culture freedom music

Sound of Da Police

I’ve expressed my admiration for this song before but goddamn, I can’t think of a more appropriate song considering recent events. It does a great job of showing the ongoing problems black folks have had with the cops. It’s sad that the song is just as relevant today as ever…


Are you really for peace and equality? Or when my car is hooked up
You know you wanna follow me, your laws are minimal
‘Cause you won’t even think about lookin’ at the real criminal
This has got to cease
‘Cause we be getting hyped to the sound of da police




culture music

Yeah, I’m straight out of Compton

I haven’t been keeping track of the late night talk shows and I certainly haven’t kept up with The Tonight Show since Leno came back. I heard he left and that Jimmy Fallon took over. My problem is that I kept confusing Jimmy Fallon with Jimmy Kimmel. Hopefully I’ll be forgiven for not wanting to watch a talk show with Kimmel hosting… Turns out Fallon is  likable guy and seems to be funny enough to hold down the spot. The only reason I’ve seen any of the show is because of the popularity of the history of rap segments he’s been doing with Justin Timberlake. Haven’t seen those? Here’s the 5th installment:



I’ll start with the negatives. OK, yeah, it’s two white guys going over the history of a musical genre that was not only predominately written and performed by black folks but often spoke of a uniquely black experience. On top of that, outside of the band I don’t know if there were any black people in the building at all. If you wanted to be uncharitable you’d say that it’s another example of rich white people riding not only the efforts but the actual culture of black America for their own ends.

There was a little bit of that for me in this performance but I’m willing to forgive them mostly on the basis that they clearly love the music. They weren’t making fun of it, they were attempting as genuine a performance as possible, down to the dance moves and vocal mannerisms of the original acts. They were clearly having fun. Most of the songs they picked in this episode were top 40 hits. The exception is when they did a trio of “Gangster Rap” songs culminating in an aborted start of Straight Out of Compton. If you don’t watch any other part of that video, make sure to watch the few seconds starting at 1:50. 

That was gold. It’s a bit that everyone can laugh at. The idea that Jimmy Fallon could even attempt that song without descending into parody and/or become a laughingstock is just silly. As it was, he was able to pull it off for 4 seconds with only Timberlake seemingly pulling him back from the brink. Fallon went all in and took it as far as someone like him could. Timberlake making fun of him was the logical denouement. 

I think the reason that bit resonates with me so much is also the reason I think they “got away” with doing this. For those of you not familiar with Straight out of Compton, allow me to introduce you. To complete Fallon’s start…

”Straight out of Compton crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube

From the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes

When I’m called off I got a sawed off

Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off…”


It is, in a word, horrifying. If taken literally, it consists of mass murderers bragging about their body count and especially taking glee in gunning down cops. Oh, it has some truly grotesque misogyny thrown in for good measure too. So why is it popular? Are the people that like it just cretins? I’m sure some of them are. I can tell you that from the perspective of a well off, white (late)teenager, it was exhilarating. A pure dose of testosterone wrapped up in a fantasy of anger unleashed. Straight out of Compton was probably the height of bragging rap. It was understood to be hyperbole. Well, it was understood to be hyperbole to its targeted audience. To everyone else it was self described “Niggas” talking about killing people and they were from Compton after all. No wonder they scared white people everywhere! It was attractive to me because, as a frustrated male coursing with hormones, violent thoughts weren’t all that uncommon even if, and maybe because, I never gave in to them. Why was I frustrated? I dunno, aren’t all teenagers? As attractive as this was to me, I can’t begin to imagine what the effect could have been on people actually living in Compton. You know, people that had real frustrations in life, the kind that lead to making that kind of music…

For 4 seconds, Jimmy Fallon channeled that teenager, giving in totally to the rush. And while playing the cassette in your car as a teenager gave you the freedom to feel totally bad ass, a white guy on national TV has no justification. Having Timberlake bring Fallon back to reality was a gentle rebuke to all of us. It is this awareness that kept the entire exercise from veering into the stupid. Acknowledging that there  are limits and using them instead of the off limits material is a sign of a mature performer.

For those of you that want “to witness the strength of street knowledge,” I give you NWA. If you haven’t heard it before, it is definitely NSFW. Those of you that have heard it before I’ll leave it to you to decide how gangsta you want to be at work…


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I continue to rip my CDs into my computer. I haven’t seen these in almost 6 years and they are bringing back lots of memories. I’m currently ripping “Calamus,” a recording of Arab-Andulisian music. Really haunting, and very unusual. It used to be a favorite demo disk of mine when I was selling stereo equipment, always impressed people. I’ve also just stumbled across a disk my girlfriend in college gave me. 

Here’s a good one, I just unearthed my box set of the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir. I know, I can hear you now, but really, this is some amazing stuff. Like Calamus, the Bulgarian choir sings in a style that has a zillion influences from both east and west. It really is mesmerizing. Well, maybe not three disks back to back to back mesmerizing, but really good.

I’m looking for my favorite Flamenco disk, my collection of different composers’ “Stabat Mater,” and all of my various live jazz and classic jazz recordings. Oddly enough, the big rock collection isn’t exciting me overly much. I probably ripped most of that before I went to Yemen and have been listening to it ever since. I’m also probably still hearing it via the various streaming services I use. Hmm, and maybe most of the really good stuff is on vinyl. Probably all of the above. In any case, it’ll be good to get through this project.

I’m seriously considering backing this up to another hard drive (aside from my usual back-up) and keeping it somewhere else for safe keeping. I plan on getting rid of all of these CDs once I’m done with them. I would then be in a situation where all of my music would be in two rather fragile drive enclosures. If something really bad happened here, I don’t want to lose all of that stuff. Hmm. Will have to think about where I could put it.


More questionable music in commercials

I can tell i’m old because “edgy” music from my youth is now considered mainstream enough to sell things like computers and minivans. First up a commercial from Hp using a song about masturbation.

Yeah, it’s a catch riff, but those lyrics are seared into my memory.

“Body and beats, I stain my sheets

I don’t even know why.

My girlfriend, she’s at the end, she is starting to cry.

Let me go on, like a blister in the sun,

let me go onnn, big hands I know you’re the one.”


The next one isn’t so bad from a content standpoint, not really, but it is amazing how associations change over time. Here’s an Ozzy Osbourne song selling a minivan.



WIth the exception of the little girl’s part of “Mental wounds not healing, life’s a shame.” the lyrics are appropriate for most things. Not really sure why they let her sing that though, it is a rather dark aspect of the song… Anyway, the amazing thing is that this song was from a point in time when Ozzy was widely believed to be a devil worshiper. He didn’t help anything by biting the heads off of doves either. In short, Ozzy was, at best, a degenerate and at worst a madman steering youth to a ruinous life. Now his song is selling minivans. The parents are about the right age and I guess it shows how mainstream outrageous things from the past have become. The song does have one of the more distinctive guitar riffs you’ll ever hear, kudos for one of the girls playing their seat belt air-guitar style. Just for completeness sake, here’s the original.

And here’s one of the more memorable pictures of Ozzy.






I’d like Lady Gaga more if she played guitar

I came across the other day and found it remarkable. I have since been informed by some of my friends that it is old news, but still, I doubt everyone has seen this. It’s a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” If you’ve been wondering about the appeal of Gaga, this might at least give you a taste.


It’s from an artist that goes by the name Lissie. I think she does a great job with the song, moves it towards a little more honest performance. Gaga’s, in comparison, sounds a little… entitled? Not whiny, but… I dunno, not as honest. I also find Lissie’s glancing down at the neck of the guitar for chord changes endearing.


I often play a game with more recent music where I try to imagine what some of the luminaries from the late 60’s would think of the song. I wonder what would Pete Townsend or Janis Joplin think of this? When we compare this rendition to what was offered back then, you can see how far women have come. First there is the guitar playing. With the exception of “The Duchess” (Norma-Jean Wofford), I can’t think of any prominent female rock guitarists until the Runaways came along. Then there is the content. Women back then just didn’t sing songs like that. I very much doubt that any woman could bring herself to all herself a “freak bitch” back then. I mean, it just wasn’t done. But that’s the point, for a woman to come out and perform a song about lust back then would have been very difficult. Does anyone know of an example?

Some would say that Gaga represents the current state of feminist expression. Maybe, but I’m with Kathleen Hannah, I wish Gaga would would pants a little more often while being a strong woman. Lissie is more powerful I think because she isn’t using any of her feminine wiles to get her point across, but she still gets it across. Anyway, enjoy!

music technology


Dad and Butler brought up my CD collection when they moved me into Rick’s place. I packed them up before I went to Yemen and haven’t seen them since. It’s amazing how much space 400+ CDs take up! I’m in the process of ripping them to my computer where they will take up considerably less space. Don’t know what I’ll do with them afterwards, do people still buy used CDs?

The box I’m working on now has part of my classical collection with some jazz thrown in. I’m struck at the number of discs I got through services like the BBC magazine and the Musical Heritage Society. Before them it was BMG and some other CD service. Before that I was a member of the RCA club for cassettes. You remember those clubs right? They send you 12 or 13 albums for a penny and you only have to agree to buy… what was it, 10? more CDs in the next year. Of course b y default they would send you one a month unless you sent in the paperwork on time. Each time you bought something at full price (17.99 if I remember correctly) they would give you a certificate to buy the next one at half price.

I tried to remember to send in the “do not send me the selection of the month” letter every time for the popular music clubs. I’d screw up from time to time of course and I’d get something or other that I didn’t want. I think the only time that ever worked out was the time I got Pat Benetar’s “Live From Earth” cassette. That was pretty good, at least 13 year old me thought so…

I went ahead and got the selections of the month with the classical clubs mostly because I wanted to hear a lot of different things. The BBC Music magazine was supposedly a cornucopia of classical music information, but I really only ever cared about the CDs that came with it every month. I got some stuff that I never would have thought of getting that way. I never would have dived into early music otherwise. Of course, I also wouldn’t have gotten any of the early English operas either, anyone want a copy of “Alfred?”

We’ve come so far in such a short period of time. Convenience is king nowadays. It is trivially easy to find and download almost anything you want. The world of popular music is your oyster with new streaming services like Spotify MOG. Classical and jazz folks still have to buy their stuff mostly, but it is out there. The streaming and downloading options for popular music sound just fine with the compressed formats. The classical types have a variety of high res formats available to them too.

When the CD came out, we couldn’t believe how nice it was. There was no surface noise, no pops, no cracks and most people mistook the absence of defects for sound quality. CDs and CD players eventually got really good and we figured, “This is it, this is the ultimate audio medium.” Of course having no medium at all has proven to be far nicer, and at no penalty of sound quality. When I sold audio gear, I fantasized about having a 300 CD changer so I could have most of my music in my system at all times. These eventually came into being but they were always too clunky, slow, and prone to breaking down. Now I can stream 12 million songs whenever I want for 10 bucks a month, life is good!




I just googled BMG Music Service, just for old times sake. It’s hilarious. Towards the bottom, there is a pane that says BMG Music Service is what Columbia House Music was. Then the pane above that says that BMG Music Service is closed and is now Columbia House DVD service… Anyway, the deal isn’t too bad really, you have to get 12 CDs for a little under 50 bucks. That’s pretty cheap. I can’t imagine having to deal with the clutter of all of those CDs mind you. The selection is straight out of the 80’s. They boast of having over 14,000 albums to choose from! That was impressive back a ways, but nowadays with iTunes having 18 million songs, 14,000 is laughable. I can only imagine that it is filled with the blandest radio hits type of folks too. Good luck with that Columbia/BMG/Columbia!

music Philosophy

mind/no mind

Have you ever heard a song that encapsulates basic tenets of Buddhist beliefs? No, neither have I, but I might have created one and I quite like it.

It all started when I stumbled across Ty Segall’s Imaginary Person.



It’s a lovely little bit of psychedelic/garage pop, you’d be forgiven if you thought it came out in 1968. I think it was actually made in 2002. I think it is about someone trying to convince themselves that they aren’t crazy. The chorus could either be “You are an imaginary person, you’re in my head but I am certain you aren’t real,” or “You are real…” Because of the charming low-fi quality, it’s impossible to tell.

Well, I was humming it to myself the other day and I mistakenly sang the lyric, “I am an imaginary person…” I thought that was pretty funny, but the more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of zen. Zen practitioners have the unenviable task of looking past themselves, of realizing that what they think of as self is an illusion. The self can’t be your thoughts and memories, otherwise where do you go when you sleep? Naturally, this leads to some real cognitive dissonance and confusion. Apparently that’s par for the course and is the basis of serious zen. So with apologies to Ty Segall, here is the first zen psychedelic/garage pop song. I’ve modified the lyrics a bit, but imagine them in the regular music and see what you think…



say say, i can’t say what I’m tryin’ to do to me oh no oh no oh yea

cuz I’m in my head so i never go to bed oh no oh nooh no

talk talk, it’s all I do so i never talk to you oh no oh nooh yea

cuz I’m in my head so i never go to bed oh no oh no

cuz I, I am an imaginary person

I’m in my head, but i am certain I’m not real

I am an imaginary person

I’m in my head, but i am certain I’m not real

yea, I’m not real

I’m not real I am real I’m not real


music technology

Another great music service

Spotify is the later music service to get my money. I already subscribe to LastFM and Slacker Radio. Slacker is a great way to hear new music and LastFM gives me a radio station based on my own curation. Spotify lets me listen to any song any time I want to.

Yeah, any song I want, any time I want. How amazing is that? If I hear a new song, I can look up the artist and listen to any of their albums. That’s in addition to all of the older stuff too. For 10 bucks a month I get no ads and can stream the music through my iPhone and squeezebox. I thought I had a big collection before…

The last couple of nights I have been going through Aweditorium on my iPad, finding interesting artists, and then looking them up in Sporitfy. It’s a great combo. It’s true that Spotify doesn’t have everything,. They don’t have any Beatles or Led Zeppelin but that’s hardly the end of the world. Plenty of people would tell you that’s a blessing. And it’s true my favorite Flamenco album and a live Cynics albums aren’t in there either, but those are a little bit obscure. A little more worrying is the absence of A Joy Division album called Warsaw. I’ll have to do some more digging to see how many albums aren’t in there.


As it stands right now, I’m having a hard time figuring out what I’ll be using iTunes for. Yes, I do have a few things on there that aren’t in the streaming version of Spotify, but Spotify also allows me to use my iTunes library on my computer and I can sync music to my phone with it as well. I’m pretty sure Spotify has a higher quality bitrate as well… I don’t think I’ll actually erase my iTunes library, but I doubt I’ll be playing it very often.

If you haven’t yet, check out Spotify, it is amazing.



I’m not familiar with the original, but this is wonderful. Reminds me of Astrud Gilberto a bit.



Amy Winehouse (drugs)

I was saddened when I head about her death. I had hoped that she was going to turn it around. I still hold out hope that she didn’t fall off the wagon, maybe her body just gave out after years of abuse. I know, reason tells me that isn’t the case…


It may seem strange to post a song from another group in an Amy WInehous post, but I think it fits. Drug use is always sad, this song captures that sadness and the video (scenes from The Panic in Needle Park) really sums up for me how life devolves when you’re locked in that cycle. RIP Amy, hope you can have some peace from all your troubles now.