Boing Boing 

Jimmy Guterman


Junior Senior, "Can I Get Get Get" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day: Special Saturday Night Dance Party Edition)

It's like Chic and Abba had a baby!

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, "Wooly Bully" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

The back cover of the glorious compilation Best of Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, which I am unable to locate online, portrays four strangely attired people running around a tree. They don't seem to know why they are doing this, but they are enjoying themselves immensely, and seem committed to continuing the action until they fall down. This is an ideal image for understanding the band. Sam the Sham, whose real name is Domingo Samudio, is a Dallas-born crazy (last we heard he was a street preacher and motivational speaker working out of Memphis) who loved raunchy, laconic rock and roll of the most giddily mindless variety, and his sidemen--Ray Stinnet, David Martin, Jerry Patterson, and Butch Gibson--were consistently able to carry him to a demented part of frat-rock heaven. They recorded briefly for something called Dingo Records and then moved to MGM. Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs are best known for their pair of Number Two smashes, "Wooly Bully," a masterwork of indecipherability that made "Louie Louie" sound like an enunciation class, and "Li'l Red Riding Hood," a hormone-laced fairy tale with a happy ending. If you're guessing an enormous Kingsmen influence on these organ-heavy folks, you're right. Hits aside, the modest gifts of the band were surprisingly malleable, as showcased on charming, wacked-out cuts like "The Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin," "El Toro de Goro (The Peace Loving Bull)," and "(I'm in With) The Out Crowd." All these songs were defiantly insubstantial, and all held out deep meanings to those with the right bent. How much fun is this nonsense? Even a lipsynched (?) version of "Wooly Bully" will improve your day (embedded at the top of this post). More after the jump.

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Ennio Morricone, "Once Upon a Time in the West" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

Out of silence, a lone, distorted electric guitar begins its cry. The air around its wriggling notes swelters. Barroom shutters flutter in the dry wind, a stagecoach zooms out of town so as to escape the imminent confrontation. When the dust clears, two worn men, twenty feet apart, stand frozen. They stare at each other, legs spread, right hands hovering near hips. A harmonica bounces off the guitar, and the tension rises. The street is desolate. First one and then the other reaches for his six-shooter. The guitar screeches. One man falls to the ground, dead. We've seen this sequence or something like it in hundreds of Westerns ranging from the taut High Noon to Elvis's misbegotten Charro. They all climax with the gunfight that the audience has been screaming for. In the best of them, these blasts release both the actors and the folks in the theater. Starting in the late sixties, Sergio Leone directed a series of smart, barbed Westerns that took on the form's conventions only to tweak them obliquely. Morricone's austere, troubled score is integral to Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone's greatest film; Leone edited and cut the film to this majestic music, rather than the traditional other way around. This theme to the movie doesn't include the electric guitar or the harmonica (you have to go deeper into the film for that), but its orchestra does suggest something majestic and terrifying at the same time.

Thomas Dolby and ETHEL: Music for the morning after

photo via Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyanocorax/4360021697/, by cyanocoraxFace it, music friends: plenty of times you come home from a club or theater convinced you've seen an amazing performance. The morning after, as evidence of the concert leaks onto the Interwebs, you are disappointed to learn that what you see and hear doesn't match what you experienced in the moment. It doesn't mean the moment was any less transcendent; it just means that the transcendence didn't last. That makes it even more welcome that rare time when the morning after is as great as the night before. People go to TED for many reasons: the quality of the content, the quality of the networking, the ability to say "I went to TED." (Mark has written about some of this year's standouts, among them talks by Bill Gates and Temple Grandin.) I go, in part, for the music. For many years, Thomas Dolby has been the conference's music director, booking an eclectic, surprising, yet entirely appropriate cast and also leading a house band (a new one every year) to kick off each of the conference's dozen or so sessions. This year Dolby chose the rogue string quartet ETHEL as his accompanists, and they were standouts through the event, playing a wide variety of covers (including Led Zeppelin, New Order, Tracy Chapman, and The Verve), backing other performers (David Byrne, Andrew Bird, Jake Shimabukuro), and showing up in at least one club and one hotel lobby for semiplanned jams. I've already written about what ETHEL's performances at TED made me feel and think about but today I got to experience the performances again, because today TED made unedited videos of last month's event available to people who attended. Turns out it wasn't just being there that made Dolby and ETHEL sound so stirring: they still sound fantastic. I know these are raw recordings, but they sound clear through my computer's speakers, perhaps because I'm not as surprised by their repertoire. But because the performances are clearer sonically, I get to hear wrinkles I missed in the big hall, so I guess I still am surprised. Under normal circumstances I'd expect people to laugh at me if I told them that the best hard rock and synthpop band I heard this year was a string quartet, but it's the truth. Now I have proof. I hope the whole world gets to see and hear how great Thomas Dolby and ETHEL are as soon as possible. (photo by cyanocorax)

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

As digital sampling becomes more and more pervasive as a recording technique, the belief that anything is possible in a studio nowadays is also on the rise. But in 1981 "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel" took the cut-and-paste-sound approach used covertly on many records today (when they're not abusing Auto-Tune) and the scavenging of other songs as its very subject. The number asks: How smart can you steal? How slick can you mix? This technical apex of one of rap's leading disc-spinners is tremendously influential; many of today's dance-music and rock productions are unimaginable without it. Flash started as a South Bronx dance-hall disc jockey whose trademark was taking his favorite rock and rap songs and repeating their hottest elements for heightened effect. Although credited to the full vocal group he supported, "Wheels of Steel" was a solo shot by Flash designed to show off the wizardry that knocked 'em out live. After a stuttering intro, Flash lets Blondie's "Rapture," Chic's "Good Times," and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," as well as snippets from earlier Flash/Five singles glide in and slam out of the unwavering beat. These songs of different tempos all fit without being forced. Spoken sections, boasts, and song apexes are finely woven into an amazingly seamless whole. Before the serrated-edged righteousness of "The Message" and "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" turned attention to rapper and writer Melle Mel, the group was a showcase for Flash. This is why.

The physics behind flying sharks who can destroy airplanes

First, we take it for granted that, with the possible exceptions of Chinatown, Top Hat, and the upcoming A-Team movie (see David's preview) Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is the greatest movie of all time. I've written about it in Brief notes on taste and entertainment: A shark, an octopus, Celine Dion, and Batman. Second, we consider the greatest scene ever in the greatest movie of all time. Yes, you've seen it already and don't forget that the key line of dialogue is NSFW, but it's worth another 68 seconds of your time: Third, we need to be scientists about this. Could a shark (a) grow large enough to destroy a plane, and (b) generate enough power to fly in the air and reach that plane? Fortunately, the Interweb has someone who can explain all that for us. The greatest infographic of all time, one that both Edward Tufte and Nancy Duarte would have killed to create, is after the jump. You're welcome.

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Jorge Ben, "Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

There's Brazilian music, there's African music, and then there's the occasional genius who can fuse the two. Rio's Jorge Ben, who came to prominence during the Tropicalia era, mixes samba, rock, and pretty much any West African rhythm you can think of. "Umbabarauma," from his 1976 album Africa Brasil, might have the wildest and most propulsive rhythm guitar intro anyone has ever heard. And then it gets wilder and more propulsive. Turn it up! "Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)" enjoyed a second life a decade later among rock listeners when David Byrne used it to kick off Beleza Tropical, the first of his top-notch Brazilian compilations, which inspired this video remix:

"Ten Dollar Cover," an excerpt from a novel-in-progress/disarray

photo via Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dehub/101850477/, by dehubSome (OK, two) of my friends have written me to suggest that, since I mentioned in my intro guestblogging post that I'm working on a novel, I should include some small pieces of that novel-in-progress/disarray here. I'm a bit nervous about this, but OK. The Rock Star Next Door (working title) is a sometimes comic novel about the pop music industry, this passage is pretty much all description with only the faintest tip to the plot, and I'll start the 1,300-word excerpt after the jump so those merely cruising the Boing Boing front page don't have to deal with fiction if you don't want to.

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Meat: The Magazine

I love magazines, and not just because I've spent about half of my career working for 'em. I love what magazines can do: the mix of text and graphics, the portability, the serendipity, the deep dives. I've worked mostly online since 1994 so I certainly welcome our new digital publishing overlords, but there are some things a print magazine does very well, even better than digital, just as the physical pleasure of devouring an LP or CD package is different from, sometimes superior to, clicking on an MP3 file in iTunes. meatpaper.jpgMagazines can surprise you. Even at this late age, there are so many magazines that there is one about pretty much anything. Hence Meatpaper, which Boing Boing has sort-of covered twice before (in the comments of 1 and 2). Meatpaper identifies itself as "your journal of meat culture" and it sure is. How did the meatiest country in the world develop a taste for soy? Did you want to know how meat figures in punk or soul music? Is rabbit farming sustainable? Where can you find a good brain sandwich? The answers are all in the most recent issue, given weight and context by vivid images that tell stories of their own and complement the ones the texts tell. I never wanted to read a magazine about meat, but my life is enriched because I did. How do I know about Meatpaper? Because I subscribe to Stack America, a superb curational service that selects independent magazines and sends 'em out every other month. (It's the stateside offshoot of a service that started in the U.K.) At a time when some aging mainstream print magazines are trying to convince readers that dead trees are still a commercial endeavor (wishful thinking), it's reassuring to come across an outfit that realizes that print magazines aren't just useful. They're cool. They're art. As noted on the Stack America blog, they're "independent, creative media at its finest."

Lagos Disco Inferno!

Mark has written previously about DJ Frank Gossner's amazing podcast of 1970s West African pop music. That podcast is currently on hiatus, but Frank is keeping busy. In two weeks he'll be releaseing Lagos Disco Inferno, 12 rare and wild examples of the sound of Lagos in the late 1970s. As Dean Disi (formerly director of Lagos label TYC Records) writes in the liner notes for the album:
"Lagos by the 1970s was a huge metropolitan city. Due to the oil boom, there was money to be made with music and nightlife and big international record labels like EMI, Decca and Philips had set up their recording studios that for a big part got equipped with vintage hardware handed down from their European franchises... EMI's house producer Emmanuel Odenusi had worked with Fela for many years, defining the sound of Afrobeat. Kayode Salami who produced another couple of tracks on this album also was responsible for the incredible sound of the famous debut LP by Psych-Rock group Ofege. Lagos, a uniquely vibrant, gritty, energetic and sometimes quite dangerous tropical metropolis has always been much more than just a city. A state of mind where third world poverty met the oil boom, where African traditions clashed with Western decadence. Make no mistake, this stuff will have you dance in a feverish rush in no time.
Enjoy a taste of Lagos Disco Inferno.

How did Garth Hudson defeat gravity?

There are plenty of mysteries around The Band that even a first-rate novella can't unravel, but now here's one I'd like the Boing Boing community to help me figure out: How come Garth Hudson's expensive keyboards didn't fall down?

(Photo by Watt Casey, Jr.)

Mekons, "Memphis, Egypt" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

Once upon a time, when we were younger and more open to the idea of losing money on purpose, my friends Eric and Harris (no Twitter; smart guy) and I were going to start a website in which one of the daily features would have been "Greatest Song of All Time of the Day." I used to do that occasionally on my own blog, but not regularly. I'm here for two weeks, which is pretty finite, so, with a tip of my hat to my friends, I'll be delivering a Greatest Song of All Time every day I'm here.

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How to write about self-washing, self-flushing cat boxes? With passion!

catgenie.jpgSome love the Internet because it lets you keep in touch with your far-flung friends easily and inexpensively. Others adore it because it gives you near-immediate access to a frightening amount of information. Yet others appreciate it because it gives you an opportunity to write about self-washing, self-flushing cat boxes. I'm not a cat person, but as a reader I'm happiest when someone is passionate about what they're writing. And if you visit the Amazon page for the first-generation self-washing, self-flushing cat box (yes, a second generation, with more or better something, has since come out), you will be confronted by people who are quite passionate, positively and negatively, about this particular technological innovation. The one by "N.A. Cat Lover" is particularly worth reading:
"The question is not IF, but WHEN you will find yourself hunched over your cat's feces floating in a pool of fetid water, picking small plastic pellets out of the opaque, pungent water with your fingers so that you can get the device put back together."

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Rod Stewart doesn't play good Rod Stewart music anymore, but these guys do

Thanks Mark. Very happy to be here. Let's get started... I've lived in Massachusetts for 24 years, but in the first half of the '90s I spent a lot of time in Nashville. I worked as a reissue producer, compiling box sets of veteran country and blues performers. Some of the projects were fun, some were more challenging, but it was always great being in Music City. lloyd.jpgOne of the many musicians I met during my trip to Nashville was Bill Lloyd. You may know him as half of the popular country-rock duo Foster and Lloyd, but he's produced, recorded with, or written for dozens of acts you love, from Carl Perkins to Cheap Trick. (Disclosure: He contributed to my Sandinista Project a few years back.) One of Lloyd's more intriguing ongoing projects is The Long Players. When the spirit moves them, Lloyd and the Long Players, an ever-changing group of Nashville's finest, gallop through a classic rock'n'roll album. They've played through plenty of the usual suspects -- Blonde on Blonde, My Aim Is True, After the Gold Rush -- and they've stayed consistently true to the spirit of the originals but, at their best, just a bit wilder.

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