Here are twenty recently-released tracks I’ve been grooving to of late. Let me know if you have a favorite I should check out.
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“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have Bon Jovi as a member.”
– Groucho Marx
On April 14, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct several worthwhile acts and Bon Jovi. Over the next few weeks, Tunes du Jour will spotlight artists that are eligible for induction (i.e. they commercially released their debut recording at least 25 years ago), but have not been inducted as they are not as talented, innovative or influential as Bon Jovi.
Today we look at and listen to The Smiths. They sounded nothing like their mid-eighties contemporaries, creating songs that appealed to those who felt like outsiders, when in reality those people were humans with a need to be loved, just like everybody else. Lyrically the songs displayed wit and vulnerability and expressed feelings of loneliness and longing in ways never heard before in pop music. These lyrics were coupled with Johnny Marr’s fresh guitar riffs, hooks that worked their way into your head and never left, that often worked as the musical opposites of what was being sung.
The Smiths influenced and continue to influence countless indie rock artists. The way their songs played with traditional male roles opened the door to LGBTQ acts whose lyrics conveyed an openness toward sexuality, even though Morrissey, The Smiths’ singer and lyricist, has never publicly come out. Their songs are smart, with literary references one need not get to enjoy. However, they never sang anything like “I was running away from the only thing I’ve ever known / Like a blind dog without a bone / I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone / I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold.” Do you know who did? Bon Jovi.
Here are twenty of The Smiths’ finest tunes.
As we wrap up 1987 and move into 1988, we get the first music from Tracy Chapman as well as Morrissey’s first post-Smiths work. Neither artist has publicly proclaimed their sexual orientation as lesbian or gay, but I don’t consider them to be in the closet. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether or not to include an act who is believed to be gay despite not publicly coming out. I take ’em one by one.
Also included is the comeback hit for Aerosmith, in which Stephen Tyler isn’t deterred by finding out the lady he fancies is not actually a lady.
This playlist consists of twenty songs, most performed by artists who fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella, a couple with queer lyrical content.
Today is Morrissey’s birthday. I used that as my starting point for this playlist.
Songs performed by and/or written by and/or produced by and/or about David Bowie. Artists include The Magnetic Fields and Morrissey.
Back in July of this year, Morrissey, who used to make news for his music, posted on fan site True to You that a Transportation Security Administration official at the San Francisco International Airport touched his junk (i.e. his genitals, not his recently-published novel, List of the Lost). This week, Morrissey continued the one-sided conversation, saying about the TSA “It is unlikely that ISIS would stoop so low.” ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, frequently makes the news for bombings, shooting people, beheading people, and throwing people off of buildings to their death, among other things. All horrible things, to be sure, but not as horrible as having someone touch your testicles. Morrissey for president! Oh, wait – he’s British. Darn!
This week Thom Yorke of Radiohead compared YouTube to Nazis, as YouTube makes its money from the work of artists, “like what the Nazis did during the Second World War.” He asked “What’s the difference?” Hmmm…I’m stumped. What is the difference between the political party that put Jews, homosexuals, Africans, the disabled and Jehovah’s Witnesses into concentration camps and murdered eleven million of them and the Internet site that gave people the opportunity to watch and share “Gangnam Style?” You’re right, Thom. There is no difference. YouTube are monsters! Thom Yorke for president! Oh, wait – he’s British. Darn!
Though Morrissey and Yorke cannot run for president of the United States of America, they remind me of someone who can and is running for president, Dr. Ben Carson. Carson said that the Affordable Care Act is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” He’s right! One consisted of being kidnapped from one’s home, separated from one’s family, shackled, treated as someone else’s property, being forced to work in inhumane conditions, and being abused, while the other provides Americans with health insurance. I bet you don’t know which one is which! They’re practically the same thing! Ben Carson for president! Oh, wait – he’s a fucking moron. Darn!
Until one of these geniuses becomes president, or until YouTube puts me in a camp, a TSA agent throws me off a building or Blue Shield forces me to pick their cotton, I’m going to keep on dancing. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu,” which features Jay-Z, who turns 46 today.
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Tove Lo knocks The Black Keys from the top spot in Glenn’s Ten this week as “Habits (Stay High),” her first entry, is the new #1. George Ezra moves up two spots to #4 with “Budapest,” my favorite song of 2014 that is named for an Eastern European city (no offense to Morrissey). Holding at #7 is Mary Lambert, who sings of her bipolar disorder, truancy and poor sartorial choices in a song called “Secrets.” Mary – if you’re telling us all of these things about yourself in a song, then by definition they are not secrets. Good earworm, though. At #9, Pharrell Williams attempts to once again get lucky by reuniting with Daft Punk.
1 – “Habits (Stay High)” – Tove Lo
2 – “Gotta Get Away” – The Black Keys
3 – “Beggin for Thread” – Banks
4 – “Budapest” – George Ezra
5 – “i” – Kendrick Lamar
6 – “Put Your Number in My Phone” – Ariel Pink
7 – “Secrets” – Mary Lambert featuring BoB
8 – “Let Me Down Easy” – Paolo Nutini
9 – “Gust of Wind” – Pharrell Williams
10 – “Low Key” – Tweedy
Today’s playlist are the above ten tracks followed by ten songs that were #1 on this date in Glenn’s Ten history.
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If memory serves, some time in late 1984 Glenn O’Brien, in his music column in Interview magazine, mentioned a band that was all the rage among music critics in England. “Thus far the only people in the United States who have heard of The Smiths are some pretentious yuppies at Brandies University,” he wrote. I don’t know if I’d call us yuppies – we were college students – but my friends and I had discovered The Smiths.
Kathy discovered them when she studied in London for a semester. While there she made me a mix tape that included The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” Its catchy melody and distinctive vocals hit me immediately.
Around the time O’Brien wrote the above-referenced item The Smiths released “How Soon Is Now?” The lyrics included “’There’s a club, would you like to go? You could meet somebody who really loves you / So you go and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die.” It’s like Morrissey, the band’s lead singer/lyricist, was reading my diary! The record went to #1 in Glenn’s Ten, though failed to chart nationally.
Morrissey’s over-the-top lyrics (and I mean that description in the most flattering way) coupled with Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar riffs separated The Smiths from other bands of that era or any other era. Songs such as “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and “Girlfriend in a Coma” were not the minor-key dirges their titles suggest. They were uptempo, in major keys, and melodic.
The group’s artistic pinnacle was their 1986 album The Queen Is Dead, #22 on my Top Albums of All-Time list. The lyrics are Morrissey at his most Morrissey-esque. “If a double-decker bus crashes into us – to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die” and “Sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.” Marr juxtaposes these words with music that invites the listener to sing along.
Morrissey, who turns 55 today, releases his new album, World Peace Is None of Your Business, this July. Here are a few of my favorite moments from his career. (The Spotify embed tool still is not working.)
BEST PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave
ACTOR: Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Her
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave
FILM EDITING: Gravity
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gravity
ANIMATED FEATURE: Frozen
COSTUME DESIGN: American Hustle
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Dallas Buyers Club
VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity
SOUND MIXING: Gravity
SOUND EDITING: Gravity
ORIGINAL SCORE: Gravity
ORIGINAL SONG: “The Moon Song” from Her
Here is your Academy Awards-inspired playlist: