Archive for Tongue and Groove

From the Department of Earworms

Obsessed with doomed romances as I am, I was inevitably drawn to Richard Donner’s film Ladyhawke, in which Matthew Broderick Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer play a couple living under a curse: “always together; eternally apart.” I wasn’t quite sure what New Zealand musician Phillipa Margaret “Pip” Brown was thinking when she adopted “Ladyhawke” as a stage name, but she does put out some cursedly listenable tunes, such as this 2008 number, which somehow did not chart in the States:

And I have to admit, I wonder what all those cars are doing at the end of the video.

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Give a little whistle

In case you were wondering, Irish funerals aren’t all “Danny Boy” these days:

Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” has been replaced by Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” as the most popular song played at funerals, new research has found.

A study by The Co-operative Funeralcare showed that traditional hymns, football anthems and classic pop songs top the list of the “funeral music chart.”

As funeral music goes, the BBC’s theme from “Match of the Day” is pretty, um, perky. Then again, it is a legitimate football anthem, though I admit I’m waiting for someone to go out to the accompaniment of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Sports Song.”

David Collingwood, operations director of The Co-operative Funeralcare, said: “We think we may be seeing a generational shift in attitudes towards funerals, and the choice of music being requested.

“Music plays such an important part in people’s lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing. Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials.”

Which may explain why my brother departed to the strains of “Let It Be” — and why I won’t.

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Desperate for attention

This is about two steps below clutching at straws:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it worth it to pay $6000 to get famous?

Why $6000, exactly?

I want to pay $6000 to Ark Music Factory (Just like what rebecca black did) so they can help me produce a song and release it on their channel and I will become famous. I am not very good at singing but I think this is a great way to become famous. However, my parents are poor and we are on food stamps but they will be willing to sacrifice everything for my music career.

Update: they will be willing to do it, even if they have to starve for a few days.

Not sure if trolling or simply out of touch with reality. I did point out that what happened to Rebecca Black will not necessarily happen for anyone else.

And anyone who’s on food stamps should know that six grand is more than a few days’ worth.

Addendum: Last I heard, Patrice Wilson, who produced “Friday,” was asking $6500 for his services.

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Just an illusion

“Motown at its most mystical,” Dave Marsh wrote a quarter-century ago:

Ruffin wakes up in a bottomless pit of orchestration, and recounts a bad dream about his travels in “this land of broken dreams,” which he says means lack of romantic love but which everybody who’s ever heard him understands to signify something a lot more disturbing and universal.

That would include yours truly:

[M]aybe it’s just what John Mellencamp ascribed to those two American kids, Jack and Diane: “Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” And, of course, if the thrill is gone, we’ve finished up Jimmy Ruffin’s record, and moved on to B. B. King’s.

Jimmy’s own record ground to a halt this week in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 78.

And because Gerard Van der Leun would have wanted it that way, here’s Joan Osborne’s Ruffin cover, eminently worthy in its own right.

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Chicks unfilleted

If you thought “What Does The Fox Say?” was a bit too, um, cerebral, here’s a Chinese video that makes approximately one zillionth as much sense:

(Via Incredible Things. They didn’t believe it either.)

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Still pretty after all these years

Last time we checked in with Tristan Prettyman, she’d been let out of her major-label contract, for which she blamed me. Still, she keeps working, and right now she’s touring with Eric Hutchinson on what is called the City and Sand Tour. For a surfer girl from Southern California, this makes perfect sense.

Tristan Prettyman at Waikiki

(Parenthetical — obviously — note: Waikiki, seen here, is a sister city to, um, Bixby, Oklahoma. I have no idea how this happened.)

This trip to Hawaii, I should point out, was not actually on the tour: that was, I think, last year. (All these pix are from her Facebook timeline.) This on-stage shot, however, is from the current tour:

Tristan Prettyman on stage

Of course, unless you’re an A-list star, the road can be a tedious and boring place, and there are tedious and boring things that have to be done, like this:

Tristan Prettyman kills time while doing the wash

Her new EP, Back to Home, released independently, is on my Get list. No videos yet, but here’s a take — literally, a take — on “Say Anything,” which you might have heard in the film Safe Haven:

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Long-term dementia

Someone has compiled a list of the Top 100 (or so) Demented Discs, as played on the Dr. Demento Show between 1974 and 2013, based on the annual Funny Twenty-Five surveys. I am still trying to figure out how I actually paid genuine coin of the realm to own all ten of the Top Ten.

At the other extreme, this is my favorite of the songs tied for Number 97:

It even exceeds this small-screen favorite, if you ask me.

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How this reminds me

Brian Ibbott, host of the Coverville podcast, seems like such a kind, gentle soul. Then this shows up:

Five will get you ten, or eight anyway, that at least one of my favorites will be thus characterized. This is not among them:

And let’s face it, ragging on Nickelback is practically a cottage industry.

Ibbott will record the show tonight. I am preparing for the worst.

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What, this Sith again?

You can’t tell me this wasn’t inevitable.

(Via Bonnie Burton at CNET.)

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Accounting for another week

We begin with an anguished question from a fan:

This is what you’d call a business decision by the artist:

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” [Taylor] Swift said earlier this year to The Wall Street Journal. “It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Then again, seven years ago a band, without any label input, threw the question open to its fans:

I’m contemplating offering £4.50 — a tad over nine bucks — to download Radiohead’s new album In Rainbows, and after all, the price is up to me.

After a brief discussion, I upped the ante to £4.75.

If there’s any irony here, it’s in the fact that if Rebecca Black ever gets around to releasing an album — she says she’s been in the studio on weekends — she’ll be setting the price for it, unless she signs a distribution deal. (Her singles have been coming out at 99 cents each, with the notable exception of “My Moment,” which carried a $1.29 tab.) I have no idea how much she’s making off Spotify, but it can’t be a whole heck of a lot.

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Personalized boilerplate

Six years into the post-Derek Sivers era, CD Baby still retains one of Sivers’ trademarks: the chatty New Release announcement, tailored to your previous purchases. Unfortunately, only so much tailoring can be applied in some cases. This was received yesterday:

We here at CD Baby have got pretty good memories. And we just remembered that at some point in the not-too-distant past you purchased music by Various Artists.

We commend your impeccable musical taste and wanted to let you know that Various Artists has a brand new release out now. It just went live on our website for sale. And we just had to let you know FIRST since you’re one of the few hip and wise people who “knew them way back when.”

At Home cover artThat’s me: the Tastemaker™. If you actually go out to CD Baby, you will eventually find the actual description of the release, which at the moment is download-only — though past performance suggests that a physical disc may eventually be forthcoming. If you’re disinclined to hit the link, well, these are the Various Artists in question:

A relaxing unplugged collection of originals and covers with four great singers (Michelle Creber, Gabriel Brown, Monique Creber & Andrea Libman) performing solos and beautiful harmonies, accompanied by Grammy-nominated pianist, Michael Creber.

Michelle Creber, if you follow these things, is the voice of Apple Bloom on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; those other Crebers are her parents. Andrea Libman voices both Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie on MLP:FiM, though she sings only for Fluttershy: Pinkie’s out of her singing range. Gabriel Brown is the famed brony musician (and skydiver!) Black Gryph0n. The original “I Will Fight For You” was released as a single, which I bought, which explains why CD Baby suspects I might be interested in the whole album; they’ve just turned loose (on YouTube) a cover of the old Jackson 5 favorite “I’ll Be There.” I will eventually get this, of course, but my want list is at the moment overflowing, while my wallet isn’t.

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Well, damn

MTV apparently found this video a bit too saucy, even for 1992:

There is, of course, a VEVOfied version suitable for family consumption — maybe. I haven’t decided if the scary part is in the sheer eroticism of some of the imagery, or that “Damn” coming out at the very beginning of the chorus.

Or maybe it’s just sheer kineticism:

Sophie B. Hawkins in 2010

Identification for this shot:

Sophie B. Hawkins poses in the press room during “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” presented by the USO at the MCAS Miramar on December 3, 2010 in Miramar, California. “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” concert event will be televised on Sunday, December 5 at 9:00 PM ET/PT on VH1.

The B., in case you’re asking, stands for “Ballantine.”

Hawkins campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2008; she hasn’t said if she’d do so in 2016, but she did say this:

[A]t the Love Heals benefit, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter for Bronson Van Wyck in lieu of presenting him an honor, and I have to say this; if Hillary runs again, her whole campaign should be the way that letter was written. From the mother. The mother of the planet. She is a great mother, and anyone who has children can agree that being a great mother is the toughest job. So there. This planet needs a great mother.

Hawkins is for some reason thought of as a one-hit wonder, though “As I Lay Me Down” (1995) made #6 in Billboard, only one notch lower than “Damn.”

And today is her 47th birthday.

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And other places she’s not

Since that South American Dusty Springfield cover went over pretty well, I’m tossing up another British Invasion tune with a south-of-the-border accent. Los Shain’s got together in 1963 in Peru, survived for five years, and then resurfaced for a series of concerts in 2005 as Los Nuevos Shain’s. The two mainstays of the band were vocalist Gerardo Manuel and guitarist Pico Ego Aguirre; Manuel isn’t heard on this track, but you get plenty of Aguirre, and licks from Lynn Stricklin on the Farfisa organ.

No, I don’t know why the apostrophe is where it is.

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Toast of many towns

The microphone loved Melba Moore even more than the camera did, and the camera definitely had a crush on her. Here’s the 45 sleeve from her 1986 single “Falling”:

Falling by Melba Moore on Capitol B-5651

A #1 R&B hit, “Falling” missed the pop charts by a hair. By ’86 she’d been recording for seventeen years; Mercury, her first label, tried lots of things, including the obligatory live album and a pop/rock setting of Bizet’s Carmen, but she didn’t really hit big until she switched to Buddah, in 1975. “Falling” was cut for Capitol in 1986. There’s no actual video here, but the song sounds great:

Also in 1986 came the debut of the situation comedy Melba. Unfortunately, CBS scheduled the first episode for the 28th of January, which turned out to be the day of the Challenger disaster, and hurriedly shelved the series. (The other five episodes appeared as summer filler.)

On the evidence of this picture, from last year’s opening night of Motown: The Musical, the camera hasn’t ever gotten over her:

Melba Moore at Motown: The Musical, April 2013

Happy 69th, Melba. (It’s tomorrow, actually.)

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You might consider sticking around a bit

Dusty Springfield was still technically a member of the Springfields in late 1963 when producer Ivor Raymonde suggested she try a song he’d composed, with lyrics by Mike Hawker. This turned into “I Only Want to Be With You,” a major hit for Dusty, which hastened her departure to the solo spotlight; Raymonde and Hawker quickly hatched “Stay Awhile” as a follow-up.

Lots of acts have covered “I Only Want to Be With You” over the years, my favorite perhaps being the inexplicable 1965 French-language cover by Uruguayan band Los Shakers. Fewer have attempted “Stay Awhile,” though a new version waits in the wings:

The background, of course, is “Oh No Not My Baby,” a Goffin/King hit for Maxine Brown, but “Stay Awhile” is on the track list, and for a while, anyway, you can hear it in full by dialing in to the She & Him Web site, turning ON the radio, and then twidding the tuning knob a bit. Hint: Classics drops 12/2, so start at 1200 and move upwards.

(Via Pitchfork.)

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A certain lyrical economy

Silver Convention, a couple of West German guys, first hit the Eurodisco scene in 1975 with “Save Me,” which contained the following lyrics: “Baby, save me, save me, I am falling in love.” That was it, except for a few scattered incidences of “woo-hoo.”

For the next two singles, they hired some full-time singers and cut two songs with exactly six different words each: “Fly, Robin, Fly” (“Fly, robin, fly, up, up to the sky”) and “Get Up and Boogie,” which, in its 4:05 single edit and 2:45 radio edit anyway, began “That’s right!” before actually saying “Get up and boogie.”

My late brother Paul objected most strenuously to that configuration. “What’s right?” he’d yell at the turntable. “You haven’t said anything we can test for rightness!” On that basis, I conclude, he’d have hated Meghan Trainor’s big hit, which begins “Because I’m all about that bass”: how dare she dangle a phrase like that! Then again, I think I could have sold him the Siren’s Crush cover, maybe: he did have a certain respect for a cappella. (I owe Roger for that link.)

Random stuff picked up during research:

One of my favorite late-Nineties dance numbers was “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay, which contains ten words: “Do you think you’re better off alone? Talk to me.” But long before that, “Weird Al” Yankovic had done the definitive six-word song.

The very first Silver Convention album, Save Me, was released in several countries, including the States, with a vaguely risqué cover — and in others with a really risqué cover. (The latter might not please your boss.)

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Rhymes with “flatten ‘em”

Way back in those dear, dead days of 1976, the Recording Industry Association of America proclaimed a new certification: Platinum, which was twice as high as Gold. A gold record in those days required sales of one million singles, or 500,000 albums, so this was an aspirational goal. (The first platinum album was Eagles: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which everyone has but me.) In 1989, as the singles market was evaporating, the RIAA cut the threshold for singles by half, but a platinum album still had to sell a million.

This year, the number of platinum albums is … one. And it’s a soundtrack, yet: to Disney’s Frozen. No individual artist or band has come even close to moving a million:

The two records nearest the magic number are Beyoncé’s self-titled album and Lorde’s Pure Heroine, but neither have even crossed the 800,000 mark, with sales of both having tapered off months ago.

Then again, Taylor Swift’s 1989 drops next week. I mention purely in passing that “Shake It Off,” the lead single, has already moved two million copies.

There were, as it happens, sixty platinum singles this year. As they did at the beginning of what the late Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era, singles rule the popular-music market once more.

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All my bass are belong to her

Meghan Trainor has owned the charts of late with that weird little tune called “All About That Bass,” popularly interpreted as a body-acceptance anthem. (I think that line about “skinny bitches” probably disqualifies it, but I still adore the record.) And if she looks appallingly young, well, she’s not yet 21: she’s entitled.

Entertainment Weekly spent one page of a three-page article on this:

Meghan Trainor on a bicycle

And while her Amy-Winehouse-meets-the-Shirelles sound has its own charms, this is what seriously makes me grin: “All About That Bass” comes from a 2014 EP with the title Title. That’s the name of it. And she’s not pulling anyone’s chain, either. Here’s the (audio only) title song, so to speak:

I’ll consider that a supplementary explanation for the bicycle.

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They did the Mash

And boy, did they:

The formal release of this track (and fourteen others) is still a couple of weeks away, but hey, that’s why there’s a video out now.

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Sentimental on my mind

Glen Campbell, now in the final stage of Alzheimer’s, will soon leave the stage entirely. He has left us one last song, with the ironic title “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”:

The melody is somber and contemplative, but the lyrics show Campbell’s ability to find irony in his disease. The result is a beautiful combination of sadness and joy, which ends much too quickly.

At least the man from Delight goes out on a somewhat-happy note.

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One last ride at midnight

Paul Revere occupied the same relative position to the Raiders as did Harold Melvin to the Blue Notes: he was nominally the leader of the group, and hardly ever missed a show, but most of the time, the focus was on the lead singer — Mark Lindsay for the Raiders, Teddy Pendergrass for the Blue Notes.

The Raiders came out of Idaho around 1958, and scored an instrumental hit in 1961 with “Like, Long Hair,” a piano-boogie number that sounded nothing like anything they did afterwards. In 1963, they were caught up in the “Louie Louie” madness sparked by Rockin’ Robin Roberts; their own relatively polished version of the old Richard Berry semi-calypso song was well-received, but didn’t quite have the impact of the utterly insane Kingsmen version. Still, “Louie” got them a look from big-time Columbia Records, which put them to work grinding out mono singles, because it wasn’t worth the effort mixing that rock and/or roll stuff into stereo. Subsequently, the band wangled a gig with Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is series, and started wearing fanciful American Revolution-ish duds, as seen here on the Ed Sullivan show (Revere, as always, playing the Vox Continental organ):

“Kicks,” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was ostensibly addressed to an unnamed girl with problems who, we found out later, was not a girl at all.

In August of this year Revere, seventy-six, retired from the band; he died Saturday back home in Idaho. Oh, and “Paul Revere” was two-thirds of his real name; his family name was Dick. I do not know if he was related to Tim Allen, also a Dick.

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Mars, the bringer of yocks

The Ran-Dells’ original waxing of “The Martian Hop,” from the summer of 1963, was a cheerfully demented slice of space-age doo-wop that Dr. Demento himself was happy to play on his radio show; it’s always been a personal favorite of mine for absolutely no good reason other than sheer silliness.

Still, to hit the true heights of dementia, it takes the French:

I think M. Salvador lifted that opening proto-synthesizer bit, but otherwise this is scarifyingly original.

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Also, it helps to know all the chords

They say that Guitar George of the Sultans of Swing can’t afford a new instrument, so he buys vintage. For the best vintage, this is way beyond George’s budget, but vendors of cheap guitars tend to post those prices due to non-musical considerations:

The complete disregard with which these guitars are treated by eBay sellers, pawnshops, MusicGoRounds, and Guitar Centers helps me understand why so many of the “Burst” Les Pauls from 1958-1959 are still missing despite the fact that any of them would be worth $150,000 in any condition if they could be found today. There’s nothing quite as worthless as an old guitar in the eyes of a lot of people. The fact that none of the Electras I bought lately set me back more than $299 drives that point home.

I bet you that there are still hundreds of extremely valuable Les Pauls sitting in barns and basements, crushed and broken, forgotten and abandoned. They’re out there to be found, but the people who find them won’t like the condition their conditions are in, to quote the old song. Luckily for me, I’m not in that market. I’m just buying guitars from 1981 and 1982, buying them cheap and stacking them deep, building a fortress of rock maple around an idealized version of my childhood, you get the idea.

Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

I wonder how true this is of pianos. (Then again, who pawns a piano?)

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See Spotify run

Pretty much all of this Bob Lefsetz rumbling about, or orthogonal to, Spotify, is wrong, but some parts of it are wronger than others. For instance:

LPs … 1964, the advent of the Beatles, to 1982, the advent of the CD.

The CD … 1982 to 2000, when usurped by the MP3.

MP3s? By 2018 they’re HISTORY!

Like each of those points represents a major discontinuity. CD players in 1982 were a thousand bucks apiece, and actual CDs, when you could find them, were close to $20; it would be years before they made a serious dent in vinyl.

The LP, incidentally, dates to that year of years, 1948, and while it’s strictly a niche market today, it’s still here, 66 years later. A lot of eighteens have gone by.

The only problem we have today is everyone’s got a voice, and those who don’t win complain, whereas we didn’t used to hear from them. Ignore them. Focus on the winners. Spread the word about them. And know that if your identity is based on liking something no one else does, chances are you’re going to live a very lonely life.

Yeah, it’s a tragedy I’m not lapping up those [name of overblown pop star] tracks. Sucks to be me.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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A voice from days gone by

Timi Yuro died in the spring of 2004 — the cancer that took away her voice eventually took the rest of her — and I gave her a sendoff in these pages. I wasn’t doing pictures back then, or at least not many, and I didn’t give the matter much more thought until a new-release announcement came down the wire from one of those reissue labels: a two-CD set containing her first four albums plus bonus tracks. And they’d used a manually-colored version of this old Hollywood publicity photo:

Timi Yuro glamour shot

If you’re interested, here’s an Amazon link. “Hurt” was her biggest hit, but the one that’s stayed with me is “What’s A Matter Baby,” which I described this way:

Sung and recorded at the very edge of distortion, then remixed by Phil Spector, this may be Yuro’s best: the voice is just as big, and the finger she’s pointing is even bigger.

Especially since Spector apparently did this without the approval of either Clyde Otis, who produced the track and co-wrote the song, or Al Bennett, who was running Liberty Records, Timi’s label.

But the operative word is “big,” and, well, she wasn’t all that big in real life:

Timi Yuro seated

Five foot one, maybe. On the radio, you never noticed this sort of thing, and you wouldn’t have cared if you did.

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A different swing altogether

The explanation isn’t any more complicated than this:

When Han Solo was about to be placed in carbonite, he told Chewie to take care of Princess Leia. What happened after that was almost a love story for the ages. Almost.

Um, yeah. Almost:

If there’s anything I love as much as my favorite songs, it’s my favorite songs as filtered through Star Wars. And these are the same folks who did this one:

Read the rest of this entry »

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I think she was needling us

While looking for something else entirely, I happened upon this Shaggs-y one-off single by Diva Zappa, Frank’s youngest (she’s 35 now). “When the Ball Drops” is a seriously wacky tale of trying to find a date for New Year’s Eve — and worse, New Year’s Eve 1999, before the New Millennium does, or doesn’t, begin. (You want Year Zero, talk to Trent Reznor.) Diva’s vocals are archly awful, which I assume is intentional; the backing vocals by Tipper and Kristen Gore — well, I prefer to believe that this is the one time in history when anyone in the Gore household did something amusing. Tipper also plays drums, for what that’s worth.

I’d heard Diva’s middle name was Muffin; according to discography site Discogs.com, her full name is Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa. She’s done some acting, and that one record, but her main interest is knitting:

I knit and make one of a kind wearable pieces of art. I blend color and magic, whimsy and love into every piece.

And I admit to smiling at this:

All pieces are inspired by light, faeries, magic, gunfire, Bruce Willis, tea and animals (to name a few).

Sounds like Frank. Except for the faeries, anyway.

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Rhymes with “yell”

Danielle Dax, according to Allmusic, just turned 56. I wouldn’t have guessed: the music she played seldom seemed to belong to any era, no matter when it came out. She did, however, look fetching behind a guitar-like object:

Danielle Dax tuning up

“Cat-House,” the single — it was eventually put out on a compilation album called Dark Adapted Eye — dates from around 1988.

In 1995, she released, on her own Biter of Thorpe (!) label, a compilation called Comatose Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax, which goes on my One Of These Days list.

After the jump, a still from Neil Jordan’s 1984 fantasy film The Company of Wolves, in which Dax plays the Wolfgirl. She has no lines, but she will not be ignored:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Fourth among many

George Hamilton IV — yes, that was his real name, and no, he’s not related to the guy with the preternatural tan — was one of the guys who taught me how to rewrite songs on the fly for satirical (I hoped) purposes. Of course, neither Hamilton nor the writers of his biggest hit song (Bob Gibson and John D. Loudermilk) ever intended such a thing: it just happened.

This was that biggest chart hit, hitting #15 on the pop chart and #1 country in 1963:

Which I promptly turned into an auto-parts advertisement:

Valvoline,
Valvoline,
Slipperiest oil that I’ve ever seen;
All my engines run real clean
With Valvoline —
Try Valvoline.

Hamilton himself made mockery of “Abilene” in the four-dollar-a-gallon days:

Hamilton’s other big hit, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” — well, let’s not get too blatant here.

George, a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1960, died last week of a heart attack in Nashville at seventy-seven.

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Up and coming

For some reason, singer Angela Everwood added me to her Twitter list, and as is my usual practice, I went out to look for a reason to reciprocate.

And here it is:

This is the sort of Taylor Swift-ish song that Taylor Swift isn’t interested in doing anymore, so I’m glad Angela’s here to take up the slack.

She has several tracks posted to ReverbNation for your dancing and dining pleasure.

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