Monday, January 10, 2011

The Joy of Organs.

[ NOTE: Musical, not spleens. That's a post for a darker day. ]

Oh, dearest Reader (she says, with a world-weary sigh). It would seem that my New Years Resolution to write more has gone rather unfulfilled since—well, since I made it. This is due in part to the fact that I was away (in the Apple),  then with Cold,  then amping up to perform in a Bowie tribute show (this past Saturday in Woostah, for the Thin White Duke's 64th—a total blam blam had by all). Meanwhile, a friend got me hooked on crack-cocaine  Dollhouse, the most recent(ly cancelled) Joss Whedon show, about the ethics of programmable people—except with adventure & kung-fu & zexy, zexy ladies. The point is, whatever free time I had between traveling via Fung Wah & strumming out "Andy Warhol" was spent drool-headedly following the travails of Echo & co., leaving writing where it so often unfortunately lies: on the wayside of my Silly Putty brain, dear Reader. The way-far-away-side.

Anyhow. Now that I've finally cajoled myself over to these keys, I'm struck with an onslaught of things to write about—so much so that I actually began an entry titled "Things That Are Good" & proceeded to make a giant cross-genre list (from "Jhonen Vasquez" to "themed Band-Aids"), which was proving a) too long, b) too tiring, & c) using up a fair amount of topics that would make better fleshed-out posts of their own. (The Band-Aids epic is in the works as we speak.) So, with that in mind, I've chosen but one of these many bustling topics, & it goes a little something like this:

Uses of the Organ in Popular Music.

I believe I briefly mentioned this particular preference of mine a few weeks ago when commending the song "Change" by The Young Veins for its skillful deployment thereof. I just think the organ makes such a wonderfully rock 'n' roll sound—which, on the other hand, often damns it as too retro for the modern rock outfit. (Think "Light My Fire"; it was a 60s staple.) Still, I say it transcends decades—or, at least, ought to—& here's some proof:

[ EDIT: In this post's original conception, it was almost all old(er) songs, which were then replaced, in favor of championing my intended agenda—that is, getting '10s bands back to the organ trend. However, having been tut-tutingly reminded of some I eventually excised, I've decided to add them back. Because, really, they're damn good—&, one can only hope, inspiring. ]

Incense & Peppermints—Strawberry Alarm Clock.

We'll start squarely in that classic era, though, with some of my favorites there from—first of which is this bizarre nugget, the epitome of 60s-trancey. Incense & peppermints, the color of time... Giddy-wonderful.

Whiter Shade of Pale—Procol Harum.
This song always reminds me of Martin Scorcese's contribution to the New York Stories short-film trio—the one with Nick Nolte the painter & Rosanna Arquette, his assistant. Moreover, though, this is just a painfully fantastic song, primarily because of its organ's warble: rounded but shrill, soft but biting. Bitter, so bitter, but beautifully so.

She's Not There—The Zombies.
The Platonic pop song—harmonized & catchy; builds & bridges amping to a sustained trill of chorus; bubbling, upbeat, but just minor enough to retain some edge. Perfect for car-singing, city-walking, & the like.

Rock Lobster—The B-52s.
What love I have for this band. I've often told a friend, who does a flawless Fred Schneider impression, that if I could choose anyone to narrate my life, if would be him. Evidence of why, here.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida—Iron Butterfly.
Another movie-reminiscent track: this time, from the climactic scene of Manhunter, featuring the first (& oft-forgotten) portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, by Brian Cox instead of Mr. Hopkins. It's a really excellent movie—& an excellent song, long & dark & rambling through the Gadda-Da-Vida (or, rather, Garden of Eden, when you're not too languid & drug-tongued). Perfect soundtrack for ceiling staring, late-night hairbrush vocals—&, of course, final-battling serial killers.

You Keep Me Hanging On—The Ferris Wheel (Supremes cover).
A really profoundly excellent cover that showcases the organ with room to spare. Some say it's inferior to the Vanilla Fudge version, but personally, I prefer this less popular take. More soulful, I think. Funkier.

Raw Power (Live, Mantra Sessions, '77)—Iggy Pop (feat. David Bowie).
One of my all-time Iggy favorites, live & Bowied, punched up with an airy organ accompaniment. Mmmmmhmm. (Download the whole album HERE, thanks to brilliant & beautiful angels over at Punk Not Profit.)

Teengenerate—The Dictators.
Who ever said a punk song couldn't have a church-worthy intro? Moreover, if you aren't into the Dictators, be so, & quick. Their first album, Go Girl Crazy! was a major inspiration to the founders of Punk Magazine, who (so the story goes) first coined the term.

All the Young Dudes—Mott the Hoople.
Written by Bowie for Ian Hunter—a glam anthem if ever there was one, made all the better by its synthy augmentation. (Also: a thousand props to Nikki Luparelli & co. for ending with it on Bowie night!)

Glass Smash—The View.
I've been meaning to write about this band for an eon & a half—because I adore them, heart & soul—because Kyle Falconer's voice is perfect in every way (screamy, scratchy, super-fucking-Scottish)—&, of course, because one of their songs has a prominent organ riff.

Jonathan David—Belle & Sebastian.
Adorable & meandering—off their singles collection, Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. Like their best: sweet but never saccharine, evocative of a bike ride in summer down some endless midwest highway.

Always Crashing in the Same Car—David Bowie.
Okay, I know, Bowie overload—but at least allow me my proof that the organ works even in Eno-abstracted electronica. Also, it's my personal opinion that everyone should listen to this song more than they do.

Dreaming of You—The Coral.
Best for last, of course. Not "best song," necessarily, but definitely "best use of an organ in (my) recent memory." Quick & choppy & wonderful—unabashed showcasing of my most beloved of instruments, & there's even some brass in there. Songs like this make me dare to hope we're ever-closer to my dream of reigniting the big band craze...

Of course, I'm missing millions, I'm sure. If you can help my brain reclaim these glaring omissions, please, comment. I'll be ever-grateful.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

I think it would be an understatement to say this band blew the fucking house down at the Bowie show this past Saturday. I mean, everyone was fabulous, of course of course, but this band gets extra points in my mind, for two important reasons: 1) Their lead singer (nymmed David Jackel! How excellent!) has a perfect voice for Bowie covers & therefore, bolstered by a seamless backing track, was able to fully deliver. 2) They played "Sweet Thing." (!!!) I'm sorry: I still can't get over the extent to which that made my night. Because it's always been one of my all-time favorites, ever, but I've also always felt alone in that opinion—if not entirely, then at least enough so I'd never in my wildest dreams expect someone to do a (really good) live cover. & the response of Mr. Jackel when thanked (perhaps too profusely)? "Of course." Excellently, excellently played, sirs.

So, of course intrigued (& blessed with relatives who know just enough about me come holiday season to prescribe generous amounts of iTunes), I went exploring & ended up purchasing their album & EP & even tracking down their free download from Bandcamp. (I'm one to delve—what can I say...) I'm still processing, of course, but so far I like what I hear. As of now, I've provided their album opener for your listening pleasure: just jaunty enough—guitar wailing right, beats egging on the 2-4-2-4, glammed out vocals. No organ, sure, but excellently played, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. (reposted from FB more or less)
    fab post, as always! but, well, being born way, way, way back in the distant past, i would consider it a lapse not to mention the following bands (with an instance of notable organ exercising given parenthetically):
    ? & the Mysterians (96 Tears)
    Crazy World of Arthur Brown (Fire)
    Deep Purple (Hush)
    Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin')
    Steppenwolf (Magic Carpet Ride)
    Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon)
    Kansas (Carry on my Wayward Son)
    & basically everything by Booker T & the MGs; Emerson, Lake, & Palmer; & Yes.
    btw, all the named songs are fabulous & incredibly catchy, if you haven't heard them (so you should).