I discovered Big Star in 1997, from a radio performance by You Am I. They covered September Gurls, and Tim Rogers, consummate smart arse that he is, announced it as a Rail cover. I loved the song so much and it was a while before I learnt it was by Big Star. I lived in suburban isolation ok? And the internet wasn’t really around then.
So I ordered the CD, #1 Record/Radio City at my local record shop, the one I ended up working at for 3 or 4 years. Then I got Sister/Lovers. And they both did my head in.
Years later I wanted to write about them in the second issue of my zine, and I almost died doing it. Listening to their music non-stop. Reading about their story, and trying to draft it into a cohenrent piece…it sent me hard and fast into second hand depression. I was definitely not full functional.
It’s Sister Lovers that really gets me, and the ballads from the other albums. Such destruction, such fuck-it-all, such shattered beauty, such loss of innocence. It’s basically one big mess. But even the rockers are for losers – the fucked up teens of In the Street, the lonely boys of September Gurls.
Big Star are definitely one of those bands I think of when I think maybe I would be a happier person day-to-day if I’d never heard them. They gave words and melodies to my darker feelings. Maybe I should have never strayed from Boyz II Men. Maybe.
I’m listening to Sister/Lovers right now. It’s been that sort of week.
In the late mid to late 90s, around the time the CDs came back into print, a baunch of the bands that loved Big Star who were beginning to make a name for themselves, got together to make a tribute album. Called Big Star, Small World, it’s finally being released around 8 or 9 years after it was originally due (rather than the 6 or 7 reported in press).
Almost all the tracks have been released at some stage. B-sides to singles, box set rarities, and in the case of the Gin Blossoms, on the deluxe reissue of their New Miserable Experience album.
So it’s finally out through Koch records and it’s out locally too. But instead of taking tracks from that tribute, here are some other great Big Star covers.
NEWS: Shelved Big Star Tribute Due In May – Billboard
MP3: You Am I – In The Street
– b-side to the single Cathy’s Clown (Ra, 1994)
MP3: Elliott Smith – Thirteen
– from the soundtrack the to movie Thumbsucker (Hollywood, 2005)
MP3: Nada Surf – Blue Moon
– from A Tribute To Big Star (Lunasea Records, 2001)
I am totally and utterly obsessed with Thunder Road, the opening track on Bruce Springsteen’s album Born To Run.
This song recently changed my world again when I saw Springsteen’s VH1 Storytellers DVD. Was it ever a very big hit in Australia? It doesn’t seem to get played on radio in this country. Perhaps Bruce broke here on the back of later, bigger, albums. And this stone cold classic just doesn’t get recognised in this country. For some people this is their favourite of hundreds of songs, and for others this is the only song that matters a damn.
The opening line … “Screen door slams…” completely inviting and opening this epic song. Oh, it’s become cliche now, Mary the lonely narrator, but this song reeks of passion and sex.
“Dont turn me home again
I just cant face myself alone again
Dont run back inside
Darling you know just what Im here for
So youre scared and youre thinking
That maybe we aint that young anymore”
It’s sinister until the guitars and bass slowly creep in, the song opens up, it’s like the car is starting, revving up, until it all blows apart. Stops! Starts! Bruce singing “Thuuuuunder Rooooooooad” from his gut, from his lungs, from his soul. God, I know he’s a cartoon, even then, but it’s so much more fun to believe than to tear it apart. And let’s face it, I don’t feel that young anymore, and neither did Bruce at this point. But you just don’t want to let go of that spontaneous craziness.
And then there’s;
“Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my cars out back if youre ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The doors open but the ride it aint free”
This song is just out of this world. The solo piano version on Storytellers is also a great thing to track down and see if you can.
I’ve also posted up the Cowboy Junkies version of this song. They invert the raging beast to a drugged out loser. It works in it’s own beautiful again. I mean, this is such a mopey song anyway.
MP3: Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
– From the album Born To Run (Columbia, 1975)
MP3: Cowboy Junkies – Thunder Road
– From the EP Uncovered (bonus disc of the One Soul Now album, Zoe Records, 2004)
Finally managed to see Neil Young: Heart Of Gold last night, the new Jonathan Demme film that captures Neil’s performance at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
It’s beautifully shot. Right in there onstage with the performers, no crowd shots. No fat of any sort really. In the movie, Young and his band (including trumpets and backing singers) perform all but one song from his Prairie Wind album, followed by an encore of classics like Old Man, Comes A Time, Harvest Moon and, of course, Heart Of Gold.
It’s spectacularly personal. Like the Prairie Wind album, Neil has really opened up in his acoustic songs. But his onstage banter about his father, about Nashville, about Hank Williams and more…is never short of touching and memorable. And the new songs never sounded so great. It’s the same problem with Greendale, which sounded flat of record, but live, you WANT to let the songs drift on a bit, you WANT that chorus to come back in one more time.
The band are great throughout, very relaxed, and you feel you’re sitting in amongst a jam. By the time the extended encore (which runs around the same length of the main concert) is is a jam. Everyone’s holding a guitar. Only gripe here is the predictability of the encore. Maybe because they knew it was going to be a film, but every Young Encore usually comes with a hidden gem or two. Also, Young sells short his acoustic work from later albums (no Silver & Gold material at all), and his gentler songs from his weirder albums (Looking For A Lover, The Losing End etc).
SITE: Neil Young News
SITE: Neil Young Official Site
HBIS: Heart Of Gold/Living With War – April 06
MP3: Neil Young – Fallin’ Off the Face Of the Earth
– From the album Prarie Wind (Reprise, 2005)
MP3: Neil Young – Four Strong Winds
– From the album Comes A Time (Reprise, 1978)
Whatever happened to the Sundays anyway?
I attended a funeral on the weekend and a female performer sang this song, and it reminded me of this version. It’s a great version – very different. It took me a while to track it down too. It was also used in a pivotal scene in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
MP3: The Sundays – Wild Horses
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Wilco. Over the weekend the band performed a new song on Conan, during a special wek of that show broadcasting from Chicago.
The song is great – a very soulful slice of the early 70s. You can hear some Charles Wright in there. They have really reached an exciting place, and their music is turning into a healing thing of warmth. Pretty much a first for Tweedy, with the exception of maybe A.M.
I’m not going to go into teh history of Wilco here if you don’t know it. I’m sure those posts will come. As for now, check out both videos and mp3s of the Conan performance, and hope we get a new album this year.
YOUTUBE: Wilco on Conan 5-12-2006 “We Can Make It Better”
MP3: Wilco – We Can Make It Better (live on Conan) courtesy of Kwaya Na Kisser
I am not a very big fan of the Flaming Lips. I blame this song for it.
Again I’m deep in unknown territory here, but this is another song that I simply love, by a band I’ve been meaning to explore, but I just haven’t.
MP3: Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
– From the album Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Arista, 1997)
The Replacements are releasing a one disc greatest hits on June 13 in the US through Rhino. It’s called Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best of the Replacements. It features two new tracks, one of which was recently premiered on US radio and hit the internet within 5 hours! You can also download mp3s of the entire Tommy Stinson interview here. It’s a great interview, and gets pretty uncomfortable at times. The Replacements rocked, but they were always better at showing you than tellng you.
Rhino has been working on the Replacements catalogue for some years now and this is the first result. According to another interview with Tommy, Rhino are preparing a box set that includes the Ryko material as well as a DVD. At times it seems like it’s going to be a box of all the albums, and at other times it seems like it’s going to be a standard 4 disc package. Who knows. Either way, we’ll be seeing the individual albums soon.
As for the song? It’s pretty fantastic. It’s a big riff, sing-along rocker, very much touching on the Pleased To Meet Me era of the Replacements. But it’s hard not to think of this as a simple placeholder. We’re waiting for the real treats that will hopefully be on this long promised boxed set.
MP3: The Replacements – Message To the Boys
– From Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best Of the Replacements (Rhino, 2006)
Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens passed away this weekend. He was 48.
When I was, what, 17 maybe, I came across a book by Clinton Walker called Stranded: the Secret History of Australian Music. I’m searching my mind and I can’t figure out what drawn me to it. I couldn’t have known more than 3 bands mentioned in it, this personal history of Australian music of the 80s (give or take). It had a horrendous cover, but I was hooked. I read in whilst it was in an half open school bag at lunch times.
One of the bands written about with fondness and humour were the Go-Betweens. They sounded like they could be a poppier version of the Saints or something right? Wrong. They were so different to the other bands written about in that book, that I then went to discover.
First thing I got was 16 Lovers Lane and I was hooked. Love Is A Sign. Dive For Your Memory. Streets Of Your Town. I was washed in romantic notions of hot Brisbane in 80s (sure the band spent most of that in London – NOT THE POINT) and even managed to hunt down a copy of the 12″ Able Label Singles. I read the David Nocholls book, bought all the Mushroom reissues, then in recent years the Jetset ones. I could go on with random memories of me and the Go-Betweens forever.
One of my first ever not-snuck-into over 18s gigs was Foster and McLennan at the Basement. I brought along my Able Label 12″ to get signed, and I told Robert that I had just turned 18 and he signed it “Happy 18 and 1 month – Robert.” He handed it to Grant who promptly wrote “Who Cares? – Grant”.
In the height of my Go-Betweens obession, I played a gig on acoustic guitar, accompanied by a violin player (named, of all things, Karen) whilst wearing my Abel Label t-shirt. Someone I didn’t know who happened to be in the bar at the time came up to me and said – “so the Go-Betweens, huh?”
There is an Australian bands Go-Betweens tribute where everyone pretty much covers the Robert songs, but that’s selling Grant short. He had the more difficult role – the straight man. Where as Robert had the eccentric side that gave the Go-Betweens so much of their flavour, without gorgeous solid Grant songs like Bachelor Kisses, Right Here, Cattle And cane, Devil’s Eye, Streets Of our Town and many more…they could have been lost. It’s no doubt that any success they had in the pop market in the first phase of their career was Grant’s doing.
So start with 16 Lover’s Lane if you don’t know where to start. It’s a very wonderful pop album. It’s the one that got me. Now one of the voices on that album is gone.
NEWS: Sydney Morning Herald: Go-Betweens singer was all set to celebrate
NEWS: Billboard: Go-Betweens’ Grant McLennan Dies In Australia
MP3: The Go-Betweens – The Devil’s Eye
– From the album 16 Lovers Lane (Beggars Bandquet, 1988)
MP3: The Go-Betweens – Bachelor Kisses
– From the album Spring Hill Fair (Sire, 1984)
Country’s come a-crumblin’ and the government is not our friend
We’re living for the moment cos any moment this might end
This blog is supposed to be some sort of forum where I talk expertly about some of the music that has meant a lot to me over the years. Oddly, I seem to be talking a lot about people I know very little about. That said, the song I’m talking about today couldn’t possibly mean more to me. I’ve been having an average day and this song has just come on the ipod, and it’s brightened up my day a little, like it has done before, in darker times.
That song is Dinosaur Jr’s Take A Run At the Sun.
Dinosaur Jr, as far as this writer who only owns Ear Bleeding Country: the Best Of, were misfits in the US underground scene. Mix the noise of Neil Young’s best work with Crazy Horse, the melodic brilliance and lush warmth of the Beach Boys and the slacker careless style of US indie at the time and you get three guys who never really liked eachother much anyway. I’m sure there are far better places to read more about Dinosaur Jr on the internet.
Take A Run At the Sun was the last proper single released under the band name, before lead dude (and, he’s such a dude) J. Mascis went solo. But this song was pretty much J on his own anyway, and totally indulging in his Beach Boys fantasies.
It was also not part of an album, but the song was written for and given to the movie Grace Of My Heart, a film about the rise of a Brill Building songwriter, based pretty much on Carole King. That soundtrack also had another great, towering song written for it – Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach’s God Give Me Strength.
Oh, and the song is great. Opening with the sweetest of harmonies, lyrics so tender and caring they sound like the warmest, most inviting set of arms in the world. The film clip is also fantastic. A great song for unhappy times.
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – Take A Run At the Sun
– From the compilation Ear Bleeding Country: the Best of Dinosaur Jr (Rhino, 2001)