Friday, December 30, 2011

From The Archives: 80s Songs Of Nuclear Holocaust

What many readers don't know about this blog is that it has actually been resurected after a three year layoff. Below is an entry from it's earlier form.

Whenever I taught about the Cold War era to my junior high social studies classes, it was very hard to convey The Fear. If you grew up during the Cold War (or as in my case, at the end of the Cold War), you know exactly what I'm talking about: this creeping, low-level, background phobia that anything or anyone you love, anything of meaning you have achieved in your life could be negated by a lethal combination of macho posturing and nuclear weapons. I became very cognizant of it during the Reagan years. In 1983, when the Soviets shot down a Korean jetliner, I was glued to the TV wondering if this was the first in a chain of events that would lead to the destruction of the world. I think the buddy I had over for the night was pretty miffed I didn't want to shoot bumper pool instead.

If the rhetoric got out of hand, there wasn't a damn thing I could do. This feeling of helplessness was very tangible for me. Granted, I was an overly serious kid; but I suspect I wasn't alone at all. Pop culture - especially music - visited nuclear doomsday themes quite often. Below are some selections for a compilation you can make to relive this time, which for me felt perpetually overcast. Hey - that's pretty catchy. Let's call this compilation "Perpetually Overcast: 80s Songs of Nuclear Holocaust".

"It's A Mistake" - Men at Work. Someone gave me this single for my birthday. As much as the song itself, the dust cover for the single (see picture that accompanies this article) vividly conveys The Fear I felt as an adolescent.

"99 Red Balloons" - Nena. Perhaps the most popular of the nuke songs.

"Russians" - Sting. Hey, I'm not claiming to like all the songs on this list.

"Ask" - The Smiths.

"Living Through Another Cuba" - XTC.

"Red Skies At Night" - The Fixx.

"World Destruction" - Zone Time. Features Africa Bambaata and Johnny Rotten (sorry, Lydon) if memory serves me correctly.

"The Final Countdown" - Europe. See #3. Bet that craptastic synth riff is now in your head though.

"Enola Gay" - OMD. I think released when they were still Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. Their name got KFC'd somewhere along the way.

"1999" - Prince.

"Der Komissar" - After The Fire. Not Falco, but Falco was indeed in this group.

"London Calling" - The Clash. A fine tune now used to sell cars.

As we now know, the jubilation we felt when the Soviet Union broke up and the Berlin Wall came down is long gone. The posturing, the militarism, the rhetoric - it's all back. The bomb isn't the omnipresent threat it once was, but give it time: it seems like we're heading that way again.

What songs would you add to this list?  Upon further reflection, "Ask" really doesn't have anything to do with nuclear holocaust.  I'm not sure "Enola Gay" does either.  But Imma leave them there anyway.

Fat Friday Feature DOUBLE SHOT: Bill Clements And Francis Rocco Prestia

Friday is the day I draw attention to great bass players and great bass lines.  I was too busy getting my Christmas on to post last Friday, so please enjoy this double shot.

In a tiny, sweltering A-frame all ages club in Chesterfield, Indiana circa 1989, my head was blown apart by Bill Clements.  He was touring at the time with a band called Catharsis - a pretty forgettable band save Bill's performance.  His playing was very busy; but the lines bubbled and peculated, relentlessly pushing the band forward.  Bill had a familiarity with the fingerboard that I had seldom seen.  He worked the whole neck, not just the lower third (like I do) and it never seemed ejaculatory.

Oh - and Bill Clements doesn't have a right hand.  That night, he wore a shiny metal hook on his forearm, almost as an in-your-face-reminder of this fact.*  The one song that I specifically remember - not only because of Bill's stellar performance, but because it was an unlikely song selection for an all ages punk rock venue - was Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy".  Watching Bill's hand span the fingerboard on that Washburn Status bass made me incredibly self conscious about not only my small hands, but my crappy practice ethic.  I left the Flipside club vowing to work harder.

Anyway, it is good to see Bill Clements is still out and about making a go of it.  Check out the clip below from the NAMM 2011 show.  Note the cloth wrapped around the nut, which is used to dampen the strings to prevent unnecessary ringing and string talk.  (When I saw him, he was using an old bandanna for this purpose.)

* - I had read somewhere that Bill really, really doesn't like to draw attention to the fact that he is a  bass player with one arm, wanting to be known instead as just a great bass player.  I'd say well done - he's great no matter what.

Bill's playing reminds me a lot of Rocco Prestia's.  I love the song below - timely lyrics though the song was released in 1975.  The jury's still out on that woman's singing, but the playing is parless.  If you're interested, here's Rocco breaking the bass line down for you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Your Holiday Playlist: A Parental Advisory Christmas

Notably absent:  Killdozer's excellent Christmas song.  What would you add to this list?  Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Leslie Donovan Singing "Silent Night"

Here's another track from a Christmas project I did for my wife last year.  Those who've already seen Indianapolis-based singer Leslie Donovan perform know that this is the equivalent of her "indoor voice".  Which is to say she can belt out tunes when necessary. I think my favorite thing about listening to Leslie perform is she has power and control.  It seems like most folks get seduced by the power of a particular singer, but not so much the control.  No matter how much Leslie socks it to you, she's always in control.  She's not yelling at you; always singing to you.

And as this track proves, she's not a one trick pony.  I love the intimacy of this track so much.  I'm so glad she contributed to the project.  I really hope that if you're reading this, you'll do your best to track her down and see her live.  Say hello to her and you'll also notice she's no diva - she's as down to earth and modest as you can get.  So go see her.  You really, really will not be disappointed.  Learn more about her and her band here and here.

Silent Night - Leslie Donovan by mattzink

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Chris Squire Of Yes On "I've Seen All Good People"

As regular readers of the blog know, every Friday I feature a bass player or bass part that is exemplary.  Which is to say the part and the player kick ass.  Today, it's Yes's Chris Squire.

I love Chris Squire's tone almost as much as I love his aggressive, in the pocket playing.  Of course, I'm a huge fan of the Rickenbacker bass, the bass that Squire played a large part in popularizing.  Few showcase the strengths of that bass as well as Chris Squire.  His lines are loud and serpentine, wrapping around the music, binding it together.  The sound is meaty and in front - just the way I like it for electric bass.  There's a couple of great live takes of this tune on You Tube; I selected this one because it is less "proggy" and more "garagey" - this is probably about as "raw" as Yes gets.  Still, it'll get your feet tapping.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Around The Internet

Lots of interesting and important stuff flooding into the old feed reader of late:

  • If you enjoy a relatively free Internet, full of hilarious fair use videos and songs, do something to stop SOPA.  You have to do it today!  What is SOPA and why is it bad?  Here's some reading for you.  Just be assured a world in which SOPA has passed will be truly sad, because that means the bad guys (the recording industry) have won.
  • More activism:  Notes Toward Everything has hipped us to some action that will allow you to indulge your creative side to support punks in Indonesia, who're being rounded up and "reprogrammed".  This is troubling indeed - isn't this what the Khmer Rouge did?  Or maybe Scientologists?  (Sorry - couldn't resist that one.)  At any rate, punks have a reputation of being a close knit, supportive clan.  Time to live up to that rep if you still have the means to make mix tapes.
  • We bass players love drummers - here's one way to show your favorite drummer some love this holiday; and here's a slightly more expensive way to do the same thing.
  • And finally, check out the embedded clip below for at least two great reasons:  1.)  it's a fascinating story about one of the most iconic single chords in music history, and 2.)  It's hosted by Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame.  It's so charming to hear his delight in telling this story.
See you guys tomorrow for Fat Friday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I've censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the Internet--a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop Internet censorship, visit:
█████'s ████ ██████ ███████ █████ the █████████ and ████████ ███████████████ ████ ████. ██████ it and get up on the █████. ████ ████ the ███████ █████. ████ is ████████ to the █████ ██████. ████ to ████ a █████.
Uncensor This

Seriously people - we need your help here. Don't take my word for it - do your homework and learn about SOPA. If you agree with my view, then do something NOW.

Song Writing 101: Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From The Family" [UPDATED]

Welcome to yet another semi-regular feature here at History Lesson Pt. 2!  From time to time, I'll be showcasing what I regard as parless song writing with "Song Writing 101" entries.  Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From The Family" is the perfect place to start.

At some point, I will give in to my urge to embed a holiday music play list at this blog.  You'll notice that the selections betray a few important things about my tastes in holiday music:

  • At Christmastime, even more than usual, jazz is king with big band music not far behind.
  • With only a few exceptions, the old standards you sang at midnight mass (and possibly on the way to midnight mass) are really all you need.
  • I don't go in for a lot of new music.  I know that at the end of each year, a ton of Christmas music floods the market.  I never actively seek it out.  As a result, I'm more or less listening to the same Christmas music stylings I listened to as a young lad pining for the latest Fischer-Price Adventure People set.
Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From The Family" is one of the exceptions.  I was hipped to it about four years ago, and it is now one of my favorites.  It's the perfect balance of humor and sentimentality.  I love the "Christmas card from the wrong side of the tracks" feel to it.  It captures some of the oddness of family gatherings but it never portrays it's subjects with disrespect.  Listen to the original here (this live version is even better than the studio version), and enjoy the Creekdogs cover below.
Here are the lyrics:

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Felice Navidad, Felice Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel

Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension chord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of tampons, Marlboro Lights
Hallelujah everybody say Cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw a breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Oh Silent Night, Oh Holy Night

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
Make Bloody Mary's
Cause we all want one!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the Family
Felice Navidad

A note about the Creekdogs version:  I did this last year.  I was responsible for the recording and post production.  That's why it sounds kinda sucky - I'm still learning.  Still, I'm quite proud of it and I love hearing it.  I think it's a testament to the musical prowess of my band mates and Robert Earl Keen's songwriting skillz.
(Kevin pointed out to me that the version I uploaded earlier today was not, in fact, the final version of the tune.  The lap steel track was slightly out of sync.  This is the most up-to-date, in sync track.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sofia Violins: A History Lesson Pt. 2 Field Trip

I met John Welch in late October at a wedding reception.  He was chatting up my wife, who in turn was holding our daughter Marina near the water fountains just outside the bathrooms near the banquet room.  They had talked for sometime; and after a brief introduction from my wife (who was also meeting him for the first time), I went back into the din of the wedding reception to make sure my crazy dancing son was keeping it safe.  My wife told me later that he was incredibly charming, and he was totally smitten with 2 of the 3 most important women in my life.  I was totally stoked to learn he was the CEO of Sofia Violins in Indianapolis, and he was more than happy to let us come for a visit - his only requirement was that I bring along my wife and daughter so he can say hello.

The date for the visit was Dec. 9th - this past Friday.  I wasn't sure what I'd get, but I couldn't help but be excited.

Sofia Violins is located in downtown Indianapolis in the historic Stutz Building.  After climbing 3 flights of stairs, we found John's office amongst the various photography and art studios.  (The windows and ceilings are high on each floor, but the rooms themselves small and affordable - perfect lighting/perfect price for photographers and painters.)  John greeted us and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, we were escorted to the shop next door.  I didn't know what I was going to get, but I had assumed two things:  1, that the family would have to stay out of the workshop, and 2. that the workshop would have people hustling around, attending to loud, compact car-sized machinery that was more or less guided by computers.  I was wrong, so wrong.  And that was when the place began to charm me.

I said goodbye to the family; John surprised me by saying they were most welcome to come in as well - yet another pleasant surprise.  I knew they'd like it too. We opened the door into a one room shop with a large closet for spraying finishes onto the instruments.  There were only two men in there, both hunched over their benches working on a single violin.  It was quiet except for a small radio playing the news, and the only large machinery in there was a drill press and a band saw.

They both stopped what they were doing and answered all of our questions, showing us around the shop.  They were very focused on us, taking their time and giving the visit a very pleasant, friendly vibe. I asked some general questions about the shop, and what I've gathered is this:

  • Sofia Violins are made from parts shipped from the Czech Republic.
  • One of the luthiers (Todd Matus) also builds his own violins there - from scratch.  As he was working on several instruments, we got to see pretty much every stage of construction, from planing the top from the tone wood to finishing and varnishing the instrument.
  • 48% of the instruments made in that workshop are purchased overseas, mostly in Europe.
  • All manner of players play Sofia Violins, from pros using it as their main instrument to students still learning their way.
The beginnings of the back of a viola.  This part is done completely by hand to achieve just the right thickness.
Auggie was totally enthralled too - he was tugging at my shirt, dying to play one of the violins.  I was a little wary of this, but the guys in the shop insisted.  Perhaps this is a musical possibility for Auggie?  Anyway, Auggie was just as fascinated with the construction as I was.  At Auggie's request, Todd graciously bagged up some wood shavings for Auggie to take home.
Luthier Todd Matus shows Auggie how to plane a neck in preparation for gluing on the fingerboard.
I think the smells were about half of what entranced me with that place as well - the varnish has a very particular, pleasant (if a tad strong) smell that reminded me of when I went up the the Englehardt factory to get my upright bass.  My bass maintained that lovely, earthy smell for years.
Works in progress.
As I have always fantasized about building upright basses, Todd has offered to help me with any advice he can.  I'm going to think on it, but I feel like I'll be ready to take him up on his amazing offer once the holidays are over.  

I was also delighted to find out that Todd Matus is a professional photographer who had taught for years at the Herron School of Art.  Those who know me know that photography is something that is near and dear to my heart as well, so it's yet another thing to geek on with him.
A ukulele that Todd's wife started that he is finishing.  Here's some footage of a Matus uke in action.  Perhaps my next uke will be a Matus uke?
We stayed for probably about an hour - aside from a squirmy one year old, it was a very leisurely visit.  I hope to go back very soon.  I'll post more photos later on this week.
From left to right:  Duder, Sofia Violins CEO and all around great guy John Welch, me,  and Auggie.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Some Random Dude Demoing The Staggs Electric Upright Bass

I've really been shopping around for electric upright basses, none of which I can afford.  The Staggs bass is about the cheapest I've found, and it comes highly regarded - from what I can tell, the bass seems pretty legit.  In the process of trying to learn more about them, I ran  across this dude.  I like his tone, I like his playing.  He's pretty nimble/accurate on that fingerboard.  I gotta admit he makes it look easy, which in turn makes me a bit jealous.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Some Questions For You

Listen to the playlist below and tell me:  why isn't Chrome huge?  Why aren't they at least name dropped by pretentious music critics?  I mean, I these cuts (actually, the whole album) rule because their so weird/shred so hard.  I listened to some tracks from some of their later albums - they're not terrible, but the fact that their sound has been cleaned up considerably is kind of a deal breaker for me.  But I need to get a copy of "Half Machine Lips Moves/Alien Soundtracks" and fast.

Okay - I promise to stop embedding playlists and get back to actual blogging soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Your Mostly Upbeat, All Over The Place Playlist For December 7th

If you don't like the song you're listening to, skip to another.  There's bound to be something you like.  Listen to it while you can.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ladies And Gentlemen: Killdozer

I was trying to track down Killdozer's excellent Christmas tune, but was side tracked by this great live clip.  I had to share.  The bad sound almost enhances the power of this performance.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Voice Of An Indian

I spend the better part of a day fantasizing about motorcycles. I subscribe to several motorcycle blogs; I dream up the routes I'd take to get to the west coast, routes that would emphasize geographical beauty and personal debauchery. I imagine in detail the bike I'd ride (currently a Triumph Bonneville) in as much detail as a non-rider like myself can. Until I get serious about getting a license, these will only be the thoughts that keep me warm through the winter.

Because of their reputation for performance and their lean, modern looks, I've grown to really like British bikes. But I always have and always will love Indians. Yeah, Harleys are fine and everything, but where I used to live unfairly soured me on the bikes and what passes as "Harley culture".  Brown county is an understandable riding destination because it is nothing but winding, hilly back roads.  The views are amazing and there's no better place to test your riding skillz.  But all too often, it is flooded with dipshits with exceptionally loud Harleys - all stock except for whatever they need to do to it to make it as loud as a 747.  They ride into town, park their bikes in front of the court house (where they affect their "rebel" posture for all to see), eat the shitty food Brown county has to offer, and ride home to get rested up for work at the office on Monday.  The riders themselves never seem to have the leathered, grizzled appearance you'd expect from someone who lives up to the tired ass bumper sticker credo of "living to ride/riding to live".  Their bikes appear to spend the better part of their days in a garage, and they usually lack the accessories that betray a rider who spends any significant time touring.  Based on my experiences in Brown county, I'm inclined to believe the old joke that Indian owners share:  that the difference between Indian owners and Harley owners is that Indian owners actually ride their bikes.

Of course, I'm making generalizations for the sake of the argument.  One of the coolest dudes I know is an avid Harley rider, not some Harley rider cliche.  And I can agree with him and all other Harley riders that one of the coolest things in the world to hear is the sound of a stock Harley idling.  That is, it was one of the coolest things to hear until I saw the video below.  There is some amazing intangible quality to the voice of this Indian - I guess because it sounds like it's got balls without punching out your ear drums when it revs (granted, he's not revving it that hard).  But there is a spirit to this sound that I can't quite place.  All I know is that is sounds real good.  I can't imagine how kick ass it sounds when you're actually riding it.

So for today, I'm back in my dreams, this time riding a pre-WWII Indian en route to the southwest, with the final destination being the Pacific Ocean.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ladies And Gentlemen, Possibly The Most Condescending Lyrics Of All Time

And isn't it worse that it was redone?  But why do I still like this song? 

Paul Young
It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade

Boy George
And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy!
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

(Phil Collins on the drums)

George Micheal
But say a prayer - pray for the other ones
At Christmas time

Simon Le Bon
it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window

Sting and Simon Le Bon
And it's a world of dreaded fear
Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Here's to you
Raise your glass for everyone
Here's to them
Underneath that burning sun

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time and
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time and
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time and
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time and
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time and
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Mark Rubin Of The Bad Livers On "Lust For Life"

You kinda have to listen closely to hear it.  I'm guessing this one is ripped from vinyl based on the sound.  I have Mark's DVD of "Slap Bass:  The Ungentle Art" - it's really amazing.  Consider this a place holder until I can get some clips of that online.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's December - Is Christmas Music Fair Game Now?

Being raised by strict Catholics meant that we honored the liturgical seasons to the letter.  Catholics are in the season of Advent right now.  Advent.  Did you hear me? Advent, not Christmas.  In our family, that meant there was no Christmas music or Christmas decorations until the week of Christmas.

I understand why I was raised that way.  It somehow made me savor the season a lot more.  I'm no longer practicing that faith, so I'm cool with starting things a little earlier.  Admittedly, I haven't started playing any Christmas music at home just yet.  I still feel more "post-Thanksgiving" than anything else.  But I'm sure that will change after I listen to the greatest Christmas album of all time.

However, if you're already in the Christmas spirit, enjoy some ukulele and lap steel!

The Cosby Sweaters in this instance are:
Matt - ukulele, bass
Kevin - lap steel

Blue Christmas by The Cosby Sweaters by mattzink

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


1989-90 - on the way home from vocational school, rolling in my dad's Chevy Silverado, I was blaring either the Beastie Boys "Paul's Boutique" or the Fall's "Extricate".  Everyday.

Props To Elvis Costello For This Rant

From a rant at
Tape and celluloid were rolling at the Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles in April this year and present a vivid snapshot of the early days of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook show on “The Revolver Tour” of 2011.
The live recording finds the Imposters in rare form, while the accompanying motion picture blueprints the wilder possibilities of the show, as it made its acclaimed progress across the United States throughout the year.
Unfortunately, we at find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.
Read the whole thing here.  This is a rare thing of brutal honesty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Thoughts On Desired Upright Bass Tone

Perhaps this is of no one's interest but mine, but I feel the need to suss out what great upright bass tone is after mentioning it in the last "Fat Friday Feature". I like the bass to sound meaty, it's notes nice and round. The attack of the notes should start with a nice thump from the pluck of the finger, the sustain should bellow loudly and have a woody, reedy character to it.  The decay should resolve itself to the nice "mwhaaa" tone that every bassist since Jaco Pastorius seems to want.   To hear what I mean by "mwhaaa", click here and skip to the 2:44 mark.  I know it's on a bass guitar, but you should get the point.

The best way to achieve this is by using a good condenser mic. There may be an adequate pickup/preamp combo; I just don't know what it is.

In the over all mix, the listener should be able to hear all of these things without straining. By keeping the bass tone as defined above prominent enough in the mix, any given song will have a great deal more warmth to it.

 There are some exceptions to this - bluegrass bass being the first one that comes to mind. The function of the bass changes slightly - it's usually up to the bass player to keep pushing the song forward, even more so than most other genres.  In bluegrass, you just need to have a nice thump going on to keep the time and punch through the brightness of the mandolin/fiddle/banjo. As an example of what I mean, sing the word "thumb" (or "tomb") for the bass part to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Achieving the bluegrass sound requires no finesse to be honest. A lot traditional bluegrass bassists, when not sharing a mic with the other musicians, stick a microphone in some pipe insulation and wedge it between the top of the bass and the tail piece. This tends to do the trick nicely in most venues.  It ain't rocket science; it's bluegrass!*

* - If there are any sensitive bluegrass fans out there, this section is by no means meant to insult. Rather, it reflects a simple, pragmatic view of what works for bass in bluegrass settings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fat Friday Feature (IOU Edition): "Cachiato" Lopez On "Drume Negrita"

I let a Friday get by me without posting a great bass performance - sorry about that. Here's one for you - nothing fancy, it just sounds fucking right. Sonically, this is how the recorded upright bass should sound. Gah. . . Imma shut up and let this song take me way from these overcast skies for a bit.
And because I screwed up and forgot to post yesterday, enjoy the fruits of my Catholic guilt with a BONUS HELPING OF RY COODER!11!!1! This is one of my favorite songs I do believe. Freaking guy must've been born with a guitar in his hands.

Thanks A Lot, Jerks

Bad news for cubicle jockeys everywhere:  Grooveshark's death is imminent.  Of course, this is courtesy of the jerks at Universal Entertainment.  If you have the Grooveshark smart phone app, it'll be rendered useless in due time.  And of course, here at ol' History Lesson Pt. 2, many, many links and embedded mp3 players will be rendered useless.  Fuck it man.  Assholes.

Oh well - I guess that's the way it works.  Enjoy some Grooveshark awesomeness here, here, and here while you still can.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: The Jam's Bruce Foxton On "In The City"

It's Friday - that means I feature a bass player or bass part that rules.  Today, it's Bruce Foxton's performance on "In The City".

I think one of the many things I love about Bruce Foxton is - and this may seem very simplistic - that he can sing and play at the same time.  I love watching him perform - it's all power, precision, and action.  There will be a post coming up about my "holy trinity" of bass of which Bruce Foxton is a part.  This "holy trinity" are the guys that inspired me to pick up a bass; they are the well that I continue to draw upon for inspiration.  I submit the clip below as a tiny bit of evidence as to why Bruce Foxton is a part of that trinity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Questions For You

Some questions for you:
 - I guess if she's 19 she's legal, but is any one else creeped out by the lyrics from "Hey Nineteen"?  Or worse still, the visual of Donald Fagan hitting on a comely young lass?

 - Raise your hand if you use white noise to help you fall asleep.

 - Is it bad when covers of your song are better than your song?  Even the "Glee" version is better.

 - Is there a more comforting sound to hear to hear in the fall/winter than the sound of the heat coming out of the duct work of your house?

More questions here.

An Edited Interview With Duder

Monday, November 14, 2011

Obsolete Sounds

Over at the Mental Floss blog there's a fun compilation of now obsolete sounds.  All of these sounds were in my life, except maybe the cash register.  I suspect they'll live on as novelty ring tones and whatnot.  But don't throw out your typewriters yet - there's some life still for those beloved machines.  I regret getting rid of the electric typewriter I got for Christmas when I was a sophomore in high school.  I guess it means a lot to me because it was concrete proof that my parents were trying to cultivate my interest in writing poetry - a fact that was lost on my self absorbed teenaged self.

I digress - check it out and feel old.
P.S. In the "Designing Women" clip, is it me or does the Jean Smart character talk just like Tommy Lee Jones in any given movie?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Freekbass Takes You To School

The clip below is not the best representation of Freekbass.  Honestly, there's only one way to see this dude:  live.  Please - go see him if he's coming to your town.  I've seen him twice and it was like an effing clinic.  The dude is a showman in addition to being a helluva bass player.  That's a fairly uncommon combination.  I saw him at the now defunct Patio Night Club in Indy (let's all raise a glass in memory of the Patio) years ago.  A breaker tripped or something and all the power went out in the club except for the power going to the amps and mixing boards.  It took them something like 10 minutes to find out what was going on.  And Freekbass kept going.  And not a single person left.  We were all glued to the performance even though we could see nothing but the power lights glowing from the various amps.  He's that fucking good.

Anyway, chalk up another great musical find discovered by my brother Paul.  Like I say, the first taste below is is free; pony up the cover charge and get the full rush at a night club near you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Audio Scratch Pad: The First Birds Of Morning

The weather has changed and honestly, it hasn't gotten unbearable - yet.  Still, I'm a spring/summer guy much more than a fall/winter guy, so I suspect that I'll return to recordings like this quite often to help me through the winter.  Just put on my headphones, close my eyes and let myself be transported away. . . .

This was recorded in late July-early August, I'm not sure exactly when.  It was a sleepless morning.  I could hear one lone bird doing his thing in our front yard.  By the time I had given up trying to get back to sleep, some of his compatriots in the back yard had joined it.  I sat on my front steps with my netbook and mic and just pressed "record".

Listen for:  dripping gutter, car that goes to the end of the street then turns, the dull hum of the city waking up in the background (which I have come to love).
First Birds Of Morning by mattzink

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stinky Mindfulness

When I went to take a shit at work today, I decided I was going to quiet my mind and listen to the room.  I'm not totally sure what prompted it, but I think it was because of an awesome "This American Life" episode I remembered from years ago.  I heard the loud hum of fluorescent lights.  I heard some pipes in the wall flexing and rattling.  I heard the autodeoderizer chirping, alerting whoever cared that the canister inside of it needed to be replaced.  Someone in the women's restroom was flushing a toilet; someone in the hallway was getting a drink at the water fountain.

I found this exercise quite rewarding.  I must go in and out of that restroom a million times a day (trying to get enough hydration in my life, you know).  I've never noticed any of those sounds before, ever.  I felt like I was entering uncharted territory; I felt like the john was brand new.  It occurred to me later that I might be practicing a sort of mindfulness.  I made a conscious decision to be present in that moment in that stinky room.  I became aware of a world that goes unnoticed though it is right under my nose.  In order to do these things, I had to shut out conscious thought and make myself still from within and without.  I had to listen.  How else might my world change if I chose to be present, chose to my make myself still and to listen?  The possibilities become numerous.

And if you believe in God/higher power, what better way to thank he/she/it then by taking an inventory of the world he/she/it created for you?  I think that if you do, then that is the first step to creating a world in which we'd all like to live.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Off Topic: The Rules

Time again for "The Rules", a semi-regular feature I ripped off from Esquire magazine.

116.  Avoid party guests who use the following words or phrases in casual conversation:  paradigm (or “paradigm shift”), political agenda, Obamacare, bro (or “brah”).

117.  Watching Saturday morning cartoons is still permissible for adults provided you are watching it with your kids (or nieces and nephews).

118. “I know it’s a shitty thing to do, but we can’t refuse to accept the situation”. - Pvt. Cowboy, “Full Metal Jacket” Accept the situation. React accordingly. Or to put it another way. . .

119. It’s okay - even cathartic - to vent. But once you’re “venting” goes past the 15 minute mark, you’re whining.

120. Distrust people who eagerly and unabashedly air their dirty laundry.
Rules, rules, rules are everywhere!

A Foray Into Song Writing

One of my band mates (Dan) in the Creekdogs recently returned from a visit to his daughter, who attends college out of state.  While there, they checked out what I gather was an open mic night at the campus coffeehouse.  He was quite impressed with one particular performer, who told the crowd she made herself write a song every day for seven days no matter how busy she was or how large the task. She admitted that this method only produced one usable song; but by my friend Dan's account, it was a good one.

It's not all that uncommon for us in the Creekdogs to tear off beautiful instrumentals in practice, agreeing that a given jam was good enough to add lyrics.  Easier said then done - we've yet to add any words to some of the lovely instrumentals we have kicking around.  Knowing that Dan has a pocketful of great music at any given moment, I decided to try to take the "seven day challenge" and write words everyday for a week to send to Dan and Kevin to put music to.

Starting from zero was really, really hard.  It would've been difficult enough to try to distill a particular sentiment/story into song lyrics; but truthfully, I didn't have a particular sentiment or story I wanted to convey.  For whatever reason, I found myself trying to write like Tom Waits.  This is kinda funny as I'm at best a casual Tom Waits fan.  I have profound respect for him as a songwriter and musician; yet I've never felt compelled to get very deep into his catalog.  I guess the thing I admire the most about Tom Waits' writing is its attention to detail.  A few carefully selected, "small" details vividly portray a given thought/sentiment much better (and a lot more artfully) than just coming right out and saying what's on your mind.

In a week's time, my song lyrics swung wildly from fictitious, third person story telling to personal and sappy as hell.  I tried very hard to remove the inner critic and just get something sent out each night - a process that is trying when some inner voice keeps wondering what Paul Simon, Tom Waits, or Pete Townshend might think of a particular song.

But ultimately, I prevailed.  The experiment yielded six songs in seven nights.  I can't say any of them are great or even good.  But I found the sustained focus and hard work to be quite rewarding.  It remains to be seen if we'll be able to get anything usable out of this batch of tunes - if so, you can expect a follow up post, possibly with audio.  I will say that at the last band practice - this was day two in the process - Dan had taken my lyrics from day one and put them to music.  Bear in mind I thought the lyrics were terrible and unusable.  But after hearing what Dan did to them - I literally almost cried.  It is truly thrilling to hear words I came up with put to music. It was beautiful and honestly, I was using the wrong standard for the words:  reading them there on a page almost as one would read a poem is a world apart from hearing them sung.  I'm hopeful that something cool will come of this.  But if not, I am creatively better for the effort.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: MCA Of The Beastie Boys On "Sabotage"

If you take away one member of the Beastie Boys, the whole thing falls apart.  If you make an exception for the amazing DJs the B-Boys work with, no one member of that band overshadows the other.  And yet, I can't help but think that MCA's bass playing is often overlooked - by B-Boy fans and especially fans of the bass.  "Sabotage" in particular seems to be built around the bass.  I guess because his playing isn't as flashy as say a Firehose-era Mike Watt, MCA doesn't end up as the topic of a lot of discussion in bass player forums.

But check it below - he (they) blow the roof off of wherever the hell it is they playing.  It wouldn't even be close  cool without the bass.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Some Random Dude On A Washtub Bass

Can't say I care much for the song, but I like the guy's bass playing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Pete Shand Of The New Mastersounds On "Kuna Matata"

It's Friday!  That means it is time to showcase a spectacular bass player/bass part.

Pete Shand makes me jealous.  His playing sounds like it's second nature to him; like he was born being able to play bass.  It's smooth, creative and busy without being ejaculatory (which is to say he's in the pocket), and is a nod to James Jamerson without ripping off James Jamerson.  The New Mastersounds are amazing outfit, and that's due in large part to Pete Shand's playing.  I recommend you dive deep into their music RIGHT NOW.

At any rate, I had hoped to embed a live version of the tune below, but my brief search turned up nothing.  Still - dig on this anyway.  I love everything about this tune - dig the percussion, dig the Kenyan MC.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Off Topic: The Rules

Continuing the semi-regular feature that I stole from Esquire magazine.

111.  Be honest with yourself and with others and stop saying the phrase "I don't have time".  Instead, say "that's not a priority for me right now".  Because if it is a priority, you'll make the time for it.
112.  Never engage in arguments with a child, especially in public.  Even if you think you've "won", you haven't.
113.  No matter how massively talented you are at a given thing, always remember that there is someone somewhere who is better at it than you.
114.  To alter the old cliche, lead a horse to water in such a way that drinking is the only option.
115.  Leadership 101:  Don't ask others to do what you yourself would not.

More rules here and here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Soundtrack For A Cartoon

Instructions:  Press "Play" on the player below, then click on the image to embiggen - you need to see this R. Crumb cartoon in its full glory.  Contemplate until song completes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Reid Anderson On "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"

It's Friday - in keeping with tradition, it's time to feature a great bassist/bass part.  Today it's one of my favorite bassists performing in one of my favorite bands - Reid Anderson of the Bad Plus.

Hearing Reid Anderson for the first time (on an NPR review of the album "These Are Vistas") was a mind expanding experience for me.  The possibilities of what can be done on an upright bass exploded into my mind through my ears.  My reaction was just a loop:  "I didn't know you could do that on an upright bass/I didn't know you could do that on an upright bass/I didn't know you could do that on an upright bass. . . "  "Big Eater" staggers me every time I hear it - Reid Anderson (and for that matter, drummer Dave King) is a fucking monster, plain and simple.  But perhaps the Bad Plus's cover of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" is a gentler, less aggressive, easier-to-swallow introduction to Reid and the band.  But don't confuse "palatable cover" as doublespeak for "boring unoriginality".  Listen for yo'self.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Here Is Your Short Halloween Playlist

Conspicuously absent:

  • "Flying Purple People Eater"
  • "Theme From The Munsters"
  • "Theme From The Addams Family"
  • "Thriller"
  • "Frankenstein"
  • "Monster Mash"
Predictably present is "Werewolves of London".  I also threw in a little podcast about "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".  Hope you like.

12 October:  Playlist has been UPDATED!

Scary Stories For Your Listening Pleasure

Halloween (or Jesusween for our more extreme friends) will be here soon enough, so why not get started with some scary stories?  Embedded below is an episode of "This American Life" that I first heard when it aired in 2006.  At the time, it scared the living shit out of me.  And this was listening to it on the way to church with the sun out.  Even if it doesn't scare you, they're immensely entertaining stories and I highly encourage you to listen to the whole episode - especially the second story.

You have any links to good scary stories?  Care to share a scary story yourself?  Leave a message in the comments section.  If you live close by, maybe I can come and record you telling your story and post it here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Holy Crap - All The Sudden I Wish I Owned An IPod Touch

. . . . not that I'd have the chops to put something together like this.  Damn!

Fat Friday Feature: Dan Bergland On "Spunky Sprawl"

Today's featured bassist/bass part is Dan Berglund of E.S.T.  He and Reid Anderson (of the Bad Plus) are two of my favorite upright bass players.  The speed, precision and creativity of Dan's playing blows my mind.  E.S.T. fans know that the band has broken up due to the tragic freak accident of its piano player.  I'll have to check to see what Dan's up to these days.  For now, sit back and enjoy this performance - bass fireworks start at approximately the 1:44 mark.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Audio Scratch Pad: An American Classic - Zippos

If I make it to October 7th without a ciggie, I will have gone one year without smoking.  It's a pretty big deal for me as I am a guy who is owned by his appetites.  And yet, I cant bring myself to get rid of my two beloved Zippo lighters.  In the player below, the first one you'll hear is my "Ace of Spades" Zippo, given to me this year for my 40th birthday by my good friend Dylan.  The second one is my Bucks Cigarettes Zippo, given to me by my good friend JD.  See if you can guess which one needs a new flint.  Feel free to use this as a sound effect for your detective story, or for your Hunter S. Thompson reading.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Chris Wood On "What'd I Say?"

Going to see the Wood Brothers here in Bloomington at a tiny venue - should be sweet.  Seems only logical to showcase some of Chris Wood's bass work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Using Music In Fiction

Over at The Death Of Everything, there is an excellent piece about the use of music in fiction and movies. Authors, musicians, music fans and directors, go check it out now!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

According To Legend: Merry Clayton

According to legend, Merry Clayton miscarried due to the strain of belting out this song.  I could believe it.  This is fucking raw power.  This is easily one of the best vocal performances ever recorded.

Here is her version of the same tune:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Bakithi Kumalo On "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes"

Each Friday, I feature a bass player or bass part that is freaking amazing.  Today, dig on Bakithi Kumalo.

Bakithi Kumalo, in addition to having a cool sounding name, is an incredibly underrated but very technical bass player.  I'm not sure he's ever been on the cover of "Bass Player" magazine.  I'm guessing there's only a little chatter about him in bass player forums.  I'm also sure that young, aspiring bass players aren't writing his name all over their Trapper Keepers.  There is no flash in his gear (the first time I saw video of him playing, he was playing a Washburn Force 4 bass, which also happens to be my first bass) or wardrobe; it's in his tone, his precision, and silky smooth playing.

I was shocked at the number of highly entertaining videos that Bakithi has on You Tube.  For example, dig him playing the awesome Kala U-Bass (a bass ukulele), which will likely be the topic of a future blog entry.  The video embedded below is mesmerizing to me (though I'd recommend you listen to the tune he is breaking down first) because he is slowing down the bass line from "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" and it is no less fascinating.

If you're not already familiar with it, listen to Paul Simon's "Graceland" in its entirety.  Bakithi's runs smother the all of tunes like sweet, sweet maple syrup.

UPDATE:  It looks like he's showing how to do multiple songs from the "Graceland" album.  I was so blown away by the "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" demo that I didn't go any further.  So it looks like Friday just got a lot fatter for all of us!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Around The Internets/Link Dump

After a delightful morning of reading Duder some books, I came to work, read this and thought "hey, what the hell?  I'll make a sad to Tom Waits playlist!  My life is great - I can handle it!"  That move almost brought me to tears upon listening to the list.  Damn that guy can write a song.

Thankfully, Jenn (happy birthday, Jenny!) emailed me with an exceptional pick-me-up tune I hadn't heard forever.  Although I'm not deep into their catalog, there are some Golden Smog tunes I really like.   I can remember years ago flying into Indianapolis from Arizona listening to "Looking Forward To Seeing You", with thoughts of hanging with the family mingled with the music in my ears.  Good times.

In other news, the Selvedge Yard has a great post about the Rolling Stones touring in support of "Exile On Main Street" in 1972.  Check it out - it's a pretty good read related to one of the greatest albums in human history.  There's also a post at TSY that showcases a  pre-plastic surgery Cher - mee-ow!


Finger tappers of the world, rejoice!  Your instrument is here!  This would've driven Fr. Leopold crazy if I would have had this in college.  He's the prof who told me he thought I'd get much higher grades in his class if I'd quit "drumming" with my hands and feet.  Whatevs.  I guess I just have a hammer in my heart.  I wanted to bang on the drums all day maybe.  I still fidget/tap a lot, so take that, Fr. Leopold!  Imma buy this device and sign up for one of your classes just to drive you nuts.

Last but not least, enjoy this NSFW mashup, which is pretty hilarious; and seriously - read this, which is as fascinating as it gets.  Don't read this, which as as boring as it gets.  I kinda got the sense that the B-Boys would've rather been somewhere else.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roadtripping With Mike Birbiglia

I decided to shake things up a bit about 3 years ago when we were heading out for Michigan for vacation:  I downloaded a bunch of stand up comedy to listen to on the trip.  My wife and I have some common ground when it comes to music; it's just the divergences in taste that causes a problems.  As a result, most of the trips are done without music - it's just easier, honestly.  (Note that I didn't write "silence".  I'm looking at you, jabber box son in the back seat.)  The drag about this is that it's harder for me to stay awake while driving.  My thoughts get weirder and weirder.  By the time we get to my destination, even a stiff drink won't help sort me out (but I usually end up trying that method anyway).

With no expectations, I downloaded an album each of Dane Cook and Mike Birbiglia.  We listened to the Birbiglia first.  His in-your-face whiteness and non-threatening persona along with his slurred delivery had us giggling uncontrollably until it was over. He joked of his insecurities in a way that's actually funny (and even cute), not annoying. My wife and I found ourselves repeating the jokes to each other for the rest of the trip.

(The Dane Cook record was okay I guess, but mostly it was just really loud.)

This is a really distracted entry because I'm listening to "Two Drink Mike" right now. It still can make me laugh, even on this overcast day in cubicle land. Take a listen, won't you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Clint Conley On "Peking Spring"

"The Horrible Truth About Burma" by Mission of Burma is one of my favorite live albums of all time.  I'll spare you all the gushing about it because plenty of other people have already done that.  To listen to this album is to hear the future of college radio for the next twenty years or so.  All that crap aside, this album would be worth it for "New Disco" and "Peking Spring" alone, for realz.  "New Disco" is a much better all around song, but "Peking Spring" is like audio adrenaline (though it is not terrible, don't bother with the studio version).  From the moment I first heard it - I think I was fourteen or so - I vowed to learn how to play "Peking Spring".  I haven't learned it yet, but I think I will tonight.

And dig this video - it charms the hell out of me.  There is no pretension at all - from the clothing to the fucking Peavy amps.  Just some guys blowing the doors off whatever basement they're playing in.  Dude, I think Clint Conley's bass just the Solo cup of MGD out of my fucking hand.

There's much more to say about Mission of Burma and their live prowess, but I'll save that for the "greatest live albums of all time" entry.  To quote The Stranger, I done innerduced them enough.  To save you the trouble, Imma embed the whole "Horrible Truth About Burma" album so you can rock the crap out of your co-workers/spouse/pets.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Wayback Machine: The Kent Johnson Project

March 22nd, 2009 was the first time I ever set foot in a studio.  I was asked to be one of two bass players for a CD that was to benefit a local charity.  The music was written by Kent Johnson, who for a time was homeless and benefited from the services of that charity.  It was a blast - there is much to write about from that experience, but for now, enjoy some photos from that recording session.
 Multi-instrumentalist, arranger and music director for this project, Dan Lodge-Rigal.  His talent is only matched by his humility.
 Kent Johnson, whose songs we were recording. This guy is an amazing lead guitar player.  That Gibson SG he's playing is a loaner.  Isn't it a beaut?
 Another shot of Kent.
 Me warming up in one of the isolation booths.  I'm so glad I trimmed my nasal hairs before this photo was taken.
 MMmmmm. . . SG stylings.
 My crap heaped up in the isolation booth, where I did my parts.
 Tom Yeiser, owner and engineer of Sweet Owen Sound, a truly magnificent studio.  He is the Santa Claus of sonic sweetness.
 Kent Johnson awaiting the "all clear" to rawk.
 Drummer John Astaire.  Those drums used to belong to Neil Diamond's drummer.  True story.
 Arty farty shot.
Me no doubt nailing it on the first take.