LoveSong – Eli Braden and The Crunge

So, there’s a relatively new feature at The AV Club called HateSong, where people (often musicians, but not always) pick one song to soak in their dripping bile and contempt.  The songs range from classic Christmas tunes to recent-ish hits, from hard rock to sacred cows.  Many of these hate songs are usually beloved by at least some segment of the population.

I like the feature just fine.  Some people give long, entertaining arguments, while others are just boringly pissy for a few paragraphs about a piece of music they don’t like.

The overall tone of the feature is (surprise, surprise) negative.

I thought it might be nice to invert the feature, and ask people to talk about a song they love that might not be popular with a lot of folks — take the hate for a song, and replace it with love, I suppose.

And so, we come to the first installment of LoveSong!

 

The lover: 

Eli Braden is a writer, musician, and comedian living in Los Angeles, California.  He is a frequent contributor to The Howard Stern Show. He has written for Jimmy Kimmel Live, Upload With Shaquille O’Neal, and Fashion Police With Joan Rivers. He frequently posts jokes to Twitter at @elibraden.  His most recent album, Elevator in the Brain Hotel, is available on iTunes.

 

The loved: Led Zeppelin, “The Crunge” (1973)


 

ELI BRADEN:

I was never a Led Zeppelin fan growing up. I was caught up in the new wave and post-new wave world of The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode, and “classic rock” of any kind (other than my always-beloved Beatles) was useless dinosaur dung in my book.

That of course changed in my late teens, when I started smoking pot.

I don’t remember how or why I acquired it, but ‘Houses of the Holy’ was the first Zep album I got into – and to this day I maintain it’s their best (other than the execrable ‘D’yer Mak’er’, which despite an exceptionally clever title is my least favorite song in LZ’s catalog).

‘The Crunge’ is the oddest song on an already odd album, and it actually stands out as possibly the oddest song in Led Zeppelin’s entire oeuvre. It is, essentially, The World’s Greatest Rock Band at the height of their powers taking a psychedelic stab at writing a James Brown funk jam (and if THAT description doesn’t make you want to listen, I don’t know what will!). And – on top of it all – IT ROCKS – incomprehensible time-signature changes and all!

What else? Um, how about big, beef-n-cheesy 1970s synthesizer lead lines (totally incongruous!) courtesy of Mr. John Paul Jones?  And beneath that, John Bonham and Jimmy Page sounding like they’re playing 2 completely different songs … HOW DOES IT WORK? I dunno, but I guess somehow it does!

Best of all is the ending. Echoing James Brown’s tradition of calling out mid-song when the band should go to the bridge section, Robert Plant attempts a similar trick. However, the bridge never comes, despite Plant’s pleas. Suddenly, the band seemingly falls apart, and the last thing we hear is someone (presumably a recording engineer) saying sternly “WHERE IS THAT CONFOUNDED BRIDGE??” I friggin’ love it.

SPLOTCHY:

I was checking out the Wikipedia page for this song, and it would appear that John Paul Jones is quite fond of “The Crunge” while he strongly dislikes “D’yer Mak’er”, so you are in full alignment with Mr. Jones!   I brought up this song for you because I myself have always kind of had a problem with the song, and not necessarily because it’s universally disparaged.  (I’m a little embarrassed to say I always liked “D’yer Mak’er”, though I could see why one could hate it). But, I’m curious — did you have buddies who would disparage “The Crunge” — someone listening to HotH with you who said, “turn that crap off!”?  What’s been your experience with fellow Zeppelin fans?  Are most you have met for/against/neutral regarding it?

ELI BRADEN:

In my experience, most people kind of look at ‘The Crunge’ as, at best, a time-wasting joke, or, at worst, a blemish in Led Zep’s catalog.  For years I LOVED the song and thought it was awesome and funky and cool and had no idea most fans had some kind of negative association with the track!

**************************

Many thanks to Eli for offering his love for a somewhat-unloved Zeppelin song!

What Song Is It You Want Me To Analyze?

FREE BIRD

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Oh… oh… oh… oh… oh…
And the bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows I can’t change.

Bye, bye, baby it’s been a sweet love.
Yea, yea
Though this feeling I can’t change.
But please don’t take it so badly,
‘Cause the lord knows I’m to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Oh… oh… oh… oh… oh…
And this bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows, I can’t change.
Lord help me, I can’t change.
Lord I can’t change,
Won’t you fly high free bird yea.

I’m going to start off saying I misheard these lyrics up until today.  Well, it’s a little odder than that. Sometimes I’ll hear lyrics a certain way, and even when confronted with the actual lyrics, I’ll still use my lyrics.  Time will pass and I will eventually forget they are my lyrics, and think they are the actual song lyrics again.  I think that is the case with “Free Bird”.

I always thought a line in the song was “And this bird you cannot chain“.  This post actually arose from my misunderstanding.  I thought to myself, why not “cage”?  I mean, you don’t chain a bird.  Maybe you can chain Prometheus to a rock and have an eagle eat his liver, but you don’t chain down the eagle.

Okay, so it’s not chain.  But can you really change a bird?  How would you change a bird?  That makes less sense than chaining a bird.

Before the events of this song, the protagonist was settled, at least in some manner, into a relationship with the girl he is addressing.  But he has to go!  He realizes there’s lots of places he wants to see!  Did he understand this was a desire within himself from the beginning?  If so, he should not have started to get into a relationship serious enough that it needs to be addressed in a song.

There’s another possibility, of course.  Perhaps he was content in this relationship, and then realized something about himself he was previously unaware of.  What was once okay for him was no longer okay.  He thought he knew what he wanted in life, but his frame of reference shifted to reveal something deeper and more fulfilling to him.  In other words, he CHANGED.  The free bird who cannot be changed had changed.

So, either the narrator is a duplicitous creep who hoodwinked a perfectly-nice girl into a relationship he had no intention of honoring, or he’s a stupid liar that changed his outlook on life while at the same time insisting that he can’t be “changed”.

Is there a subtext I’m missing?  Is the protagonist saying he can’t be changed by external forces, that change only arises from within?  That’s possible, but I don’t know that he has that level of introspection.

Look at the first two lines of the song, for example.  That’s something a self-involved teenager would say.  He’s the one doing the leaving, hurting his girl in the process, and the first thing that pops into his head to say is that hey, after I ditch you, you won’t forget about me, right?  What a DICK.

Why has this song made such a mark on our culture?  Is it the two-guitar solo at the end?  Is it the idea of America being a frontier, of a place of freedom to be/do what you want, that any song or product with the word “free” has virulent appeal?

I don’t know.

I hope that girl found someone nicer, though.

Psst! Hey, kid! Are you being abused?

Kids See Bruises
Kids and/or Short People Ad Campaign

I recently saw an ad with an interesting technological approach, which would be used ostensibly to communicate to a particular group of people.

Hey ShesAllWrite, let’s suss this ad!

 

Michael:

This ad is pretty damned cool, at least from a technological perspective. It’s like those pictures of Jesus that follow you. I love those pictures! As a kid, I had some cool, postage-sized pictures of Bruce Banner and Peter Parker that turned into The Hulk and Spider-Man, respectively, depending on how you looked at them.

However, I think the ad is a far more effective campaign as self-promotion for the company that created the ad (“Look at this cool ad we made!”), and less a help for any kids in need.

Is the rationale of the ad that a kid is going to be accompanied by his abuser, and that while the abuser sees one thing, the kid sees something different that speaks directly to him? CALL FOR HELP, KID! IT’S OKAY! YOUR DAD CAN’T SEE THIS! UNLESS YOUR DAD IS VERY, VERY SHORT!

Is the rationale of the ad that the abuser would avoid the ad if it had a phone number to call, but without the number the abuser has no issue with walking by an ad that specifically talks about child abuse? Wouldn’t the abuser potentially avoid that ad as well?

Why not do this — why not have an ad geared toward adults that has nothing to do with child abuse? Have it be an ad for a vacation resort getaway that doesn’t exist. Then only the kids will see the real ad, and that ad will be about child abuse.

I think the use of technology in this ad campaign is actually a little creepy. This is yet another form of advertising that targets children. Advertisers already resort to countless scummy ways to separate kids from their parents. They actively try to turn kids into aggressive consumers who will harangue their parents to buy them things.

And with this ad, we see another potential, insidious mechanism for advertisers to specifically target kids.

Maybe, maybe this particular instance of advertising is for a noble (yet ineffective) purpose, but I see this technology quickly repurposed for shoes/videogames/movies/clothes/whatever, as another means of turning their kids against their parents, with familial feelings to be replaced by brand loyalty and a bottomless desire for material things.

BOOOOOOOOO!

 

Carla:

At first glance, I thought this ad campaign was genius. I still think it’s genius, but some of the warm fuzzies have worn off.

Let’s start with why I love the campaign. I love it because it presents a simple solution to a complex problem: How to talk to two people at the same time, and effectively deliver a different call to action to each. Brilliant! Well done! Applause!

*needle scratches across record*

WAITAMINUTE! What happens when brands use similar technology? They can now say something to my kid that I can’t see. They can have a conversation (albeit one-way) with my kid that I am not a part of. And they can sweet-talk ME while they’re doing it. Oh, hell no!

This mechanism wouldn’t work very well for products geared only toward children because the campaign needs parallel messaging in order to work its magic, but think of these sinister (but no less genius) applications–campaigns for Disneyland Resort vacations, fast food or minivans. Talk to Mom and Dad about all-inclusive deals, mealtime convenience and vehicle functionality; talk to kids about Mickey Mouse, kids’ meal toys and rear-seat DVD players. Parents would no longer be making decisions about grown-up purchases by themselves–they’d have the kiddo contingent to contend with. In the wrong hands, this super power could be used for evil. It could also be used for good in other PSA campaigns–healthy eating, anti-smoking, anti-drug, and so on. I’d like to think we could trust advertisers not to exploit our relationships with our children for financial gain, but I know better.

I did want to touch on Michael’s comment about the effectiveness of the specific campaign in question. I know a little bit about abuser-abusee relationships and I think I can speak on why this would be effective. Being confronted with, or threatened with being outed or punished for his behavior causes an abuser to become very insecure and hostile. The hostility is almost always absorbed by the person he is abusing. By giving the adults a benign and fairly non-confrontational ‘stop-and-think’ message, the campaign avoids creating conflict between the abuser and his victim. The message that is displayed to the child would almost surely enrage the abuser and plant seeds for future conflict between the abuser and his victim. Domestic violence PSA campaigns have always had to tiptoe around this issue.

I also wanted to mention that I agree this campaign is a great publicity-generator for Grey Group–the agency that created it.

I can’t quite give it a boo, so I give it a cautious yay.

 

Do No Bird Harm

Nest Beard
Exterior flood lights with a nest beard.

A couple weeks ago I was exiting the side porch of my house and saw some junk hanging from over the door.  It was a nest.  Aw, heck.

What should I do?  Should I move it? Had a bird laid her eggs there yet?  I couldn’t get to a place where I could actually see into the top of the nest.  I did what I do many times in uncertain situations —  nothing.

When I was a kid, our neighbor had a big pine tree that butted up against our driveway.  I remember hearing some squeaking coming from the tree when we got home one day.  I looked closer through the branches and saw a baby bird.  It was on the ground, and didn’t appear to be happy about it.  I wanted to do something.

It must have fallen out a nest up in the tree.  I asked if we could move the baby, find the nest, something.  My folks didn’t know what to do.  We left it there.  It took a couple days for the baby bird to stop squeaking.  Ugh.

I’ve gone out a few times in the last week and a robin has flown from the nest as I open the back door.  I don’t want to kill any baby birds. And I don’t want to freak out Mama Robin every time I want to go to my backyard.

I looked on the web, seeing if anyone had recommendations about maybe moving the nest to a less-trafficked area.  I found some anecdotes about successfully moving a bird’s nest, but most people said not to do it.  Others even said it was a crime, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

I’m going to have my family stop using the back door, at least during the spring.  It will be a mild inconvenience, but maybe we won’t kill any baby birds.  That would be nice.

Hooker Motels!

Classic Splotchy

The part of my old SPLOTCHY DOT COM site I put the most work into was probably the Hooker Motels section.

An Adventure In Living

Back in Chicago in the late 90s, old, beaten-up motels dotted the lovely diagonal street North Lincoln Avenue, all the way from Foster to Devon.  I already loved Lincoln Avenue, because, HELLO!  DIAGONAL STREET ON A GRID-LIKE CITY LAYOUT!  Okay, I don’t know why a diagonal street held such appeal for me.  I will say that I love Elston Avenue, and Milwaukee Avenue, even Clark Street, which is only occasionally diagonal.  I like diagonal streets.  Let’s leave it that.

The motels all had a dilapidated, low-rent Vegas charm to me.  What is a dilapidated, low-rent Vegas charm, you ask?  Well, lots of neon signage, for one.  Also, overly ambitious motel names.  The Stars.  The Apache.  The Acres.  And yes, sometimes, the mischievous motel name.  The O-Mi!

So, I went about cataloguing the motels.  There were a lot!  Over 10!  That’s actually a lot.  Trust me.  I took pictures in the daytime.  I took pictures at night.

At the time, I was visiting the Lincoln Square record store Laurie’s Planet Of Sound a lot.  I got to know the owner, John.  He was a nice guy.  I mentioned I was devoting part of my website to the motels on Lincoln Avenue, and he thought it was a cool idea.  He offered to call all the motels and get rates.  He even asked me if I wanted him to inquire about hourly rates, too.  Hell yes I did!

I pulled out all the stops for the website.  I created an animated “Hooker Motels” GIF for the page heading.  I created pseudo-neon links that lit up when you hovered your mouse over them.  It was the bleeding edge of the Internet, baby!

Guest House Motel
A favorite Hooker Motel pic. I think this was taken by my friend Lance, who accompanied me on at least one nighttime photo session.

During the time I was documenting the motels, a few got knocked down.  The Acres.  The Spa.  NO!!! THE SPA!!!!!!  Oh, that was the crown jewel of the Hooker Motels.  I was lucky to talk to the daughter of the owner of The Spa after it was closed but before it was torn down.  She sold me a light fixture, and told me stories about rock bands that used to stay there.

Not long after The Spa was knocked down, I stopped maintaining my site.  SPLOTCHY DOT COM just sat there, all dead and static and unloved.

But, people still visited the motel pages.  It’s not like I did anything special or wonderful, but I probably had the largest collection of pictures of the motels on the web at the time.  I will admit that Google was certainly a conduit for people to find my site via slightly-unseemly searches like “HOOKER + CHICAGO”.

Occasionally, people would contact me about the motels. A grad student emailed me and asked if she could use some of my pictures in a thesis she was doing on the motels of Lincoln Avenue.  I happily let her use whatever pictures she wanted.  A man who bought The Stars was going to knock it down and replace it with condos.  He contacted me to see if I wanted to buy the motel’s sign for US $500.  If I had a place for it, I definitely would have.  Instead, I asked to take pictures of the motel before he knocked it down.  On a rainy day, I went there with my friend Tim and took pictures.

A room at The Stars, with me in multiple reflections.

 

In some ways, it’s weird having a static webpage documenting some part of the world.  It’s not a blog page.  It’s not something that will be up at the top of your site for a couple days, and then vanish into the obscurity of your archives.  It’s always present.  I think there might be an expectation from this, that your site is some sort of dependable, up-to-date resource.  But my old Hooker Motels page isn’t.  I didn’t want that responsibility.

Hey, maybe if I still lived on the north side of Chicago, and saw those motels every day, I would be the recordkeeper of these places.  I do miss them.  And I know that at least some of them are still standing, but I couldn’t tell you which ones.

 

 

Disclaimer:  This post was composed while listening to the John Fahey album “America”.  You should check it out.  It’s really nice.

Classic Splotchy

Classic Splotchy

Before this blog, I had a website.  Well, it was THIS website.  It was SPLOTCHY DOT COM.

I got my domain in the late 90’s, after playing around with some very bare-bones website experiments on GeoCities and Xoom.

In 1999-2000, I was into writing HTML files in Notepad, then uploading them to my brand new domain.

My website wasn’t a blog.  While I was maintaining the initial SPLOTCHY site I didn’t even know what a blog was. I knew I had things I wanted to say, and things I wanted to  highlight.  So I made a webpage for each topic that I wanted to devote some attention to.

I ran out of things to say, and stopped maintaining my website.  I still had the domain, though.

I was quiet on the web for a long time.  Years later, inspired by my Uncle Joe and his foray into the blogosphere, I started blogging at Blogspot.  I found other bloggers. We commented on each other’s posts, we did mixtapes together, we met up occasionally, usually around Christmas.

And then a couple years after beginning blogging, I stopped again.  A lot of the blogger community migrated to Facebook.  It wasn’t Facebook that ended my blogging career. I think I stopped mostly because I got more active on Twitter, and found new friends there while my source of friends in the blogosphere dried up.

Which brings us to today.  It might change, but I find the whole Twitter community that I felt I once belonged to now withering on the vine.  The friends I used to talk to a lot aren’t around as much anymore.  Call it a casualty of a lack of free time, I guess.  Twitter always seemed to function as a means to fill the empty spaces of a life when one has nothing else better to do.  So now, I guess many of us have moved onto the next best (or simply, just next) thing — the next time-waster.

I like the idea of blogging.  I never stopped liking the idea of blogging.  And now that I don’t feel connected greatly to anyone on Twitter or on Facebook, I feel like talking again.  What I’d LIKE to happen is that I find other bloggers (I know they’re out there), and see another community organically form.  But if it doesn’t happen, hey, I got things to say.

So, I started this blog on the place where I first started 14(!) years ago.  I started here.

My new blog sits on top of the strata of the old site that I abandoned years ago.   I thought as a bit of celebration, and a bit of navel-gazing, I would take different parts of my old website and talk about them over the course of a few blog posts.

So, stay tuned for Hooker Motels.  I think you’ll like them.