Saturday, March 31, 2007 life

I just took the plunge and joined, in case anyone wants to see what I'm currently listeners, or any fellow last.fmers want to add me friend. There's also a fancy plugin on the right-hand side of this blog to track my listening habits. I don't listen to a lot of music on the computer, but it's nice to track my most listened to artists and tracks for the times I do.

Looking below the Last played and blogroll to the bottom right, I'm noticing a disturbing trend in the three months I've been doing this blog. 26 posts in January, 25 posts in February, and 24 posts in March. At this rate, I'll be down to one post a month in a couple of years!

Friday, March 30, 2007

FOMM: Mitch Madness II

Continuing with last Friday's Mitch Easter extravaganza, here are a few more tracks from Two Dozen Easter Eggs. I just witnessed two fabulous shows by Mitch and his band the last two nights, at Amoeba Music and the Rickshaw Stop. His setlist was a 50/50 mix of tracks from his new album Dynamico and Let's Active songs from the "renaissance era", selected heavily from the Cypress LP. Old favorites like "Flags For Everything", "Ornamental" and "Waters Part" (yeah!) match up well with new favorites like "1.5 Way Street","I Want a New Scene", and "Timewarping" -- it was hard to tell the new songs from the old ones. Unfortunately I didn't record the shows, and my photos (taken on my cheap camera phone) didn't turn out very well, so my only recollection of these shows is my rapidly fading memory.

I also talked briefly with Mitch and his lovely bassist/wife Shalini. He drove all the way to California for the two shows in SF, one in Sacramento tonight, and one in LA tomorrow. It was also fun talking to Mitch about his glorious past. It's kind of like talking to God (if you can imagine telling God that you really like that Someloves record He produced back in 1990!).

Even though Mitch made his name back in the early 80s as the poster boy for the "new American rock underground ", he's also worked with a few less-heralded international (i.e. foreign) artists like the Someloves. Here are a few sample tracks, some (DM3, Hummingbirds) that I've posted previously and others that I haven't. The first four songs are by Australian artists, revolving around two songwriters (Darryl Mather and Dom Mariani). Mather and Mariani were both in the Someloves, Mariani formed the DM3, and the Orange Humble Band was essentially "Darryl Mather and friends". From talking to Mitch, I found out that the Someloves LP (which I always thought sounded like it was mastered at a slightly wrong speed) was recently reissued with the original recording speed restored on a CD called Don't Talk About Us, and that the Orange Humble Band cost $200K to make, which came entirely out of Darryl Mather's pocket.

  1. The Hummingbirds - Word Gets Around
    (from Love Buzz)
  2. The Someloves - I Didn't Mean It
    (from Something Or Other)
  3. The DM3 - 1x2x Devastated
    (from One Time, Two Times, Three Red Light)
  4. Orange Humble Band - Fanclub Requiem
    (from Assorted Creams)
  5. Duffy - London Girls
    (from Duffy)
"London Girls" is from Stephen (f.k.a Tin Tin) Duffy's 1995 self-titled Duffy album. During the mid-90s, while his band the Lilac Time were on hiatus, Duffy flew to NC to add backing vocals to the Velvet Crush's Teenage Symphonies to God (produced by Mitch), and stayed around to make a solo album, with the Velvet Crush as his backing band and Mitch Easter behind the boards. This unlikely combination resulted in one of my favorite records of that decade, with the best parts of UK Britpop and yankee/rebel power pop all in one place.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Don't clog up the bases, kids

I guess Dusty Baker is ESPN's newest baseball analyst. A quote from his debut, courtesy of
(David Wright) stole 20 bases last year, so you don't have to worry about him clogging up the bases at the top of the order

Google "Dusty+clogging up the bases" for enlightenment. As a manager, Dusty Baker hated "clogging up the bases". Unfortunately the main purpose of the game of baseball is to get guys on base (aka "clog up the bases"), so Dusty wasn't a very good (in-game ed.)manager. And now he's a not-very-good announcer. And baseball's loss is ESPN's gain.

Speaking of David Wright, the Mets are putting the choice of his at-bat theme music to the fans. Unfortunately the selections are kind of lame. What about "Shake Some Action"? He has the same name as the former Flamin' Groovies drummer!

Update: Bradl one reader took issue with my Dusty dissing, and he put together a great show with Mitch Easter last night so I'm (temporarily) recanting my assessment.
Dusty Baker is a managerial genius!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time Will Show The Wiser

I'm on a Joe Boyd jag since picking up his autobiography and its companion CD last week, so here's an early 1968 performance of the first song on the first Fairport Convention album (Emmit Rhodes' "Time Will Show The Wiser") .

Dig the guitar playing of a very young Richard Thompson and the Marty & Grace vocal interplay between Iain Matthews and Judy Dyble. Take time to ridicule the AMG review of this song that misidentifies the male vocalist as Ashley Hutchings (he's the bass player).
This song rocks heartily!

Monday, March 26, 2007

They're only sticks and balls

I thought Americans took their sports too seriously, but after seeing my Indian and Pakistani co-workers describe their "national humiliation" when their countries were eliminated from the Super 8's in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, we've got nothing on the Asian subcontinent. These countries take their cricket seriously!

Last weekend, India lost to Bangladesh and Pakistan lost to Ireland, which is apparently like the Yankees and Red Sox losing to 1AA college teams. In India, no one has escaped the blame for their disappointing performance: the manager, the players, the sponsors, the media, even Indira Ghandi (if she hadn't given Bangladesh their freedom in 1971, they wouldn't have been able to defeat India in cricket 36 years later).

India's fortune lives and dies with their national cricket side, and their eastern neighbor Pakistan takes the sport even more seriously. After their loss to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day, their coach was found dead in his hotel room, in an apparent homicide. Shades of Andres Escobar. Referring to a sporting event as a "life or death" situation seems even more ridiculous when someone actually dies for losing a silly game. Only life and death are "life or death" situations!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

No more chances to get it half right

In honor of the late Calvert de Forest (aka Larry "Bud" Melman) who passed away this week at the age of 85, here's this bit from the "Ask Mr. Melman" on David Letterman's late night show, sometime in the late 1980s.

Audience Member: Mr. Melman, who do you think will win the upcoming NCAA basketball championship?

Final Four: Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State
Finals: Kansas, North Carolina
Winner: North Carolina

My brother picked all final four teams correctly. Luckily we're just competing for pride!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Some people only dream of this in a song

I've done my share of traveling to see bands, but I can't imagine going all the way to New Zealand, like Ian Robertson did to see Sneaky Feelings.

For those who don't know Ian, he's the guitarist for the Bye Bye Blackbirds who's been playing with Bradley (the unnamed "bandmate" the article credits for introducing Ian to Sneaky Feelings) since their days in Belle da Gama and Yuji Oniki's band. And for those who don't know Sneaky Feelings, they were a New Zealand band from the 1980s who took their name from an Elvis Costello song and their sound from his pub rock forefathers Nick Lowe and Graham Parker. They were a bit out of step with the other bands on the Flying Nun label, mostly unknown outside of NZ, and broke up right before the other Dunedin bands started gaining fame and notoriety. They reformed this year to play the Dunedin Heritage Festival and Ian Robertson flew all the way to Dunedin to see them. Which I think is very cool.

Friday, March 23, 2007

FOMM: Mitch Madness!

In honor of Mitch Easter coming to California next week, here are five tracks from Two Dozen Easter Eggs, a CD-R mix I made back in 2002 with 28 songs either performed or produced by Mitch. These five were his contributions to various early-90s tribute albums.

  1. International Feel by Todd Rundgren
    (from For The Love Of Todd, Third Rock, 1991)
  2. Kizza Me by Big Star
    (from Not The Singer But The Songs, Munster, 1991)
  3. Valleri by The Monkees
    (from Here No Evil, Long Play, 1992)
  4. Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.
    (from Surprise Your Pig, Staple Gun, 1992)
  5. Pay You Back With Interest by The Hollies
    (from Sing Hollies In Reverse, Eggbert, 1995)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I saw Joe Boyd

Last night I went to see legendary producer Joe Boyd read from his new autobiography White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s. The impressive list of records he produced in that decade included Pink Floyd's debut single, Nick Drake's first two albums, and almost everything by Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band.

Joe Boyd’s name evokes a certain time and place for me. I spent a few weeks in London in the Summer 1985, when Boyd’s profile was at a high point for producing R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. Peter Buck said in an interview that they’d asked Boyd to produce the album because they liked the sound of the Nick Drake and Fairport Convention records he’d produced. Those artists were just random entries in Christgau’s Consumer Guide to me, but I was enough of an R.E.M. obsessive to want to learn more. Anything that inspired Peter Buck had to be great. I found cassette copies of Fairport’s Unhalfbricking and Drake’s Bryter Later (both way out of print in the USA but easily available in England at mid-line prices) a few days later, and those two tapes ended up spending more time on my Walkman than even Fables. I especially couldn’t get enough of Drake’s Bryter Later, and played nonstop that summer.

I brought the inlay card for that Bryter Later tape (which doesn’t play anymore) for Mr. Boyd to sign last night, told him the story of how I got it, and how grateful I was that I was to him for keeping Nick Drake’s legacy alive, and his music in circulation for all those years. A few folks asked him about Drake, but most of the audience at Booksmith seemed more interested that Boyd was the stage manager at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival (aka when Bob Dylan went electric). I like Dylan too, but this guy worked with Syd Barrett and Nick Drake! During the post-reading Q&A, after the fourth Dylan-goes-electric question, Boyd asked “are there any questions that aren’t about Bob Dylan?”.

I've only started reading the book, but it makes for fascinating reading for any fans of the artists Boyd worked with in those days. It focuses on the making of the music, and what it was like to be there at the time. On the front cover, Brian Eno calls it "the best book about music I have read in years", and after three chapters, I'm inclined to agree with Eno.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Neverending Flood of Litigation

I like this!

A few days after the Super Bowl, a Brooklyn Law School professor posted a YouTube clip containing the standard NFL copyright notice that was broadcast during the game.
This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of the pictures, descriptions or accounts of this game without the express written consent of the National Football League is prohibited
Five days later, she received a notice from YouTube that the clip had been removed at the request of the NFL, who claimed that reposting their copyright notice was a violation of their copyright. Knowing her fair use rights, she then filed a counter-notification with YouTube, saying that the clip was "an educational excerpt showing the NFL's overreaching copyright warning aired during the Super Bowl" and fell under fair use.

The NFL's DMCA-compliant response to this counter-claim would be to take the professor to court to remove the clip. Instead, they ignored the counter-claim and sent a second takedown request with YouTube, which violated the DMCA, the very same law they were invoking to protect the descriptions and accounts of their copyright notice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Classic rock cinema

I saw two Rolling Stones movies on TV last weekend: Gimme Shelter (on the Sundance Channel) and Rock and Roll Circus (on PBS). Very interesting to compare and contrast the two shows, which were recorded a year apart from each other.

My interest in the Stones tends to ebb and flow, but I’ve started listening to them more lately. I’ve watched Gimme Shelter a few times, but normally only watch for the twenty seconds of the naked hippies dancing to Gram & the Burritos playing “Six Days On The Road”. The rest of the movie is (to paraphrase Jerry Garcia and the Rubinoos) a "bummer", especially when you know how it ends. How did a free concert by the biggest band in the world get approved just two days beforehand? Who thought hiring Hells Angels for security was a good idea? Were people really that stupid back in the 60s?

For late 60s Stones footage, Rock and Roll Circus is a lot more fun. It’s been out on video tape and DVD for awhile, but I’d never seen it before, except the Who’s performance of "A Quick One While He's Away" on The Kids are Alright, which has to be one of their finest moments as a band.

According to the R&RC wikipedia entry, the Stones withheld its release for 20 years because they felt their performance was substandard, but I thought they sounded great. This was Brian Jones’ last performance as a Rolling Stone, and he looks a bit lost for most of their set, but the rest of the band were on, and they played some of my favorite rarely-played tunes from Beggar’s Banquet (their brand new album): “Parachute Man”,”No Expectations”, and “Salt of the Earth”.

The show also shows a pre-Sabbath Tony Iommi playing with Jethro Tull, and a pre-junkie Marianne Faithful. This concert was a holy grail for rock collectors for a long time before it came out because it had the Rolling Stones, the Who, and one Beatle (John Lennon’s Dirty Mac) on the same stage. I don’t know if I need to buy the DVD, but it’s entertaining to watch once or twice.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bracketology 2007 Update

NCAA Tournament 2007
1st Round Upsets: GWU over Vanderbilt, Long Beach over Tennessee, Gonzaga over Indiana, Creighton over Nevada, Winthorp over Notre Dame, VCU over Duke
W-L First Two Rounds: 35-13
Sweet Sixteen: 12/16ths correct
ESPN Bracketology Percentile: 66th
Elite Eight: 7/8ths alive (X%$& Badgers!)
Final Four: Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio State, North Carolina
Finals: Kansas, North Carolina
Winner: North Carolina

Also, Bradley was trounced 101-72 yesterday by Mississippi State in the NIT.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

chasing rainbows home

My musical discovery for today: the Australian band Even. I downloaded their latest single "Rainbows" on this free emusic compilation, and now have most of their available output, thanks be to emusic.

Even have been together since 1994, and their myspace profile describes their sound as "Big Star and The Lemonheads washing each others back with a cake of Small Faces soap". They've got that classic pop sound down cold, and even update it a bit for the here and now. Highly recommended to those who like that sort of thing. And to those who don't.. what's wrong with you?

Friday, March 16, 2007

FOMM: Five more for St. Patrick

Another Friday, another mini-playlist. Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, and here are five covers of songs by Irish Bands (northern and southern), as performed by Americans. St. Patty's Day is more of a holiday in the USA than in Ireland.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Little Girl in Bloom
(from Treble in Trouble, originally by Thin Lizzy)
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Suspect Device
(from Sharkbite Sessions, originally by Stiff Little Fingers)

Ted Leo's new album Living With The Living is coming out next Tuesday, and initial pressings come with a bonus cover of Chumbawumba's "Rappaport's Testament", that I saw him play a couple week's ago at SF's Noise Pop festival show. Ted Leo has unique taste in cover songs, and seems to like covering Irish bands. Here are a couple of covers from previous EPs, Thin Lizzy's "Little Girl In Bloom" from 2000's Treble in Trouble (his first recording with the Pharmacists) and "Suspect Device" by Stiff Little Fingers from 2005's Sharkbite Sessions (recorded at Oakland's Sharkbite studios).

I remember the first time I heard Ted & the Pharmacists cover "Suspect Device". It was at the Great American Music Hall before the 2004 Presidential election, and would've made me want to go out and vote for anyone who wasn't George W. Bush, even if I wasn't already motivated to do that. Two years, and more than "2000 dead" later, the song is sadly still pertinent, but on the plus side, GWB is two years closer to being the ex-president.

Dale Ann Bradley - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
(from East Kentucky Morning, originally by U2)
The Coal Porters - Teenage Kicks/Old Joe Clark
(from How Dark This Earth Will Shine, originally by The Undertones)

Bluegrass has roots in Irish traditional music, so what could be more apt for St. Patrick's Day than bluegrass versions of Irish rock classics? Both these songs are from a mix disc called California Grass that I made a couple of years ago, full of bluegrass covers of rock songs.

In my quest to mark notable album anniversaries, I should mention that U2's The Joshua Tree came out twenty years ago this month. I remember buying it as a longbox cassette, a short-lived packaging phenomenon that thankfully never caught on. Some of the songs on my California Grass mix were kind of gimmicky, but Dale Ann Bradley's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is a near-perfect match of singer and song that I find much more powerful than the U2 original.

The Coal Porters are Sid Griffin's post-Long Ryders band, who despite being based in London, are far more rootsy and Americanay than the LRs were. Their bluegrass-flavored cover of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" came out right before John Peel died, and I wonder if he heard it, and what he thought if he did ("Teenage Kicks" being Peel's all-time favorite song).

Patti Smith - Gloria
(from Horses, originally by Them)

This week Patti entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so here's the first song from her first record, an extended version of the garage band standard "Gloria", written and originally recorded by Belfast's own Van Morrison & Them. I've just realized that most of these songs are by Northern Irish bands.. oh well! This came out on a major recording label, so it's linked from somewhere else. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the 30th anniversary 2005 reissues of Horses and Born to Run came out on the same label (Sony/BMG of rootkit fame).

PS: Yesterday wasn't a great day for my picks, but how about that VCU over Duke selection?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

That which we call a Rose

Yesterday, Pete Rose told ESPN that he bet on the Reds “every night” during his time as manager, which Keith Olbermann thinks makes him less of a sinner than if he'd only bet on some games, because “At least the game outcomes weren’t affected because he was saving John Franco until a night he had $500 riding on the result“. Even if Rose bet on every game like he said, I’d bet he wagered more on some games than others. Except I don’t bet.

I don’t think baseball should reinstate Pete Rose for the rest of his life. I think he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame, after he finishes serving his lifetime ban. He shouldn’t be able to get money and endorsements as “Hall of Famer Pete Rose”, and if he’s inducted posthumously, then he won’t be able to make any ill-gotten money from the honor.

The best argument against reinstating Pete Rose is that he’s a bad person. As a player, he separated Ray Fosse’s shoulder when he barrelled into him at the 1970 All Star Game (a exhibition game) in a clip that still gets played to show what a “fiery competitor” he was, picked a fight with the scrawny Bud Harrelson in the 1973 NLCS, and complained that Braves pitcher Gene Garber was “showing him up” by striking him out to end his 44-game hitting streak in 1978. And as a manager, he violated Rule 21 (betting on baseball games in which he had a duty to perform), which carries a lifetime ban, no matter whether you bet for or against your team, or on some or all of their games.

But now Rose wants to be reinstated by baseball because, "I believe I'm the best ambassador baseball has." No you aren’t, Pete. Barry Bonds is a better baseball ambassador than you are! And just having the most hits ever doesn’t make you the “best hitter ever”. You were was a singles hitter with no power who didn’t draw walks – the fourth or fifth best hitter on your team during their glory years. So saying that Pete Rose was “arguably the best hitter ever” is like saying that the earth is “arguably flat”.

PS: I hope no one took my George Washington upset pick seriously. That wasn't a very good pick, but it's the only game I've lost so far.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

iPod generation, part two

The most comments I've received from any post was last week's listing of all the albums on my new iPod, so here's an update with all the single artist compilations.

The Band - Greatest Hits
Blur - The Best of Blur
David Bowie - Changesbowie
The Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady
The Church - Almost Yesterday
Julian Cope/Teardrop Explodes - Floored Genius
Cream - The Very Best of Cream
Marshall Crenshaw - This is Easy
Crowded House - Recurring Dream
Echo & the Bunnymen - Songs to Learn and Sing
Guided By Voices - Human Amusements at Hourly Rates
Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians - Greatest Hits
The Jam - Compact Snap!
Jellyfish - Best
Tommy Keene - The Real Underground
Lilac Time - Compendium: The Fontana Trinity
Kirsty MacColl - Galore
Laura Nyro - Time And Love: The Essential Masters
Plasticland - Make Yourself a Happening Machine
Replacements - All For Nothing/Nothing For All
Rolling Stones - London Singles Collection
Rubinoos - Anthology
Amy Rigby - 18 Again
Sloan - A Sides Win
The Smiths - Singles
Squeeze - Singles 45's and Under
XTC - Waxworks

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I am human and I need to be loved

The best way to quickly adjust to daylight savings time is to spend the weekend with a toddler. They have more than enough energy to make anyone start going to bed at 9pm and getting up at 6am, even with the "spring forward" time change!

I spent last weekend in Washington visiting friends and their almost-two year old daughter, and little kids are a bunch of fun, but kind of wore me out. I had a few hours at SeaTac airport before my flight home, so I picked up the latest issue of Uncut, which had a special feature on the 30 best Smiths songs, which I listened to while playing their Singles compilation on my new iPod.

My friend Sue had a blog entry while I was away showing her chagrin hearing the Pixies' "Velouria" blasting from a UC frat row window because the Pixies were her college band. Usually when I walk by the frat houses, they're playing either Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, or Led Zeppelin, so I'm impressed that they're gaining some semblance of modernity, and Sue must be a lot younger than me, because I was a couple of years out of college when Bossanova came out!

Last month I said that the Police were my high-school band, so I was trying to think of a band that would qualify as my college band (of my college years were 1983-1987). I think that was the high tide of so-called "college" rock, and the two bands most emblematic of that era were R.E.M. and the Smiths. Coincidentally, the testimonial on Uncut's #1 Smiths song "How Soon Is Now?" was by Peter Buck of R.E.M. In his writeup, Buck talks about how he and Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr shared the same influences, and how he hasn't ever heard "How Soon" on the radio.

Which is strange, because it was played literally all the time on SF's Live 105 between 1985-1990. I always suspected their DJ's would keep the 12-inch singles of "How Soon Is Now?" and New Order's "Blue Monday" on standby in the "bathroom break" pile, for those times when a 7-11 burrito washed down with a double Big Gulp necessitated a long song, because one of those songs was played at least every four hours.

I liked the Smiths before I moved to the Bay Area, but kind of got burned out by all the radio play and their fans, but I've come to appreciate their music a lot more with the passing time.
Many of the song contributors to the Uncut article (James Mercer, Ben Gibbard, Ryan Adams) talked about how Morrissey's songs helped them through their adolescent years, which was exactly the thing that turned me off them way back when. It's not that hard to imagine James, Ben, or Ryan as tortured Smithsteens back in the 80s.

Someone on a mailing list I'm on once said that he tried to steer clear of anyone over the age of 14 who took the Smiths seriously. This sounded kind of harsh and unfair to me, until I realized that he wasn't talking about taking them seriously as a band, but taking Morrissey's lyrics as saying something to me about my life. Hearing the words now, especially offset by the jaunty jangly guitars, it's quite obvious that he was taking the piss. Those lines about ten ton trucks and double decker buses are just too over-the-top angsty to be taken seriously by anyone old enough to drive. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take them seriously as songs. Morrissey wasn't joking -- he was just being dramatically ironic.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bracketology 2007

For someone who doesn't usually pay attention to college basketball, I tend to do fairly well in NCAA March Madness pools. I don't get bogged down in the details, like I do with other sports, and pick almost completely on gut instincts. Usually there are two or three games in each region that smell like upsets to me, so I pick those, and pick the favorites in all the other games. It's like my strategy for NFL football pools. I determined that there are about four upsets each week on average, so I just chose my four upsets each week, and ended up ahead for the year. This was small stakes, so "ahead" was more a matter of pride than losing the $3-5 lunch money each week.

Last year, I ended up in the top 10% of the ESPN bracketology picks, based on a few hunches. My alma mater, Bradley, was in the tournament as a 13 seed, and I picked them all the way to the sweet 16, which they miraculously made. And as luck would have it, the regional finals were here in Oakland, so I was able to watch Bradley lose to Memphis in the round of sixteen. I also made a few more off the wall picks that payed off. One of these years, I should go to Reno or Tahoe and put my money down on my hunches, but it seems wrong to use my powers for financial gain.

Anyway, here are my picks for the 2007 tournament. Feel free to lay your own money down.

1st Round Upsets: GWU over Vanderbilt, Long Beach over Tennessee, Gonzaga over Indiana, Winthorp over Notre Dame, VCU over Duke, Creighton over Nevada (go MVC!)
Final Four: Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio State, North Carolina
Finals: Kansas, North Carolina
Winner: North Carolina

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Velvet Coverground

I’m going to be away for the next few days, so I’m putting my Friday songs up on Thursday. This week it's covers of all six songs on the first side of an album that came out 40 years ago this week.

I’ve always felt that The Velvet Underground & Nico album is a little bit.. overrated. Calling something "overrated" is kind of a loaded gun, but I think the legacy and influence of this record is more important than it's worth as an actual listening experience. So much of their sound has been co-opted by other bands (some great, some good, many not-so-good) over the years that it's hard for us in the here and now to hear VU & Nico the way listeners did in early 1967.

The Velvets have built up such a legend over the years that it’s hard to divorce the music from the myths. One of the biggest prevailing myths is that the VU were shunned and ignored while they were together and only appreciated after they broke up. From David Fricke’s Britannica entry on the band: “At a time when the San Francisco scene represented the euphoric apex of 1960s counterculture, the Velvets' harsh dose of New York City-framed reality was scorned by the music industry and ignored by mainstream audiences.” Or this writeup that says "their records didn't get much airplay, even on 'underground' FM stations."

The Velvets weren’t played much on mainstream radio, but their first record got lots of airplay on "free-form" FM stations like San Francisco's KMPX, and they were headlining large halls even before the record came out. The flyer at the top of this entry shows the VU playing three nights at SF’s Fillmore (5/27-29/66) as part of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, supported by Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention (I would've loved to be a fly on the wall at those shows!). Even in mid-1966, anonymous bands weren't headlining at the Fillmore!

These EPI shows got a positive mention in the Chronicle (reproduced on the LP gatefold), but apparently Bill Graham didn't like the Velvets because they never played the Fillmore again. But through the rest of their career, they played a bunch of S.F. shows attempting to build a as West Coast audience. Their Live 1969 and Bootleg Series were recorded entirely from San Francisco shows. The Chronicle had an article after the release of the Bootleg Series about the Velvets’ residency at the Matrix in late-1969 that more or less kills the prevailing myth that their NYC attitude was antithesis of West Coast flower power. The popular West Coast bands of that era (the Doors, the Jefferson Airplane) were every bit as “dark” as the VU were, just a little more popular.

Anyway, here are six VU covers making up the entire first side of The Velvet Underground & Nico. Like some folks say about Bob Dylan, I usually prefer Velvet Underground songs by other people to their originals. These are six of Lou Reed’s best songs, I think, and they're downloadable either individually below, or collectively as a big zip file.

  1. Sunday MorningMatthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs
  2. I’m Waiting For The ManMaureen Tucker
  3. Femme FataleTracey Thorn
  4. Venus in FursMakrosoft
  5. Run Run Run Echo & the Bunnymen
  6. All Tomorrow’s PartiesJune Tabor & Oysterband
I might do the second side if I can find a decent cover of "Black Angel's Death Song". For those who prefer the originals, the WFMU blog has all the tracks from the acetate of the the Velvets' 1966 Scepter studio sessions that sold for $25,000 on eBay. I'm not sure what you do when you pay that much for a record -- you sure don't play it! Are acetates the vinyl equivalent of CDRs? These mp3s sound scratchier than Robert Johnson 78s from 1927.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Marching on big music

There was an interesting piece today at jefitoblog about gizmodo declaring March "boycott the RIAA month". The only real protest against the recording industry and their recent strongarm tactics against mixtapers and mp3 bloggers and online radio is to stop buying major label music. And stop stealing major label music. And stop blogging about major label music. Basically pretending that the big five four three labels don't exist anymore.

I can't remember the last time I purchasing a new CD on a major label, so I'm completely down with not buying any this month, but even more than not-supporting major labels, it should be a month for supporting non-major labels. Buy CDs directly from artists, or from smaller labels, or from cdbaby. Or if you must buy major label music, buy it used from a local independent record store. In other words, kill the music business by supporting music makers.

One of jefito's commenters said that the three major labels (Sony/BMG, Universal, and EMI/Virgin) are responsible for "70% of all music manufactured and sold", which sounds like 100% b.s. Major labels are responsible for such a small portion of the music made in 2007, and an even smaller portion of that 5% of top quality music that people like us buy. Those three companies probably own a large portion of the music copyrights, but that's not the same as 70% of the music.

I have a much more optimistic view on the future of "music blogging" than Mr. Jefito does. I've posted a few tracks here, and don't know if I qualify as a "music blogger" yet, but I try to post things that are either on independent labels or way out of print. Instead of actual Bee Gees' songs, I'd be more likely to post covers of their songs by artists a little lower on the music food chain. I also don't post the "newest and hippest" artist and tracks, mostly because my taste in music is old and unhip and keeps growing older and unhipper each year. I think the RIAA won't stop all music blogging just like they won't stop all song sharing -- they're just after the highest profile ones.

Some people have complained to about esnips, the site I choose to host my tunes, but they have 5GB of storage for free, and they're hosted outside the USA, so they aren't as vulnerable to the arm of the RIAA. And you don't need an account to listen and download. Plus they let you play the songs before you download them, and one listen is enough for most of the songs I post.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I've been late with the blog entries this week because our office network got infected with the Rinbot virus over the weekend. The last two days at work have been a series of scan, quarantine, delete, rescan, reboot, repeats.
The virus comes cloaked as an update to your anti-virus software, so whenever you try to delete it, big brother pushes another rinbot at you. It's hit a lot of big companies over the past week, and seems to be designed to build a virtual "bot-net" to launch DoS attacks against the virus vendor (who's name rhymes with mimantec). At least my home computer still works!
iPod Update: I had to update my iTunes to version 7 to work with my new iPod, which I really didn't want to do since lots of people have been having issues with iTunes7. The "Get Album Artwork" feature is nice, but it only works for albums that are available at Apple's Music Store, which less than 50% of my library is. And I'm not sure what "gapless playback" is, but it causes a bunch of problems, and it's a pain to disable. But my fifth generation iPod supports it, so I guess I'm obligated to turn it on..

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Joining the iPod Generation

If 2007 was the year I started blogging and bought an iPod, I'm either way behind the curve or going through a midlife crisis. How about a blog entry about my new iPod?

My two year old Creative MuVo2 music player stopped working this weekend, so I took the plunge and purchased a real iPod yesterday - a sleek black Nano with 8gb of storage. I like it so far. It's hard to believe that 1800 songs can fit in something so tiny! And it was an open container at Fry's, so I got it for 20% off ($199 vs. $249 list).

My old player only had 4gb of storage, so I can double the amount of music on my live, but it's still only 20% of the 40gb of music in my iTunes library, so I needed to come up with a strategy to pull the essential tunes to my Nano. My old MuVo behaved like a USB hard drive where all I needed to do was drag and drop folders to fill it, but iPods need to be loaded via iTunes, so today I was trying to find a way to seamlessly load one fifth of my fifth on my new player. I came up with an elegant solution, which I'm sure no one has ever thought of before!

I set up an iTunes playlist called "My iPod" and set up the iPod to sync up with this playlist only, then I dragged and dropped everything from my library to this playlist until it was full. The choice of what to include and what to exclude was tough though. My first pass was to go artist by artist, including no more than 20 songs (one full album plus a few stray tracks) from anyone. I chose which album by deciding which collection of songs worked best as an album, plus I have a thing for even anniversaries so albums with release years ending in 7 or 2 got special preference.

Here are all the full albums on my new iPod nano. Still 2gb free, and it seems a little too 1960s-focused.. Am I missing anything?

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's (1967)
The Beau Brummels - Triangle (1967)
The Bee Gees - First (1967)
Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister (1997)
Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City (1992)
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust (1972)
The Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
The Chills - Submarine Bells (1990)
Julian Cope - St. Julian (1987)
Cotton Mather - Kontiki (1997)
Marshall Crenshaw - Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
The dB's - Repercussion (1982)
Nick Drake - Pink Moon (1972)
Fairport Convention - Unhalfbricking (1969)
Field Music - In Context (2007)
Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action (1976)
Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway (1999)
Game Theory - Lolita Nation (1987)
Genesis - Foxtrot (1972)
The Go-Betweens - Tallulah (1987)
Jose Gonzalez - Veneer (2005)
Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (1994)
The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America (2006)
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks (1967)
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak (2003)
Let's Active - Cypress (1984)
The Lilac Time - & Love For All (1990)
The Loud Family - Interbabe Concern (1996)
Love - Forever Changes (1967)
Moby Grape - Moby Grape (1967)
The Monochrome Set - Eligible Bachelors (1982)
The Negro Problem - Post Minstrel Syndrome (1997)
The New Pornographers - Electric Version (2003)
Randy Newman - Sail Away (1972)
The Orange Peels - Square (1997)
Pentangle - Basket of Light (1969)
Pernice Brothers - Live A Little (2006)
Pink Floyd - Piper At The Gates of Dawn (1967)
Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)
R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)
The Replacements - Pleased To Meet Me (1987)
The Rolling Stones - Between The Buttons (1967)
Elliott Smith - Either/Or (1997)
The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight (1980)
Surfin' Stevens - Illinoise (2005)
Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend (1991)
Teenage Fanclub - Songs From Northern Britain (1997)
Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights (1982)
The Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
The Who - Sell Out (1967)
Brian Wilson presents SMiLe (2004)
XTC - English Settlement (1982)
Yo La Tengo - Fakebook (1990)
The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle (1967)

Friday, March 2, 2007

FOMM: Listen to the Flower People

After the birds and the bees, this Friday it's the flowers.

The Flowerpot Men - Let's Go To San Francisco
The Flowerpot Men were a British studio band created by Ivy League songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis to capitalize on 1967's flower power fad. The band name came from the same children's show that inspired Peter Gabriel to dress like a flowerpot on his head a few years later, plus there's that "flower"+"pot" pun. The single sleeve calls them "The Flower Potmen" and also misspells the city name as "San Fransisco"!. The singer is the legendary Tony Burrows and the keyboards and bass are played by future Deep Purple members Nick Simper and Jon Lord. I suspect that this song provided direct inspiration for Spinal Tap's "(Listen to the) Flower People" (video)

The Great Society - Somebody To Love
Translator - Today
The Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album was released in February 1967, so it's 40 years old now. Both of the hits from that album ("Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit") came from Grace Slick's former band, the Great Society, but the former was the only one recorded while Grace was in the band. The Society's original version of "Somebody To Love" sounds like a demo for the Airplane's hit version, it's not quite as powerful, but also not as played to death on classic rock radio. Twenty years later, San Francisco's own Translator covered another Pillow tune, "Today", as a bonus track on their Everywhere That I'm Not compilation. Translator's four albums are set to be reissued on Wounded Bird later this year, but this cover isn't on any of them. One recent observer described Translator as "sort of a harder-rocking, less Stipe-y R.E.M.". This next S.F. Summer of Love cover song probably won't meet with this observer's approval.

The Golden Palominos - Omaha
This is a cover of a Moby Grape song from the 1985 Visions of Excess LP, with lead vocals by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. The Golden Palominos were a rotating cast headed by drummer Anton Fier (who probably thought those MIDI drums were a good idea), bassist Bill Laswell, and others. The guitars on this song by Henry Kaiser and Chris Stamey. Rolling Stone's album review of Visions said that this group had "enough combined hipness to make even a Moby Grape song sound cool and contemporary". I eschew any definition of "cool" that excludes Moby Grape. Their 1967 debut still sounds great in 2007, while this contempo 80s cover sounds silly and dated in spots (especially those spots with MIDI drums).

Pop Art Toasters - I Won't Hurt You
The Pop Art Toasters were a one-off duet with David Kilgour of the Clean and Martin Phillips of the Chills doing a 5-song EP of 60s covers. Hopefully this will put me back on the Translator observer's good graces. "I Won't Hurt You" was originally by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in 1966, but I didn't hear the original version of this song until much later. The Pop Art Toasters EP is long out of print, but someone posted "I Won't Hurt You" just a few days ago.

"Dolphins, eskimos,.. it's all a bunch of tree hugging hippie crap!" - Eric Cartman

Thursday, March 1, 2007

I started the funniest joke in the world

An imaginary Bee Gees vs. Monty Python youtube mashup..

Narrator: This man is Robin Gibb... writer of jokes. In a few moments, he will have written the funniest joke in the world... and, as a consequence, he will die ... laughing.

RG: I started a joke, which started the whole world crying, but I didn't see that the joke was on me

Narrator: It was obvious that this joke was lethal... no one could read it and live ...

RG: Then I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing.

Policeman: I shall enter the house and attempt to remove the joke.

RG: And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I'd said.

Commentator: There goes a brave man. Whether he comes out alive or not, this will surely be remembered as one of the most courageous and gallant acts in history.

RG: Til I finally died, which started the whole world living. Oh if I'd only seen, that the joke was on me

Commentator: This morning, shortly after eleven o'clock, comedy struck this little house in Dibley Road. Sudden ...violent ... comedy.