Saturday, 20 May 2017

Top Ten

                              Image result for music is a drug meme 
Music is a drug.

How is that for a non confrontational opening sentence? It is a drug. Think of how music makes you feel when you hear one of your favourite songs. Not only that, but think about it, despite all of the good great and transcendental music out there, we are always looking for something new. Always hoping to find that thing that will make us a bit higher than the things we know. That's a drug my friends. I have spoken before about gateway songs and it works in the same way as gateway drugs.

In this vein I wanted to get down a record of my ten top songs. Here they are

10,000 days (Song for Marie pt2)           Tool
Everlong                                                  Foo Fighters
Curtains                                                   Aphex Twin
Like a Hurricane                                      Neil Young
Hallelujah                                                Jeff Buckley
God only knows                                      Beach Boys
Born to Run                                             Bruce Springsteen
Lost in the Supermarket                          The Clash
Three days                                               Jane's Addiction
From the edge of the deep green sea      The Cure

There is no criteria, There is no reason to the order or even a ranking within the order. This isn't to listen to on a desert island or in a lift or anything like that, just the ten best songs chosen by me, For me. Why? Why? cause fuck you that's why. Sorry, I am a little cranky as this has been a process akin to losing fingers to a beautiful sadist with a dull spoon and only a piece of wood to bite on to ease the pain. A gnawing crawling sensation inside your ear that you cant stop because of some stupid rule you made that there had to be ten songs and not 79. . . .like pushing friends into the cold black abyss of nothingness whilst sipping a slightly chilled Chardonnay and giggling knowing you might be next . . or you might not . .

It is important to point out that this isn't a 'most important to me' list. Although there is likely to be some cross over. The absence of a number of artists means that it cant be that. Maybe I will do that one when I recover.

I don't expect you to agree. Indeed if you did then we should definitely meet cause quite obviously you are me from another universe and I would love to chat. I bet you love beer too. . . Sorry, off track trying to make contact with another version of myself. . nothing to see here. Seriously, you will not agree, Because as you go through the songs you will find others by the same artists that you prefer. There will also be songs that mean more to you and there are likely to be at least 9 of those. It's OK, you are as wrong as I am. I can not make a list for you any more than you could for me.

This is not an easy process, As I am putting it out there I need to remind myself that there can be no shame. It is completely honest. Otherwise whats the point? To try and convince you I am cool? I don't care. Or I know I shouldn't. It has taken me roughly 15 hours to get this list. I am not joking.

These songs, when I recognize the first few bars, send a chill through me. A weird longing to hear the rest of the song , even though I know every note of the song perfectly. I have listened to these songs so many times that it would seriously be uncountable. They play in my head quite a lot when there is silence. Which explains a lot about me I think. Perhaps a somewhat dark reflection of my internal workings, the absence of a soul, replaced by this. A juxtaposition of how I see the world.

Or maybe they are just cool.

So lets get into them. Again there is no order to this top ten, That is a step too far.

So Tool. yes of course Tool. If you have read any of my stuff you know how much I like Tool. I am not sure this is their best song, and I am sure many would disagree with its inclusion. This song to me speaks to what so much of it is all about. You may know the song is about the singers mother and her final death after 10,000 days after a series of strokes. It is about her ascension to heaven, a belief the writer doesn't share. It is a dark catharsis of a song. With urgency on the guitar and building to a crescendo on the vocals. It to me is what Prog metal is all about. It is a song to sit in the dark and listen to the amazing musicianship, and ponder the mysteries of death. That is what the 'it' is in many respects. An artistic version of a deeper meaning we all know exists and choose to reflect upon in varying degrees.

Tool are touring and coming to London at some point apparently. I look forward to seeing them again in the same way I miss my hair..(I am pretty bald). The music is as much a part of the last 23 odd years of my life as anything else. Everywhere I have lived, everywhere I have been Tool has formed part of the soundtrack. I think that means they would make the most important list to me, although I am not sure this song would.

I actually wrote about this song just recently in my post on Dave Grohl.(you can read the whole post if you click on the link, as if by magic) It is a song of regret and coupled with the rocking uptempo drum track driving it along, Which makes it a song that manages to hold that unusual place of being a melancholy upbeat song. I have to admit they are my favourite. As you no doubt are starting to realize.

Breathe out so I can breathe you in . . .what a great lyric. perhaps sums up the song.

I am starting to realize that I do not like the film clip though. It is a cool clip and entertaining, but frankly, it doesn't speak to me about the song. I wonder if they would make the same clip if they released the song today.

So this one is a little change of pace to the last two. Why does this one make the list? Well as what I hope is a usual human sentiment , although I guess by now you are realizing that usual isn't a word that should be applied to me, maybe odd is more descriptive...anyway you can not be full guitars and drums rocking out to your own internal reflective impulses the whole time. There are quieter reflective moments. Moments to think outside of yourself, wonder at the universe. This song is the perfect ambient electronic song. I have written about my search as I delved into this world and it remains true that this is the song I like the most out of this world of artistic electronic invention.

Why? Well, in an attempt not to take it apart to see how it works and so destroy it for myself, the underlying alternating deeper tonal beat provides a base for the simpler two octave higher notes to create space and movement in the track. With the middle tones coming through at various points to stop it becoming repetitive. I think of space. To me it is an abstract musical painting. (is that pretentious enough for you?)

Another song about regret or longing. Its turning into a bit of a journey for me this. Although I don't think of myself as a person full of regret or longing at all, indeed quite the opposite. Perhaps the music allows me to understand it a bit more even if I don't acknowledge it within myself.

The song itself talks about creating a image of someone inside your own head really. To me at least, it is not about an actual person, rather a stylized image of a person that we all have, a perfect person. I like the way the lyrics are placed in the song. It creates the narrative and then lets, the frankly amazing, music take you away, then bringing you back through another verse. I love the imagery of the hazy smokey bar. I guess something we see very little of now, which is obviously a good thing in reality, but the imagery and nostalgia of it play a large part in the song.

I have written about this song a lot as well. It is a cover version of a Leonard Cohen song. I prefer this version because of the difference in the way the timing of the song works. It builds and declines more in intensity. It is a dark song, a song about the writers perceived realities of love. Like a lot of the songs on this this list, it is not really a song to be shared. Not a song you put on and enjoy with other people. The nature of the lyrics mean that that is not really possible. That doesn't mean that many people can not enjoy and bond over the song, more it means that when two people listen to it they are no doubt thinking of different things. Whilst that is true of all songs, in this case given the subject matter it is no doubt more pronounced.

Jeff Buckley also has an amazing voice, one that is able to fill the song with an emotional resonance that many people who have covered the song do not have the ability to. I want to write more about this song, but it threatens to fall into the pit of self absorption, wallow in my ideas of love, and you do not want to walk down that dark path oozing with darkness and flashes of rainbows. sunshine and faires. . So I will leave it for your good as much as mine. I am a real swell guy like that.

A completely different take on love. This song is as much about the production as it is about the lyrics and arrangement. The depth of the song, even though at only 2.32 it is incredibly short, is breath taking. Perhaps that is the point, a beautiful, succinct, statement about love. Nothing else to add. Either to the song, or by me.

I think it is a travesty that people revere The Beatles and overlook The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson is such a better song writer than Lennon McCartney. Perhaps he doesn't have as many songs, but the ones he does have are of such quality that they should be held in much greater esteem.

When this song comes on I want to get up and shout along to it.

As much as anything else, this is a song about my life. or at least how I would like to imagine it in a stylized view of it with a rocking back track. Before people jump on me and quite correctly point out that I did not grow up in New Jersey, I am well aware of this. The descriptions in the song can very easily be transposed to where I grew up in Australia though.  I will perhaps write more about this when I do my ' ten most important songs' post. Although, given the difficulty of writing this one I am not sure that is coming any time soon.

This song has a huge amount of theater in it. It is a grand story painted in vibrant colours with intonations of light and shade in equal parts making a masterpiece. It is at once both bombastic and intimate. I am always genuinely surprised when I see how short it actually is ( I listen to a lot of music that is over 10 minutes long). So much is packed into the song it always seem twice as long.

A song about alienation. A take on the isolation of modern life that is as valid today as it was when it was released in 1979. The song sounds of a different style, but not of a different age.

I came to this song quite late. Well I realized it was great later than I should have. It is great on many levels. The lyrics speak of a person we can all relate to at points in our lives. The drum beat provides an almost city-scape noise. If you listen closely there are actually a couple of beats going on. A snare and also a brush beat, i.e. a drum hit with a brush type stick (I am embarrassed to say I don't actually know what that is called - but I will get over it) it gives the beat and also a white background noise. Genius in the context of the song.

Every time I go into a supermarket, staring at the endless aisles of food and goods I don't want to eat, this song comes into my head. Reminding me of the isolation of the modern world. Where food is made with chemicals to make it look better and last longer. Done at levels just enough to pass certain laws, but not done out of the intention of nourishment. . .to make money out of our addictions . . provided to us by food manufactures as part of the price. . .

That got a bit dark didn't it.

Three days by Janes Addiction. An opus of dark imagery and musicianship. Is this the most obscure song on the list? perhaps, don't see any Taylor Swift appearing myself.

Why is this song so good? I would like to write about imagery, but that is getting to be a bit repetitive. All the songs are light and dark, that is why I like them. Like? Adore on a level where I will make snap judgments about people based on their take on them is closer to a truth. The truth about this song to me is that it has fabulous musicianship, is made up of multiple parts and so has progression similar to a classical track. It may be the best metal prog track I know. That may have been something I have said earlier about another track. .

What is interesting about this process of writing down and trying to explain a tiny little bit why I like these songs is that every time so far I have had to stop myself writing, 'this is my favourite song'. I find it interesting anyway, and it is about me as much as anything else. It means that all of the pain I wrote about at the beginning of this post was worth it. These are the songs I think are the best.

So the last song on the list. in no way less than the songs that proceeded it. There is definitely a theme coming through.

As a side point, and something I tried to allude to above in the preamble, I am trying to be as honest as I can about this process and as such it forms a bit of a voyage for me as well. Asking every time I hear the song; is this better than all the other songs I know but am not writing about? Then trying to get down why I think this is so is a very revealing process for and to me. Although one that would be very tedious to articulate in detail. Tedious for you as much as me. Imagine trying to keep you interested in continuing to read with endless, 'and this song is better than that song because I like the way the notes are held longer here and not there'. . . talk about taking away the magic.

The theme for many but not all of the songs, is a quite fast beat on both the drums and the bass, with a lot of stretched notes on the guitar. Coupled with lyrics full of imagery and opaque statements about life, love and loss.

The last verse of The Cure song perhaps sums up the lyrical element the best;

I wish I could just stop
I know I know the moment will break my heart
too many tears
too may times
too many years I've cried for you
its always the same
wake up in the rain, head in pain, hung in shame
a different name, same old game,
love in vain
And miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles away from home again.

I don't have anything more to add on this song. That is my favourite verse of lyrics

So there you have it, the top ten.

Just for a little bit of fun, because this process has been so much fun all round, here are some of the songs that came close but didn't make the list

Yes, there are a lot and this is actually after the first cut. If you want to listen, and why wouldnt you, I actually made a Spotify playlist of them (except the Tool and King Crimson songs which are not on Spotify).


Third eye
I'm not scared
Bizarre Love triangle
Back in Black
Rotten Apple (alice in chains)
Holiday in Cambodia
Exit music (for a film)
Master of Puppets
Chromakey Dreamcoat
84 Pontiac Dream
Purple Rain
Stem/long stem
Rocket Queen
OG original Gangstar
I wanna be your dog
Hallowed by thy name
1983 ( a merman I should turn to be)
I talk to the wind
In my time of dying
Ten years gone
Fields of joy
Love for sale (miles Davis)
After the goldrush
Cowgirl in the sand
The Perfect drug
Mouth for war
weak and powerless
Where is my mind?
Every you Every me
Wait and Bleed
Drive Home (Steven Wilson)
Aerials (SOAD)
Push it (live) ((Salival))
In a state

( I tried but couldn't make my mind up on Slayer or Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath so I just excluded them )

If you would like to discuss any of this (I really would - really that's why I do this) either comment below, on facebook (Music Ruminations) or on Twitter (@MusicRumination)

bye for now.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

RIP Chris Cornell (updated)

Image result for chris cornell image

In this post the stuff in italics is written 10 hours or so after the stuff not in italics.

Wow, just got a message from a friend letting me know that Chris Cornell has died. He was 52.

It turns out he committed suicide. 

Man that is young. It seems weird that someone whose music I was pretty into as a later teenager very early twenties person, who seemed to be of my generation, although he is a few years older has died. I know it is the same as the other grunge singers who are no longer with us, but somehow this seems a little less expected and somehow more shocking as a result.

I have been listening to that a lot more recently, last year or so , as my son is into it.

Getting back to the above, Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, Scott Weiland (not technically grunge at all) all seemed , from a distance, to be pretty doomed individuals. They all had well documented drug issues and whilst they were able to find an outlet for some of their pain through music and performing, ultimately they were unlikely to die from age related concerns..

Chris Cornell was obviously around a lot of those guys as well as the whole Seattle scene which seems to have its fair share of drug abuse. Andrew Wood , lead singer of Mother Love Bone , died before the scene became the worldwide phenomenon. Mother Love Bone had members of what would become Soundgarden in it.  Cornell always seemed a little removed from it somehow. Just my perception, it may turn out he was as bad or worse than the others, but somehow I doubt it. He seemed to be more able to deal with the stresses of stardom and dare I say, seemed to be cooler and so less tied into the usual abuse cycles.

I really am quite shocked about his suicide. I have not been plugged in on anything other than I saw that Soundgarden had got back together and were touring, so I do not know why I am shocked. I guess it is my perception of him as being cooler than some of the other people I mentioned as above. I have seen a number of interveiwsAt these times people always talk about waste and surprise, I understand that having been through it, but the decision to end your own life must be the darkest and loneliest place a person can reach. 

I think that is still my favorite Soundgarden song. Certainly shows off Chris's range.

To me it is interesting that Soundgarden were considered, at least through my experience of the media, as sort of the third big grunge band. Obviously they were not as overnight successful as Nirvana, and certainly didnt generate the same headlines. They didnt perhaps have the same global appeal as Pearl Jam. But listening to their top five on Spotify as I write this, their music certainly seems to stand up better than those two. Although that is of course subjective.

So, in one of the anomalies in music, he also went on to have almost as a successful second and third carrier in music. Audioslave, was him and the three members of Rage against the Machine that werent the singer. You can here the deeper voice and more expressive vocals he produced in this incarnation. It is also perhaps better production. Not sure I really ever got much into Audioslave. Time of life thing as much as anything else I guess. I have all their albums of course, but they always seemed to be a song or two away from making a huge impact on me.

Then there was his solo career. He did that song above, theme to a James Bond movie obviously, which is certainly his most popular of this period. But then he also did a few shockers which given the circumstances he will be forgiven for and they will not be brought up again.

A new tour for Soundgarden was underway and a new album was apparently being worked on, or scheduled to be released soon. Hopefully, the vocals were done and we get to see what they came up with. I am sure there will be some release of stuff that hasn't been released before I look forward to that. I really do. Maybe it will speak to me in early middle age as some of the songs did in my earlier years

That was from a band called Temple of the dog. Made up of members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Seems appropriate now somehow.


Monday, 1 May 2017

The drummer from Nirvana

hey, wanna feel old?

It is over 20 years since Kurt Cobain killed himself. To put that into perspective, we are as far away in time from that event as that event was from the release of Led Zeppelin IV and LA Woman. (23 years). Which makes me feel really old and if doesn't make you feel old then you perhaps don't remember the event or the impact that Nirvana had.

The thing that has always interested me is the very unexpected rise of the Foo Fighters from the ashes of that trailer fire. Ever since the first Foo Fighters album it was quite clear that within Nirvana there was another fabulous song writer. Indeed the first three songs on that album are 'This is a call', 'I'll stick around' and 'Big me'.

They have stood the test of time very well considering what has happened to music in the 20+ years they have been producing and making music. If you think about the fall of grunge, Nu Metal, Boy bands, Emo, Talent shows, whatever this current period is all about (seriously, can someone help me here - what is it called? is there some unifying theme? )

Further to my point about it not making you feel old. Nirvana last put out an album of original music, so excluding the MTV unplugged album, in 1993. So, if you are a youngster, i.e. somewhere under 35 or thereabouts, Nirvana possibly meant nothing much to you. Indeed, you have only ever really known the Foo Fighters and as such don't get the connection. or worse, you just don't care. I have written in other posts  that I was more of a Pearl Jam fan at the time than I was Nirvana and how that has changed over time and as such I am not going to start going on about how wonderful Nirvana were.

I am however still amazed and very impressed by Dave Grohl. I am not sure there is another example of someone coming out of one world dominating band as a drummer and going on to have effectively a much longer and more renowned career in another band. Indeed, I can really only think of Don Henley from the Eagles and Phil Collins from Genesis who both went on to have successful solo careers. But then only to a point. I am not here to have a shot at either of these guys, if you want to discuss I would be happy to in the comments on on Facebook - Oh I didn't mention I have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle did I? Look up Music Ruminations and or @MusicRumination - happy to argue over there. My point is they went on to have great careers no doubt, but they were still drummers and were solo artists. Dave Grohl is the singer and guitar player for a different band. To me that seems quite different and somehow meaningful.

That is my Favourite Foo Fighters song. Indeed, it is one of my favourite songs. I have put it onto mini discs, burnt onto CD mixes and made many a Spotify playlist with it included. It is a great song. it is also a great song acoustically.

I think it is fair to say that the Foo Fighters have somehow managed to become one of the worlds biggest bands. I say somehow because it seems to me that they arguably haven't produced a classic album as such. The Colour and the Shape, is a very good album, As are One by One and Sonic Highways. None of these could really be considered a stone cold classic though. They do not get into many top 100 albums lists of all time for example. There are some very good songs on many of the albums, although Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace is perhaps the weakest of the albums so far. Although it does have The Pretender on it.

So, what has made them so large? For example, They headlined the Saturday night at Fuji Rock in 2005, and would also do the same in 2015.Which as I established earlier is a good 20 years after their first album.

Longevity does give bands a certain cache. Although it is a bit of chicken and egg in this as you only have longevity by being successful and you only have success by writing great songs and great songs means people will want to see you which gives you the ability to play for a long time which is longevity. So it is down to great songs then. There is no doubt that there are great songs in all of the albums released by the Foo Fighters. But I am not sure that this is it. There is also the fact that there is a certain amount of cool attached to Dave Grohl. He was the drummer in Nirvana - did I mention that, and as such many confessed music snobs such as myself are prepared to give him a pass on some of the more ordinary songs he has released. That said, not much of a pass. Chris Cornell. He of iron lungs from Soundgarden and Audioslave, released a R&B type track and you don't get a pass for that. What were you thinking man? What?

 Actually, I think it is a combination of these two things combined with the fact that they have their own style., A Foo Fighters song is quite unique. It is hard to mistake them for other people, despite the number of bands who have tried to be similar to them. In writing this I have tried to think about the style. It is quite rock I guess. But in a different way from bands that may be considered their contemporaries, like The Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Oasis or Smashing Pumpkins. It is also interesting to note those bands are not producing any good much at all anymore. Are Oasis still together in some form?

This distinctive style means that they have the ability to weather any storm or passing fad I think. In much the same way as Tom Petty, by not succumbing to the latest musical fad, their music has been able to stand the test of time and doesn't really age as it is not of an age as such.

So, well done Dave Grohl, A quite amazing story. My Hero

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Image result for dollar signs

I was thinking about what it means to be a successful band recently. This was brought to the fore when I watched a documentary on Tom Petty, a four hour documentary on Tom Petty - four fucking hours. I am going to write about Tom Petty specifically in another post, but here is a band/ performer who has been going for around 40 years, large amounts of selling albums success, critical acclaim, has worked with some of the greatest and yet seems to fall out of any argument of anything like greatest/ best/ most successful. I wonder if that is a reflection of the age we live in or the more niche aspect of his music?

So what is success and which are the most successful bands in that case?

I remember, and think I have mentioned before that I have heard Tommy Lee, he of Motley Crue,say that there are varying types of success. he puts Motley Crue up there as one of the most successful bands of all time as they sold out literally thousands of shows and that is a type of success that is different from album sales and critical acclaim.

It is hard to put the Crue into this conversation, I have no doubt that they were (are? ) a successful band. They are far more successful then almost all of the rest of the Hair/ Glam metal bands of their era. Indeed if you exclude Guns and Roses, who many will argue did not really ever fit into this category in any case, then it is hard to think of anyone more successful than the Crue. That said, being the most successful of what is an oft derided genre does not necessarily mean that they should be considered in an all time discussion.

Down that path lies a lot of pretenders. I mean Barry Manilow is perhaps the most successful of the 70s love song proponents . . . well maybe. I have a great story about Barry. Relatively recently, in the car parks of Brighton England they had an issue with young kids hanging out and doing 'bad' things. . In order to stop this so called anti social behaviour they started playing Barry's music through the loudspeakers in the car parks. This stopped the kids hanging out there. When told of this Barry said ' that would make them want to dance not leave' You have to feel for him a bit, I mean what was he going to say...

Anyway back to success, and the argument that it comes down to sales. This a clear line of distinction because if people are prepared to spend their money on your albums then obviously you are successful. The more albums the more successful. This was the music industry model until the late 1990's early 2000's when suddenly people started downloading music. It also means that no one from that period is comparable with anyone from earlier periods because the data is flawed. Interestingly, also, most of the biggest selling records of all time are end of the 70s early 80s records. Rumours, Thriller, Frampton comes alive. Eagles greatest hits etc. This perhaps needs a whole extra post about the diversification of music and the way that it became more specific and less general public listening to the standard type of stuff. Anyway, if we look at sales Michael Jackson the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are massively up there along with the Rolling stones.

This is where it starts to get interesting. As far as I can see two other areas of success would be , longevity and impact. No one beats the Rolling Stones for longevity. Sad as it is they are still going. Still selling out huge concerts. They actually released a new album recently. I haven't listened to it yet, but will now I have written this. They made a big impact when they started. Was it as big an impact as the Beatles? Possibly not. They were the perfect foil for a band that was so clearly mainstream and safe that their impact is intertwined for all time.

What about Zeppelin I hear you sort of murmur. . Well, large impact for sure. Hugely successful, roughly 10 years of longevity, sold out concerts to an extent rarely seen. So massively successful. A lot of people will argue better than Beatles or Stones as the music whilst not massively relevant anymore still holds up a bit better than the others.

The difficult part for me is this conversation then needs to include the absolute mainstream. The Take That's, Coldplay's, U2's , insert everything uninteresting but hugely hugely popular. I acknowledge their immense success with a sigh and almost a tear at the sadness involved in the masses choices. Time wasted people. . time wasted.

Bands like Oasis have to be considered very successful, but honestly, their output is so limited, arguably to two albums, that they fit into a category occupied by so many great bands. A short output but very good and for a time the biggest musical act in the world.

Which leads me on almost inevitably to Metallica. I heard someone say once probably around 2005 that it doesn't matter who you think the biggest band in the world are because it is Metallica, and has been since 1992 and the general release of the Black album. Since then, they could go anywhere in the world and sell out whatever stadium they wanted to. They just need electricity and people would come. I think this is probably right. They are the new Rolling Stones. In fact the parallels are interesting between the two of them. Although they possibly don't have a foil other than the general music industry.

So the conversation has turned into what is success to listing successful bands. I think it is difficult because as much as music is subjective then the measure of success is also very subjective. If a song reaches out to you on a hugely personal emotional level then that is also success isnt it. Indeed, that is the sort of success that many people dream of. One such song is My Way by Mr Sinatra. It is still the song played at most funerals. Sung at karaoke bars around the world. Still speaks to people on a level that very few other songs ever have. i could go on, but I dont need to because you have heard it, know it, and whether you like it or not it speaks to every single person on some level because it is about the individual.

ps. I listened to the Stones new album and as a blues album it is pretty good.