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‘Kraftwerk: Pop Art’ documentary asks if they’re more important than the Beatles?
02.01.2015
08:07 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Kraftwerk


 
Kraftwerk: Pop Art, the 2013 documentary by Simon Witter and Hannes Rossacher has been available on YouTube in German, French and Spanish versions for some time, but Friday night an English language version was broadcast on BBC Four and surprise, surprise, it’s there now, too, for your weekend viewing pleasure.

The film focuses on the group’s eight day residency at London’s Tate Modern in 2013, where they played each of their albums from Autobahn to Tour de France all the way through in front of a 3D screen with elaborate computerized visuals. There are plenty of archival clips, and what is said to be Ralf Hütter’s last known filmed interview, from 1981. Naturally there are a lot of professional talking heads, including British journalist Paul Morley who argues that the lads from Düsseldorf are more crucially important to music than the Fab Four.

Although I personally don’t agree with him, Morley’s got a fair point and he’s able to back it up. Were Kraftwerk more influential than the Beatles? Discuss amongst yourselves in the comments… while I run in the other direction!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Whatever happened to 70s soft rockers Seals & Crofts?
01.30.2015
01:39 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Seals & Crofts
soft rock


 
It must suck to have your music played on “soft rock” radio stations. Well, that’s not exactly what I mean, because getting radio play would, of course, always be a good thing for musicians, so let me rephrase that: It must suck to have your music played on the same soft rock stations that also play Sting and Phil Collins all day long. At least that would bum me out.

Such is the fate of Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, professionally known as Seals & Crofts and one of the most wildly successful soft-rock singer-songwriter duos of the 1970s. It seemed like they were constantly on the radio and television when I was a kid. Admittedly they weren’t my cup of tea at the time—David Bowie, Alice Cooper, The Kinks and the Sex Pistols were more my style—but I could certainly appreciate their music when I heard it, which was… very frequently. If you weren’t around back then, well trust me kid, even if you’ve never heard of them, Seals & Crofts were once quite a ubiquitous presence on the mainstream American entertainment scene. They were huge, in fact. Then suddenly you never heard of them again.

They were so big that there was a Seals & Crofts Frisbee. That’s big. Seventies big.
 

Can you guess the decade?

Seals and Crofts were musician’s musicians. Although their primary instruments were guitar and mandolin, they could both play just about anything. Their harmonies were heavenly. Songs like “Diamond Girl,” “Hummingbird,” “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” and “Summer Breeze” extolled the virtues of living simply, the beauty of nature, finding true love and devotion to God. Despite the fact that they had faces “made for radio” and precious little traditional showbiz charisma to speak of it was the musicianship and the message which set their songs apart during their era and what makes their emotionally heartfelt music still so memorable and pleasurable to listen to today. (Eleven years ago, I saw their Greatest Hits CD for $5 bucks used and bought it so I could stick “Diamond Girl” on a CD I was making for my future wife. I confess, it’s either been in the car or in the stack of CDs next to the stereo ever since. It should be in every music collection!)
 

 
In 1980, they basically dropped out of music to follow the Bahá’í Faith full-time (both men have been adherents of the 19th century Persian prophet Bahaullah since 1969). During the height of their success, Seals & Crofts commitment to the faith saw them stay for hours after concerts talking with their fans about their spiritual beliefs and world religious harmony. They’ve recorded and performed very sporadically since retiring. A CD of new recordings was released in 2004 called Traces, made with their children. Crofts mostly lives on a coffee farm in Costa Rica, while Seals lives on a ranch in central Texas.
 

 
Strangely, for such a massive-selling “classic rock” era act, their albums were not available on CD, save for a greatest hits and one other record, until fairly recently. Even Rhino dropped the ball when it came to Seals & Crofts for many years, although by 2007 all of their albums had been released on CD. There are gems on every one of them, so keep that in mind when you’re crate digging.
 
“Diamond Girl”

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Even in death women are not free of sexist idiots

00colleenmcc.jpg
 
Yesterday, the best-selling author and neuroscientist Colleen McCullough died at the age of seventy-seven. McCullough was one of Australia’s best-known and most popular novelists, whose success was firmly established with the publication of her second novel The Thorn Birds in 1977. It was later made into a highly successful TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. McCullough followed on her success with a string of bestsellers including An Indecent Obsession (1981), The Ladies of Missalonghi (1987), The Touch (2003) and her Masters of Rome series of historical novels. McCullough’s books have sold in excess of 30 million copies.

But McCullough had originally studied medicine before successfully moving into neuroscience and becoming a respected teacher at the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, CT.

By any standard, most people would be content with just one of McCullough’s incredible careers, and one would think that a national newspaper like The Australian might write a glowing obituary, eulogizing this talented and brilliant Australian woman. Well, most of us would, but that’s not what The Australian decided to focus on when writing her obituary, instead they considered her most relevant attributes as being “plain of feature, and certainly overweight,” though she was also “a charmer.”
 

 
It’s dispiriting to think how this ever got past the paper’s sub editor’s desk—unless of course the paper is completely staffed by sexist idiots—which, who knows, perhaps it is? What is more disturbing and inexcusable is how a woman of such great achievement should be so casually demeaned and undervalued.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom as the stupidity of the Australian’s obituary has seen an amusing response from the Twittersphere, where people (including writers Caitlin Moran, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris and comedians Katy Brand and Craig Ferguson) have been tweeting their own mock obituaries (#myozobituary), which you can read below.
 

 

 

 

 

 
H/T Metro.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Dreading Valentines Day? Have a laugh at Karl Marx’s godawful corny love poems!
01.30.2015
12:17 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Class War

Tags:
Karl Marx
poetry
love


Yeah, but your poetry, dude…

As a socialist with a somewhat inconsistent commitment to Marxist orthodoxy, I’m often asked to what degree I will defend old Karl, and there’s no easy answer. For example, I’m sympathetic to central planning, though I have my doubts for its real-world potential under our current technology. I wrestle with the labor theory of value, but also find myself unable to mount a suitable critique. But if you’re just asking if there’s anything about Marx I find completely indefensible, hey, I can assure you that his terrible schmaltzy love poetry keeps me safe from the sin of idolatry.

We are talking about some terrible, corny, super-earnest high school boy in love stuff here, and I’m not the only one that finds Marx’s deepest affections majorly cheesy. In Edmund Wilson’s landmark history of socialist thought To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History, he has this to say of Marx’s mooning romantic overtures to his future wife.

In the summer of Karl’s eighteenth year, when he was home on his vacation from college, Jenny von Westphalen promised to marry him. She was four years older than Karl and was considered one of the belles of Trier, was much courted by the sons of officials and landlords and army officers; but she waited for Karl seven years. She was intelligent, had character, talked well; had been trained by a remarkable father. Karl Marx had conceived for her a devotion which lasted through his whole life. He wrote her bad romantic poetry from college.

If that sounds a little blunt, it should be noted that Marx himself acknowledge that his love poetry was mawkish. Here are some of my favorite lowlights from one of his many volumes dedicated to Jenny—this one actually called, The Book of Love:

TO JENNY
I
Jenny! Teasingly you may inquire
Why my songs “To Jenny” I address,
When for you alone my pulse beats higher,
When my songs for you alone despair,
When you only can their heart inspire,
When your name each syllable must confess,
When you lend each note melodiousness,
When no breath would stray from the Goddess?
’Tis because so sweet the dear name sounds,
And its cadence says so much to me,
And so full, so sonorous it resounds,
Like to vibrant Spirits in the distance,
Like the gold-stringed Cithern’s harmony,
Like some wondrous, magical existence.
II
See! I could a thousand volumes fill,
Writing only “Jenny” in each line,
Still they would a world of thought conceal,
Deed eternal and unchanging Will,
Verses sweet that yearning gently still,
All the glow and all the Aether’s shine,
Anguished sorrow’s pain and joy divine,
All of Life and Knowledge that is mine.
I can read it in the stars up younder,
From the Zephyr it comes back to me,
From the being of the wild waves’ thunder.
Truly, I would write it down as a refrain,
For the coming centuries to see—

Yeah, you’ll notice a lot of his works use her name. It’s a bit like going through a middle schoolers notebook and reading the same name over and over in swirly cursive with little hearts. This one actually has the exact same title.

TO JENNY
Words—lies, hollow shadows, nothing more,
Crowding Life from all sides round!
In you, dead and tired, must I outpour
Spirits that in me abound?
Yet Earth’s envious Gods have scanned before
Human fire with gaze profound;
And forever must the Earthling poor
Mate his bosom’s glow with sound.
For, if passion leaped up, vibrant, bold,
In the Soul’s sweet radiance,
Daringly it would your worlds enfold,
Would dethrone you, would bring you down low,
Would outsoar the Zephyr-dance.
Ripe a world above you then would grow.

Translation: Girl, I am so into you.

LOVE IS JENNY, JENNY IS LOVE’S NAME. MY WORLD
Worlds my longing cannot ever still,
Nor yet Gods with magic blest;
Higher than them all is my own Will,
Stormily wakeful in my breast.
Drank I all the stars’ bright radiance,
All the light by suns o’erspilled,
Still my pains would want for recompense,
And my dreams be unfulfilled.
Hence! To endless battle, to the striving
Like a Talisman out there,
Demon-wise into the far mists driving
Towards a goal I cannot near.
But it’s only ruins and dead stones
That encompass all my yearning,
Where in shimmering Heavenly radiance
All my hopes flow, ever-burning.

Okay, I’m gonna stop short on that one because it goes on for about 1000 more lines and every single one of them sounds exactly like all the others. It’s like, dude, we fucking get it.

So if you’re single and living in dread of having no sweetie for Valentine’s Day, just remember—love makes syrup of even the greatest minds.

Thanks to Ross Wolfe

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Weird human body parts candles
01.30.2015
09:13 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
candles


 
There’s something about these “Bodily Candles” by Etsy store Uncanny Art Shop that give me the heebie-jeebies. Perhaps it’s the teeth? Yep, it’s definitely those damned teeth!

Made from soy wax, each candle “is carefully cast by hand with layers of wax.” The candles are selling for a pretty reasonable price of $17.79, but since orders have been high as of late, expect to wait at least one to two weeks to get your candle in the mail.

I hate this so much that I totally want one.


 

 

 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Jeff ‘The Dude’ Bridges releases a most Duderriffic album about snoozing, slumber, sleep
01.30.2015
08:42 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
The Big Lebowski
The Dude
Jeff Bridges


 
Jeff Bridges has recently made available one of those inexpressibly peculiar albums that only a very famous and beloved movie star could release, a double album on the theme of the land of dreams and slumber called The Sleeping Tapes. Proceeds from the album will go to the charity No Kid Hungry; Bridges has partnered with Squarespace to set up an appropriate web presence for the album, where you can listen to it for free or purchase the album in a variety of formats in prices ranging from “pay what you like” for the digital files to $200 for an LP with a “180-gram golden vinyl plate” as well as a “debossed gold leaf pressed album cover.” There’s also an auction in which you can win 1 of 5 signed copies of the album.

By the way, be on the lookout for a Squarespace commercial featuring Bridges during this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
 

 
Track titles include “Sleep, Dream, Wakeup,” “Hummmmmm,” “Ikea,” “My Keys,” “Seeing With My Eyes Closed,” and “Feeling Good.” “I hope you dig the sleep tapes ... hope they, uh, inspire you do some good cool sleeping, some cool dreaming, some cool waking-up,” Bridges purrs in the opening track. Bridges recorded the album with composer Keefus Ciancia.

The album is rather easy to poke fun of, as evidenced by this not overly nasty thread on Metafilter. It’s a defiantly leisurely and lazy piece of work that nevertheless works on its own terms and fits within some kind of ambient lineage. I enjoyed listening to it, and I have some respect for the thought that went into it, but I suspect it won’t soon become a mainstay of my listening regimen.
 

 

 
via Nerdcore.de

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Rare footage of New Orleans jazz bands shot by Alan Lomax
01.30.2015
07:37 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
jazz
Alan Lomax
New Orleans


 
This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the inestimably important American folklorist/archivist/filmmaker/author/everything Alan Lomax. Unsurprisingly, there’s a plethora of commemorative events planned: a film marathon in Louisville, KY, a 13-hour radio marathon in Portland, a concert in London, England. And there will surely be some kind of boxed set of music. The Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), an organization Lomax Founded at Hunter College in the 1980s, is the keeper of his legacy, and is the source to keep an eye on for announcements. It’s also a treasure trove of recorded media.

Lomax started out by accompanying his famous father, the musicologist and folklorist John Lomax, on field recording trips, documenting musicians in the American South, and went from there to an incredibly distinguished career in preserving and promoting small, obscure, important pockets of America’s cultural heritage. He helped build the Library of Congress’ song archive, and played a significant role in the promotion of American folk music, helping bring the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, and Burl Ives to records, radio, and mass audiences. If you want the huge gaps in that bio filled in, there’s the ACE bio, and of course there are tons of books, written by Lomax, and written about him.
 

 
Since there’s just so much to his career that an omnibus post about Lomax would be an absurd undertaking, I thought it’d be a fun tribute to focus on a lesser known but still badass preservation project of his. In 1982, Lomax spent a lot of time in New Orleans with a video crew, recording that city’s famed jazz musicians, especially brass bands. There is some really hot stuff in here, including the world-famous Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and a lot these videos have criminally low view counts. Some of that footage was compiled for the DVD Jazz Parades: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, which is viewable at no cost online here. He taped parades, funerals, indoor concerts, everywhere. So enjoy these documents of a 100% uniquely American music, and see if the Ernie K-Doe video doesn’t totally SLAY you. Captions are culled from the ACE web site.
 

 
Whole lotta Lomax after the jump!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Booker T. & the MGs cover the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’


 
In spring of 1970, mere months after the Beatles released Abbey Road, the Stax label’s elite house band Booker T. and the MGs released McLemore Avenue, a near-complete tribute to that LP. A lot of you probably guessed as much, but McLemore Avenue was the Memphis street on which Stax’s studios resided, just as Abbey Road was the street on which the EMI studio where the Beatles recorded was located. (The studio wasn’t officially named “Abbey Road Studios” until sometime after that Beatles LP came out. The more you know.) A lot of you probably also guessed that the Booker T. album is freakin’ excellent.

Booker T. talked about the inspiration for paying tribute to a brand-new LP in a 2009 AV Club interview:

AVC: What inspired you and the M.G.’s to record McLemore Avenue, your instrumental cover version of Abbey Road?

BT: I was in California when I heard Abbey Road, and I thought it was incredibly courageous of The Beatles to drop their format and move out musically like they did. To push the limit like that and reinvent themselves when they had no need to that. They were the top band in the world but they still reinvented themselves. The music was just incredible so I felt I needed to pay tribute to it.

Rob Bowman’s informative history of the Stax label Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records sums the album up thusly:

McLemore Avenue was divided into four tracks. Taking a cue from the extended medley on side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, three of those tracks are medleys clocking in at seven, ten, and fifteen minutes each. Every Abbey Road song except “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’ Garden,” and “Oh Darling” appears in one or another of the medleys, but the order of the songs in each medley does not necessarily follow the order of the Beatles’ album. My favorite is the final track on McLemore Avenue, which adroitly combines “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” On the surface, covering a complete album of any group, let alone the Beatles, is quite a risky gambit. The MG’s pull it off with aplomb, in the process creating a parallel masterpiece to the quintessential Beatles album.

 

 
“Parallel masterpiece,” sure, why not, but it’s almost a shame it wasn’t a complete cover. I’d give a lot to hear the MGs do the affably goofy Ringo song “Octopus’ Garden.” It’s kind of tantalizing to imagine how Steve Cropper could have transformed that guitar lick. On the subject of Cropper, I was amazed to learn that he wasn’t present for the McLemore Avenue recording sessions, and that he overdubbed his parts later, still having never actually heard Abbey Road yet! Again from Soulsville, U.S.A.:

“Booker told me every note to play,” relates Steve. “I hadn’t even heard the Beatles album. I might have heard a cut on the radio but I had not sat down and listened to the album like they had. He showed me the changes and sat down to teach me the songs. I strictly played to what I heard Booker play. [When I heard] the Beatles versions of those tunes, I went “Holy shit!” I was very surprised. I didn’t know those songs at all.”

Here’s the album, in sequence.

Side One:

1) Medley: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together”

2) “Something”
 

 

 
Side Two (and more) after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The Kerouac of Kitsch has died: Rod McKuen R.I.P.
01.30.2015
04:46 am

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
poetry
Beat Generation
Rod Mckuen


 
Rod McKuen died Thursday. He was 81. Cause of death was pneumonia.

Rod McKuen was to Jack Kerouac what vending machine coffee is to espresso. He was a safe suburbanite version of a beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs with a slightly better work ethic. McKuen’s pasteurized prose was more suited to a Holiday Inn lounge than a North Beach jazz joint. And while McKuen wrote prolifically and read in a husky Chianti-stained voice that oozed consonants and vowels like candle wax no one would mistake his louche slackery for good poetry. But there was something soothing and pleasantly sunny in his style that evoked a certain Southern California grooviness easily mistaken for Zen wisdom. If you read a line slowly enough and pause periodically for dramatic effect almost anything can sound profound. McKuen mistook vagueness for mysticism and evoked the erotic with all of the sexuality of a stuffed chihuahua. Fifty shades of beige.

McKuen was syringed into that moment in the sixties when Timothy Leary’s acidity and Hugh Hefner’s cum-drenched Playboy philosophy refluxed into an uncomfortable mix of free love, drugs and very expensive architecture. If Malibu Beach had a poet laureate it would have been Rod. Imagine a love child born of the interspecial mating of Lee Hazlewood and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. With his windswept blonde hair and Jesus spats, McKuen was a lachrymose beach bum that Serge Gainsbourg would have gladly beaten to a suntanned pulp.
 

Bob McFadden & Dor “The Beat Generation” (composed and arranged by Rod McKuen, 1959)
 
McKuen possessed a weird kind of kitschy goodness, a Hallmark Greeting card version of hipness that was as heartwarming as one of Margaret Keane’s big-eyed orphans. He was too nice of a guy to get riled up about even when his bad poetry was selling millions of copies of books while a cat like Bukowski was working in a post office.

If Rod McKuen had been a rock song he would have been Friend And Lover’s “Reach Out Of The Darkness.” And that’s kind of a cool song - hard to hate, hard to get a bead on, just slipping under the threshold where things can turn from something innocuous into something that can drive a man to homicide.
 

 
Here’s Rod McKuen reading his poem “A Cat Named Sloopy” on The Mike Douglas Show in 1969.

Every night she’d sit in the window among the avocado plants waiting for me to come home (my arms full of canned liver and love).

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Hardcore post-punk pioneer Guy Picciotto talks Fugazi, Rites of Spring this week on ‘The Pharmacy’
01.29.2015
12:59 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Pharmacy
Fugazi
Rites of Spring
Guy Picciotto


 
Gregg Foreman’s radio program The Pharmacy is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

This week hardcore post-punk pioneer Guy Picciotto of musical revolutionaries Fugazi and Rites of Spring.

Fugazi, with their reasonably priced records and shows, demonstrated how bands could find their own way without the preconceived notion that you needed corporate label backing to have an impact (and a career!). The conversation explores the early days of DC punk, meeting the Cramps and legendary Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertegun’s attempts to sign the band, the inspiration behind Rites of Spring and so much more…


 
Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Set List:

Intro
Merchandise - Fugazi
12 x U - Wire
Intro 1 -
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 1
Garbageman - The Cramps
Hey Bulldog - The Beatles
Song # 1 - Fugazi
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 2
For Want Of - Rites of Spring
Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys - The Equals
Intro 2 - Funky Kingston - Rx/Toots and the Maytals
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 3
Greed - Fugazi
To Hell with Poverty - Gang of Four
Police Truck - Dead Kennedys
American Ruse - MC5
Intro 3 - One, Two , Boogaloo - Rx/The Light Nites
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 4
In the City - The Jam
Spectra-Sonic Sound - Nation of Ulysses
I-94 - Radio Birdman
Intro 4 - Dedicated to Love - Rx/Vampyros Lesbos
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 5
(I Got a Catholic Block) - Sonic Youth
New Radio - Bikini Kill
Let’s Build a Car - Swell Maps
Intro 5 - Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag - Rx/JB’s
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 6
Ahemet Ertegun Tribute
Hold On I’m Comin’ - Sam and Dave
Memphis Train - Rufus Thomas
Intro 5 - Restless - Rx/The Cobras
Guy Picciotto Interview Part 7
Margin Walker - Fugazi
Intro 6 - Moanin’ - Rx/Art Blakey
Message via Lux Interior
Pay To Cum - Bad Brains
Outro
 

 
You can download the show in its entirety here.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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