The first time I heard The Business’ cover of “Step Into Christmas” I didn’t realize it was a cover. I came across it listening through their compilation Harry May – The Singles Collection back in college and thought it was hilarious and surprisingly cheerful given the hooligan tone of most of their catalog. I knew it felt super familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on why. It wasn’t until many Christmases later that I heard the original Elton John version again and it all clicked.
To their credit Micky Fitz (RIP) and the boys stay pretty faithful to the original, but they do crank it up to respectable Oi! levels of speed and sneer. The fact that they’re covering a song from Elton John is just icing on the holiday cake of irony. I’m usually not a fan of ‘irreverent’ Christmas covers, but when the original song was a bit of a lark itself I’ll allow it.
Put on your boots ‘n’ braces and kick off the holidays!
…Or put on appropriately ridiculous sunglasses for a campy Christmas!
I had originally written a post a couple of weeks ago about “Celebrated Summer” as a post-Labor Day song for Feelin’ Good Friday. Maybe a loud/soft/loud punk song that makes me tear up generally is not typical of good feelings, but it’s one of my all time favorite songs and is fitting given the time of year.
Then I heard about the death of Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart and it started to take on a different hue.
The first minute and a half of the Bob Mould penned “Celebrated Summer” is a blistering guitar shot with Mould singing about the prelude to summer, the plans of what to do with all of that sweet freedom to finally live and cut loose. There’s the always present pressure of “the best summer ever!” and the hint at the fear that the best summer, your celebrated summer, has already been lived. Suddenly everything drops out and it’s just Mould’s acoustic guitar as he speaks two disarmingly evocative lines that have always caught me off guard:
Then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds
I summer where I winter at, and no one is allowed there
Then Hart ushers up the tempo with shimmering cymbals, Mould’s Flying V plugs back in and rages at the dying light, and he’s shouting again:
Do you remember when the first snowfall fell
When summer barely had a snowball’s chance in Hell
And the pedal is on the floor racing to the song’s end with Mould excoriating again and again “Was this your celebrated summer?” until slipping back into the acoustic and asking for a final time “Do you remember when the first snowfall fell? Was this your celebrated summer?”
After 30 years of listening to this song I’ve changed my opinion a dozen times on what those lines mean. I always felt this song captured the bittersweet, fleeting nature of summer, but also in a broader sense the transition of the seasons as part of the human allegory of aging: summer to winter, youth to death. Now, in the scope of Hüsker Dü’s life, Grant’s death is the first snowfall. There was never even a snowball’s chance in Hell of a Hüsker Dü reunion, but now the stamp is official: that was their celebrated summer.
Back in the day my dad like most had a stereo with a turntable and a small but respectable collection of LPs and 45s from his younger years. The Kinks, Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Steppenwolf, The Doors, all the usual classic rock suspects could be found and I gravitated to them in my blossoming teen angst, moth-to-flame. There was the 45 of “Born To Be Wild” which I gave plenty of play, but I always thought “Magic Carpet Ride” was the superior song. “Born To Be Wild” always felt a little stiff and a little forced for its rebellious status. On the other hand, “Magic Carpet Ride” has a fluid groove that pulls you in straight away and never feels anything but on point. Is the titular “Magic Carpet Ride” a drug trip, the epitome of turn on, tune, in, drop out culture? Is it a thinly veiled metaphor for sex and free love? Why not both?Given it was released in ‘68 I’m assuming all of the above.
Dance to it. Get high to it. Screw to it. If that’s not rock’n’roll I don’t know what is.
I really dig the dirty groove of this song. It triggers a skewed smile and tempered head bob that from me indicates a song is “in the pocket” as the hep jazz cats say. The Scott Pilgrim flick is one of my guilty pleasure movies and this is probably my favorite song from the soundtrack. The lyrics are oddly sexual, like euphemisms that no one has ever wanted or used, but still kind of work. Thanks Beck, you gigantic weirdo.
This song always takes me back to the summer my family drove all the way from the Dirty Jerz to Disney World. My sister and I sat in the backseat running through a repeated cycle of annoying each other then ignoring each other then playing Boggle then playing the license plate game and then napping. My dad swapped between playing cassettes and surfing through the radio as he drove. It felt like “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was always playing on some station and I truly never got tired of hearing it. This song will always make me think of the summers of childhood that seemed so much longer than three months. It holds the pleasantly distorted memories of not just summer, but cinematic summer where everything is moving at half speed drenched in golden hour sunlight. My family is all laughing and smiling and the world is amazing because holyfuckingshit we’re going to Disney World! This distinct vision that I retain decades later is due in no small part to the fact that this song plays at the very end of the movie Real Genius over the infamous popcorn scene which has both slo-mo cavorting and golden hour lighting. Mind you Real Genius is a touchstone film of my childhood for several reasons including but not limited to letting me know there was hope for bespectacled dorks like myself to be cool, establishing Val Kilmer as an inspiration of aforementioned coolness, and setting into motion my lifelong proclivity for nerdy, dark haired, socially awkward girls.
So yeah, if you could distill all the joy and hope of 10 year old me down to 4 minutes and 11 seconds this song is it.
The official video:
“The Last Time” isn’t a dancefloor stomper by any means with its tight, chill groove, but you can really lean into it and move without a second thought. It straight up makes me do the white man overbite and shake muh ass! CeeLo begs me to take stock of my life and ask the truly deep question: “When, exactly, was the last time I danced?” The answer is probably the last time I was making Friday night pizza with my second 7&7 in hand and my iPod shuffling out some similarly diggable beats. If you burned out on “Crazy” way back when, do yourself a favor and give this deep cut a listen.
I’ve got a playlist on my iPod named “Feelin’ Good” that I turn to when I need a little pep in my step or when I’m already hopped up and want it to keep going. Every Friday I’ll be posting a song from that playlist to help get the weekend started. This inaugural Feelin’ Good Friday post is in honor of recent world events.
The staccato drum roll that kicks off “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” is one of those sonic signatures that was burned into my brain and allows me to confidently identify this song within half a second of hearing it. Peter Buck’s loose-limbed guitar jangle and Mike Mills’ bopping bass has been putting a smile on my face for 3 decades. The inscrutable yet catchy lyrics sung by Michael Stipe with focused abandon are icing on this spastic cake. Really, it just feels good to pogo around the room with this blasting and yell, “Leonard Bernstein!” If this song is any indication, I for one welcome the End Times with open arms. #IFeelFine