Friday, June 29, 2007

Gillian Welch - Time (the Revelator)

Embedding of this video was disabled. You can watch/listen by either clicking on the image or on the link below. - fhb

I fell in love with Gillian Welch when I first heard Paper Wings on a compilation album. That drove me to immediately buy her first - and in my opinion, still best - album, "Revival," which I recommend you pick up first if, after listening to this video of

  1. She collects handmade shoeshine kits.
  2. In high school, Welch made the all-state team for the mile and was invited to run in the national trials.
  3. She was accepted to Princeton, but went to U.C. Santa Cruz instead.
  4. She played in a Goth band called, "Penny Dreadful," as well as in a campy `70s retro band under the stage name, Oprah Van Sofa.
All four facts from Alec Wilkinson's profile of Welch and Rawlings, "THE GHOSTLY ONES," in The New Yorker, September 20, 2004, which is well worth reading if you can locate it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Hey man, you in town to read poetry to old ladies?"

Ah but you got away, didn't you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you
and all of that jiving around. - Chelsea Hotel #2

Leonard Cohen's bittersweet paean to Janis Joplin and their one-night stand at The Chelsea. As you probably know, the hotel has a storied history as funky residence for artists, musicians and writers. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey while staying at the Chelsea. Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning while living there (collapsing at another legendary New York site, The White Horse Tavern). Nancy Spungenp, girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols was murdered there. Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell is another song inspired by the hotel. and, incidentally, Chelsea Clinton is named after the song and, thus, the hotel, too. Bob Dylan mentions the Chelsea in Sara, where he notes that he wrote Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands for her there.

I'm not a huge Cohen fan... a little of him goes a long way in my opinion, but I had forgotten how much I like this song. I suspect Janis' lines are verbatim.

I always wondered why the original version - which has identical lyrics - on "New Skin for the Old Ceremony" was simply named "Chelsea Hotel," while the version on 1975's "Best of" was titled "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." According to this site, here's the reason:

"Ron Cornelius is a guitarist who played on sessions with many artists, including Johnny Cash, Loudon Wainwright III and Bob Dylan. Before branching out into production and music publishing, he served as Leonard Cohen's band leader for 4 albums. Ron gave us this response regarding his role in writing this song:
'He claims that I helped him with a chord change in writing an earlier version of this song. The truth is that I co-wrote the song with him on an airplane (8hrs) from New York to Shannon, Ireland. The reason it has a No.2 behind it is that he tried to cheat me out of my share by recopyrighting it that way (he changed nothing) - - it was just "Chelsea Hotel." Anyone can check out the writer credits by contacting BMI to get the truthful writer credits. I ran his band for a long time (worldwide), played on his records, and have nothing but honest input to look back on - Leonard can't say that!!!'"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

O Superman (For Massenet) - Laurie Anderson

Cause when love is gone, there's always justice/ And when justice is gone, there's always force/ And when force is gone, there's always Mom - Hi Mom!

The alternately weird, funny, and chilling O Superman was the first Laurie Anderson piece I ever heard, and made me an instant fan. I like this Anderson-authorized video a lot, too, although I had my own ideas for a video script

The 1981 song's full title is O Superman (For Massenet) as Anderson reportedly got the idea after hearing the aria O Souverain from Jules Massenet's 1885 opera Le Cid.

Anderson originally recorded O Superman for a New York-based indie label, 110 Records. The song was - and is - part of a much larger four-and-a-half hour work entitled United States, which wasn't fully released until 1984. O Superman would first appear on album in Anderson's debut, Big Science in 1982. But before the album, O Superman was a single, and an unlikely 8+-minute hit in the U.K., making it to the #2 slot in 1981.

This is the hand, the hand that takes/ Here come the planes/They're American planes. Made in America/ Smoking or non-smoking?/ And the voice said: 'Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers/ From the swift completion of their appointed rounds'
As many others did, I thought of the Here come the planes line after 9/11. Anderson, a New York native, who had retired the song from live performance several years earlier, responded by performing O Superman at two shows in New York the week after the attacks.

If you liked O Superman, you can learn more about Laurie Anderson and her work at her web site.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tiny Tim w/Eleanor Barooshian - I Got You Babe Plus The Cake - You Can Have Him

Regular readers know of my fondness for Tiny Tim. I share Bob Dylan's opinion that when Tim passed away we lost a treasure house of musical knowledge.

Here's Tim in a are clip from Peter Yarrow's You Are What You Eat performing a duet of the Sonny and Cher classic I Got You Babe with Tim taking the female lead and Eleanor Barooshian the male part. Although unseen, the backing band is The Band, still known as The Hawks at this point in their career.

Barooshian and Tim used to perform the song on a regular basis at Steve Paul's The Scene club in New York City, which is where Peter Yarrow first saw the number and decided to include it in the film. Tim had a relatively minor role, given that You Are What You Eat was not a film that really featured anyone or much of anything, but after becoming a media hit through his appearances on Laugh-In, Tim became the nominal "star" of the film, and his image used in its marketing. Like some of the other "psychedelic" films made during that period - The Monkees Head and Frank Zappa's 200 Motels come to mind - the largely incoherent You Are What You Eat quickly disappeared from public view, even from the college movie circuit (which is where I saw it in the early `70s).

If you're determined enough to track it down today, you'll probably buy a very blurry nth generation copy which started life as a VHS recording. The quality of the YouTube clip is indicative of what to expect. A pity, since You Are What You Eat also included appearances from The Electric Flag, Frank Zappa, Peter Yarrow, Paul Butterfield, Super Spade, David Crosby, and Barry McGuire, among others.

On his album, God Bless Tiny Tim, Tim would perform both the male and female vocals. The YouTube description notes that Ms. Barooshian (now working under the name "Chelsea Lee") was a member of `60s girl group The Cake. According to their Wikipedia entry their two Decca Records albums are set to be re-released on CD in 2007 by Rev-Ola Records. The surviving two members of The Cake also have a MySpace Page here.

And here is just a wonderful video of The Cake performing You Can Have Him on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in August of 19 and 67...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bob Dylan - I Will Love Him

An unreleased song from Dylan's "gospel" period - roughly 1979-81 - I Will Love Him is only known to have been performed at this 1980 concert in Toronto.

If you're a fan of Dylan's gospel period - or even if you're not - you should hunt down Contract with the Lord - a 2-disc audience recording at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco that is of near-commercial quality.

I'm not much of a fan of Dylan's output during this period, but Contract with the Lord was the first step in convincing me it was work re-examination. Gotta Serve Somebody, both the CD and and DVD sets of various gospel artists covering Dylan (as well as a contribution by Dylan himself), are also convincing arguments that Dylan produced some of his most heartfelt and powerful music during this period.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Simpsons vs Star Trek

The title kind of says it all, doesn't it? A very nice mash-up of two iconic TV themes.

Look and listen for the very cool theremin, pictured to your left.

Invented by Russian inventor Lev Sergeivich Termen (later Westernized to Léon Theremin) in 1919, the theremin was one of the first electronic musical instruments. Designed to be played without being touched, the theremin consists of two radio frequency oscillators and two metal antennae.

The player moves his or her hands around the two antennae, which control the instrument's frequency (pitch) and amplitude (volume).

Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was so taken with the theremin that he took lessons, commissioned the construction of 600 of the instruments for use throughout the Soviet Union, and sent Theremin the inventor on a worldwide tour to demonstrate this latest Soviet ingenuity.

You've heard the theremin in a variety of science fiction and horror and thriller movies, including Spellbound, The Lost Weekend, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the TV hoorror soap, Dark Shadows. Ironically, the theremin wasn't used in the movie it's most popularly associated with, Forbidden Planet. A ring modulator was used instead.

Furher theremin reading: Wikipedia; Theremin World

Monday, June 18, 2007

via my friend and gather ex-colleague Kerry Dexter.

The Remember Song, performed by Tom Rush. Recorded at Humphreys By The Bay, San Diego, CA., this performance appears on Judy Collins' "Wildflower Festival" DVD and CD and is available from Tom's website at

Tom Rush was one of the first artists to record a then-unknown Joni Mitchell’s songs, and was an inspiration to a young James Taylor, who has said of Rush, “Tom was not only one of my early heroes, but one of my main influences.”

Tom signed with Elektra Records in 1965 and his early work exposed listeners to Mitchell (The Circle Game), Jackson Browne (Jamaica Say You Will) and Leonard Cohen. Tom’s craving for good songs and attracting great musicians gave way to his legendary Club 47 shows in Boston, which brought in young talent such as Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt, and Alison Krauss. The Club 47 shows were the precursor to the coffee house circuit as a way to champion new emerging artists.

Tom is still an active performer doing about 60 shows a year and currently resides in the Santa Barbara area his wife, Renee Askins, who is the founder of the Wolf Fund.

As Tom says at the beginning of the video, "...if you can remember the `60s, you probably weren't there."

I realized I had hit the point Tom describes in this funny song when I had to create a reversible laminated sign for the porch reading, "The Cat is In/Out," which was the only way I could be certain.