Tag Archives: Memories

[149] Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

19 Feb

Oh, that voice.  It has always been present in my life, and it has always done something to me.

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Kate Bush had a powerful effect on the boys of my generation.  Even into our 40s, my friends and I still find ourselves captivated by a Kate Bush video, a potent combination of hormones and nostalgia ensuring our complete attention.

Kate Bush was certainly a part of my childhood, her singles playing on the radio, on Top Of The Pops, on early MTV.  But The Kick Inside came out just a little too early for it to have had a great influence on my musical education – indeed I believe it was the only Kate Bush album I was not thoroughly familiar with before exploring it for the blog.  The Hounds of Love is likely my favorite, although The Red Shoes and the wonderful compilation, The Whole Story, certainly received more play over the years.

And when I was ready, finally prepared to really engage with the themes and emotions explored by Kate Bush, it was Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes which opened my eyes, blew my mind, shaped my world.

While I was pleased to see Kate Bush on om Moon’s list, it always bothers me that it appears that she makes the cut at the expense of Tori Amos – the only mention of Tori in the hundreds and hundreds of pages of the book is as a “Next Stop” footnote to The Kick Inside.

I understand Tori claims never to have heard Kate before recording her debut album, but whether or not you believe that has little to do with the powerful effect of her raw yet still cultured musicality.

While I have little doubt that a Kate Bush album makes my top 1,000, Tori Amos makes my top 100 at the very least.

After taking this opportunity to rant at what appears to me a near unforgivable omission, I return to the album and the artist of the day, and find that I have many vivid and varied memories of listening to Kate Bush:

– My first love (long ago and far away away) once included “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” on a mix tape for me, as I was flying away from her, perhaps forever.  Twenty years later the song still has the power to make me blush and smile and sigh.

– I liked “Wuthering Heights” from the first time I heard it, on the radio back when I still listened to the radio, but it wasn’t until I studied the novel in High School – I devoured it while home sick one week, getting a jump on the assigned reading – that the true genius of the composition was revealed.  It sounds like the book reads, lyrical and awkward and cold.  The song always reminds me of my warm, dusty, dizzy teenaged sickbed.

– As an older teen, I would often sleepover with a couple of friends on Saturday nights, and after a few drinks, The Hounds of Love would be one of a small roster of records which would play once the lights were out and we could concentrate on the pure music on the way to sleep.  We were all terrified by the shrieking musical gymnastics of “Waking The Witch” and this fear was a delicious part of the ritual.  The strings still drag shivers down my spine today.

– I can’t hear her Christmas single, “December Will Be Magic Again” without  recalling one of my most favorite misheard lyrics:  instead of “I’ve come to sparkle the dark up” (a wonderful line in its own right), I initially heard, as did other friends, “I’ve discovered a Womble . . .”

But enough asides!  What about The Kick Inside?

The vocals are appropriately haunting and powerful, palpably intelligent and moving, every word enunciated beyond clarity, often distorted or affected in order to achieve the perfect tone.  And the lyrics are equally innovative and memorable.

Famous for her ballads, it is Bush’s uptempos which always surprise me, with her exquisitely complex rhythms, odd percussion and staccato delivery across an absurd number of octaves.  The instrumentation is all so unusual for Pop, yet perfect for the mood and timbre Bush is reaching for with each delightful track.

Once more my love of all things sax is fully indulged, with solos and flourishes, and even a song named for the instrument.

Since The Kick Inside does not sound like anything else of its time, it has aged very well – it is timeless rather than dated, not tied to the Disco or Rock sounds so associated with the popular music of 1978.

And who knows – without The Kick Inside, perhaps I never have the opportunity to hear Little Earthquakes, Into The Pink, Boys For Pele and beyond.

Next Week: William Byrd – Harpsichord Music

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 149 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? Yes.  (21 of 149 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (124 of 149 = 83%)

Kate Bush, Pop, 1970s, UK, Recommended, Memories

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[140] Jeff Buckley – Grace

10 Dec

When a cover of a song as good as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” does not sound at all out of place on an album otherwise comprised of originals, the result is going to be special.

buckley-jeff-140-l

The mid-to-late ’90s was a very strange time for me, musically.

I simply wasn’t actively listening to new music anywhere near the mainstream, instead only discovering new stuff in small clubs played by bands who no one but me (and just maybe the performers themselves) still remember.  Newly returned to New York City, I was working in a comic store where I either listened to my own eclectic cassettes or Classic Rock radio.  I was shooting pool in East Village bars where the jukeboxes played familiar and comforting CDs.  I was only at home long enough to catch up on sleep and write papers for my Master’s classes, playing old mix tapes or watching B5 and Sports Night reruns.

For these reason I did not encounter Grace, although it would not have been at all out of place.

If I was still a part of any scene that listened to new music back then, Jeff Buckley would have been someone I listened to.  He hits all of the accents I tend to love in my Rock – polished soundscapes, ranging vocals, power and precision in equal measure.

So it is a shame that I feel like I have missed the boat here.

Buckley just doesn’t appeal to me today the way he would have done to my 20-something psyche.  This is not to say that I do not enjoy what I hear, that I am not glad to finally have the excuse to explore out this one-and-sadly-done album.

Instead, I just have a different relationship to music today.  I don’t pore over liner notes memorizing lyrics anymore – who has time?  I don’t dance around night clubs the way I once did – much as I’d still love to go dancing, I find I’d rather be with my girls at home, playing a boardgame with one of the 1,000 recordings playing over Sonos.

I understand the hype that Buckley generated, even before his early demise.  I appreciate the craft on display, the obvious talent, the sense of history and gravity with which every song is performed.

So I feel an appropriate melancholy that I did not connect with this when it might really have affected me.

Grace is never going to be a favorite album, but it will certainly be one that I revisit, one that enters my rotation of the new discoveries which I find I want to hear again.

Next week: Lord Buckley – His Royal Hipness

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 140 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 140 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (116 of 140 = 83%)

[78] Bix Beiderbecke – Singin’ The Blues, Vol. 1

3 Oct

Bright and breezy, light and crisp.  Listening to these wonderful 90 year old tunes feels like Fall.

Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Land and co.

Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Lang and co.

Once more, I initially feel at a loss to explain why this selection of tunes pleases me so when a similar collection from Sidney Bechet left me unmoved.  Perhaps I am unfairly comparing the recording quality, which is noticeably poorer in the case of Bechet.  Maybe I prefer the freedom, the looseness which is more noticeable in the Beiderbecke sides.

Whatever the reason, Beiderbecke and his ever changing cast of accompanying musicians grab my ear and my heart from almost the first note, dovetailing effortlessly with the beautiful Fall weather outside my open window.

The more I listen however, the more I come to realize that there may be another, deeper reason for my connection to this sound.  While I am not certain that it was ever actually Beiderbecke that he played, this sound strongly reminds me of the music that I often heard – between 40s standards and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas – whenever my Grandpa was around.

It is a good memory.

Beiderbecke’s coronet dances up and down the scale, darting in and out of the structures built by the rest of the band.  Although recorded around the same time as Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens, the power of those legendary horns are replaced here with a playfulness that is infectious – a complement, not a challenge.

Here is a sound that is easy to love, instantly accessible, endlessly listenable, and a perfect soundtrack for when the season begins to turn.  That it also reminds me of my beloved Grandpa is just gravy.

Next week:  Harry Belafonte – Live At Carnegie Hall

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 78 = 12%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 78 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (63 of 78 = 81%)

[66] The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

11 Jul

I have nothing to add to the millions (billions?) of words that have been written about this album. If you’ve somehow never heard it before, go listen now.

If you have heard it before, go listen again.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I’d truly nothing to add, this would be the shortest post to date, so what I can share is a series of memories I associate with this towering recording.

For instance, this is the album I have purchased the most times in my life, for the simple reason that it is the one that has been most often lent and not returned, or simply stolen from me.

It is an album I once fell asleep listening to, back when I regularly used to fall asleep to music. 

The *click* of the tape ending rarely bothered me at all, but as a teenager recovering from a fever, I was completely under by the end of “A Day In The Life”.

If you know the song, you know what happened next.

After the tape wound on in silence for another 40 or so seconds, suddenly I was wide awake, heart pounding, unsure where or who I was, tangled in my sweat-soaked sheets as John’s urgent, random, terrifying vocal cut the night.

nevercouldbeanyotherwaynevercouldbeanyotherwaynevercouldbeanyother.

There were plenty of tapes I used to fall asleep to, before and after this particular night, but I never again fell asleep to Sgt. Pepper . . .

I remember sitting for days on end at the dinner table with a book of Lennon / McCartney lyrics – listening and learning, memorizing and marveling at the poetry created by such simple words.

I remember belting “Getting Better” at the top of my lungs while writing a History paper (and thinking that my History teachers were actually pretty cool.)

By the way, I can still sing and write at the same time, if the album is familiar enough . . .

Then there was the 8 hours or so I spent sitting on an airplane, flying from California back to England, leaving behind my first love and listening to a mixtape she had made for me.

I had finally stopped sobbing (after several miniatures of wine served by a sympathetic stewardess) at the moment that “When I’m Sixty-Four” came over the headphones of my Walkman.

Amongst a slew of music I that was mostly new to me I heard – perhaps for the first time – the meaning behind these ubiquitous lyrics, and I cried the rest of the way home (or at least until I drank enough wine to fall asleep).

On a happier note, I was once challenged to sing the same song backwards – and I did it!

Now from years many / Hair my losing / Older get I when.

High School music class again, and we’re dissecting “She’s Leaving Home”, once more discussing key changes, instrumentation, intervals.  As I recall, I didn’t do too well in that assignment, caught up as I was in the poignant lyrics.

And much more recently, my wife waking our daughter up by singing “Good Morning”, which is how her father used to wake her . . .

I’m sure everyone of my age – not to mention our parents’ generation – also has a hundred of these stories, memories of a soundtrack to a day in every life.

These are just a few of mine.

Next Week: The Beatles – The Beatles

Owned before blogging? Yes. (7 of 66 = 11%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (9 of 66 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (53 of 66 = 80%)

[65] The Beatles – Revolver

4 Jul

I remember hearing “Taxman” for the first time.

Revolver

Revolver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house – we must have been ten or eleven.  I can clearly recall looking at the album cover as he placed Revolver on the turntable, the vinyl record no doubt borrowed from his parents’ collection.

Why did this song have such an effect on me?  I barely heard the rest of the tracks on that first listening.  The cynicism and bitterness etched into the brutal wordplay was something I had rarely encountered before – certainly not from The Beatles, whose pop hits of young love were a radio staple growing up.

“Taxman” was not in that same easy listening rotation . . .

Clearly, here is a moment that has stuck with me, which triggers powerful sense memories when I see the album cover or hear the spiky guitar attack and spikier vocal.  It stuck with me so long that I’m not sure when it was I finally recognized that the rest of the album is equally magnificent.

Starting with the very next track.

“Eleanor Rigby” is a perfect two minute (!) vignette, a sketch that any prose writer would be proud of, promising more room for discovery and interpretation than many books deliver in 400 pages.

It seems almost unfair that the music that goes along with the words is equally incredible.

Another pre-teen memory:  Our High School music teacher, Mr. Evans (yes, he was Welsh) guiding us through a study of “Eleanor Rigby”, picking out instruments, intervals, intent.   He treated this so-called Pop song in the same way we had previously studied Classical (“important”) music, with reverence and respect. 

He showed us that it could be listened to for more than just superficial enjoyment.

And the quality just continues.  The use of eastern instrumentation and scales in “Love You To” sounds somehow less experimental here than the tentative looks in that direction on Rubber Soul.  It is more integrated, more organic – there is no doubt that both this song and “Taxman” belong on the same album.

“Here There And Everywhere” is pure pop perfection – this might be what I wanted grown up Beach Boys music to sound like . . .

Both “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “She Said She Said” have great guitar work flying all over the place, meshing fascinatingly with the subtle vocal harmonies.

In “Yellow Submarine” the Three finally figure out how to make use of Ringo (I can’t help but think of the Family Guy cutaway). The recipe turns out to be simple – a melody with a 5 note range within a song which is a silly bit of enjoyable nothing.

Here the trend is set  for similarly good use of Ringo on the albums to come.

And then there’s “Good Day Sunshine” – was there ever a time this song wasn’t lodged into our collective brains?  It seems that the universal sentiment it expresses must have been discovered rather than created by the Beatles.

But my other favorite, after “Taxman”, is the Motown-y goodness of “Got To Get You Into My Life”. It is such a gorgeous mix of counter-culture and mainstream pop goodness.  Here is another “everybody bop” summer groove of young love (even if it is apparently about smoking pot.)

I admit it – I just love it whenever Paul belts.

Next Week: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Owned before blogging? Yes. (6 of 65 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (8 of 65 = 12%)
Recommend? Yes. (52 of 65 = 80%)

[24] The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun

20 Sep

Since this week’s guest blogger covered this track so well, and since it brings to mind such a vivid memory for me, allow me to try something a little different this week.

—–

It is the moment when the 80s give way to the 90s and I am at a youth leadership conference in North London, a young teen learning how to work with even younger kids.

It was at one of these things a couple of years earlier that I discovered the power that my singing voice had over groups of people, and I now take every opportunity to burst into song. In many ways it has begun to define my personality. I am a little less shy, a little more outgoing with a skill to anchor my confidence to.

It is late at night now, workshops over for the day, and we are all socializing in the sprawling hotel lounge when a scruffy bunch of 20-something guys walk in, sweaty and tired looking, carrying guitar cases, drum paraphernalia.

It turns out they are a German rock band coming back from a gig.

We notice that we are dressed alike, me and them – with our long hair, our black tee shirts with band names printed on them, our tight jeans, our cowboy boots – and they stop to say “Hi”.

We have some homemade fakebooks lying around – used to kick start sing-alongs, full of perennial classics as well as more recent songs that will be obsolete in a few months – and somehow, in no time at all, we find ourselves lounging on the couches, guitars in hand.

Scientists will tell you that they don’t know what 90% of the brain’s capacity is used for. In my case it is clearly filled with song lyrics, and this comes in incredibly useful at times like these as we start to play Beatles classics, Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n’ Roses ballads, Clapton and Zeppelin hits.

Then the guitarist asks if I play.

I don’t really, but I can finger four chords almost well enough and the song I know how to play with those four chords is “House of the Rising Sun” . . .

House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is The Animal’s version that we all know – the somewhat sanitized, very male tale of a lost gambler rather than the darker original song of a fallen woman – and we all know every word, every nuance. We wail away, as I clumsily strum the almost right notes on a beautiful Ovation semi-acoustic handed to me by one of the Germans.

I know as it is happening that this is a memory that will live with me forever.

It is a moment where I step well outside my comfort zone and succeed, a moment where I am taken seriously by “adults” I aspire to be like, a moment where a group of strangers come together and make music that is raw and powerful, memorable, tuneful and true.

And the soundtrack is “The House of the Rising Sun”.

Owned before blogging? Yes. (2 of 24. 8%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (4 of 24. 17%)
Recommend? Yes. (19 of 24. 79%)

Next week: Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85 – 92

[12] Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

28 Jun

I mentioned in the comments section of the first post of this blog that I was unlikely to track a “Seen Live” stat since I feared it would stay at 0% until we reached “S” – sometime around 2028.

I had forgotten that this Aerosmith record made the list.

Days before I first set foot in the Summer Camp that has been my second home and career, I experienced another one of those magical moments that linger forever in memory – The Monsters of Rock Festival at Donnington Park.

With crowd of friends from the University of Sussex Rock Society I danced and sang along to performances by Skin, Terrorvision and – still one of my favorite bands – The Wildhearts.

[In fact I recently saw the Wildhearts play a magnificent 20th anniversary show in New York, performing their 1993 album, Earth Versus, in its entirety. Talk about an album that would have made my 1,000 . . . ]

The final support act was Extreme (a band I appreciated and enjoyed even before they made explicit their debt to Queen) and finally the headline act – a glorious 90 minutes or so from Steve, Joe, Tom, Joey and Brad.

Aerosmith have been a cornerstone of my music collection since the late 80s, and their collaboration with Run DMC on a remix of “Walk This Way” was included on one of the very first albums I ever owned.

Yet somehow I have never owned Toys In The Attic, the 1975 album that ushered Aerosmith into the mainstream and the only one that makes Tom Moon’s list.

Toys In The Attic

Toys In The Attic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have undoubtedly heard every song hear many, many times, and not just the ubiquitous mega hits, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion”.

I guess it is possible I never bought it because every single person I knew already owned it.

I’m picturing a Steven Tyler, huge piercing voice screaming out into the night over thousands of fans, bright scarves dangling from his mic stand, doing back flips during his Donnington show as I press play on Toys . . .

And from the first chugging riffs I am transported back to that night. The opening couple of tracks sound like the music The Beatles might have produced in the mid-70s if they had stayed together, all psychedelic harmonies and analog guitar sounds.

Then Joe Perry starts soloing, and it couldn’t be anyone else but Aerosmith. Perry’s solos always work despite the fact that almost inevitably it sounds like he is hearing a different song in his head, so wonderfully loose and unrestrained is his playing.

Aerosmith hit on a formula here that has served them well for decades, the sleazy blues-inspired rock with a harsh electric edge driven by the tightest of rhythm sections. That Steve Tyler’s huge voice and personality gets to wail over some of the most seminal riffs in rock history is almost overkill.

Before I had (to borrow Pat Higgin’s term) “nailed my colours” to the Hair Rock mast, The Run DMC version of “Walk This Way” was a favorite track. The first time I heard Steven Tyler’s grittier, grimier original vocals I would no longer accept any substitute. Here is one of the top two or three frontmen in rock laying out his credentials over the most perfect intersection of rhythm groove, dirty guitar and flat out strut.

I can’t have been the only teenage boy who thought this might possibly be the blueprint for how to be a man.

The big band innuendo of “Big Ten Inch” sounds faithful in all but instrumentation to it’s 50s R&B roots until the moment Tyler’s harmonica drags it into a 12-bar-blues romp. This song, along with “Round and Round” would fit seamlessly on a Queen album of the era.

And then the underwater bassline of “Sweet Emotion” kicks in, and we are in the presence of genius. I just lay back and let the groove and attitude wash over me, and I am left with a feeling of nostalgic bliss.

Despite all of the above superlatives, Toys In The Attic is not my favorite Aerosmith album – I have had too long and sordid a relationship with Pump for a mere week’s fling to dent that love affair – but I agree with Moon that there really is no better place to start.

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 12. 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 12. 25%)
Recommend?                  Yes. (8 of 12. 67%)

Next Week: Mahmoud Ahmed – Ere Mela Mela

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