Saturday, March 5, 2011

Show #52 March 5, 2011

For Belinda...
and all who love Rock & Roll Radio!

- Ben Folds & Nick Hornby Lonely Avenue
All The Time- Runarounds Waiting For The Hurricane
I Gotta Know- The Sugar Stems Sweet Sounds of the.....
She's So Fine- The Easybeats The Definitive Anthology
Behind Those Eyes- The Diodes Tired of Waking Up Tired
Letter Of Resignation- The Weakerthans Fallow
Anytime- Screen Test Shake Some Action Vol. 2
Shopping- Nine Lives Shopping 7"
^Radio Free Europe- R.E.M. Radio Free Europe 45
Ugly Talents- Ruth Ruth The Little Death
Hang On For Your Life- Psycotic Pineapple Where's The Party
No Substitute- The Speedies Speedy Delivery
Another Heartache- Any Trouble Wheels In Motion
Some- The Gems Titan: It's All Pop!
*Radio- Teenage Fanclub Thirteen
*Radio- Dirty Angels Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
*Radio- The Lookalikes Can I Take You Home Tonight 7"
*Radio- Stiffed Burned Again
Mystery- Wipers Is This Real?
You've Got What It Takes- The Slickee Boys Cybernetic Dreams of Pi
In My Time- The Jolt The Jolt
Agony- Newtown Neurotics Newtown Neurotics Punk Collection
You Can Run- The Shake Shakes You Can Run Single
The Boy Won't Listen- Blue Ash Front Page News
>Roadrunner- Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers 23 Great Recordings
Shadow Line- The Fleshtones It's Super Rock Time!
Make It The Same- The Mundanes Make It The Same 7"
Telephone- Loaded Dice No Sweat
Daredevil- Battered Wives Battered Wives
Midnight Radio-Hedwig And The Angry Inch Original Soundtrack

^Power Pop Peak: #78 Billboard Hot 100 7/23/83

*SacroSet: "Radio" Songs

>Power Pop Prototype: 1977

My sister Sarah gave me Lonely Avenue for my birthday in October and I have to say it left me cold on the first couple of listens. The record is subtitled "Ben Folds Adds Music And Melody To Nick Hornby's Words." As I've said before, I've got a problem with Ben Folds' music- no guitar, ever. The guy purposefully excludes the greatest instrument in the history of music. On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of Nick Hornby's novels, my favorites being High Fidelity and About A Boy.

The Lonely Avenue song "Levi Johnston's Blues" is a cheap shot. Even if Hornby is only using Johnston's words against him (allegedly from his MySpace page: I'm a fucking redneck, I like to hang out with the boys, play some hockey, do some fishing and kill some moose), making fun of the dude is just too easy. That said, I loved the song "From Above," which I played a few weeks back, right off the bat. "From Above" is a heartbreaking song about two people who should be together (heartbeats becoming synchronized and staying that way forever) but end up marrying other people and how tragically common that is. After a few listens, more songs from Lonely Avenue started growing on me, though I have to say it's usually Hornby's words that hook me first, then I start to appreciate Folds' contributions.

The Lonely Avenue liner notes include an e-mail from Folds to Hornby about tonight's dedication song "Belinda," now one of my favorites on the album, that I think is very interesting:

Dear Nick,
"Belinda" has been a mother***ker - but I think I cracked the code. You gave me a specific assignment if you think about it. The song had to sound like an old hit song. It wouldn't be believable to have the chorus be a bastardization of an old classic if the melody weren't classic so I wanted to make the chorus sound as if it was actually a huge hit that we all remember. And then you've quoted the chorus of this fabled hit song in the second line of the verse, so I had to figure out a way to quote the melody without doing the ultimate no no by giving away the chorus in the verse. Guys like Burt Bacharach don't even like to give away the highest note of the chorus anywhere earlier in the song. Anyway I worked it out by making the chord beneath the quote a weaker version in the verse and taking out one line pre-chorus so that the chorus hits at a surprise time, so even though you've heard the melody it was in such a different context that it still works. It was like a hell crossword puzzle but I think we made a good song. We did about 20 takes on Friday and I need to spend some time going through them to find the one that sounds classic for editing.

Perhaps because my own songwriting experiences have been limited to a rudimentary bashing out of a few chords and putting words over them, I'd never considered the technical aspects of songwriting Folds is talking about above (and that I also discuss in an earlier post about Robbie Fulks' brilliant "Fountains Of Wayne Hotline"). The way Ben Folds approaches Hornby's "Belinda" challenge, it's like a complex math or science problem that needs solving. And I guess, similar to a mathematician or scientist, Ben Folds has the skill set and training to solve it.

I remember hearing Elvis Costello interviewed on Fresh Air about his work with Burt Bacharach on Painted From Memory. Elvis had an acoustic guitar with him and Terry Gross was trying to get him to break down a song into the Bacharach vs. Costello contributions. He couldn't do it and had a very difficult time explaining why he couldn't or even what Bacharach brought to the process. I realized that they were working on a completely different level- one that lauded songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young might not get anymore than I do but people like Richard Carpenter and Barry Manilow understand completely. In their heyday, Richard and Barry were trying to solve their own "musical problems," each with variables of melody, harmony and rhythm, within the parameters of current trends in pop music, production style, lyric content, etc. I find this interesting- it doesn't make me like The Carpenters' or Barry Manilow's music any more, but I appreciate the effort.

From the first time I heard The Ramones' Rocket To Russia, I've been a huge fan of underground music, which led to me to college/public radio, first as a listener, then as a DJ. That took me to college to study radio and earn a communications degree. My "money jobs" in the last 25 years have all been in commercial radio and given me a broad knowledge of pop music- which actually has its benefits. No one cares what I know about late 70's Boston Rock & Roll or Swedish Power Pop, but being the dorky guy who is usually the first to answer "who does that song that goes...." has some social relevance- plus I kill at pub trivia questions about music.

Anyway, I've grown to love both commercial and college/public/non-commercial music radio. My local station, San Jose alternative Channel 92.3, flipped format this week and I'm still adjusting to the loss. So, for tonight's features, I decided to focus on songs about radio- both pro and con:

I'm in love with modern moonlight
128 when it's dark outside
I'm in love with Massachusetts
I'm in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
It helps me from being lonely late at night
I don't feel so bad now in the car
Don't feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That's right- "Roadrunner" Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

And always late at night I'm drivin' in my car I listen to my radio
The late night DJ says he'll play my favorite song

But I can't hear- the interference comes on way too strong

The radio is drivin' me mad- TURN IT OFF!

-"Radio" The Lookalikes

I think it's funny The Lookalikes complain about static when 99% of anti-Radio songs focus on programmers, like Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio" (and the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel), which I'll save for the next radio SacroSet. The thing is, when I listen to the radio I feel connected. Tapes, CD's, i-pods, Pandora and most satellite/internet radio channels seem like isolated "closed loops." On the other hand, when you're listening to a great local radio station, you've joined with other people like you and you're all part of something bigger than yourselves. I believe in local radio.

You can listen to or download (right click and "Save Target As") tonight's show below:
Hour 1
Hour 2

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