Sunday, September 28, 2008
Other people have been writing about Pandora and H.R.7084 also, and while many of them are urging support for Pandora's efforts, there are some people with different views.
Take, for example, Duncan Riley of The Inquisitr:
I’ve been strong in my criticisms of attempts to kill of the web radio industry in the United States in the past, and I fully support this bill, both as something important to the future of digital media, and as a daily internet radio listener myself. I also [used] to like Pandora, and as the first great automatic music recommendations service, I spent many hours on the site.
So why did Riley quit using Pandora? Because he lives in Australia, where Pandora is now blocked.
And yet passage of this bill means nothing changes for the entire world outside of the United States for Pandora, because despite every single competitor I’m aware of being free to use outside of the United States, this is all I see on the site today...
Riley then reproduces a message from Pandora, which basically states that "there is no other alternative" but to disallow Riley to access the site.
Apparently Pandora has different global licensing constraints than do other sites…and who am I to argue. However other sites battle to not only save webcasting in the United States, they also battle to save webcasting for a global audience. Pandora on the other hand remains georetarded.
Riley makes another point:
[T]he overboard alarmism by Pandora leading up to this vote doesn’t help their case either. Remember: no dissent, the bill passed unanimously, when Pandora cried wolf. There needs to be a concerted lobbying effort and this legislation needs to pass, but from what I’ve seen, Pandora perhaps shouldn’t be leading the charge, because you need to manage your grassroots carefully, where as Pandora just used up a whole lot of good will on the first battle, without yet winning the war.
But Riley is not the only person who is NOT running out in the streets to protest against the evil NAB. Steven Hodson wrote a post entitled Well Colour Me Unimpressed - Pandora Gets Another Stay. And no, Hodson is not illiterate - when you live in Canada, you talk about "colour" with a u.
Pandora is a great service; and one that the other 95% of the world would love to use as well but that isn’t able to. I; and the rest of the world outside of the US, loved using Pandora up until it was chopped off at the knees by the music industry as they used copyright laws and their royalty system like a chainsaw. Even though this latest call to arms was due to yet another trade association trying to kill off any competition it doesn’t change the fact that this Pandora publicity is only a minor part of a much larger issue.
In addition to noting that this doesn't make any difference outside of the United States, Hodson also questions whether it will make any difference within the U.S. itself:
Well big whoop-di-doo - just because you have been given a right to negotiate doesn’t mean that the bloodsuckers on the other side of the table give a shit about your offers or that they will even come to the table. As with all things to do with the music labels and the RIAA (and now the NAB) they don’t care about what the webcasters want. They only care about how much money they can suck from you even if it means you going bankrupt....
[T]his doesn’t change the fact that the music labels and the RIAA would be just as happy to negotiate webcasters out of existence and royalty rates are their best weapon.
Hodson may be wrong on this point - H.R. 7084 proponents claim that all of the parties involved in the negotiation supported the bill:
* In March 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (the government body that determines royalty rates for the use of music over Internet radio services) issued a rate decision. Since then, DiMA, NPR, RIAA and SoundExchange have been negotiating alternative royalty rates that will address unique business and political circumstances.
* In the last several weeks the negotiations have made progress. Because Internet radio royalties operate under a government license, Congressional authority is required to allow any negotiated settlement to take effect.
* Accordingly, HR 7084 authorizes SoundExchange, on behalf of copyright owners and performers, to negotiate an alternative royalty agreement before the end of the year with DiMA and NPR, and any other Internet radio service.
Although not explicitly stated here, the implication is that SoundExchange and RIAA supported H.R. 7084, and that NAB was the only opponent.
Although if the Senate passes the bill, Bush signs it, and the parties reach an agreement - Riley and Hodson are still out of luck until the record labels extend the same rights to Pandora that they have extended to, say, last.fm and AOL Music - which happen to be major media-owned.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The hope is that this will allow the Internet radio stations time to negotiate a licensing agreement.
See the @pandora_radio tweet: http://twitter.com/pandora_radio/statuses/937630806
(posted at mrontemp and empoprise-mu)
Friday, September 26, 2008
You may not have heard of Congressman Joe Baca, who is my Congressman and whom I recently featured in Empoprise-IE after government watchdog groups wondered whether Rialto's "home of Joe Baca" signs constituted an improper election endorsement.
I wonder how Baca feels about the National Association of Broadcasters.
From the Pandora Blog:
September 26, 2008
Listeners we need your help... NOW!
After a yearlong negotiation, Pandora, artists and record companies are finally optimistic about reaching an agreement on royalties that would save Pandora and Internet radio. But just as we've gotten close, large traditional broadcast radio companies have launched a covert lobbying campaign to sabotage our progress.
Yesterday, Congressman Jay Inslee, and several co-sponsors, introduced legislation to give us the extra time we need but the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents radio broadcasters such as Clear Channel, has begun intensively pressuring lawmakers to kill the bill. We have just a day or two to keep this from collapsing.
This is a blatant attempt by large radio companies to suffocate the webcasting industry that is just beginning to offer an alternative to their monopoly of the airwaves.
Please call your Congressperson right now and ask them to support H.R. 7084, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 - and to not capitulate to pressure from the NAB. Congress is currently working extended hours, so even calls this evening and over the weekend should get answered.
The central congressional switchboard number is: (202) 225 3121
Or to look up your representative, visit: https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml
If the phone is busy, please try again until you get through. These calls really do make a difference.
This is a fork in the road. Only massive grassroots opposition will keep us from another 50 years of top 40 radio. It's time to take a stand and break the stranglehold of broadcast media on radio.
Thanks so much for you ongoing support.
And yes, I just quoted an entire blog post, but I don't think Pandora will mind.
Of course, you always need to make sure that Pandora isn't pulling the wool over our eyes and claiming that H.R. 7094 is one thing when it's really another. What if H.R. 7084 is really a bill that institutes tax penalties on foreign Internet music services that are owned by major media companies?
Unfortunately, the text for H.R. 7084 hasn't hit thomas.loc.gov yet. And I couldn't find any statement from Rep. Inslee about lack of competition in the music market. But Inslee's statements about consolidation in the news market seem to indicate a philosophy:
Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker alluded to a financial crisis we are now in that has occurred in part because of greed and avarice and incompetence and perhaps fraud, but it's also arisen because of the lack of an honest, tough regulatory system to rein in those abuses that has been most unfortunate during the last several years. It's happened sort of in the dead of the night, and it points out the need for Uncle Sam to provide a regulatory system that really stands up for hardworking Americans.
And I come to talk about one of those things that we need, which is a regulatory system to make sure that Americans have access to multiple sources of information so that we can make studied, reasoned decisions about public policy. And unfortunately, under the Bush administration, which I must say has not done a heck of a job in regulating the financial services industry the last few years, has also not done a heck of a job recently in providing a regulatory structure that would give Americans access to multiple sources of information in our news outlets.
Specifically, what I'm concerned about, I'd like to talk about tonight, is the Federal Communications Commission, under this administration, has attempted to allow greater consolidation in our media outlets which basically reduces the sources and multiple diverse sources of information that Americans receive, and this has happened in the dark of the night. I'd like to address this problem tonight.
Many of my colleagues have advocated against the consolidation of our news outlets because we know having multiple sources of information is healthy for public debate. It's absolutely intrinsic to a functioning democracy, and that's why we were outraged when the FCC voted last December to lift a ban on one company owning a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market, too much consolidation.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin claimed that the new rules applied only in our Nation's biggest markets. Unfortunately, we found out that that was simply not the case. The new rules contained enormous loopholes that would allow companies to easily obtain permanent waivers that would allow this illicit and unnecessary consolidation in our media markets.
Now this process has also lacked transparency. Americans have not had a fair shake to weigh in on this decision. Prior to the vote, the FCC held six town hall meetings during the course of the year. And even though the FCC gave little notice, thousands of people showed up to express concerns about what the Bush administration was doing here.
The last public hearing the FCC held was in my hometown of Seattle this last November. Along with Senator MARIA CANTWELL, I called on Chairman Martin to give the public at least 4 weeks' notice prior to a town hall meeting. Well, clearly in an effort to reduce public response, they gave us about 4 days' notice. Nonetheless, 1,000 citizens showed up to express a relatively unanimous opinion against any more media consolidation, against the position the FCC was advocating.
However, the FCC Chair did not listen to those people. I know this because it turns out--I thought this was a little embarrassing for the FCC chairman--it turned out he had written an op-ed piece for the New York Times in favor of further possible consolidation and submitted it to the paper even before he got done with the hearings. And then he came out to Seattle and purported to be listening to the Americans. He'd already formed his opinion and had written an op-ed about what he was going to do. It wasn't a very fair process.
This is in part why I had introduced bipartisan legislation prior to the vote calling on the Commission to conduct its ownership proceedings with greater transparency and to deal with the crisis in minority and female ownership of broadcast stations. It's shameful that people of color own just 3 percent and women 5 percent of our Nation's TV stations.
Following the December vote, the Senate introduced and passed a resolution of disapproval in May by a nearly unanimous voice vote. This enjoyed broad bipartisan support. We know where Americans stand on this issue. They do not want to continue the increasing consolidation in the media market.
I've introduced a resolution of disapproval. We have over 50 cosponsors. We're going to run out of time to get this bill passed this year, but I want to congratulate the public whose vigorous opposition to this consolidation has allowed our voices to be heard. There have been no new major media mergers that have taken place in the broadcast industry while we have been fighting this battle.
I want to congratulate people for fighting this effort, and we will continue our efforts into the next Congress.
It stands to reason that if Congressman Inslee objects to consolidation in one market, he might not be happy about consolidation in another market. And I'm right; back in July 2007, SaveNetRadio issued this press release with extensive quotes from Inslee. An excerpt:
Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor of the House this evening to discuss the potential loss of Internet radio by Americans, a tremendous service that, because of Internet software and musical geniuses, 70 million Americans now enjoy the ability to listen to music by Web broadcasters over the Internet....
Unfortunately, I have to inform the House that that service may be gone in a matter of a few weeks if we don't reach a resolution of a, frankly, wrong decision decided by the Copyright Royalty Board. What I am disturbed to report to my colleagues is that some time ago, March 2, 2007, we had a decision by a Federal agency, the ramifications of which would be to shut down the ability of Americans, on a realistic basis, to continue to enjoy Internet-based radio.
And the National Association of Broadcasters? They're keeping a stiff upper lip.
We hear that radio is obsolete, that it's not adapting fast enough to the digital age. We hear that listenership and revenues are declining. We hear that people don't value radio as they once did. But what we're not hearing enough are the stories of radio's successes.
And there are many.
Radio connects, informs and inspires an estimated 235 million listeners each week. And what we rarely hear is that number is up 3 million listeners from last year. That's a vast universe that we are touching.
Now I want to share a clip with you, that may send you back a few decades.
That song, "Video Killed the Radio Star," was released in 1979. And it captured what many people were feeling at the time about radio.
Throughout the years, some people thought radio would fade away.
First eight track tapes, then cassettes, then music videos and CDs - every time innovation occurred, the end of radio was predicted. But this song was released almost 30 years ago, and radio is still strong.
Millions of people listen to the radio every single day. People spend more time with radio than on the Internet and reading newspapers. There is an exciting world of opportunity before us. It is the beginning of a new era for radio.
And many of you have already started to embrace the possibilities. But in order for us to move forward and build a successful future we cannot continue to operate as we have in the past. We must stop listening to the negativity and false messages, many of which come from our own people. And we must commit to spreading the positive news about radio.
So if broadcast radio is so strong, then they need not fear Internet radio, should they?
So I contacted Congressman Baca.
Dear Congressman Baca,
I join many Internet music lovers in asking your support for H.R. 7084, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. As a listener to services such as last.fm, Pandora, and Yahoo! LaunchCAST, I would like to give Pandora and similar services time to negotiate licensing agreements that would allow them to continue to broadcast. Your support is urgently needed.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
If you're only familiar with Jones' version, the original is like Jones, only with less emotion. Snufkins:
This song was never a single—it was, in fact, the B-side of a single, “Hey St. Peter,” that I never cared for much (and still don’t). This was one of those times where, after hearing the song on the radio once (maybe played accidentally?), I bought the little cheap 45 for the flip side. Even today, I enjoy the palpable atmosphere it carries. To me, this is some of the earliest trip-hop out there, minus the drums.
Flash and the Pan were largely made up of Harry Vanda and George Young. The album that contains “Walking in the Rain” came out in 1978....The open-fifth synth drone in the background periodically swells out of the mix, much like the hum of traffic on rainy streets. The synthesized percussion reminds me of footsteps echoing on the wet pavement. The vocals, oddly filtered and spoken rather that sung, sound robotic like the “Fitter, Happier” android on Radiohead’s OK Computer. The bass playing is also notable, for its understated dub-like effect. All in all, the song brilliantly conveys a kind of spooky, futuristic desolation and alienation.
And if the names Vanda and Young sound familiar, they were associated with a dramatically different kind of music:
Young’s brothers are the Young brothers of AC/DC; Vanda and Young also produced several of the early Bon Scott-era AC/DC albums. Previous to that they were best known as members of the Easybeats, who gave us the psych-pop “Friday on my Mind” back in 1967....For 60s flower children to turn around and produce crunching hard rock and then turn around and embrace futuristic synth pop seems like a series of stylistic leaps that are just a bit drastic.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Plus my phone battery and my own battery are low.
And Charlie (link) is tired.
Once you arrive on Treasure Island, get ready to rock to some of today's hottest international concert performers, in an unforgettable outdoor setting. Joining us from around the globe for the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 Appreciation Event are (drum roll please):
Elvis Costello: A master of weaving many musical genres, including pub rock, punk rock, and new wave, this consummate performer has dedicated fans on every continent.
Seal: A singer-songwriter from England of Nigerian and Afro-Caribbean ancestry, Seal smoothly delivers rhythm and blues, soul, funk, house, and dance.
UB40: This reggae band has featured the same eight members since 1978 and boasts more than 50 singles that have connected with fans in the U.K and beyond.
Alan Jackson: Balancing the global lineup is Alan Jackson, a country western sensation from the United States. This award-winning singer-songwriter blends honky-tonk with mainstream country sounds.
The Psychedelic Furs: From the late 1970s into the 90s, the Psychedelic Furs earned tremendous respect from critics and fans alike for their music's mix of punk rock, poetic lyricism, and seductive rhythmic hooks.
The Gin Blossoms: An alternative rock band formed in 1987, the band today is considered to have a wide influence on modern rock, due to its consolidation of melodic rock, folk, and country elements.
Although I have attended three Oracle OpenWorld conferences in the past, I have never been to the Appreciation event. I left early in 2005 and 2006, and I managed to lose my wristband in 2007.
Perhaps the person who found my 2007 wristband sold it on Craigslist:
Elvis Costello, Seal, UB40, The Psychedelic Furs etc - $200 (financial district)
It turns out that in 2006 (when I couldn't attend), I gave my wristband away to someone at Oracle to whom I owed a favor. You see, the Appreciation event is for Oracle customers, not Oracle employees, and this person had a friend who really wanted to see Elton John.
A noted music blog, the Business Technology Blog at the Wall Street Journal, has commented on tonight's concert:
[Larry] Ellison and the company he founded, Oracle, are hosting their annual OpenWorld conference here this week. More than 40,000 techies will descend on the city, disrupting traffic for everyone else. Tech conferences are odd gatherings to begin with: Thousands of men – and attendees are almost always men – attend a few technical sessions, get a high-quality bag for free, and get to hear a popular band that no one knew was still touring. It’s kind of like a watered-down Vegas for the tech set....
And there’s non-threatening music for every taste: Elvis Costello, Seal, UB40, Alan Jackson, the Psychedelic Furs, and the Gin Blossoms are all set to play.
Well, to put all of us watered-down techies in the mood, here's a video:
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
If one wants to fit the stereotypical country star mold, you need to have a broken heart, a drinking problem, and a dog.
Well, Jessica's been through Nick Lachey and Tony Romo, so she's taken care of that.
And if (emphasize the "if") PopCrunch is to be believed, she's working on the alcohol:
The buxom singing star was ejected from a Marc Jacobs Fashion Show afterparty during a drunken night out in the Big Apple on September 8.
“Jessica was stumbling around the party slurring her words and barely able to stand,” says a Star Magazine insider, who claims Jessica was asked to leave the event just before dinner.
No word on the dog.
Monday, September 22, 2008
67 songs on the playlist for the "Securing the Moscone Center" Oracle OpenWorld Unconference presentation
This is an update on my plea to suggest biometric-related songs for a playlist that I'm assembling for my Thursday presentation at the Oracle OpenWorld Unconverence. My plea also received a link from Jake Kuramoto in the Oracle AppsLab blog.
First, some sad news - I belatedly discovered that, even if I were able to get the playlist up to over 45 tracks, I still wouldn't be able to listen to it. The ability to listen to playlists is apparently limited to paying last.fm users.
Now, the good news - as of Monday evening September 22, the playlist has 67 songs, thanks to the contributions of many, including the aforementioned Jake Kuramoto; Louise; Kirk Donnan (Creative Director at Oracle); and last.fm user F6x, who not only suggested a lot of songs, but made sure to include songs from four of the artists who will be at the Appreciation Event on Wednesday night.
So, here's the playlist as of Monday night:
The Police – Wrapped Around Your Finger
Billy Idol – Eyes Without a Face
Junior Murvin – Police and Thieves
Bob Marley & The Wailers - I Shot The Sheriff
Eminem – My Name Is
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Welfare Mothers
spamtron – voter registration phone call
The Who – Who Are You
ABBA – Knowing Me, Knowing You
Arcadia – Election Day
Harry Chapin – Taxi
Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
Randy Newman – Little Criminals
Bruce Springsteen – State Trooper
Stevie Wonder – Living For the City
The Human League – I Am the Law
Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
Blink-182 – What's My Age Again?
Audioslave – Be Yourself
Bad Religion – I Love My Computer
Eminem – Lose Yourself
Finger Eleven – Paralyzer
Journey – Be Good to Yourself
Metallica – Am I Evil?
Nickelback – Savin' Me
Optimus Rhyme – Obey The Moderator
Evanescence – Bring Me to Life
Phil Collins – Don't Lose My Number
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
Hall & Oates – Private Eyes
Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
Royal Trux – Lunch Money
Patsy Cline – Fingerprints
Leonard Cohen – Fingerprints
I Want to Hold Your Hand
Talking Heads – Puzzlin' Evidence
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
Ricky Nelson – Travelin' Man
Madonna – Borderline
Elton John – Border Song
Al Stewart – On the Border
Devo – Secret Agent Man
Owls – For Nate's Brother Whose Name I Never Knew or Can't Remember
TRUSTcompany – Retina
Janis Joplin – Trust me
The Shadows – F.B.I.
The Police – Every Breath You Take
The Doors – Touch Me
The Who – See Me, Feel Me
Øystein Sevåg – The Old Man
Frankie Valli – You're Just Too Good To Be True
They Might Be Giants – Fingertips
Filter – Take a Picture
Soundgarden – Face Pollution
Fiona Apple – Criminal
Ministry – Thieves
Thompson Twins – Lay Your Hands on Me
Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
The Guess Who – These Eyes
Daft Punk – Face to Face
Jane's Addiction – Been Caught Stealing
Seal – Touch
Elvis Costello & The Imposters – No Hiding Place
Alan Jackson – Listen To Your Senses
UB40 – Tell Me Is It True
Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)
Failure – Stuck On You
By the way, there's actually a purpose to this exercise, since it illustrates both the different types of biometrics (finger, face, iris, retina, etc.) and the different applications for biometric identification, ranging from unsolve crimes to school lunches.
When DJhistory.com opens its virtual doors today, I'll be able to buy tracks ranging from the arcane to the utterly recondite for a fraction of the price they cost on vinyl. And I won't have to go to any more charity shops. "We do the digging so you don't have to," says Broughton. "We'll never be as big as iTunes, but we'll always be more interesting. The store is aimed at DJs, music geeks and anyone who wants great, unknown music. We're starting small but we have some great projects lined up. There's two albums of disco gospel, and Penitentiary Soul, an album of 70s funk made by prisoners."
Oddly enough, when I tried to search for Penitentiary Soul, I couldn't find it. Oh well, it's new.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Back around 1980, a classified ad ran in Rolling Stone which asked, do you know what Michael Nesmith's been up to? So you called an 800 number (no 888 back then). Turns out he was doing sumfin called video, which was going to become huge (yeah right). Then you heard an audio snippet of the song....
The video version of the industry-changing event can be found here.
However, this was not the first video that I had ever seen. A couple of years before that, I was at my friend's house watching HBO when I saw a clip of Raydio (Ray Parker's band) singing "You Can't Change That." Or, more accurately, lip-syncing to "You Can't Change That." I thought it was the funniest thing that I had ever seen, and I knew that videos would never take off.
I was wrong.
By the time I found myself semi-employed in Portland, Oregon in 1983, I found myself watching MTV a lot. This was during the period when Martha Quinn and the like ruled the roost, Sting and others would yell "I want my MTV!", and the station would play...music videos.
I know it sounds bizarre 25 years later, but there was a time when MTV actually played music. In fact, through much of the 1980s MTV continued to play videos. They branched out a bit regarding the videos they would play, and you'd be more likely to see a metal or hip-hop video, but they still played videos.
Now PopEater provides word that Total Request Live, one of the few shows (if not the only show) that still played videos on MTV, will "have a little bit of a rest."
Yup, videos just got in the way. Presumably MTV needed a time slot where it could show Jamie Lynn Spears changing a diaper.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Jessica Simpson's first foray into country music, "Do You Know," will debut at number one on Billboard's Top Country Albums list. It sounds impressive, until you take a closer look at the numbers. The album sold a meager 65,000 copies in its first full week... compared to 101,000 opening week copies of her last album (and the previous album sold 2.9 million copies total). While "Do You Know" takes the fourth spot on the all-genre Billboard 200, it lagged behind sales by Metallica, Young Jeezy and Kid Rock....
If the decline in her sales is an indication, perhaps Jessica Simpson would be wise to return to more familiar pop ground.
Of course, Pop Eater has assumed that the most desirable thing to do is to maximize your album sales - or what I call the Michael Jackson attitude to song production, where every song is supposedly capable of being a number one hit that will sell millions of copies.
By Pop Eater's line of thinking, Brian Eno should chuck everything he's doing and record a duet with Amy Winehouse.
Frankly, Simpson's achievement is notable. I'll grant that some of the purchases have to do with the notoriety factor, but if somebody's going to plunk down money for a CD these days, they must at least like some of the songs on the thing.
If you want to hear the song for yourself, check the YouTube video at this prior post.
Friday, September 19, 2008
First let's look at a press release that I found in the Claremont Insider:
Live Music in Downtown Pomona
Following the opening night success of the new entertainment series featured at Sakura Ichi in Downtown Pomona, the Bar will host another promising musician sure to delight the patrons of Downtown Pomona.
Last Friday night, singer/songwriter Jason Diaz left a welcoming crowd delighted with his soulful and innovative musical offerings. Though the area is known for its up tempo thrashing musicians and a legendary once renown punk scene, Downtown Pomona can soon boasts itself as a beacon for acoustic musicians and a more settled audience.
Sakura Ichi provides a change of pace to the locale and a dip in decibels with their musical receptions. On September 19, Vocalist Adjoa Skinner will bring her Jazz infused folk-pop arrangements, which have serenaded crowds at world famous venues like the Viper Room in Hollywood and The Derby Night Club in Los Angeles.
Place: Sakura Ichi Bar
101 W. Mission Blvd, #101, Pomona, CA 91766
SUITE 101 Presents: Adjoa Skinner
To listen to Adjoa Skinner visit:
But if you can't wait until Friday night to hear local music, run out to selected records stores right now to get the Hip Pocket CD. Inland Empire News says that the CD, entitled "Blue Circle," is available at three Redlands locations (Barnes & Noble, Celebrate Redlands, and Gerrard's Market), Rhino Records in Claremont, and Amoeba Records in Hollywood.
For more on Hip Pocket, see this July blog post in Empoprise-IE.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Guardian Music Blog:
Following the death of Isaac Hayes last month, it's been a bad year for fans of heavily orchestrated, epic soul. Hayes and Whitfield were two of my heroes for the way they redrew the boundaries of soul, letting songs thunder and swirl far beyond the traditional pop song format. But while Hayes was a famously charming and outgoing character – hence those frustratingly reductive obits that mentioned Shaft and South Park and left it at that – Whitfield was always a mystery....
Whitfield's big chance came when Holland-Dozier-Holland stormed out of Motown in early 1968 in a row over profit-sharing. Inspired by Sly and the Family Stone's wild arrangements, he wrote the hard-driving, socially aware Cloud Nine with lyricist Barrett Strong (who is himself currently recovering from a stroke) for the Temptations. Despite Gordy's reservations over its perceived pro-drug message, it changed Motown overnight. Suddenly, topical comment and audacious psychedelic arrangements were on the agenda, and Whitfield-Strong were on a roll: Ball of Confusion, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, War and Smilin' Faces Sometimes all smouldered with tension and paranoia befitting the era of Vietnam, Nixon and the Black Panthers. War actually sounds like war; Ball of Confusion is indeed a ball of confusion.
Whitfield was a longtime Motown producer who during the 1960s and '70s injected rock and psychedelic touches into the label's soul music. Many of his biggest hits were co-written with Barrett Strong, with whom he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
The two won the Grammy in 1972 for best R&B song for the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." Whitfield won another Grammy in 1976 for best original TV or motion picture score for "Car Wash."
Of the named songs, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" is by far the most haunting. The Temptations certainly brought the song home, but they had good material.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The lyrics are here. Here's how they begin:
Some things fall apart
Some things makes you whole
Something that you find
Are beyond your control
I love you and you're beautiful
You write your own songs
What if the right part of leaving
Turned out to be wrong?
If I could kiss you now
I'd kiss you now again and again
'Til I don't know where I begin
And where you end
The rest are here.
I couldn't find an official Moby video for the song, but I did find a live acoustic MTV performance.
I guess the part that hits me is that this is actually, of all things, a song. I own the "Play" CD, which consists more of soundscapes and Eno/Byrnesque found objects than traditional verse/chorus/verse stuff. I'm sure that Moby has written a lot of real songs, but I'm just not familiar with them.
Music OMH addressed the differences between "Play" and "Hotel" (the album from which "Where You End" is taken):
Play and 18, Richard Hall's last two records (under the Moby name), sold millions of copies. Inventive use of gospel-tinged samples married to synth loops formed what became a tried and tested formula that brought Moby enormous success. Tracks from both records peppered TV ads across the world, and Extreme Ways even became the theme for a Matt Damon movie franchise. Moby's coffers swelled.
So it comes as a surprise that with his latest record, Hotel, Moby waves goodbye to sample land and opts instead for entirely original compositions. Could this be the start of a shift in direction?
Moby briefly referred to the song in an interview with Amnesty International's Music for Human Rights (what, you were expecting Tiger Beat?).
A preponderance of somber songs, like "Raining Again," "Slipping Away," or "Where You End" might erroneously lead you to conclude that Moby is in a state of emotional despondency. "No, no, no," he insists, "a lot of these songs are just based on my last two serious relationships, where there was a lot of love and caring, they just didn't work out." Moby wrote over 250 songs for Hotel, which he narrowed down to his fourteen favorite, which do have a recurring theme of love and sadness.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I'm going to start this path with Donna Summer, and something written in the blog Disco Delivery at the end of 2007:
[A]lthough I'm around eight months late for this, [Summer's] seminal classic, one of the most iconic Summer/Moroder/Bellotte compositions, "I Feel Love" also turned 30 this year.. Although it was an anniversary that went relatively unacknowledged, it's influence certainly has not. Reportedly called "the sound of the future" by Brian Eno upon hearing it for the first time, "I Feel Love" was one of the touchstones of not only disco, or even Donna Summer's career, but of the pop music landscape in general. Along with all the other groundbreaking electronic records of it's time, it's success seemingly opened the floodgates for all manner of electronic experimentation (and imitation) on the dancefloor and beyond, solidifying the legacy of it's producer Giorgio Moroder, perhaps just as much, if not moreso than Donna herself. Arguably much of what could be considered 'electronic music' today owes a debt to it's legacy...
But Brian Eno wasn't the only name producer that was influenced by "I Feel Love." Another producer, who hadn't yet established his name, was Daniel Miller, who left his continental DJ job and started a record company.
[E]lectronic music at the time was mostly experimental instrumentals and was viewed more as a novelty when used in song like the one-off "I Feel Love" from Donna Summer released in 1977. That song brought the potential of electronic music to radio and it was a massive hit, but it was far from the norm taking place in the musical landscape of the time. Daniel Miller would form the Mute record label in 1978 and release "Warm Leatherette"/"TVOD" under the handle of "The Normal".
He began signing other bands, including a bunch of New Romantic kids. The kids then released a top-selling album, but the lead songwriter split the group, and the group disappeared into oblivion.
Um...not quite. That particular group, Depeche Mode, has stayed together through thick and thin, and twenty-some years later they'd release a song with a name that sounded similar to Donna's old work. Perhaps it's coincidental, perhaps not. Stephen Gore (presumably no relation) certainly thought so:
'I Feel Loved' was...put in to bring the tempo up again, and unlike 'The Dead Of Night', this song actually succeeds in being memorable and is one of the highlights of the album. It's not quite a Donna Summer rip-off, but it comes pretty close. Having said that, the middle-eight is quite subversive and highly original - it remains the highlight of the song.
(And yes, Stephen Gore laughs about the presence of the song "Comatose" on the "Exciter" album.)
Flash forward a few more years, and one more European (if you count Summer as an American ex-pat) does it once more with feeling. Hans-Peter Lindstrom released the song "I Feel Space," and he as much as admits that he's going back to the source. Here's part of an interview at Mundane Sounds:
To me, the title "I Feel Space" recalls Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love." Is it a tribute to Moroder, and do you consider him an influence on your work?
Yeah, I was inspired by that track when I made it. Moroders bass-arpeggio is maybe one of the most powerful arpeggios I know, and it sounds REALLY massive on a good sound system. He's definitely an influence, but I wouldn't say it's a tribute. Those two tracks don't sound the same--at least in my opinion.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The look on the face of the woman - whoops, mujer (moo-HAIR) - is priceless.
And it gets better when Spanish Mike takes a second semester.
And when Spanish Mike and Erik Estrada rode off into the sunset, perhaps they headed toward Modoc County.
Or perhaps it's Simpson's debuts (in the plural), inasmuch as PopEater entitles its article Jessica Simpson and Her Cleavage Make Grand Ole Opry Debut.
Judge the music - and the attire - for yourself.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Coincidentally, I read this item today, from Bestival:
How does Bestival differ from other festivals?
"It reminds me of a Medieval pageant, you get on the stage and there's all these fantastic costumes. They've organised themselves. But you should ask me later tonight. I think we're here 'til 3am, so I'm definitely going to try and watch a lot of bands."
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I've heard it a few times before, but for some reason the mood of the song captured my fancy on Friday night.
Here's a YouTube video that captures a portion of a live performance:
Of course, then we have the lyrics. A sample:
I would swim across oceans
Just to talk with you
I would climb a tall mountain
Just to look at you
Id give my soul to the devil
If you asked me to
I would walk out of heaven
Just to be with you
So why did he write this song? Numan discussed his "Exile" album in a 1998 interview:
After writing "Sacrifice" I received a number of complaints about the religious imagery that I had started to use on that album. Some of the people complaining were so fiercely protective of their faith, that I tried to write material with more of a middle ground religiously speaking.
The first song I wrote was about the dangers of blind faith. When I had looked at my own lack of faith, I had come up with the idea that God and the Devil might be the same thing. That being in Heaven or Hell was all a matter of prospective. By the time I got to the third song, it was obvious that the entire album was going to work along this theme. Oddly enough it was all sparked by the religious faithful who had complained to me about "Sacrifice".
"Exile" to me is one big horror story. Personally. I don't believe in God at all, but if I'm wrong and there is a God, what kind of god would it be who would give us the world we live in? It certainly cannot be a good deity. At best God would have to be cruel, selfish, and he would have to have a huge ego. "Thou shalt not worship any other gods before me." That is just one huge ego trip.
The more I wrote about this theme, the more fascinating it became and the more ways there became of saying the same thing. In my opinion, all nine songs on the album are saying the same thing.
In 2001, Matthew Roberts provided his take on the theme:
"Gary Numan: Having followed Gary's career 'religiously' and having had a few opportunities to chat to him, I'd like to try and sum up his position.
"He has stated very specifically on a number of occasions that he does not believe in God. His position is essentially based around the problem of evil. A general cynicism about the world and mankind leads him to deny that it could be the product of a benevolent god. He sees a number of personal experiences as strongly supporting this view.
"Your current article states that his 1997 album, Exile, focuses on his views on the subject. This is not strictly true. Exile was based on Gary's ideas about how a slightly skewed version of judeo-christian tradition might appear, with God actually being a force for evil. However, I would stress that it was always intended as a fictional work and that Gary does not actually believe in a god of any description. Unfortunately, some religious fans have used the lyrics as a device to argue that Gary actually is a believer, perhaps secretly or subconciously. The arguments are, in my experience, always laughable."
Presumably Numan was not impressed with the answer that God gave to Job.
Well, I personally have problems with this worldview, but it's an interesting conceit for a songwriter to pursue.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Kudos to Dolly Parton for refraining from trashing Jessica Simpson, and encouraging her. Marc Malkin asked:
During the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Dolly Parton, you messed up singing "9 to 5," but now Dolly not only wrote the title track of your album, she sings on it, too. Did you ever think you'd go from the Kennedy Center drama to being friends with Dolly?
You know, what happened at Kennedy Center, I really thought I was done singin'. I was just at a place where I’d lost a lot of confidence and I didn’t even know who I was. But Dolly totally took me under her wing and helped me up and over the cares of the world.
It went from the Kennedy Center to her being a part of this record and getting letters from her of encouragement. She told me she’s never been more proud of anything in her whole life. And I have it written down in her handwriting! I do owe a lot of my confidence to her.
Sometimes the musicians are flattered - witness Fleetwood Mac, Bill Clinton, and "Don't Stop."
Sometimes they're not so pleased. The latest mad musicians are the Wilson sisters:
Rock group Heart is furious with John McCain for bucking a request to stop playing their 1977 hit, "Barracuda," and is puzzled by the use of a song about "soulless" executives as the theme for his running mate, Sarah Palin.
This actually illustrates part of the problem. Often a politician will go for the hook of the song, and completely ignore the song's contents. Take Ronald Reagan, who listened to the chorus of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," but not the verses. Springsteen observed:
I think people have a need to feel good about the country they live in. But what's happening, I think, is that that need -- which is a good thing -- is getting manipulated and exploited. You see in the Reagan election ads on TV, you know, 'It's morning in America,' and you say, 'Well, it's not morning in Pittsburgh.'
Springsteen voiced fewer objections when Barack Obama used the song:
A generation after Ronald Reagan famously mistook Bruce Springsteen's music for uncritical patriotism, Democrats claimed "Born in the USA" on Thursday for the theme it was meant to project — to describe a splintered country they say desperately needs new policies and new dreams.
Delegates danced, cheered and waved flags Thursday night as Springsteen's arena-rock anthem brought the final evening of the Democratic National Convention to life. It was a significant moment — and a sign that, unlike in Reagan's 1984 campaign, the Democrats are exhibiting savvy about their use of music in political settings.
Springsteen's reaction illustrates another part of the problem - namely, the lack of diversity of the music industry. Specifically, the music industry is guilty of discrimination because of its failure to employ people of conservative tastes. PopEater, however, pointed out a few options:
Right-leaning pop musicians can be hard to come by, leaving few safe choices for Republicans on the campaign trail. Political Machine pointed out a few GOP-friendly stars whose songs could possibly be cued up without objection: Donny Osmond, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Kid Rock and Wayne Newton.
You know, I think McCain could get good use out of the song "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast."
Friday, September 5, 2008
Issam Ahmed writes in the Guardian:
"Relax, leave everything in Allah's hands, Allah is your guardian," croons Pakistani pop star Shehzad Roy in his latest video, Laga Reh (Keep It Up), while a large crowd collectively turn their heads skyward in anticipation. It is sung, of course, ironically, as an indictment of the fatalistic apathy prevalent today in this troubled land....
Shot against a backdrop of political turmoil, lawyers' protests, and rumours of shifty American intelligence agents allegedly dispatched to spy upon and kidnap innocent citizens, the video is making waves among a Pakistani youth more used to "filmi" Bollywood numbers from across the border and anodyne homegrown love songs.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Now I've heard a lot of people denigrate Palin's Alaska experience, but "I don't even know if there's any black people in Alaska" is a new one on me.
On Saturday morning, I found myself on the road to Henderson, Nevada, which gave me an opportunity to listen to the CD in detail. Repeatedly. You see, when I buy a CD, I play the heck out of it for a week or so. My wife was in the van, but she hid in the back with her headphones on while I played the CD - or rather five songs from the CD - over and over again.
I could talk about all five of the songs that I like from this CD, but I'll confine myself to the one song "Just Like Me."
Technically, this isn't even a Sarah McLachlan song, but a song by "DMC featuring Sarah McLachlan." DMC, of course, is Darryl McDaniels, and the song itself hearkens to an earlier time:
Just Like Me [is] a hybrid of rap/hip-hop and folk music which includes the chorus from Harry Chapin's folk single Cat's In The Cradle (the latter originally appeared as the title track on Chapin's 1974 album Verities & Balderdash)....
[In 1997] DMC heard a song on the radio by Sarah McLachlan called Angel (which originally appeared on her 1997 album Surfacing). DMC instantly became obsessed by the song. It not only touched him, but it made him re-evaluate the direction of his life and career, and gave him the will to live. He was so taken with the song that he religiously played the track every single day for a year....
After DMC discovered that his mother was not his real birthmother, and that he was adopted, and McLachlan's Angel saved from committing suicide - all of these things became the inspiration for the song Just Like Me (a hip-hop re-make of Chapin's Cat's In The Cradle). When it came time to choose a collaborator to sing the Harry Chapin chorus, the only person DMC wanted was McLachlan; his real-life guardian angel.
But as I listened to the song over and over in the Mojave Desert, I began thinking of a couple of other songs. As I ruminated on how Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle" morphed from a song of father-song alientation to a song of loving adoption, I thought of another Chapin song which (in my mind) made its own journey.
While I loved "Cat's In The Cradle" as a teenager, another Chapin favorite was "WOLD," Chapin's song about a live radio deejay in an increasingly mechanized world. Years later, when I heard the Human League song "WXJL Tonight," I was convinced that the song bore more than a passing resemblance to Chapin's earlier work. However, I seem to be the only person to have linked the two songs. If you get a chance, compare the two songs and let me know what you think. Or check the lyrics (WOLD, WXJL).
But I thought of another song while listening to "Just Like Me." As I noted previously, McLachlan is not the lead singer on this song; DMC raps most of the song, and McLachlan interjects with some singing here and there. Much like this song:
Yes, my Veronica Maggio obsession rears its rather pretty head again. The video, of course, is for the remix of "Inga Problem" in which Maggio sang the choruses with a sultry stare at the camera. (The stare was in Swedish.) So I ended up driving through the desert, seeing a vision - a vision of Sarah McLachlan swaying and dancing while singing "And the cat's in the cradle...."
On Tuesday I finally saw the real video for the original mix of the song. And in this video, McLachlan doesn't quite play up the sultry look. In fact, she looks...angelic.
P.S. The short version of this post.