Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spell Czech - knowing Billy Idol, perhaps Spinner got it right

Director David Fincher was interviewed at Moviefone, and portions of the interview were quoted at Spinner. Fincher has directed music videos, including one for the Billy Idol hit "Cradle of Love." Idol was in a motorcycle accident just before the video shoot, and Fincher commented on this. However, when Spinner reprinted Fincher's quote, they made a little typing error.

We shot him from the waste up....

Or maybe they didn't.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Old England Town - a brilliant mess

I hate Jeff Lynne as a producer of other artists. Not as much as I hate Eddie Van Halen as a guitarist, but it's a close second. In my view, Lynne has the production "talent" to make artists as diverse as George Harrison and Roy Orbison sound like bad knockoff versions of the Electric Light Orchestra. And I like the Electric Light Orchestra; I just don't like bad imitations.

Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO, went through various phases in their career. Some of you probably recall the end of their career, when songs like "All Over the World" and "Xanadu" were pretty anthems for the disco era. But ELO's early pop songs were a little rougher.

And their earlier songs were rougher still.

I've never heard ELO's first album, but I used to own ELO's second album on cassette, back in the days when cassette was decidedly inferior to the then-dominant vinyl LP. ELO's second album contained five very long songs, and when CBS produced the cassette version, they didn't bother with things like proper sequencing - in fact, one of the songs began on side 1 of the cassette and ended on side 2 of the cassette. (At the time, no one realized that within a few years, with the appearance of the compact disc, albums wouldn't have sides any more.)

The second album is most famous for ELO's reworking of the old song "Roll Over Beethoven." With ELO's fairly unique lineup, they were obviously able to introduce classical elements into the song, but the final version was more than a rock-classical hybrid. It was, to use a technical musical term, a "mess" of various sounds, all merged together by Lynne's decidedly unsmooth voice singing "Roll over Beethoven!"

And that was one of the slicker songs on the album.

For a song that is the direct opposite of "Xanadu," take a listen to "In Old England Town (Boogie #2)". This live version, which is fairly close to the studio version, starts with an introduction that is nothing like what anyone else was doing in rock or even progressive music at the time. So enjoy the instrumental introduction, and brace yourself for what happens at about 1:40.

Now you may think that this is just a really off live performance, but again, this performance sounds pretty similar to what ended up on the studio recording. And what that studio recording had was Jeff Lynne, barking lyrics that sounded like they came from one of Monty Python's Flying Circus "Gumby" characters - you know, the ones that would scream "I hit me head on the table!"

So what the heck was Lynne barking about in the song? According to elyrics, the song begins like this:

Down, down, you can see them all
rising gaily to the top
keep on rising babe you know you got a long drop
you better cling cos it's the done thing

And then it gets really weird. Especially at the "ten thousand tons of waste" part. (Trust me on this one.)

For some reason, this song was not as commercially successful as "Xanadu." In fact, according to Wikipedia, the song appeared on the B side of an ELO single, but with the lyric portions omitted.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Going home? Gary, Indiana, home of the Jackson 5

While musing on the Randy Newman song "Baltimore," I ran across an account that claimed that by the time Newman's song was released, Baltimore was actually staging a comeback. Now the Baltimore of 1968 - THAT was bad. Kind of like a 300 year old version of Gary, Indiana, according to the account.

Which reminded me of the story of Gary's most famous residents - the Jackson 5. You will recall that the Jackson 5 hailed from Gary, Indiana, but left at the first opportunity. Which makes sense - one of the main reasons that Papa Joe put the band together was to keep his boys out of trouble. I'm sure it was an easy decision for the family to flee to southern California.

But the Jackson 5 were not done with Gary. As a publicity move (which resulted in a TV special and an album), they returned in 1971. The J5 Collector blog records the result. Excerpts:

It was reported with a photo spread in the March 22, 1971, issue of Soul. Check out the security guard looking directly at the camera on the far right side of the first photo, and again in the last photo on the far left side. It looks like he wasn't thrilled with the photographers.

Spec teen magazine reported on the return in their July 1971 issue, claiming it was "the happiest day of their lives!" All of the photos suggest otherwise. In fact, the J5 look about as happy as their security guard.

Someone visited Gary in 2010 with the specific intention of visiting sites crucial to the Jackson 5's development. However, the account sounds rather depressing in patches.

Michael and some of his siblings attended Garnett Elementary School. It was closed, then reopened as an adult education center called Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy. It was closed again, but appeared to be reopened as of March, 2010 as Images of Hope, Inc....

Horace Mann High School is reported to have housed the only contest in which the Jackson 5 lost. The school appears to be vacant now....

This is where Michael and his siblings were born. The building is now vacant....

Katherine, Michael's mother, worked at Sears in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The building appears to be vacant but looks exactly as it did when the story first opened.

For more pictures of abandoned buildings in Gary, see this 2006 collection and this 2011 collection. But you can expect this when a city's population declines from 178,320 in 1960 to 80,294 in 2010.

And even if ALL of the Jacksons had remained in Gary, that fact wouldn't have changed much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stuff you probably already knew about Elvis Costello's dad

I knew that Elvis Costello's real name was Declan MacManus, but I didn't know anything else about his family. Turns out his family was a musical one. Last month, The Music's Over published a post on Elvis' dad, Ross MacManus, who passed away on November 25. Highlight:

In 1997, he released the album Elvis’ Dad Sings Elvis, but in this case the Elvis he honored was Elvis Presley.

Dad and son appeared together on several recordings.

And yes, dad wore glasses also.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Two views on Bono's Band Aid line

It's been over a quarter century since Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was released. While British musicians had participated in charity events before, Band Aid served as a catalyst for a whole raft of movements about famine, farms, and racism. Starving farmers who vowed not to play Sun City were bathed in attention.

And it all started with the Bob Geldof-Midge Ure song, which is discussed in this BBC article, which includes the following:

Bono did not want to sing the line: "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you."

"It seemed like the most bitterly selfish line, and I think maybe it was the truth of it that unnerved me," he said. "I almost didn't want to admit to it."
But he relented and the footage of him singing the line still sends a shiver down the spine.

Well, perhaps it doesn't send a shiver down the spine of Tod Goldberg:

Ah, yes, the crux of it all. If there's one thing the Bible teaches, it's that you should thank god for other people's suffering. Now Bono is a g====== hero, we're told, since he's spent the last 30 years standing on moral high ground -- a moral high ground paved with the money of kids like me who, you know, didn't know what the f--- Sunday Bloody Sunday was all about, but who were, like, totally in support of it -- but one has to think he could have looked at the line before he sang it and suggested a rewrite. Maybe something along the lines of "Well tonight thank God you have food and clean water and a slight disposable income which allows you the opportunity to buy this great song on the latest technology...the cassette tape! Get thee to Sam Goody!" If this song were written today, Justin Beiber would certainly have something wise to say, like, I dunno, "Well, tonight thank God you're not a Kardashian."

Monday, December 19, 2011

OK, maybe primary sources AREN'T reliable (the Edgewater Hotel and Led Zeppelin)

There is a common belief that if you want to know about a particular topic, it's best to go to the original source.

Perhaps you've heard of the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle and its connection to the band Led Zeppelin. Maybe a story about a fish or something. Perhaps you've seen what Richard Cole wrote, or what other people might have written. So why not see what the Edgewater Hotel itself writes? After all, they have a page devoted to the history of the hotel. And here's how the hotel begins its section on Led Zeppelin:

•Stayed at the Edgewater in the late 1970s

OK, the band did play in Seattle in the late 1970s, but I think that people are more interested in what happened at the Edgewater in the late 1960s.

And on that particular subject, the Edgewater website doesn't say anything.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How the Dallas Cowboys got into the National Football League...for a song

I grew up in the Washington, DC area in the 1970s, and therefore am very familiar with the song "Hail to the Redskins," the fight song for the National League Football team the Washington Redskins. But I didn't know all of the history of the song.

The website helpfully provides information on the song's origins:

"Hail to the Redskins" made its debut on Aug. 17, 1938 as the official fight song of the Washington Redskins. The song was written by renowned band leader Barnee Breeskin and the lyrics were penned by Hollywood movie star Corinne Griffith, the wife of team founder and owner George Preston Marshall.

The official Redskins site ends the story there...and doesn't continue the story. Other sources, however, do.

[I]n 1958 Texas oilman Clint Murchison thought he was finally closing in on his dream of bringing pro football to Dallas. Two previous attempts to purchase teams had failed, but now word reached Murchison that Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was eager to sell his club because the team was doing poorly and Marshall needed money. Imagine! The 'Skins in Dallas! But that blasphemy was not to be. For just as the sale was about to be announced, Marshall demanded a change in terms. Murchison told him to go to hell and canceled the deal.

Unfortunately for Marshall, he was not only having problems with Clint Murchison. He had also fallen out with Redskins band director Barnee Breeskin. Breeskin saw an opportunity:

Breeskin, smelling an opportunity for revenge in the strained negotiations, approached Murchison lawyer Tom Webb and asked if he'd like to buy the rights to "Hail to the Redskins." Webb agreed, paying $2,500. He figured this would at least be good for an occasional joke on Marshall.

Meanwhile, Murchison was still trying to land an NFL franchise, and had decided to go the expansion route.

Murchison decided that his best chance of owning a team was to start one himself. In that endeavor he got support from the chairman of the NFL expansion committee, George Halas. Halas agreed to put the proposition of a Dallas franchise before the NFL owners. Unanimous approval would be required for the proposition to pass.

However, Halas and Murchison met a roadblock:

Marshall wanted none of this and he put up roadblocks to Dallas getting a franchise. He feared his Southern Dixie team would be under challenge from a Dallas team.

While a person of today thinks of Washington and Dallas as residing in vastly different areas of the country, a person in 1958 perceived the two cities as being southern cities. At that time (1959), the then-current lyrics for "Hail to the Redskins" contained the line "Fight for old Dixie!" This line was later discarded, along with other lines such as "Scalp em."

But with Murchison requiring some leverage to counter Marshall's opposition to a Dallas franchise, that song that was purchased by Muchison became VERY valuable. You'll recall that Marshall's wife wrote the lyrics to the song, so Marshall was very partial to it, and didn't like losing it.

When word of Murchison's "dirty trick" leaked out, one Washington columnist wrote that "Taking 'Hail to the Redskins' away from George Marshall would be like denying 'Dixie' to the South, 'Anchors Aweigh' to the Navy, or 'Blue Suede Shoes' to Elvis." So a deal was struck. For Marshall's approval of the Dallas franchise, Murchison returned the song. Thus, Murchison's Cowboys were free to be born.

As I mentioned, the Redskins website doesn't tell this part of the story. But a Dallas Cowboys fan site, The Landry Hat, has a lot to say about it:

Marshall not only failed to prevent Murchison from starting a new franchise, but he also failed basic business economics because he did not get ownership rights of his own fight song. Doh!...

The Dallas Cowboys never used the fight song. They certainly did not STEAL the fight song.

The truth to the story is a fan and friend of the Redskins stabbed his own brothers in the back and sold it. There was no theft involved. The transaction was legal.

And the moral of the story is never, ever, ever trust a Redskins fan.

Incidentally, I discovered an alternative version of the story in a comment on this post:

Band leader Barnee Breeskin lost the rights to the song in a divorce. His estranged wife's lawyer also was a lawyer for Murchison... that's how that came about.

According to yet another source, the second version of the story is half right:

Murchison met bandleader Barnee Breeskin, who had written the song. The recently-divorced Breeskin was in need of money; Murchison just needed a favor.

I searched YouTube for more information on Barnee Breeskin, and this song was presented:

Somehow this song doesn't seem appropriate for the Marshall-Murchison story...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Get off my lawn for December 1, 2011

McCartney is a has-been.

Jesse McCartney has not had a chart hit outside of North America since 2008.

What - were you thinking of another McCartney?

Stella, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Louis Armstrong's Hard Promises - Artist vs. Label on Pricing

Businesspeople know that a pricing exercise is tough. If you price a product too high, you may possibly alienate your customers or provide opportunities for competitors. If you price your product too low, you leave money on the table.

Pricing can also affect the image of a product, for good or ill. When dealing with rock musicians, a high price for a product could alienate fans.

This is probably part of what concerns Elvis Costello about the record company's pricing of his latest box set (H/T Robert Patton). In a blog post, Costello discourages fans from buying the box set, which has been priced at over 200 British pounds.

Unfortunately, we at find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.

All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless....

Costello's camp then recommends that people instead purchase a Louis Armstrong box set that is much less expensive, or wait to purchase the Costello product until after the New Year.

If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.

Those unconventional means are outlined in the blog's title, a play on the name of a famous book by Abbie Hoffman.

But this whole episode between Costello and his label reminds me of another artist-label fight - one that happened thirty years ago. And my younger readers should note that the prices quoted in the excerpt below are NOT a misprint or a satire. That was really how much albums cost back then (although the albums were typically shorter, often not topping thirty minutes of music).

MCA executives planned to capitalize on the popularity of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers by raising the price on the band's fourth album, Hard Promises, from $8.98 to $9.98. An angry Petty refused to allow it and even threatened to rename the album $8.98. After a month-long standoff, MCA finally agreed to release the album at the lower price.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I haven't really kept up with the doings at EMI - the last story that I read about them was when Mute was spun off from EMI (although EMI retained some of the more popular Mute acts). So I didn't realize that EMI is slated to be broken up and absorbed into two other companies:

Assuming it all clears the European Commission, US antitrust bodies and the aggressive lobbying of the independent sector, EMI's record music arm could now be folded into Universal Music (giving that company a global market share of over 40%) while EMI Music Publishing is absorbed by Sony/ATV to create a new publishing powerhouse.

Of course, that EC clearance is a big if, as recent events on this side of the pond have demonstrated with the AT&T/T-Mobile proposed merger.

Be sure to read the Guardian article to find out how EMI found itself on the chopping block.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We didn't forget about Dre, but we forgot about Mike Jones

There have been numerous examples of musical admiration societies. Gene Simmons admired Van Halen. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and Prince all admired Joni Mitchell. Eminem, Dr. Dre, and others formed a mutual admiration society both in the recording studio and outside it.

Of the various musical genres, rap seems to lend itself best to collaboration. It seems that most rap artists have appeared with at least one other rap artists at some point in their careers, and some artists continue to work together for years.

But in some cases, there is neither mutual admiration nor continued collaboration.

To me, Mike Jones is just a part of a ComaR mashup. But at one point, Jones was a big deal. Emerging from Houston, Texas, he scored some big hits on local label Swishahouse Records.

But then he left the label. Jones' story: Why did you leave Swishahouse?

Mike Jones: You see a lot of people give them too much credit. They say that Swisha’s the reason that I blew up. But it’s talent. There’s a whole lot of talent there that ain’t moving nowhere. It started out with Ice Age Entertainment. I was already big off the strip-club scenes, and they came to me. They had a bigger machine at that time, and I got down with them.

Swishahouse artist Paul Wall has a different take:

When he left Swishahouse, he was dropping salt on everybody from Swishahouse and not giving us any credit at all. He was talking down on a lot of us and he would never directly say our names, but he was still hating. There were times when I felt disrespected and I would call him out on it, and he’d be like, “Nah, I wasn’t talking about you. I would never do that.” I’m sure there’s a psychological term for this problem that Mike Jones has. He has a problem. His perception of reality ain’t the real perception of reality. In his mind he feels like he hasn’t done anything wrong to me, Trae, or Chamillionaire. He feels like everyone else is trippin’ and he’s the victim. But that ain’t how it happened. We always say there’s three sides to every story. There’s your side, the other person’s side, and then there’s the truth. But in his mind, he’s the victim and he never did anything wrong to anybody.

In the end, all that's left is the music.

In ComaR's mashup, Jones' lyrics are paired up with the melody from the Cure song "A Forest" - a song that I've liked for years.

Oh, and Jones' "American Dream" movie did come out - but perhaps the less said about the movie the better. Here's part of a review:

The scenes involving the chess match were especially pathetic. The chess boards are clearly set up wrong with pawns beside castles, they are moving the pieces all wrong also if you look. If you are trying to develop a character in a movie and show him as smart, don't make him move a bishop straight downwards through a pawn....This movie was actually hilarious but it's sad it was supposed to be serious.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Important people in musical history - Paula Vance

When a songwriter writes a song, he'll sometimes write it about the people around him. As a result, some people who would not otherwise be famous suddenly gain some level of fame - even if you don't know their names.

Perhaps you read about the recent death of composer Lee Pockriss. Pockriss wrote the music for the song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," a 1960 hit for Brian Hyland. The lyricist for the song was a man named Paul Vance, who was inspired to write the lyrics after watching his two-year old daughter, Paula.

Well, time passed, and the seemingly innocent early 1960's gave way to the seemingly guilty mid 1970's. However, there was one thing that the two decades shared in common - death songs. While the '60s certainly had its share of death songs, culminating with the over-the-top "Dead Man's Curve," the '70s certainly had its share, between "Seasons in the Sun," "One Tin Soldier," "The Night Chicago Died," et al.

Paul Vance was still writing songs and partnered with Jack Perricone to write a much darker song than "Itsy Bitsy." In this song, a young girl gets in a fight with her dad over something that couldn't be explicitly stated, even in the relatively free 1970s:

Daddy please don't, it wasn't his fault, he means so much to me
Daddy please don't, we're gonna get married...just you wait and see.

The plaintive plea, repeated at the end of the song when the girl's dad accidently shoots her, was sung by Paul's daughter Paula, now 15 year old. There's a picture of Paula recording the song on Paul Vance's website. However, a male voice was needed to sing the majority of the song, so Paul Vance contacted a law student, David Cole Idema, who had left the music industry (where he worked under the name David Geddes). Adrian Qiana describes what happened:

Imagine that you’ve given up on your musical dreams, you’re knee-deep in habeas corpus and a successful songwriter calls you up out of the blue to sing on one [of] his songs. But that’s what happened to David. I wonder if after he recorded Run Joey Run, he said, ‘Uh, yeah, thanks Paul.”, rolled his eyes and muttered, what a piece of crap.

Idema went back to law school, but when the song was actually released, it turned out that David Geddes had a top ten hit.

I'm not sure what happened to Paula Cole after "Run Joey Run" charted in 1975, but whatever did happen, she has her place in musical history.

P.S. If you're interested in such songs, check out the story about how Jack Lawrence ended up writing a song about the daughter of his lawyer. Lawrence's friendship with the lawyer ended when he found out that the lawyer ended up with the copyright on the song, simply entitled "Linda." Well, Linda grew up and had more songs written about her, but these were written by her husband, a musician named Paul McCartney.

Oh, and Jack Lawrence's song was eventually recorded by Jan & Dean - the same people who would record the parody death song "Dead Man's Curve" that I previously mentioned.

The music industry is small and incestuous.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yes, fan is short for fanatic - Lady Gaga fans trash Adele

At times we become fans - perhaps rabid fans - of particular musicians, and perhaps believe that our favorite musicians are the absolute best musicians in the whole wide world.

So what happens when people champion another musician instead?

Pamela Owen of the Daily Mail recently reported that some Lady Gaga fans think that Adele needs to be knocked down a peg in the popularity department.

Twitter is filled with crude jokes, one of the most popular being: 'Confirmed: Gaga will not be wearing her meat dress because she is afraid Adele will eat it.'

Significantly enough, the title of Owen's piece uses the word "bully" to refer to the fans' treatment. Minic Rivera of the Inquisitr explained the significance:

In September this year Lady Gaga turned to Twitter to rally a call for the end of bullying.

She tweeted her call, saying:

“Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime.”

Unfortunately, recent actions by some of Gaga’s fans do not seem to fit with their idol’s call for end to bullying.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This one really was an "Oww!"

In my never-ending attempt to find some type of transcript of Dana Carvey's appearance as Neil Young in a fake Super Bowl halftime performance, I ran across a partial transcript of Dana Carvey as Neil Young at Oracle OpenWorld 2005.

I didn't see this particular performance, unfortunately.

"I've seen Larry Ellison and the damage done.
First to PeopleSoft and now to Siebel.
There's a little hostile take over in everyone
Every deal is like so much fun."

Yes, I wrote about Carvey's/Young's appearance in 2008. And 2004.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Try to categorize "Whiplash Smile"

In a previous post, I implicitly stated that Billy Idol both was a rocker and was not a rocker.

Allow me to explain.

Billy Idol was, in several ways, a punk. He emerged from the punk scene, a former Sex Pistols fan and former leader of the band Generation X. He was noted for castigating old stalwarts Led Zeppelin in a recording studio (the incident is recorded in at least one Led Zeppelin biography). And, of course, Idol had the spiky hair, the leather, and the punky pseudonym.

But when you start actually listening to his third album, Whiplash Smile, there's nothing punk about it.

For starters, punks usually don't align themselves with guitar heroes. But for a good chunk of his solo career, Billy Idol sought active collaboration from ace guitarist Steve Stevens.

Did that mean that Idol was going to rock out? Hardly. Take a listen to the songs on "Side Five" of Whiplash Smile. The punker and the rocker start with "Worlds Forgotten Boy," filled with drum machine beats and synths overlaid by Steven's solos. Then they move on to dance music with their remake of "To Be a Lover." The live/synth overlay formula continues on "Soul Standing By," except that this time the result is much more metallic. Then Idol and Stevens take a grand detour into my favorite Idol song of all time, "Sweet Sixteen," in which Idol sneers over a type of electro-folk. By the time the somewhat more traditional "Man for All Seasons" comes along, you've reached the conclusion that Idol/Stevens is the antithesis of punk. Move on to "Side Six," and just imagine Idol playing "Don't Need a Gun" or "All Summer Single" sandwiched between some Ramones and Pistols songs - he'd be booed off the stage.

However, it seems that "Whiplash Smile" is kind of like "Total Devo" - I seem to be the only person who actually likes the album. Allmusic's Johnny Loftus:

There's plenty to listen for on Whiplash Smile, and Idol's attempt to expand his palette is admirable. Unfortunately, there's nary a memorable hook here outside of the single and whatever mileage can be gained from his trademark sneer. In that sense, Whiplash Smile is similar to so much music of the decade, which got by with rayon flash and giddy video posturing but little in the way of reality.

Yes, I am at war with the professional reviewers. Some things never change.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


As time passes, your favorite songs from any particular band change.

When I first heard Foreigner, around the time of their first album, Dean Caulfield and I were listening to hits such as "Feels Like the First Time" (not that we knew how that felt) and "Cold As Ice." I also had a particular fondness for another Foreigner song, "The Damage is Done."

By the 1980s, my favorite Foreigner song had become "I Want to Know What Love Is" - an incredible performance. Although I wish that the Altar Boys (a Christian punk-ish band) had covered the song - they could have come up with a great version.

As I thought more about Thomas Dolby's place in music history, I started gravitating toward "Waiting for a Girl Like You." And as a marketer, I've had an admiration for "Juke Box Hero," which (intentionally or not) ended up appealing to Foreigner's target audience.

But if you were to ask me today to name my favorite Foreigner song, I'd go with "Urgent." Why? Because, in my mind, it combines all the best of Foreigner (at least from the Lou Gramm era).

First off, you have Lou Gramm. I confess that I haven't listened to the subsequent vocalist or vocalists in Foreigner, but Gramm has a good voice for either the hard stuff or the soft stuff.

Not that this is soft stuff. "Urgent" is an odd song because it's supposedly a hard rock song, but in reality it's nothing like a hard rock song. Compare to Billy Idol's songs or to Depeche Mode's "I Feel You," songs that similarly have a hard feel, but would be very offensive to rock purists who run in horror when the synths come out.

Yes, the synths. Thomas Dolby had a hand in this song.

But there's one thing in this song that, to my knowledge, is not in any other Foreigner song - a sax solo. Think about it. You have Lou Gramm singing, and the rock sound going on, and Thomas Dolby dropping science everywhere (yes, Dolby was the original Louis Gray), and then all of a sudden a saxophone is added to it. From Junior Walker, no less, although to my mind the sax solo reminds me of guitar soloists such as Bob Mothersbaugh and Martin Gore - not your traditional solo, but it fits well into the song in question.

You can read about the song in Songfacts, which also includes an interview with Mick Jones. (No, not that Mick Jones.) Or you can see what Eric Andrews said:

The first single was the scorching rocker "Urgent", with a smoking saxophone from Motown legend Junior Walker & a vocal from master Lou Gramm that literally oozes sexual frustration. The unholy trinity of AOR [Styx, Journey & REO Speedwagon] could only dream of creating a song this delightfully raunchy. Peaking at #4, the stage was set for 4's full-scale assault on the pop charts for the next year or so.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Whatever happened to Deney Terrio?

Back when I was growing up, there was no MTV. If we wanted to see music on TV (other than the Partridge Family), we'd have to watch shows such as "American Bandstand," "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert," and (drop your voice down a couple of octaves) "Soul Train." Toward the end of the decade, a new music show emerged called "Dance Fever."

Here's how host Deney Terrio describes the impact of Dance Fever:

The [show's] format was the first competitive dance show to utilize celebrity's judges and award a weekly winner. This show is credited with being the show that inspired and helped bring Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and others into the recent limelight.

Well, Terrio is still dancing, and now you can participate via the Deney Terrio Dance Party.

The Deney Terrio Dance Party is an exciting new concept in the entertainment industry. Backed by a dynamic 10 piece live band, Deney Terrio, the man who taught John Travolta how to dance in the classic film "Saturday Night Fever", leads an interactive Dance Party that gives people a chance to dance with the man who pioneered the
Disco Dance era.

While The Deney Terrio Dance Party Band performs club classics, Disco and R&B hits, Deney takes the crowd on an up close and personal Dance journey. A journey back to the days of Soul Train and Saturday Night Fever. A journey back to the days when people went to night clubs and discotheques like the infamous Studio 54 and danced the night away. A journey back to when couples got dressed up and spent the evening dancing to the sweet sounds of artists like, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Earth Wind and Fire, The Jackson 5, Donna Summer and many many more. This is the concept of The Deney Terrio Dance Party.

So where is the Dance Party being held? In Manhattan? Not exactly:

This high energy, LIVE! Dance experience is a great fit for any venue. The Deney Terrio Dance Party is now available for corporate events, fund raisers and parties, fairs and festivals, casinos, cruise ships, theme parks and anywhere else people want to get up and dance.

For example, Terrio and the band were at the Kowloon Restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts on September 25, 2010. (More pictures here.) On October 22, 2011, they were at the Wonderland Entertainment Complex in Revere, Massachusetts. (More information here.)

However, I suspect that Terrio's parties do not include the BEST DISCO SONG EVER - Devo's "Disco Dancer" from Total Devo. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an online version of the original video (one of my favorites), but here's a live version.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hanson in the 21st Century

While musing about Rebecca Black, I began wondering about the whereabouts of another teen sensation, Hanson. I knew that they had continued to make music, but I didn't really know anything else. So I chose one of their more recent songs, "Thinking 'Bout Somethin,'", and watched the video.

While the song and the video can be appreciated in its own right, it helps to know the back story behind the video, and the Ray Charles/Blues Brothers piece that inspired it (video).

Oh, and I stand corrected on one score - I had always thought that Weird Al Yankovic had directed Hanson's breakthrough video "MMMBop," but that video was actually directed by Tamra Davis. Yankovic has directed other work by Hanson, and he appears in "Thinking 'Bout Somethin.'" Taylor Hsnson (the middle brother and usual lead singer) said:

"We've known [Yankovic] since '98 and, small world, but he shot [the 1989 film] 'UHF' in Tulsa. Plus he's sort of the king of re-creating these pop-culture moments, so having him in it was almost like a blessing," Hanson said. "He was a consummate professional. He learned all the dance moves, got the wardrobe just right. He was great."

For more information, see

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in Dorian or Mixolydian mode?

As I was listening to the Butthole Surfers' version of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (an instrumental, sadly), I began wondering about the melody of the song, which is not a traditional melody that you find in 1970s rock music. This led me to Wikipedia, which led me to an encyclopedia entry on "modes":

At one time, the only scale available had no sharps or flats - like staying on the white keys on the piano. This is still true of some diatonic instruments like the whistle or harmonica. It’s possible to play in other keys by simply moving the keynote, but the changes in the tone/semitone sequence result in a scale different from the expected major (the do-re-mis). These new scales are called modes.

It's impossible to explain to someone who isn't a piano player, so I'm not going to even try. Later in the entry, the following is stated:

Suppose you stay on the white keys of the piano and play a scale starting on a G note. Because the scale of G wants the seventh note (F) to be sharped, what you hear is a major scale with a flatted seventh. This is the Mixolydian mode, widely used in folk music and the usual scale for the dulcimer. "Old Joe Clark" is an example of a Mixolydian tune.

I'm not familiar with this song, so I can't comment. Later, the following is said:

The Dorian mode is of particular interest. It begins on the D note of the white keys. Tunes in the Dorian mode sound like a mix of major and minor scales, and never quite settle down to either one. The mode is equivalent to the major scale with a flatted third and a flatted seventh. A good example of the Dorian mode is Gordon Lightfoot’s "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".

So according to this page, the only difference between the Mixylodian mode and the Dorian mode is in the third note. In the Mixolydian mode, the third note is a regular major scale note - equivalent to the "mi" in "do, re, mi." In the Dorian mode, the third note is flatted. Other than that, the two modes are identical - flatted seventh, non-flatted for everything else.

It's clear that the seventh note is flat in "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." If you sing the first few words of the melody - "The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down" - the flatted seventh note is heard on "Chip."

But the melody doesn't contain the third note in the scale - in the simple melody of "Wreck," you can hear the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and the aforementioned seventh note somewhere or another, but you never heard the third note.

However, you do hear the instruments, both for the chords, and for some of the guitar parts. And the dominant chord is always a major chord, not a minor chord...which indicates to me that the third note is NOT flat.

But why are others hearing a flatted third on this song?

Interestingly enough, even though pathguy says that "Wreck" is in Dorian mode, that page states that Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" is in Mixolydian mode. Actually, I hear a mix - "Sundown you'd better take care" sounds Mixolydian, but the "find you've been creepin' round my back stair" sounds Dorian to me.

After some searching, however, I found other non-Dorians, including "Four Symbols" (but see AlanHB's retort), How Music Really Works (see section 5.2.4), and John Hayes.

I fall into the Mixolydian camp. How about you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's better than a guitar solo? A guitars solo. ("Hotel California")

I certainly have guitar soloists that I like (Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Gore) and those that I don't care for (Eddie Van Halen). In those cases, the usual model is to have one guitar soloist, along with a backing band.

But what if you had two guitar soloists?

It could result in a terrible mess, or it could result in one of the greatest solos of all time.

Don Felder, co-writer of the Eagles song "Hotel California," described how he conceived of the solos that he and Joe Walsh would play on the final recording.

“Every once in a while it seems like the cosmos part and something great plops into your lap,” says Felder. “That’s how it was with ‘Hotel California.’ I had just leased this beach house in Malibu and was sitting in the living room with all the doors wide open on a spectacular July day, probably in ’75. I was soaking wet in a bathing suit, sitting on the couch, thinking the world is a wonderful place to be and tinkling around with this acoustic 12-string when those ‘Hotel California’ chords just oozed out. I had a TEAC four-track set up in a back bedroom, and I ran back there to put this idea down before I forgot it.

“I set this old rhythm ace to play a cha-cha beat, set the right tempo and played the 12-string on top of it. A few days later, I went back and listened to it and it sounded pretty unique, so I came up with a bass line. A few days after that, I added some electric guitars. Everything was mixed down to mono, ping-ponging back and forth on this little four-track. Finally, I wound up with a cassette that had virtually the entire arrangement that appeared on the record, verbatim, with the exception of a few Joe Walsh licks on the end. All the harmony guitar stuff was there, as was my solo."

Only one problem - unless the song is an instrumental, you have to deal with a singer, and the singer's strengths and weaknesses.

"We worked it all up and went into the studio and recorded it as I wrote it—in E minor, just regular, open chords in standard tuning—and made this killer track. All the electric guitars were big and fat and the 12-string was nice and full. Then Henley came back and said, ‘It’s in the wrong key.’ So I said, ‘What do you need? D? F sharp?’…hoping that we could varispeed the tape. But he said no, that wouldn’t work, and we sat down and started trying to figure out the key—and it turned out to be B minor! So out comes the capo, way up on the seventh fret. We re-recorded the song in B minor and all of a sudden the guitar sounds really small and the whole track just shrinks! It was horrible, so we went back and tried it again. Luckily, we came up with a better version in B minor."

Which sounds good no matter how you arrange it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So what did Ann Landers think of N'Sync?

Ann Landers got in trouble for recycling columns at one point. Because of this, I'm not going to recycle the entire post that I wrote in 2009. Just part of it.

After talking about the Backstreet Boys and using the phrase "Bye Bye Bye," I interjected a bold comment:


Sadly for the reader, I kept on going:




If you want to read the entire post, including my discussion of most of the Jackson brothers, go here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can you take me back?

Since my blogging style is heavily based upon the album entitled The Beatles, it's probably surprising that I haven't paid more attention to that album (which you probably know as "the White Album").

Certainly I have paid attention to the album at times, for example in my post about "Back in the U.S.S.R."

But I'm going to partially rectify the lack of White-ness by devoting this post to one of the other songs on the album - the song "Can You Take Me Back."

Now if you consult the liner notes for the album, you won't find any song by that name. But if you listen to the album, you'll hear John sing the ending chorus of "Cry Baby Cry." Then you'll hear Paul sing a bluesy fragment. After that there is some very low conversation, followed by the words "Number nine."

Yep, sounds like my blogs.

Well, while the world at large has ignored "Can You Take Me Back," Alan W. Pollack has not. Pollack has published an analysis of the song, although he initially questioned whether he should do so:

"Can You Take Me Back" stands on the borderline for me in terms of whether it should be included in the official canon of Beatles songs. It's performed over a static single chord, presented to us in fragmentary form, and isn't even included on the printed track list of the album on which it appears. On the other hand you can't really argue that it is any less substantive or discretely distinctive than the other White Album fragments or bonsais that do appear on the track list.

Pollack provides a little of the history of the song:

The officially released portion of "Can You Take Me Back" was skillfully excerpted from a longer performance to isolate the best 28 seconds of the entire performance, and create the illusion that the remainder is as special; kind of like an artfully cropped photograph. What we experience as a haunting fade-out verse in mid-course of what we assume is a second verse turns out to be part of a dinky, complete ending coda if you bother to check out the readily available bootlegs of longer excerpts of the session.

For example, listen here (

And yes, even such a short song (as formally released) can cause controversy of its own, especially when some people think that the lyrics include "Robert" rather than "brother." Between that little misunderstanding and the whole "Paul is dead" thing, there are a number of interpretations of what this song actually means.

No wonder Paul eventually went into hiding.

Regarding the Alan W. Pollack excerpts in this post:

Copyright © 2001 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.

While I suspect that my excerpts are fair use, I've reproduced the copyright notice here. Go here to read the whole thing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Devo and interviews

Oh, another Devo post.

Well, this one was inspired while I was writing a post (which will subsequently appear in my Empoprise-BI business blog) that cited Al Yankovic's song "Dare to Be Stupid." In the course of research, I ran across a Mark Mothersbaugh description of a VH1 interview. Apparently the interviewer asked Mark about the band's most famous song, "Whip It."

We just did a VH1 thing. I made a joke, I had my 2 pugs with me and I got interviewed and kept referring to them as my whippets. Talked about cruelty in the animal world and the importance of recognizing animal rights. I just went off on that for a while. I got a call afterwards and they were upset. They wanted to know why I didn't do the interview right.

Sounds like he did it right to me. What did the interviewer expect?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Devo and progressive rock

I suspect that every new wave band, with the possible exception of Huey Lewis and the News, does not want to be associated with the term "new wave."

At the same time, there are a lot of so-called punk bands that probably don't want to be associated with punk.

Take Devo, for instance. They were probably an art project before they became a band, and my favorite Devo album happens to be their dance album. But at times, they exhibit the qualities of a '60s band.

Take the song "Gut Feeling," from their first full-length album. When you listen to the studio version, initially you think that you're on the campus of Kent State before any shots were fired. As the album version progresses, things start to fall apart and get faster and faster until you get to "Slap Your Mammy," which would give any punk band a run for their money.

But "Gut Feeling"/"Slap Your Mammy" wasn't created in the studio. The live version has a different take. This July 1977 performance is reputed to be the first live performance of the medley.

Now there's always a difficulty in reproducing Devo-like music live, which is why in later years they didn't. (I remember attending a Devo concert in Portland circa 1981 in which one of the guitar strings broke, resulting in no difference whatsoever in the overall sound.) And this live performance took place in a club environment. So it was obviously more difficult to emphasize the soft, "Dove the band of love" beginning of the song.

But the most notable thing about this version is the long introduction. The very long introduction. A three-plus minute introduction that is much longer than most entire punk songs of the time. An introduction that is as long as - are you sitting down? - the introduction to a progressive song. I'll grant that Rick Wakeman probably wouldn't have come up with this particular introduction, but it's almost a parody of punk - taking the same repetitive riff and playing it over and over and over. (Again,, progression in the studio version of the introduction is entirely lost in the club version.)

One thing is common to both the studio and live versions - the wild guitar solo at the end of "Gut Feeling," followed by Mark's high-pitched screams. This, of course, is the antithesis of the '60s feel in the beginning of the song. Even in their wildest, drug-induced moments, Pete Townshend or Jimi Hendrix would never have played a guitar solo like this.

P.S. Here's how I described the song back in 2005:

It starts off underneath a tree on the Kent State campus, on a nice peaceful afternoon (with no National Guardsmen present yet) with a hippie plucking the strings on his guitar, playing some mellow stuff. Then the bass player joins, sounding not at all hippie-dippie, but good nonetheless. Then you get your drummer (remember real drums?) joining in, and the mood gets a little repetitive and you realize you're NOT at Woodstock. Then your keyboards enter the picture, and the keyboardist's fingers keep on creeping farther to the right on the keys, finally slamming some chords to close out the instrumental portion of the song as the drumgs and bass and guitar get more frantic. A guitar chord slams in there, and Mark starts singing the most hateful and spiteful lyrics possible, as the song gets faster. And wait, the guitar is chugging along now, and things are getting faster and faster, and the drums are beating, and Mark is shrieking the second verse. Then he gets to the chorus, and what's the guitar doing here? Now we're in the noise realm, and things are clunky and junky and the hippies are slam dancing and I don't think the people at the coffee jazz club are going like this and now Mark's SCREAMING and they're starting a new song that's even faster and now Mark is just slapping mammies!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Say what? Sylvia Robinson in perspective

Back in April 2004, I published a fake interview with the band known as the Seldom Scene. The point of the fake interview was to illustrate the possible confusion between Sugar Hill Records and Sugar Hill Records. In the fake interview, I asked a number of questions of these bluegrass recording artists:

Have you ever eaten chicken at the record label?

Did it taste like wood?

Did you ever stay in motels/hotels with Big Bank Hank?

As people of a certain age would know, there is a difference between bluegrass and early rap. One of the Sugar Hill Records (the one NOT associated with Lawrence Welk) had an in-house rap band called the Sugarhill Gang, who made it big with "Rapper's Delight." The record was produced by Sylvia Robinson, who passed away on September 29.

But she was not universally admired:

In addition to being remembered as an artist, songwriter and producer, Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson was an entrepreneur and hustler who ruffled some feathers during her career as a record label executive. Was Sylvia Robinson a crook? If you were an underpaid artist on Sugar Hill Records, you’ll probably feel she had shady business practices.

For example, see item 9 in this list of 10 things about Robinson:

9. Sylvia understood that publishing was where the big, long dollars were in the music business. A shrewd businesswoman whose practices were not always equitable, she earned a reputation for underpaying and micromanaging that, according to Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback, had “Grandmaster Flash split from the rest of his crew over creative differences and lack of payment.”

More of the story can be found at this biography of Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel:

Name of the artist here should actually be "Grandmaster & Melle Mel". This unique wording was the result of an ugly legal suit between Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) and Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler). When Flash was essentially pushed out of his own group - especially in the fact that he was a non-player on the breakthrough Grandmaster Flash & Furious 5 track "The Message" - Melle Mel (with the encouragement of Sugarhill Records label head Sylvia Robinson) decided that he would take Flash's place in the band - and essentially take his name as well. During this time, the definitive singles "The Message II" and "New York, New York" were released under the name of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, even though Flash had nothing to do with these releases.
The net result of the lawsuit forced Sugar Hill and Melle Mel to cease the theft of Flash's name - which resulted in the White Lines singles all being pressed with the name "Grandmaster & Melle Mel", with Melle Mel's name in larger type than "Grandmaster".

However, Sugar Hill Records can't be blamed - or maybe they can be - for what happened next:

White Lines eventually proved to be Sugar Hill's downfall, as the famous bassline and much of other components of the song were stolen from the sub-underground (but now much more justifiably well known) track "Cavern" by Liquid Liquid, which resulted in another lawsuit - of which Sugarhill would never recover from.

And this happened AFTER the whole "Good Times" thingie.

But on the other hand - there's always an other hand - what would the music of the 1980s and today had been like if Sylvia Robinson had merely retired after Mickey & Sylvia's fame went away? Without the crossover success of "Rapper's Delight," it's quite possible that Run D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys would be completely unknown to us today.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tracking sounds

One day, I was surprised to hear the Air song "Alpha Beta Gaga" in my house. I was surprised because, although I love the song, I don't actually own it. I was also surprised because it was coming from a room in which my wife was located. (My wife hadn't even heard of Air.)

Turns out that she was watching one of the C.S.I. shows, and "Alpha Beta Gaga" had been incorporated into the show's soundtrack.

Kind of fitting, since Air's original video for the song has a law enforcement theme, sort of.

Television and movie producers all have people who pay attention to the music incorporated into their shows/movies. Their goal, whether recycling an old song or commissioning a new one, is to find music that complements the action on the screen. (In some cases, their goal is to find music that will attract an audience; there are certainly cases in which the soundtrack for a movie is much better than the movie itself.)

But often the use of a song in a television or movie soundtrack will attract people to the song who had never heard it before. A prime example - somehow I went through the entire twentieth century without hearing the Cure song "A Forest." But then one day I was watching something on the Fox Soccer Channel and was intrigued by the music at the tail end of a show. (When you think about it, the guitar-driven choruses in "A Forest" lend themselves well to a TV show about the English Premier League.) Since then, that has become my favorite Cure song (Fascination Street, schmasination street).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rocky Mountain red tape

I was trying to find some information on proposals - specifically, the types of business proposals that I write for a living. Instead, I found out about a different type of proposal - a petition to rename a mountain peak after John Denver. It probably isn't a surprise to any of you that the mountain peak happens to be in the state of Colorado. While Denver is sometimes identified with West Virginia and Virginia, he is most associated with the state that he immortalized in "Rocky Mountain High." His contributions extend beyond that; among other things, he donated 1,000 Colorado acres to the Windstar Land Conservancy, according to Mother Nature Network (MNN). MNN also records the effort to name one of two peaks on Mount Sopris after Denver. J.P. McDaniel, who started the petition, believes Denver's environmental work should be praised as well, with the simple act of naming a mountain peak after the singer the perfect gesture. “He won many different awards for his conservation work, his environmental work. I think some people don’t realize this, how active he was with environmental causes,” she told The Daily Sentinel. Only one problem: According to Lou Yost of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the Wilderness Act of 1964 limits new names to wilderness areas, so as not to detract from the "experience that future generations will have." He said exceptions are generally only made for cases involving educational or safety reasons or "an overriding need." The policy is understandable. In the commercial world, naming rights are sold and re-sold every few years. We don't want to go to a park and see John Denver Peak one year, followed by Bono Peak the next year. But John Denver fans aren't happy. P.S. This post is the first time that I've used the new Blogger interface, and this interface allows me to set a location for each post. Mt. Sopris was the obvious location for this post. I wonder what effect this location designation will have - maybe if I'm lucky, this post will show up on Google Maps...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Was Frank Zappa a rocker?

For better or worse, we love to categorize music. On the one hand, it helps us to sort between the thousands upon thousands of songs that are out there. On the other hand, these categories can be awfully constraining.

Back when I was a Boy Scout in the early 1970s, Frank Zappa released an album entitled Apostrophe. If you were to go into a record store at the time, it would probably be filed in the rock section. Zappa had long hair at the time, so he looked like a rocker. He played guitar, so he really looked like a rocker.

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to the song "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" again. (Yes, The Sound made it from the B's to the D's.) Now from my dim memory of my Boy Scout years, I only really remembered the chorus. But when you take some time to actually listen to the song, it becomes very clear that labeling Zappa as a rocker unfairly constrains what he was about.

In some ways it's difficult to judge Zappa because of the nature of some of his lyrics. Just when you start considering the jazz influences in his work, you hear him singing about dog doo snow cones. Or perhaps you fast forward a few years to his three-album epic about the evils of the music industry, which includes songs such as "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?"

Well, that's why Zappa is missed by almost everyone - even Tipper Gore.

P.S. Via a Steven Hodson post, I happened to find the perfect illustration for this post. Unfortunately the artist, Viktor Hertz, chose to copyright the image rather than sharing it under Creative Commons. So I had to use this picture instead.

Songs embedded in the recesses of our brains

So anyways, I was driving to work one day, busily working on some parody lyrics to the Smashing Pumpkins' "Eye" (first words: "I whine. A lot."), when a song popped up on the radio.

I knew that I had heard the song a long time ago, but I couldn't place what the name of the song was, or who sang it.

All that I knew was that the title of the song probably began with the letter B or the letter C. You see, the radio station (The Sound 100.3, KSWD) was playing its end of summer 2000 songs from A to Z thingie, and they were early in the B's yesterday afternoon. Since the thingie is going on until the United States Labor Day holiday, I knew they had a long way to go on their list.

Afterwards, I was reflecting on all the songs that are in the recesses of my brain. I've heard tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands, of songs over my lifetime. I can divide these songs into four categories.

Category 1 includes songs that I can pretty much hear on demand, any time I want. A prime example is Royksopp's "The Girl and the Robot"; even if I don't have my netbook with me, the song is loaded on my phone.

Category 2 includes songs that I've heard recently, perhaps on the radio, or perhaps on one of the many streaming services that I use. An example out of this category is Rob Dougan's "Furious Angels."

Category 3 includes songs that I haven't heard in years, or perhaps decades, but if I hear the song, I'll immediately remember everything about it. An example out of this category is the Supremes' "Love Child." This is a pretty fun category; when my daughter was very young, I'd hear one of these songs and say to her, "That song was a hit 21 years ago." Sadly, I never managed to sell my daughter on Madness or the Buggles or Foghat or whoever.

Which brings us to Category 4, which includes songs that I haven't heard in years, or perhaps decades, but if I hear the song, I end up saying "I know I've heard this before." For whatever reason, the song made an impression on me when I heard it, but it didn't make THAT big of an impression. An example out of this category is the song that I heard that one morning while driving in to work - "Breakdown" by the Alan Parsons Project. This song originally appeared on the I Robot album in 1977, and it's probably safe to say that I haven't heard it since the 1970s. "Breakdown" was never released as a single, but I probably heard it on one of the Washington, DC rock stations, since it went into heavy rotation on those types of stations (which is why The Sound included it in their playlist).

So what happens when a song such as this goes from the recesses of your brain and ends up at the forefront of your brain? Will it soon be forgotten again, or will this supplant "Time" as my favorite Alan Parsons Project song? Who knows?

P.S. Speaking of whining, the next song played by The Sound was the Tom Petty song also known as "Breakdown." But they played the live version, in which the first verse was sung by the crowd, not by Petty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Live, then not so live

You remember the 1970s, don't you? Remember the band that released a bunch of studio albums that went nowhere, and then released a live album that received all sorts of attention? And then the band released a studio album that did sort of well? And then the band disappeared from the public consciousness?

No, I'm not talking about Peter Frampton. See Martin for that, even if he didn't explicitly mention Frampton's post-Alive hit "I'm in You."

I'm talking about Cheap Trick. You know, the guys who released Dream Police. And a massive live album before that.

The best part of this band? Their bass player is named Tom Petersson, which holds a certain resonance for people who lived in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's scrobbling? (plus a bit on

Whenever you get involved in any specialized field, you often end up using a language that is incomprehensible to others. I've previously discussed some of the terms that I used in my prior job as a product manager. Now some of my co-workers know a lot of these terms, and one of my co-workers (let's call her Kim, since that's her name) knows a lot of them (she actually writes TRSes, so she knows them better than I do).

But when I'm not working, I use an entirely different language, talking about scrobbling things from to, and abusing people for not putting proper ID3 tags in their mp3 files. And you can't CCB an ID3 tag. (Believe me, I've tried.)

After reading a post entitled Scrobble Turntable.FM to your Last.FM recently listened tracks, I installed the Turntable Scrobbler and tested it in my vanity Empoprise-MU room at

I then made an announcement on my personal Facebook page:

I'm in The Empoprise-MU Room on
Come join me and let's listen to music together
Now playing: Darkel - Be My Friend

Then I said:

And, most importantly, it's now scrobbling to This should be interesting.

Looking over that announcement, I now realize that many of my Facebook friends have no idea what I'm talking about. Now certainly some of my friends, such as Louis Gray and Josh Haley, understand the wording very well. But another of my Facebook friends - I'll call her Kim - asked a very important question:

What's scrobbling?

Perhaps I should write a whole series of posts about all of the things discussed above, but Kim's question is a good one for starters. defines scrobbling as follows:

Scrobbling a song means that when you listen to it, the name of the song is sent to and added to your music profile.

This, of course, assumes (1) that you actually have a music profile at, and (2) that you're listening to music in a way that scrobbles can be recorded. For example, if you pull out your transistor radio and tune it to KIIS-FM, the songs that are played on the radio can't be recorded on your profile.


But there are a number of ways that you can listen to music and have it recorded by The first way, obviously, is to listen to music on itself while you're logged in to the service. All of those songs are automatically recorded on your profile page.

The second way is to play music that is stored on your hard drive in a way that can scrobble it. I have a netbook with Windows 7, and I've set it up so that if I'm logged in to, everything that I play on Windows Media Player is automatically scrobbled.

The third way is to listen to music on some other service that is somehow compatible with There are a number of examples of this. In addition to, it is also possible to listen to music on and have it appear on your profile.

In case you're curious, my profile is here, and my profile is here. You can probably see Darkel's "Be My Friend" on the latter (although if you're reading this post long after I wrote it, you'll probably have to scroll down) - so you can listen to the song also.

And if you want to see the scrobbles of a bunch of different people, go to

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's argue about the greatest songwriting team

Jerry Leiber recently passed away, and The Music's Over opened its post on the topic as follows:

Jerry Leiber along with partner, Mike Stoller was arguably the greatest pop songwriting team of the second half of the 20th century if not all time.

As I read those words, the first thought that popped into my mind was "Lennon/McCartney." Obviously Lennon and McCartney had the benefit of performing their own songs, but both Leiber/Stoller and Lennon/McCartney were responsible for hits by multiple artists (and yes, certain Lennon/McCartney songs were given directly to other artists, such as Cilla Black).

Why are Leiber and Stoller so important? The Music's Over cites Leiber/Stoller's song catalog:

The list of their early hit songs includes “Hard Times” by Charles Brown, “Kansas City” by Little Willie Littlefield, and “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley by way of Big Mama Thornton. They also penned “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion No. 9,” and “Searchin,’” to name just a few.

Clearly an impressive list. But The Music's Over also cites one other thing in Leiber/Stoller's favor:

Leiber and Stoller are largely credited for taking rhythm and blues music out of the black clubs and spreading it to white America and beyond.

To put it another way - if there never was a Leiber and a Stoller, would there have been a Lennon and a McCartney? Perhaps - Elvis Presley was not 100% dependent upon Leiber and Stoller - but maybe the young Lennon and McCartney would have had fewer inspirations.

I will certainly grant that Leiber and Stoller tremendously influenced popular music in the last half of the 20th century. But I'd argue that Lennon and McCartney were just as influential, if not more so.

What did John and Paul do that Jerry and Mike didn't?
  • First off, John and Paul absorbed multiple influences. While they were not (at least initially) influenced by the true rhythm and blues artists that inspired Leiber and Stoller, Lennon and McCartney were initially open to American country music, as well as traditional English popular music. As time passed, they were influenced by the Motown sound, a variety of sounds from California (beach boys to hippie girls), and an assortment of classical and avant garde composers.

  • Second off, John and Paul wrote songs that were performed in multiple styles, by themselves and others. My favorite album of all time is the 1968 album The Beatles (a/k/a The White Album), which zooms between a few of the aforementioned styles (Beach Boys rock in "Back in the U.S.S.R.," traditional English music with the non-wild "Honey Pie," avant garde with "Revolution #9," country with "Rocky Raccoon") and throws in a half dozen other styles besides. Even if you ignore Harrison's and Starr's songwriting contributions, Lennon and McCartney alone provide three album side's worth of musical adventures. And that's just one album.

  • Third off, Lennon and McCartney have yielded more interesting cover versions. "Hound Dog" is going to be "Hound Dog," unless it's covered by Daniel Miller or something. But you can rest assured that a "Yesterday" cover by Ray Charles and a "Yesterday" cover by Frank Sinatra are going to sound a little different. And when Joe Cocker records with his friends, he doesn't sound like Ringo.

  • Fourth, in a related way, Lennon and McCartney have been more inspiring to others. Obviously this is because Lennon and McCartney were also famous for performing their songs, and not just writing them. However, it cannot be argued that there are millions of people who have said to themselves, "I want to be in music, just like Lennon and McCartney!" And some of those people have also said, "I want to write songs, just like Lennon and McCartney." The number of people who have said "I want to write songs, just like Leiber and Stoller" is far fewer.

So at the end of the day, I'd argue that it is Lennon and McCartney, not Leiber and Stoller, who stands as arguably the greatest pop songwriting team of the second half of the 20th century.

But I'd give Leiber and Stoller a close second.

Of course, I've consigned the following teams to 3rd place or below: Bacharach/David, John/Taupin, Holland/Dozier/Holland, King/Goffin, Mann/Weil, and Jam/Lewis. (I excluded Rodgers/Hammerstein, even though their career lapped into the second half of the 20th century.) Let's throw Jagger/Richards in there for good measure. I'd argue that none of these teams had the impact of Lennon/McCartney or Leiber/Stoller.

Am I wrong? Who would you nominate as the greatest pop songwriting team of the second half of the 20th century?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two "Sound of the Crowd" covers

Human League's "Dare" was a departure from what the band had done before, primarily because of a radical change in the band's membership. One of the songs on that album was "Sound of the Crowd."

And people have covered it.

I recently ran across a cover from Mindburner that pretty much sticks to the original.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that another artist had covered the song - Kelly Osbourne. What's more, her cover version appears on her "One Word" single. As you may know, I like "One Word."

Osbourne's version can be heard here (YouTube video which is pretty much an audio track).

Between this B-side and the Visage-ish A-side, it's clear what decade Osbourne was residing in at the time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Well, they have similar hairstyles

There are huge, overwhelming, incredible, massive amounts of music that are released all the time. A ton of music was released this year. A ton of music was released when I was 20. A ton of music was released the year before I was born.

Because of this huge volume of music, it's no wonder that we get confused at times.

As you know, Liz is in the middle of listening to 1001 albums. Liz is significantly younger than I am, and she is therefore discovering some of these albums for the first time. This allows her to offer a refreshing take on the quality of the music, unaffected by what else may have been going on at the time that the albums were originally released.

In that spirit, she recently reviewed the R.E.M. album Document. Here is how her review began:

So, R.E.M. is one of those bands that I've never entirely cared for. A while back I watched "Man on the Moon" and they did the theme song for it. That was my first real taste of R.E.M. and there's just something about the tone of Moby's voice that I never really latched onto.

This album was more of that good ol' Moby. Wikipedia says that they're "college rock" whatever that means. They have a sound that is a little bit psychedelic with the wailing guitars and the constant and Doors-like hypnotic drum beat. There is also the mumble-y sound of Moby's voice that makes me feel like on a smidge bit of mushrooms while I listen.

Now I can agree with most of what Liz wrote...with one exception. Because of her unfamiliarity with the band, she got a teeny bit confused about one itsy bitsy detail. Some of you spotted the error immediately. Some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. Some of you are surprised to learn that Moby was the lead singer for R.E.M. before launching his solo career.

He wasn't. For those who don't know, the lead singer of R.E.M. is Michael Stipe.

The whole episode got me thinking. There are some obvious differences between Moby and Stipe, but there are also some similarities - and I'm not just thinking of the hairstyles.

Both artists, in their own ways, are willing to experiment with different musical styles.

Both artists, in their own ways, are extremely open to collaboration.

And guess what? They've both performed together, along with some guy named Bono (no, not Sonny Bono).

And I find it entirely appropriate that when Stipe and Moby got together, they performed a Neil Young-Bob Dylan medley.

It's too bad that Bono didn't shave his head for the event.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When music is dated

Wow...only one post in the Empoprise-MU music blog for the entire month of July! I'll try to double that this month.

I don't know about you, but old songs go through my head all the time. So one day an old song was going through my head, and one of the lyrics stopped me cold:

She's the kind of a girl that makes the News of the World

The lyric, if you don't recognize it, comes from the song "Polytheme Pam," part of the song suite on side two of the Beatles' Abbey Road. Well, albums don't have sides any more, and we don't have a News of the World any more either.

When I first heard the song in the early 1970s, I had no idea what Lennon was talking about. Back in the early 1970s, the only way that you could really know about foreign newspapers would be to go to your local library and see if they had a copy. And as far as I know, the Shirlington Branch of the Arlington County Public Library never stocked that particular paper.

I'm not the only person who thinks of the passing of News of the World from a musical perspective. incorporated a reference to Polythene Pam into its obituary. And the Bangkok Post went one step further:

Polythene Pam was reportedly a combination of a couple of dodgy people Lennon knew in Liverpool, and he knew quite a few. There's some debate whether the character in the song was a transsexual or just a Merseyside tart.

So which of your favorite songs refer to things that no longer exist?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An easy trivia question for Missing Persons fans

Whenever I see a Duran Duran biography - and I recently saw an old "Behind the Music" on the band - I end up thinking of a particular song. This gives rise to the following trivia question:

Which Duran Duran band member is mentioned in the Frank Zappa song "Catholic Girls"?

Answer here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fan is short for fanatic - or fatale

I was driving around one afternoon and saw a car with writing on the windows. Since we just had graduation season, it isn't all that unusual to see that stuff.

The message on the window?

Honk if you (heart) Britney

Now this isn't necessarily a reference to Britney Spears, since (especially after her appearance) there are probably a number of people who spell their names "Britney."

Except that there was one other thing written on the window.

Femme Fatale

Now that just happens to be the name of an album by Britney Spears. And a tour. And for all I know a fragrance or a dessert topping or something.

"But John," you're saying to me, "you live in El-Lay where they do all sorts of weird promotions on Hollywood billboards."

Yes, but I was far away from Hollywood when I saw the car. Specifically, I was in an industrial park in Orange County.

Now perhaps the car belonged to the 2nd Vice President (Publicity) of the Orange County Britney Spears fan club, and the driver was going to her daddy to ask him to please please please get her tickets for a Britney show.

Or perhaps the 2nd Vice President actually works in the industrial park, and she was heading home because HER daughters were begging her to please please please get them tickets for a Britney show.

Either way, this again shows that "fan" is short for "fanatic."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't let your kids go to contemporary music concerts


Not on your life, child! It's too rowdy and dangerous. Go see a nice classical music performance instead.

In the early 21st century, a clear dividing line has been drawn between popular music and serious music. Popular music is where you wear your jeans and drink beer and shout at the top of your lungs, while serious music is where you wear an uncomfortable suit and walk very quietly and sit in a chair with a serious expression.


But so-called "avant-chamber music" is not always calm and sedate. The New York Times describes a recent evening of music in San Francisco, in which JHNO was performed "Untitled," a piece for viola and electronics.

Partway through the performance, someone began hissing at JHNO. Then the person began clapping inappropriately and causing other distractions.

Now if this were a standard rock concert, no one would even notice. But in the rareified atmosphere of a concert hall - kind of like golf, actually - the noises did stand out, and as a result JHNO became exasperated, threw down his viola and broke it (Pete Townshend couldn't have done it better), and stormed off the stage.

The heckler? An octogenarian viola player named Bernard M. Zaslav, who subsequently recounted his experience at being heckled himself in the late 1940s while performing a 12-tone piece with the Cleveland Symphony.

The reason for Zaslav's outburst? The song was too danged loud.

Well, at least some things are consistent.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Yeah, Mark Mothersbaugh was in a band

I was born at an interesting time - the early 1960s, which made me just a little bit young to experience Beatlemania. I remember hearing that there was a band that was just like the Monkees, only zanier, but it wasn't until the early 1970s that I really began to learn more about the band that the guy in Wings used to be in.

To most people, it's odd to discover someone who knew about the Monkees and Wings before the Beatles, but that's the way things turned out.

Of course, in my life (I've loved them - never mind) I'm now running into people who surprise me. To people of a certain age, this statement is shocking:

I had no idea Mark Mothersbaugh was in Devo!!

My jaw nearly dropped when I read that. For all intents and purposes, Mark Mothersbaugh was the public face of Devo. But then the commenter explained:

I became a fan through his soundtrack work, namely the Royal Tennenbaums score.

Once you read the comment, the original statement makes sense. Mothersbaugh has made a living for the last couple of decades writing music soundtracks, and has built up such a reputation in that regard that some people are not aware of his former career.

I'd be willing to bet that some people don't realize how movie star Will Smith got his start. Even those who know about his TV show may wonder how he got cast in the role. (For the record, Smith was a successful rapper who made the transition to television and eventually film.)

One other thing - the comment above came from Songfacts. I just discovered that Songfacts has an extensive set of interviews with various songwriters, including Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale. I highly recommend the interview with Thomas Dolby.