Will discarded Christmas trees mysteriously appear again this year, hung under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? Will I get those bongo drums I’ve been hankering for? Will the damp kindling catch a flame in the fireplace? Does Christmas smell like oranges to you? So many unanswered questions this year. But in the midst of all the anarchy, a beacon: yes, I have made a Christmas mix to guide you through the season.
It’s time to get weird with the Gentlebear Christmas mix of 2013! Travel the world through all time and space. Celebrate the births of Baby Jesus and Jerry Garcia. Get a great deal at Kay Jewelers, where your signature gets you three years credit on the bauble of your choice! Learn how Christmas trees are born. Celebrate with Dusty Snow and Rusty Plow, two great old unknown country singers. Get lost in the season, and come out the other side a little drunk on nog, nestled next to an enormous sleeping dog. Merry Christmas from my living room to yours.
Sometimes the knife thrower misses, and that’s the breaks. But other times he outlines his lovely assistant’s body with his knives, and she steps away and they depart from the stage with waves and a curtsy. And that’s the way we like it.
For your consumption I have made a mixtape for the moments after the knives are thrown. The outlines of figures and of life, in the shadows and in the light. What am I trying to say? I have no idea. But collaging these particular pieces of music together feels like a completion of something for me.
Perhaps I’ve constructed another memory lane for myself. Or discovered a rotting, long-lost corduroy road. I hope it translates into something meaningful for you.
The link is at the bottom.
Berceuse-Ilous & Decuyper
Man, is this stuff moody.
Excerpt from The Magnificent Ambersons
An American masterpiece, however incomplete it is after being cut against Orson Welles’ wishes by the studio.
Rhapsody- Rita Marley
This is not even a b-side, it’s just floating around Bob Marley box sets, and it’s unbelievable.
Weather Report (The Only Living Boy In New York)- The Tennors A slice of amazing rocksteady, covering a Paul Simon classic, and also dropping lines from “My Little Town.”
Dying On the Vine- John Cale “I’ve been chasing ghosts and I don’t like it.”
Sound On Sound- Big Boys This is a quiet, collaged moment from the Texas punk band that really resonates with me.
Last Night at the Jetty- Panda Bear Emotional stuff.
It Started Out So Nice- Rodriguez At first the off-ryhmes and busy language seem like nonsense, but he’s really just created a new way of expression, and it’s the end of the affair.
Observatory Crest- Captain Beefheart Everybody acts like this album is really awful because the original band had fallen apart. But the title is great, Bluejeans and Moonbeams. And this song is a winner about going to Griffith Observatory.
Snakes- Mike Nicolai I met Mike Nicolai in Minneapolis at a bar called Dusty’s,which was located across the street from Grain Belt Brewery. He was a friend of a friend of mine. His girlfriend was bartending, and he gave me his album, and we had a couple of beers, and he put “I’m Going Down” by Bruce Springsteen on the jukebox. The whole album was amazing. Recently, while driving on Long Island checking out thrift stores, I burst into tears unexpectedly listening to this song. To me it sort of capture’s the loss of childhood. I didn’t know I’d lost it, and I didn’t know that I was sad about it until then. Discover more of his music here.
The Neverending Happening- Bill Fay Bill Fay brings it, per usual.
Bown Bown Bown- Francoise Hardy In English!
Heaven- David Byrne & Caetano Veloso They should play together more.
No Other Love- Jo Stafford This song really builds up but is so controlled at the same time.
A Time To Live In Dreams- Dennis Wilson A Dennis Wilson ditty that expresses, to me, the versatility of this guy: one minute he is a total horn dog, and then as heard here, a total sweetheart.
Cold Song- Klaus Nomi (Henry Purcell)
I first heard this during the opening credits of the French film A Nos Amours, which I rented from Major Video in New Orleans as a teenager. A fantastic film.
Willin’ (live)- Little Feat One of my favorite songs ever.
Sway When You Walk- Flo & Eddie God, these guys wrote great pop songs.
Driftwood- The Wailers
Not THOSE Wailers.
Gypsy (demo)- Stevie Nicks Just listen to it. And watch the clip from the dressing room as she stares into her makeup girl’s eyes and sings an early versionsof “The Wild Heart” with a backup singer.
Story of My Life- Lesa Aldridge Alex Chilton’s off-key muse and girlfriend playing around covering the Velvets in the studio, and I get it. And in this William Eggleston photograph she’s the one on top. You could read more about this photo here.
Song to the Siren: Tim Buckley No one else could ever sound like this dude.
Empty Boxes- Everly Brothers Nothing to say, but, like, wow.
What It’s Like- Arthur Russell What happens after the young preacher uses you up and throws you away like a Kleenex.
Down Among the Sheltering Palms- Boswell Sisters They were from New Orleans and they sang like birds.
While Drifting- San Sebastian Strings I have a Rod McKuen problem. I love him for all his cheese and schmaltz. This is pretty great. He’s not the one speaking but he wrote it.
OK, here’s the mixtape, The Never Ending Happening.
I saw Blue is the Warmest Color this weekend. It blew my mind. It’s the kind of film that sends you reeling into yourself, remembering first love and the ache of it and high school and how much it blows. I’m in no mood for defending this film, but I’ve found myself doing that after reading some dismal reviews and “let’s take a second look” articles on it, mostly concerning the “male gaze” of the male director. I have no problem with the depiction of women in this film. As cinema-goers we are paying for entertainment. We are all practitioners of scopophilia. I don’t expect justice or a less depraved world than the world I live in from movies. Love is messy. First love is especially messy: it can make you hoarse and ragged. Anyway, this film is beautiful and has stayed with me for two full days, as I have been fogged with memories of old friends and lovers. And now Lou Reed dies.
I remember a friend in high school saying you’ve got to get this album, and it was the Velvet Underground’s Greatest Hits or Best of or whatever, and I loved every single song on it, and was mystified by Nico and her Teutonic phrasing and beauty. And Lou was so bad in a good way. A few years later a friend had Loaded (that deluxe edition from the mid-nineties) which I borrowed overnight to TAPE. Back then you would borrow a CD from someone for one night only and had to promise to bring it back and make sure it wasn’t scratched. I mean, friendships were broken over a CD not being returned or lost. It is funny to remember these times, not so long ago, when people really valued physical copies of music.
Later when I had developed more depth as an adult human being, who had been in love and known heartbreak (have YOU ever jumped on the hood of a moving car for love?), I listened to Transformer and thought it was a perfect album. And people I knew who were music nuts would say if you like Transformer don’t listen to Metal Machine Music, so I never did.
Even later I got a beat up vinyl copy of Street Hassle which I had found in a pitiful thrift store on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans. The kind of store where you are worried a rat might jump out at you while you are digging. The cover resonated to me, and it spoke of drugs and the music made me feel like I was on drugs. Lou on the cover in those gold sunglasses and that red circle. What was that red circle? I thought it was a microphone or some kind of aleph.
And then I got Coney Island Baby. Which if you’ve ever listened to you don’t need me to tell you about it. So I won’t. Listen to it if you haven’t. And then I got into bad Lou Reed (which I wrote about on this blog here in 2010. I always returned to Coney Island Baby. “She’s My Best Friend.” “Coney Island Baby.”
I had a heavy Lou period at 24 in my first apartment I lived in alone. I would have friends come over and drink beer and listen to Lou, and we would sit on my Persian carpet with the lights down low and chill out. Really I could write about Lou Reed’s music for a long long time but everything seems trite. And it is personal, my moments with this music, as it is with you. A great artist died today and is worth remembering, so tonight I will remember him and play his music and try to be a better creator myself.
“Dreaming Casually” by Thee Midniters slows me down in a good way.
This song starts off all a-shimmer and just slinks its way into your brain. It’s smooth, warm, like a piece of polished obsidian.
Thee Midniters came out of East L.A. and are considered the first “chicano rock” band. They had a couple of hits. but like many other chicano acts that were uneasily categorized, they never hit it super big. I was listening recently to an interview with Sixto Rodriguez (I’m currently obsessed with his second album, a big flop when it came out in 1972). Rodriguez, who was from Detroit and Mexican-American had a difficult time, too, trying to find his audience. Strangely enough he was huge in Australia, and even odder, South Africa!
I went to my friends Michelle and Jordan’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. It was a super special wedding celebrating two really superb human beings. During the ceremony, the piano player played and sang “Be Not So Fearful” by Bill Fay, which I thought was incredibly sweet. The message of the song is basically, you know, move on and forget the past.
These songs have been jingling in my head all winter. I’m shedding them, I suppose, with this mix. If I could curate the event, I would have you listen to it accordingly: with the cocktail of your choice (I’m feeling generous), half-heartedly watching a VHS copy of Nightmare Alley on your television in silent mode, wearing argyle socks and soft cotton pyjamas (the fabric of our lives) covered by a monogrammed robe, in a room with lots of books and interesting ephemera, surrounded by three or four loved ones drinking cocktails of their choice, with rain gently pelting on the windowpanes ( a really dramatic, giant window would be great, like the one Mrs. Danvers stands in front of in Hitchcock’s Rebecca).
I am a sentimental old schmuck. Let’s say it in unison.
The Gentlebear is a music appreciation blog and forum for discussion. Tracks are available for a limited time. Listeners are encouraged to purchase the music sampled on this site. If any parties would like a track removed, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org, and it will be promptly removed. Click on link once to listen to a track in a quicktime window. Click twice to download.