Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How To Ruin An Otherwise Perfectly Good Song, Volume I

But maybe it's that one imperfection that makes it art.

Nope. It's that one imperfection that makes it imperfect, doofus.

Here (hear), let's take a closer look.

America, Paul Simon (and that Garfunkel person)

Put in a soprano sax solo during the bridge

I mean, really. This song starts off so perfect, with the a cappella, then the guitars come in. "Let us be lovers and marry our fortunes together…" It's awesome. Then Kenny Fuckin' G comes in during the whole "laughing at the spy in the gabardine suit with a camera in his bowtie on the bus" bit. Jesus Christ, Paul. Don't do everything some lame-ass producer says to. I bet it was the same retard who told you to put in a trumpet solo for one of the verses of "The Boxer", wasn't it? No wonder Art left you. You've got no artistic backbone, dude. And you haven't written anything halfway decent in 33 years. Asshole.

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Perform it live

A lot. Over and over and over. Mutilate the open by doing it on a double-necked electric and have your bass player play the bass lines on a Fender Rhodes. Then take a 35-minute guitar solo that goes nowhere and finishes before it even started while the drummer rushes the tempo from the moment he comes in because he's in the middle of finishing off a 5th of Jack that he keeps on his floor tom, and we're not even to the intermission yet. Yeah. Do that.

Candle in the Wind, Elton John/ Bernie Taupin

Change the words so it applies to the Princess of Wales who's just had 2 tons of twisted steel plow into her abdomen

What a fucking sellout that was. It made me sick. I'm surprised the little queen didn't do a 9/11 version.

Goodbye gleaming towers
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled, caught on fire, and jumped out of the 114th floor to their certain deaths…

Hey. That's not bad actually.

Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell

Have Judy Collins cover it

Hey Judy: Stick with mauling "Send in the Clowns". Again. Bitch. Didn't Joan Baez punch you in the face at a peace rally back in '68? I guess it didn't take.

Giant Steps, John Coltrane

Show the tune to the piano player about 43 seconds before the engineer hits the record button

And then use the take that you sound best on. "Giant Steps", in addition to being a very complicated up-tempo chart with rapid chord changes, doesn't exactly lie well for your average (or above average, for that matter) jazz pianist. Add the fact that it jumps around from awkward key to awkward key (B, F#, &c., and the like), and taking a solo on "Giant Steps" as a jazz pianist is like playing tiddlywinks with your elbows. Ouch! That smarts.

Alas, pianist Tommy Flanagan will always be remembered, because of that recording, as the Bill Buckner of jazz.

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Have a really terrible snare drum sound

When Brian May's guitar solo kicks in after Freddy's bit about Beelzebub having put a devil aside for him, or something to that effect, the sound of the snare drum sucks every last bit of life out of what should've been a real rockin' moment right out of the whole song.

In the late 1970s and into the mid 1980s, most rock drummers preferred a fatter sound, what they at the time thought of as "heavier". Well they were wrong. It wasn't. It was bland and out of focus. Think Whitesnake, Def Leppard. This was a direct reaction against the crisper, more biting, thwackier sound preferred by the giants of drumming. Think John Bonham on "Moby Dick".

Fortunately, "Rhapsody" was featured on Rock Star: INXS. And the house band's drummer (that one black dude) really came through, using a sound more consistent with Keith Moon than with early Tommy Lee (who's a really good drummer, but not great). He, and they, and her, brought the house down, finally, and gave one of the best rock songs of all time the percussive spine it deserved.

God Bless the Child, Arthur Herzog Jr./Billie Holiday

Have Billie Holiday sing it

This one won't make me too many friends, what with all the Billie Holiday-worshiping freaks around here, but screw it. She couldn't sing. Sorry. She couldn't. There are 2 singers and 2 singers only that sang the songs properly from "The American Songbook", and they are, I repeat, Frank Fuckin' Sinatra and Ella Fuckin' Fitzgerald. Deal! [ahem]

Oye Como Va, Santana

Have a wretched guitar sound and take a meandering, vapid solo that mutilates the chorus

The song's going along just fine, it's really grooving, the organ hits in all the right places, then this lame Mexican't stumbles forward, turns up the distortion and reverb, and manages to kill any momentum the authentically tinged bass and percussion in-the-pocket Latin feel the tune had to begin with. Can you say, "Train wreck"?

Love Theme from Superman, John Williams

Add words to it and have Maureen McGovern tear it to shreds, unapologetically

Jesus Christ! It's a lovely theme with extremely interesting modulations and transitions. Leave it to Maury to go totally Ice Castles all up in that shit. She should be forced to listen to the Richard Harris version of "MacArthur Park" for 48 hours, or until her head explodes, whichever happens first, or last, literally.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane

Have it be a song about Christmas

It's a beautiful song, perhaps my favorite xmas song, other than "When Christmas Day Is Here", sung by those carnival geeks on the Island of Misfit Toys.

I hate Christmas. And because of the fact that this song marries seamlessly pitch perfect chord progressions, a haunting melody, and the melancholia of being apart during the holidays, I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or pull a Willy Loman with the hot water heater. (Yes, thank you, I realize he killed himself by driving off a bridge at the end, I know. But the sheer hopelessness of his wife disconnecting the hose after he leaves the house and then hooking it back up just before he gets home is a stroke of pathological genius on Miller's part. So, yeah, shut up.)

We've Only Just Begun, Paul Williams/Roger Nichols

Have it start out with a clarinet playing the melody about a quarter-tone sharp

Did you know that "We've Only Just Begun" started out life as a jingle for a bank commercial? Did you further know that Richard Carpenter is an insane retard who could butcher any arrangement with the flip of the wrist (and that he's not really playing the piano in that creepy live performance of "Superstar", the one where Karen comes out looking like a Druid on crack)? Well he is.

When Karen comes in, after the clarinet fiasco, in an impossibly low alto, and when her voice cracks slightly on "… to live…", I defy anyone not to shed a manly tear at it's beauty, especially you chicks.

Good Vibrations, Brian Wilson

Put in a Theremin

Speaking of insane retards, did you know that Brian Wilson filled his living room with sand? I didn't, until I watched an excellent made-for-TV-movie about The Beach Boys years ago starring that one guy and the queer dude from Melrose Place. Not him, the other one.

Anyway, his inclusion of that little instrument that couldn't makes the conclusion of "Vibrations" sound like a transition into an episode of Dark Shadows. (The original, not the lame remake [in the 1980s?].)

Any Song By, The Doors

Because Jim Morrison was a terrible singer and an even worse lyricist

"Yeah, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon now
Touch me babe
Can't you see that I am not afraid
What was that promise that you made
Why won't you tell me what she said
What was that promise that she made…"

I guess we can all just assume that he and Glenn Frey went to the same poetry seminar: Rhyming Pointlessness 101.

Face it, folks, The Doors were a mid-level band whose only claim to fame was a lead singer who liked to pull out his schmeckle during live shows. "The End" is so terrible that it has its own brand of deodorant. And the live version of "Touch Me" on The Ed Sullivan Show is proof that a geezer who can take a tenor sax solo on a California rock song is probably trying not to laugh on the inside.

Saturday Night, The Bay City Rollers

Oops! Wrong list. There's not a dang thing wrong with this gem of a song!

It's got everything: a clever story line about life in the fast lane; a hooky chorus with a raucous "living out loud" anthemic appeal; spelling; and a beat that can best be described as "like eating Chinese soul food prepared by a lesbian Mrs. Robinson who's listening to Mitch Miller whilst popping uppers from a Pez dispenser". Or in that general vicinity, anyway.

Layla, Eric Clapton

End the song with a seemingly unending, cocaine-crazed multiple guitar solo and a stupid piano riff that goes on about 29 minutes too long, where the various and sundry guitars play awkward note after awkward note that don't seem related at all to the chord progression over which they're playing

And then just have it stop for no particular reason where it does. I wonder if that was Eric's moment of clarity, you know, when he finally got up the nerve to listen to the final mix, you know, sober and stuff. Ouch! I think "Layla" is the car that was stalled on the tracks when Santana's train came a'barrelin' through.

Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 77, Johannes Brahms

Make the fiddle part nearly unplayable, and have the most beautiful melody in the entire piece played not by the violin soloist but, rather, by an oboe

(Wait for it.)



The Summer Wind, Hans Bradtke/Harry Mayer/Johnny Mercer

I don't know where to start

I guess you could have the guy from Tiger Stadium handle the organ parts, after having hired an isolated tribe of pigmies in the New Guinea Outback who've never heard of music to do the arrangement, then hire a terrible bass player who drags and a drummer who thinks he's actually supposed to be playing a polka.

Then Prop ole Frank up in front of a microphone so he can completely phone it in. (I'm serious. He was actually on the phone during most of the recording session, which, by the sound of that entire album, sounds like it lasted about 45 minutes.)

Then just keep modulating up a couple few times and we're there. Bingo! You're it!

Surely that's enough earworms for one post (minus the Brahms).


MsZilla said...


[puts fingers in ears and squinches eyes shut]

We all live in a Yellow Submarine, a yellow submarine....

Anonymous said...


Schadenfreude said...

Four words:

Do you remember laughter?

Dawn Coyote said...

Maybe Jim Morrison isn't dead after all, he's living as a recluse and writing lyrics for Bush (no, not speeches for Bush, but that works, too).

From the Making It Up as They Went Along file:

"Warm sun, feed me up and I'm leery loaded up
Loathing for a change and I slip some boil away
Swallowed followed, heavy about everything but my love
Swallowed sorrowed, I'm with everyone and yet not
I'm with everyone and yet not, I'm with everyone and yet..."


Schad, Schad, Schad..."[Does anybody] remember laughter?" Please turn in your Swan Song membership card.

Schadenfreude said...

Dawn Coyote said...
Schad, Schad, Schad..."[Does anybody] remember laughter?" Please turn in your Swan Song membership card.

I feel like such a whore (thanks).

rundeep said...

Wow. Something to offend everyone. Who can say you are not evenhanded?

And yep, I like Billie's version. I mostly hate Sinatra, (except for the "Wee Small Hours of the Morning.") Ella rules everything, and honorable mentions for Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Carmen McCrae, Tony Bennett and Johnny Hartmann.

Curious. Where do you stand on Rufus Wainright? I admire his audacity and his ability to sing ridiculously long phrases, but his voice annoys me.

Anonymous said...

Brahms...isn't he the guy that wrote the lullaby? A little of that stuff goes a long way.

And yeah, the midget hasn't been teh same since Artie Garfinkle died.


(You may have just ruined Bohemian Rhapsody for me, asshole. Even more than Wayne and Garth did.)

Anonymous said...

Oops, maybe he didn't die. I think he actually went into acting for a short time.

Dawn Coyote said...

Schad - I think you're confusing "whore" with "doofus."