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When I want to freak myself out, “I” think about “me” thinking about having an “I.” The only thing stupider than puppets talking to puppets is a puppet talking to itself.

Daryl Gregory

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Friday, April 7th, 2006

🦋 Song nostalgia

An idea for a meme! I have never started such a thing before but now I am going to try it out.

Here's the idea: list 4 songs (by different artists please) that meet the following criteria: (a) You have not listened to the song in a long time. I'm thinking like 2 years minimum but adjust this limit at your discretion. (b) You can hear the song in your head, just by closing your eyes and willing it. (Well you know what I mean; it's debatable how strongly "will" enters into this activity.) (c) You would gladly listen to it right now. Optionally, write a little squib about the song, why you like it, why you have not listened to it, where you know it from, etc. Here are my four:

  • "Clean Steve" by Robyn Hitchcock: This is the song that came into my mind this morning and inspired this whole thing. I love, love the song but have never owned it, last time I listened to it must be home from college sometime hanging around with my friend Jer Egenberger who is the big Hitchcock afficionado and was my conduit to Hitchcocky goodness.
  • "Hurricane" by Dylan: I like the "Desire" album a lot but when I go to listen to Dylan, that never seems to be what I put on the record player.
  • "No Xmas for John Quays" by The Fall: "Live at the Witch Trials" was one of the first punk rock albums I ever owned and I think one of the finest. Don't listen to that music too much anymore.
  • "Here I Go" by Syd Barrett: Barrett is another artist that Jer Egenberger introduced me to. This is a pretty song and the only Barrett tune that I know on guitar. (For some values of "know": I haven't played it in ages but could pick it out again pretty quickly I think.) (Aha: Here are the chords, which I worked out 2½ years ago.)

I want to forward this meme to: music snob extraordinaire Amanda Marcotte; Becks, who is learning to play guitar; Ben Wolfson, who has some interesting ideas about music; and monster of rock Roy Edroso, who is on a bit of a hiatus right now but will hopefully be back soon. Also I'd like to know NickS's picks, so maybe Becks or somebody will start a thread about it on Unfogged.

If you participate (is this the correct verb?) in this meme, let me know and I will link to your stuff. Update: Here are responses to this meme:

posted morning of April 7th, 2006: Respond
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Monday, March 26th, 2007

🦋 Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock is one of my very favorite musicians. And yet I'm not familiar with much of his later work. My knowledge of Hitchcock is: "Black Snake Diamond Role", "Eaten by Her own Dinner", "I Often Dream of Trains", "Element of Light", bits of "Globe of Frogs", "Queen Elvis" and "Eye". Suddenly I am feeling very interested in getting to know more of his music.

Last Monday, I was listening to Irene Trudel's show on WFMU, and heard Hitchcock playing "Adventure Rocketship", which I had not heard before. The DJ came on the mic and said Hitchcock will be playing next Wednesday at the Knitting Factory. Well ever since then I've been in a state of high excitement -- I ordered my tickets and have been playing Hitchcock on my internal stereo ever since. And I'm listening to some of his more recent tracks on YouTube (especially loving Birds in Perspex; and if you have not watched this radio performance, well you really ought to) and his genius is shining through the poor sound quality.

posted morning of March 26th, 2007: Respond

I just did something I have never done, which is to call my cable provider and order a channel. To wit, I ordered the Sundance Channel, because tomorrow night at 10 they are premiering John Edgington's documentary, "Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Death, Food, and Insects". This looks like it will be really good -- you can see some trailers at the Sundance web site, although the rest of the internets seem not to have heard about it yet. This anecdote made my day.

...The reason the rest of the internets have not heard about it, is that the title is actually "Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death, and Insects". Here is the press release.

posted morning of March 26th, 2007: Respond
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Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

🦋 Weiter dazu

I was talking with Jeremy E. today about Robyn Hitchcock and realized what I have been thinking about my history with his music, which is: I was flabbergasted and overjoyed in 1985, when Jeremy introduced me to "Black Snake Diamond Role" and a little bit later to "Eaten by Her Own Dinner" and "I Often Dream of Trains". When "Element of Light" came out I bought it right away and liked it but I worried that it was just pop music, not the more meaningful, cerebral category where I had been placing Robyn. By the time "Globe of Frogs" came out, I think it was only available on CD and I had no CD player -- I tape recorded it from Jeremy (overwriting my old cassette of "Killing an Arab") but by that time I had stopped listening to Robyn besides the three records I listed first, which I idealized as sort of pristine Hitchcock, unsullied by popularity.

And now going back and listening to this stuff, I am seeing my mistake -- to begin with, "Globe of Frogs" and "Element of Light" are fantastic albums, and in no way inferior to the earlier records. Looking at the music through a filter of its popularity was hampering me from really hearing it.

I have been looking for something new to happen with my musical identity and this could be it. On Sunday when I was playing with Bob and Janis (have I mentioned that we are starting to sound really good together?), I played "Winchester" on the spur of the moment, and I could feel a level of connection to the music that is not always easy to achieve.

posted evening of March 27th, 2007: Respond
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Thursday, March 29th, 2007

🦋 Spooked

I got some records at the concert last night (which was fantastic, though I did not get into the opening act Johanna Kunin so much), to wit: old (and out-of-print) album "I Often Dream of Trains", new albums "Spooked" and "Ole Tarantula", new and unknown-to-me album "Down With Wilco" by the Minus 5. I have listened to some of the first three today, and here is what I think: "I Often Dream of Trains" is everything I remembered it being. And more! -- I had forgotten about the hilarious Uncorrected Personality Traits. (Which they played last night, I took it to be a more recent song). "Spooked" is an awesome, awesome record -- from the first bars of the first song "Television" (which they also played last night) I was thinking, this is exactly the qualities I like about Robyn Hitchcock. "Ole Tarantula" is good, but there are some defects in the CD which makes it sound funny in spots. I will get in touch with the record company tomorrow and see if they will give me one without flaws.

posted evening of March 29th, 2007: Respond

Friday, March 30th, 2007

🦋 That Voice, and What It Does To Me

I've been thinking, since I listened to the song "Adventure Rocketship", that it was a little silly, and immensely pleasant; that it might however not be among the greatest of Robyn Hitchcock's songs. Listening to it again tonight I had this thought: there is a thing Hitchcock does with his voice, that when he does it, this wave of bliss just washes over me, in a totally reliable way -- it's a reaction on a gut level and it happens quite regularly. Well in "Adventure Rocketship" he does it a lot, like at the lyric, "You crash upon a/ Star...", where it is practically impossible to keep yourself from singing along.

Which makes the song really nice to listen to, an experience of physical pleasure. But getting behind that, I'm not really sure the song is much else besides an excellent vehicle for his Voice -- whereas the songs of his I really love, like "Winchester" or "Love", they have the beautiful voice thing going on, but also another kind of beauty. Well anyway that's what I'm thinking. I do like the video for "Adventure Rocketship" a lot.

(Just now I realized that there is a way of reading the above as setting myself up to make the argument I outlined having convinced myself of around "Globe of Frogs" time -- that is not my intent at all. Songs on the new records, like "Television" which I am listening to now or "Belltown Ramble", "NY Doll", "The Authority Box" earlier, I am even at first listening grouping with the above songs that I love on multiple levels. Hitchcock's Voice, in "Television" even does the thing I'm talking about when he sings "Television, say you love me" with the syncopation before the first beat, and it works exactly like I described.)

posted evening of March 30th, 2007: Respond

Sunday, April first, 2007

🦋 Live Hitchcock, Live Dead

How exciting, an archive of Robyn Hitchcock shows! At Internet Archive of course. Also there are nearly 3,000 Grateful Dead shows and studio dates, earliest from 1965.

posted afternoon of April first, 2007: Respond
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Monday, April 9th, 2007

🦋 Perspex Island

I've been listening to this record constantly since I got it last week and I think it is maybe the best rock and roll album I have ever heard. The songs individually are masterpieces, and the connecting thread running between the songs and through the album -- well it's enough to take my breath away.

So that said -- I have gotten into my head that I want to write about the record, as a first step toward writing about Robyn Hitchcock's music. I want to write about it song by song, communicate some of the ideas it puts in my head. That is a project I am going to be taking on over the next couple of weeks -- this link will take you to the thread of posts about the record. A little background:

Recently when I was getting interested in Robyn and looking around You-Tube to see if I could find any of his performances, I clicked on an MTV acoustic performance of "Birds in Perspex" and I thought That is about the most beautiful thing I have ever heard out of Robyn's mouth. Turns out the rest of the record is equally miraculous. Here is some of what I find by searching Google for information on the record.

  • It's Hitchcock's 16th recording, his "least abstract and most revealing to date". Hitchcock thinks "If one of these songs cracked it would stay broken."
  • Pete Dooley hates it as "an American album by a British band".
  • Mark Fleischmann thinks it is Hitchcock's best album since "Black Snake Diamond Role". Robyn tells him that he wrote the album around the time he was getting together with his wife Cynthia Hunt.
  • 3 songs from Perspex Island made the charts, according to Chris Kocher.
  • Paul Shrug says that Hitchcock "released Perspex Island exactly at the moment I needed it". I didn't listen to the record then (1991) but I am finding that the record is exactly what I need at this moment.
  • Ira Robbins (and/or his co-author Michael Pietsch) doesn't think Perspex Island sounds much like Hitchcock (a sentiment I am finding bizarre) but still calls it "poignantly top-notch".

posted evening of April 9th, 2007: Respond
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🦋 Perspex Island song by song: Oceanside

Listen to the beginning -- the choral voices come in slow, gaining force, then bang! comes the beat, and Hitchcock singing to you about seaweed and descent. This song gets you moving and movement is going to be a constant force on this record. Maybe I will find today, maybe I will lose tomorrow, he tells you, and you're in his moment, rolling across the golden sand and out into the waves. Floating and sinking are all you can do. ("The big red sun that won't go down") Listen to what Hitchcock does with his voice, the way he sings the chorus. Listen to the way the background vocals introduce him. This is what I want rock and roll to be.

posted evening of April 9th, 2007: Respond

🦋 What a show

If you have a couple of hours free and want to listen to a Robyn Hitchcock concert, listen to this one. Highlights:

  • "I Got the Hots for You" (track 4) is a great performance of a great song, and the patter leading into it (which is actually at the end of track 3) very funny. All of the inter-song patter throughout the show is great.
  • "Lictus House" (track 5) knocked me over.
  • Deni Bonet plays violin on the final 6 songs, she is marvelous. "Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)", the second-to-last track, particularly stands out, as does the violin part in it.

Some annoying audience noise but oh well.

posted evening of April 9th, 2007: Respond
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