Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31 - Beethoven's 7th Symphony (Op. 92, A Major), II: Allegretto

For the longest time, my only love of Beethoven was the lead theme of the first movement of his 5th symphony (Fate). Yes, I had heard his 9th symphony, but I have always found that a little too pompous. However, thanks to Svein, I discovered this piece, which is absolutely stellar. I remember him playing it to me, but I could not for the life of me remember what it was after I left his parents' house (this was a long, long time ago). I kept thinking it was Mozart, because I think he also played me Requiem at that visit, but I finally figured out that it was Beethoven.

While I can appreciate classical music, I have never been its biggest fan. However, The second movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony is as good as it gets. It starts soft and understated, and just builds and builds. It blows me away every time I hear it, and today seems like a very good day to play this piece of music. And - for effective use in film, you should also watch Mr. Holland's Opus, which is one of my favorite films about music and the impact it can have on people.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 30 - Bittersweet Symphony

This weekend is a time for symphonies. The first one is a symphony in name only - but it is still one of my favorite songs from the britpop era of the 90s. The Verve got huge with their third album, Urban Hymns, which in addition to Bittersweet Symphony included the great hits Sonnet and The Drugs Don't Work. In keeping with most other britpop band, there was a clear frontman in Richard Ashcroft (like Blur's Damon Albarn and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker - but contrary to Oasis' Gallagher brothers), who also was the lead singer. They got in some serious trouble with this song, as they sampled Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra's The Last Time (same name as the Stones song, but sounding very differently) - but I would have to say that I prefer The Verve's use of it to the original. You can easily find the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra's tune on YouTube - but here is The Verve with Bittersweet Symphony.

Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29 - Woman

Fresh off from watching Hillary's speech last night, there was only one song that came to mind for me for today. For many, Neneh Cherry is known for the song Buffalo Stance from the album Raw Like Sushi from 1989; however, I paid much more attention to her 1996 album Man, and the opening track is a tribute to the strength of women - and I can think of no better time to play this song.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 28 - Fall On Me

Today's song is by R.E.M. - it's one of their earlier songs, from their fourth album, Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). This was a fairly successful album, as it reached #21 on the Billboard top 200 in the US. The lead single off the album was this beautiful little ballad called Fall On Me, and while it barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100, it was number 5 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks list.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27 - Bouncing Around The Room

It's Phish time again, and today I am going to play the song of theirs that really got me interested. There isn't much to say other than I find it very infectious. It is a song that originally was found on the album Lawn Boy from 1990, and I find it amusing that in the comment section on YouTube for the video I am using, it is referred to as the gateway song - and it so clearly was for me. Here is the studio version from way before any break ups and issues with any illicit substances.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 26 - As We Used To Sing

Today's "song" is an instrumental by Norwegian trio Bushman's Revenge. They have a very interesting approach to music that is neither quite jazz or quite rock, yet still being completely jazz and rock. However, don't make the mistake of calling this jazzrock and think about some of the music from the 70s and 80s that fell in that category. And there isn't much about this that is smooth - this is uncompromising in sound, yet with an undeniable sense of melody and harmony. To me, this is great music. Today's piece is called As We Used To Sing, and was originally done by Sonny Sharrock. Don't worry, I didn't know who he was either, but I do now (his album Ask The Ages is great - and that's where this number is harvested from). As We Used To Sing opens Bushmen's Revenge's 2012 album A Little Bit of Big Bonanza, and it puts me in a good mood. Sounds good for today!

July 25 - The Kids Are On High Street

July was always a birthday month in my family - and what perfect time for birthdays. Norwegian strawberries are in high season, and if you haven't had one, especially one grown in Lensvik, you are missing out. Strawberries form the centerpiece of the Norwegian cake desert bløtkake, a spongecake layered with whipped cream and strawberries - and I happen to be the son of a master bløtkake baker, and today is a great day for her to showcase her mad skills, as my sister, Elin, has her birthday. I could tell you how old she is, but it wouldn't be nice of me to tell you all that she has reached the age that also is the answer to the big question about life, the universe, and everything (too bad the question itself is forgotten).

So I was two when my Elin was born, and I don't think my life ever was the same after. Of course, that is a good thing, as being two only should work for about a year. What I didn't realize at the time was that I in addition to getting a sister got a friend I couldn't imagine life without. Long vacations at Brekken, in the mountains far from civilizations, with no one but our family were absolutely made better by having a little sister to play with. Car drives were the same way - although I eventually locked myself in with my music - but counting how many camping trailers we saw on our trips somehow never got old.

As we grew older, our relationship started changing - and I would argue it changed for the even better. She might not have thought so when she started at the same high school as me and I was the russepresident (senior class president). Her high school career started with pictures of me plastered all over the school saying (S)Torebror ser deg (Store just adds an S to my name and means big in Norwegian - and bror means brother - so it said Big Brother Is Watching). I also used the moniker ToSk about myself, which means fool in Norwegian - and unfortunately for Elin, if we used the same contraction for her, ElSk means love (! - it's the imperative form), and when the yearbook listed that under her picture, I don't think she was too happy. But what else is a big brother to do?

As teenagers, we were pretty different - but since I didn't drink, I was a good choice for a designated driver for her and her friends. She got a safe driver who wouldn't talk too much to our parents about her condition at the point of pick-up. Although there was this one time... But I won't talk about that.

The same year I moved to the United States, my sister moved to Brighton, England. While I didn't return, she did come back to Trondheim a few years later with a big souvenir. She married Will in 2006, and with Lars William and Ole Christian, she has a great family - and a job as a theater nurse (that's the British term - but she works in the orthopedic OR). Distance makes it difficult to stay as in touch as I know both of us want to be, but we've remained close despite this obstacle.

I last saw her when she turned 40, two years ago, when I took Chris with me to Norway for an extended week's vacation. I cannot tell how much it meant for me to get to spend time with her and her family - as well as other family and friends. Can you tell I miss her?

As much as I would love to say that I have influenced her musical tastes (I know there is a sliver of it somewhere), she was always too poppy for my tastes. But as she grew older, she started getting a slightly more evolved palette than the one that really liked Milli Vanilli - and on occasion she has alerted me to some interesting music as well. I believe she was the one who sent me a cd of Norwegian band Madrugada's The Deep End for Christmas in 2005. I had heard about them before, but it really was the song The Kids Are On High Street that sucker punched my gut and opened my ears to how great this band was. Unfortunately, their career was cut short with 2008's eponymous album following the death of guitar player Robert Buraas, but their output is well worth an investment. Happy birthday, Elin!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24 - Vuolgge Mu Mielde Bassivarrai (Come With Me To The Sacred Mountain)

May 26 1996 was a nice and warm Sunday night, and that was when I first met the music of Mari Boine head on. I had received a free ticket from Studentradioen i Bergen, and went with Johan Ludvig Brattås at least - but I also think Thomas Ekrene was there. The venue was USF - Røkeriet, formerly the smoker part of United Sardine Factory, which has been repurposed as a very interesting concert venue. I will admit to only remember bits and pieces of everything happening outside of the musical part, but I remember the music vividly.

Mari Boine Band was led by Mari Boine, a massive bundle of power and energy packed into a small body. She mixes Sami traditional music (often joik - pronounced yoik) with more modern rhithms solidly planted in rock. Her group of musicians also blew me away. She sang and used some Sami percussion, Roger Ludvigsen was a wizard on electric guitar, Gjermund Silseth kept the bottom rolling on his bass, Helge Nordbakken looked beyond drums on his percussive quest for rhythm, Carlos Quispe made flutes sound like I never heard them before (just listen to today's song), and Hege Rimestad played the violin and fiddle like a woman possessed at times. And that is what happened to me as well. Vuolgge Mu Mielde Bassivarrai has a hypnotic rhythm that just drags me deeper and deeper into it as I listen to it. And today it's your turn. The lyrics are in Sami, which means that I am as clueless as you will be as to what she is singing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 23 - Se Alltid Lyst På Livet

In my College Success class, my students just finished a journal entry writing about a time they experienced negative emotions followed by a time they experienced positive emotions, and then reflect on how they felt when writing about them. Most of them talked about how they were able to relive the emotions they felt at the time while writing about them, and that has been so true throughout this year of daily writing. It has also been one of the main reasons I slow down on a few postings and don't get too personal - but today I can't help it. July 23rd has always been my grandma's birthday, and it is hard not to spend some time remembering her today. She was farmor, my father's mother, married to farfar, my father's father (there's a shocker...!)

I came into her life the year she turned 60. It's funny when you start thinking about it this way - she was always in my life, but she lived almost 60 years without me around. I've always wondered what she was like growing up and in her youth - as well as in her adult life - and while I have heard stories (most of them, I am sure, had been sanitized over the years), those are still 60 years that I never will know first-hand.

But I do know who she was to me. I know who she was for me. I remember waking up at her place, on farfar's side of the bed (he was relegated to a sleeper sofa when my sister and I spent the night), turning on the light and compulsively itching what looked like small mosquito bites in the middle of winter. She told me to turn out the light and go back to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I was still itching, and the red dots had multiplied. And there was fever. Chicken pox. Which led to massive nurturing. She was really good at that.

I remember sitting at her kitchen table, eating spiralloff (white bread baked in a tubular bread pan rather than the rectangular ones we often think of) with sliced bananas, looking out over one of the main roads going in to town, often looking at trikken (the street car in Trondheim) coming in to it's final destination. Actually, the streetcar was the reason my grandparents lived where they lived. My grandfather had been one of the people instrumental in building the apartment building they lived in for the conductors and drivers of the streetcar. The garage was next door, and my dad still gets visibly shaken when talking about the great fire of the streetcar garage in 1956, when he was only 6 years old.

I could go on and on. But the main thing I do think about when I think about farmor is the constant that started way back in elementary school and kept going all the way until I moved to the states, and that was playing cards, especially Canasta. I am not sure how old I was when I learned to play this fascinating card game, but I remember playing it every Wednesday from I was in third grade, I believe, and all throughout high school. When I was in third grade, my Wednesday schedule was short, so I would get on the bus right outside my school and take it all the way to my grandparents' apartment building (we actually had different schedules for each day, very different from the American school system - and we started going to school 15 hours a week in first grade and gradually increasing the number spent in school, which I believe really worked to our advantage). There was food and chocolate and other goodies - let's just say that I was well taken care of - and then there was Canasta. In the beginning, both farmor and farfar would play, but eventually it was just farmor and I most days.

As I got older, I got better at the game - but farmor had a harder time remembering the cards, so I would beat her quite often. Beat her badly. And she wasn't the most gracious of losers all the time. you could read her frustrations from miles away. So just to make sure she would stay interested, I started making "mistakes" as well. I started letting her win - but not so often that she would get too suspicious. I will say that I know she caught on to it from time to time, but most of the time we were both too happy to simply be playing to care about the winning and losing aspect (don't get me wrong, I get competitive playing cards and board games, and I think I am the same way farmor was - I think my displeasure of not doing well is very obvious with me as well).

She lived for a little over five years after I moved to the states. She got a chance to meet my oldest daughter, Emma, twice, and I know how much that meant to her. Farmor and I got incredibly close - although we had our issues as well - and I believe that is because we had our weekly card game. Closing my eyes, I can smell her place, smell the food on the stove, and hear her voice. And I miss her. A lot. Being here when she died and not being able to go to her funeral/memorial service was really difficult - but then again I have a hard time with funerals, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise. I wrote a few words for her, but I still wish I could have been there in person regardless.

Picking a song for her isn't easy, as her musical tastes predates mine quite a bit - she liked a lot of songs that for me always seemed old fashioned. But she also liked Lillebjørn Nilsen, so I picked one of his songs today - a song called Se Alltid Lyst På Livet (Always Look At The Bright Side of Life - and no, not the Monty Python song). It's a great song about remaining positive even when life turns itself against you...

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 22 - (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding?

So the Republican National Circus is over. Lots of balancing acts, clowns, and declawed roaring animals with children (although they are the adult children of the ringmaster) volunteering as part of the act. The contortionist Republican Party is feverishly trying to bend itself away from where it has been into Trump's vision of, well... Calling it a vision is giving it too much credit. Trump's whims is probably better. Let's go to an election based on hate and fear - because that's what they are selling.

And that's where I will counter with Elvis Costello's version of Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding? Just to balance Trump out.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21 - Timebomb

Tonight, Donald Trump will accept the nomination as the GOP unpresidential candidate. If he is honest, Chumbawamba has already written his acceptance speech. The song Timebomb is from the great album Anarchy from 1993.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20 - Youth Against Fascism

Today's song was written in 1992 and released on Sonic Youth's album Dirty, which was their best selling record - and with good reason. The songs are strong throughout but still retains the noise rock edge. Lyrically they are also hitting a ton of high notes with me - from songs about love and loss to more politically charged songs, like today's Youth Against Fascism.

With everything that's been said in the campaign so far, especially the references to Trump's hand size, the lines, "Yes an impotent squirt, sieg heiling jerk" really sound remarkably prescient. The Republican National Convention is well underway, and they are all ready to submit to someone who, as The Huffington Post regularly points out, regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

We need more people against fascism, but we'll start with the Sonic Youth...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19 - Dickie's Such An Asshole

OK - it's official: No theme this week. Today's song is inspired by yesterday's headlines, where some are drawing clear lines from Trump back to Richard Nixon, who in turn inspired Frank Zappa to write this nice little song satirizing Tricky Dickie and Watergate back in 1973. He took it out again on his spectacular 1988 tour, and it was included on Broadway The Hard Way, which is a solid collection of Zappa songs. Two other releases came from that tour: Make a Jazz Noise Here and The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life. Between these three releases, you have the real foundation for my appreciation of Zappa. I wish he was alive today - he'd have a field day over the trump ascendance. After all, he had his own personal vendetta running against televangelists in 1988, including Jimmy Swaggart, who quite frequently was his target (the Beatles medley on this tour was never released, but exists in unofficial formats and is well worth listening to for their takedown of Swaggart).

Living in Michigan, this also has to be dedicated to our beloved widely despised governor, Richard Snyder, who didn't really worry too much about lead levels in the water of Flint, Michigan until it became politically expedient (and inescapable) to do so. The same governor who installed the person in charge in Flint who made the determination of switching water supply to a more corrosive source than they originally had.

So yes, there are quite a few deserving people. mr. trump, this one's to you (capitalization left out to conform to hand size).

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18 - Molde Canticle

Today's song of the day is really not a song - but a lyrical musical piece by Jan Garbarek, who is one of many Norwegian jazz musicians who find themselves on the ECM label, which really specializes in a cold and roomy sound that really matches the Norwegian soul (what Norwegians characterize as folkesjela). I am thinking this week might give us more of ECM's music with Norwegian musicians, but I am not positive quite yet. I have always thought Jan Garbarek to be overrated, but I have a couple of albums of his that I really like, and I Took Up The Runes, where the studio version of Molde Canticle is found is one of them.

Now Jan Garbarek's jazz cred is undisputed, having played with greats like Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden amongst others. He is a virtuoso player, but I am not always enthused by what he plays. However, Molde Canticle really matches my tastes. I believe he wrote it for Molde International Jazz Festival in 1990, but I have not been able to verify it. Since the studio version I found on YouTube only had pictures from Poland, I thought this live version would work for today.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 17 - Salt of the Earth

So this week, we started in the US with Bruce Springsteen, then went through Norway and Sweden before ending up in the UK - and that is where we will be today as well. The Rolling Stones was one of my dad's absolute favorite bands, and as you might guess based on yesterday's song, they soon became a band for me to listen to as well. He had a couple of their albums - a worn out copy of Out of Our Heads (UK version) and a slightly less worn copy of Around and Around, both albums part of their earlier output when a lot of their recordings were cover versions of older blues standards. Then, in my cousin Ingrid's record collection, I did see a copy of Let It Bleed. I never listened to it at that point, but I was intrigued by the cover art, a stack of circular items with a cream cake top all waiting to be dropped down on a record player.

I didn't really explore this period of the Stones until I found a reissue of Sticky Fingers in 1994 with the real closing metal zipper (cover designed by Andy Warhol). I think I had a cassette copy of Sticky Fingers before this as well, but something really clicked when I got the CD, and I started exploring this period of their career. I picked up Let It Bleed, because, of course, the cover was great - and I discovered that the songs were even better. Having had Honky Tonk Women around for a long time, Country Honk was an awesome discovery - and then there was Gimme Shelter, one of my all time Stones favorite. When I eventually found my way to Beggars Banquet, I was once again sold, and the final song is one of those songs that you think you may have heard just about everywhere - but yet it is undeniably Stones. Salt of the Earth is sung as a duet between Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and is an ode to the working class more than anything.

I had the pleasure of seeing Stones live in 1990 on their Urban Jungle tour. It was the last tour they did with Bill Wyman, and I am very happy that I had a chance to see the full band (granted, Ronnie Wood was still the "new guy", having logged only about 20 years at that time). This was in the days before online ordering, so I spent the night outside the local record store in line to get one of their allotted tickets to the second show in Norway on the tour, which was added after the first show sold out very quickly. It wasn't necessary, as there were tickets available throughout the summer, but I am still glad I did (even though it was cold - winter in Trondheim isn't exactly warm). Anyway, please enjoy Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with Salt of the Earth.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

July 16 - Waterloo Sunset

Sometimes my themes start morphing as the week goes by, and the idea of exploring working class and blue collar in songs is really changing a little today as I bring you a little bit of everyday poetry instead. Although, truth be told, The Kinks wrote several songs about working class (I had initially thought about using Sunny Afternoon for today, which really satirizes British upper class, but I though it might be a little too far for now) - and it's not hard to see Waterloo Sunset as a description of love in a blue collar/working class setting either.

I started listening to The Kinks because of my dad. I think that I have exposed myself to a lot of music because I wanted to get closer to people, and this was no exception. Like many other boys growing up, I really wanted to be so close to my dad as to become him( luckily I outgrew that part and decided that being my own person would be even better, but I was blessed with a great role model). Anyway, he had talked about The Kinks as one of his favorite bands growing up, so I wanted to listen to them as well. I started with aforementioned Sunny Afternoon, which is one of the songs he'll "sing" along to (if you ever heard him, you would know why the quotation marks are needed). Then he borrowed a couple of lps from a friend, and we played them over and over. And then came Van Halen. Listening to Van Halen's covers of All Day and All of the Night and You Really Got Me made me want to revisit The Kinks for me as well, and I loved what I heard.

One year, I think it must have been around 1988, my mom got the chance to accompany my dad on a business trip to Paris. They were so excited about the trip - and from how they talked about it, it was quite the experience. However, I was excited because of what they brought home for me. My dad had found The Kinks Are Well Respected Men, a double album with some of The Kinks' early EPs (all non-album tracks). Digging into that album, I discovered several of my favorite songs of theirs, like Set Me Free, See My Friends, and Days. Today's song, Waterloo Sunset, was unknown to me until I picked up one of their many Greatest Hits collections on CD, but quickly became my favorite Kinks song. The lyrics are so straightforward. There are no flowering words, not much in terms of hyperbole - just words that describe a couple in the center of London. Enjoy the song as well - I love the arrangement - but pay close attention to the words, because they are really something else (pun intended - the song is originally from Something Else by The Kinks).

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 15 - Working Class Hero

I am no longer sure when I first heard The Beatles - as far as I am concerned, they were always in my life, always around. I didn't always pay attention to their lyrics in the beginning, but they started to come crawling in later. As a matter of fact, there is so much growth in their lyrics that they are worthy of a study from Love Me Do through The End. And what often is regarded as missteps are to me great examples of their sense of humor, which is so apparent when you listen to early interviews.

I think what really got my obsession for The Beatles going was a combination of reading the book The Story of The Beatles, a biography written for young adults. That along with hearing some of their early interviews and radio sessions from BBC on the radio in my childhood really gave me a strong appreciation for them and their music (I hesitate to use the term unhealthy obsession here, because I have people I can compare myself to who make me look like a casual observer). I have my favorite Beatles ranked, of course, from George on the top to John, Paul, and finally Ringo - although I am far from a Ringo hater, I just happen to think he is the least interesting one of them (but his beats are sometimes deceptive in their perceived simplicity). When John Lennon died in 1980, he left a great what if - or what could have been. But we do know what he did.

I think his story is fascinating. From being a prolific solo artist starting while he was still in The Beatles, recording and releasing one album per year (two in 1969) from 1968 to 1975, he retired from music and became a devoted father to Sean Ono Lennon until he unretired in 1980 with the album Double Fantasy. Then, while working on a follow up album, released in 1984, he was shot in 1980 by crazed fan Mark David Chapman. I know I will revisit this in December, so I won't write much about his death today, but man, what a loss.

Working Class Hero is one of his most biting and scathing songs (at least that isn't about a person - Mother might take that one step further) and it is impossible to see it as anything but a description of his own upbringing. The lyrics are heartbreaking and anger inducing - and they describe British society from John Lennon's point of view. You can agree or disagree, but you can't ignore that that is how he feels.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 14 - Al Bowlly's In Heaven

Richard Thompson is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, and while he tells a lot of stories about heartaches and other similar woes, he has a very British approach to the working class and features the blue collar worker in several songs. My favorite of these has to be Al Bowlly's In Heaven from the 1986 album Daring Adventures. It tells the story of a man coming back from WWII, and the effects of a civilian life with unemployment and poverty that awaited him after the war. He is lamenting the stature he lost when he had to give up his uniform and feels like a walking dead ("I'm in limbo now"). Al Bowlly was a British jazz crooner of the 1930s who died in 1941, and he clearly was the soundtrack of his better days - but now that he is dead, the main character is envious. It's a beautiful song, and the version I have chosen is from the album Live From Austin TX and features spectacular fretwork from both Richard Thompson on guitar and Danny Thompson (no relation) on bass. This trio is rounded out by Michael Jerome on drums, and it has to be one of my favorite constellations of any of Richard Thompson's bands. This is a song to lay back and enjoy...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13 - Laglös (Lawless)

There are some songs you start hating because they are overplayed. Yesterday's artist, Åge Aleksandersen, had one of those on the very album yesterday's song was from. The song was Lys og varme (light and warmth). It is a heartfelt song written for his son, but it was played to death. I am happy to say that now it moves me again, like it did in the beginning, but it is after a very long and deliberate separation.

Today's artist is the same way. Ulf Lundell is a Swedish singer who often was referred to as Sweden's Bob Dylan, although I think he, too, might be closer to Bruce Springsteen. His song was called Öppna Landskap, and it was a song that just as easily could have been written at the end of the 19th century, when national romanticism was one of the leading trends in music. It is his celebration of Sweden and everything Swedish - which also resonated well in Norway. As one of my mom's favorite songs, it stands to reason that I started despising it pretty quickly.

But then I found myself at Hustad Leir, which I know I have written about before, and I was working in the library there. I kept on checking cds and books in and out, and I eventually noticed this one cd, Kär Och Galen, which happened to be the cd with Öppna Landskap on it. I don't really understand what possessed me to check it out for myself, but I did, and right in the middle of the album, there was a song that almost sucker punched me with all its deceptive simplicity. It's a song that works on many layers, but in the end, it is all about whether you just want to keep taking it on the chin or stand up for yourself. In many ways it's the answer to The River and Fire pils og en pizza - and it is called Laglös - or Lawless.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12 - Fire pils og en pizza (Four Pilsners and a Pizza)

Sunday I introduced some of you to Lillebjørn Nilsen, proclaiming him poet laureate of Oslo. Norway's poet laureate of the working class, on the other hand, has to be Åge Aleksandersen. Yes, I know that older generations will hold Rudolf Nilsen as an even stronger poet, but Åge is really Norway's Bruce Springsteen in terms of both style and substance. They both got started in the 70s, had their strongest followings in the 80s, got somewhat lost in the 90s, and enjoyed a resurgence this millennium. Also, they are both really into giving their audiences their money's worth, as they both hold really long concerts.

Today's song has a similar theme to it as yesterday's The River - but this time the dreams came in the form of promises the protagonist had no way of living up to. I have included a translation today as well, but I was working a little bit more on this one - hopefully I have been able to replicate the meter so that you potentially even can sing along a bit without knowing a word of Norwegian. The translation doesn't quite do the song justice, but at least you will have an idea what it is about.

It is also fitting to play Åge these days - his first solo album opened with a version of Elton John's Country Comfort with new lyrics: Langt igjen til Royal Albert Hall (I'm a Long Way From Royal Albert Hall). Just about a month ago, 41 years after singing about it, he was on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, which is a venerable concert hall in London. The audience was pretty much all Norwegian, as he only sings in trøndersk, a Norwegian dialect (which also happens to be what I speak when I speak Norwegian).

So while he finally could play Royal Albert Hall, the protagonist in his song still offered his loved one four pilseners and a pizza in place of the steak and champagne he had promised her. Here is 4 pils og en pizza from the album Levva Livet (Live the Life), a fantastic album from 1984 that became the best selling album in Norway at the time, selling 260,000 copies (not bad when you consider that the population of Norway was just over four million at the time).

Promised you the Bahamas
A brand new car, a Chevrolet
We still drive the beat up Mazda
In apartment number three

Four pilsners and a pizza
And bottled wine from time to time
No pricy steak or champagne
But I don’t complain

We had planned to buy a house, once
But we had to let it go
Now we are painting out apartment
We were two, but now we're three

Chorus (3 times)
Four pilsners and a pizza
And bottled wine from time to time
No pricy steak or champagne
But I don’t complain

Last year we traveled to Larvik
The vacation of our lives
Both kids were tan, and their father
Was nice and tan as well

Monday, July 11, 2016

July 11 - The River

Today's song starts a tribute to blue-collar rock lyrics. I am not sure how far it's going to go yet, but I am going to try. The first song is a really great song that I quote in my classes fairly regularly. It's a song about what happens when you let choices make you rather than making the choices yourself - or it's a song about unfulfilled potential. Or, it can simply be a song about love dying - or missing what was. Or, of course, all of the above. But the imagery is beautiful, and the music and delivery of the lyrics really help underline that. Just listen to how he speeds up the vocals, almost brimming with joy of the memories when he sings "I remember us riding...". And then the desperation - "Now those memories come back to haunt me"

The Rivee is such a great song that it deserves being played again and again. I know I have a lot of friends back home who went to see him recently on his tour with The River, revisiting the album, and that really inspired this selection.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 10 - Bysommer

There are some songwriters that simply are great poets, and Norwegian Lillebjørn Nilsen is one of them. This song is simply a series of images describing what you can do in the city while most of its inhabitants have left for their summer vacations. For American readers, this might seem a little strange, but employees in Norway have a period in the summer where a large group of employees take their summer vacation - and it's typically the last three weeks of July. Norway has mandatory five weeks of vacation for all workers - with an additional 6 days being added the year they turn 60 and beyond.

My summer vacations growing up were spent on an old farm in the mountains outside of Trondheim in the Røros area (even closer to Brekken). No running water and no TV - and usually for about three weeks straight. And yes, there was an outhouse and a well that we had to lower buckets into. I loved it. I could take my books there and read for hours - and we'd go for long hikes and pick berries. Because we went berrypicking, we usually waited and took our main vacation in August, when the berries would be ripe - and then the first part of summer after school was over, I would spend long chunks of time with grandparents and/or aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Lillebjørn Nilsen taught me how to play guitar. Not directly, but he has a book that he published called Lillebjørns Gitarbok (Lillebjørn's Guitar Book), which I used to teach myself how to play guitar. I still remember Tom Dooley as one of the first songs in that book - and Freight Train, which I tweaked a little. It was a great book for a beginner, and it has served me really well. So thank you, Lillebjørn Nilsen. One of Norway's finest singer/songwriters, and a masterful guitarist, for giving me the gift of playing guitar!

Lillebjørn Nilsen should be named poet laureate of Oslo, as his songs so often take place in that city and he is able to find beauty in concrete and asphalt. In Bysommer, he writes about summer in the city. I have always loved this song - ever since I heard it for the first time sometime around 1979, when it was first released on the album Oslo 3, named from the postal code of the part of Oslo he wrote about so often. Bysommer means city summer in Norwegian (Google Translate results of the lyrics are below the video - with minor corrections by yours truly)

It's summer - it's hot at night.  
Liv has taken on the white hat.  
It's 20 degrees water at Katten
,  - At least there are certainly more than 18.  
Eat krokan*-ice cream or chocolate!  
Take a swim in Frognerbadet!  
Can you anywhere better to have it  
than in Oslo in the summer time when stressed out guys  
all disappeared to Mallorca,  
or sitting in a Ferry line at Lavik?  
Yes at Lavik!

It's summer - it's warm evenings.  
You can sleep on the porch, or  
be awake all night rather.  
without duvet or hot pelts.  
Now the city is almost empty of cars.  
On the bench there is a man and rests.
It's so nice in Oslo that I doubt  
that someone has no better holiday
than those who have been left  
In Oslo without other duties  
than to water flowers for an aunt.  
Yes, for an aunt!

It's summer in Studenterlunden,
Where girls walk with smiles on their faces
 although much of it is disappearing  
because they're digging for the new underground .  
Yet we still have pavement restaurants.  
And you can listen to a busker  
which takes the same song many times.  
And see people you know spending money  
on a piece of jewelry that they think he created himself,  
who's sitting there with the storefront in his lap  
Yes, in his lap!

It's summer - it's hot during the day.  
All have fairly good. except  
those who complain of wind in Skagen.  
But I have cold mackerel and beer in my belly.  
And have not been to Helgeroa.  
I was sitting at the Manor Inn.  
And went for a walk across the Vigeland bridge
 on a night that was so warm that I lay awake until the sun rose
and wrote a song that I went and tried
 fairly quietly on the balcony.  
Yes, on the balcony.

*krokan means caramelized almonds - not quite burned almonds, just tossed in sugar, caramelized, and chopped finely.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

July 9 - Yess

This is a song that I think some of you will think breaks with my musical taste. The year was 1999, and I was frantically trying to get everything together to fly over to the US on August 5 and then to get married on Friday August 13. My dad had been working in Australia for quite some time, and my mom was flying over to join him for a while - and my sister had just left her long-term boyfriend and finished nursing school and needed to get moved back to Trondheim. Helping her move was actually one of my favorite things to do that summer - I remember spending the night in her tiny student apartment before carrying everything out to the trailer the next morning. Then we drove down to my uncle Olav, where my grandmother had been, and took her with us on the drive home. It was a great trip - and while moving might not seem like it is relaxing, it was a nice break for me to take the trip. I have always relaxed when driving, and Norwegian summers can be really sunny and nice, and that's how I remember it.

But in all the stress and hectic flurries of activities of that summer (don't get me started on the uncertainties about getting the visa in time), there was this one song that reminded me that, "yes, it's summer, and everything is chill". The beats were laid back, the vocal delivery was laid back, and the lyrics were laid back - so I could more easily get to my default laid back state of mind. So today, I thought I'd share what kept me grounded in the chaotic summer of 1999: Folk & Røvere (people and robbers) with their 1999 summer hit, Yess.

Friday, July 08, 2016

July 8 - So Let Me Go Far

It appears that I am starting a trend of summer songs that were released in October, because today's song is another one that really reminds me of summer. Dodgy is a British band that started out in the mid-90s, and their second album, Homegrown was released in October 1994. In 1995 I started in Studentradioen i Bergen, and on their alternative playlist (Alternatippen), I found this song by Dodgy, which was played often that spring - and I really fell for Dodgy. Homegrown is a solid album - it's a very feel-good vibe - but I have to confess that I just listen to So Let Me Go Far now. It is the only song for me that stood the test of time.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

July 7 - Govinda

It's summer time, and to me, this next song is one of my favorite summer songs. Granted, it was released in October 1996, about 20 years ago, but it has been one of the sounds of summer in the late 90s for me. Kula Shaker was one of my guilty pleasures - although I didn't feel particularly guilty about them. I like their Indian influences - the cascading sitars and guitars and the tablas, which are the drums you can hear throughout (tablas have a very distinctive sound). I don't know what George Harrison thought of them, but listening to the song of the day, there is no doubt what they thought of George Harrison. Please enjoy Govinda!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

July 6 - The Fool On The Hill

When I grew up, my father's brothers both lived in Ski, a smaller city about an hour outside of Oslo - and about 8 hours away from Trondheim, where they grew up and I lived with my family. My uncle Olav had sons who were quite a bit older than me, but my uncle Arne, my dad's youngest older brother, and my aunt Anicken, were the parents of two sons. This was not unusual in the Skogseth family. My grandma was the only girl among a boatload of boys (I never remember how many, but I think she had five brothers), and then she ended up with three sons herself, and as her sons started having kids, Olav had two sons, Arne had two sons, then there was me - and finally, breaking the "curse," was my sister, Elin, my grandmother's final grandchild - and only granddaughter.

Anyway, Arne and Anicken had two sons, Geir and Stein, and Stein just happened to be my age, born two months later than me. I got along great with Stein, and we started spending time with one another during the summers as we were teenagers. Sometimes we were at my grandparents' summer house at Frosta, which was great, especially when we started realizing that there were teenage girls in the neighbor's house (that was a little bit later). But I also got to spend time at their house in the summer. I remember discovering books there (one summer, the book Falketårnet by Erik Fosnes Hansen was read on the radio at Ungdommens Radioavis), listening to Kiss, as Stein had the album Dynasty, although it was thoroughly scratched by a cat if I remember right, getting exposed to science (I remember Geir being completely into Carl Sagan's Cosmos), and getting a more complete exposure to The Beatles.

My aunt Anicken had purchased a box set of all the records they released, and she even let me borrow them to listen to them. I was overwhelmed. I had been exposed to most of their early output already, and that is what I connected to. I am not sure if Magical Mystery Tour was in it - I remember it as if it were, and as if I discovered The Fool on the Hill, but I don't trust my memory with that kind of detail. However, I can tell you with an absolute certainty that when I got my The Beatles CD box a few years back, my thoughts went to my aunt Anicken again for letting me explore The Beatles fully.

I also mentioned books - and while Falketårnet was a favorite of mine, nothing surpassed the fact that I left their house one summer with The Lord of the Rings in my luggage. On the trainride from Oslo to Trondheim I devoured The Fellowship of the Ring, and within a week, I had read the entire tome. And they also came to my sister's wedding. Like I said yesterday, it was a great day. I brought my oldest daughter, Emma, to be the flower girl in the wedding, and the Skogseth side of my family kidnapped her and sat with her the entire evening. Arne and Anicken had bought one of the first Lego Friends sets for her, and they kept her entertained - or was it the other way around?

So - since this was one of the first later-era Beatles songs I connected with, and my memory insists it happened thanks to Anicken's lp box, here is The Beatles with The Fool on the Hill.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

July 5 - Vienna

Today's memory still makes me smile. Because that is now what this song represents to me - a very good memory. I am not sure how old I was - but if I am to guess, I would say around 12 or 13, maybe a little older. I was visiting my uncle Olav (the oldest of my dad's two older brothers) and aunt Sigrid, and as usual I believe I had been stuffed by some good home cooking. I believe I was spending the night there, and at one point they really wanted to show me my cousin's room. Tor Øivind is still about 6 years older than me, and he worked in an electronics store at that time, so what caught my eyes was the magnificent stereo. If I remember correctly, he had what I at least considered a state of the art Bang & Olufsen system. And I wanted to test it. The problem was that my music and my aunt and uncle's music didn't always align. My uncle was really into the old crooners, especially Frank Sinatra, if I remember correctly, and I was pretty close to not listening to anything but Kiss (I believe this was a little bit later). But that's when I saw it: A CD that I was convinced I could play at least one song from and they might actually even like it as well.

I asked them if I could play one song. I remember the hesitation, but they let me do this (now, Tor Øivind, if you happen to read this, please know that I treated it with respect - and your parents were just very proud of your "boys' room" - and of you - and wanted to show it off). So I took the cd, placed it in the cd player and pressed play, and Ultravox's song Vienna filled the room. In the beginning, they seemed a little skeptical, but as the chorus started building to the "this means nothing to me" part, I could see that I had won them over. Maybe it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things - after all, it was my cousin's cd and not mine - but to me it meant a lot to be able to share a musical moment with my aunt and uncle.

I last saw my aunt and uncle in my sister's wedding in 2006. My aunt passed away in 2007, and two years later it was my uncle's time to go. In my sister's wedding, I had a couple of hats to wear (which probably was good, because the tux really didn't fit me at all) - and one of them was being the usher for the wedding. I didn't realize how tough that job would be. Because here came one person after another who had a profound impact on me growing up - and I hadn't seen any of them in at least 7 years. I tend to be an emotional wreck, so holding back the tears for every person walking in was really difficult - and my aunt and uncle were the personification of that. All of a sudden they just were right there. In front of me. It is just another great memory from a great day. But the song of the day really makes me think back to that evening, in my cousin's room, listening to the voice of Midge Ure of Ultravox singing Vienna.

Monday, July 04, 2016

July 4 - Rockin' In The Free World

So here we are on Independence Day. The United States of America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. However, as soon as something bad happens, freedom and bravery goes out the window, replaced by a desire for safety that walls other people out of our permanently padded room.

I have been thinking about freedom and what it means to me - and I believe Kris Kristofferson had an excellent point when he said that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" in Me and Bobby McGee. But that is only one aspect of freedom. There are some other freedoms that are incredibly important to me, and those include the freedom of belief and expression. These are also some of the more difficult freedoms to grapple with, as having those freedoms in place not only gives ME the freedom to believe and say what I will (with certain limitations); it also gives YOU the freedom to believe and say what you will. When that really gets crappy is when I so wholeheartedly believe that you are wrong that all I want to do is shut you up.

The first amendment to the US Constitution guarantees us the freedom of speech - and the freedom of belief. It is worrisome to me that a large group of people want to really limit this freedom - and in reality strip one large group of people of it. Led by Donald Trump, the call for surveillance of mosques, encouragements to have people turn in their neighbors if they act suspiciously, and a ban of Muslims to enter the US (which may be temporary and may have exceptions depending on what day of the week it is), is actually finding a fairly solid support.

The problem is that it is easy for a lot of us to say this, especially if we are not Muslims ourselves - because a lot of us don't necessarily know too many either. We know Islam has been the religion of many recent terrorists (but far from all, although we don't always talk about some of the other attacks as acts of terrorism), so banning them from entering, encouraging reporting of suspicious activity, and  watching mosques seems like it can make us safer. Except it doesn't. It makes us more fearful. Perfectly innocent activities can be interpreted as suspected activity if we already believe they are capable of heinous acts. And, to use examples from nazi-occupied Norway, neighborly disputes were quickly settled by reporting your neighbor to the nazis, and while we still have greater protection of our civil rights here in the US than we did in nazi-occupied Norway, I can easily see this happen here as well as fear keeps gripping.

It is too easy to accept limits to other people's freedoms. But that really misses the point. A limit to other people's freedom is a limit to all our freedoms. And this isn't about us and them. It is about all of us. An American is an American is an American - but beyond that, a human is a human is a human. This is affirmed in one of the most significant texts of the US canon, the Declaration of Independence, which holds that "all men are created equal", and our "inalienable rights" include "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But all this gets lost in fear and paranoia.

Now this isn't what Neil Young is singing about in his iconic song Rockin' in the Free World from the  album Freedom from 1989. He was attacking our callous attitude to the less fortunate in society - but that in turn is also about seeing things from an us and them perspective. It's all us. And the sooner we realize that, the better off I believe we will be.

And so I have rambled. I might have to make my thoughts more coherent, but this is what you get today. And you get to keep on Rockin' in the Free World. At least until January. So vote in November - and by all means, do not vote Trump. To quote Elizabeth Warren: "I'm with her!" And then she pointed to Hillary Clinton. Finally, before you tell me to shut up or pack my bags and go back to Norway, remember that first amendment of the constitution we celebrate today. If you want to keep on celebrating it, also celebrate the fact that it allows me to write these words. And I do that in celebration of that freedom.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

July 3 - Homophobia

Today's song has always been difficult to listen to for me. The opening verse creates an image that I have been unable since I first heard it in the mid-90s. I know Chumbawamba is best known for just one song, and that is Tubthumping, but I have always preferred their album Anarchy from 1994 - the opening trio of songs, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, Timebomb, and Homophobia is a three-headed political and musical beast - but the crowning achievement has to be Homophobia. The dark and serious lyrics are belied by the happy and naive melody. This is British brilliance at its best.

Oh - and my personal position on the topic? Love whomever you love, regardless of gender. Nothing more needs to be said.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

July 2 - Hiding All Away

So I love Nick Cave, but I had all but given up on him when he in 2004 released the double album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. He had gotten more boring than Sting as he regressed with every album from The Boatman's Call in 1997. Maybe his personal life got more settled after his 1999 marriage and subsequent relocation to the Brighton area on the southern coast of England. I don't know, but 2003's Nocturama was a genuine snooze fest, so my expectations to this new double album were low. Very low. Below floor level low. But luckily I did pick it up, and I was blown away. His fury was back - and with a vengeance. The best example is from the song Hiding All Away, with its furious chorus: "There is a war coming". Indeed.

Friday, July 01, 2016

July 1 - Pleasure and Pain

I was introduced to Ben Harper very much the same way I was introduced to later Grateful Dead: through Norma Waterson. Her first solo album, simply called Norma Waterson, was released in 1996, and I would not have known about it had it not been for the fact that Richard Thompson played guitar on it, and my friend Thomas picked it up as the Richard Thompson completist he is. Grateful Dead's Black Muddy River is one of the standout tracks - but to me, the star of the show was a little song by Ben Harper called Pleasure and Pain. While I like her version of it, Ben Harper's naked version of it, from his debut album, Welcome To The Cruel World, is to me a couple of notches better. Ben Harper is a great singer, but an even better guitar player, so please enjoy!