Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Raspberry Beret - Prince

Raspberry Beret is a lovely little pop single released by Prince (and the Revolution) in 1985. It's more or less just Prince, some guest musicians on strings, and Wendy and Lisa on backing vocals. What I love about this song is the pure joyfulness that comes through in the vocals and the production. Prince takes a very simple 4/4 verse chorus verse, layer some strings, vocals, his trademark (of the time) drum machine, guitars, throw in a happy little bridge that pulls it all together and before you know it you've just spent more than 4 minutes taking a funky ride with the charismatic purple one.

 It reminds me a lot of what Sly Stone used to do back in the day, Sly had a gift for weaving funk and soul with pop music that could appeal to a wide audience and make them get up and dance (or at least feel a little bit more groovy).

 I heard Raspberry Beret on the radio the other day while I was out driving around. The sun was shining, a glorious late summer day. I found myself rolling the windows down, cranking up the stereo and singing along like I used to do back in 1985. Maybe it's the melody, the story he's telling, the production, or the ooomph on the 2 and 4, but this song just makes me feel happy.

 Those wonderful early albums from Prince always seem to have this effect on me.
PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION "Raspberry Beret" from Videodrome Discothèque on Vimeo.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm back.. from the dustbin

I found it odd that the last time I posted in this blog was when Michael Jackson died.

For years I just didn't have the energy or time to focus on writing as I had too much other drama going on in my life.  However, I've decided to dust this thing off and start updating it again as the mood, or music strikes me.

I'm finally in a place where I can listen to my favorite tunes all day, all night, whenever I wish without being hassled by insane housemates.   I also have the great fortune of being able to work from home, which means I'm tethered to my account pretty much all day.

Anyway, I'm not sure what structure this blog will take, but I'm fairly sure it's just going to be me blabbering on about some band I like, some song I like, bands I can't stand, and perhaps some combination of the above.

Without further delay, I'll just shut the fuck up and get started....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye Michael, and thank you

The paparazzi and prying eyes of the press have lost another target.
Michael Jackson has left the building.
Exit stage left, sneaking out the side entrance into a waiting limousine to take him to some quiet safe place where he's free to be the kid he always wanted to be.
Nobody can deny the immense talent he had.
He had the goods - the voice, the dancing! Oh how he could move. When Thriller was blowing everybody's mind, and Beat It and Bad were in heavy rotation on MTV everybody was trying to moonwalk, and suburban kids were buying sequined gloves at Claire's Boutique. Before Thriller there was Off the Wall. I remember gym class my freshman year of high school - and learning aerobic dance routines set to songs from that album.

The teenagers of the 80s were the kids who grew up on the shining gems produced by Berry Gordy and Motown. The Jackson 5 were really the first boy band, and the songs they made their own are still heard today on oldies stations, covered by other artists, and in the song stylings of the boy bands of today.

With all his talent, all his money, all his fame all the man seemed to want was someone to love him unconditionally without expecting him to perform, "do something" for them, or ask for a cash handout. I would imagine this is why he had the ranch and the crazy collection of pets. Who can ever forget Bubbles the Chimp? This is also likely why he arranged to have children created for him, and why the mother of the children have been nearly invisible from the public eye.

When you have that kind of money and fame, you can make all manner of legal magic happen. It made us feel angry, frustrated, freaked out when he dangled one of his kids out a hotel window. We made fun of him for marrying Lisa Marie. We were furious with him for buying up some of the Beatles song publishing catalog. We made fun of him, pointed and laughed with each new tabloid photo of his plastic surgery, his health problems. We tore him asunder when he was being charged with child molestation. We treated every new shred of tabloid fodder about him as another reason to knock him down. The media frenzy that embraced him in the 80s were in the 90s and beyond, tearing him down and breaking him apart with pickaxes and explosives.

I wonder if all he really trying to do was use his money and fame to desperately fill in the blanks of his wounded, broken psyche. For all that talent, I wonder if he really struggled with the same self-doubt and insecurities that so many of us face.

Like so many other oddball celebrities, he was too fragile a human being to live in the spotlight, and the more he tried to escape it the more tenacious the media jackals became. He had to move to Bahrain to get out of the public eye, and even there he had individuals who took advantage of him.

I feel so sorry and sad for the man, the freaky recluse that he became.
Today I'm wondering if he somehow planned for this as a grand, graceful exit from the crazy circus of his life in the public eye.
He went out on top, or at least on a high note - as he was rehearsing for a comeback tour.

Thanks, Michael.
Thank you for making us sing, and dance, and smile.
Thank you for all the great pop culture memories that will forever be a part of our childhood.
I think you probably were a really good person, with a big heart, who deserved more kindness and privacy than you ever received.
I hope that you've found peace, and the love and comfort you seemed to crave.
The world will not forget you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is it strange that I have strong childhood memories of the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" by Elton John. It was a fairly popular single for him, and was played all the time on AM radio when I was a kid.

I couldn't decypher the lyrics, the the MELODY of this song is so astonishingly beautiful, and simple, that it wrapped itself around my head like a warm fuzzy hat.

To this day, I still adore this song - and the whole album - which is full of some truly masterful creations by Sir Elton and Bernie Taupin.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An unsung master of tasty hooks

Kevin Barnes is the new master of tasty hooks.

Who the hell is Kevin Barnes, you ask? Have you ever seen a commercial for Outback Steakhouse with the chorus "let's go outback tonight", or the latest commercial from Comcast where some catchy electronic music plays over the Comcast logo?

Both are hooks courtesy of Kevin Barnes, the mastermind behind Athens, GA band Of Montreal. (click the link, you know you want to!)

Their latest contribution to psychedelic, electronic poptasticness is something called Skeletal Lamping.

Would I do the band justice by writing yet another bio? Nah, their site is pretty spiffy.

What would I say in a sales pitch for the band?

Can you boogie? Do you disco? Is there funk in your pajamas?

Have you ever heard the music of David Bowie and enjoyed it?

Do you believe there should be humor in music?

Does psychedelic music excite you, intrigue you?

Are you frightened by harmony or does it make you feel warm and delicious inside.

Do you smile at the sight of a scrawny, nerdly looking fellow in embarassing costuming playing guitar and wearing a bit of makeup

Can you appreciate the humor (and irony) in a song about coping with clinical depression and the annoying side-effects of antidepressants - with a happy, infectious chorus?

Of Montreal is worth a listen.
1 part 80's synthpop, a big scoop of Bowie, a dash of Ray Davies, a few spoonfulls of disco, a dash of 70's pop music, throw it all in the blender and serve extra groovy, with a slice of deliciousness.

Chemicals don't flatten my mind!!

The song that became an earworm television commercial. Incidently, the restaurant chain kind of screwed over the band with the usage rights of the song. It pissed (Kevin) Barnes off so much that the band refused to play this song live for a few years.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blue Man Group

I had the pleasure of taking in the Boston production of Blue Man Group yesterday and I just wanted to post a few comments on my experience.

  1. It is nothing like what I was expecting, yet it was very much what I was expecting from a showmanship standpoint.

  2. The soundtrack and/or the musicians that are part of this production are our hope for the future of Progressive Rock.
    Drums, guitar (and guitar synths), and Chapman Stick. How can you go wrong?
    I mean seriously.
    I really felt I was listening an opening act for Rush, King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, or maybe even Primus. Energy, intensity, and talent.

  3. The writers have done an outstanding job at bringing together pop culture references, humor, and also a few dark messages about the increasing isolation of humankind because of technology.

  4. Did I mention the pop culture references?

  5. Mime(!).
    FUN stage makeup.
    ...and burying your audience in a mound of (recycled) paper toweling.

  6. It's Performance Art for people who are afraid of Performance Artists.

  7. It's what the Burners (Burning Man) do during the off-season.

  8. It's a show that Bob and Cyndie Mundane can bring their kids to and have a good time - and the kids might walk away thinking "I want to do THAT when I grow up!"

  9. I was there with my sweetie, and 2 other couples. One of the other couples are big progrock fans like me and the other couple have only heard the "hits" from bands like Rush or Genesis. They all enjoyed the show on different levels (and they thought it was funny that I was buried in the aforementioned paper toweling but seemed to be having a good time).

  10. My only meh moment was spent thinking how hopelessly unhip I am by today's standards, and that I found myself wishing I was 15 years younger, with no financial obligations, that I could spend my time working on musical and/or theatrical productions like this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

From the shuffle mode

Damon Albarn is one of those creative musical geniuses, yet not many outside of the music nerd contingent know who he is by name.

However, mention the animated Gorillaz, or the song "Feel Good Inc" and you may get an oh yeah! I know that song! response.

I've been listening to Gorillaz "Demon Days" quite a bit lately, and find these songs to be wonderfully catchy and lushly produced techno-pop without making me want to perform a labotamy with a plastic spork.

Albarn effectively created an "Archies" for today's generation. With the help of Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame, numerous guest musicians and some great songs, he's put out no less than 5 cds worth of material, some fantastic videos (animated, of course!), and now there's a documentary being released of the making of the band (called "Bananaz")

What today's young Gorillaz fans may not realize is that Damon Albarn has been making music for 20 years, and was singer/songwriter for the band Blur who incidently also put out some amazing pop music in the 1990's.

I do, however, know more than a few Blur fans who are also big Gorillaz fans so I do know I'm not alone in my fawning fangirl behavior.

Here's the video for the song "Dare" from Demon Days.

and this... a gem from the 90's - Blur's "Parklife".

Official Gorillaz site

Gorillaz wikipedia entry