My Back Pages

YouTube – My Back Pages – The 30th Bob Dylan Anniversary.  This is a great lyrical song by Bob Dylan as performed by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison.  Sadie and I saw a clip of this when we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Dylan’s lyrics are phenomenal.  They’re a “must read” even if you don’t listen to the song, but it’s even better to read them while listening.  It’s a reflective song about his own influence on counter-culture in the ’60s.  The last stanza sums it up nicely:

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

In the video at the Rock Hall, they used this last sentence to allude to some of the difficulties associated with growing up as a rock star and dealing with the early deaths of many great stars (and their friends) like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.  Pete Townshend gave an impassioned soundbyte in the video to this effect, and I feel like the chorus, “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” embodied the frustration very nicely.  Anyways, great song.  Give it a listen, eh?

Review: John Mayer’s Where The Light Is

I’ve been listening to a copy of Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks, and I’m really enjoying it. The album is live in front of a crowd of about 7,000 in L.A. John plays a set of 5 acoustic songs, including an interesting cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’. The acoustic sounds are done well, and you definitely get a sense of his passion as he sings, which is something I find lacking in performances from other bands. The concert then dramatically changes over to an electric guitar-laden blues album that had me at the first riff. This set includes a cover of Hendrix’s Wait Until Tomorrow and (I think) a few originals. One of the best quotes of the album comes when Mayer speaks to the crowd early in Out Of My Mind, when he proclaims something to the effect of, “It’s 2007. We just launched into a slow blues, and 7,000 people in L.A. just went nuts. All is not lost.” The album continues with some more familiar Mayer tunes in a “band set,” including an impassioned take of Gravity that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I think I’m partly enjoying this album so much because it was so unexpected. I had heard a few of Mayer’s songs on the radio, but never had an album. I put this on in the car one day and found myself almost instantly loving the acoustics. The fantastic blues set in the middle of the album was an unexpected and very welcomed surprise. It was definitely the highlight of the album. You can buy a CD of Where The Light Is on Amazon ($15) or buy the DRM-free MP3 album from Amazon MP3 ($14). For a 2-disc album, the money is well worth it! You could also grab a DVD of the concert ($15), which might add another dimension to the performance.

All-in-all, this is an awesome live album by John Mayer.


Working Class Hero

Powerful music from John Lennon. Why is it that every time I hear a great song like this, the first thing that pops into my head is “why can’t stuff like this be made today?”

As soon as your born they make you feel small,
By giving you no time instead of it all,
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all,
A working class hero is something to be, …
Working Class Hero by John Lennon

Here’s a YouTube video of the song. Green Day (one of my favorite bands) covered this song in a Save Darfur performance.

The Day The Music Died

This is so incredibly frustrating. On one hand, I want to rub people’s faces in it. But on the other, I see a ton of people every day buying songs from iTunes, and they’re in the same boat. They just don’t think it could happen to them, or they don’t care because the DRM isn’t getting in their way of listening to music they’ve “bought”. Or even worse, they don’t even know what DRM is or why they should avoid it like the plague. With DRM, the customer is always wrong:

Imagine if Tower Records sold you a CD, but then, a few months later, knocked on your door and replaced the CD with one that you can’t play in your car. Would you still feel like you “owned” the CD? Not so much, eh?

But Apple reserves the right to change at any time what you can do with the music you purchase at the iTunes Music Store. For instance, in April 2004, Apple decided to modify the DRM so people could burn the same playlist only 7 times, down from 10. How much further will the service restrict your ability to make legal personal copies of your own music? Only Apple knows.

Don’t let this become your fate. Own your music if you’re going to buy it online. Buy from Amazon MP3, which offers DRM-free music for cheaper than iTunes, and they even add it to your iTunes library automatically! Or if you feel you must buy from iTunes, never settle for anything less than DRM-free (iTunes “Plus”). Otherwise, it’s smarter to just buy the CD for a few bucks more.

Giving Copyright ‘The Slip’

Nine Inch Nails has pre-released their new album, ‘The Slip‘, online (via Chicagoist). I’m not really a NIN fan, but there’s something a little different about this one. They’ve released it completely for free under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-SA) in many different formats (including lossless). Apparently, Mr. Reznor feels that Radiohead, who gave users the option to “choose their own price” to download their previous album, was nothing more than a marketing scam to arouse interest and sell a regular album in sub-standard quality. In addition to providing top-quality music files in various formats, the NIN are making a bold statement with this album, especially for mainstream artists, and it’s right there is black-and-white on their website:

we encourage you to
remix it,
share it with your friends,
post it on your blog,
play it on your podcast,
give it to strangers,

I can only hope this trend toward Free Culture continues. I don’t think that everything needs to be free (at least initially), but this album’s copyright is merely an example of the other extreme to a completely restrictive copyright, which doesn’t allow anyone to more than listen to it for the next 95 years. Yes, that’s how long current copyrights last.

Preserving our history

I recently read that Jackson Browne released a sequel to his popular album Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 from a few years ago. It’s one of my favorite albums of the past few years, and this was coming from someone who had no idea who Jackson Browne really was when I first heard it. If you haven’t heard that album, it’s worth the $8.99 on Amazon mp3, so just buy it. His sequel album, aptly titled Solo Acoustic Vol. 2, was released a few weeks ago, and I will need to download it. However, considering what little I knew about Mr. Browne was derived from this album, I decided it would be a good idea to learn a little more about him from Wikipedia. While reading about his fantastic song called The Pretender (lyrics), I noticed a link at the bottom to a YouTube video of him singing it live. It was great.

And then I saw it, right there in the YouTube sidebar. It was a live concert performance of his song Load-Out/Stay from 1978. You don’t understand. Ever since I heard it a few years ago, this has been one of my top 3 favorite songs of all time. And I have a LOT of favorite music. You can see him singing it, right there on stage at his piano. And then it dawned on me. Without the Internet, I would never have been able to see this footage. I’ve heard the song a thousand times, but to see him sitting there, 30 years old with his California hippie haircut, singing it? I’ll let it speak for itself. Sometimes we lose sight of the Internet and what it can be. I think this speaks volumes.

Man I wish they still made music like that. If you’d like to hear more Jackson Browne check out These Days (or the original cut, sung by Nico) (lyrics).

Future of books

I read an article about the future of book industry and authors [hat tip Sadie]. In it, they describe the ways that authors are suffering from the effects of piracy. Many authors are concerned about their lost profits at the hands of e-Book pirates and they are trying to come up with new business models to embrace this new media while still being able to keep the cash coming in. Fortunately, they seem to have a much better grasp on how to solve their problems than the music industry:

“We have to evolve and create a very different pay system, possibly by making the content available free to all and finding a way to get paid separately.” –Tracy Chevalier

If they can follow this concept through, their industry will survive. I have very little hope for the music industry at this point, so the best we can do is learn from their mistakes. Please read that last link. It’s a great article (actually it deserves a post of its own).

Across the Universe

Across the Universe coverSadie bought me Across the Universe on DVD for Valentine’s Day. We finally got around to watching it last night, and I have to say I was pleased. Of course, I doubt it would’ve taken much on their part to please me. The movie centers around a few main characters, most notably Jude and Lucy. Jude is a dock worker from Liverpool who decides to take a trip to America to find his father. He meets Lucy‘s brother, Max(well), and they become quick friends. The story spirals out from there to include a whole cast of Beatles-inspired character names. In fact, there were very few (if any) characters actually named in the movie that were not some reference to a character in the Beatles’ music. Much like Forrest Gump, this movie also gives a powerful social history of the time.

The soundtrack was pretty awesome. While the singing was sometimes noticeably computer-altered, the arrangements of the music were amazingly original. Also, there were a few notable celebrity performances such as Bono (as Dr. Robert) singing I am the Walrus. Another great thing about the soundtrack is that it sampled music from The Beatles’ entire run, with pretty much equal representation from their earlier and later stuff.

The reason this movie was so successful was that it combined many aspects of The Beatles’ catalog with some history and a good story. Although I am a huge Beatles fan, they were before my time. I have always listened to their music out of the context of its time period, which was undoubtedly influential in their writing. Putting the music together with a picture of the time helped open my eyes to some additional meanings to some of my favorite music. Another fun aspect of the movie was picking out all the references to Beatles songs. Much like the character’s names, there were a number of nonchalant references in the dialog, such as Jude’s boss saying “when I’m 64.” (I found a nice list of all The Beatles references on Wikipedia, but I’d recommend only looking at them after you’ve seen the movie.)

If you’re not as in love with The Beatles’ catalog as I am (shame on you!), this movie may not be as significant for you. There are a few “trippy” sequences near the middle of the movie that seem to get off plot, but then again this is somewhat reflective of their music. Overall, it’s the music that drives this movie. If it wasn’t for The Beatles’ amazing songwriting abilities, this movie would have just been “ok.” But as I pointed out to Sadie multiple times last night, “Man, did those guys know how to write some music!” I’ve been listening to them for years, and their songs continue to set the bar for any music I encounter.

If you like even a few Beatles’ songs, this movie comes highly recommended.


The sun, whose rays are all ablaze

For some reason, this poem popped into my head today that I haven’t thought of in a while. I first heard part of it in the movie Brick, which I liked. I much prefer the way it’s almost recited in the movie over the way it’s sung in the Gilbert and Sullivan show The Mikado. It’s really a great poem, very lyrical.

The sun, whose rays
Are all ablaze
With ever-living glory,
Does not deny
His majesty —
He scorns to tell a story!
He don’t exclaim,
“I blush for shame,
So kindly be indulgent.”
But, fierce and bold,
In fiery gold,
He glories all effulgent!

I mean to rule the earth,
As he the sky —
We really know our worth,
The sun and I!

Observe his flame,
That placid dame,
The moon’s Celestial Highness;
There’s not a trace
Upon her face
Of diffidence or shyness:
She borrows light
That, through the night,
Mankind may all acclaim her!
And, truth to tell,
She lights up well,
So I, for one, don’t blame her!

Ah, pray make no mistake,
We are not shy;
We’re very wide awake,
The moon and I!

-Gilbert & Sullivan

Makes me miss someone though…