Friday, 27 September 2013

Guest Blog Post

I was recently approached by a musician whose talents I admire, one Francis Caravella, aka Frankie Big Face, to write a guest post for his blog.

He writes a blog called 9999 songs, a blog that, if he writes it daily, will take him 25 years to complete. Now THAT takes some tenacity!

Anyway I wrote a piece on the song "Coppertone" by Fini Scad. I hope you can lob over to his web page and take a read.

Until next time!

Thursday, 26 September 2013


"Come on over Baby, we've got chickens in the barn..." sang Jerry Lee Lewis many years ago.

Considering he was trying to get a girl (presumably) to come to a party at his house, or maybe just a party for two, this is an odd lyric in a song.

Whatever. We ended up getting three chickens this week. I would never, in a million years, have guessed we'd end up with more pets, let alone this bunch of motley looking hens. Fresh eggs will be a novelty...for a period.  If predictions are anything to go by, one egg a day per chook, that's 21 eggs a week. We don't eat that many was it is!

Considering how much we paid the chooks, the pen and the materials to build a free-range run for them, and the fact that not having to buy eggs for a while at (on average) $5 a dozen, we look set to break even and start saving money by not buying eggs around April 2015. Go figure.

Here's a tribute (of sorts) to chickens...from the Fools.

It's a great Talking Heads parody. It's a rip on "Psycho Killer". This track makes me smile. It's called "Psycho Chicken".

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Sandi Thom

Whatever happened to Sandi Thom?

In 2006 she was one of the most hyped and talked about artists, largely due to a clever marketing campaign of "live" webcasts performed in her basement bedsit in London. This was largely organised by friends of her manager. Anyway, the short web series had the desired effect, and she was signed to major label RCA/Sony/BMG. Her first single (and lone hit) "I Wish I was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)" was a reissue of her first (and only) independently issued single, and it went stratospheric. Her second album flopped due to her clashing with her label over her desire NOT to deliver more bubblegum pop music. After the record bombed, she was dropped.

The song itself came under fire at the time for a number of reasons - being mere "content" and not "art" (according to Charlie Brooker), and for being soulless; a product of marketing men with too much money. In the view of this writer, it has almost as many merits as it does problems.

For a start, what the hell do hippies and punks have in common? The punks hated the hippies and would have been more than happy to smash the crap out of the nearest spaced-out flower wearing moron. (fast forward the clip below to 6:03 to see what I mean...)

It's also a lyric of revisionist, backward looking melodrama, lamenting a period in time she did not live in. It's almost as if she was regurgitating the ideas of an older generation, where "things were better in my day", with the fervor as though she believes it.

It has a large failure to embrace the present and the future, for its bright possibilities. Conversely, that's probably why it resonated with a lot of people.

But I just can't get past the punk/hippy collision. The two don't mix.

However, the merits are amazing. How many songs can you think of in recent years that are made up just of plaintive vocals and percussion instruments? No synths, no guitars, no programmed beats, nothing. Just stomps, shaken percussion and human voices. The polyrhythms in the tune are simple but man, do they groove. It's appeal was instant and profound, and it still is.

However it is easy to get sick of it. If you could equivilate music in the same way as food, then this track has the nutritional value of a box of Smarties. Having said that, a little junk food now and then can be a good thing!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #36: Elton John - "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John presents a new LP of original material this week, his 31st overall, called "The Diving Board". I've decided to take a look at an older album of his that happens to be a favourite of mine.

This album is considered a classic, and for my money it is the best record he has ever done. This was certainly the high point of his career thus far and, after this, it's pretty clear that he was overworked as the quality of his output suffered considerably.

You see, when he was signed to a record deal with publisher Dick James' label, he was contracted to deliver two albums a year. From 1969 until 1977, a year when he didn't release any new material at all, he issued two live albums, a soundtrack, a hits compilation as well as a stack of studio albums and singles. All told, in that period, he made 15 albums, and two of those were double LPs of original material. In anyone's language, that's a hell of a workload, something that has been unparalleled in the modern era.

Surprisingly most of it is of a high standard. But this is arguably the peak of it.

Growing up in a relatively sheltered cultural environment, I'd heard the big singles the man released in the early 1980s, and I loved them ("Kiss The Bride", "I'm Still Standing", "Passengers" et al) and a schoolfriend of mine was a huge Elton fan and was collecting all his albums on CD. That was no mean feat, considering that CD collecting was an expensive exercise in the late 1980s, and that there were so many of his albums to collect.

He was talking about this song on the album that went for 11 minutes called "Funeral For A Friend". Fascinated by long songs I asked to hear it. He recorded the entire "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" onto a cassette for me to check out. Sure enough, I loved the entire album.

So what's within the covers?

This was always available on double vinyl, but in the CD era, it was a double CD until Sony revised the specs of the technology to allow 80 minutes of playing time on each disc, instead of the basic 74. As this album is 76+ minutes, it had to be a double. The 1995 reissue corrects this and now makes it a single album.

On this album is 17 songs, starting off with the double barreled "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding". Yes it does go for 11 full minutes and there's nary a boring second among them. The first half of the song is an emotional rollercoaster of whooping dynamics. It accelerates and decelerates rapidly and is full of surprises. The latter half, "Love Lies Bleeding" is a comedown of sorts, but it still a highly charged and energetic one. The energy doesn't let up until the final fade out.

After that, the album is top-loaded with classics. The original "Candle In The Wind" is next. And I make the distinction of "original" because this version is far superior to the tawdry navel-gazing and confected tributes of the Princess Diana version. The faux-live "Benny and the Jets" is amazing in the fact that is sounds live, but is far from it. We all know the title track is gorgeous, followed by "This Song Has No Title" which is gorgeous and suspenseful in alternate parts. A stunning track. "Grey Seal" ups the power and again but the Cod-reggae of "Jamaica Jerk-off" is a let down, especially after the quality we've had thus far.

The first half of the album closes out with "I've Seen That Movie Too", which is the moodier and broodier cousin to the closer in the second half of the album "Harmony", although the latter hits the nail on the head, while the former keeps hitting the fingertips...

Side 3 opens with "Sweet Painted Lady", a melancholy ode to trampy prostitutes, as is "Dirty Little Girl" and "All The Young Girls Love Alice" (you don't need me to tell you what that song is about, but it's quite a risque one for its era). The jewel in the crown of this section of the record is the US gangster character sketch of "The Ballad of Danny Bailey" which, along with "Candle In The Wind", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "I've Seen That Movie Too" and "Roy Rogers", are story songs inspired by characters from old American movies.

Side four kicks up the rock with "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll)", a 60s rock-and-roll pastiche not unlike "Crocodile Rock" but a hell of a lot less embarrassing. It also rocks a lot harder too. It forms part of a one-two punch with "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", a classic rocker if ever there was one. Guitarist Davey Johnstone carves it up on this one, with a guitar riff for the ages. If only he'd turn down the treble control on his amp a little.

"Roy Rogers" is a sweet little remembrance-in-song for a TV cowboy. "Social Disease" carries on the blues-and-booze theme of "Saturday Night..." but with a country twang, and the album closes with the sublime ballad "Harmony".

The term "tour-de-force" is one that is thrown around willy-nilly these days but it seems that in this album we have a work that truly justifies having that label affixed to it. Elton and Bernie never equaled it. They once again tried the wide-screen, all-encompassing sweep across another double album in the form of 1976's "Blue Moves". However that album just serves to demonstrate how over-laboured and overwrought both the songs and production could be, and how it was thought it should be in 1976. What was left is an overblown mess.

Despite a few questionable lyrical decisions on this record, this one is a killer. Take a listen for yourself below.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Raymond J. Bartholomew

Brian Nankervis, most of us know as the brains trust and score-keeper on the SBS-TV program Rockwiz. However, some years before he found success with his televised pub-trivia program, he tried to make it as a stand-up comedian and performance poet, of deliberately questionable talent.

He first appeared on the nationally broadcast TV show "Hey Hey It's Saturday" in 1986 under the nom de plume Raymond J. Bartholomew. He featured on the segment on the show known as "Red Faces" and, as the clip below says, he was so bad that he became a regular guest on the show.

It's still hilarious to hear him read his poem "Days by the Ocean".

"Maroooooooned! Marooooooooned! I'm on a lagoooooooon!" he drawls.

I have no idea what it is all about, but the outrageous delivery more than makes up for any lack of pretext or, indeed, any coherence!

In the spirit of the outsider music from my last post, here is Raymond J. Bartholomew with "Days By The Ocean"

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy

image source:

ME: But honey, it's a prime example of Outsider Music! A raw talent on display!

WIFE: But it sounds like shit!!!!!

Each to their own, I guess.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy is nothing if not unique. He does what it says on the tin, really:

  • He's legendary (probably for all the wrong reasons, or maybe because of those same reasons!)
  • He dresses like a cowboy
  • He's obsessed with stars and space travel.

He is certainly a raw talent: unhinged, unhampered by commercial expectation, unthreatened by success. Let's face it - he's completely unbalanced and unstable! And, he considers himself to be a serious musician.

His one hit single "Paralyzed" was allegedly recorded in 10 minutes of studio down-time during 1968 with just the producer playing drums and the Ledge (as he is known to fans) playing everything else. It sounds like a class of second-graders playing a game of Bullrush (or British Bulldogs or "Red Rover Cross Over" depending on where you're from) through the studio. Or a couple of escaped loonies losing their shit with expensive musical equipment. Despite that glowing praise, it is completely life affirming, while being totally hilarious all at once.

The Ledge claims he started singing in high school as a way of meeting girls. Take a listen to "Paralyzed" below. How successful do you think he was?

Routinely lambasted as the worst record ever made, "Paralyzed" sounds like the Cavalry falling over a 100-foot cliff. It is completely nuts.

The success of the record led to an appearance on "Laugh In" but it wasn't all to his liking. The hosts, and the cast were laughing at him, not with him, and after playing his second song on the show he got mad and stormed off. Watch for yourself below:

He only ever released a few more singles in 1968-1969 and then was dormant until about 1981 when he resurfaced with a new version of Paralyzed. He did a few records later for Cherry Red records, and then released an anthology which he named in honour of his most famous fans: "For Sarah [Ferguson], Racquel [Welch] and David [Bowie]: An Anthology" which covered his entire career.

Still, there are plenty more performances of the man, including semi-legendary tracks like "I Took A Trip In A Gemini Spaceship" (covered by David Bowie) and "My Underwear Froze To The Clothesline" among others. And he's still out there, doing gigs with a band called the Altamont Boys, featuring Klaus Flouride of the Dead Kennedys. Here's a clip of the man with the Altamont Boys in action just a few months ago in Oakland, California:

Enjoy the odd magic of "The Ledge", The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

"My Underwear Froze To The Clothesline":

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

An untimely passing...

I hate funerals. But they are a natural part of life and a proper and respectful way to remember someone who has passed.

But I still hate them.

Today at work we say goodbye to a colleague who succumbed to cancer. The loss is tragic, especially when one considers her vivacious approach to life and passion for her work. She always made time to help people and to give her best for their well-being. Not just because that was her job, but because that tended to harmonise perfectly with her nature anyway.

And so, life goes on for all of us who are left behind. But we will always remember her for the great things she did and the person she was.

The one song that sprang to mind upon reflection, and I'm not sure if she knew the song or even liked it, was one with a chorus that perfectly summed up what she was all about:

"...if you fall, I will catch you,
I'll be waiting,
Time after time..."

I offer this clip by way of tribute. May she rest in peace.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sunday Sessions: Ice Sea Dead People


Ice, Sea, Dead People is a noisy British post-rock band, whose music also has a large artistic focus.

Their music is intense and yet finely nuanced. The energy of their work is palpable. This latest release of theirs is a double A-sided 7-inch single featuring two songs: "You Could Be A Model" and "Ultra Slience". The concept behind this release is that it is printed on translucent vinyl, but each record has a unique picture on each side of the vinyl. There are only 180 copies pressed, and each copy is different - there are no two exactly alike.

The cool thing is that these art pieces were drawn by hand by 18 people who drew on paper placed on working turntables, as the band played each song on the record. The band played the songs 10 times, each person made 10 spirals per song. The artwork is amazing and the music is unbelievable.

This band has taken its approach to physical product to a new level. The ideas presented in their music and their visual identity are both inspired and inspiring. This is definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future.

Thursday, 5 September 2013


In Australia, on Saturday 7th of September, some big events are happening. We are entering into the finals series of the football, my youngest son has a birthday, and we have a federal election.

It's only been a short election campaign period, but it has been extremely painful. The lies and rhetoric on both sides of the debate has been deplorable. The mainstream media have also been beating things up, whipping up hysteria through misinformation, perpetuating falsehoods and just outright slandering entire political parties and various minority people groups. It's politics at its lowest and most base.

This blog is not a political forum, nor was it ever designed to be. I support neither political party, because as it currently stands I have no faith in anybody who aligns themselves with a political party, one way or the other. I just feel powerless knowing that neither party, whoever gets in to form government, will actually do anything positive for this country. All they care about is power, and preserving their jobs. The people who vote for them are pawns in the tawdry little self-centred games.

In light of this, here are three songs that express (some of) my feelings towards this facile and demeaning campaign (demeaning to anyone with an IQ over 60, that is).

Billy Bragg sums up the Westminster style of government beautifully in "Ideology":

"...while we expect democracy, they're laughing in our face".

Ironically, the leader of Midnight Oil is seeing out his last days in federal parliament as I write this. He also wrote this great piece of music detailing the government lies, "Knife's Edge":

"...on a knife's edge razor day, if you listen long enough they've got nothing to say..."

And the worst part of this stage of the election, which is hanging on a knife's edge as far as I can tell, is told here by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:

"...the waiting is the hardest part."

Happy Birthday Freddie!

image source: Wikimedia

Dear Freddie,

Happy 67th birthday mate (well, you would be 67 today, should you still be alive).

On that note, we miss you and your talents terribly. Music hasn't exactly turned completely to shit since you've left us, but there's been no one, singular artist or group, who have had the talent, vitality and staying power to be able to hold a candle to you and your bandmates collectively in Queen. At least, if nothing else, you have gifted us with almost 20 years worth of amazing music of a standard unparalleled before or since, and we thank you.

Have a good one, wherever you may be.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Microsoft Songsmith...still lives

...and seemingly refuses to die.

The Microsoft Research Labs seemingly do create some fantastic and fascinatingly useful software. They create all kinds of useful stuff for software developers and those who need to do more advanced things on a Windows machine.

Microsoft Songsmith is not one of those great pieces of software.

Well OK, hang on a minute. It is a great idea, in the sense that Communism or the Hindenburg Blimp were great ideas...on paper at least. In practice however, it turns out to be a very different story...

The idea is great - you sing a line or two, select the mood and style of music for your song, and Songsmith will build the music bed for you. It builds the chords and seemingly structures the song for you, based on the limited input you give it.

The idea is great but falls flat when you consider that most people cannot sing in tune. No matter how great a piece of software is, if you can't hold a tune or even pitch to a note, what you'll end up with will sound like someone pushing a grand piano down a flight of stairs.

It's designed for education, to teach how music is put together. Again, a noble premise. But when the music is as vanilla as this? You can edit the chords, that's cool. But I fail to see how this will teach music to anybody with no clue about music to begin with, especially if you don't know what a chord is.

The idea has received a great deal of lampooning on the internet, and almost deservedly so. The results speak for themselves.

Here's what happens when you feed Lemmy from Motorhead's vocals into Songsmith:

Or the Ramones:


...or random pissed bogans with nothing better to do on a Friday night:

Get the free copy, have some fun and share with us the nutty tunes you invent!


Monday, 2 September 2013

Archive: Use a little English to doctor the spin...

This is an archive piece written and posted on LiveJournal in 2006, albeit slightly edited and re-published in 2013:

Use a little English to doctor the spin...

I was recently fascinated by a comedy series on the Public Relations industry recently called "Absolute Power". Basically, the stars of the show were hired by celebrities to embellish/fabricate facts and rebut/quash rumours and/or start new ones. In other words, they're like a bull with no horns and no genitalia - they just sit there and bulls***.

Recently I have seen a couple of pieces of PR produced verbal diarrhea that have just left me wondering "Who are these people and why do they invent such crap?"

On the inside of the sleeve to "God Save The Smithereens" by The Smithereens is written: "This is the band Buddy Holly died for...". What the hell does that mean? Buddy Holly died needlessly in an accidental plane crash. Thus, in my opinion, making this statement redundant and ridiculous. And the fact that this appeared on their 9th or 10th album makes me wonder why they have even bothered - they don't need to sell the virtues of the band to me. I've been listening to their records since I was 16.

And on a bottle of cheap red wine, have a go at this piece of lexicographical wonderment:

"Featuring the subtle flavours of almond, rose petal and blackberry, this richly textured wine also leaves a smooth, buttery finish."

Isn't it great how you can get all that out of a bunch of crushed grapes stuck in a wooden barrel for a few short weeks?

According to this PR bloke (or lady, we can't be sexist now, can we?), this Merlot, or whatever it was, does everything except mow the lawn. It must be that, in order to be a successful PR person, you have to be able to sell ice to the Eskimos. Lie through your teeth with a straight face and make it convincing.

If that's the case I'd probably starve, because I can't lie straight in bed. I'd be totally useless at it. I'll just stick to teaching, I guess. You can't fool everybody all the time, but it's easy enough to fool a bunch of 8th graders for 50 minutes at a time into thinking that Alegrba is useful....

Sunday, 1 September 2013

August 2013 Playlist

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there.

Here's a present for you all: The latest mixtape/playlist from The Sound and the Fury!

Featured this month is some rocking new tunes from Ice Sea Dead People, Destruction Unit, Super Best Friends, Shiny Toy Guns, Scott and Charlene's Wedding, Potty Mouth, Little Green Cars and heaps more

Classics from REM, George Formby, The Oils, Bob Dylan, Zappa, The Everly Brothers and heaps more

and is bookended by a couple of classic 12-inch mixes from Blondie and the Pointer Sisters.

Put it on Random, crank it up and ENJOY!!!