Saturday, March 24, 2018

Women: Fleetwood Mac's Women

purchase [ Future Games ]

Fleetwood Mac goes back to the mid 60s in one incarnation or another.
At first, without any women. Except for one: Black Magic Woman (yes, that one) was written by Peter Green - at that time an integral part of the band.

In 1970, Christine Perfect married bassist John McVie, and Fleetwood Mac had a female band member. Among their albums was Future Games, which included a track called Woman of a 1000 Years:

In 1974 Stevie Nicks joined the band to make up one of the most successful bands ever, including a hit named Gold Dust Woman.

Women: Hard Luck Woman

Purchase Kiss, "Hard Luck Woman"

KISS is many things: the personas and the makeup and the costumes are just a small part of the idea. The constant touring, the myriad promotions--from lunch boxes to coffins--the legends of debauchery and all sorts of stuff about the devil, the individual shtick for each member, their extremely devoted legion of fans...So, to be honest, one thing KISS has never really struck me as was anything at all about the music. At least not past the 1970s, when their bottom heavy, thundering riff rock songs mattered. What have they been since? Other than a constant money-making machine?

One thing that always did strike me about KISS was their strange ability to buck genre and deliver a song so far out of their supposed range that it was almost...good.

Take for instance "Hard Luck Woman", off of 1976's Rock and Roll Over . It was, as far as I know, KISS's one venture into country, and it sounds more like a Garth Brook's song than Garth Brooks. In fact, Brooks himself covered it for KISS tribute album, Kiss My Ass. It is hard to tell the difference. "Hard Luck Woman" is a great tune, plain and simple, one of my few favorites by the band. I'd say it's great because it's just a good song, a sweet 12 string guitar melody and their best vocal harmonies, multi-layered and liquid smooth, led by Peter Kriss. But, really, when it comes to KISS, what makes the track great is  how it defies KISS's own self-made genre. Just like people loved "Beth" for the very same reason, "Hard Luck Woman" is great because it was a surprise. And after the bolt of "What, that's Kiss?" wears off ,"Hard Luck Woman" easily stands on its own. That it wasn't a bigger it has always surprised me, but then, KISS was famous for spitting blood and fire and hiding their identities, so I guess a great song really doesn't stand up to the spectacle of hype that always accompanies our pop music.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Women: The Ideal Woman

Adrian Belew: The Ideal Woman

To some extent, this is a tricky theme for a blog that currently appears to have only male writers. In light of years of feminists correctly clamoring to end objectification of women, and in the immediate post #MeToo era, stuff that we used to take for granted is, properly, subject to stricter scrutiny. These days, what one says, or does, to or with or about a woman could be damaging, and for the most part, I have to say, the additional care and thought is a good thing. Of course, if you can pay for a nondisclosure agreement, you can get away with misbehavior.


So, after nearly two weeks of scanning my library for a theme-appropriate song, why did I finally land on Adrian Belew’s “The Ideal Woman,” a song that is clearly an objectification of women? Part of it, of course, is that the song is from 1983, which doesn’t sound like it was so long ago, but both of my kids are now older than I was in that year, so maybe it was a long time ago. And because times have changed significantly since then, although there’s still all sorts of misogyny and objectification in the music world. Part of it, too, is that I really like Adrian Belew, having written about his solo work, his time with King Crimson and his work with Talking Heads. (Although I’ve sort of lost track of his career in recent years.) In addition to his music, I think he also has a sense of humor, and it seems like this song is more than a little tongue in cheek.

I have to believe that all of us have some idea of what an ideal partner would be. It was not too long ago that I would have written that sentence using the phrase “opposite sex,” but you can’t have Smithies in your family, or spend as much time at the Athena Film Festival as I have, without learning that the phrase is really useless. Maybe you’re not as specific in your specifications as Belew is in the song, and even he gives himself some leeway, at least with height—he waffles between 5’6,” 5’8” and 5’9”—and there are some contradictions—he wants a woman both independent and controllable, whatever that means. But definitely blonde. As someone whose ideal woman is many of these things (including beautiful, independent and blonde, but not all of them--she's 5'10"), maybe that’s what drew me to the song.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


I always think Squeeze songs sound better in black and white, invariably invoking the british film industry of the early 60s, wherein kitchen sink drama was all the rage, grimy settings of headscarves, rain and tears. So many of the Difford/Tillbrook milieu pan out in such settings, and this is no different, an upbeat paean to the lot of the neglected wife. Like long running UK soap opera Eastenders, there seem to be but two sort of women, the survivor and the victim. (Men, of course, are always the perpetrators, as even the actions of the hardest-hearted villainess are attributable to the actions of the male abuser in her past.) Chris Difford know this, and, arguably and loosely, has lived this world: his autobiography sounds like he inhabited the songs he later wrote.

So here is a simple 3 part guide to the Squeeze version of, possibly,  neo-paganism: the Maid, the Mother and the Crone.

The Maid:

The Mother:

The Crone:

Bleak or what? The combination of these tragic stories and the keening plaintiveness of singer (and tunesmith) Glenn Tillbrook, with the always solid musicianship of the often changing band, this has always had me hooked, from the late 70s to even now. I have seen and followed this band consistently, seeing them perhaps a dozen times between 1980 and 2016. So maybe I am really up the junction?
Cheer yourself up!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Women: Woman/Lennon

purchase [Woman]

I come from a generation where Lennon/McCartney was impossible to beat: I'm pretty sure the first "Rock 'n Roll" I heard was the Beatles. Must have been '65.

So it was with some dismay that I learned of the Beatles' rancor and breakup around the time of <The White Album>.  But that was combined with an awakening to the fact that the world and relationships include change - as in trips to India that expanded your mind. As in girl friends that are no longer.

By the time of their breakup and Lennon's many year silence - well beyond the <White Album>, I had been enured to the mystique: people do things beyond your control/expectations.
So it was with a fair amount of joy that I went out and bought Double Plastic on cassette tape for my SONY Walkman back in the early 80s. Yes, a legal copy when I could have easily made a copy of the tape.

As for Double Plastic (which I do love), there's an entirely valid argument about whether Yoko Ono deserves credit as a musician (I won't argue "artist", because art is what you define it as)
The album was conceived as a back-and-forth between Lennon and Ono (one song his, one hers), but it is the Lennon songs that stay with me (and none of the Ono)

Sunday, March 18, 2018


It's funny, my usual approach is to tap the theme into my iTunes search and see what comes up. No shortage with this one, both woman and women liberating dozens of possibilities. However, at just gone International Women's Day, neither honky tonk nor rainy day women seemed to be appropriate, as neither those toting black magic or those, when younger, with sturdy posteriors. In fact, finding a worthy song was harder than I thought, especially when I discovered Alice Cooper was a man. (Apologies if any of my colleagues were about to post said song, but, in hindsight, however many good versions I have of it, mainly by female artists, it is, isn't it, just a tad patronising?)

So, I did what anyone should do, and enquired of my soul. That is, my soul music collection. And Aretha had the answer. She usually does, even if the advice is written by a man.

And quite a man at that. Dan Penn. To be fair, it was a co-write, with Chips Moman, but it is Penn everyone recalls, a man better known for his writing and production skills than for his singing. Strangely, as he is no slouch in that department himself either. Here's a pretty good interview with him, and longtime jousting companion, Spooner Oldham, which gives a synopsis or his, and their, place in the world. And below the pair of them together, just playing the song.

I know I am missing a point here, what with it being a post supposedly celebrating women and to note the recent International Women's Day, and here am I putting up a paean to a man from Alabama. What can I say? I'm just a bloke. But when so many song lyrics in this genre are so straightforwardly sexist, including many sung by women, isn't it a change to have one which, despite a title that sounds like an instruction, is, on greater listening, not so bad a suggestion after all.

Take me to heart And I'll always love you And nobody can make me do wrong Take me for granted Leaving love unshown Makes will power weak And temptation strong A woman's only human You should understand She's not just a plaything She's flesh and blood Just like her man If you want a do right All days woman You've gotta be a do right All night man Yeah, yeah They say that it's a man's world But you can't prove that by me And as long as we're together baby Show some respect for me

Get it here and here.