tymshft

There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Archive for the category “music”

Poppy covers ancient history

One day not too long ago I was watching videos and encountered one in which kids react to Poppy reacting to kids reacting to Poppy.

I had never heard of Poppy before this time.

Yes, I am not trendy.

Well, while I’ve been listening to some of her music, I occasionally take a dive into her videos that treat The Human Condition or something like that. And here’s one that she created for her younger fans. It’s like history and stuff.

And since “floppy” rhymes with “Poppy,” I see a new marketing effort in her future.

Forward Into the Past, Musically

Longevity has its place. And sometimes in the musical world, that place is one of utter confusion.

I was recently listening to the title track from Stan Ridgway’s first solo album, The Big Heat. As is the wont with Ridgway’s lyrics, there was a little twist in the song – in this case, toward the end.

A block away he wondered if he’d left behind a clue
The front page of a paper dated 1992
He remembered when he used to be the chairman of the board
But that was when the world was young and long before the war

Back when the solo album was released, the lyric had a futuristic feel, predicting a devastating war that would occur a few years after the song was written.

Now, of course, 1992 was a quarter century ago, and people listening to the song may not get the meaning.

Of course, Ridgway wasn’t the first to use futuristic references in his lyrics. Wings released a song called “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.” As Wings fans know, by the time we actually got to 1985, Wings had gone up in a cloud of smoke.

But that still gave Paul (and Linda and Denny; this was during one of the periods that Wings only had three members) to rock out.

On no one left alive in 1985, will ever do
She may be right
She may be fine
She may get love but she won’t get mine
‘Cause I got you
Oh, oh I, oh oh I
Well I just can’t enough of that sweet stuff
My little lady gets behind

But that isn’t the only futuristic reference in the song. Toward the end of the song, just before the reprise to “Band On The Run” (Paul loves those reprises), he and the other two (with a little help from their friends) were rocking on to the 19th century piece “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

You may know it as the theme to the formerly futuristic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

No Zeptember or Rocktober in Norway – FM radio is being shut down

Chris Kim A linked to an Atlas Obscura post that linked to a phys.org post. The common topic of all of these is the phased shutdown of FM radio stations in Norway, beginning on January 11 and extending through the year.

I’ve talked about FM radio shutdowns before – my college campus radio station, KRRC, surrendered its FCC license several years ago. This was partly due to government hassles – other nonprofits kept on trying to grab KRRC’s spectrum allocation, and in some cases were successful, causing the radio station to move. (During my college years, a frequency change resulted in a change of KRRC’s slogan – the former submarine of the airwaves became the highest station on the dial.) Another reason – with only 10 watts of power, the station signal couldn’t go all that far. As digital radio technology improved, it became easier to just can the whole thing.

Norway actually has similar issues on a technological front. According to phys.org, “[t]he FM spectrum has room for a maximum of only five national stations.” There are already over 40 digital stations, so why not switch now?

Only one problem. Most of the population can’t receive those digital stations yet.

But many think the shift is premature.

A poll in Dagbladet newspaper in December found 66 percent of Norwegians are against shutting down FM, with only 17 percent in favour.

While around three quarters of the population have at least one DAB radio set, many motorists are unhappy, as only about a third of cars currently on the road are equipped.

Converting a car radio involves buying an adaptor for between 1,000 and 2,000 kroner (110 to 220 euros), or getting a whole new radio.

This is a common problem when a government phases out one service to replace it with another service – people aren’t willing to pay to make the change. Often the government has to force the issue, as the United States government did a few years ago when it forced the analog television channels to shut down in favor of digital channels. People who didn’t have cable had to buy special digital antennas to receive the new channels over the air. (But the antennas didn’t cost over $100.)

Should such a scenario happen in the United States, there is one advantage that we would have. While my smartphone cannot pick up digital radio broadcasts, it can pick up streaming Internet broadcasts via various apps such as the iHeart Radio app, so even if I didn’t buy a digital radio, I could still listen to some stuff on my phone as I drive.

However, the loss of FM radio in countries beyond Norway, probably also including the United States, will also have a cultural impact. While FM radio first appeared in 1945, it didn’t really hit its stride until the late 1960s, when FM “rock” stations began to appear. Technically, they offered better sound quality than the AM radio stations of the time. Culturally, they offered…well, something.

Hello, I’m Jim Ladd. (sucking sound) Now we’re going to play an entire album side of music, recorded live at the Spent Seed Hall by a supergroup featuring members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, along with The Grateful Dead, Big Fat Green Colombian Marmalade, and The Archies. Put your headphones on now. After this, I’ll be heading out to the Sunset Strip, and the next show on this station will be hosted by The Rock Chick.

Hi, I’m the Rock Chick. After this 25 minute album side, I’ll be speaking to you in my deep gravelly voice and playing the new Zeppelin cut. Since it’s August 31, this is a great time to hear this, because we are going to be celebrating Zeptember all next month, followed by our celebration of Rocktober. Let me say that again in my deep voice – ROCKTOBER. Then I’m going to replay yesterday’s interview of a Black Panther at the local Free Clinic.

So what will the cultural impact of digital radio stations be? Will R. Crumb trucking give way to R. Scoble in the shower?

Will our robot overlords come with payment dispensers? (Obama and AI inequality)

As I write this, people in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world are approaching a major holiday. While the holiday itself falls on a Sunday, many people will celebrate the holiday on Monday.

For these people, this will be a paid holiday, in which they will get money even though they don’t do any work.

But what if this situation becomes permanent, as robots come in and do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do?

The concept of guaranteed income has been bandied about for a while. As I noted in a 2013 post, the theory is that as robots take over jobs and massive unemployment results, governments will be forced to pay guaranteed income to keep citizens afloat.

There’s a second point of view – one that I expressed in 2013, and still hold today. I believe that as the robots are implemented, new jobs will be created.

Well, now a third point of view has been expressed, by a guy named Barack Obama. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the President of the United States. Yes, I know that if you read Twitter, you’d get the idea that Donald Trump is President of the United States, but technically he won’t take power for nearly a month. So in the meantime, Obama gets to do Presidential things and say stuff:

In a report examining the economic impact of AI, the Obama administration trumpeted the technological advances that are expected in the coming years, but warned that automating mass amounts of jobs could exacerbate wealth inequality.

“AI should be welcomed for its potential economic benefits,” the report reads. “Those economic benefits, however, will not necessarily be evenly distributed across society.”…

Tuesday’s report laid out a number of recommendations for Congress and the next administration to help mitigate any negative economic impact that AI could have on the workforce. The recommendations include strengthening the social safety net, raising wages and investing in retraining and education to keep up with the shifting demands of the economy.

Now a “safety net” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “guaranteed income.” We’ve had a safety net for a while, which was described by the noted NGO The Clash in a multimedia presentation entitled “Know Your Rights”:

You have the right to food money
Providing of course
You don’t mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers
Rehabilitation

And it could be argued that “raising wages” would have the effect of actually INCREASING the use of robots to replace people. Think about that the next time that your favorite food establishment provides a super cool app to let you place your order. That app is cheaper than a $15 minimum wage order taker.

The report is addressing present concerns as expressed by voters. But what’s the chance of the report being consulted a month from now, when (as I noted) we have another President?

Donald Trump was propelled during the campaign by his argument that free trade agreements were depriving Americans of manufacturing jobs, but he spoke little about the threat that automation posed to employment.

So what’s going to happen? The federal government isn’t going to do anything, blue states are going to jack up the minimum wage, red states are going to give tax breaks to corporations, the corporations are going to continue automation, low wage workers are going to be unemployed, no guaranteed income will be implemented at the federal level, and even California and Washington won’t implement it at the state level. And then in 2020, we’ll get two Presidential candidates that will make the 2016 ones look like massively adored heroes. (Michael Moore vs. Michelle Malkin?)

That’s my prediction, and my predictions are always right.

Usually.

OK, not so much.

As modern distribution channels are swiftly trumped

When I first read the story that I’m about to share with you, I didn’t know if it belonged here in tymshft, in my music blog, or my business blog.

But first I had to figure out the truth behind Dave Schilling’s article in the Guardian on Taylor Swift’s new channel.

Millennials! Don’t sell your TVs just yet. You might be bored silly with the wasteland that is cable programming, but DirecTV’s new cord-cutting over-the-top service, DirecTV Now, will feature a 24-hour channel dedicated exclusively to the work of pop star Taylor Swift….

…the Guardian has obtained the launch day lineup for Taylor Swift Now in a journalistic coup that will surely be criminalized as soon as Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January.

It’s one of these articles that states that the information in the article WON’T BE FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE. Yeah, one of those.

(Excerpts from Schilling’s piece: the 6am show will be called #SquadGoals, and the 11am show will be called Bad Blood.)

So just when I was starting to doubt the whole thing, I ran across Lanre Bakare’s tweet about the article.

swift-channel

So Schilling didn’t make up the entire thing. I subsequently confirmed via MTV that Swift had launched the Taylor Swift Now channel in partnership with AT&T/DirecTv.

Swift is one of the biggest brands in music today, and she is the one who is best equipped to create her own channel. And while she’s still working through intermediaries such as AT&T, the time will eventually come when major musical artists will be able to sell their music directly without any intermediaries. Prince tried to do this, but was ahead of his time (and also past his former commanding stance in the industry).

Swift is making this move at the right time, which should make for some interesting negotiations when her contract with Big Machine expires. Will she opt for her own label partially owned by someone else (a la Madonna’s former label Maverick Records), or will she try going completely independent?

Well, if Swift wants to look for a model, she can look outside of the musical realm. There’s a man who has determinedly avoided the middlemen and roadblocks in his industry, and who is carrying his message directly to his customers.

You know who I’m talking about.

trump-twitter

Say what you will about him, Donald Trump has been the most innovative Presidential candidate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt used the radio to speak directly to the American people. Trump uses Twitter, a service that allows people to send short messages directly to other people. I mean, things like that didn’t exist in the days of Trump’s father Fred Trump – or did they?

Now Twitter, of course, is its own company, so Trump is dependent upon someone else to provide his megaphone. But Twitter is having its own problems as of late, which raises an interesting question – could Trump, in partnership with some other rich people, buy Twitter himself?

Now that would be really interesting.

Rise and fall, indeed – Madness looks back

In 2011, Kronenbourg shared a two-minute beer advertisement in which some older men sang a song in a pub, then walked out. Well, most of them walked out; the saxophone player kinda sorta drifted away.

For some of the younger viewers of the ad, it was probably an entertaining commercial, though they wouldn’t get mad about it.

There’s also a four-minute long version of the ad, in which scenes from the bar are interspersed with black and white scenes of much younger men. This version goes under the title “Le grand pantalon.”

And yes, the band is Madness, and the black and white scenes were actually anti-colorized (whoops, anti-colorised) scenes from the original “Baggy Trousers” video.

The band has come a long way – it broke up at one point before reuniting – and several years after the Kronenbourg ad, Cathal Symth left the band. He just wasn’t feeling nutty any more.

In a sense, the nutty image of Madness did a disservice to them, because when they did get serious, they were often ignored. (“Blue Skinned Beast”, for example, is about body bags.)

Today’s music is less weighty than the music of yesterday

Several years ago, I documented a conversation that you won’t find anywhere else (hint, hint) – namely, the conversation that launched the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (or so I claim).

HEY MAN!

What?

I JUST HAD A TRIPPY IDEA.

Are you gonna eat five pizzas again?

NO, MAN, THIS IS SERIOUS. I WANT TO MAKE A HALL OF FAME FOR ROCK AND ROLL.

What, like Cooperstown?

YEAH, BUT COOL. LIKE, WE’LL PUT THE BEATLES IN THERE!

And the Stones?

YEAH, AND THE DEAD!

Cool!

Of course, those founders were all cool when the initial few rounds of nominees came into the Hall, but when they had to start considering people like the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, that was totally uncool, because, you know, the artists of the 1960s mattered, man. Like, they dealt with weighty issues and stuff.

And if you don’t believe that the old music was weighty, consider this report from NBC San Diego (h/t Rolling Stone and Astralwerks Records):

Too many vinyl records stored on the second floor of a San Diego building caused a collapse that damaged a popular thrift store.

Thrift Trader in the city’s Hillcrest neighborhood suffered significant damage when the second floor collapsed overnight.

Let’s face it – records have given way to cassettes, then to CDs, and now to entirely digital music.

So when an old hippie tells you that his music was heavy, he means it.

What goes around comes around – the record industry

I have previously observed that the supermarket chains who are complaining about Walmart aren’t entirely guiltless, since the supermarkets wiped out a whole bunch of markets back in the day. But the evolution of business is not limited to the grocery industry.

On Saturday, May 30, the band Berlin performed at Rhino Records in Claremont, California, and David Allen was there. He recorded the following comment by Berlin’s Terri Nunn:

“Can I tell you how great it is to be in a record store?”

Nunn’s love of record stores isn’t just because of her career as a recording artist. As Allen notes, quoting Nunn:

Her parents owned a small record shop in Reseda in the early 1970s “until Tower and Wherehouse killed us off.”

Now I’ll admit that I participated in that killing – I’d take the bus to the Tower Records on SE 82nd St. in Portland when I could, and I’d drop in to Wherehouse and other chains after moving to California. But those who didn’t like the chains are having the last laugh today, since Tower Records and Wherehouse Music are long gone.

The Virgin Megastore chain, however, is still thriving – in the Middle East.

Virgin Megastore has been a high street icon everywhere from Times Square in New York to Sydney, Australia since Richard Branson opened the first music store on Oxford Street in London in 1976.

You can buy CDs, DVDs, games, books, apparel and electronics from Virgin music and entertainment stores in the Middle East and Gulf countries:

• visit Virgin Megastore in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE

However, times they are a-changin’, and sad but true – Virgin Megastores are no longer open in the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, US, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Old singers never die – they just surround themselves with younger people. Or do they?

In May 2011, I wrote a “tymshft” post in my Empoprise-MU music blog, comparing Focus’ original version of the song “Hocus Pocus” with a subsequent bluegrass version by the Cleverlys.

I haven’t listened to the Cleverlys version in a while, but I’ve recently had occasion to listen to Focus’ version – both the Midnight Special version that I shared in 2011, and some more recent versions that I found on YouTube.

There are, of course, a multitude of differences between old and new performances of “Hocus Pocus.” But the biggest one is that Thijs van Leer, who sang the entire thing back in the 1970s, now only sings portions of the song. Some other guy – apparently younger – is drafted to hit the really high notes. (You notice this with other older artists, who often perform with musicians young enough to be their kids.)

Is this just a problem with age, where old singers just can’t sing like they used to? According to Jeannie Deva, the answer is no. It is possible for an older person to maintain, and even improve on, his or her singing capability. However, there are certain things that can cause a voice to deteriorate.

Singing with poor or no vocal technique
No or inadequate vocal warm-up or vocal cool-down
Drugs (legal and illegal)
Regular and excessive alcohol consumption
The accumulated effect of cigarette smoking
Performing with deficient or no monitors
The wrong microphone
Shouting over your instrumentalists’ stage volume
Emotional stress
Physical deterioration from poor nutrition or sleep
Psychosomatic illness occasioned by emotional hardships, losses and upsets

Drugs, alcohol, smoking, stress, lack of sleep – I guess those have been known to occur to rock singers.

Things I wrote thirty-one years ago are still preserved – for now

I am less than a month from the ten-year anniversary of my blogging career. I haven’t really said anything about it much yet, but a recent Louis Gray post has caused me to start thinking about it.

Gray’s post is entitled “Our Fragile Web of Dead Domains and Lapsing Links.” Anyone who has been blogging for a while has encountered this – and if you haven’t, Gray explains the problem:

[I]t’s not too uncommon for entire sites and bookmarks to vanish from the Web, with only Archive.org and other clever cachers left to tell the tale.

For additional thoughts and some examples, read Gray’s post.

With very few exceptions (this tymshft blog being one of them), all of the blogs that I have created have been on the Blogger platform – originally an independent platform, later hosted by Google. But what happens if, someday, Google goes away? Don’t laugh – it could happen. No one thought Montgomery Ward would disappear, so it’s quite possible that my grandchildren will have never heard of Google.

Well, if Google were to disappear, then my very first blog post, written on Tuesday, October 14, 2003, could be lost forever. Since WordPress is not part of Google – yet – I’m going to employ a little bit of redundancy by reposting my first blog post, in its entirety, right here.

Why did synthetica start with fake bluegrass sounds? Why not? This is the Ontario Empoblog, or the blog for Ontario Emperor, which has nothing and everything to do with Canada, New Mexico, and Texas, but also California, which is a location in California. It exists in cyberspace, which is also synthetic.

The Ontario Empoblog may or may not touch on a variety of subjects, including music, poetry, poker, the supposed familial relationship between Brian Eno and Slim Whitman, the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (1,121 – I checked), various comments about frogs, and the nature of nature.

Imagine the tragedy if this cultural artifact were to disappear forever. Luckily, I’ve preserved it. Unfortunately, I haven’t preserved the significance about comments about frogs.

For the record, my second post (written ten days later, on October 24) was better:

When Patti Smith married Fred Smith, did she take her husband’s last name, or keep her maiden name?

Which brings me to the topic of something else salted away in Google’s servers – something much older.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I was an early participant in Usenet back in the early 1980s. Back then, you’d get onto Usenet by typing such in a terminal that was attached to a minicomputer (in my case, a DEC PDP/11-70). Over a decade later, people would access Usenet via a service called Dejanews. Google eventually bought Dejanews and its data, and merged it all into Google Groups.

On January 3, 2012, I wrote a post in my Empoprise-BI business blog called (empo-tymshft) A little more on Usenet. As you can probably tell from the title, this was a “tymshft” post that was written before the tymshft blog came into existence. That post quoted from something that I wrote back on Noember 14, 1982 – almost thirty-one years ago. I accessed this text from going to the link https://groups.google.com/group/net.records/msg/f726733bb7eea278?dmode=source&output=gplain&noredirect – a Google Groups link to something from the old Dejanews archive that came from archives of Usenet postings. Again, if Google goes away, perhaps my 2012 blog post AND the Google Groups archive of the 1982 Usenet post may go away. So again, I’m going to preserve this important historical artifact here on WordPress:

Message-ID:
Newsgroups: net.records
Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
X-Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
From: bred@sri-unix
Date: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982
Subject: Wall of Voodoo album
Posted: Sun Nov 14 23:46:25 1982
Received: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982

Just bought Wall of Voodoo’s latest album “Call of the West”
(I.R.S.) a few weeks ago. The group uses synthesizers, etc.
while still maintaining a western American feel both in music and
lyrics (such as the lyrics in “Lost Weekend”, about a couple who
just lost their life savings in Las Vegas, and “Factory”, about a
factory worker). I’m not sure whether the album’s being played
on many radio stations, having only heard it on Reed College’s
(Portland OR) radio station KRRC. Wall of Voodoo has recorded at
least one other album, “Dark Continent”, but I haven’t listened
to it yet.

Questions: has anyone else heard this album or the previous one?
Opinions? How long has Wall of Voodoo been around?

John Bredehoft (…!teklabs!reed!bred)

P.S. At least one other person likes this album; the KRRC copy
has mysteriously disappeared…

This isn’t the first time that I discussed this particular 1982 post. Several years ago, I gave a presentation in which I talked about the changes between 1982 and 2007. In the space of a quarter century, we went from talking about Wall of Voodoo on Usenet to talking about Wall of Voodoo on MySpace (they had a MySpace page at the time). In fact, I talked about it on my MySpace blog. Today, if you go to https://myspace.com/oemperor/blog/317516134, you can see…well, you can see this.

myspace-404

This is only part of the image. The entire image uses artist pictures to spell out the number “404.”

Cute, MySpace.

P.S. Just in case the story about Google’s acquisition of Dejanews becomes a dead link, here is the meat of the story:

February 12, 2001 11:30 AM PST
Google buys remaining Deja.com business
By Paul Festa
Staff Writer, CNET News

Internet veteran Deja.com sold off the last of its parts to relative newcomer Google, ending a long and troubled run as an advertising-supported also-ran….

Despite closing out the final chapter in a six-year saga, Deja.com executives sounded upbeat about the acquisition.
“We think Google is a great home for this service,” said Richard Gorelick, chief strategy officer. “Our service and their service work very well together.”

Deja.com originated as Dejanews, a site for searching and participating in discussion groups carried on the Internet’s Usenet network. It changed its name to Deja.com when it decided to focus on product reviews by consumers. The company subsequently added information on consumer products, making it a competitor to sites such as mySimon, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.

Yes, CNET and news.com – the people who brought you the com.com that Louis Gray was talking about in his post.

Post Navigation