Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Say it is so, Popjustice Live!

Over a year ago, on March 22, 2009, I posted something about the Siobhan Donaghy song "Ghosts" and included two video clips in the post. Here is the second:

As noted on the video page itself, this was filmed at the second Popjustice Live event, in April 2007. This concert was reviewed in - where else? - Popjustice.

The second Popjustice Live took place in London on Wednesday night and it was very good....

The final live act was Siobhan Donaghy, who did a load of songs from her new album including the hit single 'Don't Give It Up'. Lots of her fans took lots of photographs which you will find on the internet if you look quite hard. Good old Siobhan.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Say it ain't so, Pops!

Continuing on the Talking Heads theme, and tying in on some items I'm discussing on my business blog, here's an unusual video of a song that many of us have never heard. Not just because the particular clip includes German overdubbing of the dialogue - you see, the song itself wasn't overdubbed. But the more famous version of the song, which was released on a best-selling record, was sung by David Byrne. This version, taken from the movie, is sung by Pops Staples.

Now Roebuck "Pops" Staples was well-known as a gospel musician who had some secular hits with the Staple Singers. And then he recorded this song called "Papa Legba," which, to put it mildly, is not necessarily orthodox Christian gospel. Not at all:

Amazingly, even today, while traveling in and around the Mississippi Delta, you’ll still hear fabled tales of the old bluesmen selling their souls at the crossroads in exchange for supernatural musical gifts. Whereas the Robert Johnson tale has become the most widely known (to the point of ad nauseam), it is in fact more of a composite story, derived from old African American folk traditions that found its way to the Americas centuries ago embedding itself into our cultural fabric.

Stateside, these themes morphed, and the sale of one’s soul at the “crossroads”, due to Christianity’s influence, was to be made with Satan, or the devil. If traced back to its roots though you’ll find it more likely that such a deal – if there was one to be made – would have been conducted with Papa Legba, the spiritual intermediary between our world and the next. Known by many a name in Voodoo, Voudou, Santeria, etc, Legba was a gatekeeper said to grant access to the spirit world.

In David Byrne's film, Pops' spells summon love for John Goodman's character. But Staples' own character was fused by two traditions, the Christian tradition and the blues tradition, that intertwined in the lives of many. Staples:

"I was a Christian man," Staples once said. "I figured blues wasn't the right field for me. My family was a real religious family. There were 14 of us. In the evening, when we used to get through working in the fields picking cotton, we didn't have no amusement but to sing to ourselves. We didn't have no radio, no television, nothing like that. That's the way my family got started singing. I took it from my father's family and brought it to Chicago with my own family. I knew how to get harmony and I taught each one. I'd hit the guitar string where they were supposed to sing and they caught on."

By the 1970s, when they reached the height of their popularity, the Staple Singers were the definition of crossover. Take the subsequent history of one of their biggest hits:

"I'll Take You There" ... has received a second life through numerous covers by BeBe & CeCe Winans and recently via General Motors commercials.

General Motors? Talk about a deal with the devil...

Monday, April 12, 2010

I think of the people that are working for me

I am an infrequent contributor (under my Ontario Emperor alter ego) to the Scrine website, and my most recent hobby there has been to tag several scrines with the tag "Talking Heads song Don't Worry About the Government." (See those scrines here.)

The meat of the song from our perspective comes from the second verse of the lyrics.

I see the states, across this big nation
I see the laws made in Washington, D.C.
I think of the ones I consider my favorites
I think of the people that are working for me

Some civil servants are just like my loved ones
They work so hard and they try to be strong
I'm a lucky guy to live in my building
They own the buildings to help them along

I've heard a recording of a live performance of this song, and the end of the song was greeted by laughter from the audience. Perhaps people didn't take David Byrne seriously.

Now I don't know if anyone laughed when the Talking Heads appeared on Old Grey Whistle Test.

And, to put it in historical perspective, this performance included the Talking Heads' new keyboard player, Jerry Harrison, who had previously been in another band.

Friday, April 9, 2010

#followfriday why @MissKellyO @rahsheen @clydetombaugh @chrisbrogan

First, a word of explanation.

I don't think I've ever participated in Follow Friday before, but I was inspired to do so by this post by Chris Brogan. Brogan, while lauding the practice, saw some drawbacks in the way it was implemented.

Follow Friday has become a bit of a mess to look at on Twitter, because every Friday, many people start posting 140 characters worth of names of people they feel you might benefit from knowing.

Brogan proposed a solution:

My idea: turn Follow Friday into a single tweet with a link to a blog post of the people you think others should follow.

It solves two problems: It gives you more than 140 to talk about the people you recommend, and it also cleans up Twitter so that we don’t watch a stream of @someoneawesome names rushing by all day.

You with me?

Not entirely. You see, here's what Chris' Follow Friday tweet looked like:

My list of people to follow for this Friday -

Now perhaps some may regard the lack of @names in the tweet as a refreshing lack of clutter, but to my mind they reduce the usability of the tweet. How will Twitter users @Ed, @MayhemStudios, and the rest know why they're getting the sudden surge in traffic? The critical information is buried away in a blog post.

Initially I simply stated my thoughts in a comment to Brogan's original post, but then I figured it would be better off to model my ideal vision of how this should be done. Hence this post, with its title "#followfriday why @MissKellyO @rahsheen @clydetombaugh @chrisbrogan."

Since I'm writing this in my music blog, the listed #followfriday people are all musically-related. Well, with the exception of Brogan, and perhaps he's a karaoke master or something like that.

Let's start with @MissKellyO, or Kelly Osbourne. Introduced to the world via reality television, she earned her place on this list via one song - "One Word." See my June 2008 post about this song - sadly, the lip-synced all-male version of the song is no longer available on YouTube.

Next we have @rahsheen (Rahsheen Porter). He's known online for a number of things, one of which is his music. Check out his music page or his page.

My last Follow Friday person is not a musician, unless he warbles Barry Manilow songs to his pet pig. @clydetombaugh is the Twitter handle for Gene "Bean" Baxter, a resident of the state of Washington who broadcasts on a Los Angeles radio station. Some people consider him slightly eccentric. However, there's no denying that as one of the deejays for KROQ's morning show, Baxter has been an influential music figure for the better part of twenty years. Don't believe me? Just ask Gordon Lightfoot. Or the author of this page.

Well, this was fun. Perhaps I should do this with some of my other blogs - anyone up for an Inland Empire Follow Friday in the future?

P.S. If you have an interest in music-related tweeters, all of these people and more can be found on the Empoprise-MU Twitter list at\\

[UPDATE 2:10 PM]

Chris Brogan responded to my comment on his blog. Here is his response:

That would take away the reason why I recommended the shift. In my mind, the shift is about cleaning up all the @ traffic that just is a mention of someone's name, and it's a way to extend the relationship.

They'll see it when they see a boost of followers, or if they've got big ears (google "grow bigger ears").

When you Google the phrase in question (I haven't checked to see if you can Bing it), the first search result is for Brogan's January 2009 post on self-monitoring. The post provides an example of how you can use various free services to monitor mentions of anything - you, your brand, your competitors.

While I still prefer the explicit mention of the followee in the tweet itself (as long as it's supplemented by a "why" reason, either in the tweet itself or in an external source), there's certainly an argument that can be made for the other view.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jonathan Richman - Elementary, or Elemental?

I had a chance to see Jonathan Richman, but I couldn't. This was about 1982 or 1983 at Reed College, during Ren Fayre. There was a Ferris wheel on campus for the weekend, and I went around on the Ferris wheel. However, the operator didn't let me off, so I went around the Ferris wheel a second time, and after that didn't feel much like doing anything. (Incidentally, I subsequently heard a story, unverified, that Richman himself initially had trouble getting into Commons because he didn't have a Reed ID.)

Like just about everyone else, I divide Richman's career into two periods - the period in which he made some rock recordings that weren't even released for several years, and the period afterwards, in which he seems to do everything but rock. "Roadrunner" is probably the classic from that initial period, but I still have a liking for "I'm Straight." If I were forced to pick one song from the latter period, I'd probably choose "I'm a Little Airplane." If you want to read about "I'm a Little Airplane," visit this Sesame Street website. If you want to read about "I'm Straight," check this page about Richman and Gram Parsons:

The Modern Lovers’ early songs were affronts to the hip pieties of their time. “I’m Straight” is no longer startling as a gesture; since Jonathan invented the stance, preppy geeks like Harrison’s later employer David Byrne have taken it to the bank. But the performance makes it clear that there was no irony involved. “I’m certainly not stoned,” Jonathan sneers, dripping contempt for “Hippie Johnny,” that trendy guy who all the girls think is deep, and his band (which comprised three hippie Johnnies in leather pants, long hair and, one assumes, discreet drug habits) answers back with a rush of noise that underlines his frustration and makes the gesture feel heroic rather than merely petty.

The stereotypical comparison of Richman's early and later careers is Initially a counter-countercultural artist who hung out with the Velvet Underground, Gram Parsons, and future New Wave heroes, Richman turned his back on all that and started writing silly, meaningless songs.

Or did he?

Over the weekend, as I was scrobbling various things on, I ran across the song "California Desert Party", which was released in 1988. In this song, the beach boy and his saxophone sing a happy little tune with lyrics such as this:

Everybody's dancin round in the cactus garden
yucca trees are all around Cholla too, look out
Guacamole's there for you, carrot juice and nachos too
it's a california desert party

What a silly little song...until you look at Richman's biography. Here's part of it:

While Richman and the Modern Lovers puzzled some people, they angered others. At a YMCA gig, people spat and threw cans from the balcony. In southern California, a large crowd greeted them with rocks and bottles when they opened for soul/funk outfit Tower of Power. After the set, ex-Byrd Gram Parsons had to rescue the band from toughs waiting backstage.

Needless to say, this is from Richman's first period. And the ties between Parsons and Richman were more than that of just show attendee:

Although Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers were managed by Eddie Tickner and Phil Kaufman in the early '70s, their sound couldn't have been farther away from that of Gram Parsons, or anyone else in the Byrds/Burritos axis.

But Richman wasn't around for Hippie Johnny - I mean Gram's - last, um, trip:

Parsons wasn't a suicide, but he killed himself all right. Blessed with charm and cash (his mother's family had made a pile in the citrus business), he got into booze and drugs early. In September 1973 he finished recording an album and went with some friends to an inn at Joshua Tree National Monument, one of his favorite places. The group spent much of the day by the pool getting tanked. By evening Gram looked like hell and went to his room to sleep. Later, on their way out for some food, his friends were unable to rouse him, so they left, returning a little before midnight. By that time Parsons was pretty far gone. Taken to a hospital, he was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on September 19. A lab analysis found large amounts of alcohol and morphine in his system; apparently the combination killed him.

So now you know about the California desert party.

Oh, and by the way, the story continues:

So far, your typical live-fast-die-young story. Then it gets strange.

Continued here.