Tag Archives: Billy Bragg

Music Blog – Songs That Don’t Fit

Welcome to my music blog. In these entries I will highlight a particular genre, time period, or artist and give you a week’s worth of listening as examples. You can go to Pandora, Spotify, or your favorite music site to listen to or download the music.

I wish I could say each list was the result of years of research, my own musical experience, and critical consensus  of critics, but they aren’t. They are just things I find interesting. I listen to many types of music, but I tend to love to find overlooked bands/songs or bands that were big but that history has kind of forgotten.

There will be glaring omissions, egregious inclusions, and outright mistakes. If you agree or disagree, want to clue me into other possibilities, or explain some odd point of music history, please leave a comment.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the music.

Nick Cave The Modern Lovers The Replacements

Songs That Don’t Fit

I have a warm spot in my heart for oddball bands and oddball songs. A lot like my love for strange cars and cult movies. Pieces of artistic expression that show a strong sense of the artist’s point of view, but that are completely out of step with the times. There is probably a personal life metaphor in there somewhere, but I’d really rather not think about it.

The songs on this list are ones that are really hard to classify, but one that also have touched me in some way (I’m not going to discuss that metaphor either). Some are spooky, some are silly, and others are just very tender and honest. I don’t know if they were made out of some deep desire on the part of the artist, or if they were a lark, or if they were drug fueled indulgences caught on tape for posterity. All I know is that I like them.

Nick Cave – Nick is from Australia and was part of a pioneering goth group called “The Birthday Party”. He formed a group of former punk artists called “Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds” and proceeded to blaze an experimental trail across the ‘80s. He has recorded with the band and solo since then and has continued to be experimental. The song “Red Right Hand” is one of the creepiest, and most cinematic songs I have ever heard.

The Bad Examples – A Chicago band popular in the ‘90s. They were strong regionally, playing somewhere constantly, but never managed to break into the national scene. They were fueled by Ralph Covert’s catchy tunes, and his twisted pop sensibilities. The band slowed down after the death of the lead guitarist (heart attack, odd for rock n roll), and Ralph launched into a very successful career in childrens music.

Little Feat – By all rights they should have been a southern band in the tradition of the Allman Brothers, or /38 Special, but their main creative force, Lowell George, was never content to write arena rock. They toured constantly, refining their sound and building an audience, but when Lowel died in ’79 the wheels fell off the bus. This song “Dixie Chicken” is one of my all time favorites.

The Modern Lovers – While they had their moment in the clouded sun during the punk years, it is hard to call them punk. They were much more of an underground or cult band in the vein of the Velvet Underground. Through the ‘70s they always seemed on the edge of semi-stardom, but never got there. The original band went through many changes, but the creative lead Jonathan Richman remained and the band ended up being his vehicle.

Billy Bragg – Folk music generally makes me want to pull a Belushi and smash the guitar, but I find that when folk artists sing about love, relationships, or just don’t get preachy I kind of like them. Bragg spent time doing work in the ‘80s for liberal causes like political rallies, strikes and benefits. Through this he built up an audience for his crisp guitar work and concise biting lyrics.

The Replacements – Prince cast a long shadow over the ‘80s music scene in Minneapolis. This frozen land isn’t known as a musical hotbed, but for a few years during the Regan administration it was on the map. The Replacements were kind of a post punk band, but tempered with Midwestern and pop sensibilities. They were supposed to be the next big thing, until a disasterous drunken performance on Saturday Night Live showed they were not ready for the limelight. Paul Westerburg went on to have a fairly successful solo career, but I will always mourn what could have been.

Monday – Nick Cave “Red Right Hand,  Warren Zevon “Werewolves of London”

Tuesday – The Bad Examples “Sammy the Dog”, “She Smiles like Richard Nixon”

Wednesday – Robert Palmer “Hey Julia”, Little Feat “Dixie Chicken”

Thrusday – The Modern Lovers “Pablo Picasso”, Billy Bragg “A New England”

Friday – Nora Jones “Man of the Hour”, The Replacements “Skyway”

Bonus – Devo “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” – Yes, I like it better than the original. Not even close.