Saturday, November 21, 2020

No Thanks: Dead or Alive


purchase [ Woody's version  ]

<No, thanks> or <no thanks>. There is a difference. Syntax/punctuation matters.

Actually, I think this SMM theme is more about <no Thanksgiving> and other joys denied us in 2020. Yes, the holiday will come and go, but we are being told not to invite the whole family. I'm usually the host, but if I were invited, I would say "No, thanks. Not this year."

"No, thanks" leads me to think of all sorts of issues that have poppped up in 2020: Another 4 years? Classes in a room with 20 X 14 year olds? Sharing my office with a colleague who has had COVID? Riding a service bus to work with 20 others? No, thanks no thanks to our incompetent "leadership".

Then consider the other version: I have recieved no thanks for my actions related to many of the above. At this point I am expected to be thankful for still being alive?

That aside, let's focus on the music that drills down into the theme. Above Woody, then here his son Arlo: <Dead or Alive>. How appropriate!

   the sherrif wants me dead or alive ... no thanks

Arlo sounds a lot better than his old man, but that may be related to recording technologies as much as the way things evolve over time.

I think it's fair to say that Woody Guthrie was re-working a "traditional African-American work song", a tune called <Poor Lazarus>, but the chronology is a bit muddy as far as I could discover.

James Carter is credited as the author of Poor Lazarus, but the Alan Lomax recording from the state pen is dated 1959. lists the first Woody Guthrie performance of <Dead or Alive> recording as dated 1949. 

Poor Lazarus and Dead or Alive are pretty much the same story and I would be inclined to leave the provenance as traditional. The Guthrie legacy is managed by grandchild anna canoni and there is an informative dialog here.

The Alan Lomax/James Carter story includes this information.

Other versions based on the original: 

There's a version by Lonnie Donegan (a Brit I've never heard about, but Wikipedia calls the "King of Skiffle")

Bob Dylan made his reverence for Woody Guthrie clear: his song called <Song to Woody> and his version of <Dead or Alive>:

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Joe: various Joes

 The Social Security website shows that naming your child Joe is in decline.  Over the last 20 years, it has moved from 315th most popular to 705th. Liam, Noah and Oliver are in the first 3 for 2019. That said, there are a number of musicians named Joe - some by birth, some taken later.

Because ... the theme is Joe, these gentlemen qualify. (I don't know of any girls named Joe, but there are a few named Jo.) And ... Billie Jo Spears and  Jo Stafford kinda fit the theme-related bill.

A couple of random Joes here ... no sequence, no relation except that they are all Joe. And there's many more  Joes I didn't list, but ...hey ... my list.

Joe Satriani:  

Joe Walsh

Country Joe

Joe Cocker

Joe Strummer 

Joe Perry

Joe Elliott 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Joe: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat


purchase [Joseph and the Multi-Colored ...]

Well, at this point half way through the theme, we haven't recieved any flames about our not so subtle topic. Your SMM bloggers each bring their own baggage (Mr LaRaygun: his metal...) and mine: more heavily embued with folk. My father was a choir/orchestra conductor and I sang tenor (for him) in Handel's Messiah and similar

I had a back of the mind recollection that Hair, the musical, had a reference to Joseph. But, not so ... it must have been Jesus Christ Superstar. Both of the same ilk: early Rock Operas. However, further digging on my part (and a revivial of some dead brain cells- synapse links) revealed that my memory was of another Rock opera named >Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors<. There we go: Joe. Finally.

There is in fact a fair amount of similarity - at least in my mind: more or less same time and same style. At least I can see why I had them confused: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

The biblical story of Joseph is familiar to most: "killed" on account of his brothers' jealousy, Joseph comes back to life in Egypt, this time in control of the situation. The musical rock opera covers this narrative.

The musical is a product of Andrew Lloyd Webber, a budding composer at this time (my confusiuons explained, since he was complicit in Jesus Christ Superstar). And Tim Rice goes beyond Llloyd Webber: collborated with Elton John, Rita Coolidge, Rick Wakeman and Freddie Mercury (and more).

The whole prospect behind rock operas seems to be that [in the modern era] the concept of the classical opera is dated and something "modern/pop/rock" might elicit interest and ticket sales. <Hair> and <Jesus Christ> made limited inroads. So did <Cats> (another Webber piece). Jospeh did not.

That has not killed the rock opera notion. A variation of the idea lives on in animated films (Lion King, which spawned a couple of charting songs, for one) and of course the Who's <Tommy>, Pink Floyd's <The Wall> and more.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Joe: Joey

Concrete Blonde: Joey

One of the things that made Joe Biden a compelling candidate (other than the fact that most people look good by comparison to the lame-duck president) is the way he appears to relate to his family. Clearly, so much of Biden’s life was shaped by the tragic loss of his wife and child, and his attempts to continue to be there for them as a single father trying to make his way in the Senate. And we’ve heard about his second marriage, his support of one son through addiction and other personal issues, and having to watch another child die. . His sister is his closest political advisor, who ran all of his campaigns until this last one. Not to mention his relationship with his grandchildren, who he claims to call or text every day. There’s a genuineness to all of this, which again contrasts with the man he beat handily, whose children seem to be more like junior business associates, and whose third wife regularly slaps his hand away. 

Much of this can be explained, I think, by the relationship that the men had with their fathers. Mary Trump has described her grandfather (and the two-time popular vote loser’s father) in very cruel terms, and as a man who forced his children to fight for his affection and money. (He also was charged more than once with racist practices in his business and was arrested outside a Klan rally. We report. You decide). 

Biden, on the other hand, had a close, friendly relationship with his namesake father, who appeared to instill in his son respect for others, personal humility, and a resilient personality, but most of all, a belief that family is paramount. Hearing Biden speak over the past few months, it is clear that he’s no communicator in the way that President Obama was, but he does display an “everyman” charm, and an empathy that has been lacking in our president since the current impeached resident of the White House was sworn in before a small crowd. Biden often refers to his father, and wisdom that Joe, Sr. imparted to him, and he often starts these anecdotes by quoting his father calling him “Joey.” (You knew we’d get there eventually, right?) Which makes sense, in a family with two Joes. In fact, last summer, Jill Biden released a children’s book about her husband’s childhood, called Joey

The featured song, “Joey” is, for most of us, the only song by Concrete Blonde that we know, and it was released in 1990 on the band’s third album, Bloodletting. Written by singer Johnette Napolitano, it was the group's biggest hit, topping Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks and hitting number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is about being in love with an alcoholic, who Napolitano eventually revealed to be Marc Moreland of Wall of Voodoo. 

Formed in 1982 as Dream 6, and renamed at the suggestion of Michael Stipe after signing to IRS Records, the band failed to achieve much success after “Joey,” broke up in 1993, and has had occasional reunions over the years. Napolitano has released albums as a solo act and with other artists, and was even part of the Heads, a project with the members of Talking Heads, without David Byrne, which fizzled out after the requisite litigation. 

Joe Biden ran for president in 1998, with little success, dropping out after a series of plagiarism allegations, briefly tried again in 2008, but was overshadowed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and was asked to join Obama’s ticket in 2008, becoming Vice-President. He chose not to run in 2016, in part because of the death of his son Beau, and in part, I think, because there was a feeling that it was time for a woman to be president (which it was, and should have been). Biden has admitted regretting that decision. I have to admit that I thought that Biden’s dream of becoming President was over, and that someone younger would end up running in 2020. So, I was wrong. As it turned out, Biden’s message of empathy, competence, calmness and bipartisanship struck a nerve, and he won with an enormous margin in the popular vote, and a significant margin in the stupid Electoral College (winning a few states, though, by a slim margin). 

So, maybe Concrete Blonde has another comeback in them. Just ask Joey.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


Another short post, having me rue on the fact that most "Joe" songs, as alluded to in my last, involve heading down Mexico way, gun in hand, old lady no longer shenanigans. And that will never do, guns seeming more in truck with the current incumbent. (Mind you, "Donald" songs are an even harder nut to track, so, hey, no bright ideas, Boss!)

But, thinking on, let's play on the soubriquet offered him courtesy the wit and wisdom of DRT, given the outcome.

I guess I could have used the Herman's Hermit's Sleepy Joe, as, likely, the better known song. But I then listened to it, possibly for the first time in nigh on half a century. Astonishingly, I could remember it in a Proustian rush, drying in front of the fire after a thursday evening bath and watching Top of the Pops. I liked Herman's Hermits, but I always found it alarming the way Peter Noone mugged directly into the camera, always worried he could see thus the seven year old me, naked in front of the old black and white TV. That would be more than enough to not want to use the song. Plus it is shit. So it is to the glorious playing of Norman Blake. Just his hands and fingers on a single guitar, making a change from the dobro he became better known for. 'Sleepy Eyed Joe' is the first of two tunes. The second is 'Indian Creek', as in Native American rather than Indian Indian, but let's overlook that and assume a timely link to his deputy.

But he ain't so sleepy is he, boys and girls, and the words of Agent Orange hang in the air like the scent of a cheap hairspray. 'Not So Sleepy' is a terrific tune from 1957, from one Oscar Pettiford. Appropriately enough it came out on a record entitled Winner's Circle, and included only contributions from artists coming first or second in the Down Beat critics poll of the year's best. Thus Pettiford, a double bassist of some renown,  3/4 Native American and 1/4 African American, found himself alongside the likes of Joh Coltrane and Donald Byrd, names that have largely outlived his. I think it a great romp, and exudes celebration. Clearly, a Winner's Circle with relation to POTUS can only include outright winners, something as yet to sink into the mindset of the defeated, but we live in hope.