Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Leonard Cohen was one of these famous musicians I knew about, but whose music I didn't really know. I knew that he was widely regarded as a genius. I, of course, knew the song from the Judy Collins version. About six months ago, while coming home from work, I heard his version on a radio program that specializes in obscurities and was blown away. He is not a great singer, but his voice works well with the spareness of the lyric and melody. As fall fades into winter in my part of the world, this seems to be an appropriately melancholy song.

Monday, September 29, 2008

City of New Orleans

I'm not much of a train guy. Never got that "romance" thing that so many guys see in them. Part of it might be that I don't have much experience with trains. I've seen freight trains all of my life but, have very little experience riding them. A couple of times on the Durango-Silverton, and about a month riding trains around Europe, pretty much sums it up. (I do have fond memories of the ride down the Rhine valley though.) On the other hand, I've lived in towns bisected by tracks. Nothing like getting stuck for half an hour watching a train go by a 1/4 mile per hour to make you hate the damn things.

So why this song then? Partly because of the melody, which I think is just about perfect, especially the chorus. The lyrics really make this song though. "Dealing cards with the old men in the club car. Penny a point, ain't no one keeping score." Has any one every caught the boredom of long distance travel so well? This song is so good that it can almost make someone like me see the what the train guys see in the them. "And the sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers ride their fathers' magic carpets made of steel".

Why Willie? I think he sounds better than Arlo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

2nd Suite in F for Military Band

Holst is best know for The Planets, but I knew him first through his 1st and 2nd Suites for Military Band. These are basic parts of the band repertoire, are easy enough for a good high school band to pull off. And they have baritone horn solos! Every baritone player loves Holst. I can still play large parts of these solos by memory almost thirty years later. This is the 2nd Suite. The baritone solos are in the 1st and 4th movement.

This Frederick Fennell recording is the definitive recording.

Movement 1:March:
Movement 2:Song Without Words

Movement 3: Song of the Blacksmith
Movement 4: Fantasia on the Dargason

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In the Mood

Another of the charts from my Jazz Band days. This always terrified me. The beginning was manageable, but the end when everything gets softer an softer drove me nuts. I played bass trombone, and to be honest, I wasn't that good. The bass trombone part in that section is at the very bottom of the horn's register. Playing that soft and that low stretched by abilities. So of course we played it at the State competitions. We got a I, but didn't place in the top three. We were the only band to get a I other than the top three, so I guess that means we came in 4th. That's a lot better than the football team did.

Here is the master, himself.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Those Were the Days

Some songs are nostalgic. This song is nostalgia itself. I was first attracted to this song when I was in my early twenties, which just show how early one can become nostalgic. I suppose that everyone has a tavern that comes to mind when they hear this song. I have three. First is Papa Rollo's in Waco. Coming in a distant second is Eskimo Joe's in Stillwater, from before the time that they became a restaurant. Finally there is St. Michael's Alley in Tulsa, which wasn't really a tavern, more of a coffee house. St. Michael's Alley is gone, Eskimo Joe's has become civilized. Perhaps Papa Rollo's still continues.

This song has an interesting history. Gene Raskin took the melody of a Russian Gypsy folk song, Dorogoi Dlinnoyu (The Long Road), and wrote or translated English lyrics. (Not knowing Russian, it is hard for me to tell if it is a translation or not). It was recorded by several people in the late sixties. The definitive version is by Mary Hopkins, although it was recorded at the about the same time by Britain's Sandie Shaw. Later cover version were done by host of people, including Bonnie Tyler, Dolly Parton and Liam Clancy.

The song was also a hit in French as Le temps des Fleurs (The Time of the Flowers) for Dalida. I like this version very much as well.

And, since we are being international, here is the Russian version, sung by
Nikolay Baskov:

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I'm not a big baseball fan. I played a little bit of little league, but wasn't very good. Dropped out about third grade. My parents weren't big fans, so the fever never got passed on that way either. I know enough to enjoy watching an inning or two on TV, have gone to some minor league games as an adult. I went to a Texas Rangers game one. Saw Bo Jackson hit a home run. Also saw him strike out and break the bat over his knee. I pay enough attention to know when major records fall. I noticed when the Red Sox won the World Series, but I don't follow baseball at all.

All of the said, this song makes me wish I were a baseball fan. It makes me want to play centerfield. It is without doubt the best baseball song ever written. Could anyone else string together a bunch a cliches and make it come out sounding so fresh?

I like this video of little league baseball to go with it, it seems to me that this is what the narrator is singing about.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sugar Mountain

Neil Young is someone who has grown slowly on me. I now wonder how I missed him all this time. sugar Mountain is a deceptively simply song, but it kinda gets under your skin. I didn't realize how much a liked it until it popped up on Pandora and I got quite happy about it. This the version from Live Rust.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rhymes and Reasons

This was from John Denver's first solo album, and is one my favorite songs of his. OK, so it's a bit naive, but isn't that what's best about Denver? Several commenters on YouTube have noticed a connection between this song and 9/11, all stemming from the opening lines of the second verse: "Oh the cities start to crumble and the towers start to fall around us / The sun is slowly fading and it's colder than the sea." Although I see the obvious connection, I'm sure I like connecting the rest of the song. I'm not sure it works, and I would have rather left the song unconnected in my head to that day. But, there it is, the connection has been made for me, and I probably won't be able to break it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ramblin' Man

If you want Southern Rock, this is the definitive song. This, by the way is the other way to be an Oklahoma redneck. Well, this plus Skynyrd.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Born to Run

What can I say?

It's the Boss.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Anne Briggs is one of the most influential unknown artists in the history of folk music. Okay, she's not exactly unknown. She was quite well thought of in her day, and was considered a rising star in the folk world. However, at age of 27, she walked away from it all. She has not recorded or performed since. Her entire recorded output is about 30 songs. It seems that she didn't like recording, or the sound of her recorded voice. But others did. June Tabor is said to have been inspired to take up singing by an Anne Briggs album. She influenced all of the Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior, and others. She has continued to influence singers such as Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy. I think that she may be the reason that female British folk singers never went down that sterile crystal pure dead end that so many American female singers went down in the 1960s. Here she is sing Blackwaterside.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Agincourt Carol

I'm going to cheat here. This is a version of the "Agincourt Carol" sung by June Tabor and Maddy Prior. Maddy Prior sang with Steeleye Span and has had an extensive solo career. She teamed with June Tabor for two albums under the name Silly Sisters, the first being one of the best folk albums of the 70s. This from their second album, No More to the Dance, which was made a decade later.

The Agincourt Carol is a 15th century hymn celebrating the English victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt, during the Hundred Year's War. Agincourt was one of the the most lopsided battles of all time. The heavily outnumbered English slaughtered the flower of the French nobility. Because of woods flanking the field of battle the French cavalry was unable to flank the English archers. So they charged headlong across a muddy field at them. They were unable to get through the palings, pointed sticks implanted in the ground facing forward, to get at the archers, who, however, could shoot the French. The muddy field was churned by the cavalry into an impassable morass, so that the French infantry could not cross the field. Thousands of French were killed, including the Constable of France and three dukes and over 100 other members of the French nobility. Hundreds of prisoners were taken including the Marshall of France and the Duke of Orleans. Estimates of English casualties range from about a hundred to about five hundred. The Battle of Agincourt is the centerpiece of Shakespeare's Henry V

Tabor and Prior sing here a truncated version of the Carol, singing only the first and last verses.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Willy O'Winsbury

Sandy Denny, June Tabor, Maddy Prior. When I think of the women of the British folk scene, these are the names that come to mind. I always seem to forget Jacquie McShee of Pentangle. Pentangle often went off in weird directions with their music, but as this song shows, they could do traditional quite well.

I first heard this song from Ed Miller, of Austin. It is one of my favorites and this is a great rendition

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tam Lin

So last week was country music. This week is British Folk Rock, especially as sung by women

This is one of my all time favorite songs, and my absolute favorite version of it. This is the song that hooked me on Sandy Denny.

The song itself is a major example of the dark, wild side of Faerie that Tolkien wrote about. Aside from "Thomas the Rhymer" and Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci", there is scarcely a better work on the dangers mortals find in meddling in Faerie.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Great Gate of Kiev

Again, classical music should make your ears bleed.

Seriously, listen to these nice fat chords. It's all brass. How could a trombone player not love that?

This performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

El Paso

I'm in a country mood this week I guess.

We play both kinds, Country and Western.

This is the best Western ballad ever written, not a lot more can be said.

Not many songs generate sequels, and most sequels aren't very good. This generated two. The first "Feleena" tells the story from Feleena's point of view.

The second "El Paso City" is different. It is set in the present. The narrator, while flying over El Paso, tells of hearing the song and the deep connection he feels to it, suggesting that he was the cowboy in the song in a past life.

The only copy I found is a live version with some serious audio problems, sadly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Take This Job and Shove It.

Note, nothing has happened at work recently that makes my attitude towards my job more negative.

Everyone knows this song, or at least the title line. "Take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more." Everyone had wanted to say this. Few of us ever do, including the narrator of this song. That's what makes this song so brilliant and tragic. The chorus sounds like a glorious barbaric yawlp, but the verses destroy that illusion. Like many of us, the narrator is leading his life of quiet desperation. You can't do this sort of stuff with Rock or Pop.

This song was originally by David Allen Coe, but was most famously covered by Johnny Paycheck. The Dead Kennedys did a version as well.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the Road Again

For my Simon and Garfunkel post I almost used "Homeward Bound", a song I really like. But at the last moment I realized that it was a whiny "life's rough on the road" song, and I wasn't in the mood. It seems that every band and singer sooner or later writes a song about how tough life on the road is. I don't doubt them, I wouldn't won't to do it, but it doesn't really connect with the rest of us who live lives tethered to one location. And then there is Willie Nelson. He looks at the life of the traveling musician and says "Oh Boy!"

I am also reminded by a story I heard recently. One of my co-workers is a rather interesting 19 year old girl who is big into the "underground" music scene. She promotes a lot of concerts and bands, and has been for several years, despite her youth. Let's call her Music Girl. Well music girl has some friends in a band that were given the opportunity to do a mini-tour opening for Willie. They, of course, jumped at the opportunity. Willie even invite them to ditch the van and ride his tour bus. How cool is that? Well... It turns out that Willie has two states of being; sleeping and playing his guitar. He doesn't sleep much. After ten hours on the bus listening to Willie doodle in the corner, they were ready to scream. And they only had ten days left.

When Willie sings this song, he evidently means it, and really doesn't undersand how anyone could feel any other way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Emily Whenever I Find Her

What did Art bring to Simona and Garfunkel? The obvious answer is that voice. Paul was the songwriter, and in the long run that was the more marketable talent. But despite his genius, Paul's voice is pedestrian. Art's voice can soar in way that is seldom heard in pop music.

This is a song that sneaks up on you, it is almost background music at the beginning, but by the end you are can't help but pay attention. It's not one of the most widely known songs by S & G, but it is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet Child O Mine

I once had an argument with my younger brother about this song. He maintained that, because the guitar work in the song was not technically difficult, that it meant that the guitarist was really not that good. That may be so, but the opening guitar, despite its simplicity is quite simply one of the most effective opening riffs ever. Great song.

Wild Mountain Thyme

If there ever was a "standard" folk song, this is it. Also known as "Will Ye Go Lassie, Go", it is widely sung by Scottish, English, Irish and American singers. My favorite version is by the Battlefield Band, which, sadly, I could not find. Despite that I found an embarrassment of riches, having found versions by the The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem , Sandy Denny, Dick Gaughan, Kate Rusby, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Long John Baldry, Don Williams, The Silencers, and the High Kings, amongst others.

I have gone with The Corries here, in art because when all is said and done, this is a Scottish song. The Corries were one of the prominent acts in the Scottish Folk Revival.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Radar Love

What the hell exactly is Radar Love? Whatever it is, this is the song most likely to get me a speeding ticket.

There is another interpretation of Radar Love that my brother, who used to be Air Defense Artillery, might like. Explosions are fun.

Friday, June 6, 2008

G.I. Jive, D-Day Dodgers

Today is the anniversary of the Normandy invasions. Rather than put up something predictably patriotic, I thought I would put up a piece that the boys listened to in '44. Sorry Mike, it's more swing. One of the popular tunes of the day was the G.I. Jive in a version performed by Louis Jordan. I couldn't find that version, so here's one by Johnny Mercer.

Lest we forget, there was another European front in WW II, in Italy which had been active since 1943. Many of those troops, especially the British, felt that the Italian front was ignored by the public after the Normandy landings. "The D-Day Dodgers", set to the tune of Lili Marlene was their theme song. The Italian campaign was fiercely fought, and this song is bitterly ironic in a way that Gen-X, the ironic generation, can never hope to approach.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sing, Sing, Sing

This song defines Swing Music. All else is commentary. Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Harry James. Does it get any better?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Witnesses' Waltz

OK, this is not a great song, nor is the singer particularly good. I like the song anyway. It makes a bit of a subversive point, though. How, popular is the space program? One way of judging it by counting the number of people who come "to watch the spaceships take off and land"

This reminds of an incident from high school. Early in the space shuttle's history they always landed in California and took off in Florida. That meant that is had to be transported across country every time it flew. Not surprisingly, the modified jumbo jet that was used to transport it couldn't make it all the across the country without landing to refuel. Something about having a another vehicle strapped to its back decreased the fuel efficiency. NASA found an impressive variety of excuses to land the shuttle in a wide variety of mid-country airports. My senior year they landed at the Tulsa airport. Several of my space-minded friends and I made a mad dash across town after the school let out to see the thing come in and that taxi over to the spot where it was going to spend the night. We weren't the only ones. Hundreds of people showed up for the privilege of staring through a chain-link fence at the spacecraft strapped to the back of plane a hundred yards away. One of the coolest things I did when I was in school.

The song is by Leslie Fish, who is one of the greatest Filk song writers around. He is also responsible for many of the "Kiples" popular in the SCA, particularly "The Song of the Picts".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley

I had something else in mind for today, but when one of the founders of Rock and Roll passes, I have to take note.

Bo Diddley (1928 - 2008), RIP

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Battle of Evermore

UPDATE: I've changed the video

"The Battle of Evermore" has always been my favorite Led Zeppelin tune, has been since high school. In a nice bit of synchronicity a decade later I became interested in Celtic music and discovered the Fairport Convention/Steeleye Span school of folk rock. I became a big fan of Sandy Denny. A bit later I realized that the female voice on "The Battle of Evermore" was Sandy Denny. Sandy, is sadly no longer with us, but I was thinking about the current Robert Plant/Alison Krauss tour, and realized that Alison's voice would be quite good in "The Battle". It turns out that I am not the only that thinks so.

A lot has been made about the Tolkien references in Led Zeppelin. There are many videos combining footage from the LotR movies with this song. The Battle of Pellanor Fields is quite popular. There are websites that try to interpret Zeppelin songs as restatements of the story line of Lord of the Rings. These interpretations all seem forced to me. I think that Page and Plant used Tolkien as one of many sources for imagery, but that they were not explicitly writing songs about any particular mythos. The ring wraiths in black in the song are balanced by the non-Tolkienian Angels of Avalon. Everyone in the song is waiting for the Eastern Glow, that is the Dawn. In Tolkien the Eastern Glow was the fire of Mordor and something to feared or endured, not awaited. In the books when the glow of the sun did arrive it came from the West as the sun set below the darkness, or from the South, when the wind from the sea blew away the mirk of Mordor. (One of the few times in the LotR when you could claim that the Valar took an active role). These are brilliant songs, and they use the imagery created by Tolkien very well, much in the same way that earlier poets used the imagery of Classical mythology to paint images. An English band using the imagery from the Lord of the Rings to weave together songs comes close to to what Tolkien was aiming at when he wrote the Lord of the Rings, which was to create a English mythology.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

In the hall of the mountain king.

Classical music should (sometimes) make your ears bleed.

This rendition doesn't come across quite loud enough, but then few do.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Okie From Muskogee

My brother recently told me that the only comment to my putting up Coal Miner's Daughter he could make was that I was turning into an Oklahoma Redneck. No, this song would mean that I am turning into an Oklahoma Redneck.

I will comment that I remember a young US Armer member who was willing to fight a stoned European in Vienna who had spoken derisively of "Okies for Muskogee".

Thursday, May 29, 2008

House of the Rising Sun

At the risk of getting called a baby-boomer by my wife, I am putting this song up. This is one of those songs that will get me to test the capacity of my stereo speakers every time. If my stereo went to 11, I would go there. Best rock adaptation of a folk song ever. (Note that this is different from a folk-rock song). The fact that the original is essentially a blues tune helps. This song also demonstrates that sometimes less is more. This is a really simple guitar line, but any thing more would wrong. It's shocking to see how young these guys were. That bass growl coming out of that baby face.

My only complaint with this version is that they changed the pronouns. This is a woman's song, the House is a whorehouse, and the song doesn't make sense when sung from a male perspective. Following The Animals in a Bob Dylan singing with female lyrics and Joan Baez singing as a female, of course.

On YouTube there is much discussion about the "real" version. For the record, the Baez version was recoded in 1960, the Dylan version in 1961, and The Animals in 1964. The song is older than all of them, of course. It was one of the many songs collected by Alan Lomax. The oldest known recording was made by Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster in 1933. Prior to the 1960's versions were recorded by Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Glenn Yarbrough.

The Animals

Bob Dylan

Joan Baez

Woody Guthrie


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coal Miner's Daughter

As an adult I have become interested in country music. My interest, however, has been more focused on "classic", traditional, and neo-traditional than on top 40 country. I suppose this is natural given my interests in Celtic and and American folk music. The closer country come to those sources, the more appealing I find it. The closer it comes to pop or rock, the less so. This is, by the way, true for the entire history of country music. I dislike the "Nashville sound" of the late fifties and early sixties and the crossover country of the seventies as much as I dislike the the pop-rock masquerading as country today.

If I had to pick one song to represent country music, it would be "Coal Miner's Daughter". Nothing I can say will really add much to the song. On a linguistic note, I will note that the song does not start "I was born...", it starts, "I was born'd....". She also rhymes "hard" with "tired". Such a pure regional accent could make it onto the radio today. On a related note, I once read that Loretta Lynn's accent is probably the accent closest to the London accent of Shakespeare's time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Basie Straight Ahead

Yesterday I was by Barnes and Noble, and I happened to see that my old high school Jazz Band would be performing tonight. I got off work early enough to catch there last two bits. They sounded pretty good. The played the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame early this year. This video has clips from several songs, but gives an idea of their quality.

This reminded me of my youth, and my own time in the Screaming Eagles. One of the charts we played a Sammy Nestico piece called "Basie Straight Ahead", originally played by Count Basie, of course. Here's the Sammy Goz Band playing it. we were almost as good. Promise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Some shipwrecks become famous, while others become forgotten. Some like the Titanic capture the imagination and inspire multiple works of art. Others remain famous because of the works of art they inspired. Although the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was one of the largest ships to ever sail the Great Lakes, it would not be a famous as it is without the great Gordon Lightfoot song. The USS Reuben James was the first US Navy ship sunk during World War II. It was sunk more than a month before Pearl Harbor by a German U-Boat while on convey duty off of Iceland. It, however, was one of many destroyers sunk on convoy duty. It too would be largely forgotten without the Woody Guthrie song.

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is quite simply one of the best story songs ever written. If Gordon Lightfoot had never written another song, he would still be an important songwriter on the basis of this song alone. Hell, just the line "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" would qualify him as great writer.

This video is the best of many I found. It combines contemporary news footage, the actual radio transmissions of the searchers, archival footage of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and footage of the wreckage itself.

I found fewer videos of "The Sinking of the Reuben James". I chose this one because the singer's voice has a quality similar to Woody Guthrie's. When Woody first wrote a song about the Reuben James, he wrote a version that included the names of all 85 crew members that were lost. He was convinced that this was too monotonous and so he used the "Tell me, What were their names" chorus instead. When I first was thinking about this post I wanted to find and list the names of all the dead on both ships. The video for the Edmund Fitzgerald list the names of her men. I could not find a listing for the men lost on the Reuben James. In an ironic twist, I did find a list of the men who served on the U-Boat that sank the Reuben James.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stars and Stripes Forever

Simply the best march ever written. For decades, my Grandmother insisted that this be played at her funeral. It was, on piano, not, unfortunately the Horowitz transcription.

This version is played by the 82nd Airborne Division Band, so this is a tribute to the Air Force, with music by the director of the Marine Corps Band, played by an Army Band.

Bonus points for anyone except my elder brother, who notices the non Air Force plane. My elder brother to get the bonus points needs to ID at least 97% of the aircraft, and give the maiden name of the pilot's mother.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Song of the Shield Wall

This is the first SCA song I encountered after I joined the SCA. I had made contact with a local household, and as they were outfitting me for my first event, the Medieval Faire in Namron, the head of the household sang this song. I've heard it hundreds of times since. I still consider this to be one of the best SCA songs, and for that matter, one of the best "historical" songs ever written. This version is not high quality, but it has a certain charm. It matches the way I have heard it most often, by a group of largely untrained singers . I have often wondered how this song would come out in the hands of a group like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span though.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

When I was in junior high, I became a fan of John Denver, in part because I heard some of the older boys in my Boy Scout troop speaking well of him. I came to really like his music on its own merit though. It has kind of been one of my secret vices every since. He was never exactly cool, so I never talked much about it. Rocky Mountain High was one his songs that spoke to me in a very direct way. In the same era that I was beginning to listen to Denver, I was going on my first backpacking trips, and one weekend a month camping with the Boy Scouts. Hearing it now, even though I haven't had a backpack on for over a decade makes me want to get out a map and find a lake somewhere high in the Rockies to climb to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Grianan-Horse With a Heart

In my mid-twenties, I got interested in "Celtic music", a mix of Irish, Scottish, and other music. One of ways I heard bands was through the Tulsa PAC Celtic series. I went to every show for several years, whether I had heard of the band or not. One of the groups that came through was Altan. Altan was the true superstar band of the Celtic scene in the 1980s. The first time I saw them, they had only a few albums out, but were quickly gaining a name. They played the Williams Theater, a medium sized venue in the PAC. The next time they came to Tulsa,10 years later, they were in the Chapman Music Hall, the big theater upstairs were they Opera, Ballet and Symphony perform. I've seen them perhaps seven times in my life, more than any other band. When someone asks me today who my favorite band is, I reply Altan.

Like all bands, Altan has evolved through the years. The original core of the band was flutist Frankie Kennedy and his wife Mairéad ní Mhaonaigh on fiddle and vocals. Mairéad is one of the finest Donegal fiddlers around, and a first rate singer. They were backed by Mark Kelly on guitar and Ciarán Curran on bouzike. After a couple of albums they were joined by a second fiddler. The two driving fiddles and flute became their trademark sound. On their fifth album a second gutiarist, Dáithí Sproule was added. Tragically in 1994 Frankie Kennedy died of throat cancer. The band carried as Frankie wished. Instead of adding a new flutist, they added an accordion player Dermot Byrne. Mairéad and Dermot are now married and have a daughter.

This is a track off their second album.

Friday, May 9, 2008


When I was in high school this guy was my musical hero. I liked a lot of rock bands, I liked John Denver. I wanted to be Maynard Ferguson. The guy could blow a double high C on trumpet! (For non brass players, that's almost an octave above the normal range of the horn.) Every brass player I knew wanted those chops. Ferguson had a huge following among band geeks nation wide. He earned the hard way, holding clinics, playing concerts at high school jazz band contests, building a fan base among teens in an era when big band music was suppose to be music for grandparents. Chameleon was one those charts that every high school jazz band in the country played. Thirty years later, if I pick up a trombone one of the first things to come out is that ba-ba-ba-ba bump-bump trombone line. Never did find a way to hit the double high C, though.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sultans of Swing

Sometimes songs can transport you in an instant to a place in the past. Whenever I here this song, I'm suddenly seventeen. I'm driving the family Torino about 10 PM, and I'm turning off of Peoria avenue onto the street right by what was then the Brook Theater. OK, sometimes the place you get transported to isn't that special, but there it is.


When I was in high school one of my favorite albums was Black Noise by an obscure progressive rock band called FM. The album consisted of science-fiction themed songs, and was heavy with the use synthesizers and weird instruments like the electric mandolin. The songs had titles like "Phasers on Stun" "Dialing for Dharma", "Aldebaran", "Massacre in Robot Village", and the like. Despite the seeming hokeyness, it was surprisingly good stuff. When I run across it now, I still like it. I guess part of me is still that 16 year old boy reading Clarke and Heinlein and dreaming of space.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dust in the Wind

One aspect of 70s and 80s arena rock was that it wasn't all about getting laid or strictly about politics. Sometimes they reached for larger themes. Often they overreached and failed, but not always.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Shelley

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Für Elise

My elder daughter is taking piano and has reached Für Elise She was to play it for her recital this week but it got canceled because of the ill health of one of the instructors. Although I don't play the piano, I can read music. I tend to sit with my daughter to help her get pieces right, especially the rhythm. I am also teaching her to rear pieces apart so that she can work on the hard portions. I have been doing this with Fur Elise, which prior to now I was only vaguely aware of. I don't think that I had ever heard it in its entirety until we got a CD so that she could listen to it.

This version is performed by Ivo Pogorelić.


This blog is a random running commentary on music I like. Somethings will be things I have liked or loved for decades. Other will be things I just discovered.

I grew up like any other kid in the late Seventies listening to Arena Rock and Classic Rock. In junior high I became fond of John Denver. I played in marching band and concert band acquiring a taste for band music ranging from Sousa to Holst. This broadened into an interest in other orchestral music, although my preferences tended toward the loud brassy end of things. I also picked up an interest in Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and other folk music of the sixties. In my twenties, I joined the SCA, and picked up on the combination of filk, broadsheet ballads and period music that floated around the SCA. Later I developed an interest in Irish and other Celtic music. After I got married, my wife got me interested in country music. My daughter is taking piano and violin, which is bringing some of that literature into my consciousness. I also find myself from time to time interested in individual pieces ranging from punk to world music to pop to just about anything else.