There’s an art to making a catchy pop song in an odd time signature — “odd” meaning something other than the vastly popular 4/4 and 3/4 (“waltz time”) meters. Despite the overwhelming popularity of those two meters, if a great song has time changes that flow naturally, no reason it can’t top the charts.
Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” (1959) was the pioneer, a huge hit in 5/4 time (counted “ONE-two-three-ONE two” — listen for the kick drum on those “ones”).
The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” shifts from 4/4 to 3/4 (or 6/8) in the turnaround (the phrase “Strawberry Fields Forever”), with a possible bar of 7 thrown in…
Redbone’s “Witch Queen of New Orleans” (1971) is in 4/4, but adds in a bar of 2/4 — that little hiccup — after every other measure in the chorus:
Marie Marie la voodoo veau
She’ll put a spell on you (hiccup)
The Beatles went crazy in “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” — you can hear 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, maybe 9/8, 10/8, — all over the place.… Continue reading
Every time I watch this video from the Old Grey Whistle Test (and I’ve watched it many times over the years) it has the same effect — it just floors me. The band’s in total command, yet at the same time they seem possessed by the music — as is Stevie, for sure. The only word I can think of to describe her performance is “electrifying.”
The sad part is — I can’t imagine anything like this taking place today.
Some song lyrics are cryptic, but we don’t need to “figure out” the meaning. We can suspend disbelief and just live in the mood or the world they create.
“Here At The Western World” is certainly an oblique lyric (like those of most Steely Dan songs), but it’s one of those where the details are so specific, and hang together so well, that it’s hard to resist trying to sleuth out the story.
The music is laid back, smooth, almost innocuous (but this is SD, so the lyrics scratch the surface to reveal the darkness underneath). There’s an implied bossa nova rhythm (similar to “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”/“Song for My Father”), which brings us to… South America.
No way could I pin down this song’s meaning on my own, so I googled a few times over the years, and found that the most coherent explication was this: it’s about Nazi war criminals who found refuge in South America after the war.… Continue reading
For no particular reason, here’s a list of named characters who appear in Steely Dan songs:
Felonius (my old friend)
Dr. Warren Kruger
Ann de Siècle
Aja (? a woman or a drug ?)
Jill St. John
(oh) Michael (oh Jesus)
(the corpse of) William Wright
Good King Richard and Good King John
the Queen of Spain
Dave from Acquisitions
Franny from NYU
Mr. Parker (Bird)
The Rooster (Hugo Banzer Suarez?)
Babs and Clean Willie
Papa (Doc Duvalier)
Brother Lou Garue and the Jerry Garry
Chino and Daddy G (Gordon Liddy)
Janie Runaway (and her friend Melanie)
Lucy (still loves her Coke & Rum)
Dupree… Continue reading
I say “we” because Valerie and I discovered and experienced most if not all of these together. Not necessarily stuff that was released in 2018, but that we discovered (or rediscovered) and enjoyed this past year.
Jenny Scheinman live at Big Ears
The Mischief and Mayhem outfit veered between punk and jazz, klezmer and noise; Jenny’s violin and Nels Cline’s guitar trading ferocious licks and squonks.… Continue reading
I was ten years old. How many of us, at around that age, heard new music because of a friend’s access to his or her older sibling’s records? Summertime — a friend said, “You ever hear U.S. Bonds?” And then (to quote Lou Reed), my mind split open.
I grew up in a pre-rock family. As a little kid, I lived in the world of my mother’s music: classical and pop from the 1920s through the 1950s. I latched onto this set of RCA Victor albums she had called “60 Years of Music America Loved Best” (1959-1960). This was my musical education. The collection was eclectic, to say the least:
Marian Anderson, “Go Down Moses”
Vladimir Horowitz, “Variations on Themes from Carmen”
Paul Whiteman, “Whispering”
Perry Como, “Prisoner of Love”
Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy, “Indian Love Call”
Fritz Kreisler, “Liebesfreud”
Harry Belafonte, “Day-O”
…and many more (Duke Ellington, Eddy Arnold, Jascha Heifetz, Artie Shaw, Mario Lanza, Toscanini, Rachmaninoff, etc.…)… Continue reading