Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Monday, Mar 22, 2010
Recording artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

This V-C-V was first published March 14, 2006 on pcmunoz.com


“Dear Mama” - Tupac
Written by Tupac Shakur, Joe Sample, and Tony Pizarro
Contains a sample of “In My Wildest Dreams” by Joe Sample, and an interpolation of"Sadie”, written by J.B. Jefferson, B. Hawes, and C. Simmons
From Me Against the World (Interscope, 1995)


Me Against the World, the Tupac album on which “Dear Mama” first appeared, is lyrically one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time. It was a commercial success, and I always say that if Tupac had been a guitar-slinging rocker, critics would have injured themselves thumbing through their thesauruses in their attempts to locate the vocabulary to properly praise the emotional insularity and foreboding themes of this record. But alas, it was the mid-‘90s, and Tupac was hip-hop through and through. Not only that, he had “Thug Life” tattooed across his abdomen, a felony conviction on his record, and an infamous attempt on his life still fresh at the time of this release. So, in 1995, Me Against the World was often seen as another “gangsta” record, despite the intense, spiritually-driven themes Tupac explores on this album.


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Monday, Mar 15, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“Lovesong” - The Cure
Lyrics by Robert Smith
Music by Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Roger O’Donnell, and Laurence Tolhurst
From Disintegration, Elektra Records, 1989


An earlier edit of this V-C-V was first published December 6, 2005 on pcmunoz.com


I’m the first to admit that I was quite the funky-come-lately when it comes to The Cure. When they first came to my attention in the early ‘80s, I was too knee deep in funk and early hip-hop to give them much of an ear, even though I definitely dug Gary Numan, Lene Lovich, and other darkish new-wavey types who were flirting with the funk/dance rhythms of the day.


The Cure’s absence from my collection doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of why the group was popular, or what Smith was all about. I had heard their more popular songs all over the place, and as a young musician, I made a habit of reading all of the interviews in the music magazines I purchased, whether or not I was a fan of the interviewee. Over the years, I found that I always enjoyed reading interviews with Robert Smith, though I still resisted picking up the albums, for some reason. They became one of those bands whom I respected by default, but never really investigated.


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Monday, Mar 8, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

This V-C-V was first published September 13, 2005 on pcmunoz.com


“Leader of the Band” - Dan Fogelberg
Written by Dan Fogelberg
From The Innocent Age (Sony, 1981)


I can tell you from experience that trying to write songs about family relationships can be tricky business. Even the finest of songwriters have to be careful not to fall prey to crass histrionics, sappy sentimentality, or plain ol’ cliché when dealing with the raw, complex emotions which characterize family dynamics. I personally find “father” songs by male songwriters and “mother” songs by female songwriters the most interesting, in general. Occasionally a song will surprise me, like Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, which at first seems like it might be a schmaltzy “mother-worshipping” song, but actually turns out to be a thoughtful reflection on the young Shakur’s youthful indiscretion, and his mother’s personal struggles (which he couldn’t understand as a child). I suppose I’m partial to songs with a little subtlety, like Bread’s “Everything I Own”, which seems to be about a lover, but of which writer David Gates has repeatedly said is about his father.


I didn’t understand “Leader of the Band” when it came out. I figured it was about Fogelberg’s school band teacher and I simply wasn’t attached enough to any of my school band teachers to relate. Besides, it was 1981, I was 14 years old, and I was not paying much attention to what was crackin’ on soft-rock radio (though now I find myself jonesing for some of that music). Nevertheless, the line


My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man…


was stuck in my head for years. I always had the feeling that I should investigate the song more, but didn’t bother to do so until the mid-‘90s. I picked up Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, dropped the needle on “Leader of the Band”, and cranked it.


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Monday, Mar 1, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

An earlier version of this V-C-V first appeared on pcmunoz.com on March 28, 2006.


“Satisfaction (I Can’t Get Me No)” - Devo
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
From Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (Warner Bros., 1978)


“Woman Coming” - James Blood Ulmer
Written by James Blood Ulmer
From Tales of Captain Black (Artists House, 1979)


I’ve got two names for you: Alan Myers and Denardo Coleman. These are the names of the drummers on these two songs, and to me, they are the undeniable connection between song one, a Stones cover by art-pop freakboys Devo, and song two, a surreal chunk of progressive jazz-funk by blues-futurist James Blood Ulmer.


Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction” (produced by Brian Eno) is still distinctive and fresh, 31 years later. In my opinion, Jagger’s always been an underrated lyricist. Critics often dismiss his words because of his relative lack of street cred (the London School of Economics and all that), and many listeners are likely not looking for depth from his over-the-top, strutting persona. A closer look reveals that the lyric captures an existential restlessness in the face of mass-media messages, something which is just as applicable in today’s information-saturated world as it was back in the heady ‘60s. As a reminder, dig these excerpts from the verses, which most of us know by heart, anyway:


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Monday, Feb 22, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“Have a Little Faith in Me” - Bill Frisell, Kermit Driscoll, and Joey Baron
Written by John Hiatt
From Live, Gramavision/Rykodisc, 1995


An earlier edit of this post first appeared on pcmunoz.com on February 14, 2006


Since its initial appearance in 1987 on writer John Hiatt‘s popular Bring the Family album, “Have a Little Faith in Me” has become something of a modern classic. The song has been covered numerous times, by wildly different artists, but my favorite version is this live instrumental arrangement by guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Kermit Driscoll, and drummer Joey Baron.


Though Frisell, Driscoll, and Baron are quite capable of radical song-reconstruction, madcap rhythmic shifts, and rollercoaster twists of form, here they wisely allow their arrangement of “Have a Little Faith in Me” to unfold gently, within a fairly accessible structure. The often-angular and surprising Baron even breaks into a straight-out pop backbeat for a few measures.


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