This is just whatever I’m listening to lately, or particularly love. From here it is probably all YouTube links (or they’ll simply be embedded and maybe can play right here!). I guess I’m making some pictures too. And then there was a series I’ve been working on called the 100 greatest albums (with each album individually being the single greatest ever). They’re little essays of admiration (link here). I will probably move those into this page and write new ones when the fit comes upon me. Some other essays on music may pop up occasionally too. So I guess it’s the usual smorgasbord on this page too.
Okay, yes, I’ve been screwing around a little with the Neil Diamond and everything here recently, but this, well, this is lovely, Pat Metheny playing “And I Love Her”. I promise it’s worth a few minutes:
Just a couple of odd things today.
First a picture of Neil Diamond.
What do I think of Neil Diamond?
Well, let’s save it for another time, but here he is at my library’s desk.
It is all trickery, but nevertheless I actually saw him as he here appears, almost 50 years ago, forever in blue jeans.
Okay, I would not normally feature this kind of music, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it when I was eight, but with music, enough time passes and it’s hard not to like everything a little bit.
It goes with my picture.
8/12/21: Weird experiment day!
Today I am going through every page I have in Life is a Fountain and adding something hopefully relevant to it from the annals of Clerkmanifesto. It’s my desperate attempt to freshen up everything after being away for a couple weeks. So here you go:
Fine. Yesterday we hearkened back to the beginning; We asked, what was for us the first greatest album ever made. And we found a “best of” album, by the Beatles, called the Red Album. And that’s all well and good. You read my description, wept, listened to the album, went to the library and got a copy, listened to it, and said “Oh yeah. These. These are good songs.” Like it was a surprise.
Well it was a surprise to me too in in 1978.
But what is the most recent album I listened to where I said to myself:
Holy shit. This is the greatest album ever made!
This is the subject of today’s thrilling blogpost!
It’s our first live album too.
The Live at the Fillmore of our title refers to Lucinda Williams Live at the Fillmore. It is the greatest album ever made.
Oh, you think that’s a device now, don’t you?
It’s going to get ugly then.
In my first of the 100 greatest albums of all time I extolled Neil Young’s On the Beach as possibly the saddest album of all time. It’s not. This is. This is. Her voice is more broken. She’s older. More dreams have fallen. She doesn’t expect them to come true. This is not a disaffected rock star, as gorgeous as that can be. This is a person! You! You can count on your blessings. I’ll just count on blue.
Take Ventura, please.
But first we must talk about Caravaggio. We must talk about magic.
Caravaggio paints a collar bone, a shoulder, and your heart melts and it makes no sense. A bit of cloth, a moment, a splash of light. Well here it is. What does Lucinda Williams write about here?
Fucking soup. She makes fucking soup. She sings about fucking soup and I’m crying.
Driving. Showers. Watching waves. Throwing up in a toilet.
This is the greatest album ever made.
She puts Neil Young on and turns it up.
No, seriously, it’s in the song. She knows where she comes from. Everything required is here.
The sort of cool Minnesota radio station where I first heard Lucinda Williams did a poll of the best 893 songs of the 2000’s.
Ventura didn’t make.
You can count on your blessings. I’ll just count on blue. Fuck Minnesota.
Literally the most exquisitely unbearable song to listen to ever written (at your own risk):
Bus to Baton Rouge
Not everything has to be the GREATEST EVER! And I can get a little… like that. But I heard this sweet song on my way to work today and I’m listening to it now…
The funny thing is, it’s by someone named Arlo Parks.
I thought: That sounds familiar. Do I know them?
No, I’m thinking of Arvo Part.
I really liked this Billie Eilish song I heard today. I like her subtle singing that’s done way down. In honor of it I came up with a picture of her around the library, standing on a stool, in the elevator.
I had a song by here but it was taken down or something?
an all time favorite:
The best music video I have ever seen is Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
Is it the best song I have ever heard? Sure, occasionally, along with many others. Written by a band just coming off of the height of their inventive powers, it comes in at that often tiny sweet spot where a group’s deepening wisdom briefly crosses with their creative mastery.
Perhaps even more rare than this sweet spot, Everybody Hurts belongs to that tiny collection of spiritual anthems. These are religious songs without religion, and they are extremely rare.
Off the top of my head we have:
Let it Be
Bridge over Troubled Waters
I Shall be Released
You may readily note that thematically, even a little structurally, these are almost all one song.
Well, they’re one, but they’re not the same.
Sorry. Spiritual anthem lyric joke there.
Let’s put it this way:
They’re all “don’t kill yourself” songs. They are painful songs of comfort. And the reason they are so powerful is because they go so deep into understanding just how bad it can be. They do this musically sometimes even more intensely than they do it lyrically, and they don’t say that rejecting the despair of being alive is easy, but they nevertheless meet it with hope and love.
They’re very, very nice songs.
They care about you. That’s a pretty profound trick for a piece of art to do.
And so we have set the stage for Everybody Hurts, the music video.
Everybody Hurts doesn’t need a music video. It doesn’t need anything. It is as complete a song as human beings can write. But there it is, a video. It will take you less than six minutes to watch if you’ve never seen it, and by linking it here I absolve myself of any need to refrain from discussing any part of it.
The reason I think this is such a great music video is because even as it faultlessly matches the song in expression, emotion, and theme, it is in no way a mere filming of the song. It starts enigmatically, but in pain and distance, like the song. For the first moments we see the lyrics of the song we’re hearing, but with a sudden beautiful dissonance it switches. To our surprise we are no longer seeing the lyrics as subtitles, and we’re not sure at first what we’re seeing instead as subtitles.
It’s the lonely thoughts of the people in the traffic; mundane, piercing, broken, irritated, trivial, human thoughts.
The song takes it all in. Everybody hurts.
It is not my intention to walk through every detail of this beautiful little music video; the psalms raining down on the traffic below, the musical redemption striving to speak through to the people in the cars, how Michael Stipe, the singer, is wordlessly featured until, a full four-fifths of the way through he is finally able to sing the lyric we’re hearing, all leading to the strange, lovely, and enigmatic exodus at the end.
No, I want to talk about something far more ridiculous.
R.E.M.’s music video has been viewed nearly 100 million times.
Twenty thousand people have seen it and hit a thumbs down button, effectively saying “I hate this”.
Here is one way to look at the Internet:
There is nothing so beautiful there, so profound and full of love, there is nothing so magical and life affirming and inoffensive and full of heart, that someone, somewhere, won’t take the time to hate it.
Sometimes, with great trepidation, if I have the perfect blogpost that fits exactly on a social page of the Internet, I will leave it there. Whatever I expect to happen, something else happens instead:
First nothing, maybe a downvote. Then, slowly, I always get a very mild popularity of 10 to 100 upvotes. But I also always get one or two affirming comments like these (and these are direct quotes):
This was amazing. Thank you.
This is pure art and deserves a Pulitzer. Brava!
This is the greatest pitch on the sub.
This was one of the best things I’ve read
This is fantastic.
These always excite me a little. But then they just seem to lie there, not moving at all.
They seem like they would do more than they do.
At some point in the middle of it all I invariably get downvoted a few times as well. It is a small thing, but it always feel like a little blast of hate.
There may even be a more rare, hostile comment (I can bear to show just one):
“Your writing style is insufferable”
I always take it too hard. And I always feel a little lost and small.
But I’m not alone. No, no, no, I’m not alone.
Hallelujah: 38,000 downvotes
Let it Be: 27,000 downvotes
Bridge over Troubled Waters: 3,500 downvotes
Imagine: 68,000 downvotes
Strangers: 504 downvotes
One: 18,000 downvotes
I Shall be Released: 520 downvotes
I am not wild about how sometimes you’ll find a really fantastic YouTube video and unavoidably glance at the comments and practically the first thing you see is:
“A thousand downvotes! Who would downvote this!!!”
(Except maybe I like it a little bit on Hallelujah where someone wrote something like “38,000 downvotes? You don’t really care for music do you?”)
And yet here I am.
Twenty thousand people hate my favorite music video, Everybody Hurts. I don’t know why. I never will. Nothing is exempt. I suppose there is someone out there to disdain even the smallest of good things in this world. It’s a big world. No blade of grass is exempted from the trampling.
But here is another way to look at the Internet, in this life:
So hold on.