selected some of the great songwriters of our time for his Guest DJ set. Not content with silly love songs, he’s looking for something more meaningful and finds it in the work of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and more. He also tells us about the time Paul McCartney gave him his scarf at the Golden Globes. Macy stars in the Showtime series “Shameless”.
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1. Cat Mother & The All Night Newsboys- Probably Won't
2. Bob Dylan- Hurricane
3. Randy Newman- Dixie Flyer
4. Paul Simon- Night Game
5. Paul McCartney- The End Of The End
Anne Litt: Hi, I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with Emmy Award-winning actor William H. Macy. Today, we will be playing excerpts of songs he's selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Bill, welcome to KCRW.
William H. Macy: Thank you so much.
Anne: I would like to get started with the song that you stumped me with -- and I would also say that you stumped me harder with this song than probably anybody else has. Usually, I might not know a song, but I can look it up and find it and be like, "Oh yeah that's right," but you've brought in Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys. A song called "Probably Won't" from the album “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”. Tell me about this.
William H. Macy: First of all, I am so proud to have stumped you, and I wasn't trying to do that. When I thought what songs are important to me, I have my criteria, and one of them is "Where were you when you heard this song?"
Her name was Kitty and it was in New York City. She liked this album, so there you go. The story, as I understand it, is that these guys were in New York. This is the late 60s and there was a particular sound of Rock and Roll that came out of New York City at that time. As I understand it, they were recording and Jimi Hendrix was walking down the hall and said "dudes -" I don't know if they said dudes in 1969 so they said "cats," or whatever he said -- and he produced the album.
Anne: And can you hum a few bars?
William H. Macy: (Singing) I know you believe I've got a trick up my sleeve, but I probably don't. Wouldn't that be just like me? Now, I probably don't.
Song: Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys -- "Probably Won't"
Anne: I'm also really interested in what you say about storytelling in music because the one unifying factor in all of these songs that you've chosen, to me, is the stories they tell.
Your next song, "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan, is one of those. Talk about being taken on a journey of a true story.
William H. Macy: The first time I heard it, it felt quite modern to me at the time. He's got a rhythm and a tempo to this song, but the lyrics, he just stuffs into the meter whether they want to go or not. "The one the authorities tried to tame for something that he never done," I mean he just stuffs so many syllables into these phrases, and shamelessly so. I just love the song.
Song: Bob Dylan – “Hurricane”
William H. Macy: I heard it on the radio and I loved it. It was one of those few times that I was driving in my car, heard a song, and drove directly to a record store to get the…I'm so old I'd get the album, but more recently the CD.
Anne: But that says a lot about the power of a song. How do you feel about Bob Dylan's voice, as someone who likes to sing?
William H. Macy: I dig it. I dig it, but I think Bob Dylan's voice is a little like liking a really stinky cheese. I mean on one hand you think that smells terrible, but you know I sort of dig it. I would put Randy Newman on the list. What I love about both of their voices is that they are so expressive, and the phrasing. You can hear deep into their souls by the way they sing. With Randy Newman you can hear his sense of humor and his sense of irony. They are good actors, both of them. They tell a story well. They are quite the raconteurs and that's what I love about it. You know, some of those classic Bob Dylan songs, I don't care who you are, when you sing those songs, you imitate Bob Dylan!
Anne: That was "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan and it's one of Bill Macy's song picks. We're here with William H. Macy, actor, on Guest DJ Project for KCRW. You were also talking about Randy Newman. The song "Dixie Flyer" that you brought in is wildly autobiographical. Tell me about the song and why you chose it.
William H. Macy: I love the way he plays the piano. It's such a lovely hook on this song. He tells a story about the South. He sings so affectionately about the South. One of the lyrics is "old mother somebody came down in a big black Hudson driven by a gentile man. They all want to be gentiles. Who wouldn't down there? Wouldn't you?”
Randy Newman has this great way of saying the unsayable, speaking the unspeakable, and I just love him for it. He says things that are just dead on true and you can't help yourself, you think, "You can't say that, can you?" He's that lovely combination of great musicality with storytelling.
Song: Randy Newman – Dixie Flyer
William H. Macy: Randy also writes songs from points of view, which I think is so astounding. I get really bored with "I love you ooey gooey gooey why don't you love me back?" It bores me. I love a good love song, but there's so much more to sing about and I really appreciate the writers that are writing about things in our life and bringing huge musicality to it, especially rock and roll.
Anne: That was Randy Newman's "Dixie Flyer" from the album Bad Love. Bill Macy is here. He is our guest DJ. It's KCRW's Guest DJ Project and you've brought in Paul Simon's "Night Game" from “Still Crazy After All These Years”. Talk about what that song means to you. Paint a picture.
William H. Macy: He is at once singing about a baseball game and a baseball team and the metaphor is the death of someone. So he starts off saying “there were two men on and the game was tied at the bottom of the eighth when the pitcher died”. Then later in the song he talks about the pitcher literally dying and the end of the season, the end of one's life. It's just stunningly beautiful…such writing. There's a chord change in there. When you hear it, its inevitable. It sounds inevitable. That is the only place it could have gone. When, of course, we know it could have gone anywhere. The lyrics seem as if they were born at the same time as the music and you couldn't pull them apart. It's such of a piece.
Anne: That was "Night Game" from Paul Simon off the album “Still Crazy After All These Years”. It's KCRW's Guest DJ Project with Bill Macy our guest DJ. This is an interesting choice, I think. It's "At the End of the End". It's from the album “Memory Almost Full”, which is a fairly recent album of Paul McCartney's. The other songs have been old favorites, so why this song and why this album?
William H. Macy: For a fellow who's been turning out music for this long, at his age, to turn out that album, I find nothing short of miraculous. I think this is the one that he released through Starbucks or something like that.
Anne: I think so.
William H. Macy: This song is about his death and there is the most gorgeous group of lines. He says "I'd like jokes to be told and songs to be sung, to be rolled out like carpets that lovers have laid on and played on while listening to the songs that were sung."
It's so biographical on one hand and yet it feels like it speaks to all of our lives and a beautiful tune. He's the real deal.
Song: Paul McCartney – “At the End of the End”
WHM: I met Sir Paul. I think it was at the Golden Globes a couple years ago and he had on this lovely scarf, an antique scarf over his tuxedo. I was so shy to talk to him but he was seated right in front of us so finally I screwed on my courage and I mentioned this song and I mentioned this album. He said "Oh, you're a man of taste are you?" I said your scarf, that is such a cool idea, and I must tell you that I am going to steal that. And he said "Everyone loves my scarf. Would you like it?"
I said “no no no, I can get a scarf”, and Felicity grabbed my hand and my sleeve and whispered to me "You do. You really, really want it," and I said "Yes, I would love your scarf." So I have Sir Paul McCartney's scarf and every time I put on that tuxedo, I wear that scarf.
I actually got his email and I said "I actually also loved your trousers," but I've never heard from him.
Anne: I love it. That was Paul McCartney's "At the End of the End" and it's from the album “Memory Almost Full”. I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with William H. Macy H. Macy, actor, director, and our guest DJ today on KCRW. I want to thank you so much for coming in.
William H. Macy: This is swell. I love talking about music.
Anne: I could do it all afternoon.
William H. Macy: You could do this professionally.
Anne: What a concept! For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to www.kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through itunes.