Monday, January 1, 2018


Three Songs of Accidental Majesty, Depth, and Immediacy for the New Year.

“Last Night it Snowed,” The Ass Ponys

About this time of year, I anticipate the first legitimate snowfall here in Chicago and do so knowing I'll have the chance to play (loudly) the Ass Ponys' brilliant, compact, and majestic song, “Last Night it Snowed.” It's an annual tradition of sorts – my favorite of Chuck Cleaver's AP work – to sit back and marvel at the perfection of these “econo” lyrics:
A blanket white
At least it was when it came down last night
The morning brings the rain
The blanket's washed away
Now everything turns back to grey
It's hard to imagine that so much goodness could land in just over two minutes of song: all the mixed-up optimism and rainy, overcast second-guessing of a Southern Ohio winter with the added bonus of a delicate mandolin that falls apart into garage-band urgency as he sings: “So live and learn, The snow is melting never to return.”

Here's Chuck singing this classic with a local School of Rock:

The original studio version of the song is available here.

“Wasted,” Pere Ubu

Like “Last Night it Snowed,” this song leads the album, 1993's “Story of My Life,” from Northern Ohio's most important post-punk combo, Pere Ubu. It's an album that finds lead singer David Thomas in a reflective mood, at one point recounting his pre-Cleveland childhood in Florida and stumbling upon“the secret of anti-gravity.” But “Wasted” finds him in real-time, trying to decipher his marriage and “breathlessly, throwing time away.” It makes me think the album runs in reverse, marching backward from today, with Thomas' melodeon (aka the button accordion) setting the scene and his enjoinder to “rock” at 1:33 as guidance to take care of business moving forward. It's as inspirational to me now as when I first heard it.

“This is the Sea,” The Waterboys

I had forgotten about this song and album – the album “Fisherman's Blues” is important to several friends and I'd always marked their career by it – until a cold, rainy day in Northern Wisconsin. I was away from my family for a few days and had just hopped out of a hazy mid-30s mist into the car when the skies opened up. The rain started falling in buckets but, as I started to drive, advanced in waves quickly, so I pulled the car to the side of the road. The windshield wipers couldn't keep up. I turned on the radio to find "This is the Sea" at the beginning. I sat there, not a soul around, feeling a bit underwater while Mike Scott sang:

You're trying to make sense
Of something that you just can't see
Trying to make sense now
And you know you once held the key
But that was the river
And this is the sea

I'm convinced now that “Fisherman's Blues” couldn't exist without this prelude. Get ready, the open ocean is in front of you. This is the sea. If you're ever unconvinced of the epic adventures ahead, try this song again... in the rain.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.