Friday, May 21, 2010

Music to be Grumpy by

For unknown reasons, several of you have written in wanting to know what I listen to. So here we go.

I have a pretty wide taste in music, with my iTunes having roughly 5000 songs on it, about 1/3 of which are classical pieces, and the rest are more contemporary. And I always play it on random shuffle, so any given day, while working at my desk, I hear a wide variety of stuff.

I have a lot of the same stuff you likely have, a mixture of top hits, "classic rock" (whatever that is anymore), other popular stuff, and some offbeat songs,. Rather then naming everything, I thought I'd list some of the lesser known stuff I listen to.

Here they are, with my impressions, in no particular order.

1. The Fabulous Poodles. This mostly forgotten group had only 1 hit in the U.S. ("Mirror Star", in the late 70's), but they were AWESOME. They did some of the most eclectic stuff ever, blending violins with modern rock instruments, and songs that span a remarkable gamut of styles and odd topics (suicide, dessert, anorexia, artificial body parts, vampires, etc.). A sampler collection called "His Masters Choice" is still out there on CD. It doesn't have all their good stuff on it, but it's still awesome.

2. Spinal Tap. Created for the excellent mid-80's movie of the same name, this group has endured, to the extent that some people now don't realize the whole thing started as a joke. Their collection of intentionally badly written lyrics and tasteless music somehow remains quite entertaining. I was listening to Spinal Tap long before I ever dreamed I'd be doing spinal taps for a living.

3. Shriekback. Okay, I only have 1 song by them ("Nemesis") but let's face it- how many other dance numbers feature the science word "parthenogenesis" in the chorus?

4. Sisters of Mercy. Again, I only have 1 song by them ("This Corrosion") but this dance number is remarkable for it's catchy beat, 10 minute length, and absolutely senseless collection of lyrics. The random phrases sound like something written by a guy with left-sided brain damage (which, for all I know, they were).

5. Tom Lehrer. American humor music is a triad of Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman, and Weird Al Yankovic. All are good, but to me Lehrer is exceptional for his style of writing, and blending it with his advanced knowledge of mathematics and science. Allan Sherman is mostly forgotten today (he died in 1973), but his influence on all who've come since is unmistakable.

6. Maggie Estep. I may be the only person on Earth who bought her CD "No More Mr. Nice Girl", but it's awesome. More of a collection of poems read to music then true singing. But how can you NOT like a song featuring lyrics like "Fuck me and take out the garbage, feed the cat, and fuck me"? And her monologue "Bad Day at the Beauty Salon" is unforgettable.

7. Al Stewart. Remarkable stuff. Known primarily for his 1970's hit "Year of the Cat" and a few others, he remains an excellent songwriter and performer, who does fascinating work based on historical themes. His live album "Rhymes in Rooms" of just him and acoustic guitars, is one of my favorites. Ever.

8. Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits. What a great idea. Get a bunch of 1990's bands together, and have them re-record the theme songs from the 1970's cartoons I grew up listening to. Liz Phair's version of The Banana Splits" theme is awesome, and the album continues strong all the way through. Underdog. Hong-Kong Phooey. Speed Racer. Scooby Doo. Fat Albert. The Groovy Ghoulies, and many more. A related album of remade "Schoolhouse Rock" songs was okay, but not as good as the cartoon themes.

9. Gary Numan. Mostly remembered for his only U.S. hit "Cars", he actually had 3 interesting albums in the 1970's (Replicas, The Pleasure Principle, and Telekon) which were pioneering works in the use of synthesizers.

10. The Refreshments. Their album "Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy" is excellent. How many relationship songs have the chorus "I can't sleep, 'cause she snores like a chainsaw!"?

11. Northern Exposure. One of the few TV shows which I really, really enjoyed. The music CD contains an extended version of the theme song (which my mother calls "The Moose Dance") and a selection of songs played in the background during the show. They vary from Nat King Cole to Magazine 60 to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

On an unrelated note, I think this was one of the best TV series, ever. Did anyone else out there think it should have ended with the episode "The Quest", which featured Joel and Maggie looking for the "Jeweled City of the North"? To me, that one hit the right notes to end the show on, but instead they dragged it out for a few more episodes.

12. Sparks. Were these guys great, or what? Their greatest hits set contains their only popular song ("Cool Places"), a delightfully generic dance number called "Music That You Can Dance To", and even a song about sperm ("Tryouts for the Human Race").

13. The Dead Milkmen. These guys mastered the art of the quick song, with some of their stuff being less than a minute. The rambling musical monologue "Stewart" begins with the line "I like you, Stewart, you're not like the other people, here, at the trailer park" and goes on to discuss an accidental decapitation at an amusement park and paranoia about the government being in cahoots with homosexual martians to poison the soil.

14. Cast. These guys never really took off in the U.S., but I for one thought they were great. Their album "All Change" is a neat collection of songs that blends a 1960's retro sound with more modern stuff.

15. The Disneyland Soundtrack. Yeah, I know. I guess this is a hazard of going to the parks as a kid, and now having gone with my kids. It's simply a collection of music from the rides (yes, including the dreaded Small World) but is oddly entertaining. And certainly brings back memories. If you're driving when they hit the launching point in "California Screaming", it's hard to resist mashing the gas pedal and pretending you're on the ride.


Not an inclusive list, but for the inquiring minds who wanted to know, now you know.

46 comments:

Suburban Princess said...

I love Northern Exposure! It still airs here every day on some retro channel :O)

Fizzy said...

I love that Refreshments album, although most people haven't heard of them. I usually point out that the Refreshments wrote the King of the Hill theme song, and if you watch the first few episodes of KOTH, they play a bunch of songs from that album.

Bulrush said...

"The Disneyland Soundtrack?" Really? Does it have "The Electric Light Parade" song? That was awesome. I found "The Electric Light Parade" song as a midi file a few years back.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Bulrush- yes, it's part of the ending "Fireworks" medley.

miss kitten said...

most excellent on tom lehrer and allan sherman. i grew up listening to allan sherman on LP, "hello muddah, hello faddah" is an absolute riot. :)

thank you for sharing your music!

Mark p.s.2 said...

I love the TV show Northern Exposure.
LINK to List of Northern Exposure episodes

Chris said...

Commenting on your latest tweet - yeah, if I have to hear that song, or Miranda Cosgrove's latest song, I'm putting a brick through the TV.

mike said...

Tom Lehrer??!! I thought I was the only one who remembered him! I still laugh my head off at Vatican Rag:

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in Rome do like a Roman,
Ave Maria,
Gee it's good to see ya,
Gettin' ecstatic an'
Sorta dramatic an'
Doin' the Vatican Rag!

That is genius lyric-writing!

Caddy Wumpus said...

Dead Milkmen! It's Rodney Anonymous's birthday!

Bio Geek with Patience said...

I loved Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy!

I know I bought that once upon a time, but I don't remember if it was on tape or on CD. Now I'm going to have to go dig it up and hope that it was on CD so I can upload it to my iPod!

Val said...

I love Northern Exposure, and bought the DVD complete set then discovered to my disgust that the UK set doesn't have the original music.

*Growl*

The Mother said...

You and hubby would get along famously.

Silliyak said...

So this Sunday you'll see
my sweetheart and me
as we're POISONING pigeons in the park.

Yes we'll kill them all amid laughter and merriment, except for a few we'll take home to experiment ...

Good times

thegooddrlaura said...

I agree 100% about Northern Exposure. One of the best shows ever. I was in medical school for most of the time it was on. My first real job after Residency was in a small town of <2000, with about 1/3 Native American population and some Maurice types. I felt like Joel Fleischman sometimes. I'll bet I could re-watch NE on Netflix. I might need it after Sunday. If LOST screws me out of six years of loyal viewership with a bad and unsatisfying ending, I might never want to watch a new TV show ever again.

The Plaid Cow said...

Big Bottom, Big Bottom, Talk about bum cakes, my girl's got 'em

Antimony, Arsenic, Aluminum, Selinum, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Rhenium.

Maybe there are two Gods. A perfect God who made all those perfect people and another God who made the rest of us.

I also count myself in the list of electric tastes. My sister-in-law found it hilarious that I had both They Might Be Giant's "Here Come the ABCs" and Peaches' "Teaches of Peaches" on my Amazon wish-list at the same time.

Sandra said...

OK. You guys have got me singing Tom Lehrer songs now. This is going to be a LONG day. LOL.

Here's an interesting article on his latest offering... They call him the Steely Dan of math-based songwriters. I love it! (I also love Steely Dan.)

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2010/04/tom_lehrer_on_dvd_the_steely_d.html

Layne said...

OMG, I thought I was the only person in the world who remembered Nemesis. Should have been in a Twilight soundtrack.

Rothase said...

OMG! I have that Saturday Cartoon soundtrack somewhere... where did I put that?! and @Cow- TMBG rock! I bought all their kids' CDs. We listened to them until my kids finally scratched the beejesus out of them. And re: your tweet- that's one of the reasons we don't have cable. That Nick stuff (and Disney isn't much better) makes me want to smack the TV with a skillet. But now they have discovered PBSkids.com, so we argue over the computer. lol!

ERP said...

"One morning in a fit of pique,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
One morning in a fit of pique,
She drowned her father in the creek.
The water tasted bad for a week,
And we had to make do with gin, with gin,
We had to make do with gin."

From one of the funniest, dark, Tom Lehrer songs.

My Dad had one of his early 60's albums and I remember hearing it when I was about 10 - and laughing in a morbidly awkward kind of way.

Anonymous said...

I'm a long-time lurker, but seeing that you listed to the Dead Milkmen spurred me to comment. What a great memory of my high school years! Do any of your patients hear weasels? LOL

Kat's Kats said...

Tom Lerer & Al Stewert... but there are other things in my colection of vinyl & cds. Steelyeye Span is medieval music done up with rock instruments (think Childes ballads ::weg::).

My family also adore Leslie Fish, Joe Bethancourt, Master Efenwealt Wystle and so on.

Anonymous said...

Trip down memory lane! "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" and "The Vatican Rag" are particular favorites of mine...

Albinoblackbear said...

"Bitchin' Camero" is my favorite Dead Milkmen song.

P.S Odd that you get a lot of questions about your musical tastes.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

ABB- yeah, surprised me, too.

Spring said...

RE: Northern Exposure, I've actually been to Roslyn, WA (where it was filmed) a couple of times. Walked down that street the moose walks down in the opening credits. It was quite a tourist draw, even years after the show ended.

Coolest thing about NE is that it didn't just swoop down on a small town for filming every year and wreak havoc, then leave. The show made a commitment to the town. They put a lot of $$ into the infrastructure of the town, helping systems like the public schools on a long-term plan.

Sigmoid Freud said...

So, what do you think of this year's American Idol season?

jwg said...

There's a new Tom Lehrer compilation out and the cd comes with a dvd of him performing live. Amazon had it for under $15.00 last time I looked.

Outrider said...

I'm a Tom Lehrer fan, too. Have seen "This is Spinal Tap" more than once. Dead Milkmen remind me of TMBG. Weird and wonderful.

I'm relieved I'm not the only Sisters of Mercy fan. I own at least one of their albums on vinyl.

Grumpy Geek Dad said...

Northern Exposure was amazing, I was in High School when it aired over here. It was shown on Channel 4, DJ Chris was just so cool!

Anyway, if you like The Sisters of Mercy check out Temple of Love by them - amazing track....

Anonymous said...

Sheesh. I never heard of any of them.

Moose said...

I'm torn between amusement and horror at how close our music tastes are.

I got burned out on Tom Lehrer 25 yrs ago. I simply ADORE the Saturday Morning Cartoon covers album. And "Stuart" was totally my favorite Dead Milkmen song until I found "I Dream of Jesus," which never fails to crack me up completely.

Captain Crab said...

Spinal Tap: More cowbell!

JoAnna said...

Fun fact: There used to be a strip club in Fargo, ND called "Northern Exposure," but they got an angry letter from the show's lawyers and had to change their name to "The Northern."

I need to check out that Disneyland CD; sounds like fun!

Anonymous said...

I recently re-watched some of Northern Exposure on dvd and I had forgotten how much like **fingernails on a chalkboard** Maggie was to me! I had to quit watching in spite of everything else I liked about it.

Greg said...

Beach party Vietnam, surfin' with the Viet Cong, cookin' hot dogs with napalm, oh beach party Vietnam!

Awesome. I find the Dead Milkmen to be a great sleeper band with an eclectic fan base.

KateA said...

Have you heard Iron and Wine? You might like that. Also, Andrew Bird is totally amazing and he is wonderful in person. My husband was supposed to tour with him. His agent loved Charle's band called "Kil Howlie Day (HowLe, not Howie). When ever Andrew came to town, we go see him. He played by himself with a loop pedal. He would play small measures, recording each of them so that they played at the same time, building each song while he played guitar, violin, glockenspiel, and sang.

My husband does something similar when he plays solo. He is doing a blog where he writes, records, and mixes a song per week for a year. He is on week 36 of 52.

You can find the blog here:
www.charlesallison.org

Anonymous said...

Yeah for classical. As a musician I only knew classical music until I was 21. Kind of embarrassing but true.

Melissa

Mooselet said...

I love The Refreshments and have Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy on my iPod. I mean, any band that has a song with the lyric "Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people" PLUS a Star Trek reference is my kind of band.

TheLittleFlower said...

Tom Lehrer, Dead Milkmen, Saturday Morning Soundrack.... Punk Rock Girl is my favorite. We played it at our wedding! You have great taste in music. (Violet Femmes version of the Jetsons song is awesome).

Anonymous said...

Shriekback! Great stuff... great Goth Club song, haven't heard it in a long time. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

LOVE The Refreshments. Not necessarily a well known band. If you like them, they are still around as "Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers" same singer and drummer. They have put out several excellent albums and tour constantly. They are even better live!

Anonymous said...

I had someone record a tape of Maggie Estep for me years ago. Love that song you quoted!! Thanks for the memory.....now I gotta go hunt down that cassette. I wonder if I can find it on CD somewhere?

Claudia said...

Wouldn't survive! Put some Leonard Cohen, KD Lang, and Glenn Gould. It might cure the grumpiness. But don't stop the blog...That's what cures mine!

rcharbon said...

If you like Gary Numan, you need to get "Tubeway Army", his first album. In some ways it's even better than the ones with the hits.

Train Geek said...

When I think of Al Stewart, I also think of "Time Passages". So he was a TWO hit wonder.

My wife and I both love Northern Exposure. It was such a clever show.

mikraas said...

I love that song by Shriekback. I had to look up "parthenogenesis" to know what it meant the first time i heard it.

and may i suggest "Dominion/Mother Russia" or "Lucretia My Reflection" by Sisters of Mercy? Actually, the whole album Floodland pretty much rules.

 
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