Category Archives: Music

Syncing Season Five of The Simpsons with Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

(If you just want to read the interesting ways that these two things synced up, skip to where it says ‘Long story short‘.)

Most of you have probably heard about Dark Side of the Rainbow, the idea that The Wizard of Oz overlaps with The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.  As cool as it is, it seems pretty unbelievable that the connections are in any way deliberate.  They’re more likely the result of two things: our need to find relationships in the world around us, and our tendency to remember when our expectations are supported while forgetting the times they aren’t.  (Blah and blah.)  That being said, of course there are going to be some pairings that produce more overlaps than others just based on random chance.  So not every movie/album pair is going to sync up as well as The Wizard of Oz and The Dark Side of the Moon, making that pairing special even if it wasn’t planned.  The same can be said about other popular pairings like: Alice in Wonderland with The Wall, or 2001: A Space Odyssey with the song Echoes.

To me the fact that these pairings aren’t the product of intent doesn’t make them any less interesting, just like you don’t need to believe in a divine will to find bizarre coincidences amazing.  This also means that you can pair up any random visual and audio to look for connections, without worrying about the plausbility of it being contrived.  It’s a lot fun to just present a random piece of music, and a random video to your mind and let it go to work finding connections between the two.

I think that the connections are of two sorts: content and mood.  Content is what I’ve been talking about up until now: lyrics/sounds from the audio coinciding with something going on visually.  It’s almost a challenge to actively look for these connections, thinking about ways of interpreting words so that they reflect what you’re seeing.  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it takes creativity.  Although I wouldn’t agree with them, some people might use the fact that you can find these connections in a random pairing to take away from the interpretation of art in general.  I would say that just because we can find them at random doesn’t mean that artists don’t put them there intentionally when they control all parts of the final product.

By mood I mean the way that the audio affects the feel of the visuals, and vice versa.  Just like watching a music video might change how a song feels, or a soundtrack might change how a given moment in a movie feels.  The only difference here is that the pairing is random and it’s entirely up to the viewer to fit the two together (both actively and passively), creating a new third experience, different than the audio or visuals by themselves.  I find it very interesting to feel your mind making two things that were certainly not meant to go together fit with one another, creating one unified product out of two disparate things. (1)

Long story short I paired season five of The Simpsons with Kanye West’s fifth album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2).  I hit ‘play all’ on the first DVD of season five as I hit play on the album.  I only went through the album once but in theory it would have been cool to go through the entire season with the album repeating.  However despite what some people may think after reading this I don’t have that much free time on my hands.  These are some of the cool content connections that I noticed between the audio of the album and the visuals of the episodes (which were on mute):

-The line “Don’t make me pull the toys out…” coincided with a shot of Lisa looking at a box of toys.

“Penitentiary chances, the devil dances…” coincided with a shot of Springfield Penitentiary.

“I thought I chose a field where they couldn’t sack me…” coincided with Wiggum getting fired from the Be Sharps.

“But God said I need a different approach…” coincided with a shot of Wiggum wearing a costume and trying to trick them into taking him back.

-“You blowing up, that’s good, fantastic…” coincided with them discovering that Barney could sing (and later getting him to join the group).  I’m hoping my friends won’t need this, but just in case

-“No more chances if you blow this…” coincided with their (the Be Sharp’s) agent talking to them outside of Moe’s.

-“Well, that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation…” coincided with the Sea Captain stopping his fight with the giant squid and starting to talk to it.

-“I got the power to make your life so exciting…” coincided with Homer giving his Dad a new car.

-“Want you to see all of the lights…” coincided with a shot of Hollywood, with two searchlights moving around.

“Can’t see my daughter…” coincided with a scene of Homer being on tour, and Marge trying to fill his absence with this

-A scream in ‘Monster’ coincided with this shot.

-“Do the rap and track, triple double no assist…” coincided with Matt Groening’s name in the credits.  If you have to ask how that relates…

“She came up to me and said this the number 2…” coincided with the second episode starting.

“I smell a massacre…” coincided with this.

“Praises due to the most high, Allah…” coincided with a shot of an angel that Ned had trimmed out of a hedge.

“Fucking insane…” coincided with Sideshow Bob laughing manically, when you first learn that he’s the one sending Bart the bloody messages.

“So if you had her too, it don’t affect me in the slightest…” coincided with a shot of Selma testifying and everyone behind her in the courtroom raising their hands.

“The way you look should be a sin…” coincided with this.

-“We’ll have a big ass crib and a long yard…” coincided with a shot of a big ass crib and a long yard.

-Lastly, I’m not exaggerating when I say the credits of the third episode ended exactly when the album did.  It’s also cool that the last song ends with applause.

1- If this is true it brings up the interesting question of whether or not two things can really “go together well” in terms of mood.  We’ve all thought about a scene in a movie that was complemented perfectly by its score, but if any visual and audio can combine to create a third thing, how can any pairing be “more appropriate”?  Is it just a pairing that better fits what the creator intended?  Or fits in better with the rest of the project?  Do they view one (audio or visual) as being the primary component and the other one being secondary, slightly colouring the primary one instead of creating a third and altogether new thing?  Or maybe two things “go well together” when they create a third thing that isn’t fundamentally different than the two other things by themselves?

2 – They both have red covers!  The third season and his third album both have purple covers!  But sadly that’s where it ends.


John Lennon Influencing Drake?

(I’ve added two notes at the end since I originally wrote this.)

Drake does this thing when he’s rapping where he’ll say a line and then say a single, non-sequitur word* that is related to that line. For example:

“I can teach you how to speak my language. Rosetta Stone.”

“Swimming in the money come and find me. Nemo.”

Lil Wayne does it too, interestingly only after That Carter III. I’m curious who influenced who? Examples from WEEZY:

“Been running this shit. Blisters.”

“That’s that mob shit n*. Martin Scorsese.”

I’ve heard Nicki Minaj do it too. Neat that they’re all sort of in the same group and do a lot of songs together, I guess these things spread. Two examples from Nicki Minaj, within a few seconds of eachother:

“Hang it up. Flatscreen.
Plasma.
Hey Nicki hey Nicki. Asthma.”

I like this kind of style. Metaphors and similes are a major part of rap, but usually within the structure of sentences. This is almost like they’re too cool to bother with putting their metaphor/simile into a sentence. I think it comes across as cocky, which is cool. Actually sometimes they’re metaphors/similes, sometimes they’re metonyms. Metaphors/similes talk about the similarity between two things (e.g. I can teach you how to speak my language, I’m the Rosetta Stone/I can teach you how to speak a language like the Rosetta stone does).** Metonyms refer to something by way of another thing that is “intimately associated with that thing or concept” (Wikipedia). For example calling a credit cards ‘plastic’, calling a language a ‘tongue’ or referring to the mob by saying Martin Scorcese.

Now onto John Lennon! I wrote in another post that as far as I know John Lennon was the first singer to truly break the fourth wall in a song. The first person to talk to a specific audience, identified as himself. I also said that by doing this he made rap possible, mostly jokingly. Now I think that he might have been the first person to do this sort of thing that I’ve been talking about. In the song “It’s Only Love” he says:

“When you sigh my, my inside just flies, butterflies.”

Butterflies is a single non-sequitur word, related to the line that came before it. It’s a simile for the way he describes feeling, but without putting the simile into a sentence (i.e. my inside just flies as though I had butterflies in my stomach). I guess another way to look at it is he’s specifying what he meant when he said ‘flies’, again without doing it in a sentence.***

In reality it doesn’t quite matter exactly how it’s related. It’s a single word added after a sentence and related to it in some way, but without other words to make the relation explicit and grammatically correct. To me that makes it the same as the rap examples.

What’s my point here? In all seriousness I don’t actually think that this style in rap comes from “It’s Only Love”. But I think it’s very cool, and indicative of how creative he was, that John Lennon came up with this sort of thing decades ago. Maybe he himself got it from somewhere, I’d love to hear about it if you know of an earlier example.

* When I say non-sequitur I mean that it doesn’t follow grammatically. It comes out of nowhere in the same way that the rap examples did. Obviously it isn’t a non-sequitur in terms of meaning.

** Often it could be either a metaphor or a simile, depending on how you phrased the sentence around the extra word.

*** I suppose you could say that it’s part of the sentence, but tacked on and without any words to make it fit grammatically. Same thing really.

Note: A friend of mine pointed out that none of the examples I mentioned are true metonyms because the single word would never be used as a substitute for the idea it’s related to (e.g. you wouldn’t substitute “Scorsese” for “the mob”). So if the word doesn’t imply a metaphor or a simile, but is simply related to the sentence, I’m not sure if it technically qualifies as anything more than just that.

Note: I just read that this sort of style (apparently called “truncated similes”) was originated by Big Sean, especially in a song called “Supa Dupa”.  Here is Drake talking about it!


Stadium Arcadium: Jupiter Instrumentals

(This article goes along with this video.)

Stadium Arcadium: The Chili Peppers’ latest album; and what looks like their last with John Frusciante contributing his transcendent six string poetry. I love the album for all of the reasons someone loves a double album: getting to hear a wide variety of songs you wouldn’t get if they’d chosen to trim it down to eighty minutes. The counter-argument is that with so many songs, there are bound to be some that aren’t top notch. I say that with the talent that these four have, I would’ve bought an album made up of twenty discs. Even if ten of them just had John talking about what kind of cereal he has in the morning.

The two discs are named after the Gods Jupiter and Mars. In astrology Jupiter represents the need to expand oneself and grow. It is associated with the urge for exploration and freedom. Mars on the other hand represents energy, sexuality and aggression. I remember reading something John wrote, saying that these two ideas were well represented on Stadium Arcadium. I think that is what makes Stadium such a fantastic album. It retains the underlying energy and libido that characterized their earlier crazy days filled with mayhem and socks filled with cocks. But here that energy underlies and is adorned with fantastic melodies and harmonies. There’s a real virility to these songs that are bursting with life, and at the same time exploring beautiful sonic landscapes.

What I’ve done here is taken bits from the instrumental versions of each song on the first disc. They’re bits that I didn’t fully appreciate when I heard them on the album in their complete forms. At the same time, when I did hear the complete songs again afterwards, it made me like them even more. By coming to appeciate how fantastic these parts were on thier own, I also came to appreciate how well they fit together with the drums and vocals. I picked most of the bits from each song based on the guitar, so that’s why all of the pictures are of John. That of course isn’t meant to take anything away from Flea and his funky funky self.

Dani California: Bridge (2:11 – 2:30) <- Where it is on the actual song
I never really noticed how cool and watery the guitar sounded here. According to John it was put through a modular synthesizer, "processed with the Doepfer's LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) controlling its highpass filter, so that the filter opens and closes rhytmically". I wish I knew enough so that I could tell the difference between the sentence I just quoted – spoken by someone who knows what they're talking about – and this sentence that I'm just making up: "it was warped with a YLK, dubbed using the string oscillator, that vibrates on the low end atonally". One day David, one day. He also talked about how the drums during this section were filtered, and only played in one speaker to begin with, and then pan to the center while opening up. Pretty neat bridge!

Snow ((Hey Oh)): Pre-Chorus (1:32 – 1:46)
This sounds pretty simple at first, but if you listen really closely (or do what I did and look at the tab), you’ll see that he’s actually playing this:

|———————————|————————————|
|—9—9—9—9—9—9—9—9-|—9—9—9—9—9—11—11—12-|
|———————————|————————————|
|———————————|————————————|
|-7—7—7—7—7—7—7—7—|-7—7—7—7—7—7—-9—-9—-|
|———————————|————————————|

|————————————————-|
|—-12—-12—-12—-12—-12—-12—-12—-12-|
|————————————————-|
|————————————————-|
|-11—-11—-11—-11—-11—-11—-11—-11—-|
|————————————————-|

|———————————————|
|—-12—-12—-12—-16—-14—12—11—9-|
|———————————————|
|———————————————|
|-11—-11—-11—-11—-11—-x—-9—-x—|
|———————————————|

That style of alternating between low and high strings that he did a lot on Niandra, or the Scar Tissue riff, for example. But it’s done a lot quicker here, and is really hard to play.

Charlie: Chorus (0:47 – 1:07)
I just found this cool to hear without the vocals, because it follows a different path than they do, and is hard to hear with them. Anthony said that the instrumental track he got for Charlie was his favourite on the album, and it is pretty bad-ass. Wow I just noticed how taking the time to hyphenate the word ‘bad-ass’ really takes away from its bad-assness. Before this section during the verse John’s guitar is in a different time signature from the drums, here it settles back in for a while. I was pretty tempted to put the next section (“Your right, I’m wrong…”) which I guess would be the bridge? For a long time it was my favourite part of the album. I didn’t do thatbecause it’s easy enough to hear on the complete track.

Stadium Arcadium: Verse and Chorus (2:00 – 2:30)
A bit of a surprising choice for a title track in my opinion, but it’s got some neat things going for it. I don’t know what it is, but hearing John doing those backward guitar licks made me really sad that he’s not in the band any more. It was probably thinking about all of the experimental elements that he brought to the band, and how much meticulous love he put into every song. The fact that you could hold the Peppers up against other bands with interesting production quirks and experimentation because they had John in their ranks made me think about that giant hole that he’ll leave in their sound. It’s like losing an amazingly skilled player to free agency, you miss having him on your side. That all came to mind during this section, and I think the tone during the chorus is pretty great.

Hump de Bump: Interlude and Chorus (2:21 – 2:55)
This was cool because I never heard that little build up during the drum bonanza before. And that riff is so chucky (to borrow an adjective) and awesome. You can hear that the drum bled into the guitar or bass mics on this.

She’s Only 18: Chorus (1:45 – 2:18)
Again I chose this bit just because I never really heard it properly on the complete version. It really is a rockin’ riff. (Wow ‘rockin’ riff’ sounds about as un-rockin’ as possible.) It’s one of those big power-chordy choruses that they had on a few songs on Stadium. I gathered from interviews, but I might be wrong, that those sorts of parts comes from Chad and John. That’s true in this case, because Anthony said the chorus used to be a ‘hazy-phasey’, weird chord progression that John had come up with, before he (John) came up with the huge chorus that the final version has. I didn’t really appreciate how huge it was until I heard it on its own.

Slow Cheetah: Guitar Solo (3:33 – 4:03)
I love the sound of the chorus, sounds kind of like when you strum with a really thin pick. The guitar solo just fits in perfectly. Really uplifting and joyful. It also comes across, to me anyway, as sounding very relaxed and content. That fits in with Flea’s idea as to the meaning of the song, which is: enjoying life by living it at a slower pace. It’s really interesting how hearing the meaning of the words to a song, impacts the way you perceive the meaning of sound in that song. On a side note, this might be my favourite song on the album at the moment.

Torture Me: Intro and Verse (0:08 – 0:28)
To me that bass riff that opens the song is the most serious and grave sounding thing that they’ve ever recorded. It gives me the sense that what’s coming is something truly important. Now that I hear John’s guitar clearly I feel like it follows suit and also sounds very serious. I picture the band out of their usual colourful attire; dressed in black, with high collars, on a windy hill, in slow motion, deliberating over something that will affect the entire world. I wonder if I’m the only one to get that feeling? Anyway. I like the way John’s guitar sort of washes over the accented single notes that Flea is playing. It’s also cool how he switches chords just before the end of every bar instead of at the start of the next one.

Strip My Mind: Pre-Chorus and Chorus (3:32 – 4:00)
What gets me about this little snippet is the buildup in intensity of the rhythm guitar as it goes into the chorus. It’s also neat how the lead guitar sort of continues the same ‘sentence’ once the song does get into the chorus. I really really the change in tone of that lead guitar throughout this bit. I feel like those types of production elements defined a big part of the sound on the album, and did give it a pretty spacey aura. When a few of those sounds are layered, you get an album where each songs feels like a world you can stick your head into. Here’s an article where John explains the effects and production he used on each song.

Especially in Michigan: Verse (1:18 – 1:45)
Same sort of thing. Listen to how that tone morphs with the feedback, unreal.

Come on Girl: Pre-Chorus and Chorus (2:51 – 3:08)
Apparently the hardest bassline on the album. Also one made up by John. I guess it’s the same sort of idea for three songs in a row, but the mixture of all of those different sounds is mind-boggling to me. The interplay between the bass and guitar is also really cool here. Again another big chorus.

Wet Sand: Outro (4:00 – 4:22)
Sorry to cut it off right before the solo; you can actually probably get blue balls from that. This is a section that’s just overflowing with so much energy, building up towards that cathartic, explosive solo. I was sure that those arpeggios were from a harpsichord, but according to John that’s actually a guitar! “At the end of the song there’s an arpeggiated guitar part created by sloing the tape down and playing harmonies a third up, on the treble pickup, which made it sound exactly like a harpsichord. I’m convinced that’s what Hendrix did on ‘Burning of the Mignight Lamp.'” I never know how to end a quote that ends with a quote, those three apostrophes look strange. Are they still called apostrophes if they’re part of quotation marks? The word apostrophe comes from the roots ‘apo’ meaning from and ‘strophe’ meaning to turn away. Which makes sense when they’re replacing a letter like in ‘they’re’ but not if they’re around something, like in ‘they’re’. I wonder if anyone stuck around long enough to get that nugget of info? Great outro though; I’d never noticed that lick in the middle of it.

Hey: Bridge (3:40 – 4:14)
Probably some of Frusciante’s most beautiful guitar playing, and that is saying something. I loved being able to really hear it on the instrumental track. Can’t say much about something like that, just go ahead and listen to it a few times.

Thanks for reading! I wonder if this is what will finally bring in some readers via the youtube video, like an unsuspecting horde following a trail of donuts into a scientology meeting. But if you liked what you read, and would like to have more of the feeling of dopamine rushing into your nucleus accumbens check: this, this, this and/or (but preferably and) this out! Or check it all out! Or whatever, I’m just glad some of you got this far!

I’ll be doing one for Mars eventually. Hope you enjoyed this. Happy Holidays!


Glass Onion: Breaking the Fourth Wall

There’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back (when C-3P0, Han, Leia and Chewie are escaping Hoth) where C-3P0 looks at the camera and says “how typical”. Who is he talking to? Certainly not the scruffy nerf herder (sorry) who just went into another room and closed the door (could have said: into the Hoth Echo Docking Bay but I didn’t) along with her worhipfulness and the walking carpet. Threepio is talking to us: the audience. Film aficionados call it ‘breaking the fourth wall’. The term originates from plays with three walled sets, with a fourth imaginary wall separating the audience from the characters. To ‘break the fourth wall’ is to talk to the audience directly. It allows the characters to draw attention to the fact that they are characters in a story, creating a ‘meta-fiction’. It seems to me that John Lennon breaks the fourth wall in “Glass Onion”, the earliest example I can think of this happening in a popular song. And what’s more, he breaks it speaking specifically as himself.

First lets take a look at “Glass Onion”, the third song on the wonderful carnival of quilted oddites that is The White Album.

I told you about strawberry fields,
You know the place where nothing is real
Well here’s another place you can go
Where everthing flows.
Looking through the bent backed tulips
To see how the other half lives
Looking through a glass onion.

I told you about the walrus and me-man
You know that we’re as close as can be-man.
Well here’s another clue for you all,
The walrus was Paul.
Standing on the cast iron shore-yeah,
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet-yeah.
Looking through a glass onion.
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.
Looking through a glass onion.

I told you about the fool on the hill,
I tell you man he living there still.
Well here’s another place you can be,
Listen to me.

Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dove-tail joint-yeah
Looking through a glass onion

In this song John Lennon addresses the person listening to the song directly when he says “I told you about strawberry fields”, and again at the beginning of each of the next two verses. This of course isn’t the first time a singer has said ‘I’ and ‘you’ in a song, but this is unique for two reasons.

i) The person saying ‘I’ is John Lennon the songwriter, not a character in the song. He establishes that it is him by referring to things that he, John Lennon, has done in the past. In other songs, when a singer uses the word ‘I’, it could be anyone really. For example:

“I give her all my love,
that’s all I do.”
The Beatles – And I Love Her

Here there is nothing about the ‘I’ that tells you it is specifically Paul McCartney; he doesn’t mention any characteristics that define him specifically. In Glass Onion John talks about songs that he himself has written. Even among other cases where the singer talks about things that are personal, Glass Onion stands apart. For example:

“Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.”
The Beatles – Strawberry Fields

I would argue that Glass Onion is a different case because in it John is talking about specific and actual events that apply specifically to him. Other songs have obviously been in the first person, but here John explicitly defined the fact that the ‘I’ is him by listing qualities that apply only to him, not a vague narrator. This is helped by the fact that he and his history are so well known that he is able to refer to that history to define the narrator as himself.

ii) In other cases where bands have said ‘you’, they weren’t referring specifically to the person listening. They may have been referring to a character in the song. For example:

“You think you lost your love,
Well, I saw her yesterday.
It’s you she’s thinking of
And she told me what to say.”
The Beatles – She Loves You

Or they may have been referring to a general other, which the listener may interpret as being them. Again:

“Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.”
The Beatles – Strawberry Fields

In Glass Onion John clearly identifies ‘you’ as the person listening to the song. He (again specifically John Lennon) mentions things that he’s done to you in the past. Having told you about strawberry fields, the walrus and the fool on the hill. He isn’t speaking to a ‘you’ in the song, or to a ‘you’ in general. It is very obvious that he is speaking to a ‘you’ completely removed from the world of the song. This ‘you’ is specifically defined as the people listening. (1)

So John is speaking directly to us, this allows him to break down other walls. He actually mentions other songs he’s written, in a song. In this way Glass Onion implies a reality that exists outside of it: both the reality of the songwriter above the song; and that of other songs horizontal to it. They all come to be present at the same time. The insular worlds of other Beatles songs are suddenly combined with that of Glass Onion. In this way all of those other songs also break through the walls separating them from us. The song is ‘aware’ that they are all songs in the Beatles canon, and attention is called to that fact. When this is done in comedy (like when Stewie says “I thought we had a clip there”), the result is called meta-comedy. It is part of the general concept of metafiction: fiction that calls attention to the fact that it is fiction. It exists on two levels, the fiction itself, and the worlds outside of it that it alludes to. Maybe this is called a meta-song? While here the song doesn’t explicitly comment on itself, it comments on other songs, and the songwriter’s world, which I would argue makes it just as ‘meta’. It breaks the song out the insulated world it would usually live in; existing on different levels of ‘real’. As far as I can tell this is the first song to ever do something like this; yet another boundary that The Beatles crossed. Literally ground breaking. (2)

It reflects John’s love of wordplay. He was a big fan of Lewis Carrol’s, who played with the boundaries of reality using words. It also exemplifies John’s tendency to write from a very personal and real place.

This sort of thing is quite rare even today in rock songs, I can’t think of any off the top of my head. But one genre that makes use of it very often is rap. In rap there is often no character in a song, there is only the rapper talking as themselves. The subject matter almost always makes reference to the rapper’s world and other songs/albums. The breakdown of boundaries between the real world and the song allows the rapper to boast about themselves specifically. For example:

“I drop that Black, Album then I back, out it,
As the best rapper alive ***** ask about me.”
Jay-Z ‘Dirt off Your Shoulder’

They’ll also sometimes speak directly to the listener:

“Look what you made me do, look what I made for you
Knew if I paid my dues, how will they pay you
When you first come in the game, they try to play you
Then you drop a couple of hits, look how they wave to you.”
Jay-Z – Encore (Interestingly enough…)

Sometimes they’ll comment on the current song itself;

“How u wanna do it? We can do it like we late ah wait dezzle let me get the 8 o 8
As I hit the kill switch
Now that’s how u let the beat build b*tch.”
Lil Wayne – Let the Beat Build

When you think about it, it’s impossible to picture a rap song not doing this. Most rap songs aren’t separate from the real world, they are usually the rapper talking as themselves, about themselves. The song exists in the rapper’s reality, and that allows them to brag, and do creative things like in the Lil Wayne example. Does this blending of song and reality trace its inspiration back to Glass Onion? Is Jay-Z talking about making “The Black Album” a result of John Lennon thinking freely enough to talk about making “Strawberry Fields”? We can’t establish a causal link, but it’s possible.

It also provides us with a glimpse of something I’ve always thought about. It’s a fundamental part of the genre for rappers to brag about their accomplishments, talent and innovation; imagine for a second what the Beatles would be able to brag if they had been so inclined.

We taught you how to backwards loop guitars,
And we introduced you motherfu*kers to sitars.
So you dropped a joint and it went platinum?
Check Sgt. Pepper’s, we invented the album.

Yikes, that didn’t come out as cool as I’d hoped, but you get the idea. Anyway my point is that hearing John coolly recollect that he told us about Strawberry Fields, may be the closest we’ll ever come to that. Maybe that’s for the better.

When you think about it, the approach taken in Glass Onion really is ground breaking, smashing the imaginary confines of reality a song usually lives in. No divide between the voice singing and the singer himself; talking directly to the listeners. The song not existing on its own in isolation, but aware of its membership, and commenting on other songs in the Beatle’s canon. Listen to it again, and hear John looking through the bent backed tulips.

Footnotes:
1 – So just to sum up. I argue that while this isn’t the first song in the first person to talk to another person, it is there first time where the first person character is specifically defined as being the real life singer of the song based on listing things that they’ve done in real life that only apply to them. (Not just saying I wrote you a song, but saying that he specifically wrote “Strawberry Fields”). And that this is the first time that has happened in conjunction with having an explicitly defined audience, by listing something he has done specifically to us in real life (previously telling us about Strawberry Fields).

2 – This probably wasn’t John’s ‘goal’ in writing this song, it may have been playful fodder for those trying to interpret The Beatle’s lyrics. But that concerns the content of the song. What we’re in interested in here is the form Lennon used to express that content.


What to Do When It’s Quarter to Five and You Can’t Sleep

This is really nothing more than a way to kill some time until I get some indication that I might be able to fall asleep soon.

I’m going to use a random word generator to generate seven random adjectives, and then come up with the song from my iPod that that word best fits. Not necessarily because that word describes that song, but that the impression I get when I hear that word fits what I get when I hear that song, usually not to do with the lyrics. Really something that I could do and write down on a scrap piece of paper but this makes it seem like it’s not a total waste of time. I’m not going to skip any random word. Unfortunately enough I started this last night and it’s still applicable tonight. : (

Random Adjective #1: Antique
What I see when I hear that word: an old photo in sepia of old objects in an attic.

Random Adjective #2: Living
What I see when I hear that word: a very green forest.

Random Adjective #3: Evil
What I see when I hear that word: dark, nauseatingly decrepit creatures.

Random Adjective #4: Done
What I see when I hear that word: a smooth edge.

Random Adjective #5: Alert
What I see when I hear that word: a red heart rate monitor going crazy.

Random Adjective #6: Attached
What I see when I hear that word: two old rusted pieces of metal that are frozen in a position gripping one another.

Random Adjective #7: Instructed
What I see when I hear that word: those toys that have a bunch of tiny pieces of metal that all stand up as you pass a big magnet over them.


Five Videos of Frusciante Covering a Song

I’ve avoided posting things that are just links to videos because it seems a bit cheap and content-less.  But in this case I think the content within the videos say enough to speak for themselves and warrant this post.

John Frusciante usually sings one cover by himself during a concert, these are five that you’ve got to hear.


SOS – Originally by ABBA

Hauntingly beautiful. His version has no synth or harmonies to lighten the mood. His voice is so very delicate yet brimming with emotion. I really love the video too!

Maybe – Originally by The Chantels
Half of you have probably heard this already (that means about one people) as it’s off of the Slane Castle DVD. Showcases how high his voice can climb.

How Deep is Your Love – Originally by The Bee Gees
I love how laidback he seems about messing up, you’ve gotta love their friendly, casual demeanour while they blow our minds.

Lucky – Originally by Radiohead
Not sure if this was with the Peppers or on a solo tour, judging by how small the crowd sounds it was probably a solo tour. His voice really gets that feeling of restrained desperation across.

Emily – Originally by Simon and Garfunkel

So much power coming from one man and a guitar.

It’s fantastic how he breathes his own spin of life into these classics, colouring in their lines with his own transcendant colours. Yet you can still tell how much he respects the people who first created these songs. It’s not often you get to hear a master of a certain creative genre (outside of music) pay tribute to others in that genre by recreating some of their work. And they aren’t cover versions in the traditional sense of the word: a band reworking and rearranging songs and putting them out on a CD. He simply displays these songs stripped down to their bare essentials, showing the world works of songwriting that he likes and thinks we’d enjoy hearing. Someone who truly loves music singing songs that he enjoys singing.


The Greatest 55 Seconds

No there aren’t the ramblings of a premature ejaculator.  I’ve seen lists like “MY TOP 10 FAVOURITE SONGS OF ALL TIME”, “LAWL MY LIKE 12 BEST SONGS ABOUT KITTENS”, “THE BEST 15 SONGS IN THE WORLD” (the last one is a bit unfair, they never include songs outside of North America or Europe) very many times, I decided to do something differently.  These are my ten favourite five seconds of songs EVER, IN THE WORLD…ABOUT KITTENS!

(YOU CAN SKIP ALL OF THIS TO GET TO THE LIST IF YOU WANT.)

Like any list, I didn’t really compile it very carefully, who knows if this is the right order, or if there are other things that should be on it.  It always makes me wonder when people make these lists, how do they determine the order?  Do they start with every possible item, eliminating them all one by until they get to the last ten?  Then imagine out of those ten if they had to banish all but nine of them from existence which would they be?  Then the same with eight and so on?  That’s how I would do it anyway, if I didn’t write this to get me off the hook.

I wonder why it is we like lists.  It seems that whenever anything is ranked and presented in ascending order it becomes interesting.  Maybe it’s because it’s well organized, people can just look at at certain items and skip others.  It’s also always nice to read little blurbs about a bunch of things, and compare the items on the list to the ones you might put on the list.

Well anyway these are my top eleven five second clips of songs.  I didn’t know whether to make it my top ten, totalling fifty-five seconds, or my top twelve totalling 60 seconds.  Basically whether I want to conform to our tendency of lumping things into groups of ten, or into groups of 60 seconds.  I chose neither, what a rebel!  But really, why is it that whenever we do anything it’s grouped into groups of ten, and if it’s time based we always group things into set of 60 seconds, usually in multiples of ten.  Isn’t this arbitrary, just based on our number system, and not really the most accurate way to go about things?  Why is it that when we microwave anything it’s always in groups of 60 seconds?  That’s probably not the BEST amount of time, maybe it’s 1:43, or 2:13.  Well, anyway…

I tried to find videos where the times matched the album versions, and I didn’t even have to rely on videos made up of clips from animes!

Like I alluded to before, this order is a little bit arbitrary, based more on the order that they came to me.  Also looking through the list I noticed that these are all pretty famous songs, it seems like when people make lists like these they go out of their way to mention obscure songs to show off.  But these songs are all famous because they are good songs, and maybe since they are good songs I’ve listened to them more often than other songs so I’ve noticed more things about them.

THE LIST!

11 Wonderwall – Oasis – 0:44 to 0:49 (Including the 44th and 49th, so I guess these are technically my favourite 6 seconds of songs, oh well)

It’s been called one of the most perfect songs ever written, definitely one almost everyone knows and likes.  To me it’s one of those few songs that makes you drop whatever you’re doing and listen whenever it comes on.  But like Noel says, it’s a shame that some people may end up remembering them only for this one song.  I’ve always loved the way the drums come in on this song, on the fourth beat of the first line of the verse.  There is a bit tension created by the cello (I think?), while you wonder where the drums are?  Then they kick in and settle into a really fantastic groove that underlies the whole song.  Those three beats before the drums come in feel a little bit like the amazing feeling you get before a sneeze, then when the drums enter they’re like the pure ecstasy of the sneeze itself.

10 Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones – 5:03 to 5:08

(Sorry I couldn’t find a youtube video of the original album version.)

Probably my favourite Stones song, the intertwining acoustic guitars, the lyrics that truly feel like they’re coming from Jagger’s heart and some of the most emotional lead guitar played throughout all make it a fantastic song.  Towards the end you think the song is over, but the guitars keep going.  A beautifully peaceful solo glides along and then as if it finished saying (in the most hushed and sympathetic voice you’ll ever hear) what it needed to say it realizes that it made you see it’s point of view, without overpowering you.  It then brings back the chorus gently, yet with as much power as any other solo ever did.  It’s as though it called you outside of the room to privately and privately go over any misgivings you might have had, then warmly brings you back into the room with your full cooperation.

9 You Never Give Me Your Money – The Beatles – 2:47 to 2:52

One of Paul’s masterpieces, it opens the medley that makes up the second side of Abbey Road.  It consists of five distinct parts that go together very well.  After you’ve heard it a few times you come to anticipate these five seconds throughout the whole song.  It builds up to this point, and then when you reach the top of that climb all of the tension and anxiety is released into pure giddiness.  From there the song calms, a feeling that carries on into the next track.

8 Born Under a Bad Sign – Jimi Hendrix – 0:08 to 0:13

Off Jimi Blues, a collection of his renditions of some blues classics, plus some of his own.  This is his slowed down instrumental version of an Albert King classic.  It starts off with a slow and swaggering bass riff, originally played much faster and by horns on the original.  Then Jimi makes one of my favourite guitar entrances ever, that always makes me picture him sliding onto a stage in his socks, like that scene in Mrs. Doughtfire.  It’s a lick that you could practice for hours and still not be able to play it like he did, a blend of soul, energy and showmanship.  It’s like a party where you’re really waiting for a friend to show up, and they’re a bit late, but when they show up they liven everything up and you’re so happy to see them that you don’t mind that they were a bit late, that’s what his entrance on this song feels like.

7 Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones – 2:59 to 3:04

This song features Merry Clayton, at first singing with Jagger, then just going off on one by herself after Keith’s solo.  She repeats the line “Rape, murder; It’s just a shot away, It’s just a shot away,”, getting more and more intense each time.  Her voice is filled with desperation and disdain and soaked in soul; she holds onto the first syllable of ssshot just a little bit to add even more character.  The song is meant to channel the coming of the end of the world, and the emotions that precede it.  Her vocals reflect that, one can almost imagine it being performed in a gospel church just before the rapture, the windows aglow from the fires outside.  In this particular time through, her voice reaches a note that defies classification, a moment of utter desperation.  What I love is that after she hits that otherworldly note you can hear Mick go “wooh” in the background, like the cool fucking guy that he is.  It is so great that that made the final version, it embodies the rawness that made the Stones great.  How many of the popular bands nowadays can you imagine having something so spontaneous and natural, as these five seconds are (Merry singing completely in her own, probably unrehearsed way, and Mick reacting to it), appear on an album.

6 Death of a Martian – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2:55 to 3:00

Death of a Martian, the song that closes the Chili Peppers’ double album Stadium Arcadium, and does it perfectly.  The whole song has an oddly classical, yet psychedelic feel to it; written about Flea’s dog Martian who died before recording the album.  The song has two halves, a verse-chorus affair contrasted with Anthony reciting strange poetry over an interesting chord progression with guitars and a fuzz-bass soloing.  Amazingly the switch between the two halves isn’t as sudden or drastic as you’d expect, John provides some ‘aahs’ that segue beautifully between the two sections, fitting perfectly within the two completely different sections.  It’s like two very different pieces of metal being warmed by his vocals so that they can be attached and blended together.  If I could isolate that ‘aah aah aah’ bit, and loop it for five minutes, I would do so, and it would probably end up as one of the most played tracks on my iPod.  John’s ‘aahs’  (I have a feeling there is a better way to refer to them, but I can’t think of one) add another dimension of colour to the already very colourful songs that the Chili Peppers create.  On Star Trek instead of taking water showers, they take sonic showers.  I imagine they’d feel something like John’s ‘aahs’.

5 You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – The Beatles – 1:13 to 1:18

The second appearance by The Beatles, this one coming off of a much earlier album: Help!, released in 1965.  This album was a precursor to Rubber Soul and Revolver, which would launch them into a new direction of song writing, pushing every boundary possible via songs that were as accessible as they were revolutionary.  This song in particular is evidence of a new direction in John’s songwriting, expanding into more personal and lyrically unconventional territory; Bob Dylan is often cited as a major source of inspiration in this regard.  One thing I noticed about this song is that instead of the word “you”, very present in their early songs, John uses “she” here.  The word “you” made every girl in the audience feel like The Beatles were talking to them, John doesn’t concern himself with that here, instead singing a song to express himself and tell a story.  Whether or not they deliberately used “you” earlier on to form a connection with the audience, I don’t know.  But it could be seen as representative of the turn their songwriting took, towards crafting the best songs they could with themselves as the audience, working in an insular fashion inside the studio, less concerned with how the public might react.  Maybe this is reading too much into things, I’m not even sure if their mindset in the first half or second half of their career actually was the way I’m describing it.

As for this line in particular, I love it because it is John at his most guttural, one of the most sneering deliveries I’ve ever heard in a song.  This isn’t the same Liverpool lad who happily sang Please Please Me, or at least this is a very different side of him coming through.

4 Around the World – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 1:59 to 2:04

The wild song that opens Californication, the record that greeted Mr. John Frusciante back into the band.  Apparently the words to this song were originally supposed to go with the music of Road Trippin’, it’s interesting to imagine what that would have sounded like.  Nevertheless we do have a fantastic song here, containing the two widely divergent elements that make up the Chili Peppers, wild unholstered rambunctiosity; and an infectious pastoral sense of melody.  In the first few seconds of these five we hear the former, John, Flea and Chad strumming, slapping and pounding away (respectively) with reckless abandon  (we musn’t forget Anthony’s yell that lasts for ages).  Then Chad rallies them and they are suddenly all completely within a single groove.  It’s like a basketball team full of talented hooligans playing streetball, until a coach comes in and tames them, not removing any of their talent, but channeling their raw abilities to a singular goal.  It’s like three raging rivers suddenly meeting to form an even wilder but united raging river.  It’s like I should stop using similes and get on with it.

3 Desecration Smile – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2:09 to 2:14

I know I already spent #6 talking about John’s ‘aahs’, and this is similar, but I loved both of these examples so much that I had to put them both in.  Besides here we hear John’s ‘oohs’, totally different!  If for some reason I lost the ability to get autonomically get goosebumps from the cold, and I really needed them to keep me warm, I would listen to this wong whenever I went outside in winter.  (You can tell I’ve been writing this for too long!)  In each of the verses several of Frusciante’s voices repeat the second line of the verse in his falsetto, and every time I hear that I get goosebumps.  What gives me even BIGGER goosebumps is what happens in the second half of the second verse, when he mirrors the guitar with his ‘oohs’.  Such a delicate and gentle sound; words won’t do it justice.

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses – 4:03 to 4:08 (3:21 to 3:26 in the video because MTV cut parts of the song out)

Sweet Child O’ Mine, everyone knows it, .  A rare ballad on their first LP, appearing among some of the grittiest hard rock you’ll ever hear.  Whenever you read anything about this song, or hear about it on the TV, what you’ll always hear about is how Slash came up with the intro riff as a joke, a circusy thing he used to warm up.  What sometimes changes is the band member who claims to have said “hey that’s cool, play that again”; according to Slash’s book it was Izzy.  Among other things this song has got one of Slash’s best guitar solos, depicting both sides of his guitar playing.  They are put on display almost separately here: a heartfelt extremely melodic section followed by bluesy and slithering hard rock licks; none of it stock, all of it hummable.  The section contained in these five seconds is where Slash shifts gears from the former to the latter.  It’s as if we were along for a serene drive through the country, then Slash finds an open road and stomps the gas pedal through the floor.  We’re left clinging to the back of the car, our feet dangling behind us, but we don’t want to let go and miss one second of what is about to come.  These few seconds remind me of that moment in Men in Black when Will Smith pushes the little red button.  I remember this being the holy grail when I started playing guitar, I thought if I ever got to a point where I could play this, I could do anything.

1 A Day in the Life – The Beatles – 2:47 to 2:52

Ahh number one; it’s a lot harder making these lists than I thought!  Funnily enough this song is probably my favourite song by probably my favourite band.  But of course those coveted positions might change by the time you read this, IF anyone reads this.

This is the song that closes their experimental masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, called the greatest album ever made, by Rolling Stone.  This song of course contains two Lennon sections sandwiched around one of McCartney’s.  I was going to say that each of their verses’ is representative of them as songwriters, but I think that sells Paul a bit short.  But in terms of either’s broad style it might be an accurate over-generalization, if such a thing exists.  Paul’s verse is catchy, with a happy bouncy feel to it.  It feels well crafted and pristine, that being said, it is still very insulting to say that this verse represents the entirety of what this god of a songwriter could do.  The same can be said for over-generalizations made about John’s verses, but I do feel like they do a great job portraying that ethereal yet extremely tactile and tangible quality that characterized his songs.  But again, pigeon-holing either of them into the music contained within a five minute song isn’t right, they wrote many songs that don’t sound like their contributions in this one

This song has a dreamy, distant and uninvolved sadness to it, a quality that makes it completely unique.  John’s two sections portray someone gazing from afar at all of the sadness in the world, while Paul’s talks about someone becoming involved and living a normal life.  The latter sounds completely clear, a perfect contrast to the hazy feel of John’s sections.  After Paul’s character experiences real life he goes into a dream: another John verse; to bridge the gap we have what happens in these five seconds.  No singer other than John could have made this sound the way it does, it’s like walking into a smoky, incense filled room.  You are called in by a ghostly, distant, whispering and mourning voice, made all the more so by the ‘normal’ verse that preceded it.  I always felt like this part of the song had a certain confidence to it, as if it is coming from someone who is entirely secure where he is.  Whether that place is a sad or happy one is open to interpretation I suppose, like he said: “no one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low”.