MCMLXXVI Rock and Roll Heart

Happy holidays! I am not very sure there is a great deal I could consider that hasn’t been investigated by different bloggers about how 2020 has been. It’s been a revolution.

Courts declared this week that Microsoft is defeated at the moment, in a lawsuit concerning the price of their systems and office software suites between the years 1998, and 2010. I don’t want to say the digital revolution was like 1995, or 1998, or 2010 or 2020 or any clearly-stated signpost like that. By revolution, I just mean it’s a lot easier now to be taking to the streets, with the Internet in place.

Photo by Kristin Hardwick from StockSnap

I trust your Christmas is a cheerful one this year. I experienced what has been like moments of rage this weekend (after I’d written the best part of this post).

I got to feeling torn up. I don’t know why.

One evening, the other day, I’d got to feeling, oddly, like how I did when I was an unfulfilled young person, feeling regret at letting time go, without, you could say, stopping to smell the roses.

Also this week, the YouTube channel for the Star Wars movies commemorated forty years since Episode IV The Empire Strikes Back made its premiere in 1980, although something tells me it was a springtime premiere. The next day the channel continued to remind people that Star Wars is a big tradition, VII The Force Awakens in 2015, VIII The Last Jedi in 2017, and, IX The Rise of Skywalker a year ago now.

Darth Vader and the Death Star

It was kind of weird to think about The Rise of Skywalker being in theatres an entire year in the past. Things have certainly changed.

Now, with Christmas right around the corner, Song Lyric Sunday is here, a great blog hop organized by Jim Adams, for like-minded bloggers. For Sunday, December 20, Jim’s prompts include a circle. https://jimadamsauthordotcom.wordpress.com/2020/12/19/the-shape-im-in-2/

Song Lyric Sunday is itself a circle, what I think of as a blog hop. A blog hop is when bloggers post at the same time on the same subject, like when college kids do a pub crawl, where they go from bar to bar, to have drinks.

Jim has blogged this year a little about the impact of a blog hop (versus what I’d term an award crawl). His thoughts were couched in the language of how it is that an award crawl can be a little useless.

By award crawl, I mean when bloggers nominate each other to share an award, and to express appreciation. It’s a phrase I’m using to describe how that is.

A blog hop is effective because it isn’t just commending one another. A blog hop is a social experience, a little fun if you blog.

About music, to be a famous musician is a powerful fantasy. I regard exciting music or any sort of expert musicianship. On Wednesday this week, Rolling Stone published an article saying that music journalism on TikTok might be more and more important in the future. Rolling Stone pointed out that Generation Z kids in 2020 listen to music on Spotify and TikTok.

Jim’s prompt circle reminded me of the late, great Lou Reed’s song Vicious Circle, on the album Rock and Roll Heart. In 1976, Reed’s first album with Arista Records followed the records he did for RCA after The Velvet Underground ended, and was kind of immediately enjoyable for a casual listener, though Reed seems to flirt again on Rock and Roll Heart with self-destruction, not unlike what a depressed but notable musician can be like. A couple of times I’ve watched a TV interview with Reed in Australia recorded 1975, not all that long before Rock and Roll Heart, where Reed seems unhappy.

Reed tries a joke about the tyrant Adolf Hitler, calling him a great organizer. The question energetically admonishes him. I think Reed was obliquely referring to Andy Warhol, who managed him as a musician before Reed made an album.

A few people can’t avoid that zeitgeist, and for me, also, it’s enchanting. Reed is a championed rock guitarist and singer who is seldom rivalled, given the influence of his personality.

He is gone, but when I was in college, one long-haired, heavyset history teacher taught us a little about him, calling Reed, “the godfather of punk.” In the library, I found a little book about subculture, music subculture in the nineteen seventies, and I put energy into understanding it.

Lou Reed’s New York

Because, with the impact of Warhol, in the nineteen sixties, of the acclaim of The Velvet Underground, that was after they ceased making music together, as a group, but, regardless, songs of theirs began to be popular.

When I went into the HMV store in New York City, HMV the chain of CD shops where you went if you wanted music, in the days when you bought music on physical media, the Velvets were well-advertised, as in giant letters the store announcing, “The Velvet Underground.” You knew it was their town.

Related

HMV owner’s dramatic Christmas warning: ‘Let’s all use high streets – or Amazon will be the last shop left’

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-8972967/Use-high-streets-Christmas-urges-owner-HMV.html

Years before I was born, Lou Reed had a Top 20 hit, contributing to the new popularity of both Reed, and consequently the Velvets. The most popular song by Reed is a song I first heard on FM radio, cruising the streets of my town, probably for no particular reason, or for no good reason.

Lou Reed a Life by Anthony DeCurtis

I didn’t know who that singer was, on the radio, until I heard the song again, as though it were still 1972, in some kind of Doctor Who-type parallel universe. I still didn’t know whom it was singing like that, but eventually, a friend of a friend listened to me describe the song, and he knew who it was, given a moment (between thought and reflection).

I was in a circle, then, being a kid in high school, dealing with pressures that are specific to what I think is most kids’ experience. It wasn’t vicious, by the way, just sayin’.

The song Vicious Circle could be about having social pressures, like specific patterns ingrained in you to run up against a wall. The song is less uptempo than most of the songs on Rock and Roll Heart. I am not sure the better part of Reed’s listeners would embrace music like his, if they didn’t feel, at least from time to time, that the intrigue about the music was coming from a place touched by despair.

There are stories about Lou Reed, when he was the frontman of the Velvets, like that he played Woodstock in ’69, but nobody could hear the sound. I don’t think the Velvets did play Woodstock. They broke up amid tension.

The third and fourth of the Velvets’ records were more straightforward as rock albums than the first and second albums. I believe in 1968 they performed in Hamilton, Ontario, but that might have been the Velvet Underground’s only show in Canada. Even though you may not know I’m Canadian, I in any case get spellbound by performers who made it (or said they did).

Lou Reed’s hit in 1972 includes the B-side Vicious (not Vicious Circle). Four years after that, after Reed was through with RCA Records, Reed with Vicious Circle was possibly pointing to his choice of making a livelihood as a rock singer, because Vicious Circle points to the song Vicious, and the 45 itself is circular in shape, music being on vinyl discs, records. There is a hint of weariness in Vicious Circle.

There is a Bowie song, too, with the word circle in its title, and I know there’s a reference about him in the title of Vicious Circle, in all likelihood, but how can I know for sure?

Reed had a great sense of humour, I read in college, the Velvets’ drummer Moe Tucker remarking on that about Lou Reed.

Photo by Jens Mahnke from StockSnap

Reed expounded on experience transparently in his music, including thoughts about sex and culture. Reed did much of his very best music with the Velvets, who were John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, and Doug Yule.

Everything Lou Reed did music-wise is very acceptable, I think. The Velvet Underground is a legendary band. Many an amateur rocker knows whom the Velvet Underground are, and get feeling good about songs like What Goes On, and Sweet Jane, west coast surf type stuff.

God knows I’m not a resident. I used to wonder what Reed intended for the fate of his music.

I think with Rock and Roll Heart Reed was trying his hand at again being a straightforward rock musician. I would venture to guess that he was a pretty hot musician, having just conquered AM Radio with Coney Island Baby, but had simultaneously conveyed the ability to fail with his 1975 noise opus Metal Machine Music.

Metal Machine Music sort of seems easier to take all these years later, as an experimental ambient noise album, but I take it fans of the artist would have wanted more rock songs, not something altogether weird like Metal Machine Music. Wikipedia says, “In 1979 Reed said ‘Saying ‘I’m a Coney Island baby’ at the end of that song is like saying I haven’t backed off an inch. And don’t you forget it.'”

Photo by Emanuele Bresciani from StockSnap

I have a theory that if Reed had clear success with Metal Machine Music, it would have meant a lot of change as far as music fans’ interest in what’s viable goes. Enough about that for now.

Reed lived a long life, until October 27, 2013, passing away at the age of 71. In college, I didn’t believe Reed’s image as a street-weary rock musician, compared to who he was. I don’t have any acquaintance with it all, however.

Thanks to Jim Adams for the December 20 word prompt circle. Have a great Christmas, Jim, and to everybody who sees this ahead of Christmas. You’re welcome to like my post, to comment and/or to follow my blog.

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https://about.me/patrickcoholan

Vicious Circle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfceMTlEq7s

You’re caught in a vicious circle
Surrounded by your so called friends
You’re caught in a vicious circle
And it looks like it will never end
‘Cause some people think that they like problems
And some people think that they don’t
And for everybody who says yes
There’s somebody who’s staring, saying don’t

You’re caught in a vicious circle
Surrounded by your so called friends
You’re caught in a vicious circle
And it looks like it will never end
‘Cause some people think that it’s nerves
And some people think that it’s not
And some people think that it’s things that you do
And others think that you were cold, when you were hot
They think that that is what it was about

You’re caught in a vicious circle …

Surrounded by all of your friends

MCMLXIX #GiveThanks

It’s a time for words of thanks.  The last few days the news has been saying that the anticipated vaccine will begin rolling out soon, to be in place next year.  It is such welcome news.

As well, the holidays are here, when people don’t act as paranoid with each other given the holiday season.  It’s an unusual holiday season, of course, owing to the impact of the pandemic.

Here on WordPress, occasionally I find specific bloggers to be interesting for me, even if they aren’t well-known, at least not yet, anyway.  One guy like that is Jim Adams, who has a blog and who has planned blog prompts through to 2021.

https://jimadamsauthordotcom.wordpress.com/2020/11/28/domesticated-animals/

Jim has a keen interest in music and a lot of knowledge to share.  Jim’s blog prompts are great.

I remember last winter when my dad pointed out to me that the link-sharing I was doing on social media didn’t seem to be too relevant, as far as he could tell.  I help out my dad with his business.

https://www.facebook.com/LouthUnited/

http://www.maplelawncemetery.org/24701.html

While I enjoy Facebook and Twitter, the day he offered that criticism about my content, I was a little miffed.  I know that my dad clowns, but I tried to look past that, to see if I could think of a better approach.

I decided a few weeks ago to take a direction that could feel more relevant, I hope, whatever the issue.  I’m chancing to utilize the focus right now that Jim provides.

I’ve been blogging since MySpace, kind of a wow.  On WordPress, I have done some posting with a bit of humour to it, and in the months since my dad said that to me about how I seem on social, I eventually decided I still wasn’t too far off the mark.

There aren’t too many “rules” for running a social presence.  When I started to read Jim, I thought it was great because I could see that, with his idea, I could collect my thoughts about the music I like.

For November 29, 2020, Jim’s prompts include, “bird.”  I know that the late Leonard Cohen made the song Bird on the Wire.

Cohen is a Canadian singer who became well-known for making music.  By the mid-1960s, Cohen started to form rock and pop melodies.  He had already written an expansive amount of writing, both poetry, and novels.

He studied at McGill in Montreal and made quite a name for himself through the sixties.  Cohen kind of burned out about that stuff in the early nineteen seventies, but his music came to him his whole career.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame enlisted Cohen in 2008, and Leonard Cohen got a Grammy Award in 2010.

Bird on the Wire is on the record Songs from a Room, released April 1969, and is like a poem set to the sound of Cohen’s guitar.   The title Songs from a Room is very simple, understating the mastery of the music.

Songs from a Room LP

Being able to enjoy something from the years before I was born is lucky, as hearing Bird on the Wire is an experience that has power to it, sentimental.  Strange song title, eh?  A listener feels like the hardships of life have been met by others just the same, whether more talented, or more fortunate.

Photo by Burst from StockSnap

Not to sound presumptuous, but Bird on the Wire is great that way.  Leonard Cohen got into music as a popular singer when he was losing interest in writing.  Wikipedia says that Bird on the Wire is a country song, a detail which surprises me, and reading that, I thought additionally that the song just has a simplicity that sets it apart from other country songs.

The country genre of music isn’t something I understand, and maybe neither is the language of love, but when I was in college, I got to study, one semester, Canadian music.  Country music in the Canadian Prairies is a favourite choice of many resident Canadians.

I can infer that Bird on the Wire could be a favourite of many who can remember 1969.  It was years before I was born.

There is something about cowboy music, that we’ve adopted in Canada, that reflects how life in the Prairies shaped up.  The first herders calling themselves “cowboys” got to the Canadian prairies in the 1870s, riding up from the US territories of Idaho and Montana.

The romantic image of the cowboy emerged around this American subculture.  British Columbia “buckaroos” likewise sooner or later adopted the cowboy appearance.

I doubt that Cohen identified with being a cowboy; he was a novelist, poet and musician.  He identifies, I think, with the archetype of a cowboy’s passion.  I think of the scene in the Hollywood movie City Slickers, where Billy Crystal’s Mitch Robbins character plays the harmonica at the campfire.

Curly, Jack Palance’s character, interrupts the music.

Mitch Robbins:  [Playing harmonica]

Curly:  Put that away.

Mitch Robbins:  [Stops, then resumes playing harmonica]

Curly:  I said, put that away!

Mitch Robbins:  Hey you know, the first time I tried to talk to you, you embarrassed me.  So I teased you a little bit which maybe I shouldn’t have done, so I’m sorry.

And now you’re sitting over there playing with your knife, trying to frighten me – which you’re doing a good job.  But if you’re gonna kill me, get on with it; if not, shut the hell up – I’m on vacation.

City
Slickers

Wikipedia explains that before writing Bird on the Wire, Cohen carefully structured the song, before committing it to tape.  To tell the truth, before I read Wikipedia’s description, I hadn’t thought that the song would be identified as a country song.

Cohen’s music is usually in the genres of folk, and soft rock.  Romantic country music doesn’t meld with the other interests in music I have thought of.  If Bird on the Wire is a country song, it breaks, I think, with the tradition of country music that country music fans enjoy.

It’s unique that way.  I wonder if a country song should be simple, but distinctive.  The answer isn’t straightforward.

Sometimes answers to questions like that turn up unexpectedly, even if it isn’t initially clear where to begin, to get an answer to the question.  A post like this one, doing the research and writing the content, helps me understand better something that already interests me, the music.  Also, maybe somebody else interested in this blog challenge thought to say something about this specific song.

I first heard Bird on the Wire when I was in high school, the twelfth grade or so, on a simply dubbed audio cassette.  Leonard Cohen passed on November 7, 2016 (aged 82).

I saw him once in concert.  It was terrific.

Here are the lyrics to the song, followed by the song itself, in a video.

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Bird on the Wire

Like a bird on the wire

Like a drunk in a midnight choir

I have tried in my way to be free

Like a worm on a hook

Like a knight from some old-fashioned book

I have saved all my ribbons for thee

If I, if I have been unkind

I hope that you can just let it go by

If I, if I have been untrue

I hope you know it was never to you

For like a baby, stillborn

Like a beast with his horn

I have torn everyone who reached out for me

But I swear by this song

And by all that I have done wrong

I will make it all up to thee

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch

He said to me, “you must not ask for so much”

And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door

She cried to me, “hey, why not ask for more?”

Oh, like a bird on the wire

Like a drunk in a midnight choir

I have tried in my way to be free

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Leonard Cohen

Bird on the Wire lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

https://youtu.be/BmPUu-rMpWA