For nearly three decades, I thought my mom was a fan of the ALCS-swept New York Yankees. She grew up in New Jersey, her brother is a Yankee fan, her parents are Yankee fans… I guess I just assumed. And there wasn’t exactly a shortage of opportunities for her true colors to show — I played little league for like 10 years, went to god knows how many Norfolk Tides games, and watched a ton of baseball at home during and after family dinners. So imagine my surprise when the following exchange took place over the phone earlier this season…
Mom: “Ugh. I hate the Yankees.”
Her: “I’m a Mets fan!”
Turns out, when she was a kid, she rooted for the Mets to stick it to the rest of her family. Pretty awesome, if you ask me. She also called a career audible when I was in high school and became an Episcopalian priest after 31 years of teaching American History. She’s just full of surprises.
So is Radiohead, apparently.
I have some pretty strange eating habits. Mind if I share one? I promise to make it snappy. It involves Hot Tamales, which are almost certainly Mrs. YHT’s favorite non-chocolate candy. Whenever I manage to wrest one away from her, I apply squishing pressure to either end of the capsule-shaped Tamale until it looks like how movies sometimes depict catastrophic explosions in space (it more closely resembles this yo-yo, but that’s not nearly as dramatic, is it?). Once the capsule’s modification is complete, down the hatch it goes. I don’t know how my Hot Tamale ritual started, and I sure as hell don’t know why it makes me so happy. It just does.
I have a listening habit just as idiosyncratic that I’d like to share, and unlike the candy custom above, you can join in on the fun right this very minute! It has to do with cover songs. Often, when I find a cover I really like, I’ll listen to it, then listen to the original version, then the cover again, then the original again, cover, original, cover, original, over and over, until I absolutely, positively have to take my headphones off and and pay attention to something else. A little crazy, right? I’d say it’s like being a tennis spectator, glancing left and right to follow a rally, but if I’m being honest, it’s more like being the ball. And as nutty as it may sound, I could go on forever like that, comparing the songs, finding little differences in the phrasing of the lyrics, trying to imagine why certain decisions were made during the respective recording processes.
Wanna play a little cover tennis? C’mooooooon, it’s super fun. I’ve picked out three pairs of tunes, and I’ve even assigned a tennis player (two of whom are competing in the London Olympics) to each pair, based on how obsessed with them I’ve become. So let’s crack open a new tube of balls, take a sniff — because it’s the best smell in the universe — and get to thwackin’!
R.I.P., State Fair of Virginia. The fact that this 150-year-old institution is shutting its doors is a serious bummer. Where else can I watch pig races and eat two bacon cheeseburgers with Krispy Kreme donuts for buns without being judged? And the fried cheese! WHAT WILL BECOME OF US WITHOUT THE FRIED CHEESE?!? It’s a grim future, to be certain. But instead of getting all panicky about a lack of trashy eating opportunities (there’s always the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and I’m hopeful something will pop up in its place), I’d like to share my favorite story from this past year’s trip to the State Fair.
When I realized I was approaching my 100th You Hear That post, it took me approximately .0382 milliseconds to decide what I wanted to say and what song could help me say it. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to all the amazing people who have supported this blog since I started writing it in March. Whether you have taken time out of your day to read a post, submit a comment, retweet a link, make a suggestion, read a draft (I’m looking at you, Mrs. YHT), write a guest post or include me in your blogroll, I want you to know that these gestures brighten my day tremendously and breathe life into a venture that brings me an immeasurable amount of joy. Talking about music is one of my favorite things in the entire universe, and, to paraphrase Sly Stone, you all let me be myself day after day by entertaining my reactions, recommendations and (often way-over-the-top) enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what the next hundred posts will bring, and I sincerely hope you’ll continue reading and sharing your thoughts as we find out together. Before going any further, I have a confession to make about “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” My relationship with the song didn’t start with Sly and the Family Stone’s original version — it began when Dave Matthews and Friends (which featured Trey Anastasio and Tim Reynolds on dueling/feuding lead guitars) performed an 18-minute cover version to close their headlining set at Bonnaroo in 2004. Right now you may be saying to yourself, “Geez, 18 minutes? That seems excessive…” Well, you’d be right, and I’m pretty sure Dave Matthews would agree with you. Neither Anastasio nor Reynolds would let the other get the last guitar solo word, and from where I was standing (admittedly, about 100 yards away), it looked like Matthews started shouting at Reynolds to get him to stop playing his instrument. Good times! I hope you enjoy Sly’s (considerably shorter) version above, and thank you thank you thank you falettinme be mice elf. Agin.
Vinyl Acquisition Alert… The Artists: Band of Horses/Cee Lo Green. The Album: Georgia. The Store: Plan 9. The Price: $6.99.
Did everyone catch the recent Weezer/Foster the People cover swap? The exchange began on August 4, when Rivers Cuomo armed himself with a lyric sheet and led the rest of Weezer in a cover of Foster the People’s hit song, “Pumped Up Kicks.” Foster the People reciprocated just a week later by performing Weezer’s classic “Say It Ain’t So.” The whole thing oozes postmodernism — the awareness of what another band is doing 2,718 miles away, the printed-out lyrics, the replication of something that was just created… but you know what else it oozes? Goodwill. Mutual respect. I love it. It’s that same positive energy that made me so eager to get my hands on the split 7” record that finds Band of Horses and Cee Lo Green performing a similar cover swap, and I finally found my copy on Saturday at Plan 9. It makes me really happy to see musicians reveling in one another’s creativity and success, especially when they’re so stylistically different and willing to leave their comfort zones. Band of Horses, who are known for a more brooding brand of rock, enlist the University of Georgia marching band in a wonderfully boisterous rendition of Cee Lo’s “Georgia,” and Cee Lo lends his characteristically soaring voice to an uncharacteristically electro-poppy cover of “No One’s Gonna Love You.” The result is a heart-warming artifact of artistic generosity, and I hope you’ll take a moment to check both tunes out below. You can buy Band of Horses’ cover of “Georgia” here and Cee Lo’s cover of “No One’s Gonna Love You” on his album Lady Killer here.
Band of Horses — “Georgia”
Cee Lo Green — “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Whether they’re cover songs or tracks that have been scooped up off an album’s cutting-room floor, B-sides are a great way to get to know your favorite bands even better. And you don’t have to be a vinyl collector to get in on the fun! Look, I’ll prove it to you! My current bout with B-side fever started on May 23, when Justin Townes Earle released the digital Christchurch Woman single. Its B-side is a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Streets,” a tune JTE played as the closer of his recent show at the Camel in Richmond. The cover first appeared on a limited-edition Record Store Day 7″, and since I didn’t manage to get my hands on a copy, I was elated when I learned it was available on iTunes. I have to confess, I’m a HUGE fan of Springsteen covers. I didn’t grow up listening to the Boss, and have never been able to jump into his catalog with both feet. For whatever reason, I need to hear his songs through the prism of another band’s style for the original versions to come into focus. In exactly this way, JTE’s version of “Racing in the Streets” has given me another Springsteen song to love. The recording is sparse, just vocals and acoustic guitar, but JTE’s mastery of dynamics is what makes the cover really shine. Have a listen below, and run to iTunes to download the two-song single. And if you don’t already own it, for the love of all that’s holy, get his most recent album Harlem River Blues. Srsly.