Sunday, 19 October 2008

Super Obama

Barack Obama's geek appeal

As a fan of both Barack Obama and the Man of Steel I was delighted by last week's revelation that the presidential hopeful is actually Superman.

The speech in New York, which also referenced Mad magazine icon Alfred E Neuman, was obviously a well planned attempt to appeal to any comic geeks still unsure who to vote for. It's an aspect of the campaign that's received little press coverage but Obama has been building his geek credentials for some time.

The photo of Obama posing in front of the Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois was taken two years ago. Fans of Superman and Barack Obama can show their allegiance to both by buying these badges. There were also lots of rumours before this year's Comic-Con in San Diego that Obama would make an appearance. He didn't but celebrated comics artist Alex Ross unveiled this print that referenced his own Superman artwork.

However, my favourite Obama geek story of the campaign is not Superman related. Apparently when Barack spotted Leornard 'Spock' Nimoy at an event he greeted him with the Vulcan salute. Now that's nerdy.

Related link
Obama at Alfred E Smith Memorial dinner - full speech; more good gags at McCain's expense

Related posts
Man of Steel Memories - my Superman recollections

Rock'n'Roll Jesus

It's one of rock'n'roll's most worn-out cliches that the Devil has the best tunes. But as this selection highlights, Jesus has his fair share of great songs too.

MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel - The King of Carrot Flowers Parts Two & Three

There's something slightly menacing about this song, the second track on Neutral Milk Hotel's masterpiece In The Aeroplane Over Sea. In fact, I've found that singing the opening aloud after a few pale ales does indeed scare people.

MP3: The Broken Family Band - Walking Back To Jesus Part Two

I remember seeing the BFB some years ago and singer Steve Adams saying that their next record would be all covers of their favourite songs about Christ. As it turned out Jesus Songs only had one cover, Neutral Milk Hotel's King of Carrot Flowers Parts Two & Three. The other songs aren't all about the Lord either though this one is.

MP3: Jim White - If Jesus Drove A Motor Home

Jesus is never far away in Jim White's world. If you've never seen his wondrous film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, stop reading and purchase or rent the DVD immediately. You will not be disappointed. I'm sure I've read that the Jesus in this song is actually a real person in White's old hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

MP3: Woody Guthrie - Jesus Christ

The most obvious example of Woody Guthrie's combination of Christianity and socialism. See also Christ For President on Mermaid Avenue, Billy Bragg & Wilco's superb album of previously unrecorded Guthrie songs.

MP3: Tom Waits - Chocolate Jesus (introduction)

MP3: Tom Waits - Chocolate Jesus

Like Jim White, there are no shortage of Jesus references in Tom Waits' songs. It was a toss up between this and Jesus Gonna Be Here, but I opted for Chocolate Jesus to share the humorous preamble. This version is from VH1's Storytellers in 1999. Note: Wikipedia has a fascinating article about Abba-Zabas (see also Captain Beefheart).

MP3: Hayes Carll - She Left Me For Jesus

At Hayes Carll's recent gig at the Luminaire the Texan seemed genuinely surprised by the enthusiastic response that met this wry song. He might even have called the assembled baldies "heathens". There's a nice acoustic version of the song on the Later... with Jools Holland website by the way.

Here endeth the lesson. I hope you enjoyed the songs. As usual, comments and suggestions for further listening are most welcome. Amen.

Buy These Artists
Neutral Milk Hotel: Amazon | 7digital
The Broken Family Band: Amazon | 7digital
Jim White: Amazon | 7digital
Woody Guthrie: Amazon | 7digital
Tom Waits: Amazon | 7digital
Hayes Carll: Amazon | 7digital

Sunday, 5 October 2008

I'm Your Fan, Part 1

Every band pays tribute to their favourite artists with cover versions but only a few take hero worship to the level of writing new songs about their idols.

These are songs by artists I like about folks they like, plus tracks by the people that inspired them. Tomorrow I'll post some more, all with a Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan connection.

MP3: The Rockingbirds - Jonathan Jonathan

MP3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - Roadrunner

Roadrunner is one of the greatest songs ever written in my opinion and Alan Tyler evidently thinks so too. I love the way The Rockingbirds' track pays tribute to Jonathan Richman lyrically and musically.

MP3: Camera Obscura - Dory Previn

MP3: Dory Previn - Stone For Bessie Smith

I must admit I'd never heard of Dory Previn before buying Camera Obscura's great album Let's Get Out Of This Country. The song's not really about the American songwriter but does contain the lyric, "How I adore you Dory Previn/ I turned you up to 11 for the band’s ears to bleed". The Dory Previn song I've posted is actually another tribute - to Janis Joplin.

MP3: Rodney Crowell - I Walk The Line (Revisited)

MP3: Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line

Rodney Crowell's tribute to Johnny Cash would be a good song even without the guest vocal from the Man in Black. Asking Cash to sing was a risky move. The track was recorded in 2001, nine years after Crowell was divorced from Johnny Cash's daughter Roseanne, although from what I've read JC seemed to be more annoyed that his ex son-in-law had changed his melody. The version of I Walk the Line is the original Sun single.

Enjoy the songs, let me know what you think, and please suggest any others. Tomorrow there'll be more including Dan Bern, Tom Russell and Bob Dylan.

Related Posts

I'm Your Fan, Part 2

Buy These Artists

The Rockingbirds: Amazon

Jonathan Richman: Amazon | 7digital

Camera Obscura: Amazon

Dory Previn: Amazon | 7digital

Rodney Crowell: Amazon | 7digital

Johnny Cash: Amazon | 7digital

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