Learning to Fly

Something they talked about a lot in the Tom Petty documentary was how Petty’s lyrics are simple but leave things open ended for the listener.

“I’m learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down”

I feel like the song could be about countless different things which is great. In the doc Petty said he didn’t necessarily write songs about certain people or events in his life. Some could view his lack of authorial intent (or political agenda etc) as impersonal or even amateur, but I think it just makes the songs more universal and emotionally accessible.

Beach Music: Graceland

I feel like “beach music” sounds a bit degrading, but I mean it in the best way possible. When I go to the beach I just lie there looking at the waves for hours doing nothing. I bring my portable speaker, put on an album and just listen and space out. It’s actually pretty concentrated music listening time.

Sidenote: I am a HUGE believer in concentrated music listening time. I think it’s super important to occasionally stop what you’re doing and actually LISTEN. Listen to the harmonies, the bassline, the drums, the timbre of the singer’s voice etc. We have a bit of an epidemic of listening to music only as background music. I think it partly has to do with the ease with which we can access and play digital music. We just shuffle a playlist while working or cooking or showering or driving etc. In the days of vinyl it took more time and physical effort to listen to something, and so we were more focused on the music. This whole phenomenon also contributes to an album-less culture. We don’t listen to full albums anymore since the invention of digital music. Anyways. I wrote an article about this recently for my school’s newspaper. I will post it.

Back to Paul Simon. Today at the beach I listened through most of Graceland. Paul Simon has been touring and working with a group of African drummers and back-up singers for many years now, and their presence on Graceland is really what gives the album the slightly bouncy and extremely happy mildly sacred feeling. It was really perfect for the waves and wind.

My favorite lines from the album:

  • “A man walks down the street / It’s a street in a strange world / Maybe it’s the Third World / Maybe it’s his first time around” – You Can Call Me Al
  • “She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes / Well that’s one way to lose these walking blues” – Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
  • “The poor boy changes clothes / And puts on aftershave / To compensate for his ordinary shoes” – Diamonds of the Soles of Her Shoes
  • “There is a girl in New York City / Who calls herself the human trampoline / And sometimes when I’m falling, flying / Or tumbling in turmoil I say / Oh, so this is what she means / She means we’re bouncing into Graceland” – Graceland

Paul Simon’s lyrics are actually really funny sometimes. They’re lighthearted and amusing but also poetic genius. Can’t really get better than that.

Rock Docs Guilty Pleasure Trip

I am on summer vacation. I do actually have a job at a very nice jewelry store and have been running 4ish miles every day, but still I find myself with extra time on my hands. So I’ve been watching a lot of music documentaries. I highly recommend spending excess time watching documentaries instead of (god I’m pretentious and annoying) lesser TV like the Bachelor or Keeping Up With the Kardashians (full disclosure: I watch the Bachelor on the treadmill).

Anyways. Watching docs is wonderful: you feel less guilt about sitting back and watching television because you’re learning interesting stuff!

In the past few days I’ve watched Shut Up and Play the Hits, Janis: Little Girl Blue and Tom Petty: Runnin’ Down a Dream. I recommend all three. The former doc chronicles LCD Soundsystem’s final show at Madison Square Garden and the lead-up to the show. It’s well done. Interesting filming of James Murphy and his english bull dog, great video of the show itself, and a nice slowish pace. It is a bit weird watching the documentary now knowing that LCD Soundsystem will reunite to play Coachella and go on a “back from the dead” tour (yea, I’m pretty sure they’re actually calling it that). Regardless, I enjoyed and think you will too!

The Janis Joplin and the Tom Petty documentaries were more typical rock docs. Both chronicle the complete life of the artist. The Janis doc was more personal and tended to psychoanalyze Joplin in a way that got a bit tiresome, but, regardless, it gave a great sense of her life as an artist and young woman. The Petty documentary was pretty awesome. It is four hours long so be ready for that. Who knew that Tom Petty has literally played and sang with EVERYONE. So cool. The documentary also doesn’t mind showing the full song which I like because just snippets is dumb.

UPDATE: I watched the CNN miniseries “The Sixties” this morning while running. I watched the British Invasion episode, the “Times They Are A-Changing” episode (about the women’s liberation movement not music), and the final episode which is also about music. Highly recommended! A bit disjointed perhaps but thoroughly entertaining. I’m moving on to “The Seventies” next.  (All on Netflix!)

Late Night Beatles

At risk of being labeled just another Beatles blog I am naming my blog after a Beatles lyric and making my first real post about the Beatles. To be fair “nothing to get hung about” is simply a great lyric, and I just happening to be listening to Sexy Sadie. What are you going to do?

Anyways, the Beatles are essentially the soundtrack to my life as they are for a lot of people. My mom always liked to contend that she liked the Stones better, but it was always pretty clear to me as a kid that the Beatles are both my parents favorite band. Oh also I’m Only Sleeping just came on. So good. And so I grew up listening to the Beatles, notably Yellow Submarine, Ob-la-Di, ob-la-Da and all of Sgt. Pepper’s. Until I was like five, and then I listened to everything.

But I want to talk about the Beatles being my 24 hour soundtrack not my 18 year soundtrack.

John, Paul, George and Ringo have given us songs perfect for every minute of the day. I’ll Follow the Sun for sunset, I Will for super late night weird sad emotions, I’m Happy Just to Dance With You for that 1:15am sudden burst of energy. Clearly I’m a night person. But I’m  Looking Through You is perfect for afternoon, Eight Days a Week for morning, and Got to Get You Into my Life for midday. Countless more examples also exist of course.

I’m not sure how they figured out a song for every little degree the earth spins on its axis, but I’m really fucking grateful.