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Archive for July, 2014

Tommy Ramone

Posted by purplemary54 on July 11, 2014

I didn’t realize before my last post just how much I’d need a laugh.  The last surviving original member of the Ramones has died.

Of course, Tom Erdelyi was more than just a Ramone.  He left the group after 1977’s Rocket to Russia.  An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Erdelyi was also a skilled and sought-after producer.  He helmed  the Replacements’ Tim, which is arguably his most famous production.  In recent years, Erdelyi turned down a different musical path playing acoustic Country/Bluegrass music with his partner, Claudia Tienan.  It’s not what most Ramones fans are accustomed to, but it’s damn fine work.

I’m so saddened by this news.  Although the Ramones broke up years ago, it feels like the end of an era.  The end of the century.

So long, Tommy.  We’ll see you ’round the bend.

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Have a Laugh on Me

Posted by purplemary54 on July 11, 2014

I don’t want to post the title of this because it’ll give away the joke.  (It’s there on the video, but try not to notice it, okay?)  This is one of the classics from Dr. Demento.  I’m just posting this because I think everyone deserves to have a good laugh.

Trust me.  This’ll make you laugh.

Have a nice night!

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Find Something New . . . Or Something Old

Posted by purplemary54 on July 10, 2014

I got all ranty the other day about the state of music today, and I feel a little bad about that.  I still stand by my rant, but I feel like I ought to offer people something positive.  It is possible to find good music these days, but sometimes you have to get creative.

I’ve mentioned Songza before, a music streaming service for people who actually like music.  But I’d also like to note that I am in the minority of my friends and family on Pandora; everyone else seems to really like it, and I do know they play some new and interesting stuff.  There are a lot of other Internet radio stations out there, and the web has made it possible to stream radio stations from all over the world. While satellite radio is really awesome, there’s also good stuff to be found on broadcast radio.  Try looking for you local NPR station.

You can still find good record shops out there, too.  It’s better now that the big chain stores have pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur (although I do miss Tower Records).  I have Fingerprints in Long Beach, but there are lots of independent stores in most major metropolitan areas (the phone book is a great way to find them . . . and yes, the phone book still exists).  If you happen to be in the Minneapolis area, Rob over at 45 Spins is getting closer and closer to opening his store (I’m so excited!).  But there are other ways to buy music (and if you paid any attention to my rant the other day, then you know that you should damn well be buying music).

Most artists have websites now, with either stores where they sell their recordings or links to someone who does sell them.  And there are still independent record labels.  My generation had Sub Pop Records, which is still going strong.  There’s Matador and Pop Detective (home of the Dahlmanns), and a whole bunch of others out there (this list is from 2013, but I think they’re all still in business).  Yeah, itunes and Amazon will probably always be the biggest names in downloadable content, but there are less corporate ways to get digital music.

Noisetrade is my favorite so far.  It was kind of the inspiration for today’s post.  The sheer volume of stuff they have available is kind of mind-boggling.  What makes it really awesome is that it’s free.  You can download music for free, legally and everything.  Although since these are independent, working musicians,  you should follow the recommendation to leave a tip for the music.  I was trolling around there today, and sampled concert recordings from Josh Ritter and They Might Be Giants, along with some new artists I hadn’t heard before (I highly recommend The Howlin’ Brothers).

There.  That should be enough to keep you guys busy for a while.

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“Sex (I’m a)”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 9, 2014

As I was catching up on episodes of Pop Culture Happy Hour a while back, panelist Glen Weldon recommended a few comic titles for listeners as part of the What’s Making Us Happy segment.  (He’s their resident comic expert; he wrote a book on Superman that I have but haven’t read yet, and is currently writing one about Batman that I’m very much looking forward to.)  Now I like comic books; I think it’s a pretty awesome art form.  But I am pretty helpless when it comes to knowing much about them, so I tend to rely on the recommendations of people who know more than I do.  Well, one of the titles Weldon recommended some months ago has really made me very happy indeed.

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is about a guy (Jon) and a girl (Suzie) who both discover (independently) that they have the ability to temporarily stop time when they reach sexual climax.  They meet, get it on, and find out that they share something besides taste in literature.  (Suzie talks to Jon in the first place because he quotes a passage from Lolita to her.)  They decide to use this ability to rob the bank Jon works for to save the library that Suzie works for.  Of course, it doesn’t go off (or get off) without a hitch.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten.  I bought the compilation of the first five issues, but I haven’t read #5 yet, so I don’t know what happens to our libidinous heroes.  Issue #6 has hit the stands, so I know I’ll be heading over to my local comic shop to get it as soon as I finish the compilation.  It’s fun.  There’s some clever jokes about sex and literature.  The art isn’t groundbreaking, but it has a good pop to it.  The characters are great, and there’s just enough pathos to keep things interesting.  I’d like to officially echo Weldon’s recommendation here.  Comics are pretty underrated as a relatively cheap form of entertainment, especially if you get in on the ground floor of a title.  And I think Sex Criminals is only going up.

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Observations

Posted by purplemary54 on July 8, 2014

I don’t really have any specific song to riff about today, so I just thought I’d note a few things I’ve observed about the music world.

1) Jason Mraz (and Jack Johnson, and the rest of their easygoing ilk) makes me want to gouge my eyes out with spoons.

2) If it can be remastered, repackaged, and sold in a deluxe edition with extra tracks, a booklet, and a retrospective photo collage, it will be.  (But that begs the question, does the world really need an expanded edition of the Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn?  I know there must be some Beau Brummels fans out there, but are there so many that the expense of producing this is justified?)

3) Today’s Pop music sucks ass.  I know, most Pop music has always sucked ass, but it’s worse now than it’s ever been.  Worse, because of the scourge of singing competition shows, virtually all of these singers/artists are interchangeable.  It’s especially prevalent among the women, where Lady Rhianna Beyonce Katy Colbie Sara Miley Ariana Taylor Demi Lorde rules the charts.  (Yes, I am aware that there are distinct stylistic differences among all these women, not to mention varying levels of actual technical skill; but they all sound the same to me.)

4) Justin Bieber really needs to get over himself.  Maybe someone should tell him his mother lied, and he really isn’t that special after all.

5)  I hate Rush.  I know that in some circles this is akin to announcing that I’d like to eat babies for breakfast, but there it is.  They are boring and obvious and pretentious, just like the rest of Prog Rock.  (Except for Neil Peart.  Neil Peart is bad ass.)

6) I’m sorry, but streaming music on {insert name of electronic device here} is not the same thing as owning something.  I don’t necessarily mean owning a physical copy of something, although I have immediately burned discs of downloaded albums that I think are especially awesome.  I mean possessing a copy in some form that will follow you wherever you go and is not subject to the whims of anyone else.  I think streaming services are just another way to screw the artists out of money for their very hard work while lining the pockets of corporations and suits.

7) The fact that Pink Floyd has a new album coming out just depresses me.  They stopped mattering so long ago, I’m not sure even their fans care anymore.  Besides, all anyone will want to hear during the tour is “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2.”

That’s really about it.  I know this makes me sound like some crazy old lady with too many cats yelling at kids to get off her lawn, but, hey, I’m still only middle-aged.  And I’m sure there are other observations floating around out there in the ether, waiting to start buzzing around my head like demented flies.  But I have a fly swatter and bug spray.

And get off my lawn!

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Happy 4th of July

Posted by purplemary54 on July 4, 2014

I know there are many non-sports fans out there.  But I saw something on Keith Olbermann’s ESPN show last night that kind of summed up what the 4th of July is really all about.

I didn’t know that Lou Gehrig made his famous speech on the Fourth of July, but I was incredibly moved by both his speech and Olbermann’s commentary on it. What makes this speech so special, what makes it important, is that embodies everything good in human beings.  Gehrig can be held up as an ideal of American values.  Not because he played baseball, but because he understood just how fortunate he was to be able to play that game for a living.  To be able to choose his own path.  He was in control of his own life, and even though a disease no one could control ended it, he choose the way he left the public eye, with dignity and grace.

These days a lot of people talk about the government trying to control out lives too much.  We should have the right to do this, or the freedom to do that.  Taxes and healthcare and various laws protecting safety are all criticized for infringing on our rights.  But that’s not true.  The government’s job is to protect its citizens–even if that means protecting them from themselves.  All the things people criticize the most about the government are precisely the things it needs to be doing.  Welfare, subsidized health insurance, unemployment insurance, healthy school lunches, all of it.  That’s just the government doing its job.  Taking care of us.

We still have plenty of freedom.  We can go to the mall, and buy virtually anything we want.  We can choose what job we do, where we live, how many children we have (or don’t have).  We get to choose how we pray, or even whether or not we should pray.  Most of us are allowed to choose who we marry.  We get to vote.  We are allowed to protest our government, peacefully, without fear of persecution or prosecution.  We can say, in public, how much we hate our elected officials, and we can rest easily knowing that they will not come knocking on our doors to take away our money, belongings, and home.  The Constitution guarantees that.  Just like the Declaration of Independence states that all people are born with the same rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Notice that happiness itself is not guaranteed, just the ability to pursue it.  So before you go around complaining about all the infringing the government (or anyone else, for that matter) is doing on your rights, take a few minutes to find out what those rights are.  Ask yourself how much freedom you actually do have– how many of the limitations on how you live your life are a result of government interference, and how many are the result of the choices you yourself have made in living it.

And while you’re at it, listen to Lou Gehrig’s speech.  And remember that you are one of the luckiest people to have ever lived.

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“Rubberband Man”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 2, 2014

I have a jelly jar filled with rubber bands sitting on top of my desk.  Our mailman likes to wrap up the mail in them.  I thought might’ve started back when we still used the mail slot in the front door; it’s probably easier to shove the stack of grocery store fliers, credit card offers, and bills through that two-inch tall opening when it’s corralled somehow.  But it’s not just us: He does this to everyone’s mail.  Why?  Probably a way for him to organize and make his job a little bit easier.

What isn’t easier about it is that I’ve got a jelly jar full of rubber bands on top of my desk.  I use the occasional rubber band to bind up a loose cord, or re-close a bag of chips for later consumption.  But the plain fact is I don’t need that many rubber bands.  I don’t do crafts.  Even if I had long hair, I wouldn’t use regular rubber bands in it (ouch!).  They’re not good cat toys.  That doesn’t mean cats don’t like to play with them.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  My Sasha likes them almost as much as my late lamented Harry did.  But rubber bands can break.  Get swallowed.  Turn into expensive visits to the vet requiring major intestinal surgery.  That’s another reason the rubber bands are in a jar, and not just lying around where anyone can find them.

Okay.  I pushed the pile in the jar down a little, and now it’s only two-thirds full.  More room for the next couple of weeks’ worth of mail.  *sigh*  Well, I guess rubber bands are good for one more thing:

Dancing.

The smallish bands I have won’t stretch the way the ones in the video do.  Heck, today this would be a fitness craze.  “C’mon and burn some calories with the Rubberband Man!  Boingy, boingy, boingy!”  (Brownie points to anyone who gets the “boingy” reference.  And no, it’s not dirty.)  Maybe this is where those resistance bands were inspired (and, really, they are just great big rubber bands).  It’s a fun song, anyway.  Dig all that blue polyester on the stage.  (FYI, for just a moment, I thought one of those backup singers was Ja’net DuBois from Good Times.  But then the picture cleared up a little.)

Just another day on the home front.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Repost: “Mr. Blue Sky”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 1, 2014

Busy day today, so I didn’t collect any thoughts for y’all.  I might have better luck tomorrow.  Unless Wimbledon is as exciting as it was today.

 

I was inspired in part by a goofy story my aunt & uncle told about getting high at an ELO concert, presumably in the 70s (apparently the joint was laced with PCP), and partly by the fact that my sister-in-law likes ELO. Me? I can count the number of Electric Light Orchestra songs on my iPod on one hand. Luckily, this is one of them.

Of course, they really only have me until the last minute of the song, when they veer off into a seemingly incongruous instrumental coda/fade out. I’m not entirely sure how it was supposed to operate on the original album. According to my rather sketchy research, “Mr. Blue Sky” was the final track on Side 3 of the double album Out of the Blue. Jeff Lynne, who is something of a mad scientist in the studio, liked to experiment in symphonic rock (which is apparently prog rock that’s even more pretentious than standard prog rock, see here for what little information Wikipedia has). Side 3 was subtitled “Concerto for a Rainy Day,” and was a song cycle meant to represent the weather and emotions. I’ve never heard the rest, so I have no idea if it worked as music or not (anyone with firsthand knowledge is welcome to chime in with their opinions). “Mr. Blue Sky” works for the most part, it’s insanely catchy and infectiously happy. It’s virtually impossible not to smile and feel a little brighter listening to this song–which, now that I think about it, might be a clue about how well the rest of the “Concerto” worked.

I like Jeff Lynne a lot. His music is slick without being sterile, radio ready without being completely insipid or devoid of feeling. I might not be a huge ELO fan, but I really appreciate the skill of the music. And watching this clip shows me just how much of an orchestra this band really was. Now, I know that the band was really just Jeff Lynne and a bunch of guys playing with him, but it takes a lot of work to get a sound like this right. These guys might not have had any lasting fame outside of the band, but they were great in it. But what really makes this clip awesome is that Jeff Lynne isn’t wearing his signature sunglasses in it. I didn’t even know he had eyes. I figured it was just some kind of weird, electronic musical notation device that helped him write and produce so much excellent music. Oh, wait. He does have something like that. It’s called his brain.

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