Mar 182011

The topic for this post came to me today when I ran across this documentary (or is it a long-form ad?) about the Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal. I remembered George Harrison‘s song “Wah-Wah” from All Things Must Pass.

Wah-wah/You’ve given me a wah-wah

Now, I’ve read that George was using the term “wah-wah” to refer to a headache, which recording Let It Be with Paul in the director’s chair apparently gave him, literally or metaphorically enough to quit. But still, I like to think of the song as an ode to that piece of gear.

Are there other good songs about beloved musical equipment or instruments? Generic instrument references like The Beatles‘ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Talking Heads‘ “Electric Guitar” (great lyrics, by the way!) are plentiful, but what about more particular instruments, like B.B. King‘s guitar “Lucille,” or specific items, like a Vox Amp or a Gretsch guitar, in songs?

Aug 202010


Your feelings are important to us. Although typically think of you as our moral compass and expert on the teachings of the Holy Trinity of Rock and all matters regarding guitar tone, we care about how you feel. We know that hippies typically don’t make you feel good about yourself or the state of humanity. I suspect that the following videos might make you feel worse. My aim is not so much to see if I can annoy you, but to provide us with an opportunity to empathize with your reactions to the following “interviews.” How do the things being said make you feel? How does the fact that someone filmed these “interviews” make you feel? Our feelings are important. Sometimes it only takes the expressed feelings of one Townsperson to open the rest of us up to our own feelings. I look forward to empathizing with your feelings and, possibly, sharing some of my own. I or some other Townsperson may even determine who a certain “Vito” is and share nerdy facts about his existence or the circumstances surrounding these important video findings.

I thank you in advance for the depth of feeling you are likely to share with us. Here goes!

First, an off-camera David Byrne (?) “interviews” Chris Frantz.

Then, David “interviews” someone only identified (as far as I can tell) as “Vito.”
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Feb 252009

Inspired by a mini-debate in the Cool Pass thread, I’d like to toss this query into the Hall.

A few ground rules:

1) Eno most certainly does not count.

2) No Talking, Just Head, by The Heads, the Byrne-less incarnation of the band, is completely irrelevant.

3) Much as I kind of want to, we should not hold Jerry Harrison‘s production credits for cheesy ’90s alt-rockers like Live and Big Head Todd and the Monsters against him.

4) At the same time, I resolve to not let my undying love for “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club color my opinion.

Tina Weymouth is an obvious choice, even from a purely musical basis. The bass lines to “Psycho Killer” and “Once in a Lifetime” are iconic pop hooks in and of themselves. Me, I’ve always loved a lesser-known one, “Found a Job.” But does her constant head-butting with Byrne add or subtract points?

I feel bad for Harrison, the utility player. People probably credit other people (Byrne, Eno, Adrian Belew) for the best guitar and/or keyboard bits on Talking Heads songs. But they could get pretty atmospheric, and a subtle player like him might have had something to do with that, right? Plus, he co-wrote “Heaven”; that’s got to count for something.

Chris Franz is not the most versatile musician in the world, but I think he was the perfect drummer for this band. He was especially good at keeping the beat grounded, as they got more and more polyrhythmic. Plus, he seems like the most agreeable band member, a personality type they obviously so desperately needed to keep things from totally melting down. Maybe he should’ve joined The Ramones too.

So right now I want to give the edge to Weymouth, but I can be convinced otherwise.

Jan 052009

The world moves and it swivels and bops

My infatuation with female bass players is well documented and this thread could easily, especially for me, be a flippant, voyeuristic look at hot chicks thumping basses (don’t worry we’ll get there), but the truth is that I feel that there is a deeper connection between the bass and the female that is primitive and intoxicating.

Nothing against men bass players but more so, I feel, than any other instrument, the bass and woman have a unique connection. In fact I would haphazardly postulate that there are more female bass players in rock bands than female any-other-instrument players. The sexist hypothesis might be that the bass is easier to play. Well that’s as may be. But, regardless, I think women are drawn to play the bass.

My theory is that bass-chicks are modern-day Fertility Goddesses.

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Dec 032008

To this day, although I’ve come a long way in digging reggae music, I prefer hearing The Clash do their version of reggae than almost any real reggae artist. Give me “Police and Thieves” with those crunchy guitars and awkward bass over the Junior Murvin original version any day, even though the original version is pretty great. If you put a gun to my head I may even admit that I prefer the bastardized reggae of The Police and Joe Jackson to most of the real thing. Not cool, but true.

I feel the same way about most Brian Jones-era Stones covers of slightly earlier R&B/early rock songs, like The Stones’ version of “Around and Around” over Chuck Berry’s original or their cover of The Valentinos’ “It’s All Over Now.” Mad props to the source material, but I’ll take the Stones!

Give me Paul Simon and Talking Heads doing whatever they’ve done with South African and South American music over most of what I hear by the people who inspired them. Not cool at all, I know, but I’ve never found King Sunny Ade‘s music, for instance, half as interesting as the best of Simon and Byrne. For starters, it’s nice to know what’s being sung. How do I know King Sunny’s not singing his culture’s equivalent of “Working for the Weekend?” I do, however, prefer the real Brazilian stuff that Byrne’s label has released to Byrne’s solo works in that same vein.

A lot of my favorite “country” songs are Elvis Costello’s pastiches of real country songs, songs like “Motel Matches.” One of the best things about Costello’s “country” originals is that the rhythm section gets to do cool fills. Real country rhythm sections usually sound to me like they’ve got the freedom of a lamb.

I can’t say the same for newer takes on Da Blooz, not even Da Blooz of Jeff Healy and Stevie Ray Vaughn. This is proof that more than Rockism is at play, right?

Sep 042008

You may recall David Byrne: Leader of Talking Heads. Intimate collaborator with the visionaries from Brian Eno to Twyla Tharp to Robert Wilson. (Would rock fans in the early ’80s have even known that the latter two existed if not for their collaborations with Byrne?) Curator of cool Brazillian and other music on his Luaka Bop label. If the name and face are still fuzzy, the following clip will likely ring a bell.

Whatever happened to that guy? I heard he’s put out some solo albums over the years. There was a good song from one of those albums in that movie with Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson. One day I almost bought the album that contained that song, but I sampled the rest of the songs and they didn’t come close to matching the generally strong album cuts on Talking Heads’ highly underrated swan song, Naked.

Talking Heads, “Ruby Dear”

Recently I was surprised and excited to learn that Byrne and Eno had collaborated on a new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Visions of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts danced in my head! You can stream the whole thing here, but I wanted more. I was pretty sure this would be worth owning. Before I even listened to the stream I acquired the whole album.

David Byrne & Brian Eno, “Home”

The opening track, “Home”, was nothing to write home about. It sounded like a warmed-over track from Eno and John Cale’s mildly underrated collaboration, Wrong Way Up. This is not to criticize the Cale-Eno collaboration, because it’s pretty good, especially the songs Cale sings.

Brian Eno & John Cale, “Crime in the Desert”

The new Byrne and Eno album had to get better, but even the best tracks sounded no better than one of the few tolerable songs from Talking Heads’ all-around worst album, Speaking in Tongues. Beside “Burning Down the House” that album was a heaping bowl of plain spaghetti! What’s the point?

After 2 dozen spins of this new Byrne and Eno record, here’s my relative favorite song from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

David Byrne & Brian Eno, “Life Is Long”

Pass the salt, please.

So what’s the deal with David Byrne? Is this what he’s reduced to?
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Apr 292008

Okay, here’s a topic. Can you think of band or artist that was a specific gateway to your current overall thinking of what rock is? I don’t mean the first band you fell in love with. I’m thinking more about the moment you realized that there was more to rock than you initially perceived. What band first hipped you to that. By way of example, I’ll tell you my answer. I think my early exposure to Talking Heads videos, such as the one above, laid the groundwork for an adult life of cherishing off-kilter lyrical perspectives and nerdy, unconventional frontmen.


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