Archive for Tongue and Groove

Pocket-sized opera

Peter Reynolds, who died earlier this month, is credited with having written the World’s Shortest Opera:

This particular performance, as it happens, runs slightly long:

At three minutes and 34 seconds, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s shortest opera. “The librettist, Simon Rees, came up with the idea of an opera whose duration should match the boiling of an egg,” says Reynolds. “So we created a domestic scenario of a couple having an argument over breakfast. It starts with the sand-timer being turned, and ends with the egg coming out of the saucepan.”

You may wonder how a three-minute item qualifies as an opera rather than, say, a song, but Reynolds had all the requirements covered. “The intention was to create a piece which bore the same relationship to opera as a miniature does to a full-length portrait,” he says. “It included all the component parts of an opera — overture, introductory chorus, arias and recitative — though in highly condensed form.” It had its premiere in Cardiff city centre on March 27 1993, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, in the presence of two invigilators from the Guinness Book of Records and a bewildered crowd of shoppers.

The second shortest opera, should you care, is The Deliverance of Theseus, Op. 99, by Darius Milhaud (1928), which plodded along for seven and a half minutes, just slightly longer than “MacArthur Park.”

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Comments (2)

A thousand and one eyes

When I first heard the news:

After which, Dawn Eden Goldstein was kind enough to point me to this 2014 video in support of Bobby’s last album:

Rest well, Robert. You’ve earned it. (And 2016? Would you knock it the fark off already?)


Pinch hitter

The fact that singer Bat for Lashes is of Pashtun descent and British and Pakistani ancestry doesn’t tell you anything about, well, for one thing, why she goes by “Bat for Lashes.” (It says “Natasha Khan” on her birth certificate.) Her second album, Two Suns (2009) yielded up her largest-selling single to date, “Daniel,” which she described at the time as “the most straightforward, naive and purposely simple song I’ve ever done.”

This video drew a nomination for Best Breakthrough Video at the 2009 VMAs, which may or may not say something about MTV.

Bat for Lashes in 2012

Bat for Lashes wears a cap

Bat for Lashes in 2015

In 2015, she started a side project with the band TOY and producer Dan Carey, under the name “Sexwitch”; they released an EP with tracks like “Helelyos,” which turns out to be, um, Iranian funk.

In 2016, she has an album called The Bride, a narrative by a young woman whose fiancé was killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding. “Joe’s Dream,” track two, was the third single.

I’m not quite sure what musical niche might easily accommodate Bat for Lashes, though my first thought was “a more subdued Siouxsie Sioux.”

Comments (3)

Still with the band

From Wikipedia’s article on Negativland: “On July 22, 2015, former lead vocalist Don Joyce died of heart failure at the age of 71.”

This past week, segments from the band’s radio show were released as Over the Edge Vol. 9: The Chopping Channel, with a special appearance, so to speak, by Don Joyce:

In keeping with the album’s theme, and while supplies last, each mail order copy of this new project comes with two very unique extra items: two grams of the actual cremains, or ashes, of deceased Negativland member Don Joyce, and one of Don’s handmade audio tape loop “carts” used in the creation of Over The Edge and Negativland live performances between 1981 and 2015.

This is not a hoax. We’ve decided to take the Chopping Channel concept to its logical conclusion by “productizing” an actual band member. It is also a celebration of the degree to which no idea in art was ever off-limits to Don, and offers a literal piece of him, and of his audio art, for the listener to repurpose and reuse. We are pretty sure he would have wanted it this way.

I am compelled to admit that Don Joyce, so far as I can tell, does not appear on my single favorite Negativland release, U2, which combines a cover of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a profane rant by the late Casey Kasem in apparent forgot-the-mic-was-hot mode. (Link is pretty well NSFW, as I found out one day.)


So buy a vowel

My little tiny music player has 5,088 songs on it, and probably half of them have album-cover art attached; I don’t feel compelled to fetch the rest of them, since the player only holds 36 GB (up from 4 when it was new) and the picture you can barely make out on the teensy screen takes up a surprisingly large amount of storage space.

Then again, one of those tracks has this for cover art:

Pinkard and Bowden Live in Front of a Bunch of Dickheads

Warner Bros. actually released that album in 1989, including this track:

Okay, it isn’t Bad Brains, but it will mess with your head just the same.

Comments (3)

Presumably with the approval of Nanker Phelge

In their first fifty-something years, the Rolling Stones never did an album of covers. That’s about to change: on 2 December, we’ll see Blue & Lonesome, twelve classic blues numbers given the Stones treatment. On the basis of the lead single, a version of Buddy Johnson’s “Just Your Fool,” better known for a Little Milton cover, I’d say we might be in for a treat:

Even if it’s only rock and roll, I like it. Don Was produced, with Mick and Keith Glimmer.


Variations on a theme

However many it takes to tango, the subsequent record album is expected to look pretty much the same. From 2003:

The Best Tango Album in the World Ever, 2003

From 2008:

Jan Vogler Tango, 2008

And new, from 2016:

Let's Dance Tango 2016 from Le Chant du Monde

You’d almost think they were trying to get my attention or something.


And the Diamonds

How Marina Diamandis became “Marina and the Diamonds”:

“I created the name ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ [in 2005] and I never envisaged a character, pop project, band or solo artist. I saw a simple group made up of many people who had the same hearts. A space for people with similar ideals who could not fit in to life’s pre-made mold. I was terribly awkward for a long time! I really craved to be part of one thing because I never felt too connected to anybody and now I feel I have that all around me.”

Appropriate, I guess, for a singer/songwriter with a strong DIY ethos.

Marina and the Diamonds in pink

Marina and the Diamonds on the Froot tour

Marina and the Diamonds spinning about

Thirty-one this week, Marina has recorded three albums, the most recent 2015’s Froot. I first noticed her in “Oh No!,” back in 2010.

Hard not to notice under those conditions, know what I mean?

Comments (1)

Far from downtown

Cover art, Petula Clark From Now On 2016Next month, Petula Clark will be 84 years old. Now forget that number. She’s touring the UK to support a new album, which might be her sixtieth; I lost count a long time ago.

And From Now On, I have to admit, is a title that somewhat reminds me of the corporate-finance term “forward-looking information”; looking backward is not on the agenda. The lead single, “Sacrifice My Heart,” is pure British synthpop, almost Tears for Fears-y, and if maybe they’ve tweaked her voice a little bit here and there, you might not care.

The program on offer is mostly Clark originals, with several shrewdly chosen covers: a minimalist “Blackbird” that McCartney surely approves, a quavery but sincere “While You See a Chance” (yes, the Steve Winwood song), and a version of “Fever” that I think owes just as much to the McCoys’ 1965 garage-rock version as it does to Peggy Lee’s drum-and-bass opus. The title song speaks strongly to me: everything that happened before you and me, well, that doesn’t count. (Looking backward is not on the agenda.) And fond as I am of Pet’s French recordings, I was delighted to hear “Pour être aimée de toi,” a song she’s sung in concert in recent years, her own melody with words by Charles Aznavour, spare and unadorned and intimate in the way of the French. The closer, “Happiness,” is Petula on piano, one verse in English, one in French. “That sweet and fleeting feeling / We all need to know / Is waiting here inside us.” If only … but never mind. We’ll save that for her next collection.


Struck with great force

So far, I’ve heard one track from Valkyrie, the new album by Glass Hammer, it having been recommended to me by Francis W. Porretto, and I’m passing it on to you, all fourteen minutes of it.

Like the best prog rock, it’s about what it says at least as much as what it sounds like. And like the best prog rock, it comes off as vaguely European, though Glass Hammer in fact originated in Chattanooga.

Comments (5)

Slap some mud on the wall

First, this, because it showed up in the tweetstream last night:

Rock fans of a certain age will recognize this as the source of the chorus to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” Wikipedia picks this up, but also lists:

“Putin khuilo!” (a Russian/Ukrainian football chant, as assumed by Artemy Troitsky, inspired by “Speedy Gonzales” chorus)

Typically, this phrase translates as “Putin is a dickhead”:

The slogan was originated in Ukraine in 2014 having grown from a football chant first performed by FC Metalist Kharkiv ultras in March 2014 on the onset of the Russian annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine. The phrase has become very widespread throughout Ukraine among supporters of the Ukrainian government and more generally those who do not like Russia or Vladimir Putin in both Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking areas of Ukraine.

It’s also the name of a star.

To make this come full circle, here’s a mariachi version of “Putin khulio”:

Doesn’t sound that much like Pat Boone (or like Robin Ward, who sang that part on Boone’s record).

Comments (1)

A beacon she would be

“You can’t be a beacon,” warned Donna Fargo, “if your light don’t shine.” Not a whole lot of women in country music were writing their own stuff in the 1970s, and to their credit, neither of the major labels for which she recorded — Dot, then not yet on the wane, and Warner Bros., new to Nashville — pushed her (much) to record covers of other people’s songs. She’s probably best remembered for “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,” but at least some album-cover compilers thought of her as the leggiest girl in the land. This is the liner of the Dot Happiest Girl LP:

Liner of The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA on Dot DOS-26000

Five years later, the jacket of her Warners album Shame On Me:

Liner of Shame On Me on Warner Bros. BS 3099

And from the fall of 2016, a compilation of her Warner Bros. work on Varése Sarabande:

Cover art of That Was Yesterday CD

Just to put the emphasis back on Donna’s way with words, here’s a deep cut from the Happiest Girl LP which has so far escaped reissue:

I love that. “Society’s got us by the you-know-what” — but doesn’t it always?

Comments (1)

Titles, schmitles

So it’s come to this:

Wilco Schmilco

Of course, before it ever got to this, it stopped here:

Nilsson Schmilsson

We’re looking forward to Usher Schmusher.


No, no, no

A slightly scary proposition:

Meghan Trainor should cover Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”

Then again, M-Train, we’ve discovered, is perfectly capable of taking a walk on the wild-ish side. (See, for instance, “Walkashame.”)

Maybe Meghan’s whole shtick is a cover of “Rehab” without the drugs and booze.

I may have to start paying even more attention to her lyrics.


Daddy, you can drive my car

There is, I suspect, less here than meets the ear:

The pitch:

Scientists at SONY CSL Research Laboratory have created the first-ever entire songs composed by Artificial Intelligence.

The researchers have developed FlowMachines, a system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, FlowMachines composes novel songs in many styles.

“Daddy’s Car” is composed in the style of The Beatles. French composer Benoît Carré arranged and produced the songs, and wrote the lyrics.

One YouTube commenter said that it “sounds more like The Beach Boys on antidepressants,” which is about where I’d put it. By 1968 Beatlesque stuff outweighed actual Beatles stuff by megatons, and while this is cute, it hardly seems essential.

Comments (3)

September in the rain

It was in fact raining on Saturday when I got the notification of a new box set:

Dinah Washington 3-CD box set released October 2016

Which gave me an excuse to spin Dinah Washington’s last pop hit, from 1963:

Quite apart from the pop stuff, Washington was known as a blues singer, and in that same year of 1963 she cut an album called Back to the Blues, some of which was actually bluesy. (See, for instance, the last track, “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning.”)

Autographed photo of Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington does some album art

And sadly, in that same year of 1963, Dinah Washington, only thirty-nine, died, after having apparently dabbled in barbiturates. Meanwhile, in 2016, the rain has stopped for now.

Comments (4)

A hell of a B-side

We’ll let rhythm guitarist Lennie Petze explain what happened when the Rondels covered the old standard “My Prayer” back in ’61:

Produced by Bugs Bower this track really got The Rondels very excited. It has such a great sound and style and unlike anything out in the market at the time we thought this could be huge. The reviews that it got were very positive but the other side of the record was called “Satan’s Theme” and it got the most attention and still does on YouTube.

“Satan’s Theme”? Seriously?

For realz, guys. Neither of these, however, was quite as successful as “Back Beat No. 1,” their first single as the Rondels, issued earlier in 1961, which actually made it to #66 in Billboard.


Country for young women

This looks like a pretty interesting show:

Have you ever wondered the story behind “Live Like You Were Dying” for Tim McGraw? Did you know that the songwriter of “Friends in Low Places” actually traded his ownership of that song to pay off a hefty beer tab at a local bar in Nashville before it became a worldwide hit for Garth Brooks?

Introducing, “Nashville Unplugged: The Story behind the Song”, a songwriter in the round show that brings the most successful hit songwriters from Nashville right to you. The intimacy of this all acoustic, impromptu show makes for a highly interactive connection between the songwriters and the audience. No show is ever the same because there is no script or band; just some truth-telling troubadours with guitars in their hands, telling the stories behind some of the world’s greatest songs that they happen to have written.

Thursday in Pasadena. And I never would have guessed the opening act:

Then again, RB is working hard to hone her songwriting chops, so why not?

Comments (1)

As inevitable as the holidays themselves

Due out this fall:

She and Him Christmas Party

And hey, it’s been five years since Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward put out a Christmas album. (Come to think of it, they’ve had only one non-Christmas album since then.)

Track 12, it says, is “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” Really? Zooey? Zooey? ZOOEY!

[awaiting response]

Comments (3)

Pop, pop, pop music

New York, London, Paris, Munich … Pyongyang?

South Korea is set to blare pop music across its border with North Korea as part of its latest attempt to breed discontent in Kim Jong-un’s hermit kingdom.

The bizarre tactic has been proposed in response to yet another nuclear test by the aggressive maverick state, which has put the world on red alert.

Korea pop music, nicknamed K-Pop, will be played from huge speakers positioned near the border, with officials claiming the catchy tunes will be audible from a distance of 20 miles.

South Korean and international news reports will also be broadcast across the border.

Billboard abandoned its K-pop Hot 100 in 2014. This was the last Number One:

How would the DPRK deal with that?

(Via Fark.)

Comments (3)

Deliciously tart

While I wasn’t looking, singer-songwriter Fiona Apple turned thirty-nine; it took me a moment to realize that it’s been twenty years since her debut album, Tidal.

Fiona Apple assuming a position

Fiona Apple hits her stride

I am rather fond of her late-1999 single “Fast As You Can”:

Apple’s erstwhile boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson directed this video and two others, in support of her album When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right, which, last I looked, was the third-longest album title of all time. (It’s only about half as long as this.)

Comments (2)

Glancing skyward

Things are looking up, says Rosanne Cash:

All the more reason to give it another spin, say I:

The fact that Greenbaum was and is an observant Jew doesn’t at all enter into it, though it does make me wonder. Four years earlier, Greenbaum, as part of Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, recorded a silly ditty called “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago”; is Chicago kosher, and would an eggplant care if it was?

Comments (2)

As seen on Vine

Skylar Grey, who as “Holly Brook” was the one sweet voice on Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go,” still has a sweet voice, but this particular video is pushing the Creepiness Envelope.

(One of the co-writers/producers here was Slim Shady himself, Eminem. Make of that what you will.)

Comments (4)

I am not a lawyer

Nana Tanimura finished her pre-law coursework in the spring of 2010, but decided not to go further:

Tanimura told fans that she was pleased to have graduated, but “I want to concentrate on my music from now on.” She said she didn’t join in many activities while she was at university, “not even ‘gokon’ (matchmaking parties).”

Three years before, she’d begun recording for Japan’s Avex Group. I think my favorite Nana track is “If I’m Not the One,” recorded in 2008:

Nana Tanimura in a sailor suit

Nana Tanimura in the sink

Nana Tanimura doesn't look happy

If she doesn’t look too happy in that last shot, it may be a reflection of her dwindling music career: Avex put out a Greatest Hits compilation in 2011, and we really haven’t heard from her since, except via social media.

Comments (5)

Sound bite, rebitten

It’s 44 years old, more or less, but the memory of this one segue has stuck with me all the while.

Tech Hi-Fi, an electronics retailer that bought tons of radio advertising in those days, had this one spot, which I heard on then-tiny WAAF, stuck at the far end of the dial in Worcester, Massachusetts. I can’t for the life of me remember the words, but they were set to a shortened version (no more than one minute) of “When I Was a Lad” from HMS Pinafore.

They cut off the song with the last line from the chorus, and one of the greatest songs of 1878 was followed by one of the greatest songs of 1972:

To this day, if I hear “When I Was a Lad,” I’ll expect it to be followed by “I’ll Be Around.” And if more people remember Gilbert and Sullivan than Thom Bell, well, life is like that sometimes.

I am also indebted to WAAF for playing the original Move version of “Do Ya,” which charted at a meager #93 in those curious days of 1972. Jeff Lynne, who wrote it, recut it with Electric Light Orchestra in 1976, but as the man1 says, the original’s still the greatest.

Read the rest of this entry »


Keeping the beat

It just might save someone’s life:

If a little irony helps save lives, St John Ambulance is all for it. CPR instructors pumped out retro tunes, including Queen’s hit “Another One Bites the Dust” and Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” in the middle of the Bridge Mall on Friday for express lessons in chest compression.

Both have the required 103 beats per minute recommended for CPR.

“‘Another One Bites the Dust’ is the tune that has resonated most but if people can remember the song because it’s quirky and, if they ever have to perform CPR, they’ll be hoping the person they’re working on doesn’t bite the dust,” St John’s Martin Wells said. “Any attempt at CPR is better than none.”

(Happened upon after reading Roger Green’s piece for Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday.)

Comments (1)

They built this, shitty

I have never quite understood the utter hatred some people have for this song:

Yeah, it’s dumb, and it’s a long way from the Sixties/Seventies greatness that was Jefferson Airplane/Starship. But Worst Song Ever? Not even:

Blender magazine may have erred in 2004 by labeling it the “worst rock and roll song of all time,” at least in any universe in which John Lennon released “Imagine.” Their dissection of it as corporatized synth pop masquerading as social commentary is mostly accurate, of course. And they are quite correct in saying that its lyrics are silly rhyming couplets masquerading as profound insight (although the person who has never felt “knee-deep in the hoopla” has never attended a committee meeting).

But the same things can be said about some of the best rock and roll songs of all time, too (Substitute “most favorite” and “least favorite” for “best” and “worst,” if you prefer). If I had to pinpoint what I think is the reason “City” is so lousy, it’s because it takes itself and its genre so seriously. Rock and roll didn’t build San Francisco — and you could make a good case that the popular culture of the ’60s represented by Starship when it was still Jefferson Airplane didn’t build much of anything.

They were, after all, the Ship of Fools.

And in the three years since Vevo provided the video to YouTube, 96 percent of the thumbs are quite definitely up.

Comments (5)

Something to get

Roger Green just put out a retrospective of Billy Preston’s solo work; being the spoilsport I am, I hung a comment on it to the effect that Preston was the only sideman ever to be credited on the label of a Beatles record (“Get Back” b/w “Don’t Let Me Down”).

This, in turn, got me thinking of “Get Up and Go,” which struck me as the one Rutles recording that came closest to being legally actionable:

As it happens, Neil Innes, happy proprietor of the Rutles name and music, did get sued over several Fab Four-alikes — John Lennon had warned him — but not “Get Up and Go.”

Speaking of John Lennon, he wrote “Don’t Let Me Down,” the B-side of “Get Back,” which Rod Stewart appropriated for Part 2 of “The Killing of Georgie.” (“The lawyers never noticed,” Lennon quipped.) “Georgie” was remarkable for its time — 1976 — in that its protagonist was an openly gay man who’d found acceptance, even acclaim. Billy Preston, poor fellow, never could bring himself to come out of the closet until the very end. “Will it go round in circles?” Billy asked. I think it just did.

Comments (3)

The continuing adventures of Jasmine Tridevil

A year ago, we learned about a Florida woman who claimed to have been surgically altered to add a third breast between the standard two.

I assumed we’d heard the last of her, but it’s not so. That summer she put out a BDSM-oriented music video, shot in the Tampa Bay area where she lives. I don’t think I’ll embed it here, but I admit, I’ve seen racier, and probably so have you. And her voice, or whoever’s dubbed here, isn’t that terrible.

Comments (2)

Four chords, no waiting

Several years back, the Australian band Axis of Awesome performed the serious public service of unveiling the secret of three dozen songs, including one of their own: they were all built on the same chord progression, I–V–vi–IV. This is, of course, standard popular-music procedure: you gotta give the audience something they can relate to.

Note: I’ve posted a slightly different version of that before.

Now: can this be done with other progressions, say, I–vi–IV–V? But of course it can:

For that matter, it can be done just with Taylor Swift songs:

Note: I’ve posted a slightly different version of that before.

Tool boxes tend to look the same because tools tend to look the same.

Comments (3)