Saturday, December 25, 2021

Mary and Joseph > In Memoriam : Mary, Mary


purchase [ Mary Mary - the Monkees ]

This Mary-Joseph post was begun the day the theme went live. It's been sitting - waiting for inspiration and attention for two weeks. So long postponed that it now qualifies as a bridge between the last and next post. Which was actually part of the initial thought but not the intended outcome. (I've been struggling to keep up with the relentless flow of the SMM timeline. Here's hopng that as the days get longer, I find more time.)

I fess up: back in the 60s, I had a collection of Monkees music. Off the top of my head: I'm  Believer (for sure), maybe Pleasant Valley Sunday, and more than likely, this one.

Since we are now talking about bridging Mary-Joseph and Memoriam, Michael Nesmith is on the table. Not for autopsy here, but for musical contributions to Mary Mary. This is one written by Nesmith. One part of Nesmith's legacy is his working to counter the image generated by the TV version of the Monkees and the background noise that they weren't actually musicians: more than once, he offered up his own work only to have it turned down by the studio bosses.

Nesmith. as you may know, passed away a few weeks ago and thereby qualifies for our upcoming In Memoriam theme.

For many of those of my age, I'm a Believer will remain in the back of our minds as a classic of our teen years.

Aware that Paul Butterfield also released this on his East-West album, to me, the defintive version is the one by the Monkees.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Mary and Joseph: Let It Be

The Beatles: Let It Be
[purchase the basic version]
[purchase the Super Deluxe version

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, as we move toward year-end. I’ve had a bunch of work (yay!), there’s been tons of holiday prepping and gatherings, and my daughter and her boyfriend are visiting from Barcelona for a couple of weeks. And if that’s not enough, my 94 year-old uncle passed away, after a long, and mostly happy and healthy life, which required my wife and me to jump on a plane on Sunday night to get to Florida for the funeral, returning early Tuesday because, we thought, we had Broadway tickets for my family for that night. Unfortunately, the show got cancelled, because of COVID, which was disappointing.

All of this is in partial explanation of why I didn’t write last week, and why this piece is going to be a little shorter than my average Iliad-length posts. But I hate missing a theme, so I wanted to make sure that I put something up on the site before trying to figure out my [spoiler alert] In Memoriam post subject(s). 

Here’s the gist of what I want to say—if you like rock music, which you probably do because you are reading this, make sure you watch the Beatles documentary, Get Back. It’s worth the 8 hours of time, and you can usually get a free week of Disney+ if you don’t already have a subscription. It’s an incredible document of the four brilliant Beatles, and their world, in 1969. You can see their friendship, strained by their growing creative and other differences, their creativity and talent, their humor, and both their sophistication and naivete. And how much they smoked. Here they are, at the peak of their popularity and power, but clearly contemplating the end of their partnership. And none of them had celebrated their 30th birthday yet. 

I’m far from the biggest Beatles fan, but I was fascinated by the thing—not only the film itself, but thinking about how the director, Peter Jackson, chose what excerpts from the hundreds of hours of film he had available. Most critics have pointed out that the version that Jackson presented was more positive than the general received narrative—that the sessions were filled with bickering, and that Yoko Ono was disruptive. Instead, we see lots of camaraderie and collaboration interspersed with the bickering and nastiness, and mostly Yoko kept to herself and looked bored. What really happened? I don’t know, and unless you watch all of the raw film, there are really very few living people who actually do know. 

So, there’s a moment in the film where Paul McCartney sits down at the piano and starts playing what would become “Let It Be.” When I was watching, it seemed like he was creating it on the spot, but a little research turned up the fact that it was something he had been playing around with for a little while. Still, it was pretty cool to hear the song, which references McCartney’s mother Mary, in its embryonic stages. 

In addition to suggesting that you watch the whole documentary, I recommend that you read some of the many articles about the film and our feature song written by people who know much more about the Beatles than I do, and who are better writers. Use that Google thing—there are lots out there, discussing the film from many angles and points of view. Although I particularly liked this one, featuring a number of well-known songwriters discussing how they felt watching it. I mean, Jeff Tweedy said that he burst into tears a few times while watching it. And if that’s not an incentive to watch, what is?

Monday, December 20, 2021


I may have said this before, here if not here, but Hey Joe is my favourite song and has been for as long as I recall. The simplicity of the chord progression, allied to to the characteristics that make it immediately recognisable from the merest of snippets. My collection has expanded exponentially over the years, my i-tunes telling me I now have 70 versions, which is, arguably, plain daft, but it is still exciting to discover new takes on it. So, no contest, it had to be the Joseph that would be my go-to Joe. (The featured is a slight conceit, being a meandering extemporisation on the theme, actually entitled No More Guns, the Hey Joe Redux being in parentheses.) For those eager to acquire the source material, it comes from the New York based piano jazz maven, Vijay Iyer, on his 2003 opus, Blood Sutra. Here is what Thom Jurek of AllMusicGroup had to say, repeated as it makes me chuckle, being both so pretentious and prescient at once: 

 "Blood Sutra only adds more luster to Iyer's presence on the short list of forward-looking jazz creators these days. His muse still tends towards the severe but there's no denying the individuality and the fact he doesn't make the listening easy is also precisely what makes it so rewarding"

Much as I would love to leave it at that , wish you compliments of the season and move on, as ever, of course, I am unable, never appreciating the benefits of brevity, when I can have you languish in my longeur a bit longer. So, Joe, any more Hey to make this year?

Bitzen Trapper seep a glorious stoned insouciance into their slightly ramshackle country honk of a version. Blitzen Trapper, the band, I know little about really, beyond the couple of tracks I appear to own, but they sound folk I would appreciate to hear a little more of. Over on one of the other platforms I scribble on, I recently discovered they had performed Neil Young's Harvest as a live project, and, frankly, anyone who describes themselves as an "experimental country/folk/rock band" has only the barest of bumps to climb to whet my interest. 

Is it blues, is it reggae? Seamlessly bringing the two together, Mel Brown is just the sort of old blues man genetically programmed for songs like this, muscle memory delivering on of the finest I have and that you possibly don't. OK, it goes on a bit, but never too long. Indeed, it seems he can stretch it to twice the length, when in the mood, as youtube seems able to offer. Who he? Well, the first thing to know is that he died in 2009, which is a bit of a shock, but it seems his biggest claim to fame was as Bobby "Blue" Bland's favoured guitarslinger, although his wiki page shows he was also a sideman for, amongst others, Lightin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and two of the Kings, B.B. and Albert, as adept on keyboards as on the guitar.

So soporific is this, that I can't imagine Joe ever managed to lift the gun, let alone aim it and fire. Invoking a I don't know what she had, but I''ll have some of that vibe, it does eventually kick off, even if you question whether it actually is the full Billy Roberts. And, of course, it isn't, being one of those filing issues, whereby a well known song has had someone lift the same name for something quite different. Which, I think you'll agree, this was. So, I only have 69 versions. Os Mutantes were, arguably, the prog/psychedelic big hitters of the Sao Paulo scene in the 60's and 70's, if never then quite going away either, reforming after a 40 year gap in 2006. 

Or, actually, 68, as, yup, you got me bang to rights, that seeming such a good wheeze that I'm going to repeat that trick/mistake. This Liz Green song is likewise a completely different song. Or is it? (Yes, but, the lyrics sort of suggest it could have been a preamble to the homicide, perhaps even the context that led to the murderous act.) Liz Green I know, or, rather knew, nothing about until this piece, uncertain even how I cam to have this song in my collection. I have since learnt she is a singer and songwriter from Manchester, U.K., and was the "Emerging Talent" winner at the Glastonbury Festival of 2007. A couple of albums followed, in 2011 and 2014, but largely little has emerged since. Which seems a shame.

By now any other avid Hey Joe-ers are going to be feeling short changed, thinking this one of the more half-hearted of contrivances I have offered this year, with only a total of 3 versions offered. So be it, life can be disappointing. 

Merry Christmas and have some Jimi: