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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Re: “Ba Ba-Ba-Ba Ba”

posted by on October 30 at 10:57 AM

I totally thought this post was going to be about this song:

“Ba Ba-Ba-Ba Ba”

posted by on October 30 at 10:47 AM

Playing In the Pocket with Eddie Bo!: New Orleans Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul, and Funk 1955-2007 (Vampisoul) last night, I came across Marilyn Barbarin & the Soul-Finders’ “Reborn” (which Mr. Bo produced) and had a mini-revelation. Check out the beginning of the song in the video below and ask yourself where you may have heard that catchy bit of scatting before.

Another mystery solved. Damn, that feels good.

Marilyn Barbarin & the Soul-Finders’ “Reborn”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thank You (For Writin’ This Book)

posted by on October 27 at 2:13 PM

Composing a biography of the notoriously elusive and reclusive Sly Stone has to be one of the most difficult tasks a scribe can tackle. But Jeff Kaliss managed to get face time with the soul/funk/rock legend who composed a couple of dozen songs that penetrated the charts with incomparable dynamics, fascinating rhythms, and indelible melodies. Kaliss’ I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone is about as comprehensive a look at one of the most talented and tragic figures in popular music. (I’m 60 pages into it right now, but hope to have a full review completed soon.)

Kaliss put in a lot of legwork for this bio, interviewing record-biz figures, band members from the Family Stone and the Viscaynes (Sly’s pre-Family Stone outfit), and documenting the early years of Sylvester Stewart’s life and his family lineage.

Rich Freedman of the Bay Area-based Times-Herald interviewed Kaliss, and the following passage surprised, with its J.D. Salinger-like sense of a genius working in seclusion, generating great quantities of work that nobody’s seen or heard for decades.

Sly continues to write and, eventually, produce and perform, Kaliss said, adding that the Grammy winner has "loads" of music left in him.

"He keeps doing it. He stays up to 3, 4 in the morning just writing," Kaliss said. "He's been doing that all along. But we haven't gotten to hear much of it yet. Even when he's stayed hidden, he's kept going."

One has to wonder: Wouldn’t a label kill to release some new Sly Stone material? Or why doesn’t Sly release it himself? Or have Prince do the honors? Could it be that… this new music isn’t very good? Hmmm…

Now please enjoy one of the greatest pieces of music ever conceived. “Stand” possesses one of the most satisfying, gradual builds in pop-music history and the final minute of it represents the most electrifying, despair-obliterating coda ever.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Death of a Record Collection

posted by on September 16 at 12:45 PM

Right now, my esteemed colleague Dave Segal is on the phone negotiating the long-delayed transport of his record collection from Orange County. Segal has been here for just over a month; these should have been here just days after he arrived. "These are extremely valuable to me," he's telling the person on the other end of the phone. "I'm not going to let this go." It sounds pretty grim.

Last week, I was in NYC. I walked by Other Music, Victory Records, various little vinyl boutiques, and while, on some abstract level, I wanted to support all these businesses, I didn't come home with a single record. At my kind host's stylish but small railroad apartment, we listened to music on a nice set of speakers plugged into mp3 players and laptops. They had maybe two boxes of records. I can't remember whether or not they had a turntable set up (I don't think so).

At home, I have the same brand of shelving as every other vinyl owning young person, the one made out of 16 squares perfectly sized for 12"s (your model may have 25 squares if you're fancy). It's half full of vinyl, half full of books and other media. I have a few crates worth of records on additional shelving or in actual crates on the floor, but I'm lately convinced that I'm never going to fill the rest of this shelf up with vinyl, let alone have to someday spring for the 25 square model.

I find no joy in this conclusion. I would love to live in a house lined with shelves of records. I would prefer my living room to look like these. I just don't think it's going to happen.

Vinyl is relatively big and heavy. Airlines are charging for extra baggage, and even when they weren't, traveling with vinyl (say, enough to DJ with) is grueling compared to traveling with mp3s or even CDs. Shipping is apparently a drag as well. Apartment space for record shelving is limited.

Music is expensive. We're diving headlong into what looks to my admittedly not economically expert eyes like a serious recession/depression, and records just aren't a necessity as much as food and shelter (Segal will likely debate this point with me). Rising fuel prices only aggravate the flying/shipping issues as well. As much as I want to support these small business and be a parton of artists, I just can't give any more than I can afford. Before this job, that meant buying records as carefully as possible, downloading what I couldn't afford to buy, and supporting artists at shows and by buying other merch. Now, it frequently means building my collection through promotional copies. Both means meant more CDs and mp3s than vinyl making their way into my collection. Morgan Geist might complain that I'm not listening to his records on the proper hi-fi setup in the ideal format, but audiophile gear is a luxury that most music fans probably can't afford. Hell, even Sasha Frere-Jones is selling his record collection.

These are gloomy, doomy times—every time someone in New York asked me how work was going, I would reply that it's great, the music business is tanking, print journalism is tanking, so print music journalism is the most exciting place you could hope to be. In seriousness, it's an awesome job, I feel fortunate every day to have it, but I'm not sure it'll ever launch me comfortably into the middle class. I think I may never own a home; maybe I won't be able to hold on to all the music I love for posterity either. Maybe formats—or other, larger paradigms—will shift and force people of my class situation to leave certain things behind. I think record collections, as opposed to mp3 collections, will only become increasingly a thing of class privilege rather than of ardent music fandom (I suppose it was always this way; perhaps music fans of less means have just moved from dubbed cassettes to mp3s).

Sacrilege, maybe, but as much as I love the look and feel of vinyl, records are only of marginally more value to me than the equivalent mp3s. Or: If I have to, I can let record collecting go. At least it'll be easier to move when rising rent finally prices me out my current place.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poll: Drugs, Nasty Ass Drugs

posted by on July 16 at 12:09 PM


Music and drugs have a long and intertwining history. Certain artists have their poisons and certain poisons have their artists. Fans too, poisons don’t miss them either. (Managers, promoters, bookers, and label reps, let’s not forget they do drugs too.) We as music makers and fans snort, smoke, shoot, chug, and inject, for many reasons.

Enhancement of the senses to intensify creative process? Check. Enhancement of the senses to intensify audible and visual experience? Check. R. Kelly says, “I believe I can fly” and we do too. Or if you’re from the South, you want drugs because you like how it feels going fast.

Eddy Grant rocks down to Electric Avenue then does what? He takes it highya. Sadly, ginseng and guarana don’t stack up. I mean, there you are on Electric Avenue, somehow a cup of ginseng tea doesn’t work.

Drugs get ugly real quick. Some of the nastiest and dumbest:

The Speedball: intravenous use of heroin or morphine and cocaine.
Crank: cheap form of meth that is usually snorted.
Lith: lithium taken from batteries, comes in a paste, usually smoked.
LSD/Mushroom/Ecstasy combo: college students in Georgia call it “The Larry”.
Freon: the shit in refrigerators and air conditioners.
Yard of Beer: three feet of liquid beer.

Which gets you the highest?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Space Needle Captured!

posted by on July 12 at 10:04 AM

Dear Sub Pop, Happy Birthday! I almost sh*t my pants climbing to the top of the Space Needle with you, but now I love you even more. Yours, Kelly O

Photos after the jump...

Continue reading "Space Needle Captured!" »

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sorry to Pick at an Old (Boring, White) Scab...

posted by on July 11 at 1:06 PM


...but I've spent the past 24 hours listening to nothing but Rubber Soul and I can attest unequivocally and for all time that it is 30 times better than this album and 16 times better than this album.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What Mountain?

posted by on July 9 at 3:58 PM

Let's return to those enigmatic lines in the second section of Portrait's post-black elegance masterpiece "Here We Go Again!":

Climb a mountain (what mountain?)
Swim a sea (what sea?)
See what I mean? (no?)
I don`t know but I don`t want to get too deep

Let's do it! Let's "get too deep." What is happening in this passage? The response to the rapper is that he sees a mountain and a sea, but this is the wrong response. It's not a matter of seeing a mountain and sea, but doing something on the mountain and in sea: in the first he is climbing; in the second he is swimming. So, when he says: "See what I mean?," this meaning has to do with doing something and not the thing that something is being done to. Deeper yet, this doing is not done in the world of objects but in the very opposite: a state of mind. Climbing, here, is an idea of climbing; swimming, an idea of swimming. And so what the rapper wants the other singers to grasp is the idea (or universal concept) of these activities. In conclusion, the rapper in the lovely (even heavenly) post-black elegance tune is a Platonist.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Book Was Better....

posted by on July 8 at 11:38 AM

A few years back while blinking my way through a first listen of Mastodon's Leviathan, my wandering mind and I began to compile a rough list of full-length albums based on literary sources. We didn't get very far. Here is that list:

Leviathan ... a distillation of Moby Dick.
Pink Floyd's Animals ... something to do with Animal Farm.
Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea ... 'inspired by' The Diary of Anne Frank.

Also, is the Roots album Things Fall Apart based on Achebe's novel? Not sure. I've only heard it once.

That's all I could think of, then and now. There must be more. I'm missing something obvious, I can feel it. A little help ... anyone?

(Deep-ish thoughts below....)

Continue reading "The Book Was Better...." »

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

James Brown Blaxploitation Trivia by Cosby

posted by on July 1 at 10:47 PM


Cosby commented on James Brown’s Black Caesar album saying:

It’s amazing, especially considering it is built of so-called JB 'filler' material (“The Boss” is a disposable b-side? Whoa.)

And "The Payback" was rejected by the makers of the movie “Hell Up in Harlem” for being not funky enough.

Thank you, Cosby. It goes to show that you can learn something new about James Brown every day. Like that some people back in the day didn’t think he was funky enough. That’s like saying water isn’t wet.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cole in Uganda

posted by on June 27 at 1:00 PM

I haven't thought about this song/video since 2006, when I watched it as part of Vice magazine's travel DVD.

But it's the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning—especially the image around 1:18 with the little Ugandan girl disappearing into herself as she dances.

I think it means I'm about to have a stroke.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jazz Sorrows

posted by on June 24 at 4:06 PM

Ernestine Anderson lives in Seattle!
That's the good news. The bad news: she's about to get evicted.

THE MORTGAGE and housing market crisis has ensnared a lot of household names across the nation.

Now we can add a Seattle music icon to the list.

Jazz vocalist great Ernestine Anderson, who lives in the Central District, is in danger of losing her home, which is in foreclosure proceedings.

Friends and supporters citywide are trying to raise $45,000 by a June 30 deadline to prevent the 79-year-old woman's six-bedroom family home from being auctioned.

In the words of Washington: This bitter earth.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Oldest School

posted by on June 18 at 2:53 PM

Going back to where the future began:

A scratchy recording of Baa Baa Black Sheep and a truncated version of In the Mood are thought to be the oldest known recordings of computer generated music.

The songs were captured by the BBC in the Autumn of 1951 during a visit to the University of Manchester.

The recording has been unveiled as part of the 60th Anniversary of "Baby", the forerunner of all modern computers.

The tunes were played on a Ferranti Mark 1 computer, a commercial version of the Baby Machine.

For a listen, go here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brand not Band

posted by on June 12 at 1:00 PM


The core of this article is music to my ears:

...Massive Attack operated as a loosely defined production base, using various collaborators to help them complete their ideas. As the three founding members recalled around the time of their second album Protection (1994), they might get the recording engineer to fine-tune a synth sound by telling him: "Like, a bit more phwaah, please."

Del Naja, now 43 and the group's principal presence, also surprised fans by referring to Massive Attack at the time of the last album, 100th Window (2003), not as a band, but as a brand. By then, he was the only working member, Andrew "Mushroom" Vowles having left shortly after Mezzanine (1998) and Grant "Daddy G" Marshall, 48, taking extended paternity leave.

But while Massive Attack's portfolio may be slim and the exact contributions of the group-members difficult to pinpoint, their work remains impressive, with two all-time classic albums in Blue Lines (1991) and Protection and a visual identity that has always looked the part...

Yet, if Massive Attack once lacked muso-credibility, who now cares? In a world of "virtual" bands such as Gorillaz, co-founded by Del Naja's friend Damon Albarn, Massive's moody mix of music and visuals fits in as perfectly postmodern... [I]t's perhaps useful to regard Massive Attack as curators first and creators second. This, of course, makes their new role particularly appropriate. With Meltdown, they get the chance to curate on a scale previously undreamed of. Their wide-ranging programme (they're the festival's 15th incumbents) also hangs together unusually well.

Not curators first and creators second, but curators from first to last. The main members of Massive Attack are not musicians but selectors. And we can not (must not) see selectors as the same as musicians. Bands can stage a performance, brands can do nothing of the sort. So far apart are the two that a whole new way of thinking and critiquing selectors has to completely break with the way we think about and critique musicians.

Let's close these quick thoughts with one of the oddest videos ever made:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From the Archives

posted by on June 10 at 11:36 AM

A friend of mine just dug up this old Stranger article from 2001 about when KCMU turned into KEXP. It's a super interesting read, and provides a lot of history to those of us who may have been 15 and living on the East Coast when this whole thing went down.

Whether Paul Allen has been a die-hard fan of KCMU over the years--as all involved in the partnership want us to believe--it's obvious where his interest lies: the technology. KEXP has just been handed the resources to transform Seattle's tiny, beloved non-commercial radio station into an international player in Internet broadcasting. Make no mistake: radio is a dying art; the Internet is the future; and whether KEXP continues to serve Seattle's local music community or not, it will soon be international in terms of listenership.

Thanks to Liz!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Man and his Cymbals

posted by on June 3 at 2:02 PM

JungCover.jpgMan and his (or her) cymbals have had a solid and sound relationship since the Zildjian family started making them in Turkey around 1600. Our ears have been blessed ever since. The cymbal is that explosion when you need an explosion. It’s the tightly accented bell when you need a tightly accented bell. The cymbal’s symbol means power and strength or if played with touch, it’s a lightly blowing breeze.

Some drummers take this cymbalism too far. They feel the need to cover their kit with an inordinate amount of bronze, brass, and copper. They mount up so many cymbals, there’s no way they can use them all.

At some point, it becomes symbolic. The more cymbals, the tougher the drummer.


Carl Jung says the symbol is a thing that represents another. The dove means peace. It’s the external, or lower expression of the higher truth which is symbolized, and is a means of communicating realities which might otherwise be obscured by the limitations of language.

But fuck that. Sometimes you need that fourth crash cymbal, and it’s not because you’re insecure.

When you are Neil Peart and your drum set is half a mile wide, you need cymbals all over. When you’re playing on the right side of the kit, it’s impossible to hit that crash cymbal to your left. See?


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Sonics Are Coming

posted by on June 2 at 5:13 PM

The Sonics with Special Guests
8:00 p.m. | Reserved Seating | All Ages

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gangsta Best

posted by on May 28 at 12:50 PM

I now have the certainty to make a call: The greatest gangsta cut in the history of hiphop is....

...The East Flatbush Project's "Tried By 12."

"Starts with a shove and ends with a shovel."

This is number two:

"Feeling closer to God in a tight situation."

This is three:

"I'm creepin'. And I'm creepin'. And I'm creeeeeepin'."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cassette Casualities

posted by on May 23 at 10:23 AM

The mixtape - that iconic token of new affections, the pre-Napster method of sharing music, and that basic rite of passage for anyone with a love of music and a dual tape deck –continuously reminds us of its earlier significance by remaining a fixture in the pop culture lexicon. Yes, people can still make playlists and burn CDs for their friends and loved ones, but everyone is at least a little cognizant of the ceremony and dedication that’s been lost with these new formats. The world of mp3s is certainly a convenient and exciting new place, but this new frontier is not without its casualties.

In college, my partner had a mixtape known as The Hour of Power Mix. It was an hour-long tape with 60-second snippets of popular songs. The idea is that listeners were to drink a shot of beer at the beginning of every song. After an hour you’ve ingested 60 shots, or roughly 5 cans of beer. While this particular mixtape certainly didn’t have the same romantic connotations as the mixes that are frequently celebrated in blogs or Promise Ring songs, it definitely fulfilled its role as a rite of passage. I can only assume that thousands of college students out there had Hour of Power mixtapes.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to make an Hour of Power mp3 playlist on my computer. It doesn’t appear to be possible without downloading recording software or sitting by iTunes to skip ahead to another song every 60 seconds. The future is truly a cold, dead place. I want my dual tape deck back.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Made Me a Mixtape

posted by on May 22 at 4:26 PM

I just got a promo copy of Vagrant's upcoming collection of the Anniversary's rarities and b-sides, The Devil on Our Side, due out June 24th. Hell yes! Back before file-sharing was totally ubiquitous and mp3s killed the mixtapes etc, when I was still mostly getting my b-sides on the literal back sides of 7"s, I put at least a couple of these Anniversary tracks on damn near every mixtape I made for a couple years there. "Alright For Now," "Alone in Debtford," "Vasil & Bluey," and "To Never Die Young" were particular favorites. It was a shame when the band got all hippie and then broke up. But hey! Mixtapes! Also, there's some unheard/unreleased songs on here that I haven't yet listened to thoroughly enough to review, although so far it seems like some late period Of Montreal indie funk, only less fanciful and more laconic.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The States of Perfection

posted by on May 21 at 12:49 PM

In 1990, the thriving mind of hiphop critiques materialism...

"Funky Dividends" is hiphop's response to Gwen Guthrie's "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Joose Is The Bastard

posted by on May 20 at 5:44 PM

Ignoring the prevailing conventional wisdom here on LineOut, I took my maiden voyage on the sugary seas of Joose this weekend. Having salvaged a couple of dollars in change from the floor of my van, Joose promised the most booze bang for the buck, and seemed the most appropriate choice of malt liquor for earnings garnered from the moldy upholstery of a band van. The verdict: this is not a beverage to fuck around with. The resulting hangover was crippling. My pee was fluorescent. And according to the call log on my phone, I felt inclined to give my landlord a ring at an undignified hour while under Joose’s alcohol/taurine/caffeine/sugar spell. Oops.

The experience did have one positive outcome: it prompted the drunken epiphany that Bay Area art-sludge behemoth Man Is The Bastard might be one of the most fascinating contributors to the ‘90s underground extreme music community. I credit the combination of cheap alcohol and caffeine for unlocking the mystery of the Bastard. While I’ve enjoyed the bass guitar-driven power-violence group for well over a decade, I found a new appreciation for their unique punk/jazz/noise hybrid after one of their tracks popped up on my iPod during the late-night Joose-fueled walk home from a friend’s barbecue. The odd time signatures, low-end rumble, bellowed vocals, and occasional bouts of fret board acrobatics seem perfectly geared towards this particular breed of intoxication. No wonder the band had such a prominent presence in the 924 Gilman gutter punk scene of the previous decade: I’m sure a good chunk of their audience was balancing a similar booze and speed buzz.

With my interest in the band rekindled, I did a quick online video search and found a trailer for a Man Is The Bastard documentary. It’s at least two years old, and I haven’t had any luck tracking down any updates on the project.

If anyone has any knowledge regarding the status of the film, I’d love a heads up. And if anyone saw me vigorously air-drumming as I stumbled up East John late Sunday night, please don’t judge me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey, Remember "Selling Out"?

posted by on May 19 at 5:10 PM

Remember how, in the '90s, post-Nevermind and pre-Napster/music industrial collapse, people in music, especially in indie and punk, worried a whole lot about "selling out"? It was kind of a big fucking deal. Jawbreaker, for one, famously signed to Geffen for a rumored million dollar advance, after having at some point said they wouldn't sign to a major; it caused a minor punk rock shit storm.

Obviously, a lot's changed since then in the music business, most notably digital file sharing and major label decline but also a newfound kind of post modern/morally relativistic approach to the idea of "selling out." Granted, we'll crack some jokes about Of Montreal's or the Shins' or MIA's TV commercials, but basically it's no big deal—we all kind of know that's just how people have to get paid these days. And Jawbreaker didn't even shill for a fast food company or an automobile, they just signed to a bigger label to put out their record!

Anyway, all of this really came to mind the other day, when the Dear You-era Jawbreaker rarity "Friendly Fire" came up on my digital audio device (note: no brand name dropping in this post; some of us have moral standards, after all). It is maybe the most sincere, heart-wrenching song ever written about "selling out" ("Million" off Dear You being only tangentially about major label contracts). Here are the lyrics:

Walked beyond the fence,
played outside our yard.
You took it hard.
Through a one-way door
hinged high on doubt.
No ins, no outs.

I like my clothes.
Don't want to grow.
I'll wait around
'til you say go.

The lights were off
when I got home.
Black room, blue phone.
Don't I know your name?
Weren't we almost friends?
Guess that depends.

Take some benefit
with all your doubt.
If this is principle,
I'm dropping out.

You demonize
so you don't look so bad.
You wouldn't take
what you couldn't have.
My back is warm
with your friendly fire.
I know you're trying.
Could you please aim it higher?

So alone I wrote,
I wrote this will.
I will decline.
This fish ain't big.
This pond is small.
So small of mind.

I like my clothes.
Don't want to grow.
I'll wait around
'til you say go.

You demonize
so you don't look so bad.
You wouldn't take
what you couldn't have.
My back is warm
with your friendly fire.
I know you're trying.
Could you please aim it higher?

And here is a so-so live version:

Update: Fuck. I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite things about this song, which is its central image: "My back is warm / with your friendly fire / I know you're trying / could you please aim it higher." The analogy of "friendly fire" is so much more precise than a mere stab in the back, the plea to "aim higher" suggesting Schwarzenbach's fellow punks ought to focus on fighting the game, not the player. (I also like the clothes/yard analogies, but they're a relatively pat.)

I Wasn't There When Jawbreaker Played the Old Fire House in 1994

posted by on May 19 at 4:02 PM

But thanks to B-Sides "R" Us, I can at least hear it (along with a bunch of other live performances and songs not available for purchase anywhere).


01 - Jinx Removing
02 - I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both
03 - West Bay Invitational
04 - Indictment
05 - Housesitter
06 - Boxcar
07 - Chesterfield King
08 - Ache
09 - Shield Your Eyes
10 - Parabola
11 - Accident Prone
12 - Want
13 - The Boat Dreams From the Hill
14 - Bivouac

Click here to get it.

(ht to my friend Jason)

The States of Perfection

posted by on May 19 at 9:57 AM

Let's begin with "We Getz Busy"...

It's 1994. Erick Sermon, the man behind the boy duo Illegal, has one of the leading and most productive aesthetic programs in the game. As for the video: the stark black-and-white, the circular track shot, the teetering on the edge of total slow motion, the vintage footage serving as a visual equivalent to the vintage samples, the black underground technology of the studio, the urban hardness of the b-boys--this is hiphop in a state of perfection.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Ponderosa Stomp memories

posted by on May 2 at 2:21 PM

three ladies

Just got back from the Seventh Annual Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans a few hours ago. I saw some amazing performances across two nights; the spirituals James "Sugarboy" Crawford sang Wednesday evening left me feeling like I was part of a congregation, not a jam-packed House of Blues audience. And Ronnie Spector just sounds better as the years go by. Hopefully she trademarked her signature "whoa-ho-ho-ho" and is making a mint off of ringtone downloads nowadays.

In addition to the showcases, the Stomp hosted their first daytime conference of panels and oral histories this year. The photo above is from Wednesday's "Here Come The Girls: Women In Rock, Country and Soul in the 60's" chat, moderated by Holly George-Warren. Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las (on the left) shared some great stories about her rough-and-tumble adventures (including buying a derringer for protection on the road), and Lorrie Collins of rockabilly siblings the Collins Kids (center) had the audience in stitches reminiscing about being courted by TV heartthrob Ricky Nelson.

But hands down, my favorite person at the conference was the slender lady on the far right of this photo, soul jazz cult figure Tami Lynn. She'd cranked out a smokin' version of her 1972 hit "Mojo Hanna" the night before, accompanied by an all-star band including Mac Rebennack (alias Dr. John) on the piano. Asked by George-Warren about her early experiences — and dealing with powerful men in the entertainment biz — she remembered an episode at a radio convention when she was just sixteen, and Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler cornered her after a showcase, offering her a contract. Her response?

"I'm sorry, sir, I don't want to be a singer," she demurred. (Earlier, Lynn had explained that she was a reluctant performer from the beginning.) "I want to be a speech therapist with retarded children."

Wexler replied: "Well, I know all about retardation… because you have it."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dracula Chewing Gum

posted by on April 28 at 1:11 PM

Upon reading this in the business section of The New York Times...

Mars, the makers of M&M’s, announced a deal Monday morning to acquire the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the chewing gum concern, for about $23 billion.
...I thought of this old record by the Jamaican toaster Lone Ranger
47b3ce06b3127cce9ee65046188200000015108AbMmrNs0asz.0.jpg The connection? Recall his big hit "Barnabas Collins." (Barnabas Collins is a vampire in a 70s TV show called Dark Shadows.) Now recall this wonderful passage from Lone Ranger's tune.

[Barnabas'] eyes get red and his ears get dread/His teeth get long and he start to feel strong/When [he is on] the scene you hear a girl start to scream... Girl! Out the candle, take off your bangle, turn your neck upon the right angle/He is the best in the business/Barney chew your neck like Wrigley's/Barney is the best in the business/Barney chew your neck like Wrigley's...
That's toasting at its best.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On This Day in 1988...

posted by on April 23 at 1:21 PM

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon did not make it on the Billboard 200 after spending a record 741 consecutive weeks on the chart.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dates and Places

posted by on April 15 at 1:10 PM

Also, regarding this:

This month, local mega-indie label Sub Pop is celebrating its 20th birthday. Really it's a bit like Lincoln's birthday—or Jesus's. The date is fudged, estimated, maybe arbitrarily made up. By some accounts, Sub Pop goes back to 1979 in the form of a fanzine published by label cofounder Bruce Pavitt. The Sub Pop 100 compilation came out in 1986. So Sub Pop has been hanging on the old flippity-flop for a TAD longer than 20 years. Still, congrats, and happy birthday, observed.


Though Bruce Pavitt had been using the title SUBTERRANEAN POP since sometime in ’79 for fanzines, cassette compilations, radio shows, and the like, somewhere along the line he and co-founder Jonathan Poneman decided that April 1, 1988—the day they quit their jobs and rented a tiny office in the Terminal Sales Building in Seattle—was the day Sub Pop Records was born. To celebrate the label’s twentieth birthday, Sub Pop will release a series of re-issues starting with Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff: Deluxe Edition (May 22, 2008), launch a limited run of the Sub Pop Singles Club, and throw a series of over-the-top birthday parties for itself this summer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tournament Poll: The Finals

posted by on April 9 at 1:41 PM

Who will be crowned International Line Out Champion?

Barfly – The Verbal Sirloin Shot Putter from the Saturday Knights?
Slats - The Broadway Brawler from Pain Cocktail?


(Final Four - here.) And the tip off:

And the consolation finals:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Overlapping Guitars

posted by on April 8 at 10:21 AM

I have been trying to find the connection between the "race record" underground of the late 1940s and early 50s—Muddy Waters, Lloyd Price, Wynonie Harris—and the sine wave weirdo composers—Messiaen, Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage, Boulez—who were working below the radar in their dissonant computer lab studios. These were two apparently disparate musical movements, happening at the exact same time, that both blew up the 20th Century.

Listening to a Chuck Berry CD on Sunday, I finally figured it out.

The root connection is this: Minimalism. Certainly, the Serialism experimenters and musique concrete heads set the stage for the layered minimalism of the 60s tone scientists. But Chuck Berry got there first.

Listen to the repeated lead guitar line in his 1956 hit "Around and Around." It comes in on the first beat of the third measure as an electric response to his opening vocal, "They say the joint was rocking." And it drags into the 1 beat of the following measure.

This lead guitar persists in different shapes throughout the whole song. When he starts singing the second verse, "Oh, it sounded so sweet," he alters the guitar motif slightly by bluesing the second and fourth notes—I think with a half step. Then, for the third verse, "Well, the joint started rocking," he delays the response until the 2 beat, adds the pedal tone, and just bangs out the full chord, launching into a 24-measure break. When he comes back for the 4th verse, "12 O'Clock," the response hits from the 1 beat again. And it's stripped back down to another lead guitar line—a combination of the motifs from the first and the second verses. This combo motif sounds like something Steve Reich or Philip Glass would do, overlapping two related lines so one is a motif and one is relegated to a background figure. Although, there's no double tracking here, so it's all in your head. He ends up at "But they kept on rocking," strumming the full chord again.

And this is brilliant: Since the full chord version starts from the 2 beat, you have room to imagine the lead motif coming in on the 1 beat—even though it's not really there. So you "hear" the guitar motif—maybe the one from the first verse, maybe the blue noted one from the second verse, maybe the combo from the 4th verse—over the chorded version. In your mind, you're hearing three or four overlapping guitars.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When Black Is Not All That

posted by on April 1 at 11:39 AM

We only hear about white people taking black music and ruining it. But that is not always the case. Sometimes a white singer takes a black song and makes it better. I give you the greatest example:

The original version of "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" by a sister, Cherrelle.

And the appropriation by a white man, Robert Palmer:

Palmer killed that tune. No diggity. It's his forever.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Paul Is Not Dead

posted by on March 28 at 3:41 PM

As the New York Times reports today, the Brooklyn Academy of Music is about to start a month-long tribute to Paul Simon, who has been considered kitschy and uncool ever since I fell hard for his songs as a teenager but is now, like, totally cool again--in part because of, well, you know.

Abandon isn’t part of Mr. Simon’s palette; he’s terse, controlled, more than a little uptight. His music is for listeners who appreciate the crafty details nearly as much as he does. He has always been the smart, bourgeois, fussy wimp who makes some self-styled rockers want to kick sand in his face. But his approach keeps resurfacing, lately via this year’s New York rock success story, Vampire Weekend, whose debut album leaped from indie-rock blogs to the Top 20, drawing on Mr. Simon’s vocabulary of collegiate allusions, bouncy rhythms and African-tinged guitar licks.

Jon Pareles's whole piece--which takes wide view of Simon's career--is here.

(Cf. Charles Mudede's contentious essay on Vampire Weeken; Grandy's review of their show Wednesday night; and Sean Nelson's column about a 1981 Simon & Garfunkel concert released on DVD in 2003.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Apropos of Midnight

posted by on March 16 at 11:59 PM

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is cocaine's greatest achievement.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Help A Brother Out

posted by on March 13 at 1:56 PM

The song goes something like:

Making it/This time in life I'm making it. Oh oh/Oh no. Making it/This time in life I'm making it.

That is all I can remember. Who sang these words? What's the name of the song? It was a one-hit wonder around 1980.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clear Tomorrow

posted by on March 11 at 12:50 PM

Let's take a moment to think about Cybotron's "Clear."
cybotron%2Bclear.jpg We know that "Clear" is to hiphop/techno what Blade Runner is to sci-fi cinema and Neuromancer is to cyberpunk. All three appeared between 1981 and 1982. All three were plugged into the emerging global brain. But let's consider "Clear" against another piece of 80s pop, Ziggy Marely's "Tomorrow People."

At the end of "Tomorrow People," Ziggy makes this declaration: "Don't know your past/don't know your future." A corresponding meaning to Ziggy's declaration can be found at the end of the eleventh thesis of Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History: "...[T]o assign to the working class the role of redeemer of future generations [is to cut] the sinews of its greatest strength. This training [makes] the working class forget its hatred and spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren." As the father of Ziggy put it: "Every time I hear the crack of the whip/My blood runs cold..." The point: If you want to know the future, you must remember that whip. A revolution, social transformation, is nourished by the memory of enslavement.

But Cybotron's "Clear" imagines a completely different kind of social revolution. For Juan Atkin's first sonic program/fiction, the past must be deleted and the future must be total. For "Clear," only tomorrow is "a brighter day." The dark past--with its whips, slave ships, economic hardships--is a loss from which nothing can be recovered. To completely welcome tomorrow, your mind will be cleared.

"Clear," and the techno program in general, is more radical in many ways than "Tomorrow People," and the rasta program in general. "I don't want to go to another planet. I want to save this one," says the boy at the beginning of the video for "Tomorrow People." Precisely the opposite for techno heads! In a state of essence, techno has no interest in saving this planet; it wants to go to another planet.

On Stockhausen

posted by on March 11 at 11:31 AM

The March issue of Artforum has an excellent article on avant garde avatar Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007).

Stockhausen at the Studio for Electronic Music, WDR, Cologne, 1969

Björk, Morton Subotnick, and Robin Maconie reflect on Stockhausen's multifarious contributions to music. Maconie, author of Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, leads with a terrific essay ("For Stockhausen, the issue was not just how art in the modern world can respond to the presence of evil but whether art deserves to survive.") though I have to disagree with his aside that Stravinsky's "Movements for piano and orchestra (1958-59) owes much of its élan to Stockhausen's Kontra-Punkte (1952-53) for similar forces." While the post-Webern language of Movements was created by Stockhausen, Boulez, and others, the élan derives from Stravinsky's rhythmic language, a raw intervallic impulse in place since The Firebird of 1909.

Björk, who interviewed Stockhausen several years ago, and Subotnick, composer of Touch and several other classics of electronic music, contribute personal reminiscences ("I remember very well sitting in his studio in Cologne...") and sensible insights ("Stockhausen’s work solidified major ideas in the history of the avant-garde.").

The print edition has additional reflections by musicians Irvine Arditti, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and composers La Monte Young and Maryanne Amacher.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Shout Out to the 206

posted by on March 10 at 11:13 AM


Strange Maps has a map of Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes. Equally good is the analysis of said map:

“Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm.”

and Strange Maps' description of rap, for people who might not know what it is:

"Rap relates to singing as racewalking relates to running – but that’s just my inexpert opinion."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It’s Bob Wills’s Birthday

posted by on March 6 at 4:11 PM


The child cotton picker, one-time barber, songwriter, and fiddlin’ King of Western Swing would’ve been 103 today. Sing it, Tommy, sing it.

Rhythm and Process

posted by on March 6 at 1:32 PM

Berry Gordy:

My own dream for a hit factory was shaped by principles I learned on the Lincoln-Mercury assembly line. At the plant, cars started out as just a frame, pulled along on conveyor belts until they emerged at the end of the line - brand spanking new cars rolling off the line.


Juan Atkins:

Berry Gordy built the Motown sound on the same principles as the conveyor belt system at Ford's. Today their plants don't work that way -- they use robots and computers to make the cars. I'm probably more interested in Ford's robots than in Berry Gordy's music.


The end of Motown and the arrival of techno reflects as it were a larger social and economic passage, from Fordist forms of commodity production to a Post-Fordist ones. At its peak, between 1959 to 1972, Motown was a “hit factory,” with songwriting teams, sound engineers, studio musicians, recording artists, “cranking out hit after hit.” Techno, which emerged in the early 80s and has been exported to Berlin (particularly in the form of Basic Channel) or mutated into weaker products (ghetto tech), does not manufacture hits, nor does the production of it require a large work force. Instead, DJs/designers/beat programmers, who often operate their own, produce techno with computer processors and samplers.

Marxist culture critics will never get enough of the passage from Motown to techno city. It says everything we want to say about economics (the base) and culture (the superstructure).