Aug 062014
Thanks, Lee.

Thanks, Lee.

As a teenager I couldn’t fall asleep without listening to music. Every night I’d pop in a cassette of one of those King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts I’d recorded off the radio and rock myself to sleep while studying the details of how the Attractions, for instance, could skillfully bring it down behind Elvis Costello on “Motel Matches” and then burst back into the fore with a Pete Thomas snare hit. Or the way Patti Smith Group could sloppily plow their way through their cover of “My Generation” with not an ounce of finesse or style that the Who brought to the original. It didn’t matter that they sounded like they were winging it. Smith barked out the lyrics as if possessed. I imagined the guys in the band unleashing shit-eating grins after an hour-long set dedicated to the noble effort of performing silted originals that awkwardly attempted to graft Smith’s free verse poetry to musical variations of Them’s “Gloria,” their keynote cover song. As a practicing musician, I knew from experience the thrill of sloppily running through those garage-band classics.

I had to keep my cassette tape collection fresh, so once a week I’d load up a blank cassette and tape the latest King Biscuit concert off WMMR, excluding the monthly forays into up-and-coming Corporate Rock bands like Journey. WIOQ occasionally featured a newly released, vaguely New Wave album. One month I taped both a live concert and the second album by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. They seemed like a New Wave band even the traditional stoner dudes could grasp. For younger readers, I should note, the practice of taping music off the radio was the equivalent of downloading music illegally. We were the first generation to kill the record industry.

In terms of listening to music for the purpose of falling asleep, an especially counterproductive practice occurred on Sunday nights, when I tuned into the University of Pennsylvania’s WXPN for a low-wattage broadcast of Yesterday’s Now Music Today, hosted by someone named Lee Paris. I don’t recall how I stumbled across this underground show. Paris had none of the insider cool of the FM DJs I’d been getting accustomed to. He got nowhere near backstage with the Boss or Jackson Browne. He had no time for the Stones. His enthusiasm and sense of wonder were more in tune with the early ‘70s AM DJs I grew up with, but he lacked their concise professionalism and compressed, booming tone. He raved about the new music he was playing and the underground bands passing through Philadelphia’s small clubs. He likely chatted up some of these bands, but he never gave the impression that he was a confidante of the artists, the way one legendary WIOQ DJ, in particular, did when dropping tales of his latest encounter with the Boss or Billy Joel.

Jun 162014

Before we get started here, the audio from this video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, unless you work as a fishmonger or a truck driver. Also, it’s not meant as a commentary on the man’s work. I wish these bloopers had been aired rather than what was thought acceptable for his regular Top 40 countdown broadcasts. Had that been the case, my “appreciation” of Casey Kasem would have been more glowing.

Yesterday, my son said to me, “Did you hear that the voice of Shaggy died today?”

Funny, I never thought of Casey Kasem by that role first, but it might be his most worthwhile piece of work. Even as a little kid I found his Top 40 countdown show to be the nadir of music business hack activities. It was a drag when regular broadcasting on my favorite AM station was interrupted by that guy and his info-babble. His show was the human supermarket CNN scroll of rock, long before there were monitors in public places running a constant stream of obvious and useless information.

I don’t mean to detract from Casey Kasem’s achievements as a human being, because he was likely a fantastic person to those who loved him, but I question whether his loss was in any way a significant loss to rock ‘n roll. Honestly, beside his work as the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, did Casey Kasem add anything positive to your life? As a music lover was Kasem anything more than a corny guy you tolerated until regular programming resumed?

What do you feel is Casey Kasem's most important body of work?

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May 222014

I will forever associate this song with a few days I spent sick as a dog in a little house in the mountain town of my Italian relatives. On my cousins’ boom box I was able to pick up some station that played a loop of a the same dozen songs, including this, PiL’s “Poptones,” and the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis.” Not a bad soundtrack to my fever dreams. I even taped those dozen songs to bring home with me. That loop inspired what I feel was one of the first really good songs I ever wrote. I wrote the lyrics in that little bedroom and actually remembered enough of the tune to figure out the chords when I got back home.

Have you ever experienced an especially memorable loop of songs?

Dec 172013

FoTTonight at 9:00 pm EST, Tom Scharpling, Jon Wurster, and their fully engaged band of listeners/participants will deliver the last episode of The Best Show on WFMU. I’ll leave it to others to describe the show’s free-form chatter format. I will miss it. You can listen to the live stream online, here. Hopefully The Best Show on WFMU archives will stay active. There are still episodes I need to catch up on. Thanks for many years of laughter.

Nov 132013


iTunes Radio has taken it upon themselves to put an end to the Loudness Wars.

iTunes Radio now includes a new Sound Check algorithm, which limits the volume level of all tracks. In other words, it lifts the level of the quiet tracks and lowers the level of louder ones so they’re all the same. What makes this a threat to hypercompression is the fact that Sound Check can’t be defeated by the listener, the mastering engineer, the producer or the record label. What’s more, if a song is dynamically crushed, Sound Check might turn in down in a not exactly pleasing way, causing all parties involved to possibly rethink about going for so much level in the first place.

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

My gut feeling is that it’s not iTunes’ business to determine how loud or quiet anyone’s music is mastered. Screw iTunes! I like loud records. Sometimes I like quiet records. I bet Lou Reed’s turning over in his grave, because this doesn’t respect the way artists are meant to sound.

Jun 262013

Yesterday, while flipping stations in my car, I was faced with an extremely challenging Morton’s Fork; that is, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. All of the stations I had programmed in were on commercial break except for our local Oldies station and our local Classic Rock station. The Oldies station was playing Jimmy Buffet’s‘s “Margaritaville”; the Classic Rock station was playing The Who’s‘s “Eminence Front.”

I never thought it possible that a match up of any Who song with Jimmy Buffett would lead me to a Morton’s Form, but compared with the only Who song I despise, the gentle wit of Jimmy Buffett’s anthem had to be considered. Continue reading »

May 012012

Next: John Peel's Soap Collection!

As if I don’t think about music enough, THIS was brought to my attention.

Starting May 1, YOU can browse through John Peel‘s record collection. I took a quick glance at the A‘s (the rest of the alphabet will be posted one letter each week) and immediately had to look away. Like looking at a mirror reflected in another mirror, I could see the endless hours that I would be spending browsing, listening, sampling, obsessing and conducting other musical whathaveyou.

Take a look. At your own peril.


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