“Trumpet Medley” The Jack D'Johns

I have a secret method using both playing cards and dice to pick a random song from my two shelves of LPs, and this time it landed on the “Trumpet Medley” from this live Jack D'Johns album I had no idea I even had, called Happiness Is The Jack D'Johns. I have no clue from what year, though the cover looks old as hell, but maybe it lived with a smoker before spending an eternity in the thrift store. I've given it a home, and now it has made its way into my random system. The songs in the medley are “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” “Java,” Sugar Blues,” “Taste of Honey,” and “Circiribin,” (the last of which, a Harry James number, might have multiple spellings over the years, I think... I was curious about it, but the Rabbit Hole Alarm went off, and I saved myself). At any rate, these are all songs made immensely more charming by their lyrics, which are absent here, as this is instrumental music, anchored by accordion, and highlighting the trumpet—which is so out front it could be considered assault with a deadly weapon. This guy really puts the “Trump” in trumpet. If there was one word to describe the performance here, it would have to be “jaunty,” as it sounds like guys who have to do the same exact live show 12 times a day and are therefore forced to rely on abusing some heinous drug, like Diet Coke. The album cover, however, is surprisingly compelling—a photo taken at the Wisconsin State Fair, in which the front-man (presumably Jack D'Johns) seems to be levitating.

“Let This Fool Dream On” Keith Stewart Band

The easiest way to come up with a random song is to set the song selection thing on my computer on “shuffle,” which then picks out a song, supposedly at random, without any kind of prejudice. The dangerous thing is that among the 4000 or so songs I have (somehow) there are a lot where I think, “how did that get on my computer?” So it's nice when there's a pleasant surprise like this one, from the Keith Stewart Band's album, Epic Hits. I'm not sure of the year. You won't find a lot about this one on the internet, folks. When the song started, from the into, I thought it was Tom Petty at first. Pretty much a guitar, bass, and drums band, but there's a nice, Casio-sounding keyboard. Keith is taking on his slightly British sounding singing voice (not obnoxiously so)—and there's a little bridge with the altered vocal that sounds like it's pushed through an old AM radio, for a kind of Spinal Tap touch. Right before that, there's an immensely compelling, simple guitar break that's a real bonus on multiple listenings. Epic Hits was a limited release CD, and I happen to have it, and know something about it, because Keith Stewart is the stage name of my brother, Jeff Russell. They used to play, for years, out of Sandusky, Ohio, mostly doing cover songs at local taverns, though he is quite a good songwriter.

"Hey Now" The Regrettes

Another interesting method of random song selection is to pick the last song I wrote about and find it on the “YouTube” and then just let the YouTube play continuously (perhaps with the volume down)—it will continuously choose songs based on some mysterious algorithm based on that song, and also stuff that it remembers you played in the past—and music that gets preference is based on either popularity, or direct monetary influence (what used to be called “Payola”), or some combination of those—and finally, perhaps, pure, dumb randomness. I set my timer for an hour, and whatever is playing when it goes off, that's the song. This time it landed on a song called “Hey Now” by a band I'm hearing of for the first time, “The Regrettes”—along with a mini-movie kind of video. I'm trying to focus on the music only, but I couldn't help looking at the video—the band is three women (two guitars and bass) and a guy drummer, and they're all singing, and they're all dressed like it's the Fifties—so I didn't know if this was a real band, so I had to ask Internet, who said they are a punk band from LA. This sounds like energetic pop music, not punk—so I felt obligated to look a little more and I found an actual live version of this song—just someone holding a camera in front of the stage at a daytime show. It's really pretty great. It would not have been fair of me to judge them by this fairly over-produced video, so I'm glad I kind of cheated here and at least got a more accurate—I think—idea of what they're about. Of course, they look so young, they might be one thing today and something else tomorrow—that's part of being young. Anyway, I hope they hold onto that name. It can't be possible they are the first band called “The Regrettes”—that's too good of a name—but offhand, I don't remember another one.

“Funk #49” James Gang w/Tommy Bolin

Another source for random songs is to randomly check text messages and see what comes up, as friends sometimes send me text messages with links to videos and songs, and this one is from someone who I'll just call “Sport.” It's version of the James Gang's “Funk #49”—with Tommy Bolin on guitar. Internet tells me that Tommy Bolin (a legendary guitarist who died very young) had replaced Domenic Troiano, who had replaced Joe Walsh (who had replaced someone, as well, but that's going back to pre-history) in the James Gang. This version is pretty good—I always liked that song. It's a live version, taped off TV, and there is a singer who has something weird going on with his hair. For younger readers, the song is not “Funk 'hashtag' 49”—that is a “number” symbol. What the song title means is the subject of many internet forums, and what I understand is that it's something so vile and revolting that to go into it would violate the internet policy of decency. I remember seeing the Domenic Troiano Band—I'm guessing sometime in the late 1970s, probably opening for someone, in Cleveland. I never saw the James Gang, though they had countless members and incarnations over the years. From what I understand, they were an actual gang, though what “gang” actually means has changed over time and is hotly contested.

“I Was a Fool” Sunflower Bean

I heard this 2017 song randomly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, a radio station I listen to on the internet, who ask you to “discover new music”—which, now that I think about it, is opposite of what traditional radio (SOS format) does—I know that's obvious—but I guess this station is like “college radio” without the college. Anyway, that's exactly what I was doing, with my random system, and I came upon this band Sunflower Bean—first I've heard them or heard of them. It's an interesting name, as I believe the seeds in sunflowers are called seeds, and I'm not sure anyone can make a bean (besides God, I mean), but maybe there is a reference here I don't get. They sound young, and it's a pretty traditional pop-rock sound, with prominent bass, restrained guitar, and real drums, that reminds me a little of the 1980s “post-punk” pop bands. The song is interesting in that there is a woman's singing part, then a man's, and back—and from the lyrics I can make out—there's some relationship problems. The title (“I Was a Fool”) would indicate some regret. The internet says they're from Brooklyn (which means absolutely nothing, except that it's likely a next door neighbor is classically trained in something, which makes me hope SB can resist the temptation to add a cello, fiddle, kettle drums, etc., because I really like this three piece lineup—but the temptation is always there, in Brooklyn).


I was having brunch at Stone Bowl, a Korean place, and the food, the décor, the lighting, and the people were all lovely—the only downside was that the music seemed a little too loud for that early, and I wasn't liking any of it—so I decided to pick the next random song and see if my phone could identify it. Once again, I was unable to tell what was the song title, the band, or the album until I got home and did some research, but it turns out it was a song called “FXXK IT” by the band BIGBANG from their album MADE (they have TONS of videos on the internet, and most often this song and band name are in ALL CAPS). It's from 2016, I think, and they are a South Korean boyband, I guess. This song has a repetitive chorus in English, something like, “I'm gonna get down,” and then there are some rapping parts in a language I'll presume is Korean. It's a catchy song, kind of annoying, but I was just mostly thrilled it was a Korean band (I had no sense of that from the song) since I heard it in a Korean restaurant. There isn't much else to say about it, except that it has a percussion part that really annoys me; it's that currently trendy (or maybe it's yesterday-trendy by now) sound that sounds likes someone spinning a ratchet wrench. I don't know how else to describe it. I spent an afternoon awhile back trying to describe this sound to Google so that I could articulate it, but I couldn't come up with a term or word (as with the “Autotune” voice thing, that previously annoyed me so much). I found somewhere someone saying it was the “hi-hat” part of the percussion, but really sped up, which I guess makes sense. It's something a drummer could never play, but a certain percussion instrument might (ratchet wrench) or of course, a computer. I know nothing about this kind of music, but it seems like it could really date certain music to a certain time, looking back from the future.

“I Think I Love You” The Partridge Family

My secret random system for radio shows (involving playing cards and a calendar) was yesterday employed with the “What You Need” radio program on WRUW Cleveland, and landed on the 1970 hit single, “I Think I Love You” by The Partridge Family. This was the first song I ever associated directly with a crush (or possibly second—as Tommy Roe's “Dizzy” came out a year earlier) (but either way, they both were associated with a mad crush on someone that even to this day, I won't admit publicly, out of respect). As a ten-year-old, though, I remember putting this record on and marveling how the lyrics so closely matched my feelings. It's a super catchy song, by one of my favorite songwriters, Tony Romeo (and also contains the dreaded “brain/insane” rhyme). The song may have actually given my feelings their first words: “I love you.” The “think” part, for me, was not questioning the intensity of the feeling, but rather: was this what love was? The Partridge Family TV show came on the air at almost the exact time the record came out—I'm not sure where I heard the song first—and my feelings of romantic love for this girl my age were then mixed with a crush on Shirley Jones—kind of weird, since she was the mother—but then the show only barely toned down the incestuous mother/son subtext, played for as much heat as they could get by the censors. I was the same age as Danny, the bass playing hobbit, but I related much more to the heartthrob Keith (David Cassidy) whose romantic adventures (am I remembering this correctly?) were constantly derailed because none of the young ladies could hold a candle to his mom. It wasn't until several years later that I realized that I could actually have a crush on Susan Dey, and I did, but by that time, beer was my new mistress.

"Shiver" Run River North

The music was a little bit getting on my nerves at the Bella Caffe so I decided I'd review the next song that came on, and to my surprise I actually liked it! Maybe this a good strategy. My phone told me it was a song called “Shiver” and was performed by Run River North (at first I thought it was a song called “Run River North” performed by Shiver). It turns out it's a Coldplay song (which I obviously didn't know) from back near 2000, which still seems like yesterday to me, but to young people is ancient history. It's kind of brutal how the years are advancing, and soon songs from the 2000s will be on “oldies” stations! The lyrics are a little stalkerish, but this is a truly beautiful song. If I had to take a wild guess, first hearing it, I'd have guessed it was Jeff Buckley. I'm talking about the Run River North version, which I like infinitely more than the Coldplay version. It's really quiet and dramatic, it's got piano, some kind of strings, and it goes down to a voice and acoustic guitar in parts, and then it swells, but not too much. I know nothing about this band, Run River North (and I'm never going to remember that name—I'll probably call them A River Runs Through It). They look young, from LA, maybe Asian-American, two women and three or four guys. I might just look them up and pay attention to them in the future.

“Aladdin Sane (1913- 1938- 197?)” David Bowie

4000-some songs on my computer, somehow (weird, since I don't ever remember putting them on there, but you know, over the years, transferring from one computer to the next...) Anyway, this is the song that came up first, on “shuffle” (don't be fooled by the “A” in the title). This is that song from Bowie's 1973 Aladdin Sane record that kind of starts off as a song and then goes on for the rest of its five minutes in a repetitious two note thing, while on the left side, the piano goes off on its own into outer space, and on the right, the sax does, too (I suppose, trying to replicate the “troubled mind”—though for many of us, it's music to our ears). Though lovely, I always sort of thought of this as that song that you get through—between one great song and another—you know, while thinking, “OK... A Lad Insane... I get it.” I have no idea what the dates in the song title mean, but I'll wager you can find that discussed on the internet. Ray Speen has a theory that 1973 was the best year for everything—from music to sit-coms to diner waitresses to corn dogs; I'm not convinced, but I can't help to dwell on that now. Richard Myers made a film titled “37—73”—referring to the year he was born, and the year he made the film. My favorite Bowie albums are Ziggy Stardust (1972) and Diamond Dogs (1974)—obviously, this one sits right in the middle, and is also great. Anyway, I'm glad for this opportunity to isolate this song, and re-appreciate it. “Paris or maybe Hell (I'm waiting).” This song has gone up several notches (I don't really have notches). That guy playing piano, did he have the best day of his life that day, or what?

Intro to SONGS

The “Vinyl” page is gone, but you can still read Ray Speen's record reviews (LPs & 45s) on his long-existing site: DJ FARRAGINOUS.

This new “Songs” page is reviews of songs picked randomly. I have devised several methods of random selection of songs from: my record and CD collections, my computer, the Internet, various radio stations and shows, and even grocery stores and restaurants. We have songs coming at us all day long (did you ever notice that?) and it's about time to start asking some questions.

I considered a structure, such as “Random Song Thursday” or something, but you know that's not going to happen. So... new posts here will appear randomly, as well.

Randy Russell 12.1.17