Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Random Thoughts on Popular Music

*Even though the official name of the band was always listed as "The Four Seasons," people often refer to the four-member group as "Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons." Shouldn't that be "Frankie Vallie and the Other Three Seasons"?

*Incidentally, my favorite song of theirs is probably "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" in which Frankie only sings lead on the bridge.

*Paul McCartney had a number of Beatles songs in which he's the only Beatle on the recording: "Yesterday," "Blackbird," "Mother Nature's Son," and "I Will" being examples. Oddly enough, John Lennon only had one "solo Beatles" song: "Julia." I'm pretty sure George was the only Beatle on some of his Indian-flavored songs like "Love You To" and "The Inner Light," which did not use standard rock band instrumentation.

*I find it ironic that Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They Are A-Changing" early in his career, and then late in his career wrote a weary, somewhat apathetic song called "Things Have Changed." The latter was written for the film Wonder Boys, and won the Oscar for Best Song. One presumes that such an achievement might cure a case of apathy.

*Some of the biggest names in music have written and sung songs for the James Bond films. One can forgive the producers for hiring one-hit wonders like A-Ha ("The Living Daylights") and Lulu ("The Man With the Golden Gun") to sing those theme songs, which haven't aged well.

*Then again, the titles of some James Bond films have led to some pretty outlandish song lyrics. Only someone who can sing anything with deep conviction, like Tom Jones, could pull off "Thunderball" without it sounding completely ridiculous. ("He looks at this world, and wants it all/So he STRIKES!-----Like THUNNN-DER-BAAAAALLLL!!!") Tasked with the theme from Goldeneye, Bono and The Edge (from U2) just wrote a catchy song with no relation at all to the plot of the movie other than the title. On some films, they just threw in the towel and came up with unrelated song titles: Rita Coolidge's "All Time High" for Octopussy, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" for Casino Royale, and Jack White/Alicia Keys' "Another Way To Die" for Quantum of Solace. For The Spy Who Loved Me they had Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better," which references the movie title in the lyrics. Dr. No and On Her Majesty's Secret Service had instrumentals for the opening credits. (So did From Russia With Love, which played the title song over the closing credits.)

*Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht may have been somewhat obscure German theater composers who fled Europe after Hitler came to power and banned their music, but they managed to write songs that attracted performers as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bobby Darin ("Mack the Knife") and The Doors and David Bowie ("Alabama Song"). Also, Weill's widow Lotte Lenya is mentioned in some English-language recordings of "Mack," and she portrayed one of the villains in From Russia With Love.

*I've long thought it ironic that Buddy Holly's recording of "Not Fade Away" fades out at the end.

*Since I started taking ballroom dance lessons last year, I have learned that it is legitimate to like a song because it has a good beat and you can dance to it. Then you see the video and realize to your horror that that's what the song is about...! (I call this the Lady Gaga effect.)

*Also, it wasn't until I was a freshman in high school that I understood the meaning of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." ("She's just a girl that claims that I am the one/But the kid is not my sonwoooooah!!!!!)

*Isn't it weird that some songs become big hits, even though they only have one verse? "There She Goes" by Sixpence None the Richer, "The One I Love" by R.E.M., and "Got My Mind Set On You" by George Harrison are notable examples. Not quite the same, but Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" is one of the only big hits I can think of whose form is 1st verse, 2nd verse, chorus, 1st verse, chorus.

*Isn't it interesting that people love an artist's greatest hits album, but hate it when a TV series airs a clip show?

*Conversely, I've long enjoyed songs that are unusually complex for pop music, and have multiple "sections" in them. Examples: "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles, "True" by Spandau Ballet, "L.A. Woman" by the Doors, "The Camera Eye" by Rush, "Funeral For a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)" by Elton John, "Roundabout" by Yes.

*Disturbing trend: in the 70's there was a group of men called Queen, in the 80's there was a group of men called Twisted Sister, and now there's a group of men called Barenaked Ladies. I shudder to think what comes next.

No comments:

Post a Comment