B-sides: Hearts and Bones

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:

  1. 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??
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

underrated album cover, IMO

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!

  1. “Think Too Much (a)” – 3:05
  2. “Train in the Distance” – 5:11
  3. “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War” – 3:44
  4. “Cars Are Cars” – 3:15
  5. “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!

Paul Simon at the Greek, 6.3.16

The theme of this past week: epic, once-in-a-lifetime shows at the Greek Theater by legendary American singer-songwriters.


It’s very appropriate that my first concert at the Greek would be Paul Simon (one of my very favorite musicians ever) with Alex and Lauren (two of my very favorite people ever). And fortunately for us, the weather was gorgeous. We made the most out of a toaster our lawn seats, complete with picnic supplies, blankets, and bare feet.

It was the same day that Stranger to Stranger came out, and in celebration, everyone received a cool lanyard and free download of the album at the entrance. The fact that the show lined up with the album release already made the day pretty significant in my eyes, but on top of that, we also got a few more noteworthy surprises. Like when Warriors coach Steve Kerr graced the crowd with his presence halfway through “That Was Your Mother,” and everyone went INSANE. (For the record, I couldn’t have cared less and was actually kind of annoyed that the band had to wait for the cheering and chanting to die down before continuing.) Luckily Paul’s a pretty big bball fan, and cracked a joke about walking onto the court next time Curry sets up for a 3 pointer. Speaking of which, whyyyy doesn’t this video exist on the internet anymore??

The other unexpected occurrence came during the second (of three) encores, when Paul paused before the last verse of “The Boxer” to solemnly announce Muhammad Ali’s death. I was super confused at first, thinking that his timing couldn’t possibly be that impeccable (and honestly, hadn’t even been aware that Muhammad Ali was still around…awful, I know). But it was around 10pm and news had just broken of his passing. We literally all heard it from Paul Simon first. There’s a video of it here.

And on that note, the night ended with a great big singalong of “The Sound of Silence,” along with some pro boxing moves from PS before exiting the stage. The whole thing was pretty incredible.


This was my fourth time seeing PS live, and I must say, setlist- and atmosphere-wise, this show definitely takes the cake. Not only did he play several songs from The Rhythm of the Saints, each one came with a story! I feel like we were pretty lucky he was in a storytelling mood…at previous shows, the most he’d impart before a song was like 10 words. Maybe in general he’s just got more to say this tour. Songs included “Proof,” “The Obvious Child” (yaaassss), “Spirit Voices,” and “The Cool, Cool River” (this part gives me chills every time; it is SO GOOD live).

I was also reminded how much I love “Rewrite” and “Dazzling Blue” from So Beautiful Or So What, and as always, impressed with the freshness of Paul’s newest stuff (Stranger to Stranger is wonderful). Of course, he played plenty of old hits too, and even a good amount of S&G songs. I’m including the setlist.fm link so I can come back later and relive it. :P

Not sure why it’s always this song that gives me the feels, but during “Still Crazy After All These Years,” I kept thinking how awesome it was to be at the Greek, such a historic Bay Area venue, and how if I closed my eyes, I could almost magically transport myself back in time to 1975, to a time when all of our parents were seeing artists like Paul Simon at the very same venue. I have a lot more to say about the Greek, but more on that in the next post.


George Harrison Week is my favorite week

A hearty salute to Conan for introducing George Harrison Week to the people (how wasn’t this a thing before?). It’s basically been a whole week of musical tributes to George, in celebration of the new Apple Years box set. I can’t believe that this is one of the few times I’ve had access to cable and I didn’t watch any of these shows live. I’m awful. But…good thing for the Internet! Last night I enjoyed watching Dhani & Friends playing “Let It Down” (side note: a song originally produced by Phil Spector who is looking horrifying these days).

Watching Dhani play is like watching a modern day George
Watching Dhani play is like watching/hearing a modern day George!

Also, Paul Simon performed a lovely version of “Here Comes the Sun“, although I’ll always prefer the version he and George did together (how can you not love that 70s glow?). I’m not exaggerating when I say these are my two FAVORITE musicians singing what could quite possibly be my favorite song of all time. Epic.

As for the newly released box set, I’ll have to get back to you on that. One of the big selling points for the set was that George’s lesser-known albums after All Things Must Pass are finally being remastered and released, but lucky for me, I already have them on vinyl! So I might not be dropping $100 on the new box set anytime soon. But I am appreciative for the tracks I’ve discovered/rediscovered in the process of listening through these albums again (in fact, here’s a Top 5):

Top 5 George Harrison Tracks, 1968-1975:
1. Instrumental take of “The Inner Light
2. “Miss O’Dell” – George’s LAUGH!
3. “Be Here Now
4. “If Not For You” – sorry Bob, I like George’s version better :\
5. “What Is Life” – one of the very first solo George songs I heard and fell in love with

It was late in the evening…

I meant to write this immediately after seeing the Paul Simon and Sting concert, but as per usual I procrastinated and then an entire week passed before I had the time to sit down again and blog.

Soooo, jumping back a week…on Presidents’ Day I saw Paul Simon in concert for the 3rd time, but this time was unique because he shared the bill with Sting. Not gonna lie, I was skeptical of this pairing, but after hearing a lot of good reviews and learning that Paul and Sting are like BFFs, I warmed up to the idea. It also meant that Lauren and I spent an entire drive from Bakersfield to Oceanside listening to The Police’s entire discography, which is probably an important musical milestone to have experienced. I can say that I definitely appreciate Sting’s catalog more now, but I have to admit that there were still parts of the concert when I completely forgot that he was part of the show at all. I wonder if the Sting fans felt the same about Paul Simon?

A few tweet-sized observations:

  • Being the auxiliary percussionist for Paul Simon’s band might just be the best job in the world.
  • Never would’ve thought that it was possible to transition from “America” to “Message in a Bottle,” or that I would ever hear it. 
  • Sting’s drummer was Vinnie Colaiuta, who in my opinion, bears a striking resemblance to 2013 Christoph Waltz. Now, in some far corner of my mind, I’m convinced that Christoph is a really good drummer. 
  • Also, I kept mistaking Sting for Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He really has that look to him (the hair, the face, the stance). Very amusing to imagine Captain Picard singing Police songs. 
  • Paul Simon’s stage banter is sparse, so I feel very jealous of the guy he addressed directly: “You’re a drummer, aren’t you? Yeah, I saw you during ’50 Ways’…” LUCKY GUY.
  • That night I learned that “Desert Rose” is in fact a Sting song (not Enya), and so is “I Hung My Head,” which was covered by Johnny Cash in 2002 (fun fact: Sting’s version is in 9/8). 
  • “That Was Your Mother” is one of my favorite live songs, because Paul always puts down his guitar and busts out his dance moves. 
  • Another favorite was “Call Me Al.” I remember being sad that he didn’t play it when we saw him in LA, but this definitely made up for it. Here’s a video I took from my phone (I’m impressed that my dancing isn’t more obvious…good job, iphone video stabilization!).

How about a video where you can actually see the performers, eh? In case you ever wanted to see Paul Simon sing “Every Breath You Take” (followed by one of my all-time favorites, “Late in the Evening”), enjoy:

[gremlin! I love you, PS]

when evening falls so hard

This song is prone to parody, and easy to exaggerate for sure. One time Alex and I blasted it out the car windows as we drove slowly down frat row at UCLA, just to be ironic.

But tonight I’m listening to the words. Reading them, actually, from my Paul Simon lyrics book [/nerd]. Because they really are beautiful words, and need to be recognized every once in a while.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you 
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

These songs are true, these days are ours

Last week I was lucky enough to see Paul Simon at the Music Box in Hollywood. Being five feet away from one of my greatest musical heroes for 2 hours was a dream come true! Paul was amazing and his band was incredible! Each guy had his own little station of assorted instruments, from bongos to harmonium to accordion to handmade windchimes…at one point the drumset player was playing his kick and hi-hat with his feet while playing a guitar solo. Crazy!

Although Paul didn’t say much in between songs, the music spoke for itself. After all, that’s what we were there for, right? He played a lot of his new songs, as well as a lot of classics and some unexpected ones (Peace Like A River, Mystery Train, yeah!). I really don’t think the music selection could’ve been any better. I made a list here of some highlights from the show…
Dazzling Blue. I was really hoping he’d play this, and turns out it was like the second song! Yesssss. No live Indian percussion though, instead it was a loop, haha. But still, sooooo beautiful.
Hearts and Bones. OH WOW. This was probably my favorite song of the night. I’ve always thought it was a good song, but something about hearing it live just made it so much better. Current favorite Paul Simon song, definitely.
The Obvious Child. I WAS SO HAPPY HE PLAYED THIS. When I saw the surdo on the stage, I flipped out, haha. I must’ve looked really funny during this because I was calling Lauren and at the same time trying to take a video with my camera. Oh, technology…
The Only Living Boy in New York. I remember this came right after The Obvious Child because I thought it was too good to be true that he’d play two of my favorite songs back to back. This was the only S&G song of the night, besides Sound of Silence. <3
That Was Your Mother. So much fun!! Everyone was dancing and the band was taking extended solos and it was just awesome.
Vietnam/Mother and Child Reunion. Paul introduced the Jimmy Cliff song as his inspiration for Mother and Child Reunion. It was really cool to hear some of his inspiration (also: Mystery Train). PS doesn’t forget his roots!
Still Crazy After All These Years. Something about this song is just so 1970’s New York…and that’s why I love it. Such a fitting last song to play. I LOVE YOU PAUL!

Dancing to zydeco

Et toi!

In case you weren’t aware, Simon and Garfunkel are scheduled for another tour this year! And in case you weren’t aware (I certainly am), the tour dates got postponed from May to July, due to poor Garfunkel’s vocal cords. Sad day! But they still performed at the New Orleans Jazz Fest last month, which produced some great videos (Paul Simon dance party ftw!). One of my favorites is “That Was Your Mother” from Paul’s solo set:


Man, he loves to dance. I especially love the air-accordion, haha.

trepidation, speculation

So I’m in the Brazilian drum ensemble at UCLA, also called BatUCLAda, and for the spring concert we are doing a cover of this:

The drummers in this video are a part of the Brazilian bloco afro Olodum (who also played on Paul Simon’s album Rhythm of the Saints, including my favorite The Obvious Child!). Basically all the rhythms, songs, and choreography we do in BatUCLAda are from Olodum, so I’ve become really familiar with them, haha. Check out BatUCLAda videos here!

Additional note: Our arrangement is also going to include No Woman No Cry, complete with Portuguese lyrics. It’s gonna be rockin. The concert is in May…this is an early reminder! :)