Archive for Tongue and Groove

Beyond even death itself

In her younger days, my daughter indicated that at some point in her life she’d like to manage a death-metal band. (Without going too much into the details, allow me to stipulate that she came close once.) It is, I have since learned, more flexible a genre than I had thought: for instance, it’s possible for a death-metal band to cover Raffi’s “Bananaphone.”

I was not aware, however, that death metal could stretch to include John Cage’s greatest hit:

In 2000, Will Hermes wrote beautifully of the monumental work 4’33” that “Cage gave musicians aesthetic permission, spiritual encouragement even, to go beyond the tonalities of standard instrumentation and engage with the infinite possibilities of sound.” So here we are, 64 years after its debut performance by pianist David Tudor, and the death-metal band Dead Territory — its members clad in raver pants, or a Slipknot T-shirt, or wielding Jackson and B.C. Rich guitars — has covered the composition that sets upon the wonder of silence.

Fair warning: the drummer gets in some stick work before the formal beginning of the score.

Side note: Raffi’s cowriter on “Bananaphone” was Michael Creber, father of voice-actress Michelle Creber, known in pony circles as Apple Bloom.

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If you like your pop cool

Freezepop, a synth band of which I am perhaps inordinately fond, is crowdsourcing its next album:

We have been working on our fifth full-length album, and we’re turning to you folks to help bring it into the world (and of course you’ll get a lot of really cool rewards in return). We’re very excited about the music, and want to give this album a proper release. With past albums, we’ve done the being-signed-to-a-label thing, and we’ve also done the taking-on-massive-amounts-of-debt-to-release-it-ourselves thing. Neither of those options are really ideal, so this time around, we’re happy that we can work directly with our fans to make this project happen.

Well, “a lot of really cool rewards” is variable. For the backer who can spare only $1:

Thank you! You get all the love in our hearts. But nothing really physical per se.

With 30 days left, they’ve already raised about $25,000, with a goal of $30,000. I am, of course, adding to the kitty, and at a higher level than $1. They expect to have the album completed by the end of February.

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A name without so much Dale in it

And now, a statement from The Band Formerly Known As Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.:

The flip side is that as things have grown, so has the amount of confusion caused by the name Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. Some of it is no big deal and easily cleared up. But sometimes we get sad and bizarre requests sent to our social media sites or emailed to people we work with. We’ve had people drive long distances to shows only to be disappointed when they realize it’s a neurotic Jew and wild haired gentile from Detroit they’ve paid to see. A number of times now we’ve received hope filled inquiries from people who have dying relatives that only want to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr (the driver) before they pass. Those sorts of interactions feel a little voyeuristic and eerie, and even attempting to simply clarify the situation means you’ve added a moment of embarrassment to someone’s day when they’re already going through a lot.

We recognize that we created this situation and that the name has been a part of getting to where we are now. It stirred up some attention for us in the modern internet world of over-stimulation, and we aren’t complaining about any of it — good and bad. The name has become its own personality, though. Almost another member of the band.

But as time has passed, we have grown into ourselves, both as artists and individuals. Each of our perspectives have gotten stronger, and we’ve found that there is no longer room for a third, ubiquitous member of the project.

So recently, after a lot of thought and discussion, we made the decision to shorten our band name to the much more brief moniker of …

JR JR

The band still has an eye for the incomprehensible, though, as witness their video for the 2015 single “Gone”:

I remain a fan.

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Whammery

In the early 1960s Lonnie McIntosh, having foreshortened his last name to “Mack,” was getting regular studio work with the smallish Fraternity label in Cincinnati, and one day — specifically, 12 March 1963 — he and the group killed a few leftover minutes of studio time with some guitar vamping on the theme of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee.” He didn’t think any more about it, as he was scheduled to be part of a Troy Seals tour. And while he was out on the road, someone at Fraternity got the idea of issuing Mack’s impromptu recording on an actual 45. It promptly rose to the Top Five on both pop and R&B charts, and Mack had no idea it was even out as a single.

No fool, Mack got home and laid down enough tracks for an album, including a single called “Wham!” with the exclamation point. What no one was expecting was that Mack could also sing, although Fraternity wasn’t at all keen on one of their stars diversifying. “Why,” from that first album, didn’t come out as a single for five years, and as a B-side at that. Then again, it might have been just a hair too fierce for an A-side:

And since we haven’t heard “Wham!” yet, here it is live, with another pretty amazing guitarist: Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I’m guessing you might have heard more about Mack’s death (at 74) had it not happened on the same day as Prince’s.

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A bond that cannot be undone

The Equestrian outpost in France has turned loose this song:

There’s not a quadruped to be heard anywhere in the video, which is fine with me. And if your French is even worse than mine, voici une traduction. Bonus points if you can determine/remember the source of this post title.

(Inevitably, via EQD.)

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The artist forever known as amazing

In late 1977, Prince spent some astonishing percentage of his original advance from Warner Bros. — possibly over 100 percent — on studio time at the Record Plant, sessions which yielded up nine tracks for an album, prosaically titled For You. (No, not 4 U. Too early for that.) He might have ponied up for a few instruments, but he didn’t overspend on studio musicians, as the Personnel list on this album is dazzlingly simple:

Prince — all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, finger snaps.

That’s it. If nothing else, you could assume that Prince, then nineteen, knew exactly what he wanted. But then, Prince always knew exactly what he wanted, and he wasn’t above hectoring the record company to get it.

Perhaps by 2009 he was feeling the strain. He told Tavis Smiley:

It’s a hurtful place, the world, in and of itself. We don’t need to add to it. And we’re in a place now where we all need one another, and it’s going to get rougher.

“In this life,” he’d said in “Let’s Go Crazy,” the opening track to Purple Rain, “you’re on your own.”

Still:

While we mourn, we know the afterworld will be cheering his arrival for the next few eternities.

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An effing good song

Danish singer/songwriter Medina has just unleashed this single, which you will never hear on the radio in the States, even if she records an English-language version.

Make that especially if she records an English-language version:

Translation of the chorus: “I freaking love you.” Except, of course, it’s not “freaking.”

(Via Strong Language.)

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Your daily requirement of Eurodance

It’s Saturday night in 1994, and say hello to Whigfield:

Whigfield in red

“Saturday Night” went straight to Number One in the UK and did well generally on the Continent, though follow-ups were not so successful, and after five albums, the last one in 2012 titled W, she retired from the limelight.

Whigfield a little farther along

Sort of. Reclaiming the name given her when she was born in 1975, Sannie Charlotte Carlson, billing herself as Sannie, has come up with a new song:

Before you ask: Sannie is behind the bar.

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Someone planted a page in the score

Led Zep meets Ludwig Van:

Of course, the cello is a quintessential metal instrument — see, for instance, Apocalyptica — but it also works well on that classical-era stuff.

(Via Laughing Squid.)

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Meteoric rise

Canadian singer Lights, who won me over several years back with the crisply upbeat yet weepingly sad “Second Go,” continues to perplex and amaze. She circulated this photo earlier this week:

Thank you, Mom.

Lights finds a seat

Yesterday she unleashed upon us Midnight Machines, a new album containing acoustic versions of six songs from her previous album Little Machines plus two new tracks. The lead single is the revised version of “Meteorites,” and all of a sudden it’s haunting. A bit of photographic trickery merely makes it seem more so:

This is, incidentally, the third time she’s followed an album with an unplugged version. (How many albums has she done? Three, plus three acoustics.) Perplexing, perhaps; but also amazing.

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Forget Part One

I was spinning a graft of Cozy Cole’s two “Topsy” sides, “Topsy Part One” and “Topsy Part Two” — Part Two was the single for some reason — and it struck me that Part Two-ism is actually a fairly popular trope in popular music: while far more Part Ones than Part Twos charted, there are plenty of worthy Part Twos out there. (And inevitably Cozy would move from “Topsy” to “Turvy,” which also had two parts, with the second a bigger smash than the first.)

Originally, Gary Glitter recorded 15 minutes of “Rock and Roll”; eventually six minutes came out on a single, divided into Parts One and Two. Part One was the hit in France and the UK:

You of course already know Part Two, the side that became a hit in the States, in which the one word of consequence is “Hey.” (In fact, if you search for “Hey Song” on Wikipedia, you will get the deets on “Rock and Roll.”) Didn’t keep Glitter from playing it live, and occasionally saying something more than “Hey”:

But perhaps the most remarkable of these bifurcated hits came from a blind 12-year-old kid from Detroit. “Fingertips Part Two” was of course the big debut hit for Stevie Wonder, but hardly anyone (Roger Green possibly excepted) ever played Part One. No visuals here, but what the heck. This is great stuff, with Stevie doing his Hey Harmonica Man routine and playing the bongos, and if they hadn’t faded it out, it would have segued right into Part Two:

And if you happen to think “That’s some darn fine drumming,” thank Marvin Gaye. He was darn good at it.

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Everyman with a fightin’ side

A cousin of mine unearthed this clip after hearing about the passing of Merle Haggard. For a guy who worked awfully hard at developing his own sound, he was really good at duplicating other people’s:

More recently, “here’s one for all the ex-convicts in the house”:

Besides, he never got closer to Muskogee, Oklahoma than, oh, 19 miles or so, at least not until much, much later.

Okay, 2016. You can stop taking people away now.

Addendum: Here’s a typically thoughtful sendoff by Lisa.

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Joi to the world

There has always been a certain demand for blonde bombshells, and Joi Lansing, born this week in 1928, was a good example of the supply:

Joi Lansing color portrait

Joi Lansing assuming the position, or at least a position

The movie roles started to fade in the late 1950s, and she made a pretty seamless transition to television, doing both drama and comedy. And she shot a couple of Scopitone proto-music videos which proved to be, not unlike present-day music videos, more about the performer than about the song. An example:

A whole lot of innuendo for the era, right? And perhaps doubly so for a serious Mormon who neither smoked nor drank.

In 1970, Joi was treated in standard 1970 fashion for breast cancer: they cut away what they could. The disease came back in 1972, and this time it killed her.

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Now you’ve seen it all

Yesterday, Burton Cummings, long-time lead vocalist for the Guess Who, was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which gives me the perfect excuse to bring up this bit.

After the band spent several years at the top of various North American charts, Randy Bachman left the Guess Who and eventually turned up in an aggregation called Bachman-Turner Overdrive, which did extremely well. Cummings continued with the Guess Who for several more years, after which he struck out for a solo career.

And this is where it got weird. The last track of the Burton Cummings solo album turned out to be a lounge-ish version of Bachman’s biggest BTO hit. Bachman wasn’t at all aware of this, and I have no idea what he thought about it in 1976 when it came out.

Thirty years later, though, we could safely say that Bachman was fine with it. (Sorry, they’ve disabled embedding on this one.)

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Like a thousand times before

The thing about so-called “guilty pleasures” is that you’re supposed to be vaguely, or perhaps not so vaguely, apologetic about them: “Please forgive this lapse in judgment, for I am only human.”

I make no apologies for “It’s One of Those Nights,” a latter-day Partridge Family single that managed to creep into the very bottom of the Top 20 for two weeks in early 1972. Written by the always-quirky Tony Romeo, who penned their bazillion-seller “I Think I Love You,” this song, despite its teenybopper trappings, is as deep as any Jimmy Webb epic, possibly even way too grown-up for the image David Cassidy was projecting those days. (Still, Cassidy surely knew, which may be why he recut it for a solo album thirty years later.)

Weirdly, I never saw this particular clip on the actual Partridge Family TV show. Then again, I was always closer to radio than to television.

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Looks like her cousin

I was never that fascinated by The Patty Duke Show, partly because I couldn’t comprehend the genetics of “identical cousins.” (This business got particularly weird in season two, when there was an episode involving a third Lane clone.) Fortunately, I adored her singing; her voice wasn’t much more than serviceable, but the producer (studio pro Jack Gold, who’d been doing this sort of thing for two decades) knew how to get the maximum out of it.

Cover art for Don't Just Stand There by Patty DukeFrom the liner notes of the Don’t Just Stand There LP:

[J]ust like everything she touches, it is pure gold. It is certain to find a huge throng of eager fans waiting to purchase it and catapault [sic] it quickly high on the nation’s best-seller lists. In addition to the title tune, it contains a wonderful selection of the great songs of the day — all eminently youthful and all hand-picked for our star of stars.

This is not the first time I’ve read a liner apparently written by someone who hadn’t heard the record. (And track four is a cover of “Danke Schoen,” which wasn’t “youthful” when Wayne Newton put it out two years before.)

“Don’t Just Stand There” topped out at a respectable #8. (I’ve written about this track before.) To promote it, she appeared on Shindig; to my surprise, she did it live.

Patty Duke indisputably achieved Far Greater Things in her life. But this is what I remember best.

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She was right about boys

First, the big hit:

Among people I know, far more hate that little 1982 number than love it. (Fellow Waitress Chris Butler had written it two years earlier, as the leader of Tin Huey.) I don’t care. Its sheer insouciance, give or take a dollop of rudeness, makes it work, and Patty Donahue can be just as rude as she needs:

Patty Donahue

Anyway, for sheer snark value, “Boys” takes second place to “The Smartest Person I Know,” from the EP I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts.

And I mean in two directions. At about 2:16 there’s a brief spoken-word passage recorded backwards by Patty: “Anyone who worries about subliminal messages on pop records is a fool. Everyone else have a nice day.”

Lung cancer, not entirely unexpected given her devotion to tobacco, killed Patty Donahue at 40. She would have been 60 today.

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Evergreen onions

I have the Pergelator to thank for this nifty little video set to the R&B classic “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs:

Of course, having read the description before actually watching the video, I went into Anachronism Overload: how in the pluperfect hell are there late-1950 performers dancing to a song composed and recorded in 1962? They’re not, of course; this is just some swell editing.

The first color segment, though, from It Started in Naples, rang a memory bell, and this is what’s actually being sung:

There’s always a good reason to check out what Sophia Loren is doing. (She was twenty-six in this 1960 film.)

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Lives up to the name

After six albums for Capitol in five years, Leo Kottke signed a deal with Chrysalis in 1976 and subsequently delivered an album called simply Leo Kottke. After the lead track, a cover of the Buck Owens classic “Buckaroo,” you’d find ten original tunes. (What you wouldn’t find, alas, was any credit for the sidemen.) The one stunner in the bunch, running a mere 1:41, was called, disarmingly, “Up Tempo,” and it was exactly that.

While spinning this disk, I got to wondering how it sounded in Kottke’s live shows, and, well, now we know:

Twelve strings, no waiting.

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Present at the creation

You could, I think, make a pretty good case for 1965 as the Best Year of the Rock Era, Period. The numbers, arguably, were better in 1964, when the British Invasion was still fresh and new, and Motown had just surpassed “phenomenon” on the way to “force of nature,” and the old-timers — Dean Martin, Bobby Vinton, Louis Armstrong fercrissake — could still top the charts. My own argument for 1965, of course, hinges on one indisputable but otherwise useless fact: this is when I started buying records.

Bill Quick, a tad older than I, understands the dynamic:

I’ve got a fair amount of early stuff from the Great Ones and that amazing period from 1963-1967 when it seemed new, wonderful bands were popping up like mushrooms every week or so. Nobody since has any concept of what it was like to be young, fully into puberty, full of juice, and surrounded by this awesome tsunami of revolutionary music in a revolutionary time. The British Invasion! The San Francisco Sound! Psychedelia! The American Revival! Hendrix! Dylan! Doors! Stones! I heard all of this stuff for the first time when it first came out. That is an experience that simply cannot be replicated by those who came after, who did not actually fully live those times and that music. It’s just not the same when you “discover” some music that’s been around for five or ten years, and fully absorbed into the musical culture. The newness, the thrill of discovery within the matrix that created and nourished that sound, is no longer there.

I’m so glad I lived those times and sounds. It’s irreplaceable, and is a large part of what I became. These years and this music changed me.

The case for 1963, incidentally, begins with Paul McCartney counting off: “one, two, three, FOUR!”

Irritatingly, “I Saw Her Standing There,” which led off the immortal Introducing the Beatles on Vee-Jay, started with “FOUR!” because an engineer thought those first three numbers were just studio chatter. (Capitol’s stopgap Meet the Beatles! LP stuck the song second, behind “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” strategic because “Hand” was the A-side of the single, fatuous because “Hand” wasn’t nearly as good.) The Beatles were really good at first notes: the amazingly complex guitar-plus-piano thing that opens “A Hard Day’s Night,” the startlingly bare accusation of “No Reply” (“This happened once before…”), the feedback note kicking off “I Feel Fine.” Still, you, and they, have to make room for the likes of this:

[T]he thunderous snare drum shot that opens Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

The operative word here is “shot”: had it been an actual pistol, it would have sounded — and it would have meant — exactly the same.

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Running out of Sky

It’s been a while since I tossed any K-pop at you, and this track seems particularly pertinent, since (1) it was one of few Korean tracks to get an actual US release back in 2010, and (2) today would have been Rottyful Sky’s 27th birthday. Besides, the video is rather fierce:

Sky herself, born Kim Hanul in 1988, battled a brain tumor for the better part of a year, and died in October 2013.

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Make mine Madison

The very first time I heard the name “Madison Beer,” I assumed it was some cheesehead lager, rented only by people who thought Pabst Blue Ribbon was too exotic. This is, of course, right up there with the story of Ariana Grande being the name of a font.

Anyway, Madison Beer is a singer, seventeen years old as of this month; she has a career because for several years she was singing cover versions on YouTube, and apparently Justin Bieber, always on the lookout for younger women, was sufficiently fond of her take on Etta James’ “At Last.” This eventually got her a record deal and a few singles, though no Hot 100 hits as yet.

Weirdly, my own introduction to her contains none of her singing at all. Apparently she’s released the instrumental track from her upcoming single “Out Loud,” designated as “Official Audio.” It’s frightfully catchy. Then again, I come from a time when the instrumental track could just as easily have been the single itself; Barbara Acklin’s limpid vocal was scrubbed off the master for “Am I the Same Girl,” and the remainder, billed as “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited, soared into the Top Ten in 1968. Brunswick, Acklin’s label, eventually got around to releasing the vocal version, which didn’t do so well; most people who remember “Am I the Same Girl” are remembering the 1992 cover by Swing Out Sister.

So I don’t yet know what Madison Beer sounds like on the “Out Loud” single. (There exists a version on which she sings, backed up by piano, which we’re not supposed to know exists.) If instrumentals could chart in this day and age — well, I’d certainly contribute my dollar twenty-nine to the cause for this tune:

And heck, if she’s covered Etta James, I have to figure that she’s okay with, or at least familiar with the concept of, being Barbara Acklin-ed off her record, at least at first.

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He was

Now that I think about it, it was definitely scary for Greg Lake to come up with these lines:

A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he lay down and he died

Especially, you know, when he was twelve.

I doff my hat to Keith Emerson, unfortunately not saved at the tender age of seventy-one.

Addendum: Emerson’s death has been ruled a suicide.

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Free to fade away

No visuals here, just the cover art. This is track two from Jimmy Webb’s El Mirage album, turned loose on the world in 1977. Just in case someone asks “What’s your favorite George Martin production, other than Beatles material?” — and someone will — this is it. (It’s also his arrangement.)

George Martin in the studio meme: did more with 4 tracks than most do with Pro Tools

(Meme swiped from Tape Op Magazine.)

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DeBarge traffic

Kristinia DeBarge, twenty-six today, is the daughter of James DeBarge, of that well-known musical family. (James was married, briefly, to Janet Jackson, but this isn’t Janet’s daughter: that marriage was annulled several years before Kristinia’s birth in 1990.) About the time her 2009 album Exposed came out, she looked something like this:

Kristinia DeBarge in 2009

“Goodbye,” the hit single from Exposed, climbed to #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and moved enough copies to be certified platinum: despite its kiss-off nature, it’s kind of fun, and it’s powered, so to speak, by Steam:

It’s possible to imagine someone not singing along with the chorus, but it’s not easy.

Kristinia DeBarge in 2014

She hasn’t sustained the success of “Goodbye,” but she’s stayed busy; she’s featured on “Let Go,” a 2014 hit in Scandinavia by Finnish rapper (!) Redrama.

I have no doubt we’ll hear from her again.

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‘S marble-ous

Rube Goldberg smiles from beyond at this crazed music machine:

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all done in one take, but the amazing thing is that it was done at all.

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Outlook not so good

In fact:

Cover art for No by Meghan Trainor

Further evidence that you do not mess with Meghan Trainor:

“I sat down with [Epic CEO] L.A. Reid and said, ‘I have my album done,’ and he said, ‘No, you don’t, you don’t have a single,'” Trainor tells Billboard. “And I looked at him like he was crazy — I was pissed off. And I said, ‘All right Mr. Reid, I’m going to write you a single right now. And I went to the studio and said, ‘I need a big, angry anthem’ and it turned into an awesome woman anthem about being independent.”

In terms of sexual-cultural positioning, it’s the next step beyond TLC’s “No Scrubs”; you don’t even get the opportunity to holla at her.

Thank You, the album on which “No” will appear, is due in May. (My pre-order is in.)

Assuming “No” makes the charts, it will be the second hit with this title: the first, the lone chart item for Bulldog, a band featuring ex-Rascals Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli, appeared in 1972. It is, of course, the male reaction to being dismissed: “That’s a hell of a thing to say,” complains vocalist Billy Hocher. You can’t tell me Meghan Trainor didn’t know this one, even if it was way before her time.

No video for “No” as yet, though you can listen to it at that first Billboard link.

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Something not all that new

The very first record album I bought was Something New, one of Capitol’s patchwork Beatles compilations, which included “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” from the Long Tall Sally EP (not released as such over here), a track in German (“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand”), and eight tracks from the British A Hard Day’s Night, the last of which was “If I Fell,” an utterly lovely John Lennon ballad that apparently they didn’t take too seriously: on tour in 1964, the band often introduced the song as “If I Fell Over.”

That said, the Lennon/McCartney harmonies were seldom better than they were on “If I Fell,” and you may be certain that the MonaLisa Twins did them justice:

And really, the idea of a couple of young Austrian expats relocated to Liverpool to do British Invasion songs — and the occasional original — is really no weirder than the fact that “If I Fell,” a B-side in the States, was a Number One A-side in, um, Norway.

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It’s still required

Get your mind around this one:

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Tour comes to Enid, Oklahoma on the 17th of July.

For reals. In between Dallas and El Paso, the Alapalooza will be stopping in the Wheat Capital.

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O hai

I once described a spam as “someone trying to imitate American legalese with no tools but a French-to-Urdu phrasebook.” If this sounds like an unnecessarily roundabout way of doing things, imagine this: feed a line of a song lyric into Google Translate, take the result and feed it back into Google Translate, repeat until utterly crazed, continue with the next line.

That’s pretty much what’s been done here:

Now think about it. How could you make this procedure even weirder? That’s right: incorporate Google Images.

To put this in Trek terms, we’ll have holodecks long before we get proper Universal Translators.

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