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Archive for November, 2014

300SOUNDTRACK: HOSE-Mobo (single) (1981).

hoseHose was Rick Rubin’s first band and this single was the first release on Def Jam records.  Rubin is on guitar.  I would never have known of this release if it weren’t for the Hip Hop family Tree.

This three song single is a noisy slab of art punk.

The first side “Mobo” is a fairly conventional punk song.  There’s a loud fuzzy bass riff.  The drums are surprisingly tame (although I understand it may have been recorded on a boombox or something).  The guitars are mostly noise.  And the vocals are pretty clean (if bizarre).  It seems to be a part of (and maybe even precursor to) the sludge punk movement of the early 80s.

The B-side included 2 songs.  “Girls” which is 20 seconds of pure hardcore (the only word is girls).  As the song feedbacks out, they begin to do a crazy slow nonsensical cover of “We’re Going to the Zoo” (for over 3 minutes!).

Hose also released an album (called Hose) which I can’t even find online anywhere.  Guess Rubin’s not so proud of this.

[READ: November 24, 2014] Hip Hop/Comic Connection Pt. 2

This supplement to Hip Hop Family Tree was created by Rod Spike (think anagram). It shows the early connections for him between comic books and hip hop.

The book talks about the way that these two loves of his life merged in the 1990s.

We begin with Spike Lee in his early days (making the video for “White Lines, for instance).  Then we meet cartoonist and illustrator Rob Liefeld, doing work for Marvel.

Spike had made some big time commercials at this point and was ready to make one for Levis.  Liefeld submitted his name to be cast in the  upcoming Levis commercial.  Lee picked him and they made the commercial together (the comic version of Liefeld in this book is done in the style of Liefeld’s work, so he is crazy and creepy whereas in real life he’s a pretty normal looking kid). (more…)

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hhftSOUNDTRACK: G.L.O.B.E. & WHIZ KID-“Play that Beat Mr DJ” (Double Dee & Steinski Payoff Mix) (1985).

doubledeeThe original of this song (1983) was simply the drums and simple keyboard riff.  The “Payoff Mix” done by Double Dee & Steinski added the incredibly dense layer of samples that really make this song interesting (actually the samples are more interesting than the rap).

The samples included:

  • Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
  • Play It Sam…Play “As Time Goes By” (Avalon/As Time Goes By) by Humphrey Bogart (dialogue spoken from the movie Casablanca)
  • That’s the joint – Funky Four Plus One
  • Take the Country to N.Y. City by Hamilton Bohannon
  • Don’t Make Me Wait (Acapella) by Peech Boys
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love by Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Rockit by Herbie Hancock
  • Situation 12″ by Yazoo
  • Starski Live at the Disco Fever by Lovebug Starski
  • World’s Famous, Hobo Scratch, D’Ya Like Scratchin’ and Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren
  • Apache by Incredible Bongo Band
  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Indeep
  • I’ll Tumble 4 Ya by Culture Club
  • Speech by Fiorello La Guardia from Reading the Comics – July,1945

Double Dee & Steinski went on to make some other great mashups (and these sound amazing since they were done circa 1985).  I particularly like Lesson 3.

Here’s the one that made them famous:

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 2

This volume picks up right where the previous one left off in 1981.

First we meet Doug E. Fresh who, devoid of records, starts the trend of beatboxing.  We also see The Sugarhill Gang doing a rap over the song “Apache” (while dressed like Native Americans).

The book bounces back to California (Oakland this time) where we meet Too Short, a great high school rapper who is interested in making money from his skills.  We also see a young Ice-T doing his gangland thing

Then it jumps back to Rick Rubin whose love of punk and metal (these goings on are happening at the same time as Black Flag is trying out a young Henry Rollins, and Bad Brains are in high gear–and often times the crowds mix amiably) fuses with his love of rap.  he really wants to be able to capture the rawness of the live sounds of both types of music onto a record (enter the Beastie Boys).  And, strangely enough (although perhaps it should be expected), Malcolm McDowell enters the picture.  We also see Fab Five Freddy making “Change the Beat” which includes a since-very-heavily sampled “Freshhhhh” (more…)

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hhftSOUNDTRACK: “The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” (1981).

grandThis track was one of the first records to mix songs from other artists (yes, we call it sampling now).  It was a chance for Grandmaster Flash to show off his mad mixing skills.  He used three turntables, samples from the movie Flash Gordon (nice) and this songs:

Chic – “Good Times” ; Blondie – “Rapture” ; Queen – “Another One Bites the Dust” ; Sugarhill Gang – “8th Wonder” ; The Furious Five – “Birthday Party” ; Spoonie Gee – “Monster Jam” ; Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band – “Apache” ; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – “Freedom” ; Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” ; The Hellers – “Life Story”

It’s really impressive and it sounds seamless.

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 1

This book came across my desk at work and I was really excited to read it.  I thought I didn’t know all that much about the origins of hip hop.  And while I was largely right, I was also pleased that I knew so many of the big names.

So this is a graphic novel done by Ed Piskor.  Piskor’s style is familiar (it looks like old school indie comics, even though he was born in 1982). Now, I already said I don’t know all that much about hip hop history, so I can’t vouch for the veracity of this family tree (and I certainly suspect that Piskor likes some people and dislikes others), but I assume that this is a pretty accurate story about how hip hop came to be.

It all starts in the 1970s with DJ Kool Herc in the South Bronx.  He spins discs at parties and is hugely successful.  He starts looping records to extend the drum breaks.  His popularity inspires Grandmaster Flash who tries new techniques and Afrika Bambaataa who plays the most obscure records he can find (Kraftwerk, for instance).  Bambaataa was once a gang leader but he channeled his music into a more peaceful gang–Zulu Nation.  This group leads to some other early hip hop groups: The Treacherous Three, The Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four Plus One (the first of the groups to feature a woman) and The Fantastic Five, (more…)

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hooeySOUNDTRACK: Songs for Stuffing: A Thanksgiving Mix (2011).

turkey_wide-5d9e8a59bec66b4815045e86e4267da98ecc9263-s1900-c85There are not too many Thanksgiving songs.  But our friends at NPR created this Thanksgiving mix back in 2011.  It seems to lie dormant for much of the year but they bring it back at a seasonally appropriate time.

I have to admit I have not actually listened to it (at least not yet).  But it includes this rather broad selection of artists (designed to please or alienate everyone on Thanksgiving).

A Band of Bees • Amadou & Mariam • The Andrews Sisters • Louis Armstrong • The B-52’s • The Beatles • Ludwig von Beethoven • William Billings • Willie Bobo • Bow Wow Wow • Greg Brown • Cab Calloway • Cyrus Chestnut • Guy Clark • Nat King Cole • Joe Craven • Joseph Curiale • Guy Davis • Champion Jack Dupree • Bob Dylan • The Flaming Lips • Dave Frishberg • William DeVaughn • Rick Gallagher • Dizzy Gillespie • Johnny Griffin • Patty Griffin • Golden Smog • Benny Goodman • Arlo Guthrie • Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass feat. Ozomatli • Herbie Hancock • Bill Heid • David Holt • The JB’s • Jay & The Techniques • Louis Jordan • Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan • Paul Lingle • Lyle Lovett • Eric “Two Scoops” Moore • New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble • Harry Nilsson • Tim O’Brien • Lee “Scratch” Perry • Michelle Shocked • Dmitri Shostakovich • Southern Culture on the Skids • Spearhead • Still on the Hill • Rufus Thomas • Traffic • Bobby Troup • Jay Ungar & Molly Mason • Warrant • Ethel Waters • The Wiyos • “Weird Al” Yankovic

You can hear the mix streaming on NPR.

[READ: November 27, 2014] A Load of Hooey

Just in time for Thanksgiving, McSweeney’s has sent us A Load of Hooey.

Bob Odenkirk has been cropping up a lot lately (not as much as erstwhile partner and financially secure comedian, David Cross, mind you), and that’s a good thing.  There’s something about Odenkirk’s persona (crotchety, uptight, white guy) that is usually really funny.  He often elevates crappy sitcoms just by yelling at one of the characters.

This book is a collection of short pieces (most are 1-3 pages), including “unabridged quotations” and poems.  They cover a variety of subjects, but pretty much all upend expectations.  And, as one might expect from Odenkirk, there’s a lot of religious and political jokes as well.

The “unabridged quotations” allow Odenkirk to append something that removes the pomp from some famous quotations.  The poems are usually funny, twisted barbs at some subject or another.

But the main targets are religions and politicians. (more…)

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1982SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BOWIE-“The Laughing Gnome” (1967).

gnomeI have always liked David Bowie.  Never loved him, but always liked his radio hits (and a bit more).  Suffice it to say that I have never heard of “The Laughing Gnome” before reading about it in this book.

What a strange little song.  I can’t tell if it came out before or after his debut solo record (he has the same haircut), but I gather it was released as a novelty record.

It’s a delightful little song.  Very sixties mod with a healthy nod of dance-hall.  The very different thing of course is that in the song, the main singer (Bowie) meets and sings with a sped-up-voiced Cockney “gnome.”

So the song is clearly a novelty song (what else would you call it?).  Except that the production is really great and the music is really good too.  Despite the gnome, the song isn’t really a “funny” song (well, there are jokes and puns, I guess).  It’s certainly weird and certainly silly, but it holds up pretty well to repeated listens (even if the chorus is “ha ha ha hee hee hee I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me”).

Bowie doesn’t really acknowledge the song anymore, although he did joke that he was considering performing it in a new ‘Velvet Underground-influenced’ style.  Before that happens, hear the original

[READ: November 22, 2014] 1982

So yes, I know that Ghomeshi is in the midst of a scandal in which he is pretty undeniably a sexually abusive scumbag.  I’ll say nothing more about that since things are still under investigation {formal charges were brought today].  But it doesn’t look good for Jian.

This is rather upsetting.  For the women involved, obviously, but also for those of us who liked Jian and thought he was one of the good guys.  Which I did.  I loved Moxy Fruvous.  I loved his solo album.  I had a brief email exchange with him before he joined the CBC, and his show, Q was one of the best interview shows out there.  He always seemed so nice and on the right side of so many issues.  Ugh.

But anyhow, this is about the book, not him (although the book is about him as well).  I only heard about the book when I was looking for news about his scandal (I had no idea he had written a book).  The book is called 1982 because it is all about his life in the year 1982, a formative year in his childhood. (more…)

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greatestSOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“The Hard Way” and “Wine Glasses” (1974).

glassThis book informed me about these two unreleased Pink Floyd songs (there’s a Wikipedia site that lists some fifty more !).  While the were unreleased in 1974 (from the abandoned Household Objects album), they were eventually released in 2011 on expanded versions of albums.

“The Hard Way” features some “percussion” that sounds like someone taking steps.  There’s a bass riff which I gather is from rubber bands (but very well tuned).  There’s clocks ticking and chiming and tape being unspooled.  It’s a neat idea and while it is absurd to think you could make a whole album with this kind of stuff (in 1974), it’s a surprisingly good sounding track.

“Wine Glasses” was apparently made with wine glasses.  It is all of 2 minutes long.  It was designed to be a full song but was eventually used in the introduction to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”  I never really considered that there were wine glasses making the sounds (and clearly there are synths added on top), but yeah, so that ‘s kinda neat.

[READ: November 25, 2014] The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear

I found this book at work and knew I had to read it.  I was actually surprised at how long it took me to read (there’s a lot of entries).

The title and subtitle pretty much say everything you need to know about this book (and if you need to read it or not).  This book collects a series of writers who give a brief history of some of the more famous (and some not so famous) albums that were never released.  It explains (as best they can) why the albums weren’t released and even gives a percentage chance of likelihood of the album ever seeing the light of day (interestingly, most seem to be a 3/10–they may have been able to use a 5 point scale).

I knew some of the records they talked about (The Beach Boys’ Smile, Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams), but was ignorant of quite a lot of them. And while big fans of the artists may know all of the details about their favorite lost album already (these are sketches, not exhaustive research), there will certainly be some new information.  For instance, I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan but had no idea about the two shelved works mentioned here.

I liked the way the book was done chronologically and grouped by decade.  It was also interesting to see how the “reasons” for the non-release morphed over the decades from “the record label didn’t like it” to “it was leaked online.”

The one major gripe I have with the book is that it is chock full of “imagined” album covers.  This in itself is okay, but it is not made explicitly clear that they are all imagined (credits are given at the bottom of each image, but it took me a few entries to realize these were just people’s ideas of what the covers could look like).  And most of them are gawdawful.  Just really lame and dull (as if they had 20 minutes to come up with an idea).  They mar an otherwise cool collection,especially since some of the unreleased records actually do have proposed covers (even if they were never released).  I see that there is in fact a paragraph about the covers in the front pages of the book, but it is almost hidden away.

In addition to the albums I’ve listed below, I learned some fascinating things.  That Bruce Springsteen has hundreds of songs that he wrote but never released for various reasons.  That Pink Floyd did try to make an album out of household objects (with no instruments).  That the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks was almost simultaneously released illicitly as Spunk.  And that Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album was recently remastered.

The end of the book includes two small sections: other favorites that were never released.  Not sure why they earned only a small column instead of a full entry, but that’s okay.  The second was albums that we eventually did see, like My Bloody Valentine’s MBV and Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

So if you ever wondered what happened to that long lost album, this may be the book for you.

A sampling of the unreleased records include:

  • The Beach Boys-Smile
  • Buffalo Springfield-Stampede
  • The Kinks-Four Respected Gentlemen
  • The Beatles-Get Back
  • Jeff Beck-The Motown Album
  • Jimi Hendrix-Black Gold
  • The Who-Lifehouse
  • Wicked Lester
  • Rolling Stones-American Tour ’72
  • CSN&Y-Human Highway
  • Pink Floyd-Household Objects (1974), Spare Brick 1982
  • Dusty Springfield-Longing
  • David Bowie-The Gouster (1975), Toy (2001)
  • Sex Pistols-Spunk
  • Neil Young -Homegrown (1975), Chrome Dreams (1976)
  • Frank Zappa-Läther
  • Beastie Boys-Country Mike’s Greatest Hits
  • Weezer-Songs from the Black Hole
  • Jeff Buckley-My Sweeetheart the Drunk
  • Van Halen-IV
  • Foo Fighters-The Million Dollar Demos
  • Green Day-Cigarettes and Valentines (the author doesn’t believe it was actually stolen)
  • Tapeworm (Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan among others)
  • Deftones-Eros
  • U2-Songs of Ascent
  • Beck-The Song Reader

 

 

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harpjuneSOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-“Bored in the U.S.A.” (2014).

 boredNot a cover of the Clash song (“I’m So Bored with the U.S.A”) this is a piano dirge about the materialism of American culture.

I loved Father John Misty’s debut, and the way it addressed serious topics but with beautiful songs and Misty’s wonderful voice.  But this song is a dark and dreary tale of life in contemporary America.  Father John laments about, well, just about everything:

I’ve got all morning to obsessively accrue
A small nation of meaningful objects
And they’ve got to represent me too

or

Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways
I’ve grown more disappointing to you
As my beauty warps and fades

with the staggering next line

I suspect you feel the same

Te melody is pretty, but solemn (there’s no ironic poppy chord structure for this lament).  Rather, it’s a slow minor key piano melody with Misty’s beautiful aching voice drifting over the chords: “Save me white Jesus.”

By the next verse, while the melody and singing stay at the same pace, he adds a laugh track to his life: “They gave me a useless education / A subprime loan, Craftsman home / Keep my prescriptions filled / Now I can’t get off, but I can kind of deal / Oh, with being Bored in the USA.”

If this is the single, what can the album have in store?

 Save me President Jesus.

[READ: November 17, 2014] “Long in the Tooth”

This is a Czech story (translated by Stacey Knecht) written by Hrabal (who died in 1997).  I don’t know anything about him except that he wrote “many novels.”

But this story I find quite puzzling.  It’s not hard or complicated, indeed, it is quite a straightforward piece.  I’m just puzzled by why he wrote it (unless the conceit of false teeth was so novel that it needed to be written down).

In this story, the main character (who is a woman although that isn’t revealed until quite late in the story) is marveling at how she (and her husband) have aged without them realizing it.  She says that suddenly she was sixty and then sixty-five when she contracted paradentosis (which can cause massive tooth loss). (more…)

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