My year in music

31 12 2009

The year started out with a bang.  I had just seen Oasis in mid December and was quite interested in the current British music scene.  Before January was up, I got my hands on both Fratellis’ albums, two from the Kooks and Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare.  Credit for these finds goes to magazines like Mojo and Q, which I was reading heavily at the time.  I did my level best to get my hands on Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album from the local library, but that took until Spring.

Luckily, Dennis Wilson’s revived classic Pacific Ocean Blue got a lot of love late 2008, early 2009, particularly from the Brit mags.  That has been one of the best albums I’ve bought in years.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

February was also quite interesting because the Beatles’ Take 20 of “Revolution” surfaced, and exploded across the ‘net.  EMI and/or Apple Corps made sure, within a day or so, that it vanished from some of the more notorious sites like youtube.  I wasn’t immediately convinced it was an authentic Beatles track – seemed possibly to be a mash-up of some kind – but “Beatles historians” roundly came out with opinions that it was the real deal.  That it was squashed within 48 hours of hitting the world wide web seemed to be good evidence that it was the real thing.  It’s a very cool track.  It’s basically “Revolution No. 1″ from the White Album, with loops and audio bits that ended up on “Revolution No. 9.”  As a big Beatles fan, I’m not one for second guessing them, but I think, in retrospect, “Revolution Take 20″ (let’s just call it that) would have fit better on the album than having two separate Revolutions.  No. 9 is just too long and goes nowhere.

The Beach Boys are frequently in my playing rotation (though not at the moment.)  Last Spring, I really wanted to go back and full up my collection from their post-Smile late 60’s, early 70’s catalog, but never quite got around to it.  I did dig out my copy of Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, and played discs 2 and 3 quite a bit for a few weeks.  I came to love Dennis Wilson’s “Little Bird” from the album Friends.

Speaking of Beach Boys and Wilson brothers, Brian Wilson’s performance of Smile from a few years was an amazing surprise.  I’ve had the bootleg tracks (and songs from the box set) for years, but his performance of the aborted album from start to finish is something special.

Virtually out of nowhere, I felt this draw toward bass guitar.  My six string had been in the case for years; I played it a bit and decided I wanted to be a bassist.  In March I picked up my Dean EABG and jumped right into it.  I got Bass Guitar for Dummies and started playing (or learning) quite diligently.  In April I bought a 1997 Epiphone Accu-Bass and a Kustom 80 watt bass amp from a pawn shop in Detroit.  I have not played the electric much, but it’s there if I need it.

Late spring and early summer came.  I still played quite a bit of bass, taking my acoustic with me on family trips and weekends out of town.  I didn’t quite finish Bass Guitar for Dummies, but I’m planning a return to the book.  Because of my love for bass, anything with excellent bass found its way into my rotation.  I picked up What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977), an absolutely fantastic 4 disc set put out by Rhino.

Midsummer my MP3 player completely crapped out.  I couldn’t replace the battery for it, either.  We traveled a lot on weekends so my daughter had frequent requests for the Beatles or the Beach Boys, so that’s most of what I heard.

Christmas came early, on 09/09/09 in fact.  Apple Corps released the Beatles’ entire catalog, remastered, in stereo and mono (at least up through 1968.)  I got the Beatles in Mono box set before the stereo set.  I burned the CDs and put ‘em back in the packaging immediately.  I never even looked at the booklets, liner notes etc.  I got the stereo set a few days later, but still have not opened it.  September and October were Beatles-filled months.  Even now, at year’s end, I’m listening to bits of Abbey Road quite a bit, mostly because I’ve picked up the bass again and am trying to learn some of the licks.

Noel Gallagher “quit” Oasis but, surprisingly, this didn’t bother me a bit.  I’d love to see them make music forever; but if it ends it ends.  Noel’s the heart and soul of the band and he could go on making great music without his pesky little brother.  Here’s to a solo career that he will hopefully launch…and soon.

They never made sense to me in 38 years on this planet, but I finally gave in and got a few Pink Floyd albums, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon.  I would never have bought them at the store, but they’re at our public library, so I’ve given them a whirl.  I have to admit that I quite like both of those albums.  I’m not quite convinced that I like PF enough to start buying up their other albums, but I certainly am at least open to considering a bit more exploring.

The burden of sick loved ones and the “death” that comes in late Autumn probably put me in something of a slight funk.  I found solace in U2’s song “40.”  I think God wanted me to hear that when I did.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with music again in the last week or so.  I recently replaced my MP3 player and loaded it with really great stuff.  Of course it’s got all the Beatles stuff.  But I really love that I’ve got a few Miles Davis albums, Elvis in Memphis, a great two-disc set from his 1969 work, Little Richard and Ray Charles compilations/anthologies, Johnny Cash’s Personal File and a bunch of his compilation discs, and the new Black Crowes double album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.  I almost can’t take my headphones off these days.  I’ve already used up all 8 gig on this player and I like everything on it.

It’s hard to say what next year will bring.  If I’m going to resolve to do anything, one of those things will be to play more bass.  Perhaps instead of listening to and writing about other people’s music, I’ll make more of my own in 2010.


Paul McCartney’s “1969 Christmas Song”

21 12 2009

I’m quite the Beatles fan and I’ve heard all the Beatles’ Christmas albums (for the Fan Club) but I’ve never heard anything other than snippets of this song.  There’s not much to it, but here is Paul McCartney’s “1969 Christmas Song” taken from the promotional single released by Apple.

Have a very Beatles Christmas

17 12 2009

Available for decades only to Beatles bootleg collectors or fan club members that got their hands on the original in 1967 (or on the 1970 Christmas compilation), “Christmas Time (Is Here Again)” is the Beatles only real Christmas song.   If you didn’t have the fan club Christmas stuff or bootlegs, this was released in 1995 on the CD single (or EP) for “Free As A Bird.”  As John says in the introduction, “It’s a bouncy remix.”  The lyrics are about as simple as can be, but the song’s catchy.  It sounds like the Beatles having fun on a throw away song, which, in my view, gives it immense value.  If I’m not mistaken, the little “Auld Lang Syne” bit at the end was grafted onto it for “Free as a Bird” EP.  I do not recall that ever being part of the bootleg mixes.  If you’ve never heard it before and you like the Beatles, I think you’ll enjoy it.

More from the Black House Ceilidh

13 12 2009

My dear friend, Caleb Gilbert, is a singer and highland piper in The Black House Ceilidh.  Their Christmas music, mostly centuries old hymns and carols from across Europe, is quite good.  I had the privilege of seeing them (minus two members) perform at our church this morning.

If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy this kind of stuff.


10 12 2009

At the gym today, I asked one of the trainers to test me with a hand-held body fat meter.  The gadget measures total body fat by pounds and as a percentage relative to weight and age.  The working number is your BMI or body mass index, a measure of body fat against height and weight.

As soon as we started talking about BMI, the Sex Pistols’  song “EMI” was seered into my brain and has been stuck there all day.  It might be my favorite Pistols song.

29 years ago today

8 12 2009

John Lennon was murdered.

Gabriel’s Message

7 12 2009

It’s been hard to get into the Christmas spirit lately.  I have a friend that is on death’s door which, to make a tremendous understatement, is quite a downer.  As far as music goes, I’m fed up (to say the least) with the rotation of 30 Christmas songs that get played over and over and over and over…on FM radio.  You can’t go into a store this time of year without hearing “Holly Jolly Christmas” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Arrrrgggghhh!

This song, though, is one that I can listen to over and over again.  This is from the first A Very Special Christmas compilation album.  It’s a beautiful hymn, brilliant done by Sting.