"All I Could Do is Cry"
"Hey Henry" by ETTA JAMES:
My friend Bill sent me a request via email to see if I could fill in some of the gaps for songs he needed to DJ our friend Laura's wedding in a few weeks. The list included some really cool choices from Bob Dylan, Hank Williams (a hilarious choice, "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)"), Willie Nelson, Cat Power and more, and also included "At Last" by Etta James. Now, don't get me wrong: "At Last" is a fantastic song with a goosebump-inducing vocal performance from the legendary Ms. James. My problem with it is that EVERY WOMAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH HAS IT PLAYED AT HER WEDDING. I'm surprised there isn't just a section in all wedding programs saying, "The playing of "At Last" will be at 11:00." As I said in my email to Bill: "I just want every female to know that "At Last" is like the fucking "Stairway to Heaven" of songs for women. Remember in "Wayne's World," how there's a sign in the guitar shop that says "NO STAIRWAY!" There should be a sign like that at weddings for "At Last." "At Last" is like "Star Wars" for a woman. They have "At Last" action figures and shit."
Anyway, "All I Could Do is Cry" is something like the anti-"At Last." Like the Doug Sahm track I posted the other day, it's the perfect soundtrack for that terrible moment at a wedding when you realize this person you liked is going home with somebody else. . . forever. Next time I watch someone I had a crush on get married, I'll have this song blaring in my head to block out the sounds of "At Last" coming from the dance floor. Really though, if you want to get those asses shaking at your wedding party, try "Hey Henry" instead.
"Maybe Sparrow" by NEKO CASE:
From Neko Case's unbelievable Fox Confessor Brings the Flood comes this haunting, impeccably produced heartbreaker. Case's vocals here are so chilling and note-perfect they will freeze the blood in your veins.
Here's Neko performing the song on Letterman:
"The Beginning of the End" by BILL RICCHINI:
I met Bill Ricchini on the night of his debut CD release party at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia many years ago. I was with a friend who had gone to high school with him, so it was kind of cute to watch her getting all excited and proud about her old school buddy. Of course, Ricchini has since proven himself as a top rate songwriter and arranger, especially with 2005's Tonight I Burn Brightly, which sees Ricchini shining like a young Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson. The Sam Prekop-esque "The Beginning of the End" is from Ricchini's debut, Ordinary Time. I highly recommend both albums, which you can sample and buy here.
"Police On My Back" by THE EQUALS:
The Equals were a multi-racial Merseybeat group formed by a teenaged Eddy Grant (you might know him as the singer of 80s electro/reggae "Electric Avenue"), known for their interesting twist of mixing ska and other island rhythms (Grant was originally born in British Guyana) into their Britpop. It wasn't until recently I'd heard this track, which I'd first heard performed by The Clash. For three days after it popped up on my iPod, it was all I listened to on my 10 minute drive to and from work.
"Hello Sunshine (Weevil Mix)" by SUPER FURRY ANIMALS:
Back when I lived in Chicago, I used to love cueing this song up as I got off the subway downtown. It was either this or "The Cedar Room" by Doves, but both songs gave me that same great feeling that I was stepping into something epic, full of the good and bad in humanity, along with that odd sense of crowded isolation that you can only get being in a huge city, bouncing off of thousands of people while feeling connected to almost none of them. With either song, it felt like you were breathing new air. I wasn't sure if I had posted "Hello Sunshine" before, so tonight I'm also including a cool remix from the Phantom Phorce remix album.
"Breath" (live in Italy) by PEARL JAM:
A liquor store run with a few tipsy friends who wanted to hear the Pearl Jam songs from the Singles soundtrack inspired my inclusion of this live track. Even the Italian crowd understands how rarely played this song is in the long legacy of Pearl Jam setlists.
image by Jiri Bohdal
From "Alight Trio" by Betsy Popp
"Listen, Listen" by THE MERRY-GO-ROUND:
Thanks to an anonymous response to my previous post on Emitt Rhodes, I now have a few extra Rhodes song in my digital collection, including a handful of songs from Rhodes pre-solo career band, The Merry-Go-Round. "Listen, Listen" is one of those new (to me) songs, and it's a rocking nugget of California pop via filtered through the Beatles (Rhodes never denied his love for the Beatles in interviews).
"I Am Not Willing" by MOBY GRAPE
"Little Hands" by ALEXANDER "SKIP" SPENCE
"I Am Not Willing" by WILCO:
Alexander "Skip" Spence was the original drummer for Jefferson Airplane and one of the founding members and guitarists in Moby Grape. Spence DOES NOT, however, play on the first song in this trio of tunes, "I Am Not Willing." The reason Spence was not in the band by the time they recorded "I Am Not Willing?" Skip, during the sessions for Grape's second album Wow, smashed through one of his bandmate's hotel doors while freaking out on acid. Spence was committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital, the beginning of a long and tragic life ruined by mental illness. The story goes that Spence, upon being released from Bellevue, drove a motorcycle (wearing only his pajamas) to Nashville and recorded the insane and brilliant Oar. "Little Hands" is the first, and probably least weird, song on that record. Spence died from lung cander in 1999, after years of mental and physical illness.
Wilco's cover of "I Am Not Willing" appeared as a b-side on "Box Full of Letters," their 1995 debut single.
"The Mental Traveler" by DAVID AXELROD:
I've written about Axelrod previously, so I'll spare you the explanation this time around. This comes from the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie's "Revolver," a 1995 film I didn't even know existed, and I was a big fan of Lock, Stock and Snatch! That Madonna movie he made, however, is an irredeemable turd.
"Linus & Lucy" by BUILT TO SPILL:
Built to Spill just announced the somewhat random release of two new songs to online retailers (the tracks are also to be released as a 12" vinyl single), "They Got Away" and a cover of the Gladiators "Re-Arrange." While the former sees the band in a spacey reggae mode, their cover of "Re-Arrange" turns the reggae song into a Built to Spill song, so much so that if you weren't aware it was a cover, you'd swear it was their own. The Gladiators recorded one of my favorite reggae songs of all time, "Soul Rebel." I'll save that one for another day. I will, however, include Built to Spill's live cover of one of the most classic themes from the animated Charlie Brown features, "Linus & Lucy." I've posted this one before, right?
"I'm Glad for Your Sake (But I'm Sorry for Mine)" by DOUG SAHM AND THE SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET:
Ever have one of those moments where you realize you're standing as an observer at the wedding of a woman/man you were once in love with? Where you can't pay attention to the ceremony because you're about to explode inside? Where you watch that man/woman dance with one of the cute young nephews of the groom, and you can't bear to watch so you walk away as you think, "That should have been MY nephew she was dancing with? That was supposed to be MY dad giving the tipsy, embarassing-but-funny toast."
Maybe it was just me. Anyway, if you ever find yourself in that situation (here's a word of advice: get a pack of ciggs, and plan on spending most of the wedding choking down that smoke), I challenge you not to conjure in your mind Doug Sahm's brutally on-the-nose "I'm Glad for Your Sake (But I'm Sorry for Mine)." Also, pray for an open bar.
"M62 Song" (Four Tet Remix) by DOVES/FOUR TET:
Radically different from the original. Gotta respect that.
"Seven Curses" by BOB DYLAN:
One of the darkest, most powerful Dylan songs I've ever discovered was included in the 3 CD box set The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3, the same release from which I previously cribbed "I'll Keep it With Mine." "Seven Curses" tells the story of a man named Old Reilly who goes to jail for stealing a horse and is sentenced to hang. Reilly's daughter hears news of her father and comes bearing riches to free him, but the judge gives her only one option: you must sleep with me to free your dad. The way Dylan describes the tragedy of the pay-off of the judge's sexual bribe without actually describing the act itself is chilling: "The gallows shadows shook the evening / In the night, a hound dog bayed / In the night, the grounds was groanin' / In the night the price was paid." I won't spoil the ending, but suffice to say that "Seven Curses" is as old-school-Country and cold blooded as it gets.
"Sea Ghost" by THE UNICORNS:
Always a mix-tape favorite.
"Dancing Girls and Dancing Men" (live)
"Dancing Girls and Dancing Men" by ROBERT POLLARD:
The sad reality that Guided by Voices are no more shouldn't have an effect on recognizing the continuing greatness of frontman Robert Pollard. I've recently been loving the live version of "Dancing Girls and Dancing Men" (I'm also including the album version, from Pollard's From a Compound Eye double LP). I thought I'd read somewhere that Pollard was releasing a double CD "Best of" from his Fading Captain series of albums, EPs and ephemera. Since I've fallen behind on trying to keep up with the prolific Pollard, this will be a nice way of trimming down his expansive catalogue to the most listenable bits.
"Problem Child" by THE DAMNED:
Every six months, I have a new favorite Damned song. This one just recently beat out the old favorite, "New Rose."
"Teen Age Riot" by DAVID KITT
"Teen Age Riot"
"Teen Age Riot" (live, 2003)
"Theresa's Sound World" by SONIC YOUTH:
While Goo was the first Sonic Youth album I ever heard, Daydream Nation was the first Sonic Youth album I ever owned. For no other reason than that the record store was out of stock in the former, so I went with the remaining album I thought had the best cover art and song titles. "Eric's Trip," "Total Trash," and the best one of all, "Teen Age Riot." Since I was 14 years old, just back from a YMCA summer camp where I'd discovered Goo, my CD buying dollar meant a lot to me. It took a long time, and probably a couple of miserable Omaha summer lawn mowings, to save that kind of money. I remember my thoughts at the exact moment on this song, the album opener, when that fast guitar finally kicks in at 1:22: "Worth the money."
David Kitt, a singer/songwriter guy who dabbles in a bit of electronica, brilliantly extracts the melody of this song and shows any doubters the clever pop sensibilities hidden in some of Sonic Youth's more structured songs. I apologize for the static-y bits that pop up toward this song's end. If you find it really frustrating, I suggest actually seeking out and buying the track or album from a store near you.
As for "Theresa's Sound World," I guess the only reason I'm including it in tonight's playlist is that it kicks fucking ass.
"Kerze" by Gerhard Richter
I'm trying a new thing, a new type of "format" if you will, for Pimps: more songs, more often.
I'm still going try and keep writing longer, more comprehensive posts about some of my favorite bands whenever I have the chance, but lately I've found I just don't have the time for the research and contemplation. The only real minus to my new plan is that sometimes I may post a few songs that aren't tangentially related in the least bit. So, if you don't mind a little Fugazi or J-Live slipping in with your Wilco or Wings, this should all go smoothly for you.
On with the music:
"Really Wanted You" by EMITT RHODES:
For those of you who may have stopped by the blog a few days ago and weren't sure whether you wanted to take the time and bandwidth to download either of those out-of-print Emitt Rhodes albums, here's a taste of one of my favorite songs from each album. Wes Anderson fans will recognize the short but beautiful "Lullabye." Listen to this song on headphones and you'll discover one of the coolest things about its production: Rhodes' voice, like a lullabye, rocks you back and forth by traveling from your left ear and slowly back and forth from your right. I only recently discovered Mirror and the song "Really Wanted You," but the composition has become my new favorite Rhodes song. Sometimes I listen to it on repeat, marveling at the arrangement and all of the different instrumentation Rhodes crammed into this pop gem. Just picture this guy, just out of his teen years, coming up with the harmonies. . . the layered guitar parts. . . even the drums, in a shed behind his parents' house.
"Let Down" by RADIOHEAD
"Let Down" by DAVID BAZAN'S BLACK CLOUD
"Bands With Managers" (live) by DAVID BAZAN:
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Radiohead's OK Computer, in my mind (though I'm not alone in thinking it) one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.
This dark bummer of a record couldn't have found me in a worse place back in 1997. A lot of bad things had happened to me as I stayed the summer in Columbia, Missouri, prior to my final year in college, but nothing worse than the severing of an incredibly important friendship. Of course, that friend had also been bearing the burden of the knowledge that I was madly in love with her, so things had been a bit uncomfortable for a good while.
Not many people had stayed behind that summer, so without my friend, I was pretty much left to my own devices. I spent my days writing for a depressed and alcoholic editor at the city paper, and my nights working at a record store or driving/wandering around listening to music that made it feel okay to feel completely awful. OK Computer, and more specifically "Let Down," was part of that soundtrack. "Let Down" is one of the saddest (to the point of transcendence) songs about loneliness and disconnection, and in my situation, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That summer, "let down and hanging around" became a mantra.
Recently, Stereogum.com released a free tribute to OK Computer, featuring covers from acts like The Twilight Sad, Cold War Kids, and tonight's contributor, David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones). Bazan has been covering "Let Down" for a while now, at both solo and Pedro the Lion concerts, so it's nice to finally have a studio recording. In his liner notes to the Steregum track, he pretty much nails my feelings on the song:
""Let Down" is the first song from OK Computer that really got me. I was more skeptical then and I remember trying to resist the record that all my buddies were freaking out about, but then the first depressed/hopeful (now classic) guitar line of this song cascaded out of the speakers and caught me off guard. I was instantly moved. By the end of the second verse I was choking back tears, undone. Days later it dawned on me that it was possibly the saddest and most beautiful single the radio would ever play. I still marvel at its sturdy construction and simple, sketch-like beauty."
"How it Feels to be Something On" by JEREMY ENIGK:
Since we're already getting a little heavy, I might as well throw in this crushing live-in-studio performance from Sunny Day Real Estate's Jeremy Enigk. I once chickened out and declined an opportunity to interview Enigk. Some dudes are just so intense that I don't want to find out that they might be regular guys. I prefer imagining this song being hammered out by some mad scientist, his scrubs literally soaked in blood, as he howls this song at the moon. Maybe it's just me.
"I'll Keep it With Mine" by NICO
"I'll Keep it With Mine" by BOB DYLAN:
And since we're kind of on a sad song tear at the moment, here's a little Nico by way of Bob Dylan. I'm not even so sure this is a sad song (the Dylan version featured here is a rehearsal take, and I don't believe an actual album version appears anywhere in his catalogue), but everything coming out of Nico's mouth is pretty depressing. You can find proof right there on Chelsea Girl, the album where this song comes from, with her rendition of Jackson Browne's "These Days." That song is so incredibly sad that it almost cost me my life, but that's another story for another day.
"Scythian Empire" (Fingerlings version) by ANDREW BIRD:
I've written plenty about Andrew Bird at this point, so I'm not going to bore you with the rehashed details. I just wanted to take a moment to make sure I spoke up about the greatness of Bird's latest album, Armchair Apocrypha. Sometimes when you write a blog and you've already written about an artist, you forget that the time might come when you need to speak out about them again. "Scythian Empire" was one of the songs that I glossed over the first few times I listened to the record. A dark walk to work one morning opened my eyes to its genius, and now I'm presenting it to you in both its album form and an earlier version from Bird's Fingerlings series of tour-only CDs. "Self-Torture" is a brilliant track that appeared soley on eMusic, but may have been used as a b-side at this point.
"Hand Springs" by THE WHITE STRIPES:
I'm closing out tonight with a few more rarities, this time from The White Stripes, whose recently released Icky Thump has been taking residency in my headphones. "Baby Brother" is a new b-side, while "Hand Springs" was released in 2000 as a split 7" record with the Dirtbombs in copies of a magazine called Multiball. I can only assume the magazine is geared toward pinball geeks?
Photo by Max S. Gerber
As a casual record collector in an Ebay world, out of print albums/CDs can be a great thing. Years ago, when the ad agency I worked for (and the corporation that ran us) chopped the heads off of 90% of their staff, my record collection was the thing that not only saved my ass, but also funded my move to a new city. To this day, if I'm ever shopping for music and find a copy of stuff like Sam Cooke's A Man and His Music or the Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas EP by Soundgarden, I buy them immediately and head right to Ebay.
As a music fan, however, nothing bums me out more than an out of print record. It always makes me think of the scene in the excellent DJ documentary Scratch where DJ Shadow is holed up in a record store basement, surrounded by tens of thousands of obscure vinyl albums, looking for beats. There's this almost melancholic moment where he talks about how all these records represent the broken dreams of the people who made them. It was a thought that hadn't really struck me before: these people got to make a record, and put their talent and their dreams down on vinyl, and even THEN, in most cases, all of that work still lead to nothing.
The best those artists could ever hope for, decades after their dreams have faded, collected dust and wound up in a basement, is for someone who cares enough to resurrect those sounds from the dead. Maybe it's a DJ looking for a beat, or maybe it's some complete music nut who runs his own little label. Maybe that little geek finds something that he loves so much, that he goes through the trouble of contacting the people involved with making it, from the producer to the artist or even the people at the record label, to lovingly reissue the thing.
Well, if I had the money, the resources and the time to get it all done, I'd be championing the cause of EMITT RHODES. I've written about Rhodes once before, years ago when I began this blog under a different name. Still, I can't stop championing the guy.
Rhodes, who had previously been in a 60s pop rock band called The Merry-Go-Round, was a 70s solo songwriter of the highest calibre, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he was just turning 20 when he recorded his first album. Imagine a young Paul McCartney without all of the baggage that came with trying to top his work in the Beatles. Rhodes was incredibly talented, playing the bulk of the instruments on his solo recordings. By 1970, he had completed his self-titled solo album, a virtually flawless collection of songs (including the dark, heartbreaking "Lullabye," which would finally find a few new fans when added to the soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums).
During this time, Rhodes made the ill-advised move of signing a contract with ABC/Dunhill that ensured he would release two albums a year. This contract would be his downfall. When recording for Rhodes second album, Mirror began to take longer than expected, the label sued. By the time he'd reached age 24, Rhodes was burned out and pulled the plug on his own career. In the years that have followed, the story of Rhodes has just gotten sadder and sadder. A reclusive diabetic, Rhodes can barely muster the courage these days to even finish a song (acording to one article I read, it had been 15 years since he did).
A tragedy and a fucking shame, if you ask me. Rhodes has spent decades shacked up in his old neighborhood, recording songs that no one might ever hear. That breaks my heart, and I don't mean that lightly. I have literally shed tears over the plight of Emitt Rhodes. When I hear Jeff Tweedy sing, on Wilco's "The Late Greats," "The best songs will never get sung / The best life never leaves your lungs," I think of Emitt Rhodes, and the pile of tapes that he probably has stored in a closet somewhere, potentially full of some of the greatest pop songs we'll never get to hear.
Sometimes I wonder if it wasn't such a good thing for me to have found Emitt Rhodes' Emitt Rhodes in the stacks of that record store so many years ago. Or maybe I just wish the record hadn't been so damned good. . . one of those albums where there's a good song or two, but you rarely pull it out of your collection. Then maybe I wouldn't care so much about what happened to the guy whose face graced its cover. I wouldn't think about the raw deal he got, and I wouldn't wonder what the man could have done with a different record deal, a different label.
Normally I'm not a fan of posting entire albums on a blog. But when you go to Half.com or Ebay and see Emitt Rhodes CDs going for $50 to $100, and you know he's never going to see a dime of that moeny, it just doesn't seem right.
Tonight, I'm proposing a sort of deal. I know it's pretty futile to think this will even work, but I'm hoping there might be a handful of you readers who understand this gesture:
I'm posting Emitt Rhodes' first two albums in their entirety, as .rar files. (If readers prefer files in a .zip format, please contact me or leave a message in the Comments section.) Download these albums and spend a little time with them. If you love either one of them half as much as I do, or even if you find a few new favorites among the tracks I'm providing, maybe you might consider sending a check (or some well-concealed cash) to:
4636 W 132nd St
Hawthorne, CA 90250-5115
Nothing crazy. If you only like a few songs, maybe send him .99 per track, a la iTunes. If you love the albums, maybe $5 or $10 wouldn't be too much to ask. Personally, I'm working on writing Rhodes a letter of thanks.
If you like the music, guide your friends here. If you write a music blog, send your readers over. Hurry, because I don't know how long I'll be able to keep the files up.
I know, I know. I must be insane to think that people on the Internet would pay for music. Right?
EMITT RHODES (S/T)
And hey, if you happen to run one of those cool little indie labels that takes great joy and pride in re-releasing great, forgotten music, maybe you can give old Emitt a call? I bet there's some real gold to be found in all of those unreleased demos.
- Here's a little scene of DJ Shadow from the aforementioned Scratch:
- A 2001 article on Rhodes from Perfect Sound Forever.
- A pretty incredible, very enlightening L.A. City Beat article on Rhodes today. If the ending of that story doesn't make you want to send a check, or at the very least, a letter of encouragement to Rhodes, you, sir, are an animal.