Tag Archives: Humor

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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Mr. Spock and Bilbo Baggins

Some bands make it big. Some bands have huge followings that display an almost religious ferocity in their devotion. There are few people, however, few single-bodied mortal beings that have risen to such status in the world of music and culture. Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia comes instantly to mind, and I can only really think of one more man who has attained such status: Leonard Nimoy. That’s right, I brought Spock into this, so set your phasers to stun and just hear me out.

To boldly go where he probably should have never went... the recording studio

Trekies have been known since he dawn of Star Trek in the 1960’s to take fandom  to a whole new level of whacked-out-ness, and I think I am about to make the day of those of us who appreciate the finer things in life (and then go to conventions in their mom’s minivan). Not only did Mr. Spock, in the experimental spirit of the era, test the waters of a pop musical career, he did so by evoking the name of another saint of the genres: Bilbo Baggins. The most widespread, or at least the most popular surviving, single of his career was “The ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, a tale recounting the life and adventures of one of the coolest little people in literature. I could go on and examine the music and video, talk about clichés of the decade and this kind of music and make some sarcastic commentary, but I assume you can too. Instead, I’m just gonna sit back and let Spock, his vibrant go-go line, innovative harmonies and his love of all things short, hairy and that just wanna be left alone have their moment as Shire-folk everywhere cringe at that dark time in their history, not when the forces of evil threatened their peaceful way of life, but when Leonard Nimoy shook their world. Rumor has it that every year since Nimoy quit doing music, the Bagginses and the Proudfeet have held an annual Hobbit-kegger where they smoke pipes, shoot fireworks with Gandalf and tell tales of how short-lived and non-prosperous Leonard Nimoy’s pop music career was.

And to those of you who have never heard of this, you’re welcome.

Spock sings about effin’ Hobbits… Seriously.


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Epic-sounding Collaborations You’ve Probably Never Heard of #3 Rick James and Neil Young


Neil Young (left) and Rick James (right) later in their respective careers


Neil Young and Rick James: now, a lot has been said about Canadian songsmith Neil Young, but I’ve not heard him called a superfeak. You know who is? RICK JAMES. Legendary funk bassist had a 1981 hit with a song by that name and the riff was sampled by the likes of MC Hammer. What connects these two? They had a band in the mid-60’s that almost made it to the big time. You’re probably thinking, much like the author when this was made known, HESAYWUTNOW?!? Neil Young has a healthy repertoire of genres, from influencing singer-songwriter folk to becoming one of the “godfathers of grunge”, but funk, let alone working with Rick James? Surely material was just running low for the column and this was fabricated… but it happened.

the Mynah Birds: James is singing, Young can be seen second from the right

The Mynah Birds were comprised of Neil Young, Rick James, Goldie McJohn (future Steppenwolf member), and Bruce Palmer, who would go on to play with Young in Buffalo Springfield. Having heard “Superfreak” and being very familiar with Neil’s work, I was AGAIN surprised with the groups sound and style. With their yellow boots, black jackets, and yellow turtlenecks, they must have fit in well with the 1966 crowd, and had a sound eerily similar to the Rolling Stones of the era. Even though Rick was singing, it would be hard to tell these recordings apart from studio outtakes from Mick, Keef and the boys. All available accounts of live performances were stunning, as to be expected by anyone familiar with Young, James, or any other of the members and their future careers. Given the time period and the stage of these men’s careers, these tracks are everything you’d expect them to be. This band was the final jumping-off point before Young delved into the waters of the singer-songwriter acoustic art, where his fame really took off.

Recorded in 1966, Motown chose not to release the album because James was taken from the studio for being AWOL from the US Navy. The distribution of their single “It’s My Time” was halted the day of release, and the other recording have never been officially released (again, which really surprises me). As videos are available on Youtube of at least 3 tracks, obviously somebody got a hold of a bootleg and it made its rounds. Happy hunting! Here is their single, “It’s my Time”:


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Col Pugno – With the Fist!



Col pugno means with the fist, so in music I suppose it would mean to bang your instrument with your fist. I suppose there would be instances in music where a composer would want a soloist to start punching their instrument for musicality’s sake. Would that not be an exciting performance to see the principle violin of a renowned symphony orchestra begin punching the holy hell out of their instrument – musically – as a cadenza or solo – because the music told them to. Perhaps only more exciting than that would be to see an entire section of an orchestra or ensemble begin to engage in a bout of fisticuffs with their respective instruments – again, in the hopes of performing beautiful music.

From the reading I have done the term col pugno comes up mostly in piano music. I don’t think we, as a species having been blessed with gift of music and fists, have taken col pugno as far as it can go. Col pugno could be an entire genre of music where people fight their musical instruments to create music. Maybe this dream is unrealistic and expensive as many musical instruments cost upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars… but I think it could evolve even further after it’s creation into a genre of music where individuals (or teams) fight each other using musical instruments, the catch of course being, the fights must produce music. Beautiful, respectable music… otherwise it’s just senseless violence.

Think about how awesome the drumline battles from the movie Drumline would have been if they had actually been fighting each other Kung-Fu-Movie-Style using the drums as weapons while still maintaining the musicality, rhythm, and tempo of each cadence. Not only would the movie be great, it would be the greatest movie ever made. That is, until the sequel is made: Drumline 2: Enter the Drumline (Starring Jackie Chan as Nick Cannon’s new sensei).

As this whole idea begins to gestate in my imagination and in this post I realize what most of you are now thinking: “Gee Ben, that sounds swell… but how can I help col pugno go mainstream and revolutionize music pageantry as we all know and love it?”

Hell, maybe if you got bored as a music student one day you could just start writing a bunch of these below the staves of your music – especially if you have an important solo or cadenza, so everyone can know that you are punching your instrument. This would work especially well if you have an instrument that you could feasibly hold and play with one hand whilst still being able to punch with you other hand. In the interest of maintaining a playable musical instrument it might also be best to use some of these terms in your playing to gradually adjust your own abilities as a col pugno musician while refraining from offending your potential audience. Col pugno, like John Cage, is not for everyone.

col pugno ma non troppo

would mean “with the fist but not too much,” or better yet…

col pugno con tenerezza

would mean “with the fist with tenderness.”

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Ben, Fun With Words


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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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