Saturday, May 26, 2012

a shortcoming of access

In keeping a database of my CD collection, I find myself very frustrated that Microsoft Access doesn't have a built-in time function. I'm not talking about time as in on a clock. It has that. I'm talking about elapsed time so that I can have that as a field in the table of tracks. Instead I have to fake it with two fields, one for minutes and one for seconds. So a tack that is, say, three minutes and 29 seconds long has 3 in the minutes field and 29 in the seconds field. An alternative would be to have just seconds, in which case the same track would have 209. But what I'd prefer is one field in which I input 3:29.

Anyone know a workaround?

Friday, May 25, 2012

i don't eulogize much anymore

There have been a few recent high profile deaths in the music world, and I havenm't commented on them. When I started this blog, early this year, and I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I commented on the deaths of Johnny Otis and Etta James -- two figures who were very influential but not exactly household names any more.

Now, we have Robin Gibb, Adam Yauch and Donna Summer all died within a short period (and Dick Clark died a bit ago. And I failed to note any of those deaths or eulogize them. I did, of course, eulogize Davy Jones when he died.

So why the difference? Well, to a certain degree it was that I was no longer quite as bright-tailed and bushy-eyed. Add to that the fact that these were three musicians about whom I didn't have a lot to say (and about whom others had already said much).

My thoughts on them?
1) Donna Summer: Of course I know the name and some of her music, but it was never my thing. My strongest association is to the song "Disco Suicide" which Mad Magazine put out sometime around 1980 as part of a disco special. There was a couplet. "If that truns out to be a bummer / I'll swallow a casette of Donna Summer."

2) Adam Yauch: I kind of liked the Beastie Boys, especially some of their early stuff. The Licensed to Ill album had some really good tracks. I also liked "She's On It," which predates that album. Oh, also, their original drummer -- Kate Schellenbach -- was in my high school class. But we didn't know each other. I wouldn't recognize her on the street and she, of course, wouldn't recognize me either. That was true when we were in high school too.

3) Robin Gibbs: Yes, I know the BeeGees were huge. But they have never really been part of my consciousness, except maybe for the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

So now you know why I didn't eulogize them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

squeaky clean still around

My wife and (two of) my kids went to see Squeaky Clean today. I couldn't make it -- day job and all -- but it brings back memories.

I first became aware of Squeaky Clean when I was in college, working as a DJ at the campus radio station and Music Editor of one of the campus newspapers. This was during the rockabilly revival (or at least soon after), and here was a Long Island-based three-piece band doing good fun '50s style rockabilly. They were fronted by Glenn Paul Manion and Suzanne "Smitty" Smithline. There was a third member, but I'm too lazy right now to look up his name. I reviewed their eponymous EP (released on their own label Drip Dry Records). I still remember the standout tracks, "Cops and Robbers Love" and "Squeaky Clean" and "Going to a Party" -- I think I just named like half the songs on the disk. I also interveiwed them when they played at The Cellar, which was Queens College's on-campus bar/club.

At some point, while I was still in college, Manion and Smithline put together another band, Combo Limbo, and did an album under that name. This was still fun rock and roll, but it had a more contemporary feel than the retro-rockabilly of SC, which was still a functioning band. From the Combo Limbo album, I still remember highlights such as "Motorman," "Big Big Girl" and (my favorite) "Smile When You Say Goodbye."

So fast forward years (OK, decades) later.

Squeaky Clean now does a variety of different types of shows, adapting and customizing for the venue. One of their specialties is a show for schoolkids, covering the history of rock and roll, and working in comments and lessons about pop culture over the last 50-60 years. Now, I generally don't like "kids music" because I find that it's often preachy, with too much emphasis on the lesson rather than the music. SC fortunately manages to evade that trap. They don't talk down to the kids. And everyone can take what they want from it.

They also do corporate events and family-friendly shows.

The not-entirely intuitive URL for their website is


Sunday, May 20, 2012

now i've heard the snakes

One band that I'd never heard (live or on record) is The Snakes. After the breakup of Ducks Deluxe, Nick Garvey formed the Snakes. From what I'd heard they recorded one single before calling it quits (after which Nick formed The Motors with his formwer Ducks Deluxe bandmate Andy McMasters). But I'd never heard that single.

So this evening I was browsing Youtube and found the Snakes' version of the Randy Newman song, "Have You Seen My Baby." It's audio-only, but that's OK:

After that, I made a conscious effort to find the Snakes -- I found the one above when I was searching for Ducks Deluxe. So I have now found two more:

Now the only question I have is where did that "Have You Seen My Baby" come from if they only did the one single (which I presume was "Teenage Head" b/w "Little Queenie." My best guess is that they recorded "...Baby" but had never released it and it eventually ended up on Light Up The Dynamite which is a Dutch compilation of various artists.

"Teenage Head" has never been one of my favorite Flamin' Groovies' songs, and I'm not particularly crazy about this version. But at least I got to hear it.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the cover from the Snakes' single (as shown in two of the above videos) was "Teenage Head" b/w "Lights Out." So I was wrong, above, when I guessed that the b-side was Little Queenie. I can't find their version of "Lights Out" on Youtube, and it does make me wonder where that recording of "Little Queenie" came from. I guess the search continues.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

nugent, dixie chicks, and politics in music

It's been a while since Ted Nugent's rant about the President (video following this paragraph) and I've been meaning to write about it. But I've been taking a while to come to a conclusion. I'm still not really sure, but I'll take a stab at it.

First, a few random thoughts:
  • Ted Nugent is a loon.
  • I've never understood why people take seriously the political ramblings of a loon.
  • I think it's wrongheaded (and in many cases purposely so) to point to the head-chopping-off rhetoric as a real threat. It was very clear in context that he was talking metaphorically. I would be willing to bet that, when the Secret Service met with him afterwards about those comments, what they had to say was something along the lines of "Uh, we know you weren't really threatening the President, but will you tone it down some?"
  • While I don't think those comments can correctly be construed as threats, they were clearly over the top.
When I first heard about the rant, and went to see the video, my reaction was kind of a combination head-shaking and shoulder-shrugging, along with a sigh. It's a free country, he has a first ammendment right to say what he wants. Yes, I know that that doesn't include explicit threats. But as I noted above I don't think Nugent's comments can correctly be taken as threats. As an aside, it does remind me of Axe Cop.

But what's significant is that I didn't react as strongly as I did when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks proclaimed her embarrasment that George W. Bush was from the same state as they were. To be sure, I didn't call for boycotts, or go and trash CDs, or anything like that. similarly shrugged, shook my head, and acknowledged her first ammendment rights (she was, of course, not in the US at the time, so I don't know how that affects the calculus, but the principle is the same. But the difference is that since then I have a visceral dislike of Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, which I just have to admit I don't have about Ted Nugent. Not that any of that has any effect on my CD-purchasing decisions. I don't have any Dixie Chicks CDs in my collection, though that's not due to any boycott. The only Ted Nugent CD I have is a compilation that I got off of Freecycle.

So, what can explain my different visceral reaction? The obvious answer is politics. A case of whose ox is gored. Without going into detail (this is not meant to be a political blog), I think it suffices to say that I generally liked Bush and that I am less than enthusiastic about Obama.  That affects my perception of insults aimed at either of these men. It's a normal human failing, that one sees often -- especially if one reads political blogs and the comments sections in them: Politicans A and B both do essentially the same thing. Commenters Fa (who likes A and detests B) and Fb (who likes B and detests A) come up with all sorts of distinctions to explain why what A and B did are not essentially the same. Fa argues that, in light of those differences, A was justified and B was not. Fb argues that B was justified and A was not. Let me be clear here: I am not saying that Fa or Fb is being dishonest. Each believes what he is saying. It's just that each is letting feelings influence thought more than he wants to admit.

So, what are the differences that could possibly explain why Nugent is OK and Maines is not?

Everyone knows that Nugent is a kook. That's true enough. But does that mean that if one guy is a putz all the time and the other is rarely a putz we forgive the all-around putz (it's in his nature; he can't help it) and hold a grudge against the occaisonal putz? It kind of reminds me of schoolkids. The genius who should ace everything put gets a C because he doesn't apply himself gets punished for not performing up to potential, while the not-so-bright kid gets praised for his C. But I don't think that should apply here.

Maines made her comments during a concert. The point of that distinction is that people go to concerts to hear music. They don't go to speeches or interviews at NRA conventions. Thus, it was a little more unfair of Maines to subject her audience to her politics than it was for Nugent to subject his audience to his. There is something to that. I would have been less bothered by Maines' comments if she had made them during a political rally or some other venue that is not what should be a no-politics zone -- like when Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Cho made their rants during comedy routines.

On the other hand, I've seen footage of Nugent making political comments at his rallies, and they didn't bother me as much. Whose ox is gored? Not sure. The fact is, since political positioning is a big part of Ted's persona, that's not really a case of bait and switch. Similarly, I am more put off by what Maines said in concert than I would beby more-pointed anti-Bush comments.

Maines was not in the US. The point here is that she wasn't engaging in internal debate -- she was airing our dirty laundry in a foreign country. I try to cling to that argument. But in this shrinking world with the intertubes transmitting everything everywhere, I'm not sure that it holds water. Would I have been less bothered had Maines said that during a concert in New York? I must admit not.

Hollywood is (as a whole) leftist. This doesn't really affect what Maines said, or what Nugent said, or who has the right to say what or how over the top this is or that is. But it does affect how much patience I have for any given thing. It does get tiresome that so much of the entertainment industry is on the left, and -- more importantly -- convinced that anyone with conservative views (mine tend to be not so much conservative as libertarian, but that's another issue) isn't just wrong, but "other" and "bad." It does affect what is shown on TV and in the movies, and how believers in political philosophies are portrayed. And I remember a bunch of years back that Linda Ronstadt (or was it Barbra Streisand?) commenting that she would feel uncomfortable with the idea of Republicans being in her audience.

Looking at all of these, there may be some validity to some of them. But I think when it comes right down to it, this is largely a case of the ox-goring thing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

followup on run joey run

I have a couple of followup comments regarding yesterday's post about the David Geddes song, "Run Joey Run."

First, I went to grad school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There is a street there, called Geddes Avenue. I remember when I first got to Ann Arbor and saw Geddes Avenue, I thought "Just like the singer." And for the two years I was there I referred to it as "David Geddes Avenue" -- as in "Take Washtenaw until you hit David Geddes Avenue." Just one of those little jokes I go with that very few people (if any) know what they're about. While I was writing yesterday's post I looked David Geddes up on Wikipedia to make sure I had my facts straight. Turns out that David, whose real surname was Idema, had gone to the Unibversity of Michigan and takenm "Geddes" as a stage name after the street in Ann Arbor. So I was closer than I realized.

Second, At some point in the 1990's (I don't remember exactly when), the New York Post ran an article about bad pop songs. I sent them a letter to the editor (which they printed) in which I questioned their omission of "Run Joey Run" from the list. One evening after the letter was printed (maybe it was that night, I don't know) I got a call from a woman congratulating me on the letter. She told me that she had met the song's author at a party and he was very pompous, bragging about it. She was glad to see that others realized how bad the song was. I think she was drunk when she called me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

if only he had listened

I was thinking about the David Geddes song, "Run Joey Run." Not sure why.

For those who are unfamiliar, some background: RJR was the title song on David Geddes' 1975 album. It was a big hit, peaking at #4 on Billboard. The song was typical of those on the album in that it ended with a melodramatic twist. Sung from the first-person perspective by the titular Joey, the song recounts the night that Joey's girlfriend, Julie, died. Julie called him to warn that her father is angry and wants to kill him "for what we've done." Concerned, Joey comes over. The melodramatic twist comes when Julie's father tries to shoot Joey, but Julie steps in the way, taking the bullet and dying. Here's the video:

Actually, as much as I want to make fun of the song, it's the best thing on the album.

But my point in mentioning this is that there's one thing that bugs me about it. In the first verse, we hear, "She called me up late that night / She said 'Joe, don't come over.'" She explains that she and her dad had a fight, that dad has sworn vengance, and that dad has a gun. Given all that, I think Joey would have been prudent to stay away. But instead (as we learn in the second verse), he reacted by getting in his car and driving to Julie's place.

Wouldn't the whole sad story have ended much better if he had just listened to her and followed her advice?

Just asking...

Friday, May 11, 2012

in which i admit that something the monkees did sucked

A friend recently sent me a link to a video of the beginning of 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. I'm glad I watched it, but boy does it suck. Now, I'm a big Monkees fan. Really big. I take a back seat to no one when it comes to Monkee fanhood. Except for people who actually like 33 1/3 RPM. Boy, does it suck.

Just to fill in the unfamiliar, 33 was the Monkees' TV special from September, 1969. Their TV show had been cancelled, their movie, Head, had bombed, and they had done 6 albums (including the soundtrack to Head), and sales were declining. They put together this annoying self-referential special that was meant to satire their existence. Head had gone a long way to not-so-subtly, complain about their manufactured image. Some say (and I use the word "some" as a first-person singular) that Head was heavy-handed with its message. But 33 was a sledgehammer.

Did I mention that it sucked?

Now, the over-the-top delivery of the message would be forgivable if it had been done with humor or if the music was good. But no such luck. Fortunately (or un-, your call), you can see it on Youtube, nicely split into seven digestible pieces. I could try commenting on this mess, but I think it's better let it vomit for itself. So, here it is:

Part 1:

Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:

Part 7:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

in the janey street fan club

Well, I am officially a member of the Janey Street fan club. My mebership package came in the mail today. It includes an autographed picture (which, unfortunately got damaged in the mail), a janey Street hat and (the reason I joined) a copy of her first solo album, Heroes, Angels & Friends on CD. I'm not a big fan club kind of guy, but I wanted the album on CD. It has never been officially released on CD, and Janey doesn't own the rights so she can't sell it. But she can give copies to her fans.

This record is as great as I remember it -- better in fact. There is a strong Bruce Springsteen influence, and it just rocks. I'd also like to retract something I said in earlier posts. Specifically, I implied that the songwriting here is immature compared to her nmore recent works. It isn't. The topics represent someone younger, but the songwriting is crisp.

I can't recommend this album enough

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

language development

I was in the car with the family, and the two younger ones were singing. Not whole songs, mind you, but just a couple of lines. First was "Workshop, baby, it's my life. I'm trying something out." Then it was "I wanna cross the line." Both lines are from the movie, Fruit Fly.

But the interesting thing I notices was the way my youngest, who is still learning to talk, pronounced the latter. It came out of his mouth as "Me wanna coss da yine." Most of that is simple mispronunciation that comes with toddlerhood. I remember, for example, that my oldest used to say "McDondants" instead of McDonalds, and my middle child used to call her brother "Eee-ah" because she couldn't manage the consonants in his name. But then there's the fact that he started with the word "me" instead of "I."

One aspect of his speech pattern, and this is fairly common, is that he uses the objective "me" instead of the subjective "I." He'll say, "Me hungry" or "Look what me do." But in singing the song, or the line from it, he already had the line constructed. He was repeating what he had already heard. And yet instead of literally repeating it, he translated it into his own version of the language.

I'd be curious to know what that sort of behavior tells us about psycholinguistics.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

a bit on the songwriting talent at the janey street concert

Of course, the highlight of the Janey Street concert last week, was, of course, Janey Street herself.

But this was also an NSAI event (whether officially or not), so most of the people in the room were songwriters of one sort or another*. I didn't take a survey, but my impression was that most, if not all, of the songwriters there are more accomplished than I am. Of course, anyone who is active in NSAI is, pretty much by definition, more serious about it than I am. Many, however, were much more accomplished, either as musicians, or singers, or -- hell, I'll just say it -- as songwriters.

One of people who played songs after the concert was Freddy Monday. I had talked to him earlier, during the imtermission. That came about because he -- and I forget why -- said "China clipper calling Alameda," which I recognized from the Monkees' "Zilch." We got to talking about singwriting and the Monkees. One of his songs is "I Wanna Be Your Davy Jones." He managed to get Davy Jones to appear in the video:

It kind of reminded me of Eytan Mirsky's "I just Want to Be Your Steve McQueen."

Another songwriter there was Randi Drucker (who hosted the concert). She played a beautiful tearjerking song about an absent father. I'm not sure of the exact title, although I believe it was something along the lines of "Make the Monsters Go Away."

If I can find the time, I need to go to NSAI events in New York.

*I say "of one sort or another" because I want to use a loose enough definition of songwriter to include myself. I briefly described my songwriting in the first post on this blog.

UPDATE: I should have noted this: One of my favorite aspects of "I Want to Be Your Dav Jones" is that the song begins with a rif that's pretty much an exact copy of the opening riff of The Monkees' version of "Mary Mary."