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Posts Tagged ‘Full Moon Fever’

(Above: “April In Paris” brought spring to many parts of the world whenever it was played. Few did it finer than the Count Basie Orchestra.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Spring arrived on the calendar several weeks ago, but Mother Nature didn’t get the memo until recently. The half dozen songs that follow don’t explicitly mention chirping birds, budding flowers, sun dresses and deck parties, but they certainly conjure the feeling.

“Starting a New Life” – Van Morrison

Van the Man throws off the shackles of winter in the jubilant first verse of this song:

“When I hear that robin sing,
Well I know it’s coming on spring,
Ooo-we, and we’re starting a new life.”

In a little more than two minutes, Morrison and his buoyant country/folk melody captures the romance of the season and the essence of why so many couples get married in the spring.

“Starting a New Life” was one of the first songs Morrison wrote after relocating from Woodstock, N.Y. to just north of San Francisco. Although the move wasn’t his idea, he was clearly relishing his new surroundings.

The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, in 1948, Satchel Paige was in their rotation. He is pictured here during his time with the Kansas City Monarchs.

“Satchel Paige Said” – The Baseball Project

For many fans of the nation’s pastime, spring doesn’t arrive until Opening Day. Wind chill and even snow are mentally eliminated once the boys of summer line up along the base paths.

Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey of the Minus Five and Young Fresh Fellows teamed up in 2008 under the name “The Baseball Project” and cut 13 tributes to their favorite sport.

“Satchel Paige Said” sounds like an outtake from Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever.” McCaughey’s lyrics draw on elements of Paige’s biography and his famous advice: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

“Radio Head” – Talking Heads

Generation X is littered with great bands that take themselves too seriously. Perhaps the only common element shared by Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins is that neither band wants to provide its audience with the opportunity to laugh.

But the biggest and most serious of all Gen X bands is Radiohead. Which makes it even more delightful that they titled their first album after a Jerky Boys gag and named themselves after this supremely silly Talking Heads track.

But even if the English quintet had chosen another moniker, “Radio Head” would deserve a footnote in music history. David Byrne’s song about a man who can pick up radio transmissions with his noggin is set to a poppy zydeco rhythm that makes it the perfect song for that first spring car ride with the windows rolled all the way down and the stereo turned all the way up.

“Bowtie” – Outkast

Once the temperature swells, the unshapely layers of winter clothing are shed. And when the flimsy summer apparel is donned, it’s time to strut. Urban radio stations bank on this transition, building their warm-weather playlists around the singles designed maximize swagger.

The funky horns on this cut from Big Boi’s half of “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” will make any stroll seem like a parade. The hip hop equivalent of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” this track exudes more than enough confidence to turn a timid Romeo into a pimp daddy for one night.

“April, Come She Will” – Simon and Garfunkel

Ah, the fickle fancy of spring flings. On “April, Come She Will,” Paul Simon uses the changing seasons as a metaphor for a girl’s elusive affection following a brief affair. Thematically, the romantic longing of “April” was echoed on “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her.” Both songs hover around the two minute mark. The economy of Simon’s lyrics and arrangements and the power of Art Garfunkel’s vocals make both songs potent vignettes.

Although it was written three years before the film, “April, Come She Will” is used to great effect in “The Graduate” as Benjamin Braddock chases the heart of Elaine Robinson.

If you haven't seen the original 1969 film of "The Producers," you are missing out.

“Springtime for Hitler” from “The Producers”

You don’t have to be an English major to see the metaphor in the title song from Bialystock and Bloom’s failed musical. As chorus girls parade around in beer stein bustiers, and pretzel tassels, the faux fuhrer solemnly intones: “Springtime for Hitler and Germany/Autumn for Poland and France.” Any remaining sensibilities are purged when storm troopers in a Busby Berkeley-style dance form a swirling swastika.

The coup de tat that saves the song from being an anti-Semitic nightmare comes from the fact that Mel Brooks, a Jew who fought the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, gleefully wrote all the lyrics to this brilliant satire. (That’s his overdubbed voice delivering the line “don’t be stupid, be a smarty/come and join the Nazi party.”)

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(Above: The Traveling Wilburys turn “Inside Out.”)

By Joel Francis

Their meeting was almost too serendipitous. Fresh off the success of “Cloud 9,” George Harrison and producer Jeff Lynne decided to record a b-side with Roy Orbison. When the entourage reached Tom Petty’s house to retrieve Harrison’s guitar, Petty insisted on accompanying the trio to their destination: Bob Dylan’s studio. Dylan was home, of course, and the quintet became the greatest supergroup ever: the Traveling Wilburys.

When the group reconvened two years later in 1990, a lot of the magic was gone. Orbison had died and the remaining members no longer had the element of surprise on their side. Indeed, expectations were set so high not even the century’s greatest songwriter, a former Beatle and a pair of hit-making disciples of both could live up to the standard.

Much of the Wilburys’ sequel, “Volume 3,” sounds forced and lacks the laidback organic vibe that made the first album such a delight. But they got it right in a couple places and “Inside Out” is a lost gem of the era.

Both the second song on “Volume 3” and second single released from the album, “Inside Out” is a transparent look at the Wilburys’ songwriting process and joy that manages to be greater than the sum of its considerable parts.

After opening with a chord progression that sounds like something off Petty’s then-recent “Full Moon Fever” album, Dylan delivers a verse that almost makes “Wiggle Wiggle” look like “Desolation Row.” But the lyrics aren’t that important. The song’s charm lies in the way Dylan’s verse slides into Lynne’s slick multi-tracked bridge that prefaces Petty’s catchy chorus. Oh, and just for good measure Harrison contributes a middle eight that rivals anything his ex-Beatle bandmates ever wrote.  All the ingredients are wrapped in Lynne’s signature production and over in three and a half minutes.

Like a jewelry store exhibit, everything is on open display yet just out of reach. “She’s My Baby” may have been the biggest single and “Wilbury Twist” the most memorable song, but nearly 20 years later, “Inside Out” still sparkles the brightest.

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