Saturday, April 28, 2018

Why a Billy Idol record had a side 6

I wrote about the Billy Idol album "Whiplash Smile" back in 2011. And in the course of my discussion about the varied musical styles on the album (as well as the fact that I'm one of the few people who seem to like it), I said a few things:

Take a listen to the songs on "Side Five" of Whiplash Smile. The punker and the rocker start with "Worlds Forgotten Boy"....Move on to "Side Six," and just imagine Idol playing "Don't Need a Gun" or "All Summer Single" sandwiched between some Ramones and Pistols songs - he'd be booed off the stage.

Side Five? Side Six?

Uh, yeah.


Perhaps Idol had admired the band Chicago in his youth.

Whatever the cause, Idol was clearly building a numbered collection, in which each side of a record (these were the days of records) was numbered sequentially. I also owned Idol's follow-up, "Charmed Life," and recall that this album had numbered Sides 7 and 8. However, the predecessor to "Whiplash Smile," "Rebel Yell," definitely had Sides 3 and 4.

(From Voluptuous Vinyl)

Here are the track listings for these two albums alone:

Side 3
Rebel Yell
Daytime Drama
Eyes Without A Face
Blue Highway

Side 4
Flesh For Fantasy
Catch My Fall
Crank Call
(Do Not) Stand In The Shadows
The Dead Next Door

Side 5
Worlds Forgotten Boy
To Be A Lover
Soul Standing By
Sweet Sixteen
Man For All Seasons

Side 6
Don't Need A Gun
Beyond Belief
Fatal Charm
All Summer Single
One Night, One Chance

Side 7
The Loveless
Pumping On Steel
Prodigal Blues
L.A. Woman
Trouble With The Sweet Stuff

Side 8
Cradle Of Love
Mark Of Caine
Endless Sleep
Love Unchained
The Right Way
License To Thrill

When examined in that perspective, the Billy Idol song collection displays a distinct evolution as the songs, always somewhat dark, get progressively moodier and darker.

And now that I'm writing this post, I have one of the "Side 6" songs stuck in my head - "Beyond Belief" (distinctly different than the Elvis Costello song with the same name).

In fact, I just added this song to my "Middle-Aged White People Microwave Music" playlist (over 100 songs and still growing).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Announcing the playlist "Middle-Aged White People Microwave Music"

Yes, I'm curating a new playlist with the name "Middle-Aged White People Microwave Music."

This may be a surprise to some of you, who know that my playlists usually have names like Emu201803f-aaaa.

Well, it all started with Hollister.

Usually I create my own playlists, but of course Spotify and its advertisers really really want me to listen to the playlists that they create. So one evening Spotify informed me that my good friends at Hollister had created a playlist called "Teen Party."

Because obviously I would have great interest in a playlist called "Teen Party."

Amused by the suggestion, I actually listened to the playlist, but quit when the second song played was the new Taylor Swift remake. (Or reboot.)

I began wondering if Spotify had a playlist that was more appropriate for my age bracket, and although Spotify's powerful corporate sponsors didn't have such a playlist, Brandon Johnson did.

Johnson began working on this playlist in December 2016, and was adding songs as recently as this month. Obviously that's a different method from how I usually work; I'll usually create a playlist, and then create another one a few days or a couple of weeks later. In fact, about a week ago I started working on a playlist with the imaginative name Emu201804c.

Well, while I've really liked listening to my Emu201804c playlist over the last week, I liked Johnson's playlist also, and decided to combine the two.

The result? "Middle-Aged White People Microwave Music."

I don't know if Brandon Johnson's aunties and uncles and grandmas would necessarily groove along to Flash and the Pan. In fact, I doubt my aunties and uncles would groove to it either. But hey, I like it.

And I'll probably keep on working on the playlist. As I write this, there are currently 59 songs on the playlist, with 4 hours and 37 seconds of music. That's about half of Brandon Johnson's list, but as I said I'll possibly add stuff.

Perhaps I'll even add stuff from "Teen Party."

But not the Taylor Swift song.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The #iamnottrendy playlist - Emu201803f-aaaa

Perhaps Shawn Zehnder Rossi may be a tad confused about my Spotify playlist naming conventions, but the last four letters of my current playlist should be understandable.

You see, I ran across a meme that included a screaming cowboy, and I had to find who he was.

After a Google reverse search, I ran across a song that was really really popular last year, but I had never heard of it. The song was Kirin J Callinan's "Big Enough," and the screaming cowboy is Jimmy Barnes.

So I started a Spotify playlist with various country-themed thingies, some of which are actually country.

It includes, among other songs, the following:

Bob Dylan's and Johnny Cash's "interesting" duet on "Girl From the North Country"
The "epic western remix" of "Jolene" sung by Ellenyi
Caballero Reynaldo's cover of "A Forest"
A Jimmy Barnes song from the 1980s, "Driving Wheels"
The The's song "Heartland," with the (repeated) chorus "This is the 51st state of the USA"


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Present nostalgia - "Rocky Top" and "Fox on the Run"

Bluegrass music is an odd thing. In one sense, it reminds us of our past, of mountain music made before synthesizers and auto-tune. Yet in another sense, it is as modern as a Cracker Barrel.

Let me cite two examples that I am taking from a statement by the Southwest Bluegrass Association:

In the early 1970s “Fox on the Run” was among the most requested bluegrass songs. Along with “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass band could scarcely play a show without fans yelling for “Rocky Top” or “Fox on the Run.”

One may think that the songs were finally becoming popular with a wider audience, but in truth there was another reason why "Fox on the Run" and "Rocky Top" didn't achieve wide popularity until the early 1970s.

By James G. Howes, Attribution, Link

Louise Mandrell hinted at the reason in a TV show I saw many years ago. In the TV show, Mandrell accidentally traveled back in time, but didn't realize what had happened at first. She was surprised that the people around her had never heard of the song "Rocky Top."

Well, for such a situation to have taken place, Mandrell would have had to travel back in time all the way to...1966.

Yes, "Rocky Top" is a fairly recent song:

On August 28, 1967, songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant checked into room 388 of the Gatlinburg Inn. The couple, known for such hits as Wake up little Susie, Bye Bye Love, and Love Hurts, were frequent guests of the inn and friends of it's owners, Rel and Wilma Maples....

The couple came to Gatlinburg in 1967 to work on an album for Archie Campbell.

"It was an album about golden memories or something along that line and they thought that was a little depressing and said 'let's go a little up tempo on something'," said Cross. "They sat down and they penned most of Rocky Top in about 10 minutes."

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

So it only took ten minutes to write an acknowledged bluegrass classic.

But what about that other bluegrass classic? Here's a promo for it.

At this point a few less-knowledgeable bluegrass fans might be a bit confused by all this English stuff. Well, the song was originally written by British songwriter Tony Hazzard and recorded by the band Manfred Mann, not to be confused with the band Manfred Mann's Earth Band, or with the person Manfred Mann. The band Manfred Mann emerged from the same scene that spawned other bluesy rock bands such as the Rolling Stones. "Fox on the Run" was the band's second-to-last single before its breakup.

By Photographer: A. Vente - Dutch TV Programme Fanclub. Recorded 27 May 1967, broadcast 2 June 1967, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

For the next part of the story, we need to concentrate on that magical word, "Somehow."

Somehow, the Manfred Mann pop version was heard by Bill Emerson...

Bill Emerson was not an English blues rocker, but an American banjo player who started playing the instrument in 1953. On July 4, 1957, Emerson and guitarist-vocalist Charlie Waller started a band that evolved into the Country Gentlemen. Within a couple of years, Emerson had left the Country Gentlemen. By the time he heard the Manfred Mann song, he was part of a duo with Cliff Waldren. They performed a very non-English version of the song.

But the Emerson and Waldren duo didn't last long, because Bill Emerson left to join his old band, the Country Gentlemen. And he brought a song with him.

So by that time the song had become a bluegrass classic. But there was still one significant re-recording to come - that of Tom T. Hall.

Oh...and there was one more version of "Fox on the Run."

In 1974, Sweet released another song called "Fox On The Run," which was an international hit. Tony Hazzard didn't appreciate the appropriation. "There's no copyright on song titles but some titles you just don't use," he told us. "Imagine if I wrote a song entitled 'Imagine' or 'Mr. Tambourine Man'!"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

More news about the 800 pound gorillas (Spotify, Apple, and royalties)

I haven't talked about streaming services since earlier this month, but a new agreement is affecting all streaming services that do business in the U.S.

Royalty rates paid to songwriters in the US from on-demand subscription streaming will rise by 44% over the next five years following a landmark ruling in the market....

The ruling includes a significant increase in the overall percentage of revenue paid to songwriters from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years – the largest rate increase in CRB history.

There are other benefits - and drawbacks - for songwriters, as described here.

But what happens to the streaming services? Obviously they don't like the idea of paying more, but one service changed, tune:

Amazon, Google, Pandora, and Spotify all argued against the new rates prior to the ruling. Those companies briefly had an ally in Apple, but Variety reports that it “broke ranks, conceding that the current royalty rate structure was ‘too complex’ and ‘economically unsound’ and advocating for “a single per-play rate that is the same for all services.”

Why was Apple more willing to agree to the reduced revenue? While the $50 billion that Apple is bringing back to the U.S. is a partial explanation, there's a more basic one.

Apple has a deeper toehold on the music industry thanks to iTunes. For all three tech companies, music is a side business that creates synergy with all of the other products they offer.

For Pandora and Spotify, music is the whole game.

So who is the 800 pound gorilla to whom I alluded in the title? Spotify? Apple? The RIAA? I don't know - I just wanted an excuse to post this video.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Echo Helstrom Casey was not tentative, but she was authentic and spontaneous

Back in July 2015 I wrote a post about the Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash duet on "Girl From the North Country." The post contained a lot of adjectives - dominant, distinctive, and cantankerous are a few of them. To understand why these adjectives were used, advance to the 1:51 point of this song.

By Unknown -, from the 1964 yearbook of St. Lawrence University, CC BY 2.0, Link

The song was actually written (and released) by Dylan several years previously, and some have speculated who the girl from the north country was.

One candidate, Echo Helstrom Casey, passed away last week. She was once a true love of Dylan's.

Born in Duluth in 1942, Casey grew up in a small house in the woods three miles southwest of Hibbing, the youngest of three children of Martha and Matt Helstrom, a mechanic and welder. She met and started dating Dylan, then Robert Zimmerman, in 1957 and the pair attended the Hibbing High School junior prom together before ultimately breaking up in 1958.

In her yearbook, Dylan wrote: “Let me tell you that your beauty is second to none. Love to the most beautiful girl in school.”

But there was something other than her beauty that appealed to the young Zimmerman.

“She was an important figure in his life, there’s no question about that,” said [Toby] Thompson, now a professor at Penn State. “I don’t know what he would have done if he didn’t find someone like himself. She had that spirit, that electricity that was comparable to his. She was wild in a way that he wanted to be wild. She would go off with her girlfriends in the summer and hitchhike all over the place, have adventures. She was kind of an outsider and from the wrong side of the tracks, and (Dylan) was certainly attracted to that. … In Hibbing, she was as bohemian as anybody in Greenwich Village.”

But eventually both Bob and Echo left Hibbing. Echo went south, then west.

She eventually found her way to Minneapolis, where she worked as a booker at National General Pictures. She married briefly and gave birth to her only daughter, Danae, before moving to Los Angeles in the early ’70s.

She alternated between shunning the limelight and embracing it. She had an unlisted number, but allowed a friend to post her picture next to Dylan's at a Hibbing restaurant called Zimmy's.

But it's interesting to note that these two freewheelin' folks ended up in southern California - Dylan in Malibu.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wixen and Spotify - frenemies for life

So I saw this Reuters story:

Music streaming company Spotify was sued by Wixen Music Publishing Inc last week for allegedly using thousands of songs, including those of Tom Petty, Neil Young and the Doors, without a license and compensation to the music publisher.

Wixen, an exclusive licensee of songs such as “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, (Girl We Got a) Good Thing by Weezer and works of singers such as Stevie Nicks, is seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion along with injunctive relief.

I wanted to get Wixen's own take on the issues involved, so I went to Wixen's website and searched for information on the Spotify lawsuit. Instead of finding that, I found this:

Yes, it's an embedded Spotify playlist.

So this is all apparently a negotiating tactic by both companies to settle on fair compensation. To be continued...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Morrissey's new song, "There is a Heater That Sometimes Goes Out"

Take me out tonight
Where there's music and there's people
Who paid to hear me live
Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I haven't got one

Take me out tonight
Because there are a bunch people
And they want to hear me live
Driving in your car
Oh, please don't drop me home
Because it's not my home, it's their
Home, and I'm welcome no more

And if a heater goes bust
Freezing both of us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a paper cut
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine

There is a heater that sometimes goes out
There is a heater that sometimes goes out

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


You might have noticed a bit of public quiet on the Ontario Emperor front. After releasing at least one song every month, nothing at all has been released to the Ontario Emperor Bandcamp page (or the Wasp the Houseboy page, for that matter), since June.

If you are a member of the Ontario Emperor group on Facebook, you saw me hinting at the reasons.

...the June release of "Drains to Ocean" was hectic, with some after-the-last-minute changes (including the removal of the song "Drains to Ocean" from the collection "Drains to Ocean").

I characterized this as a #FirstWorldProblem - after all, I didn't die or anything.

But I haven't released any new material either.

Yet for some unknown reason, my OntarioEmperor Facebook page has been drawing attention lately, so I thought I'd start reposting some of the old stuff there.

As a result, I've found myself listening to the featured song from "Drains to Ocean" a lot lately. That song is called "Climbing," and I've reproduced it below.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Band on the march

I was in marching band in high school, and I remember how we would not only play your traditional Sousa-like songs at football games, but also then-contemporary songs. Our band's playlist included the Star Wars theme and "Disco Duck," and I still remember a trumpet player who would solo on "Rise" any chance he got.

Yes, the image of marching bands is true Americana.

Hold my wine.

A marching band performed at today's Bastille Day celebrations.

And, to the delight of some in the audience (but not others), this band continued in the "be contemporary" tradition by playing a medley of songs by French band Daft Punk.

While Spin makes a big deal about Trump's stone-faced reaction, that's not the only highlight of the video. My favorite occurs at about 1:22 into the video, as some older French veterans kinda sorta clap along to "Get Lucky."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And just think, nobody thought this would 'last"

In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jackson appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards. Mr. Jackson commented on their marriage, saying, "And just think, nobody thought this would last." The couple then kissed. (Spoiler: it didn't last.)

Mrs. Jackson was, and is, better known by her birth name of Lisa Marie Presley. While she has recorded three full-length albums to date, her former husband (since deceased) had slightly more success in the music industry. While I don't think I've ever listened to a Lisa Marie Presley song, I have listened to Michael Jackson songs 158 times since 2007.

How do I know this?

Because I have gotten myself into ruts at times.

For several years after I graduated from college, I would repeatedly go to the Jack in the Box on Archibald and Arrow and order a side salad with ranch dressing.

For a nearly ten year period, I would record my whereabouts in a series of books. I can't remember how many, but I know it was less than 26; I had an "A" book, but never created a "Z" book.

For almost as long, I played in various Starfleet Commander universes.

And, since Thursday, July 26, 2007, I have repeatedly "scrobbled" many of the songs that I hear. Over 170,000 times.


Initially, scrobbling songs on allowed me to hear the songs. In those days, actually hosted the songs, and I was able to listen to the songs for free. A couple of years later, I even hosted six of my own songs on itself.

Then, over the years, reduced its functionality while other services such as Spotify increased theirs. I can't directly listen to songs on any more, but I can record ("scrobble") the songs that I listen to on Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and other services...sometimes. My Bandcamp and YouTube scrobbles are dependent upon a Chrome extension, which works fine in Windows, but doesn't work on iOS. And many services don't support scrobbling at all.

So one morning while I was driving to work, Spotify scrobbling away on my iPhone, I asked myself, "What benefit am I receiving from giving all of my scrobbling data?" I could identify the benefits from giving certain data (such as this post) to Google, Facebook, and other services, but the value proposition for has disappeared over the years. What's more, my devotion to has led me to shun other non-scrobbling services for no good reason.

Often when I get into these ruts, I suddenly snap out of them. One day I didn't get a side salad at Jack in the Box. One day I put my book down and stopped recording where I was. One day I let my planets in the Starfleet Commander universes all die. These actions gave me a sense of freedom.

Well, after listening to one last song (the top one on thie list), I disabled my Chrome extension and turned off scrobbling in my Spotify app.

I may not keep scrobbling turned off forever. After all, I quit Foursquare at one point just to join it again a while later.

But now I have the freedom to listen to songs and not worry about the documentation of them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Robert Smith, approved by the Comics Code Authority?

Continuing on the general theme of repurposing music, what would happen if my favorite Cure song, "A Forest," appeared as a comic book?

Yes, I can quibble about the cover, since Robert Smith didn't become Edward Scissorhands until AFTER "A Forest" was released, but it's still brilliant.

This is from a collection of Cure songs reimagined as comic book covers by Butcher Billy.

Butcher Billy has also reimagined love songs as Stephen King book covers. How deep IS your love? (H/T Laughing Squid.)

P.S. going off on a tangent: you'll note that Butcher Billy even went through the trouble of reproducing the "Approved by the Comics Code Authority" emblem on his comic book covers - which is definitely humorous. For a history of the Comics Code Authority, and how William Gaines and Stan Lee (working for Richard Nixon) reacted to it, read this.

Monday, July 10, 2017

This Charming Charlie revisited

So anyway, this happened some time ago. (I'm writing this post an unspecified amount of time before its publication.) One day, I was informed at work that a particular item, which was declared "final" at one point but had then gone through a second and third revision, had just gone through a fourth revision.

So I did the best thing I could do under the circumstances.

I took a walk. (I needed the steps anyway.)

So I put my earbuds in and started Spotify on my phone.

And what song came up?

The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now".

And yes, that's the song that includes the lyric published in the "This Charming Charlie" comic strip that I shared in 2013.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Musical skills are handy - or, how an optical organ manufacturer got caught up in Watergate

In business, there are many circumstances in which you will make one deal in order to get another deal. And while I was reading about various 1970s organs, I ran across an intriguing story.

Richard Nixon was well-known as a piano player, although as several sources note, Nixon often proclaimed that he could only play in the key of G. But he was clearly interested in the instrument, and although he wasn't going to join the German band Kraftwerk on stage, it would make sense for keyboard manufacturers to court the President.

This explains the series of letters documented here. In brief, Miner Industries offered to give President Nixon an Optigan (optical organ) for his enjoyment, and offered to have musical director Michael LeDoux personally install the Optigan at the Western White House in San Clemente, California.

By PMDrive1061 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sounds simple, right?

Except for the fact that this series of letters was written on July 24, 1974. (A stamp on one of the letters indicates that it was received in Orange, California on July 29.)

And the fact that LeDoux had extensive experience in audio, having worked on the Talking Barbie, as well as the discs used by the Optigan.

Now what would be the significance of having an audio expert visit the Nixon Administration in July 1974?

According to Pea Hicks' recollection of something that LeDoux said (he has since passed away), the delivery of the Optigan to San Clemente was a pretext for something else.

...apparently Mike was known by someone associated with Nixon as a skilled audio tape editor, and given the Optigan office’s fairly close proximity to the Western White House, he was recruited to consult on a possible editing job of the famous “smoking gun” tapes...

The entire story is here.

Of course, by the time LeDoux received the letters on July 29, the House Judiciary Committee was passing the second of three articles of impeachment. Two days later, on July 31, Alexander Haig and Ron Ziegler privately told President Nixon that the smoking gun tape was "devastating" to Nixon's cause. The next day, August 1, Haig would tell Vice President Gerald Ford about the "smoking gun" tape (and kinda sorta mention various things about pardons).

The time for consulting audio experts had passed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Ontario Emperor album "Drains to Ocean" now available on Bandcamp

Ontario Emperor's latest synthetica release is self-described as greatest electronic album ever

Empoprises announces that musical artist Ontario Emperor has released a new 12-song album entitled "Drains to Ocean." This newest instrumental collection is available electronically on the "ontarioemperor" page at Bandcamp (

This is Ontario Emperor's fourth Bandcamp release. Ontario Emperor's music was originally released on in 1999 and 2000. After ceased operations, Ontario Emperor released a free track on GeoCities. After GeoCities ceased operations, Ontario Emperor released a free collection of songs on After ceased hosting music files, it was on to Bandcamp. As of June 2017, Ontario Emperor has not yet succeeded in closing Bandcamp down.

The marketing flack who is pretending to speak for Ontario Emperor put some new words in his mouth for this release. "Yes, I am self-proclaiming this to be the greatest electronic album ever," stated Ontario. "And in all honesty, the songs are more developed than the ones on my previous releases. Each of the twelve songs evokes a particular mood, although I will leave it to the listener to determine what these moods may be."

Empoprises' John E. Bredehoft also had some words put into his mouth. "Our experience with Bandcamp has been very fruitful," Bredehoft supposedly said. "We look forward to expanding our relationship with Bandcamp in the future."

The twelve songs can be previewed on Bandcamp. Purchase of the album, or of selected individual songs, allows unlimited streaming as well as download of the song files.

Other Ontario Emperor releases on Bandcamp include the six-song "Relusion," the ten-song "Salad," and the song "Bare Plate," all available at Empoprises also manages the musical career of Wasp the Houseboy, whose individual songs can be found at

Monday, June 19, 2017

#empkamperz "Moonshadow Park," Jacob Walter

Sunday, June 18, 2017

#emukamperz "Grimshaw Road," Durham County Poets

Saturday, June 17, 2017

#emukamperz "Mermaid's Song," Janice Kephart & Stuart Lynch

Friday, June 16, 2017

#emukamperz "Family Says... (Refugees Welcome)," Helen Sventitsky

Thursday, June 15, 2017

#emukamperz "Obnoxious Blocks," Poppy

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#emukamperz "DO IT! (ft. Shia LaBeouf)," ΛDRIΛNWΛVE