Spanish Pipedream

As the music world reacts this week to the death of John Prine from complications of a coronavirus infection, I have seen numerous friends posting his songs in memory of the American country-folk icon.

I have never been very familiar with John Prine (I only recently learned he was the writer of a song that Sweety and I love, which was sung beautifully by Nanci Griffith, “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness“). So I hesitated to add to the long line of tributes.

But today, I recalled that our son and his band, Kieran West and His Buffalo Band, covered a Prine song in their mostly-originals repertoire. I had to ask him the name of the song, because none of the titles I was seeing matched the lyric that I remembered him singing to the backup of twang and riffing by his band. “Spanish Pipedream” was the one, he told me today. 

Kieran and the boys did a rip-roaring version of the song by an artist who was an influence on them. It was a popular song among the band’s considerable following, and often brought people up to the dance floor. I’m sure Prine would have loved hearing their rendition.

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 live performance of the song in 2001, from John Prine’s YouTube channel

Night Moves

The song “Night Moves” (from the 1976 album of the same name) by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet band is played frequently on the Sirius XM channel we often listen to in the car — or at least did — until the recent direction to stay at home to wait out the coronavirus. (I hope these posts provide a bit of a diversion in your day or evening, by the way!)

While I remember the song from when it was released, I learned of Seger a few years earlier. His 1972 solo album, Smokin’ O.P.’s was another one my brother played during those basement suite parties I was telling you about in my post on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” I remember the Seger album cover, which mimics the look of a cigarette package. The title refers to smoking other people’s cigarettes. In the context of the record, the title riffed on the fact that Seger “smoked,” or covered, mostly other people’s songs on that album.

Every time “Night Moves” starts playing, its rhythm immediately makes me think of the backup singers, who come in later in the song, but whom I can envision on stage, swaying to the beat of the whole piece. 

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 for the song from the Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band YouTube channel:

Time

In my youth, Alan Parsons was a musical enigma; he wasn’t the front person of his band, per se; he had vocalists who embodied the words that dotted his rich, complicated, aural soundscapes. Parsons was a trendsetter, but few followed his path and, as a result, he retained a unique place in rock that no one else could even approach, and it didn’t seem that many tried, even to today. Still active, Parsons was a producer and engineer who worked with The Beatles on Abbey Road and Let It Be. Parsons’ project partner Eric Woolfson was the songwriter in the partnership. Together with many session musicians, they created some magnificent albums from 1976 to 1990. I was mesmerized by them then, and still find them haunting, inviting and evocative.

As we abide in this enforced coronavirus slowdown, the concept of time might become less clear for those who usually are accustomed to running swiftly on time pressures, whether real or self-imposed. Employment prospects are unclear right now, and I sympathize, though I admit I can’t completely understand as I don’t work anymore so am not under those pressures. In the meantime, we’ve got vital work to do: flattening the curve, avoiding gatherings, staying home as much as possible, and only going out for essential items. 

Today I went through a convoluted process online, to replace a smoke detector as, when going around changing all the batteries yesterday, I noticed one of our many (it’s a three-storey home) needed to be replaced. I surfed and tried to shop on Canadian Tire which is the closest hardware store to us. At first, I couldn’t even get on the website, as it was so overloaded with traffic. (One of our lovely neighbours is bilingual; she recently used the Français side of Canadian Tire’s site to get what she needed. I’m so glad all her many years of hard work paid off for her!)

Eventually, I was able to find what I wanted and phoned in the order. Today, as that was the recommended process, today, anyway. The clerk with whom I  connected was pleasant, and I was grateful for her cheerful, efficient service. For an outing today, Sweety and I drove to Canadian Tire and parked in the curbside pickup stall. When we returned home, I soon realized I had ordered a hardwired detector for a place that requires a battery-operated unit. I may have said a couple of cuss-words.

So, during (in retrospect) a poorly-planned, overlapping set of chores, it was back to searching the Canadian Tire site tonight which, once again, wouldn’t let me in due to the pushiness and better internet strength in the hordes of other laptop shoppers. The blessing was that this pause caused me remember some other obscure items I needed, so I’m patiently marking my time with the site as we speak, with a partial shopping cart parked somewhere in cyberspace (glad I did not have to wrestle a dollar-coin into it to free the cart up…). But this amorphous cart is now like a friend to whom I ask a profound question, and must await the thoughtful response.

Should I be saying, “Ohm”?

At any rate, I feel like I have time. I hope.

“Time” was the first Alan Parsons Project song/single that composer Eric Woolfson sang. The vocal on the song is delightful and, might I say, timeless? I remember hearing that Woolfson crossed over from this life and world, in 2009. Time. We sometimes think it is unending. It’s not. We must value this moment, and wash our hands like we really and truly mean it, stay home, and not touch our faces. And, if we can, we must help those in our community whom we leave behind in this uncertain time. As a Winnipeg, Canada musical treasure Scott Nolan has put it, “We’re all just trying to warm our hands around the fire.” Yeh. We must keep our distance, but at the same time can still “be close” in the sense of helping each other.

It’s a time when many are unsure where that next fire log is going to come from. I’m turning 60 this week and, instead of a party (yeah, that would be stupid, because gatherings are places the virus loves) or presents (I am almost 60; what the hell do I need by now?), I’ve asked people to donate to Winnipeg Harvest, to help supply food to those whom our society forces to seek a hand-up. We surpassed my original goal in a few hours and, after two days, almost doubled it with tax-deductible (in Canada) donations of CAD 1,150. With the buying power and careful stewardship of non-profits, that’s a lot of food. If you’d like to join us, the fundraiser will continue until the end of April, unless donations stop sooner; I want to help the money flow to Harvest as quickly as possible. You can find my birthday fundraiser here. I would love it if you could join us, and any amount helps!   

So… yeah, there’s time, but no time to lose.

But, sadly, those for whose time has ended, at least on this visible plane… we grieve.

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 The Alan Parsons Project’s YouTube channel (select 1080p in settings, for best sound):

Dear Friends

If you’ve visited this blog any number of times, it’ll be no secret to you that I’m a fan of Guy Garvey. Every Sunday, I look forward to hearing the lead singer of the band Elbow on his (now three-hour) program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music. He shares some beautiful music, as well as historical insights and side stories that create delightful moments in the day.

One thing that helps a great deal in times of uncertainty is surrounding yourself with people you choose to be with because of the way they make you feel. That can be family, or “family of choice” as one friend calls it, often known as dear friends. Sweety and I are fortunate to have all the above, and are blessed to be able to connect with them through this time.

“Dear Friends” seems like a good song to highlight the importance of connections, and how much we rely on them to get by. The song is the closing track on the album Build a Rocket Boys! which isn’t my most frequently played Elbow album, but a great one nonetheless.

“Dear friends
You are angels and drunks
You are Maji

Old friend
You stuck a pin in the map I was in
And you are the stars I navigate home by“

(from “Dear Friends,” by Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Guy Garvey, Peter Turner)

Whatever your circumstance in the current global situation, I hope you have those who check in on you and whom you can check on. It’s kind of all we can do right now…

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 be safe and well.

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

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Today is a tough day. And a good day. A mix. A challenging, sad, delightful combination.

What made the positive difference for Sweety and me is the connections we have with family and friends; folks we can talk with through this time. Coincidentally, we both had Skype calls with groups of friends this morning.

It’s difficult when your circle of people go through loss and grief, and you cannot just head over and comfort them with hugs, fresh-baked bread, and casseroles or soup.

The friend who owned our home before we did, introduced us to Eva Cassidy’s music. I loved the music so much, Sweety gave me one of her CDs, Time After Time as a birthday gift many years ago (it contains yet another of the songs on our wedding CD mix… please see here for my most recent post on a song from this mix). I bought several other Cassidy CDs, including Live at Blues Alley, which features her ethereal voice in a version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Cassidy’s CDs all consist of covers, and each of her renditions is a fantastic work of art. Her life was tragically short; born in 1963, died in 1996, and her first album only came out in 1992.

“When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around
(the last line of the verse is transposed by Cassidy as, “And friends just can’t be found”)

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down”

(from “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon)

We’re in this for a while, friends, and we have to remain connected as much as we can through phones, texts, messages, emails, letters, and even social media, the latter in selective, careful moderation. Hopefully, these connections will bring you positivity amid all the difficulty that the coronavirus is causing.

Stay safe, stay well, stay home, and if you have to go out, keep physical distance and then wash your hands like you really mean it when you get home.

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

Here’s the official audio of the song from the Eva Cassidy YouTube channel (select 1080p for best sound):

Lean on Me

Today has felt like a kind of day when it’s good, no… essential… critical, to have someone to lean on. 

I hope you have that, whether it’s someone you’re cooped up with or someone you can meet up with safely and very, very cautiously for a short time, or through online connections which are really growing in popularity. They’ve become a way for established groups of people to continue meeting in a time and space where physical meetings are unsafe. And I’ve found that kind of meetup to be helpful, soulful, enriching and strengthening in the new reality that we moved to so suddenly within a matter of a week, it seems. (It’s kind of a vote of confidence for the internet, which, has had its share of troubles due to its manipulation by those who use it for dark purposes.)

Much of today has been consumed with helping set up a connection that Sweety will have tomorrow, online with some women who are important to her, and me setting up a link to some men who are part of my journey. It has also been tied up with many phone calls and messages with loved ones; all these situations complicated by the inability to be connected in person. That limitation is so evident when there’s an urgent need to reach out and communicate and share love.

When I started this blog, I had this notion of a philosophy that I wouldn’t post to match trends or world events, memorialize the deaths of music legends (which, as we know, have happened at an increasing rate as some of the rocker and Baby Boomer generation reaches end-of-life), or highlight how the coronavrirus greedily claims its victims, sometimes people the whole world knows and loves.

Today, the world recognized the crossing over of Bill Withers, a legendary and influential musician whose songs are known to so many, many of whom don’t even know who he was.

Let’s lean on each other — from a safe distance.

Love and strength, everyone. 

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. I’m glad we could join here.

Here’s the official audio of the song from Bill Withers’ YouTube channel:

Sometimes It Snows in April

Last night, my sweety did a bit of searching for songs as I was having a sort of an off afternoon. She came upon today’s selection, which is a perfect fit on this snowy April day in Winnipeg, Canada. 

We have hunkered down at home (what else would we be doing, right?!) and I’m happy to have had conversations by FaceTime, phone, email, text and social media connections with many of the special people in my life over the last couple of days. One of the emails was bizarrely rude, but oh well, one in a bunch isn’t too bad; I choose to focus on the positive that people are contributing to this crisis. 

Sometimes it snows in April. But the snow will leave, and we hope for brighter days ahead. So, stay safe and well. Follow public health recommendations on social/physical distancing, wash your hands like you really mean it, don’t touch your face, and stay home. Buy some new music online; I’m going to be highlighting some songs from local musicians soon. And visit that pile of books you’ve been planning to read through “when there is time.” And, if you are still working out in the world, thank you. It means you are providing an essential service, something we may have taken for granted in the past. Please stay safe at work and in your commuting when overtired. 

If we emerge out of this crisis with just one new thing, I hope it’s a more profound, broader sense of gratitude.

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

Today’s post goes out to a friend and colleague who’s a mad fan of Prince.

Here’s the audio from a live performance in 2002, from Prince’s YouTube channel:

There’s also a video of a live performance but it just has an excerpt from the song, partway into the video which is also from Prince’s channel, though it is very fine viewing: 

April Fools’ Day Song

Seriously.

Today was a weird day. I woke up and did my usual morning routine which is centred around playing with our cat, Perry Como, who is addicted to his “Da Bird” toy, and then feeding him his wet foot with warm water mixed in. It’s clear who runs the household, but he’s so charming…

Then, I listened to a bit more of Sunday’s instalment of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour and prepared for a meetup with two colleagues on a volunteer project. It was great to speak with them on FaceTime in place of the dinner meeting we’d initially planned. I’m not short of contacts during the day, but connecting to folks with whom I’ve had professional relationships was truly enjoyable for me. 

In the corner of my mind, I must have had a notion that this year might not be the best for continuing with April Fools’ traditions. Then I was reminded mid-morning (by Facebook) that seven years ago, I switched out Sweety’s crutches (a fractured ankle from a cross-country skiing mishap) for some that are in the basement, a holdover from one of the boys’ childhood injuries. We laughed so much, after she figured out what was wrong that day when she couldn’t get around without suddenly being hunched over.

After lunch today, I was researching options for a weekend, online meetup with friends and learned of limitations with a particular platform. Then, I decided I’d get on the bike trainer but the app I use had cleverly installed a 1980s theme which made me think the app had been corrupted or hacked. Technology was not on my side. So I was flummoxed and gave up. At no time did I suspect these things were ruses.

Later, we had a long FaceTime call with one of our boys who has been working hard out in the field as an essential service provider. His gentle and often teasing way was grounding for me; a reminder that, as serious as the pandemic is, we must keep things in perspective. I somehow lost that for a bit today, but am feeling much better now. And, I’m “over the moon” that a birthday fundraiser I launched for Winnipeg Harvest reached my goal in just a few hours. I’ve raised the target and hope that we can feed a lot of people in this time that holds uncertainly for many. If you are friends with me on Facebook, please consider donating, if you are able to at this time.

I don’t typically follow date-specific themes for daily posts, but Sweety clearly knew I was in need of aid today, and found a song that fits. She’s so great at doing that: finding what’s needed when I’m not quite there. That’s love, folks.

I was fooled today, alright. And now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here. Enjoy? April showers bring… April snow???  Seriously????

Here’s the official video of the song from Whitney Avalon’s YouTube channel:

Tomorrow Never Knows

In 1976, ex-members of Roxy Music Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera, the latter also formerly of Quiet Sun along with Bill MacCormick, plus Lloyd Watson, Simon Phillips and Francis Monkman formed a side project they called 801. The collaboration took its name from a verse in the Eno song, “The True Wheel” (a fabulous selection from his 1974 record, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy). 

The 1980 Roxy Music song, “Oh Yeah” (post-Eno, but still including Manzanera) is featured in this post.

The band 801 played three concerts in England and released the somewhat unknown record, 801 Live, which was recorded on September 3, 1976 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. For the technological and production standards of that time, it is an excellent example of a high-quality live recording. The album features energetic renditions of compositions by Eno and Manzanera (individual and collaborative), The Kinks, Quiet Sun, and John Lennon/Paul McCartney. 

801’s musicians, some of whom are among my favourites, others I know almost nothing of, are incredibly talented and the band is so tight as if they played as a unit for years. One thing that truly amazes me is young Simon Phillips’s lightning-quick foot-pedal work on some of the songs, but there are so many other instrumental features I could share. Just buy the album; you won’t be sorry!

Back cover of 801 Live, showing the project personnel and live set list. Photo by Steve West.

The group was active from 1976-77, but Wikipedia indicates they reactivated this year. I’ve yet to see any evidence of activity or a recording but will keep watching, as one can’t believe everything one reads. But one can — and should — always hope.

In 2011, 801 Live was released as a double album in the iTunes Store and included the live tracks, plus a mirror image album of studio-produced (and apparently, “rehearsal”) versions. I can count on one hand, with fingers to spare, the number of people I’ve known who have heard of 801. The live version of “Lagrima,” the opening track of the album, starts with Eno and Manzanera’s synthesizer and guitar magic. A steam train whistle joins along, adding that element of the railway which I love so much, as you’ll remember from some past posts, like this one.

Skimming one of my playlists today, I found “T.N.K.,” as the band listed the track on 801 Live. I love the album and song, and wanted to share this piece with you today.

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 (not an official version):

Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd is a band that had a formative influence in my early life. I believe that their blending of rock with experimental music was part of what made me seek out more obscure types of rock music, a taste I’ve retained through my life. 

When one of my brothers was still living in the family home, he set up a “suite” in the unfinished basement, cleverly divided with curtains or some other cloth barrier, and I remember the space having a very inviting vibe to it. He had an excellent stereo system (or “hi-fi” as he refers to it, for those who still recall the term high-fidelity, referring to the quality of sound reproduction). On weekend evenings when my parents and the rest of the family were out, I’d often be at home, and at some point, I’d get invited to join my brother and his friends in his room. I remember them being chill, kindhearted people who took a real interest in me. As a spindly, geeky, awkward teenager, this had great value for me and my sense of self and belonging.

The same brother introduced me to Pink Floyd, as he did with many other bands back then. At one point, I bought his vinyl collection of rock records, including some gems by Pink Floyd: Ummagumma (1969), Meddle (1971), Obscured by Clouds (1972), Dark Side of the Moon (1973), and Wish You Were Here (1975). I  added Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979), both of which were significant in my later high school and early work years.

My Pink Floyd collection. Note how I removed the clear sticker from the cellophane wrapper on The Wall and stuck it on the album cover. I don’t know of anyone else who did that; guess it was an attempt at clarity. Also, see the Opus 69 record store price tag on Dark Side of the Moon, CAD 4.79.
Photo © Steve West.

In my early years of collecting albums (please see my post on “Orpheus” for more on my shopping excursions), and as I’ve mentioned before, I savoured and still enjoy the album art designs and liner notes. As did some other major musical acts, Pink Floyd frequently used the English art design firm, Hipgnosis, to create the art for their album covers.

Today, I continued listening to yesterday’s “The Finest Hour Goes to Three Hours — Bring It On” episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. These memories floated to the surface on my hearing of “Wish You Were Here” in a 2015 recording of a live performance by David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, which played after Garvey’s segment on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s contributions to the museum district of London.

With the current public health response of “stay at home” and “social/physical distancing” in the global coronavirus pandemic, the song title also seemed fitting today.

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 of the live performance from David Gilmour’s YouTube channel.

‘Cello Song

Nick Drake (1948-1974) is an artist I don’t know anything about; I suppose in part because he died just as I was growing into the age where my interest in listening to and collecting music was developing. 

I gather Drake’s music didn’t gain as much recognition in his life; in fact, he entered the Billboard 100 for the first time, many years after he died. His estate website looks inviting, and I have bookmarked it to read through it another day. The reading list is getting somewhat lengthy!

I’ve heard of Nick Drake many times, and his name brings up an enigmatic image. I’m not even sure I was aware that he was dead — though I supposed I must have — and I can’t recall any of his songs. I heard today’s song played on the always reliable Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, which plays on BBC 6 Music at 8:00 am CDT. Garvey and the BBC have extended the program to three hours… which is exciting for me as I savour each episode, so I hope this is a permanent move. I just pulled today’s instalment from the BBC Sounds archive this evening, as I’ve been occupied all day: The day has included time on the bike trainer, a walk with Sweety, a Zoom teleconference, phone calls with family, dinner, a touch of news coverage on the coronavirus emergency, and an episode of MI-5 on BritBox. Today was also interspersed with text messages checking in on (and being checked in on by) our various people, plus email. Plus, I’m trying to connect with a friend who’s been out of touch for a couple of weeks, which is worrisome. I hope he is okay.

So, as it’s getting later in the day, Drake will have to wait for another time. I look forward to learning more about him and his legacy of music. In the meantime, “‘Cello Song” awaits. It’s a lovely piece, with simple instrumentation and a soft vocal.

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

You’ll find the official audio of the song on the Listen page of Bryter Music, the official website of The Estate of Nick Drake.

Late Night Grand Hotel

Today’s song is another one of the selections from the mix-CD that Sweety and I gave out at “night-night time” to the small group of family and close friends who witnessed our marriage. In a previous post, I talked a little about how Nanci Griffith’s music has meant so much to us in our life together.

The liner notes for our wedding CD say that my sweety, “heard Nanci Griffith on TV, and I found the album in one of those ‘seven-CDs-for-one-cent’ clubs. (Today’s) song has been a favourite for years, not so much for the lyrics – as their meaning can be debatable – but because it made us want to waltz the first time we heard it – and that’s been a tradition ever since.  Years ago, near Kenora, we stopped at a rest stop when the song was playing and danced right there, on the gravel overlooking the water.”

While I was still working, Saturdays at our home were days where we would often do our own thing for a few hours and, for me, that would mean at least some of that time was spent with music, chilling out and decompressing from the busy-ness and stress of in-the-fishbowl public service. 

My computer, where I usually listen to music and almost always wrote my posts, is in the same relative position it was back then. It used to be in the next room to the kitchen; a sort of spare room, previously set up as a dining area but really too small for an eating area, so our family computer and associated clag was in there. Now, since a 2015 renovation, the computer and speakers are at the far end of an expanded kitchen space that took over that odd room. 

Before the reno, on those relaxed Saturdays, I’d invariably find a new song or play and old one that led Sweety and me to meet up in the kitchen for a bit of “stop-what-you’re-doing-and dance.” 

Kitchen dances are the best. I am convinced that this figured into Sweety’s selection of our flooring when she was researching for the kitchen renovation. Nowadays in the kitchen she created, if she is in the kitchen and I am at the computer, there’s no wall between us, so meetups are that much easier when a new song is discovered or an old one is found again.

I hope that if you have someone in your life you can dance with, you’re enjoying the occasional kitchen (or wherever) dance these days. If you’re by yourself, just head out onto the floor and enjoy the song with yourself. (If the latter, I also hope that you are taking good care of yourself.)

It is vital for us to reach out to folks for connection in this weird time where, because of COVID-19, physical distance is a survival tactic… it’s just so odd to me when I think about that. And it’s also a constant reminder to me to check in on those whom I know are alone and might be struggling during this time.

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 of the song from Nanci Griffith’s VEVO/YouTube channel:

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Edit, March 30, 2020: Since making the post below, I’ve read this article, and have been thinking twice about the wisdom of gathering eight, ten, even twenty feet apart. It seems there’s still so much that isn’t known about the virus, so maybe it makes sense to exceed the recommendations of public health officials, out of an abundance of caution. So while we had a good time in our gathering, I don’t think I’d recommend it as a practice. Stay home, stay safe, folks…

Last evening, two of the three couples from our neighbourhood group of friends got “somewhat together” in an impromptu, physically-distant gathering; it was the subject of yesterday’s post. This afternoon, all three couples were together. Still, we adhered to existing recommendations for social distancing (or physical distancing as the terminology seems to be evolving to) and to the upcoming provincial Public Health order on keeping group gatherings to no more than ten people. 

It’s all a bit awkward and foreign, but it’s our reality until our community is safely through this crisis. We’ll have to remain on guard not to get too close or share items, undermining personal safety hygiene. We had our chairs far apart tonight, though we were close in spirit, as always.

Tonight the neighbours broke out their portable, covered fire pit. Later it became clear that some of the wood wasn’t seasoned yet, so it was a very smoky fire, and the consensus was that my song of the day for today should be, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” 

I remember this song from my childhood and have a very vague memory of watching my parents dance to it at a wedding social or reception many years ago, though it could be one of those false memories, too. But it seems like the kind of song they would have danced to back in the day. Neither Sweety’s nor my parents are alive anymore; her dad and my mum were alone before they died, and it would be difficult to think of them coping without visitors, as many families are having to do now, to protect the often frail health of elders in their own homes or care facilities.

These days life quickly shifts from routine, to worry, then fun, and sometimes tension and weariness, and back to gratitude. Feeling the love of others helps to keep a sense of calm through most of 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 audio (with lyrics) of the song from The Platters’ YouTube channel:  

Good Times Roll

Edit, March 30, 2020: Since making the post below, I’ve read this article, and have been thinking twice about the wisdom of gathering eight, ten, even twenty feet apart. It seems there’s still so much that isn’t known about the virus, so maybe it makes sense to exceed the recommendations of public health officials, out of an abundance of caution. So while we had a good time in our gathering, I don’t think I’d recommend it as a practice. Stay home, stay safe, folks…

Today, my sweety and I were out for a walk in the sun, remaining socially-distant from, well, not very many people, as there were not many out, despite the glorious rays from the sun. It was so bright, my cheeks feel a little rosy from walking nearly an hour in it! (As an aside, I’ve noticed people are being very responsible about keeping their distance when out walking, but almost all look down and won’t make eye contact or, heaven forbid, say “hello” as they meet up with you. And yes, we need to maintain social distance and #stayathome if we can (some can’t) but we can still acknowledge each other at a distance, despite the coronavirus.)

On our way back home from the walk, talking to one neighbour, we saw our next-door neighbours leaving for a family run. A while later, they texted:

Them: You guys home?

Us: yes

Them: Lawn cocktail?

Us: sure!

We met out on our front yard, and after standing around at that awkward distance for a few minutes, I put out two folding chairs for them while Sweety and I sat on our front steps. They then moved the chairs to about ten feet away from us and settled in (well, the dad was playing catch with the kids, so he was in and out of our yard, but sat down eventually).

There are three couples on our block that have been very closely connected for pretty well all of the 18 years Sweety and I have lived on the street.

As we parted to make our families’ evening meals, today’s song came into my mind.

We’ve always had a lot of fun with the neighbours, and today’s impromptu gathering was evidence of that. We’d talked in the last week of having a “virtual happy hour” on Zoom to socialize in this temporary, new reality we’re all dealing with. Today seemed like a good time to let the “good times roll” and be together to catch up on what’s been happening for each other for the past many weeks (it recently being winter, we have not caught up much in person, lately).

Thinking of the song, it reminded me of taking The Cars’ self-titled, debut LP over to a friend’s place in the summer of 1978, shaking with excitement as I was one of the first in my city to own it (it arrived at the record store one day that day I was there), and I couldn’t wait to share it with them. I still remember sitting there with the guys in my friend’s bedroom, all of them sitting stunned hearing this wild, new band with a sound unlike anything we were used to.

“Let the good times roll
Let them knock you around
Let the good times roll
Let them make you a clown

Let them leave you up in the air
Let them brush your rock and roll hair
Let the good times roll”

(from “Good Times Roll,” by Ric Ocasek)

(As an aside, it’s hard to believe that both of the primary singers of this band, guitarist Ric Ocasek and bassist Benjamin Orr, are no longer with us.)

But back to the present; we all must be very cautious these days, and I’m heartened by the fact that it seems like everyone in my close community is taking the social distancing protocol seriously. We all want to flatten the curve, slow the spread of this thing so as not to overwhelm our health-care system all at once.

For a retired couple like us, the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed our lives nearly as much as it has for others, and Sweety and I genuinely feel for everyone struggling with jobs/job loss, kids, obligations and the complexities of this time. We’ve been able to creatively manage most of ours, though the connection with our kids, who are adults and live separately from us, and grandkids, is more complex, for sure. 

It’s essential to keep connected, but please be safe when you do that. I have been observing folks’ social responses and, for the most part, have been really impressed with how careful people are being and, from conversations, it seems like most are doing that for others as much as for themselves. Maybe our society will come out of this with a better sense of connectedness and caring for one another. I am optimistic. And, that outcome would be a great reason to crank up a song like, “Good Times Roll” when Public Health officials finally confirm when we are through this. But still carefully, of course.

Tomorrow, we hope to have all three of the neighbourhood couples together for a ten-feet-apart lawn gathering. Years ago, we would meet up every Sunday night to have drinks and snacks while watching the TV series, Mad Men. For the first season finale, we all dressed up formally. (Well, almost all of us did. But I won’t go there right now… no time for shame.) We are great friends to one another and have been through many, many joys and sorrows together over the years. One of us even spent the day transporting a wedding gown around for the other some years back; there isn’t much we won’t do to support each other.

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 of the song from The Cars’ YouTube channel:

Enjoy the Silence

Our youngest lad and I don’t seem to speak a lot about music, though we share some similar likes. We both enjoy country music, though I tend to gravitate to the grittier, outlaw-country side of the genre. And it seems that seeing his older brother’s appearance several years ago at Dauphin’s Countryfest in Manitoba’s Interlake ignited our youngest‘s continuing interest in that event. 

The brothers started playing the violin at age four, and the youngest developed in that instrument and was later a member of youth orchestras and ensembles in Winnipeg, Canada. Still gifted with his hands, he now uses them in trades work. He spent a lot of time away from home a few years ago, helping to build a school for the flood-displaced First Nation community of Lake St. Martin, Manitoba. I’m proud of him and his accomplishments. Right now, he’s out working in the community as an essential service provider, while many other workplaces are silent due to concerns over COVID-19.

A song we shared a mutual liking for when he was much younger is “Enjoy the Silence,” by the English electronic band Depeche Mode. I had been watching the official video for a 2004 remix of the song; it’s an animation that, to me, shows a starker vision of nature overcoming the excesses of human activity on the planet. Anyway, my lad was quite entranced by the video and the song. I remember seeing, years later in his room, the Remixes 81-04 album we gave him for Christmas that year, and on which today’s song appears.

Depeche Mode, which formed in 1980 and remains active, is another band I learned of through the cool kids in North St. Vital, AKA “friends 2.0” (see here for my most recent mention of them). “Enjoy the Silence” is also one of the songs covered by Tori Amos on her 2001 album, Strange Little Girls, a track from which I posted on March 4, 2020. The band has also been covered by Johnny Cash, whose version of “Personal Jesus” is on the album, American IV: The Man Comes Around (and who is featured on this blog, here).

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 of the remix version of the song, from Depeche Mode’s YouTube channel:

Nightingale

When I posted on February 1, 2020 about the song “Chasing Cars,” I told you about my sweety and me hearing Snow Patrol play that song live when they supported the Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends tour on June 15, 2009. The other supporting band for that tour was Howling Bells, originally from Sydney, Australia. The band has been described as “country goth,” among other perhaps better-known genres.

When getting ready to close the show out that night and acknowledging the supporting bands, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin urged everyone to go home and buy the Howling Bells song, “Nightingale” from their Radio Wars album. I did, though from the purchase date in the metadata in the song file, I waited almost two weeks; not sure why, as I liked the song a lot. Maybe we were busy with wedding preparations.

Anyway, it’s another song from my collection that’s had a long run on the go-to playlist in my Apple Music library (formerly iTunes library) called, “Bday party playlist” (please see my post from February 15, 2020, “On My Way Back Home” for another from that list). The playlist currently has 168 songs, but it changes from time to time as songs fall out of favour or new ones come on. I listen to today’s song often, and it reminds me of the fun time we had at the concert.

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 of the song from Howling Bells’ SoundCloud account

Do Your Best and Don’t Worry

Morrissey is a musician I really know nothing about, but I caught today’s song on a weekend radio program during my last full-time year of employment, and it’s the only song of his that I own. Although I was no longer working in a highly-stressful public relations role, I was, at the time, an interim department head overseeing a large portfolio, so there were many moving pieces to oversee. But I had a fantastic team to work with and had one of the best years of my career, enabled by my boss to mentor and advocate for people and their projects, with the common goal of improving our services. 

“Do Your Best and Don’t Worry” guided me through some of the stressful times and helped me focus my intentions on those things that I could control or influence. (And, as I explained in my post on Arkells’ song “Deadlines”: If preparing for a particularly busy day, I would likewise begin the day early by playing today’s song on my iYiYi iPod dock. By that time, I was in the big corner office that came with the department head gig… so there was more room for a couple of minutes’ air-band action, behind a closed door of course; because, you know, decorum.)

Today, the song came into my mind when I thought of some of the excellent and factual advice we’ve been getting from dedicated, hard-working government officials who are leading COVID-19 responses, specifically a line from one public health leader: “Take this seriously. But don’t panic.” To me, the title of today’s song is synonymous with that directive.

Also, it’s a great song if you’re feeling cooped up today, like many of us are; I challenge you not to feel like getting your air-band on with the guitar or drum parts. The drum part is my favourite, though not by a considerable margin.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. (But if you’re still at work and have an office, you might want to close the door first.) 

Here’s the audio of the song. It’s not an official version, but it has the option for 1080p playback. Ready, band? 1, 2, 3, 4…

Here Comes the Sun

I was still only three years old when I was allowed to stay up late, already in my pyjamas, of course, to watch The Beatles when they debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. 

The Beatles have remained a part of my life ever since, coming in and out in greater measure when they went through various stages and events: in 1970, when they started to record solo works; in 1980, when John Lennon was the victim of a senseless gun homicide; when George Harrison died in 2001; and in September 2018, when I used a fairly hefty wad of my inheritance from my parents to score Sweety and me tickets to see Paul McCartney play live in Winnipeg, Canada. (I remember walking out of Bell MTS Place after the concert that night, looking up to the dark sky and calling out, “thanks, Mum and Dad.”)

And while I don’t often sit down and listen to the band, I have many of their records on vinyl, CD or digital. I do, however, savour hearing stories from my brothers, all older, who were more in tune with the music scene and the “British Invasion” which was touched off in 1963 with the first single of the “Fab Four,” “Please Please Me.”

In 1964, as “Beatlemania” took hold, Life magazine said, “In [1776] England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back.” 

Today on Mothers’ Day in the United Kingdom, Guy Garvey played “Here Comes the Sun” on the “Guy Celebrates Mother’s Day with His Mother” episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. The song was a recommendation from his mum, Shirley Harrington, and was introduced with her reminiscence of the band’s rise when she was younger and her children were growing.

There is also a very lovely spoken piece by Mrs. Harrington at the end of the program, introducing Joni Mitchell singing, “A Case of You.” It’s truly worth your time if you only listen to even those last few minutes of the program, though I enjoyed the whole program… Guy Garvey is a weekly treat. The episode can be found here for the next 29 days or so.

And on the theme of parenthood, while speaking with my lads today, and perhaps nagging them a touch, I was mindful of the worries my parents faced in their lives, as I worry about the safety of our family, like we all do these days in the COVID-19 crisis. 

Life sometimes seems a little bleak in this late stage of winter while the cold weather persists and dirty ice and snow remain, covering all that will be green in a few months. Add to that the current uncertainty, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed, fearful and hopeless. But the clear sky this afternoon and the promise of spring made me think again of the song played on Garvey’s program. Hearing “Here Comes the Sun” today, the memories flooded back. And hope, too.

Keep safe folks, keep healthy, wash your hands and all that important stuff; and, it doesn’t hurt to add in some hope and to dream about being out there, embracing all the close people in our lives, while the world keeps turning and life slowly returns to normal, or maybe a new and better normal. 

(And on the topic of hope and dreaming, I’ll add my dream to soon be slicing through the outside air on my bike. It’s my goal to do a 100-kilometre ride this year after doing 60 kilometres on what would have been my dad’s 100th birthday last autumn. When I clip out from that ride, I’ll pull out my phone and play this song.)

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 2019 mix of “Here Comes the Sun,” from The Beatles’ YouTube channel:

Gold

The Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon based band Wake Owl have been active since 2102, and that year they issued today’s song as a free download. They re-released it on their Wild Country EP through Vagrant Records, in 2013. I am quite sure I would have heard it on CBC Radio 2 or, more likely the internet-only Radio 3, and bought it in February 2013.

I’ve enjoyed this song for many years but have never sought out more music by Wake Owl. They are classified as “alternative,” but that’s a pretty broad category. I’d consider them on the folk to roots side of alternative, as their instrumentation is fairly folk-oriented. However, there are some heavenly keyboards, and amazing riffs on a violin in various places including the break after the second verse. Wake Owl reminds me of some others duos and small acts like First Aid Kit and The Civil Wars, and maybe even the larger group, Band of Horses.

“Gold” seems to me to be about someone who has gone through turmoil and is feeling upheld (by angels, it seems) and though he may be apprehensive of change, realizes the need to “… go where I’m bound.”

“And I don’t feel like I’m falling,
I’m up against the sky
I said I’d taken it all in to make the good life
And I don’t feel like I’m falling
I’m up against the sky
Let’s grab the heart of the world and turn into the light

But I cannot turn around
the angels see me now
go where I’m bound

You smile like you know the new world has been found”

(from “Gold,” by Colyn Cameron)

There are a few symbols that might infer death, but even with the mysterious sounds of the strings, I don’t get that from hearing it. I think it acknowledges the fear that sometimes comes with change and uncertainty, but which can still make us “… turn into the 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. 

The song and Wild Country EP aren’t available through their website or Bandcamp page, but can still be purchased in the iTunes Store or streamed on Apple Music, along with their later albums.

Here’s the official video from Wake Owl’s YouTube channel:

if i grew up

As many of you know, today, Bandcamp is waiving all its fees so that 100% of purchases on their site will go to the artists. It’s one of several ways for us to help musicians and for them to benefit from your support as well as the kind gesture by Bandcamp in this time of global upheaval amidst us being cloistered in our homes. Bandcamp’s site says fans have supported musicians with USD 10.5 million in the last 30 days alone. That’s great, but it’s a small amount when divided among all the artists using that platform as a storefront.

In previous posts, I’ve linked to our own Kieran West’s Bandcamp page. He will have more music there soon but, in the meantime, why not scoop up his original CD today? Kieran doesn’t work full-time in music but like so many others, faces an uncertain future as the vital work he does for others work shuts down to aid in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s a local favourite of many, and his music is also on Apple Music and Spotify.

And earlier today, I read a Facebook post by a friend I met in Connecticut, USA in December 2012. Noah Baerman is a musician, producer, blogger and all-around kind human being. He advocates for fellow artists and is generous in his promotion and praise of them. He blogged a long list of people’s music, and I landed on Jess Best’s album, Kid Again. I listened to most of the songs and fell in love with her magical voice and the beautifully arranged strings. My favourite so far is the song, “if i grew up.” I highly recommend the album.

Kid Again is the third album I’ve bought in as many days and, being at home virtually all the time, I should have time to actually listen to them all. (Well, I did already spin Del Barber’s JUNO-nominated Easy Keeper, and listened to the premiere of Brian and Roger Eno’s Mixing Colours last night… so I’m relatively up to date.)

Best, of New York, USA, has a sound unlike much of the music I listen to. The song “if i grew up” seems to be about the cycles and complexity of life, growing up and death; phases that seem so much more pronounced as we suddenly are living in a time like few have seen since the 1930s and 1940s in the last great war, with all the uncertainty, hardship and necessary restrictions on society. Our parents and grandparents made it through that time, and so will we now.

It’s a time to talk with folks as much as possible while, ironically, keeping physically distant from some who need us the most. It’s a good time to listen to new 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. Then head over to Bandcamp and support West, Noah, Best, or any other of the many, many artists you’ll find there. Visit often, and buy lots… and leave a comment below if you’d  like to recommend another artist’s music!

Kieran West: https://kieranwestbuffaloband.bandcamp.com

Noah Baerman: https://noahbaerman.bandcamp.com

Jess Best: https://jessbest.bandcamp.com

And when you buy something, use the Bandcamp site function where you can leave a message for the artist. I’m sure they’d appreciate hearing from you.

Here’s the official audio for “if i grew up,” from Jess Best’s SoundCloud account (the Bandcamp link wasn’t working for playback of the song when I tried earlier):

Comptine d’ un autre été, l’après-midi

Soon after our first grandchild was born, Sweety and I travelled to London, England to meet him. We figured we’d spend a few weeks cooking for and helping the parents as this was their first child. But they were doing so well that we decided to take a five-day trip to Paris, France in the middle of our vacation. I was in Paris with my parents in 1973 as a side trip when in the UK, but didn’t recall a great deal from that trip. This time I was, however, a superstar at figuring out the underground/overground train system, made up of the famous Paris Metro and the RER, a regional railway (maybe rekindled the rail traffic controller in me??). We made the most of those five days, seeing all the major sights.  

Our first evening in Paris, October 8, 2012.

Sweety and I took the Eurostar from England to France, which was exciting though, in advance, the idea of being in a train beneath the English Channel was a little unnerving. But we went through so many tunnels along the way in England that, by the time we were in the 50-kilometre long Channel Tunnel, we had been in it for almost 20 minutes before we realized it. I had booked a hotel on Priceline.com, which ended up being about 50% off, and was two blocks from the Tour Eiffel. One of my favourite excursions was a day we spent in the Musée d’Orsay, a converted railway station (railway, again!) which holds many significant works of art, including paintings by Vincent van Gogh. I would love to go back there someday.

We also went on two walking tours, free tours by Sandemans New Europe. The guides make their living on tips from the tourists, and our first tour guide was fabulous, taking us around much of the old city. We probably walked 15 km that day. The second tour was okay, but the guide didn’t have the exuberant kind of personality our first guide did. The tour was quite a distance by trains from our hotel, up in Montmartre, and the highlight of it was the Basilique du Sacré Couer de Montemartre, plus an amusing stop in the Café des Deux Moulins where some of the movie, Amelie was filmed.

At the Café des Deux Moulins, in Montemartre, October 10, 2012.

Friends of ours were playing some piano music quite some time ago, and one piece was “Comptine d’ un autre été, l’après-midi,” from the soundtrack of Amelie. It, of course, reminded me of the film; and our visit to that cafe during our five glorious days together in Paris. 

While writing my post this evening, I was listening to a live-stream of the release of Mixing Colours, the Roger and Brian Eno collaboration which they released at midnight on March 20 in Berlin. I told you about that album in my post on a pre-purchased track, “Blonde.” I enjoyed listening to the live-stream this evening and participating in the chat. The live-stream is already available as an archive, here. I’m excited that, after midnight, the preorder will be in my Apple Music library. (I finally upgraded to Apple’s Catalina operating system which, in part, broke up iTunes in favour of Apple Music, TV and Podcasts, though I was relieved to find I can still purchase music in the iTunes Store.) All that to say, the acoustic piano and synthesizer-based Mixing Colours made me think back to today’s solo piano selection while I was surfing through some photos of the 2012 trip.

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

(Note: If you follow the links in this post, you’ll see some of them have warnings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole world, and many people, are hurting in this global crisis. Let’s be kind to each other and help in whatever ways we can.)

Here’s the official audio from composer Yann Tiersen’s YouTube channel