Shelley Segal – “Saved”

I just heard this song on a Freethought Radio podcast from a few weeks ago (I’m behind on my listening) and liked it immediately. I even like the lyrics, which remind me so much of the debates I have with theists.

Money quote:

You think it’s any of your business / what goes on between my thighs?

I look forward to hearing the rest of Shelley’s “An Atheist Album.”

The Christian Life

I love this song despite – or perhaps because of – its boozy Christian sentiment. It makes me feel like I just stumbled into an Oklahoma leather bar full of Jehovah’s Witnesses (or something). Here’s a lyric that makes me giggle every time:

Others find pleasure in things I despise / I like the Christian life.

The whole album is wonderful. Enjoy!

How to drive psychiatrists insane

This is a Super-8 film of the Velvet Underground’s first public appearance – at a psychiatrists’ convention in NYC, circa 1966. It’s also the best version of “I’ll Be Your Mirror” I’ve ever heard: fuzzed-out and ear-splitting.

Here’s what happened:

On January 13 1966, Warhol was invited to be the evening’s entertainment at the NY society for Clinical Psychiatry’s forty thir- annual dinner, held at Delmonico’s Hotel. Bursting into the room with a camera, as the Velvet Underground acoustically tortured the guests and Gerard Malanga and Edie Sedgwick performed the ‘whip dance’ in the background, Rubin taunted the attending psychiatrists. Casting blinding lights in their faces, Rubin hurled derogatory questions at the esteemed members of the medical profession, including: ‘What does her vagina feel like? Is his penis big enough? Do you eat her out? As the horrified guests began to leave Rubin continued her interrogation: ‘Why are you getting embarrassed? You’re a psychiatrist; you’re not supposed to get embarrassed. The following day the NY Times reported on the event; their chosen headline, ‘Shock treatment for psychiatrists’, reveals the extent to which Rubin’s guerrilla tactics had inverted the sanctioned relationship between patient and doctor expert and amateur.

Best rock and roll band, ever.

The greatest

When I sent a fake Bob Dylan tweet last night before going to bed, I didn’t realize he was turning seventy today. Seventy! I’m not going to go into a long spiel about how Dylan is the greatest songwriter since X or how he revolutionized contemporary music more often than Y, because there’s really no point. But who’s got the consistency of quality we find in Dylan’s work over such a span of time? Lou Reed has always been my rock-n-roll hero, but he’s been constantly checked by Dylan every step of the way. I love Lou for his chutzpah, much of which he likely lifted wholesale from Bob (and both via Warhol). Bob made Lou possible, not the other way around.

Anyway, here’s a brief post I wrote a few years ago under my then-nom-de-plume about the influence Blonde On Blonde had on my youthful self.

I arrived in New York City armed with a roll of twenties, my mother’s suitcase, and a portable tape player. I kissed mom goodbye, paid rent for a week (this was a hotel on the Bowery!) and went back upstairs to contemplate my life. I was barely twenty, freshly dropped out of artschool, and unemployed with few or no prospects. I remember throwing Blonde On Blonde into the tapedeck, lying back on my rented cot, and hearing the words that  illustrated my predicament with what seemed an eerie truthfulness. The organ swerving through trickling guitars. That mercury sound. The nasal voice. “Well, the bricks lay on Grand Street…where the neon madmen climb.” I was two blocks from Grand Street! In the middle of the muddle of Dylan’s masterwork–this was why I had come after all! The Chinese fishmongers were still there, the street was indeed paved with bricks, everything shimmering in the bronze light of an early March sunset in Manhattan. Twenty-nine years after the album was cut. The first day of the rest of my life.

In time I must have memorized every word of this album, the most enchanting and eclectic of Dylan’s long career. It functioned like a treasure map of the city, as I followed its clues from point to point, navigating through the people and the places with unassailable curiosity, searching out the Dylanesque in every bookshop and bar. Years passed, and the traumas of life in the city brought me regularly back to Dylan’s couch in order “to find out what price/ you had to pay to get out of/ going through all these things twice.”

(Note: I looked for a Dylan performance of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” on YouTube, but all I could find were covers. So listen to Cat Power, ’cause she rocks, too.)

My favorite Yo La Tengo song

I love the way this one reverberates. I think they ran a Farfisa organ through a guitar and then fiddled with the wha-wha…or at least that appeared to be what Ira Kaplan was doing on stage when I saw them play in NYC circa ’96. I also saw Richard Thompson that year, probably my last great year of concert-going before I stopped being obsessive about music and transferred my obsession to books. Oh, well.

Play the softer version with dozing infants in the room.

“I am never forget ze day”

I suppose I have my mother to thank for turning me on to Tom Lehrer, one of the most brilliant musical satirists alive. His stage patter alone would be worth listening to, but the fact is that each of his songs is a polished little diamond of parodic perfection.

Lehrer was very much admired by the educated snobbery of another age – being very much an elitist snob himself – though I doubt too many people under forty have him on their iPods (I do).

If you don’t know him, I’d recommend the winning “Lobachevsky” which is as good a place to start as any. It’s the sordid tale of a mathematician who plagiarizes his great masterpiece, which is then turned into a Soviet blockbuster film “starring Ingrid Bergman” – or alternately Brigitte Bardot – “as part of hypotenuse.”

Carrie Fisher was almost my sister

My mother was a huge, salivating fan of Eddie Fisher in her adolescence. I think she was even president of the Eddie Fisher Fan Club in her hometown. She used to tell me of the time when she traveled to New York City to see a concert of his, made it into his hotel room at some point in the evening, and made off with a Coke bottle he had drunk from (“If I’d had my way he would have been your father.”) She never forgave my grandmother for throwing it away. “Eh, trash!” I can hear her mewling as she tossed it out.

Eddie Fisher died last month, on my birthday. Here is a brief tribute to the man who might have been my father, and whose career dried up after the rise of rock-n-roll.

Not yet three weeks

Jonathan Richman gets inside the mind of a three year old (anyone know where the hyphen goes?) and tells us what he finds. Melissa is almost three weeks old, but I think much of this song holds true nonetheless. Especially the lines, “You think I’m tired now / but my body’s all inspired now /…if you think I’m sleepin’ / no, no, that’s all mistaken!”

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

The first week of fatherhood is making me feel like Major Tom, floating around in a tin can looking at Earth from above. It helps that the only cd we have in the car is David Bowie’s Greatest Hits 1969-74. “Space Oddity” really used to creep me out when I was a kid. It would come on the radio as I was falling asleep (I always fell asleep with the clock radio tuned to 98 Rock Baltimore) and just give me the weirdest dreams. That and REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” still my least favorite song of all time. Though it does still give me the willies. I wonder why.

Here’s the moogish early version with trippy video, circa 1969. Methinks Major Tom could’ve used a good dentist.