Monday, December 19, 2016

Mickey Newbury's Impromptu Synthesis ("An American Trilogy")

Before this weekend, I had never heard of Mickey Newbury, although I was familiar with his work.

So let's peek at Mickey Newbury's biography. He was born in Houston in 1940, spent some time in the Air Force, and eventually devoted himself to singing and songwriting. After some years, he achieved success in the latter.

1966 was the year the music industry noticed Mickey Newbury. Don Gibson had a Top Ten Country hit with Newbury’s Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings, while Tom Jones scored a world hit with the same song. In 1968, Mickey saw huge success; three number one songs and one number five – across four different charts; Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) on the Pop/Rock chart by the First Edition, SweetMemories on Easy Listening by Andy Williams, Time is a Thief on the R&B chart by Solomon Burke, and Here Comes the Rain Baby on the Country chart by Eddy Arnold. This feat has not been repeated.

But Newbury began to achieve some success as a singer also.

Mickey released three albums that raised the bar on Music Row. Produced at Cinderella Studios outside of Nashville, and utilizing Nashville’s best musicians, Newbury’s trilogy of albums - Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help The Child are often referred to as masterpieces.

But that's not the only trilogy connected with Newbury. The second of these albums, Frisco Mabel Joy, begins with a song that Newbury threw together in a single night (PDF).

Imagine merging Civil War era songs of the North, South and African-American slaves into one unified movement. On a starry evening in May of 1970 while appearing on stage at the Bitter End West, Newbury did just that. The impromptu arrangement just came together on that magical night and in one moment of brilliant inspiration.

We'll talk more about that night a little later.

While the arrangement was impromptu, the three songs that were chosen were (intentionally or unintentionally) deeply meaningful. Take the first song in the trilogy, "Dixie." Often considered the anthem of the Confederacy, many people are not aware that the song was composed by a Yankee, in New York City. And the song, at least originally, didn't have much to do with Jefferson Davis or his government.

It was Saturday night in 1859, when Dan Emmett was a member of Bryant's Minstrels in New York. Bryant came to Emmett and said: "Dan, can't you get us up a walk-around? I want something new and lively for Monday night." At that date all minstrel shows used to wind up with a "walk-around." The demand for them was constant, and Emmett was the composer of all the "walk-arounds" of Bryant's band. Emmett of course went to work, but he had done so much in that line that nothing at first satisfactory to him presented itself. At last he hit upon the first two bars, and any composer can tell how good a start that is in the manufacture of a tune. By Sunday afternoon he had the words, commencing: "I wish I was in Dixie." This colloquial expression was not, as most people suppose, a Southern phrase, but first appeared among the circus people of the North. In early fall, when nipping frosts would overtake the tented wanderers, the boys would think of the genial warmth of that section for which they were heading, and the common expression would be, "Well, I wish I was down in Dixie."

Which brings us to the second song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," written by another New Yorker, Julia Ward Howe. However, when she wrote the words to the song, she literally was in Dixie.

In 1861 ... she made her first trip to Washington, where her husband became interested in the work of the Sanitary Commission. During the visit the party was invited to a military review in the Virginia camps. On the way back she and the others in the carriage sang "John Brown's Body" to the applause of the soldiers by the roadside.... That night the inspiration came; she wrote the best known of her poems and one of the finest products of the whole Civil War period.

So we've heard from the South (via a Northerner), and the North (via someone in the South). Have we left anyone out? I guess so, because Newbury felt the need to throw a 1960s folk song into the medley. But folk songs, including this one - "All My Trials" - have their origins:

This spiritual-lullaby probably originated in the antebellum South, from where it was transported to the West Indies. It appears to have died out in this country, only to be discovered in the Bahamas.

Oh, yeah - the SLAVES. I guess slave lives matter also.

They certainly mattered to the folk artists and others of the 1960s. The folkies would sing slave spirituals, and they'd sing the occasional Southern-themed song like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." But "Dixie" itself was, in a word, verboten.

Until Mickey Newbury appeared at the Bitter End West.

[W]hen Mickey announced his intention to play ["Dixie"] in the dressing room just before he was to take the stage club owner Paul Colby went white with fear.

“Mickey, you can’t do that,” Colby protested. “They’ll tear this club apart.” Colby’s new venture, Bitter End West, a Los Angeles branch of his venerable New York folk club, had not been open a week and Mickey had been granted the privilege of playing its opening weekend.

“Well, get a shovel,” came Mickey’s reply, “cos I’m fixing to do it.”

Rather than introduce “Dixie” by name, Mickey preceded his performance with a short overture that he knew would play well to the audience of liberal Californians, industry folk and fellow artists.

“Just this last week,” he began, “there was a song banned. I just can not understand why people think a song can be damaging. Anybody that loves truth and loves music would have no argument with ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ regardless of what Bob Dylan’s politics or personality was like.”

That's when Newbury started playing "Dixie," and then tacked the other two songs on for good measure.

Of course, Mickey Newbury's version isn't the one we remember - we remember Elvis, in the jumpsuit, with the huge band and the horns and everything. But here's how Mickey does it - in this instance, just him and a violinist.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

No, @claytonpurdom - Hang Chu's "Neural Story Singing Christmas" is NOT creepy at all

Way back in 2009, when the Empoprise-MU music blog was in its early period, I spent some time talking about Microsoft SongSmith. The purpose of this project was to create a song based only upon a vocal part. This would allow musical novices to create songs based upon rather rudimentary ideas. Experimenters stripped the instruments off of established tracks and fed the vocals to SongSmith to see what would happen. While my previously shared example of "Wonderwall" has disappeared from YouTube, here's what happened with a-ha's "Take On Me."

You may cringe, but the project had some really impressive results when you think about it.

And of course science advances, and seven years have passed. So now it's not enough to feed vocals to a program. What about feeding it...a picture? And then letting the program create both the music AND the lyrics?

Enter the University of Toronto, a picture of a Christmas tree, and this.

Neural Story Singing Christmas from Hang Chu on Vimeo.

Now I'm a chord guy, so I've been (repeatedly) enjoying the chord progressions that the program came up with. But I guess I ought to pay attention to the lyrics.

Lots to decorate the room.
The Christmas tree is filled with flowers.
I swear its Christmas Eve.
I hope that is what you say.
The best Christmas present in the world is a blessing.
I've always been there for the rest of our lives.
A hundred and a half hour ago.
I am glad to meet you.
I can hear the music coming from the hall.
A fairy tale.
A Christmas tree.
There are lots and lots and lots of flowers.

Clayton Purdom of the A/V Club described the result as bone-chilling:

These are not lyrics, they are the moans of the damned, trapped between this world and something beyond it, just conscious enough to know they are not at rest.

While Purdom (and even has a point about the emotional emptiness of the lyrics (perhaps it will appeal to the narcissists that I will soon discuss in a separate blog post), the song is more impressive than it appears at first glance. The program analyzed an image, and based upon the information it had learned, it was able to come up with something that is recognizable as a Christmas song. But first the program had to learn:

Neural karaoke emerged from a broader research effort to use computer programs to make music, write lyrics and even generate dance routines. Taking music creation as a starting point, Hang Chu, a PhD student at the lab, trained a neural network on 100 hours of online music. Once trained, the program can take a musical scale and melodic profile and produce a simple 120-beats-per-minute melody. It then adds chords and drums....

Another hour of Just Dance tunes and 50 hours of song lyrics from the internet helped teach the program how to put words to music. Drawing on words that appeared at least four times in the dataset, the program built up a vocabulary of 3390 words, which the computer could then string together at a rate of one word per beat.

For the final step of the latest work, the program trained on a collection of pictures and their captions to learn how specific words can be linked to visual patterns and objects. When fed a fresh image, the program can compile some relevant lyrics and sing them using phonemes, or units of sound, linked to the words in its vocabulary.

In this case, the program saw a tree that appeared to be a Christmas tree, some cubes that appeared to be presents, and something (the stars? the lights?) that appeared to be lots and lots and lots of flowers. To top it off, because Christmas songs often evoke emotional reactions, the line "The best Christmas present in the world is a blessing" was thrown in there.

Frankly, I'm impressed. And not just by the chord progressions.

Although the program is still a little lacking in love songs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

#empogmgmu Part Five: A Musical Interlude from David Bowie

If you've followed the #empogmgmu series of posts in my Empoprise-BI business blog, you know that the phrase "five years" keeps on popping up.

So much so that my brain hurts a lot.

Time for a musical break. This is from a live performance from 1976, and I suspect that the performance is actually live because it's slower than the original recording.

After this, Bowie went to West Berlin, which kinda sorta ties in with the whole Oleg Atbashian thingie in a disturbing sort of way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Less than one month to vote for the #AMAs - unless there's fraud

Many people in my country are thinking about the elections that will take place on November 8 (or November 28, according to some sources). But people in the music industry may be thinking about another voting process which won't conclude until November 20 - the voting for the American Music Awards.

There are all sorts of awards shows for music and for other things, and there are all sorts of ways in which the award winners are selected. For example, if I ever start the Empoprises Music Awards - the celebrated EmpoMAs - the awards selection process will be Whoever I Feel Should Get The Award. (I won't even codify rules for bribing me, because no one would bother to do so.)

The American Music Awards, the late Dick Clark's entry into award-dom, trumpets the ability for fans to select the award winners. They've been around for a long time; the first awards were held in 1974, although not all of the award winners showed up.

(The short adult who accepted the award on Carpenters' behalf is Paul Williams.)

So how does the AMA process work?

While the nominees are selected by various data from Billboard and the like, the final awards themselves are tabulated based upon votes from Facebook and Twitter users.

The rules are online (PDF), and the voting windows are stated in the rules.

As you can see, November 14 is a critical date for many of the awards, but for the New Artist Award, you can vote until 6:00 pm Pacific Time on November 20. I'm sorry - I should have said 5:59:59 pm Pacific Time. Interestingly enough, the show will have been going on for an hour at that time, since the show starts on November 20 at 8:00 pm Eastern Time / 5:00 pm Pacific Time. (Whether those of us in the Pacific Time Zone will actually get to SEE the show at 5:00 pm is doubtful.)

As to the Facebook/Twitter voting itself, there are rules regarding that. Basically, you can vote once per day per voting method except for the New Artist Award voting, in which you can vote one hundred times per day per voting method. And there's another limitation.

Any resident of the fifty (50) United States (and District of Columbia) may vote online. For Twitter voting, votes will be accepted worldwide. You must have a Facebook account to vote online and a Twitter account to vote via Twitter.

Notice that Facebook voting from Puerto Rico is prohibited. Is that the reason why Ricky Martin didn't win an AMA in 2015?

But there is always a chance of election fraud. What if I use my multiple Twitter accounts to vote Jim Stafford in? More importantly, what if the Russians try to influence THIS election? Hey, I like Lena Katina, but I don't know that the rest of the United States does. In this case, the people running the awards have given themselves an out.

For all practical purposes, what does this mean - especially when you consider that some fraudulent activity probably occurred in the first hour of voting? (For example, Amanda Bynes - remember her? - could potentially vote from two separate Twitter accounts.) In essence, this means that the AMA producers have legal free rein to select the winners in any way possible after the expected fraud occurs.

They could even consult with old white men with extensive Jethro Tull record collections.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Speaking of "chilling," how about the Twitter account for the dead guy?

I believe that it is possible to separate the consideration of Michael Jackson's music, Michael Jackson's personal life, and Michael Jackson's business affairs.

This post concentrates on the latter.

During Jackson's life, it was essential that Jackson be portrayed as dominant - "the King of Pop." Albums, singles, concerts, humanitarian efforts - all were portrayed as hugely successful with strings of superlatives.

Well, luckily all of that ended with his death, right?

Yes, The Gloved One has a Twitter account.

A verified Twitter account.

And if you look closely at the account, you will see that it was established in July 2009.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009 (I remember; I was flying back from a conference in Atlantic City, and all of the TVs in Hartsfield Atlanta airport were talking about his death.)

So this verified account was not created until JUST AFTER HE DIED.

But if you scan the tweets from the account, you'd think he never left us. One example:

“It makes me so happy to be able to brighten those kids’ days by just showing up and talking with them...” –MJ

That particular tweet received over 1,300 retweets over 3,800 likes, and numerous replies regarding how much people love Michael, and how much people miss Michael.

If Jackson's former father-in-law is truly still alive like the tabloids claim, then he must be really jealous. Sure, Elvis had his devoted fans, but nothing like this. Plus, Michael earned twice as much in 2015 as Elvis did. (Sorry, Bob Marley.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A chilling remix of "Rock Me Amadeus"

I am surprised that I haven't posted this before, but here goes.

In the early and mid 1980s, an Austrian rock singer named Falco achieved trans-Atlantic fame with a song called "Rock Me Amadeus." However, because Falco sang in German and stuff, and Americans are afraid of foreign languages, a special remix was released here that minimized the German verses, retained the English "Rock me Amadeus" chorus, and added a spoken word intro with important dates in Mozart's life.

From my perspective, Falco pretty much disappeared after the mid-1980s, although I remember viewing a weird video for a song named "Jeanny."

A decade later, Falco was involved in a fatal automobile crash after ingesting various substances.

Roughly a decade after that, a new remix of "Rock Me Amadeus" was released. It had a few differences from the original.

First, the song included a series of biographical dates, but the dates corresponded to the life of Falco, not Mozart.

Second, the song included references to other Falco songs - more on that in a minute.

Third, the biographical dates continue long beyond the shouted "Rock Me Amadeus" - until we reach the mid-1990s where "fame is now a distant memory."

Then we arrive at February 6, 1998, and the events of that day are narrated, along with automobile/truck sounds.

The song then includes a "News Flash," but not the news flash from "Jeanny."

Perhaps it's best if you listen. Those familiar with Falco's career will appreciate the way this was put together.

Philip Hubbard's video is good too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The lyrics for the Shadows instrumental "F.B.I."

Yes, there are lyrics to the Shadows (as in Cliff Richard and the Shadows without Cliff Richard) instrumental song "F.B.I." Allow me to explain.

In the early 1980s, my dorm neighbor was a Greek named Alexandros. Because it was the early 1980s, Alexandros brought a vinyl record with him from Greece; the soundtrack for the film "Lemon Popsicle." (Years later, I discovered that "Lemon Popsicle" was not a Greek film, but an Israeli film.) Because the film was set in the 1950s, the soundtrack consisted of a number of pre-Beatlemania hits, including the aforementioned Shadows song "F.B.I."

Obviously the Shadows had legs and knew how to use them.

But more important than their choreography was their sound. Lead guitarist Hank Marvin in particular is noted as an influential figure in British music - he reputedly introduced the Fender Stratocaster to England - and other English musicians recognized their importance, if we Americans didn't. When Paul McCartney released his video for "Coming Up," I had no idea that the guy in the glasses was NOT supposed to be Buddy Holly.

Anyway, let's go back to the college dorm environment, when you're thrown together with a bunch of people and your Greek neighbor was playing his album ALL THE TIME. Eventually I wrote lyrics to the instrumental:

I am in the F.B.I.
Five o'clock, I'm gonna die.
Gonna get shot down by a Greek from out of town
And the flag of Thessaloniki will fly over the flag of F.B.I.
(Gonna die)

So that's how an instrumental got lyrics. But I'm not gonna try to write lyrics for "Hocus Pocus."

POSTSCRIPT: Some versions of the "Lemon Popsicle" soundtrack are mislabeled. I know that Alexandros' version had an inaccuracy, which can also be found in the Japanese version of the soundtrack.

Check track A10. Yes, the Big Bopper (who died with the guy who looked like Hank Marvin) did sing "Chantilly Lace" - after all, he wrote it. But the version on the soundtrack album includes the singer saying "you know what Jerry Lee likes." I don't know if Jerry Lee Lewis is on all versions of the soundtrack and the soundtrack people goofed, or if he is on some versions and the Big Bopper is on others.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

(from Empoprise-BI) You are not a customer, August 2016 edition (Pandora, Peter Deacon, and Michigan's Video Rental Privacy Act)


I have made a certain point ad nauseum. If you are a user of a service that provides wonderful things to you, then you are probably not a "customer" of the service provider.

Back before Google became Alphabet, its investor website contained the following question:

Who are our customers?

Think of all the services that pre-Alphabet Google provided - search capability, video watching, blogging, et al.

Now forget about all of them.

Our customers are over one million of advertisers, from small businesses targeting local customers to many of the world's largest global enterprises, who use Google AdWords to reach millions of users around the world.

Perhaps things have changed a bit with the creation of Alphabet, but for the most part, Alphabet exists to serve advertisers. The people using Alphabet services are merely providing data and eyeballs.

Which brings us to Michigan's Video Rental Privacy Act. Going back a decade or two to the time when videotapes were popular, people would go to a video store, choose a video tape to rent, pay some money, take it home, watch it, BE KIND REWIND, and return the tape. This worried privacy advocates, who were afraid that someone's recorded rentals of hot sex action and/or Pauly Shore movies would be revealed to the public. Hence, the Video Rental Privacy Act was born.

Peter Deacon, Pandora user, was subsequently disturbed at what Pandora was doing:

Plaintiff Peter Deacon brought a class action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Pandora, claiming that the music-streaming company violated Michigan’s video privacy law by posting his music preferences on Facebook and making his preferences available via an internet search.

As far as Deacon was concerned, Pandora's sharing of this information with Facebook was a privacy violation. I don't know whether Facebook revealed that Deacon loved Morris Albert's "Feelings," the collected works of Britney Spears, or what. But Deacon felt that the Michigan Video Rental Privacy Act would protect him.

It wouldn't.

In a unanimous decision, the seven members of the Michigan court held that Deacon was not a “customer” under the VRPA because he neither rented nor borrowed anything from Pandora. The act is “intended to preserve personal privacy with respect to the purchase, rental, or borrowing of certain materials,” and prohibits the release of any information that indicates the identity of a customer. Accordingly, only customers can sue under the act. A customer is “a person who purchases, rents, or borrows a book or other written material, or a sound recording, or a video recording.”

Now perhaps this is a case in which the law has not caught up with technology. Or perhaps not. But regardless of how we may feel today, current law assumes that the sound recording was purchased, rented, or borrowed.

Would the legalities have changed if Deacon was paying for his Pandora service? That I do not know.

P.S. My music listening habits are revealed for all to see. And yes, you can find Wham! in the list.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Faint praise from Giorgio Moroder

Well, since I'm not writing about "Cars" as I previously planned, I'll talk about something else - Tom's Diner, the 2015 version by Giorgio Moroder and Britney Spears.

There was a lot of pre-publicity before the official release of the song and its accompanying album, which is the time that you expect people to say nice things about the people who work with them.

But Moroder has certainly earned his place in the music pantheon, which probably explains why he didn't play the nice game. In fact, some of his comments came off as faint praise. To be fair, Spears is not known as an amazing vocalist, but still:

I don’t think you could say immediately, ‘Oh, this is Britney,’ because she sounds so good on this song.


The song doesn't have a big range, and I added a bridge and some instrumental stuff. Britney sounds so good, you would hardly recognize her.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The fox says a thousand words per frame ("The Big Country")

Turning from the fox, I'm looking at an epic western song - not an epic western remix, but an epic western original.

Last month I wrote one of my wandering posts that touched on everything from a Star Trek encounter with pure energy to the Talking Heads song "The Big Country."

While the primary emphasis of the Talking Heads song is the urban protagonist's negative reaction to middle America (David Byrne himself would come to love middle America by the time of "True Stories"), a secondary theme within the song is the fact that the United States is...a big country.

Patrick J. Fox's video emphasizes the latter aspect of the song.

The visuals are derived from one of the last verses of the song.

I'm tired of looking out the windows of the airplane
I'm tired of traveling, I want to be somewhere.

Or, as Patrick J. Fox himself put it:

VIDEO MADE for 1979 song The Big Country from the LP More Songs About Buildings and Food - made on flight from New York when landing in New Orleans - shot whilst listening to the song by happenstance on iPod Shuffle on September 11, 2007. True Story. Px.

I can relate to this right now, because my family is hosting a foreign exchange student. While her home country is, in its own way, a big country, geographically it's nothing like the United States.

And the exchange student has certainly seen her share of airplanes in the past year. First she had to get to the United States from her home country. After arriving here, she has taken plane trips to San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Honolulu. She's certainly seen her share of farmlands - and, in the case of the Hawaii trip, water.

But all of those airplane rides did not prepare her for her next trip - a trip across the United States.

Not by plane.

By train.

This 2011 video is a 15 minute condensed version of a cross-country trip. An actual cross-country trip takes much longer.

All aboard!

Ylvis has left the building - I mean the Minnesota forest

When I read the headline to this story - "Forest-Plan Opponents Point to Wolf, Lynx & Bat" - I was immediately moved to ask myself three questions:

1. What does the wolf say?
2. What does the lynx say?
3. What does the bat say?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jolene - an epic remake

Dolly Parton - singer, songwriter, actress, Walt Disney wannabe. Clearly a woman with at least double the talent of many of her peers.

But I feel sorry for those who primarily know Parton from one of three sources.

First, I feel sorry for those who know her as the songwriter for Whitney Houston's megahit "I Will Always Love You." Houston's performance is triumphant, (I'll explain later.) To put it bluntly, it's LOUD - nowhere near the understated, quiet, wistful original.

Second, I feel sorry for those who know her from her "Islands in the Stream" duet. No issue with the song - it's a good song. Which it should be, since the Gibb brothers wrote it. Kenny and Dolly did it well, but you could have had Barry Gibb and Barbra Streisand perform it and it would have done just as well.

This time period brings up the third - Dolly's solo hit "9 to 5." It's a rollicking good song that ties in well with the movie, but it's not the best thing that Dolly has ever done.

That honor is reserved for her early 1970s song "Jolene." Miles away from modern country, and much closer to Parton's bluegrass roots, "Jolene" was much more restrained than anything Whitney Houston ever did. Lyrically, the song also explored some rocky territory:

“Jolene” was a song about insecurity, fear, and jealousy....“Jolene” was a brooding, minor key tune that used repetitive language to emphasize the narrator’s anxiety.

Reportedly inspired by a tall redheaded bank clerk who seemed a bit too nice to her husband, Dolly spun her feelings about that largely innocuous situation into a dramatic lyric that took the form of a plea:

It's one of the most haunting country songs you'll ever hear. With the sparse background, Parton's quiet, pleading voice stands out prominently.

Now, fast forward.

Brazen (and Fonzerelli) are names used by British DJ Aaron McClelland. His Wikipedia biography is here. Singer Ellenyi (more commonly known today as Georgia Harrup) entered the Ibiza scene to collaborate with McClelland to create this rather unrestrained version of Parton's classic.

A version that works magnificently. Harrup isn't sitting in a holler near Pigeon Forge, and the "epic western" sounds can't be played on a dulcimer and fiddle, but the feelings in the lyrics are universal.

No idea what Parton thinks of the remake, but she always said nice things about Whitney Houston, so I'm sure she likes Brazen's take.

Or at least the royalties from same.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Revisiting the Ontario Emperor's Virtual Domain

I had occasion to visit a website that I created nearly twenty years ago.

The website, Ontario Emperor's Virtual Domain, can be found on Tripod. Originally created around 1998, I haven't really interacted with it since 2009. In fact, I recently had trouble remembering whether the site was on Tripod, or Excite.

Yes, the color scheme betrays its 1990s heritage. But the color scheme is unique.

Reading through the website lets you wander through ancient tech history. References to, geocities, DejaNews, and Beseen can be found in its pages.

Regarding the content, I stopped updating the website in January 2009. The website doesn't even include the very last (so far) Ontario Emperor recordings, uploaded to in May 2009.

Yet I still find myself visiting the website every once in a while, and for those few who like MIDI-generated synth music, you may like it also. "Little Vegas One" from Exile One is a personal favorite.

Monday, May 2, 2016

(Not) Crawdaddies in Space (Goo Goo Ga-Ga-Ga)

In a 2009 post in this Empoprise-MU music blog, I quoted from a Crawdaddy review of a band that achieved its initial fame in the 1970s.

Discarding theatrics for pure energy, Talking Heads undressed pretension and the expectations of typical CBGB fare, allowing each note to attack the flesh on its own....

When the Crawdaddy reviewer was writing this, the reviewer probably wasn't thinking of a Star Trek episode from the 1960s. Halfway through this clip, at about 1:30, Spock notes that something is fascinating, and then describes his observations in two words.

If YouTube is blocked in your home country, those two words are "pure energy."

And yes, you've heard those words before, if you were around in the late 1980s. (I'm jumping decades so much, I probably should have posted this to my tymshft blog.) The words (along with other Star Trek phrases) were incorporated into the Information Society song "What's on Your Mind."

Of course, something that is sampled can be sampled again, as a Pittsburgh radio station demonstrated. Often when radio stations change formats, they stop the old format, play a short snippet of audio on a loop over and over again until people go crazy, and then start the new format. That's what the Pittsburgh radio station did, as the station - then known as WYDD - prepared to change formats, and to change its call letters to WNRJ.

WYDD-FM started playing the song "What's on Your Mind" by Information Society at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and when it got to the phrase "pure energy," repeated it over and over until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the station changed to its new format. Program director Rick Sklar made a tape loop that "just kept repeating, 'Pure energy, pure energy,' " said Bob Hank, station general manager. The new station's theme is "Energy 105," based on the new call letters, W-N-R-J.

Unfortunately for the station, the listeners panicked in an Orswellian sort of way.

But listeners hoping for the usual tunes became alarmed when regular music never came on and began phoning the station, the police, the 911 emergency number and the FBI....

And the Organians weren't around to stop them from doing it.

Once the station started its "energy" format, it apparently was playing Bon Jovi rather than Information Society, based upon this soundcheck.

And the format didn't last. In less than a year, WNRJ became easy listening station WEZE, and then switched two years after that to Christian talk as WORD. Today the 104.7 frequency is occupied by WPGB, which is currently a "new country" station.

Not a "big country" station, because then we will have gone full circle in this post - and I'm not talking Scotsmen.

(For a fun trick, play the Star Trek, Information Society, and Talking Heads videos all at once.)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mr. Nelson's appearances in the Empoprise-MU music blog

So after hearing the news of Prince Rogers Nelson's untimely passing, I scanned this blog to see what I had said about him previously.

Back in 2008, I mentioned his religious beliefs. (As far as I can tell, he died a Jehovah's Witness.) This quote from Prince may be appropriate in this election year.

“So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”

My 2009 reference was a little buried. In the course of admiring Eddie Murphy's song "My God Is Color Blind," I said the following:

It was Wednesday night (I guess that makes it alright) when I found that Steven Perez shared a video on FriendFeed. The video involved Prince's competitor Rick James, and a singer named Eddie Murphy.

The next reference, later in 2009, was made in the course of not admiring Michael Jackson. would think that one would be celebrating the music of Jackson - and he was clearly musically talented - but the emphasis on superlative numbers that colored all perception of Jackson throughout his life continues to haunt him after his death. Sadly, part of this was Jackson's own fault - even Prince wouldn't name his best-of album "HIStory" with a capital "HIS."

A little later, I mentioned Prince along with other influencers and influencees, including Sylvester Stewart and Joni Mitchell:

Prince attended one of my concerts in Minnesota. I remember seeing him sitting in the front row when he was very young. He must have been about 15. He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes. He watched the whole show with his collar up, looking side to side. You couldn’t miss him—he was a little Prince-ling. [Laughs.] Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes. And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it!

By 2010, I had moved on to Sheila E., and (possibly) another Sheila:

Now I was never really impressed with Ready for the World back in the day, since they appeared to have Prince's smuttiness without the talent. "(pant) (pant) (pant) Oh Sheila," indeed.

Enter the Human League, and one of my favorite songs from the band, "Love on the Run." What does that have to do with Prince? This song is about the only song that escaped the clutches of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had left The Time to strike out on their own. But before they left The Time, Jam & Lewis learned one thing from Prince - and it wasn't a good thing.

That's when the "hot producers" idea kicked in, and an agreement was reached to have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produce the band. Jam and Lewis, ex-members of the Time, were the hot producers of the moment. Three facts about Jam and Lewis were pertinent:

First, they learned their chops under Prince, who was well known for his controlling nature over projects.

Second, they had just finished working with Janet Jackson on an album called "Control."

Third, the majority of the songwriting credits on the song "Control" were held by Jam and Lewis.

Even if you had never heard the story before, you can probably guess how it's going to end.

By December, I was quoting Bob Geldof to introduce the Billy Crystal parody song "I Am Also The World." The text of my post didn't explain why Crystal wrote the song, but let's just say that the star-studded recording of "We Are The World" was a little less star-studded than it could have been. Anyway, since I didn't talk about that in the post, I'll go ahead and quote what Bob Geldof said:

I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.

Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every ****ing Christmas.

By 2011, I was talking about compelling songs, including one written by Prince that was made famous by someone else (without Prince's involvement, by the way):

After persusing Spinner's list of 25 very sad songs, you can definitely see some moving ones in the list. Here are my favorites:

"Nothing Compares 2 U." Start with the work that Prince put into the song, both musically and lyrically, and then add Sinead O'Connor's performance to it. Very downlifting....

And that 2011 mention is (unless I missed something) the last time that I mentioned Mr. Nelson in this blog until today. There are a number of reasons for this, but one major one is my age and his age. We are more inclined to talk about music that was popular in our younger years, and artists themselves are more likely to achieve massive popularity in their younger years. Note that my mentions of Prince were often paired with mentions of other artists who originally achieved fame decades ago - Rick James, Eddie Murphy, Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stewart, Joni Mitchell, Sheila E., Ready for the World, the Human League, Jam & Lewis, Bob Geldof, Billy Crystal, and Sinead O'Connor. I've just listed all of the guest stars in a bad VH-1 "Remember the 80s" special.

But look at the breadth of these artists. Now many good artists are inspired by, and inspire, a variety of other artists from different types of music. These varied inspirations create masterful syntheses of different types of music. Prince certainly had his share of inspirations. Take the "Purple Rain" album - I've never listened to the whole thing, but going from the gospel-ish "Purple Rain" to the minimalist "When Doves Cry" to the psychedelic "Take Me With U" -

Wait, let's hold it right there, because there's something that has to be said about the guy. And I know he just died, but - THE DUDE COULDN'T SPELL WORTH A WHATEVER. Joni Mitchell referenced his spelling tendencies, and I've encountered message boards where the mark of a true Prince fan is to spell just like he does. (Including the unpronounceable symbol.)

It turns out that there's a name for this spelling.


I was going to reference an essay on Princebonics, but is unavailable at the moment. Perhaps by the time you see this post, you - and I - can read it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Earworm rhymes with...appendix F?


This is a follow-up to my March 23 post Why two earworms burrowed my brain. You know how some people track their dreams? I track my earworms.

I was sitting at my desk on Thursday and noticed that the Duran Duran song "American Science" was passing through my brain. I love this song, because it exhibits the world-weariness of the band in their mid-20s (the same weariness that afflicted George Harrison before his 23rd birthday). Duran Duran had enjoyed immense worldwide popularity, but by the time the "Notorious" album was released, it was getting a bit tiresome (especially for two of the Taylors, who had left the band by that time). The album song sequencing begins with the title track, "Notorious" - with its funky sound and the "notorious" lyrics that suggest earlier triumphs. But then, beginning with "American Science," side 1 of the album (back then, albums had sides) has a decided adult feel, with mentions of megalomania and the like, and the kids probably wandered away and waited for Axl Rose to show up.

I seem to have digressed from my earlier topic - WHY was this song stuck in my head?

It turns out that while sitting at my desk, I had previously read a press release from a company known as AMREL. The press release described the FBI certification of the XP7-ID biometric handheld device. In essence, FBI certification means that under certain circumstances, fingerprints captured on the XP7-ID can be submitted to the FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system.

The press release, however, failed to mention whether the XP7-ID had the more stringent "Appendix F" certification, or the less stringent "PIV" certification. To find this out, I had to go to a U.S. government website and find the page that actually discussed the certification. When I did so, I not only discovered that the device did have the more stringent Appendix F certification, but also that the official name of the company in question was not AMREL, but American Reliance, Inc.

American Reliance. Rhymes with American Science. Geddit?

I just hope that there isn't a biometric company with a product that sounds like "skin trade."

P.S. The APMP guy in me offers one suggestion - never, never, NEVER use the phrase "best of breed" in a press release to describe your product. It makes your product sound like a dog.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why two earworms burrowed my brain

Earworms fascinate me. A song will pop in my head, and I have no idea why.

But I was recently able to identify the sources for two earworms.

My employer's corporate parent, Safran, has an internal news service called Insite that provides information to employees of all of the Safran companies. After reading the latest Insite updates one day, I took my afternoon walk and found that the Depeche Mode song "Insight" had burrowed into my brain. This particular song includes lyrics such as "Wisdom of ages, enlighten me." While I obviously believe that my corporate parent provides important information, I would not characterize it as "wisdom of ages."

The next morning, I awoke to find that the iOS 9.3 update was awaiting on my phone. I read about the new features, and discovered that the Night Shift feature would now be available.

Too bad that Jackie and Marvin did not live to see it.

Monday, February 22, 2016


If I were to use the word "bleeding" in association with Megadeth, most people would think of bleeding eardrums.

According to a LinkedIn post, the true association should be bleeding edge - and Dave Mustaine should be considered a technologist.

Heavy metal icons Megadeth have always been on the bleeding edge of technology when it comes to fusing their groundbreaking music with innovative marketing ideas to connect with their fans.

For example, Megadeth has a website. Now that may not seem shocking to most modern music fans, but Megadeth had a website before Microsoft had a web browser.

On October 31st, 1994 when the band’s critically acclaimed sixth studio album Youthanasia came out, they were the first band to ever have a website. “We can always sit back and say we were very first to do that,” says Mustaine. “We won tons of awards for our internet sites, the chat room, the bulletin boards, all of the graphics, the audio stuff. It just was mind blowing to people at the time.”

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Mustaine is talking specifics about virtual reality:

“Scott showed me the complete 360 thing and I said, this is great, but never did I see that filming format on a mobile buggy-cam like Mary did,” says Mustaine. He continues, “Mary and her team from CEEK had this 360 camera set up on top of this moving remote camera and it was going all around us while we were playing. It’s totally different from just standing there and you turn around and see the guy on this side and this guy on the other. You can't ever walk behind – now you can, now you can walk next to me on the right side or you walk next to me on my left side.”

Special attention was also paid to the audio. Apparently Mustaine learned his lessons from the quadrophonic craze of the early 1970s.

Mustaine explains, “So if you're looking at me from the front and the buggy-cam is creeping up, you are going to hear the drums in front of you. If the camera comes along to my side, and you are looking at my left side, the drums are naturally going to be on your right, even if you turn sideways. So, the whole point of view within and everything like that changes is, I think, is super, super awesome and adds to the realism.”

To think of the ramifications of this, consider American football. As Roone Arledge and other innovations modified the football viewing experience on TV, things changed so much - the multiple cameras, the superimposed graphics - that going to the stadium was inferior to watching the game on TV. Modern stadiums, such as the one in Santa Clara and the new one in Inglewood, are now trying to catch up.

Will the same thing happen in music? Will a Megadeth concert be inferior to Megadeth's new virtual reality experience? And will the concert experience have to change so that audiences will continue to buy tickets?

Monday, January 11, 2016

A quick comment on that last post

If you saw the post that I published this morning, you probably noticed that it began as follows:

Musical artists reinvent themselves all the time. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust (and all sorts of people).

Needless to say, I drafted that post a couple of days ago, before Bowie changed to his latest persona.

Which puts me in the same league as the New York Times.

David Bowie just celebrated his 69th birthday, released an album, “Blackstar,” and has a show, “Lazarus,” running Off Broadway. Now he is to be honored at Carnegie Hall with a concert featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats. The concert, presented by Michael Dorf, who runs City Winery, will take place on March 31.

The Times had to update their article with a blurb at the beginning...which just shows how all of us were surprised.

The necessity of reinvention - why Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was necessary

Musical artists reinvent themselves all the time. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust (and all sorts of people). David Johansen became Buster Poindexter.

But one such reinvention mystified people at the time, because most people believed it wasn't necessary. After all, back in 1966, what could be better than being the Beatles? They had spent four years conquering the world, and were bigger than Elvis (when all four of their weights were combined). They were adored by teenagers, imitated by other musicians, and respected the world over.

But it sure looked different from the inside. In 1966, being a Beatle involved being sequestered in hotel rooms, driven in high security to huge concert halls (even sports stadiums), and playing 30 minute music sets that no one could hear because the entire audience was screaming. And the music? Not from their latest album Revolver, but mostly older songs such as "Baby's in Black" and "Long Tall Sally." Oh, and "Yesterday"; gotta play "Yesterday." No, they didn't play "Tomorrow Never Knows" on tour in 1966.

So the whole experience was frustrating - especially for George Harrison, who was constrained musically by the crowds surrounding him and by the older duo in the band itself who still treated him as the kid. He did get to play "If I Needed Someone" on tour, but that was it.

So being the Beatles wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

And that was on a good day.

It wasn't a good day that year in Manila when the Beatles' manager inadvertently offended the First Lady of the Philippines, and the security that traditionally protected the band mysteriously disappeared for a time. (Imelda apparently lost a shoe, and required all security forces in the Philippines to look for it.)

It wasn't a good day that year in Memphis when the band heard a loud pop and instantly turned to John Lennon, wondering if he had just been shot by a religious zealot. In 1966, Lennon hadn't been shot - it was just a firecracker.

After all of the trauma of the touring in 1966, the Beatles acted on their previous unanimous decision to quit touring - and began to wonder exactly who they were. If they weren't surrounded by screaming girls and security guards, then they obviously weren't Beatles any more. Who were they?

The answer came after a leisurely recording session. Since they weren't touring the world any more, they had time for leisurely recording sessions. The song that they happened to record that day was entitled "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and one of the Beatles - Paul, the cute one - thought that it would be a great idea for the four of them to record an entire album as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On the surface, it was an extremely dumb idea. Why would people associated with musical frontiers want to be associated with an old brass band? (OK, Paul the cute one would like that because of his father's musical background, but I don't know about the other three.) And, as Mae West observed, why would anyone who sparked sexual desire want to be associated with a lonely hearts club?

Yet it was better than the alternative of being the "moptops" or the "fab four," and the other three embraced the idea and carried through with an album, a religious treat, and a trippy movie. Whatever you may think of the resulting work, it clearly inspired the band (and all the other bands that imitated them) to do something brand new.

If you want to see a whole list of musical artist reinventions, including the ones mentioned above as well as many others (Slim Shady and Snoop Lion, anyone?), check this out.