FCM #7 - Songs That Tell A Story

FCM #7 - SONGS THAT TELL A STORY Plenty of sad tales in this weeks edition of FCM. This week's cover art is inspired by the true story of Marie Prevost outlined in Jane's contribution. Click here to download the entire FCM #7 - SONGS THAT TELL A STORY or hunt and peck below. If you like something or hate something or whatever, please make a comment! Some of these files are m4a format, so you should download them all with the link above or right click and save them to your machine.

Next week's theme is for Labor Day - bring out those songs about loving work, hating work, just about work (or being off work!) or the work-a-day life. Labor! Work!

"Levon" Elton John - 1971
Chris writes: My mom was a fan of Elton John. She was particularly fond of the early Rock 'n Roll Elton that I still enjoy today. She played records quite a bit at home when I was growing up, the same ones in a continuous rotation, and this song found a particular place in my heart. Maybe it's the epic strings, the drum flourishes peppered throughout nearly every change, or the earnestness in Elton's voice as he sings - whatever it is, it captured me every time it came on the stereo. It wasn't until later in life that I really heard the song and appreciated the story that went along with it all. For me, it's all about the relationship between father and son, tradition and change, dreams and reality. The words are few, but they paint such a perfect portrait of the kind of man Levon is and the kind of man Jesus is afraid of becoming. It poses a question about truly living and the unspoken rules that govern what being a "good man" is all about. Is it following tradition, fighting for your country, earning money and raising your kid the same? Or is it about living life your way, traveling to Venus and disregarding your past? That's a question that only Jesus can answer.

"Real Talk" R. Kelly - 2007
Jennifer writes: When Ben said this week's theme was "Songs That Tell A Story", I immediately thought of all the folk and country singers that fit that criteria. Would I pick a song from Neil Diamond, Tom Petty or Johnny Cash? Did Pete Seeger seem appropriate? Or was Barry Manilow too much? Then it all became clear to me...... a modern day story teller is what we needed. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you R Kelly.

The obvious choice was a song off the monster that is "Trapped in the Closet" However, after listening to the thousands of ditties in Chapters 1-22 - such luminaries as "The Package", "You Can Do It, Pimp Lucious" and "The Reveal of the Little Person/Cherry Pie" - I realized I couldn't parse down such a classic at my whim. No - this story is best enjoyed in its entirety. I will leave that to Ben's New Hire Induction for the 25 or so people that have been hired since Allison had her Induction/Viewing Party of the Chapters.

I have selected one of R's newer songs that covers all the bases. "Real Talk" tells a story but also is a bit of a tale of morality - much like the Greek myths or Viking sagas of yore. Listen and learn, my friends. (Just don't listen to it too loudly as R has a potty mouth on this one)

"Don't You Want Me" The Human League - 1981
Christine writes: This week's submission come s with the assistance of my sister, Betsy. I was talking with them about how, with the exception of maybe the "humpty dance", most songs tell some sort of story so I found this week's topic difficult. She suggested this song and I have to agree with her for a few reasons. One, it's an awesome song from the 80's. Two, it's definitely got a story line - albeit the typical love and loss. Three, the unique (and sometimes comical if you think about it) two sides of the story line that are presented. I can picture these two going at while listening to this song.

"A Postcard To Nina" Jens Lekman - 2007
Nick writes: My selection this week is Jens Lekman's "A Postcard to Nina," the greatest song ever written about faking being someone's fiancee to their father. In 2007.

"Marie Provost" Nick Lowe - 1977
Jane writes: To lighten up this pack of (what I know will be) terribly depressing songs... because aren't most songs that tell a story depressing? I mean, who writes a song where the plot is running to the Jewel to pick up cheese and TP? Anyway, I'm bringing you this TRUE STORY song about Marie Prevost, a silent film star in the 20's/30's who turned to booze and eating disorders when the double-whammy of prohibition ending and the "talkies" beginning left her washed up and quite alone.

This isn't just a fallen star story though... in fact, many may have forgotten her amidst the other debaucherous tales of Hollywood Babylon except for the post-mortem scene she left behind after drinking and starving herself into an early death in 1937.

You see, she was found in her bed by the police almost two weeks after her death, HALF EATEN BY HER DACHSHUND.

"She was a winner/Who became her doggie's dinner."

So, yeah, I was just kidding about this not being depressing. It's crazy depressing. But like I said, no one writes story-telling songs about the mundane.

"Tennessee Waltz (Live)" Dax Riggs - 2008
Brian writes: Okay... I've stayed away from contributing any of my bootleg recordings in the past, but I guess that ends here. Some of the "best" songs I possess were never properly recorded, and they should be shared...crappy quality or not. Anyway, songs that tell a story...

Tennessee Waltz, was written in 1947 by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King. It was made popular in 1950 by Patti Page. It's been covered a zillion times since then. Leonard Cohen performed it live on occasion, adding an additional verse. His version was performed live by my favorite singer/songwriter, Dax Riggs, on May 1, 2008 at Chelsea's Cafe in Baton Rouge, LA.

Here's the audio and video of that performance. It's a great song, with a great melody, that tells the classic, universal story of having your heart broken (but it's told from a very unique perspective), and I've never heard anyone sing it quite as good as Dax.

"Last Kiss" Pearl Jam - 1999
Renata writes: Nothing against Ricky Nelson, but I’m partial to Pearl Jam’s rendition of Last Kiss. I’m one of those people who easily becomes fixated on one song and runs it on repeat for weeks. This was one of those tunes. The painful, yet everlastily-love-saturated lyrics hooked me. I want to say I stumbled upon Last Kiss sometime in Junior High, but could be totally lying to you right now—I really can’t remember! This is one of the few MP3s that has survived two computer swaps. Enjoy.

"Ghetto Cowboy" Mo Thugs - 1998
Margaret writes: I first heard this song the summer before I started high school. My friend's and I made it our mission to memorize all of the lyrics - and we sang it all summer long, usually in parts. It's ridiculously awesome.

"Stagger Lee" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - 1996
James writes: Parental warning: If profanity, violence, and deplorable sexual acts upset you, please don't listen to this song.

The story of Stagger Lee was first put to song close to 100 years ago. Since then, a variety of artists have put their spin on Stagger Lee; who, considering the time, has to be considered the "O.G."

Of all the versions that have been made, none leave a mark like Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's 1996 take on it. The Stagger Lee of this story could wipe the floor with both Bad Leroy Brown and Manowar with his shooting hand tied behind his back.

"Waterloo Sunset (Live)" The Kinks 1996
Walt writes: Ray Davies is a master storyteller and this is one of his masterpieces. While I've always loved the original 1967 version of this song, The Kinks performed acoustic versions of many of their songs in 1996. I really like Ray's vocals on this "newly" recorded version. The melancoly of song really gets me even through the veil of paranoia.

"My Sister" Tindersticks - 1995
Allison writes: My selection this week is from Tindersticks, one of my absolute favorite bands in the dark, lovely chamber pop category. "My Sister" is a shimmering, tumbling, Edward Gorey-esque narration of the life of vocalist Stuart Staples' fictional sibling. Staples lets loose quite an ode to this ill-fated lass, who among other things goes blind at age 5, burns down their house at 10 (inadvertently killing mum and the cat in the process), falls down the well on a drinking binge at age 13, moves in with her gym teacher at 15, and so on... I'll leave the rest to the song.

One caveat: the vocals are often hard to distinguish, so I'd recommend taking a gander at the lyrics online while listening. Otherwise you're liable to miss gems like these, her description of what she sees while blind:

I can see little twinkly stars, like Christmas tree lights in faraway windows / Rings of brightly coloured rocks floating around orange and mustard planets / I can see huge tiger striped fishes chasing tiny blue and yellow dashes, all tails and fins and bubbles.

"1000 Times A Day" The Early November - 2005
TJ writes: Sappy sappy love song about a boy and a girl who start going out when they were kids, breaking up and then getting married in the end. I like the fingerpicking in this song a lot as well as the melodies. The random trumpets at the end are nice too.

"Elizabeth Childers" Richard Buckner - 2000
Ben writes: Richard Buckner's The Hill consists of one single audio track that weaves through alt-country instrumentals and song versions of some of the poems from Spoon River Anthology (1915, Edgar Lee Masters). Each poem in Spoon River is an epitaph of a dead citizen (from Spoon River), delivered by the dead themselves. This is my favorite of Buckner's songs on The Hill (which I have liberated from the rest of the record). It's the story of Elizabeth Childers... a woman who died in childbirth along with the baby she was carrying. She sings about how it is well that her child did not come into the world, and tells a story about what hardship that child might have endured had he lived. It's tragic and even as I write this I feel tears welling up in behind my eyes!

"Medication" Damien Jurado - 2000
Felix writes: I first heard of Damien Jurado from Ben, and got entranced with this song. I have a thing where I'm able to loop a song, incessantly, for more times than is healthy. I mean, like a lot. What gets me most from this song is how all the characters intersect through the speaker, and the complexities/similarities between all the relationships.

"Tecumseh Valley" Townes Van Zandt - 1969
Ben writes: Townes Fan Zandt is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. This is from a live album where Townes plays by himself called A Gentle Evening WIth Townes Van Zandt. The story this song tells is tragic - quite possibly the saddest song I've ever heard. It's country folk, and in it we hear of financial hardship, affection death, depression, whoring, and despair. Sounds kind of like a joke about country music, I know, but Townes writes it real and sings it realer. I can barely get through singing this song without crying.

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Anonymous Jane said...

Was this the most people we ever had contribute to an FCM??? FANTASTIC!

Blogger ben said...

i don't know... it was 14 cause i contributed twice. we need to get laurence up on this!

Blogger Brian said...

Haven't listened yet, but Townes Van Zandt, Nick Cave, Nick Lowe...All great story-tellers...Good call...

And as an afterthought, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash deserve honorable mentions.

Anonymous Margaret said...

why is r. kelly so ridiculous? i love it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

because r. kelly is a genius

Anonymous BURLEY B said...

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