Monday, December 29, 2008

Talking Heads' "Fear of Music" as a Predictor of Future Band Member Activity

OK, here's how it happened.

I was in the middle of writing about Twitority when I chanced upon this FriendFeed entry (via from Friendfeed user Andy Kaufman:

listening to "Girlfriend Is Better - Talking Heads"

Now if you're not familiar with this song, it's the one from "Remain in Light" that includes the line "stop making sense"...which eventually became the title of a Talking Heads concert movie.

But this got me musing about an audio (rather than video) version of a Talking Heads live performance.

Audio-wise, I enjoyed the live double album. The earlier shows have simpler arrangements and a small club crowd, but by the later shows you have an extended band playing to huge audiences.

Then I said:

Now I have "A Clean Break" going through my head...

I continued with my post on Twitority, and was just about to finish it when I had to make a sudden trip from Ontario to Fontana. Having only a minute before I dashed out the door, I thought I'd grab my CD copy of The Name of This Band is Talking Heads (the live album that I mentioned) so that I could listen to "A Clean Break" and other songs about buildings, food, music, light, and the number 77.

But I couldn't find that CD, so I grabbed Fear of Music instead.

For the record, Fear of Music is a near-perfect CD for a commute from northwest Ontario to north Fontana. I listened to side one (except for "Paper") on the way out to Fontana, and side two (except for "Animals") on the way back. (For those who are only familiar with the CD version, the last song on side one is "Memories Can't Wait," and the first song on side two is "Air.")

As I drove on the 10 and 15 freeways, I found myself asking myself the following question:

Self, is Fear of Music a predictor of the later work of Talking Heads and the individual band members?

Fair question.

Fear of Music is in some respects a watershed album. Yes, they had already worked with Eno before and would do so again, but it was the last album in which Talking Heads were a self-contained, self-centered group. After this album was completed, the band members would go off into solo (and duo) projects, and even the definition of "the band" itself became somewhat blurry.

Now, bearing in mind that I haven't heard a lot of Byrne's solo work, here are some of the albums that came after Fear of Music, and my subjective judgement regarding whether inklings of these albums can be found in Fear of Music itself. (I am indebted to these discographies of Talking Heads and the individual band members.)

Talking Heads, Remain in Light, October 1980.

When people link Fear of Music and its follow-up, the obvious link between the two is "I Zimbra" - the marriage of a found lyric with extremely rhythmic music. Yet I think I hear echoes of the later album in the former. The earlier album only had a few guest artists (most notably Eno cohort Robert Fripp), but certain songs such as "Life During Wartime" sounded more effective when they were later played with a "Remain in Light"-size band. Think about it - when the new band played "Take Me To The River," the song was dramatically rearranged. When it played "Life During Wartime," they just filled it out a bit. So for those who assert that "Remain in Light" was a radical departure for Talking Heads, it really wasn't.

Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, February 1981.

When I initially thought about this on my Ontario-to-Fontana drive, I couldn't see any link whatsoever between this LP and the previous Heads effort. It wasn't until a few minutes ago, when I referred to a found lyric in "I Zimbra," that the connection became obvious. Now of course Eno and Byrne used a different technique to find their lyrics, but there is a commonality here.

Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club, October 1981.

In a sense, this LP (and its successor LP, of which I only recall "Bamboo Town") is really closer to Remain in Light than to Fear of Music. In a simplistic manner, Tina and Chris took the "Remain in Light" backing band, relaxed, and made a funky album. But there is one small commonality between Tom Tom Club and the earlier Heads work, and you can find it in the beginning of "Air" (and on an earlier song; I think it was "The Good Thing") - female voices. Probably the biggest difference between TH and TTC was that Tina was singing and David wasn't. The second biggest difference - the rapping of Chris - isn't really evident in any Talking Heads work.

Talking Heads, True Stories, September 1986.

Sorry, folks, but in the same way that I love Notorious by Duran Duran and Total Devo, I can honestly say that True Stories is my favorite Talking Heads album. But can you hear this Texas-tinged Weekly World News ripoff in the earlier manhole-cover themed album? I think you can in "Heaven." One could possibly argue that the lyrics predict the later attitudes of the True Stories Texas town, but you can really hear in the music that the band could play American when they wished to do so. (Incidentally, this is truly evident in the film "Stop Making Sense," in which this is performed acoustically by Byrne, Weymouth, and an offstage singer.)

Jerry Harrison, Casual Gods, February 1988.

I don't really remember The Red and the Black, so I'm skipping to Harrison's second album. And, frankly, I'm not really hearing it in Fear of Music. Harrison's work, like the work of Tom Tom Club, is really more closely related to Remain in Light than Fear of Music. Not that Harrison (or Weymouth of Frantz) weren't important in Fear, but the stuff they were doing didn't completely relate to what they later achieved on their own.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to Empoprises readers

When I started creating vertical, special interest blogs, I didn't know what to expect. In some respects I still don't, but I wanted to thank those of you who have chosen to read these blogs.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Grievance-Less Festivus, or whatever. I hope to share more Inland Empire, NTN Buzztime, and music stuff with you in the future.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beyond catchy - from a Berlin bloc party to an And One song

Sometimes musicians do their job all too well, assembling a jingle that's so catchy that the average listener ignores the rest of the song.

In the United States, one of the most famous examples of this is "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. As originally recorded, the chorus is one of those catchy moments that causes you to wave the flag and stand at attention in patriotic fervor. Forget about the story of a man whose country has failed him. In a sense, Springsteen could only blame himself when Ronald Reagan tried to appropriate the song.

Well, I ran across another example recently as I continued to sing a catchy chorus in my head:

Life isn't easy in Germany

The song is from And One, and it's been in my playlist for over four months now. But I didn't get around to reading the complete lyrics until recently. Here's how the song begins:

The way it was
It used to be
Well it had to change
As we all could see
We're twice as big
And Yet so small
Now we have to share
Here in Germany
When skins broke up
As Lenin broke down
Driving fast
Through united towns
Clubs being closed
And fights ahead
Now we have to share
So the Chancellor said

To fully understand the song, you have to look at the historical context. Let's go back to 1989:

After weeks of discussion about a new travel law, the leader of East Berlin's communist party (SED), Günter Schabowski, said on November 9, 1989 at about 7 p.m. in somewhat unclear words that the border would be opened for "private trips abroad". Little later, an onrush of East Berliner's towards West Berlin began, and there were celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate and at the Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin. On November 10, demolition works began with the aim of creating new border crossings. On November 12, a checkpoint at the Potsdamer Platz was opened, and on December 22, a checkpoint for pedestrians was opened at the Brandenburg Gate. So-called "wall woodpeckers" hammered pieces out of the wall, many of which were sold as souvenirs. A few larger segments were officially donated or sold.

Peter Jennings subsequently described the euphoria:

By the time the And One song was released, in 1993, the euphoria had subsided somewhat as the integration of the two countries proceeded apace. Problems were emerging:

As economic unification proceeded, issues that had been recognized but inadequately understood in advance began to surface. There was massive confusion about property rights. As wave after wave of Nazi, Soviet, and later GDR expropriations had taken place between 1933 and 1989, there was often little knowledge of the actual ownership of property. More than 2 million claims on properties in the territory of the former GDR were filed by the December 31, 1992, deadline. As more claimants emerged, with many winning cases in the courts, potential investors were often scared off.

Another problem was that East German production costs had been very high. The conversion rates of East German marks to deutsche marks often kept those costs high, as did the early wage negotiations, which resulted in wages far above the productivity level. Western German firms found it easier and cheaper to serve their new eastern German markets by expanding production in western facilities.

A third problem was that the inadequate infrastructure also became a problem for many potential investors. Telephone service was improved only very slowly. Many investors also complained about energy shortages, as many East German power stations were shut down for safety and other reasons. Roads and railroads had to be virtually rebuilt because they had been so badly maintained.

And in times of bad economic conditions, people respond in all sorts of ways:

The violence that erupted in Germany over the past several years brought to public attention the neo-Nazi Skinheads, a group previously regarded as only a fringe segment of the youth scene. Operating as lossely knit gangs of juvenile thugs, their menacing presence has been noted in communities throughout the recently united country. They have swelled the ranks of right-wing street demonstrators, acted as security guards for neo-Nazi meetings and served as a ready reservoir for extremist agitators to tap for attacks on so-called aliens in German society....

September 17, 1991 - Skinheads armed with clubs, rocks and Molotiv cocktails attacked a building in Hoyerswerda, an eastern city that housed about 150 foreigners, mostly from Vietnam and Mozambique. Hundreds of local residents gathered to cheer the Skinheads and resist attempts by police to quell the rampage. The assault and public demonstrations of support continued for days, ultimately ending on September 23, with the evacuation of the besieged housing unit.

August 22-28, 1992 - Rostock, in eastern Germany, was the scene of several nights of Skinhead violence against a hostel housing 200 asylum seekers (mainly Gypsies) and 150 Vietnamese guest workers. The hostel was partially destroyed by the 150 attacking Skinheads, who were openly encouraged by at least 500 cheering residents. Authorities evacuated the asylum seekers on August 24, and the guest workers fled as the building was being torched. Once again, violence rewarded the Skinheads with victory; the Interior Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the state in which Rostock is located, was subsequently dismissed for having failed to immediately order the police to quell the riot.

November 13, 1992 - Two Skinheads in Wuppertal (in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) kicked and burned to death a man they mistakenly thought was Jewish, after the owner of the bar in which the victim and perpetrators were drinking shouted, "Jew! You must go to Auschwitz. Auschwitz must reopen! Jews must burn!" The Skinheads kicked the victim until he lost consciousness, poured schnapps on him and set him on fire. He died of internal injuries while the Skinheads drove to the Netherlands in the victim's car, where they dumped the body....

November 23, 1992 - Two Skinheads, aged 19 and 25, firebombed two houses in Moelln, Schleswig-Holstein, killing a Turkish woman, her 10-year-old granddaughter, and 14-year-old niece. Several others were severely injured. The perpetrators telephoned the police station and announced, "There's a fire in the Ratzeburger Strasse. Heil Hitler!" They made an identical call to the fire brigade regarding the second address....

The collapse of the Communist regime in East Germany significantly affected the Skinhead situation. The emergence of the eastern Skins radicalized the Skinhead scene in both numbers and militancy. The aforementioned annual reports of the German intelligence services placed the total number of militant right-wing extremists (the majority of them Skinheads) at 6,400 in 1992 (2,600 in the west, 3,800 in the new eastern states) and 5,600 in 1993 (3,000 in the west and 2,600 in the east). Taking population figures into account, these estimates show a disproportionately high Skinhead presence in the new states.

So think of all of this when you listen to this song. Or just dance to it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Before there was love and dancing, there was murder and mayhem (Human League, "Circus of Death")

Follow-up to my November 22 post.

As I was nosing around YouTube, I found this old video from the Human League, pre-dating the departure of Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh from the band.

Just to set this in perspective, "Circus of Death" came out several years before "Seconds," back when Philip Adrian Wright's contributions to the band were primarily limited to visual media.

The song was rooted in the television series Hawaii Five-O:

Jack Lord played Steve McGarrett, head of an elite state police unit investigating "organized crime, murder, assassination attempts, foreign agents, felonies of every type." James MacArthur played his second-in-command Danny ("Danno") Williams, with local actors Kam Fong, Zulu, Al Harrington, and Herman Wedemeyer, among others, playing members of the Five-O team.

And yes, McGarrett was a little violent:

[T]he popularity of action-adventure did revive, especially in the early 1970s when crime shows became all the rage. The Nielsen rankings of 1974-75 had nine in the top twenty-five, although only CBS' Hawaii Five-O was in the top ten. Some of the most graphic violence appeared on this series (1968-80) in which a stern Steve McGarrett led a highly competent team of detectives against local crime and international intrigue.

Some of the stuff was too strong for today's audiences, and even for yesterday's audiences:

Why has the second season episode "Bored She Hung Herself" not been seen since the original broadcast in 1970 and is not included in the second season DVD box set?

No one at CBS or Paramount has offered a direct explanation as to why this is so. According to Mrs. Leonard Freeman (wife of the late creator of the show), speaking to some fans at the 1996 Five-O convention, someone tried the hanging technique depicted in the show (supposedly yoga-related, but more like autoerotic asphyxiation) and killed themselves. As a result, the show was not rebroadcast and never included in any syndication packages.

By the time the Human League wrote their song, there was some clowning around - well, in a Stephen King sort of way:

The narcotic that forges their union
Is a substance known only to one
To the clown it is known as Dominion
It's a secret that he'll give to none
The drug which gives the clown power
Means the circus can never be stopped
And his dream can go on unhindered
Till the last human being has dropped

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Updating a classic - Limp Bizkit, "Take a Look Around"

I'm not a movie person, but I'm a music person. And I realize that when you're updating a classic movie, or putting a classic TV show into movie form, the music can form a key part of the update. Do you retain the original feel of the music, do you junk it for something completely new, or do you moderate and take a middle path?

I submit to you Limp Bizkit, the pinnacle of moderation:

And the video's interesting too. But back to the music. ASCAP records the following information for "Take a Look Around":

(Title Code: 500694048)




Tel. (615) 743-1779

Contact ASCAP Clearance representative at (212)621-6160
for other publisher information.

In a nice little twist, the original theme is a BMI work:

BMI Work #998226
Alternate Titles:
Songwriter/Composer Current Affiliation CAE/IPI #



But the songwriter was more than a TV theme hack:

Movie audiences may know Lalo Schifrin for his themes to Bullitt, Cool Hand Luke, Enter The Dragon, Rush Hour and Mission: Impossible, but jazz lovers know the pianist, arranger and composer as a master of orchestral works, such as his Gillespiana suite, written for his early idol and mentor, Dizzy Gillespie....

Boris Claudio Schifrin was born on June 21, 1932, into a musical family in Buenos Aires, Argentina....He was nicknamed "Lalo" in his youth, and legally adopted this name after he became a U.S. citizen in the 1960s.

This accounts for the differing names in the ASCAP and BMI catalogs.

After several years with Dizzy Gillespie, Schifrin relocated to Hollywood in 1964.

As his prominence in Hollywood grew, Schifrin shifted his attention away from jazz performance. But the best of his TV and film music retained a strong flavor from the many different shades of jazz Schifrin had mastered. "Mission: Impossible," Schifrin's most popular song, which ties "Take Five" as the most popular song in 5/4 time, as well as "Down Here On The Ground" from 1967's Cool Hand Luke, which was made popular by Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, and the entirety of the Bullitt soundtrack from 1968 stand side by side with Schifrin's best jazz work.

Of course, Durst (whoops, William Frederick Durst) and Limp Bizkit took that 5/4 song it to 4/4 time. And then it made the soundtrack. A Tori Amos fan site collected several reviews of the soundtrack, including "Take a Look Around." Reviews varied:

There's not a single cut on this soundtrack to the second MISSION IMPOSSIBLE that could be described as "feel-good music"; in fact, most of it--a very au courant mix of extreme metal and rap--is typified by Limp Bizkit's effective bludgeoning of the familiar theme from the original TV show. []

Right: you're making an action film, and you need some bands to give you a kick-start. Are these the right bands? Well, the show opens with an explosive version of the main theme from Mission Impossible: 2, Take A Look Around by Limp Bizkit, a grunge, in-your-face mega-voyage through guitars, drums and a raging voice. [The Irish Times]

[Y]ou've got Fred Durst and company turning the usually compelling Mission: Impossible theme into a standard Limp Bizkit throwdown, with Durst ranting and railing against us rock critics who make poor Fred's life so miserable. []

To his credit, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst offers up his own restrained, dreamy take on the Mission Impossible theme, until raging guitars kick in at the end. [Toronto Sun]

Limp Bizkit...twists the famous "Mission Impossible" theme into the surprisingly easy-to-digest rock/rap tune, "Take a Look Around"... []

Well, I liked it...

Friday, December 12, 2008

He likes to push the pram a lot (Reed Kelly and Clay Aiken)

The readers of Empoprise-MU will be pleased to know that Clay Aiken has found happiness:

In the Dec. 22 issue of Star...we report that along with his new baby and new life out of the closet, the former American Idol star has a new boyfriend to enjoy it with! The lucky fella? Broadway dancer Reed Kelly.

"Everybody knows Reed as Clay's guy," a Broadway insider says of the Wicked ensemble member. "Clay met him when he was doing Spamalot in early 2008, and that's one of the reasons he came back to the show again."

But the Star isn't revealing everything online. You have to buy the paper to find out about this:

For all the details on their romance — including Reed's role in helping to raise Parker...

So who is Reed Kelly? Playbill has the scoop:

REED KELLY Workshop: Wicked, Japan. Film: I Am Legend starring Will Smith, Music and Lyrics. He has worked with Elton John, Cher, Jessica Simpson, N*SYNC, Stevie Wonder, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Williams, Kristine W, Mai Kuraki. Multiple commercials/industrials for Radio Shack, Redken, Warner Bros., Target, Marshall Field's, GAP. Trained at Larkin Dance Studio, MDT, Julliard, ABT. He is also an aerial arts performer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Get ready for Hansons - The Second Generation

Mmm-bop. Remember them? Time has passed, but the trio are still making music, when they're not making other things:

World, get ready for Viggo Moriah Hanson.

The newest Hanson is child number four for musician Taylor (the 25-year-old middle brother of the pop trio)....

Baby Viggo is the latest in a growing Hanson brood. He joins two older brothers (Ezra, 6, and River, 2) as well as his 3-year-old sister Penelope. He also has a handful of cousins thanks to the other Hanson brothers having babies recently (three in total).

So they're clearly in position to unleash a second generation of bopping. Second generation musicianship has happened before, with Tito Jackson's kids forming 3T. We'll see what happens.

Hot Gossip and Sarah Brightman, "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper"

Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Clifford of Red Stick Rant shared this joy with us. From YouTube.

Hot Gossip ended up in an association with British Electric Foundation and its popular offshoot, Heaven 17.

And Sarah Brightman didn't do too badly either, although in the end she didn't lose her heart to a starship trooper, but to a composer of musicals.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

John Lennon thought the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. These people KNOW.

But Lennon was only one of the music celebrities on Graeme Thomson's list. Here are a few more:

Kanye West
His late mother compared him to 'Gandhi, Jesus Christ, people whose job it is to tell the truth'. Apparently approving, West posed in a crown of thorns (above) for the cover of Rolling Stone....

Marilyn Manson
'I believe I am God,' growled the pantomime overlord of industrial goth-rock. But not in a good way, oh no....

Sang 'Live to Tell' in a thorny crown while being 'crucified', claiming: 'If Jesus were alive today he'd be doing the same thing.' If you say so, Madge....

Flag-waver, peace-bringer, famine-fighter, Pope-pal, international conscience and example to us all. Need we say more?...

Michael Jackson
His Messianic mania at the 1996 Brits prompted Jarvis Cocker to proffer his arse in drunken disgust.

To be fair to Bono, he has admitted his own subservience to Christ and his own sinfulness. I think.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Insert "do you really want to hurt me" joke here

I never got around to blogging about this:

A jury convicted pop singer Boy George Friday of falsely imprisoning a male escort.

Norwegian Audun Carlsen had alleged he was restrained with handcuffs by the musician at the singer's London apartment on April 28, 2007.

Doesn't O'Dowd know that war is stupid?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Let's put Kathy Griffin, Clay Aiken, and Donny Osmond in the same post

We'll start with Kathy and Clay. But they're not sitting in a tree:

For years, the brash jokestress [Griffin] has poked fun at the "American Idol" alum, calling him "Gayken" and urging the singer to come out of the closet -- which he ultimately did in September.

So Griffin tried to make up:

"I held up one of those ghetto blasters playing one of Clay's songs, and I begged him to take me back and he said no," Griffin told E! Online....

"There were no words of thanks or even really any words at all, for that matter," Griffin said. "I would have to say he was not very nice."

Now if you're going to talk about nice, you have to talk about Donny Osmond. But some people think of him as O.J. Simpson personfied.

This is what he said. This is what Donny Osmond said:

Osmond, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, responded to a fan's question about his stance on gay marriage. We think he opposes gay marriage, but his diplomatic answer also seems to support the merits of personal choice. He writes:

"Some of my best friends are gay... I do support our Church leaders who say that we can accept those with gay tendencies in our church as long as they do not act upon their temptations. Everyone has tendencies to succumb to temptation... Whether we may be tempted to be immoral with members of our own sex or of the opposite sex, we are expected to live chaste lives."

"I am not a judge and I will never judge anyone for the decisions they make unless they are causing harm to another individual. I love my friends, including my gay friends. We are all God's children. It is their choice, not mine on how they conduct their lives and choose to live the commandments according to the dictates of their own conscience."

I think that the thing that threw PopEater was that Osmond was nice about it and didn't bash. Not that it mattered to John Aravosis:

He kind of equated us with men who beat their wives and children, or perhaps men who have sex with their own children, it's a bit hard to tell. But what isn't hard to tell is the part where he says that gays are "immoral" and that they "will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

What a pompous bigoted ass. Do you forcibly convert Jewish Holocaust victims to Mormonism too, Donny?

Just imagine if O.J. Simpson became a Mormon while in prison. Then John Aravosis and Fred Goldman could both go after him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The greatest song of all time - Henhouse Five Plus Too, "In the Mood"

At various times I have discussed the cover version of "In the Mood" by Henhouse Five Plus Too (a pseudonym of Ray Stevens).

But I've never found a sound sample of the song, which I haven't heard in years.

I finally found a sound sample on this page. (Actually, I found the page several months ago, and just rediscovered it.)

If you've never heard the song, I encourage you to click here (m3u format).

If you don't agree that this is the most beautiful song ever, then you just don't know music.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Devo's Experience - Are U Energized?

I own "The Complete Truth About De-Evolution,", which (if you haven't heard of it) is a collection of Devo's videos along with some extra features.

However, the DVD is misnamed. Because, you see, one video was left off the collection:

E.C.: Speaking of de-evolution, why didn’t the Hendrix estate give you permission to put the “Are U Experienced” video on the DVD (See the review of the Devo DVD “The Complete Truth About De-Evolution” here)

Gerald Casale: Further de-evolution. You understand that the consortium of people that now represent the Hendrix estate are basically run by lawyers; the lawyer mentality. Lawyers always posit the worst-case scenarios. Though that video was loved for years by anybody who saw it including the man who commissioned it - Chuck Arroff - a luminary in the music business who still claims to this day that it was one of his five most favorite videos ever; they [the lawyers] didn’t get it and assumed we were making fun of Jimi. That’s like saying “Whip it” makes fun of cowboys. This is so stupid it’s unbelievable.

Apparently Hendrix's lawyers didn't see other Devo videos, or else they might have concluded that "Beautiful World" makes fun of civil rights or some such.

So, is "Are U Experienced" a diabolical effort by Devo to insult Hendrix? Judge for yourself:

Actually, the Hendrix lawyers are laughable about this whole "pristine" thingie. After all, Gerald Casale never choked to death on his own vomit. And especially when you consider what the estate does deem to be acceptable:

Authentic Hendrix, the product-licensing subsidiary of Experience Hendrix, the company owned by the heirs of the legendary guitarist, is teaming up with California-based Beverage Concepts to launch an energy drink named Liquid Experience....

Experience Hendrix spokesman Bob Merlis told today that each product-licensing opportunity is given due diligence and that an energy drink fits well with the legendary guitarist's image.

But when the drink was reviewed, the one questionable area was the price:

Well the taste and kick are both pretty good. The price is the only thing that really needs any work. The MSRP looks like it will be any where from $2.49 - to $2.99. However, I did see that you can buy a case of this on their site for about $48.00 which would bring the cost down to $2.00 a can which would be much more competitive with the rest of the market.

Lawyer's fees, I suppose.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

February 25 1943 - November 29 2001

If those dates don't ring a bell in your mind, go to The Music's Over and read about George Harrison.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kevin Rudolf, "Let It Rock"

Now that Rick Dees has left KIIS-FM, it is safe to listen to the radio station. So my daughter punched it up in the car, and I didn't argue, especially when I heard a song I hadn't heard before.

There's an official YouTube video, but it's non-embeddable. Too bad.

So who is this Kevin Rudolf? Read the bio:

His first album shines with the same confident but shadowy mystique (online bloggers searching for even a photo of Rudolf has made a guessing game as to his origin and back–story.). In the age of Facebook–flaunting myspace–taunting GPS tracking wannabes, there still remains a refreshing mystery about him. But one look at the cover of his new CD – a silhouetted Rudolf, guitar–at–the ready in front of an ink blot of an urban landscape that would make The Clash proud – and you realize his DNA of rock, rap, and soaring song–craft is in his genes, and not tacked on as some last minute record company marketing plan, with a healthy irreverence that hasn’t fallen through the cracks. “I grew up in New York City. You have to learn how to survive, but hopefully in a way that’s true to you,” he says. “That means putting your head down once in a while and just saying F*** it, too. I promised myself if I got here I’d let my music do the talking. It’s the same way when I work. I’ve always let the music channel through me.”

It’s that same grace under pressure that has enabled him to come out of hip hop–centric Cash Money with hit rock song blazing: Prince–like in its originality and signature proclamation – ‘What the Saints forgot I must now remind you,’ he sings – by the time Lil Wayne spins into orbit you’ve realize the hip hop superstar is deputizin’ a new Sheriff in town – Weezies’ left–of–center spaced out rap complementing Kevin’s rocking call–to–arms perfectly. As one music blogger wrote: It’s the year’s ‘perfect trifecta of pop, rap, and rock.’

And as a commenter to a music blogger wrote, Rudolf has been around:

posted by Topher23 on Nov 12, 2008

If you look at the "official" sources, you would think that Kevin Rudolf just popped out of nowhere. This story says that he "met Timbaland" and from there things just started to happen. Oddly enough, Kevin Rudolf had been around long before that "fateful" 2004 meeting. In 2001, he released an album under the name "Binocular." Do a web search for the band and you'll discover that Binocular was a one-man band with songwriting credits under the name Kevin Randolf. I guess Cash Money doesn't want us to know that Kevin was a musician BEFORE the hip-hop label got a hold on him.

While Binocular songs are not on, the Binocular album is listed, and was issued by Maverick (Madonna's former label). Since I can't hear the music, I'm not sure why the relationship didn't work out. (Insert Guy Ritchie joke here.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

9,000 plays on

With the long weekend, I've been busy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bob's and Jon's views of the road

For some reason I had thought that Metallica's song "Turn the Page" was a cover of a Garth Brooks song.

As Jim Bakker would say, I was wrong. It's actually an old Bob Seger song. Songfacts:

This is about life on the road, and the rigors musicians face when they're touring. It presents the other side of fame which the public doesn't see, the loneliness and aggravation.

For a relatively recent performance of the song, view this.

Metallica's thematic and disturbing re-interpretation of the song can be found here.

But returning to the stories of musicians on the road, one musician visiting Detroit admitted that Seger's song inspired a later song of his.

Yeah, that one.

So, without further ado, an old Bon Jovi video for "Wanted Dead or Alive."

And, by the way, there's a CNN-related story about this song. It turns out that CNN displayed the caption "EXPERTS AGREE: AL QUEDA LEADER IS DEAD OR ALIVE." The original screen shot has been deleted from the tubes, but it was seen by Estephania and myself.

I walk these streets, a loaded six string on my back
I play for keeps, 'cause I'm not coming back
I been everywhere, and I'm standing tall
I've seen a million faces an I'm rockin' on
I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I'm wanted (wanted) dead or alive

P.S. While I'm on the theme, I should mention a song for which I couldn't find an artist video - "The Road" by Jackson Browne. Another classic.

Now I need to go back and listen to Bon Jovi - again...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Depeche Mode song in "bare" mode ("Clean")

I previously posted "Nothing's Impossible" in a bare version.

Here's "Clean" with the same treatment.

In my mind, the most obvious "bare" version is one that I own on CD somewhere - Martin Gore's original version of "Enjoy the Silence."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Philip Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright get serious - "Seconds"

In one sense it's sad that many bands only get known for a song or two, which may or may not be representative of their entire body of work.

Take the Human League. I'd be willing to bet that most people today don't even remember the band, and that those who do remember them just know them from the songs "Don't You Want Me" and/or "Human." They released an EP entitled "Love and Dancing," and that pretty much sums up the popular impression of the band.

But I was a fan of the Human League both before and after "Dare," and ended up collecting a cassette or two by the band. Yes, they're electronic (although they branched out a bit after "Dare") and for that reason may sound dated to some. But they did release some songs that went beyond the "love and dancing" theme.

I'm writing this on Saturday, November 22, 2008, the 45th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. On a day like today, Human League fan thoughts naturally turn to one of the other songs on the "Dare" album, "Seconds." If you've never heard it, then be sure to watch this excellent video assembled by rabidgod.

Lyricsmode has the lyrics for this song. Here's how they begin:

All day
Hiding from the sun
Waiting for the golden one
Waiting for your fame
After the parade has gone

The rest of the lyrics are here.

Musically...well, let's just say that you have to like the 80s. However, there is a gunshot sound effect in the song that is, in its own way, chilling.

Others have spoken of the song. Trouser Press:

The irresistible mix of state-of-the-art technology and old-fashioned pop-single formulae set millions of toes tapping, although the Dare LP contains much headier and heavier stuff as well. With incredible ambience and subtle tension, "Seconds" — about the Kennedy assassination — is, in fact, the LP's unheralded best track. A great record, and not just for its popular songs.

Russell Clarke:

[T]he band approached the song writing with the mindset that they wanted every track to be a potential single....[W]ith the exception of the brief cover of the "Get Carter" theme and the somewhat austere "I Am The Law" every track on Dare would have made a viable single , though a song like "Seconds" -about the assassination of John F Kennedy and - were in truth too dark thematically in those hedonistic times to be commercially viable.

And Oakey himself, along with...Rick Wakeman?...discussed the song on BBC2:

Rick Wakeman
Track eight on the Dare album, Seconds. A song written by Adrian Wright about the asassination of president John Kennedy.

Phil Oakey
It’s about being in the room that Lee Harvey Oswald was in, the atmosphere in that room. Jo and Adrian worked on it in Adrian’s flat and just brought it in and I helped them push the lyrics around a little bit. Adrian was absolutely fascinated with the Kennedy’s. He sort of really liked modern history, in that strange television lead way.

Philip Adrian Wright was primarily known as the "visual" person within the band (one of the original members, his first job was as "Director of Visuals"). You can see why the Kennedy assassination would appeal to him, since we perceive it in such a visual way.

P.S. If you want to see a detailed online biography of the Human League, go here.

Santa's list lives in England

It's getting to that time of the year when I have to assemble a Christmas list.

I say "have to" because it's not my favorite exercise.

One would think that a Christmas list should consist of things that you want, but in reality a Christmas list consists of things that people would want to buy for you.

So, despite my best wishes, I don't think that a a Christmas list consisting solely of Gold Toe men's dress socks is going to fly.

So now I'm trying to think of a couple of CDs that people could buy for me, provided that they could find them.

The only problem is - what CDs should I put on the list?

This is when I turned to my account, which has been religiously recording all of the songs that I've scrobbled over the past couple of years and storing them in's computers:

Our office is in Shoreditch in East London. When we started, the four site programmers lived in tents on the roof of the office. Now, we occupy a whole floor on Baches Street, we seem to have someone new on the team every other week (either here or in New York), and is a global music service available in 12 languages. And last year became part of CBS - so that's another six thousand or so people helping out. Sometimes we get nostalgic for the early days. Then we give ourselves a slap around the head and say "Wake up! There are still people who can't get at the music they want the way they want to. So, back to work…"

After reviewing the data, I'm starting to zero in on two CDs to put on my list:
I might sift through the data a bit more, but this is as good a suggestion service as any.

The joys of data collection.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Suicide, the non-solution - revisiting the death of John McCollum

As the story of the broadcasted suicide of Abraham K. Biggs circles around the tubes, and as people such as myself debate the liability and responsibility for Biggs' death, it's worthwhile to revisit another suicide - one in which a song was involved.

I speak of John McCollum and the alleged link to the Ozzy Osboune song "Suicide Solution":

On the evening of October 26, 1984, nineteen year old John McCollum shot and killed himself while listening to the recorded music of rocker Ozzy Osbourne. That night, John listened repeatedly to several of Osbourne’s albums, including Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, and Speak of the Devil. With his headphones on and the music playing, John placed a .22-caliber handgun to his head and took his life.

John’s parents filed a lawsuit in a California civil court alleging several causes of action against Osbourne and his music label, CBS Records. The central premise of each cause of action was essentially the same: the lyrics, tones, and pounding rhythm of Osbourne's music had the cumulative effect of encouraging self-destructive behavior. The McCollums asserted that CBS Records and Osbourne knowingly cultivated an audience of young people struggling with the transition into adulthood and, therefore, should have known that Osbourne's music would likely result in self-destructive behavior on the part of fans such as John....

The lawsuit focused largely on a song off the Blizzard of Ozz album entitled “Suicide Solution,"...which, according to John's parents, advocates suicide. Although John was not listening to "Suicide Solution" at the time he shot himself, he had been listening to it earlier in the evening....

The trial court dismissed the McCollum's complaint holding that the First Amendment was an absolute bar to the lawsuit. On appeal, the California Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision holding that there was nothing in any of Osbourne's songs that could be characterized as a literal command to an immediate suicidal act, nor was it intended as such. "[M]usical lyrics and poetry," said the court, "cannot be construed to contain the requisite 'call to action' for the elementary reason they simply are not intended to be and should not be read literally.... Reasonable persons understand musical lyrics and poetic conventions as the figurative expressions which they are."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ouch! (Krist Novoselic on the MTV Music Video Awards)

Tony Pierce links to a blog post from a political theorist who formerly followed another line of employment.

Seeing as this is the one-year anniversary of my column for, I thought I’d do something different this week and tell the whole story behind the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards when my bass came crashing down on my head.

The columnist, if you haven't figured it out by now, is Krist Novoselic, who in his hairier days was in a band with Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl.

Novoselic details two things that were going on that night - some testiness between his band Nirvana and Axl Rose's band Guns n' Roses (which is still around, at least as far as Rose is concerned), and some testiness between his band Nirvana and the suits at MTV who somehow thought that "Rape Me" was not the appropriate song to play on network television.

Fast forward to the performance, not of "Rape Me," but of "Lithium."

I’m plugged into some awful bass rig that’s distorting terribly. I can barely hear what I’m playing, and the tone deteriorates into an inaudible mess. [Intercourse] it—time for the bass-toss schtick. Up it goes!!!!! I always try to get good air—I bet I hit over 25 feet, easy! But no matter how high it went, I was not on my game— the only time I’ve ever dropped it was then in front of 300 million people. Ouch! I was fine, but I faked like I was knocked out, perhaps expressing my inner torment over a taxing evening. (Maybe I was just embarrassed.)

I stumbled offstage toward the green room with my hands on my forehead. I walked straight into the bathroom and looked at a bloody forehead in the mirror. I washed my face off and put a paper towel to my head. Paramedics came in and put a little bandage on, then handed me a long medical release form to sign.

Then, as with all backstage events, things get a bit surreal.

Standing behind them was Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, with a glass of chilled champagne.

For the connection between May and the release form, read the rest of Novoselic's post.

Oh, and by the way, Novoselic gets along fine with Duff McKagan now. Which is good, since he also blogs for the Seattle Weekly. Small world.

What does Prince have in common with a believing Mormon, Catholic, or Saddlebacker?

One of the things that's neglected at times is the ties between black musicians and the church.

Well, perhaps "the church" isn't the way to put it. More like "the churches."

Take P.R. Nelson, better known as Prince. Popeater linked to a New Yorker interview of the purple one. It turns out Prince, who started out as an Adventist, has now become a Jehovah's Witness (ironically, the church that Michael Jackson ended up leaving).

Seven years ago, he became a Jehovah’s Witness. He said that he had moved to L.A. so that he could understand the hearts and minds of the music moguls. “I wanted to be around people, connected to people, for work,” he said. “You know, it’s all about religion. That’s what unites people here. They all have the same religion, so I wanted to sit down with them, to understand the way they see things, how they read Scripture.”

Prince had his change of faith, he said, after a two-year-long debate with a musician friend, Larry Graham. “I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’ ” He attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall, and, like his fellow-witnesses, he leaves his gated community from time to time to knock on doors and proselytize. “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it,” he said.

Although devout Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in politics, Prince does have some views on the intersection of politics and morality.

“So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The joys of small-market radio

I live in a large urban area (the Inland Empire of California) which is right next to another large urban area (Los Angeles/Orange County). So it goes without saying that I have a relatively large choice of over-the-air radio stations to meet various musical (and other) tastes.

One drawback of this diversity is that our radio stations are fairly well segmented. We have a local JACK FM outlet, and a local JILL FM, but radio programmers would keel over if someone were to try to launch a "JACK & JILL FM." That sort of thing just isn't done.

But when you get away from the large markets, that type of radio segmentation starts to disappear.

So let's get VERY far away from the large markets - let's go to Lanzarote. H/T to Joe Dawson; before I read his comment in this Robert Scoble thread, I had never even heard of Lanzarote. If you haven't heard of Lanzarote either, it's the easternmost of the Canary Islands. From Discover Lanzarote:

Lanzarote is situated just 79 miles off the coast of Africa and is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. The island is 37 miles (60km) long and 12 miles (20 km) wide, making it the fourth largest island in the Canaries.

According to 2006 statistics (PDF, page 8), the entire island only had a 2006 population of 135,194. Over 3/4 of the population was from Spanish-speaking countries (Spain, Colombia, Ecuador), and only a little over 5,000 of the population were from the United Kingdom. Although not specifically identified, no more than 20,000 of the population use English as a first language.

Talk about a small market for an English-language radio station. And yes, there is an English-language radio station on the island - UK Away FM.

Established in 2001, Uk Away fm is the first and only English Language radio station to broadcast entirely from Lanzarote. Our music policy combines popular and specialist shows to cater for a wide variety of tastes. We also provide local, international and sports news and weather to keep our listeners up to date with events as they happen.

I've listened to the station off and on since I discovered it, and so far I've heard snippets of everything from Oasis to Cher. "Cater for a wide variety of tastes," indeed.

What accounts for our desire for variety? Perhaps the iPod:

"A lot of radio stations are sanitized and corporate. They're playing it safe," said Chuck Tweedle, regional senior vice president of Bonneville International Corp., a Utah company that owns three stations in San Francisco and 20 around the country, including 95.7, now known as KMAX, or "The Max."

"Take that and contrast it with the amazing success of the iPod. A lot of folks, myself included, have a diverse selection of music on the iPod and put it on shuffle."

Put that format on radio and you have a new phenomenon.

Of course, when you look up "variety" radio, you normally get redirected to some "Jack" variant. But the format is, well, a format:

The stations tell listeners "we play what we want" or "we play anything." But they're really carefully crafted to keep advertisers happy, observers say. Song choices target a lucrative but musically hard-to-define demographic, 25- to 54-year-olds who want to hear new music but not rap and bubblegum pop and who declare themselves too young to listen to the oldies.

And at least one of the "variety" formats is going away:

Newsweb Radio is dumping the music formats on a trio of its Chicago-area FM stations in favor of simulcasting the progressive talk of its WCPT-AM 820....

“We felt like we were on the verge of something,” said one of the affected FM stations’ staffers, who were told of the changes Friday. “We felt like we were reaching listeners using good old fashioned ploys, like talking to them and listening to them and playing what they wanted to hear.”

But Chicago is not really a small market. However, there is a newsletter that serves small radio markets:

The Small Market Radio Newsletter was started in 1983 by Bob Doll, a prominent radio man who by that time had owned several small market properties in the Midwest. In thinking about the industry and how he could contribute to it, he realized there was no publication that specialized in the concerns of the small market radio broadcaster.

Before he published the first issue, Bob decided to visit small market operators across the country to get a better feel for what some of those concerns were. Not only did he get a feel for what was going on in small market radio all over the United States, but he began gathering the profiles of fascinating small market broadcasters that have been an important and popular part of the newsletter from the very beginning....

In 1993, Bob approached Jay Mitchell with the idea of Jay taking over publication of the newsletter. At that time Jay had been in the consulting business for over 15 years, and saw the advantages of spending less time on the road and more time with his family - and talking to small market broadcasters all over the country every week. So, nearly ten years to the issue from Bob's first edition, Jay took over publication of SMRN.

Currently the newsletter goes to small market broadcasters in the U.S., Canada and even the Pacific Rim ... to vendors to the industry ... to music licensing firms ... and to state and national broadcast associations.

I don't know if UK Away FM subscribes, but I'm sure there are a lot of stations mixing up Oasis and Cher to reach an audience that wouldn't be served otherwise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse - Snoop Dogg joins Jessica Simpson in the country music arena

In the course of researching a blog post on African pirates, I ran across this Snoop Dogg video double feature.

While it's surprising that Snoop went country in the first song ("My Medicine"), it isn't surprising that Willie Nelson was cited in the song. In the song, Snoop also mentions Johnny Cash and "Whitey Ford" (Everlast).

Snoop Dogg and Conan O’Brien recently discussed Snoop’s recent album Ego Trippin’, in particular a collaboration with Everlast entitled “My Medicine.” “I love country music,” Snoop recalled, “so what I did was I had my partner Everlast come in and help me write this song.”

And "Ridin in My Chevy" is a nice endorsement of American manufacturing.

I have to assume that Snoop is positioning himself to be a future performer at a safe Super Bowl halftime show. Or a Republican performer:

Everybody’s tracking things down. The estimable Marijuana Policy Project has tracked down the fact that Sarah Palin has publicly acknowledged that she smoked marijuana and inhaled – but she says she didn’t like it. Of course possession and use was legal in Alaska for some time, though it was still against federal law.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gary Glitter De-Bricked and Brassed at the Cavern Club

I have a personal antipathy to naming schools, parks, or whatever after living persons, especially if it's a politician that's still in office. Take Hoover Dam, for example, which kept on getting renamed depending upon whether Republicans or Democrats were in office. And hat if you name something after the person, then discover that the person was involved in a terrible scandal?

Different rules apply for halls of fame, however, and these people are often honored while they are still living. Take, for example, the conversation that launched the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.




Are you gonna eat five pizzas again?


What, like Cooperstown?


And the Stones?



Well, it turns out that the so-called Cavern Club (I say "so-called" because the original club became a shaft for the Liverpool Underground in 1973) has a "wall of fame" with various musicians of note.

That wall of fame has lost a name:

A brick bearing the name of disgraced rock musician Gary Glitter has been removed from the "wall of fame" at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

Convicted paedophile Glitter was among hundreds of stars who had played at the Matthew Street club to be honoured with their own memorial brick. But after a local media campaign, his name was chipped off last week. Instead, a plaque was displayed acknowledging the removal of the brick, as well as one recognising disgraced former music mogul Jonathan King.

King, incidentally, was also accused of sex with underage children.

I could not find an authoritative list of all 1801 (1800? 1799?) names on the wall, but Wikipedia mentions a few:

Most people would know of the Club’s proud association with The Beatles and Mersey Beat, but few would realise that artistes such as Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Status Quo, Judas Priest, Joe Cocker, The Who, The Kinks, Rod Stewart, Queen, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Elton John, Edwin Starr, Gene Vincent, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix all played at The Cavern between 1957 and 1973.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 6 open mic at the Coffee Depot in Riverside, California

Back on November 10, Inland Empire Live Music published several pictures and a video from the previous Thursday'a open mic at the Coffee Depot in downtown Riverside, California.

Go to the post to see the video. Unfortunately, the musicians aren't identified in the video.

Check the Coffee Depot's MySpace page. Their next open mic is on Thursday, November 20.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What to sing? (The songs of "High School Musical on Stage!")

I promised myself that I'd look at "High School Musical on Stage!" from a musical perspective.

First, I need to correct myself. In the past, I have referred to the stage show as "High School Musical" (or, in some cases, "'High School Musical' (the musical)"). The correct title is "High School Musical on Stage!" With an exclamation point! Why? Because!

And, I should note that I have never watched the movie all the way through - I'm just not a movie person - so I can't tell you the differences between the movie and the stage show based on experience. For that, I have to rely on the Wikipedia entry for the stage show:

There are two new songs, Counting On You and Cellular Fusion and the former "extra song" I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You has been added to the main repertoire.

If you're interested in how items are adapted from one medium to another, you may want to read this for other differences (example: "Troy and Gabriella share a kiss at the end of the play when in the original movie they do not").

To find out who actually wrote the music, you need to go to the imdb site for the TV show (which of course doesn't include "Counting on You" or "Cellular Fusion"). Here are the credits for the TV movie songs:

"Start of Something New"
"We're All In This Together"
"I Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You"
Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil

"Getcha Head in the Game"
Written by Ray Cham, Greg Cham and Andrew Seeley

"What I've Been Looking For"
Written by Andy Dodd and Adam Watts

"Stick To The Status Quo"
Written by David Lawrence (as David N. Lawrence) and Faye Greenberg

"When There Was Me and You"
"Breaking Free"
Written by Jamie Houston

"Bop to the Top"
Written by Randy Petersen and Kevin Quinn

I haven't been able to find any information on the two songs that were new for the musical, other than noting that Bryan Louiselle must have been involved.

But I did find some information on David Lawrence:

With a degree in music composition, a background in LA's R&B pop scene and most recently an accomplished career as a Hollywood TV and film composer (American Pie 1 & 2, National Lampoon's Van & Wilder, Beverly Hills 90210), David Lawrence got the call from Disney to write a feature song as well as the underscore for HSM.

Lawrence was then interviewed:

MOTU: What is High School Musical (HSM)?

David: HSM is a made-for-TV movie done by the Disney Channel.

MOTU: And what was your role in the project?

David: I did all of the original score, and I also composed (wrote, produced and arranged) an original production number with my partner, Faye Greenberg, in the middle of the show called "Stick to the Status Quo", which is on the soundtrack album as well....

MOTU: How did you get involved in the project?

David: I had been very fortunate to work for Disney a couple of times before this. I did a movie with them called "Pop Rocks" a couple of years ago. And then they asked me to do their Christmas movie called "Snow" about three months after that. And then 4-5 months after that I got a call from Steve Vincent who is the Director of Music at the Disney Channel, who said, "We're doing this thing called High School Musical and we want you to do the score." And it became apparent they needed some songs. I hit it off with the director, and I told him I'm a songwriter, too. That's how my partner and I started, before I even got into TV and film scoring....

MOTU: Can you give us a thumbnail overview of your overall involvement in the project? Did you start out by meeting with the director, or did you first submit song ideas?

David: We were one of six song writer (or song-writing teams) that are on the soundtrack. Each songwriting team sat down with the executives, the producers and the director to go over the story line and what the song needed to achieve. Most of the songs were sort of like "drop in" or "plug in" songs for the moment, without advancing the plot line or the story line, which is what you have in a real musical. Instead they were meant to be really good pop tunes that were placed in the moment to express the moment and then the story moves on afterwards. They came to us and said, "Look, we've got this pivotal point in this movie." It's about kids trying to take chances by following their heart, going against the odds (just like the two leads in the story), and they needed a story-driven, theatrical, yet pop-oriented song. And they came to us to write that. And it was a very hard number to write because it had to satisfy a lot of story points. It had to drive the story forward. It had to be driving in and of itself, but it also had to be theatrical and infectious as well. And it involved many characters in the movie, who would each stand up and sort of sing/speak their piece and basically drive the plot forward. And so it became this big dance number staged in the high school cafeteria. By the end of the number, the story was moved along successfully, and there was a big dance break in the middle, and it became this big complicated number that ended up taking about four months to write.

MOTU: Four months?

David: Only because they kept changing how they wanted to do it, once they were shooting it. You know: can we do it this way instead? And they kept revising it every two days. And my partner had to do many lyric rewrites because the stories kept changing. Then I had to do several dance arrangements, a couple of dance breaks, and then a couple of changes in the break-down section. We were still rewriting even after they finished shooting! And then opening up space in the middle of the number and inserting 16 or 18 bars to sort of make things work from a dance perspective and then closing it back up again with the material we originally recorded.

Incidentally, in the course of searching for information, I found a web page listing future performances of "High School Musical on Stage!", including our own (and a performance at my old high school).

Here are the listings for the rest of the month:

From 02/29/2008
Until 03/30/2009

From 11/01/2008
Until 12/31/2009

From 11/05/2008
Until 12/05/2008

From 11/05/2008
Until 12/17/2008

From 11/08/2008
Until 11/30/2008

From 11/13/2008
Until 11/15/2008

I'll be part of the ensemble for the Claremont production.

From 11/13/2008
Until 11/15/2008

From 11/13/2008
Until 11/15/2008

From 11/13/2008
Until 11/16/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/16/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/16/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/16/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/22/2008

Coincidentally, my old high school will start its performances on Friday.

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/14/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/19/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 11/24/2008

From 11/20/2008
Until 12/06/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/21/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/21/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/22/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/21/2008
Until 11/23/2008

From 11/22/2008
Until 11/23/2008

So, sing along...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Perhaps Lindsay Lohan can be employed at this radio station

I didn't realize how much Los Angeles, California radio station Indie 103.1 loves ex-musicians as deejays.

Now I had certainly heard of Steve Jones and Dave Navarro, but I was not aware of the musical history of morning deejay Joe Escalante - until he lost his morning show:

Joe Escalante has left the KDLD-FM ("Indie 103.1") morning show. Escalante's departure comes as station owner Entravision makes some budget trims (as everyone seems to be doing these days).

Ted Roman is hosting the show for now, at least on an interim basis. No word if Roman will permanently replace Escalante, or if another host is on the way.

A bassist for the punk band The Vandals and owner of Kung Fu Records, Escalante also spent 12 years as a business affairs exec, including time at CBS.

Of course, I'm not the greatest Vandals fan in the world, so I guess I could be excused for not recognizing the name.

But then Mike of Franklin Avenue (from whom I quoted the above) made this additional comment:

When the station axed morning show host (and Mighty Mighty Bosstones singer) Dicky Barrett in May 2006, Escalante was tapped to replace him.

Now you probably note that the musicians that they hire happen to come from bands that Indie 103.1s likely to play. But why don't they expand their deejay roster to include, say, all types of musicians?

I'm sure that Lindsay Lohan, for example, would jump at the chance to prove her stability by hosting a show every day.

And if Jessica Simpson weren't so busy doing everything else under ths sun, perhaps she could do some hosting. She'd be especially good for wacky radio stunts, also. "Does Proposition 2 affect Chicken of the Sea?"

And heck, I'm lost track of Vicki Lawrence. (If you don't remember Lawrence, she was primarily famous as a comedienne, but also had a number one hit with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" back in the day.) I'd love to hear Mama's take on some modern music.

But let's close with a little video. From Joe Escalante's YouTube account, here's a live Vandals show from 2008.

And, by way of contrast, here's Vicki and Reba McIntire singing a song that was a hit for both of them:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The last days of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler

I knew portions of the story of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler - "The Ballad of the Green Berets," the manslaughter conviction - but I didn't know how his life ended until The Music's Over shared that part of the story:

In 1983, Sadler moved to Central America to train and supply the Nicaraguan Contras, and later settled in Guatemala City, where he sold weapons and transportation to the military. In 1988, while returning to his mountain ranch house in a taxicab, Sadler was shot through the head in a mysterious robbery or assassination attempt (his son Thor believed drug runners were after his cache of guns). Although he survived, Sadler suffered severe brain damage. He was flown back to Nashville by Soldier of Fortune magazine editor Bob Brown, and though he eventually recovered consciousness and speech, he remained in a hospital bed for the rest of his life. Sadler died of heart failure on November 5, 1989.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An acoustic version of Dave Gahan's/Depeche Mode's "Nothing's Impossible"

"Nothing's Impossible" was one of Dave Gahan's contributions to Depeche Mode's 2005album, Playing the Angel.

There is a terrific acoustic version on YouTube, coupled with various grainy black and white video shots. I don't know the origin of the video, but the audio (available here and there) is very calming.

Incidentally, Depeche is no longer on Warner Brothers in the US.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The need for additional granularity in and Pandora

For those of you who are not familiar with, one of its features is the ability to associate artists with other artists that are (supposedly) similar to the original artist. So if you select the station that plays artists similar to Ladytron, you'll probably hear some Client at some point.

This is all well and good, and it usually works well, but it would be much improved if you were able to select songs that were similar to a particular song.

Let me cite an example. On Saturday morning, I woke up with the Who song "Music Must Change" stuck in my head. This song, recorded in the punk era as part of the "Who Are You" album, is a lyrical plea to acknowledge the changing face of music due to the emergence of the then-newer bands such as the Sex Pistols. Or at least that's the way I read lyrics like this:

Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealized sound
Every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be found
When I hear the cold lies of the pusher, I know it exists
It's confirmed in the eyes of the kids, emphasized with their fists

Musically, however, it was prog-rock to the extreme, with a full orchestra and everything. The music hadn't changed at all.

Just as an experiment, I decided to listen to the station that plays artists similar to the Who. Would I get a song that sounded like the song I was thinking about?

The first song I got was "The Real Me" from Quadrophenia, a rocker.

The next song? "Gimme Shelter" from the Rolling Stones.

As it turns out, actually has "similar song" data. Here is the similar song data for "Music Must Change." Again, not perfect, but "Carouselambra" and "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)," while not exact matches, are closer than "The Real me" and "Gimme Shelter."

Presumably has some reason to prevent its users from playing a true "similar song" stream. Pity.

Josefine Koehn recommends that Pandora be used for such a purpose:

Pandora is an Internet radio station, designed to help consumers discover more music they like. Music Fans simply have to type in the name of their favorite artist or song and the website automatically creates a streaming station which plays similar songs.

However, I run into issues there also. I've been playing with my Pandora stations every once in a while (usually when I have networking issues that causes me to get the "error 403 invalid ticket" message in, and I've recently been trying to define electronic music stations that are arranged by country (i.e. "OE Synth Deutsch," "OE Synth Norsk," "OE Synth Suomi," "OE Synth Svenska"). The only problem is that out of all the kazillion million jillion attributes that Pandora attaches to each song, "country" apparently isn't one of them.

By the way, I found "Music Must Change" on YouTube. While this is a live version, and therefore doesn't have the complete feel of the studio version, there's enough here to tell that this ain't "Anarchy in the U.K."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Autographs, Van McCoy, and Slim Whitman

The recent brouhaha about Ringo Starr's refusal to accept requests for autographs after October 20, 2008 caused me to think about the autographs that I've gotten over my lifetime.

As it turns out, I've only requested autographs twice, and at this point I have no idea where the autographs are. But I still remember how the autographs were collected.

For the first story, we have to go back to my junior high school days in the mid 1970s, when Glenn Kipps (I think this may be Glenn, by the way, but I'm not a member so I don't know) ran around saying that Van McCoy was his brother. Such bragging is usually suspect in junior high, and the fact that Glenn Kipps was a white boy did not necessarily help with his credibility.

However, Glenn was the younger brother of Charles Kipps, probably most famous as the writer of David Ruffin's song "Walk Away From Love." Well, Charles Kipps was also a partner of Van McCoy in McCoy/Kipps Productions, and apparently McCoy was close with the Kipps family, so the next thing you know, there's Mr. "Do the Hustle" in our junior high band class, saying that yes, Glenn Kipps was his brother. I got McCoy's autograph that day, took it home, and pinned it on my bulletin board. Sadly, McCoy died a few years later.

After Van McCoy's death, I was in college when the Slim Whitman revival occurred in the early 1980s. Whitman, whose peak years of fame were in the 1950s, enjoyed a resurgence, partially due to attention from Johnny Carson. As a result, I was there in Portland, Oregon when Slim Whitman appeared for his legion of new fans.

And Whitman didn't disappoint. Not only did he sing with his distinctive voice, but he also took great effort to put on a show, parts of which were centered on a supposed competition between Whitman and his sex symbol son, Byron Whitman. Byron wasn't about to give John Travolta a run for his money, but compared to his balding father Byron certainly was a sex symbol.

After the show was over, Whitman appeared on the side of the stage and patiently signed autographs for everyone who wanted one. A true class entertainer.

By the way, unlike McCoy, Whitman is still alive. Or at least he was alive as of January 2008.

Every decade or so, something comes up to give him a little name recognition, he said.

In 1996, Indian Love Call was used in the climax of the movie Mars Attacks to fend off the invasion.

"I'm the one who killed the blasted Martians," he said.

But it's time for some videos. Here's Giorgio Moroder and others talking about the Hustle.

And here's Slim Whitman scaring the Martians away.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On Porter Wagoner

I have to keep up with this stuff. I didn't realize that Porter Wagoner passed away last year.

If you're not familiar with Wagoner, perhaps you're familiar with his more famous television co-host. But before we get to that, let's look at Wagoner's musical career:

Mr. Wagoner had 81 singles on the country charts, including 29 Top 10 records. His hits included “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Skid Row Joe” and “The Cold Hard Facts of Life.” He was famous for capturing straight up the raw emotions of people living tough lives, sometimes using his speaking voice in an old-time country technique called recitation.

This landed him a TV gig:

For 21 years he was the host of “The Porter Wagoner Show,” which was eventually syndicated in 100 markets, reaching 3.5 million viewers a week and giving many of them their first brush with country music.

And a co-host:

And if he didn’t exactly discover Ms. [Dolly] Parton, her regular appearances on his television show were the foundation of her career. The two won the Country Music Association’s duo of the year award three times.

But Parton eventually left Wagoner.

After Ms. Parton left his show in 1974, there were lawsuits and countersuits between the two in a six-year legal tangle over business interests that produced not a few tabloid headlines. One reported that Mr. Wagoner’s wife had found him and Ms. Parton in bed and had shot both. “There wasn’t nothing to that,” Mr. Wagoner told The Tennessean in 2000 (“with a wink,” the newspaper said). “She didn’t even hit Dolly.”

But the tension between the two, as tension often does, created a great musical moment. No, not Whitney's volume 11 rendition, but Parton's understated original.

After his death, Parton spoke about Wagoner:

"I worked with Porter Wagoner on his show for seven years, and he was very much - I don't mean this in a bad way, so don't play it up that way - but he very much was a male chauvinist pig," She said. "That's why we fought like crazy, because I wouldn't put up with a bunch of stuff."

She continued, "Out of respect for him, I knew he was the boss, and I would go along to where I felt this was reasonable for me. But once it passed points where it was like, your way or my way, and this is just to control, to prove to you that I can do it, then I would just pitch a damn fit. I wouldn't care if it killed me. I would just say what I thought. I would do like the Doralee character and say, 'I would turn you from a rooster to a hen if you don't stop!' "

Wagoner and Parton eventually reconciled, and she was at his bedside when he died last year at age 80.