Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Elliot Murphy - Ground Zero

Have you heard of this guy? My friend Brian Banho handed me a CD titled, Elliot Murphy – Ground Zero. I had never heard of the guy before. After hearing the first few songs, I laughed out loud. They sounded like they were written and sung by an amateur Bruce Springsteen imitator. Later on, however, I found out that he pre-dates Bruce. But I listened to the entire CD a few times, and found a few things I liked. According to Brian quite a few people like his stuff.

For one, Elliot Murphy is an good lyricist. Most of his imagery is very original, with only rare slips into hackneyed phrasing. Interestingly, in many of his songs, sections will sound very different from other sections—so much so that when you recall them, you think they were two different songs. Those of us that mostly listen to pop songs on the radio are not used to this kind of sophistication.

My initial negative reaction was due to his voice: He can be very nasal, as in Long Island nasal. And his voice tends to vary wildly in timbre. He’s a croaking frog. The music could have been improved dramatically by a good producer. The non-vocal portion of the music sounds like something from a bad hotel-lounge band. Who knows if a producer could have done something with his voice? He is also in serious need of an acting coach for delivering lines with the proper dramatic tone. Often, the expression and mood of his voice are completely at odds with what the lyrics want to convey. His voice and songs do sound similar to Bruce Springsteen. In fact, they sound so similar; I’d swear that Bruce sings some of the lines in one of the songs. Although Elliot Murphy does not have a great voice, on his love songs he does manage to get control over his voice, and these are his best performances.

I would still like to sample some more of this guy however. I find myself replaying the CD in my car, and I often have one of his songs playing in my head.

The song list, with my comments:

1. The Last of the Rock Stars - I don’t care for it.
2. Isadora’s Dancers - I don’t care for it.
3. Drive All Night - It’s O.K. .
4. Just a Story from America – I don’t care for it.
5. Rock Ballad – I can’t stand to listen to this one.
6. Anastasia – This is a very nice song except the girl’s name sounds like a hit man for the mob.

7. Everything I do – Not bad.

8. Is Fellini Really Dead? - I’m still trying to find out what this song is about!

9. Last Star of the Night

10. The Red Lights / Ground Zero - Ground Zero is an excellent song but very sad. I can’t dwell on it too long though. I don’t understand the concatenation of The Red Lights and Ground Zero either.

11. Navy Blue -Pretty good. But I was distracted by the fact that “Navy Blue,” sounds too much like Bob Dylan’s, “Baby Blue,” and has a similar rhythm as well.

12. On Elvis Presley’s Birthday - This is a very interesting piece with very original subject matter. I appreciate the lyrics about his father. But there is a line about driving through the black neighborhoods of the North Shore of Long Island with his father from Brooklyn—I have no idea what that has to do with the price of tea in China. It stands out like a hole in the head.

13. Diamonds By the Yard –excellent, my favorite song of the CD. I especially like the ending lines and music.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Jimi Plays Berkley - Live # 1, Jimi Hendrix, May 30 1970

"He was very self-effacing about his music but then when he picked up that guitar he was just a monster." - Paul McCartney

“Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix lived in Berkley as a small boy. On May 30, 1970, he returned as the reigning superstar of rock. Jim’s Memorial Day concerts in the 3,400-seat Berkley Community Theater came on the heels of fatal student uprisings against the Vietnam War. The inflamed intensity of his music reflects the most violent weeks in the history of American campuses and the most divisive in the land since the Civil War. This was Jimi’s Cry of Love tour…” - from the back of the box that held the tape.

The inclusion of film footage from events in Berkeley at the time makes the film very evocative. People are protesting outside of a movie theater that is showing the film Woodstock, because the film is not being shown for free. They are confronted by individuals who don’t like what they are doing. The language of some members of both sides is violent and hateful. A girl wears a button that says, “Today’s Pig is Tomorrow’s bacon.” In the Berkeley riots, children, who couldn’t have been more than 12, can be seen throwing rocks in the direction of the police. At the Berkeley Community Center Theater, fans have senselessly smashed windows.

I will give Jim credit; he wanted to be a reconciler. On, “Machine Gun,” a camera close-up shows him crying, and he’s not doing it for the crowd.

The cinematography is poor, but the songs are passionate, intense, and focused performances. I found, Johnny B. Goode to be uninspired. One critic says that back in those days first songs were just warmups.

The Song List from Live #1:
(the film has been broken into two tapes, of which this one is just the first hour)

1. Johnny B. Goode
2. Hear My Train A Comin’
3. Star Spangled Banner
4. Purple Haze
5. I Don’t Live Today
6. Hey Baby (Rising Sun)
7. Lover Man
8. Machine Gun
9. Voodoo Chile

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

John and Yoko

When John Lennon was alive, I confess I was one of those who despised his wife, Yoko Ono. For myself, I think it must have been because her image was so wildly contrary to John, the Beatles, the counterculture, and the My Generation thing. Of course, after John was assassinated, I had nothing but compassion for her and her children.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Mother never told me there'd be days like this," which comes from the song, "Nobody Told Me." However, the published lyrics read, "Nobody told me there'd be days like this." I'm not sure why it is imprinted in my memory with "Mother" instead of "Nobody." There must be something Freudian there.

Yesterday, while driving home from work I heard the song "Instant Karma," on the radio, which, in fact, triggered this whole blog entry! I especially love exhuberently sung the refrain:

"We all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun"

If we look at a sample of John Lennon's songs, post-Beatles--the above two, plus Imagine, Give Peace a Chance--they all have a joyfull, hopefull, exuberent feel. They embrace life. Even his complaining songs have more of the feel of a happy blues than of depressed angst.

I think it can be said that Yoko made John happy, and who can complain about a person or a marriage like that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Classic Rock

Heard, several times, on the radio this past week, while driving to work:

Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet
White Wedding, by Billy Idol
Money for Nothing, by Dire Straights

What does it mean?

I also heard the Sultans of Swing, by Dire Straights. And on the way home from work today, I heard Rebel Yell, and Dancing with Myself,both by Billy Idol.

I also heard on the radio that Eric Clapton and Cream are talking about a reunion concert in Madison Square Garden in October. But it's still a rumor. The rumor also said that Ginger Baker was the holdup. He was afraid of returning to New York because of drug possion charges from 30 years ago, but the Feds and City cops are telling him he's got nothng to worry about.

Spoonful, yeah!