the collection Endless Summer, but originally released on Surfer Girl.

5)     Surf Beat Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962)      3:01

Everyone knows Dick Dale’s version of “Misirlou,” but he cut a number of other great surf rock tunes — such as this one.

6)     Ocean Bonerama (2007)      4:43

Led Zeppelin, as rendered by the trombone-tastic sounds of New Orleans’ Bonerama.

7)     Sunshine Superman Donovan (1966)      4:34

I confess that I debated putting on Mel Torme’s cover of this on instead of Donovan’s original.  It’s just as silly, but Mel knows how to bring the kitsch.

8)     Sunshine Smiles Billie Burke Estate (2005)      2:10

From Give It All Away.

9)     In the Sun She & Him (2010)      2:51

From Volume 2, which is just as great as Volume 1.  Save time: get them both.

10)  Sunshine Paul Westerberg (1996)      2:26

Paul Westerberg covers Jonathan Edwards.  From the Friends soundtrack.

11)  Sunshowers M.I.A. (2004)      3:17

This is the first song I heard by Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A., now best known for her “Paper Planes.” During a visit to Kansas, Scott McCloud introduced me to her work.

12)  Walkin’ on the Sun Smash Mouth (1997)      3:27

The big hit from Fush Yu Mang.

13)  You Dress Up For Armageddon, I Dress For Summer The Hives (2007)            3:10

From The Black and White Album.

14)  Don’t Look Back Into the Sun The Libertines (2003)      2:58

Before Babyshambles and his tabloid fame, Pete Doherty led this band.  Good stuff.

15)  Turn My Back On the Sun Big Star (2005)      2:39

From their reunion record, In Space.  Unless there are unreleased recordings lying around, this is also their last record (frontman Alex Chilton passed away last year).

16)  You’re So Damn Hot OK Go (2002)      2:39

From the band’s self-titled debut album.

17)  Hot Stuff Donna Summer (1979)      5:15

The chart-topping disco hit.

18)  Love’s Crashing Waves Difford & Tilbrook (1984)      3:10

After Squeeze broke up in 1982, Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook cut a record as a duo.  Released in 1984, it’s the “lost” Squeeze album between Sweets from a Stranger (1982) and Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985)

19)  4th of July X (1987)      4:07

From X’s See How We Are.

20)  5 Years Time (Sun Sun Sun) Noah and the Whale (2008)      3:36

The first song I heard by Noah and the Whale, but they’ve many other memorable tunes: “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” and “Tonight’s the Kind of Night” are upbeat, “Blue Skies” is melancholic.

21)  Another Sunny Day Belle & Sebastian (2006)      4:04

“You picked me up for a long drive. / We took the tourist route. / The nights are light until midnight.” From Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit.

22)  Summer Love The Brunettes (2002)      2:31

From the New Zealand pop duo’s debut LP, Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks.

23)  Tropicalia Beck (1998)      3:21

“Now you’ve had your fun / Under an air-conditioned sun.”  From Beck’s Mutations.

24)  Summer Samba (So Nice) [Samba de Verão] Walter Wanderley (1966)            3:07

From Rain Forest.

25)  Ice Cream Truck 0:57

Exactly what it says — the sounds of an ice cream truck.

Summertime, vol. 4: That Summer Feeling

Summertime 4: That Summer Feeling1)     Summer Breeze Seals & Crofts (1972)      3:26

Jasmine is in their minds.  And it is blowing.

2)     The Summer Wind Madeleine Peyroux (2006)      3:55

You probably know Frank Sinatra’s recording, but I prefer this one.  From Peyroux’s Half the Perfect World.

3)     Groovin’ The Young Rascals (1967)      2:32

“Couldn’t get away too soon.”  A #1 hit in 1967.

4)     Ice Cream Song Dynamics (1969)      3:18

“Great God Almighty!”

5)     When the Sun Goes Down Ben Gibbard (2011)      3:20

From the new Arthur soundtrack — one of two contributions by Death Cab front man Ben Gibbard.

6)     Summer Rains The Ditty Bops (2008)      3:20

The Ditty Bops’ new album, Love Letters, is due out soon. It’ll be their first since Summer Rains — the title track of which is represented here.

7)     Have You Ever Seen the Rain? Creedence Clearwater Revival (1971)      2:40

A top ten hit in early 1971, from the Credence album Pendulum (also on Chronicle, of course).

8)     June Hymn The Decemberists (2011)      3:58

“And you were waking / And day was breaking / A panoply of song.” From the band’s latest, The King Is Dead.

9)     4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) Bruce Springsteen (1973)      5:38

From The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle.

10)  Ocean City Girl Ivy (2005)      4:25

From In the Clear, Ivy’s last album.  The group’s new album, All Hours, is due in September.

11)  Sleep All Summer St. Vincent and The National (2009)      4:33

“Give the ocean what I took from you so one day you find it can find it in the sand / And hold it in your hands again.”  From Score!: 20 Years of Merge Records.

12)  Summer’s the Worst Michael Leviton (2006)      3:36

“I’m giving summer just one chance.”  From Leviton’s My Favorite Place to Drown.

13)  That Summer Feeling Jonathan Richman (1983)      6:08

“If you’ve forgotten what I’m naming, / you’re going to long to reclaim it one day, / because that summer feeling’s gonna haunt you one day in your life.”

14)  Summer in the City Regina Spektor (2006)      3:51

From her Begin to Hope.

15)  Once Upon a Summertime The Innocence Mission (2004)      2:13

From the group’s Now the Day Is Over.  Not sure who recorded this song first, but Blossom Dearie cut a version on her album of the same name (1959).

16)  Something Cool June Christy (1953)      4:20

“I don’t ordinarily drink with strangers.  I most usually drink alone. / But you were so awfully nice to ask me, and I’m so terribly far from home.”

17)  Black Hole Sun Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé (1999)      4:35

From the delightful collection of covers, Lounge-a-Palooza.  Does anyone know what Soundgarden thinks of this version?

18)  Don’t Let the Sun Go Down The Living Sisters (2010)      3:36

Beautiful harmonies from Inara George, Eleni Mandell, and Becky Stark.  If you enjoy this track, you’ll enjoy the entire album: Love to Live.

19)  Surf’s Up Brian Wilson (2004)      4:08

In 2004, Wilson finished the legendary Beach Boys Smile record (1966-1967) — parts of which appear on Smiley Smile and on Beach Boys compilations.

20)  Surfboard The Swingle Singers (2003)      2:49

From the group’s album Mood Swings.

21)  La Mer Charles Trenet (1946)      3:20

With new English lyrics by Jack Lawrence, this tune — retitled “Beyond the Sea” — became a hit for Bobby Darin in 1959.  I prefer Charles Trenet’s original.

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Rapture Party Mix

If you’re like me, when you heard that the world would be ending this Saturday, your first thought was: but what music would be appropriate for the occasion?  And, if I were to throw a party, what sort of songs might be on the playlist?  Well, your musical worries are over.  (Do feel free keep worrying about the Rapture, of course.)  Our research teams here at Nine Kinds of Pie have conducted a comprehensive, cursory survey of music to celebrate/commemorate/lament the end.  And we’re pleased to present the results in the following series of seven (yes, seven!) mixes featuring all of your End-of-Times favorites!

Rapture Party I: It’s the End of the World (and I Feel Fine)

Rapture Party I1)     Highway to Hell AC/DC (1979)      3:28

Sinners, this track’s for you!  Or, you know, if you make the pronouns third-person, then it could also be for any of the saved who wish to pass judgment on those left behind.  Title track from the final album to feature lead vocalist Bon Scott.

2)     Hell Squirrel Nut Zippers (1996)      3:13

The band’s biggest hit.  From Hot.

3)     Sympathy for the Devil The Rolling Stones (1968)      6:19

Appears on Beggars Banquet and several hits compilations.

4)     You Dress Up For Armageddon, I Dress For Summer The Hives

(2007)            3:10

Such a difficult choice.  Dress for Armageddon?  Or dress for summer?  The Hives tackle a pressing problem for those about to be raptured.  From The Black and White Album.

5)     It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) R.E.M.

(1987)            4:06

“That’s great.  It starts with an earthquake.  Birds and snakes and airplanes.  And Lenny Bruce is not afraid.”  From Document.

6)     Pretend We’re Dead L7 (1992)      3:55

“They’re neither moral nor majority.”  From Bricks Are Heavy.

7)     I Feel So Good (I Must Be Dead) Maurice King & His Wolverines with Ruby Jackson (vocals) (c. 1949)            2:55

Appears on The Okeh Rhythm and Blues Story 1949-1957.

8)     Birth, School, Work, Death The Godfathers (1987)      4:39

One of the great songs — and great bands — from the 1980s.  They deserve to be better-known.

9)     Can’t Kill Me Twice Slo Leak (1999)      4:14

From When the Clock Strikes 12.

10)  Dead Disco Metric (2003)      3:28

From Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

11)  Life During Wartime (live) Talking Heads (1984)      5:04

“Burned all my notebooks.  What good are notebooks?  They won’t help me survive.”  Below, the band in concert, from Stop Making Sense.

12)  Murder On The Dancefloor Sophie Ellis-Bextor (2002)      3:37

From the single, though the song also appears on the album Read My Lips (2001).

13)  Do the Panic Phantom Planet (2008)      3:34

From Raise the Dead.

14)  Heads Will Roll Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)      3:42

“Dance ’til you’re dead.”  From It’s Blitz!

15)  Zombie Jamboree (Back To Back, Belly To Belly) Charmer (1953)      2:47

Because what would a rapture party be without Louis Farrakhan?  Yes, you read that correctly.  Before becoming a minister in the Nation of Islam, he was a calypso singer who performed under the name “Charmer.”  Appears on The Best of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour vol. 2.

16)  Cemetery Gates The Smiths (1986)      2:39

“They were born, and then they lived, and then they died.”  From The Queen Is Dead.

17)  Bless Me Father The Saw Doctors (1996)      3:34

“You have no idea what you’ve missed.”  Appears on Play It Again Sham!

18)  Sin Wagon Dixie Chicks (1999)      3:41

From Fly.

19)  Original Sin INXS (1984)      3:47

From The Swing.  Features Daryl Hall on backing vocals.

20)  Personal Jesus (7″ Version) Depeche Mode (1989)      3:45

From the 7″.  Original version appears on Violator.

21)  Lost in the World Kanye West feat. Bon Iver (2010)      4:17

From Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Rapture Party II: Sing You Sinners

Rapture Party II1)     Gloria Patti Smith (1975)      5:53

The first track on Horses, and one of the boldest opening lines to any song ever.  So, if you enjoy blasphemy, this song’s for you!  If not, well, then I suppose you can comfort yourself with the surety that Ms. Smith will not be among the elect.

2)     The Diamond Church Street Choir The Gaslight Anthem (2010)      3:12

From American Slang.

3)     Sing You Sinners Erin McKeown (2006)      2:13

From the album of the same name.  Great collection of American standards, including: “Get Happy,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Rhode Island Is Famous for You.”

4)     Have Mercy Loretta Lynn (2004)      2:35

That’s Jack White on guitar.  From Van Lear Rose.

5)     99 Problems DJ Danger Mouse feat. Jay-Z + The Beatles (2004)      4:07

From the brilliant mash-up record, The Grey Album.

6)     Mr. Bad Example Warren Zevon (1991)      3:22

“Well, I started as an altar boy, working at the church / Learning all my holy moves, doing some research / That led me to a cash box labeled ‘children’s fund.’ / I’d leave the change and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund.”  From the album of the same name.

7)     Run on for a Long Time The Blind Boys of Alabama (2001)      3:24

“God Almighty’s gonna cut you down.”  From Spirit of the Century.

8)     Runnin’ with the Devil Van Halen (1978)      3:37

From the band’s self-titled debut.

9)     The Devil Went Down to Scunthorpe Toy Dolls (1997)      3:28

Purists should feel free to substitute the Charlie Daniels Band’s original here.  I’ve chosen the Toy Dolls’ cover because it’s harder-edged, and fits better between Van Halen and All Time Low.

10)  Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t) All Time Low (2009)      3:11

From the single.  Also appears on Nothing Personal.

11)  Temptation Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1980)      2:34

From Get Happy!!

12)  Get Back Temptation Ollabelle (2004)      2:51

From the band’s self-titled debut.

13)  Ya Got Trouble Robert Preston & The Ensemble (1962)      3:59

From The Music Man, one of the greatest musicals ever written.  If you’ve not seen it, do get your hands on a copy — starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Ron Howard.

14)  You’re the Kind of Trouble The Holmes Brothers (2010)      3:46

From Feed My Soul.

15)  I’m a Believer The Monkees (1966)      2:47

Written by Neil Diamond, and a #1 hit for the group.  Appears on More of the Monkees (1967) and various hits collections.

16)  I Believe in a Thing Called Love The Darkness (2003)      3:37

From Permission to Land.

17)  God Put a Smile on Your Face Mark Ronson featuring the Daptone Horns (2007)            3:13

No, you may not substitute Coldplay’s original for this cover version.  The power of the Daptone Horns are here to save you.  Yes, you!   Appears on the Stop Me EP.

18)  Livin’ on a Prayer Bon Jovi (1986)      4:12

From the band’s breakthrough record, Slippery When Wet.

19)  Like a Prayer The Rondelles (2001)      2:45

A punkier version of the Madonna song.  From Shined Nickels and Loose Change.

20)  Die Another Day (Radio Edit) Madonna (2002)      3:30

Theme from the James Bond film.

21)  People Who Died Jim Carroll (1980)      4:59

“They were all friends of mine.  And they died.”  From Catholic Boy.

22)  Straight to Hell The Clash (1982)      5:33

From the final studio album (Combat Rock) because, well, no one — not even the band — counts Cut the Crap.  And, yes, this is the song that M.I.A. samples on “Paper Planes” (2007)


Rapture Party III: Don’t Believe the Hype

Rapture Party III1)     Paul Is Dead [Radio Report] (1969)      0:18

2)     Live and Let Die Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)      3:13

Themes from James Bond films appear to be a theme here.

3)     Last Night I Nearly Died Duke Special (2006)      3:49

From Songs from the Deep Forest.

4)     Heaven Must Have Sent You The Elgins (1971)      2:33

Appears on The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11B: 1971

5)     Just Like Heaven The Cure (1987)      3:33

From Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.

6)     Blue Heaven The Pogues (1989)      3:36

From Peace and Love.

7)     (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes Elvis Costello (1977)      2:48

From Mr. Costello’s stunning debut record, My Aim Is True.

8)     Angels Of Destruction Marah (2008)      3:16

From the album of the same name.

9)     The Devil Is An Angel Janiva Magness (2010)      3:09

From The Devil Is An Angel Too.

10)  Devil Inside INXS (1987)      5:16

From the band’s best-selling Kick.

11)  Soul Meets Body Death Cab for Cutie (2005)      3:51

From Plans.

12)  Praise You FatBoy Slim (1999)      5:24

Featuring Camille Yarborough on vocals.

13)  Respect Yourself The Staple Singers (1971)      4:55

The song that inspired Maddona’s “Express Yourself,” which in turn inspired Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”  A few months back, I shared a few thoughts on this lineage… and other songs that borrow.

14)  Don’t Believe the Hype Public Enemy (1988)      5:19

From the second studio album by PE: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

15)  Unplug This Armageddon B-Side Players (2007)      4:01

Wait… you mean we can just unplug this?  Excellent!  From the band’s Fire in the Youth.

16)  (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go Curtis Mayfield (1970)      3:28

Appears on the compilation What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves.

17)  Sheep Go to Heaven Cake (1998)      4:45

… and “goats go to Hell.”  From the band’s third record, Prolonging the Magic.

18)  Only the Good Die Young Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2008)      2:47

Covering Billy Joel.  From the all-star punk cover band’s seventh full-length LP, Have Another Ball.

19)  One Foot in the Grave Pernice Brothers (2003)      3:15

From Yours, Mine & Ours.

20)  Sukie in the Graveyard Belle & Sebastian (2006)      3:00

From The Life Pursuit.

21)  Rapture Blondie (1980)      5:37

From Blondie’s Autoamerican. Below, the video. With cameo appearances from Fab Five Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Rapture” was the first rap video to air on MTV.

22)  Kiss Me, Son Of God They Might Be Giants (1988)      1:53

“I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage called the blood of the exploited working class.”  From TMBG’s second album, Lincoln.


Rapture Party IV: Saturday Night Is Dead

Rapture Party IV1)     Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) The The (1989)      5:41

From Mind Bomb.

2)     The Armageddon Slide Greg Camp (2008)      3:14

If this song sounds a bit like Smash Mouth, that’s because Greg Camp was the band’s guitarist and principle songwriter.  From Defektor.

3)     Devils and Angels Toby Lightman (2004)      3:55

From Little Things.

4)     That’s How You Got Killed Before Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Elvis Costello (1990)            3:15

“I’m just trying to tell you….”  From the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s New Orleans Album.

5)     Saturday Nite Is Dead Graham Parker & The Rumour (1979)      3:17

“It don’t matter what they said.  I’m going to the funeral Sunday.”  From the classic Squeezing Out Sparks.

6)     Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting Elton John (1973)      4:08

First appears on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

7)     Police On My Back The Clash (1980)      3:17

“I’ve been running Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  What have I done?  What I have I done?”  The Clash covers the Equals.  From Sandinista!

8)     Karma Police Radiohead (1997)      4:24

“This is what you get when you mess with us.”  From the band’s OK Computer.

9)     Wages of Sin The Proclaimers (2009)      4:28

The group that taught us how to “haver” (in their hit “500 Miles”) hopes and prays “that the wages of sin aren’t due today”: “I need few more years to build up the credit side.”  From Notes & Rhymes.

10)  It’s a Sin Pet Shop Boys (1987)      5:01

The first single from Actually.

11)  You Don’t Have to Belong to the Religious Right The Cute Lepers (2010)            4:18

With a band name like “The Cute Lepers,” we might well assume that the group does not belong to the religious right, a sense which the lyrics confirm: “Headmasters, archbishops aren’t our best thinkers.”  From Smart Accessories.

12)  Losing My Religion R.E.M. (1991)      4:29

“Like a hurt, lost and blinded foal — a fool.  Oh no, I’ve said too much.  I haven’t said enough.”  From R.E.M.’s Out of Time.

13)  Spirits in the Material World The Police (1981)      3:01

From Ghost in the Machine.  The video, below, including (at the end) a fascinating interview with drummer Stewart Copeland.

14)  I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive The Little Willies (2006)      3:22

Hank Williams, covered by a band comprised of: Richard Julian (vocals), Norah Jones (vocals, piano), Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Dan Rieser (drums).  From the group’s debut (and only) album, The Little Willies.

15)  I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard Nightmare of You (2005)      4:07

From the band’s self-titled debut.

16)  (Don’t Fear) The Reaper Blue Öyster Cult (1976)      5:08

From Agents of Fortune.

17)  When the Saints Go Marching In Louis Armstrong (1938)      2:45

18)  The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing The Persuasions (2000)      2:46

The Persuasions cover Frank Zappa from their album, the aptly named The Persuasions Sing Zappa.

19)  Ever Since the World Ended Mose Allison (1987)      4:51

From the album of the same name; also appears on the “Best of” collection put out by Blue Note.  Below, Mose Allison performs this song last year.

20)  Last Will and Testament Jake Thackray (1967)      3:01


Rapture Party V: Thou Shalt Always Kill

Rapture Party V1)     Heaven’s on Fire The Radio Dept. (2010)      3:33

2)     Heaven Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians (1985)      4:03

From Fegmania!!!

3)     Stairway to Heaven The Beatnix (1994)      2:46

This appears on Stairways to Heaven, a record comprised entirely of covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”  The above version is in the style of the Beatles, circa 1964.

4)     True Faith New Order (1987)      5:52

Appears on Substance, among other places.

5)     Have a Little Faith In People The Lodger (2010)      2:13

From Flashbacks.

6)     I Believe I Can Fly Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2003)      3:01

Covering R. Kelly, from Take a Break, the band’s fourth album.

7)     Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit) Noisettes (2007)      2:57

From What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?

8)     Like Rasputin Amy Rigby (2005)      2:31

From Little Fugitive.

9)     The Day The Devil Laurie Anderson (1989)      4:02

From Strange Angels, Anderson’s most accessible record, but also one of her best.  Indeed, if you were to pick exactly two Laurie Anderson albums for your collection, you’d want to get this one and Big Science.

10)  The Devil Never Sleeps Iron & Wine (2007)      2:07

From The Shepherd’s Dog.

11)  Hayride to Hell Hoodoo Gurus (1985)      3:17

From Mars Needs Guitars!

12)  Crossroads Cream (1968)      4:14

13)  Two Lost Souls Gwen Verdon & Stephan Douglas (1955)      2:19

From the original cast recording of Damn Yankees.

14)  Agent Double-O-Soul Edwin Starr (1965)      2:46

15)  A View To A Kill Duran Duran (1985)      3:36

Another Bond film theme.

16)  Another Way to Die Alicia Keys & Jack White (2008)      4:23

And yet another Bond film theme.

17)  Freddie’s Dead (Theme from Superfly) Curtis Mayfield (1972)      3:19

18)  Fly on a Windscreen (Final) Depeche Mode (1986)      5:21

“Death is everywhere.  There are flies on the windscreen, for a start, remind us that we could be torn apart… tonight.”  From Black Celebration.

19)  The World Is Gone Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra (1967)      2:30

From the delightful compilation, The In-Kraut, Vol. 3: Hip-Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1967-1974.

20)  The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love Jens Lekman (2010)      4:40

21)  A Violent Yet Flammable World Au Revoir Simone (2007)      5:03

22)  Thou Shalt Always Kill dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip (2008)      5:19

The video for this one introduced me to the song.  Whenever I hear the song, I think of the video.  Also, it’s quite a good video.  See for yourself:


Rapture Party VI: End of the Line

Rapture Party VI1)     Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (New Edit)  Chicago (1970)            3:19

2)     Are The Good Times Really Over For Good John Doe and The Sadies (2009)            2:39

A cover of the Merle Haggard tune.  From Country Club.

3)     There Is No Time Lou Reed (1989)      3:47

From New York.

4)     The Future Leonard Cohen (1992)      6:43

From The Future, one of Cohen’s best albums.

5)     Mass Destruction (Radio Edit) [Single Version] Faithless (2004)      3:35

6)     World Destruction Time Zone featuring John Lydon & Afrika Bambaataa (1984)      5:33

Did these two ever collaborate again?  Great combination.  Below, the rarely seen video for this song:

7)     Bomb the World Michael Franti & Spearhead (2003)      4:29

From Everyone Deserves Music.

8)     The World (Is Going Up In Flames) Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band (2009)      3:22

9)     Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) The Temptations (1970)            4:07

10)  Atom Bomb The Apples In Stereo (2007)      2:44

11)  Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb The Pilgrim Travelers (1951)      2:28

One of several gospel numbers about atomic energy — another is the Spirit of Memphis Quartet’s “Atomic Telephone.”  I haven’t included that on this mix, but it’s a great a capella gospel number, too.

12)  Jesus Saves, I Spend St. Vincent (2007)      3:57

From Marry Me.

13)  The Devil and Me BR5-49 feat. The Jordanaires (2006)      2:40

“You can’t know good unless you know evil.”  From Dog Days.

14)  Church Lyle Lovett (1992)      6:01

From Joshua Judges Ruth.

15)  This Little Light Mavis Staples (2007)      3:23

From We’ll Never Turn Back, which is one of my desert island discs.  If you don’t have this album, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

16)  Darkness Is So Deep Hurricane Bells (2009)      3:01

From Tonight Is the Ghost.

17)  Anti-D The Wombats (2011)      4:41

“Still I threw away my citalopram, / Although I felt as grim as the reaper man.”  From This Modern Glitch, a strong follow-up to their excellent debut.  Definitely recommend it — as well as the debut.

18)  Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well Mike Doughty (2005)            3:59

From Haughty Melodic.

19)  If I Ever Leave This World Alive Flogging Molly (2002)      3:22

From Drunken Lullabies.

20)  End of the Line The Traveling Wilburys (1988)      3:28

From Vol. 1: Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty

21)  Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) Green Day (1997)      2:34

From Nimrod.


Rapture Party VII: What a Wonderful World

Rapture Party VII1)     Panic The Puppini Sisters (2006)      2:17

“Honey pie, you’re not safe here.”  The Puppini Sisters cover the Smiths.  On Betcha Bottom Dollar, the trio’s debut.  Good news for Puppini fans: they’re in the studio, recording a new record.

2)     Time Has Come Today (Single Edit Version 2)  The Chambers Brothers (1966)            4:53

From Time Has Come: The Best of the Chambers Brothers.

3)     Livin’ in the Future Bruce Springsteen (2007)      3:57

“None of this has happened yet.”  From Springsteen’s Magic.

4)     Prophesy The High Decibels (2008)      2:35

From the duo’s self-titled debut.  Great old-school-style hip-hop.

5)     Faith Alejandro Escovedo (2010)      3:24

From Street Songs of Love.

6)     Get Rhythm Reverend Horton Heat (2005)      2:28

The Reverend Horton Heat covers Johnny Cash.  Appears on Texas Fed, Texas Bred: Redefining Country Music Vol. 1.

7)     What a Wonderful World Joey Ramone (2002)      2:23

The late Joey Ramone covers Louis Armstrong.  From the posthumously released Don’t Worry About Me.

8)     Temptation (7″ Edit) New Order (1982)      5:42

From Singles.

9)     How Shall I to Heaven Aspire? Rock Plaza Central (2007)      2:05

From We Are Not Horses.

10)  The Edge of Heaven Susan Rafey (1965)      2:09

From Hurt So Bad.

11)  Earth Angel Death Cab for Cutie (2005)      3:17

Death Cab covers the Penguins.  From the Stubbs the Zombie soundtrack.

12)  Graveyard Girl M83 (2008)      4:53

From Saturday’s Youth.

13)  Richest Guy in the Graveyard Dinah Washington (1949)      2:54

Appears on The Best of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour.

14)  I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead “Weird Al” Yankovic (1982)      3:41

From Yankovic’s self-titled debut, the album that also brought you “Another One Rides the Bus” (parody of Queen) and “Mr. Frump and the Iron Lung” (a “Weird Al” original).

15)  Let’s Think About Living Bob Luman (1960)      2:07

A top ten hit on both the country chart and Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.  His first big hit.  Luman went on to have many other country hits before dying in 1978 at the age of 41.

16)  Closing Time Semisonic (1998)      4:34

From Feeling Strangely Fine.

17)  Closing Time Leonard Cohen (1992)      6:01

From The Future.

18)  A Common Disaster Cowboy Junkies (1996)      3:22

From Lay It Down.

19)  Calamity Song The Decemberists (2011)      3:50

From The King Is Dead.

20)  Turkish Song of the Damned The Pogues (1988)      3:28

From If I Should Fall from Grace with God — an apt album title for Rapture Day, don’t you think?

21)  Waiting for the End of the World Elvis Costello (1977)      3:22

From My Aim Is True, one of the all-time great debut albums: “Watching the Detectives,” “(The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes),” “Allison,” and “Mystery Dance” are all on this one.

22)  The Hand of the Almighty John R. Butler (2003)      2:05

This one has some NSFW language in it.  So, not that you’d be listening to this at work, but… if you are, consider yourself warned.

23)  Atheists Don’t Have No Songs Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers (2011)      3:51

From their latest album, Rare Bird Alert:

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Mix: I Can Hear Music

Mix: I Can Hear MusicWhen I began this blog, I thought I would post more of the many mixes I make.  I haven’t.  But here’s the first uptempo mix of 2011 — a happy way to begin the year, and (for those educators and students out there) the new semester.

1)    William Tell Overture Sixth Wave (2004)      1:07

The first of two cover songs on this mix, a cappella group Sixth Wave gives their jazzy version of Rossini’s overture.

2)    Turning Up the Radio Weezer (2010)      3:37

From the second Weezer album released in 2010 — the earlier one was a new studio record, but this track comes from the collection of unreleased material called Death to False Metal.

3)    Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio? Ramones (1980)      3:51

Phil Spector grafts his wall-of-sound production onto punk rock.

4)    Bright Lights Bigger City Cee Lo Green (2010)      3:38

Adapting the bass line from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” a title from Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and synthesizers from Gary Numan (well, that’s what they sound like to me), Cee Lo Green gives us some New Wave soul.  It sounds like a lost soul classic from the early 1980s.

5)    Radar Detector Darwin Deez (2010)      3:10

This Darwin Deez song also has a bit of a 1980s sound to it.  And a happy lyric.  REMOVED BY REQUEST.  The video is below, and here’s a link to a Soundcloud file of the song.

6)    Venus Shocking Blue (1969)      3:05

The original hit version, Shocking Blue’s “Venus” reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1970.  In 1986, Bananarama had a #1 hit with a cover of the song.

7)    Alien Girl The Mother Truckers (2010)      3:15

“Now we’re coming down to destroy you. / This experiment has come to an end.” And: “Stop your crying. / It’s just the end of your world.”  Below, the Mother Truckers perform the song live.

8)    L.O.V. Fitz and The Tantrums (2010)      3:40

Fitz and the Tantrums bring you a nice slice of retro soul.

9)    Our Love Will Change The World Outrageous Cherry (2005)      3:43

Power pop from Outrageous Cherry.

10) Top of the World Shonen Knife (1994)      3:56

From the compilation If I Were a Carpenter.

11) I Can Do That The Futureheads (2010)      3:43

Can they channel Gang of Four and especially early XTC? Yes, the Futureheads can do that.  From The Chaos.

12) Without a Fight Janelle Monáe (2010)      3:36

From the For Colored Girls soundtrack

13) I’ve Got the Music in Me The Kiki Dee Band (1974)      5:01

One of Kiki Dee’s first big hits.

14) Block After Block Matt & Kim (2010)      2:54

From their latest, Sidewalks.

15) Garden Grow Our Broken Garden (2010)      4:14

From Our Broken Garden‘s Golden Sea, a slightly darker song on this otherwise upbeat mix.  It’s uptempo, but … well the playfully macabre video (below) highlights some sinister undercurrents.

16) The Fountain of Youth Boy Crisis (2009)      4:42

Boy Crisis has released many catchy singles, but never (to my knowledge) a full album. Perhaps they will one day?

17) A New Shore Steven Page (2010)      3:49

Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page is setting sail for a new shore.  Let’s join him, shall we?  Below, he performs on the CBC’s Q, and then chats with host (and former Fruvous!) Jian Ghomeshi.

18) We Will Swim Together Kimberley Rew (2002)      2:56

If you know about the Soft Boys, it’s probably because you know the work of the band’s lead singer and songwriter Robyn Hitchcock.  But Soft Boys guitarist Kimberley Rew also has a knack for writing quirky pop.  In addition to the smash hit “Walking on Sunshine” (after the Soft Boys, Rew was in Katrina and the Waves), he’s also released several solo records that are well worth your while.

19) The Stars Jukebox the Ghost (2010)      4:53

No sophomore slump for Jukebox the GhostEverything Under the Sun is an even stronger record than their debut.  Recommended.

20) White Nights Oh Land (2010)      3:46

“Son of a Gun” was my introduction to Oh Land, but this is a strong song, too.  There’s also a video, with white balloons, white lights, and Oh Land dancing around.

21) What’s So Bad (About Feeling Good)? Ben Lee (2009)      4:42

Ah, Ben Lee, here to bring good cheer.  Lee has a knack for a hook.  In a better world, some of his catchy songs would also be big hits.

22) I Can Hear Music The Beach Boys (1969)      2:37

From 20/20, some post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys.

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Top 50 of 2010

Top 50 of 2010 (for me)According to iTunes, these are the songs released in 2010 that I played most in 2010.  As such, the list is going to skew slightly towards the beginning of the year (since those songs have been in the playlist for a longer period of time).  The number at the far right is the number of plays the track has received this year.  So… here’s what iTunes tells you about me & my year’s musical obsessions — of tracks released in 2010, at any rate.

1. 911 Delta Spirit      3:16      23

“The folks back east, they say the market’s fine. / I heard that before 1929. / When Black Tuesday comes, it’ll be a hit. / Right out of the air into the pit.”  An uptempo — even danceable — song with a social conscience.

2. Rock Island Arsenal The Light Footwork      4:02      22

I can’t make out all of the lyrics, and frankly have no idea what this song is about.  Its repeated plays in my iTunes may be, in part, a result of my attempts to decipher it.  But I also simply like its sound.

3. Paris Kate Nash      3:03      21

“You’ll never listen to me.  No, you’ll never listen to me.”   Surprised that this is as high as it is in my top 50 most played — “Do-Wah-Doo” is a catchier song from this record.  Apparently, my ear disagrees with the previous sentence.  “Said you’d lend me anything.  I think I’ll have your company.”

4. Need You Tonight Beck’s Record Club      3:41      20

Fantastic live-in-studio recording of the INXS hit.

5. Under Control Good Shoes      2:29      20

Wearing their Gang of Four influence on their sleeves, Good Shoes sing a song of desire.  “To always be hungry and never satisfied.”

6. When I’m Small Phantogram      4:09      20

Like “Rock Island Arsenal” (above), I don’t really understand this song.  I just like the sound of it.

7. Dancing On My Own Robyn      4:51      20

I know exactly why I like this one — something about the combination of catchy, uptempo pop with sad lyrics.  Not that the lyrics are particularly profound.  They aren’t at all.  They’re of the person-I-love-doesn’t-love-me genre.  We’ve heard this type of song before.  Yet, inexplicably, Robyn manages to pull it off.

8. Missing Eliza Doolittle      3:41      19

The sample of the Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me” (1959) is definitely a big part of this song’s appeal.  Without that melodic hook, I’m not sure that I’d have been pulled in.

9. Rodolfo The Record’s      4:16      19

For this song, it’s definitely the hook.  It’s a fantasy of getting “far away from a day job,” but the appeal for me is all about the sound of the song.  And, yes, the Record’s do spell the band name with that gratuitous apostrophe (instead of The Records).  From the album De Fauna et Flora.

10.  I Want the World to Stop Belle & Sebastian      4:32      18

Channeling the Cure’s “Love Song” (listen to that bass line!), Belle & Sebastian ask for the morning, and the understanding.  Another song that I can’t fully decipher.

11.  It’s OK Cee Lo Green      3:46      18

You know Cee Lo Green’s The Lady Killer because of the hit single (the clean version of which is “Forget You”), but the whole album is fantastic.  One of my favorite records of the year, hands down.

12.  Satisfied      Cee Lo Green      3:27      18

Another from The Lady Killer.  I’m not going to include more than one track by any given artist, so you’ll have to seek this song yourself.  (Support independent record stores and just buy the CD.  Trust me.  You won’t regret it.)

13.  Dutch Dessa      3:20      18

Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code is my nomination for album of the year.  I’ll say more about this in tomorrow’s post, but for now I’ll say: solid hooks both musically and lyrically.  She is a poet.

14.  The Bullpen      Dessa      2:36      18

Also from A Badly Broken Code.  Go.  Now.  Buy the album.

15.  Heart of Steel Galactic feat. Irma Thomas      3:28      18

From ya-ka-may.  Soulful New Orleans vibe, Irma Thomas’ smokin’ vocals, and… wow.

16.  Paris (Ooh La La) Grace Potter & the Nocturnals      3:15      18

“If I was a blade, I’d shave you smooth.”  Strangely, the second song on this list with “Paris” in the title.  Ooh La La, indeed.

17.  Heaven’s on Fire The Radio Dept.      3:33      18

Beginning with a spoken-word suggestion that we “destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture,” the song then moves to its actual subject: desire.  “One look at you, and Heaven’s on fire.”

18.  Where I’m Going Cut Copy      3:36      17

Cut Copy channel T. Rex… or possibly Goldfrapp.

19.  Children’s Work      Dessa      3:12      17

More from A Badly Broken Code.  This is the first Dessa song that I heard, and it’s the song that got me hooked.  Since I’m not posting more than one song by any given artist, you’ll have to seek this yourself.

20.  I Am Trying to Break Your Heart JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound      3:39      17

Wow!  I like this even better than Wilco’s original version.

21.  You’re the Kind of Trouble The Holmes Brothers      3:46      16

“I’ve heard the rumors.  I hope they’re true. / You’re the kind of trouble that I could get in to.” Classic R&B with a bluesy vibe.

22.  When You Walk in the Room Fyfe Dangerfield      3:28      16

A very happy song.  On his solo record, Fyfe Dangergield (lead singer and songwriter for Guillemots) is in love.

23.  Cut Loose The High Decibels      2:26      16

Old school hip-hop.  Reminds me of RUN-DMC.

24.  Our Generation (The Hope of the World) John Legend & The Roots feat. CL Smooth      3:16      16

“It’s all left up to us to change this present situation. / Take a lesson from our elders.  Don’t make the same mistake. / Let’s fill the world with love, get rid of all the hate.”  Amen to that.

25.  Hey Hey Hey Michael Franti & Spearhead      3:47      16

I think Michael Franti has been listening to U2.  Certainly, on the anthemic refrain, his guitarist sounds a lot like the Edge.

26.  If You Can’t Sleep She & Him      2:49      16

A cappella, multi-tracked Zooey Deschanel.  Beautiful.  You could sleep to this, but you’ll stay awake because you won’t want to miss a note.

27.  Dream About the Future The Apples In Stereo      4:16      15

Robert Schneider continues to channel Jeff Lynne.  Still, there’s always room for a catchy E.L.O.-seque tune.

28.  Stuck Caro Emerald      4:33      15

Retro-swing from her debut, Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor (released last year in Europe, and this year in the US — but only via iTunes).  Big in her native Holland, but no one’s heard of her in the U.S.

29.  It’s a good Thing (Radio Edit) CHOO CHOO      3:02      15

“It’s a good thing I don’t remember what went wrong.”  An apparently optimistic song that’s actually rather dark.

30.  Call Me The Pipettes      2:50      15

Featuring none of the original members, the Pipettes return!  Are they still the same pre-fab pop group that they were?  Should we care?  The new record isn’t as consistent as the debut, but there are a few strong songs — such as this one.

31.  Albatross Sambassadeur      3:52      15

“I leave it just to be to what it is, just a memory.  It seems to be.”  The lyrics can be a bit ESL, but a lovely, melancholy, orchestral pop sound.

32.  Holiday Vampire Weekend      2:18      15

From the band’s sophomore effort, Contra.

33.  Everybody Wants to Rule the World Clare & The Reasons      3:56      14

Cover of the Tears for Fears song.  With violins and cello.  Very nice.

34.  The Difference Between Us The Dead Weather      3:37      14

“One day, I’m happy and healthy.  Next, I ain’t doing so well.”  The latest from Jack White & co.

35.  Mineshaft II      Dessa      3:41      14

More from A Badly Broken Code.  I’m telling you: definitely check it out.

36.  Pumped Up Kicks Foster The People      4:13      14

My, this is a catchy tune.  Who is this band?  I know nothing about them.

37.  The Diamond Church Street Choir The Gaslight Anthem      3:12      14

Channeling Bruce Springsteen, c. 1975.

38.  Carpenter’s Wonderwall Go Home Productions [Oasis vs. Carpenters]      3:06      14

The Gallagher Brothers meet the Carpenter Siblings.

39.  Girls FM Happy Birthday      3:00      14

Another song with an appealing sound.  I can’t say I’ve paid much attention to its lyrics.

40.  How Did All These People Get In My Room? I Blame Coco      3:10      14

Yes, this is the band of Eliot Sumner, a.k.a. Sting’s daughter.

41.  Heart to Tell The Love Language      2:27      14

“Some fools rush in.  Some fools just wait.”

42.  I Was Made for Dreaming ‘Bout You MadMixMustang [Kiss vs. Beyonce]      4:17      14

Whoa.  Bringing in Beyonce beats, MadMixMustang creates the long-lost Kiss dance hit.

43.  Record Collection Mark Ronson & The Business Intl      3:50      14

The title track from the producer behind Amy Winehouse’s big hit record of a few years ago.

44.  Bang Bang Bang      Mark Ronson feat. MNDR & Q-Tip      3:51      14

Another track from Mark Ronson’s Record Collection.  And, as noted earlier, I’m only posting one track per artist.

45.  A Bite Out Of My Bed The New Pornographers      3:13      14

From the indie supergroup’s Together.

46.  Garden Grow Our Broken Garden      4:14      14

Dark, self-destructive, catchy.

47.  The Shining Path (Alan Wilkis Remix) RJD2      3:38      14

“They will see the albatross that lives in your shadow”?  This is the second song on this list that references an albatross.  What the –?

48.  Heard It On The Radio The Bird And The Bee      3:03      13

The sole original song on Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall and John Oates, which is a very enjoyable album of Hall & Oates covers.  Really.

49.  Candy in the Kitchen Blair      3:08      13

A mix of nostalgia and uptempo, wistful and danceable.  That balance between opposing emotions seems to be a theme.

50.  Dr Wanna Do      Caro Emerald      3:02      13

Another track from Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor.

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You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

GrinchWith lyrics by Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) and music by Albert Hague (1920-2001), “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” has become a holiday classic.  Given that it celebrates a misanthrope, it is admittedly an unusual holiday tune.  Yes, the Grinch does reform by the end of the story, but this song focuses on his nastiness, offering no hint of the transformation to come.  Perhaps the song is so beloved because it celebrates emotions not usually sung about over the holidays: meanness, grouchiness, anger.  People certainly experience such feelings during this time of year, but most holiday tunes don’t celebrate them.  Seuss — who based the character of the Grinch on himself — gives voice to the darker side of Christmastime.  And Hague’s music captures the slipperiness of that “nasty, wasty skunk,” sliding a full octave on each verse’s final iteration of the word “Grinch.”

After Seuss sent Albert Hague his lyric for the song, the composer set it to music, and then invited Seuss over to hear the results.  Sitting at the piano, Hague played it for Seuss: “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!  You really are a heel.  You’re as cuddly as a cactus.  You’re as charming as an eel.  Mr. Grinnnnch!  You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel.” According to Hague, Seuss said, “anyone who can slide an octave on the word ‘Grinch’ gets the job.”

Here are 15 versions of the song, starting with Thurl Ravenscroft’s original.

Commercial announcement: I’m posting this, in part, to call attention to the Diane Rehm Show of Wednesday, December 22nd, 11 am EST.  I’ll be a guest, and the focus of the entire hour will be How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

1. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft (1966)            3:01

Excising Boris Karloff’s narration and placing the verses in a different order, this is almost the song as heard on the 1966 TV special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! — co-written by Seuss and Chuck Jones, and based on Seuss’s 1957 book of the same name.  There appear to have been two versions recorded: one that appears in the TV special, and one that omits the narration and places the verses in this order.  This is the latter version, brought to you here from A Classic Cartoon Christmas! Many people don’t know that Thurl Ravenscroft is the singing voice of the Grinch — only Karloff is listed in the program’s credits.  Best-known for this song and for being the voice of Tony the Tiger, Ravenscroft also sang back-up on records by Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, and Rosemary Clooney.  You’ll also hear Ravenscroft’s voice on many Dinsey records and in Disney’s theme parks.  Brian E. Jacobs’ excellent All Things Thurl will tell you everything you need to know.

2. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Mojo Nixon (1992)            2:35

Slightly off-key, and off-kilter.  The man behind “Elvis Is Everywhere” recorded this for his Horny Holidays! (1992).

3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Gary Hoey (1998)            3:07

Rockin’ the Grinch, heavy-metal style.  From Hoey’s Ho! Ho! Hoey II (1998).

4. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Swingerhead (1999)            2:18

From one of my all-time favorite holiday records, Swingerhead’s A Swingerhead Christmas.  This was out of print for a time, but it’s now available from CD Baby.

5. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Rockapella (2000)            3:14

Like Ben Folds, I’m also not a fan of too much beat-boxing in a cappella.  A little percussion goes a long way.  So, if I’d prefer more subtle “drums” here, Rockapella do rock the Grinch a cappella.  And the lead vocalist really hits those bass notes.  From the group’s Rockapella Christmas.

6. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Asylum Street Spankers (2001)            3:11

Oscillating between country, jazz, bluegrass, and I-don’t-know-what, the Asylum Street Spankers deliver a genre-bending cover of the song.  From A Christmas Spanking (2001).

7. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Slaid Cleaves (2001)            3:44

The accordion makes me want to call this the “New Orleans” version of the song, but I’m not sure if that’s strictly accurate… since he grew up in Maine and lives in Texas.  The “Americana” version, perhaps? From Cleaves’ EP Holiday Sampler (2001).

8. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Pete Nelson (2002)            3:47

The downbeat cover.  If many versions embrace the Grinch’s anger, Nelson‘s recording finds the melancholy behind the green grouch’s mood. Purists will note that I called the Grinch “green”: true, he’s white in Seuss’s original book, but he’s green in the TV special that introduced this song. If you’d like an entire mix of more somber holiday music, you might enjoy my Blue Christmas mix, posted a week or so back.

9. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch The Gypsy Hombres (2002)            3:39

Ever wondered what Django Reinhardt’s recording of the song would sound like?  Look no further.  From the Gyspy HombresDjango Bells.

10. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Brian Setzer (2005)            2:38

On Dig That Crazy Christmas, Brian Setzer’s rockabilly-inflected big band puts its spin on the Grinch.

11. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Aimee Mann (2006)            3:27

When I first heard this, I thought: Aimee Mann?  Really? I’m admirer of her work, but never expected her to cover this song.  This version interpolates some of the narration from the TV special — that’s Grant Lee Phillips contributing the male vocal.

12. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Straight No Chaser (2009)            2:54

More a cappella, but with more subtle use of the beatbox than Rockapella.  Indeed, Straight No Chaser‘s arrangement is more intricate, more complex, but without making the sound too busy.  A nice balance here.  From Christmas Cheers.

13. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Glee Cast featuring k.d. lang (2010)            3:18

From this season’s special Glee episode, and featuring the vocals of k.d. lang!  Closely modeled on the cover by Aimee Mann, this includes some narration — male vocalist here is Matthew Morrison.

14. Grinch Introduction / The Grinch / “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” Take 6 (2010)            4:16

I love Take 6, and I expect the comic business would be fun live.  Upon repeated listenings, I find myself wishing there were a version without the ad-libbing.  The arrangement is great, but the humor … wears thin.

15. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch The Raleigh Ringers (2010)            3:37

If you need further evidence of the song’s classic status, look no further than this version… performed on handbells.  From the Raleigh RingersA Wintry Mix.

16. Whoville (Won’t Get Yuled Again) mojochronic (2008)            1:03

As a bonus track, here’s a mash-up of the Grinch and the Who — punning, of course, on the name of the people who live in Whoville.

So, fahoo fores and dahoo dores!  (To say nothing of fahoo ramus and dahoo damus.)  Welcome Christmas!

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Blue Christmas

Blue ChristmasAs noted in my last Christmas music post, I’ve made a lot of these mixes, each one different. Last year, I decided to make a mix of downbeat — even somewhat depressing — holiday music. This is it.

1. Blue Christmas Bright Eyes (2002)            2:22

Elvis’s version has been so overplayed that it’s no longer possible to truly hear the song, in his rendition. The only way to appreciate the song is to hear someone else sing it — in this case, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.

2. Lonely Christmas Marshall Crenshaw (1986)            2:53

From Christmas Time Again, which also features songs from Alex Chilton, Don Dixon, Peter Holsapple, and Whiskeytown.

3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Pete Nelson (2002)            3:47

Toning down the original version’s camp, Pete Nelson finds the melancholy in Seuss’s lyrics.

4. Fake Plastic Trees [Acoustic] Radiohead (1995)            4:46

To the best of my knowledge, this song has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas, but “Fake Plastic Trees” certainly makes me think of Christmas trees.  Why?  I blame A Charlie Brown Christmas.  This particular rendition of “Fake Plastic Trees” appears on the Clueless soundtrack.

5. Winter Song Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson (2008)            4:27

I find the plaintive refrain of “is love alive?” quite touching.

6. Snowman Barenaked Ladies (2004)            2:59

“Made of snow, I don’t know how I fit in.”  BNL do bring the humor on Barenaked for the Holidays, but not on this song.

7. It Hasn’t Happened Yet William Shatner (2004)            3:50

From Has Been, Shatner’s outstanding collaboration with Ben Folds.  It’s here because of the lyrics in the first verse: “It was Christmas, and I was alone. / Strange city. / Strangers for friends. / And I was broke.” What’s nice about this song is that you can either enjoy it straight (if you’re feeling melancholic) or as camp.  I tend to experience it in the former mode — hence, its inclusion here.

8. Peace at Last Hem (2007)            3:38

Another song about missing a loved one during Christmastime, but delivered by Hem with such beauty and feeling.  If you like this, I highly recommend the band. They’ve recorded a lot of wonderful music, but I’m most partial to their first two albums, Rabbit Songs (2000) and Eveningland (2004).

9. River Madeleine Peyroux feat. k.d. lang (2006)            5:20

Written by Joni Mitchell, “River” first appears on her album Blue (1971).  Here, it’s performed by two of our best contemporary vocalists.  “I wish I had a river I could skate away on” — such a plaintive line.

10. White Christmas Aimee Mann (2006)            2:59

This song has always been associated with longing. Bing Crosby’s original recording, released in 1942, strongly resonated with soldiers missing home, and the people at home missing their loved ones far away.  Many have suggested that it’s ironic that one of the best-known Christmas songs was written by Jewish composer Irving Berlin, but I’m skeptical of that claim.  This song evokes less the religious connotations and more the cultural experience.  It’s nostalgic, dreaming of “just like the ones I used to know,” where “the treetops glisten and glow.”  Another example of why Irving Berlin is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century.

11. Winter Wonderland A Fine Frenzy (2009)            3:43

I know nothing about this song’s composer (Felix Bernard) or lyricist (Richard B. Smith).  Wikipedia reports that Richard Himber and His Hotel Carelton Orchestra first recorded the song in 1934.  Johnny Mercer had a #4 hit with the song in 1946.

12. Christmas Time Is Here Thad Cockrell & Roman Candle (1993)            3:20

Another song from the compilation Christmas Time Again.  (See track 2.)

13. Something to Hold on To (At Christmas) Ron Sexsmith (2008)            2:30

Though he has some cheerier songs as well, Sexsmith is good for those contemplative moods.  Here, he dreams of something to hold on to — such as love or hope.

14. Christmas After All Maria Taylor (2006)            3:34

Resigned to the onset of another holiday season, Taylor sings, “They’re all running short on time, / and waiting in these long, long lines. / I guess it’s Christmas after all.”

15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Hem (2005)            2:14

I generally avoid placing two songs by the same artist on any one mix,… but have been known to make exceptions on Christmas mixes.  This is one of those exceptions, inspired in part by the fact that some of the songs I wanted to include had already appeared on a folk mix I’d done a few years before (and I try not to repeat any songs).  It’s also inspired by the fact that Hem is a great group.

16. Christmas Time Is Here Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)            6:06

From A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course!

17. Greensleeves Over the Rhine (1996)            2:50

With lyrics, known as “What Child Is This?”  Over the Rhine brings out the darkness.  Not for nothing is the holiday album (on which this appears) called The Darkest Night of the Year.

18. Silent Night Stanley Jordan (1986)            3:46

From Yule Struttin’ (A Blue Note Christmas), a fine collection.  Another favorite off of that one is Chet Baker’s rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”

19. Calling All Angels The Wailin’ Jennys (2009)            6:27

The earliest recording of this song — by its songwriter Jane Siberry, accompanied by k.d. lang — appears on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991).  A newer recording (sans lang) appears on Siberry’s When I Was a Boy (1993).  It’s hard to top that original version, but this one has a stark, folky appeal.

20. What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding Nick Lowe (2004)            4:04

A live, acoustic recording by the songwriter — quieter than Elvis Costello’s famous cover or the Brinsley Schwarz original (which had Lowe on vocals).  This version allows you to better hear the seriousness of the sentiment: “My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes, sometimes.  Where are the strong?  And who are the trusted?  And where is the harmony — sweet harmony?”

21. My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year) Regina Spektor (2007)            2:52

Echoing the use of newscasts on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Silent Night/6 O’Clock News,” Regina Spektor mixes in sounds of gunshots & conflict — but relatively subtly, mostly in the background. The contrast highlights what’s absent from the key words in a line like “Happy New Year to that is living, all that is gentle, kind and forgiving.”  It reminds us that much in the world is none of these things.

22. Auld Lang Syne Billy Idol (2006)            0:52

I bought Billy Idol’s Happy Holidays for the pure campy pleasure of it (check out his “Frosty the Snowman”), but this last track on the record is actually quite effective — and affective.  I think its brevity and lack of accompaniment makes this particular track work.

Well, as promised, this has been a somewhat melancholic mix.  If you need something more uptempo as an antidote, check out the holiday mix I posted earlier in the week.

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Essential Holiday Tunes

Xmas: EssentialsHappy St. Nicholas Day!  For today’s treat, it’s the holiday tunes that no December should be without.  Well, in my humble opinion, anyway.  Over the past decade, I’ve assembled 9 or 10 different holiday mixes (all with completely different songs).  The idea for this mix is to include favorites from all of those mixes.  In practice, I had to fudge here and there to make a coherent mix — and, to keep things upbeat, I omitted all tracks from my two slower mixes.  Anyway.  Ella Fitzgerald, Ramones, Swingerhead, Jackson 5, Gayla Peevey, & more!  Grab yourself some hot cider, a festive cookie, and press play!

Vince Guaraldi‘s entire soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) should be on any list.  And you probably already have it.  So, instead of a song from that album, here’s DJ John’s mash-up of some of the memorable lines from the TV special, set to Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.”

2. Countdown to Christmas Glam Chops (2008) 3:57

A side project of Art Brut vocalist Eddie Argos and artist Mikey Georgeson, Glam Chops offers its own version of glam rock … and holiday cheer!

3. The Nutcracker Suite Les Brown & His Band Of Renown (1957) 6:32

Les Brown, putting the swing in Tchaikovsky!

4. Jingle Bells The Puppini Sisters (2006) 2:57

The Puppini Sisters released their first holiday album this year, which includes what may be the first listenable version of “Last Christmas” ever recorded — it’s actually a really wonderful rendition of the song.  The new record does not include their version of “Jingle Bells,” released as a single in 2006.

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Ella Fitzgerald & Bing Crosby (c. 1943) 3:02

Recorded as a V-disc for the troops, this is one of my favorite Ella Fitzgerald holiday songs.  If I allowed myself more than one song by a single artist, then you might also be hearing “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney” and her version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” on this mix.  Love Ella Fitzgerald.

6. Frosty the Snowman The Ronettes (1963) 2:23

Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You might also be part of your holiday listening.  If it isn’t, check it out.  His wall-of-sound treatment of seasonal tunes is great fun.

7. Miracle Matisyahu (2010) 3:07

There are far fewer Hanukkah songs than Christmas ones.  And, yes, there are some other good ones (you can only fit so much on a mix!).  I really love Matisyahu‘s single, released just last month.

8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Jackson 5 1970 2:30

There are many delightful recordings of this song, notably those by Bruce Springsteen (1975), Fred Astaire (1970), Jimmy Smith (1964), Ella Fitzgerald (1960) and Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (1943).  The Jackson 5′s version best fit the mood I was going for here.

Gayla Peevey, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas9. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Gayla Peevey (1953) 2:38

This is my favorite Christmas song of all time, bar none. Gayla Peevey was a popular child singer of the early 1950s.  This song, written by John Rox and recorded when Peevey was 10 years old, was her biggest hit.

10. Presents for Christmas Solomon Burke (1966) 3:16

I love the joy in this one, and the late Solomon Burke‘s wish to give presents to everyone, all around the world.  I find the final verse quite touching.  “Hope next year, things will have a lot of joy.”

11. Christmas Night in Harlem Louis Armstrong and His Allstars (1955) 2:39

With music written by Raymond Scott and lyrics by Mitchell Parish, here’s Louis Armstrong.  He recorded several holiday tracks, including “Cool Yule” (written by Steve Allen), “Christmastime in New Orleans,” and a delightful reading of Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

12. Christmas in Hollis RUN-DMC (1987) 3:02

Old-school hip-hop, but not the sole Christmas song by RUN-DMC. They also recorded “Christmas Is” (1992).

13. Christmas Wrapping The Waitresses (1982) 5:25

Though they also recorded the theme to Square Pegs and  their hit “I Know What Boys Like,” this Christmas number may be the Waitresses‘ best-remembered song.

14. Five Pound Box of Money Pearl Bailey (1958) 2:38

Actress, singer, and Tony-Award-winner Pearl Bailey considers the potential financial benefits of the season.

I love the “hip” description of Santa Claus as “the man with the bag.”

16. Reggie the Christmas Hamster Parry Gripp (2008) 1:37

As readers of this blog may be aware, I have a special affection for a well-honed novelty tune. The contemporary master of the genre is, of course, Parry Gripp. “But, Reggie, where do you keep all the presents?” The answer to that question makes me smile every time I hear it.

17. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft (1966) 3:01

Most people remember Boris Karloff as the voice of the Grinch, but forget that Karloff only does the speaking voice, and Thurl Ravenscroft sings all the songs.  It’s an understandable forgetting: the credits neglect to mention this fact.

Appears on Brain Drain, the band‘s final album to feature bassist Dee Dee Ramone.  The album also includes the song “Pet Sematary” (the theme to the film based on the Stephen King novel).  I first saw the Ramones in 1988, when Dee Dee was still a member.  When I saw them for the second (and final) time in 1990, Dee Dee had been replaced by C.J.  But, honestly, the focus of the stage show was Joey, face obscured by hair and his sunglasses, singing into the mic — and the raw, loud sound of the band.  Johnny’s guitar, Marky’s drums, and Dee Dee (or J.C.) on bass created that sound, but what I remember is the sonic experience of it all washing over me.

19. Angels We’ve Heard On High The Rondelles (2001) 2:00

Shined Nickels and Loose Change, the album on which this song appears, includes a great cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

20. O Little Town of Bethlehem Young Fresh Fellows (1991) 2:57

From the compilation A Lump of Coal, which includes Clockhammer’s version of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and Henry Rollins’s ominous reading of “The Night Before Christmas.”

21. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan (1996) 3:32

This appears on many compilations, and even on BNL‘s 2004 holiday album.  It comes to you here courtesy of the Nettwerk CD Christmas Songs.

22. The Christmas Song The Raveonettes (2003) 2:13

As the Jesus and Mary Chain did, the Raveonettes mesh Phil Spector’s wall of sound with thick slices of fuzzed-out electric guitar. Here’s their Christmas Song, which has no resemblance to that other Christmas Song (the one written by Mel Torme).

23. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part One) Swingerhead (1999) 1:17
24. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part Two) Swingerhead (1999) 2:39

A Swingerhead Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas CDs. It was out of print for a while, but is available again from CD Baby.

25. White Christmas Corporal Blossom (2001) 3:19

The best track from A Mutated Christmas (Illegal Art, 2001), this brings in vocals from several versions of “White Christmas”: Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and of course Bing Crosby (though only his whistle).

26. The 12 Days of Christmas Straight No Chaser (2009) 2:59

The YouTube video (below) of Straight No Chaser‘s witty mash-up of holiday songs (and Toto’s “Africa”) prompted the group to reform, and release several albums.  They re-recorded the tune for Christmas Cheers, which is the version you hear here.

Johnny Mercer brings you greetings from himself, Fifi, Glenn, and the entire staff.

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