Sunday, May 31, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 31 May 2009

Empoprise-MU News

The news letter for Empoprise-MU - An Empoprises vertical information service for music news.

Welcome to Empoprise-MU News

You knew this was going to happen. I started a "newsletter" for my Empoprise-BI blog, so I'm rolling the idea out elsewhere. I anticipate that this will come out weekly and discuss various items related to my Empoprise-MU music blog. You can come to to read it, or you can read it via an RSS feed or email (go to the blog and subscribe via RSS or email by going to the appropriate item in the upper left corner of the blog).

Behind the Scenes

This is pretty much a "behind the scenes" issue. Not only do I write about music, but at times I make music - after a fashion (I describe my music as "synthetica"; others describe it less charitably). In fact, my "Ontario Emperor" online pseudonym (and its predecessor pseudonym, "Theo Tres Thr3") was originally used for the MIDIs that I posted online. I then used the service for a while, until that was reformulated into something else. I still play around with making music occasionally, and recently uploaded six very short music files to (And yes, the "Before the Beta" song WAS named after the FriendFeed beta.)

Special Features

People who have read me for the last year or so know that I'm a big fan of - in fact, I created the lastfmfeeds group on FriendFeed - but I also use Pandora at times, primarily when I have networking problems (the dreaded 403 errors) that prevent me from accessing at times. For those of you who live in the United States, my Pandora profile is here.

But if you're on FriendFeed, I strongly encourage you to join the group. And if you'd like your song stream to be included as part of the group feed, please email your name to the Gmail account entitled "empoprises" and I'll fix you up.


I do have a article cued up for Monday. And another one about Ozzy and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After that, we'll see what happens.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Uh oh. Adam Lambert just became a target of the Claymates

Once I read this piece in the Inquisitr, I knew that all hell was about to break loose.

Adam Lambert has finally responded to the catty comments made by former fellow gay American Idol runner Clay Aiken.

“I don’t know Clay,” Lambert told Access Hollywood. “I’m glad he’s getting headlines now though, because he wasn’t before. If he wants to ride my coattails about it, good for him.”

More here.

Now I've blogged about Clay Aiken before, and have discovered that even now, years after American Idol, Aiken has a ton of devoted fans. Perhaps they're not showing up at the tops of the charts, but there is a lot of money to be made by legacy acts. (Why do you think that groups from the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, and 1950s continue to tour decades later?)

I submit this to you - if a brief period in late July 2007, I wrote about a ton of topics, including Iraq, the 2008 presidential election, Somalia, the Balkans, other international hotspots, the murder of Daniel Pearl, the entertainment industry, the news industry (not that there's necessarily a difference between the two), reminiscent looks at 1950s culture, baseball and steroids, football and dog fighting, animal rights, badgers, and native American poverty and funding sources. But the item that really drew traffic to my mrontemp blog during that period was a brief mention of a Clay Aiken casino appearance in a travel post.

So, to meet the needs of my readers, I wrote an entire post about Aiken's then-forthcoming appearance at Pala Casino. I wrote this under my then-current Ontario Emperor pseudonym, which resulted in some slightly misdirected praise in the comments:

Congratulations! I think you will be the first Canadian reporter/blogger, that managed to write a whole page about Clay, without maligning him, or insulting him, or questioning his sexuality.

Every single Canadian writer has been extremely offensive, and I wouldn't have came here to read this, if I wasn't sitting here listening to a Clay Aiken cellcert, and didn't pay attention to the website addy.

Praise for "the Canadian reporter" was echoed in a subsequent comment by "sweetclay."

Ignore their confusion about my location - my "Ontario Emperor" pseudonym confused nearly everyone outside of southern California - but note the passion exhibited by these writers, true fans of Clay.

That's when I discovered the world of the Claymates. In fact, in that late July 2007 period, I joked that Clay Aiken could even resurrect John McCain's then-stalled campaign. Little did I know that McCain would be able to secure the Republican nomination without Aiken's assistance.

But that was 2007. This is 2009. And it appears that Adam Lambert is building up a following that is as devoted to him as the Claymates are devoted to Aiken. And USA Today has even printed a name for them - Glamberts. And listya has compared the two:

Glamberts is the new Claymates. maybe worse than Claymates

Sabrina Brody predicted what would happen next:

The Claymates and Glamberts could have been united, but no, it will be war from here, like a modern epic.

And it should be noted that Aiken has clarified his original statement.

I am sure that some were upset by my choice of words describing my opinion of a performance I heard from Adam Lambert. I hope no one actually believed that blood truly poured forth from my ears when I heard him. I obviously meant it as a colorful statement to imply that I did not enjoy what I heard.

Good that's cleared up.

Truthfully, what Aiken really meant to emphasize in his response was that it shouldn't matter to Lambert that one particular person (Aiken) disliked one particular performance ("Ring of Fire"). I'm sure that Aiken wouldn't be upset at all if all of the Claymates loved Lambert's "Ring of Fire" performance; it just wasn't Aiken's cup of tea.

It's very difficult to compare the Claymates and the Glamberts at this stage, primarily because Lambert's Idol run just finished. While most of the comments that I've seen have favored the new guy, I'm not quite sure what's going on in the members-only Claymate boards.

La casa del sole, and related songs

I was noodling around on YouTube one evening, trying to find "interesting" versions of the old song "House of the Rising Sun," when I ran across this one.

This version of the song came out in 1965, and was obviously influenced by the Animals' version, although they do some nice things with harmony vocals.

"They" are sometimes referred to as Los Marcellos Ferial, and other times as I Marcellos Ferial. As well as I can piece it together from the Italian Wikipedia page on the band, Los Marcellos Ferial was created by a record company to cash in on the Italians' love of Latin American/Caribbean music. To do this, the record company kinda sorta OBSCURED the fact that the band was actually Italian...but their success continued even after their identities were exposed.

Now obviously Los Marcellos Ferial, or Eric Burdon, or Bob Dylan, or Dolly Parton, or Buck Norris weren't the only people to ever cover the song. As a matter of fact, I first learned "House of the Rising Sun" from my dad. And although he doesn't appear in the Second Hand Songs list of people who have performed the song, just about everyone else has.

The Rising Sun Blues written by traditional
The Rising Sun Blues by Clarence Tom Ashley (1932)
Rounder's Luck by The Callahan Brothers (1934)
The Rising Sun Blues by Georgia Turner (1937)
House of the Rising Sun by Libby Holman (1942)
In New Orleans by Leadbelly (1944)
House of the Rising Sun by Joshua White (1944)
House of the Rising Sun by Nina Simone (1962)
House of the Rising Sun by Bob Dylan (March 19, 1962)
House of the Rising Son by The Supremes (1964)
Le pénitencier by Johnny Hallyday (1964)
+ Les portes du penitencier by Jam [1] (2006)
House of the Rising Sun by The Animals (September 1964)
The House of the Rising Sun by Marianne Faithfull (October 23, 1964)
La casa del sole by I Marcellos Ferial (1965)
+ La casa del sole by Pooh (January 30, 2008)
House of the Rising Sun by The Brothers Four (1965)
House of the Rising Sun by The Barbarians (1965)
House of the Rising Sun by Herbie Mann (1967)
House of the Rising Sun by Trudy Pitts (1967)
Rising Sun by Catherine McKinnon (1968)
House of the Rising Sun by N. Maeda - J. Inagaki and The All Stars (September 10, 1968)
House of the Rising Sun by Tim Hardin (1969)
House of the Rising Sun by Nat Stuckey (April 1969)
The House of the Rising Sun by Frijid Pink (1970)
House of the Rising Sun by The Chambers Brothers (1970)
House of the Rising Sun by Mike Auldridge (1970)
House of the Rising Sun by Conway Twitty (January 12, 1970)
The House of the Rising Sun by Santa Esmeralda (1977)
House of the Rising Sun by Alan Price (1980)
The House of the Rising Sun by Dolly Parton (November 1980)
House of the Rising Sun by The Bobby Fuller Four (1984)
House of the Rising Sun by Adolescents (1987)
The House of the Dirty Scums by The Dirty Scums (1987)
La casa del sol naciente by Alejandra Guzmán (1989)
House of the Rising Sun by Tracy Chapman (November 27, 1990)
House of the Rising Sun by Theodis Ealey (1993)
House of the Rising Sun by Don McMinn (1994)
House of the Rising Sun by Sinéad O'Connor (1994)
House of the Rising Sun by Peter, Paul and Mary (November 4, 1995)
House of the Rising Sun by Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1996)
House of The Rising Sun by The Walkabouts (1996)
House of the Rising Sun by Sentenced (1998)
House of the Rising Sun by Eric Burdon Brian Auger Band (June 30, 1998)
House of the Rising Sun by Don Angle (1999)
House of the Rising Sun by EverEve (1999)
House of the Rising Sun by 386 DX (2000)
House of the Rising Sun by Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice (April 25, 2000)
House of the Rising Sun by Sarah Brooks with Joe Beck (2002)
House of the Rising Sun by Noel Freidline Quintet (February 19, 2002)
House of the Rising Sun by Muse (October 14, 2002)
The House of the Rising Sun by Helmut Lotti (2003)
House of the Rising Sun by Jet Jet Six (February 24, 2003)
House of the Rising Sun by Rock Nalle & The Yankees (2004)
House of the Risin' Sun by Antoine Rocks (June 28, 2005)
House of the Rising Sun by Russell Watson - The Voice (November 17, 2008)
The House of the Rising Sun by Roman (March 2, 2009)
House of the Rising Sun by The Almanac Singers

To be continued...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A glimmer of good news - Broadway has record grosses

Tickets by Alexis O'Toole (Whatsername?) used under a Creative Commons License

We hear about all sorts of industries that are undergoing pain, but this is good news:

Broadway musicals and plays had total gross receipts of about $943.3 million during the 2008-9 theater season, a slight increase from the previous season and a record for total grosses, according to data released this week by the Broadway League, the trade association of theater owners and producers.

One could claim that Broadway is gross in more ways than one, recently relying on movies such as "Hairspray" and "Young Frankenstein" for source material. But plays are always sourced from somewhere - why not movies?

Dave Gahan has "low-grade" tumor removed

Dave Gahan, Depeche Mode by Omid Tavallai used under a Creative Commons License

PopEater links to an item on Depeche Mode's "News" page:


Depeche Mode are pleased to announce they will restart their interrupted Tour Of The Universe in Leipzig, Germany on June 8th. On May 12th, lead singer Dave Gahan suffered a severe bout of gastroenteritis, leading to his hospitalization and the cancellation of the Athens concert. While in hospital, further medical tests revealed a low-grade malignant tumour in Dave's bladder, which has since been successfully removed. At doctors' orders Dave Gahan must take a break until June 8th, to ensure that he makes a full recovery. The Leipzig show on June 8th will be the first concert following Dave's recovery.

Dave Gahan sincerely thanks his fans for their support, understanding and patience. Depeche Mode deeply regret any problems or inconveniences the cancellations and postponements may have caused.

Gahan - and, for that matter, Gore and Fletcher - have all had eventful episodes during their music career, but it sounds like this interruption is a relatively minor one.

Pandora's (mobile) box

me: opening a box by freeparking used under a Creative Commons License

Not too long ago, Pandora was begging its users for legislative support that it needed to survive. Today, BusinessWeek is talking about Pandora's mobile advertising. The two are not mutually exclusive. BusinessWeek:

Since Pandora launched a mobile edition two years ago, it has signed up 6 million people (total users for mobile and Web versions is 27 million). That has prompted the likes of Best Buy (BBY), Dockers, Target (TGT), and Nike (NKE) to buy ads on Pandora and experiment with what remains a cheap advertising medium—one most companies have yet to figure out. "We've reached a tipping point," says Domino's (DPZ) Pizza advertising executive Rob Weisberg. "Marketers, especially consumer brands, have to take mobile seriously now. You have to be where your customer works, lives, and plays."

This is academic to me, since neither Pandora nor work on my older phone. On Tuesday I was ruminating on the need to develop applications that work in confined user interfaces. I guess there's one more criterion - will an advertisement fit in the UI?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Beastie Boys are older than Jimmy Fallon

Stereogum links to this YouTube video of a Beastie Boys performance on Jimmy Fallon's talk show.

It's an odd situation when the band is older than the host. For the record, Fallon was born in 1974; the Beastie Boys released their first EP in 1982.

Perhaps some things do last forever

Any of us who have been on the Internet for many, many years realize that we've often uploaded so many things to the Tubes that we've forgotten half of them. (Remember train simulation fan Robert Scoble?)

So I was surprised to see this May 2009 blog post:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Music Links

My favorite music sites

Including Ragtime, Dixieland, Blues, Bluegrass, Christian, Classical, Country, Folk, Jazz, Zydeco, Sheet Music, Pianos, Midi, Midi Powered Sites, CD/CDROM Mastering, Radio & Broadcast, Production, Audio Stores, Software, Hardware, E-zines & Publications, Musicians, Community Bands, Record Labels, and Other cool sites.

And what was buried in the MIDI listings? My old Tripod page.

Incidentally, I need to update the "MP3" portion of the page to include Brevity Is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In defense of Wal-Mart's insistence upon "clean" albums

If you don't know Steven Hodson, he is not shy in expressing his opinions. He recently wrote something in the Inquisitr regarding Wal-Mart's refusal to stock Green Day's latest album:

The retail behemoth known worldwide as Wal-Mart is also known for [its] habit of trying to force its own morality upon the manufacturers of things it sells. This is most predominately showcased when it comes to music that is available at the retail chain.

Hodson then notes that Wal-Mart refused to stock Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown" because the band and its label refused to supply a "clean" version of the CD.

The title of the post? "Wal-Mart censorship - no Green Day for you."

But is this truly censorship? Although there are a variety of definitions of the term, many of them agree that censorship is imposed by a governmental body. Even in Arkansas, Wal-Mart does not wield governmental power.

Now this can rightly be considered a "refusal to stock" or "refusal to sell" or whatever. And Wal-Mart certainly refuses to sell items. For example:

I've recently bought ammo from Walmart in NC, GA, SC and FL while traveling between NC and FL. I'm a snowbird and my home state is NC. The clerk this time looked at my license, made a phone call, made me wait, then refused to sell me a value pack of. 223. I asked to see a manager. Assistant Manager Luis informed me it is Walmart's policy not to sell ammo to anyone with an out of state license. I asked him if that meant every hunter who goes on a hunting trip out state will not be able to buy at their destination. He said that is correct.

And The Arthritis Store refuses to sell coral calcium:

Since coral calcium is one of he hottest products on the market for the treatment of arthritis you would think that a site that is called the Arthritis Store would sell it. So why don't we sell coral calcium. It is simple we care too much for our customers. We do not sell products just because we can make money from them. We can offer coral calcium for one fifth of what it sells for on the info-mercials. But the simple truth is it is a scam.

Although in that case, also got involved:

Every American will never forget 9-11. That day changed all of our lives. However, for Bob Barefoot, his day of infamy was 6-10. On June 10, 2003, the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, filed a preliminarily injunction against Bob Barefoot, Kevin Trudeau and others. That action against Bob Barefoot virtually destroyed him economically and did serious damage to his reputation Although the complaint contained only accusations with the accused is supposedly being innocent until the courts rule otherwise, in reality any FTC target is deemed guilty until he can prove himself innocent, a feat that usually requires millions of dollars. The claims made against Barefoot by the FTC were unfounded. Outside of a court of law they would be considered defamatory. However, employees of the FTC are protected by the government despite their guilt. In other words the FTC is allowed to bypass the American system of justice. This of course was never the intent of Congress which gave the FTC these sweeping powers, as it is totally un-American.

The FTC alleged that Barefoot had made "unsubstantiated" medical claims concerning coral calcium in the infomercial in which Kevin Trudeau and I appeared.

Heck, Bob Barefoot makes Steven Hodson sound like a shy type.

Which reminds me...I seem to have strayed from my original topic. Any music store may choose to sell or not sell any CD as it sees fit, for any reason. Wal-Mart doesn't like dirty words (at least in its music). Elitist indie stores don't like Bryan Adams. And HMV doesn't like fascism, as Workers' Liberty notes:

Anti-fascists in Leeds acted to stop the fascist British People's Party (BPP) holding their much publicised demonstration against black music on 18 October. The BPP had called the demo to protest that HMV refuse to stock CDs by fascist groups such as Screwdriver, while selling 'violent' rap music by Ice Cube and others.

Will Billie Joe Armstrong go march in the streets of Leeds and demand that HMV stock albums such as Hail Victory?

Somehow I doubt it.

It's important to have a second job - Justin Timberlake, sports video narrator

2009 NBA All-Star Game Wallpaper (Kobe-LeBron) by Mike (RMTip21) used under a Creative Commons License

Justin Timberlake isn't doing too bad in the music industry these days, but fame is fleeting. So Justin is moonlighting as an NBA documentary narrator, according to PopEater. PopEater also linked to a video clip.

Dream Season: 23 & 24 tracks two guys name James and Bryant.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Talking about organs (the musical kind)

Playing the Organ by Chany Crystal (chany14) used under a Creative Commons License

Cati Porter blogged about Virginia Haisten:

My good friend Virginia Haisten — aka Gincy, aka the mother of my sons’ good friends that we’ve known practically since birth, aka Jacob’s piano teacher — is being interviewed about her “organ expertise” on KUCR as I write this.

I missed the interview on KUCR, but Haisten clearly seems to be an authority on the subject. She's edited at least one book on the topic.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Failure is an option - Idol non-winner strikes it big

The theory behind "American Idol" and similar shows is that you will select a stable of talented singers (or dancers, or rockstar love interests, or whatever) and winnow the stable down to one, who will be considered the best of the best and receive fame and fortune.

But sometimes the so-called "losers" end up doing quite well, thank you very much. I'm not completely familiar with later editions of "American Idol," but PopEater is, as is shown in this interview with American Idol loser Michael Johns:

What was going through your head when you were kicked off 'Idol' last year? "It was weird because I didn't know what to think until the next morning. It was unanimous across the board with people saying, 'You were robbed.' It made me feel really good. A lot of people were saying, 'You'll be fine. We can't wait to hear your record.' Seeing that, I was like, 'Wow, maybe I do have a chance after 'Idol.'"

But he had to work for it:

"A lot of people think that once you're on the show, everything comes flooding in, and you can sit around waiting for your phone to ring for a record deal. But it doesn't happen like that. That is the pitfall of 'Idol.' You have to hustle. I was really lucky that I had a career before [the show], so all those doors were still open for me."

More here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How frequently should musicians release albums?

For musical artists that began their careers in the 1960s or 1970s or early 1980s, the usual routine was to release one or two albums a year for several years. This required a ton of work, which meant that either the albums consisted of a bunch of fluff, or the artists ended up getting burned out. For example, after several years of this treadmill routine, Elton John suffered a drug overdose, and subsequently cut his schedule down to a single album a year.

And it wasn't just Elton John that cut back. In many cases, what would eventually happen is that the artists would reach a level of success that allowed them to take more time off between albums. Thus you have bands like the Rolling Stones or Depeche Mode that only release albums every few years, assuming that the Rolling Stones even release albums any more.

So the grueling album release schedule isn't seen much any more. But, as the Guardian notes, there are still some artists who don't spend several years between albums:

In June, the Mars Volta are to release a new album, Octahedron. If you include 2005's live album Scabdates, this will be their sixth LP in as many years – pretty productive compared with most bands. But it's nothing compared with band member Omar Rodiguez-Lopez's side projects. In the last 12 months he appears to have released a whopping seven solo or collaborative albums. I say "appears" because at this rate it's hard to keep count....

And I don't even know where to begin with Sun Ra, a man whose output is so dauntingly prestigious (90+ albums, plus hundreds of singles) that I've been pretty much scared off. Any recommendations as to where to start are welcome. And I might give Slim Whitman's 50 albums of yodelling a miss too, if you don't mind.

And that's just a few of the artists from present and past that were named. Go here to see the rest.

Now I don't know most of the artists named, but I have a good feel for Slim Whitman and Elvis Presley, and both of them continued to put out good music throughout their careers. Perhaps there's a difference in style between "Mystery Train" and "Burning Love," but both songs are good in their own way.

But there are other variables present. Even if an artist wants to release massive amounts of material, the record company might not fund it. Or perhaps the indie artist is too busy doing things like working at a job to put everything down for posterity.

But the mega-releasers are interesting, as long as they don't drive themselves crazy with all the output.

I got it figured out - the cities in "Cities"

London Business district by Mark Drewe (mdrewe), available via a Creative Commons License

When I woke up this morning, I had a mad desire to hear the Talking Heads song "Cities," so I grabbed my "Fear of Music" CD on the way to work and listened to it several times over.

There's a ton that could be said about it musically - the disco feel, the anticipation of "Remain in Light," the anticipation (in the third verse) of "True Stories" - but I'll confine myself to the question that's been puzzling me for decades - how many cities are mentioned in "Cities"?

Of course, we can start with the super-secret third verse. If you've heard the album version of the song, you know that David Byrne sings about London and Birmingham, but then there's this little country-like instrumental break before he wraps up and sings about Memphis. But if you've read the album lyrics, or if you've heard a version other than the album version, then you've been exposed to an unsung verse:


Note the third line above, and compare it to a few other unusual lines from the song:


And, in reference to Memphis:


If you haven't figured it out by now, "Cities" is about more than three (or four) cities. When I first heard the song I was unaware of any "El Paso" outside of Texas, but I did know about the Londons in England and Ontario (see Mark Drewe's picture above), the Birminghams in England and Alabama, and the Memphises in Tennessee (as featured in Empoprise-NTN) and Egypt. (And, for the record, there are El Pasos in the north, including cities with that name in Illinois and Wisconsin.)

Ian Gittins doesn't delve into this multi-city confusion, instead wondering at the absurdity of it all (see pages 54-55). And as far as I can tell Byrne or the Heads have never talked about it. But even if they're just wild mistakes in the lyrics, it's still enjoyable speculation.

P.S. Yes, the phrase "Byrne or the Heads" was intentional, if you're familiar with the band the Heads.

Lionel Richie and the younger set

As the late George Burns could attest, if you live long enough most of the people around you will be younger than you. This is especially true in the music business, where many artists have fairly short popularity lifespans.

Ex-Commodore Lionel Richie is still going strong with help from people much younger than himself (and his core audience), as the New York Times notes.

On the lightly Caribbean-flavored title track ["Just You"] — produced by Akon and now on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart — he sings, “I’m here to take that stress from you.” Then he offers to cook a meal, make the bed and spirit you by sailboat to the Bahamas, where he’ll make good on the promise of a massage....

Mr. Richie doesn’t sound out of his element singing on tracks provided by contemporary R&B hit makers, complete with up-to-the-minute production....

“Just Go” features five songs apiece by Stargate and another bankable team, Christopher Stewart, known as Tricky, and Terius Nash, known as The-Dream. Mr. Richie has inspired both camps, and maybe sparked some competition: Stargate writes a song called “Forever,” and the other duo comes up with “Forever and a Day.”

More here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zappa, Yorke, Marsh, D, and others on music

For business purposes, I read Steve Johnson's Product Marketing blog. Today he wrote a post entitled Music as Product that features a YouTube video that talks about the current (or, in Frank Zappa's case, the late 20th century) state of the music industry. The video quotes many people in addition to Zappa, including Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Dave Marsh, and Chuck D.

Johnson referred to the video to make his point about how businesses (and a music artist is, in effect, a small business) can use social media to market themselves. Now I don't necessarily believe that a tool is a cure-all, but one thing with which I do agree is that an artist has to measure his/her comfort level regarding going it alone vs. signing up with a major label.

Why I like the Record Doctor

I hadn't run across this before, but I like it. Here's part of one question:

I need to get my head out of 1972. I mostly listen to recently created music, but from the ELO-ish pop of Brendan Benson to the garage punk of the Hives, it's the late 60s/early 70s redux on my playlist.

And here's part of the answer:

[T]he finest album of the past few months, Grizzly Bear's restless Veckatimest, is rooted in what passes for the future round your way – 1975 or thereabouts.

Wait until the questioner gets to Client and Ladytron.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eurovision Update - A Fairytale Victory for Alexander Rybak

I followed a FriendFeed thread on the contest on Saturday, but missed the news on Sunday regarding the winner.

Celebratory crowds took to the streets of Oslo on Sunday to mark Norway’s victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Moscow on Saturday night, the Associated Press reported. The victory for Norway came the night before that country’s annual National Day, so the hundreds of people gathered for a National Day parade on Sunday also sang along to “Fairytale,” the winning Eurovision song by Alexander Rybak, above. Mr. Rybak, a 23-year-old singer and violinist, beat 24 other contestants on Saturday night and scored the most points in the history of the pop songwriting competition.

As for Webber/Warren, they came in 5th.

Congratulations then to the man who once conquered the globe with the likes of Cats and Evita and the woman who has made billions writing smashes such as If I Could Back Time and Unbreak My Heart for coming 5th in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Hats off to the BBC too for spending a small fortune of the public's money trying - and failing - to find a song that could beat Azerbaijan.

And here's the winner:

I know you're supposed to pay attention to the songwriting rather than the performance, but dang, I like them there violins. If they ever expand Eurovision to this side of the pond, we're gonna have to enter Charlie Daniels.

P.S. Rybek has an entry on Very little activity, but that will presumably change. See Lordi.

OK, she's not Katy Perry, but to some that's a good thing

When working on my Empoprise-MU music blog, I try to make sure that I read a variety of sources so that the blog, while concentrated on music, is not a one-note blog. I think most of you..well, some of you...would get pretty tired if I only talked about Depeche Mode, Alexa's Wish, and Slim Whitman. (Now THAT would be a supergroup.) Which is why my scouring of musical discussions uncovered this gem about Tyne Daly.

Yeah, Tyne Daly. Ex-cop, ex-judge. But Daly is not just a TV star. From Yahoo:

The daughter of actors James Daly and Hope Newell, Ellen Tyne Daly was the second of four children. Raised in Westchester County, New York, she began her acting career appearing in summer stock productions with her family and earned her Equity card at age 15 after being cast in the title role of "Jenny Kissed Me". Fate dealt her a blow, however, when a prominent agent dismissed her performance in favor of one of his proteges, relegating Daly to a supporting role.

She subsequently trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, appeared on Broadway in a revival of "The Butter and Egg Man," and began appearing in movies and television, culminating in her starring role on "Cagney and Lacey." (She was Lacey; I had forgotten which was which.) And after that show had run its course, Lacey headed to Broadway:

When "Cagney & Lacey" faded in 1988, Daly had the chance to become yet another "TV-Movie Melodrama Queen", but instead chose to risk her reputation by headlining a stage revival of "Gypsy", the 50s musical that starred Ethel Merman on Broadway and Rosalind Russell on the screen. Daly first took her Mama Rose on the road, beginning in Chattanooga, Tennessee in April 1989 with a July 1989 debut in L.A. to SRO crowds and rave reviews. In November, she premiered on Broadway and won that season's Tony Award as Lead Actress in a Musical.

She has continued to work in all media, and has recently appeared in a cabaret show in New York. This is what the New York Times said about Tyne Daly:

As Ms. Daly sings and tells stories, she dispenses good humor and wisdom with a self-effacing generosity that may bring to mind your favorite baby sitter from childhood. When in a playful mode, she makes the whole world seem brand-new and wondrous.

But running through this show is a seam of hard-headed adult realism exemplified by “Life’s a Funny Proposition After All,” a bouncy George M. Cohan song that stares fixedly into the void, and by “Killing Time,” an obscure Jule Styne-Carolyn Leigh ballad whose depressed, idle narrator drifts morosely through her later life, “dulling senses, lulling fears, chilling drinks, spilling tears, killing time.”

More here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On "Ghosts"

In the process of writing an Empoprise-BI post that touched upon Monty Python, I ran across a Matt Safford article that discussed entertainers with loyal followings. In the process, I learned about something that had puzzled me. Safford:

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor made headlines last year when he released an album, Ghosts I-IV, under a Creative Commons license that expressly allows the music to be copied, shared, and remixed. Reznor also hosted a free download of the first nine tracks on his band's Web site ( He later offered another album, The Slip, for free via the same methods before embarking on a world tour. Apparently, his fans were still willing to pay for the content, because both albums, which were also released on CD, made it into the top 15 on the Billboard 200 chart. Ghosts I-IV hit number one on Billboard's electronic chart, and it was last year's best-selling album overall at's MP3 store. Those are pretty impressive numbers for albums that were legally available for free from the day they were released.

Now I had seen multiple mentions of "Ghosts" in the lastfmfeeds FriendFeed room that I had created, but I hadn't really explored the topic. I went to the official "Ghosts" website:

Nine Inch Nails presents Ghosts I - IV, a brand new 36 track instrumental collection available right now. Almost two hours of new music composed and recorded over an intense ten week period last fall, Ghosts I - IV sprawls Nine Inch Nails across a variety of new terrain.

Trent Reznor explains, "I've been considering and wanting to make this kind of record for years, but by its very nature it wouldn't have made sense until this point. This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective - dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams. I'm very pleased with the result and the ability to present it directly to you without interference. I hope you enjoy the first four volumes of Ghosts."

I then gave my empoprises e-mail address so that I could download the first nine tracks of Ghosts I. These tracks are completely DRM-free, so while I downloaded it to my brand new home computer, I could put the material on other computers if I so desired.

I still haven't listened to the songs yet...we'll see how they sound, and if I'm inspired to buy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Taking Eurovision seriously?

I'll admit that I know little about Eurovision. ABBA, Celine Dion, Lordi. That's about the sum total of my knowledge of the competition. Other than the fact that Bob Dylan apparently never tried to enter the contest.

But I knew enough to smirk when I read the first few lines of this Guardian article:

It's been dismissed as kitsch for years, but Eurovision could be reinvented as a real showcase for British songwriting talent

And one of the former members of ABBA is mentioned in the article:

[H]ow come Benny Andersson, one of the most successful songwriters in the world who got his big break winning the contest with Waterloo in 1974, says that he's stopped watching Eurovision because it "means nothing" for music?

Well, you have to distinguish between performing and songwriting. Or not:

Basca (The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) used to be involved in the production of the UK try-outs for the competition. But as the BBC are in charge of it themselves now, they've become so focused on winning the contest that they completely ignore the fact that it's a songwriting competition.

Frankly, that was news to me. Obviously I know little about the competition, but I always associated it with its performance aspects. Trevor Krueger helped to enlighten me:

Each year all the countries in the European Union enter one song for the contest. Each national song entry has usually been chosen by the nation from a selection of compositions penned by different writers and put to the vote....

The problem has been that, with the exception of ABBA, there haven’t been too many wonderful entries from Europe. A cruel statement, but fairly accurate....

It’s been announced here that this year [Krueger wrote this in November 2008], Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber will write our British entry and then find a group to sing it through a month long TV contest, thus reducing, in my opinion, a song writing competition into yet another televised talent show. As if we need another one of those!

In the end, Webber co-wrote the song with Diane Warren, and the singer will be Jade Ewen.

My my. (Oh yeah.)

What hath Lorne Michaels wroat? (Fallon hosts "I'm on a Boat")

In the summer of 1975, Lorne Michaels began his grand experiment in which he took an eclectic mixture of comedy styles, most of which could be considered "underground," and prepared to broadcast them on the second most successful television network (at the time).

In the spring of 1975, Jimmy Fallon hosted The Lonely Island, singing "I'm on a Boat."

Why? Because he's Jimmy Fallon and you're not.

H/T Stereogum.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gears of Rock reviews "21st Century Breakdown"

I've talked about the new Green Day album "21st Century Breakdown" here and there, but Gears of Rock has reviewed it. Excerpt:

With every pop-punk cliche accounted for on 21st Century Breakdown, the rock trio continues to prove that they dominate the scene with their perfect delivery and execution of the fundamentals....Green Day has mastered the formula, pulling it off better than any pop act since Abba.

Read the rest here. And before you complain about a band hewing to a formula, consider that bands as diverse as George Thorogood, Led Zeppelin, and Michael Jackson have stuck to formulas, and have enjoyed great artistic success as a result. Know what you can do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

She Blinded Me With Science - identifying similar songs

For decades upon decades, artists from Coldplay to various Beatles have been accused of song plagiarism. The actual detection of plagiarism is somewhat hard, since there are only so many notes that can be arranged in so many ways, and since it's hard to draw a dividing line between inspiration and appropriation.

Or is it? Back in 2003, some people from the University of Queensland tried to mathematically determine music similarity:

Exhibitor: Michael Wignall

Supervisor: Peter Kootsookos

Research Group: Electromagnetics and Imaging

Industry Sector: Media / Entertainment
Content-Based Music Similarity

Content-Based Music Similarity

The fundamental purpose of this project is to develop a system by which music similarity can be measured based solely on the content of the music itself. This system will analyse the inherent characteristics of musical pieces and use that analysis to compare songs, independently of any metadata that may exist.

The basis for this comparison is a song’s musical ‘fingerprint’, which is computed by clustering a set of spectral features represented by the Mel-Frequency Cepstral Coefficients (MFCC) of the audio signal. This fingerprint not only uniquely identifies a musical piece; it also provides information about its musical characteristics.

A database of fingerprints can be generated for a selection of songs, from which the similarity between those pieces of music can be evaluated. This provides an opportunity for a number of different applications, including genre grouping, instrument matching, artist isolation and many more.

Now the application that was developed didn't try to find identical songs, but similar ones:

An application to automatically create “DJ Sets” of music was created to demonstrate the fingerprinting and comparison technology developed as part of this project. This application involves generating a database of dance music fingerprints and then, based upon a number of set descriptors (including a ‘seed’ song), automatically generating a playlist of music which when mixed together forms one continuous synchronised DJ set.

Now I kind of doubt that "He's So Fine" and "My Sweet Lord" would end up in the same DJ set.

However, the existence of this experiment does suggest that similar mathematical programs could be developed that could determine, based upon some human-derived rules, whether one song copies another song. However, let's say that some enterprising company developed such a program and sold it to the RIAA or music industry lawyers or whatever. Would the enterprise be obligated to reveal its source code to expose the rules that were used to determine that one song copied another?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world

There are a bunch of stories of British musicians who come over to America on tour and find fame and fortune. Sometimes the musicians return on tour (Depeche Mode), sometimes they don't (Beatles, who stopped touring altogether after four years in the blinding spotlight), and sometimes they wait a while before returning on tour.

Take Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. He hadn't toured the U.S. in over 30 years until he recently appeared at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.

Of course, a couple of things have happened to him since his previous U.S. musical appearance in 1976. First, he tired of the pop life after becoming a Muslim in 1977, and quit the stage altogether in 1979. Second, Islam has faced various visa problems since September 11, 2001 related to charitable donations that he has made; the U.S. government considers some of the organizations non-charitable. And even on his current two-city tour, his New York appearance was canceled due to "[a]n unspecified work-visa issue."

Incidentally, I didn't realize until today that the Rod Stewart song "The First Cut is the Deepest" was originally written by Islam.

Mike Watt on tour

Follow-up to this item that appeared in my Empoprise-MU FriendFeed room. Mike Watt, formerly of the referenced band fIREHOSE, has always been involved in something interesting or another. The New York Times printed a review of Mike Watt and the Missingmen, not to be confused with a similarly named band that saw its heyday thirty years ago. Excerpt:

The bassist and singer Mike Watt, with his band the Missingmen, is halfway through a nearly nonstop tour of small clubs around the country. The purpose of the 32-date tour is to prepare for making a new record. (It will be a song cycle based on characters in Hieronymus Bosch paintings.)

More here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What do Boy George and Jay Kim have in common?

Most of you probably have never heard of Jay Kim, but he was my former Congressman until he was convicted of financial ethics violation and had to spend his last months in the House wearing a tracking ankle bracelet.

As for Boy George, I read this in the Inquisitr:

Boy George (George O’Dowd) was released from prison early Monday after serving only four months of his 15-month sentence....

The 47 year old former front man of the 1980’s pop group Culture Club, will still need to wear an ankle bracelet to keep track of his whereabouts and will have a curfew, as well as report to his parole officer for the remainder of the 15 month sentence.

But Paul Short didn't get into the most important question. Leave it to PopEater to answer that most important question - how did he LOOK?

Looking nothing like the depressed and bloated mess he was before sentencing, Boy George emerged from prison on Monday with a spring in his step, a glimmer in his eyes and more than a few pounds lighter.

Of course, the curfew and ankle restriction raise the question of how Boy George will make a living. Last I recall he was working as a DJ, a profession that doesn't really lend itself to curfews. Plus, the ankle bracelet seems to rule out Manhattan gigs.

Eddie Money?!? Perhaps this musical thing has gone a bit too far

OK, we've had musicals based on ABBA, the Four Seasons, and various other musical entities. But did the world need a musical based on the life of Eddie Money?

THE rocker known as Eddie Money comes bounding down a hallway outside the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center and starts talking, fast, while still several yards away from his listener.

Please slow down, he’s asked. “I’ve had three cups of coffee,” he says. Then, too, he has a lot of ground to cover. The new musical he has created about his life, called “Two Tickets to Paradise,” which has its premiere June 4 to 14 in Dix Hills, compresses about a decade’s worth of action into the year 1968.

More here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Talking Blue Head Brothers

It took me a while to get to this realization, but Talking Heads and the Blues Brothers share one remarkable similarity.

It all start with Nouvelle Vague, when I was watching this video of a live performance of "Dancing With Myself."

While persuing the comments, I found that CosmeticPlague104 had said,

Comment removed by author

Whoops...looks like I got there a bit too late. In essence, I recall that C.P. had noted that Nouvelle Vague takes songs that were classic in their original genres and recasts them in a different genre...and that's all they do, not writing any original songs of their own.

I replied:

While I respect your views, I have more admiration for someone who covers a song in a totally different style vs someone who covers a song to make it sound just like the original. This helps to answer the question - is a song a good song, or does it just benefit from a good arrangement? Nouvelle Vague's take on "This is Not a Love Song" proves that the song itself is good, whether or not Lydon is singing it.

Which led me to my Friday morning commute, when I happened to hear another remake on the radio - a little ditty called "Take Me To The River," remade by a band with the name Talking Heads.

But anyone who's followed the career of Talking Heads knows that the original version was only the FIRST version - the four-piece version that was only slightly funkified. In their live performances a few years later, the Heads unveiled the SECOND version of the song, in which the four-piece band had become a two level hierarchy, with the Heads still on top, but the body consisting of a ton of talented performers, both white and black.

And in essence, isn't that what the Blues Brothers did? While "Jake" and "Elwood" were supposedly the stars of the show, a lot of the talent was behind the guys in the hats, as they were baked by a ton of talented performers, both white and black.

Granted, there were other forces at work (Brian Eno in one case, Paul Shaffer in the other), and Belushi & Aykroyd's lack of professional musical experience led to a different band dynamic - John Belushi wasn't going to tell Steve Cropper how to play - but it is an interesting parallel nevertheless.

Blues Brothers:

Talking Heads:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Short Stuff Two - On Steve Taylor

In a previous post in my Inland Empire blog Empoprise-IE, I briefly referred to Randy Newman. Steve Taylor (the main subject of this post) and Newman are two of the musical truth-tellers who use outrageous lyrics to make a serious point. (Hmm...Newman would make a good blogger.) In my previous post, I specifically referenced Newman's song "Short People," a popular tune that makes its anti-discrimination point by listing a bunch of insults directed to short people...with the exception of the middle four (it's too short to be a middle eight) that reveals Newman's true thoughts about discrimination.

Most of you have heard of Randy Newman, even if you only know him as a Pixar theme song guy. But I'd be willing to bet that most of my readers are unfamiliar with Steve Taylor. In the mid-1980s, I hung with a group of young adults at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio Heights (California - I've mentioned the community before, but not the church) who went to see a lot of the Christian bands of the time. During those years I either saw or heard Undercover, Altar Boys, Sheila Walsh (pre-TV career), the Choir, Adam Again, and many others, including Taylor.

Taylor was musically shaped via the gospel music he heard as a child, coupled with the secular music he heard at southern California's Biola College:

"What was interesting was that The Clash and Sex Pistols were great at pointing out all the problems of the world, but they were short on solutions," Taylor told the Nashville Scene. "So I figured, 'Well, if I'm a Christian, I think I know absolute truth why would I not want to write songs with that same kind of conviction, and yet offer some hope?'"

A few years later, he found his voice:

In 1982, a performance at the annual Christian Artists Retreat in Estes Park, Colorado, helped to launch him as a songwriter and performer. The highlight of this concert was Taylor's "I Want To Be A Clone," a punk-flavored tune ridiculing Christian conformity.

He continued to produce biting Christian music, which eventually resulted in his 1987 album I Predict 1990 (unfortunately NOT on as I write this):

On his next album, 1987's I Predict 1990, he raised controversy with "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good," an ironic sketch of a anti-abortion extremist. Some listeners thought the song was in favor of abortion clinic bombings, and the fallout led to the cancellation of an Australian tour.


Right-to-Lifers have been incensed by Taylor's song "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good", a satirical look at a neighbourhood ice-cream man who decides that blowing up abortion clinics is one way to maintain his clientele.

Right To Life Chairwoman, Margaret Tighe, was outraged after hearing the lyrics, calling the song the "work of a sick mind". Lines such as "Now I don't care if it's a baby or a tissues blob / But if we run out of youngsters I'll be out of a job" have left her, and many pastors, less than impressed.

Never one to miss an opportunity for sensationalism, Derryn Hinch, after airing the video on his show, also condemned Taylor as "sick".

Taylor's reaction?

Taylor is amazed at the response "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good" evoked in Tighe and Hinch. He vehemently denies he is condoning violence, and in a letter to Hinch he explains his song.

"I can't believe Mr. Hinch and Mrs. Tighe didn't get this song is satirical. I've been to Australia three times, I have loads of Australian friends and I know Australians have a sense of humour. After all, aren't you the country that sent over that band Air Supply?

"Obviously neither Mr. Hinch nor Mrs. Tighe sat down and thoughtfully read the lyrics. If they did and still take this song seriously, I'd hate to sit with them through a Marx brothers movie.

"Violence only brings more violence and can never be justified--except perhaps whoever that guy was who invented Vegemite."

Well, at least he's consistent in questioning everything. But you for yourself:

Note that Taylor, like Newman, sticks a piece in the middle of the song lyrics that expresses his true views.

Preacher on a corner
Calling it a crime
The ends don't justify the means anytime

But then he switches back to his ice cream man character:

I stood up on my van
I yelled "Excuse me, sir
Ain't nothin' wrong with this country
A few plastic explosives won't cure

P.S. Initially I discussed Taylor in this item in my FriendFeed Empoprise-MU group.

U2 "Magnificent" official video

H/T Stereogum, which is not written in Morocco.

I haven't officially blogged about this song, but I've FriendFed about it a little bit.

OK, more than just a little bit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who are the Beach Boys?

This is a local story, but it has a music angle. From Inland Empire News:

It is the 20th anniversary of the Stater Bros. Route 66 Rendezvous, and the official T-shirt will be unveiled on Sunday, May 10, 2009 at the historic California Theatre of Performing Arts beginning at 2:00 p.m. prior to the Beach Boys concert that begins at 3:05 p.m.

Now if you want to find out more about the Route 66 Rendezvous, go to

But I'm more curious about the band that will be playing on May 10. Who are they?

Remember that two of the Wilson brothers are now deceased, and last I knew Brian Wilson and even Al Jardine were no longer working with the band.

Time for an update.

Mike Love has licensed the Beach Boys' name for his tour, which also features fellow Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. Their backing performers (aka the "Beach Boys Band") include Randell Kirsch, John Cowsill, Tim Bonhomme, Christian Love, and Scott Totten.

And Al Jardine and Brian Wilson continue to tour on their own. The most intriguing configuration, however, is if you can get the Surf City Allstars in a performance that also features Jardine, David Marks (early member of the Beach Boys), AND Dean Torrence (as in "Jan &...").

Monday, May 4, 2009

Green Day music and the national timeline

The New York Times has reviewed Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown," comparing it to "American Idiot." One observation:

“21st Century Breakdown” follows Green Day’s “American Idiot,” the politically charged concept album from 2004 that has sold more than five million copies domestically and an estimated 12 million worldwide....

There’s no telling whether “21st Century Breakdown,” arriving at a very different cultural moment, will have the impact of “American Idiot.” That album was released in September 2004 to a country already bitterly divided over the Bush presidency. With songs about the war and an explicit rejection of the “redneck agenda,” the album was both a harbinger and a beneficiary of the Bush administration’s plummeting approval, selling steadily through 2005 as the response to Hurricane Katrina and the protracted war in Iraq turned much of the country against the government. “American Idiot” did what punk does best: it channeled frustration.

“21st Century Breakdown” lashes out even more directly, both at outward targets and at inner demons....But now there is a different and widely admired president. “21st Century Breakdown” lodges a full-spectrum protest, even calling for revolution, at a time of relative national unity.

More here. And if you go to a publication outside the country, Green Day's agenda with the new album is clarified.

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has declared that new album '21st Century Breakdown' has been fuelled by his distrust of politicians....

"A lot of people were born into an unlucky time, the era of George W Bush," [Armstrong] told Rolling Stone. "There is an optimism now with Obama… be aware. Don't look at this guy as the answer to our prayers. You still need to be involved."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Brevity Is - blame the Ffundercats and my wife for the return of Ontario Emperor synthetica music

I'll tell this story in order.

We need to start with the Ffundercats, combined with my addiction. Basically, I only want to listen to audio if it can be scrobbled. It's gotten to the point when I hear a song on my car radio and start reaching for the "Like" button...and then realize that I don't have one.

So when I listened to Ffundercats episodes 25 and 26, I made sure that I had up and running so the audio file could be scrobbled. Unfortunately, those two episodes of Ffundercats didn't have proper ID3 tags, so my Ffunderlistening wasn't scrobbled on, completely messing up my universe as I know it.

Fast-forward a few days to my wife, the newest Apple fangirl. Back when we had our Finnish visitors a few weeks back, one of them bought an iPod Touch (I guess they're cheaper in the United States), and my wife got intrigued. After a visit to the Apple Store at Victoria Gardens, my wife was convinced, and she went out and bought an iPod Touch of her own.

I got to help her load it, and that's when we discovered that the renaming of albums (designing to fit within the space constraints of her former MP3 player) ended up messing up her recorded album collection. That's when I figured out how to use the "Get Info" on each track to modify the artist name, album artist name, album name, and other pertinent information.

I had forgotten about this a few days later when I continued to muse on the whole ID3 tag thingie. I ended up searching for information on the topic, and found this CNET article that described how to edit ID3 tags using...well, using iTunes' "Get Info" capability, or the same capability that I used to rename my wife's album collection.

Unfortunately for you, this gave me an idea.

You see, I've been writing MIDI songs for over a decade. Years ago, when I owned a Mac, it was a fairly easy matter to convert those MIDIs to MP3s, upload them to, and let them tag them appropriately. When I bought a Windows computer, I never really did figure out all of the MIDI to MP3 conversion issues. I've used Anvil Studio to write MIDI files for the last several years, but with a few exceptions (e.g. "Non Sequitur 15") most of those files have remained in MIDI format.

However, I knew that the free version of Anvil Studio could convert MIDI to audio, provided the MIDI was less than one minute long. So I began thinking - if I could round up some of the very short MIDIs that I had never uploaded, convert them to MP3s, and then use iTunes to add the ID3 tags...well, who knows what could happen.

After a couple of false starts and the downloading of a WAV to MP3 encoder (MP3 output from Anvil Studio was not of sufficient quality, so I had to output in WAV format and convert it), I ended up uploading six songs to

Style-wise, things haven't really changed for Ontario Emperor music since the 20th century. It's still self-described as "synthetica music," for what it's worth. But at least the Anvil Studio free software limitations ensure that none of the songs lasts over a minute.

So if you're in the mood for some short synthetica, visit the page for "Brevity Is,", my six-song collection.

Tracks (all available for free download):

Friday, May 1, 2009

How Malvasio made it to Empoprise-MU (Yankovic, Ivey, Judkins...)

Over the last few days, I've been writing about Weird Al Yankovic's song "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise."

What I didn't realize was that Coolio's version was not an original creation of his.

Yes, I know you're shocked, this whole idea of a rapper taking an pre-existing song and modifying it to his/her own purposes. But it happens on occasion.

But Coolio was smart enough to use a good source. The original song upon which "Gangsta's Paradise" was based was a song called "Pastime Paradise" from one Mister Stevie Wonder.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find either Stevie Wonder's original, or Patti Smith's cover, on YouTube (though they're both on But I did find an acoustic version by Malvasio.

Who is Malvasio, you ask? Here's what his YouTube profile says:

I was a subway musician for 25 years from 1975-2000 here in Montreal, I also played in night-clubs and sang in the summers at a tourist area called the Old Port. After 25 years of trying to make a living as a musician I switched careers and became a computer nerd. About 18 months ago I came upon YT and it hit a nerve, my love of music reared it's head and my guitar which in the previous 6 years had remained mostly dormant once again became part of my daily routine. Most of my musical life had been spent busking and forced to sing songs that would make me money but now on YT for the first time I get to sing what I like. You will find that I have a wide variety of tastes and styles probably because my mother owned a record store from the time I was 8 till I was 18 and I just loved being there and I was inundated with all kinds of music.