Sunday, June 24, 2012

But You Were Up To Your Old Tricks In Chapters Four Five and Six: Narrative Urges

I started my blog with a Grocery Store Song.

This is another, of a slightly different genre: perhaps I could call it the Department Store Song.

The beat is so catchy and his voice is SO unique and it's just a little bit too fast for what you would expect so it really catches your ear.

And you can enjoy it on that level, or you can enjoy it on the deeply obsessive and weird level that many people of the writerly persuasion do (especially those on the younger side).

Because when you have the urge not only to compulsively internally narrate your OWN life but also the lives of LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COME ACROSS, it's pretty goddamn refreshing to hear a song that reflects that tendency.

(The apocryphal story about this song is that he wrote it in ten minutes just trying to try his hand at writing a Pop Song.

And you can hear that, in the song, in how fucking FLIP those lyrics are -- that's really the only word for them. But those of us who are attracted to this song are also attracted to the arrogance that allows that flipness. Well, I mean "I am".)

The song: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "Everyday I Write The Book"; 1983

And as previously noted, Elvis Costello could never write a love-ish song without SOME kind of aggression, and it's in this one too. "Don't tell me you don't know the difference."

So there's something about this next song that makes a good palate cleanser, a heart-sweeper-cleaner, and I also realized it's probably as close as Morrissey will ever get to a Department Store Song:

The song: Morrissey, "Everyday Is Like Sunday"; 1988

I KNOW this is totally contrary to the emotional picture the lyrics would paint, but there's something about this song that makes me think of the wonderfulness of beaches when they are cold and rainy (which has been the largest part of my experience with beaches, having grown up in Oregon) -- when anything you are carrying with you could be wind-swept away suddenly and that would feel good.

I can't quite find the unifying thread of these thoughts, but I'm just going to roll with it.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

And In My Heart My Secret Lies: the beautiful and the sublime

(Previously on In Bed With Amy Wilson: "What is art? Who knows! But it might be this song by Cher!")

At the Grammys in 1998, Aretha Franklin stepped in for the ill Luciano Pavarotti, who was scheduled to perform his signature aria (which was also a crossover pop hit/will be used in commercials till the world ceases to turn on its axis), "Nessun Dorma". TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE SHOWTIME. She had sung it in performance before but in this case had to maintain Pavarotti's arrangement (understandable when you look at how many PEOPLE were also on that stage, the number of people required to make a performance like this work).

Things I Love About This Video:

1. The way Sting introduces the situation with perfect affectionate aplomb and then steps aside and you can tell he is nervous for her.

2. EVERYONE is nervous for her. Look at how the conductor keeps looking at her (of course, he's also trying to keep the whole shebang from falling apart tempo-wise but still). When the chorus comes in on that part just before shit gets Really Real (don't know the operatic term for that moment), you can tell THEY are very nervous for her.

3. When she finishes she walks the wrong way off the stage. Someone has to point to tell her to head back toward Sting.

4. 4:04.

The song: Aretha Franklin, "Nessun Dorma"; 1998

You want to talk about beauty? about power? about the triumph of the human spirit? about, hell, TEAMWORK? (Those musicians did not wake up that day expecting to play with Aretha Franklin.)

You want to talk about transcendence? about music connecting people across times and cultures? about being electrified by what is in front of you?



Updated to add this other take on the performance: "Aretha Franklin and 'Nessun Dorma'" which has stellar points.

"Opera is popular music, music of the people — specifically, music of my people. It’s the music of people with machine oil in their thumbprints, of people who work at blue- and pink-collar jobs, people who carry lunchpails to work and have toolchests in their dining rooms. Opera is alive, and it’s not owned by people who use it to elevate themselves above the common 'rabble' and who would fight to keep it covered in dust. Opera must live, or it’s going to die, and in that case it will deserve to.

If you love something, why on Earth would you wish to see it embalmed?"

Also see this scene in Moonstruck. See, it really does all come back to Cher!

Friday, June 15, 2012

When It Comes To Being Lucky She's Cursed: Version V. Version


Version v. Version (v. Version v. Version) RETURNS with a track that -- just like "The Tracks Of My Tears" -- is just, essentially, such an amazingly good song that it can sustain the interpretations of many different artists.

(Of course it should be noted that unquestionably the best version of this song is any sung with deep feeling on any karaoke stage anywhere.)

but for today, get ready




The song: P.P. Arnold, "The First Cut is the Deepest"; 1967

It was first a minor hit for major cutie P.P. Arnold in this pretty full (and to be honest, somewhat typical) arrangement. But those drum hits in the beginning are, seriously, AWESOME.

At the same time there were The Koobas with this psych-pop-rock take on it:

Norma Fraser takes the distortion and adds some islandy zest (the first of many to do so, the amount of reggae covers of this song is truly astonishing):

Then Cat Stevens was like, hey, you know what, this song that I wrote is actually a pretty good song, maybe I should sing it myself and really get this tambourine going:

(Let me just pause here to note that these four versions were ALL released in 1967. I don't have anything in particular to say about that, but I sure do think it's notable.)

Then, in 1973, this version by Keith Hampshire reached number one in Canada (and as Wikipedia, with its never-failing tact, notes: "it also charted in the U.S., but outside the top 40"). I am going to try to maintain Wikipedia-style neutrality in presenting this Version v. Version, but MAN, can you not just SEE the crazy fireworks show that could accompany this recording??

Rod Stewart slowed it way down in 1977:

And then, in 2003, Sheryl Crow released the version that Amy Wilson would loudly sing along to whilst driving probably too fast down curvy suburban-Portland roads in her mom's Toyota minivan (that memory is so weirdly vivid):

If I had the audio skillz I would splice together a version of all of these where it highlighted each artists' delivery of the line "baby, I'll try to love again but I know:" because I think that's really where it all hinges.

But I don't have those audio skillz, and maybe that would not be as cool as I think it would be, but damn, who would NOT try to love again after hearing these songs?


If you will tell me which version you liked by e-mailing, I will very much appreciate it. And then maybe I can set you up with other people who like the same version. And then we can all dance at your wedding (metaphorically speaking).

(As to which version is my favorite: Would it give it away to say that there are few things I love more in this world than a really great tambourine line?)


Thursday, June 14, 2012

When It Comes Down To It It's All Just Game: "In My Head"

When I tell this story I never feel that people believe me, but deep down inside I really think this actually happened:

When I was in third grade, I had this grand epiphany that writers could just SAY THINGS. And that writing could be just that, the art of just saying things. "She had green eyes." Etc.

And so as an adult, I have to give credit to a line like "Everybody's looking for love -- ain't that the reason you're at this club?"

because, well, yeah! ain't it?

If sung by a more masculine or aggressive fellow this song might seem more sexy or more threatening, but in the hands of this "Jason Derulo" guy, lines like you'll be screaming ohhhh! sound more like they describe a particularly enthusiastic QVC viewing rather than any sex act.

So what it comes down to with this song is In my head -- and ONLY in my head -- I see you all over me.

IF ONLY it were that easy, to just SAY things when it comes to the task of talking to people and having feelings at the same time. But it's not. And Jason Derulo knows it, AND WE ALL KNOW IT.

But I can see it going down, in my head.

The song: Jason Derulo, "In My Head"; 2010

this post brought to you by a lady who said, last night, in a crowded bar to her friend: "sometimes I just get overwhelmed because I look at all these people and I realize that all of them are having a LOT of emotions right now"

and, the color purple.


Friday, June 8, 2012

There's Only One Way Up, So Your Heart's Gotta Go There: For the Love of Cher

What is art?

Who knows!

But here's what I think:

It's what is beautiful and meaningful and universal and yet also very specific.


So when I went to St Peters Basilica I felt very awed and perhaps overawed by the whole thing. The columns are so huge. SO HUGE. And everything was made out of brass. And I am not Catholic, am nothing close to Catholic, am somewhat of an existentialist in fact,

but the thing that I wanted to look at the most was the face of Mary in Michelango's Pieta. And I still remember it many years later.

Because it looks like a FACE. A face that could have belonged to a real mother - a real woman - a real human being with a soul.

When you look at that face, carved by a human being 500 years ago, depicting a human being living 1500 years before that, it's impossible not to remember that we have been around for SO unimaginably long and always with faces and with souls.

You can call me sacrilegious because I am about to transition from talking about the Virgin Mary to talking about a song by the musical artist and legend Cher. But when you don't believe in God, as I don't, you still should believe in something. And for me that belief lies in people, in their complexity and capacity, and in the knowledge that EVERYTHING that has EVER been done, good and bad, has been done by human beings.

Isn't that incredible?


If I had to sum up my religious views in one word it would be contact.

Because a) that book and its movie adaptation are the bomb, seriously


b) they were meant to remind us to approach each other and the universe with open, questioning minds


c) the complexity and capacity of humans is such that we will never ever fully understand each other but we might as well reach out and touch anyway, because what else is there?


Reach out and touch. It is very simple and yet very hard.

I admire Cher for putting it on the surface, for doing what she can as a musical artist and legend: "This is a song for the lonely."

It's a pure message of love from singer to listener. And it's universal! Because who among us has not been lonely? But it's also specific (or so it seems -- Cher's voice has the power to make one believe she's Lived Through It All).

And after seeing Cher perform this on Cher: The Farewell Tour (available, thank goodness, on Netflix Instant) and seeing thousands of people -- people of, seriously, ALL SORTS -- scream and smile and cry and sing along

The song: Cher, "Song For The Lonely"; 2002

I can hardly think of anything more beautiful or meaningful than the line "I'm right beside you".


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Never Understood A Single Word He Said But I Helped Him Drink His Wine: A Song for When

you find yourself on an inner tube on a series of man-made cascades and you have flipped over several times and lost and found the same helpful stick several times and you are paddling furiously to put yourself back in the current but not moving a single inch and you have just seen a dog in a shirt in a kayak and you just feel the urge to just open your mouth and just SING whatever happens to come out!


The song: Three Dog Night, "Joy To The World"; 1971


and I'm a something something something and a something other something and a STRAIGHT-SHOOTIN' SON OF A GUN

I said a straight-shootin' son of a gun!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gotta Slow It Down Baby Gotta Have Some Fun: You Only Live Once

Since everyone (including myself) seems to be interested in songs that remind us to Do Crazy Things because Who Knows What Could Happen (this one is probably my personal favorite of the genre, because the image of grabbing somebody sexy and telling them 'hey!' never fails to produce a quiet internal chuckle, which is a pleasant feeling)

how about something with that same spirit of carefree why-the-fuck-not-ness but with a little less apocalyptic ideation and despair?

How about, in other words, the nineties?

The song: Spice Girls, "Stop"; 1998

times I have listened to this song since I was reminded of its existence last night: 12-15

it would have been more but I had to go out and Do Stuff like "live" and "be young" and "have fun" and "chat with an ironic hipster with a philosophy degree" and "be asked by an ironic hipster with a philosophy degree who my favorite living lyricist is and totally CHOKE to the point of not being able to think of ANY lyricists at all other than Bernie Taupin" and "drink things out of large jars"

and now that I am listening to it for the 16th time in 12 hours I realize that it's less of a Let's LIVE Damn It song and more of a Sassy Lady Brush-off Song but ARE THOSE REALLY SO DIFFERENT, huh?

in either case, let's live damn it! but let's live with fun and Motown-inspired horns and ill-advised lip gloss choices, let's live like the Spice Girls.