Archive for February 2008

February 28th, 2008

How Did I Not Think of This Last Week?

  1. “Pink Moon,” Nick Drake
  2. “Moonage Daydream,” David Bowie
  3. “Harvest Moon,” Neil Young
  4. “Waxing or Waning?,” Better Than Ezra
  5. “My Moon, My Man,” Feist
  6. “Neither Heaven Nor Space,” Nada Surf
  7. “I’m Your Moon,” Jonathan Coulton
  8. “Moon River,” Frank Sinatra
  9. “‘Moonlight’ Sonata-1. Adagio sostenuto,” Beethoven
  10. “Satellite of Love,” Lou Reed
  11. “Bewitched,” Luna
  12. “Surf Session,” Moondog
  13. “I Wish I Was the Moon,” Neko Case
  14. “Man on the Moon,” R.E.M.
  15. “Marquee Moon,” Television
  16. “Eclipse,” Pink Floyd
  17. “Come and Play in the Milky Night,” Stereolab

I think I’m going to call this mix Phases of the Tune. Or possibly Moon Rocks.

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February 22nd, 2008

Man on the Moon

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Night before last I headed out with my camera to get some shots of the lunar eclipse. What I was trying for was one of these displays of photographic awesomeness. I got the general idea of it, but I now know some things that will help me get an even better image next time around — which, unfortunately, is in 2010. Hmm…I should probably write that stuff down.

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February 20th, 2008

Say Yes To Michigan!

Recently, via one of the 400 collections of covers that Johnny Cash put out during the past decade (and co-workers are prone to play in the office), I discovered a song called “Saginaw, Michigan.”

It immediately grabbed my attention because the song’s opening line is “I was born in Saginaw, Michigan.” Hey! I was born in Saginaw, Michigan! “I was born in Saginaw, Michigan” is a sentence I have uttered many times in the course my life. Johnny had peaked my interest.

As I was busy with work-related duties (did you know there’s a free version of Frogger online?) upon my initial listen, I couldn’t give the song my undivided attention. I looked it up online a few days later and discovered the song was recorded most famously by Lefty Frizzell. It made it to #1 on the country charts in 1963 and earned him a Grammy nomination. Pretty cool, right? Yeah! Except when you start to listen a little more deeply, well: this song is kind of weird. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about who wrote it, but whoever it was, I don’t think they were actually very familiar with Saginaw, Michigan. For one thing the song implies that the people who live in Saginaw (the city) inhabit houses on Saginaw Bay and make their living fishing. We moved to North Carolina when I was still pretty young, so I couldn’t deem this erroneous all on my own, but both the internet and my parents (who I played the song for) informed me that the City of Saginaw is 15 miles inland from Saginaw Bay.

Also, as it turns out, the story arc in the song is kind of stupid. Most of the actual events mentioned in the song take place “up there in Alaska.” The narrator is a poor fisherman’s son who falls in love with a girl who’s father doesn’t think him worthy of his daughter. So he goes to Alaska to look for gold. Then he eventually comes back to Saginaw, tells everyone he’s rich now, immediately impresses the father, and marries the girl. His new father-in-law then buys his land in Alaska from him and goes up to score some gold for himself. But (crusty old country song spoiler alert!) it turns out the narrator never actually found any gold in Alaska. He was just faking it! Outrageous, right? Well, sort of. Just a half-assed twist-ending really. Also, this series of events makes the fact that “Saginaw, Michigan” is the story’s home-base kind of irrelevant. In fact, not a single landmark nor distinguishing characteristic of the place is even mentioned.

All this is to say nothing of the fact that, to work the words “Saginaw, Michigan” into the song, in the traditional county song format, the composer(s) really had to stretch their wording. At different points the phrase “Saginaw, Michigan” is rhymed (awkwardly) with:

  • “Saginaw fisherman”
  • “I’ll strike it rich and then”
  • “coming back a richer man”
  • “a wise, ambitious man”

It’s almost as if this piece was penned on a bet that it couldn’t be done.

Lefty Frizzell’s recording is another issue altogether. As I do not run one of those websites where I put peoples’ music up and let you snag it, I’ll just give you this link to a YouTube video containing the song.

It features almost calypso-style woodblock and cowbell percussion — odd in a country/western performer’s music to begin with, but especially in a ballad involving two places in the northernmost reaches of the United States. And check out those cheesy back-up singers! Two harmonizing “dames” straight from the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” recording session, echoing lines from the verses. They put this track over the top, in terms of campiness.

Still, for all this song’s bizarre flawiness, I absolutely love it. The melody is unbelievably catchy. And every time I hear that opening line — “I was born in Saginaw, Michigan” — all I can think is “Hey! I was born in Saginaw, Michigan!”

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