Monday, September 30, 2013

Music Library: Scud Mountain Boys, Sea And Cake, Seatbelts, Sebadoh, Secret Crush Society, Secret Intentions, Section 25, Secular Joy

The Scud Mountain Boys - The Early Year: Pine Box/Dance The Night Away (1995) and Massachusetts (1996). Joe Pernice's alt-country band is more of a mopey, Smith-influenced guitar pop band with country flourishes. That said, these are excellent albums, and Pernice's songwriting chops are in great form.

The Sea And Cake - The Fawn (1997) and Oui (2000). Excellent fake jazz outfit from the John McEntire wing of the Chicago mafia with Sam Prekop of Shrimp Boat out front. They're not quite as fantastic as Tortoise, but that's a pretty high bar.

The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop Boxed Set (2002). I wasn't that crazy about the anime or its soundtrack, but I somehow ended up with this. The best track is the one they used as a theme for the opening credits. Otherwise it's just mediocre bebop.

Sebadoh - III (1991) and Harmacy (1996). I have a hard time believing that I only have two Sebadoh albums, too. And no Bakesale! Not sure how that happened. Anyway, yeah. My musical tastes are based in the indie rock of the early 90s. I love Sebadoh.

Secret Crush Society - Baltimore Chapter (2005). Freakin' excellent heart-on-its-sleeve indie-punk from a band fronted by my pal Lisa. They have a new incarnation, which is the one appearing in the video below. The one on this album is a little more Ramonesy.

The Secret Intentions - Don't Fight It, Feel It (2001) and Love's Permutations (2002). These are two excellent lo-fi fuzz-pop basement albums by my pal Michael.

Secular Joy - Made For Better Things (2012). I was in this band briefly after the original guitarist Zeno Gill left. It was (is?) fronted by Mark Edwards of My Dad Is Dead and it is an AWESOME band. These recordings (which I don't play on, for the record) are intense, emotional, and overwhelmingly beautiful. Truly excellent stuff. I can't find videos to embed from youtube other than this glimpse into the recording process, but the whole album is at the bandcamp site here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Music Library: Scharpling & Wurster, Schoolly D, Shubert, Scott Adair, Scott Walker, Jack Scott, Raymond Scott, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Screaming Trees

Scharpling & Wurster - Rock, Rot, and Rule (1999), New Hope For The Ape-Eared (2004), and Hippy Justice (2005). The host of The Best Show On WFMU and the funniest man in rock music cracking wise for the edification of the hundreds, if not fives of hundreds, who fall into this target demographic. Tom Scharpling is a pretty great straight man, willing to roll with whatever Jon Wurster throws at him, which is considerable because Wurster is both hilarious and amazingly imaginative. Rock, Rot, and Rule has the first of these, where Wurster takes on the persona of a guy who has written a book to definitively answer where bands fall into these arbitrary (which is the point) categories, and the angry callers who are not even close to being in on the joke are the most delightful part. By the time of New Hope, most of WFMU's listeners knew they were being trolled, but the focus shifts to a brilliant and weird world-building experiment. Hippy Justice has some of the greatest bits these two have ever pulled off, including Hippy Johnny, who embodies the ruthless, fascist, corporate spine behind many of the more bullshitty hippy feel-good companies, Timmy Von Trimble, a three-inch tall neo-Nazi, and Old Skull, which hilariously skewers reunion shows, aging rock dreamers, and stupid band schticks with the kind of eye that comes with being an aging rock drummer.

Schoolly D - Smoke Some Kill (1988) and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." The original scary rapper, Schoolly D was throwing out rhymes about drugs and violence when the old school was just school.

Shubert - String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor (Kodaly Quartet, 1995) and String Quartet No. 14 in D minor "Death and the Maiden Quartet," D. 810 (Lavard Skou-Larsen and Salzburg Chamber Soloists, 2006). Purty. Emotional.

Scott Adair - Liquidation (2007). Great countrified songs from a talented guy in Austin who used to be in Spoon. These are clearly home-recorded and a little lo-fi, but the material is very strong.

Scott Walker - Scott (1967), Scott 2 (1968), Scott 3 (1969), Scott 4 (1969), 'Til The Band Comes In (1970), Climate Of Hunter (1984), Tilt (1995), The Drift (2006), and And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? (2007). The albums from the 60s show Scott Walker's development into King Emotional Chamber Pop. Scott 4, in particular, is an amazing album, an attempt to convert pop music into an experimental context. Band Comes In is an attempt to make something more in line with the popular tastes of 1970s audiences, and it sucks mightily. Climate Of Hunter is an odd attempt to fuse 1980s productions with the weirdo experimental sounds that Walker was clearly interested in pursuing at the time. It doesn't really work, but there's something there. With Tilt and, especially, The Drift, though, Walker made the music of nightmares. The Drift may be the most terrifying album ever recorded, a freefloating consideration of a uniquely American ugliness. Consider the song "Jesse," which is included below, a tone-poem of sorts addressed to Elvis Presley's stillborn twin that culminates in a wrenching a capella cry "I'm the only one left alive." Jesus. I have not yet bought last year's Bisch Bosch, which completes a trilogy started with Tilt. The truth is that I'm afraid to do so. The Ball? EP is only ok.

Jack Scott - Classic Scott (collection, 1957-74). This is a completist Bear Family box of singles and album cuts by Scott, the Canadian rockabilly/country singer behind the mysterious "Goodbye Baby." It is excellent.

Raymond Scott - Reckless Nights And Turkish Twilights (compilation, 1937-40). I covered Scott before, but then acquired this collection of his more swing-y music, including the omnipresent "Powerhouse."

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Cow Fingers and Mosquito Pie (compilation, 1956-58). This disc collects some of Hawkins' best and best-known tracks from the 50s. The man had a graveyard disposition and a cemetery mind.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs - Gun Shy (1986), Bikini Red (1987), and Totally Religious (1989). Bluesy British band that kind of reminds me of ZZ Top for their thick guitar tones and goofy humor, although the Messiahs have more of a surf influence. And the opposite sort of hair on their heads.

The Screaming Trees - Sweet Oblivion (1992). Maybe the most grungy of all grunge bands, the Screaming Trees were actually based outside of Seattle.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Music Library: Sam and Dave, Sam Cooke, Samamidon, Samuel Beckett, Sandy Denny, Sanford Clark, Santogold, Sarah Vaughan, Erik Satie, Scarnella

Sam & Dave - The Best Of Sam & Dave (1965-69). This is a Stax collection of one of the most iconic of Stax duos. So iconic, in fact, that this is what I generally mean when I talk about R&B from the 60s. This video has them backed by the MGs and (I think) the Memphis Horns. DAMN!

Sam Cooke - Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963, Night Beat (1963), The Rhythm And The Blues (compilation of My Kind Of Blues, 1961, and Mr. Soul, 1963), You Send Me (compilation, 1957-60), and Portrait Of A Legend 1951-64. Cooke is the quintessential artist who died far too young, which these albums bear out. Both the Live 1963 album and Night Beat cook throughout. The Rhythm And The Blues compiles tracks from two other albums without including all of them, and it, too, sizzles with energy. You Send Me is the weakest of these, focusing mostly on cuts from his 1959 Billie Holliday tribute album, while Portrait compilation collects singles from his all-too-brief career and adds a very early gospel track.

Samamidon - All Is Well (2007). Young folkie guy playing old folkie music with young folkie friends. He's a little precious, but it's okay.

Samuel Beckett - Krapp's Last Tape (1960). This is a recording of the first American production of Beckett's one-man play. Amazing.

Sandy Denny - The North Star Grassman And The Ravens (1971) and Sandy (1972). After Fairport and Fotheringay, these are Denny's first two solo albums, both just as lovely as they could possibly be. While I love her voice, which is somehow simultaneously sweetly clear and a little smoky, her songs really shine here.

Sanford Clark - "The Girl On Death Row" and "The Fool." Excellent music on the cusp of country and rockabilly.

Santogold - Santogold (2008). What is this? Punk and psych-influenced R&B with a catholic set of influences. Crazy! And very cool! This song is apparently based on Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain.

Sarah Vaughan - Verve Jazz Masters 18 (collection, 1954-1963), Sarah Vaughan's Finest Hour (collection, 1945-1965), and Gold Collection (live, 1984). What a voice! The first two of these collect a number of her singles and album tracks, mostly concentrating on the late 50s. The Gold Collection is a live set that Allmusic sets as 1984, which seems reasonable enough.

Erik Satie - Works For Piano (Aldo Ciccolini, 1986) and Pièces Pour Guitare (Pierre Laniau, 1988). If you have ever wondered whether Satie's compositions, whom I have discussed elsewhere on the blog before, sounds different when performed on piano or guitar, I can now tell you that they do not.

Scarnella - Scarnella (1998). Immediately following the grand majesty of the Geraldine Fibbers and before the skronky confusion of Evangelista, Carla Bozulich and her then-husband Nels Cline made this maddeningly gnomic and seemingly self-contained album. It is quite beautiful at times, but it does not ever let the listener in.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Music Library: Saccharine Trust, Doug Sahm, Saint Vitus, The Saints, Sally Crewe, Sally Timms, The Salvage Brothers

Saccharine Trust - Paganicons (1981), Surviving You, Always (1984), Worldbroken (1985), We Became Snakes (1986), and Past Lives (1989). This is the great Joe Baiza's brilliant hardcore/fake jazz outfit who recorded for SST back in the 80s. Baiza was pals with Mike Watt and D. Boon and shared their love for avant-noise and free jazz, but took this to a more extreme place than the Minutemen. I think that Watt's friendship with Baiza and familiarity with Baiza's skronk-jazz style is what led him to start working with Nels Cline in the 90s, which is what eventually led to Cline joining Wilco and entering the general guitar god pantheon rather than just the pantheon of the few. As I will report when I get to Universal Congress Of, Baiza continued making some of the most interesting music under the SST punk umbrella. Of these Paganicons, Worldbroken, and Past Lives are all great (the latter two are live albums, but Worldbroken is full of original material), but Surviving You and especially We Became Snakes are flat-out stellar.

Doug Sahm - "Give Back The Key To My Heart" and "Village Girl." Two excellent Sahm songs, the former covered quite notably by Uncle Tupelo. I've covered Sahm in more detail elsewhere.

Saint Vitus - Saint Vitus (1984), Hallow's Victim (1985), The Walking Dead EP (1985), Born Too Late (1986), and Thirsty And Miserable EP (1987). Considering how much I like Scott "Wino" Weinrich's take on doom metal, I feel weird about not having two of his Saint Vitus albums. Saint Vitus was, of course, SST's flagship doom metal band, and the first two albums and EP feature their original vocalist Scott Reagers. They are pretty good, if a bit one-note, although the Walking Dead EP starts to bring the thunder. Starting with Born Too Late, though, possibly due to the addition of Wino, Saint Vitus nails down the Black Sabbath-on-quaaludes sound they were born to play. Thirsty and Miserable, featuring the titular Black Flag cover, is also excellent.

The Saints - (I'm) Stranded (1977), Eternally Yours (1978), and Prehistoric Sounds (1978). One of the greatest of the first-wave punk bands, the Saints were unfortunately a bit isolated due to being Australian. All three of these albums are just magnificent, though, and show an unusual musical progression. (I'm) Stranded is a first-rate blast of pop hooks and chainsaw guitars, Eternally Yours adds horns and some R&B swing to the rhythm, and Prehistoric Sounds builds on this to the point that it  sounds more like the Rolling Stones than the Stones sounded in 1978 and very little like the work of a band that was trafficking in punk symbolism the prior year. The live bonus tracks on Prehistoric Sounds show that the Saints were still punk as shit live, though.

Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves - Drive It Like You Stole It (2003), Shortly After Take-Off (2005), Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You (2008), Transmit/Receive EP (2011), and "Making Plans For Nigel." The great Sally Crewe plays perfect minimalist power-pop trio gems with all the hooks of a Joe Jackson or Nick Lowe. She's an Austin institution, but she's due for more. Considering how ridiculously catchy her songs are, how energetic and solid her band is, and how much overall delight her music brings, it's a mystery and a crime that she has not been embraced more on the national level by the indie-rock press. My buddy Matt is her current bassist, but since Matt doesn't tour, she usually hits the road with a significant figure like Tommy Keene or Doug Gilliard on bass. I don't think I can emphasize enough that all of these albums are excellent. I like the more recent ones a little bit more, but it's not because they're significantly better, but because I just find myself rocking out more to them.

Sally Timms - Soundtrack To Hangahar (as Sally Smmit And Her Musicians, 1980) and Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos (1999). Another tiny English blonde lady who now lives in the US named Sally, Ms. Timms is one of the many frontpeople for the Mekons. The earlier album here is all experimental electronica, though, and I do not much enjoy it. The latter album is a dreamy alt-country covers album, and it is lovely. Neither of these, though, have the ragged glory of the Mekons.

The Salvage Brothers - Barnstorm EP (1998). This is a four-song EP by a punk-tinged string band I was in. I've skipped over some of my own efforts in this ongoing project, but sometimes I just want to mention how much fun a band was. This one was about the songs and the singing, and it was a blast.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Music Library Catch-Up: Boyce and Hart, Nick Cave, Daft Punk, Drive-By Truckers, Haydn, Jason Isbell, Meat Purveyors, Randy Newman

Some quick catch-up reviews.

Boyce and Hart - I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight (1968). Tasty bubblegum from the Monkees' main songwriters! It was filed in the Ts for Tommy Boyce.

Nick Cave - Nocturama (2008). Oh yeah.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (2013). Isn't it odd that it has suddenly become an event when Daft Punk releases a record? When did that happen?

Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South (2004) and Brighter Than Creation's Dark (2007). When I reviewed these guys last time, I was not completely sold on them. I liked some songs and didn't care much for others. But these albums both hit me just right.

Haydn: Three Favorite Concertos (1990). Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, and Cho-Liang Lin. Is Wynton Marsalis a bullshit classical trumpeter? I don't know. This is okay.

Jason Isbell - Live From Alabama (2012). My least-favorite Drive-By Trucker out on his own. I just don't care for his music, y'all. I can even admit that I like some of his songs, but the way he plays them here is slick as greased shit.

The Meat Purveyors - Sweet In The Pants (1998), More Songs About Buildings And Cows (1999), Pain By Numbers (2004), and Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse! (2006). Punk-bluegrass band from Austin. Went to see them a few times in the '00s, so I can report that they put on a hell of a great show.

Randy Newman - 12 Songs (1970). My buddy Gary told me he would bet I would like this album or he'd eat his proverbial hat. I like it, man! Don't start cooking the Stetson yet! It's not my favorite thing, but I like it, man.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Music Library: Roy Acuff, Roy Buchanan, Roy Orbison, Royal Trux, Ruby Suns, Rufus, Run The Jewels, Run-DMC, Ruth Brown, RZA

Roy Acuff - The Essential Roy Acuff 1936-1949. As Uncle Tupelo sang, play me a song that everybody knows and I bet you it belongs to Acuff-Rose. Roy Acuff was the archetypical country singer who grew to accumulate first great power in the music business and then political power in Tennessee and who became a legend when he was gone. You know the type. These are hillbilly songs on the verge of becoming country music or maybe they're on the other side of the cusp.

Roy Buchanan - "Green Onions." Blues guitarist ripping through a cover of the track by Booker T & the MGs. I didn't think I was much of a fan of the guy, but this cooks.

Roy Orbison - The All-Time Greatest Hits (1960-64). Such a brilliant weirdo. Just to call back to Roy Acuff's power, Orbison spent a part of his life as a songwriter at the songwriting firm of Acuff-Rose.  It's hard to hear him without David Lynch creeping in.

Royal Trux - Twin Infinitives (1990). Beautiful lo-fi rock melodies drowning in waves and waves of thrashing, screaming, dreaming, howling noise.

Ruby Suns - Sea Lion (2008). The kiwi version of Animal Collective, Ruby Suns have Beach Boys-like harmonies and pure pop hearts with layer upon layer of electronics.

Rufus - "Tell Me Something Good." Ugh. Yeah.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels (2013). El-P and Killer Mike collaborating like they were born to it. One of my favorite 2013 albums, right here.

Run-DMC - Run-DMC (1984), King Of Rock (1985), Raising Hell (1986), Tougher Than Leather (1988), and Together Forever - Greatest Hits 1983-1991. Clearly everyone's been waiting for this 40-odd-year-old white Southern guy to talk about the great Run-DMC. "Oh, Hayden," said the world, "stop talking about all this stuff that you know a bunch about and instead provide your dilettante-esque thoughts on a seminal hip-hop group!" But instead I decided to narrate this.

RZA - RZA As Bobby Digital In Stereo (1998). What? More hip-hop for me to avoid discussing? Don't mind if I do! Love this album by The RZA. You might be surprised to learn that he conceived of the Bobby Digital persona while he was high. True story.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Music Library: Max Romeo, Ron Wood, Ronnie Dawson, Ronnie Von, Roots, Rosanne Cash, Rose Melberg, Jack Rose, Roxy Music

Roxy Music

Max Romeo - War Ina Babylon (1976). This is an extraordinary reggae album produced by the great madman genius Lee "Scratch" Perry. Top freakin' notch.

Ron Wood - I've Got My Own Album To Do (1974). Some Stones, some Faces, an ex-Beatle, and the sublime "Mystifies Me." All good.

Ronnie Dawson - "Action Packed" and Just Rockin and Rollin (1996). The original 1958 single, which was covered by Jonathan Richman and is one of my favorite songs, and an excellent album from Dawson's 90s renaissance.

Ronnie Von - Ronnie Von Nº 3 (1967) and Minha Máquina Voadora (1970). Von is the Donovan or one-man Monkees of the Brazilian tropicalia movement. He hosted a TV show that frequently featured Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil when such an act was political defiance. His songs are not up to the heights of tropicalia's best, but they are still pretty good.

The Roots - Things Fall Apart (1999) and Rising Down (2008). Considering that this is being written in 2013, I don't need to talk about who the Roots are or explain that these are good albums. Well, Things Fall Apart is fantastic, but Rising Down is only good.

Rosanne Cash - 10 Song Demo (1996). Stripped-back country music from the daughter of Johnny Cash when she would have been 41, which is, incidentally, my age as I write this.

Rose Melberg - "The Love We Could Have Had." Fuzz-pop!

Jack Rose - Luck In The Valley (2010). One of the last albums by the avant-folk genius who died the year before this came out.

Roxy Music - Roxy Music (1972), For Your Pleasure (1973), Stranded (1973), Country Life (1974), Siren (1975), and Avalon (1982). For such a popular band, they are such a weird combination of sounds. Ferry crooning, Manzanera wailing, Eno warping the sound (at least on the first two), Andy Mackay bridging the gaps. The first two albums are the best, but the next two are also brilliant, and Siren is good. I don't much care for Avalon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Music Library: Rolling Stones Part 2: 1968-1989 (when they broke up and never played together again)

Beggar's Banquet (1968). I don't know what broke in them, but the Stones stopped fucking around with this album and decided to become The Greatest Rock Band In The World. They've reined in Brian Jones (assisted by Jones himself, who was rapidly on his way to becoming a drug casualty), dropped a lot of the psychedelia flourishes (although I think it's fair to say that the piano-and-maracas-driven "Sympathy For The Devil" was the most psychedelic song that the Stones ever made, even without a mellotron), and added some pure muscle that makes even jokey songs like "Dear Doctor" just crackle with inventiveness. The Stones, scions of the middle-class, all, and gazillionaires at the time, struck a creative lodestone by claiming common purpose with working men in "Street Fighting Man," "Factory Girl," and "Salt Of The Earth." The self-mythologizing in "Jig-Saw Puzzle" is also a pip. While "No Expectations," "Prodigal Son," and "Stray Cat Blues" are all still mining the Chicago blues, "Dear Doctor," "Factory Girl," and "Salt Of The Earth" were pretty much country-based songs. Keith sings lead on the first part of "Salt Of The Earth," too.

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968). This is the soundtrack to a 1968 film that was shelved until 1996 for reasons that are somewhat unclear, but probably due to ego. The Stones invited a handful of artists to perform with them, including Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and The Who. Most of these guys were poor (Tull) to okay (Mahal), but The Who cranked out a version of "A Quick One" that completely dusted the Stones. That said, the Stones were pretty damn great.

Let It Bleed (1969). And then Brian Jones was out, and dead a month later, after barely bothering to show up to play on this album. His replacement Mick Taylor played on the same number of songs, two. Every song on the album is great, but the bookends, "Gimme Shelter" at the beginning and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" at the end, were the alpha and omega of the fast-curdling hippie experience. Or maybe just the omega, I can't tell. Some writers say the hippie dream died at Altamont (and that is certainly supported by the great Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter), but this album dropped the day before, effectively staking hippiedom in the heart before Altamont could finish it off. Let It Bleed continues to work country music with "Country Honk," the cornpone version of "Honky Tonk Women," and with the title track. Keith Richards sings the lead on "You Got The Silver." And the whole thing is one of the most perfect albums ever recorded.

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970). Blistering live album documenting the 1969 tour.

Sticky Fingers (1971). A near-perfect album from The Greatest Rock and Roll Band In The World with Mick Taylor on lead and all pistons firing. "Brown Sugar," despite its catchiness, deserves to die. "Sway" has the greatest riff in rock. "Wild Horses" is a song that Keith Richards gave his pal Gram Parsons to record a year before and then made a classic song for this album. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" has a killer Mick Taylor coda. "You Gotta Move," "Bitch," and "I Got The Blues" make up a series of A- songs before "Sister Morphine," "Dead Flowers," and "Moonlight Mile" hit three all-time pitch perfect final songs.

Exile on Main Street (1972), Exile Outtakes (bootleg, 1972), and I Gave You Diamonds, You Give Me Disease (bootleg, 1972). Exile is a mess, a perfect mess. Like Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, it is the sound of a band barely keeping it together. Recorded in a French country house with a steady parade of high-profile heroin abusers and high-quality heroin flowing through it like a tide of reasons for the Stones to quit and never start again, they somehow made it work. Magic is when something that shouldn't exist comes to be, and Exile is magic. The two bootlegs collect outtakes and unmixed versions and the I Gave You Diamonds bootleg in particular is an amazing document. The Outtakes bootleg sounds like crap.

Goat's Head Soup (1973). Then the Stones started sucking. "Dancing With Mr. D" and "Star Star" are okay, but only okay. "Angie" and "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" are bullshit.

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974). This is the last Stones album with Mick Taylor, who was starting to feel used. They still sort of sucked, but much less so on this album.

Some Girls (1978). With Ron Wood replacing Mick Taylor, the Stones somehow found it in them to make one more good-to-great album. This one has several great songs and several good-to-great songs.


"Memo From Turner (Single)" (1970), Hot Rocks (1964-1971) (released 1971), More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies) (released 1972), Metamorphosis (released 1975), and Jump Back:The Best of the Rolling Stones 1971-1993 (released 1993).  There's a number of nonalbum tracks and tracks from albums I don't have. "Memo From Turner" is a solo Mick track from the Roeg film Performance. When I switched to the UK albums, I missed out on the nonalbum tracks included on the US albums, like "Paint It, Black," "Ruby Tuesday," and "Let's Spend The Night Together." Metamorphosis, which collects outtakes and alternate tracks from 1964-70, is pretty much the best of these, with the full band version of "Memo From Turner" and the great "I'm Going Down," a pretty amazing track. The Jump Back greatest hits album includes "Emotional Rescue" and "Undercover Of The Night," which are two tracks on albums I really have no interest in picking up.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Music Library: Rolling Stones, Part 1: 1964-67

Between 1971-72, they were the greatest rock band in the world. Now they're a glorified oldies band and, more or less, the greatest Rolling Stones cover band in the world. Top five, at least. I gave up on them when they started sucking in the 70s, but I do really love their rise to Exile. Anyway, this pose covers only the first four years of the Stones' rise to fame (or infamy) and the growth is amazing. Four freakin' years! Or, considering the first album is in May 1964 and the last covered here is December 1967, THREE AND A HALF! Damn, y'all.

England's Newest Hit Makers (May 1964). Through Satanic Majesties, their UK and US record companies put out different versions of the same album. This is the American version of the first UK album The Rolling Stones, and it replaces a cover of Bo Diddley's "Mona" with a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Most of the other songs were covers, too, because that's how the pop business was done in those days. It has two originals, the bluesy "Now I've Got A Witness" and the poppy "Tell Me." The former is credited to Nanker Phlege, which was the nom de musique for the entire band, and the latter was a Jagger/Richards collaboration.

12X5 (Oct 1964). This was a US-only release collecting a number of singles with a UK EP. There are two Nanker Phlege songs and three Jagger/Richards songs out of the 12.

The Rolling Stones, Now! (Feb 1965). This is the US version of the second UK album The Rolling Stones No. 2. Instead of trying to pretend that I know how to unravel the differences, I'm just going to quote wikipedia:
The album contained seven tracks from their second UK album The Rolling Stones No. 2, the recent US Top 20 hit "Heart of Stone", the recent UK #1 hit single "Little Red Rooster", "Surprise, Surprise", from the UK various artist compilation Fourteen, "Mona (I Need You Baby)" from The Rolling Stones and "Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')" which would appear on the UK edition of the Stones' next album Out of Our Heads later in 1965.
Strangely, given how convoluted the sequence is, it is a much more coherent album than the previous two, and "Heart Of Stone" is the first truly great Jagger/Richards song.

Out Of Our Heads (US, July 1965). This is the greatest of the early Stones albums, and the US version is significantly better than the UK one. The UK version has "Heart of Stone" and "I'm Free" in its favor, but the US version loses those while focusing on the singles, adding "The Last Time," "Play With Fire," and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," a song that you may have heard once or twice in your life. This is the first essential Stones album, at least in the US version.

December's Children (And Everybody's) (Dec 1965). This album picks up the rest of the tracks from the UK Out Of Our Heads and adds a few killer singles.  When it is not cooking, it sounds a bit like leftovers, especially coming right after the US Out Of Our Heads. But the killer tracks - "Get Off Of My Cloud," "As Tears Go By," "The Singer, Not The Song," and "I'm Free."

Aftermath (UK, 1966) and Could You Walk On The Water? (bootleg of unreleased album, 1966). Aftermath on both sides of the pond was the first of the intermediate Stones albums, where every song was a Jagger/Richards composition and the band was experimenting with sounds far beyond the R&B and blues covers that had previously fueled them. The UK version has 14 tracks to the US version's 11. While the US version adds "Paint It, Black," one of the greatest Stones singles, the UK version has "Mother's Little Helper," "Out Of Time," "Take It Or Leave It," and "What To Do," all of which would turn up on later released. Besides those tracks, both versions of Aftermath include "Lady Jane," "Under My Thumb," "Goin' Home," and "I Am Waiting," all of which are amazing, if shockingly sexist and quite dated in one case. Could You Walk On The Water? was the proposed US counterpart to the UK Aftermath (before they decided to just release a version of the same album). Wikipedia says:
The track list for the shelved album includes "Take It or Leave It", "Mother's Little Helper", "Think", "Goin' Home" (short edit) and "Doncha Bother Me". Of these, all five would be released on the UK version of Aftermath, three on the US version. Of the remaining tracks, "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Sad Day" were released as a single, "Sittin' on the Fence" and "Ride On, Baby" were later to be released on the US album Flowers, along with "Mother's Little Helper" and "Take It or Leave It". "Looking Tired" remains unreleased to this day.
"Looking Tired" has actually popped up on some bootlegs, including this one.

Between The Buttons (UK, January 1967). This is a great and underappreciated album, with each song brimming with Swinging London pop brilliance. The US version cuts "Back Street Girl" and "Please Go Home" for the current singles "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together," but somehow the UK version is a better album for not having any of the Stones' best-known tracks on it. It seems more personal than even Aftermath, and Brian Jones' increased eclecticism (he is credited on the album with electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, organ, electric dulcimer, percussion, harpsichord, kazoo, recorder, theremin, trumpet, trombone, tuba, saxophone, harmonica, sitar, and backing vocals) only adds to the weird pop brilliance of this one.

 Their Satanic Majesties' Request (Dec 1967). This is the first Stones album to be released with the same track listing on both sides of the pond. And it is a fascinating mess of an album, with guitars shrieking on a most un-Stones-like frequency, loads of crude psychedelia, a general lack of focus, and still almost brilliant enough to pull it off. "Citadel," in particular, has been covered by a lot of artists, because that song rocks ass.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Music Library: Robyn Hitchcock, Rock Plaza Central, Rocket From The Tombs, Clara Rockmore, Rockpile, Rodriguez, Roger Miller, Rokia Traoré, Roky Erickson

Robyn Hitchcock - Black Snake Diamond Röle (1981), I Often Dream Of Trains (1985), Element Of Light (with The Egyptians, 1986), Queen Elvis (with The Egyptians, 1989), Jewels For Sophia (1999), and Spooked (2004). Hitchcock is such a fun songwriter and performer that even the six albums I have seem like far too few. Black Snake has most of the Soft Boys performing on it, and it sounds much more like his work with them than the folkier music to come. Trains is a near-perfect album. Well, it's a perfectly silly album, too. The great thing about Hitchcock is his ability to be ridiculously silly and still quite serious in the same breath. Anyway, Trains is all acoustic and actually pretty moody for such a silly album. His work with the Egyptians added a backbeat and band atmosphere and 80s production, but the work continued to be silly and brilliant. Sophia, released 10 years later, is sharper than ever.  Spooked is acoustic with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings backing Hitchcock.

Rock Plaza Central - "We've Got A Lot To Be Glad For" and "My Children, Be Joyful." The former: yes. The latter: blurg. The former, in fact, is pushing the line on the preciousness, but the second skips past the line and makes me hate all stringed instruments and the sensitive white men who abuse them.

Rocket From The Tombs - The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs (1975) and Rocket Redux (2004). Lo, did the Cleveland proto-punk scene coalesce in the midst of the 1970s about a band known far and (mostly) near as The Rocket From The Tombs, which didst include such luminaries as Peter Laughner, Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Johnny Blitz, and one Crocus Behemoth, also known as David Thomas. And yea, did this band labor upon the Cleveland rock scene for a year and a day, and then it split asunder and there was born the Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys. P-Ubu was a punk outfit besotted with the artistic and from their creations came much of the interesting music of punk. The Dead Boys were young, loud, and snotty, and from their machinations came one great album full of rage and immediacy, even all of these years later. The Rocket From The Tombs never made a proper album, but they kept their practice and live recordings, which no one wanted to hear until the 2000s, when their genius was then finally recognized by a few. And lo, did the remaining members of Rocket From The Tombs enlist Richard Lloyd and member of Pere Ubu to replace the original members who were then deceased and undertook a rather unlikely tour and recording process. For while the concert did rock, it put them in the unlikely position of basically covering themselves. But it happened, and it wasn't terrible so much as a little unnecessary.

Clara Rockmore - The Art of the Theremin (1977). Maestro of the theremin and the surprise star of the documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. These are all classical tracks played with depth unusual to the instrument.

Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure (1980). The only proper release by the rockabilly/power pop band fronted by Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Unsurprisingly, it's pretty great. This version throws the EP Dave Edmunds And Nick Lowe Sing The Everly Brothers on at the end along with a few live Graham Parker covers.

Rodriguez - Cold Fact (1970). Rodriguez has an interesting backstory as a forgotten musician who had no idea that his albums were huge successes in South Africa until his daughter found a website dedicated to him in the late 90s. The album itself is okay 70s pop-psych with a little bit of soul mixed in to my ears.

Roger Miller - "King Of The Road." One of the greatest songs of the classic country era.

Rokia Traoré - Bowmboï (2003). Afropop singer from Mali. I have almost no opinion on this.

Roky Erickson - Mine Mine Mind EP (1977), Roky Erickson And The Aliens (1980), The Evil One (Plus One) (released 1981), Never Say Goodbye (recorded 1971-1985), Roky Erickson and Evil Hook Wildlife E.T. (recorded 1986), Holiday Inn Tapes (1987), You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best Of Roky Erickson (released 1991), All That May Do My Rhyme (1995), I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology (recorded 1965-95). Roky Erickson is one of the greatest songwriters of the rock era, but his mental illness, institutionalization, and complicated family situation have made his recorded output erratic, to say the least. His is a sad story of a sensitive man being failed by the authorities and well-meaning family and friends for many, many years before his brother Sumner finally normalized his life, and the documentary You're Gonna Miss Me captures the ups and many, many downs of his story in great detail. Being a Roky fan is not easy, though. His solo output has trickled out slowly, often on shady labels content to release crappy nth-generation recordings of a live show. It's been hard to find the good stuff. That said, there have fortunately been a number of fantastic compilations released to help the neophyte sort wheat from chaff. Both You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson and I Have Always Been Here Before are excellent jumping-off points, with the latter being so definitive that it may be all the mildly interested parties ever need. The former is all Roky, with later versions of some of his early songs, while the latter has the original Spades and 13th Floor Elevators tracks, along with some of the best recorded versions of his solo songs. From the studio work, Mine Mine Mind and Roky Erickson And The Aliens both feature fierce versions of Roky's Buddy Holly-influenced horror-rock songs. The Evil One has poorer sound and a live disc that spends way too long letting Roky ramble with a troubled mind. Never Say Goodbye is an acoustic affair includes some tracks that Roky recorded while institutionalized and some from later, and it is both sad and beautiful. The Evil Hook Wildlife E.T. album has spirited versions of Roky's songs, but again far too much of the rambling crazy-talk. When the album feels it necessary to rub people's faces in Roky's mental illness, it is exploiting him, and I'm not a fan of listening to a great artist being exploited. The Holiday Inn Tapes have so-so sound quality but several of the songs are astonishing. All That May Do My Rhyme mixes new songs with old and is a pretty promising return to form. I haven't heard his 2010 album with Okkervil River yet, but writing this review inspired me to add it to my must-get list.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Music Library: Robert Creeley, Robert Forster, Robert Fripp, Robert Johnson, Robert Pollard, Robert Quine, Robert Randolph, Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt

Robert Creeley - Four poems from Ubuweb. These are three tracks with four poems as read by the authors, including the sublime "I Know A Man."

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

Robert Forster - Danger In The Past (1990), Calling From A Country Phone (1993), Warm Nights (1996), and The Evangelist (2008). The more cerebral half of the Go-Betweens' creative team, Forster spent his solo years making excellent, jagged folk-pop before the G-Bs reformed in 2000. The Evangelist, released shortly after the death of his partner Grant McLennan, features several of McLennan's last written songs, and it is easily the most heartbreaking work that Forster has ever done.

Robert Fripp - God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners (1980) and The League Of Gentlemen (1981). Art-noise and guitar loops as the woolliest of the woolly King Crimson mammoths reinvented himself as a downtown no-wave/new-wave pioneer.

Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings (recorded 1936-37). Seminal blues artist Johnson, he of the Faustian legend, was a master of several different styles of guitar, some of which he would demonstrate at the same time, and a fantastic singer and songwriter, to boot. The upside of this collection is that, unlike the King Of The Delta Blues Singers albums (which I have on vinyl), these include alternate takes of most of the songs. The downside of this collection is that they sequenced the tracks with the alternates following the final take, so that to listen straight through is to hear the same song at least twice, which can be quite annoying.

Robert Pollard - From A Compound Eye (2006). Despite the fact that Pollard, the Guided By Voices frontman, has recorded a few dozen solo albums, this is the only one I've ever picked up. It's pretty good, too!

Robert Quine and Fred Maher - Basic (1984). I've covered Quine on this blog in a number of places before. This is an instrumental album he made with drummer Maher. As you might imagine, it has freakin' brilliant guitar parts.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band - Live At The Wetlands (2002). Randolph is a sacred steel player, meaning that he primarily plays steel guitar gospel music that is heavily influenced by the blues and soul music, which actually plays really, really well with the jamband audience. This is basically a jamband album, with the shortest song clocking in a 8 minutes and the longest at 13. It's not bad for what it is, but it's not my thing, either. Notice the abundance of awkward middle-class white person dancing on display in the attached clip.

Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom (1974). Synth-heavy prog-rock that is quite unusual and yet also quite moving. Wyatt, formerly the drummer of Soft Machine, was in an accident while working on this album that left him paralyzed from the waist down, and the result is a bizarre and beautiful work. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Music Library: Ringo Starr, Rita Lee, RJD2, Robbie Basho, Robbie Fulks, Robbie Robertson, Marty Robbins

Thanks to Chicago Reader

Ringo Starr - "It Don't Come Easy." Tell us about it, Ringo.

Rita Lee - Build Up (1970). Os Mutantes vocalist out on her own. Unfortunately, this is mostly syrupy and lacking in the Mutantes insanity.

RJD2 - "Exotic Talk" and "A Beautiful Mine." Excellent hip-hop/glitchy instrumentals. The latter is the music from the Mad Men theme.

Robbie Basho - The Seal Of The Blue Lotus (1965) and The Grail And The Lotus (1966). Fingerstyle guitarist with a heavily Indian-classical bent who recorded for John Fahey's Takoma label. Psychedelic stuff, and a big influence on Six Organs Of Admittance's Ben Chasny.

Robbie Fulks - Country Love Songs (1996), South Mouth (1997), Let's Kill Saturday Night (1998), The Very Best Of Robbie Fulks (1999), Couples In Trouble (2001), 13 Hillbilly Giants (2001), Georgia Hard (2005), Revenge! (2007), 50-vc Doberman Sampler (2009), and Happy (2010). Fulks is the definition of a cult artist, a guy with an album called The Very Best Of Robbie Fulks that is not a greatest-hits album, but collection of new songs and EP-only releases. He winds up somewhere between a smartass and a hardcore troubadour. He is funny and sarcastic and serious and insightful, sometimes all in the same song. I love his music. Country Love Songs and South Mouth are both smartass country albums, straight up, with the former's best track being "She Took A Lot Of Pills (And Died)" and the latter dropping a not-so-much-love letter to Nashville on "Fuck This Town." Let's Kill Saturday Night is a part-power-pop/part-country album with the excellent "God Isn't Real" on it.  Very Best is an excellent genre-crosser with "That Bangle Girl" on it. Couples In Trouble is indie rock, while 13 Hillbilly Giants covers obscure country songs. Georgia Hard is a countrypolitan country-plus-strings experiment. Revenge! has live versions from all over Fulks' career, and it has an electric side and an acoustic side. 50-vc Doberman Sampler collects 12 songs from an online-only 50-song release. It's not so great, unfortunately. At least, it hasn't grown on me. Happy covers Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 songs all through a number of genres. It is quite good.

Robbie Robertson - Robbie Robertson (1987). Ugh. Doesn't seem possible this was the work of the man who wrote "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (1959). Excellent work from Mr. Robbins, who I've covered elsewhere on this blog.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Music Library: Richard Youngs, Jonathan Richman, Rickie Lee Jones, Ricky Gervais, Ricky Nelson, Ride, Terry Riley, Rilo Kiley

Terry Riley

Richard Youngs - River Through Howling Sky (2004) and The Naive Shaman (2005). Youngs is a folk-electronica-avant noise guy, and these are interesting albums that land somewhere between drone and song.

Jonathan Richman - Jonathan, Te Vas A Emocionar! (2004), I'm So Confused (1998), Her Mystery Not Of High Heels And Eye Shadow (2001), Take Me To The Plaza (2004), Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love (2004), and Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild (2008). I've covered Richman before, but I picked up Emocionar! and many of his later albums since. Of these, Her Mystery is my favorite, but they are all pretty good. Plaza is the audio portion of a live DVD.

Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones (1979) and Pop Pop (1991). I've had both of these albums forever. I used to like them more than I do now. The self-titled debut was an album that I liked a bunch at one point, but it just grates on me now. Sounds like jazzbo Tom Waits (who was her boyfriend at the time, I think) but without the tasty grit and with a smoother Laurel Canyon cocaine-pop band. Pop Pop is a little better.

Ricky Gervais - "Free Love On The Free Love Freeway." From The Office, natch. She's not dead.

Ricky Nelson - Rio Bravo (1959), Rick Is 21 (1961), and All My Best (rel. 1985). Little Ricky wrote and played some great songs! The Rio Bravo soundtrack has Dean Martin sing a song on his lonesome, the soundtrack version of "De Guello," and three versions of each of the attached songs, and just like the movie itself, it is shockingly enjoyable. Ricky does pretty well with his own songs, too.

Ride - Nowhere (1990) and Today Forever EP (1991). Fun and trippy band from the early days of shoegaze.

Terry Riley - Music For The Gift (1963), A Rainbow In Curved Air/Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band (1967), In C (1968), Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band (1968), Reed Streams-L'Infonie-In C (Mantra) (1966-70), Persian Surgery Dervishes (1971), Les Yeux Fermés/Lifespan (1972-74), Riley: The Harp Of New Albion (1986), In C (Wang Yongji and the Shanghai Film Chinese Orchestra, 1992), and Riley: The Cusp Of Magic (Kronos Quartet with Wu Man, 2008). My favorite minimalist! Riley is one of the forerunners of, well, everything. He blended Eastern music (he training in Indian classical music) with Western avant-garde sounds, experimented with tape loops in the early 60s (Music For The Gift starts with a piece of cut-up and looped Chet Baker sounds and follows with a cut-up street preacher performance), messed with synthesizers (A Rainbow In Curved Air inspired Pete Townshend to create the synth parts of "Baba O'Riley," with the O'Riley part referring to Terry), and then invented the variable composition In C. In C, the original twitter-and-pulse composition, can be played by a variable number of musicians for a variable amount of time. I have five different versions in my collection and they all sound vastly different while maintaining the sameness that marks it as a singular composition. The 1968 version here is the original recording, about 42 minutes in length at 132 beats per minute. The two versions of Poppy Nogood that I have, one as the B-side to Rainbow In Curved Air and one as a standalone, are taken from the same performance, although the standalone version is significantly longer. Reed Streams consists of two organ-based loops with pulsing and twittering and this issue was kind enough to add L'Infonie's amazing anarchic version of "In C," which is my favorite one. Persian Surgery Dervishes is live organ-based performances. Les Yeux Fermés/Lifespan consists of a number of tracks recorded for movies, and it is my least-favorite of these albums. The Harp of New Albion is a piano-based composition from the 80s which is pretty great, hinting at Windham Hill new agey stuff in its quieter moments, but being much too trippy and anarchic for anything from that label. The Wang Yongji version of In C is okay, but the attached compositions from Liang David Mingyue are much less fun. Kronos Quartet's The Cusp of Magic, which Riley wrote for them, is sublime. I have reviewed other versions of In C and Riley's collaboration with John Cale elsewhere on this blog.

Rilo Kiley - The Initial Friend (1999), The Execution Of All Things (2002), and More Adventurous (2004). Fronted by former child actors Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, Rilo Kiley was an indie rock band that flirted with alt-country and Laurel Canyon rock. The Initial Friend is pretty good, Execution is so-so with a few great songs, and Adventurous kind of a bust, albeit again with a couple of great songs.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Beeswing: On Not Liking A Popular Song By A Favorite Artist


When I posted the second part of my review of Richard Thompson's oeuvre, there was some discussion on FB about whether the lady love of the singer of "Beeswing" was a junkie, as I described her, or a drunkard, with most of the commenters preferring the latter. Basically, I don't care whether her white horse/White Horse was Keith Richards' one favorite intoxicant or Keith Richards' other favorite intoxicant. Either way, I don't really like the song. Yes, it is pretty, but that is true of many of Thompson's songs. My problem is that it is, to borrow from Manny Farber's intentionally non-categorical categorization of art, his most white elephantish song.

In Farber's famous essay, one of the sins of white elephant art is its insistence on stuffing the canvas with meaning and thus robbing it of any organic life of its own.  "Beeswing," starting with its title, tries to cram significance into every verse but essentially devolves into an audience-pandering cliché. Its melody is intentionally designed to sound like an old English folk song, which is a trick that Thompson achieves to much better effect with his ever-popular "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," a song that, as I have written elsewhere, Thompson surely despises now. Anyway, the first verse of "Beeswing" goes:

I was nineteen when I came to town, they called it the Summer of Love
They were burning babies, burning flags. The hawks against the doves
I took a job in the steamie down on Cauldrum Street
And I fell in love with a laundry girl who was working next to me

There are a couple of moments that are interesting here, mostly related to the jargon. Burning babies? Steamie? I assume the former is a reference to Vietnam. The latter is Scottish slang for a wash-house. But it's the manic pixie girl love story that Thompson's after here.

Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, oh she was running wild
She said "As long as there's no price on love, I'll stay.
And you wouldn't want me any other way"

The bee's wing analogy is sharp, but not so sharp as to justify the missing apostrophe in the title. With the missing apostrophe, the title "Beeswing" sounds as if it means to suggest a second interpretation of "bee swing," but the term is meaningless for this song. The only bee is in the analogy to this girl (who is both physically and mentally delicate, I assume?) and the song doesn't swing. "Al Bowlly's In Heaven" swings, but "Beeswing" has neither the propulsion nor the rhythm. As a name for Thompson's publication company, though, Beeswing works well, but it feels shoe-horned in here. The line about the breath of wind is fine, neither great nor lousy. The "lost child/running wild" line, though, is Bon Jovi-worthy, and her demands for free love seem very specific in a "Me and Bobby McGee" way to the boomer audience to whom this song is clearly meant to appeal. This sentiment and the way that it is worded wouldn't be out of place in a song by Donovan or Cat Stevens, which is to say that it is somewhat beneath Mr. Thompson's usual standards.

In the next verse, we have:

Brown hair zig-zag around her face and a look of half-surprise
Like a fox caught in the headlights, there was animal in her eyes
She said "Young man, oh can't you see I'm not the factory kind
If you don't take me out of here I'll surely lose my mind"

Now this is up to Thompson's usual lyrical panache, at least in the first two lines. Farber's other category of art (and these were not meant to be conclusive, by the by, in that Farber describes them as two categories without closing the system to further categories) was termite art, by which he meant that the art was so alive and unfettered with portent that it eats it own frame. Those first two lines, with their immediacy and specificity that calls to a quality that is difficult to name but easy to visualize, are excellent examples of termite art. The second two lines only push along the plot, though.

We busked around the market towns and picked fruit down in Kent
And we could tinker lamps and pots and knives wherever we went
And I said that we might settle down, get a few acres dug
Fire burning in the hearth and babies on the rug
She said "Oh man, you foolish man, it surely sounds like hell.
You might be lord of half the world, you'll not own me as well"

But we're back with the white elephant stuff right away. Thompson's singer and his manic pixie lady become abstract people meant to flatter the hippie nostalgia of the audience. They're living by their wits off the land! He wants to settle down, but she's too free, man! She even specifically ties her hippie dude to white male privilege! I mean, even the reference to Kent is more of a placeholder to make a rhyme than anything particular to the town of Kent. While there's nothing specifically wrong with going abstract in a song to make the people seem more relatable to the audience, in this case it feeds the grand overarching narrative.

We was camping down the Gower one time, the work was pretty good
She thought we shouldn't wait for the frost and I thought maybe we should
We was drinking more in those days and tempers reached a pitch
And like a fool I let her run with the rambling itch
Oh the last I heard she's sleeping rough back on the Derby beat
White Horse in her hip pocket and a wolfhound at her feet
And they say she even married once, a man named Romany Brown
But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down
And they say her flower is faded now, hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains you refuse

This is ostensibly more her story than his, but she isn't real in it. She's a flibbertigibbet, a manic lady who ditches her hippie man over an argument about migrant labor, who married a gypsy (which is more Gregg Allman than the usually literate Richard Thompson), and who has now become an ugly homeless lady. But, as the chorus reminds us, she was this other special thing. And the singer, by being her hippie man for a time who could see her for the special thing she was, is the element of the song who is more real. Her post-singer history is condensed into four lines.

There's an element of the song that is meant to be feminist to some degree, as the singer clearly finds her demand for free love and free agency to be two of her aspects that make her special to him. But the song itself judges her harshly for these very things in the last two verses. Her independence and strongheadedness leave her homeless and drunk (or strung out on heroin, which is a drug that many users can actually put in their hip pocket before it is heated into liquid and put in a syringe, but whatever, this isn't the point) and that's the price she pays for being free, says the song. The suggestion is that if she'd consented to the hippie singer's domestic proposal, she wouldn't be drunk and homeless.

Consider "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" as an alternate. Like "Beeswing," it is written as a modern take on an old English folk song, but unlike "Beeswing," it tells a specific story about specific people with specific traits and it doesn't try to make them particularly likable or universal, but instead hangs the story on a powerful emotion and a weirdly specific metaphor for freedom. People like the song because it eats its own framing device.

"Beeswing," instead, idolizes a manic pixie love interest, judges her harshly for abandoning the protagonist, and flatters the audience with silly hippie nostalgia that most of the audience probably never experienced firsthand, but nevertheless knew from the movies and music of the time. It attempts to create a universal feeling out of a clichéd story, and the central metaphor is ultimately crushed by the weight of its trappings. It is a white elephant. You can hang it on your wall if you like, but it seems cynical to me.

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