Archive for Tongue and Groove

Proto-electro

Yowusupwidat by cc:DivaThis album came out twenty-seven years ago, and about every 27 months or so I remember that I have it and give it a spin. Nobody I know seems to have heard a note of it, which seems to justify giving it some space here, especially since it’s not entirely unknown on YouTube.

First, to explain “cc”: it apparently stands for “coat check,” a job once held by singer Natalie Bonelli; she and multi-instrumentalist NAYAN (officially styled in all caps) were the two members of the group, and they cut yowusupwidat? in 1988 for EMI-Manhattan. The leadoff track actually has a video:

EMI put out four singles by Natalie and NAYAN, including the one cover song on the album: a version of “Grazing in the Grass” which seems actually even more upbeat and cheerful than the Friends of Distinction’s big hit or even Hugh Masekela’s trumpet instrumental. (Philemon Hou, I am told, devised the melody while hearing an early Masekela backing track; Friend of Distinction Harry Elston wrote the words.)

And after that, cc:Diva vanished. NAYAN’s name appears as a credit on a couple of latter-day Tiffany tracks; Bonelli contributed “Letting Go” to the soundtrack album from the TV series Dawson’s Creek, sung by Kim Sozzi, and released a solo album, Natalie Bonelli, this year, which includes her own recording of “Letting Go.”

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Follow the bouncing lyric sheet

One might say that most popular music is not exactly cerebral. (Rush fans, please wait until we’re done.) But how much is “not exactly”? Well, not very much:

According to Andrew Powell-Morse at Seatsmart, the reading level of the top-selling chart hits has been getting lower and lower for the past 10 years. The average reading level for the lyrics of a chartbuster in 2005 was between the third and fourth grade. The average level last year was between the second and third grade, and a number of the major hits are well below that.

The reading level algorithm takes into account sentence length, word length, number of syllables and so on. This right away can show what one of the problems might be in assessing whether or not a song is really dumb. A song that repeated the word “Mississippi,” for example, could score higher than a song that repeated “Utah” just as often. The two would be equally meaningless, though, and could be described fairly as equally stupid.

Then again, one could argue that lyrics have been getting dumber ever since Cole Porter died. That was 15 October 1964; what was the #1 song in Billboard the following week? This was:

“Subdivisions,” it ain’t.

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The age of the Exploding Man

The one guy in the record business I’m going to miss the most:

Stan Cornyn didn’t make music. Rather, the longtime Warner Bros. Records executive made words about music — usually with a literary skill and advanced wit that established an industry standard for marketing and branding.

“He was the Socrates of the music business,” music publicist Bob Merlis, a 29-year WBR veteran, tells Billboard. “He was more analytical about it. He was an Ivy League guy in a ‘dese’ and ‘dose’ business, but his philosophy was really transcendent.”

Cornyn, who was an executive vice president with WBR’s creative services department and a senior vice president with the Warner Music Group, died on Tuesday at the age of 81 in Carpinteria, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. Regarded as a legend by his peers, he leaves behind a legacy of clever advertisements and scholarly — but not stilted — liner notes that scored two Grammy Awards and multiple nominations. Cornyn also penned the revealing 2003 tome Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group as well as three genealogy books and two screenplays.

I of course recommend the book:

I’m reading Cornyn’s book … written with Paul Scanlon, and while I knew quite a bit of the backstory, there are still shockers scattered among the pages.

Actually, it was imperative that I read Exploding: if ever there was anyone’s writing style I wanted to absorb and reuse, it was Stan Cornyn’s, the inevitable result of reading dozens of Warner Bros. and Reprise LP liner notes over the years.

In 1998, I got an actual email from Stan Cornyn:

Your page about WB/R’s Loss Leaders was mentioned to me by Billboard’s Gene Sculatti. So, I visited. I became, I recall, #380 of your visitors.

I was pleased that you spelled my name write.

As a point of mild interest to you (why did the series end? was you supposition), it really did just become less popular. The cutting edge had dulled, I’m sure. The fervor was off the vine.

Let me assure you that being read by both Cornyn and Gene Sculatti elicted pure fangirl squee from this then-45-year-old dude.

The Cornyn connection continued for a while, which is where I got the definitive explanation of why those sampler albums were never, ever going to be released on CD. And I always had the feeling that while he wasn’t really looking over my shoulder, he could be summoned if I needed him. More than that, one does not ask from a record-company executive.

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The Beale Street Blues Boy

The late B. B. King, on why he became a bluesman instead of a gospel musician:

Growing up on the plantation there in Mississippi, I would work Monday through Saturday noon. I’d go to town on Saturday afternoons, sit on the street corner, and I’d sing and play.

I’d have me a hat or box or something in front of me. People that would request a gospel song would always be very polite to me, and they’d say: “Son, you’re mighty good. Keep it up. You’re going to be great one day.” But they never put anything in the hat.

But people that would ask me to sing a blues song would always tip me and maybe give me a beer. They always would do something of that kind. Sometimes I’d make 50 or 60 dollars one Saturday afternoon. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.

Always the pragmatist, King was.

Lowell Fulson wrote “3 O’Clock Blues,” and got a fair-sized hit out of it back in 1948, but B. B. King’s 1951 waxing, his first Number One on the R&B chart, made it a true blues standard. He was twenty-six then; he almost made it to ninety. For a large fellow with blood-sugar issues, that’s pretty damned close to miraculous.

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Seven minutes of Wonderment

There was a time when Stevie Wonder was a “12-year-old genius,” and I remember it well: I was ten, more or less, and every Stevie single went onto my Must Buy list once I acquired enough coin of the realm actually to buy singles.

One of the oddest Wonder-related recordings came about thanks to Jaap Eggermont and his Stars on 45 operation, which on their third early-Eighties LP — different titles in the US and Europe, as it happens — cut a Stevie Wonder medley in the manner of their earlier Beatles and Abba medleys, sung by someone identified as Tony Sherman. Whoever Mr. Sherman is, he does a pretty mean Stevie. This particular video attempts to match up the recorded SO45 tracks with actual Stevie footage, which almost makes me wish Stevie himself would mash all these songs together, because, you know, he can:

(Inspired by Roger’s post for Stevie’s 65th.)

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In the wake of total outrage

The response to the Jem and the Holograms trailer has been mostly negative:

I mean, no Misfits? I said something on Twitter to the effect that “it’s like they took an ordinary teen movie and grafted the Jem character names onto it.”

Still, Hasbro has come up with some surprising stuff of late, and surprise is the business they’re in. And if Eric Raymond — no, not this Eric Raymond — is going to be Erica Raymond and played by Juliette Lewis, well, maybe I can adjust.

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Stradiviolets

Every day I find out something I didn’t know, and here’s one of those somethings:

Being the most popular colored violin, purple is “in” with the younger generation. For those who are just starting to learn the violin, the colored ones are just perfect. The main reason for this is that sound quality is not a major concern for beginners. The only thing that matters is to learn how to play the violin.

And who knows? Maybe she’ll go on to bigger and better things:

Laney and her purple fiddle

“She,” in this particular instance, is granddaughter Laney, working her way into the middle-school orchestra. (Her mom took the picture.)

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All about that bassoon

You remember the Boston Pops, don’t you?

Arthur Fiedler would have approved, I think. (Meghan Trainor definitely does.)

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A man of simple needs

Of all the songs in the much-mocked genre of Bro-Country, this may well be the Bro-est:

Get More:

The reviewer at Saving Country Music reckons it might be the worst country song ever:

“Girls On Bars” had 72 songwriters, 36 producers, a seven-figure budget, yet the thing just feels so hackneyed and trashy. It’s not as much sick as it is sad, like it’s a musical illustration of the onset of America’s torpid devolution. Even the video looks like it was made by a bunch of grabasstic high school stoners using 20-year-old deprecated public school media lab equipment rented from the public library as a stop gap solution to a local ISD’s budgetary shortfall. When the camera goes all POV and starts twirling round on the top of a bar, I thought I was suffering from motion sickness. Then I figured out that no, it’s just that this song really really blows to the point of causing debilitating gastrointestinal direst.

I think “72 songwriters” is probably an exaggeration.

I can’t say I’ve been paying much attention to the doings of Bret Michaels over the last few years aside from recognizing that he’s gone from someone who is famous for being a musician to someone famous for being famous. It’s a shame because laugh all you want, but when Poison was releasing singles like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Something To Believe In” it opened the door for bands like The Black Crowes to resurrect rock and roll out of its hair metal doldrums. Hell I’d take either of those tunes in trade for this abominable turd.

Me? I’ve heard worse. But not much worse.

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Harder to believe in miracles

Errol Brown, MBE, of the musical group Hot Chocolate, has died at his home in the Bahamas, no thanks to liver cancer. He was 71.

Brown, I think, was just slightly ahead of his time. He got his band signed (briefly) to Apple Records after recording an unauthorized version of “Give Peace a Chance”; John Lennon thought enough of it to send them a contract, but things got buggered while the Beatles were breaking up, and Hot Chocolate went to work for megaproducer Mickie Most (Donovan, Herman’s Hermits).

The HC hit that got least notice in the States, I think, was “Brother Louie,” eclipsed by a cover by the American band Stories, founded by Left Banke genius Michael Brown, who left before “Louie” was recorded. The song got yet another lease on life with the arrival of Louie, the TV series starring comic Louis C. K.; the TV version sounds more like Errol Brown than like Ian Lloyd of Stories.

Of course, you know this song:

Brown left Hot Chocolate in 1985 to go solo; he staged a farewell tour in 2009.

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Cruelest song ever

Says Wikipedia: “OK Go also contributed a song to the 2015 movie Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”

I think they were probably happy to be rid of it. Still, it’s awfully damned catchy, as all OK Go songs seem to be. I’m not going to embed it here, but I will give you the appropriate YouTube link, with the caution that you shouldn’t even think about playing it at work.

Pedantic notes: Wilt Chamberlain played for the Warriors and the 76ers before landing in Los Angeles. And I really wonder about that self-described tigriphile.

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At last, may I?

Before SK Waller knew me, she knew lots of people:

I began writing music in 1965 when I was 14 and by the time I graduated high school, I had a large body of songs and played an array of musical instruments. I also had a voice and had already struck out on a performing career, singing at coffeehouses, clubs, parties, rallies … any place that would let me do it! By 1972 I was living in Laurel Canyon and performing on television and radio, at concerts all over LA, and opening for artists like the Doobie Brothers, Peter Gallway, and Leon Russell. In 1978 I went to England where I continued performing and in 1981 I got the attention of Paul McCartney, who gave me some serious consideration. I thought I’d finally get to make an album! Well, that fell through, but undaunted, I continued performing in my home state of California and across the southwestern states, all while being a single mom of a beautiful son with high-functioning autism.

Then in 1992 real life happened. My father was diagnosed with cancer and we moved to Denver so that I could take care of him through his last year. My music fell behind; I couldn’t bring myself to touch my guitars. Shortly after Dad’s death my mother had a stroke and I brought her from Denver to live with me, where I was her caretaker for four years until she passed. All of this while raising a large second family. All of the stress of being a caretaker took its toll on my own body and I fell to an auto-immune disease that kept me in bed for two years with chronic pain, fatigue, and depression.

But now she’s back, and she needs some of the tools of the recording trade:

I need to record an album, which, these days is no big deal. The only problem is, I can’t afford to buy the basic gear I need to do this. Having recording studio experience, I’m prepared to record at home — I’ve already designed the jewel case inserts and covers!

The funds will go toward the purchase of the following items:

  • A good microphone, boom stand, and cables
  • Professional headphones
  • A recorder/mixer
  • Jewel cases & inserts
  • Printing & manufacturing

I’m asking you to help me make my one and only dream come true. I’ve gladly taken care of everyone else and now I need help to do this one thing before I get too old and decrepit… ;) Will you help?

I will.

Her Indiegogo page is titled “May I Finally Please Make An Album?” I’m thinking it’s about darn time. I tossed $20 into the kitty to start; let’s see how far we can make it go.

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No longer standing by

Kellie Pickler’s 2012 album 100 Proof leads off with a rhetorical question: “Where’s Tammy Wynette” when you need her? She’s in Nashville’s Woodlawn Memorial Park, in a space which has sometimes been labeled “Tammy Wynette” and sometimes “Virginia W. Richardson,” her last married name. (She was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on this day in 1942.) But she never seems far away, even in the face of such anomalies as Lyle Lovett’s version of “Stand By Your Man” that played over the credits of The Crying Game. (Lovett is still singing it to this day.)

Tammy Wynette on stage

Actually, I missed “Stand” when it came out, having cemented my loyalty to Top 40; but when the Top 40 station played the heck out of the follow-up, “Singing My Song,” I went back and dug into her catalog. Of course, I could have just waited for this CD:

Tammy Wynette: The Definitive Collection

The last track on that CD is the hardest one to explain: “Justified and Ancient,” with The KLF, released in 1991.

Never made the country chart, but it checked in at #11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart, higher even than “Stand By Your Man,” which made #19 pop. (“Stand” was, of course, Number One country, her fourth in a row.)

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Kings X’ed

The other day, we lost Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, the definitive interpreter of “Louie Louie.” Now we’ve lost Benjamin Nelson, otherwise known as Ben E. King, and that’s at least as great a loss:

Ben E. King, the smooth, soulful baritone who led the Drifters on “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and other hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and as a solo artist recorded the classic singles “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand by Me,” died on Thursday in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76.

His lawyer, Judy Tint, said Mr. King, who lived in Teaneck, N.J., died at Hackensack University Medical Center after a brief illness, offering no further details.

King’s ascension to lead of the Drifters, an established R&B vocal group, was remarkable mostly for its suddenness: after original lead Clyde McPhatter departed, the group was indeed adrift, and manager George Treadwell, who owned the name, disposed of them and hired Harlem’s Five Crowns to be the new Drifters. “There Goes My Baby,” produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was like nothing the old group had ever recorded: awash in enough strings for a Tchaikovsky festival, the song is mournful, lugubrious, every syllable dipped in agony. And then it’s over in a mere 2:17.

Ben hung around the Drifters for a while, then went solo. “Stand By Me,” written by King with the putative assistance of “Elmo Glick” (Leiber/Stoller in disguise), is indisputably one of the great songs of the era, maybe of the century; the hook, I think, is set when he sings “I won’t cry, I won’t cry,” and you wonder how it is that he isn’t crying at that point. Restraint is definitely called for under such circumstances; see, for instance, Tracy Chapman on The Late Show with David Letterman a couple of weeks ago, a rendition I’m almost certain King would have loved.

And now B. B. King, 89, no relation, is in hospice care at his home. When he goes — well, this is a trifecta I’d hoped never to see.

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Driving Mr. Jay Z

Um, excuse me. That’s Mr. Jaÿ-Z:

On the website of Jay-fronted streaming menace Tidal, Jay Z has suddenly become Jaÿ-Z — and only a few years after he quietly dropped the hyphen, too. He’s also started using Jaÿ-Z on recent Facebook posts.

Now, rather than a full-time name change, we suspect that this is a mere nod back to the cover art for Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt and the “Dead Presidents” single, both of which stylised his name as Jaÿ-Z… Jay has a Tidal-streaming concert on the way where he’ll perform his best B-sides and album cuts, so a temporary throwback makes sense.

And if a brand-name hip-hopper is going to deploy a gratuitous umlaut, better Jaÿ-Z than, um, Dïddy.

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Definitely a Taipei personality

Next to this, kissing a girl was child’s play:

Popstar Katy Perry took the stage in Taipei this week in a glittery dress covered with sunflowers, which happen to be the emblem of Taiwan’s anti-China protests last year. She also draped herself in the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan), a symbol of the island’s continued separation from China, and one that is allegedly so unpalatable to Beijing that it was pulled from the 2012 Olympic Games arena.

As Perry took the stage at the Taipei Arena in the politically-charged costume, some members of the crowd were “moved to tears,” the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times Net reported — though it is far from clear if she intended to make a political statement.

I mean, maybe she just likes sunflowers:

It is entirely possible that, like musician Kenny G at the Hong Kong protests, Perry just bumbled into a situation that could infuriate the Chinese government and affect her net income for the rest of her life. China is a huge market for concerts and album sales, and the government has banned artists in the past who “threaten national sovereignty.”

The sunflower dress is part of a recurring theme, as a fan noted a week before the Taiwan show, and Perry has performed with a “sunflower” microphone since at least last June, when she appeared in Raleigh, N.C. with backup singers dressed as sunflowers.

Left Shark was not available for comment.

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Turn that noise down

This describes me to the proverbial T:

If you’re worried about losing your love of new music, your fears are justified. That’s according to new research that finds listeners reach “maturity” around age 33. In other words, you’re done with discovering new music when you reach your mid-thirties.

The study compared multiple sets of data, including the age and gender of Spotify users, their parental status, and the overall popularity of artists. The study found that teenagers listen almost exclusively to the most popular artists, but their tastes evolve steeply into their mid-twenties, and then slowly until they level off in their mid-thirties.

I was 33 in 1986, and sure enough, the collection begins to tail off a year or two later: there is very little 1990s stuff on my shelves.

However, the trend reversed about ten years ago, basically for these two reasons:

  • I signed up for the iTunes Store, mostly because it had some odd tunes I’d never bothered to get on vinyl, and if there’s one thing the iTunes Store does well, it’s shove new stuff out there where you can see it;
  • I met Trini, who was not quite half my age, and she was happy to fill me in on newer stuff that I might like.

Whether this portends anything happening at age 66, I do not know.

(Hat tip: Erica Mauter.)

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He gotta go

The single greatest vocal performance in the history of rock and roll? Maybe not. But it’s right up there with the least forgettable, and it is right and proper that we not forget the man who did it:

Jack Ely, the lead singer of the Kingsmen who was best known for 1960s hit “Louie Louie,” has died aged 71.

His son Sean Ely said the singer died at home in Redmond, Oregon after a long battle with an illness.

Ely’s incoherent singing on “Louie Louie” led the FBI to investigate the famous track on the grounds that it might be obscene.

Ely had a falling out with the band shortly after the song was recorded and later trained horses in Oregon.

There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of recorded versions of “Louie Louie,” half a dozen of which made the pop charts, and none of which made any money, at least at first, for composer Richard Berry, who came up with this tune of tunes way back in 1957; he sold the rights for $750 a couple of years later so he could get married. The key, though, is “at first”:

Some time in the mid-Eighties, it seems, California Wine Cooler decided more young people could be induced to try the drink if “Louie Louie” were used on their commercial. On applying for permission to use the song, they found they needed Berry’s signature and asked Artists Rights, the American equivalent of the Performing Rights Society, to trace him. A smart lawyer from Artists Rights discovered Berry in the slums of south central LA, and mentioned the possibility of taking action to win back his song. The publishers settled meekly out of court, and have now been taken over by Windswept Music in a deal that makes Berry a millionaire. He thinks.

And none of those versions did more business than the Kingsmen’s, recorded a week before Paul Revere and the Raiders cut theirs, in the same Portland, Oregon studio. Jack Ely’s departure from the Kingsmen proved one thing: Lynn Easton, who controlled the band and the name, couldn’t come close to duplicating Ely’s sound. At some point, Easton quit trying and just lip-synced to Ely. A version of the Kingsmen still exists, with original member Mike Mitchell, and Dick Peterson, who came on board in 1963; I have no idea who’s singing it now.

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And me without a hat

Spotted this on Twitter, had to grab it:

3 piece swimsuits only: hat, sunglasses, sandals

There was one instance in my life when I was given a hat. I was buying Rhythm of Youth, an LP by the Canadian outfit Men Without Hats, at a Sound Warehouse store in 1982, and the clerk handed me a plastic hat.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “These are Men Without Hats. Shouldn’t you be taking a hat away from me?”

I caught a glimpse of the classic “Are you freaking kidding me?” look, and departed, hat in hand, humming this little ditty:

Addendum: The last Men Without Hats album, released in 2003, was called No Hats Beyond This Point.

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For those who think Jung

Girls' Generation

This was SNSD, circa 2012. SNSD — So Nyeo Shi Dae, “Girls’ Generation” — is a K-pop group assembled over the last eight years. The first member, sixth in line, in the dress the color of dried ketchup, is Jessica Jung, who had signed her first contract with S. M. Entertainment in 2000 when she was eleven; S. M. named her as the first member of SNSD in 2007. And seven years later, Jung was the first member of SNSD to be sacked, apparently for having too many outside interests conflicting with group activities, starting with her appearance in a Korean production of the musical Legally Blonde. (How blonde is she? Not very, I suspect.)

Jessica Jung not brushing her hair

I have no idea what that black box is for, unless it’s to obscure a brand name that didn’t pony up for promotional money.

Jessica Jung looking vaguely domestic

There were also a number of non-SNSD singles, including this song from the TV series Dating Agency: Cyrano, which ran for 16 episodes in 2013:

Incidentally, Jessica Jung was born in San Francisco, and didn’t actually relocate to South Korea until 2000, when she and younger sister Krystal, then on a family vacation, were offered tryouts by the S. M. conglomerate. Krystal, now 20, is a member of singing group f(x), which was the first K-pop act to appear at SXSW.

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Sudden start

Percy Sledge was working as a hospital orderly in the middle 1960s, and spent his evenings singing in front of a band called the Esquires, but not these Esquires. Three of them — Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright, and Sledge himself — came up with a doleful tune called “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which they took to local DJ and record producer Quin Ivy. A demo was cut, with Sledge but without either Wright or Lewis, which Muscle Shoals impresario Rick Hall liked enough to send upstream to the bigwigs at Atlantic Records. Reportedly, Jerry Wexler thought the horns were off key, but would be happy to hear a revision, which the guys duly cut — and which ended up in the vault, because somehow the original tape was the one issued as Atlantic 2326 in March of 1966.

So Percy Sledge was off and running, and he continued to chart as late as 1974: “I’ll Be Your Everything” made Top 15 on Billboard’s R&B chart and registered briefly on the pop chart. Still, it was that one song that made him famous, and it never left the scene, even materializing at #2 on the British pop chart — in 1987. Sledge never stopped performing; he cut a gospel album in 2013, and I’d bet he was booked for some concert appearances later this year, which, alas, won’t be happening.

And this is my favorite Percy Sledge number, live a few years ago at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, written by Muscle Shoals stalwarts Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. It’s every bit as good as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and played so seldom on the radio that it always jumps out at you.

Oh, the spiffy Philadelphia girl group known as Sister Sledge? Real name, but no relation.

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Less bratty

Wait a minute. This can’t be Da Brat, can it?

Da Brat in VIBE, 2011

I mean, Da Brat has always looked more like this:

Da Brat in VIBE, 2011

Then again, the rapper occasionally known as Shawntae Harris sported orange jumpsuits for much of this century. First incident:

In 2001, Harris pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct after she had beaten a woman with a gun during a dispute over VIP seating in an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. The victim in that incident received six stitches for a head wound. Harris ended up serving a year’s probation, performed 80 hours of community service, and paid a $1,000 fine.

Second, and fiercer, incident:

On October 31, 2007, Harris was involved in the altercation that ended in assault at a Halloween party at Studio 72 nightclub in Atlanta. Harris initially argued with a hostess, and when the hostess walked away to talk to her manager, Harris attacked her from behind, striking her in the face with a rum bottle. Harris entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault charges. She was sentenced to three years in prison, seven years of probation, and 200 hours of community service. In May 2010, she was temporarily released from prison as part of a work-release program, after serving 21 months.

Her formal release came in 2011, about the time of the Vibe photo; she later faced a civil trial by the victim of the assault.

“Is It Chu?” came out on 2013; the second part of it occasionally seems to resemble Suzanne Vega’s innocuous “Tom’s Diner.” (You might not want to play this on your work machine.)

Da Brat turns forty-one today.

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Maybe we knew

Lesley Gore’s last album, Ever Since, came out in 2005 on Blake Morgan’s Engine Company label. (I reviewed it here.) He’d known her for some time: when they first met, he was eleven years old. And she had much to teach him:

More than anything, she taught me … or rather she showed me what being a professional musician really looked like. She showed what taking a Red Eye flight back from somewhere felt like. No matter where she was coming from, she’d refer to as the Land of Cleve — as in Cleveland — even if that’s not where she was returning from.

It was being on the road. She showed me what went on there. What happened backstage at a big show as much as what it looked like at a little one. All of it. The routine. The work that went into it. Not just flashy parts, but the sweat and grime, the not-so-pretty parts of the job; the full range of what this life entailed. I love her for that. I love that she did it. The lesson was invaluable.

She had much to teach us all, I suspect.

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Iveta

Czech singer Iveta Bartošová was born on 8 April 1966, and I think we’ll begin with the song (from 1998) this time:

Three times she won the Zlatý slavík — “Golden Nightingale” — music poll, though arguably it was more for her stage presence than for her musical chops:

I would say that to a large extent, Iveta was so successful because she was an extraordinarily beautiful ordinary girl who could sing. It doesn’t mean that she had some serious flaws as a musician; but I would say, she was no genius, either. People like me still loved her songs (which was arguably due to the composers) and the way she performed them (it’s about her).

And she did photograph well, regardless of her age:

Iveta Bartosova in her younger days

Iveta Bartosova circa 2002

About the turn of the century, Bartošová somehow became fair game for the tabloids, which are as annoying in Central Europe as they are here. Coping with them became increasingly difficult for her, though apparently it didn’t affect her performance:

Around 2010, she had a concert at the (main) Republic Square here in Pilsen. I came there and saw an Iveta that was incredibly full of energy and was making fun of the younger boys, dancers etc. on the stage, who were not. Her singing was still OK. What I saw was completely incompatible with the image of a zombie that has been served by the tabloid press virtually on a daily basis (I wasn’t searching for these articles but I was still drowning in them). She was in a much better shape than a typical successful teenage and post-teenage singer who surpasses 40 years of age.

Still she despaired, and in April 2014 she threw herself under a train on the outskirts of Prague. Said her husband: “Blame it on the media hyenas.” Which I shall.

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I really like this, maybe

There’s always a good reason not to watch Saturday Night Live, but hey, it’s Carly Rae Jepsen, with a song that isn’t an earworm, so maybe:

This is actually pretty close to the single, which is now out from the usual vendors (and tucked safely into my iTunes install), and which ends nearly as abruptly.

Jepsen’s cowriter on “All That” is Dev “Blood Orange” Hynes.

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Meanwhile somewhere in Scandinavia

Two guys from Norway — Ulf Langsrud and Dag Hellem — make up the band known as Muteness, which reached out in my general direction yesterday on Twitter, presumably in the hopes of getting a mention. I figured the least I could do was punch up some of their tracks, and ultimately, the one I liked the best was “Inside the Outside,” which is compulsively danceable, especially if you don’t try to listen too hard to the words.

Newly learned from this experience: the iTunes Store in Norway charges 9 kr per track (about $1.05).

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Will trade winds

Doing nothing is one thing; doing nothing ambitiously is something quite different. Here’s a team-up of She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, almost aggressively nonaggressive:

The video is full of in-jokes, not all of which I got. And it’s only 2:16, barely longer than “I Get Around,” a length at which the Beach Boys once excelled.

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One less guitar

Billed at one point as “The Many Guitars of Jørgen Ingmann,” likely in reference to his fondness for Les Paul-ish overdubbing, the man born Jørgen Ingmann Pedersen in Denmark in 1925 had an enormous US hit in 1961 with Jerry Lordan’s “Apache,” first recorded by Bert Weedon, later turned into a worldwide smash by the Shadows — except here in the States, where Capitol Records’ relationship with then-parent EMI was decidedly rocky, giving rival Atlantic a chance to score with Ingmann’s cover.

In 1963, Ingmann and then-wife Grethe won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Dansevise” (“Dance Ballad”). In the States, his one-hit wonder status continued until his death on the 21st of March.

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Fünfundfünfzig

I probably don’t need to remind you of the Eighties classic “99 Luftballons” by Nena, which at the time was the name of a band headed by Gabriele Susanne Kerner, though she’d been using the nickname “Nena” since her teens. In the States, Epic released a single with the 1983 German version on one side and an English-language version on the other; the English lyrics are not a translation, but an interpretation, of the German original, which may or may not have had something to do with this cover.

After 1987, the band split up, and Nena reclaimed her name. Although she makes no chart noise on this side of the pond, she’s still making hits at home. Here’s a shot from a 2010 concert in Potsdam:

Nena in concert in Potsdam 2010

From her 2009 album Made in Germany, this is the lead single, “Wir sind wahr” (“We are true”):

As you may have figured, she’s 55 today.

(Photo source.)

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The corner of Hampton and Falmouth

Google Maps screenshot of southern BrooklynIn 2003, I found out this rather startling piece of news:

I knew that Michael Brown’s unrequited love was a real person — a real person named Renee, no less — but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.

It’s at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn.

Petite Powerhouse and pop princess Dawn Eden, now far better known as an advocate for Catholicism and chastity, was happy to pass on that bit of information, and I couldn’t possibly have resisted posting it here, inasmuch as Brown’s song for the Left Banke, “Walk Away Renee,” even now pouring into your head, ranks up there with the most indelible musical memories of my adolescent years, possibly even for reasons unrelated to its subject matter. I once called Michael Brown the “spiritual heir to both Johann Sebastian Bach and Brian Wilson,” and I wasn’t kidding.

So anything that happens to this man matters to me, especially his untimely passing:

Brown was sixteen when Renee walked away with his heart, and I’m pretty certain that she could still have laid claim to a piece of it when he was sixty-five. I’ve been there, and by “there” I don’t mean Brooklyn.

Addendum: A proper sendoff from Brown’s hometown paper.

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