Sometimes you hear the name of a band, and you like them before even hearing a single song. Well actually, that only happened to me once, and it was after I heard about a band called King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. I could just end the blog post right here. Best band name of all time. They are from Australia, and their genre is described as “psychedelic rock”. Again, I like it without even listening to a song. But I listened anyway, and they are awesome! They’ve released 5 albums since 2012, so they are ridiculously prolific, which I love. They have a ton of great songs, and their sound really changes from album to album. When I get to know them better I will be able to write a more in depth analysis, but in the meantime here’s a very catchy song from their latest album.
I’m going to use this song in one of my movies, once I have a big enough budget to afford the rights. No one steal my idea! It would be great to use over a montage of someone who just got dumped or something. Probably the opening scene of the movie. Or maybe the last scene as the credits come up. It’s an awesome song because the words are sad and depressing, but the melody is upbeat and jolly. They kind of throw you off and I love the vibe. Although The Beatles did it first, I like that they have someone coughing in the background at 1:05, 1:07. And obviously the psychedelic interlude at 1:57 is fun. An added layer of why I like this song is that the Velvet Underground were very much not a pop band. A lot of their music actually feels like an assault on the senses (in a good way). So I feel like this song is meant to be ironic, like they were singing it to pretend they were the Beach Boys or one of THOSE bands.
I get very excited when I learn something new and fun about The Beatles. You think you know all there is to know, and then bam! You find out about a Paul McCartney song you’ve never heard before. A song he wrote as a teenager, but which was deemed unusable by The Beatles. So in 1964 Paul gave it to Peter Asher, brother of Paul’s longtime girlfriend Jane Asher. The song went to #1 in both England and the US. It’s pretty catchy! Paul gave Peter a few other songs, but this was the first and most successful. But as if that wasn’t fun enough… look at Peter Asher! HE IS AUSTIN POWERS!!!! As soon as I saw this video I knew the character had to have been based on him, and after a quick Google search, it was confirmed. The best moment is 0:32. It’s kind of eery. Those teeth!
Edit: The video I originally posted was taken off YouTube 😦 Trying to locate it somewhere else, but in the meantime here is a different version.
Can’t seem to get these folk singers out of my head. One of the things that I find so powerful about these songs is how profound they are in their simplicity. A lot of these recordings are just a dude singing with an acoustic guitar, but it is such a full sound. It’s so raw, so personal. But also so melodic. The most chilling song on the ILD soundtrack is “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”. This song is pretty morose, even for a folk song. Here’s what I think is going on. The guy in the song committed a crime out of desperation, being that he was so goddamn hungry. He’s getting hung for his crime, and he tries to comfort himself by saying he’s been all around the world, when in fact he’s never really left home. He’s not scared of dying, but he is terrified of being dead… This song is also credited to “traditional,” but this version was recorded by Dave Van Ronk, the folk singer who was the inspiration for the movie Inside Llewin Davis.
I was recently listening to the soundtrack from the movie Inside Llewyn Davis, and remembered how much I like folk music. There is a line in the movie- “If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.” The quintessential song from the soundtrack is Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song). In classic folk fashion, the song isn’t even credited to anyone. This version is sung by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford, but the writing credit on the soundtrack just says “traditional”. So many of these songs are beautiful, but so sad. They also have a very weighty feel to them, they feel important. They deal with intense issues like love and loss (mostly loss), and the abundance of Biblical and historical references adds to the heaviness. “If I had wings like Noah’s dove.” I feel like Dylan was the master of that technique. I’ll have to write some Dylan posts at some point…
I recently found myself in the vicinity of a jazz band. It was a decent size band (maybe 10 or 11 people), with a big horn section. They were playing jazz (funnily enough) and the music was kind of in the background for me. But then for some reason they started playing a piece by Beethoven. I only knew it was Beethoven because they said it was, but it definitely sounded familiar. And it was so good. I had been in the middle of a conversation but I had to stop talking for a couple of minutes to listen to this piece. I knew I must have heard it in a movie… It’s probably been in a bunch of movies, but I realized the one I was thinking of was The King’s Speech (crazy scene at the end when the king gives the speech). Anyway, hearing it this week really had an impact on me, and for the last few days I’ve been listening to non-stop Beethoven.
It got me thinking how there are so many similarities between Mozart/Beethoven on the one hand, and Beatles/Rolling Stones on the other. (Mozart=Beatles, Beethoven=Rolling Stones). I’ll preface by saying I know almost nothing about classical music. And truthfully I think the comparison is insulting to The Beatles (and to Mozart and Beethoven). But here goes. Mozart and Beethoven came from the same country, with Mozart coming on the scene slightly before Beethoven, and Beethoven being very influenced by Mozart. Mozart was extremely prolific, but didn’t last very long (died at 35). Beethoven was also prolific but was on the scene for much longer. (The individual Beatles were/are around for a while, but as a group they only lasted a few years. As opposed to the Rolling Stones who seem to be immortal.) Both Mozart and The Beatles have critically acclaimed movies nominated for multiple Academy Awards (Amadeus and A Hard Day’s Night). But…the Beatles also recorded a song called Roll Over Beethoven… so I guess in the end my conclusion is that The Beatles are both Mozart and Beethoven!
(how awesome is the guy at 2:45)
I used to feel bad in high school when I would use the library to take out CDs instead of books. But I got over it. One day I was sifting through the non-alphabetized mess of library CDs and I came across the David Bowie Singles Collection. The name sounded vaguely familiar so I added it to that day’s pile. I ended up listening to nothing else for a couple of weeks, and then before returning the CD to the library, I burnt a copy for myself. Felt kind of bad about that too… Anyway, I was very intrigued by him! Musically, his songs were melodic and catchy, but very often it sounded like he was purposely singing in a weird way, like he was sabotaging his own songs. He whines a lot, he yells, he groans. But obviously I realized that’s what makes him so cool. Super talented, but with a combination of attitude and seeming to not care. One of my fav songs is Rock n Roll Suicide. Its structure reminds me of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. It starts very calm and simple, and builds up and up until it reaches this high energy orchestral scream. So much emotion. I also loved his cameo in Zoolander.
It’s always cool when a song fits perfectly into a movie or TV show. The song brings out the emotion and weight of the scene, and the drama on screen enhances the impact and even the meaning of the song. The experience can be overwhelming in a way that would be impossible without both elements. Aside from “Right Action” in Dumb and Dumber To, an example of this phenomenon that really hit me was in the series finale of Breaking Bad. The song was “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. Without giving any spoilers, the final scene of the show is very intense to begin with. But when that song comes on, it felt like the song was written for that moment. Everything just fit so perfectly, even though the “baby blue” referred to in the lyrics is obviously not the same object of affection that Badfinger had in mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show, had that song in mind for the finale 6 years earlier when the show was just starting. I was slightly disappointed when I was reminded that this song also played a pivotal role in a completely different soundtrack, in the movie The Departed. The opening line “Guess I got what I deserved” probably makes it fit into a lot of crime stories. But in Breaking Bad it worked on a whole new level, and serves as a great example of the way music can elevate a scene from powerful to unforgettable.
Here is the actual scene from Breaking Bad (spoiler alert!)
When I was younger I used to go rummaging through our house, looking for treasure or anything else that seemed interesting (this was in the days before Facebook and YouTube). One Sunday afternoon when I was about 10, I discovered an old wooden trunk hidden away deep in the storage room of our basement. I blew off some of the dust coating the trunk, and cautiously opened it up. Inside there were stacks of strange and very thin books, and this was the one right on top:
I saw the word “Dead” and I saw a creepy witch holding a knife and I totally freaked out. I immediately closed the trunk, put it back where I found it, and subsequently had nightmares about it for months. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, but eventually I figured out what those skinny books were. They were my dad’s record collection from college, and after getting my first record player a few years later, I went through the records with my dad and with his permission I picked out the ones that looked cool. I left “Wake of the Flood” in the trunk, and that cover still freaks me out. Despite that traumatic introduction to the band, I ended up falling in love with the Grateful Dead. This was the first song of theirs that I heard.
I’m embarrassed to say where I heard this song… Dumb and Dumber To (sic). The movie was horrible but at the same time awesome. The nostalgia of the first one was able to sustain it. Anyway, they must have played this song at least 3 times during the movie. The only other thing that happened as many times in that movie was James Bond references, which were great. I found a live rendition on YouTube, and before playing the song, Franz (aka Alex) says that the inspiration for the opening line was that he was at a flee market and there was a collection of post cards. They were all blank except for one which said “Come home, practically all is nearly forgiven.” The feel of the song is meant to embody the emotions of that sentiment. The song also reminds me of the Elvis song “A Little Less Conversation (A Little More Action),” both in tone and in the lyrics.