#575: The Beach Boys – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

You won’t find a lot of Beach Boys on my playlist. I have written a post about two of their songs before; those that I’ve yet to come to can all be listened to on the album Pet Sounds. Gotta love that album, very much a milestone in popular music.

At a time when artists were creating some far out music in the 60s, breaking boundaries and going an extra mile in terms of their sound and production, The Beach Boys – led by musical genius Brian Wilson – were drifting away from their usual surf-pop style and into a more grandiose and symphonic soundscape. People weren’t ready for that change. Not even a few of the group’s members themselves, which really got Brian Wilson down and continued to do so until he had a bit of a breakdown due to drugs and intense pressure. It was clear that something massive was happening, though why couldn’t anyone else see it?

That’s really what today’s track is about. Not solely about Wilson himself (well, obviously it is in a way), but for anyone who feel their ideas are to advanced for their peers to understand, are frustrated by the situation, and think that in another time their work would be appreciated. Quite the sticky subject. A very universal one too, I’m sure.

Took me a while to actually get into this track. It’s the most recent one from the album I decided to put on my phone. When I first listened to Pet Sounds the whole way through and proceeded to again a further few times, ‘These Times’ would start and I’d really wait for it to finish instead of really listening to its message and melodies. That was a mistake. I realised that, just like (almost) every other song on there, you give enough time to it and it slowly seeps into your mind. You’ve got the tremendous vocal group that overlap in that build-up to the chorus, and the instrumentation provided by The Wrecking Crew is perfect to a tee. And all of it was constructed by that expansive mind Brian Wilson possessed. Very admirable. Quite scary too.


#574: The White Stripes – I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself

Gotta say I don’t have much on the brain about this one….. Nothing on the personal side of things anyway. I think the song’s great don’t get me wrong, The White Stripes achieve a fantastic cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s composition (originally made popular by Dusty Springfield in 1964), but I think I just saw the music video on MTV when I was about nine and thought it was cool. And because I was only nine and still thought girls were icky, I never got the appeal of Kate Moss pole dancing and writhing on a table. The song just simply sounded awesome. That is the official music video by the way for any new readers or listeners, not my doing.

The White Stripes were alright. They have great songs but I’m not a huuuge fan… It always was a big thing when they announced a new single or album though. I recall the video for ‘Icky Thump’ being shown almost every hour on MTV2 in 2007 when it was released. Good times being 12 and everything. Good tune too. Though you wouldn’t find me being the first in line to buy their albums. Was a shame when they split though. Probably still had so much to give.

So anyway ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ appears on the band’s 2003 album Elephant as its fourth track. This track’s tone is what pulls me in every time. There’s something very slinky, sneaky and sly in the way it’s performed. Jack White gets that ashy tone on his guitars and sounds like he’s wailing his vocals about in an empty corridor. Meg White gets all primal on the drums. The contrast between the quiet verses and the sudden release in the choruses. That triumphant ending where the song title’s repeated and everything fades out. Man. This is a great track. Whenever anyone attempts a cover of an old track, I feel they should always adapt it to their style whilst trying to capture the magic of what makes the original. The White Stripes did it here. This is one of those good covers.

#573: GZA – I Gotcha Back

For the majority of my second year in university I was on a real high for the Wu-Tang Clan. I listened to 36 Chambers for I think the second time ever in my life – if you haven’t heard it whilst reading this you probably should because it’s one of the best hip-hop releases of all time, get on it now – appreciated it for what it was, listened to ‘Method Man’ a bunch of times, watched its music video and then proceeded to fall down a rabbit hole that had appeared in the ground.

The nine original members of the Clan all had their own individual styles, something that they very much made clear on 36 Chambers and various interviews they carried out for the album’s promotion. To me it was clear that they all shared a mutual respect for GZA. He’s the oldest in the group, he had released his own solo album before they released their debut, the other members seemed to keep quiet whenever he said his bit in interviews. But there was nowhere else where he showed his wisdom more than in his rapping. He has a flair for incredible uses of metaphor, wordplay and smooth flow in his delivery. He also has a thing for science, the constellations and chess which usually appears in his lyrics too.

So where to begin if you want to get what GZA is all about? Probably Liquid Swords, his second studio album released in 1995. It’s a classic, and part of that run from ’93-’96 where whatever the RZA laid his producing hands upon turned to gold. It’s also the album where today’s track ‘I Gotcha Back’ can be heard as the penultimate song on its tracklisting. GZA – with RZA backing him up throughout – details the violent lifestyle of inner city youth in ’90s Brooklyn, from kids dealing drugs to make some dough to those being killed by stray bullets when trying to make their way home. It’s a grimy production with a strong kick drum and descending minor key piano key that is juxtaposed with air-raid siren-like horns throughout GZA’s verse, creating an anxious and intense atmosphere that very much matches its lyrical content. The track is a warning, sounds like one too. Watch out for what and who’s in front of you; one misstep and you’re in a bad situation.

In terms of the structure of Liquid Swords, ‘I Gotcha Back’ is meant to be the true closer. Whilst showcasing GZA at his strongest in one sole verse, the album is bookended by two tracks with GZA and RZA both sharing vocal duties. However the CD version closes out with ‘B.I.B.L.E (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)‘, a track written and performed by Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest. That one’s a lot more hopeful in its outlook.

Below is the video for ‘I Gotcha Back’ which contains less explicit lyrics. Didn’t know this version existed until now. Have to say it doesn’t hit as hard.

#572: The Libertines – I Get Along

I appreciate The Libertines; I think they’re alright. You won’t find a huge fan of them in me compared to many many other people out there, but I can’t deny Carl Barât and Pete Doherty wrote some good songs between ’em. ‘I Get Along’ is one of them. Though it’s very much Carl Barât’s composition. It can be found as the closer on the band’s 2002 debut Up the Bracket.

Although the track is one that I can get along with (hehehe) I’ve gotta admit that after some years of knowing, listening, and singing to it I more or less mumble to what he’s saying in the verses. So my version, for example, if you were to hear me would be “You caught me in the middle, dazed and confused adduudduuduufuuduufuuduufududunah something ain’t quite right…” It’s not that hard to decipher what he’s saying…. I’ve just never really taken the time to try.

It’s a good rocker. A rapid burst of energy about living your life your way, getting by, letting things slide, not taking things too seriously, taking things in your stride, having a good time etc etc. It’s a song for those moments where everything’s going right and nothing could block your shine, you know? The song’s ethos is very much summed up in one lyric: “I get along just singing my song, people tell me I’m wrong…… Fuck ’em.” Yeah. You tell those people, Carl.

At the time the music video was being made  (as can be seen above) Doherty was AWOL for reasons that no one really knows but only speculate about. I did always think he was in jail, though. That left Barât, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell to do it themselves. The whole dynamic just isn’t right when you see it, so here’s the song performed live at the 2010 Reading and Leeds Festival when the band reunited after their initial split in 2004. What a time.

#571: The Beatles – I Feel Fine

Despite the positive connotations of the song title, there have been two distinct occasions in my life when ‘I Feel Fine’ was in my head and I was struck by a sudden unlucky situation. The first was on a beautiful day; the sun was shining, I was walking out of McDonald’s and it was about the third week into sixth form after successful GCSE results. Things were great. I was feeling fine. I was humming it along the road. It all suddenly dawned on me that my YouTube account that I had used for about three years up to that point may have been terminated whilst I was at school.

You probably laugh, though I was miserable. In fact, I probably spent most of my time for the next two years trying to get it back instead of revising for my A-levels but to no avail. It was like a whole part of my life had just vanished. To be fair, I probably shouldn’t have uploaded official BBC footage on there. But damn, it hit me hard. So two years of sixth form passed, I wasn’t very happy at school – it dawned on me that I had been studying subjects that I didn’t necessarily want to do…. It all affected my performance in my exams.

So on the way to school on A-Level results day, I began to sing ‘I Feel Fine’ again. Just with the hope that my results wouldn’t be too bad. They weren’t fortunately. They coulda been a lot better….. though had they been I probably wouldn’t have got to know the great people I’ve met in the last four years. Funny how things work out.

You don’t wanna know all that though, I’m sure. It’s all about the song. ‘I Feel Fine’ was recorded by The Beatles during the making of their fourth album Beatles for Sale, an LP made during a hectic time where the lives of the four guys were basically small amounts of studio time and large bouts of live performances and touring. It didn’t make it on the album, and was instead released as the precedent single with fellow track ‘She’s a Woman’ as its B-side. It is notable for being one of the first pop songs to include guitar feedback, in this case produced by John Lennon’s guitar as it leaned against Paul McCartney’s bass amp. Lennon was very much proud of this feat. There’s a video which has him talking about it out there somewhere….

For me, I think it’s one of their best singles. It only lasts for two and a bit minutes as a lot of their early ‘moptop’ period singles did…. it’s all about the lyrical melody really. Lennon’s voice sounds fantastic – double tracked with a bit of grit to it. George Harrison and McCartney’s vocal harmonies are on point… I always feel good listening to this one. And that’s what you want from any good song with good vibes.

#570: Ween – I Don’t Want It

I was about 18 when I listened to The Mollusk for the first time when looking for new music to get into. That album was released in 1997 so it’s not new by any means, but you know looking out for stuff that I’d just never heard before. I got to love that album but then I never thought about really digging into the rest of the band’s discography.

Fast forward to 2015. Twenty years old, just started a new job for my placement year. Things are going good. I was at home just chilling in the evening as you do before going to work again the next day and out of curiosity I decided to listen to GodWeenSatan: The Oneness on Spotify…… There was no turning back. I dove deeper into the hole that had opened beyond my ears. I’ve been properly listening to Ween for just over two years now, and I am convinced that they might be the greatest band on this planet. No one really knows it though.

And so, the first Ween song I’m able to cover is ‘I Don’t Want It’, the tenth song on the group’s 2003 album Quebec. The album arrived at the end of a dark period during the band’s original run in which drummer Claude Coleman almost died in a severe car accident and lead vocalist Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) going through a crummy divorce. ‘I Don’t Want It’ is the song about that crummy divorce and depicts Freeman’s feelings about the whole situation. It’s a sad song, to put it straight, perfectly capturing the moment of realisation when a breaking relationship has come to an end. It’s obviously for the best, though the love is still there that you don’t want to let go.

For the most part the track is played straight. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Things slow down afterwards, a short break occurs, and then suddenly a burst of guitar feedback kicks in leading into one of the most glorious guitar solos I’ve heard, drowning out almost every other instrument, echoing into the abyss and backed by some heavenly ‘aah’ vocals. For a time I did think it was lead guitarist Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) doing this solo. Why not? If there’s a solo in any other Ween song, it’s usually him who pulls them off. Then it dawned on me that it could possibly be Freeman himself… Turned out that it was, which made it all the more powerful and heartbreaking to me. It’s perfect.

#569: Chris Bell – I Don’t Know

You might remember that the title track of Chris Bell’s posthumous album I Am the Cosmos started of the ‘I’ section of this ongoing song series. Well, here is Mr. Bell again with another song from that album – the tenth one on there – entitled ‘I Don’t Know’.

Earlier this year I had a phase of listening to Big Star, after really enjoying the band’s first LP #1 Record and ended up reading about the band’s history and watching a documentary detailing the group’s career which is a good watch and one I would recommend to anybody interested. Just doing the general stuff you do when you really get into an artist you’ve properly listened to for the first time.

Making a long story short Chris Bell left Big Star after their first album release, disillusioned with the lack of its success and being in a band in general, and embarked on solo endeavours. His material wasn’t released in album form until 1992, over a decade after his tragic death. Listening to I Am the Cosmos and then hearing Radio City, the album Big Star made after Bell’s departure, it becomes apparent who may have been behind the band’s large, clean and anthemic sound that made #1 Record such a bold effort.

‘I Don’t Know’ explodes right out of the gate with a soaring intro of jangling guitars, crashing cymbals and powerful drums that segue into Bell’s vocals. The track sees the man in a state of confusion as to why he’s sticking around in a relationship that he doesn’t really want to be in, but still finds himself very much attracted to his lady. It’s a song of contradiction and inner conflict, themes that appear throughout the entire album, but it’s a blast to listen to – an energetic and cathartic three and a half minute wonder.

Another strange thing to note is that this song actually appears twice on the album, appearing with a slower tempo and completely different arrangement under the name ‘Get Away’. Now why Bell chose to do this no one will ever know. Isn’t that cheating in some kind of way? Then again… he wasn’t around to pick what songs went on his album. As a result, the deluxe version of the I Am the Cosmos album contains four takes of what are essentially the same song.

Obviously, the vibes are different between the two but maybe the lyrics are to be taken differently even though their completely the same in both songs. I don’t know. Just a guess.