In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Snooze Sports | Main | Further Vids »

August 30, 2007

Music Clips for the Week

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Rod Stewart, "You're In My Heart." Embedding not allowed on this one, so click here.

Has there ever been such an impish yet collected combination of working-class peacock, soccer fan, swish aristocrat, and camp queen? Rod's equal parts stud and diva. Part of what amuses me about the Rod Stewart thang is the way he usurps what we usually think of as the woman's prerogative. He's vain and irrational, hard-to-get, casually and charmingly insulting, and all the more attractive for being so self-centered, superficial, and thoughtless. If only more of us could get away with that particular act ...

Jackie Wilson, "Lonely Teardrops."

Performed live, unless I'm mistaken. Jackie Wilson was one of the most charismatic and most attractive of the early soul men. What a voice, what moves, what stage presence. A first-class finger-snapper too. And was that man a master of the craft of taking-off-a-suitjacket or what? Talk about a lost art ... Read more about Jackie Wilson here. "Lonely Teardrops" was written by Berry Gordy Jr., who later founded and ran Motown Records.

Van Morrison, "And It Stoned Me."

Most of Van's videos make me cringe -- he's one of the most uncomfortable stage presences I've ever seen. But I like this reggae version of "And It Stoned Me" a lot. Van's relaxed -- well, relatively relaxed. And the audacity of the idea and the peppy "up" rhythm injects some fresh life into a good song. I blogged a bit about Van back here.

John Lee Hooker, "Boom Boom Boom."

Menacing and quiet yet hard-rocking -- here's a lesson in how one voice, one guitar, a couple of stomping feet, and a whole lot of personality can fill up your consciousness as completely as a symphony orchestra. Nobody can accuse John Lee Hooker of not having his own way with a song.

Rick Nelson, "Hello Mary Lou."

The era between Elvis' enlistment in the Army in 1958 and the British Invasion of 1964 is considered by rock purists to be one of the lowest points in pop music history, a wasteland of middle-of-the-road soullessness. Me, I have a lot of fondness for some of those ultrabland, homogenized, dreamy sounds. "Hello Mary Lou" was written by Gene Pitney.

I can't resist linking to a little more whitebread smoothness, the Everly Brothers doing "Dream."

That song is one of the great "let me see if I can sing harmony" songs, isn't it? (Sadly, I can't.) It was written by a legendary yet underknown songwriting team, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. According to Wikipedia, Felice and Boudleaux, a married couple, published more than 1500 songs, and their work was performed by the likes of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Sarah Vaughan, and the Grateful Dead.

Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee trade a lot of easygoing yet sultry phrasing on "Why Don't You Do Right":

And Peggy Lee shows how to use understatement to turn up the heat in this performance from the late 1950s of the ever-welcome "Fever."

"What a lovely way to burn" indeed. I also love the sly way that Peggy turns the words "Farenheit or cen-ti-grade" into an eloquent brief essay in sexual pleasure.

Take a look at the number of artists who have recorded a version of "Fever"! If that doesn't make a song a classic, I don't know what does.



UPDATE: Graham Lester has been spending serious time on YouTube too.

posted by Michael at August 30, 2007


I once found an interview with Bob Dylan in which he was commenting on the line, "rock and roll will never die". He said, but it has died; the roll is all gone and you've got only the "rock" left. It was a bit cryptic, but my own take on what he meant is that the melodic and danceable elements in the early forms of the music had vanished.

Van Morrison's is almost the only popular music to which I still listen regularly, although I've long since stopped buying his newer work, which has a new-age feel to it. He looks rather like Dylan Thomas, I've always thought; and is temperamentally akin to him, I'm sure, including the alcoholic tendencies.

Has anyone else noticed that when black musicians praise or perform white popular music, it's hardly ever rock that they admire, or indeed anything that white fans would describe as "cool"? Whereas I've heard a James Brown do a smashing version of "Mmbop", originally the work of the incredibly uncool boy band Hansen?

Posted by: alias clio on August 30, 2007 10:07 PM

The Everly Brothers -- whitebread? To me there was always something wild, something untamed about them, all the stronger for being held in check. I mean these weren't the Hardy boys, these were the boys from way back in the hills with their wild women and wild turkey for when the Hardy boys needed a brush with wild. Or maybe they were safe, maybe it was all in the imagination of a ridiculously overprotected child of the '50s.

Posted by: ricpic on August 30, 2007 11:20 PM

Ouch. Two typos to correct on my comment: the "a" in front of James Brown's name, and the question mark at the end of the last sentence.

I agree with ricpic about the Everly Brothers. They have a hint of country-boy wildness about them. And if they're white bread, what about Mick Jagger, Mr London School of Economics student? (Or so I've read.) The Everly Brothers have a softer sound than later rock bands, but that's a matter of changing fashions rather than an innate "white bread" quality, if indeed there is such a thing.

Posted by: alias clio on August 30, 2007 11:47 PM

Clio -- How has Van's work been for the last, oh, 20 years? I think "St Dominic's Preview" was the last time I checked in on him. I sort of felt like he'd done what he had to do at that point. But maybe he's revived himself over and over since ...

Ricpic, Clio -- OKOKOK, so whitebread is the wrong word; so I was reaching a little too far for that transition ... Still, and granting that you're absolutely right about the countryboy streak in the Bros., do you hear much hillbilly wildness in "Dream"? I dunno. Maybe in the intensity ... But it's 90% really really sweet, isn't it?

Posted by: MIchael Blowhard on August 31, 2007 12:07 AM

Jackie god, the man even has entertaining eyebrows!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 31, 2007 1:29 AM

(Insomnia again.) Van's latest work is, as I said, new-agey, as far as I can tell from the rare occasions when I listen to it. For the old wild Irish romantic, you'd have to go back to "Common One", perhaps, from the early 1980s. I especially like one weird song called "When Heart is Open", a kind of imitation Irish bog-chant: "Hand me down my coat, Oh hand me down my greatcoat/I believe I'll go walking in the woods, oh my darling". And the song "Common One" itself, which at first sounded to me like an odd kind of love song: "Oh my common one, my high in the art of suffering one/It ain't why why why it just is, that's all there is to it, it just is". Who would describe a lover that way? But when I listened often enough I understood that it was a love song - to the Blues. High in the art of suffering, indeed. Many of his songs, I think, are about music.

I think part of what happened to him was that he lost much of his voice, and his power to shout/rasp while still carrying a tune, which was what gave him his inimitable quality and could, in the past, turn even his more ordinary songs into something unusual.

Posted by: alias clio on August 31, 2007 2:00 AM

Has anyone else noticed that when black musicians praise or perform white popular music, it's hardly ever rock that they admire, or indeed anything that white fans would describe as "cool"?

Examples? I honestly don't know what this is referring to.

Posted by: BP on August 31, 2007 2:36 AM

Well, I was thinking of how a large number of young black musicians in the 1970s had at least a little praise for the Osmond Brothers, and said that this was the only white group at the time that really sounded good to them. Of course, I believe the Osmonds were deliberately modelled on the Jackson Five, so that may explain this. Anyway, in retrospect, I put the point rather too strongly, on the basis of the available evidence!

Posted by: alias clio on August 31, 2007 9:28 AM

Remember Run DMC freaking on Aerosmith's Walk This Way and doing their own classic rap version? That's black musicians being inspired by rock. guess is they were specifically attracted to the famous riff from Perry's guitar, which had a real snap and roll to it. Music that I think of as being either "cool" or rock seems to me to lack any kind of swing, syncopation, or even sexuality in its rhythms. Maybe that's too strong a generalization too, but my guess is that black musicians may still believe "it don't mean thing if it ain't got that [you-know-what]".

Posted by: PatrickH on August 31, 2007 10:24 AM

I'm surprised Peggy Lee doesn't have more of a current legacy. She was the whole enchilada. She wrote, she had the chops, she knew her way around a stage and a mic. She remained popular throughout her career from big band all the way to 60s rock.

Van the man kicks out a new anthology this weekend - "The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3" which has some recent classics like "Days Like This," "Precious Time," and "Back On Top." My only complaint is it's missing "Celtic New Year" and "Carry On Regardless" from his last studio set.

As for rock, it's out there, but it's hard to find.

Lily Allen (very dirty though, no kiddies)
Ok Go
The Pipettes (50's doowop with a modern twist)
Brad Paisley (if you don't mind some twang among the grooves)
And if you missed Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend", check it out because it has more hooks than your grandpa's tackle box.
The Foo Fighters are about to kick out another one - they haven't put out a turkey yet.

Another way to hunt for good stuff is go to the Amazon site in the UK and check out their top sellers. Lotsa good rock there.

Posted by: yahmdallah on August 31, 2007 10:57 AM

Peggy Lee: Norma Deloris Egstrom, from Jamestown, North Dakota. Charlie Christian also went from North Dakota to Benny Goodman's band, though he actually came from Oklahoma.

Posted by: John Emerson on August 31, 2007 3:01 PM


Thanks for passing on the Jackie Wilson video. That may be the most electrifying performance of a pop song I have ever seen and heard!

I also dug the Peggy Lee songs, especially the one from the '40s with Benny Goodman — "innocent" sexiness can be more alluring than sexy sexiness.

Here's another cracker you might want to check out: Natalie Merchant circa 1989, here. I've always enjoyed her singing and most of her songs, but I never realized she had such stage moves.

Posted by: Rick Darby on August 31, 2007 3:51 PM

Love that "Fever" video, especially those finger-snapping disembodied hands in the background. In that last shot it almost looks like they're in the choir stalls of a cathedral. I like it.

And speaking of essays in sexual pleasure (one of my favorite kinds of essays), you should check out Helen Humes -- one of the great 40's era swing & jazz singers (and WAY too unsung) -- singing "Be-Baba-Leba" w/ Dizzy Gillespie. She had a unique quality to her phrasing & could sing anything.

Gene Pitney! I remember coming home from school as a kid and singing along with "Mecca" (!) and Jr. Walker & The All Stars' "Shotgun" (now THERE'S a dancin' tune) until I couldn't speak (beneficial to all).

Great selections. Fun!

Posted by: Flutist on August 31, 2007 4:16 PM

Van is still putting out good albums. Down The Road from 2002 is one of my all-time favourites and 2 of the songs on it have been covered by the great Solomon Burke. Magic Time from two years ago has its moments. His last album, Pay The Devil, was all country covers. I was not too impressed with it.

Posted by: UlsterExpat on September 1, 2007 3:25 PM

Music that I think of as being either "cool" or rock seems to me to lack any kind of swing, syncopation, or even sexuality in its rhythms. Maybe that's too strong a generalization too, but my guess is that black musicians may still believe "it don't mean thing if it ain't got that [you-know-what]".

PatrickH, that is exactly what I meant. I'm glad somebody was able to pick up on what I suspect was my rather clumsily expressed point.

I don't know if anyone who haunts this site is likely to have seen the movie "Dance With Me", with Vanessa Williams. The movie sets up a contrast between competitive ballroom dancing, on the one hand, and the highly social, spontaneous dancing of Cubans on the other. To further emphasize the point, it goes on to compare this Cuban-style dancing with the aggressive, show-offy "I'm dancing with myself" mode prevalent in American clubs. And it's the Cuban dancing which is, though the least aggressive of these modes, also the sexiest. (The film is not at all supportive of the Castro regime, so don't anyone get that idea from this description.)

Posted by: alias clio on September 1, 2007 5:15 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?