Category Archives: Extreme Feats of Musical Bad-Assery

Musicians, composers, and music that make other musical accomplishments look like droopy-eyed armless children

Exteme Feats of Musical Bad-Assery #5 Ravi Shankar Celebrates his 91st!

Rodger Daughtry, singer of legendary rock group The Who, once proclaimed that “I hope I die before I get old”. John Lennon himself said he hoped he wouldn’t still be singing “She Loves You” at age 40 (an age he sadly never made it past, RIP), and many popular musicians throughout the world revel in their youth. When our heroes get old, should they still be alive or remembered, we endlessly compare them to who they once were, which although is pure injustice is the status quo. While many go out revered, they go out with a fizzle, or at the least past their prime.

Ravi Shankar with Geroge Harrison

There is one man, however, who not only has persisted but has torn down the notion of age affecting the sharpness of a musical mind of the nimble ability of aged hands. He is one of my all time heroes: Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar is a held in esteem as THE best sitar player the world has seen (the sitar is a 20-ish string Indian lute), and is a composer of legendary status that has not only done the most for Indian classical music than any other single person, but has introduced it to the mainstream west and with his compositions masterfully blended the mathematical western traditions and the more philosophical traditions of the east that many thought were incompatible on any grand orchestral level. He is without a doubt, India’s most prolific and important musical ambassador, and through him many come to appriciate the country’s rich and vibrant culture. Here is a younger Ravi:

While Ravi was well-known throughout Indian circuits before the 60’s, it was during the 60’s, through his friendship with George Harrison, that he took America by storm, playing the Monterey and Woodstock music festivals. Where time has slowed some down, Ravi continued expanding his mastery and finesse, writing new pieces, including an awesome sitar concerto for orchestra published in 2008. April 7th, 2011 marked his 91st birthday, but unlike many 91 year-olds, Ravi is still out touring, sharing his love of his musical tradition and the deep spiritual devotion that comes with Indian music. As some may think, it is not just a freak show, a chance to see some awesome old person sit there and try and imitate themselves that you can brag about seeing. Ravi still has it. Despite his age and the complications that must come with it, Shankar has not lost a step. He still has an amazing ear for his ragas, and when needed he cans till rip up and down the sitar’s neck.

Here is the master in all his ripeness and glory:

Indian music (which will be explained in a later post) varies dramatically from western music in theory, and is all improvised from a set of ragas (until later, just think of them as scales or modes). The fact he at age 91 is still on the road and has a sharp enough mind to still keep producing his magic and have his body keep up with him is a strong testament to his devotion to his religion and music, which requires a vegetarian lifestyle, no drugs or drinking, and no illicit sex. Happy (belated) 91st birthday pandit Ravi Shankar. From the Selective Listening team, you da’ man!

Ravi Shankar, master of sitar


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Extreme Feats of Musical Bad-assery #4 the Hula

Hope you brought your appetite, because you and yo' crew are about to get SERVED (some delicious spam)

I’m not much of a clubber. I don’t go clubbing, dance the night away, get slizzerd, nor can I relate to anything Ke$ha has sung about, ever. I’m not condemning it, it’s just not me. Closest I got was a Ratdog concert in the front of a giant grooving mob of hippies pushed against a barrier, but that is neither here or there. I have however, listened to lyrics and have heard popular dance and hip-hop tunes dealing with the lifestyle, and from this I feel I am comfortable with how that club culture presents itself. I have also watched the South Park episode with the “dance off” with a rival dance crew, so I am pretty sure I can safely say that in comparison with a true dance culture, the western club scene is empty of any real power (except the roofies. Powerful, powerful roofies).

This is, of course, when compared to a true dance-culture, a culture that embraces the full power of dance and has elevated up to a pinnacle of social and mystical power. I am talking about the native population of Hawaii. Now, again I reaffirm I do not know the modern attitude towards dance that most 19 year-olds have, but I’m assuming that “hula” is not in the top-5 list of badass power-dances, but it could not be more true. Predating western discovery, occupation, and westernization of Hawaii, the native tribes used dancing as a substitute for outright combat and warfare.

Hula Hoop

pictured: WMD

What today in a club is a dance-off when someone disrespects you and your crew, had a much more amazing predecessor. There was so much mystical power associated with their holy texts, and their vocal and physical expressions, that rival tribes would demonstrate their superior mastery of the magic powers by dancing and chanting better than the other tribe. The tribe danced better had more magical power, and therefore obviously could whoop more butt than the other one could, should it come to fisticuffs. It never did. No one would dare cross the winning tribe, but to dance again.

Having people [sic]“get out the way of me and my crew crew crew crew” so you can do what you [sic] “do do do do” can at best get you beat up in the alley, or branded a king douche. Having glitter all on your eyes and ripped stocking in a place where the freaks all come to dance and “take it off’ sounds like a recipe for rape. No lands are won and lost, no slaves are taken and freed, no precious resources are trading hands, and no governments rise or fall in a club, but in ancient Hawaii when you and your “crew” got mad props and respect from dancing, it meant something much more than our western black eyes, hangovers, and special victim units. It meant you were THE big Kahuna. Now that’s what it really means to have to “represent”.


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Extreme Feats of Musical Bad-Assery #3 Barney the Purple Dinosaur

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Dylan and the Dead


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Extreme Feats of Musical Bad-Assery #2 Truly Instant Karma

 “Hey! What did you do today?” When was the last time you really had a mind-blowing answer to that question? Be honest… Sure, some people do some pretty neat things sometimes, and we are all encouraged to make everyday count, but have you had this conversation? “Hey, what did you do today?” “Eh, I wrote, rehearsed, recorded, and released a hit single.” Now, imagine saying that when you have are dealing with a falling out of your best friends, balancing two bands, a large corporation, and are at the head of one of the biggest snowballs in recent cultural history. John Lennon didn’t have to imagine. That was just a day at the office for John, January 27th, 1970 when he recorded “Instant Karma”

While exact records of the day’s timetable don’t exist, Lennon offered this to the press regarding what is one of, if not the, fastest out-out pop singles in history, wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.” What can be for certain is that in less than 24 hours, Lennon had written the piece, gotten a hold of a crew made up no less than master of the organ Billy Preston, George Harrison accompanying Lennon on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Allen White on drums, rehearsed, and recorded the single. They got it out to the powers that be that night, and it was on shelves in only 10 days.  Soon after, or maybe even between that time, a video was recorded to promote the song and its message. Lennon can be seen sporting a shorter haircut than the Lennon we know and love from the era, and that is believed to be the point: he had cut it off as a publicity stunt tp promote his messages of world and inner peace.

10 days. What stared out as probably a little singing in the shower went to reach #3 on the US charts, #5 in the UK, #2 in Canada, and #1 in France. It is notable that its competition for the top spots was the Beatles’ own “Let it Be” classic, and Simon and Garfunkels’ “Bridge over Troubles Water” among others. What is more incredible, though not at all uncommon for the man, is that beyond being deemed epic and relevant enough to be used in a Nike commercial 20 years down the road, it inspired the title of Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining. The song continues to deliver its philosophical and humanitarian punch to the present, being covered by such acts as U2 and headlining the Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Initiative to Save Darfur of 2007.As far as message and impact, it ranks besides such Lennon masterpieces as “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance”. Not too shabby for a days work, eh?

Hey Jude

Now it’s not like he just woke up one morning and started pumping out iconic songs in a single shot, as a Beatle, he was very experienced in impacting generations in a single bound. The Beatles most successful single (and a constant on “greatest songs ever” lists), “Hey Jude” was recorded in a single take. Although the overall timing of the song is not as impressive as the instant hit “Instant Karma”, and getting songs right the first time is not unheard of, the song has its own reasons to brag. (now, to be fair, the band recorded 4 takes, but it was the first that was chosen for the final cut)

First of all, it IS one of the best songs in popular music, if not ever. Not only was it done in one attempt, but Ringo Starr (drummer) wasn’t even in the room for the first minute of recording. Their recording set up had the drummer’s box set up right by the bathroom. This said, no one noticed when Ringo slipped out to use the facility, and they started recording. One can imagine his reaction when he was, pardon the pun, caught with his pants down when the song was heard form down the hall. Being Ringo Starr, and by definition one extremely slick cat, he was able to slip back into the room without a sound, and take his seat at the drum seconds before the drum cue, and come in right one time.

Also noteworthy about one of the “Best songs ever recorded” is that in the last 20 seconds of the second minute, someone (John blames Paul) can be barely heard to utter “Fucking hell”, probably stemming from a missed note. The band (again, probably John) insisted the oopsie be left in the final mix, albeit turned down to a level where the general public has yet to catch on. Here are two videos of the song. The first is a simple slideshow video found on Youtube. If you don’t have the song, see if you can spot the oopsie. The second is the official video for the song, included simply because it’s neat, and it’s the Beatles. You gotta respect.


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