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May 21, 2008

Father, Forgive Me...

...for I have sinned.

Lately, I've been using Pandora Radio to try to figure out my vibe and synch my mojo with it.

How Austin Powers, eh?

For those who don't know, Pandora is an internet radio station which is the love child of streaming technology and The Music Genome Project. From the Pandora website:

"...We set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or 'genes' into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like."

The way Pandora works is that you type in a song or artist you like and the Genome database suggests songs with a matching or complimentary style. You can even vote on whether you like a particular song or not and Pandora will learn and adapt (much like The Borg) to your tastes.

So, I've been listening to a lot of different bands from the late 60's and early 70's. All good stuff. Led Zep, Skynyrd, Neil Young, The Who...

Here's my confession. First subconsciously, then aggressively, I found myself skipping past stuff by The Beatles. Yes, pretty soon my crime against music became apparent. I don't like the Fab Four. Their jingly-jangly, catchy tuney, flower-powered, tailored suit thing just doesn't cut it with me.

[If you ever read this Tabitha, I'm SO sorry. I know you'll think less of me!]

I also don't particularly care for The Doors.

To my surprise I actually found I did like some of George Harrison's solo stuff, along with guys like Tom Petty, who had been flying under my radar for a long time. I remember his video with the Alice In Wonderland theme, but that was about it. Pandora pulled out some smart stuff that I'd never heard before.

So, to the legions of Beatles fans... I apologise. To me it all sounds like McCartney's "Frog Song". Don't get me wrong, on some level I appreciate the classics, both in terms of their impact and the cleverness of the construction, but they're just not songs I want to listen to over and over. I know, I'm a philistine. All I can do is say, "Sorry".

To the rest of you closet haters out there, are there any artists that you're supposed to like but which make you change the channel? Or worse, are there bands you listen to that you know deep down you shouldn't? If it helps loosen your lips I'll admit that I... I... I have a Hanson album. I... I... I'm soooo ashamed.

C'mon, fess up!


Anonymous said...

rofl! I'm with you on the Beatles, just not my thing, although I like John lennon.

Hippy Mama

Further on up the road said...

I'm with you and Hippy Mama on the Beatles. White Album that beheamouth of great music etc. Well er - no actually some good tracks but I can skip a load of it.

I have some tracks of theirs I think are great, I get by with a little help, Long and Winding Road and of course the brilliant While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

I can't ignore that my Mums Beatles singles in the 60s were a big influence on me but I soon moved on... Mr Hendrix please. On the Lulu show... I should post about that seminal moment in my life.

Back albums... too many to mention no doubt... Hmm John Miles - remember him? I was a big fan at one point and bought albums like Zaragon. I think I was the only person who did actually :-)

Axe Victim said...

Christ! I once owned the first (and only?) Don Johnston album, but it did feature Stevie Ray Vaughn and Ron Wood but that didn't stop it from being derided by everybody in my social circle.

I can't access Pandora. It says to shove off you stinking Brit.

Beatles. Jeez Ken. You need to get over it. Start again and listen from the ground up. I'm not going to go off on one lik eI usually do but Beatles were the UK's first tight rockin' beat combo. They rocked! Not only did they rock but they later developed into proper 'composers' and went beyond being just songwriters. Take the cloth out of your ears old mate and have another listen. You might just find that you have been missing the point. ;)

Kenski said...

Sorry Axe, I *know* it's a sin, but, y'know, I just don't...

I love stuff like the early Ike & Tina stuff, which is tight as a rat's behind, but for some reason the Mersey Beat just passed me by. I remember watching a couple of the mini-series episodes about them and wondering what all the fuss was about.

About Don Johnson... Okay, so do you have the Gregg Allman solo stuff? Don was originally a musician who turned to acting. He co-wrote stuff that even made it to Allman Brothers 'middle' albums and duetted with Gregg on "I'm No Angel".

But no... I would never have considered buying his solo stuff on the strength of that :-)

Nice Ferrari in the first series of Miami Vice, though. The black Daytona Spyder. Yum.

ericmakesmusic said...

Make that 4. I've never really liked their music either. And when it comes to their individual efforts, I'm not a big fan of Lennon or McCartney.

I will say that I loved Ringo in the movie "Caveman."

Dave Jacoby said...

To quote Phil Hartman in Greed: "I didn't like the Beatles and I don't like you."

Not really. There's Beatles stuff I like. The White Album is absolute brilliance. But there are Beatles people and Stones people. My wife and kids are Beatles people. I am a die-hard Stones man. Used to be, I was a strong advocate for the position that the Rolling Stones died when Brian Jones did, but lately I'm getting more and more into Exile on Main Street.

For solo work, I find George Harrison's post-Beatle work is all I ever go back to, and that's rare. And pre-Jeff Lynne, who should be horsewhipped.

I still like the Doors, but the thing is, I'm older than 18 now, and there's nothing more I need from them except an occasional spin of "Roadhouse Blues".

A little Beach Boys goes a long way with me. Elton John, too. I think I won't listen to Nirvana by choice in over a decade. I've recently stopped a 2-decade Led Zep boycott, but by no means am I gorging on them. Patti Smith somehow managed to make great albums while failing to make good albums. I always knew there was a point in Rod Stewart's career after which everything can safely be ignored, and for safety sake should be ignored, but I was unaware it was so early! And I think it's safe to say that you can live a long and happy life without listening to anything by Bob Dylan recorded after Blood on the Tracks.

And I believe we'll see Democracy in the People's Republic of China long before we see Chinese Democracy.

Any sacred cows left unskewered?

Kenski said...

Kill, Dave, KILL!!!!!

I can't count the number of times I've heard that Chinese Democracy is 'just about ready to be released'. I have the strongest suspicion that when it comes out it'll be a huge letdown.

Why is it that people's early stuff is almost always better?

I'd written off Rod Stewart as just a bad choice all round until I heard some of his really early stuff, which shows such potential, then... wha' happened? Curse of the 80's I guess.

What was interesting to me with Pandora was that, even though their database is limited, it was pulling out some obscure Led Zep blues stuff which was actually kind of good.

Oh, and on the subject of Nirvana... to me, they really were 'of their time'. Pre-emo-emo grunge. Not stolen from Neil Young but... It's the kind of stuff that's cool when you first hear it, but it gets old. I actually really liked Dave Grohl's first Foo Fighters album. To me it was much more inspired than the bulk of the Nirvana stuff.

Hippy Mama said...

imho i think early stuff is better because it less comercial (sp?) i susspect that after a few years of records companies telling you what to do things change :0/

I disagree with you about Nirvana, but could be because I'm that generation and have good memories of that time....but I'm also very shallow if Dave Grohl is involved :0)

Dave Jacoby said...

I was right at age to get Nirvana, and I had Nevermind. I learned "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and occasionally when I play around with the deep strings, I end up playing that bit from "Come As You Are". But as they went on, I lost them. Never got In Utero. Charlie Hunter, incidently, has a take on "Come" that's very John Coltrane and all kinds of awesome.

I'm not a big enough fan of Foo Fighters to actually own any albums, but songs poke up every now and then that are crazy good. "Everlong", for example.

For Rod, go with Gasoline Alley, Every Picture or Never A Dull Moment, but after that, after 1972, it's just sad.

Over a long career, I'll go with earlier, but I won't always go "the first albums are better". Here's the arc: Artist (or band, but we'll go single male artist, for ease of pronouns) is artistic and unsigned. He writes and writes and writes and plays and plays and plays in places where unless he can be engaging, he starves. So he develops a songbook and a stage persona that allows him to be distinct enough to draw attention. Label signs him, brings him into the studio. Songbook gets culled to the 12 that shine the most. The writing of the songbook may have taken years. Album is released. Reviews are written. Videos made. Singles cut. Artist tours. Label brings him into the studio. Maybe there's more songs in the songbook, but likely not. So, artist writes in the studio. Sophomore slump, the reviews say. Repeat that process, and Artist either learns to write on the road or Artist stops being an artist and starts being a bartender or something. The first stuff is, in a sense, more commercial, not less, Hippy Mama. If it isn't commercial, if it doesn't sell itself, then Artist becomes bartender that much sooner. But I'll get back to that.

Eventually, the contract changes. Your first contract says "we don't trust you (Artist) can sell albums, so we take a lion's share of the profits if you do. You kick out this many albums this fast." Once you have that many albums out, the pressure's off and you have an audience who wants to hear selected bits of your repertoire. (If you don't have an audience, if you don't have a repertoire, you aren't Artist, you're a bartender or something.) They'll trust you to bring it. And thus the label will trust you to bring it, and if they won't another label will, so you will get a bigger chunk. So you don't have to work as hard.

Plus there's the issue of you being a Trend[1] band, and while you worked out your albums, Trend[2] has come and gone, and now everyone's on Trend[3] and looking at Trend[4]. When you're a Trend[1] band with other Trend[1] bands, you have competition. This is where cries of "commercialism" come in.

There's two kinds that get decried, the kind where a band becomes a Trend[1] band that sounds like every other Trend[1] band, because that's the sound that sells. "Let's move to Seattle and buy a flannel shirt!" "Let's get skinny ties and a synthesizer!" "We'll wear tie-dye and play long improvisations!" "Dress in black, detune to D or lower and sing about death!" Eventually, something will distinguish Artist from the others riding that trend or Artist becomes a bartender. (Or some other day job. It just seemed to be the motif to use.)

Next cry comes when Artist outlives Trend[1]. Consider U2 and REM in the 90s, when college rock gave way to alternative and grunge. U2 went techno, REM picked up mandolins. "Commercial! Sellout!" Or, Rod Stewart after the gentler edge of country rock went away in the early 70s. He tried hard rock. He tried disco. And everything just started to suck. Because sometimes the trend just sucks universally. And occasionally something like "People Get Ready" or Unplugged and Seated came out to remind you of the talent he squandered in trend-chasing.

But Wilco doesn't twang anymore, and lots of people like 'em more.

Mark said...

How the hell are you still accessing Pandora? They bumped me off months ago for having a UK ISP address. Is there a trick to it?

Kenski said...

There *is* a trick to it, but it's not a very practical one. Get yourself a job with an American company that runs its network stateside and hence grabs US IP addresses. When I change job in a couple of weeks I imagine Pandora will no longer be my friend.

Having said that, my account may already be active so it may not be an issue? I should try it at home...