Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL TOWN-MEADOWS, ROCHDALE Grandest Night of the Season! AND POSITIVELY THE LAST NIGHT BUT THREE! BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR.KITE, (LATE OF WELLS'S CIRCUS) AND MR. J. HENDERSON, THE CELEBRATED SOMERSET THROWER! WIRE DANCER, VAULTER, RIDER, etc. On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843. [more inside]
Back in 1993, the hip hop group Digital Underground needed to release a single to promote their 4th album, the Body-Hat Syndrome, in the hopes they could recapture the magic of their two biggest hits, Humpty Dance and Doowutchyalike. Frontman Greg "Shock G" Davis (aka Humpty Hump) needed a gimmick to promote the new single, Return of the Crazy One, so he hired FM Productions in San Francisco (who had also designed flying pigs for Pink Floyd concerts) to create a 12-foot high sculpture of his own head, which would allow him to emerge from a trap door in the nostrils. Fast forward almost twenty years later, until a guy with the web handle johnny payphone finds the giant head abandoned and covered in dust in an Oakland warehouse after a homeless man attempted to live in it for several weeks. No museums have yet expressed interest in the head, but if you have the money, and you can take good care of it, the giant Humpty Hump head could be yours.
In the mid-1950s, Dickie Goodman was a struggling song writer working with song publisher Bill Buchanan, when the two men came up with the idea of a fake radio program interrupted by a UFO attack (similar to the hoax Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds), except in this case, the aliens spoke the language of rock 'n' roll. The result was Flying Saucer, Parts 1 and 2 on Luniverse Records, the first novelty break-in record and a forerunner to the modern mashup. [more inside]
Fake the Beatles : WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields delivers an entertaining presentation on the mid-1960s cottage industry in Beatles soundalike records. Other Beatlesque imitators to follow below the fold. [more inside]
In August 1990, when Spin magazine was still an edgier cousin to Rolling Stone, it published a list of the 35 Greatest Moments in Rock 'n' Roll Television. [more inside]
Not all groups with synthesizers in the 1970s and 1980s were lame Top 40 acts with keytars. Some groups of the era used synths for spastic keyboard bleeps, herky-jerky tempos, and angst-ridden aggression in a style now classified by record collector geeks as synthpunk, minimal synth, or minimal wave. Several famous New Wave acts dabbled in the style before providing soundtracks for Molly Ringwald movies (OMD, Electricty) or singing about waitresses in cocktail bars (the Human League, Being Boiled), but vintage videos from synth punk acts all over the world can be found all over YouTube. [more inside]
Terry Riley celebrates the 45th anniversary of his groundbreaking composition, In C. A major work in the history of minimalist music, In C has an incredibly flexible score and performance guidelines, which have inspired many musicians to make their own versions, including a French guitar quintet, a traditional Chinese orchestra, a keyboard ensemble, an all-synthesizer group, CalArts Music students, French-Canadian hippies, a Danish vocal and percussion ensemble, another percussion ensemble, Japanese acidheads, a "laptop orchestra", the Bang on a Can Orchestra, and a rock "orchestration" by the Styrenes. No two versions can sound exactly the same, but it's still an open question how they will compare to the performance of In C at its Carnegie Hall debut next month. No recording of the original 1964 performance has ever been publicly released, but some eyewitness accounts can be found here.
The New Creation was born in 1970 when Chris Towers, an unknown guitarist from Vancouver, decided to form a Christian rock group with his mother Lorna as lead singer and their neighbor Janet Tiessen on drums. Scared by reports of the hippie excesses of the Manson/Altamont era, Lorna Towers wrote doom-laden, apocalyptic lyrics for the New Creation's aptly titled album, Troubled. The band was unpolished, yet somehow captured a unique lo-fi sound comparable to a hybrid of the Velvet Underground and the Shaggs. The group might be totally forgotten today, if an aging hippie record dealer named Ty Scammel hadn't rescued a copy from a $1 bargain bin, leading to the album's rediscovery by collectors of Christian rock and outsider music. [more inside]
Dead musical instruments... brought back to life by YouTube? Check out this mellotron demo film, a rare trautonium keyboard in some guy's garage, trautonium music by composer Oskar Sala, an original Ondes Martenot, a documentary on the telharmonium (parts 1, 2, and 3), and the Sonovox (used to funny but not-suitable-for-work effect in this parody of Sparky's Magic Piano). Meanwhile, avant-gardists have revived the art of prepared piano, but more mainstream acts such as Tori Amos and Ferrante & Teicher have also experimented with it. Last but not least, another performer of prepared piano is Margaret Leng Tan, but I think she should get more accolades as the best virtuoso of the toy piano since Schroeder from Peanuts.
George W. Bush covers John Lennon's War Is Over (If You Want It) in a collaboration with Wax Audio. Another coverversion of John Lennon's God is included on the B-side of the new limited edition 45. On the other hand, Yoko sez, "Vote Kucinich!" (previously on Mefi)
Stop Snitchin' may be the hidden link between hip hop and the 1980s alternative rock group, House of Freaks. According to the New York Post, journalist Ethan Brown has accomplished "making the Stop Snitching movement seem reasonable" in his new book Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice. Brown argues that harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have created a "cottage industry of cooperators" and informants who fabricate evidence, because Provision 5K1.1 of federal sentencing guidelines gives leniency in exchange for "substantial assistance to authorities." According to Brown, two of these criminal cooperators included Ray Dandridge and Ricky Gray, the perpetrators of the Richmond spree murders that ended the life of Brian Harvey of House of Freaks, his wife, and his two children. On the other hand, Mark Kleiman argues that the Stop Snitchin' movement has driven homicide clearance rates so low that, in some cities, "you have a better than even chance of literally getting away with murder." [more inside]
The Now Sound of the Sixties is what's groovy, baby! Even Big Bands and Canadians are getting warm, wild, wonderful with the crazy sounds of that love generation. Check out Ella Fitzgerald singing Sunshine of Your Love and Lord Sitar's I Can See for Miles. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 do Wichita Lineman and Day Tripper, while lounge act Jackie & Roy do a rare cover version of the Beatles' The Word. The Alan Copeland Singers can't stop Goin' Out of My Head, but the Back Porch Majority looks like an outtake from A Mighty Wind with the hippie anthem, Get Together. But the hippest hep daddy of them all is Bing Crosby, who has both a Beatles medley and another medley of hit '60s tunes.
This cheesy 1979 promo film from the group, Blackjack, offers a glimpse into the hard rock past of balladeer Michael Bolton, which also includes a co-writing credit for a Top 40 hit by Kiss. Similarly, Bill Joel disavows the days when he posed in medieval armor next to slabs of raw beef on the cover of the self-titled album by Joel's heavy metal duo, Attila, although Julian Cope is a fan of the album and its Deep Purplish vibes (check out Holy Moses and Wonder Woman). To round out the trifecta, we have Tori Amos who got marketed as the metal-chick frontwoman of Y Kant Tori Read (check out the video for The Big Picture). On the other hand, metalheads have the opposite problem of hiding their pop past. Examples include the industrial metal band Ministry's early days as a new wave synth act and Tommy Iommi's brief tenure as a member of Jethro Tull before becoming lead guitarist of Black Sabbath. Meanwhile, Bon Scott, the late lead singer of AC/DC, is probably spinning in his grave over the YouTube footage of him as an Australian teen idol and a bearded hippie with a recorder.
Back in 2001, amateur musicians seeking exposure on my.mp3.com responded spontaneously to the 9/11 attacks by posting their own heartfelt musical tributes to the event, which included the Wings cover Taliban on the Run, the anti-abortion ambient synth rock of Unborn Baby of Tower One, and the Christian numerology of Wayne and Liz's 9-11 Warning. More recent tributes can be found on YouTube and elsewhere, including the pro-Bush emo of 9 11 Vision of You, What Does Nine 11 Mean 2 U from "blog 'n' roller" Dr. B.L.T., and the Moby-ish The 9/11 Memorial Song. Meanwhile, YouTube has inspired somebody to ponder if you can make 9/11 look more "funny" by adding the Benny Hill theme song.
Satan Rides the Media is a documentary about the Norwegian black metal scene and the notorious Varg Vikernes, founder of the one-man band, Burzum. In 1993, Vikernes was convicted for a series of church burnings and the murder of Øystein Aarseth a.k.a. Euronymous of the band Mayhem. Varg's crimes inspired both copycat arsons and the book Lords of Chaos, which led one book reviewer to make the claim that neoconservatism is totally black metal. But if that doesn't quench your thirst for demoniac documentaries, you can always check out the grindhouse flick Satanis, Anton Lavey in a kiddie promo clip to sell Satanism, and Geraldo Exploring Satan's Underground (Parts 1 and 2).
Christs, Communists, & Rock 'n' Roll is an excellent introduction to a tradition of anti-rock writings and recordings by the Religious Right. In the 1960s, there was David Noebel who wrote Communism, Hypnotism, & the Beatles and The Marxist Minstrels. In the early 1970s, Reverend Riblett constructs a seven-foot cross out of rock music records and sets it aflame with gasoline. Michael Mills finds hidden Satanic messages in Bow Wow Wow and the Grateful Dead, while Bob Larson valiantly debates Mandy, a 13-year-old fan of the Cure. The motherlode is probably the cassettes of John Todd, who traveled the fundamentalist circuit in the 1970s claiming to be a former witch and a member of the Illuminati, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. (more inside)
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash may be the most elaborate parody of the Beatles ever constructed, including satirical tributes to the appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, Yellow Submarine, and the rooftop concert at Apple Records. Check out some other fine parodies who picked up where the Rutles left off: The Mosquitoes on Gilligan's Island, Chris and the Alphabeats on Sesame Street, Letter B and Hey Food by the Beetles, the Be Sharps on the Simpsons, A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead by the Zombeatles, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore's L.S. Bumble Bee, the Powerpuff Girls Meet the Beat Alls (parts 1 and 2 with commentary by Mojo Jojo), Beatles spoofs in a Polish sitcom and a Bollywood musical, Beatallica sings A Garage Dayz Nite, the Chasers' I Am Thesaurus, and the Beatles go bar mitzvah.
Songs You Didn't Know Were Cover Versions: Good Lovin', Mambo No. 5, The City of New Orleans, Fernando, The First Cut Is the Deepest, I Love Rock 'n' Roll, Just A Gigolo, Without You, Don't Turn Around, Let's Live for Today, Dazed and Confused, Seasons in the Sun, Pass the Dutchie, There's Always Something There to Remind Me, Gloria, Respect, Turn Turn Turn, When the Levee Breaks, Do You Wanna Touch Me, Cum on Feel the Noize, Hanging on the Telephone, I Go Blind, I Will Always Love You, Take Me to the River, Louie Louie, The Twist etc. etc.
The Rubinoos recently filed a lawsuit against Avril Lavigne, claiming that her song Girlfriend (Youtube) plagiarized from their song, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (mp3). An authorized cover version of the Rubinoos song performed by Lush and retitled "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" has even more similarities to the Lavigne song. Now that the teeming millions on the Internets have gotten into the act, YouTubers are now arguing whether Lavigne is a plagiarist, whether the Rubinoos plagiarized from the Rolling Stones, and whether Ms. Lavigne plagiarized a second time. Now that Web 2.0 has made it easier to uncover musical copycats, I'm hot on the case of Bob Marley vs. The Banana Splits.
Kids Rock! Reaching puberty is not a prerequisite to rocking out. Check out Gary and the Hornets, Tony and the Tigers (featuring two sons of Soupy Sales), The Collins Kids (with more clips here and here), a 10-year-old Fergie singing the Pretenders' "The Middle of the Road," mini-skatepunks Old Skull, the Minibeats, Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 3rd Grade Class, the Electric Company's Short Circus (featuring a pre-teen Irene Cara and intros from Morgan Freeman as DJ Mel Mounds), the Double Deckers, Smoosh on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Les Poppys, the Bantams, and Mulligan's Stew getting down with the four food groups. (YouTube-a-palooza!)
Permission to Innovate? How the Record Industry Is Like 17th-Century French Buttonmakers A corporate consultant blog makes a weird but compelling argument that the RIAA and MPAA are forcibly imposing a draconian 17th-century business model on the 21st century.
What you have purchased for less than the price of a cup of coffee is arguably one of the most important "lost" music recordings out there. Record collector Warren Hill paid 75 cents at a yard sale in Chelsea, New York for an acetate in a plain cardboard sleeve. After some research, Hill's friends confirmed that the acetate disc, recorded by sound engineer Norman Dolph (who also wrote Reunion's "Life Is A Rock But The Radio Rolled Me"), was the third recording ever made by the Velvet Underground and the first album they ever did. A demo rejected by Columbia Records, the acetate is now up for auction on EBay, where the high bid is $124,640.50 and climbing, already breaking records as the most expensive LP ever sold at auction. (Bonus: see a post from a teenage eyewitness to the VU's 1966 session that produced this acetate.)
I'm a Jewish Yankee Doodle Dandy and other Yiddish sheet music on topics ranging from the Dreyfus affair to interreligious romance. How Broadway evolved from Yiddish theater.
The Neon Philharmonic consisted of members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, a producer of country & western records named Don Gant (who produced Jimmy Buffett's first hit), and a jazz pianist named Tupper Saussy. Strangely enough, this odd combination produced an unexpected Top 20 hit, Morning Girl. The group was briefly mentioned as an obscure music hipster reference in a devastating indie-rock takedown of current critical darling Sufjan Stevens, but such a throwaway reference to the Neon Philharmonic does not do justice to the bizarre life of its founder, Tupper Saussy.(more inside)
From Inner Sounds to Astro Sounds Session guitarist Jerry Cole made several albums of instrumental surf rock as the leader of Jerry Cole & His Spacemen, but after playing on sessions that produced the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, he realized he had to adapt to new musical trends. In the summer of '66, Cole responded by bringing several session buddies together to record The Inner Sounds of the Id, a psychedelic studio creation that was at least a year ahead of its time. The story might have ended there if the producer hadn't stolen the Id's session outtakes... (more inside)
Three Notes and Runnin' has decided to protest the recent court decision that cited N.W.A. with illegally sampling a snippet of Funkadelic's Get Off Your Ass and Jam that had been modified to the point of unrecognizability. So in the tradition of online civil disobedience such as Grey Tuesday, Downhill Battle has issued a challenge to sample-based artists to create 30-second remixes that consist of nothing but the disputed 1.5-second Funkadelic sample.
Shooby Taylor, the Human Horn, Has Been Found! In 1983, the retired postal worker, William "Shooby" Taylor, recorded a legendary bootleg tape at Angel Studios, Manhattan. After the tape attracted attention from the legendary freeform WFMU radio station, a underground cult of Shooby fans developed, enthralled by his unique scatting style resembling Dadaist sound poetry. Shooby was believed dead, but the dedicated efforts of his fans found him.
No-Hit Wonders Ever hear of Thuh Sqwamps? How about Rhinoceros Snot? Perhaps you're familiar with King Solomon's Minds? Not ringing any bells? Of course not. These are all local garage bands from the 1960s that would have fallen into pure oblivion if it wasn't for the My First Band web site. Several of the stories are so bizarre that a very entertaining movie could be made out of any one of them.