Saturday, February 28, 2009


Yes, Depeche Mode are coming out with a new album, and one of the songs will be called "Wrong." Stereogum linked to a live performance of the song.

Stereogum subsequently linked to the official video.

Depeche Mode - "Wrong" (official music video)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Four gang tries to do it - lyrical monstrosities

Yes, I'm reliving October 2003, when I wrote posts like this. Back then I often used a service called Yahoo - perhaps you've heard of it - and frequently participated in a Yahoo group called Silliness and Nonsense. And...silliness and nonsense would happen.

It started when I talked about how Ivan of Men Without Hats would wear a hat, and I observed:

P.S. "Living in China" was Men Without Hats' best song. Best line:

"And the Gang of Four
Tryin' to make it as a Western band"

Eventually I wrote an altered version of the lyric.

What Mao of President say
if it knew that what its people think of him today
the revolution is out of any reflexion
the troop of four, trying to do it like bandages Western
China, which have you need
for you have very your head scruffy with the dirty feet
China that you want to dance
carry the make-up and listen to Adam and the ants

As far as I can tell, I probably ran the original lyrics through a translator (at that time, probably Babelfish), translated them into another language, then translated them back into English.

But that was then. And this is now. And now we have Google Translate. And it supports Finnish. So let's take the lyrics, translate them into Finnish and back, and see what happens.

What Chairman Mao say
If he knew what his people think of him today
The revolution is out of hand
Four gang tries to do it in the West, the band
Chinese, you need
You have all your scruffy head dirty feet
Chinese want to dance
You are wearing makeup and listening to adam and the ants

So silliness and nonsense is no more, unless I go to Scrine. And when I do, I keep the translator in the closet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When Madonna Was Hot - "Vogue"

So now it's 1990 - seven years after "Holiday," and four years after things began to get interesting with "Papa Don't Preach." Madonna is still racking up the hits, and while she's still hovering in the dance arena, now she's adding new sounds to the dance experience.

Here's what some Amazon reviewers said about the maxi single:

In my opinion Madonna's Best Dance Song, January 4, 2005
By JimJrz
Vogue is my favorite Madonna song, when it came out in May 1990 it was a new sound in the dance floors around the world, bringing back a dance style (vogueing) that was undeground so far....

The Singles has 4 tracks, the Single Version that I really, the 12" version (8.19 mins), the Bette Davis dub (7.24 mins) and the Strike-a-pose Dub (7.37 mins), all mixed by the great Shep Pettibone (who will be a grear influence in her next Album Erotica).

And you can find the following at reviewcentre:

Full review by jehkos on 1st Jan 2006

User Rating : 10

Vogue is widely acknowledged as one of Madonna's best and most successful singles. Madonna's unique and unparalleled ability to remain one step ahead of everybody else by utilising the vibe of the moment is most evident in Vogue. This is one of her most successful singles to date.

I figured I'd check to see what Wilson & Alroy had to say, and I was reminded that Wilson & Alroy don't review singles; they review albums. And, unfortunately for the reader, "Vogue" first appeared on I'm Breathless, which received only 1 1/2 stars from Wilson.

Music from or "inspired by" Madonna's latest film, "Dick Tracy." This was relatively unsuccessful commercially, and it's not hard to see why: most of the tracks are campy 20's throwbacks, including the few songs that were actually used in the film ("Sooner Or Later"). She gets credit for stretching herself, as on the highly-orchestrated album opener "He's A Man," but she's not up to the challenge: track after track is dull ("Hanky Panky" is the most boring song about spanking I can possibly imagine) or downright annoying (the Carmen Miranda-like "I'm Going Bananas"). If it weren't for "Vogue," a minimal house number that became the year's top selling single, this album would be a complete waste of money. (DBW)

Granted that Wilson & Alroy are tough reviewers, but when was the last time you hummed something from "Dick Tracy"?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Fred "Sonic" Smith

Yeah, it's about time that I looked at Fred Smith. One of my first blog posts mentioned him:

When Patti Smith married Fred Smith, did she take her husband's last name, or keep her maiden name?

In another post, I quoted from an article about Fred's wife:

Life has given Smith a bit of a battering over the past 15 years. Life, or more accurately, death: her dear departed include husband Fred Smith, best friend (and Horses photographer) Robert Mapplethorpe, brother Todd Smith, and long-time piano player Richard Sohl (all of whom died much younger than they should have), along with both her parents and close friend William Burroughs.

At the time, I didn't quote from the end of the article:

Then, at the end of the Seventies, Smith went 'civilian', controversially dropping out of music and devoting herself to raising a family with former MC5 member Fred Smith.

So if you're like me and don't have any idea who MC5 was, let's look back. Here's some of what was said after Fred "Sonic" Smith's memorial service:

[Fred] was as great an inspiration to the first generation of punks as his wife was to the second. He served as guitarist with the MC5, the legendary Detroit band famous for their live LP, "Kick Out the Jams"....The MC5 and its "little brother band", The Stooges, were among the most influential US groups ever....

As far as Sonic Smith's musical accomplishments, friend and rock historian Lenny Kaye made the following comment to Whitall: "One of the things I liked about Fred is that he had a sense of music as pure sound. The MC5 helped broaden the borders of what we consider rock music then and now. I know of no other rock group that covered Pharoah Sanders and the influence of the MC5 is so pervasive today. That whole Nirvana/Pearl Jam axis, they certainly heard the MC5."

Chris Hodenfield looked back at MC5. However, he looked back in 1970:

It started in Detroit. The city had been pumping out hard rock, and the MC5 were acknowledged as one of the best. Surely, they were the loudest. Beginning of 1968, they were staying in a commune in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Impressionable kid Eris Ehrman comes up for an interview. The MC5 jack him full of dope, lecture him hard on the merits of teenage lusts, and send him home, wide-eyed and gaping. Kid Ehrman writes a story and sends it to Rolling Stone magazine. Sensational story of an unleashed rock band. Dope, Revolution and Thrills Very Cheap.

Sensational. It was mostly Kid Ehrman's fantasy....

Not too long after that story, the New York Fillmore was accosted by a gang of self-acclaimed revolutionaries, the East Village Motherfuckers. The MC5 played the subsequent free night given them at the Ballroom. Time Magazine covered it...and there was a picture of Rob Tyner in gold lame with that Revolutionary band...the MC5...and now all of Middle America knew.

Wikipedia goes back a little further than Hodenfield did:

The origins of the MC5 can be traced to the friendship between guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred Smith. Friends since their teen years, they were both fans of R&B music, blues, Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, the Ventures, and what would later be called garage rock: they adored any music with speed, energy and a rebellious attitude. Each guitarist/singer formed and led a rock group (Smith's Vibratones and Kramer's Bounty Hunters). As members of both groups left for college or straight jobs, the most committed members eventually united (under Kramer's leadership and the Headhunters name) and were popular and successful enough in and around Detroit that the musicians were able to quit their day jobs and make a living from the group.

MC5 were notorious (the aforementioned appearance at the New York Fillmore, an appearance at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, but eventually the music took over, when they...well, why don't you just listen to it?

"96 Tears" it ain't.

They ended up releasing three albums on two different labels, but the end was sad, as Wikipedia notes:

The group [was] eventually reduced to Kramer and Smith touring and playing with local pick-up groups, playing R&B covers as much as their original material.

The MC5 reunited for a farewell show on New Years' Eve, 1972-73 at the Grande Ballroom. The venue that had only a few years before hosted over a thousand eager fans now had a few dozen people, and, distraught, Kramer left the stage after a few songs.

The band broke up shortly afterwards.

Fred remained somewhat active in music. Here's Sonic's Rendezvous Band performing "City Slang":

In 1976, Fred met someone:

It was March 9, 1976, and we met in front of the radiator at that hot dog place, Lafayette Coney Island, in Detroit. The Sonic Rendezvous Band was opening for us, but I didn't know anything about him. Lenny introduced me to this guy. I heard that his name was Smith, and my name is Smith. We just looked at each other and I was completely taken by him. I had no idea who he was or anything about him until afterwards when Lenny told me. Lenny introduced him and said "He's one of the great guitar players." I said, "Perhaps you'll want to play with us tonight." And he said, "Maybe so." Then he left and I asked Lenny if he was really good, and Lenny said, "the best." So I was playing with him that night, and I had a lot of bravado in those days. I didn't have respect for anybody. But I totally submitted to his reign. He came on the stage and started playing, and after a while I just set my guitar down and let it feed back. I just let him take over because I felt I had met my match, that I had met the better man.

[Patti Smith, interview in Mojo, August 1996]

Smith and Smith had married by 1980, and their joint performances afterwards were few and far between.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Got to roll tonight

How many members were in Talking Heads? This became a tricky question during the Remain in Light period, when some would argue that Talking Heads became a huge entity with nearly a dozen members, others would argue (using the album cover as evidence) that Talking Heads was still the same four-member group as always, others would argue that Talking Heads was David Byrne alone, and still others would claim that Talking Heads had no members (during my radio days at KRRC, someone wrote "File Under Eno" on the cover of the vinyl LP).

How many members were in Wings? This became a tricky question during the Back to the Egg period. Specifically, it became tricky on October 3, 1978 when the following personnel got together at Abbey Road Studios and recorded the "Rockestra Theme":

Guitars - Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, Dave Gilmour, Hank Marvin, Pete Townshend.
Drums - Steve Holly, John Bonham, Kenney Jones.
Bass - Paul, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Bruce Thomas.
Pianos - Paul, Gary Brooker, John Paul Jones.
Keyboards - Linda, Tony Ashton.
Percussion - Speedy Acquaye, Tony Carr, Ray Cooper, Morris Pert.
Horns - Howie Casey, Tony Dorsey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard.

So, at least on that day, one could claim that Wings had 23 members. (When counting, don't forget that Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones did double duty on bass and piano.)

However, the purists would argue that the recording was actually made by Wings Mark VI, formed in June 1978 and consisting of Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, and Steve Holly. To this day I wonder where Steve got the job because of his last name.

Of course, there's also a school of thought that claims that Wings was pretty much Paul McCartney and Paul McCartney alone, but I disagree with that school for reasons that I'll state later.

But back to "Rockestra Theme."

On second thought, forget it; I don't really care about "Rockestra Theme." It's a nice tune, but IMHO it's not as good as the other song that was recorded that day - or mostly recorded that day. While Paul had all of his buddies around him, he recorded a second song, "So Glad To See You Here" (lyrics here). If the title doesn't ring a bell, this is the song from later on Side 2 of Back to the Egg in which Paul pretty much screamed his head off. If you've never heard it, you may be able to hear it on, YouTube, or goear.

So that was the other song that was recorded on October 3 - or, mostly recorded on October 3.

November - December 1978 at Replica Studios, an exact replica of Abbey Road #2 Studio built in MPL Headquarters, London.
Here, overdubs for the album tracks are added, along with new endings for "Spin It On" and "So Glad To See You Here".

Ah, yes, the ending, in which a group of voices perform a reprise of the Wings song "We're Open Tonight."

Specifically, a group of three voices.

Yup, Paul, Linda, and Denny were pretty much Wings. The only people who were there for the whole run of the band, and the only people who were there in critical parts of the band's history (especially Band on the Run).

But whether we're talking about 3 or 23, a film was made of the October 3 proceedings:

On hand to capture the proceedings is a film crew, using five 35mm Panavision cameras, hired by Paul and featuring the direction of Barry Chattington, who previously worked with Paul on the unreleased 1972 Bruce McMouse concert film. In 1980, Paul edits together (from a total of 80,000 feet of film taken on the day), a 40-minute programme comprising 5,500 feet of film from the events, and calls it simply Rockestra. This film remains unreleased, save for a brief 15-minute excerpt, which is screened at the Back To The Egg launch party on Monday June 11, 1979 (see entry).

Paul recalls the filming: "I asked the fellow who was going to film (Barry Chattington), if he could film it like they film wild life. You know, they sit back off wild life and just observe it and they just let it go on with its own thing and when you try and film our session it's a bit like the same sort of thing. If everyone notices the cameras and lights, they all freeze up and won't talk naturally and they all get embarrassed. So they (the cameramen) put all the cameras behind a big wall and no one could see the cameras and a lot of them didn't even know it was being filmed. John Bonham had no idea it was filmed ... in fact he is suing us!" Paul jokingly concludes.

Unfortunately, people weren't joking later. Keith Moon had already died (explaining Kenney Jones' presence at the session), John Bonham was about to die, and Paul McCartney was about to get the inspiration for a song that he would call "Frozen Jap" - a song that would appear on an album entitled McCartney II, which was about as far from a rockestra as you could get.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Van Hagar and the stringless phenomenon

OK, I might as well squeeze one more post out of my Five Guys experience. (If you haven't done so already, see my previous post in Empoprise-MU, as well as the more relevant post in Empoprise-BI.)

While we FriendFeeders (and the neighboring yo-yoers) were sitting outside at Five Guys in Cerritos, music was playing either from the Five Guys itself, or from the shopping center in general. A song started with a heavy keyboard intro and some high-singing singer, and Adrian stated that it was Van Halen. I was sure that it wasn't.

If I may quote Jim Bakker, I was wrong. It was Van Halen, with their song "Love Walks In":

The interesting part of this video is that Eddie Van Halen, who is known to acolytes everywhere as the greatest guitar god of all time (though I have a lower estimation of him), is the keyboard player in this song as Sammy Hagar takes the lead on the guitar for this one.

However, Eddie's keyboard dabblings didn't begin when singer/guitarist Hagar joined the band. You'll recall that Eddie played both lead guitar and keyboards on the David Lee Roth-era hit "Jump." Eddie talked about this, and the controversy it caused within the band:

I had the idea for “Jump” around the time of Fair Warning [1981]. When Michael, Alex, and Dave first heard it, they didn’t like it too much. They either weren’t ready for it or probably me playing the keyboards had something to do with it. We [Eddie and then engineer, Donn Landee] put it down on tape and it was, “Here it is guys, if you don’t like it, write something yourself.” So they had to like it.

After "Jump" was well-received, Eddie Van Halen felt more free to do new things in his music.

I just knew that everyone from my father to the guy who works on my cars loved it [keyboards]. It had a universal appeal to it. If people didn’t like it, that’s fine, too; I knew what it was. Donn and I liked it so much, we didn’t care what anybody else thought about it, I guess....

It’s almost like I play more keyboards now than I do guitar! I enjoy playing keyboards. It means you don’t have to jump around on-stage and have something hanging ’round your neck. No, I’m joking....

[The success of the album 1984] gave me the freedom to play keyboards comfortably. Now I don’t have to worry about what the rest of the guys think other people will think. I never worried about what anyone thinks except it makes you feel kind of uncertain when the guys worry.

But some fans were still disappointed, especially when Hagar showed up:

["Love Walks In"] was a huge hit on the airwaves, but it's really sad to see Eddie Van Halen playing the keyboard rather than guitar. It's like watching Hank Aaron pitch rather than hit.

Now my personal opinion is that Eddie Van Halen's keyboard work is just like his guitar work - fast, furious, and utterly soulless. But I realize that others have differing opinions, and I have to acknowledge that Eddie's skills are not limited to the guitar alone.

Buffalo in Hovercraft, or Why I Don't Direct Videos

So anyways, this car showed up in this gravel pit, and three guys got out. The dark-haired one walked toward me singing, while the light-haired guy with the guitar and the third guy with the glasses hung around the car for a little bit, then brought a cup to the first guy and walked back and got his bass. Then this donkey or mule or something walked by...

All of the above events actually happened, and they happened in one of my favorite videos, "Useless" by Depeche Mode. This UK-only single was taken from the Ultra album and featured a single that was, in my estimation, very English. Even if it was shot in Wales. I don't know if it's strictly Python-esque, but scenes in which Martin Gore wanders toward the camera, sings two words, and returns to the car are mixed in with a plane flying over, a random person walking around, and other oddities. See my March 3, 2006 post for another account.

Incidentally, I don't know where I got the idea that a cow was present in this video. I just re-watched the video again, and the animal is definitely not a cow.

Speaking of cows, I went to a FriendFeed meetup at Five Guys in Cerritos on Saturday and ate a hamburger. I don't know whether it was the hamburger, or the meetup, or whatever, but several hours later I was musing on one of the non-eternal questions of life:

If the U2 song is called "One," why did they make three videos for it?

Of the three videos, the one that most caught my eye on Saturday night (I guess that makes it all right) was the "buffalo" version of the video. There's a whole story behind that video, but for now suffice it to say that in the first verse of the song, one hazy buffalo appeared, while in the second verse, two hazy buffalo appeared, and so forth.

Jandy Stone was also in Cerritos, but she eventually left and ran into some strange behavior when she typed something into her so-called smartphone.

iPhone just corrected "frakking" to "franking". What the frak kind of word is "franking"?

This tweet ended up on FriendFeed and sparked a bit of conversation. While FriendFeed user Glen Campbell made the obvious connection to Congressional franking privileges, I was in my hamburger-induced buffalo mood (blame Sammy Hagar) and, via my superhero Ontario Emperor persona, made an alternate observation:

"Franking" is when you go to Santa Monica. No, not the one in south California. They got one in south Patagonia.

The link goes to the lyrics for Frank Black's classic, which has its own unusual video that includes stunning scenes of a hovercraft drifting across the landscape.

Then, and only then, did I get an idea. Why not reshoot the "Useless" video, but instead of using the animal that is not a cow, why not use a buffalo? In a hovercraft?

You might look at my idea and say that it's no good, but the bottom line is that such an adaptation of the video displays superior insight and will bring the true meaning of the track home. Of course, you'd probably have to point a barrel of a gun at director Anton Corbijn to have him reshoot the video.

Cue the hovercraft.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What a long strange ride it's been

Earlier this week I was suddenly reminded about the old David Allan Coe song "The Ride." If you've never heard the lyrics before, they describe a mythical ride with a stranger who is immediately recognizable to any respectable country music fan.

Lyrics | David Allan Coe lyrics - The Ride lyrics

Well, that was a nice little hit for Coe, and time went on.

And Coe still sings the song. Here's a 2007 performance:

He certainly portrays the outlaw well, doesn't he? Unlike Hank Williams himself, who died young, Coe was too stubborn to die, despite his youth (if you believe the stories):

Born Sept. 6, 1939, in Akron, Ohio, David Allan Coe was in and out of reform schools, correction centers and prisons since the age of 9. One of the most fascinating -- and, some would say, dangerous -- figures in the entire history of country music, Coe's unrestrained ego is evident throughout his work....

While some of the circumstances of Coe's outlaw life are easily substantiated, it's often impossible to unravel all of the stories that have led to his larger myth. According to his publicity campaigns, he spent time on Death Row for killing a fellow inmate who demanded oral sex. After receiving a conflicting account from prison officials, a Rolling Stone magazine reporter questioned Coe about the alleged murder. His musical response was the song, "I'd Like to Kick the Shit Out of You."

His songwriting credits include "Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)?" and "Take This Job and Shove It." "The Ride" was released in 1983, but his highest-charting performance was 1984's "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" (number 2 on the country charts). And, of course, his songwriting hit number one with Johnny Paycheck. (Incidentally, Paycheck's real name was Donald Lytle. And Coe outlived Lytle also.)

But Coe's perfect country song wasn't written by him, as this video (unfortunately, non-embeddable) of "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" shows. (H/T Francine Hardaway, who commented in these two threads.) Two observations: first, he's a good impressionists, and second, in his younger years Coe looked like Dr. Gene Scott.

But Coe's influence isn't limited to country music. His MySpace page (what - you expected him on Facebook?) provides this biography:

I am a songwriter who has written over ten thousand songs. I've written a lot of country hits over the years for the likes of George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, Leon Russell, Charlie Louvin, Del Reeve, Melba Montgomery, Stoney Edwards, The Oakridge Boys and Elvis Presley. I've written Heavy Metal Songs for the Dead Kennedy's and Pantera. I've written songs for rappers such as Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, and Canibus, who's version of "Take This Job and Shove it" was featured in the Movie Office Space.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When Madonna Was Hot - "Like a Prayer"

Continuing on the theme of selected Madonna hits between 1986 and 1998, Madonna really threw us a loop in 1989.

Or should I say Madonna like, you know, threw us on a loop, like, you know?

Her movie image at the time was similar to her earlier music persona, most exemplified in the song "Like a Virgin" - a cutesy song with cutesy music.

But Madonna's music was growing in scope. So much that even Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews, who are notoriously picky, praised the song and gave the album (also called "Like a Prayer") four stars:

For better or worse, this is Madonna at her most serious, avoiding trivial catchphrases...and making personal and social statements along the way. A lot of people prefer her when she's trivial, but for me this is her finest work: the title track is about as close to real R&B as Madonna's ever gotten, courtesy of its big gospelly chorus....

Rolling Stone also praised the song in its April 6, 1989 review:

This is serious stuff, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the title tune. Opening with a sudden blast of stun-gun guitar, "Like a Prayer" seems at first like a struggle between the sacred and the profane as Madonna's voice is alternately driven by a jangling, bass-heavy funk riff and framed by an angelic aura of backing voices. Madonna stokes the spiritual fires with a potent, high-gloss groove that eventually surrenders to gospel abandon.

The tracks that Madonna coproduced with Patrick Leonard – which include "Like a Prayer" – are stunning in their breadth and achievement.

Now ordinarily I haven't been talking about the videos associated with the songs, but I'm going to make an exception here. So here, courtesy MTV, is the video for "Like a Prayer."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Business or music? Stock charts via Microsoft Songsmith

I wasn't sure whether this belonged in the Empoprise-BI business blog or the Empoprise-MU music blog, but I finally opted for the latter.

Johannes Kreidler has taken a different tack to Microsoft Songsmith programming. Instead of feeding it melodies from famous songs, Kreidler has fed Songsmith stock charts, and other chart-related data.

As you can guess, many of these melodies start off in the treble clef and end up in the bass clef.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Not hanging out with all the boys - original cop sues Village People

Victor Willis is probably the most famous member of the Village People, even if people don't know him by name - and even though he hasn't been in the group for decades.

Victor, you see, was the original cop, and the lead singer on the Village People's greatest hits. But he left after three years, and had a trouble life afterwards. On May 2, 2006, I wrote an Ontario Empoblog post that detailed Willis' various run-ins with the law. The article from which I quoted (no longer available) had this classic line: "This isn't the first time the former fake cop has run afoul of the law." (Village People fans might want to see my follow-up post.)

But Willis isn't happy with the Village People today:

Victor Willis, the original police officer in the initial group's lineup, is suing the new version of the band in order to get them to stop using his likeness and voice. He is seeking at least $1 million and a judge's order that they can no longer use his image or voice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

China, my China

Back in the 1980s, some western items such as jeans and music became super-cool in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the Eastern bloc. And this adoration has persisted - when Depeche Mode announces their tour dates, they spend a lot of time behind the former Iron Curtain. During May 2009, Depeche Mode are scheduled to play in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. In June they will visit Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Oasis wants to conquer another Communist stronghold, according to MSNBC:

British rock band Oasis will play their first China concerts in Beijing and Shanghai in early April, the musicians announced on their Web site.

The shows will take place April 3 at Beijing’s Capital Arena and April 5 at the Shanghai Grand Stage as part of a world tour promoting their latest release, “Dig Out Your Soul.”

The band will also play a previously announced show in Hong Kong on April 7....

Oasis are one of a growing number of Western musical acts traveling to China, following the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Growing exposure to foreign tastes has created fans among middle class Chinese, although audiences at such concerts tend to be drawn heavily from China’s large expatriate population.

However, if Jim Morrison is truly alive in Africa, he shouldn't plan to stage a performance in China any time soon:

Bands are forced to submit set lists beforehand, and the Rolling Stones were asked not to play several songs with suggestive lyrics during their 2006 China debut, including “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Beast of Burden” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

The Rolling Stones were willing to defy Ed Sullivan, but not willing to defy the Chinese government.

When Madonna Was Hot - "La Isla Bonita"

This is part of my series on various Madonna singles from the 1986 to 1998 period - a period in which her sound experienced extensive growth, and she issued songs that were light years away from her earlier dance-by-the-numbers numbers such as "Holiday."

Several years away from her performance in "Evita," Madonna tackled the song "La Isla Bonita," adding a deep southern flavor to her sound. No, not deep south...REAL deep south. As in south of the border.

And, according to Wikipedia, the song wasn't originally intended for her:

"La Isla Bonita" was originally written by Patrick Leonard and Bruce Gaitsch, and intended for Michael Jackson for his Bad album, who, according to Gaitsch, turned it down. Working with Leonard on the True Blue album, Madonna accepted it in Jackson's place, and re-wrote the song's lyrics, earning herself a co-writing credit.

As for which "la isla bonita" is referenced, the controversy rages. Pick any of several Caribbean, Central American, or South American islands, or perhaps San Pedro, California (home of Mrs. Penn's friend, Charles Bukowski), or perhaps something else. Personally I think she was writing about Greenland, but I could be wrong.

The important thing is that Madonna again opened up her sound in this song, presaging things to come.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The top and bottom of the top 100 list from 1971

Lists can be interesting, especially when the lists are very deep. Take Billboard's Top 100 list from 1971. If you look at the top 10 songs on that list, you'll see some outstanding songs from multiple genres.

1. Joy To The World, Three Dog Night
2. Maggie May/(Find A) Reason To Believe, Rod Stewart
3. It's Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move, Carole King
4. One Bad Apple, Osmonds
5. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Bee Gees
6. Indian Reservation, Raiders
7. Go Away Little Girl, Donny Osmond
8. Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver
9. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), Temptations
10. Knock Three Times, Dawn

But what if you look at the bottom of the list? Again, you'll see some outstanding songs from multiple genres.

91. I Am...I Said, Neil Diamond
92. Wedding Song (There Is Love), Paul Stookey
93. Don't Knock My Love, Pt. 1, Wilson Pickett
94. Love Her Madly, The Doors
95. Here Comes The Sun, Richie Havens
96. Sweet Mary, Wadsworth Mansion
97. Right On The Tip Of My Tongue, Brenda and The Tabulations
98. One Less Bell To Answer, Fifth Dimension
99. Riders On The Storm, The Doors
100. It's Impossible, Perry Como

The Doors and Perry Como. I love the 1970s.

And let me add ten of my favorites from the middle of the list:

23. Aint No Sunshine, Bill Withers
24. Signs, Five Man Electrical Band
31. My Sweet Lord/Isn't It A Pity, George Harrison
37. Rainy Days And Mondays, Carpenters
41. Rose Garden, Lynn Anderson
43. It Don't Come Easy, Ringo Starr
82. Lonely Days, Bee Gees
84. Won't Get Fooled Again, Who
88. I Woke Up In Love This Morning, Partridge Family
89. Theme From "Shaft", Isaac Hayes

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Miss You - An Extended Version Done Right

I'm old.

I remember the 1970s.

And I remember the "extended versions" of songs that were issued around that time. In most cases, they took the original song; added heavy, heavy padding; and then released the result in twelve-inch form. (I'm referring to a vinyl record.)

While this resulted in a long, long groove that could be enjoyable in its own right, the padding was evident.

Well, I discovered tonight that there's a 7 minute and 31 second version of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You." It's referred to as a "dance version." H/T to RAPatton/pattonroberta for sharing the track, which users can hear by going here.

When I first began listening to the version, I had some fears that I was going to hear the usual padding that 1970s "extended version" songs had at the time.

But by the time I finished listening, I was convinced that THIS was the original version and that the album version was just a truncated version of the original song. It sounded that complete.

But then I did some research and found out that the seven-and-a-half minute version was itself truncated:

In 1978, a "Special Disco Version" was released as a 12" single. It featured additional extended vocals and a heavier, bass-enthused drumbeat. It ran 8:36 in length. An edited 7:31 version appears on the CD, "Rarities 1971-2003".

So the 7:31 version is itself an edit. Wow.

but then 8:36 version isn't the longest version of the song.

A bootleg demo version of the song exists clocking in at 11:43. Jagger's lead vocal is less pronounced but audible.

Now I'd love to hear THAT version...

Music Transcending - Bluegrass in Japan

Check out this video of bluegrass in Japan.

This performance of "Man of Constant Sorrow" took place at the Armadillo Bar in Nagoya, Japan.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Now that's a trio

I love reading The Music's over, but unfortunately I rarely get around to blogging about it.

It's in good form today, recording the names of three people who passed away on February 9:
  • Max Yasgur (d 1973), most famous for providing the farm at which Woodstock was held.

  • Percy Faith (d 1976), legendary orchestra leader.

  • Bill Haley (d 1981), early rock and roller.
Can you pull any random three names out of a hat and come up with a more unlikely trio?

How do you discover new music? Baratunde wants to know.

Baratunde Thurston is either known for his work for The Onion, or for his participation in Barack Obama's presidential campaign. But he has other interests.

Over the weekend, he asked his Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed friends to answer the question "Where do you find new music?" I missed the question, but 76 people didn't. Baratunde posted the overall results in his blog, along with his ruminations. Here's an excerpt from the ruminations:

I’ve been thinking on all this and realize that our technology has dismantled the former aggregation model for music. We used to have record labels, radio stations, music reviews and sage wisdom from record store clerks (and our friends) to help us make sense of the world by limiting, vetting, categorizing or explaining the wide world of music. Now, we have new points of aggregation: our iPods/iTunes and various other online services. We’ve dismantled the old world, but the new one is still under construction.

On first thought, I don't know if the model has been dismantled, or whether we've just rearranged the players. Instead of relying on the wisdom of the Tower Records clerk, I now rely on Steven Hodson's playlist. And while Clear Channel doesn't run, somebody does.


The Connie Talbot bandwagon

A few days ago, my parents sent me the link to this video.

The video, dating from 2007, shows then six-year old Connie Talbot auditioning for "Britain's Got Talent." Wikipedia notes that she got second place in the competition, and has subsequently released two albums via Rainbow Recording Company (Sony/BMG didn't know what to do with her). While critics noted that her young age prevents her from really comprehending or delivering the songs that she sings, she does have a very good voice.

Her website is at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No TV party tonight - Grammys another victim of US TV network west coast tape delays

I posted the following comment on FriendFeed early this evening.

US TV networks to west coast - drop dead.

I have lived on the west coast of the United States for the past thirty years. And for thirty years I have stewed upon a particular practice of the US television networks - namely, their fairly consistent failure to take events shown live on the East Coast and show them live on the West Coast.

With the exception of sporting events, most live events aren't live out here. And even sporting events aren't always live - when I lived in Portland in 1979, Monday Night Football was delayed an hour. And in the past (and possibly today), Lakers road games on the East Coast were delayed an hour.

As I write this, CBS is halfway through its telecast of the Grammy Awards in the Pacific Time Zone. But why bother watching? Even the Grammy people themselves have posted the awards list on the Grammys website. So why sit through the show - and all of those ads that companies paid a lot of money to air - when you can already get the news from the web? They've been tweeting about the Grammys for several hours now.

As a result, PopBytes wasn't paying attention at first:

while all the grammy excitement is going down here in los angeles (although i hate being on west coast delay - that drives me bonkers) a bunch of actors are gathered over in rainy london for the BAFTA awards (british academy of film and television arts)...

I know that people claim that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is behind the times, but thanks to CBS, this accusation can be made quite literally.


I've been reading Michael Hanscom's Eclecticism for years, ever since he had his fifteen minutes of fame (here's his October 23, 2003 post that got him fired from his temp job). I began reading him probably at about the sixteenth minute (here's my reaction to a post of his about Howard Dean), and have enjoyed reading him ever since.

Now he's announced that he has started a new blog, Vinylicious, at He plans to review a vinyl release every Sunday.

As befits one whose main blog name is "Eclecticism," Hanscom's first post is about Johnny Vadnal and his Orchestra's "Discotheque for Polka Lovers." And by the way, that's Vadnal, not Vandal.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Take That, YouTube and Warner - I Want My Videos!

With Warner Brothers' war on YouTube videos from its artists, it's a good idea to find alternate sources. Enter MTV.

And here's a treat that MTV has, but that I couldn't even buy back in the day - Devo's "R U Experienced.".

For the sordid tale about the problems between Devo and the Hendrix estate, see this November 2008 post in Empoprise-MU. Oh, and don't bother to play the YouTube video embedded in the post - Warner Brothers already yanked it off of YouTube.

Stay tuned on February 19 for another from MTV's vaults - unless Warner goes after MTV also.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Strange Magic in 2001

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Jim Rome in radio, claiming to be "smooth."

Jim Rome isn't smooth.

Neither is Jeff Lynne.

Despite the later disco veneer, Electric Light Orchestra was just a loud bunch of louts who happened to have violins and stuff with them. It was great.

Year ago, I owned Electric Light Orchestra II on cassette, which consists of Jeff bellowing "Roll Over Beethoven," and Jeff bellowing a bunch of other loud stomping songs.

They mellowed a bit in later years, but they still maintained their roughness, after a fashion.

Here's a 2001 performance of a reunited ELO performing their hit "Strange Magic."

Incidentally, Hunter Felt claims that ELO's sound was the result of a poorly executed hero-worship.

It was Harold Bloom, into kabbalism way before Madonna, who claimed that all forms of rewarding works of literature were the result of creative misreading. In effect, writers would draw influence from predecessors, but get them wrong, thus creating something original. To avoid sheer mimicry, they would have to reinterpret the works of their influence, in essence sort of recreating them in their own images....I can’t help but think that in Jeff Lynne’s case, his determination to recreate Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles led instead to his own unique brand of over-the-top orchestral rock.

But if that's the case, why did the Lynne-produced "When We Was Fab" sound like a poor imitation of ELO?

Then again, maybe Bloom and Felt were right...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When Madonna Was Hot - "Papa Don't Preach"

In my view, Madonna hit her prime in about 1986 and stayed in her prime until about 1998. I've written about this briefly in the past (including my 1980s perspective of the talents of Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper), but I wanted to delve into the topic in a little more detail here, on a song-by-song basis. (Incidentally, I will concentrate on the musical merits, not the lyrical merits or video merits.)

Before we get to the song in question, let's see where we started out. And where we started out was semi-anonymous dance. "Holiday," "Borderline," et al were pretty much a singer singing over a dance track. While the words may have been liberating and inspiring to the party people, the dance music was pretty much the standard dance music of the time. Even as the sound started to flesh out a bit ("Material Girl"), we were still in the same mode. And even when Madonna began to tackle slow songs ("Crazy For You," "Live to Tell"), we were the groove.

The first hint of something new came with the release of "Papa Don't Preach." Much of the song was familiar to your average Madonna listener, but she threw us a curve in the beginning by starting with a few seconds of strings before the beat kicked in.

Now strings and pop music have been around since time immemorial, and they've certainly been around in dance music, but in retrospect, the opening of "Papa Don't Preach" was the first hint that Madonna was shaking up her music a little bit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The top cylinder of 1894! (Actually, no.)

I'm on a kick of researching the origins of various organizations - check my business blog Empoprise-BI on February 4 for a post on the founding of the New York Stock Exchange.

So a music person may wonder - how long as Billboard been around?

Billboard provides the answer:

The magazine was launched in the fall of 1894 by two partners, William H. Donaldson and James H. Hennegan, as a publication for the billposting business. Donaldson was a salesman for his father's lithography company, which specialized in printing advertising posters. Hennegan also worked for a family printing firm.

Donaldson saw a need for a publication that would inform the roving bill posters of industry news. What's more, the new publication could help the Donaldson and Hennegan family printing firms stay in touch with their major clients.

The new magazine was named Billboard Advertising and was published monthly. As declared on its ornate opening page, it was "devoted to the interests of advertisers, poster printers, bill posters, advertising agents and secretaries of fairs."

That first issue was dated Nov. 1, 1894. It was eight pages long and carried a cover price of 10 cents (90 cents for a full year's subscription). The magazine was headquartered at 11 W. Eighth St. in Cincinnati, Donaldson and Hennegan's hometown.

So when did it move into music?

Billboard's ad pages...were packed with pitches for "Trotting Ostriches" and "French Fencing Girls" and other oddball attractions. But amid such novelties were hints of things to come. In the issue of April 27, 1901, the Edison Manufacturing Co. began advertising its "moving picture" machine (along with lists of silent films). The same year, the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. chose Billboard's pages to advertise its new coin-operated music machine, the Tonophone. Seven years later, a money tree was used to illustrate a full-page ad for Wurlitzer's player piano and other "automatic musical instruments with slot attachment."...

Advertising for sheet music began appearing in the magazine as early as 1902. By 1905, photos of early music publishers, such as Leo Feist and Harry Von Tilzer, were featured on Billboard's cover. A May 13, 1905, item on Von Tilzer remarked: "The art of song writing is becoming as much a science as the trimming of a hat or the cutting of a suit of clothes."...

The cover price had risen to 15 cents with the Dec. 16, 1916, issue, but an annual subscription had gone down to a mere $3.

By this point, recorded music was starting to make its impact, bringing a new form of entertainment into the home and fueling a succession of national dance crazes. The music industry had gone beyond piano rolls (for player pianos) and sheet music. Billboard took note, describing the phonograph in a Sept. 15, 1917, editorial as "the greatest of all music carriers."

Read the whole article here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What happens when the fat lady sings

There's been a lot of talk over the last several days about Jessica Simpson's weight gain. And while I've talked about Jessica Simpson in this blog in the past, I haven't talked about this particular issue, though some bloggers that I respect (such as Duncan Riley and Eye of Polyphemus' Jamie) in on the issue.

I haven't talked about this issue because I'm trying to preserve this as a music blog, not a celebrity gossip blog, and because discussion of a person's weight has no place in a musical discourse.

Or does it? According to a 2001 post by Lloyd W. Hanson, weight loss and weight gain can affect how vocalists sing:

Many overweight singers develop a method of breath control in which they push outward against the layer of fat that surrounds their mid section. This is similar to the technique of breath control that is taught with a wrap around girdle similar to the type worn when one has broken his/her ribs....

But the appoggio technique of breath management does not use a pushing out procedure. Instead, it encourages a sustaining of the inhale mode as one begins the sung phrase....

It would be most logical that an overweight singer would develop this pushing out against the fat technique and have to relearn how to breath with the appoggio technique when the overweight layer of fat is gone.

Now between you and me, Simpson hasn't really gained huge amounts of weight. She's not in Pavarotti territory or anything.

Michelle Tsai didn't discuss Pavarotti's weight in her 2007 article, but she did discuss the physiology of women and fat. First, let's look at her general comments on a singer's voice:

The best violinists can play with top orchestras as teenagers, but opera singers take the stage much later. Vocalists spend years mastering their techniques, but physiology also explains why opera singers have to wait. Hormonal changes continue to alter a singer's voice in adulthood, long after the end of puberty. The vocal folds—muscles that rapidly open and close as we speak or sing—get stronger, as do the muscles that support them in the chest, abdomen, neck, and back. When the hormones stabilize—and the muscles and lungs reach the right levels of development—then the singer's voice reaches its prime form for opera. Singers have to project their voices above the orchestra, reach the farthest corners of concert halls, and possess enough stamina to last most of an evening.

Tsai then discussed Pavarotti's technique, but not his weight:

One reason Pavarotti was able to sing for so long was because he didn't strain his vocal folds; he delivered songs as easily as if he were conversing, embodying an approach that voice coaches call "Si canta come si parla," or "Sing as you speak." He also knew what his voice was capable of and stuck close to arias that made the most of his talents....

Other opera singers aren't so lucky.

When menopause hits, the loss of estrogen lowers women's voices and they lose their highest notes.

With one exception:

Since fat cells produce estrogen, though, obese opera sopranos tend to be more resilient. They can keep on singing.

However, Jessica Simpson is not obese, and is certainly not menopausal.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl motivational technique - Phil Collins?

It's the Sunday morning before the Super Bowl, and I just half-heard someone on ESPN saying that one of the team coaches - I couldn't catch which team - played Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" for his players.

Normally when you thinking about a motivational song for a sports team, you think of something raucous. But you can't argue with success:

[Dwight] Clark’s stories of the 49ers’ first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XVI in Detroit, feel so real, so unaffected, it is like listening to Everyman playing in his first Super Bowl.

Everyman, like nearly all NFL players before a game, needed to capture the mood of the battle. So Everyman was in the 49ers’ locker room listening to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” on his headphones to arouse the necessary emotion.

“Getting ready to hit somebody,” is how he put it.

But a little later, one would suspect that listening to an English person subconciously put Clark on the wrong side of the road.

During pre-game Clark loosened up - by jogging up the Cincinnati sideline.

“I was running up the sideline when I looked around and wondered, ‘Where are our guys (49ers)?’” Clark said. “I was running up the wrong sideline. I played it off like I was doing a lap around the field.”

And the 49ers won, so I guess it worked out OK.

Plus, Washington Redskin Chris Cooley likes the song, as does Cleveland Cavalier (basketball) player Mo Williams.

As I noted above, however, Collins is one of those English types to whom "football" instinctively has a different meaning. Although in this case, Collins is very familiar with what type of football is played at the Super Bowl. You see, he has performed at a Super Bowl (XXXIV, 2000, Rams vs. Titans), which earned him condemnation from (yes, Cracked):

If the Super Bowl was really for football fans, every year's halftime show would be the same: John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce [Springsteen] or Kid Rock covering songs from Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet as an attractive woman blows up household furniture with M-80s. In actuality, the Super Bowl is the Jerry Maguire of television events, pretending to be about football while catering to people who think a first down is something you pull off a baby goose....

Phil Collins
Super Bowl XXXIV, 2000
Rams Vs. Titans

"Hey, he's the guy with the song about the 'air tonight,' right? Isn't that about letting someone die or something? That sounds kind of bad ass."

Hey, he's the guy who brought us soft-pop shitbombs like 'Sussudio' and recently penned the soundtrack to the decade's most mind-numbingly stupid children's film, Brother Bear, right?

Well, if I ever figure out whether it was the Steelers or the Cardinals who used Collins as a motivational tool, we'll see whether they had the same success that Dwight Clark did.