After a long break: Let’s iTunes Shuffle

I work from home. It’s a busy job, lots of meetings and Zoom calls, and then there’s my writing work, as well as family stuff and having a personal life, and in the last 3 months I have been – for varying lengths of time – in Chicago, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island. It’s been a lot. There was one month where I slept in my own bed maybe for 4 nights? This is the good thing about working remotely: I can be anywhere. I listen to music as I work, particularly in the long sections of my day where I am (mindlessly) programming. I mean, it’s not mindless, it takes concentration, everything has to be perfect, but I’m so good at it I can do it without too much thought. So I listen to music. I shuffle up the library. I will not give up the old iTunes. I don’t quite know what I’ll do when this laptop “goes”. I

Here’s the shuffle of the past couple of weeks.

 
 

“Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well” – Lucky Millander. This is a JAM. You just want to curl your hair and dance across the floor and have some guy with slicked hair light your cigarette. Love the male chorus.

“Secret Radio” – Mike Viola. Well, this is a change of mood. I’m not really into it right now, although it is beautiful and sad.

“Wait” – The Beatles. I fluctuate, but this album hovers near my favorite Beatles album. The harmonies on this one. We’ve been discussing the Beatles a lot on Facebook and I mentioned that when Beatlemania swept my grade school (long after the Beatles broke up), I taught myself how to sing the harmony line in songs by singing along with their songs. Their harmonies are not easy. Often you hit the note and think … “This CAN’T be right” … but it is.

“Mele Kalikimaka” – Bleu. One of my all-time faves. He just came out with a new album and it was on constant rotation for a good month. This is from his whimsical Christmas album, full of guest spots. It’s crazy. He does whatever the hell he wants to do, and I am here for it.

“Advertisement in The Voice” – The Good Rats. I was turned onto them because of the movie Roadie (review here) – starring Ron Eldard (the first famous person I interviewed). I was so taken by this song. The Good Rats are SUPERSTARS on Long Island. They were headliners, and people like Billy Joel opened for them, and then … passed them by. They just never hit nationally. But this is a hell of a song.

“All Apologies” – Sinead O’Connor, covering Nirvana. Haunting.

“Goody Goody” – The Teenagers. God, I love 1960s Girl Groups.

“Hit the Road Jack” – Ray Charles. Another jam. And love the women chorus. I wish more music today featured male or female choruses like that. It’s sexy.

“Restless Farewell” – Bob Dylan. I know this melody as “The Parting Glass” (thank you, Clancy Brothers, imbibed with mother’s milk since before recorded memory).

“Beale Street Blues” – Eartha Kitt. You just have to MOVE when you hear this. Sexy. Again: the male chorus backing her up.

“Little Green Bag” – George Baker Selection. One of the many songs now completely associated with a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has a way of using music in such a specific way, underscoring such specific (eventually iconic) scenes, and often in incongruous attention-getting ways, that the song is co-opted almost totally by the movie. It’s almost like it was written for the movie.

“Blue Collar Suicide” – The Refreshments. My brother turned me onto them. He wrote about them.

“Everything About You” – from the Groundhog Day musical, which I really enjoyed.

“Swanee River Rock” – Brenda Lee. There’s a lot of good SWING in this shuffle.

“Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” – Jerry Lee Lewis. I love how the structures of all these songs – boogie-woogie, rockabilly – whatever you want to call it – the structures are all identical and it doesn’t matter. It’s the performance that matters.

“So Glad You’re Mine” – Elvis Presley. Another Arthur Crudup cover, just like the song that got everything started, “That’s All Right”. He’s got such a youthful joy at this point: you can hear him enjoying himself, enjoying his voice and all that it can do. Also: go, Scotty Moore, with your guitar solo.

“Bang” – Conway the Machine [featuring Eminem]. 2019. Conway is super heavy, super aggressive. Eminem re-lives all of his old disses. 20-year-old disses. He never gets over anything. That beat is nasty.

“Apache” – Link Wray. His sound is instantly recognizable. A fingerprint. The way he bends notes here … it’s so delicious.

“The Drama King” – Everclear. I listened to this album over and over and over in 2009. A terrible year. The year I cried for 19 days. Straight. There were times when this album was the only way to escape. I’d take endless drives and listen to it over and over. The album is kind of ruined for me. I don’t know why it was this album, but it was.

“Dear Prudence” – The Beatles. I love George’s part there. It’s eerie. The whole thing is eerie but also kind. A strange mix.

“Gives You Hell” – The All-American Rejects. One of my favorite songs in what I call the “Bad Sport Breakup” sub-genre of music. Nostalgia and mourning a lost love is fine, I’ve done that. But it’s cathartic to be like, “Oh, fuck you, you’re an asshole, I hope you’re unhappy.” I got over things quicker by going that route. There’s a line in this song: “Truth be told, I miss you. Truth be told, I’m lying.” This just makes me laugh. As does the gleeful chorus at the end screaming “I HOPE HE GIVES YOU HELL.” Yeah, baby, get the CROWD behind you. She’s an asshole. You’re better off without her.

“Morning Sun” – Robbie Williams. He just knows how to write a pop song. They’re catchy, they have a slow build: what starts as a ballad soon EXPLODES. I also feel there’s emotion in them too. Well, they make ME feel a certain way.

“Sam the Old Accordion Man” – Doris Day. This is an old-school type of shuffle. She sings this in Love Me or Leave Me, where she gives her best performance (I wrote about the film for Film Comment). My refrain for this particular shuffle is, apparently: she’s got that chorus of male voices behind her, and I love that sound.

“Rock and Roll Waltz” – Kay Starr. This is absurd – rock ‘n’ roll and waltz don’t go together but … they do in Kay Starr’s voice. It SWINGS and then she gets some RASP in there, too. Great voice. It’s not rock ‘n’ roll, but it serves as evidence of the mainstreaming of that term. This was 1954! Same year as the release of EP’s “That’s All Right”.

“Better Be Good to Me (Live)” – Tina Turner. I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel that I saw her in concert during her heyday. (Not the Ike and Tina heyday, but the Rock ‘n Roll Worldwide Superstar heyday). She is a tiny woman, petite (I saw one of her dresses at the Stax Museum) but I swear she seemed like she was 6 feet tall.

“Little Babies” – Sleater-Kinney. I still remember discovering them. I mean, this was when they first “hit”, when the whole world of music cracked apart, letting forth a flood of new voices and sounds. The sounds of MY generation, MY people, OUR world, FUCK everyone else. It’s so funny that Gen X is left out of almost every generational controversy. It’s alllll about Millennials and Boomers. We crouch in between, a small generation, ignored again, just like we were as kids. Honestly, we prefer it. It’s pretty funny. But a band like Sleater-Kinney emerging was important – a declaration of indpendence, something new and exciting. “Little Babies” is still my favorite Sleater-Kinney song.

“Seven Seas of Rye” – Queen. Such a massive sound. Best blasted at top volume as you drive to the beach on a hot August day, iced coffee in the cup holder.

“The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” – Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. The sound of this album … You don’t even have to look at the track listing to figure out what album it’s from. It’s instantly obvious. The sound rattles and jumps, and the ENERGY of the audience comes through the tracks – you can FEEL all of those prisoners. It’s almost dangerous.

“Something Like That” – Tim McGraw. All the details are present: sunsets, county fairs, barbecue sauce, rivers, railroad tracks … You know. The checklist of contemporary country. But it’s catchy! Rockabilly talked constantly about cars, shoes, pants, etc. No shame in celebrating your own tropes. It can definitely get kitschy and dishonest, but it’s not automatically so.

“Scheiße” – Lady GaGa. Bonus track on Born This Way. This was at the height of GaGa Mania. Or maybe not the height … but the anticipation leading up to this album … GaGa was everywhere. This is very Madonna-esque, although I know she doesn’t like the comparison. But … sorry. If you’re going to be a Pop Icon, imitating Madonna is not a dumb choice. Besides, years later, GaGa would show the vast difference between herself and Madonna. GaGa can ACT.

“Come and Go to That Land (Alternate Take 3)” – Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. It’s like my blood pressure regulates when I hear Sam Cooke’s gospel. It’s not even my religious tradition. It doesn’t matter. The songs fulfill the promise of the group’s name. Sam, why did you play so rough and risky with the ladies? You lost your freakin’ LIFE because of your carelessness and … idiocy. It’s just such a bummer because … he was just getting started. One of the most important artists of the 20th century.

“No Headstone on My Grave” – Jerry Lee Lewis. Charlie Rich wrote this! Jerry’s piano on this track is crazy. And the track is slow at first before it speeds up, chugging along and picking up power along the way. This is from the London sessions in early 1970. Jerry clawing his way back into the industry.

“I Shall Not Be Moved” – Blind Roosevelt Graves. This is from 1929. I love my music collection. This is soothing, and old, but still feels very now. Or that: we can learn from it. We can learn from where we have come from.

“Mystery” – Indigo Girls. Sometimes they just hit right in the gut. And sometimes I’m not in the mood for a gut-punch.

“As Tears Go By” – The Rolling Stones. I was wondering where they were hiding out!

“Walk Away” – Kelly Clarkson. Her best songs are all “You are not worth it. BYE.”

“Sharks” – Imagine Dragons. Great timing. I just went and saw them at Fenway Park! Opening act: Macklemore. It was CRAZY. I like Imagine Dragons, but seeing their real fan base … and the frenzied response to the band … the sound of thousands and thousands of people singing along … was really something. Exhilarated. I’ve always liked lead singer Dan Reynolds’ voice: it’s big, it’s got some RASP, it’s a great rock voice, with range – high, low – he can scream high and on tune (a la Paul McCartney, a la Dave Grohl). But you never know when you see someone live: was a voice tweaked in the studio? Can the person perform live? His voice live sounds exactly the way it sounds on the records. I was SUPER impressed. I don’t know much about them, so I did a little digging, and they have tons of live performing experience, from their earliest days. It shows. Picture from the show:

“The Angels Rejoiced Last Night” – The Louvin Brothers. Perfect harmonies. Everly Brothers-siblings-harmonies: can’t be beat.

“I Do Do” – The Troggs. May be one of the horniest bands ever, judging by their lyrics. Every song is like “I’m feelin’ it. Are you? Let’s go then!” (Never forget that one of their songs is called “Come Now” … and it’s not about HIM coming, it’s about HER. That’s sadly rare.) Sex-positivity, thy name is Troggs.

“Vision of Love” – Mariah Carey. This song was everywhere. She blew the roof off the industry with that voice. It holds up. My sister Siobhan loved her autobiography, so it’s on my list to read this year. Some years back, Siobhan and I went to her annual Christmas show in New York, and it was so fabulous. Mariah is literally one of Santa’s elves. Yes, I said literally.

“Holding Poison” – The Foo Fighters. I’ve been “in” with them from the beginning. They didn’t change the world like Nirvana (okay, the world-change was brief but still: the impact lingers) … but it’s meaningful nonetheless, considering where Dave Grohl came from. He makes aggressive joyful music. Nirvana was heavy. Heavier than heaven. The Foo Fighers aren’t heavy at all. This may be seen as a strike against them but … not every band is meant to be the same. I appreciate their joyful big sound.

“This Wheel’s on Fire” – The Band. Why is their music so … heavy? Maybe because it’s so richly steeped in collective life experience. Each member is a distinct individuals – they never quite meld together into a seamless whole – you feel each one of them separately. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes their name a perfect one.

“Woe Is Me” – Linda Brannon. She was one of those country (“hillbilly”) singers who segued to rockabilly in the first wave in the 50s. She was a regular on the Louisiana Hayride radio show (where Elvis got his real start). She was performing when she was a teenager. It’s always good to dig into the GIRLS in the rockabilly scene because the BOYS got most of the attention.

“St. James Infirmary Blues” – Tom Jones and Rhiannon Giddens. I was turned onto her through her captivating presence in the great documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. She has been such a happy discovery. I adore her. I grabbed this live duet off of YouTube because I needed to have it. This is such a hot pairing, I wish they’d do a whole album together.

“Chemical Love” – Johnny Cummings. This is a jam and I have no idea how it came on my radar. But I approve of my long-forgotten purchase. The James Bond theme is incorporated here, if I’m not mistaken.

“One Night” – Elvis, during rehearsals for his Vegas opening (part of That’s the Way It Is). This was one of his big hits in the 50s: but the powers that be made him edit the lyrics to a less sexual nature. Because yeah, Elvis was all about LESS sexuality. Once the late 60s and 70s hit, Elvis did the song again – added the sexual lyrics back in – and did it the way it’s supposed to be done.

“Hippie Radio” – Eric Church. “Songs about the flower babies, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll … we bounced down the road, a boy and his dad, a Pontiac, and hippie radio … ” He’s so good.

“Get Together” – The Youngbloods. Boy, talk about “hippie radio”.

“Both Wheels Left the Ground” – Bobby Smith. Rockabilly veteran. Hell of a guitar player. I mean, listen:

“Can I Get a Witness” – The Rolling Stones. This cover of a Marvin Gaye song was on their first album. I mean, everybody covered this one. Why wouldn’t you. It’s a great song.

“Real Man” – Bonnie Waitt. You tell ’em, Bonnie.

“But, Mr. Adams” – from 1776. John Adams was not a particularly reliable narrator of his own life. He feared that history would write him out of its pages, so he sometimes took credit for things. I’ve always thought the whole “Mr. Jefferson should write the Declaration” story was a little sus, as the kids say. NEVERTHELESS. This is a funny song, and definitely reflects the jostling that occurred in re: writing that important document.

“Moonchild” – Mike Doughty. I was turned onto him – as is the case with so many artists I now love – through my brother’s advocacy.

“I Dig Rock and Roll Music” – Peter, Paul and Mary. lol

“Here Today” – The Beach Boys. With that dense layered Pet Sounds sound. It’s so HUGE and JOYFUL. But … it’s that Beach Boys blend: joyful sound, yet melancholy effect. Catnip sound for me.

“Soldier” – Eminem. Off The Eminem Show. The layered tracks add to the ferocity of this song: there’s one layer where he’s angry, and there’s another one where he’s REALLY angry. This results in an alarming sound, intimidating, frightening, but irresistible.

“Soldier” shows his particular mix, so familiar it should be copyrighted, of self-pity, grandiosity, and legitimate grievance. Behind him, a giant crowd chants in a military fashion. Ominous. I know every word. lol Listen to how he HITS the rhymes vocally:

Who needs bullets
as soon as I pull it, you SWEAT bullets
An EX-cellent method to get rid of the next bully
It’s ACK-tually better ’cause instead of you murderin’
You can hurt ’em
And come BACK again and kick dirt at ’em

Also this: (he sounds like a fucking maniac)

You motherfuckers could NEVer do it like I could do it
Don’t even try it, you’ll look stupid, do NOT pursue it
Don’t ever in your LIFE, try to knock the truest
I spit the ILLest shit, EVer been dropped in two-inch

If I have new readers: I am not going to litigate Eminem again. I was on the front lines of the Eminem Wars when he first appeared. I refuse to go over and over and over and over it to people who discovered him 5 minutes ago and want to cancel him, or those who made up their minds a long time ago and can’t let it go. I’m done. I’ve done my time. I cover him mostly here and here, although he’s one of my common subjects. My mantra, as always, not just with Eminem but with all of my passions: I would rather talk about what I love than argue with people over whether or not what I love is worth talking about. I only provide this disclaimer because I know how it always goes, and I’m just so sick of saying the same old shit over and over again.

“Baby Now That I’ve Found You” – Alison Krauss. Well, this is a change of mood!

“Hourglass” – Kim Lenz. I went searching for contemporary rockabilly and found Kim Lenz and am extremely happy about it.

“Magic Touch” (live) – The Platters, appearing on Alan Freed’s “Rock and Roll Radio” show. The kids are going INSANE. Some of the screams sound positively feral. (There’s a whole album, by the way, of the guests on Alan Freed’s show: highly recommended).

“Working in the Coal Mine” – Devo. They were so WEIRD and they were HUGE. They were not like this esoteric cult-favorite from college radio. They were on the Top 40. lol My 80s high school dances were dominated by B-52s, Prince, Devo and Rocky Horror. We had no idea how hip we were.

“You Can’t Do That” – The Beatles. Listen to the lyrics. They are … scary. So threatening. You can tell John wrote it. The sing-song harmonies behind his voice are gleeful and add to the overall intimidating feeling of the song. I’ve seen a couple of click-bait pieces along the lines of “misogynistic songs by the Beatles that need to be retired”. Number one: Don’t tell me what I can or cannot listen to. You can’t “RETIRE” a song that’s already out there. And fuck you for suggesting it. I will listen to whatever I want whenever I want. And number two: Art is about being honest, maybe even especially about your ugliest impulses. John could be a very scary and violent boyfriend, and he started YOUNG with that shit – he was a very troubled boy for VERY obvious reasons. John knew this about himself, he worked on it, and he put those dark things into his songs. Hate to break it to you but that’s art. Jesus Christ, do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?

“Frankfort Special” – Elvis, from G.I. Blues. The movie is a shaky scaffolding and little else, but whatever, He’s so freakin’ charming in it. And positively gorgeous. I love this number. I wrote a whole piece about it at one point, his body language, his smile, his joy in himself, and how it all communicates. And he’s just SITTING there.

“Is It So Strange” – Elvis Presley. I actually wrote about this one before. I love his voice, of course, it’s such a beautiful voice, but here – in 1956 (or, early 1957), it sounds like he’s pushing himself to “go lower” in his range. He always wanted to stretch, and loved (and envied) men with bass voices. It’s such a swoony romantic song, but there’s sadness in it too. There’s something un-real about the whole thing (the relationship, I mean. They’re in a state of suspended reality … will the love last? Can it?) Every time I hear it, I always think of June, heartbroken, forcing herself to get over him, trying to be mad at him, and then … turning on the radio.

“The Sauce” – Eminem. Okay. In order to describe what this song even is, I’d have to talk for 25 minutes, and provide clips to no less than 6 other songs. lol. This is part of the Eminem-Benzino beef. Google it. Or just go to YouTube. There are people who spend hours breaking every word of this feud down. It involved many people. Ja Rule. Dre. 50. The Benzino-Eminem thing was extremely petty – and I’ve said this before, petty Eminem might be my favorite. There are a lot of aspects to this, and most of it had to do with Benzino’s position at The Source magazine, the hip-hop Bible at the time. There’s the clip Benzino leaked of teenage Marshall Mathers rapping in a basement or some shit, and the lyrics are offensive and sketch at best. I mean, he was 15. He was alone in his basement with a tape recorder. Is that all you got, Benzino? Benzino probably assumed that the Eminem house of cards would come toppling down. Instead, it weakened Benzino – even people who didn’t like Eminem thought it was a weak move – and strengthened Eminem. The Source never gave Eminem’s albums good reviews or ratings, and Eminem – rightfully – felt like this was some kind of personal grudge going on. He’s used to that shit. Benzino kicked it up a notch by releasing a very bad diss track. Eminem didn’t respond. Benzino couldn’t deal with that and released a second diss track. It all was a little bit pathetic, like a kid shouting, “FIGHT ME!” Eminem, by this point, was King of the World. Early 2000s. Untouchable. There was other shit going on behind the scenes, and so finally Eminem responded, with not one but two diss tracks – “Nail in the Coffin” and “The Sauce” and they are both ferocious in their own ways – one or both ususally appear on any “Best Hip-Hop Diss Tracks” list but “The Sauce” is next level. It’s actually scary to listen to. It’s the difference between being mad and clever – and being so mad you’re like “Fuck being clever.” What he does in “The Sauce” is career assassination. He doesn’t have to show he’s better than Benzino at rapping – because he obviously is, and Benzino wasn’t a rapper, not really. All he had to do was set out to calculatedly destroy Benzino’s credibility. And so, in “The Sauce”, Eminem just lays it out: Here’s what’s going on, here’s why he’s mad, here’s why I’m mad, here’s the situation at The Source – he exposes the Source’s business practices, the backend scenes, the management, the ownership – like he is very calculated in this track, even though he’s obviously furious. At one point, he hawks spit back in his throat – on the beat, where the rhyme would be. It’s vicious, and one of the ugliest moments in a career of ugly moments. You can see why Benzino heard this and thought, “….. uhm, maybe I need a security guard.” OR, more likely, “Let me hoist up a white flag because this man is unHINGED.” Eminem so clearly “won” this beef – no contest – a “contest” Benzino started, Eminem didn’t pick this fight! (Like Eminem’s line in “Killshot”, the already legendary response to MGK’s diss track “Rap Devil”: “You’re losing the fight you picked.”) Eminem’s two diss tracks played a huge role in diminishing Benzino’s status to such a degree he was let go from his position at The Source … AND The Source itself never again was what it was pre-“The Sauce”. Eminem destroyed an entire magazine, or at least the mystique of its power. This whole thing was so toxic – and Benzino had fallen so far because of it – that just last year Benzino “squashed the beef” with Eminem, making a statement on Twitter. 20 years after the fact! That’s how badly Eminem killed him. His reputation never recovered. That bit about “you have to stay up until three in the morning to see your video on BET” is … brutal.

This all may seem petty to some of you out there (and you wouldn’t be wrong), or the opposite of entertaining (your opinion, not mine), or a waste of time. Okay, you do you. But if you’re into this whole world and you know the players, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned hip-hop beef (one that doesn’t end in death, that is). This, though … it hits different. “The Sauce” … It’s so ugly, and he sounds frightening. After all that (I told you it was a lot), I present to you: the diss track that ended a man’s career and – for all intents and purposes – shattered the reputation of a very popular and powerful magazine. Now THAT’S an effective diss. Plus, nobody died.

“The Fat Man” – Fats Domino. The birth of rock and roll, the “invention” of rock and roll … the language is just not helpful. It was the result of a couple of vast rivers of influences and sounds, with tributaries and waterfalls and rapids and stagnant pools all contributing to the sound that changed the world. And it wasn’t born in the 50s. lol But if you HAD to choose a figure who wasn’t a “precursor” but a first “creator” of what would eventually be known as “rock ‘n’ roll”, you’d have to start with Fats Domino. By the late 1940s, what Fats was doing had pulled away from the other influences – you couldn’t call it jive, or jump jive, you couldn’t call it r&b, not exactly … it was something else. It demanded its own category. It was its own thing. That’s why Elvis said he never called himself the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll because Fats was the real King. (And those who go on and on complaining that Elvis isn’t the “king” of rock ‘n’ roll need to remember – or learn in the first place – that he never called himself that. He didn’t like it. Your beef is with the nerdy fans who insist on calling him that.) All of this is to say: when you listen to Fats Domino you don’t have to squint to hear the connections with what was to come in the following decade. It’s already there.

“Roi” – Breeders. This ALBUM. I listened to it so often my cassette tape fell apart. I love their tough chick sound. All the distortion, their distorted voices – almost dissociated – the ominous heavy sound, that bass, the sudden pulling back of everything into slashing guitar chords and simple drums, silence all around it … It’s a classic.

“She Bangs” – Ricky Martin. Listen, she walks like she talks and she talks like she walks, and you know what THAT means. (Actually, I don’t.) It was so fun seeing him on Broadway in Evita. Superstar.

“My Boyfriend’s Back” – The Angels. Listen to these lyrics. She’s not INTO you, you CREEP. This is some serious shit. Put to one of the catchiest tunes in human history.

“Money Honey” – Elvis, May 16, 1956, live show in Little Rock. Spotty audio, rough, raw, but … you can FEEL what it must have been like to be there. The waves of screams ricocheting around that auditorium. This is the year he BLEW. You can hear why. Scotty Moore and DJ Fonana on fire during the bridge too. They’re all talking to each other, shouting back and forth. So glad we have these recordings. Included on the box set Young Man With the Big Beat.

“The One You Love” – Rufus Wainwright. I’ve seen him a bunch of times (although not at Carnegie Hall). The first time was in the spring of 2002, at Town Hall. Valentine’ Day. I always think of this because I still remember the feeling in that concert, the feeling of mournfulness still present in us as a group because of what had happened the previous September. We were much slower to “recover”. I didn’t fully realize it until that night in Town Hall. Rufus sensed it and at one point stopped a song, and said, almost pleadingly to us as a group, “It’s all going to be okay!” I lived in New York, so I had no idea what it was like for people in the rest of the country. But we were still cleaning up the mess. We had a mass grave downtown. It was different for us. Slower. And nobody even SAID this out loud, but Rufus sensed it. He kept trying to “cheer us up”. It was sweet and sensitive.

“Old Time Religion” – Charlie Rich. Sexy as hell silver fox with a golden voice.

“Just Another Lie” – Brenda Lee. Will you boys PLEASE stop messing with Brenda’s mind and heart? Enough is enough.

“Happy Easter (War Is Coming)” – Robbie Williams. He’s an epic front-man. Maybe – with people like Harry Styles – another boy-band-alum – the front-man is coming back into vogue? I mean, we’ve always had them but not QUITE on the level of someone like Freddie Mercury (no one can reach that level). Robbie’s more of a “bad boy” than Harry – and therefore more attractive to someone like yours truly (no shade on Harry: I like Harry. Bad boys are “out” now, more’s the pity.) But still: Robbie’s overall attitude towards life, music, melodies, is positive. He gets people moving, his music inspires you to raise your arms up and sway back and forth with 30,000 other people. He encourages communal feeling among his fandom, and this has been going strong for 25 years now. This is wild. I remember so well my first encounter with Robbie. I was in Dublin in the late ’90s. You could not escape “Millennium”. It floated out of car windows. You’d hear it on the radio in pubs, in coffee shops. It was everywhere. I hadn’t been in Ireland THAT long, and I had never heard of this guy. “Millennium” wasn’t a “thing” at ALL in America. I asked my sister, who was going to school in Ireland at the time, “Who the hell is this guy?” So she gave me a quick power-point presentation. Robbie was so massive in Ireland that I really missed him once I returned to America. He was filling stadiums around the world and America was missing out. Eventually, America caught up – Robbie recently did a residency in Vegas (fitting, since he is one of the biggest Elvis fans in our current landscape, complete with a tattoo on his arm declaring ELVIS GRANT ME SERENITY.) – but still: he is a GOD in Europe. “Millennium” was so catchy that I went into a Tower Records in Dublin and bought the cassette, because, fuck it, I succumbed to Robbie immediately. And I’m still here.

“Coffin” – Jessie Reyez [feat. Eminem] I can say, with some confidence, that there isn’t another duet quite like this one. It eludes classification or even comparison. I was a Jessie Reyez fan before Eminem came along, but her collaborations with him (three songs – so far) kicked her visibility up not a notch but a skyscraper. This duet is off her debut album, which came out in the first months of lockdown in 2020, a very strange time, as … we all remember. I’ve said it before that Eminem’s collaborations with women are always so interesting, they bring out this whole other side of him. But nobody – not even Rihanna or Pink – the other women he’s collab-ed with multiple times – has brought out in him what Jessie Reyez does. It’s like she … pushes him. Which is so exciting. They’ve so far done three songs about toxic (sigh: over-used words) relationships: clinging codependent relationships, something they both specialize in. But this one … detailing a relationship characterized as “suicidal love roulette” (Jessie Reyez does not mess around with her imagery), a man and a woman cycling through clingy passionate love, dreams of domesticity, betrayal, rage, and then … suicidal ideation on both sides: suicide as a means of punishment – or maybe even a suicidal pact …) This is dark shit. It’s not a song. It’s a movie.

“Rainbow Connection” – Weezer [featuring Hayley Williams]. This is off an adorable album where contemporary artists cover Muppet songs. It’s beautiful. Pure.

“Two Pink Lines” – Eric Church. His story is such an interesting one. He was essentially blackballed in Nashville, for various transgressions. This song was one of his earliest controversies. It was a hit. People loved it. But country music stations wouldn’t play it. Because it’s about two teenagers waiting anxiously for the results of a pregnancy test, hoping for “two pink lines”. Yeah, because … we should just tell teenagers to not have sex, right? We also shouldn’t teach sex ed. We also tell them not to masturbate and wait until marriage. People get married now in their late 20s, 30s. You’re not supposed to have sex until then? What are these people ON about? What kind of world do they want to live in? Anyway, Eric Church lives in the REAL world. Besides, maybe those bozos in Nashville missed the line where he talks about getting ready to buy a ring if she’s pregnant. He will marry the girl, okay? What else do you want a horny in-love boy to DO? Anyway. Eric Church has the last laugh now. He’s the biggest thing in country music ever and he did it on his own terms. He “made it” without their stamp of approval.

“Bitch” – The Rolling Stones. Keith’s guitar hook here is dirty.

“Back of a Car” – Big Star. I was wondering where THEY have been, too. Granted, they only came out with a few albums, so they’re not going to come up as often in any Shuffle. But those albums cast a long shadow. Chilton’s voice is one of the great voices in music. He had a gravelly Tom Waits voice when he was 16.

“If U Seek Amy” – Britney Spears. It’s been an event-heavy year for Brit-Brit fans, amirite? And as an Instagram follower of hers, all I have to say is … Brit. Log off. I get it, I get it, 1. no one is forcing me to follow her and 2. she has no other way to communicate with people but still … I’ve got your back, Britney, within reason. All of her hit songs sound exactly the same, but … no shame in that.

“Lay Your Hands On Me” – Dolly Parton. Off Blue Smoke, such a good album. Every single track. But of course Dolly has barely put out one bad song in her entire legendary career. Blue Smoke has a special place in my heart.

“Bring It Back” – The Stray Cats. I was in high school when they cracked the Top 40. I knew it was a throwback. I watched Happy Days. So I understood what was happening. The rockabilly resurgence happened alongside Devo and Rocky Horror and Prince and the B-52s … the 80s were wild, man.

“Anyplace Is Paradise” – Elvis. This is off of his first album recorded at RCA. It is the clearest example (this song) of the trouble RCA had replicating the unmistakable Sun Sound, particularly the slapback and the slight echo. The engineers at RCA tried to re-create what was an organic sound of one particular room … and so Elvis sounds like he’s singing from the bottom of a well.

“Clarity” – Leftover Cuties. One of my more fortuitous discoveries in the last 5-10 years. I adore them. They’re serotonin. Her voice, in particular.

“Dirty Old Town” – The Dubliners. I know every word. I learned by osmosis. This shit was just IN THE AIR in the world I grew up in.

“Cut Across Shorty” – Eddie Cochran. I was hoping he would show up! Such an interesting guy. Not a flash-in-the-pan or an imitator like a lot of the other second-wavers. Cochran had already been around. He was known. He was a songwriter, selling songs. He was already in the industry. Sky was the limit for someone like Eddie Cochran. It’s just so fucking sad. Yes, it’s sad Elvis died, but he at least had another 20 years to make music. Eddie was cut short in 1960.

“I Got My Mojo Working” – Jimmy Smith. You sure as shit DO, sir.

“Never Knew You Loved Me Too” – Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones. Off their album of country-style duets, Little Windows. Mitchell turned me onto it. I adore it. Teddy Thompson is, if you don’t know, the son of Richard and Linda Thompson, and his voice sure shows it. Beautiful voice. This album makes me miss straight-up duets. I mean, they’re out there, yes, but … a whole album is RICH. I love the collaboration.

“Temptation” – The Everly Brothers. Their ballads are great but I love their stuff with an EDGE. With that thing Keith Richards calls “the rhythm of the tracks” powering it. This is one of those. “It would be thrilling if you were willing!” I mean, I think we all can relate to this.

“Bowling Ball Blues” – Mack Fields. What the hell corny universe did this song come from.

“Black and White America” – Lenny Kravitz. I could have sworn I wrote a piece years ago about my “relationship” with his “Fields of Joy” – it legit helped me get through one of my many Bad Times – I latched onto it (as I am wont to do) like a lifeline. But anyway, I can’t find it. Maybe I deleted it. I used to write super personally here, I was clearly working out some stuff. I still do occasionally – that one was years in the making, I always knew “I should write about that one day” but I knew it would be BIG. I actually didn’t know what the whole thing actually meant – or signified – until 2020, which was a time of reflection. Anyway. I hadn’t written a piece like that in a long time. My blog used to be made up of stories and thoughts and anecdotes. One of which I assumed was the “Fields of Joy” experience. But I can’t find it. I actually don’t even remember now what that particular Bad Time was sparked by – it was so long ago – all I remember is how “Fields of Joy” floated into my life, and said “Hang on, hang on, you’ll get through this.” Ever since then, I have been loyal to Lenny Kravitz. Not every artist holds you up during bad times.

“What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” – Lucy Kaplansky’s cover of Elvis Costello’s song. She turns it into a bluegrass number. I’ve seen her play a bunch of times. I adore her.

“Calm Down” – Busta Rhymes [feat. Eminem]. Busta is legit scary. Not scary like “I fear for my life” – it’s just that he is a force to be reckoned with “at the mic”. He dominates. Always.

“Function at the Junction” – Little Richard. This is from an album called The Explosive Little Richard. “Explosive” pretty much covers it.

“Rock N Roll” – Avril Lavigne. Oh God. This from the woman who, during an awards show, pronounced David Bowie “David BOW-ie”, like “bow wow.” I do like “Skater Boy” but … come on. Rock?

“He Touched Me” – Barbra Streisand. Early, Babs, and one of her most thrilling vocal performances. When she repeats “nothing – NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING” – I get goosebumps every time. And so let’s end with Babs … and a clip of her performing it in her legendary concert in Central Park.

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11 Responses to After a long break: Let’s iTunes Shuffle

  1. Shawn says:

    Wow! You are quite a music lover, much like me. But I only intersect here on a few artists. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to be putting this list together and listening to it, except for the m&m hehe…:)

    • sheila says:

      Why I like doing these – and why I’ve been putting together shuffle lists on here for years now – is it’s good practice as a writer to force yourself to deal with the Random. It’s like a writing prompt. Takes the pressure off.

  2. hugh says:

    wow! great post sheila! i think it is your best music post yet! love to you and your family!

  3. Ooooh, I love these! And my favorites might well be like this one, where I am not familiar with ANY of the songs listed. Not only is it a list of things I might like to listen to, but it’s also a reminder of how grand a universe Human Music is.

    And let this be shouted from the rooftops: “I would rather talk about what I love than argue with people over whether or not what I love is worth talking about.” Indeed!

    • sheila says:

      // Not only is it a list of things I might like to listen to, but it’s also a reminder of how grand a universe Human Music is. //

      I love that. It’s like peeking at people’s bookshelves – which I know you love to do too. It’s a great way to get to know somebody AND to broaden your reading list!

      I’ve been really getting into the precursors of rock ‘n roll – the 40s and early 50s musicians – who started writing music primarily that people could dance to. Swing was a part of it. It’s been really fun to discover a lot of these people – many of whom I already knew – like Wynonie Harris – but Lucky Milligan is a new discovery and I am super into it – it’s why I led off with him.

      Best to you!

  4. hugh says:

    i think you are awesome!

  5. mutecypher says:

    / I work, particularly in the long sections of my day where I am (mindlessly) programming./

    What language do you code in? If you’ve mentioned this before I’ve been asleep.

    • sheila says:

      I’m not coding or anything. Just programming articles for publication – like I’ve done since the startup bubble era! I work now for a massive media company, which owns many brand-name mags (print/online). It’s kinda what I do here on my site putting together pics and links etc. but way more complicated and involved. Every link requires 5 steps, etc. And we are currently segueing from one platform to another – half and half – eventually to let go of the old platform and do everything on the new. we’re not there yet though, so we’re building half the articles on one platform, the other half on a new platform -old platform is basically glorified WordPress, new platform (Greenhouse) is very different, but way more streamlined. It’s a lot. Grateful for the job though! Steady, well paying, nice people, can’t ask for more.

  6. Daniel V says:

    Opened this post, command+F “Eminem”, was not disappointed. Never am.

    • sheila says:

      lol!! Daniel! That makes me happy.

      I know I missed some twists and turns in the Benzino beef – summing it up is hard. lol Naturally the whole situation will be completely incomprehensible to people who have no idea who these people are.

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