Saturday April 22nd we’ll celebrate our seventh annual Record Store Day block party here at Hymie’s and on 39th Avenue! If you have been here before on that day, you know the crowds are gigantic and the music is amazing! For the past two years the food, courtesy of our neighbors Peppers & Fries, has also been amazing! Record Store Day is a national promotional event to support independent record stores and the communities that surround them (their official website is here) — these past six years we’ve been taking the opportunity to also celebrate local musicians by hosting a stage on 39th Avenue in addition to the stage here in the shop. This year we have some of our favorite groups — and some of our favorite people — in the Twin Cities performing! Here’s the list:

Black Market Brass
The Blind Shake
Dingus
Farewell Milwaukee
Reina del Cid
Mike Munson
Charlie Parr
Sabyre Rae
The Southside Aces
Ben Weaver

The list of special limited edition releases will be announced later in March. In addition we’ll let you know about some of the other things we have planned for the day in collaboration with other businesses along East Lake Street.

We’re always fascinated by the animals on album jackets, as evidence by a recent post about Rick Springfield’s dog, Lethal Ron. But what about cats?

A couple years ago Carole King posted a polaroid her daughter took of Telemachus, the cat on the cover of Tapestry, to Twitter, describing him as “perhaps the most famous tabby cat on earth.”

And then there’s this li’l guy climbing over Michael’s leg inside the Thriller jacket. We tried but we couldn’t find his name anywhere. In the late 90s Michael did adopt a pair of Bengal tigers and add them to the enormous menagerie of animals at his Neverland ranch, which also included elephants, flamingos and a crazy quantity of reptiles. The death of one of the tigers, named Thriller, at a California wildlife preserve was widely reported in the tabloid media in 2012.

Other news accounts report he had two sets sets of tigers at the 3,000 acre property, naming each Thriller and Sabu. And before the MJ haters start in with their negativity, by all accounts the animals at Neverland were well cared for when relocated to preserves beginning in 2005.

A 2001 special edition of  had an alternate from the tiger cub shoot on the cover.

 

A follow up to a 2013 post “Um, Wrong Song,” in which we have a little fun with the confusion of songs with similar titles. For instance, a DJ would likely disappoint his audience if he played the wrong song, like for instance Neil Sedaka’s “Bad Blood” may have been a #1 hit when it was released in 1975 but most listeners would expect the song from Taylor Swift’s 1989.

The backing vocals on “Bad Blood” (the Sedaka one) are by Elton John, by the way. The single was released on John’s MCA subsidiary, the Rocket Record Company. bad blood by neil sedaka

And if you were in a strip club (it’s okay, dear reader, we won’t tell) and the DJ accidentally played this version of “Cherry Pie,” it wouldn’t set quite the same mood as Warrant song. This version was recorded by Marvin and Johnny in 1954.

There are so many various songs with a ‘rolling stone’ theme, but this 1955 cover by the Fontaine Sisters (the original was recorded by the Marigolds) is not the first to come to mind.

The 1950 song by Muddy Waters, which he based on a 20s tune called “Catfish Blues,” is the presumed namesake for both the music magazine and the band.

 

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Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the conductor rememebered in this morning’s Star Tribune, is all but synonymous with the Minnesota Orchestra. Skrowaczewski came to Minnesota from his native Poland to take over as musical director in 1960, and although he stepped down from that role after nineteen years, he never left. Last fall he conducted his last concert at Orchestra Hall, a praised performance of one of his favorites, Bruckner’s eighths symphony.

Skrowaczewski has remained the Orchestra’s conductor laureate after 1979, when Neville Marriner began the succession of new musical directors which has led us to the current, successful Osmo Vänskä era. He was always there through its transition from the Minneapolis Symphony to the Minnesota Orchestra and the building of Orchestra Hall in 1974.

The Skrowaczewski years are a challenge for record collectors, however. After their contract with Mercury Records expired, the Minnesota Orchestra released music on a variety of labels. Some were one-off recordings like the 1981 debut of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Violin Concerto for Columbia Masterworks, on which Skrowaczewski conducted its dedicatee, Isaac Stern. A number of records were part of contracts with smaller classical labels, like Candid and Turnabout, both Vox subsidiaries.

Skrowaczewski’s own Concerto for English Horn appeared on Desto Records, not exactly an industry powerhouse. The work, which he composed for a member of the Minnesota Orchestra, Tom Stacy, debuted in 1969. Skrowaczewski was to be conducting the Metropolitan Opera at the time, but its strike that year left him with several weeks to compose.

This is presumably not a very common record to find these days, although many others with Skrowaczewski conducting the Minnesota Orchestra can certainly be found. We have a whole section just for them in our classical collection here at Hymie’s! One of our favorite covers for a Minneapolis Symphony recording from that period is this album of Schubert’s 9th Symphony, which has the composer behind the wheel of a psychedelic convertible.

Staniskaw Skrowaczewski will be remembered by many fans at a memorial at Orchestra Hall on March 28th. He was an extraordinary versatile conductor and he recorded a remarkably wide repertoire. The photographs in today’s obituary in the paper captures him in his 90s — one shows only his aged hands as he prepared to conduct that Bruckner symphony last fall.

 

We can’t criticize the Star Tribune for this because for reasons we can’t explain we find album art of Leopold Stokowski’s wild white hair hilarious — but we’d also like to remember Skrowaczewski, truly a Minnesota music legend, as he appeared on the back of an album years ago. He was so full of life and energy to the very end, and in this picture he looks proud to be conducting the Minnesota Orchestra.

 

 

Drummers around the world are mourning the passing of Clyde Stubblefield, possibly the most-sampled performer on record. He died on Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin, the city which he had long called home and performed regularly.

In a recent interview, Stubblefield described learning to play the drums along with the sounds of factory smokestacks and passing trains as a young man in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He joined James Brown’s powerhouse organization in 1960 and stayed there for just over a decade — Stubblefield can be heard on hundreds of recordings, notably favorites like “Cold Sweat” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

His solo on “Funky Drummer” (a 1970 single by Brown) isn’t really a solo at all but a continuation of the steady groove he plays throughout the entire nine minute take. The song made its first appearance on In the Jungle Groove, a mid-80s compilation LP of alternate takes and outtakes. The break found new life in the era of hip hop sampling. This is how Stubblefield became one of the most widely-heard musicians in history. The quintessential use of the “Funky Drummer” break may be in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” in which Chuck D offers credit (if not royalties) to Stubblefield.

Stubblefield is sampled in hit records by Run DMC, LL Cool J, Boogie Down Productions and hundreds of other hip hop records. He was even sampled — we are not making this up — by Kenny G. As explored in the documentary Copyright Criminals, Stubblefield rarely received royalties for the use of his performance. In fact, he found himself in serious financial trouble while fighting bladder cancer fifteen years ago.

And a remarkable part of the story finally found the light last year after Prince passed away. Stubblefield revealed that Prince — who he had never met — contacted him in 2000, and arranged to pay off his medical bills in full. The total was more than $90,000. The only condition was that Stubblefield not reveal who had done it.

He always looks so dramatic on album covers.

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stokowski-the-orchestra

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According to National Day Calendar, today is NATIONAL DO A GROUCH A FAVOR DAY. Of course the website, which we assume is authoritative, doesn’t offer any insight into the history of this observation. We imagine it has something to do with the most famous grouch in the world, Oscar.

We learned from Carroll Spinney in the must-see documentary I Am Big Bird that Henson, collaborator Joe Stone and he named Oscar for the tavern in New York and based the character off an exceptionally disdainful waiter. Spinney has performed the character since his first appearance (as an orange grouch!) on Sesame Street in 1969.

Oscar has performed numerous acts of kindness throughout the years, although he would never admit to them. He is known to dote on his pet worm, Slimey, and has always said the only people he can be nice to without ridicule from his fellow Grouches are human children. When Big Bird goes missing during the original Christmas Eve on Sesame Street special, Oscar goes out of his way to help find his friend. And in a more recent Muppet Family Christmas he allows Rizzo the Rat to stay in his trash can for the night. Still, his holiday song is “I Hate Christmas,” which we posted way back here.

Its been nearly a decade since Oscar’s girlfriend Grungetta derided television’s grumpiest grouches with a dig at ‘Pox news’ (“Now there is a trashy news show!”) prompting conservatives to call for a crackdown on the partly publicly-funded program. Sesame Street has long been a focus for those looking for liberal leanings in the media, an argument which hit its fever pitch two years later in Ben Shapiro’s book Primetime Propaganda. The book also broke the *shocking* story that MASH had an anti-war agenda.

If we can learn anything from the ‘Pox News’ crisis, its that we can’t learn Oscar’s politics. He plays his cards close to his chest. Besides, anyone who really understands Grouch lexicon can recognize the bit contrasting CNN (parodied as ‘GNN,’ the Grouch News Network) and Fox cast the latter in kinder light. Grouches love trashy — it’s a compliment in the same way that Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was good — but this sort of nuance is entirely lost on the sort of people who didn’t see that the larger story that day was about expressing your emotions.

By the time Sesame Street‘s 45th anniversary rolled around a few years later, the news network had forgiven the children’s program (maybe they’d been watching all along, after all) and Abby and Grover were guests on “Fox and Friends.” Oscar, always the iconoclast, was no where to be seen. Later that year he was embarrassed when shown a reel of clips showing the various times Oscar had done something to help the environment.

There’s no shortage of mean people in this world, but true Grouches like Oscar are a rare breed. If today is their special day, we hope it rains.

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