I throw in this gratuitous poster from ought-five mostly to tell you that someone who can make me not notice Cameron Diaz is probably pretty darn remarkable. (Note: I never did get to see the film, though I did read the Jennifer Weiner novel on which it’s based.)
That said, Toni Collette has put together a pretty solid body of work since Spotswood and Muriel’s Wedding in the 1990s. Then again, she’s always been good at grabbing the spotlight:
Toni Collette once told an interviewer: “I used to do things to get attention when I was little.” She was pretty effective, too — aged 11, she faked appendicitis so convincingly, the doctors actually removed her appendix. “My mother had hers taken out at the same age, so that’s how it entered my brain. And she told me that when the doctor presses in, that’s not when it hurts, it’s when the hand’s taken away. So I knew when to react.”
Oh, and she’s a darn good singer too. From 2007, her performance of “Look Up” at Live Earth:
The song comes from the album Beautiful Awkward Pictures by Toni Collette and the Finish; she’s married to drummer Dave Galafassi. And “beautiful awkward” fits, doesn’t it?
A man with the quintessentially American name “Daniel Boone” managed to get this lovely little number up to #15 in Billboard in 1972:
If the chap in the video didn’t look quintessentially American, well, he’s British. Peter Lee Stirling (born Peter Green in Birmingham in 1942, and no, not the Peter Green in Fleetwood Mac) played in several bands early on, but enjoyed little success until he signed with Larry Page’s Penny Farthing label, assumed the “Daniel Boone” name, and cut a maudlin ballad called “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” which clambered into the UK Top Twenty. (In the States, it was killed by a Wayne Newton cover.)
Next out was “Beautiful Sunday,” written by Boone with labelmate Rod McQueen. It just missed the Top Twenty in the UK, but made decent bank in the US — and even more so in Germany, where it reached #1. The hits petered out shortly thereafter, but “Beautiful Sunday” endured; the Russian band Chizh & Co. covered it to interesting effect in 1996.
Oh, and one more thing. Remember when iTunes would go hunt down album artwork for you? This is what it fetched for “Beautiful Sunday”:
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.”
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.
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.”
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
Next 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.
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.
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.
“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:
Five years later, the jacket of her Warners album Shame On Me:
And from the fall of 2016, a compilation of her Warner Bros. work on Varése Sarabande:
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?
There is, I suspect, less here than meets the ear:
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.
It was in fact raining on Saturday when I got the notification of a new box set:
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.”)
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.
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.
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:
NEXT THURSDAY 9/22 I'll be playing w Nashville Unplugged @ The Rose in Pasadena! More info @ https://t.co/mY0pz0w1U9 pic.twitter.com/GAIhwbZRmY
— Rebecca Black (@MsRebeccaBlack) September 13, 2016
Then again, RB is working hard to hone her songwriting chops, so why not?
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.
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.)
I've heard 'Spirit in The Sky' more times this summer on radio than I did the summer of '70. Still sounds pretty good. Classic guitar solo.
— rosanne cash (@rosannecash) September 11, 2016
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.