Thursday, June 22, 2006

iPod log 1

You've been asking yourselves, "When does the really self-absorbed stuff begin?" Relax. Here we go.

My wife gave me an iPod nano for my 60th birthday. I spent several weeks loading 566 pieces of music onto it. Some early choices were rejected and others added to stay within its 2GB capacity. For now, it holds as nearly as possible (some favorites of mine couldn't be copied off CDs or bought through iTunes) a definitive collection of music I like. I have it set to play in random order, and shuffle the order after each recharge. I've noticed that the iPod seems to have some sort of internal intelligence, choosing pieces to follow others in an order that seems to make sense.

I've decided to keep an occasional log of what my iPod plays as I go to and from work, and to share that log, with some observations on my musical choices, with you, my readers. So, here's my log for Friday, June 23:

1. Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations." It's on there to remind me of the adrenaline rush I got from falling in love many years ago.

2. T. Rex, "Ride a White Swan." What can I say? I'm an Anglophile, and almost as big a Tolkien fan as my daughter. Besides, the song mentions Beltane, a Celtic holiday on which I once gave a particularly wild party during my bachelor Village days. (Had Marc Bolan not died in a car crash, I'm sure he'd be playing some part in the Harry Potter movies.)

3. The Who, "Pinball Wizard." We're really in a late '60s groove here. OK, early '70s -- to me, the '60s didn't end until Nixon resigned, or maybe until the fall of Saigon.

4. Link Wray and the Wray-Men, "Raw-Hide." A break back to the 1950s, and to the pioneer of heavy metal guitar, who figured out how to create reverb using rusty garbage cans.

5. Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, "Footprints in the Snow." Eleven years ago this summer, my wife and I attended a free outdoor concert by Bill Monroe at Damrosch Park, next to Lincoln Center. After several numbers, Bill, then 83, said, "Clap louder, y'all. You want us to be invited back next year, don't you?" Next year, he was gone.

6. John Stewart, "July, You're a Woman." Stewart first came to fame when he replaced Dave Guard in the Kingston Trio. After he left the Trio, he made a magnificent solo album, California Bloodlines. This is one of my favorite cuts from that album. "And I have not been known/ As the saint of San Joaquin,/ And I'd just as soon, right now,/ Pull on over to the side of the road,/ And show you what I mean."

7. Doc Watson, "Wabash Cannonball." I love trains. I love this song. Some serious railfans don't like it because it has the train going lots of places the real Cannonball never even got near. I just enjoy the ride.

8. Grateful Dead, "Friend of the Devil." Rock critics hate this band. Typical rock critic joke: "What did one Deadhead say to the other after they ran out of dope? 'This music sucks!'" I like some of their stuff, even without chemical augmentation.

9. Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land." The Smithsonian/Folkways recording, without the "Commie" verse.

10. Poco, "Here We Go Again." From Crazy Eyes, one of three albums (the others are the Emmylou Harris/Dolly Parton/Linda Ronstadt Trio and U2's The Joshua Tree) said to have been made as memorials to Gram Parsons. (The Stones' "Wild Horses" is a memento vivendi, as it was written and released before Gram's fatal encounter with a speedball.)

11. Bob Marley, "Trench Town Rock." Vintage Marley, before fame and overproduction ruined him. "You reap what you sow."

12. Beach Boys, "I'd Love Just Once to See You." From the underrated Wild Honey album. "When was the last time you baked me a pie?" Splendiferous.

13. The Chieftains, "The Morning Dew." A frequently played fixture on the Bells of Hell's jukebox, and, therefore, part of the soundtrack of many of my Village bachelor evenings.

14. Bruce Springsteen, "Johnny 99." From Nebraska, his dark, acoustic foray into Charlie Starkweather territory.

15. The Contours, "Do You Love Me?" I'll never forget my high school friend, Bill Broach, telling me how, whenever his band got to the line, "Watch me now, hey!", he'd do a rim shot and break his drumstick.

16. Little Feat, "Oh, Atlanta!" I loved this band, and still light a candle for Lowell George every year. A George-less version of the group is doing a free outdoor concert at Battery Park City later this summer. If I can, I'll check it out, but my hopes aren't high.

17. The Who, "Magic Bus." The studio version, which I may decide to replace with the version from Live at Leeds.

18. John Fogerty, "Centerfield." The epitome of American can-do spirit. "Put me in, Coach!"

19. Fotheringay, "Peace in the End." A prayer for peace in Northern Ireland, performed by three Brits, an Aussie and a New York City native. Great harmonies by wife and husband team Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas. "I've seen them stand at the top of the hill,/ And none of them coming down,/ But who will be the last one to kill,/ And who will be the clown?"

20. George Jones, "I Can't Get Over What Loving You Has Done." He was the unrivaled master of the agony-of-divorce song and the blighted-love-has-driven-me-to-drink song. This is a song of sublime joy, and he did it so well.

21. Dirty Dozen Band, "Li'l Liza Jane." From a Rhino anthology called New Orleans Party Classics. Hot Dixieland with great scat singing.

22. Fairport Convention, "Percy's Song." I discovered this during my last year of law school. I was walking past my classmate John Lovett's dorm room when I first heard Sandy Denny's voice. The door was open, and I called out to John, "Who's that?" "Fairport Convention," he said. There began my many years' love affair with this group, which climaxed with my attendance at their Carnegie Hall concert in 1975. Here, they take a little-known Dylan song -- one that I've never heard Dylan perform -- and turn it into something akin to Anglican chant. Awesome.

23. The Tarriers, "The Banana Boat Song." Long before there was reggae, there was calypso. This is from 1957, when a bunch of white guys from New York did a credible job of singing about loading bunches of bananas. Personal aside -- I met Erik Darling, who was with this group and later with the Rooftop Singers of "Walk Right In" fame, at a party in 1975 (a big year for me musically), and got to harmonize with him to the accompaniment of his twelve string guitar.

24. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Flint Hill Special." In 1972, NGDB, a bunch of L.A. hippies, went to Nashville and recorded with some of country's greats, including Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis and Doc Watson. The resulting double album, Will the Circle be Unbroken, is breathtaking. This cut, a slashing bluegrass instrumental, features Earl Scruggs on banjo, his son Randy on guitar, Norman Blake on dobro, Vassar Clements on fiddle and Junior Huskey on bass, along with Dirt Band members Jimmie Fadden on harp, Les Thompson on mandolin and Jim Ibbotson on snare.

25. Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, "Cruisin'." Bad boy rockabilly from Norfolk, VA, about 1957. "Cruisin' for a bruisin' ...".

26. Great Speckled Bird, "Flies in the Bottle." In 1968-69, iconic Canadian folkies Ian and Sylvia joined with some young rock musicians from Ohio and formed a group named for a country music classic. I saw them perform in Boston in the fall of '69, while in the company of a pretty lass from Vancouver whose name, alas, I've forgotten. This cut features a nice vocal by Ian, jazzy in a north-of-the-border kind of way.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Queen Mary 2 again.

Here she is as she appears, while at her berth, from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.