Category Archives: Favorite Song

Warren Zevon – Five Songs You Should Hear

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Warren Zevon burst from the wellspring of 1970’s Southern California songwriters, artists such as Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Don Henly, Glenn Frey and others. But Zevon was a tad different; he was bitterer, funnier, darker, scarier and tenderer. He was an oxymoron of a writer, and we are better for it.  He died at the age of 56 in 2003 but he left behind a treasure of work – you just have to find it.

Now you can easily uncover his ubiquitous “Werewolves of London” (a financial blessing but a creative curse because some people only remember him for this, so much so they think him a novelty writer) and the songs covered by other artists such as Linda Ronstadt . Her covers of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Mohammed’s Radio”, “Carmelita”, and “Hasten Down the Wind” are staples in her catalog.

But he was so much more, so much that I want you to hear some of his best but overlooked work and hopefully dig deeper into his work.

Desperados Under The Eaves

From his masterpiece album simply titled Warren Zevon, it is a cautionary tale of California life and its quest for success.

Accidentally Like A Martyr

A heartbreaking love song of days sliding by and love lost from his album Excitable Boy. One of his best.

Jeannie Needs A Shooter

From the album Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School and co-written with Bruce Springsteen, this song of love, lust and betrayal is a self contained Peckinpah Western. Brilliant.

Splendid Isolation

From Transverse City, well this lyric says it all:

Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don’t have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the World of Self

Keep Me In Your Heart

The last song on his last album, The Wind, was recorded as he battled terminal lung cancer. It is the last song of a short life and a fitting stone for his monument of work.

Note: Amazon has Zevon’s first five albums packaged in a box set for an amazingly low price, click here. I have no clue to how long this will be available but man it’s fantastic.

 

Take a walk down Kentucky Avenue with Tom Waits

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Warning: This is a participatory post.

I’m not allowed to play Tom Waits at home while my wife is there, I can only listen through my headphones. The voice, well she just doesn’t get it. I can understand that, he is an acquired taste, but even she admits the power of his lyrics, well the ones she can make out.

I think everyone should listen to Tom, I know that ain’t gonna happen but I’m going to do my part to introduce you non-Waiters to one of the most original artists of our times via a song called Kentucky Avenue. It is a remembrance of his childhood and his friendship with a wheelchair bound pal stricken with polio. It is an amazing song, one that still moves and astounds me with its beauty. It captures that time so perfectly that it transports you.

So  click here, hit play, then come back to this page and read the lyrics below as Tom sings, do this, you will not regret it.

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Well Eddie Grace’s Buick got four bullet holes in the side

And Charlie DeLisle is sittin at the top of an avocado tree
Mrs. Storm will stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn
I got a half a pack of Lucky Strikes man so come along with me
And let’s fill our pockets with macadamia nuts
And go over to Bobby Goodmanson’s and jump off the roof

Well Hilda plays strip poker with the Mummers ‘cross the street
Joey Navinski says she put her tongue in his mouth
And Dicky Faulkner’s got a switchblade and some gooseneck risers
That eucalyptus is a hunchback there’s a wind down from the south
So let me tie you up with kite string and I’ll show you the scabs on my knee
Watch out for the broken glass put your shoes and socks on
And come along with me

Let’s follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down
Asnd go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel
And we’ll break all the windows in the old Anderson place
And we’ll steal a bunch of boysenberries and I’ll smear em on your face
I’ll get a dollar from my mama’s purse and buy that skull and crossbones ring
And you can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string

Then we’ll spit on Ronnie Arnold and flip him the bird
And slash the tires on the school bus now don’t say a word
I’ll take a rusty nail and scratch your initials in my arm
And I’ll show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore
I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie’s wings
And I’ll tie em to your shoulders and your feet
I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad and cut the braces off your legs
And we’ll bury them tonight out in the cornfield
Just put a church key in your pocket we’ll hop that freight train in the hall
We’ll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall

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You’re welcome.

Kentucky Avenue is on the album Blue Valentine.

 

 

 

 

Covers Better Than The Original? Yep.

Everybody loves a list so here’s mine on a topic that is on many music blogs and sites. Now most of the time I prefer an artist’s own rendition of their work. Many people prefer Rod Stewart’s version of Tom Wait’s Downtown Train. Granted Rod has a voice that is like a sandpapered angel, beautiful; Tom’s is a sandpapered frog . But Tom’s version is full of the city’s mean streets and its hard luck citizens. I believe it is the vastly superior version.

So here are five covers I like better than the original, it’s subjective and personal, just like music.

5. Turn, Turn, Turn – The Byrds. That shimmering guitar jangle and Fab-like harmonies make one beautiful song. The great Pete Seeger’s original, not so much.

4.  House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals. This was a traditional blues folk song brought to radio life by a great British Invasion band. Here is an original interpretation by blues legend Leadbelly and his wife.

3. Mr. Bojangles – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Originally recorded by its writer Jerry Jeff Walker and released in 1968. It was a minor hit. In 1971 it was eclipsed by TNGDB and their excellent version.

2. Twist And Shout – The Beatles. Originally recorded by The Top Notes, then more successfully  by the Isley Brothers, the song is now on hold  to The Fabs and John Lennon’s throat tearing vocals. One of the great vocal performances in rock and roll.

1. All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix. Sorry Bob Dylan, I love you, but Jimi now owns this.

So, there are my favorite covers that outshine the originals, I’d love to hear yours.

The Weight of your favorite song.

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What’s your favorite song?

That’s a question we all are asked a few times during our life time.

Knowing me you would think a Beatle song of course and you would be very close, because if I had to pick my second favorite song it would be their brilliant, romantic and nostalgic classic “In My Life”.

My favorite song is “The Weight”, performed by The Band and written by Robbie Robertson. This work spoke to me at an early age. It was 1968, I was 14 years old when I first heard it broadcast from my FM radio and I was immediately struck by the sound and honesty of it. Even the name of the group was dramatic, THE BAND. During this period of music it was the time of Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Chocolate Wristband, The Electric Prunes and many more who copped their handle from the elongated Beatles’ moniker, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The longer or weirder the better, because in order to play the “in” music of the time, psychedelic, the more shocking or experimental your band’s name should be.

Then out of the fog of smoke machines, back-lit slide shows and surrealistic lyrics stepped out five road tested musicians with songs about people, places and things. They didn’t wear Nehru shirts or dashikis, instead they wore jeans, vintage suits and fedoras. Their album (Music From Big Pink) design wasn’t paisley patterned with smoking pigs but adorned with photographs of their families as if at a large family reunion. Their music was the same.

The songs were real, the voices of working men singing songs of their past and their future hopes. They sounded “old”, familiar even on first listen. A complete break from “Incense and Peppermints” to dirt and corn. And leading me to their revival tent of American music history was “The Weight”.

“I pulled into Nazareth…”

The journey stars with that phrase, could it be the Nazareth of the Bible or the town in Pennsylvania where the best acoustic guitars have been made for decades, C.F. Martin & Company?

And who are Carmen and the Devil, Luke, Crazy Chester or the Fanny who has the load to bear throughout the song…. and why take the load from her. It was and remains as mysterious, haunting, enigmatic and beautiful today as the first time I heard it.

It is my favorite song because it led me to many different roads of music: folk, country, bluegrass, New Orleans, Appalachian… they are too numerous to list.

It’s my favorite song because it made me feel that music was hand-hewn and not something so far beyond me that it was impossible achieve. For the first time in my life music became a living breathing thing in my life and not just wonderful grooves on vinyl. It also brought kinship with the music of my father. I began to understand his love of Johnny Cash and finally got his affection for Hank Wilson. “The Weight” did that for me.

Every time I hear the guitar start that beautifully mournful roll into its opening line, all those feelings of family, friends and times-had roll back to me as Levon Helm starts to sing. And when it comes to its closing, whatever mood I may have been in, it is improved with bittersweet memories of times gone and times to come.

That’s why it is my favorite song.

I wish you would share yours, too.