17 Great Songs if the Inauguration Made You See Red!!!!

A lot of people are happy… and even more are angry!!! The world in one day seems more divisive than ever. President Trump’s Inauguration hasn’t been a celebration but rather a clear indication of the deep divisions that separate people throughout the world. Although, now that I think about it, I’m not sure when politics were going all that smoothly. Watching the Women’s rights marches today reminds me of all the past protests over the years. Gender, sexuality, race, and war remain the themes and the only thing that ever changes are the people singing the songs. For those of you looking for a quick soundtrack to all the crap going on… here is one to add to your list.

Sonic Youth – Youth Against Fascism

With the first Gulf War (Iraq) as the background, Sonic Youth vent their frustration and overall hatred of the stupidity in their country. In what is almost a laundry list of issues and various assholes, Thurston Moore calls out poverty, racism, Judge Clarence Thomas, fascists, skinheads, the Christian right and finally, in their drop the mic moment, delivers a line for George Bush himself. “Yeah the President sucks / He’s a war pig fuck / His shit is out of luck / It’s the song I hate”.

Credence Clearwater Revival – Effigy

From the same record that spawned the much more popular anti-war tune “Fortunate Son”, deep cut “Effigy” is clearly the more desperate and impassioned younger brother. While the subject of the ‘burn’ is ambiguous, the emotional content is anything but. John Fogerty lets his voice trail and moan as he laments “The palace door / Silent majority weren’t keepin’ quiet anymore / Who is burnin’ / Effigy.” Watching protests world wide, this song always comes to mind.

Staples Singers – For What It’s Worth

Starting out as a more Gospel oriented band, by the 60’s the Staples Singers had joined the civil rights movement and their music reflected it. Something about this cover being stripped of Neil Young’s signature guitar and leaving only the Staples’ family vocals and Pops’ understated blues guitar make it powerful. Like a whisper, “For What It’s Worth” comes off more sorrowful than the angry original Buffalo Springfield classic. The result is that it demands your attention.

Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come

A virtual anthem of the civil rights era by one of the greatest voices to grace this planet, Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is both enlightening and heartbreaking simultaneously. Written as both a challenge and answer to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind”, Cooke’s classic seems more heartfelt and honest with its mixture of despair and gospel belief. To this day, it is impossible to listen to without goosebumps appearing on the skin and a need for tear suppression.

Green Day – American Idiot

You would think that the song and album would say it all, but the band really try to put it all out there in what would become a signature moment for the band. With the second Gulf War (Iraq) in the backdrop, Green Day takes a shot George W Bush and tries to antagonize his supporters with the lyrics “Maybe I’m the faggot America / Not a part of your redneck agenda.” They pulled the song out two days before the election at MTV EMA’s Awards in November changing the lyrics from “mind-fuck” to “Subliminal mind-Trump America.”

Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer – Redemption Song

Something about Cash and Strummer, both unknowingly not far from the grave themselves, singing about regret and not standing idly rings true. Bob Marley’s words (lifted from a speech by Marcus Garvey) “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” takes on a more significant meaning in the era of media hatred and laments that all news is fake news. Once you add the gravity of broken voices, it becomes that much more urgent. Of course, Marley himself was already suffering from cancer when he wrote this song and was quite reflective about the fragility of life.

The Dirtbombs – Living For The City

Stevie Wonder wrote “Living In The City” as a stroll through the failure of the American Dream. A place where people are casually left behind. The irony is that you need to really listen to the lyrics to catch the anger in the original, as Wonder plays up his pop sensibilities. The Dirtbombs cover leaves nothing ambiguous about it. Mick Collins’ garage/blues guitar lines and more ferocious vocal treatment bring this family story right into the moment. A song that was once angry becomes “livid.”

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Get Up, Stand Up

A tour of Haiti influenced Bob Marley to begin writing this anthem with Peter Tosh. The song was so important to the Wailers that differing versions would appear throughout the 1970’s. It appears first as a Wailers single, then a Bob Marley & the Wailers track, then a Peter Tosh solo single and finally as a solo performance by Bunny Wailer. It would eventually be the final song Bob Marley would play live before his death in 1981. Regardless of the performer, it’s meaning can’t be misinterpreted, and the warning to so-called leaders is obvious… “You can fool some people sometimes / But You Can’t fool all the people all the time”.

Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name

Between Tom Morello’s insane guitar work and Zac de la Rocha’s screams of pure anger “Killing In The Name” could make even Chuck Norris blush. Another song released in the Bush Sr years, Rage Against The Machine pull no punches in this expletive-filled song against institutional racism and police brutality. It’s kind of hard to miss the implication of lyrics “Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses.”  In the end, it’s a pretty simple message for both those ordered to do wrong, and those standing against it… “Fuck You! I won’t do what ya tell me!” repeat over and over folks.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Gaye may have been blessed with one of the sexiest damn voices on this earth, but he could also tell you just how fucked up the world really is at the same time. Rather than professing anger, Gaye goes for the high road as he tries to de-escalate problems with love. He too looks at “brutality” but suggests we move past it to love one another.

Hole – Plump

People have made a career going after Courtney Love. Yet in one fell swoop, she writes a song that is ambiguous enough to take on several meanings, and powerful enough to be one giant middle finger to media hysterics, the double standards and stupidity of slut shaming, body shaming and celebrity obsession. Who else could sing “I don’t do the dishes, I throw them in the crib” with both a wink and a snarl. It may indeed be a personal sounding protest, but it is a little more universal than most would admit. It’s brilliant!

Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA

After years of playing it as a rallying cry for jingoistic Republican rallies, now Trump fans are booing “Born In The USA”… I guess the songs’ true meaning is out. Not quite. Republican’s were just pissed “The Boss” was actively campaigning for Clinton. Despite it’s anthemic chorus, “Born In The USA” was and remains a powerful rebuke against nationalism and war.

Peter Gabriel – Biko

In a world that often looks at protesters as instigators of problems, people often forget the price that is paid for using your voice. “Biko” is one of the most powerful songs ever written about a man who was murdered for daring to fight for equality in his nation. Stephen Biko’s death in 1977 was the rock that started the avalanche towards the end of apartheid and Gabriel’s song helped focus the worlds’ attention on South Africa in 1980. As a reminder, he often ends concerts with it.

Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam

Like many protest songs, “Mississippi Goddam” was written in direct response to the worst of humanity. In this case, it was the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the later bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Simone laments about the slow pace of change while people die, “Alabama got me so upset / Tennessee made me lose my rest / And everybody knows about Mississippi goddam.” The song became a civil rights anthem. In fact, her next record Sings The Blues included a reply (“Backlash Blues”) to the backlash she received over “Mississippi Goddam”. She had no regrets because none were required.

The Clash – White Riot

Some idiots thought the Clash were trying to incite race riots with this song. Those people really missed the point. Instead Joe Strummer was telling white kids to protest for a real reason and do away with their misplaced angry bullshit. After watching the rhetoric fly in the election I find this song to be more relevant that ever. Lots of blame, but is it really directed where it should be? Don’t look at me for an answer… I’m just asking the question.

NWA – F*** Tha Police

People get upset when you put down “the boys in blue” but when a massive part of the population is afraid of them, there is a serious problem. NWA put the police straight into the middle of their musical crosshairs and let loose, finding the LAPD to be guilty of being a “redneck, white bread, chickenshit motherfucker.” Spend ten minutes watching the news and you’ll see that sentiment still rings true for minorities throughout the western world.

Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World

The only song I’ve included from 2016, it features the exact same themes carried from the socially conscious songs throughout the 20th century. Except that we are well into the second decade of the 21st century and the world requires new voices to keep singing. Kiwanuka highlights that despite the fact that many people view the world as having changed, it really hasn’t changed much at all. Worse, unlike Cooke, Gaye, Marley, and Simone, Kiwanuka’s song leaves one not with hope but resignation. I want to believe he’s wrong… but… optimism does seem in short supply these days.

Helen Reddy – I Am Woman

In the 21st Century, “I Am Woman” sounds almost cliché and rather obvious. It is a straight-forward list of equality and empowerment. It is almost embarrassing that this needed to be stated at all in 1972. Except that the current President of the United States of America has been caught saying that he can get away with grabbing women by the pussy because he is a rich celebrity. The embarrassment here is that 45 years after it achieved being a #1 single, it is still relevant. In fact, as I’m writing this more women are marching in Washington to protest the President’s antiquated sense of morality than people that actually showed up to celebrate his inauguration. Ouch!

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Not Afraid To Run With The Bulls or Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves

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Sometimes it’s just best to drop the whole genre tag and just say: “dude, it’s rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.” Langhorne Slim has elements of country, folk, soul and alt rock flowing through the speakers all at once, and like a good mixed drink, the end result is finer than any individual part. Slim boasts “I’m tough enough to run with the bulls,” and while my use of the metaphor is out of context with the songs, it does describe his song writing.

Slim is a bit of an eclectic master with themes of joy and misery intermingling with equal passion. Essentially, he is fearless in bending songs around multiple influences. Horns play on a number of tracks and in a different way each time. On “Spirit Moves” he uses them as a counter melody similar to Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring Of Fire” and then brings them back later for “Life’s A Bell” as a Memphis Horns/Stax/Otis Redding tool for emotional emphasis. With the ever present acoustic instruments some songs drift towards sounds reminiscent of Nick Drake and Cat Stevens but the album as a whole pulls everything back into that unique Langhorne Slim vision.

The Spirit Moves is filled with moments that seem both intimate and celebratory, resulting in a record that gives inspiring highs and tragic lows. As the needle rises off of side B, you find yourself flipping it back to side A for another listen… and things can’t get much better than that.

You can pick up The Spirit Moves on all the usual mediums or order it direct from Dualtone with extra swag. Unfortunately, the coke bottle green vinyl seems to be sold out.

 

Beyond Classic… Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard

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Some music transcends genres in both its artistry and influence. It stands out as a pillar that helps construct everything that comes after. This may sound like hyperbole but when it comes to those artists in the 1950’s that built the foundations of what would be both today’s popular music and rock ‘n’ roll, most descriptions come off as mere euphemisms.

One can point at Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and a few others and pontificate for days about the significance of these artists. Yet they may never capture the real depth and importance.

Then you have Little Richard.

It just isn’t enough to say he laid down the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll, because he works on so many more levels. It’s rock, r&b, soul, funk,  and subsequently how pop music has sounded for the last 60 years.

When I listen to Richard I hear Motown and Stax a couple years before they even existed. I see Elton John’s glitter, James Brown dance and the Ramones screaming out a four count. Oh and let us not even get started on the all out performance.

This is why I say that this record is beyond classic.

Had Richard’s not left Rock ‘n’ Roll for religion immediately following this record, his reputation might very well have risen into the upper echelon of “Rock Gods”, instead of a guy standing around  schlepping fast food deals for Taco Bell.

Forget for a moment that Rolling Stone has this album ranked at #50 in it’s top 500 all-time, and that it made the list of 1001 Albums you must hear before you die. The only important thing is the music itself.

This album is early rock at its most powerful and a blue print to almost every sub-genre off rock since. Yes, it is that good.

Luckily, it is readily available across all formats right now with new re-mastered vinyl editions being released just back in December 2014.

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You can pick up a 180 gram black vinyl edition at your better record retailers, or a limited edition opaque orange (only 500 copies made) copy here.

Playlist March 15/15

Here it is… A Playlist out on the Day I planned for…

Playlist #3 – March 15/15

Enjoy!

  1. “FOH” – Superchunk

I wrote about them and this song a couple weeks back. It’s the kind of tune that has such a good ‘riff’ that the lyrics cease to matter, which isn’t a bad thing considering it is a bit of an inside nod to music techs (roadies) and crews. Still, you just gotta love that fan made video.

  1. “Have Love Will Travel” – The Sonics

Was reading Paste (I think) a while back, and there was this playlist for the 50 Best Garage Rock Songs ever. This was the number one song on the list and they put forth a really damn good argument for this being the first punk band ever. Regardless, I’m looking to by this stuff on vinyl now.

  1. “Happy Ways” – Joe Walsh

While this song appears on a Joe Walsh record, it is actually the band Barnstorm and doesn’t feature Walsh on vocals at all. It also stands way outside his usual work in terms of song construction. Each piece of the band has stand out moments in this tune that was said to be influenced by music coming north from Mexico to California.  To my ears, this song stands out as rather timeless and I always imagine it being covered by an eight or ten piece band with horns.

  1. “Evangeline” – Matthew Sweet

Like everything on Girlfriend there is a sense of playful desperation hidden within this quest for love. Sweet’s characters never quite get it right, but remain optimistic somehow. Perhaps it is naivety that keeps things light, or just the nature of this record, but a couple decades after its release it still seems to hold its youthful soul.

  1. “Rhiannon” – Best Coast

Somehow Best Coast manages to sweep away the entire ethereal mystic evening nature of this song and turn it into a Sunday stroll on the beach. Weird thing is, it actually works. Rather than ‘Rhiannon drifting into the sunset, she seems to skip away to play in the waves. It’s a different interpretation unlike anything I would have expected. Very Cool!

  1. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” – Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick & Richard O’Brien

Despite being an important part of a large picture, I love this song as a standalone piece. It captures my imagination and just makes me all warm inside. Buy vinyl here.

  1. “Fade Into You” – J. Mascis

A most amazing cover of the Mazzy Star classic, it was the single that got away last Black Friday/Record Store Day.  Having never given up on it, it may make it into my collection at some point… soon.

  1. “Hannah & Gabi” – The Lemonheads

The first cover song I learned how to play on my beaten up old 12 string a few years back. Just a simple little song about loves lost and the confusion found as relationships end. Honest in that it really finds no resolution.

  1. “Brill Bruisers” – The New Pornographers

Saw these guys do a quick set down at Sugar Beach in September. They did an awesome cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” along with the title track from their amazing record Brill Bruisers.

  1. “California Sun” – The Ramones

What can I say, my kids were Watching Curious George (sequel) the other day and this song was a big part. Besides, I’ll use any excuse to include the Ramones on every mix I do.

  1. “Baby Six String” – Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy is on my bucket list of bands to see before I go the way of the Dodo. All it took was one listen to their debut Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons back in 1999 to make me a forever fan. “Baby Six String” is from their 2003 eponymous record, and rumour is, a new album and tour will be happening soon. Check them out.

  1. “The Root” – Kim Deal, Morgan Nagler

Something about Kim Deal has always screamed “coolest person on the planet” to me. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Pixies, the Breeders or her solo stuff, there is always an element of some twisted riff that makes you want to pogo all over the dance floor. Love that she’s selling vinyl singles from her own web site.

  1. “Hailing A Cab In Hell” – Viva Viva

Couldn’t resist putting these guys on after Kim Deal… I mean come on, they have an ep called What’s The Kim Deal?, how could I resist? Besides, they’re heavy garage ‘riff-age’ gets me throwing my hair around every time.

  1. “Whenever You See Me” – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

When three young brits sound both out of time and modern at the same time, you have a pretty awesome combination. Style jumping and instrument swapping can make them a little hard to pin down, but it sure is fun to try.

  1. “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” – Johnny Cash

My dad and I didn’t agree on much… pretty much nothing… except that Johnny Cash was frickin fantastic.

  1. “10 Million” – Gina Villalobos

Another artist on my bucket list, I became a fan the first time I heard her play this song. Ever since I’ve been ordering stuff direct from her sight – here.

  1. “I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

‘Alt-country’ before the term went both in and out of style, this song is from their best album Tomorrow The Green Grass. Oddly they were Minneapolis peers of Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Replacements.

  1. “Skyway” – The Replacements

Just a beautiful song for a cloudy day, by a band that helped create the whole ‘alt-rock’ movement of the 90’s. Legendary!

  1. “Committed” – Jenny & Jonny

A fun album of duets by the boyfriend/girlfriend combo… it doesn’t feel like duets at all, but rather a bunch of great songs with two individual vocalists having a great time doing harmony together.

  1. “Thorn In Her Pride” – King Khan and the Shrines

As far as I’m concerned, this would be the band I’d want to play at a very large party. They rock, they swing, and they make you want to dance.