Saturday, October 13, 2007

Splotchy's Green Monkey Mix- Geography Pop Quiz

I recently participated in another installment of Splotchy's Green Monkey Project, which was based on an idea from Chris. The theme this time was "Geography Pop Quiz--" songs with geographical places in their titles.

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Charlotte Street
When I first got out of college in 1985, I lived on the south side of Chicago, not far from Oak Lawn, where my friend Tim, who'd also recently graduated, lived. I ended up in his very cool circle of friends (which included the guys in Naked Raygun). One of these friends was a guy named Dave Flores. Tim had met Dave when they worked together at the Southtown Economist newspaper. Davey, as we called him, was a unique guy. One time, when he had a two week vacation from work, he packed a small bag, went to O'Hare airport with his passport and walked around until he saw a destination he liked (I remember that he ended up going to London).

In any event, Davey used to make these mix tapes-- a mix of music, snippets of movies, interviews-- and give them to all his friends. It was on one of these tapes that I first heard Charlotte Street, the first Lloyd Cole and the Commotions song I ever heard. I just fell in love with this song, with its sad tale of a broken romance-- it's almost a rewrite of the Rolling Stones "Beggar's Banquet" classic No Expectations:

Here comes my train
I'm on my way, will you not see
I don't need your sympathy
I won't read your poetry, oh sweetness please...

I was hooked on Lloyd Cole for life, especially after I heard Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?.

R.E.M. - (Don't Go Back to) Rockville
Simply one of the greatest songs ever. It has one of the greatesst lines ever:

At night I drink myself to sleep
And pretend I don't care that you're not here with me

I mentioned this one recently-- that it should have been both the #1 pop and #1 country hit of 1984.

Brook Benton - Rainy Night In Georgia

Yet another song of romantic longing. This song is just gorgeous, filled with imagery. It reminds me thematically a lot of John Hartman's Gentle On My Mind.

When I was trying to track down the 45 of this when I was in college, it took a while to find-- I'd always thought it was a Ray Charles song.

Another of my favorites of Benton's is the duet he did with Dinah Washington on Baby, You've Got What It Takes.

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Okay, this is not a song of romantic longing. It's about Charles Starkweather, who went on a killing spree across Nebraska, Missouri and Wyoming in 1957 and 1958. It's the first dark song on the dark, yet ultimately hopeful Nebraska album, a masterpiece.

The story of the Nebraska album itself is fascinating. It was intended to be a demo. Springsteen was running around for months with the cassette tape of the record, which he'd recorded at home on a Teac 144 four-track recorder. People who heard it convinced him that the stark power of the songs was on the demo. He brought into a studio, added minimal keyboards onto a couple of songs with a cheap Casio keyboard, cleaned it up a bit, and released the album. After Born To Run it's my favorite Springsteen album.

Red Rockers - China
I posted recently about this song-- a favorite from the eighties. A gorgeous little gem. The video is one of the first videos I remember liking, though in retrospect it's funny watching it-- it was obviously done on the cheap.

John Griffith of the Red Rockers is now a member of Cowboy Mouth.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Born In Chicago
I grew up listening to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's self-titled first album, which my father had. When I was a kid, my family lived in Chicago's then-bohemian Lincoln Park neighborhood, and my parents loved to walk over to Big John's, a popular blues club in the Old Town section of Lincoln Park that is where Second City is now housed. You could see James Cotton, Muddy Waters, and of course Paul Butterfield.

Their original guitarist was Elvin Bishop, who was a student at the University of Chicago (he later had a big hit in the seventies with Fooled Around And Fell In Love, with Mickie Most, later the Jefferson Starship's vocalist, singing). They recruited Mike Bloomfield, the "Blue Jew," who was the hot guitarist in town, to play lead guitar on the record, relegating Bishop to rhythm guitar. Bloomfield played guitar that same year on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album, providing the distinctive guitar sound on that record.

The Pixies did an interesting cover of this song on the Rubaiyat collection that celebrated Elektra Records' 40th anniversary.

The Blasters - Hollywood Bed
I love this tawdry tale of an illicit love affair:

What's that you say?
You've got a rich old man?
I live on the streets
Doin' the best I can
Well he can call his friends
He can call the cops
He can call 'em all but they won't find us
Rockin' in this Hollywood bed..."

A lot of the Blasters' material was unavailable for years until the good folks at Rhino Records released Testament, a collection of everything the Blasters did for Slash records.

It was nearly five years ago, in November of 2002 that I saw the reunited Blasters at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn-- one of the best shows ever. It was there that I became Dave Alvin's favorite person.

Thanks to Splotchy and Chris for another edition of the Green Monkey Mix!


Anonymous said...

Rattlesnakes is one of my favorite albums. I kind of lost track of Lloyd Cole after that. Is he still making music?

Splotchy said...

A friend of mine in college was big into Lloyd Cole, but I never really got into him, honestly probably because of all the pictures I would see of him, brooding and glaring at the camera.

That being said, I really like "Charlotte Street" -- it's a really great song. Thanks for introducing me to it.

The R.E.M. song has always been close to my heart since I first heard it.

Thanks a lot for playing this round. I believe one more mix and you'll be a master!

Erik Donald France said...

Great stuff. All the London references in songs like "Charlotte Street" have given me the chills when I've walked around those places for real. Lloyd Cole is very literate and cool.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I agree with you about Nebraska!

I saw an interview with Springsteen recently in which he said that he originally thought Nebraska would be and E Street Band album, but that the best versions of the songs were not the band versions.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You've got a few selection on here I've never heard of, and that is always a good thing.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

I totally forgot about Lloyd Cold and the Commotions. I wore my cassette out.

BTW - was Naked Raygun around in 1986-87? I think I saw them in Columbus at Molly McGuires.

Monica said...

i keep hearing about lloyd cole lately. i am now off to listen to "hey lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken" by camera obscura.

Bubs said...

Man I love Nebraska. That's also one of my mom's favorite albums, we got it for her as a gift years ago when it came out.

My biggest memory of Rockville was one of my roommates just blasting it almost 24/7. It actually put me off REM for a while. I got over it though.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Blah blah blah, Springsteen blah.

Grant Miller said...

Very true about "Don't Go Back to Rockville."

Beth said...

Mike Mills wrote "Rockville." Somewhere I have an MP3 of him performing it solo, if'n you want it.

BeckEye said...

The Blasters are so flippin' cool.

busterp said...

Good songs. Paul Butterfield. Saw the band at Kickapoo Creek in 1970 (Woodstock like concert).

See link:

And a bit of trivia about the song Born in Chicago. Lyrics start:

I was born in Chicago in nineteen and forty-one
I was born in Chicago in nineteen and forty-one
Well, my father told me, "Son, you had better get a gun"

The lyrics wouldn't have rhymed if you used his real birthday year, 1942. (Born Dec 17, 1942)