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Alterkaker Hot 3

August 10, 2018

Time waits for Tom Waits because Tom Waits is timeless, his music so unique that it never sounds dated. He’s recorded so many damn songs over the decades, and covered so wide a range of musical genres, that it’s tough to select just a few favorites to include. We’ll start with Jockey Full of Bourbon, the opening song on 1985’s Rain Dogs, and featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Down By Law (in which Waits also stars). The album focuses on "the urban dispossessed" of New York City, and was recorded in a basement room at the corner of Washington and Horatio Streets in lower Manhattan. 

Black Wings features Waits at his most sinister, both vocally and lyrically:

Some say he once killed a man with a guitar string
He's been seen at the table with kings
He once saved a baby from drowning
There are those who say beneath his coat there are wings

The song comes from Bone Machine, released in 1992 and winner of a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. How else can you categorize it? Maybe “rough, stripped-down, percussion-heavy blues rock,” as one critic put it. Rolling Stone calls it “a singularly idiosyncratic American style."

Downtown Train, also from Rain Dogs, shot to the top of the charts, a bona fide smash hit – for Rod Stewart. Patti Smyth and Bob Seger are among others who’ve recorded it. Love the opening line:

Outside another yellow moon 
has punched a hole in the nighttime 

The video, God’s Away On Business, is from the 2002 album Blood Money -- it's very emblematic of Waits’ dystopian visions. How bleak are the lyrics? The opening line: "I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby for a buck."


Jockey Full of Bourbon, by Tom Waits
Black Wings, by Tom Waits
Downtown Train, by Tom Waits
God's Away On Business, by Tom Waits
June 9, 2017

Think summer, think Beach Boys. But instead of focusing on one of the band’s array of iconic sunshine-themed songs, let’s take a listen to their ironic attempt to shed the surfer image in favor of tunes with a more political flavor: "Don't Go Near the Water" doesn’t invite the listener to grab a surf board, but rather to avoid the environmentally unsound water altogether. The song came out on Surf’s Up, the 17th studio album, in 1971. The Beach Boys have also recorded versions of these next two tunes:

Sly and the Family Stone’s "Hot Fun in the Summertime" was released in the wake of the band's talked-about performance at Woodstock. The song peaked at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and number 3 on the U.S. Billboard soul chart in 1969. The band included it on their 1970 Greatest Hits LP. The Beach Boys tracked it on their 1992 album Summer in Paradise.

"Summertime Blues,” co-written and recorded by rockabilly artist Eddie Cochran, was released in August of 1958. The Who recorded a studio version in 1967, but it wasn’t released until 1998, when it appeared on the remastered CD of Odds & Sods. The Who’s first released version, and the one used here, appeared on the 1970 album Live at Leeds. The Beach Boys covered the song on their first album, Surfin’ Safari, in 1962.

Plus a bonus video of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” (For Summer), which set the mood for the summer of ’72.

Surf's Up, The Beach Boys
Sly & The Family Stone
Live At Leeds, The Who
School's Out, by Alice Cooper
March 10, 2017

These songs serve as a reminder that the notion of the world getting really crazy and things spiraling out of control have been around long before you-know-who.

From Save The Life Of My Child:

"A patrol car passing by
Halted to a stop.
Said officer MacDougal in dismay:
"The force can't do a decent job
'Cause the kids got no respect
For the law today (and blah blah blah)."

Save The Life Of My Child, a commentary on urban living, and Punky’s Dilemma, a spoof of Southern California with a verse on draft dodging, come from Bookends, released in 1968 – S & G’s fourth album, and the one that propelled them to the elite status afforded The Beatles, The Stones and Bob Dylan. The Moog synthesizer on Save The Life Of My Child is being played by Mr. Moog himself.

7 O’Clock News/ Silent Night, from their prior record (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme) was released in 1966. It’s a sound collage of "Silent Night" and a simulated "7 O'Clock News" bulletin of the events of August 3rd of that year.

From the same album, Scarborough Fair/Canticle is another mash, this one of the folk standard with an anti-war song of Garfunkel's. The video is of the duo performing the tune with Andy Williams on the latter's television show.

Save The Life Of My Child by Simon & Garfunkel
Punky’s Dilemma by Simon & Garfunkel
7 O’Clock News/ Silent Night by Simon & Garfunkel
Scarborough Fair/Canticle by Simon & Garfunkel & Andy Williams