Monday, January 25, 2010

Elvis - "Such a night"

AK: also "such a night" is an amazing elvis performance
MW: yeah
that whole song is wild
AK: two damn chords
MW: well it's all about the sax
AK: just like chuck berry's "you never can tell"
yeah it swings so damn hard
50 years ago
MW: it's one of the best uses of the elvis shoe stomping rhythm
AK: oh yeah
MW: where it sounds like they're breaking down cardboard boxes with clubs or something
it's a very sparse song
AK: steven and i disagreed about the lyrics a bit
MW: yeah?
AK: he thinks they're stupid, which is sort of true
but i like how he takes the blues trope of repeating a couple of lines and then resolving it
and sort of turning it into a new type of hook
"it was a night - ooh it was a night yes it really was, such a night"
pretty close to perfect i think
MW: yeah
i particularly like the ending of the first verse
It was it really was such a night
The night was alight with stars above
Oo-oo when she kissed me
I had to fall in love
AK: oh yeah
with that dramatic pause
MW: i agree w/the blues comparison because of the sense of compulsion
yeah exactly
AK: yeah man, "i had to fall in love"
MW: there was no way around it
AK: elvis is having such a good time singing it too
you don't hear that in all his songs
MW: no not at all
like in the ghetto
that sounds forced as all hell
AK: yeah
MW: or even girl of my best friend
which i love
AK: you can picture him in the studio working it out with all the pressure on him
MW: yeah man
there's serious commitment to the song there
AK: but "such a night" sounds like a pretty relaxed and swinging live take
MW: yeah, he's just enjoying it
i always felt that way about marie's the name of his latest fling
or suspicion
AK: oh definitely on both counts
MW: btw you know about the smiths/elvis connection right
AK: no clue
MW: oh man
listen to "rusholme ruffians"
AK: i know the sandie shaw thing which is sort of disappointing
MW: then listen to "marie's the name of his latest fling"
AK: oh wow
straight ripped off the rhythm track there
MW: and then go find the live version of rusholme ruffians from "rank"
you can abbreviate all but the last instruction
also i liked her version of hand in glove
yeah dude
they totally cop to it in the rank version, it's awesome
AK: that's terrific

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Shirelles - Foolish Little Girl

I want to take this moment to discuss "Foolish Little Girl" by the Shirelles. There are a few things that stand out about this song. First, I'm always a sucker for descending melodies, in this case it's a minor chord arpeggio that resolves into a major scale. Second, I love the organ sound.

Most notably, though, I really like how there are two voices here. Not just two voices but two opposing attitudes. The first is the one who's doing all the scolding---she's the realist, the wise one, etc., and the other one is the naive girl who insists, "But I love him... I still love him." It's not even much of a dialogue... the foolish little girl never changes----she skips along quite merrily past the fade out. The thing that really makes the little girl's part work is the resemblance of her drawn out "But I..." to childlike babbling "ba-da." I don't believe this is merely a coincidence.

It's worth comparing the voices in "Foolish Little Girl" to "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, especially during the bridge when Maria sings "La-la-la" while her friends speculate on the reason for her "madness."

And if you'll permit me to talk about my own work, I have tried something similar on "Twenty-Five" which was recorded quite nicely by my Oakland band. The idea behind that song is the clashing of innocence ("25 is just a number") and experience ("I'm getting old"). In that song, however, Molly is playing a most wise little girl, not unlike the one in William Wordsworth's "We Are Seven."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Shangri-Las - "Give Him A Great Big Kiss"

SC: I have decided that "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" is one of the greatest songs of all time.
AK: Yeah, man. Shadow Morton strikes again. The spoken word is killer, especially on that live version.
SC: I wish I were a girl only to be able to perform that song.
AK: Yeah, I can understand that. I'd be content with playing accompaniment, provided I could hang out with Mary Weiss backstage. I like the "sha-la-la-las" in the verse, too.
SC: Yeah, the rest of the shangri-las were pretty essential.
AK: Yeah, man. The twins did great harmonies. And Betty was their original lead singer.
SC: Why did they stop??
AK: I have tried really hard to figure it out. No one really knows. Litigation. They quit while they were ahead. Some weird legal mess happened. That was probably partially caused by the crappy contract Mary and Betty's mother originally signed
since they were minors.
SC: They accomplished quite a lot though.
AK: Yeah, totally. Most badass girl group ever.
SC: Yeah.

The Shangri-Las - "Give Us Your Blessing"

AK: This is a good Shangri-Las article
SC: We should befriend Mary Weiss on MySpace.
AK: Yeah, man. This is such a horrifying song. This Morton guy was sort of a genius
SC: "Remember" was the first song he wrote.
AK: Insane, just insane. I wish Morton would write Mary Weiss a song about her building getting blown up on 9/11.
SC: Yeah, how a landing gear came through the roof.
AK: Yeah, that's some rich imagery there.
SC: Oh no, your station started playing Chris Isaak - "Wicked Game."
AK: Okay, I'll nuke that if i ever see it. It's Orbison's fault. I mean it's Pandora's fault.
SC: Yeah
AK: I will teach it that I HATE oldies nostalgia.

The Beatles - "Please Please Me"

AK: Dude, how do you feel about the usage of harmonica on Please Please Me (the album)?
SC: Hmm, it wouldn't be the same without it.
AK: I think I hate it. I'm not sure. It just seems like some gimmick they were overusing, instead of just using more lead guitar or something.
SC: I don't hear it that way. I actually think without the harmonica the songs would sound like any other British invasion band. I think I've actually heard "Please Please Me" (the song) without harmonica and it sounds like it's missing something.
AK: I think I hate the harmonica sound in general, but compare to Hard Day's Night songs. Same arrangement. You don't need harmonica.
SC: "I Should've Known Better"? That song needs the harmonica.
AK: Okay, I knew that was going to come up. I like the harmonica on that song, but it's played differently somehow. It's not just a flat tone like the harmonica parts on Please Please Me and they're using it almost as a rhythm instrument. It's not doing some big obvious melody line like for example "There's A Place." It just sounds like they were trying to channel some folk rock.
SC: The "Please Please Me" harmonica is used in the hook, isn't it? Like right at the very beginning, too.
AK: Yeah
SC: It sounds to me like a horn section. At least it's serving that purpose. It's like a fanfare.
AK: Right, but I hate Beatles horn sections, too. Reminds me of fish and finger pie and I want to puke.
SC: There is one Beatles song I don't like the harmonica on----"Thank You Girl." There's a much better version (without harmonica) on Live At The BBC. I think, a concert version. I think the harmonica on "Please Please Me" is rather dramatic sounding, too, with the reverb.
AK: Yeah, man. The harmonica is a really blunt instrument.
SC: I don't think you can achieve the same effect on the lead guitar. It'll just sound jangly.
AK: Or even a piano or organ or something. Harmonica is just so campfirey.
SC: It's so distinctive, though. No one else used the harmonica, except Bob Dylan, but in a different context.
AK: In rock, but the folk fuckers loved it. And blues.
SC: But the Beatles took that folk instrument and forced it to play pop, which I think is great.
AK: Barely.
SC: It's kind of like what I did with "Picture Yourself."
AK: I'm pretty conservative when it comes to arrangement. I don't like funky instruments that draw attention to themselves. Electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic pianos, drums, bass. What the hell else do you need?
SC: It would be a boring world if that's all you have. Maybe some strings, and horn tastefully.
AK: Nah, are the Ronettes boring? The human voice will always be unmatched in timbre.
SC: There are exotic percussion in "Be My Baby" and who knows what else.
AK: Why put some gross frog-sounding thing like a harmonica out in front of that. Okay, exotic percussion is fine.
SC: You really hate the harmonica.
AK: Yeah, I have no idea why. It just chills me to the bone.
SC: Maybe the way it sounds metallic?
AK: Yeah. It's like the Darth Vader video. That's how I feel about the harmonica. It does sound like an iron lung or something, some medical apparatus.
SC: So how do you feel about other reed instruments? Like the accordion?
AK: I don't mind the accordion. I don't think it belongs in rock, but it's great for that French folk stuff. It's hard not to make it sound ethnic is the problem.
SC: You can make it drone.
AK: Like using Indian instruments in rock.
SC: Like the harmonium in "We Can Work It Out." Yeah, okay, Indian instruments do stand out like a sore thumb.
AK: Yeah, man. Like I said, I'm all for standard orchestration. Look at Beethoven or Mozart. They didn't do any funky shit. It was the same boring old orchestra, unlike Mahler with his prog experimentation. But who's better?
SC: Some people would find Mahler more exciting.
AK: Those people are bastards.
SC: People like [John Doe, prog rock fan], maybe. Note: that shouldn't be published.
AK: Oh, don't worry, all names would be changed to protect the innocent.