Live from Sweet Home Quarantine (EYE outtakes and requests) pt. 18
This was an interesting, historical show, with Robyn concentrating on EYE’s outtakes and demos. Depending on which CD you have, you would need both the 1995 Rhino Records version and the 2007 Yep Roc Records versions to be aware of these tracks. Starting off in the kitchen (Studio B) with his small mahogany acoustic, Robyn said the first song was “Not from EYE but part of that harvest of glorious pain.” He started off, solo, with ‘The Devil’s Coachman’ from Queen Elvis, singing at the end:
Yesterday I saw the Devil in my food
I wasn't hungry but I played with it
Blood red horns gouged through my scrambled (egg)
Yesterday I saw the Devil in my heart
I was expecting him, the doctor came
I have to call the doctor every time we kiss
Next up was ‘Transparent Lover,’ from the Yep Roc outtakes, a beautiful, folkie song. Robyn’s voice: very strong and his guitar playing: stellar. Before the next song, ‘Sweet Ghost Of Light,’ Reg mentioned he was trying to do things “in a more earthbound way” when he wrote it. This EYE bonus track had a distinct Velvet Underground/Lou Reed feel, like ‘Candy Says’ crossed with an early Bowie song.
Emma Swift made an appearance, noting the usual John and Yoko calendar in the background had been replaced with a picture of Linda Ronstadt (our Ronstadt review at tinyurl.com/zublinda). Reg and Em did a poppy, upbeat version of ‘So You Think You’re In Love’ from Perspex Island. Robyn commented on how lovely Emma looked and she replied “ I went to the Dolly Parton School of Beauty.” The duo then did Queen Elvis’ ‘One Long Pair Of Eyes,’ beautifully picked on the guitar with that hint of Olde English folk history, it was truly stunning.
Emma left to read the comments on the computer and Reg introduced the next song as “the last song I wrote in the 1980’s and the first of the 1990’s.” He played ‘She Doesn’t Exist’ from Perspex Island, a sad lament for lost love that had top-notch playing and singing. Emma returned and they did ‘Airscape’ from Element Of Light, one of his best tunes. After this one there was some news about Ringo the cat, who apparently has now been sleeping on the sofa. The duo continued with ‘Raining Twilight Coast,’ a proper (non bonus) track from EYE, in which I detected a little bit of Southern California singer-songwriter influence. Maybe it was just the watchful eye of Linda Ronstadt on the wall holding sway.
The show ended up with ‘Century,’ a more obscure EYE bonus track, only on the Yep Roc CD. Emma returned with Ringo’s brother Tubby, and the duo did ‘The Beauty Of Earl’s Court,’ another Yep Roc EYE bonus track that is also a bit obscure. The duo talked through a bit of this one, Reg comparing the lyrics to T.S. Eliot, and emphasizing a Bowie-esque part in the middle.
Robyn and Emma continue to take us on a great journey every week. Their singing and playing gets stronger, and the timeline of Robyn’s work is coming much more into focus. Another great show!
Live from Sweet Home Quarantine (80’s by request part. 2) pt. 19
Tonight’s show found one Robyn Rowan Hitchcock in extreme verbose mode. He could not stop talking, for better or worse. His pre-song rap involved lycanthropes “more and more werewolves around these days,” and “thinking about flying jellyfish,” which of course brought us to Bryan Ferry. Solo in Studio B (with the John and Yoko calendar returned), Reg did a superb version of ‘Take A Chance With Me’ from Roxy Music’s Avalon. He was again playing his Gibson Nick Lucas acoustic, wearing round National Health specs, and sounding very good. Once finished, there was a discussion of 9th chords, which Robyn described as “majesty and doom.”
Using the harmonica, Reg did a dubious version of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds, a weird cover done very folk-style. Emma Swift appeared, wearing her 1987 Pretenders T-Shirt. The duo did a fantastic version of John Lennon’s ‘Watching The Wheels.’ It was moving and wonderful, respectful, and mid-tempo. After, Emma commented “you are rich in monologues tonight, Hitchcock.” A second, even more suspect cover was Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love.’ Em and Reg were quite silly, and the best part was at the end when they sang “you’re addicted to Tubs.” Honestly, I wasn’t really sure why they did this one. They really seem quite egalitarian in accepting requests.
Emma left, Robyn switched to his Larivee acoustic and played a beautiful version of R.E.M. 's ‘King Of Birds’ from Document. This was in an open tuning and very pretty. Emma returned, and the duo surprised me with Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘The Killing Moon,’ Em singing solo and, as usual, killing it. This was a brilliant cover. For the next song, Em played her Gibson acoustic along with Reg, and they did The Triffids ‘Wide Open Road.’ Again, she sang solo and this became a sad, sweet countryish lament.
Next was the obligatory Psychedelic Furs cover, ‘All That Money Wants.’ My issue with Reg singing Psych Furs is that their songs are so much like his, and vice versa. After, there was an extended discussion of Marmite versus Vegemite. The duo then did ‘Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty. I know they are pals with Benmont Tench, but I personally didn’t need to hear this one. I spent most of my life listening to Robyn Hitchcock, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker etc. instead of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. I realize that music is not mutually exclusive, but I got the feeling Em and Reg might be playing to the cheap seats here.
They proceeded to make it all up when Emma sang ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ by Crowded House. It was sad and spectacular, until she lost the lyrics and it train-wrecked in the middle, which was a shame. They ended with a jokey version of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me,’ which mercifully cut off as time ran out.
I’ve loved every one of these shows, every week, but there was a feeling tonight that maybe Reg and Em might be trying too hard to please the patrons. I don’t expect them to be a karaoke machine. I’d love to hear covers that mean more to them, whether Bowie or Syd or Beatles or Neil Young. Plus the real mark of a Dolly Parton School of Beauty alum is playing “Coat of Many Colors.” If they’re into it.
Postscript: I wrote this review on Thursday after the Wednesday show, and I started feeling guilty, thinking maybe I was too harsh on Robyn and Emma, Then on Friday, they sent us the video (of the second show) of the Euro feed on Friday. Such nice folks!
Robyn started solo playing his small mahogany acoustic and harmonica on Simple Minds ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me). Then he did Roxy Music and ‘Take A Chance With Me’ from Avalon with his Telecaster. This was a very strong cover. Emma appeared and sang solo on The Cure and ‘Friday I’m In Love,’ a beautiful mope-fest. Next up was ‘Addicted To Love,’ this time Robyn using a cool shift delay on his electric and totally hamming it up on the vocals. Em sang backup on this Robert Palmer staple and I have to admit it was much better than on Wednesday. Emma left and Robyn switched to acoustic for a stunning version of Lennon’s ‘Watching The Wheels’ with Em appearing to sing with him.
There was a discussion of Robyn’s mullet and his hair. He said next week he’d look like Karl Lagerfeld. Robyn doffed a top hat for Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’ It was well done with both Reg and Em singing, but I just don’t like this song (And Adrienne dislikes Petty so much that she mooned his videos when they played on MTV). I’ll leave it at that. Emma took the hat and left. Robyn then did R.E.M.’s ‘King Of Birds’ solo, beautifully picked and sung. Reg told a story about meeting Nick Lowe in 1977 and later living near him in London. He then did a bouncy version of ‘All Men Are Liars.’ Emma returned and they spoke about Rick Astley and ‘Rickrolling.’ They proceeded to have Emma sing lead on Crowded House and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over.’ Her voice was sparkling and sad at the same time. They didn’t break down like on Wednesday and this was the absolute highlight of the show, They ended up with The Human League and ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby,’ with Reg toning down his vocals, and Emma adding a verse from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ which was quite brilliant. So after the second show, the 80’s covers are just alright with me.
Live from Sweet Home Quarantine (Jewels For Sophia & A Star For Bram) pt. 20
This show moved to Robyn’s 1990’s output, the Jewels LP being one of my favorites. Opening up in Studio B, Robyn was talking to Perry the stuffed lobster like some warped version of Hamlet’s Yorick. He grabbed his Gibson acoustic and launched into ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Gene Hackman,’ a bonus CD track from Jewels For Sophia. When he got to the line that name-checked Andie McDowell, he mentioned “I wrote this in 1997.” Once done, he mentioned most of the songs were in E, “A Key Of Confidence.” Next was ‘Daisy Bomb,’ from A Star For Bram, presented in a jaunty and fun manner.
Emma Swift then joined the proceedings, and Reg said “this is a dismal one, dedicated to the man in the red tie.” They then did ‘Mexican God’ from Jewels:
Dreaming your eyes away, closed to the future
Pray for amnesia to finish you off
This is the evil I wished on so many
Time will destroy you like a Mexican god
Moon in a cup, crushed garlic and babies
Sailors all stagnant and bloating and rough
The horror of you floats so close by my window
At least when I die, your memory will too
Afterwards, Emma mentioned they had their new label, Tiny Ghost Records, merch available, and Reg went electric, getting his Fender Telecaster out. The duo did a strong version of ‘Antwoman,’ then Em went off to find a cat. Robyn changed to acoustic and did his song from the movie The Judas Kiss - ‘Judas Sings (Jesus And Me),’ one of his more overtly serious songs:
You're so degraded, you're so alone
Nothing can save you, not even the phone
This is the capital of
Bad luck and dope
Breaking a piece of you is
Your only hope
Nobody loves you but Jesus and me
I've got my reasons...
You're so corrupted, you're so extreme
God and the angels are out of your dream
This is the century of
You don't believe
In anything but what's up your sleeve
So what's up your sleeve?
Nobody loves you but Jesus and me
I've got my reasons so does he
I want your money but he wants your soul
Next, Reg, still solo, played ‘I Saw Nick Drake’ (from A Star For Bram), a pretty, folky, gently-picked-on-the-guitar song. This was a real highlight and showed Robyn’s folky roots. Emma returned with Tubby for a minute, and Robyn switched to electric. They sang a great ‘Sally Was A Legend,’ Reg’s guitar with plenty of delay on it, getting almost a sitar-like sound. Afterward, Robyn mentioned “my grandma was called ‘the shuffler,’” apropos of nothing. Back on acoustic, Em and Reg did a great, playful version of ‘Viva Sea-Tac’ with its cockeyed lyric about the great Northwest:
People flocked like cattle to Seattle
After Kurt Cobain
And before him the rain
Hendrix played guitar just like an animal
Who's trapped inside a cage
And one day he escaped
Do you want to pay for this in cash?
Viva! Seattle Tacoma, viva viva Sea-Tac
Viva! Seattle Tacoma, viva viva Sea-Tac
Viva viva viva viva viva
They've got the best computers and coffee and smack
Emma disappeared again and Robyn did an energetic version of ‘The Cheese Alarm,’ one of Jewel’s funniest songs, always reminding me of a Monty Python sketch.
With two songs to go, Reg said “let’s wheeze through these beauties.” Em and Reg did ‘No, I Don’t Remember Guilford,’ one of Robyn’s best and emotionally bare songs. It was beautiful, their voices going together perfectly. After Emma said “I love the grim ones,” and they ended up with ‘You’ve Got A Sweet Mouth On You Baby,” from Jewels, a slow, stately, Dylan like tune.
Personally these records are among my favorite Hitchcock titles. It was great to hear these songs, and the addition of secret weapon Emma Swift was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better show. Great work, Em and Reg!