Here’s the part where the guy twitching in the hungry crosshairs of 40 tells you how the music topping the charts these days won’t inspire so much as a quiver of his trigger finger. But really, who cares? The purveyors of popular song have no interest in capturing my iTunes money. Just as my parents wondered desperately who on earth would want anyone to Rock Them Amadeus, I can’t fathom why Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”, a piece of simplistic monotony with a Clueless rip-off video, spent a month this summer at #1.
Ever since the end of the halcyon days of 80’s pop, the soundtrack that flipped the pages of my childhood, I have paid scant attention to the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While MC Hammer’s parachute pants flapped in the raucous wind of his success, my high school friends and I were discovering the mystical quests within the grooves of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd records. So I guess I haven’t been hip in about twenty-five years. I’m okay with that.
I’d always been a trifle suspicious of this chart anyway. What is it counting? Sales? Radio airplay? Likelihood of ending up as a parody on Weird Al’s next album? There is actually some math to this madness, and it’s far too complex for my mid-week brain to tabulate without a nap under its belt. But I’ll do my best.
For almost two decades prior to the Hot 100’s debut in the pages of Billboard (yes kids, Billboard was and is an actual magazine. A magazine is kind of like Buzzfeed.com made out of trees), the chart tabulators kept track of three separate stats: the best-sellers, the songs most played by disc jockeys and the songs most played in jukeboxes. That last one was key, as a disgraceful clump of radio stations were refusing to play rock ‘n roll in the mid-1950’s. Billboard had to track what was big with the kids. Read more…
With practically the entirety of recorded music’s history available at the touch of a trackpad, it’s hard to find a lot of common ground among the masses. Back in the sepiatone days when I was in high school, there was certainly a cultural splintering effect afoot – some grooved to Hammer-time, others nodded angrily and forcefully to Nirvana, while still others begged C+C Music Factory to make them sweat upon a hormone-clogged dance floor – but there remained some sacred touchstones.
For whatever reason – and I pray a sociological study will one day uncover the mystery behind this collective madness – the girls in my high school were united under the secret thrill of ABBA. The boys, however discreetly some of them held back their own cravings for retro Swedish vocal-pop, united under an unwavering commitment to one of the greatest rock bands in ear-thumping history: Led Zeppelin.
Most of us had bands we liked more. For me, there was always the Beatles, while my other friends leaned toward Pink Floyd, Roxette or Extreme (yes, Josh, I’m talking about you). But we all sang along when Robert Plant belted out the first “Hey hey, mama” of their conspicuously untitled fourth album. Today Zep nets a kilograph, if for no other reason than as a thank you for the respite they provided after five straight listens of “More Than Words.”
The group’s origin story funnels straight back to this guy, one of the most awe-inspiring yet least well-known (among today’s younger rock-lovers) guitar gods of the 1960’s. Jeff Beck had joined up with the Yardbirds after Eric Clapton had left the group in frustration. Now Jeff was feeling the pull of sweet freedom, and his frustration led him to record his own thing, away from the rest of the group. He invited his buddy (and future Yardbirdian) Jimmy Page to play guitar. Read more…
When it comes to candy, taste is truly in the tongue of the beholder. There is no Wikipedian compendium of the world’s worst candy, as there is for the worst movies, TV shows and music. My daughter, my own flesh and blood turns up her nose at the coveted Coffee Crisp bar, yet she can make an afternoon out of eating Sour Soothers and watching Nickelodeon. Does that make her wrong and me right? Well, in this case yes, but that’s not my point.
Due to the utter subjectivity of such a list, I understand I must open myself up to criticism and dissent. When I penned a piece about the fetid strip of film celluloid known as From Justin To Kelly, no one disagreed. When I bemoaned the asinine choice to put the Mini-Pops on TV, nary a soul came to its defense. I expect no such kindnesses today.
To be clear, I’m forgoing the obvious choices that I have not tried, like candied cockroaches or Buttered Potato Kit Kat. These are the drippings from my own 39 years of wisdom, collected in a pool of unappetizing dessert. Feel free to shout me down if you feel it’s necessary to do so.
Here’s one so obscure I couldn’t find a decent photo of its packaging online. I remember as a hungry child, immune to metabolic slow-down and tooth decay, every item on the candy bar shelf looked tempting. Except for the Cuban Lunch. Sure, it was an innocuous slab of peanut-laden chocolate, but the only thing I knew about Cuba back then was that they made my dad’s cigars. I didn’t want a treat that tasted like that. Read more…
“Ye highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray
And Lady Mondegreen.”
According to writer Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Harper’s Magazine essay, this was how she’d heard the first stanza of “The Bonny Earl O’ Moray”, a 17th-centuy ballad. The actual last line of the verse is “And laid him on the green,” but this wonky little misunderstanding led Ms. Wright to coin the term ‘mondegreen’ to refer to any misheard lyric, though ideally one which makes the song better. In this case, because it increases the song’s death count, I guess.
I think the term ‘better’ here is too subjective. When I used to sing along to the Beatles’ “Bad Boy”, I never understood what John was singing for the line, “He worries his teacher till at night she’s ready to poop.” I thought he was singing, “…till her night cheese was ready to poop.” Is mine better? The image is certainly a bit more interesting.
And then it became a Liz Lemon meme. Maybe I’m not the only one who heard the song that way.
But we all do it. Our ears inevitably trip over some muffled lyric and allow our brains to process the wrong data. If we hear a term with which we aren’t familiar – and many lyrics tend to consist of poetic tweaks on the language – our brains will process an interpretation that we can understand. That doesn’t explain the ‘night cheese’ thing though. Read more…
How did the Beatles come to be called the Beatles? Well, the official story is this: “It came in a vision. A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘From this day forward you are Beatles with an A.’ Thank you Mister Man, they said, thanking him.” That’s the tale John Lennon told Mersey Beat back in 1961 – notably three years before he began experimenting with mind-altering drugs.
Of course the reality isn’t quite so surreal. They were inspired by the crickets, and even played as the Silver Beetles for a while, before deciding to co-opt the pun of having the word ‘Beat’ in their name. Ironic, since they fired their drummer shortly afterward.
The origin stories of band names can be a dicey topic – some names have multiple story origins, depending on who you ask, and others remain a mystery because the band members just like to mess with their fans. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead was alleged to be a line from a Mayan ritual chant, but lead singer Conrad Keely let it slip that his band’s origin story was just a joke. My guess is that they just wanted to sound ‘dark’ and ‘deep’.
Anyhow, here are a few others:
The Ramones, perhaps the greatest awful band in the history of rock, took their moniker’s inspiration from the Beatles. Before you start combing lyrics sites, I’ll save you the trouble. When the Beatles were touring with Johnny Gentle back in 1960, they all adopted pseudonyms – not so much in an effort to keep the chambermaids from scouring their bathrooms in search of sellable pubic hair, but just because it was something to do. Paul’s new name was Paul Ramon. Read more…