Thursday, April 10, 2008

Music of My Mind

Music has always been part of my life, even when I was way to young to realize that you could actually go out and purchase the sounds that were coming out of the radio. The very first time I really became aware of the power of music was when our family was driving around and I heard "Band on the Run" come on the car radio. I distinctly remember that opening guitar riff, can still picture where we were in my hometown, was blown away by the fact that this song was actually made up of three songs ... three songs! "Music As Salvation" began for me at that specific moment.

There are many, many albums and singles I listen to over and over again, but six LPs can be filed under ****I Did Not Know You Could Make Music Like That!**** , albums that completely altered the way I listened to and played music. I've listed them here chronologically, although I may have "discovered" the albums in a different order. Dig it:


Spike Jones and His City Slickers - Thank You Music Lovers (RCA Victor, 1960)

Imagine going to see a Monkees concert and the Jimi Hendrix Experience performs instead. Or maybe you have tickets to an Al Green show but Paliament/Funkadelic appear on stage. That's kinda like Spike Jones in his era - his band could play the shit out of some classic pop tunes ("Cocktails for Two", "You Always Hurt the One You Love", etc.), and then, after the intermission, return as the most chaotic, over-the-top, three ring circus of a live band anyone had ever seen. The Weird Al of the '40s and early '50s, Jones and his compadres would mangle popular hits with screamed interjections, banged-together garbage can lids, gargled solos, and starter pistols ... lots of starter pistols. This compilation was Mad Magazine on vinyl. Check out this YouTube clip of a little of Spike Jones' history.


The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (Columbia, 1959)

OK, lots more jazz folks were and have been more progressive than Brubeck and crew, but it was the crazyass time signatures that grabbed my young ears. And the explanations on the album's back cover made the idea of using different rhythms within the same song all that more intriguing. I mean, time signatures of 11/4, 7/4, 5/4, sometimes 4/4 and 9/8 in one stanza ... how could you not be pulled in by that? Plus, the tunes swing and they're incredibly melodic. Check out this YouTube clip of "Blue Rondo a la Turk".


Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention -
We're Only In It for the Money (Verve, 1968)

Zappa and the Mothers turn the pop song structure on its ear and rotate another three-quarters turn, while making fun of the Beatles, the Sunset Strip scene, rock star aspirations, insular suburban culture, hippies, and, well, pretty much everything else that was part of mid-60's America. Plus, you gotta love a guy who was equally influenced by and enamored with doo-wop and Edgard Varese. Check out this YouTube clip of "Mother People".


Marshall Crenshaw - Field Day (Warner Brothers, 1983)

I learned everything I know about augmented, diminished, and suspended chords from this album. Plus, it's the only record in this list that I completely discovered on my own ... bought it from a cutout bin at Camelot Music, at a time when 99 cents was about all I could fork out for an album. Absolute perfection for less than a dollar? Sweet. Check out this YouTube clip of "Whenever You're On My Mind".


The Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime (SST, 1984)

Almost 50 songs and EVERY one of them has a different rhythm. We thought that was so fuckin' impressive that my brother changed his name to the drummer's for a while. The Minutemen were "everyman" to us: If they could do it, we could, too. And that was the gospel they preached ... "Every block should have a band", they said, and we believed it. Still do. These three working stiffs from San Pedro, CA, all union card-owning radicals and musical visionaries who truly believed they could change the world, or at least the outlook of at least one kid who came to a show, would schedule their concerts early in the evening so that regular people who had to get up and go to work the next day could attend. Their career culminated in this two-album set of highly political, intensely personal, and pretty goddamn funky tunes. Long live D. Boon. Check out these YouTube clips of "Retreat" and "Anxious Mo-Fo", and "Viet Nam".


Teenage Fanclub - Songs form Northern Britain (Columbia, 1997)

This album still gives me chillbumps every time I listen to it, especially album-opener "Start Again" and so-good-God-couldn't-have-written-this-one ""I Don't Want Control of You". Reticent and concert-shy, these three Scottish musicians (plus a constantly changing drummer) found musical nirvana on their fifth album, combining the songwriting talents of all three with their devotional admiration of the Byrds and Big Star and a deep love of the countryside of Scotland. That three guys could be so in sync that you can't really tell who wrote which song on an album continues to amaze me. File this one under the subheading "I Didn't Know You Were Still Allowed To Make Music Like This". Check out this YouTube clip of "Ain't That Enough".



Remember, just because yer kid is a kid, don't just play "kids' music" around 'em. Download all the songs you loved as a kid or teenager, songs from musicals, current tunes that catch your ear, weird compilations you happen to read about online ... play 'em all constantly. Take your little ones to see lots of live shows. Play your tuba or xylophone or ukulele for them. Sing songs with them. Introduce them to the power of music.

3 comments:

Amberly said...

Amen, brother!

It always amazes me when my kid ends up liking something completely out of left field- things I LOVE and figured he'd immediately reject. Or, things I don't love and never thought anyone could.

Our job, as parents, is to introduce our children to the world around them. Our world is a BIG place, and learning about music is a great way to begin exploring it. Listen and explore with your child- you might be surprised what you learn!

Eric Herman said...

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - We're Only In It for the Money = one of my all-time favorite albums, too. Wowie zowie, baby.

Pudd said...

Thanks for introducing a whole bunch of us to these great bands. We'd all be following Hootie and the Blowfish around the country on tour if it weren't for you.

Thanks Warren!