Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (5-2-20)

Here in California, our governor has ordered all beaches to remain closed to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner disagrees, arguing that going to a beach is good for one’s health. Said Wagner “Medical professionals tell us the importance of fresh air and sunlight in fighting infectious diseases.” Mr. Wagner believes that air and sunlight cannot be found anywhere in Orange County except on crowded beaches. He seems smart.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters said Joe Biden “has no appeal to anybody.” Interesting. Biden has no appeal to anybody, and yet he received more votes than all of the other candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. Someone needs some education. Perhaps Waters should run for office. I suggest Orange County Supervisor.

Today’s playlist is inspired by the May 2 birthdays of Lily Allen, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm, Lesley Gore, Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays, The Vaccines’ Justin Hayward-Young, Shannon, Kevin Morby, Little Sister’s Vet Stewart, Engelbert Humperdinck, Link Wray, David McAlmont, Blow Monkeys’ Dr. Robert, and Broadway lyricist Lorenz Hart.

tapes

A Ben Folds Mix Tape

When all words fail, she speaks / Her mix tape’s a masterpiece
– Ben Folds, “Kate”

tapes
The precursor to this blog was mix tapes. In high school I made mix tapes every day to get us through the 45 minute bus ride to school. For friends I made mix tapes of songs I thought they should know. After I graduated college and started a job, I made mix tapes to get through the work day. As I didn’t have my own office for several years, I aimed to make compilations that would have broad appeal, so my coworkers could enjoy them as well. It’s hard to please everyone. Try as I might, I could not get Karla to enjoy the tunes I included. She thought Whitesnake were the greatest group in creation, so how could I expect her to like music that was good?

In his book Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield writes that there is always a reason to make a mix tape. He provides the following categories:
The Party Tape
I Want You
We’re Doing It? Awesome!
You Like Music, I Like Music, I Can Tell We’re Going to be Friends
You Broke My Heart and Made Me Cray and Here Are Twenty or Thirty Songs About It
The Road Trip
No Hard Feelings, Babe
I Hate This Fucking Job
The Radio Tape
The Walking Tape
And the drug tape, the commute tape, the dishes tape, the shower tape, the collection of good songs from bad albums you never want to play again, the greatest hots of your significant other’s record pile, the night before you break up.

I love mix tapes. I love to categorize music. Not by genre. I miss the old days of top 40 radio when Led Zeppelin and the Carpenters were played on the same station. I love to find connections between songs that nobody else would have thought to put together.

There’s an art to making a good mix tape. I have my rules – open with an uptempo song, don’t clump all the best known songs together, mix in lesser-known tracks with the more famous ones.

This blog is my mix tape outlet for the 2000s. Here I usually focus the playlists on single artists (meaning playlists of one artist, not unmarried artists, though maybe I’ll make a mix tape of the latter). The art of a single-artist mix tape differs from that of a various artists collection. For that matter, the methodology varies from artist to artist.

When I created a Buddy Holly playlist last week, it wasn’t difficult to decide what songs to include. The man had a short career, so it was pretty obvious which twenty songs would comprise the compilation. The Michael Jackson playlist I created just over a week before than was more challenging. The man had so many hits and other great tracks that were not hits. In that case, I figured whoever would be listening knows Thriller inside and out, so I focused on his other releases. I chose songs that were hits but since forgotten, songs that were not hits but have held up great over time, and mixed them with the best-known songs from his teenage and pre-teen years. I approach each artist differently.

Part of the challenge of creating a good mix is I don’t know exactly who my audience is for the blog. For example, being today is Ben Folds’ birthday, I made a Ben Folds mix. Who is going to listen to it? Is it the Ben Folds fan? Is it the person who knows Folds from his only crossover hit, “Brick?” Is it the person who has never heard of Folds, but gives the playlist I listen because they trust my recommendation?

I don’t know, so I created a playlist in which my favorite Folds album tracks hang out with many of the fun cover versions he has released digitally between albums. I usually don’t include so many covers in a playlist of a singer/songwriter. In Folds’ case, he approaches covers in different ways. Some are faithful to the original, as when he performs Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” of Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes.” Some are radically different than the original versions, a la his covers of the Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly” or Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Though covers, the ones in the latter category reveal his artistry as much as his originals do.

In honor of Ben Folds’ 49th birthday, here is a Ben Folds mix tape.


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Ringo + Sheena

Bad Music I Love – Sheena Easton

Ringo + Sheena
As you may gather from my blog, there’s a lot of great music I love. There is also a lot of bad music I love. I find the combination of dopey lyrics with catchy music irresistible.

That brings us to Sheena Easton, who turns 55 today.

Her first hit single was “Morning Train.” In England it was entitled “Nine to Five,” but they changed the title stateside so as to avoid confusion with Dolly Parton’s hit “9 to 5.” Easton’s Scottish brogue could very easily be confused with Dolly’s Tennessee twang by the hearing-imparied.

The chorus of “Morning Train,” a #1 hit from 1981, begins “My baby takes the morning train / He works from nine to five / And then he takes another home.” Fascinating, Sheena! Tell us more! I’ve never heard such a unique story.

Her follow-up single was “Modern Girl,” which includes the couplet “She eats a tangerine / Flips through a magazine,” a rhyme that was used to better effect 14 years later in The Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly.”

The James Bond theme “For Your Eyes Only” came next. I have no beef with that. It’s on her fourth single where the bad reaches a new level.

You know you’re in trouble with “You Could Have Been With Me”’s opening line. “You’re the seventh son of the seventh son.” Who can’t relate to that? Later in the song she sings “You can’t even seem to love yourself, and, with a few exceptions, not anybody else.” With a few exceptions? That negates the point, doesn’t it? He doesn’t love you, Sheena! Get over it! He can’t appreciate the magazine/tangerine rhyme like I can.

Knowing she couldn’t get any worse than “You Could Have Been With Me” (she did know that, right?), she went on to do a series of fun, uptempo hits. This was after an excruciating cover of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” done with Kenny Rogers. I didn’t include that on today’s playlist. Don’t say I don’t care about you.

The pinnacle of the fun dance songs was when she invited the listener to “come spend the night inside my sugar walls.” Sweet! “Sugar Walls” was written by Prince under the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind. She would collaborate with Prince a few more times, most notably on his hit “U Got the Look.”

Spotify is very light on the Sheena Easton tracks; they don’t even have her last big hit, “The Lover in Me,” which went to #2 in 1989. Here’s what I scraped together. Strut, pout, put it out and enjoy!