Radiohead – Twisted Mixtape Tuesday

I’m starting to think my friends hate me. Jen, my musical sister from another mother and father, from http://www.jenkehl.com aka @jenkehl asked me to put together a mixtape of one of my favorite bands. I haven’t slept, since. Who do I write about? The Clash? The Ramones? The Rolling Stones? Lou Reed? David Bowie? The New York Dolls? Then it hit me, what would Radiohead’s Thom Yorke think of me for not just dropping ten of his band’s tunes, explaining their brilliance, and going to find myself a burrito?

Radiohead is as close to a perfect band as you can get. For the past twenty years they’ve been the platinum standard for alternative music and progressive rock. They’ve surpassed Pink Floyd because their Roger Waters, Yorke, and their David Gilmour, guitarist Jonny Greenwood, have stayed together.

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Radiohead can do everything. They have straight up rock songs that can change your mood, make your day bearable, and make you forget your problems. But they also make soundscapes; massive, gorgeous layers of sonic wonder that fill your eardrums with wonder. They don’t care about being on the radio, and they even became an indie band six years ago, and still sold millions. They’re the exception to all of the rules, and they keep getting more artistic. This is a list of ten songs that I wish my wife and daughters would use to get through bad days, heartbreak, or whatever instead of the Taylor Swift. I hope you become a fan of Radiohead if you’re not already, because I love them with everything I have.

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Creep – 1993. Let’s get this one out-of-the-way. It was their MTV hit that threatened to make them a 1990s artifact. I want to hate it as much as the band does, but the lyrics and Greenwood’s guitar riffs are so unbelievable, I can’t. “I want you to notice when I’m not around”, “Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want” and “I wish I was special”. Good God, it’s one of the most relatable songs ever written.

Just – 1995. When they want, Radiohead can be just as bombastic as any other arena rock act. They out U2, U2, here and it rocks hard like guitar anthem should but with more tangible lyrics.

Fake Plastic Trees – 1995. Can a rock song be pretty, deep, interesting and sexy all at the same time? In the hands of this band, yes.

High & Dry – 1995. If you’ve ever lost someone who meant everything to you, this is your song. It’s beautiful and it makes me tear up every time. If you don’t own the album “The Bends”, there’s something wrong with you. I love this song.

Karma Police – 1997. The greatest revenge song ever and the one from the album, OK Computer, that put Radiohead on another level. Amazing delivery.

Paranoid Android – 1997. If there is such a thing as the ultimate Radiohead song, it’s this. I think it’s the Stairway to Heaven of the 1990s and the epitome of why this band is different from all others before and after. This is an epic and shows what geniuses there guys are. This is a personal theme song for me in many ways.

The National Anthem – 2000. Everyone thought they hated this song, the band, and the album, Kid A, when it was released. Years later, the move into electronica, jazz, bass over heavy guitar, and moody singing style of Thom Yorke showed what artists they were. This proved they’d survive the 1990s.

There There – 2003. Hail To The Thief saw them become more political and daring. This song is one crescendo after another and the guitar makes a resounding comeback. Beautiful composition.

Reckoner – 2007. In Rainbows, their “comeback” record that saw them go indie and sell 3 million on the internet had several great songs. This one is terrific. Gnarls Barkley did a cool cover.

Bodysnatchers – 2007. Every playlist needs a closer that rips. This will do. Play it loud.

Looking for something to read? Well, The Ballad of Helene Troy and Soul To Body- I wrote them. They’re available on amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/The-Ballad-Helene-Troy-ebook/dp/B00BJOMM84/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377607652&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ballad+of+helene+troy &   http://www.amazon.com/Soul-To-Body-ebook/dp/B00EEAACNC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377607706&sr=8-1&keywords=soul+to+body+lance+burson  for your kindle and in paperback from Lulu.com.

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All I Can Do Is Write About It

How many times have you been advised “don’t forget where you come from”? On its surface the clichéd wisdom is sound. Your foundation of the family you born into, values espoused and sometimes followed, and the name you carry are important ways to keep you grounded. But when that foundation has some cracks in it, education, self-awareness and enlightenment should be applied to make “don’t forget where you come from” into “make sure where you’re headed is a better place”.

This is what makes the controversy over country music star Brad Paisley’s duet with actor and sometime rapper, LL Cool J, called Accidental Racist, necessary to discuss.

*****disclaimer*****

This blog prides itself on music superiority in knowledge, taste, and presentation. The video’s been taken down around the net but for the sake of journalism I’m going to provide the lyrics. They’re painful but at least read those words, especially Cool J’s portion. The sheer  “whatthehellwereyoutwomaroonsthinking”  ick to them will make this post really sing. All pun intended. The lyrics are in italics, the commentary is in bold.

The lyrics:

To the man who waited on me At the Starbucks down on Main

There really is a Starbucks on Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee, near Brad’s home. I like the personal touch. Although he’s originally from West Virginia, which is not the south and that state didn’t want to secede during the Civil War. Things go downhill from here. 

I hope you understand When I put on that t-shirt The only thing I meant to say Is I’m a Skynyrd fan –

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The reputation of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lead singer and main songwriter, the late great Ronnie Van Zandt, was one of being a man ahead of his time. He wasn’t racist. He was rough around the edges and self-destructive, but a gentle soul and excellent writer. So, you want to rep your Skynyrd? Here are three better t-shirts that don’t have the rebel stars and bars flag.

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But since Brad insists his anxiety isn’t based around his wardrobe, later in the song, let’s delve further.

The red flag on my chest is somehow like the elephant In the corner of the South And I just walked him right in the room

Yes, that red symbol of oppression is very offensive to wear in any room, regardless if its inhabitants are darker skinned than you. Because robbing people of their humanity by buying, selling, beating, and killing human beings for the first one hundred years of our country’s history is hard to get past.

Just a proud rebel son With an old can of worms Looking like I’ve got a lot to learn But from my point of view I’m just a white man Coming to you from the Southland Trying to understand what it’s like not to be I’m proud of where I’m from But not everything we’ve done And it ain’t like you and me to rewrite history Our generation didn’t start this nation We’re still picking up the pieces Walking over eggshells Fighting over yesterday And caught between southern pride And southern blame

I like the last line because it shows some self-awareness and call for hope to a better day. But NOT WEARING THE SHIRT is how you start a dialogue with someone about race in the south, Brad. More? Sure.

They called it Reconstruction Fixed the buildings, dried some tears We’re still sifting’ through the rubble After 150 years I’ll try to put myself in your shoes And that’s a good place to begin It ain’t like I can walk a mile In someone else’s skin

Mixed metaphors make me itch, but there’s kindness, here. You should always try other’s points of view. Maybe read Malcolm X’s biography, visit Dr. Martin Luther King’s museum near my home in Atlanta, visit a church whose congregation is largely non-white, or go talk to Congressman John Lewis who was hit in the head by a brick by one of those “proud southerners” as he marched for Civil Rights in the 1960s. But writing this song? No.

‘Cause I’m just a white man Living in the Southland Just like you, I’m more than what you see I’m proud of where I’m from And not everything we’ve done And it ain’t like you and me to rewrite history Our generation didn’t start this nation And we’re still paying for the mistakes Than a bunch of folks made Long before we came Caught somewhere between southern pride And southern blame

Again, the only line in this song I like is this last one. LL Cool J is coming up. He used to rap in the 1980s. Now he acts and cashes checks. This should be really bad, in the truest sense of the word, not like his old school Cool J cookies.

[LL Cool J] Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood What the world is really like when you’re living in the hood Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would Now my chains are gold, but I’m still misunderstood I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood

LL is part of the problem, here. Not every single black man wears saggy pants or gold chains. There are victims of southern racism among lawyers, doctors, teachers, and professionals who dress conservatively. Racism isn’t just ignorance of people’s skin color it’s also clueless to fashion. I mean, Brad’s dumb choice of t-shirt started all of this, remember?

I want you to get paid, but be a slave I never could Feel like a new-fangled Django dogging invisible white hoods So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinking it’s not all good I guess we’re both guilty of judging the cover, not the book I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

J used the word conversate. I can’t get past that. Also, admitting to your own prejudice just added fuel to the race fire. Dumb. The problem with you and Brad, LL, is you both are looking to get paid. Start your conversation there, then call me.

Now they “sing/rap” together.

I’m just a white man (If you don’t judge my do-rag) Coming to you from the southland (I won’t judge your red flag) Trying to understand what it’s like not to be I’m proud of where I’m from (If you forget my gold chains) But not everything we’ve done (I’ll forget the iron chains) It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history (Can’t rewrite history, baby) Oh, Dixieland (The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixing’) I hope you understand what this is all about (Quite frankly, I’m a black Yankee, but I’ve been thinking about this lately) I’m a son of the New South (The past is the past, you feel me) And I just want to make things right (Let bygones be bygones) Where all that’s left is southern pride (RIP Robert E. Lee, but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)

You want to know my favorite cliché? – The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And this song just got put on blast on Satan’s iPhone speakers. Both of you have good hearts, at least from what I can tell. What should have happened is these maroons should have given this song to Adam Levine and Cee Lo of The Voice so people like me could have made fun of it without having to answer hate mail from female friends (and my wife, who likes both Brad and LL) who want to scream about these two being great guys, deep down. That’s pointless. They’re entertainers and thus should be judged by their work. This song sucks. It’s a shallow attempt to justify lameness. You don’t “get over” slavery; the destruction of millions of people’s civil rights. What next, Accidental Homophobe with Eminem and Elton John? Oh wait, we’ve already done that.

This all started, according to Brad Paisley, when the man in Starbucks got offended by his Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt. Well, the aforementioned Ronnie Van Zandt, before he died in a plane crash in 1977, wrote a great song full of nuance called All I Can Do Is Write About It. It addresses the changing southern culture that surrounded Van Zandt and how he was trying to live. With subtlety and grace, Ronnie talked about the things he found that gave him peace while he figured out his place in the world. Maybe Brad Paisley should have just changed his t-shirt and covered Ronnie Van Zandt’s song from the mid 1970s. Then everyone could be focused on how to talk about race relations and not his awkward song.

Here’s Skynyrd.

Running With The Devil

If you ever want to quote or attribute anything to my name, use this:

Screw cleanliness. Self awareness is next to Godliness.

Love is a lot of things. One thing it is, that people rarely talk about, is compromising your principles for harmony. I’m coming up on four years with the loves of my life, my wife, the Bobina, and my two of my three daughters,, 16-year-old Tay, and 7-year-old Goose. Before they came along, my middle daughter, now 8-year-old Bug, and I had an odd bi-weekly habit. I’d take her to, what I call the main ring of Hell, the Mall of Georgia. I’d let her “ride the ponies” (carousel) and play on the playground. Then we’d buy a couple of cookies (oatmeal raisin for me, whatever she wanted for her) and call it a good 2 hours. I did it for her. I loved her so much that I sucked up my disgust for crass consumerism and unnecssary crowds. I’d pop a couple of  extra pills and we’d have a good time.

I know my faults. There are many. Mostly, I have a low tolerance for nonsense. As opened-minded as I think I am, I have serious deals with music and other forms of pop culture snobbery. When I first met my wife, my myspace (remember that social media before it became a crack den?) “handle” was “Lance, Music Snob”. I made fun of other people’s music. Thinking back, I wanted to punch me too.

Saturday, I found my version of The Holy Grail. In the mall of georgia courtyard is a small store called The Rock Shop. http://www.facebook.com/rockshopmusic?sk=wall Inside are vintage t-shirts, posters, and DVDs of some of my favorite punk and rock bands like The Ramones, The Misfits, Alice in Chains, Iron Maiden, The Clash, and many more. While I contemplated spending 20 bucks I didn’t really have on getting a 1992 Alice in Chains concert tee, the proprieter, a well tattooed dude about my age, chatted up a weird guy who was thumbing through Van Halen merchandise. My hands were on the t-shirt, I felt my debit card in my ripped blue jeans pocket when the bomb dropped.

Shop owner: ” you know, Van Halen is back on tour and has a new CD coming out. I can pre-order it for you.”

Weird guy: “Yeah, I’m excited but I’m also disappointed. Sammy Hagar’s not involved. I mean I like David Lee Roth but the band was so much tighter with Sammy.”

My fists clenched and my temples throbbed. Diamond Dave is Van Halen, you giant jackass! ….I said it under my breath.

I realized that I really had changed. My wife and kids have mellowed me and given me perspective. Four years ago, I would have yelled at the weird guy, gotten thrown out of a great new place, and wasted an opportunity to look forward to the mall with the women I love. My wife called me at the exact moment the conversation happened inside the rock shop. It was like she knew something was going down. I walked out and started breathing normally again.

Yesterday, for the sake of this blog, I compromised another principle. I suppressed my deep dislike for The Facebook and re-opened my idle account after two years burning up the internets with twitter and this blog. http://www.facebook.com/lance.burson &  http://www.facebook.com/lance.burson?sk=info&edit=1#!/pages/My-Blog-Can-Beat-Up-Your-Blog/339720439382777?sk=wall 

I’m enjoying the new avenues to talk to friends, family, and fellow writers. If I see Nickelback or Van Hagar mentioned positively in a status or post I’ll ignore it or maybe go to the gym and hit a speed bag.

I’ve dealt with my Devil. Now, like Diamond Dave’s Van Halen, in 1978, I’m just running with it.