Monday, March 30, 2015

The Alphabet Game: Music Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This here be the most musical of editions. Have fun.

A is for Abbey Road - So, no respectable list about music can exist without some sort of reference to The Beatles. So why not start with them. It's kind of remarkable when you think about it. As a band, The Beatles were only around for a single decade, and only seven years once they hit it big. The oldest member of the band (Ringo, btw) had not yet reached 30 when the band officially called it quits in 1970. Amazing how they changed music as we know it, and were so young when they did it. Abbey Road was the band's final album recorded together. technically Let It Be came out afterwards, but that album was actually recorded prior to Abbey Road, but not released til after. So there ya have it.

B is for Blondie - One of the seminal punk/new wave bands of the era (they even ushered in the post-punk movement), Blondie was around from 1974 to 1982. Blondie was one of my faves growing up, and front woman Debbie Harry was one of my teenage crushes. Hard rockin' but also with a newer electronic sound, Blondie was the perfect melange of punk rock, pop music, and old style early rock & roll. Oh, and they had Debbie Harry too. Ooh la la. Oh, and I know a guy who actually walked in on Debbie Harry having sex in the CBGB's bathroom, back in '79 or so.

C is for La Cocina - So, my wife and I, and many of our friends, attend a party/salon each and every Friday night. It takes place in someone's kitchen, and has been going on each and every Friday since around 1987. That's right kids! There have even been times when the owners of the house were out of the country, and the party still went on. We all call this weekly event, The kitchen, or la Cocina. There's flamenco music and dancing, and lots of other fun musical doo-dads. Wine flows freely, and a good time is had by all. La Cocina is THE place to be on a Friday night in Harrisburg, Pa, but remember, it is by invitation only. At least your first visit. After that, come all ya want, just make sure your talking is done in the dining room or living room (or front porch) so ya don't bother the actual musicians.

D is for Doo Wop - I have a friend who hates Doo Wop. Seriously hates it. The guy gets angry whenever he hears it. Can't stand the stuff. This is, of course, why I want to play it in front of him.I mean, I like it, so it doesn't bother me, but just start playing the American Graffiti soundtrack around the guy, and watch the fireworks.

E is for Elvis! - Just as much as we can't do a respectable music post without including The Beatles, there is no way we could do one without the King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis. Thanx to my mother and my aunt, I grew up listening to both The Beatles and Elvis. I remember when the news was released of the King's death. It was a sad day around our house. Probably the most iconic figure in all of music, E is certainly for last name really needed.

F is for 4'33", or: Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds - Avant-garde composer John Cage once composed a musical piece that was exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds long. What did it sound like, you ask? Well, it sounded beautiful. Seriously, go listen to it now. I'm sure it's online somewhere. Go look it up and listen to the beauty of 4' 33". Yup.

G is for Gainsbourg - Serge Gainsbourg was an interesting man. A singer, songwriter, poet, pianist, actor, director, composer, artist, and all around mad man extraordinaire. The Frenchman was married to English model Jane Birkin, and was involved with Bardot for a bit. He once performed a song called Lemon Incest, with his 14 year old daughter, future actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Seriously, the guy is fascinating. Go check out his music and such. Go ahead. You can come back to this post later. Go ahead. We'll wait.

H is for The Hollywood Musical - As a born and bred cinephile, one of my favourite cinematic genres is the musical, but more specifically, the old school Hollywood Musical. You know, back in the day when Hollywood knew how to make a musical. From the early pre-code Busby Berkeley ones up through Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Stanley Donan and Judy Judy Judy. Films like Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris, Bandwagon, 42nd Street, Golddiggers of 1933, Swing Time, Meet Me in St. Louis. Eventually Hollywood started producing bigger and bigger musical fiascoes (Show Boat, Mame, My Fair Lady, Oliver!) and my interest wanes. But back in the day!

I is for Eric Idle - Sure, it was Michael Palin who sang about being a lumberjack, but when it came to songwriting in the Monty Python world, it is Eric Idle who is the queen bee, or Eric the Half-a-Bee, if you will. Other than the aforementioned Eric the Half-a-Bee, Idle is also the man responsible for such songs as The Galaxy Song, The Penis Song, and one of the groups most famous (and should-be Oscar nominee) Always Look On the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python's Life of Brian. Oh yeah, and teh Broadway musical sensation, Spamalot? Yeah, that's Eric Idle too.

J is for John & Yoko - Christ, ya know it ain't easy. A funny thing about John & Yoko is that it is the name my lovely wife and I use when playing pub trivia. The funnier thing is that she claims she's John, and I am Yoko. I'm okay with that. I don't play into the whole "Yoko broke up The Beatles" mentality. John loved Yoko, and I love Yoko. End of story. They're gonna crucify us.

K is for Kanye - Many say the guy is an asshole, a total douche bag, if you will, and they probably aren't wrong, but recently I decided to open my mind to different things that I had never really delved very much into. One of these things is hip hop. Yeah, the guy's a total douche (even Taylor Swift didn't deserve what he did to her on stage), but his experimental hip hop albums are actually quite fun.

L is for Lila Cheney - And you didn't think I could sneak the X-Men in here. Yeah, ya see, the X-Men have an ally named Lila Cheney. She is a mutant with the power to teleport across galaxies. She also happens to be a rock star across many of these galaxies. Sure, if I wanted to include the X-Men, I could have easily began talking about Dazzler up in the letter D. After all, Dazzler was an actual X-Man, and not just an ally (and sometimes girlfriend of Cannonball) like Miss Cheney. But hey, Lila Cheney can rock any galaxy just as well as Dazzler.

M is for Martha Quinn - Ah, Martha Quinn. I had a huge crush on the Veejay when MTV first came around back in my high school days. This was a time and a place when the M still stood for music. Martha was one of the original Veejays on the network back in 1981. She was just 22 years old when getting the gig, and I was 14, so she was just a bit of an older woman, but the crush was still there.  Martha can now be heard on Sirius XM Radio. Oh, and back in the late 1970's, while at NYU. Martha did commercials, and was the original McDonald's Chicken McNuggets Girl. Top that Nina Blackwood!

N is for Nerd Rock - Hey! I'm a nerd. I like rock. A no-brainer. From R.E.M. to Weezer to They Might Be Giants, Devo, Thomas Dolby, Dead Milkmen, Tenacious D, and Kirby Krackle. Yeah, Nerd Rock is cool. Cool as can be. What of it!? It's hip to be square. Wait, does that make Huey Lewis & the News a Nerd Rock band?

O is for Ocean - Back in my misbegotten youth, my grandparents and I would go to a local diner called Baker's Diner. They still had those old school jukeboxes at each table. The old folks in the crowd know of what I speak. Anyway, one of my favourite songs to play on these jukeboxes (during every single visit!) was the song, "Put Your Hand in the Hand" by the pop/folk band, Ocean. Yeah, it's a religious song (well, sorta) but I liked it anyway. I really miss those old school individual jukeboxes.

P is for Pig Fucker Rock - Okay, I may have made this sub-genre up, or maybe my friend Max did. I don't remember which one of us said it first. Basically, this is a genre of rock music where all the people involved look like they may have fucked a pig at least once in their life. You know, like Primus.

Q is for Questlove - Ahmir Khalib Thompson, better known as Questlove (or Q-Love), is the drummer and sometimes front man for the legendary Roots, and band leader for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, following up his identical gig at late Night With Jimmy Fallon. He is a producer and DJ as well, and a very talented fellow, but his inclusion here has as much to do with his hair, as it does with his aforementioned talent.

R is for Rent - As far as the new musicals go, Rent is one of the better ones. The songs are great and the actors are great (both on stage and in the film, most of whom reprising their roles for said film) but the best thing about the show is Adele, I mean Idina Menzel. The voice, the look, the voice. Fantasteek. I just can't Let it Go. See what I did there? Yup.

S is for Space Lady - Susan Dietrich Schneider, aka Suzy Sounds, aka the Space Lady, started out as a street performer, and came to semi-prominence when she was included on an outside music compilation CD. The nickname Space Lady comes from the musician's alien abduction when she was 20. She does some great covers (her Major Tom is phenomenal) and does many of them on the streets of San Fransisco, dressed in fun and outlandish outfits. At 67. the Space Lady is still at it. I tried to get her to be part of The 11 Question Interview series I do here, but her manager, or whomever he was, kinda cock-blocked me, with demands and worries about her answering all 11 questions. Whatever. I still enjoy her music, if not her manager, or whomever that was.

T is for The Theremin - First put on the market in 1928, the Theremin, named after inventor Leon Theremin, was one of the first electronic instruments. It is played by waving your hand (or other body parts, I assume) around an erect wand. Yup.

U is for Urge Overkill - Urge Overkill may not exactly be a household name, but the band, together (on and off) since 1985, is a hidden gem of rock and roll. They are most famous (if you can call it that) for their cover of Neil Diamond's Girl, You're Be A Woman Soon, which was a major part of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Pretty cool, huh? In fact, Urge Overkill is so cool, no one even knows who they are. They are so cool, that Daniel Clowes, another cool person no one knows (save for maybe Shia Labeouf), drew one of their album covers. Yup.

V is for Vinyl! Vinyl! Vinyl! - Forget CD's. Forget cassettes (just like we all have anyway). Forget online music. Forget the 8-track even. Vinyl is the only true and proper way to listen to music. Well, there's listening to it live, but you know what I mean. Listen to it on vinyl, or not at all. Of course, I could have used this spot to sing the praises of The Velvet Underground, but decided to go all vinyl, vinyl, vinyl, instead. Then again, it could be all about The Velvet Underground on vinyl. Yeah, that's the ticket.

W is for Wilco - Zzzzzzzzzz... Oh sorry, I fell asleep there. Wilco, as critically acclaimed as they may be, have always bored the living daylights outta me. I'm sure their white bread concerts are thoroughly enjoyed by all the typical Caucasians who attend them (I have several friends who are into them), but whenever I hear them, or even hear mention of them, I just fall asl....zzzzzzzzzzzz...

X is for X - X was Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake. They were an L.A. punk/folk band from back in the day. They were one of the seminal bands of their time, even if they are not all that known today. Well, all the cool kids know who they are. Actually they have gotten back together and even did some touring in recent times. I remember, my friend Zuky, while running a regular local poetry reading, tried to get Exene Cervenka to come and read her poetry. But alas, this never did come to fruition. That would have been awesomesauce and a half. Maybe we can still make this shit happen.

Y is for Yankovic, Weird Al Yankovic - Any geek or nerd or whatever, worth their salt, is a fan of Weird Al. This Dr. Demento-inspired comic music genius is just yabba dabba doo fantastic. UHF was a fun movie (yeah, you read that right!), and his songs, from Another One Rides the Bus to Fat to Amish Paradise, are comic gold man - comic gold!

Z is for Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah - A beloved happy-go-lucky song from Disney's rich and fanciful past or a racist diatribe from Disney's ugly hidden past? Um...both? Yeah, most people today have never seen the overtly racist 1946 live action/animation Walt Disney hybrid Song of the South. Although it has never been officially banned, it has lost favour in most circles, and like Amos & Andy, is not seen that much these days. The song itself though, the Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah number, is still sung with glee on many occasions. So Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah-Day!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Here's a pic of the long gone Bleecker Bob's Records.


  1. You have this up the day before the A to Z! Great list but i would have ABBA and ELO somewhere on mine:) Love the Hollywood musical and amazed you did not mention "The Red Shoes!" I love vinyl and will pull them out and have a listen. Great list-are you doing the A to Z?

    1. I contemplated including ABBA. The Red Shoes need a lot more space to give it its due. And yes, I will be doing the A to Z thang.

      Thanx fer stoppin' by. See ya 'round the web.