Name That Tune!

A few days ago Rolling Stone published a story about a song that appeared on the internet some years back and no one can figure out who recorded it, wrote it, or where it came from. It’s not a very good song, but it is kind of catchy, and suitably mysterious.
It was apparently recorded off a German radio show in the early 1980s.
It seems like there must be other music out there that is similarly unknown. Why did this one break out?

The Search for Nurse With Wound’s Favorite Bands

This is about a story in The Guardian. In 1979 an experimental/noise/art/industrial/krautrock band called Nurse With Wound put out their first album. The inner sleeve listed their favorite 291 bands. In the 90s that list became something of a challenge for fans of this sort of music to find, and some it was released on CD for the first time. Now, 40 years after it was originally released, Nurse with Wound is working with a record label trying to put together compilation sets with one track from each of those bands. This is their story, well worth reading if only for some of the band names. Here’s that album, which is everything haters of experimental music are likely to hate, but with some interesting sounds along the way.
The first volume of the compilation is out now.

What’s your favorite Beatle single.

Think about this now. Rank your top five. There were 22 it seems, in the UK. The Guardian has their own take. You can find it here. My favorite was Eight Days A Week, I own it, but it seems it wasn’t released in the UK. Reading the story I guess I understand the writer’s thinking, but he’s out of his mind. Here’s the My Sharonna of the birth of rock/pop music. No doubt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2rkW0Tu3H8

Song of the Week – Mr. Wendal, Arrested Development

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

President Trump was in California for fundraising this week, and couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the state’s homeless situation.  USA Today covered the story with the headline:

Blaming shelters and street sleeping, Donald Trump blasts California for homeless crisis

Now, I live in the San Francisco Bay area, so I’m well aware we have become the homeless capital of the world.  But we do our best to come up with effective policies to deal with this challenging situation; and treat the homeless population with dignity and respect.

This reminded me of the Arrested Development song “Mr. Wendal.”

This song was written in 1992 about the homeless condition but looks at it from an interesting perspective.  It calls on us to see the homeless as people we can learn from – that there is wisdom in choosing a lifestyle that isn’t concerned with materialistic trappings.

Mr. Wendal has freedom
A free that you and I think is dumb
Free to be without the worries of a quick to diss society
For Mr. Wendal’s a bum

Yeah, I know, that POV may be a tad naïve and oversimplified, but it comes from a genuine sense of kindness and understanding.  And those are things we can use a little more of today.

Arrested Development was one of the first rap groups to make it their mission to record music with positive messages.

Musically, the song uses a couple of cool samples to great effect.  The most obvious one comes from Steely Dan’s “Peg.”  The other is a vocal sample from “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone.  Dig it!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – What a Man, Linda Lyndell

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor Mark Vincent. Mark is a multi instrumental musician (guitar, bass and recently drums) with The Occasionalists – Brooklyn, NY’s premiere live karaoke band. When he’s not playing with the band, he makes music of a different kind for the patients of his chiropractic practice in Manhattan.

In 1993 the rap group Salt n Pepa teamed with En Vogue for a massive hit with a version of “What a Man,” a Stax single that had reached #50 on Billboard in 1968.  Although they added new provocative lyrics to the verses; the chorus, main guitar riff and general vibe of the song were lifted directly from the original.  I had only been familiar with the original from an Oxford compilation CD someone had burned for me, so I never had access to the artist or any credits.  It was only when my band decided to cover it, that I discovered the origins — which turned out to have an interesting backstory.

Linda Lyndell was a white gospel singer in Gainesville, FL.  She began singing with RnB groups as a teenager and after singing back up for James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner, she recorded with Stax producers Issac Hayes and David Porter in 1967 and 1968.  The second of these sessions produced “What a Man.”

Between the funky R&B sound and references to James Brown in the lyrics, the song caught the unwanted attention of the KKK and other white supremacist groups, who did not approve of a white girl singing in such a manner.  After getting death threats from the KKK, she retreated from the music business, living in seclusion back in Gainesville for the next 25 years. She only learned about the Salt n Pepa cover after she received her first royalty check in the mail.  Inspired by the success of the remake, she began performing again and sang “What a Man” in public for the first time in 2003 at the opening of the Stax Museum.

No disrespect to Salt n Pepa, but Lyndell’s version has a warmer, more soulful feel to it and is musically more interesting.   The guitars, piano, and horns are all more expansive and the song moves around more despite being only half the length.  At the risk of being racially inappropriate, I played that song for 15 years without the slightest notion I was listening to a 22-year old white girl from FL.

Enjoy… until next week.

Daniel Johnston is Dead.

Sometime in the late 80s I had, with partners, a film company. People would send us tapes of their films, in hopes that we could find a way to help them get their film distributed. In any case, a guy from Chicago sent me a film, I think it called Reconstruction, and I think I liked it just fine. I think that now because I got to the end credits, under which played a simple song simply arranged sung in an innocent and tuneful bleat. I watched through the credits to find out that the singer was Daniel Johnston. The song wasn’t this one:
Johnston went on to have an interesting career as an indie artist, one known for his struggles with bipolarity and the charmingly appealing art he made, as well as many collaborations and tributes by admirers such as Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits. For more you can read his obit in the Guardian here. My period of Johnston fandom was fairly short, the sound of innocence and wonder wear down after a while, but this song is a keeper:

Robert Frank is Dead.

Frank created a book of photographs called The Americans back in the 50s. It’s a terrific book of strikingly straightforward and revealing images full of, um, Americans.
Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to The Americans, an obvious choice at the moment On the Road ruled the world. Kerouac also wrote and narrated Frank’s first film, a shambling tale of New York City’s bohemian lives, called Pull My Daisy. You can view it here. Frank, of course, took the photos that made up the collagey cover of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street.
Frank also made a tour documentary with the Stones at about the same time. It is called Cocksucker Blues and the Stones, who have said they thought the film was excellent, sued to keep it from being released because its explicit sex and drug scenes were too much even for them. A deal was reached that allowed Frank to show the movie five times a year provided he was in attendance. I remember one year leaving the Rolling Stone magazine Christmas party early to see the film at the Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. You can find the film in pieces on You Tube, from time to time. Frank clearly wasn’t policing the copyright, nor were the Stones, as evidenced by this music video that uses some of the film.
Frank also made some dramatic films that drew notice, though the only one I saw was a shambling road picture featuring a who’s who of cool rock dudes in the late 80s (I’m talking guys named Johansen, Waits and Strummer, plus Leon Redbone).
This is the trailer with French titles.
This seems to be the whole film with German titles.
Final bonus video with Frank’s Super 8 film of the Stones.