It was 50 years ago today…June 1967

The Beatles:  Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Honestly, I’m not under any delusion that I can provide anything to the discussion of this album that hasn’t already been said, but my monthly album review postings ARE named after the title track, so I couldn’t let this anniversary pass without a mention and this seemed the most fitting tribute.

Sgt Pepper is one of those very few albums I have purchased on three separate occasions.  When I was buying up The Beatles collection, I bought the 1987 edition CD.  I then purchased the 2009 stereo remaster, which sounded like a major upgrade.  A couple years later, when the mono remastered vinyl was released, that was also a must purchase.  I now have 4 separate editions of the album on my Itunes (2009 mono remaster and 2017 super deluxe edition are the others), so yeah, I love this album.

Every track on Sgt Pepper serves its own purpose.  Sure, the concept was that they were writing as a fictional band, and that concept only sort of holds up.  What has always amazed me about the album, however, is that all of the songs on the album are about mundane, every day events.  Meter maids, traveling circus performers, reading the newspaper, getting by with help from your friends, life going on.  The Beatles used this album as their vehicle to propel past their mop-top, teeny bopper image and begin recording songs that weren’t so focused on infatuation love (even “When I’m Sixty-Four” has a more grown up feel to it than “I Want to Hold Your Hand”).

Three of the thirteen songs from this album appear on my list of 100 favorite songs.  I’ll describe them each in the order they appear on the album.  “She’s Leaving Home” tells the story of a young woman who leaves her parents house, with only a note to tell them why she left.  The story, though just over 3 minutes, tells such a rich tale of both the freedom felt by the daughter and the grieving experience by the parents.  The story also covers the fact that, despite the family being well off, “fun is the one thing that money can’t buy”.

Paul McCartney was always at his best when he was writing silly love songs.  There are few as “adult” and “grown up” as “When I’m Sixty-Four”.  Legend has it, McCartney wrote the song when he was just sixteen, but who knows if that’s a myth often enough repeated that became fact.  The song tells a heart-warming tale of knitting by the fireside, going for a ride on Sundays, scrimping and saving, and having three grandchildren on your knee.  Regular, working class lifestyle.  Regular, working class desires.  From one of the richest people in the UK at the time this was released.  Brilliant piece of work.

The album closes with “A Day in the Life”, a song about reading the newspaper and catching the bus, told in four verses (three by John, one by Paul) without a chorus and the longest note in recorded music.  By every account, this song should not work, but oh how it does.  God, listen to that crescendo from the hired orchestra, how it leads into Paul’s verse about getting ready and heading off to work.   The UK versions of the LP had the “Inner Groove”, a fact which I did not know until I bought the mono LP and expected to hear it but not finding it to have been there.

Fifty years after it’s original release, with little warning I might add, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has knocked down all contenders to perch atop many critic’s Greatest Of All Time lists.  The only real contenders have been Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, Thriller and OK Computer.  Forty-seven years after they no longer existed as a band, The Beatles remain one of the essential bands in the history of music.  Not bad for a band the critics were saying were washed up after they took over a year without releasing an album after 1966’s Revolver.  Oh how wrong they were all proven to have been.

Seventy years ago today since Sgt Pepper taught the band to play.  All those years later, they’re still guaranteed to raise a smile.

We <3 MCR

After the Manchester bombing, I was reading a news story yesterday and saw this sign, and my first thought was not “Oh, MCR = Manchester”, it was “what, did some news happen with My Chemical Romance”.

Image result for manchester "we love mcr sign"
*Sigh*  I’m a hopeless Music Nerd….
Seriously though, an attack outside a concert is disturbing and depressing.  My heart does go out to Manchester and your unfortunate 3 letter abbreviation.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…May 1997

Foo Fighters:  The Colour and the Shape

After the demise of Nirvana, Dave Grohl recorded material as a “band” called Foo Fighters.  The first, self titled album, was almost entirely recorded by him alone, but the band became real when they went on tour behind that album.  When it came time for a followup album, which became 1997s The Colour and the Shape, the touring band was brought into the recording process.

Foo Fighters as a band became Grohl, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith, both members of Seattle indie band Sunny Day Real Estate, and Pat Smear, formerly of Germs and the final touring line up of Nirvana.  Suffice to say, expectations were high that the sophomore album would be a well-put-together record.  The album had four radio singles, and I will discuss each in the order of which they appear on the album.

“Monkey Wrench” was one of the biggest radio singles of 1997 (topped by another song from this album, but we’ll get to that) and delved into seriously angry territory with the bridge.  Lyrically, the song is about somebody who feels that they are being used by their significant other for purposes of which they did not approve.  The bridge brings this into starkest relief stating as bluntly as possible “one last thing before I quit/I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head/I still remember every single word you said/still there’s that tortures me/seems I was always caged and now I’m free”.  Personal note:  several years ago, when I was making an “angry” album for somebody, I edited out most of this song and turned it into a 1:00 version with mostly the bridge and the last guitar line of the song.  Even now, I think that version sounds great as an angry song.

“My Hero” is, in my opinion, a plodding song that sings the praises of every day unsung heroes, people that others look up to.  The video gives a great example of a guy running into a burning house, but I’m still pretty sure the original idea was more about police, firemen, and sometimes sports figures.  This song never really connected with me, but it was a new musical direction for Foo Fighters, which  is something it has going for it.

“Everlong” was the most requested song on alternative rock radio in 1997, which is saying something in a year in which tracks such as “Song 2”, “Sex & Candy”, “Karma Police” and “Tubthumping”.  The goofy video, directed by Michel Gondry, for the song is a mash-up of the movie Evil Dead and the sordid history of Sid & Nancy.   This song was inescapable on alternative radio and even spilled over into hard rock and adult album alternative radio formats.  Twenty years later, I think Grohl is still trying to make a song that has the potential to be as massive and popular as this one.

The final single from the album, “Walking After You”, was released ti coincide with its inclusion on the X-Files movie soundtrack.  This is another lush, quiet number by the band, and as such, probably worked best while it was played during the credits for that movie.  The video features Grohl and a woman in some sort of environment where they are never able to come together and connect.  It is said that there was intended to be some sort of X-Files connection regarding the plot of the video.  Lyrically, the song is about a missed connection, whether somebody that was never pursued or somebody that was let go that the protagonist now regrets having done.  Given that Grohl was going through a divorce from his first wife, one may infer either conclusion from this track.

In the intervening years, Foo Fighters have become one of the biggest names in alternative rock, and this album was a very large part in how they got there.  Dave Grohl has cemented his place as not only one of the most renowned drummers of the alternative rock pantheon, but also as a very adept guitar player and front man.  Their final album, Sonic Highways, saw co-release with an HBO series regarding the songwriting process for each of the songs, which was utterly fascinating for a music nerd.  In late 2015, the band announced that they would be gong on an indefinite hiatus, but announced in early 2017 that they intended to spend much of the year recording new material.

Paul Westerberg – Dyslexic Heart (Acoustic)

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie and soundtrack for Cameron Crowe’s Singles, the soundtrack is getting a deluxe reissue treatment.  It features many of the instrumental pieces recorded by Chris Cornell, but one of the real gems is one of the first post-Replacement recordings by Paul Westerberg.

A friend of mine at work has offered to let me borrow her LP when she receives is, so that I may make a vinyl copy of the second disc.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing some of the full versions of live recordings for songs that appeared in the movie, but not on the original soundtrack.

Chris Cornell: 1964 – 2017

Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, Audioslave and in his own right as a solo artist, was found dead late last night after a Soundgarden show in Detroit.  Circumstances behind his death have not been officially released, but reports say it was a suspected suicide.

Soundgarden were never among my favorite bands, but man that guy could wail a song.  “Jesus Christ Pose” stands up with anything else as one of the exemplary songs of the grung era.  That vocal range was astounding.  Truly a loss for the music industry.  My heart goes out to his family.

Convo with a beekeeper

So, yesterday I went to the edible plant sale in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  One of the other vendors there was selling honey and began talking to people about the history of her bee queens.

While hearing the conversation while purchasing a pint of honey, I heard her telling them about former queens, Mary Queen of Scotts and Marie Antoinette.  However, her current queens were what brought my praise and approval.

Her two queens were Bee-yonce (fans of Beyonce sometimes call her Queen Bey):

…and Queen Freddie Mercury.

I heartily approved of the names.