Late Summer Shuffle


That is an untouched photo from my day at the beach yesterday. Black sky out at sea, sunshine behind me. The effects were incredible. The water blazing green and silver. The water was warm. The waves were huge. I spent two hours thrashing in the waves, being tossed about, under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. There were only a couple of us brave enough to go in. It was heaven. Waves crashed in, on a diagonal, so the currents were foam-y and crazy, you couldn’t predict which way you’d be thrown about. I’d emerge, rest up, read my book, gawk at the spectacular sky stuff going on, and then run back in the waves. I needed it. Last week was non-stop. Here’s the music I listened on my multiple drives down to the beach this week.I always love to hear people talk about music, their reactions to this or that artist, their favorite tracks. It’s always fun. Anyway. Here it is.

“From Here to the Moon and Back” – Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. A duet from Dolly’s latest album, Blue Smoke, which is awesome. This song is beautiful, and painful. The guitar picking, the melancholy chord changes … the blend of their voices. It’s a love song, sweet and poignant. Beautiful, swoony, and sad.

“Cry For a Shadow” – The Beatles. This is from The Beatles Anthology and I’m not sure where the performance comes from. I think I can hear a couple of people cheering in the background, so maybe it’s live? You can hear them screaming at certain points too. Unbelievable guitar throughout.

“Lazy Days” – superstar Robbie Williams, in one of the anthems he seems to specialize in. How do you set out to write an anthem? I don’t know. But he does it repeatedly. I’m a huge fan.

“I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” – the great Merle Haggard. Nobody like him. That voice makes me go weak in the knees. And he’s so damn honest.

“Love In Stereo” – Sky Ferreira. I’m in love with her album. She’s got something. She also looks like shit on her album cover, nude though she may be. It’s a comment, a smart little comment. I know she has had battles with producers/studios, to keep control of what she wants to do. I haven’t been following along, but this album was on enough people’s Best of 2013 lists that I got curious. She’s great.

“One Boy, Two Little Girls” – Elvis Presley, forced to sing this creepy strange song for Kissin’ Cousins, the movie (where he was also forced to wear a blonde wig and play his own evil twin. Ah, Elvis, you were such a good sport.) In the classic Elvis Formula Pic, there always had to be more than one woman gunning for him. Preferably three.

“La Vie Boheme B” – from Rent. Get a job, kids. Paying rent doesn’t mean you’re oppressed. It means you’re an adult.

“Too Much Monkey Business” – Elvis Presley. Hot. Fun. There are a couple of out-takes from that day where Elvis could not stop laughing. Could not stop. Listening to those out-takes it’s amazing he finally got it together to get through a take clean! Clearly the song tapped his funny bone. It’s all the sounds he makes in between the lyrics that are so much fun, and that kept causing him problems in the out-takes. He’d push it, and then crack himself up.

“Joey’s Arms” – an eerie song by Cliff Eberhardt about heroin addiction. His music means so much to me. I actually wrote him a fan letter a million years ago, before the Internet. So it took some doing, finding out who his management company was, and sending the letter snail-mail. Basically just saying, “Thank you so much for your music.” My first boyfriend and I were going to see Christine Lavin in Philadelphia (this was when we lived there), and this random guy was opening for her, Cliff Eberhardt. We considered skipping the opening act. I am so glad that we didn’t. I’ve seen Eberhardt probably 10 times by now.

“For Good” – Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenoweth, from Wicked. Strangely enough, I have never seen the production. I love the music and the story.

“The Arbiter” – Marti Pellow, from Chess in Concert. I’ve bitched before about the fact that I have 10,000 songs on my iPod and no matter what, songs from Chess show up in every Shuffle. I am not sure the algorithm that makes that possible. I have accepted it. I do love the musical, but I don’t need to listen to it every day. I am aware that I can ban Chess from Shuffle, but I think it’s funnier this way. Besides, my Dad loved Chess. So it just wouldn’t feel right to ban it.

“Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” – Pink Floyd. I don’t do drugs. The one or two times I’ve tried them … it has not ended well. And I had a terrifying experience in college listening to this song, under the influence, in some strange dorm room not my own. My experience is practically a cliche: My vision narrowed to a pinprick. I thought I was dying. Pink Floyd was on. And this was just with weed! So yeah, I don’t do drugs. Ever. I just know that if I did a hallucinogenic drug I would be one of those people who would step off a balcony 10 stories up.

“Suspicious Minds” – Elvis performing his monster hit, live onstage in Las Vegas. Such a grown-up and complex song, paranoid and adult … a real change in feel for him, ushering in the 70s. He performs the hell out of it. “Honey … you know I’d never lie to you …” You sure about that?

“Now and Then There’s a Fool Such As I” – Elvis. One of his many many many #1 hits. Recorded in 1958, while he was on leave from basic training. Great swing-y sound, great background from the Jordannaires, Elvis at the top of his game.

“February Stars” – Foo Fighters. A live performance of the number from The Colour and the Shape. It’s a gorgeous and emotional anthem. They just announced they have a new album coming out and I can’t wait.

“Here, There and Everywhere” – The Beatles. From Revolver, of course. So sweet. That background. The harmonies. “Love … never dies …” (those harmonies, descending … a strange and emotional effect.)

“Hound Dog” – Elvis, performed at the auditorium in Shreverport, Louisana on December 15, 1956 – his farewell concert to his big start on the Louisiana Hayride radio show. He very quickly, over the course of 1956, became too big for the show that got him his regional start, he overshadowed everyone else on the bill, he had to be placed last on the bill, he messed everything up. I think the Colonel paid $10,000 to get him out of his contract, and to compensate, Elvis gave one last performance, which was all him. Thankfully, amazingly, we have a recording of that entire concert. The screams are deafening. Dogs five counties over answered the call of that sound. There are points where Elvis has to stop and plead with people to get back into their seats. He is basically shouting at the audience, “Friends? …. Friends …?” The chaos is total. There are pictures of Elvis on that giant stage, looking around him, the sea of screaming girls in the stands behind him, that capture the mayhem of that concert. The recordings aren’t all that good due to the fact that you can barely hear him … but it’s you actually feel like you are there. That’s what it was like. That’s what he unleashed. Single-handedly.

“Like a Prayer” – from the Madonna episode of Glee, with the whole cast, and Jonathan Groff featured (I mean, he’s basically a soprano – beautiful).

“Sixteen Tons” – Frankie Laine. It still rocks. The horns. The snapping fingers. Hot as hell.

“The Bitch Is Back / Dress You Up” – the cast of Glee. Listen, I love Elton John. I saw him in concert back in the 1980s. We were all super into him in college. But I honestly never need to hear “Bitch is Back” again. Or “Candle in the Wind,” please never again. One of the fun things about Glee is that sometimes they inject some energy into a cover that has been drained out of the original (through over-listening). Here, they mash together Elton John and Madonna. And it’s fun, peppy, and makes me re-discover that yeah, I loved Elton John once. Sorry, Elton. I listened to you WAY too much back in the day. I’m tapped out.

“Under the Western Stars” – Everclear. Their music helped carry me through 2009 (this album in particular). I don’t know why. But it did. It’s difficult to listen to now, actually, because I remember how terrible it all was.

“The Hardest Button to Button” – The White Stripes. Campy rock-star stuff. I loved them. And of course I am in love with Jack White for his devotion to the elderly Divas of the music industry. Loretta Lynn. Wanda Jackson. Here’s a great clip of him and Wanda doing “Heartbreak Hotel.” First of all: he is there to support her, to hold her up, to lead the band (watch him conduct), and to also present her powerfully. He is support staff to a legend and that is where he loves to be. Also, it’s a flat-out hot performance from both of them.

“My Guy” – Mary Wells. Classic.

“Who’s Got the Action?” – Dean Martin. Swinging. It’s weird, Friday was a very stressful day. It was a busy week for me, professionally. Four reviews, a new writing gig, not to mention all of the horrible events going on in the world. Had to keep my eye on the ball. I finally finished my last piece of writing and then fled to the beach, as though running from a fire. As I drove down to the shore, I blasted Dino. There’s something about this stuff that re-arranges the molecules for me, brings calmness and joy. Maybe it’s because you can HEAR him smiling as he sings. I don’t know what it is. He’s perfect, that’s what it is.

“In the Glass” – Ok Go. I love these guys. They’re big, broad, silly, serious, fun.

“What a Wonderful Life” – awesome awesome happy Elvis. You can hear the influence Dino had on his work. He admired Dino a lot (I don’t think that admiration went both ways, but them’s the breaks). I love this track. It’s from the soundtrack to Follow That Dream, a wonderful movie with Elvis playing a noble savage, basically. A character with no irony. And Elvis, as a real man, had TONS of irony. So he’s playing a version of himself, the version that everyone assumed he really was. It’s kind of a fun hat-trick. I love the movie. My pal Larry referred to it as “Elvis’ Occupy Wall Street movie,” and that’s pretty right on.

“Joy To the World” – from one of the Glee Christmas albums. A bit self-indulgent. Get on with it.

“I Heard Mother Pray One Day” – Wynona Carr. Similar to Sam Cooke, she got her start in gospel, and then “crossed over”. It didn’t work out for her. She slid into obscurity. It’s a total shame. She’s got something reminiscent of freakin’ Aretha. Once you hear her voice, you never forget it. It’s got that rough edge that gospel can bring, that rough edge that translates into secular stuff gorgeously. I was thrilled to see that one of her gospel numbers (“Life Is a Ballgame”) was used over the closing credits of the recent Jackie Robinson movie, 42. Good. More people should know about this artist.

“DOA” – Foo Fighters. Thrashing drum-driven rock anthem. I love it when Dave Grohl screams. On tune. There’s such joy in his music.

“Mystery Train / Tiger Man” – Elvis, onstage in Vegas. His onstage banter was always slightly awkward and always charming. “When we first started out, we had a guitar … and a shaky leg … ” Of course, “Mystery Train” is one of his best early tracks. Here, they re-visit it, amp it up, grinding it out … it’s exciting, although it can’t approach the mystery and strangeness of the original. As Keith Richards described it, it’s “the rhythm of the tracks. James Burton RULES in this live track.

“Promenade” – Everclear. They definitely have a rather conventional pop sound, but they have something. Something very true. Anyway, it speaks to me.

“Cry Baby” – Madonna. This is my favorite Madonna era. The Dick Tracy/Blonde Ambition/Truth or Dare Madonna. She’s such a canny businesswoman and manipulative as hell and it works for her. But this particular era feels the truest. Tough adorable girl from Detroit. With a sassy sense of humor. You know, before she joined Kabbalah and got a British accent. I love the Dick Tracy soundtrack.

“Man Up” – from The Book of Mormon. I’ve never even seen the show. The music is so awesome. My friend Jen and I laughed so hard listening to “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” while we drove out to Montauk that I had to turn it off. I thought I would crash the car.

“I Forgot to Remember to Forget” – Elvis Presley. A country tune. Tweedling lingering steel-ish guitar in the background, a meandering rhythm. You can see why the country music industry didn’t know what the hell to do with him. They embraced him at first, and then banished him from their airwaves and stages. They couldn’t compete. As one c&w star said at the time, “Elvis vaporized country music.” It would be 15, 20 years before Nashville found its bearings again.

“Somebody to Love” – the Glee cast doing a gorgeous version of the Queen classic. This was in Season 1, and there’s a thrilling energy to the track. Queen’s stuff is already set up for choral arrangements, of course.

“Believe” – Justin Bieber. I am not ashamed. It’s a lovely little song. The boy has clearly gone off the rails. I liked the movie too. Bought the track because of the movie. He’s not a very attractive personality, and seems dumb as a post, but being a Rhodes Scholar has never been a requirement of being a Pop Queen.

“Give Me a Sweetheart” – the perfect Everly Brothers. I had their Greatest Hits on a cassette tape when I was in high school. I cannot remember what turned me onto them. My parents were folk music people, and those were the vinyl albums I grew up listening to: Joan Baez, Dylan, Clancy Brothers, Peter Paul & Mary. Also the Beatles. But somewhere along the way, I got turned onto them. I have never ever got sick of them, and I have been listening to them my whole entire life. (See above comment about Elton John, for comparison).

“Teenage Idol” – Ricky Nelson. A great meta-moment, where Ricky Nelson comments on his own overwhelming fame. He talks about how lonesome he is in the midst of his teenage idol fame. Poor baby. I love him.

“The Dream” – Rufus Wainwright. I’ve seen him in concert a couple times. He’s lovely. And you should check out Lian Lunson’s beautiful concert documentary Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You, a concert in tribute to Kate McGarrigle, Rufus W.’s mother. Gorgeous.

“Good Times Bad Times” – Led Zeppelin. That opening. So macho.

“The Call Of the Ktulu” – Metallica, from their live performance done in partnership with the San Francisco Symphony. Talk about macho. I can barely breathe from the heaviness of the testosterone. It’s gorgeous.

“Revolution 9” – The Beatles. It freaks me out.

“The Time Warp” – from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Huge for us in high school. No school dance was complete without “Time Warp.” All of us falling to the floor at the end. Nerds. Super fun.

“Jimmy” – Sutton Foster, from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Another Broadway show I haven’t seen. I like the music.

“Velveteen Queen” – Bleu. From Aquavia (I think this was a collaboration he did with Mike Viola. I get confused sometimes, he works with so many different people). I love Bleu so much. He’s a Rock Star/Pop Princess, who plays small clubs as though they are gigantic stadiums. I saw him play at Rockwood Music Hall, and there had to be 100 people there, maybe a tiny bit more, but not much more. HUGE show. Adore him.

“Wild in the Country” (take 1 and 2) – Elvis, working out the arrangement for the title song to Wild in the Country (one of his best films). A sweet country ballad that starts out too high for him so ends up bellowing operatically on the first take, and he stops the take. “Hold it …” The whole song is supposed to be soft and sweet. The key is adjusted, and they try Take 2. He sings in his beautiful falsetto. It took them a while to get the song right.

“American Idiot” – by a little-known band called Green Day, from one of their lesser-known albums called American Idiot.

“Sammy Davis City” – Brian Setzer, from Guitar Slinger. I have followed him from his Stray Cats days. He’s always up to something cool.

“Evening at Lafitte’s” – Squirrel Nut Zippers. During that swing craze about 10, 15 years back, I would curl my hair and go to swing clubs and jitterbug and Lindy hop with strangers. It was great while it lasted.

“Saturday Night Special” – Lynyrd Skynyrd. You could call it a gun control song, I guess! Guns in the hands of impulsive idiots. That opening guitar, you hear it everywhere, it’s sampled all the damn time in movie soundtracks.

“Famine” – Sinéad O’Connor’s cheery rap about black 47. She has a new album coming out and I’m excited. What the hell will she be talking about next? Listen, I followed her through Theology (a double album? Really? With the same songs on both albums? Why, Sinéad?), and followed through her reggae phase. It was all extremely tiresome but this is what it means to be a fan for life.

“Lee” – Tenacious D. I am glad they exist. They are ridiculous. They are awesome. I love commitment to silliness that is also rocking. Not an easy combination. I mean, this song, they whip themselves into a frenzy singing the word “Lee” over and over and over again. There is no point. It’s the best.

“Seal It With a Kiss” – Britney Spears. It’s the same song she has recorded over and over and over. Why mess with something that ain’t broke.

“Motorbreath” – Metallica, from Kill ‘Em All. It’s so damn FAST. It obliterates thought. You cannot catch your breath.

“It Ain’t No Big Thing (But It’s Growing)” – Elvis. From his fantastic country album, 1970, I think. Too many great recordings on there to count. I love this one because #1. The title. I mean, come on. And #2. Elvis loved country music, as much as he loved the blues and rock ‘n’ roll and gospel. He could fit in in all worlds. Without obliterating his self. I also love this song because he sings in a lower register than he normally does. It’s sexy.

“Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” – from Mary Poppins, and here, right now, is the absurdity of Shuffle. Like I’m ever going to listen to this song, or choose it: “Hmm, let me listen to ‘Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’ – really in the mood for that one.”

“He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” – The Crystals. Tremendously disturbing. Pretty great. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Amy Winehouse used this song as an inspiration for her album Back in Black. The whole backstage machinations of Phil Spector and The Blossoms and how he used/iced Darleen Love is covered in 20 Feet From Stardom.

“Ballavanich” – Wolfstone. Wondering when the Celts would show up. These dudes are Scottish, performing traditional folk music with a pop-music echo to it.

“Here’s the Rub” – Mike Viola. He’s so wonderful. Check him out, his solo stuff, and the stuff he did with his band Candy Butchers. A marvelous songwriter. This is from his Electro de Perfecto album, and he put out a companion acoustic album. He’s a busy busy man. My talented sister Siobhan O’Malley opened for him one totally memorable night. He’s been an inspiration to her for years. A major moment for her.

“It’s Never Too Late To Fall In Love” – Geoffrey Hilbert and Dilys Lay, from the original Broadway production The Boyfriend. I was OBSESSED with The Boyfriend as a child. I saw a production of it and forget it, I was toast. It combined all the things I loved: flappers, Charleston music, and boarding schools.

“Been a Son” – Nirvana. From Incesticide. Energy. Things cracking apart. It includes the past and the future.

“Our Lips Are Sealed” – The Go-Go’s. Nothing more really to say. A classic. Great for karaoke, too, word to the wise. It gets the crowd going. I brought down the house in a Hyannisport bar with this number, I’m ashamed/proud to say.

“Bad Way To Go” – Lydia Loveless. I love her. My friend Charlie and I went to see her at Webster Hall. A young woman covering Hank Williams? Bestill my heart. She’s great live.

“To the End” – My Chemical Romance. They’re so manic they put me into a panic attack.

“Sail Away Sweet Sister” – Queen. When Freddie Mercury died, I felt “… But … what are we supposed to do now?” The question remains unanswered. He cannot be replaced.

“The Christian Life” – The Louvin Brothers. These guys are classic and sing their scary-ass Christian songs with zero irony. And perfect harmonies. Elvis loved these guys. They toured together in their early days. Their harmonies are reminiscent of the Everly Brothers – their styles reflected one another. Besides, how can you not love a musical group that presents this as their un-ironic album cover?


That is one of the best things I’ve seen in my life.

“Farewell to Collingford” – The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. They are the soundtrack of my childhood.

“I Hate Myself For Loving You” – Joan Jett. My favorite recording from her.

“Tell the Truth” – Ray Charles, live at Herdon. Those women. Those “backup singers” who just help the whole thing LAND. He was no dummy. Love him.

“Blues This Bad” – Jon Paris. He’s great. I first was introduced to him when he was lead singer to James Burton in the show I saw last year. He was so wonderful. And then he emailed me after reading the post, answering a couple of questions I had in the original post. So generous! “The song you were wondering about is called … the stand-up bass player was named …” I sought out his solo stuff and it’s fun, great bluesy riffs.

“Baltimore” – Randy Newman. What is it about him. The sadness underneath everything, the chords, the intervals. It’s more than the lyrics. He touches me on a visceral level. I love his stuff.

“Let Me Go” – Randy Newman. Speak of the devil. It’s that Scott Joplin sound … it’s almost too poignant for me. I’m not strong enough.

“Seduction” – Eminem. From Recovery. A throw-down to his competitors, same ol’ same ol’ for him, but it’s also about a girl. “Your girlfriend listens to my stuff and fantasizes about being with me while she’s with you.” When he gets pissed, he gets interesting. Which is good, because he’s always angry. It gets faster as it goes on, as his emotions rev up. Also, I can’t get enough of him singing with the choruses. He sings a lot on his albums. It’s weirdly vulnerable and I’m not sure why.

“God Damn King Kong” – Pimp Fu (aka my cousin Timothy O’Malley). Pimp Fu is his rap name. He recorded his entire album (which includes a song called “The Mike O’Malley Song”) in the basement apartment he shared with my brother in Brooklyn. Good times. He’s brilliant. My brother makes a cameo. They are two wildly creative individuals.

“Dollar Bills” – Screaming Trees. Why do I own this? I don’t remember buying it. Something must have spurred me on. The connections are lost in the mists of time.

“Gimme Shelter” – Rolling Stones. Speaking of … and speaking of … Bill Janovitz, from Buffalo Tom, (whom my cousin Mike profiled here on my site and in the liner notes for one of their albums – Buffalo Tom was the band at Mike’s wedding as well), has written a book on the Rolling Stones (Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones), and I really recommend reading his moment to moment analysis of “Gimme Shelter.”

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20 Responses to Late Summer Shuffle

  1. “ashamed/proud”….Sheila, thou must never, ever be ashamed of karaoke Go-Go’s. Only proud!

  2. Dg says:

    I read the Janovitz book not too long ago. It was great. If I remember correctly Gimme Shelter was mainly Keith’s song from the beginning. As the book goes along chronologically it becomes “this was Micks idea and that was Keith’s”. On Let it Bleed it makes perfect sense. Micks is You Can’t Always get what you want and Keith is Gimmie Shelter. Anyway, according to the book Gimme Shelter was born from some inner tumult going on with Keith. His Anita was spending a lot of time with Mick making a movie and Keith was convinced there was more to it.
    Thanks for the link to the ISO vocals that was great.

  3. alli says:

    Not sure there’s anyone around right now who oozes that careless cool rockstar vibe as much as Jack White. He’s totally unabashed of his weirdness. Love it.

    • sheila says:

      I know! And he’s smart too! That Loretta Lynn album is incredible – as is the Wanda Jackson album. Presenting these ladies to a brand new audience with a big and modern (and yet appropriate) sound. He LOVES them. He didn’t try to change them. And I love him for that.

  4. Helena says:

    Speaking of the Louvin Brothers, have you heard this?

  5. Fiddlin Bill says:

    Did you know that George Jones was on that Hayride show where Elvis debuted? He talks about it in his strange and remarkable autobiography, which I’m reading.

    • sheila says:

      Bill – I knew George Jones was on the show – but don’t know the details. What were his years appearing there? Elvis’ time there was 1954-56. Did they coincide??

      There’s an awesome documentary about the Louisiana Hayride – I own it – absolutely phenomenal history of what was going on there. I’ll check for the title and provide it, in case you haven’t seen it.

      Haven’t read George Jones’ autobiography – must be amazing!

      • sheila says:

        Doc is just called “Louisiana Hayride.” Interviews with people who played in the house band, sound engineers, audience members who remember the first time Elvis performed – or Hank Williams … it’s just great.

  6. Melissa Sutherland says:

    You mentioned THE BOYFRIEND, love love love it. It made me think of how I spent most of yesterday. Gorgeous out, totally, and I know that we could have a foot of snow in two months or sooner up here in NH, but I spent most of yesterday on line at Amazon trying to figure out if I could afford to buy every single copy of Enid Blyton’s books about boarding schools. I owned and read and reread every single one of her books over fifty years ago. Where did those books go? So so many moves, so many things lost, misplaced. Didn’t order anything this month, but am still thinking about it. I begged and begged to be sent. Didn’t happen. Probably just as well. Anyway, you put a smile on my face and I forgave myself for never leaving the house. So thank you.

  7. Melissa Sutherland says:

    OMG, just came back and found your link to the Harry Potter stuff with Enid Blyton. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll just give over another day for this. LOVE IT.

  8. JessicaR says:

    Re Dave Grohl, I’m sure you’ve already seen this but just in case, his ASL Ice Bucket Challenge,

  9. miker says:

    Cool list! The lack of recognition, until recent years, for Wanda Jackson’s place in the history of rock & roll is absolutely criminal. Jack White and Elvis Costello deserve huge kudos for helping right that wrong.

    • sheila says:

      Well, Wanda has certainly made up for it. She’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has a new album out, also awesome – and she tours constantly. I saw her last year at Maxwell’s – she was amazing!!

  10. miker says:

    I’ve seen her a couple of times. Kept missing out on chances (she’s touring so much, she doesn’t play in Oklahoma all that often), but finally got to see her do a show at the historic 66 Bowl in OKC not long before it was shut down and turned into retail space a few years ago. She really is amazing. :)

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