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Now where can we get an ice cold Drewrys?

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You might have noticed a clipping of this news story in the shop, about Leonard Skinner, the coach at Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School who sent teenage Gary Rossington (or Ronnie Van Zant, depending on the account) to the Principal’s office, causing his suspension. His hair violated the dress code because it was long enough to touch his collar.

We were reminded in most stories about Skinner’s passing in 2010 that the band should have listened to him, as though wearing their hair shorter would have prevented the tragic airplane crash which killed several members of the band and crew.

In fact, after their debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), became a certified-gold chart topping hit, the band began a long friendship with their former coach. Skinner introduced them on stage in Jacksonville, and allowed a photograph of his Skinner real estate sign to appear inside their third album, Nuthin’ Fancy. Go ahead and look inside your copy.

After the October 20, 1977 plane crash, in which Van Zant was one of several killed, Skinner spoke about them with reporters. “They were good, talented, hardworking boys,” he said. “They worked hard, lived hard, and boozed hard.”

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We think all the reporters with their clever story missed the point by dwelling on the band member’s faults, and it seemed like most of them hadn’t really listened to a Lynyrd Skynyrd record in a long time. If they had they might have quoted from one of our favorites, Gimme Back My Bullets. “Every Mother’s Son” is sometimes mistaken for a cover of the song from Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, but all they share in common is a title. It’s almost as if Ronnie Van Zant were predicting the future.

Well I’ve been ridin’ a winning horse for a long, long time
Sometimes I wonder is this the end of the line
No one should take advantage of who they are
No man has got it made
If he thinks he does, he’s wrong

Every mother’s son better hear what I say
Every mother’s son will rise and fall someday 

 

You really can’t live in Minnesota without accepting the ever-changing seasons — those folks complaining about the weather are wasting your time. If you don’t like it just wait ’til tomorrow. Spring is welcomed and just as soon gone, replaced by those over-hot afternoons and dry, dormant lawns. Summer in its August glory gives way all too quickly to the cool evenings of September. Soon enough you’re huddled inside, sipping Cider and watching the neighbor across the street shovel his walk.

My own feelings for the seasons seem delayed. Never do we long to walk in a snowstorm more than the second week of May, and at no other time of the year would we more enjoy chasing the ice cream man with the kids than right around Thanksgiving. And right about now? We’re thinking about summer storms.

You’re in the garden, doing a mid-summer chore like weeding (you haven’t given up yet) and there’s a sudden quickening of the breeze. You can hear it in the trees. Soon you can feel an energy in the air as the sky gets darker. It even smells different. And then a few drops, a few more, and then its storming so wildly you scarcely have time to gather your tools and close the shed door before you’re soaked. Or maybe you’re in bed and the rustling of the leaves wakes you. You look out in time to see branches bending, a flash of light and a sudden sheet of rain filling everything out your window.

Songs about the rain offer so many different things — it is one of the most varied ‘themed’ playlists you could create out of any record collection. From ELO’s bombastic “Concerto for a Rainy Day” (side three of Out of the Blue, which happily concludes with “Mr. Blue Sky”) to Pinhead Gunpowder’s “Mpls Song” (posted some time ago here), there is an incredible range. John Coltrane’s evocative “After the Rain” (on Impressions) has always been a favorite of ours, as has Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.” Surely you have favorites, too.

None capture the majestic spectacle of a summer storm — how could something so majestic hold the same power over a single sense? If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know where we turn at times like this…

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A couple years ago we featured a post called “Too Much” (here) about artists who released multiple albums on a single day, including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and, of course, KISS — All of them are entirely surpassed by a single concert on December 22nd, 1808, when Ludwig van Beethoven debuted his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna.

Many things distinguish Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony in F Major, although its premier was a disaster. It is one of only two given a title by its composer (The Pastoral Symphony) and it is a rare example of explicitly programmatic composition in his oeuvre. Another unique quality is that it is presented in five movements, the final three of which are a seamless program (the tracks run into one another, you know, like in The Wall).

The first movement’s richly developed theme is one of the most memorable in all of classical music, setting the scene for the countryside which the composer often visited while working in Vienna. In the second movement, set around a brook, Beethoven uses woodwinds to represent bird calls, much in the way the French composer and amateur ornithologist Oliver Messiaen would (he was recently featured here on the Hymie’s blog). Beethoven even identifies the birds in his score: the flute representing a nightingale, the clarinet a cuckoo and the oboe a quail.

61F8eVJ3nSL._SX300_The third, fourth and fifth movements are, as mentioned before, a continuous program. All three are in the symphony’s main key of F major. The third is often the subject depicted on album covers, such as this early 60s (date anyone?) recording by George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. Beethoven titled it “Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute” (Merry gathering of country folk) — It is the symphony’s scherzo, or it’s light-hearted and fun passage, depicting a dance in the countryside. It grows and grows until a sudden interruption.

In one of the most sublime moments in all music, Beethoven interrupts the gathering with a summer storm. First a few drops from the strings, then with a striking intensity (especially from the double basses) comes the rain. It sounds as though the celebrants struggle to gather themselves and their things before they’re soaked, only to be inundated by the crashing thunder (tympani providing the only percussion) and waves of windy rain.

(This track includes the coming of the storm, the storm, and its aftermath — the end of the third movement, the entire fourth, and the entire fifth — from an exceptional early 60s recording by the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by George Szell)

And in a stunning three and a half minutes it is passed, giving way to the Allegreto finale, the “Shepherds’ song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm,” as described by Beethoven. The passage transforms the Sixth from a mere portrayal of pastoral life to an episode within it.

Other composers have created storms — Haydn ended his Symphony no. 8 in a similar fashion and Vivaldi naturally included one in his Four Seasons — But Beethoven’s cloudburst is the closest thing on record to the real thing.

Did you ever get the impression that Herbie Mann was the first guy at the picnic to take his shirt off?

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Thursday’s Southside Aces show at the Eagles Club #34 promises to be one of their best – they’ll be paying tribute to legendary New Orleans drummer Paul Barbarin, a man who loved his city and his music so much that he literally played until the moment he died while leading a Mardi Gras parade.

Six bucks at the door gets you an amazing night of New Orleans jazz and a raffle ticket where you can win records from your friendly neighborhood record store.

The 2000 movie High Fidelity still comes up in conversation around here, and for many it seems to be the definitive big screen portrayal of life in a record store. We enjoy the movie and its very nice soundtrack, and we certainly get some smiles from the “Beta Band Effect” from time to time (what’s this?) but its not our favorite movie set in a record store.

Fish Story is a 2009 movie directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. It begins in a record store five hours before a comet is to destroy the Earth. Two young men are doing what we do here every day, nerding out about records, when a man comes in and asks, incredulous, “Why are you open?”

They ignore him and continue to discuss music, as the clerk introduces his friend to an obscure band called Gekirin. Their final recording, “Fish Story,” pre-dates punk rock, although it sounds suspiciously like “New Rose” by the Damned.

We follow the song backwards through history — witnessing moments of heroism and terror, before finally meeting Gekirin in 1975 and learning how they came to record “Fish Story,” based on a mis-translated poem.

There is a scene in another movie, Almost Famous, when Jason Lee claims that rock and roll will save the world. It’s the kind of hyperbolic statement often associated with pop music’s need to justify itself, not so different from the way we feel about some of our favorite records. “This is important,” we tell ourselves, even though  we know well that in the big picture our records are inconsequential at best.

Fish Story is about those dreams, and how one of our records might save the world.

hank jr and friendsIf anyone else could say we don’t know how it feels to be them, it might be Hank Williams Jr. For so much of his life, he lived in his father’s shadow, even though he was a highly talented multi-instrumentalist.

Hank Jr. took lessons from famous musicians as varied as Fats Domino and Earl Scruggs, and has played on his many albums at least a half dozen different instruments: guitar, banjo, dobro, piano, drums, etc.

Last week we bought a monstrous collection of country records which leaned heavily on the seventies ‘outlaw’ scene. Naturally, there were a lot of albums by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and those great Bakersfield bands of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. There were also more of Hank Jr.’s albums than we’ve ever seen at once. Whole boxes of them. Who knew there were so many?!

His 1975 album Hank Williams Jr. and Friends is a country-rock classic. It’s last song, “Living Proof,” is one of the most heartbreaking country tunes we’ve ever heard.

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