— Mr. Andrew WK explains things as they are.
Stephin Merritt and Kenny Mellman singing “Electric Love.” I had no idea Bob’s Buskers even existed.
I’m right in assuming the implication here is that Mellman is going to execute Merritt, aren’t I?
Which would be a tragedy.
I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.
But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album - a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.
The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.
So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future."
There should be a word for the specific kind of creative failure that still leaves a lasting positive impression. It would describe most of my favorite movies, and a few of my very favorite albums.
I think I would like spoken word on an X-ray of myself. Although it would make a great gift from a teenage boy to the object of his affections: Here, I made you a mix LP. And I broke my arm so you could have it.
Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, people in the Soviet Union began making records of banned Western music on discarded x-rays. With the help of a special device, banned bootlegged jazz and rock ‘n’ roll records were “pressed” on thick radiographs salvaged from hospital waste bins and then cut into discs of 23-25 centimeters in diameter. “They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan — forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.” [via objectoccult]
Catchy songs… about science!
I am not alone.
Listen to the whole episode here. If you don’t know 99 Percent Invisible you should. The show rules generally, and this episode is particularly labyrinthine and mind-warping.
So how did this…
— John Roderick on listening to the Eels and facing middle age.
Johannes Kepler, conceptual noise rock pioneer.
The Most Important Record Of My Life
(This entry is a repost from a blogpost entry I did in 2009. The record has come back into my life again, thankfully, hence the repost.)
The Harmony Of The World was the first record I ever bought. I was only 8 years old, and the 25 cents my grandfather gave me to buy this record from a neighborhood garage sale in Pacific Palisades, CA circa 1980 wasn’t technically “my” money. However, I had a choice of records, and my pick was made. And I was holding the money to acquire it. The only other hobby that interested me more than music and computers at that age was astronomy. At that moment, there was nothing cooler in life than space and astronomy.
I had zero interest in Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back (having just been released that year.) Those were just movies. Neither was about real space. Having read several books mainly concentrating on the nine planets and all their discovered satellites at the time, and having my interest in music grow and grow each year, a record about astrononomy was a major score.
I wasted no time putting on this record the moment I got home. I didn’t know what to expect… and what I heard was nothing I would expect.
An 8-year-old doesn’t care how accessible or difficult a song or album is. It’s either cool or it is not cool. Since this was an astronomy record, it was automatically cool. This meant that if I didn’t “get” what I was listening, I was going to force myself to understand why this record was cool, no matter how long it took.
I had no clue what to make of The Harmony Of The World. There’s no singing. There are no voices at all. There are no melodies, and there are no rhythms (to an 8-year-old, that is.) There was a lot of scary humming sounds that went on for a long time. The only fun I could get out of the record was to play around with the speed of playback.
The giant 70’s wooden monstrosity that was my grandparents’ stereo system had a built-in turntable with four record speeds: 16, 33, 45, and 78. I would often just play around with these four speeds whenever I gave The Harmony Of The World my daily listen.
It wasn’t until too long that my mother and grandparents asked me to use headphones whenever I played “that” record. They bought me a pair of headphones just for the purpose of saving their sanity from my super cool astronomy record. “Why don’t you listen to other records? You played that one enough already.” They never realized how much they were daring me to play this record longer and longer every time they asked that. How dare they tell me to put away something they knew I loved. I was always overly obsequious to my elders. I never was when it came to The Harmony Of The World.
Jerry Casale remembers his little brother and bandmate in Rolling Stone.
Both Bob Casale and Alan Myers appear to have died from stomach problems.
Aleksandr (Sasha) Kolpakov (right) and Vadim Kolpakov (left, Sasha’s nephew), filmed by the classical seven-string guitarist Oleg Timofeyev.
Soviet singer-songwriters such as the famous Vladimir Vysotsky are routinely referred to as “bards,” but an earlier, perhaps more descriptive term for their work was “amateur songs” [самодеятельная песня]. Their approach to song was as lyricists first, singers second, and guitarists a distant last. (In our North American tradition, think Leonard Cohen more than Bob Dylan.)
But those guitars they hardly played are curious! Many of the best-known bards - including Vystotsky, and Bulat Okudzhava - accompanied themselves on the “Russian,” or seven-string guitar, an instrument that reputedly developed in the East parallel to the Spanish guitar in the West. Its traditional tuning is to an open chord, typically G major, though the bards sometimes changed that to minor, or to an open tuning without major or minor (like our DADGAD).
"Professional" players of the seven-string guitar are not bards, however; they are either classical players, or players of gypsy music. Indeed, the gypsy player Sasha Kolpakov might lead one to question the instrument’s “Russian” roots altogether - it seems so well suited to Roma music, and his technique not unrelated to that virtuoso of the Western six-string, Django…
MR. TAVENNER: Mr. Seeger, prior to your entry in the service in 1942, were you engaged in the practice of your profession in the area of New York?
MR. SEEGER: It is hard to call it a profession. I kind of drifted into it and I never intended to be a musician, and I am glad I am one now, and it is a very honorable profession, but when I started out actually I wanted to be a newspaperman, and when I left school —
CHAIRMAN WALTER: Will you answer the question, please?
MR. SEEGER: I have to explain that it really wasn’t my profession, I picked up a little change in it.
CHAIRMAN WALTER: Did you practice your profession?
MR. SEEGER: I sang for people, yes, before World War II, and I also did as early as 1925.
MR. TAVENNER: And upon your return from the service in December of 1945, you continued in your profession?
MR. SEEGER: I continued singing, and I expect I always will.
MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?
MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.
MR. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.
MR. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.
CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.
MR. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning-
CHAIRMAN WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far.
MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.
MR. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question?
CHAIRMAN WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.
MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.
MR. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of “What’s On,” an advertisement of a “May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy.” The advertisement states: “Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally.” Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, “Entertainment by Pete Seeger.” At the bottom appears this: “Auspices Essex County Communist Party,” and at the top, “Tonight, Newark, N.J.” Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker?
MR. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer.
CHAIRMAN WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before?
MR. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir.
CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?
MR. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel-
CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?
MR. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is.
(Witness consulted with counsel [Paul L. Ross].)
I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.
CHAIRMAN WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?
MR. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it."
— Pete Seeger’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), August 18, 1955.