closing time

Showing 30 posts tagged closing time


Rock Me My Baby


The Crickets


The “Chirping” Crickets

The Crickets - Rock Me My Baby

Final track from The “Chirping” Crickets (1957)

I wasn’t around, but it definitely seems like the dawn of rock’n’roll was represented more in singles than in full LPs— Elvis’s Sun singles, Chess 45s, one-hit jukebox tunes, and so on. But The “Chirping” Crickets stands as arguably the most essential non-compilation LP of early rock’n’roll (although Elvis Presley and Here’s Little Richard are also big exceptions to that rule). That early Buddy Holly growl, that danger coming from this skinny, nerdy Texan, is jarring in its power. I mean here’s a guy who looks like the long-held stereotype of “poindexter,” but he sounded just as primal and lustful as “Heartbreak Hotel” Elvis in the verses of “Not Fade Away”. Also, The “Chirping” Crickets is a veritable hit parade: “Oh Boy!”, “Not Fade Away”, “Maybe Baby”, and “That’ll Be The Day” all fit in the album’s 30 minutes (and that’s not including “Lonesome Tears” and “It’s So Easy” on the remastered edition).

But when I thought about favorite album closers, the final two minutes of The “Chirping Crickets” were a gimme— “Rock Me My Baby” is basic, elemental rock’n’roll that’s a perfect bookend to the album. Keep in mind that this is before album closers had to live up to “Tomorrow Never Knows” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. On The “Chirping” Crickets, it just needed to be a good cool down from the energetic songs while also serving as a pick up from the teardrops ballads. It’s a golden age rock’n’roll plea for love and sex behind that (at the time) omnipresent euphemism “rock me.” Buddy’s guitar solo brings to mind those “Grand Ole Opry” country solos— simple, dynamic, and close to the melody— but the real highlight is the chorus: “Rock-a-lock-a-hickory-dickory-dock! / Rock-a-bye my baby! / Up and down, around the clock, / Well-uh rock-a-me my baby!” There’s a bare bones schoolyard elation to that chorus that’s perfect for The “Chirping” Crickets.

Of course with any joyous (or sad, or really any) Buddy Holly song, there’s that bittersweet moment where you think about how young he was when he passed. He had two years of recorded output and then he died. That’s just three albums and some singles. It’s easy to play “what if”— Chuck Klosterman does a nice job of that in Killing Yourself to Live— but sometimes, it’s just nice to soak up what we have. The “Chirping” Crickets is an amazing document of what the man was capable of, and there’s rarely been a more fun send-off to an album than “Rock Me My Baby”. Go ahead and give it a spin— it could be the most fun two minutes of your day.

Evan Minsker

(Evan previously wrote for OWOB about Ty Segall)

Prince - Partyup

Final track from “Dirty Mind” (1980)

'Partyup' is the closing track on Dirty Mind, Prince’s 1980 album. He’d had his first mainstream hit the previous year with ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’, but there’s a clear contrast by Dirty Mind, which swaps out much of the disco and R&B sound for (very danceable) synth-based rock.

The album is pretty solidly about sex, with a near-constant theme of sex trumping other limitations through the songs - ‘Sister’ is incest imposed by an authority figure, ‘Head’ is a woman on the verge of marriage who’s just powerless in the face of this dude who’s “such a hunk, so full of spunk”, ‘Do It All Night’ is just kind of shy but warms quickly, ‘Gotta Broken Heart Again’ can’t stop thinking about the sex despite being devastated by a breakup, ‘Uptown’ is a neighbourhood that’s all freedom in contrast to “downtown, nowhere-bound, narrow-minded drag”. ‘When You Were Mine’ is kind of an exception, a bit more of torturing himself thinking about sex after a break-up, but it’s much more about love.

Closing tracks are rarely my favourites. Ideally, they’ll play off the dynamic of the album and bring it to a point where it’ll end, and many of my favourites are straight, quiet and middle-of-the-night emotional about it, where silence is stark and charged right after they end: ‘Untitled’ from R.E.M.’s Green, ‘Say Yes’ from Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, ‘I’m In Love With A Girl’ from Big Star’s Radio City.

'Partyup' is an explosive party jam, aggressive and building an anti-war manifesto, bringing back the club freedom of 'Uptown' so that while it breaks from sex, it's more like an aerial view of the same territory where the rest fits in just right. (It's also big enough that, by the end of the glissando in the introduction, it's broken from the catchy, breathless incest story that precedes it.) It's (appropriately!) a climax to the album and uses all the energy and emotion accumulated across the previous tracks, and it self-describes as “revolutionary rock and roll”, not disco or funk or anywhere Prince had been filed up to that point.

Fighting war is such a fucking bore. Partyup.

Lisa Cassidy

(Lisa previously wrote for OWOB about I.R.S.-era R.E.M.)

Elliott - Speed of Film

Final track from “False Cathedrals” (2000)

I’ve always felt that False Cathedrals had a bit of a pacing problem: any of the last three tracks could be the final. Even amidst an album of frequent cathartic moments, “Carving Oswego”, “Lie Close” and “Speed of Film” all pack a wallop worthy of ending the LP. What sets apart “Speed of Film” as the piece that Elliott would choose as a closer?  

False Cathedrals strikes an adversarial tone early on, the first intelligible lyrics challenging the ideals and values that we’re sold — well, more specifically, that Americans as are sold — though I’m sure we’re not the only ones. The album is rife with struggle, whether against these confining socializations, past failures, personal brokenness, or greater tragedies.

“Speed of Film” continues that tone, while reflecting on the disparities between reality and our attempts to capture it in art. It challenges our attempts to gloss over so many uncomfortable details in our attempts to convey the human experience, not only in media, but even in our day to day lives; it targets the ways various ways we transmit those aforementioned values and ideals, spit-shined until the imperfections are no longer seen.

Strangely, at the same time, it indicts itself.

False Cathedrals is, at its best, highly cinematic, making epic in scope the ordinary if painful struggles of “this normal life”. “Speed of Film” is the first time in the album where that facade starts to slip, and the first time where the narrator admits that their own story faces the same the same potential pitfalls it calls out.

It is near impossible for any one work of art to fully capture the human experience, and even if the things we want seem straightforward, actually living that out is never simple. “Speed of Film” admits that however earnest the intentions, False Cathedrals is just one take on the story — to a certain extent, you’re going to have to write your own. 

— Jeffrey Woldan

(Jeffrey has been extremely kind and helpful with tweaking this blog’s code and html theme time and again… thanks, Jeff!)

The Billy Nayer Show – Apartment #5

Final track from “Return to Brigadoon” (1999)

The 1947 Musical “Brigadoon” tells the story of a mystical village that only appears to mundane, human eyes once every century. A part of the magic of the town of Brigadoon is that no townsman can ever leave it, and if they did, the town would disappear into the fog of time. The only way for an outsider to be allowed to stay is if they fall in love with one of it’s denizens. 

The Billy Nayer Show’s 1999 album “Return To Brigadoon” is full to the brim with love-soaked delusion. Every song details a character who’s either a tearful man in near-insane pursuit of an unattainable love, or about a hollowed out shell of a cynical man having been ravaged by a once-attained love. We have a song spelling out the A B C ‘s of failed relationships (“D is for Deceit, E: even more deceitful than D, who’d have thought that could B?”), a song detailing a man picking up his torn-out heart from behind a dirty city dumpster (“wiped off the dirt, and picked out the rocks / everything’s going to be alright, now”), and even a retelling of Eve’s Apple-Eating Mistake (the menacing jilt of “The Cat, The Crow, And The Snake”). 

It’s an album of missed opportunity— the joke of the title being that one can never return to Brigadoon in their lifetime (without true love, at least— meaning that any of the love detailed on the album is false and self-centered). It’s all a harrowing listen if you’re paying attention to the lyrics (Billy Nayer Show lyrics often take the style of children’s songs or bedtime stories, but replace the moon and stars with filthy old men alone forever). But if you aren’t, it’s an album that starts high, with ukelele and autoharp chirping upbeat melodies, anchored by singer Cory McAbee’s operatic voice.

But the album doesn’t end with a missed opportunity or jilted fury. It doesn’t end with cynicism, or heartbreak, or deceit, or Old Testament-levels of Outrage. It ends with the song “Apartment #5.” It starts with this, carried along by guitar and autoharp (played with the most ‘elementary school music class’ of tones):

“I’ll finish all my lunch, and I’ll eat all my fries 

And I’ll prove that my stomach’s as big as my eyes

I’ll spring for the check, and walk you to my home

That’s where I spend all my days …all alone.”

Bass and a tambourine enter as we’re led around this man’s apartment. We’re shown, one by one, the physical items in the room: the chair, the bed, all the movies he’s taped, the books he’s read. The song puts us in a pretty strage position: we’re sung to so directly, and the apartment is described so vividly, so personally, that we’re confronted with being both listener and subject: involved and removed from what we’re hearing/seeing. The singer is dictating, not explaining. We’re in the room, but he may as well be talking to himself.

The longer the description of the Apartment goes on („I’ll show you paintings that I’ve painted, and tell you all about my lamp / I’ll show you water damage in the corner, where it gets damp”), the more the excitement comes through, and the more we get the whole picture of this character. By the time our chair’s pulled in front of his, and our feet are pressed against, it’s clear we’re the first person ever to see the inside of the apartment. 

And with a flourish, we’re brought into a refrain: “I’ll finish all my dinner / and I’ll eat all my fries.” We realize, as the cycle repeats, but timeshifted, that we’re not the first person to see the inside— no one ever has. We don’t exist. The song has been a warmup, a ‘what will I say, what can I say,’ a dream, a fantasy. All leading up to the question. Asked once plaintively. A pause. Asked again, with force:

“Will you marry me?”

Pause. Drums. Release.

Start again.

Ian McDuffie

(Ian previously wrote for OWOB about David Bowie in the 1990s)


Yuko and Hiro




The Great Escape

Final track from “The Great Escape” (1995)

Two years before Noel and Tony and Diana and Robbie closed the door and turned off the lights at the lavish party that was Cool Britannia, there was The Great Escape.

Written and recorded in the midst of an arena tour on the heels of Parklife’s unexpected success, Blur’s fourth album was supposed to be the triumphant synopsis of Britpop and the showcase of a band at their artistic and commercial peak. And for a minute there, it was just that. The release was greeted with near-perfect reviews in the British music press and its lead single famously granted the band their very first UK Number One. Then along came “Wonderwall" and who did those middle-class art school snobs think they were anyway?

Today the record unanimously ties with their debut Leisure as Blur’s worst moment, the one time in their career they did not perform a sonic left turn but rather produced Parklife turned up to 11. Damon Albarn himself has called it “messy” and “one of two bad records” he’s ever made, surely aided by memories of a promotion schedule that nearly saw the band disintegrating. It is a timely document of the exact moment it all went wrong, the soundtrack to a Britpop party (not-so-)quietly turned dark.

It is also completely wonderful.

There’s a twisted kind of beauty (and retrospective satisfaction) in the fact that what was supposed to be the ultimate celebration of a genre, its high point, is secretly its darkest moment — as if watching the party band segue into a funeral march and inexplicably witness the guests simply keep on dancing. By 1995, what started as a reaction against the American dominance of grunge and a celebration of the glories of British music from decades past began to display its repulsive side with pointless chart battles and the ugly sexism of “lad” culture.

And so Parklife’s loving irony yielded to The Great Escape’s bitter cynicism. The album features enough hooks to last ten bands’ lifetimes, yet it is by far the coldest and darkest record Blur have produced — and therein lies its brilliance. We meet characters unhappy in marriage, unsatisfied at work, in a state of perpetual boredom, emotionally numb, hating their friends and only ever finding ephemeral release through giving in to consumerist urges or pharmaceutiful relief. There’s no sympathy to be spared and no hope to be found. Producer Stephen Street’s glossy sheen only adds to the sense that this is a record simultaneously for and about the Patrick Batemans of this world; even when sounding cheeriest, the album never loses sight of its thematic core of facing loneliness & emptiness, and conjuring images of pre-millenial corporate angst. Tellingly, the undeservingly vilified hit-single Country House has its best moment when underneath the music-hall bombast a middle-eight emerges to the words of “Blow, blow me out, I am so sad, I don’t know why…”

The album’s strongest songs, however, are undeniably the ballads. Best Days, The Universal and He Thought of Cars make up some of the biggest and brightest accomplishments of the band’s career. And then there’s Yuko and Hiro at the end of it all. It’s not Blur’s best closing track — that would be Resigned off Modern Life is Rubbish or Think Tank’s heartbreaking Battery in Your Leg — but it holds a special place on the most uniquely satisfying record of the Blur discography.

Originally titled “Japanese Workers”, it’s an understated love song in which its titular characters work for “the company that looks to the future” and find those corporate responsibilites that secure their livelihood to be the very forces that keep them apart. Yet they make it through the week with the calming aid of intoxicants and the knowledge that Sunday will bring them together once more.

It’s a tender moment of beauty and longing in itself, but there’s no detective’s eye needed to discern the song’s true subjects. At the time, Damon Albarn was in a much-publicized relationship with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann and with Yuko and Hiro we get a thinly-veiled peek at Albarn’s emotional state.

And so it takes The Great Escape fifty-three minutes to arrive at the chrous of Yuko and Hiro, and Albarn reached all the way to Japan to conceal it, but here he is, finally, presenting us most beautifully with the album’s first and only honest moment:

I never see you / We’re never together / I’ll love you forever

There was hope, after all.

Hendrik Jasnoch is the editor of One Week // One Band