Posts Tagged ‘Aerosmith’

Refusing to read

Yesterday I promised you a guest blogger, mystery novelist Deborah Donnelly. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Ms. Donnelly will not eventuate. Not on Day 4, anyway. She says hi.

New kids on the block
I’m speaking now to the new readers I’ve just detected, thanks to the stats dished out by WordPress. Are you lost? You’re not getting your money back! What you’ve stumbled on is a blog about popular music, but right now I’m engaged in a six-week write-a-thon that ends August 2. I don’t want to abandon music entirely, so I’m finishing each post with the musical picks and pans I wrote over the past few months. I’ve already run out of pans. And people say I hate everything!

The writing cartoons have aged for years in my lifelong collection. The cultural references may provoke laughs but the themes are timeless.

I’ve cleverly hidden indexes to the first two years of this blog (November 2010 to November 2012) in the left-hand column under Blogroll. You’re on your own for Year 3.

Not all who wander want to find their way back to the freeway
Day 4 for me was like urban in-fill in most U.S. cities: packing more people into already established neighborhoods. Yesterday I solved the challenge of the chapter that goes forever on by breaking it up. Chapter 5 became much more manageable after I evicted a third of it. That section became Chapter 6. A few stray paragraphs became the opening of Chapter 7.

My task today was to write a real ending for Chapter 5 and a real beginning for Chapter 6. I didn’t finish either but I know I’m headed in the right direction because I was surprised by some of what I wrote. “Where do I get my ideas? I don’t. They get me,” Lewis Carroll said.

The problem with writing a novel the way I’m writing a novel, with a set of ideas rather than a set of ideas and a roadmap, is that I plunge into chapters without knowing exactly where they’re going or what they’re trying to accomplish. Everything takes longer than it should, even though I’m enjoying every minute of it. Maybe I don’t want it to end?

I wouldn’t recommend my method to anyone. Maybe someday I’ll listen to me.

Box score
I’ve written for four days out of four
– 5.5 total hours

Random Pick of the Day
The Vines, Highly Evolved (2002)
These Aussies bow to Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, but I suspect they would sell their souls to be a catchy little pop band. All the tempo changes and other experiments on Highly Evolved could’ve been Duran Duran reimagined as a grunge act circa 1992. This is especially true on my favorite tracks, “Outtathaway” and “Sunshinin.”

The real treat on this album is “Factory,” in which The Vines pretend to be Nirvana pretending to be The Beatles.

Random Rock ’n’ Roll Image of the Day
Aerosmith and J. Geils Band at Fenway Park, 14 August 2010: Steven Tyler in a Sox jersey at a white grand piano atop the Green Monster belting out “Dream On.”

I’ll never forget my teenage sister, Gayle, and her best friend, Debbie, singing Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” and making all the car horn noises. In the summer of 1979 there were critics who claimed that 16-year-old girls should not be singing songs about happy hookers, but it’s plain that the girls in “Bad Girls” are not happy. Anyway, I’m sure that by September, Gayle and Debbie were singing something else. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” probably.

Donna Summer had one of the best voices of her generation. She wasn’t in the same class as Buffy Sainte-Marie or Minnie Ripperton, but she was sexier than Buffy and had better material than Minnie. I wish she had done an album with Chrissie Hynde.

In that long-ago era I heard Donna Summer’s songs every time I went to a disco, but the song that remains with me pre-dates the entire movement: “I Feel Love.” All forms of synthesizer or computer-based dance music – electronica, trance, house, acid jazz, whatever you want to call it – descend from this song. This is my favorite music to write to! Rest in peace, Donna. Save the last trance for me.

Random Pick of the Week
Los Lobos, Kiko (1992)
Tex-Mex meets Pink Martini. Totally joyful.

Random Pan of the Week
Fun., Some Nights (2012)
I don’t understand why “We Are Young” is getting so much radio time. I haven’t heard anything this bad since Mitt Romney covered “Who Let the Dogs Out?” I also don’t get the surplus punctuation in their name. Do you call them “Fun Stop”? “Fun and Done?” “Fun Up to a Point”?

I give Some Nights an F. Period.

Random Run-DMSteve Reader of the Week
Judy Gould, whose ambition for many years was to jump out of a cake on The Edge’s birthday. When she was getting ready for an Aerosmith concert at the age of 56, she wrote, “I figure that as long as I remember that I can no longer wear fringe as an actual piece of clothing, I should be OK.” Judy is wearing a hospital gown rather than fringe at the moment, though she hasn’t lost her sense of humor. You pretty much have to have an indestructible sense of humor to be an Aerosmith fan. I know this is Journey and not Aerosmith, but don’t stop believin’, Judy.

In the summer of 1979 we danced to “I Feel Love,” possibly at a club that is now a pricey stack of condos. It might’ve been the night that Yaz hit his 400th homerun. If it wasn’t, it should’ve been.

’70s Week at Run-DMSteve concludes with some of my favorite songs of the decade. I’m not saying these are the best songs of the decade, and they’re not all of my favorites. I just stopped at 25. To keep things manageable, I limited myself to one song per artist (except in one instance), but to make them less manageable, I included some runners-up.

A few words about women, of whom my list has only one, Joan Armatrading, recording on her own. (I do have Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of The B-52s and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads.)

There were plenty of remarkable women in rock in the ’70s. Minnie Ripperton could reach all of the known octaves and a few that she must’ve invented. But I can’t digest her music. Ditto Cher, Blondie, The Runaways, and Susie Quatro. I’ll see you in hell before I listen to Heart. If I added another 25 songs, I’d include Patti Smith (“So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star”), Donna Summer (“I Feel Love”), Joni Mitchell (tough one, but probably “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire”), and The Slits (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”). How I wish The Slits could’ve opened for Hole. I’ll try to field a more balanced squad during ’80s Week.

My heartfelt thanks to Brother Bob Lingard, who started me on this week’s theme when he kindly loaned me a CD with hundreds of songs from the ’70s and ’80s. Though listening to this collection often seemed like an endurance test, especially when I collided with Christopher Cross –

“I’m on the runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn/no time to sleep”

– Phil Collins, and the REO Styxjourneywagon dud machine, I learned a lot. I’d forgotten how much I like Roxy Music and Squeeze, how overrated REM is and how undeservedly obscure Steve Winwood is. Party on, Brother Bob!

Here’s the list:

Aerosmith, “Sweet Emotion”
It pains me to type “Aerosmith,” but at least they’re not Foghat.

Joan Armatrading, “Love and Affection”
This is the female “Bolero”!

The B-52s, “Rock Lobster”
How amazing that “Rock Lobster,” the greatest song ever recorded by anyone in any language on any planet, was produced in the same decade that gave us “Kung Fu Fighting” and “You’re Having My Baby.”

David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream”
My favorite Bowie album is Station to Station, but this is my favorite song.

The Clash, “Complete Control”
Runner-up: “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”

Elvis Costello, “You Belong to Me”
Could easily have gone with “Mystery Dance,” “Watching the Detectives,” or “This Year’s Model.”

The Dickies, “Nights in White Satin”
One of the best covers in the history of covers. You get every note of the original but all of them played five times as fast. The single was released in 1979 on white vinyl.

Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” and “What’s Going On
If this had been ’60s Week, I would’ve picked “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Al Green, “Love and Happiness”
I can listen to this over and over. In fact, I have.

The Guess Who, “No Time”
What this song means is anybody’s guess. The live version, recorded in Seattle on the same stage where Special D and I saw The Roches and Guys and Dolls, rocks harder.

George Harrison, “Isn’t It a Pity”
Harrison’s talent seems so very different from Lennon’s and McCartney’s. George’s work floats on a slow-moving undercurrent of grief.

Isaac Hayes, “Theme From Shaft”
Shaft. Any questions?

Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”
The video of Jackson dancing to this song was the first thing I ever saw played back on a VCR.

K.C. & The Sunshine Band, “Get Down Tonight”
By your command!

Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir”
I’ve tried for years to dismiss Led Zeppelin as AC/DC with a library card, but songs like this rebuke me.

Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed”
The best thing Sir Paul did on his own, and good enough to compare to his work with John.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
Thelma Houston’s version is more disco. I had to flip a coin to pick one.

Pink Floyd, “Fearless”
Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite Pink Floyd, but this is my favorite song. Always brings tears to my eyes.

Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”
To save space, the term “Lou Reed” includes the term “The Velvet Underground.”

The Rolling Stones, “Wild Horses”
If I hadn’t limited myself to one song apiece, The Stones would’ve dominated this list. For ’60s Week I would’ve picked “Street Fighting Man.”

Tom Rush, “Urge for Going”
Joni Mitchell wrote this one. Tom Rush is not in her league, except here. Not what you’d call a bouncy number.

Bruce Springsteen, “Backstreets”
One of the few times Bruce surpassed “Wild Billy’s Circus Story.”

Steely Dan, “Bodhisattva”
Steely Dan is not the most annoying band of the decade, though they’re right behind Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Bee-Gees in that department. “Bodhisattva,” however, is too ridiculous to resist. Plus it packs more swing than anything else in the Steely Dan catalog.

Talking Heads, “Heaven”
As I wrote here, I never appreciated this song until I heard them perform it during the Stop Making Sense concert tour.

Stevie Wonder, “Superstition”
Almost every one of his songs bursts with joy. Runner-up: “As.”

Your suggestions, comments, and suggestive comments are welcome. Thanks as always for reading. See you for ’80s Week!

Toys in the Attic

You don’t have to be a music critic to sense that Aerosmith sucks dead bears. If Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were battleships, Aerosmith would be barnacles. If my roof was leaking, I’d nail Aerosmith LPs over the leaks. Exposing their vinyl to acid rain could only improve the sound.

But you once loved these guys!
You know me too well, Mr. Subhead. I’ve played air guitar for years to Aerosmith’s version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’.” If it came on the radio right now I’d do it again, and then I’d call NPR to ask why they’re playing Aerosmith in the middle of Thistle and Shamrock.

As long as I’m confessing, I might as well confess it all. Some years ago, after the glaciers had retreated but before we speared the last saber-toothed tiger, the young Aerosmithers played an all-ages dance at the National Guard armory in Fall River, Massachusetts. We high school journalists-in-training wanted to interview them for our school paper, but we never got backstage. In my memory we were chased from the building by an enraged Steven Tyler wielding a flaming guitar, but if I could travel back to that moment I’d probably find it was just a Pabst-swilling roadie with a Carl Yastrzemski baseball bat.

Eventually I grew up, realized just what it was I was listening to, and traded my Aerosmith records for something better, like a frog.

Aerosmith: Plague or pestilence?
If scientists cannot answer this question, why am I suggesting you put yourself at the mercy of Toys in the Attic? Because Toys transcends the congealing sludge of the Aerosmith discography on the strength of one song, “Sweet Emotion.” How this band produced that song is a mystery. “Sweet Emotion” is one of the supreme driving songs in Western culture. It even sounds good when you’re parked.

Give the rest of this disc a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the passably rockin’ title track, as well as “No More No More” and “You See Me Crying,” which showcases Tyler’s bargain-basement voice but somehow wins you over with its amateur theatrics. (I don’t include “Walk This Way” because I never saw the point of that song until it was hip-hopped by my namesakes.)

If you’re planning a party, “Sweet Emotion” pairs well with another winner by a loser band, Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” Don’t forget to invite Run-DMSteve.