With the economy riding on a rollercoaster designed by Crazy Harry, it’s hard to celebrate Christmas if there is little to give besides peace on earth and goodwill to men. Santa’s riding his sleigh filled with eight tiny bailouts, but no concrete relief for those waiting by the chimney. But fear not, true believers! I’ve got the perfect gift – one that keeps on giving. It’s that time of year again! Time for the fourth annual Adam Koeppe Christmas music compilation! Known by many as the “Tick” CD’s, it’s a mix of all the songs that I’ve liked throughout the year. I’ve downsized to one disc this year as I just didn’t have the time to listen to as much as I’d like (see kids, life). I hope quality makes up for quantity. I guess that’s for the listener to judge. Available for pick-up this Saturday at “Friend Christmas” in Waverly, Minnesota, I hope everyone enjoys the tunes. I’ve decided to provide liner notes this year and links to the songs if they are available. Most of the links are videos, please give them a look. If you are not attending “Friend Christmas” and would like a copy, let me know. I’ll gladly send you one. I can’t accept any money or I will surely violate the ancient “fair use” laws, which are violated every second on You Tube. That said, I’ll gladly give you a piece of my 2008 musical muse.
“To the Taxmobile” by Lenlow. A phenomenal mash-up sent to me by Ucis. Combining the old “Batman” theme, “Taxman” by the Beatles and “Wipeout” by the Surfaris, “Taxmobile” succeeds in celebrating all three songs without diluting any of their punch. A true underground classic, the best song I’ve heard all year and a great intro track.
“Hop a Plane” by Tegan and Sara. By far the best song off their CD “The Con”, “Hop a Plane” is one of those two-minute pop songs that just sticks in your brain and makes you push repeat over and over. Also proof uber-production is overrated. Simplistic, complex and melodic; the happiest and saddest song of the year. “All I want to hear is that you’re not mine.”
“Lie Down Here and Be My Girl” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. From the album “Dig! Lazarus! Dig!,” Cave delivers his best song in years and one of the few that is upbeat in tempo. Cave’s lyrics and voice still exude menace, showing he has no intent on slowing down after almost thirty years of making music. Is it really that long? Geez, I’m old!
“Reflections” – The Chambers Brothers. Considered a “one-hit wonder” with the song “Time Has Come Today”, this 1974 release from the album “Unbonded” is a cover of the Supremes classic. Amazing, soulful vocals make this cover an undiscovered classic. An album truly worth seeking out and an artist that needs more credit.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Patti Smith. From the album “12.” A cover of the 80’s Tears For Fears classic, Smith removes the synthesizers and uses a traditional five-piece band. Emphasizing lyrics over style, Smith strips the song bare with her rendition yet still maintains the melody of the original. Atmospheric and prophetic, “Everybody” is a song waiting to be recognized as a 20th Century standard. “I can’t stand this indecision, buried with a lack of vision.” ‘Nuff said.
“Swinging on a Star” – The Four Freshmen. Combining the harmonies of the Freshmen with a cartoon voice I can’t place, the song takes me back to the soda fountain days of the forties and fifties. Who doesn’t want to “carry moonbeams home in a jar?” Grab your date and dance!
“Lullaby for the Taken” – Kimya Dawson. Dawson’s poetic lyrics are humorous and sad. Gaining interest from the use of her songs in the film, “Juno”, all of her albums are great and worth owning. Another great case against uber-production. Sometimes all you need is a four track and inspiration. “Always remember I love you.” Timeless, yet heartfelt.
“Give Him a Great Big Kiss” – The Shangri-Las. “When I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in love-LUV.” One of the best opening lines – period. On a par with the classic “Leader of the Pack” and produced by the late Shadow Morton, this upbeat ditty uses the similar “call and response” motif in “Leader of the Pack”. Sexy before sexy was common, this song was covered by the New York Dolls in the 1970’s. Please check out the video link - it rocks!
“Classic Cars” – Bright Eyes. Conor Oberst may have his critics (my wife included) but his cult following is vindicated in a song that could stand alongside anything in Bruce Springsteen’s or Tom Petty’s canon. A great ballad in an era with few, it reeks of a black and white film sequence filled with angst and lost love. “The best county singers die in the back of classic cars.”
“48 Crash” – Suzi Quatro. Why isn’t the queen of Glam mentioned in the company of Patti Smith, Joan Jett and Liz Phair? An undiscovered play on the bar jukebox and one of the first real jolts of “girl power.” Your record collection needs Suzi Quatro. However, if this song is covered by Pink, I will vomit instantaneously.
“Hazy Shade of Winter” – The Bangles. Speaking of “girl power”, how about topping Paul Simon? The Simon and Garfunkel original never sounded right. They just never were able to quite rock, not even with “Mrs. Robinson.” The Bangles captured the immediacy of Simon’s lyrics while giving the melody the punch it needed. Sadly, The Bangles never attempted anything as ambitious again. The song is from the out of print soundtrack for “Less Than Zero”, which starred Robert Downey Jr. as an out of control drug addict. Sometimes, things come full circle. Downey is one of the biggest stars on the planet and we are definitely in a “Hazy Shade of Winter.”
“Losing Streak” – The Eels. Ironically, a song I like for its production. I’m a sucker for a piano lick, especially a happy one juxtaposed with the title. I love songs discovered by accident. They put a bounce in your day, like a ten-dollar bill showing up in your jeans. It makes your day brighter.
“People Who Died” – Jim Carroll. The poet turned punk singer whose story was chronicled in “The Basketball Diaries,” only this song and “Catholic Boy” live up to his myth. As he lists of names of his dead friends, it’s hard not to rock along with his eulogy, an incredible feat in itself. “Eddie, I miss you more than all the others. This song is for you, my brother!”
"Angelitos Negros" – Cat Power. God, Chan Marshall is talented! Another song sure to be used in a soundtrack somewhere. Full disclosure: I have no idea what this song is about as it’s sung in Spanish and I never paid attention in class. But that’s the beauty of music. You are allowed to feel, to imagine your own setting. Her voice is evocative and alluding, the music seductive. Is it a dream, or a nightmare? Like all music, it depends on the time and place you hear it.
“Dueces Wild” – Link Wray. One of the original guitar legends, Wray is an underrated master. I’d like to see the kids “Guitar Hero” to this one! Talent, pure talent.
“Another Girl, Another Planet” – The Only Ones. Predating New Wave by a few years, it’s another triumph of minimal production with maximum melody. It could be stated the punk/new wave revolution brought England out of its decade-long recession. Kids purchased music in droves during this period. Despite its reputation for nihilism, punk/new wave inspired a generation to believe they could make it. “I think I’m on another world with you.” Warren Buffett, are you taking notes?
“All I Want is You” – Barry Louis Polisar. The song which opens the film “Juno.” Folk music never gets old, especially when it’s new. Raw and immediate, innocent love is best when laid bare. This song accomplishes this without any hint of pretension. Let’s get around the campfire and sing! If you were the winter, I’d know I’d be the snow.” If you were a kiss, I know I’d be a hug.” “Hold me in your arms and swing me like the sea.” Priceless beauty, folk analogies.
“Those Were the Days” – Mary Hopkin. Produced by Paul McCartney and one of the few fruits from the Beatles’ “Apple” label, the song is more relevant now than ever. Times may be tough, but let us sing, dance and remember the good times. The song is a call to come together again. Drink, laugh and enjoy. “We’d sing and dance forever and a day. We’d live the life we choose. We’d fight and never lose.” Words to grow on.
“Something In The Air” – Thunderclap Newman. Produced by Pete Townshend in 1969 and a forgotten “one hit wonder,” it’s another song about hope during an uncertain future. There’s something about this song that just makes me want to play it again. "The revolution's here - and you know it's right."
“Kansas City Stomps” - Jelly Roll Morton. From “R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country.” I like closing with an oldie. I just dig old jazz and ragtime. If we can’t afford to dance in the bar, let’s swing in the barn!
If you can’t afford to give much this year, give the gift of music. It’s what I grew up on, riding a rocking horse listening to my Mom’s 45’s. Part of me is still there, dropping the big turntable arm and enjoying the ride. Music captures your imagination and emotions like no other medium. A CD-R costs ten cents. Feelings are priceless. Maybe dear old Santa will find room in his sleigh for just a little musical good cheer and the 2008 “Tick” CD will find its way under your tree on Christmas morning. Music is a window to the soul. It's been a privilege over the last four years to share songs that move me. I hope you enjoy it.
Santa, can you hear me?
Can you feel me near you?
Santa, can you feel me?
Can I help to cheer you?