What is going on in this video? Setting aside the ill-advised Officer Pornstache outfit, what is wrong with Bryan Ferry’s face? He appears to be displaying the tell-tale lockjaw of someone who just blew a week’s paycheck up his nose. Which looks considerably less attractive than you imagine it does when you’re doing it. But I guess 1975 was that kind of a year for everybody. As for the song, well, I’d say it’s a minor love song, high in eccentricity. I honestly never thought Siren was one of Roxy Music’s greatest albums, though critics seem to have agreed that it’s a classic (for what ‘the critics’ are worth.) Though, of course, every Roxy Music album has cycled in and out of favorite status.
I don’t think anyone can argue that Carly Simon is a canonical artist, but I always appreciate a song that reflects my lifestyle. No, I’m sure that Carly Simon is someone’s all time everything. Even terrible artists have fandoms, and Simon was far from terrible. Call her style ‘classic mid-70’s basic bitch’ if you will. No Secrets was a pretty good album, and not only because it contained her most enduring hit.
Not exactly ‘rocking the Casbah’ is it? If you think Madness is selling you a parody of Strummer & Co’s biggest hit, well, this actually predates the Clash single by three years. So you can credit them for coming up with the whole ‘English punkers taking the piss out of the Arab world’ thing first. If Madness had a reputation on the socially conscious ska scene for being resolutely goofy and giving no fucks, they took it to the next level with this video. This may well be the drunkest, most unabashedly zero-budget, chaotic music video ever filmed – and consequently one of the most delightful. Let’s also give them a hand for keeping it on-theme without resorting to any standby racism. They’re not so much taking the piss out of the great nation of Egypt, more making fun of themselves for being silly drunk Englishmen with skinny white legs. One should never miss a chance to take a potshot at the absurdity of British colonialism.
Happy 54th birthday, Suggs!
You know what I like about Dire Straits? Their modesty. They’re a band of elevated talents and very little hype. Not an ego band. How they ever got popular, I don’t know. It’s almost like they’re too good for popularity. I don’t see a whole lot of nostalgia for them now, but in the 80’s they were huge. Thoughtful, intimate and well-played music rarely enjoys hugeness. But the world of pop is fickle and unpredictable, and it’s nice to see good people get rewarded. Communique happens to be one of my favorite records, maybe not up there with more avidly showboating masterpieces, but quietly rewarding, and (faint praise though it sounds like) just plain always good to listen to.
From the formation of the Velvet Underground in the mid-sixties until his death in 2013, Lou Reed ruled as the punk poet laureate of New York City. For more than one generation of rock fans, no one did more to create a popular image of the city. Throughout the decades, Reed explored New York City life from every angle, from the dingiest to the most elevated. Sometimes the view he presented was glamorous and inviting, sometimes it was gritty and muckraking. A lot of times, it was just a view of ordinary life, with its usual ordinary ups and downs. Very occasionally, it was satirical as well. This song is a little bit of a novelty, a funny snippet often overlooked on an album that’s front-loaded with classic of the glamorous stripe. But though it’s one of his most humorous songs, it’s also a genuine sigh of weariness, an observation of how exhausting and inane it feels to go through the motions of being social, and the loneliness of not being able to be social in any meaningful way. It doesn’t have to take place in New York, either, but it’s way cooler that it does.
No string of New York City tributes would be complete without this classic theme from Martin Scorsese’s gritty and depressing 1977 musical of the same name. (Scorsese may be a poet of violent machismo, but he’s a fish out of water in the world of musical theatre.) Liza Minnelli, the quintessential Broadway baby, occupies a very different corner of NYC cultural life than Nina Hagen, or Suzanne Vega, which serves to illustrate the vast range of worlds that all coexist on one small plot of land. In this take, we see it as the city of dreams, the road to which (according to the movie) is paved with alcoholism and dysfunction. Which, ironically, only goes to make the dizzy heights seem more glamorous. Liza Minnelli, spawn of Hollywood, hardly embodies that narrative every step of the way, but she’s certainly a case study in the contrast of wild success and personal turmoil. She’s song-and-dance-ed her way through thick and thin, and remains a trouper of the old school. There’s nothing more New York that a show that must go on.
A four minute blues song, for those who don’t believe that the Grateful Dead could be concise. They could, and on record, they were. That deserves appreciation, even if you’re turned off or confused by the cultishness that surrounds the band. I find it rather mystifying myself, how a better than average but not by far the very best psychedelic rock band could spawn not only a following but an entire lifestyle with its own sayings, bywords, rules and symbols. It’s a subculture within a subculture. I’ve known a Deadhead or two in my time, and they’re mostly lovely people, those that aren’t too fried to function. And, yes, it’s an appealing lifestyle, for those of us who hold certain values (and appreciate a nice hit of acid,) I’ll give them that. But cultishness itself is a turn-off, and I’m not ready to plunge into so much iconography. It’s a subculture I’ll never fully submerge myself in, though I might play day tripper.