Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two-Fer-Tuesday: "A Room With a View"

I guess the subtitle of today's post should be "same, but not the same."

Once again, I'm using Two-Fer-Tuesday to promote Wednesday's radio show. It won't always be this way, I promise. After all, I plan out these Two-Fer-Tuesdays months in advance (OK, weeks) and recently, they've dovetailed with the themes I've selected for my "Play It and Be Darned" radio show.

Such as this week, where I will be focusing on the glory years of IRS Records, which I define roughly as 1981-1988 (or around the time college radio came into its own).

One of my favorite acts on the IRS roster was Let's Active, a North Carolina group fronted by R.E.M producer Mitch Easter. A jangle pop outfit that debuted in 1983 with the EP Afoot, , actually a demo that IRS turned into a full-fledged release. It features the delightfully irresistible single "Every Word Means No," but also one of my favorite songs from that era: "Room With A View." Listen to the fuzzbox guitars, unusual rhythms and bassist Faye Weber trading lines with Easter. And, of course, the culminating line "I wish I was invisible!"

Play "Room With A View" by Let's Active

Fast forward to 23 years later. Frequent Mitch Easter collaborator Don Dixon decides to include a cover of "A Room With A View" as the final cut on his release The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room (2006). And as a bonus, the true singer on this cut is not Dixon himself, but his wife Marti Jones, an unfairly neglected artist in her own right. Jones, who has recently turned more of her attention to painting, reinterprets this song as an almost threatening piece of music – as if the protagonist is some peeping-tom voyeur, not some college kids exulting over their new space. (Jones actually originally recorded this song for the 2003 Let's Active tribute LP, Every Word: A Tribute To Let's Active)

Play "Room With a View" by Don Dixon (featuring Marti Jones)

At some point, I'll devote some time in this blog to the wonderful Ms. Jones. But today, I want to address how Jones manages almost the impossible. She redoes a song that originally was nearly perfect in every way, yet manages to cast it in a different light without destroying the original song. Too often, drastic reinterpretations either don't work or work so well that they make the original song irrelevant. Witness "Mad World" by Gary Jules.

By the way, so that I can fit as many songs as I can into one show, I've decided to start my show 15 minutes earlier: At 9:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday morning. So tune into the
radio show then to make sure you capture 75 minutes of all the IRS goodness you can stand. I promise: You will not hear "Mad About You," "Spirit in the Sky" or "She Drives Me Crazy." Because – well – those songs drive me crazy.

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