It’s not often nowadays you come across a song whose chords haven’t been posted online, but that’s the case with Elvis Costello’s “Why Can’t a Man Stand Alone”. So, here you are.
Some (lovely) dissonant notes in the bass of the recording can, at first listen, throw you off, but these chords’ll get you where you need to go…
A B E Why can't a man stand alone? F#m C#m Gdim E A E Must he be burdened by all that he's taught to consider his own? A E Gdim E His skin and his station, his kin and his crown A+D A7♮ B E His flag and his nation they just weigh him down G#m E You know pride is a sin A E A E That we tend to forgive, but it gets hard to live C#m E A B When you don't have the love in her heart to begin with A B E Why can't a man stand alone?
A B E Why can't a woman be just what she seems? F#m C#m Gdim E A E Must she be tarnished by men who can only be men in their dreams? A E Gdim E When beauty meets ignorance they shout in the street A+D A7♮ B E Repeating their offer to each girl they meet G#m E The respect that she needs, A E A E It isn't a gift, but it gets hard to lift C#m E A B Yourself up when you don't have the strength to begin with A B E Why can't a woman stand alone?
Em+F# D C Em Em+F# D D7 Why can't a baby sleep at night and dream of the time to come D7 F#m B And never fear the world outside the touch of someone very near
A B Why can't a man stand up? A B Why can't a man stand up? A B E Why can't a man stand alone?
In honor of summer, courtesy of J.M. and E.H. circa 2001.
From “Functional” on the album Thelonious Himself by Thelonious Monk. “Functional” is one of those songs you play for a good friend and then make things all awkward by saying, “This is the song I want played at my funeral.”
Stupid guitar question #1: when you hammer on, are you supposed to be able to hear the note made on the bit of string on the neck above your finger?
I’ve played guitar for about sixteen years, and being a self-taught, by-ear, messer-arounder, I’ve almost certainly developed awful habits.
I say “almost certainly” because I honestly don’t know. And after seeing my acoustic guitar crack where the neck meets the body because I never learned how to maintain my instruments, I’m finally going to start asking the stupid questions I should have been asking all along.
First up: in this little one-off recording of “Cunla” I made tonight, is it normal to sometimes hear the upper half of steel strings when I hammer on? It can be awfully dissonant. But is that just how things work when you play fast single notes on a steel-string acoustic?
Click to listen: Cunla (excerpt in single pass)
I’d really appreciate any comments…
On September 25, 2001, XM Satellite Radio (XM) launched a service to provide paying subscribers with radio that they would traditionally receive free of charge. With in hand an $80 million Federal Communications Commission license to broadcast its signals via satellite rather than through a network of ground-based transmitters, XM had raised $1.1 billion to launch two Boeing-made satellites and to build a 60,000 square-foot broadcasting headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Colker T1). XM also secured deals with electronics manufacturers and auto-makers to make certain the public can buy XM-ready receivers, and by pouring $100 million into a preliminary advertising campaign, it made sure the public would know about this new, “revolutionary” technology (Taub G1). What was supposed to be revolutionary was that this new conception of radio would financially support its 100, genre-specific channels with almost no advertising within their programming (see appendix for full channel listing). Instead, the commercial-free programming is funded directly by the listener through subscription fees.
The opening paragraph of my Wake Forest honors thesis just begins to hint at my enthusiasm, at the time, for the new medium of satellite radio. Indeed, at that time, I was still furious about the loss of my beloved 90.1 FM WDCU jazz station three years before—as a high schooler, I had written something of a precursor, citing Eric Boehlert’s Rolling Stone article “Radio Land Rush” warning about the dire effects on music quality and diversity of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which eliminated ownership restrictions on radio stations under the forward-looking but narrow logic that the public would soon be getting their music and information from sources other than radio, that radio needed to homogenize to survive. (Boehlert’s piece isn’t online, but he made a similar argument in “One Big Happy Channel?” for Salon.com in 2001.)
I hated those effects of the Telecom Act. WDCU went under (my friend Jon arrived at school, agitated, and told me the station, at midnight the night before, during a Miles Davis solo, had fallen to static). 99.1 WHFS, the alt-rock station that introduced me to Pearl Jam and Ted Leo, become a shell of itself, and in a few years, following the market, became a Spanish-language station. The Telecom Act allowed media companies to buy up many stations and program music from a single central list, rebroadcasted identically throughout the country. Except in the preposterously upped number of local furniture company ads, radio no longer had any connection to geographic communities.
But I was optimistic about satellite radio when it came along in 2001, after nearly two decades in the works. It had some of the same limitations…XM was broadcast entirely out of its DC headquarters, for example. But it had no ads, meaning the only way to make money was to play music the subscribers wanted, including new music the DJs thought their listeners would really like. And as the tone of my thesis can attest, I loved it. By 2004, XM had a 100% commercial-free lineup, had struck a deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast all their games nationwide, and, thanks to savvy deals with automakers, ended the year with over 3 million subscribers.
Despite this, it wasn’t long before the landscape around satellite radio changed enough that “playing music the subscribers wanted” became nonsensical. You no longer needed to subscribe to anything to get what you wanted; you had your iPod and your music sharing services and, more recently, social media and online recommendation engines that, to many, made the DJ role obsolete.
It was a few years later, in 2007, that XM and Sirius, pushed by their investors and a bad economy, decided to merge and were able to make a compelling case to the government it this wasn’t an anti-competitive move. Yes, these were the only two satellite music companies and had gotten a lot of what they wanted by dint of a promise that they’d never merge. But now they were up against traditional radio, web feeds, podcasts, iTunes, concert footage on YouTube, radio on cable TV, legal file sharing, illegal file sharing, and dozens of other distribution networks for music and information.
The government approved the merger, and on July 29, 2008, when the merger was completed, satellite radio officially began to suck.
DJs were laid off on stations like XMU—Sirius-XM’s alt-rock station—destroying the last human connection between listener and company. This is the primary reason I had decided to cancel my subscription. In the past year, though, Sirius-XM began to charge for listening on the web, even to existing subscribers, and the overall monthly cost continued to increase ahead of inflation. It got harder to justify paying more for so much less of a product.
From a business perspective, Sirius-XM weathered the recession with relative aplomb, avoiding a bankruptcy that was seen as all but certain after its shares fell to $0.05. But from a music-lover’s perspective, the service is, like terrestrial radio in 2001, a shell of itself. I recently listened to the station RealJazz, for example, and heard entire blocks of music repeated during one afternoon, reinforcing the fact that I was no longer listening to a radio station staffed by fellow music lovers. I was listening to a computer program run by Wall Street investors.
I get it. I do. I know it’s a business and Sirius-XM has to do what it can to survive and thrive financially. But like the changes made by conglomerates the wake of the ’96 Telecom Act, these changes feel more like a betrayal to a community than forgivable good business sense.
Anyway. So I made the call yesterday. After only a little well-trained pushback from the person at the other end of the phone, my XM radio, for the first time since 2001, fell to static.
Robin D. G. Kelley’s new book Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is just plain awesome.
The first jazz album I ever bought—I would have been sixteen or so—was Thelonious Himself, a late-career solo album Monk recorded after a more than a decade of low-wage gigs, stolen compositions, and magazine writers’ lazy caricatures.
Kelley, to whom I just wrote a blathering email because I’m so in awe of his work here, writes a new, accurate narrative, using his prodigious skills as musicologist and music describer, as well as his Herculean scholarshipping to fully cover Monk’s life. (The appendix features 3,027 endnotes.)
I’ll quote one paragraph from the book because it’s the one that got me out of bed to email Kelley and write this post. I quote it because, as a non-musicologist, it’s the single best description of Monk’s musical style I’ve ever read (and granted, this is just page 141; there’s 310 pages, plus acknowledgments, to go; it could get even better):
All the songs on the date [a Blue Note recording session in 1948], particularly Monk’s musical dialogues with [vibraphonist] Milton Jackson, exemplify Monk’s characteristic parallel voices, collective improvisations, and layering of melodic lines and countermelodies. In these and other recordings, he invents countermelodies, incorporates arpeggios (outlining chords in single notes, often emphasizing the most dissonant tonalities), and plays many different “runs” down the piano—particularly runs built on whole-tone scales. Monk, in other words, conceived of the piano as an orchestral instrument. He thought in multiple lines—two, three, even four—an played independent rhythmic lines with his left and right hands. It was a key to Monk as a composer, improviser, and arranger—three components of making music that he treated as inseparable. For Monk, the composition was not just the melody but the entire performance. He had little interest in “blowing sessions.” Even when musicians were improvising together, he expected a level of orchestration that would sustain the essential elements of the piece.
For a couple years I kept coming back to Planxty’s version of the Celtic harp tune “Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór” as a song of some comfort. But it wasn’t until recently that I sat down with my guitar to figure out how to play it. Now, granted, my “playing” is just chords, so I can play along, but it showed me a internet blind spot, namely that “Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór” was only available as tablature, not as straight-up chords.
So here at last, internet, is “Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór” as chords, based on the version from Planxty Live – 2004. Guitar picks up at 1:09.
D Bm G A D, G A, D Bm, G D A D G A D2-ish
D Bm G A D, A D Bm G A(?) D G A G A D2-ish
Parts A and B repeat two more times in full, in order. Corrections are more than welcome, just leave them in the comments below.
Radiohead and director James Frost generated some buzz last year when they released a video for the song “House of Cards” that used no lights or cameras. How’d they do it? Current.com helped produce a short documentary of the “filming,” which, in its experimentation with new and old technology, reminds me of how work is done at the MIT Media Lab…give it a look:
And here’s the “House of Cards” video, all finished:
I was using TuneUp to clean up my Monk tracks in iTunes, it suggested some Youtube videos. Oof…
Around 2:50 in this one, of him in Oslo in April of ’66, he does his famous random stand-up, followed immediately by a solo showing his percussive technique. He was long criticized for his lack of proper technique, but I don’t know how else a pianist could achieve the right syncopation without it:
All of “Straight, No Chaser” by Clint Eastwood is online:
And there’s a podcast with footage of Orin Keepnews, who helped produce Monk’s concert at New York Town Hall in 1959: