Tag Archives: Eagles

Nostalgia over music that made me want to stab myself in the face

cutting crew

I recently made a station on Pandora that I call “The Worst Pandora Station Ever.” I have filled it with songs that tortured me during my teens and 20s — terrible, terrible pop music. Why did I do this to myself? I guess it’s a combination of nostalgia, humor and self-torture. I don’t exactly know why, but I get a certain perverse pleasure out of it. It puts me back in a time when I didn’t have much choice and was stuck listening to these things.

It feels really weird having to thumbs-up songs I hate and thumbs-down songs I like. Also, if I listen with half an ear while doing something else, I will sometimes catch myself grooving on it a little. I sent this to a friend whose musical taste I respect and I got back text messages like “Gah, how could you do this to me?” Then a message, “Oh no! My wife likes it!”

One of the most insidious things about this type of music is that it’s often quite catchy. You might hear one of these songs and hate it, but it will be echoing in your brain for hours.

A few days ago I went into a convenience store and heard a perfect example: “Into the Night” by one terrible hit wonder Benny Mardones. I had to look it up. I knew the song, but not the singer. It only gets worse when you see the video. That girl’s dad seriously needs to call the police.

Another one I was discussing with my brother is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. One of the most cringeworthy songs of my youth. And what the hell is is going on in that video?

Some other examples are:

“We Built This City” by Starship (easiest call ever)

“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Karnes

“I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” by the Cutting Crew

“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry and “Open Arms” by Journey (Journey and Perry make a lot of justified appearances on this bad music station, yet Journey at one time was very good, including their album Escape that included the terrible ballad “Open Arms.”)

“I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” by Michael Bolton

“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt (newer than most of the others, but I hate it so much)

“All Out of Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” by Air Supply or really anything by Air Supply *shudder*

“Right Here Waiting” (or anything) by Richard Marx

“Lady in Red” by Chris DeBurgh

“Missing You” by John Waite

What makes a “bad” pop song?

Obviously it’s subjective.

For example, “These Dreams” by Heart. I should hate that song. It was co-written by Martin Page, who wrote the hideous Starship hit “We Built This City.” But I always liked it. Perhaps because the lyrics are courtesy of Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for so many of Elton John’s best songs.

I have friends who are always ragging on artists I think are solid, despite a few duds here and there. The Eagles, Phil Collins and Hall & Oates come to mind.

I also realize there’s some overlap with AM Rock Radio music, which I actually think was overall quite good. Now and then a song will pop up that KINDA fits, but I have to give it the thumbs down because it’s too good. Songs by Little River Band and Steely Dan for example. I know I’m confusing the hell out of Pandora’s algorithm.

I’m sure I’m leaving out some other bad pop. Post your own list in the comments and tell me what I forgot.

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Doleful Lions – beautiful ballads for the zombie apocalypse

Doleful Lions Jonathan and Robert Scott

Make fun of old horror movies all you want, but if you saw one as a child, it stuck with you didn’t it? There is a lot of emotional power in those images — just as there is in a well-written pop song. Combine the two and you really get something special. Nothing demonstrates that better than the music of Doleful Lions. I’ve been fascinated by the group for years. The title track to The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a perennial secret weapon in my Halloween playlists.

Doleful Lions frontman Jonathan Scott lives in Plano, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago. The band started in Chicago in the mid-’90s and relocated to Chapel Hill, N.C. for several years. It  includes Jonathan on guitar and vocals and his brother Robert on bass. The brothers will give their first Doleful Lions show in two years on April 22 at the Abbey in Chicago. They just completed a new album, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison, which should be released soon — hopefully by summer. They are working on yet another album for the Jesus Warhol label and have numerous albums available on Parasol Records.

I spent several hours over the last couple of weeks visiting with Jonathan about his music, his influences and his outlook on life.

Zombies


“We are all zombies waiting to have an apocalypse,” said Jonathan, when asked about the significance of B horror references in his songs. Jonathan believes Americans are being distracted by trivialities from a creeping fascism — much like the future described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World — and disaster is bound to be the result.

“I feel like everything is a horror show. I think that B-Movie horror is a good barometer for what is going on in the world. I think we are pretty much all programmed and I think that eventually that programming will destroy everyone. I mean people are actually entertained by Dancing With The Stars, which to me is a sign of being a zombie. Most people could care less about the government taking away your rights. They have a big screen TV so who cares? It is totally Brave New World.

“It’s by design. They want us to be all preoccupied with our jobs and our rent and paying for food they know that if we are worrying about that we won’t question them taking our freedoms. People’s lives are hard, ’cause that is what they want, so we don’t question anything. We watch Dancing with the Stars when we get off work cause we can’t be bothered with what is really going on.”

His lyrics are a way of expressing his horror at the world’s problems and dealing with his struggle with bipolar disorder. They also spring from a heartfelt love of old cinema and science fiction — and growing up with access to a damn good video store.

Musical Beginnings

MusicMissionary: “Would you mind telling me how you got into music?”
Jonathan Scott: “When I was 4 is when it started. My parents had an old Realistic stereo they never used and they had a few records and I discovered it and learned how to work it and started listening. I remember they had Abbey Road, Beatles 65, Beatles VI, some Barbra Streisand record and Creedence, but once I discovered the stereo I stopped going outside to play. At that time we were living in Memphis and Elvis was huge so I went to K-Mart and bought Elvis 45s and The Eagles, John Travolta, Shaun Cassidy – you know, the popular stuff in the mid-’70s.”

MM: “Osmonds…”
JS: “I didn’t have any Osmonds, but when I was in kindergarten Kiss was huge and I heard Kiss Alive II and the music scared me and Gene Simmons scared me, but I really loved it.”
MM: “I actually had a Donnie & Marie album. Don’t tell anyone.”
JS: “Oh, that’s okay, I don’t think you should have to be responsible for any record you owned until maybe when you reach high school. I had a lot of pretty lame shit, I had the John Travolta record and really loved it. This song called ‘Easy Evil’ – I loved that song. I read a few years ago that Jim Gordon played drums on that song.”
MM: “Only Travolta song I remember is ‘Gonna Let Her In.’”
JS: “Yeah, that was the big song from the record but I liked the B-Side. That was the A side. I don’t know I was 4. I thought it was good haha.”

Hardcore Punk

MM: “So what about playing music. When did that start?”
JS: “I got into hardcore when I was in high school and really wanted to play in a band ’cause my friends had started playing music. I didn’t play an instrument, but I could sing okay, so my first year of junior college at College Of DuPage I put an ad up looking for a band that plays in the style of Husker Du/Bad Religion or the Descendents and this guy Jason called me and we eventually started a band. We were really bad.”
MM: “What year would that have been, about?”
JS: “This was in 1990. There were a bunch of bands in suburban Chicago doing similar stuff and we eventually got in contact with a lot of people in bands.”
MM: “Did y’all make songs or do covers?”
JS: “We did all originals but we did do a Mudhoney song and a Minor Threat song. It was fun though.”

Cinco de Gatos

Jonathan Scott in his post-hardcore days with Cinco de Gatos

MM: “So anyway… You left off doing hardcore and singing but not playing. When did you start doing that? You play guitar, right? Anything else?”

JS: “Yeah well, when that first band broke up, I moved to Chicago and my roommate [Dan Panic] played drums for Screeching Weasel and Jason – the guy that was in my first band — lived like a block away, so we decided to start playing, even though I had only been playing guitar for like a month. We were called Cinco de Gatos and I had to learn to play pretty fast, but we spent most of that summer rehearsing and played our first show in January of 1995. At the time, we had this dude named Ryan who had played drums in this band called Gauge playing second guitar. We did our first show and we were so bad Ryan and Dan quit that night.”

MM: “You say you moved to Chicago. Where were you before that with your first band?”
JS: “In the suburbs. We were based in the Downers Grove area.”

JS: “There was a suburban hardcore scene out there. Tony Victory lived down the street in Downers and had shows at his house all the time and now he is Victory Records haha.”

MM: “What kind of music were you guys making?”
JS: “It was really influenced by Fugazi and the stuff on Dischord Records. Also the bands on Lookout and stuff like Jawbreaker. There were a lot of bands like that at the time.”

From post-hardcore to indie pop

MM: “When did you start to develop your current sound? I’m hearing Beatles, Beach Boys, some shoegaze maybe… Very different from the kind of music you’re describing.”
JS: “Well, at the time when I was playing in Cinco I was getting into stuff like Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, obviously the Beatles, the Byrds and then the UK stuff like My Bloody Valentine, Ride. I was way into Elvis Costello too, but by the end of that band I had completely lost interest in playing post-hardcore or emo or whatever you want to call it and I wanted to play stuff like what I was listening to. Plus Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices came out in ’94 and I got that and I said ‘Screw this band I am in.’ So I bought a 4-Track in 1995 and wrote a bunch of pop songs.”

MM: “Normal pop songs? As in, not about Satan or werewolves or sci fi?”
JS: “Oh no, these songs were love songs. You know, guitar pop stuff, and with Casio keyboards — real twee stuff. I played it for Jason in Cinco de Gatos and he hated it. So I knew I was onto something.

“I have to tell you this story: When my first album Motel Swim came out, DL’s played Chicago. I was living in Chapel Hill at this time, and I played the album for my childhood friend Kevin Smith. Kevin had come up with me and been into hardcore and stuff, and I played him Motel Swim and he said ‘Dude this is the most uncool record I have ever heard.’ I felt like I had accomplished something ’cause that is what I was going for. Haha.”

MM: “So, what was it about pop songs and being uncool that was cool to you?”

JS: “Well, I had been playing in punk rock bands or hardcore, emo whatever you want to call it. Power pop is uncool at least in my circles and I really wanted Doleful Lions to be completely different from the Chicago emo shit that was going on at the time. I felt no connection to that stuff at all.”

MM: “What was it about emo that you hated? Too whiny?”
JS: “No, I just didn’t really feel an emotional connection to it — which is weird considering it is called emo — it always seemed contrived to me. I didn’t feel that music at all, but I felt stuff like Beach Boys and Flamin’ Groovies. I mean I remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Shake Some Action’ but I can’t say the same about the first time I heard Fugazi.”

Horror Movies

MM: “The main thing that has fascinated me about your stuff has been the pairing of lush pop and B horror imagery. Can you explain why you like that combination and why you like B horror movies?”

JS: “I grew up loving B movies so much. My brother and I used to watch all that stuff all the time. There is a song on the new album called ‘Julie’s Video’ which is kinda a tribute to this video store my brother and I used to go to, it is what I know so I figured I would write about stuff I know, which is Lucio Fulci movies.”

MM: “Why B horror and not ‘art’ horror?”

JS: “Because I relate to stuff like Gates Of Hell and Dawn of The Dead more than some art house movie. I think it is probably because I am a suburban kid who had access to a really good video store.”

MM: “It seems like you have a thing about zigging when others are zagging if you know what i mean. Finding uncool things and making them cool…”
JS: “Yes, there is a song on the Rats Are Coming The Werewolves Are Here called ‘The Contrarian,’ which is about myself haha.”

MM: “The B horror movie thing is a perfect example.”
JS: “Yeah, taking horrible movies and putting them in a literary context… I mean The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a horrible movie! Almost unwatchable. But Andy Milligan’s movies are charming and I would much rather watch that than Inception or something.”

MM: “How did you get into that stuff and what made you want to make songs about it?”
JS: “Well, I have been into horror movies since I was a kid and never really grew out of it, and bands like the Misfits and the Cramps have done that sort of thing before, but not really a guitar pop band at least not at that time really.”

MM: “That’s what I found so striking about your music. Pretty sounding music, but the titles and lyrics are like Night of the Living Dead. I love juxtapositions like that.”
JS: “Yeah, I do too. The new record is even more pronounced with that type of thing. The lyrics on the new record are pretty hateful and violent.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison

The forthcoming Doleful Lions album has a rather controversial title, though not everyone will get the reference. (I had to look him up myself.) Indie musicians have a hard enough time getting attention that a bit of controversy probably won’t hurt, and it might help.

Beausoleil is doing hard time for the 1969 murder of music teacher and associate Gary Hinman. Beausoleil said he was trying to collect money from Hinman, who was said to owe money to Charles Manson (yes, THAT Charles Manson) for selling a bad batch of mescaline that had in turn been sold to some rather pissed off bikers.

Beausoleil was also a musician and aspiring actor who appeared in some B horror movies and wrote the soundtrack for a movie called Lucifer Rising that he would’ve starred in if he hadn’t gone to prison. Beausoleil wasn’t involved in the Manson Family’s “Helter Skelter” murders, but his affiliation with the Family has most likely kept him from getting paroled.
Jonathan doesn’t condone what Beausoleil did and thinks he deserves to pay for his crime. But he also thinks it unfair that the man’s cultural contributions are forgotten and that he seems to be paying for murders he didn’t commit.

“I think Bobby Beausoleil should pay for his crime, which was murder, but he should not be lumped in with the Manson family ’cause he was never a part of it. Vincent Bugliosi said that Bobby was a part of the Manson family but he wasn’t. He is what I would consider a genius musician and he deserves a fair parole hearing.”

The album title has already garnered a bit of attention.
“Actually I got a message from Bobby Beausoleil the other day about the record from his wife,” Jonathan said. “She was really appreciative. I wanted to let her know we are not planning on breaking him out of prison. We just wanted to acknowledge the musical influence he has had on us. And she told him about it. I guess he got a kick out of it.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil is going to be a very dark album, as you might gather from the video of the title track, which contains scenes from the Kenneth Anger film, Lucifer Rising.

MM: “Tell me about your new album. You said it’s very dark.”

JS: “Yeah it is. I kinda gave up on everything last year. My girlfriend who I lived with I caught cheating on me. She was having an affair and I basically stopped caring about stuff. So the album is really dark and hateful.”

The song “Funeral Skies For Burst Patriot” is a good example of that darkness. Jonathan explained that the lyrics are about a fictitious assassination of right wing pundit Glen Beck. It is also inspired by Peter Gabriel’s “A Family Snapshot,” a song that tells a story from an assassin’s viewpoint.

“Like I said this is a pretty dark record,” he said. “I actually was a little hesitant to put the song on the album after the AZ congresswoman got shot.”

It’s a beautiful song, despite the subject matter:

Mental health issues

Jonathan said he has bipolar disorder. He describes himself as “crazy,” but he is functioning — earning money, paying the rent, making music. He isn’t taking medication right now and says smoking weed “does the trick” without the side effects prescribed drugs gave him.

MM: “Maybe the album [Let's Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison] is a kind of exorcism.”

JS: “Well I am bipolar and it is a lot about me not dealing with being bipolar. I stopped taking my medicine last year. I got tired of being so asleep so with this record this is me totally nuts.”

MM: “Do you want me to edit that part?”

JS: “No, I want people to know how I am. Don’t edit it at all.”

MM: “OK. Totally your call. I know some people are private about that.”

JS: “I am not. I want people to know I am bipolar and I am doing okay.”

Jonathan has uploaded numerous Doleful Lions videos on YouTube. You should also check out the Doleful Lions’ Facebook and MySpace pages. And you’ll want to hear the Doleful Lions back catalog. Jonathan will start releasing those albums soon on Bandcamp. Check the Doleful Lions Facebook page for updates.

UPDATE: The deal with Parasol is off. The new album will come out in digital format on the Jesus Warhol label and Jonathan is shopping the album around to other labels for a CD release. Find out more about the planned release and the blowup that nixed the Parasol deal.

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Tame eclecticism: Think outside the box inside this box

Friends have picked on me before, saying, “He’ll listen to any kind of crap!” Meaning they thought I enjoyed some music that was unquestionably bad. Far from it. I judge music just like anyone else does: Is this good or does it suck? In fact, some of those people enjoy bands that I would describe as sucking. What they REALLY meant was I liked some music they didn’t see how anybody could like. I will cop to that.

I love a wide variety of music and often describe my musical tastes as eclectic. A friend recently noted however that the term eclectic seems to be evolving into a genre of sorts, one that doesn’t exactly have the same meaning I give it. He describes it as “liking music no one can deny has some universal quality.”

He bases his observation largely on a KUT radio show called Eklektikos (on Austin’s NPR station on 90.5 FM) and an online station called Radio Paradise (which describes itself as “eclectic rock radio”). I’ve listened to Eklektikos a lot more than Radio Paradise, but I can say I enjoy both immensely. I can listen for as long as I have time, and I will hear music I might not have heard otherwise. I can also just about guarantee I will like every song they play.  And the fact that I do like every song makes me think my friend might be onto something.

While they do play a lot of different types of music — especially Eklektikos — I know in my bones that If I subbed as a DJ and played what I wanted to play, I would very quickly put something on that would cause the people in charge to say, “Don’t you ever play that again.” (I’m thinking of things like Coil, Lustmord, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or even Mr. Bungle. If I found people who wanted to play those, I’d probably piss them off by wanting to play the Eagles or ZZ Top. That’s how I roll.)

There does seem to be a restriction on those examples that i can’t exactly put my finger on. While the fans of Eklektikos are very open-minded and enjoy being exposed to new music from unexpected directions, there are probably some directions most of them wouldn’t want to go. I think what it might come down to is the music shouldn’t be too challenging.

My mind is now open to the point that I don’t just enjoy listening to music from many genres or from genres I didn’t expect to like, I actually get a big kick out of artists who give me something I actively hate when I first hear it, who are able to convince me that I should love it. I like to be challenged. Of course there are times when I like to stick with old favorites and things that sound good from the beginning, but if that’s all I listen to, I will eventually get bored. My brain has to be spanked occasionally or I’m not happy.

I’m not sure if the two examples I mentioned are enough to judge whether eclectic is becoming a genre or not. In the spirit of questioning labels, however, I’m not going to cede the territory. Until I can think of something better, I’ll continue to call myself eclectic and mean what I think it means.

And don’t get me wrong. I highly recommend both the Eklektikos on KUT (and other great KUT shows as well) and Radio Paradise.

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Crazy 8s – albums I used to own on 8-track tape

Anyone else remember the 8-track tape? It was a terrible format in many ways. Once I finally had to switch, I realized that. But I am still nostalgic about it. I had quite a stack of those things when I was in high school. All my lawn mowing money went into them. I made this list on Rate Your Music a while back, before I started my blog. I’m not going into detail here like I did on RYM — you’ll have to check it out there if you want to know why a rock ‘n’ roll kid had albums by Neil Sedaka and Walter Murphy — but here is the bare bones version of my 8 track collection, the best I can remember:

Boston – s/t

Van Halen – s/t

Blue Öyster Cult – Fire of Unknown Origin

Devo – Freedom of Choice

Aerosmith – Greatest Hits

Electric Light Orchestra – Time

AC/DC – Back in Black

Cheap Trick – Dream Police

April Wine – The Nature of the Beast

Eagles – Hotel California

Kansas – Audio-Visions

Queen – The Game

Various Artists – Heavy Metal: Music From the Motion Picture

Journey – Departure

Journey – Escape

Walter Murphy – Rhapsody in Blue

Bee Gees – Here at Last … Bee Gees … Live

Three Dog Night – Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits

Styx – Paradise Theater

Neil Sedaka – A Song

Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

I toyed with the idea of just copying my whole list over to WordPress with all its descriptions, but I think I’d rather use this as an introduction to the list feature on RYM, one of the best aspects of my favorite site on the Internet. I have several fun lists there, including a non-musical one about parasites you shouldn’t look at unless you have a really strong stomach. Anyway, check out this list and my others too. And if you have the inclination, check out some of the other users’ lists. I always enjoy doing that. You never know what you might find. I’ll dig up a few and promote them here in the future. See if this doesn’t get you hooked: http://rateyourmusic.com/lists/

Also, give Rate Your Music a spin in general. There’s so much to enjoy for any music lover – rate your albums, write reviews, talk to a knowledgeable (if sometimes a bit rowdy) community of music lovers. They have turned me onto so much good music.

The site has also expanded to encompass movie reviews and ratings. If that’s your thing, you’ll also find plenty to keep you occupied.

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