Another Very Special Birthday Tune-Up


Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets, “Tokyo Bay”

We kick off this year’s Birthday Tune-Up with an homage to travel.  Seems appropriate.  Now, I had never heard of Nick Lowe before I found this song this year.  He’s been around for awhile.  First album put out in the late 70s.  British.  Figures.  BUT: did you know his middle name is Drain?


The Beatles, “Mother Nature’s Son” (arranged by D. Sanford)

This is a charming cover of a Beatles song (see the original here).  It’s part of a musical initiative by Luna Pearl Woolf and Cornelia Funke (see more here).  I know we both typically tend to like things slower, but I quite like the faster tempo of this version.  But  I’m not going to die on this hill or anything.


David Byrne, “Toe Jam”

I could have posted the studio recording of this, but I wanted you to see the bassist, Bobby Wooten, who is the greatest bassist I’ve ever seen live, and I wanted to give you a taste of how magical Byrne’s “American Utopia” tour was.  Did I mention I saw it twice?  And once I was in the front row?  Oh sorry this isn’t about me.  The biggest issue with this video is that it doesn’t keep the camera on the whole ensemble the whole time, which is the whole point of the show.  But keep in mind that, as with the Stop Making Sense tour, every noise you’re hearing is created on that stage.  It’s amazing.


Claude Debussy, “Bruyères”

This is a piece Debussy wrote by Vaughan Williams.  (There is another version that’s done by a string quartet that ups the VW quotient significantly, but for some dumb reason it’s not on YouTube.)  Anyway, this sounds so much like that late 19th century English incidental music that it was really confusing when I first heard.  This would absolutely be the gardening scene at the end of an episode in a British crime procedural: “Alright, Mrs. Toft-Nettles?”  “Yes, Seargent, yes.  I do miss my Billy, though.”  “Well that’s natural.  But you have your begonias, eh?  Must look on the bright side.”  “Too right, sir, too right. My Billy was shot, burned alive, and shot out of a cannon, but one must’ve dwell on the past.  And I do think I’ve got a shot at the village fair this year!”


J.S. Bach, “Nun sich der Tag geendet hat”

So I think you’re doomed to have Andreas Scholl on every Tune-Up because that voice just cannot be denied.  The provenance of this piece is hard to figure out.  The melody is basically Bach, but I think the song was really written by Adam Krieger.  Certainly the melodic arrangement and the lyrics are modern.
Nun sich der Tag geendet hat, und keine Sonne mehr scheint,
schläft alles, was sich abgematt’ und was zuvor geweint.
Du Schöne bist in Schlaf gebracht und liegst in stiller Ruh;
ich aber geh’ die ganze Nacht und tu’ kein Auge zu.
Erhöre doch den Seufzerwind, der durch die Fenster geht,
der sagt dir, wie du mich entzünd’t, und wie es mit mir steht.
Indessen habe gute Nacht, du meine Lust und Pein,
und wenn du morgen aufgewacht, so laß mich bei dir sein.

Now the day has ended and no sun is shining,
everything sleeps that has been embarrassed and previously cried.

Your beauty is brought to sleep and lies in quiet peace;
but I go all night and do not shut my eyes.

Listen to the sighing wind that goes through the windows,
He tells you how you ignite me, and how it is with me.

Meanwhile have a good night, you my lust and pain,
and when you wake up tomorrow, let me be with you.


Raymond Scott, “In an 18th Century Drawing Room”

Raymond Scott: inventor, composer, and writer of tunes that made their way into countless cartoons through the selling the publishing rights to Warner Bros in 1943 (smooth move, Raymond).  Also wrote music that emerged and thrived during the Big Band era but was also used in movies like “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”  What a guy!


Jacob Gippenbusch, Samuel Scheidt, “Die ganze Welt, Herr Jesu Christ,” “Surrexit Christus Hodie,” “Hilariter”

Sir John Eliot Gardiner – the bounciest conductor’s baton in Christendom, and one of the few people with a musical knowledge expansive enough to program Gippenbusch and Scheidt together.  And also one whose musical tastes are such that he finds the dance in every piece of liturgical music.  One day, I’ll sing these pieces together.  That will be a good day.


Heirich Schütz, “Auf tiefer Not”

From Scheidt to Schütz, we’re leaving no German behind on this Birthday Tune-Up.  This piece continues in the long tradition of using major and minor modalities to amazing effect.  I love how so many phrases effectively end in questions.  Actually, sorry I’ve programmed so many old German pieces.  Next year I’ll try to give you more stuff from France or, I dunno, Tennessee.


Darius Milhaud, “Scaramouche Suite – 3. Brazileira”

Oh hey!  Something from France!  I’m doing so well at this.  Well I know you know Darius Milhaud from “Le Boeuf sur le Toit,” but you might not know this effervescent little number – an callback to Offenbach’s if ever there was one.  Also a few subtle hints of Antonio Carlos Jobim, too, which is logical.  (Also: check out Gillam’s amazing pants.)


Kansas Smitty’s House Band, “Blue Peter

So guess where Kansas Smitty’s House Band is from?  Right!  London!  I know.  It makes no sense.  That said, they do an excellent impersonation of a second line-style group that I had to include this.  It’s a good song to put on at the end of a long day of walking around where you just want to sit somewhere, drink in hand, view in front of you.  Maybe of an ocean.  Dunno why that image popped into my head.


Lazarus, “Ndife Alendo”

Lazarus Chigwandali is a Malawian street busker with albinism who was discovered by a music label a few years ago thanks to a tourist’s cell phone video.  I can’t find the translation to this piece, but I did find an interview with Lazarus in which he called this song a “praise song.  It’s basically a gospel song. It’s reminding people that we are only visitors on earth and that eventually we will all return to heaven.”


Willie Dixon, “I Got A Razor”

I feel like you should know that it was a tie between Willie Dixon and a Bach cantata (“Vergnüte Ruh”), and Dixon won out.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, clearly this is where the Kansas Smitty Brits got their sounds.  Second, the walking piano.  I mean I guess he lays it on a little thick with the walking sounds, but still.  “You talking about helping me?  You better help that grizzly bear.  I got a razor, man!”  Dixon was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in on July 1, 1915, just 50 years after the Civil War ended.  It’s both heartening and chilling that such an American sound comes from the heartland of slavery.  In 1860, 66.5% of the population of Vicksburg were slaves.  99 years later, Willie Dixon, son of Vicksburg, recorded this song.


Leyla McCalla, “The Capitalist Blues”

I think every generation has it hard, and so every generation needs its jazz funeral ode.  This is the one for my generation, with our student loan debt and our $3,000/month rent for our tiny efficiencies.  So fun!


Hot Club de Frank, “Shine”

If there were a song that put a lovingly freezing washcloth to the face into music, it would be this.  I know you’ll never forgot – or enjoy anything more than – waking me up for school when I was in high school, especially with a peppy “Up and at ’em!” What could be better.  Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be repaid in kind by my own kid.


Fairfield Four, “Po Lazarus”

So I love this for a million reasons, but the one that edges out all the others is how subversive this song is.  This is from a concert and I’m pretty sure the Fairfield Four got to pick the song they sang.  When the camera pans to the audience, you can see it’s a whole stadium full of white people.  And what do they choose?  An old song about police violence against innocent black men.  Lazarus could be Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin.  “They laid him on the commissary gallery and then they walked away.”  The Fairfield Four are having a blast singing it, but they also enter and exit the stage without much waving or bowing.  A subtle reminder that past is prologue.


Juliette, “Procrastination”

As Juliette says in her introduction, what’s among the universal emotions and sentiments?  Love, death, and procrastination.  If that isn’t a Gallic take on life, I don’t know what is.

J’ai encore le temps pour écrire ma lettre
Je m’y mets bientôt, dès ce soir peut-être
Une lettre d’amour c’est très important
C’est toujours du coeur, dont la vie dépend
J’ai encore le temps de trouver les mots
Pour en dire assez, sans en dire trop
Car avant que nos sentiments ne changent
J’ai encore le temps pour l’appeler mon ange
Comment ces aveux seront-ils reçus?
Je vais y penser et dormir dessus
J’ai encore le temps avant de les mettre
Dans le grand nez en haut de la boite aux lettres
J’attendrai donc demain
Qu’aujourd’hui soit hier
C’est le meilleur moyen
D’exhausser des prières
De jouer les devins
Et de passer l’hiver
Cette désinvolture
C’est ma consolation
Mes lendemains qui durent
Mes voeux sans condition
J’avoue que me rassure, la procrastination
J’avoue que me rassure, la procrastination
J’ai encore le temps pour faire ma chanson
Je m’y mets demain, de tout façon
Le temps qu’il faudra pour qu’elle vous parvienne
Son propos sera de l’histoire ancienne
Parler d’aujourd’hui demande prudence
Faut déprogrammer les obsolescences
Futur antérieur, passé dépassé
J’ai encore le temps de recommencer
En dormant dessus je vais y songer
J’ai encore le temps pour changer d’idée
Mais que cette chanson prenne sépulture
Dans le grand nez en haut de mon disque dur
J’attendrai donc demain
Qu’aujourd’hui soit hier
C’est le meilleur moyen
D’exhausser les prières
De jouer les devins
Et de passer l’hiver
Cette désinvolture, c’est ma consolation
Mes lendemains qui durent
Mes voeux sans condition
J’avoue que me rassure, la procrastination
J’avoue que le rassure, la procrastination
J’ai encore le temps pour mon testament
Je m’y mets bientôt, tôt ou tard sûrement
Comme je suis du genre à faire mes devoirs
Pour lundi matin dès dimanche soir
J’ai encore le temps pour me mettre en route
Le temps qui musarde et le temps qui doute
Demain je ferai les trucs emmerdants
J’ai encore le temps de perdre mon temps
Comment aux enfers serai-je reçue?
Je vais y penser et dormir dessus
J’ai encore le temps avant de chanter
Dans le grand néant de l’éternité
J’attendrai donc demain
Qu’aujourd’hui soit hier
C’est le meilleur moyen
D’exhausser les prières
De jouer les devins
Et de passer l’hiver
Cette désinvolture, c’est ma consolation
Mes lendemains qui durent
Mes voeux sans condition
J’avoue que me rassure, la procrastination
J’avoue que me rassure
La procrastination
Pour finir la chanson j’ai eu une idée formidable
Mais on verra demain
Ou mardi
Happy Birthday!