Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vain and Careless

Vain and Careless (from the album Leave Your Sleep; words by Robert Graves)

Lady, lovely lady,
Careless and gay!
Once, when a beggar called,
She gave her child away.

The beggar took the baby,
Wrapped it in a shawl—
‘Bring her back,’ the lady said,
‘Next time you call.’

Hard by lived a vain man,
So vain and so proud
He would walk on stilts
To be seen by the crowd,

Up above the chimney pots,
Tall as a mast—
And all the people ran about
Shouting till he passed.

‘A splendid match surely,’
Neighbours saw it plain,
‘Although she is so careless,
Although he is so vain.’

But the lady played bobcherry,
Did not see or care,
As the vain man went by her,
Aloft in the air.

This gentle-born couple
Lived and died apart—
Water will not mix with oil,
Nor vain with careless heart.



I'm not the most visual person. Conjuring up a strong mental image takes a lot of effort for me. When I read works of fiction, I often realize halfway through the book that I've failed to create a face for my main character. I tend to envision my character's appearance through a thick haze, like I'm watching one of those cop shows that try to protect people's identity by blurring out their image. If I feel a strong need to create a face for them, I always have to pick a face I've seen in real life. I just can't make up my own.

Lack of vivid mental imagery is not where it ends for me. I am often likely to miss concrete details that are staring me right in the face. This deficiency caused me to spend fifteen minutes tearing my house apart last week looking for a pair of pants that I later discovered were already being worn...by me. It's the reason why I frequently have exchanges with my loved ones that go something like this:

"Annie! Why didn't you tell me I had food on my face?!"

"Uh...Sorry. I didn't notice."

"But it was an entire slice of pizza!"

I try to point out to them that on the flip side, I am an ideal person to be around if you are having a bad hair day, have recently put on a lot of weight, or are recovering from a face transplant. You'll look just as beautiful as ever to me!

All of this is not to suggest that I don't appreciate art and beauty in the visual realm. It's just that I might need to have it pointed out to me. As I've mentioned in the past on this blog, Natalie Merchant's music usually creates a feeling for me more often than it creates an image. But Vain and Careless (with words written by the poet Robert Graves) is an exception. Even I can't help but be swept away into the imagery of this wonderfully cinematic story. Here is how Natalie summarizes the visual appeal of the poem in the liner notes to Leave Your Sleep:

"The style of language and the imagery that Graves used to tell the story is reminiscent of a fairy tale. I love the image of the lady blindfolded, mouth open and laughing to bite the cherry dangling on a string, while the man who could be her lover passes by on stilts."

The music Natalie wrote to accompany this poem is so beautiful that it took me a few listens to fully appreciate that this poem is really quite humorous. Albeit dark at times. I love how the poet saw fit to show us right from the beginning just how careless this woman really was. I mean, it would be pretty shocking for her to have given her baby away to, say, her neighbor or her distant relative, but to give it away to a beggar? That's cold, sister.

But maybe this was the type of woman that the poet was attracted to. There are some completely outlandish stories out there about the character of Robert Graves' second wife, fellow poet Laura Riding. I'm not sure just how truthful all these stories are, but to give you a brief overview I will mention the following biographical highlights: at least one failed suicide attempt, psychological torture of a female rival, flying leaps out of third story windows, and a whole heaping load of adultery. Their marriage did not last a very long time.

So while some may have thought the careless woman and the vain man would have been "a splendid match surely," I would venture to say that this would have been a fairly disastrous coupling. You need look no further than the many examples of failed celebrity marriages to see that Vain and Careless don't make for long-term success. Sure, the flame would've burned bright in the beginning. Vain would proclaim his undying love for Careless while jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Careless would have Vain's name tattooed on a prominent body part. There would be a massive amount of public snogging, and the paparazzi would be there to catch every moment of it. The media would give them a hybrid name, like...Vainless. But it would end abruptly and catastrophically, for alas, "Water will not mix with oil, nor vain with careless heart."

Click here to see a video from Natalie's official site of the rehearsing and recording of Vain and Careless.

Download Vain and Careless from Itunes - Vain and Careless - Leave Your Sleep

Before I wrap up, I have something only loosely Natalie-related to mention: Not too long ago I downloaded a song called Order 1081 from an album called Here Lies Love by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. I downloaded that song in particular because Natalie provides vocals on the track and the sample sounded pretty interesting. It was a style of music I've never heard Natalie sing to before, but it sounded great. So a few days later I downloaded some more songs...and then some more...and then some more. Here Lies Love is a concept album based on the life of Imelda Marcos and the woman who raised her, Estrella Cumpas. It features various (primarily) female vocalists and I am officially in love with the album. If you like music that is danceable and funky, but with lyrics that won't make you hemorrhage IQ points, I highly recommend you check out the album. In addition to Order 1081, I would suggest the title track Here Lies Love (with gorgeous vocals by Florence Welch), Every Drop of Rain, How Are You, and Pretty Face, but really you can't go wrong with hardly anything on this album. The fact that Nonesuch Records released both Here Lies Love and Leave Your Sleep in the same year makes me seriously think I need to just start buying everything they produce.

Download Here Lies Love on Itunes - Here Lies Love - David Byrne & Fatboy Slim

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cotton Alley / Gun Shy

Cotton Alley (from the 10,000 Maniacs album The Wishing Chair)

One time
you made me cry
be proud that I
remember

My chin is sore
the bruise is gone
but the spot is tender

Gave my hand
a sister coy
to Cotton Alley where
you did enjoy
your wicked games
you curious boy

Tied my laces up together
when I fell
you laughed
until your belly was sore

In the brick laid aisle behind
the five and dime store

That's how
I made you blush
but doubt if you
remember

Were my tears genuine
or those of a skilled
pretender?

Nothing precious
plain to see
don't make a fuss over me
not loud
not soft
but somewhere in between
say "sorry"
let it be the word you mean

I was a little pest who
never took a hint
could never take a hint

You pinched my fingers
in a door
tossed my coloring book in a
rusty barrel

Pulled spiders from my hair
fingers in the door

My favorite blue blouse
stained on the back
running from a berry war

Can you hear me scream
in Cotton Alley?


__________________________________

Gun Shy (from the 10,000 Maniacs album In My Tribe and Natalie's album Live In Concert)

I always knew that you would
take yourself far from home
as soon as, as far as you could go

By the quarter inch cut of your hair
and the Army issue green
for the past eight weeks
I can tell where you've been

Well, I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins
there is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun

So now you are one of the brave few
it's so awful sad we need boys like you
I hope the day never comes for
"here's your live round son
stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldiers blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim

I don't mean to argue
they've made a decent boy of you and
I don't mean to spoil your homecoming
but baby brother you should expect me to

"Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

So now does your heart pitter pat
with a patriotic sound
when you see the stripes of old glory waving?

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room and
when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim

I don't mean to argue
they've made a decent boy of you
I don't mean to spoil your homecoming my baby brother Jude
and I don't mean to hurt you by saying this again
they're so good at making soldiers
but they're not so good
at making men



In the early days of 10,000 Maniacs there was quite a lot of chatter about the lyrics that young Natalie Merchant was writing. One of the most oft-quoted statements Natalie has ever made was about caring more about nuclear arms depots than boys. While many lauded her earnestness, there was a vocal minority (including, it would seem, some members of the band) that suggested that the Maniacs would never achieve mainstream success until Natalie started writing songs about more "fun" topics than, you know, war and stuff. What's wrong with a nice little song about falling in love or having your best friend steal your boyfriend? Why can't she write about boys?

Well, the songs that are being covered on today's blog post are solid proof that Natalie Merchant has written songs about boys. Specifically...her brothers.

Alright, I guess this wasn't what her critics had in mind. But it didn't matter. It seems she did just fine without their advice. It may not be a sexy topic, but writing about your siblings is a worthy endeavor. After our parents and our mates, the relationship we have with our siblings is perhaps the most complicated and deeply layered of all. Here are these individuals who are either firmly established in your life from the day you are born or come tumbling into it shortly afterward. They are your friends by default and (frequently) your enemies by nature. And as we start to age, the relationships we have with our siblings tend to get that much more complex. When I think about the most pivotal interactions I had as a child, interactions that shaped my view of myself and my view of the world, they usually directly involved my siblings, perhaps even more than my parents.

No matter how far you get away from each other as adults, physically or emotionally, no matter how much they may have hurt or even terrorized you, they are the only people that can fully understand your family dynamics. They are the only people who know what is was like to be raised by your parents. I stopped trying years ago to explain to anyone what my upbringing was like. The quizzical expressions on too many faces made me realize it was a vain endeavor. The only people I can talk to about it are my siblings. And that, more than anything else, keeps us from ever drifting too far apart.

Obviously, Cotton Alley and Gun Shy, while having the brother theme in common, are very different from each other in their tone. Cotton Alley tells tales of brotherly torture both silly and significant, but the tone of the song and the way the words are sung make it clear that fondness is behind every expression. I'm not sure if this is accurate, but the lyrics sound very much to me like sentiments being expressed to an older sibling, one whose attention we younger siblings pine away for, even though usually when we get that attention it ends in them laughing and us crying.

Gun Shy, however, is a song with a much more serious topic and has words that are clearly directed at a younger sibling. Natalie's pleas and warnings to her brother, especially when she addresses him by name at the end of the song, are very moving. When I heard this song for the first time (on Natalie's Live In Concert album), I had already heard Natalie sing many songs in the first person and I'd heard her sometimes give names to the characters in her songs, but I had never really thought any of those songs were about her or about people in her life. But Gun Shy was different. I couldn't imagine that she was singing to anyone but her actual baby brother.

Here's what Natalie has said about Gun Shy:

"I felt so betrayed when my brother joined (the army) because he's my baby brother and I felt he was ignoring all my teaching."*

Is it because of my own partiality that I think that a roughly 24-year-old Natalie Merchant talking about her "teaching" is uniquely lovable? Probably. The more significant question is, Would baby brother ignore her teaching even after hearing this song?

"I sent him the album including Gun Shy on cassette and told him to listen to every song without exception. He came to see us in Germany a couple of weeks ago and he told me the army was no life for him."*

What can you say? She's a woman who can a get a point across.

While I think Cotton Alley is a very sweet song, the lyrics pale in comparison to the lyrics to Gun Shy or any other song on In My Tribe. It's remarkable to think how much Natalie progressed in her writing abilities in only a couple of years.

Download Cotton Alley on Itunes - Cotton Alley - The Wishing Chair

Download Gun Shy (Natalie's solo version, because that's the one I prefer, because it's my blog, so there) on Itunes - Gun Shy (Live) - Live In Concert

Click here to see a very old live performance of Gun Shy on Natalie's official website. And if you are tempted to make fun of her outfit, I'd just like to point out that her fellow band member is dressed a lot like the Colonel from Kentucky Fried Chicken, so...you tell me which is worse.

I want to take a moment to say thank you once again to those who have sent me e-mails. I appreciate your kind words and I especially enjoy hearing your insights about the songs. I am also getting lots of song requests and I assure you I am working on them, so keep your eyes peeled. See you next week!

*The Guardian, 1987

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Golden Boy

Golden Boy (from the album Motherland)

Top of the fold
toast of the town
everyone stops when you come around
they hold their breath for you

Heroes are born
idols are made
we're all fools for this factory fame
and you've got the brand new face

You've got the brand new face
golden boy

Beauty untamed
stupid and wild
poster boy, you're society's child
cut your teeth
cut your mouth
cut it out

Meteor rise from obscurity
all it took was a killing spree
and the whole world was lying at your feet
golden boy

I know my place
stick to my lines
stay in your shadow
don't block your light

So you can shine divine
golden boy



I don't plan too far in advance which songs I'm going to talk about on this blog from week to week. Most of the time I just look at my Ipod, pick out a song that I feel like talking about and start from there. Other times, inspiration strikes.

Several days ago I had just finished one of the best books I'd ever read. I read a lot, but I rarely complete a book feeling fully satisfied. I always feel like it could have been better, it could have been more. Reading this book felt like falling in love. I went into the book store in a haze of euphoria, wishing I could take a book off every shelf in the store and feeling full of optimism that they would all be just as enlivening as the one I'd just completed. I knew logically, of course, that this was a ridiculous notion, but I didn't care. That's what falling in love does to you. It makes you ridiculous. It makes you not care that you're ridiculous.

It was in this state of exhilaration and ridiculousness that I came upon a shelf displaying a series of four books that ripped me right out of my haze and dropped me in the grim mire of reality. Here were the titles of those four books:

  • Serial Killers
  • Cannibal Killers
  • Sex Killers
  • Spree Killers

Each book's cover was graced with the picture of a famous killer that matched the "theme" of that book. Maybe on another day I wouldn't have noticed so much, or even at all. But the book I'd just read had filled me up with a sense of wonder and delight about humanity and being confronted with the faces of non-fictional maniacal killers shocked my system. Maybe it was also because of the fact that just on the other side of the shelf was a rack of Ramona and Beezus books and I don't normally think of Ramona and Beezus and serial killers at the same time. (Not normally.) I realize it's a bit simple of me to have felt surprise at that moment, but that is what I felt. And that's when I decided that this week's blog would be about Golden Boy.

Here is a quote from Natalie about what inspired the writing of this song:

"I was thinking about America's obsession with kid murderers, kids who kill
their classmates. The morbid fascination is what's so shocking, the way these boys go from absolute obscurity to front-page news and stay there for weeks."
*

I read books for two reasons: 1) To learn something useful or 2) To be entertained. In a perfect scenario, both things happen at the same time. I understand that there is a thriving market for True Crime stories, but unless it is your profession to detect and hunt down psychopaths, I honestly can't grasp the appeal. I want to be inspired, not disturbed. If I have to be disturbed, I want it to be by something that has a deeper meaning and value than morbid curiosity.

I can't say that Golden Boy is a favorite song for me personally, but one can't really argue with the observation being made through its lyrics. Lyrics that apparently some people have misunderstood...a lot. I heard someone remark that this song always made them think with fondness about their dearly departed relative. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that their last name was Dahmer.

Another quote:

"Names of serial killers are easier to conjure than names of great humanitarians. We repeatedly make celebrities out of psychopaths whether we intend to or not."**

Alright, maybe she's being overly cynical here. Let's all put this statement to the test: Everyone take a moment and name as many serial killers as you can. Okay, now name as many humanitarians as you can.

Go ahead. Take your time.

A few more seconds...

Done?

Yeah...I failed too. So in an attempt to even up the score, I will now give you a short list of famous(ish) humanitarians: Jean-Pierre Hallet, Harold Robles, Jane Goodall, Masanao Goto, Niall Mellon, Almira Fales, Jody Williams, and Yanis Kanidis. Now you may not be motivated to read extensive biographies on each of these people (and I'm not gonna lie and say that I did either), but if you can memorize this list and add it to the handful of other humanitarian names you know, then the next time someone asks you if you can list more humanitarians than serial killers (and let's face it, this comes up in conversation all the time), you may just succeed!

That's all for this week, folks. Make sure to tune in next week when I promise to talk about something less serial killer-y. If you'd like to share your thoughts (and please do, it makes me feel less like I'm talking to myself, which is, I've heard, the first step on the road to serial killing), feel free to e-mail me at nmcompendium@yahoo.com or leave a comment below. Ta ta for now!

Click here to watch a video of Natalie and her band performing Golden Boy live.

Click here to download Golden Boy from Itunes - Golden Boy - Motherland

* Japan Times
** Elektra Website

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stockton Gala Days

Stockton Gala Days (from the 10,000 Maniacs albums Our Time In Eden and Unplugged)

that summer fields grew high
with foxglove stalks and ivy
wild apple blossoms everywhere
emerald green like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as warm as you

how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know

that summer fields grew high
we made garland crowns in hiding
pulled stems of flowers from my hair
blue in the stream like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as bold as you

how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know
you'll never know...

violet serene like none I have seen
apart from dreams that escape me
there was no girl as warm as you
how I've learned to please
to doubt myself in need
you'll never, you'll never know
you'll never know...

that summer fields grew high
we had wildflower fever
we had to lay down where they grow
how I've learned to hide, how I've locked inside
you'd be surprised if shown
but you'll never, you'll never know



In the career of every popular and well-known musical entertainer, there are two categories of "hit" songs. The first and most obvious category is that of the songs that are released as singles, get lots of radio airplay and not coincidentally are usually the most uptempo and catchy songs on any given record. There have been many of these songs throughout Natalie Merchant's career - These Are Days, Carnival, and Kind and Generous being just a few examples.

The second category of popular songs, though, are not songs that are played on the radio, that may or may not be uptempo and catchy, and that the casual fan may never have even heard. These are the songs that are beloved to the die-hard fans, the ones who are not satisfied with a "Greatest Hits" collection - they are instead intimately acquainted with every song on every album and thus have the pleasure of creating their own personal "Best of" playlist. I have no doubt that Stockton Gala Days is this type of song for many Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs fans.

To start with, let's get a little history lesson about what Stockton Gala Days are.

Or not. I had an incredibly difficult time finding any information on this subject, primarily because when you search "Stockton Gala Days" in a search engine 99% of the results are about the song, not the actual...event? Is it an event?

"Stockton isn't exactly a small town. It's more like a place where two main roads meet. Every year they have this festival." - Natalie Merchant, Rock Compact Disc, 1992

Alright, event status confirmed. What else? Here's a sample of all the information I could gather (stop me if it gets boring): Stockton is a town in Chautauqua County, New York, north of Jamestown. It was settled in the early 1800s. They had problems with predatory wolves (see last week's blog). They were afraid of "hostile Indians." Some of the first names of people who lived there - Ichabod, Abner, Shadrach and Freelove (you heard me.) There were many butter and cheese factories there. And from that point the details really thin out. And by "that point" I mean about 1915. If you have some information about Stockton and particularly its Gala Days, please enlighten me. But for now I'm giving up.

Let's move on to the song itself. First, the lyrics. For me, Natalie's lyrics have always produced a general feeling more than any sort of particular visual image. But this song is an exception. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I was raised in a very large city and had very little experience with countrysides, rolling hills and open fields. If I had tried on my own to imagine experiencing these things as a small child, I think I would've ended up envisioning something that looked not at all unlike a fabric softener commercial. But the words to this song are so delightfully descriptive that I can listen to it and imagine an experience that is both beautiful and transportive, a vision that makes me nostalgic for a childhood I never experienced and homesick for a home I never had. Wild apple blossoms, garland crowns, wildflower fever. The very sound of those words coming from a voice full of love are as beautiful as the images they conjure up.

Here's what Natalie had to say about the song:

"Whenever we played that song, all I thought of was being a young girl and having the true friendships that we have when we're young. I had a rural upbringing and I feel very close to - I don't want to sound like a hippie girl, but I spent a lot of time in grape vineyards and cornfields and the forest, and that song just brought to mind how happy I was when I was younger, and that feeling of summer and this great expanse of time that summer was, and how I spent it, and who I spent it with." - Musician, November 1992

Musically, this song has two elements that I really love. First, it's the pacing. I really geek out over songs that build to a crescendo and this song does it beautifully. There's a point near the end of the song where it sounds like the instruments are all slowing down and you can sense the end coming...and then everything breaks open and the song just bursts forth with a final surge of energy. You can hear this particularly on the Our Time In Eden version.

Second, the instrument that really takes this song the extra mile for me is the violin. I think the violin is the most underused instrument in rock music, I suppose because it's not traditionally considered a rock music instrument (and yes, I know some might argue that 10,000 Maniacs aren't exactly a "rock" band, but let's just say I'm using the term loosely.) But in Stockton Gala Days, the violin is what keeps the song from being merely pretty and instead makes it beautiful. This aspect of the song is particularly notable on the Unplugged version.

In many ways Stockton Gala Days is a fine companion to These Are Days - songs that call to mind beautiful settings, meaningful relationships and reflections on the purest joys of life.

Download Stockton Gala Days on Itunes - Stockton Gala Days (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

Thursday, December 2, 2010

House Carpenter

House Carpenter (from the album The House Carpenter's Daughter; traditional)

“Well met, well met
and I know true love
well met, well met”, said he
“I’m just returning from the salt, salt sea
and it’s all for the love of thee”

“Come in, come in
my own true love
and have a seat with me
it’s been three-fourths
of a long, long year
since together we have been”

“No I can’t come in
and I can’t sit down
for I have but a moment’s time
they say that you’re married
to a house carpenter
and your heart shall never be mine”

“Well I could have married
the king’s daughter fair
she would have married me
but I forsaked upon
her crowns of gold
and it’s all for the love of thee”

“Now will you forsake on
your house carpenter
and go along with me?
I’ll take you where
the grass grows green
on the banks of the bitter reeds”

She pick’d up her wee little babe
and kisses, gave it three saying,
“stay right here my darling little one
keep your papa company”

Now they had not been
on the ship two weeks
I swear it was not three
when his true love began
to weep and moan
and she wept most bitterly

“Are you weeping
for my silver and gold
are you weeping for my store or are
you weeping for that house carpenter
that you ne’er shall see no more?”

“A curse on the sailor she swore
a curse, a curse she swore
you robbed me of my sweet little babe
that I never shall see no more!”

Well, they had not been
on the ship three weeks
I swear it was not four
until there came a leak in the ship
and she sank
to rise no more…



I love a good cautionary tale. When I was a child, there was a stretch of time in which these types of stories were the only ones that interested me. I demanded to be told the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf over and over again. Goldilocks was also a favorite. My book of Aesop's Fables was a constant companion. No matter how many times I heard or read these stories they never lost their appeal. In contrast, stories that had a more ambiguous moral, such as Little Red Riding Hood, held absolutely no mystique.

It makes perfect sense to me now, of course. At whatever point it is that we figure out that the world is a dangerous place (most of the time at a pretty young age), we spend the ensuing years trying to find a suitable navigation system. At any age, it's a difficult concept to accept that terrible things happen to people without warning or reason. If we can figure out a way to ward off disaster, then we gain a measure of control, if only in our heads. It's reassuring when someone who behaves badly gets punished in the end, instead of the innocent victim, which is much more often the case in real life.

I have mixed feelings about these tales now. In learning about the general philosophy that spurred the creation and perpetuation of these fables, I was a little bit disgusted. It can best be summed up this way: In order to help children avoid dangerous or unscrupulous behavior, let's tell them stories that will keep them under our moral control...by scaring the ever loving snot out of them.

Well, congratulations on a job well done! I mean, how many stories that conclude with children being eaten by wild animals are really necessary? And what kind of weirdos sit at their children's bedside and conclude their nightly ritual by telling these horrifying tales just before kissing them on the forehead, turning out the light and saying, "Sweet dreams, darling"? It's madness!

But then again...If guidance is what I was looking for in learning the moral of these stories, then I would have to say a measure of success was achieved. Yes, I can think of more gentle ways to impart such guidance, but they may not have made such a strong impression.

If you want people to listen to you, you shouldn't lie. Alright.

If you want people to listen to you, you shouldn't lie because everyone will hate you and a vicious wolf will eat you. YES, SIR!!!

Which brings us to this week's song. I guess over time someone figured out that children aren't the only ones who need cautionary tales. Adults are capable of their own brand of misbehavior, ours being of the variety that usually wreaks havoc not just on our own lives, but on the lives of others around us. Although tons of artists have done renditions of House Carpenter, Natalie's version was the first I'd ever heard and I absolutely loved it from the very first listen. It is a moralistic tale in the grandest tradition. But I discovered that some of the original words to the song were a great deal darker than the version that Natalie recorded. Check out this portion from the very end of the song that didn't make Natalie's cut:

"O what a bright, bright hill is yon,
That shines so clear to see?"
"O it is the hill of heaven, " he said,
"Where you shall never be."
"O what a black, dark hill is yon,
"That looks so dark to me?"
"O it is the hill of hell," he said,
"Where you and I shall be."

Whoa. Tradition holds, at least in the eyes of some, that the mariner represents none other than Satan himself. Way to up the ante!

Here's what Natalie had to say about the song in the liner notes to The House Carpenter's Daughter:

"So many of these old songs contain warnings to impetuous young women who would dare leave the comfort of husband and home under the spell of a false lover. The consequence could be ruin, disgrace, and in this case, even death."

No little irony, of course, that tales like those told in House Carpenter are seemingly always directed at women. Because, you know, what could possibly be the harm in a guy leaving his wife and children? No need for warning there!

But, nonetheless, I've been duly warned. I vow to never be wooed by Satan or any other wily sailor. Also, I want to make it clear that I have never, ever entered the forest home of any bear family and sat in their chairs, eaten their porridge, or slept in their beds and I never will. Lesson learned.

Download House Carpenter on Itunes - House Carpenter - The House Carpenter's Daughter

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jealousy

Jealousy (from the album Tigerlily)

Ooo, jealousy

Is she fine
so well bred
the perfect girl
a social deb

Is she the sort
you've always thought
could make you
what you're not?

Ooo, jealousy

Is she bright so well read are there novels by her bed
Is she the sort
you've always said
could satisfy
your head?

Ooo, my jealousy

Does she talk
the way I do
is her voice reminding you
of the promises
the little white lies too
sometimes, tell me
while she's touching you
just by mistake
accidentally do you say my name?



I feel guilty, I really do. But this was bound to happen eventually. Under duress, even the most sycophantic music fan will admit that they don't like every single song that their favorite music maker has recorded. And while Natalie Merchant is far and away my favorite music maker, and there are very few of her songs that I don't like, Jealousy is one of those few.

But here's the thing - I think Jealousy is actually a good song. There are plenty of valid reasons for me to like it. First of all, the tune itself is quite catchy. It's not breaking any musical ground or anything, but it's pleasant and gently danceable. Then there are the lyrics. Are the lyrics the weak link? Well, no, not exactly. The lyrics are actually quite clever. Simple, funny, easy to sing along to. And, of course, Natalie's voice sounds great. It's a cute little pop song, wrapped up in a two minute and forty-two second bow.

So what exactly is my problem?

My problem is that Jealousy is not a Natalie Merchant song. It just isn't. It's frivolous, silly, petty. It's not that I'm against frivolity and silliness in general. I frequently listen with relish to songs from Leave Your Sleep about nasty ice cream, sneak eaters and reformed child-eating giants. And I respect and appreciate the long tradition of you-gone-done-me-wrong break-up songs. I listen to Aretha. And a couple of albums after Tigerlily, Natalie wrote one of the best you-gone-done-me-wrong (and I don't give a rip) break-up songs ever - I'm Not Gonna Beg. Even though the general theme is the same, though, that song is the song of a woman. Jealousy is the song of a girl.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I think Jealousy is a great song...for someone else to sing.

Okay, before you get massively annoyed with me for this outright rebellion against my own blog's muse, you should read this quote from Natalie from the liner notes of her Retrospective CD:

"This was my first stab at writing a truly frivolous song. It is so completely out of character that I hardly ever perform it live. I'm a little embarrassed by the catty pettiness of the lyrics, but the tune ended up being pretty catchy."

Oh, I'm feeling smug now. And justified. And still a little guilty.

One other quick note about the lyrics to Jealousy - I always laugh at the lines "Is she bright? So well-read? Are there novels by her bed? Is she the sort
you've always said, could satisfy your head?" I'm under no impression that this song is autobiographical in any way, but nonetheless this part really amuses me. Can you imagine a guy breaking up with Natalie Merchant because she's just not well-read enough? Who exactly would he be running away to? "Sorry, Natalie, I'm leaving you for the head archivist at the Library of Congress."

If you are a fan of women in brightly-colored pants and frequent and inexplicable scenes of large, dingy bras, I highly recommend you watch the music video for Jealousy here.

And if I haven't completely ruined it for you, you can download Jealousy at Itunes using this link - Jealousy - Tigerlily.

I've failed to mention this in the past, but I've set up an e-mail address for the Natalie Merchant Compendium Blog. The address is nmcompendium@yahoo.com. Feel free to e-mail me (or leave a comment, anyone can comment without signing up for anything) if you have particular songs you'd like featured on the blog soon. In the meantime, I'll just keep them coming randomly. I would also like to hear your thoughts on the blog, particularly if what you want to tell me is that this is the greatest blog ever, it saved you from jumping off a bridge, you can't imagine life without it and it's your reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Or you can send criticism. Whatever. But I really would love to hear from you.

See you next week!

Friday, November 19, 2010

City of Angels

City of Angels (from the 10,000 Maniacs album In My Tribe)

Words:

Heaven, is this heaven where we are?

See them walking, if you dare
if you call that walking
stumble, stagger, fall and drag themselves
along the streets of heaven

Where is the blessed table
to feed all who hunger on earth
welcomed and seated each one joyfully served?
see them walking, if you dare
if you call that walking
stumble, stagger, fall and drag themselves
along the streets of heaven

Where is the halo
that should glow 'round your face
and where are the wings that
should grow from your shoulder blades?


show them to me

These sobering sights I've seen
in the City of Angels
have all been one rude awakening
that was due to me in heaven

There would have been heavenly music
I was convinced before
and a host of the dearly to meet me
with hosannas sung at the door

But these sobering sights I've seen
in the City of Angels
have all been one rude awakening
that was due to me
in this city of fallen angels



You can't escape your hometown. You can leave it, but it will follow you wherever you go, hiding in your luggage and traveling on your back no matter how far away from home you get. Most people have a complicated relationship with the place where they grew up. Some have absolute love for their hometown, others have absolute hate (especially if they grew up in a small town, it seems), but the majority of people fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I am definitely in the latter category. So it seems relevant for me to now make a confession...my hometown is Los Angeles.

Don't you judge me!

I was still relatively young when my family left L.A. and I distinctly remember a conversation that took place within days of our move. My sister told a new acquaintance that we were from Los Angeles and the girl replied, "Oh...so you're one of those girls who cries when she breaks a nail." I was outraged! And a little amused because the truth was my sister was exactly the kind of person who would cry when she broke a nail. It was eye-opening to see how others viewed us.

But childhood nostalgia is a powerful thing. And since nostalgia has no greater companion than music, songs about Los Angeles have always had a special place in my heart. I was just a kid when I first heard the song Free Fallin' by Tom Petty, but I remember thrilling at the lines "Move west down Ventura Boulevard" and "I wanna glide down over Valhalla." That's my city he's talking about!

I know that at this point you must be thinking I have completely forgotten about the Natalie Merchant portion of Annie's Natalie Merchant Compendium Blog, but I haven't. And I'm not about to massively twist the meaning of this week's song into some sort of ode to the city of my youth. Rather, I acknowledge that City of Angels delivers Los Angeles a searing denunciation that is richly deserved.

Lots of people have concluded that the song speaks strictly about the homelessness in L.A., but I found this quote from Natalie particularly insightful:

"When we were there, I was out walking - which is an unusual thing in L.A. - and I saw this man sobbing in the middle of the sidewalk, in front of a bank. And he didn't look like a homeless person, just a crushed person, really distraught. It just made me really resolved to write the song." - Sounds, October 1987

When I read those words, it struck me that only in a big city could something like this happen and go widely unnoticed, or rather, unacknowledged. When you live in a place that is filled to the brim with hopeless, desperate and unstable people, it's easy to become impervious to their displays of emotion.

But in walks Natalie, eyes wide open. This has been a key to her songwriting from the very beginning. Her natural abilities as a writer likely meant that she would have written decent songs no matter what topics she chose to write about. Those topics could very easily have been any of the following: boys, drugs, parties, boys, unspecified rage, dancing, boys, general rebellion, overdrinking, and maybe even boys. But instead, she wisely chose from the outset of her career to focus her compassions on the world around her. My guess is that this wasn't entirely a conscientious decision, but a natural result of a kind-hearted disposition.

City of Angels reminds me not to tune people out, for emotional self-preservation or any other selfish reason. It also reminds me to avoid over-romanticizing my geographical past and keep my hometown reminiscing in the proper perspective. Take that, Tom Petty!

One more quick note before I sign off - did anyone get a chance to hear Natalie performing City of Angels on her most recent tour? I did and I thought it sounded incredible. Incredible enough to make me start fantasizing about an album wherein which Natalie does her own renditions of some of those older Maniacs songs. Not likely, I know, but one can dream.

See you next week!

Download City of Angels on Itunes: City of Angels - In My Tribe

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beloved Wife

Beloved Wife (from the album Tigerlily)

Words:

You were the love
for certain of my life
you were simply my beloved wife
I don't know for certain
how I'll live my life
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife

I can't believe
I've lost the very best of me

You were the love
for certain of my life
you were simply my beloved wife
I don't know for certain
how I'll live my life
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife

I can't believe
I've lost the very best of me

You were the love
for certain of my life
for fifty years simply me beloved wife
with another love I'll never lie again
it's you I can't deny
it's you I can't defy
a depth so deep into my grief
without my beloved soul
I renounce my life
as my right
now alone without my beloved wife
my beloved wife
my beloved wife

My love is gone she suffered long
in hours of pain

My love is gone
now my suffering begins

My love is gone
would it be wrong if I should
surrender all the joy in my life
go with her tonight?

My love is gone she suffered long
in hours of pain

My love is gone
would it be wrong if I should
just turn my face away from the light
go with her tonight?



"It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch."

That statement has been attributed to everyone from William Alfred to Spalding Gray. The first time I heard it was when I was listening to a radio story about the journalist Page Smith. In a column Smith wrote about old age and dying, he made this statement: "The consolations of an old marriage are the good news. The bad news is that one partner in a marriage, however idyllic, will pre-decease the other." Then he quoted the words above. When his wife of 53 years died in 1995, he lasted all of two days before succumbing to his own death.

I suppose stories like this should prevent even the most hard-hearted of us from thinking that the story told in Beloved Wife is the stuff of overly romantic imagining. Then there's the real-life inspiration for the song.

"My grandmother fell into a coma in 1983, and my grandfather would sit with her for hours and hours. She passed away, and three days later he did too. He willed himself to go with her." - Natalie Merchant, Denver Post - November 1995

You probably have your own variations on this story. Whether it's your parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors or maybe even you that has experienced the loss of a lifetime partner, the sentiment behind Beloved Wife is universal.

That all being said, though, I think this song walks the tightrope.

Most of the time, I think that the thing that makes Natalie's music stand apart is, first and foremost, her lyrics. As beautiful as her voice is, I don't think nearly as many people would be interested in listening to it if the words she sang were of a lesser quality. (Think Hit Me Baby, One More Time - the Natalie Merchant version. No, I'm sorry, don't do that. I didn't mean it, I was just upset. I said I was sorry!) But Beloved Wife is a different story. While the lyrics are certainly poignant and moving, they are also very direct and simple and if someone else was singing them, this song could really fall flat.

Musically, Beloved Wife seems pretty close to a country song. Now this time go ahead and indulge the dark side of your imagination for a minute and think of what this song would sound like if a popular modern country artist were singing it. Someone like, say, Kenny Chesney or Faith Hill. (I just Googled "popular country singers" so that I could come up with some names for you, so don't say I don't do my research.) Just hear it for a minute, in your mind's...ear.

Not pretty, is it?

Not to say it would be terrible; it would still be a well-written song, regardless of what style it was presented in. But the thing that makes this song so distinctively moving, and prevents it from ever becoming merely sentimental, is Natalie's voice. I find it hard to believe that too many others, in whatever musical style, could do the song justice.

I love how on the lyric "a depth so deep into my grief" her voice falters on the word "deep." She holds back no emotion, but as is her custom, pours her whole heart into what she's singing. The result is a song that not only touches you, but that wraps its long fingers around your heart and pulls you into the deep with it.

Watch a live performance of Beloved Wife here

Buy Beloved Wife on Itunes: Beloved Wife - Tigerlily

Friday, November 5, 2010

If No One Ever Marries Me

If No One Ever Marries Me (from the album Leave Your Sleep; words by Laurence Alma-Tadema)

Words:

If no one ever marries me,
And I don't see why they should,
For nurse says I'm not pretty.
And I'm seldom very good.

If no one ever marries me
I shan't mind very much;
I shall buy a squirrel in a cage,
And a little rabbit-hutch.

I shall have a cottage near a wood,
And a pony all my own,
And a little lamb quite clean and tame,
That I can take to town.

And when I'm getting really old,
At twenty-eight or nine,
I shall buy a little orphan-girl
And bring her up as mine.




Before we get started on this week's song, I have a few housekeeping notes. First off, I'd like to say a hearty thank you to those of you who have submitted comments and e-mailed me with suggestions and even a bit of praise. I'm excited to see the increase in traffic on the site and I hope you keep the feedback coming.

Additionally, beginning this week and continuing whenever possible I will be providing a link to a video pertaining to the current week's song. (Thanks for the suggestion, Steven!) I will also begin providing an Itunes link to each week's song so that in the tragic event that you do not currently own the song under discussion, you can remedy that situation immediately.

Lastly, a big shout-out to Joshua for providing the lovely picture that now graces the header of this blog. That being said, given my complete lack of knowledge about how copyright laws work in relation to internet blogs/fan sites, I really hope this doesn't get me in trouble. I think this is the part where I should officially state, "This blog is in no way endorsed by Natalie Merchant or her management, record company, agent, official website, family members, pets, childhood best friend, next door neighbor, chiropractor, yoga instructor or housekeeper. Thank you."

Back to our previously scheduled programming:


Leave Your Sleep caught me off guard.

Not its very existence. I, along with many other Merchant fans, first heard about the project a good two years or so before it was released. I waited with anticipation for a release date and I bought the album the day it came out. But I hadn't spent a lot of time reading about the project and I had in no way formed an opinion on what I was about to hear. It was like going to movie I hadn't seen the trailer for. My lack of research wasn't based on apathy, but on trust. I had long ago been won over by Natalie's musical choices, so even if the promotional sticker on the album had said, "Natalie Merchant sings Ted Nugent covers with a Polka band" I would have purchased it without a second thought. Well...without a third thought.

I anticipated that it would be great, but I did not anticipate what an effect it would have on me. I listened to the first six songs in my car on the way home from work and I felt a musical euphoria that I hadn't felt in some time. I was at times smiling, laughing, teary-eyed and probably in general looking a bit like a psychopath to passing drivers. I can't wait to talk about all the many wonders on this most delicious album, but this is a one-song-at-a-time blog, so I better get down to business.

I chose If No One Ever Marries Me as the first Leave Your Sleep song to discuss on this blog, not because it is my favorite, although I do like it very much, but because it is the song that I believe best illustrates why this album, with words written by just about every person who's ever lived EXCEPT Natalie, is well and truly a Natalie Merchant album.

The words to this poem could've been interpreted musically in so many ways. They're a bit wacky at times, with mentions of squirrels in cages and rabbit hutches. Can you imagine this song as an upbeat little ditty, in the style of say, Calico Pie or Adventures of Isabel? I surely can, and I think it would've been quite fun to have that version of this song.

The words also contain a bit of a wink, with lines like "When I'm getting really old, at twenty-eight or nine..." Perhaps the music could've taken on a satirical tone. That could've been fun too.

There are also some who would take the words of this poem to be quite sad. "If no one ever marries me, And I don't see why they should, For nurse says I'm not pretty, And I'm seldom very good." This song could've easily been a weeper, the one you put on right after you get dumped by your significant other and you have an overwhelming need to feel sorry for yourself.

But the song is none of those things. And, sort of...all of them. I tried in vain to find a good quote from Natalie to include in this week's blog, but alas, I could not find what I was looking for. I remember, though, hearing her say in an interview that she felt that among other things, the poem had a note of both resignation and defiance to it. The music Natalie crafted to accompany this poem seems to me to be the perfect choice to blend all of the many emotional elements contained in it. While some might decry the fact that Natalie's last two records have been devoid of her own beautiful lyric-writing, this song illustrates why her fans haven't lost out on anything. This is undeniably a Natalie Merchant song.

During the one performance of the Leave Your Sleep tour I had the pleasure to experience, this song seemed to stop people dead in their tracks, so to speak. You could've heard a pin drop in the theater (which is really how it should be all the time, but I digress.) The only sounds I did hear were the sort of hushed "Mmm" sounds people make when they've lost access to words and are only able to emote on the most primitive level. It was quite magical indeed.

That's all for my commentary this week, kids. Tune in next time for a look at a truly depressing, cry-yourself-to-sleep, I-just-can't-go-on-living song. Any guesses?

Here is a link to a lovely performance of Natalie singing this song with the accompaniment of her two talented guitarists. Oh, and there's a little bonus song at the end! Click here

Buy If No One Ever Marries Me on Itunes: If No One Ever Marries Me - Leave Your Sleep

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trouble Me

Trouble Me (from the 10,000 Maniacs albums Blind Man's Zoo and Unplugged)

Words:

Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and your worries.
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent.
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me.

Speak to me, don't mislead me, the calm I feel means a storm is swelling;
There's no telling where it starts or how it ends.
Speak to me, why are you building this thick brick wall to defend me when your silence is my greatest fear?
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Speak to me.

Let me have a look inside these eyes while I'm learning.
Please don't hide them just because of tears.
Let me send you off to sleep with a "There, there, now stop your turning and tossing."
Let me know where the hurt is and how to heal.

Spare me? Don't spare me anything troubling.

Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and your worries.
Speak to me and let our words build a shelter from the storm.
Lastly, let me know what I can mend.
There's more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see.
Trust is what I'm offering if you trouble me.


If you read any article written by any journalist about Natalie Merchant's musical career, you will inevitably read a line that sounds something like this: "Merchant is known for writing songs about serious topics such as child abuse, alcoholism, illiteracy, poverty and war." There is certainly no disputing that fact, but there is another topic that Natalie writes about that never seems to be mentioned in these inventories: comfort.

I love the songs Natalie has written about child abuse, alcoholism, illiteracy, poverty and war. Obviously I'm far from alone in that feeling. And I suppose, indirectly perhaps, that those songs do serve to comfort people affected by those problems. When a struggling single mother hears the song "Dust Bowl" then perhaps she feels less alone, if only for a moment.

But there is a brand of songs that Natalie writes that are broader in scope. They are songs that seem to be written expressly for the purpose of bringing comfort to anyone who needs it. Which is to say, everyone. Songs like "Life Is Sweet" and "Break Your Heart," among many others, fall into this category. I would make the argument that "Trouble Me" is the first song of this brand in Natalie's career.

There are so many things I love about the lyrics to this song. The words are simple, straightforward and unadorned. I feel like the song serves two purposes, in a way. When you listen to the song, you can feel like the words are being said to you; a reminder that there are people in the world, people in your life, who care about what you're feeling and whose backs are indeed sturdy and strong enough to help you shoulder your burdens.

On the other hand, this song helps us fill the need we all have to express our offer of comfort to the people we love. I don't know about you, but I know I sometimes struggle to put into words my desire to be there for someone I love. No matter what the motivation in your heart is, after awhile phrases like "I'm here for you" and the like just sound like hollow platitudes, devoid of any real meaning. While the words to "Trouble Me" are simple, they are profound. A friend once gave me a framed photo of the two of us as a gift. On the back of the photo the lyrics to "Trouble Me" were written. I was deeply touched (and for the record, that was well before I was a serious Natalie listener/nerd.)

One thing, though, that I always wonder about with regard to this song: Why does she never play it live anymore? I've seen her in concert 4 times and she's never played it. That's not all that astonishing given the fact that it's only 4 concerts out of the hundreds she's performed since splitting from the Maniacs, but I've read tons of reviews of Natalie's shows and not once has anyone ever mentioned her playing this song. It leads to me wonder, Does she not like this song anymore? It's difficult for me to fathom such a thing. How could she possibly feel that way? I reject this idea and instead choose to create my own mythology. It goes something like this: The song is just too personal, it stirs up too much emotion for her to perform it live. If she even attempts it, she's swept away in a river of her own tears, like Alice in Wonderland.

Wow. That was terrible mythology.

Today, I will let Natalie have the last word about this lovely song:

"I think Trouble Me is the most direct (song on Blind Man's Zoo.) And I don't want people to believe it's a song that only concerns young lovers. I think that love shouldn't be so exclusive. It shouldn't be hoarded."*

*Melody Maker - May 1989

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Skin

My Skin (from the album Ophelia)

Take a look at my body, look at my hands
there's so much here that I don't understand
Your face saving promises, whispered like prayers
I don't need them, I don't need them

I've been treated so wrong, I've been treated so long
as if I'm becoming untouchable

Contempt loves the silence, it thrives in the dark
with fine winding tendrils that strangle the heart
They say that promises sweeten the blow
but I don't need them, no I don't need them

I've been treated so wrong, I've been treated so long
as if I'm becoming untouchable

I'm a slow dying flower, frost killing hour
the sweet turning sour and untouchable

O, I need the darkness
the sweetness, the sadness
the weakness, I need this

I need a lullaby, a kiss goodnight
angel sweet, love of my life
O, I need this

Do you remember the way that you touched me before
all the trembling sweetness I loved and adored?
Your face saving promises, whispered like prayers
I don't need them, no I don't need them

O, I need the darkness
the sweetness, the sadness
the weakness, I need this

I need a lullaby, a kiss goodnight
angel sweet, love of my life
I need this

Is it dark enough? can you see me?
do you want me? can you reach me?
or I'm leaving

You better shut your mouth, hold your breath
kiss me now, you'll catch your death
O, I mean this



So here it is. The first song of many to be delved into a little bit deeper. I chose My Skin as the first song for discussion not just because I love it but because I've come to believe it might actually be Natalie's most popular song. I know, I know, you think this sounds crazy. What about Wonder you say. What about Kind and Generous? Carnival? All very, very popular and certainly more well-known by the masses than this little gem. But if you doubt me on this, I suggest you do the following: go to Youtube, enter the search words “Natalie Merchant” and just see what comes up. What you will find is that a good 70% of the videos that come up are videos people have made using the song My Skin. In fact, to aid in proving my point, just now I searched the words “Natalie Merchant My Skin” on Youtube and there were 1,120 search results. Sometimes it's someone's personal cover rendition of the song (a bold decision indeed.) More often than not, though, these videos consist of odd mash-up scenes of characters from the creator's favorite movies or TV shows, usually romantic couplings, and My Skin plays in the background.

In the spirit of candor, I must say...I abhor these videos.

My Skin is a top ten Natalie Merchant tune for me and listening to it serve as the musical score to scenes of vapid teenage vampire romance is enough to make me ill. I know that music is in its very essence interpretive, though, so I'm willing to at least concede the fact that I appreciate that people recognize the beauty and worthiness of this song.

So what makes My Skin so good? Namely, everything. Not to put too fine a point on it. Let's start with the music. In my opinion (and for the record, this is the last time I'll be using the phrase “in my opinion” on this blog because it seems a bit redundant - it is called Annie's Natalie Merchant Blog after all) the piano playing on this song is as good and maybe better than any other song Natalie has recorded. Here is what Natalie has said on the subject:

“On the song My Skin, I like hearing my piano working: this hulking piece of wood with metal strings, hammers hitting, things reverberating and squeaking and cracking. I like that we didn't try to cover up those sounds, because that's what the instrument is about.”*

The reverberation is the thing I notice most and the density of that sounds feels like such a natural companion to the weight of the words. Oh yes...the words. I always thought the words were beautiful, but it wasn't until I discovered what inspired the lyrics that I was able to fully appreciate them. Here is another quote from Natalie:

“My Skin...was inspired by a friend of mine who had written a screenplay about a woman who was dying of cancer, and her husband could only see her as a victim of disease, and he couldn't really see her as the woman he loved, and was attracted to, anymore. And in the screenplay, she's just desperate for him to make love to her one more time before she dies, so she can feel like a woman again.”**


If that premise doesn't spark any emotion for you, there is a reasonable chance you are dead. This is the same information that makes it difficult for me to accept this song being played in Youtube videos with titles like, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – My Skin” (not making that up.) If Natalie's intention was to convey the intense, painful and intimate feelings of a person trapped in the situation she describes in the above quote, she certainly succeeded. If she also intended to break our hearts in the process, I dare say that was a success too. She sings the song in a voice that is fractured, even broken at times and this only adds to the beauty and devastating sadness of the song.

So those are my thoughts. What about you?

*Keyboard Magazine – February 1999
**All Things Considered – August 1998

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What, Why, How and Who

WHAT:

A blog that takes a song-by-song look at the musical career of one Natalie A. Merchant.

WHY:

I've thought about starting a blog for ages but held back because I could never quite land on a topic that I thought would consistently amuse me and/or have the potential to amuse others. Many of my most passionate conversations and musings are about music, so I knew I wanted to write about that subject. But I wanted something methodical, something I could organize into a specific format. My favorite music maker is Natalie Merchant and I've listened to just about every piece of recorded music she's made and for once in my life, it seems that something (or someone, in this case) that I like is actually quite well-known and appreciated by others. So here it is - Annie's Natalie Merchant Compendium Blog.

HOW:

As mentioned above, I intend on going song-by-song through the entire Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs catalogue, with the exception of the following: B-sides, collaborations with others artists, and anything pre-Wishing Chair. I may occasionally break this rule, but I don't plan to often. My goal is to post at least one update per week one update every other week, one to three songs per blog. I intend on including lyrics, my personal thoughts on the songs and where possible, a quote or two of Natalie speaking about the song in question. Currently, my idea is to go about the song selection process totally randomly. I want to keep you on your toes.

WHO:

My name is Annie, if you didn't catch that already. I'm in my late twenties, I live in California in an entirely too-small apartment with my handsome cat and two small, furry husbands. Wait...strike that, reverse it. Writing a blog might turn out to be the most conventional thing I've ever done in my life, but even if it's a success, I don't plan on converting.

I will measure the success of this blog based on two things: 1) Is anyone reading it? and 2) Am I having fun? If the answer to number one is yes, then I'm sure the answer to number two will be yes as well. So please, oh prettiest please, share your comments. I would love to hear your thoughts, insights and personal feelings about the songs of this most gifted songwriter and musician. And if you don't feel like doing that, then please at least say hey so I know you're out there.

Thanks and ta-ta for now,
Annie