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I'm pretty sure Hank Williams never sounded like the Velvet Underground. But Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" sure does, with the two chords of "Heroin" and the unison pounding of "I'm Waiting For The Man."

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I wouldn't assume conscious derivation here. I wouldn't preclude it either, but the sound likely is Waylon going for a slow, serious stomp, and grinding down on two chords for weight and emphasis, the outcome happening to resemble what Lou and co.'d done eight years earlier. John Morthland calls it "a choppy, bass-heavy beat conceived as a result of Waylon's late-fifties stint with Buddy Holly but hardened by infusions of Johnny Cash's sound." Not that Waylon didn't listen to a whole lot of rock. Not that this track isn't, fundamentally, hard rock. As rock as it is country.

Any opinions are welcome as to actual derivation, possible genuine sourcing from Velvets, etc. A toe dip into Google isn't yet finding anyone else hearing the Velvets connection, despite its being massively obvious — it jumped me when I first heard the track a decade later, mid '80s, Dreaming My Dreams taped for me by my buddy Mark Hatton with the annotation, "Perhaps the greatest country album ever."
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I like how the rhythm in "Tiny Montgomery" makes itself strong by just digging in and digging further, no moving forward. —The rhythm I'm referring to is mostly Dylan's voice, and the strum strum strum. Bass and the rest are a shuffling swing, I guess. So you can sway back and forth while the song steadily drives you down. A-Plus.

Other than that, I've never "gotten" the Basement Tapes, in either sense of the word. Couldn't stand the Great White Wonder boot when it broke onto FM rock in 1969, and never owned the official album, though I once had it in a stash of a friend's records for a summer, listening to it once, and taping "Tiny Montgomery." In any event, a way into it, if I ever do dig in, might be via Don Allred's Pazz & Jop comments, e.g.,

much enjoy that "Folsom Prison Blues" here sounds like the Band is playing "dum dum dum dum doo wah diddy, talk about the boy from New York City," which totally fits the loose flair of D.'s singing (the convict, still regretful, is also getting cranked up on cellblock cocktails). This performance of "The Bells of Rhymney" starts reminding me of "All Tomorrow's Parties," to the further credit of both songs and their performers, incl. writers.
My description of "Tiny Montgomery" is my attempt to explain to myself why it reminds me of the Velvet Underground without reminding me of frequent Velvets source the Yardbirds.

Was inspired to post by Sabina citing the Velvets and then trying to do different, regarding EMA.

I wouldn't assume Dylan had heard the Velvets yet. Was his own drawl he was using for a hammer.

[EDIT: YouTube's taken "Tiny Montgomery" down. Here's a stream of 52 seconds of it, and here's a full stream in lower fidelity.]
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Scott at rockcritics.com links some of the commentary that's followed Lou's death:


At the Jukebox we blurb a number of Velvet and Lou songs:


I make the case for the oft-derided Sally Can't Dance. Regarding my closing sentence: I was thinking of giving The Blue Mask a relisten but felt that, since I was basically looking to compare it invidiously to Sally, I wasn't really going to be listening with good ears.

Waitin' for a better day to hear what Blue's got to say.

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Someone had dibs on "Heroin" but didn't make it. If anyone had paid me to write a proper memorial I'd have given prominence to a basic screaming fact that all the memorials and obits have managed to avoid and evade or not even notice, which is that the Velvets, like Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel who were already doing it* (and it was in the Stones and Airplane and a whole bunch of others then and now, really is all over modern culture), were — however ambivalently — promulgating the idea of dysfunction and self-destruction as a form of social protest against a contaminated and compromised world that had contaminated and compromised the self. A refusal, a denial. Being fucked and making an issue of it as a semi-social-marker, part of a sort of an identity politics of freaks and punks and bohos and ilk. The intersection of social class and conspicuous self-destruction.

Of course, you can like the music without this stuff being a big deal to you. But I doubt that so many people would have liked the songs so much if it hadn't, at least subliminally, been a big deal for a lot of them.

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*Not that the idea is new. Presumably goes back at least to Germany in the mid 1700s. See "Romanticism, Age Of." I know almost nothing about Gothic novels of the time, but later on it was in Byron and Stendhal and later still all over Hemingway and Faulkner (when I was rereading Absalom, Absalom! for college I'd put "Sister Ray" on in the background). But I don't know how much it makes it into popular song until the 1960s. Is kinda there as potential in the Delta blues of people like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
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Freshman year in college I would hunch over my guitar and sing "When the smack begins to flow, and I really don't care anymore," and I'd feel great rhythm and power flowing through me. (Later cassette recordings don't necessarily bear this out.) But it was the messy early to mid '70s solo albums where Lou really registered, that I got the most personality out of; even though the first three Velvets albums were more authoritative and were better music.

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Eventually, in New York, in the early '80s, I finally went back and got on top of the Sister Ray groove. Was the first groove I'd ever mastered, and it was actual power. But back in the ugly college '70s I felt the guy more. He was a truth teller who didn't like himself much, which brought out the wrong truths — he couldn't believe a truth unless it went against him. Or, anyway, the — true — love and idealism had to hide between the lines, a photonegative of what was going wrong, sentimental self-dislike. A thoughtful, very kind, well-behaved high-school girl told me Berlin was a "fine album." I didn't say anything in response, rather than going, "No, it's self-pitying shit." I couldn't stand to listen to it, but day by day I couldn't stop myself from singing its songs, mouthing its words:

They're taking her children away
Because of the things that she did in the streets
In the alleys and bars no she couldn't be beat

Caroline says
As she gets up off the floor
You can hit me all you want to
But I don't love you anymore

All your two-bit friends they're shooting you up with pills

How do you think it feels
When you've been up for five days
Hunting around always
'Cause you're afraid of sleeping

How do you think it feels
And when do you think it stops
When do you think it stops
Okay, I'm a rock critic, here are the two albums I consider most underrated:
Lou Reed (the first solo album) ("Ocean," "Berlin," "Wild Child")
Sally Can't Dance ("N.Y. Stars," "Kill Your Sons")

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The star I identified with most.
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Ah, this is the Mark Sinker passage I was looking for but not finding last weekend when I wrote my little critique of Spin's "Top 100 Alternative Albums Of The 1960s." It was here at koganbot, four years ago, down in a comment thread, coming later in the overall discussion than I'd realized:

here's what i'm objecting to, cast as a fable: [band xyz] arrives in our purlieu, announcing that it comes as envoy of the emperor ["We are influenced by Television"]

the assumption seems to be that (i) the emperor's writ runs -- viz that you the listener respect and acknowledge his power; and (ii) that the emperor's imprimatur is discernible -- that the envoy can and does act in the emperor's name; not to mention (iii) that in so far as [band xyz] are not the emperor, they can nevertheless be taken to extend and deepen his power

how and why do envoys get their power? what is the cultural equivalent (if any?) of political power? what is it about [band xyz] that demands they cede authority to others, rather than seek to foster their own?

in all of these -- in cultural terms -- the key bit, where the interesting questions lie, can be cast as something like: "if power is here, how and why is it here? in what way is it passed on? in what way is difference not the opposite of 'being influenced'"

(this doesn't even begin to tackle examples where the envoy claims the imprimatur of rival emperors: "we are influenced by Television and Funkadelic")

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Feedback loop )
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I hate the term "alternative," but that doesn't mean I get to dismiss other people's use of it.

When Christopher Weingarten sent his list of potential acts for Spin's '60s alternative roundup, I wrote back that they should get rid of the Velvets, Stooges, and Leonard Cohen and put Vanilla Fudge, Rare Earth, and Iron Butterfly in their stead. Was trying to rescue both the list and Velvets-Stooges-Cohen from respectability, I guess. Nonetheless I volunteered to write about the Velvets and Stooges, and the Holy Modal Rounders. Got two of the three.



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I also unsuccessfully proposed the following:

--He 5 Merry Christmas Psychedelic Sound
--Lee Jung Hwa with Shin Joong Hyun and the Donkeys No/Spring Rain
--Shin Joong Hyun Beautiful Rivers And Mountains (but is a compilation that crosses decade boundaries)
--20 Heavy Hits, an advertised-on-TV album put out by Crystal Corporation, with tracks by the Impressions, Tommy James & The Shondells, Strawberry Alarm Clark, Len Barry, Janis Joplin, The Intruders, The Ohio Express, The Who, Ricardo Ray, The 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Turtles, The Amboy Dukes, The Happenings, The Lemon Pipers, and Sonny & Cher
--Nazz Nazz (but I said that Nazz would need some writer other than me)
--The Best Of The Chocolate Watchband
--The Swinging World Of Johnny Rios And The Us 4 Nuevo Boog-A-Loos
--Grace Slick & The Great Society

Concrete toes and pigeons' feet )

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Footnotes )
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A couple of posts last month by Sabina that I bookmarked and am only returning to now, hoping that she'll return to them as well:

Here's a thought, by the way

One effect of growing up with parents who didn't get rock

The question that leaps into my mind is why haven't Sabina's immigrant parents taken to rock? As she says, "access" isn't the only issue. Words like "generation" and "culture" don't work as explanations here: they're the very concepts that need explaining. Of course, I don't have a good explanation for why my (nonimmigrant) parents didn't take to rock (they being a generation older than Sabina's), and why most of their friends didn't either.

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The Yardbirds, 1965

Did people such as Sabina's parents, in that first post-Mao generation, read, say, Hamlet, and Faulkner? I wouldn't be surprised if they did. I ask because I remember fantasizing making a film about a high school drama club, 1968, the real lives of the students as they were confronting everything from the specter of the draft to their own confused and fraught love lives; meanwhile, they're acting in a production of Hamlet, from which we see scenes. This fantasy didn't develop much further, except that the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" plays near the start (the need for action but no idea what to do), and "Paint It, Black" a little later on, as the various protagonists in the play and in life refuse to reconcile.

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The Rolling Stones, 1966

These are a couple of the many ways into hard rock )

What about Italodisco? )
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Might as well get these going, though I guess as a prediction this is pretty safe and obvious:

Taylor Swift joins Pistol Annies, who incorporate dance steps, harmonies, and raps using Bell Biv DeVoe/Backstreet Boys as template, w/ Big Bang and Danity Kane as modern analogues but Big-&-Rich tight country harmonies mixing with the R&B. Most parts are sung but brief raps are interjected and there's always a rap break prior to or as the middle eight. Rap styles are developed from each individual Annie's speaking style, as Taylor did on "Lose Yourself" — Teena Marie the model for keeping raps in the singer-songwriter ethos. Chapman-Shanks-Liddell-pop-rock-style production abandoned; Teddy Park and Shinsadong Tiger called in to produce and co-write.

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I must say, YouTube search results for "velvet underground sister ray dance cover" were a great disappointment, due to the complete lack of dancing.

infinite be mine dance cover more rewarding )
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Engaging in ever more desperate — but just as futile — attempts to find Canadian popular recording artists who aren't boring, the Singles Jukebox reviews G.NA's "Banana."

Which brings me to the topic: when crows travel from city to city, do they fly in a straight line? Wikipedia has no opinion on this issue.

 photo Crow atop stunted tree.jpg

(Thinking about G.NA, I wanted to know the distance from Denver to Edmonton, and wanted it as the crow flies (as opposed to as the car drives, presumably on roads), but eliciting this information from the Web I made do with as the plane flies.)

In other Jukebox/K-pop news, the Jukebox reviewed X-Cross's much better "Crazy" last week, and many Jukeboxers were just as bored. They've heard it all before.

I assume the song title is a reference to the given name of a member of the family Frog, though I may be mistaken, name order working differently in Korea from how it works here. Perhaps the family name was what was being referenced, and Frog is the given name.

How come shuffle dances are never done to shuffle rhythms?

When the man in red goes "dadda-dadda dat-dat DAT GIRL," he's quoting Nassun in Lee Hyori's "U-Go-Girl" (but that doesn't mean we've heard this before; there's a difference between drawing on traditions and tropes, doing variations on a hot template, etc., as X-Cross are doing, and merely recapitulating it all).

EDIT: Btw, I don't know enough about Canadian music to know how much it is/isn't boring; was just referring back to a convo where Anthony was saying that at the Jukebox we seem to review the worst of Canadian music, and Alex explained that there's plenty of great stuff from Canada but it's not charting and that to weigh our Canadian choices too much away from the charts would be to do things differently for Canada from how we do it for anywhere else. (I didn't actually feel that the song in question, Kay's "My Name Is Kay," was that bad. Might have given it a 6; it tried too hard but I liked what it was trying.)
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Yes, we have no "Banana."

MBC is refusing to let G.NA perform "Banana" on Music Core. According to CNN International: "'Goin' bananas,' is the problematic line flagged by MBC, who apparently think that the phrase is imbued with all sorts of innuendo. Co-lyricist Verbal Jint took to Twitter on Sunday to explain the phrase's meaning in English, but G.NA's agency Cube Entertainment says it will not be contesting the Friday MBC ruling."

This seems beyond ridiculous. Could CNN have gotten the reason wrong? I checked an English translation of the lyrics, and I don't find anything else bannable (else?) — unless mention of short skirts and rising heat is deemed to inherently place children at risk.

I suppose someone had to put the ban back in banana.

At the moment, South Korea is doing better than America at making hit music that's good, and maybe absurdities like this contribute, somehow, adding risk and meaning even where not needed. Still, imposing an insane world on people is always destructive, no matter how creative the ensuing struggle.

UPDATE: YouTube killed the original embed; here's a fanmade vid:
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The music video proper for 2NE1's "I Am The Best" is out now.

Features medieval armor, large poodles, small kittens, restraints, studs, chainmail, suit jackets, vinyl blouses, funny hats, pyramids, trains, and gongs. The music is the little drummer boy sent through Marine training and given a tommy gun. Except it's also beautiful blobs of harmony and girl group dreaminess, as if the prettiness and the fierceness were one and the same. It's pretty fierce!

And it's the exact sort of thing that Korea is doing with American-based music that nonetheless has no equivalent in North America: aggression and beauty yoked together, hard rap coming on like it's the main meal and the melody but a condiment. A lot of fun. See them pushing the boys away in the "comeback" routine they did yesterday on TV:

June 26, SBS Popular Music )

Previous toughness, ongoing sappiness, juvenile delinquency, and the mating dance )
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Are there any good novels with self-styled "punks" or "punk rockers" as protagonists? I mean "punks" in the modern musical sense, as coined by Tosches and Marsh and embodied by... er, whomever you'd say it is embodied by, so I guess you can think anyone and everyone from Question Mark and Sky Saxon to Mark E. Smith and Iggy Pop, not to mention Ian MacKaye (though actually I consider Question Mark and Saxon to be a different species from Smith and Iggy, and MacKaye a different species from them). So I don't mean someone who embodies earlier meanings of "punk" (e.g., "weak guy who hurts people to prove he's strong" or "guy who gets fucked in the ass in prison"), such as Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon.* And I do mean characters who self-identify as punks or punk rockers, who therefore will call themselves or get called "punks" or "punk rockers"; so I don't mean something like Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! or Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, for which I can and do claim that Quentin Compson and Eugene Wrayburn are my ideas of punk ('cept - SPOILER - Dickens didn't quite know what to do with Wrayburn so he ended up bonking him on the head in order to cure him). Those characters obviously don't self-identify as punk.

The character doesn't have to be a musician, but does have to self-identify as in the musical or social species "punk."

I don't mean this question rhetorically with the intent of claiming "There aren't any." I don't read a lot of fiction, so there could be a vast number of novels good and bad that star a punk without my having a clue to their existence. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is "There aren't any," since whenever I do come across a "punk" in fiction, usually as a minor character in a detective story, say someone's mysterious girlfriend, the treatment is hopeless and clueless, even if the book is otherwise not bad. (But usually the book isn't otherwise not bad.)

Maybe this is just a way of asking if William Gibson is worth reading. (I read one of his books a decade ago and I basically don't remember it. I didn't adore it but I did think it was OK.)

*Though I think those earlier uses of "punk" inform later uses, and "96 Tears" and "Pushin' Too Hard" come pretty close to the earlier uses, except those songs didn't get called punk until they were a half-decade old.
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Some excellent, excellent commentary on K-pop and J-pop (and a bit of Chinese pop) by Anonymous down in the comment thread to my mid-year lists, along with over a dozen video embeds.* Anyway, I'd like to stir up the local hivemind on what you think is going on in these three videos (and K-pop and J-pop in general, if you have any ideas; you're likely to know more than I, are extremely unlikely to know less, and shouldn't feel you have to know what you're talking about; I don't). First vid is Sandara's "Kiss" (Dara of 2NE1). Seems to be a standard, "I want your kiss, but your respect and commitment too, I'm not easy" story (while the lyrics are more "I want you to come through and kiss me," sorta like "Blah Blah Blah," though not really), so it's a flirtation, I'll-love-you-I'll-love-you-not, but there seems to be a cake-and-eat-it-too relationship to us, the viewers: is Sandara projecting strength or availability, is that a tension or can strength and availability go together? (Rapper, not in vid, is someone called CL, I think, and she's good.) Second vid is E.via's "Shake!" and from Anonymous's comments I gather she's really trying to have her cake and eat it too, pushing the envelope, critiquing and putting herself at a distance from the sex sell by throwing it in our faces, while at the same time, you know, still using the sex to sell. Of course, such strategies and such envelope-pushing occur in the U.S. too, and have the same tension and uneasiness, and get force from the tension and uneasiness, as does this. The Latin riffs help too.

Those two are K-pop, the third is from Japan, AKB48's "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou," and when I was in my early teens I'd have lapped something like this up, 'cause it's about a suicide, and I lapped up songs about suicide: "Most Peculiar Man" and "Richard Cory" and "Save The Life Of My Child" by Simon & Garfunkel, Judy Collins' version of Leonard Cohen's "Dress Rehearsal Rag," which isn't a suicide per se but sure seems a suicide threat (Cohen hadn't recorded it yet; in a few years I made my way to his "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"). "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou" definitely plays the suicide as some form of rebuke, though it's complicatedly uncertain as to what the rebuke is rebuking: Our attempt to understand it? Adults with their know-it-all explanations? (Were the lyrics written by adults?) Is it a statement of a deeper wrong than just the dead girl's? As I said, as an early teen I lapped this stuff up — and by my mid teens I'd found Dylan and in my late teens I'd found the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, though this song doesn't romanticize self-destruction to the extent that those Americans did. But it does throw it at us as a brute fact.

E.via Shake! )

AKB48 Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou )

Click the k-pop tab for other good discussion we've had here on the subject, mostly not by me.

*Also, Chuck's lists and a link to Josh's are down there too.
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Haven't seen Bandslam; am sure there can be a touching movie about teens who care deeply about shitty music. And sometimes when you see bad songs in use - movies can do this - you discover that they're not bad. Sometimes. So anyway, my thoughts on the soundtrack LP, which may have little to do with the music heard in the film, though [livejournal.com profile] hoshuteki assures me that "Everything I Own" is as dire on film as on disk.

David Bowie )

Velvet Underground )

Nick Drake )

Wilco )

Bunch of indie and not-quite-as-indie bands I've never heard of )

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On f. Aly Michalka )

Aly Michalka )

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On f. Vanessa Hudgens )
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Tom's been posting on both his Tumblrs about "opinion leaders," his questions seeming to be: to what extent are there such creatures; do those outfits who claim to have the special ability to identify opinion leaders actually know what they're doing; and where these creatures have apparently been identified, is there any special value in trying to influence them in particular (influencing the influential, as it were)? I've been posting on the comment threads, and Dave chimed in on his own Tumblr.

I may or may not swoop into the subject from my own angle, but first I have a question for [livejournal.com profile] dubdobdee:

Tom entitles one of his posts "Now I know why Mark S hated the word so much." I replied with this:

Except "influence" as you've been using it here and in Blackbeard is exactly how Mark thinks it should be used, to reference actual power in the world. What Mark was objecting to was the unearned authority of "The [New Band] cite a range of influences from the Velvet Underground to the Fall," or "[Supposedly Valuable Rock Critic] has influenced everybody from Chuck Eddy to Tom Ewing." So what you guys are (and Mark is) trying to understand is who has power and what actual influence/resistance it engenders etc., whereas what Mark is objecting to is the attempt to borrow power by invocation and proxy.

So Mark, is this a good representation of your ideas?

links )
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The Rules Of The Game #28 )

But my friend Elizabeth says she wouldn't be caught dead in this:

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Bella as Taylor Swift

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )


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