Archive for October, 2008


The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

I think that’s the first time I actually TYPED “Sgt. Pepper’s…” etc, and it feels kind of weird to think about Dr. Pepper, and Chihuahuas named pepper, and lonely hearts, etc. There could be a public digital counter like the national debt clock that ticks off faster than the eye can see for every time this record is played. I’m sure more people have listened to it than have been served at McDonald’s. I feel a little bit in danger, actually, putting this on the turntable, as if this time might be the crucial spin that reaches some kind of cosmic saturation point and creates a rupture in the universe or something. But I’m trying to be objective. Because you know, as impossible as it is, that is what we strive for here at the “Farraginous Zone.”

I would be happy to never hear again: “A Little Help From My Friends.” “Getting Better.” “Fixing A Hole.” “She’s Leaving Home.” “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Also: The SITAR, in any form. “Lovely Rita” sounds good only because it follows the interminable “Within You Without You.” What was I doing in 1967? Not acid, that’s for sure. I think listening to Motown on my transistor radio. I heard, from my cousin, that The Beatles said they were bigger than Jesus, or something, and I was kind of freaked out. The Partridge Family was bigger than Jesus, for me, and Tommy Roe, as well. Because I was in love. The Beatles didn’t do much for me until years and years later. When I heard that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” meant LSD, I thought that was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard.

I still kind of like “A Day In The Life” at least. I mean, how can you argue with a line like: “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire?” If anyone knows what that means, I’ll thank them to please NOT tell me and ruin the spell. But I think I still have feelings about that song mostly because when I had laughing gas for the first time, my dentist, Dr. Verringer, happened to be playing that song. It was no accident; he loved The Beatles, that’s all he played in the office. I think he got some kind of thrill out of the fact that a guy was getting high in his chair while that song was playing. I can’t complain.


The Beatles “Revolver”

When the question “Beatles or Rolling Stones” comes up, I say Rolling Stones without thinking, and I do admit to being an Anglophobe, though I happen to be smoking Samuel Gawith’s “Squadron Leader” RIGHT NOW. There is no way The Beatles could be anything but overrated, seeing how popular and critical opinion pretty much put them on top of every list of ALL MUSIC ever composed, played by human beings ever in recorded history. But still, I’m trying to be objective, listening to The Beatles with fresh, unbiased ears, hearing for the first time some songs that are among the most overplayed songs ever, ever, ever.

It’s impossible, of course. It’s impossible of course. I don’t even know why I’m trying. Without a doubt, “the white album” is my favorite Beatles record, and I’ll take it over everything else they recorded put together. I can still listen to it all the way through and get back that feeling I had when I first discovered it. I guess there is a nostalgia factor there, I’ll admit. There were drugs involved. But anyway, there is no white album in this collection. There is “Revolver,” which is a lot of people’s favorite, I am well aware. I can’t say I even come close to LIKING this record, though “She Said She Said” always sounds fresh to me when listening to it, though it quickly becomes stale in my mind. Pretty much all the rest of the songs sound stale even on my vintage 1970s equipment.


Bangles “Different Light”

It has been said (by me) that The Eighties are an entire decade that could be completely eradicated with almost no loss to the English speaking culture and we should only be so lucky. This Bangles record from 1986 doesn’t exactly make me change my mind about that, but I have been enjoying it to a surprising (to me) degree, as uneven as it is. Even more shocking is the cover and back cover, comprised of approximately 32 headshot photos of the band members, and any one of them taken by itself screams NINETEEN EIGHTIES! Taken all together, this hair parade is an awe-inspiring spectacle and expression of a collective, aesthetic insanity. But enough about the hair already!

This album has the distinction of containing one of the worst and unlistenable songs of all time, “Walk Like an Egyptian,” which happens to be written by Liam Sternberg, who wrote some pretty good songs for Rachel Sweet, so it’s hard to say how he came up with such a perfect song for selling cheap, shitty products to stupid people. I suppose the band should take equal blame, but then they are perfectly capable of performing a really good song like “September Gurls”—by Alex Chilton—nearly as compellingly as Alex Chilton. “Manic Monday” is the next worst song on this record, which is also surprising as it is written by a pretty excellent songwriter, The Artist Formerly Known as “Christopher.” The rest of the album is pretty okay to listen to, and the best songs are the ones by the members of the band. But those weren’t the hits, and what else is new?


Joan Baez

This is Joan Baez’s first record, on Vanguard, from 1960, and it’s serious and pure, and old-seeming; it has the feeling of a record that came out in some year more like 1860 than 1960. I mean it’s hard to argue with this record, for what it is, but I feel no more compelled to put it on again than I do to dutifully eat my vegetables. I think my problem with the performance here is that it seems like it is playing way too fast; to me it sounds like an LP played at 45rpm. I really wish I had one of those old record players that actually had “16” speed, roughly half the speed of a 33 and 1/3! Did anyone ever actually have a 16rpm record? Someone must have. Or maybe that speed was just put on turntables for reasons such as this: so the listener could shape the music to their needs. Though really, I don’t want her voice lower. I like her voice. I just want it slower. Okay, this is pointless. Forget I even said anything.


Average White Band “Soul Searching”

There are two reasons why I haven’t written about any records for months and months. One is my internet wasn’t working, but I was, in a terrible, terrible job where each day was the equivalent of listening to the Top 14 Radio (“the hottest songs of the 80’s, 90’s, and… Today!”) which I more or less did listen to while working. Also, my vintage 1970s receiver broke, and I moved. That’s more than two reasons. But really, the big, BIG reason I haven’t written anything here is because (after my receiver miraculously fixed itself) I became totally obsessed with the next record in my queue, the 1976 (same year as my receiver) masterpiece, the Average White Band’s “Soul Searching.”

I expected to either hate this record or find it funny, but instead, it became the soundtrack for my life, the album that defined for me the summer of 2008. This record never left my turntable, and therefore I didn’t get around to listening to anything else. So here I am, still stuck on the “A’s” and for that matter, still listening to “Soul Searching” as I write this. My solution finally has been to tape this record on a cassette tape recording device so I can listen to it later while I, meanwhile, hopefully, continue with this project. Because the pressure to write with passion about such a life defining work of art has pretty much rendered me paralyzed, I will put it off until later, and perhaps write something now and then, little by little, until I feel like I’ve exhausted this subject. In the meantime I’ll be able to get on with the “B’s.”

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October 2008