Segue Fever: Military Edition

In 1980, the prospect of World War III was still a very real concern. From my dorm room near Plattsburgh Air Force Base, I could watch FB-111s tear into the sky — and by all accounts, they were nuked and ready to rock.

Naturally, when XTC’s Generals and Majors came out in 1980, we played it constantly at the college radio station. There’s nothing like a peppy song about blowing up the world.

I’d bet you $100 that Colin Meloy listened to some XTC records when he was growiing up in Montana — and I think you can hear it in 16 Military Wives. These are two songs that belong together.

Segue Fever

Thirty years after the spinning my last record as a college radio DJ, I still hear music in terms of what songs go well together. That sort of segue, based either on a musical or thematic link, is what made commercial radio great at progressive rock stations in the 70s — and something that’s mostly disappeared in today’s tightly formatted radio where the DJ has little role in picking music.

Oh, well.

Anyway, I found this song by Lorde, Royals, quite striking — and much more compelling than most of the crap on mainstream radio. And it’s a nice match with The Imagined Village’s take on Hard Times in Old England, featuring Billy Bragg.

Segue Fever: Obsession

Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown is a disturbing song. Maybe you’ve never listened closely to the hit song from 1974 — but when you really pay attention it’s all wrapped up in jealousy, drunkeness, and obsession — to the point of being menacing. It came on the radio recently and I pointed this out to my wife. “Oh, thanks! I’ll never be able to listen to that song the same again!”

There’s much speculation about Sundown, but my favorite story is that it was inspired by Lightfoot’s affair with Cathy Smith, who was later involved in — and did time for — the death of John Belushi.

Nothing follows up a shot of obsession like a chaser of stalking. Sundown lives to be played with Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Possess Your Heart.

Bonus: Nana Mouskouri’s French version of Sundown. If I ever make a movie, this will play in the background during one scene…

Segue Fever: Knocking on Norweigan Wood

Beatlephiles and Dylanologists have talked themselves blue in the face over the relationship between “Norwegian Wood” and Bob Dylan’s  “4th Time Around.”

Was it a sly inside joke between Dylan and John Lennon — or was Dylan mocking John Lennon? Was “Norwegian Wood” Lennon’s homage to Dylan that Dylan then homaged (is the a word?) right back at him? Was it all just a silly coincidence?

One thing is certain: the songs are undeniably similar in their musical structure and lyrics.

 Bonus points: Listen to Yo La Tengo’s lovely cover of the Dylan song.

Segue Fever: The British are Coming

Mention The Kinks and people think of different things. To some they personify the British Invasion; others relate more to the late 70s and 80s version of the band.

I’m in love what’s known as the band’s “golden age” between 1967 and 1972, a time when all the influences that shaped their music found a perfect balance. 

Out of this period came my very favorite rock song about the rebel spirit:  “Johnny Thunder,” from The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. 


It doesn’t take much imagination to play The Jam next. They worshipped The Kinks, and the melody of “In the Crowd” contains a direct quote of “Johnny Thunder.”


Segue Fever: No Rock Please, We’re French

There are many good things that come from France. Rock and roll is not one of them.

Times Union blogger Chuck Miller tried to convince me I was wrong, and even posted a bunch of examples of French rock on his blog. Thank you for proving my point, Mr. Miller, thank you.

Anyway, the only good French language rock song is “Ça Plane Pour Moi” — and that doesn’t actually count as French, because it’s from Belgium. Bands like Sonic Youth and Vampire Weekend have also taken a swing at it, making it the only rock song in French anyone’s ever bothered covering. We won’t get into the whole  “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” thing here.

In what has to be the world’s most obvious segue, the best accompaniment for this song is Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died.” Taken together it’s a pogofest!

Segue Fever: Stuck in the Middle with Sheryl Crow

The death of Gerry Rafferty last week meant that “Stuck in the Middle with You” was being played all over the place. I always loved that song, and like everyone else, Reservoir Dogs changed my relationship with it forever.


Now it’s an iconic recording — but what better to cleanse the palate of torture and ear slicing than the song’s groovy younger cousin, Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do?”


The hand claps, the bass line, and most of all, the pedal steel guitar… it’s not just similar, it’s an homage.

Segue Fever: Jacked Up

I watched Coal Miner’s Daughter the other night. Thirty years after its release it still stands as a great film — especially on account of Sissy Spacek’s Academy Award winning turn as Loretta Lynn and the inspired casting of Levon Helm as her father.

Loretta Lynn, even while part of the Nashville music factory, took creative risks and did things her way.

In 2004, she released Van Lear Rose, a collaboration with Jack White of the White Stripes. It’s a swell album, but my favorite track is the duet between Lynn and White, Portland, Oregon. The boozy May-December hook up in the song, fueled by pitchers of sloe gin fizz, goes down well with Jack Killed Mom by Jenny Lewis, a decidely dark tune. Put them together and you have a witches brew of alcohol, sex, incest and murder. If that’s not a good time, I don’t know what is?



Segue Fever: Gypsy Edition

It’s funny, the memories music trigger.

I used to tag along with my dad when he went to pick up takeout. The best was going down to Napoli’s to get a pizza, because I’d get to choose a song or two on the jukebox.

There were two tunes I’d play over and over, Yellow Submarine, and Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days.

I’d slide up on a stool at the bar next to my father, stare at the bouncing lights on the Miller High Life sign, and sip a Coke while my father had a grown-up drink. While we waited, I’d imagine I was actually in the song:

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

I’d forgotten about it until listening to Gogol Bordello’s Start Wearing Purple. Both share the same gypsy roots, and while they couldn’t be more different, they really are oddly alike.


Ladies and gentlemen, now for the strange part: