Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Today’s Playlist | Lefsetz Letter

Today’s Playlist – Spotify

“The Song Of Purple Summer”
“Spring Awakening”

Do they do “Spring Awakening” at high schools yet? I’m kinda stunned, this is from 2006, over ten years ago, and I can’t say the rest of the score resonates with me/I remember it, but I absolutely LOVE THIS!

It reminds me of the finale of “Fame,” I guess I love the majesty, the melody, it simultaneously makes you want to conduct the choir and sing along at the same time.

Your hitmaking era is usually brief. Give Duncan Sheik credit for realizing this, and you must realize how hard it is to have a Broadway success, not only to write but get it mounted and stick on the Great White Way.

ALL SHALL KNOW THE WONDER OF PURPLE SUMMER!

“So Little Time To Fly”
Spirit

From 1969’s “Clear,” and it’s amazing how crisp and clear this sounds considering that was almost fifty years ago.

I never knew that this was covered by Status Quo, just found that doing research, and I won’t say it’s as good, because the English band is lacking the exquisite vocal of Jay Ferguson, who is most famous for “Thunder Island” and is still around, but no one seems to know this, unfortunately.

But when you listen to the original…

You’ll get an idea of what it was like way back when, when underground FM ruled and it was anathema to have a hit on AM, when you bought the LPs and played them in a marijuana haze and nodded and knew every note and went to hear your favorites live more than to take selfies at the show.

It’s impossible to listen to “So Little Time To Fly” without nodding your head, without feeling you want to get behind the wheel and lower the window, put your arm on the sill and mash the accelerator.

Actually, I didn’t know this way back when, we couldn’t afford everything, it surfaced for me during the Napster/download era, of course I’m deep into “Dr. Sardonicus,” but this is just as magical.

“Sewn”
The Feeling

If you’re under twenty five have you ever heard this?

Certainly not if you’re living on this side of the pond, the Feeling had some huge success in the UK back in 2006, and if you’re the type of person who loved the Raspberries, who believe catchiness is cool, who believes the ability to sing and employ melody are a good thing, you’ll love this, it’s magical.

I yearn for the return of stuff like this.

I feel I’m gonna have to wait a very long time.

“Sewn” is deceptively long, be sure to hang in there until the transition at 3:25 when the guitar slashes and the song gets intense and builds to a release, you cannot listen to this and feel you’re alone, you believe you’re part of a vast audience with this mellifluous sound washing over you and it feels so GOOD!

“The Long Goodbye”
Paul Brady

Being a songwriter used to be different, you weren’t a topliner, improvising, your goal was to capture life in verse, a few minutes, much shorter than a book or a movie but encapsulating life even more accurately and powerfully, that’s the essence of music, sure, it’s a sound that makes you move your feet, makes you feel good, but…

Sometimes I ask my heart did we really
Give our love a chance

That’s something that went out the window with the turn of the century, commitment. Or maybe we’ve got to go back to the seventies, or back to the sixties, with the birth control pill, when everybody thought there was something better around the corner if you could just break up and take the risk.

I don’t believe this is true. I’m not saying you’ve always got to stay together, sometimes breakups are right, but too often one partner is unwilling to do the hard work, it’s so hard to get this far, to find someone, to click, to get along, you don’t want to throw that away too fast, without thinking about it.

“What Comes After”
Stories

Michael Lookofsky, aka Michael Brown, is gone now, but his work with the Left Banke lives on, deservedly so.

And after that act Brown was in a band called Stories, which ultimately had a hit with “Brother Louie,” but that’s not representative of what the band was about, “What Comes After” is.

Now music has become communal, despite being listened to via earbuds, it’s all about being a member of the group, but “What Comes After” is for you personally, I had the album “About Us” on a cassette I played driving cross-country, to hear “What Comes After” made me feel like it was all gonna be all right, and I don’t always feel that way…

“Blue Of Your Backdrop”
Honk

Be your own saving grace
Tip your hat, take your place
And shine on

California used to be different. Actually, it’s different once again, only in a different way. It’s the anti-D.C., the anti-Trumpland, we’ve got our own emissions standards, we’re fighting for a more equitable society and taxes are high but no one wants to leave because living is so damn good, even if real estate is astronomically expensive. And if you don’t believe that, you probably don’t live here, so save me your exhortations, that’s what’s wrong with America, everybody telling everybody else they’re doing it wrong, if you like to live where it’s every person for themselves, sans safety net, be my guest, but don’t rain on my parade.

But the mentality used to be different, before the world shrank, when the Golden State was three hours behind the rest of the country and didn’t care, when it went its own way and let its freak flag fly.

This is from the soundtrack of one of the greatest surf flicks of all time, “5 Summer Stories,” and you don’t have to see it but everybody active back in the seventies knows this album and this band from the soundtrack.

I want you to shine on. I want you to cast off the shackles, stop worrying about the limitations, forget about who your parents want you to be and be your best self.

I’m gonna try too.

“Dandy”
The Kinks

Did you know it was a Kinks song first, before Peter Noone and his band of merrymen made it a ubiquitous hit?

Of course, it all makes sense when you listen…

“Fountain Of Sorrow”
Jackson Browne

From back before he was a rocker, before the Fender became upfront and center, when he was America’s wise before his years troubadour without a hit but a growing audience.

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you

My father took slides, but that was an era of snapshots, I wish I had some now. Every once in a while someone will send one along from back then and I’ll be stunned, was I ever that young, that thin, why was I so insecure?

And the thing about memories is they fade but they never go away, you’re alternately haunted and elated by what once was, and fifteen years ago, maybe ten, it was cool to reach out to all those you’d been disconnected from for decades but I did not, because it’s too unsettling, there’s a reason you left them behind or vice versa…and I’m not a stalker, I don’t want to see what an ex-girlfriend is doing every damn day, and I don’t think they’re stalking me, but what if they are?

There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

Why does everybody hate themselves in photographs, why do they hold themselves up to unattainable standards, when done right a photo captures a part of you, but not all of you, and that part of you is true.

“Fountain Of Sorrow” is nearly seven minutes long, and when I say they don’t make them like this anymore, I mean it. No one’s shooting this high, a record is what you use to rationalize the tour, and even if you nail it you’re just part of the endless wash, why be new and different and independent when even those playing the game can’t get recognized?

I’m not sure.

But “Fountain Of Sorrow” cut us to the bone, it was unforgettable, it’s stuff like this that keeps us still going to the show today.

“Tell Me Why”
Taylor Swift

All of the above songs are from my iTunes Top 200. I go back there now and again, to reconnect, when I need to be rooted, the app is so damn bad and I never download music anymore, I’m a streamer, but when I hear these old songs they remind me…

Of 2009, when Taylor Swift was still a secret, only known by the country world and her fans.

I took a chance
I took a shot
And you might thing I’m bulletproof
But I’m not

How brave, how inspirational! They keep telling us to take a risk, we get it, but it’s so hard to do…

You took a swing
I took it hard
And down here from the ground I see who you are

This was back when Tay Tay was still punching up, when she was still the geek, the underdog, before she achieved world domination and felt it was her duty to be loved by all and to excoriate those not on her team. And that’s just plain sad, that she grew up in the spotlight, that she doesn’t realize that no one really cares, that we’re all equal and forgettable, only known for a moment. Fame has its perks, but it’s got its costs too. She’s licking her wounds now, and that’s good, but I wish she’d go back to rock and roll/country instead of the pop tripe she’s purveying today, hey, look even her old paramour Harry Styles has!

I’m sick and tired of your attitude
I’m feeling like I don’t know you
You tell me that you love me then you cut me down

Look at this through the lens of 2009, not 2017, she was hurt and she was expressing her anger, this was before she evolved into her GOTCHA! persona, when she started to settle scores, when the truth is you never can, you’ve got to declare individual victory and march on.

Tell me why
Why, tell me why

In ten short years the world has turned completely upside down, Taylor Swift was once the great white hope, and then she bought in and helped bring the whole edifice down.

It was all about sincerity, credibility, changes and the ability to sing along, those first two Taylor Swift LPs are exquisite, documents nearly equal to Joni Mitchell’s peak, in their sheer honesty and insight, and listening now you do wonder how much responsibility she had, her voice is thin, she’s not playing the instruments, but it’s her name on the record.

We’re all just people. Insecure. With more questions than answers. Geeky. Taylor Swift too.

But she made a career out of it, and an audience clamored for her authenticity, it could not be gotten anywhere else, she invented the paradigm and now…

She’s standing up for stuff that doesn’t even matter.

You know this isn’t even on Spotify?

Why?

What battle is she fighting here? One she’s already lost. Along with all that money.

And I think Taylor Swift is too old and too experienced to recapture the zeitgeist, but…

Imagine if she pulled back the layers and sang the truth about what she’s been through this past ten years, the journey from zero to hero, nowhere to everywhere, everybody wanting a piece of her but fumbling towards ecstasy in public, that’s an album I’d want to hear.

Like “Tell Me Why.”

Tell Me Why – YouTube

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