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Heads wage wonder . . .

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Countdown: Top 30 Favorite songs/albums to hear around Christmas time

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I kind go kind of nuts about Christmas. It’s always been hard to wait, so I typically begin to celebrate early. For years I dressed as a Christmas caroler for Halloween, singing door-to-door for treats. The songs are so fun to play on the guitar! Here’s some that I enjoy getting to hear around this time of year. Please compare my list with your own.

30. Elmo & Patsy: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer1983.
This song is so horrible. Reminds me of growing-up in North Carolina. Makes me feel like getting a sled-ride while tied behind a four-wheeler. I love it.

29. New Kids on the Block “This One’s for the Children1989?
Oh man. Maurice Starr is a filthy genius. What a weird falsetto vocal at the end! My friends Joel and Ryan got me into this and the New Edition Christmas album. I don’t even remember these from the 1980’s for some reason. Oh, and this video features their skillful stool-sitting dance. For further research, check-out NKOTB’s “Funky Christmas” rap.

28. Brenda Lee “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” 1950’s(?)

27. Modern Mandolin Quartet Tchaikovski’s Nutcracker Suite. 1991

26. Wham! “Last Christmas1980’s.
Go on, embrace the cheesiness!

25. Biff Rose: “Santa Claus World” 1969.

24. Dean Martin: “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” 1950’s?

23. Joel Pickell: “Don’t Be Scared There is a Savior2003.
This guy is more obsessed with Christmas than anyone I know.

22. “Built to Spill: “Twin Falls1994.

21. Caetano Veloso: “In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day” 1971.

20. The Mary Hamhocks: “Christmas Kiss2003.
Liz Janes and husband Mike Kaufmann team-up for this poppy ode to mistletoe.

19. New Edition Christmas Collection 1980’s
My favorite is the one with the chorus “So glad it’s Christmas,” but I can’t remember its title.

18. Joni Mitchell: “River” 1971.
From her excellent Blue album.

17. John Lennon/Yoko Ono: “Happy XMAS/War is Over1971

16. Burl Ives: "Holly Jolly Christmas" 1960’s?
I think that this is the version with the 12-string acoustic guitar.(?)

15. Pedro the Lion 7” Christmas Singles 2002-2006
I like this idea a lot. The Marbles, Saturday Looks Good to Me, and probably others have done little records devoted exclusively to the holiday too.

14. Andy Williams: "Do You Hear What I Hear?" 1965.

13. Dennis Wilson: “Morning Chrismas” 1977.
Gorgeous moody solo Beach Boy song.

12. Nichole & the Dreamcatchers Krismus Karuls EP 1982.
favorite track: “Dog of Gold” runner-up: “Santa-Santa”
Wacky set of seven Christmas songs. Produced by the elusive art-thief Gary Gooper. According to the liner notes, this was recorded by a robot, a preaching robot.

11. Judy Garland: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” 1944(?)

10. Sufjan Stevens Songs For Christmas Boxset 2001-2006.
Who can resist “Put the Lights On the Tree”?

9. The Season’s Glreekins The Season’s Glreekins EP 1998.
Ten original songs recorded by a five-person band with semi-elaborate arrangements on a 4-track recorder in Chattanooga, TN. Lasts 15 minutes. They played one show. (Okay, I admit it, I was in this band—is it wrong to like it so much?)

8. Esquivel Merry X-Mas 1959-1962.
Favorite track: “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Lenny Smith got me into this. It’s indispensable.

7. Soundtrack to The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives 1933.
This is an old black-and-white Christmas Cartoon–the music is especially great.

6. Eyeball Hurt & The Medicine: Christmas Music for Family or Children 1996.
favorite track: “The Stocking Song”, with the lyrics “What did you get in your Christmas stocking? Mine was filled with skulls… One of them was smiling.” Fellow Canadian artist Jonathan Dueck sent me this lo-fi nonsense album a couple years ago.

5. Simon & Garfunkel: “Star Carol” 1960’s.
This is my choice for the sweetest Christmas lullaby of all time, and their version is my favorite. I like to sing it and change the lyric “bed” to “bit” so that the phrase reads “Sweetly asleep on a bit of hay.” It makes it so that Jesus is so tiny that he can’t even fit on a whole piece of hay! The Ultimate preemie!

4. Argent: “Christmas for the Free1972.
Former Zombies songwriter with one of my very favorite Christmas songs

3. Paul McCartney: “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time1979.
Gosh is this ever catchy!

2. The Beatles The Beatles Christmas Record 1963-1969.
Favorite song: “Christmastime is Here Again” 1967
Favorite skit: “Everywhere it’s Christmas” 1966
I have a Korean bootleg of this album on compact disc. Sometimes I think it’s my absolute favorite thing of theirs.

1. Larry Norman “The Day That a Child Appeared” 1971(?)
I don’t have much information about this piano song. It’s included on his record named Bootleg. (it’s not actually a bootleg, though). The weight of the chord progression is so amazing.


Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

People say that sometimes it’s good to make-up a little joke to tell during a performance to, you know, "lighten the mood" or whatever. Also it gives the audience something to focus on while you’re tuning instruments. This has always sounded like solid advice to me but I’ll tell you what folks, I’ve got a lot to learn!

Can’t remember my first attempt at joke-writing, but I made-up a second one for Nedelle to text-message to her brother during a particularly stressful finals week, and this is the first one that I tried to tell from the stage a few months later:

Q: What do you call a waffle at the beach?
A: San Diego!
(Get it? Is it a joke or a riddle? Who cares, it’s magical!)

My third (and final) pass at show-joke-telling happened in Louisville KY on the tour Half-h did last Spring with Liz Janes/Create(!). The show (at a small, brightly-lit bar) started in a sort of rough way–about a dozen under-21 people were turned-away at the door. So we were bummed about that but then a little voice seemed to say, "Why don’t you let a joke erase those blues, little buddy?"

(Before getting into the telling of this final joke, I wonder, what are the ingredients of a good one? Most of my humor probably checks its books out of the "What if…?" section of the library, but could jokes really be as easy as this simple equation:

Common points of familiarity + environment + slight absurdity = funny?)

So Justin and I set-up our instruments and were about to play as I remembered one of the things that Louisville was famous for, took note of the bar’s particle-board walls and said, "Hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this entire bar is made from recycled Louisville Slugger baseball bats, what are the chances?!?" …No response, except for blank stares and possibly a hint of "Now we will beat you up for making fun of us." We were the only ones laughing (nervous laughter?). I wondered, "Did they even hear me? If they heard me, they would be laughing, right?" and proceeded to re-tell this bombed joke to the exact same reaction. Boy, that was a fun night!

1906 San Francisco Earthquake Commemoration

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Oakland Museum of California http://www.museumca.org
Description of 1906 Earthquake Exhibition

About 100½ years ago a 7.8 magnitude earthquake (with some estimates placing it as high as 8.3) shook the San Francisco Bay Area, toppling buildings in what was then the American west coast’s largest city. Even worse though, a fire broke-out that ultimately devastated 80% of San Francisco and killed at least 3000 people. To commemorate this disaster, the Oakland Museum of California held an exhibition this summer from April through August. I was able to ride my bike over there and participate in the exhibit during its final week.

Unique displays included:
* Old tents that families had lived in after their houses had been destroyed.
* A shaking platform “ride” that simulated a 4.5 quake that half-tempted me into thinking that earthquakes are “fun.”
* Trolley transfers from 5:12am April 18th 1906 (the exact moment of the quake).
* A display titled “Make Your Own Seismogram” which involved something that looked like a large weighing scale, an invitation to jump on it, and a read-out at eye-level that indicated the “magnitude” of your jump on the Richter Scale. (I didn’t get to try this—some hefty people were hogging it!)

Some reasons why the fire got out of control:
* The water mains that supplied all the fire hydrants were broken during the quake. Only one at the top of a large hill (corner of Church & 20th St.) worked. Because it continued to work, some consider it a miracle, and each year descendants of the firemen hold a ceremony in which they spray-paint this “miracle fire hydrant” golden.
* The San Francisco fire chief was killed during the initial earthquake—a building collapsed onto the fire department’s roof as the chief and his wife slept in their bed.
* This fire chief was one of two people in the entire city that had access to dynamite, but he was the only one who knew how to use explosives in order to set-up proper firebreaks. Supposedly, the other guy with dynamite access started detonating explosives sort of randomly which did more harm than good (it caused the fire to spread and people were even thrown into the air!). It turned-out he was drunk. Eventually, someone sober and qualified was given access to the dynamite—an effective firebreak was finally created by dynamiting the entire street of Van Ness!

Airport Muzak Log

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

Sometimes when i’m flying to a distant location for business, pleasure, or funeral, it’s fun to play a little Name-that-Tune game, and catalog the results in a notebook. A lot of the time, the instruments they choose to act out the melodies are hilarious—that’s kind of the best part. The Oakland Airport is very good for Muzak, especially around California’s Bay Area. Not sure if these are the right answers or not, but here’s what i’ve got:

Date: Song: Original Artist: Lead Inst:
Nov. 2004
"Mountain" Donovan ???
"Lowdown" Boz Scaggs ???
"When a Man Loves a Woman" Percy Sledge saxophone
"Dancing Queen" ABBA classical gtr
"Will You Still Love me Tomorrow" Carole King saxophone
"The Warmth of the Sun" Beach Boys vibes/sax
Mar. 2005
"Here, There & Everywhere" The Beatles electric gtr
"Don’t Worry Baby" Beach Boys flute/sax
July 2005
"Baby It’s You" Motown guitar
"My Guy" Motown saxophone
"It’s a Beautiful Morning" ??? guitar
"One on One" Hall & Oates vibraphone
Aug. 2005
"Feel the Earth Move…" Carole King saxophone
"Give Me One Reason" Tracy Chapman organ
Same Old Song" Motown saxophone
Sep. 2005
"Sugar Sugar" Archies electric gtr
"Holiday" The Bee Gees strings
Jan. 2006
Watching the Detectives" Elvis Costello elec.gtr/piano
May 2006
"Darlin’" Beach Boys electric gtr
July 2006
"Cherish the Love" Madonna classical gtr
"Love Will Keep Us Together" Captain & Tenille saxophone