Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Thursday, Apr 29, 2010
You may know Neil Innes’ name, or perhaps some of the seemingly endless list of classic music, film and television pies he’s had his talented fingers in over the decades with Monty Python, the Bonzo Dog Band, and the Rutles, but he’s by no means a celebrity, and that’s perfectly alright with him.

You may know Neil Innes’ name, or perhaps some of the seemingly endless list of classic music, film and television pies he’s had his talented fingers in over the decades. But he’s by no means a celebrity, and that’s perfectly alright with him.


“There’s no hysteria, there’s no Innes-mania out there,” said Innes. “And that’s good, because I can’t stand all that. I’m not really a show business creature. I want it all. I love playing with all the toys, I love filming, I love playing with musicians, but the fame thing I just can’t hack at all.”


Innes was speaking prior to his Tuesday night one-man show at B.B. King in the heart of Times Square, nearly at the midway point of a tour which sees him mixing favorites from his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Monty Python and the Rutles with new material that shows he’s still got the innate knack for a clever turn of phrase and melody. The performance thrilled a crowd which included Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of Swell Season, with the former in stitches and the latter bobbing her head while wearing an Innes t-shirt throughout.



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Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
Retailers are producing musical compilations in the name of branding

There’s something about a compilation CD that excites this audiophile. I went into my local record shop to celebrate Record Store Day and asked if there were any new ones to buy. It’s always a great opportunity to explore and perhaps discover something unnoticed on the musical landscape. Of course, other retailers are now in the game too, from Starbucks to Pottery Barn, offering up their own versions in order to extend their influence in the name of branding. These companies are certainly known for carefully crafted musical soundtracks in store (I enjoy playing ‘name that tune’ while shopping) but now they want to follow you out the door.


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Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
Sonny Rollins is the rarest of birds: the enlightened being who figured out early on how to live life in full, on his own terms, and has never strayed from that almost monastic path.

There is an excellent feature on American treasure (and no I don’t use that word lightly) Sonny Rollins in April 17th’s Boston Globe.


The man is going to celebrate his 80th birthday this year (in September) and is still active, creative, engaged.


There are certain artists who are so incomparable, as artists, as human beings, as role models, that enough good things cannot possibly be said. There are not many in this category, but if anyone is, Rollins must be included. Ceaselessly humble, relentlessly ambitious and seldom (if ever) satisfied with his performances, Rollins is the rarest of birds: the enlightened being who figured out early on how to live life in full, on his own terms, and has never strayed from that almost monastic path.


A few money quotes from the article:


Tagged as: sonny rollins
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Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010
The riff: is there any sweeter two-word phrase in the rock vocabulary? AJ Ramirez offers his examples of the best riffs via video.

I always enjoy it when music critics sit down together—either literally or metaphorically—and engage in a lively discourse about an aspect of the medium. And what subject have music journalist Simon Reynolds and Carl of the Impostume decided to exchange sporting back-and-forth Blogspot posts about all this week?  Why, nothing less than the topic of the almighty riff. Between the two of them, they’ve already covered iconic licks by Iron Butterfly, Budgie, Ted Nugent, Nazareth, and Mountain, and I for one am following intently to see what slices of riff-based majesty they will whip out next.


The riff: is there any sweeter two-word phrase in the rock vocabulary? I say nay (okay, “Freddie Mercury” and “more cowbell” are contenders, but neither of them fill the soundtrack albums of summer blockbusters about Iron Man). As posited by Carl on the Impostume, “A good riff should, I think, make you squint. Or wince. Either way it’s eye-narrowing.”  I briefly touched on the power and allure of an excellent riff before when discussing Green Day’s “When I Come Around” here in Sound Affects, where I held a similar viewpoint to his. Basically, what makes a riff great is how it instinctively grabs you, to the point where words fail to adequately convey the enrapturing experience. Sure, I can go on at length discussing a riff’s melodic components or how it locks into the groove in an effort to illuminate why I feel it works, but at the end of the day what I really judge the effectiveness of a riff against is by how much I want to hear it again. And again and again. Great riffs are ultimately only held to the pivotal “does it rock?” standard, which makes attempts to further complicate that criterion pretty pointless. Because of this, I have to disagree with Carl’s assertion that the best riffs are generally the slower ones. Quality riffs come in all shapes and forms, so the blitzkrieg attack of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” can pack as much of a punch as the self-assured stomp of AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, and both are as valid as the punk simplicity of the Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat”.


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Monday, Apr 26, 2010
Recording artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” - Dionne Warwick
Music by Burt Bacharach, Lyrics by Hal David
From Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls (Scepter, 1968)


“I was born and raised in San Jose.”
Dionne Warwick, via Hal David


As a kid, I knew that Dionne Warwick wasn’t telling the truth when she sang the lyric excerpted above, though I loved how she sang it. First of all, when I first heard the song, I had been in San Jose my whole young life, and I’d never seen her around. Not at Frontier Village, not at Eastridge Mall, not anywhere. Additionally, to my young mind, there was no way anyone could invest any sincerity in the lyrics to this song (especially anyone who was actually born and raised in San Jose). As a matter of fact, the idyllic ‘small-town San Jose’ the lyric described sounded so little like the San Jose I encountered every day as a kid, I had to ask my mother if the song was indeed about “our” San Jose. “Yes,” she answered. “Because to people from a city like LA, San Jose might seem like a small town.”


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