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News and Views for Authors. The primary voice of Booksquare is Kassia Krozser. She is a kind-hearted, gentle soul with a wealth of patience for the foibles of humani–wait, that’s not true at all. Kassia has never had an opinion she didn’t wish to express, nor has she ever been shy about telling the emperor that his clothes are, well, transparent. This is her way of expressing love, and she lavishes all of her adoration on the publishing industry because, like a child who needs firm, corrective guidance, publishers and writers need Booksquare.
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1. Certain Songs #548: Guided by Voices – “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox”

gbv propeller Album: Propeller
Year: 1992

“Alright, rock ‘n’ roll!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!”

This is where the legend begins. Sure, Guided by Voices were a band prior to Propeller, but this is still where the legend begins.

The big rock. The prog rock. The lo-fi. The pop hooks. It’s all here on nearly six minutes of poorly-recorded yet still transcendent bliss. “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox” might not be the longest song ever recorded by GBV, but it’s the longest of the 229 Guided By Voices songs that are in my iTunes.

Which means that it’s completely atypical — 175 of those songs are under 3:00, with the shortest weighing in at 0:18 — and that’s also part of their legend somehow.

The point being is that we’ve landed on a band I’ve loved for over 20 years now, and that 229 songs in my iTunes is what — a half?, a quarter? a hundredth? — of the songs they’ve actually issued.

Just like calculating Pi, it’s impossible to any device known to mankind to fully count how many songs that Robert Pollard has written and released. That’s also part of the legend.

Of course, none of that would even remotely matter without songs like “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox,” which connect in reality, as well.

Like during the “Over The Neptune” part when Pollard sings the chorus over chugging and churning guitars.

And hey, let’s throw the great party
Today for the rest of our lives
The fun is just about to get started
So throw the switch, it’s rock and roll time

After the second chorus, the guitars start heading for the stratosphere, seemingly unstoppable until they suddenly run out of steam and start tumbling back to Earth, but Pollard seems non-plussed, swimming in the middle of the tide below until the drums bring “Mesh Gear Fox” fully online, stately and anthemic.

And oh, mesh gear fox
Put out another bag of tricks from scientific box
Time’s wasting and you’re not gonna live forever
And if you do
I’ll come back and marry you
No use changing now, you couldn’t anyhow and ever

Like so many GBV songs, the lyrics con’t make complete linear sense, and yet the emotion with which Pollard invests “I’ll come back and marry you,” does make complete linear sense, so when the guitars — some combination of Mitch Mitchell, Jim Pollard and Tobin Sprout, no doubt — start squealing against each other until the fade, the whole thing feels like a rock ‘n’ roll fever dream that came creeping in from some other dimension.

What even was that? Oh right. The beginning of a legend.

“Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox”

“Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox” performed live in Oslo in 2011

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2. Certain Songs #547: The Greg Kihn Band – “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)”

Greg Kihn Breakup Album: Rockihnroll
Year: 1981

Because I actually kept records for a short period of time, I can report that I saw The Greg Kihn Band six times between March ’81 & October ’82.

Why? For one reason, neither Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty were playing Fresno during that time period, and while seeing The Greg Kihn Band wasn’t even close to seeing Bruce or Tom — both of whom Tim & I road-tripped to see late in the summer of ’81 — it was a reasonable enough simulacrum, especially considering the amount of effort it took to get to the Star Palace, where he played a lot of those shows.

No one who wasn’t there is going to believe this — including middle-aged me, at this point — but Greg Kihn always killed when he played Fresno. His songs, which sounded OK on the radio, somehow gained extra power when he was performing them live.

This made it easy to root for him, despite — or possibly also because of — the ongoing series of puns against his name that made up his album titles. Early on, there was Next of Kihn (a good one!), and from 1981-1985, Rockihnroll, Kihntinued, Kihnspiracy, Kihntagous, and Citizen Kihn.

It’s like they had a drunken band session at some point in 1980 where they brainstormed all of these album titles and then figured that since they already had the titles, they might as well record the records. The biggest problem was that I never liked his records all that much.

Which is why I pretty much stopped following him at some point during that run — I doubt I heard all of 1983’s Kihnspiracy, which had his biggest hit, the MTV-driven (and Weird Al parodied!) “Jeopardy.”

That said, while I probably ended up getting sick of it at the time, his first big single, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)”, is easily my favorite of the songs I heard, and the rare power pop single that actually became a huge pop hit, reaching #15 in 1981.

Hooked a snaking guitar line and as well as Greg Kihn’s “ah ah ah ah ah ah oh” after every line of every verse and featuring a chorus where against big staccato chords he shouts:


They don’t write ’em like that anymore
They don’t write ’em like that anymore

The best part was at the end, when drummer Larry Lynch added an awesome drum roll hook to the chorus, so the drum rolls, guitar chords and Kihn’s vocals were all battling each other for supremacy while combining to create what remains an irresitible chorus.

It’s also ironic that a song that traded in nostalgia to a certain extent has also kinda come true: for better or worse, they don’t write ’em like “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” anymore.

“The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em”)

“The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” performed live in 1981

Every Certain Song Ever
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The post Certain Songs #547: The Greg Kihn Band – “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” appeared first on Booksquare.

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3. Certain Songs #546: Green on Red – “That’s What Dreams”

Green On+Red+Gas+Food+Lodging+-+Red+Vinyl+546388 Album: Gas Food Lodging
Year: 1985

Here’s the thing about the so-called “Paisley Underground,” the loose collective of bands that produced some of the greatest alt-rock of the 1980s: a lot of them ended up being proto-Americana bands.

I’m thinking primarily of The Long Ryders, The Dream Syndicate and Green on Red, the key members of which of course fueled Danny & Dusty’s still eternal The Lost Weekend.

I mean, after all, The Long Ryders were never all that psychedelic in the first place, The Dream Syndicate mostly on the basis of Karl Precoda’s guitar, and Green on Red primarily because their early sound was dominated by Chris Cacavas’s swirling organ.

But that clearly changed when Chuck Prophet joined the band, and you can hear the difference in the long, stately opening to their greatest song, “That’s What Dreams.” His opening guitar lick is basically saying, “Hey Neil Young fans, check this out!”

Meanwhile lead singer Dan Stuart is down, but not totally out:

It seems nobody has any faith anymore
Well isn’t that what we invented heroes for
Got the word at 10 that I was through
Still a young man, so I know that ain’t true

That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for

When the rest of the band join in with Stuart on the chorus, “That’s What Dreams” becomes something entirely new: an early anthem for the slacker generation. Sure, maybe our lives currently suck, but we can dream, can’t we?

Then Chuck Prophet weighs in with a helluva guitar solo, zigging and zagging and circling around Cacavas’s ever-atmospheric organ, after which Stuart has one last thing to say:

It seems a handshake means nothing today
Lifetime of work sold down the river for a man’s weekly pay
Guess I’ll just be bored the REST of MY LIFE
It’s better than giving up the fight

That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for

The way that Stuart hit “REST of MY LIFE” was full of fire and passion, and as amplified by drummer Alex MacNicol’s extra hard snare crack, you could tell that he wanted pretty much anything but that to be his fate. And it certainly wasn’t his dream.

My dream for “That’s What Dreams” was not unlike my dream for a bunch of other great mid-80s alt-rock songs: that it somehow would garner enough airplay — where, it wasn’t actually clear — to break through to a mass audience. At the time, it was inconceivable to me a song like this wouldn’t be huge if it was actually exposed to a mass audience.

I was probably wrong, but that’s what dreams were made for.

Fan-made video for “That’s What Dreams”

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
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The post Certain Songs #546: Green on Red – “That’s What Dreams” appeared first on Booksquare.

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4. Certain Songs #545: Green Day – “Are We The Waiting”

Green Day American Idiot Album: American Idiot
Year: 2004

Like the rest of Western Civilization, I overrated Green Day’s American Idiot when it came out in 2004, and have spent the subsequent decade underrating it.

On one hand, it’s easily their best — or at least, most consistent — studio album. On the other hand, it’s pretty much overwhelmed the rest of their career, and that past decade has seen Billie Joe Armstrong either embracing it — the Broadway musical or the 21st Century Breakdown album — or trying to figure out how to make people forget it, as in the Uno!, Dos! & Tre! records.

My favorite reactions were the “back-to-basics” Foxborough Hot Tubs album and the Demolicious compilation that came out after the Uno!, Dos! & Tre! albums, about which I’ve just now realized that I’ve only heard Uno! and disliked it enough to not bother with the other two.

In any event, none of this has to do with my favorite song from American Idiot, “Are We The Waiting,” which is less of a song than a piece of atmosphere combining two of my favorite things: a modified Phil Spector beat and punk rock football stadium chorus.

But I really love the way Billie Joe sings the verses with a weary resignation:

Starry nights, city lights coming down over me
Skyscrapers and stargazers in my head
Are we we are, are we we are the waiting unknown
This dirty town was burning down in my dreams
Lost and found city bound in my dreams

It’s really a neat trick for him to sing the words of the chorus all by himself over those Spectory drums and a lonely guitar in the middle of each verse, so when the guitars ramp up and the massive overdubbed vocals kick in during each chorus, it manages to keep the melancholy atmosphere of the song, which is part of why it’s my favorite Green Day song.

I mean, in the first wave of punk, the massive chorus vocals usually signified unstoppable power. The backing vocals on the choruses of “White Riot” or “Anarchy in the U.K.” helped make it seem that riots and anarchy had already started, and The Clash and The Sex Pistols were just capturing the sounds of England falling apart in real time.

But in the case of “Are We The Waiting,” it feels like Billie Joe has placed himself in the middle of a generation that is all stuck in the same place just standing around waiting for something to happen. And in fact, they’re not even sure that’s what they’re doing, so they just keep screaming the same question and futilely trying to answer it.

Are we?
We are.
Are we?
We are.
The waiting?
Unknown.

Fan-made video for “Are We The Waiting”

“Are We The Waiting” performed live in 2005

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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5. Certain Songs #553: Guided by Voices – “I Am A Scientist”

GBV I am a Album: I Am A Scientist EP
Year: 1994

My theme song.

You have no idea how much I almost let that be the entire post. But I decided it wasn’t really fair to the song. Or to me, I guess.

Here’s the thing: when y’all have the party to celebrate my passing (currently scheduled for the 2070s), you can play pretty much any of the Certain Songs, but this is the only one I’m requesting, as not even Paul Westerberg wrote a lyric that I relate to as much.

I am a scientist
I seek to understand me
All of my impurities and evils yet unknown

I am a journalist
I write to you to show you
I am an incurable
And nothing else behaves like me

Of course, when you do play it, make sure you use the version on the I Am A Scientist EP, and not the one on Bee Thousand. I mean, the one on the album is fine and all, but the recorded-live-in-the-studio (by the incomparable Andy Shernoff) version is where the music is as powerful as the words.

And I know what’s right
But I’m losing sight
Of the clues
For which I search and choose to abuse
To just unlock my mind
Yeah, and just unlock my mind

On this version, the band is solid, the guitars are loud and Robert Pollard’s singing is forthright, as it damn straight better be as he sings the second verse knowing that he’s speaking not just for himself, but the people who somehow feel like his band have uncovered some new link to their own souls.

I am a pharmacist
Prescriptions I will fill you
Potions, pills and medicines
To ease your painful lives

I am a lost soul
I shoot myself with rock & roll
The hole I dig is bottomless
But nothing else can set me free

“The hole I dig is bottomless.” That was true. I was 31 when “I Am a Scientist” came out, and I’d been digging a rock & roll hole with my life for more than half of my life. Everything was about rock & roll. Spending all of my money on albums and shows and music books and magazines. Becoming a DJ and a clubrat and drummer and a writer — it was everything I was, and everything I ever wanted to be. A big dumb rock guy.

“But nothing else can set me free.” Maybe. But even in 1994, that was going away. After all, I didn’t want to be a DJ in the world of tight corporate playlists; I’d moved from my hometown club scene; I wasn’t a very good drummer; and every time I thought I was getting traction as a writer, something happened with the publication I was writing for.

But here’s the thing: I was still trying. I was still trying to make shit happen with it. Which is why I also related to the optimistic ending of “I Am a Scientist.”

Everything is right
Everything works out right
Everything fades from sight
Because that’s alright with me

After all, that whole World Wide Web thing I’d been reading about seemed interesting.

“I Am A Scientist” (EP version)

“I Am A Scientist” (Album version)

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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6. Certain Songs #544: Green Day – “Warning”

Green day warning_large Album: Warning
Year: 2000

Once the mega-ballad “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” confirmed to Billie Joe Armstrong that he didn’t have to play by the loud fast rules anymore, Green Day followed it up with the Warning album, which featured three of best singles this stellar singles band have ever recorded: the wistful “Waiting,” the angry “Minority,” and my favorite of all, the Kinksy “Warning.”

Ray Davies got so much mileage from stealing riffs, it was fine by me for Billie Joe to acknowledge what was no doubt a key influence by stealing one of his.

Actually, two key influences: when he shouts out “Sanitation, expiration date,” it’s a clear shout-out to the Replacements “Waitress in the Sky,” as well. That said, the crazily catchy chorus was all Billie Joe.

Warning, live without warning
I say a warning, live without warning
I say a warning, live without warning
I say a warning, live without warning
Without alright!

When Warning came out I was dealing with the worst commute of my life — Oakland to to Sunnyvale, 40 miles in each direction — and one of the few memories I’ve allowed myself of what was basically 3 hours of hell every day was digging “Warning” every single time it came on Live 105 or the Warning CD I probably made from downloading the album from Napster. Because it was the fall of 2000, and everything was just about to change.

Though maybe not. I honestly don’t remember. But after Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod I’d pegged Green Day as a singles band, and figured that the next album I would buy would be their greatest hits collection. Which, by the way was a good call, as International Superhits is probably their best album.

That said, in the fall of 2000, I had no idea just how many ideas that Billie Joe Armstrong was going to steal from Ray Davies, or how much everything was going to change in a relatively short period of time. I just knew I was going to continue to enjoy Green Day’s singles.

Official Video for “Warning”

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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7. Certain Songs #543: Green Day – “Longview”

green day dookie Album: Dookie
Year: 1994

Dookie is where being a punk rocker became a valid career choice.

This sounds a bit like an insult, I know, but as I wrote after seeing them at Lollapalooza in 1994 is that the mid-1990s success of Dookie and its fellow third (or fourth) (or fifth) generation punk rock brethren meant that — like metal before it — punk rock had achieved perpetual motion.

Part of which meant that an ambitious guy like Billie Joe Armstrong could choose punk rock as his initial form of expression, and ignore whatever limitations and restrictions that would have previously been inherent to that choice.

Of course, punk rockers had been ignoring the restrictions of punk rock since The Clash, so this was nothing new, but the ongoing success of Green Day felt like something new, because they clearly weren’t visionaries or revolutionaries but rather a super tight band that featured an ace songwriter with a keen melodic sense.

And “Longview” was where it all kicked in: exploiting the quiet loud quiet formula with a loping bassline and rolling drums dominating the verses and guitar explosions and drum rolls in the chorus.

It wasn’t anything new, but it sounded fucking amazing on the radio, which was where Green Day really made their mark. Radio loved their singles, and while the airplay saturation they got didn’t really translate into singles sales — they didn’t have an actual Billboard Charts hit single until “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” it certainly translated into album sales.

But most importantly, I think, is that Green Day provided a contemporary entry into punk for a generation of kids who otherwise might have figured that it was a dying genre.

“Longview”

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8. Certain Songs #542: The Grateful Dead – “Sugar Magnolia (Paris, 1972)”

Grateful Dead Europe 72 Album: Europe ’72
Year: 1972

I saw The Grateful Dead three times in the 1980s. The first time was in February 1982 at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus with Tim & Larry, though exactly why, I’m not sure, since most of my road trips around that time were to see folks that were higher in my personal pantheon, like The Who or The Kinks or Bruce Springsteen or Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Guessing that Larry, who spent more time than anybody probably should have playing Dead music for me, had something to do with that one.

The next time was a few months later, as Tim & I saw them open the final day of the US Festival with a set that was advertised as “Breakfast with The Grateful Dead”.

Since I spent the entire US Festival subsiding on hot dogs & Coca-Cola, I kinda wish they had actually served breakfast during their set.

In any event, both shows were totally enjoyable, even if I was immune to having my mind blown. The final time I saw them was at the Oakland County Coliseum in the summer of 1987 the dire “Dylan & The Dead” tour in 1987.

The best thing about that show was that I got a totally cool Dylan shirt (with a picture of him that was on Biograph) that almost instantly shrunk on me, so I had to give it to my brother Joseph.

None of which has anything to do with this tremendous live version of “Sugar Magnolia” from the Europe ’72 triple-live album.

On American Beauty, “Sugar Magnolia” Bob Weir continues to chant “sunshine daydream,” as the song fades out, but on this live album, that section becomes almost an entirely new song, following an absolutely crackling full-band jam where every single member is firing on all cylinders.

Jerry Garcia’s solos have always gotten the brunt of the praise (and blame) when people talk about their long improvisations, but while his solo is utterly tremendous on this version of “Sugar Magnolia”, the whole band — especially pianist Keith Godchaux — are utterly smoking.

Hell, drummer Bill Kreutzmann gets so carried away he ends up double-timing his snare and actually ends the rave-up a measure too soon, but almost instantly catches himself and ends when everybody else does, a mistake they rightly left on the album.

After the audience starts cheering at the false ending, they leap back into “Sunshine Daydream” section, which is basically a repeat of the preceding jam, but now with Donna Godchaux singing “sunshine daydream” in imperfect harmony with Bob Weir. It’s so much fun that for a few minutes I take back everything bad I’ve ever even thought about hippies.

“Sugar Magnolia (Paris ’72)”

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(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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9. Certain Songs #541: The Grateful Dead – “Playing in the Band (Live 1971)”

grateful dead skull & roses Album: Grateful Dead
Year: 1971

How many Grateful Dead live albums are there by now? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Early on, they realized that their ability to take the same song in different directions on different nights was something their fans treasured, and from 1969 – 1973, they released eight discs worth of live recordings.

For most bands, this would have been seen as flooding the market, but for Deadheads it wasn’t nearly enough, so — with the band’s blessing — the taping and trading of shows abounded, which was an awesome community-building (and keeping) concept that probably arose from a combination of understanding fandom and hippie anti-materialism.

And while the hallmark of the taping and trading policy was “no commercial gain,” that clearly didn’t extend to the Dead, so in the early 1990s, they started bootlegging themselves, which has continued strong for the past quarter-century.

Of course, all of this was still in the embryonic phase when the Dead put out the Grateful Dead live album in 1971. This is the album that is commonly known as “Skull & Roses,” as it was the first Dead artifact to feature of of their most iconic images — a skeleton with a crown of roses.

They’d had skeletons on their album covers, they’d had roses on their album covers, but this is the first time they had both!

It was also the first time “Playing in the Band” made it to record. What I like about this version is that it feels kinda sketchy and tentative, as if the gorgeous ringing guitar duets that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir are throwing together are happening for the first time ever.

Which, probably not, especially since Wikipedia sources the song to 1968. Also, when you listen hard, you can hear how disciplined their guitars are being. But only if you really listen hard, and even then, things are always on the verge of going haywire.

And along with the typically rough harmonies, that sense that things could fall apart even they’re doing everything they can to keep it together is part of the charm of a song like “Playing in the Band.”

“Playing in the Band (Live 1971)

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10. Certain Songs #540: The Grateful Dead – “Friend of The Devil”

grateful dead american beauty Album: American Beauty
Year: 1970

If I was forced at gunpoint to choose my favorite song by The Grateful Dead (and seriously, who would ever actually do that?), it would be the outlaw fantasia “Friend of The Devil,” one of the key tracks on their 1971 classic American Beauty.

I’m definitely not alone in this, of course, and while I don’t really remember “Friend of The Devil” being on the radio in the same way as its contemporaries such as “Casey Jones” and “Truckin,’” over the years, it’s the song that has come to define the Dead for me.

Or at least the Dead I like the most: easy-rolling mostly-acoustic songs with rough vocals and intricate guitar work. So basically Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.

I set out running but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight
I just might get some sleep tonight

As Jerry Garcia is singing Robert Hunter’s myth-making lyrics, there’s a hint of amusement in his voice, as if he’s giving away that the words he’s singing — about borrowing money from the devil, who almost instantly demands payment (at least he didn’t charge interest) — have absolutely nothing to do with the life he actually lives, but he’s also fine with you thinking it is his real life.

This is most apparent in the bridge:

Got two reasons why I cry
Away each lonely night
The first one’s named sweet Anne Marie
And she’s my heart’s delight
Second one is prison, baby
The sheriff’s on my trail
And if he catches up with me
I’ll spend my life in jail

The (American) beauty, of course, is that the actual veracity of a song like “Friend of The Devil” doesn’t even matter. Because Garcia is so clearly enjoying imagining himself as this polygamous outlaw who will probably ask the devil for a bong hit the next time they see each other, it allows us to imagine ourselves having that kinda of freewheeling lifestyle, regardless of the details.

Which, I guess, is one of the reasons it feels like such a key text in the Dead’s mythology: songs like “Friend of The Devil” probably helped people decide to dedicate their lives to following them around, hoping to capture the thrill of the endless life on the road it so effortlessly described.

Some of them might even have.

“Friend of the Devil”

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11. Certain Songs #539: The Grateful Dead – “Cream Puff War”

grateful dead Album: The Grateful Dead
Year: 1967

I’m not even sure where to begin with The Grateful Dead. So let me start with this: regardless of how I’ve ever felt about their music, I always loved how much they understood and respected their fans.

In terms of creating and fostering a community — especially their deep understanding that fans recording and sharing their shows was the best thing possible for their music — around their music, they were absolute role models, emulated by bands like R.E.M., Wilco & The Hold Steady.

That said, it took me a long time to get into their music, and while the excellent work by my Grateful Dead spirit guide, Larry, really helped, the first Grateful Dead album I really loved was mostly atypical from their later work.

Unlike pretty much everything else they recorded afterwards, their self-titled debut was full of speedy garage rockers and crazy-wild rave ups. Sure it had the mandated-by-1960s-law cover of “Morning Dew,” but it also had “Cream Puff War,” a song that would be a highlight of any 60s proto-punk compilation.

Just dig the opening sequence: a dueling guitar and organ sequence highlighted by Jerry Garcia absolutely shredding chords on the guitar with Pig Pen’s organ’s tumbling across the room from the sheer force of that guitar. And with the drums never quite finding a beat to stay with as Garcia shouts:

No, no! She can’t take your mind and leave
I know it’s just another trick she’s got up her sleeve
I can’t believe that she really wants you to die
After all it’s more than enough to pay for your lie

Then the song slows down into a waltz time — a fast waltz time, to be sure — for a couple of measures, because why not, but that’s thrown out the window as the speed kicks back in and with a strangled “ahhhhhh!” Garcia launches into a raggedy and jagged guitar solo, with each note that spews his guitar acting surprised to even exist.

The first time I heard “Cream Puff War,” I was absolutely floored. The universe is, of course, filled with bands who started off garagey and got more and more sophisticated, but that primitive period was part of their legend. In 1981, at least, this period of the Dead seemed like a secret.

I wonder if it still does. I also wonder how Deadheads feel about it. Do they despise it like Radiohead fans slag Pablo Honey in light of their later work, or do they love it, like Who fans have always treasured the rough pop songs on My Generation?

My guess is that it’s the latter, as Deadheads don’t strike me as being as nearly as snobby as, er, Radioheads are, and of course, none of the singles from The Grateful Dead did anything to break them the way that “Creep” broke Radiohead.

Anyways, if you completely associate The Dead with long guitar solos, classic acoustic folk songs, or even that unlikely hit single about growing older, here’s completely different side of their music.

“Cream Puff War”

“Cream Puff War” performed live in 1966 (audio only)

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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12. Certain Songs #539: The Grateful Dead – “Cream Puff War”

grateful dead Album: The Grateful Dead
Year: 1967

I’m not even sure where to begin with The Grateful Dead. So let me start with this: regardless of how I’ve ever felt about their music, I always loved how much they understood and respected their fans.

In terms of creating and fostering a community — especially their deep understanding that fans recording and sharing their shows was the best thing possible for their music — around their music, they were absolute role models, emulated by bands like R.E.M., Wilco & The Hold Steady.

That said, it took me a long time to get into their music, and while the excellent work by my Grateful Dead spirit guide, Larry, really helped, the first Grateful Dead album I really loved was mostly atypical from their later work.

Unlike pretty much everything else they recorded afterwards, their self-titled debut was full of speedy garage rockers and crazy-wild rave ups. Sure it had the mandated-by-1960s-law cover of “Morning Dew,” but it also had “Cream Puff War,” a song that would be a highlight of any 60s proto-punk compilation.

Just dig the opening sequence: a dueling guitar and organ sequence highlighted by Jerry Garcia absolutely shredding chords on the guitar with Pig Pen’s organ’s tumbling across the room from the sheer force of that guitar. And with the drums never quite finding a beat to stay with as Garcia shouts:

No, no! She can’t take your mind and leave
I know it’s just another trick she’s got up her sleeve
I can’t believe that she really wants you to die
After all it’s more than enough to pay for your lie

Then the song slows down into a waltz time — a fast waltz time, to be sure — for a couple of measures, because why not, but that’s thrown out the window as the speed kicks back in and with a strangled “ahhhhhh!” Garcia launches into a raggedy and jagged guitar solo, with each note that spews his guitar acting surprised to even exist.

The first time I heard “Cream Puff War,” I was absolutely floored. The universe is, of course, filled with bands who started off garagey and got more and more sophisticated, but that primitive period was part of their legend. In 1981, at least, this period of the Dead seemed like a secret.

I wonder if it still does. I also wonder how Deadheads feel about it. Do they despise it like Radiohead fans slag Pablo Honey in light of their later work, or do they love it, like Who fans have always treasured the rough pop songs on My Generation?

My guess is that it’s the latter, as Deadheads don’t strike me as being as nearly as snobby as, er, Radioheads are, and of course, none of the singles from The Grateful Dead did anything to break them the way that “Creep” broke Radiohead.

Anyways, if you completely associate The Dead with long guitar solos, classic acoustic folk songs, or even that unlikely hit single about growing older, here’s completely different side of their music.

“Cream Puff War”

“Cream Puff War” performed live in 1966 (audio only)

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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13. Certain Songs #538: Grant Lee Buffalo – “The Hook”

grant lee buffalo Album: Fuzzy
Year: 1993

You young’uns who only know Grant-Lee Phillips as the Stars Hollow town troubadour in Gilmore Girls might be surprised that — for a short while in 1993 — Grant Lee Buffalo felt like the most important band in the world.

That’s because of the initial impact of their debut album Fuzzy, which somehow felt like the first album full of what Mike Scott of The Waterboys called “The Big Music” since The Waterboys abandoned the — well, “genre” is far too strong of a word but it’s all I got here — genre with Fisherman’s Blues.

And even more remarkable, Grant Lee Buffalo created huge anthems with mostly acoustic instruments, their secret being Grant-Lee Phillips electrified acoustic guitar, allowing him to go from gorgeous acoustic to howling electric in the blink of an eye.

That said, the song that most grabbed me was the all-acoustic “The Hook,” where it’s just picked acoustic guitar and brushes on a snare as Phillips starts:

There’s one thing I tell you, friend
I don’t believe in supermen
Who fly through the clouds above the rest
I don’t believe in the best

But it was the chorus of “The Hook” that I was singing to myself at 3:30AM as I was walking home from some post-gig party — usually at that guy (I think) John’s house — in the Tower District, being sure to stay middle of the street so if anybody was going to attack me I might have a chance to outrun them.

‘Cause this is the hook that drags you
This is the hook in the crook of your neck
It’s the hook that snags you
This is the hook

The beautiful melancholy in Phillips’ voice as sang that chorus totally matched my mood then: 1992 had been an incredibly tumultuous year for me, and the spring of 1993 was considerably quieter, even as 30-year-old me had no idea what was going to happen next, which was somehow comfortable, frightening and sad all at the same time.

Of course, the seeds for my future were already being sown: I’d started seeing Rox, and I had bought my first personal computer, where the first thing I did was start connecting with other music fans from around the country, some of whom might be reading this post at this moment.

But of course, I had no idea about any of that, all I knew for sure was that Fuzzy was an album that hooked me by the crook of my neck.

I also remember seeing Grant Lee Buffalo — with The Miss Alans opening — at the CSUF Satellite College Union at some point after Fuzzy came out, and thoroughly enjoying them.

“The Hook”

“The Hook” performed live in Frankfurt, 1994

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14. Certain Songs #537: Grant Hart – “Is The Sky The Limit?”

grant hart the argument Album: The Argument
Year: 2013

Despite immediately following the break-up of his band with the 2541 EP and Intolerance, Grant Hart has only recorded sporadically in the intervening years.

There were the Nova Mob albums in the mid-1990s, which showed that for all of his melodic gifts, his rock tunes could use a great drummer & guitarist to make them less generic, and he then followed those with a pair of solo albums, 1999’s Good News For Modern Man and 2009’s Hot Wax.

And while I think I might have underrated all of these records — my 1994 review of the second Nova Mob album snidely wondered if he was really only good for 3 or 4 good songs per album — I was always rooting for him, even contributing to the Kickstarter for Gorman Bechard’s Every Everything documentary. (Which I still think shoulda been called Dead Set on Destruction, or even Keep Hangin’ On, but that’s just me.)

Anyways, I’m glad to report that Grant Hart’s 2013 album, The Argument, is easily the best record he’s made since Warehouse: Songs and Stories, and is chock full of great songs.

Based upon both Milton’s Paradise Lost and a lost William S. Burroughs sci-fi short story, The Argument would completely fall under the weight of its own pretentions, both musically and lyrically, except that Hart wrote a whole bunch of off-kilter pop songs to carry it.

“Is The Sky The Limit?” is a perfect example, as it is short, spacey and trancey, starting out with what I think is a zither over a slow drum beat, and adding instruments and vocals as the song marches menacingly to its conclusion.

As a whole country of overdubbed Harts chant “radiate / radiate away” over what is either a sample of crickets or some kind of alarm, “Is The Sky The Limit” achieves the weird symphonic grandeur that it feels like Hart has been aiming for during his entire solo career.

Having long given up on any kind of Hüsker Dü reunion (even as I ran out and bought a New Day Rising T-shirt I couldn’t find in 1985 from their newly-booted merch store), I can only hope that The Argument is the beginning of the same kind of late-period renaissance that Silver Age marked for his ever-erstwhile partner.

“Is The Sky The Limit?”

“Is The Sky The Limit?” performed solo acoustic in 2013

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15. Certain Songs #536: Grant Hart – “The Main”

grant hart intolerance Album: Intolerance
Year: 1989

Both Grant Hart and Bob Mould released solo albums in 1989, and both albums were surprising in that they completely abandoned the ferociously melodic punk rock that that Hüsker Dü had pioneered.

So while Mould’s Workbook featured precise, acoustic-oriented songs, Hart’s Intolerance was full of big, ramshackle arrangements, piling on the keyboards and whatever else was lying around the studio that day.

Both albums had their charms and their confessions, but while Workbook was an anomaly for Mould, who soon returned to the roaring guitars, Intolerance set the template for much of the rest of Hart’s solo career.

And the best song on either record was Hart’s unnervingly frank tale of heroin addiction, “The Main.”

Over a waltzing piano and organ that feels like a lifeline, Hart sings:

Well, it sinks to the bottom or floats to the top
I avoided policemen when I went to cop
She sang one two three, one two three, come get it now
And I took just as much as my brass would allow

Fucking chilling, but then a whole choir of Grant Harts come in for the chorus, which is half-gospel, half-sea shanty and completely devastating.

On the main, the main, remember your name
Remember the things you and I became
Reeperbahn, Christiania, Pigalle all the same
On the main, the main, remember your name

It didn’t matter where he went on that European tour. It didn’t matter that he was one of the most unique drummers who ever sat behind a kit, (I’ll get to that when I write about the Hüskers.) All that mattered was shooting smack, period.

I was smack in the middle of alphabet town
There was life on the corners and death all around
You know hell is the worst place that I’ve ever been to
The hell that I went through when I stuck it into

The main, the main, remember your name
Remember the things you and I became
Reeperbahn, Christiania, Pigalle all the same
On the main, the main, remember your name

This is a long way from feeling like Jesus’s son. And while I’ll give “Heroin” the nod for being the greatest song about heroin, “The Main” is way way up there, completely stripping all of the glamour away, and leaving only the emptiness and craving.

In fact, it felt like a miracle that Hart was even able to write and record such a beautiful song about his dissolution.

In the late 1980s, when Intolerance came out, my little tribe was probably as druggy as we were ever going to be, and while I decided when I was still a kid that I was never ever going to try heroin under any circumstances, a song like “The Main” was a stark reminder of why that was probably a good decision.

“The Main”

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16. Certain Songs #535: Grant Hart – “2541”

grant hart Album: 2541 EP
Year: 1988

The breakup of Hüsker Dü in early 1988 caught me by surprise and broke my heart. After all, they’d released more great music in the previous few years than any other band, and were only getting better.

Out of all of the bands I loved, surely they were going to last forever. Or at least long enough for me to finally get to see them in concert. Which hadn’t happened yet, for two reasons: 1) they never made it to Fresno, and 2) they weren’t quite popular enough with my peer group to gather folks for a road trip like we did for The Smiths or R.E.M. or U2.

So I never saw them, and I’ll never quite get over that. Luckily, both Bob Mould and Grant Hart have continued to make great music in the decades since, starting with Grant Hart’s amazing “2541,” a song that is an equal to any of the songs he did while in the Hüskers.

Over a quietly-picked acoustic guitar, Hart sings wistfully of the beginning of a chapter in his life:

Jimmy gave me the number
Jerry gave us a place to stay
And Billy got a hold of a van
And man we moved in the very next day

To twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one

As the drums build and the acoustic guitars get layered and augmented with electric guitars, Hart comes up with one of the greatest details about living in bohemian squalor I’ve ever heard.

We had to keep the stove on all night long
So the mice wouldn’t freeze

That’s just so exquisitely beautiful, which is why “2541” takes a turn when Hart starts letting us know that he’s singing not about the excitement of a new beginning from the standpoint of that new beginning, but rather from the perspective of that new beginning’s ending.

Now everything is over
Now everything is done
Everything’s in boxes
At twenty-five forty-one

Well things are so much different now
I’d say the situation’s reversed
And it’ll probably not be the last time
I’ll have to be out by the first

All along, the music has been swelling up and fading out, but after this it’s all build, as not just the guitars pile on, but Hart and his background singers just start repeating the utterly gorgeous chorus over and over and over.

Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun

On and on and on and on and on, in every possible combination, with Hart getting ever more emotional as the songuntil the guitars and drums swelled so loudly they drowned even the vocals out, carrying them into the fade.

As the first shot fired in what I assumed was going to be the long-running post-breakup war of one of my all-time favorite bands, “2541” utterly and absolutely floored me.

Even if the song wasn’t explicitly about the breakup of Hüsker Dü, it was about a break up, and it felt to me like Grant Hart had taken all of the sadness I felt about their breakups and all of the love I still felt about their music and channeled it into a single emotionally wrenching yet ultimately cathartic song.

Why this song isn’t remembered as one of the best indie rock singles of the 1980s is still beyond me.

Hart rerecorded this for his first solo album, Intolerance, which came out a year later. Revved up with big electric guitars from the very start, and sporting a conventional rhythm guitar throughout, it retains that amazing chorus, but doesn’t nearly have the same amount of soul.

So if that’s the only version you’ve ever heard — which given the fact that in 1988-1989 if you were in for a penny you were in for a pound, so you probably heard both — you’re probably mystified by this entire post.

We covered “2541” in Sedan Delivery just a couple of years later, and it was always so much fun to just play that simple, skittering beat and sing (unmiked, but I didn’t care) the chorus from behind the drums, just like I’d being singing it around my apartment, at the radio station and in my car for the two years prior.

And just like it’ll be in my head for the rest of the day after writing this.

“2541”

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(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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17. Certain Songs #535: Grant Hart – “2541”

grant hart Album: 2541 EP
Year: 1988

The breakup of Hüsker Dü in early 1988 caught me by surprise and broke my heart. After all, they’d released more great music in the previous few years than any other band, and were only getting better.

Out of all of the bands I loved, surely they were going to last forever. Or at least long enough for me to finally get to see them in concert. Which hadn’t happened yet, for two reasons: 1) they never made it to Fresno, and 2) they weren’t quite popular enough with my peer group to gather folks for a road trip like we did for The Smiths or R.E.M. or U2.

So I never saw them, and I’ll never quite get over that. Luckily, both Bob Mould and Grant Hart have continued to make great music in the decades since, starting with Grant Hart’s amazing “2541,” a song that is an equal to any of the songs he did while in the Hüskers.

Over a quietly-picked acoustic guitar, Hart sings wistfully of the beginning of a chapter in his life:

Jimmy gave me the number
Jerry gave us a place to stay
And Billy got a hold of a van
And man we moved in the very next day

To twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one

As the drums build and the acoustic guitars get layered and augmented with electric guitars, Hart comes up with one of the greatest details about living in bohemian squalor I’ve ever heard.

We had to keep the stove on all night long
So the mice wouldn’t freeze

That’s just so exquisitely beautiful, which is why “2541” takes a turn when Hart starts letting us know that he’s singing not about the excitement of a new beginning from the standpoint of that new beginning, but rather from the perspective of that new beginning’s ending.

Now everything is over
Now everything is done
Everything’s in boxes
At twenty-five forty-one

Well things are so much different now
I’d say the situation’s reversed
And it’ll probably not be the last time
I’ll have to be out by the first

All along, the music has been swelling up and fading out, but after this it’s all build, as not just the guitars pile on, but Hart and his background singers just start repeating the utterly gorgeous chorus over and over and over.

Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun
Twenty-five forty-one
Big windows to let in the sun

On and on and on and on and on, in every possible combination, with Hart getting ever more emotional as the songuntil the guitars and drums swelled so loudly they drowned even the vocals out, carrying them into the fade.

As the first shot fired in what I assumed was going to be the long-running post-breakup war of one of my all-time favorite bands, “2541” utterly and absolutely floored me.

Even if the song wasn’t explicitly about the breakup of Hüsker Dü, it was about a break up, and it felt to me like Grant Hart had taken all of the sadness I felt about their breakups and all of the love I still felt about their music and channeled it into a single emotionally wrenching yet ultimately cathartic song.

Why this song isn’t remembered as one of the best indie rock singles of the 1980s is still beyond me.

Hart rerecorded this for his first solo album, Intolerance, which came out a year later. Revved up with big electric guitars from the very start, and sporting a conventional rhythm guitar throughout, it retains that amazing chorus, but doesn’t nearly have the same amount of soul.

So if that’s the only version you’ve ever heard — which given the fact that in 1988-1989 if you were in for a penny you were in for a pound, so you probably heard both — you’re probably mystified by this entire post.

We covered “2541” in Sedan Delivery just a couple of years later, and it was always so much fun to just play that simple, skittering beat and sing (unmiked, but I didn’t care) the chorus from behind the drums, just like I’d being singing it around my apartment, at the radio station and in my car for the two years prior.

And just like it’ll be in my head for the rest of the day after writing this.

“2541”

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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18. Certain Songs #534: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”

grandmaster flash-the-message Album: The Message
Year: 1982

I pretty much missed the earliest wave of rap music. Sure, it was something that I read about, but it goes without saying that it wasn’t in heavy rotation on any of the radio stations that I was listening to in Fresno in the early 1980s.

So what little rap I heard was through cultural osmosis — maybe the late-night video shows, or going up and down the radio dial. I actually do have a memory of stumbling across “Rapper’s Delight” on the radio in my car and not really comprehending it, even though at the same time I knew exactly what it was. What else could it be?

Oh, and of course, “Rapture,” which I guess would qualify as cultural appropriation these days, no matter how sincere Debbie Harry was in her musical eclecticism.

So it wasn’t probably until 1984’s Greatest Messages compilation when I fully heard it. And even then, it probably took me a few years — coming back around to it after Run-DMC, LL Cool J & Public Enemy took hip-hop to whole new levels — to fully understand how great “The Message” truly is.

All these years later, I can hear what makes “The Message” so great. For one thing, it has two distinct hooks. First off, there’s the thesis statement Melle Mel makes at the outset of the song:

It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

In other words, what’s coming next isn’t for the faint of heart.

Broken glass everywhere
People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

After that, he almost stutters the first half of the chorus, like he wants you to make sure you know how fucked up every thing is.

Don’t
Push
Me
Cos
I’m
Close
To
The
Edge

I’m
Trying
Not
To
Lose
My
Head

Huh-huh huh-huh

That nervous laugh is almost scarier than any of the words. Nobody who is laughing like that is going to settle for their circumstances, and Melle Mel punctuates that by inserting that laugh in almost random points in the song.

And in the end, there’s a skit that plays as the link between “Living For The City” and “Fuck Tha Police” where they’re all hanging out and are suddenly hassled by the cops, the implication being that just speaking out about their surrounding is going to bring the heat down on them. But we all know that would never happen.

“The Message”

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19. Certain Songs #530: Gram Parsons – “A Song For You”

gram parsons gp Album: GP
Year: 1973

Imagine being around while The Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main St. and being tossed out because you were just too fucked up all the time.

This was what was going on with Gram Parsons when he was trying to put together his first solo album, GP. And, if fact, when you read about the recording of GP, it feels like a miracle that it ever got finished.

Which is apropos, because at its very best, GP kinda sounds like a miracle.

And the bringer of that miracle was the voice of Emmylou Harris, who provides harmony on the gorgeous “A Song For You,” where over a lovely organ and pedal steel guitar, they sing:

So take me down to your dance floor
And I won’t mind the people when they stare
Paint a different color on your front door
And tomorrow we will still be there

If Parsons’ work with The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers lived at the intersection of rock and country, then his solo albums pretty much dispensed with the rock. “A Song For You” was a pure country ballad, as deep and wide as the Appalachian mountains.

“A Song For You”

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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The post Certain Songs #530: Gram Parsons – “A Song For You” appeared first on Booksquare.

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20. Certain Songs #531: Gram Parsons – “She”

gram parsons gp Album: GP
Year: 1973

There is a tendency when someone dies at an early age to overstate their accomplishments, especially if they went from strength to strength to strength, like Gram Parsons did.

But, weirdly enough, as one of the architects of country-rock, it’s possible that Parsons remains an underappreciated figure, especially in terms of his songwriting. Part of this, of course, was that he thrived on collaborations, so he wasn’t ever fully thrust out into the spotlight.

Even the albums which bore his name were full of collaborations, covers and of course, Emmylou Harris.

That said, Harris is nowhere near “She,” the slow-burning story song that was a absolute highlight of GP. It’s also the greatest singing performance that Gram Parsons ever gave in his too-short life.

Which was apropos, given that the subject was a great singer, and when the song gently swings into its chorus, Parsons’ vocals were utterly sublime:

Oh, yes, she sure could sing
Yeah yeah she sure could sing
She had faith, she had believing
She led all the people together in singing
And she prays every night to the Lord up above
Singing hallelujah

Halleluuuuuu…jah

There is an infinite amount of beauty in the way his voice breaks on the first “hallelujah,” and how he holds the “luuuuuuuuuuu” on the second one.

The arrangement emphasizes the singing by nearly breaking down at this point, pouring all the focus on his vocals.

“She”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

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21. Certain Songs #532: Grandaddy – “Now It’s On”

grandaddy now its on
Album: Sumday
Year: 2003

Click. It was always easy to root for Grandaddy.

Click. Not only did bandleader Jason Lytle also grow up in California’s Central Valley, but their merging of crunchy guitars, electronic sounds and Neil Young-like melodies was a unique thing at the turn of the century, and sounds positively prescient now.

Click. And while my favorite Grandaddy album is their swan song, 2006’s Just Like The Fambly Cat, (which was practically a Jason Lytle solo album), my favorite Grandaddy song is the lead track from 2003’s Sumday, “Now It’s On”

Click. “Now It’s On” escapsulated all of Grandaddy’s strengths: chugging mid-tempo guitars, a slightly fucked-up beat and weird electronic effects all in service of an effortlessly pretty elongated melody.

Bust the lock off the front door
Once you’re outside you won’t want to hide anymore
Light the light on the front porch
Once it’s on you never wanna turn it off anymore
And now it’s on
And now it’s on

Click. There’s a musical moment to die for in the middle of “Now it’s On” as well.

Click. Just after the first chorus, instead of going back to another verse, there’s a guitar solo where the guitar is just playing the melody of the chorus. Which is already great: as I’ve pointed out before, I’m a sucker for solos like that. And apparently, so is Jason Lytle: about halfway through the solo is a joyous “weeee-hooo!” like he’s overjoyed that they’re getting away with it.

Click. As with so many artists from the turn of the century, I think I might have slightly underrated Grandaddy at the time, and I think I need to go back and explore them again.

Click.

Official video for “Now It’s On”


“Now It’s On” performed live on Letterman, 1993
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptEpLyNiu6s

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #532: Grandaddy – “Now It’s On” appeared first on Booksquare.

0 Comments on Certain Songs #532: Grandaddy – “Now It’s On” as of 5/11/2016 7:42:00 PM
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22. Certain Songs #532: Grandaddy – “Now It’s On”

grandaddy now its on
Album: Sumday
Year: 2003

Click. It was always easy to root for Grandaddy.

Click. Not only did bandleader Jason Lytle also grow up in California’s Central Valley, but their merging of crunchy guitars, electronic sounds and Neil Young-like melodies was a unique thing at the turn of the century, and sounds positively prescient now.

Click. And while my favorite Grandaddy album is their swan song, 2006’s Just Like The Fambly Cat, (which was practically a Jason Lytle solo album), my favorite Grandaddy song is the lead track from 2003’s Sumday, “Now It’s On”

Click. “Now It’s On” escapsulated all of Grandaddy’s strengths: chugging mid-tempo guitars, a slightly fucked-up beat and weird electronic effects all in service of an effortlessly pretty elongated melody.

Bust the lock off the front door
Once you’re outside you won’t want to hide anymore
Light the light on the front porch
Once it’s on you never wanna turn it off anymore
And now it’s on
And now it’s on

Click. There’s a musical moment to die for in the middle of “Now it’s On” as well.

Click. Just after the first chorus, instead of going back to another verse, there’s a guitar solo where the guitar is just playing the melody of the chorus. Which is already great: as I’ve pointed out before, I’m a sucker for solos like that. And apparently, so is Jason Lytle: about halfway through the solo is a joyous “weeee-hooo!” like he’s overjoyed that they’re getting away with it.

Click. As with so many artists from the turn of the century, I think I might have slightly underrated Grandaddy at the time, and I think I need to go back and explore them again.

Click.

Official video for “Now It’s On”


“Now It’s On” performed live on Letterman, 1993
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptEpLyNiu6s

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #532: Grandaddy – “Now It’s On” appeared first on Booksquare.

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23. Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band”

grand funk we're Album: We’re An American Band
Year: 1973

Fuck yeah, I owned this single. I mean, gold vinyl, right!? But of course, that wasn’t the reason that “We’re An American Band” became a #1 hit single in the early fall of 1973.

40 years later, it seems improbable that a song which was this much rawk, both musically and lyrically, ever scaled the charts. Hell, even at the time, it felt pretty weird.

I mean, first off, “We’re An American Band” starts out with a short cowbell-lead drum solo which leaps directly into a guitar solo. Not normally the stuff of pop glory.

All of that happens before they even get to the actual riff, which is equal parts big, stupid and gnarly. In other words, totally awesome! And already we’re an unimaginable 30 seconds into the song before Don Brewer even opens his mouth to sing. By this time, most monster hits have already finished their first chorus.

Out on the road for forty days
Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze
Sweet, sweet Connie was doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact

Oh, that’s right. First verse, and we’re inundated with sex, drugs and rock n roll. The basics of life.

And maybe it’s the first time you’re hearing this song on the radio, and after that long intro and first verse, you’re intrigued. As they continue to the second verse you wonder who could these righteous dudes be? These rock ‘n’ roll fellas who are playing poker with Freddie King and boozing it up with the ladies?

And you wonder: are they yet another one of those British bands you’ve been reading about that drive cars into swimming pools and wreck hotel rooms?

Hell no!!

We’re an American Band
We’re an American Band
We’re comin’ to your town
We’ll help you party it down
We’re an American band

U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!

That’s right: the great message of “We’re An American Band” was “American rock ‘n’ rollers could tear it up, too.” Damn straight. We can take illegal drugs, bang groupies and party all night and then still get up on stage and rock the fuck out, too!

Kiss just wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day. Grand Funk Railroad did it!!

Even better, Grand Funk Railroad somehow had it both ways. Listening to “We’re An American Band” now, it becomes clear they were both celebrating and taking the piss out of their own bad behavior. While inspiring kids like me to want to become rock stars so we could behave that badly as well!

But, of course, I was 10 years old, so it wasn’t like I was going to meet some fine ladies and tear down a hotel with them, no matter how much fun that sounded like.

But what I could do was sing that irresistible chorus over and over again. Guessing that ringer producer Todd Rundgren had more than a little to do with adding the manly harmonies and killer one-note piano that made “We’re An American Band” utterly leap from the AM radio and into the hearts of right-thinking Americans everywhere.

Promo film for “We’re An American Band”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band” appeared first on Booksquare.

0 Comments on Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band” as of 5/12/2016 7:48:00 PM
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24. Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band”

grand funk we're Album: We’re An American Band
Year: 1973

Fuck yeah, I owned this single. I mean, gold vinyl, right!? But of course, that wasn’t the reason that “We’re An American Band” became a #1 hit single in the early fall of 1973.

40 years later, it seems improbable that a song which was this much rawk, both musically and lyrically, ever scaled the charts. Hell, even at the time, it felt pretty weird.

I mean, first off, “We’re An American Band” starts out with a short cowbell-lead drum solo which leaps directly into a guitar solo. Not normally the stuff of pop glory.

All of that happens before they even get to the actual riff, which is equal parts big, stupid and gnarly. In other words, totally awesome! And already we’re an unimaginable 30 seconds into the song before Don Brewer even opens his mouth to sing. By this time, most monster hits have already finished their first chorus.

Out on the road for forty days
Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze
Sweet, sweet Connie was doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact

Oh, that’s right. First verse, and we’re inundated with sex, drugs and rock n roll. The basics of life.

And maybe it’s the first time you’re hearing this song on the radio, and after that long intro and first verse, you’re intrigued. As they continue to the second verse you wonder who could these righteous dudes be? These rock ‘n’ roll fellas who are playing poker with Freddie King and boozing it up with the ladies?

And you wonder: are they yet another one of those British bands you’ve been reading about that drive cars into swimming pools and wreck hotel rooms?

Hell no!!

We’re an American Band
We’re an American Band
We’re comin’ to your town
We’ll help you party it down
We’re an American band

U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!

That’s right: the great message of “We’re An American Band” was “American rock ‘n’ rollers could tear it up, too.” Damn straight. We can take illegal drugs, bang groupies and party all night and then still get up on stage and rock the fuck out, too!

Kiss just wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day. Grand Funk Railroad did it!!

Even better, Grand Funk Railroad somehow had it both ways. Listening to “We’re An American Band” now, it becomes clear they were both celebrating and taking the piss out of their own bad behavior. While inspiring kids like me to want to become rock stars so we could behave that badly as well!

But, of course, I was 10 years old, so it wasn’t like I was going to meet some fine ladies and tear down a hotel with them, no matter how much fun that sounded like.

But what I could do was sing that irresistible chorus over and over again. Guessing that ringer producer Todd Rundgren had more than a little to do with adding the manly harmonies and killer one-note piano that made “We’re An American Band” utterly leap from the AM radio and into the hearts of right-thinking Americans everywhere.

Promo film for “We’re An American Band”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band” appeared first on Booksquare.

0 Comments on Certain Songs #533: Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re An American Band” as of 5/12/2016 7:48:00 PM
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25. Certain Songs #534: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”

grandmaster flash-the-message Album: The Message
Year: 1982

I pretty much missed the earliest wave of rap music. Sure, it was something that I read about, but it goes without saying that it wasn’t in heavy rotation on any of the radio stations that I was listening to in Fresno in the early 1980s.

So what little rap I heard was through cultural osmosis — maybe the late-night video shows, or going up and down the radio dial. I actually do have a memory of stumbling across “Rapper’s Delight” on the radio in my car and not really comprehending it, even though at the same time I knew exactly what it was. What else could it be?

Oh, and of course, “Rapture,” which I guess would qualify as cultural appropriation these days, no matter how sincere Debbie Harry was in her musical eclecticism.

So it wasn’t probably until 1984’s Greatest Messages compilation when I fully heard it. And even then, it probably took me a few years — coming back around to it after Run-DMC, LL Cool J & Public Enemy took hip-hop to whole new levels — to fully understand how great “The Message” truly is.

All these years later, I can hear what makes “The Message” so great. For one thing, it has two distinct hooks. First off, there’s the thesis statement Melle Mel makes at the outset of the song:

It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

In other words, what’s coming next isn’t for the faint of heart.

Broken glass everywhere
People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

After that, he almost stutters the first half of the chorus, like he wants you to make sure you know how fucked up every thing is.

Don’t
Push
Me
Cos
I’m
Close
To
The
Edge

I’m
Trying
Not
To
Lose
My
Head

Huh-huh huh-huh

That nervous laugh is almost scarier than any of the words. Nobody who is laughing like that is going to settle for their circumstances, and Melle Mel punctuates that by inserting that laugh in almost random points in the song.

And in the end, there’s a skit that plays as the link between “Living For The City” and “Fuck Tha Police” where they’re all hanging out and are suddenly hassled by the cops, the implication being that just speaking out about their surrounding is going to bring the heat down on them. But we all know that would never happen.

“The Message”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #534: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message” appeared first on Booksquare.

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