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.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Since I've ended up listening to Marsheaux this evening, I might as well share the little that I have gleaned about them.

From Electronically Yours:

girl Greek act Marsheaux have this year released the critically acclaimed album ‘Peek A Boo’ on Athens label Undo Records. Containing wonderfully uplifting analogue electro and exceedingly catchy pop tunes, ‘Peek A Boo’ is an outstanding collection of contemporary pop songs.

Immensely talented and with a burning passion for electronic music and The Human League in particular, Marsheaux have just recently signed to major record label Out Of Line....

A Marsheaux cover version of the League’s ‘Empire State Human’ for Electronically Yours recently topped 6,000 downloads and the girls have previously provided official promo mixes for artists including Depeche Mode, Moby and Gwen Stefani.

I guess it's a little odd that an all-female group covered a Human League song from its early all-male lineup.

And I guess it's a little odd that their images on are more reminiscient of Client than the Human League.

Oh well, the music's good. Check this out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bring me the head of Paul McCartney

Considering that Paul McCartney's life was threatened not too long ago, it's worrisome to hear that his head was missing.

Luckily, it was only a wax head.

October 22:

Paul McCartney's waxwork head [has] gone missing somewhere en route from London to Reading.

I don't think Steve Coppell could have used it for practice.

But we got good news on October 23:

Paul McCartney's head has been found! Apparently a homeless man named Anthony Silva found it whilst rooting through a bin at Reading station.

The Guardian, who had been covering the story, summed it up as follows:

Ah, it's just like a Hollywood movie, isn't it? Except for the beheaded Beatles bit, obviously.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Today is the day the music died...again

As far as most of us are concerned, once that plane went down, the Crickets ceased to exist.

Most of us are wrong, as The Music's Over notes:

After the death of Buddy Holly, the Crickets used various lead singers on their records. One was David Box who sang lead on the Crickets’ recording of “Peggy Sue Got Married”.

I didn't even know that there was a song called "Peggy Sue Got Married." (For the record, I've never seen the film, but my wife says it's good.)

The Music's Over records a number of details about Box's recording career, but ends with this sad note:

Summer Girl never charted nationally but did well in several regions especially Houston when it went top 10 in all radio playlists. This was partly due to Ray Rush, having moved to Houston to work for the International Artists label, promoting the disc. Taking advantage of the situation David flew to the city for a few interviews and gigs. He worked with local band Buddy and the Kings. Buddy Groves vocal/guitar, Carl Banks bass and Bill Daniels presumably on drums. Daniels was a qualified pilot and the quartet hired a Cesna Skyhawk 172 to take them to a gig in Harris County on October 23, 1964. The plane crashed nose first and overturned on the return flight. There were no survivors.

If I were a Cricket in 1964, I think I would have pioneered Madden forms of transportation - anything but a plane.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Too much! Too much!

Have you ever read something and had it inspire you to do something?

Not something earth-shaking, but something fun?

Well, I was in the lastfmfeeds FriendFeed room when I saw what Joffi222 was listening to - "It's All Too Much" by the Beatles.

If you're not familiar with the song, here are a few tidbits:
  • It was recorded around the time of "Magical Mystery Tour."

  • It was not actually released until its inclusion in the "Yellow Submarine" animated movie.

  • It was written by George.

  • If you consider its psychedelic nature on a scale of 1 to 10, it rates an 11.
And that's BEFORE you include the animation:

My quibble with this snippet is that it doesn't include the entire song, including the percussionistic "Too much! Too much!" ending - quite a contrast to what comes before. ("Lovely Rita, Meter Maid" similarly turns around at the end.)

And here's a songfact:

The following exchange is from a George Harrison interview in the June 19, 1999 issue of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE: Question -- "At the End of `It's All Too Much' there are snippets of Jeremiah Clarke's `Prince of Denmark's March' and the Mersey's 1966 [No. 4 U.K.] hit `Sorrow.'" GEORGE HARRISON: "You mean on the fade out? Yeah, with `Your long blond hair/And your eyes of blue.' That was all just this big ending we had, going out. And as it was in those days, we had the horn players just play a bit of trumpet voluntarily, and so that's how the `Prince of Denmark' bit was played. And John and Paul just came up with and sang that lyric of `your eyes of blue.' But just a couple of years ago somebody suddenly tried to sue us for that!" Incidentally, the "Prince of Denmark's March" was composed in 1699 and was later played at Prince Charles's and Princess Diana's wedding in 1981.

- Susan, Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

James Brown, "Please Please Please," plus a little Lesley Gore

I just cited the performance below in another context, but this is too good to pass up.

Before I present the clip, let me introduce it to you. Let's say that you have a short snippet of a song with no real words, just lasting maybe less than half a minute. Simple little stuff, a nice little riff, but not all the exciting.

But what if you're James Brown, and you have complete, total, utter control over your audience - enough control to wring every last scream out of them?

As Sting said, James Brown, the T.A.M.I. show.

I originally saw this in the early 1980s, in a version that included most of the people who appeared in the original performances, including Brown, Jan and Dean, the Rolling Stones...and Lesley Gore.

This is a contemporary performance of Gore's hit "You Don't Own Me," which blows her Judy songs out of the water.

The sound would not be muted

One day Daniel had a need.

The synthesiser was the ultimate egalitarian instrument, an instrument of the future. In 1978 the 26 year old Daniel Miller put his ideas in practice. Having bought a KORG700S and a TEAC four track recorder he produced his first electronic single as The Normal. The highly influential tracks, TVOD and Warm Leatherette (later covered by Grace Jones) were inspired by the dystopian novels of JG Ballard, in particular the auto-eroticism of Crash. "I never thought of myself as a musician, I thought it was an idea, rather than a piece of music," says Daniel Miller. "But I did hope it might trigger other people's imagination." In order for his recording to be readily available, Daniel Miller would have to form his own record label. Mute was born.

That simple act has provided a platform (at various times) for the Butthole Surfers, the Buzzcocks, Cabaret Voltaire, Can, Nick Cave, Client, D.A.F., Depeche Mode, Erasure, Goldfrapp, Laibach, Miss Kittin, Moby, The Normal, Recoil, The Residents, Boyd Rice, Sun Ra, Throbbing Gristle, Wired, Yazoo, and countless others.

And if you believe Dave Thompson, then (as I previously noted) it all happened because Miller heard Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" one night.

Monday, October 20, 2008

That's low

My daughter is young, so she doesn't understand why I say certain words in a really low voice.

Words like "soul train."

Sadly, there's some unfortunate news about Don Cornelius:

Don Cornelius, the former host of the television show "Soul Train," was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, police said Saturday.

Police were called to his Hollywood Hills home late Friday after someone reported a domestic dispute, Officer Sam Park said.

The 72-year-old producer was taken to jail, where he was booked for investigation of felony domestic violence, Park said. He was released on $50,000 bail and ordered to appear in court next month.

Sad, although it should be noted that someone is innocent until proven guilty.

And if anyone doubts the power of Soul Train, check this list of the musical guests on the first seven shows, taken from the Don Cornelius Productions website:

1. Gladys Knight & The Pips, Eddie Kendricks, The Honeycone, Bobby Hutton

2. Charles Wright & The Watts,103rd Street Band, Carla Thomas, General Crook

3. Chairman of the Board, Rufus Thomas, Laura Lee

4. Staple Singers, Freda Payne

5. Bill Withers, Al Green, Viola Wills

6. Lou Rawls, The 100 Proof, The Emotions

7. Martha & The Vandellas, Intruders, G.C. Cameron

And that was just the beginning.

By the way, about that theme song:

Most people think that our show adopted 'T.S.O.P.' as a theme song," said the tall, cool TV emcee. "But that's not the way it was. Actually, 'T.S.O.P.' was 'The Theme from Soul Train' at first. Only later was the name changed."

Don Cornelius, the creator, producer, and host of "Soul Train," did not start out to make his mark in music....

"It was Kenny [Gamble] who came up with the basic melody. We started the session with seven or eight notes and the rest evolved from the contributions of musicians, as musicians will do once they tune in on a particular groove. We laid a foundation that we all felt had some magic in it, and then Kenny, Leon Huff, and Bobby Martin did the bulk of the arranging.

"Several months went by before the song was released as a single. I was trying to hang on to it as an exclusive, which was a mistake. Finally, Kenny called me and said, "This doesn't make a lot of sense. When you have a record like this, Don, you have to put it out.' So I said, 'O.K. Put it out.' However, I wasn't satisfied that everything in our agreement was coming true. So I told him not to use 'Soul Train,' our service mark, on the record. Kenny then changed the title of the song to 'T.S.O.P.,' meaning 'The Sound of Philadelphia.' "

MFSB stood for "Mother Father Sister Brother" -- not a family band, but rather a group of thirty-four resident studio musicians at Philadelphia's Sigma Sound Studios. Their ages ranged from 26 to 73, and they had played on dozens of hit records over the years. Twenty-eight contributed to "T.S.O.P.," including Kenny Gamble (keyboards), Norman Harris (guitar), Roland Harris (guitar), Ron Kersey (guitar), Bobby Eli (bass), Ronnie Baker (bass), Zack Zacherly (sax), Lenny Pakula (organ), Vince Montana (vibes), Larry Washington (percussion), Earl Young (drums), and Don Renaldo (contractor for strings, reeds, and horns).

"T.S.O.P." was introduced as the "Soul Train" theme in November 1973. The single version broke nationally in March 1974, reaching number one in April. It spent eighteen weeks on the charts, and won a Grammy as the "Best R&B Instrumental Performance of the Year."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

OK, here's another set of underappreciated brothers

The Osmonds. "Crazy Horses." Live in the UK during their heyday.

Perhaps it's appropriate to share my second comment to a post about Marie Osmond's recitation of Hugo Ball's poem "Karawane" (with a mention of the Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" to boot):

Actually, [Donny Osmond's] role [in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"] was very consistent with the non-Dada side of his personality. Having performed in “Joseph” myself, and having heard the young Donny’s recording of “Let My People Go,” I can state that Osmond’s performances are perfectly consistent with his LDS theology.

I still have to find the lyrics for the Osmond Brothers’ “Crazy Horses,” however. That song might inhabit multiple worlds…

Perhaps I was wrong, or the Osmonds were covering up (which I doubt), but Songfacts lists two non-Revelation inspirations for the song - smoking, and pollution. Who knew?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Jacksons, "Can You Feel It"

Somewhere between "ABC" and "Beat It," it seems that an entire musical career has been lost. Yet the Jacksons (so named after their departure from Motown) put out some amazing songs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not just "Torture," but also the song "Can You Feel It".

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roger Miller, updated

On Thursday evening, I described some of the older stuff that can be found in Roger Miller's older works.

Before I turn to something a little more updated, let me tell you about "England Swings." While many of Miller's '60s songs consist of verbal theatrics, "England Swings" emphasizes the joy more than the tongue-twisting. In fact, Miller wanted to be taken seriously:

Roger...was never comfortable being portrayed as the down home court jester of pop. "I don't want to appear the hick," he said. "That's the thing I fight a lot." Proving his point, he continued to write and record terrific, serious music that showed many other sides of his personality....Among the novelty smashes and lonesome ballads of Roger's peak years were any number of hits like "England Swings" or "Walkin' in the Sunshine" - songs the sole purpose of which had been to communicate his boundless joy in life.

So, with that introduction, here is the England Swings ReMIX, from Danilow.

Another view of Jeff Lynne as a producer

OK, I love the Electric Light Orchestra as a band. I used to own their second album (the one with "Roll Over Beethoven") on a cassette, and I also like their later stuff.

But I cannot stand Jeff Lynne as a producer. In my view, he makes every artist he touches (George Harrison, Roy Orbison, whoever) sound like a second-rate downmarket version of ELO.

However, Alan McGee does not share my assessment of Lynne's production skills. In his article that states that ELO was as good as the Beatles, McGee notes the following:

Lynne was the producer of choice for post-Beatles' solo projects: George Harrison's Cloud Nine, Paul McCartney's Flaming Pie, and numerous Ringo Starr projects. He even ended up replacing George Martin as the Beatles producer for the final singles Free as a Bird and Real Love. If the Beatles can place this much trust in Lynne and believe in his music, why are they still in the ghetto marked Guilty Pleasures? Should we now accept that, yes, ELO were just as good as the Beatles during their own classic run in the 1970s?

With regard to McGee's main question, I would argue that Queen is actually more comparable to the Beatles than ELO is. Queen not only had the chart success, but also demonstrated a wide variety of music styles. I used to own "News of the World" on vinyl (yes, vinyl), and that song swerved from style to style in every track - just like the White Album, as a matter of fact.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roger Miller's out of date

Roger Miller can challenge Randy Newman for the title of Greatest American Composer, but some of his stuff doesn't age that well.

On Thursday afternoon I had my picture taken, and the photographer was taking so long that we were joking that he had to change the film.

This reminded me of a line from the Roger Miller song "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd":

You can't change film with a kid on your back

Of course, Miller's most famous song is a little dated in some spots:

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let fifty cents
No phone no pool no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah but, two hours of pushing broom
Buys a eight by twelve four bit room...

Heck, you can't even get a room for fifty cents an HOUR any more.

I couldn't find a YouTube video of Miller singing the song, but here's a performance by the BCBband.

The same band has a video of "King of the Road." Admire their enthusiasm. And remember that Johnny Cash couldn't sing either, but we didn't care.

But it doesn't compare to this (warning: singer not wearing actual theatre costume).

What happened to "Harder"?

Barnes & Noble, Montclair, California.

Next, the Desert Storm rap

OK, perhaps Bobby Vinton as a hip-hop co-star wasn't ridiculous enough. Let's go to the top - well, the top of the Cabinet, anyway. From the Guardian:

Anything MC Rove can do, Colin Powell can do better. Here's Powell flexing his flow with Olu Maintain at London's Africa Rising festival....

Powell's performance at the Royal Albert Hall, which also included – yikes – a bit of rapping, seems positively understated.

Apparently, these moves are taken from a Nigerian dance known as the Yahoozee and not, as some observers have suggested, the popular American dance known as Old Man Looking Awkward in Presence of Beats.

Or, Old Man Preparing to Endorse Obama, as Fox News speculates (forgetting that George W. Bush was a major supporter of Africa during his term in office). The Young Turks don't buy the "dance to endorse Obama" story.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kanye West and 30 Seconds to Mars, "Stronger"

Similar to the Akon video I previously shared, this is an official YouTube video from Universal Music Group that is not embeddable.

But you can go here to view it.

This song, of course, is based on Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (Wikipedia entry here), musically taking it down a few notes and featuring lyrics.

The Wikipedia entry for "Stronger" itself, found here, references a 30 Seconds to Mars version (softer, cleaner) which can be found here. Plus, it's embeddable.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm the Scatman!

Enjoy this.

And you'll never believe how this song entered my head this evening.

Here's a portion of the biography on "Scatman" John Paul Larkin:

John Paul Larkin (born March 13, 1942 in El Monte, California; died December 3, 1999 in Los Angeles), known as Scatman John, was a famous stutterer who invented a unique fusion of scat singing and disco. As he liked to say, this was a process of “turning my biggest problem into my biggest asset.” Scatman John has received 14 golds and 18 platinums for his albums and singles. He was also the recipient of the Annie Glenn Award for his outstanding service to the stuttering community, and was also inducted to the National Stuttering Association’s Hall of Fame. He was later diagnosed with lung cancer and soon went into intensive treatment. He maintained a positive attitude throughout, declaring that “whatever God wants is fine by me… I’ve had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.” He died in his Los Angeles home on December 3, 1999, at the age of 57.

Another musical recipient of the Annie Glenn Award was Mick Fleetwood.

Jessica Simpson's country tour continues

M&C recently talked about Jessica Simpson's music tour, and the emphasis was all on the music. Well, actually, it wasn't on the music.

Jessica Simpson, sporting a Dale Jr. tank top and black short shorts, performs at Lowes Motor Speedway prior to the Bank of America 500.

Oh, and there's a picture. included some text as part of their article.

Doing her best to win over country music fans, Jessica Simpson spent the weekend in Concord, N.C. for a few days of NASCAR fun.

Following a trip to pit row during practices on Friday, the “Do You Know” singer tossed on a Dale Jr tank top and black short shorts on Saturday night (October 11), performing at Lowes Motor Speedway prior to the Bank of America 500.

According to VH1, Simpson will next appear at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas on October 17. No word on any appearances by football players at the show.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston

When you dig into the "first rock and roll record" question, you run across some interesting things. From

[I]n 1947, [Jackie Brenston] fell in with a local character named Jesse Flowers, who drank and played the saxophone. It was Flowers who aided Brenston in his quest to discover that instrument's most degraded possibilities. By the close of the decade Brenston, the proud owner of the shiniest secondhand saxophone in all of Coahoma County, had succeeded.

Entering at this point into the scheme of things was Isaiah Turner, an eighteen-year-old discjockey who had the shiniest suits in Clarksdale. He also had a band, in which he played piano and sometimes sang....

As 1950 became 1951, Ike Turner was ready to start making records. There was only one problem. His lead singer, Johnny O'Neal, had recently been signed by King Records, and he had run off, leaving the rest of the band to stand around picking lint from their suits on the corner of Fourth Street. Ike looked, and he found Jackie Brenston. He told him to buy a shiny suit and write some songs; they were going to be stars.

Not that Brenston really wrote a song. By the time they reached a pre-Sun Sam Phillips, Brenston had adapted the song "Cadillac Boogie" and come up with "Rocket 88." (At least he kept the song in the General Motors empire.)

While the song itself may or may not have been original, its performance surely was. The overcharged amplification of Willie Kizart's electric guitar, the careening glissandi and manic triplets issuing from Ike Turner's piano (it is not improbable that six years later, when he came upon Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, whose Christian capitalist eyes had seen in Elvis a white boy who sang like a black, saw in Jerry Lee a white boy who played piano like the odd, intense colored fellow, Ike Turner, whom he had witnessed this cold March day), Raymond Hill's post-melodic saxophone shriekings, Willie Sims's trash-can drumming, and the raw, heartfelt degeneracy of Jackie Brenston's singing, shouting, and yelping - the whole of these parts was a sound so loudly and luridly shocking, so preposterous in its celebration of booze, broads, and repossessed cars, that it was difficult to perceive where its brilliance ended and its lunacy began.

So what happened?

Chess released two singles by the group in mid-April. The coupled sides that featured Turner's voice bore on their labels the credit Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm. This was how it should have been, and Ike was pleased. The other single, however, was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. This, in the eyes of Ike Turner, known no more then than now for his magnanimity and humility, was not how it should have been, and he was displeased. His displeasure grew more pronounced as it became apparent that the single that bore Brenston's name, rather than the one that bore his own, was going to be a hit.

So what were the ramifications?

It stirred Sam Phillips's determination to found Sun, as he realized that the large profits from the recording he had produced could have been his rather than the Chess brothers'. And it caused Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston to part company after one more session (at which only one recording was made, "My Real Gone Rocket," the follow-up to "Rocket '88"), in the summer of 1951. As time went on, Turner stepped forward from piano to guitar, allowing there to be no mistaking who the leader of his band was.

And after Brenston's fifteen minutes were up, Ike Turner exacted his revenge.

[Brenston] was taken back into the fold by Ike Turner, who still had not managed to come up with a hit record. He remained with Turner until the early 1960s. Though he recorded with Turner's Kings of Rhythm throughout those years, Brenston's voice, which had once shaken the cool world, was heard on only two of the many singles that the band had out during that time. He was reduced to being Ike Turner's baritone sax-player. Turner allowed Brenston to sing a few songs when the band performed in public, but he forbade him to sing "Rocket '88."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ukelele and big band versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

You want unplugged, you got unplugged. John of Locusts & Honey linked to a YouTube video of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain.

But if you don't care for that, there's always Paul Anka.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Johnny Rotten didn't sell out - he sold in

John Lydon, formerly professionally known as Johnny Rotten, has made a commercial.

This inspired PopEater to write the blurb Punk God Johnny Rotten Ditches Anarchy, Cred for Butter Shilling Gig.

Um, what did the PopEater writer think the Sex Pistols were?

To pretend that the Sex Pistols were a purist band who eschewed commercialism, you have to gloss over 99% of the band's history.

William Arnold noted this in his review of "The Filth and the Fury":

As a documentary, it's hard to follow and it's argument that the group represented a kind of Camelot of rock integrity is not convincing....

Guided by a clever manager and gradually picking up fifth member Vicious (who couldn't sing or play an instrument and liked to cut himself with razor blades on stage), the band became a frequent object of violence to a string of offended Londoners....

It's quite a story, told with a gossipy, bitchy charm in the voices of the band members themselves (who perceive themselves as paragons of rock purity and martyrs to commercialism).


The Sex Pistols are not restrained by purism, and have never been restrained by purism. Former manager Malcolm McLaren was, to put it mildly, interested in commercial affairs. The website posts a 2007 interview with Lydon:

As for anyone bothered by the idea of this norm-defying lot consenting to something as conventional as an anniversary tour, well, Lydon's got a response for that, too: "Don't be telling me I can't do a damn thing in my life! … People are putting false, fake values on us without understanding that we're human beings."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The cute one - the subtle one

John Lennon was well known for shooting his mouth off in his songwriting, and his song "How Do You Sleep?" is well known.

Lennon, however, claimed that his song is actually a response to the Paul McCartney song "Too Many People."

Well, McCartney, who has survived his visit to Israel, is apparently at it again.

Take a look at the lyrics to this song:

"Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight"

You said you love me -- but was it true?
The last thing to do was to lie about me silently.
I said I love you, that's just out of sight.
The last thing to do was to try to betray me
The new morning light, I'll never forget it, and that's just out of sight.

The name of the forthcoming album? "Electronic Arguments."

Is McCartney kicking a woman when she's down?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dare to be stupid - two models for electronic music distribution

We all grow up with assumptions.

People older than me assumed that songs are distributed one-by-one, or two-by-two.

By the time I was born, people assumed that the major distribution method for songs was something called an "album," which consisted of a bunch of songs. Albums also had two sides.

So who is challenging this assumption? Weird Al Yankovic (the Inquisitr):

The parody-happy singer has announced he’s going to start releasing his new songs online track-by-track, as they’re completed, rather than waiting for a full album to go on sale.

Yankovic, on MySpace:

One of the hardest things I've had to deal with in my career is keeping my material topical even though I only release albums every 3 or 4 years. Now, with the advent and popularity of digital distribution, I don't have to wait around while my songs get old and dated – I can get them out on the Internet almost immediately. It kind of boggles my mind – I thought of the idea for this new song a week ago, and next week it's getting released!

Yankovic is not the first person to celebrate rapid release of songs - John Lennon released "Give Peace a Chance" roughly a month after recording it - but modern digital technology and distribution supports more rapid release of songs, without having to worry about pressing the discs and shipping the stuff to your local Licorice Pizza - whoops, I mean WalMart.

Will this change the way that songs are written? It very well could. In the same way that composers used to think about "sides" of albums ("that would be a good closer to the first side"), I'm sure that some songwriters have edited themselves by thinking "no one will care about this six months from now."

But what if you reject the whole idea of separate songs, and believe that your musical expression is best shared in album form? Then you have Kid Rock (ReadWriteWeb):

Kid Rock, ono of the last hold-outs with regards to digital music distribution (and especially iTunes), has signed an exclusive deal with music service Rhapsody to distribute his albums. In contrast to Weird Al, however, Kid Rock insists that consumers can only download full albums and not just choose specific songs.

ReadWriteWeb goes on to wonder whether both are wrong:

In some ways, it seems both musicians are missing the point of digital distribution. Weird Al does an exclusive deal with iTunes, even though he has a big enough name to either give his songs away for free or to sell them himself, and Kid Rock is trying to go against his own fans' wishes by not allowing a la carte downloading.

Frankly, I don't think they're doing anything wrong. Any musician can choose to do an exclusive deal with iTunes, give it away to everyone and ask for PayPal contributions, give it away and embed advertising (Sigue Sigue Sputnik would do wonderfully today), distribute as single songs, distribute as one-hour albums, distribute as twenty-four albums, or refuse to distribute on any format other than vinyl - or 8-track.

There is no wrong way to distribute, and it's good that Yankovic and Kid Rock are selecting distribution methods that best meet their needs.

No Sleep Til Upland (song naming gone awry)

As you may know, for much of my online time during the last ten years, I identified myself online as "Ontario Emperor."

What you may not know is that, back in 1998, the whole "Ontario Emperor" thing started as a music project. Before I started blogging as Ontario Emperor, or even posting on Usenet as Ontario Emperor, I was gifting the 'Nets with various musical works - primarily in MIDI format, but also in MP3 form. In fact, you could buy CDs of Ontario Emperor music at the old (not that you ever did, but you COULD have).

Because all of my songs (with one exception) were instrumentals, the only way in which I could add lyric creativity to my songs was via the song titles that I chose. For various reasons, my songs received titles such as the following:
  • "Gotta Daily Payment" (9 November 1998).

  • "Nixon Landslide" (21 December 1998). Completely based on an Election Night 1972 incident recorded in Charles Colson's book Born Again.

  • "Or a Little Faster" (10 May 1999) and the related "Or a Little Rougher" (July 1999).

  • "Finding My Anonymity," "Finding My Serenity," and "Finding My Tax Return" (November 1999). At the time I released my CD "Digital Judge," I was consumed with the realization that CD technology meant that albums no longer had to have two sides. Therefore, "Digital Judge" had three sides, each of which was introduced by a short "Finding..." song.

  • "Rudy Left" (6 January 2000). To my knowledge, this is the only song based upon the retirement of Rudy Favila - I believe he was working for the California Youth Authority.

  • "Road Array" (8 February 2000). To my knowledge, this is the only song based upon the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the resulting township/range patterns that influenced road placement west of the Appalachians.

  • "The Contract Was Mute" (11 April 2000). People familiar with "Everything Counts," or Depeche Mode's contractual history, will understand the reference.

  • "Bovine Lament" (12 April 2000).

  • "I Beckon Here" (2 September 2000).

  • "Little Vegas One" and "Little Vegas Two" (28 December 2000), "Madrid" (16 February 2001), and "Even Newer Mexico" (17 October 2006). The 2000 songs have nothing to do with Nevada, and the 2001 song has nothing to do with Spain.

  • "Chilltown Spilldown" (4 April 2003). A "Big Brother US" reference here (and in the music).

  • "Mills Around" (10 February 2004). Although I can't remember for certain, I would assume that this refers to the chain of shopping centers.

  • "Sarah Toning" (28 September 2007). I guess I could have called it "The Chemicals Between Us," but that title was taken.

  • "Maybe Lean (Chuck)" and "Maybe Lean (Barry)" (30 October 2007). Ironically, this has nothing to do with any 1950s artist, but relates to a 1980s group (the Cure) and a 1990s group (Bush).
So I was driving to work this morning, doing what I've often done in my car for the past month-plus - namely, listening to the Junior Boys' mix of "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy." Listening to the synth arpeggios throughout the song, I was wondering if I could construct similar arpeggios, but in a non-dance format - baroque, perhaps. If I were to do such a thing, I'd want to name the song in homage to its inspirational source, so I figured I'd name it "Fumbling Towards" something. But what?

Then I realized that the arpeggios that I admired so much might not even be present in McLachlan's original version of the song (which, to date, I have never heard). Therefore, a homage to Junior Boys would be in order.

"Fumbling Towards Juniors" didn't really have a nice ring to it, so I began thinking about "boys," and the first boy band that popped into my mind were the Beastie Boys. At that point, I conceived of a title:

"Fumbling Towards Bestiality"

It was at that point that I realized that I had to stop the exercise and go back to square one.

So, how do YOU name things? And how often did the Beastie Boys appear on Tiger Beat's cover?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jessica, you have competition - Kevin Costner releasing country-rock album

Someone else is joining the country music ranks...and this person isn't even known as a singer.


'This just feels right,' " said [Kevin] Costner in a statement about his band. Several tracks of 'Untold Truths' will be available to country radio this week. The album will be released November 11, 2008.

Judge for yourself. (Kevin and Modern West singing in...Durham.)

Frankly, I think he has a pretty good voice.

Also check out his MySpace page:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When poppers and rockers went disco

I was reading something in FriendFeed on Wednesday morning in which the discussion turned to Barry Manilow's "Copacabana." While portions of the discussion focused on the lyric content, I remembered that "Copacabana" happened to be the one time that Barry Manilow stepped out and recorded a disco song.

For those who weren't alive in the 1970s, Manilow wasn't the only one. Several pop and rock stars took note of the disco craze in the late 1970s and ended up recording one-off disco songs.

Back in March 2006, a message board included a thread which listed a number of disco songs performed by non-disco artists. Some of the named songs included:
  • Blondie, "Heart of Glass." Blondie is an interesting case, for two reasons. First, "Heart of Glass" was the first Blondie song that I ever heard, which is probably true of many people, so most people probably assumed that Blondie had been a disco band all along. Second, as time went on, it became more and more apparent that Blondie did not have a single musical style. And that they were into eating cars. (For the history of the song, see Tom Maginnis' review.)

  • Elton John, "Philadelphia Freedom." Perhaps a little earlier than some of the other songs, but this song truly had a dance beat. Elton was another musical chameleon of sorts - his "Bennie and the Jets" made the soul charts if I remember correctly - so this song didn't really sound like a huge musical departure for him. (While some disagree about whether this is a disco song or not, MCA obviously thought so.)

  • Kiss, "I Was Made For Lovin' You." The same cannot be said of Kiss' foray into the disco world. However, in my opinion they pulled this one off spectacularly. I happen to maintain that you could enjoy Kiss with your eyes closed, but perhaps their use of makeup made it seem that a move into disco wasn't entirely out of the question. But heck, it wasn't RAWK. (Which angered some.)

  • Rod Stewart, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." And if some Kiss fans didn't like it when Kiss ventured into disco, imagine how some Rod Stewart fans felt. If you listen to the lyrics, they have the same humor (whoops, "humour") that Stewart's earlier songs did, but some people were disconcerted when Mr. Soft Rock started staring at shiny disco balls. Eventually Rod would become Mr. Standards. (Incidentally, Steve Dahl recorded a parody of the song. And you know what happened next.)

  • Rolling Stones, "Miss You." I was in high school in 1978, and this (and the whole "Some Girls" album) was VERY big at the time, and in some ways resurrected the Stones' career and made them relevant again. However, this was the last time that they would really be relevant - the song "Emotional Rescue" sends me into fits of laughter, like much of the Pet Shop Boys' work. (Check Charlie Watts' comments at the time.)

  • Wings, "Goodnight Tonight." As I noted in FriendFeed, this wasn't one of Paul McCartney's best songs. And I'm not one who considers McCartney's post-Beatles output worthless - I was a Wings fan before I ever heard of the Beatles - but he put out better songs than this. At least it's better than "Wonderful Christmastime." (By the way, Jason Hare believes that "Goodnight Tonight" fits in with some of McCartney's other songs of the period, such as "Coming Up," "With a Little Luck," and the aforementioned Christmas monstrosity.)

  • Yes, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." This one's a little later than the other ones on the list, but I included it here because it was also a dramatic change from the band's previous output. If you were to say "Yes" to me, I'd immediately think "Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo," with all of the keyboards and everything swirling around. Compared to their previous output, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" sounds positively minimalistic. (The story of how Yes 2.0 became Yes, instead of Cinema, is particularly fascinating.)

Mindy McCready in trouble...again

Over the years, I've blogged about Mindy McCready from time to time.

Actually, years ago I ended up joining a Mindy McCready Yahoo! group. But this was well before she got into all sorts of trouble.


The songstress -- who was jailed in 2007 for violating her parole stemming from a drug arrest -- will reportedly surrender on [September 30] to begin her 60 day sentence in a Tennessee jail. The sentence comes after she was arrested for prescription drug fraud in June.