Archive for February, 2011

Brian Happy

Posted in ineffably poignant, my favorite song on February 1, 2011 by jonathanghess

This performance by The Beach Boys is by no means an “Odditty”, but it moved me, and I wanted to share it with you.

The band sometimes looked and sounded a bit wobbly in vintage TV performances; they’re still usually pretty strong- they were pros- but they were also very young, and I’m sure terribly nervous to be on national TV. And inevitably, one can’t help but feel particularly for Brian, famously fragile, and at this song’s point in time (with the Beach Boys Today! LP) soon to retire from public performance at his own tortured request.

But you wouldn’t know that from this confident, rockin’ performance. The band kills, the sound is totally together- the vocals full and the instruments tight; everybody is smack in the groove. My eyes are instantly drawn to and stay on Brian, who looks at ease and in complete control; eyeing the audience with a confident, Elvis-like crooked smile, then closing his eyes and listening… riding the sound like a wave.  The inter-band symbiosis is working, and one gets the impression that if Brian was happy, everyone played it right.

The narrative is witnessing the ingenuous genius, at a time when we now know was coming to pieces emotionally (and soon to enter decades of darkness), rise to the occasion… at least for the duration of one wonderful song.

Vera- Take Me To The Bridge

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 by jonathanghess

Your New York Cit-tay Woman!

I found this next selection while poking through the hundreds (thousands?) of generic white-sleeve 12” dance discs at my last record store job. San Francisco is a great place for certain genres of records. Rock, obviously, but the locale is also dependable for wild Asian pop music (The Stylers!), discos Latinos (Los Sepulchuras featuring Dulce Maria!) and, for sure, quality vintage disco dance music!

Why is that?

…Girlfriend, please.

I love that the sum of this moody dance rocker is greater (or at least better-than-average) than its mediocre parts; I’m a big fan of inspired mediocrity- atta boy, fellas! Teamwork! The chorus for sure is an undeniable killer, despite or maybe because of the fact that the call-and-response lyric makes no sense whatsoever. The ascending synth-string harmony in particular gives my musical center goosebumps of pleasure; I can picture this tune  providing a moment of early-evening dancing transcendence for the mustachioed minions as the night’s first hits of acid and/or poppers and/or crystal meth kicked in!

And Vera? Like all the rest of the elements of this production, nuthin’ special. A dispassionate New York City Woman staring moodily at her featureless reflection in the black mirror of a subway car’s window. In all likelihood Vera was probably just a girlfriend of producer/writer/coke dealer Louie Toteda, and a handy if reedy-voiced mouthpiece for his philosophies:

Come on lover, leave all the confusion

Loosen up and forget your illusions

It’s no use to be alone

There’s no love in a heart of stone

Right. Well, who listens to the lyrics on the dance floor anyway?

Question: This song, like the massive hit “Good Times” by Chic, is based around a minimal, throbbing minor-key chord progression played on an electric piano. That “moody” sound is a definite disco cliché. Why is so much disco dance music sound so morose? Could it be that the producers are responding to the Mr. Goodbar-like tragedy inherent in the prowlings-for-strange-new-flesh that is the subtext (if not subject, outright) of a night at the disco?

I think, perhaps, yes.

Vera- Take Me to the Bridge