Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Speed Bumps & Mood Killers

I was heading into Manhattan on the N train, and as per usual, set the iPod to shuffle. The first song, which lasted for 75% of my subway ride, was "Blues For Allah." I came to the Dead party very late in my musical life. For the record, I now love Jerry Garcia, his guitar playing and his sad and soulful singing voice. But, I still can't deal with Bob Weir or musical water torture like "Blues For Allah."

I know some of you may have just skipped the song and started over, assuming you either hate the Grateful Dead, or at least recognize a mistake when you hear one. But, I also know some of you, like me, would have let it play. (Just one of my many issues. Let's move on.)

I hate the subway. (Issue!) I don't care how far you can go for only $2.25, it's not worth it when the guy sitting across from you is clipping his nails, or the woman to the left of you has a clove of garlic under each armpit. "So get up and move!" (Yeah, but you don't.) The only thing that makes riding the trains bearable is that little pod with so many possibilities, 30,000 on mine. I guess "Blues For Allah" had to pop up at some point.

While this 12:45 piece, I sent a text to my friend Harry. It should have been a reply to a question about Bun E. Carlos, legendary drummer for Cheap Trick---"Yes Harry, I do."---but all I could peck out was "I'm on the subway, and the iPod for the entire ride so far has been Blues For Allah. Gonna put my tongue on the third rail, now."

Harry then suggested this for a Burning Wood piece.

"Song that stops an otherwise going-along-great album in its tracks."

Well..."BLUES FOR ALLAH," for one.

But, I'd also like to vote for "A Quick One, While He's Away."

At almost ten minutes, Pete Townshend tested the rock opera waters on an almost perfect rock and roll record, where it just doesn't seem to fit. He is NOT forgiven. (Ok, he is, but...I couldn't resist.)

Okay, your turn.

But first, in case you're curious, this is the exact Dead song that turned me around and kept me going sometime in the mid-nineties.


steve simels said...

The Dead song in question reduces me to scowling fidgets, but I actually love "A Quick One."

As for another album-killing misfire...I'll have to ponder that one.

Gene Oberto said...

At least "Blues for Allah" is only half as long as it's direct ancestor "Dark Star" off the Live/Dead LP.

And that baby hit lead off!

CoolSchool said...

Emotional Rescue is not one of the Stones stronger efforts but "Indian Girl" stops it dead in its track. Mick's vocal affection is embarassingly bad. Yeech!

richeye said...

California Saga on The Beach Boys' Holland Album. Coming right after Sail On Sailor and Steamboat and just before Trader proves that Mike Love and Bruce Johnston really have nothing but sand between their ears.

charlie c. said...

Can I pick one from Double Fantasy -- or is that too easy?

charlie c. said...

Also, and too -- richeye already hit it out of the park, of which i would add that the Transistor Radio thing (Mount Vernon and Faraway?) is right there, but that would be copying . . .

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I have not eaten enough mushrooms to like 'blues' but as I get older I find myself singing "wake up to find that you are the eyes of the world"

Troy said...

I'm a big fan of Canadian band Blue Rodeo, especially their 'Five Days in July' disc. Right smack in the middle of this wonderful little album is an absolute dirge called 'What is This Love'. It's a duet with Sarah McLachlan, and it is dreadful.

I also love NRBQ, and several of their albums had absolute head-scratchers, just awful noise like Tapdancin Bats. But I think they did that on purpose.

Anonymous said...

I nominate the Wilco "song" unofficially titled (by me) "This Is What My Migraines Feel Like" that Jeff Tweedy chooses perversely to slip in at the end of "Less Than You Think" on A Ghost Is Born. It's nearly ten minutes of awful noise that Tweedy said in an interview was exactly that, his way of showing his fans what his migraines felt like. Thanks, Jeff. Makes me want to share my next stomach flu with him somehow.
I picture him thinking it was like Revolution #9, which it's not. That track is part of the experience, and at least was creative. I like feedback, but ten minutes of Metal Machine Music thrown in at the end of a beautiful song on a beautiful album still irritates me. He also blasts a minute and a half of noise at the end of Handshake Drugs, but compared to the other blast, it's not nearly as bad.

Chris Collins said...

"Moby Dick" is certainly a skipper on a great album. Every song on "Thriller" that was NOT a single is unlistenable and "The Girl Is Mine" makes me want to drink acid. And I know a lot of people love it, but the Santana-lounge part of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" bores me to tears.

Anonymous said...

Another one. Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine on Jorma Kaukonen's otherwise gorgeous Quah album. How do you remove a song from a CD ?

Sal Nunziato said...

Interesting that "Can't You hear Me Knockin'" was chosen by two other readers who sent me a direct email, as well. I tend to agree. I always thought it would have worked if that break was a little shorter, and then went back into the original riff.

Good call on NRBQ. One of my fave bands of all time with, as you say, too many "head-scratchers." That's waht listening to a lot of Sun Ra will do to you.


I wish I liked A Ghost Is Born more than I do to appreciate your choice.

Sal Nunziato said...

How to remove a song from a CD? Reburn it.

As for "Double Fantasy," Charlie, this is why programable CD players were invented.

Anonymous said...

Great subject! We used to call them album-stoppers. For me, the all-time classic in this genre is "Within You, Without You," although in the old days it had the virtue of being the first track on side 2 and thus very skippable.

"CTA-102" on Younger Than Yesterday.

I've been listening to Pavement a lot recently and it seems like on every album there's one song that veers too far into noisy sloppiness for my taste (though I know that's kind of what that band is about...)

"Born in the 50s" on the first Police album.

Sal, I admire your persistence in listening all the way through "Blues For Allah," but isn't skipping album-killers exactly what iPods were made for?

Bruce Handy

Anonymous said...

Oh, and "Tommy's Holiday Camp"

And probably any album where a rock act tries a reggae number.

Bruce Handy

Sal Nunziato said...

Bruce, do you still feel that way about "Within You Without You?" I think there's a beautiful melody under there, and rather it than "When I'm 64."

As for not skipping "Allah," my friend Richie who used to own Vinyl Mania, would spin new 45s, and even if he hated the song, would let it play. I asked why. He said, "Because I can say I heard it through once, and then I'll never have to listen to it again."

Just figured I should stick with it...ONCE!

charlie c. said...

"Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream . . .", drinking acid, eating myshrooms -- this is turning out to be one killer thread! The Grateful Dead covered Within You (bringing us kind of full circle here) usually in the encore spot, wherein the mushrooms had already done their dirty deed . . . but it was then I re-fell in love with that song, having formerly occupied the dreaded buzz-kill status when i was . . . younger.
Can't You Hear Me Knocking provides a neat tension/release, no matter how long . . . although "it feels good when it stops" would definitely apply!

steve simels said...

Oh well, as long we're talking the otherwise transplendent original Byrds "Younger than Yesteday" album, I think "CTA-104" or whatever its called is an absolute masterpiece by comparison with the absurd and unlistenable "Mind Gardens."

I think Crosby is still trying to defend that one, actually..

Anonymous said...

Re: Within You, Without You. I still do. I agree there's a beautiful melody, but I think it goes on way too long, plus the lyrics are some of George's most smug and hectoringish (if that's a word; I know it's not). Probably a minority opinion, but I'm a much bigger fan of The Inner Light. I've got this very pretty version of "Within You, Without You" by a clarenetist named Ken Peoplowski. I'm not sure where I got it--maybe from one of your Friday mixes?--but if you've never heard it I can send it along.

Good point about "Mind Gardens," though it would have been a pretty decent instrumental, and the alternate version on a reissue of I have is way more listenable than the original.

Bruce Handy

FD13NYC said...

Hmmm, why even listen or have these unwanted long songs on your ipods, playlists or in your mp3 collections?

I was never a glutton for musical punishment. I only have and listen to songs that I enjoy. Isn't that what it's all about? Although I will sit through the Stones "Knockin" once in a blue moon.

Sal Nunziato said...

The Inner Light is a better song. I happen to really them both. And yes, I do know the Peplowski song. You may have gotten that from me. He also does a gorgeous "For No One."


I assure you, "Blues For Allah" is no longer on my iPod. But I do have many full length CDs still loaded, as I have aspirations of listening to everything once.

Noam Sane said...

Yes, Bob Weir. Nothing quite like hearing that guy race through "El Paso," the Marty Robbins song, like he's late for the train. Why bother? Or, ever hear him sing "Little Red Rooster"? Oy.

Great rhythm guitarist, though, as Garcia would be the first to tell you.

"Who By Numbers" remains one of my favorites, but Squeeze Box? WTF is that doing in the middle of all those gut-wrenching tunes?

David Handelman said...

Mary Queen of Arkansas. Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin).

Mr. Moonlight. Four Sticks. Backlash Love Affair. (Do the) Instant Mash. A Man Needs a Maid. Parachute Woman (a last track, so easy to skip).

Another topic: First track deadzones: Outlaw Pete, Chocolate Cake, Dancing with Mr. D

Sal Nunziato said...

WOW! "Let's Be Friends!" I barely remember that track. What a dog!

I love these:

Mr. Moonlight. Four Sticks. Parachute Woman

"Another topic: First track deadzones: Outlaw Pete, Chocolate Cake, Dancing with Mr. D"

And good call on these, though, what's so bad about "Dancing With Mr. D.?"

Shriner said...

"The Day We Fall In Love" on More of the Monkees.

The only song never used on the TV show from that album. And with good reason.

big bad wolf said...

sal, how funny, i had blues for allah come on XM the other day just as a turned into my street. i felt rescued when i got to my driveway. i totally get your listening through: i recently completed the shuffle on my much less full ipod, about 7,000, and the only ones i skipped were my wife's adam ant songs.

i came to the dead earlier than you (best i can tell we're about the same age), but only partially, and in the last five years have come to a lot more of the dead's stuff. jerry is the gem i don't dispute that, but i don't dislike bob as much as you do, though i readily admit that he ruins any blues he comes near. there is this, however: what do you think of jack straw? i love that song; it's probably in my top three dead songs with fire on the mountain and box of rain. and bob is, i think, quite nearly great on jack straw.

excellent choices all around on the album stoppers. i'd add country honk and mountain jam

Sal Nunziato said...

Hey Big Bad,
Yes, Bob has his moments, but mostly on the studio recordings. Another important part of me surrendering to the Dead was "Deadicated." I heard amazing songs played and sung well. Bob Weir too often sounds like he's wheezing live, as opposed to singing.

Oh yeah...right. I like Jack Straw.

David Handelman said...

Well, if you don't mind "(Doin' the) Instant Mash" then of course "Dancing with Mr. D" sounds like Mozart.

charlie c. said...

Can I bump up to the Gold BW membership?!?
Unlimited posts, MetroCards and a SN 'thought for the day' thoughtfully delivered to my inbox?!?

Christine said...

If I become a devoted Deadhead, can I get a Burning Wood Black Card that allows me a sneak peek at all the previews?

(Come on MARION!!!)

Anonymous said...

Wild Billy's Circus Song on Wild, Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. Time to skip to side two on the old vinyl version.


PS I love A Quick One While He's Away, my favorite track on the album.

Eric said...

Ramblin' Rose is Sister Morphine out of the Haight

Gene Oberto said...

"Number 9, NUmber 9, Number 9....."

Christine said...

I know I'll probably regret this, but "Golden Goose" on "Healing."

Sal Nunziato said...

"Golden Goose!" What a strange choice, but yes. I think I agree.

Anonymous said...

Revolver can not be the greatest album of all time because of Yellow Submarine.