Archive | June, 2017

Certain Songs #920: The Left Banke – “Walk Away Renee”

Album: Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina
Year: 1966

On the short list of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Baroque Pop Division, “Walk Away Renee” is one of those songs that can inspire an equal amount of chills and tears, depending on whether you’re fixating on the gorgeous melody or the heartbreaking words.

It’s also, for some reason, one of those songs that I’ve never dug that deep into, like somehow understanding would ruin the beauty. So there were a whole bunch of things I never knew about “Walk Away Renee” until just now.

That composer Michael Brown says it was written about a real person — the bass-player’s then-girlfriend — is pretty much par for the course for the 1960s, but I was surprised that I didn’t know that the Four Tops covered it, because now I understand why Billy Bragg put his Johnny Marr-powered semi-cover on the b-side of “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.”

But then again, why do we need to know anything about “Walk Away Renee?” Isn’t just experiencing the chorus enough?

Just walk away Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

It’s so beautiful and so primal that it probably didn’t need the harpsichord, the string, and (especially) the flute solo, but it’s so beautiful and so primal that none of that mattered every single time they melted into the chorus.

And they damn straight needed the harmonies over lead singer Steve Martin Caro (then just known as “Steve Martin,” which no doubt confused some folks a decade later or so), because while Caro’s voice was already projecting every ounce of heartbreak he could summon, the harmonies sealed the deal: not only was Renee going to walk away, she was going to be gone forever.

“Walk Away Renee”

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Certain Songs #920: The Left Banke – “Walk Away Renee”

Album: Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina
Year: 1966

On the short list of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Baroque Pop Division, “Walk Away Renee” is one of those songs that can inspire an equal amount of chills and tears, depending on whether you’re fixating on the gorgeous melody or the heartbreaking words.

It’s also, for some reason, one of those songs that I’ve never dug that deep into, like somehow understanding would ruin the beauty. So there were a whole bunch of things I never knew about “Walk Away Renee” until just now.

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Certain Songs #919: Lee Michaels – “Do You Know What I Mean”

Album: Fifth
Year: 1971

Yes, while Lee Michaels had another top 40 hit — his cover of “Can I Get a Witness” got to number #39 on the coattails of this one — he really was the quintessential one-hit wonder.

And you know how you can tell he’s a one-hit wonder: you can’t name a single other song by Lee Michaels — and in fact, you didn’t even know he covered “Can I Get a Witness” until I just told you (and I sure as hell didn’t know until I read it on Wikipedia 10 minutes ago) — but if you listened to the radio at all in the early 1970s, you know every single word of “Do You Know What I Mean.”

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Certain Songs #918: Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir (Knebworth, 1979)”

Album: Led Zeppelin DVD
Year: 1979

This is really a quick little postscript capping a month or so of Led Zeppelin posts. For the longest time, “Kashmir” was the one Certified Led Zeppelin Classic that I just couldn’t get behind.

On Physical Graffiti it was, as needs be, too perfect. It was like an impenetrable tank that was impossible to get inside of, every attempt at understanding its deep dark mysteries beaten back by a phase-shifted drum roll. So it wasn’t like I skipped it, or even changed the channel when it came on, I just didn’t love it, even though I could hear how amazing and groundbreaking it was.

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Certain Songs #917: Led Zeppelin – “In The Evening”

Album: In Through The Out Door
Year: 1979

So what if John Bonham hadn’t died? What if, instead of being Led Zeppelin’s last studio album, they continued to record — ever more sporadically, of course — for the next couple of decades instead?

How would In Through The Out Door be looked at then? Obviously, it’s now seen as The Last Led Zeppelin Album, with all of the psychic weight that entails. Added to that is the fact that In Through The Out Door is clearly their weakest studio album, continuing the decline that some detected (wrongly!!!) in Presence, and some folks might even assume that it was a good thing they had an excuse to break up before further tainting their legacy, like other ::coughs:: The Who ::coughs:: bands didn’t do.

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