August 12th, 2014
Anil Dash digs deep into the evolution of Purple Rain and It Is Glorious:
While Prince and the Revolution had been carefully rehearsing Purple Rain all summer, adjusting each detail of how the song was structured and played, Prince's nearly-unequalled ability to spontaneously take a live performance to the next level was certainly on display that August night.
Exemplifying this ability is the repeated lilting motif that Prince begins playing on his guitar at 4:40 in the song. For all the countless times they'd practiced the song, even earlier on the same day as the First Avenue performance, Prince had never played this riff during Purple Rain before. In the original live show, it's clear that Prince realizes he's found something magical, returning again and again to this brief riff, not just on guitar but even singing it himself during the final fade of the song.
Just as striking is how this little riff shows the care and self-criticism that went into making the song Purple Rain. Like any brilliant 25-year-old guy who's thought of something clever, Prince's tendency when he thought of this little gem was to overdo it. In the unedited version of the song, Prince keeps playing the riff for almost another minute, pacing around the stage trying to will the audience into responding to it.
But during those same sessions where the strings were added to the song, Prince ruthlessly chopped down a riff he clearly loves, keeping just enough to serve as a stirring melodic hook for his guitar solo, and leading the song to its soaring vocal climax.
To this day I still think that When Doves Cry is the best track from Purple Rain, but I've got to bow to the majority view on this one: come the sad day when Prince Rogers Nelson passes on it's the title track that's going to be played to remind us of the talent we'll have lost.
May 5th, 2014
There's a new episode of the Word Podcast:
Includes: world debut of enthralling new parlour game Rock Poker; Neil Finn's Two-Way Family Favourites; the two tribes of Adam Ant Nation; Justin Timberlake's moveable feast; why long-form TV is a sinister plot to steal our lives; a pathetic attempt to read a whole paragraph of Mark Ellen's book "Rock Stars Stole My Life" without laughing; plus uncalled for interjections from Fraser Lewry's amazing wi-fi rabbit and your questions answered.
[Via David Hepworth's Notebook]
April 6th, 2014
Perusing a recent Guardian article listing 10 of the best tracks by Björk, I came across a mention in comments of her performing a David Arnold arrangement of You Only Live Twice. I'd never heard this before (for some reason it didn't show up on David Arnold's Shaken and Stirred album of Bond theme cover versions) and it's fantastic:
That said, I'm not sure that this would make it into my personal Top 10 Björk tracks; not a slight on this performance, more a consequence of Björk having spent twenty-odd years making distinctive and frequently surprising music so that there's a lot of competition for the honour.
April 4th, 2014
義足のMoses is pretty much the cutest thing I've seen all week:
March 11th, 2014
Listeners of a certain vintage will be pleased to hear that Mark Ellen, David Hepworth and Fraser Lewry reconvened the other day to record one more edition of the Word Podcast:
Word Podcast 218 – Where's The Crisps? – March 2014: Mark Ellen, David Hepworth and Fraser Lewry convene over cakes to discuss: why all rock docs are legally bound to feature Bono, the touching story of Harry Nilsson's last marriage, what Jimi Hendrix really got up to in Marrakesh, whether Ginger Baker is in fact a bit of a bore, Fraser's day trip to North Korea and the book what Mark wrote. And Vikings.
Be nice to think they might find a way to do more of these, but either way I'm going to enjoy listening to this tomorrow.
[Via David Hepworth's Notebook]
February 28th, 2014
Maciej Ceglowski's Webstock presentation on Our Comrade The Electron draws lessons for modern technologists from the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the inventor of – among other things – the theremin:
Termen was just what Lenin needed: a Soviet inventor with an electrical gizmo that would dazzle and amaze the masses, and help sell the suspicious countryside on electrification. He gave Termen a permanent rail pass, encouraging him to take his show on the road all over the Soviet Union.
When Lenin died a few years later, Termen sent urgent word that Lenin's body be immediately frozen. He had an idea for how to bring him back to life, but it required putting the body on ice. He was devastated to learn that Lenin's brain had already been taken out and pickled in alcohol, and his body embalmed for public viewing.
Given Termen's track record of technical achievement, it's probably a good thing he didn't get a chance at making zombie Lenin.
February 7th, 2014
Gary Card's illustrations of every Prince hair style from 1978 to 2013 are very cute. Downright hypnotic, even:
September 1st, 2013
For Once in My Life: James Jamerson's Bass Line Visualized:
Vulfpeck's Jack Stratton sent us this cool video he made saying, "[James] Jamerson belongs with Bach, Debussy and Mozart, and that includes graphical scores on Youtube."
We couldn't agree more. [...]
August 4th, 2013
Stiff Records' press release about the first week sales performance of Johnny Borrell's solo album is putting a brave face on things:
Stiff Records is proud to announce first week sales figures for its latest album – Johnny Borrell's 'Borrell 1' – of 594.
'Borrell 1' is the début solo LP from the former Razorlight vocalist and is the first new album on the highly prolific Stiff Records since 2007.
That last album was the multi million-selling two-volume set, '30 Years Of Stiff Records' (although admittedly that was a free cover-mount with 'The Independent on Sunday').
"First week sales of 594 makes 'Borrell 1' the 15,678th best selling album of the year to date," comments a Stiff spokesperson. "So far we've achieved 0.00015% sales of Adele's '21' – and 0.03% sales of this week's No. 1 album from Jahmene Douglas – so we feel like it's all to play for as we move into the all-important week two."
"We might even break the Top 100."
Or possibly taking the piss. Hard to tell.
[Via No Rock And Roll Fun]
July 3rd, 2013
David Hepworth says that when it comes to journalism the genius is in the details:
I met a bloke about five years ago who was a TV producer with an interest in music. He said something which made an impression. "All the macro stuff's done. The future is micro, if only you could find a way to pay for it."
There were a couple of moments in last night's Quiet Word evening [...] when I saw what he meant. [...]
June 16th, 2013
I've been seeing links to Evolution of Get Lucky pop up all over the place for days now, but not being a big fan of the track I hadn't followed them. I really should have: this is fantastic:
For the record, I give the 40s, 70s and (especially) the 80s versions very high marks.
June 8th, 2013
I'd seen links to a vocal-only track from Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure all over the place over the last couple of days, but hadn't bothered to follow them.
Don't repeat my mistake: if you haven't already done so, you owe it to yourself to hear this…
June 7th, 2013
Zed Lopez noticed an interesting detail in this article, written prior to astronaut Chris Hadfield's recent trip to the International Space Station:
"The Larrivée Parlor on the ISS was purchased at the local Guitar Center in Southern Florida and there are actually two of them," Larrivée told SPACE.com. "The other stays on the ground at NASA so they know what's up there."
They really are prepared for a "We gotta find a way to make this fit into the hole for this using nothing but that." scene!
Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense. It's just odd – or should I say, distinctly reassuring – to be reminded of just how careful NASA are, even now after so many astronauts have visited the ISS.
May 13th, 2013
Paul Ford on How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley:
The nineteen-forties Bing Crosby hit "White Christmas" is a key part of the national emotional regression that occurs every Christmas. Between Christmases, Crosby is most often remembered as a sometimes-brutal father, thanks to a memoir by his son Gary. Less remarked upon is Crosby's role as a popularizer of jazz, first with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, and later as a collaborator with, disciple to, and champion of Louis Armstrong. Hardly remarked upon at all is that Crosby, by accident, is a grandfather to the computer hard drive and an angel investor in one of the firms that created Silicon Valley. [...]
Ford mentions one other technical innovation in broadcasting that Crosby allegedly inspired, but you'll have to read the article to the end to find out about that one. It's worth it.
April 29th, 2013
Nitsu Abebe has written a thoughtful piece on The Amanda Palmer Problem. By which he means not so much the various issues some people have with Palmer's own actions but the wider problem of how artists seeking support from fans can bring down such vitriol upon themselves online:
I think there's a lesson to be learned from Palmer, and it's not the falling-into-the-crowd lesson she offers. Yes, she's correct: The web offers an opportunity to fall into the open arms of fans, in ways that weren't available before. Here's the catch: The web also makes it near-impossible to fall into the arms of just one's fans. Each time you dive into the crowd, some portion of the audience before you consists of observers with no interest in catching you. And you are still asking them to, because another thing the web has done is erode the ability to put something into the world that is directed only at interested parties.
This sort of furore is only going to get bigger and noisier as the example of the The Veronica Mars Movie Project is followed by the likes of Zach Braff and more and more recognisable names show up on the front page of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
[Via Waxy.org links]
March 5th, 2013
It turns out that combining Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen gives a really strange result.
I honestly can't make my mind up whether this is epic or embarrassing, or possibly just a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
February 10th, 2013
Why My Bloody Valentine's 'mbv' Has Come Too Late To Stop The End Of The World:
Thanks Kevin. Thanks a fucking bunch for taking 22 years to make a record that could have saved the world. All you had to do was make a bunch of songs that sound like being hit on the head with a shovel after doing poppers while listening to a melancholy whale sighing. But you couldn't be bothered and now we're all going to die in planet wide nuclear annihilation.
[Via The Null Device]