Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Goldwater by, Lee Edwards

From its present state, its hard to imagine how small, how irrelevant, how insignificant conservatism was in the early 1950's. National Review did not exist, the future editor of The American Spectator was only a boy. There were no conservative think tanks - no Heritage Foundation, no Cato Institute, no Center for Strategic and International Studies. There was no talk radio. There were only a handful of conservative intellectuals and their works; F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom was the most quoted source. In 1951, William F. Buckley, Jr. made a big splash with God and Man at Yale, but not much had been heard from him since (he founded NR in 1955). In short, it seemed as though liberalism would be the dominant ideology for years to come.  This is the climate in which Barry Goldwater was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1952.

Lee Edwards' Goldwater: The Man Who Made A Revolution traces Goldwater's career and shows how the seeds of Ronald Reagan's victory and the 1994 Republican Revolution were sown in Goldwater's historic defeat at the hands of LBJ in 1964. He shows that Goldwater was a man who stuck to his principals (rather than playing politics), and inspired a generation plus of conservatives to speak out for what they believed in.

Goldwater is more a political biography than a personal one.  Edwards starts with tracing how the Goldwater family came to America and Barry's early life, leading to his decision to run for the Senate in 1952. From then on, he goes into great detail about the 1964 campaign and the Senator's dealings with various presidents (from LBJ to Carter) after his return to the Senate.  I wish there was more time spent on Goldwater the man, but what's here is very interesting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Song of the Week from Abbey Road

If The White Album showed The Beatles fracturing into four distinct musicians, Abbey Road is them working together as a single, harmonious unit once again. However, that was not the case behind the scenes. While this was the last album they recorded with the full band, Lennon refused to participate in a couple songs (he's absent on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer") and privately left the band for a time during the session. Paul would publicly do so a year later, ending The Beatles.  Released in September 1969, Abbey Road, with it's iconic cover, reached #1 on both the US and British charts.

My comment about them working together is in reference to the B-side of this record. Starting with "Because", the songs that finish the album flow seamlessly together. My only gripe is tacking "Her Majesty" on the end of it.  If the album ended with "The End", it would have been perfect. I could cheat and post a the entire B-Side, but I won't.

The best song on the album is George's "Something", which he wrote for his wife Pattie Boyd. Side note:  Boyd left George Harrison to marry Eric Clapton.  She served as inspiration for the song "Layla" and possibly "Wonderful Tonight".  What was it about Boyd that inspired such great music?

As far as lesser known songs, I like "She Came in Though the Bathroom Window" and this week's song "You Never Give Me Your Money".

Here's a demo version of "Money":

Monday, April 14, 2014

Song of the Week from Yellow Submarine

The less said about Yellow Submarine the better.  The title track is one of the few popular Beatles tunes that I just can't stand.  The pickings are slim for best song on this record, so by default the winner is "It's All Too Much".

Monday, April 7, 2014

Song of the Week from The Beatles

The Beatles (commonly referred to as The White Album) is a double album released in November of 1968. This album was recorded during a tumultuous period for the band. Ringo briefly left the band during the recording of the album, forcing Paul to play drums on a couple tracks.  My view of this album is that it isn't quite a Beatles album. It's more like a collection of solo work from each of the members, put together under the Beatles name.  If it wasn't for the existence of Yellow Submarine, this would probably be my least favorite album.

Since it's a double album, I'm going to cheat this week and share two songs.  One of them is extremely well known, but I have to pick it because a) it's a great song and b) it's one of the few good songs on this album.

First, the cheat. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a George Harrison composition, and is unique in the Beatles' catalog as it features a guest performer.  Eric Clapton, while not credited, plays lead guitar on the track. George and Clapton were friends for many years, despite Clapton stealing George's wife. Everything from the lyrics, to the guitar work, to the opening piano riff make this one of the great rock songs of all time.

The second, more obscure, song this week also deals with Eric Clapton. Like I mentioned above, George and Clapton were friends, and George couldn't help but notice Clapton's strong chocolate addiction.  "Savoy Truffle" is a reference to the guitar god's love of sweets.  In fact, most of the candies named in the song were real treats at that time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Last Five Books I Bought

I haven't done one of these in a while.  Here are the last five books I bought and a quick reason for each.

Brilliance by, Marcus Sakey.  If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know I'm a fan of Sakey's.  Here's the text from the back cover: In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

God Save the Child by, Robert B. Parker.  After reading The Godwulf Manuscript, I decided not to wait as long between Parker books. Appie Knoll is the kind of suburb where kids grow up right. But something is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Kevin Bartlett disappears. Everyone thinks he's run away -- until the comic strip ransom note arrives. It doesn't take Spenser long to get the picture -- an affluent family seething with rage, a desperate boy making strange friends...friends like Vic Harroway, body builder. Mr. Muscle is Spenser's only lead and he isn't talking...except with his fists. But when push comes to shove, when a boy's life is on the line, Spenser can speak that language too.

Churchill by, Paul Johnson.  Winston Churchill is one of the most revered men of the 20th Century and one of the greatest leaders in history.  I don't know as much about him as I'd like and Paul Johnson's histories are supposed to be sharp and readable.  At 200 pages, it probably won't give me a full picture of the man, but it looks like it'll be a good start.

The Accidental Creative by, Todd Henry. I got this book because the concept seemed interesting and Henry blurbed a recent book by someone I respect.  I did a capsule review here.

In the Arena by, Richard M. Nixon.  After visiting his presidential library on my vacation last year, I felt the urge to reacquaint myself with the man.  My review is here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Song of the Week from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper is the eighth studio album of The Beatles, released in June of 1967.  It has sold more than 30 million copies, making it one of the world's best selling albums.  Rolling Stone magazine named it #1 in their list of 500 Best Albums of all time.

"A Day in the Life" is one of my favorite Beatles tunes, but definitely too well known to make the cut for this project.  As you can probably guess, the finalists for this week are from Paul and George.

First up is "Fixing a Hole" by Paul McCartney. It's a catchy, upbeat tune that I find myself singing at random times.

Next is "Within You Without You" by George Harrison.  Like "Love You To", this is George embracing both the Eastern influences in instruments (sitar) and philosophy.

But the winner this week is Paul's beautiful composition "She's Leaving Home".

Friday, March 28, 2014

MST3K Friday: It Lives By Night

"Oh, this one's gonna hurt like hell."
"Geez! All he's missing is the feather boa."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Song of the Week from Revolver

Revolver is the seventh studio album of The Beatles and was released in August of 1966. It is generally considered The Beatles's best album, and one of the best albums of all time. I'm more partial to the ones preceding Revolver, but there are a lot of great tracks on this album.

The finalists are:
"Love You To" by, George Harrison. It really takes the sitar and Eastern influences first used by The Beatles in "Norwegian Wood" to a whole new level.

"She Said She Said". Quite often this one randomly pops into my head. Very trippy lyrics and I love the tempo changes.

"Tomorrow Never Knows". Turn off your mind relax and float downstream. I love the opening lyric. This is probably the song that ushered in the more psychedelic era of '60's music.

But the winner is Paul's "For No One". It's a baroque love song about the end of a relationship. Everyone called Paul the cute one and said he wasn't as deep as the other Beatles (still a criticism of him). But this song had amazing heart and is beautifully composed. You can listen to the studio version here, but here's a great version Paul did after The Beatles.

Friday, March 21, 2014

MST3K Friday: Mike Nelson is Lord of the Dance

It looks like I've already posted the Kathy Ireland Song, so here is Mike and the 'bots making fun of Riverdance.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Song of the Week from Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul was released in December 1965 and was only the second Beatles album to contain 100% original material (the first was A Hard Day's Night). Rubber Soul usually comes in the top 10 of albums all time whenever magazines put together lists. It was #5 on Rolling Stone's 2012 list. From the dreamy "Girl" to the sitar infused "Norwegian Wood", the Sixties are in full swing on this one. "Norwegian Wood" is a favorite, but, again, we're looking for the under-represented song.

I'm intrigued by "Run For Your Life". The Beatles are known for songs about love and happiness, but this song is quite different.  If you're unfamiliar with it, the chorus goes "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man". It's not the winner, but it deserves a listen no matter what.

This week's song is "If I Needed Someone":