Friday, November 9, 2018

Trick/Treat: Bonnie Raitt-No Way To Treat a Lady

purchase [Nine Lives]

In the end, not one trick or one treat, but two treats. Oh well...

Halloween is well behind us as this SMM theme wraps up, but as we prepare to move on the the next "holiday" theme, another treat:

The dark side of Halloween is that if you don't get your candy, you treat the hosting party with a trick - toilet paper decorations or worse. There's no rule that you have to treat the host so bad, but ... it's part of the Halloween deal: a treat or a trick.

Since I live fairly deeply within a Muslim culture which seems particularly attuned to the notions/traditions wherein you/your family are expected to reciprocate/give tit-for-tat or live under the cloud of social debt, I [think] I am attuned to these social balances.

Related to Halloween trick or treating: you don't send your kids out if you aren't prepared to give to those who show up at your door - not so different from the Moslem culture of pay-back, is it?

I was brought up under the [rather Christian/missionary] mantra of <Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.>, but in fact, it's not so Christian as I first assumed: most religions espouse some version of the same pay-back message: you reap what you sow: your next life depends on what you have done in this...  I think that's what the Beatles "discovered" in their trip to India/Nepal/Buddhism.

Bonnie Raitt's <No Way to Treat a Lady> says a lot in its title. Consider the role Bonnie Raitt has played though-out her career, and you might imagine the stages/situations she's been through: likely no less than a few #MeToo moments to get to where she is.

Songwriting credits for the song, according to the liner notes, go to Byran Adams [who? No, not who: Summer of '69]

The Nine Lives album is not/was not one of Raitt's best, and there are a lot of reasons for this - but the extensive lineup of musicians who contributed attests to her stature: Tower of Power, Bill Payne, Russ Kunkel, Michael Landau, Dean Parks, Leland Sklar, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac and about another 20 who contributed to the album. That said, it's perfectly decent musical treat that I think you might enjoy.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Change of heart here, I was originally going to do a treat track, something looked forward to, held with relish. Then I heard this, by chance, on i-pod shuffle, by Ruth Brown, remembering what an unsung talent she was, a holding post between the raw blues of Bessie and the smoother soul of Aretha, in the relative early 50s graveyard of popular music, missing most of the peak genres littered before and after. Uncertain where to place her, jump jive or straight forward big band r'n'b, with the emphasis on b, I think she needs more listens.

This song, a traditional good girl done bad belter, was based upon a song heard by the song's authors and which included the title, so the standard semi-plagiarism that has bedevilled any blues based music to this day. Ruth Brown, already successful, requested it sped up a bit, whereupon she took it to a 1952 no.1 on the r'n'b Billboard chart. (Re-recorded a decade later, she took it to 99 in the full chart.) Personally, I can do without the yelps in the original, but I prefer the full big band arrangement to the later more standard happy-clappy version.

So what of Ruth Brown? Born in 1928, she was an early recipient of the Queen of r'n'b crown, following a string of singles during the early 50s, themselves helping define Atlantic records as a label of discernment in such areas. However her star faded as the 60s beckoned, spending her time quietly in suburbia. The mid 70s saw a resurgence in her career, predominantly as an actress in films such as the iconic 'Hairspray', playing Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs, a character prominent in black (music) rights. This was then something she addressed in real life, being responsible for the idea of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which still fights for the royalties and rights of african-american musicians in the field of r'nb. On the back of this she revived her own musical career, touring more or less until she couldn't, dying in 2006 at the age of 78. You can see her supporting Bonnie Raitt on Raitt's 1995 DVD, 'Road Tested', along with, no relation, similar legend, Charles Brown. Listen to the plaudits offered in the voice-over.

The song hasn't exactly faded from sight, being a staple still in blues (and rhythm) circles. Here is a version from 2 decades after the original: Koko Taylor,

and another 2 decades after that: Susan Tedeschi,

Ain't they all a treat?

POSTSCRIPT: I discover Darius of this parish featured this self-same song a mere 9 years ago. Sorry, Bro', but if it's good enough for you.....

Monday, November 5, 2018

Trick/Treat: Candy

Iggy Pop featuring Kate Pierson: Candy

And now here’s the Treat.

That Iggy Pop wrote a catchy pop love song is more than a little surprising. Best known for musical and personal excess, confrontation, and a wildly unpredictable stage persona, Pop reached out in early 1990 to Don Was, a fan and fellow Michigander, who was beginning to make a name as a producer, to try to make an album that would be more polished and commercial than his recent output. Was gathered a diverse group of musicians, including Slash and Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, Kate Pierson, from the B-52’s, whose recent hit album, Cosmic Thing, he had produced, John Hiatt, studio veterans Waddy Wachtel, Kenny Drayton, Kenny Aronoff, and David Lindley, and members of his own band, Was (Not Was).

He succeeded. Brick By Brick is a great album, filled with great songs that split the difference between the harder rock of his prior work and a more commercial sensibility, but with, for the most part, angry, cynical lyrics.

And then there’s “Candy.” A love song sung as a duet with Pierson, it is an anomaly, and was a hit. As Pop has said, “I’ve written one good pop song, ‘Candy.’ It’s a very decent, proper pop song, but that’s as far as that went.” It is a more than decent pop song. On its surface, it appears to be a song about a lost love, who herself regrets the loss. Although it is a duet, the characters are singing past each other, but are heading to the same place. If you take that interpretation, which Pop has advanced (he says it is about a teenage girlfriend, Betsy), it really is sweet, and poignant.

But this is Iggy Pop, we are talking about, so there are other, darker, interpretations. One is that Pierson’s character is a prostitute, who gave Pop’s character “love for free.” And another is that Pierson’s character represents heroin, to which Pop was addicted to on and off over the years (and which he has written about before, maybe most famously in “Lust for Life,” a song that someone thought was an appropriate tune to use in commercials for a family cruise line. At least they edited out the part about liquor and drugs.)

You know, I’m going to take Iggy’s word for it—that he reached into his past to write a love song to a childhood sweetheart who still meant something to him—and not try to read too much into it.