Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"The Worst Music Video of All Time"


The companion piece to the popular Worst Record Cover of All Time post, this Billy Squier Video was  awarded that title in an unanimous vote by 400 music industry professionals who put their coke-addled brains together and picked this video as the worst ever by a major label artist. 




Directed by High School Musical's Kenny Ortega and argued by Dangerous Minds that it's such "a whopping steaming turd" (so said by the Capital Records exec who gave it the green light) that it just may've killed Squier's career. Hard to believe given the font of potential career maiming dreck that practically built MTV in the early 80s. You'd think another video of a narcissistic, poodle-permed preening rockstar would hardly be given notice. Sure, Ortega's Toddlers and Tiaras style choreography does have Squier coming off like someone who couldn't rock a body if they were at a Saudi stoning, and, yes, musically he was your typical herniating East Coast screamer bellowing over a bed of Walmart-worthy power ballads—whatever you think of it now, back in the day Squier was selling this stuff for double platinum (and nowadays it might even get booked on one of those themed rock cruises). But, jeez, career death? If that were the case MTV would've been committing career genocides on a monthly basis. 

Squier claimed the video made had him come off either as too gay or too drugged and too much of a pretty boy. And while the last part of the video does have a kind of The Boys in the Band quality, you'd think he'd have to be drugged not to realize that editing wasn't going to make his epileptic Tom Cruise (or a drunken Miley Cyrus) flash mobs presentable. (Was there a magic to the storyboards that just didn't translate?)  Or maybe Squier was just another pebble in the pavement for the traveling waves of hip hop and grunge to follow. Like the voluminous hair of the early 80s, Squier's time was a narrow window. The zeitgeist just couldn't swallow his slight stuff for very long. 

(Forgive the third generation VHS copy resolution quality.)



It kind of fits, doesn't it?

See original article without all my purpley prose here.

To prove that worse is entirely in the eye of the beholder, a reader suggested this horrid video as a contender. Clearly, to some Spinal Tap was no joke. (See how the Metal Queen wields a sword. Heh-heh.)

Stop the presses! A truly, truly awful nominee for the Amateurs from Hell category: I defy you to get all the way to the end. (I couldn't.) Greasy mullets and frizzy hair stacks all around, ill-fitting leather, horrid location scouting, and video that may've been shot by the worst wedding videographer in the world. (The addiction to sudden sky dissolving shots will leave you speechless.) A masterpiece of Ed Woodian proportions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Iggy and Peaches Cut it Up


Peaches, the gold star slut goddess, and Iggy, the bare-chested Viagra geezer who still swaggers at 65 (!), pair up for this little piece of pop provocation (as provocative as two people who play for different teams shouting past each other can be) lipsynching with tongues thoroughly affixed to cheeks while battling bikinied zombies among others.

Iggy's still got it and Peaches is her own category. A good pair:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Music that Matters, Pt 15





147) Mott the Hoople, Violence, Crash City Kids, Marionette, One of the Boys: Before Freddy was constructing his show tune Taj Mahals with Mormon Tabernacle deep choirs (cf. Bohemian Rhapsody), Ian Hunter was weaving comparative grass huts of drama Queen of his own. Mott's Marionette, Violence, and Crash City Kids may've been much less for scale and ambition than Queen, and their technique was downright garagey when held against Queen's academic approach—call Hunter a Spike Jones next to Freddy's Leonard Bernstein (it's appropriate that Queen guitarist Brian May would pursue a PhD in astrophysics). In Marionette, some of Hunter's lyric lines don't quite seem to fit without a shoehorn and some of the word choices could've used a few more drafts, but the pomp and burlesque of the music hall are all over the place and may've provided Freddy a template. Plus, late stage Mott had established a sound entirely their own, departing from their earlier pub's version of a Jumpin' Jack Flash cum Blonde on Blonde. Though they were never far from their very anglicized versions Chuck Berry and Little Richard, it served them well.

Marionette by Mott the Hoople on Grooveshark

Crash City Kids and Violence are quintessential examples of Hunter's scaled up garage operas with broad strokes of humor, and in the case of Violence, well applied frenzy.

Crash Street Kidds by Mott the Hoople on Grooveshark

Violence by Mott the Hoople on Grooveshark

One of the Boys is no garage opera but another example of Mott's brilliant use of effects, cf. the dialing phone, middle interlude, and Hunter's continuous stream of yelps, shouts, and screams that even outdo Robert Plant for the guy who can't resist the sound of his own voice. Future Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralph's displays an encyclopedic turn on Keith Richard's Chuck Berryisms—neither man ever meeting a suspended chord they didn't like.

One of the Boys by Mott the Hoople on Grooveshark

148) Polysics, Peach Pie on the Beach: Hailing from Japan (which will be obvious when you hear it), Polysics are admitted Devo fanatics (also obvious) with a sound saturated in '80s effects and a playing style that you'd think could only come out of an amphetamine drip. Like most Japanese bands I've heard, the musicianship is ridiculously high if not always as innovative as you'd expect given the skills. Peach Pie on the Beach has enough punch to knock out a club bouncer, the musical equivalent of Japan's frenetic food packaging graphics. This tune makes a great little eye opener to bump up your morning coffee.

Peach Pie on the Beach by POLYSICS on Grooveshark


149) Black Randy and the Metro Squad, I Tell Lies Everyday: Judging from the work, I think it's safe to say that Black Randy—AKA the very white John Morris (d. 1988 from complications of AIDS)—likely didn't intend his racist humor to sound like satire or irony. It's pretty clear it he just thinks that sh*t is funny. That aside, the band, who play their little black hearts out, may well have been one of the best in Los Angeles at the time. Randy, for his part, wasn't much of a singer but then this band could make GG Allin sound good.





150) John Coltrane, My Favorite Things: One of the legacies of punk rock was to take classic gems and turn them into something more sinister, say, like the Sex Pistols' deconstruction of My Way. Long before the age of irony, beboppers had already put the flag in that territory. To wit: hear how Coltrane plunges his horn deep into favorite things and blows away all traces of Julie Andrews' perfumed innocence. He does this by stripping out chunks of the melody and schmearing it over with a gig bag's worth of jagged alien bits and eliminates the whole When the bee stings, when the dog bites bridge section (they hint at it but then move along, teasingly, just to let us know what they've done) until the very end as a way out. This is iconoclasm at its best. I'm sure my dad would've hated this, wondering Where the hell's the melody? It's still there, Pops. You can always count on Julie Andrews for her melodic piety and spoonfuls of sugar. Just don't look for it in Coltrane.

My Favorite Things by John Coltrane on Grooveshark




151) Scott JoplinBethena: A Concert Waltz (Joshua Rifkin): Firstly, this is one of the greatest American composers, ever. His music brought the salon into the whorehouse, marrying early 20th century dance music with the bittersweet tears of Chopin, the first hints of jazz, and like the tango, lots of sexual subtext. And he wrote so goddamn many great ones. Bethena is a departure from the rags (Joplin wrote serious music as well as pop) and throws together a suite of melodies with new piece of connecting tissue with every new verse. Bethana is the opus that no one could write but him and helps make him the singular giant he was. Ragtime would fall out of favor but great melodies Joplin could toss out like coins into a fountain. The modernists like Schoenberg and Berg, even a Tin Pan Alley cat like Gershwin, gathered all the glory of posterity. Rites of Spring still has devotees bending their knees in fealty (Stravinsky borrowed much from early jazz). I'd argue for Joplin is at least as deserving of knee bending. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves. (I think Rifkin plays it a little too fast but I'm not gonna hate him on it.)




152) Duke EllingtonPrelude to a Kiss: Pure sweet melody: There's so many little golden nuggets in this tune, just drop the needle in anywhere and it's achingly beautiful. Though, I think Prelude is a misnomer: I hear a Post-Mortem to a Kiss. It's too beautiful to be happy and sadness is where all the beauty comes from because, as we know, everything ends—beauty most dramatically. It's too precious to exist for long. (Forgive me, that was a downer.) Anyway, Ellington could never have existed without Joplin first and let's just thank the universe that they both did.








153) Spirit, Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus album: From Los Angeles and 1970 and quite possibly one of the great neglected classics of all time. Every track is a gem of craft and chock full o' bits of jazz, proto-prog and metal, electric folk, psychedelia, blue-eyed soul, and funk back in a time when rock and roll was all of that. Possibilities, man! Just like any new relationship when you don't know any better and believe you can do anything. And people were listening––Jimmy Page for one. Spirit was one of a crop from an historically fertile Los Angeles period and blah-blah-blah that we'll never see again. Just be glad it happened once. I love this @*%$ing town!

Nature's Way by Spirit on Grooveshark

Animal Zoo by Spirit on Grooveshark

Mr. Skin by Spirit on Grooveshark




154) Magazine, TV Baby: A b-side with three lines of lyric probably tossed off as filler in an hour or two of unused studio time and it ends up being one of the best things the band ever did. Easily one of Howard Devoto's most intense vocals demonstrating what he was capable of before his latter period descent into self parody as an auditioner for a Keenan Wayans directed Music Man. Also why, IMHO, Magazine was (briefly) one of the best bands of their period. All accomplished with some of the hardest ass boogie woogie styled piano you'll hear, no guitar, a first-year student level saxophone (that's perfect), and a drummer who drives the whole dirty thing straight into its adorable little heart of darkness. Later this song would pop up on their leftovers album Scree and I'd play it over and over on repeat. It went straight into my own little heart of darkness which is what the best music is supposed to do.

T.V. Baby by Magazine on Grooveshark


155) Supergrass, I Should Coco album: The first Supergrass album sounds a little like Pablo Honey Radiohead on happy meds and the best of '70s era Brit Invasion. If you, like me, believe in songs über alles then this is a band you should know. This trio of young 'uns obviously spent some time with their parent's record collections and to good effect—guitars, analog keys, harmonica, hooky falsetto background choruses, it's like the '90s never happened and that's just fine all right. These are songs that bring you in on the first hearing. Verily.

P.S. As to "She's So Loose": Why are boys always complaining about "loose" women? Why hate the giver of the gift so? Jesus, stop with the judging, thank your good fortune, and STFU!


She's So Loose by Supergrass on Grooveshark

Caught by the Fuzz by Supergrass on Grooveshark


156) Miles Davis, Fat Time: Sure, Miles was some phat cat with that whole Birth of Cool, Gil Evans collabs, and Bitches Brew thing. Sacreligious maybe but I really dig this album and the later period rock stuff with all the guitar noodling. Miles knew what he was doing. He could've made Kind of Blue in his sleep for 30 years but that wasn't Miles. He was the Peck's Bad Boy of jazz. He liked to kick his fans' expectations in the shins and The Man with the Horn was where it really began in earnest. He's not shouting here, just whispering (note that he never pulls the mute out of his horn). A groove as deep as a foxhole, no changes so the players didn't have distract themselves with any charts, just dynamics, bangin' and blowing while the maestro sits by and smokes a pack, shoots up, snorts a brick, tilts back a bottle or whatever he was doing in those days while he waits his turn to blow that shriek at the end. This is cool because Miles was cool and that's that.

Fat Time by Miles Davis on Grooveshark



157) The StranglersThe Raven album: I had a girlfriend once who was a Stranglers evangelist and tried to convert me to them for years. I'll say I liked their 'boards and by the '80s no one played them like that anymore (it was all one finger thin synth lines and harmonic anorexia), but much of the rest sounded like a rehash in faux punk drag with some edging of New Wave. There was also an uncomfortable malevolence and misogyny (Bring on the Nubiles, et al). Not that there weren't moments, but The Raven was different. It's baroque sound sucked me in (I'm a sucker for harpsichords) and it was much more restrained and mature than anything previous. (They needed some maturity.) The rockers rocked (The Raven below, Dead Loss Angeles) and the slow ballad (Don't Bring Harry, also below) is one of the best things they ever did. From this album their sound continued on a trajectory of softening. But The Raven was their peak and it's a pretty tall one.

Ice by The Stranglers on Grooveshark


The Raven by The Stranglers on Grooveshark


Don’t Bring Harry by The Stranglers on Grooveshark

Friday, August 23, 2013

Do old game consoles dream of electric sheep?


A "remix" of Radiohead's Nude as performed on old-ass technogizmos. The creator is James Houston and his "band's" line-up is as follows and the results are rather ingenious: 

Sinclair ZX Spectrum - Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer - Drums
HP Scanjet 3c - Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array - Act as a collection of bad speakers - Vocals & FX.

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

As seen at TheFoxIsBlack.

Another more recent video of the work of Houston in a collaboration with Julian Corrie.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Los Angeles Blues in Pink


Ciro Hurtado is a Lima, Peru born guitarist who's been living in the U.S. since emigrating in 1975 to study at the Guitar Institute of Technology. Earlier in his career he worked with the flashy guitar ensemble Strunz and Farah. Interesting to note that his Grammy winning mature style is much more subdued and compositionally based than the pyrotechnical style of Strunz and Farah. Rather than go all apes**t a la, say, Al Dimeola, which he's certainly capable, he chooses an understated approach that is, IMHO, much more effective.

But enough about him. Duly noted, Hurtado's style also veers much too close to the MOR style that we usually eschew here at Jellyroll. But, as you'll note in his various videos, Hurtado often features babes dancing provocatively to his music. The dancer below is an example of particularly impressive example. While the pulse of the music is much more NyQuil, the dancer goes totally Red Bull, an excellent choice to pump some blood into this otherwise pleasant lullaby.

Beyond the obvious charms of her good looks, physical presence, and that excitable skirt she's working, I guarantee that you'll agree she has the most infectious and natural smile you'll ever see on a dancer anywhere. The smile is of course the only reason why we've posted this. Please, we have standards here (sometimes).

Enjoy and prepare to smile. BTW, her name is April Espejo and she is with the Los Angeles based dance company Raices Peruanas.


Here's what the composer has to say:

When we talk about Peruvian music, many people envision the panpipes and flutes of the music of the Andes. Since the '60s Andean musicians have been playing for tips in the subways and parks from Paris to Anchorage. However, In the past 10 years or so, Afro Peruvian music has been making great inroads in the World Music scene. Before the '50s, there were practically no records of Afro Peruvian music played on the radio in Peru. My knowledge of Afro Peruvian music was relegated to the "Tamaleros," who were the Afro-Peruvians who would come to our neighboorhoods in Lima to sell tamales. Generally the group was composed of tumba (conga) and cow bell players. They would start playing a descarga "jam" and a couple of kids would dance to the beat. After the show they would sell hot tamales from big bamboo baskets. 
Nicomedes Santa Cruz, a folklorist, poet, and writer, was the pioneer of Afro Peruvian music. His album Cumana was the first album to make it to the Peruvian airwaves in the mid '50s.
In 1995, David Byrne, the singer of Talking Heads signed a group of Vals and Afro Peruvian musicians to his label Luaka Bop. The album, The Soul of Black Peru made it to the top of the charts. Suzana Baca became an international star because of this album.

I wrote the piece La Negrita Tomasa as a vocal piece a few years ago. This instrumental arrangement for Guitar and Cajon played by Julio Ledezma was recorded for my album Los Angeles Blues. I wrote the piece in the Zapateado (footwork) style.


There were a number of typos and errors in the originally posted draft. They have been since corrected. Apologies!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dolly at a Dawdle







"Dolly Parton’s original recording of Jolene slowed down by 25% is surprisingly awesome." One of the great songs of all time and this only makes why all the more clear. Yeah, I'm a sap. (And so is Jack White.)




The original link at 22 Words.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

12 Rounds Is Not a Z-Movie


Trent Reznor signed married couple Atticus Ross and singer Claudia Sarne (left) AKA 12 Rounds (not to be confused with the shoot-'em-up z-grade movie of the same name) to his Nothing Records label and released what would be the couple's second album in 1998. Last.fm describes their sound as goth, trip-hop and alternative rock [borrowing] from the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cranes or Whale and Claudia Sarnes' distinguished voice as deep and absorbing. I'd agree about her voice but don't hear Souixsee at all. I'd suggest early Beck with the Bad Seeds and maybe a more black leggings and mascaraed version of Morcheeba. The couple would have songs included on a few film soundtracks, enjoyed some college radio airplay and then what followed could've been a series of dream shattering unfortunate events. Whatever it was, it kept their Reznor produced and recorded third album from ever getting seeing the light of day. 12 Rounds has kept working and producing music deserving of support. (Somehow it doesn't appear that Reznor was to blame for the third album fiasco—Atticus Ross has worked on NIN projects ever since.)

According to Wiki, they've recently regained the rights to their unreleased third album and plan a release. Be that as it may, their major label debut My Big Hero was indeed a good one and used copies are floating around out there. Recommended.

Sample Pleasant Smell from My Big Hero:





Download: 12 Rounds, Where Fools Go from the album My Big Hero

Three newer high definition tracks are available for free download at their website, 12rounds.net

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Music that Matters, Pt 14




136) Devo, Q: Art We Not Men? A: We Are We Devo album: I was a Devotee from the beginning. I've memories of a costume contest at one Halloween show where a gorgeous tramp in little more than a corset and stockings lost to a guy who could've been Lurch from the Addams Family. He stood, smiling and balding with excruciating nervousness (like it wasn't his idea to get up there) as he waited through his long winning ovation. (Miss Corset had fully expected to win.) And then there was the evening I saw their movie The Truth About De-Evolution projected on a sheet at the Whiskey, the same night my friend got hit in the head with Bob 1's guitar. I owned all of the original self-released singles, the EPs Be Stiff and the rare Mechanical Man. Then, one day, my parents told me to get my boxes out of their garage and I was impelled to sell much of my record collection, including those singles. It was heartbreaking, not so much for the irreplaceable loss of the collection, but for the pennies it'd all end up being worth. (This was in the days before eBay or Half.com.)

You could say I had a PhD in Devo before that the release of the first album. And though the album presented the band under a museum vetrina—nothing like those raw singles—the album was still everything fans could've hoped for. During that time the band was practically a puking cornucopia of ideas, not the least of which was those punchy early songs—Sloppy, Uncontrollable Urge, Shrivel Up, Satisfaction, Clockout, Social Fools. Devo was the It band for my twilight teenage years. The second album was pretty good too—less guitar, more synth, no Eno— but the It factor was gone. I didn't even buy it. Further on, as one of the early fans, Whip It and Beautiful World just weren't what I'd signed up for. That first record said everything they had to say. And even now it still stands as one of the best records of the '80s New Wave. 

Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin') by Devo on Grooveshark

Be Stiff by Devo on Grooveshark


In the beginning...




137) Robert Gordon, The Way I Walk: Quite simply one of the greatest guitar solos ever. To say Link Wray goes pyrotechnical here is not hyperbole. He whacks those ecstatic dyads with a brutal beauty and the sound is wild and fast like a freebasing cicada playing through a cut speaker. (Wray has been credited for inventing the fuzz tone.) It's guitar playing at maximum volume, no matter how loud he's playing. So many other players have tried to approximate Link Wray; none have ever gotten anywhere close: A guitar masterpiece.


Below, a scorching live version: even at 50 years old, Wray was the coolest guy in the room.





138) Annette PeacockI'm the One album: Ah, the '70s—all of that artistic zealotry and boundary pushing and how music transformed just in those 10 years especially. Peacock's album from 1972 is a time capsule from an historic time when mainstream culture reached out and absorbed some of the avant garde. (Think of the noisy interlude in Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love). Many forward looking musicians of the time were testing a new eclectic sausage recipe. For Peacock, this meant stuffing in a mix of free jazz, Morton Subotnick, Doris Day, Revolution #9, gospel, and R and B. As an example of how pervasive this recipe was, even Creedence Clearwater (!) jumped on the bandwagon. Peacock's pillow-talk voice and slightly flat, nasal tone were an effective vehicle. When my 2nd grade daughter's teacher taught her students to write with words they didn't know how to spell, she called it brave spelling. Call Peacock a brave singer, taking a limited range and depth and courageously squeezing every last morsel out of it. And she can screech if she's in the mood but mostly she keeps it cool and it's good that way: A quirky classic.

I'm The One by Annette Peacock on Grooveshark



139) Cheap TrickBallad of TV Violence, Elo KiddiesMandocello; Back in the day I saw the band on their first trip through LA. As I've said before, I'm a perfidious fan. I loved the first three albums, forsook them during the punk era, eventually bought one more but already knew that the future wasn't going to work out between us. In his prime, songwriter and guitarist Rick Neilson could conjure up the magic sauce that made for a tasty meat loaf again and again. His songs teased catchy melodies out of crunchy chords and provided an elusive model for many latter-day candy-ass '80s hair metal bands—of course, none of them could tie the masters' shoes. Blonde pretty boy singer Robin Zander was more than a chiseled visage, he wasn't above going straight-jacket apesh*t when the circumstances required. Hear the evidence in the last verses of Ballad of TV Violence. Obviously, humor was a big part of what they did—how Neilson could play on stage while going through all his goofy antics is remarkable—but so was a high craft that betrayed all that fuzz tone. And the rhythm section was distinctive, an absolute prerequisite for a great band. Listen to Mandocello with its two bridges, its cheesy and effective lyrical snares (revisted again in I Want You to Want Me), and its throwing out more hooks than a free beer fishing barge. The early work also had a snotty punk edge that was lost on subsequent albums. They were big in Japan but stateside they just made a living. They should've been way bigger.


The Ballad Of TV Violence (I'm Not the Only Boy) by Cheap Trick on Grooveshark

Social critique with a pinch of Gary Glitter: 'Elo kiddies/'elo kiddies/Whatcha gonna do when you get religion/'elo kiddies/'elo kiddies/Hope you didn't get it on the television.

ELO Kiddies by Cheap Trick on Grooveshark

Beatle fan Neilson could squeeze out the saccharin quality McCartney ballad when he wanted:

Mandocello by Cheap Trick on Grooveshark


140) King Crimson, Neal, Jack, and Me: The way Link Wray's solo scorches, Adrian Belew's chills here like a martini stirred in liquid nitrogen—stone cold, math-y, with a heavy chunk of the right brain. Robert Fripp's phasing and fastidiously picked rhythms are pure math, like the calculus Newton invented to study the universe and, in his best moments, Fripp can coax the universe from his guitar. But on Neal, Jack, and Me, Belew is the hero. His solo turn (at the 2:24 mark) is tantalizingly brief and doesn't need another second—he's accomplished all that needed to be done. Plus, his sound finds the avant garde angles (with a little psychedelia) that even titans like Coltrane never found. His playing bursts into all directions like a sniper bullet through an apple. Belew learned at Fripp's feet and with this one he may've just outdone the master.





141) Screamin' Jay Hawkins, I Put a Spell on You: Jay—bless him—was what you could call "a world-class fornicator." (Quantity was his game.) He was also a world-class cad. (As you'll see, he clearly preferred bareback.)

Back in the '90s, a national search was underway to locate the progeny of this deadbeat sperm donor. Jay's dying wish was that all of "his" children would get together, children he'd never met, for a gathering. Eventually, 57 of them were found (not counting his two legitimate ones). There may've been more but those are the ones that confessed. The gathering didn't go so well—52 of them didn't show up. (Who can blame them?) For those who did, they got to watch a video of papa saying this: "Yeah, there might be 50 or 60, or 75, or there might be more, 'cos I don't know about the abortions and the miscarriages." In his will he left each of his children $1: A cad and a miserly one at that. (Here's an article from MailOnline.)

Anyway, Jay was a one hit wonder with the good fortune of his one hit becoming an immortalized standard, kind of like the way Nature Boy was for Eden Abbez. A song, like the composer himself, that'd spawn many other versions. Whatever about the song's progenitor, it's still a great song proving that great art is possible regardless of character—even if it's from a world-class turd.

I Put a Spell on You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins on Grooveshark


Some of the song's legitimate progeny:

I Put a Spell on You by Nina Simone on Grooveshark

I Put A Spell On You by Creedence on Grooveshark

I Put a Spell On You by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on Grooveshark

I Put a Spell on You by Diamanda Galás on Grooveshark

I Put A Spell On You by Them on Grooveshark

I Put A Spell On You by Various Artists on Grooveshark

I Put A Spell On You by Jeff Beck Feat. Joss Stone on Grooveshark


142) Henry Cow, War: Upon her spoon this motto/ Wonderfully designed/ Violence completes the partial mind. 

More free-jazzy than proggy, though it can go a little proggy at times, but it's also laden with plenty o' non-prog virtues too: crazy vocals and various utterances (her name is Dagmar), big beat, atonal skronking and meter changes (OK, that's way proggy); "an inherent anti-commercial attitude" (also proggy), and a humor as proof they're not taking themselves too seriously (very unproggy). This is brilliant madness: Ideas are climbing all over this like vines on a crumbling building. And like the crumbling building, it's the vines holding it together. Founded by Fred Frith, Henry Cow is like one of those bands that everybody praises but no one listens to except here you can actually listen. (Frith has been connected to just about every avant gardist from John Zorn to Mike Patton to The Residents to Robert Wyatt and all points inbetween.) Anarchy, sometimes, is just another word for spontaneity. (Whatever happened to Dagmar?)

War by Henry Cow on Grooveshark


143) The Buzzcocks, Hollow Inside: Bubblegum punk was the 'cocks and I was slow to warm. Shelley's singing was too cutesy by half, most of their early songs (e.g. Orgasm Addict) were just irritating, and even their best ones ran two and a half minutes on ten seconds of idea. It took this song, Hollow Inside, to break through to me. The minor key riff grabbed me by the collar and Shelley never sounded so much like his former partner, Howard Devoto. It was practically emo. This song too is slim on the ideas, almost five minutes of your life given away to six seconds of ideas, but the idea is a good one. Shelley did have an ear for a hook. After Hollow Inside I gained an appreciation for the 'cocks I hadn't had before. (Even my teenage daughter is hooked.) And they do have an undeniable bounce. 

Hollow Inside by Buzzcocks on Grooveshark


144) Coleman Hawkins, Rifftide: Hawkins is the bridge between the big band era and bebop. If he didn't invent bop he certainly has his DNA all over it. His was a more restrained, buttoned up version of what those cats that followed him played—Monk, Bird, Rollins, Miles. The bop generation gets all the praise but they were also the jazz killers. If they won the cultural battle, it was a pyrrhic victory. Boppers did to jazz what Kline, Pollack, et. al. did to generations of art dilettantes. Like abstract painting, jazz unmoored itself from the pure aesthetic joy of creative communication and lost its audience. (How many times have old jazzers said, "I'm not an entertainer. I'm an artist!") This, my friends, is the difference between expression and communication. Communication is a communal act. It wants to create a bond; expression, on the other hand, is often just a jerk-off—a secret language indecipherable to most. A cultural patois designed to keep the rabble out. Hawkins didn't do that. He respected melody. His tone was fat and clean and he loved the songs he was playing. He was everything the upstarts wanted to rebel against. His music does kind of scream tradition. But then, everybody needs some tradition to go with their avant garde.

Apparently, Rifftide's riff was stolen from an arrangement by pianist Mary Lou Williams. Monk might've used a couple of its bricks to build Well You Needn't. Good ideas deserve high mileage and this one earned a few turns of the odometer. Whoever the daddy was, I think we can all agree it's a bouncing slam of a tune. 

Rifftide by Coleman Hawkins on Grooveshark




145) King Sunny Adé, Ori Mi Ja Fum Mi: Wiki says that Nigerian Adé is the most influential musician of all time, bar none. So forget Elvis, this King is so king it's his name. Nigeria is a country with an abused history (blame the West) of colonization, civil war, military coups, and 500 different tribes with long memories. It's a country with more than its share of despair and woe. And yet the native jùjú music, as is much of African music, is so goddam full of' sunshine and ecstatic rhythm you have to wonder what kind of superior stuff these people are made of. The racist jokes about putting chains on Africans and hearing them sing was meant to disparage, but the truth is these are people who won't be crushed and are able to find the slivers of joy no matter the direness of their circumstances. (That's not to say they invite or deserve it.) We could all learn from that.

King Sunny Adé and his music are clearly made from that stuff. The polyrhythmic beat goes deep into the chest and lifts (its a crime when some of his later work cuts in programmed drums). The instruments, especially the drums and multiple guitars, weave together like Kente cloth. The band is playing the sh*t out from every corner and there's not a melancholic note to be found anywhere—this is music that dares to be simple in the best way possible. Adé's jùjú takes some of the world's darkness and makes it into one of the happiest places on Earth and that, my friends, is quite something.

Ja Funmi by King Sunny Ade on Grooveshark

Ja Funmi by King Sunny Ade on Grooveshark


146) Frank Zappa, Willie the Pimp: Childhood buds Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (the Beefheart moniker was Zappa's idea) never had much luck working together. The rare exception was Willie the Pimp. Beefheart's appearance is brief but adds the necessary atomic weight to this rocking molecule. (What are those percussion sounds underneath, a winding clock and a shaking ring of keys?) A great cockfight of sound ensues starting with the riffing violin. Zappa solos, starting sedate before going steroidal when the wah-wah kicks on. Beefheart wordlessly growls and yelps for a few rounds while the bass player plucks some frenzied bowel-clearing low end. Somehow a piano finds a way in and it works, laying down energized whorehouse atmospherics from the back room. (Willie the Pimp is also one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. *Yawn*)

Willie the Pimp by Frank Zappa on Grooveshark