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Popular Culture Popular Music

Music of the 80s

The 1980s also had some great stuff, but I admit what I liked mostly was the obscure college radio stuff. Having been a former college radio DJ, I had the chance to sample through literally hundreds of songs in search for that “diamond in the rough”. In its day, finding The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 LP Psychocandy didn’t take much digging. Nobody knew what to call it, but it recently got tagged as “Noise pop” by some guy writing for Wikipedia. I really have no idea what to call it to this day, although I admit, some of their tunes bordered on noise, due to their insistence on screeching guitar feedback, especially in their earlier work.

Here is “Just Like Honey”, which appeared on several commercials, including a recent car commercial:

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music Popular Culture Popular Music

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the Seventies V

You Should Be Dancing was the first serious disco hit for the Bee Gees in 1976, a year before Saturday Night Fever. The song later made it on the soundtrack as well, although it was not played on the film. Neither was Jive Talking.  It used the signature falsetto that was found in many of their subsequent hits throughout the 70s and 80s.

I like the rock drums and guitar on this tune, since it makes it rise above the plasticity and superficiality of all disco that came later (by nearly everyone including the Bee Gees). This song was culled from their mid-seventies comeback period, where many of my favourite Bee Gees tunes reside. I am not all that fond of their music before or after, but Jive Talkin’, Nights on Broadway, Fanny, and  You Should be Dancing are my all-time Bee Gees favourites. All of these hits occured in a short period between 1975 and 1976.

Bee Gees – You Should be Dancing: [audio:http://stridersjournal.net/other/[Bee_Gees]_-_You_Should_Be_Dancing.mp3]

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Popular Culture Popular Music

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

The blog that has inspired this series said that the late Minnie Riperton (1947-1979) screamed the lyrics to “Loving You”. We need to distinguish between screaming (something the lead singer of a group like Journey would do), and seriously hitting the high notes. God blessed Riperton with divine vocal cords, with a range of five and a half octaves, rare in most humans. Her natural voice could range above a falsetto into what is called the “whistle register”. Yes, she could sing higher than the Bee Gees or Frankie Valli. Higher than John Denver’s yodeling on the song Calypso, in fact. Unlike the Bee Gees and Denver, Minnie Riperton used full voice in hitting those notes, which is why feats like these are so rare.

They may have needed guards at Riperton’s concerts to make sure no-one brought their dog.

“Loving You” topped the charts in the United States and 24 other countries.

Mariah Carey has been compared with her, and she would appear to be slightly less melodic (still pretty good though).

Before you click on the recording below, you might want to send your dog outside if you have one.

[mp3t track=”Minnie_Riperton_-_Loving_You.mp3″]

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music Popular Culture Popular Music

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

It was 1972, and while commercialism of the music industry was on the rise, there was still enough genuine and original songs to call 1972 a high water mark in popular music. Things got even better in ’73, but then a long, slow decline happened that persists to this day. In my opinion, 1972 was also the high water mark of Kenny Loggins’ music. After this, he started over-commercialising himself, especially with the soundtracks: Danger Zone (Top Gun), Footloose (Footloose), and I’m Alright (Caddyshack) are three over-played songs on radio that immediately come to mind.

“Danny’s Song” is a tune penned by Kenny Loggins during his time with Loggins and Messina that fits in with a number of songs of that period that you can imagine a kindergarten or grade 2 teacher teaching their kids to sing. It is wholesome, with just the right amount of sentimentality that, I think, hits everyone at a basic level. Kind of like “Yellow Submarine”, or “This Land is Your Land”.  When Anne Murray sung this tune a year later, she was nominated at the 1974 Grammies for best female vocalist. She was up against Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”), and won the Grammy in 1974. It is one case where, while the cover was a bigger hit than the original, the original still stands on its own.

The period had a raft of similar tunes, but some of them were trying to hit you over the head with this Kindergarten teacher idea to such an extreme so as to bring actual children in as backup singers.  Two over-the-top examples that immediately come to mind are: “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., or “Sing” by the Carpenters.

[mp3t track=”Kenny_Loggins_-_Dannys_Song.mp3″]

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Pop Culture

Documentary on Deep Throat: Inside Deep Throat

If you ever watched the 2005 doc “Inside Deep Throat”, you may get a feel for what it was like to live in the ’70s. There are a lot of interviews with people involved in the film, distributed by Universal Studios, and shown on Home Box Office. They recall the controversy the film caused, as well as the “path it paved” for future porn. Everyone saluted Linda Lovelace (Linda Boreman, 1949-2002) posthumously, saying that without her there wouldn’t be an adult film industry. Too much is made of the film, which is at heart a typical chintzy porn film with bad writing and bad acting, until the actors shut up and have sex, which is what the audience is really there to see, anyway. There were cute lines and dialog at times, but that is the way with most porn, especially when the writer has more than a few neurons firing from above his brain stem to come up with them.

Much was made of the fact that it was the highest-grossing porn movie of all time, turning Boreman buy viagra online without pres into a popular, but not very well-paid, culture icon. I didn’t give it a detailed look, I must admit, and will probably not watch it again in any detail (it is a long video), but I didn’t see or hear much mention of her later becoming a feminist and an anti-pornography spokesperson. Nor was anything said about her life in prostitution, her drug addiction, or of her abusive and exploitive marriage to Chuck Traynor who also acted as Linda’s pimp, although they had to mention the Mafia’s involvement in the making of the film. No word about her testimony in 1986 to the Meese Commission about her famously-stated description of the porn industry being a form of legalized rape, or of her own career as a feminist on the lecture circuit. No mention, either of the illegal silicone implants she received, a surgery which hadn’t been safely practised until much later.  This resulted in complications leading to radical mastectomy in 1986.

Boreman died in a car crash in 2002, survived by her parents and her two grown children.

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daily life

Yesterday’s moped ride: Lakeshore/Trafalgar to LinuxCaffe in Toronto

Image cut and pasted from Google Maps

I did this ride yesterday, taking Lakeshore Road (Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto) for almost the whole length. Construction on the Gardener closed it for the downtown core, diverting almost all traffic to Lakeshore Boulevard, slowing it down considerably. However, even in the fast parts, I was still able to keep up with the traffic. I bailed out at Canada buy viagra pills online Drive, and rode the CNE grounds to the exit at Strachan, taking the bridge north. Went the wrong way on Palmerston past Queen (according to Google, but saw no street sign saying “One Way”. And the oncoming drivers didn’t seem to mind, but I admit the street was quite narrow), and turned left at Harbord.

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music music videos

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

Singer and former porn actress Andrea True had a major hit with a disco tune in 1976 in the early months of the Bee Gee’s second comeback. “More More More” had Andrea’s words and vocals, and Gregg Diamond’s music. The hook two-thirds of the way through the tune was ripped off by a Canadian Hip-Hop artist named “Len”, and the hook became the repetitive background to the song “Steal My Sunshine“. Reportedly, Len’s entire 1999 album “You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush” is a “nod” to the band The Andrea True Connection. I think if you want to perform Andrea True’s material, you ought to do what Bananrama and Kylie Minogue did, and record your own cover version.

The song “More More More” is mostly a self-referential tribute to her past in the porn industry (“get the cameras going/get the action going”). This disco occured before Saturday Night Fever, and because of that reason alone, it does not suck. I would group it in with Vicki-Sue Robinson, George McRae, Barry White, and early KC and the Sunshine Band. Even the Bee Gees themselves didn’t suck during that period. It was recorded in Jamaica as she was recording commercials for another contract. She got an impressive band of musicians together to provide musical backup, and it was all done in an evening for under $2000.00. An impressively low budget, even in 1976 dollars.

It is most unfortunate that Andrea True doesn’t sing these days, owing to throat surgery to remove a goiter. According to rumors coming from my hired paparazzi spies who troll her lawn and her trashcan, True was working as a drug rehabilitation counsellor in Florida, and did a bit of astrology counselling on the side. She is around 68 years old today.

Here is Nashville, Tennesee native Andrea True, with the video to her hit “More More More”. While the video seems a bit lame, the music isn’t:

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music Science and Technology

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″]

 

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activism politics

Jello Biafra’s predictions made manifest (reported to you entirely in lolcat lingo)

If u recall teh instalment ov “wwjd?”, Jello Biafra discusd bout teh effects an politics ov all dat “toxic crap” which r affecshunately refr 2 as teh tar sandz.

Yesturdai, i read in da globe an mail dat pipeline rupturd on teh top ov hill. Teh crude bitumen flowd down into teh muskeg below.  Nearby aboriginal community wuz gettin sick frum teh stench, especially teh children. They had 2 close teh skool down 4 at least 3 weekz. Teh dai aftr Stefen Harpr got electd, it wuz finally admittd by teh alberta gubment dat 250,000 barrels ov crude tar sandz bitumen had spilld into teh muskeg, killin local animals an plants, an makin peeps sick. Dat didnt taek long 2 proov itself out.

[HUMAN TRANSLATION:]

If you recall the installment of “WWJD?”,Jello Biafra discussed about the effects and politics of all that “toxic crap” which are affectionately referred to as the tar sands.

Yesterday, I read in the Toronto Globe and Mail that a pipeline ruptured on the top of a hill. The crude bitumen flowed down into the muskeg below.  A nearby aboriginal community got sick from the stench, especially the children. They had to close the school down for at least three weeks. The day after Stephen Harper got elected, it was finally admitted by the Alberta government that 250,000 barrels of crude tar sands bitumen had spilled into the muskeg, killing local animals and plants, and making people sick. That didn’t take long to prove itself out.

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bad art classics Science and Technology

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan III

This mini-series is more challenging than I thought. I have visited blogs which commented that Avril Lavigne did a blah version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door. I can’t see the problem, except that she was born decades after the whole folk subculture that caused the song to happen came and went, but that’s life, isn’t it? I was born after the Beatnik generation, so does that mean I can’t understand Allen Ginsburg or William Burroughs enough to recite them? Knocking suited Avril’s vocal style, and she seems to do a good job. Of course, you should expect a different musical interpretation from someone so young. What’s the problem? Hear for yourself. Knocking was also performed by Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon, Eric Clapton, U2, and countless others.

Another artist I have heard being knocked about is Madeleine Peyroux, who did a cover version of Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Peyroux is a jazz singer, and it is a complement to Dylan’s writing and composing that his songs can adapt so well in any genre. Again, I don’t see a problem here. Shawn Colvin and Elvis Costello also did this song, albeit is wildly different musical stylings. It has also become something of a “Lounge Lizard” standard. Here is Peyroux doing Dylan.

But few people would say that Ministry’s version of “Lay Lady Lay” was better than the original. Here is a live recording from 1996:

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Science and Technology

Watching the election

On Monday night/Tuesday morning, I watched the Canadian Federal election, covered as it was non-stop on CBC Newsworld. I watched history unfold; how the NDP’s Jack Layton will occupy Stornaway as the leader of the opposition; how the Liberals are in third place, at about the level of Ed Broadbent in his mediocre days; or how the BQ is wiped off the map but for one candidate (which under our rules robs them of official party status, effectively wiping them off the map). As Chantal Hebert said on CBC, we are witnessing the “Social Creditization” of the Bloc Quebequois. All of this is historic (except for the part about the PC victory).

And, didn’t Osama bin Laden die earlier that Monday or something? Oh, whatever.

The “Orange wave” was impressive. I was listening to a CBC reporter take one NDP campaign organizer to task for the idea that the NDP split the vote. They did, too. In riding after riding, we were shown how the Conservatives won a riding where there was an even battle for second place between the NDP and Liberals.

The debate went in circles, and frankly, the organizer where to buy tramadol for dogs should have borrowed the line from Ralph Nader’s book: Screw the liberals. Igantieff’s loss is Igantieff’s fault. Ignatieff seemed to work with diligence to make absolutely sure to ignore every one of Harper’s gaffes, or to under-react to Harper’s attempts to subvert parliamentary protocol as he had done several times in the past 3 years; and to not react to attack ads attacking his ethnicity, all while Harper canvassed the “very ethnic” ridings of Toronto picking up Conservative converts in traditional Liberal ridings. It takes a disciplined mind to miss stuff like that. You really have to work very hard to not see the Republicn-style double dealing that is inherent in attacking ethnicity on the one hand and courting it with the other, whenever it suits you. You can’t blame the Conservative’s publicity machine for this; the fault lies squarely on Liberal turf.

It satisfies my pet political theory that the two best things to happen to the Conservatives are: Stephane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff after him. They helped Harper attain power for the longest-running minority government on record, followed by handing him a majority.

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Science and Technology

Keeping time

I found my watch, and thought I had lost it. At the time, after not finding the watch for several days, I bought what I knew was a cheap watch to get me by the next couple of weeks or so while I was looking for it, and settled for a el-cheapo watch (called Orlando, if I recall) that a faceless, nameless kiosk in Square One Mall was selling for 10 bucks. It was able to tell time, for that evening. After that, it would fail to tell time at unpredictable intervals. That wouldn’t be so bad, but when I attempted to reset it the next day, the crown came off in my hand, and I was thenceforth unable to set the time. It had a large face with three “play toy”, pretend little dials that I could tell the day I purchased it were pure decoration.

That next day, I went to Streetsville for a reason un-related to watches, but while I was there, I stopped at a Salvation Army store and picked up another ten-dollar watch. A Levi’s, with date and a stainless steel back, case, and strap.

Getting a battery in the Levi’s watch was also a story in Streetsville Jewellery store corporate culture. I first go to Alexander Jeweller’s, which has a chalkboard sign inside the front window saying “knock before entering”. There are people inside and the door is locked. I knock, I hear the key turn, a rather tall lady opens the door and lets me inside. I ask if they can put a battery in my watch. A bespectacled man behind a desk looks at the watch and says he doesn’t know how to open it, and I would have to leave it with him for three buy cheapest tramadol online days at a charge of fifteen bucks. This meant to me that he is incapable of using a pen knife to open the back (I guess he was afraid of cutting himself). He recommends some outfit in the Erin Mills Town Centre, miles away, and we part company.

I go to Starbucks, and I am able to google a place just down the street near the Streetsville library, called Miro’s Jewellers. I was faintly surprised as to why Alexander Jewellers didn’t recommend this person, unless they were new to Streetsville, and didn’t know their competition only blocks away. But anyway, I go there, and while the guy there was giving a recount of Polish history under Stalin, he was able to use a pen knife to flip off the back of my watch, put in a Maxell battery, and set the time for 8 bucks, in a space of 3 minutes. Service, albeit with an impromptu history lesson, but still service. The watch still works, and I am happy. I showed the Miro guy my Orlando watch, and he thought the watch was hilarious. He takes the back off out of curiosity and sees that while the watch had a 2-inch face, the guts inside measured about half a centimetre. I was glad I could make him laugh. I said he could keep that watch.

The Levi’s watch is not my style, but it worked, and still works. Moral of the story: if you’re going to cheap out on a temporary watch, go to Salvation Army or Goodwill, since the money goes to a worthy cause, and the stuff has half a chance of actually working, in most cases.

I also found my old watch.

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activism Pop Culture

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]

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Popular Culture Science and Technology

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan II

I have heard comments that hearing Dylan’s voice is “worse than cancer”. I believe such comments are un-necessarily harsh. Remember “Lay Lady Lay”? Didn’t that border on melodic? OK, I rest my case. He was terrible most of the time, not all of the time.

On the other hand, Willliam Shatner has no business deviating his acting day job. If God hands us only one great talent in our lives, be it singing, song writing, playing an instrument, acting, writing, and so on, we ought to make the most of it and count our blessings, since it is these limited talents alone that place us already above the crowd. It is rare that people are successful in more than one talent, and when it is usually attempted, the result is often, uh, humbling for the performer. And unintentionally amusing for the audience.

To illustrate the over-reaching kind of talent, here is William Shatner talking over “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man”.

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Science and Technology

Credit card Coca-Cola

Yes, I finally did it. I went in debt for a bottle of coke. I finally succumbed to the capitalist idea that nothing should ever come between my desires and whether I actually had the money to purchase what I desire. Where I work, I ate take-out Chinese food, but had no beverage, and not enough money for the Coke machine. I was thirsty, and usually use Diet Coke to wash down the food. I swiped a credit card on one of those Wi-Fi Coke machines, pushed Diet Coke, and out came what I “desired,” and soon my thirst was quenched.

I think in our culture, we are so mired in debt that we can’t really buy tramadol online without prior prescription afford to do any serious borrowing these days. Instead, we are encouraged, through much advertising, to put smaller and smaller purchases on credit. It wasn’t too long ago, if I had no money for Coke, I just did without until later, or drank water from the cooler. It doesn’t help that our water cooler is on the fritz, and hasn’t been maintained since this past summer.

I am still looking at this Coke I bought. I finally have to agree: we live in an age where some things are way too easy to get. It was too easy to get this Coke. I can’t undo it now. I guess I just have to drink up.

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Popular Culture

Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie.

This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw the like. I am used to fortune cookies containing old sayings, universal aphorisms, little smippets of wisdom, and sometimes a blandly optimistic prognostication of what the future holds.

I would never have expected one to wield a statement on human rights. But there it was, printed in blue and white, plain as day. The other side of the fortune cookie says “Learn Chinese”, and teaches the phrase “Excuse me”, followed by a list of six lucky numbers. Four of those numbers are too big to use in Lotto 6-49.

Here in the United States and Canada, our culture seems to take human rights for granted. The rights of stray dogs seem to get more attention than the free speech rights of protestors, worker’s rights and so on. We seem to feel more for an abandoned puppy than for an abandoned child these days. I am not sure how animal rights seem to have more cachet in a culture where I have heard about human rights offices and Public Interest Research Groups around North America being defunded or closing altogether, while animal shelters appear to have the status of five-star hotels. How do we get to a point where we have seemed to forgotten about all the struggles that gave rights to minorities, women, and aboriginals, just treating them as though they have always magically existed?

No-one in this world has rights without a struggle, nor lost them without taking their short-lived nature and fragility for granted. The fact that we now have to look outside of our culture to places like the Middle East for examples of human rights advocacy tells us of how far we’ve fallen, and of how dysfunctional our own culture has become.

A much more human-rights-friendly coverage of the Middle East protests appeared, ironically, in Pravda. They seem to quote Al Jazeera more openly, and more often. I know this is far from a human rights advocacy newspaper, and they have their own line of propaganda, but you have to look elsewhere in Pravda for more obvious examples.

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bad art music

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan I

Welcome to the first episode of The Difficult Listening Moment. On today’s episode, we explore some music by Bob Dylan. Those who know the music of Bob Dylan knows that his songs had been made a whole  lot more popular by other acts such as The Byrds, The Band, Joan Baez.  In fact, nearly anyone who sung Dylan can do it better than Dylan does.

Nearly anyone. Yes, there are those in the minority, who make it into the dustbin of popular culture, who, when they attempt to sing a Dylan tune, actually sing it worse than Dylan himself, if such a thing is possible. When you think about the way Dylan sings — sort of like a cat being run over by a car that needs to be put out of its misery — you can appreciate that this is something of an achievement.

Here, then, for your perusal is the late Sebastian Cabot (1918-1977) reciting “It Ain’t Me, Babe”.

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motorcycles Science and Technology

Moped Season