Monday, September 24, 2012

Oh Make No Mistake My Friend All Of This Will End So Sing It Now: "Sing Your Life"

The things you love most are the things you return to again and again.

Hence the concept of the dog-eared page. Or buying DVDs in an age when it's just as easy not to. The desire to own and mark what you know you will want to see again.

The things I return to are usually things I hardly realize I am returning to, because they never feel old, they just feel good.

Here are some of them:

The song: Morrissey, "Sing Your Life"; 1991

From Morrissey's wonderfully off-kilter second solo album Kill Uncle, this song encapsulates a lot of what I love about Morrissey: he has a very clear-eyed (some would say overly so) view of exactly what sucks about life but he loves it anyway.

Sort of like how in the opening scene to Annie Hall (one of the first DVDs I felt compelled to own) Woody Allen tells that joke with the old ladies in the Catskills about how the food is lousy, and such small portions.

This view of life is pretty close to mine, I would say.

(Previous Morrissey: "Everyday is Like Sunday")


The song: Neko Case, "People Got A Lotta Nerve"; 2009

Y'know, they call them killer whales
But you seemed surprised 
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank

The message that I get from this one is that the essential nature of things will out, despite whatever genteel conventions the things seem to abide by,

and that this isn't necessarily a bad thing,

and that animals are people too.

(Previous Neko: "The Needle Has Landed"; "Running Out of Fools")


The song: PS 22 Chorus, "Firework (Katy Perry cover)"; 2011

And this, which has twice in a row made me cry real tears when it came up in the Katy Perry movie. Why? Because this song is the perfect one to be sung by children, because they can do it with no irony and the listener wants them to believe it in a way we are afraid for adults to want to believe it.

Because hope in some way requires ignorance, but that also isn't necessarily a bad thing. You ever done something that was hard, knit a cabled sweater or assembled a set of shelves, that you didn't know was hard? If you'd known how hard it was you wouldn't have done it, but you didn't, so you did.

Kind of like that.

(Previously: "At the Movies with Amy Wilson: Katy Perry Part of Me 3D")


So those are some touchpoints of my ongoing efforts to form a unified theory of everything.

Another one is that everybody should eat pineapple when they feel kind of blech.

So now you know.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

You Got Back To My Name In Your Little Black Book: Version v. Version

Friends, it's that time again.

For that unanswerable question: who sung it best?

THIS TIME, a special twist because all of the artists featured here have ALSO been previously featured on In Bed With Amy Wilson. Because I love them all. A conundrum is before us.

The song? Only the one everybody should have in the back pocket of their emotional register:

"Runnin' Out Of Fools"!

(Previous Version v. Version: "The First Cut Is The Deepest"; "The Tracks of My Tears")


The song: Aretha Franklin, "Runnin' Out Of Fools"; 1964

Oh God before this even begins I know I am going to love all of these with incredible intensity. But, whew, gotta keep it together.

This is the original version, sung by 22-year-old Aretha Franklin with what has got to be the sassiest piano back-up known to man.

In the dream version of my life, when I talk it just sounds to people like 22-year-old Aretha Franklin and that sassy piano. And I am always wearing a dress with sequins on it.

In the reality version of my life, I am currently sitting in a basement apartment on a thrift-store couch surrounded by shoes which I throw all over the place when I come home and by magazines and newspapers which I subscribe to more of than I should and then never read properly. And also, by crumbs. Sooooooooo, in short, the glamour factor is a bit lacking.

But with Aretha on my side -- and in this song she's on the side of anyone who's ever felt jerked around, which is everyone -- there's little that can harm me.

(Previous Aretha: "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone"; "Nessun Dorma")


The song: Elvis Costello, "Running Out Of Fools"; 1995

This version is off an album called Kojak Variety, a collection of covers which Elvis Costello envisioned would just subtly pop up in record stores like something lost, and found. (A very charming idea.)

It's obscure enough that the YouTube angels and demons had not uploaded it, so I took the liberty. (Alongside a random years-old photo from my computer which is, I kid you not, a cheese grater which I took, I kid you not, when I briefly became very obsessed with the "macro" function on my then-new camera. Like y'do.)

I really like the instrumentation on this one. But to me it lacks some of the real straight-to-the-heart zing of Aretha's version. But I have a different heart than you.

(Previous Elvis: "Sneaky Feelings"; "Every Day I Write The Book")


The song: Neko Case, "Runnin' Out Of Fools"; 2002

And this. This! This was the first way I knew this song.

The depth and warmth and sweetness and darkness of Neko Case's voice is unparalleled. 

I know I said I wouldn't be able to pick a favorite but this, this is it for me. Because beyond the sassiness of Aretha's and the cutting nature of Elvis', this has a sadness and yearning to it that brings real dimension to the lyrics. It's not easy for her to tell him off. I sympathize with that more than I can sympathize with the others (in the reality version of my life, at least).

But I fully understand that this is a personal choice for all of us. Like the other two songs featured in Version v. Version, the base of "Runnin' Out of Fools" is strong enough to sustain many interpretations. (There are a few others out there that I chose not feature this time around, like this funky disco take, which I still encourage you to listen to because frankly, it's great.)

(Previous Neko: "The Needle Has Landed")


If you have thoughts on which you liked and why, operators are standing by at


Friday, September 14, 2012

Wish You Could Touch Me With The Colors Of Your Life: "Invisible"

As I've hopefully made clear, I'm really into things that seem kind of bright and upbeat but in fact are DARK and TWISTED and MORBID. The contrast is just really zesty to me.

One of my favorite songs of this genre is one I discovered on the special edition version of Daryl Hall and John Oates, the debut album of Daryl Hall and John Oates (which as you may recall I was very deep into for a while there).

(Previously on In Bed with Amy Wilson: "You see, our lives are like the ice inside this paper cup - we all start out with a job to do, then age and fade away till we are swallowed up.")

And here's another one, which is somewhat less technically good of a song, but which I was SUPER into when it first came out and was reminded of just the other day.

Hey here's a totally non-creepy, upbeat, bright thing to say:

If I was invisible. . .then I could just watch you in your room!


The song: Clay Aiken, "Invisible"; 2003

Oh God this song is total crap. But it's FUN crap, which is redeeming.

And it's made even MORE fun by the thought, which I firmly believe, that Clay Aiken -- that sweet weirdo -- has no idea that the words he is singing are completely stalker-y.

(This is, after all, a man who once said that if he could have dinner with any three people living or dead, they would be Jimmy Carter, Mr. Rogers, and Jesus.

So, either this innocent-guy act goes REAL deep -- like REAL deep and Clay Aiken is a brilliant performance artist -- or he really is this much of a doofus.)

This song also has a beautiful example of an unclear antecedent in I would be the smartest man if I was invisible -- wait, I ALREADY AM. 

Ugh I just love it. I just love it all.


But really this post is an elaborate ruse designed to highlight that Hall & Oates song I referenced at the beginning, "Ice".

Which really genuinely has become one of my favorite songs. When I hear that drum drop in at the beginning my heart quickens.

And what's really great about this song, that I don't know that I realized at the time I first posted it, is that it's similar to "We Just Disagree", the first song I ever wrote about here. In that they are both seemingly first-conversation-after-the-break-up songs.

But while "We Just Disagree" is maddeningly level-headed, "Ice" is just INSANE:

"Don't worry about me in the aftermath of our breakup sweetie, because you see I've got it all figured out and the answer is casual nihilism!" 

 So I guess what I am saying is -- call me, Daryl Hall!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's Not That The Problem Lies Anywhere In There: "Please Forgive My Heart"

I really like doing radio, as evidenced by the fact that for the last four months I have been willing to drag my carcass out of my burrow between the hours of 3am and 6am to do it.

There are a lot of things that are addictive and magical and wonderful about the radio, and I've done a lot of thinking about them recently. Here are two:

- It's immediate: Everything that you do and say and play goes out as soon as you do and say and play it. That makes it nervewracking at times, but also vital and personal in a way that few other things I know are.

 - You're never alone, but it's easy to believe you are: In a basement, in the middle of the night, surrounded by thousands of songs you've never heard, faced with a panel of slide-y things and buttons, it feels just about as alone as it gets. Oh here I am, just listening to some cool tunes, eating some peanut M&Ms, pushing some buttons that light up red. 

You put on headphones when you talk so you can hear how your own voice sounds, so you are surrounded by the sound of yourself. It's crrrrrazy.

You never know how many people are listening to you or where they are or why. If they fell asleep with the radio on. If they're up miserably late with a migraine or a crying baby. If they're driving out of town for the last time and the song you are playing is giving them a nostalgic Moment.

(Until they call you to tell you about the Moment they had and you can hear the music from the other end of the phone at the same pace it is playing where you are and it's crrrrrrazy.)

Sometimes when people mention my blog to me in person I'll say diffidently that the only way I can continue writing it is if I pretend no one ever reads it. Same with radio. The only way I can put on those headphones and stare into the mike and talk -- knowing that what I say goes immediately to cars and computers and the radios that sit beside sleeping people -- is to pretend I am talking to myself.

And that's one thing I can DO.


This is all because I'm very young, and increasingly aware that I don't know anything. If I let myself think about a word I said publicly before I actually said it, I'd never say anything at all and end up spending most of my days in the fetal position wishing Trader Joe's would deliver me some snacks.

That's also because I still care what people think of me, although I find it very freeing in the moments when I can stop with that (usually, to be perfectly honest, when I am hungover).

This is the music I listen to when I want to not care what people think of me, because these guys are old and they don't give a fuck and they've earned it.

(through years of hangovers? well, it obviously worked.)

The song: Dean Martin, "The Tracks Of My Tears"; 1970

I featured this when I did a Version v. Version of "The Tracks of My Tears", and it was ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE. It's just so swingin' and has such a, as I said then, "what the fuck, why not??" coolness to it.

The song: Tom Jones feat. Jack White, "Evil"; 2012

Let's talk about Tom Jones some other time, because I love that guy, but for now enjoy his most recent effort featuring Jack White of the White Stripes. Best interplay of bass guitar and horns ever? You gotta admit, it's a contender.

The song: Bobby Womack, "Please Forgive My Heart" (produced by Damon Albarn); 2012

Since I discovered this song two weeks ago I have listened to it probably one hundred times at least. The blend of Womack's voice, and the production, and the subject matter -- I find it perfect.

It's apologizing for your faults without apologizing for your existence or theirs. Please, forgive my heart.