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“East of Eden” by Leif Vollebekk… A truly beautiful song of peaceful longing.

August 23, 2020

This song caught my attention immediately the first time I heard it. Before I even heard the vocals. A song with an evocative guitar line of only a few notes, sparse instrumentation, and lyrics and vocals that all go together to make something bleak and yet warm, in a loving, longing way.

First a little about the singer, then a bit about the possible significance of the title.

After that, I present the lyrics, and try to interpret them as best I can. Then the recording. And lastly, I write a bit about the song’s origin.

The singer..

From Wikipedia:

Leif Vollebekk is a Canadian indie folk singer-songwriter, of mixed Norwegian Canadian and French Canadian descent[4] and originally from OttawaOntario,[5] he learned to play violin, guitar and piano in childhood.[4] While studying philosophy at the University of Ottawa he spent some time in Iceland on an educational exchange,[4] before moving to Montreal after graduation to pursue his musical career.[5]”

“East of Eden” is from Vollebekk’s third album, “Twin Solitude,” which was released in 2017.

The title..

Genesis:

The Book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible. The Bible is better thought of as a collection or library of books, written over the course of more than a thousand years, than thought of as one book, like a novel.

Those of you familiar with the Bible know that Adam and Eve, the first man and first woman created by God, according to the story, were banished from the Garden of Eden, and were sent east. They were banished because they had disobeyed God and had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

We know they were sent east of Eden because of Genesis 3:24 (The parenthetical explanations are mine, not found in the text): “So He (God) drove out the man (and his wife, of course) , and placed cherubim (an angel) at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to guard the tree of life.”

Eve did not bear her first child until after she and Adam were banished. Their first child was a son, who they named Cain. Cain was not only the first human born of woman, but the first murderer.

The second son was named Abel. Abel brought to God an offering that pleased God. Abel was a shepherd and brought God the best of his lambs, slaughtered. Cain was a farmer, and brought God the best of his crops. God did not like this offering. no mention why, in the Bible, except that God said Cain had done wrong.

Cain was very angry that God did not like his offering, so he killed Abel in a field. After he killed his brother, Cain was banished.

“Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the Land of Nod on the east of Eden.” Genesis 4:16. 

Land of Nod?

From Wikipedia: “Nod” (נוד‎) is the Hebrew root of the verb “to wander” (לנדוד‎). Therefore, to dwell in the land of Nod can mean to live a wandering life.”

.Like his parents, Cain was banished. East of Eden represents a place that is away from paradise. Cain was not born in Eden, and he never was allowed to go there. He became a wanderer.

John Steinbeck.

The title of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “East of Eden,” was taken from this Bible verse. I wish I could tell you that I’ve read the book, but I have not, though I have read several others by Steinbeck. Going by the title, and by some of Steinbeck’s other works, I’m guessing the novel is a tragedy.

The story was turned into a film many years ago, one of only three movies starring James Dean.

No, I haven’t seen the film either.

But what does the song have to do with the Bible story or Steinbeck’s novel?

Seems like the song is about a wonderful relationship that ended. Paradise was lost, and we don’t know why.

The woman went wandering.

The singer, the narrator, is looking back on the relationship, savoring the memories, and wondering where his lost love has gone.

When I write about a song that is not well-known, I like to post the lyrics first, and the song later.

Here are the lyrics, and you will notice the Eden reference:

Tell me where are you going
You got the jack of diamonds
I got the knight of hearts
When the cards get stuck together
So hard to pull them apart
I think your face is showing
Ain’t the first time that it’s snowing
The first time in years
That it has stayed on the ground
And when it hits the streets
Oh, it don’t make a sound
But there’s just no way of knowing
Tell me is she east of Eden
She’s just like a book
And I don’t want it to end
Take it with me where I go
Turn the pages slow
She’s just like a book
I don’t want it to end
Love, how we talk at night
Love, how we talk at night
In the blue electric lights
Love, how we talk at night
Well, love, how we talk at night
In the blue electric light
No, I’m not the only one
No, I’m not the only one
At least I’m not the lonely one
No, I’m not the only one
No, I’m not the only one
At least I’m not the lonely one
Do what you are doing
Just do what you are doing
Do what you are doing
Just do what you are doing

 

I already wrote about what I think of the Eden reference, and what the song is about, so I’ll just start at the beginning and try to puzzle out the rest of the lyrics.

I know playings cards have meanings, so I decided to look up the two cards mentioned in the beginning of the song.

Presumably, it is the woman Vollebekk is speaking directly to, at first, and then later, but in the middle of the song, seems to be talking with someone else.

In the beginning of the song, it is the woman who has the Jack of Diamonds.

Here are some meanings for this card:

“Isolated, the Jack of Diamonds represents the postman or, better said, the messenger. It also symbolizes a young soldier or an unfaithful servant (assistant, employee); sometimes a young blond man, traitor and of bad morals. If the consultant is a young man, it is the announcement of new lovers.” – from cardarium.com.

How can the significance of this card be applied here? I can’t think of anything that really fits. The woman is not a messenger. Unfaithful? Doubtful. It is possible the narrator would still wish for the woman to be with him again, and be in a sadly romantic, reminiscing mood even if she cheated on him, but probably not.

Nope, I can’t make anything out of the Jack of Diamonds, and why it is associated with the woman.

The man has the Knight of Hearts.. well guess what.. there is no “knight of hearts” in a standard playing card deck. No knights at all.

Closest I can get to this card is in a Tarot deck, the Knight of Cups.

“In the Knight of Cups, a knight rides on a white horse and holds out a golden cup as if he bears a message from the heart.”  – from biddytarot.com

Tarot cards have two meanings. One is positive, and one negative. From biddytarot.com,

UPRIGHT: Creativity, romance, charm, imagination, beauty.

REVERSED: Overactive imagination, unrealistic, jealous, moody.

The narrator of the song and the song itself is definitely romantic, creative. Perhaps he also has the negative traits of this card, and that is why the woman left.

“The cards get stuck together..”  I think this could be a reference to a couple going from two to become one. All mixed up in each other, so much so, that seeing the individual can be difficult.

But the next line says.. “I think your face is showing.”

It seems the woman has disentangled herself from her man. She can be seen as an individual.

The reference to the weather I think does not have much symbolic significance, except that it emphasizes the bleak and lonely and beautiful feel of the music and the mood.

I imagine the man is alone watching the snow fall, and thinking about the woman.

In the next part, he is talking to someone else, or thinking to himself.. “Tell me is she east of Eden?”

So, yes, the woman has gone somewhere else.. wandering.

“She’s just like a book and I don’t want it to end..”

I like this line.. You probably remember reading a book for the first time that eventually became one of your favorite novels. You felt the same way. You didn’t want the story to end.

I think what he is referring to is his memories. He can take his memories with him and think about her wherever he is.

Not only that, but also he’d like to have her with him. She is wonderful, and he didn’t want to be separated from her.

Next he is talking to the woman again.. “Love, how we talk at night in the blue electric light.”

I think of blue at night as a soothing color. Peaceful.

Back when I was living in the Central Valley of California, I would, at night, sometimes drive past a little place called The Blue Light Motel, on the outskirts of the small city of Ripon, on my way home.

I really liked that landmark. A very small hotel with one line of neon blue running horizontally just under the eaves.

I always felt peaceful when I slowly rode past.

When I heard the song, I imagined a couple standing late at night at the motel, underneath the blue light, quietly talking.

The following line..

“No, I’m not the only one?” What does he mean?

Not the only one who loves to talk at night.  He means his woman loved this too.

But I also think he is referring to couples in general enjoying talking at night.

“At least I’m not the lonely one.”

An ironic line. He is lonely. He’s looking back to the time when he wasn’t, but is feeling romantic and lonely now.

“Do what you are doing.”

I had to think about this one a little.  Just saying keep on with whatever you are doing and wherever you are, I’m not going to come find you.

I value these memories. I miss you, but I’m going to let you be.

That’s the feel of the song, I think.

Before I present the song, I want to write just a bit about the instrumentation. Although I am not a good guitar player, I am a pretty good listener.  The guitar tone is not quite like any I’ve ever heard, and neither is the guitar line.

I’m guessing the guitar is one equipped with single coil pickups – I won’t get in depth into guitar electronics now, but single coil pickups, like those commonly found on Fender electric guitars, have a slightly thinner sound than pickups called humbuckers, which are two single coils wired together  to get a fuller sound. A single coil-equipped guitar could be partially responsible for this particular tone.

I don’t know if my guess is correct. I don’t know what kind of guitar was used on the recording. But in a few live videos, Vollebekk is indeed playing a Fender equipped with single coil pickups.

What guitar effects is he using? I’m really not sure. The drums have a certain way about them too, especially when the cymbals are hit. The drums were skillfully mic’d to achieve this sound.

Lastly, I read in an article on the the website brightonsbest.com (https://brightonsfinest.com/music/album-reviews/leif-vollebekk-twin-solitude/2017/) that Vollebekk recorded this album the old-fashioned way – on analog tape. Also, he mostly played live in the studio, instead of doing a lot of overdubs and laying each track down individually.  The sound is raw and honestly and purposefully a bit imperfect this way. And that’s another reason why it sounds the way it does.

The music, lyrics, and Vollebekk’s voice go together beautifully.

Here is the song..

 

The song’s origin..

According to Jeff Hemmings, the writer of the article I mentioned, Vollebekk is, “very straight-forward about his source. In this case it’s Gillian Welch’s spiritualist-cultural epic ‘I Dream A Highway’. Vollebekk says he found himself singing new verses to the existing rhythm and melody of the song. But, in doing so, has created a new, albeit much shorter version.”

Gillian Welch is one of the greats of Americana music. “I Dream A Highway,” is over 14 minutes long. No wonder Vollebekk wanted to write a shorter song.

I’ve found conflicting information about who actually wrote “East of Eden.”. Mostly, this song is credited to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, but elsewhere, Vollebekk is listed as one of the songwriters.

Regardless, it is lovely, and one of my favorite songs that I have discovered in the past year. I spend a LOT of time exploring music – sometimes using a streaming service – that’s how I found this song – and sometimes by buying a great many used CD’s from various decades –  most of them sampler albums – and harvesting the songs I like – adding them to my digital collection.

Yes, “East of Eden” is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time.

Beautiful.

Thanks to Leif Vollebekk, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Jeff Hemmings, and the websites brightonsbest.com, cardarium.com, biddytarot.com, and of course thanks to the many writers of the articles on Wikipedia.

 

 

 

The NCAA, Transgender Athletes, Economic Sanctions, and Totalitarianism.

June 16, 2020
Almost all my posts are apolitical. My goal is to submit images and words that are of benefit to all.
However, on rare occasions, I read something in the paper that pisses me off so much that I feel a strong need to write about what I have read.
If you wish to comment, please do me the courtesy of reading this entire essay and thinking about what I have written before you leave a comment. Thank you.
My essay concerns the NCAA, transgender athletes, economic sanctions, and totalitarianism.
But first, some definitions are in order:
Girl/Woman – a female human being with a genuine vagina, ovaries, and etc. who was born female.
Trans-woman – a male human being with a penis and testicles, etc., who may or may not have had his genitalia voluntarily amputated, and who may or may not have had breast implants, or taken estrogen shots in an attempt to make “herself” more feminine. This person was born a male human being, but suffers from a serious mental disorder, sometimes called Gender Identity Disorder, and believes he is a she, but is not actually a she.
Boy/Man – a male human being with a penis and testicles, and the male plumbing that goes along with these body parts, who was born male.
Trans-man – A female human being with a genuine vagina, ovaries, etc. who may or may not have had her breasts surgically removed, and who may or may not be taking testosterone shots in an attempt to be more masculine. This person incorrectly identifies as male, has a serious mental disorder, and was born female.
Does everyone understand? If so, good. If not, go back and re-read the previous paragraphs as many times as necessary until you understand.
Now, the article I read today, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in the Idaho Press, a local paper published in Nampa, ID.
It is important to know at least the core of what the article is about, and so I will type up the first part of it here:
Headline: “Anti-transgender law puts sports revenue at state.”
(The headline should read “Anti-transgender law puts sports revenue at stake.” But anyway..)
“Idaho’s anti-transgender sports law goes into effect July 1. But already the state risks losing millions of dollars as advocates call for an NCAA boycott.
The soon-to-be law bans transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Athletes and rights groups are demanding the NCAA move its national basketball tournament and other college competitions from Boise next year. That would deal a further blow to businesses in an ailing economy.
‘That is one of our larger economic impact events for sure,’ said Carrie Westergard, director of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.
She says when March Madness came to Boise in 2018 it brought $15 million to the state. The tournament games accounted for about 2,000 hotel nights. On top of that, those thousands of visitors are going out for dinner and drinks.
If the tournament happens on schedule, it could boost a service industry hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.
‘We definitely do not want to lose business like the NCAA that has a huge impact on our community.'”
Leftist activists want to impose economic sanctions on Boise and the rest of the state by banning NCAA events here, and costing the city and the state of Idaho millions of dollars because a state law was passed to ban “girls and women” from being on girls’ and women’s teams, and ban “boys and men” from being on boys’ and men’s teams.
Why do I have a problem with transpersons being on teams whose gender they identify with?
Consider this possiblity: A “woman,” who is, in actuality, a man, who stands 6’9″, and weighs 220 pounds – all muscle – is allowed to play on a women’s basketball team. Let’s say this individual is not only an actual man, but someone who is exceptionally skilled at basketball. This person will dominate the sport, and give the team “she” is on a decidedly unfair advantage over teams who have only women athletes.
Not only that, but this “woman” will break all sports records for the team, and receive a woman’s scholarship – thereby denying a scholarship to someone who is a genuine woman.
Also, this “woman” will likely be allowed to change clothes and perhaps even shower with real women.
In order to remain competitive, other teams will have to find other “women” to join their rosters. More and more “women” will be on the teams, and less and less real women will play. And more and more trans-women will win athletic scholarships meant for real women.
Is this fair? No, it is absurd. And especially unfair to female athletes who are genuinely female.
Now, let us consider a woman who is a trans-man, playing on a male sports team, and changing clothes and showering in the men’s locker room. A small minority of male athletes in this country are terrible people. They are both able and willing to abuse and rape this tran-man, who is in fact a woman.
And a trans-woman, who is a man, has ample opportunity to damage women, if this person is allowed full access to a women’s locker room.
You may argue that the Idaho law discriminates against transgender athletes. But the law protects genuinely male and female athletes from being discriminated against. This law also aims at preventing abuse.
The Idaho congress recently passed this law to ensure that the vast majority of athletes, who are genuinely female and male, are protected, and to attempt to make sure the playing field is truly as level as possible.
But activists do not want this. They care most about furthering the cause of the LGBT
community (and whatever letters and symbols you want to add after so as to be inclusive.. I have sometimes seen LGBTQ+ and other designations), no matter who else is a victim. Even if they inadvertently put members of this community at risk of abuse.
These activists even want to punish not only of the city of Boise, but the state of Idaho by denying incredibly important revenue.
This is totalitarian ideology put into practice. That is, if the boycott actually happens.
Such a thing has already happened. Here is the rest of the article:
“The NCAA pulled tournament games from North Carolina for a law that forced transgender people to use bathrooms that did not align with their identity. The state legislature then repealed the bill.
Representative Barbara Ehardt is the Idaho Falls Republican who sponsored the Idaho law. She maintains the law is meant to protect female athletes and wouldn’t say whether the financial hit would be worthwhile if the NCAA pulled competitions from the state.
‘It’s disappointing because particularly looking at the women on this letter, these women benefited, absolutely, from Title IX,’ she said.
Title IX is a law mandating equal treatment of men and women in education.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office has warned the new law may violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. And the ACLU has sued the state, saying the law is unconstitutional.
The NCAA is reviewing whether the law violates its anti-discrimination policies.”
Unconstitutional? Seriously? If interpreted this way, the Equal Protection clause can eventually be applied to.. anyone.. regardless of what kind of destructive disorder a person has.. regardless of what horrible things a person wants to do. This goes way beyond sports!
To quote a line from a song I heard long ago, “If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.”
We are on a very slippery slope, and haven’t nearly reached the bottom.
 support the anti-transgender law, and I support keeping sports for actual girls and women and actual boys and men. This might not stop “progress,” but at least it will make a positive difference for student athletes, and stand against the madness of the leftist agenda and politically correct society.
Woe to those who oppose the left. Especially when lots of money is at stake.
Will Idaho cave and repeal the law, so as to keep our city and state economy from being severely crippled?
We shall see.
But we have already seen totalitarianism in action. And we shall soon see more and more of this in America.

The Covers: XI – “Enjoy The Silence.”

May 15, 2020

Ok.. moving away from classic country, after posts featuring Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash..

Definitely shifting genres..

Tonight’s selection is one of the best known, best loved songs by a group called Depeche Mode.. a band famous in the ’80’s and early ’90’s.

This band is unique in that, for much of their music, they did not use any instruments except synthesizers, the only exception being one of the guys playing a guitar occasionally.

Odd concerts they did.. not like most bands. Dudes standing at keyboards, mostly.

“Enjoy The Silence” is my favorite song of theirs, but a big reason for that is a cover version which I will present after the original.

First though.. a little bit about the band.

When they became popular here in the U.S., I was living in Chicago, and utterly enthralled by Top 40 radio. Back in the ’80’s, Top 40 radio was astonishing in both quality of music and variety.

Depeche Mode’s first big hit was in 1985, and was called “People Are People.” Being a conservative Christian kid, I was troubled by the lyrics, “What makes a man? Takes another man, help me understand.”

I thought it was a woman made a man .. you know, in movies there’s an attractive young woman, and an older man winks at a younger man and says something like, “Yeah, go with her, son, she’ll make a man out of ya.”

And this song was clearly promoting a gay lifestyle. Yeah, I was kinda uncomfortable with that (though I liked the song, otherwise. It had a lot of weird sounds, even for a new wave band) The culture back in the ’80’s, with new wave bands, especially Culture Club, with the obviously, famously gay singer, Boy George, was just starting to be more gay friendly, but not like our culture is today.

Considering the lyrics of “People Are People,” it’s no surprise that when a fellow 6th grader told me one of the band members, Martin Gore, was gay, I just accepted this.

I thought Martin Gore was gay until about an hour ago when I looked up the dude on Wikipedia.. as far as I can tell.. nope.. been married to two women, first marriage ending in a divorce and I think he is still married to second one.

I’ve read a load of Wikipedia articles in the past. A person’s sexual orientation comes up in some way or other in every article.

Can’t blame the kid who gave me the wrong information for being confused though.. gay reference in the lyrics, and Martin Gore’s androgynous image.. But then, who didn’t have an androgynous image back in the ’80’s? The hair metal guys did, especially Stryper, one of my favorite bands from back then, the new wave bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, even Michael Jackson looked effeminate.

Alright so that rumor.. false.

Second thing I was told about the band when I was young.. the word “depeche” is French for “depressed.”

The band has made some.. many.. depressing songs.. but “depeche” meaning “depressed” has also turned out not to be true.

According to Wikipedia, the band liked the name of a certain French magazine, and used the name for their band.

But “depeche” means “dispatch” (which is what I came up with on google translate), or “news report.” And “mode” means something quite different than it does in English. The word, in French means “fashion.” I didn’t know that either..

The band thought the phrase meant “hurried fashion or fashion dispatch.” But according to Wikipedia, the name is best translated as “Fashion News,” or “Fashion Update.”

So… two things I believed about the band are in fact false. I so often learn something about songs and/or bands when I do a bit of research for these posts!

The band did not have another hit in the U.S. for 5 years.

1990 was a very good year for the band.. the year their album “Violator” was released. That album.. broke big.

First single was called “Personal Jesus.” Being an uptight Christian kid, I did not like that one either. Actually, I still don’t.. not because of the lyrics (I’m still uptight, but haven’t been a Christian in decades), I don’t like the music.. just don’t care for the song.

It was a very upbeat tune for Depeche Mode.

Their second single from Violator was much more somber, and I really liked it. That song was “Enjoy the Silence.”

 

If you haven’t heard this one in awhile, your reaction might be.. “hmmm… pretty ’80’s,” even though it was released in 1990. Still a great song though.

Here’s a live version from 1993..

 

.. But I like the cover version sooo much better.

Would I call myself a metalhead?

Yes, and no. I’ve been listening to metal since the ’80’s.. ok.. mostly hair metal back then.. but some Metallica tossed in, and a bit of Iron Maiden, and a whole lot of music by a very heavy (though perhaps not metal) Christian band called Rez, originally called Resurrection Band.. for more on this band, see my first two covers posts..

I still listen to metal. Often.

But.. the vast.. I mean the VAST majority of metal bands I cannot stand. I just have a few favorites.

The band I’m about to introduce to you is one of them.

Lacuna Coil.

Italian band (lyrics written and sung in English), formed in 1994.

“Lacuna” means empty.”

You might have encountered the word “lacuna” in a rather strange film.. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” One of my favorites. I will put the trailer at the bottom of this post, just for fun.

In the film, Lacuna is the name of a company that creates memory loss.. helping people not remember past traumas and disappointments. An empty space in the mind where the memory had been. Not a bad idea, or maybe..

The band Lacuna Coil thought of the name as meaning “empty spiral.” Why they chose the name, I do not know.

The group features both a female and male vocalist. The woman, Cristina Scabbia, sings more often than the male vocalist. Scabbia is a very good singer and frontwoman. She really impresses me.

There have been many metal bands that have female and male vocalists, such as the American band with the name I can’t spell and had to look up, Evanescence, the Finnish band Nightwish (another favorite of mine), and Amaranthe, from Sweden (yes, it really does seem like practically half of all metal bands come from Sweden). Amaranthe has one female singer and two male singers, but anyway..

I got into Lacuna Coil after reading about them in a guitar magazine. And right away, I bought their album “Karmacode,” released in 2006. Actually.. I first took an interest in the band after hearing an amazing song of theirs, called “Swamped,” on a sampler CD, then read about them..

Karmacode was Lacuna Coil’s third full-length album. I was thrilled to find a cover of “Enjoy the Silence” on that album.

If you want to get into Lacuna Coil, start with their second full-length album, “Comalies,” (the title being a combination of two words, “coma,” and “lies,” the song “Swamped” is the first track on that album) and then move on to “Karmacode.”

They’ve made some albums since, but I haven’t paid attention.

Why? A personality trait I have regarding music.. if I really love a few of a band’s songs, those are the only ones I want to hear, and have serious doubts any new material will sound as good. Pessimistic, I suppose, and I’ve not always been right.

Another reason, I listen to a staggering amount of bands.. but most bands in my various playlists, only one song per band. More variety that way, and also, so many bands seem to only be able to create just one good song.. or at least one song I like.

I’ve got at least six songs by Lacuna Coil in my playlists though, most of them from Karmacode. And “Enjoy the Silence” is the one I listen to the most.

Thanks for being so patient.. you are probably thinking.. play the damn song already!

So here it is, the version I like a lot more than the original.. (With artwork from the single, which is better than the pretty dull but strange album artwork)..

If you want to see what the band looks like.. here’s the video. Why are there cows in the video? I don’t know..

Alright! You were bangin’ your head, weren’t ya?

Not sure what cover tune I’m going to write about next..

Bonus material..

A Rolling Stone magazine article about Depeche Mode, published in 1990: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/depeche-mode-want-your-respect-233038/

And the trailer for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Watch this movie!

 

Thanks for reading and listening, friends!

The Covers: X – “The Man In Black.

April 27, 2020

Last of four posts featuring Johnny Cash.

This one is odd for three reasons:

  1. It is not entirely a cover, since Johnny sings on part of the cover – he does a duet with the singer of the band covering this tune.
  2. This version is a hard rock/punk version by an obscure band. A punk cover had been made the year previous to this recording, but it was made by a much better-known band. In an earlier post, I presented the classic punk group Social Distortion’s cover of “Ring of Fire.” Cash did not sing on that one. What’s strange is the band this time was not at all famous. And Cash was on the recording. Only people like me who are in their 40’s or older, and who were into Christian hard rock when we were young (I graduated high school in 1991), probably remember the band Cash did this cover tune with.
  3. The third strange thing is I can find no information online on how this collaboration came to be.

This song is one of Cash’s best known and best loved. Here is some info from Wikipedia on the history of the song:

Man in Black” (or “The Man in Black“) is a protest song written and recorded by singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, originally released on his 1971 album of the same name. Cash himself was known as “The Man in Black” for his distinctive style of on-stage costuming. The lyrics are an after-the-fact explanation of this with the entire song as a protest statement against the treatment of poor people by wealthy politicians, mass incarceration, and the war in Vietnam. In the intro to his first performance of the song, Johnny Cash revealed he had talked to some of the audience members from Vanderbilt University that weekend, and was inspired to write “Man in Black,” revising it a few times just before the concert on Wednesday. He performed the song holding a piece of paper with the just-revised lyrics. At the end of the song he received a standing ovation.”

And now, the cover version/duet.. with the Christian punk/hardrock band One Bad Pig – a band who many Christians did not like.. these guys enjoyed smashing guitars and doing Gallagher-like stunts (though no watermelon smashing), and generally had a good time on stage. They, like pretty much all Christian bands except Stryper, were unknown outside of Christian circles.

But Cash was cool enough and had a good enough sense of humor to not only allow this recording, but to sing on it.

Cash purists will not like this cover version, but I am still going to post it. Why? Because it is a lot of fun. Also, I remember, back in ’91, a friend telling me “Johnny Cash is on the new One Bad Pig album!” I’d already bought OBP’s first album, and was a fan. I was very surprised to hear Cash on the second one.

So, from the 1991 album, “I Scream Sunday,” here is Johnny Cash and the band, One Bad Pig:

 

Alrighty..  Hope you aren’t deaf..

This was the last of four posts with Johnny Cash. I don’t plan on doing multiple posts on bands in the future, but who knows.. Actually, yes, I do have two Led Zeppelin covers in mind.. but I won’t be doing either of those next..

Next post is a song from one of the best known ’80’s syth-pop/new wave bands, and an Italian metal group’s fantastic cover.

RIP Johnny Cash.. you were, and always will be, The Man in Black.

The Covers: IX – “Hurt.”

April 27, 2020

This is the third of four posts featuring Jonny Cash.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Cash made several albums late in his career, with producer Rick Rubin.

Rubin had some unusual ideas for songs he thought Cash could cover. Last post was about the Soundgarden song “Rusty Cage,” and Cash’s cover of it.

This is the other cover that Cash is most famous for, at least for people of my generation,  “Hurt.” The song was originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails, an incredibly popular industrial hard rock band, fronted by Trent Reznor. (Supposedly, the nails used to crucify Christ were nine inches long. And no, NIN is not a Christian band).

Reznor wrote “Hurt,” and most if not all NIN songs. He also has created much of the musical arrangements. Reznor pretty much is Nine Inch Nails. “Hurt” was from NIN’s bestselling album, “The Downward Spiral,” released in 1994.

A word about industrial music before I go any further.. it is a genre that blends elements of dark hard rock, such as distorted guitar tones and intense vocals, as well as disturbing lyrics, with strange sound effects, including noises you might hear at a construction site, auto shop, or a factory. Lots of different mechanical noises, and sounds created on a computer or with a synthesizer, programmed drum beats.. Weird stuff.

Here is the original recording.. it starts almost imperceptibly, with just an eery sound effect for a few seconds..

 

And here is Johnny Cash’s version, from the album “American Recordings IV: When the Man Comes Around.” This album, from late 2002, was the last of Cash’s to be released while he was still alive. Cash died in 2003, at the age of 71.

Here is the cover song, not just the audio, but the video as well. One of the best videos ever made, I think. Especially if you know about Johnny’s past – struggles with drug addiction and so forth that not only caused damage to himself, but those closest to him as well.

 

If you would like to know the story of Cash teaming up with Rick Rubin, and how this song came to be covered by Cash, please take 10 minutes or so to watch this video from one of my favorite youtube channels, Rock and Roll True Stories. In the video are scenes from Cash’s last interview, as well as audio from an interview with Trent Reznor, the writer of this song.

 

 

For my fourth and last post on Johnny Cash, I am going to do something rather odd, that I don’t feel exactly good about. I think “Hurt” would have been a good place to end things with Cash, but..

Next post I’m going to present to you a song that isn’t entirely a cover song, since Johnny sings on both the original, one of his classics, and does a truly bizarre duet with an obscure Christian hard rock band that covered the song. I’m doing this to show a lighter, humorous side of Johnny Cash, and what a good sport he was to re-record one of his most famous songs in such a strange way.

After that post.. not sure.. too many ideas..

Stay with me..

 

 

The Covers: VIII – “Rusty Cage.”

April 26, 2020

Greetings once again, music lovers! Tonight’s offering will be the second of four posts featuring Johnny Cash.

The song “Rusty Cage” was originally recorded by one of my favorite bands, Soundgarden. This band was tremendously influential in the ’90’s, and one of the Big Four grunge bands from Seattle, the others being Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana.

“Rusty Cage” was written by one of the greatest rock singers ever, the late Chris Cornell, and was from the 1991 album “Badmotorfinger.”

A few things I want to write about regarding this song and video,  1. This is not even close to my favorite Soundgarden song, even though it is one of their classics. The fast tempo of most of the song is not something they did very often. They tended to have more riff-heavy slow songs. 2. I’ve learned not to try and make sense out of Soundgarden’s lyrics.. such as the lyrics in the slow part of the song. 3. If you suffer from epilepsy, I recommend not watching this video. I’m serious.

Ok.. You’ve been warned..

 

After hearing this song, you are probably wondering why one of the greatest music legends of the 20th century, Johnny Cash, decided to cover this..

Ok.. I will be as brief as I can..

Legendary music producer Rick Rubin (a sasquatch-wolfman looking dude with sunglasses he wears indoors) had previously talked with Cash about making an album. Cash made an album with Rubin called “American Recordings.” This was Cash’s.. wait for it.. 81st album!

Awhile later, Rubin and Cash made another album. This one was called “Unchained,” released in 1996 .. and no, the Van Halen song “Unchained” is not the one Johnny covered.. it’s a different “Unchained.”

This album featured some covers. That in itself, not an odd idea.. but.. Rubin thought “Rusty Cage” would be a good song for Johnny to cover. The 64-year-old Cash was surprised, but his backup band, mostly comprised of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, came up with an arrangement.. and it worked amazingly well. I like the Cash version a LOT more than Soundgarden’s original. You probably will too.

 

Alright.. a bit of bonus material.. a short video on how the album “Unchained” was made.

 

Next post, Johnny Cash with a cover of the heart-breaking song “Hurt,” originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails.

The Covers: VII – “Ring of Fire.”

April 19, 2020

The last two posts involved Dolly Parton. This and the next three after will be partially about Johnny Cash.

As with several other songs, the version I thought was an original by a famous performer turned out to be a cover.

That’s right. “Ring of Fire,” originally “(Love’s) Ring of Fire,” was written by Cash’s future wife, June Carter and her cowriter Merle Kilgore. It was recorded by June’s sister Anita in late 1962, and released in 1963.

Here is the original..

 

Wow.. so different from any other recording of this song! And it is rather good! I love how her voice goes up a few times before it fades.. Maybe this is an example of the “high lonesome sound” of old-timey and early country music.

Next is Johnny Cash’s version.. also released in 1963.. and I really can’t stand it. Why? The damn mariachi band. Some mariachi music I can sort of appreciate, but not in a Johnny Cash song!

 

You want to hear johnny’s version without the horns? Ok. Here he is, late in his career, performing part of the song live, without horns.. yeah this is better.

 

And now the version I am most familiar with.. the punk rock cover by Social Distortion, This version was released in 1990.

 

There are other covers besides these of course. I just wanted to post the two I’m most familiar with, as well as the original, which I just discovered this past week. I will be adding the original to my early country-old-timey-americana playlist on my various devices. I call that playlist “kinda folksy,” and it spans many decades.

Next post.. Johnny Cash and the mighty Soundgarden.

The Covers: VI – “Jolene.”

April 14, 2020

Last post, I wrote a bit about a song called “Making Believe.” I first thought it was an original by a Danish metal and punk band called Volbeat. Later, I heard Dolly Parton’s version and thought she’d written it. Nope. It was recorded in 1954 by a country singer named Jimmy Work. Not a Dolly original, like I’d thought.

The song for this post, “Jolene,” is a Dolly original, and one of her most famous tunes.

Here is Dolly explaining the origin of the song, and performing it:

 

And here is the version I first heard.. which will blow your head off..

The White Stripes.. Jack and Meg White.. Jack often claimed they were brother and sister. Not true. They were married for little while. Among many unconventional things Jack has done, he took Meg’s surname, instead of her taking his, when they married.

They were married from 1996-2000. They formed their radical, intense, two person band in 1997. They got divorced before they became massively popular. Must have been weird to tour together after the divorce, but Jack is a weird dude..

I don’t really need to write about the woman who wrote and originally recorded this song. She’s a legend.

But I do feel I should mention an amazing, very entertaining, and even educational podcast series called Dolly Parton’s America, created and hosted by Jad Abumrad (pronounced ah-boom-rod), one of the two guys from one of NPR’s most well-loved shows, Radiolab. (NPR – National Public Radio, in the US. There are tons of NPR and related podcasts.. some of them really worth listening to, such as Radiolab). Abumrad met Dolly because his father was her doctor.

Abumrad and Parton got to talking, and Jad had an idea for a podcast.. not just about Dolly, but about the country music scene when Dolly was young, how America has changed over the decades, and many more subjects.

Not having grown up with country music or being much of a country fan now,  I’ve, until recently, paid little attention to Dolly Parton. When I was a kid, other boys told me about her boobs. That’s pretty much all I knew about her when I was young. Country singer with big boobs.

There’s a LOT more to know. I listened to the whole series. It was excellent. I’ll listen to it again someday.

Check it out here..

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america

The next four posts will feature Johnny Cash!

 

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

 

The Covers: V – “Making Believe.”

April 11, 2020

5th in my cover tunes series..

I first heard this song as performed by Danish metal/punk/country band Volbeat, on their 2008 album, “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood.”  Having never heard the tune before, I figured it was an original..

But then I heard a version by Dolly Parton, and thought that one was an original..

..Until I looked up the song on youtube and saw a comment stating that there was an earlier version by a woman called Kitty Wells, and that she had recorded the song in 1955..

That version was also a cover. A lot of people online don’t know this, apparently.. judging by various youtube comments.. This song has been covered by over 20 artists and bands!  I had no idea.

Sadly, this is a song that pretty much every human being on the planet can relate to. I think that’s partially why it has been covered so often.

The original was recorded by Jimmy Work, in 1955, according to Wikipedia, but in 1954, according to a website called secondhandsongs.

Ok then.. as far as I can tell, this is the original..

 

Here is the Kitty Wells version from the same year, or a year later..

 

Here is Dolly Parton’s cover, from 1963..

(If I get any of the dates, years wrong, etc. please let me know, and provide evidence, not opinion. Thanks).

 

I like some of Dolly Parton’s recordings, but for me, that was excruciating.

Those of you who like classic country, but who don’t like punk or metal will not care for my favorite version.. the one I first heard.. by Volbeat..

Alright, and yes, to be fair, even a punk version of this had previously been recorded, in 1992, by Social Distortion, so what Volbeat did.. making the song heavy.. wasn’t their idea.. ok whatever. I like Volbeat more than Social Distortion, so there..

 

That was fun.. amazing how far down the rabbit hole goes with some of these cover songs!

Next covers post.. a Dolly Parton original.. (it damn well better be).. covered by The White Stripes.

Steve Stevens: Flamenco Guitar Solo.

April 2, 2020

I’m going to make a brief diversion from my recently begun series on cover tunes.

In my previous post, I wrote a little about Steve Stevens, most well-known as Billy Idol’s guitarist (Stevens also co-wrote some or all of Idol’s songs).

I decided to check out more of Steven’s music, and was surprised to learn that not only is he an excellent rock guitarist, but a rather good flamenco player as well.

Here a live version of his flamenco music (4.5 million views so far!) :