Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Cover Story: “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” April 15, 2013

Hey, after over a year, I finally got around to posting a second “Cover Story”.  This time, it’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”, which I chose because its title perfectly describes how I feel about my life right now, although for different reasons than those detailed in the song.  This oft-covered break-up song was written by prolific songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and was first recorded in 1962 by Tommy Hunt.  Whom I’d never heard of until doing research on this song, but you learn something new every day.

 

 

Probably the most famous version of the song (at least for pre-millenials, but more about that later) was recorded in 1964  by Dusty Springfield.  Who, if you are one of those young’n’s who aren’t as oldies-literate as yours truly, was basically the Adele-meets-Florence-Welch of the 1960s.  She was frickin’ awesome, mmkay?  Springfield sang the hell out of this song, which peaked at #3 on the singles chart in her native UK, but never charted in the US.  Two years later, Dionne Warwick released her own version of the song, which made #26 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  Warwick’s version is very similar to Springfield’s in sound, if only a tiny bit slower and softer.

 

 

 

In 1968 yet another version of the song was released by Dionne Warwick’s aunt (and Whitney Houston’s mother) Cissy Houston.  This version never did anything in the charts (I’m not sure if it was ever even released as a single), but I have to say, this version really stands out to me with its faster tempo and more upbeat sound (not that the lyrics are any less melancholy).  This is probably the most unique-sounding version of the song I’ve yet encountered.

 

 

The following version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” I decided to put here mostly because I know my mom reads this blog and that she is a big fan of Elvis Costello (and, well, so am I) and seems to be fond of his interpretations of other artists’ works.  It also just happens to be an awesome version of the song, a slinky new wave renditions with a nice creeping bassline.  Elvis Costello & the Attractions released this in 1978 on their Live Stiffs Live album.

 

 

And finally we have  the White Stripes’ cover of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”.    Released on their 2003 album Elephant, this particular version is what you might call “stripped down”, using Jack’s guitar and Meg’s drums as the sole instruments and throwing out about half of the song’s original lyrics.  It is probably my favorite version of the song, as it is the first version of the song that I ever remember hearing (which is actually pretty surprising, considering I’ve been raised on oldies music since before I can remember and only really started listening to The White Stripes in 2009), and there’s just something about the jangly repeated guitar riff and Jack’s over-the-top falsettos.  And, well, obviously, those who have read this blog before should know by now how much I love The White Stripes.  Depending on how far back you’ve been reading this blog, you might also have some idea of how much I absolutely loathe the video that was made to go along with this song.  So for this song, I’m deliberately including a clip of it being performed live.  But it’s not just because I think the music video is dull unimaginative poop that doesn’t deserve to ever again see the light of day.  It’s also because, frankly, this song as interpreted by The White Stripes is best appreciated as it’s performed live, in all its jangly, falsetto-y, vibrato-tastic glory.

 

 

There are like a gazillion other artists who’ve covered this song as well, including (but not limited to) Isaac Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, and even Gary Puckett (whose version is surprisingly not as nauseating as I’ve come to expect from him, but that’s probably because “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” doesn’t have the words “woman”, “girl”, or “lady” anywhere in its lyrics).  Those that I mentioned on this post are merely those that I found to be particularly noteworthy and/or enjoyable.  If you have a favorite version of this song that wasn’t mentioned here, please feel free to comment (or even if you just feel like commenting on this song in general.  And definitely leave a comment if you’ve got any suggestions for future “Cover Story” songs I might feature.  But I would really appreciate some feedback.  It gets lonely here sometimes).

 

Video of the…er…Current Indeterminate Interval of Time: “I’m Shakin'” by Jack White February 21, 2013

Filed under: Jack White,Video of the Week — yourbirdcansing88 @ 12:25 AM
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If you’re a faithful follower of my blog (yeah, as if), you probably know that I love me some Jack White.  And if you recall the last time I posted about Jack White, you’ll remember that this was my reaction to his then-pretty-new music video for “Freedom at 21”:

SIX MONTHS DUNGEON!

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

(in case it isn’t obvious, the big angry sourpuss is supposed to be me. The handsome peppermint dandy is Jack. Because well duh)
 

I’m not even going to trouble myself with explaining once again why I had such an averse reaction to the video.  If you’re curious, you can read it all here (hint:  sexism and cliches beget such ugly babies).  Well, I want you all to know that even though I still consider the aforementioned video to be a pathetic disappointment, I’ve decided not to let that weigh too much on my opinion of Mr. White, because since then he’s done several things to remind me that he’s still absolutely wonderful.  And one of those things was his next video, “I’m Shakin'”, which came out back in October or whenever.  Yeah, I was going to write about it back then, but only a few days after I discovered the video, Sandy happened, and I was living in (okay, a really spoiled version of) the dark ages for several days.  Thus, my plans for this blog post kind of fell by the wayside.  The reason I’m writing about it now is because I’ve recently fallen even more head-over-heels back in love with Jack White since then, what with him performing on the Grammys a couple weeks ago, which actually gave me a reason to bother watching the Grammys, which I haven’t done since 2009 (back when Consolers of the Lonely was up for some awards but didn’t get anything, so I wasted a good two or three hours waiting to at least see the Raconteurs accept an award, but to no avail.  That’s right; Jack White is pretty much my only reason to ever watch the Grammys).  And well, that rekindled my love for the man all over again, to the point that I spent Valentine’s Day watching my DVDs of Under Blackpool Lights, It Might Get Loud, and Under Great White Northern Lights to celebrate my unabashed fangirl love for the man (I’m single and unemployed; what else am I supposed to do?).

If feeling this way about Jack White is wrong, I am neither willing nor capable of being right.

So here’s an illustration of my current attitude towards Mr. White. Yup, back to normal.

Anyway, more about this video:  it’s basically the most badass Doublemint gum commercial that never happened.  There’s two Jack Whites in this video (because the only thing that could possibly be better than one Jack White is two Jack Whites), one fronting each of his two backing bands, the all-male Buzzards and the all-female Peacocks (which I think is a weird name for an all-female group, considering peacocks are, by definition, male peafowl.  But peahens are neither as well-known, nor nearly as pretty as their male counterparts, so whatevs.  I’d say birds are weird that way, but it’s actually humans who have all the weird ideas about gender presentation).  Yay for pretty much equal representation of men and women!  And yay for badass women rockers!  Special mention also goes to Jack’s two female backup singers, who, along with Jack, get to perform with both groups, which means that the ones performing with the Buzzards get to wear some snazzy suits.  Not stripperiffic versions of male uniforms, either; I mean suits that are maybe tailored a bit more to the female body, but otherwise just like the suits the dudes are wearing.  They even got hats.  Now the only thing that would make this even more perfect is if one of the Jacks was wearing a kilt (he’s been known to wear kilts on occasion, or at least back when he was in The White Stripes and The Raconteurs.  He’s part-Scottish and everything, too), but hey, the photo-negative-y suits he wears are awesome enough (and for me, kinda reminiscent of “Daddy’s Song”).  Plus, the two dancers who are in the video for no discernable reason beyond just being totally awesome (I’m especially impressed with the male dancer’s moves.  Holy crap).  And then there’s  that little wiggle Jack does at about 1:50-1:53 which is the most adorable thing in the whole wide world.  Well, that and the way Jack pronounces the word “nervous” in the song (I’d say it was in a “Joizee” accent, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m from New Jersey and know better.  But I’ve been in love with that pronunciation of “nervous” ever since I heard Mae West say it in She Done Him Wrong).  So anyway, enjoy.

 

 

In infinitely awesome news… August 9, 2012

Filed under: Rants and Raves,The Monkees — yourbirdcansing88 @ 3:19 AM
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(note for all you cynical types who think that just because a band got together in a way that was less than organic and at least partially for the purposes of “selling a product” other than music automatically negates any kind of musical talent or cultural merit:  I fart in the general direction of your elitism.  That means you too, Jann S. Wenner)

The Monkees

The Monkees: a guilty pleasure for some; for me, just a pleasure.

The (three remaining) Monkees have announced that they’re going back on tour!  Yes, even Nesmith (who, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t so much opposed to joining previous Monkees reunions as he was insanely busy at that time being a multimedia renaissance man and coming up with the prototype for MTV)!  Of course it won’t be quite the same without Davy Jones, but I’m sure their departed bandmate will be anything but forgotten on this tour.  There ought to be many a moving tribute in his honor, I’d imagine (just so long as they don’t do one of those creepy duet-with-a-holographic-dead-guy numbers).

 

Signs point to today being a good day… March 14, 2012

Ya know why?  ‘Cause just a few minutes ago this morning, I tuned into Q104.3 just as my favorite song ever, “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum was beginning.  Aaaaaaahhhhhh…good tunes…

 

Video of the Week: “Daddy’s Song” by Davy Jones March 4, 2012

Filed under: The Monkees,Video of the Week — yourbirdcansing88 @ 5:20 PM
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There’s actually two reasons why I chose this video for this week.  The first is to honor the memory of Davy Jones, who passed away earlier this week.  The second is that my dad’s birthday was also this week.  Happy birthday, Dad.  And rest in peace, Davy Jones.

 

This video is a scene from HEAD, The Monkees’ one and only feature film (and one of my favorite movies).  The movie kickstarted my obsession with The Monkees which lasted almost the entirety of my freshman year of college.  I’d always been a fan of their music, but HEAD introduced me to the prefab four as individual characters.  What’s also awesome about this video is that it features cameos from Toni Basil (yes, that Toni Basil.  Who apparently had a huge crush on Monkee Micky Dolenz, hence the title of her one and only hit) and Frank Zappa (and Frank Zappa’s talking cow).  Oh, and just a warning, there are some parts of this video that feature rapid, flashing cuts between shots, and so might be problematic for those of you with photosensitive epilepsy or other such conditions.  But otherwise, enjoy.

 

 

Of all the things to bash Gov. Christie about… February 20, 2012

…I don’t understand why it’s apparently such a scandal that he’s flying the flags at half staff for Whitney Houston.  Wait, let me rephrase that:  I do understand the concern that the half-staff tradition is technically supposed to be reserved for our servicemen and servicewomen who’ve given their lives for our state and/or country and/or freedom, and that flying the flag at half staff for a mere celebrity sort of trivializes that.  That much I understand.  What I don’t understand is, why wasn’t everyone all up in arms when Clarence Clemons’s passing was honored in the same manner?  Apparently we as citizens of New Jersey are supposed to be absolutely appalled that our governor has chosen to respect the legacy of a — gasp! — drug addict.  Won’t someone please, please think of the children?!

 

See, the thing is, we can’t be too sure that no one else for whom the bell tolled flag was lowered has ever had a problem with drugs.  If one of our late servicemen/women just happened to have struggled with an addiction at some point in their life before they died heroically, would we give a crap?  Would we negate what good they’ve done for their country and their state just because they happened to have moments of weakness that proved them to be less than angelic?  Hell no.  And let’s just imagine for a second that Clarence Clemons, being the high-profile musician that he is, maybe had a brief period in his career during which he struggled with some addiction or other.  Would we suddenly forget that he played a pivotal role in the E-Street Band if we ever discovered that he once had a serious drug problem?  I don’t think so.  So why do we care that Whitney Houston, another of New Jersey’s undisputed musical gifts to the world, had a long, meticulously documented struggle with drugs?

 

Oh, wait, the answer’s in the question.  The difference between Whitney Houston and every other person who ever made a difference in New Jersey is that her weaknesses were publicized about as often as her strengths, and what’s more, they were held under a disproportionate amount of scrutiny.  See, the tabloids just love it when talented, successful people — particularly beautiful, talented, successful women — are spotted acting like flawed human beings because it gives them license to twist and embellish the details for their own profit.  Really, though, Whitney’s drug addiction is much less relevant to her career and her fame as the trash media wants us to believe.  The only reason why we make a big deal about it is because it’s well known, and the only reason why it’s well known is because that’s what all the magazines have been screaming at us while we stand captive in the check-out line at the supermarket, and it’s what the TV’s been telling us while we sit in wait for the actual news, or whatever show’s on next.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t care that Whitney had a serious drug problem, just as I don’t think we shouldn’t care if we know for a fact that someone is cutting themself or suffering from an eating disorder.  What I am saying is that we shouldn’t act as though Whitney was a horrible person for doing something that — let’s face it — hurt her more than it hurt anyone else.  And we certainly shouldn’t make the mistake as defining her as an addict rather than as the superstar she was.  I recognize that not everyone is going to be a fan of Whitney Houston’s music, but we should all at least give her the respect of seeing her as an artist and a significant human being before we scrutinize how she may have chosen (or not chosen; felt as though she had to) to spend her personal life.

 

So in short, all I really have to say is this:  LEAVE WHITNEY ALOOOOOOONE!  Or, as a really smart guy in a book a whole bunch of people have read once said, whoever is without sin, etc., etc.

 

New Regular Feature: Cover Story December 5, 2011

After a few months of serious writer’s block, inspiration struck me one morning a couple of weeks ago.  It came to me on the car ride to work, in the form of “Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits.[1]  I’ve heard The Kinks’ version of the same song at least a dozen times, it being a track on my much beloved Kinks compilation CD set The Ultimate Collection.  However, until that morning, I’d been completely unaware that Herman’s Hermits had also recorded a version.  This was kind of a big deal for me because, despite my being less than a quarter century old, I’ve been practically raised in a vacuum of pop, rock, and folk hits of the ’60s, so it’s not every day I encounter a previously undiscovered song[2] from that era.  And so it got me thinking.

 

First of all, it got me thinking of the differences and similarities between the two versions.  For one thing, the Hermits version didn’t sound a whole heck of a lot different from the Kinks version, and yet the very subtlety of those differences only enhanced the feeling that two completely disparate moods were being expressed between the two.  Now I realize that part of this observation might be colored by my own understanding of The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits from the standpoint of someone who was born long after both bands ceased to be contemporary and whose views of each — i.e. Kinks =”rock” and Herman’s Hermits = “pop” — are therefore inevitably informed by modern-day popular opinion and the retrospective pigeonholing of once unclassified groups into newly invented and ever-narrowing categories or “subgenres.”  But to me, there’s a trace of venom in the Kinks version that the Hermits version seems to lack completely.  I’d even go as far to say that Herman’s Hermits aren’t capable of the acidity, of the subtle mean-spiritedness that’s so prevalent in The Kinks’ body of work.  The Hermits’ softer edge does not necessarily make an inferior version of “Dandy;”[3] if anything, it makes both versions more interesting, because why bother covering something someone else has done if you’re not going to put your own spin on it?[4]  Like I said, it might just be that Peter “Herman” Noone — or his musical persona, anyway — comes off as a much more benign and amiable person than Ray Davies does,[5] but to me, while the Hermits version comes off as the kind of playful taunting that could only a close friend of the eponymous good-natured playboy could get away with, Davies’ tone on the same song is anything but friendly; he can barely contain its contempt (or perhaps bitter envy?) for the womanizing ne’er-do-well.

 

 

 

So that’s what the Herman’s Hermits version of “Dandy” got me thinking a couple of weeks ago.  But that’s not all.  It also reminded me of all those times I’ve thought critically (or maybe even not so critically) about cover songs, and all the times I’ve wanted to geek about the subject on here but never really had enough incentive to do so.  I’ve toyed several times with the idea of compiling a top-ten list revolving around cover songs, such as “Top Ten Cover Songs You’ve Never Heard” or “Top Ten Cover Songs That are at Least as Good as the Original.”  I’ve ultimately rejected such ideas for numerous reasons:  the tedium of choosing just a select few songs that I deem worthy out of an innumerable and ever-growing entirety of cover songs;[6] the presumptuous nature of phrases like “that you’ve never heard” or even “that are at least as good as the original”; the fact that “little-known cover” just as often means “song that is well known but, unbeknownst to many, is not the original version”;[7] the whole tricky question of, “if Singer-Songwriter A writes a song, Group B records it, and then, years later, Singer-Songwriter A decides to record the song themself, who’s covering who?”[8]  You get the idea.  So I figured I’m gonna make this a regular, recurring feature on this blog instead.  ‘Cause I’ve got a lot to say about different interpretations of songs, and one blog post isn’t gonna be enough to say all I’ve gotta say.  Plus, this’ll give me a lot more to blog about on a regular basis.  Y’know, between the infrequent and ill-named Video of the Week posts; tirades against sexism, stupidity, bad radio, and what used to pass for music television; occasional Top-Ten lists involving long-defunct bands that no one my age has any excuse to know as much as I do about; and geekfests over Jack White/Noel Fielding/Muppets/etc.  Oh, yeah, and that apology to Kate Moss I’ve been meaning to write.

 

Oh, and feel free to post in the comments section.  I’d be happy to hear whatever suggestions my readers (readers?  What readers?) might have about what cover songs they’d like me to…well…cover here.  Or anything else you’d like to say, as long as it’s not nasty or immature (I’ll take criticism as long as it’s not name-call-y or irrational).  It gets lonely here sometimes.

 

Edit:  I couldn’t get the footnotes to work properly because I’m not sure how to link to another place in the same document.  So when you see a number between brackets, [like this], it means that there’s a correlating footnote at the bottom, but you’ll have to scroll down manually for now to read because I’m not tech-savvy enough.  I was hoping the footnotes would be a good alternative to the parenthetical asides that always seem to clutter up my posts, but I guess I’ll have to go back to posting like that for now.

 

[1]   And I know that this particular version was by Herman’s Hermits because it was on satellite radio and that little title screen thing told me so.

[2]   Or, in this case, a familiar group’s unfamiliar rendition of a somewhat familiar song by another familiar group.

[3]   I, for one, will always think of “Dandy” as a Kinks song.  But then, I’ll always think of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” as a Cher song, which has spurred arguments with friends who swear by the Nancy Sinatra version.

[4]   David Lee “Just a Facsimile Gigolo” Roth, I’m looking at you.

[5]   To put things in perspective, I’m pretty sure Ray doesn’t get along too well with his own brother.  Who was also his bandmate.

[6]   Compiling a list of top studio albums or music videos of a band that’s long gone:  tricky, maybe, but manageable.  Trying to pick a tiny handful of end-all-be-all essential out of an eternally-expanding wellspring of material:  impossible and futile.

[7]   See also “Cum on Feel the Noize”; “Tainted Love”; “House of the Rising Sun”; “I Shot the Sheriff”; “All Along the Watchtower.”

[8]   See also Kris Kristofferson; Carol King; Bob Dylan.