John & Yoko And The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir - "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"

Rather than sing about callow subjects such as snow, reindeer or mistletoe, in "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" John Lennon manages to capture the teachings of Christ, whose life and death we supposedly celebrate in this season of gluttony and consumerism.
So this is Christmas
and what have you done
another year over
a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
the near and the dear ones
the old and the young.

A very Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year
let's hope it's a good one
without any fear

And so this is Christmas (war is over...)
for weak and for strong (...if you want it)
the rich and the poor ones
the road is so long

From Wikipedia:
The lyric is based on a campaign in late 1969 by Lennon and Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world that read: "WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko."

The cities included New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. At the time of the song's release, the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War.

The line "War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!", as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards.

Free Christmas Music

If you're not in the Christmas spirit by now, maybe you haven't been listening to the right music.

If online radio is you're thing, check out one of the 10 holiday stations on Pandora or "Xmas in Frisko" or "Christmas Lounge" on SomaFM.

If you still like to download music -- I do -- you'll find links to dozens of free Christmas tracks on Paste Magazine: "The Paste Holiday Sampler: 13 Free Christmas MP3s" and "50+ Free Christmas mp3s."

Happy Holidays!

Gorillaz - "Broken" featuring Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Gorillaz have created a cool, weird advent calendar for their fans. This is the content for today, December 23rd.

But wait, it gets better.
You can scratch that new Gorillaz record off your holiday wishlist, because Damon Albarn and his cartoon comrades are making it their Christmas present to you.

The album, which was written and recorded entirely on an iPad, will be available as a free download on the band’s website on Christmas morning. Jamie Hewlett recently spilled the beans to Perth Now, saying, “On Christmas Eve, a video for one of the new songs from the iPad album will be released. Then, on Christmas Day fans get the whole album downloaded to their computer for free as a gift.”

The Verve - "Slide Away" + "On Your Own" + "Rather Be"

It was a cold, wet, dreary day in Austin when I heard the Verve for the first time. It must have been the fall of 1993 because my sister and I visited a happy hour hosted by a local radio station and I walked out with a promo cassette copy of "A Storm in Heaven." As soon as I heard "Slide Away," I was hooked.

By the time The Verve released their second full-length, "A Northern Soul," in the summer of 1995, I was working at a summer camp in Cambridge, England. By then I had listened to "A Storm in Heaven" -- no exaggeration -- several hundred times. The sounds of Richard Ashcroft's voice and Nick McCabe's guitars had become an ineffable part of my waking and dreaming life.

"A Northern Soul" was a departure musically and lyrically from the first album and EP. "On Your Own" would mark the beginning of Ashcroft's foray into radio-friendly ballads.

I saw The Verve play at T in the Park in Scotland the day before they first broke up in 1996. They reunited to record "Urban Hymns" I saw them twice on that tour. They broke up a second time. When they reunited in 2007 and recorded "Forth," I resolved to see them, knowing their fragile reunion might not last. I missed them at Coachella, which I regret, but did see them in Las Vegas with a friend.

While "Rather Be," off of what may or may not be The Verve's final album, harkens back to early Verve, it would easily fit on "Urban Hymns," a song that both recalls the past and suggests the future while being firmly grounded in the present.
There's no need for introductions
No dark corridors of fame
you won't find your fortune
but you might find some pain
i wanna lie, lie together
feels like our last embrace
in a world full of confusion
yeah, the human race

But I'd rather be here than be anywhere
is there anywhere better than here?
you know these feelings i've found they are oh so rare
Is there anywhere better than here?

If I were a musician or a singer in a band, The Verve is whom I would emulate. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to one band, it would be The Verve. If I could only listen to one album, it would be "A Storm in Heaven."

Sharon Van Etten - "Don't Do It"

I just discovered Sharon Van Etten, thanks to Stereogum featuring her latest album, "Epic," as one of their top albums of 2010. (You can listen to Stereogum's Top Albums of 2010 on

It's a stunning song for being so simple. Check out a version of "Don't Do It" with just Sharon and a guitar and you'll hear why - it's her voice. I think it loses something with a full band accompanying her.

If you like this, you might also check out this unofficial video for Van Etten's "A Crime" on YouTube, which features the photography of Raymond Cauchetier.

The Beatles - "Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows"

I was familiar with "Tomorrow Never Knows," on The Beatles' Revolver as a kid listening to my parents' record collection, but didn't really hear it until I was in college, after I had familiarized myself with the work of Timothy Leary.
The Beatles' unfolding innovation in the recording studio reaches its apex with the album's final track. Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows" was one of the first songs in the emerging genre of psychedelic music, and included such groundbreaking techniques as reverse guitar, processed vocals and looped tape effects. Musically, it is drone-like, with a strongly syncopated, repetitive drum-beat. The lyrics were inspired by Timothy Leary's book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, although the title itself was inspired by a Ringo Starr malapropism.

Much of the backing track consists of a series of prepared tape loops, stemming from Lennon's and McCartney's interest in and experiments with magnetic tape and musique concrète techniques at that time. According to The Beatles' session chronicler Mark Lewisohn, Lennon and McCartney prepared a series of loops at home, and these then were added to the pre-recorded backing track. This was reportedly done live in a single take, with multiple tape recorders running simultaneously, some of the longer loops extending out of the control room and down the corridor.

Lennon's processed lead vocal was another innovation. Always in search of ways to enhance or alter the sound of his voice, he gave a directive to EMI engineer Geoff Emerick that he wanted to sound like he was singing from the top of a high mountain. Emerick solved the problem by routing a signal from the recording console into the studio's Leslie speaker, giving Lennon's vocal its ethereal, filtered quality (he was later reprimanded by the studio's management for doing this).

A key production technique used for the first time on this album was automatic double tracking (ADT), invented by EMI engineer Ken Townsend on 6 April 1966. This technique used two linked tape recorders to automatically create a doubled vocal track. The standard method was to double the vocal by singing the same piece twice onto a multitrack tape, a task Lennon particularly disliked. The Beatles were reportedly delighted with the invention, and used it extensively on Revolver. ADT quickly became a standard pop production technique, and led to related developments, including the artificial chorus effect.
Although George Harrison had used the sitar before "Within You Without You," it was this track on The Beatles' masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that deserves credit for introducing the sitar and Eastern mysticism into the popular culture.

"Within You Without You" features only Harrison and a group of uncredited Indian musicians, and was written on a harmonium at the house of long-time Beatles' friend Klaus Voormann, while "there were lots of joints being smoked".

The song, originally written as a 30-minute piece and trimmed down into a mini-version for the album, is in Locrian mode. The laughter at the end was Harrison's idea to lighten the mood and follow the theme of the album.

The song was also included on the 2006 remix album Love. For this album, George Harrison's lyrics and melody were mixed over the rhythm of "Tomorrow Never Knows," although the opening lyric, "Turn off your mind... Relax... And float downstream........ It is not dying.......... It is not dying." came from "Tomorrow Never Knows," as does the set of reversed sound effects utilized in the mashup. The blending of these two songs is considered the most effective form of mashup on the album.

Stephen Stills was so impressed by the lyrics that he had them carved on a stone monument in his yard. John Lennon pronounced it "one of George's best songs."
And here is that mashup, a perfect mystical Beatles mashup if there ever was one...

Janelle Monáe - "Many Moons" Official Short Film

I was going to embed the video for Janelle's "Tightrope" featuring Big Boi, but it's been disabled on YouTube. Too bad, it's a great song -- arguably one of the best singles of 2010 -- and a really fun video that will make you want to get up and move.

I was looking forward to seeing Janelle for the first time at the Outside Lands Festival this year, but she didn't go on stage until way past her time (held up in traffic is what I heard). As much as I wanted to see her, I wasn't going to wait around for her to show up and risk missing the next band I wanted to see that day -- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

In retrospect, given the fact that I saw Edward Sharpe at Bonnaroo and the high energy of Janelle's videos and footage I caught afterwards of her set at Outside Lands, I probably should have stuck around.

Yes - "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"

It's impossible to imagine a song like this reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 in today's market, but it did back in 1983.

Great video. Great song. I have no idea what either mean, but the Kafkaesque images and music still have a strange effect on me, 27 years after its release.

Rolling Stone: Singles of the Year 2010

The latest issue of Rolling Stone includes their annual wrap-up of the best songs and albums of 2010.

Honestly, I haven't heard many of the singles, since I rarely listen to corporate radio. So I've cued 'em up as a MOG playlist to get my pop on this morning. I'm listening to #4 Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" now.

You can listen to Rolling Stone's best songs of 2010 now at If you're not yet a member of MOG, sign-up for a trial and you'll be hooked.

Rolling Stone's Best Singles of 2010

1. Kanye West feat. Pusha T, "Runaway"
2. Cee Lo Green, "Fuck You"
3. Sade, "Soldier of Love"
4. Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"
5. Arcade Fire, "We Used to Wait"
6. Mavis Staples, "You Are Not Alone"
7. Vampire Weekend, "White Sky"
8. Janelle Monáe feat. Big Boi, "Tightrope"
9. Broken Bells, "The Ghost Inside"
10. Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, "Monster"
11. The Black Keys, "Everlasting Light"
12. Mark Ronson and the Business International feat. Q-Tip and MNDR, "Bang Bang Bang"
13. The Dead Weather, "Hustle and Cuss"
14. Big Boi feat. Cutty, "Shutterbugg"
15. Drake, "Over"
16. Cold War Kids, "Coffee Spoon"
17. LCD Soundsystem, "I Can Change"
18. Jenny and Johnny, "Scissor Runner"
19. The New Pornographers, "Your Hands (Together)"
20. Best Coast, "Boyfriend"
21. Sleigh Bells, "Infinity Guitars"
22. Rick Ross feat. Styles P, "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"
23. Jamey Johnson, "Macon"
24. Eminem, "Not Afraid"
25. Nicki Minaj, "Did It On'em"
26. Robyn, "Dancing on My Own"
27. The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
28. Band of Horses, "Laredo"
29. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "The Trip to Pirate's Cove"
30. Jakob Dylan, "Nothing but the Whole Wide World"
31. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"
32. Die Antwoord, "Enter the Ninja"
33. Wavves, "Post Acid"
34. Gorillaz feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack, "Stylo"
35. Massive Attack feat. Hope Sandoval, "Paradise Circus"
36. Drake feat. Nicki Minaj, "Up All Night"
37. Lloyd Banks feat. Juelz Santana, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley"
38. Spoon, "The Mystery Zone"
39. The Gaslight Anthem, "The Diamond Church Street Choir"
40. Kanye West, "Power"
41. Junip, "In Every Direction"
42. Surfer Blood, "Floating Vibes"
43. B.o.B. feat. Bruno Mars, "Nothing on You"
44. Neil Young, "Love and War"
45. The Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul"
46. MGMT, "Congratulations"
47. Kid Rock, "Born Free"
48. Das Racist, "hahahaha jk?"
49. Elizabeth Cook, "El Camino"
50. Ke$ha, "We R Who We R"

Joseph Arthur - "Slide Away"

Right after Joseph Arthur released his fifth full-length album, "Nuclear Daydream," I burned a mix CD of Joseph Arthur songs for my wife. After a few listens, she told me this was "a perfect song." What makes it perfect? The music, the lyrics, the voice... who knows? That's the mystery of music.

The Tubes - "White Punks On Dope"

Leave it to The Tubes and Fee Waybill (aka "Quay Lude") to indict punk music, punk ethos, and the SoCal and NorCal rich kids who played at being punk with an over-the-top glam song like "White Punks on Dope."

I use the word "indict" with some reservations, since Fee does seem to have a bit of sympathy for the white punks on dope.
We're white punks on dope
Mom & Dad moved to Hollywood
Hang myself when I get enough rope

Other dudes are living in the ghetto
But born in Pacific Heights don't seem much betto

I go crazy 'cause my folks are so fucking rich
Have to score when I get that rich white punk itch
Sounds real classy, living in a chateau
So lonely, all the other kids will never know
Despite what YouTube commenters may think, The Tubes are not now and have never been a punk band.

Incidentally I've seen these guys live several times in the last few years, and despite their advancing age, or maybe because of it, The Tubes rock. Check 'em out if you get a chance.

Michael Jackson - "Rock With You"

It's great to see that this track from "Off the Wall," in my opinion Michael Jackson's greatest musical gift to mankind, has been viewed over 13 million times on YouTube.

If I've listened to this song once, I've listened to it 100 times. I'll never grow tired of the beauty of Michael's voice and his message.
Girl, close your eyes
Let that rhythm get into You
Don't Try To Fight It
There Ain't Nothin' That You Can Do
Relax Your Mind
Lay Back And Groove With Mine
You Got To Feel That Heat
And We Can Ride The Boogie
Share That Beat Of Love

Girl, When You Dance
There's A Magic That Must Be Love
Just Take It Slow
'Cause We Got So Far To Go

And When The Groove Is Dead And Gone
You Know That Love Survives
So We Can Rock Forever, On
We miss you, Michael. Rest in peace.

Cracker - "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me"

From Cracker's ninth studio album, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, released in May 2009 on 429 Records.