Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Inauguration Day (For Night) Blues Playlist


As the Trump administration creeps ever closer to taking the reins of our ever fragile republic, I compiled a list of songs about many things that speak to the moment (for me anyway).  Many were songs I listened to over the past year so they are closely linked with the events of 2016. There's an ongoing tension between fear, hope, and defiance to the list. Let's begin with Badfinger's 1969 hit single, "Come and Get It" written by Paul McCartney for the counter-culture film The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr about a privileged billionaire obsessed with what people will do for money.  Based on the Terry Southern novel, the sharpest hipster of his day, he would've had a field day with the Trump era, but reality is satire these days.  "When the Circus Comes" from Los Lobos prepares us for the craziness.  "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" channels the mood of mid November '16. Bob Dylan's "Tombstone Blues" reads like prophecy for 2017 with Jack the Ripper heading the Chamber of Commerce and the delusional Commander of Chief in a barrage of psychedelic stream of consciousness verse. "People Get Ready", an anthem of the civil rights era written by Curtis Mayfield, got covered by hundreds of recording artists. I like The Chamber Brothers cover, a steady rocking version that gets to the gospel origins of the song- appropriate for any day of the year. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins offer a slanted whimsy to political theory on "The Charging Sky." Next Harry Nilsson's version of the Randy Newman standard "Sail Away" about a charming slave trader reminds us hucksters are often too suave to refuse.  Fred Neil's "The Dolphins" will take you to some other place far away. And then Neko Case with "Night Still Comes," a heartbreaking dirge about anything and everything sung beautifully. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds share some "More News From Nowhere." New York City band Parquet Courts search for the Southern Soul on "Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth" and Elmore James moves us back to the center of the circle with "Dust My Blues."  The Rolling Stones go further into the abyss on "Dancin' with Mr D,"  a boozy reflection on excess and temptation, a Stones song more appropriate to conclude a Trump rally than his ominous preference for "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Frank Zappa's "I'm the Slime," memorably performed on 1970s SNL follows a megalomaniac who gleefully manipulates the masses (thru TV, not twitter). Tom Petty comments on widespread culture dissonance on "Shadow People." As Petty ponders the mania for Conceal and Carry as the last refuge of a dangling man he sings with resignation, "Well I ain't on the left, I ain't on the right/Ain't even sure if I got a dog in this fight."  P.J. Harvey resets the tone on "Community of Hope"; a new-old sort of protest music.  "Sittin on Top of the World"  by Howlin Wolf throws an existential curve ball into the ether.  Judee Sill's splendid "There's a Rugged Road" serves up more resilience; Pink Floyd's "Fearless" brings the resistance up another notch - we gonna need it! Finally Ohia's "Farewell Transmission," fronted by the fallen Ohio cult hero Jason Molina (1973-2013) closes the list out with a swinging prose poem rocker of viscous defiance.  As a coda, after emerging from the other end of the rabbit hole, I hope to hear The Doors "Hyacinth House" playing on a shiny neon jukebox, hinting that things will somewhere, somehow be OK.