There are those who say that life is like a book with chapters for each event in your life and a limited number of pages on which you can spend your time. But I prefer to think that a book is like a life, particularly a good one, which is well worth staying up all night to finish.
Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.
If you’re a thrift shop record flipper, you’ve probably run across your fair share of Glen Campbell records - I mean, he’s released over seventy of them! But before you write them off with those countless Ray Conniff and Sing Along with Mitch records, just know that the man’s a living legend who, as a Wrecking Crew session guitarist, has played on hundreds of your precious sixties singles. For Christ’s sake, he plays on Pet Sounds!
Anyway, he’s seventy-seven now, and sadly, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Akin to Cash’s late-career resurgence, he recorded a lukewarm album of “hip” material in 2008 (songs by Paul Westerberg, Lou Reed, Lennon, Petty, and (ahem) Green Day and U2). Then he recorded a slightly warmer, slightly hipper record in 2011 (original songs with additional material by Robert Pollard, Paul Westerberg, and Roger Manning). Both of the albums sound stiff and suffer from over-compression. Campbell went on a farewell tour in 2012.
But wait - he’s not quite finished yet! In April of 2013, he released See You There, an album of rerecorded greatest hits. I know - it sounds like a desperate move, a disposable addendum reeking of tied up mechanical royalties. But no! It’s absolutely wonderful! A stripped down, intimate revisiting of old friends. A poignant, tight-lipped, misty-eyed goodbye to the songs that made him famous. Campbell sounds aged, but great, imbuing classics like “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” with a pathos that can only come with an acute awareness of one’s impending mortality.
Lovely to know that Glen’s going to go out on a good note.
I just redeemed a bunch of digital download tickets accumulated from vinyl records that I’ve purchased over the last few months. Here are ten ways in which I have felt punished for supporting the music industry.
1. Typing in a super long URL.
2. Typing in a super long serial number.
3. Typing in a super long bar code number.
4. Being forced to provide my email address.
5. Being forced to provide my date of birth.
6. Invalid code: is that a zero or the letter O? Try again!
7. Invalid code: is that a capital letter I, a lowercase L, or the number 1? Try again!
8. Waiting for the download to complete. Arrgg!
9. Waiting for the file to unzip. Arrrrggg!
10. Dragging MP3 files to iTunes where I find an incomplete ID3 tag (missing artwork or artist/album name). Ahhhrrrrggggg!
The trick is to have a career and have a family. It’s like having two dogs that hate each other and you have to take them for a walk every night.
Singing along with the car stereo is something nearly everyone does. Do recording artists do it with their own material? Each 3-4 minute episode of this webs series would make them!
Each episode would film a well-known recording artist driving around in his or her vehicle, singing along to one of his or her own recordings as played on the car stereo. The volume of the stereo would have to be low enough to clearly hear the live vocal. Ideal driving conditions would include stop lights with windows rolled down to get possible reactions from other drivers and passers by. Famous or strange locations could also make the episodes more interesting. The camera operator would sit in the passenger seat, though additional cameras could be set up to catch the car passing by. Optional: bandmates sit in the backseat, either drumming along on a lap, singing back-ups, or playing an acoustic instrument, so long as it did not obscure the sound of the car stereo.
Growth is frightening sometimes. You think you’re going to get too big, like you can’t get back into your childhood or something.
I picked this one up for two reasons: 1) in all the years I’ve flipped through records, I’ve never ever once seen it before, and 2) the cover looks so ridiculously low budget that I just could NOT pass on it.
There are no liner notes, only the track listing, which offers songwriting credits and publisher information, curiously using the German word “verlag” for publisher. Maybe it’s on a German label? No, the address on the back reads Urbana, Illinois.
So what record label is it? Premore Inc. - but wait - the super, super, tiny print underneath the logo reads, “a subsidiary of Solo Cup Company.”
The Solo Cup Company released records? This I found far too amusing for anyone to completely understand. I was hysterical with laughter.
This is what I keep imagining: Plastic cup sales are low, gentlemen. We’re going to put out a Hall and Oats record. Johnson, your cousin airbrushes T-shirts at the county fair, right? Get him to spray up a cover. How utterly random! Absurd even! A cup company releasing a Hall and Oats record!
The record itself sounds like it was recorded behind a really heavy curtain, though the songs aren’t all that bad. I imagine these were early recordings, demos maybe, that somehow - god knows how - found their way into the hands of a plastic cup company.
Here’s the back cover.
George “Hound Dog” Lorenz can be heard at the very end of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” saying, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound.” A radio DJ, he was an early rock and roll advocate, working mostly out of Buffalo, NY - though his show was heard in at least 20 states owing to WKBW’s strong signal.
Lorenz left WKBW in the late ’50s and founded WBLK in 1965. This album is marketed as a “souvenir album,” the liner notes indicating that the station was not yet on the air: “Lorenz feels that music will sound so much better to your ears on the new sound spectrum at 93.7 on the frequency modulation dial.” We call it FM.
The album itself is a run-of-the-mill oldies collection, pressed on the VJ label, but as a Buffalonian, it remains special to me for its local significance, a remnant from a time when Buffalo, and radio, mattered.
WBLK remains on the air today as an urban contemporary radio station.
It’s difficult to talk about the writing of it. It gets so pedantic. It’s all made out of smoke. When you really think about it, it’s invisible. And you’re afraid it’s not going to come and sit next to you anymore. And that keeps you doing it.
There’s definitely a mysterious chemical reaction that happens when you listen to music, especially when you fall in love with a song at first listen. My mind tells me that this song is a syrupy mess. My heart is simply a syrupy mess when I hear this song.
There are definitely better beatboxers, and there are definitely better rappers, but you’ve got to give this track some love. What deft use of reverb, delay, and samples to augment the largely human rhythm section… no pun intended.
Watch the awesomely cheesy video: http://youtu.be/mHoCR7u5NzY
The problem [with songwriting] is that all these things pass through you all the time, and when you sit down to write, it’s really just like purchasing a butterfly net. It’s going on all the time, it’s just that you’re going to draw a frame around it now. You’re going to reach up and grab some and swallow it.
There’s so little to this song that it nearly feels unfinished. Its repetition and nagging “la-la”s worry me; I’m afraid its going to irritate my wife or whomever else happens to be in earshot while it’s on. Still, I’ve put it on quite a few mixes for myself, likely for the very reasons that I could criticize the song. It’s an idiotic celebration of love! A big dumb prayer for one of the most unexplainable and irrational impulses to be universally experienced.