Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vacation: Two Weeks in Spain

Gentle Giant: Two Weeks in Spain

Where you come in on a band’s career makes a difference. I’m fairly certain that my introduction to the work of Gentle Giant was this album, The Missing Piece. I liked the interesting music, the complicated song structures and even appreciated their attempt at writing an almost punk rocker. As I investigated their discography, I learned that their earlier music was even more interesting and more complex. In fact, I discovered that they were an incredibly thought provoking band, and I came to appreciate their entire body of work.

And I discovered that The Missing Piece was disliked by their fans, considered to be an attempt to dumb down Gentle Giant’s music to get commercial popularity, much as Genesis was doing (more successfully) during the same time period. That the admirable attempt to write an uptempo, simple rocker, was “unconvincing,” and that they were pretty much done after this (notwithstanding the release of two more studio albums, one even more reviled than The Missing Piece, and one grudgingly appreciated). But, I don’t care—I liked this album, and I still do.

“Two Weeks in Spain” is a fun song, an ode to the sort of English workingman’s vacation in the sun memorably lampooned by Monty Python in their “Travel Agent” sketch. It is also a good introduction to Gentle Giant, a pretty much forgotten band. Although it is relatively straightforward, it gives hints of the more complicated songs that you can find on earlier releases, so I hope it encourages you to do as I did, and explore backwards through their catalog.

Coincidentally (really), yesterday, my wife and I dropped our daughter off at the airport, and she is now in Barcelona, where she is spending her junior year. More than two weeks in Spain for her, and I hope a lifetime of memories.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vacation (2 of them)

Mose Allison: Your Mind Is On Vacation
David Gilmour: Wish You Were Here

[purchase Mose Allison Your Mind is on Vacation]
[purchase Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here]

A vacation is “time away”. There is a Turkish saying that I love that seems appropriate. They say: every day is a holiday for the crazy man. Now, I realize that a holiday isn’t quite the same as a vacation, but it is still “time off”. Seems to me that the phrase says that your frame of mind colors the way you roll through life, your outlook on life - that if you can create a mind-frame that takes things not too seriously, life will be like a vacation.

Along these lines, the song “Your Mind is on Vacation” might be one perspective to look into. Granted, the lyrics are more about a mind that is wasted as opposed to one on vacation, but the title is right down the alley for this thought.  There are multiple version of this song out there: Asleep at the Wheel (2006’s Reinventing the Wheel), Elvis Costello (King of America, 1995), Van Morrison (1995’s How Long Has This Been Goin On) …This clip is of Mose Allison, the jazz pianist credited with writing the song. He once said “when somebody asks me who I had in mind when I wrote that song, I say: thee.” (

And, speaking of the “crazy man” and vacations, my thoughts also ran to the one-time Pink Floyd  member, Syd Barrett, who went on permanent vacation in the early 70s and inspired both “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as the “vacation” song below, “Wish You Were Here”.

Several times on my latest vacation, I picked up a post card (how quaint/yet how valuable to the recipient!). While the text of my card (think: severely limited writing space) was little more than “Yo dude..”,  the undeniable underlying thought was “wish you were here …”