The B-52’s “Cake (Original David Byrne Mix)” from the Greek 1982 release of the Mesopotamia EP.
You can’t tell from the front cover, but the difference between the US Mesopotamia EP from 1982 and its initial European counterpart released slightly earlier is quite huge. The tracks on the first-pressing European versions have really long, sparse, dubbed out versions of “Loveland”, “Cake”, and “Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can”, which make up half the EP.
Reportedly, the B-52’s were disappointed with the results from the initial release, so some editing and remixing was done before it got released in the US in 1982. Almost a decade later, Mesopotamia was remixed for a CD reissue (alongside Party Mix!) in 1991 that, yet again, drastically changed the EP tracks — this time in the mix itself, making the songs approximate the classic B-52’s rock sound of their early days.
The 1991 re-release of Mesopotamia has the best mix of all, but the initial European release of the EP is clearly the most interesting, and nearly the best. The extended versions of half of the EP is why.
I’m not interested in knowing if or when there was drama between the B-52’s and David Byrne, the producer of the EP. This is the music business, so drama and disagreements are par for the course if or when they happen. I’m interested in knowing what happened during the journey of making and releasing Mesopotamia that ended up with this drastic juxtaposition between the 1982 releases.
The common theme I hear is “running out of time” — which certainly would explain a lot. While the songs on the EP are a nice if bizarre change from the previous material, the 1982 mixes do sound a bit murky.
Also, I’m wondering if Byrne was trying to Party-Mix!-ize the EP his own way just before the European release and only got half done? Keep in mind that Byrne had just been on a musical journey with Brian Eno, most recently with their collaborative release My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, and before that, Eno producing Talking Heads' Fear Of Music (1979) and Remain In Light (1980) — Byrne of course being a member of Talking Heads.
In brief, David Byrne in 1982 had a brain filled with extra amounts of avant-garde suggestions. The B-52’s certainly were borne out of avant-garde ideas themselves. (Listen to early Yoko Ono, and compare that to the first B-52’s album, notably “Dance This Mess Around” and “Hero Worship.”) I’m not sure Byrne’s avant style was the best match for the B-52’s avant style, in retrospect.
I chose “Cake” from the three tracks exclusive to the initial European Mesopotamia because it’s the most fulfilling of the three tracks — no pun intended — and the song is an eerie precursor to 2000’s dance groups !!! and Out Hud, among others.
“I think one overall influence is Home Movies, for me. Or Dr. Katz. Because those cartoons are so relaxing to watch. It’s nice to watch conversational dialogue that feels natural and it’s not over the top and cartoony and shrill, in shrill voices or anything. It’s just nice to listen to real people talking.”—Pendleton Ward, on inspirations for Adventure Time.
tumblr keeps attaching this tag to my posts, even though i haven’t typed it, and then won’t let me take it off. so, it’s a sign. tumblr is trying to communicate this important message to us in the only way it knows how. spring is a myth and we will be trapped in eternal winter until the moment summer scorches down on us. be prepared.
This is great, and you should read it or you have already, whatever. Here are some things:
Courtney says the title of the album was about “going through fucking media humiliations,” which is illuminating but also a bit off-putting. Would she have said that at the time? Certainly the Courtney of Celebrity Skin on would have, but it’s hard to imagine that the media aspect was really the worst part of her 1992-1993.
It’s kinda weird that the first Radiohead album, the one everybody wants to forget about now, plays such a large role in all this, huh?
I massively appreciated all the discussion of the drums. Patty Schemel is why “Violet” sounds so breathless: she’s always playing just slightly ahead of the beat, making the song seem to be constantly accelerating.
The Seattle neighborhood that plays the biggest role here, Capitol Hill, is currently being converted to a nest of condos, and while that’s fine, I’ve always had a hard time totally understanding Seattle’s relationship with grunge and Nirvana. The only landmark they mention here that’s still around is the Urban Outfitters in Broadway Market. (I would be very surprised if there were still a rehearsal space around there.) Cities always want to erase their own history, of course, and you can certainly see why Seattle might get grumpy about people thinking it’s “that grunge city,” but it seems like they might want to preserve something of all that, right? If you don’t, you end up with ridiculous situations like the biggest Jimi Hendrix attraction in his hometown being a statue from 1997.
“Those seeking a scientific sampling of the mood on the West Coast might consider Barbra Streisand’s Web site, now scoured of articles critical of the President “in light of recent events.” And singer and actress Courtney Love, an exuberant advocate of left-wing solutions on her Web site Hole.com, has made inquiries about joining the Marines.”—Rick Perlstein, “Left Falls Apart as Center Holds,” October 22, 2001
The best parts of Gershon Legman's Wikipedia entry
The title Peregrine Penis of Gershon Legman’s yet-unpublished autobiography was a sobriquet bestowed on him by his girlfriend Louise “Beka” Doherty, on account of the fact that he “used to travel to meet her in strange places.” The writing of Peregrine Penis, over “six hundred pages” in length, was continually subsidized by Larry McMurtry.
According to George Chauncey’s book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, Legman was a homosexual and is credited with having invented the vibrating dildo when he was only twenty.
As a young man he acquired a number of interests including sexuality, erotic folklore, also origami—for which he was a pivotal figure in founding the modern international movement.
In a childhood incident, classmates “wrote the word ‘kosher’ in horse-shit juice across his forehead.” He regarded the event as formative.
Beginning at the age of 65, Gershon Legman would sometimes “faint at orgasm.” He experienced a heart attack after “excessive sexual effort”.
As the whole Gioia mess winds down, I hope, there’s one thing that still bothers me - one that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone address head on (though there was a lot so maybe someone has?) Music criticism should always be tied to “lifestyle reporting,” because music exists as something beyond the technical aspects of a performance. It exists as a vehicle for the performer.
Classical composers had what we’d describe as stans and groupies, as did the crooners of the first half of the 20th century. And as modern pop became codified in the 50s and 60s, it baked personalities into the core of music. Take a look at the title of the best album of 1964 for a case in point: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica not only centers the group doing the singing, but gives a specific focal point within it - lead singer Ronnie Bennett. Producer Phil Spector, one of the architects of modern pop, understood that the music was central - but that the power of the music depended on the image, depended on everything else around the music. Savvy artists seized on this quickly, which is why, for example, half the Beatles’ latter day catalog is obliquely about being the Beatles - yet oblique in a way that allows fans to understand the references, make the connections, and experience the music as part of a larger whole.
This incorporation of extra-textual artistic personas is a central and often-intentional part of pop music, and for writers to ignore it would be just as disingenuous as…well, as writers applying technical music theory to songs by artists who don’t know the first thing about it. Which the Beatles didn’t (to begin with.) Technical knowledge isn’t somehow the route to the inherent meaning of a song, the one true path that a skilled writer can excavate and illuminate for an audience. It’s a tool like any other, shaped by forces and biases, reliant on who wields it. And while I don’t think anything that potentially allows for greater understanding is necessarily bad, I think it’s worth pointing out that technical knowledge is arguably a weaker way to approach pop music than “lifestyle reporting,” since the latter at least allows for the context around a given song or performance.
That context is central whenever discussing pop music, because it’s context that determines genre, context that determines what website posts about what Soundcloud uploads, context that determines how a song is understood. MG mentions Kanye and Bey as two artists who’ve exercised a fascinating level of control in how their public personas, private selves, and music relate. I argued last year that Miley Cyrus’s career has been an extended effort at self-mythologizing. And Drake fits comfortably into this company, which is what makes “Days in the East” so interesting.
I’m on record as preferring goofy, “Or we could stare up at the stars and put the Beatles on,” Drake over his serious self. Here, he’s anything but goofy: this is the dark night of Drake’s soul, and it only matters because it’s about Rihanna. “Days in the East” is rambling, it’s self-pitying, it’s basically void of hooks. But it’s important because Drake is important, because his persona and his relationships matter to us (whether positively or negatively.) Drake knows this, otherwise he wouldn’t release six minutes of self-flagellation into the world. A six minute song describing the interior monologue of a person we know nothing about is meaningless; a six minute examination of the conflict within an artist we’re familiar with beyond music alone can be fascinating. It’s to our detriment to buy into the underlying argument that this is a bad thing.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Grooves and Jams is one of the best pop-criticism blogs that exists, and writing like this — about a possibly throwaway Fucking Drake song! — is part of why.
The NCAA basketball finals, held last night, were watched by over 18 million people at their peak. That’s 6% of the U.S. population. In contrast, Pharrell’s “Happy,” currently the #1 single in the country, has sold about 3 million copies, or 1% of the U.S. population. (If single sales seem like a poor metric of listenership, the official video has 168 million views.) That’s months after its release, and a clear outlier. The #10 song on the chart this week, “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon (which has been on the chart longer than “Happy”) has sold a million copies (0.33% of the U.S. population), while the #10 movie at the box office, Liam Neeson’s “Non-Stop,” has been seen by 10 and a half million people, or 3.5% of the population.
More broadly, two-thirds of the adults in the U.S. and Canada go to the movies at least once per year. Only half buy music in any form. When people do buy music, one-half to two-thirds of their purchases are catalog (old) music. Taken together, it seems fair to say that the audience for new music in America is somewhere between 16 and 25 percent of the population, versus 67% for new movies and around 95% for TV.
I just looked at a room in the house of an artist who appeared to specialize in butts. Like, there were at least three butt paintings there. And some cartoonier looking, Frank Frazetta style paintings.
I mean, I liked Noah? But then I’ve been playing Fallout: New Vegas DLCs for the past few weeks, which is what the movie basically amounted to: a really well-scripted postapocalyptic video game with less shooting things and more, like, humans interacting with other humans in a nearly lifelike way. Like, there’s a shot in the opening montage that is basically a really hi-res time-lapse of a CIv 2 game. Half an hour in Noah levels up and a bunch of resources spawn around him in Warcraft isometric projection, and then his heavy warriors mine trees to build a fortress. It takes a bunch of turns.
The Noah story is really terrifying if you’re not a believer. When the bad guy says something along the lines of “god is silent, we can do whatever we want” and then the rains start falling and it’s like no you can’t motherfucker it seems startlingly unfair. Like, the rules of the world are going along and everyone agrees and then all of a sudden they change and you’re condemned. And then you think about all the other religions that have come out of the Old Testament and you hear that same story over and over. Jesus comes along and decides that (essentially) the flood is happening again, except instead of cleansing the Earth by killing everyone, God is sorting out the afterlife by dooming nonbelievers to eternal damnation after they die. The degree to which Jesus is seen as essentially a second apocalypse is driven home by the story of the Harrowing of Hell. In this story, more prominent in Eastern Orthodox Christianity than the Western variants, Jesus spends the three days between his death and resurrection finding all the virtuous souls in Hell and bringing them to Heaven, since they could not come into Heaven before He existed. Imagine: you are doomed to Hell for hundreds of years because it is literally impossible for you to be saved yet. Then the same theory happens with Muhammad and Joseph Smith and, oh, everyone else. Nearly every Judeo-derived religion believes that God can totally change the rules anytime He wants, at which point people who were earnestly being virtuous would be condemned. I’m not saying this in some teenage “SEE RELIGIONS ARE WROOOOONG” way; honestly, this pretty much lines up with my experience of the world. And it’s fucking terrifying.
Anyway, you should keep in mind that I liked Black Swan because it reminded me of Bring It On, but yes, Noah was a weird pile of heckuva something. I mean, I walked out of it before it was over because I got bored and figured I could pretty much work it out from there, but still: solid B-.
Last week, I bought health insurance. It was shockingly pleasant, given how many problems had been reported. Of course, I’m in Washington State, whose website is running better than the federal government’s, but that would seem to offer a perfect picture of how well the websites can run once they’re debugged.
Here’s how it worked: about a month before I lost my current coverage, I went onto the state health plan finder and created an account. All you need to create an account is a name and e-mail address, at which point I was able to browse through the available plans and get (accurate!) rate quotes once I entered some very basic information (age, location) that I didn’t have to verify. This let me set a budget for what insurance would cost me well in advance of having to pay my first bill.
The finder is set up really well: sorting the plans into medals makes intuitive sense, and each plan was displayed with basic information like co-pays and deductibles, so it’s easy to scroll through. (They also seem to have limited the plans that are offered through the exchange, so you aren’t overwhelmed; my full search turned up only about 40 plans.) Once you identify some possible plans, you can click through to get a full accounting of their conditions. The website also gives you a few common scenarios (paying for diabetes meds, treatment for heart problems, pregnancy) to let you know how much you’d pay out-of-pocket. All the information I was looking for was online: I was able to figure out how much I’d have to pay for each of my prescription medications, as well as how much I’d have to pay for doctor visits before and after the deductible was met.
In the end, I didn’t actually buy a plan through the state website—in checking up on the details, I ended up discovering that a slightly better plan was available exclusively through the company’s own site. But applying took about 10 minutes, and they sent me a card, and now I have insurance. It’s obviously not that easy for everyone. But all I can say is that I have fairly intricate medical needs, and it worked extremely well for me.
Oh, and also, it was 50% cheaper than getting coverage through my wife’s employer, and 30% cheaper than getting COBRA. I guess it wasn’t, like, cheap cheap, but man, considering how much I thought I’d have to pay, it sure was cheap.
“So there’s this cartoon of Be Here Now as mere lout-culture frenzy, driving down all possibility from wider pop of the art of the weird, the queer, the clever, the political, the experimental, the art-school: but coming back at it with a skewed ear, and probably more burnt out on the institutionalised complacency of experiment and avant-garde rebel pose, that’s not really what I hear.”—
dubdobdee wrote a tremendous and rich essay for Freaky Trigger using Oasis as a springboard to explore the hierarchies music fits into - this is a poor summary of a long, dense piece, though. ALSO STARRING: Scargill, Beuys, and er Richard Jobson.
My high school had a big art fair every year, where all the visual arts students could hang their paintings and photos and whatnot in the halls, and they would do an “opening night” where parents would come and it was nice. Except for me, who is terrible at any and all forms of visual art, and was terribly jealous that just because I wrote things I was left out. (Of the art fair. Imagine!)
So my way of dealing with this was to print out copies of some stories and poems and tape them up on the wall. Since it was an art fair, I also added “visual elements,” which were (if I recall) bits of weirdness I’d found in dollar stores or in magazines or copied from the Book of the Subgenius. The writing, printed out on 8.5 x 11 paper on a home laser printer, scrolled down the center of the wall, interrupted occasionally by random snapshots or pictures of Elvis.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not surprising I got a Tumblr.
Lindsay Lohanâs debut album, “Speak,” will be ten years old this year. What a world! But with the debut of her OWN docu-series, “Lindsay,” what better time is there to consider Lohan’s long-abandoned music career?
I of course endorse this, and appreciate the shout-out to my earlier piece on “Speak,” which I reread it the other day after someone kindly complimented me on it. It’s a good piece of writing, and I would like to write more like it.
“Let me explain to you something. Forget about popular, forget about classical. Think of this: notated music and non-notated music. When you’re playing in a band, you’re playing generally speaking 99 times out of 100 about non notated music. You go to the bass player and say ‘Hey man, why don’t you play this,’ and you play him the line. ‘No, wrong.’ And you play it a few times and he learns it. Same thing with every other part: you try it out in rehearsal and someone says ‘well why don’t you try this.’ That is a wonderful way of working, it is the most ancient and normal way of making music.”—Steve Reich, talking about music but also writing??? (via onemanbandstand)
You know why the big group shoot-fest wound up being the dominant force instead of the slow, introspective science fiction experience in a claustrophobic setting? Because most people liked that experience.
Then he lets everyone in on his newest data discovery, which is that descriptive headlines—ones that tell you exactly what the content is—are starting to win out over Upworthy’s signature “curiosity gap” headlines, which tease you by withholding details. (“She Has a Horrifying Story to Tell. Except It Isn’t Actually True. Except It Actually Is True.”) How then, someone asks, have they been getting away with teasing headlines for so long? “Because people weren’t used to it,” says Mordecai. “Now everybody does it, and they do cartoon versions of ours.” (CNN, for instance, recently ended a tweet about a child-murder story with a ghoulish “the reason why will shock you.”) There’s general delight about Upworthy leading the curve. “It’s like everyone’s watching whales on a boat,” says one curator. “And we’re the ones going, they’re all on this side!”
I have picked Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Because: this song’s success seems to mystify all the Katy Perry haters in the world. Why did it go to No. 1? Let’s start by talking about the ingenuity of the harmonic content. This song is all about suspension—not in the voice-leading 4–3 sense, but in the emotional sense, which listeners often associate with “exhilaration,” being on the road, being on a roller coaster, travel. This sense of suspension is created simply, by denying the listener any I chords. There is not a single I chord in the song. Laymen, the I chord (“one chord”) is the chord that the key is in. That is, the song is in G but there are no G-chords. Other examples of this, in hit singles: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You”; almost-examples include Earth Wind and Fire’s “In September” which has an I chord but only passing and in inversion; same with Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”
“A census question on whether a person has difficulty dressing, bathing, or getting around the home was the target of many talk-show jokes. Police and fire departments use the information to identify neighborhoods where people might need assistance in disasters. Funds for home nursing programs are allocated to areas with high percentages of people unable to care for themselves.”—Prewitt, Kenneth. Politics and science in census taking. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003. (via abbyjean)