It Ain’t Over ‘Til Its Over, Pt. 1: The Cassette Comeback….
Funny blog post today by Bob Boilen of All Song Considered about Bad Band Names…a perpetual source of amusement for musicheads. What got Bob going was a band called The Dodos, whowere DOA until he heard them play at South by Southwest in Austin.
Of course, poorly-named bands have been around since Bill Haley launched his Comets. And by pure coincidence, I had just happened to run across another post in the Web-o-sphere the day before called The 25 Most Ridiculous Names in Rock History -broken down into “Stealth Ridiculous” – (Porno for Pyros, the Alan Parsons Project) “Lazily Ridiculous” (Of Montreal, W.A.S.P.), “Just Plain Ridiculous” (The The, Mr. Mister, The Mr. T Experience), and finally, “The Painfully Ridiculous,” (Archers of Loaf, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Numero Uno, !!! (or Chk-Chk-Chk, in tribute to the 80s cult classic movie The Gods Must Be Crazy)
Common to both lists: bands inadvertantly named by members of the Monty Python troupe, including my personal favorite, Toad The Wet Sprocket. Both a Brit and American band took the name after a hilarious Eric Idle skit on (“Rock Notes”) on Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album.
And Death Cab for Cutie was coined by Pythoner Neil Innes, during his days with the gonzo Bonzo Dog Band. Don’t remember Neil? He’s the smart-aleck minstrel chronicling the adventures of chicken-livered “Brave Sir Robin” on Monty Python and the Holy Grail….
PS – Click here for more than you ever wanted to know about Band name origins…
AUSTIN, TX – About to board a plane back to DC after another stimulating uTunes residency at UT, and what do I behold in the paper but a little wire service item buried in the back of the paper about “Sleevefacing.” The Alpower blog tells you all you need to know. Can’t wait to try this out at home with my own vinyl collection!
And even….the official(?) “how-to” video…
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As day breaks on a New Year here in downtown D.C., a resolution is in order in This Here Space: Namely, to post a little more often! The ol’ RoeDeo blogpost track record hasn’t been too impressive lately…I’ve been far better at managing the posts for my various clients, friends, and associates than for myself.
But that’s not to suggest that there’s not a lot on my mind, which I intend to share in the course of the comings days and weeks and months ahead.
So I think I’ll keep the 2008 resolution short and sweet: To make at least one post per day — even if it’s for no one’s benefit but my own.
Fact is, when it’s working, I like to view my blog as a sort of “open notepad” — a place to save, share, or spin a newsy nugget or two that I’ve come across, as well as to scribble down a personal observation or reaction. I’ve had nearly a year’s worth of Days at the RoeDeo now; my first post was on Jan. 18th, 2007, and I managed 74 posts over the course of the year. Not that great, but hey, it’s a start.
Now with a little experience under my belt I’ve got a whole raft of ideas about what to do in the New Year, both for this space, as well as for the overall roedeo.com site, which has been rather embarrassingly neglected. But rather than dwell on that I’ll just leave it for now to quote Sam Cooke: A Change Is Gonna Come, and I can’t wait to share it. Here’s to a great ’08!
Yes, the techno-electro-tainment world is spinning faster and faster – witness iPhones, HSDPA, (Huh? you don’t know the acronym for High-Speed Downlink Packet? Read Jeremy Wagstaff’s amusing column in Friday’s Wall Street Journal), and the cool new T-Mobile service that lets you toggle between Wi-Fi and cell connectivity (e.g., free calls from hotspots!). But radio still makes my heart skip a beat – especially when a find a blog as delightful as Arcane Radio Trivia – which delivers on its promised premise:
There are 14,000 licensed radio stations in America. about 16% of those are non-commercial. That 16% squeezes in more variety than life itself. I am obsessed. I can admit that now.
And in just a few minutes of wandering the site I learned about radio roots of the great bass singer (and voice of Tony the Tiger) Thurl Ravenscroft; the longest-running R & B show in America (The Group Harmony Review on WFUV, and that the great bluesman Elmore James was promoted from the radio-repair bench to rhythm guitar in Lillian McMurry’s radio shop/record label empire in Holson, Mississippi. Okay, the spelling and grammar make me cringe from time to time, but I can admit it, too – go to work for a ten-watt radio station and you’re hooked for life. Now added to the RoeDeo BlogRoll, so you can get your daily fix, too…
Note to self: Spare the prose and save the reader.
Have to confess that after reading ALL of the various posts and comments in Doug McLennan’s “gangblog” called Engaging Art: A Public Conversation, my first takeaway is sheer exhaustion – we got some lonnnng posts, ripostes, and rants going on here! On Sunday Artsjournal.com Editor Doug McLennan attempted a rather breezy summary (links are mine; prose is Doug’s):
Robert (Levine) says he tends to think things stay the same. Greg (Sandow) suspects (okay, more than that) that fundamental change is afoot and that the traditional arts as we have known them in the recent past are finished. Moy (Eng) is energized by the possibilities of change, and Ed (Cambron) thinks the museum model for symphony orchestras might be the best. William Osborne seems to think that lack of public funding is at the root of all that ails us in America. And Molly (Sheridan)? She seems amused by all the hand-wringing. (have I managed to mangle and mischaracterize everyone’s positions?)
Many of the postings and reactions to the book vacillate between “technological determinism” and “technological realism.” The first group imagines that our patterns of engagement will change dramatically because of the introduction of new technology, alerting us to a number of possible scenarios: death to experts and professionals; rampant choice and diversity; hyper-active and interactive audiences who dictate every detail of their experiences; constant mediation through screens and electronic devices; etc. The others tend to believe that there is nothing truly “new” about “new technology” and that it is simply returning us to habits and modes of engagement that were popular in earlier times. Others simply see technology as a useful tool, but not as transformative of social and cultural life.
Regardless if you are a determinist or a realist, I think it’s worth noting the rest of Doug McLennan’s commentary:
It’s interesting to me that everyone who creates anything these days is having some version of this conversation. Certainly anyone in the arts. But also Disney and CBS and Universal. And Starbucks and the Los Angeles Times and BMW and Coke. We’ve moved from being a service economy to an experience economy. Service is now assumed. The question is what’s the experience going to be.
Some of these entertainment companies (and even car companies now think of themselves as entertainment companies) have been losing audience at rates the arts would find catastrophic. Top-rated TV shows, radio stations, recording companies and newspapers are seeing their audiences down by 30-40-50 percent from what they were when the 90s began. By comparison, the 90s were the biggest expansion of the arts economy in American history. Even the softening of arts audience numbers since 9/11 is nothing compared to some of the retreats in the commercial sector.
The changes in audience behavior we’ve been talking about here are all things that commercial “content” makers are also addressing. I’m not sure they have any better answers than we do yet.
From my travels around the county I think he’s (mostly) right: these conversations are suddenly taking place, and not just in the creative arts. And everyone’s groping and guessing for clues, let alone answers. I say “mostly,” however, because there are still a few world-is-flat types who are putting their hands over their ears, intoning, “I cannn’t HEARRRRR YOU!” And too many of them are working in the music business. Oh, wait, I forgot: The world IS flat again….
Yes, there have been a lot of silent days at the RoeDeo lately, but not for lack of anything to say; been busy lately in some computer-less pursuits, such as constructing the new World Wide HQ. Lots to post about, but to Break The Silence, let me point you to a fascinating conversation going on over at Artsjournal.com called Engaging Art: A Public Conversation, timed to coincide with the upcoming American Symphony Orchestral League conference in Nashville, and with a new book called Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life. Some deep thinkers involved in the group blog, including some names found in the blogroll to your left, as well as some utterly fresh and frothy (to me anyway) personalities. Like Vanessa Bertozzi, who in her first post taught us about Steampunk. And the Hewlett Foundation’s Moy Eng. And Molly Sheridan of NewMusicBox and CounterstreamRadio.org, who writes (in part) in a provocative post called What if Video Saved The Radio Star?:
I‘ve been wondering if we’re getting carried away by this “broadband is changing everything” supposition. I’m under 30. Too old for Facebook, perhaps, but young enough to have made my only career out of online content delivery. Yet I still buy tickets to real plays, museums, and concerts, even if I make the purchase online because I followed a link from flavorpill.
If the little sphere I walk around in indicates anything, the technology isn’t dictating a drastic overhaul in what artists want to create or cultural consumers want to experience at the base level–no fundamental truths about the human condition have been nullified by the clips posted on YouTube. (Yet, anyway.) What current circumstances are forcing is a massive overhaul in access. Right now, you can go back and experience that video whenever you want, whether or not MTV ever broadcasts it again. You can adapt it. You can see what they’re doing to it in Japan.
In the chaos this explosion is currently creating, the traditional institutions that will step to the fore are the ones willing to truly learn the language and concentrate on how they can grow and position themselves to lead the pack. Because yes, after years of massive domineering corporate control, maybe we’re a little punch-drunk on the power that we’ve gained to create and promote the art we love, regardless of the $$ potential.
Creative culture is more a part of the everyday lives of Americans because they are being encouraged to create. Isn’t this what we wanted? But so far it still takes a name like Will Ferrell to make it profitable online. No matter how great access to 6 billion options sounds, we’re paradoxically on a hunt for the cream and access has made us very tough critics. This is where our established institutions can take their street cred and step into the fray.
Besides being a bang-on observation, Molly’s post (since I followed all the links) pulled up from within the deep recesses of the RoeDeo brain the original pre-MTV version of that song, which got a lot of college-station and alt-rock airplay Back In The Day…by the now-long-forgotten Bruce Wooley and the Camera Club.
Haven’t heard the original in decades, (Thomas Dolby, interestingly, played keyboards in the band) but as I recall it was a lot more earnest, better sung, and a lot less gimicky than the subsequent Buggles version (a/k/a On a more substantive basis, more on the Engaging Art thread as it develops…