Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 22, 2004
POP CULTURE: Five Songs, Vol. I

I'm kicking off a new intermittent feature here on the site (bearing in mind the unfinished nature of many of my prior serieses of posts): Five Songs, in which I'll post about five selected songs that I've been listening to lately. Hope you enjoy.

1. Forgotten Years, by Midnight Oil - "Who can remember, we've got to remember" - a heartfelt tribute to the tribulations of generations that fought wars (written in that whole "end of history" mood of the early Nineties), with a driving beat and a moving video shot amidst rows of crosses. Of course, it's no longer entirely true of America (though for the moment it remains true of Midnight Oil's native Australia) that "Our shorelines were never invaded, our country was never in flames".

2. Night Train, by Guns n' Roses - The Gunners at their best. One funny thing: there's a line in the song where Axl, in full "see how much of a badass I really am" mode, sings, "I got a dog eat dog sly smile." But until I read the lyrics, I thought he said, "I got a dog he doubts my smile" (listen some time and you'll see what I mean), which conveys a much more menacing thought - a man whose dog doesn't even trust him. Two bonus Guns n' Roses items. First, the band did a demo cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that got leaked to New York's Z100 back when I used to listen to the station (hey, I was in high school), and it went in heavy rotation for a few weeks until some sort of legal action quashed it. I hope they find a way some day to unearth this one - it was just dynamite, fast-paced full-tilt rock that made the classic original sound pokey by comparison. Second, and listen closely before you laugh at me: listen to the "sparks flying" part of the bridge in "Welcome to the Jungle" (the part leading up to where Axl screams, "you're in the jungle baby, you're gonna dieeeee); then listen to the sound of Satan's fiddlers in The Charlie Daniels Band's 1979 novelty country tune "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Tell me they aren't basically playing the same sound.

3. Comfortably Numb, by Van Morrison - The Pink Floyd original is definitive, of course, but Morrison's interpretation, from the concert at the Berlin Wall, is quite different; while David Gilmour's purposely flat vocals give expression to the singer's drug-induced distance and emotional alienation, Morrison invests the song with a lot more emotion, singing about the pain of loss rather than portraying absence.

4. I'm the Ocean, by Neil Young with Pearl Jam - Young, famously, is a master of both heavy metal and easy listening; this is in the former vein. The "Mirror Ball" album he did backed by Pearl Jam is uneven, but has some good stuff, this song among it.

5. Human Wheels, John Mellencamp - Another song for just the right mood - melancholy, without being depressing, and with a hypnotic, cycling beat. Should rank with Mellencamp's best.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:44 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Iíve heard Mellencamp say that Human Wheels is his best album. I think he mustíve been high on fried chicken fumes when he said that, but the point is well-taken that it is an underrated CD.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at May 22, 2004 7:44 PM

Finally, some love for Midnight Oil. As far as I'm concerned, both Blue Sky Mining and Diesel and Dust belong in the any "best of" compilations for the late 80s/early 90s. Also a tremdously powerful live band, if you can move past the sometimes whack-job politics.

Posted by: frinklin at May 23, 2004 9:22 PM

I love it, right wing bloggers lovin on Midnight Oil!

You may want to re-read the lyrics, I don't think they are quite making the point you've interpreted...

Posted by: Adrock at May 23, 2004 10:02 PM

I'm aware that Midnight Oil is a pretty left-wing outfit (witness songs like Blue Sky Mine and Beds are Burning) but the lyrics for Forgotten Years seem like a pretty straightforward "give thanks for all the ones who went before" stuff, and it's not only the Right that values those sacrifices. Right?

Posted by: The Crank at May 23, 2004 10:06 PM

Night Train was always my least favorite song on "Appetite". My Michelle and Rocket Queen were always my preferred sleepers on that album.

Anybody got any good new music to recommend? I can barely listen to non-tlak radio at all and have no dea what the hell is going on...

Posted by: Mr Furious at May 24, 2004 1:25 AM
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