Tuesday, January 22, 2008

If You're Gonna Steal...

If you're gonna steal, why not steal from the best?

Today, I was admiring the renovations over at the Sprawling Ramshackle Compound and immediately decided to swipe one of the changes-- the widget that allows you to put a few songs on your blog. I called it "The Soundtrack To My Life." I've noticed a very high tendency for music to be important to most of the bloggers I enjoy reading.

My intent is to have a few songs that are high on my mental playlist, and a little explanation of each of them. BTW, does anyone know how to make m4a's playable on that widget?

The songs:

1. Abraham, Martin and John, by Dion
Dion Dimuccio was one of the many Italian-American crooners to have a bunch of hits in the early sixties, including one of my favorite-ever songs, "Ruby Baby."

By the mid-sixties, he was fading fast. First, music was changing and his style was becoming outdated. Secondly, he had become a raging heroin addict.

A few weeks ago, Andrew Loog Oldham, one of the deejays on Little Steven's Underground Garage was talking about interviewing Dion. Dion recounted how he had a powerful religious experience in April of 1968; a month and a half before, he'd been on a heroin binge with Frankie Lymon. They parted ways and a couple of days later Dion discovered that Lymon had died of a heroin overdose. When Martin Luther King died on April 4 of that year, it really hit Dion. He went to a church and spent hours praying. At the end of it, he resolved to kick heroin, which he did. A few months later, he recorded "Abraham, Martin and John," which had been written by Dick Holler (who'd also written the novelty tune "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron"). It reached #4 on the US charts and revived Dion's career.

Some may consider the song overly-sentimental, but I love the song, which is about the loss we all feel about the deaths of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. This line always grabs me, every time I hear the song:

"Didn't you love the things that they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good in you and me?
And we'll be free
Someday soon...."

2. Roll Me On The Water- Bonnie Koloc
Bonnie Koloc was a staple of the folk scene in Chicago for years. I never got to see her at the Earl of Olde Town of any of the other wonderful folk clubs in pre-gentrification Lincoln Park, but I did get to see her at Ravinia the summer of 1979, right after I graduated high school. She had a double bill with another great Chicago folkie, Steve Goodman. This song, about unabashed love and lust, is just sweet and lovely.

On Monday nights at my Evanston job, there's live music. The bluegrass/folk/country band that plays that night plays a version of this little gem, and every Monday it makes my night to hear it.

3. Alone Again Or...- Love
I was saddened in 2006 by the death of Arthur Lee. His group Love was innovative and influential.

I first heard this song in the late eighties when my old friend Mark played The Damned's version of it for me when he, Dan and I were rooming together. I liked the Damned's version of it, but was absolutely floored when I heard Love's original a few months later.

The song was co-produced by The Doors' producer Bruce Botnick, who brought in a mariachi band he'd used on a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album. The horn solo is one of my favorite parts of the song.

Alone Again Or... only charted at #99, but like many records that had low sales (e.g. the first Velvet Underground album), it was very influential. According to Wikipedia, Rolling Stone Magazine rated it #436 of the 500 best records ever.


Anonymous said...

Good to see your post with its passing reference to Steve Goodman. He often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my new 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music." Bonnie Koloc is a key character in the book, for which I did more than 1,000 interviews. Please know that the book's first printing just sold out, all 5,000 copies, and the publisher has authorized a second printing that will be out in late February. To sign up to be notified about the availability of the second printing, visit my Internet site (below) and click on the "online store" page. Just trying to spread word about the book. Feel free to do the same!

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515
(206) 484-8008

GETkristiLOVE said...

I'll have to stay in Evanston next time long enough to come check out the Monday Night music scene.

SkylersDad said...

You youngsters and your music sharing, why in my day we had to walk down to the drug store in a snowstorm and steal an album if we wanted it!

Anonymous said...

While you were busy writing this post, I stole your car. Thanks for the advice :)

deadspot said...

m4a files are the ones with digital encryption that you buy from the iTunes store, right?

Make a playlist, burn it to CD, import from the CD.

Et voila, mp3 files.

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

Ooh! I like it!

Beth said...

Damn brilliant choices, Mr. Yen. But I would not have expected less of you.

Now I need to sign off so I can go download "Abraham, Martin, and John." Can you believe I don't have that MP3???

cheer34 said...

my kids laugh at me because I only have 34 songs on my Ipod. I just never really liked music, but have recently discovered crystal method. Are they alternative or techno?

Bubs said...

Isn't that a cool gizmo?! Thanks for the mention. Great song choices, too. I'm looking forward to playing with this feature quite a bit

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You always manage to have the best and most indepth stories with your music. Not sure how you do it!

Grant Miller said...

I fell in love with Love about 10 years ago. Fun stuff.

My wife, who loves The Damned much, much more than I, has't heard their version. I will try and find it now.