Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#305 - Angels Have No Thought of Ever Returning You

How much do you really know about Halloween!
   Halloween.  You either love it...or you hate it.  There isn't much middle ground on this holiday.  It's not like Arbor Day for people younger than 96 years old or Diwalli for non-Hindus.  It can't come and go without you having realized that it is already past.  No...this one permeates everything around you for weeks.  It sticks to your life from October 1st through the rest of the month just like the the Butterfingers that will stick to your teeth on October 31st after the kids pass out from the sugar crash.

   If you don't like it...maybe join the war that is apparently raging in parts of the US.

   I was never a big fan of the campy, commercialized version of Halloween until I had children.  But, I have always been a fan of the gloomy and of the macabre.

   I prefer a good horror movie to just about any other genre most days of the week.  I've always had a strong fascination for ghost stories and haunted houses and vampires.  It all began with werewolves a few months after I turned 6 years old.
Click the link.  Or I'm gonna
rip your throat out.  With my teeth.

   Just a few days ago I talked about the life-long influence that a certain Michael J. Fox movie had on me as a child back in 1985.  A couple of months down the road, I would come across another of his films that would leave a mark on me as well.

   Teen Wolf.

   This absolutely laughable movie came out in theaters just shy of two months after Back to The Future released.  It starred Fox as an awkward high school student named Marty McF...I mean, Scott Howard...that learns he is actually a werewolf.

   I sincerely hope you weren't expecting the plot of a mid-80's movie named Teen Wolf to be any deeper than that.

   But, terrible as it was, you can never deny the impact that a strong star presence can have on a film.  Michael J. Fox's Teen Wolf debuted as Number 2 film in America behind...

   ...Michael J. Fox's number 1 film, Back to the Future.

   Throughout the course of the movie, you see how this newfound "fame" changes Marty McF...I mean Scott Howard...and causes him to lose sight of who he really is.  He begins to shun his friends, his love interest, his fall in line with the IT crowd that, until that point, had nothing to do with him.

   A major contributor to the reputation that the Wolf creates for Scott is that the metamorphosis causes him to attain an NBA caliber basketball ability.  That's the gist of the movie.  Nothing more.  I'm kinda sorry I even brought it up now.

   The terrible music, the terrible acting, the terrible script, the terrible effects...none of it mattered.  Michael P. Keaton, aka Marty McFly, was now also Scott Howard and he could turn into a werewolf.  Sign me up...I'm in.

   I remember riding in the backseat of some beat up old car one night as a 6 or 7 year old.  I remember gnarling my fingers tightly as if in excruciating pain, baring my teeth and staring wild eyed without blinking at the full moon through the back window.  I could feel the changes rippling through my skin, the fur bursting forth from my cheeks and the fangs descending and sharpening to a razor's edge.

   Sadly, it was all for naught.  I never grew the fur, or the teeth.  I never ate live chickens and howled at the moon.  Never bit into a beer can with the cool kids.  Never dunked a basketball.  I outgrew the silly imaginations of "becoming" and moved on to scarier things.

   Teen Wolf begat "The Twilight Zone" begat "Nightmare on Elm Street" begat "Scream" begat "____ of the Living Dead".  There are innumerable entries omitted from that lineage get the picture.  I can trace my love of all things horror back to that one doltish flick from my childhood.

   And before we move on to the song for today (which, as usual, has NOTHING to do with my rantings thus far), I want to take a second to point out an offshoot of Teen Wolf that probably wouldn't fit anywhere else in this project.  If I don't include it now, for the sake of posterity, I doubt that I ever will otherwise.

   In the spring after Back to the Future and Teen Wolf released a new tv show made its way to the airwaves.  It was a series that would last a handful of years and go through 3 name changes before finally ending without a finale in the early 90's.  And, it was a series that would help to catapult a young 80's heartthrob towards the top (I know...I know...I feel as dirty typing heartthrob it as you do reading it.  I still can't believe that's what we called young, good-looking celebrities back then.....ugghhh).
Is this your idea of a link?
No. this is.

   A couple of years into the series run, that young actor was given the role of Scott Howard's cousin, Todd Howard, in the sequel to Teen Wolf aptly titled, Teen Wolf Too.  I know...I know.

   Todd isn't a high school student like his cousin.  He's a college student.  The differences end there.

   I sincerely hope you weren't expecting the plot of a late 80's sequel named Teen Wolf Too to be any deeper than that.

   But, this movie, along with the Valerie...I mean, Valerie's Family...I mean, The Hogans...I mean, The Hogan Family...led me to be an early fan of Jason Bateman.  He was the B-Team Michael J. Fox.

   It's strange the trajectory that their careers both took.  Micheal J. Fox steamrolled his success into an extensive movie career but then was forced to largely exit the acting arena in the early 2000's due to his Parkinson's diagnosis.  Jason Batemen, on the other hand, disappeared almost entirely in the 90's until his breakout success on one of the funniest tv shows of all time, Arrested Development, in the early 2000's.

   Neither here nor there and I've definitely rambled enough.  I suppose it's time to unveil the only song there will ever be for this project on a Halloween.

   I know little to nothing about this song and only came across it a few years ago.  But it is utterly terrifying to me.

   This song is the auditory equivalent of walking through a dark room in a creepy old house you've never been to before and bumping face first into a curio cabinet full of porcelain dolls that you couldn't see soon enough to avoid.

   This song is Cujo trying to get in the car, bleeding and growling.  It's Jack Nicholson in the old black and white photo at the end of The Shining.  It's Johnny Depp getting sucked into the bed because he made the mistake of having a Nightmare on Elm Street.

   It's every single scary part of the absolutely wonderful new Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House.
Come get your lyrics...if you dare...
   One last thing before moving on...and it might be important to you so please read before proceeding.  I don't personally buy into the lore of this song's history but you might.

   According to Wikipedia, today's song (originally titled in Hungarian as Szomorú vasárnap), and also known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song", is a popular song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress and published in 1933.  The song went through several iterations before becoming today's entry.

Gloomy Sunday (1941)
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
   According to urban legend, the song is said to have been linked to a plethora of strange suicides, most notably, the song's own composer in 1968.  Interested parties can find quite a bit of consolidated info correlating these claims by checking out the Snopes article here.  According to Snopes, the status of the claim is "Undetermined".  If Snopes isn't your thing, you can try this story from MentalFloss instead.

   The lyrics of the song, as we know it today, vary quite a bit from the original.  And while the history of this song's insidious past might be can't shake the eerie feelings that the song imbues.

   Listen at your own risk...

   If you're feeling particularly froggy, you can give this next version a try.  I didn't make it through maybe half of the song before I had to move on.  I'll stick with the Billie Holiday version.

   This next one could literally be the exact same song as the last video I shared above.  I'll never know because I'm not listening to it either.  As the illustrious Michael Scott once said, "I'm not superstitious but...I am...a little stitious."  

   If you think you're somehow familiar with this song but you're not exactly sure how...I'll bet it was from here...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#306 - Some Kind of Frankenstein

   The one and only time I'd ever heard this song (outside of the 500 times I've listened to it on my iPhone since I bought it) was in an episode of this excellent NBC show, Chuck...

   This song feels like something that Lennon or McCartney could have penned.  The "Eleanor Rigby" vibes only serve to cement that feeling.  Or, maybe they cause it?  Not sure.

   It's always interesting to me when a modern song can evoke that sense of nostalgia.  You listen to it and you know that the guy who wrote it probably had a smartphone in his pocket.  Maybe he penned it in one afternoon at a coffee shop in the French Quarter as a caravan of electric and hybrid cars rolled by.  Maybe he was wearing a Ray LaMontagne tshirt and vaping.

  Or maybe it was written under a tree in Golden Gate Park in 1968.  Maybe there was a caravan of hippies strolling by, dazed out of their minds.  Maybe the writer was wearing a handmade tie-dye t-shirt that he'd traded a pack of cigarrettes for.

   With this one...I'd believe either scenario...

A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard (2010)
Reluctant Graveyard (EP
Jeremy Messersmith
A Lyrics, A Snippet, and a Couple of Ads

Monday, October 29, 2018

#307 - (Ever Fall)

Some of you already know
where this one's going
   I'll be crucified for this one...I'm sure.  Anyone reading this that bears any allegiance to 80's/90's R&B is going to probably cry mutiny over this one.

   To be 100% truthful, this song was one of maybe 4 or 5, throughout my entire lifetime, that I sincerely believed no one would ever recreate.  And, if they did, I expected that it would be absolutely terrible.

   I can say, with full confidence...even if I'm standing entirely alone on this one...that the remake in today's post blows the original out of the water.


   Giving credit where credit is due...if this were October 15, 2015 or any date prior to that, going all the way back to the day the original was released on September 1, 1992 (which was subsequently my 13th birthday)...this song would have been very, very high on my list.

   It is a showstopper.  A perfect example of expert harmony and great songwriting.  If this song makes you feel nothing...I question the way you feel things. that song...

If I Ever Fall In Love (1992)
...If I Ever Fall In Love
If you're unfamiliar, I'd be interested to see some pictures
of the rock you've been living under for the last 26 years. 

   Is it just me or did we all just start simultaneously missing long-sleeeve, button-down silk shirts? No? Just me? Ok, got it.

   This song was KILLER in the 90's It should have been, would have been, the #1 song in America for a very long time. Unfortunately, Shai had the sheer misfortune of going up against this juggernaut.

   And, no one...NO ONE...was toppling this one to take the throne in 1992...

   Whitney Houston's massive power ballad remake of Dolly Parton's 1974 classic, "I Will Always Love You" was the pinnacle of the soundtrack for the film The Bodyguard.   It is the song that has cemented that album, to this day, as the best selling movie soundtrack of all time.  And, it stayed at the #1 spot for 14 weeks straight.

   To begin with, Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love" bumped up against Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" from the Boomerang soundtrack.  It then went up against The Height's "How Do You Talk To An Angel" from the soundtrack to the self-titled Fox tv series.  Then, Mrs. Houston came along and Shai never found enough footing to hold on and outlast her.

   The song peaked at #2 and held the position for 8 them the dubious honor, at the time, of second most weeks at #2 behind Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You".  (That baton has now been passed several times over the last quarter century and Shai holds the 9th place on that list).

   #2. Ouch.

   Whitney Houston's song?  Not on my list (although another of The Bodyguards tracks will be later on).  The Heights?  Please.  If the lyrics didn't kill that song for me...that bleeding 90's saxophone would have.  End of the Road?  Yeesss...but, only sort of.  It's hard to explain.  We'll cover that one on May 5, 2019.

   And as I stated previously, were it not for this remake, Shai would have found a place on this prestigious list of mine. I could have undone the travesty of where history left their song.

   Sadly, they'll have to take a backseat as the #2 again. Sorry, fellas...
If I Ever Fall In Love (2015)
   Pentatonix. Holy. Cow. 

   This song is so absolutely, hands down, stronger, tighter, smoother...every word you can think of...better than the original. It makes Shai's version sound like Karaoke. It's sad how far behind it leaves the original.

   And I'm certain that this was never the intent. I've seen several covers from Pentatonix and the reverence they have for the source material seeps out of their every move. And, to be fair, it's extremely difficult for 90's technology in sound production to retroactively be better than what we have available today.

   But, then again, you have the acapella aspect that was just as readily available in 1992 as it was in 2015. Pentatonix is clearly a more technically proficient group than Shai. Trying to compare the two almost feels like kicking a sick puppy.

   Comparing Shai's version to a sick puppy is not a blasphemy that I ever believed I would utter. I feel...wrong...for saying such.

   You've already heard the original above. Listen to this cover and tell me I'm wrong...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

#308 - You With the Sad Eyes

   Next week is going to be a long one...I think. I just glanced down the list for the upcoming 7 songs and ALL of them hold high regards with me. I might be wrong but I feel like I'm going to have quite a bit to say on a few of them.

   One particular song is over 75 years old while 2 others are just barely 3 years old. There are least 6 different genres and both male and female solo artists represented. Then again, some are "bands" while others are "groups". It's going to be a very eclectic week.
   But, before we can jump into next week's sporadic mix, we have to round out this week. I think today's song is spiritually a part of next week's group or, at the very least, one heck of a preview for the randomness of what's to come.

   Before we can get to the actual song for today, we have to take a little trip through time to explain where this song began for me and why it holds such a place of reverence in my collection.

   While I'm certain that the original version of this song was rattling around in my head in the late 80's, early 90's, it was this cover by one of my favorite 80's singers that I remember first...

   And, wouldn't you know it, this guy shows up again as the producer and background vocals for Phil Collin's version.

   To be fair, this iteration is easily one of my least favorite Phil Collin's songs of all time. I would honestly have to say that I liked the original version far more. Considering that it's a Cyndi Lauper song versus a Phil Collin's saying a WHOLE lot...

   But, she definitely does encapsulate the meaning in the lyrics far better than Mr. Miami Vice did...

   There was still something missing for me. Neither of the two ever really stuck with me all that much as a kid, as as teenager, as an adult. I just couldn't hear the message in this song in either one. It was over 25 years later that this happened...

   To this day, I choke up just hearing Michelle Chamuel's version.  I remember the night I watched her sing this on The Voice and I remember trying to fight back the tears as I did so. To each his own.
I'm not're
cryi...ok, fine, I'm crying
   I don't care how big of a man or woman you have insecurities. You have shortcomings and failures and a lifetime of "just not good enough"s somewhere behind you. And maybe you left them all exactly the past. But, not all of them. You brought some with you.

   The simplest of ways to feel, when your faults bubble to the surface and take the reins of your life, is alone. But, I don't believe it's the shortcomings themselves that drag us down. It's most often the solitude we find ourselves in when they do. That's the hard part.

   This song is such an immensely beautiful tribute to those around us that help to pull us back up from the brink. I also remember making a personal vow the night I heard Michelle sing this song; to be be that person for those around me. I haven't always been successful at it...but I've tried. I've sincerely tried.

   There came a time few years later when the vow was forgotten. The song went largely unplayed as I'd find myself skipping it more often than not when it came up randomly in iTunes. And I no longer felt my eyes well up when I did take the time to listen. It simply lost its fervor for me.

   Then, 3 or 4 years after I heard Michelle Chamuel's cherubic version...I heard this one...

   And, this one, is today's song...

True Colors (2016)
Trolls: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Justin Timberlake & Anna Kendrick
   The song took on a new meaning for me. As I sat watching this kid's movie with my two youngest (my 3 year old daughter and my 7 year old son) my heart broke. I lost it. I couldn't hold back the tears as I watched their little eyes transfixed on the screen. Their head lilting up and down with each note and a somber, unrealized appreciation for the harmony and the melody and the sheer technical proficiency of the music.

   They didn't know about the Cyndie Lauper version or the Phil Collin's remake or even the more recent Michelle Chamuel cover. They didn't understand the words. They didn't understand the meaning.

   I did.

   They don't understand that there will come many times in their lives when they hit the end of their rope, when they are alone, when they feel something less than the amazing that they are. They don't realize how mean other kids can be, how harsh the whole world around them can be. And that breaks my grown-man, redneck heart.

   They don't know it'll make them stronger, tougher, less innocent. I do. They don't know it'll make them lose faith in humanity sometimes. I do. They don't know it'll make them question their place in the world around them. I do.

   If you've got youngin's and those feelings don't keep you up at night...we are on two, very different wavelengths, my friend.

   I have a now-ancient appreciation for this song that is far and away older than my relationships with my little people. But, I have a deeper appreciation for it now. And more so than ever.

Michelle Chamuel's version of Annie Lennox' "Why", performed on that same season of The Voice.  If you made a list of the Top 10 best singing competition show entries, this would have to be way up there somewhere.

Michelle Chamuel -- Why --lyrics from petybanhbeo on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

#309 - ...and No One Could Save Me But You

   As promised in the Monday, October 15, 2018 post #321 - The World Was On Fire..., today's song is the only one in the entire project to have both the original as well as a cover find a spot in the countdown.  It's just that good.

   This version is the only cover of "Wicked Games" that comes anywhere the abysmal depths of sadness from the first one.  Or, that I've been able to find at least.

   I first heard it here.  You might not remember it but you more than likely did too...

If you're a fan of this song, ol' James here
will be glad to show you some other,
like-minded songs by various artists.

   James Vincent McMorrow's slower, breathy, acoustic version brings a surrealism to the song that the original simply could not achieve due to the drastic differences in style.  It's always been amazing to me to hear a cover of an iconic song that manages to reinvent the earlier rendition while somehow maintaining the spirit of the original.

   McMorrow's version accomplishes that feat divinely.  Her's, however, might be the closest second I've ever found...

  I don't suppose there is anything that I left to the imagination about this song on the post for Chris Isaak's original entry.  That being said, there isn't much left in the pipeline to say about this cover.  Enjoy!

Wicked Game (2012)
We Don't Eat (EP)
James Vincent McMorrow

Friday, October 26, 2018

#310 - First Time You Feel It

Covermesongs...not to be confused
with Shivermetimbers
   I forgot to mention, on yesterday's post, a website that I found while doing research on cover songs.  While I was unable to find what I was looking for on that song, I found a LOT of other interesting information about other songs.  The site is solely devoted to articles about covers of songs across the breadth of all the music you can imagine.  I intend to reference this site extensively in future posts, if at all possible.

   If you'd like to check them out, you can do so by following the link to the left here.

   Yesterday's post was about an old song coming forward in time.  Today's post is about a song that took us all way back...but then brought us right back home.  If this graphic below doesn't immediately spell out to you what I'm talking about...this post is not for you.  Please, come back tomorrow for something completely different.
Gotta go time...
   If you've never seen the movie Back to the Future and if you don't have 116 minutes to spare to get caught up for this post, just watch the official video for today's song.  It literally condenses the entire movie down to 4+ minutes.

   I honestly did not know that this was the case until just now when I found the video on Youtube.  This CANNOT have been a very smart marketing move.

The Power of Love (1985)
Back to the Future: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
Huey Lewis and the News

   Of the small group of tv personalities in the 80's that I would consider an influence, only a handful were present before my 6th birthday. 

   The first of three from my early years was my friend, Mr. Rogers.  The second was my hero, He-Man.  The third was none other than Alex P. Keaton.

   If Mr. Rogers was my friend and if He-Man was my hero...Alex P. Keaton was my idol.

Mr. Rogers
   I was 3 years and 21 days old the night that Family Ties first brought the Keaton family into homes across America.  Kooky, 60's Liberal, hippy parents Michael and Elise Keaton were now in their 40's and raising three kids.  The star of the show and of the fictional family was their oldest child, Alex Keaton, the young Wall Street worshipping, Reagan loving Conservative teenager.

   The day that Back to the Future released, I was less than 2 months from my 6th birthday.  From the age of 3 to the age of 6 I had grown up watching the Keatons week in and week out.
   In the 1980's, the video rental craze was everywhere in the US. Where I grew up, Blockbuster video stores were not an option.  Instead, we had the handful of locally owned, family ran businesses.  They usually doubled as tanning salons (or did the tanning salons double as VHS rental houses?) and, eventually, even small-chain local grocery stores pulled up a stool to milk the teet of the home videos rental cash cow.

   One chilly night in the late fall of 1985, we took a quick trip down to the local grocery store shortly before closing time.  In those days, parents didn't love their children nearly much as we do today so I was given free rein to sprint away, all by my lonesome, and peruse the movie aisle.

   After just a few minutes, I found one that I had never seen before. Several copies of this particular VHS case stood dress-right-dress along the shelf.
Mr. Man
(I have...the....LYRICS!!!)

   My mouth agape, my breath abated, I reached for the case and held it carefully, gently, with both hands like a mewling, newborn kitten.

   On the cover, Alex P. Keaton stood in front of a flaming car with a funny looking door.

   It did not matter what the movie was about.  It had Alex P. Keaton looking cool and adventurous and shocked at something on his wrist watch.  I hurriedly ran back to the counter happily holding the empty case to a movie that would mold much of my life from that point forward.

   A car that could go backwards AND forwards in time?!?  Time travel was a concept I'd never heard of!  Never even considered!  The what-if wormholes that this movie cracked open in my brain were endless.
Mr. McFly

   And, instantly, Alex P. Keaton was replaced with Marty McFly.

   This guy was the epitome of cool.  Here was this skateboarding, unnecessary vest wearing, feathered back bangs, rock guitar playing high school kid that would be the first to break through the time-space continuum.

   He made dogs with stupid names cool.  He made unnecessary vests cool.  He made old, borderline psychopathic scientist dudes cool.  But, to be fair, it was just as cool to see Iggy from Taxi in the movie as well.  I was also a fan of late night Taxi reruns between the ages of 3 and 6.  I was a strange kid.

   He also made riding to school on your skate board by grabbing on the tailgate of moving pickup trucks cool.  Subsequently, I think he made Huey Lewis a lot cooler than I think they should have ultimately been. 


Sadly, there is no bonus video.  It's not because one doesn't exist  It's because the excellent SNL skit with Michael J. Fox stuck in an elevator with Kevin Nealon's strange B2TF fan character that just keeps singing "Gotta go back in tiiimmmeee" in a hilarious way...has never been found on the internet.  This text is entered in protest.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

#311 - Tell Me the Song and I'll Sing It

   Today's post will be a quick one as there isn't a lot that I need to say here.

   I've been a fan of the original version of this song since it first came out in the mid '90's.  But the band, Take That, never achieved another hit in the US.  Globally they did quite alright with this song reaching #1 in 31 different countries.  On this side of the pond...this song is the only one that ever really caught on.

   However, they, along with many other bands just like them, were just a shadow of the worldwide boy band phenomenon that was just around the corner.

   One member of the band you might vaguely remember from a hit single he had in the US in the late 90's, after his break from Take That, was this guy...Robbie Williams.

   There is actually a Robbie Williams' song that will show up on this countdown sometime next year.  So, you might know him from at least one other song.
Maybe he's a hint for that last sentence.
Maybe he's not.  Either way, click the
gimpy fin for today's la letra
   I always thought that the lyrics for this song were very well written.  They weren't cheesy or childish like most of their competition back then.  They were thoughtful and had a nice rhyme scheme to them.  I found a Noel Gallagher quote via Wikipedia where he stated that he found the song to be "touching".  I think that speaks volumes to the lyrics.

   The underlying music was nothing to write home about but, it wasn't bad either.  But, then again, hitting #1 in 31 countries means they must have been getting something more than just the lyrics right.

   The original version of today's song is this one...

   But, it's not the version that gets a spot on the countdown.  That belongs to this iteration instead.

Back for Good (2010)
New Acoustic Sessions, Vol. 1
Boyce Avenue
Boyce Avenue's official website
   I don't remember which Boyce Avenue song I found first.  I don't remember exactly when it was or how I came across it.  All I know is that as soon as I did discover his music, I bought and downloaded a WHOLE lot of it in a short amount of time.

   Boyce Avenue does release his own, self-penned music.  And, it's not bad at all.  I just have never been able to find a song or album that I really like.  However, what Boyce Avenue is most known for are his cover albums where he puts an acoustic spin on songs from several different genres.  

   Sadly, his cover of "Back for Good" is the only song that made my list.  I would still highly encourage you to search for his stuff in iTunes or on the Google Play Store if you enjoy mellow, singerish-songwriterery sounding covers of some of the best songs of the last 25 years.

   Boyce's version of "Back for Good" has a realism to it that the Take That version simply did not.  There's a grittiness to his vocals and his nearly-screaming crescendos in the final chorus have a power and authenticity that was severely lacking in the original.