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>Baby, I Love(d) you

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Ellie Greenwich, who co-wrote “Be My Baby”, “Leader of the Pack”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “River Deep, Mountain High”, died today. She was a very important person in my life and I never even knew what she looked like until I looked up a pic today.

Written by alexgfrank

August 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm


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>The buzzword in fashion for the past decade has been “high/low”, which implies a girl or boy who mixes Chanel with H&M. This has been Vogue’s supposed sensibility. Well, it’s been the trend in cultural criticism too, probably for longer. I like writers who can discuss George Michael and economist Emanuel Sanz only one blog post apart, like Joshua Clover. But of course, because I’m no elitist, I spend most of my time reading his stuff on the former, as opposed to the latter. This excerpt about George Michael from his new book has some funny things to say:

“George Michael’s “Freedom ‘90” does not of course concern world events; its providential name was required to distinguish itself from the earlier Wham! song “Freedom.” It nonetheless manages to crystallize the feeling of the post-Wall moment without taking a stance regarding it, through its sense of unbounded duration as liberation, its formal evocation of the sudden absence of barriers — and its sense of this as something potentially intrinsic to the music, to the truth of pop.”

“…the song’s unabashed pleasure in the very pop it claims to have exposed and outgrown… “Heaven knows we sure had some fun boy, what a kick just a buddy and me,” he sings, referring to his supposedly abject days in the germ-free duo Wham! “We had every big shot good-time band on the run boy, we were living in a fantasy.” That this delight is casually tied to a male-male bond — that is, to the confessional’s half-hidden truth — is one of the secrets the song yields;”

…Against the masculine-coded renunciation of pleasure which historically defines the “mature” rejection of pop (which is for women and children), the song poses the truth of pleasure as the excess within pop…

I like the politics of the essay a lot because I think its important to acknowledge musical figures who do play around with pop instead of forgoing it for seriousness. And I think that deep understandings of pop are always heavily gendered, or sexualized. And even though he only does it briefly, I like that he ties it to 90’s liberation, which would bring on a new phase in both feminism and queer rights. Both of those movements would embrace a sort of politics of celebration after the dismal 1980’s. Remember when you saw Gay Pride parades on the news and nothing looked like more fun? The liberatory politics was celebration; that doesn’t mean there weren’t serious things going on. They aren’t so joyous anymore, it was a cultural moment that’s probably mostly gone.

Kathleen Hanna picked up on this whole thing in a conceptual way when she stopped making punk, a music taken seriously by the grand guards of musical credibility, and started making dance songs with Julie Ruin and Le Tigre. I notice that people react differently if I tell them how much I love Le Tigre’s first album compared to if I want to discuss Bikini Kill. Most gay friends of mine haven’t even heard of Bikini Kill, and most straight male friends of mine don’t give a damn for Le Tigre. But Kathleen has talked about, in words more eloquent and nuanced than mine, how basically sick of punk she was and how she thought she could convey her politics to the “right people” better through danceable music

Why is the understanding, love, and attention to pop music done mostly by gays and women? What does indie credibility have to do with masculinity? Is it just a phase? I don’t think Phil Spector worried too much about seeming fey. Then again, his pop elegance was tied to an abusive relationship with the woman who sang his songs. And why am I comfortable with my gender in so many ways, yet still feel sporadic pangs of discomfort when I’m in conversation with “music dudes” and don’t know enough about Mike Watt, a person that Kathleen directed her anger at famously, or whomever?

>Weed My Day Please (set to the tune of be my baby)

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>The night we met I knew I needed dro so
And if I had the chance I’d never let dro go
So won’t you say you love weed
I’ll make two joints of weed
We’ll make ’em lose their dreads
Every place we smoke
So won’t you please

(Weed my weed my day please) Weed me little day please
(I want it only say) Say you’ll pass my darling
(Weed my weed my day please) Weed my day now
(I want it only say) Ooh, ohh, ohh, oh

I’ll make you happy, baby
Just pass and see
For every hit you give me
I’ll give you three
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I need to score you
Till eternity
So won’t you please

(Weed my, weed my day please) Weed my little day please
(I want it only say) Say you’ll pass my darling
(Weed my, weed my day please) Weed my day now
(I want it only say) Ooh, ohh, ohh, ohh, oh


So come on and please
(Weed my, weed my day please) Weed my little day please
(I want it only say) Say you’ll pass my darling
(Weed my, weed my day please) Weed my day now
(I want it only say) Ooh, ohh, ohh, ohh, oh

(Be my be my baby) Be my little baby
(I want it only say) Ooh-oh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh-oh
(Be my be my baby) Oh-oh-oh, oohh…
(I want it only say) Oh, oh, oh, oh, oooohh…

Written by alexgfrank

November 14, 2008 at 9:53 pm

>Ike & Tina Turner – Hold On Baby

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>I don’t believe a song unless I sense some urgency – if you don’t care about making the song, then I don’t care to listen. And I can always tell. But there are some Ike & Tina Turner jams that have so much damn urgency I need a warm towel and some smelling salts after a listen – these two lovebirds were holding on for dear life. From “Make ‘Em Wait”, about a a father (played by Ike, no doubt) who commands his daughter to save herself for marriage and keep it away from all those boys “who will call you Queen” when she turns 18, to, more famously, “A Fool in Love”, where Ike lays out a case for Tina to stay with someone who, even though “treats you like he do, [is] such a good man”. You think Phil Spector is fucked up? He ain’t got shit on this husband & wife. In our personality obsessed age, the cultural and personal politics of Ike & Tina’s greatest hits are, to say the least, fucked.

None more so than “Hold On Baby”, written and produced by who else but the Angel of Sonic Death Sir Phil Spector. Find me a song more fucked then this and I’ll buy you a 7-inch: Phil has Tina pleading her boyfriend (Ike) to hold on for dear life against the adversity of people trying to break them up. The nameless “THEY” are the enemy – “They try to tear us apart, you know, they try to break our hearts, They won’t be leaving us alone, until they break our happy home”. Poor Ike, having to deal with the annoying clattering of worrying-for-Tina family and friends! Of course, he finds a sympathetic ear, and recording studio, in Phillie baby. And Phil does have Ike’s back in this case, turning the aural drama up to a fever pitch. Did we just enter rock ‘n roll church? You half expect some spirit-embodied shining light to come down from the heavens and bless poor Tina when this little number comes on. With reverb on as high as it can go, each instrument and voice, especially those Ikettes in the back, reach from bottom to top of each note. This Wall of Sound extends from Heaven all the way down to Hell – there’s no getting through this one!

Tina sounds crazed too, even more so than usual. There’s an aesthetic necessity for her panic. As each “HOLD ON” gets higher and higher, the song structure forces her to strain. And he might be a dick, but Phil knows music, because just like Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, Tina soumds best when she sounds like she’s working so hard her lungs might jump out of her body. Tina’s running a marathon in this one. I’m sure it’s not one take, but aesthetically the song never stops, so the audience gets the illusion that Tina is gasping for air.

Have you heard a song more claustrophobic or suffocating than this? And no, its not just the studio environment. Phil reportedly paid Ike $20,000 to keep his mouth shut during their recording session, so that studio was probably as much fun as a date with Dick Cheney. But the song itself holds the real oppression. Phil could make his songs ethereal or domineering – there’s nothing in between with him; you know which one he picked on this one. Its aggressive, haunting, and chilling, and Phil and Tina never sounded better.


Written by alexgfrank

November 11, 2008 at 10:16 pm