In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Last week, the Internet exploded when word began circulating that Radiohead would play a show at the Occupy Wall Street protests. That turned out to be a hoax, but last night all was redeemed when formerly-reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel songwriter Jeff Mangum popped up to play an acoustic show in support of the protesters. He opened with a thematically-appropriate cover of the Minutemen’s “Themselves.”
Of all the artists with the potential to make a comeback in 2011, few seemed less likely that Jeff Mangum. Yet here he is, on an honest-to-god tour, playing full sets before actual audiences. With Neutral Milk Hotel’s discography so limited though, he’s been fleshing out sets with covers. The latest cover comes from a Toronto performance where he performed Roky Erickson’s “I Love the Living You.”
Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.
Is Neutral Uke Hotel a gimmick? Sort of. The name gives the game away. Shawn Fogel, slightly better known as Golden Bloom, goes around performing Neutral Milk Hotel’s seminal In the Aeroplane over the Sea on ukulele. That’s it.
Fogel must know he’s playing with fire. In the Aeroplane emotionally resonates with kids the way The Catcher in the Rye did/does (one reason I compared singer Jeff Mangum to J.D. Salinger). As the hostile comments at BrooklynVegan show, fans don’t have much of a sense of humor about this album. Their loss. The results break free of the self-imposed constraints when melodica and trumpet color the barebones recordings. Check out the video and download the MP3 of opening track “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One” below.
Each week Shuffle Sundays features a cover chosen at random. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can.
Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum is indie rock’s J.D. Salinger. His album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea resonated with young people on a deeply personal level, leading to the high school “It changed my life” claims usually reserved for Catcher in the Rye.
You’ve probably heard that last week Phil Spector was finally sentenced for second-degree murder in a verdict that surprised no one. Now sure, it’s easy to make fun of his eccentric courtroom hairstyles, but that makes it no less sad that such a man has sunk so far. Arguably the most favorite producer ever, Spector built an empire with his “Wall of Sound,” churning out hit after hit. The stories of his obsessive need for perfection in the studio are the stuff of legend, him driving artists to the brink of exhaustion to reproduce what he had in his head. Many of his classic girl group tracks are given new interpretations below, as well as some of his more surprising work doing albums like Let It Be.
Glasvegas – Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
Perhaps the quintessential Spector production, the original is a pop masterpiece. It’s been covered from everyone from John Lennon to We Are Scientists (which you can get at this Girl Groups post, with many other Spector covers), and here Scottish foursome drenches the pep in reverb, sounding like a pleading breakdown. [Buy]
Bruce Springsteen – Then She Kissed Me (The Crystals)
For the opener of one of the final shows on last year’s Magic tour, Bruce surprised everyone by doing a cover he hadn’t done since ’75, a slightly gender-altered take on the Crystals classic. Check out the stadium-sized roar when he starts singing and the crowd realizes what it is. Thirty-four years later, it hasn’t aged a bit. Speaking of Springsteen, I’m seeing him in Boston tomorrow and Wednesday. Here are two Bruce posts to celebrate. [Buy]
Frurk – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (The Ramones)
The fact that the Ramones picked Spector to produce them for End of the Century is bizarre, and one wonders how they put up with his famous eccentricity. This song in particularly is noteworthy for the eight hours Spector had Johnny Ramone play the opening chord to get it perfect. One chord, eight hours. Listen to the original and see if it was worth it, then come back for this slowed-down lo-fi take. [Buy]
The Ramones – Baby I Love You (The Ronettes)
In a tribute to Phil Spector’s production, it’s nice to actually post a track that was produced by Spector. When Spector produced the Ramones, it seems he couldn’t resist throwing a track he produced twenty years prior at ‘em. Here he tries to navigate the difference between punk and girl groups, bringing out Joey Ramone as a real singer in the process. [Buy]
The Morning Benders – He’s a Rebel (The Crystals)
A strange fact about many of Spectors’ groups is that he held the rights to their name, so he could have recorded Donovan and called it “The Crystals” if he wanted. While he never went that far, guess who wasn’t on the Crystals’ only number one hit…the Crystals! Not wanting to wait for the group to return from touring to record this new song, Spector used Darlene Love and the Blossoms on this track. Word has it that the Crystals heard their hit on the radio one day and, needless to say, were quite confused. [Buy]
Gladys Knight and the Pips – Let It Be (The Beatles)
Trying to cover the Beatles is an idea best avoided. Unless you’re Gladys Knight, in which case you can bust the hell out of any song you please. When it begins, you might think you’re in for a reasonably by-the-numbers cover. And you would be wrong. Hold on to your eardrums, cause voices like this don’t come along every day. [Buy]
Jeff Mangum – I Love How You Love Me (The Paris Sisters)
The man behind indie legends Neutral Milk Hotel released Live at Jittery Joe’s a few years back, showcasing a concert from 1997 where through audience requests he worked through early versions of songs that would end up on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. [Buy]
David McComb & Adam Peters – Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On (Leonard Cohen)
Leonard Cohen doesn’t write many stupid songs, but I guess even poet gods need to let lose sometime. So enter this little instructional ditty from the Spector-produced Death of a Ladies’ Man to remind you, “You can’t melt it down in the rain.” Because apparently that’s something you might want to do. [Buy]
The Saints – River Deep Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner)
Spector caused a stir in 2007 when during his euology for wife-beater Ike he said “Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s…there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner.” He then continued by attacking Oprah for promoting Tina’s autobiography. Another sign that Phil Spector may not be the authority on how a man should treat a woman. All Covered in Punk features vintage groups covering everything from Blondie to Frank Sinatra. Here we find a brawling Saint’s b-side from ’77 resurrected in all its fuck-you glory. [Buy]
Phosphorescent – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (The Righteous Brothers)
A heartbreaking live one here, the slide acoustic cracks in the voice. The mood is apparently lost on the asshole laughing in the background and I’m not sure the sing-along chorus helps the vibe. If there’s ever a studio version released of this, I want to be the first to know. [Buy]