Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 8/26/07

1. "Like a Rolling Stone (live)," Bob Dylan
The most legendary performance of Dylan's most legendary song. Starting in the mid-sixties, Dylan would split his concerts in two -- the first half would be a solo folk set, merely Dylan with a harmonica and guitar, and the second would be an electric set with a backing band. While the folk crowds loved the acoustic songs, they loathed the rock set -- they felt Dylan was betraying the folk tradition by amping it up and pumping it through bombastic rock n' roll instruments. They would frequently boo and scream, throwing things at Dylan, calling him names, clapping at the wrong times to try to throw off his rhythm. At this show, at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966, it came to an infamous conclusion. While the band is preparing to begin the final song, a fan yells out "Judas!" Several other people cheer and applaud. As Dylan starts to strum a few chords, he takes a moment to think, and then snarls at the heckler, "I don't believe you. You're a LIAR!" Then, he turns to his band and says, "Play it fucking loud!" And with that, they kick into the most acidic, most apocalyptic version of "Like a Rolling Stone" imaginable. The song is angry enough as it is, but the way Dylan howls out his vocals -- "You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't yoooooooooooooou!" -- is revelatory. A Bill Hicks-like instance of a performer turning the audience's antipathy into inspiration. And when it's over, everyone applauds. [My rating: *****]

2. "Midnight Star," "Weird Al" Yankovic
The jokes about tabloid magazines and their infamously goofy headlines -- "Your pet may be an extraterrestrial! The ghost of Elvis is living in my den!" -- are a little dated now, especially with the demise of The Weekly World News. But this remains one of Al's best original compositions. [My rating: *****]

3. "Another Girl," The Beatles
Paul taunts a disinterested lover by announcing that he doesn't need her, because he's got someone else, someone better than her, anyway. Paul's songs turned pretty bitter there in the mid-sixties, when his relationship with Jane Asher fell apart. See also "I'm Looking Through You." The sentiment in this song strangely reminds of a lyric in the new Kanye West single, "Stronger": "So how the hell could you front on me?/There's thousands of yous, there's only one me." [Rating: *****]

4. "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," James Brown
A very odd way to talk about the importance of women in our world: Brown argues, exhaustively, that men are responsible for everything -- they make everything, they run everything, they create everything, they have built the world and could destroy it if they wanted, but it would all be moot without women to stand beside them and be impressed. Uh, sure, if you say so. [Rating: ****]

5. "Blood of Eden (live)," Peter Gabriel
From his Secret World Live double-disc set, which remains one of my favorite live albums. The studio version of this song featured Sinead O'Connor on backing vocals; this live track has Paula Cole (who was famous for about fifteen minutes, you may recall), and is slightly superior. Pete's been working on a new studio album for about seven years now, but since it took roughly that long to make the last one, I'm not holding my breath. [Rating: *****]

6. "Beat It," Michael Jackson
Hey: when Michael was still Michael, and hadn't yet lost his musical inspiration -- to say nothing of his mind -- he made awesome music. "Beat It" is just as cool today as it was twenty years ago. So there. [Rating: *****]

7. "The Four Horsemen," Metallica
This song was one of several co-written by Dave Mustaine while he was still with the band. They reworked his riff and turned into this superlative track from their debut album, Kill 'Em All. Mustaine's band Megadeth recorded his "uncompromised" original version under the title "Mechanix" several years later. And advantage clearly goes to Metallica here, as they churn out one of their best songs and Megadeth merely bores you to death, as per usual. One of my favorite songs. [Rating: *****]

8. "Daredevil," The Tragically Hip
The Hip will write a song about anything -- anything at all. They've written songs about hockey, sharks, boating accidents, plane crashes, painters, colonial European oppression of the Indians, NAFTA, cops from the city in love with girls from the country, lines of longitude, or wrongly convicted murderers. This song is about someone going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Hey, whatever works. [Rating: ****]

9. "Have You Seen Me Lately?" Counting Crows
For some reason, Crows singer-songwriter Adam Duritz developed a reputation as a whiny pop star angry at his own stardom. I can't imagine why -- it certainly had nothing to do with this song, which is a long, angry rant against his own stardom. He muses that the constant magazine articles about him paint a picture that isn't necessarily anything like him at all. "Could you tell me things you remember about me?" he asks. "And have you seen me lately?" I'd be a lot more skeptical of this attitude if the song weren't so fantastic. Which it is. [Rating: *****]

10. "You're So Vain," Carly Simon
One of the biggest mysteries in pop music, of course, is just who this song is about. Mick Jagger sings backing vocals, so a lot of people point the finger at him. But Warren Beatty has claimed that he's the real subject several times, which pretty much seals the deal: after all, Carly does point out that the target of her ire is so monumentally vain as to think the song about him. Pretty conclusive. [Rating: *****]

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