“Wishlist” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-03-23 23:32:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Pearl Jam chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

You know what I wish?  I wish that I would wake up tomorrow and there would no longer be anyone on the entire planet who smoked cigarettes.  Never mind the health risk — which, by the way, there are few ingestible products that come with a “may cause cancer” label.  The concept of breathing tar into your lungs aside, let’s consider the ramifications to non-smokers on the road. For instance, I sat in a McDonald’s drive-through tonight for ten minutes and was delighted by not only the automobile emissions but two smokers puffing away.  The breeze was such that my car was filled with noxious fumes.

In a sense, this was great, because the fish filet and large fries actually seemed healthy by comparison!  :-)

Seriously, though, what really gets me is the disposal of the butts.  It’s happened so many times recently that I’ll be driving down the road and someone in the car ahead of me will flick a lit cigarette out of their window.  I don’t know if it’s due to me being older, a generally law-abiding dork, a teacher of transcendental texts like Emerson’s “Nature,” or a combination of the three, but this is enough to drive me crazy recently.  To paraphrase our friend Matt Griffiths from the WCJM morning show, it’s just enough to tweak my hypothalamus and send me into an uncontrollable rage!

I suppose I simply can’t imagine driving in my car, holding a lit piece of paper in my hand, and saying to myself, “I’m done with this.  Why not chuck it out the window?”  Since when did that become the acceptable form of cigarette disposal?! Think twice ye smokers, lest you piss off the drivers behind you (such as myself tonight when a highly tossed butt bounced off my car, lit ashes flying everywhere)…

For those of you wondering what this has to do with my post tonight, prepare to be dazzled.  Well, maybe not dazzled…

Just as I have ranted about something that has bothered me and later wondered if it was too negative, so did Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam decide that he should try writing something positive.  Out of a lengthier “stream-of-consciousness exercise,” we have the “better wishes” presented in this little gem of a song.  It was an instant favorite of mine upon first listening to Pearl Jam’s 1998 album Yield.  As with Binaural, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this album, as it sold less and seemed generally regarded as at least somewhat inferior to previous releases such as Ten and Vitalogy.  But I love this album, and I love this song.  For once, the song I love most is actually in my vocal range!

Okay, so that’s not entirely true.  My first pick for a song to learn and play would have been “Do The Evolution.”  For any of you familiar with that song, you should be sitting at your computer laughing at simply the notion of my attempting to sing a song like that!  I understand my own limitations!  :-)   That being said, you should take the time to search on YouTube for “Pearl Jam Evolution” and watch the official music video; it’s simply amazing — a very cool use of animation to visualize the lyrics to a song.

Along with my acoustic cover song music video tonight, I also send a shout out to my girlfriend Nicole who is a big fan of this song.  (I hope you like it!)  As she is currently in possession of my CD copy of the album and my iPod is tied up with my Bob Dylan playlist (518 out of 622 tracks!), I had to rely on my iPhone to listen to “Wishlist” tonight as I wrote out the lyrics and chords.  What a Mac nerd I am… but I love it.  Speaking of Macs, if I don’t end up writing a full review of U2’s No Line on the Horizon, please allow me to go on record saying that “Unknown Caller” has to be the worst track on the album for a number of reasons.  It’s only redeeming quality is that Bono makes lyrical references (“force quit and move to trash”) that bely his computer loyalties…

Although I have so much more I could say — about Pearl Jam’s re-release of Ten tomorrow, this song, other music, the fact that my dad and I just bought tickets to see Bruce Hornsby at the MGM Grand on Friday(!), life in general — I think this is enough for one night!  As a final note, please allow me to point out that this is officially the tenth post in the Pearl Jam category here at the Laptop Sessions, rounding us off to an even ten just in time for the re-release of Ten for tomorrow’s New Music Tuesday, March 24th, 2009!

For all you new music fans, don’t forget to stop by the blog tomorrow night for an all-new high-quality Jim Fusco Tuesday.  I have it on good authority that he’ll be taking it to a WHOLE…  NOTHA….  LEH-VAL….

See you next session!

Reflections on Rock Music: How to Become a Songwriter…

Originally posted 2009-04-20 23:38:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Regardless of which genre of rock music you listen to, chances are that you are a fan of songwriters.  As recently as the fifties and even into the sixties, it was considered par for the course to have the songwriting separated from the performance.  For instance, consider Lieber and Stoller’s contributions to Elvis Presley’s catalog.  Johnny Cash wrote some of his songs, but he certainly covered more than he wrote.  And this was an understandable system.

Somewhere along the line, the singer/songwriter became a closely watched and more appreciated commodity.

It really began in the sixties, predominantly with Dylan and the Beatles.  Both acts began by playing traditional music and covers before they started writing their own music.  Whatever it was, something struck them, and from that point forward, it only made sense to record their own material.  This most likely contributed to the legendary heights that sixties rock music reached.  Consider Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, Dylan’s groundbreaking records that truly sounded like nothing that had come before.  Take Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles’ experimental and, in the case of the latter, concept albums that literally changed the texture of album making as we know it.

Meanwhile, don’t forget all the other singer/songwriters who emerged during that period and since.  Brian Wilson went so far in the mid-sixties as to stop touring and devote his attentions one hundred percent to songwriting and arranging lush, complicated — and, of course, beautiful — background tracks, perhaps best showcased on Pet Sounds and the finally-released SMiLE (the latter of which literally drove him crazy).

Since then, some of my personal favorite bands and individual artists have been, first and foremost, songwriters.  Take Warren Zevon’s unique brand of songwriting, particularly his dark humor and literary references.  Or R.E.M. and their contributions to the genre now known as “alternative rock,” wherein Michael Stipe purposely cut out electric guitar solos and — at least in the band’s early work — muffled the lyrics so that there was no single set of understood words for each song.  It was literally left up for interpretation.

Later acts have split off in a range of directions.  For instance, acts like Ben Folds, the Barenaked Ladies, and the Wallflowers have clearly taken their lead from classic sixties songwriters and then added their own unique lyrical and instrumental twists.  Other bands, such as Pearl Jam and Wilco (to name only a couple), continue to make music that stretches and redefines the boundaries that have previously been set for rock music and songwriting in general.  (This is a painfully short list of five contemporary bands that I love, but they are enough to provide fodder for conversation…)

So, based on this, how does one become a songwriter?

If you’ve always wanted to be a songwriter but were never sure how, or even if you’ve just been curious, then this list is for you…

1)  Rebel Against Something

This is a requisite coming-of-age process for all you prospective songwriters who hope to make it to the big time.  Whether you have grown up in suburbia or on the streets, there are always reasons to rebel.  For Bob Dylan, it was the dull realities of daily life in a dying mining town in Minnesota that caused him to see music as an escape.  He has described his exhilaration as he tuned his radio in to whatever distant stations he could pick up.  Others, such as Eddie Vedder, found music as a way to channel their emotional reactions to what they experienced and witnessed around them.  Vedder reflected on such experiences from young adulthood as abusive relationships, dysfunctional people, and secrets being kept from him.

2)  Show Your Distaste for Tradition and “The Man”

Once you’ve begun the process of rebelling (and perhaps even winning over the masses), it’s time to stick it to “the Man.”  The Beatles’ history epitomizes this development.  They certainly didn’t go from “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” overnight, but one thing is certain: the more they rebelled, the more fans flocked to Beatlemania.  Bob Dylan brought a giant light bulb to a press conference, refused to communicate in a straightforward manner with any member of the press, and plugged in — full volume — at the Newport Folk Festival.  The Moody Blues promised they would record a classical album, then turned around and used the studio time alotted to them to record their own original material for Days of Future Passed.  Pearl Jam fought the good fight against the “convenience charges” implimented by Ticketmaster, and Eddie Vedder, after a fan threw a copy of Rolling Stone onstage during a concert, wiped his butt with the magazine, explaining to the crowd that RS printed a cover photo of him without the other members of his band in the shot.  When Trent Reznor tired of record label interference and corporate nonsense, the Nine Inch Nails frontman began releasing his music online — including his 2008 album The Slip — for free.

And the list goes on…

Perhaps the best example of the importance of this step in the successful songwriter’s career is found in the Beach Boys’ decision not to play at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival.  For the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, they were labeled as “them” instead of “us” by many music fans.  It is arguable that the Beach Boys’ clean cut image that skyrocketed them to success in the early sixties ultimately led to the band’s decline in popularity.  Ah, the irony…

3)  Go Through Rehab

This sounds like a terrible and heartless suggestion to make to you.  Yet, while there are some artists who have not gone through rehab, there are indeed many great musicians and songwriters who have had to face their addictions and other demons at some point in their careers.  Recently, Jeff Tweedy underwent rehabilitation to deal with an addiction to painkillers.  He, like many other artists in the past, was asked what the effect would be on his music.  (I was delighted with his reply — essentially, he said he was feeling better than ever and that his state of mind can only have a positive effect on Wilco’s music.)

Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash was asserted by many to be his way of stepping back from the spotlight after a wild tour overseas where he was known to take downers before the acoustic half of his show and then take uppers during the intermission before coming out with the Band.  He was quickly setting a precedent that no individual could survive.  Brian Wilson, of course, withdrew from music and life in general for decades after failing to release SMiLE; it is apparent to anyone who has seen him recently that he still battles with those personal demons.

If not rehab, then every songwriter certainly needs to undergo a period of reflection after a fall from grace.  Take the case of the Barenaked Ladies’ Steven Page, who recently left the band in the aftermath of his cocaine bust.  To read many so-called fans’ scathing rants against him online, you would think you had stepped back into Puritan times.

(Still, I can imagine that he will only be stronger for the experience, and I can’t wait to hear what his next album will be like…)

4)  Have a Family Period

As a songwriter, you may lead the life of a rock star for a matter of years, but eventually everyone has to bring it all back home.  This is the point at which you must find a wife, have one or more kids, and attempt (probably unsuccessfully) to live an ordinary, anonymous life for a while.  The most notable example of this truth is Paul McCartney whose utter failure to accomplish domestic normalcy has been given a name.  It’s called Wings, his band for much of the seventies.  The lineup, much to the chagrin of his earlier fans,  included his wife, Linda.  The lyrical content was often nonsensical enough to make even the most gullible, innocent three year old ask, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”  And yet this is a rite of passage for all music fans, as well.  We’ve all gone through a Wings phase.  Go on, you can admit it…

The Barenaked Ladies have been in a family phase for years, evidenced most recently by the masterful Snacktime.  Ben Folds briefly indulged in the “normalcy” of family life, recording such simple, touching songs as “Gracie,” but his 2008 album Way to Normal strongly suggests that he’ll be a bachelor for some time to come.  Dylan’s so-called family period lasted from the aforementioned motorcycle crash until about 1974 when he apparently got the itch to tour and record music again.  As he sings in the Planet Waves deep track “Something There Is About You,” “I can say that I’ll be faithful.  I can say it in one sweet, easy breath.  But to you that would be cruelty, and to me, it surely would be death.”

Pretty much speaks for itself…

5)  Um… Continue to Write Songs!

So, after all these steps, phases, and experiences, what’s a songwriter to do?

Continue to write songs, of course!

At this point, you can pretty much choose career paths from a plethora of options.  For instance, you could “find religion” and record a series of records devoted to expressing your spirituality.  You could get more personal and vulnerable by going acoustic for an album, or for that matter, turn to harder rock and roll to showcase your newfound rage over a breakup.  Why not record music for a different genre?  (I would recommend country music, as that seems to be the going trend these days.)  Oh, and don’t forget to release an album exclusively through Wal-Mart, although that’s probably best reserved for a planned reunion or comeback album.  In the meantime, you can always record four non-album tracks per release and split them up, offering one exclusively at iTunes, Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart respectively.  It may seem like you’re screwing the fans at the time, but don’t worry; you’ll eventually release a rarities CD that will contain all the non-album tracks.  Put your heart into those non-album tracks now, as there’s nothing more disappointing — and perhaps more predictable — than a sub-par rarities compilation.  Consider it an investment in the future… a future in which you may be writing songs more slowly than ever and yet still be in need of a record to satisfy your contract.

If none of that works, you can take a break from writing for a while to work on covers.  Record a traditional album?  Contribute to a compilation of covers for a famous artist?  Join a supergroup?

The opportunities and options are endless…

Whatever you do, don’t stop caring about what you’re writing and recording, because you’ll always have a fanbase out there that will buy whatever you put out, be it a masterpiece or a recording unworthy of serving even as a paperweight.

So, good luck, and we’re all counting on you!

“Black” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2008-05-23 21:15:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Good evening! Welcome to your Friday installment of The Laptop Sessions. I hope you are ready to celebrate a three-day weekend, and plan on seeing family, friends, and perhaps enjoy a nice cookout or two in the process.

Meanwhile, I get to bring to you one of my favorite songs. It’s Pearl Jam tonight with a song from their first album Ten. Track #5 is Black from that album and that is the song I bring to you tonight.

It has a great background electric guitar and Eddie Vedder sings a wonderful vocal melody in the entire song. Vedder is known to go in between styles back and forth and this song showcases that talent of his. From the soft verses to the emotional outro of the song, I attempt to emulate what Eddie can do. I think I do a good job, but then again i’m no Eddie Vedder. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Also, this song translates wonderfully to acoustic guitar, and I substitute a minor change in the guitar part at the end of the song instead of the vocal “do do doo doo do do dooo” that the recording has. And as with all songs that fade out, I picked the chord that sounded best to end on and went with that.

I want to thank all of you for visiting, commenting, rating, and subscribing. This is among the sessions I am most proud of.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Jim’s latest session, then come Sunday we bring another special week of songs to you. You’ll have to check out Chris’s session on Sunday to find out just what that is!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“Off He Goes” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2009-05-12 06:44:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week and another all-new Monday edition of the Laptop Sessions.  It’s been quite a weekend, and it’s going to be quite a week!

On Friday night, I stayed late at school for as long as I could, but I just couldn’t resist going to see the newly released Star Trek movie.  For once, a movie lived up to the hype!  I picked up Nicole for the trip to the theater, and although we’ve seen a lot of good movies together (not to mention a decent number of flops), this has to top them all.  Although I’m more of a Trek geek than she is, I think it’s fair to say we were equally excited during and after the movie.  If you love the classic series and films, then you’ll appreciate the respect paid to these characters.  If you know nothing about the franchise, then this is the perfect film to watch first.  I can’t wait to find an excuse to watch it again very soon…

Saturday was a crazy day for me, as my sister Jaime graduated from Nyack college at 2 pm in New York.  I got up early (for a Saturday, at least!) and drove to New York for my least favorite of all activities: ceremonies like a graduation.  That being said, it was worth it to see my sister graduate.  We met as a family later on for dinner and that was great, too.  It was great to have Nicole join us, too, and she made what could have been a long, boring drive with lots of downtime an enjoyable little day trip.  Sunday was more of the same, as it was Mother’s Day, and my sister is only home for a week before returning to New York to work.  We got to hang out, talk music, and watch an episode of The Twilight Zone that gave her nightmares as a young child.  We didn’t get to play The Office board game, but there will always be time for another round in the future.  (And I’ll be ready this time! 😉 )

Tonight finds me watching the Mets.  After a seven game winning streak, it appears that they’re going to lose one.  I’m loving this iPhone “MLB.com – At Bat 2009” application.  It makes listening to games and staying in touch with the stats and standings soooo easy.  It’s been a great week for watching Mets baseball, and I don’t want to complain.  But I don’t quite get why they seem unable to score runs when Johan Santana is pitching.  Maybe they get subconsciously complacent, since he’s such a great pitcher.  Even tonight, although he got into a couple sticky situations, he worked his way out of each one — until they pulled him out 1/3 into the seventh inning.  What truly amazes me is his ERA; as of tonight, it is .78!  Games with Santana on the mound would have to get busted open wider than Abyss during a Pay-Per-View for weeks straight for him to reach the ERA’s of the other Mets starters…

But, enough of blogging for blogging’s sake — I should probably introduce the song I’ve recorded for tonight’s acoustic cover song music video.  “Off He Goes” is a track from Pearl Jam’s 1996 album No Code.  This album was the first to break from their previous sound a bit and some fans disapproved.  I’ll admit that it’s not my favorite album in the Pearl Jam catalog by any stretch, but there are some great tracks on it.  “Hail, Hail” is one of the most rocking and catchy songs in their catalog.  “Present Tense” is one of my favorite Pearl Jam tracks, if only for the combination of lyrics and gradual instrumental buildup.  “I’m Open” is a cool spoken-word track — yes, those do exist!

This track, “Off He Goes,” is perfect material for an acoustic cover song.  Initially, after having this song come up on my iPod this weekend, I thought it would be an easy song to record.  Ironically, I almost decided not to learn it and record it for fear of being criticized for recording too many simple songs.

Well, that’s simply not the case…

As Jim can attest to, I spent over an hour and fifteen minutes and about 40-50 takes of this song to get it anywhere near where I wanted it to be.  There are still a couple of discrepancies I hit while singing the tune, but I also nailed a few of my favorite subtleties in the song.  What recording this song taught me was how truly difficult it is to make a slow, deceptively simple song like this really translate into a great performance.  I have even more respect for Eddie Vedder than I did before, especially for the fact that he plays guitar and sings in concert on this one.  The chords are so easy — really, just F, C, and Am — but the strumming pattern was difficult to hit in a few places.  (**The best part about recording these sessions, undoubtedly, is spending all that time, posting on YouTube, and waking up to find that two people have viewed it, one of whom has one-starred it and left no comment.  Thanks for that.**)

That’s enough for one Monday.  I hope you enjoy the session (more than my first YouTube viewer did) and hurry back all week for great new acoustic cover song music videos.

See you next session!