Leonard Cohen, RIP

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The great songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen has died. He was 82.

"I never had the sense that there was an end," he said in 1992. "That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot."

(Rolling Stone)

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Marvin Gaye: "What's Going On" live in 1974

For only love can conquer hate You know we've got to find a way To bring some lovin' here today

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Theme song for Bewitched has lyrics, here's Steve Lawrence singing it

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Here's Steve Lawrence singing "Bewitched" in 1964, the same year the popular TV series starring Elizabeth Montgomery launched. I didn't know the theme song had lyrics, just as I didn't know the Dick Van Dyke Show's theme song had lyrics until I saw this recent video of Dick Van Dyke singing them: Read the rest

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 1929–2016

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Photo: Scott Beale (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, with permission; see the full set)

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey died Friday at 87. He quit medical school after encountering synthesizers to spend his life making beautiful sounds with them. Frequent collaborator Dana Countryman writes:

For those who don’t realize it, Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967. Relocating from Paris to New York City, JJ actually owned and recorded with the second Moog ever produced, and with his musical partner Gershon Kingsley, they released their first Moog album -- almost two years before Wendy Carlos released her first Moog album. Jean-Jacques was truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.

His crazy, happy music has been heard everywhere from commercials, to Sesame Street - in hip-hop songs, in dance remixes and most famously, for decades in the delightful featured music in Disneyland’s

“Main Street Electrical Parade”. In recent years, his music has even made appearances on The Simpsons, and on Comedy Central’s “South Park”.

As a teenager growing up in the ‘70s, I was charmed by Jean-Jacques’ inventive Moog albums released by Vanguard Records, and many times I secretly would smuggle those albums into my high school French class. There, instead of conjugating French verbs and nouns, (when the teacher wasn’t looking)

I would carefully sneak peeks at the back cover liner notes. I’d spend the class time dreaming impossible dreams of someday owning a Moog synthesizer of my own, and having a chance to twirl its many knobs, to unleash its wild cornucopia of never-heard-before sounds.

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Design and the future of the music industry

My hypertalented friend Lawrence Azerrad, who is designing the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition and has created packaging for Wilco, Esperanza Spalding, Silversun Pickups, and many other artists (images below), is leading a new effort to explore and cultivate the historical link between design and music. It a fantastic new initiative within the AIGA, the professional associate for design, that will begin with a rich Web site, workshops, and educational programs. Beautiful album artwork and package design isn't the past of the music-listening experience. Rather it's essential to its future. From AIGA:

Azerrad says designers need to help engender transitional thinking: design can help the music industry, and the music industry can help designers. But for him, the crux of the matter seems to be in helping people engage with music in a way that can—without exaggeration—change lives. Something tactile may have been lost, but music today still moves us and frames the world and our cultural experiences. “The way we’re engaging with music now is very passive,” he says. “Streaming allows you to listen to any song any time, but we may be listening to it more as background music. The deeper, more life-marking changes happen in a more narrow spectrum. You still have hardcore fans, your Taylor Swift freaks or whatever, but music is now what you listen to while you’re driving or working out.

“Music has always been a key way to mark critical moments, like when you fall in love or lose a loved one.

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Buy Bowie's amazing 1960s stereo and his Memphis furniture collection

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On November 11, Sotheby's will auction off David Bowie's beautiful collection of Italian designer furniture and other objects, including his incredible 1966 "Radio-Phonograph, Model No. RR126" by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The bulk of his collection going on the block though are 1980s pieces of Memphis furniture. Over at Collectors Weekly, Hunter Oatman-Stanford writes about Bowie's deep appreciation for Memphis:

The name “Memphis” was supposedly chosen after an early brainstorming session, during which Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” played repeatedly on the record player. The designers appreciated the word’s disparate connotations, evoking both cheap American kitsch and the regal city of ancient Egypt.

United in their efforts to reject traditional notions of “good design,” the Memphis artists mocked the bland austerity of Modernism by mixing clashing colors, patterns, and materials on playful geometric forms that often masked an object’s intended use. Although their collaborations only lasted a few years—Sottsass left the Memphis group in 1985, and the rest parted ways in 1987—they caused an uproar in the design world. Memphis sensibilities continued trickling into mainstream design via knockoff brands that influenced interiors everywhere from movie sets to high-school cafeterias.

“It didn’t look serious. It looked like a prank,” Bowie wrote of Memphis in 2002. “It mixed Formica attitude with marble diffidence. Bright yellows against turquoise. Virus patterns on ceramics. It couldn’t care less about function.”

"Space Oddity: David Bowie's Secret Obsession With '80s Memphis Design" (Thanks, Ben Marks!)

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Lin-Manuel Miranda made a Hamilton mixtape

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...and it drops on Dec 2, with a $14.49 pre-order option: featuring tracks that didn't make the stage play, as well as Busta Rhymes' remix of "My Shot" and other guest appearances from Queen Latifah, Ben Folds, Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Fallon, Ashanti, Wiz Khalifa, Chance the Rapper, Usher... I ordered this so hard it broke my mouse. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Afghan Whigs benefit concerts for their guitarist Dave Rosser who has cancer

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My friend Dave Rosser, the NOLA-based guitarist for the Afghan Whigs (and the Gutter Twins, and Mark Lanegan, etc.), was just diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. Dave is a brilliant musician, a true gentleman, and a total laugh riot. Now he has a long, hard road ahead of him and the medical expenses he faces are absolutely overwhelming. There's a GoFundMe campaign to help Dave with those bills and the Afghan Whigs have just announced two very special benefit performances to support their much-loved bandmate. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Afghan Whigs's dark soul-rock masterpiece Black Love, they will play the album in its entirety in New Orleans on December 10 and Los Angeles on December 14. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday 11/3).

“Dave Rosser has been my close friend and bandmate for over a decade now,” Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli commented. “By doing these shows for him we hope to ease any financial stress he may face as he pursues treatment to combat his illness. 100% of the proceeds from these shows will go to his medical care. I’m hopeful that folks will come out and show their support for Dave who will be performing with us.”

The New Orleans show will take place at The Civic Theatre on Saturday December 10th and feature performances from: The Afghan Whigs, Mark Lanegan, Ani DiFranco, Morning 40 Federation, King James & The Special Men, and C.C. Adcock & The Lafayette Marquis along with special guests.

The Los Angeles show will take place on December 14th at The Teragram Ballroom featuring sets from: The Afghan Whigs, Mark Lanegan, Moby and Carina Round.

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Remaking the synth sounds of The Thing, Halloween, and Assault on Precinct 13

If you dig Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein's fantastic synthy soundtrack to Stranger Things, you need to dive into the 1980s electronic soundtracks of John Carpenter. Yes, Carpenter directed classics like Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, and Escape from New York, but he also scored the films himself. In the video above, Reverb's Justin DeLay unpacks Carpenter's soundtrack sound.

Synthesizers used in the video: Ensoniq ESQ-1, Roland Juno 106, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, MiniMoog Model D, Ableton Live, Roland 606.

"The Synth Sounds of John Carpenter" (reverb.com)

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Bowie memorialized as new iOS emoji

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Apple's iOS 10.2 update contains two emoji inspired by David Bowie's Aladdin Sane character. The two emoji are named "Male singer" and "Female singer." See the new slew of emojis at Emojipedia. Read the rest

Experimental musician's gorgeous vinyl collaboration with his grandmother

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Clint Heidorn, a musician I've previously posted about, creates haunting, beautiful guitar sounds that are the basis of exquisite, tangible artifacts he makes and sells himself. A few years ago, Clint's grandmother Jane Heidorn suffered a stroke that necessitated her moving into a nursing home, and that led to his latest project. "Hard Times Come Again No More" is a collaboration between Clint and the late Jane Heidorn, now available as a 10" vinyl record in a limited edition of 250 copies. Below, hear the song and read Clint's story of this loving, and lovely, tribute:

Hard Times Come Again No More by Jane Heidorn

In early 2013, my grandmother, Jane Heidorn, moved into a nursing home after a stroke left her unable to care for herself. After over a decade of living alone, she was forced to consider a future without the autonomy she had enjoyed, and - at least initially - it hit her hard.

The move brought her closer to me, and we'd spend Sundays listening to her old 78s on a small record player in her room, eating lunch in the cafeteria, reminiscing. I'd take her outside in her wheelchair and glide it along the twisting walkways that cut through the lawns and shuffleboard courts outside the complex, trying to keep her spirits up, reminding her of bridge games and activities, of the next time I'd visit.

After a few months, I asked if she'd be interested in recording a version of an old Stephen Foster song, "Hard Times Come Again No More".

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Europe's "The Final Countdown" as a spaghetti western theme

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I enjoy Samuraiguitarist's spaghetti western cover of Europe's "The Final Countdown" much more than the 1986 original below.

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Music for video games

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Seth Everman distills a certain video game musical score down to 80 seconds of sheer brilliance. Somewhere in the space between Link To the Past and Secret of Mana, the perfect Nintendo role-playing game.

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The Triumph of the Will Not

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I want to thank Boing Boing for allowing me to introduce my music collection titled The Triumph of the Will Not. Read the rest

Pussy Riot's "Straight Outta Vagina": sacrelicious Russian feminist pop anthem

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Pussy Riot's video for "Straight Outta Vagina" frames the poppy, danceable song with visuals calculated to enrage the Kremlin, with LA's Ace Hotel standing in for church where various genderbent dancers receive communion while singing the praises of vaginas. Given that the last iteration of this theme landed the musicians in a hard labor gulag where they were subjected to routine sexual assaults, it's a pretty big fuck you to the Russian establishment. (via Bruce Sterling) Read the rest

Pete Burns, singer of Dead or Alive, RIP

Pete Burns, fabulous freak singer of 1980s dance-pop group Dead or Alive, died yesterday of cardiac arrest. He was 57. From The Guardian:

Burns rose to fame in the 1980s with the band’s hit so ng You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). He also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, coming fifth in the final.

A statement released by his partner, Michael Simpson, his ex-wife, Lynne Corlett, and his manager and former band member, Steve Coy, read: “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star. He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul and will be missed by all those who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories he has left us with.”

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Last call for the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition!

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Are you jonesing for a dose of optimism and possibility? In the mood to contemplate the cosmos? Want to experience a musical message for extraterrestrials the way it was meant to be played? The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, a project I launched with Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, is a lavish vinyl box set containing the contents of the phonograph record launched into space in 1977 and now 13 billion miles from Earth.

Our Kickstarter ends at 8pm PDT tonight (Thursday). Once we fulfill the rewards from this campaign, we'll never produce this deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition again.

We are so thankful enthusiasm and excitement about our project and the incredible Voyager interstellar mission. The curiosity and support is infectious. We're deeply grateful that a project that has been on our minds for so long has resonated with so many people around the world. Ad astra!

For more on the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, please visit our Kickstarter page here.

And here's an excerpt from an interview with me about the project, from The Vinyl Factory:

Ultimately it was a utopian vision for Earth as much as an actual attempt to communicate with extra terrestrials… Wasn’t it?

Yeah I think the idea is that if there is a civilisation that is intelligent enough to actually intercept it, they’ll be able to follow the instructions on how to play it. And I think that’s true. In some ways though, it doesn’t even really matter if it’s ever played or not by an extra-terrestrial civilisation.

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