July 21, 2009

Next Victim: ”Lean On Me"

Filed under: Uncategorized — improviz @ 10:31 PM

The history of this song is like the history of a pit bull chewy toy. It starts with some discernible shape and taste and over the course of time, is gnawed on and abused until it becomes nothing but a useless, slobbery globule. There was never that much there there in the first place, but the villain that finished the job is popular culture. Instead of a snarling, sharp-toothed canine, it is the grinding, relentless maw of America’s Uplift Industry that reduced ‘Lean On Me’ to a bloody pulp.

Naturally, there have been endless cover versions of the song, each more depressing than the last-c.f. Michael Bolton, Anne Murray and Limp Bizkit-but even more sickening is the fact that every movie that needs a little ersatz “uplift” drags this song onto the soundtrack. This kind of cheese makes Roquefort smell like lilacs. The Uplift Industry may be the most cynical redoubt of thieves and scoundrels we have. The producers of these movies should have their mohair sweaters ripped off their bodies like the epauletes of disgraced Foreign Legionnaires and made to swing from the roof of the closest branch office of “Variety.”

The song is composed of a string of musical cliches that was completely appropriate to the lyrics and their maudlin message:
Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow…

Fine. Pop culture is our catch basin of mindless mediocrity and in its era this song did its job. It’s been bloodied and beaten raw and now it’s time for entombment. I’m askin’ ya please, don’t lean on me.


You’re So Vain-kinda sorta

Filed under: Uncategorized — improviz @ 2:40 PM

As the grocery store muzak effortlessly segued from detergent specials to this Carly Simon “classic,” I knew I had my next candidate for the crypt.

This won’t take long. It’s the same problem I’ve always had with this song.

Musically, there’s not much to get overjoyed or exorcised about-it’s bouncy. But those lyrics? First of all, credit for this:

“But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee…”

Ok. But, there’s the central conundrum of the repeating hook:

“…And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?”

Well, it is about him, isn’t it? If it’s not, it’s about somebody else, but you did write this song about HIM (or THEM, if the composite story is true). And all the girls are dreaming about HIM, aren’t they? So, the lyrics should reasonably say:

You’re so smart,
you probly know this song is about you.

As a “you dumped me you jerk and I’m so over you song,” it fails miserably. As an “I’d like to show you how over you I am but the subtext says otherwise” song, it’s a bulls-eye.

So, as this entry lurches to a close, I’m thinking purgatory would be a more appropriate fate than the Crypt. And I ask you, what better purgatory is there than Muzak?

July 18, 2009

The Happening" What Is It?

Filed under: Uncategorized — improviz @ 7:24 PM

That such a deliberate sell-out could go to #1 is enough to make a guy a little cynical…Does anyone remember this song? If so, you’ll immediately understand the need to crypt it. Others, listen to it:

The Happening was recorded by the Supremes for a 1967 movie of the same name (There’s that insidious cross-platform influence again). This film bomb starred George Maharis, Faye Dunaway, Robert Walker Jr., etc. Hollywood was desperately trying to transition from Annette Funicello and this was supposed to pass muster for youth culture. Once again, it shows how oblivious Hollywood was to what was actually, er, happening. This is a movie that even mushrooms wouldn’t help. And using the Supremes? Bee hive hairdos and a “dress like I tell ya” look. The whole thing was like taking a guy with white shoes and sans-a-belt pants and piercing his nipples.

This pseudo-psychedelic monster was the result of an unholy alliance forged between Motown and Columbia Pictures and amazingly, Holland-Dozier-Holland created it. This was the writing and production team responsible for many of Motown’s best tunes-‘Heat Wave,” ‘It’s the Same old Song,’ ‘Standing the The Shadows of Love…’ Despite keeping the Motown back beat, this tune is without funk. It sounds like the entire membership of the Hollywood Bowl Pops Orchestra was recruited to add some “pizazz.” And all those key changes to build suspense. Excellent musical thinking!

The lyrics tell us:
“One day you’re up, you turn around, you find you find your world is tumbling down.
It happened to me and it can happen to you.”

I can only hope so.

July 16, 2009

Wring My Bell

Filed under: Uncategorized — improviz @ 2:20 AM

God save and protect us from the Billboard Hot 100; one of our most effective anti-terrorist weapons. The disco song “Ring My Bell” made it to a well-deserved #1 on those charts (It’s one chart. Why aren’t those friggin things ever singular?)

Anita Ward is our artiste here and her musical output seems to have been scant, as she apparently stopped after recording “Don’t Drop My Love in 1979.” Attack of conscience?

Sample of Lyrics:

“you can ring my bell, you can ring my bell
(ding, dong, ding, do-ong)”

Hence the title, students, Ring My Bell.

Too easy a target? No. I have witnessed a deep strain of loyalty toward this music, making it at best a (disco) duck that is kneeling not sitting. This loyalty is mostly a product of the Nostalgia Industry; first cousin to the Uplift Industry. However, even given the blather we tolerate from that smarmy, manipulative ilk of cultural machinery, the 70’s is the decade least deserving of our nostalgic attention-mirror balls, white powder, polyester. etc. Oh yea-and Nixon.

If forced, I suppose a musical hierarchy could be created, even for disco, but this song would still be a bottom feeder… Voulez-vous toss this song into the crypt avec moi?

July 8, 2009

Hit List #2: Blue Bossa

Filed under: Uncategorized — improviz @ 11:50 PM

A respondent to my first posting suggested “Blue Bossa” as a candidate for The Crypt. Oddly enough, it was already on my hit list.

In terms of one of the Major Categories of Irritation-Bad Lyrics, it would certainly qualify:

A place inside my heart
Is where you live
Memories of our start
The love you give

Days when we’re alone
And you are in my arms
The blueness of the trueness of our love
Nights of moonlit skies
A gentle kiss
rank high, although…

Not only are they mundane, they scan badly with the melody. I’m surprised they never caught on.

Those who would bother to discover the composer of this tune will learn that it was written by Kenny Dorham. KD, for those who don’t know, was one of the finest jazz trumpet players of the 1950’s-early 60’s. KD was musically adventurous and wrote a number of interesting tunes, pushing harmony, time signatures and exploring ‘free’ and classical concepts. Thinking that KD’s value can be assessed by knowing he wrote Blue Bossa is, well, like evaluating Ellington on the basis of Satin Doll; it throws the same kind of warped spotlight on the oeuvre of the composer.

Also like Satin Doll, it is a song played by anyone who knows what notes make up a D minor chord. At this point in musical history, Blue Bossa may be (barely) excusable as a Learning Tune, one that can be used to addle the brains of aspriring musicians at Berklee and like institutions; all well and good, if it had been Quarantined to Quarters. However, it continues to leak out and infect the wider listening public.

The title of the song is, itself, a misconceived mashup of genres; the kind of ill-fitting title that people were slapping on bossa-oriented tunes during the early days-arguably the heyday-of that style in the early 1960’s.. I.E.-‘Bossa Nova Baby,’ ‘Soul Bossa Nova’ and ‘Bossa Nova USA.’ I like to think that when Joe Henderson recorded the tune and it hit, that KD started to feel a bit embarrassed about the title.

So in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, hate me if you like, but if you search your heart, you will know I’m right. Join me. Today. Right now. Help me take this bedraggled and abused song off life-support. Together we can make a difference.

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