The Best Song Performed by Characters in a Sitcom

As I thought about some of the great songs performed on sitcoms, several came to mind. There are the obvious ones. “Friends Forever” performed by the famous band of the future, The Zack Attach, on the “Saved by the Bell” episode where younger me learned that fame isn’t everything. “Suits” performed by the cast of “How I Met Your Mother”, where Barney decides that he cares more about his suits than hot bimbos. And of course “The Pit” performed by Mouse Rat in a “Parks and Recreation” episode where Andy falls in a pit. Classic TV.

However, “Freelove Freeway” by Ricky Gervais, in character as David Brent, from the “The Training” episode of the original “The Office” is the clear winner.

This song is pitch perfect in so many ways. First of all, it’s an undeniably great pop song.  So great in fact that Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, actually assisted in a studio recording of the song. When has a TV sitcom song ever actually gotten that kind of treatment?

The song, as part of the sitcom, is also terribly funny. It barely makes any sense. The song is a love song about a guy longing for a girl, but during David Brent’s performance Gareth thinks the girl is dead (she’s not) and Tim thinks the guy is gay (he’s not).

Finally, the song just fits amazingly well within the context of the episode and the sitcom itself. Most songs in TV shows, even the good ones, fit in either illogically (like any How I Met Your Mother song) or just seem like they were written first and then thrown into an episode through some makeshift reasoning (like any Family Guy song). “Freelove Freeway” in The Office just fits. In its particular episode, David Brent plays the song for a circle of his employees, while in the process cutting off a staff training he’s organized and showing up the actual trainer. The show absolutely sets it up for a cringe-worthy performance.

But the thing is, even though the song is a joke, it’s so good that you’ll love it. And you’ll hate yourself for loving it. It’s just one of the show’s many charms.

Should this Man be Arrested: Billy Joel

“Should this Man be Arrested?” is an on-going feature that examines the minds of various songwriters through their lyrics. As lyrics are always 100% literal translations of a songwriter’s thoughts, we believe we can use lyrical snippets to answer the following simple, yet crucial, question: should this man be arrested?

Subject:

Billy Joel – popular songwriter known to some as a routine Vegas act, known to others as that guy who wrote “New York State of Mind”, but known to all as the Piano Man

Evidence:

“We didn’t start the fire.
It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire.
No, we didn’t start it, but we tried to fight it.”

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” (from Storm Front)

Thoughts:

Let’s look at the underlying assumptions of Mr. Joel’s statements.  It must be presumed a fire was started.  Joel seems to have been there, yet pleads over and over that he didn’t start it.  In fact, he claims that “we” tried to fight it.  So he had at least one other person with him.  Now, the key here is the fact Mr. Joel is like a broken record in his denial of starting the fire.  He states that “we didn’t start the fire” no less than eleven times.  At some point, incessant denial becomes outright suspicious behavior.  Billy Joel has reached this point.

The next point to address is where exactly the fire is located.  Things get a bit tricky at that point.  Upon a more in depth look through his lyrics, one will determine that Joel has clearly lost a few of his marbles.  He throws in random historical people or events seemingly with no connection other than that they follow in chronological order.  He’s like a history teacher gone AWOL.

A sample lyric:

“Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide,
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz,
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law,
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!”

One can only imagine that this songwriter has gone stark-raving mad.  In fact, he writes in the song that “I [he] can’t take it anymore”.  The fire itself, which at first seems like a mystery, actually becomes clear with a look through the above lyrics.  This the fire of humanity.  As in, the metaphorical fire that started off all the evils in this world, from crack to homeless vets to even “Wheel of Fortune”.

This is some heavy stuff and I’m afraid Mr. Joel is in the middle of it.

Verdict:

Guilty.  Not only does Billy present himself as a maniacal history buff, but he also denies starting the fire over and over and over again. I believe he not only started a fire, but he started THE fire.  I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.  As a reasonable man, I’d give him a pass if he started it in Nebraska, but he doesn’t seem to have that defense.

The song itself reads like a confession.  As if his guilt has finally outweighed him.  In fact, it ends with the following statement: “But when we are gone, will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…?”  He clearly feels sorry for starting us on this never-ending losing battle.  Unfortunately, sorry doesn’t bring back JFK.  Sorry doesn’t save the millions dying in Africa.  You don’t get a cookie for being sorry Billy.

We can never undo what Billy Joel has done.  But we can bring him to justice.

From Here to Eternity: The Big Fish

“From Here to Eternity” is a four part mini-series examining what to make of the future of music. The series begins with a glimpse into the crystal ball for the future of  major bands, then onto smaller/indie bands. From there, the series  moves on to two radically changing industries: concert ticket distribution and music sales.

“The Big Fish”

In this section, I’d like to read the tea leaves and describe the future for some of our favorite major rock acts. Be warned, it isn’t just roses from here on out.

The Rolling Stones – The band will continue having anniversary concerts for their 55th year together, their 60th, and then while preparing for their massive We Never Say Die tour in 2022, Keith Richards will die. At his funeral, Mick Jagger will perform a mournful version of “Bitch”.  Confused faces will abound.

U2 – In 2014, five years after the mild-selling U2 album No Line on the Horizon, Bono will announce that  U2 is ready to re-re-apply for job of best band in the world. With that, their new album No Time for the Future But Now will be released. It will be another guitar love affair by the Edge, with classic Bono wailing, and several mentions of the words “love”, “fire”, “spirit”, “time”, and other major sentiments that people can feel attached to. It will sell millions of copies with producer Danger Mouse calling it “the dopest thing created buy a bunch of white guys ever”. U2 will continue to piss off the Pitchfork music website with their shameless display of all flash and no substance. Bono will once again show that the younger Bono of around the 3 minute mark of this clip is dead and gone.

Radiohead – After years of creating cultural upheaval and consistently being called the world’s greatest band or the future of music or the savior of our times, Radiohead created the relaxed and non-world beating The King of Limbs. As astute readers of blogs, critical reviews, and YouTube comments, Yorke and co. will soon decide it’s  time to “get weird” again. So in 2015, they will release the album AOUIWEKLJE to the delight of fans everywhere. Before diving into the album, people will be greeted with the enigma of the title. Fans will give long-winded essays on it’s meaning, from how the letters looked together at certain angles with the sun to the way the sequence of letters sounds in cat noises, with no response from within the Radiohead camp.

Finally, in 2025, Yorke will get drunk in an interview and will be asked about the album title, to which he will say “It was just a big laugh. I covered Jonny’s eyes and he just started typing random letters. We went with it.” The album itself will consist mostly of key arrangements to only sound palatable to those who worked hard enough at it to get that palate. One of their most challenging and awe-inspiring works yet.

Bob Dylan – Bob will keep croaking along. He’ll never stop croaking. He’ll be dead and still croaking.

Beck – After the abysmal failure that was Song Reader, Beck will try his hand at directing movies. His first movie, “Under a Bourbon Sun”, will be about a bottle of bourbon that got tired of living in a bar, decided to crawl out to see the world, got too hot in the desert sun, lost all its alcohol to evaporation, and eventually died. It will not be a success.

Dead Artists – After the deaths of many major artists (Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.), Warner Bros. will win the rights to their music and creates the “Hologram” series in a similar vein to the amazing-and-not-at-all-pure-evil Tupac Shakur Coachella concert.

The “Hologram” series will be surefire hit, with kids from Alabama to Japan dancing along to a hologrammed Michael Jackson “singing” “Billie Jean”. Several artists will try to complain about royalties and ethics, but they will all be dead.

So it goes.

Yasunori Mitsuda Myth: The Xenogears Orchestral Album

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The list of memorable soundtracks, in my opinion, is a short one. Many times they’re haphazardly thrown together with a few big name bands writing a few original compositions in order to cash-in on some lame movie. I suppose there might be some correlation between how commercial a piece of art is and how awful the soundtrack will be. The more artsy the film, the more likely you’ll find a decent soundtrack.

Think more Rushmore and less Twilight, and you’ll get my point.

A good soundtrack reminds you why you loved the source material in the first place, and it’s no different in the case of video games. Yasunori Mitsuda (the second greatest video game composer of all time behind Nobuo Uematsu) has put together his fair share of memorable tunes, and his work for Xenogears–the 1997 PlayStation RPG in which the final boss you kill is God–is arguably his greatest work. There isn’t a bad song among the 40+ tracks that comprise the original soundtrack.

Xenogears, as a game and a series of soundtracks, is an anomaly. The game itself dealt heavily with religious themes that largely made no sense at all, and it eventually inspired a series of prequels that led nowhere. The music from the game is undeniably brilliant–so brilliant in fact, that it spawned not one but two arranged albums. 1998’s Creid was yet another odd excursion into genre exploration (the first being 1995’s Chrono Trigger Arranged Version: The Brink of Time which was some weird collection of jazz, fusion and awful) that felt more like an exercise in world rhythms than a proper arranged album. The second arranged album, Myth, is more along the lines of a traditional arranged album and it delivers almost impossibly some 13 years after Creid was released.

The fact that Myth even exists is an anomaly; how often does an arranged album pop up some 15 years after a game’s release? Answer: never (if I’m wrong, please enlighten me in the comments section below). But here it is, with all the bells and whistles of a properly orchestrated arranged album. They’ve selected the best tracks from the original soundtrack in my opinion save for the brilliant “Blue Traveler”–but you can’t have everything in life. The arrangements themselves are sharp and poignant; “Cage of Remorse and Relief” is a brilliant vocal rendition of the original’s “In a Prison of Remorse and Contentment” (why they have different titles is beyond me), and just as nearly breathtaking is the opener “Dark Dawn” which devotees will remember is the song played during the opening FMV.

As soon as I gleefully trudged through every last second of its 53 minute and 11 second run-time, I immediately booted up my copy of Xenogears, but I soon learned that the game itself is better left as a memory. I’m older now, and I probably don’t have 60+ hours to devote to a video game that I’ve already played, but if I’m feeling nostalgic I can blast Myth from my car speakers and remember fondly what it was like to be 17 again.

Grade: A

The Best Closing Song to a Video Game

Dracula: “For what profit is it to man if he gains the world and loses his own soul? Matthew 16:26, I believe.”

Alucard: “…..”

Any game that quotes the good book has clearly gone into deep water. When the man doing the quoting is none other than the Prince of Darkness, you know there’s no going back. This is why Alucard, his son, is left speechless. After all, who knew Dracula was so well read?

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is known as one of the greatest games ever made, easily one of the best for the PlayStation. In a time when 3D gaming was all the rage, Symphony of the Night adamantly stood by 2D side-scrolling, and created a near perfect masterpiece for the platform RPG genre.

Outside the amazing gameplay, one of the great things about the game is its well-timed musical pieces, oft times accompanying tone-setting dialogue and amazing voice overs, particularly in the case of its famous “What is a Man?” scene. The game’s ending, to which the above quote comes from, is no exception. Alucard has just smote Dracula, and only in those last gasps for air does his father understand that he may have gone a bit overboard with his whole ruling the world thing. What follows is one of the great father-son reunions in video game history, leading to the game’s penultimate moment, when Alucard says “You have been doomed ever since you lost the ability to love.” Quite true Alucard. Quite true.

Skip past a well-placed scene between Alucard, his lover Maria, and his possessed-throughout-the-entire-game friend Richter, and you get to the end credits, where the awe-inspiring Mariah Carey-ish ballad, ” I Am the Wind” takes over. You would think a game as dark as Castlevania would end with a song a bit ominous, or spooky, or at least somber, but the good people at Konami decided to take their last risk. With lines like  “the best of me is all I have to give” and “sometimes I don’t like the person I’ve become”, the song was a poetic line in the sand. It was a bold statement.

And it paid off.

Without further adieu, here is the Symphony of the Night full ending.  Skip ahead to the 3:26 mark for “I Am the Wind”.

Music Fun Fact #7,815: Dylan’s Non-Paranoia Too Much for the Ed Sullivan Show

May 12, 1963.

Bob Dylan (the man who wrote the second best version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”) was scheduled to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.  These were the dark days in the long, long ago.  Back in a world that had not heard of Bob Dylan. Before “Like a Rolling Stone”, “The Times They Are A-Changin”, or even “Blowin in the Wind’. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album came out in May 27,1963…fifteen days later. Fifteen days until an album that would set the world on fire.

On May 12, 1963 though, he was just some kid that came from nowhere and was headed perhaps nowhere. He was a 21 year old Woody Guthrie fanatic. He’d had one album nearly completely filled with covers, with nothing special to show for it. Obviously, this would all change in one of the most dramatic can-you-believe-this-actually-happened sort of ways in music history.

But this was before then.

And the boy must have needed money. He was scheduled to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and had, in radical folk-singer fashion, decided to perform a humorous song dissecting the ultra-conservative anti-communist John Birch Society. The song in question–“Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”–would see its first official release decades later on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3: Rare and Unreleased. Apparently “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Masters of War,” or “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” (all on his forthcoming album) weren’t good enough.

Well, the good people at CBS decided this particular 21 year old had written a particular song that didn’t cater to their particular audience. For context, this was back in a time when McCarthyism was still considered a reasonable idea by some. Back when men were men and people were stupid.

CBS staffers requested Dylan to play another ditty. He  refused this request. Ultimately, Dylan walked away from the opportunity, retaining his dignity along with his unknown status. CBS went on to make classic sitcoms like “Two and a Half Men”, while Dylan went on to make classic songs like “Visions of Johanna”, “Tangled up in Blue” and “Not Dark Yet”. Apparently catering to CBS wasn’t on Dylan’s agenda.

Granted, neither was catering to his audience.

Music Fun Fact #3,452: Keith Richards Falls Off a Tree

So you’ve heard the hits.  Sympathy for the Devil.  Brown Sugar.  (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.  The list goes on and on.  England’s Hitmakers have really been on a roll for a while.  They never grow old.  From the 60s to the 70s, those sex-loving, party-swinging, heroin-injecting, incest-having (get to that later), guitar-driving rockers conquered the world, one hit after another.  It was like nothing could stop them.  They were that bulldozer, breaking down the musical landscape and reinventing it as their own.  Invincible you could say.  But then…

Then came the tree.

And with it, all hell broke loose.

In 2006, during an otherwise relaxing early summer vacation with his family in Fiji, Keith Richards was minding his own business.  Probably getting the newspaper, injecting some heroin, taking Viagra, fooling around with his hot trophy wife, you know, the usual.  After having his servants make him a cup of tea, and ordering them to accompany it with his favorite happy song, “Happy”, he must have decided to take an early morning stroll across the island.

As an older man, I’m sure he was excited just to be alive, seeing the sights and sounds of the great island.

Fiji- Aerial View

He was probably hearing the hummingbirds sing, seeing the waves crash, feeling the wind against his old bones, when he heard the rustling of leaves.  He then looked around and wondered where it came from.  There in front of him was the giant tree, at least 10 feet tall!

He stared for a while and pondered to himself, “Well young lad, I believe this would be a mighty fine tree to climb as we did back in the old days.”  (Whenever Keith Richards ponders anything, he talks to himself as if he were having a conversation.  Some might say he needs medical attention.)  Keith replied to himself, “Ah good sir, I do believe you are right.  I best be climbing!”

Then he began the treacherous tree climb that will forever be called the “Richard’s Death Climb”.  After a few minutes, he was about to reach the top (all of 10 feet high), when he noticed a little bird at the top.

Then came the following conversation with the evil bird that led to his near death:

“Why hello little one, pleased to meet you.”

“Why don’t you look like a happy birdie?

“You’re so pretty, I think I’m going to pick you up and take you home with me.”

“Here I go…wait…ahhhhhhh!”

Poor old Richards forgot he needed both hands on the tree to stay up and after attempting to pick up the bird, taking his hands off the tree, he fell.  Richards went down, because after all, you can’t always get what you want.  He survived, but was never the same.

And so ends the story of the famous “Richard’s Death Climb”.  He learned a valuable lesson.  If you’re an aging rock star with severe mental disabilities due to decades snorting and injecting anything in sight, climbing a tree might not be how to get your rocks off.

In summary:

Keith Richards   Plus_sign equals-sign-e1306797769988  pirate_skull_and_bones_clip_art_19103

In case you don’t believe me, here’s the article.

Lastly:

“I don’t have a drug problem.  I have a police problem.”

– Keith Richards

Divine intervention is the only rationale I see for how Richards has survived this long.