Friday, July 27, 2012

Gray Hair Ain't A Crown of Wisdom: "Who's Feeling Young Now?"

There are two kinds of people - people who get crushes, and another kind of person I don't want to contemplate.

I have a crush on this song, which I have played on Turn It Up with Amy Wilson each of the last three weeks, for some reason always between 5AM and 5:30.

I have no idea why that might be -- maybe that's a time I'm feeling particularly young/crazy and the magnitude of the 3am-6am radio show has really hit me?

WHO KNOWS. All I know is, I really like the way he says "HEY".


The song: Punch Brothers, "Who's Feeling Young Now?"; 2012

Turn It Up with Amy Wilson is my radio show, which has been playing late late late late late Tuesday nights 3am-6am ( or 88.3fm) for the last three months or so.

I still love it more than anything. Every week I go to the station and hope the radio magic will happen. Most times, wonderfully enough, it does. And the issue of the time, of the murderous early/lateness of it,  has faded into unimportance as I've realized that plenty of other people are awake at that time too.

Early this year I had a crush on a catchphrase: "Life: It's 24/7!" It's silly, but what I meant by it is just to say that that pretty much is the ONLY thing I can say with any confidence about life.

It is, also, still 2012 -- the possible meaning of that was an  earlier obsession of mine as well.

These crushes don't actually go away, they just braid over and under each other -- and that's life.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Remember No One Is Big Enough To Go It Alone: "Ask the Lonely"

The song: The Four Tops, "Ask the Lonely (a cappella)"; 1965

By all accounts Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Four Tops, was a well-adjusted and contentedly-married person despite having a voice that can get into your soul and stay there.

It's a reassuring thought for those of us who sometimes wonder if this thing euphemistically called "an artistic temperament" can actually coexist with long-term happiness.

Just ask the lonely -- and probably don't listen to their answer.

(but turn it up!)


EDITED April 2013 to replace the video which had disappeared as they sometimes do (this blog is a garden that requires constant tending). From the comments of the new one. Aw geez:

"As a child growing up in Detroit and living on the North End, we used to walk over to Hitsville USA to just go in and watch the artists rehearsing and recording music. Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops were the nicest of all the group members that we met. He always took time to stop outside to greet and play with us kids Gordy had a lil playground outside in front of the studio where young kids and teens were always welcome to come and play. They played every nice nightclub in the City back then."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


In this world fun is where you find it.

And if it's murderously hot and a once-a-year festival has descended upon your town and everyone is united by a shared feeling of irritation and rage (not a bad way to be united frankly),

and if you are not only SINGLE but SINGLE with no PROSPECTS (the single-est of all ways to be single) and if you happen to have a large, painful under-the-skin zit on your forehead and if the other day at work you were surprised by a large cockroach and had to tag-team with a friend on killing it and then on scraping its body off the carpet (hi Cecilia, thanks for being the one who killed it),

then fun has really got to be where you find it.


The song: Hot Chip, "Always Been Your Love"; 2012

You ever have a memory and then think "oh yeah, I did used to be like that"? I remembered the other day that I used to be really into keeping abreast of what was coming out in music now, now, now. (Admittedly for a very limited definition of "music" -- mostly indie music of the sort that would now be called "dream pop".)

And then, I don't know what happened, I had a friend who loved Elton John and I saw Morrissey in concert and I got more into the idea of "good music that came out a while ago" than "good music that's coming out right now".

(Although I will say for the record that Morrissey doesn't reeeeeeeeeeally count as "good music that came out a while ago" because his new stuff is ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD GUYS please give it a chance okay glad I got that out.)

That was all fine and good, that "let's listen to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on cassette and pretend it's 1986" thing, but THEN some kinda bad stuff happened and I got really depressed for a while and I didn't really get un-depressed until oh, I don't know,

50 entries on In Bed With Amy Wilson ago.

So as I slowly peel away the layers of this onion that is the possibly life-long quest to become un-depressed, I suppose it makes sense that after the realization of "OH HEY I REALLY LIKE OLD POP MUSIC A LOT" that provided the momentum for this blog would come another one of "OH HEY I ALSO REALLY LIKE NEW POP MUSIC A LOT".

And so, this song, and the song I let speak for itself: Trails and Ways, "Nunca".

What I failed to mention about that song is that that voice belongs to my oldest friend, the friend about whom I would probably have the best chance of saying "I really KNOW that person, yep, I sure do know that person".

But as I realized when I visited this friend a few weeks ago, and saw him play with this awesome band that he is in, I don't feel like I could say this because -- and excuse me for how tired this sounds but that's BECAUSE IT'S TRUE -- there's always something more to discover.

(If I were Carrie Bradshaw, here's where I would pause contemplatively and sip from my enormous goblet of wine and write, "Could it be that life is more about the journey. . .than the destination?")

Fortunately I am not Carrie Bradshaw, and so I'll say this instead:

Once I read in a relatively dark mood something to this effect: "you could walk through the ocean of her soul and not even get your hems wet". And I thought to myself, darkly of course, well haHA no one could ever say that about me because the ocean of MY soul is filled with like those CRAZY fish. FISH WITH TEETH THAT STICK OUT LIKE THREE FEET AND A FLASHLIGHT ON A BOBBLY THING ON THEIR HEAD. That is the sort of fish that live in the ocean of my soul. WOE IS ME.

And, well, although I still sort of think those are predominantly the kind of fish that live in the ocean of my soul, at least there are FISH. Y'know?


Monday, July 16, 2012

You Can't Write Laws, And So: "Nunca"

The song: Trails and Ways, "Nunca"; 2012

I want to let this song speak for itself, because I think it can.

Please enjoy.


Friday, July 13, 2012

But If He Loves You More Go With Him: Playing Pretend

If I were in charge of the music for a Wes Anderson movie,

I'd put this song on the soundtrack.

The song: The Beatles, "Anna (Go With Him)"; 1963

Because it's drunken-sounding and more than a little self-pitying but also, yknow, basically kind and decent.

And it makes me want to dance in a way that could be described as "desultory".


Sunday, July 8, 2012

At the Movies with Amy Wilson: Katy Perry Part Of Me 3D

I'm not asking you to like her music; that's a matter of personal preference.

But I just can't help but want to throw my hat in the ring of first-flush reactions and comments to Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D which hit theaters near you on Thursday.

For those souls among us who do NOT avidly follow Katy Perry's Twitter feed (although I can recommend this) -- Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D is a tour documentary/concert film.

Here's what I thought was interesting about this film experience.

1. While it was filming, Katy Perry was literally in the process of going through a divorce. So you see "talking head" --

(where people are talking directly to the camera/interviewer in a documentary; always my favorite parts; always contain the funniest jokes in Christopher Guest movies.

also: Stop Making Sense.)

-- "talking head" footage of her before the divorce so when she is trying to be perky and upbeat about Love and Marriage and Happy Endings but something is obviously wrong; "talking head" footage of her after the divorce where she seems much rawer and has a new hair color but also seems overall happier; candid footage of her interacting with her soon-to-be ex; candid footage of her talking about her marriage casually to her crew -- but "talking about her marriage casually" in that way where YOU KNOW all your friends think you are in an awful relationship but they are Being Diplomatic.

In other words, it's not just a concert film. It's a documentary about the effects of mega-fame on human relationships, unfolding in real time.

2. You learn a fair bit about her background, naturally, but of particular interest is the film's coverage of the fact that she was raised a Pentecostal Christian by traveling ministers. Now, not to offend any sensitive souls in the audience, but I think it's fair to say that Pentecostal is one of the weirder brands of Christianity. My Top Three quick-draw associations with the word "Pentecostal":

speaking in tongues

snake handling

teenage girls forced to wear ankle-length denim skirts.

3. As a result of that Pentecostal upbringing, Katy Perry's musical exposure in her young life was limited to strictly Christian-approved music. She had an early career as a gospel-singing teen star. UNTIL ONE FATEFUL DAY WHEN she was over at a friend's house and heard her first piece of Mainstream Music and had an epiphany about the kind of music that she wanted to make.

Stories of that kind of moment are incredibly interesting to me because of the pleasure and strangeness of imagining a world in which one first hears pop music as a thinking, conscious person instead of being saturated with it constantly from birth.

For any person with an emotional relationship to music, and anybody who could relate this story would be such a person, that moment must be so intense.

Katy Perry's Song That Gave Her An Epiphany About the Kind of Music She Wanted to Make was: "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrissette.

CAN YOU IMAGINE being a sheltered Christian 16-year-old girl of a sensitive and musical temperament and hearing this song? It would be like a nuclear bomb.


I kinda dislike the trope of, when writing about an oft-dismissed pop musician, referencing a performance of theirs that represents a marked step out of their usual wheelhouse. Like all those videos of Ke$ha singing the Rolling Stones at house parties and stuff. It seems very, "Look! She can ALSO make music that is acceptable to you!" to me.

but sadly that is exactly what I am about to do, because for whatever else they do these performances do pull the listener sharply into an unexpected frame of mind.

The song: Katy Perry, "The One That Got Away"; 2011

Katy Perry deserves respect. Here's the clearest way I can lay out my case.

- Katy Perry does not have a Great Voice but she works with what she's got and infuses it with a lot of emotion. Many have said the same about other great voices.  
- Katy Perry is not a Great Lyricist but honestly believes in what she is saying and makes her meaning crystal clear.
- When it comes to aesthetics, Katy Perry is sort of at Tim Burton levels of distinctiveness and wackiness. The woman wears a dress that looks an ice cream sundae to meet Make-a-Wish kids. Like it ain't no thang. (Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D seriously is worth seeing just to see her costumes and the staging of her songs.)
- Katy Perry genuinely loves what she does and is driven to an almost super-human level.

I recently followed Russell Simmons on Twitter.  It has already flooded my mind with so much Zen wisdom that it feels a little squishy up in there in the range north of my eyebrows. (I also learned that Russell Simmons sits on the Board of The David L. Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.)

But what Russell Simmons says, and what I increasingly believe, is that the world loves people who work hard at everything they do.

Thousands and thousands of people all over the world screamed and sang and danced when Katy Perry toured.

And, as you see in Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, immediately before Katy Perry played to the largest crowds on her tour in Sao Paulo, Katy Perry was sobbing in her sweatpants while her clearly freaked-out crew tried to console her. Like a robot she Goes Through the Motions of getting ready for her show, stays sobbing all the way up until she is actually standing on her little elevation platform glittery mike in hand ready to go on stage, and then at the very last second -- smiles, and goes on.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Must Be The Clouds In My Eyes: What They Left Behind

One of the most wonderful and also difficult things about music is how closely it can be associated with certain people, times, and places.

I knew I would run into this when I started trying to write about music, that eventually the song that inspired the most Thoughts would be one of those I keep in the little pony pen in my head that is labelled "songs that will never not remind me".

(where all the songs are little ponies and they graze peacefully when undisturbed!)

I mentioned a while back the ignominious moment when I couldn't think of any lyricists other than Bernie Taupin which obviously bruised my ego quite a bit, but I also knew why. It was because the only reason I even know who Bernie Taupin is is I had a friend, who loved Elton John as ya do, but we also knew that yes, occasionally, those lyrics are just REDONKULOUS: "now I know Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say"?


yknow? These moments are rife when you're a fan of Elton John. For every "losing everything is like the sun going down on me" there's a "someone saved my life tonight, sugar bear" -- and LEST I FORGET, the queen of them all:

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact, it's cold as hell!

And, there's no one there to raise them if you did.

But it's impossible not to love these songs, these lyrics, because in everything they are -- grasping for meaning and finding it only very occasionally -- they are EXUBERANT.

When my friend and I would listen to Elton John, these moments would happen ("Levon wears his war wound like a crown, he calls his child Jesus cause he likes the name") and we would laugh and shake our heads and say "Oh, BERNIE."

We were often embarrassed by Bernie Taupin's lyrics but also it was understood that we loved them, because I think it's true that you can't love Elton John without at least part of that love stemming from the fact that he really throws his voice behind some ridiculous shit sometimes. In fact most of the time.

A lot of times with Elton John songs you can tell there's a real feeling or story somewhere behind the song but you can't tell exactly what it is because Bernie got his hands on it

(and I sort of love that)

but when Elton sings, "Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much" you don't really need to know who Daniel is or what he was to the singer or why he goes to Spain so often.

If you look at the YouTube comments for this song you'll see it's full of people saying things like, I don't know why this reminds me of this person I loved but it does and I miss them.

I guess you don't have to know why. Oh, Bernie!


The song: Elton John, "Daniel"; 1973

Bernie Taupin says "Daniel" is the most misinterpreted song he's ever written. That it's about a war hero returning from Vietnam who only wants a simple life.

Do you get that? I don't know that I do. But it reminds me of this person that I loved and I miss them.

(Let it be said, though, before this post dips too perilously close to self-pity: the fact that "songs that will never not remind me" can be personified as little happily grazing ponies and not WILD UNTAMED MUSTANGS WITH HOOVES OF LIQUID STEEL obviously means that the pain of my separation from this friend has healed a bit with time. Appropriate, I think, to the gentle "doot-doot-doot"ness of "Daniel".)