Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Moon: Belly Edition

Belly: Low Red Moon

Belly: Full Moon, Empty Heart

[purchase] (Amazon themselves don't even sell it any more!)

I have been entirely rubbish lately...I apologise for this. Just to totally take the piss, I thought I would sneak in under the wire with a quick moon-themed post (I have playlists in my iTunes for both sun and moon, I just didn't get around to it before's been more than a week since I updated my own blog, I am that rubbish!).

Anyway, apologies are two tracks from Belly - a group who, in my opinion, were greatly unrated and underappreciated, certainly in the UK. Belly were one of my very favourite 90s indie bands and they made two nigh perfect albums, Star and King.

I have a crap car that only has a cassette player in it (and one which doesn't even have a rewind button - you have to turn the tape over and fast forward!) and my tape with a Belly album on each side is so battered and overplayed that I am terrified that it is going to give out on me one of these days! That will be a sad day, as it has been much loved since I was 14. Yes, yes I have the music on CD and digitally, but where's the fun in that?!

Ok, diatribe over...enjoy the music!

Oh, and P.S. Have at look at the following link for more Belly (and related bands).

the moon: Moonlight Drive

The Doors: Moonlight Drive


A friend of mine and I talk music quite a bit.  We have had countless conversations about the best this and the best that.  Who is the best bassist?  What song has the best lyrics?  What is the best driving song?

At one point a few years ago we spent some time discussing what song(s) have the best guitar solos of all time.  I'm not really a fan of guitar solos myself, and neither is my friend.  His nomination at the time was Moonlight Drive by The Doors with the solo by Robby Krieger.  His reasons were pretty compelling:  The solo in this song is understated, it's short, and it is humble enough to add to the song without drawing too much attention to itself.

If you're a fan of Clapton, Hendrix, and Gilmour then you probably won't think much of Krieger's subtle, but effective, solo.  But for myself I have listened to it with much greater appreciation since discussing it with my friend.  Check it out and see what you think.

The Moon: He's Gone To The Moon

The Savages: He's Gone To The Moon

They call this rich kid rock sometimes, The Savages lived and performed in a resort town in Bermuda, but damn does it tear. They cut this Live N' Wild gem in 1965 during a live show, claiming they were so nervous all the songs were played too fast. It's impossible to find and ridiculously expensive on ebay. I highly recommend a visit to one of my favorite blogs, Garage Hangover, to check out the world's best Savages post.

Not for everybody's ears but I'll be damned if I let sound quality get in the way of their passion.

The Moon: Hey Moon

Bottle Rockets: Hey Moon [purchase for almost $100 used!!!!]

Speaking of the Bottle Rockets ... oh, you didn't know I was speaking of the Bottle Rockets? Check the Moonshiner comments, yo. Anyway, like I always say, there's always room for more honky tonk on Star Maker Machine. Like their mid-'90s contemporaries, the Backsliders, the Bottle Rockets were the kind of barroom band who could effortlessly veer between country and rock multiple times in a single set. Well, I shouldn't say "were" to imply that they're defunct. As a matter of fact, the band is celebrating their 15th anniversary this year. If you like your rock twangin' and bangin', check their MySpace page for dates and such. If they're playing near you, you have no excuses. If you'd like a little teaser, here's the current incarnation of the band doing one of my favorite BoRox songs, "Indianapolis," filmed in Germany in 2005.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Moon: Moonshiner

Cat Power: Moonshiner


This song isn't properly about The Moon itself - it's actually about alcoholism. But, the term Moonshine is derived from our second brightest heavenly body.

According to my smartest friend, Wikipedia, many people mistakenly assume that the term Moonshine comes from the fact that illegal brewers of alcohol work at night, or under the light of the moon. However, it is actually a synonym for "nothing". "Mere Moonshine" is something that can't be held or touched and can barely even be seen. It is, "A matter or mouthful of moonshine; a trifle, nothing." So, when an illegal maker of alcohol is asked what all of that equipment is for he might respond, "It's nothing. It's just moonshine."

Quite a sad song which, given the last couple of lines, could have also been used during Hell Week.  I just didn't think of it.

The Moon: Nightgown of the Sullen Moon

They Might Be Giants: Nightgown of the Sullen Moon


I was away getting sunfried in a field for last week's Sun theme; happily, in my absence, guestposter Emma of Curiously Tasty showed up to share what I would have to agree is the definitive Sun song, at least as far as alternative nerdrock is concerned.

But They Might Be Giants look upward at night, too. And though, as the surreal title suggests, this song is less about its nominal astronomical subject as it is about the way the moon figures in our dreaming visions and walkabouts, I think this rarity, released on their 1991 B-sides and Remix collection, is an especially definitive precursor to the ultimate success and sound of the two Johns and their decidedly weird sensibility.

In fact, the pouncing homo-rhythmic, practically homophonic Nightgown of the Sullen Moon contains the seeds of much of what would become the culturally vast reach of They Might Be Giants, from the thrash-paced theme to Malcom in the Middle to the more plodding robotic carols and faux gleesongs that frame the Disney Channel's Mickey's Playhouse, which my kids love to explore online when I am trying to blog. Like those others, it is a great and catchy piece, short and sweet, with deceptively simple lyrics that are both a little bit cryptic and somewhat surreal. Like those others, the music doesn't so much provide a platform for the nasal singing of TMBG's lead singer-accordianist as it creates a parallel theme, for the sake of tension and interplay, which makes intermittent silence a natural part of the surprisingly playful musical environment that results. And like so many other They Might Be Giant songs, the song will stick in your head for days, following you in and out of your dreams.

Bonus: Of course, They Might Be Giants produce equally catchy nerdrock when they're talking about the escapist dreams of mental patients. Here's Destination Moon, from 1994 release John Henry:

They Might Be Giants: Destination Moon


The Moon: Moon Child

Jerry Jeff Walker: Moon Child


JJW's the man. You're on a long haul drive, or gearing up for the night, maybe just sad or something, flip on some music. If it's Jerry you're alright. Gets that spirit up no matter what. Even my lady loves him. Says "Jerry?" And then just digs in.

The Moon: Meta-Moon Edition

Moonlight Towers: Moonlight Mile [Rolling Stones]

Moonlight Towers: Marquee Moon [Television]

Today's exercise in meta-posting again comes from Austin, Texas. Moonlight Towers doesn't play out all that much ... meaning virtually never ... and their sound has changed a bit since these live tracks were recorded, but damn if this doesn't kick me in the green cheese. These tunes were recorded at a covers show back in May 2004, with Moonlight Towers, Li'l Cap'n Travis, and Grand Champeen each playing a series of 4-song mini-sets. "Marquee Moon" (posted earlier this week in its original form) may have been the highlight, mainly because any band with los cojones grandes to tackle it has earned props. Of course, Champeen's rendition of "Teenage Riot" was pretty f'in sweet, so maybe it was a draw. Anyway, if you'd like to check out Moonlight Towers, I highly recommend their first, self-titled CD. I think the band you hear here and the band recorded in the studio are pretty close.

Incidentally, Decoder Ring Design Concern made a totally badass poster for this show (pictured left). In the interests of supporting local businesses, as well as musicians, I cannot recommend these guys enough. If you're looking to spruce up your walls with mega-high quality poster art, you can't do much better than Decoder Ring.

In a final, related note, according to the Wikipedia, Austin, Texas is the only city in the world known to still operate a moonlight tower system. You may have seen the towers if you saw the movie, Dazed And Confused. Of course, there's a decent chance you were too stoned to remember the "party out at the moontower." But there you go. Get yer moon on.

The Moon: Must Be The Moon

!!!: Must Be The Moon


Is it !!! or Chk Chk Chk? I know how computers hate !!!, so it's sorta fun to use it. Brooklyn's Indie darlings have been around for a bit longer than a decade and have been invading dancefloors of late. Their website describes themselves as "Post-punk bass patterns, spaghetti western guitars, African polyrhythms, spaced out disco and vintage Philly soul". I think they forgot about the Tuvan Throat Singing. Enjoy - good stuff!

The Moon: Monkberry Moon Delight

Paul & Linda McCartney: Monkberry Moon Delight


After you hear, "I know my banana is older than the rest", you're reminded that Paul composed the music and John wrote the lyrics. McCartney's cheery Pop had a way of making one overlook that - like, wtf is a Monkberry Moon Delight? Check that, I don't think I really want to know.

The Moon: Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)

The Ramones: Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)


Y' know, every now and then, I think you might like to hear something from us nice and easy. But there's just one thing... you see we never, ever do nothing nice and easy, we always do it nice and rough. Away from the lullabies - Smithers, release The Ramones!

The Moon: I Don't Want to Live on the Moon

Ann Percival: I Don't Want To Live On The Moon


Once again, I would like to thank a favorite blogger for the wonderful music he has shared. This one comes from our own Boyhowdy's wonderful Covered in Kidfolk series on Cover Lay Down. And I also want get up on my soapbox for just a moment. Boyhowdy is one of three posters here, myself included, who I know have kids. And one thing we parents are constantly dealing with is trying to find music the kids will love, that we as adults can stand to listen to, or even, (dare I think it!), enjoy. So I'd like to suggest that we share our discoveries by having a week of kid's songs. This should include songs our little ones love that aren't necessarily written for children at all.

Now that that's out of the way, Ann Percival is a wonderful musician from Massachusetts, and one of the founding members of Wild Asparagus. I was introduced to Wild Asparagus as the best contradance band in the world. At this point, at least some readers have to be shaking their heads. "Wild Asparagus? Contradance? Is that some folk tradition from Nicaragua? What is he talking about?" So let me tell you a story.

Everyone I've ever asked about this had an unfortunate first exposure to square dancing. There was one teacher in elementary school who everyone hated, and she decided that all of the kids should learn square dancing in gym class. And she wasn't even the gym teacher, but she taught the square dancing anyway. For most people, this ruined the idea of square dancing for life. And I was almost one of those casualties.

When I was in my twenties, a good friend of mine from high school asked me if I would like to go to a contradance. Of course I asked, "what's that?" Everyone who knows starts their answer the same way, and it's the worst thing to say, "It's sort of like square dancing..." However, I trusted him, and because the invitation was to go with a group of people I liked, I finally allowed myself to be dragged along.

It turns out that square dancing and contradancing are two American folk dance forms that evolved from the English country dances that were brought to the colonies by early settlers. Where square dancing is what happened to these dances when they came to the South, contradancing is how these dances evolved in New England. In contradances, the dancers form two lines facing each other, with your partner facing you in the other line. Each couple dances with every other couple in their line as they progress up and down the line. And one thing you didn't learn in gym class, flirting is essential!

So I went to my first dance in a state of high anxiety, and, much to my surprise, I had a blast. I started going to every dance I could find, and I started making new friends. I was also getting great exercise. One new friend was a woman who ran a local square dance club. Now, where contradances are held with live music, club squares use recorded music, some of it pretty awful. Also square dance clubs involve dressing up in western wear, whereas the only dress code for a contradance is soft-soled shoes to protect the floor of the hall. So all my left over alarms from elementary school went off all over again. The argument that finally persuaded me to give club squares a try was, look what happened when you allowed yourself to try contradancing. Well, the results with club squares were even more spectacular; in short order, I met the woman who would become my wife. To this day, however, I would still rather go to a contradance.

So, if you ever get asked to go to a contradance, give it a try. Who knows?

Submitted by Darius

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Moon: Havana Moon

Chuck Berry: Havana Moon


I was flipping through a whole playlist of moonsong, trying to find something to break up the lullabies, when I bumped into this and couldn't help but pass it along, if only to get it out of my head.

That's not to say that the song isn't a great work of art, of course. Sparsely performed in a jangly latinate rhythm, and delivered in falsified patois that is fully a product of its time, Havana Moon is a lusty tribal chant of devil rum and wishful thinking that never fails to remind me just how new and dark and sexy and exciting this style of music was once, to our parent's generation. Chuck Berry has a kind of Langston Hughes and Harry Belafonte meet Dick Dale and the Troggs in some Cuban backalley thing going here; I know that sounds like a train wreck of sound, but it works for him.

In fact, many believe that Richard Berry based the immortal rhythms and strum of Louie, Louie on Havana Moon. How's that for street cred?

Ganked originally from the everwise and mystical mix collaborative over at Motel De Moka, where it appeared as part of a retro playlist with an autumnal theme posted way back in October.

Afterthought: given the racist overtones, I figured that this was one of those songs, like "Thank Heaven For Little Girls", that you just couldn't credibly cover in today's oversensitive world, at least not without a heavy dose of irony. (Unless you're, like, Carlos Santana, circa 1983.) But just to prove me wrong, here's a spooky-sounding Paul Curreri taking a shot at an emotionally dissonant remake, and succeeding admirably.

Paul Curreri: Havana Moon

[this track and 50 other post-millenial coversongs of love from Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule available totally free right here]

The Moon: Money at the Moon

Matt Hartin: Money at the Moon


Back in Hell week, I thanked the author of one of my favorite blogs by posting a song he had given me. This might become a series for me.

Pete of Ickmusic has introduced me to some wonderful tunes, as well as sharing some esoterica concerning Bruce Springsteen and Prince. But I enjoy it most when he has an artist to share who is new to me. Matt Hartin was one of these.

From here, this post will be almost identical to the one Pete put up. That's because we both want to share the story of how "Money at the Moon" came to be written, and there is no reason to try to improve upon Matt Hartin's telling:

While attending an art gallery opening, a painting caught my eye. The title was Throwing Our Money at the Moon. I spoke to the artist, Jamie Frankie, who told me that he and his wife like to take their coin jar down to the big tree in the field behind their house when the moon is full. They make a wish and throw their money at the moon. Mrs. Frankie’s first name is Penny. Seriously. Thus inspired, the words just spilled out and were put to a melody I had laying around for a long time.

I had hoped to accompany this post with an image of the painting, but I could not find it. If anyone knows where to view it, please leave a link in the comments.

Submitted by Darius

The Moon: I Wish I Was The Moon

Neko Case: I Wish I Was The Moon [purchase]

As much as I wish Neko Case would get back to her rock 'n' roll roots, I can't deny her gift for the torch song. In fact, this might be the best song she ever recorded. The arrangement is dynamic without being overbearing, the band embracing Neko's vocals like a winter coat. Of course, when Joey Burns and John Convertino from Calexico are 2/3 of your band ... Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel is the other 1/3 ... sympathetic accompaniment is virtually guaranteed. Production-wise, the heavy reverb is a nice touch, giving the recording a timeless, almost retro quality. And what can you say about Neko's singing? She takes it to the house, providing perfect high harmonies for herself. Even the lyrics are suggestive in the best way, full of implication rather than declaration. All in all, it's an epic performance from one of America's loveliest and most talented singers.

The Moon: Midnight Moonlight

Old & In The Way: Midnight Moonlight


Some bluegrass records are more welcoming than others; the Old & In The Way record is like bluegrass bait for deadheads. Here's the scoreboard: Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, and John Kahn on bass. Definitely one of the first I would recommend, then it's just one more step to Muleskinner, the fascinating guitar work of Clarence White, the KY Colonels, then it's on to Doc, Bill, Ralph, and you're in for life.

This Peter Rowan tune has always been a favorite, one of the first that got me hooked.

The Moon: Livin' In The Sunlight, Lovin' In The Moonlight

Tiny Tim: Livin' In The Sunlight, Lovin' In The Moonlight


Wow, I gotta lotta great moon songs. And I thought the sun was going to win this battle. Here's one I wish I had the foresight to post as the transition song this week. God Bless Tiny Tim is a record that I honestly believe should be in everybody's collection. God Bless Tiny Tim.

The Moon: Silver Apples of the Moon

Morton Subotnik: Silver Apples of the Moon, part 1


This piece defines the beginning of an evolution that I'm coming out the other end of now. I can see where it has led; I can see sort of an ending point. I can also see what made it fairly popular at the time it came out in relation to the pop world and the world in general. It sort of defined an approach to electronics that found its way into all sorts of media at the time, in terms of music and sound. I feel comfortable with it—I think it's really held up over all these years.
—Morton Subotnik
Time to go a little left of center for Star Maker Machine. This is an excerpt from composer Morton Subotnik's seminal 1968 work. While this was hardly the first piece of electronic music—the box set I took this from has tracks dating back to the 1930s!—it is noteworthy for being the first time a record label (Nonesuch) actually commissioned such a work.

A lot of the early electronic music was made by manipulating tapes and instruments like the theremin; for Silver Apples, Subotnik got together with Don Buchla to create one of the first synthesizers (Buchla was developing instruments concurrently with Robert Moog, sorta like Edison and Tesla). The resulting "Electric Music Box" (also referred to simply as a "Buchla") was the basis for Subotnik's composition. Beyond instrumentation, Silver Apples also distinguished itself from other electronic-based music of the era by paying more attention to rhythm and pattern—a lot of the early electronic music eschewed pattern altogether, more interested in the chance sounds resulting from the physical manipulation of the sounds' sources. I don't know that this excerpt is the ideal illustration of that fact—you can still hear a lot of that randomness here, though there are moments that indicate something more rhythmic going on.

As an addendum, I can only assume that this composition must have had a huge effect on the band The Silver Apples, who came together right around the same time and applied synthesizers to pop structures. Brendan did a great post on that band over at the Rising Storm.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Moon: Calling The Moon

Dar Williams: Calling The Moon


I saw singer-songwriter Dar Williams on the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival mainstage just a few nights ago, and to be honest, the stage lights kind of swallowed her up, there in the darkened cowfield. Maybe it's just my preference for smaller venues and closer seating, and I will admit that the majestic annual tradition of bringing her friends and family on stage to see the thousands of lit, waving audience lightsources during her encore was as powerful as always. I just think the intimacy which Dar brings to her live one-voice-one-guitar performance doesn't translate to such a huge crowd.

This is nothing against Dar, mind you. As I discussed in a more substantive post on Dar Williams over at Cover Lay Down way back in December, though it took me a while to warm to her feathery voice with its unique break, I've fallen in love with her work over time, and consider her one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Though she got her start in the coffeehouse scene, these days, Dar Williams' feet are firmly planted in the same worldchanging folkpop soil as Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco and Jonatha Brooke, and she shines in her element. She writes a mean hook, and deserves more radioplay than she gets for it.

Still, in my quietest moments I prefer her earlier, more introspective ballads, and this is one of the best of 'em, thick with empathy and attuned to the natural world as a reflection of the internal self, a perfect introduction to that which makes Dar's fanbase so strong and cool and committed, all at once. Here's hoping this timely track makes you a believer in Dar, and in the power of the moon, as well.

Want more? Today's bonus coversong comes from Dar's fellow musician and Cover Lay Down fave artist Richard Shindell, a great performer who is never afraid to tackle a song with strong feminine and pagan overtones.

Richard Shindell: Calling the Moon (orig. Dar Williams)


The Moon: Moonshake

My favorite krautrock combo with their most poppy effort. Ambient/chill out music from 1973, so way avant la lettre. "Let me free no more..."

The Moon: Half Mad Moon

Damnations: Half Mad Moon [purchase]

I first talked about The Damnations during Fifty States Week, so for a brief overview of the band, check out that post.

This has always been one of my favorite Damnations numbers, a lovely, staggering, Waits-ian drink of a song. Great lyrics, with a pre-WWII, almost ragtime kinda feel to it. Throw it on scratchy vinyl and you'd think you'd have a lost Harry Smith track. Really, the only thing that might be missing is a saw solo to give it more haunting Old World flavor.

"Love is one of those unstable chemicals,
Beyond all reason it's just divine invention,
It's a gift of contradiction,
A hellish kind of heaven.

That man's the only one who knows his own formula,
There's no equation for random disorder,
He's got the gift of the gab,
And the curse of the bottle.

Take all the chairs and throw 'em out,
Go buy a saddle and tie yourself,
On back of that old yellow round,
No, you can't shoot down that half mad moon upstairs.

It's been a long time let's have ourselves a quarrel,
Let's go and sit upon our drunk and lazy laurels,
It's a gift to find a laugh,
To cure and clear our old debts.

So, take all the chairs and throw 'em out,
Go buy a saddle and tie yourself,
On back of that old yellow round,
No, you can't shoot down that half mad moon upstairs."

The Moon: Shine On, Harvest Moon

Ada Jones & Billy Murray: Shine On, Harvest Moon

[public domain]

There's been a Harvest Moon song posted already, but Shine On, Harvest Moon is worthy of an entry of its own. It was composed in the early 1900s by the husband and wife team of Jack Norworth and Nora Bayes. Billy Murray and Ada Jones, the Acoustic Era's John Legend & Lauryn Hill, scored a #1 hit with it in June of 1909.

Leon Redbone: Shine On, Harvest Moon


Leon Redbone, who's somewhere between fifty-eight and seventy years old, is such a mystery man that at different times it was rumored he was actually people disparate as Andy Kaufman, Frank Zappa and Father Guido Sarducci. All you hipsters out there most likely know him from his duet with Zooey Deschanel of Baby, It's Cold Outside, from that Elf flick.

Since Leon is a singer and guitarist that specializes in Tin Pan Alley classics, it's only natural he covered Shine On, Harvest Moon - one of a series of moon related songs of the era.

The Moon: Moondance

Van Morrison: Moondance


I've already asserted that Van Morrison is Rock's High Priest. Unfortunately, the Shaman also has produced lots of dreck. But when he hits it out of the park, it's one for the record books (don't you just hate sports analogies?). Moondance is a monster composition and an exquisite recorded performance - it even has a flute solo non-Jethro Tull fans can appreciate.

Oddly, though the Moondance album was released in 1970, the single didn't come out until 1977. Morrison has referred to it as a sophisticated song - if for some reason you've never heard Moondance before, you owe yourself a listen.

The Moon: Child Of The Moon

The Rolling Stones: Child Of The Moon


It's 1968, acid is all over Swingin' London and Brian Jones is still alive and well, his influence strongly felt on the Rolling Stones music. Child Of The Moon was the B side of "Jumpin' Jack Flash, a song that well defined the Stones and overshadowed anything found on the flip. "Give me a misty day, pearly gray, silver, silky faced, wide-awake crescent-shaped smile" - try writing lines like that sober!

The Moon: Anemic Moon

Krista Detor: Anemic Moon


Here is a wonderful song by Krista Detor. "Who?", you may ask. That is a question that is surprisingly difficult to answer. Her publicity people have put no useful biographical information on her web site. The All Music Guide has heard of her, Amazon and Itunes have her music, but none provide additional information. Fortunately, I'm stubborn, so I can tell you at least some of her story.

Krista Detor arrived in Bloomington, Indiana at the beginning of this decade. Almost as soon as she got there, she created and performed a one-woman cabaret-style show called Slightly Deranged. By 2003, she had met Dan Weber, who would become the coproducer and frequent musical partner on her solo projects. The first of these, A Dream in a Cornfield came out that year.

By 2005, Detor had met Carrie Newcomer, who also deserves to be better known. Newcomer appears to have taken Detor under her wing. The two have a duet on Newcomer's 2005 album, Regulars and Refugees.
And Detor opened for Newcomer's 2005 Tour.

But their most recent project together may also be the most interesting. Wilderness Plots tells the story of the early settlers in the Ohio valley. With the stories of Scott Russell Sanders as a starting point, it has become a musical and spoken word stage show, featuring the music of Detor, Newcomer, and three other singer-songwriters from the area. The show was filmed for broadcast on WTU Public Television this past March.

"Anemic Moon" comes from Krista Detor's album Cover Their Eyes.

Submitted by Darius

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Moon: Sting's Reading List Edition

Sting has occasionally flaunted his pretentious reading habits. After all, this is a guy who named an album Synchronicity so that we would all know that he reads philosophy for fun. So, when he first became a solo act, it was natural to scour his lyrics for literary references.

Sting: Moon Over Bourbon Street


Sure enough, The Dream of the Blue Turtles contains a song called "Moon Over Bourbon Street", whose lyrics, heard nowadays, suggest that Sting may be referencing some tortured protagonist from a book that only he read. But that's not quite what happened.

The album was greeted warmly by the music press at the time. Much was made of how working with jazz musicians was musically liberating for Sting, (shades of Joni Mitchell ten years earlier!). And, lo and behold, when the source of "Moon Over Bourbon Street" was revealed, it was a surprise. Sting had read a bestseller! The book is "Interview With a Vampire" by Anne Rice.

Three years later, Sting's second album, Nothing Like the Sun, came out. The press reception for this one was different. At the time, the major labels were actively trying to make vinyl obsolete so that they could profit from people having to replace their collections on CD. Even though CDs cost about half as much to manufacture, they cost about twice as much to buy, and the artists royalty rates were the same for either format. As part of this strategy, Nothing Like the Sun was released as a two record set on vinyl with pricing to match, even though, with a total running time of about forty-five minutes, the music would easily have fit on a single disc. The controversy over this unfortunately overshadowed the coverage of the music and its creation.

Sting: Sister Moon


Sister Moon is the closest thing to a title track, since it contains the phrase "Nothing Like the Sun" in its lyrics. It also has lines like "I go out of my mind the full moon." So, is the song based on a best selling werewolf novel? Actually, no. Sting explains in the liner notes:

I was accosted late one night on Highgate Hill by a staggering drunk who... pointed to the moon which was swollen in its fullness and demanded of me threateningly, 'How beautiful is the moon?... How beautiful is the Moon?' he repeated. Thinking quickly and not wishing for an early toxic death, I fixed him with my eye and declaimed, 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun.' Shakespeare is always useful I've found for calming down violent drunks if only because it gives them the impression that you're crazier than they are. 'A good answer...' he said. 'A good answer' as he set off...

Now, I'm glad it worked, but that certainly is not the first thing that would come to my mind. So the pretentious reading habits had returned. That said, great story and two great songs.

Submitted by Darius

The Moon: Pink Moon

Never mind the Volkswagen ad, this is simply one of the most gorgeous songs in musical history. Be sure to buy this excellent book if you want to know more about this song and the album of the same name. 

The Moon: Whitey On The Moon

Gil Scott-Heron: Whitey On The Moon


This humorous bit of political protest from Gil Scott-Heron pretty much speaks for itself.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Moon: Goodnight Moon

Will Kimbrough: Goodnight Moon


Though he fronted a few great but underappreciated rock bands in his time, Nashville veteran Will Kimbrough had long been known as one of the best musician's musician in Nashville. But until the release of his contemplative solo debut in 2000, he'd primarily made his reputation as a hired gun, touring and recording with the likes of Amy Rigby, Josh Rouse, and Todd Snider.

This changed everything. It was short, with no top 40 hits, but it had plenty of hooks, and plenty of room for Will's talents -- as a vocalist, a guitarist, and a songcrafter -- to shine. The rest of the world started to take notice of Will as more than just a sideman. And a few years later, this simple, beautiful lullaby found its way from the tail end of This to the always-excellent Oxford American's annual Southern Sampler CD, which is where I found it, and fell in love with both the music of Will Kimbrough, and this song in particular.

It's no accident that my daughter has spent a lifetime falling asleep to this song. Listen for the atmospheric swirl of electric guitar, the break in Will's otherwise honeyed tones, and the piece de resistance, the languid, spotlit horn solo.

The Moon: Dead Moon Night

D for disaster
E for my eyes
A for my anger
D before I die
M for Mona
O oh good
O oh good
N for the night

Dead Moon Night...

The Moon: Marquee Moon

Television: Marquee Moon


Here we are at the beginning of the week, everyone's feeling fresh and revived from the weekend, so we better get the mad genius of "Marquee Moon" in before we all get too tired to appreciate it by the end of the week.

This is the pinnacle of Television's first and greatest album. An anti-punk epic—despite punk still being in its infantile stages! In the same year, in the same club, the Ramones embodied an ethic and aesthetic that shunned technical proficiency, insisting on getting in and out of a song before you could say Hey Ho. On the same stage, here was Television: everything punk rejected—long, complex, full of skill and chops. Yet the band had a raw, gritty gusto like no stadium rocker of its day possessed. It still came from the East Village, the quintessential New York that belonged to the VU before Verlaine and to Sonic Youth after. Tom Verlaine's solo in the second half of this song is so dense you can get lost in it; but just when it feels like it might overstay its welcome, verging on overwhelming, the entire band coalesces into a sharp-edged octave charge for sixteen bars before dispersing—the guitars almost sound like raindrops, before that sim-ple, rhy-thm, re-turns, for one, more verse.


I remember how the darkness doubled
I recall lightning struck itself,
I was listenin, listenin' to the rain
I was hearin', hearin', something else.

The Moon: Blue Moon

Big Star: Blue Moon [purchase]

Gleeson: Blue Moon [purchase]

No, not that "Blue Moon." This is the "Blue Moon" written by Alex Chilton for Big Star's underground masterpiece, Third/Sister Lovers. Like most of the songs on the record, this one is arranged with minimal adornment, featuring a pair of acoustic guitars, a standup bass, what sounds like a mellotron, and maybe light synthesizer. Beautiful, simple, in-and-out in 2:06.

Austin's Gleeson covered this one for Thank You Friends: An Almost There Records Salute To Big Star, and it's like they took the arrangement for "Holocaust" and sang the words to "Blue Moon." Haunting stuff. Where Chilton's take has a sweet, tender quality, Gleeson's is almost funereal. True, it helps to have Jim Fredley singing, the guy has an awesome voice. But, a big voice could overwhelm the song and that doesn't happen here. The simple arrangement stays true to the original vision, with Ty Chandler's mournful piano part essentially replacing the acoustic guitars and bass. Meanwhile, Michael Crow of Grand Champeen ... doubling as producer/engineer of this track ... provides a faux string quartet part that echoes the mellotron. In both cases, it's pop music at its most direct, beautiful, and simple.

"Let me be your one light,
And if you'd like a true heart,
Take the time to show you're mine,
And I'll be a blue moon in the dark.

While you sleep, you'll see me there,
Clouds race across the sky,
Close your eyes and don't ask why,
And I'll be a blue moon in your eyes.

Morning comes and sleeping's done,
Birds sing outside,
If demons come while you're under,
I'll be a blue moon in the sky."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Moon: Song About The Moon

Paul Simon: Song About The Moon


When the theme is "songs about the moon", what better song can there be than "Song About The Moon"? And, when one of the greatest songwriters of modern times gives you advice about how to write a song, you'd best listen.

I have always thought that Hearts and Bones was an under-rated album. Of course, it was originally recorded as a reunion Simon & Garfunkel album, but when the two could not agree about certain creative aspects of the recording (e.g., whether or not to allow Garfunkel to sing on any tracks... at all) Simon pulled the plug on the reunion, scrubbed Garfunkel's vocals from the existing tracks, and rerecorded the album as a solo effort. I agree with most critics that it is not his best, or even close to his best, but still it's really not bad. There are a few songs on this album that are absolutely terrific (The Late Great Johnny Ace, Renee And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War, and Hearts & Bones itself). Of course there are a few others that are quite skippable.

Overall, it's worth owning. Song About The Moon is not necessarily a highlight of the album, but it's decent musically and wonderful lyrically. Check it out.

The Moon: Moon Is Almost Full

Mike McClure Band - Moon Is Almost Full [purchase]

One of the few Great Divide songs to be re-cut later in his solo career, 'Moon Is Almost Full' is possibly Mike McClure's strongest writing effort to date. Here, he uses the fact that the moon is near-full to help explain his wild desires....

"The night drifts by in awesome wonder,
cast beneath a rolling thunder, as i cut a path across these golden fields.
Thoughts of her go floating backwards,
hoping happy ever afters, and raindrops from heaven's rafters are on my windshield.

Well it's turned into a new day, darlin',
try to hear your own heart callin', the time is now, there is no time to wait.
Follow on that path you've chosen,
slowly melting, come un-frozen, relieve your guard of his duty at your gate."

Mike is not well-known outside of his home base of Oklahoma/Texas, but he should be. One of the pioneers of the Red Dirt Scene, Mike McClure is a poetic, prolific songwriter that can also rip up an electric guitar.

Everything Upside Down was the first album billed as the Mike McClure Band. 19 tracks evenly distributed between steel guitar country, well-written ballads, and pure ROCK N' ROLL. Songs about leaving his former band, introspective self-therapy numbers, mythic tales of lands long gone, and even a tune about Elvis.
Check out my Mike McClure Artist Spotlight
(yes.... shameless self-promotion)

The Moon: Blue Moon Of Kentucky

From Wikipedia.

"Blue Moon of Kentucky" is a waltz written in 1947 by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and recorded by his band, The Blue Grass Boys. The song has since been recorded by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Ronnie Hawkins, Wanda Jackson, LeAnn Rimes, The Beatles, Boxcar Willie, Ray Charles and others.

Bill Monroe: Blue Moon Of Kentucky     [purchase]

Bill Monroe wrote the song in 1947, but didn't record it until three years later. Carl Perkins played an uptempo version of this song in his early live performances. When the just starting out Elvis Presley, along with Bill Black and Scotty Moore, completed a take of the song in July 1954, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips exclaimed, "Boy, that's fine, that's fine. That's a POP song now!" Presley responded, "That sounds like Carl Perkins!"

Elvis Presley's version went to number one on the country charts across the American South in 1954. This song was the second recorded by Presley, and released by Sun Records. According to guitarist Scotty Moore, it was bassist Bill Black who began playing an irreverent version of the song during an up until then unproductive recording session to produce a second side for the previously recorded "That's Alright Mama". Presley and Moore then joined in.

Elvis Presley: Blue Moon Of Kentucky     [purchase]

In 1995, the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performed an impromptu 4/4 version of the song that was eventually released on the Bonus DVD of The Beatles Anthology video release.

The Beatles: Blue Moon Of Kentucky     [purchase]

On her 2006 Elvis tribute album, I Remember Elvis, Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson shows she can still bring it. Providing the big beat behind her is Blondie drummer Clem Burke.

Wanda Jackson: Blue Moon Of Kentucky     [purchase]

"Blue Moon of Kentucky" is the official bluegrass song of Kentucky. In 2002, Monroe's version was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2003, CMT ranked "Blue Moon of Kentucky" #11 on its 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.

The Moon: Paper Moon

Maude Maggart and Fiona Apple: Paper Moon


Okay, this gets a little confusing - before Amber Maggart decided to become a cabaret singer, she changed her first name to Maude, after her paternal great-great grandmother. Her older sister, Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart, joins her on this wonderful acapella version of the old Arlen & Harburg classic, Paper Moon.

Want to know more about Maude? Here's an interview from NPR's Morning Edition: Maude Maggart: A New Generation of Cabaret

The Moon: Harvest Moon

Neil Young: Harvest Moon


Holding onto love is a lot more difficult than finding it, one of Neil Young's most wistful songs.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart

But now it's gettin' late
And the moon is climbin' high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin' in your eye

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon
Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin'
We could dream this night away