Drive-By Truckers: Outfit
One of the best advice songs ever is Outfit by The Drive-By Truckers. I'll default to the songs author, Jason Isbell, to tell you the meaning:
Jason: "This one focuses on the advice I got growing up, mostly from my father. We recorded the song just before Father's Day and I gave Dad a copy as a present. I'm really fond of Cooley's psycho solo and Patterson's guitar harmonies toward the end."
This song was one of the standout tracks on their 2003 New West Records debut, Decoration Day and personally, I don't think any advise theme is complete without this one in it.
Submitted by Autopsy IV
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Graham Nash: Be Yourself
From Nash's first solo album Songs For Beginners. The song was co-written by Terry Reid. The advice is in the chorus which sounds a little cheesy listening to some thirty years later but cheesy in a good way. The album is pretty mellow and introspective but also very good in my opinion. I believe Nash's manager heard the songs he was working on at the time and asked him if he was trying to put people to sleep which Nash took offense to. One of the tracks is actually called Sleep Song. He would later ad a few more uptempo tracks most notably the song Chicago which helped put the album in the top 20 on the charts at the time.
Reader submission from John
The day you’re born they sign a piece of paper
That will certify the date of your birth
And the day you die they sign another
Just to prove you’ve gone back to the Earth
Between those two pieces of paper
There is the truth that is so hard to find
The story of your life is written
But you must read in between the lines
When you're young you think it don’t matter
If you leap before you look
But those old folks are wiser and sadder
From the chances that they took
Now when your chance comes along you must take it
Just be careful and take your time
And the chances are good you will make
If you can read in between the lines…
When someone tells you they “love you”
And “no one has ever loved you more”
It is wise to stop and consider
How many times they might have said that before
Because when love leaves you crying
Then you will surely lose your mind
And you might have known love was lying
If you could read in between the lines
Guy Clark: Come From The Heart [purchase]
When I was a young man my daddy told me
A lesson he learned, it was a long time ago
If you want to have someone to hold onto
You're gonna have to learn to let go
You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watchin'
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work
Now here is the one thing that I keep forgetting
When everything is falling apart
In life as in love, what I need to remember
There's such a thing as trying too hard
Friday, June 13, 2008
Sinead O'Connor: Scorn Not His Simplicity
Universal Mother is the last Sinead O'Connor record that I liked at all, and I didn't even like it all that much. It is a bit of a spotty album containing, on the one hand, a couple of the best songs she has ever written (e.g., John I Love You) and on the other some real throw-away tracks (e.g., Fire In Babylon, Red Football).
Robert Johnson: When You Got A Good Friend
A King gives advice that everyone should heed:
"When you got a good friend have them stay right by your side..."
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Clash: Kingston Advice
I know I already posted a track from Sandinista, but c'mon, it's a triple album for goodness sake. This is a pretty depressing track. The best advice that The Clash have to offer, given the state of the world, is "don't beg for your life".
In these days you can get no rice
No razor blades but you can get knife
In these days see the people run
They have no food but the boy have gun
In these days they don't throw the stone
Nor use the voice they use the gun alone
In these days to be an oddity
Be hunted down like a scarcity
In these days don't beg for life
Wanna take Kingston advice?
Oh please don't beg for your life
"And don't look back — something might be gaining on you."
- Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige
PF Project feat. Ewan McGregor: Choose Life
"Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future.
Update: By some strange twist of fate, I am unable to get the song to work, so just lyrics it is after all! If anyone has a copy of the song that they would be prepared to share, and that we might have more luck with, please let me know...thanks!
Update 2: We're back on, thanks to some help from fellow SMM contributer Matt...cheers m'dear!
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Before You Accuse Me
I read an article once about the early years of CCR, but I can't find it anymore. It was sort of a sad story, as I remember it, because the original band was fronted by John Fogerty's older brother Tom. Tom was the one who originally wanted to be a rock star. He was the one who practiced day and night learning the guitar. He wrote the music. He managed the band. He had the dream. I don't remember the details, but at some point John started writing songs and occasionally singing. Things came much more naturally and easily to John. His vastly superior talent slowly but surely overshadowed that of his brother, causing a rift between the two and resulting in Tom taking a (distant) background position in the band. Of course, Tom left CCR in 1971 effectively destroying the band.
Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I really feel sorry for old Tom.
I wish I could find my source material for this story. I hope I didn't misrepresent any of it. If so, feel free to correct me.
The featured track gives very good advice: Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. This track was ripped from vinyl to MP3, so the quality may be less than perfect. I should probably replace all of my old CCR records with CD's, but I have never really had a need to.
Annie Lennox: Keep Young and Beautiful
Tammy Wynette: Stand By Your Man
The Exciters: Tell Him
The one below is less guilty, but still worth including in any advice songs list!
Betty Everett: It's In His Kiss
And here are a few versions from the gals:
The Be Good Tanyas: House of the Rising Sun [purchase]
Tracy Chapman: House of the Rising Sun [purchase]
Nina Simone: House of the Rising Sun [purchase]
Variously a song about a life gone to ruin through gambling or prostitution, this is one that has been covered by all and sundry.
"There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one...
Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising Sun."
The Marvelettes: Don't Mess With Bill
It's fine to not mess with Bill, but especially don't mess with Motown bass player James Jamerson's unreal bass line. If you're not careful, it'll crawl into your head and cause an earworm.
Update: Fellow contributor Divinyl has hooked us up with the original 1967 version of this song, by Dandy Livingston. [purchase]
The Specials: A Message to You Rudy
Stop your messing around
Better think of your future
Time you straighten right out
Creating problems in town
Dandy Livingston: Rudy, A Message to You
Update: Fellow contributor Divinyl has hooked us up with the original 1967 version of this song, by Dandy Livingston.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The Staple Singers: Respect Yourself
This advice song, written by James Ingram and Mark Rice over at Stax records in the chaotic aftermath of the civil rights movement, was intended to serve as a message of empowerment for the black community. As a sign of its success and its relevance, it peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Top 100 when it was first released by the Staple Singers in 1971.
This would be even more impressive, were it not for the fact that, sixteen years later, long after most folks would like to believe that the days of white singers stealing the songs of the black community for even bigger mass appeal and profit were long gone, Bruce Willis managed to get the same damn song to number five on the same damn chart.
I may be a cover blogger at home, but even I know how to follow good advice, folks; I've heard Bruce Willis sing, and let me tell you, even with June Pointer on backup vocals, he's no Pops Staples. Instead, you'll have to be satisfied with the original, plus this bonus advice song, a gut-wrenching blues take on a traditional civil rights anthem from Mavis Staples' absolutely stunning We'll Never Turn Back, released just last year -- that's sixteen years again after Bruce Willis mangled her family band's earlier work -- and therefore doubly poignant in this context.
Mavis Staples: Keep Your Eyes On The Prize [purchase]
You tell 'em, Mavis.
Stephen Stills: Love The One You're With
I've been waiting for this one to show up all week, but I've waited long enough. Love The One You're With is the first song on Stephen Stills's first brilliant album. The liner notes on this album read like a dream team of 60's musicians and performers. Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cass Elliot, Booker T. Jones, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and John Sabastian all make cameo appearances here. In fact, this is the only album in the world where both Hendrix and Claption make an appearance.
If this album has a flaw it is that it stretches so far and is so ambitious that it loses a bit of its cohesiveness, but you tend to forgive this tendency simply because each song, taken on its own, is so good. Love The One You're With is actually one of the weaker tracks, in my opinion. It's catchy, and kind of fun, but Do For The Others, Old Times Good Times, Go Back Home, and others overshadow it easily.
By the way, "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" is actually terrible advice. I know it's very un-60's of me to say this, and it would probably make for a lousy song, but if you can't be with the one you love, wait a while until (s)he comes back! You'll save yourself a lot of heartache (and if you're married, you might save on lawyer's bills too).
Mort Garson: Never Follow The Yellow-Green Road
A trippy take on "The Wizard Of Oz", Mort Garson's "The Wozard Of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey is a must have for fans of brain-melting psychedelic weirdity.
A big heap of Moog weirdness, for the fearless traveler.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Prince: The Cross
I don't know Prince's music all that well. I don't even own Purple Rain. But I love the Sign O' The Times album. It's an amazing double-album mix of funk, rock, folk, and other styles of music. The performances are passionate, and the production is sparse (for the most part). From Wikipedia:
In 1989, Time Out Magazine ranked it as the greatest album of all time. It was 16th in the New Musical Express list All Time Top 100 Albums and 3rd in Hot Press Magazine's list The 100 Best Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone ranked it number #93 on their list of greatest albums of all time. The album placed 8th on Nieuwe Revu's Top 100 Albums of All Time. Time Magazine placed Sign O' The Times as the greatest album of '80s, and 29th greatest album of all time.
So, apparently I'm not alone. The featured track is an overt song of lament for an evil world, praise for the coming Lord, and ultimately admonition to us to find Jesus. Prince's advice to us: "Don't die without knowing The Cross".
If you decide to give this track a spin, be sure to listen to the whole thing because the second half is really where it gets good. The Doors-esq lead electric guitar and the intense, almost frenzied, vocals really push it over the edge.
Loudon Wainwright III: Be Careful There's A Baby In The House
This song was originally featured on Loudon's second album, Album II. I don't have that recording anymore. This live performance is from his BBC Sessions CD. It's a better version, though, so it's OK with me.
I'm a parent, and I'm telling you Loudon knows what he's talking about. You just can't fool a baby.
"Look out Mamma and look out Dad. Your bundle of joy will not be had. If the blanket is blue, or if the blanket is pink, you best watch what you do, you best watch what you think."
"Be careful, there's a baby in the house, and a baby can spot your shtick."
Cat Stevens: If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
In some sense, nearly every song by Cat Stevens feels like advice or a pep talk. His songs are overwhelmingly about searching for your place in the world and are (usually) filled with hope. Here are two of his most literal advice songs. First, the wonderful pep talk that is "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out"--one of his most positive, optimistic songs, which is saying a lot--from the classic film Harold and Maude. I'll take the clever suicidal Harold over the clever pregnant Juno any day.
Stevens' songs are all over this film's soundtrack, to the point that they're pretty much a character in and of themselves. It is one of the greatest films, so check it out if you've never seen it. The first time I saw it was actually in high school--literally, in high school. For some reason my junior-year English teacher thought this was an appropriate film to show his students. As far as I was concerned, it was--this had a greater effect on me than Catcher in the Rye ever would. But you can imagine how many kids in the class freaked when Harold and Maude wind up in bed together.
Cat Stevens: Wild World
Next up, the more well-known classic "Wild World." This is really kind of a strange song when you think about it. The narrator has just been dumped; apparently his girlfriend is making her way to the big city. Despite having his heart broken in two, he proceeds to give her advice on what the big bad world is really all about--you could almost read this song as a bitterly sarcastic kiss-off: "You're dumping me? You think you'll find someone better? Okay, sure, go ahead, I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there." Adding to the weirdness of the song is that the verses make plain that this conversation is between two lovers, but the chorus is decidedly old man/young girl. Why the hell does he know so much about the world, yet she's only just setting out to discover for herself?
But this is Cat! I know too well from the rest of his songs that he's not trying to be creepy nor sarcastic. It's just not the kind of nuance that finds its way into his songs. I think he's truly giving his heretofore sheltered ex some heartfelt advice.
Pete Seeger: Beans In Your Ears
True story: when my brother was a kid, he put a dried piece of corn in his ear, and it got stuck. We had to go to the emergency room to get it out. This, of course, led to one of those inevitable conversations adults are always having with kids, where the adult asks "what were you thinking", and the kid just looks at him like this is the dumbest question ever, which it is. You'd think we'd stop asking such stupid questions of our own children, but alas, such is the life of a parent.
The premise of this song is much the same. On the surface, the advice here is that which Seeger's narrator gets from his mother: don't put beans in your ears. Underneath that, however, is an interesting story about how children get their ideas, as Seeger only puts the beans in his ears because his mother's advice gets him wondering why this might be a tempting idea in the first place. We might suggest that Seeger has some advice for us, too -- about being careful with your own suggestions, lest you give ideas to impressionable young minds curious enough to try just about anything.
I am reminded, in fact, that my mother used to sing this song to us when we were very little. These days, like many a childhood folksong, it gets stuck in my head from time to time, but I daren't let it out. After all, hospital visits are expensive.
Note: The original of this song is actually by Len Chandler, an obscure folk singer who was a contemporary of Seeger; if anyone has a recording of an original, I'd love to hear it. Seeger being Seeger, of course, he cannot help but make the song an anti-Vietnam soapbox, adding a final, political verse about "Mrs. Jay's son, Albie", who must have beans in his ears, too, else he would presumably respond to the protests about his war policies.
But then, to Seeger, all songs were protest songs; the liner notes to his 1966 album Dangerous Songs?! include the thought that, to kids, lullabies are propaganda songs, too. The album also includes one other straightforward advice song, a traditional folk ballad called "Never Marry an Old Man".
"For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice...
You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when youre sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."
Monday, June 9, 2008
Wilco: How To Fight Loneliness
There is so much I've learned from music over the years, both good and bad. There is still much to learn, judging by the education I'm getting this week. Being amidst such a great cast of contributors, one might think this selection to be unnecessary... I mean, who could be lonely here, right? But still, in the dark, long hours of the night sometimes it happens.
"How to fight loneliness
Smile all the time
Shine your teeth to meaningless
And sharpen them with lies"
For more on the band, consult the Wilcopedia page.
Ida: Don't Get Sad
I find this advice to be a little odd, honestly. Not exactly sure how taking one hand out the glove would help anything, but maybe I'll give it a shot next I suffer a loss of some kind.
put on your coat and your hat and your gloves
and go walking
take one hand out of your glove on the street when you're walking
look straight ahead
don't turn around when you're walking
nothing can hurt you now
don't turn around when you're walking away
.38 Special: Hold On Loosely
Yes I hear your groan, but this blog is too much fun! I never thought I’d have an occasion to post this song. It's perfect for the current theme. And sound advice too.
“Don't let her slip away sentimental fool...”
Sting: If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
If they don't come back hunt them down and kill them. If they never come back, you weren't meant to be with them, and hopefully someone else will walk in your life. It's sad at first though, setting the one you love free.
Bo Diddley: You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover
Appearances are deceiving. You can't judge an apple by looking at a tree, you can't judge honey by looking at the bee, you can't judge a daughter by looking at the mother, but most of all - you can't judge a book by looking at the cover.
The Byrds: So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star
So, you want to be a rock and roll star? Then listen now to what I say: Just get an electric guitar, then take some time and learn how to play. And, with your hair combed right and your pants fit tight, it's gonna be all right.
Then it's time to go downtown where the agent man won't let you down. Sell your soul to the company who are waiting there to sell plastic ware. And in a week or two, if you make the charts, the girls'll tear you apart.
The price you paid for your riches and fame—was it all a strange game? You're a little insane. The money that came and the public acclaim—don't forget what you are. You're a rock and roll star.
Monty Python: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (original)
Harry Nilsson: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
[out of print]
Bruce Cockburn: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Brobdingnagian Bards: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
And now for something completely different...
Here's some sage advice and advocacy for cheerful eternal optimism originally delivered from the cross at the close of Monty Python's Life of Brian. The story has it that the guys were hot and "cross" (if you'll pardon the pun) up on their crucifixes while filming the final scene, so Eric Idle started making stuff up to entertain them all. In the end, the Python troupe chose to make the song into a kind of wide-shot cinematic nod to the big finish, a majestic parody of the type of big number that closes, say, a Disney film, all the better to make light of the impending death of the singing, dancing characters.
I've also included three great covers of the same, each arguably as zany and tongue-in-cheek as the original, from three artists with a strong handle on irony themselves. Bonus points: Eric Idle actually worked with Harry Nilsson on the production of Flash Harry, Nilsson's obscure and out of print last full album, from whence the above cover comes.
The Jam: Town Called Malice
Paul Weller et al., give us some sound advice with a Supreme's Can't Hurry Love bass line as a backdrop. The Jam was one of my favorite bands in the 80's and they still are today. Why they never got a more solid following in the U.S. is one of the great mysteries of that whole period of music as far as I'm concerned.
This is Town Called Malice, off of their last LP, The Gift:
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life -
cos it's the one we'll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus -
cos those rosey days are few
And - stop apologising for the things you've never done,
Cos time is short and life is cruel -
but it's up to us to change
This town called malice.
"Let your feet stand up for your beliefs, babe...let what's inside be your guide".
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Don't Take Everybody To Be Your Friend
Worthy advice from the singing Sister.
Doris Duke: Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You
From the truly excellent I'm A Loser: The Swamp Dog Sessions.
Peggy Lee: Don't Smoke In Bed
A wistful song - advice to her lover as she leaves him.
Willie Nelson and Sinead O'Connor: Don't Give Up
A great cover of the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush song.
Guns n Roses: Don't Cry (Alt. Lyrics)
What can I say? This is my teenage rock kid roots at the fore. And features vocals by the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson: Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
I shouldn't think that this one needs any introduction...a classic.
The Cramps: Don't Eat Stuff Off the Sidewalk
"Let me give you some advice..."
"You don't need it, so don't eat it"
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons: Walk Like A Man
How does one walk like a man? I'm not quite sure how, but I'd imagine it's similar to John Travolta's trot in the opening minutes of Saturday Night Fever. An endless source of amusement for me throughout the years - Frankie Valli shifts to super-high, whiny falsetto to belt out the "walk like a man, my son" line. If you ever need to get the wax out of your ears, blast this high.
The Clash: Know Your Rights The Clash: Know Your Rights - Live
"This is a public service announcement... with guitar"
Apparantly, there are only three rights you need to know:
1. You have the right not to be killed (unless by police or aristocrat)
2. You have the right to food (provided you don't mind investigation/ humiliation)
3. You have the right to free speech (so long as youre not dumb enough to actually try it.)
Cheery, huh? (Full Lyrics)
The live version is from 1983's US Festival.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Paul Simon: 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
When I saw this theme coming I asked myself, "What are the ultimate big-mammas of all advice songs?" The first song that came to my mind was Hey Jude. Is there a more popular and well known advice song in existence? I think not. However, I don't want to post it because it is so well known that there is probably not a single reader within the sound of my keyboard who doesn't own a copy of this tune (unless they don't want one). The second song that came to mind was Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around With Jim. Cool song, but already ably featured by Dean. The third song that came to mind was the Paul Simon classic, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. If familiarity is your rubric, then those three songs together may very well constitute the ultimate triumvirate of advice songs.
I don't love this song for the oft-sung chorus. What's great about it is the verses. The sophistication of the chord progression, the drum line, the conversational lyrics, and the melody (which is the signature highlight of most Paul Simon compositions). The chorus is OK too, but I think of it as something that bridges the gap between the much more wonderful verses.
Stevie Wonder: Don't You Worry About A Thing
A friend recommended Innervisions to me in about 1992. I bought it but couldn't get into it. I gave it another try a few years later, but still no luck. A few years after that I gave it another spin. There were a couple of stand out tunes, but still, nothing special. Then, finally three or four years ago, I got it! It really is a pretty decent album. I have no idea why it took me so long to warm up to it.
There are two great advice songs on this album. The first is Don't You Worry About A Thing, featured above. The second is:
People keep on learnin'
Soldiers keep on warrin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it wont be too long
The Halo Benders: Bomb Shelter Pt. 2
"The Halo Benders' music is characterised by untraditional sounds, movements, and song structures. Additionally, the vocals of the baritone Johnson and the pitchy Martsch overlap often... often entirely unrelated... Johnson has said that the two write lyrics for songs largely independently." - Wikipedia
Take one part Beat Happening, one part Built To Spill, mix with several other ingredients, and what do you get? Why, it's the tasty (and in this case, instructive) treat known as The Halo Benders! Yummy.
"You're probably wondering what you can do
To follow in the footsteps of the American way
And assert yourselves as mature individuals..."
Just don't burn your fingers!
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
Diana Ross & The Supremes: You Can't Hurry Love
No, no, no - you just can't hurry love, mama was right! Written by the Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Diana Ross & The Supremes had a number one hit with this in the summer of 1966. I challenge you to listen and try not tapping your foot along to You Can't Hurry Love - it just can't be done!
Baz Luhrmann: Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
The story behind Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) is rather complicated. It was originally written for the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich in a column titled, "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" in June 1, 1997. She described it as the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one. Wikipedia has the whole story over here. In these days of global warming, I don't think there's any better advice one can follow than to wear sunscreen, at least one with an SPF rating of 55. The rest of it is pretty wise, as well.
"Can I have a taste of your ice cream?
Can I lick the crumbs from your table?
Can I interfere in your crisis?
No! Mind your own business..."
Sound advice from the Delta 5, one of these fine British bands of the postpunk era. They hailed from Leeds and were mates with the better known Gang Of Four, with whom they shared a sound: all funky basslines and choppy guitars. Mind Your Own Business , the 31st release on the mighty Rough Trade label, was their first and best single. Oh 1979, when exciting new bands seemingly mushroomed overnight, vinyl 45´s were king, do-it-yourself was the way to go and I was only sixteen...
Daniel Johnston: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (original)
Dot Allison: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (cover)
Clem Snide: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (cover)
Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh
Do yourself a favor: become your own savior
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances
And when you wake up in the morning
You'll have a brand new feeling
And you'll find yourself healing
So don't let the sun go down on your grievances.
If a severe manic depressive with an unhealthy appetite for Mountain Dew, who is known for such manic episodes as throwing an airplane ignition key out the window while the plane was still in the air, gives you advice, should you take it?
Oft-hospitalized indie musician Daniel Johnston is known for being a serious oddball, an outsider in a world of outsiders, but his lyrics and songcraft are celebrated by a significant slice of music world and beyond – from David Bowie to Kurt Cobain to Simpsons creator Matt Groening, themselves a fairly untrustworthy group of advice-givers. His lo-fi production and wavery falsetto first hit the world through a series of self-released cassette tapes recorded on a $59 boombox; according to Wikipedia, common themes in his music throughout his career have included "unrequited love, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and comic book superheroes...a propensity to proselytize for his conception of Christianity, warning about the devil, and a fixation on the number 9."
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances is one of Johnston's most covered songs, and it's a recognized classic, most recently appearing on the seminal Oxford American annual Southern Sampler CD for 2007; both covers, above, come from double-length tribute albums from a veritable who's who of fringe musicians from the indie world. Personally, I think the titular sentiment is sensible – resolving grudges quickly, and in the light, seems like sound advice regardless of the source. And from there, the song brims with words of similar wisdom, and other suggestions for psychological health, which seem equally sound.
Johnson's background lends an air of legitimacy to the lyrics, too; this is someone who has been in therapy, and knows, intellectually at least, how to keep the demons at bay, even if on occasion, he is known to force others into the shower to rid them of theirs. But Johnston's history, plus a fluidly changing chorus, also flavors this advice with a sinister implications about what the dark might bring. Caveat emptor, as with all advice, and don't say we didn't warn you.
Louis Jordan: Beware Brother, Beware [purchase]
In the 1940s, Louis Jordan was king. King of the jukes, king of R&B, king of jump blues, one of the country's best bandleaders and performers, one of the first black musicians to crossover to whites, and the undisputed godfather of rock 'n' roll. His work profoundly influenced Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley (I touch upon this in Part 1 of my Bo Diddley tribute), B.B. King, James Brown, Bill Haley, and Little Richard, among others. He was also king of the advice songs. "Beware Brother, Beware" was a massive hit in 1947, delivered in a proto-rap, half-spoken, half-sung vocal style, and as is typical of the Jordan catalog, hysterically funny. If you don't have Louis Jordan in your collection you're missing out. Dude was king.
Frank Zappa: Don't Eat the Yellow Snow
Always a man on hand with some sage advice, was Mr Zappa! Surely the best we'll get all week?
And below is some more counsel he had for us.
Zappa on music:
"The Ultimate Rule ought to be: 'If it sounds good to you, it's bitchin'; if it sounds bad to you, it's shitty'. The more your musical experience, the easier it is to define for yourself what you like and what you don't like. American radio listeners, raised on a diet of_____ (fill in the blank), have experienced a musical universe so small they cannot begin to know what they like."
"You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream."
Zappa on nightclubs:
"A wise man once said, never discuss philosophy or politics in a disco environment."
"Anyone who is disturbed by the idea of newts in a nightclub is potentially dangerous."
Zappa on religion:
"Beware of the fish people, they are the true enemy." (At a pro-choice rally in around 1989)
"My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can."
"When God created Republicans, he gave up on everything else." (see the picture above for more on this!)
And did you know that the town of Bad Doberan in Germany has held an annual 'Zapparale', or Zappa fest, since 1990? Berlin even has a Frank-Zappa-Straße. Or that he has had genii of fish, jellyfish and snail named after him...and an asteroid too? An honour indeed!
Music trivia: The infamous Deep Purple track Smoke on the Water is about the 1971 fire at the Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert in Montreux, Switzerland.
Visit the Wikipedia page on Frank Zappa for a more thorough history lesson, as it is chock full of information!
Eddie & The Hot Rods: Do Anything You Wanna Do
This week's theme is "advice" and to lead off, if I had any to personally give, I'd take my cue from Eddie & The Hot Rods and say, "Do anything you wanna do."