Friday, May 31, 2013

What's your Spice Girl name?

I need to know so that if we're on stage together, I can address you properly.

Mine, by the way, is Dimensiony Spice.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

And if you thought buffalo in hovercraft were an inspired idea...

If you have followed my activities in the Empoprises Public Community on Google+, you know that I regard Depeche Mode's "Useless" video as one of the greatest works of art in the 20th century. (Take that, Orson Welles.) Surprisingly enough, I haven't officially blogged about the video in years. My last such post was this 2009 post, where, after watching this video, and U2's "One," and Frank Black's "Los Angeles," I was inspired.

Then, and only then, did I get an idea. Why not reshoot the "Useless" video, but instead of using the animal that is not a cow, why not use a buffalo? In a hovercraft?

But I am now compelled to confess that my idea truly is no good.

Because, you see, I have discovered an even better reshoot of the "Useless" video. Here it is:

For you young whippersnappers, I should explain that the two cartoon characters are Bob and Doug McKenzie, who had their greatest popularity in the 1980s, before one of the actors, Rick Moranis, proceeded to star in "Spaceballs," the greatest long-form movie of the 20th century. (Yeah, Orson Welles still loses out.)

And no, I haven't blogged about Bob and Doug before, but I did mention Father McKenzie in this post, so I guess it's kind of close.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mr. Baldwin, things are falling apart (Led Zeppelin, "I'm Gonna Crawl")

It must have been a tough time to be John Baldwin.

Baldwin, better known to most of us as John Paul Jones, was the keyboard/bass player in Led Zeppelin. And things were falling apart all around him.

The band had been around for the better part of a decade, and some thought that its time had passed. The band had enough talent to stage a comeback, but it wasn't going to be easy. Lead guitarist Jimmy Page, for example, was mentally dazed and confused due to some pharmacological vices.

(source: Rob Michael)

But Page wasn't the only band member who was distracted. Robert Plant was still grieving over the death of his son. And John Bonham had his own substance abuse problems - problems that would eventually kill him.

So what is a de facto music director of Led Zeppelin to do? Easy, according to this album reviewer.

And after Karac Plant's tragic death in 1977 he basically took charge of Zeppelin, and wrote the music for 7 of the 10 songs recorded in Sweden in 1978. (Three other songs, "Ozone Baby", "Darlene", and "Wearing and Tearing" appeared on 1982's album "Coda".) He and Robert Plant took control of the band and wrote and recorded their parts during the day, while Jimmy Page and John Bonham both started to succumb to their addictions and would show up at night to record their parts. The division of the mighty Led Zeppelin was beginning to fail.

And the two-shift recording process resulted in a variety of songs of different genres. But in one of the songs, Jones got behind the keyboard, played a ditty straight from Walton's Mountain...and then let the blues come out.

And that, my friends, is "I'm Gonna Crawl."

Many people regret a band's so-called decline after hitting the toppermost of the poppermost. But some of my favorite albums are from bands whose day as supposedly passed - Devo's "Total Devo," Duran Duran's "Notorious," and Led Zeppelin's "In Through the Out Door" - the album that turned out to be the last one released while all four band members were still alive. And the ending song, "I'm Gonna Crawl," has been discussed repeatedly. Here's a review from someone who was probably in elementary school when the song was originally released:

While I truly do like the vast majority of Led Zeppelin’s recordings, even the posthumously, and not their best, released “Coda,” my favorites are when they cover old blues songs....[I]t is one of their original blues songs that I can almost listen to repeatedly, called “I’m Gonna Crawl,” off the “In Through the Out Door” album which I think is masterful in the conveyance of the emotion that a great blues song should have, through the tone and tenor, the sound of the guitar, meshed with the vocals.

Oh, and one more review can be found in the comments here:

I used to work as an exotic dancer for many years, and I'll tell you what...when I walked on that stage with that song for my opening set I never felt more powerful or sexy than anything I've ever experienced in my life. A true masterpiece of emotion.

I don't know what Karac Plant would have thought, but I'm sure his dad is proud.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Breathtakingly beautiful...lottery? John and Michelle Phillips' lyrics used to sway 2/3 of Californians who hate lotteries

I am really divided over this one.

Start with a 1960s pop song, performed by a quartet, about someone who is missing the state of California. Excellent lyrics, nice instrumentation (especially the instrumental break).

Now, a few decades later, re-record it in dramatic form, with an understated piano and choir. An absolutely beautiful rendition.

Then add a saying to deepen the drama - "Believe in Something Bigger." The whole mood is beautiful - and moving.

Oh, and one more thing - it's for a lottery.

In my case, when I first heard a Powerball commercial on TV, I thought, "All this for a lottery?" But my negative reaction was rather mild. R.J. Moeller, in a post entitled "California Schemin'," expressed profound displeasure at the commercial:

The state of California is currently more than $20 billion in debt for making promises it could not keep and spending money it did not have. It has an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. It taxes its citizens at higher rates than any place outside of Western Europe....

After much more of the same (see the post), Moeller then says:

But who needs balanced budgets, small business growth, innovative entrepreneurial activity, or the rule of law when you have . . . the lottery! Huzzah!

And when Moeller saw the "Believe in something bigger" slogan, he hit the roof.

If you need something to believe in, what’s bigger than the size and scope of California’s debt and deficits? I mean, besides the amount of cultural and moral decay encouraged by something like a state-funded gambling Ponzi scheme that specifically markets its “games” to low-income citizens (who are the same folks receiving the lion’s share of the entitlements causing the aforementioned debt and deficits)?

I think it's fair to say that Moeller wouldn't have reacted so strongly if the state had just run a huckster-ish "Buy Powerball tickets!" commercial. But the suggestion - vividly made via the music - that Powerball was a religious, self-affirming experience caused Moeller's extremely negative reaction. And he was just getting started:

I thought it was regrettably appropriate that the good folks at the Lotto offices chose a song –”California Dreamin’”– that was written by a man (the late John Phillips) who, apart from being a drug addict, engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Mackenzie Phillips) for decades.

But meanwhile, in the ad agency world where suicide is "edgy," the ad is being lauded.

This is the new California Lottery campaign from ad agency David & Goliath. Powerball is coming to California with the tagline “Believe in Something Bigger.” The white lottery balls fall like snow. with The Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreaming playing in the background.

It’s all very inspirational!

According to MediaPost, Powerball and David & Goliath had to pull out all the stops for this campaign.

With only about a third of consumers saying they had a positive feeling when it came to the California Lottery, the brand and its agency, David&Goliath, felt they needed to move beyond the typical lottery advertising of wealth and riches.

“We wanted a different, honest and optimistic approach to launching Powerball -- one that inspires people to believe in possibilities,” David Angelo, the agency’s founder and chief creative officer, tells Marketing Daily. “[Optimism] is what the Powerball brand stands for, and California is a brand that’s about optimism as well.”

OK, I'll admit that the ad is different. And the ad is definitely optimistic; the chance of winning the grand prize is 1 in 175 million. But is it honest - or is it manipulative?

Some of you may be wondering why I'm posting this in my music blog, rather than in my business blog. I'm writing this in the music blog because the music behind the ad is an essential part of the campaign. Music is an important part of many advertising campaigns. If you don't believe me, watch the video above with the sound off. When all you see are a bunch of crazed people in slow-motion with plastic balls all over the place, it's not that compelling, is it?

The song was co-authored by John and Michelle Phillips during a time when they were living in New York, far from California. To my knowledge, Michelle Phillips has made no public statement about the California Lottery campaign.

Papa John Phillips, for all his faults, had no idea that THIS was going to happen.