Category Archives: Articles

“Write a Catchy Chorus, HAL”

In NASCAR racing, which went into official existence in 1948, 1972 is identified as the start of the “Modern Era.” The series has yet to become postmodern, but that’s another argument for another digital venue.

The troubadour tradition, that of a musician who sang and played a stringed instrument, goes back at least to the 11th century. One could make the argument that the “Modern Era” for troubadours, or, more to the point of this, singer-songwriters, started in 1962, the year the first Bob Dylan album was released.

When it comes to much music since then, whether it is a Dylan or a Paul Simon or a Jackson Browne, individuals who write and perform their work, or a band, ranging from the Beatles to Wilco and some before and after, it is probably the case that when we hear the music performed, we think of that music, especially vocals, coming from an individual who, in some significant way, has something to do with those lyrics.

To go to the classic case of the Beatles, it was either a “John song” or a “Paul” song, and when it was George or Ringo. . .well, there really weren’t enough of them combined to have a significant effect.

Tweedy is trying to break our hearts.

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Fortune and Maltese: Live in Kalamazoo, 1995!

Video: Fortune & Maltese & The Phabulous Pallbearers Live at the State Theatre

Fortune & Maltese & The Phabulous Pallbearers Live at the State Theatre

Hot damn, I loved this band! And here is some fantastic newly discovered live footage of them at the peak of their powers. Thirty minutes of amped-up garage rock remastered in “Trash-o-Phonic stereo sound.” Live in Kalamazoo, Michigan on February 5, 1995.

I can’t remember if I was at this show, but I might’ve been. I used to go see them whenever I could. Freddy Fortune and Michael Maltese with Nat Cromlech, J.C. Graves, and the greatest drummer of all time: Dusty Sexton.

Check out the video and if you’re not familiar with Fortune & Maltese, you owe it to yourself to dig into them. Unfortunately, none of their stuff is available for streaming yet. So go find their records! They’re out there. Actually, the studio recordings of most of this set are collected on Get Hip’s Fortune & Maltese and the Phabulous Pallbearers compilation.

Fortune and Maltese: fb, amazon, wiki.

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Who’s Left?

When I saw that the Who had recently performed a couple of classics on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon I immediately forwarded the link to Stephen Macaulay. Mac has a long history with the Who, dating back to seeing them at Cobo Hall in Detroit when he and the band were all scruffy young guys. He’s been quite vocal over the years on his disappointment over what they have become. -ed.

Video: The Who: “I Can See for Miles” (live on the Tonight Show)

The Who: I Can See for Miles

Imagine listening to “I Can See for Miles” with your eyes closed. Wouldn’t you imagine that this was a good cover band, but something sounds slightly off on the lead vocals, as though the singer was trying too hard or having too difficult a time?

And then you open your eyes and watch.

It’s him.

But what the hell is Daltrey doing with that acoustic guitar? Does he really think that Pete and Simon can’t handle it? Or is it that he doesn’t quite have the confident moves anymore and so the guitar becomes a prop that keeps him from having to make those moves. Plus, with Pete teasing and doing the windmills is physically distracting.

(There is no crutch for the vocal cords, however, at least not, apparently, in this venue.)

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Listening to Gresham’s Law

Back in 1558, Sir Thomas Gresham, who was the financial agent for Queen Elizabeth I, articulated what was to become known as “Gresham’s law.” The law has it that “bad money drives out good.”

He was talking about physical currency.

One way to think about this is to take a quarter out of your pocket (assuming that you’re reading this in the U.S.; if not, it doesn’t make any difference although it will be less physically obvious).

When you look at the coin edge-on you see a sandwich of materials. There is a copper center covered by two shiny layers.

Said quarter is 91.67 percent copper. The shiny stuff is nickel and it makes up the remainder.

Prior to 1964 quarter were made of silver.

So in Gresham’s law, the “bad money”—the metal sandwich—drives out the “good,” the silver, which has a much higher value in terms of the metal alone. Almost as soon as the cupronickel quarters appeared the silver quarters disappeared. Some were saved by coin collectors. Some, no doubt, were melted down (which, by the way, is illegal) and sold as metal.

What does any of this have to do with music?

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The Model 500 and the Physicality of Music

Western Electric invented the Model 500 telephone. That’s the telephone with a handset cradled on the top of the device and a rotary dial on the front. It is the telephone that is the pre-21st century dictionary image of what a “telephone” would look like.

It brought the Model 500 out in 1950. The classic desk phone.

But Western Electric also invented something that is more pertinent to this space: the method by which music could be recorded with a microphone, amplified, then used to create records. Columbia and Victor licensed the technology from Western Electric and began producing records with it in 1925.

And in time, the recorded disc, which became commonly known as “vinyl” became the dominant musical recording medium.

Then it suffered the fate of the Model 500.

However, unlike the Model 500, the vinyl disc is having a resurgence. Last week Sony Music announced that for the first time since 1989 it is going to begin pressing records again.

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Vinylology 101: How to buy Boston’s debut LP

Vinylology 101: Boston’s debut LP, 1976, Epic Records

When you listen to the celebrated first LP by Boston, it’s obvious that the band’s leader Tom Scholz was a studio geek and a major control freak, which anecdotal evidence seems to bear out.  The songs are perfectly constructed; not a note is out of place.  The guitars chime with crystalline precision, and the massive amount of echo and reverb that they were able to apply never comes off as contrived or artificial.  It’s a miracle that the music sounds as natural as it does, considering that the album also seems to be so obsessively crafted.  The album is chock-a-block full of timeless classics; it boasts “More Than A Feeling” and “Foreplay/Long Time”, as well as “Peace Of Mind” and “Hitch A Ride”.

Since Boston cared so obsessively about its sound, here are some tips to help you find the most ideal LP copy of Boston’s debut LP, so you can hear for yourself the album as it was originally intended to sound.

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Joe Jackson in Ann Arbor: Who Said Anything About Love?

At about the midway point on his month-long tour, we saw Joe Jackson at the Michigan Theater this past Saturday night. It was probably the fourth time we’ve seen him. Some middle-aged fanboys in the row behind us were trying to top one another with shows they’d seen. One said the last time he saw Jackson was in Royal Oak eight years ago, which is conceivably the last time we saw him.

Then, he was playing what was once a movie theater. And the Michigan Theater still shows movies when it doesn’t have live performances on its stage.

The Joe Jackson tour seems to be of places of approximately that size. Not small. Not large. The Michigan Theater seats 1,700 and it seemed as if most, if not all, of the seats were occupied. After the visit to Ann Arbor, it was off to the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines and the Club Brady in Tulsa, OK, with a few stops in between.

No opening act. Just him solo for several numbers, then joined by bass, Graham Maby, guitar, Teddy Kumpel, and drums, Doug Yowell.

For the last encore number they did “A Slow Song” from Night and Day, which allowed the musicians to leave the stage one by one, which is a fine approach–and one used lo those years ago Royal Oak. Some things remain.

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If Music Be the Food of Love, Get Off the Stage

I have a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It’s not on any chart
You must find it in your heart

Neverland.

It was 1972. My hair was long, my waist was thin and I had dark(ish) circles under my eyes from too many weekend nights spent drinking in a dive bar with my friends, smoking too many Kools. I was in a band. I ran what was the school’s “underground” newspaper.

And I had a tremendous crush on a cheerleader. Yes, read the previous paragraph again and put the previous statement into context.

Of course, were that just it, what I had imagined was my Hamlet-like charm (“sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”) would have managed that difference in our outlooks.

But there were a couple of other factors that seem, even in retrospect, to be somewhat insurmountable. Sally (1) had a boyfriend who was a year older and, yes, an athlete who didn’t care for me in the least bit for I represented everything that was pretty much anathema to him and (2) her father was the superintendent of schools and the newspaper I was putting out was causing all manner of organizational upset within the administration’s offices.

So I needed a plan. A plan that would get me in her good graces. Get her to realize that her boyfriend was a boor and that her father could just deal with it. Get her to have even a sliver of the feeling that I had for her for me.

And my plan included Todd Rundgren.

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New Father John Misty video: Total Entertainment Forever

Video: Father John Misty – “Total Entertainment Forever”

Father John Misty – "Total Entertainment Forever" [Official Music Video]

If you’ve been a bit concerned that Papa John Murphy has abandoned his sense of humor, this new video might cheer you up. It’s pretty funny.

Sure, the lyrics are still a little heavy handed. As Doreen St. Felix mentions in her spot-on review of Pure Comedy, Misty often comes across as a “precocious teenage misanthrope.” Indeed, someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years.

But he’s still funny. In a snide, prickish way. He’s an asshole, of course, but he’s funny. We’ve all known that guy. He impresses rubes and wannabes by talking about big concepts and scoffs at the trivialities of the less enlightened. 25 years ago he would’ve had a “kill your television” bumper sticker on his car. Today he’s all about unplugging the internet.

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Number One Records: Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

Video: Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”

Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like [Official Video]

We’ve got a new #1 song, America. Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” only stayed at the top spot for a single week. He’s all good though because DAMN. is still the number one album for the second week in a row.

Bruno Mars reached the top of the Hot 100 with “That’s What I Like” for chart date May 13. It’s his seventh #1. And it’s a pretty good song. You have to be a bit of a dick if you aren’t at least partially charmed by Bruno Mars.

“That’s What I Like” might not be as hook-laden as last year’s “24K Magic” and it’s not even close to as irresistible as his 2014 collaboration with Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk.” But honestly, what is?

Billboard points out that this is “the 1,063rd No. 1 in the Hot 100’s history” dating back to August 4, 1958 when the magazine fully integrated the best-selling and most-played pop singles. The chart now also includes downloads and streams.

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