“Whistle & Fish” by John Prine: Choosing Lightness in Time of Crisis

29 March 2020 EDITOR’S NOTE: Just heard today that John Prine is in critical condition with COVID-19, and I don’t even know what to say.


It seems that things, while still absurd, have gotten a bit too heavy lately. And, it is good to step away from the heaviness, no matter how serious it is.

Even legends like John Prine stepped away from heavier songs about social commentary to record songs like “Whistle & Fish”, a song that’s most simple message is about gratitude and not taking anything too seriously.

Fish and whistle, whistle and fish,
Eat everything that they put on your dish,
When we get through we’ll make a big wish,
That we never have to do this again, again? again?

When we’re used to going so fast, how do we lighten up?

During these times, I’ve appreciated the funny or simple things I notice on my runs more because, well, I ain’t got nothin’ but time. I’ve enjoyed “hanging out” with my South Side Hit Pen mates a lot. There are more home-cooked meals. More reading. More music. Less ruminating. It is a cliche, but it has made me want a different kind of life and have the time flesh out what kind of life that might be.

While the world seems like it might be coming apart, it is a quiet time and there is much to behold, and I am in awe of how quickly things that societal paragons and powerhouses crumble without us all to keep it afloat. The phrase “tiny but mighty” is more true now than ever. I am reveling in my smallness and appreciating the small delights.

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We cannot control much right now, and it is important to maintain a lightness of being and sense of humor in this time like our dear friend John Prine. Stay well, friends.

Guest Post: “Music or Misery” with Tommy Barbee

Tommy examines the musical chicken-egg question.

Today, we’re trying something new because what better time to experiment in the middle of a societal breakdown?

Tommy Barbee is my former professional colleague, current colleague over on South Side Hit Pen, a daily source of creative inspiration, an excellent partner in conversation (ranging from modern philosophical and moral issues to extremely low brow humor), and, most importantly, we can get into fights and recover. I would certainly refer to him as one of my besties. Is the feeling mutual? Who’s to say? 🙂

Recently, he shared some musings of his own about this strange time and how it relates to a question originally posed by High Fidelitya book turn movie in 2000 (and seminal Chicago film) now turned show on Hulu. Enjoy.


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“What came first, the music or the misery?” – High Fidelity

As I sit here observing the now commonly accepted social distancing in affect as we attempt to offset the latest wave of impending doom that 2020 has thrown society’s way, I find myself coming back to this question. It’s a simple question, but an indelible idea that has stuck with me since my formidable teenage years. Sure, like every other angsty teenage boy that is now on the older fringe of Millennials, I spent more time than I’d care to admit listening to the likes of Weezer, Radiohead, and Coldplay mixed in with the more socially accepted hip-hop music of the time.

Was I anxious and depressed because I listened to OK Computer and later Kid A one too many times? Sometimes it felt that way, and I still refuse to listen to a Radiohead album from beginning to end so as not to spark a sudden bout of existential crisis.

As an adult that has distanced himself from the awkwardness of adolescence, I find myself feeling as isolated as ever in this time of unwavering panic. Once again, I’m turning to music to make sense of things.

It’s true, too much Elliott Smith can bring you down. Even so, he conjures such depth of emotion that somehow your life, or a generational experience, can be summed up in mere minutes. Right now, finding something– anything– that can help reflect or make sense of the emotions felt today is exactly the kind of “misery” needed.

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Feel free to connect with Tommy on Twitter: @kindableu.

Vinyl Day 7: Tyler, the Creator “Wolf”, Country Joe & The Fish “Greatest Hits”, & Deafheaven “Roads to Judah”

Welcome to Vinyl Day 7! Catch up on the other days here.


Artist: Tyler, the Creator
Album: Wolf
Year: 2013
Genre: Alternative hip-hop
Record Origins: I bought this one.

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I highlighted Tyler, the Creator on Day 3Goblin was a fun album, and it was expressive. It was also a lot more angry. Wolf is Tyler’s step into genius. This is the rap-version of a rock opera. A rap opera if you will. It chronicles  The songs are emotional and unapologetically vulnerable– something a lot young black men aren’t often allowed by many different aspects of society. This is all balanced with some humor, and yet it all remains so relatable.

The album art is equally endearing. It shows a little baby Tyler on his bike (Slater?).

This is one of my favorite songs from the album. I was going through a difficult time with my dad, and this song was relatable at the time.

Another one of my favorite tracks on this album is “IFHY”. The video is also very interesting, and the pain is visceral.


Artist: Country Joe & The Fish
Album: Greatest Hits
Year: 1969
Genre: Psychedelic rock, folk rock
Record Origins: New Orleans- Christmas gift for my dad (that I got back!)

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I bought this album for my dad from a record shop in New Orleans. Perhaps it was a bit of a misguided attempt at me trying to connect with him because I am not even sure how he felt about Country Joe & The Fish, and I don’t even know that he listened to records. Luckily, this record came back to me.

I first learned about Country Joe & The Fish from the incredible PBS documentary Woodstock (apparently there is a new version of the doc, and I am sure it is just as good). This is the most popular song “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” (if you can’t tell from the song, it’s about the U.S.’s involvement in The Vietnam War and how stupid it was):

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.


Artist: Deafheaven
Album: Roads to Judah
Year: 2011
Genre: Country, Americana, Indie Rock
Record Origins: One of mine, but I don’t remember where she came from.

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Here is the debut album from Deafheaven. I wrote about one of my all time favorite albums, Sunbather, on Day 5. I bought this album at the same time I bought Sunbather, and my friend was working in the record shop. He said he liked this album more. Roads to Judah is a great album, but I listened to Sunbather first and was tainted. However, both are very rich and powerful. And fuckin’ sick.

Here is “Unrequited” from Roads to Judah.


Thanks for tuning in here on Day 7!

Vinyl Day 6: Loretta Lynn “Van Lear Rose”, Curtis Mayfield “Back to the World”, & Bobby Sherman “With Love, Bobby: The Scrapbook Album”

Welcome to Vinyl Day 6! Catch up on the other days here.


Artist: Loretta Lynn
Album: Van Lear Rose
Year: 2004
Genre: Country, Americana, Indie Rock
Record Origins: One of mine, but I don’t remember where she came from.

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Loretta Lynn (along with Dolly) is one of my favorite song writers and performers in the world. As a younger artist, she was way ahead of the field in terms of songwriting with greats like “The Pill“, “You’re Lookin’ at Country“, “Coal Miner’s Daughter“, and my favorite “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man“, featuring Conway Twitter.

And these facts from Loretta’s wiki are some of the primary reasons I lover her so much:

Lynn focused on blue-collar women’s issues with themes about philandering husbands and persistent mistresses. Her music was inspired by issues she faced in her marriage. She pushed boundaries in the conservative genre of country music by singing about birth control (“The Pill”), repeated childbirth (“One’s on the Way”), double standards for men and women (“Rated ‘X'”), and being widowed by the draft during the Vietnam War (“Dear Uncle Sam”).

Country music radio stations often refused to play her music, banning nine of her songs, but Lynn pushed on to become one of country music’s legendary artists.

As I have mentioned in another post, I love a good ol’ country rebel. Loretta checks those boxes.

With 60 years in the business under her belt, Loretta’s 42nd(!) studio album was a crossover album produced by indie greatness Jack White. The song most people will be familiar with is “Portland, Oregon”, which also features Jack White.

Loretta and Jack also won two Grammys for this album, and one of their acceptance speeches was adorable.

This album is excellent, and although I think we will continue to look back upon the aughts as a less than tasteful decade, this album surpasses and, I think, will stand the test of time. I can’t believe it is already 16 years old.

Though, I will say- the album cover and back always drove me a little nuts as it looks like Ms. Loretta is wearing that big heavy dress on a hot day in the South. It makes me itch just looking at it.


Artist: Curtis Mayfield
Album: Back to the World
Year: 1973
Genre: Funk, Soul
Record Origins: Slam from some thrift shop in Chicago

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This album was acquired from the donated collected of one, Alyce J. Landry. Who is she? I don’t know, but several of her records found their way into my house. So, thank you Alyce, whoever and wherever you are.

Alyce has great taste in music, and I like to imagine her spinning this record in the 70s. Maybe she smoked a little weed while doing it. Gettin’ woke. I certainly hope she danced to it as one must do with Curtis Mayfield.

This album peaked at #1 on the hip-hop and R&B charts and #16 on the US Billboard 200.


Artist: Bobby Sherman
Album: With Love, Bobby: The Scrapbook Album
Year: 1970
Genre: Pop
Record Origins: Mom

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I had no idea who Bobby Sherman was before I wrote this. However, I have now learned he was a teen idol and experienced hearing loss because of all the ladies who used to scream for him.

I feel a little indifferent about this one, but here is a video of one of Bobby’s hits “Julie, Do Ya Love Me?” with a bunch of girls flipping their ever loving shit about Bobby.



 

Thanks for joining me for day 6!

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers

The Gambler has left the building.

Legendary country singer, television star, and Texan Kenny Rogers folded ’em and exited the mortal coil yesterday evening.

“The Gambler” is a favorite shower singing song of mine, and in general I find comfort in it in both good and bad times. We often overcomplicate some of life’s most simple decisions, and I think “The Gambler” speaks to that. I’ve posted it and several other famous and favorite Kenny Rogers songs below.

Here are some fun Kenny facts:

Kenny owned some goats and alpacas.

Here’s a funny excerpt from Southern Living regarding how Kenny started acquiring farm animals:

We bought a llama and a goat, and something else. I had a farm in Athens, Georgia. We bought these animals, and I thought llamas would be I was, after surgery, all my Oxycontin, and things were a bit blurry with me. And I was watching a show and they said, I love alpacas, and I turned to my wife and I said, I think I do! And so we ordered three of ‘. And by the time they got there. It was really fun. I mean, I enjoyed it, but then they spit on me. I said ok, out. We had to build the shed farm and then air conditioning and put water. It was a lot of trouble.

An accomplished athlete, Kenny once faked out Michael Jordan.
Kenny was also a pro-level tennis player.

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R.I.P Kenny. Thank you for bringing joy into the world.

Vinyl Day 4: Herman’s Hermits “Blaze”, The Who “Quadrophenia”, & self-titled Maureen McGovern

I was a bit late on this one, but welcome to Vinyl Day 4 featuring Herman’s Hermits, The Who, and Maureen McGovern. Catch up on the other days here.


Artist: Herman’s Hermits
Album: Blaze
Year: 1967
Genre: Beat, British Rock
Record Origins: Definitely my mom’s album (she would have been 10 when this album came out).

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I remember being around 10 or so and asking my mom if she liked The Beatles when she was younger. She said she did, but Herman’s Hermits were her favorite. I was a bit nonplussed as I did not know who the hell they were.

They are damn good though. Here is “Museum”, with a Donovan (yes, THAT Donovan) writing cred from the Blaze album:


Artist: The Who
Album: Quadophenia
Year: 1973
Genre: Rock, Rock Opera
Record Origins: Slam Dunk’s

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Set in London and Brighton in 1965, the story follows a young mod named Jimmy and his search for self-worth and importance. Quadrophenia is the only Who album entirely composed by Pete Townshend.

A film version of Quadrophenia was released in 1979.

Here is a song from the album that everyone should know (and if you didn’t, now you do)– “Love, Reign O’er Me”.


Artist: Maureen McGovern
Album: Self-titled
Year: 1979
Genre: Pop
Record Origins: Mummer and Popper

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Not a huge fan of this album, but Maureen McGovern has a beautiful voice. The album cover also features the most tasteful sideboob/underboob/deep cleavage I have ever seen in my life.

Anywho, this album features the song “Can You Read My Mind”, the theme from the 1978 version of Superman. Enjoy:

Vinyl Day 3: Tyler, the Creator “Goblin”, BeeGees “Spirits Having Flown”, & the London Philharmonic “The Complete Recordings of Handel’s Messiah”

Welcome to Vinyl Day 3. Catch up on the other days here.


Artist: Tyler, the Creator
Album: Goblin
Year: 2011
Genre: Hip Hop
Record Origins: I bought this one.

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I have followed Tyler, the Creator for some time now. I have seen him twice (2014 and 2016), and he always puts on a very energetic show. He’s also incredibly funny. Apparently he hates this album, but there are some bangers on it that he and I agree on.


Artist: BeeGees
Album: Spirits having Flown
Year: 1979
Genre: Disco
Record Origins: me mum and paw

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This record ended the end of the BeeGees mainstream success:

 It was the group’s first album after their collaboration on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The album’s first three tracks were released as singles and all reached No. 1 in the US, giving the Bee Gees an unbroken run of six US chart-toppers in a one-year period and equaling a feat shared by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. It was the first Bee Gees album to make the UK top 40 in ten years (not counting the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever), as well as being their first and only UK No. 1 album.

Here is “Too Much Heaven” from that album:


Artist: The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Album: The Complete Recordings of Handel’s Messiah
Year: Sometime in the 70s or before.
Genre: Classical
Record Origins: me mum and paw

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My parents have a shit ton of orchestral and classical music in their collection. So get used to seeing this. This rendition of Handel’s Messiah is from the London Philharmonic. You can listen to it here. I’m not in the mood for this level of drama.