Thursday, December 27, 2012

Storm, part two (Phildel's "Storm Song")

In my previous post, I noted that the absence of any mention of music in the woman's 2005 interview was unusual. Over the next few years, the woman's love for music would manifest itself in a very big way.


[W]ay back in 2008 I first encountered [her] sound checking in a Soho venue playing a track entitled ‘Ghost’, it totally mesmerised me.

And Stevo wasn't the only person who was mesmerized. In the course of his interview with the woman, he noted this:

You’ve been very lucky in having not one track but two used for commercials ‘Piano B’ for Expedia and more recently ‘The Kiss’, used by both Marks & Spencer and Apple’s new I-pad? How did they come about? Has the income helped your bigger picture?

The woman - whose name is Phildel (a combination of her natural father's name and her mother's name) - responded:

Four of my tracks have been used in commercials around the world, two of them in the UK. They all came about in different ways, through different individuals, agencies or publishers. But my publisher Warner Chappell have been very proactive in the realm of pitching my music for advertising. I re-invest whatever I income I make into top-of-the-range studio equipment and cameras for documenting everything and creating visuals. So, it all goes back into my music.

In addition to signing with publisher Warner Chappell, Phildel has also signed with Decca, and in the process has recorded an album that fleshes out some of her songs with dramatic instrumentation and production. As an example, compare this solo ukelele performance of "Storm Song."

A powerful voice singing a quiet song.

But Phildel has now released another video of the song, with the track that will be released on her forthcoming 2013 album.

The result is a much more dramatic piece. Phildel spoke about this with Stevo:

I would tell Ross Cullum, the producer, all of my ideas – from the large-scale concepts of how the choirs represented ethereal water spirits in the sonic landscape, down to the smallest details of how I thought a cymbal should be EQ’d, when I thought specific sounds were too metallic. He listened carefully and we worked together to create the best album we could. He had the experience, intuition and technical ability, to enhance all of my creative thinking. Out of my music career so far, working with Ross was undoubtedly my greatest highlight.

We should all be able to judge for ourselves.

Her debut album "The Disappearance of the Girl" is set for UK release in January 2013.

She continues to have her champions, including Stevo. I first heard "Storm Song" when he shared it on This is My Jam. As I write this post, it's my jam also.

A final note - I intentionally separated this blog post into two separate parts (the first is here if you didn't see it). While those who have read both parts understand the connection between the two, and why Phildel writes about storms and girls who disappear, it's also quite possible to enjoy "Storm Song" on its own merits.

Storm, part one (no music in Alabama, Iran, or England)

John Bredehoft of Total Plumbing Services is not the only Bredehoft with an Alabama connection. Several of my relatives hail from Guin in Marion County, northwest Alabama, which is where you will find Liberty Christian Academy, a ministry of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Guin. Students at Liberty Christian Academy must meet conduct standards that are foreign to many of us:

A sense of the need for spiritual growth in the light of these principles has led Liberty Christian Academy to adopt the following standards which are conducive to the environment that will best promote the spiritual welfare of the student. The school, therefore, requires each student...whether at home, school, or elsewhere... refrain from swearing, attendance at movie theaters, indecent language, smoking, drinking, alcoholic beverages, the abuse of drugs, gambling, dancing, involvement in rock music, touching or over familiarity with the opposite sex.

For those who thought that the movie Footloose was a complete work of fiction, read that last paragraph again. But these sentiments are not unique to Guin, or to the 20th and 21st centuries. If you go back several centuries, you can find similar views in certain Christian circles.

The Puritan minister Cotton Mather wrote in the 17th century that dancing was a creation of the devil, and warned that a “CHRISTIAN OUGHT NOT TO BE AT A BALL” [capitalization from original].

But before you completely condemn Liberty Christian Academy and Cotton Mather, note that they did not ban ALL music.

Ali Khamenei, the supreme religious leader of Iran, has made several pronouncements regarding music.

Q: What type of music is forbidden?

A: Music performed exclusively in debaucherous (lahw) circles is forbidden.

Q: What is the ruling on teaching various musical instruments to children at or near the age of puberty?

A: The matter of teaching music relates the basic ruling on music. In a general sense, the teaching of music is not compatible with the goals of an Islamic order. To teach music during the most suitable ages for learning is not devoid of corruption and sedition (mofsedeh).

Q: With regard to the teaching of music, I note respectfully that, replying to the above question, you stated in writing that the teaching and propagation of music is inconsistent with the goals of the blessed order of the Islamic Republic. Is the above ruling one of guidance, or an official governmental ruling? It is worth noting that some responsible parties recommend the teaching of music, especially for the youth. My humble question is: What is the concensus opinion between yourself and those who favor the teaching of music to the youth?

A: The teaching and playing of music to and by the youth causes them to deviate and results in corruption, and thus, is not permissible. In general, the propagation of music in not compatible with the goals of the Islamic order. It is not permissible for people to use their own preferences and inclinations in the name of culture and the art of teaching and training the youth.

These restrictions on teaching music to youth are not restricted to Iran. They can also be found in England. There you can find the story of an eight year old girl whose mother remarried. Her new stepfather "banned music from their household, claiming it to be an unholy waste of time." Since the girl loved music, this became too much to bear, and she left home at age 17. Several years later, in 2005, the girl (now a grown woman) spoke about this decision.

Despite the times when my step-father did help with my homework and attempt to lift my spirit, which I am grateful for, the values of my mother and stepfather in general were very different to my own and this certainly led to tensions. I continued to live at home for almost 10 years but during my A-levels I knew it would be best to leave. So I began living at my father’s house.

I felt very unhappy about leaving my sister because I knew my decision would be hardest for her to accept. I had to rely on the hope that, remembering how diffi cult it had been for me, she might understand. Luckily for me, she does and I know we will always have the bond that first made me feel less alone all those years ago. As for my mother and stepfather, our relationship actually improved dramatically once I had moved out. I feel closer to both of them now than I ever did before. I think this is partly because there is less stress on the family as a whole.

The 2005 interview does not mention retrospect, a curious omission.

To be continued.

(Postscript: if you were a member of the Empoprises Public Community on Google+, you would already know what I'm going to be saying in the next post, and what the "storm" is that I'm talking about in the title.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When the rap wars got a little TOO heavy

For ignorant Americans like myself, I should clarify that this headline didn't really refer to the Compton-based rap group, but to North Waziristan. The article ran in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation.

But if the violence from the 1990s had continued unabated, who knows what could have happened?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On page 5, Leonard Bernstein

I found this floating around on Facebook.

P.S. This happens to be post number 666 in the Empoprise-MU music blog. Go figure.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rebecca Black's career resurrection continues

Despite my recent comment at the end of this post, I actually like Rebecca Black. In my view, she got herself into a bad situation by putting her trust in the wrong people. However, there are a lot of young people (and a lot of old people) that have made similar mistakes.

Therefore, I was pleased to hear that Black will be performing at the House of Blues in Anaheim on December 23. (And yes, it's on a...Sunday.)

For those who haven't been following the Rebecca Black story, she has been working on rebounding from the negative reaction to the "Friday" video. Her first step was proving that she could actually sing (hint: the U.S. national anthem is not the easiest song to sing). Her second step was to get better management. Her third step was to start getting better material (which isn't a hard thing to do). For example, here is a video that she posted last month for the new song "In Your Words."

The new song, which received advance coverage on noted online music publication Mashable, is somewhat more mature-sounding than her previous releases. Purists will argue that it's not blues, but there are purists that will argue that Eric Clapton isn't blues, either. It's a good song.

I do have a quibble with House of Blues, however. "In Your Words" hadn't been released when the show page was posted, but House of Blues did post three other song samples - "My Moment," "Person of Interest," and one other. Part of me understands why they listed that other song sample first - after all, that's the song that she's known for - but I don't think I would have made that choice. If you want people to come to your venue to hear Rebecca Black, you want to give them a reason for coming, and therefore you'd want to promote her newer, better material.

And yes, this is an all ages show. Otherwise, the performing artist herself wouldn't be able to get in.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"This is How We Do It" enters the cultural lexicon

Almost two decades ago, Montell Jordan released a song called "This is How We Do It." The phrase has entered our cultural lexicon, as evidenced by two recent examples.

I attended a training seminar last month in which B.J. Lownie presented to fellow proposal professionals. His presentation title? "This is How We Do It."

This week, the blog MyBrownBaby published a post about detangling, washing, and conditioning black girl hair. The post subtitle? "This is How We Do It."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why Paula Abdul is the greatest artist of the 20th century

I set myself a task that seemed nearly impossible.

I was trying to find a song in the key of D minor with a female singer that was probably released in the 1980s.

Oftentimes I can find a song just by searching for a particular lyric.

Unfortunately, for this particular song I could only remember one snatch of the chorus: "Cross my heart, hope to die." Inasmuch as there are tons of songs that happen to include that particular lyric, it appeared to be a hopeless task.

But I kept on plugging away at it, and finally discovered that the song that I was looking for was called "Blowing Kisses in the Wind," by Paula Abdul.

This reminded me of another song that I've been listening to on over the years, "Crazy Cool."

I remember "Straight Up" and "Rush Rush" from Abdul's pop heyday, but for some reason I didn't discover "Crazy Cool" until years later. And I never associated "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" with her.

Part of the explanation is that "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" was released in 1991, as a later single from Spellbound (which also included "Rush Rush"), while "Crazy Cool" came out several years after that, in 1995. This was some time after Abdul hit it big in 1989 with "Straight Up."

Peter Lord worked with Abdul on her 1991 and 1995 albums, and gave an interview about his work with Abdul (and others). Excerpts:

"Rush, Rush" actually began as a dare or a joke with my Family Stand bandmate, Sandra St. Victor. Babyface was one of the top songwriters/producers at that time, and I told her I could write one of his type of hit ballads in my sleep (no disrespect). I ran to the piano and playfully played the first chords that would begin "Rush, Rush" and sang "You're the whisper of a summer breeze... You're the the kiss that puts my soul at ease..." I then looked at her and said, "Wait a minute, that's not bad!"...

"Blowing Kisses In The Wind" is actually one of my favorite songs I've ever written. It really should be covered again I think. The right country artist could give it a wonderful vibe. Are you listening Allison Cross, Taylor Swift?

Of course, for Taylor Swift the song would require a rewrite to become "No Longer Blowing Kisses In The Wind"....

It's kind of odd, because Paula Abdul doesn't necessarily have the most stellar reputation as a musician. But she was responsible for some pretty good songs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is it better for the artist if a music fanatic streams rather than buys?

I was listening to a song on Spotify, and I was curious how much the particular artist would make from my streaming.

As it turns out, this very topic was discussed by The Next Web and other publications a few months ago. The answer? For Spotify, less than a cent per stream.

The Next Web and others characterized this as a terrible state of affairs.

But is it? Not always.

The song that I was listening to on Spotify was the Wolfsheim song "I Don't Love You Anymore." I do not own this particular song, but I purchased the Wolfsheim song "Once in a Lifetime" from Amazon a few months ago, paying about a dollar for it. A portion of that dollar went to Wolfsheim (and presumably they had to split it in half). I have listened to "Once in a Lifetime" numerous times since on my phone and on my computer, and Wolfsheim will never get another penny from me for that song.

But for "I Don't Love You Anymore," I am not paying anything - but Spotify is. Of course, I have to listen to Flo from Progressive every once in a while, but after I hear some more Wolfsheim I feel better.

I happen to like the song "I Don't Love You Anymore," so I'm listening to it a lot. Here are my statistics for the song; most if not all of the 2012 plays which are from plays on Spotify.

As you can see, if Wolfsheim gets around a penny per play, they've made a lot more from my streams of the song than they would have made if I had bought it in the first place.

Food for thought.

P.S. If you're not signed up with Spotify, you can probably find the Wolfsheim song on YouTube, although YouTube didn't pay a lot in 2009, and they still apparently pay less than Spotify.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Was it a beautiful day?

I find that I often associate particular songs with particular places.

On July 25, 2000, I was visiting family friends in Switzerland. Although the family friends spoke English, the television usually did not. My command of the German language was mediocre, and my command of the French language at the time was non-existent. (Today, despite working for a French-owned company for over three years, it's not much better.) In fact, I recall that I was paying attention to the Italian language items because they were at least somewhat similar to Spanish, a language frequently heard in southern California. (And no, I didn't try to decipher Romansh - or Klingon.)

Despite the language barrier, I was able to deduce that something had gone horribly wrong in the airplane world. A Concorde, which until then had been one of the safest airplanes ever, had crashed:

The Air France jet, bound for New York, crashed into a Relais Bleu hotel in the town of Gonesse, 10 miles north of Paris just before 1700 local time (1500 GMT).

It is understood the aircraft, which had taken off from Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport just two minutes earlier, plummeted to the ground after one of the left-hand engines caught fire on take-off.

Some time later, after I had returned to the United States, I was listening to U2's new song. (Ironically, I had been listening to the Passengers album a lot while I was in Switzerland.) U2's new album took a turn away from the experimentation of the past decade, and returned somewhat to the band's earlier sound, with ringing guitars and earnestly sung choruses.

Actually, I wasn't listening to U2's new song - I was watching it. For, you see, U2 had released a video.

The most eye-catching part of that video was when U2 was performing on an airport runway, with planes flying overhead. And guess where that was filmed?

Scenes from CDG airport have been seen on album covers and in movies. The band U2 filmed the video for their song "Beautiful Day" at the airport just after the Concorde crash occurred. The Concorde was Air France Flight 4590 that was headed for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The flight crashed in Gonesse, France on July 25, 2000. All passengers and crew as well as four people on the ground were killed.

Because the verses of the song were so melancholy, the staging of the video at that very airport seemed in some way appropriate.

But while I associate that song with the airport at which the video was filmed, David Churchill has a different association. Initially he also associated the song with Charles de Gaulle Airport:

In June 2001, my wife and I were lucky enough to have a four-day weekend in Paris, France. It was a magical trip that was great on almost every level....Upon my return, I managed to maintain those good feelings, at least once a day, by listening to U2's "Beautiful Day" off their All That You Can't Leave Behind album.

Churchill would play the song at work every day. As he put it, "I must have driven my work colleagues nuts." Apparently he didn't have headphones.

He continued this routine for a few months, until one day he arrived at work a little late after a subway ride. He got to his desk and started playing his favorite song when one of his co-workers approached him.

"Did you hear about the airplane that crashed into the World Trade Centre?"

Churchill, who had been on the subway, hadn't heard about that plane, or about the second one. After that, the song took on a new meaning for Churchill.

On that morning, the meaning of U2's "Beautiful Day" was changed for me. From that day forward, it was no longer just a romantic song used to bring back happy memories of a wonderful trip, but now it was a sad, mournful, grief-filled song that became the soundtrack of that awful day...

Incidentally, ten years after U2 had filmed their video, I myself landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. Without incident.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where can artists make money today?

The changes in the music industry over the last few years have certainly caused some debate. Take Taylor Swift. I don't know if Drew Olanoff is never ever ever going to listen to her again, but he's clearly not happy that Swift's most recent album is unavailable for streaming on Spotify. Olanoff focuses on the benefits of Spotify and other streaming services as promotionsl tools:

Seriously though, since the album is so good, it makes me want to share it, and maybe, just maybe, catch one of her upcoming shows. It’s that good. But not now. Why would I shell out a bunch of bucks to see an artist that doesn’t want to connect with me and her other would-be fans? Does she have enough fans? Nobody ever has enough fans, since we’ve all seen the rise and fall of many artists.

Olanoff also shares an infographic that points out, among other things, that interactive streaming services such as Spotify are projected to return $588 million to copyright holders in 2012. Compare that to traditional radio stations, where Swift's latest hit is widely available. How much revenue are the copyright holders getting from terrestrial radio? $0.

Olanoff's post elicited a number of comments, but one comment from Ketan Anjara caught my eye. Anjara shared a link to a November 2011 post from Henry "Hollywood" Cedeno. This post paints a different picture.

Based upon the U.S. Federal minimum wage, which translates to a monthly income of $1,160, Cedeno calculated how many units would have to be sold via various music distribution media to earn that monthly minimum wage.

If you take an artist with a major label deal but with, “low royalty points,” meaning they are a new artist and have signed an agreement entitling them to a low royalty profit on their CD sale (possibly due to not having leverage during the negotiation process) It would take the sale of 3871 units to equal a minimum wage salary.

Now, let’s look at a self-pressed CD. It would take 145 units (the info-graphic says 143, but that is incorrect) to equal the same $1,160 minimum wage salary for the month (145 units x $8 profit = $1,160), A profit ratio of 27:1 in favor of the indie artist....

Again, using $1,160 minimum wage as a benchmark for artist revenue, let’s analyze how many streams it would take an artist just to make a minimum wage salary.

Rhapsody 849,817 streams

Last.FM 1,546,667 streams

Spotify 4,053,110 streams

A whopping four million plays for an artist to see $1,160 in revenue!

Granted that this doesn't paint a full picture either - it ignores the fact that Swift is never ever ever going to get a penny from terrestrial radio, and it doesn't really address the promotional effects of the various services - but it's certainly something to be considered.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sounds like Donny and Marie - how Television got its CBGB's gig

Back in 1990, A.S. Van Dorsten described (among other things) how Television scored its first regular venue.

In March 1974, Verlaine and Lloyd were walking towards Chinatown and came upon a place that the owner was outside fixing up. They asked Hilly Crystal to let them try out a weekly series at his Bowery bar, called CBGB-OMFUG (Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers). When he asked them what kind of music they played, they responded with “A little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass . . . ” said Lloyd. Television ended up playing every Sunday night for six months.

More - much more - here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The real names of songs

There are a number of songs that have names that we know and love, but I have an uncanny talent for revealing the real names of songs. For example, over the weekend I revealed on Facebook that the real name for Kaskade's song "Be Still" is actually "This is not 'Finlandia.'" Those who know a little bit about Kaskade's background and about Jean Sibelius will recognize the rationale for this.

However, this is not the only song that has benefited from my "revelation" of its real name. Years ago, Client released a song that was supposedly called "Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy." But when said song included the lyrics "Make me tremble," it became obvious that the real name of the song was "Diary of a 30 Year Old Woman Pretending to be an 18 Year Old Boy."

But my oldest discovery of a song's true name was a Tom Tom Club which has the real name "Gratuitous Name Dropping." You've probably heard the song, which concludes with Chris Frantz repeating the name "James Brown" over and over.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blinded by the bluegrass, revisited

"Fox on the Run." I remember it well.

You see, around the time that I wrote this post, I favorited the Country Gentlemen's version of the song on my YouTube account. Shortly after that, my YouTube account was permanently disabled, and I haven't had access to it since (although I can still access YouTube, as you will see).

For those who missed my August 2009 post, the history of the song can be summed up in one sentence from this article about bluegrass covers of non-bluegrass songs.

"Most people today think of 'Fox on the Run' as a bluegrass standard, but it actually started as a British rock song," Dan Hayes, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association, says of the 1960s hit by Manfred Mann.

The fact that people think of the song as a "bluegrass standard" is something that I should explore in my tymshft blog some day. For now, suffice it to say that I've heard the song performed three different ways - the way Manfred Mann did it, the way Tom T. Hall did it, and the way the Country Gentlemen did it.

This version is slightly different, with the instrumentation of the Country Gentlemen, but sung in Tom T. Hall's key and his version.

But that's not why I'm sharing it.

I'm sharing it because of where the Zac Brown Band performed the song. The venue used for this song is older than - well, it's older than Manfred Mann (although tour buses have improved since the days that Manfred Mann and the Beatles used them).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Artist/song combinations you will (probably) never hear

I doubt we will ever hear Anne Murray singing a song entitled "I Eat Zombie Brains."

Nor do I think that we will hear Billy Idol covering the Partridge Family hit "I Think I Love You."

And Hank Williams Jr. will probably never sing a "We Love Barack Obama" ditty.

Notice that I qualified all of the statements above. After all, it seemed extremely unlikely that Pat Boone would cover Ozzy, Deep Purple, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin - until he did it. Although I could find no mention of "In a Metal Mood" at Boone's official website, which lists no releases between 1995 and 2002.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's time to acknowledge Mira Aroyo as a class act

There's been some chatter on this side of the pond about TIME Magazine's list of smart musicians, ranging from Queen's Brian May (Ph.D. in astrophysics) to Laurie Anderson.

Anderson is the only female on TIME's list, which raised a question for me - what of Ladytron's Mira Aroyo?

To find information on Aroyo, I went to another list, this one compiled by Daily Top 10.

The Bulgarian born Aroyo is a keyboardist, singer and songwriter for the electropop/New Wave band Ladytron, and also a research scientist with a PhD in molecular genetics from Oxford University.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moonlight Jazz Quartet

One of my co-workers, Norm Luckett, spends his days configuring automated fingerprint identification systems and his nights in various musical endeavors. Luckett is one of the members of the Moonlight Jazz Quartet, based in Orange County, California.

You can hear music samples here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some music is not conducive to #apmp proposal writing

I write proposals for a living. This requires research, discussions, and (argh) meetings, but at some point you have to actually sit down and start writing. When I write, I often put on headphones, attach them to my smartphone, and start streaming music.

Certain music can be very good for proposal writing. When you're up against a deadline, loud music (such as some Nirvana songs) works very well. At other times, calmer music such as Air is called for. (DISCLOSURE: I work for a subsidiary of a French company that has another office in the state of Washington.)

But because of the nature of pop lyrics, there are certain songs that should be avoided during proposal writing.

Take the Pink Floyd song "Have a Cigar," which started playing one day while I was working on a proposal. If you're unfamiliar with the song, it is sung from the perspective of a music industry executive - a know-nothing. (This is the song that includes the famous question "Which one's Pink?")

In his skewering of the executive, lyricist Roger Waters trots out more cliches and double-speak than you can shake a stick at. When you're trying to write a high-quality proposal, it can be counterproductive to hear lyrics like this in your ears:

You're gonna make it if you try...

Well I've always had a deep respect,

And I mean that most sincerely...

It could be made into a monster

If we all pull together as a team...

I shudder to think of the executive summaries that have been written while Waters' lyrics were playing. "If we all pull together as a team, WidgetCorp will help MegaCorp optimize its synergies - and we mean that most sincerely."

Note that Waters was writing these lyrics intentionally. Think of all the popular music lyrics in which the lyricist unknowingly writes junk. There are a lot of them (although I should defend my alumni association friend by noting the Dr. Demento did not write "Fish Heads").

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diplomat Drummer

There are a vast number of videos on YouTube, and each one has its own story. This video, which had been viewed approximately 300 times when I first saw it today, shows a guy playing the drums while two women are making tortillas. The title of the video is "Darrell Jenks Diplomat Drummer."

In the summer of 1979 I received a short letter from a forest ranger outside of Burns, Oregon. This person was not a full-time forest ranger; he was a student at Reed College who was about to begin his senior year, and he was going to be my dorm advisor in the fall. (In Reed College terms, he was a "dorm dad.") He wrote identical (OK, Kaz, nearly identical) letters to the six incoming freshmen who would be in his dorm (at that time, Eastport consisted of two triple rooms, a bathroom, and a single room for the dorm dad).

A month or two later I met my dorm dad, Darrell Jenks, who frankly looked like a forest ranger, with a huge beard. And he played the drums - in fact, a Reed College band, Daryl Jenks, was named after him (although, unlike John McVie who had a band named after him, Darrell Jenks never officially joined Daryl Jenks).

But the guy was brilliant. I've known several people who can speak multiple languages with ease, but with all due respect to my former co-worker Alex and my German daughter Anni, Darrell topped them all. Here's what the New York Times said about Jenks:

Darrell, a brilliant linguist...spoke nine languages including Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. In 2007, Darrell volunteered to serve in Maysan, Iraq, where - largely self-taught - he picked up the basics of his fourth super-hard language, Arabic.

In the spring of 1980, the beard magically disappeared. Jenks was about to graduate, and he had a job interview. He eventually ended up with the U.S. State Department, and spent thirty years serving his country.

Now take another look at that video of the Diplomat Drummer. Notice the medical equipment behind the drums, and the cot over to the side. Jenks was dying. That New York Times article that talked about Jenks was his obituary.

There are a vast number of videos on YouTube, and each one has its own story.

P.S. Thanks to Polly for letting me know.

P.P.S. Here's an obituary video.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Turn the volume beyond 194 and beyond

The items below were taken from a William Hanby document at They list the decibel levels for various sounds, including the musical (and non-musical) sounds listed below.












Friday, August 3, 2012

Better than the original

There have been countless cases in which one musical artist has appropriated the work of another artist, and created a new work that incorporates both the original work and some new material.

In some cases, the original artist or his/her representatives objected to the appropriation, and actually threatened or initiated legal action. The "Sweet Little Sixteen"/"Surfin' USA" dispute was settled relatively quickly, as was another dispute that I will get to shortly. On the other hand, the "He's So Fine"/"My Sweet Lord" dispute involved twenty years of litigation.

In some cases, the original artist provided no comment on the appropriation. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven never provided a comment on Electric Light Orchestra's version of "Roll Over Beethoven." In its original form (another Chuck Berry song, by the way), the song only mentioned Beethoven, but by the time ELO recorded it, a significant excerpt from the Fifth Symphony had been included. Not that Beethoven cared. (Not only had Beethoven expired by the time "Roll Over Beethoven" first appeared, but his copyright had expired also.)

In some cases, the original artist was a willing participant in the appropriation. Daft Punk has actually appeared on stage with Kanye West when West has performed "Stronger," his version of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger."

But there's one thing that unites all of these new versions of old songs. In my opinion, these new versions are better than the originals. Vocally, the Beach Boys blew Chuck Berry out of the water, and the instrumentation was more inventive. And while I have personal problems (religious issues) with Harrison's lyrics, I love his guitar work from that period. "Roll Over Beethoven" has been recorded in many different versions, but the one from the Electric Light Orchestra stands out as a successful attempt to marry classical and rock music. And Kanye (while I again have issues with some of the lyrics) is a much better singer than the Dafts, and again he provides better instrumentation.

But my best example of a re-visitation being better than the original was Kelly Osbourne's take on Viisage's "Fade to Grey." Her version is called "One Word," and while Viisage certainly had a notable take on the song, Osbourne's beats the original.

In my opinion.

I've talked about Kelly Osbourne before. And Electric Light Orchestra.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Before you blame this thing or that thing for the Aurora tragedy...

...remember that Charles Manson was "inspired" by a song about a roller coaster.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Like I did!!!

There are a lot of ska/two-tone songs that are fun. "One Step Beyond" from Madness comes to mind, but in my mind, the most fun from two-tone land is the Untouchables' "Free Yourself."

This particular video is not only notable in its own right, but it directly resulted in the Untouchables' recording contract. Marco on the Bass:

[T]hey invested an additional $7,000 to produce a video for the song 'Free Yourself' which started to generate television airplay. As a result the EP sold 40,000 copies and the video won the 1985 award for best independent video from Billboard Magazine....

Though the EP was selling and The UTs were getting great reviews, none of major record labels located on [Wilshire] Boulevard in Los Angeles were interested in signing the band....

"'Free Yourself' was a different story. We shot our first video to 'Free Yourself.' The song and video were really special. The video was very groundbreaking in it's usage of black and white imagery shifting into bright color and then back to B&W. It was produced by Tina Henry and John Lee and eventually won honors as Billboard Magazine's 1985 'Best Indy Video Of The Year'... 'Indy', as in: 'we weren't signed.'...nobody wanted to take a chance with us. Except Dave Robinson."

As in Dave Robinson of Stiff Records. The story continues:

"Dave had seen a copy of the Free Yourself video and apparently was fairly impressed. Without any notice, Robo flew from London to L.A. and suddenly shows up at our USC gig. After our performance, he comes backstage, is introduced and tells us he wants to sign us to Stiff. How do you spell flabbergasted? Because that's what we were."

Well, that was certainly $7,000 well spent.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Rest On Venus

Might as well self-promote, because others won't do it for you.

The song "No Rest On Venus" was one of the songs from my 2009 collection "Brevity Is," so named because each of the songs was under a minute in length.

"No Rest On Venus" can be heard (and downloaded) by going to the URL

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Welcome to my world, William Hung

So what do you do when you're an engineering student at one of the nation's leading universities, achieve viral fame as the result of a bad audition on American Idol, and parlay that success into three music albums and a short movie career?

What do you do? The answer surprised me:

And now he's entered a new chapter in his life, as a statistical analyst for the Los Angeles County's Sheriff Department....

"My passion has always been math," he tells us, adding that his new line of work brings him great joy. "It just took a while to end up as my career." His day-to-day responsibilities include calculating the probability of crimes and attacks occurring in particular neighborhoods.

And so, in an odd turn of events, Hung is working in public safety - as do I. Although Hung's job requires much more scientific knowledge than mine.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In tymshft - How I learned about the death of Edward Anatolevich Hill

I have just written a post in my tymshft blog about the death of Edward Anatolevich Hill.

I have written about Hill (or Khil) several times in the Empoprise-MU music blog, most recently in December 2010, but initially way back in March 2010.

So why did I write about Khil/Hill in tymshft instead of in this blog?

There's a reason.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Update on Reed College's online radio station KRRC

Remember my February 3 post that chronicled the demise of licensed radio station KRRC?

Well, I found a little more information, courtesy of an Andrew Choi blog post.

There's a website -

And it has a "Listen" button, but when I clicked on it, I got an "Under Construction" message.

Based upon the news on the main page, it looks like shows are taking place, but that the streaming may not be working yet.

So now I guess that people have to go to NRQ's headquarters and hold a Reds for Reagan protest.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Scottie Pippen of Gary, Indiana

Last week I attended a high school end-of-year choral concert. One of the songs that was performed was "I'll Be There." The kids that performed the song weren't even born when Mariah Carey released her remake of the tune, and obviously weren't around when the original Jackson Five version was released.

My mind wandered back to that original 1970 hit, which was remarkable on so many levels. When some people think of that song, they think of co-author Berry Gordy or lead singer Michael Jackson. The song was a high point in both their careers, scoring major sales for Motown while including Gordy's and Michael's tribute to the Four Tops. (The history of music was obviously very important to both of them.)

But as my mind wandered, I thought about a different story related to the original hit. Because just as Michael Jordan had his Scottie Pippen, Michael Jackson had his vital supporting cast. And no, I'm not talking about guitarist Tito.

When you listen to "I'll Be There," one of the most striking parts is Jermaine Jackson's second lead vocal - a middle eight that serves as a contrast in many ways (voice, key, melody) to his younger brother's portions.

I plead ignorance about much of Jermaine Jackson's musical career - he had other hits with the Jackson Five, more as a solo artist, and still more when he returned to the Jacksons in the 1980s - but if "I'll Be There" had been Jermaine's only contribution to the musical world, it would be a stellar contribution indeed.

All the more so when you consider that Jermaine was still in high school when "I'll Be There" was recorded - the same age as the kids that I heard in a high school cafeteria last week. But Jermaine's vocal is a little more famous. Here's a live performance.

Also see Wikipedia.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Spurred to greatness - Donald "Duck" Dunn

After hearing of Donald "Duck" Dunn's passing, I took some time to read his biography on his website. (At the time I first read the biography, it hadn't been updated to reflect his death.) It explained why Dunn took up the bass:

Although a grandfather he never knew played fiddle, there was no music in Duck's immediate family. "My father was a candy maker. He made peppermints and hard candies. He didn't want me to go into the music industry. He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime; something you did as a hobby, not a profession." Duck tried to conform: "I worked for my dad in the candy factory for a while. I also had a job with an electrical company repairing long range air raid sirens." In his heart, though, Dunn always knew where his talents lay. I picked up a ukulele when I was about 10 and I started playing bass when I was 16. I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many. It was just too complicated, man!

And then he said:

Plus, I grew up with Steve Cropper. There were so many good guitar players another one wasn't needed.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Where are they now? Cosma Shiva

You know how songs pop into your head at the oddest times?

Well, that happened to me over the weekend, when the old Nina Hagen song "Cosma Shiva" popped into my head.

This song is from 1982, and was written by Hagen in honor of her baby daughter.

I sought the song out on YouTube, and discovered (via video) that the baby had grown up.

It turns out that Cosma Shiva Hagen is an actress - mostly in German-language films.

So what about Nina's other songs? New York has had its problems but is still standing.

And the white punks are still on dope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

(empo-utoobd) Life is even less easy in Germany - YouTube lost, Grooveshark gone

Over three years ago, I wrote a post that described how YouTube had stopped showing music videos in Germany because of a dispute with GEMA, a German agency collecting music royalties. It turns out that the stoppage was temporary, but the legal fight dragged on. Helen Sventitsky-Rother shared a link to a BBC article with the results of the German court case.

In short, YouTube lost.

A court in Hamburg ruled that YouTube is responsible for the content that users post to the video sharing site.

It wants the video site to install filters that spot when users try to post music clips whose rights are held by royalty collection group, Gema.

In essence, this means that YouTube will have to take longer to review uploaded videos to ensure that they do not violate German law.

The BBC article notes that one company has previously taken action as a result of GEMA:

Music streaming site Grooveshark pulled out of Germany claiming licencing rates set by Gema made it impossible to run a profitable business in the country.

Here is what Grooveshark says about the matter:

Due to the excessive cost of operation, Grooveshark discontinued access from Germany on January 18, 2012.

Feel free to write to us if you have any questions. If you are a premium subscriber, please contact our billing team to arrange a refund for any time remaining on your subscription.

If you'd like to help lower the cost of operation for services like Grooveshark, you can contact GEMA:


Postal Mail:
Bayreuther Straße 37
10787 Berlin
Postfach 30 12 40
10722 Berlin

+49 30 21245-00

GEMA has a different view:

Contrary to its statements, the provider Grooveshark did not discontinue its services in Germany due to disproportionately high operating expenses.

The fact is, as a service provider Grooveshark fundamentally refuses to pay compensation in any shape or form at all for the service. As of this writing, Grooveshark has also not contacted GEMA in any way.

After detailing the many lawsuits against Grooveshark and other issues, GEMA concludes as follows:

If you as a user of Grooveshark have suffered any monetary damages, please contact the provider of this service directly with your complaints:!/grooveshark

It took me a while to find this statement. I searched the GEMA website, but was told that search was not working.

Perhaps Google can help GEMA with that. Or not.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lena Katina "Never Forget" remix hits Number 1 on Billboard dance/club chart

You may recall that I wrote about Lena Katina's song "Never Forget" last August.

Well, Dave Audé has remixed the song, and Lena just announced that the remix has reached #1 on Billboard's Dance/Club play songs chart.

If you haven't heard the remix, here's a remixed video.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

In the fall of 1968, the Beatles released a very unusual song - at least for the Beatles. With inconsequential lyrics about an amusement park ride, the song "Helter Skelter" was a complete rock assault. Singer Paul McCartney brought his Little Richard voice into the psychedelic era, the guitarists and bass guitarist were zooming all over the place, and drummer Ringo Starr was at the absolute center of the madness, resulting in his famous shout "I've got blisters on my fingers!"

In the fall of 1969, a relatively new band called Led Zeppelin released a very unusual song - for anybody. The instruments used were, for the most part, similar to those employed in the Beatles' earlier song, and John Paul Jones laid down some bass lines comparable to McCartney's. But the drummer, John Bonham, had a different set of skills from Ringo, and was known for his power. The vocalist, Robert Plant, wasn't as well known as McCartney, but his English wails would distinguish him in this song and in years to come. Oh, and the guitarist, Jimmy Page, was a madman, taking old blues songs and converting them to eleven volume rock anthems. And the lyrics? Well, they weren't about an amusement park ride.

Two roaring rock songs, both in the key of E. To mashup artist Soundhog, it was obvious what needed to be done.

H/T Rob Michael.

P.S. See Soundhog's own account of the mashup.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I prefer the English exercise styles

Rodney Bingenheimer, the Mayor of Sunset Strip who hates the 90s, received a huge amount of fame from his early 1970s club, Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, formerly located at 7561 Sunset Boulevard.

But that club closed over 35 years ago.

What's there today?

A gym.

And while people in the early 1970s devoted themselves to getting their bodies in motion, people at the location today do...well, they do the same thing:

Fit Arts’ unique training program provides efficient methods to building long, lean, and toned bodies. The program uses a natural approach by using the body’s own weight, as opposed to heavy weights and bulky gym equipment. Bodyweight Training is natural and practical for your body. The body is more capable of handling its own weight, as opposed to outside forces like heavy weights, producing more natural looking results.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I prefer the English clothing styles

Let's say you're a real estate agent in the Westside of Los Angeles. (Empoprise-MU link.) When working with Brentwood clientele, you need to look your best, so you may do your clothes shopping at Theodore in Beverly Hills. You would prefer to deal with someone who knows Los Angeles well.

When you walk into the store, you realize that the manager looks familiar. You've seen her somewhere before, but you just can't place it. Perhaps you might recognize the manager from a recent night in Hollywood.

Or perhaps you recognize her from years ago.

The music industry does not offer lifetime employment. Far from it. And if you're on the periphery of the music industry - perhaps you're the wife, or mother, or girlfriend of someone in the industry - your time in the spotlight can end even more quickly than the time that the musicians themselves spend in the spotlight.

Those who continue to thrive after the spotlight disappears, such as Marilyn Wilson Rutherford and Lori Mattix (Lori Maddox), are the true winners.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reading beyond the title - "American Woman"

Have you ever run across a song with a particular title and liked the song for its title - and then found out that the song itself has nothing to do with the title?

Take The Guess Who's song "American Woman." Perhaps a guy from a foreign country might hear the song title, see a beautiful woman from the United States, and think to himself, "I'll impress her by singing this song to her!"

But then he starts to learn the lyrics to the song and realizes that it is not a love song to an American woman. After all, the song begins:

American woman, stay away from me
American woman, mama let me be

Let's face it, this is NOT "California Girls."

And as you continue to read the lyrics to the song, you realize that it's not about a woman at all.

I don't need your war machines
I don't need your ghetto scenes
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else's eyes

And yes, I know that the transcriber at wrote "Colored," not "Coloured." But I suspect that the spelling with a "u" is correct, since the song was written by Canadians. After all, it was conceived in a curling rink.

And when you read those lyrics from the perspective of a 1960s Canadian writing about the United States, the song makes sense - a sense that can't be discerned from its seemingly innocuous title.

Incidentally, this song entered my head one day after finding this post in a blog called "War Machine." Perhaps it was the George Harrison in Haight Ashbury stuff that I had been reading previously, but seeing the title of the blog took me on a musical, um, trip.

Drifting along

My Monday evening was certainly interesting.

I was eating dinner with relatives, and someone observed that it was windy out. This led me to comment that you could tell that it was windy if you saw tumbling tumbleweeds drifting by. The fifteen year old who heard the comments is certainly familiar with tumbleweeds, but does not understand the significance of the phrase "tumbling tumbleweeds." Long-time readers of this blog, of course, know that this is a reference to a Sons of the Pioneers song that has been covered by other people, such as Todd Baio.

A few hours later, I received some upsetting news. I will not be discussing this news publicly, other than to say that it involves another relative (one who was not present at the dinner), and that it's very sad.

After receiving this news, I found myself thinking about the tumbling tumbleweeds some more.

Since I had some credits on Amazon, I ended up buying an MP3 of the song. And, as is my custom, I began scrobbling it repeatedly. It appears that I bought a 1950s version of the song, but it's still a good version.

I haven't searched for "Old Man Atom" yet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Steve Taylor, Essayist

Time for another piece on Steve Taylor.

Since I last blogged about Mr. Taylor in depth, Sarah Gibson has created an interactive website about the musician/producer/filmmaker. (You can see the story of the creation of the website here.) I'm still navigating around the place, but I was struck by this essay, written in the 1980s while Taylor was on tour.

Sometimes it's funny.

Glen (my bass player--may not be his real name) has awakened from a deep sleep with the perfect imprint of a corduroy seatcover across his face--looks like one of those tribal warriors in National Geographic. Everyone's hair is a memorable sight after an all-nighter (reminds me of the guys in Undercover).

(This was written before Gym Nicholson played guitar on a Steve Taylor album.)

Sometimes it's thought-provoking.

The concert promoter introduces himself, immediately asks that I tell tonight's audience not to dance, and wants to know if I'll be doing an [altar] call. I question him extensively on the preparation he's done for counseling and follow-up, and decide that he is ill-prepared. He insists that even if thirty make a commitment to Jesus tonight and only two are committed Christians a year later, that's better than none. I ask him about the twenty-eight who will think from lack of follow-up that they tried Christianity and it didn't work for them. The subject is a very touchy one for me, because after five years as a youth pastor, I've learned how easily young people can be manipulated into doing something they neither understand nor want. I'm interested in using my music to communicate Christian truth to my culture. I'm not interested in using an emotionally-charged rock concert to get numbers streaming down the aisles in order to justify a "ministry".

And sometimes it's REALLY thought-provoking.

I'm beginning to understand what makes the road such a struggle. It's not fatigue, it's not unprofessional promotion, it's not malnourishment. It's the constant battle I have with pride. All the rationale for doing concerts and insisting on quality publicity and staging make perfect sense. But there's times when the medium begins to take over the message, and even when I'm maintaining a Godly perspective on it all, my ego keeps sneaking up on my blind side. There's no room for selfish ambition and pride in Christian service, but the battle can be exhausting.

Be sure to visit

Thursday, March 29, 2012

OK, here's one case in which music downloading WAS a bad idea

If you believe the RIAA and its allies, illegal music downloading is a multi-trillion dollar industry that directly led to the 2008 financial collapse.

If you believe that SOPA no people, downloading of music results in multiple trillions of dollars of benefits for the music industry (plus a whole lot of Facebook likes).

The truth is somewhere between these two extremes. However, I've run across one case in which music downloading truly was bad.

Since it's an Associated Press article, I won't directly quote from it. (On the other hand, I won't like to it again in this post.) But the article concerns the Arab Shooting Championships, which were recently held in Kuwait. I have never heard of these championships, but competitive shooting is certainly a popular sport that requires a lot of skill. So the Arab Shooting Championships honored the winners with a traditional medals ceremony, in which the national anthems of the winners were played.

According to AP, the people responsible for the ceremony (reportedly contractors) downloaded the national anthems from the Internet.

So when Maria Dmitrienko won a gold medal, the awards ceremony was held, and the national anthem of Kazakhstan was played.

Well, it was supposed to be played. Unfortunately, the wrong music file was downloaded, and instead of hearing the real Kazakhstan national anthem, a song that appeared in the film "Borat" was played instead.

This literally resulted in an international incident. As you may know, the Sacha Baron Cohen character Borat is not all that popular in Kazakhstan.

And I'm sure that some RIAA lawyer is saying, "See, we told you so."

Monday, March 26, 2012

The RIAA and the First Amendment

To begin, we should note what the RIAA is, and what it is not. The RIAA is the Recording Industry Asociation of America, and its members are

legitimate record companies with main offices in the United States that are engaged in the production and sale, under their own brand label, of recordings of performances for home use.

Individual recording artists cannot join RIAA. And there's one category of businesses that is specifically prohibited from joining:

Eligibility is not extended to companies that are currently engaged in, have within five years of application been engaged in, or are controlled by any person, firm or corporation which has within 5 years of application been engaged in the unauthorized creation, duplication, sale, importation, or other use of sound recordings in violation of state or federal law.

So if Megaupload starts a U.S. record label, it need not apply for RIAA membership.

But while RIAA is focused on the needs of the record labels, it expresses its care for the artists that work for those labels. Not to the extent of arguing for higher royalty rates, of course, but it clearly cares about the content of the artists' recordings.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) takes an uncompromising stand against censorship and for the First Amendment rights of all artists to create freely. From the nation’s capital to state capitals across the country, RIAA works to stop unconstitutional action against the people who make the music of our times--and those who enjoy it.

So what does the First Amendment mean to RIAA? According to this blog post:

RIAA has long been on the front lines in defense of the First Amendment, challenging government censorship and restrictions on the ability of artists to freely express themselves.

It is important to note what the First Amendment itself is, and what it isn't. The First Amendment only covers actions by Congress (and, by extension, to other branches of government). It (usually) does not extend to industry; if an employer fires an employee for calling his/her boss a jerk, the employee's First Amendment rights are not being violated.

This distinction is important when considering the RIAA's primary First Amendment battle - the PMRC hearings.

Ironically, the site linked above apparently does not believe in the Fair Use Doctrine, but suffice it to say that the RIAA, rather than agreeing to government regulation of the music industry, instead proposed that the music industry regulate itself - thus ensuring that artists can freely express themselves.

Of course, critics have asked whether the RIAA believes in the First Amendment for anyone else. For example, take a 2007 case in which the RIAA asked the University of Oregon to identify seven students that the RIAA accused of file-sharing. Daniel Solove wrote:

One issue involves students’ First Amendment rights. Although the Supreme Court has held that copyright infringement isn’t protected under the First Amendment, Harper & Row, Publs. Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539 (1985), protected speech may be involved in some cases. According to the Court, copyright has “built-in First Amendment accommodations” via the fair use doctrine. Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003). Copyright protection is thus compatible with the First Amendment because of the existence of fair use. What this means is that it is possible that in any given case, some of the uses of the music may be fair use, and that is protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, a person may have made statements online along with engaging in piracy. So, for example, an anonymous person might maintain a website where he posts music files for trading along with the statement that “the RIAA is a big bad bully.” That statement is protected speech, and identifying an anonymous speaker triggers heightened First Amendment standards for the subpoena.

The RIAA might argue something like this: “But the people whose identities we’re seeking are engaging in illegal piracy. They’re trading music files. There’s not a strong argument that any protected speech is involved.” Even if they’re right about this, it still doesn’t extinguish the First Amendment interests of the individuals suspected of piracy. Suppose, for example, a person anonymously posted a comment about another person that looked clearly defamatory. The fact that it might look like a slam-dunk case still doesn’t obviate the need to establish the heightened First Amendment standards for subpoenas. Copyright should be no different.

Score one for the First Amendment. Now if only we could ensure that Congress doesn't establish a religion AND doesn't prohibit the free exercise of religion...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lack of Data - Aramis Estevez vs. Deathwatch Beetle Repairman?

I have scrobbled the Big River soundtrack to, which means that Aramis Estevez is one of the artists that I have scrobbled. I wanted to listen to Estevez some more, so I began playing Estevez's station on - and was greeted with a song by Those Damn Twins.

And then was greeted with a song by Deathwatch Beetle Repairman.

This seemed odd, until I realized that I was one of the few people on who has actually scrobbled songs by Aramis Estevez - and that therefore had concluded that all of the artists on my playlist were similar to Estevez.

I confirmed this by looking at Estevez's similar artists page.

As of this evening, the third artist listed - one with a "super similarity" to Estevez - is P.D.Q. Bach.

"Very high similarity" artists include Helen Sventitsky, Ontario Emperor, and

However, once gets more data on the artist, these types of things will be straightened out.

For example, a couple of years ago, thought that Sventitsky and Ontario Emperor were similar - primarily because both artists were listened to by FriendFeeders.

But now that a couple of years have passed, has figured out that Helen sounds nothing like me. And with this additional data, people who like Helen's music aren't being subjected to synthetic instrumentals.

Monday, March 19, 2012

lluismiras video for "The Alcoholic"

I go in weird spurts in album buying. I'll buy an album from a band or artist, declare it one of my favorites of all time...and then not bother to buy the follow-up.

I have owned Röyksopp's Junior for years, but have never bothered to buy its follow-up, Senior.

But I did want to share one song from the album. Röyksopp, along with, sponsored a competition in which people submitted videos for the Senior songs. The winner was a video by Iluismiras for the song "The Alcoholic."

Also see this blog post in Spanish (Iluismiras is from Argentina).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Metallica covers Bonnie Tyler (language warning).

(P.S. Not really.)

Shakira covers Metallica.

(P.S. Really.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Renting out a song (Liza Minnelli covers Pet Shop Boys)

The nice thing about is that if you allow it to do so, it throws all sorts of songs at you. On December 27, 2009, it served up the song "Rent" to me. But not the original Pet Shop Boys version - it served up Liza Minnelli's cover.

Now I should explain my feelings about the Pet Shop Boys. I love the Pet Shop Boys. I also think that they are the best comedy band ever recorded. When a FriendFeed user shared a private post that included Pet Shop Boys' video of "West End Girls," I offered a comment about Chris Lowe's visual performance in that video - while Neil Tennant earnestly sings the lyrics, Lowe nonchalantly stares off into space. But Pet Shop Boys' true comedy stylings can be heard in the songs themselves - whether they're rearranging "Always On My Mind" as the direct opposite of anything Willie Nelson ever recorded, or whether they're throwing out such lyrics as "Violence, religion, injustice and death" or "What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this," the Pet Shop Boys are consistently as funny, if not funnier, than Monty Python.

In 1987, they scored a hit with their song "Rent" - a song that Minnelli later covered. What I didn't know was that Minnelli's cover version was part of a 1989 album produced by the Pet Shop Boys themselves. While it sounds like most of the "Results" of the album were an odd juxtaposition of Liza's voice with the usual Pet Shop Boys synthesizer backing, the cover of "Rent" was more in Liza's traditional style. And for some reason, I think that Minnelli's version is preferable to the original - perhaps because the title "Rent" was subsequently used for an unrelated Broadway musical.

You can hear Minnelli's version here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Queen of the Road

There are certain people and bands who exhibit a variety of musical styles. One of those bands is Blondie. Blondie first came to my attention because of a shimmering disco song. During their years of popularity, they also released rock, calypso, rap, and probably seventeen other rock styles.

But it turns out that Deborah Harry's FORMER band exhibited a style that Blondie, to my knowledge, never attempted.

On Tuesday evening, Loren Feldman shared a Michael Pinto Google+ item about how paparazzi saw Deborah Harry coming out of a hotel and thought that she was Lindsay Lohan. Google+ user Dennis McCunney commented on the item:

I wonder how many Blondie fans knew her first band was a 60's group called The Wind In the Willows?

For the record, I did not know that. And Michael Pinto may or may not have known that, but he provided a link to the Wikipedia page on the band. I was reading the Wikipedia page, which described the band's one album release...

...and I stopped cold at track 4.

My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died

You see, that particular song was originally written and performed by Roger Miller. In his career, Miller often balanced the serious and the silly in the same song, with devastating effect. "My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died" had no such seriousness in it - as you can guess from the title, it's completely off the wall.

Which brings us to The Wind in the Willows' version.

If anything, TWITW's take on the song is even more outlandish than Miller's original. Miller never ventured into waltz tempo.

Now did Blondie ever do anything like that?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones, 1945-2012

If I may paraphrase George Harrison, as far as I’m concerned, there won’t be another Monkees reunion as long as Davy Jones remains dead.

Yes, Davy Jones passed away early this morning in Florida.

Of course, as I noted in a September 2010 post in this blog about Jones' February 9, 1964 Ed Sullivan appearance, Jones realized that he and his contemporaries were getting old. This is what he said:

Ringo Starr sings, ‘I get a little help from Depends.’

In addition to Oliver! and The Monkees, Jones appeared in other productions, including numerous guest apperances on televisions shows.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

tymshft - time, music, and everything else

Perhaps you've noticed my use of a label "empo-tymshft" on this blog. But I've used it elsewhere also.

You see, while I've been posting a lot of "empo-tymshft" stuff here in my music blog, I found that I've been posting it in some of my other blogs also. So I finally set up a single blog for all of my time-related posts, regardless of whether they're music-related, business-related, or whatever.

So what is tymshft? This is what I said:

[P]eople talk about new things and assume that they are new. Take the cloud. For some people, it’s a wondrous new thing, this ability to store data in the cloud and access it from anywhere. Some misguided souls probably even think that Steve Jobs invented the cloud. But some of the features of the cloud were present decades ago, in old time-sharing systems. iCloud is a CompuServe that begins with a vowel....

At the same time, there are things that have changed significantly over the years. For example, I remember when a “phone” was something that was attached to the wall, and came from “the phone company.”

Just this morning I posted a music-related item on tymshft: Do you own a radio?

If you're interested in such ruminations on time, and how things change or don't change over time, I strongly encourage you to go to tymshft.

If you're on Google+, be sure to include in your favorite circle.

If you're on Facebook, be sure to go to the!/pages/Tymshft/390937200923679?sk=wall page.

And I look forward to your comments and contributions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm with the banda - where's my tuba?

If you live in the southwestern US, you can tune your radio around until you hear songs that prominently feature a tuba.

And the word "corazón."

And in the same way that a kid in the mid-1960s wanted a guitar to play rock music, and a kid in the early 1980s wanted a synthesizer to play synth music, kids of today want a tuba to play banda music.

Unfortunately, to meet the demand for these expensive instruments, people are using alternative procurement methods.

[F]our brass sousaphones were stolen in January from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, an affluent Los Angeles suburb; and Sycamore Junior High in Anaheim lost 20 instruments, including all its tubas, in a theft at the end of December that will cost the school in excess of $20,000.

Unfortunately, it's not really possible to design a cheap tuba - the large size of the instrument is required to play the bass sounds. (There's a reason why a piccolo is smaller than a tuba.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

On guest posting - ROBOTS DOT TXT

I have written posts in a number of blogs since October 2003, but in most cases the posts were written in my own blogs (or, in the case of a blog behind the Motorola firewall, a blog for which I was the primary contributor).

There have been very few exceptions to this, but there have been a few times in which I was a guest poster.

The first guest post (actually a series of guest posts) occurred roughly six years ago, when several people got together to conduct an online Bible study called "Word Search." I referred to the Word Search blog in item 7 of my 8 things post. As I noted, the blog has long since disappeared, but I did find one of my contributions in the blog of one of the other contributors.

My second guest posting opportunity occurred less than a couple of years ago, when Steven Hodson was conducting an experiment. Hodson was experimenting with the free version of Kapost, and wanted to try using it to allow others to contribute to his WinExtra blog. I contributed something, which ended up in the "Kapost" section of the blog. Hodson subsequently discontinued the experiment, but I quoted parts of my post in my own blog.

My third guest posting opportunity appeared this past weekend, but its history goes back decades. Back in the 1980s when I was writing SHUFFLEBOARD!, and C. Gin Populus was co-writing FROM EARS AND MOUTH (see my Google+ discussion), Mark Givens was writing a publication called THE BOWL SHEET while at the same time performing as part of Wckr Spgt (and, for a brief time, as part of Desperation Squad).

Times have changed, and I'm not sure if anyone still produces printed zines. Especially since online publications give you so much more. Mark Givens started MungBeing back in 2005, and has continued to publish it throughout the years. I didn't run across MungBeing until recently, and began wondering if I could contribute something to it.

Then, at the end of issue 41, Givens announced that issue 42 would be dedicated to robots.

As it turned out, I had been thinking about robots in some way or another for years. In fact, this June 15, 2009 post talked about robots, or one robot in particular.

However, MungBeing professed a preference for original work, so I revisited the topic and tried to come up with a new (for me) angle on it. The result?


Here's a very short excerpt from my relatively short piece:

The scene that I am watching is not live – it's a previously recorded item, made available on YouTube, that was taken from an appearance on the Norwegian television show Senkveld several years ago. The person who posted it on YouTube advertised it as "the first live TV-performance by the norwegian band Röyksopp in seven years."

But is it?

Read the rest here, and be sure to peruse the entire issue 42 of MungBeing. I will probably be referring to other articles from this issue in my other blogs, but the issue presents a number of thoughts regarding what "robots" are, and the relationship (heh) between humans and robots.

P.S. Regarding the issue of the nature of "live" electronic performances, the subject goes well beyond a Norwegian TV show appearance. For example, I once attended a Devo concert in which one of the members' guitar strings broke - with absolutely no effect on the audio (or visual) experience. And of course, the issue predates electronica, as any viewer of "Soul Train" or "American Bandstand" can attest - just because singers and band members are on a stage doesn't necessarily mean that they're playing anything.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

(empo-tymshft) The benefit of hindsight - what Whitney Houston was really doing during Brandy's and Monica's rehearsals

On Friday afternoon, the L.A. Times music blog posted an account of some song rehearsals by Brandy and Monica - rehearsals at which Whitney Houston was present. This is what the Los Angeles Times initially said in the post:

Pop & Hiss dropped by the Beverly Hilton Hotel to take a peek at rehearsals for Saturday's gala, which features Brandy and Monica as headliners (we also spotted a run-through for the tribute set to the Kinks led by the band's former frontman, Ray Davies). The two R&B divas recently reunited nearly 14 years after the success of their chart-topping duet "The Boy Is Mine" for a new single, "It All Belongs To Me," that will appear on their upcoming albums.

After a run-through of the massive hit that brought them together, a loose and lively Houston dropped by to give the girls vocal tips for the performance.

"Loose and lively." In another post, written after Houston's death, some more details emerged:

Press, including The Times, were in attendance for a junket with the reunited R&B divas and Davis. Though Houston greeted people her with a warm smile, she appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and hair that was dripping wet with either sweat or water.

The visibly bloated singer displayed erratic behavior throughout the afternoon -- flailing her hands frenetically as she spoke to Brandy and Monica, skipping around the ballroom in a child-like fashion and wandering aimlessly about the lobby. It was mentioned by a Grammy staffer that security personnel received calls of the singer doing handstands by the pool.

After leaving rehearsals, Houston returned to the ballroom -- with her teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina in tow -- as camera crews set up for interviews. The singer smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. A Grammy staffer said that during the interviews with Brandy, Monica and Clive, Houston was dancing just off camera to make the singers and Davis laugh. Grammy personnel expressed concern that she'd be caught on camera, and that reporters would write about her behavior.

Well, luckily for everyone, I guess, reporters didn't write about this...other than using words like "loose and lively."

With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to point fingers and scream about a massive cover-up by the entertainment industry. And if you look at the comments posted in response to the second article, people are doing just that.

But if I were there, I'm not sure that I would have gone ahead with a "stoned Whitney" story, even if I smelled alcohol on her breath. I would have been worried that I didn't have enough information to make the accusation.

Now perhaps I'd feel differently if it had been a Whitney Houston rehearsal, in which she was the focus of the afternoon. But it was a Brandy/Monica rehearsal, and as far as we know neither of them were stoned.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

(empo-tymshft) Flexible records and music distribution in the 20th century

Rob Michael was discussing something on Google+ on Wednesday.

Only us Old-Skool guys will remember this.

Soundpages from Guitar Player Magazine. Playable records that were part of the back cover of the magazine.

Remember that back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, there was no way to download songs. Also during much of this period, the primary way to listen to your own music was via a record player, which would spin discs at 33 1/3 RPM or 45 PM (or sometimes at other speeds). These discs were usually made of vinyl, but why not make them out of other materials? As long as the material was shaped so that a needle could read the data, you could make discs out of all sorts of material - including a piece of plastic or cardboard that was attached to the back of a magazine.

Or a cereal box. As a kid, I vaguely remember owning a copy of Bobby Sherman's smash hit "Little Woman" that I got from a breakfast cereal. I can't remember how robust the record was, but it certainly brought a whole new meaning to "disposable pop."

But the record format could also be used to distribute non-musical material. One thing that I valued much more than the Bobby Sherman record was a recording that I obtained via MAD Magazine. It was an audio version of one of the stories in the magazine, "Gall in the Family Fare." Milk and Cookies describes the piece:

In the early '70s, Mad Magazine did their parody on the show "All in the Family" calling it "Gall in the Family Fare". At one point, they recorded an audio version of this and put it on an old flexi-disc record as a bonus insert in a special issue. This record is a rarity and it hasn't seen the light of day since 1973.

And for those who didn't live during the 1970s, Milk and Cookies had to print a warning:

Archie Bunker's character says a lot of horrible ethnic slurs.

This was also true of the real show. It's quite possible that "All in the Family" couldn't air on one of the broadcast networks today.

If you go to the Milk and Cookies page, you can see a YouTube video that includes both the printed and the audio versions of "Gall in the Family Fare." You'll notice that the two aren't exactly the same. Part of this is because of the distribution media involved (the audio version has to include someone announcing the name of the World War II buddy, while the printed version just shows a picture of the man). I've been wondering about some of the other differences for almost forty years - for example, why was the word "Meathead" changed to "Ding-a-Ling" in the audio recording?

So that's how music professionals like Rob Michael, and music fans like me would get free recordings back in the day. Eventually these became compact discs, and eventually those became downloads...

If you're interested in this topic, be sure to check out The Internet Museum of Flexi / Cardboard / Oddity Records. It covers the MAD magazine records, as well as musical records from the likes of the Dave Clark Five and Guns N' Roses.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ultimate 80s Super Duper Group - The Traveling Highwaymen

Normally when one thinks of 80s music, one things of "boys" with makeup and pianos that are smaller than a breadbox. But there were two 80s supergroups that didn't have much to do with the 80s.

The first was the (1980s, not 1950s) version of the Highwaymen. This four person supergroup brought Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson together. Their initial album had a cover that reminded one of Mount Rushmore, and to outlaw country fans the album was that important. In truth, only part of that first album is truly a four-person collaboration - much of the album is a set of Cash-Nelson duets.

A few years later, a supergroup called the Traveling Wilburys appeared. Technically it wasn't a supergroup, since it didn't have famous names on it, but the five performers on the album looked and sounded like Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. Their first album followed on the footsteps of some recent successes for George Harrison, and met with some success itself.

Both supergroups released subsequent albums which did not meet the same success as their initial releases.

Sadly, many of the members of these groups have passed away - the Roy Orbison lookalike passed away just after the first Wilburys album was released.

But what if you were to take the surviving members - Nelson, Kristofferson, and the lookalikes for Dylan, Lynne, and Petty - and form a super duper group around them? These four could clearly find some musical common ground, and a Dylan/Nelson duet would certainly raise eyebrows.