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.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reed College radio station KRRC leaves Federal control

In connection with the FM transmitter that I now have in my car to broadcast netbook output over my car radio, I recently noted that I am again an FM broadcaster.

Again, because in my college days I was a deejay on Reed College's campus radio station, KRRC.

Therefore, I was sad to learn that KRRC gave away its license a couple of months ago.

Add THE REED INSTITUTE to the list of educational institutions selling their radio stations. REED (better known as liberal arts institution REED COLLEGE) is transferring noncommercial Variety KRRC/PORTLAND to COMMON FREQUENCY, INC. for no consideration. The college moved its programming to online-only in NOVEMBER.

I went to Reed's website, but learned little more:

The campus radio station, KRRC, moved to a strictly online format in November 2011. Check here for access information once it is up and running. This station has been entirely student-run since 1955. While it has changed call letters and its location on the dial over the years, it has retained the same independent and creative spirit. KRRC plays a wide range of genres and formats day and night during the school year. Among the many genres you will hear on the station are pop/rock, hip-hop, bluegrass/country, jazz, reggae, funk/disco, punk/hardcore, and indie rock/postpunk.

Unfortunately, as of today there is no additional information on KRRC's online broadcasting. But it's an interesting move, since by going online and by relinquishing its place on the public airwaves, KRRC is no longer under U.S. government control. Well, except for U.S. government control of the Internet.

And yes, this is not the first time that I talked about KRRC online. This post quotes a 1982 mention of the station that I made on Usenet.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius is dead

Just yesterday I was in a conversation on Google+, and I recalled something that Bernie Brillstein had said about Los Angeles. Brillstein was John Belushi's manager, and after his death Brillstein observed that people came out to beautiful Los Angeles and got all messed up. Except I don't think Brillstein used the phrase "messed up."

Then this morning I read this about Don Cornelius:

A person at the producer’s house on Mulholland Drive in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood called the police and reported that shots had been fired just before 4 a.m., a police spokesman, Chris No, said. When officers arrived, they were let into the house and found Mr. Cornelius lying lifeless on the floor. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 75 years old.

Anyone of a certain age will recall Don Cornelius' voice, and while Dick Clark did the whole "play music and show people dancing" thing before Cornelius did, there's no doubt that his show "Soul Train" was influential throughout music, television, and society.

I just wonder what demons drove someone to kill Don Cornelius - or what drove Don Cornelius to kill himself. (As I write this, the circumstances of his death are still under investigation.)

This report suggests that Cornelius suffered from dementia, but I don't know if this has been confirmed.

About the REAL ethnomusicologist

I recently wrote a parody post of the typical biography of some forgotten blues musician, including the obligatory part where some guy from up North comes down to the South to record the blues genius.

Well, the New York Times reports on efforts to disseminate the work of one of the REAL field recording pioneers, Alan Lomax. Perhaps Lomax never recorded Boney Eyes McGee, but he didn't do too badly:

[H]is vast archive [included] some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts....

Starting in the mid-1930s, when he made his first field recordings in the South, Lomax was the foremost music folklorist in the United States. He was the first to record Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, and much of what Americans have learned about folk and traditional music stems from his efforts, which were also directly responsible for the folk music and skiffle booms in the United States and Britain that shaped the pop-music revolution of the 1960s and beyond.

The Times noted that the Cultural Equity website is expanding is online collection; soon Lomax's entire collection will be available in digital form, for streaming or for online purchase.