Tag Archives: The Beatles

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex

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Happy Birthday Walrus Man!

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four
It’s funny to think that the man who first started writing those words as a teenager turned 64 years old 11 years ago. Sir Paul McCartney was born James Paul McCartney in Liverpool, England on June 18, 1942 and celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday (when love was such an easy game to play….)
What is there to say about the man who is a god among musical men and nothing short of the greatest living rock and roller that has not already been said? With all due respect to Ringo Starr and George Harrison, McCartney and John Lennon were the dominant creative forces of The Beatles, especially where the songwriting was concerned. Even though they had an agreement to to share credit for all the songs either one wrote and often collaborated on writing, there are some songs entirely or mostly written and performed by Paul that showcase his talent, personality, and charm. I have compiled a list below of these songs from each Beatles album for you to sample to hear from the birthday boy and his buds. I have included video links where there are some available. My top 10 are highlighted in bold.

Please Please Me

“I Saw Her Standing There”*

“Love Me Do”

“P.S. I Love You”

 

 

With The Beatles

“All My Loving”

“Hold Me Tight”

 

A Hard Day’s Night

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

“Things We Said Today”

 

Beatles For Sale

“I’ll Follow the Sun”*

“Eight Days a Week”*

“What You’re Doing”

 

Help!

“Another Girl”

“The Night Before”

“I’ve Just Seen a Face”

“Yesterday”

 

Rubber Soul

“Drive My Car”

“You Won’t See Me”

“Michelle”

“I’m Looking Through You”

 

Revolver

“Good Day Sunshine”

“For No One”

“Got to Get You Into My Life”

 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends” -Okay, Ringo sings the latter half of this medley, but Paul still wrote it and these two songs are each part of a larger whole that is terrific together.

“Getting Better”

“Fixing a Hole”

“She’s Leaving Home”

“When I’m Sixty-Four”

“Lovely Rita”

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Ban – Reprise”

 

Magical Mystery Tour

“Magical Mystery Tour”

“The Fool on the Hill”

“Your Mother Should Know”

“Hello Goodbye”

“Penny Lane”

 

The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album)

“Back in the U.S.S.R.”

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”

“Martha My Dear”

“Blackbird”

“Rocky Raccoon”

“Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”

“I Will”

“Mother Nature’s Son”

“Helter Skelter”

“Honey Pie”

 

Yellow Submarine

“All Together Now”

 

Abbey Road

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”

“Oh Darling!”

“You Never Give Me Your Money”

“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” – Like Sgt. Pepper/With a Little Help, I’m counting this as one.

“Her Majesty” – Just a quick, funny tidbit from Paul to end the album.

 

Let It Be

“Two of Us”

“Let It Be”

“I’ve Got a Feeling”*

“The Long And Winding Road”

“Get Back”

 

Beatles singles:

“From Me to You”*

“She Loves You”*

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”*

“We Can Work It Out”*

“Paperback Writer”

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Lady Madonna”

“Hey Jude”

* – co-written with John Lennon

 

A bonus for you! The Best of Paul post-Beatles – Solo and Wings career:

“Maybe I’m Amazed”

“Band on the Run”

“Jet”

“Hi Hi Hi”

“Say Say Say” – with Michael Jackson

“Take It Away”

“Live and Let Die”

“With a Little Luck”

“Helen Wheels”

“Here Today” – tribute to John Lennon

Thanks for reading and listening! Happy birthday to Paul and thanks for the music! Be sure to come back here next week for some more something or other!

Happy Birthday,

Alex

With a Little Help from My Friends

The recent shameful departure of my country on the Paris Agreement on global climate change is the dominant story in the news and the most pressing issue on my mind, but I just don’t have the energy (and that is not a pun) to restate the same facts about how we humans, and especially me and mine in America, are responsible for rapidly heating up this one habitable planet we have always known, and until the ignorance of greed consumed too many of us, has been a world we loved as well. I love it still, and the billions of humans and wildlife that live upon it, which is why I worry so much. In the interests of not wishing to belabor a point that needs to be repeated, but not so much to my audience who already understands its severity, and for the sake of not wishing to deviate from my original plan for this post, I will not personally cover (at least for this week) the Paris Agreement tackbacksies that my poorly-led nation idiotically enacted, however, my favorite late night host and his team have put together another fantastic segment this time covering just that:

Thank you, John. You make it easier to endure this madness, and though I’ve never met you, I feel like you could be a friend, which is precisely what we all need through hardships and celebrations, and as it happens, it was 50 years ago last week The Beatles taught the world to cherish friends, as well as to embrace the nature of change for the better and the mixing of culture and art in one of the grandest musical contributions of all time.

On May 26,1967 in England, and June 2 in America, the greatest band to ever play music released one the greatest records ever cut. The Beatles were already at the top of the musical world as they had been for a few years thanks to their tremendous popularity with young pop rock and roll fans. Yet the group felt tired of playing music for screaming girls and wanted to make some “serious music”. They stopped touring concerts to ease their exhaustion and focus on their music. Some people were pissed about this, but regardless of those frustrations from fans and the members of the band itself, all were rewarded with a masterpiece set into motion with about 11 seconds of orchestral warm-up and ambient crowd chatter eagerly awaiting a show that strikes out of the theater noise with drums and guitar that instantly grab our attention so that we are all ears when Paul McCartney starts singing in the fabulously fictitious Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s remains one of the most influential and unique albums of all time for a variety of reasons. It was pioneering, not just for rock and roll and pop music, but for all music, containing an assortment of instruments and musical styles that culminate in one of the most masterfully varied records, but one with a terrific flow, thanks in large part to the first time omission of the few seconds of silent space between songs. On Sgt. Pepper, Beatles producer George Martin was once again the man behind most of the technical effects that lend a certain feel to the album as a whole. The band had been experimenting with new sounds for their last few records, like Rubber Soul and Revolver, records that really allowed The Beatles to rise above the pure pop that many desired them to be. Sgt. Pepper’s was not the first instance of The Beatles breaking away from the mainstream – honestly, I’m not sure they ever were in the mainstream as much as they were paving the way for it – yet the discography of the band truly took off into an unforeseen level of the musical and cultural atmosphere with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles were essentially the first band to walk on the musical Moon. They had been approaching their desired destination with their previous work, but Sgt. Pepper’s was their Apollo program, and led them and many, many others to a new world of musical production.

One fascinating example of this is in the lively album cover that depicts a wealth of celebrities from many walks of life and eras. The Nerdwriter declares it to the “Holy Grail of album covers”, and he is not wrong as the artwork is multi-layered with meaning and references to the essence of the band and its members. He explains this in one of his excellent video essays:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is revolutionary in many respects, but chief among its merits is the quality of its songs and their arrangement. Rolling Stone considers it to be the best album ever made, and while its influence is undeniable and a major reason for their favoring of it, the great music and lyrics that defined The Beatles better than anything else ever could are exceptional throughout the record.

Starting off with the opening I mentioned earlier, the titular “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” provides a terrific introduction both as a song and the theme of the journey we are about to take. It also provides a bookended finish with a short reprisal of “Sgt. Pepper’s” as the penultimate song of the record. It was Paul McCartney’s idea to make the album’s premise be a concert sang by a fictional band. This fit his and the band’s characteristic whimsy, but also allowed them to push the envelope a little further with the safety of being able to let any controversy fall back upon the fictitious group in place of the real one. Oh that wasn’t us; that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.

The title track segues perfectly into what is probably the most popular song on the album, and is certainly one of the band’s best songs. I mean, I did name this post after it. After his alter ego Billy Shears’ introduction at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Ringo Starr begins to sing the classic “With a Little Help from My Friends”. This is one of my favorite songs for its joyful melody, harmonious vocals, and encouraging message that friendship is the key to enjoying life through the good and bad. Despite their differences and the trials each of them were going through at the time, it is clear that The Beatles worked so well, not just on this record, but throughout the years because they were friends. This song is the epitome of that love for one another. It’s all you need after all – wait, that’s the next record.

From the epitome of friendship we roll on to the epitome of psychedelia with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. There are many references to drug use on featured within the album, including an overt one in the previous song, but John Lennon always maintained that this song was based on a drawing his son made of a girl in his class named Lucy. As one radio host on the newly launched Sirius Beatles Channel said, Lennon never shied away from discussing drugs and did write “Cold Turkey” in his post-Beatles career, so even though the nouns in the title begin with the letters LSD, drugs did not inspire this song. However, that does not mean they did not influence this song, which they almost certainly did, although not just in the trippy description of Lucy’s land as the song (an album entire) serves as an allusion to the flower power movement that saw the cultures of East and West blending together like a tie-dye T-shirt. This is certainly apparent on the one song on the album John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not write, George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” which is driven by Harrison’s sitar and other Indian instruments.

The highlight of the album for many is the closing orchestration that is “A Day in the Life”. I say orchestration because Martin and The Beatles brought in an actual orchestral arrangement to play the unnerving transitions between the two wildly distinctive tones of the song. The reason for these drastically different pieces from Lennon and McCartney is simple as they began as two different songs. Lennon needed something to connect his song that was inspired by stories in a newspaper, and McCartney offered a separate song he had been working on and they sandwiched it in and spread the orchestra to make it more cohesive. The final piano note was actual multiple pianos played simultaneously and then stretched out by Martin in the sound mixing booth. The end result is a slightly disturbing note of finality to a slightly disturbing song that perfectly punctuates the album.

The album has a perfect transition from song to song which is all the more impressive given its great variation of styles. This could have been a magnificent failure for a lesser group, but as I’ve said before and will say again, The Beatles are the greatest band of all time and they managed to make a clash of genres and technical trials (Paul McCartney is credited with playing a “comb and tissue paper”) into their defining work… until next year’s release of their best album, but we can talk about that next year. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a massive success from the start and continued to establish The Beatles as the master musicians they were and deserve to be recognized as. I encourage you to listen to this and all their other albums. It’s easy to call The Beatles great, and not hard to recommend such a well loved band, but these guys are in another league. Remember when I said Sgt. Pepper’s was like The Beatles landing on the Moon? Well, their continued career took them across the universe to places other musicians can only dream of. That pun was absolutely intended, but also absolutely true. The Beatles are not my favorite band – anyone who’s read my previous posts knows that honor belongs to another British rock band – but I will defend until my dying breath that they are the best band because they are. No one is more varied, talented, and has such an extensive body of work that is as high quality as The Beatles’ discography. Also, they are my second favorite band, so it’s not like it’s hard for me to admire them, but it helps that they’re really, really good.

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening! Be sure to check out anything you can from The Beatles even if you’ve heard it all before. They certainly are worth listening to more than once. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to revolve back here next week for more hopefully good news or fun topics. Whatever I write about, I promise I’ll throw in a joke or two.

I hope you have enjoyed the show,

Alex

Just Let Me Hear Some of That Rock and Roll Music

All due respect to Elvis Presley, we lost the true King of Rock and Roll this past Saturday, March 18th. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, better known simply as Chuck Berry, graced this Earth for 90 years during which he helped create and refine Rock and Roll music by combining the best the blues, R&B, country, jazz, and swing had to offer and throwing in plenty of his own energy and electric guitar to boot. The primary influence to the first round of rock and rollers the world over, Chuck Berry was a force in the genre throughout his life, even completing another album that he announced the release of on his 90th birthday last October. This album, Chuck, will be released in the near future, but Berry’s already cemented legacy will live on forever as a rock pioneer, guitar god, and crowd pleasing entertainer. We’ll miss you, Chuck.

Berry attributed his success and the peak of the growth of rock and roll to greater radio playtime throughout the country reaching a wider audience. Indeed, Berry had a grand appeal to many whites which helped to connect black and white culture during a time of racial turmoil. He ushered in an era of vibrant new music that was infused with the essence of the genres that came before it and in doing so provided something that everyone of all walks of life could love. He especially found a following in America’s youth, who serve as the subject matter of many of his songs. Young Americans flocked to the fast-paced, guitar and piano-fueled mania of early rock, and Berry and his fellow first generation rock and rollers like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis. Of course it was not just Americans who raved over Berry and his buds as every major act of the British Invasion was heavily influenced by them, with many scoring hits of covers of Berry’s songs. Ever heard of these guys?

It did not stop there either. The years went on, rock and roll evolved and incorporated new sounds and sensations, branching off into styles like psychedelia and birthing other genres like hip-hop, yet artists continued to aspire to follow Chuck Berry’s shining example of how to capture the essence of rock and roll. Just as every test pilot wanted to be Chuck Yeager, every girl and boy with a guitar wanted to be Chuck Berry. The greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix, played some Berry tunes, most notably Berry’s best known hit “Johnny B. Goode”. AC/DC covered “School Days” and called for all of us to Hail Hail Rock and Roll in their own brutal powerchords. George Thorogood and the Destroyers did a rollicking rendition of “It Wasn’t Me”. Softer acts like Nina Simone and Linda Ronstadt gave some of Berry’s songs a go, and ELO had a hit with their always inventive style worked into Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” featuring some of the eponymous composer’s own opus. Rod Stewart made his own version of “Memphis, Tennessee” with The Faces. Hell, even Motorhead paid their dues to the man and brought Berry into metal with “Let It Rock”.

Berry’s riffs may have been basic in composition, but the now familiar formula they follow make it so that his music serves as the building blocks of rock and roll music. Furthermore they are easily transferable to any style of music, as you can hear from any of the aforementioned covers (and any of those not mentioned). Nowhere is this better proven though than in the classic scene from Back to the Future (1985) that has been the source of many amusing musings on Berry’s life. Through an enthusiastic Marty McFly, Michael J. Fox (and Mark Campbell who is doing his singing, and Tim May with the guitar) show us the 30 year evolution of rock and roll in three minutes complete with a clever time travel related reference to the man who made all this music possible.

Honestly, he was doing everything Chuck Berry would have done up until he starting leaping and shredding like Eddie Van Halen, but hey, Chuck Berry’s indelible impression is found in that joyous noise from the 1980s too. Through his long and illustrious career, Chuck Berry made a name for himself not only as a great musician, but as a stage presence who demands to be seen as much as heard. He was natural at engaging an audience and entertained all with his humor, honesty, and signature duck walk – the oft copied, never duplicated solo strut that is synonymous with Berry. You can see it and his many other exploits on display in these clips from live performances over the years:

You know you are popular when everybody wants to play alongside of you. Over the years, many who grew up loving Berry were able to share the stage with him at one point or another. Keith Richards got that wish granted much to his excitement considering he has said that Chuck Berry made The Rolling Stones. He was the one who got to induct Berry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986. Chuck Berry was actually the first person to be inducted into the vaunted Rock Hall, and his legacy shows why. He shared the honor of being in the inaugural class with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, talent scout (and not dinosaur park owner) John Hammond, producer Sam Phillips, and disc jockey Alan Freed. That’s quite a class to be at the top of!

The Rock Hall wrote a great biography of Berry, including a clip of his induction which I encourage anyone who enjoys Keith Richards high to watch.

Beyond his influence on other artists, Berry had some scintillating songs that are essential for any rock and roll fan to hear. In addition to those already mentioned, be sure to check out these terrific tunes:

“Maybellene” – One of the first rock and roll songs, Berry’s first hit was a reworking of  a song called “Ida Red”. Berry livened it up with music and lyrics that became the standard for other rock songs of the early rock era.

“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”

“I’m a Rocker”

“Woodpecker” – This instrumental piece takes an easier pace than most of Berry’s lightning striking introductions and riffs and remains one of his more jazzy and unique song.

“No Particular Place To Go” – I first heard this as a kid in a commercial for a Power Wheels car. You remember those toy cars that kids could drive? Those were the envy of every child’s eye when I was a wee lad, and I was fortunate enough to get one for Christmas one year… until the goddamn battery died and the electric system fizzled out and I was left with a oversized Hot Wheels car too heavy for child me to push out of the garage. Anyway, I grew to love this song which details an evening of teenage love that never really gets anywhere because the narrator cannot unbuckled his date’s seatbelt.

“School Days” – Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Nobody said that Chuck Berry was a widely varied artist, but when you invent the go-to licks for rock and roll, you can run through them as much as you need. I mentioned the AC/DC cover earlier, but this song bears repeating for its encapsulation of the musical zeitgeist of the days of early rock.

“Run, Run Rudolph” – One of the few songs that I look forward to hearing every Christmastime, this original seasonal song has stood the test of time as a classic in both rock and holiday music.

“Shake, Rattle, and Roll”

“Soul Rockin'”

“Little Queenie” – If you’ve heard T. Rex’s hit “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” then you’ve heard a part of “Little Queenie”. The riff is taken from Berry’s song, as are the closing lyrics, “Meanwhile, I’m still thinking….”

“Almost Grown”

“You Can’t Catch Me” – I love The Beatles, but I do not love all of their songs. The most played of their that I just cannot get on board with is “Come Together”. You may feel differently, but no matter what you think of the song, it has some Chuck Berry influence. Like some of their other non-sequitur songs from the era, The Beatles drew upon many pop culture references to fill the cryptic lyrics, and “Come Together” has some of “You Can’t Catch Me” in it, namely old Flattop.

“Back in the U.S.A.” – The Beatles once again drew upon Chuck for inspiration when they twisted this song’s title to be a little more Russian. The lyrics of their superior “Back in the U.S.S.R.” are mostly a parody of The Beach Boys though. Then again, where did The Beach Boys get their soul-of-American-youth-summer-jams style from?

“Thirty Days”

“Route 66” – Being a native of St. Louis, Missouri, Berry undoubtedly took a few trips down the legendary highway that runs from his hometown to Los Angeles, California.

“You Never Can Tell” – Who knew this would be a hit that would be covered by numerous artists and danced to so successfully by Uma Thurman and John Travolta? C’est la vie say the old folks….

“Reelin’ and Rockin” – This song makes for great rock and roll and the title makes for good fishing advice.

“Johnny B. Goode”– The song that is synonymous with Chuck Berry and early rock and roll. Covered by countless individuals, professional and amateur musicians alike, and brilliant featured as one of the most memorable movie moments ever, Berry’s song about a little country boy with a natural talent to play the guitar is one of the greatest songs ever made. Originally, the lyrics were going to be “little colored boy” but Berry changed them to avoid it being shunned by disc jockeys afraid of potentially poor or angry reception. the song is partly about Berry himself, but mostly based on his bandmate Johnnie Johnson, who gave Berry his big gig and eventually let Berry take charge of his band since he recognized the natural talent he had not just at playing and writing music, but at energizing the crowd.

This song also has the honored distinction to be the only rock and roll song on the Voyager Golden Record. The phonographic record included on both Voyager spacecraft features a selection of images and sound recordings, with music from around the world to showcase the varied cultures on Earth to whomever finds the records. Whether it be intelligent extraterrestrial life or humans in the far future, the recoverers of the Golden Record will be able to hear Chuck Berry’s best song. This opportunity almost did not happen though, as many on the selection panel that decided the Record’s content thought rock and roll was “adolescent”. Fortunately Carl “Sick Burn” Sagan pointed out “There are a lot of adolescents on the planet.” Damn Carl, that’s you tell ’em!

Chuck Berry left a lasting legacy of music, but his impact on others both musically and culturally, especially in helping incorporate harmony in the diverse youth of America, is what really raises him up to the level of icon. His death was not by any means sudden, and he certainly lived a full life, but he will still be missed by his many adoring fans. Thanks for the music and memories, Chuck Berry!

Thanks for reading and listening! Please send any questions, comments, and requests to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Rock and roll on back next week for what will hopefully not be another eulogy for one of my heroes.

Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!

Alex

 

More Songs to Enjoy and Improve Yourself With

Greetings and Happy Celebration of an Arbitrary Point on Our Planet’s Revolution Around the Sun! Perhaps I should simply say the more familiar, yet less accurate Hello and Happy New Year! I hope the start of 2016 finds you well. How are those resolutions holding up? Same as always? That bad, huh? Don’t sweat it – unless of course your goal is to work out more, in which case you should perspire a few beads. Anyone who read my blog at the change of 2014 to 2015 will remember my sentiment regarding New Year’s and unattainable resolutions that I described in “Songs That Everybody Must Hear to Better Themselves (or At Least Ease Their Whining With)“. I have no problem with developing goals with the intent to improve yourself and our world, but I just think that they should be reined in to a realistic standard, and they should not cause you more trouble than you can handle. If you’re not going to listen to me, at least listen to John Oliver or brutally honest Roger. If you’re not going to listen to any of us, at least listen to the dozen songs I included in my previous New Year’s post to help you to find your center for a healthy and enriching life. Once you finish with those I’ve got a new batch for you to sample and help set things right with, and this time it’s a baker’s dozen!

Once again, these jams are mostly rock or from a rock-blended genre because that’s what I predominantly listen to. Furthermore, they are songs that I personally enjoy and have found themes and messages that help me to keep on the proverbial track of life. Some have obvious connotations; others I simply feel the groove with. Hopefully while listening to them, you will too.

One” by U2 – Released on their famous album Acthung Baby, “One” was, and still is, regarded by many as U2’s best song ever, which is really saying something. Written while the band recorded in Berlin in the midst of the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism across the Soviet states, the song reflects the band’s own doubts and near break-up coming together in harmony as much as it does the gluing back together of Germany. I hear it as a reminder that we are all human and need to work with each other to achieve the greatest society we can make. This requires those of us who are in positions of power, or at least those of us who have it a little better, to give back some of our time, money, food, and most importantly love to our fellow humans who are not as lucky. “We get to carry each other/ Carry each other….” I referenced this song and its sentiment back in March with my post “Hoosier Homophobia: The Latest Chapter in the Book of Intolerance“.


I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After – Sometimes, though, it’s hard to know how to best give back, especially when you feel helplessly small compared to everything plaguing the world here, there, and everywhere. It seems easier to just leave it to someone else. There are definitely people who have dedicated their lives to charity and are more well-versed than the common man on what is most helpful, yet we cannot leave everything to them with the sentiment of “I don’t get it; I can’t really make a difference; I’ll let someone else take care of it.” That uneducated apathetic stance on social justice is what Alvin Lee and his band who formed in 1965 (ten years after when they agreed rock and roll was born) were critiquing in their biggest hit. Take a listen and enjoy the incredible guitar solos by Lee while remembering that his lyrics are more representative of 1960s counterculture than what he actually desired. The world was changing because of Vietnam and the staring contest between the U.S. and Soviet Union that was the Cold War, but no one really knew what to make of it all and a search for answers comes up with more questions.


It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. – Sometimes that feeling of being overwhelmed by the world’s problems is too much to handle. That is when I invite you to listen to this fast tempo, seemingly free-written apocalyptic anthem that regurgitates everything rambling through your brain up onto a pile and sets it ablaze to free you from the worry of it all. Sang in a style called “stream of consciousness” made famous by Billy Joel’s more historically based tune “We Didn’t Start the Fire“. Believe it or not, R.E.M. beat him to the punch and released this song two years earlier that his! However it was all started by Bob Dylan with “Subterranean Homesick Blues“. And if we’re going to talk about stream of consciousness ramblings then we cannot leave out Weird Al’s palindromic take dedicated to Dylan simply called “Bob“.


Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin – In case R.E.M. didn’t while away your worries enough, take a dose of Bobby McFerrin’s a capella classic that uses nothing more than his own voice and is often wrongly accredited to Bob Marley who had plenty of life-shaping classics himself, but would have had a hard time writing this song considering he died seven years prior to its release. McFerrin invites us to chillax about our daily doubts and put a smile on. The video for his song features him and two American comics known for their goofy happiness dancing around and having fun. The obvious one is Robin Williams who needs no introduction; the other is Bill Irwin who is more well-known on stage as a both a comedic and serious actor, but he has a few film and TV credits including roles on Elmo’s World, CSI, and as the voice of TARS in Interstellar. Of course, the star of this show is McFerrin, who brings an infectious charm that will have you singing along with your own smile. Just try not of think of Big Mouth Billy Bass too much.


Changes” by David Bowie – Written about his own numerous style changes over the years, Bowie’s “Changes” has also been taken up as a memorandum for elders taken aback by the behavior of youth. This notion was latched onto by filmmaker John Hughes who used the lines

And these children that you spit on

As they try to change their worlds

Are immune to your consultations

They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…

from the song’s second verse to open his classic film The Breakfast Club.

“Changes” is good reminder that things never stay the same and that that’s not a bad thing. Often it is good to shake things up. Frequently, changes are necessary to make, both in the world and for yourself.


 

Changes” by 2pac – Tupac Shakur sang of different changes than Bowie. Calling for an end to racism and poverty, he realizes full well those things are not just going to go away as is stated in the chorus sampled from Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s song “The Way It Is” that focused on the Civil Rights movement in America. “The Way It Is” may not be as potent today as 2Pac’s version which also uses the music and melody from it, but it is a lesson that simply acknowledging “that’s just the way it is” does not make something right. With both songs the message is that oppression, racism, and hate should not be tolerated, and neither should privileged or ignorant apathy towards them.


 

Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson – One of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits commercially and critically, this song is more than just hot pop. Akin to something you might hear from the choir in a Baptist church, “Man in the Mirror” goes further than pretty harmony and rightly pinpoints where the most integral change of all must take place before anything Earth-shattering is to be accomplished.


 

We Gotta Get out of This Place” by The Animals – Sometimes the change you need is a geographic one. Whether it is to boldly blaze your own trail somewhere new, or to escape from a place that holds nothing for you (we’ll talk about that one next), moving on to a different locale can be beneficial and this is the anthem for it. My dad frequently told me this was the unofficial anthem of U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam War for obvious reasons. He and his platoon frequently played it and sang it and it’s hard to imagine anyone else truly connecting with a song as they did.


 

Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty – Hopefully you don’t find yourself in an abusive relationship that makes you sing along with The Animals, but a dead-end one isn’t good either. For that matter, being stuck in a bad routine that is draining you in a place that clearly is not what you hoped it would be is far from desirable. Finding the strength to pick up and move on and realize that you’re in control of your life (“The sun is shining, it’s a new morning”) is a significant epiphany that must be made to reclaim your true happiness, and the real you.

Gerry Rafferty was feeling burned out after his band Stealers Wheel (the “Stuck in the Middle With You” guys) broke up in 1975, and constant threats of lawsuits made it so that he could not release any new stuff for three years. Jaded by it all, Rafferty bounced back and forth between his native Scotland and London where he would stay and jam out with a friend who lived on Baker Street. One day he realized it was a “new morning” and he managed to put together his album City to City which featured “Baker Street”. The song is immortally famous for its alto saxophone riff that created the “Baker Street phenomenon” that skyrocketed saxophone sales and the use of the instrument in more songs. It’s one of the first pieces Lisa Simpson ever learned to play, and a favorite of Rick Sanchez’s to gloat with. As long as I’m handing out advice, I might as well say DO NOT combine cesium and water.


 

Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who – Of course, as necessary as change is in all our lives we have to remember to avoid making the same mistakes as we did before. Just as change is required to remedy persecution in society, we have to also keep out of the pitfalls that ruined the previous leadership. Pete Townshend was thinking mostly of the latter when he wrote this iconic rock song. The moral of his story – which almost was an actual story; this was supposed to be the ending song of a rock opera he was writing after the success of Tommy -is that the flurry of revolutions, like the ones in the ’60s and ’70s, do not do anything other than change the man in charge, hence the final line “Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss”. Meant to highlight the unpredictability of political revolution, the song has lines that come from someone who has seen the wheels turn enough times to know better than those blindly following a cause without really knowing what it’s about or what to do when they overthrow the governing body. He’s just going to collect his things and play his guitar and live his life like he always has. It’s a lesson that while change is often good, too much can be bad, and certain people who have lived long enough know when things are going to go too far like they did before.


 

All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles – The greatest band ever had quite a few of the greatest songs ever and many of them have words to live by. “All You Need Is Love” is actually far from my favorite Beatles song (which does not at all imply I don’t like it), but it bears a superb (and obvious) message that is worth repeating.

With a Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles – This one also has a terrific (and obvious) message. You are as good as your actions and philosophies, and as good as the friends around you. If you want to be a better person, surround yourself with good people. Furthermore, be there for them and they’ll be there for you. This song highlights how life is made easier and more enjoyable when shared in the company of others.

As a bonus, the video clip I included also has a piece of Paul and Ringo singing “Cosmically Conscious”, another message I like, although I think I look at it in a more scientific manner-Carl Sagan kind of way than what Maharishi Yogi was talking about.


Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed – When I say surround yourself with good people I did not include instructions on how to find good people or what good people look like. This is because you’ll figure it out by getting to know someone by spending time with them. Their appearance can offer clues as to their interests and what they identify with, but it is not an assurance of their character – that you determine by their actions and philosophies (you know, those things I just said). Essentially, this is the song that reminds me to not judge a book by its cover. Everyone is different, and some people look very different. However, that does not predispose them to being bad in any way. They could be, but you never know until you talk to them. Who knows? You might meet your best friend in the last place you’d expect dressed as the strangest thing you’ve ever seen.

This song also serves as my reminder to not be afraid to go out of my comfort zone and try new things, visit new places, partake in new experiences, etc.

 

Thanks for reading! As always I can be contacted at monotrememadness@gmail.com for any feedback you may care to share. Be sure to make like Batman and return. As was the case last year and the year before, I’ll have a new post every Monday. Usually late Monday, but Monday.

Wah nah nanana! Wa na na nanana!

Alex

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget to Bring a Towel

Is it December 18th yet? I have never been so eager to just skip all of summer as we’re finally upon it in order to get back to the unforgiving cold and mounds of snow. Summer is my favorite season for a few predictable reasons such as the nice weather, but I also love the blockbuster movie season, and as I said before, this year has me very excited for many a summer film, especially sequels and reboots of old and new classics like Avengers 2 and Jurassic World. Go ahead and add Mad Max, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four to that list after the latest wave of trailers. I’m very excited to go to the theaters and watch all of these and more films this summer, yet I would be willing to skip them all, even November’s continuation of the Bond franchise, Spectre, and all the summer holidays and vacations I have planned to get to frigid mid-December because the prospect of seeing a good Star Wars movie released in my lifetime has me so excited that even adhering to the reminder I’ve used as a title was insufficient as preparation for what just happened as I typed that sentence. It’s not even related to the subject of today’s post but watch this for the hundredth or so time:

Yes we are Han, yes we are.

While my world is abuzz with visions of stormtroopers vainly trying to improve their atrocious aim, for many people today, the world is abuzz in a more illicit way except in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, for today is the twentieth of April, more commonly known as 4/20, the day that caused the Colorado Department of Transportation to create a highway sign that marks the 419.99 mile on I-70 because of the constant theft of the original 420 signs.

I have never been a partaker in any drug culture, thanks very much to my upbringing at the hands of a police officer and a nurse, but as I made clear in last week’s post, and others before it, I love rock and roll, and I can appreciate the effects that drugs have had on the genre in good and bad ways. The bad very much outweighs the good, as too many musicians have lost their talents, friends, and even lives to drug abuse. I do not condone the use of any drugs beyond what is prescribed by a doctor (and some of that is more than what is necessary), however I will not deny that many great songs contain their fair share of drug discussion in one way or another. Some are very obvious; you don’t see too many Harvard professors analyzing the depth of the lyrics of Afroman’s “Because I Got High”. However, even some of the more overt introspections into drug use and abuse are highly entertaining, deeply moving, and some just fuckin’ rock. Many are autobiographical, telling tales of the troubles that plagued the band members when they got into heroin/cocaine/etc. Some are pioneers of psychedelia, the sub-genre of rock and roll that flourished in the late 1960s along with the increased use and availability of drugs from naturally growing plants like marijuana to synthetics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). So whether the artists were blazing, snorting, inhaling, tripping, or tying off, here are my favorite songs about drugs and a little information about each of them.

“The Pusher” by Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf scored big with the 1969 classic film Easy Rider. Their biggest hit, “Born to Be Wild”, was the anthem to that film and motorcyclists riding across America since its release, but the beginning of the film, which shows Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt profiting from transporting some drugs in his chopper, plays Steppenwolf’s version of the Hoyt Axton song about the man who “don’t care if you live or if you die”.

“Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails – This is the “Quiet” version of the song which sounds a little smoother through headphones than the warping original appropriately released on the album The Downward Spiral in 1994. “Hurt” offers a somber glimpse into the decaying life of a heroin addict. Trent Reznor’s original is often overshadowed by the excellent cover version performed by Johnny Cash which he made his own by looking back at his legendary career and often troubled life in a very Last Supper kind of way. Of course, the Man in Black had his own drug-inspired contribution to make many years early.

“Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash – Based on the traditional song “Little Saddie” written originally by “Red” Arnall, Johnny Cash famously played the song at his concert at Folsom Prison. As with many of his songs, Cash breathed such passionate life into his performance it feels as if he’s singing about himself, adding a feeling of authenticity to the tale he tells.

“Cocaine” by Eric Clapton – Slowhand showed his stuff more impressively on the instrument he is a god with more than he did with the lyrics on this one, but the guitar work is so solid that we’re able to overlook the shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is: a simple jam with a great solo.

“Journey to the Center of the Mind” by the Amboy Dukes – You’ll recall this song’s inclusion in last week’s post when I, among other things, argued for guitarist Ted Nugent’s inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Detroit band scored their biggest hit with this hard rocking song that is so obviously about drugs to everyone except Ted Nugent. Whatever Ted, this song wouldn’t be the same without you so you can live in your own little world as long as you come up for a string shredding breath in ours every once in a while.

“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers – This song has picked me up many a time I’ve felt down, but lead singer Anthony Kiedis went through much worse with his addiction to and withdrawal from heroin. He also felt separation from his bandmates and longing for his ex-girlfriend Ione Skye (I wonder if he tried winning her back by holding a boombox over his head outside her window). Kiedis drew upon all of these troubles of his past and the pain of his present to craft what might be the Chili Peppers’ finest song. It is certainly one of their most played; it’s second only to the wildly sexual “Give It Away”, the coda of which contains the riff from our next song.

“Sweet Leaf” and “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath – Ozzy Osbourne has tried just about every drug that has ever been invented, so you can trust him as an authority on the subject of marijuana and cocaine. “Sweet Leaf” is a love letter to pot and has one of the best riffs. The coughing at the beginning of the track is apparently Tommy Iommi coughing after a drag on a joint.

“Snowblind” is a love letter to cocaine and that’s just about it. Awesome song.

“Got to Get You into My Life” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles (this is the live version Lennon performed with Elton John at Elton’s Madison Square Garden Concert in 1974) – The former sounds innocent enough but according to Paul McCartney it is an “ode to pot”.

The latter sounds much more drug-based and is a psychedelia classic that’ll leave you wondering if Lennon and McCartney took one lump or two with their tea. The Beatles fan in me loves this song for being another incredible compilation of musical styles and beautifully poetic lyrics that don’t have to mean anything, and the biologist in me reveres it for being the origin of the namesake of the most complete skeleton of early hominid Australopithecus afarensis that was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia (anthropologist Donald Johanson and his team frequently listened to a tape of the song in camp near the excavation site).

It is widely believed that the song describes a vivid acid trip as the nouns in the title begin with the letters “LSD” and its narrative is filled with the fantastic. Despite all the psychedelic speculation, John Lennon always maintained that the song had nothing to do with drugs and was derived solely from a drawing made by his son, Julian, that he made of a girl in his class named Lucy – sidenote: the real Lucy died in 2009 at the age of 46 from lupus. For real, fucking lupus! Somebody call George Costanza and Dr. House! –  and inspiration from the Wool and Water chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the book which continues the tale of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland that would also serve as the basis of another 1967 psychedelic classic that was much more upfront about the influence drugs had on it.

“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane – My dad and his Marine buddies referred to the quartermaster at their base in Vietnam as “White Rabbit” because he took all the pills he could get his paws on. Of course the original White Rabbit is from the aforementioned Carroll stories of Wonderland, and Jefferson Airplane used the already trippy tales to parallel the active drug culture of the flower power era. This brilliant song is a hallmark of psychedelia and acid rock thanks to lead singer Grace Slick’s clever lyrics and haunting and ringing vocals.

“Mother’s Little Helper” by The Rolling Stones – This one is a bit different in that it addresses the real-life increase of prescription drug abuse by housewives that occurred in the Sixties. Keith Richards may be the only man on Earth to have used more drugs than Ozzy Osbourne, but the standout guitar work on this song is done on a 12-string by Brian Jones.

“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition – As you can see from that clip, this was the song The Dude danced to in his erotic bowling dream in 1998’s comedy noir The Big Lebowski. Dude culture is especially prevalent today (and I mean specifically on this day), and this song is another great addition to the list, albeit a different one. Instead of singing praises for a drug or recounting the pain it’s caused, “Just Dropped In…” was actually written as an anti-drug song to advise against “dropping out” via LSD. The Dude’s dream sure looks… interesting, but we’re not really sure what drug was in his system to trigger the hallucination as he didn’t take it knowingly. Listen for symbolic lyrics like “eight miles high”, which is a reference to The Byrds’ influential song of the same name.

“Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection – What d’ya mean you don’t tip? This catchy little ditty was the introductory song for Quentin Tarantino’s wide release directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, but it’s not actually meant to be about drugs. The lyrics are actually “little greenback” meaning dollars, not marijuana, but a mistake led to the song being mislabeled and misconstrued. Either way, it’s a pretty awesome tune and further proof that while Tarantino may be weird as fuck, he’s got a great taste in music.

“Low” by Cracker – This was the closing song I heard at a Counting Crows concert in Richmond, Virginia and I remember thinking, “Why the hell did they end with a song they didn’t write?” and then “Wait, is that song about heroin?” The meaning of the line “a million poppies gonna make me sleep” had never registered in my mind before then. At least I picked up on the “junkie cosmonaut” and “like bein’ stoned” parts previously.

“The Needle and the Spoon” by Lynyrd Skynyrd – The boys from Alabama (actually they’re from Jacksonville, Florida) had a few songs that placed drugs like heroin in the crosshairs, but this one is the best and has more finesse than “That Smell”. Still, the man who infuriated them so much they wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” in retaliation managed to top them with a warning against picking up the needle.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young – Young actually wrote and performed this song three years earlier than Skynyrd put out the previous listing. He had already been part of a number of bands by 1971, and he had seen many of his fellows wage a losing war against heroin, specifically his friend Danny Whitten, who served as his guitarist for the band Crazy Horse. The night Young kicked Whitten out of his band in 1972, Whitten died from an overdose of Valium, which probably wasn’t helped by his years of using the potent opiate.

“Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd – Pink Floyd are the epitome of progressive rock, as well as the kings of music that makes you ask, “Should I be high right now? Is listening to this making me high?” Many of their songs delve into the inner workings of the human mind under the influence of psychotropics or psychosis, and this is the most forthright of the former. David Gilmour’s guitar solos (is it still a solo if there are two of them in the same song?) are incredible and considered some of the best in any rock song.

“Purple Haze” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience – My favorite song on this list is also one that supposedly has no basis in drugs. Jimi Hendrix claimed to have written this song based on his dreams, like one he had of walking under the ocean, but when a man soaks his headbands with LSD so that it drips into his eyes as he sweats onstage, you can bet his song lyrics are probably at least partially influenced by his drug habits. The final cut of the song, which is one of the greatest songs ever produced in any genre, has a narrative about a man so caught up with his affections for a woman it makes him dizzy. Just how he came to be so compelled by her and the nature of his tumbling mind is left up to the listener, and ultimately, as is often the case with Hendrix, who the fuck really knows or cares; this song is extraordinary.

“Cold Turkey” by Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono briefly dabbled in heroin and didn’t enjoy the comedown and withdrawal, so he wrote this song about that experience and how hellishly racking it was. Like “Purple Haze” it’s coda features the protagonist of the song expressing his pain and confusion in a less melodious way than the words he just sang. Gotta love that riff.

“Heroin” by The Velvet Underground – Lou Reed’s magnificent musing on heroin addiction is the best song definitively about drug use I’ve ever heard. Simple, even crude, yet artistically incredible, it neither condemns or condones heroin use, but rather gives what I imagine to be an accurate representation of the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, terrifically represented here by changes in tempo. The simple chords, the bongo backbeat, the growing hum, the scratching guitar, and the rambling trail of thought that comprises the lyrics, these all meld together perfectly to create a visceral song that is horrifying and beautiful all at once.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed the last two rockin’ and rollin’ weeks and that you stay safe with whatever you do today, especially if you’re rockin’ or rollin’. My sympathies for those working the window at Taco Bell today. If you have anything to say about anything, say it to me here or at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Make it back here in less than 12 parsecs if you can by next week for more fun.

Only 242 days to go,

Alex

Songs That Everybody Must Hear to Better Themselves (Or at Least Ease Their Whining With)

Hello everybody! This week we say goodbye and good riddance to the holidays, especially Christmas, which you’re probably sick of reading about it here and everywhere else. Although, I suppose you could be a sentimental soul for Season’s Greetings, in which case it’s time to accept that the holidays are over and move on with the rest of us. What? What do you mean, “No. There is another?” And where do you get off reciting Star Wars lines to me? Oh, now I get it. You’re one of those people who don’t want to stop the festivities and latch onto the next available date to have a shindig for. You like to give one last hurrah before you lose the Hanuchristzaa buzz. You celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having a party, especially one that allows you to meet up with the people you actually wanted to see on Christmas (I mean, I love my family! I just hate how they drank all my beer. ALL MY BEER.) However, seeking to actively enjoy swapping out calendars is unnecessary and feels forced. Yeah, I watch the ball drop with my friends too, but if I didn’t have the 400 football games to look forward to on January 1st then I couldn’t care less if it is January 1st.

Maybe I’m too pragmatic. I’m always the first of my friends to say something like, “Time is constant, uncaring, and unforgiving. It moves forward at the same pace always towards the future. It is really just half of the measurement of space-time which takes into account where we are at a certain point in time…. blah blah blah Neil deGrasse Tyson said…. blah blah Stephen Hawking…. blah blah I know, nearly three hours and that shirt was ever affixed to his torso….”

Then again, maybe I’m just sick of the same old shit, different year cycle New Year’s Eve and Day are so branded with. Every year the people packing Times Square without yet realizing what horror they have gotten themselves into may be different, but I can’t tell watching them on TV. The celebrity guests and singers may be new to the whoever-the-hell’s whatever-body-motion-synonymous-with-popular-music-genre’s New Year’s Eve bash is on your favorite far-from-unique network, but I’ve seen them performing at this award show and that sports halftime all year long. Plus, they were on the ABC platform for the same thing last year. What’s so different now? Oh, you’re going to make yourself better this coming year? Right after midnight, of course. Sure. So you say you want a resolution, well, you know, we all wanna change our winter weight. Listen, resolving to make yourself and your world better – whether it’s a little or a lot at once – is an admirable thing, and I sincerely wish you the best with it. Make the most of your newfound confidence; rock that overly-expensive and thankfully easily opt out-able gym membership; be all that you can be in the Army! Whatever you set out to do to make 2015 your best year yet, you’ve got my support (Legal Disclaimer: Alex is not responsible for any actions that are considered rash and/or illegal that the reader may do in reaction to this, nor can he be held accountable for anything lost or stolen within the confines of this blog). Meanwhile, I will keep my tradition of not making resolutions as I always hope to better myself at all times of the year, even with the knowledge that my apathy will prevent this from ever occurring.

Fear not though! Tomorrow is a doper, phatter, latter day, and I am here for you! One New Year’s tradition that I do like is hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine” played right after everybody drops out – I mean, the ball drops. It’s not so much that I like the tradition as I like the song. “Imagine” is the best song John Lennon made after The Beatles split. Hell, it’s the best song he ever wrote, and it endures as one of the greatest ever written. It is truly beautiful, and sometimes I cry a little when I hear it, like how an incontinent geriatric piddles into an adult diaper every so often when it’s Newman-Redford movie night at Babbling Brook Retirement Home. It echoes throughout Times Square each year because it calls for the ultimate New Year’s resolution: a world where everyone lives in harmony. Hate and evil have no place in any paradise, even Lennon’s hippie-dippy dream of it. Again, I’m the guy playing the pessimistic realist card and pointing out how this seems to be a very unlikely scenario, yet even I think it’s one worth striving for. Hearing a song like “Imagine” helps to warm the heart and free the mind to be a little more open to pushing toward such a noble purpose as only the best songs can.

Today I have included a list of other (mainly rock) songs that I feel everyone should hear to help lead a better life for oneself and others. These songs aren’t all going to lift your spirits though. Some will, yet others will drop you right back down to Earth and put things in perspective, but we all need some leveling in our roller coaster lives, so buckle up, hang on tight, and let your ears take a ride in better living for now and forever.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones – Here is the happiest sounding reality check you’ll ever hear. Ironically, it comes from the band who yelled at you for attempting to make them see things realistically and to get their heads out of the, well, you get it. With this life lesson in missing out on your desires (or at least what you think they are) the Stones show that they’ve come far from complaining about their constant lack of satisfaction (which is an awesome song; I just felt like I needed to put a negative spin on something for the sake of contrast). “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is pretty clear from the get-go about its message, but it’s definitely worth taking a listen or two or 2000 to.

Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead – The Rolling Stones let us know that not everything works out as planned, but sometimes it still works out, occasionally for the better. Jerry Garcia and his Haight and Ashbury pals reiterate this by encouraging you to look on the bright side, remember that it’s not as bright as it can be, and relax with the knowledge that it’ll be alright after all. Got it? Whether you do or not, give it another listen because this one’s a good one and catchy too!

The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel – Whether you first heard it watching The Graduate, on the radio while driving through the American west, or being horrendously butchered by a barefooted wannabe bard strumming his second-hand acoustic against a blossoming dogwood on the quad on a sunny spring day at your college, Simon and Garfunkel’s best known song never gets old. The duo (well, mainly Paul Simon) had many meanings woven into their patchwork of words on every album, and you can decipher new ones with each return. Whenever you come back to this one that can make you feel small, angry, frustrated, enraged, confused, angsty, and in general like a person who has many more questions than answers be sure you turn off the lights and close your eyes to shut out the world and all its noise to listen to the sounds… of a guy named Art Garfunkel. Try not to focus on that aspect too much.

Night Moves” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Nobody looks back on his youth quite as profoundly yet simply in that old fashioned rock and roll as Bob Seger. This classic of summer nights as a fresh and frisky teenager in the Midwest is my favorite from him, and I think it merits a place here for the lesson of remembering your younger days with a smile, especially as you recall how blissful it was to have so few answers as you kinda sorta looked for some with the number one priority being directed somewhere farther south. When he sings “Waited on the thunder” he’s not simply talking about an approaching storm, or just how his load is about to blow; Seger’s singing about feeling love more than just physically. He’s a young gun at the beginning of the song, looking for fun and something more he hasn’t quite figured out yet. By the end he’s become wiser with age and thinks back fondly at the distant rumble of thunder. And while we’re on the subject of sounds bringing back sweet memories….

More Than a Feeling” by Boston – This is one of my favorite songs ever. I clearly really like all of these tunes to even think of including them, but this song is sooooo good. It’s not just that the guy who wrote it hails from the same hometown as I do, or that the song was possibly recorded in his basement there, this song has all the components of a rock and roll ultimate hit, but there’s something deeper in there than just wailing guitars. “More Than a Feeling” describes the indescribable sensation you get when you hear that song, or get in that car, or do whatever it is that really, really means something to you and touches you deeply with nostalgia.

Take It Easy” by The Eagles – This is my favorite song, my motto, my farewell greeting to friends, and my excuse for being lazy. There is such a thing as taking it too easy, and I think I’ve been firmly on the “too” side of it for many a year now. Still, as a registered lazitarian I can very easily spot people who take it too hard. I mean, they aren’t easy-going. There is a major grind in everything we do in our lives, from home to school to work and back home again. Even going on vacation is a chore sometimes! Anytime we can actually step aside, or in more drastic circumstances, flee far away from our tasking tasks is good for realizing that managing monotony is not all there is in life. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for society if you go bonkers trying to make the in-pile empty by the end of the day when you damn well know it’ll never stay that way. Just ask Newman how it goes. Oh, and to all of you aspiring to lose weight for next year: follow Wayne Knight’s lead. The man is Newman no more.

‘Heroes’” by David Bowie – David Bowie is the most versatile artist to ever walk the earth. Some of his songs are drug-fueled nonsense, some are drug-fueled brilliance, and some are magnificent blend of the two. I haven’t got Bowie’s music and remarkable transition of styles completely figured out, just as no one has Bowie figured out (probably most puzzled of all is Bowie himself), but with “Heroes” the gist is pretty clear. What’s more, the passion is there. He exalts the imperfect heroes who may die physically but who endure forever in a testament of love. Specifically this song was inspired by Bowie’s bandmates making out next to the Berlin Wall, but it represents the sentiment of love conquering all, even governments that quash freedom. Feel the music call you to action to sacrifice yourself with less finality. Be a hero anyway you can to friends and strangers alike. This doesn’t mean you should stand with your arms sprawled out in the back of a pickup traveling at high speeds screaming in joy while this song blares on the radio to feel alive, but I’ve already included a legal disclaimer, so I won’t belabor the point of caution by pummeling a no-longer living equine.

Ten Years Gone” by Led Zeppelin – Sometimes love works out just right and you and your missus or mister or unmarried partner or “we’re not putting a label on it even though we’ve been together eight years and have three kids” live happily ever til death does you in. Not always though. More often than we’d like we get the opposite where everything but death does the parting. Whether the break-up is sour or not, there is a lingering curiosity of your ex-whatever long after things have ended. Robert Plant thought about one of his old girlfriends ten years after they split and wondered if she ever did the same, so he wrote the lyrics to this song that Jimmy Page crafted the melancholy music to. It isn’t bitter, but it isn’t really regretful either. It’s just another older man musing on his younger days. He’s content where he is now, probably even happy, but that doesn’t stop the memories of that long-past love from resurfacing.

The Wind Cries Mary” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience – While we’re rolling along with soft music from a band that isn’t exactly known for slowing down (though they did on many occasions) we’ll ease into another soft serenade from the only Jimi (or rocker as far as I’m concerned) better with a guitar than Page. Not quite as clear lyrically, as Hendrix had a poetry all his own that was helped by a very active creative imagination (and occasionally some other factors). Possibly inspired by a fight with his girlfriend, I’m guessing there’s a lot more to this beautiful ballad since Hendrix could take the smallest thing and run with it. Some of the best and brightest – as in burned out too brilliantly and quickly – often did (“Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”). Whatever the start was, the finish is an incredible piece of soothing sadness that to me is a song of guidance and a reminder of that unforgivable onward march of time I described earlier.

Let It Be” by The Beatles – Just like my Christmas music post, I couldn’t include John and not mention the other Beatles. This song is an obvious choice to anyone who has ever heard it – which should be everyone. Of course I’ve assembled this list of songs in the hope that everybody listens to them and feels something more than sound waves stirring their tympanic membranes, but this one is really special. Paul McCartney may call upon wisdom from Mother Mary, but it doesn’t matter whom you ask for help with the big, little, and in-between decisions in your life. “Let It Be” is a great piece of advice and music, and this one comes from McCartney more than a Madonna. The best part of it all is that it’s not even the best song he wrote.

Hey Jude” by The Beatles – That honor goes to this greatest hit of the greatest band to ever pick up instruments. I certainly couldn’t leave out this gem of a song that does a better job of making everyone sing and sway in unison than “Imagine” or any other on this list. Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon, John’s son, in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce, the song (originally called “Hey Jules”) evolved into an uplifting jam session that has a coda longer than the actual lyrical body of the song. This makes it all the more remarkable that we all sing along to it for longer than it actually goes on. Why this song is so beautiful is hard to explain. Perhaps I’m at the end of my long trail of thought that I’ve sustained longer than anticipated (once more), or it could be that I’m just out of steam. But maybe, just maybe “Hey Jude” is that song that we all have more than a feeling for.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to have a happy new year doing whatever you do – just make sure you do it responsibly. I’m looking at you guys with your Jesus and hooker boots party! You know who are! To the rest of you (if there is a “rest a you”) disregard the latter sentence, but heed the former for sure. Questions, comments, nude photos (supermodels and Chris Pratt only please), and future topic ideas can be sent to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to come back next year for more riveting writing, musings, and last minute post submissions.

Yours in unforgivable forward-moving space-time,

Alex

P.S. Go Bucks!