Anyone who follows me on Instagram or has had a conversation with me in the last 5 months knows: I have a new life and it is roller skating. 🛼 I’m still pretty bad at it, but I’ve come a long way from the first few weeks, in which every attempt ended with me on the ground with a new bruise. (I still fall a lot, but my falls have gotten a lot more controlled. :P) Lately I’ve been practicing front-to-back transitions, crossovers, and heel toe manuals.
Up until recently, my inspiration has come in the form of internet strangers, mostly rhythm skaters and park skaters who post short form videos on Instagram and Reddit. But now, thanks to some magical combination of search terms on YouTube, I’ve entered a dangerous rabbit hole of choreographed skate routines performed by some of my favorite actors from the 1930s and 1950s.
Behold, vintage skate inspo.
Fred and Ginger in Shall We Dance:
Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times:
Charlie also has a really good skating scene in The Rink from 1916, maybe one of the first ever appearances of roller skates on film??
Donald O’Connor in I Love Melvin (the STAIRS 😱!):
…and my personal favorite routine, Gene Kelly in It’s Always Fair Weather (it’s like skate park ballet!):
I think the title of that ^ song, though corny, is a fairly accurate representation of what skating has done for my self-esteem. I was definitely going through some kind of low-key identity crisis before trying roller skating. And even though I still have trouble with confidence most of the time, I like who I am on skates, so I try to be that person as often as possible!
The sucky thing about having a (mostly) classic rock blog is that you find yourself doing a lot of r.i.p. posts. Many of my favorite artists are in their 80s now, and it’s easy to fool myself into thinking they’re immortal. Especially when they’re still reviewing doobies on Twitter during their last week on earth. But alas, I knew something was up when a friend of mine posted a flurry of David Crosby-bashing-the-Doors tweets on his Instagram story, which—in a way I can’t explain—instantly told me all I needed to know.
So in honor of Croz, I’ve pulled out a CSNY classic:
Quick side note: I don’t remember where we got this album, but it’s a promo copy with “KERS” written in blue sharpie on either side of the record. From what I can tell, KERS was a student-run radio station at Sacramento State in the late 60s/70s. Cool! Our copy is definitely a little worse for wear, but luckily this is one of those albums that benefits from the static pops. (And uhhh, at the risk of sounding like a weirdo, I LOVE the smell of the inner gatefold, it very distinctly reminds me of my mom’s high school yearbooks from the same era.)
Anyway, onward to the B-side!
“Déjà Vu” – 4:10
“Our House” – 2:59
“4 + 20” – 1:55
“Country Girl” – 5:05
“Everybody I Love You” – 2:20
We start things off with the title track, written by the late great David Crosby. The introductory jam and in-your-face vocals send you right into the stratosphere, then the pace slows almost immediately and you proceed to drift through clouds of Beach Boyesque vocal riffs, spacey electric guitar, and tasty bass (ok Greg Reeves!). “Déjà Vu” feels like a semi-uncomfortable glimpse into David’s headspace at the time….the internet informs me his girlfriend Christine Hinton had died in a car accident during the making of the album, which contributed to his detachment and substance abuse. I feel like there’s a lot to unpack with this song, but we don’t quite get enough time to do it!
Next, “Our House” turns Graham Nash into the Paul McCartney of CNSY, with this catchy little Brit-pop vignette. It’s about his relationship with Joni Mitchell, who I’m pretty sure he was living with when they started recording the album and was broken up with by the time they’d finished (who got custody of the cats??). Goodness. Considering how much heartbreak was going on in their personal lives, CSNY sure did make a fine album out of it.
SPEAKING OF HEARTBREAK, “4 + 20” is a quite the depressing story (nothing to do with marijuana, btw), this one coming from Stephen Stills. I mentioned earlier that it’s hard for me to pay attention to lyrics, but props to Stephen for making me actually pay attention upon first listen: Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed / I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head. “4 + 20” is just a single vocal and a guitar for a little over two minutes, and it packs a punch.
With a name like “Country Girl” and opening chords like that, we all know who wrote the next one. 🙃 It’s technically three songs in one but they’re all from the same cloth: “Whiskey Boot Hill”, “Down, Down, Down”, “Country Girl (I Think You’re Pretty)”. If I can admit, this is probably my least fave out of the bunch. Neil songs just kinda get too plodding for my taste, sometimes. But the harmonies are great and the organ+harmonica buildup at the end is so very epic.
“Everybody I Love You” is that late 60s sound I love so much. Bright electric guitar, driving bass, tasteful organ, and a wall of vocal harmonies singing about loving everybody. It’s the perfect closing song to the album, and to the 1960s. I love it and I have nothing more to say about it.
I guess I can see how the somewhat depressing B-side of Déjà vu would get overshadowed by the A-side, which is basically 5 iconic songs in a row, feat. steel guitar from Jerry Garcia and songwriting from Joni Mitchell. But honestly I think the B-side is a very honorable embodiment of CSNY’s talents (I say this without being very knowledgeable of the CSN/Y canon, but from a casual’s point of view it’s just a great collection of songs!). Yes, the themes are dark, but I’m glad these four guys (and their muses) could channel it into such a masterful album.
I’ll finish this off with some supplementary David Crosby material. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two times I saw him on stage: once with CSN at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show in 2009 (really crossed a lot off my list with that one) and again with CSNY at the Bridge School Benefit Concert in 2013. One of my lasting memories of that Bridge School concert was seeing David standing at the side of the stage watching the band fun. as they performed their acoustic set. I’m sure he had a tweet-worthy opinion of them, and who knows if it was scathing or complimentary, but I’ve respected how in-tune he’s always been with artists new and old. You know he’s at least listened enough to have an opinion on them.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this lovely performance of “Guinnevere” by Croz and Chris Thile:
Earlier this month we got a suspicious-looking “California Middle Class Tax Refund” debit card in the mail, which we were not expecting and looked an awful lot like a scam, but turns out was real! Apparently it’s some kind of inflation relief payment to balance out the ridiculous cost of living in California? If being middle class means getting the occasional random debit card in the mail, I’ll take it. 🤷🏻♀️
So, what to do with that extra cashhhhh?
….buy records, duh.
I ended up at Stranded Records on a very rainy Sunday last weekend, picking out a few new albums for the collection: Mike Bloomfield’s It’s Not Killing Me, the eponymous Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and ol’ Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like An Eagle. The latter is going to be our B-side of the day, because that’s what I felt like listening to when I got home:
“Take the Money and Run” – 2:50
“Rock’n Me” – 3:05
“You Send Me” – 2:42
“Blue Odyssey” – 1:00
“Sweet Maree” – 4:16
“The Window” – 4:19
My nostalgic obsession with Steve Miller Band is thanks to the famous Greatest Hits 1974-78 album, which is one of the earliest CDs I can remember listening to as a kid. I must’ve found it in my dad’s collection, been intrigued by that Blucifer-looking mustang on the cover and put it on repeat for a good…five years? Anyway, the first song on this B-side, “Take the Money and Run”, has a prime spot on the greatest hits album, and listening to it takes me right back to 5th grade weekends hanging out in the garage with my best friend Bondy, seeing who could go fastest on the treadmill while blasting this song from the stereo. “Take the Money and Run” was and will always be a banger, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
“Rock’n Me” is right there in the same boat, a Greatest Hit that has accompanied many a road trip since those early days. Don’t ask me what the song is about—making money? making love? making money for love?—but I’m always down for lyrics that list a bunch of cities (“PhilaDELphia Atlanta LA!”) in seemingly random order. (“Noooorthern California” girls I don’t associate with being “warm” but sure, whatever you say Steve!)
“You Send Me” is a Sam Cooke cover and it’s lovely. First off, I am tickled to learn that this phrase dates back to at least 1957. It, dare I say?, sends me. The SMB version is also (according to a quick Google search) one of the earliest songs to use sampling, even though I don’t really see the purpose of injecting some questionable Cheech & Chong dialogue into what is otherwise a very nice song introduction. Side note: the Sam Cooke documentary on Netflix was a very interesting watch.
Lest we think Steve M. is venturing too far into radio hits on this side of the record, “Blue Odyssey” goes pure space rock and “Sweet Maree” bring us back to his roots in the blues. I hadn’t heard this one and I think it’s a highlight of the B-side: love that interlude with the ambling harmonica and lead guitar! “The Window” is pretty bluesy too, maybe influenced by a late-60s SF acid trip or two. It has kinda cringey lyrics, and that Miller melisma gets kinda old after a while, but it’s a decent album closer.
Anyway, looking at the track listing, I prefer the B-side to the A-side. “Fly Like An Eagle” is a classic, sure, but I’ll never not be able to associate it with USPS commercials. And I was never really a fan of “Dance, Dance, Dance”. I’m realizing now it’s kind of silly that I don’t have the Greatest Hits album on vinyl, since it’s still one of my favorites. But this album (and the B-side alone) definitely fills that gap until I can find it.
For my next B-side, I’m doing a Stevie classic, Talking Book. Not gonna lie, I chose this album in part because I was searching for something Jeff Beck-related after the news last week. Turns out we need more Jeff in our collection, but the search led me here, which I’m not mad about.
“Superstition” – 4:26
“Big Brother” – 3:35
“Blame It on the Sun” – 3:28
“Lookin’ for Another Pure Love” – 4:45
“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” – 4:48
Alright, everybody knows “Superstition”. If, in 1972, someone accidentally played the B-side of Talking Book first, I imagine they’d be forgiven for thinking they were hearing one of the dopest album openers in existence. (Also, there’s something very charming about the clavichord becoming an accessory to funk in the 1970s, in the form of the Clavinet.) As the story goes, this song was a collab with Jeff Beck, who released his own version a year later. I was looking up live versions and remembered that incidentally, Lauren and I saw Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck perform this song live at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert in NYC, which apparently I never documented on this blog??? Well, it happened, and I can’t believe I nearly forgot (in my defense, it was a very long night).
In a notable transition to “Big Brother”, the funk dissolves into a serene Clav-djembe(?)-harmonica groove. My initial listens of a song/album are always more focused on instrumentation and general mood, and not lyrics. So yes, I get this is social commentary (You’ve killed all our leaders / I don’t even have to do nothing to you / You’ll cause your own country to fall), but it’s also just such a chill vibe. I really dig it.
“Blame It on the Sun” is the first song on the flip side that doesn’t sound so…70s?…for lack of a better descriptor. Well, there’s some spooky cosmic synth floating around in the background for the second half of the song, but the melody and sentiment still seem timeless. This was co-written with Syreeta Wright, who was married to Stevie Wonder at the time and by the sound of things here, getting ready for a separation. 😬
Oh hai Jeff! Beware of sexy guitar in “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love”. How does one go about identifying the guitar somebody used in a recording? (If it’s not obvious, I am not a Guitar Person!) I read on the internet that Jeff was mostly a Strat guy, but some of these licks have a very Les Paul quality to my untrained ear, and I wish I could verify that. Anyway, I love Stevie’s hype in the solo – “do it Jeff!” Lyrically, this is a natural progression from “Blame It on the Sun”; I didn’t expect to be getting so many breakup songs in this half-album!
“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” has unmistakable End of Album Anthem energy, although it’s not as over-the-top as a lot of the rock and gospel songs it probably inspired. 4 minutes in, though, and it’s pretty great to be hearing layer upon layer of Stevie: vocals, keyboards, Moog, drums, everything else. And instead of giving us a big sweeping outro at the end, he injects a good dose of funk before the fadeout, which I appreciate very much.
Talking Book is an album I wasn’t too familiar with, so it was interesting to come in and listen to half of it without much context. But these 5 songs make up a lovely mini-album…each one with its own distinct but genuine mood.
What’s next? Who knows – I might take a trip to the record store later today though. 👀
If you hadn’t noticed (and why would you?), I recently removed the personal/professional part of this site and transferred it elsewhere. There were two main reasons for this: 1) I was tired of constantly switching between using my personal domain and blog URL—which, up until last month, both led to the same place—depending on the context (“well what the h*ck is it, a blog or a portfolio??” my inner brand manager kept yelling at me, as I switched my website link on Twitter from fliptherecord.blog to nikkicollister.com for the seventeenth time), and 2) I miss the days of having a plain ol’ blog; it’s just more fun (see also: my newest 11ty experiment, a winter break project). Oh and I guess 3) I recently signed up with bringback.blog and this made things a little easier.
So, anyway, welcome (back) to Flip the dang Record. This is gonna be a blog because that’s what it’s always been.
In celebration, I’m going to take the name quite literally and embark on a new little project, at least for the month of January: B-sides and side twos, baby! For every record I pull from the shelf, I’m going to start with side two, and write a little mini review. Why side two? Why not? It’s the type of nostalgic, hipster thing you can only do with vinyl or cassettes. I see it as a new way of listening to some of my favorite albums, and will be an interesting approach to those I’m not that familiar with.
But first, no fewer than THREE disclaimers:
On one hand, I recognize that some would consider this an act of sacrilege. I get it; I am also of the old school opinion that that albums should be listened to in full, each track in the exact place it was intended. But on the other hand, I’ve listened to so many of these albums so many times that mayyyybe this deliberate deconstruction will present a new perspective or two. I know that my attention inevitably wanes as an album goes on, I can’t help it. Shouldn’t it be just as exciting when you flip the record (see what I did there?) and put the needle on side two??
My record collection is evolving, but obvi still leans heavily towards classic rock. There are lots of Beatles albums, Beatles solo albums, Beatles-adjacent albums, Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. etc. And a disproportionate amount of Michael Nesmith. BUT, thanks to a husband whose musical tastes don’t always overlap with mine, hopefully I’ll be exploring some records outside of my classic rock bubble.
I’m not a music critic and I’m not even very good at casually writing about music. I know many people whose musical observations and opinions are a thousand times more interesting than mine—I’d much rather see them do this than me. But I’m the one who signed up for the blog challenge and has the spare time, so you’re stuck with me!
To start us off, I’ve chosen Hearts and Bones by Paul Simon. The title track has been the soundtrack of our lives recently, thanks to Alex’s recent guitar goals. It’s always been one of my favorite songs, now even more so! But of course it’s an A-side affair. Let’s jump right into the B-side!
“Think Too Much (a)” – 3:05
“Train in the Distance” – 5:11
“René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War” – 3:44
“Cars Are Cars” – 3:15
“The Late Great Johnny Ace” – 4:45
Ok first of all, “Think Too Much (a)” is very enjoyable for me, personally. I love hearing it without the context of “Think Too Much (b)” from the first half of the album. (Also, no idea why the A-side version is called (b) and the B-side version is (a)….what a funny way to start this whole thing off.) Anyway, this track stands firmly on its own. Lyrically, it is not one of Paul’s finest (maybe blindfold her / and take her away….can’t decide if this is sinister or romantic; either way, “(b)” paints a more interesting picture). But sonically, it’s a fun little jaunt! I like the backing vocals (sorry Artie, I heard this was originally your job), and the unexpected synth swells behind the “elephant dance” line. From one overthinker to another, I dig it.
In the car we have a Paul Simon hits CD in heavy rotation called Negotiations and Love Songs, which gets its name from “Train in the Distance”, our next track. Unfortunately this one suffers from being further down in the track listing, both on Hearts and Bones and the compilation album. But when it’s among the first songs you’re hearing in the day, “Train in the Distance” is a very lovely song, in its own quiet way. It’s obviously a personal story (about Paul’s first wife Peggy, I assume) which appeals to the unabashed autobiography-loving side of me. It also has that excellent Rick Tee Rhodes sound from this era, and the calmly devastating lyrics the thought that life could be better / is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.
“René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War” always felt like a questionable inclusion on the aforementioned hits CD, but just like “Train in the Distance”, it’s easier to appreciate when it’s not stacked up against your Kodachromes and Gracelands. And, having gone to the Magritte Museum in Brussels (recommended!), I can say that I enjoy the subject matter of this quirky little tune. The Harptones provide the catchy doo wop groove in the chorus, one of at least two 1950s callbacks PS deploys on this B-side. Most excitingly, I did not know until today that a Magritte-inspired music video exists for this song, feat. Carrie Fisher, whom most of the album is about.
“Cars Are Cars”. Could this be the least Paul Simon-sounding song in existence?? It’s become a meme in our household, and I’m just now realizing how much we feel the need to inform each other that indeed, cars are cars (all over the world). I could see this being a song that triggers some epiphany if you’re high enough (people are strangers / they change with the curve…they stand on their differences / and shoot at the moon….BUT CARS ARE CARS). Maybe it’s just a matter of time before I see the light.
OH wow, talk about a quick transition right into “The Late Great Johnny Ace”. So, this song is always my skip track when watching/listening to The Concert in Central Park (the combination of unnerving chord progression + the guy storming the stage stresses me out), which has unfortunately seeped into my overall impression of the song. But now, reading the lyrics from the liner notes as the B-side wraps up, I’m getting surprisingly emotional listening to it. It’s a tribute to both Johnny Ace and John Lennon (written 1981), and just a beautiful piece of storytelling. TIL the coda was composed by Philip Glass! Unmistakable, now that I’ve read it. The whole vibe of this song is uneasy, unfinished, and a really compelling way to end an album.
I’ll probably go back and edit this later, but now it’s time to eat dinner! Bye!
Ok, so there’s a one-second part of The Electric House that is one of my favorite Buster Keaton visuals of all time. The scene: Buster’s sitting on the kitchen floor, perplexed about his malfunctioning “smart house”, when the robotic dishwasher starts flinging dinnerware across the room. He notices a plate flying overhead and gets up to see what’s going on. As he stands, a plate hits him in the back of the head and shatters, and when he turns around, another hits him square in the face, shattering perfectly, knocking him off his feet. That split second is the bit I love: the way his head takes the impact and his feet lift off the ground—it’s the kind of move that only seems possible in cartoons, but at the same time it’s so wonderfully graceful and real. It’s the very last shot before a hard cut to the next scene (in which he’s inexplicably running in place on a spinning dining room table), but it’s such a perfect example of Buster’s physical comedy and timing.
The scene, extracted from the full movie on YouTube:
We got to see that ^ moment and about a hundred other exquisite Buster pratfalls at the Castro Theater yesterday as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. They were showing three Buster shorts: The High Sign, The Electric House, and The Goat (the theme was “Buster’s Mechanized Mayhem”). I relish seeing silent movies in the theater with live music, but I especially love watching slapstick, which gives you permission to laugh out loud with 500 other people in a dark theater, the silliness of the gags compounding on top of each other, getting funnier and funnier.
A couple other favorite moments:
The banana peel “gag” in The High Sign, in which the villain finishes a banana (a callback from an earlier gag involving a dim-witted cop whose gun has been replaced by a piece of produce), then drops the peel on the sidewalk, waiting for Buster to come around the corner. If you’re like me, watching this scene, there’s a split second where you wonder if this one of the first ever banana peel slips, a novel concept before it became one of the most familiar gags in slapstick. You prepare yourself to laugh, thinking about the 1921 audiences who may have been seeing it for the first time on screen, or at least seeing Buster trip on a banana peel for the first time, trying to put yourself in their shoes. Then Buster rounds the corner and STEPS DIRECTLY ONTO BANANA PEEL, keeps walking, and flashes the “high sign” while looking stealthily at the camera. I’ve seen this scene before and I was STILL caught off guard. The moment everyone in the theater realized we got fooled and erupted into laughter was when I actually did feel transported back in time, right back in the shoes of the 1921 audience. He gottem back then, and got us again 101 years later.
(Alex’s favorite gag from The High Sign was the never-ending newspaper, which I love for its near-obsolescence. It made me wonder what kinds of gags Buster could make out of smartphones, smart homes, self-driving cars, etc. He’d have a field day!)
I hadn’t seen The Goat before (more like The GOAT, amirite?) so one of my favorite parts was when Buster escaped from the cops on a train. The image of the train pulling up with Buster sitting deadpan on the pilot is iconic, and I never knew where it was from! The whole theater cheered and clapped at that point, which made my heart swell. Buster standing up and lighting his cigarette on the boiler (yes, I most definitely had to google “parts of a locomotive” for this paragraph) was the icing on the cake. Timeless, effortless swagger.
My favorite of the three was definitely The High Sign, but all had excellent moments. The Castro Theater is enormous and magnificent—plenty of room for an accompanying live band (or in this case, a pianist)—and the perfect setting for watching silent films. We sat near an exit door, and halfway through The Goat I could hear the rain pelting down outside, which made the whole affair seem even more unifying for some reason. The movies were an escape back in the early 1920s (a slideshow before the screening told us as much: everyone was looking for an excuse to laugh after a world war and global pandemic), and they were an escape yesterday too: from the rain, work, the pandemic, the world. Sometimes I feel like there aren’t enough words for my Buster love (appropriate, given his medium), so I always just let the gags do the talking.
I’m the opposite of an audiophile. My favorite ways to listen to music are in Alex’s 2004 Honda CR-V via cassette deck or CD player while driving up/down the I-5, or walking around the city with my crappy old wired earbuds that came with some long-retired iPhone. (It’s less about the medium, I suppose, and more about the setting; I just like listening to music on the move.)
A demonstration of this: the first time I listened to Volume 2 of the new Revolver Super Deluxe reissue—5 days ago—was on BART to Oakland International Airport before catching a $32 flight to Santa Ana for a quick family Disneyland trip. It is not the type of setting most people would consider optimal listening conditions for a highly-anticipated reissue. But! Now whenever I hear “Doctor Robert (Take 7)” I’ll think of riding the BART to OAK connector on a beautiful Halloween afternoon, and that is a very nice memory.
Beatlefans and audiophiles have been eagerly awaiting the new Revolver reissue, for many good reasons. The original stereo mixes and 2009 remasters are generally regarded as subpar, and this is the first Beatles reissue to use Peter Jackson’s AI technology to isolate and remix the instruments that were previously all recorded on one track (alchemy!!). And of course, Giles Martin is at the helm, which is the closest thing to having Big George Martin here to supervise this new era of the Beatles’ catalog.
Even though the subtleties of remixes like this are usually lost on me, this time I did want to sit down and re-listen to the stereo version of the album in a more controlled setting so I could try to appreciate what Giles and this crazy AI technology can do (and also so I could blog about it). Our home system is nothing fancy, but now we have a nice Onkyo receiver—with Bluetooth!—and two vintage Bose tall boi speakers, a good setup that is much appreciated after years of our dying Sony receiver. So after listening to Revolver Super Deluxe through both the speakers and then again with Alex’s fancy (read: non-earbud) headphones, I’ll pretend for a few minutes to know what I’m talking about.
Listening to both the mono and stereo versions of the album, the difference in the new stereo mixes is most noticeable on “Tomorrow Never Knows” (good!) and “She Said She Said” (bad). TNK is outta this world. All that sound and color swirling around, it’s such a wild ride. I can’t imagine not listening to it in stereo. With “She Said She Said”, the guitars are split left and right, which sounds cool at first, but then there’s a jarring drop in the left guitar at 0:11 which makes everything sound strange and unbalanced for the rest of the song. Redditors are tearing this one apart (my favorite comment: “Giles Martin is making me feel like I’ve never been born”) but it’s not actually that bad on speakers, just weird with headphones.
Moving on…OH HI, PAUL. Each Giles reissue makes me realize how many tasty bass licks I’d missed in the lesser versions of these songs. These mixes really bring them forward! There’s some great fills in “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and I’m really glad the Super Deluxe version also includes new mixes of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”, which weren’t on the album but recorded at the same time and feature some of Paul’s best bass playing. Something about his tone and articulation is just so clean…it’s truly a pleasure to listen to.
More breathing room in stereo mixes = more fun easter eggs, like the yawn in “I’m Only Sleeping” and John’s response to “she feels good” in “Good Day Sunshine”. My only (petty) complaint is that I wish the snaps at the end of “Here, There, and Everywhere” were more prominent! When I first heard those in the 2009 remaster, my world changed. TURN UP THE SNAPS, GILES.
But enough of the original album, let’s talk about the EXTRAS!!!
Got To Get You Into My Life (Second Version) is a revelation! I love this version more than the actual track, I think. Why use horns when you have fantastic droning guitar and those punchy chords?? I love Paul’s exposed bass fills and the little vocal interlude (“Get you in, into my life”)!
Love You To (Unnumbered Rehearsal) – It’s very cool to hear George practicing sitar in this one – a little glimpse into his work ethic. And his “oww!”s at the end from undoubtedly shredded fingers. There was a time in my life when I could relate.
Rain (Take 5/Actual Speed) – EXCUSE ME?! This has been sitting in the archives all these years?! I hardly ever think of Beatles songs in terms of individual parts (one of their greatest qualities is how effortlessly the four of them meld together into one), but holy buckets, Paul and Ringo—absolute mad lads—just dominate this take. This feels like the pop rock gods dropped into EMI Studios in 1966 and inhabited the Fabs’ bodies for just long enough to create this transcendental two and a half minutes of music.
Doctor Robert (Take 7) – Oohhhh OKAY, I hear you, double time bass in the second bridge. How does this not appear in the final cut (which used Take 7)? I don’t know how mixing works.
And Your Bird Can Sing (First Version/Take 2/Giggling) – Now we can hear John and Paul cracking up in extra hi def! Seriously though, I can hear their silent laughing in this version, and it’s so joyous. A true gift for all Beatlefans.
I’m Only Sleeping – The rehearsal bits with vibes sound straight out of a SMiLE session. Takes 2 and 5 make me appreciate the finished version of the song even more. The slower speed, backing vocals, and backwards guitar transform it from a somewhat straightforward rock song into a real trip.
Yellow Submarine (Songwriting Work Tapes 1 & 2) – Yellow Submarine is the skip track of Revolver, but the Yellow Submarine Work Tapes are the JEWELS of Revolver Super Deluxe. Gosh, no disrespect to Ringo, but I really wish they’d kept the original folksy vibe of this song. John on vocals stretching out “ma-a-an” and “la-a-and” and “ye-e-ellow” gives it such a different feeling, and the “look out/get down!” bits in the chorus are lovely, too. What a treat!
She Said She Said (Take 15/Backing Track) – Groovy guitar. I could listen to an 18-minute version of this.
Final thoughts: Will I buy the Special Edition 5 disc version complete with stereo+mono mixes, demos, 100-page book, and Klaus Voormann art? …strong maybe. But for now, I can highly recommend enjoying the new reissue on your streaming platform of choice, listening to this interview with Giles Martin, and discovering all the versions that might’ve been:
A few unrelated things that have picked me up recently…
Fire of Love
We picked a late afternoon showtime on a whim last week and it happened to be this film. It’s part documentary—about a volcano-chasing couple in the 70s and 80s—and part audio-visual adventure, with mesmerizing footage of lava flows and ash clouds and the close-up sounds of the earth breathing. Watching it on the big screen with only one other person in the theater was a trip, like the film was made just for us.
Repeatedly through interviews and quotes, Katia and Maurice Krafft convey how they’d choose to live on the edge of a volcano forever if they could; if food wasn’t a necessity they’d never go into civilization. There was also a specific quote (I don’t remember if it was from Katia or Maurice) about how the geographic separation from society made them rediscover their love of humans. Like, humans have done a lot of awful things and can be super messy and dramatic, but when you become detached enough you can appreciate humankind at a scientific, cosmic level. You get the sense they felt like aliens coming to earth every time they came back from a volcano. Even just getting to experience their world for an hour and a half was enough to reset my mind and acknowledge how tiny we all are in the grand scheme of things. A much needed experience.
Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees
Ok, this album slaps. It’s one of those dad albums (a term I used to describe any album that is in both my father’s and my father-in-law’s record collections) that I never really thought to listen to, although the cover is instantly recognizable. (A Pitchfork review by Sam Sodomsky opens with a great description of this.) Anyway, turns out one of my favorite things of all things is when I realize how much a dad album rocks.
It’s certainly an album that feels like it should be listened to on vinyl, at least if you want Maximum 1970s-Soul-Disco-Pop Energy, which I always do. It kinda feels funny/ironic to include this in a list called “things that have fixed my heart” but it’s not hyperbole! Sometimes I get into ruts where music doesn’t bring me the same joy it used to and then I have nothing to write in here, which is a huge bummer. So anything that reignites that joy, makes me dance like a fool in the dining room, and gives me reason to dust off the blog is always worth celebrating.
From Sodomsky’s review: …as it has aged, the album feels increasingly divorced from its moment in pop culture, and its more mysterious qualities—the abstract melancholy of Scaggs’ voice, the late-night twinkle of the band—are what pull you in, making it feel like your own, no matter how many people owned the LP before you did.
My hearing about and watching the videos of Joni Mitchell’s return to the stage came later that I’d like to admit—lately I’ve been getting tunnel vision during the work week and have fallen into a weird habit of allowing myself very regulated amounts of the things that bring me happiness: 3 pages of writing and 4 word games in the morning, 1-2 albums on the record player and 2 episodes of a show in the evening, max, 1-2 chapters of a book before bed. Repeat every workday. So on Friday night of this week, when at last I didn’t have to think about planning my next day and how early to get up the next morning, I finally watched all the videos from Newport 2022 and it very nearly made my soul burst. I’d deprived myself of this performance for a whole week?!
So now here I am on Saturday morning, hungrily re-watching it all, on the brink of a full-blown Joni Weekend. One of my favorite things about these videos is how genuinely awed and emotional everyone else on the stage is. I bet it’s something most of these musicians never thought they’d experience, sharing the stage with Joni for a full set. Brandi Carlile’s emotion is tangible, and contagious. I shed more tears with each viewing. What an absolute gift to the world.
PS: You might’ve noticed in the video I linked above that I skipped over the first minute, which would surely be the thing I’d be writing about if Joni hadn’t shown up at Newport: Paul Simon ALSO made a surprise appearance at the festival(!). Here’s PS and Rhiannon Giddens performing “American Tune”, one of my all-time favorites.
Edit: I had to come back and add one more thing that’s been a delight to me lately, the show The Bear. It’s such a perfect piece of television art: raw, stressful, emotional, and hilarious (with much of the hilarity coming from Matty Matheson). I can’t recommend it enough.
While visiting my parents recently, I was browsing through my dad’s latest garage sale finds and came across this banger of an album:
Not gonna lie, the gatefold image is what sent me from “oh I should check this out” to “I am putting this on the record player RIGHT NOW”:
Incredible aesthetics aside, the list of backing musicians also got me excited: Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Eric Gale, Dave Grusin—basically, Paul Simon’s go-to band in the 70s and 80s, transported to Budokan.
These guys in the year 1980 had such a sound. Like, this first track feels like it could’ve easily capped off the album One Trick Pony (if One Trick Pony took a decidedly jazzy turn). Glorious.
Dad let me take the album and several others from the crate (which he’d acquired in one of those “I’ll take this box of records off your hands for $20” situations). And now this album has been in the background of everything I do lately. So, thanks to the garage sale gods for introducing me to the wonderful world of Sadao Watanabe—five decades of music (and still going strong!) is enough to keep me busy for a while.
At the risk of sounding like a museum curator (actually a dream job of mine), I’m ÜBER excited to share that we recently acquired four crates worth of near-mint condition records from Alex’s parents’ house. The Barton collection, as we call it, is an extremely well-kept selection of singer-songwriter, classic rock, bluegrass, and niche LA and Bay Area recordings. The plan was that we would safe-keep the records while they renovate their living room, but I think the mutual understanding is that “safe-keeping” actually means “keeping” in this case (one of the main reasons for this is that we’re the only ones in the family with a record player, although much of our setup was also “borrowed” from Alex’s dad).
Anyway, thanks to this new acquisition, we now have near-complete discographies for the Grateful Dead, Beatles, and Joni Mitchell. And we’ve been filling in our DIY record shelf rather nicely!
Classic rock aside, the majority of albums in the collection I’ve never heard before. As a result, we’ve been spending recent afternoons and evenings in the dining room/record room, drinking wine and listening to a few random picks at a time—my very favorite way to pass the time. Some highlights:
Old & In the Way – Old & In the Way
I didn’t know about this Jerry Garcia/David Crisman/Peter Rowan collab until about two months ago. Then, in quick succession, not only did we acquire a cassette tape of this album while in Vista for the holidays (I picked it out of a box of my dad’s old cassettes—Alex’s car is old enough to have a cassette player and we were looking for music to listen to on the drive back), but soon after we came to possess two copies of the album on vinyl, both of them presumably from Alex’s dad’s half of the record collection. What can I say, it’s a classic Boomer Dad album, with a name worthy of many Boomer Dad jokes (“Oh that old album? Take it, it’s just getting in the way.”).
It’s wonderfully bluegrassy, a mix of originals and traditional songs, with a cover of “Wild Horses” thrown in for good measure. A fun tidbit: it was recorded live at the Boarding House, a music and comedy venue in San Francisco with quite a storied history.
Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow
Another eponymous first album – we’re on some kind of roll here!
I am one of those people who became acquainted with Phoebe Snow through her credits on Paul Simon songs, and waited far too long to listen to her solo work. In fact, I’ve still only listened to this debut album in full, and have yet to explore her later albums (we don’t have any others on vinyl). Anyway, don’t be like me! Listen to Phoebe Snow now, not later!! Her voice is incredible…angelic and sexy and powerful all at once, capable of slipping effortlessly between folk, jazz, pop, soul. The entire album is just so cool. A small sampling.
Can I also just say how great I think this album cover is? The font, the sparse style and delicate rainbows in Phoebe’s hair, the glasses. Instant brownie points from me for any artist who flaunts glasses on their album covers.
Strange Paradise – Cris Williamson
One of my favorite discoveries to come from these listening sessions has been Olivia Records, the first record label made for and by women. Alex’s parents had quite a few albums from Olivia Records and/or the Women’s Music Movement: Meg Christian, Margie Adams, Cris Williamson. Those I’ve listened to so far have been immensely refreshing and empowering, with Strange Paradise so far being one of my favorites. As the cover so aptly suggests, it’s the kind of album you might listen to on a solo road trip through the most sacred corners of the American Southwest.
When Strange Paradise was released, Olivia Records was based in Oakland and according to liner notes, the album was recorded partly at The Automatt in San Francisco. So I want to believe the song “On, Judah!” is about the N Judah, even though the lyrics suggest the train is maybe more of an Amtrak sort?, and the notes dedicate it to the Lion of Judah. :shrug:
I just really like the vibe of this album. With lyrics like Home, like a folding of wings and choruses that repeat Gonna kill them with kindness …it’s given me a few new personal anthems.
Silk Purse – Linda Ronstadt
Show me the discography of a popular artist I don’t know very well and ask me to pick an album, and I’ll probably choose the one that looks the most like a country rock album from 1970. I’ve still only scratched the surface of Linda’s catalog, and I knew she did a good amount of country-adjacent stuff, but I wasn’t prepared for how truly down-home this album would be. Her yodelicious version of “Lovesick Blues” pulled me in and kept me happily surprised all the way to “Life is Like a Mountain Railway”—pure Americana!
There are so many entry points to Linda Ronstadt: her music spans at least a dozen genres and she’s collaborated with so many people! My entry point, unsurprisingly, was Mike Nesmith, thanks to her cover of “Different Drum” with the Stone Poneys. But maybe you’ve heard her collabs with Philip Glass, Frank Zappa(?!), or Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Or maybe you’ve even seen this 1979 Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow duet (how relevant!) from SNL! I certainly hadn’t before now, but want to thank the YouTube algorithm for so conveniently introducing it to me. The icing on the cake is that they’re singing a song by the Roches! 😍
Ignore the circa-2004-DVD-menu graphics; no idea what’s up with that but I couldn’t find another version:
Those 1979 styles though! I wish I could pull off either look.
Anyway, it’s been too cold to go outside lately and there are stacks upon stacks of records waiting to be listened to, so I’m sure I’ll be back soon with another round.