Secondhand

Happy Friday, folks!

This afternoon, I went to Costco to do a big shop for my sweety and me and for a friend, and, while driving, Apple CarPlay was on a totally random play, picking from my entire music library. It was pretty cool… heard some things I hadn’t played in a long time!

Sweety had been trying to reach me around that time, but my phone was on silent for some reason, so I missed it. Standing in line to get into the store, I pulled out my phone. I saw that she had called and texted to tell me the government had just dropped the age for the miracle of COVID-19 vaccination, and I was suddenly eligible! Hands shaking, I urgently and awkwardly signed on to the vaccination site (and was so glad that I had created an account on it in advance!) and booked my appointment! I was flooded with a sense of emotion, gratitude, relief and hope, and it took me some time before I could get back into the present moment and actually do any shopping.

Interestingly, The Small Glories song “Secondhand” played in the car, in the lead-up to of all this.

In February 2020, an eternity ago, almost a month before the first lockdown was even dreamed of, I ordered tickets for us to see The Small Glories at Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre. We bought extra seats for some dear friends as thanks for their kindness to us, and we were all super excited about the show, all having heard the duo before.

But on March 30, the WECC emailed ticket holders to say they had postponed the event due to the developing health situation. The venue hoped to put the show on later, when safe to do so and updated me from time to time. But, finally, this March, they refunded the ticket purchase due to continued uncertainty about when they could hold such an event.

Who knows when big shows will resume. Today, I’m just so hopeful that we’re getting closer and closer to being protected, though I wish more of our frontline workers, including family and friends, would receive priority access for the vaccines. Really, they deserve it more than me. Hopefully, we will all have access before too long.

The Small Glories are Cara Luft and JD Edwards, a duo that accidentally came together for a show at, yes, the West End Cultural Centre. I knew of Edwards before, in his role as leader of the JD Edwards Band, but not Luft. They are an incredible pair who make magical music together. (Please see my earlier post on their song, ”Oh My Love.”)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

“Secondhand” comes from The Small Glories’ 2019 album, Assiniboine & The Red. It tells of times to savour.

Here’s a video of the song, performed for the Folk Alley Sessions in Saranac Lake, New York, USA in July 2019 from the FolkAlleydotCom YouTube channel:

Suddenly Last Summer

Today I made a quick stop into our local Safeway grocery store, and while in line to check out, a familiar old song came on the store’s canned music channel.

The song was “Suddenly Last Summer,” one I remember well from a sometimes solitary period in my music enjoyment as I branched out from the music of my early adulthood. In this same period (1983-ish), I also encountered the influence of the new wave bands I heard through that mixed group of longtime friends from St. Norbert and cool new pals from St. Vital, otherwise known as “friends 2.0.” (An earlier post and the links in it will help explain that title and period a little.)

I savoured the music that I discovered on my own at the time, as that somehow felt like it helped me develop my individuality. Finding new music was often the result of various factors that involved serendipity: hearing new stuff in records stores, at nightclubs, or while listening to late-night radio (like CBC’s Brave New Waves and Night Lines programs), mostly at home as I don’t remember listening to FM radio much when out and about.

The Berkeley, California band The Motels formed in 1978 (though an earlier iteration of the group dates back to 1971). In 1982-1983 they achieved success with their singles “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer,” and as with so much music from that time, hearing the latter song today took me back to a kaleidoscope of memories as a young twenty-something trying to find my way in the world.

No one else I knew at the time seemed to pay attention to the band, though eventually, their singles brought them some prominence.

“Suddenly Last Summer” comes from Little Robbers (1983), The Motels’ fourth album. The record was the culmination of a few years filled with the chaos of an intra-band relationship, several personnel changes, their label’s rejection of a previous album, and a manager’s firing. The latest configuration of the band, now known as Martha Davis and the Motels, is still active.

I occasionally hear today’s selection played on KEXP Seattle, another of my favourite radio stations.

Hearing about personal tragedy affecting someone close to Sweety and me today, I was struck by the word “suddenly” in the song, while standing in the Safeway check-out line. That has influenced much of the rest of my day, reinforcing the knowledge that life is so fragile and can suddenly be changed irrevocably in a moment. I am that much more grateful for long phone conversations today with my lads, as always.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Motels’ official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Bloomsday

Well, at last, after the eternity of nearly two months without him, my BBC 6 Music mainstay Guy Garvey is back in the chair for his Sunday program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. Frequent visitors to this blog will know I savour Garvey’s program with its banter, visitor segments and musical selections, as well as the Song-for-Guy recommendations he features.

An artist Garvey first featured over a year ago is singer-songwriter Samantha Crain of Oklahoma, USA. As I tell in my February 24, 2020 post on her stunningly brilliant song “An Echo,” Sweety and I witnessed Crain perform when a Winnipeg, Canada treasure Scott Nolan brought Crain to town. They shared the playbill for a staggeringly beautiful concert at The Park Theatre.

On Garvey’s triumphant return this past Sunday, he again featured Crain, this time with a new song of hers, “Bloomsday.” Serendipitously, this new piece popped up on my YouTube feed today. It is one of two tracks that are already available from her upcoming EP, I Guess We Live Here Now, which she’ll release on April 9.

At first, I wondered if the song title was a homage to Irish author James Joyce (1882-1941), though my knowledge of him is so sparse I coudn’t tell if there was any relevance in the lyrics. (Bloomsday, which falls on June 16, is the day in 1904 chronicled in Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) and named after the book’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom.)

Thankfully, Crain writes on the Bandcamp page for the track, “This song is an anthem of sorts about the possibility of each new, seemingly meandering and unimportant day. I use the reference to Bloomsday, born from James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” as a substitute for any day, just a normal, nothing special, any day. The song is meant to inspire the agency we have over our participation in any day. Although it feels like much of the time we are being pulled along in life, we have the instrumentality to find within us light and belief.”

With its use of the familiar refrain from the famous Gospel song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” the song has a beautiful positivity about it, tempered with some light commentary on some of the shadow side of our society. Crain sings in a higher register and then drops low with wonderful effect. And the video, also directed by Crain, is lovely in depicting the mysterious unfolding of a twilight celebration.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the song, please pre-purchase the EP from Crain’s Bandcamp album page from USD 4.00 and up. You will not be disappointed.

Here’s the video for the song from Samantha Crain’s official YouTube channel, where she posted official lyrics in the notes section of the video post:

Can’t Let Go

This week, former Roxy Music founding member and frontperson Bryan Ferry released a live solo album, Royal Albert Hall 2020. The collection was recorded in London, England during the a world tour that was to be cut short soon after the UK shows due to the global pandemic.

Today, an email blast advertised that the proceeds of Royal Albert Hall 2020 sales are being shared equally among Ferry’s backing band and crew to support them. The 18-track album, which is currently charting highly in the UK, is only CAD 6.99, so I encourage folks to buy it to keep its popularity and sales up.

Last year, Ferry released a live album recorded at the same venue in 1974.

I haven’t listened to very much of this week’s release yet, but a few songs played in the car while I was out on an errand to pick up my freshly tuned-up road bike. So far, I like the album… though it was also a reminder of missing a rare stop by Ferry in Winnipeg, Canada, a few years ago. Ouch… that still hurts!

Ferry is one of my favourite male singers, both in his Roxy Music and solo phases. I’ve posted music of his before (please see my February 2020 post on “Oh Yeah.”). (And you don’t have to look too far to see music by his former bandmate Brian Eno, whether solo or in collaboration with several other artists like his brother Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois, with both Roger and Lanois, Talking Heads, U2 and others.)

During their 1982 tour, Roxy Music recorded the four-track live EP, The High Road, which they released in 1983:

Side one:
“Can’t Let Go” (written by Ferry)
“My Only Love” (Ferry)

Side two:
“Like a Hurricane” (by Neil Young, who’s getting a lot of indirect attention the blog, recently!)
“Jealous Guy” (John Lennon)

In my post on “Oh Yeah,” I talk more about the live album and receiving a vinyl copy from one of my sons for my birthday a few years ago.

The YouTube video I’m using for today’s post is an unofficial but YouTube-credited-to-the-artist upload of the entire EP. So with a visit to one post today, you get three bonus songs! I highly recommend listening to it, up to 27:50 when the EP ends (the last half of the video seems to be a partial duplication while ripping the recording). Ferry’s voice is top-notch, as are the backup singers, the band sounds fantastic, saxophonist Andy Mackay plays excellent solos, and lead guitarist Phil Manzanera absolutely shreds some very serious solos on each song. Fully air-guitar worthy. (Unfortunately, as it’s a longer video, you’ll have to put up with some ads unless you’re on YouTube Premium.)

I really wish the label would release that album for online purchase/download as it would be a very popular stream. I’d love to have a digital copy… as I said in the above-referenced post on Roxy Music (“Oh Yeah”), I think it’s one of the best concert performance recordings I’ve heard.

(As an aside, in that same “Oh Yeah” post from 2020, I referenced a local avant-garde band that a friend was a member of in the early 1980s, called A New Man Celebration. Last month, I received an email through the Contact tab on my website from the daughter of that former band’s singer, telling me she thought her dad was going to be very excited to know that his band had been talked about in the year 2020. How cool was that for her to reach out! We had a good discussion by email.)

Hearing Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music live performances makes me miss the big touring concerts, and who knows when those will start up again. Locally, some partial-capacity gigs are starting to happen, so I guess it will only be a matter of time. We all just need to be careful and stay safe until more of us can get vaccinated and eventually can resume large gatherings.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song (plus bonus songs) of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the four songs (“Can’t Let Go” ends at 5:32, and the EP ends at about 27:50; ignore the remainder!):

Full, unofficial lyrics for “Can’t Let Go” are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down

The often-reliable suggestions feed on my YouTube account today offered up the Annie Lennox cover of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” a song which appears in the 1999 film American Beauty (though it isn’t included on the official soundtrack).

The song is an excellent one. While I like Canadian-American singer, songwriter and musician Neil Young’s original, I find the layering of synthesizers on Lennox’s adds a great degree of depth and character to it. By the way, I’ve posted other Young compositions on this blog; if you check out my post on “Helpless” you’ll see a few; an original and covers.

The song comes from Annie Lennox’s 1995 album Medusa. Most of the all-covers album pieces are attributed to her and Stephen Lipson, an English producer, musician and songwriter who played guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and does keyboard programming. Plus, he co-produced the album.

The album received some pretty negative reviews; this perplexes me as I quite like the collection. I previously featured another track from it, The Blue Nile’s “Downtown Lights” (if you check out the post on that song, you’ll see links to a few other Lennox songs).

It’s interesting that in the first verse of today’s selection, Young uses the British English word “lorries” instead of the more common, North American “trucks,” but it works well when sung by the English contralto, don’t you think? The lyrics of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” tell of some discouraging things, but the chorus seems like a great mantra for our time:

“Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around”

(from “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” by Neil Young)

I interpret the words as saying, yeah, the world’s on fire and our societal systems don’t work anymore, but look for someone who’s heading in another direction and follow them; they’ve got a better way in mind, as it is time for change.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Annie Lennox’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11, II: Romanze-Larghetto

This week, my sweety and I finished watching a British detective program we’d started watching in mid-March. (And I promise, there are no spoiler alerts in this post, only information similar to what you’d find in the advert for the show.)

In the mini-series Collision (2009), Scottish actor Douglas Henshall plays the police detective-inspector leading a multiple-vehicle road collision. He’s someone we recognized (along with several other ITV and BBC series players in the show) from his detective role in Shetland (2013). In five episodes that feature flashbacks and flashes forward, Collision looks into the lives of a group of strangers involved in the crash.

It was nearly two weeks before we could watch the final episode, as I’d run out of free credits in my membership to Kanopy. It’s (yet another) video streaming service, but one that bills itself as “thoughtful entertainment.” Kanopy is available through many public libraries, colleges and universities (check to see if your library is a member!). There is a lot of terrific content in their digital collection, and one receives five free credits per month (some libraries offer up to ten). The downside is that if you find something outstanding that is a multiple-episode series, you’ll run into the same thing as us, as Kanopy doesn’t allow one to buy extra credits. I think that would be a worthwhile option.

During the closing scene of the final episode of Collision, a piano concerto played as the soundtrack. Sweety said to me, “Can you find out what that is? That’s got to be your song of the day this Sunday!” So I backed up the play and Shazamed it, learning it was the second movement from the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Opus 11 by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). It is a perfect piece for the mood and context of the scene.

Chopin is a favourite. I’ve featured works by him before on this blog: a ballade, a larghetto (from his second piano concerto) and, last week for World Piano Day, a nocturne… please check out those linked posts; the pieces are beautiful, as is today’s selection.

The miracle of Shazam told me that Portuguese-Swiss pianist Maria João Pires performed the piece on her 1979 album, Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2. Searching for Pires on YouTube, I found the same version, in which the Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo, conducted by Armin Jordan (1932-2006, of Switzerland), was her accompaniment.

And, as I sit here, I can hear birds chirping since the front door is open so that Perry Como the Inside Cat can go watch them from the safety of the screened porch after pursuing rabbits and squirrels from window to window all winter. So, I think I’ll leave it there for now and join him in enjoying this Easter Sunday afternoon. Have a wonderful day!

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Maria João Pires YouTube topic channel:

Disappearer

Recently, a friend shared on Facebook that she introduced her son to the music of the American post-punk, “no wave” band, Sonic Youth.

Guitarist and singer Thurston Moore formed the group in New York City, New York, USA, in 1980. Then, following the breakdown of his marriage with bassist and singer Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth played their final shows in 2011. While active, they compiled an impressive discography (according to Wikipedia): 15 studio albums, four compilations, six video albums, 46 music videos, 8 EPs, 21 singles, and they appeared on eight bootlegs and 16 soundtracks. Also, they released ten albums under Sonic Youth Recordings, a label they created to work with themselves and others.

The indie rock band was active during my younger adulthood, and while knowing of them, I never followed them. I don’t think I knew any of their songs. I consider myself eclectic in my music tastes, but there are so many bands I’ve never heard of, or just never listened to. Sometimes I think this might be a good reason for subscribing to a streaming service like Apple Music, as the service “learns” one’s taste and offers similar music by many different artists. So it would be a great way to discover, though as I’ve said many times on this blog, I’m concerned about the meagre payments-per-play from streaming services to musicians. That said, it’s also true that buying doesn’t always get a lot of money to the artists unless buying directly from them… it’s a conundrum. But I digress.

Back to the band, my friend posted the song she used to orient her son to Sonic Youth: the music video for “Disappearer,” which seemed an ideal place for me to start, so I checked out the video, and that’s what I’m sharing today. It’s kind of campy, like a B-movie, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a catchy tune, and I’ll probably try to learn more about their music.

The song comes from their sixth album, Goo, released in 1990.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Sonic Youth’s official VEVO / YouTube channel (warning… there are a few short bits with strobe lights):

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Crazy Lowdown Ways

Happy Friday!

This afternoon, I was looking for a song with a Friday kind of beat. Then as I scrolled down my YouTube feed, it serendipitously served up the suggestion of the Birmingham, England band Ocean Colour Scene’s “Crazy Lowdown Ways.”

I’ve featured the group once before; please see my post on their song, “Up on the Downside.”

“Crazy Lowdown Ways,” released in 2001, did not appear on a studio album but appeared on the compilation Anthology (2003). Apparently, it was their worst-charting single, which has me shaking my head a little.

The song has a rollicking, exuberant beat and melody with a touch of psychedelia in the bridge, though the lyrics seem to tell the story of discord in a relationship. But life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it? We celebrate one thing, then in another part of our life, there’s a heavy burden, so we put on brave faces and push through, sometimes in silence or alone. It’s best if we can open up to family and friends in those times, but not everyone has connections like that. And that’s made things much harder for some folks during the pandemic.

I like that the song seems to end on a promising note and wish you all a happy, hopeful weekend without any crazy, lowdown ways to endure.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Ocean Colour Scene’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of Genius.com.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Some months back, I listened to an episode of Irish actor and music aficionado Cillian Murphy’s BBC 6 Music guest host program (“Volume 6: Music for After Dark,” from November 23, 2020).

Murphy has sat in on Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour when the Elbow frontperson has been away touring or recording, and I often enjoy Murphy’s eclectic musical choices and his stories about the songs, told in his strong Irish accent.

One such piece from that November playlist was “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” the title track from the English indie rock band Arctic Monkeys’ sixth album, released in 2018.

Hobbled by writer’s block after the release of the band’s previous album, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, singer and album songwriter/co-producer Alex Turner eventually took inspiration from science fiction and writer’s block references in the 1963 film, 12, by Italian director Federico Fellini (1920-1993).

In the official music video, Turner plays “Mark,” the hotel’s receptionist, and the song’s chorus is his telephone greeting. The video is bold and audacious, complementing themes of excess, technology, science fiction and consumerism, as well as the casino resort lifestyle. The album falls into several sub-genres, including glam rock, space pop, psychedelic pop and lounge pop, and has some jazz influences and references to the Apollo 11 landing site, Tranquility Base. The instrumentation and production are brilliant, well worth popping on headphones or earbuds to catch all the elements of the soundscape. The bass line is particularly good.

There is a lengthy, informative Wikipedia article about the album that I recommend reading if you’re interested in the band.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the Official Arctic Monkeys YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Guttersnipe

So, what’s a guttersnipe?

That’s what I wondered the first time I heard this song on KEXP Seattle some time ago, before listening closely to the lyrics. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it (concisely) as a “street urchin,” and Merriam-Webster says it means “1: a homeless vagabond and especially an outcast boy or girl in the streets of a city (and) 2: a person of the lowest moral or economic station.”

Either way, it’s not an enviable position. The official music video for Bhi Bhiman’s song illustrates this starkly, with film footage of people and rudimentary housing adjacent to India’s railways, a scene played out in many places worldwide.

“Guttersnipe” was the lead single on American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman’s second album, BHIMAN, released in 2012.

The song tells a heartbreaking story from the perspective of a child living in homelessness; an existence too many of our world’s young people face. I find such a deep contrast to the joyful celebration of equality in the ancient festival of Holi, which I described in my post a couple of days ago on “The Course.” However, the video also shows people going about their daily lives, persevering and often in joyful companionship.

In a similar kind of balance, the child tells of the challenges of living in homelessness, expressing gratitude for some of the simple needs met in that reality. The second verse sums this up beautifully: “I’ve been to Juarez, I been to Houston, Baton Rouge / I got some good friends, some folks to really help me through / I’ve been all over, I spend my time just like I do / I stay out of trouble, but it’s got a way of finding you…

“Guttersnipe” has a rolling melody and simple beat (and a superb bass line), evocative of a slow railway journey. Some of the words express appreciation for experiencing the ride: “I’m just a vagabond, I live to see the light of dawn / The train beats a rhythm, and I love to sing along…”

The song reminds me of the many factors contributing to a comfortable life for me versus the grinding poverty endured by others. It also recalls the resilience I’ve observed encountering people bearing the harshness of life on the streets in my own city.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the video from Bhi Bhiman’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of Genius.com.

The Man Who Told Everything

One of the greatest honours in life is to be in a place where you feel welcome to speak your truth.

Sometimes that truth is what people want to hear, and sometimes not. Telling a difficult truth can shake things up, which can be hazardous when some are invested in keeping the status quo alive, especially in large organizations but really in any relationship, collective or community. Just the other day, I was thinking about this and, serendipitously while searching for a song to feature today, I landed on “The Man Who Told Everything,” by the Manchester, England band Doves, from their debut album, Lost Souls (2000).

Without speaking our truths, we are not authentic, and being inauthentic can eat away at one’s sense of self and of right and wrong. Today, I was in two meetings where authenticity was welcomed and encouraged. It is a refreshing place to be, after not always feeling free to experience life in that way.

Mind you, the risk in stepping out with a contrary view is not always welcome, and that can be scary when safety and security are priorities, especially if the group’s leaders are not virtuous.

In the song “The Man Who Told Everything,” the central character is preparing to tell a big story to the media. He knows it is the right thing to do as he infers harm has been done in the past.

“The Man Who Told Everything” has a somewhat melancholy tone to it, as though the character is aware that he will lose connections by doing the right thing. The repeated, closed high-hat cymbal drumming seems to mark the time toward the approaching event, and there are distorted sounds here and there like the haunting of self-doubt, right up to the end of the piece. (A one minute, forty-five second track, “Reprise,” revisits the song’s guitar riff and distortion later in the album; truth doesn’t go away.)

There is often a price to pay for taking the moral high ground, and the character knows it. But in moving ahead and embracing his true self, he is seeing blue skies, maybe for the first time. There’s a beauty in that.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Doves’ official YouTube channel, where the entire album is presented as a playlist:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

The Course

Today I’m sharing a folk song I heard during an online gathering over a month ago and which has stayed with me since.

“The Course” is a stirring, soulful anthem by Ayla Nereo, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, dancer and filmmaker from northeastern California, USA. The song evokes, for me, a sense of fellowship and the togetherness that comes from sharing joys, sorrows, tasks and burdens. It also reminds me of the mantra a wise old friend has often said about being part of a community: “chop wood, carry water.”

Who’ll fetch the water? 
will it be your great grand-daughter 
my darling 
who’ll fetch the water? 

What will be it’s course 
from the source how will it find us 
my darling 
what’ll be the course? 

and who will call the rain 
feel it fallin’ to our skin 
from a welling deep within 
who’ll call the rain? 

and who’ll strike the drum 
when our thundering heartbeat needs it 
when the feet gotta pray it down 
who’ll beat the ground? 

who will speak in truth 
and where will they walk it, show us 
how my darling 
who’ll sow the truth 

and where from will it bloom 
to the story as we shape it 
for each other, brother sister 
what we choose 

this breath we been given 
this life we are tending 
this garden we are seeding 
for the ones yet to come 

Oh who will fetch the water 
will it be your great grand-daughter 
my darling 
who’ll fetch the water? 

I’ll fetch the water 
And I will be the course 
and I will call the rain 
I will call the rain

(“The Course,” by Ayla Nereo)

I listened to the song after morning rituals of playing with and feeding Perry Como the cat (in answer to his loud, persistent calls to honour his morning routines!) and making a cup of coffee to savour while journaling. After the song, it was time for our three-times-a-week online practice with Padma Meditation, then right after that, a decision point about riding outdoors or on the indoor trainer. The temperature went unseasonably high today, +19°C (66°F) but the wind was 40 kilometres per hour (27 mph) gusting to 60 kph (37 mph) when I checked. Headwinds and crosswinds are not that appealing or safe on city roads that are still full of spring thaw potholes and sand that’s hazardous for sudden turns, and such winds are particularly tricky when being passed by those few drivers who don’t give much space for safety. So I rode inside, safely connected in the online Zwift.com community in an event with 2,779 other riders from around the world, many of whom were quite chatty, making the near-hour ride go by quickly. (By the way, the weather is making a massive turn as I write: howling winds, with possible rain and/or blowing snow overnight and a windchill of -17°C or 1°F. Yikes.)

Twice during my bike trainer ride, the Public Service Broadcasting piece “Go!” came on my iPhone on random play (once was the studio version, the second was a live recording; please see my post on the song). As the music approaches a crescendo when Commander Neil Armstrong declares, “Tranquility Base here; the Eagle has landed,” I feel a rush of emotion and inspiration at the incredible technology that, in 1969, took humans to the moon and brought them back safely. In that same moment in the music, I also recall what English musician Roger Eno has said about that time in history and the hope the moon landings raised for peace and harmony back here on Earth, which sadly did not come about (this is mentioned in a post on the Apollo 11- inspired “An Ending (Ascent).” Those hoped-for connections still elude our world because of the desperate grasping of the few, for power and riches, at the expense of so many others.

Later this afternoon, Sweety and I walked to The Forks National Site, where we sat and enjoyed a beer outdoors, just before the wind started picking up again. Then back home, I had a Zoom call with a friend. And interspersed among all the day’s events were several connections and interactions with dear ones near and far.

Throughout the day, I’ve marvelled at how we as a human race have developed so many tools and technologies for connecting with others when we cannot be physically near them. Through the pandemic, those have been literal lifelines and have helped nurture and maintain longstanding relationships, as well as encouraging new ones.

This week, many parts of the world pause from routines to connect in various ways to mark occasions like spring break or religious observances, including Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover. And, as my sweety and I learned in our meditation session this morning, there is also Holi, a spring celebration observed mainly by Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist people, also known as the Festival of Love or Festival of Spring. A visible aspect of the celebration is a kind of free-for-all where coloured powders and water are splashed all over people. A philosophy behind this, as Padma explained today, is that the festival of colour makes everyone appear the same, whether rich or poor, powerful or not. It sounds like a messy delight, and our faithful and wise guide recommends wearing old clothes!

“Holi | Festival of Colors 2014” (at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork, Utah, USA). Photo © 2014 Steven Gerner.
Used with gratitude under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sgerner/13896645072/.

Whatever our traditions, rituals and ceremonies, our celebrations continue to be different during the pandemic as the world remains in varying degrees of lockdowns or restrictions on gathering. But as more people become vaccinated (a little over 60,000 people ahead of me now, in our province), the flame of hope is flickering a little brighter.

Despite all these celebrations, we haven’t yet arrived at world peace. But each of us can go “fetch the water” needed to sustain us and all that exists in our living world, and slowly build harmony. That’s something we can do for each other, and something we all do each time we reach out and make life-giving connections.

Who’ll fetch the water?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

“The Course” is the closing track on Nereo’s 2016 album, The Code of the Flowers, which you can buy from her Bandcamp album page.

Here’s the audio from the Jumpsuit Records official YouTube channel:

Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23

Happy World Piano Day!

Today, I saw a post by the record label Deutsche Grammophon on their YouTube channel, celebrating the day. I’ve already featured a couple of their pianists, so I thought I would look for another soloist’s performance in the suggested videos sidebar.

I found one of Russian-German pianist Olga Scheps playing the magnificent Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 23 by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). Chopin began composing the piece in sketches in 1831 and completed it in 1835.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that listening to music is life-giving for me. Watching people play musical instruments is a real joy, too, particularly the piano, as the performers’ complex movements across the keyboard look magical to me. Scheps’ playing is truly stunning in this piece, and the multi-angle shooting of the video provides excellent views of her handiwork.

The ballade is a central piece in the Roman Polanski film, The Pianist (2002) and is featured in several other movies. It is an incredible piece of music.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of the piece being performed during a 2015 recital at the Staatstheater Darmstadt, in Hesse, Germany, from Olga Scheps’ official YouTube channel:

Sandman’s Dust

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, my sweety and I have numerous friends in Colorado, USA. We all hold heavy hearts at the senseless killing of ten women and men at a grocery store in the city of Boulder on Monday.

Sweety and I spoke with some of our folk today and in the time together, all kinds of emotions arose while thinking of the people whose lives were taken; stolen from them and all those who knew and loved them.

Also, today, I was introduced to some music written and performed by a Michigan, USA singer-songwriter, educator, activist and cultural worker, Seth Bernard. His song “Sandman’s Dust” is the perfect accompaniment by which to think of the time with friends today, a time that ended with feelings of gratitude and hope.

In addition to his work as a musician, Bernard founded Earthwork Music, for “community healing through collective musicianship,” and Title Track, which engages “creative practice to build resilient social-ecological systems that support clean water, racial equity, and youth empowerment.” He is also involved in many other community projects.

Bernard is a man I’d like to get to know. I share his love for music, and admire his passion for making the world a better place; the planet and all that lives on it. I’m glad to have learned of his music and other work.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it to support the artist who created it. Like Guy Garvey of Elbow will say when back to hosting his program Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, “… don’t stream it for a pittance… buy the recording so the musicians can make more!

“Sandman’s Dust” comes from Bernard’s 2020 album, Let Love Light the Way. You can purchase the song and album from his Bandcamp page, where he has several albums and singles for sale. His music can also be found on Apple Music and Spotify.

Here’s the music video for “Sandman’s Dust” from the Earthwork Music YouTube channel:

Official lyrics are available on the artist’s website.

Hope of a Lifetime

Some time ago during a visit to my family doctor, he and I talked about our mutual love for music. A group he highly recommended for me to listen to was The Milk Carton Kids, a folk duo out of Eagle Rock, California, USA.

Singer-songwriters and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan came together at a time when their solo careers weren’t going anywhere, and they soon discovered how well they played off each other, their collaboration creating a sum greater than its parts. They’ve made eight albums I could identify (and a concert DVD accompaniment to one) plus several singles. It’s notable that they released their first two albums, Retrospect (as Pattengale and Ryan) and Prologue (as The Milk Carton Kids), both in 2011, without charge though the free downloads are no longer available on their website.

The Kids’ melodies are soft and pleasing, and their harmonies are beautiful. Their style has been compared to Simon & Garfunkel, the Jayhawks and the Everly Brothers. My sweety and I both think they sound similar to the former folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

“Hope of a Lifetime” was the opening song from a 2013 concert at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, recorded live and released as the album Live From Lincoln Theatre (2014). The song showcases the exceptional talent of these two men.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of the performance from the ANTI- Records official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com. They also appear as the first comment under the video post.

You can also view the whole concert on the same channel:

Home to You

The last live, in-person music show my sweety and I saw was just over a year ago: March 6, 2020. And it was a house concert… in our home!

Canadian alternative/indie singer-songwriter Danielle Dayton added our address to a tour of Saskatchewan and Manitoba promoting the release of her single, “Lady Luck.” The bluesy-styled artist is based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Our house show sold out, and everyone comfortably squeezed into our space had a fantastic time. Our lad Kieran played the opening set, then after a break, Dayton and her bassist Ryan Holmes played and sang for over an hour. Earlier in the day they toured the city, had dinner with us before the show, and were our guests overnight. After they left the next day to continue their tour, Sweety and I stayed in touch and watched one or two of Dayton’s pandemically-inspired couch concerts back in Edmonton.

We had some nurses in the house for the show, and I was all about impressing them with my “strong recommendations” for hand/cough/etc. hygiene around the snack table, half-joking that I didn’t want our home to be the epicentre of an outbreak. (It wasn’t.) But one week after the show, everything in Winnipeg locked down to prevent the spread of the virus. Manitoba fared very well in the first wave, having just over 300 coronavirus cases in total. But then, all hell broke loose in the fall.

Several days ago, I noticed Dayton released a new single, “Home to You.” While many of us have picked up new hobbies and activities to pass the time at home during the pandemic, it’s clear Dayton has been busy honing her songwriting and singing. There’s a real maturity in and depth to her voice in this song, and the piano really sets the mood of the piece, which her website describes as “a beautifully epic and heart-wrenching ballad that provides a moment of escape and reminds us to go a little easier on ourselves.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official lyric video from Danielle Dayton’s YouTube channel:

While you’re there, check out her other singles on the channel.

And, this beautiful song is available for purchase from CAD 1.00 and up, from the Danielle Dayton Bandcamp page. I encourage you to buy it and add a few dollars to your price to support a talented Canadian musician; after all, it’s not like we can go out to a show, or a house concert (yet).

Monsters

Band of Horses is a group I just added to my shopping list the next Bandcamp Friday (April 2), along with First Aid Kit and Elephant Revival.

It is always more advantageous to artists if you buy music directly from them at shows or from their web stores. But the latter is not always practical, especially with shipping costs. In such cases I think I will buy more music from Bandcamp as, from what I have been able to discern, the site may pay more money to artists than other sellers. Bandcamp offers several download options (including lossless formats) and their files are easily added to the Apple Music app library. Plus, of course, Bandcamp Fridays, when all of a purchase, other than payment processing fees, goes to the publisher/artist.

But, back to Band of Horses. Lead singer and lyricist Ben Bridwell formed the indie rock group in Seattle, Washington, USA in 2004. Around 2007, Bridwell moved the touring band to Charleston, South Carolina to be near his family. While to date, I’ve only posted one of their songs, “On My Way Back Home,” from their 2010 album Infinite Arms, I’ve listened to much of their music and recently and really like the group’s sound and vibe. They have released five albums, the latest of which is Why Are You OK (2016).

After cruising around on YouTube looking for a song for today, I somehow landed on the audio for “Monsters” from their debut album, Everything All the Time (2006). It’s an intriguing song about the problems and challenges we tamp down or, as the song says, put up in a tree to hide them. But not dealing with our issues won’t make them go away; often, it makes them worse, and they can become like monsters, consuming us.

A tree for all these problems
They can’t find you for the moment
Then for all past efforts
They’re buried deep beneath
Your heart and somewhere in your stomach

And hatred for all others
When awful people, they surround you
Well, ain’t they just like monsters
They come to feed on me
Giant little animals to feed

Though to say we got much hope
If I am lost, it’s only for a little while, oh

A tree for all these problems
They can’t find us for the moment
Then for all past efforts
They’re buried deep beneath
Our hearts and somewhere in our stomachs

And hatred for all others
When awful people they surround you
Well ain’t they just like monsters
They come to feed on us
Giant little animals for us

Though to say we got much hope
If I am lost it’s only for a little while
Though to say we got much hope
If I am lost it’s only for a little while, oh

If I am lost, it’s only for a little while
If I am lost, it’s only for a little while

(“Monsters,” by Ben Bridwell, Mat Brooke, Chris Early, Tim Meinig.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com.)

The song has a spirited, charming vocal by Bridwell and a beautifully layered guitar/banjo section. It’s delightful to listen to, as I’m finding with almost every piece of theirs I hear.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from the Everything All the Time album page on Bandcamp:

I Grieve

Late last evening, after a full and busy day that ran well into the evening, I was unaware of the shooting in Boulder, Colorado, USA, until a near-bedtime visit to Facebook told me a friend there had checked in as safe during a major public crisis.

No doubt that message, and all it meant, was a large part of what led to a restless night, which continued with deeply held concern this morning as more details of the killings became known, and it became more “real” to the world and me.

This morning I saw another one of my people “checked in” as safe. And later in the morning, seeing the list of names of the dead told me I knew none of those whose lives were taken in those moments. But I don’t yet know how many of my Colorado friends are affected; and, really, not knowing the people doesn’t make it any less tragic. It’s just incredibly and profoundly sad. So, to answer my own question, they are all affected. We are all affected. The mass shooting in Boulder is, I believe, a symptom of the hate and confusion that is so insidious in our world, and of the things that need brave, intentional action if we are to change the sad patterns of the past and present.

The event also reopens memories of the deep, life-altering experience of having close friends live the agony of their dear daughter being murdered in a similar, senseless act of mass violence, years ago.

In Peter Gabriel’s song “I Grieve,” there are several helpful lines for a time like this; they help articulate the feelings and point out that life does go on… very differently, of course, for those involved, affected, witnessing, experiencing…

“It was only one hour ago
It was all so different then
There’s nothing yet has really sunk in
Looks like it always did…”

* * *

“Life carries on
in the people I meet
In everyone that’s out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
In the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on…”

(excerpts from “I Grieve,” by Peter Gabriel)

Last night and through today and this evening, I was grateful… grateful to have another day to connect with several of my Boulder-and-vicinity folk, to share our feelings about the tragedy, and to talk about what life moving on looks like.

“I Grieve” comes from Gabriel’s 13th album, Up, released in 2002. (I previously posted the song, “Growing Up” from the same album.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio of the song from Peter Gabriel’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

With love,

Steve

Always Returning

After a wonderful morning that began with a delicious cup of coffee and then went on to reading, journaling, meditation, some music and a moderate bike ride early this afternoon, I’m resting before meeting a friend at Canadian Blood Services. We are former colleagues and haven’t seen each other in a long time, so we booked our blood donation appointments next to each other’s to have a bit of time to catch up.

I started looking for a relaxing piece to share and landed on “Always Returning” from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (the original 1983 release by Eno, his brother Roger, and Daniel Lanois).

“Always Returning,” the second-last track on the album, has a pleasing, uncomplicated melody. One of the synthesizer loops has a sound somewhat like a flute. The piece has a quality of floating to it, which for me recalls the romanticizing of space travel, as well as the incredible vistas astronauts witness and share from the International Space Station, flying 350 kilometres (220 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

It seems like there’s a current of hopefulness and contentment running in the music; feelings one gets when, after a long, tiring trip, approaching the familiar landmarks of home. As excited as space travellers would be, I’m sure they experience similar feelings, though there must also be feelings of not wanting such a spectacular journey to end.

The title also makes me think of where we often are in life… we venture out and return home; we experience loss but return to joy and gratitude after a time; we sometimes let each other down, but there can also be forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Trois Gymnopédies: No. 1, Lent et douloureux

I don’t know much about the music of French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). But there’s one work of his I am quite familiar with, The Gymnopédies or Trois Gymnopédies, a set of three piano pieces he completed in 1888. 

Many of you may know the Gymnopédies: No. 1, and if you don’t think so, listen; you most likely will remember having heard it in a film, a restaurant, or someplace. The piece is dreamy and atmospheric, wonderfully calming and evocative of beauty. I found it online while working on a post earlier this week.

The title of the work comes from the Greek gymnopaedia, a yearly celebration where naked youths would perform war dances to demonstrate athletic prowess. The image of that doesn’t really mesh with the music, I’d have to say…

I’ve chosen two videos today; one is a lovely performance by French pianist Anne Queffélec. The other is an arrangement for chamber orchestra, violin, bassoon, and oboe, featuring English classical and jazz soloist Nigel Kennedy playing with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Paul Barritt.

In the late 1980s, I saw Kennedy perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; I believe it was early in his classical music career. His playing was outstanding, and he had such a stage presence, rather a bit like a rock star without going over the top. I remember him enthusiastically playing an encore with and making a friendly connection as he introduced one of the double bass players, Graeme Mudd, who is now with the Calgary Symphony Orchestra.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of the piano version from the Anne Queffélec YouTube topic channel:  

And, the chamber orchestra arrangement from the Nigel Kennedy YouTube topic channel:

From a Distance

In my post on Snow Patrol’s song “Shut Your Eyes,” I discussed the Apple Music app’s Genius playlists that find pieces compatible with a single song choice.

It seems like the last few Saturdays, I’ve launched the playlist based on Teddy Thompson’s “In My Arms.” It’s a great collection of 25 songs (with the option to expand to 50, 75 or 100) by a wide variety of artists, and, yes, they’re all compatible.

One of the songs is “From a Distance,” a composition by American singer-songwriter Julie Gold. A friend of Gold’s introduced it to fellow American singer, songwriter and guitarist Nanci Griffith, whose version on the album The MCA Years: A Retrospective my sweety and I have listened to many times over the years, and still love.

There’s a line in the song, “From a distance, you look like my friend / Even though we are at war…” which always reminds me of a friend who, in the early 1990s, was treated unjustly by an employer. The song must have played during a visit, though I can’t recall who was singing it. (It wasn’t Griffith, as Sweety and I heard her cover many years later after we got together and she “discovered” Griffith.) I also don’t remember if the specific lyric was discussed at the time, but I think so. I do remember it was difficult for us as friends to see this person suffer a power imbalance that the employer took advantage of. Not the first time it’s happened to someone I know, and it probably won’t be the last; but still, so unnecessary and unfair.

Today’s selection is the fourth recording of Griffith’s I’ve featured. Others have been “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” (the song with which my sweety introduced me to Griffith’s music), “Late Night Grande Hotel” (which is on our wedding CD), and “Deadwood, South Dakota.” All fantastic songs by a gifted artist with a beautiful voice. She’s also one of those performers who sometimes spends several minutes introducing a piece, as she does in “Deadwood, South Dakota,” among many others.

“From a Distance” is full of hope and tells of many beautiful aspects in our world, though as mentioned, it brings in the shadow side, too. It’s wonderful, moving and authentic.

Other singers who have covered the song include Bette Midler and Cliff Richard.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Nanci Griffith YouTube topic channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Emmylou

I first featured the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit and their song “Cedar Lane” during my initial week of posts on this website in early January 2020.

Since then, I’ve continued to hear the duo on numerous web radio stations and through random YouTube servings of suggested videos. I have grown to love their music, with such compositions as “Fireworks” and other originals, plus their covers of famous songs.

Today while I was looking at their YouTube channel, I found a live performance of the piece they wrote to honour the inspiration they, as young singer-songwriters, took from greats like Emmylou Harris. In the video, they perform the song at the 2015 Polaris Music Prize gala in Stockholm, Sweden. During their introduction of the song, Johanna Söderberg says the piece is about the joy and magic of singing with one you love; then Klara humbly declares they never expected they’d be singing it in the presence of award laureate Harris herself (whom I have featured in her trio performance with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, and linked to her trio with Daniel Lanois and Willie Nelson within a post on a song by Lanois).

Like all First Aid Kit’s work, today’s selection contains lovely harmonies and it is a pleasure to hear (and see) them perform it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from First Aid Kit’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of the good folks at AZLyrics.com.

Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya

Last night as I lay in bed at 1:00 am, unable to get to sleep (the change to daylight savings time always messes me up), the song “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” randomly popped into my head. I have no idea why.

The song was the only major hit for New England, a group discovered by Bill Aucoin (1943-2010), the manager of the American band Kiss. New England’s 1979 debut album was recorded and produced by Kiss frontperson Paul Stanley and Mike Stone (who worked with Queen, Asia, Kiss, Foreigner and others).

Several of my schoolmates were big fans of Kiss, but I never really got into the band. We all enjoyed the New England album though I don’t think any of us followed their career.

I learned today that New England later worked with Todd Rundgren as producer, but the band could never replicate the success of “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya.” They were active from 1978 to 1982, then reunited in 2002 and have gotten together again several times for one-off shows and recordings.

In a 2014 interview in the online music publication Sound of Boston, the band described their sound as “power-melodic-orchestrated-song-oriented rock.” Indeed.

With its theme of the writer waiting for his love to drive home during a rainstorm, “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” evokes memories of adolescent insecurity and the accompanying helplessness and fear of loss symbolized in the song. With uncomplicated lyrics (only two main verses and a chorus that is multiple repeats of the title), there is poignancy in its simplicity. Plus, some pretty rocking guitar riffs supported by the keyboards and rhythm section.

You’re driving home in a downpour
Can’t wait for you to walk through the door
The rain is beating on my brain
As the look on my face stays the same

Don’t ever wanna lose ya (x3)

And when I hear a speedy siren
My heart gets so still just like dying
Do anything to get you home safe
Where could you be it’s getting so late

Don’t ever wanna lose ya (x3)

You’re driving home in a downpour
Can’t wait for you to walk through the door

Don’t ever wanna lose ya (repeats)

(“Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya,” by John Fannon)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the New England YouTube topic channel:

Long in the Tooth

Today I decided to cruise around the KEXP Seattle website, and looked through their Song of the Day feature. I clicked on October 1, 2020; I suppose drawn in by the name “Long in the Tooth,” a song chosen by DJ John Richards, host of The Morning Show with John Richards. The track title was a reminder I have a second COVID-19 birthday coming up next month. Another year older… that sure beats the alternative!

“Long in the Tooth” comes from the 2020 album of the same name by The Budos Band, an instrumental group from Staten Island, New York, USA. They describe themselves as a “doom rock Afro-soul big band with a ’70s touch.” Their biography on the online music database AllMusic says, “Their multivalent approach bridges musical universes from trippy psychedelia and Afro-funk to ’70s hard rock and late-’60s soul. Their choreographed stage show is at once intense, spontaneous, humorous, and geared toward audience participation.”

The Budos Band sounds like a fantastic act to see performing live. But for now, we’re limited to listening to music at home and occasionally finding and enjoying music videos that captured past live performances. Only now do we appreciate just how vital such concert archives are until we can gather again for live shows.

I don’t listen to many instrumental groups, but I was glad to discover this piece serendipitously. I believe I have heard other pieces of theirs on KEXP.

The track, particularly the saxophone part, reminds me of a piece on a mixtape a friend made up for me in the 1980s. I can’t recall the song name, but I will have to dig that tape out and figure out which one from it today’s selection brought to mind.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Daptone Records’ official YouTube channel:

Speaking of live performance videos, I didn’t find one for today’s selection, but here is The Budos Band playing four other pieces live on KEXP in 2019.

The Last Exit

The few songs I know by the British/American band Still Corners all have an aspect of long-distance driving… and apparently, that’s not by accident…

Such was the case for “The Trip” (from their 2013 album Strange Pleasures), the only other song of theirs that I’ve posted. I like hearing that song when I’m in the first few minutes of a long indoor bike trainer ride, and I smile at the line, “So many miles… Away…” as it feels like some gentle motivation.

Likewise, on the road trip front, the song “The Last Exit” (from the 2021 dream pop album of the same name) and its official music video depict a woman in a classic sports car on a remote stretch of highway in Joshua Tree National Park in California, USA. The band’s YouTube video notes section explains that this is the last song of their Road Trilogy, which, by coincidence, began with “The Trip,” something I hadn’t known when first getting to know that song and later posting it here on the blog.

“The Last Exit” seems to me to be about one who is returning from a journey of introspection, having gone through a period of feeling lost in darkness and probably carrying burdens from the past. The optimistic part of me thinks the ending is about coming home to a relationship that the woman left in the second part of the trilogy, “The Message” (from 2018’s Slow Air album, a song with a vibe that reminds me of the soundtrack from the 1980s Twin Peaks TV series). But maybe the woman is coming home to herself, the one she discovered in her soul work out on the open road. Either way, hopefully she is arriving at a better place.

I find “The Trip” to be the trilogy’s lighter song, though they all have Still Corners’ trademark dreamy sound. As does their label Sub Pop, the band does an outstanding job of their YouTube posts, providing all the relevant links to buy or stream the album/song, descriptions about the song/video, and even the official lyrics, which I like to include in my posts.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Still Corners’ YouTube channel. The band says in the notes that Australian director Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock inspired their video.

Vincent

The American singer-songwriter Don McLean is likely best known for his hit song “American Pie,” but one of his most remarkable compositions has to be “Vincent,” which came from the same album, American Pie (1971).

Often misidentified by its opening refrain, “Starry, starry night…” “Vincent” is a beautiful, poignant homage to the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, his art, and tortured state of mental health. Recently a family member forwarded a video that compiled many of Van Gogh’s paintings as backdrops for a presentation of the song’s lyrics. I find the simulated active typing of the lyrics to be a distraction, but other videos had similar pitfalls in either sound quality or getting overly creative with animation.

Both my sweety and I have been in contemplative moods after listening to the music today.

While looking for a link to the video presentation, I also found a cover version by Lianne La Havas (who I featured only a few days ago with her song, “Weird Fishes”). Her version was used in the soundtrack for the 2017 animated experimental film Loving Vincent. While a unique and likeable interpretation, I prefer the tempo, sound and the mood evoked by McLean’s original studio recording.

For me, the song is also a reminder of the cruelty that pervades society, often directed at people because of their social standings, abilities, illnesses or other visible (or invisible but identifiable) qualities. In the case of mental health, the lack of proper supports or even basic acceptance set some people apart instead of helping and integrating them into a caring and civil society. As I said in Saturday’s post, we all belong, in the coat of many colours that is this world.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Don McLean’s official YouTube channel:

Plus, a live version recorded in Austin, Texas, USA in 1999:

And the Lianne La Havas cover, from the Milan Records YouTube channel:

And, finally, the video compilation a relative shared with us.

If you would like to follow the lyrics but not the lyric video version, they are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin, and Violoncello, Op. 100, II: Andante con moto

Today I found a mix set of classical music videos on YouTube that contained several pieces I’ve already featured on my Classical Sunday posts.

Also on that list was a piece by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), the second movement (Andante con moto) from his Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin, and Violoncello. It’s not a piece I remembered by name, but as soon as I started the video, I recognized it as music that was prominent in the Stanley Kubrick period epic, Barry Lyndon (1975), with Marisa Berenson and Ryan O’Neal, and Tony Scott’s 1983 erotic horror film The Hunger, with Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie (1947-2016).

Schubert completed the trio in 1827, and it was published shortly before his death the following year. I think the piece’s dramatic theme works well in both the mid-1700s setting of Barry Lyndon and the modern timeframe of The Hunger, adding much to the sombre moods and visual landscapes of each film.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for from the J. Hanck Production YouTube channel. It is a live performance in 2016 by members of Les Déconcertants, Paris, France: Julien Hanck, piano; Ambroise Aubrun, violin; and Maëlle Vilbert, cello, at Cathédrale Sainte-Croix des Arméniens, Paris.

Coat of Many Colors

American singer-songwriter, author, actor and philanthropist Dolly Parton has been in the news recently. She donated USD one million for research into COVID-19 vaccines and recently celebrated her vaccination. But true to her style, Parton deferred her own jab until others received it.

During her rise to popularity in the 1970s, I remember it was more Parton’s appearance and country charm that she first became known for. But over the years, she has earned a reputation for her depth of personality and as a kind, gracious and generous soul, in addition to being a brilliant and talented artist.

This morning, I stumbled upon an early recording of hers and as my sweety came downstairs while it played she murmured softly, “Mmmm, love Dolly Parton.” (The same reaction I witnessed some time back when posting a piece about Parton, along with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris covering Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”)

In “Coat of Many Colors,” Parton writes of her mother making a fall coat for her as a young girl, though the mother made it from many scraps of different-coloured cloth as the family lived in poverty. Parton sings with pride about her coat of many colours, which she loved and needed for cold weather. However, the other side of the narrative is how her peers cruelly shamed and ridiculed her for wearing it.

For me, that’s symbolic of a lot of what’s happening in the world nowadays. In a time when many traditionally marginalized or ostracized groups are rightly demanding freedom, fairness and inclusion in society, those in dark corners of the Internet see the rising up and celebration of such people as threats. These “keyboard warriors” propagate toxic untruths or make memes to poke fun. And don’t get me wrong… not all memes are bad. Some can be self-deprecating and clever, but others, crude and cruel, deliberately shaming and ridiculing those who take courageous stands against being mistreated for sexual and gender identities, racial, faith, socioeconomic and many other backgrounds and attributes, and labelling such people as “snowflakes” for calling out oppression.

Taken another way, a coat of many colours might symbolize one who professes to be fair and kind while at the same time fuelling hate and division by sharing and promoting ignorant and hurtful discourse in the world.

Could Parton have intended for the listener to draw a similar parallel in meanings? I’m not sure, but I am more inclined to believe her true intent was to illustrate a purer message: how the most precious gifts can be from castoffs — kind of like people.

We all belong, in the coat of many colours that is this world.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

“Coat of Many Colors” appears on the record of the same name, which Parton wrote and recorded fifty years ago. Here’s the audio from Dolly Parton’s official YouTube channel where the entire album Coat of Many Colors appears as a playlist:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Weird Fishes

Happy Friday!

On this bright, sunny day (and cool/windy… not like Monday’s “heatwave” day across Manitoba!) I’m sharing a song with dreamy and rocking aspects to it, “Weird Fishes,” by British singer-songwriter and producer Lianne La Havas.

I heard the song on BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, the February 7 episode, “Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy” (his last show for the time being, while he records an album with Elbow).

This morning when surveying my list of songs I’ve been interested in lately, this one’s title brought to mind a memory of being a kid growing up in a Catholic home. Fridays were days we would have fish for our evening meal. I can’t remember what kind of fish we usually had, though it wasn’t necessarily my favourite meal of the week. But like other repeated practices, it did, I suppose, add to my absorption of ritual and ceremony as an aspect of everyday life, something I am studying right now. (By the way, maybe I didn’t like it but I don’t remember eating any weird fish…)

La Havas covers the song, written by the members of the English band Radiohead, on her third and self-titled neo-soul album, released in 2020. An article on Wikipedia describes it as a concept album and a song cycle depicting “the stages of a relationship, from early romance to demise.” Placed just past midway through the album, I’m not sure where on the continuum between early romance and demise the song belongs, due to the strange lyrics. The keyboard that soon joins the drums gives a dreamy kind of sound that implies some level of contentment, as does the vocal about following another… so perhaps the song represents the maturing of the relationship. The primarily instrumental outro’s busyness seems to allude to the buildup of conflict or passion, though it too ends on a more peaceful note. What do you think?

I’m not familiar with the Radiohead version of the song and don’t know much of La Havas’s music, other than a few pieces YouTube offered up on autoplay while I wrote this post. I liked some of it, though not as much as “Weird Fishes.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Lianne La Havas’s YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

New Amsterdam

Recently I wrote, in a post on Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News,” about my record-playing parties at my parents’ home where I’d often play only one song from a record, take it off, put on another, and so on.

A more modern take on that practice is to buy only one track from an album, and I’ve done that a lot. I remember our oldest lad said to me many years ago when iTunes was first a big thing; the advantage was I could buy the one good song from an album if that were the only piece I liked. I guess I’ve followed that advice for years.

“New Amsterdam” is a song by The Love Language, an indie group from North Carolina, USA. It comes from their 2018 album Baby Grand and, you guessed it, it’s the only song of theirs I own.

In a June 2018 interview with Under the Radar magazine, bandleader Stuart McLamb says, “‘New Amsterdam’ is ultimately about being stuck in a rut but having such a strong desire to break out of it, whether it’s a town you’ve lived in too long and need a change of scenery, or an on-again, off-again relationship. One of the lyrics was originally ‘wish I could forget everything,’ then a friend suggested I change it to ‘forgive’ and that pretty much changed the whole song for me in a great way.”

I am pretty sure I would have heard it on KEXP Seattle, as they featured it as their Song of the Day in July 2018. (Interestingly, they use the above quote from McLamb, though without attribution to the magazine.) The song is one of many on the playlist I use while on the indoor bike trainer and, serendipitously, it played today near the end of my ride.

Today I was reading from a book, Writing The Life Poetic, by Portland, Oregon, USA resident, author and strategic marketer Sage Cohen. It was a gift to a friend marking a milestone quite a few years ago, and the friend mysteriously returned to me, adding to my inscription, three years ago. The book is an engaging read, and I gladly found some pieces I would like to explore some more. One chapter talked about repetition, which made me think of the one-word repeat in the chorus of the poetry in “New Amsterdam.”

Optimistically, I like to think the last line of the song (“Come over this evening”) is an invitation, calling in a different path for the relationship sung about, and that the same passion the singer put into the music will be rewarded by better times in the connection with his love.

Likewise, as we mark one year since a world pandemic declaration, I’m starting to feel optimistic about receiving the miraculous vaccine soon and, maybe sometime this year, returning to activities previously taken for granted. It’s a lesson that anything good and essential in our lives is not to be simply presumed as ours indefinitely.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the kaleidoscopically-treated official music video for the song from the publishing label Merge Records’ YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of Lyrics.com.

Birds and Stars

In November 2020, I shared with you a song by the American transcendental folk band Elephant Revival.

When active, the group based itself in Nederland, Colorado, a beautiful little town I spent time in with some friends in the summer of 2012. My sweety and I have come to know many people in the vicinity of Boulder and Denver, and I’m intrigued by the creativity that the area seems to nurture in music, poetry and spirituality. I want to go back there someday.

Since sharing “Hello You Who,” I’ve often thought of Elephant Revival’s unique sound and wanted to share another of these talented musicians’ songs with you.

The title and “Birds and Stars” attracted me as it mentions two things I love to gaze at. The song is a lovely piece with beautiful harmonies and features singer Bonnie Paine playing the washboard. The video performance of “Birds and Stars” comes from their fifth release, Sands of Now, a live CD-DVD set recorded at the Boulder Theater. (The song originally appeared on their 2013 studio album, These Changing Skies.)

Thinking of the song title and lyrics reminds me of a night last summer when Sweety and I drove out to Birds Hill Provincial Park to get away from the city lights hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower. We lay on the ground for so long just looking up at the vastness of the heavens… a blissful time of peaceful silence together, followed by an ice-cream cone during the drive home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of the live performance at the Boulder Theater, from Elephant Revival’s official YouTube channel:

Full official lyrics are available on the band website.

Thank You

It’s a year ago this week that things really started unravelling in my city of Winnipeg, Canada, with the COVID-19 pandemic.

By around Friday, March 13 of last year (and I am not sure I picked up on the significance of the date at the time…), most non-essential stores and venues were talking about closing. And I recall that day my sweety and I were in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights with her son and his family and had lunch there. When she and I arrived home, we saw an email that the museum was closing indefinitely at 5:00 pm that day due to the developing public health situation.

Yet after a year of being mostly locked down or significantly restricted, it is interesting to ponder those things we have been able to do all along.

One thing that’s helped me a lot has been connecting and meeting new friends in online gatherings with people I would likely not have met in a “normal” world but with whom I’ve developed some lasting bonds.

Today during a check-in with two men I recently met through a Zoom gathering, the common takeaway from what we three shared was gratitude.

“Thank You,” by English singer-songwriter Dido (born Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong), is a song I remember hearing played at the home of dear friends who used to live next-door-but-one from us (I talk about them in my post on “La Lune”). We often got together as couples and enjoyed a lot of music together, and had loads of fun times including a road trip to see Sarah Brightman in concert in St. Paul, Minnesota, plus times spent at a lake Manitoba cottage that Sweety and I used to look after for owners who lived away.

Today’s song comes from Dido’s 1999 debut album, No Angel.

“Push the door, I’m home at last
And I’m soaking through and through
Then you handed me a towel
And all I see is you
And even if my house falls down now
I wouldn’t have a clue
Because you’re near me”

(from “Thank You,” by Dido, Paul Herman)

It’s hard to believe we’ve been living for a whole year under the restrictions brought about to control COVID-19. I’m thankful that the pandemic has been relatively easy on most of us, that we haven’t lost loved ones to it, and we have hopes of receiving scientifically-miraculous vaccines in the coming months.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the resilience, care, strength, creativity, nurturing and play practised by women. In the official music video for “Thank You,” Dido plays a woman who’s not having an enviable day, pushed around by capitalism and greed that are enabled by cold authoritarianism. Yet, she persisted, as the saying goes. And her message of gratitude is unshakable and uninterrupted in the face of it all.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Dido’s official VEVO/YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Push + Pull

Today has been a great day!

In my city, Winnipeg, Canada, the temperature rose to an unseasonably high 14° Celcius (57° Fahrenheit), compared to the March monthly average high of 0°C/32°F.

I took advantage of the day by hauling my bicycle out of the city to ride it in Birds Hill Provincial Park. The roads there are raised, slightly crowned and typically clear much sooner than the city roads and bike paths, so it’s a much safer ride not having to navigate ice and sand, and puddles that can hide potholes.

It was so great to be on my road bike again, though I can’t complain too much as my latest ride last year was December 8. So there were only 81 days from then to now… the shortest gap I’ve ever experienced between fall and spring outdoor riding.

I rode three laps of the main roads, or just over 33 kilometres (20.5 miles). The wind was quite strong out of the southwest, so in the northeast, where there is a slight, gradual climb, I really had to stand on the pedals and dig in. It reminded me of indoor trainer rides where there’s significantly more elevation gain than that and, on those rides, I listen to my Car Tunes playlist for motivation. “Push + Pull” by the Canadian alternative rock band July Talk is one such song I listen to when literally pushing and pulling to get to the top of a virtual climb. I really like the song’s driving drum beat, the guitar riffs and distortion, and the sound effects on the female background vocal on “this push and pull…” in the post-chorus. Thinking of the feeling I get from motivational music today helped me slice through the warm spring air.

In my happy place!

This past winter, I did a lot more virtual rides with climbs, and today I could feel the added strength in my legs! It added to the feeling of exhilaration at being out in nature, on my bike, moving in the sun. And despite the wind, I maintained an average speed higher than I did on calm days at the beginning of last spring. Like I said, a great day!

“Push + Pull” was the first single from the July Talk’s second album, Touch (2016), which received the Juno Award for Best Alternative Album of the Year in 2017. The band has toured extensively, supporting acts like Spoon, Alabama Shakes, Billy Talent, Arkells, Weezer, among others.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from July Talk’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

13 Minutes to the Moon (Theme Music)

On Friday, when sharing Cilla Black’s “Work Is a Four-Letter Word,” I told you a little about Amy Lamé’s program on BBC 6 Music.

After finishing her February 28 program installment, I started looking at other program subscriptions on the BBC Sounds app. There I saw links to 13 Minutes to the Moon, a podcast series from the BBC World Service. I recall enjoying season one of the podcast, which ran in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of America’s Apollo 11, the first human-crewed moon landing.

In 2020, the second season of the podcast focused on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13 and the efforts on the ground and in space to save the lives of the three astronauts (commander Jim Lovell; Jack Swigert, 1931-1982; and Fred Haise) after their spaceship’s service module suffered a catastrophic explosion which, among other things, crippled their life-support system. The barely-functioning spaceship still had to proceed to and go around the Moon to get back to the Earth. It was a harrowing six-day ordeal where survival seemed highly unlikely, though brilliant, hardworking NASA engineers and staff on Earth worked feverishly to invent ways to use equipment and materials in the command and lunar modules to extend the lunar module’s life support system limits from two to six days. (It was human achievement at its highest… if only we applied this to every challenge and problem facing humanity.) Miraculously, the crew splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970.

I haven’t listened to the Apollo 13 podcast yet. But seeing the reminders about recalled for me the time when it happened and, more recently, listening to season one, with the fantastic voice of English presenter/co-writer, physician, astrophysicist and aerospace engineer Kevin Fong, and the theme music by Hans Zimmer and Christian Lundberg.

In a podcast excerpt, German film score composer and record producer Zimmer, who co-wrote the score with Swedish composer and audio engineer Christian Lundberg, describes the music’s inspiration, saying it really started from nothing, as, of course, there is no sound in space. He began with the beeps that a crew would hear in their ship, adding piano — 600-year-old technology — to contrast the modern technology of human space flight, and cello, to add the feeling of humanity.

The season one theme music is stirring, inspiring and exciting. Season two’s theme is similar but not as gripping to me, personally.

The composition masterfully blends classical orchestral and electronic sounds for an incredible aural experience that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. So, maybe it is a stretch for Classical Sunday, but I figured it was a good direction to take today.

Though only nine years old at the time of the first moon landing, I was totally geeked out over it and followed the TV, newspaper and magazine coverage intently. Thinking of it today, when technology has landed several robotic crafts on Mars and a human landing seems within grasp, it’s like the past, present, and future are all one. The Moon and humandkind’s exploration of it were pivotal pieces of my imaginal mind as a youngster. I still am drawn to music, books, films and TV that portray the history, fiction, or alternate history of human space travel like the Apple TV series For All Mankind does so brilliantly (though I do feel they take the alternate history a bit far in terms of the effects on people living and dead whose life stories are extended, shortened and otherwise rewritten in the series). I’ve posted several songs that may allude to my preoccupation with the Moon. Search for them if you like; “Fly Me to the Moon” is just one example.

Thinking recently of exciting memories from the past, I also became mindful of many places where I could have done, and could do, better. Granted, my earlier self hadn’t grown as I have now, but I think it is good to face up to those times of weakness. Looking back also offers the opportunity to reconcile the past, make amends for past wrongs, and work to make the present and future better. And I’m thankful for that kind of opportunity whenever it arises.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here on Earth, and please enjoy. And while we’re here, let’s take better care of this lovely and fragile planet we’re living on?

Here’s the audio for the track from the YouTube channel of Bleeding Fingers Music, a collaboration in which both Zimmer and Lundberg are involved. (And as with several other songs I’ve posted, there’s a false ending about two-thirds of the way through today’s selection, so don’t be fooled like I almost was, even though I know the theme music! The gap is for the presenter to announce the podcast title after the exciting episode preamble).



Windswept

I feel like I haven’t heard enough Bryan Ferry lately.

So today, I’m remedying that with a healthy dose from his 1985 record, Boys and Girls.

Boys and Girls, by Bryan Ferry. Photo by Steve West.

On Ferry’s YouTube channel, under the playlist for the album, “Windswept” is one of only three songs with an official music video (the two others are “Slave to Love” and “Don’t Stop The Dance”).

Ferry has always been known for featuring female models on his record covers and in videos and, in the 1980s, he certainly kept up that habit. The video for “Windswept” is more artistic and has an erotic sense about it, but more from a place of mystique rather than objectifying like the other two, in my view.

At the end of the day, Ferry and co. made the videos in a different era. Like anything that could be viewed through the lens of today in “cancel culture,” it’s certainly worthy of debate. That’s a broader discussion as to how we should treat artistic expressions of the past in a climate of honouring and inclusion, and the consequences of censoring or erasing those acts now. I always welcome your thoughts and comments (and usually receive several on my Facebook shares of these posts) as we navigate the rapidly changing world in which we hopefully all seek to live in peace and harmony.

Bryan Ferry gave a show in Winnipeg a couple of years ago. Both a friend/former colleague who loves his music and I were gutted that neither of us and our partners were able to attend due to our families’ respective commitments. She and I have often said it would have been a fantastic concert. And, I wonder if another opportunity like that will come to Winnipeg… time is ticking… as we all age and concerts continue to be a no-go. (By the way, if you want to hear about a couple of other shows I regret not seeing, check out my post on Wolf Alice’s “Don’t Delete the Kisses,” which is also an excellent song).

While writing this post, responding to messages that have popped up on my desktop, and various other tasks, I feel I’ve gotten a healthy infusion of Mr Ferry.

Thank you, Bryan. Now, onto the pizza and movie night with my dear Sweety.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Bryan Ferry’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of the good folks at AZLyrics.com.

Work Is a Four-Letter Word

While Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour is my number one BBC 6 Music program to listen to, there are some others I like quite a lot, too. Amy Lamé, whose program comes on right after Garvey’s Sunday time slot, is another presenter I like. I’ll occasionally listen to Sean Keaveney on weekdays, too. Sometimes Liz Kershaw on weekends.

On Lamé’s February 28 show, “Scouser-delica,” she played songs from England’s Merseyside area. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s my ancestral home, and a place that produced some high-profile musical acts like the Beatles, A Flock of Seagulls, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo & the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and so many more.

Another performer from Merseyside and one Lamé featured on the February 28 program singing “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” was Cilla Black (born Priscilla Maria Veronica White, 1943-2015).

The song, produced by longtime Beatles producer George Martin (1926-2016), is the theme music from the 1968 comedy, Work Is a 4-Letter Word. The movie was part of a short stint for Black in comedy film (including a brief appearance in the 1965 musical film, with Gerry and the Pacemakers, Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey). She worked for many years in TV as a presenter of several series and was a highly popular and successful singer, as well as an author. She was even honoured in a TV drama series Cilla, about her early career.

The Manchester-based band the Smiths covered “Work Is a Four-Letter Word.” The British music magazine Record Collector reported in a 1992 interview with Johnny Marr that Morrissey’s insistence on recording it was final motivation for Marr to leave the group as he hated the song.

Black received her big break in music thanks to the Beatles with whom she had a long association, notably John Lennon, who encouraged Beatles manager Brian Epstein (1934-1967) to audition her in 1963. Epstein later became her manager. Her musical career was impressive, performing songs by Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney, among others. Black was honoured in 1997 with the Order of the British Empire, and a statue of her stands outside the original entrance to Liverpool’s Cavern Club.

I thought today’s song would be meaningful for all you folks out there working, particularly here in my city, Winnipeg, Canada, where the sun is shining, and the temperature has been above freezing through the week. Too lovely to be “in work,” as my Scouser relatives say. (And I’m sure they know even more about Black’s career as she appears to have been quite famous and influential throughout her life.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Cilla Black’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Walking on Sunshine

Katrina and the Waves were a British-American band active from 1981 to 1999. The band actually started in 1975 as The Waves, but never recorded any music and morphed into Mama’s Cookin,’ a pop cover band from England which featured American Katrina Leskanich as singer and keyboard player. Some more personnel changes led to the band renaming itself The Waves (again), then finally, in 1982, Katrina and the Waves.

“Walking on Sunshine” is the band’s most famous hit, and I seem to recall it would be quite at home in the disc jockey’s repertoire at a Manitoba social evening (please, please read my post on The Proclaimers’ “Sunshine on Leith” to learn more about that unique evening entertainment phenomenon).

While I don’t tend to focus on the earnings of particular songs or albums, an article from Wikipedia tells me the royalties on “Walking on Sunshine” from sales, airplay ad advertising use are estimated to have been USD 1 million per year from 2001 to 2010. That isn’t so surprising… the song is everywhere.

I’m not sure I knew it at the time, but only a Canadian label, Attic Records, picked up their first record, so the album Walking On Sunshine (1983) was released only in Canada. “Walking on Sunshine” and other songs from their first two releases were included as remixes, re-recorded or overdubbed songs on their first international release, Katrina and the Waves, in 1985 (which is the only vinyl album of theirs I have).

Today, as I drove around on errands on a very sunny, mild day (it got up to 4° C / 39° F), it was so warm in the car I turned the heat off and opened up the sunroof and, of course, cranked up the stereo. This song came into my mind, partly because of the weather and partly because while grocery shopping, I found and bought (for a super sale price), the 90% cacao chocolate that is the current favourite of a friend I was hanging out with, back when the song burst onto the scene over 35 years ago.

In the official music video, the London, England sky is grey and overcast, but Leskanich is undeterred, upbeat and excited in her summer duds. Her bandmates are looking glum, in overcoats, and hesitantly following her. Toward the end of the video, she has them smiling, primping and getting excited about taking the stage at a gig, where they figuratively walk on sunshine, in the music venue.

“I’m walking on sunshine, whoa
And don’t it feel good”

(from “Walking on Sunshine,” by Kimberley Rew)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Katrina and the Waves’ YouTube channel (at the time of writing tonight the channel’s web address and video post’s notes are unavailable but you can still play the video):

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Almost Home

Today I was thinking about music by American electronica singer, songwriter, musician, producer, philanthropist and animal rights activist Moby, whose songs I’ve posted before.

Cruising around his YouTube page, I found a version of “Almost Home” recorded as a lyric video featuring cats and dogs in the Best Friends Animal Society, a Los Angeles, California animal shelter.

“Almost Home” is the third single (following “A Case for Shame” and “The Perfect Life”) from Innocents (2013), Moby’s 11th studio album. The lyrics are relatively simple, and while there’s a suggestion of loss, change, or perhaps death, the song’s overall tone is hopeful.

“Almost Home” has an inviting, sauntering beat and features American singer-songwriter Damien Jurado on lead vocal. But don’t get fooled by the false ending (like a few other songs I’ve featured) at 3:27… the song starts again and includes introductions to the video’s animal actors. Perry Como the cat was sleeping right beside me while I wrote this, so he clearly isn’t threatened by me looking at other cats (or even dogs).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Moby’s official YouTube channel:

Leaders of the Free World

Today, I feel like I might be going through a bit of Guy Garvey withdrawal.

Regular readers will know I find a lot of my new-to-me music through his program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music. The latest episode of his show was almost a month ago, and, unlike other times he’s been recording or on tour, this time, the BBC hasn’t put a guest host or hosts to take his place in the same program format. In the past, there’ve been have been some fabulous fill-ins, most notably, music lovers and actors and Cillian Murphy and Jodie Whittaker, broadcaster Katie Puckrik, and others.

In place of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, BBC is putting on an Artist in Residence program and, granted, I haven’t given it much time, but it hasn’t reached me like Garvey’s show. Maybe I am just rebelling against the leaders of the BBC world.

Meanwhile, today I revisited an Elbow song I heard when YouTube was autoplaying tunes while I worked on my post of their piece, “Weather to Fly,” a month ago. A video that played in that session was “Leaders of the Free World,” from the album of the same name, issued in 2005. It’s not a song I remember, to be honest, though I also have to admit I’ve never sat with the entire album (note to self: do that soon).

The song is a cynical view of the leadership of the world, portrayed creatively in a video that has the band, under the command of Garvey — looking a bit like Super Mario with his cap and moustache — and travelling in a robotic machine that’s all too similar to the AT-AT Walker fighting machines from the Star Wars films.

Anyway, I’ve found a “new” addition to my Elbow favourites. There’s a definite thrash to the song, and the beat is a departure from some of their slower, more thoughtful and pieces and a more rocking vibe than even some of their most upbeat works; it’s just really different, which grabbed my attention a month ago, and here we are again today. Even the vocal style is markedly different as Garvey dramatically (and as if urgently) adds a “well” or an “oh” quite often as a surprising filler or connector; together, these all stitch together the verses and chorus into an absolutely stunning piece of music.

I’m sick of working for a living
I’m just ticking off the days till I die
Oh, I miss you Louise, yeah
And the sickest little pleasures keep me going in between pulling teeth

Oh, periscope up
I’ve been looking for a ladder
I need to see the Commander In Chief, ooh
And remind him what was passed on to me, oh

Well, your mum don’t sleep, oh
And the friends you keep
I didn’t raise a thief
I didn’t raise a thief

But the leaders of the free world
Are just little boys throwing stones
And it’s easy to ignore
Till they’re knocking on the door of your homes, oh yeah

My thinking isn’t driven, oh
But the music always gives me a lift
I’m so easy to please, yeah
But I think we dropped the baton like the 60’s didn’t happen, oh no

Your mum don’t sleep, oh
And the friends you keep
I didn’t raise a thief
I didn’t raise a thief

But the leaders of the free world
Are just little boys throwing stones
And it’s easy to ignore
Till they’re knocking on the door of your homes

P-p-passing the gun from father to feckless son
We’re climbing a landslide where only the good die young

(Passing the gun from father to feckless son)
Oh, periscope up
I’ve been looking for a ladder
(We’re climbing a landslide where only the good die young)
I need to see the Commander In Chief, ooh
And remind him what was passed on to you and me, oh
(Passing the gun from father to feckless son)

(“Leaders of the Free World,” by Pete Turner, Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Guy Garvey. Lyrics provided courtesy of the good folks at AZLyrics though at the time of writing this blog post, their version had some inaccuracies for which I’ve submitted a change that is awaiting moderation. The corrected version is what I posted above.)

Again, I have to thank my dear Liverpudlian cousin who’s now living in “Welsh Wales,” as he calls it; he introduced me to Elbow’s music back in 2008 when he welcomed my Sweety and me to his homeland (my second time seeing him and the Liverpool/Birkenhead family… he and I first met as boys when I visited Liverpool with my parents in 1973). It would be an amazing thing to be standing in the crowd at an Elbow concert with him, rocking it out to this song… oh yeah… Love and miss ya, la’!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Elbow’s official YouTube channel:

Interlude

Today, roaming aimlessly on the Internet, I was fortunate to find a unique duet by two artists I’ve recently featured (though separately).

As I mentioned in my post on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Kiss Them for Me,” one of her many collaborations was with Morrissey, several years after the band he fronted, the Smiths, broke up.

Morrissey had invited Siouxsie Sioux to record a duet, sending some possible songs to work on; all of them had initially been sung by women. Siouxsie chose “Interlude,” which the two recorded during sessions for Morrissey’s solo album Vauxhall and I (1994).

“Interlude” is a tender love ballad, originally recorded in 1968 by American singer Timi Yuro (1940-2004) for the film of the same name (directed by Kevin Billington and starring Oskar Werner, Virginia Maskell, Donald Sutherland, Barbara Ferris and John Cleese… a movie I’m sure I remember people talking about when I was a kid, as I recall Oskar Werner being popular in our household). French composer Georges Delerue (1925-1992) and South African songwriter Hal Shaper (1931-2004) wrote the song. (Incidentally, upon Yuro’s death, Morrissey described her as his favourite singer.)

In their version, Siouxsie and Morrissey sing a beautiful duet with simple acoustic guitar and strings backing their vocals. But not long after the session, the two fell into a disagreement about the content for the video that would promote it, a conflict which they never resolved. The record label EMI released the song anyway, later in 1994.

In 2011, Morrissey re-issued the song on one of his compilation albums, with his vocals only.

It’s ironic that a soulful tribute to love would lead to such lasting discord within the duet that sang a version of it but, well, that’s the world sometimes.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s an unofficial video with audio for the song, though YouTube has credited it to the artists. The poster of the video has gone to some trouble to compile some beautiful photos of Morrissey and Siouxsie… though none with them together as collaborators.

Lyrics are contained in the notes under the video posting.

Tide

This weekend has been one of contemplation and reflection for me.

Some time ago, I had bookmarked the video for Japanese musician and producer Kumi Takahara’s classical strings piece, “Tide,” and today feels like the right day to share it. The Tokyo, Japan-based record label FLAU had posted the video in January as an advance promotion for her album See-Through, which they released a week ago.

There’s a peacefulness in scenes of bare feet on a beach, waves and clouds, and windswept, hoar-frosted delicate leaves. The video is often monochromatic but also has reflective and abstract, colourful scenes and the fast-motion melting of a block of ice, or melting ice with leaves in it. The music builds in a way that reminds me slightly of the third (Lento) movement from Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, Opus 36. There’s also a touch of an ambient-like vocal chant punctuating the piece in several places.

It’s a peaceful transition into a lazy afternoon with not much I feel a need to do — other than appreciate my life and its many blessings. (And post a song.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Wherever the video finds you today in our COVID-stressed world, I hope you enjoy it, too.

Here’s the video from FLAU’s official YouTube channel:

The piece is available for purchase from the iTunes Store/Apple Music or Bandcamp.

No Milk, No Sugar

How do you take your weekend morning coffee?

Yesterday, I tried something different while doing a workout on the bike trainer: instead of listening to music, I listened to a couple of episodes of the The Ongoing History of New Music podcast, hosted by Canadian broadcaster Alan Cross.

I listened to the first of a two-part episode, “A Guide to Genres,” a journey through the birth of rock & roll, which spawned rock, then punk rock, post-punk and the explosion of different genres and sub-genres that evolved from there. Before that program, I listened to “Golden Age of Synths as Told by OMD,” in which Cross and two members of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, an English band from my ancestral home of Merseyside, talked about the popularity of synthesizers in the 1970s and 80s, leading to the rise of ambient and electronic music genres.

Then, coincidentally, I felt drawn to read up on the song “No Milk, No Sugar” by the Montréal, Canada band, Islands. They were an indie rock band, active from 2005 to 2016. The song appears on their seventh and final album, Taste (2016).

Taste had a heavy emphasis on electronic music through the use of vintage synthesizers and programmed drum machines, giving a synth-pop sound. This was a definite departure from most of their music (or at least the numerous songs I heard while reading material about the band and writing this post). The band’s lyrics had a style that hopped between lampooning and outright cynical; unique, somewhat amusing, and engaging.

So, “No Milk, No Sugar” was a serendipitous re-discovery from my collection after hearing the history of synthesizers in music. The song seems to be a parody of the ennui of a society lacking presence, commitment and purpose.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy with your morning coffee.

Here’s the video Islands member Nick Thorburn directed for the song, on the JASH YouTube channel (a comedy community and advertising agency, whose acronym means “Just Attitude So Hey”):

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of Genius.com.

The Best Is Yet to Come

Happy Friday!

With a title like “The Best Is Yet to Come,” today’s song seems like a good one on which to ride into the weekend.

Wikipedia tells me composer Cy Coleman (1929-2004) and lyricist Carolyn Leigh (1926-1983), both of America, wrote it in 1959. They also co-wrote “Bewitched,” another piece sung by American singer, actor and producer Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). I’ve posted only one other Sinatra song on this blog, “Fly Me to the Moon” (and coincidentally, just this week, was wearing the t-shirt featured in that post!).

Sinatra recorded the song in 1964 on his album It Might as Well Be Swing, which featured Count Basie and His Orchestra, directed by Quincy Jones. Many artists have recorded the song, including Tony Bennett (in 1962, before Sinatra), Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), Bob Dylan, Michael Bublé, Chaka Khan, and others.

In a world with so much suffering and negativity, it’s good to experience optimism, and for me, that often comes from the gift of music.

“Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum
You came along and everything started in to hum
Still, it’s a real good bet, the best is yet to come”

(from “The Best Is Yet to Come,” by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh)

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, stay safe, and take care of yourself and others. And savour some music!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a live performance by Frank Sinatra at a gala celebration honouring him in 1979, from his YouTube channel:

And the original recording (appearing on one of his compilation albums):

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Flower on the Vine

When I was working, weekends and vacations were times to savour early mornings listening to music from my collection or from one of a few Internet radio stations whose styles I liked.

I used to listen to CBC Radio 3, but in 2015 they stopped employing live hosts (a few notable ones being Lana Gay, Tariq Hussain, Raina Douris, and Grant Lawrence — though he still does voiceovers and podcasts… he has a great, homey, slightly gravelly kind of voice). But for me, the automated station lost its personality and vibe. I only listened sporadically in the following year or so and haven’t been there more than a half-dozen times in the last few years.

It likely would have been Radio 3 where I first heard the Montréal, Canada indie rock band the High Dials’ song, “Flower on the Vine,” from their 2015 album In the A.M. Fields. I purchased the track from the iTunes Store late in the morning of Christmas Day, 2015.

The Apple Music app says I’ve played it 82 times. It is an easy song to listen to with its soft synthesizer intro, which dissolves in and out of a minimalist, loping beat strung along by the acoustic guitar line.

Unlike yesterday’s song, which tells about (figuratively) building a home, today’s track begins with the singer telling how his house is old and crumbling, his world in decline. “Flower on the Vine” seems to be about one overwhelmed by life and bad choices (“The weeds grow high / They choke out the light…”). But then he focuses on the delicate beauty of a flower on a vine. I think it inspires him to stop his self-destructive behaviour (“I’m half-alive or maybe dead / Murdered by whiskey and wine…”) and to become more like the blossom, opening up to life and love (“And I will go on singing / Oh blossom divine…”). There is a soft hopefulness as the song fades.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the song, please buy it to support the artists who made it.

Here’s the audio for the song from the High Dials’ Bandcamp album page where the song is available from USD 1.00 (or the full album, from USD 10.00).

I searched, but couldn’t find lyrics, though the vocal is quite clear, so I hope you can catch the gist of the words.

To Build a Home

Last week, when working on my post for the Nina Simone (1933-2003) cover of “Lilac Wine,” I found a list of other bands that had covered that song.

Among the other artists was the Cinematic Orchestra, and I wrote how I enjoyed their version of the piece. The band name stood out for me at the time, as I have their song “To Build a Home” in my digital collection, and one I quite like. It’s the only song I own by them, and the metadata on the file says I bought it from the iTunes Store on the morning of Tuesday, July 24, 2007. I have no clue where I first heard it but since I downloaded the song at that time of day, maybe I was on vacation, enjoying music.

The British group’s styles include Nu Jazz (also referred to as jazztronica, a fusion of jazz and electronic music), modern classical and downtempo electronic music. Having read about the group (and after hearing their lovely version of “Lilac Wine”), I plan to check out more of their music after all these years of knowing only one piece by them.

I was also interested to read today that the Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson co-wrote “To Build a Home” with Cinematic Orchestra members Phil France and Jason Swinscoe. He also sang the vocal for the song on the band’s 2007 album, Ma Fleur. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might remember I posted the Watson song “Love Songs for Robots” last summer. I honestly didn’t recognize Watson’s voice until listening to both songs one after the other.

The song seems to be a man singing to his love about the home and life they shared and the future they planned together until she died. It’s a deeply sad love letter, which to me speaks to the immensity of the love shared. The strings and piano add much to the mood and beauty of the piece.

The song has been used extensively in TV, movies and advertising, so I imagine some readers will recognize it. Appearances include Homeland, Criminal Minds, Ugly Betty, The Big C, Orange Is the New Black, Suits, The Edge of Seventeen, Polytechnique, This Is Us, and many others. My sweety and I have seen many of the programs it has appeared on, and I’ve appreciated the dramatic mood it brings when used well. I’ve thought of posting it before and hesitated because of the topic of death and sorrow, but I feel it’s just such a poignant depiction of what true love means, during and after life together.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Ninja Tune record label’s official YouTube channel. It’s not clear if this video was made specifically for the song or if it is an exceprt from TV/film. But if the latter, I think the user would have credited it…

And, the female actor in the piece looks familiar. Can anyone identify her?

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Second Hand News

It was 1977. The year Fleetwood Mac released Rumours which, flabergasting to me, was their 11th studio album. I suppose I must have thought the band had just started up with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s arrival and the popularity of Rumours. But there also seemed to be a kind of a “new band hype” about the group that year… maybe it was just me. They were big though, and it was a foundational album for my lifetime love of music that’s been like an always-reliable friend.

The opening track, “Second Hand News,” is the third song I’ve posted from the album (please see my posts on “You Make Loving Fun” and “Go Your Own Way“).When thinking about it today, I can picture putting the record on the stereo at our family home in the St. Norbert suburb of Winnipeg, Canada.

Aside from all my memories of the time Rumours came out, today’s song is an opening to “Dreams” which then launches you into an album of so many moods, styles and textures, all driven by the chaotic lifestyles and relationship breakdowns within the band during its recording, and how all that influenced their artistry.

Anyway, the record was newly released, and no one in the family knew the album, to my recollection, anyway. I have an image in my mind of my mum hearing it and dancing around enthusiastically as she loved to do; music was so profoundly important to her, throughout her life. I think I had a feeling about the song back then, putting it on the record player, when she was going to hear it for the first time.

The stereo in our living room had a great sound. It must have been somewhat high-end for the times; rather good componentry in a beautifully-designed and built teakwood console/cabinet… it was sleek, modern and clean-lined, and looked something like a credenza with a flip-top that revealed the turntable and radio tuner, plus a slot for very few albums. Of all my friends, my parents had the coolest stereo setup. (Hey, that was something to be proud of, in that age. My family was of humble means, but my mum was “ferociously efficient” [as I think a brother termed it] at shopping for bargains to expand the power of modest but earnestly-earned earnings. Nonetheless, like many I imagine, I still could feel inferior to peers in the community much of the time.)

I would play the album for my friends, too, at my “listening parties,” where I’d spin a song or two from an album, take it off the turntable, pile it with the played records, then put on another LP. Some friends were annoyed by this practice, which only I seemed to follow, but I like to think of it as a precursor to the playlist that dominates the music-playing realm now.

Almost a half decade ago, Mum used a brother’s retired iPhone as a digital music player. I don’t know if “Second Hand News” was on the playlist he set up for her, though I know there would have been many of her longtime favourites. And if it wasn’t, I’m sure there were plenty that had her dancing around. What a rich memory.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Fleetwood Mac’s official YouTube channel, from a playlist of the entire Rumours album:

Wild Is the Wind

Today one of my lads reacted to my Facebook post of Saturday’s blog entry on Nina Simone’s (1933-2003) “Lilac Wine,” from her 1966 album Wild Is the Wind. He commented that yesterday was the late singer’s birthday. I hadn’t noticed the date when looking up information about her.

My blog piece on “Lilac Wind” might have looked like it was heading in the direction of being about the title track from Wild Is the Wind, since I mentioned a fair bit about the album and title track. So today I thought, why not bookend the date with two songs she had sung? Also, I have been thinking about the song a bit, here and there, since then.

American singer-songwriter Johnny Mathis recorded the Tiomkin/Washington, Academy Award-nominated song for the 1957 film Wild Is the Wind. Simone first performed it in 1959, then recorded it in 1966. (The recording appeared in the Revolutionary Road movie trailer (2008, with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio).

I also mentioned in Saturday’s post that David Bowie had created a cover version of “Wild Is the Wind” for 1976’s Station to Station album, and that he had done it to honour Simone’s version. He was an admirer of hers and decided to do the cover after meeting Simone in 1975 in Los Angeles, California. His rendition is modern rock but carefully arranged to convey similar emotions to Simone’s: romantic, emotional and slowly melancholic.

I love this song, and to be honest, I had always thought it to be a Bowie original. It seems like one of those songs that should play during the ending credits of an epic film (I said the same about “Sultans of Swing” early on in this blog). Wikipedia tells me “Wild Is the Wind” was the only cover song Bowie recorded in that phase of his career (though I do know the album Pin Ups, from earlier, 1973, was made entirely of covers). The song is beautifully arranged and played, and I have to think Simone would have appreciated the tribute.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the David Bowie YouTube channel. The British film director David Mallet oversaw it as a promotional piece for the compilation album, Changestwobowie (1981).

If you’re thinking the backing band doesn’t look like Bowie’s, you’re correct. The group that mimes (a past passion of his, I remember, from a brother talking about Bowie when first introducing his music to our family in the early 1970s ) the performance is musician and longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti (double bass, though the sound is from an electric bass); Bowie personal assistant Corinne “Coco” Schwab (guitar); saxophonist Andy Hamilton (though no sax plays on the song); and Mel Gaynor (drummer for Simple Minds). I love how a contemplative and casual looking Bowie saunters in at the start, and then at the end has a slight smile as if satisfaction at accomplishing his goal of a thoughtful homage to Nina Simone.

Full, official lyrics are contained in the notes within the YouTube video posting.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

One of the pieces of classical music I remember being drawn to as a younger man is Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

The fantasia is probably one of Vaughan Williams’s most famous orchestral works. He based it on a theme written by the English Renaissance composer (yes, you guessed it) Thomas Tallis (1505-1585).

The piece, written and premiered in 1910, is dramatic and rhapsodic, rising to great heights then becoming soft and lyrical once again. It’s the kind of music that makes me dream of witnessing a live orchestral performance again.

Another Vaughan Williams composition is Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, a piece for harp and strings orchestra. Vaughan Williams based that work on the folk tune “Dives and Lazarus,” which he also turned into the hymn tune “Kingsfold” (1906). This tune is the basis for the hymn, “I Feel the Winds of God Today,” which is my favourite hymn, Number 625 in the United Church of Canada’s Voices United hymn book. (English school teacher Jessie Adams [1863-1954] wrote the lyrics for the hymn.) It’s a song that stirs me deep in my soul every time I think of it, never mind hear it, which is rare since I haven’t regularly attended church in many years, and haven’t sung it for as many. I’m not sure if I knew before that Vaughan Williams had written the tune; if I did, I’d forgotten.

Another popular work is Fantasia on “Greensleeves” (1934), based on the melody of the 16th century English traditional folk song, Greensleeves.” This fantasia is an arrangement, by composer and arranger Ralph Greaves, of an orchestral interlude from Sir John in Love (1928), the only work of Vaughan Williams’s that he classified as an opera.

Vaughan Williams had a long career in music, writing music for sixty years. He took time away from his music to join the military at age 42 when World War I broke out, and served as an ambulance driver in the Royal Medical Corps. He later served in the Royal Artillery, where the noise from guns led to hearing loss. The horrors of war and comrades’ deaths undoubtedly influenced his later compositions, though I don’t know enough about those. I would like to explore his work some more.

Vaughan Williams served in a civilian role in World War II as chair of the Home Office Committee for the Release of Interned Alien Musicians.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of a physically-distanced performance from the Philharmonia Sessions in 2020 by the Philharmonia Orchestra (London, UK), conducted by John Wilson, from the orchestra’s official YouTube channel:

Lilac Wine

In 1966, American singer, songwriter, musician arranger and civil rights activist Nina Simone (1933-2003) released her sixth studio album, Wild Is the Wind. The album was assembled from recordings left over from previous recording sessions. (Please check out my post on Simone’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You” for more about her life and career.)

Russian-born American conductor and film composer Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) and American lyricist Ned Washington (1901-1976) wrote “Wild Is the Wind” for the 1957 film of the same name. David Bowie (1947-2016) also covered the song in 1976 on his Station to Station album, styling his version to honour Simone’s.

As was the case with “Wild Is the Wind,” today’s selection, “Lilac Wine,” has been covered by numerous other artists, including Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), Eartha Kitt (1927-2008), John Legend, Miley Cyrus, Jeff Beck, the Cinematic Orchestra, and others.

Guy Garvey played Simone’s rendition of “Lilac Wine” during his February 7 episode of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. I don’t believe I’d ever heard it before. It’s a captivating song with its simple piano melody and Simone’s powerful vocal. She laments the loss of her lover and takes solace in wine made from the lilac tree she sits beneath. (Coincidentally, on the topic of sitting underneath trees, yesterday at an online poetry-reading circle, a friend shared the William Blake (1757-1827) poem, “A Poison Tree,” which tells the story of a person’s anger toward another, leading to murder. Like he did with many of his poems, Blake painted an illustration to accompany it.)

I also like the Cinematic Orchestra’s interpretation; they capture Simone’s vocal style and sound quite well. However, I couldn’t find an official release of their rendition, recorded as part of a 50th-anniversary celebration by Dr. Martens (aka Doc Martens), the shoemaker. But I did find the video the digital design firm Blind produced to accompany it for the project.

I savour Garvey’s eclectic taste in music and the many artists his program has introduced to me. I’ll miss him while he takes a few months away to work on an Elbow record. Maybe I’ll sit under a tree and listen to his music sometime while I await his return to the airwaves…

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Nina Simone’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics of the Nina Simone version are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

And, the Cinematic Orchestra’s version/Blind video:

Gitchi-Manidoo

Over the past two days, I’ve posted songs about two different responses to being down on one’s luck.

Today, I randomly landed on the piece “Gitchi-Manidoo (Advice for the Young).” The track comes from the album Chants and Dances of the Native Americans, by the Sacred Spirit project, which I explained in my post on “Yeha Noha (Wishes of Happiness and Prosperity)” — well worth a listen if you’ve never heard it.

I felt a touch of serendipity at work in helping me find today’s selection. I believe we can find wisdom, comfort and support from our elders and ancestors if we are open to receiving those things from them. Sometimes, though, we don’t recognize that help is there, or perhaps we doubt it, or maybe just aren’t ready to receive it. We can become convinced our way is correct, even though we know we are running into misfortune and unhappiness.

True eldership can provide advice and guidance to the young (or people at any age), even if they aren’t yet aware they need it. I am still learning from the lessons taught to me years ago when I was young and often not ready to receive them.

At the same time, one of modern society’s problems is that some cannot connect with elders or may reject their teachings under the belief, “What can I learn from them? Just look at the mess they’ve made of this world I am inheriting!” It’s a legitimate concern and a problem. Without elders, it isn’t easy to find one’s way in through the complexity of life. But we need to feel we can respect them and honour their gifts and legacies.

Those of us who may be in the position to provide eldership or mentorship have an obligation to always seek the wisdom and enlightenment of our ancestors. We must use these things when offering kindness and encouragement to help even out the rough and challenging paths of the young, who may need guidance along their way to happiness and prosperity.

Today, I’m thankful for the wisdom and guidance I encountered and continue to receive from my late mum and dad and all my ancestors, when I was young and now that I’m older.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Sacred Spirit YouTube topic channel:

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

This afternoon I was in the car on errands and listening to SiriusXM’s The Bridge (soft rock stream) when a song came on that somehow reminded me of the (now-retired) American singer Linda Ronstadt. My thoughts then went to Ronstadt’s top-40 hit rendition of a song by American musician Warren Zevon (1947-2003), “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” which appeared on Zevon’s 1976 self-titled album.

I’m quite sure I heard Ronstadt’s 1977, gender-reversed version sometime in the past few days. It’s a terrific song, really showcasing her vocal talent and backing band’s solid rock musicianship.

The song’s sound is an interesting snapshot of evolution in rock music during the latter half of the 1970s: the drums sound almost like electronic drums, which, like drum machines, were relatively new on the scene. Either that, or regular drums had some massive studio effects put on them in production. (Electronic drums, which a drummer actually played, are quite different from drum machines, which are computer devices programmed to play a beat. Drum machines played a significant role in new wave, techno-op and electronic dance music starting in the late 70s and 80s.)

American musician and singer Jackson Browne suggested Ronstadt record “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” and she included it on her 1977 record, Simple Dreams (the only solo album of hers that I own). The song was released by Ronstadt as a single in January 1978. Canadian country star Terri Clark also covered the song, in 1996.

Zevon’s trademark grim, mocking lyrics seem in a way to complement English rockers the Smiths’ pleading in yesterday’s song, as both songs are about hard luck.

Ronstadt has been mentioned on this blog several times, for covers of other’s songs. I’ve also featured a recording of hers with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris singing Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” and a recording of Young’s “Harvest Moon,” on which Ronstadt sang backup. She was a favourite of mine in the 1970s, and I continue to appreciate her talent.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Linda Ronstadt’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

Today I was catching up on past episodes of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, a two-hour collection of songs, interviews and various segments and features that appears weekly on BBC 6 Music. I finished the show from January 13 (guest host “Nadine Shah Sits In” -and by the way, check out my post from last year on one of Shah’s songs, “Mother Fighter”), then I started listening to February 7 (“Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy”). That most recent installment was Garvey’s last for a while, as he is focusing on making a new album with Elbow. I will have to ration out the songs and segments from this episode!

One track shown later on in the Garvey playlist was today’s selection, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” by the Smiths. It had such a catchy title I went looking for an online version to listen to right away.

A quartet formed in Manchester, England, the Smiths were active from just 1982 to 1987 but released a lot of material: one live and four studio albums, ten compilation albums, an EP, a video album, 14 music videos and 22 singles. Lead singer Morrissey and guitarist/keyboardist Johnny Marr appear to have written all the band’s songs (usually Morrissey: lyrics, and Marr: the music). Their post-punk/rock mix of guitar/bass/drums sound was in deliberate and direct opposition to the synth-pop dance music that was sweeping the music scene at the time (music which I’ve featured as recently as yesterday, I might add!).

The song appeared on the 1984 compilation album, Hatful of Hollow (and is available on other Smiths collections). At one minute, fifty-two seconds, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” is the brief, poignant supplication by one for a change of luck in life. It has a ballad kind of quality to it, and Morrissey’s trademark voice, along with the strings-nuanced melody, gives a gentle and silky contrast to the desperation of the plea. It is a most humble request; one I hope was answered graciously.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official audio for the song from the Smiths’ YouTube channel:

Full, official lyrics are posted in the notes section of the YouTube video.

Reap the Wild Wind

In my post on former Japan front person David Sylvian’s “Orpheus,” I talked about my weekly record shopping excursions of the mid- to late-1970s.

On one of those trips, I discovered the British new wave band Ultravox (which went by Ultravox! from 1976 to 1978) and their 1977 debut, eponymous album. I don’t remember if I knew at the time, but looking over the record cover today, I saw that the band produced the album along with Brian Eno (maker of one of the first records I ever bought, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and who comes up many times on this site), and Steve Lillywhite (who has since produced for U2 and Simple Minds).

Ultravox was one of my favourite bands in those early years. In 1979, Midge Ure replaced founding lead singer John Foxx who left to begin a solo career. Ure had played in the new romantic studio project Visage with Ultravox synthesizer, keyboard, viola, and violin player Billy Currie on a record released a year or so after its production. (Ure also partnered with former Boomtown Rats front person Bob Geldolf to organize the 1985 Live Aid charity concerts for Ethiopian famine relief.)

Ultravox originally formed in 1974 as Tiger Lily before developing the art-rock/glam-rock/new wave style, identity and name that would carry them through to their split-up (1987), a new lineup led by Currie (1992-1996) and then a period of reuniting (2008-2013).

I bought three of Ultravox’s first four albums, Ultravox! (1977), Systems of Romance and Slow Motion (both 1978), then skipped a few, but as the band’s music became a fixture on the club scene, bought Lament (1984). The last record I bought of theirs was their first compilation of hits, The Collection (1984). I still enjoy their 1977-1979 experimental music the most. I also favour some of their more dance-oriented songs of the early to mid-1980s, like the uptempo “Reap the Wild Wind” from the record Quartet (1982), the making of which was overseen by former Beatles producer George Martin (1926-2016).

The track reminds me of the heavy synthesizer focus of their experimental phase, but I didn’t click with most of the rest of that album. I also bought a couple of John Foxx’s solo albums, The Golden Section and Like a Miracle EP (both 1983), but I didn’t connect deeply with his style. I must give them a spin again, though, as I don’t remember them well.

The song title “Reap the Wild Wind” seems like a play on the biblical Old Testament verse, Hosea 8.7: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…” which has also been interpreted as, “Our enemy has sown the wind by provoking this war, and they will reap the whirlwind when we vanquish them.” This meshes with the official music video, featuring air force pilots from the two world wars, recalled by modern-day builders of a war monument (the design of which is also the album logo). The band members play all of these characters in a video that depicts various aspects of war and is dedicated to those who served.

Over their career, the band released 11 studio albums, four live albums, 18 compilations, video and extended play projects, and more than 30 singles.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Ultravox’s YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Kiss Them for Me

I can’t say I followed the punk rock scene of the mid-1970s, though I suppose I observed from a distance what was going on due to my constant fascination with music.

But English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer Susan Ballion, better known as Siouxsie Sioux, sure did. She first saw the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols in 1975 (the year they formed) and became a regular follower. I imagine their grungy, anti-authoritarian, often-screamed songs might have touched a part of her that needed to be met with after growing up as a childhood sexual assault survivor in an isolated life with an admired but alcoholic father, whose death when she was 14 plunged her into terrible health.

As a devoted punk-rock follower, Ballion (who adopted the name Siouxsie Sioux) was known at the time for the makeup and bondage-inspired costumes she wore at shows but, eventually, after being beaten up at a concert, headed in another direction. She focused on her own, recently-formed band, Siouxsie and the Banshees. (In my post on David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” I briefly refer to the fashion that I, as a thirteen-year-old with my parents, witnessed in the fans while waiting to be let into the Liverpool Empire Theatre to see his concert. I imagine the avant-garde style of costumes there in 1973 as a precursor to those Ballion/Sioux and her contemporaries would be sporting a few years later.)

As an artist, Sioux earned much acclaim; I recall hearing about her early in her career, though again, I didn’t connect directly with her music back then, for whatever reason, though the sense of it always carried a mystical quality I can’t quite explain. But her musician peers certainly connected. Siouxsie Sioux has been held up, her songs covered by others, and just generally admired by many of music’s most highly regarded artists. Many bands and singers like PJ Harvey, Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Dave Grohl, Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries, Joan as Police Woman, Alison Goldfrapp, and so many others revere her. She also influenced Joy Division, U2, Sinead O’Connor, among others…. the list seems almost endless.

Siouxsie Sioux has also collaborated with Morrissey, Angelo Badalamenti (famous for his soundtrack for the original Twin Peaks TV series), Suede, John Cale, Yoko Ono and others. Film director Tim Burton asked her to write a song for his movie Batman Returns (1992).

Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees released “Kiss Them for Me” on the album Superstition in 1991. It’s a song I’ve heard quite often on one of my go-to stations, KEXP Seattle, on The Morning Show with John Richards.

After genuinely enjoying hearing it many times (and it playing in my head a fair bit) lately, I looked up the song today. Wikipedia tells how the piece marked a departure for the band’s style, being more of a pop-oriented, mid-tempo dance song. The online magazine PopMatters listed “Kiss Them for Me” as one of “The 20 Most Memorable Songs of 1991.” I wonder why I’ve only come to know the song in the last year or two!

The lyrics for “Kiss The for Me” are a tribute to American actress and singer Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) and include the use of the term “divoon” (a superlative she used for “wonderful”). The song touches on the provocative lifestyle that became Mansfield’s trademark and the automobile crash that ended her life. Having witnessed how our male supremacist society has historically dominated females and manipulated and exploited their careers, I’m left wondering how much of all that, in such a high-profile lifestyle, hastened Mansfield’s turbulent life and very young death.

The song begins with a percussed and somewhat synthesized chant/mantra type of vibe with an Eastern flavour carried to a degree throughout the song’s structure, effects, and treatments. There’s a synthesizer lines that in part cleverly mimics the chorus, “Kiss them for me…. ” The YouTube music video, which isn’t available in Canada, emphasizes the Eastern influence. (There are copies of the video on YouTube, but not authorized, and I always hesitate about sharing access to a post that allows a random channel owner to profit off someone else’s art.)

The mantra/chant aspect of the song was particularly compelling for me this morning. I had listened to it a couple of times, so it was firmly registering in my subconsciousness. A little later in the morning, Sweety and I had our regular Monday morning group meditation with Padma, whom I mentioned in a post last week. Her group meditation features a mantra and builds upon its meaning in the three sessions the offers each week. This morning, I think my mind was already so settled in a mantra mode that, by the time we were in the silent meditation phase after Padma’s mantra, I was so deep in it, I felt I nearly drifted toward sleep! It was a blissful and restorative feeling; I’ll have to share that with her next time we speak.

“Kiss Them for Me” is definitely a current favourite. And all the history aside, I love the song in its brilliance and as an example of and a tribute to beauty. It’s a powerful and somewhat tragic piece by a bold and brave artist.

The Banshees were together until 1996, at which time Sioux continued for a while with another band, the Creatures, which was active from 1981 to 2005. Since then, Sioux has maintained a solo career though she hasn’t released material since 2015.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official audio from Siouxsie and the Banshees’ YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Salut d’Amour, Op. 12

This morning, I stumbled upon a video I thought would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Salut d’Amour (originally titled Liebesgruss or Love’s Greeting) was the first published work by English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934). He wrote the short piece in 1888 for his soon-to-be-wife, Caroline Alice Roberts (1848-1920), in response to the poem she wrote for him, titled Love’s Grace.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti recorded the work for Decca Classics in 2020. The music was posted to her YouTube channel, accompanied by a charming animation video by Holly Seekins, interpreting the piece. (I wasn’t able to find any information about Seekins.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

And, as my sweety says, “The animation is a reminder to live and love every day as much as possible. Happy Valentine’s Day ♥️💕🎶

Here’s the Seekins video animation to the music, performed by Benedetti and Russian-born pianist Petr Limonov, from Nicola Benedetti’s official YouTube channel:

Your Silent Face

“Rise and fall of shame
A search that shall remain
We asked you what you’d seen
You said you didn’t care”

(from “Your Silent Face,” by Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris)

The album Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) was the second release by New Order, an English rock band formed in 1980.

The group was essentially a reformation of the post-punk band Joy Division after the death by suicide of its lead singer Ian Curtis (1956-1980). New Order took a few years to get past the legacy of desolation that Joy Division had represented. The new, heavily synthesizer- and guitar-based sound incorporated electronic dance music in songs like “Blue Monday,” the single from Power Corruption and Lies which catapulted the band to fame and attention in dance clubs.

The cover art from the album is the painting, A Basket of Roses, by French painter and lithographer Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904). A lovely, framed print of another of Fantin-Latour’s works lives in our screened porch during the summertime, a gift from a dear friend on our street.

I remember hearing “Blue Monday” in clubs I’d visit on weekends with the hybrid group of friends from the St. Norbert suburb of Winnipeg, Canada that had expanded to include couples and single friends from St. Vital. (I often refer to this group as “friends 2.0,” as explained in earlier posts.) Whenever I hear “Blue Monday,” I recall an image of hordes rushing to the dance floor with the unmistakable opening beats of the drum machine-driven techno-pop. (Interestingly, the single didn’t appear on the long-play record version but appeared in the American releases on cassette tape and compact disc.)

New Order’s sound has developed over the years, and some of their music is more like mainstream rock, like “Crystal,” from 2001’s Get Ready though, admittedly, the label “mainstream” diminishes the song’s raw power. (That track is the subject of my only other post on a New Order song.)

“Your Silent Face,” the first song on the B-side of the LP, is a slowed-down, synthesizer-dominated, anthem-like piece that I feel portrays the theme symbolized by the album’s title, especially in the verse I excerpted at the top of this post. Thirty-eight years after the song’s release, society still has not demanded better from those who hold authority over us. The triad of power, corruption and lies is still very much alive and well.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from New Order’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Baby Don’t Go

Mary Wilson (1944-2021) was a founding member of the Motown act, The Supremes. The group formed in 1959 as the Primettes (a sister act to the Primes, which later morphed into the Temptations). She remained with the group through many personnel changes, including the departures of fellow founders Betty McGlown, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, but the group disbanded after Wilson left in 1977.

Wilson continued as a solo concert performer, was an activist for musical artists’ trademark protection, and wrote four autobiographies.

The Supremes released an immense discography of 29 studio albums, four live albums, 32 compilation albums, two soundtracks, and 66 singles. Wilson sang lead on 14 songs, including today’s selection, “Baby Don’t Go,” from the group’s debut record, Meet The Supremes (1962), and shared the lead on 12 other songs. During the time when management had changed the group name to Diana Ross & the Supremes (from 1967 to 1970) prior to Ross’s 1970 departure, Wilson appeared on only seven of the group’s 14 singles.

As a solo artist, Wilson released two solo studio albums, a live album, a compilation, and two live concert DVDs. She made many appearances on TV, including a 2008 spot on the TV newsmagazine 20/20. On that program she participated in a social experiment that involved exposing pedestrians to a woman singing “Stop! In the Name of Love,” with Wilson stepping in to give a critique of the singer’s style.

Wilson continued public appearances and, only days before her death, announced she planned to release new solo music.

Mary Wilson’s body of work is vast and impressive, but is only part of a life cut short this week.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Supremes’ official YouTube channel, which also features the album Meet The Supremes as a playlist:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Spain

This week, the world has lost two significant American musical figures: singer Mary Wilson of The Supremes, and jazz composer, keyboardist and bandleader Chick Corea. I’m still pondering Wilson and hope to post something tomorrow.

Though I have some dear friends playing in the genre, jazz is a style I know little about. And I don’t know Corea’s music at all, though I thought there was a record of his in a collection of LPs I bought from one of my brothers many years ago. I looked for it tonight but couldn’t find it. Maybe it was misfiled, or just a figment of my imagination.

At any rate, I set out online to find something suitable to post and found what I think is a real gem: a recording of Corea’s famous composition “Spain.”

The version on his second album, Light as a Feather released in 1973 with Return to Forever, the band he co-founded, opens with an interpretation of the Adagio from the guitar concerto Concierto de Aranjuez written in 1939 by the visually-disabled Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999). Like the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (1910-1981), classical Adagio movements have been used to add drama to cinema, such as director Peter Weir’s 1981 film, Gallipoli, where the Adagio by Tomasino Albinoni (1671-1751) underscores the heartbreaking tragedy and loss of life from war.

For me, the Rodrigo Adagio introduction’s solemnity is meaningful and a serendipitous discovery as the world says farewell to yet another musical great.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio from the official Chick Corea YouTube channel:

An Ending (Ascent)

Yesterday’s post held many thoughts, and one element of it, the Moon, is still high in the sky of my consciousness.

Last month I posted “Capsule” from the Brian Eno/Roger Eno/Daniel Lanois album, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – Extended Edition (please check out the post for more about the album and the documentary film For All Mankind the trio produced it for). I’m returning to that album today as I heard “An Ending (Ascent)” this morning while surfing on YouTube.

I feel like the composers meant the piece to mark the moment when the Apollo 11 lunar module ascended from the Moon’s surface to rendezvous with the command module and return the crew home to Earth. The dreaming, adventure, and historical significance of the mission are represented remarkably.

The track is an ethereal, heavenly-sounding piece and perhaps one of the album’s best know tracks. In a 2019 interview with Noisey, a host for documentaries about music, Brian Eno talks about the album and discusses the piece. At 12:25 in the clip he tells how, when the original track was not working out, he turned the tape upside down and played it backwards.

Earlier in that video, Roger Eno talks with anguish at remembering the Apollo 11 moon landing seemed to have the potential as a moment to bring humanity together (similar to what Petula Clark sings of in yesterday’s “The World Song”). Sadly, it didn’t, nor has any event since.

I recommend the Noisey video as it shares interesting discussion about the album. Canadian producer and musician Daniel Lanois tells that the three men worked remotely from each other, using email sharing of files to put together the second disc in the 2019 expanded version. 

The comments beneath the YouTube video for this song include many about the piece being used during the dying moments or at funerals of loved ones. I like the idea of this use of what one of the musicians refers to as a hymn-like piece. Maybe that idea is more prominent today, thinking of the death this week of a founding member of The Supremes, Mary Wilson (1944-2021).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:  

And the interview by Noisey:

The World Song

Time is such an interesting concept.

A few weeks ago, well, January 17 at 10:03 pm, to be exact (according to the Shazam app), I heard a song, and my iPhone told me it was Petula Clark singing “The World Song.” Based on that time of the evening, it had to be while my sweety and I were watching TV together. I have a strong hunch it was during an episode of For All Mankind, an Apple TV series premised on the notion of what would have happened if the 1960s space race didn’t end with the first moon landing in 1969. (No spoilers here, I promise). It isn’t the best TV I’ve seen, but the concept and execution are pretty admirable if I may say so as one who likes good quality science fiction (e.g., the film Contact as my barometer of excellent). And the plot, complex and engaging. We got through the first season in far less time than it would take for American mathematician Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) to calculate the trajectory for an Earth-Moon-Earth space mission; but for now, we must wait until later this month to see what happens in Season 2.

The series is on Apple TV, for which Sweety and I snagged a special deal for a free year’s subscription. I won’t go into the annoyance of so, so many subscription TV streaming services out there, and all that entails… no… not going there. No.

(By the way… there isn’t time here to go into the fact there was a film of the exact same name (a documentary, not a fictitious drama like the Apple series) made in 1983 for which Brian Eno, Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois created the official soundtrack, then expanded and re-released it for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing).

Anyway, hearing the song, I knew the voice was familiar and loved the melody. And — in the context of being immersed in a TV series that changes how history unfolded before, during and after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon — learning it was the British singer Petula Clark singing the song, well, that bent history and time again.

I remember, as a young boy, how Clark was a major pop star of the time. She was born in 1932 and began her career as a child entertainer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during World War II. Fast-forward many years, to when she released “The World Song” in 1971… at which time, she was only 39, so yeah, okay, nothing to see here, folks.

But when I thought a little more, today’s selection is a massive departure from the style and sound of one of Clark’s signature pieces, “Downtown,” released earlier, in 1964, an iconic hit if there ever was one.

So, “The World Song” grabbed my attention. And as I listened to it again after learning it was Petula Clark, I was struck by a prominent country music element or theme in the beat of the song and even in Clark’s vocal. It was so, so very different to what I think of as a kind of Mary-Poppins-meets-Mary-Tyler-Moore-in-the-TV-series type of vibe that I clearly remember hearing in “Downtown” when I heard it as a kid in the 60s, and also when looking at it from today’s context.

Thinking of all that at once… time truly is a confusing idea, as parts of it keep pointing back, and we carry those memories with us in how we experience the world and each other in the present, then we carry that into the future then reflect on the past, so the cycle just repeats itself.

Then, the song. On the surface, the lyrics talk about wanting to arrange a big celebration, as if such a thing was beyond reach. Well, here we are many years after 1971, and there’s this virus… and parties really are beyond reach. I’m fully expecting to have a second birthday without a) sitting at a table all together with Sweety and our kids and b) a huge gathering with kin joined by many friends. It’s the way it is. For now.

So, yeah. A celebration is a damn exciting idea; something we all miss so much and really look forward to! And the power of that anticipation is similar to the excitement I felt in July 1969, standing in the back lane of my childhood home in St. Norbert, Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my dad and brothers as we all tried to absorb the idea of a human being speaking to everyone on Earth from the surface of the Moon.

Time is so mysterious, complicated and unpredictable. But also, so wholly reliable.

Our world is in a mess in many ways, and in my mind, “The World Song” speaks to that from a sense of wanting to act solely in inclusive ways. In what I feel was a deliberately chosen country-style delivery, the words are so elementally earthy and authoritative in their call. I think, in this song, Clark is asking with such emphasis that, across all these many decades, and with all we’ve experienced as a human race, can we now realize as a planet that we must intentionally include and care for each other? It’s not like we need to reach for the Moon.

Anyway, it’s almost midnight. I don’t want to break my record of making a post about a song every day for more than 401 days in a row. Thanks for joining me here. I hope you enjoy the music.

Here’s the audio for the song from the petularchive Youtube channel, which I cannot be sure is an official source but appears to link to a recording (so hopefully, the advertising income goes to the one who recorded the song):

Full, unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Carry On Wayward Son

“Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more”

(from “Carry On Wayward Son,” by Kerry Livgren)

If you were living in the 1970s, I think it would be nearly impossible not to immediately recognize the above lines as the unaccompanied introduction sung by Kansas members Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt to the band’s epic rock song, “Carry On Wayward Son.”

The song comes from the band’s fourth studio album, Leftoverture (1976). That was the first music I had heard by Kansas, an American rock band formed in the early 1970s in Topeka, Kansas. They have remained active until the present (aside from disbanding briefly from 1984 to 1985). The group’s primary songwriter, guitarist Kerry Livgren, also wrote the similarly well-known “Dust in the Wind” from their fifth studio release, Point of Know Return (1977).

A school mate who was a big fan of Genesis (and later, the solo works of Peter Gabriel, as I mentioned in a post on “Come Talk to Me”) introduced Leftoverture to our group of friends. Though I bought the record, I never really followed the band or picked up anything else from their prolific discography of 16 studio albums, seven live albums, nine compilations and 29 singles.

“Carry On Wayward Son” is a significant song from my mid-teens and is highly reminiscent of the era of massive, sold-out arena rock concerts. An anthem to turmoil and conflict, it always seemed to fit well as a marker of youth seeking place and meaning.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video for the song from the Kansas VEVO/YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.

Carry

A few weekends ago, I browsed the always-reliable Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel, looking for interesting examples of classical music for Classical Sunday.

At that time, I found an orchestral rendition of the Eno/Roedelius/Moebius electronic-rock piece, “By This River.” I also found a piece by alternative rock singer-songwriter Tori Amos (whose music I have featured twice before: her covers of Tom Waits’ “Time” and the Stranglers’ “Strange Little Girl”).

I’ve long been an admirer of Amos’s music and have several of her CDs: Under the Pink (1994); Boys for Pele (1996); Strange Little Girls (2001); the 20-track, self-described “sonic autobiography,” Tales of a Librarian (2003); and American Doll Posse (2007). Amos also sings a mysterious and sparse but gripping cover of “Famous Blue Raincoat” on the multi-artist compilation, Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1995).

Reading up on Amos a little this morning, I learned that she was classically trained. When only five years old, she had already begun composing piano music. She was the youngest person to be enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute but was kicked out at age 11 for “musical insubordination” (as reported in a 1998 interview by Rolling Stone magazine). In a way, I think that sums up her musical career and style; bold, independent, and pushing boundaries — qualities society often does not encourage or reward when exhibited by women.

“Carry” comes from the album Night of Hunters (2011), Amos’s 12th release, and her first classical-styled album. It is a concept album Amos describes on her website as, “… a 21st-century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years.” The sound is unmistakably Tori Amos and illustrates her versatility as a musical artist.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Fix You

“Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face and I…
Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face and I…”

(from “Fix You,” by Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, Will Champion.
Full, unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.)

Today, Sweety and I joined with friends and strangers on a Zoom call. We shared stories, thoughts, prayers, photos, music and blessings in tribute and celebration of a man I previously mentioned in my December 15, 2020 post on “Belong,” an R.E.M. song covered by the Australian band, Quivers.

My sweety and I had only met him last year, but he had a profound impact on us in the half-dozen conversations we had with him in a circle of friends. This man loved and nurtured his family. He created and directed addictions recovery programs in a long and distinguished career of serving others. He also led men’s retreats to help foster healthy masculinity. His work and passion touched many lives. He loved and had time for people, and my sweety and I felt that love in the few encounters we had with him, all of them on Zoom.

Recently I shared the playful “Life in Technicolor ii” by the British rock band, Coldplay. Today I thought of Coldplay’s emotive “Fix You” because some of the lyrics above speak to my sense of what the loss of this man means to those who believe he saved their lives. But he didn’t set out to fix people; from the stories I’ve heard, he encouraged people to accept and love themselves enough to overcome their problems, because they were worth that. He stuck with them. And he remains with them now.

I think the organizers intended for the meetup to go for about an hour and a half. More than 70 people were on at one time, and we started to say farewell nearly three hours into the call.

Some consider “Fix You” an anthem on how many men operate in relationships: always wanting to fix things. Coldplay lead singer, primary songwriter and front person Chris Martin is said to have written the song for his then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow during a difficult time in her life. Years ago, my sweety listened to this song a lot during a particularly challenging time in her work. I love the piece, as it evokes a sense of the healing and hope that comes from knowing that “lights will guide you home.” An optimism suffuses in the song’s ending, especially in the official music video’s stirring concert excerpt.

“Fix You” comes from X&Y, Coldplay’s third studio album, released in 2005.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Coldplay’s YouTube channel. (I love how some of the “lights (that) will guide you home” are the bold, multi-coloured squares from the X&Y album cover art, projected onto a building at night in London England.)

I’ll Bring the Sun

Happy Friday!

Today I’m sharing a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Jason Collett, a solo artist and member of the Canadian band Broken Social Scene.

In an earlier post, I shared his collaboration with fellow Canadian musician Hayden (aka Paul Hayden Dresser) on the melancholy but captivating “Lonely Is as Lonely Does,” from the Arts & Crafts label’s tenth anniversary compilation album Arts & Crafts: X.

In “I’ll Bring the Sun,” the song’s subject is unclear though it seems to centre around missed expectations in relationships, but the song’s uptempo beat seems to side-step that.

Ironically, in the last couple of weeks of often dull, overcast skies where I live in Winnipeg, Canada, this song has randomly played several times on the Car Tunes playlist I’ve listened to while doing indoor bike trainer rides. The song’s beat and the fact that Collett did bring the sun today seemed to make it a good selection.

“I’ll Bring the Sun” comes from Collett’s 2005 album, Idols of Exile, which is available for purchase and download from Bandcamp.com at 9.00 CAD and up. And in case you are looking to buy some music, today is Bandcamp Friday, a good day to support artists as the music download platform is once again waiving its fees all day. All proceeds go to the artists on purchases made until midnight, Pacific time. (As many of us are in different time zones, check the Bandcamp site, which has a countdown clock running for the promotion.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Jason Collett’s Bandcamp album page:

Official lyrics are available on the Bandcamp song page.

Weather to Fly

The first time I posted on this blog about an Elbow song, just over a year ago, (“This Blue World” from the 2014 album The Take Off and Landing of Everything), I mentioned that a cousin from Liverpool, England introduced me to the band’s music some years back.

The album he recommended was The Seldom Seen Kid (2008), from which today’s song comes. “Weather to Fly” has long been a favourite of mine. I would often listen to it driving home when I was still working for a particularly difficult boss, as I find the song has a way of clearing the present moment’s challenges by substituting pictures painted by the words.

Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we part of the plan here?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we coming across clear?
Are we coming across fine?
Are we having the time of our lives?
Are we part of the plan here?

We had the drive and the time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly
Perfect weather to fly

Poundin’ the streets where my father’s feet
Still ring from the walls
We’d sing in the doorways or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly

So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try?
Perfect weather to fly

We had the drive and the time on our hands
One little room and the biggest of plans
The days were shaping up frosty and bright
Perfect weather to fly
Perfect weather to fly

Poundin’ the streets where my father’s feet
Still ring from the walls
We’d sing in the doorways or bicker and row
Just figuring how we were wired inside
Perfect weather to fly

So in looking to stray from the line
We decided instead we should pull out the thread
That was stitching us into this tapestry vile
And why wouldn’t you try?
Perfect weather to fly

(“Weather to Fly,” by Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Richard Jupp, Pete Turner.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

Most recently, I shared “The Birds” from Build a Rocket Boys! In that post, which I hope you will visit if you haven’t already, I link to my previous write-ups on Elbow songs. There I also talk of my admiration for lead singer Guy Garvey and his BBC 6 Music program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. He’s been away from the show for a few weeks, and I do miss his inimitably jolly style.

“Weather to Fly” seems to tell a story of the band members as young mates (they first met and started playing together in the Manchester area in 1990 when Garvey was 16 years old). The lyrics talk of determination challenged by self-doubt, conflict and turmoil, but also indomitable dreaming and the seeking of independence while still influenced by the shadow of ancestors: “Poundin’ the streets where my father’s feet / Still ring from the walls…” This passage is poignant, and especially so if assuming it is written about Garvey’s father, since his dad would have been living when the band wrote the song but died three years ago.

On my last few trips into Liverpool, via Virgin Trains out of London, I too was deeply mindful of my ancestry. Nearing Liverpool, the train keeps to yarding speed after stopping at Runcorn, a small industrial and port town roughly midway between Liverpool and Manchester. On the last couple of times, during that final half-hour approach, I imagined my parents and older siblings living in Liverpool and Birkenhead and the struggles of life there, particularly during and in the years after World War II. Those train rides have been very contemplative and emotional, but soon shift to excitement at the sight of family waiting for us in Lime Street station. I’m pretty sure this song will have been in my head at least one of those rides.

Today while searching for the official audio, I landed upon a cover version made in lockdown sessions during 2020 by London’s The Swingles. Many of my vintage and older will remember their predecessors, the Swingle Singers, a group of Parisien singers that American vocalist and jazz musician Ward Swingle (1927-2015) formed in 1962. They sang popularized, a cappella versions of keyboard pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach on their 1963 albums Jazz Sebastian Bach and Bach’s Greatest Hits. I much prefer the Elbow studio version with its nuanced piano and voice introduction and evocative writing and musicianship. The Swingles’ rendition is unique and interesting, though I find it a bit thin and it seems to unravel unnaturally toward the ending.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Elbow’s official YouTube channel:

And here is The Swingles 2020 cover, from their YouTube channel:

Which do you prefer? Please leave me a comment, and let me know what you think.

Roundabout

Today it’s Groundhog Day.

And, as in the Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell movie, every day in pandemic time might seem to be a repeat of the one before. The same chores, the same game played with Perry Como the cat, the same coffee and breakfast, etc. I’m trying to change it up as much as I can, and riding different virtual worlds/routes in Zwift plus our meditations, gatherings and meetings on Zoom and Google Meet and some time out in nature break up the monotony and bring inspiration, engagement and joy.

Another thing that’s different about today is it’s the day we historically count on groundhogs to tell us if more winter or warmer winter is on the way. The consensus so far among the critters in Canada, or the puppets that now represent some of them, is that we can look forward to early spring. That’s great news! In less than two months, I could be hauling my road bike out of the city to Birds Hill Provincial Park to ride the park roadways as they are generally clear of snow, ice, and sand much earlier than Winnipeg’s bike paths.

So… excellent job, Manitoba Merv and Winnipeg Wynn! I hope you can get back to your hibernation without further disruptions until it’s time to come out for spring.

The notion of a constantly-repeating day also made me think of being stuck driving in a roundabout or traffic circle, which then made me think of today’s selection, “Roundabout,” by the English progressive rock group, Yes.

Formed in 1968, the band has been through numerous personnel changes in the three periods of activity (1968-1981, 1983-2004, 2008-present). One of my school friends was very fond of Yes and even followed lead singer Jon Anderson in his solo career.

Anderson left the band in 2008 but began solo work and collaboration with other artists as early as 1976 with Olias of Sunhillow, a fantasy concept album he wrote and performed solo. The record features an elaborate, mystical-looking four-page storybook within the album cover — another of those epic album covers by the English art design company, Hipgnosis. The only Yes album I have is 90125 from 1983, which contains the single “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” I did buy Olias, though I don’t think I have ever listened to it (I have done that from time to time, similarly buying books then not reading them until much, much later).

Inside cover of Olias of Sunhillow.

“Roundabout” comes from Yes’s fourth album, Fragile, the second record the band released in 1971. The song is one of the band’s most successful and well-known pieces across its 21 studio albums.

American musician, producer and educator Rick Beato breaks down the full 8:29 album version of the song on episode 36 of his What Makes This Song Great? series on YouTube. It’s terrific as are all the videos I’ve watched so far in the series; really worth a listen if you want to learn more about the music’s making and production. Anderson’s co-writer on “Roundabout” Steve Howe begins the song after a reversed piano chord leads dramatically into his acoustic guitar harmonics. After the famous guitar lick and more harmonics, the rest of the instruments jump in followed by Anderson’s famously alto-tenor vocal.

Yes released a three-minute, twenty-seven-second radio edit in January 1972, less than half the original version’s length. Hardly long enough to get into the spirit of the song, but, well… that was radio back then… afraid to test people’s attention spans, perhaps?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the remastered audio of the album version from Yes’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

New Clothes

“It’s raining outside
Water falls from the sky
And it’s sad but it cleans all the dirt from the streets”

(from “New Clothes,” by Amy Belle)

A new day, a new week, a new month. A chance to begin again, again. And similar to the lyric, rain may not always be welcome and uplifting, “but it cleans the dirt from the streets.” I enjoy a good rainstorm and the feeling of a light, warm rain on a hot summer day. And in a time of such angst and suffering in society, it is good to think about new beginnings, or perhaps continuations of those things we have paused…

Amy Belle is a Scottish singer-songwriter whom my sweety and I first saw on a DVD on which Belle sang a duet with Rod Stewart during his One Night Only! concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, in 2004. The two sang “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” by American songwriter Danny Whitten (1943-1972), who also recorded the song while working with Neil Young’s backing band, Crazy Horse, though Stewart’s cover recording was a greater commercial success.

Sweety and I, and a couple of friends of ours, watched the One Night Only! DVD often and would usually replay “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” several times. (That song probably deserves a post of its own, sometime…)

A friend of Stewart’s had spotted Belle busking in London and helped her make contact with his manager; later, she appeared with Stewart at his 2004 show. In 2008, we learned from one of my nieces that Belle had released several recordings of her own: Slipping Under (2003) and Acoustic (2008), both of which I purchased in the iTunes Store. Lost in the Shortcut (2009) is the latest work of hers I could find on the Internet.

“New Clothes” comes from the album Slipping Under. The song be the perspective of one abandoned by a lover who was unable to commit to the relationship. Belle’s sound is a cross between folk and pop, and her recordings are lovely things to listen to from time to time, recalling fun times and music shared with friends and family, and thinking of the things we will do together when we can gather again. (Maybe even in some new clothes.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Amy Belle YouTube topic channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of Musixmatch.com.

Nocturne in F-Sharp Major, Op. 15 No. 2

The Polish composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) wrote 21 nocturnes. The three that make up his Opus 15 were written between 1830 and 1833, and he wrote “Nocturne in F-Sharp Major, Op. 15, No. 2” in 1832.

The nocturne is made up of three sections. The first is slow and intricate (larghetto), followed by a doppio movimento (double speed), then a return to the larghetto form. It’s a beautifully lyrical piece, and like all Chopin’s work, complex and technically challenging to play (or so I’m told).

It’s a fine piece to listen to as I sit relaxing and writing this post, looking out a beautiful, clear blue sky after a one-hour, forty-five minute, 40-kilometre (25-mile) Zwift virtual bike ride. It was a great ride with considerable climbing (648 metres, or 2,126 feet). I spent a lot of the time near the back of a nine-member pack, dropping back to pull weaker riders back into the virtual group’s slipstream.

Yesterday I spoke about some of the pitfalls of the Internet, but riding in Zwift, I see another positive aspect to it: linking cyclists together worldwide, in a way that allows for virtual connection, support and socialization, with text chatting and even radio app communication in some groups. Riding “with” others helps pass the time and make trainer rides more interesting, challenging, and fun.

I’m grateful to the developers of virtual cycling technology. Like Chopin’s piano compositions, it is complex and adds much joy to my life.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman playing the nocturne in 1987, posted on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:

Sunshine on My Shoulders

Today, I am sharing a song of pure comfort after a week that has been tough on many in my circle.

Several loved ones have been carrying heavy burdens, often with no sign of when these might be lifted or with no solution in sight. My heart has also been heavy at learning a friend and carpenter, who did some lovingly skillful work that beautified Sweety’s and my home a few years ago, died by suicide this week.

There’s a lot of loss and sadness compounding in the world. And each day, fears about unrelenting increases in COVID-19 cases, delays in shipment of the miraculously-created vaccine, the rise of virus variants and questions about the vaccine’s efficacy on them each add to the collective anxiety. It’s a lot.

And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s the ongoing scourge of the Internet. Don’t get me wrong; I love that so much information, music, knowledge, wisdom, beauty and connection is immediately available through this “sacred technology” (as one of my dear Colorado friends calls computer devices). It enables me to explore songs and their creators and share them with you as if we were sitting together.

But the dark side of the world wide web is so very compromising to society, especially in this time of global vulnerability. Nowhere is this more evident than in social media: sure, there is much good there, but the unbridled ability to publish anything under the banner of free speech is amassing so much negativity, hate and aggression; behaviour often modelled and fuelled by those we elect as our leaders. I often wonder if or how we could ever get back to a more humble existence now that we’ve advanced so far, well, technologically anyway.

Against this backdrop of grief, fear and hostility, there is the living and life-giving gift of music from people like John Denver (1943-1997). Even when I was in my youth, hearing songs like “Country Boy” at high school dances, Denver always represented qualities of wholesomeness, kindness and humility before I truly understood what those were. In his short time on the earth, Denver was a singer-songwriter, actor, record producer, social activist, and humanitarian. He made 33 albums and acted in film and TV, advocated for the environment and space exploration, and against censorship in music. America’s Colorado state named him its poet laureate and honoured his song, “Rocky Mountain High.”

The world needs more people like John Denver. More than 20 years after his death, he is still at work, bringing hope and healing, and laying sunshine on the shoulders of the living world and all in it.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

Sunshine almost all the time makes me high
Sunshine almost always

(“Sunshine on My Shoulders,” by John Denver, Dick Kniss, Mike Taylor.
Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

Denver released “Sunshine on my Shoulders” on his 1971 album, Poems, Prayers and Promises and reissued it as a single in 1973. It became a Billboard hit in 1974.

As we continue to be weighed down by challenges of our time, which erode our feelings of security, peace and wholeness, let us not be brought down by each other. May we lift up each other and shine our light, deep into the dark recesses of the world (real and cyber), seeking to promote togetherness, respect, justice, compassion and love.

Otherwise, darkness will overcome.

And we won’t survive without light.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from John Denver’s official YouTube/VEVO channel:

Big Jet Plane

So, hands up, everyone who’s yearning to get away on holiday!

It’s now over a year since the first COVID-19 cases developed worldwide, and most of us have spent ten or more months in some form of restricted lifestyle.

Like the character in the video for today’s song, many are trapped in unrewarding routines (or ruts?), dreaming of riding in a big jet plane or, for those of us in cold winter, a car with the windows rolled down and the warm summer wind rushing in. Instead, we’re figuratively stocking shelves in the lonely dollar store, cleaning up spilled bags of candies, washing windows, taking out the recycling. (By coincidence, earlier this morning, I changed things up and washed all the fronts of the lower cupboards in our kitchen. Looks great! And the high ones? Well, that’s going to be another unexpected treat, maybe in a day or two… I’m not going to plan, just let it happen…)

In this time of isolated living, we must find ways toward inspired existence, not just fear and drudgery. Yesterday, my sweety learned through a friend and guide about Esther Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist, speaker and author. In a YouTube talk, Perel speaks about nurturing eroticism — and by that, she’s not referring to sex, but rather the qualities of vitality, curiosity and spontaneity that are often absent in our lives since the arrival of the “great unknown.” Flattening the curve, though necessary, has also flattened our lives. Our positive imaginations have been somewhat replaced by fantasizing about doom. She highlights missing what she refers to as erotic experiences like being in nature, meeting up with someone and turning it into a coffee date, hosting or attending weekly dinner parties, hugging friends and family, and going to the restaurants and the theatre.

All those things will come back, but when? In the meantime, I’m opening to spontaneity this weekend… maybe drive out of the city, a walk in a park, a cross-country ski together. And make arrangements to safely visit our grandson (and his parents). What will you do this weekend?

Australian musicians Angus and Julia Stone formed their self-named band in 2006 and have released four studio albums. “Big Jet Plane” comes from Down the Way (2010). It’s a song I heard on KEXP Seattle some time ago. Coincidentally, right after the YouTube video played this morning, the autoplay cued up a piece by M83, another band whose music KEXP introduced to me.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Nettwerk Music YouTube channel:

Goose Snow Cone

Content warning: this post contains discussion of mental health.

I first heard Aimee Mann’s music in the film, I Am Sam, which starred American actor Sean Penn as a single father with an intellectual disability, at risk of losing custody of his daughter. The soundtrack is made up entirely of covers of Beatles songs; Mann sang “Two of Us.”

Next, I heard Mann’s music in Magnolia, which writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson said inspired the film about the interplay of seemingly random interactions among strangers, all facing life difficulties, many catastrophic, all seeking healing, hope and redemption.

The American signer-songwriter Aimee Mann started as co-founder of the 1980’s new wave band ‘Til Tuesday. Her solo career began in the 1990s and her songs often feature people tormented by sorrow or other challenges.

In an interview with writer Melissa Locker for Elle magazine, Mann tells how “Goose Snow Cone” was inspired by a friend’s cat, whose picture she saw on Instagram while on tour in Ireland. She tells of feeling lonely on tour and feeling homesick seeing the cat’s image.

I’m not sure where I first heard the song; it may have been KEXP Seattle. The song comes from her most recent album, Mental Illness (2017). The chorus, “Gotta keep it together when the friends come by / Always checking the weather but they wanna know why / Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly” came to mind today as in Canada it’s Bell Let’s Talk day. It’s a day where the corporation donates five cents for every text, call, tweet or TikTok video using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. At the time of writing, nearly 130 million interactions have been made with the tag.

There is some controversy about the initiative, though. Bell is facing criticism for not “walking the talk” as numerous employees have called out the company for not supporting them, and for toxic workplaces. Many believe the program is nothing more than a public relations stunt. I’m a little torn, as I see it as part of their corporate social responsibility, though I agree it does provide them with a lot of publicity for a modest investment. That said, the money raised is significant, though obviously not enough to make a substantial difference in Canadians’ mental health.

Many people are speaking out against Bell. I hope they will hear these folks and address the claims people are making against the company. No public relations program can be effective without honesty and accountability to those it is meant to help, so Bell must take any doubts seriously and be upfront with Canadians.

All that said, I feel the real problem is that Canadian governments have been too focused on lowering taxes and cutting programs to do that. If you’ve been here a while, you will have read similar words from me. Many people, especially the most vulnerable in our society — our elders, Indigenous people, people living in homelessness, and those with chronic illnesses disabilities, are often forgotten. Corporations with profit as their primary motive cannot be relied on as major funders of help for those in need.

Within all this, mental health has been a casualty of government indifference, too. And this is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing massive disruptions to the flow of community, leading to isolation, loneliness and income insecurity.

I’m fortunate to have my sweety, family, friends… many people care about my well-being. Not everyone has that.

Let’s all pledge, not just for today, but every day, to reach out and check on someone who may be lonely.

If you are in crisis and need help, there are places you can call, text or chat to get help:

In Canada:

Crisis Services Canada
Dial 1-833-456-4566
24 hours a day, seven days a week

Crisis Text Line
Text Services (powered by Kids Help Phone, serving adults): Text 741741

Kids Help Phone
Text Services: Text “CONNECT” to 686868 (children and youth)

Youthspace.ca (NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education & Support)
Youth Chat (6 pm – 12 am PT): http://www.youthspace.ca
Youth Text (6 pm – 12 am PT): (778) 783-0177

If you need urgent medical help, contact emergency services, by calling 9-1-1 or the emergency number for your community.

In the United States:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Dial 1-800-273-8255
24 hours a day, seven days a week

If you’re thinking about suicide, are a Veteran in crisis, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the United States.

If you need urgent medical help, contact emergency services, by calling 9-1-1 or the emergency number for your community.

* * *

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the video for the song from Aimee Mann’s official YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.

What Sarah Said

The American alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie was formed in Bellingham, Washington, USA, in 1997.

The group took their name from a Neil Inness and Vivian Stanshall song, “Death Cab for Cutie,” featured in both the 1960s British TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set and the Beatles’ musical movie Magical Mystery Tour.

I only learned of Death Cab for Cutie’s music when they released their fifth studio album, Plans, in 2005, though I don’t remember where I first heard it. I don’t have their earlier releases (except for the title track from 2003’s Transatlanticism). Because I liked Plans so much, I bought Narrow Stairs when it came out in 2008 but didn’t care for it at all. Maybe I’ll have to give it another listen. I skipped a few releases, then Thank You for Today (2018) redeemed the band for me, though it doesn’t carry anywhere near the vibe, mood or magic of the songs on Plans, particularly the song, “What Sarah Said.”

Twenty years ago today, I stood with family in a hospital room as my dad took his last breaths, a little more than 24 hours after some of us living far away could get there to be at his side with our mum and sister, and not long after the farthest-travelling sibling arrived.

“What Sarah Said” is a most vivid description of the helpless, hopeless feeling of pacing around a hospital, knowing the end is coming, but not knowing how long will be spent in that waiting time; all the while facing moments of denial, and anxious to hear something encouraging from overworked and caring doctors, nurses and staff. The song captures the emotions of holding space and each other, exhausted; eyes and heads sore from too-bright lights, too little sleep and nourishment, and unable to shut out the sights, sounds, and smells of a hospital (right down to the song-quoted disinfecting smell of Formula 409 cleaner).

And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes
In the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409

And I rationed my breaths
As I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak
On the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines
And year-old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind
That our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds

And I knew that you were truth
I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around
At all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes ‘round and everyone lifts their head
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That “Love is watching someone die”

So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?

(“What Sarah Said,” by Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla, Jason McGerr, Nick Harmer)

Hearing the song brings back those memories, but it also evokes happier recollections of before and since Dad died. It’s a terrific piece of music, too. It starts with a repeating broken triad on the piano (thanks to Sweety for telling me what the piano part is called), which ushers in some of the band after a few bars, then brings in the rest of the instruments, and finally, Ben Gibbard’s unmistakable voice joins to tell the story.

There’s an urgency in the sound, until the end and the linkage between love and death. This part of the song reminds me of a 12th century poem quoted on page 25 of the Francis Weller book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief:

“For Those Who Have Died”

Eleh Ezkerah (These We Remember)

‘Tis a fearful thing
To love
What death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,
Love,
But a holy thing,
To love what death can touch.

For your life has lived in me;
Your laugh once lifted me;
Your word was a gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
A holy thing,
To love
What death can touch.

(by Judah Halevi, or Emanuel of Rome)

While I was out on errands today, I stopped in at a liquor store and, serendipitously, stumbled upon a bottle of Lemon Hart brand Demerara rum, the exact kind my dad enjoyed a long time ago and which I bought him as a gift sometimes. I remember that it stopped being available for many years, and I wasn’t even looking for it today as I didn’t know it was made anymore. I bought a bottle. My sweety and I will toast to my dear dad tonight.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today.

Thank you for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the song from Death Cab for Cutie’s official YouTube channel:

Things to Live For

Jackson Maloney is an American poet and singer-songwriter living and creating art in Colorado, USA.

I came to know him through a mutual friend and at online community gatherings held early in the 2020 lockdown, including early-morning poetry sharing sessions. He released his first collection of poems, Becoming, in 2018, and the ten-song album Things to Live For late in 2019.

In addition to being a talented artist, Maloney is a gentle, kind and generous human. Underneath the light drawl of his vocal, there is great wisdom, reflection and soul in his words. These attributes are evident in all his work, whether playfully exploring the joys of life or coming to terms with grief, fear and loss. He also brings much hope to the world through his storytelling in song.

Today, I’m featuring the title track from his album. Another favourite is the solemn, contemplative and masterful “I’m Ready for to Pray,” the character of which is reminiscent of a country-western ballad.

“Things to Live For” is a song of love and hope amid the joys and challenges of life: “I’ve had lovers who held me close / And I’ve had friends die young and haunt me with their ghosts… ” It’s beautiful writing, playing and singing.

At the end of the song, Maloney is joined by other voices who amplify and add their joyous exclamations to his optimistic chorus:

“And it’s all good
It’s all great
It’s strong until it’s gone
Before too late
And I am happy to be around
And when I’m down
I lay my burden like a boulder
On the ground”

(from “Things to Live For,” by Jackson Maloney)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it to support the artist who made it.

Here’s the audio for the song from Jackson Maloney’s Bandcamp album page:

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)

In 2017, Iranian filmmaker and refugee Majid Adin won a contest to produce, along with co-director Stephen McNally of London, England, a video for Elton John’s hit song, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time).”

The competition, called The Cut, called on filmmakers to compete to produce videos for three of John’s best-known songs. YouTube was a supporter of the initiative, but I couldn’t find any other information; a link to a page on John’s website turns back a “page not found” message.

Adin’s animated video mimics the experience of leaving his home in Iran to take refuge in the United Kingdom. It depicts a man, dressed as an astronaut, making a long, solo journey away from his family and juxtaposes these scenes with the adventure of space flight and exploration. The commonalities throughout are isolation and loneliness, but also hope, wonder and love.

Today’s selection was the lead single from John’s 1972 album, Honky Château. Like most Elton John songs it is a product of his longtime collaboration with English lyricist Bernie Taupin. “Rocket Man” (Rocketman) is also the title of a 2019 biographical musical film that chronicles the English superstar’s life. My sweety and I haven’t watched the movie yet, but would very much like to watch it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Elton John’s YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Cinderella, Op. 87, Act I: No. 1, Introduction (Andante Dolce)

Many years ago, one of my brothers and I were together a lot to watch movies and listen to classical music long-play records (it was a long time ago, so we probably were watching VHS tapes!). He helped me learn who the composers were through their different styles and the periods in which they lived.

On one such evening, we listened to the music for the ballet Cinderella, composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Nikolai Volkov (dates unknown) wrote the libretto. The ballet, arranged in three acts and 50 parts, was scored for a large orchestra. Most of the pieces are less than three minutes in length, and several are under one minute. But they are filled with many sounds!

In particular, Act I, No. 18, “Clock Scene” (Allegro moderato) plays just under a minute and a half but goes through multiple tempo changes and visits several repeating melodies in that short time, all the while keeping an urgency about it. The full ballet score contains numerous themes and variations on them; some themes identify the characters, or activities, and these weave throughout the piece in a very compelling way.

Prokofiev’s music for Cinderella, written between 1940 and 1944, is rich, vibrant, and dramatic. I am not always partial to classical music from the 20th century, but Prokofiev is definitely someone I enjoy. He also wrote the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf — a recording of which features David Bowie (1947-2016) as the narrator, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the opera War and Peace, among many other works.

Today, I’m featuring the opening piece, Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce), as it introduces the themes that repeat through the work. I remembered many other parts after listening to the recording yesterday and today:

Act I: No. 7, “The Dancing Lesson” (Allegretto)

Act II: No. 28, “Mazurka” (Allegro ma non troppo) 

Act II: No. 38, “Midnight” (Allegro moderato) 

Act III: No. 50, “Amoroso” (Andante dolcissimo)

While much of the music is up-tempo and complex, there are some slower, more contemplative pieces, such as Act II: No. 36, “The Prince and Cinderella”(Adagio). 

I think it would be truly marvellous to see the ballet Cinderella danced to Prokofiev’s score.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce) from a 1983 recording of German-American pianist, conductor and composer André Previn directing the London Symphony Orchestra. The entire recording is on a playlist found on the André Previn YouTube topic channel… check it out, and listen to some of the pieces I highlighted above. And see if you can identify the characters from the musical themes that represent them!

Your Song (from the film, Moulin Rouge!)

In addition to directing the dazzling, colourful and audacious 2001 movie musical Moulin Rouge!, Australian Baz Luhrmann also produced the motion picture soundtrack.

Similarly, with his modern-day film adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy Romeo + Juliet, he produced two CDs of music from the film.

“Your Song” is an Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition, which John included on his self-titled, second studio album in 1970. That same year, the American band Three Dog Night covered the song. In 1991, British rock star Rod Stewart made a rendition of it for the multi-artist album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. I find both covers to be a little flat and uninspired, not nearly as lively as John’s original recording. The song has also been covered by Lady Gaga, Billy Paul, Ellie Goulding and others.

By far, my favourite version of the song is from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. In the movie, the would-be writer Christian (played by Scottish-American actor Ewan McGregor) romantically sings to Satine (Australian-American actor Nicole Kidman), declaring his love for the alluring cabaret performer and courtesan. McGregor’s quirky and at times uncontrolled voice is delightful and spirited, much like Luhrmann’s films. Tenors Placido Domingo, Alessandro Safina and Jamie Allen add an operatic touch to the piece, though there’s more of their voices in the CD version than in the film scene… the two versions are noticeably different. Either way, it’s quite marvellous.

After McGregor’s opening lines, “My gift is my song / And this one’s for you… ” the upright bass and cello parts add a brief, foreshadowing effect, but the remainder of the song is lively, romantic and fantastical.

In October 2011, on a side trip during a vacation to England, my sweety and I spent five days in Paris, France. We took a couple of Sandemans walking tours and did a lot of exploring on our own, and on one rainy afternoon ended up in front of the Moulin Rouge cabaret. We also walked by it at night, during a guided tour of Montmartre. We didn’t find the time to see a show there, but we loved our brief visit. I would love to travel there again someday and see more of the city.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret, Paris, France, in October 2011. Photo © Steve West.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of the soundtrack recording from the Ewan McGregor YouTube topic channel:

And this is an unofficial clip of the song performed during the film:

Full lyrics for the McGregor version are available at Genius.com.


Bros

In my two previous posts on the London, England alternative-rock band Wolf Alice (“Turn to Dust” and “Don’t Delete the Kisses”), I’ve mentioned their single, “Bros.”

This morning I figured, it’s about time I posted about the tune. It makes a good “Friday song,” as I hope you’ll agree.

The official music video portrays many aspects celebrating young friendship, including play, joy, exploration, mischievousness (like playing Knock-knock Ginger), hanging out aimlessly, contemplation, and love (as depicted at 2:10 in the video, as well as on the video thumbnail) then, at the end, “jump(ing) that 43” bus home. The video also reminds me of past visits to London with my sweety, where the producers made the short film.

I also find the song a good reminder of close relationships from my youth and those of the present with friends and siblings.

Shake your hair, have some fun
Forget our mothers and past lovers, forget everyone
Oh, I’m so lucky, you are my best friend
Oh, there’s no one, there’s no one who knows me like you do

Are your lights on?
Are your lights still on?
I’ll keep you safe
You keep me strong

Remember when we cut our hair?
We both looked like boys but we didn’t care
Stick it out together like we always do
Oh, there’s no one, there’s no one quite like you

Are your lights on?
Are your lights still on?
I’ll keep you safe
You keep me strong

Ohhh
Jump that 43
Are you wild like me?
Raised by wolves and other beasts
I tell you all the time
I’m not mad
You tell me all the time
I got plans

Ohhh
Jump that 43
Are you wild like me?
Raised by wolves and other beasts
I tell you all the time
I’m not mad
You tell me all the time
I got plans

Me and you, me and you, me and you
We could do better, I’m quite sure
Me and you, me and you, me and you
We could do better, I’m quite sure
Me, me, me, me, me and you
Me, me, me, me, me and you

(“Bros,” by Ellen Rowsell, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis.
Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

Wolf Alice released “Bros” as a demo in 2013. They reworked the song and included it on 2015’s My Love Is Cool. It was the second of four singles from the album.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Wolf Alice’s YouTube channel:

Democracy

The artistry of the Canadian poet, songwriter, singer and novelist Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) has been, I think, among the most significant gifts to the world that have come from my country.

In 2008 in London, England, at age 73, Cohen was on a tour believed to have been necessary because his former manager bilked a massive amount of his life savings. He released a live album, and there are many YouTube videos of performances from that trip. A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of those videos, a live performance of “Democracy,” a song originally from his 1992 album The Future. It has stayed with me.

I never followed Cohen much in my youth and earlier adult life but as I have gained a greater appreciation for art and particularly poetry, I have grown to love the works of this man.

In some ways, the song “Democracy” may speak to some of the rancour that has recently affected America, as well as many other countries. Underlying that, I also feel the song is a kind of homage to the theory of democracy as an institution, an ideal, carried out through people exercising the right to vote. That is a right I take very seriously each time I have the right, privilege and responsibility to do it.

An inauguration, a conclusion to an election cycle, is undoubtedly a cause for jubilation for the election winners, as happened yesterday. But more importantly, it signals the continuation of that time-tested tradition of electing the country’s leadership and the commander-in-chief of the military; weighty responsibilities (and perhaps burdens) few might ever feel capable of carrying, but do, and mostly without thanks or respect.

The democratic process leads not only to celebration but also to renewal of hope and, ultimately, commitment and action to improve all people’s lives. All around this living world, we don’t do very well at that sacred task, no matter who takes power, or where.

But the role of helping folks is not just up to governments. It is up to each of us to give hope and a hand up to our neighbours and those with less than us; the sick, the poor, the lonely.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song (with full lyrics in the video post’s notes) from the official Leonard Cohen YouTube channel:

Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom)

On my trip down an Internet rabbit hole yesterday, I randomly came across a few spiritual-type songs and other tunes.

Among these songs was a video of a performance of “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom)” by the Resistance Revival Chorus at TEDxAsburyPark in New Jersey, USA, in 2019. However, the sound quality of the video on the chorus’s official YouTube was not the greatest. But with a little searching, I managed to find their studio recording on the YouTube topic channel. It is a stirring, moving rendition.

The chorus formed in 2017 with more than 70 women and non-binary singers from all walks of life, “… who join together to breathe joy and song into the resistance, and to uplift and center women’s voices, especially the voices of black women and women of color.”

This morning I listened to The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. Coincidentally, Richards played the same freedom song (considered folk music), created in a jail cell in 1961 by Black American preacher and Freedom Rides participant Reverend Robert Wesby (c1927-1988), during the civil rights movement. The piece is based on the gospel song “I Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Jesus).”

In July 1988, the body of Rev. Wesby was discovered in his church, having been beaten to death.

In a time of transition in America and indeed globally, this song felt like an appropriate way to mark the day and what it represents for all world citizens seeking unity, equality and peace.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Resistance Revival Chorus YouTube topic channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available through a Wikipedia article.

Wake Up

It’s been a while since I posted something by the Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire. This afternoon, I went down an Internet rabbit hole, scouting out some songs I’d thought of or captured on the Shazam app recently. And as I surfed, my searches for other songs and artists and YouTube’s algorithms brought me to the video I’m sharing today.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember my summer, one-week-and-a-day series on the album, The Suburbs (August 24 to 31, 2020). I liked the way it felt to stay with and savour a single album for that many days. And as with many posts, I’d like to go back sometime and expand upon ideas from my examination into the album. (I sometimes go back and make minor tweaks or correct mistakes I’ve found after posting or when I find new information that challenges what I originally wrote. Or just stuff I forgot and really wanted to include.)

As I mentioned in the series on The Suburbs, one of my sons and I went to the concert on the tour supporting the album. My sweety and I also saw Arcade Fire a few years later for their Reflektor tour show, at which many people dressed in formal wear/black tie.

I’m pretty sure the band played “Wake Up” at both shows I saw; it’s one of their staple songs, and it comes from their breakout album, Funeral. They also released a live EP with a recording of the song performed with David Bowie at the show Fashion Rocks 2005.

On the YouTube video for the studio version of the song, one commenter observed, “… Arcade Fire created a chorus without a single word. Yet, it still holds mountains (beyond mountains HAHA) of power and intensity. Fans across the world can sing this chorus and unite, without having to sing a single word. Arcade Fire holds a talent that is extremely unique and beautiful. Freakin (sic) powerful.” I love this comment and how obvious yet observant it is.

The song has been called an anthem and a call to action to young people to grow beyond past generations’ mistakes. Kind of like a computer restart for society, something we desperately need, in my opinion.

(Chorus)

Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’.
Someone told me not to cry.

But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.

(Chorus)

Children, wake up.
Hold your mistake up
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms,
turnin’ every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

(Chorus)

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am goin’ to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

(Chorus)

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am goin’.
With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am go — goin’!

You better look out below!

(“Wake Up,” by by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Will Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Richard Parry)

Some believe the world is entering a period of change to rival (and perhaps reverse) the adverse effects that accompanied periods of history like Colonization, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of capitalism, and the Internet age. These times have stoked progress over people, enslavement, greed, selfishness and, more recently, intense individualism at the expense of communal caring and civility.

But I see glimmers of hope in how people act towards each other in the pandemic as we navigate a global sense of loss of close contact with loved ones. There’s a greater sense of appreciation for things we often took for granted, which seems to affect how we view the world as a whole, our place in it, and what we want to be in it.

So, individually, as nations and as one human race, maybe we are waking up to the need to be kinder to our fellow citizens, our living world, and ourselves.

Let’s rise ‘n shine!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from BBC Music’s official YouTube channel. It’s a live performance at the 2014 Glastonbury Music Festival in England (remember live music?!):

Colors

A week and a half ago, I was listening to The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. That morning, Richards played “Colors” by Black Pumas, a psychedelic soul band from Austin, Texas, USA. It is a song I don’t think I had ever heard before.

The duo of singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada has not been together long. Burton, a former church and musical theatre singer, made his way busking around the USA, settling in Texas in 2017. Quesada, a producer in Austin, was looking for someone new to collaborate with when a friend introduced them. The two musicians formed a duo in 2018 called Black Pumas and released their debut, self-titled album, the next year. In 2020, they received a GRAMMY nomination as Best New Artist.

Hearing “Colors” on KEXP, the song’s slow, nuanced opening immediately hooked me with its understated electric guitar riff, and Burton’s voice joining and ushering in the other instruments and singers of their backing band, who surround the duo with musical brilliance.

In a July 2019 piece on Black Pumas, a reviewer from the online magazine Pitchfork.com wrote, “Possessing a voice that can slide into the slipstream with ease, Burton lends an elegant elasticity to Quesada’s tightly layered productions. Occasionally the producer/guitarist performs this trick in reverse…”

The two musicians have obviously found a fit with each other. And for me, perhaps simplistically speaking, the image of a Black and a white man in a twosome could represent, in a more global sense, hope and potential for peace, harmony and equality in a time when those are absent in so many places. I interpret the song lyrics to be saying much the same, and here’s an excerpt:

“I woke up to the morning sky, first
Baby blue, just like we rehearsed
When I get up off this ground, I shake leaves back down
To the brown, brown, brown, brown
‘Til I’m clean

Then I walk where I’d be shaded by the trees
By a meadow of green
For about a mile
I’m headed to town, town, town
In style

With all my favorite colors, yes, sir
All my favorite colors, right on
My sisters and my brothers
See ‘em like no other
All my favorite colors”

(from “Colors,” by Eric Burton)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official live session video from the Black Pumas’ YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

UPDATE, January 20, 2020:

Of course I would have had no idea Black Pumas would be performing, and sharing this song, at the concert celebrating the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris in the United States tonight.

Serendipity… she is magical. I’m kind of stunned by it, after having only heard this song on January 7 and having it revisit in these ways.

By This River

Today’s selection is the classical reimagining of a piece from Before and After Science, the fifth studio album by Brian Eno, released in 1977.

The album was Eno’s final foray into rock music before pioneering and diving headlong into the ambient music genre, a place where he still lives and works. However, he has returned to dabble in rock, for example, with his 23rd solo album, 2005’s Another Day on Earth.

Eno co-wrote the track “By This River” with European electronic music composers Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius.

Scrolling through the suggested videos on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube page today, I was excited to find a video for the song. The version in the video is a classical arrangement by DG’s director of new repertoire, Christian Badzura, for violin and orchestra. It comes from the 2019 album Mari, by Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen.

I love the piece’s arrangement and playing, and the delicateness added to the piano, particularly the last three chords on the repeating piano line. The music is lilting and magical; Eno’s lyrics and singing are beautifully substituted with Samuelsen’s violin and the orchestra’s flautist.

“By This River” is a dreamy piece that brings to mind a meditative practice, visualizing myself on the bank of a river or stream in the spring, summer or fall, taking in the visual beauty and the calming, soul-feeding sounds of flowing water.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of the piece played by Samuelsen and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

For comparison, here is the original from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics for the original version are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Edit, February 10, 2021:

At the the first sight of the orchestral video it confused me and now as I watch it again a few more times, I truly wonder why the video was shot without featuring the wind instruments or, ironically, the pianist, a part so pivotal to the piece. It’s still an entrancing video, though, for those parts that are portrayed. I really like it, regardless of perceived faults.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

The English singer-songwriter and actor Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick McManus) began his musical career in the London pub early in the 1970s.

In 1977, he released his debut album, My Aim Is True, which lit a rocket taking him to stardom in the still-forming new wave music scene. Costello’s band, the Attractions, joined him soon after the album’s release and supported him on This Year’s Model (1978), Armed Forces (1979), and remained with him for almost ten years until they parted ways due to differences. Together, they released 11 studio recordings, plus live and compilation albums.

A versatile writer and performer, Costello was backed by Britain’s Brodsky Quartet in 1993 on his album of songs for classical string quartet and voice titled The Juliet Letters (imaginary letters by the Juliet Capulet character from Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet). Then, in 1996, Costello collaborated with orchestral/lounge pop composer and musician Burt Bacharach. This partnership produced recordings for the soundtracks of the films Grace of My Heart and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, plus the duo’s 1998 album Painted From Memory, which my sweety and I used to listen to a lot with dear friends we met later that year.

Even Costello’s early works show a variety of stylings from the slow, ode-like “Alison” (a song since covered by Linda Ronstadt and others) or the melancholy “Good Year for the Roses” to quicker, high-energy pieces like “Pump It Up” and today’s selection, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” which comes from the American and Canadian versions of Armed Forces.

Browsing through my CD and digital music this week, the title jumped out at me. It was written and recorded in 1974 by English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe and his band, Brinsley Schwarz, though their release of the song did not achieve the same success as Costello and the Attractions’ cover.

The song’s title and sentiments seem appropriate for this time in history when divisive politics are infecting society with fear, mistrust, cynicism, anger and meanness, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic create isolation like many have never experienced before.

“As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?
Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?”

(from “[What’s So Funny ‘Bout] Peace, Love and Understanding,” by Nick Lowe)

As we navigate these troubled times, may we all pause to be peace, love and understanding for all those we encounter, in person, at a distance, and online.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Elvis Costello’s YouTube channel:

The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Alive and Kicking

It’s Friday!

(And, to begin, my apologies… I planned to post much earlier in the day, then an appointment, groceries and other obligations got in the way. But here we are now. Let’s settle in and enjoy, shall we?)

Back when I was working, Friday was a day that arrived with much celebration of planning not to go into the office for two days, and just be available 24/7 by mobile phone. (Which sure beat the old, pre-mobile phone days when on-call meant staying home or, later, when pagers came out, being somewhere where I could make a payphone call if not at home, to find out what calamity or simple musing of a politico might be calling for my urgent attention instead of, you know, being with my family.) I’m being a little facetious; Fridays always seemed to hold a promise of something good, and even as a retired person, I like to honour and uphold that tradition of joy and hope.

Anyway, on to the music!

A Glasglow, Scotland-based band, Simple Minds, has been a favourite of mine since the early 1980s. The post-punk/art-rock/new wave/synthpop group, which took its name from a David Bowie lyric from the song “Jean Genie,” has released many hit singles since they started recording music more than 40 years ago. They are probably best known for their version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the film, The Breakfast Club (1985). Please check out my posts on “Up on the Catwalk” and “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” for more bits from my memories and research on the band.

As I mentioned in one of those previous posts, I didn’t follow Simple Minds much after their 1985 album Once Upon a Time, from which today’s selection comes. It was the last album of theirs I bought and is joined in my long-play record collection by four others: Real to Real Cacophony (1979), Empires and Dance (1980), New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982) and Sparkle in the Rain (1984, in vinyl and CD).

Reading the sleeve notes on Once Upon a Time, I saw that the band recruited extra back-up singers for the album, and they are surely present on today’s song. What I never noticed until today was that longtime David Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar was among the added vocalists.

When I was reading up on Simple Minds’ repertoire this afternoon, I saw that there wasn’t a consistent producer among their albums. That, and the band’s development, seems to me to have contributed to a long history of their music crossing genres and styles and sounds, which has added to their appeal and kept my interest and attention. If alone in the car and a Simple Minds song comes on CarPlay, I can guarantee it gets played loudly (uh, “responsible” loud, because… you know, tinnitus).

Alive and Kicking.

A fellow cyclist in my country, whom I only know online as we’ve participated together in virtual rides in a Zwift group based in England’s time zone, was suddenly absent in the spring of 2020 until now. (And I know it all must sound weird if you don’t know of Internet-connected platforms for indoor bike trainers… it still feels strange talking about it and, further, it being a significant source of socialization!)

Anyway, in his absence I had no way to connect with him directly. I found it troubling, like so much in the current world, so much beyond our control, a bit of the monkey-mind thoughts that erupt at night sometimes. But this week while on the app simultaneously, though not riding “together,” I saw a notification from him, and we ended up chatting within the app for almost an hour while riding. It was great. I had often wondered what had happened to him, as he had been very active and a powerful cyclist whose skill and personality I admired (and he was usually way ahead of me in the virtual pack). I was so happy to know he was back, and working at getting his strength back.

This is just one little story of the complications of this time in which we’re living. Sweety and I are tracking other illnesses and injuries of loved ones, sending you all love tonight.

And now, getting back to my opening greeting; yes, it’s Friday. I heard today’s track on KEXP Seattle’s The Morning Show with John Richards (famous for its “Friday Song”), and immediately knew “Alive and Kicking” would be my song of the day.

And if you’re reading this, you’re “alive and kicking.” Keep living, and kicking! We need you!!!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Simple Minds official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Life in Technicolor ii

In my September 28, 2020 post on a song from Sweety’s and my wedding CD, “Lovers in Japan,” I talked about the album it’s from, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.

In my opinion, the British band Coldplay reached their peak with that album. They’d attracted a group of four musical production heavyweights to mould it, including the brilliant Brian Eno, whose influence was immediately apparent.

The album’s promotion was among the biggest the band has done, to my recollection anyway. The release of an extended-play CD of additional tracks from the recording sessions and an eventual second version of the entire album containing both compact discs was a bit annoying, though. I needed to buy both album editions to have all the song versions. As I was high on the band at the time, I fell for the marketing. I recently faced a similar conundrum with Brian and Roger Eno’s Mixing Colours and Mixing Colours (Expanded). I didn’t fall for it this time; I just bought the extra tracks.

Aside from the CD marketing, Coldplay also issued a whopping seven official music videos to promote the album: “Viva la Vida” (two versions), “Lovers in Japan,” Strawberry Swing,” Violet Hill,” “Lost! (Live),” and today’s selection, “Life in Technicolor ii.” And yeah, aside from the “Viva la Vida” videos and “Lost! (Live),” I bought them all, too. I only rarely bought videos since I didn’t usually sit and watch these when sitting and listening to audio copies of music I owned.

I have a vague recollection that I bought the video for “Life in Technicolor ii” to have it on my iPad, back when I used one, as I enjoyed showing the song to people. The video’s production is so elaborate, featuring a charming rural hall setting where a puppet show turns into a mini arena-rock show.

The official music video for “Strawberry Swing” is similarly impressive, produced with laborious stop-motion animation. It also features animations of multi-coloured butterflies, similar to paper ones that fell from the Bell MTS Place rafters during the Winnipeg show in June 2009.

“Life in Technicolor ii” is a fun video, and watching it today reminded me how much I used to like listening to Coldplay. I still listen to the band’s music occasionally, though nothing after Viva la Vida appeals to me much.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Coldplay’s YouTube channel:

The unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Capsule

Today is a fine day. A morning meditation shared with friends across the country; appointments made for car and house maintenance; a few text chats with various friends and family; then this afternoon, time outside with my sweety.

We walked along the river path in the sun with the temperature hovering around freezing. It was beautiful, peaceful and pleasant (well, except for a few times when we’d have to leap out of the way of groups coming our way who chose to occupy the whole path instead of socially-distanced sharing!).

I always feel a sense of amazement walking on the river’s frozen surface. Today, in the few places where there was no snow cover, I could see how deep the ice extends. We walked 6.2 kilometres (3.8 miles) and saw many delightful things: coloured ice sculptures, a gallery of painting and drawings displayed on trees, poetry frozen in blocks of ice with flowers and other plants; a toddler in a homemade sled pulled by her skating dad; a dog enthusiastically pulling its skate-shod human; and, many other people skating, skiing, walking, running or cycling and enjoying the mild weather.

Cruising on YouTube to find a calm instrumental piece as the daylight turned to dusklight, I found Brian Eno’s channel and, on it, “Capsule,” from the second disc in the extended version of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Originally released in 1983, it was the soundtrack for the documentary For All Mankind, about 1969’s Apollo 11 moon mission. Eno conceived, wrote, played and produced the album in collaboration with his brother Roger and Canadian musician and producer Daniel Lanois. The trio re-released the collection to coincide with last year’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The second disc, added in the 2019 version, contains 11 tracks that expand and “reimagine” the soundtrack.

While the album is mainly ambient, “Capsule” is more melodic though still heavily electronic, and includes a subtle flavour of the country-twangy guitar that gives “Deep Blue Day” (from disc 1) much of its character. (Please check out my post from January 6, 2019, for that track and a bit more of the story on the guitar part. And, if you want more examples of moon-themed music, check out my post on “Yellow Moon.”)

Perhaps “Capsule” is meant to represent the constancy of the orbiting command module, piloted by astronaut Michael Collins while commander Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the lunar module and and walked upon the Moon.

The piece has a lovely, ambling quality that fits with the mood of today; time spent walking on the frozen Assiniboine River… or maybe imagining a walk on the surface of the Moon.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Limelight

Formed in 1968, Rush has to be one of Canada’s most extraordinary rock acts.

And clearly, institutions agree. In 1996, band members Geddy Lee (vocals, bass, keyboards, composer), Alex Lifeson (guitars, composer) and Neil Peart (1952-2020; drums, percussion, lyricist), were named as Officers of the Order of Canada, the Canadian government’s highest distinction for a citizen. In 2012, they received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. And in 2013, Canada Post Corporation created a permanent postage stamp with the band’s “starman” logo. In addition to many other honours and awards, the band was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA.

The longstanding Lee/Lifeson/Peart lineup dates back to 1974 when Lee and Lifeson hired Peart to replace the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey, who left due to health issues and apparent incompatibility with the band’s developing style.

I’ve long been a fan of Rush and their lush, energetic rock sound and the elaborate, fantastical medieval/futuristic themes and anthems, particularly on their earlier albums. I came to know their music in junior high school when a friend played songs from their second record, Fly by Night (1975), then I started following them seriously with the album 2112 (1976) and later bought their debut record, Rush (1974). I saw them once in concert, and while I’m not 100% sure, I believe it would have been the tour for A Farewell to Kings (album, 1977; tour, 1977-78… a long time ago!). That album solidified my love for their style.

As the 1980s arrived, their albums became a little less conceptual, and the songs a bit shorter and, therefore, more radio-friendly. Rush was a hard-working band, making new records almost every year then touring to support those albums. In 1980, they issued Permanent Waves, which produced two major hits, “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” The next year, the band released Moving Pictures, which produced three singles, “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” and “Vital Signs.”

In all, I have six Rush records. I didn’t follow them as actively after 1981 as I soon met my next group of friends, “friends 2.0” and leaned toward the new wave, post-punk and new romantic genres. However, I still enjoy listening to their music as I was reminded last night when one of my lads shared a video by musician, producer and educator Rick Beato in his What Makes This Song Great? series, Episode 99, deconstructing The Cars’ first hit single, “Just What I Needed” (1978). Watching that video led me to Episode 63, which features “Limelight” (1981). Listening to the song took me back to my early twenties when the record came out.

A January 2021 Rolling Stone article tells about Peart’s life and career, the deaths of his daughter in a 1997 car accident and first wife from cancer less than a year later, then meeting his second wife with whom he had another daughter, followed by illness and retirement and, finally, his January 2020 death. In the article, Lee confirms the band will not continue:

“‘That’s finished, right? That’s over,’ Lee says. ‘I still am very proud of what we did. I don’t know what I will do again in music. And I’m sure Al doesn’t, whether it’s together, apart, or whatever. But the music of Rush is always part of us. And I would never hesitate to play one of those songs in the right context. But at the same time, you have to give respect to what the three of us with Neil did together.’”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Rush’s YouTube channel:

And the video of Episode 63 from Beato’s What Makes this Song Great?:

The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

All the Young Dudes

Here’s my third and final instalment in observance of David Bowie’s birth and death.

Bowie was a longtime fan of the English rock band Mott the Hoople and encouraged them to stay together when there was talk of a break-up. He wrote “All the Young Dudes” for them and produced their 1972 album of the same name. Bowie’s lead guitarist Mick Ronson (1946-1993), from the Spiders from Mars band during Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust period, arranged strings and brass on one of the album’s songs.

“All the Young Dudes” was Mott the Hoople’s biggest hit single. Mott lead singer and frontman Ian Hunter went on to do solo works with Ronson for many years. (The session musician Ronson also worked with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison and many other acts, and was instrumental in arranging American singer-songwriter John Mellencamp’s hugely successful “Jack and Diane,” in 1982.)

Mott the Hoople was active from 1969 to 1980 and had a few reunions over the years. Then, in early 2019, the 1974 lineup of the band reformed for brief tours of the United Kingdom and the United States. Another tour planned for the autumn was cancelled due to a medical diagnosis of tinnitus for Hunter (by then, aged 80).

Among Hunter’s many solo projects was his 1979 album, You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic. I remember being drawn to that album since it too was co-produced and co-played with Ronson. It includes the hard-rock, anger anthem, “Bastard,” which features Ronson’s rocking guitar solos. At the time, it was a popular song among my friends as we gathered to “pre-game” before a night at The Norlander pub listening to local bands.

In 2016, Hunter released his 22nd album, Fingers Crossed, which includes the song “Dandy,” written in dedication to the late David Bowie.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Mott the Hoople’s official YouTube/VEVO channel:

Symphony No. 1, I: Subterraneans

Two days ago, I posted a song by David Bowie (1947-2016) on the 74th anniversary of his birth. Today is the fifth anniversary of his death.

On Sundays since June 2020, I’ve been posting classical music pieces. Today, I’m sharing one that has a deep connection to Bowie’s music, written by American composer and pianist Philip Glass. 

Symphony No. 1, also known as the Low Symphony, is a three-movement work Glass composed in 1992, based on recordings Bowie made during the production of a 1977 collaboration with Brian Eno, Low. “Subterraneans,” the symphony’s opening movement, is Glass’s orchestral interpretation of the mostly instrumental closing track from Low.

As I’ve mentioned here before, in my post on a piece from his film soundtrack for The Hours (2002), Glass is a composer I first heard through his soundtrack for 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The 1982 experimental film’s music was repetitive and staccato, a form the composer has become known for. While there are elements of those trademark “repetitive structures,” “Subterraneans” is also melodic in its representation of the synthesizer and sample-driven original from Bowie’s Low.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from a 1993 recording of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Dennis Russell Davies, posted on the Philip Glass YouTube topic channel:  

Handle With Care

The Traveling Wilburys were a British-American supergroup formed in early 1988 after joining together to record a song to accompany a single by ex-Beatle George Harrison (1943-2001).

“Handle With Care” was meant to be that song, but when it was complete, it was decided the track was far too good to be used as a B-side, and the group decided to record a whole album. Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 was the result, released in October 1988. It was the most successful song by the project, and I know it well, but I couldn’t recall its title when going to look for it until today. I’ve enjoyed hearing the collection but never really looked deeply into it before now.

The band included Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty (1950-2017) and Roy Orbison (1936-1988). (Incidentally, Petty, Lynne, Harrison’s son Dhani and others collaborated on a version of Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for his posthumous induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Please check out my post on that song.)

Volume 1 was a massive commercial success for the group, though Orbison’s sudden death two months after the album release overshadowed the achievement. The four remaining members made Traveling Wilburys, Volume 3, intentionally numbered incorrectly, releasing it in 1990.

Reading up on the supergroup project today, I learned that each member took on nicknames as Wilbury brothers on the albums:

Volume 1
“Nelson Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Otis Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Lefty Wilbury” – Roy Orbison
“Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.” – Tom Petty
“Lucky Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

Volume 3
“Spike Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Clayton Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Muddy Wilbury” – Tom Petty
“Boo Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

Officially, the albums did not credit drummer Jim Keltner as a Wilbury, though he was dubbed “Buster Sidebury.”

One of my brothers has played Volume 1 often at family parties in his home, and I can remember my late mum bopping around to it with delight. It’s been a long time since we were all together, and I look forward to us listening to the recording the next time we’re able to meet up there.

Until then, I find “Handle With Care” to be a good reminder of how to be with and care for others while all of us feel different kinds of stress, isolation, and deal with unemployment, loneliness, illness or other losses in this pandemic.

“Been beat up and battered around
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found
Handle me with care”

(from “Handle With Care,” by George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Traveling Wilburys YouTube channel:

Full, non-official lyrics available courtesy of Genius.com.

Stay

Seventy-four years ago today, English singer, songwriter, musical innovator and actor David Robert Jones was born. Professionally he became known as David Bowie, an artist who crossed and mixed many musical genres and performance styles in his long, influential career.

I’ve featured Bowie’s songs several times before on this blog: “A New Career in a New Town,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Lady Stardust,” “Space Oddity” (choral cover) and, less than a week ago, “Absolute Beginners.” In these posts, I have described the artist’s long presence in my life, from hearing his music in my childhood home to seeing him perform live in England and Canada in the 1970s and 80s and enjoying his collaborations with artists like Brian Eno, Adrian Belew and, more recently, Arcade Fire. His music has accompanied many of the milestones and transitions of my life.

The album Station to Station (1976) introduced another massive change in Bowie’s style, where he dove deeper into the rock and roll/blues/soul genres he’d been developing on Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans before embarking on his “Berlin Trilogy” (1977-1979 with Low, Heroes and Lodger). The latter three albums were a mix of experimental rock, electronica, ambient and post-disco electronic dance music.

“Stay” is the second-last song on Station to Station. It’s a soulful song of longing, with jazzy edges rendered with Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick’s guitar playing.

“This week dragged past me so slowly
The days fell on their knees
Maybe I’ll take something to help me
Hope someone takes after me
I guess there’s always some change in the weather
This time I know we could get it together
If I did casually mention tonight
That would be crazy tonight”

(from “Stay,” by David Bowie)

I haven’t listened to this track in a long time; it’s a terrific song, though. I only own the album on vinyl and don’t seem to spin my LPs that often. Maybe something to do more of in 2021…

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from David Bowie’s official YouTube channel:

Full lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Maple Leaf Rag

Released on Christmas Day in 1973, the film The Sting starred American actors Paul Newman (1925-2008) and Robert Redford as a pair of grifters who join forces to pull a complicated con job on a mob boss played by British actor, playwright and novelist Robert Shaw (1927-1978). George Roy Hill was director for the film and no stranger to the duo: he also directed Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

The Sting was a huge hit, and I remember that it ignited tremendous public interest in ragtime music. The soundtrack featured piano tunes by Scott Joplin (c1868-1917), a Black American composer and pianist who earned fame for his “rags.” “The Entertainer” is one such piece that appeared on the film soundtrack and often played on popular AM radio stations, which at the time typically broadcast only contemporary music.

Several days ago, while I was listening to a YouTube video for a song post I was working on, the autoplay function cued up a medley of Joplin tunes. One in particular that I liked and put through the Shazam app was today’s selection, “Maple Leaf Rag.” It’s a joyous piece that makes one want to get up and “dance those troubles away.”

The piece became the first ragtime hit and is likely one of the most recognizable in the genre. It was apart of a short life’s work that earned Joplin the title, King of Ragtime.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of a performance by Italian artist Dario Ronchi posted on his YouTube channel. I appreciate the slightly slower tempo he employs in his interpretation of the piece:

You Make Loving Fun

In the midst of internal upheaval in Fleetwood Mac, the band released “You Make Loving Fun” as the fourth single from the historic 1977 album, Rumours. Christine McVie (formerly Christine Perfect) wrote and sang the song.

Early this morning, in the lifting of a few days burdened with anxiety and darkness, this great piece of music came into my mind. This was long before the incomprehensible events of insurrection that occurred this afternoon in the United States’ capitol.

The song is a lovely piece, and when one thinks of the turmoil happening in the band at the time, it’s kind of miraculous that such a song could spring forth. Many songs on the album speak to the unravelling that was occurring in the relationships between John and Christine, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. It made for some incredible music, though at some cost to the members of the band, I’m sure.

I think this song has lived in my consciousness since I first used to put the long-play record on my parents’ stereo in St. Norbert, Manitoba, many years ago. Back then, I’d make playlists of a sort by spinning one song from an LP, then changing to another record and eventually having a pile of records after a playlist session. I think my friends wondered what I was up to. I was always trying to play a mix that would appeal to everyone, to make them feel welcome. I took requests. Still do.

I awoke a little late this morning after a long time falling asleep last night. I did all the things my landlord, Perry Como the cat required of me, ate, read emails, then did a short recovery ride on the bike trainer. I cleaned up, had lunch and went shopping for groceries. As I arrived home and was sorting and washing vegetables, I received a series of texts from a local friend about an armed takeover of the American capitol building. I then met with a friend (from the US, incidentally) and later was blessed to talk with one of our sons, all while learning more about today’s incomprehensible events.

Now, as the day’s crimes sink in, I’m struck by the vast difference between the good and the bad of my day and, by extension, of society.

Sitting here tonight, watching it all continue to unfold, and being with my sweety, I’m grateful to be living in a place where I feel safe. I hope all people on this continent and the world will feel that, and feel the sense that comes from the song “You Make Loving Fun.”

I’m also struck by the juxtaposition of the song title and the violent events of today. I’m trusting that the idea of making love fun is what we should all aspire to and, really, is the only way forward.

And with tears at what is occurring in civil society, as I think my dear Colorado friend would say, also through tears, “Blessed be,” yielding things to the universe once we do all we can, humanly.

Sweety and I fervently pray our American lovelies will stay safe in this terribly uncertain time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the video for the song from Fleetwood Mac’s official YouTube channel:

Full lyrics are available from AZLyrics.com.

Helpless

Ever feel helpless?

It doesn’t happen to me often, but it can be tough to get through when it does. Occasionally over the past ten months, I’ve felt low. Like you, I know the pandemic isn’t going to be forever, and I really hope that we’ll be able to be with family and friends and resume some of our activities this year. My sweety and I were talking about this yesterday during a sunny afternoon walk. We both wonder how long it will be until people start feeling safe at public gatherings like concerts once those return.

Neil Young wrote “Helpless” for the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album, Déjà Vu. Many artists have covered the song, including Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Cowboy Junkies, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Moby, and k.d. lang, who recorded the song on her 2004 album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel. It’s a beautiful cover that includes a string section. She also performed it on stage in 2017 for Young’s induction to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Young has been featured on this blog twice before, with his official music video for “Harvest Moon” and a cover of “After the Gold Rush” sung by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

The song seems to be about home, longing and living in life’s mystery. Some also believe it refers to the resource-based economy of northern Ontario, Canada, which can make for helplessness in the face of cyclical unemployment.

When I’m feeling helpless, I know I need to sit with it and breathe through it to help the feeling settle. Moving my body also works: a swift and strenuous session on the bike trainer does wonders, as does a sweety who massages my shoulders.

In the end, I usually get to a place of appreciating the many good things in my life and, while that may not solve everything, it adds perspective. It’s hard to feel genuinely helpless when there’s so much help around. I’m lucky in that way, though I know many are not.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of k.d. lang performing the song in 2017, from the CBC Music YouTube channel:

Lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Today’s selection is the 365th piece I’m posting to this blog. If you’ve followed since the start, or just for a while, or you occasionally drop in, thanks for joining me here to share in music and a few stories!

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” was the biggest hit released by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The singer and bandleader, Gerry Marsden, had heard the song, a Rogers and Hammerstein number from the movie musical, Carousel, in a Liverpool movie theatre and told his band he wanted to record it. They released their cover of it in 1963, and it was one of their first hit songs.

Like the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers were from Liverpool, were managed by Brian Epstein (1934-1967), and recorded by George Martin (1926-2016).

Marsden died yesterday at age 78. My sweety suggested the song as a post for today.

Reading up on Gerry and the Pacemakers, I was reminded that Marsden wrote “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which the band recorded and released in the United Kingdom in 1964. I remember hearing that song in my head as Sweety and I took the actual ferry across the Mersey in 2012 when on a visit with my relatives in Liverpool and Birkenhead.

A man and woman on a boat, with the Liverpool, England cityscape in the background.
Sweety and me on the ferry crossing the River Mersey in October 2012.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is also the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, a team that many of my relatives over there and a son here follow (with one notable exception — a cousin devoted to Everton FC). I can imagine a crowded Anfield Stadium with the fans all belting out the song at the start of the match. What a motivating experience that would be for the team and a stirring event to witness.

Tragically, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the stands will again be silent at Liverpool’s next game; fans will not be able to join in song and celebrate the singer whose rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” came to represent the spirit of their beloved team.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a song of showing perseverance and unity during adversity, so is perhaps a good song for our times, as well.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Gerry and the Pacemakers official YouTube channel:

Les Contes d’Hoffmann: Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (Barcarolle)

Today, I was surfing around the web, looking for a classical music piece to share. I found a long operatic aria, but it was a bit too over the top for my taste.

I then want back to my old standby for classical music, Deutsche Grammophon. Their YouTube channel is so tidy and organized, and there is a fine selection there. Also, DG often features performance videos of their artists.

“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” (also known as the “Barcarolle”) is from The Tales of Hoffmann, the last opera written by the German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880). The opera premiered in 1881, four months after his death.

The Barcarolle’s text, written by French poet Jules Barbier (1825-1901), speaks of the beauty of the night and of love and is sung as a duet between the main character’s love and his poetic muse.

The piece is one of the most famous operatic melodies written. Some may recognize it in the 1997 film Life Is Beautiful. It appears twice: once, in a scene where Guido sees his love, Dora, at the opera; later in the film, he plays it on a record player in the concentration camp, and she hears it in the distance. It’s a memorable moment of romantic love shining through a time of horrible hardship.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča (left) and Russian-Austrian soprano Anna Netrebko (right) performing the duet, accompanied by the Orchestra Prague Philharmonia, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. The video appears on the Deutsche Grammophon official YouTube channel as a promotion for Netrebko’s 2008 album, Souvenirs.

Absolute Beginners

At the start of a year, we’re all beginners. We start fresh, with a new beginning, a clean slate… or so some of the clichés go.

My 2021 cycling statistics, before today’s rides.

In “Absolute Beginners,” David Bowie captured this notion, from the perspective of one telling his lover that, even though they’re absolute beginners, the two of them can do anything and get through anything, even fear, because of their love.

“I’ve nothing much to offer
There’s nothing much to take
I’m an absolute beginner
And I’m absolutely sane
As long as we’re together
The rest can go to hell
I absolutely love you
But we’re absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same

If our love song
Could fly over mountains
Could laugh at the ocean
Just like the films
There’s no reason
To feel all the hard times
To lay down the hard lines
It’s absolutely true”

(from “Absolute Beginners,” by David Bowie)

I agree with Bowie’s words, and am fortunate to share love and life with my sweety. I’m also mindful of missing our kids and their partners and families, and our friends, though unlike so many people, I am very lucky not to have to navigate life, especially in the isolation of the pandemic, on my own.

After a slow, relaxing and reflective day yesterday, I got onto the bike trainer today and did a couple of routes on the indoor cycling platform Zwift. It felt good to begin another year of moving my body, and I’m looking forward to continuing to cycle indoors and, hopefully, not too many months from now, outside, savouring the blossoming of nature.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from David Bowie’s YouTube channel:

New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021. This blog will be one year old in a few days, and I’m looking forward to sharing more music with you, each day this year.

It might be a corny choice for today to pick “New Year’s Day,” the lead single from Irish band U2’s 1983 album, War. But as I thought of the opening lyrics, I felt their relation to the present.

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again”

(from “New Year’s Day,” by Adam Clayton, David (the Edge) Evans, Paul (Bono) Hewson, Larry Mullen, Jr.)

The Solidarity movement of Poland in the 1980s influenced the piece, which was initially to be a love song by lead singer Bono to his wife. The bass line was reportedly worked out by Adam Clayton when he tried to mimic the rhythm from another 1980s song, “Fade to Grey,” by the new romantic band Visage (which included Ultravox’s lead singer, Midge Ure).

Producer Steve Lillywhite (who has worked with Simple Minds and many other bands) was in the production booth for War. There are similarities in his production to that of other U2 producers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.

“All is quiet…” is like a theme line for our current time. As we cross the arbitrary marker from one year into the next, we are still in the grips of the risks and restrictions we have faced for almost ten months. Today itself is rather quiet: I’m taking a day off my bike trainer (excited and grateful to have surpassed my 2020 cycling goal of 5,050 kilometres (3,138 miles) by 201 km (125 mi); and Sweety and I took a walk together and sat on a bench at the riverbank for a while… it was quiet there, and the weather, mild. Even our home seems a little more quiet than usual as we recall the year past and continue pondering about the coming year. Part of that is setting healthy intentions, expectations and boundaries to guide our lives, and trying to fit these within the confines of pandemic life.

“I will be with you again…” for me vocalizes the heartache of having to be physically distant or even totally apart from people we love. Much hope exists that we will be able to gather in the coming months. If we had a specific date that we could count on, that would be something to plan toward and make this time easier to endure. We humans do not cope well with such rampant and long-lasting uncertainty.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the full, original track from U2’s official YouTube channel. There is also an official music video, but I’m not fond of edits like that version, cut by about a minute, or the radio edit which is almost two minutes shorter.

Full lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Mary

On many days, I know in advance what song I might post here, but it is often the inspiration of a moment, a serendipitous co-mingling of music with life. That is maybe an uncertain way to go, but it has kept my days interesting while outside everywhere, the 2020 dumpster fire has smouldered.

On this last day of 2020, a horrible and wonderful year, I am thinking of a song I heard last night when surfing the web for a late-night bit of music. I found it courtesy of a friend who often posts, on Facebook, a piece of music that is part of the soundtrack to her evening. Often it is a piece I have not heard. Even more often, I connect with it.

And so it was, with “Mary,” by Big Thief from their second album, Capacity (released in 2017). I listened to it about four times in a row, if not six or more. The lyrics are pure poetry:

Burn up with the water
The floods are on the plains
The planets in a rose
Who knows what they contain?
And my brain is like an orchestra
Playing on, insane
Will you love me like you loved me in the January rain?

Mom and Dad and violins
Somber country silence
The needle stopped the kicking
The clothes pins on the floor
And my heart is playing hide and seek
Wait and count to four
Will you love me like you loved me and I’ll never ask for more

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

We overcome the sirens
We look both left and right
And I can feel the numbness accompany my plight
And I know that someday soon I’ll see you
But now you’re out of sight
And you’ll kiss me like you used to in the January night

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

(“Mary,” by Adrianne Lenker. Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

The song includes themes like those 2020 has carried to axle-breaking capacity. If someone asked me to write the story of this year, what I’d concoct would be constructed of these chapters, which are the pillars of this song, too:

Memories
Disaster and Uncertainty
Love
Wonder
Fear and Dread
Perseverance
Hope

And, another thought: the song title intrigues me. I felt serendipity (like I so often do in life nowadays) at having learned of the song during the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Less celebrated in religion, as in society, is the mother, Mary.

An aside: the majority of comments on the YouTube video post of the song relate to its being featured on The Umbrella Academy. I have to admit that, other than a neighbour whose child dressed up as a character from that series, I wasn’t aware of it and have to wonder what rock I was living under when Netflix released it.

Farewell, 2020. Thank you for what you gave us and are teaching us. And 2021, may we all move safely through you supported by memories of ancestors and guided by love, wonder, perseverance and hope.

See you in the new year, folks. My gratitude and best wishes to you all.

And every morning, may I pay good mind to this message by Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski, as I see it when walking out of the bedroom:

Script art by Kal Barteski.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Saddle Creek Records official YouTube channel: