Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


iPod song of the week – UB40

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On May 31, 2009
At 2:00 am
Comments : 3

This is not about Red Red Wine.

Still reading? OK. When I was a kid, I wrote a song, lyrics only. I’m sure it was crappy, I was probably in 6th or 7th grade, but I really felt as a person who listened to at least thirty songs a day that I could do this. And so I did. I gave it to a friend of mine (I have no idea why) and her mother, who was a piano teacher, wanted to put it to music. It was going to be a lovely piano tune and so I said no. You see, it was all about the Rock ‘n Roll, man. Yeah!

I remembered this story this week when I was looking through the exciting database of scanned Billboard magazines on Google. I used to read this magazine every freaking week back in the day. Ironically, now that I’m at a label, I never do. Maybe I see all the same stuff on the Internet anyway. But in re-reading, I’ve come across lots of interesting things and, of course, there’s lots of looking back at the past through the present lens (CD’s will last forever! Music sales increase every year! The Internet will be our salvation!) and snickering,

I wonder what would happen if one day I was listening to the radio and I heard my awful 6th grade lyrics in some hit tune. How weird would that be? Of course, I don’t even remember the lyrics but work with me here. Because this did happen to someone and when I read about the lawsuit (in a 1995 issue) I sat bolt upright. Because this song, my favorite UB40 song ever, has the stupidest, most simplistic lyrics you could imagine. I felt no surprise at all knowing they were not written by someone who made a living writing songs. In fact, I always assumed UB40 had written them because, as we all know, UB40′s stock in trade is remaking other people’s songs, probably because their songwriting skills were on the level of this number.

So why did I love it? Well, of course there was the catchy melody and gentle reggae lilt, but really, when you’re 14 years old, lyrics like these just appeal to you:

You shoot me down in flames
You put me down a lot
I’m giving you my heart
Go on take it
Please be careful
Not to break it
Just remember it’s the only one I’ve got
It’s the only one I’ve got

Don’t break my heart
Don’t break my heart
Don’t break my heart

You make me laugh a lot
And buy me silly things
I’d rather be with you
Than anyone else
But if you make me mad
But if you make me mad
You’ll wish that you had not
You’ll wish that you had not

Don’t break my heart
Don’t break my heart
Don’t break my heart

Right. Yeats it is not. Actually, it was written by a secretary from Birmingham England named Deborah Banks who penned amateur poetry and had a friend who was looking for songs. So she wrote him a couple and he said, don’t worry, I’ll see you right if I ever end up doing anything with it. We now know how that went. Later, he sold it to UB40 for £10,000, which is about $16,000, and they had a massive worldwide hit with it in 1985. Now, I don’t know how she figured out that it was her song but I like to imagine that one day she was folding laundry or typing a memo and listening to the radio when something sounded familiar… The thing I do know is that she won her lawsuit by proving the song was hers (I wish, too, that I knew how she did this… notebooks? Diaries? Letters?) when the friend denied it. She was awarded damages and royalties and the song credits now lists her as a co-writer. Go Deborah Banks!

I always knew UB40 couldn’t write their own songs. Even the trite ones.


iPod song of the week – Malcolm McLaren

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On May 10, 2009
At 6:15 pm
Comments :Comments Off

Recently, the FB group I’m on that reminds you of a new song from the 80′s/90′s Alternative scene every day did one that actually made me cry while I was listening to it. The more shocking thing, really, was hearing a song from the 80′s that I haven’t heard since the 80′s. That’s a hard thing to do. But this one isn’t available in the US, or at least not via download, so it’s not on my iPod and can’t be on yours. Unless you’re in the UK and to my two UK readers, I say, download this now! Then send it to me.

This song has a sad motif, true, but that’s not why it made me cry. It’s because when I heard it, I immediately flashed back to sitting in the car with my Mom on the way to school. See, I went to private Yeshiva high school in a nearby town and there was no bus, so you had to carpool or, more usually, my Mom would drive me there and pick me up. And she wasn’t one of those, “it’s my car and I’m driving so I’ll listen to what I want” people (coughDadcough), So we usually listened to WLIR and occasionally my mother would comment on the music. She did like some of it but she hated this song. That’s because she loved the opera it came from and it irritated her to no end to have it distorted, set to a beat, and have this other stuff around it. The opera spoke for itself and needed no accompaniment. It was one of the only times I ever remember her making me change the station.

And she was right, you know. Later, I bought the opera (it’s the only opera CD I own) and it’s so beautiful. I’m obviously not the only person to say this, but the faith of this woman waiting futiley for the person she loves is so vast and painful. I still love the Malcolm McLaren version, though. I probably wouldn’t if I’d loved the opera first, but maybe not. As a person who loves The Clash’s “Straight To Hell,” it was hard at first for me to like MIA’s “Paper Planes.” But I eventually did.

Still, being reminded of a conversation you had with your mother years and years ago that you had nearly forgotten is a great Mother’s Day present. And that crying was the good kind. I hope you had a good Mother’s Day, wherever your mother is.

The sexy video seems somewhat unrelated to the subject matter, but enjoy!


iPod song of the week – Self

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On April 12, 2009
At 9:30 pm
Comments :Comments Off

This is another of those mid-90′s things that isn’t available anywhere but eBay and I’m not selling mine. But seeing Uncle Billy in a comment (and he’s been mentioned in two posts, just namelessly) reminds me of this song, a song that never got the respect it deserved. See, it was supposed to be the new “Loser” a la Beck, and personally, I think it was poppier and catchier, yet it went nowhere just a year or two later. Which is a shame, really, because it still stands up all these years in the future. Like “Loser,” this song is self-deprecating and nihilistic with lots of nonsense lyrics, combining power pop and hip-hop.

Even though I haven’t listened to this album in about fifteen years, lines from the songs still float through my head sometimes, that’s how sticky they are. I sometimes forget they’re even from this CD, except I listened to it today and, well, now I remember where those lines originated. It’s a lot like all the Beatlesque power pop I love so much like Jellyfish and Matthew Sweet and Crowded House. I have no idea why I let it sit so long. Now that I have it on my iPod where it belongs, I can tell you that it still makes me want to sing out loud. I may even have done so, but, as you recall, I hate my neighbors, so it’s OK.

Enjoy via this dated YouTube video and feel free to write to SonyBMG about getting this on iTunes and other download services.


iPod song of the week – early 90′s showcase

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On March 29, 2009
At 9:00 pm
Comments : 2

It’s attack of the mid-90′s has-beens! Yes, I’m cleaning out my work CD collection which, you guessed it, began in the early 90′s and hasn’t been sorted through since. Along the way, I have found the following tracks that I quite literally forgot existed. What happened to these people? Does anyone know? All I know is that several of the CD’s I found have been “discontinued by the manufacturer” according to Amazon which could mean big bucks for me. Except I’ll never get my act together to sell them. Oh well!

In the meantime, enjoy these here, because half the CD’s I found aren’t available for download.

These first two are both from Interscope, which my first boss left to join. She offered to take me with her but I didn’t go. Months later I was out of a job. But I did get these CD’s.

Weird wild stuff from a friend of Trent Reznor’s.

“You’re as funny as a bank.” Why don’t I use this line more often?

Remember when all songs used to sound like this? Good times.

And later when they used to sound like this? That is, girls? Because it’s hard for a guy to get away with a song called Tiny Meat.

That was from Ruby. I’ll be your DJ because Yahoo doesn’t have BIG GIANT LABELS like YouTube. But this was a better version.

Well, I hope you liked those all enough to spend $14.95 on the copies I’ll be selling later.

Oh, I kid! Maybe.


iPod Song of the Week – The Beloved

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On March 8, 2009
At 10:00 pm
Comments : 2

Hey! It’s a special month on the Jewish calendar and that month is called Adar. It’s awesome and special because you’re commanded to be happy the whole month. Yes, indeed, doomed to happiness for four plus weeks. The happiness thing is because Adar is the month with Purim, one of those holidays where the Jews were saved from certain death (well, almost certain, obviously) and that’s a giant excuse for a party. Tomorrow night begins Purim, the holiday where you give gifts of baked goods to your friends and it’s a mitzvah to get bombed off your ass. That might not be the exact language the Talmud uses, but that’s really the rule.

My Mom was a Jewish educator, as I’ve stated many times here, and she liked to wear a giant button on her coat at this time of year that embarrassed me beyond the limits of teenage humiliation. It said, “Be happy! It’s Adar!” in Hebrew and English. Oh Mom! When I was in college, my grandma died during that month and after that, it was terribly hard for my Mom to be happy then but she wore the big green button anyway. Sometimes commandments are hard. After she died, we found that my Mom had like ten of these buttons. Ha! I kept one but, you know, I don’t actually walk down the street with the thing on my coat.

To veer off slightly, there’s this guy who has a Facebook group of which I’m a member where he does this “blast from the 80′s Alternative scene” every day. I found it because the guy who lived across the hall from me in college freshman year joined and I saw it in my feed. I asked him where he’d found this group and he said, “oh, I was remembering how great Depeche Mode were and thought it would be cool to hear some old songs.” Oh yes, cool, I said, they sure were great. I neglected to tell him that I’ve been listening to them every day since we lived there on the fourth floor. Some of us never move on!

Anyway, the song of the day a few days ago was by a group that I really, truly had not thought of in maybe fifteen years. And I have the CD! Like the description by the uploader on YouTube video, I actually wore out the cassette, I played it so much. Thus the CD. I think this actually may have been my favorite album of 1990. Now it’s kind of dated, unlike my favorite album of 1989, Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine, which still sounds glorious and modern to this day. And yes, I know Violator came out in 1989. Stiff competition.

But the real reason I chose a song from this album today is that it’s called Happiness. And it really does lift your spirits, as it’s dancey and upbeat. The song chosen by the Facebook guy was the big single from the album, Hello, which is a kind of list of people, only catchy. You can see the video for that here if you’d like to jog your memory. But my favorite song on the album was this one. It was calm, mellow, and jazzy but yet upbeat and uplifting. I just put it on my iPod this week. That should help me be happy! It’s Adar!

Streaming music:

The Beloved – The Sun Rising