Archive for the ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SPACEFACE-Holidazed EP (2018/2019).

Last year, Spaceface released a single of “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It was trippy and cool with lots of echoing guitars and keys.  I guess it came from this EP, which I only learned about this year.

Although i see that some of the songs on this EP came out in 2019, so Spaceface is messing about with time this year.

The first song is “Christmas Party (Naughty & Nice)” credited to Spaceface, Andy Clockwise and Swimm.  Swimm is a band that “makes music with the concepts of weightlessness and fluidity as the common elements in their genre-blurred sound.”  Andy Clockwise and Chris “Cookie” Hess (from Swimm) do the vocals on the track.    The song opens with jingling bells.  Then a big fat fuzzy riff kicks in and the song takes off.  Angelic group vocals sing the chorus and then the music fades out as the spoken word part comes in.  With statements like “it seems like this year we might be able… to party” and “we’ll have a merry Christmas after all as long as Jake can share his adderall,” that must be the naughty side.  While the nice side has the angelic voices singing “your presence is the only present we need.”  It’s pretty catchy and that cool opening riff comes back at the end to finish it off.

Up next is “Single Star” featuring “LABRYS on vocals (Penny from Broncho).”  I unpacked this to discover that Penny Pitchlynn’s solo project was called Labrys and she is now in Broncho.  A quiet echoing guitar flows through the song as Penny’s low key voice sings the lyrics

A single star is lighting our new way,
but is it fate? A shadow’s doubt outshines your quiet truth
A single star’s bluish halo hue, brings promise of truth
Unbroken yet fickle as a flame

It doesn’t feel overtly Christmasy, although the lyrics do tend tin that direction.  But the addition of jingle bells in the chorus do give it a holiday feel.

There is also “Wish To Come True” which is the demo of “Single Star.”  It’s a lovely instrumental version of the song.

The EP also includes the original “❇Christmas Time Is Here❇” as well as the instrumental version by Spaceface and Kwka (Mike Fridman) which ares till trippy and wonderful.

This is a nice leftfield Christmas EP–a trippy addition to your holiday party.

[READ: December 15, 2019] “Executions and Horses”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I’m going to use Jarman’s description of the story to summarize it, because I couldn’t do it justice.

“Executions and Horses” is historical fiction set during the Red River Rebellion.  Riel’s shooting of Thomas Scott at Fort Garry is often viewed as his big mistake and that Riel was hanged in 1885 because of this shooting. The Prime Minister said Riel will hang though every dog in Quebec howl.  This still echoes in Canadian politics.

I couldn’t do it justice because I don’t really know this period in history very well at all and I really didn’t know what was going on for much of the story.

The story is elliptically written and, although the death of Thomas Scott is a central moment to the story, the focus is really on someone with nothing to do with the story.  I actually assumed the narrator was a woman, although re-reading the story there is no indication of that and I think perhaps the narrator is a man.  Which means that the lesbian/outsider subtext I assigned to the story is totally false.

Rather, I guess it is just a guy who fancies Gertie the Outside Woman who “walks her manic chicken on a length of twine.”  He is following Gertie’s backside, but also wondering if they put Scott’s half-alive body under the river ice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSPACEFACE-Christmastime is Here (2018)

Spaceface is a project of one of the musicians from The Flaming Lips, Jake Ingalls.  I’m not sure which guy it is (I’ve seen them several times when he has played, but I can’t really tell all the dudes apart).  Spaceface has played a few shows near me but I have yet to be able to get to one.  I’m told their lives shows are amazing (especially given their budget).

They’ve released an album and a bunch of EPS and now they released this Christmas single.

This is a pretty trippy version of the song from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It’s slow and with a decidedly Flaming Lips vibe (which makes sense).  There’s a second version on the bandcamp site which is all instrumental.

Depending on how much you like the fuzzed out and echoing (but not harsh) vocals, you can pick one or the other–the music is memorable either way.

[READ: December 2, 2018] “Snatching Bodies”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.  Although this weekend, I’m pairing them with recently released songs from bands I like.

This is a story that uses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a central frame of reference.  Interestingly for me, I didn’t know that there was a version before the 1978 version that I know (although not well).  Fresán is referring  to the 1956 version which his narrator says he knows by heart, like Shakespeare.

The epigram even comes from the movie: At first glance, everything looked the same.  It wasn’t. (more…)

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I grew up listening to swing music so I love all the greats–Duke, Benny, Glenn.  Anyone else.  This collection fits right in that comfort zone, although they liberally sprinkle the disc with some more beat than swing pieces, which is pretty amusing, too.

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra-“Jingle Bells”
A fun instrumental swing version of the classic song.

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea-“Deck The Halls”
Obviously, Herbie and Chick were not around during the swing era.  But this song does in fact swing.  It’s a fast zippy number with some decidedly 1970s era horn blasts and percussion.  The song is nearly 5 minutes, which is long for  Christmas song, but it’s good jazzy fun.

Tony Bennett-“Winter Wonderland”
Tony Bennett is not one of my favorites, but this is a decent version.  Even if it’s not really swing.

Duke Ellington-“Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)”
The Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite is awesome.  This is one section in which he make a cool, jazzy version out of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Dance.  I love this so much.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tex Beneke-“Snowfall”
A pretty, slow instrumentalist that invokes snowfall for sure.

Benny Goodman And His Orchestra-“Winter Weather”
Peggy Lee sings the female vocals and Art Lund sings the male vocals and every one dances to Benny’s clarinet.

Louis Prima-“What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everyone Swinging?)”
Louis Prima is always a hoot, and this song is no exception.  Everyone is swinging when Santa comes to his house.

Pony Poindexter-“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I’ve never heard of Pony Poindexter before.  This version is quite dissonant.  The orchestra hits are loud and sharp and the two horns playing together don’t always meld.  But the middle section is jazzy fun.

Russell Malone-“O Christmas Tree”
This is a pretty standard jazzy version–sounds a lot like the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Delightful.

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-“Deck Us All With Boston Charlie”
The first part is a hilarious rewording of Deck the Halls, and the second part is just an insane couple of minutes of scatting.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley’garoo!
Don’t we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly welly cracker n’ too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, ‘lope with you!

Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly gaggin’ on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Ninky dinky dink an’ polly voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Miles Davis “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)”
This might be the most anti-commercial Christmas song in the history of music.  In addition to Miles’ gorgeous horns, you get a scathing attack on commercialism by Bob Dorough, who you will know from Schoolhouse Rock.  His beat-style delivery of these words is brutal.

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
You see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
And plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards, and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It’s a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy

Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Bitter gall . . . Fal-de-ral.

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it’s blue…

Louis Prima-“Shake Hands With Santa Claus”
More fun from Prima.  He even alludes to bananas (Yes We Have No Bananas) in the zippy lyrics.

Art Carney-“‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”
Art Carney in his mid 30’s reads a beat-style delivery of the titular song set to a simple hi-hat rhythm.  It is so much fun.

Carmen McRae-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This is a slow, rather long version of this song set mostly to a bass and twinkling vibes.

[READ: December 12, 2018] “A Clean Break”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Is this “The most Jewish story ever written for an advent calendar?”


It also has footnotes! (more…)

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The Empty Pockets have sent me two offers to get their CDs for free (plus a nominal shipping charge, of course).  This second one was a Christmas CD.  I hadn’t listened to their first CD yet but I do love a Christmas CD, so I thought why not add it to the pile.

There are five songs on this CD and after listening to this I’m wondering if I don’t really like The Empty Pockets.  It’s hard to bass the sound of a band on their Christmas collection, but I was pretty bummed by this disc.

The first song is called “Snow Day” and it says it was written bu Daniel McCormick although I can’t find out who that is.  It has got a  kind of smooth rock feel which is okay for a Christmas song but doesn’t bode well beyond that.

Next up is a version of “Silent Night.”  And they commit a few atrocities in this song right off the bat.  You can make the song more rocking, but you cannot mess with the vocal melody.  And they do that right off the bat.  The thing that rally bus me though is Erika Brett’s voice which is just super loud and yelling and kind of all over the place.  Never out of tune or anything like that just waay over the top.  This is just too much.  The guys also join in on verses, although I don’t know who is who [Josh Solomon, guitar and lead vocals; Nate Bellon, bass and lead vocals; Danny Rosenthal, drums].  But honestly, no one needs to sing “talking ’bout heavenly host sing alleluia.”  One of the men sounds like Darius Rucker which is just kind of unfortunate.

“One More Kiss” is a big powerful song from Brett with good backing vocals.  She overdoes it a bit, but its poppy and catchy and is not tampering with a classic beautiful so, so that’s okay.

“Eskimo Lady” is a little cheesy (not to mention offensive).  It’s a little discoey and grows cheesier with each listen.

“All Eight Days” has a fun guitar riff–like they are doing a heavy metal solo, but the song is far from heavy metal.  I like that it’s about Hanukkah, and the lyric “Just like a Maccabee, i have to wait and see,” is pretty funny.  But the song just veers too far into pop singing I guess.

“The Tree That Refused to Grow” seems like a retelling of A Charlie Brown Christmas from the point of view of the tree.  Except we see into the Charlie character’s future.  I really want to like it but it just comes off as maudlin.

I’m especially bummed by this disc because they quoted Caddyshack in the note that accompanied it.  Sigh.

[READ: December 8, 2018] “Festive”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I read this short piece and thought it was incredibly sad.

Then I watched a reading of it (on the Stephen Colbert show) and the audience was laughing quite a lot.  Perhaps it’s his delivery?  But I hate the clipped style of writing (probably true for a diary but awful to read or hear). (more…)

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1965 SOUNDTRACK: TIME FOR THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #291 (July 27, 2013).

time for 3Time for Three are a string trio who play many types of music.  There are two violinists Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall with a double bassist Ranaan Meyerand.  And over the course of their three songs (all original) they play classical, jazz, bluegrass and just about everything in between.

“Banjo Love,” features two contrary violin solos which get support from Meyer’s expressively propulsive bass.  It opens with the two guys strumming the violins before breaking into some lovely bowed playing.  Both violinists switch off solos (the blond player is a bit faster and more “showoffy” (but great)).  There’s even a bit of a bass solo after which the three guys all make a big grunt before continuing to the end of the song.

They say they are honored to be on the Tiny Desk series and compliment them on their new offices.

“Sundays” is a slow piece that features lots interesting bass parts behind the slow violin melodies.

They have funny stories about the origins of their songs.  “Don Don” is so named because the baseline goes don… don.  This has more of a bluegrass fiddle feel than a classical feel.  It’s super fast and fun with perfect slides and solos to really keep the song moving.

The notes say that they wished the guys played more, and I do too.  Interestingly I see that they have covered Daft Punk and Kanye West, so I guess they’re up for just about anything.

[READ: December 8, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966

A whole bunch of ideas that I think of as BIG PEANUTS ideas come along in this book.  May of 1965 introduced the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm and Snoopy’s desire to meet his siblings.   In July of 1965 we get the first instance of snoopy at the typewriter writing “it was a dark and stormy night.”  We see Charlie Brown refer to the tree as a “kite eating tree” for the first time.  In July 1965 it’s the first time I can recall seeing the phrase “jelly bread.”  It’s the first appearance of Snoopy as Beau, the World War 1 flying ace (Oct 1965).  And in September 1966 we get the first appearance of Peppermint Patty!

The pop culture references seem to have dimmed somewhat too, although in January 1965, Linus cries “Annette Funicello has grown up!”

The “Happiness is” quotes are fewer, although Lucy squeezes Snoopy and says “Felicitas est parvus canis calidus,” which is Latin for “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”   Of course later when he kisses her she freaks out “get some disinfectant, get some iodine” and he says “next time I’ll bite her on the leg.”

Linus’ blanket also takes on a mind of its own in March 1965 actually hissing at and attacking Lucy. (more…)

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1963SOUNDTRACK: RESTORATIONS-Tiny Desk Concert #462 (August 14, 2015).

restor I don’t know Restorations, although I understand that they usually play pretty big loud guitar rock.   For the Tiny Desk they are stripped down (I guess) to the three guitars, but no drums or bass.  Lead singer Jon Loudon has a powerful and excellent voice.  On “Separate Songs” there are two guitars and a keyboard and wonderful harmonies.  The keyboardist sings backing vocals in the beginning of the song, so that when the lead guitarist joins in later, it’s even more impressive.

The guys are very friendly and funny.  The joke about the “desk” and about their constant tuning needs.

For “Tiny Prayers” all three play guitars and there some wonderful melodies that they play together.  The Future” is the slowest song of the three, but it contains all of the same elements–cool guitar sounds and wonderful harmonies.

The band has a great sense of melody.  And yet for all that I liked t his set, there was nothing that really stood out for me about the band.  They are simply a good rock band, and that’s not a bad thing.

[READ: November 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964

The drawing style of Peanuts that I most associate with the strip has been pretty consistent by this point.  And most of the characters look “right” (although Snoopy will continue to morph over the years).

Why does Charlie Brown keep going?  Despite all of the abuse Charlie gets, this one strip seems to sum up his strengths: “adversity is what makes you mature…the growing soul is watered best by tears of sadness.”

I feel like Schulz was either looking up facts to write about for some of this year.  Because we get things like this: Lucy: “You have to have [a note excusing you from school] otherwise the school can’t collect its state-aid money.”  Is that true or has Lucy hoodwinked Linus and me?  Later Charlie tells Lucy “when cranes and herons stand on one leg they can’t be injured by ground lightning.”  Later, Linus tells Sally that birds “have muscles in their feet which automatically contract when they fall asleep (which is how they sleep on a limb without falling off).  He then says the same principle applies with Snoopy’s ears.  Is this true?

In July 1963, there must have been an eclipse as the strip spends several days telling everyone how to safely watch it.

Linus’ blanket continues to occupy a lot of attention, with Lucy continually yelling at him about it.  His blanket hating grandma returns and even takes it away (she gives him a dollar bill which he tries to snuggle with).

Linus is full of ambition in these years.  He wants to be a rancher for several weeks in 1963.  Although, horror of horrors, he doesn’t make the honor roll in March of 1963.  But that doesn’t stop him.  And in a big surprise in 1964, he runs for school president (and has but one failing…and it’s not his blanket).

Schroeder continues to dismiss Lucy, this time even saying the chances are a googol to one (and then writing out how many zeros that is) of them getting married.  In July 1963 she complains that Beethoven never made it on any bubble gum cards.  Later when Lucy asks him why he doesn’t like her, Schroeder gives a very simple answer.  She replies, “I hate reasons.”

Rachel Carson returns in Feb 1964 with Lucy saying “we girls need our heroines.”  Of course Lucy also gets this quotable moment: “The crabby little girls of today are the crabby old women of tomorrow.”

Attacks on consumerism continue with a shoddy baseball about which Charlie says “this is what is called ‘planned obsolescence.'”

Speaking of baseball, there’s plenty of it.  I enjoyed the Sunday strip where Charlie using Snoopy to show how to break up a double play.  In 1964, Charlie suffers from Little Leaguer’s Elbow (and the team does great without him).  And when Lucy hurts her elbow (and refuses to call it Washerwoman’s elbow) she says she’ll sue Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Willard Mullin (Mullin was a sports cartoonist).

In August 1963, we see the first mention of Charlie Brown’s baseball hero Joe Shlabotnik (and the very distressing moment when Lucy won’t give let Charlie have his card).

I got a real kick out of Schulz returning to the McCovey joke from last year (in January!) saying “or why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?”

In 1963’s National Library week, Sally gets her library card this time and she is even more excited than Linus was.  She even has the line: “Happiness is having your own library card.”

Sally also addresses helicopter parents of 1963: “My mother is watching me out of the window.  Mothers feel secure when they see a child of theirs playing in a sandbox.  Sigh.  She’s secure and I’m bored to death.”

The little red-haired girl is obsessed over from time to time. Especially during Charlie’s lonely lunches.

Frieda has definitely dwindled by now–even if she never really did much.  She does abuse Snoopy about chasing rabbits but in one strip, we seem him playing with bunnies and four sleeping on his stomach on top of his doghouse.  This seems to set in motion Snoopy’s love of all other animals.

Later, there’s a really funny strip with Snoopy trying to fill his water bowl from a tap.  Then it rains on him.  The punchline “That’s one I’m going to have to think about for a while” is hilarious.

And…Snoopy goes to the hospital for a couple weeks! (nothing serious).  Charlie says he has a private room “he has a health insurance policy that pays forty dollars a day!”

In September of 1963, there’s a joke about ZIP Codes (Snoopy forgets his) and then shortly after a new character named 5 is introduced.  He explains, “My dad says we have so many numbers these days we’re all losing our identity.  He’s decided that everyone in our family should have a number instead of a name.”  His sisters 3 and 4 look like Peppermint Patty (who hasn’t arrived yet).  ZIP codes were introduced in 1963.

At Halloween in 1963 Linus slips about the Great Pumpkin and says “if he comes” (like in the TV show).  He’s doomed!

In February of 1964 a whole set of strips focuses on the existence of the humane society.

And in May of 1964 we get the classic bit from the movie when Charlie puts a coin in Lucy’s can and she sings “Boy what a sound.  How I love to hear that ol’ money plink!  That beautiful sound of cold hard cash!  Nickels! Nickels! Nickels!”

In June of 1964 there is a very touching Father’s Day strip.  (Although it wasn’t officially recognized until 1966 and signed into law as a official day by Nixon in 1972).

I really enjoyed the series of strips where they clean out Snoopy’s house and the dimensions (which we never see) are enormous!  There’s stairs, a pool table and all kinds of cool things.

For years now, Peanut has had strips where charters hold up signs–sometimes for Beethoven’s birthday, or national library week.  But in Sept 1964 it gets a bit more surreal with a bird holding a sign that has  ! on it.  Later another bird’s sign says ; and ?   A fight breaks out about it.  It’s very funny.

And in October 1964 Lucy pulls away the football despite given Charlie a signed document… “it was never notarized.”

And the year ends with something of cliffhanger.  Charlie has to do a report on Gulliver’s Travels over his holiday break, but he keeps putting it off… what will happen in 1965?

The foreword was written by Bill Melendez.  Melendez first met Schulz when they collaborated on an animated commercial for the Ford Falcon in 1960.  In 1963, they worked together on a documentary about Schulz using more animation.  Then in 1965 Coca Cola contacted him to see if Schulz would like to make a Christmas special.  They had 5 days to write the outline.  They used the kids from the Ford commercial as the voices. And they had six months to make the move.  It first aired on December 9, 1965.

Melendez raves about their work (rightfully) and then talks about the many other specials the made together–a Veterans’ Day one called What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown, and a show about cancer called Why Charlie Brown, Why?   In total they made fifty network specials and 4 feature films.  He talks about how great it was that they found Vince Guaraldi for the music and that they used real kids and no laugh track.  It’s hard to believe that special is so old!

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1961SOUNDTRACK: NICK LOWE-Tiny Desk Concert #87 (November 1, 2010).

lowe Nick Lowe is legendary.  And yet I don’t really know that much about him.  I knew he did “Cruel to be Kind” which is very dated sounding but still great.  I didn’t know that he wrote my favorite Elvis Costello song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” (which he first recorded with his band Brinsley Schwarz).  He also produced a bunch of Costello’s albums.

This Tiny Desk is a mellow affair, with Lowe gently playing acoustic guitar and his low, smooth vocals singing interesting lyrics: “His heart’s a prune / when it once was a plum / If you know him / that’s the kind of man that I’ve become” (from “Man That I’ve Become”).

“Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” is done in the same vein.  Cathy, mellow pop, with an almost countryish feel.

“All Men Are Liars” is a pretty typical song about lying men, until you get this fascinating lyric: “Do you remember Rick Astley?  He had a big fat it.  It was ghastly.  He said I’m never gonna give you up or let you down.  Well, I’m here to tell you that rick’s a clown.”

“House for Sale” was a then new song.  And it’s just as sharp and strign as the rest.

At the time of this recording, Lowe was 61 and he sounds great.  His voice has changed, but it hasn’t lost anything.

[READ: October 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962

By this book, Peanuts had been in print for nearly 12 years.  And the core group has remained Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder, and now Sally.  And to a smaller extent Shermie, Patty and Pig-Pen are still around.   But in 1961 he added a new character: Frieda, the girl with naturally curly hair.

One thing I hadn’t noticed so much in previous books is that he has been getting some very funny “jokey” punchlines.  Most of the Peanuts punchlines have been funny/thoughtful/amusing.  But I felt like this book had a few that were really funny.  Like Lucy saying in response to beauty being only skin deep “I have a very thick beauty.”  Or this funny groaner: Linus: “Do they always bring the cows in from the pasture at night?” Lucy: “Of course you blockhead, if they leave them out over night they get pasteurized.” I especially like that it isn’t even the final panel.  And in 1962, Charlie asks this question when he turns on the TV and sees reruns: “What would happen if comic strips had nothing but re-runs all summer?”

And of course, there’s a lot of baseball strips.  Including this one with a great set up and punchline.  Charlie is talking about the game and how “For one brief moment victory was within our grasp.”  To which Linus says, “And then the game started.” (more…)

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1959SOUNDTRACK: TOM TOM CLUB-Tiny Desk Concert #82 (October 6, 2010).

tomtom Tom Tom Club were a side project of the rhythm section of the Talking Heads.  They had a hit with their song “Genius of Love” (you’d know the melody instantly).  I’ll be honest–I thought they only had one album out, but I see they had quite a few out and had recently re-formed and put out new records.

This set contains three songs.  “Wordy Rappington” which was on their debut, but which I’d never heard of.  I am shocked to see that it was a double A side with “Genius of Love.”  The song is a kind of amusing rap with a chorus of the children’s song “A Ram Sam Sam.” It is very kid friendly.

I will also be honest that I didn’t like The Tom Tom Club when they came out.  So even though I know the melody of “Genius of Love” I don’t know the song very well.  It’s kind of amusing though in that it name checks all kinds of musicians.  At one point they repeat “James Brown” over and over and then climax with “hit me!”

The music is surprisingly spare: an acoustic guitar or two, some bongos and an accordion (which plays the “Genius of Love” melody).

“Only the Strong Survive” is a cover of song by zydeco band The Franks.  Lead vocals and washboard are supplied by Mystic Bowie.

The band is having a ton of fun.  Considering Talking Heads were always kind of serious it’s nice to see Chris and Tina being silly..

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960

This book marks more or less the ten-year anniversary of the first Peanuts strip.  Even though Patty (not Peppermint Patty) is on the cover, she gets very little time in the book.

The big news in this book is the arrival of Charlie’s little sister Sally!  In May of 1959 Charlie’s mom goes to the hospital for a few days.  And then Charlie is a proud big brother.  For a time, Snoopy is jealous and acts like a “fuzzy baby.”  However much Charlie talks about Sally, we don’t actually see her until August!  On a random Sunday Charlie is seen pushing her in her stroller (and missing out on baseball because of it).  There’s no really babyness for Sally.  She has a bottle, but while we saw a lot of baby time for Linus, there’s hardly any for Sally.  In fact, in October Snoopy gets her to dance.  And much later she gives Schroeder a hard time when he won’t play a lullaby for her.

She doesn’t really come into the picture all that much.  But by August of 1960, Sally thinks (still no speaking) that Linus is the cutest thing and has hearts floating around her when she sees him.  Charlie even has to wonder what’s going on here.  But Linus says, “I’m almost five years older than she.” (more…)

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peanuts4SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN COURTNEY WILSON-Tiny Desk Concert #76 (August 25, 2010).

bcwBrian Courtney Wilson is not Brian Wilson. Rather, this Wilson sings  lovely religious songs.

This is an overtly Christian performance and as such I did not really enjoy it. Having said that, his voice is terrific and his backing vocalists are subtle and uplifting without overpowering the music.

He sings three songs: “All I Need” “Believe” and “Already Here.”  For some reason, there’s no video for “Believe” so you have to listen to the audio only track to hear it.

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1957-1958

Some new themes emerge in this, the fourth volume of the Complete Peanuts.  Charlie seems to get branded with the “wishy-washy” curse a lot more (except when it’s raining and he’s not willing to give up his baseball game).

The angst is getting heavier now too with Charlie Brown saying “sometimes I think my soul is full of weeds).   Then in April 1958 he says “It always rains on the unloved.”   Even the normally chipper Snoopy (who at one point says “to live is to dance, to dance is to live”) gets a little mopey and introspective “when I was a puppy every day was a happy day suddenly bang, and I’m in my declining years.”

I feel like Lucy and Linus are showing up a lot more.  And Pig-Pen, really a one-joke character is appearing less but has not been forgotten.

I particularly enjoyed the concern that the earth was overpopulated (from Lucy).  And after she says “The earth can’t feed this many people” Linus replies “Why Don’t You Leave?” (more…)

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1955SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Perfect from Now On (1997).

330px-Perfect_From_Now_OnBuilt to Spill moved to the major labels and everything changed. No that’s not true. The band (well, Doug mostly) just sounds more serious about their music. What’s impressive is that there are no obvious  singles since each song is over 5 minutes long (except for one).

This is considered a classic 90s album but fans of the band and others.  And while I like it, it’s not my favorite.  A few of the songs are a little too drifty and anticlimactic.  But at he same time there’s some really amazing stuff here.

It opens with “Randy Describing Eternity” a cool song with a great riff and an interesting lyrics.  My favorite song (most days) on this record is “I would Hurt a Fly.” It has a fairly quiet intro with more intriguing lyrics: “I can’t get that sound you make out of my head/ I can’t even figure out what’s making it.”  The song waxes and wanes and even adds some cello. And then at 4 minutes, the song shifts gears entirely, stopping to add a brand new fast section with some great guitar work and wild noisy soloing.

“Stop the Show” is another favorite.  It opens with a slow meandering guitar section and then jumps to a great, frenetic set of verses. After about 5 and a half minutes the song turns into a crazy noisy fest and then switches to an amazingly catchy guitar instrumental solo outro, which could frankly go for five more hours. “Made Up Dreams” has several different elements in it. And even though it’s only 4:52, it still packs in a lot of music.

“Velvet Waltz” is over 8 minutes long. It has slow parts, and a lengthy middle section with strings (in waltz time of course). It builds slowly adding some cool guitar sections and a great long solo at the end. “Out of Site” is one of the shorter songs on the disc.  It has an immediate, fast section that is very catchy. It then mellows out to a slow cello-filled section. “Kicked it in the Sun” is kind of trippy.  At four and a half minutes a noisy section overtakes the music, but behind the noise is a beautiful, pretty guitar/keyboard melody.  Then it shifts out of the noise into a more rocking catchy section.

The final song is the nearly 9 minute “Untrustable/Part 2.”  It begins loud with great lyrics “You can’t trust anyone because you’re untrustable.”  Like the other songs it has several parts.  Around 4 minutes it turns into another song altogether. This continues for a bit and then at 7 minutes it shifts gears entirely into a keyboard dominated romp.

There’s so many interesting melodies and changes in this album, and it clear that it was completely influential on late 90s indie rock.  But I think what’s even more impressive is that each album get a little bit better.

[READ: September 29, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956

Moving on to volume 3 of the Complete Peanuts.  Stylistically things are advancing towards the Peanuts characters we know now.  Yet they haven’t quite gotten there.  I think the kids’ faces (not their heads, just features) are still much smaller.  And Snoopy still looks like a real dog, although his nose grows year by year.

In the beginning of the year, there’s a funny line from Lucy, attacking commericalism. Charlie is reading her a book.  He says “Once upon a time they lived happily ever after.  The end”  And Lucy says “What’s on the rest of these pages, Advertising?”  Much later there a joke in which Lucy asks Schroeder how much a musician makes, and he relies “Money?  Who cares about money?  This is art. You Blockhead.”  It is ironic of course that Schulz went on to become so staggeringly wealthy–but maybe that just shows what good art can achieve.

Another one of my favorite sophisticated jokes comes when Lucy is flying a kite.  The joke is all about perspective. It’s hilarious. (more…)

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