Friday, April 20, 2018

Aerosmith's Get a Grip turns 25

25 years ago today, in 1993, Aerosmith released their 11th album, Get a Grip, with the band sounding more slick and commercial than ever. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Livin’ on the Edge” features a guitar solo (starting at 2:18) that’s slower and more melodic than Joe Perry’s usual solos; it almost sounds like it could have been played by George Harrison. You might think this is a fairly ordinary rock song until it becomes epic by virtue of an extended outro. It sounds like it must be winding down to the end around 4:20, but the drum fill at 4:30 decisively starts things back up.

The lyrics are Aerosmith in their socially conscious mode (probably fueled by the success of “Janie’s Got a Gun” from their previous album). In one line, Steven Tyler touches on racism in a paraphrase of the Yardbirds' “Mister, You're a Better Man than I.” Wikipedia says the line “There's something right with the world today, and everybody knows it's wrong” is a shot at conservatives (the “right”), but that seems unlikely — Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are both Republicans, and I have the impression that most if not all of the band members have conservative leanings. Instead, I view it as simply an ironic, jarring juxtaposition of opposites, akin to the Beatles’ “It’s getting better all the time/It can’t get no worse.”




Cryin’” uses a subtle trick in its song structure: it kicks off with an intense hard-rock riff at the beginning, which gives way to a country-rock tune with maudlin lyrics about lost love . . . but after the first chorus, the heavy riff returns as if it were a bridge, and the lyrics have turned from sentimental to sexual (starting at 1:13).

Below is a live performance, but if you want to hear the full country-like vocal harmonies then watch the official video.




Crazy” — This very popular video was one of 3 videos from the album featuring Alicia Silverstone, and it was also Liv Tyler's debut. There's a sweet moment (at 3:47) when the song suddenly slows down and Liv Tyler lip-syncs, “I need your love” . . . which is actually sung by her dad, Steven Tyler. His falsetto near the end (5:13) beautifully conjures up 1950s doo-wop. The video uses a longer version of the song than on the album; if you listen closely you can tell when they seem to have copied and pasted part of the chorus near the end.




Amazing” — In which Alicia Silverstone seems to have taken hitchhiking lessons from Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night . . .

The video is about virtual reality, and Steven Tyler said this song and others on the album were about drugs: “It can be fun in the beginning but then it comes time to pay your debt, and if you're not sharp enough to see that it's taking you down, then it really will get you.”

He alludes to the album title, Get a Grip, when he sings: “When I lost my grip, and I hit the floor/Yeah I thought I could leave, but couldn’t get out the door.” Then in the bridge, he alludes to a previous Aerosmith album, Permanent Vacation: “That one last shot’s permanent vacation…”

A relentlessly driving guitar solo by Joe Perry is worthy of the song title.

During the video’s final reveal, we hear the quaint sounds of a 1945 song by Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra: “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

10 years of this blog

10 years ago today, on April 12, 2008, I was having brunch in Austin while writing down a plan in a Moleskine notebook, which I published later that day as my first blog post, on Google's Blogger ("Blogspot").

Over time, the blog evolved into frequent Facebook posts (for reasons I explained here). This blog isn't completely defunct yet, but I mostly like to keep it around as a repository for old content.

I kicked off the blog with a grandiose mission statement: "There's probably a greater excess of content in the world right now than at any previous point in history. We have a glut of content but a dearth of thought. I'll try to correct the balance." 

We easily take for granted how extraordinary our current time is; when I was growing up, if you wanted to express your opinion about something in the news, your main option was to talk to whoever happened to be physically near you. Of course there were other options, like writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper/magazine, or calling in to C-Span, but you'd be at the mercy of corporations' tastes and whims to an extent that makes any concerns about suppression of viewpoints by sites like Facebook seem petty by comparison. Now we have the power to convey our thoughts and feelings to anyone in the world, at any time. We should make the most of that opportunity.

And now, here are some of my favorite posts from 10 years of this blog, in roughly reverse-chronological order (most recent to oldest). I'm sure many of the links and videos within these posts have gone dead by now, but I hope the posts have otherwise held up:

Tori Amos's Little Earthquakes turns 25

Reactions to the 2016 election

Live-blogging presidential debates: 2016, 2012, 2008

Beatles albums — "It was 50 years ago today . . ."

What are we doing when we teach fiction to kids?

Revering the irreverent

Sam Cooke died 50 years ago.

The jazz guitarist Jim Hall has died at age 83.

If people are bad at deciding what's best for themselves, is government the solution?

The "acting alone" fallacy

Thoughts on playing sad songs and easy guitar parts

2 surprising pay gaps

How much of a problem is it that you don't have enough time in your whole life to become "reasonably well-read"?

The top 10 greatest classical composers of all time

Andrew Sullivan, The Crusader

Getting it wrong: language and more

The 12 books that influenced me the most (follow-up)

6 ways blogs are better than books

The 100 best songs of the first decade of the 2000s

Penelope Trunk's Twitter post about miscarriage and abortion

Is "loser" a male noun?

Kant's categorical imperative vs. the golden rule

The 2 most overused chord progressions in pop music

"What are the simple concepts that have most helped you understand the world?"

The problem of evil (continued)

Two kinds of careers

The 40 greatest grunge songs

"Do you see what's happening?"

Thank you, Tim Russert (1950 - 2008)


* * *


So now it's been exactly 10 years that I've been blogging regularly, on this blog or Facebook. Whether I'll do this consistently for another 10 years, I don't know. But I know that my guiding principles will still matter: that facts and reason are more important than ideological commitments or partisan allegiances, and that music is as important as anything.

Thanks for reading, listening, commenting, and thinking!

(Photo by me.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Takeaway from Mark Zuckerberg's Senate hearing

Facebook needs to make sure no one says anything that makes anyone else feel bad — while giving everyone unprecedented, airtight privacy protections!

Good luck with that.