Hallelujah?

Hallelujah

My Hallelujah parody is out today!  (Everywhere but Spotify for some reason.  I’m working on that.)

Listen on your preferred service at https://link.roadsideattraction.com/hallelujah

But why would I write a parody?  I never done one before.  So why this song?

There’s a book by Alan Light called “The Holy Or The Broken” (Amazon link) all about the history of the song Hallelujah from Leonard Cohen to Jeff Buckley to the song’s place in pop culture as an oft-misunderstood American standard.

At the end of the book the author says “But I’ve never heard a really good parody of it.” Something that went beyond just changing the words but actually makes fun of the song itself.

“Challenge accepted,” said I.  And then set out to use the song’s own lyrics against it to make fun of it’s overuse in pop culture.

At times when I’ve played this song people have gotten on my case for defiling a “sacred” piece of music.  And yes, those are usually white Christian people who assume this is a Christian song because it uses religious imagery.  

However just a little bit of thinking will tell you that Leonard COHEN was probably not Christian.  He was Jewish in fact.  And this isn’t a sacred religious song.  It’s a song about sexual obsession in which he uses religious imagery to portray the depth and intensity of those feelings.  Those super religious people, ironically, should find this song to be sacrilegious.  

But that shows you the power of a well-hewn chord progression and a strong melody.  It is an absolutely brilliant song.  The original Leonard Cohen version isn’t the vocal showcase that we expect it to be now.  Because it’s Leonard Cohen.  

I based mine on Jeff Buckley’s spectacular version which is the what more people are familiar with.  The guitar playing on this track is beyond beautiful.  So intricate and tightly entwined with the vocal.  Except he uses a capo.  Capos are cheating and I stand by that. 😉

For my version, I didn’t copy Jeff Buckley’s guitar parts.  Instead I played through a transcription of his a few times and used similar ideas but with my own style applied to them.  So it’s definitely my interpretation of that style without being the same.  And I didn’t do the extended introduction because “Get to the jokes, Funny Boy,” right?

Here’s Jeff Buckley’s version.  Seriously, listen to the guitar parts.

I did leave out an extra verse that I’d written because the song was already hitting the 4 minute range and I didn’t want to add a bunch of extra time on.

But here for your reading pleasure is that extra verse.  

We’ve definitely been here before

With an ogre pacing on his floor

And school kids leaving out words that arouse ya

I’ve seen your Idols singing grand

But mostly though they’re pretty bland

It’s a limp and it’s a flaccid Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah

Shmallelujah

Sock it to ya

Ha ha fooo oooled ya

But what about that Rufus Wainwright version from Shrek?  That gets a big ‘ol “Meh” from me.  It sounds like he phoned in the performance.  Nothing intriguing about the piano part.  It’s a little too fast.  It sounds like a very average cover of the song that he got a paycheck for.  And now that he’s kind of known for it I imagine he puts a little more into the performances of it.  But his original track doesn’t do anything for me.

So I hope you enjoy my version of it with some lighthearted skewering of it’s place in pop culture.  

And no, Alan Light never responded when I sent it to him.  So there ya go.

I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Prince cover) Out Now!

I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man cover

Yes, a rare earnest musical moment from me. 🙂

Out today – My version of Prince’s “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”.  You can listen to it on your favorite audio streamer.

If you’ve ever listened to me talk about music for more than two minutes then you know I’m a HUGE Prince fan.  And I absolutely love his original version of this song from the Sign O’The Times album (which happens to be the album that triggered my Prince addiction.)

But the lyrics are so sad and I always wanted to hear him to a downtempo version that matched the sentiment.  So I had to do my own.

This is actually a bit of a vault track. Though my vault is way smaller than Prince’s.  I recorded this song in 2006 and it was out for a bit.  However the licensing hadn’t been done right so I pulled it down.  Now it’s all legit.  And this let me go back in for a light remastering too.

While I’ve been doing this song on my Tuesday Livestream show… every Tuesday at 12:30pm PT on Facebook and Instagram… I hadn’t played it in years.  Doesn’t usually fit the vibe of my comedy club shows.

My most prominent memory of performing the song was a gig I did for an art car event at the San Jose Museum of Art years ago.  Sounds relatively cool. What a shit gig.

I was playing on the front steps of the museum… unamplified.  Like a damn busker. In case you were wondering why I can’t stop slamming my voice into the mic and annoying soundmen in the process, I used to do a lot of these unamplified outdoor gigs.  

There were a ton of people around checking out the art cars, mostly ignoring me.  Then I did this song and the crowd paused, quieted, listened.  It was the first thing that got their attention.

And while I enjoyed that they were actually paying attention, I spent the whole song thinking “Oh sure… You’ll pay attention to the one song you already know.”

The power of a good cover, I guess.

Give it a listen and save it to your listening library. Then every so often you can go “Huh, this is weird.”

Looking for more of my releases? Check out the Phil Johnson and Roadside Attraction store!

The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee

In 2003 I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom at my parents’ house next to my black lab, Lolly.  I had a new digital recorder in front of me after moving up from my old 4-track.  

My mentor, Tim Sweeney, had been encouraging me to play solo acoustic gigs alongside the bands gigs I was doing with Roadside Attraction and I was resistant to the idea. But I sat down to start working out how to make my songs work in that context.

And so I started experimenting with a few of the songs from “Ribbed For Your Pleasure” that I thought could work in an acoustic context.

For a week it was just me, an acoustic guitar, the recorder, and Lolly.  It eventually became an EP called “In A Dark Room With A Dog” that’s out of print now.

Fast forward 18 years, lots of solo gigs, and a full home recording studio later.  For my new album/EP/mixtape/whateverthing I wanted to recapture a bit of that simplicity.  Especially after working on the monster arrangement of “Uprising of 1244”. 🙂

And today you can hear “Itty Bitty Ditty Committee”!  Just me, an acoustic guitar, and a couple small percussion toys.  Miss that dog though… 

Here’s the ridiculous part.  There are 33 SONGS on this new release!  And the whole collection clocks in at 17 minutes.  Yep, they’re short.  You could listen to the whole thing and still have plenty of lunch break left.

Here’s the link to listen to it.

Or just search “Itty Bitty Ditty Committee” on your favorite audio streaming site.  Downloads are also available on my site.

 

I hope you enjoy it!  And hitting the Share button and telling your friends about it would be super cool too. 🙂

 

Uprising Of 1244 – New Single!

Uprising Of 1244

In 2019 we spent a couple weeks in Italy. Awhile back I was looking through the photos from the trip and ran across one of a Medieval illuminated manuscript.

I love really old sheet music. It makes me think of of how many hundreds of years people have been showing up to jam and getting paid in beer tickets. Or grog or ale or whatever they were drinking back then.

I don’t remember how to read that old Medieval notation even though I had to learn it in college. (Neumes, they’re called.) And I really didn’t know anything about the piece in the manuscript. My Latin is terrible.

But I became obsessed with it for a few weeks and went on a little research odyssey to find out what it’s all about.

Turns out the piece is called “Uprising of 1244” and it’s about the epic fall of a once-beloved king at the hands of his people. A revolt!

Why did they revolt? You’ll see…

I thought, “I wonder if I could record a version of this old song.” Pretty far outside my zone as a musician. But I gave it a shot and I think it came out good!

Listen to Uprising Of 1244 on your streaming service of choice here.

 

Halfway To The Stars – New Song!

Wherein Phil ruins a romantic moment with science.  Give a listen to my new track “Halfway To The Stars”.

I’ve long been a fan of old jazz torch songs. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald doing “Stars Fell On Alabama” was probably what I was listening to right before writing this. Sentimental, great melodies, all that stuff.

But I’m always a little too logical and scientifically minded when it comes to this stuff. (Honestly, if stars DID fall on Alabama it would probably do a lot of damage. A loss? That’s for your to decide.)

So you can hear me do a little crooning on here and finally using that college degree in jazz guitar I worked so hard for. (After giving up on a Physics degree – And now it all starts to make sense.)

You can listen to Halfway To The Stars below and click the “buy” button to have to keep forever and ever like a trinket your grandma left you in her will.