The wonderfully weird cowboy psychedelia of "Some Velvet Morning"

This song and video crossed my transom last week and it's been haunting me ever since. Lee Hazelwood allegedly wrote this song (and others) at the request of Frank Sinatra in an effort to help boost daughter Nancy's career and send it in new directions.

The video and duet with Hazelwood and Sinatra premiered on her 1967 TV special "Movin' with Nancy." That night, Lee and Nancy also performed "Jackson" and Sinatra performed "Sugar Town," "This Town," and several other Hazelwood compositions. Lee Hazelwood would end up writing most of Nancy Sinatra's hits.

"Some Velvet Morning" is a strange mash-up of country and pop psychedelia with apparent references to sex, drugs, and Greek mythology. Hazelwood said that he was fascinated by mythology at the time and was particularly interested in the character of Phaedra, a tragic figure in the Greek mythos. Hazelwood said he felt sorry for her and decided to invoke her spirit in a song.

Bonus Track: There are a zillion covers of "Some Velvet Morning." Here is Rowland S. Howard and Lydia Lunch's take:

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Using data to define the official canon of 90s music

I'm a big fan of the Pudding's clever approach to infographics, and this latest piece examining 90s music does not disappoint. They surveyed thousands of people, collecting millions of data points to find out how well they recognized charting songs from the 1990s, and analyzed the results according to birth year. Pretty cool!

Sinatra, Elvis, and Chuck Berry are emblematic of ’50s music, but what’s the ’90s equivalent? Using the recognition data we collected, we can begin to define the canon. These will be the artists and songs that Gen Z and beyond seem to recognize (and value) among all the musical output from the decade.

First, it’s important to understand the general trends in the data. “No Diggity” knowledge peaks among people born in 1983, who were 13 years old when the track debuted in 1996. We also see a slow drop off among people who were not fully sentient when “No Diggity” was in its prime, individuals who were 5 years old or younger (or not born yet) in 1996.

That drop-off rate between generations—in this case, Millennials to Gen Z—is one indicator for whether “No Diggity” is surviving the test of time

The Instagram post below is only a small piece of the results; check out the Pudding's website for the full analysis, with all your favorite (and/or totally forgotten) 90s pop gems.

View this post on Instagram

Part 1 of 2—New project: 1) Gen Z is far more likely to recognize "Wannabe" than "No Scrubs." 2) Will Smith is falling into obscurity.

Read the rest

Peter Green, original Fleetwood Mac mastermind, dead at 73

It has been announced through a family representative that legendary guitarist Peter Green died peacefully in his sleep last night. He was 73.

Green was a founding member of Fleetwood Mac (first called "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac with Jeremy Spencer") and a celebrated guitar player and songwriter. His spare, tonal, and soulful phrasing made him a guitarist's guitarist who influenced many that came after him.

Green is listed 58th in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time and 50th by Guitar Playerˆ. Green was also a talented songwriter who wrote many classics, including Black Magic Woman, later made popular by Santana, and the early charting Mac singles, Albatross and Man of the World.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Looking back on The Beatles "Hey Jude" from a world a little colder

Even as something of a Beatlephile, I learned a few things reading this Rolling Stone article from 2018 about The Beatles' most "open-hearted masterpiece," Hey Jude.

Cynthia and Julian thought “Hey Jude” was for them. John heard it as the ballad of John and Yoko. But neither side was wrong — countless people around the world have heard this homily speaking to them. “The movement you need is on your shoulder” — John was so right about that line, and as Paul says, he thinks of John every time he sings that part. “Hey Jude” is a tribute to everything the Beatles loved and respected most about each other. Even George, who plays the most low-profile role in this song, tipped his cap with the na-na-na-na finale of “Isn’t That a Pity,” which you can hear as a viciously cheeky parody, an affectionate tribute or (most likely) both. The pain in “Hey Jude” resonated in 1968, in a world reeling from wars, riots and assassinations. And it’s why it sounds timely as our world keeps getting colder. After more than 50 years, “Hey Jude” remains a source of sustenance in difficult times — a moment when four longtime comrades, clear-eyed adults by now, take a look around at everything that’s broken around them. Yet they still join together to take a sad song and make it better.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Modern English performs "I Melt With You" in Isolation

If ever there was a warhorse of an 80s New Wave anthem, it is Modern English's 1983 (and 1990) "I Melt with You."

Frontman Robbie Grey says of the new video version of the track:

We were all at our homes in the U.K. apart from Daniel (Jakubovic), who was in Los Angeles, and decided to film ‘I Melt With You’ to put a smile on people’s faces. We are aware of how much the song is loved and just thought a lockdown version would make people happy in these crazy times.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

My name is potato

Sexy Italian pop star Rita Pavone has a playful and flirty duet with an animated potato in this 1977 classic. This novelty song has been in my head all day. Now it can be in yours, too! Read the rest

Group of quarantined musicians do a spot-on cover of Fagen's "New Frontier"

A few months ago, I posted the video for Donald Fagen's 1982 now-classic track, "New Frontier." At the time, I said that I couldn't get this tune out of my head. It hasn't left.

Here is a group of quarantined musicians doing a wonderful cover of it.

[H/t Steve Silberman]

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Joni Mitchell's humblingly beautiful isolated vocals on "River"

Joni Mitchell's "River," from her 1971 masterpiece, Blue, has long been one of my favorites of her compositions. The sad, dreamy imagery of a wintertime love lost and the desire to skate away on an endless frozen river forever has got to be one of the most potent evocations in popular music.

In this isolated vocal from that track, we get to hear just how pure, powerful, and expressive Joni's vocals were on this recording.

[Via Far Out Magazine]

Image: YouTube Read the rest

In quarantine, Thomas Dolby's kids turn dad's hit "Europa..." into "Corona..."

A couple of days ago, Thomas Dolby posted this video to Twitter and YouTube of a track called "Corona and the Pirate Twins," a spoof of his 1982 hit, "Europa and the Pirate Twins." The song is credited to Dolby Kids. Thomas included the following note:

"This is what my mischievous offspring have been getting up to during the Lockdown."

Here is the original video for "Europa..."

Bonus track:

And here is Thomas Dolby doing a touching home solo version of his achingly beautiful "Screen Kiss" from 1984's Flat Earth. He did it as a tribute to Matthew Seligman, the celebrated bassist who recently died of COVID-19. Seligman played bass on Dolby's recordings, including Flat Earth, and also played for Bowie, Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Murphy, and countless others. He was also a member of the Soft Boys.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Shut in sounds: Crowded House perform "Don't Dream It's Over" from isolation

Well, this was inevitable.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Shut in sounds: Donald Fagen's "New Frontier"

Soon after the sheltering-in-place orders started being issued, this wonderful song (and video) from Donald Fagen's 1982 Grammy-nominated solo album Nightfly began popping into my head. All these weeks later, it hasn't left.

"We've got provisions and lots of beer The key word is survival on the new frontier"

Indeed, except we don't have lots of beer and we're having a hard time laying in the provisions. Where's the 50s fallout shelter when we need it?

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young & Tom Jones on the Tom Jones TV show in 1969

I think my feelings about this somewhat unlikely pairing of Tom Jones and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young can best be expressed by some of the comments on YouTube:

"When I was a kid, I thought Tom Jones was the height of uncool. Looking back, it was clearly the other way round."

"This is gonna be the LAMEST thing ever...10 seconds later...OMG...This is freakin' AWESOME!!!"

[H/t Michael Colombo]

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Shut in sounds: Bowie's "Let's Dance" turns 37 today

David Bowie's Let's Dance was released 37 years ago today. His 15th studio record, Let's Dance would become his most commercially successful album but it was not well-received by critics and hardcore fans at the time and Bowie himself would end up regretting the record and the tours and albums that followed (Tonight, Never Let Me Down), referring to that time as his "Phil Collins period."

I've been a big fan of Rick Beato's YouTube channel for years where he deconstructs iconic tracks and attempts to answer the musical question "What Makes This Song Great?" In this episode, he explains what makes "Let's Dance" great.

Although I count myself as a hardcore Bowie fanatic, I've always liked the record for what I thought it was: a great pop dance record. But this Beato breakdown shows some of the underlying musical genius behind even one of Bowie's poppiest confections.

Read the rest

The enduring beauty of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" and one of the greatest musical couplets ever written

Lithub has a wonderful piece on the classic Jimmy Webb composition, "Wichita Lineman," one of the most enduring pop songs ever written. Made famous by the late Glen Campbell, the author of piece describes the song as one that "defies the injustice of repetition."

And then, there's that amazing "I need you more than want you" couplet.

There is little ambiguity about the greatest couplet ever written. The punchline—the sucker punch—of “Wichita Lineman,” the line in the song that resonates so much, the line that contains one of the most exquisite romantic couplets in the history of song—“And I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time”—could be many people’s perfect summation of love, although some, including writer Michael Hann, think it’s something sadder and perhaps more profound. “It is need, more than want, that defines the narrator’s relationship; if they need their lover more than wanting them, then naturally they will want them for all time. The couplet encompasses the fear that those who have been in relationships do sometimes struggle with: good God, what happens to me if I am left alone?” Hann is certainly right when he says that it’s a heart-stopping line, and no matter how many hundreds of times you hear it, no matter what it means to you, it never loses its ability to shock and confound.

Read the rest here.

Here is Glen Campbell singing the track on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in the late 60s. Read the rest

Reply All goes on a wild scavenger hunt to find a song that might not exist

I'm not an obsessive listener to the Reply All podcast, but when it's on, it's on — and this week's episode is fantastic. Host PJ Vogt is contacted by Tyler Gillett, a film director who is absolutely not a musician, about a song that he remembers from his childhood. Every word and note of this alleged 90s pop song is perfectly imprinted onto Gillett's brain … but there's no proof anywhere on the Internet that such a song has ever actually existed. They even go as far as to recreate the song in a studio with a professional band, completely from Gillett's memory.

The full hour episode is strangely gripping, and offers some fascinating insights into the ways that we remember things, as well as the bizarre world of that late 90s major label music boom. (Also: Barenaked Ladies.)

Reply All #158: The Case of the Missing Hit [PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman / Gimlet Media]

Image: Hanul / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest

Legendary music producer Tony Visconti breaks down Bowie's iconic "Space Oddity"

In this video, basically an ad for the upcoming Sony 360 Reality Audio, brilliant record producer and criminally underappreciated bassist, Tony Visconti, listens to the original 1969 mono demo, the '69 studio mix, and his 2019 remastering of David Bowie's breakout track, "Space Oddity." At the end, he listens to the remixed Sony 360 Reality Audio version and talks about how it especially serves the idea behind the song (traveling through space) and that David would've loved this new audio technology.

Tony talks about how incredibly modern and ahead of its time "Space Oddity" was, and how in his 2019 remastering, he remixed it to be fuller, wider, and so that you could hear elements you may not have heard in the original recording. Bringing the kick drum up in the mix, for instance, you realize what a funky track it was, Tony comments. The most interesting moment in the video is when he talks about David, many years later, explaining to him what the song was really about:

David said it was actually a song about isolation and he used the astronaut in space as the metaphor...The song was written in that spirit, being isolated in this little capsule, but seeing the Universe from your window. This is what I'm trying to get across in the mix. You are going to be traveling through this mix. Things will go by you, around you, behind you, in front, come towards you.

Here is the result of Tony's efforts, the 2019 remastering of "Space Oddity" (not the 360 RA mix). Read the rest

Pinky and the Brain theme song done by Postmodern Jukebox

Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox, the music collective known for vintage send-ups of popular songs, has done this wonderful cover of the Pinky and the Brain theme song. It had already won me over before the surprise guests showed up.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

More posts