Monday, April 6, 2009

"MAY YOU NEVER FIT IN"

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“May your laughs always be loud, may your nights all be long, may your ideas always seem strange, and above all, may you never fit in.”
~ Todd Snider
(From the liner notes to 'Songs For The Daily Planet')

Remember when you were a teenager and you’d get together with a friend or two and listen to records? “Here, dude, check out this bitchin’ Thin Lizzy song. It really rocks, man!” Well, a few weeks ago, The Great L.C. and I acted like kids again. We sat around in his living room taking turns turning each other on to new tunes. I played him a couple tracks from ‘The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions.’ (No coincidence that despite L.C.’s open front door, no Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared on his stoop while the Wolf was howlin’.)

But my main goal was to add a second track to L.C.’s one-track Rock ‘N’ Roll mind by learnin’ him some Waylon Jennings. ‘Cause ya see, L.C. is a music bigot who don’t like no Country-Western. No Waylon, no Hank Junior, no Brenda Lee, no Roger Miller. Heck, he ain’t never even heard of Yoey O’Dogherty And His Corn Liquor Boys. Can you believe that crap?! It’s surprising that I even talk to The Great L.C., but he followed me home one day and my parents made me keep him.

Anyway, I don’t think I made even a Little Jimmy Dickens-sized chink in L.C.’s Rock ‘N’ Roll armor with my Waylon tunes. (May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up His Nose!) L.C.’s great, but he’s a slow lurner. He did, however, go out later and buy ‘The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions.’ Guess he just needed a Jehovah’s Witness repellant. Maybe he ain’t got no (Country) sense, but at least he ain’t soulless.

During our Listenin’ Jam, I guess I came out the winner because L.C. turned me on to a dude I’d never heard of before. (This is the second highly talented but criminally unknown musician L.C. has brought to my attention over the years. Previously he learned me some Gary “Surf Guitar” Hoey.)

Knowing that I dig Bob Dylan’s song ‘Talking World War III Blues’, L.C. first played TODD SNIDER’s takeoff on it titled ‘Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues’ from Snider’s debut recording called ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ (1994). Well, that got my attention immediately. The quickest way to my heart is through my sense of humor. And this Snider cat absolutely rocked it. I knew instantly that this track was no fluke: no one can be that funny and clever just once. When you hear sumpin’ THAT good, you know da dude’s got other boffo tricks in his bag. So, The Great L.C. played me another tune (‘You Think You Know Somebody’) while I read the liner notes in the compact disc’s booklet: Todd wrote about how his Dad, whom he loved, died during the making of this, his first album. And I was struck by how the description of his Dad sounded like my own Pa who passed on in 1996. I wasn’t recording my first album at the time, but I was sobering up some. Same thing.

Well, about a week later, I borrowed ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ from L.C., listened to the entire thing, and then purchased my own copy. Todd Snider is not a good songwriter. Todd Snider is a great songwriter! One of the best I’ve ever encountered. I thank God for people this talented. Todd can be outrageously funny, witty, sarcastic, surprising, strange and sensitive, all in one collection of songs. I tell you the truth, this Todd Snider cat is just like me. Well, except that Todd is blonde, while the one hair on my head that isn’t grey is brown. And Todd is younger, richer, funnier, better looking and more likeable than I am. (I hate him.) And Todd has girls after him. Me? Just Homeland Security (you see, I voted for Ron Paul, so I’m now officially a threat to this country’s safety and liberty). Also, Todd is a winner who writes songs, while I’m a loser who writes “Stuffs.” [1] And Todd has a fan CLUB; I have just a single fan (although it does have three speeds!) Other than these minor differences, Todd and I are like identical twins. I swear, I think he stole my DNA – the SOB!

I have always said that the greatest debut album by any singer from any genre was Rickie Lee Jones’ initial self-titled offering. Rickie came right out of the chute with incredible aplomb and sass. She had a totally loose, self-assured style and her first album covered so much emotional territory and was so fully developed, that I’ve always thought no one’s coming out party ever remotely approached it. Well, guess what. I think Todd Snider’s ‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ probably bested ‘Rickie Lee Jones.’ He defeats her by wielding weapons of Humor and Spiritual Sense.

Interestingly, it has not escaped my notice that Rickie’s first album included a song titled ‘Easy Money’ and the song had a little twist at the end. Todd’s first album also included a song titled ‘Easy Money’ and the song had a little twist at the end. Do I need to spell out the moral of this little story for ya? If you want to release a really stellar debut album, something that will contend for Freshman honors, you need a little ‘Easy Money’ with a twist. (I like mine straight up. However, if yer a wuss, you can pour it over the rocks. But don’tcha never add sody pop!)

I’d describe Todd Snider’s sound as sort of a “John Mellencamp marries Bob Seger has an affair with Bob Dylan soaks the feet in Big Joe Turner smokes a little Country Twang partys with a Sense Of Humor slaps five with the Seeds of Spiritual Sense hammers a nail into Human Heart meets Meat ‘N’ Potatoes Rock ‘N’ Roll, extra Mustard, hold the Onions, and don’t do Windows, Card Tricks, or Married Women.” So, there’s the category for those of you who feel the need to categorize everything.

Well, Snider has been steadily recording music since his first shot glass across the bow in 1994. And you can tell the guy is brilliant by the unimpressive number of records he sells to the world’s (du)M(b)ASSES. What he needs to do is get hooked on heroin, slap Amy Winehouse around, punch Sean Penn’s photographer in the nose and pose naked with Madonna …or something. I mean, that’s what I’d suggest if I were his P.R. man. If Madonna’s unavailable, maybe A-Fraud could loan us a different girlfriend. [*Hire me, Todd, and I’ll make you "the number one attraction in every supermarket parking lot." Eat yer heart out, Roger Miller!]

‘Songs For The Daily Planet’ contains 12 tracks, not counting the aforementioned hidden track ‘Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues’ tacked onto the end of ‘Joe’s Blues.’ There’s the sad, poignant ‘You Think You Know Somebody,’ and there’s ‘I Spoke As A Child’ which is a wistful recollection of innocence lost - which happens to be one of my favorite themes in “this world.” There’s the funny, facetious ‘Alright Guy’; the spiritually astute ‘A Lot More’; and the hard-rocking (but half a shade too snarky for my tastes) ‘This Land Is Our Land.’ Y’all didn’t think ANYTHING could be too snarky for my tastes, didja?

But just how clever and witty is Odd Todd?... This whole affair kicks off with a bang: track #1 on album #1 is Todd’s modernized parody of The Who’s ‘My Generation.’ He titles it ‘My Generation (Part II)’ to avoid confusion. Here’s what Odd Todd has to say about his generation:

Did you know that there are people who put us down for no other reason than the simple fact that we get around?

My genration, part two, book three, verse four, Jackson Five, Nikki Sixx


My old man says the Woodstock generation
Found a way to make this nation
Open up its eyes and take a look around
And he says my generation
Ain't good for nothing
I could think of something
So I thought I'd jot it down


Here's to hair gel
Hanging out at the health spa
Using condom sense
Watching L.A. Law
Here's to drum machines
Stonewashed jeans
Credit cards, fax machines
Big bow-headed chicks and frat guys
Wearing forty dollar tie-dyed t-shirts
And big old paisley ties

Here's to living off dad as long as you can
And blending in with the crowd
Oh, my generation
My generation
My generation should be proud


We were raised up in the hallowed halls
Of half a million shopping malls
And there ain't any price that we're too proud to pay
We'll buy anything from Diet Sprite
To one thousand points of light
Hey, I admit we're not that bright
But I'm proud anyway


Here's to hair gel
Hanging out at the health spa
Using condom sense
Watching Arsenio Hall
…[etc.]…
Here's to living off dad as long as we can
And blending into the crowd
Oh, my generation
My generation
My generation
God, I hope I die before I get old
My generation
My generation
My generation
Strike a pose--there's nothing to it
My generation
My generation
Oh, my generation should be proud


OK, that’s great stuffs, no doubt about it. But the song that sold me – the one that took the (un-)“easy money” out of my wallet - was ‘Somebody’s Coming’:

Tell anybody that ain't got nobody
Somebody's coming
Tell all these people who think they need money
Somebody's coming
Tell everybody walkin' tall and proud
That their money talks, but it talks so loud
That there's Somebody coming
That's gonna change everything


Tell all these people makin' all these decisions
Somebody's coming
Tell all these people with their hateful opinions
Somebody's coming
Tell everybody in the KKK, in the FBI, in the CIA
That there's Somebody coming
That's gonna change everything


Somebody's coming to change your mind
Sneak up on all you believe from behind
Somebody's coming who won't let you down
Who'll turn everything you thought was right around
Well Somebody's coming
That's gonna change everything


Tell all these people at the end of the line
Somebody's coming
Tell all these people holding "I'll work for food" signs
Somebody's coming
Somebody's coming, been here before
If you think you're outta chances, well you've got one more
'Cause Somebody's coming
That's gonna change everything


Somebody's coming that don't need your vote
Gonna rattle your cage and rock your boat
Somebody's coming like a thief in the night
Gonna stand by his people when we're too weak to fight
Well Somebody's coming
It's gonna change everything


That “don’t need your vote” verse is my favorite, for both the lyric content and the sincere manner in which Todd Snider delivers it.

“Behold, I am coming as a thief.”
~ Jesus Christ (Revelation 16:15)

“…the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. … But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”
~ Saint Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2,4)

Yes, our Lord Jesus is not only a Good Shepherd, but a Good Thief, too. You’ll want to be home when the Good Thief enters your house to steal your stony heart and your pain. Don’t be at Jolly Jack’s, drunk and under the pool table with me.

Odd Todd’s ‘Somebody’s Coming’ is already one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs.

You see, folks, the REAL Messiah doesn’t require our approval in order to exercise authority (eat your heart out, U SAP). This world’s real Messiah is a Benevolent Dictator, a Holy King, a Sinless Savior. He’s not some democratically elected Marxist.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”
~ Jesus (Matthew 7:7,8)

For Those About To Knock – about to Knock Around The Clock - We Salute You! Knock On! May You Bless And Be Blessed …but never fit in. [2]

Ukulelely Yours,

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Yeshua, thanks for savin' me on April 6th, 1994.
FOOTNOTES:

[1] In the interest of Full Disclosure, I will confess to having written two songs. The first in 1986, titled “Devil On My Coattail Blues." It's about trying to retain ownership of your soul while drinking with the devil. The second, “My Favorite Drinks”, I half stole from Rodgers and Hammerstein. Neither song has ever been recorded, so they don’t count fer nuffin’.

[2] SPECIAL MESSAGE TO “PSEUDO-REBELS”:
Why don’t you conformists try to find the courage to become non-conformists and then REALLY rebel by getting your tattoos removed, by taking the stud out of your tongue and the ring out of your eyebrow? Why don’t you rebel against the commonplace? I mean, if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? If your friends downloaded Paris Hilton songs on their iPods, would you do it too? Why don’t you just be YOU so someone else doesn’t have to?
Thanks for Bumpin’ On Sunset yesterday, Brian.
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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Stephen:

Well, my friend, I will admit that I had never heard of Todd Snider, but your Blog piqued my interest.

I went over to YouTube and checked out a couple of his videos on line. His style is really hard to pin down. (Alt rock? protest rock? folk rock?) Of the three songs, I listened to – they seem to be narratives set to music. He’s quite funny, but in a very subdued way – as if he were equally puzzled and amused by some of the strangeness he has encountered. His fan base also seems to be a kind of “coffee house” crowd. A very interesting performer though.

There is a bit on the internet where he was asked why he called his latest album “Peace Queer,” (a title which is almost certain to push more than a few buttons). His response was:

"What, too commercial?" he said. "I don't care. My intention is to outsell Thriller. And not just the Michael Jackson one. Ultimately, I believe this record will sell 6.8 billion copies. That's not one in every home. That's one in every hand. Well, roughly every other hand, 'cause most people have two hands. And on the day that happens, I guarantee America and parts of Canada world peace."

~The Flying Aard~

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

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Howdy, AardPal ~

>>[I went over to YouTube and checked out a couple of his videos on line. His style is really hard to pin down. Alt rock? protest rock? folk rock?]<<

Well, I don't know, but I thought I did a pretty admirable job of categorizing it in my Blog Bit ("John Mellencamp marries Bob Seger has an affair with Bob Dylan..." etc.) I suppose most people would call it "Alt-Country", but then again, most people voted for Barack Obama, so what do most people know?

>>[Of the three songs, I listened to – they seem to be narratives set to music.]<<

A lot of his live stuffs is performed with an acoustic guitar and sans band, whereas the album originals are arranged with a full, electric band. So, the live stuffs are not always a true indication of how he sounds on record.

>>[There is a bit on the internet where he was asked why he called his latest album “Peace Queer,”]<<

Wait! He's a peace-loving homo? I didn't know that! I'm a war-mongering hetero. That does it! Todd Snider - bad, bad, bad! I'd better go watch a Vietnam Wa-- ...er... "police action" movie now, just to wash my mind out.

Hey, thanks for your comment, Aard. I always enjoy it when you check in.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

Anonymous said...

Hey, Stephen:

I am surprised that Snider can speak and sing so clearly, since his tongue seems to be permanently planted in his cheek. Here’s a shortcut to the entire article (including the outrageous album cover photo: http://www.toddsnider.net/store/product/1/Peace-Queer. A funny guy!

Cheers. . . The Aard

Anonymous said...

A quick P.S. here, Stephen:

Have you ever heard of Tom Lehrer? Lehrer is a satirist, song writer, pianist and mathematician. His voice obviously doesn't compare to Snider's (thin and reedy), but he writes the same kind of biting and insightful songs (ranging from politics to human nature). His heyday was really the 60's and 70's, but he's still at it and you might enjoy some of his lyrics (i.e., National Brotherhood Week).

~The Aard~

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>[I am surprised that Snider can speak and sing so clearly, since his tongue seems to be permanently planted in his cheek. ... A funny guy!]<<

HA! You funny, too!

>>[Here’s a shortcut to the entire article, including the outrageous album cover photo:]<<

Actually, Pal, The Great L.C. owns ALL of Snider’s stuffs, so I have already borrowed and listened to most of his other releases, including ‘Peace Queer.’ I was only “PLAYING” dumb, but I know it’s hard to tell with me.

I still think Snider’s first is best, but I’m considering buying another one titled ‘Happy To Be Here.’

If you get a chance, try to hear his live version of the song ‘The Ballad Of The Devil's Backbone Tavern’ and the story he tells on a separate track leading into it (the story is longer than the song). These are found on his live album called ‘Near Truths And Hotel Rooms.’ Very funny stuffs.

It seems he was once hospitalized for depression. Obviously, he wasn’t drinking enuf.

>>[Have you ever heard of Tom Lehrer? Lehrer is a satirist, song writer, pianist and mathematician.]<<

Mathematician? The sick bastard.

Yes, I am familiar with Tom Lehrer due to his infamous "A Christmas Carol.” Aard, you’d have to get up fairly early very late in the afternoon to find someone I don’t already know about.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>