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There may be a million songs in the popular canon about heartbreak, heartache, or unconditional or semi-conditional love. There's a considerably smaller subset of songs within that canon, though, that deal specifically with the love between a man and his dog.

However small the number of songs are that deal with mourning and love for man's best friend might be, they're still a batch of quality. Top of the list would have to be that belonging to the King, Mr. Presley himself. I'm not talking about "Hound Dog," which, despite Ed Sullivan having Elvis sing the song to a basset hound in top hat and tails, had nothing to do with dogs, except of the figurative variety. (Same goes for the Everly Brothers' "Bird Dog.")

No, I speak here of "Old Shep," Elvis' mourning for his childhood friend, a pup. Here, an excerpt from the lyrics:

As the years fast did roll
Old Shep he grew old
His eyes were fast growing dim
And one day the doctor looked at me and said
I can do no more for him Jim

With hands that were trembling
I picked up my gun
And aimed it at Shep's faithful head
I just couldn't do it
I wanted to run
I wish they would shoot me instead

He came to my side
And looked up at me
And laid his old head on my knee
I had struck the best friend that a man ever had
I cried so I scarcely could see

Old Shep he has gone
Where the good doggies go
And no more with old Shep will I roam
But if dogs have a heaven
There's one thing I know
Old Shep has a wonderful home
I believe that the lyrics speak for themselves.

Neil Young contributed a great song to this canon, too, on 1992's Harvest Moon. Here's an excerpt of the lyrics to "Old King":
I had a dog and his name was King
I told the dog about everything
There in my truck the dog and I
Then one day the King up and died

Then I thought about the times we had
Once when I kicked him when he was bad
Old King sure meant a lot to me
But that hound dog is history
Now, in his The Dark from this past year, Texas troubadour Guy Clark adds his own small masterpiece to this tiny genre. On "Queenie's Song," the singer does not have to put his dog to sleep, like Elvis did, or just watch his dog die from old age, like Neil. Instead, Guy (or, rather, his co-songwriter here, Terry Allen) has to confront the fact that some jack-ass went and shot his dog for kicks on New Years Day.

Some SOB shot my dog
I found her under a tree
If I didn't love that dog so much
It wouldn't mean nothing to me

You son of a bitch
I'm gonna tell you what
I will not be deterred
I'll find you out and track you down
On that you've got my word

Queenie's getting buried
It's time to dig the hole
New Years Day in Santa Fe
Broke mean and it broke cold

I bet you got a gun for Christmas
That don't make it right
What in the hell were you thinking
With little Queenie in your sights
I once heard from a theology teacher a theory that if there is a heaven, and if heaven is defined as a place of unconditional love, then if we make it up there, there must be dogs up there, too, because where else did we come into contact with such unconditional love in our lives? I always kinda liked that theory. Bet Guy and Neil and, yes, Elvis would have, too.

posted by Anon. 5:19 PM
Not necessarily Tom Hanks

From the wires...
NEW YORK (AP) - Is Tom Hanks a Phish-head or not? Publicists for the actor said Friday that an onstage cameo at Phish's New Year's Eve concert by someone identified as Hanks was almost certainly not him.

``He was going with his family for a skiing holiday and had no plans to be in New York,'' publicist Wendy Morris said, adding that the actor himself could not be reached Friday.

``There is no way he would come to New York for New Year's Eve.''

The Associated Press, The New York Times and other news outlets reported that Hanks appeared briefly on stage at the jam band's Madison Square Garden concert. The sold-out concert was Phish's first after a two-year hiatus.

A clip of Hanks' movie ``Cast Away'' was shown and his name was announced. A man who looked like the Oscar-winning actor then appeared on stage.

The apparent hoax was reported Friday by the online site Salon.com.

A spokeswoman at Elektra Records, Phish's label, said the band couldn't be reached for comment.
I don't know about Phish, but Tom Hanks sure seems to be into World War II. And space. He likes space and astronauts and stuff. That's for sure.

posted by Anon. 2:00 PM


Best ofs

Jon Pareles offers this essay on 2002: the year in music, and the Times also collects Top Tens from:
Neil Strauss...
Jon Pareles...
Kalefa Sanneh...
and a top 10 in jazz from Ben Ratliff.

Lots of appearances by Bruce, Blackalicious, and Wilco, and, most intriguingly, Guy Clark appears on Strauss' list for his 2002 album, The Dark.

In Boston's hometown newspaper, we have this piece on the state of rock criticism today, with special focus on Robert Christgau's reviews that manage to be brief and still packed with an aesthetic and POV. (Via Outsidethelaw.)

posted by Anon. 9:50 AM


New Year, old hat

Woke up at 1 AM Pacific Coast Time to catch a cab from the Lower East Side to Kennedy; managed to squeeze an hour of sleep in on Jet Blue, so let's just say that I'm not exactly feeling up to snuff. A good time to link rather than to write.

The New York Times has this piece on how people other than me spent a New Years Eve in New York City. As Lock posted today, a recording of the concert is already available for a nominal fee on the band's website. Evidentally, Trey Anastasio and company covered an old Little Feat song, "Time Loves a Hero."

posted by Anon. 12:00 PM


Soul meeting

I'm enjoying listening to these soul music discs so much this morning and afternoon, I'd like to share the joy.

So for all of those out there with file sharing capabilities, start your engines. All of you who don't have file sharing programs -- you can still get these songs, it's just going to cost a little more money and take a little more time. But they're all in print.

There are some obvious classic omissions here. But on these two discs are my favorite soul songs of the Southern tradition. (Yes, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions weren't Southern -- but the point is, these discs aren't Motown classics, except for the J5)

Disc One

The Dock Of the Bay (Take 1) - Otis Redding
Soul Man - Sam and Dave
The House that Jack Built - Aretha Franklin
Hey Jude - Wilson Pickett
True Love Travels on a Gravel Road - Percy Sledge
I Belive I'm Gonna Make It - Joe Tex
Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight
Pouring Water on a Drowning Man - James Carr
You Left the Water Running - Otis Redding
Soul Meeting - The Soul Clan (Don Covay, Ben E. King, Arthur Conley, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex)
Patches - Clarence Carter
Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday - William Bell
Tracks of My Tears - Aretha Franklin
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down - Sam and Dave
Turn on Your Love Light - Bobby "Blue" Bland
Ain't Nobody Home - Howard Tate
I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers
Soul Deep - Clarence Carter
Champagne and Wine - Otis Redding
Young, Gifted, and Black - Aretha Franklin
We're a Winner - Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
Sugar, Sugar - Wilson Pickett
Who's Making Love - Johnnie Taylor
Take Time to Know Her - Percy Sledge
Stay in School - Otis Redding
Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street) - Clarence Carter

Disc Two

I Want You Back - Jackson Five
Groove Me - King Floyd
Mama Told Me Not to Come - Wilson Pickett
This Is Your World - Sam and Dave
Hard to Handle - Otis Redding
Breakfast in Bed - Dusty Springfield
Tell All My World About You - Ray Charles
People Get Ready - Aretha Franklin
Ooh Child - The Five Stairsteps
This Is My Country - Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
Baby (You've Got What It Takes) - Dinah Washington and Brook Benton
S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song) - Joe Tex
Look at That Girl - Otis Redding
Snatching It Back - Clarence Carter
ABC - Jackson Five
One Part Love, Two Parts Pain - Sam and Dave
Baby, I Love You - Aretha Franklin
Everybody Loves a Winner - William Bell
Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Knight and the Pips
When Something is Wrong with My Baby - Sam and Dave
Choice of Colors - Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
Try a Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
Cry to Me - Solomon Burke
Slip Away - Clarence Carter
You're All I Need to Get By - Aretha Franklin
Shoot 'Em All Down - Howard Tate
In the Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett

Doesn't it feel good to be alive?

posted by Anon. 11:43 AM
Lower Manhattan

Yesterday, I took the subway down with Thomas to Ground Zero -- the vendors and tourist presences aren't quite what they were months ago, and that, of course, is a good thing. We walked past the large bathtub -- as Thomas explained, a necessary structure in the pit so that the water from the Hudson doesn't run through, since this part of the island was built on mud -- and over to the World Financial Center.

There, we first went through an exhibit American Express has of Annie Leibovitz photographs. Most of which you had seen, either through Am Ex ads of the 80s or through the Vanity Fair Hollywood issues. The exhibition suffered from exactly what the Avedon show didn't -- as Thomas put it, as we walked out, "wow, celebrities." Yes.

The music photographs were limited; the great one of Ella Fitzgerald, one of Yo-Yo Ma, one of Carly Simon. A photo of Springsteen from the Born in the USA sessions that was later a Rolling Stone cover -- the one of Bruce in front of the flag, jumping with guitar in hands, blue jeans and white T-shirt. Yeah, that one.

That said, the visit there was worth it to see Elvis Presley's American Express card. Member since 1969.

We then went over to look at the seven proposals for the new building to take the place of the WTC. I wish they just turned it into an ample park space, but this is New York, so heaven forbid any land goes unused by commercial entities. Sadly, the seven designs weren't impressive, and in a couple cases even verged upon the ridiculous.

But we then walked out the door and sat on the plaza overlooking the Hudson. It was probably 4 p.m., and the sky was huge with clouds and pastel pinks and blues and an enormous canvas of clouds in intricate, awesome patterns. As the sun poked through, I couldn't help but turn to Thomas and say, "Hello yourself, God."

A mist sat at the base of Lady Liberty, giving the impression that she was floating out there near Ellis Island. The waters were choppy. But the setting otherwise was serene, even if I could not keep my eyes from following the routes of the planes heading out of Newark.

posted by Anon. 10:17 AM

Posting has been sporadic of late, but them's the breaks when a blogger is on the road, depending on the kindness and high-speed connections of others.

Most of the music I experienced these last few days in Manhattan has not been in the foreground but as atmosphere. That doesn't mean it didn't make an impression; most times, it enhanced already enjoyable surroundings.

Hearing R.E.M.'s "Belong" at a bar in Tribeca Tuesday night. Out of Time has always stood as one of R.E.M.'s stranger albums to me -- not a failure, like Reveal or Green, but also not a classic like Document or Automatic or Murmur. My favorite songs on the record are "Belong" -- Stipe reading off some pretentious spoken word lyrics, but accompanied by a great guitar backing track and Mike Mills wailing -- and "Me in Honey," where Stipe and Kate Pierson duet about the confusion over a pregnancy.

There was other great music at the bar -- Grace, it's called, and if you're in New York and looking for a stool to drink from after a meal at Nobu et cetera, try it. It was a party gathering organized by another NYC-area blogger, and good times were had, and good music only added to the good times.

Until, that is, the bar put on a disc of music by one of the night's patrons. Bad news: she's a folk singer. I'm all for folk singing women -- from Mimi Farina and Joni Mitchell to Patty Griffin and especially Linda Thompson. Hey, some of my best friends are folk singing women. But folk singing women on December 30 at 11:30 pm in a great NYC bar? We soon made our departures.

Last night. New Years Eve at Lolita, a bar at Broome and Allen. A few nights before, I had heard them play the Jam, Beck, and the Beatles' "It's Only Love." Last night, they surprised me and played Call and Response's bouncy "Rollerskate" (a song that I have only ever heard via a dub of their album that someone once gave to me when he came to one of my parties -- think of a poppier, more upbeat version of Belle and Sebastian and Kings of Convenience) as well as lots of songs from Yoshimi vs the Pink Robots.

When we walked into the bar, there was the sound of Keith Richards singing "Happy." A welcome noise.

Then lunchtime today, the people at Bread picked music that took excellent consideration of their patrons' hangovers. The Jack Johnson record, following by some Ani DiFranco -- separated by a cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird." By a female singer. I think it might be Sarah Maclachlan's cover from the I Am Sam Soundtrack.

Even though it was a cover, it still had the beautiful guitar and melodies of the Beatles' original -- which might just be my favorite Beatle song ever. Just a lovely melody and lyric, about hope, about moving forward, about moving through pain. Take these broken wings and learn to fly, you were always waiting for this moment to arrive. Can't think of a better sentiment or song with which to start this new, uncertain year.

It's raining outside, and I'm listening to the old soul mixes I dubbed for Lock a couple years ago. I somehow don't have master copies of these at home, which is a shame, because they feature several songs that I Napstered long ago and no longer have hard copies of.

And here we are at 2003. A new year. One that, despite all the signposts and tea leaves, could still be one of peace and joy. And potential. Here's hoping that potential is met in chorus and not cacophany.

Heading back to Los Angeles tomorrow morning and straight back to work. Some inevitable "year in review" posts in the weeks to come.

"You've got to post more about Joe Strummer." -- Ken, last night, 3:30 AM.

Yes, that, too.

posted by Anon. 10:04 AM


My country, tis of thee

Went to the Richard Avedon show at the Met this afternoon, and despite the crowds, was very impressed -- and I did not have high hopes, especially after suffering through the mediocrity of the travelling Warhol exhibition six months ago when hit the MOCA in LA. I associate the two artists only because of their dealing with celebrity, but one of the strengths of this Avedon show is that though it does show a few of his celebrity subjects, the majority of the subjects are either literary figures, political and historical figures (especially from his 1976 "The Family" series for Rolling Stone), or just anonymous faces from a period when he took a commission from a Houston museum.

There aren't many portraits of musicians as part of the show, but there was some canny placing of a terrific portrait of African-American opera singer Marian Anderson... right across a gallery from Avedon's photograph of the generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution. When Anderson was younger, she was denied the right to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Liberty Hall, and Eleanor Roosevelt famously stepped in and arranged for Anderson to sing, instead, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The portrait Avedon took of Anderson is one of the best I've ever seen taken of any singer -- her hair, wind-swept, her lips poised, her eyes closed, and the beads around her neck just kinda hanging there. Check the link above and see for yourself. But here, Maria Morris Hambourg, the curator of the exhibition, describes how Avedon captured the opera diva:
By waiting . . . for a moment when Anderson closed her eyes, Avedon was able to suggest her intense inner concentration on the song and to allow us, the viewer, to focus on her mouth.

So that even if we didn't know anything about Marian Anderson, we could see in this grace and strength and total commitment to her voice, that she was the very embodiment of song.
The Avedon show is only at the Met through January 5. If you're in the New York area -- I suggest taking an afternoon to brace the crowds... it's well worth it, and from his portraits of Carson McCullers and Jean Genet to Rose Kennedy and Gerald Ford to Robert Oppenheimer and the man who flew the Enola Gay -- you feel like you're looking at a photo album of the last fifty years of our popular culture.

posted by Anon. 8:19 PM