Archive for October, 2015

Day 39 – Black As A Dog

October 29th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.

Where do you start with Led Zeppelin?

Led Zeppelin IV (as it is commonly referred to) was my first purchase into the Zeppelin catalog. Thinking back at that purchase, getting close to almost 30 years ago, I realize that at the time, it was the appropriate starting point for any novice to the band.

At the time, it was just a cassette on a novice boom box. The Zoso on the label with the man hunched over carrying sticks on his back. Unlike some of the controversy when it was released, i.e. without an album title because of course the band was dealing with the commercial disappointment of Led Zeppelin III.

I was merely buying the album because ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was a great song. I did not grow up in the 70s. I did not have to deal with the song being overplayed on the radio. I really didn’t know what I was getting into.

The moment for me is the opening track.

Hey, hey, mama said the way you move
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove

Cue the guitar riff.

Having purchased and eschewed several heavy metal/hair band albums for what I had felt was something saccharine, this felt real, a little dirty. The closest example at the time for me would have been Diamond David Lee Roth, and I am sorry but Plant and Page just pissed all over the faces of both Roth and Eddie Van Halen.

It’s ear candy. It’s metal before metal could ruin itself. It has it’s epic moments, even if ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is overplayed. It has it’s delicate acoustic moments with ‘Going to California’.

Black Dog contains everything that Van Halen and others failed to achieve. Authenticity.

After listening to the album only a couple times, I realized that this was not the only purchase that I would be making. There would be others.

• Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
• Yo La Tengo – Black Flowers
• Olivia Tremor Control – Black Foilage Animation
• Spoon – Black Like Me

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Day 38 – Black as Nero

October 28th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


Danger Mouse has his hands all over the music industry as a musician, songwriter and producer including Gnarls Barkley (with CeeLo Green), Broken Bells (with James Mercer) as well as producing albums by Gorillaz, Beck and the Black Keys. I never thought that he got the type of credit that he deserved on the album ‘Rome’, in which he co-wrote with Daniele Luppi.

If the album reminds you of Clint Eastwood at all, possibly “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”, then you are on the right track. The album is inspired by Spaghetti Westerns which places it in an odd category of current contemporary music.

Norah Jones is featured on the song “Black”, which I have always found to be the standout track on this impressive album. I would not say that I am following Norah Jones or Danger Mouse (and for that matter Jack White or Daniele Luppi) in such a manner that I would immediately go and look for this album and embrace it.

A good place to start with Spaghetti Western music would be Ennio Morricone who had his hands on several of these. Spaghetti Western films were being made in Europe, (typically in Italy) with the most famous of these filmmakers, Sergio Leone. The concept of a European making a movie about an American culture the American West, from the outset would seem illogical that the genre would catch on, but the American Western, up to this point, one of the most significant aspects within Hollywood is getting fairly cliché and boring.

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi bring upon a more modern contemporary view but with still giving a unique credibility to the music. I remember when I saw The Good, The Bad and the Ugly for the first time and thought what the fuck am I listening to? Thus, thinking about “Rome” this album within that mindset has always been comforting and welcome.

• Crystal Castles – Birds
• The National – Bitters and Absolut
• R.E.M. – Bittersweet Me
• Bob Dylan – Black Like Me

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Day 37 – He Was the One

October 27th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


The King of Pop.

The rise and fall of Michael Jackson has to be one of the greatest tragedies of my generation. Yes, I know that he is only a popstar but he was one that influenced millions with his music, changed culture as we know it.

Billie Jean is one of the greatest pop songs ever written. It’s provocative lyrics, dancing and presentation, in some ways make it almost X- Rated. For example, in the clip below from the 25th Anniversary of Motown, Jackson sticks his hand in his pocket and jerks it in such a fashion that you would think he is masturbating.

Michael Jackson circa Thriller, it’s probably a little racy for television. Michael Jackson circa 21st Century it’s a little weird as his world became more fantasy than reality. Yet this video is still iconic on

Growing up when Thriller was out, it was like Michael Jackson and everyone else. The level at which he commanded pop music was amazing from the moonwalk, the studded glove but also the cultural aspect of being black. I was and still am not much of a dancer. I think my moonwalk would be an embarrassment. My hips are permanently broken. I could best describe my dancing to be comparable to a drunk ostrich.

‘Thriller’ is fun during Halloween and ‘Beat It’ has got its charm but ‘Billie Jean’ was the true gem. The song, for being a #1 hit is pretty dark and depressing in a Copacabana-kind of way. Still there is a certain funky-sexual side as well. There is this underlying sexuality as well. The introduction lasting almost a half a minute creates this buildup, i.e. the moment she walks into the room. Of course, Jackson launches into a PSA about listening to his mother before the claims of fathering a child come up. Michael Jackson fathering a child?

Obviously there is the psychological aspect of writing a song like this, the pressures of pop-stardom this should have been a red flag. How do you account for the fact that there will be those that will do whatever is in their power to make claims against your character? The only place to go is to turn to Neverland.

That is the tragedy.

• Catherine Wheel – Bill and Ben
• Leonard Cohen – Bird on a Wire
• Grateful Dead – Bird Song
• Patti Smith – Birdland

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Day 36 – Sweetness I Was Only Joking

October 26th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


I have never taken much stock in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The idea that a body or group defines music on this level is not like a sports hall of fame which determines an athletes greatness on a more objective level. How do you define greatness? There are easy bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, which were enormous both in terms of record sales and musical influence. However, as music genres are created daily there always appears to be a certain credibility factor when discussing whether a progressive rock band or rap band deserves it’s plaque on a wall. Lastly, it is more of a promotional event for the likes of HBO who look at this as the opportunity that said band would play a couple token songs for the fans. This is big money when you consider that many of the bands that are entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been long since broken up and any reunion, albeit brief would be worth the money.

Cue The Smiths.

The Smiths were recently announced as one of the 15 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2016. The winners will be announced in December, which will be decided by a combination of fan’s ballots as well as music insiders. Whom those music insiders are has always been anyone’s guess. Yes, there is a chance that The Smiths could reform for a couple of songs on this evening. There is also a chance that the Chicago Bears will win the Super Bowl this year. Most of the issue with the Smith’s would be Morrissey’s current despising of half the band (Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce to be specific).

If there is anything that I can say about Morrissey is that he is an original. Having had the pleasure of seeing Morrissey live at an event that he didn’t fall ill weeks, days or even hours before the event is a miracle in itself. Whatever he might say in the media, he was a true gentleman, playing to the crowd, admitting the fact that he IS Morrissey and he can be a bit difficult, specifically when complimenting his backing band. I thought that this gave him a bit of bit of credibility in the fact that he understands who he is. This doesn’t mean that he can’t stick his foot in his mouth from time-to-time.

Of course it is common to see the roses and carnations thrown onstage. There were a couple fans during the encore which made their way to the stage to give him a hug. They were harmless, of course and all part of the act.

What I have always found intriguing, of course, are his choice of words, such as, from today’s selection, Bigmouth Strikes Again.

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said I’d like to smash every tooth
In your head

Oh sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking
When I said by right you should be
Bludgeoned in your bed

Of course the first defense of Morrissey is that he can always claim that this is not autobiographical whatsoever. But then he’s Morrissey and lets face it, he has not admitted later on that he was only joking. Yet, the song has a certain comedic nature to it all. The caricature of Morrissey for me has always been more about comedy than roses.

A sidebar on the Smiths/R.E.M.

As a fan of R.E.M., I think that many would’ve wanted to have been a fly on the wall the first time that Morrissey and Michael Stipe met one another. While Stipe’s lyrics never got that far, R.E.M. would be the band that I think, is most closely compared to when describing the 80’s college rock/alternative scene.

During the 80’s there was always a bias towards UK acts vs. American that existed and a healthy competitive spirit between both bands. Over time, much of that spirit has dissipated as Johnny Marr, who was part of Modest Mouse at the time was onstage during the Accelerate tour assisting on ‘Fall on Me’ which was something of an unexpected pleasure to see both Johnny Marr and Peter Buck on the stage at the same time. In terms of the similarities of both bands the Marr/Buck comparison is most noteable since they both played Rickenbackers.

I think that is why, in the endless debate over The Smiths’ contribution to music is that I have never taken him too seriously, that his comments and lyrics have a flair for the theatrical. The music was catchy, poppy and inventive. For the naysayers, the Queen is Dead, from which Bigmouth Strikes Again appears on is, still one of the top 10 records of the decade.

• Spacemen 3 – Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)
• The Kinks – Big Sky
• Yo La Tengo – Big Sky
• Ty Segall – Bike

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Day 35 – I Want To Ride My Bicycle

October 23rd, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


My apologies for the slight vacation in my posting schedule. A slew of events including baseball and a sore back was preventing me from sitting around and typing about rock and roll. The back is better, just requiring a little R&R. The baseball is almost over, with the local Cubs getting eliminated from contention last night.

Regarding the baseball: While my fandom lies with the White Sox on the South Side, there have been several factors which have prevented me from being a north side hater. While I realize that they are not my team, they put together an admirable season and have a young nucleus to build around. I think that for the most part the asshole quotient is very low.

As you grow older, have a Cub fan for a wife and have already experienced a championship on the South Side, bitterness is just selfishness and I would not want to wish that a north side fan not experience that emotion. So congratulations for a wonderful season.


Is there a band on the planet that exhibits more rock and roll than queen? Theatrical, bombastic, over-the-top. They’ve created a very unique niche for themselves within their music and presentation and have been considered parts of heavy metal, progressive, glam among other genres.

The song ‘Bicycle Race’, inspired by the Tour de France is featured on their album Jazz. Lyrically it’s simplistic and even a little comical in parts. The official video below features 65 nude girls riding bikes in a fictitious bicycle race.

Musically, the song changes tempo along the way and takes several twists and turns, pops a tire, gets replaced and finishes strong.

There has always been a healthy level of respect for Queen from yours truly, specifically because I think that it’s been difficult to pigeonhole them into one style of music. I think that they have also been hard to replicate. You can make comparisons to the multitude of bands that sound like the Beach Boys, Beatles or Led Zeppelin but how many can bring it musically like Queen?

• The Minders – Better Things
• Luna – Bewitched
• Belle & Sebastian – Beyond the Sunrise
• Guided By Voices – Big Chinese Restaurant

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Day 34 – It was Paradise

October 15th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


Whenever reviewing the solo career of Lou Reed, it’s an admittedly a hit and miss affair. ‘Transformer’ is probably his most popular, ‘Metal Machine Music’ is his most fucked up (this is a good thing btw) and ‘Berlin’ is his most underrated (or I should say underrated until very recently).

I think that there are a lot of reasons why it is underrated. For one, it is not Transformer, the glam rock masterpiece that had helped save his career.

Second, after his stunning output with the Velvet Underground that the critics had lofty expectations. If the expectation is that he is going to write about sex, drugs and depressing shit …


Oh wait, he did that with Berlin.

I remember around the first time that I heard this song was when I met him at a book signing in Chicago. There is no doubt that the meeting had an impact. I still remember the hexagon rimmed sunglasses with green lenses that he was wearing.

Berlin Wall had fallen almost 2 years to the date of meeting him so just the word Berlin still meant something since I was a child of the Cold War. It was not as if the song suddenly transported me to eating a jelly donut somewhere in the middle of Deutschland and finding a fraulein with a nice set of juggs to drink beer with. Or maybe it did. I think for Americans who grew up on McDonalds and Taco Bell, there is something romantic about a culture that has been established for hundreds of years, and being in that area and falling in love would have some type of merit.

The version of the song ‘Berlin’ on the album is several minutes shorter than the version that appeared on Lou Reed’s self-titled debut album. I have always favored the version the updated version for it’s subtle pauses and breaks that brought a ton more emotion to the performance itself. The song also sets the rest of the album up as Berlin, is a concept album based on a relationship gone really bad.

A VU Song like ‘Candy Says’ is depressing but endearing. A song like ‘The Kids’, especially being a parent, is your worst nightmare. When I was a teen, it was depressing but listenable, but now you cannot do it.

I have to admit to missing Lou Reed a little bit. I want him to come out with another ridiculous album like Lulu, or say something off the wall or at least be a fly on the wall when Lou Reed met Lester Bangs upstairs. Btw, this is what Lester had to say about Berlin:

What [“Berlin”] really reminds me of, though, is the bastard progeny of a drunken flaccid tumble between Tennessee Williams and Hubert (Last Exit from Brooklyn) Selby, Jr. It brings all of Lou’s perennial themes — emasculation, sadistic misogyny, drug erosion, twisted emotionalism of numb detachment from ‘normal’ emotions — to pinnacle.
It is also very funny – there’s at least one laugh in every song — but as in ‘Transformer,’ you have to doubt if the humor’s intentional. ‘Transformer’ was a masterpiece at least partially by the way it proved that even perverts can be total saps — whining about being hit with flowers, etc. — and this album has almost as many risible non sequiturs as that did: the heroine gets up from a beating and says that it’s ‘no fun… a bum trip,’ and the protagonist’s plaints draw a laugh just when they’re most spiteful.” – Lester Bangs, Creem magazine, December 1973

• Mike Watt – Belle Stabbed Man
• R.E.M. – Belong
• Unrest – Ben’s Chili Bowl
• Massive Attack – Better Things

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Day 33 – Do You Believe?

October 14th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


I was in dire straits. Day 33 had a very limited song list and was wondering if it was time to pull out and R.E.M. by numbers article. I considered going back a day and writing about the Velvet Underground’s ‘Beginning to See the Light’, after recent developments which suggested that Lou Reed wasn’t always a nice guy. People are just figuring this out now?

Yet, a small little gem made it’s way to the front of the list. A little-known band from Athens, GA, named Macha decided to come out with an album with Bedhead, a band that had at the time, had broken up to release an EP “Bedhead Loved Macha”.

Macha’s sound has been considered experimental post-rock but I have always felt that it’s influences lie in World Music.

Collaborations can be a sticky thing sometimes, and there is something very familiar with the sound on this EP. It’s lush and atmospheric sound will remind listeners of Yo La Tengo and My Bloody Valentine. The final track not so much.

Enter Cher.

For those of us living in the 21st Century we could make the argument that this is truly an artifact of the prior with the use of ringtones backed by a funeral organ to play a very somber version of Cher’s ‘Believe’. There is a definitive charm, something that feels perfect after a night of drinking and sitting in your living room with the lights turned down low at 2 am while trying to interpret the whirlwind of events of the evening.

For those of you interested in something a little bit more experimental and on the psychedelic side, I would definitely recommend Macha for whom I never thought got their fair shake.

• Low – Belarus
• Belle Stars – Sign of the Times

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Day 32 – Miles Standish Hates Bats

October 13th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


I have always felt that there was something larger going on as the chords to ‘Begin the Begin,’ introduced a new look R.E.M. This was not a band that was looking to continue the muttled fables of the southern reconstruction but understanding the role of a band and coming to terms with it. They were not storytellers but directing and leading.

Answer me a question, I can’t itemize
I can’t think clearly, look to me for reason
It’s not there, I can’t even rhyme, begin the begin

This is such a revealing moment in my opinion. Rock and roll is focused on musicians becoming the 20th century philosophers. Understanding the nuances of putting a couple chords together and several clever words makes you a sage, regardless of your age or background. I think that for several years it took the band to understand the emotional toll that this would take on the band.

It was only a year prior that the band was in the midst of a potential breakup. The Fables Era was noted as being a rough period for the band. They were recording an album in a foreign country, it was cold and there were questions on how the band would proceed.

Lifes Rich Pageant offers this social/political awareness that did not exist prior to this record and Begin the Begin is an anthem for the people. It’s energies are induced by the masses even with slight hints to Soviet Era Russia i.e. ‘Silence means security, silence means approval’ but identifies that the masses can own the power if they choose to do it.

For me, this was the point at which R.E.M. decided that they wanted to conquer the world.

On a final note:

Certain days have offered several worthy choices. I am not sure that I would feel entirely positive about this post if I were not to offer at least a couple of sentences of support of my favorite Bauhaus tune, ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, the nine and a half epic goth hit that’s going to be eventually make it’s way to my front yard in a week or so to prevent a certain holiday ‘All Hallows Eve’. (I have several handmade songs that make up our pop music graveyard.)

Beyond the song just exhibiting all the classic goth moments, I have always had a soft spot for Bela Lugosi in general. I imagine that from a child growing up in the 30’s that his portrayal of Dracula has to be legendary.

Yes, the bats have left the belltower.

• PJ Harvey – Before Departure
• R.E.M. – Begin the Begin
• Velvet Underground – Beginning to See the Light
• Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

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Day 31 – Beep Beep

October 11th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


I had heard a story that years ago in Athens, GA when R.E.M. was thinking of starting a band up, that a very shy and nervous Michael Stipe had walked up to Vanessa Briscoe, of the band Pylon for permission to start the band.

Now, I wonder what the world would have been like if Vanessa had declined this request. The truth was that Pylon was revered at this time in Athens, and Michael Stipe was a shy introverted artist-type.

Now maybe years later, if there wasn’t an Athens scene, that Pylon would be one of those forgotten bands, whose unorthodox dance sounds would have been a misplaced artifact.

‘Beep’ demonstrates that prototypical new wave sound that isn’t necessarily demonstrative of an amazing skill for the instrumentation but rather the stylistic inventions especially of Randy Bewley on guitar.

Like many Athens bands, Pylon was not out trying to change the world. They were just a bunch of art students in an emerging dance scene, figuring out their own quirky methods in how to engage bored students and playing shows. Their sound is just as fresh and inventive today as it was over 30 years ago.

• Moby – Beautiful
• St. Vincent – The Bed
• Lou Reed – The Bed (Live)
• Animal Collective – Bees

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Day 30 – A Wall Of Sound

October 9th, 2015 No comments

The continuing adventures of “Eric’s Trip Around the Sun”. One final trip with the iPod.


Musicians are a weird bunch. Out of all the artists that have been mentioned so far, I can admit that it is difficult to find many choirboys amongst the crowd. In the case of today’s story, it’s not the band that is concerning but rather the producer.

Phil Spector is a complicated man. He is currently serving 19 years to live for killing Lana Clarkson. He has been known to stick a gun in places where they probably shouldn’t be such as Leonard Cohen’s neck during the recording of “Death of a Ladies Man”. Talk about a weird partnership.

Yet, I think that you could make a good case that the Phil Spector produced ‘Be My Baby’ by the Ronettes, would have to be in one of the top 10 pop songs ever recorded. In fact, I think if it does not give you goosebumps listening to it then I would check your pulse.

The songs importance, of course, goes beyond just that of the it’s simple message but the means at which it was recorded. The Ronettes were being run at the time by Phil Spector who was incorporating his “Wall of Sound” approach to recording music.

The Wall of Sounds approach was fairly simple and that was to add several instruments in unison playing the same parts which in turn would create a fairly dense recording. ‘Be My Baby’, is the poster child for this recording technique. But while it is the most famous song, Spector’s technique was used with other artists as well as copied by plenty of others. The Beach Boys are the most obvious.

A pop classic.

• Woods – Be All Be Easy
• Massive Attack – Be Thankful For What You Got
• Yo La Tengo – Be Thankful for What you Got
• Belle & Sebastian – Beautiful

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