Saturday, December 5, 2020



purchase  [ Gorilla ]

SMM has done Leftovers at this season every year since its inception back in 2008. That theme, something Christmassy, followed by our In Memoriam theme are our traditions.

With ony two in the house for "turkey day" this year (in Istanbul, Turkey no less), we had no leftovers besides the pumpkin pie and a dab of cranberry. To compensate, I cooked a second batch of stuffing and turkey the next night. Want some more? Yes, please. Gotta have those leftovers.

But ... the music ... No leftovers here. Does Village Voice critic Robert Christgau like James Taylor? His comment about Taylor's version of this song are a pretty clear: "No, thanks". He labelled it "disgraceful". Further remarks he has made about Taylor indicate that it is not just this song. He writes: "I am no more likely to enjoy a James Taylor concert than an Engelbert Humperdink concert, and [...] this prejudice is not primarily musical."

In almost a rebuttal  to Christgau's "no way, thanks", Taylor's version of the lyrics of Marvin Gaye's original, again and again sing "thank you baby" - to Carly SImon. 

I kind of side with Christgau -but not as vociferously - Sweet Baby James was a good album. I'm mildly prejudiced because I had one foot in Chapel Hill, NC in those days, so Taylor was a home-town hero (and the songs were provocative in their own genre for the time). After that ... we discovered the true baby james.

For contrast, there's narry a thanks in Marvin Gaye's lyrics, The song "vibe" itself is thanks enough. Christgau is right.

No, Thanks: "No-no Song", by Ringo Starr

Purchase "No-no Song" by Ringo Starr

2020 brought a lot to bear, not the least being a real challenge to sobriety. When there's nothing to do, getting drunk in the dark of my cave-like home office with something mindless streaming through the Netflix tractor beam was often the highlight of the day. Memes and internet jokes about happy hour being pretty much any hour of the day abound. Still.

Because this shit is far from over. 

Taking a break from the news, from the social media doom scroll, and from the living room couch are all important steps to recovery. So, is laying off the booze and hiding the keys to the liquor cabinet. Seems like the sober-er times of 2020 are the times I'll most want to forget. There really hasn't been anything much in the way of redeeming when it comes to the past year. Save for music, which even in the best of times, is a key to happiness.

I know highballs and new tunes were a balm in this dark year. But, like all good things, in moderation we trust. Because 2020 feels a lot like a hangover that won't fade.

This track from Ringo's 1974 Goodnight Vienna is a fun little reggae-esque romp about getting sober. Given the prodigious amount of chemical experimentation of the Beatles' later years, and lack of lingering damage it caused, in comparison to many of their contemporaries, "No-no Song" comes off as more than just another silly Ringo tune. ("Octopus Gardens," anyone?  "Yellow Submarine?" ) This song has the feel that it was meant to be a lark, but took on a more realistic sense the more it got played. Ringo always struck as the most whacked out of the Beatles, to be honest. But, here in "No-no Song," he seems to be striking a sober chord, if only because he's tired of waking up on the floor. How serious he is depends on how much you want to see the song as ironic. It was written by Hoyt Axton, famous cowboy singer and actor, who had also struggled with sobriety and drug use in his life. And Ringo was far from sober at the time of the recording. In an interview with Time magazine, he claimed that he and Axton recorded the song "...with the biggest spliff and a large bottle of Jack Daniel's." 

I suppose, reading too much into the song is a mistake. It is kind of funny, in it's escalation of peer pressures and continuous inebriation. But, maybe it's just supposed to ironic, like it's ironic when we wake up from a bender and say, "I'm never doing that again..." 

Irony, for sure. But, then this is 2020 and we've got a premium on irony. Filled to very top with it. Looking back, all this was predictable. Preventable. And looking forward, we'll look back on this and just shake our heads in angry, rueful hindsight at what could have been.

In the meantime, we've still got time to listen to good music. The bottle and whether the cap stays on, or comes off, once again, is another question. We can always so "no-no" in the future. Let's get through the next few months first. And hope for better days to come. 

Here's a bit more countrified version of "No-no Song" with the first All-Starr Band, which looks a lot like the E Street Band...

Friday, December 4, 2020

no thanks: machines or back to humans


purchase [ The Works ]

Freddie Mercury? Yes, please.

There's much about him that I don't really approve of, but he was amazing in many ways. Alas, I do not profess to be well-versed about the man or Queen- I think I'm moderately informed (and despite the previous remark - don't consider myself biased. I like what I like. Period.)

So .. a search for songs about <no thanks> turned up a Queen song that I wasn't aware of. Perhaps - if I had purchased their 1984 <The Works> album, I would have been informed. After all, that's the album with "Radio Ga Ga" and "I Want to Break Free". Very muchly my bad for this ignorance. But that ignorance is in the past and it is not the fırst tıme I have ignored some great music that I shoud not have. Do it again? No, thanks. But that's easier said than done, isn't it? There are so many factors that bias us before we even give things a chance.

1984 is officially history. Sadly, Freddy Mercury is, too. One apsect of a historical perspective look back at the 1980s is the main stream adoption of digital [synthesized] sound. Sure .. we had "Switched On Bach" at the end of the 60s, but here ... we're moving to rock bands doing "fake" sound  live - it's gone commercial/practical. Beyond  this point, all "sound" is potentially an invention * to the extent that digital is manıpulated. This song is one of those inflection points.

The first part of the song is "machine" dominated. (Remember that the Apple Mac (ad) came out that same year). Make of it what you will in terms of techno-message, it's the music that matters. When the technobabble (yes, homage to  Alan Parsons) dies down a bit, we are left with a song almost as pwerful as the tracks from this album that did make it to the charts.

No place. No soul. No regard. No conception. (But no <no thanks> except for the main message: machines? No, thanks.)

Queen & Adam Lambert 2019

Thursday, December 3, 2020

No Thanks: Doctor My Eyes

Jackson Browne: Doctor My Eyes

One more quick post on this theme. 

Another crappy thing that happened this year, totally unrelated to the COVID pandemic, was that I had eye surgery, and it hasn’t really gotten better yet. 

In November, 2019, I stopped a very hard soccer shot by a very good player from very close range with my left eye. Being the weekend warrior that I am, I shook it off, because, really, I felt fine. That my contact lens was dislodged, and could not be found on the turf field, didn’t faze me, and I finished the game. 

Months later, as the coronavirus became a thing, I started seeing flashes in my eye, which I ignored. Because sometimes, I can be an idiot, and the world was going crazy. Then, one day, at the end of April, the vision in my left eye was partially obscured. I quickly went to my eye doctor, who, after a brief examination, hustled me off to a retinal specialist, who diagnosed a retinal detachment and started treatment by putting a bubble of gas in my eye. That was followed by lasers to tack down the retina. Unfortunately, I then developed a macular hole, which required surgery, followed by a period where I had to stay face down as much as possible, facilitated by what looked like a massage chair, and a similar headpiece for bed to allow me to "sleep" face down. It sucked. That’s me, right after the surgery. You don’t want to see what’s under the bandage.  So, "No Thanks," eye surgery.

My vision remains imperfect. Not only is it slightly distorted (although it appears to be healing, but verrrrrry slowly), the surgery has caused or accelerated the development of a cataract in the eye, making my vision blurry. Despite some souped up glasses, things are not back to normal, although I can do pretty much everything except read really small print on the TV screen. I’m even playing soccer again, with goggles, and a “no heading” policy. I’m back to the retinal doctor on Friday for another report, and some guidance as to when I might be able to arrange to have the cataract removed, to bring me closer to my pre-damage vision. 

I know that Kkafa wrote about this song in February, 2019, but it seemed like the right one. It’s a good song—probably the first Jackson Browne song I heard (I think back in my sleep away camp radio days), and still probably my favorite. It isn’t about eye surgery, but instead about a man who has suffered, but comes to accept his fate. So, maybe it works for my situation, anyway. It also features David Crosby and Graham Nash on harmony. 

One positive thing was that because of COVID, most doctors and hospitals only took emergency cases, and I qualified, so I probably got treated a little faster than I might have had there been no pandemic. And I got a COVID test—which was negative, not that that means anything now.

Monday, November 30, 2020

No Thanks-Lonely Holiday

Old 97’s
: Lonely Holiday


For a long time after I started writing for this blog back in 2011, I tried not to repeat artists, but eventually I stopped worrying about that, because sometimes a song by an artist I had already written about called to me. And it shouldn’t be surprising that I’d want to write about bands that I like. So, I hope that you overlook the fact that not only is this the fifth time that I’ve written about the Old 97’s here, but this is actually the third song off of their great Fight Songs album that I’ve highlighted. You can read the last time I wrote about the band and album here, and it links to the three other times I’ve featured them. 

It goes without saying that we just finished the strangest Thanksgiving in a long time—maybe ever. If you want to read more about the history of the holiday—which, like so much else in our country is tied to the Civil War—read this post by the great Heather Cox Richardson. 

I’ve also written about my family Thanksgiving traditions, which were mostly blown up this year by COVID-19. Instead of a big family dinner at our house, my wife and I cooked almost as much food as we usually would, but sat down to dinner on Thursday as a couple. On Friday, we brought a bunch of leftovers to my mother-in-law for a socially distanced lunch, met my mother, brother and a nephew at a restaurant for dinner under a tent on the way back, and on Saturday, my son and daughter-in-law visited for another socially distanced meal of leftovers. Between the three meals, and the care packages distributed to our family members, we actually don’t have an enormous amount of food left over. 

So, while in some sense, it was a lonely holiday, we made the best of it. But “No Thanks,” to this sort of serial celebration, and I can’t wait until we can gather together as a family to celebrate. I’m pretty sure that Christmas will also be a lonely holiday. 

At this point, I really don’t have much more to say about the album. The song is a very typical Old 97’s song, in which a peppy melody is used to deliver some dark lyrics--this time about about loneliness, suicide and love. 

I’m going to switch things up here, and keep it short, and not get into politics.