“Velvet Underground” by Jonathan Richman

Just heard this song for the first time on an old episode of Penn Jillette’s podcast (“Penn’s Sunday School”), the one Penn recorded on the day it was announced Lou Reed passed away in 2013. Reed was a huge influence on Richman and this is a wonderful tribute song that not only gives high praise to the Velvet Underground and sounds like them, but allows for a completely charming “Sister Ray” cover during the middle 1/3 of this song.  This is from Richman’s 1992 album “I, Jonathan.”  If you’re not sure on who Richman is, he was the singing troubadour from the 1998 blockbuster hit comedy “There’s Something About Mary.”

Penn was very good friends with Reed for many years during the 1980s and 1990s and if you’re a fan of Reed’s, I encourage you to either stream or download the episode from the link below (Episode 89 from October 27, 2013).  There’s lots of wonderful anecdotes and stories about Reed that’s nearly two hours long.  Re: this song, Penn actually took Reed to see Richman in concert, where he performed this song, avoiding eye contact with Reed because he was such in awe of Reed.  Reed had difficulty making out one of the lyrics, which Penn explained to Reed was “America at it’s best,” meaning Reed’s first band.  Reed paused and said “Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.”

http://pennsundayschool.com/episodes/

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An Interview with Chip Chipperson by Jennifer Carmody (from the Carmody Central Podcast), April 15, 2014

Aside from Doug Stanhope, there’s no living comedian that’s more painfully honest than Jim Norton.  To say Norton is an open book is an understatement.  He frequently discusses his sex addiction, his numerous encounters with prostitutes, etc. without batting an eye.  And doesn’t care what you think … at all.  In fact, one of his stand-up specials was called “Please Be Offended” and one of his books was titled “I Hate Your Guts.”  Many people are put-off by Norton’s willingness to delve into the darkest parts of his life so openly, but I find him extremely funny and refreshing.  I don’t always agree with him politically, but I appreciate his honesty and his disdain for anyone who isn’t equally as forthright about their dark side.  In a world where pious and sanctimonious bulls–t is increasingly praised, we need more artists like Norton.

Having said all this, my favorite part of Norton’s comedy is his pathetic, creepy, deluded, and brain-damaged alter-ego Chip Chipperson.  Chipperson is a masterpiece of anti-comedy, the equal of anything Andy Kaufman or Sacha Baron Cohen has ever done, if not any character Phil Hendrie has conceived.  But many people, including some Norton fans, HATE Chip.  And I can’t blame them.  Seriously, Chip is THAT f–king annoying and repulsive.  But to appreciate Chip is to love him.  Jennifer Carmody interviewed Chip for her podcast and for Chip fans, this is pure, undiluted Chip at his finest … or worst … I realize it’s hard to tell the difference.

If you’re even remotely sensitive, please don’t listen to this.  The language is beyond not safe for work.  The first 2/3 of this are gold.  However, in the last 1/3, Norton goes into some of his other disturbing alter-egos and while funny, is uneven and isn’t quite as good as the first 2/3.  But if you’re a fan of anti-comedy, strap in.

“Long Long Time” by Linda Rondstadt (1969)

Holy s–t!  I remember hearing this song a lot  when my Mom played a constant rotation of Linda Rondstadt, Roberta Flack, Rita Coolidge, and Crystal Gayle back in the 1970s.  However, I completely forgot about this song until today, when I listened to Adam Carolla’s podcast and a caller asked Carolla if there’s a song that made him weep.  Carolla rose to the challenge and said, in so many words, “Oh, I’ve got one for you!”  Apparently, he heard this for the first time in 1981 after a painful breakup when he was listening to the radio in his Dad’s driveway.   And damn, is this song the absolute LAST song you want to hear when someone has dumped you.  OK, maybe This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” may be worse, but this is first runner-up.  Damn.  Completely devastating lyrics, an arrangement that guarantees buckets of tears, and Rondstadt’s non-Auto tuned voice … sweet Lord … it will put a shiv in your heart.  Devastating stuff.  You are warned.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Jackie DeShannon (1963)

Just discovered this gem of a Bob Dylan cover by one of my favorite singers of all-time, Jackie DeShannon.  DeShannon was/is the complete package: smart, tough, beautiful, sexy, and soulful.  She does a remarkable job on this Dylan cover from her debut album in 1963.  All I can say is “Damn!”

“That One Night” – The Hunted (from the US version of “The Office) (2008)

To identify the most cringe-worthy moment of one of the most crigne-worthy episodes of the US version “The Office” is, I realize, a bold task.  But this song, written for Michael Scott’s girlfriend / ex-boss Jan Levinson by her former assistant, is beyond creepy … and funny.   We first see Levinson’s assistant Hunter on the episode where Jan is getting fired (“The Job”), and as she hugs Hunter, tells him “”Good luck with your band,” adding “Don’t let them change you.”  Well, this is the payback … a song dedicated to the night where Jan allegedly made Hunter a man.  The fact that Jan plays this song wistfully in front of her current boyfriend (Michael) while trying to dance with another man is an extremely queasy and funny moment.   The fact that Hunter named his band “The Hunted” speaks volumes.

Dave’s Top 100 Desert Island Films

These may not be the 100 “best” films I’ve ever seen … though most of them are.  However, if I’m going to be alone somewhere with only 100 films, these are the ones that will either put a smile on my face or give me lots to think about.  It’s a combination of the highest cinematic art and the most delicious cinematic junk food.  Of course, I reserve the option to revisit / revise this list in another year.

Aliens
Almost Famous
American Psycho
At Close Range
Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession
Badlands
Bamboozled
Being John Malkovich
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Big Lebowski, The
Blue Velvet
Boogie Nights
Boyhood
Brazil
Breaking the Waves
Bully (2001) dir. Larry Clark
Capturing the Friedmans
Carrie
Casino
Clockwork Orange, A
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Crumb
Dazed and Confused
Deer Hunter, The
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Ed Wood
Escape from New York
Face in the Crowd, A
Falcon and the Snowman, The
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Female Trouble
Fight Club
Fourth Man, The
Ghost World
Godfather, The
Goodfellas
Great Santini, The
Happiness
Hard Boiled
Hardcore
High Fidelity
Hollywood Knights, The
Hopscotch
Hot Tub Time Machine
Husbands and Wives
Inglourious Basterds
Inside Out
Irreversible
King of Comedy
L.A. Confidential
Love Actually
M*A*S*H
Mad Max
Mad Max Fury Road
Magnolia
Malcolm X
Miller’s Crossing
Mulholland Dr.
Nashville
Nobody’s Fool (1994) dir. Robert Benton
North Dallas Forty
Out of Sight
Out of the Blue (1980) dir. Dennis Hopper
Over the Edge
Performance
Pink Floyd The Wall
Pulp Fiction
Putney Swope
Quadrophenia
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Repo Man
Reservoir Dogs
Robocop
Royal Tenenbaums, The
Salvador
Scarface
Searchers, The
Serious Man, A
Seven Beauties
Short Cuts
Slap Shot
Sorcerer
Straw Dogs
Stuntman, The
Summer of Sam
Talk Radio
Taxi Driver
Thief
This is 40
This is Spinal Tap
True Romance
Usual Suspects, The
Velvet Goldmine
Videodrome
Wanderers, The
Wolf of Wall Street
Wonderland (2003) dir. James Cox
Z
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

“Don’t Let Us Get Sick” (2001) by Warren Zevon

If you’ve been in a multi-year relationship with someone that’s still intact (either in marriage or not), you’ve hopefully learned to appreciate what you have, but also realize that you can never take your good status for granted.  Real life has an uncanny ability to test the stability of your relationship in terms of issues that never get adequately addressed or discussed, psychological quirks on both sides, or just plain bad luck.

This beautiful song by Warren Zevon, from his stellar 2001 album “Life’ll Kill Ya,” is a modest plea from one person to their significant other to value what they share, no matter what may happen around them or to them.   With all the flowery prose that have been thrown about in the support of love over the years in songs, Zevon’s simple words in this song are, in my opinion, the most meaningful:

“Don’t let us get sick
Don’t let us get old
Don’t let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight”

A formal shout-out to Spaulding, the true hero of “Caddyshack” (1980)

Who’s the best character in “Caddyshack”?  Yes, I know many out there will cite Rodney Dangerfield’s Czervik, Bill Murray’s Carl, Chevy Chase’s Ty, or … as some contrarians might say … Ted Knight’s Judge Smails … as the best character in the classic 1980 film comedy “Caddyshack.”  But in my opinion, Smails’s obnoxious grandson Spaulding is the s–t!  Spaulding is THE very definition of devolution.   He’s rich, spoiled, obnoxious, out-of-shape, and incredibly stupid.  He is literally the 3rd generation photocopy of a bad 3rd generation photocopy.  And for the limited time he’s onscreen, he’s f–king hilarious.  Major kudos to John F. Barmon Jr. for such a great performance.  This is someone who took a nothing part and made it classic.  Too bad I’ve haven’t seen Barmon do anything else.  But his Spaulding is enough to warrant a NY Times mention once he eventually leaves our mortal coil.  Raise a glass, motherf–kers to Spaulding Smails!

Spaulding gets drunk:

Spaulding picks his nose:

Spaulding places an order for lunch:

An interview with the real Spaulding several years after the fact:

All hail Spaulding!

Happy 3rd Birthday to Dave’s Strange World!

I wanted to give a shout-out to this blog, which is officially 3 years old today.  Like most 3-year olds, the blog’s ambition often outweighs its ability, specifically my ability to juggle a full-time day job with frequent overtime, a family with two VERY active  but terrific kids, a kick-ass radio station (davesstrangeradio.com), and my debilitating addiction to reading every new and interesting book that comes out.

Still, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished here and while I’m not sure what my next big endeavor will be, the blog will roll on, discussing all the things that I think are cool and worthwhile.

Many, many thanks to all of you who have supported and followed me over these past 3 years.  Please continue to comment or reach out as you see fit.  It’s always a joy to hear from anyone who reaches out.

Dave’s Underrated Albums … “Berlin” (1973) by Lou Reed

After years of artistic success and commercial failure, Lou Reed finally hit the commercial zeitgeist with his 1972 album “Transformer” and his controversial, but very popular song “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Given this berth, an artist can do many things.  The two most common are: going even more commercial to maximize the success they just achieved … or … using this commercial breathing room to make the artistic statement they always wanted to make, but couldn’t because it’s too “negative” or “disturbing.”  I think you can guess what Reed did.

“Berlin” is, undoubtedly, the most horrendously depressing album ever recorded.  It’s a nearly 50-minute song cycle chronicling the failed relationship between a man and a woman who suffers from severe mental illness and drug addiction.   Produced by Bob Ezrin (who hit commercial pay dirt in the early 1970s with most of Alice Cooper’s biggest commercial successes, KISS’s 1976 “Destroyer” album, and Pink Floyd’s monumental commercial blockbuster “The Wall” in 1979) “Berlin” is the ultimate musical statement about self-loathing, substance abuse, and mental illness.  It makes Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” seem like the Spice Girls.  “Berlin” is a monumentally negative statement about humanity, summed up in the lyrics of the last song “Sad Song”:

“Staring at my picture book
She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
Just goes to show how WRONG you can be
I’m gonna stop wastin’ my time
Somebody else would have broken both of her arms”

Holy s–t! is the only statement I can muster at the summation of this album.  And weirdly enough, the two songs preceding this horrendously negative finale are seriously way more despairing.  “The Kids” chronicles about how the female protagonist’s kids were taken away due to her drug use and promiscuity, climaxing in the sounds of actual young children screaming “MOMMY!” in anguished voices during the last two minutes.  The next song, “The Bed” is about the female protagonist’s suicide.  The lyrics are not sensationalistic, but the simplistic acoustic guitar and plain singing make the lyrics more horrific:

“This is the place where she lay her head
When she went to bed at night
And this is the place our children were conceived
Candles lit the room at night
And this is the place where she cut her wrists
That odd and fateful night”

As I said earlier, this is the most horrendously depressing album ever recorded.  However, it’s a damn good one.  And it’s a lot better than many people gave it credit for at the time.  In subsequent years, Rolling Stone magazine included it in its list of “Best 500 Albums of All-Time” … despite the fact that rock writer Stephen Davis, when reviewing the album for Rolling Stone in 1973, called “Berlin”:

“Lou Reed’s Berlin is a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed’s only excuse for this kind of performance (which isn’t really performed as much as spoken and shouted over Bob Ezrin’s limp production) can only be that this was his last shot at a once-promising career. Goodbye, Lou.”

Whatever.

The ultimate vindication for Reed, in my opinion, was when Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Before Night Falls,” and my personal favorite “Baquiat”) directed a beautiful feature-length concert film of Reed performing this album in its entirety in 2008, simply called “Lou Reed’s Berlin.”  It’s one of the best concert films of all-time and I can’t think of a better series of songs to deserve this treatment.