YOU ARE HERE is an exploration of diegetic music

Dec 13, 2014

The Christmas Can-Can

Here's a Christmas cure-all, an ear salve for those who have tired already of hearing holiday songs, and there are many days ahead. Vocalese group Straight No Chaser feels your pain. From their tune "The Christmas Can-Can":
"Heard this same song 20 times and it's only Halloween.
" So we offer a continually updated playlist (12+ hours worth at this posting) of originals that probably haven't been played to death, and standards that are different enough to not be annoying (mostly). It's an eclectic mix, so every song won't fit every taste. But there are 200+ songs here-- there are more than enough to give anyone some respite from moldy oldies. Some of this music isn't strictly holiday music, being seasonal or with a thematic message, but virtually every song was released on a Christmastime album.


Dec 12, 2014

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

It's as if jazz singer Etta Jones has been scrubbed from the collective memory, confused with and overshadowed by the more famous Etta James or another singer named Etta Jones, who's slightly older and performed with The Dandridge Sisters, one of whom was Dorothy Dandridge who went on to have successful movie career including being the first African American woman to get an Oscar nomination, and to further muddle the Etta Joneses, conflates* Jones-the-lead-singer's biographical info with Jones-the-trio-member's (date of birth, husband, date and cause of death).

The jazz singer who fronted jazz combos, Jones put out an amazing Christmas record which includes this 8-minute stroll through "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" featuring tasty solos by members of the band… it swings.

*at this writing

Nov 11, 2014

I Just Came Back From A War

Making note Veteran's Day, present here is Darryl Worley who threw aside a college degree in biology and chemistry, and an engagement to fulfill his dream to be a full-time country music star. After moderate success he went to entertain the troops in Afghanistan during Christmastime and came back to write a number of vet-centric numbers. One is "I Just Came Back From A War," whose dark edges do nothing to hide its patriotic shine. And he apparently had nothing to hide in his Playgirl magazine shoot.

The obverse view from a vet's POV is Rise Against's "Hero of War".

But the most heart-breaking vet-comes-home story may be John Prine's "Sam Stone" sung here by Johnny Cash.

Nov 9, 2014

Autumn Nocturne

Lou Donaldson is an alto sax player who cut his teeth on bop. Posted is a quiet blues that feels like a seventh inning stretch with an early nightfall. Tenor sax master Sonny Rollins recorded it too, though this live version is a romp of riffs where the melody plays 2nd fiddle to Rollins' fluid dexterity.

Nov 8, 2014

White Christmas

The list of musicians affected by the over-shadowed scion curse (regardless how talented one might be, acclaim is still attached to the parent) has many members (Arlo Guthrie, Jakob Dylan, Adam Cohen, Julian and Sean Lennon, Shooter Jennings, Neneh Cherry, Roseanne Cash, Wynonna Judd etc) who are lucky enough in -- and burdened aplenty by -- choosing the family business.

Teddy Thompson is such a case. The singer-songwriter son of more famous parents (Linda and Richard), is featured in this weekend's NYTimes magazine. He has a deep catalogue of music that might assure him renown on his own, but being the son of a masterful guitarist and phenomenal folk singer duo will forever asterisk his career.

He joins Rufus Wainwright, who (with sister Martha) has a similar burden/blessing being the offspring of folksingers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle (who had a career as a duo with sister Anna), on Michel LeGrande's very polished, crisply stylish and woefully middle of the road Christmas record "Noel! Noel!! Noel!!!" most notable for it's expansive use of exclamation points and having Iggy Pop sing Little Drummer Boy

Nov 7, 2014


Joni Mitchell's birthday is today. It's hard to over-state her acclaim or impact: said, "When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century," and Rolling Stone called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever." Her music has had a direct impact on the careers of a legion of musicians from Madonna to Herbie Hancock to Led Zeppelin to John Mayer to Prince to punkers SNFU who have this tune about a fan for whom impact has a more literal meaning.

From the album "Blue," her tune River -- with it's neo-"Jingle Bells opening-- is a Christmas song that's become a standard. As per Wikipedia <<"River" has been one of the most popular songs covered in recent years, with versions by... James Taylor (recorded for television in 2000, and for CD release in 2004), Allison Crowe (2004), Rachael Yamagata (2004), Aimee Mann (2005), and Sarah McLachlan (2006).>>

A remarkable cover done live by Dianne Reeves slows it down, opens it up, and peppers it with jazz.

She paints too.

Nov 6, 2014

Blue Jay Way

On this date in 1967, The Beatles finished recording "Blue Jay Way," thereby introducing to the world that there is fog in sunny Southern California. This cover is by Beatlejazz, a dynamic duo of Brian Melvin (percussion) and Dave Kikoski (piano) who are supplemented by a some serious jazz players on a series of four Beatles-specific albums. It ain't BeatleMania, thankfully. It's touring band playing Beatles songs treated as standards like any jazz group approaches a set list. And they're playing tonight in New York City.

Nov 4, 2014

Election Year Rag

The late Steve Goodman was a great songwriter, i.e. "(The Train They Call) The City of New Orleans", and here is sample of that in making light of the dark of election day in a jolly ragtime style commentary ("The winner's always someone else, the loser's always us").

Another darkly lined silver cloud in the form a sort of peppy country blues "Election Day", by Blaze Foley & The Beaver Valley Boys (with the under-appreciated Gurf Morlix), Foley being immortalized by Lucinda Williams' woulda, coulda, shoulda ode "Drunken Angel"

Nov 3, 2014


For Christian pop that sounds more like Imogene Heap than Sandy Patty, Beckah Shae is likely what the hipsters among the faithful are listening to, those kids with piercings who go to church. Shae and ilk are the answer to Larry Norman's question from '72 asking "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?"

Nov 2, 2014

Clocks Go Forward

James Bay is a folk/popster in the manner of James Taylor, Brett Dennen and David Gray whose contemplative songs evoke a quiet resonance. Clocks Go Forward is relevant to the return to Standard Time, where clocks go back an hour, by its reference of a couple who will couple til Daylight Savings Time. Other metaphor users include "It's Too Late to Change the Time" here being the remixed and rewrapped update from '87 to focus on Michael Jackson's career, a boppier, hookier version of the Jackson 5 original. Also Johnny Hates Jazz's "Turn Back The Clock" which in this case is to turn the clock back to the '80s, thus all comparisons to Wham and the Pet Shop Boys is intentional.

Nov 1, 2014

There's No Invisible Halloween Costume That Isn't There

To say the artist Adrien Orange performing as Thanksgiving is raw, is to understate its naiveté. To say it sounds naive implies it's simple, but that's wrong too. Imagine Nick Cave and Bon Iver were in car that crashed into John Cage and Jonathan Richman. This track is a poor introduction to this prolific musician, but "There's No Invisible Halloween Costume That Isn't There" is deeper than the scary open mike impression it gives, as per "is almost jaunty in a lonesome, loping Thanksgiving way, with a circular chain of interwoven guitar chords stringing the listener through the fields of verse and swooping choral accompaniment." It's posted for the band name and song title being bridge-making collision of the holiday just past and the one upcoming. I think it's a goodbye song, but it's hard to tell.

Oct 29, 2014

King of the Ghosts

Styled as a sort of hard-bop tango, "King of the Ghosts" by NY septet Homer Erotic is both breezy and gutsy cruise through a pop song. Song's title is possibly a reference to poet Wallace Steven's "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts," a poem which could be an allegory of the struggle for supremacy between aggressors and defenders in the two World Wars, or maybe just it's about a cat and a rabbit who are rivals in the yard. Band's catchy songs about macabre, paranormal matters sung by female vocalists (and an over-dependence on echo), Homer fits in with Concrete Blonde and Curved Air, and stands up to the comparison.

Oct 28, 2014

A day of monsters & angels, including ….

Here's a 14-hour playlist of songs for Halloween, or songs using the day's tropes as metaphors, much like this insanely catchy Monsters & Angels by Voice of the Beehive, led by California sisters Tracey Brin and Melissa Brooke Belland. The band was an on-again, off-again troupe which when it was on, could knock-out a hook like on Scary Kisses -- which isn't metaphor enough for the Halloween playlist.

Oct 20, 2014

"Dancing the Devil Away"

"Dancing the Devil Away" by Arden & Ohman, pianists who filmed a number of their Depression Era performances and packaged on

This song appears on a few compilations packaged for Halloween. This from the dubiously dubbed "Halloween Hipster" lumping together some instrumentals (which could be about anything really) and some included for reasons that stretch the imagination, like "Jeepers Creepers" which was written in 1938 for a film with Ronald Reagan. Scary indeed.

And the record has "Headless Horseman" by Kay Starr, highlighted here earlier.

"Costume Makes The Clown"

via Live-Onstage Blog
Although not strictly a Halloween song, here's a dressing down of dressing up. Every now and again it's worth remembering that among ever-growing list of the dance-pop divas, Shakira is more consistently interesting than the others. One example is "Costume Makes The Clown" possibly only known as one of the tracks on "Oral Fixation vol. 2" that isn't "Hips Don't Lie." But it shows her control of her signing gifts include a little growl/roar dropped in like an italic emphasis, and then a bit of vocal fry that makes it modern, and instantly interesting.

Oct 13, 2014

"You Scare Me To Death"

via Amazon
It's scary season. But the only thing to fear is halitosis, so says Marc Bolan of T. Rex in this posthumous release. You Scare Me To Death must have been around before the release in '86 because the weird proto-punk/art band Fresh released it in 1970 as "Horrible Breath" on "Fresh Today" -- an LP of which is in my possession, possibly among the last ones on Earth. The record had a minor hit (it got played a couple of times on college FM radio, which in 1970 was the same as saying "never.") called "Stoned in Saigon" found here on (don't know why).

"Robot Zombies"

Halloween looms like the Angel of Death, so here's kind of surf punk latino rockabilly "Robot Zombie"  from The Benders' album "Who's Your Daddy?" The band has a low-key online presence, but what's there indicates that their live shows are anything but. Yes, they are on Facebook.
via Last.FM

Dec 21, 2013

"Ring Out Solstice Bells"

Originally on Jethro Tull's "Songs From The Wood" LP, "Ring Out Solstice Bells" was later repackaged on a off-beat but remarkable Christmas record. Tull, maybe one of the few rock groups of the time or any time, that sleigh bells wouldn't sound out of place on non-Christmas tunes, without irony. They were the first major fusion band, bridging folk music with acid rock. It is the greatest oversight of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that this pivotal band is not included.

Dec 6, 2013

"Christmas Honeymoon"

If you were lamenting that '50s rock pioneer Eddie Cochran never did a Christmas record, you may be sated by the John Lindberg Trio out of Sweden rocking a set of mostly originals like the rockabilly sprinkled "Christmas Honeymoon" off their consistently lively "Rock This Christmas" collection.

Dec 5, 2013

"Xmas Always Makes Me Want To Die"

Of course it's a novelty song, but it's really only an exaggerated reminder that the holidays aren't jolly for everyone. But the beauty of this music themed for the season, there's something for everybody. The Dick Grande and The Dirty Danglers band is a comedy gig with an R-rated catalogue (e.g."She's a Ho Ho Ho," "Size Really Matters," etc.), but this is relatively safe -- meaning it's safe for the relatives above a certain age.

Done to the tune of "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."


Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential political figures of the last century, died at 95. His prison-to-president path alone earned him a place in history. But that was only some of his story. National Public Radio compiled the musical portion of his story, told in text and YouTube videos like the one above for the song "Meadowlands" by the African Jazz Pioneers with Dolly Rathebe.

Dec 4, 2013

"Frosty The Snowman"

Charlie Bertini and Friends – Frosty The Snowman starts as fast, catchy riff on the standard then at 0:40 it grows into a ripping New Orleans-flavored jazz feast of strong players and sly twists.

Nov 30, 2013

"Wonderful Christmastime"

In "Wonderful Christmastime" by Dweezil Zappa, freaky guitar bits interrupt this otherwise standard contemporary standard, written by Paul McCartney in '79. The scion of Frank Zappa his known for his name and guitar mastery. His father was best known for a few novelty songs (despite his massive and eclectic catalogue), the wintry lines from one of which has been made into a Christmas tree ornament.

Nov 29, 2013

"Oh Holy Night"

That Neil Zaza has toured as a representative of an amplifier company shouldn't hurt his credibility as a musician, and it hasn't hurt his chops on electric guitar in evidence here on his metalhead-friendly version of "Oh Holy Night" from the generally superb "A Night At The Palace," which is a 2 CD set from his regular Christmas concert at the Palace Theater in Cleveland with the Cleveland Rock Orchestra.

Dec 19, 2012

"Chilly Winds"

A remixed (house-ified) version of Nina Simon's treatment of this song shows up on a few Christmas records, but it's Maxine Weldon's '71 straight-up R&B "Chilly Winds" track that warrants attention here.

.... because this morning, in this zip code, it was in the mid-30s F.

Dec 17, 2012

"Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (Symphony No. 3, Op. 36)

Funerals began today for children murdered in the mass slaughter incident at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Henryk Gorecki composed "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (Symphony No. 3, Op. 36)

Although the themes are about loss through war, pegged upon the Holocaust, it is a poignant piece for the day:
The first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, and the second movement from that of a child separated from a parent.
PREVIOUSLY: "Devil's Right Hand"

Dec 14, 2012

"Devil's Right Hand"

It's a horrible and horrific day at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticutt. Johnny Cash weighs in on the general topic with "Devil's Right Hand."

Not to be forgotten is the Boomtown Rats' masterwork "I Don't Like Mondays," which is specifically about a school shooting.

Dec 12, 2012

"Ballad of Bilbo Baggins"

Leonard Nimoy was once willing to do anything. He's been an actor, director, poet, photographer and, apropos of our purposes here, a singer. On the occasion of the opening of "The Hobbit" movie (Think of it as "Lord of the Rings IV, The Prequel" or "Middle Earth, Chapter One"), here's the most inane thing you may see today. The fidelity of video is pitiful, so here is the audio to "Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins", but the video is a true gem, in that it will be a regretful way of spending 2 minutes, but it's shareable for it's utter ridiculous charm.

Dec 11, 2012


Ravi Shankar:  April 7, 1920 – December 11, 2012

The sitar master performed in 10 decades (his last show was Nov. 4 in Long Beach) and he was among the most interesting things that ever happened to the Beatles; he played with symphonies and Yehudi Menuhin; collaborated with drum n' bass popster Talvin Singh; he played at Woodstock and the White House in the Ford Administration.

"Prashanti" comes from Shankar's '90 "Passages," a groundbreakingly weird collaboration with minimalist orchestral composer Phillip Glass, no stranger to boundary-busting himself.

And to some, he's Norah Jones' dad.

Dec 9, 2012

"Amarga Navidad" (Bitter Christmas)

via NY Daily News
Banda superstar Jenni Rivera died in plane crash today. Her song,  "Amarga Navidad", translates to "Bitter Christmas."
From Billboard:
Fully comfortable in English and Spanish, Rivera was at the height of her career. A force to be reckoned within multiple media platforms, she had two albums "Joyas Prestadas: Pop" and "Joyas Prestadas: Banda" -- currently coexisting on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart; her own reality show "I Love Jenni" on bilingual cable network mun2; she had recently inked a deal to star in a comedy on ABC to be simply titled "Jenni"; she hosted a syndicated weekly radio program and had launched both clothing and cosmetics lines; she was a coach on "The Voice Mexico" and had had a role in her first feature film, "Philly Brown." Rivera also launched her own foundation to help victims of domestic abuse.

Dec 5, 2012

"(Farewell) Jingle Bells"

Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012)
via Wikipedia
"(Farewell) Jingle Bells" comes from his "A Dave Brubeck Christmas" which is as much a title as a description.

Dec 3, 2012

"(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag"

This under-exploited song has a YouTube video of audio with a slideshow of Santa clip art, but here's the song pulled ino the 21st century "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag" (Thunderball Mix) from the superlative "Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remix" which takes some standards and houses them up, deftly ... more jeweler's mallet than sledge hammer.

Recorded by big band vocalist Kay Starr in 1950,  we can be pretty sure it's not a drug song; eventhough a generation later, similar allusions in mainstream songs leave little doubt as to what they're taking about: The Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man," and the George Baker Selection's "Little Green Bag"

... But for some, with these lyrics, a case could be made:
Old Mr. Kringle is soon gonna jingle
The bells that'll tingle all your troubles away
Everybody's waiting for the man with the bag
'Cause Christmas is coming again
He's got a sleigh full, it's not gonna stay full
Stuff that he's droppin' every stop of the way
Everybody's waiting for the man with the bag
'Cause Christmas is coming again

He'll be here
With the answer to the prayers that
You made through the year
You'll get yours
If you've done everything you should extra special good
He'll make this December the one you'll remember
The best and the merriest you ever did have
Everybody's waitin' for the man with the bag
'Cause Christmas is coming again

Dec 2, 2012

"Writes of Winter"

Members of Led Zepplin were bestowed with Kennedy Center Honors for contributions to the arts -- a recognition that undoubtedly irked some traditionalists. The band that began heavy metal sharing an award with Isaac Stern ('84) and Eugene Ormandy ('82) can be marked in a denotative shift of terms: a "classic" radio station is playing rock not orchestral music, and a century ago "long-hair music" meant Beethoven and now it's "Starirway to Heaven."

In keeping with the topical mission of this blog -- including seasonal songs -- here's "Writes of Winter" by guitarist Jimmy Page, one of the most influential instrumentalists in the history of anything.

Dec 1, 2012

"Santa Claus Is Back In Town"

The a capella dectet, Straight No Chaser, seasons much of their music with irony and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" is no exception. Undoubtedly, that helps to avoid the cliche of yet another vocal ensemble doing holiday songs and also may be due to a certain kind of college frat humor -- this band was born at Indiana University.

Here, they merge elvish with Elvis ... which of course relies on some Elvis cliches. But it's clever, even if it wears out its welcome after a while.

More irony: Taking their name from Thelonius Monk's stellar tune, and despite doing nothing but remakes, they haven't recorded a remake of that one.

Nov 30, 2012

"Little Saint Nick"

  In honor of today being St. Andrew's Day -- a fete of Scottish nationalism -- here's Andrew Gold (not Scottish but from the San Fernando Valley), with "Little St. Nick", yet another Beach Boys ode to a car but with a Christmas flavor. The Brian Wilson charmer gifted the oeuvre with the over-obvious lyric:

"Christmas comes this time each year"
and performed with more guts here by L.A. Guns.

Gold has a great pedigree, son to an Oscar-winning composer (for Exodus") and the top dubbed-in singing voice in movies (Marni Nixon).

"Best Christmas Ever"

K-Pop (that's "Korean pop" for the uninitiated) doesn't stop at Psy and his earworm "Gangham Style" (a video perhaps you haven't seen). Among that cultural tsunami is The Wonder Girls, and included here for their version of "Best Christmas Ever" -- a remake of the Ronnie Spector tune from her 2010 EP of the same name, a much grittier but scratchier song. This catchy K-Pop'd treatment has all the edges buffed off from the original but none of hip-hop stylings which put the Wonder Girls on the map, and consequently on the Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary collection (the entire series is worth investigation).

Not to be confused with the alt-rock supergroup, the Wondergirls.

Nov 29, 2012

"The Coventry Carol"

In this season of joy and giving, love and charity, it may be a bit discordant to learn that a traditional seasonal carol is about genocide. "The Coventry Carol" is a Middle Ages lament for the executed children of ancient Israel at the behest of King Herod: Wikipedia entry.

Sufjan Stevens has a version here: "Coventry Carol" -- because he is remarkably proficient and has a couple of Christmas compilations (two 5-EP sets each), at this pace, he'd have gotten around to this infanticide jeremiad eventually.

It ain't "Jingle Bells":
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
 It's also called "Lully, Lullay" or some variable thereof. Regardless, versions tend toward the traditional, like this from the Eurythmics' Annie Lennox "Lullay Lullay (Coventry Carol)". Consequently, this song is one the few songs to get posted that is not updated, rebooted, or tweaked in much of any way at all. Yaz' Alison Moyet turns in a good version too, here "The Coventry Carol".

Nov 28, 2012

"Que Verdes Son" ("The First Noel")

"Que Verdes Son" is a mashup of tradition and reinvention of a holiday standard from the surf/latino-billy rebooted remakes from behind Mexican wrestlers' masks and out of Nashville, Los Straitjackets on their cool  Yuletide Beat Christmas record.

Oct 10, 2012

"James Bond"

The Skatalites The Skatalites – James Bond

Moby – James Bond Theme - Moby's Re-version

Desmond Dekker – 007 (Shanty Town)
<< 007, 007
At ocean eleven
And now rudeboys a go wail
'Cause them out of jail
Rudeboys cannot fail
'Cause them must get bail

Oh, dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
A shanty town
Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
A shanty town

Dem rudeboys get a probation
A shanty town
And rudeboy a bomb up the town
A shanty town>>

Oct 9, 2012

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

Since retailers have determined it's Christmas time, let's jump right in with the late-too-early Amy Winehouse (which proved to be a Dickensian name -- and what could be more Christmas than that?)