Ding Ding Ding Ding, Dididing Ding Bing
Crazy Frog's "Axel F" isn't so much infectious as it is incessant.
The first ringtone to top the British singles charts, this song bores itself into your head and remains there like a computer virus.
"Ding Ding Ding Ding, Dididing Bing Bing Pscht Weeeeeeeeeee!"
I downloaded the song last night, after reading about its chart success on the BBC Web site. Crazy Frog outsold Coldplay's comeback single by four to one last week.
Jill, the girls and I listened to Crazy Frog's novelty version of the "Beverly Hills Cop" theme about five times in a row. We also watched the video -- a computer-generated cartoon in which the big-eyed, invisible-moped-riding Amphibian eludes a massive robot chasing him on a flying motorcycle.
Of course, such a technological marvel was first concocted by a Swede. Read about Daniel Malmedahl's Frankenstein-monster-like creation here and here.
Then a German company grafted the original "Annoying Thing" ringtone to the "Axel F" song.
Pray that this fad never makes it big in the United States: You will never dislodge this song from your brain.
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My beloved Sheffield Wednesday have just done it -- the club have gained promotion to the Coca-Cola Championship (rather confusingly the second tier of English football) by beating Hartlepool United, 4-2, after extra time.
I listened to the match online via BBC Radio Five Live, while wearing by blue-and-white-striped club shirt.
This game redefined for me the term "emotional rollercoaster."
Wednesday struck first, just before halftime. Then Hartlepool roared back with a pair of goals and with 10 minutes remaining, it looked like another season in the doldrums for the Owls.
Then, Hartlepool's Chris Westwood pushed Wednesday's Drew Talbot in the penalty area with nine minutes remaining. The referee red-carded Westwood and Steven MacLean scored from the penalty spot for the Owls, knotting the match at 2-2.
Wednesday attacked 10-man Hartlepool throughout the extra 30 minutes. Glenn Whelan scored to give us (yes... us... I sound like a Cubs or Hawkeyes fan... oh dear!) a slim lead.
Talbot scored at the very end of the match to seal it for Wednesday.
Four times the league champions (most recent? 1930?!) and thrice winners of the FA Cup (most recent? gulp... 1935), Sheffield Wednesday have inched closer to the promised land.
If you do not understand this post at all, don't worry. I will sum it all up with one word:
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Coffee, cream and "Honeysuckle Rose"
I suppose a person could plop an Iron Maiden CD into the stereo and be perfectly content.
I've tried to combine coffee sipping with head banging. My nose got wet. Ick.
Nope, I have my own definition of "Sunday Morning Music."
Give me a languid piano ballad anytime.
This morning I have been enjoying Ahmad Jamal's "Portfolio of..." (1958) and "The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio: The Instrumental Classics." The latter CD compiles 18 tracks the trio recorded between 1943 and 1949 in Los Angeles.
Sure, Cole had a wonderful voice. I love his trio work of the late 40s because his inventive piano playing takes center stage for once. Guitarist Oscar Moore is also a forgotten genius. He could do more with 10 notes than most guitarists can do with 100 notes.
Later in the day, I might thrash about the place to Maiden's "Flight of Icarus" or "The Wicker Man." For now, I think I'll stick with "Easy Listening Blues" and "How High the Moon." And a dry nose.
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Now is the time and the time is now...
...to make a mix.
A letter to the editor in today's paper chides a reporter for failing to accurately convey an opinion and an editor's note to the letter begins: "The reporter's intent was to..."
I happen to be the hapless reporter at the center of this public screw-up.
I count CD-mix making among my most effective coping mechanisms. Here is the mix I compiled today to reflect my sense of failure (I often feel as if I am only pretending to be a newspaper reporter, and that I am really not that good at pretending) and the hope that optimism will revisit me at some point today.
1. The Misfits - "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight"
A 200-mph thrash epic from the original scary punk rockers.
2. Sparks - "Eaten by the Monster of Love"
Quirky Mael brothers inject a little humor into my day.
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Something's Wrong"
You can barely make out the "do-doo-doo" pop chorus amidst the wail of distortion.
4. Weezer - "Perfect Situation"
A classic "failure anthem" from Rivers Cuomo.
5. The Nips - "Happy Song"
Shane MacGowan's pre-Pogues UK punk outfit sings about happiness without feeling happy.
6. Virgin Prunes - "Love Lasts Forever"
A seriously creepy slice of proto-goth rock from U2's Dublin friends. The Edge's brother was in the band.
7. Teen Anthems - "I Hate Oasis (and I Hate the Beatles)"
Little-known Welsh band slags off the better-known competition in this 1997 gem.
8. The Fools - "Psycho Chicken"
Classic parody of the Talking Heads -- complete with a crowing rooster.
9. Guana Batz -- "B-Sides Blues"
The Guana Batz were the dark side of the rockabilly revival of the early 1980s.
10. The Vibrators - "Whips and Furs"
Vintage UK punk classic. Sublime... with safety pins.
11. The Skids - "Charles"
How could this late, lamented Scottish band create anything but anthemic rock? Future Big Country leader (and late and lamented) Stuart Adamson was the guitarist!
12. Cud - "Now!"
More anthemic rock from a now-forgotten UK band of the 90s.
13. Bill Wyman - "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star"
The Rolling Stones' bassist produced this strange and funny mix of Spanish guitar and burbling synth in 1981. Why wouldn't Jagger let him do this stuff with the band?
14. Hunters & Collectors - "Is There Anybody in There"
They were great. They were Australian. Now they are forgotten. How's that for failure?
15. Heaven 17 - "Let Me Go"
An off-shoot from the original (pre-"Don't You Want Me") Human League, Heaven 17 made it onto this CD because they are from Sheffield and Sheffield Wednesday play in the League One promotion play-off final tomorrow in Cardiff. Go Owls!!!
16. Junior Senior - "Move Your Feet"
Danish duo Jesper "Junior" Mortensen and Jeppe "Senior" Laursen rode this infectious tune to the top of many European charts in 1993. I must be feeling better to include this song on the mix.
17. Robyn - "Be Mine"
Who says Route1 ain't hip to the new sounds? Swedish star Robyn's tune "Be Mine" is making big waves on MTV Europe right now.
18. Wa Wa Nee - "Sugar Free"
Australians trying to sound like Prince. Oddly effective.
19. David Bowie - "1984"
Forget "Let's Dance," this Diamond Dogs' track is Bowie at his funkiest. Yow!
20. The Fall - "Bill is Dead"
OK. I admit it. The Fall are my favorite band. This song is unlike anything else in their 30-year canon: Mark E. Smith croons instead of rants. Genius... again.
21. The Delgados - "Aye Today"
Great Scottish band. Now defunct. Sad-sounding anthem. Fits this mix perfectly.
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Dulcet tones... perfect pitch... imaginative phrasing... You'll find none of that here, as readers answer the following Friday Question: Who is the worst singer in popular music?
Clete C. -- "No. 1 would be Michael Bolton. That voice killed cats and Michael Bolton records were banned in 17 states. Patrick Swayze would be No. 2 and Fab and Rob from Milli Vanilli would be No. 3. Even though they weren't singing, they set music back 10 years."Rick T. -- "The group Rascal Flatts! I can't stand the lead singers, 'singing through the nose' sound. Country/rocker wanna be's! They give country music a bad name."
Scout S. -- "If anybody says 'Scout from Firecracker,' I'm killing myself."
Dave B. -- "Britney Spears. Whoever told Britney she could sing must be tone deaf. She couldn't carry a tune in a bushel basket."
Brian C. -- "In the 1960s, the worst singer was Melanie, who received a bunch of air time with 'Brand New Key.' Her singing was so bad and the lyrics so strange that it was sort of a musical car wreck: One didn't want to listen, but couldn't help by listen, it was so awful. However, the absolute worst voice ever recorded HAD to have been Yoko Ono. But I don't classify her as a 'popular singer' because she got onto albums only because she was married to John Lennon."Gary D. -- "Shania Twain. Her whiny, wailing vocals wreck every song. Her voice reminds me of a 3-year-old complaining about something."
Angie A. -- "Mariah Carey and Eminem. Their voices are so whiny and annoying."
Kerstin H. -- "That folk dude (Buck Owens) because you can't understand what he is saying."
Jim S. -- "Michael Bolton lasts about 0.4 seconds on my car radio dial when he comes on. If I held a scalding hot cup of McDonald's coffee as I drove, I'd drop it in my lap rather than spend 0.5 seconds putting it down to change the channel. Then, I'd sue Bolton for my burns!"
Emily S. -- "The worst popular singer is Ashlee Simpson. Although I often find myself humming her tunes, her voice is wretched. Just because your sister is famous and you were on 'Seventh Heaven,' that does not mean you deserve a recording contract. Just stick to lip synching and dating Ryan Cabrera."
Sandye V. -- "It is tough since I don't listen to pop music unless I'm on hold and have no choice. But I'd have to go with Britney Spears because she is a lousy role model for all the little junior high girls who think it's OK to dress like hookers."
Mary Rae B. -- "Bob Dylan is the winner/loser. He's so awful, I didn't even think of him as being a 'singer.' There is no one who can make me flip the dial faster than Bob Dylan."
Shannon H. -- "Usher. Because of that annoying Yeah, Yeah song that you couldn't get out of your head all last summer. Because he is so damn full of himself. And because he cheated on Chili, that wasn't cool either."
Mike D. -- It's a toss-up between two good songwriters who can't sing a lick -- Bob Dylan, who has never realized that you don't sing out your nose, and Neil Diamond, who defines bland, with a capital BLA. Neither of these gents would survive the first round of American Idol.Diane H. -- "I have always hated Janet Jackson. And this has nothing to do with the whole boob thing. She makes horrible, horrible music. I mean, it's not even good guilty pleasure music like Britney or Justin. It's just formulaic, indistinguishable crap and her voice isn't any good. I nearly drive my car off the road from the force of changing the channel when one of her songs comes on."
Ken B. -- "Mariah Carey. She shrieks like a dolphin in a tuna net."
Emily B. -- "Ashlee Simpson. She hurts my ears."
Erik H. (me!) -- "Gene Ween (aka Aaron Freeman) gets my 'worst singer' nod on the basis of one memorably unpleasant song, 1992's 'Push Th' Little Daisies.'
I realize Ween, also including guitarist Dean Ween (aka Mickey Melchiondo) operate almost as an 'anti-band' and that I should embrace their indie-informed, archly ironic take on the pop-music form.
I just can't do it!
Gene Ween's high-pitched warble makes my skin crawl. It is akin to 1,000 fingernails scraping against 1,000 chalkboards.
Maybe the Ween boys meant for their song to grate like an electric sander on a second-degree sunburn. If that is the case, they succeeded admirably."
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Jerzy Dudek's Lonely Hearts Club Band
I wish I could have watched this match: Liverpool rallied from three goals down at halftime to force Milan into extra time in today's Champions League final, as the sides drew, 3-3. Neither club scored in extra time, then Liverpool edged the Italians 3-2 on penalties to become champions of Europe.
I wish I could have watched it.
Instead, I toiled at work, writing a pair of stories (one in the morning, one in the afternoon while typing health-page briefs before an abbreviated lunch). Watching this match would have been much more enjoyable.
I am no Liverpool supporter, but the result is great for English football. Now... if only Sheffield Wednesday can defeat Hartlepool on Sunday to gain promotion. Then I will be happy. And if Fox Soccer Channel broadcasts that match in America, I will be very, very happy indeed.
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Today's Favorites versus Yesterday's Hits
(Scene: 8:25 a.m., in the car en route to 9-year-old Kerstin's orthodontist's appointment. "The Very Best of Buck Owens" plays on the car stereo.)
Kerstin: Can we listen to some country music?
Erik: This is country music.
K: This is folk music.
E: It's Buck Owens!
K: Was this from when the banjo was popular?
E: There's no banjo in it.
K: I don't even know what they're talking about! "When the son jumps in?"
K: Maybe he's singing about his son who is in gymnastics? Why else would a son jump in?
E: I think he's singing about morning -- "When the sun jumps in."
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Will you do the fandango?
I am off work today and I have been listening to Queen.
Here are my SIX GREATEST Queen songs:
6. "We Are the Champions" (1977)
I know, I know... It's the obvious one. Well, there's a reason why it's so obvious: It remains the single greatest song about winning a championship ever recorded!
Queen sound like a stadium full of supporters serenading Sheffield Wednesday after the Owls have just won the Champions League title. Only in my dreams, of course.
5. "Under Pressure" (1981)
The opening bass riff is the greatest in rock history... just ask Vanilla Ice.
The most remarkable thing about this UK chart-topping collaboration is its spontaneity. David Bowie just happened to be recording in a nearby studio in Montreax.
4. "Who Wants to Live Forever" (1986)
Queen at their most poignant.
Brian May wrote this classic and sings the first, plaintive verse. Then Freddie Mercury arrives for the remainder of the song.
Lines such as "This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us" have assumed additional emotional weight following Freddie's untimely death.
3. "Play the Game" (1980)
One of the catchiest songs in their canon... with tinkling pianos sharing space with crunching power chords.
I find myself singing along without realizing it. If I am in public, I ultimately stop singing when I notice strangers staring at me.
"My love is pumping through my veins, driving me insane."
2. "Don't Stop Me Now" (1979)
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand summed up this song in a recent Q magazine:
"There's an air of abandon, like riding downhill on a bike with no hands."
... and my GREATEST Queen song is...
1. "Killer Queen" (1974)
The first Queen song I ever heard and still my favorite.
From the clicking finger snaps to the lyrics about caviar, etiquette and laser beams, this song was the most exotic thing I had ever heard.
See how sheltered we were, growing up in the Northern California suburbs!
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Orfeu Negro, bossa nova and me
I was probably too young to understand what was happening.
My mom took me to see the 1958 classic film "Black Orpheus" when I was a kid, and the haunting, strange beauty of the Brazilian Oscar winner continues to resonate. It still kind of freaks me out.
Of course, I don't remember much about the film -- basically the Orpheus-Eurydice legend set at Carnaval time in the Rio slums. I remember the feel of the film, though, as well as its exotic sounds.
Similar sounds spilled out of our stereo speakers just now.
The girls slept late, so there would be no spastic squeals of Spongebob Squarepants swamping the living room -- not this morning.
Instead, Jill and I enjoyed hearing "Jazz Samba" by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. This 1962 classic helped usher in the bossa nova fad, and songs such as "Desafinado," Samba de Uma Nota So" and "E Luxo So" exemplify the joyful and melancholic, simple and complicated, and strange and familiar aspects of this beautiful music.
Listening to this album this morning, I returned to my contradictory (and admittedly fuzzy) memories of "Black Orpheus."
I am so glad the girls slept in late.
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Jah Wins! Babylon -- and reggae haters -- fall
We tricked my reggae-hating daughters tonight.
Unbeknownst to 9-year-old Kerstin and 6-year-old Annika -- both committed reggae haters -- a Madison, Wis.-based roots quartet called Natty Nation headlined the first outdoor concert of Dubuque's festival season. We told the girls we would be listening to "some music." We tolerated the warm-up act, a middle-aged blues ensemble.
"That first band, they would be better off in a nursing home," Kerstin complained.
We stood at the side of the stage as Natty Nation set up their equipment.
As the band kicked into their set, singing about revolution and Jah and heading back to Zion, Kerstin stared, absolutely riveted by the stick work of the drummer and the moonstomping, singing bassist/frontman. Both sported flowing dreadlocks.
Five songs into the band's set, Kerstin and Annika both joined me in some serious skanking. My wife Jill and I glanced and smiled at each other: Reggae haters gonna fall. Jah Ras Tafari!
Sure enough, as we left the gig for home, newly reggae-loving Kerstin came clean.
"I actually kind of like reggae," she said,sheepishly. "You haven't been playing it loud enough."
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I now pronounce you: Friday Question
Aren't you excited?!
It is almost wedding season again!
Scramble to find a photographer who shoots nuptials because that calendar business never took off like he planned... shell out an eye-popping amount of money for food you could get at any lunch hour at a third-rate downtown cafe... and did I mention bidding for a reception hall as if it were your first house?
Ah well, at least you can get the music right. Just tell the tone-deaf DJ you have hired to avoid the answers to the following Friday Question...
"I never want to hear __________ at a wedding reception again because _______________."
Laura C. -- "Shout." I've been alive long enough to trace its arc from irreverently funny to mildly nostalgic to stale and dated. Used to be, the older folks sat on the sidelines, mildly scandalized, as the young 'uns at the wedding crouched lower and lower, sang softer and softer, and inevitably some drunken buffoon did the worm. Now, the kids look on, absolutely mortified, as their parents clutch desperately (awkwardly, arthritically) at the last vestiges of their swiftly atrophying youth. Kinda puts me off my cake, ya know?Ken B. -- "Mony Mony." It is strange to hear grandmas yell: "Get laid! Get F**cked!"
Clete C. -- "The Macarena." I never want to see Aunt Edith attempt any kind of dance again.
Rick T. -- "The Chicken Dance." If you could only SEE yourself, you wouldn't do it.
Inger H. -- "U Can't Touch This." An upstairs neighbor of mine used it in a strikingly successful, aural torture campaign in the early 90s.
Mary N-P. -- Loud vomiting. It is sooooooo tacky (and stains shoes).
Shannon H. -- "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll." Really, what they're singing is "I knew the bride when she used to be a whore." OK. Not literally, but we all know that's what the singer is thinking.
Scout S. -- Actually, I can't fill in this blank. I mean, the obvious answer is the Kool & The Gang song, which shan't be named. Even mentioning it vaguely like this has gotten it stuck in my head. For that, I hate you.
Dave B. -- "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll." Then I know that I am in Dubuque County.
Ellen B. -- "Mony Mony." It's just a stupid song.
Angie A. -- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Mickey." They are so annoying! It's bad enough when you hear these songs at a reception, since most people only go to immediate family receptions; however, when your boyfriend has a DJ service and does many, many receptions, it just gets too old.Gary D. -- "Old Time Rock and Roll" or "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll." Those songs just aren't very interesting or well done. Why make everyone suffer through them?
Jill H. -- "Locomotion," "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll," "The Hokey Pokey" and "The Chicken Dance." The reason why? Isn't it obvious?
Ann M. -- "The Hokey Pokey" or "The Chicken Dance." I just don't like to hear them at weddings. They are just stupid.
Mike D. -- "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." The groom and groomsmen always serenade the bride with it as if it's the first time it's ever been done and the guests are supposed to be amused. It might have been funny right after "Top Gun" came out in the late 80s, but now it's so passe. Give it up! And don't nobody knock "The Chicken Dance!" That's good dancin' music where I come from!
Diane H. -- "Old Time Rock and Roll." Is there anything worse than tipsy, middle-aged white people grooving to Bob Seger and thinking they're really, really rocking out? Plus, mid-tempo songs like this just encourage bad dancing.
Emily S. -- "Angel" by Shaggy. The song is absolutely horrible, but that's what happens when you let your adolescent cousins take over the DJ's music requests when all the adults get too plastered. It was during the "dollar dance," no less, another terrible wedding tradition.
Amy G. -- Just put those old records back on the shelf. I don't want to listen to them by myself or with a group. Or on a house or with a mouse. I do like Bob Seger, man. I do like him, Sam am I.
Steve M. -- "Proud Mary." It's a good song, but a bit trite for the occasion.Erik H. (me!) -- "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." I suppose this Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes song from "Dirty Dancing" is OK if played during a parents' dance. If this song is played during a father-daughter dance, however, I find it vaguely creepy -- unsettling. Call the child welfare authorities. If this song is played for the bride and groom, I consider it just plain sad. Does this mean the wedding is the high point of their lives together? Then they are in for a very long and tedious (or acrimoniously abbreviated) life together.
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That's all you need
10:05 p.m. Wednesday -- VH-1 Classic's "Alternative" program broadcasts the video for Manic Street Preachers' "Slash 'n' Burn." Hoping not to ruin the moment by seeing another video, I switch over to Fox Soccer Channel to view the second half of the UEFA Cup final from Portugal. CSKA Moscow scores a trio of second-half goals to beat Sporting Lisbon, 3-1, becoming the first Russian club to win a major European trophy.
7:18 a.m. Thursday -- The girls and I watch the Weather Channel. Dubuque's local forecast calls for highs in the mid-70s and a chance of scattered thunderstorms.
"That's good reggae weather," I said. Cue groans from my reggae-hating daughters.
8:15 a.m. -- I drive the girls to school and we listen to "Everything Must Go," the Manic Street Preachers' 1996 album, considered a career high point by many fans. The Welsh band regrouped for this album following the Feb. 1, 1995 disappearance of lyricist/guitarist Richey Edwards. He has never been found.
10:08 a.m. -- I do the dishes and begin making spaghetti sauce while listening to "Generation Terrorists," the Manic Street Preachers' 1992 debut. They turn anti-establishment diatribes into the catchiest anthems of 1990s pop.
11:15 a.m. -- It really is "good reggae" weather, so I listen to a CD of classic Jamaican protest songs during my daily walk. The songs include Delroy Wilson's "Better Must Come" and Half Pint's "Greetings."
12:30 p.m. -- I arrive at work, where I have to write a story in the afternoon and cover a banquet in the evening.
5:15 p.m. -- I listen to Hoodoo Gurus (the "Ampology" greatest-hits compilation) en route to my evening assignment. I am hoping their unbridled, joyful Aussie powerpop gives me a "second wind" necessary to cover a banquet honoring a bank president and his family. It works.
10:05 p.m. -- Back home and back to the reggae. I listen to some dancehall hits from the early 1980s.
Love Will Tear Us Apart
"The great tragedy of Ian's death was that all he really wanted to be was successful. And he missed it... by a week." Joy Division and now-New Order bassist Peter Hook sums up the death of Ian Curtis succinctly with a sadly accurate observation.
The death of Ian Curtis -- 25 years today -- came on the eve of what would have been the band's inaugural tour. Their posthumous single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," stormed into the UK Top 20 (an unheard of feat for an indie band in those days) and the bands style and sound influenced successive generations of rock bands.
The three remaining band members reformed as New Order and carried on the musical progression (if not the lyrical themes) evident in Joy Division's second and final album, "Closer." New Order went from success to success, with their single "Blue Monday" becoming the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.
What might have happened had Curtis lived remains one of the great "what-ifs" in music history.
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WWJD aka What's With Joy Division?
There is a method to my madness this week. No really...
I am devoting plenty of blog space to the memory of Joy Division because at one time, they were *THE* band for me at the right place and the right time.
It was my freshman year in college. I was 2,000 (or so) miles from home, just getting to know the folks in my dorm and enduring the WORST work-study job of all time. I had to earn my keep at Mount Mercy College by sweeping out the dusty tunnels that connected the basements of all of the campus buildings. Students clogged the subterranean passageways during the harsh winters of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I swept up their litter in the dimly lit tunnels, armed with a push broom, a dust pan, a walkman and two tapes: "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer" by Joy Division.
Ian Curtis' lyrical journey into the heart of human darkness seemed an immeasurably appropriate soundtrack to my daily descent into my tunnels of drudgery.
I eventually emerged from that desperate work-study job, becoming the editor of the English department's literary department.
That was more than 15 years ago. Yet I can't hear Joy Division today without thinking of the underground gloom of that freshman year.
"We decided to bring in a singer"
Joy Division's formation is the stuff of indie rock legend.
Similar to many English bands of the period, the band formed in the wake of a Sex Pistols' gig -- at Manchester's Free Trade Hall.
Friends Bernard Albrecht (Sumner) and Peter Hook -- who had no previous musical experience -- bought copies of bass and guitar learning books.
"We got to page 27," Albrecht famously recalled, "and we decided to bring in a singer." Enter Ian Curtis, a Macclesfield lad who also attended the Pistols' gig.
This morning I will be driving a car with third graders on a field trip to the Dubuque Arboretum. We will be listening to Joy Division's 1980 classic album "Closer" en route.
This week I celebrate the life of Ian Curtis, who took his own life 25 years ago on Wednesday.
I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand
This week I will be delving into the Joy Division catalog.
Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the band -- arguably the most important of Britain's post-punk era.
Curtis' death halted the band after only a pair of studio albums. The three remaining members -- Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris -- continued as New Order.
Today I have been listening to Joy Division's 1979 debut, "Unknown Pleasures."
The album's bass-led melodies, spiraling guitar parts and mechanical-sounding drums are echoed in bushels of current bands -- Bloc Party, Interpol, The Killers and Death from Above 1979 just to name a few.
Mick Middles in "Sounds" wrote that "it is a very rare sight to see four individuals working harmoniously together in search of one unique sound. Any band finding themselves in this position are very lucky indeed. They can achieve almost anything (musically) that they wish."
Baggies make history
Today West Bromwich Albion became the first club to avoid relegation up after being bottom at Christmas since the Premiership began. The Baggies beat visitng Portsmouth, 2-0, while other results also favored West Brom.
I support Sheffield Wednesday now (please don't ask me why) but WBA were my club as a kid growing up as a hopeless ANGLOPHILE in northern California.
I still have a scarf that I have kept from my younger days.
Norwich City were fourth from bottom and safe in the Premier League when the day began. Fulham thumped them 6-0 in a match I watched on Fox Sports Channel. Southampton scored in the 10th minute against Manchester United to briefly move out of the relegation zone. Malcolm Glazer's new plaything won it, 2-1, though, to send the Saints out of the top flight for the first time in 27 years. Sad.
Visiting Crystal Palace led for a time against Charlton but the Addicks scored a late equaliser to send the Eagles down. Bad luck.
I'm proud of the Baggies, though. Bryan Robson is the perfect manager for them. I hope they consolidate their position next season.
In the meantime... come on, Sheffield Wednesday... win some playoff matches and move up the pyramid!
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Dub, roots and rock around the clock
Today's musical timeline:
8 a.m. -- The house is quiet. I sipped coffee and 6-year-old Annika slept upstairs. I listened to Lee "Scratch" Perry's "Revolution Dub" album from 1975. By including vocal snippets of British sitcom actor James Robertson Justice, musical genius Perry pioneers what would later be called "sampling."
11:30 a.m. -- Annika watched cartoons. I listened to Culture's classic, apocalyptic yet catchy "Two Sevens Clash" single. "Wat a liv an bam-bay-ee (what is left by and by) When the two sevens clash?" The classic end-of-the-world song that kept Jamaicans indoors on July 7, 1977.
1:30 p.m. -- Took Annika to a children's health fair. En route we listened to some classic songs by The Fall (aren't they all classics?). We heard "Cab it Up," which was paired with "Dead Beat Descendant" on Beggars Banquet in June 1989. Quite possibly the closest Mark E. Smith ever came to sounding like a mainstream pop idol. As if!
3 p.m. -- Exercised to "Wowee Zowee," Pavement's underrated, third album. "Flux = Rad" sounds like The Beatles if they had supported the Buzzcocks in 1977. "Father to a Sister of Thought" sounds like George Jones if he had signed with Sub Pop right out of a failed art school stint. Or something. Whatever it is, it's brilliant.
6 p.m. -- Washed the dishes accompanied by some Hugh Mundell songs, including "Great Tribulation." Mundell was barely in his teens when he recorded his first Jamaican hit for Augustus Pablo. By age 21 he was gunned down in a dispute over a refrigerator. Yet another tragic reggae story.
8 p.m. -- Relaxed with a whiskey sour and some Jamaican deejay music, including Dennis Alcapone's 1970 single "Spanish Amigo." Toasted over Ken Boothe's "Old Fashioned Way," this song grows on you until it covers you like liquid sunshine.
Hmm... "liquid sunshine?" Is that the whiskey sour talking?
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Who let the King out? Who!? Who!? Who!?
Today's FRIDAY QUESTION seeks blog readers' favorite Elvis Presley songs.
Here is what you had to say:
Inger H. -- "'Heartbreak Hotel.' I remember hearing it spool out of a nearby radio on a warm summer evening while I was visiting some friends who were camping by the Mississippi River. There, amidst the mosquitoes and the thick humid air, the tall leafy trees and the sound of a screen door slamming shut. All of a sudden, Elvis made sense to me. Up until that point, I'll admit it, the allure of Elvis was totally lost on me; a throwback, a cliche, a white trash crooner. But in that place, at that time, everything made sense."Amy G. -- "My favorite Elvis song is linked to a memory of when some friends got married at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas (where Richard Gere married Cindy Crawford to prove he wasn't gay.) They had an Elvis impersonator who sang 'Fools Rush In' while sort of swaggering down the aisle like a bridesmaid. I loved it. The marriage lasted about as long as Richard and Cindy's.
Ellen B. -- "'Blue Suede Shoes.' It's just a good song to groove to!"
Gary D. -- "I have got two of them. 'Hound Dog,' because I love the way Elvis' voice resonates during it. That song just works so well with Elvis' voice and stage presentation. Plus, the Rolling Stones did a kickass version of it live. Also 'Kentucky Rain.' I know it is not a favorite of many, but again, his voice is filled with so much emotion, and the deepness of the sound through the speakers is awesome."
Ann M. -- "'Jailhouse Rock.' I am not really sure why."
Annika H. -- "'Teddy Bear' and 'Hound Dog.' Who let the dogs out, who!? who!? who!?"Mike D. -- "'I Can't Help Falling in Love With You.' The King took us beyond rebellious rock 'n' roll with a romantic tune that showcased his rich, mellow voice. Although I am not fond of the slide guitar twang that punctuates a few lines, I liked the song enough to choose it for the 'parents dance' at our wedding reception."
Rick T. -- "My favorite Elvis song is 'You're so Young and Beautiful' from the movie 'Jailhouse Rock.' That's the best Elvis song from all of his movies."
Madelin F. -- "My favorite Elvis song is 'Can't Help Falling in Love.' I like this one because so many others have tried and failed to do it as well as the King, plus it's just a really pretty song."
Diane H. -- "'Devil in Disguise.' I like the change of tempo in the chorus, and I like the idea of some chick who looks like an angel but then kicks the sh!t out of somebody's heart. But it's hard not to choose 'Viva Las Vegas,' because has any town ever had a cooler theme song?"
Scout S. -- "I don't have a favorite Elvis Presley song. I have a favorite Elvis Presley stamp, though. It was the fat Elvis one that got rejected."
Mary P. -- "'Jailhouse Rock.' It is one of his most energetic and whimsical songs."
Matt K. -- "'In the Ghetto.' Reminds me of my boyhood struggles in the scarred suburbs of Potosi, Wis. -- a slum so hopeless that those who made it out could never fully call themselves human."Kerstin H. -- "'Teddy Bear.' I like animals and it reminds me of sleeping."Jill H. -- "Any Elvis song, as long as it is played on a 33-1/3 in my dad's basement with him singing along at the top of his lungs."Mary Rae B. -- "'Rainy Night in Georgia.' I like the sound of it and his voice had matured by then."
Emily S. -- "'Don't be Cruel.' I am not really sure why. The song has a good point, though."
Erik H. (me!) -- "I adore the songs cut in 1954-55 at Sun Records. 'Good Rockin' Tonight,' in particular, serves as a broadside to all music fans: Here is the exciting new sound you have been seeking! However, my favorite Elvis moment in song occurred in 1961, with the release of the double-A side single '(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame' paired with 'Little Sister.' Elvis rocks again! He took a break from his post-Army litany of string-laden ballads and oddball movie tunes to shake his hips along to some burning electric guitars and primitive, tom-tom drumming.
Americans were relatively clueless. This double dose of classic rock-n-roll peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. charts. In Britain, '(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame' and 'Little Sister' topped the charts for a month and probably gave increased, rockin' impetus to the next generation of bands.
The girls and I listened to Elvis Presley en route to their school this morning.
The girls welcomed the brief respite from the almost constant reggae onslaught of recent weeks. I welcomed the chance to renew acquaintances with the King's musical legacy.
The music of Elvis remains a remarkably resonant force in popular music, in part because fans of all stripes can find something to their liking.
Kids adore "Hound Dog" and some of the other classics included in the animated feature "Lilo & Stitch."
Grandmothers tear up when they hear "Love Me Tender" or "Are You Lonesome Tonight."
Rockers can revel in riff-laden tracks such as "Little Sister."
The country crowd and blues followers can appreciate his interpretations of "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" and "Milkcow Blues Boogie," respectively.
Ironic, kitsch-cherishing hipsters can nod approvingly when "Rock-a-Hula Baby" spills out of the speakers and even clubbers can share in the Elvis love, thanks to Dutch DJ Junkie XL and his technologically updated take on "A Little Less Conversation."
I recently read Peter Guralnick's "Last Train to Memphis." Guralnick describes the shocked excitement surrounding the release of the (now 40-year-old) sides cut at Sun Records. It was as if a black-and-white world suddenly burst into full color.
Elvis produced more than a few clunkers.
Still, the body of his work defies musical categorization and most of it still sounds great -- decades after Elvis recorded the tracks.
Take some time to listen to Elvis Presley today. You might not receive any revelatory insights into his musical legacy. You'll almost certainly have a good time, though.
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No, no Tyler... not yet, not yet!
I spent my lunch hour watching my Spike Jonze DVD. He is hands down my favorite music video director.
One of his best, but perhaps least known, videos is the clip for Fatlip's "What's up, Fatlip." Today I watched an audio commentary spelling out the creation of this clip.
Fatlip (aka Derrick Stewart) had been a member of L.A.'s influential Pharcyde. "What's up Fatlip," the title track from his 2000 album, is not your typical hip-hop song. Instead of bragging about himself, Fatlip's self-deprecating take on his life includes references to his failings and shortcomings.
The video is equally hilarious and I highly recommend it.
Here are three little-known facts about the video:
1. That boy kicking Fatlip in the privates to start the video is Stewart's nephew. "He is my co-star," Fatlip said in the audio commentary.
2. The video includes an unexpected visit to the home of Fatlip's mom.
"She never lets me forget it," Fatlip said. "Whenever she hears his name, like on an ad for 'Adaptation,' she says 'that's that boy who came over when I wasn't dressed.'"
3. Friends who did not know about the video shoot (and failed to see Jonze holding a camera) became concerned when they saw Fatlip dancing outside a club wearing only a trenchcoat and a diaper.
Well, wouldn't you become concerned?
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When IRIE is not quite IRIE enough
It's true. I have become a reggae addict.
I received a handful of reggae-themed gifts for my birthday, including the hefty "Rough Guide to Reggae."
I have lost myself within its pages, with devastating results.
I had already grown beyond Bob Marley's "Legend" compilation. I was a reggae connoisseur. I was into the Bob Marley and the Wailers tracks produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry. I knew that "irie" meant "good" or "fine."
Life was good. I mean, "irie."
Then I got deeper into the sounds. I fell in love with dub. Then the whoops and shouted (and hilarious) non-sequitors of ace deejay Dennis Alcapone. Then I-and-I delved into the roots reggae. "War inna Babylon."
I-and-I began to lose touch with reality. Slipping into the mists. Slipping into the collie haze (not really... I mean, when I was in college, sure... but it always made me really paranoid and I once bought $5 worth of cheeseburgers and then... but, that's another story).
Losing... my... grip... sanity... fading...
I haven't touched a country music CD in weeks. The Beatles? Who are they again?
Just give me more of that sun-splashed sound.
Today I hit rock bottom. My kids are now involved.
As I drove the kids to school this morning, I popped in a tape of some vintage Jamaican rocksteady from the 1960s.
I almost cried. Reggae-hater Kerstin sang along -- word-for-word -- with the Paragons' classic "The Tide is High."
Ras Tafari! Take me! Save the children!
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Rainy day music
I would never even consider listening to Sunny Day Real Estate on an actual sunny day.
The legendary emo pioneers (1993-95, then 1997-2000) have been forever linked in my mind to rainy days -- the darker and gloomier the better.
Perhaps it's understandable, what with Jeremy Enigk singing lines like "lost myself when pain from your heart left it's trace/in written words held like a seam I have no hand to heal," from the song "The Blankets Were the Stairs" from their debut album "Diary."
Still, I am sure some people listen to SDRE when the sun shines on a 75-degree day. I cannot, because:
1. The band hailed from rain capital Seattle (their albums were the second-highest sellers on the Sub Pop label, after Nirvana's initial, indie efforts).
2. I have always listened to SDRE on a rainy day, so over time it just felt natural to slap "How it Feels to be Something On" or "LP2 (the 'pink album')" into the CD player when it poured outside.
Today's weather forecast calls for storms. I have already brought my SDRE tapes out to the car. Let it rain. I have the music to accompany the showers.
Happy Mother's Day!
Moms are cool.
Some rock bands are cool.
Rock bands that dress like moms?
Very very cool.
To celebrate this Mother's Day, Route 1 pays tribute to the classic Jerry Schatzberg photo for the Rolling Stones' "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow" single from THE GREATEST YEAR EVER *.
The song is an often overlooked classic in the band's catalog (full of loud-to-soft dynamics and discordant "wall of sound" guitars... it sounds like something the Jesus and Mary Chain might cook up).
The photo is dead classic.
Brian Jones actually looks hot. Sort of. Kind of. Or not. Maybe. But the point of all this is: Sometimes, you have to do something seemingly uncool to reach TRUE COOL STATUS.
For example, dressing up like a chick if you are in an all-guy, 1960s rock band. That's just so cool.
(* It's 1966! England won the World Cup! Sweden's Margareta Arvidsson won Miss Universe! Oh yeah... and I was born!)
Remember that 'Happy Days' when that smokin' band played?
My most memorable music video (see the Friday Question entry below) remains as captivating on the 100th viewing as it appeared the first time I saw it.
Spike Jonze's clip for "Buddy Holly" by Weezer launched the band's career, took home four honors at the 12th annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1995 and struck a chord in children of the 70s and 80s who had been raised on a steady diet of "Happy Days." The Fonz returns! In a cool music video!
For me, however, this video accomplished much more. It proved that rock and roll could be FUN 40 years after it began.
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Video Killed the Music Blog Star
Remember that classic music video that changed your life? Sure you do!
This week, blog readers recall their most memorable music videos by answering the Friday Question.
Kerstin H. -- "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by Culture Club.
"Boy George had a new kind of dancing, like he was stepping on stepping stones spread too far apart."
Clete C. -- "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.
"It broke all the rules."
Dave B. -- "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue.
"I am going to preface my answer with: I am not a metal head at all. Growing up in Peosta (Iowa), we did not have cable. Move to the big city (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) to go to college, I get cable. My roommates and I would live our lives around MTV's Top 5 at 5. 'Home Sweet Home' was the No. 1 video for what felt like my whole college career. It was No. 1 for 43 weeks. That's 301 straight days seeing that video and praying some other video would beat it out before MTV said enough is enough."
Emily S. -- "Hey Ya" by OutKast.
"If I could marry Andre3000, I would. And in that music video, there are, like, five of him, so imagine my enjoyment. 'What's cooler that being cool? Ice cold!'"
Ellen B. -- "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.
"I used to have posters of him all over the bedroom walls!"
Emily B. -- "Fat" by Weird Al Yankovic.
"I thought it was so funny."
Ann M. -- "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.
"I was so scared the first time I saw it."
Mike D. -- "Anxiety: The Video Reunion" by Anxiety or "Take on Me" by a-ha.
"It was either 'Anxiety: The Video Reunion,' a compilation of songs from Dubuque's hair band of the 80s, or a-ha's 'Take on Me,' a unique storytelling blend of live-action video with animated pencil drawings. Much more memorable than the song. Of course, Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' wasn't bad either."
Gary D. -- "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones.
"The original is difficult to find. But, if you see it, you see the combination of psychedelic look and hard, guitar-driven rock and roll. Combines the best of both worlds."
Diane H. -- "Right Now" by Van Halen.
"It came out when I was a sophomore or junior in college, and I would sit and watch the entire video every time it came on MTV. It was a series of random images to go with random 'deep thoughts' that all began with the phrase 'right now.'
I still remember a lot of them: Right now it's cold where someone you love is. Right now your mother misses you. Right now she is getting on with her life. Right now a bowl of soup would be nice. Right now oil companies and old men are in control. Right now youth is king. Right now no one is safe from loneliness."
Inger H. -- "Rio" by Duran Duran.
"At the time, I thought it was extremely artistic; in retrospect, it probably reads like a commercial for white suits."
Jim S. -- "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles.
"I don't watch music videos much, but I do remember watching the first one, 'Video Killed the Radio Star,' by the Buggles, when it came out. What is memorable? I predicted a TV music channel would never make it."Posted by Hello
Starring Nathan Wind as COCHESE
I actually got a birthday present that was not a CD. (Gasp! Shock! Horror!)
Relax! It was a DVD of music videos.
I received a DVD of Spike Jonze music videos, to be exact.
Jonze became a true auteur of the genre and many people are familiar with his story: real name Adam Spiegel (heir to the Spiegel catalog fortune)... started photographing and filming skateboarders... filmed the skateboard segments for Sonic Youth's "100%" video... parlayed that experience into his own video-making career... wed then divorced Sofia Coppola... now makes movies.
My DVD contains all the highlights -- The Breeders' "Cannonball," Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" and "Weapon of Choice" (with Christopher Walken dancing/flying around the empty hotel lobby), Pharcyde's "Drop" ("that backwards one," as most people remember it), Weezer's "Buddy Holly" and The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" (pictured above).
Jonze advanced into film, of course, with "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation."
You can see the seeds of his future work in the videos, and last night the four of us (Jill, Kerstin, Annika and I) gathered around the TV, munched pizza and reveled in the work of a man who helped elevate music videos to an art form.
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Flashing My Whip
Just in time for warmer weather!
I received a ton of classic reggae for my birthday yesterday. The songs help form a perfect soundtrack for summer, which may yet arrive in Dubuque (yesterday's low temperature of 21 degrees was the coldest May day of all-time in the tri-state area).
Among the birthday items I received was the Trojan D.J. Box Set. Innovative Jamaican soundsystem deejays developed a new musical sub-genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s: They took the instrumental tracks from previous Jamaican hit songs and overdubbed their own unique vocal style, creating a new composition in the process.
Their shouts, boasts and simple singing is called "toasting" and we wouldn't have the current hip-hop musical style without it.
Pictured above is an original deejay single, U-Roy's "Flashing My Whip," from 1971. U-Roy (Ewart Beckford) toasted over The Paragon's rocksteady hit "Only a Smile." He playfully demands the vocal trio put a smile on their face, in opposition to the heartbreak of their original song.
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What's all the excitement?
It's my birthday!
I celebrate entering my final year of the 30s today by unveiling (unleashing?) a glam-rock mix to the masses. I will post the mix on Art of the Mix later today.
Here is a track-by-track guide to "You Wear Your Pleasure Like a Torch," a mix for playing loud and partying hard:
1. Gary Glitter - "Hello! Hello! I'm Back Again"
Gary Glitter's reputation shall never be salvaged and he is by all accounts a reprehensible criminal. Still, spare a kind thought for his band and producer Mike Leander. They created the stomping sound we all associate with "glam."
2. David Bowie - "Watch That Man"
David Bowie wanted to emulate "Exile on Main Street" by the Rolling Stones, so he sank his vocals deep in the mix, allowing guitarist Mick Ronson and pianist Mike Garson to star.
3. Sparks - "Lost and Found"
A "Kimono My House"-era B-side that allows unheralded guitarist Adrian Fisher to show off.
4. T. Rex - "Raw Ramp"
Here's the greatness of Marc Bolan: Even his B-sides sound like all-time classic songs. "Raw Ramp" backed up a little song called "Get it On (Bang a Gong)."
5. Roxy Music - "Pyjamarama"
Brian Eno-era Roxy Music had few peers.
6. Slade - "Bangin' Man"
Although, here's one of Roxy's few peers -- the mighty Slade. Swen, this one's for you.
7. The Sweet - "Wig-Wam Bam"
The archetypal glam rock song -- fake-sounding hand claps, chugging guitar and nonsensical lyrics sung as if they mean everything in the world. Danny Holloway, in his 1972 NME review of this single, labeled it "unadulterated nonsense." Well, yeah!
8. Mud - "Dyna-Mite"
Seriously. One of my Top 5 songs of all-time.
9. Roxy Music - "Virginia Plain"
Bryan Ferry... Brian Eno... Andy Mackay... Phil Manzanera... Roxy Music were like an all-star team.
10. David Bowie - "Suffragette City"
C'mon, we all know the words, sing along!
"Oh don't lean on me man, cause you can't afford the ticket/I'm back on Suffragette City."
11. Suzi Quatro - "48 Crash"
Remember Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days? The bass... the attitude... the black leather... the hot looks... Here, she sings a punk-rock song three years before the Sex Pistols formed. I think I'm in love.
12. Slade - "Cum on Feel the Noize"
The power-chord opening alone from this mighty song blows the Quiet Riot version clean out of the water. Ridiculously so.
13. The Sweet - "Blockbuster"
Glam rock with a siren blaring. Brian Connolly and Co. should have received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
14. Mud - "Tiger Feet"
One of the 12 catchiest songs of all-time.
15. Sparks - "Amateur Hour"
Ron and Russell Mael came out of Los Angeles with a sound unlike any other band. Here, they sound a bit glam, but they remained an entity unto themselves. An insanely catchy entity.
16. Slade - "Take Me Bak 'Ome"
Jim Lea and Noddy Holder are among the most underrated songwriters of our time. Mark that down.
17. T. Rex - "Chariot Choogle"
"Standing on your porch, you wear your pleasure like a torch."
18. Mott the Hoople - "All The Young Dudes"
This song always makes me wave a football (soccer) scarf over my head like I'm at the F.A. Cup final.
19. Wizzard - "Rock n Roll Winter"
Roy Wood pioneered the "back-to-the-Fifties" sound of glam. Here, he even provides a rare glam ballad.
20. David Bowie - "Drive-in Saturday"
The great, forgotten Bowie single. It is about people from the future who have forgotten how to make love, so they need to watch porn videos to re-train themselves. No, really!
21. T. Rex - "Ride a White Swan"
The 1970 classic that started it all. Rest in Peace, Marc Bolan.
22. The Move - "California Man"
Is it really glam? Here's how I look at it: It has the retro sound filtered through early 1970s sensibilities (it came out in 1972), it has hand-clapping, Roy Wood later painted his face as the leader of Wizzard, and this song has served as my de facto theme song for about 30 years. So yeah, it's in the mix.
Well, there you have it... the 2005 birthday mix!
My presents today have included more vintage reggae CDs, so this might be the last rock you get out of me for a while!
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That mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place
The author Nicholas Pegg sums up glam in his FANTASTIC reference book, "The Complete David Bowie."
I have been immersed in classic glam rock these days.
My birthday is tomorrow and I want to celebrate with a glittering mix of glam-rock classics from 1970-1974.
You cannot conceive of a glam-rock mix without David Bowie, so I have been listening to "Ziggy Stardust" and "Aladdin Sane" and reading Pegg's book for additional inspiration.
Pegg's description of "Ziggy Stardust" easily serves as a succinct definition for the music of glam rock:
"A vigorous restatement of the three-minute pop perfected by childhood heroes of the 1950s, filtered through the electric soundscape of the early 1970s."
That's exactly what I love about glam: In the midst of the extended guitar solos and ego-driven virtuosity of progressive rock, glam offered three-minute blasts of rock-n-roll fun.
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