Blowing your mind so you don’t have to blow it yourself

You are currently browsing the archive for the Blowing your mind so you don’t have to blow it yourself category.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the last Hymie’s Record Roadshow at the Turf Club last night — Over the past couple years we’ve had a ton o’ fun spinnin’ & slingin’ records there with an awesome variety of guest DJs. Last night John Henry — from the awesome metal trio Nightosaur — absolutely killed it. What a fun DJ! John also taught us that if you play your 45 of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” at the wrong speed it becomes a heavy dubstep jam.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We’re going to put the crates to rest for a little while this winter, but the Roadshow won’t be retired. Maybe we’ll go back to combining it with some awesome live music, like we did at the Cedar in ’10 and the Triple Rock in ’11.

And we’ll always love the Turf Club — headed back there tonight, in fact, for the Cactus Blossoms’ live album release!

There is a recording of Johannes Brahms playing the piano. Nobody’s sure Whether the spoken introduction is Brahms himself or Theo Wagenmann, who worked for Thomas Edison and made the recording. It was made in 1889, making it probably the earliest recording of a great composer.

steve-allen2

Steve Allen facts:

    • He was the original host of the Tonight Show. Many television talk show mainstays were originated by Allen, such as the “man in the street” interview and an early “answer man” bit that presaged Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent.
    • He had one of the funniest on-air “crack up”s (for you serious folks, a “crack up” is when you can’t stop laughing). It happened on the Steve Allen Show on March 16, 1958. He is supposed to be playing sportscaster Bill Allen, and he later said it was the sight of his hair in the monitor that started the now legendary laughing fit.

  • He played the title role in the 1955 film The Benny Goodman Story.

  • He wrote the music and lyrics for Sophie, an unsuccessful Broadway musical based on the life of Sophie Tucker. We have looked and looked, but it appears this went entirely un-recorded. It closed after eight performances.
  • He wrote more than 50 books. He poked fun at himself in a 1995 appearance on the Simpsons, hawking several books including The Joy of Cooking Steve Allen. Many of his books were very serious, touching on subjects of family and theology as often as comedy. In About a Son Allen writes about his own son, Brian, joining a religious cult called (we’re not making this up) The Love Family, and he efforts to reconcile this with his own beliefs. Brian remains an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon in Seattle, one of about 300 members. His name is Logic Israel. Steve Allen’s book is out of print, but you can buy it pretty cheap on Amazon.
  • He booked Elvis Presley before Ed Sullivan, averting any controversy from the singer’s suggestive performance by having him sing “Hound Dog” to a hound dog.

steve-allen-pog-simpsons

    • He wrote more than 8,500 songs, according to his official website. His compositions were recorded by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Louis Armstrong to Count Basie. He used one song, “This Could be the Start of Something Big,” as the opening to the Tonight Show. It became a theme song that followed him for the rest of his life.

    • He was married to actress Jayne Meadows for nearly a half century. She recorded one of our favorite 45s of all time.

hunger

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • And here’s what we love about him best: Steve Allen himself made a ton of records. Some of them are pretty weird and fun.

socrates

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

romantic rendezvous

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

electrified favorites

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

4860879222

Shoot. Somebody bought this album right away, so we didn’t record a track for you. The people who bought it looked like this.

DSC04949

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And we saved the best for last. We’ve also recorded the entire album for you…

how to think

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Two decades ago me and some pals discovered Man…Or Astroman? after seeing them perform at 7th Street Entry — for those of you unfamiliar with this mostly-instrumental band from Georgia, their catchy gimmick is embedding science fiction samples into their classic surf rock jams. The songs are really good, and the samples make them sort of hilarious, too.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites, from their first album Is It Man…Or Astroman? which came out in 1993:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

moam

actionMan…Or Astroman? was very prolific in those days, issuing more 7″ singles and oddities (10″ and 5″ records, etc) than I could count — I regret not keeping more of the ones I did buy in high school, because they were really fun. It was only yesterday that I really thought about where the samples on their records came from, as my five year old son was listening to a comic book-and-record set and I recognized the voice of DRACO, KING OF THE DRAGON-MEN!

draco

It’s no secret we love comic books here at Hymie’s (this is one of my favorite posts from the blog archives). And now we could finally attach an image to the terrible voice of DRACO!

(You can click on that image for a larger view of DRACO, if you dare)

One night last summer I couldn’t sleep and when I finally gave in I had to find something to do, so I tippy-toed downstairs and watched one of my favorite movies, In the Heat of the Night. The next morning after a bleary breakfast I wrote a post here on the blog that somehow incorporated everything from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to Austin Powers. I’m too embarrassed to read it again, but you can if you’d like (here).

So apparently when I’m sleepy I think of Sidney Poitier, because the other night I couldn’t sleep and found myself downstairs watching Lilies of the Field.

Something is really lost when you take this scene out of context. Homer (played by Poitier) has just built a church for these nuns, doing most of the work alone before he is tricked into accepting assistance. He was a wandering handyman who stopped at their farm for some water, and found them unable even to repair a fence. The soul of Lilies of the Fields is the conflicting wills of Homer and Mother Maria, played by Lilia Skala. In a preceding scene Homer has tricked Mother Maria into thanking him for his work in what is actually the climax of the story.

Homer’s Irish goodbye doesn’t conclude their relationship. Mother Maria has the last word by letting him go quietly. In Poitier’s case it was especially quiet — his singing voice in this scene was performed by Jester Hairston, who also composed the song, “Amen,” which Homer is teaching to the nuns.

Hairston appeared on screen with Poitier a few years later. Do you remember the scene from In the Heat of the Night where the old white guy slaps Virgil Tibbs and Tibbs slaps him right back? It’s the easy to remember because its the awesome-est of many awesome things Poitier did on screen. The butler for that old bastard was played by Jester Hairston. Click back to our previous Poitier post and watch it again (here’s an extra link in case you missed the first one) — you’ll find the face-slapping at about 3:43, and Hairston will shake his head shortly after that.

What a tiny role for someone who created something so enormous! Now you’re probably wondering what’s so extraordinary about another song sung by nuns in yet another feel-good nun movie. Here’s where it goes next.

<a href=”http://hymiesrecords.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/amen-impressions.mp3″>amen</a>

“Amen” by the Impressions

The Impressions recorded “Amen” the following year, after Curtis Mayfield had seen the film (further proof that everyone likes Sydney Poitier). It was not the first version of Hairston’s song to be recorded by a group, but it was the first hit. For the Impressions it was the first hit not written by Mayfield. Several more artists recorded the song, including Otis Redding, whose version was a posthumous hit in 1968.

winstonsamen

The most famous recording of “Amen” was by a group called the Winstons. It didn’t even credit Hairston (“Arranged by the Winstons”). It contains six seconds that are some of the most heard moments in pop music history: A drum break played by G.C. Coleman that begins about a minute and twenty seconds into the song. Our copy skips pretty badly on the break (we actually keep it for the single’s awesome A-side, “Color Him Father”) so here is a video from Youtube of the entire song.

The “Amen Break,” as it is known, is right up there with similar sublime moments in old wax — the beats from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and the Honeydripper’s “Impeach the President,” for instance. One on this list of ‘collectables’ that surprises people is Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat.”

You can watch this documentary if you’re interested in the history of the “Amen Break.” You will hear many of the hundreds of records that sample G.C. Coleman’s performance on the Winston’s record. And it all began with an arrangement that Jester Hairston was asked to create because, well, Sydney Poitier can’t sing.

avatarpandorapromo1-550x354 roger_dean_floating_islands-550x343

 

Left: Scene from Avatar. Right: Painting by Roger Dean.

I’m not really into the movies, but last night I saw a really cool science fiction movie that came out a few years ago called Avatar. I think it was just a limited release art-house kind of a thing, so you might have never heard of it. The story takes place on this jungle moon around a gas giant orbiting Alpha Centauri, sort of a big blue Jupiter. It was a very beautiful setting.

The whole time I was watching the story I had a feeling there was something familiar about it all. Giant mushrooms and surreal spiraling trees, floating island and bizarre elephant-like creatures, even blue people. Then I realized that the movie must have been set inside a Yes album jacket!

yessongs 1

yessongs 2

yessongs 3

yessongs 4

steve howe 1

relayer 1

steve howe 2

yesterdays 1

yesterdays

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“The Fish” by Yes

It turns out I am far from the first person to notice the similarity. In fact, earlier this summer British watercolor artist Roger Dean, best known around here for the super trippy album covers he painted for Yes in the 70s, filed a lawsuit against movie director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox. The suit states, in part that “the similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre.” Dean is asking for millions in damages and a “cease and desist from any further reproduction, distribution, transmission or other use.”

osibisa 2

osibisa 1

Yes was not the only group who’s albums featured Dean’s artwork. He also created very similar landscapes, complete with hybrid creatures, for the pioneering African jam band Osibisa (these are really good albums). Another major arena act of the era who he painted covers for was Uriah Heep. Dean happens to have created the covers for two of their best albums.

magicians birthday

uriah heep demons

And if you go get your copy of Demons and Wizards and look closely, you’ll find that Dean hid images of human genitalia in his painting.

Dean also created artwork for several albums that do not feature the surreal landscapes of imagined worlds, such as the first and third albums by Atomic Rooster.

atomic rooster

atomic rooster 2

IMBD reports that several sequels to Avatar are in production, and that they are going to explore the moon’s oceans, as well as other moons around the same planet. Cameron has already weather a couple other lawsuits and accusations he lifted from a number of classic science fiction novels (notably Alan Dean Foster’s Midworld, Poul Anderson’s “Call me Joe,” and the Russian Noon Universe series by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky). There’s also some pretty striking similarities to other films, such as Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Dances with Wolves. If Cameron manages to escape the cabal of attorneys on his tail, we suggest he set the next Avatar film in the world from Roger Dean’s covers for 80s prog-sters Asia. The purple guy on the cover of Astra seems like he’d be bad news.

asia 1

asia 2

asia 3

 

fact: Bobby Taylor discovered the Jackson 5, and it was with him that ten year old Michael Jackson went to California, traveling cross country for the first time. Also in the car with them was Tommy Chong, who had been a guitarist in Taylors backing band, the Vancouvers.

chong

fact: Frank Zappa telephoned avante garde composer Edgar Varesse to talk about music in 1955. He was fifteen and his mother paid for the call as a birthday present.

fact: John Denver filled in for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show on a number of occasions in the 1970s. In this 1977 exchange he and Carl Sagan talk about the “Golden Record” included in the Voyager space probe, recently featured here on the Hymie’s blog.

fact: Loudon Wainwright III made three appearances on MASH as Captain Calvin Spaulding, most memorably singing “Oh Tokyo” in the season 3 episode “Rainbow Bridge.” He is wearing the rank of a First Lieutenant (you can see it here).

fact: “Fujiyama Mama” was a #1 hit in Japan. Wanda Jackson toured there in 1959, performing the song each night.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Igor Stravinsky was eight years old on January 15, 1890 when he saw Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty open at the Mariinski Theater in St. Petersburg, where his father was a performer. At the age of twenty-seven he was enlisted by Sergei Diaghilev to produce the orchestrations for a ballet of his own to be debuted in Paris. Stravinsky traveled to Paris to oversee the final rehearsals of The Firebird in 1910 and he would never again spend his entire year in Russia.

His compositions for Diaghilev’s company, Ballet Russe, established him as a world-class composer and remain today some of the most compelling music. His second ballet, Petrushka, debuted in 1911 and two years later the third, Le Sacre du Printempts (“The Rite of Spring”). Because his native Russia did not adhere to the 1886 Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Stravinsky was not always paid his due royalties upon the performance of these pieces, and his relationship with Ballet Russes turned sour over financial disputes.

Tchaikovsky’s three ballets cast an enormous shadow. If you can imagine a little skiffle group trying to make a name in Liverpool in the middle sixties you can imagine how Stravinsky may have felt as a Russian composer. While he had attended an historic debut as a boy, one of his ballets had an even more auspicious opening.

Le Sacre du Printempts was first performed in Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on May 29, 1913. A growing unease in the audience became a disturbance and led to the house lights being turned up and as many as forty people being ejected from the packed theater, as the audience hurled “everything available” at the orchestra. Although the work was finished in relative peace, early reviews were damning. Puccini attended the second performance and deemed it “the work of a madman.” It was rumored that Camille Saint-Saens walked out of the debut in disgust, although this was probably not true as there is not certain account of his having attended the performance.

Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography for the ballet was lost in the outbreak of World War I when it became impossible to maintain a touring ballet company. Le Sacre du Printempts has remained, regardless, a venerable classic, reinterpreted with gender reversals, eroticism, a feminist agenda, and once infused with punk rock and once with Soviet propaganda. Professional productions of the ballet to date number over 150.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Le Sacre du Printempts, a concert arrangement conducted by the composer himself in 1960, performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra)

What was so extraordinarily for that Paris audience in 1913 is still there for us to experience today. Le Sacre du Printempts explores the range of our experience and expectations from the opening notes, performed in such an extreme range of the bassoon as to render it unrecognizable. Still, t’s hard to understand the shocking nature of Stravinsky’s use of polytonality in the introduction or the intensity of the “Abduction” dance’s driving rhythm in our post-punk, post-everything world. Nothing in Stravinsky’s music nears the extremities of 60s free jazz or the base crass-ness of the Sex Pistols. The ballet wasn’t even composed with the intention of shocking its audience.

Le Sacre du Printempts is probably Stravinsky’s most-recorded work, possibly even the most recorded 20th century composition by any classical composer. We recommend – if you can find them – either of the two Antal Dorati recordings. One was in 1954 with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued on Mercury, and the other with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1980. You will have a hard time finding a copy of the second, released by Decca, but it’s worth the search. Another recording worth the search is Colin Davis’ 1976 recording with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (from the Netherlands) – this may be the most “shocking” recording you can find on LP.

Stravinsky never abandoned ballet but never composed for dance on the level of his Ballet Russes work again. His 1928 work, Le baiser de la fée (“The fairy’s kiss”), was based on a Hans Christian Andersen story but really served as a tribute to Tchaikovsky, whose early piano melodies were incorporated.

Before parting from Ballet Russes, Stravinsky wrote an arrangement for the ballet he had seen as a boy. Portions of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty was, at that time, only published in the form of piano reduction, and Stravinsky had the opportunity to score Princess Aurora’s solo in the first scene in the second act (he also scored another scene from The Sleeping Beauty for the American Ballet Company many years later).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You’re hearing a story from this classic Peter Pan LP, Spidey Super Stories. Everybody enjoys the story of Spider-Man’s origin, especially when it is told in such a hilarious manner, but I also wanted to share this record because yesterday when my son was listening to it I recognized the voice of the narrator.

Yes, it’s actor Morgan Freeman, Academy Award winner (five time nominee) narrating that old Spider-Man record. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and apparently a lot of stars made records for kids (we discovered Michael Dorn, Star Trek’s Worf, on a Star Wars record last year – hear it here).

And the appearance of Morgan Freeman on a Spider-Man record actually makes a lot of sense to people about my age – see Spidey Super Stories were a recurring feature on TV’s Electric Company, a a children’s program where Freeman started his career, appearing as Easy Reader, Vincent the Vegetable Vampire, and of course …

Mel Mounds the DJ:

Yep. We all start somewhere.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

« Older entries

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.