How Do You Find New Music?

I would generally consider the ’90s to be my musical peak. Not only in terms of writing/performing (although it certainly was that), but also in terms of just listening to music. I still love music, and I still listen to music as much as I can, but it doesn’t compare to the way I went through music back then. I consumed music. Devoured it.

During that time, I remember a handful of old guys (and by old I mean they were older than the twenty year old me, so I’m probably the age now they were then) who made me kind of sad. They seemed to be stuck in decades past, musically speaking. They refused to acknowledge that any good music had been made in twenty years. They thought good music ceased with the last Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin albums. In a way, I felt bad for them. Pitied them, even. Because I knew how much awesome music there was out there to be had, and they just wouldn’t allow themselves to enjoy it. I’m never going to be like that, I told myself. I took comfort in knowing I was cool enough to recognize good music never stops being made, you just might have to do a little work to find it.

So now, jump twenty years to the present. I go to put some music on, and look through my iTunes library for something that will move me. Tens of thousands of songs to choose from, and what do I do? The vast majority of the time, I put on the music I was listening to in the ’90s. Not necessarily music that was made in the ’90s so much as the music I listened to during the decade. I’m afraid I’m turning into one of those old curmudgeons who ends up walking around muttering about how everything was better back in the old days.

I don’t know if it’s just my advancing age or if it has anything to do with how the music industry and the act of discovering new music has changed over the last twenty years. For instance, does anyone still listen to terrestrial radio anymore? The radio stations in my town are a pathetic joke – the only difference between the “Rock” station and the “Classic Rock” station is that the former will play maybe one song an hour from the turn of the millennium; otherwise, they’re pretty much interchangeable. I know in bigger cities that’s probably not as much of a problem, as I do remember being turned on to new bands on the radio when I lived close enough to L.A. to have an actual selection of stations to choose from.

But even when I put on Pandora, I set it to help me discover new music only to skip the new stuff because I don’t like it or I ignore it until something I already know comes on. So the question remains, how do I find new music (that I actually like)?

I’ve found myself going through the guide on my TV for the week, seeing who’s scheduled to perform on the week’s late night talk shows. I’ve found a couple of new favorites that way. One of the biggest finds in the past couple years for me and my tastes actually came courtesy of Last Call with Carson Daly. Yes, that Carson Daly. He takes a lot of guff, but I like the guy. I never gave a crap about TRL and I don’t watch The Voice, but throughout his career he’s always tried to introduce new music via his late-late night show, and I respect that. Thanks to him I discovered the band OFF!, fronted by the legendary Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), which ironically sounds a bit like a ’90s punk band.

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The other “new” artist I found (and can’t resist mentioning) is Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. I saw her on a late night show too, but it was a different TV appearance that hooked me. She had a set on Austin City Limits that I’m pretty sure left smoke wafting from my TV by the time it was over. If you have even an ounce of a liking for funk, soul, R & B, or even if you don’t – check them out. She has the voice of a funky angel, and The Dap-Kings are as tight as they come.

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There have been the occasional recommendations from Facebook friends, which are always much appreciated. Thanks to good lookin’ out from my friends I’ve been turned on to the spacey, trippy, indie rock of Alt-J (∆), the massive downtuned riffage of  The Sword, and what I’m listening to as I write this, the  rock beast that is Red Fang. I appreciate it all, and when I find something I like I eat it up, but the thing is…it’s not enough. I know there’s so much more out there, but somehow I’m missing it; this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So what recommendations do you all have? How do you find new artists? From TV shows? Movie trailers? Car commercials? College radio (is that still a thing?)? YouTube? Satellite radio? Has Pandora turned you on to new artists? Somebody clue me in.

As a tooting-my-own-horn kind of a side note, I logged on today to the news that I had reached 1,000 followers here on the blog. I know a lot of people have reached that number a lot faster, but I’m still floored that I’ve reached it at all. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you “followers” of the blog does not necessarily equal “readers” of the blog, as my stats can attest, but the fact remains that I am in awe that so many people have taken the time to click that ‘follow’ button, and for that I thank you.

Now, back to the topic at hand. Give me your advice for finding new music, stat! Who are some of the new bands/artists you’ve discovered, and how did you find them?

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Get Ready to Cringe…My List of the Top 5 Creepy Song Lyrics

I needed  a break from writing about writing, so I decided to do something a little different.

I was walking out of my bedroom the other day, and just out of the clear blue sky I found a song going through my head.

“She’s only seventeen, Daddy says she’s too young but she’s old enough for me!”

Where on earth did that come from? I knew what it was, of course. Seventeen, by Winger. As I’ve mentioned before, when you’re a kid in the ’80’s and your favorite music is buried in between videos of hair bands on MTV, you become familiar with it all whether you like it or not.

I always thought that song was kind of creepy, and I came up with the idea of dedicating a blog post to creepy lyrics. I decided to do some looking online, and realized I’d opened a bit of a Pandora’s Box.

So I decided that out of the plethora of creepy stuff out there to just narrow it down to 5, and I’m sticking with music and artists I’m familiar with. There are evidently some Clay Aiken and Chris Brown songs that are pretty creepy, but I’m not going there.  If you think there are creepier songs out there I missed be sure and let me know in the comments.

5. The Police – Every Breath You Take (1983)

I decided to kick the list off with this one because it’s the obvious choice, but in my opinion that doesn’t make it any less creepy.  The entire song is actually pretty disturbing with it’s stalker vibe, but the classic chorus is what seals the deal: “Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” Um, yeah, from no fewer than 500 feet away, thank you very much.

 

4. Winger – Seventeen (1988)

This isn’t as bad as a lot of the songs I discovered when I was looking for creepy lyrics, but I’ve included it because, like I said above,  it stands out in my mind as once of the first songs that I heard and thought, you know, that’s kind of creepy. How old is that guy singing, “She’s only seventeen, daddy says she’s too young but she’s old enough for me,” anyway?

He was 27 at the time. Can you imagine being the dad in the song, and this guy who’s pushing 30 says your daughter is “old enough” for him? If it was me, I could just picture myself choking him out with his little tank top.

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3. Practically Everyone Under the Sun – Baby, It’s Cold Outside (written in 1944)

This one seems to be a somewhat touchy issue with people. I’ve heard several different versions over the years, and I’ve become convinced it has to do with the chemistry between to two singing the song. Some versions just seem somewhat playful, but without that fun context it sounds like the makings of a holiday date rape.

It’s too long to paste all the lyrics here, but if you’re not familiar it’s a back and forth between a female saying she needs to leave and a male trying to get her to stay. He is very persistent, and gives her reason after reason why she can’t leave but for me it’s all summed up in two lines – the female line, “Say, what’s in this drink?” and the male a few lines later singing, “Your lips look delicious!” Ick.

2. Motorhead – Jailbait (1980)

As a fan of Hard Rock and Metal, Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead is pretty much a living legend. I’m not the biggest Motorhead fan in the world, but this guy’s been out there doing his thing for decades and that gets my respect. Plus, Ace of Spades is one of the classic rock songs of all time.

Still, that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass out of Creepytown. Just the name of the song is trouble. Then there’s this gem:  “I don’t even dare ask your age it’s enough to know you’re here backstage. You’re jailbait, and I just can’t wait.” And as if that weren’t enough, just before the solo he lets loose with “Love that young stuff!

*shudder*

The thought of Lemmy having sex with anyone or anything is pretty disturbing, but when it’s an underage girl, that’s downright horrific. Can you imagine your little girl doing it with this guy?

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1. Dean MartinStanding On The Corner (1956)

Here it is, the Big Kahuna. The Grand Champion of creepy lyrics. This song in particular is the whole reason I wanted to write this post.

I realized researching for this post that this isn’t an original Dean Martin song. That’s of slight comfort.

Now, I must preface this by saying I’ve always loved the Rat Pack, and in particular Dean Martin. As a matter of fact, Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits was where I discovered this little piece of ghastly perversion. It seems innocent enough on it’s face:

“Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Brother you don’t know a nicer occupation
Matter of fact, neither do I
Than standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Okay, not bad. I remember girl watching as a teenager…next verse.

“I’m the cat that got the cream
Haven’t got a girl but I can dream
Haven’t got a girl but I can wish
So I’ll take me down to Main street
And that’s where I select my imaginary dish”

Okay, that sounds a little gross…what does that mean, the cat that got the cream? Maybe I’m making something out of nothing here. What’s next?

“Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on the corner giving all the girls the eye
Brother if you’ve got a rich imagination
Give it a whirl, give it a try
Try standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Oh boy, okay…now, why do I need a rich imagination to look at girls? They’re pretty, sure, I can see that…but surely you don’t mean…

“Brother you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking
Or for that woo look in your eye
Standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Whoa, whoa, whoa…time out. What did you just say? You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking?!? So then, you’re saying you’re thinking criminal thoughts about the girls?

Alright, just so we’re on the same page here:

THIS GUY IS STANDING ON A STREET CORNER LEERING AT YOUNG (IN SOME CASES UNDERAGE) GIRLS SO HE CAN GO HOME AND MASTURBATE TO THEM.

Holy shit!

That’s just this side of going to the park in a trench coat and watching little kids on the playground.

That’s why this one wins in my book, hands down (no pun intended).

So, I hope you enjoyed the list…now, what did I miss?

Van Halen – How One of The World’s Biggest Rock Bands Ruined Junior High For Me

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1984 by Van Halen was the first album (tape) I ever bought with my own money. I was 11 years old, and I don’t remember how I got the money (by honest means, I assure you), but I knew that was what I wanted.

I was raised on rock music. I remember as a kid listening to 94.7 KMET out of L.A. It wasn’t called classic rock yet, because the music wasn’t that old; the oldest stuff they played was from the late ’60’s. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Jimi, all that stuff.

Then 1984 came out. It got heavy airplay, and I just loved it. Panama, Jump, and my favorite, Hot For Teacher. I bought that tape and damn near wore it out.

By 1986, two things happened: My family moved to a new town, where I realized that as the dorky new kid I was not instantly popular, and Van Halen made a video for Hot For Teacher.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to go into much detail about most of it. Van Halen, girls, yadda yadda. What caused me so much grief was the little intro to the video.

The intro featured a young man, appropriately named “Waldo”, being groomed by his mother for his first day at a new school. He’s worried about being picked on by the other kids, but mother assures him everything will be fine.

The bus comes to pick him up, with kids on it being loud and throwing paper airplanes. The doors to the bus open, and David Lee Roth is the bus driver. Waldo is terrified to get on the bus, but steps on.

Bus Driver Roth looks the young nerd in the eye and calls,

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“SIT DOWN, WALDO!”

The video continues, showing how mortified poor Waldo is at his wild, raucous new school.

Surely you can see where this is headed.

New kid, dorky, glasses…

Getting on the bus in the morning – “Sit down, Waldo!”

Getting off the bus in the afternoon – “Sit down, Waldo!”

For a while it expanded to the hallways and the classroom, but it died down soon enough.

I’d like to make it clear I’m not looking for any sympathy here. Bullying is a huge issue, and kids are (and were back then) bullied way worse than me. Fact is, a little name-calling aside, my life was pretty great. And by high school things went back to normal, and I wasn’t the new kid anymore.

I just couldn’t get over the irony that a band I absolutely loved was causing me so much grief.

Now that I think about it, the second album I ever bought with my own money was Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys. Their video for (You Gotta)Fight For Your Right (To Party) had nerds in it, too, but I never had any crazy guys showing up at my house to party with beer and hot chicks. What a gyp.

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Morphine – My Appreciation Of A Criminally Under-appreciated Band

 

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I still remember the first time I heard Morphine. It was the summer of 1998. My girlfriend put on their CD, Like Swimming.

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It instantly grabbed my attention, and never let go. I was stunned by it. I play guitar, and found myself fascinated by this power trio that didn’t even have a guitarist. At the time I worked in a music store, selling CD’s all day long. I was pretty conscious of all different types of music, but I had never heard of these guys. When I went to work the day after hearing them, I went to the rock/pop/soul section and started searching the M’s. Sure enough, there it was. We had one copy. Their older stuff was on an indie label, and we didn’t carry it. I special ordered their back catalog and soon was neck deep in their music. I wondered where this band had been all my life—no one (then or since) sounded like them.

Ah, the sound.

How to describe Morphine to the uninitiated? As I mentioned, there is no guitar. The lead instrument is actually saxophone, usually baritone, played by the incredible Dana Colley. Some songs had two saxes playing simultaneously, which may not pose a problem in the recording studio, but Mr. Colley pulled the songs off live by playing two saxophones at the same time.

For most of their career, Billy Conway handled the percussive duties, with Jerome Dupree behind the drums for their early records.

Then there’s Mark Sandman. He basically was Morphine. He was the bassist and vocalist, but the way he handled both was what made the music so unique. He took the typical 4-string bass and turned it on its head. He removed two of the strings, tuned the two he had unconventionally, and played with a slide instead of his fingers. The result is kind of hard to put into words. Which sucks, because it was my bright idea to write about them.

Then there’s his voice. A natural baritone, his voice, combined with the slide bass and baritone sax made for one of the most unique harmonies I’ve ever heard. And I thought I’d heard it all.

There are a lot of reasons I like Morphine so much. For one, despite the seeming limitations that you might think they would face because of their setup, they had an incredible range. They could play bluesy grooves all day long, turn it up to all-out rock, or play tender, soft songs with ease. Essentially, they were fearless. You got the sense they were playing what they wanted to play, and if people happened to like it, that was great. And no matter what type of song they play, you know who you’re listening to as soon as you hear it. They managed to have a distinct, signature sound without having every song sound exactly the same.

The other big thing I found when I got into Morphine was that I loved the lyrics. Now, I’m a child of rock, punk, and metal, and lyrics are often an afterthought—mostly meaningless and unintelligible. Honestly, I don’t have much problem with that. I lived my whole life without really caring too much about lyrics. But when I listen to Morphine, not only can I understand the vocals, they actually mean something. They tell stories, and they make sense. Morphine was the first band that made me actually appreciate lyrics, and see what an extra impact good lyrics could have on a song.

Sadly, Mark Sandman died on stage of a heart attack in 1999, during a show in Italy. So right after I discovered them, it became impossible to see them live. That was a difficult reality to face. Luckily, there are clips of them on youtube to give you a sense of what their live shows were like.

As far as their catalog, you really can’t go wrong with any of their work, but my recommendation would be the album they had just wrapped up before heading out on that ill-fated tour in 1999, The Night. It’s my personal favorite, and shows their range. Start there and work your way back through their albums, or start at the beginning with Good, and see how they evolved over the years. Or just go on Pandora and start a Morphine-themed station. Just do yourself a favor, and check ’em out. You won’t be sorry.

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Mark Sandman (1952-1999)

G is for a Gibson ES-125 – My Pride and Joy

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This is my guitar. There are many like it, but this one is mine. OK, OK, enough with the Full Metal Jacket schtick.

I have heavy musical influences on both sides of my family. On my dad’s side, I got an intense love and appreciation for all kinds of music, namely the blues and rock n’ roll. From my mom’s side, I got the musicianship gene. My mom played the piano, my great aunt played the mandolin, and my grandma and both my great uncles played the guitar. The guitar in that picture was my grandma’s.

The story changes a little depending on who’s telling it, but the way I know it, she bought it in 1961. It was manufactured possibly as early as the late ’40’s, but it’s hard to pinpoint because theses particular guitars have no serial numbers. My grandma was an aspiring country and western singer, and this was her primary guitar.

She gave it to me in the mid-nineties. She said she wasn’t playing it anymore, and didn’t want to make me wait until she died for me to start enjoying it. It’s been in my possession ever since.

It’s worth a little bit, though not much by guitar collector standards. But to me it’s priceless. It’s sitting three feet from me as I type this, and just looking over at it makes me happy. And it feels even better to play it.

As I got to my teens and beyond, the music I liked tended to be loud, fast, and heavy (or some combination thereof), so it’s never been my primary guitar. It’s got a warm, sweet sound that lends itself more to jazz and blues than punk and metal. But now that I live in Tornado Alley, if there is ever a legitimate threat of a twister coming my way I have two priorities: Make sure my wife and dog are safe, and if at all possible, grab that guitar.