Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Kiss: Kissing You

Des'ree: Kissing You


I am running out the door for a Valentine's Day/CD Release Party I am presenting in my concert series this evening with Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt... two of my favorite singer-songwriters who are sweeties as well as musical collaborators...

This song was a standout for me in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet - the sultry tempo mimics a long, slow, penetrating kiss...

The Kiss: Passionate Kisses / Still I Long For Your Kiss

Lucinda Williams: Passionate Kisses


Lucinda Williams: Still I Long For Your Kiss


There's a ten year difference between Passionate Kisses and Still I Long For Your Kiss, and you can hear it: both contain plenty of pain, and thematically, the two songs are quite similar, but the former, recorded on Williams' self-titled album from the late eighties and later made famous via coverage, is ultimately upbeat and hopeful and empowering, while the latter song, slow and bluesy, drips with the anguish of loss and longing which typifies her breakthrough album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

Also true: Still I Long is a co-write, which is quite atypical for Lucinda, whose perfectionist's eye, attention to detail, and control of her musical output are notoriously precise. Listen to fellow songwriter Duane Jarvis' 2001 version of the song, learn more about Lucinda Williams' craft and career, and hear 15 other covers of Lucinda songs, including the aforementioned Grammy-winning composition as voiced by Mary Chapin Carpenter, at Cover Lay Down.

The Kiss: Ae Fond Kiss

Seamus Kennedy: Ae Fond Kiss


Eddi Reader: Ae Fond Kiss


Karen Matheson (with The Duhks and Bryan Sutton): Ae Fond Kiss


Ae Fond Kiss began life as a poem by Robert Burns. From 1787 to 1791, Burns had an affair with the actress Agnes McLehose, (Nancy in the song). McLehose was separated from her husband at the time, so she and Burns corresponded under the names Sylvander and Clarinda to avoid a scandal. Accounts differ as to whether the affair went beyond the exchange of letters. We do know, however, that McLehose decided in 1791 to try to reconcile with her husband, and the exchange of letters stopped. Soon enough, Burns would marry someone else. Ae Fond Kiss was written as part of the last letter he sent to his Clarinda.

The melody is traditional, and I was unable to find out who originally paired the two. But the song has become a classic of Celtic folk. There are many Scottish versions, of course, but the song has also made its way to Ireland and beyond. Seamus Kennedy works in the United States primarily these days, but he is originally from Ireland, and he gives a fine example of an Irish treatment of the song. Eddi Reader first sang Ae Fond Kiss with the group Fairground Attraction, but I am presenting her solo version here because she restores the original lyrics. Karen Matheson’s all-star version comes from Hands Across the Water, an album which raised money to help the children of tsunami victims in 2005.

I would like to close with a little survey if I may. I can imagine doing a theme, here or on my own blog, of poems that someone other than the original poet set to music. My first question is for my fellow Star Makers: would anyone be interested in doing this? And, to our readers: would you be interested in this theme? I think it would be a challenging one to put together, so my last question is for everybody: can you suggest songs for this? Comments, please.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Kiss: J-Rock Kisses

shou kiss

Kuroyume: Kiss


Alice Nine: Kiss Twice, Kiss Me Deadly


Buck-Tick: Just One More Kiss


Kiyoharu: Just One More Kiss


It's been a while since I've shared some J-Rock with you. Luckily(?), there are many such songs that actually have the English word "kiss" in the title, and here are a few.

Kuroyume was one of the big Visual Kei groups of the '90s, and the lead singer was Kiyoharu, whom I introduced to you already. The lyrics are typically vague and emotive and a few of the phrases are sung in English:

Too Far Away, a kiss on the cheek... you, so innocent, unable to say a word
Silence, a deep kiss... you, crying, unable to do a thing…
Too Far Away, a distant kiss.. where has your innocence been hidden away?
Be Silent, a long kiss... too beautiful, I can't even speak.
(translation from JPopAsia)

Alice Nine, on the other hand, is a current darling of J-Rock fans. Probably because the vocalist, Shou, is cute as a button – that's him in the image, getting affectionate with his bandmate. Hey, if boyhowdy can post girlkissing this week, I think it's only fair to represent the opposite sex at play. Oh, right, the song…as far as I can tell, it's not a James Bond title track, but instead an ode to vampire love:

If my attention fades, it's all over
In just one moment
My throat gets bitten through
My voice becomes husky
Shall we deadly dance with...
(translation from JPopAsia)

Like the earlier song, some of the lyrics are English, including that title. This is my favorite of the 4 songs, mostly 'cuz Shou's voice is surprisingly deep and rich.

Finally we've got a 1988 Buck-Tick tune, with a cover by our friend Kiyoharu, from a BT tribute album, PARADE. Buck-Tick (from a Japanese word meaning 'firecracker') was another of the defining Visual Kei bands of the '80s and beyond—they're still quite active. If it inspires you, check out the YouTube video of the two vocalists singing it together recently in front of adoring fans.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Kiss: Last Kiss

Wayne Cochran: Last Kiss

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers: Last Kiss


Just before Christmas 1962, teenagers Jeanette Clark and J.L. Hancock died when the car they were travelling in hit a tractor on a rural road in Barnesville, Georgia. It was just a damn unlucky accident. Nobody was driving drunk, nobody was drag racing, nobody was tired of life or mortally wounded by love, and nobody was a leader of the pack.

White R&B singer Wayne Cochran, who lived nearby, was working on a song about the many accidents he had seen on the road, with a sneaky view to adding to the canon of crash songs that were popular at the time. The story goes that the 1962 crash prompted Cochran to write the song that would be known as Last Kiss for Jeanette Clark. The flaw with that story is that the song was first released in 1961 on the Gala label, a year before Christmas 1962 (a re-recorded version came out in 1963). Moreover, Cochran didn’t write the song on his own. Even if he has the sole writing credit, apparently he composed it with bandmates Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal and Bobby McGlon.

Cochran’s version was not a hit, but a cover by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers reached the US Top 10 in 1964. In a cruel irony, Wilson was seriously injured in a car crash a year later that killed his manager Sonley Roush, whose idea it was to record Last Kiss.

In 1994 Last Kiss was covered by Pearl Jam as a fundraiser for Kosovo. It brought in some $10 million and reached #2 on the Billboard charts.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seven Deadly Sins -> The Kiss: I Kissed A Girl

Jill Sobule: I Kissed A Girl


Long before cherry chapstick popstar Katy Perry kissed her girlfriend, popfolk goddess Jill Sobule kissed hers. And she liked it, too.

It fits the lust category, I suppose, and reinforces, in a way, the way the cardinal sins open up a world of bevaior generally considered deviant from the Catholic perspective - though this is a sweet song, in the end, and an odd sort of gender-role covetousness and curiosity are more the tune here. But it's going to be Valentine's Day, and we're going to run the week on kissing, so this will do quite nicely. Need we say more?

Oh, really?

Then here's yer bonus, fresh from the cover vaults: an antithesis to pop, courtesy of one of my favorite sensitive indie folksmen.

William Fitzsimmons: I Kissed A Girl