Monthly Archives: October 2010

Diamond Head-“Am I Evil?”-1982

Like probably a lot of metalheads, I discovered this song through Metallica. I later found that this piece is one of the earliest thrash metal recordings there is. I know that many would argue that Black Sabbath are the pioneers of metal and this is quite true. However, Diamond Head played an important role in influencing the genre as well and taking it in a different direction i.e. thrash metal. The proof lies in the fact that bands whom many would regard as the greatest thrash metal bands (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax) all have played versions of the song. In fact, Metallica have frequently added “Am I Evil?” to their sets during shows.

This song really is the first “evil” metal song with the fast riffs and violent lyrics describing a young man who goes on a killing spree after the death of his mother. While I am put off by the lyrics, I am drawn in by the pleasantly harsh intermarriage of the guitars and drums.

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坂本 九 -「上を向いて歩こう」- 1961

「上を向いて歩こう」or “Sukiyaki” as it is commonly known in the west, was a 1961 release by Kyu Sakamoto.  It was released in the United States in 1963 and re-titled “Sukiyaki” as “Ue o muite arukō” evidently was too difficult to pronounce/remember.

Not surprisingly, the song has nothing to do with food at all.  The song’s title translates to “I shall walk looking up” and describes the singer’s endless walk alone after losing his love, recalling the happy times they had during various seasons of the year.  Sakamoto keeps his head up as he walks to avoid the tears from falling.

The whistling and tune of the song have a somewhat jovial, perhaps optimistic quality to them given the content of the lyrics.  The minor four chord in the bridge over the lyrics:

幸せは雲の上に
幸せは空の上に

“Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies up above the sky”

however, is a tear-jerker.  The song certainly transcended language barriers and became a number one hit in the United States in 1963.


Spandau Ballet-“True”-1983

“Huh huh huh huuuuuu-uuuhhh”
This is the unmistakable chorus for a song that was part of the soundtrack for the 80’s. Spandau Ballet’s “True” is easily in anyone’s top ten list for most well-known 80’s song.

Some would say that the song is some kind of an homage to the slow ballads played by motown artists like Marvin Gaye and The Temptations. While the song may have been created with that in mind, I think that the song created and re-created the new age music movement and the adult contemporary genre. While it may not have been the first entry into those arenas, it was definitely the flagship piece for the two genres. Listen to any new age or adult contemporary song after “True” was released and the influence will be quite apparent.

“True” is a relaxing song and a great recording. The fact that it made an impression on two branches of music makes it even better.


Ramones-“You’re Gonna Kill That Girl”-1977

Ask 10 people to name a Ramones song and probably 5 will mention “I Wanna Be Sedated” and the other 5 will probably mention “Blitzkrieg Bop”. I would be the outlier that would name a more obscure offering such as the above captioned piece. For me, this is the song that introduced me to the Ramones as well as the punk genre at large.

Putting aside for a moment that the song’s lyrics are quite violent and I still cringe at them even to this day, I still enjoy the song because it reminds me of my senior year in high school and uncovering the punk genre for the first time, even if I vehemently disagree with what is described in the song. I had always been a metalhead and a grunge fan, but I had never listened to any punk rock. This piece was recommended to me and I was captivated by the band and went to my local record store the same day to purchase a Ramones greatest hits album. For any misfit, rebel, or troubled, angst-ridden, ragamuffin, the Ramones will be your proverbial huckleberry; they definitely were mine.

While the song’s lyrics seem to depict a violent encounter (bearing in mind Joey Ramone’s early life, it makes perfect sense since the song seems to describe a possible domestic violence incident) the song still holds a special place in my heart and belongs in any Ramones anthology. True, I was almost put off by the harshness of the lyrics, but I gave the song a chance and realized that there was a deeper meaning behind it. I later found out that this was true with all Ramones songs.


God Save The Girl – “Come Monday Night” – 2009

When I heard the opening string section of this song at a Starbucks I thought it was “When Will I See You Again” by The Three Degrees.  Soon afterward I realized it wasn’t that song at all, and unfortunately, this was the rare Starbucks without the screen displaying what song was playing.

Something about the lyrics stopped me straight in my tracks.  I stood there in line and was so struck by the song that I just about started bawling in line.  I was so choked up I could barely order.

Why?

Well, I suppose it was the optimism of the lyrics.  Something about that consolation of coming home and putting things off.  The idea of sitting in silence.  The idea of being serene at home.  I tried to describe the song to my wife but couldn’t without weeping.

I think it sums up what I long for.  Simplicity.


Victor Crawl and the Purchase – “Now That You’re Mine” – 1965(?)

This song typifies what typically gets referred to as “60’s jangle pop.”  Around 2 minutes long, 12-string electric guitars, tambourines, harmonies – it’s all here.

It’s a fairly simple song describing the male singer’s (presumably, Victor Crawl) affection towards a girl and how she completes him.  Nice breakdowns between verses with harmony “oohs” behind the lead vocal.  A simple guitar solo starts out reflecting the melody-line but soon branches off into its own melody.  The song then wraps up tidily with a repeat of the chorus.


Robert Johnson-“Sweet Home Chicago”-1937

Robert Johnson is the greatest blues musician you’ve probably never heard of.  Without Robert Johnson, there’s no Son House, there’s no BB King, no Eric Clapton. and likely many others.  Those are just a few of the names that Johnson’s work influenced.

“Sweet Home Chicago” is a classic blues recording.  It is just Johnson and his guitar.  No synth, no autotune, no frills of any kind.  And yet, the song is probably one of the most solid pieces I have ever heard.  Johnson’s high pitched voice is an artful wail which is totally conducive to blues and his angst comes through in the song.  With his mastery of the guitar, you would even think that there was more than one musician recording with him. But, the fact remains that it is just Johnson and his guitar.  A single musician with a single instrument who made an indellible impact on an entire genre-and “Sweet Home Chicago” is the anthem for it.