Archive | February, 2015

Certain Songs #120: Boston – “More Than a Feeling”

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Album: Boston.

Year: 1976.

With its circling in from eternity chiming acoustic guitar intro, inverted  "Louie Louie" chorus and sustainy guitar sound of Tom Scholz’s Rockman, I realize that this song and this album are probably responsible for a whole host of evil things. At the very least it’s responsible for spawning a whole strain of rock music that dominated FM enough to keep punk from breaking like it should have.

But I don’t care. 

That first Boston album was a huge catalyst for me: prior to it, I bought a ton of singles and very few albums, but afterwards, I started riding my bike to Tower Records every time I had a few bucks – I got my first paying job in the summer of 1977 – and bought album after album.

There were other factors involved: turning 14 and starting a new high school where I literally didn’t know anybody and that I didn’t want to go to in the first place probably contributed, as well, and I think that all of these things meant that I needed to fully abandon the eclectic pleasures of early-70s Top 40 for a steady diet of 1970s hard rock music.

So while various older dudes on my street had already clued me into Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones, I started following up on my own: from Boston, it was into Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Foghat and Yes and The Who and Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and all of the other ususal suspects of 70s hard rock. 

But I kept coming back to this first Boston album:  I have a vivid memory of listening to this song over and over at full blast with my stereo speakers literally inches away from my ears, thinking “who cares if I can’t hear anything when I get older, this is awesome!!! Why doesn’t more music sound like this?!”

Definitely a case of “be careful of what you wish for,” and while I hated Foreigner and Journey and Toto and Loverboy, I never could come around to hating Boston, even if their second album was a let down and their third album took so long to come out it spawned the same jokes people later made about Guns n’ Roses, My Bloody Valentine and that Wrens album that supposedly due out any time now.

40 years later, “More Than A Feeling”  – which invokes The Handclap Rule on that impossible-to-sing-along-with-even-you’re-singling-along-with-it right-now chorus – sounds fucking amazing.

Fan-made video for “More Than a Feeling”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #119: Bobby Sutliff – “Stupid Idea”

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Album: Only Ghosts Remain.

Year: 1987.

It’s weird the things that you remember. For example, I remember that one of my favorite cassettes of the weird-ass autumn of 1987 had The Connells’ Boylan Heights on one side and Bobby Sutliff’s long-lost power pop classic Only Ghosts Remain on the other. Jingle jangle jingle.

Recorded at Mitch Easter’s Drive-In Studio, Only Ghosts Remain was filled with big-sounding jangly guitar songs, none bigger than “Stupid Idea.”  A remake of a song he’d done with his previous band, The Windbreakers, “Stupid Idea” starts off by mixing a variation of Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams” riff over the “Be My Baby” drumbeat and only gets better from there.

With that riff opening up space for a bass hook that probably made Mike Mills quiver with anger and culminating in 12-string guitar solo sent directly from Roger McGuinn’s personal heaven, “Stupid Idea” was one of those songs that demanded I turn the volume up and sing along.

Fan-made video for “Stupid Idea”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #118:  Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – “Night Moves”

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Album: Night Moves.

Year: 1976.

Because Punk Rock came along and rendered his roots-rock almost instantly critically obsolete almost the second he starting lobbing hit singles into the Top 40, and because his licensing of “Like a Rock” to Chevy for a hundred million truck commercials felt like “selling out” in the worst way, guys like me have tended to underrate Bob Seger over the years.

I’m guessing that’s not the case now, though, given that all of those concerns are pretty much moot here in the 21st century, and Bob Seger doesn’t seem all that different from contemporaries like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty to the younger folk who even bother with 70s rock at all.

And then again, there’s “Night Moves,” easily his crowning achievement, which somehow made me nostalgic at 14 for things I hadn’t yet (but desperately wanted) to experience. That’s no mean feat, and while I wasn’t sure what I was responding to, there was something in the sadness of “Night Moves” that made it feel different from everything else on the radio, where it’s continually lived for nearly 40 years.

Like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Night Moves” was one of those songs that had both a single version and an album version, but whereas the extra bit in “Reaper” was just a temporary (albeit kickass) guitar break, the long version of “Night Moves” was something else entirely. 

About 3 minutes into a groovy folk-rock song with a killer bassline, perfectly placed piano and background chick vocalists chiming in on the chorus, Seger ground the song to a dead stop, and suddenly it turned from a reminiscence about fumbling teenage sex to a meditation on mortality: 

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in

So, just like that, as the song restarts and the back-up chicks chant the title hook over and over again, there’s isn’t anymore mention of teenage sex, but rather the adult regret of not realizing just how temporary those youthful pleasures really are.

Of course, as a teenager, I just thought of this as “that boring part,” but now, these decades later, remembering how this song was pretty much everywhere in 1977, I totally get it. Fucking Seger, man.

:: bursts into tears ::

A weird 1994 Official Video for “Night Moves” with famous people in it

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #117: Bob Mould – “The Descent”

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Album: Silver Age.

Year: 2012.

The sound of an artist rediscovering his muse. No doubt emotionally rejuvenated by the the self-examination required for writing an autobiography and artistically rejuvenated by the formal declarations of love and influence by other artists that culminated in the “See a Little Light” tribute concert in 2011, Silver Age was Mould’s greatest album since Sugar’s File Under: Easy Listening.

I didn’t want to play the song
That gave people so much hope
I turned my back and turned away
Here’s the rope that made me choke

As it was with Sugar and the Hüskers, Bob is working in the power trio format, a formal signal that he knew it was once again time to return what he still does better than anybody else on the planet. So backed by Jason Narducy on bass and his best drummer since Grant Hart, the incomparable Jon Wurster, “The Descent” just explodes with punk noise and pop melody.

God, I hope it’s not too late
Can I try to make it up to you somehow?
Can I try to make it up to you somehow?

Of course, as someone who has had countless hours of pleasure derived from Bob Mould’s music, he doesn’t really have to make it up to me – or any of his fans – but gods, I love that he thinks he has to try. 

He could literally put  out one of these records every few years for the rest of our lives and I’d be happy. Or he could never do it again, and I’d be happy.

Official video for “The Descent”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #116: Bob Mould – “All Those People Know”

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B-side to “See A Little Light” single.

Year: 1989.

I’ll admit it: I’ve always had more respect than love for Bob Mould’s Workbook album. In theory, I wasn’t against his turning the volume down and doing a more acoustic record: after all, ongs like “Hardly Getting Over It” and “Too Far Down” were highlights of Candy Apple Grey, so it was clear that he could pull it off, and many many folks think that he did. But not me.

Which isn’t to say that Workbook isn’t a very good record, it’s just that give the amazing run that Hüsker Dü went on during the mid-80s, “very good” just wasn’t good enough. And I guarantee that at least one person – maybe every person – who reads these words will violently disagree with me. And you know what? You’re probably right.

It’s just that the Bob Mould that I love, that had a lifetime pass by the time either of us turned 25, is the guy who writes the great pop songs with the amazingly loud, sustainy guitar. That exquisite combination of melody and noise that changed everything. And that’s why this b-side was so important.

While it’s impossible to know if “All Those People Know” would have been a highlight on whatever the next album by the Hüskers would have been (and of course, it still wasn’t as great as “2541,”), to me it was like Bob saying to his fans “look gang, Workbook was just something that I needed to do, but I can still – and will – play to my strengths and kick out these great punk rock tunes on a dime.”

Which is why, in subsequent years, whenever he did anything that went away from his core strengths, I just enjoyed the bits that I enjoyed – even his “electronic” record has some great songs – and waited for him to circle back to what he did best. Kinda like Neil Young.

Video for “All Those People Know”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever