Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies I

This new series is inspired by another blog where writers Wes Clark and Bob Hargus just list out a raft of seventies songs that “suck”, with some subjective criteria included, not to mention the odd bit of commentary. Among those listed are, of course, the music we all think about when we think of tacky songs of that period: a good chunk of ABBA, “Feelings” by Morris Albert, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (I once saw this single nailed to a pillar in front of a Toronto used record store on Yonge Street, south of Bloor — rotate that!), Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, and most things found in any K-Tel catalogue.

You probably expect me to list those things, along with the predictable tut-tutting of what we all listened to, and how it makes us feel foolish. But you know what? I won’t. And that’s because what passes for a monster musical hit these days is worse than the worst seventies song. Yes, there are exceptions, there are always exceptions, but there are many good reasons that songs these days suck so much, mostly having to do with the changes in the music industry. It seems to me, that in an attempt to become a predictable source of revenue to its shareholders, the hit songs of today have to sound like previously existing hit songs. Punk rock also saved the major labels a load of money in not having to book so much studio time so that the band could get its act together. This was because not rehearsing or even checking to see if their instruments are in tune is the whole point of punk rock. But as music fans started to understand the political statement behind being a punk, they probably started to discover that they can take control of their lives and improve their communities without needing to listen to such shitty music while they’re doing it. It also doesn’t seem quite as necessary as it used to be to dye your hair purple, wear a mohawk, or stick a clothes pin through your nostril to rebel against vanity and fashion. Although, that kind of fashion idiocy has been replaced by another form of fashion idiocy, inspired by Rap and Hip-Hop. I have already previously commented on the similarities in tastes in clothing and how it is worn, to that of rednecks. What goes around comes around.

So, for my first instalment in this series, I present to you my reasons for why Diana Ross, and “Touch Me In the Morning”, does not suck. I think this song is actually a good song, foremost because of the fact that it is better than any torch song or ballad sung these days. But even on its own merit, it is classic motown, and the song reached number 1 and charted on Billboard for nearly 6 months. Most motown artists worked through the sixties making hit records, but it wasn’t until the seventies that the craft of artists like Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye was perfected, and we heard the best motown could offer. The part I like best in this song is the beginning, as it builds up. When it does build up, I imagine that people might say it sounds too much like disco. But remember, this was 1973, and disco did not become big until much later. Maybe disco was trying to sound too much like Diana Ross.

[mp3t track=”Diana_Ross_-_Touch_Me_In_The_Morning.mp3″]

 

Food for thought during the Canadian Federal Election Campaign

I have been a big fan of Jello Biafra’s spoken word stuff. This time, he does his spoken word thing around some mannequins, and he’s discussing the Alberta Tar Sands, and how dirty the fuel is to refine, and how dependent the United States is on our oil.

To those who haven’t heard him before, he has strong views. But in the typical punk rock/anarchist tradition, you are encouraged not to take his word for it — why not search out the truth for yourself? Get it from the source, or as close to the source as you can. Jello is a Green Party member in the U. S., and is likely to be quite well-read on environmental issues.

One problem, although it is a minor point: While I distrust Stephen Harper as much as anyone, his religion is evangelical, but not fundamentalist as Jello suggested in his piece below. He may try to convert you 🙂 but he probably doesn’t believe that the Earth is 5000 years old or that the Bible is literally true. Nor would they agree with the idea of speaking in tongues. In fact, his church, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, has been a participant in a lot of human relief efforts worldwide. Just the same, who knows? Maybe Harper really does believe that Jesus will make a rainforest grow from the tailings of the refinery, and make the cancerous tumors of the Miskew Cree disappear. Check out this article for more info on the effects of the refinery tailings on the Athabasca River, downstream from the tar sands mine.

So overall, Jello’s speech kind of makes me want to go out and become a card-carrying Green Party member.

This is from an ongoing series on Jello’s blog, called “What would Jello do?“. You should check out the others.

Meanwhile, there is an election on May 2nd, and while cynics say that voting doesn’t change things much, the only thing worse than voting is not voting. Clicking on the graphic below the video leads you to Elections Canada, where you can get to know a few things about your local candidates. If you are a Canadian citizen of legal age, be sure you are registered to vote.

[media id=106 width=400 height=300]

Why I’ve Avoided Discussing Certain CACs

Crappy Album Covers have been a staple of this blog for over a year now.  I think I may have posted over 400 album covers in that time, and I have particularly, but not always, targeted the unintentionally bad ones.

There have been certain themes/artists/genres I have avoided:

Metal: I’ve said it before that many metal/punk/hard rock bands release sucky/disturbing covers on purpose, because they know their audience will buy the record/cd. Picking on metal or punk bands would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I have made exceptions (Pantera and Stryken, notably) when the album crosses the line of bad taste to unintentional bad taste.

Bob Dylan: I’ve noticed on some blogs, many commenters pick on Dylan’s albums as a source of bad album art. Face it, folks. Nobody buys Dylan for the album cover, so no one cares. However, in a future post, I make a point that there is a Dylan album art concept that is getting a bit repetitive: the blurry-photo-of-Dylan-in-concert idea. Oh, and yeah, there was also that Starbucks promo CD I discussed earlier.

Nobody buys Leonard Cohen for his album art, either. Or Joni Mitchell for hers, even when she draws the covers herself in crayon (Ladies of the Canyon, and Court and Spark, I believe are two examples) .

Most “lounge lizard” acts and Gospel acts are the same way. For the most part, you tend to get a picture of the artist, the album title, and at least a partial track listing. The whole intent is predictability, and a total avoidance of any artistic risk-taking. Lounge acts start crossing the line, however, when they become too grandiose, or too “nerdy”, or show a total lack of thought in the photo/artwork.

This is at least a partial rendition of my thought processes when making these CAC entries.

[Video] Stuart, by The Dead Milkmen: A Video Gallery

This was a great song back when I was in university. Here, I have several people who took the song and created their own video with it.

There used to be some excellent photo montages of this vid that got pulled by YouTube. Even a recent montage I noticed had the soundtrack pulled on it.What I am now to make do with is this buy viagra online from mexico small crop of Stuart tunes, lip synchs and remakes. Hope YouTube doesn’t pull these.

(1) The original: [media id=64 width=400 height=24]

(2) A lip-synch by a fan: [media id=65 width=400 height=300]

(3) A cover by Christian Doyle: [media id=66 width=400 height=300]

(4) DM Live (excerpts): [media id=67 width=400 height=300]

… At least now I know what a burrow owl is.

Turbonegro vs Village People – Creepy similarities

Turbonegro is a Norwegian punk band. As I understand it, their sub-genre is something called “death-punk”. It has also been called “glam-punk”, and so on. Many aspects of their brand of punk has been influenced by 70s arena rock bands such as Kiss.

I noticed in one of their more recent videos that each of these depressing looking characters plays a different “character”. One is a Hun, another is a military cop, another is a marine deckhand, one is neaderthal, and the other two … well, I don’t know what they are trying to be. But in a less “depressive” form, there is another 6-member group from the era of 70s arena rock that would appear to have similar taste in clothes.

Ah, yes. The Village People. There’s a cop, another navy guy, a biker, a construction worker, a cowboy and an indian. No neanderthals, though. I am not a fan of disco, but at least they are a little less preoccupied with thoughts of death.

(Crappy album covers — sidebar) — The Shaggs: A quandry

Much of my youth was devoted to getting any info I could about the pop music culture I grew up in. From time to time, there would be the odd mention of The Shaggs, a band of four young sisters, Dorothy, Betty, Helen and Rachel Wiggin. In fact, there was (and likely still is) a strong cult following led by the likes of Frank Zappa. The album depicted here is a compilation called “Shagg’s Own Thing”, released in 1982. If anyone were to be introduced to The Shaggs, I would recommend this album first, since it is a better approximation of conventional music.

I don’t wish to go into a long diatribe about the history of The Shaggs. They are well-written about and have been reviewed, especially after the reissue of “Philosophy of the world” by RCA in 1999, in such publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker.

This second album was their 1969 debut, “Philosophy of the World”, recoded a few months before Woodstock. To quote Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell, from their book “The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time”: “In their insistence that technical proficiency was immaterial, The Shaggs were the original punk rockers.”

People are largely on two minds about The Shaggs. On the one hand, they don’t seem to know how to play their instruments, their instruments and their voices appear to be out of tune, and they have no consciousness about keeping time with each other. If you listen to their music, this is depressingly obvious, and you feel embarrassed for them.

One gets the feeling that these sisters probably never wanted to be in a band. That was their father’s idea, and the sisters’ desires didn’t matter. This reprint of the New Yorker article paints a picture of daughters who lived in fear of Austin Wiggin, their authoritarian father, who hated much of the popular culture that was around him, and worked hard to shelter his daughters from those influences. Yet, he wanted his daughters to play popular music, partly to make a name for himself in his home of Fremont, New Hampshire; and partly to fulfill a prediction made by his clairvoyant wife that his daughters would play in a band. Neither parent was remotely musical, the kids were homeschooled, and this separated them even more from mainstream culture. What musicality could possibly emerge from such a deprived environment?

That being said, there are those who, thirty years on, still think they were on to something. I go with my instincts, and think that this was a family run by a controlling father, and what desires really exist within them to become whole; any move toward even knowing their own feelings and desires was something that only became possible after the death of Austin in 1975. The Shaggs were an extension of Austin, and had little to do with the young ladies.