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“Even Trolls Love Rock and Roll” by Tony Joe White

hymies halloweenCome by the record shop this week for a copy of our first ever Halloween mix CD. Twenty-five spooky tracks featuring trolls, skeletons, witches, ghosts and zombies — interspersed throughout are clips from our kids records featuring even more monsters, ghouls and other creatures of the night!

Free with purchase while they last!

Today Laura is going to compete in a triathlon for the fifth time, and everyone’s really proud of her. We don’t want to embarrass Laura so that’s all we’re going to say about it. The rest of this post will be in the form of super songs:

“The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III

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“Bike Cop” by the Taxpayers

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“It Keeps You Running” by the Doobie Brothers

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That was too much fun! How about a victory lap for Laura?

Okay!

“Swimming” by Breathe Owl Breathe

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The 7-Up guy we posted on National Bike to Work Day

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“Running, Jumping, Standing Still” by Spider John Koerner and Willie Murphy

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Peter Buck’s brief liner notes to REM’s album Dead Letter Office are better anything else you could find in decades of mainstream rock journalism. The scale of Buck’s record collection is famous and he is a well-known supporter of independent shops. We couldn’t get a good shot of the liner notes so we have added the test here:

I’ve always liked singles much more than albums. A single has to be short, concise and catchy, all values that seem to go out the window as far as albums are concerned. But the thing that I like best about singles is their ultimate shoddiness. No matter how lavish that packaging, no matter what attention to detail, a ’45 is still essentially a piece of crap usually purchased by teenagers. This is why musicians feel free to put just about anything on the b-side; nobody will listen to it anyway, so why not have some fun. You can clear the closed of failed experiments, badly written songs, drunken jokes, and occasionally, a worthwhile song that doesn’t fit the feel of an album.

In spite of Buck’s self-depreciation and the reasonable assumption that it was released for reasons related to the group’s transition from IRS records to Warner Brothers, Dead Letter Office has achieved a lofty status. REM fans love it for the very reasons described in Buck’s liner notes – Here is a variety of “failed songs” and “worthwhile songs” that offer a unique perspective of the group. The first track below is “Ages of You” from Dead Letter Office. The second is “Bandwagon”.

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A lot of sixties records are nothing more than a clumsy, poorly sequenced selection of singles, as Beatles fans know. The compilation of B-Sides is unique in that it contains previously released material. This warning is prominent on one of the earliest such records, Elvis Costello’s Taking Liberties.

Like Dead Letter Office, the Elvis Costello collection covers a short period and includes a handful of new tracks not issued on singles at all. Each is essential to fans but probably only vaguely interesting to the casual listener. Here are a couple favorites from Taking Liberties – Costello’s earliest country music effort, “Radio Sweetheart” and an alternate version of “Black and White World” from the Get Happy!!! album:

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Taking Liberties may be the earliest such album, but we can’t say for sure (Hymie’s regulars: Surly one of you knows who made the first collection of B-Sides – Let us know). The Clash put out Black Market Clash the same year (It was a 9 track, 10″ album as opposed to Costello’s 20 track epic). The Clash record is possibly the earliest recording to set a certain standard for B-Side compilations which stood for decades. Look at the tracklisting: It contains all the essential types of B-Sides. There’s the under-appreciated track that never fit on an LP (“City of the Dead”), the cover songs (“Pressure Drop” and “Time is Tight”) and the band-jammin’ instrumental (Again, “Time is Tight”). Black Market Clash also has a couple of good extended mixes of album tracks. Included here is “Justice Tonight / Kick it Out” and “Time is Tight”:

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The formula becomes pretty well established, although other groups do some aspects of it better. REM’s Dead Letter Office contains six covers, including three Velvet Underground songs and a rockin’ “Toys in the Attic”. Taking Liberties also includes several covers but from more varied sources (the best being Betty Everett’s “Getting Mighty Crowded”). The best singles collection of the 90s – J Church’s Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands, has a great cover of REM’s “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” which suggests a certain sort of continuity to it all.

Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands is actually a singles collection which compiles both A- and B-Sides. Unlike nearly every other collection of singles, B-Sides, EPs or compilation tracks, the tracks are well sequenced so as to feel like an album. Its such a great album we have been forced into an exemption from our personal ban on picture discs (Making this the only one in our collection). J Church was notorious for frequently releasing singles and EPs that quickly disappeared, making their second singles collection, Nostalgic for Nothing, also a keeper.

“Bomb/Sacrifice”, heard below, was the first side of the first J Church single, and probably a lot less crazy in the pre-9/11 era. We love these songs and never really thought about the lyrics, let alone the extent to which Lance Hahn is out of key.

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A lot of mid-90s independent groups put together great collections like this. Superchunk’s first release on their own Merge Records was a singles collection called Tossing Seeds, but it was their second singles collection, Incidental Music, that really rocked. It has all the essential features of a B-Sides compilation: Cover songs (“I’ll be your Sister” by Motorhead!), alternate versions (An acoustic “Throwing Things”, heard below) and totally underrated gems that deserved wider release (“Home at Dawn” which originally came out on a flexi-disc. A flexi-disc!).

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Morphine’s B-Sides and Otherwise is actually some of their best stuff, but doesn’t include a cover song. What kind of B-Sides compilation doesn’t have a cover song by your favorite band’s favorite band? Lambchop’s Tools in the Dryer has a great cover of “Love TKO” and some bizarre remixes. Tools in the Dryer also gives us a couple tracks from their early demo tapes as the Poster Children – What a deal!

One more artist deserves mention, and then I think we’ve looked at B-Side compilations for far, far too long, and that’s Bruce Springsteen. His 1998 collection Tracks compiles four discs of studio outtakes and demos – Including the albums worth of good material the Boss has dropped on the backside going back as far as “Hungry Heart” (Which carried the rapid-fire “Held Up Without a Gun” as its flip).

Born in the USA alone produced nearly an album worth of great B-Sides, including the classic “Pink Cadillac”, the long-shelved River outtake “Roulette” and this track originally written for Nebraska. Here’s Springsteen singing “Shut Out the Light”.

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“The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III

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“Swimming” by Breathe Owl Breathe

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“Nightswimming” by REM

homecoming

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“Homecoming”

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“Everything from Jesus to Jack Daniels”

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“No New Friends Please”

no new friends

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“I Hope it Rains at my Funeral”

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“It Rained in Every Town but Paducah”

it rained in every town

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“A Week in a Country Jail”

tth

Airports

Recent news of a lost flight between Malaysia and China has led to a lot of jokes about Lost and at least a little fear. We at Hymie’s have been thinking about our own memories of airports.

You used to be able to see people off at the airport — to go to the terminal with them and wish them well on their journey. For a child who had a parent who traveled for a living it was a routine that became alternately comforting and upsetting. Watching strangers say hello and goodbye to the people they love leaves an impression.

Actually being the people saying goodbye or hello left a stronger impression.

It was, ironically, not dinosaur rock that stirred our hearts when William Miller followed the plane in Almost Famous, but the original music by Nancy Wilson from Heart — her simple refrain hit the sweet spot: a little bit end of an era and a little bit beginning of a journey.

A lot of great songs were probably written while waiting for a connection — one gets this impression from a song on Between the Buttons, the 1966 album by the clearly weary Rolling Stones.

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A cover of “Connection” by Montrose nearly a decade later really captured the Jagger/Richards despair which would also show itself in “No Expectation” (we posted it here). Apparently waiting for an airplane connection is a universally miserable experience.

“Early Morning Rain” by Gordon Lightfoot has got to be one of the best songs in the miserable in the airport genre. It’s from his first album, which is one of the best folk records of the 60s.

lightfoot

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An even more famous folk song fitting our subject finds someone who believes there isn’t time to wait. We’ve always wondered if John Denver managed to get to the airport, check in and board the plane before his sweetheart found he had left and caught up. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a beautiful song — it’s unfortunate it was so often mentioned in Denver’s obituaries when he he crashed a little single-seater airplane in the Pacific Ocean, because the obituaries soured what was otherwise a beautiful song.

rhyme and reason

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Lightfoot rightly noted “you can’t jump a plane like you can a freight train,” and most memories us modest middle state folks have of the airport is of farewells. Airports set the scene for heartbreak, as they do in these songs by by Jim Gilstrap and Cado Belle:

airport shutdown

airport jim gilstrap

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“Airport” by Jim Gilstrap

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“Airport Shutdown” by Cado Belle

Today airport farewells and hellos happen by our cars, and the airport itself is just for the people traveling — the change probably makes us safer, but it takes away something special we remember. But then, we at Hymie’s Records pretty much always feel like we’re increasingly lost in this crazy modern world…

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aeroplane

Here’s a fun post from almost f-f-f-four years ago…

“My Generation”

Oh no, he DI’INT! No, but for a moment you think Roger Dalty is going to say something other than “f-f-f-fade away.” Why does Dalty stutter on “My Generation”? Some people say it’s to sound like he’s on speed, and others say it’s to set up the implied F bomb. There’s definitely a precedent in John Lee Hooker’s “Stuttering Blues”. There’s also a possibility that like BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” it was recorded with a stutter but not intended by the group to be released – Maybe Townshend and Daltry are just too proud to admit it was a little joke and nothing more.

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“The End

Not entirely about a pause itself but a general masterpiece of pacing is Jim Morrison’s spoken interlude near the end of, uh, “The End”. These few moments guaranteed some theatrics to every live performance by the group, and captured the tension of the rock and roll pause perfectly. On the album itself it also encapsulates the appeal of shrewd prude-ishness – Implied obscenity is far more shocking than actual obscenity because it makes you think about it.

Still, it’s a Doors song, and worse an eleven minute Doors song. Cool or not, it’s boring. Super boring. So here, mercifully, is a one minute excerpt from a dirty copy of The Doors:

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“Punch Me Harder” by Superchunk and “Manic Depression” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

If there’s anything universal about the records Steve Albini recorded in the early 90s it’s immediacy. Whether it’s Superchunk’s No Pocky For Kitty or Nirvana’s In Utero, these were records that sounded spontaneous and exciting.

No Pocky For Kitty is a great rock and roll album because it captures a band then likely to become something and the disc is filled with the excitement of discovery. The high tension pause at the beginning of “Punch Me Harder” – Not even enough time to hold your breath – makes the next two minutes all the better. This is the kind of stuff corporate rock bands didn’t have the courage to create anymore.

Of course, classic rock is full of moments like this. A classic favorite of mine is the opening moments of “Manic Depression” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi knew better than his peers how to open a number with style, from the bluesy showmanship at the beginning of “Red House” to the psychedelic drama that starts songs like “Castles Made of Sand” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”.

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“I Can’t Hardly Wait”

by the Replacements

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This is absolutely the best dramatic pause in rock and roll, if only because what we’re waiting for is Paul Westerberg to sing “I can’t wait”. If there is a song with more absurdly vapid lyrics that we all love to sing in the shower, I’d like to know what it is. Whether or not it makes a lot of sense (“Jesus rides beside me / He never buys any smokes”?) the feeling is clear. Yeah, Pleased to Meet Me is MTV-friendly pop, so far removed from the band’s classic Twin Tone records that I don’t know whose hand is whose on its famous jacket, but there is still a characteristic intensity to “I Can’t Hardly Wait”. Here’s an interview in which Westerberg seems almost defensive about his rock and roll awesomeness.

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By the time it was recorded for their second Sire album, “I Can’t Hardly Wait” was a live standard for the Replacements. Now the inspiration for a movie that I presume is all about our beloved ‘Mats, it’s probably their most popular song. At the first hook the horns take center stage – this is the first Replacements track to feature a horn section and they’re put to memorable use. And then there’s the long pause (Two seconds?) that we all love.

Here’s an earlier version (Sans horns) by the original quartet. I don’t remember where that recording comes from (I have it on a poorly labeled cassette) but like all classic Replacements records it rocks. Oh, and it’s loud…

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Well, there’s nowhere else to end. Somebody out there reading this was probably there when they played an early “I Can’t Hardly Wait” at the Uptown or somewhere (What is the Uptown now? Another Thai restaurant/sushi bar/Asian fusion hot spot A-lister?). Maybe this summer’s Replacements movie will shed some light on this song’s origin – Or maybe this song will remain what it is, a fan favorite and a sing-along-with-it classic.

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