planet earth is blue….

January 16th, 2016

*I suppose I should say up front here that this song isn’t particularly inspired by David Bowie, but he’s mentioned in it briefly and…oh, just read the post, won’t ya?*

It’s hard to believe how quickly five years can go by, and yet how distant the events in that time can seem. But that’s how long it’s been since I abandoned my habit/project of recording at least one song a month and tossing it into the air to flutter about for a bit and watch where it eventually landed, if it did at all.

The first time I committed to doing this – fifteen years ago – I decided to collect the songs all together on a disc at year’s end and hand them out to sympathetic friends. It was 2001 and so the Kubrick film was somewhat front of mind, and therefore the wordplay of Bowie’s Space Oddity as well. With those two things in mind, it seemed like a fun idea to make a play on that and call my collection A Case of the Tea (a rhyming pun on the Bowie album title). (more…)

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7 Songs That Changed My Life – Day 7: The Long Answer

September 19th, 2015

Day #7

THE JAZZ BUTCHER – JUST LIKE BETTY PAGE

This is kind of a trick answer, really. And it’s the last day, so I’m going to take my time….

The Jazz Butcher song that changed my life was actually a homemade cassette lent to me and filled with various inspired album cuts, singles, and b-sides from this British songwriter and his gang of conspirators. Every song revealed an insightful, clever personality chronicling areas of life not often examined in song, from panthers and cowgirls to little pieces of chocolate and Grace Jones tapes. Some of the songs were recorded with a band in proper studios, and some sounded as if they were spat straight onto cassette in a late night fit of solitary mad genius. Hysterically funny, but also given to reflection and ennui, it was like peeking into someone’s journals and travelogues (true: one record was titled ‘Sex and Travel’), and I devoured it all like a big plate of pasta. (more…)

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7 Songs That Changed My Life – Day 6: Castles of Sound

September 18th, 2015

Day #6

COCTEAU TWINS – SUGAR HICCUP

Well, here’s another band whose singer is usually hard to understand. Like Michael Stipe, Elizabeth Fraser has said that she’s often more concerned with the sound of words than the words themselves, and that really contributes to that signature swirling, otherworldly Cocteau Twins sound. And oh, that voice.

This song was an easy gateway into the Cocteau’s world of aural paintings – delay and reverb-drenched guitars lining the walls of heaven with an angel heralding through the halls. Castles of sound, all made by two guys, a girl and a drum machine. If you had the right gear and knew the proper settings, you could fairly easily emulate their style, but it introduced me to that mind-expanding world of the 4AD record label and its ethereal, Impressionist aesthetic in both graphics and music. I mean, is there a more beautiful body of album cover artwork and other materials than that produced by 23 Envelope? (more…)

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7 Songs That Changed My Life – Day 5: Kudzu-Entangled Roads

September 17th, 2015

Day #5

R.E.M. – SITTING STILL

R.E.M.? I’ll happily listen to anything from those IRS years. So simple, crisp, and jangly. They were rural yet sophisticated, with great songs and instrumentation, and a singer who led you down kudzu-entangled roads with lyrics that you probably misunderstood but surely your interpretation was closer to correct than anyone else’s.

There were many great songs in those early years, but I chose this one because from the first time I heard it I thought, “Man, I wish I had written that!” Like their other tunes, it was smart & catchy, and had a distinctly Southern feel which was refreshing and comfortable, and the non-linear & indecipherable lyrics proved that a song didn’t need to make literal sense to be moving and effective. (more…)

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7 Songs That Changed My Life – Day 4: A Jester in the Court of the Crimson King

September 16th, 2015

Day #4

BRIAN ENO – BABY’S ON FIRE

I got turned on to ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ late one night in a haze of high school experimentation. We’d been listening to some of those prog-type bands, and someone had acquired this album after reading about it in an article about Robert Fripp and King Crimson. It had been released four or five years earlier, but things had a way of making it to Alabama a little late sometimes.

It was unlike anything we’d heard: crazy sounds and rhythms, simultaneously sinister and humorous, repetitive and chaotic, and surprisingly melodic. It was discordant, hypnotic, and beautiful. “Baby’s On Fire” became something of a weekend battle cry, but we perceived Eno as little more than the Jester in the Court of the Crimson King, not realizing he was actually more a Merlin whose sonic magic could prep our ears for the music in our future. He was duly noted, but not further pursued at that point. (more…)

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