“a kind of loving” – the police (1982)

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If I had to make a top ten list of my favorite bands, the Police would definitely be on that list.  They were such a great band that managed to apply innovative and inventive techniques to New Wave and popular music.  I have trouble thinking of any bands that sounded liked them that managed to come close to the level of success they achieved critically and commercially.  They are also one of the few bands that
I defend as having never released a bad album.

Being a fan of the Police, however, I also think they are a misunderstood band.  I’ve been listening to them off and on for over a decade.  And every time I do, I discover more and more about the band.  I understand more of the subtleties of their playing and songwriting that I never picked up before.  However, there is one quality of the band I picked up on very early that has only intensified over the years.  A quality that I feel many people often overlook.  And that is the Police is a very dark, manic band.

For casual listeners, this might not be so obvious.  Sure, some of their biggest songs feature unsavory situations and characters.  “Roxanne” is about one man’s obsession with a prostitute and “Every Breath You Take” is typically regarded as a stalker’s anthem.  While those two songs are the most popular from the band’s catalogue, they only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the band’s level of sinister songwriting when you explore further.

Even sticking with the other hits and singles, there are many songs that touch up on depravity, isolation, desperation, and fear.  One of their first singles from the band’s debut album Outlandos D’Amour, “Can’t Stop Losing You” is a song about a young man committing suicide because his girlfriend left him.  “Message in a Bottle,” from their sophomore release Reggatta De Blanc offers only a glimmer of hope as an isolated man realizes that everyone else is just as lonely.  “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” features a catchy hook that sounds jovial, but you tend to forget that the chorus references rape.  And, on their final studio album, “Synchronicity II” is a brilliant song that, referring to the Jungian theory of synchronicity, tells the story of an emasculated husband who lives a depressing and unfulfilling life.  And these are only examples of songs that were released as singles.  Imagine what was left on the albums.

The characters who experience these feelings of loneliness and anger are men who have been denied or removed from power.  Their stereotypical gender role has been dismantled and they are left confused and often violent.  The loss of authority, or even superiority, is too much to bear so they rely on more baser instincts to assert whatever dominance they feel they have.  Men in these songs represent a toxic masculinity and the extent that some will go to restore a gender balance.  The scenarios may be different, but the conflict is apparent as the narrative unfolds; unhinged and deranged men acting being violent or reactionary out of fear.  Here are a few examples:

  • “On Any Other Day” – a husband has a crisis and fights against a breakdown as his family disrespects his role such as his wife having an affair and his son coming out as gay
  • “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” – a man’s female partner has left him after committing a mistake, so he cries himself to sleep while humping his pillow
  • “Does Everyone Stare” – a man with no confidence tries to ask out a woman despite his crippling anxiety and poor self-image
  • “Voices Inside My Head” – a man haunted the words of an assumed former lover
  • “Shadows in the Rain” – a man losing his grip on reality
  • “Darkness” – a man stays inside his dark room wishing life would be easy and boring again
  • “Mother” – a man is angry that his mother won’t stop calling him and it is driving him insane
  • “Tea in the Sahara” – based on the novel The Sheltering Sky, three women are left to die in the desert after being told a prince would come save them
  • “Murder by Numbers” – a darkly comic look at the art of murder
  • “Once Upon a Daydream” – a young man murders his lovers father

With only five studio albums released within a six-year period, the Police’s discography is remarkably short considering their popularity and influence.  However, despite the small discography, they managed to put out a lot of haunting material.  However dark those songs are, none of them come close to the material they didn’t put on their albums.

When I was in college, I bought a four-disc box set of their recordings called Message in a Box.  Released in 1993, it boasted that the set contained every commercially released track by the Police up to the point (though later research would reveal that a few tracks were overlooked).  In addition to the studio albums, included were songs released as one-off singles, live cuts from Urgh! A Music War, and soundtrack contributions.  It is through that set that I heard the darkest and most violent song the Police ever recorded.

“A Kind of Loving” was one of three tracks the Police contributed to the 1982 film adaptation of Brimstone & Treacle.  Based on a stage play, the film is about a married couple caring for their daughter who was disabled after a hit-and-run.  One day, the father meets a young maned named Martin (portrayed by Sting).  Martin’s identity and background is a mystery, but he manages to convince the father to allow him to care for his daughter.  The father, though uneasy about the offer, agrees in order to get some time away from the daunting schedule of caring for a young daughter.  While under his care, Martin rapes the young girl.  It is later when Martin attempts to rape her a second time that the daughter screams and is cured of his disability.

In addition to Sting playing the villain in the film, he also contributed a lot of solo material to the film’s soundtrack.  Other bands contributed tracks including Squeeze and the Go-Go’s.  However, none of their songs come close to matching the horrifying listening experience that “A Kind of Loving” offers.

Just over two minutes, “A Kind of Loving” immediately starts with an explosion of noise and pain.  A heavy guitar track play throughout the entirety of the song and is paired with the sounds of a young woman screaming in pain.  At various parts in the song, Sting comes in and shouts obscenities at the women calling her horrible names and demanding that she shut up.  The young woman’s cries of pain ebb and flow in volume throughout the song, but the terror conveyed is constant and disturbing.  Relatively short for a song, that two minutes seems to go on forever.

I have yet to see Brimstone & Treacle or even read the play that the movie was based on.  Being an obscure and limited British release, the film is hard to find in the United States.  I do, however, own the soundtrack on vinyl because it is a solid album overall.  However, I’m not sure I really want to see the film.  I may at some point, but I’m in no rush.  The track “A Kind of Loving” is so jarring that I imagine there is little to nothing artistically I could gain from seeing whatever scene that song scores.  It isn’t even a song I seek out to enjoy as part of a listening experience.  It just comes on whenever I put on that particular Police disc and let it play out.

I love the Police and I go through phases where I listen to their music frequently.  And every time, I forget just how dark the band is.  Sting used to teach English classes and is an avid reader.  It is easy to understand how his love of literature would carry over into his songwriting.  I wonder every time where Sting draws his inspiration from and how he perceives the toxic men he writes about.  I would like to know where they come from and what they mean.  Often, these men face some cruel fate that can only be described as poetic justice.  However, I wonder if there is something deeper there.

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“boys (summertime love)” – sabrina (1987)

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It is now August which means Chicago’s dog days of summer are in full swing.  This is when the city sees it’s hottest days and most epic thunderstorms.  These days are also the best time to go to the beach as Lake Michigan will have adequately warmed up enough to be comfortable.  Patio season for brunch reaches its peak and everyone crams in as much fun before school goes back into session and the temperatures start slowly falling into the crispness of fall.

I have stayed really busy during this summer.  For one, I’ve been playing in a softball league on behalf of the radio station I volunteer with and playing against other media outlets in the city.  I had never joined a league before and had a great time, so I am looking forward to more games next year.  I also go for longer walks and find the best places to read outside; neat park spots with lots of character that are otherwise miserable during the winter time.

There is just so much to do.  I am a busy individual between work, volunteering, errands, and everything else that a big city life demands.  I always look towards summer for things to slow down a bit.  However, the opposite happens.  I get even more busy.  And the reason why is that Chicago summers are way too short.  I feel like I must cram in as much as possible so I don’t feel like I’m taking the fleeting summer days for granted.

To get my going, I spend the late spring putting together an annual summer playlist for me to jam to.  This playlist should be a combination of songs that pump me up, motivate me, are great to dance to, and just breathe life into summer.  While the songs change from year to year, there are a few stalwarts that have made multiple appearance over the years as some of my favorite summer jams.

High up on the list of my favorite summer jam is a catchy Italo disco track by Sabrina Salerno called “Boys (Summertime Love)”.  Released in 1987, it has become Sabrina’s most famous song.  The fame behind the song owes a lot to its own video.  In the video, Sabrina splashes around an Italian hotel pool while her bikini top repeatedly falls down throughout the video.  Needless to say, much of the video’s popularity comes from this.  The video was created for a segment to be included in an Italian magazine show.  This explains why the video is more overtly sexual than typical music videos that would have aired on MTV at the time.

When talking about this song, you have to address the video.  It is all kinds of ridiculous and fun.  It is what contributed to the song’s success.  However, the song’s charm and true appeal shines through in the music.  This Hi-NRG track is highly energetic and impossible to not dance to.  The backing track rhythms are prominent and drives the song.  Sabrina’s vocals are also on point in the song.  Her cute accent is endearing.  You actually concentrate on the vocals because it takes a little extra effort to understand what she is saying through the song.  But doing so, you can hear Sabrina’s talent shine through by giving it the attention it deserves.

I do not remember how I came across this song.  It was around five years ago and probably the product of me going down a YouTube rabbit hole.  Usually, I’ll be amused by what I find during those rabbit hole journeys.  But, I’ll quickly forget about what I saw.  That hasn’t been the case with Sabrina’s iconic track.  It has stayed with me to be one of the finest summer anthems I know.  While the song reached number one in several countries, it didn’t make a splash in the United States.  So, I take every opportunity to celebrate and share this song with friends.  While Italo disco may sound quaint to some considering all the modern electronic dance music that sends vibrating shockwaves throughout your body, there is true appeal in the song for its energy and message; just dance, enjoy summer, and have a summer romance.  What is not to love about that?  Until Sabrina gets the respect she deserves from mainstream American listeners, she will always have a spot in my annual summer jam playlist.

“flaming pie” – paul mccartney (1997)

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Summer is a funny season when it comes to my schedule.  I always think I’m going to take it easy each summer, but I find myself much more active than any other time of the year.  This summer has been full of media league softball games, volunteering, festivals, and music classes.  All I want to do during the summer is to just enjoy the lovely weather at my leisure and not rush. However, that doesn’t happen.  Things are happening and I want to be involved.  I guess it is a subconscious need to not take opportunities for granted because it will all be over someday.

I started my week thinking it was going to business as usual.  I was thinking about my normal routine of commitments and extracurricular activities and trying to balance those with a healthy social life while trying not to neglect personal self-care time (try to at least).  A friend had invited me to a show at Millennium Park, but I declined because that conflicted with my class.

A few weeks ago, I enrolled in my first ensemble class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. My options were limited because I didn’t want to book a class on the weekend (I’ll usually do that during winter time).  Mondays were dedicated to softball, Tuesdays were volunteer nights, and the other nights of the week were where I try to fit errands, chores, and other mundane life stuff.  So, the only day I felt comfortable filling was Wednesday.

The only ensemble class available to me that was convenient was the Beatles ensemble.  According to the class description, we were going to work on Abbey Road.  I thought that was pretty cool.  I had been thinking of taking an ensemble class since it was recommended to me by my previous instructor.

When I went to my first class a few weeks ago, I was confused by what was going on.  Immediately, we just started playing through Let It Be in its entirety.  And not only that, but everyone knew the songs really well.  I had later learned that the ensemble class has been meeting for a long time and they had been working on Let It Be a lot so they could play some cuts at the Square Roots festival put on by the school.

While that is all well and good, I had to quickly adjust to this new class format.  Previously, in the core guitar classes, we would be given a song or two while the instructor goes over the strumming pattern, chords, and any applicable riffs.  We would work on small parts of the songs together focusing on repetition so we could get muscle memory down before playing through the song a few times.  That influenced my expectation about how this ensemble class would go.

While I am fairly decent at the guitar, I’m still at a lower skill level than many of my classmates.  So, this class for me was like being thrown into the deep end of a pool and learning to swim out of fear of drowning.  There was no breaking down the songs like my previous classes, so the method of learning was different.  While intimidating, there is still some value to this.  It teaches me to play with people and to keep up.  And all the while I’m thinking, thankfully no one can hear how bad I am playing right now because there are so many other skilled performers playing in unison.

That class has been going for a few weeks.  And, on Monday morning, I was fully expecting to go to class.  By the end of the day, things would change.

I was at the gym and got an email from a classmate.  I opened it up while on the Stairmaster and I almost fell off out of surprise.  This email was saying that the ensemble class was being invited to go to the Paul McCartney show at Tinley Park for free and that our visit would include access to the sound check.

How awesome is that?!  I immediately went to Google Maps to see how I could get to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre where Paul was playing.  To my dismay, it wasn’t accessible by the Metra.  I replied asking if anyone wanted to carpool.  I got an affirmative.  Great!  Next was to ask for the time off at work so I could make it to the sound check and rearranging my already packed schedule.  But, hey, moving scheduled errands around is a small price to pay to see Paul McCartney.

In my excitement, I went through some storage boxes to find my concert shirt from the last, and only, time I saw Paul McCartney.  That was July 26, 2010.  I had just recently graduated college and was about to temporarily relocate to Alaska to work on some projects.  Paul had scheduled a stop in Nashville on his cheekily named Up and Coming Tour.  This was significant because this would be Paul’s first time playing Nashville in any incarnation of his long and winding career.  I wasn’t going to miss this chance to see a Beatle.

The show was great.  I had nosebleed seats because I was a recent graduate who didn’t’ make that much money.  Still, it was a memorable experience.  I had a great time.  I was satisfied that I had seen a Beatle.  In the last seven years, Paul has toured a few times.  Even Ringo went out and played some shows.  However, as much as I love them and knew it would be a great show, I never had the urge to go back out to a show.  Big concerts can get expensive and I was satisfied with my one-time experience.  Though, that attitude changed for this show.  It was free and I had a ride.

Currently on his One on One tour, Paul was originally scheduled to play one show at Tinley Park.  Due to overwhelming demand, a second show was added and that was the show the ensemble class was invited to. I left work at noon and met a classmate at the Old Town School.  She had agreed to drive a couple of us to the show.  We had to get to the venue by 3:30. Along the way, we encountered a lot of heavy stop and go traffic on the interstate which extended our original 60-minute drive to a 90-minute drive.  We passed the time with stories, good conversation, and some Beatles music when the traffic let up.

We get to the venue and stand around for about an hour waiting for the sound check to start.  I mingled with classmates and met some people affiliated with the school who tagged along for this adventure.  Funny enough, I was the only one wearing a Beatles shirt in any form.  Mine was the tour shirt from the show I saw in 2010.  No one else was wearing any Paul or Beatles shirts which seemed funny to me.  That is the kind of thing you think about while you’re waiting around for a once in a lifetime experience such as seeing a Paul McCartney sound check.

After an hour, we get ushered in to take out seats.  A sound check coordinator was going over some details with us.  Standard stuff like don’t take videos (pictures were fine) and to dance around having a good time.  Paul doesn’t like people standing there looking at phones or with arms crossed which made sense.

Paul arrived via helicopter and took the stage a few minutes later.  After playfully addressing the hundred or so people in the sound check audience, the band started performing.  This was incredibly exciting.  It was like a personal concert.  Paul played for 45 minutes testing various guitars, pianos, and a ukulele.  He opened up jamming a rockabilly instrumental.  The rest of the set included various Wings, Beatles, and solo songs as well as covers like “Midnight Special.”  The variety was cool and I loved hearing “Only Mama Knows” from his underrated 2007 album Memory Almost Full.

After the sound check, we waited around for the show.  And, naturally, the show was stellar.  Paul played a 39-song set!  And what is great about a career like his is that almost every song is a classic.  He even pulled out deep cuts like the offbeat “Temporary Secretary” from his second solo album.  Paul would also connect with the audience by telling stories in between songs that showed off his humor and appreciation for being there.  Songs from the Beatles and Wings catalogue were featured quite extensively.  However, he also played cuts from his latest album New released in 2013 as well as the track “FourFiveSeconds” which he recorded with Rihanna and Kanye West.  He made a point to tell the audience that “FourFiveSeconds” was the most recent song he recorded (released in 2015) because, earlier in the set, he played “In Spite of All the Danger” which as the earliest tune he had ever recorded when he was a member of the pre-Beatles skiffle group the Quarrymen.

Paul has had such an amazing career.  So many great songs that will last generations.  To only pick one song from his discography was an absolute challenge.  There are songs from his solo career that I have loved since high school.  And since I have already covered the Beatles in this blog, I cannot go pick a song from their stellar catalogue.  Perhaps Wings?  Or maybe even a track from his side projects like the Firemen? Why not a solo song from the concert?

So many songs to consider, but I think I’ll stray off the path of mainstream (or as non-mainstream as I can get with a Beatle).  Flaming Pie was released in 1997 and recommended to me by a friend in college.  While it is not the most obscure entry in his career (did you know he has put out classical music compositions?), I appreciate the album for it’s sound and context.

Prior to its release, the Beatles Anthology project was being released.  This include the documentary plus three double-disc albums over two years.  Paul was working on tracks for Flaming Pie as early as 1992, but the studio executives asked him to not release any materials until the anthology project was concluded.  Paul, at first did not like that decision but came around to see that it made sense. Not only did it make sense from a marketing and sales perspective, it also gave Paul an opportunity to focus his complete attention on the anthology project and the history of his own band.  Paul described the experience “was a refresher course that set the framework for this album.”

“Calico Skies” was the first song written for the record.  And it is certainly my favorite song from the album.  However, the album-titled track is the one I listen to the most.  “Flaming Pie” is simply just a fun song and an overlooked entry in his vast catalogue.  It is utter nonsense with a jovial backing track.  It puts me in a good mood with its absurd imagery.  It is a track that perfectly represents Paul.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to see Paul perform again.  I didn’t expect to after the 2010 concert.  However, life is full of surprises and opportunities.  The key is to know what to do when that happens.

“butter” – a tribe called quest (1991)

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Well, another Pitchfork Music Festival has come in gone.  This was my fourth time attending the fest and it has stayed consistently fun.  As always, the crowd wasn’t unmanageable and my enjoyment of the fest was helped with cooler weather and no rain.

I also got to see a lot of great performances.  Thurston Moore was loud, noisy, and amazing.  Angel Olsen was a real treat, but I think her backup singer was more excited to be there than she was.  George Clinton was a missed opportunity because I left after 15 minutes due to poor sound that was later corrected.  PJ Harvey’s performance, while good, seemed out of place at an outdoor music fest in the daytime.  The Feelies were furious with George Clinton for bleeding into their set time which affected their playing.  And I made happy memories watching LCD Soundsystem with Carolyn.  All in all, it was a great time.

Though, one performance stood above the rest.  If you had asked me prior to the fest who was the one act I absolutely had to see, the answer would come fast and easily: A Tribe Called Quest.

I had been a fan of the group since college.  While I had discovered a few of the other artists during the time, A Tribe Called Quest preceded all of them.  Plus, I have listened to them more than the others.  So, when they were announced as the headliner, I knew I had to make time to see them.

As I made my way to a spot left of the sound booth about 45 minutes before the show, a lot of questions were coming to mind.  This was the group’s first festival performance since the death of Phife Dawg last year.  They had performed on Saturday Night Live since his death, but that was in a more controlled setting.  This wasn’t television. This was a full-length concert performance in front of thousands of people.  And everyone, including me, was wondering “What about Phife Dawg?”

I was talking with my friends about the possibilities.  Perhaps the others were just going to rap Phife Dawg’s rhymes.  Or maybe they were going to bring out a guest or a slew of guests throughout the tour to substitute.  We even joked about bringing out a hologram like what happened with Tupac a few years prior.  W when the lights dimmed and the show commenced, we got our answer.

Q-yip, Jarobi, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad were present and joined with guest MC Consequence.  However, while there were three MCs, there were four microphones on stage.  One of them (I cannot remember who) announced that they were going to leave the mic open for in memory of Phife Dawg.  This was a touching gesture to include a lost founding member who could never be replaced.  However, the inclusion of the microphone was more than just symbolic.

After a few songs into the set, the group gave Phife Dawg the mic.  When this happened, the group would step away and a single spotlight would shine on the empty mic as the studio vocals of Phife’s solos would play.  It was completely mesmerizing scene.  A voice thundered through the audience, but no one was behind the mic.  The experience was captivating and turned what could’ve been a standard tribute into someone more engaging and meaningful.

This scene happened a few times, but none were as impactful as when “Butter” played.  A cut from the group’s second studio album The Low End Theory, this performance of “Butter” represented one of the best tributes I had ever seen.  The other members stepped to the side of the stage.  Nearly all the lights came down except for the one spotlight illuminating the empty mic.  Muhammed then played an acapella version of Phife Dawg’s verse of “Butter” which had seen become a career-defining song for the group.  When the verse was over, the rest joined in as a picture of the group was projected on the background.  The entire performance was touching as Q-Tip turned away from the audience and stared into Phife’s eyes as he rapped.

What could have easily been a phoned-in performance turned into something much more.  And frankly, I wouldn’t expect any less of from A Tribe Called Quest.  They have, for nearly 30 years, been stellar performers and impeccable showmen.  The professionalism and empathy conveyed in Saturday’s headlining performance will be one for the music history books.

“drunk girls” – lcd soundsystem (2010)

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Festival season is in full swing in Chicago.  Every weekend in the summer, there are multiple food, music, and art festivals all over the city.  Each one is crafted and curated to be unique.  Whether it is being solely devoted to one type of food (Rib Fest, Burger Fest, Vegan Fest), a type of music (Square Roots Folk Festival), or just serving as a cultural neighborhood institution (Do Division Fest), there is something for everybody.

Frankly, I used to enjoy street festivals.  This is probably because, prior to Chicago, I didn’t live in areas with an overabundance of street festivals.  However, I don’t enjoy them so much now.  Over the years, I have found that they are all really the same.  If I’m with friends, I’ll go.  Never would I go by myself unless I’m there for a specific purpose.  For example, this past weekend, I was at Square Roots in Lincoln Square.  I enjoy it because it is in my neighborhood, relatively small, and the crowd is great because it isn’t filled with drunk jackasses.

I think my increasing disinterest in street festivals has grown from my dislike of music festivals.  Since college, I’ve never found myself interested in spending three or four days in a field surrounded by thousands of people barely watching a band the size of ants from my viewpoint.  While everyone made plans to go to Bonnaroo, I stayed behind and enjoyed the quiet.  Those kinds of things just aren’t my scene.  And since moving to Chicago, even the logistical differences haven’t changed my outlook on festivals.  Unlike Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza doesn’t require you to stay on their grounds the entire time.  You can leave at the end of the day and sleep in a bed.  Plus, you don’t have to sit in standstill traffic because an overcrowded train can take you to Lolla.

Despite my complaints about festivals, the only one that gets a pass from me is Pitchfork.  I actually really enjoy Pitchfork.  There’s a decent number of bands I actually know and would like to see, it isn’t overwhelmingly crowded, and there are other things that keep me interested in between bands.  It is by no means a small, local festival.  It is a large one that garners international attention and visitors.  It is a large festival, but still small enough to where I don’t feel smothered.

This year’s Pitchfork lineup is really great.  I’m eager to see George Clinton, the Feelies, A Tribe Called Quest, and PJ Harvey.  However, the one act that has everyone buzzing is LCD Soundsystem.

I discovered LCD Soundsystem for myself while volunteering for college radio.  Their 2010 studio release This Is Happening was put into rotation and I enjoyed the album thoroughly.  While that album isn’t as good or revered as 2007’s Sound of Silver, This Is Happening is my favorite because it was the album that got me into the group.  So, you can imagine my disappointment when, the next year, the band would breakup.  I was just getting into them and eager to see where they were going!

Since I got into LCD Soundsystem a little later, I never got a chance to see them live.  And I had heard they put on a great show.  The closest I ever got was when I went to the theater to see their concert documentary film Shut Up and Play the Hits.  Screened nationally for one night only on July 18, 2012, this was a look into the band’s final performance at Madison Square Garden.  Since then, I just had to deal with the fact that the band existed within a certain time and space.  After all, we all have shelf lives.

I’m always annoyed by bands were constantly break-up and the reunite.  Or the bands who make a big deal about going on their farewell tour, but come back together a few years later as part of their comeback.  It all just reeks of marketing cashing in.  I just have a tough time taking an artist or group seriously after so much fuss is made about ending just to have them resurface.  And I felt the same away about LCD Soundsystem.  When they got back together and it was announced they would be headlining Pitchfork, I wasn’t that excited.  All my friends were.  They had either seen them live before and knew how great they performed or, like me, didn’t have a chance to see them before and now this was the time.  However, I’m sitting on the sidelines being cynical.  I paid money to see Shut Up and Play the Hits and got emotionally invested in their departure.  And now they’ve come around and expect me to take them back into open arms?  This back and forth relationship can’t go on.  You have to stay or go.

Obviously, I’m having some fun at the band’s expense.  Of course, I’m excited to see them perform at Pitchfork.  I just had to get through a couple of eyerolls at this reuniting trend.  Considering that a lot of acts go through that cycle to generate buzz and ticket sales, it can be hard to take them seriously. Once out of my system, I’m just as excited as everyone.

In fact, it was recently reported in Rolling Stone that David Bowie convinced James Murphy to reunite LCD Soundsystem (even in death, Bowie still influences our lives).  In the article, Murphy talked about how uncomfortable it would be to get the band together and Bowie insisted that he should feel that way.  The right decisions aren’t always the easiest.  Murphy was going through an identity crisis and figuring out what he wanted to do.  I get that.  You should do what makes you happy.  So, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the guy for reuniting his band.

The show is Friday and I know it will be an amazing show.  Despite my previous cynicism, I’m fully prepped and ready to have a great time seeing a great band with great friends.  Going through changes or cycles is all part of living.  My connection with them from a distance as a college radio DJ feels like ages ago.  Now, I’ll be close to the action sharing an intimate concert experience.  That’s worth something.

“Drunk Girls” was the song that introduced me to the band.  It is a short, stupid song.  However, it is fun and catchy.  Even Murphy thinks the song is dumb and states that he “like[s] short, dumb stuff.”  It serves its purpose by living in the moment and just having a good time.  And that is what I plan to do Friday at my first, and probably last, LCD Soundystem show.

“she’s gone away” – nine inch nails (2016)

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As fans are approaching the halfway point of Showtime’s limited series run of the latest iteration of Twin Peaks, everyone is left in the dark about what exactly is going on.  The two previous seasons that aired over 25 years ago dabbled in the supernatural and was strange and quirky even by today’s broadcast programming standards.  Since then, now on premium subscription cable and with an increasingly esoteric filmography under his belt, David Lynch has crafted something out of the ashes of an old project.

As weird as the original seasons of Twin Peaks were, the show was fairly innocuous.  While it wasn’t, and still isn’t, the most accessible show in attracting viewers, it had enough character to set itself apart from typical television at that time.  The world was clamoring to know who killed Laura Palmer.  When the killer was revealed halfway through season two and the show changed narrative to focus on a conflict between Special Agent Dale Cooper and a former partner, viewership dropped and increasingly poor ratings tanked the show before it could wrap up loose ends.

After the show was cancelled, Lynch attempted to get the world of Twin Peaks alive.  The theatrical release of the 1992 prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was the first of a planned series of films that expanded the story of Twin Peaks.  The film was a commercial failure and it tanked any future plans to continue the story.

It took to attempts to watch the entirety of the original series.  In 2011, I tried the first time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first season, but I was losing interest as the second season continued.  I actually stopped watching after the Josie met her fate.  It just seemed so ridiculous to me that I wasn’t compelled to finish.  While I really enjoyed the earlier episodes, I didn’t see a point in finishing.  I knew the series ended prematurely and there would be no closure beyond finding out Laura Palmer’s killer.

Lynch had a couple of false starts in launching a revival.  However, when the most recent confirmation of a revival occurred and scenes were getting shot, I thought Well, I guess I have to get caught back up.  I started the series over again earlier this year, a full six years after the first attempt to finish, and made it all the way to the mysterious cliff hanger at the end of season two.  I also watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in preparation.  Pressure was on to get up to speed!

As part of catching up prior to the new episodes airing was reading the compendium The Secret History of Twin Peaks published by the show’s co-creator Mark Frost.  The book was a compiled dossier of memos, letters, newspaper clippings, and other source material tracking strange phenomenon in the area of Twin Peaks as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition all the way through the disappearance of Special Agent Dale Cooper.  While the book offered some cool insight into the area’s connection to the supernatural, it also tied up some loose ends between the original series and the revival as the fate and development of key figures were discussed.

After 30 episodes, a feature-length film, and a book, I was ready.  I felt so prepared for what was coming and was excited to see what Lynch would do with this world after so long.  Eight episodes in, I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was coming.  And, for that, I feel thankful.  Nostalgia governs our culture now as intellectual properties are constantly rehashed and rebooted.  I expected, like many, that we would see all of our old friends and hear tongue-in-cheek references to great pie and damn fine coffee.  Instead, the revival reflected a more artistically mature Lynch who left the world of the original series behind and incorporated stylistic elements of his later works such as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.  For that, I’m glad because nostalgia is the most tiring form of capitalism.

We’re only halfway through at this point.  No one really knows what’s going on and no one will really start connecting the dots until Lynch wants us to.  That could happen in the last episode, or not at all.  We’re just going along for the ride.  I even find humor in the set up as I cynically think that Lynch is just playing a practical joke on his viewers.  Obviously, that isn’t the case.  But, it helps me not think too hard about what’s going on and just observe.

Music has always been a key component of the original series.  Angelo Badalamenti’s beautiful score was featured throughout the first two series and added context to scenes and characters.  In the revival, his score isn’t driving scenes as prominently as it did before. In fact, most of the time, his score isn’t featured at all.  Badalamenti’s score was, in itself, a character of the original series.  However, things change.

While Badalamenti’s score is less prominent in the revival, music is still very important in these newer episodes.  In most of the episodes, a band is performing at the Roadhouse (or Bang Bang Bar) usually over the ending credits.  Julee Cruise performed at the very same bar sparingly in the originals series, but band performances weren’t central to the narrative until the revival.  In all but one episode, bands in the revival include Chromatics, the Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, and most recently, Nine Inch Nails.  Lynch is a fan of all these groups.  However, with the revival, things have changed and have also drastically distanced themselves from the tone of the original series.  Music was integral to the show before and it still is, but in a vastly different way.

In the most recent episode, one that has been dubbed as the strangest one to date, featured Nine Inch Nails.  Funnily enough, this was the only group featured thus far that got an introduction and was cleverly incorrectly billed as “The Nine Inch Nails.”  Also, this performance was in the middle of the episode as opposed to the end over the credits.

The band performed “She’s Gone Away” from their most recent EP released in December 2016 called Not the Actual Events.  The track is a hard-hitting industrial rock song that is dark and serves as the perfect segue to the explosive sequence of images and modern ensemble music that follows before ultimately settling into the quiet bucolic setting of the following dessert scenes.  Even the music choice is interesting because it does contract with the styles of the musicians that were featured previously.  It was Lynch setting us up for the show’s darkest turn to date.  This is a Lynch soundtrack choice that easily mirrors the musical direction of earlier works like Lost Highway.

On its own, “She’s Gone Away” is an excellent track. Nine Inch Nails has been one of those bands that has consistently released good material.  While some albums and songs are better than others, they have never released a bad song.

After eight episodes, so much yet so little has occurred in the Twin Peaks revival.  It is hard to imagine how everything is going to tie together over the proceeding ten episodes.  I personally have doubts about any closure at the end.  I did recently learn that a follow-up to Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks is being released in October.  Titled The Final Dossier, this book seems to be a compendium that provides clarification to events and sequences during the revival episodes, but perhaps after as well.  We shall see.  I am eager to see how things turn out and how Lynch crafts a story with a distinct flare that sheds all traces of nostalgia.  Either way, I know that there will still be damn fine music.

“sex on the beach” – t-spoon (1997)

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Twenty years ago, I was living in Puerto Rico on a naval base in Sabana Seca.  I was about 10 at the time, so my memories of my experiences there are fairly clear.  I remember trips to the beach, eating fried plantain chips from street vendors in San Juan, field trips to El Yunque rain forest, bussing from the navy base to go to my school at the nearest army base, and even a giant snake getting caught in our fence.  It was certainly the most unique period of my childhood when compared to the other places I grew up in like Alaska or Kentucky.

My life in Puerto Rico wasn’t really any different than any other child growing up elsewhere in the U.S.  Realistically, it was practically the same.  The only differences were minor cultural quirks.  Of course, you can have these anywhere in the states.  A child’s regional experience on in Portland, Oregon is going to differ from another’s regional experience in Portland, Maine.  This is a big country.  And when you get older and meet people from other parts of the country, you get more interested in these smaller regional differences because they are entertaining to hear.  While others were probably catching lobster or hiking the Rockies, I was experiencing a different environment.

I could go on and on about the geographic and environmental differences, but this is a blog about music after all.  So, let’s talk about music.

Looking back, I realized that I had a slightly different experience when it came to music.  I have friends in Chicago who tell me about all the concerts they went to growing up.  And these were shows with legendary bands like the Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana.  Acts like that didn’t come to Puerto Rico.  And on the rare chance that they did, it wasn’t something I participated in.  I didn’t even go to my first real concert until I was almost 20.  At that point in my life, radio was everything.

The bus I took to school carried us from Sabana Seca to Fort Buchanan, a nearby army fort near San Juan.  It was a standard school bus in appearance.  It had the same ugly brown seats that fit two kids to a seat, smelled bad, and contained a social hierarchy where cool kids got to sit where they pleased.  However, it had one unique characteristic.  Music.  For some reason, our school bus ride always had top 40 radio playing in it.  And this happened every day unless we acted up too much.  But, if we were good, the drivers always piped in the radio through the internal speakers on the ceiling.  Looking back, I must’ve taken it for granted because cruising around Puerto Rico on a bus with pop radio tunes sounds really awesome right now.

The radio always played top 40 radio.  And in 1997, we had all the big hits like Sugar Ray, Puff Daddy, and Backstreet Boys.  These were pop radio hits that you couldn’t escape no matter where in North America you were.  However, being in the Caribbean, we had access to a few different cultural things that gave our music listening experience a little unique flavor.

T-Spoon was a Dutch Eurodance group that formed in 1991.  However, in 1997, they released their biggest single called “Sex on the Beach.”  This song is just so incredibly happy and fun.  It is a warm, sunny dance track that just makes you want to move.  And being a kid, there also was the factor that the title was a little risqué.  At 10, you couldn’t say the word “sex” let alone talk about it.  At that age, you didn’t fully understand what sex was.  I remember singing this song with friends substituting the line “I wanna have sex on the beach” with “I wanna eat snacks at the beach” just so we couldn’t get in trouble and still got to hear the song.

This week is the 20th anniversary of the single’s release and it has stuck with me the entire time.  And the only reason why it has for this song is because this song represents and odd musical time capsule for me.  Leaving Puerto Rico for Kentucky in 1998, I was transitioning to a new environment where kids had their own regional culture and interests.  Suffice to say, there was no “Sex on the Beach.”

I have friends and peers who love the 1990s and are completely nostalgic for it.  However, going through middle school, high school, and college, I couldn’t find a single person who knew this song.  Sure, we knew a lot of the same music and I could understand their pop culture reference points.  However, this song was a complete anomaly for my friends outside of the ones I had in Puerto Rico.

It actually took 20 years to find someone in the states who knew this song.  It was a few months ago when I brought it up to a colleague.  And they had heard the song.  They vacationed in Jamaica in 1998 and said that the song was everywhere.  And it was!  It just seems so funny that the only way this person heard this song was because they were in the Caribbean when it was a hit.

I’m a little sad that the streak is broken.  Two decades is a long time talking about a song that no one else had heard of and them looking at you funny when you talk about how much you love this top 40 radio hit that no one knows exists.  I’m not big on nostalgia, but I appreciate the unique quirks from my formative years that sets me apart from anyone else.  Even if it is something as small or minute as pop radio music, it is still a piece of you that you want to share.  I love this song because it represents a specific point in my life and seems to have never left.  The other hit songs from that day seem to live on through karaoke, nostalgic meme videos on Facebook, and amongst chats with friends.  However, “Sex on the Beach” stays put where it is and doesn’t get to be timeless.  And perhaps that makes it more fun and special.  This silly pop song is special to me for its novelty of exclusivity.  And that’s fine by me.

“thirteen” – big star (1972)

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Since the fall of 2015, I’ve been taking classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  Previously, I had been involved with Old Town as a volunteer starting earlier that year and had attended various concerts over the last few years.  It has been a wonderful place that has fostered my musical development on various levels.  As a volunteer in their impressive music archive, I’m constantly finding new things to listen to.  As a concert patron, the intimacy of the main hall makes this the best place to see a concert in Chicago.  And taking lessons has given me a deeper understanding on producing music by putting my interest to practical use.

The classes are conducted once a week over a two-month session.  I had taken the last section off because of some travel plans.  However, I have been looking into the class offerings for the next session and thinking about where I want to go to next.

While I am not a particularly great guitar player, I’m not that bad.  I have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.  I great at varying strumming patterns, but Barre chords on an acoustic give me trouble.  Plus, I’m a busy guy.  I work full-time, volunteer for two different non-profits, and lead an active social life.  I cannot expect to be as amazing as the people who practice for hours every day.  For me, I don’t have any grand ambitions.  It is just a private hobby.

As I think about next steps and the challenges that await, I know I want to do something different.  Until now, I had taken group guitar classes where everyone practices and plays together.  These classes were part of their core guitar program, so the focus was advancing our knowledge of chords and strum patterns.  While I need improvement in some areas, I have exhausted my lessons there.  So, what is next?  Learning a specific style such as blue or finger picking?  Perhaps play in a band as part of a class ensemble?  There’s just so many options.  Until I make that decision, I’m reflecting on my progress since starting my classes nearly two years ago.

I didn’t put a lot of thought into picking my instructor. Old Town’s staff consists of really talented people who specialize in different areas.  For someone who just wanted to start with the basics anywhere, I just focused on what was convenient for my schedule.  Jane Hanna was my instructor for the better part of a year while I was taking the entire progression of core guitar classes (almost) every Thursday for a year.  She also taught the glam rock ensemble as well as some other classes.  Her specialty was more rock and punk-oriented which suited my tastes quite well.

Throughout the various classes I took with her, there were certain artists we would revisit in almost every class.  David Bowie was her all-time favorite so, naturally, he always made an appearance.  However, there were other artists that would pop up more frequently than others.

One of those artists was Big Star.  Like many people, my exposure to Big Star was limited.  I think I vaguely knew that their song “In the Street” was covered as the opening theme for That ‘70s Show and I recall a documentary about the band was released a few years ago, but I never saw it.  And I find that my unfamiliarity is not uncommon.  They only released three studio albums before disbanding within three years of forming and none of those releases sold very well.

However, despite poor sales, the band’s musical output was highly influential.  A lot of musicians were inspired by Big Star and their power pop aesthetic, melodic harmonies, and relatable existential themes.  And over the years, the became darlings of the critics with some of their work appearing on lists commemorating the best albums and songs of all time.  Their cult following consisting of people who just wanted to listen and play good music has earned them the recognition of being a “musician’s band.”

The lead singer, Alex Chilton, started his career as the lead singer of the Box Tops who released the hit “The Letter.”  Chilton wrote and performed much of Big Star’s songs.  Despite the poor commercial success of his most influential band, he remains a beloved musical figure.  I was recently reminded of Big Star, and especially Chilton, when I attended a storytelling series last weekend.  One of the speakers, Freda Love Smith, was sharing a story about the only time she met Chilton and how she embarrassed herself in front of her idol.  She had bummed a cigarette and had trouble starting the lighter because of low fluid.  She saw Chilton having trouble with his lighter and asked if he was out of fluid.  It was the only thing she said to him and she groaned that she never had opportunity to share her undying admiration.  It was a touching story.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of their first studio album.  #1 Record, released June 1972, remains to be the most popular and beloved of their discography.  While 1974’s Radio City would later contain “September Gurls,” another beloved Big Star classic, #1 Record contains one of their best song ever recorded.

“Thirteen,” the fourth song on the album, was never released as a single though it has become their most legendary song.  Covered by many great artists such as Garbage, Wilco, and Elliott Smith, “Thirteen” proves to be their most influential for it’s gorgeous guitar, melancholy vocals, and how relatable the lyrics are.  It is a story of adolescent frustration and love.  There’s rebellion, music, and a lust to live life to the fullest with no apologies.  That yearning comes through so powerfully yet so intimately.  It is a touching and soulful track.

Over the last few years, Big Star’s following has increased.  I’ve become a fan and learning how to break down their songs and appreciate the elements that make up the music certainly helped me appreciate them as a musician’s band.  While taking classes with Jane, we had covered both “Thirteen” and “September Gurls.”  Both are amazing, but “Thirteen” stands out just ahead as their quintessential track.

“good beat” – deee-lite (1990)

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Previously in this blog, I have talked about the album discussion group I help organize (for the unfamiliar, imagine a boog club but about music albums).  Though we meet every other Sunday, it seems to be something I can never get enough of.  I’m always looking forward to the next meetup.

I just really enjoy talking about music with friends.  That is the most exciting aspect of the group, but there is more I get from the experience.  It gives me an opportunity to try new things and be more open-minded about approaching music.  And that was kept in mind when the group was formed.  By only picking albums from the book 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and alternating decades with our albums selected at random based on attendee feedback, it guarantees that everyone has some say in what album is chosen.  This keeps things really fresh because everyone in the group has different levels of interest and experience with music.

That is why I was so surprised with our recent pick World Clique by Deee-Lite.  When that album was selected, I groaned a bit.  It was only because I was super skeptical.  I had only known two songs by them.  Of course, I knew “Groove Is in the Heart” which is catchy but a song I just never really enjoyed.  And the, within the last few years, I heard “Rubber Lover” from their second studio album after it was featured as a desert island pick on WBEZ’s Sound Opinions.  I had limited knowledge of this band and a bias based on that limited knowledge.

However, as key with this group, I had to give it a listen and keep an open mind.  I found the album on iTunes Music and pressed play.  Immediately, any preconceived notions about what I anticipated my listening experience to be faded away.

I was hooked with the opening “Deee-Lite Theme” for its sampling, cool beat, and funky saxophone.  The song originally wasn’t featured on the original LP release of the album, but was added as one of two bonus tracks for the CD.  Regardless, it perfectly set up the mood in such a perfect way.

As I listened through the album, I was surprised about the thematic content.  I didn’t realize how inclusive the album was.  The band itself is really inclusive from a gender and racial perspective, but the themes of the album present a message of love and acceptance that I just wasn’t anticipating.

One of my friends who joined the discussion talked about the impact this album had on her during her teenage years.  She picked up the album when it came out and, as a young girl, really identified with the feel-good energy of the group and the lead singer’s colorful clothes.

The group then discussed the origins of house music in Chicago.  I’m not from Chicago.  And prior to moving to Chicago, I was completely unaware of the city’s contributions to that music.  Someone in the group claimed that, along with jazz and the blues, house music was a true American musical invention.  And it came from the city we loved and shared.

House music just wasn’t on my radar.  I wasn’t old enough to understand it when it hit the mainstream by the end of the 1980s.  It was something that was already established by the time I would become aware of it.  Considering that, I also had no other emotional connection to it.  It was just a genre that I lumped together with electronic forms of music and miscategorized them all as “techno.”  I have since knowledgeable of house music’s key qualities and its impact on Chicago’s musical development and our culture at large.

When house music was invented, it was an underground movement.  Much like with Warhol’s Factory crowd or the early days of Grace Jones era disco, it was a subculture that celebrated life and love.  It was a venue where transgender, gay, lesbian, and mainstream social outcasts at that time could come together and be themselves, to not feel invisible, and to dance in a movement that celebrated love and the individual.  Inherent in that is a profound political inclination.  While house music typically doesn’t contain allusions to greater political themes such as war, the notion that people can live and love how they wish is a grand statement about acceptance and inclusion.

“Good Beat” was the LP’s original opener before the later addition of “Deee-Lite Theme.”  While I feel “Deee-Lite Theme” is a stronger opener with it’s funky instrumental and thematic declaration of “from the global village in an era of communication,” “Good Beat” is a solid track that propels the music and the message.

“Good Beat” is fun, but the lyrical content contains a surprising amount of a depth for a danceable house music tune.  The vocals challenge that depending on how you see a thing, your perception around you can change.  Your own outlook determines the openness of the world around you and what role you play in that world.  Whether it is dividing or closely binding, how you perceive things ultimately impacts your contributions.  And for those tired of the hatred, vitriol, and violence, they just wanna dance to a good beat.  And that is a powerful declaration.  To just let everything go and move to the rhythm with your fellow global citizens is something we should all strive for.

“a day in the life” – the beatles (1967)

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I have a lot of fun writing this weekly blog, but it can be a real challenge sometimes.  Part of what makes it challenging are the rules and guidelines I set for myself when I think of what to write next.  For one, I don’t repeat an artist if I have already written about them.  This really makes it harder to write about the artists I love most because when I publish that post, that’s it.  I wrote a post that felt timely or relevant based on recent cultural or personal events only to realize a few months later that I would’ve rather written about a different song because that one will become relevant at that time.  This is why there are artists I absolutely love that I’ve been hesitant to include such as the Police or the Clash.

The other challenge is to not feel forced when writing about a song that week.  I enjoy the discipline of keeping this up as a hobby on a weekly basis.  However, there are times when I don’t really have a song in mind to write about.  There are plenty of times when an artist or song sticks with me for the week and it results in a well-written and thought out post.  It is because that song made an impact on me that week because it related to some milestone or an event.  But, sometimes, I just have nothing going on and I churn out something just to do it.  I don’t like to do that, but I want to be consistent.

The Beatles are an example of a band that I adore that I hesitated for a long time to discuss.  I am a fan.  I enjoy their music and it had a significant influence on me during my adolescent years.  While I didn’t listen much during college or my subsequent adulthood years because I’ve been exploring and discovering other types of music, they had always been a part of me.

That is why planning this post for me was difficult.  I didn’t want to just write about any Beatles song because it would be a missed opportunity to write something meaningful.  So much of their catalogue is important to me and requires inspiration.  Then again, what can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?  So much has been written that praises the Beatles as the greatest band ever.  So, what can I say that would be any different than pure adulation.

It is during those struggles that I rely on cultural milestones.  And even then, I still hesitate because I just don’t want to be one of many yelling into the noise.  However, sometimes it is necessary to call out those milestones and contribute a perspective.  Even if it may be an unpopular one.  These were the things I had considered over the last few weeks when countless media outlets were buzzing about the 50th anniversary release of the Beatles’ 1967 studio album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  I had to ask myself: do I jump on this bandwagon and what should I say?

So, let’s cut to the chase.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is just simply not a good album.

Ok.

I got that off my chest.

Are we all ok?

Alright, let’s move on.

In 1966, the Beach Boys released their masterpiece record Pet Sounds and the music world was turned upside down.  Everyone everywhere had to make their own Pet Sounds.  You couldn’t just do rock and roll anymore.  You had to have more personal and poetic songwriting, compose lush orchestrations, and include abstract noises to add depth, complexity, and mystery to a record.  You couldn’t just make music anymore.  You had to make art.

A year later, the Beatles released their own version of Pet Sounds.  The biggest credit that gets attributed to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is that it legitimized the album as a complete work of heart.  The music industry, prior to 1967, was a singles market.  You had to put out a hit if you were going to get anywhere.  And that had been the standard since the beginning.  Prior to the mid-1960s, rock and pop albums were just collections of previously released singles.  When the Beatles confirmed they would quit touring and just focus on studio music, this album was the result of that.

I have a lot of issues with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Until the remixed 50th anniversary release, I always felt this was a poorly mixed record.  Some of the songwriting is unimaginative.  There is needless nostalgia throughout though this record was released during one of the most culturally exciting and volatile times of the 20th century.  And the concept of the fake band isn’t enough for me to be convinced that this album wasn’t merely a record made by a band that was becoming increasingly out of touch.

However, the biggest flaw with the record is with the songs on the record.  Song for song, this is a terrible record.  And the Beatles were capable of releasing records full of great songs.  I maintain that Rubber Soul and Revolver continue to be the best Beatles records.  However, the faux band concept somehow earns Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the credit of being a better work of art because it is more complete and should be experienced as a whole.  Even then, to make that happen, you must have good songs.

I help organize an album discussion group and a few months ago, we discussed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It was our most well attended discussion to date and it was spirited.  A lot was said about this record.  Most of it praise, but there was some acknowledgement that the album is flawed.

One thing we did during that discussion that we hadn’t really done before was poll everyone regarding the songs they liked and disliked the most.  You only needed to pick one.  As we went around the table, the songs that people liked were fairly similar.  Most of the table said a “A Day in the Life” or “With A Little Help from My Friends” with one person chiming in with “Getting Better.”  And, frankly, those are not bad choices.  But what it does tell you is that there are really only two songs that are enjoyable on the record to both casual listeners are critics.

This became more apparent when discussing the songs we hated the most.  Almost every song was mentioned as we went around the table.  There was not a clear choice when it came to the weakest point on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  “Lovely Rita,” Good Morning,” and the other tracks closing side one and opening side two were all mentioned as being just filler or just simply not good songs.  And that begs the question: how can this album be celebrated to the point of being considered the greatest album of all time in many circles but still be filled with bad songs?

In the latest episode of WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, the hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis revisited the album.  Both were very critical of the album and even suggested that people who say they love this album hadn’t listened to it in a long time.  I know I hadn’t.  Prior to that album discussion group, I hadn’t listened to the album in its entirety since my freshman year of college.  There was one quote that was the most striking from the conservation.  Kot stated “I don’t really have a reason to listen to this record other than this one song.”  And the song he was referring to was “A Day in the Life.”

“A Day in the Life” is the only really good song on the record.  Coming in at a distant second is “With a Little Help from My Friends,” but the Joe Cocker cover is much better.  However, the closing track is a near perfect song that does exemplify the genius of the Beatles. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would’ve been a much better album if the other songs had tapped into what made “A Day in the Life” one of the Beatles’ masterpieces.  Incredibly complex and dynamic, the orchestral glissandos, the avant-garde production, and the poignant lyrics make a real statement that pop music can be considered high art.

1967 was a fantastic year for music.  A lot of great albums were released that year.  While Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been dominating all of the music journalism sites and blogs, it doesn’t negate the quality of records that receive less than fair celebration.  The Beatles sell.  People love nostalgia.  It is as simple as that.  And if you are going to spend some time with the Beatles, explore their albums and not be sold by the hype of the most overrated album of all time.