Mad Men: Teaching the World to Sing

teaching the world to singIt’s a TV show, it’s a playlist. Can you match the closing song with the episode? You can? Turn off the TV.

There are lots of these. Not choosing favorites, but the first one below does make it through to “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”:

Or just cut to the chase:

The Real Book, Vol. 1

real bookEver play jazz? Jazz ensemble in high school maybe? Then you’ve likely encountered The Real Book. Wikipedia backgrounds:

An underground series of books transcribed and collated by students at Berklee College of Music during the 1970s. It got its name to distinguish it from the widely available fake books which printed only chords and lyrics of standard songs, to avoid copyright issues. The Real Book included melody lines, thus infringing music copyright, and the older versions were pirated – that is unlicensed – publications that paid no royalties to song authors. In 2004, Hal Leonard published a licensed edition, which pays royalties to song authors.

Which means the one we had in high school was contraband. Cool. Back then, it took real doing to hear real versions of real book songs. No longer–thanks internet and thanks industrious Spotify playlist makers. And a one, and a two…


Life on Mars

macgyverIt’s a book, it’s a playlist: The Martian, by Andy Weir, in which an astronaut is mistakenly left alone on Mars to fend for himself and has to summon all his MacGyver/Castaway-ish/sarcastic-quipping powers to survive sol after sol on the barren Red Planet. During down time (when, say, the H2 oxidizer has to replenish the zineadrine tanks, or something), he’s stuck with his once-fellow astronauts’ left behind media libraries. Which means ’70s TV and a lifetime’s supply of disco, of which he is not fond. There’s no author’s playlist for the title, so we made one: A lifetime’s supply of disco (which is actually just about a day long, but should keep you dancing about as long as your legs can hold you up).

And here’s our curated outer space songs playlist. “Life on Mars” included, but not before the Beach Boys get to teach us what’s what: “Solar system/brings us wisdom.”

Here too is Sonic Boon‘s tribute playlist for the fictional stranded astronaut–good for stranded astronauts everywhere. Disco free.


Swearin’ to God

genuine imitation four seasonsIt’s a movie, it’s a playlist. Just watched “Jersey Boys” in pieces on cable. Once you settle in to not expecting the Scorcese movie it could’ve been, there’s amusement to be had there. The moment the band comes up with its name (via a bowling alley sign)…or with the title “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (watching TV)…that kind of stuff. As with just about any music bio, there’s more bio than music in this one, but so it goes. Ears-up folks may be irked by the Broadway-orchestra-pit backing tracks throughout and find themselves headed to the net for real versions (playlisted a few ways below). To save you some surfing, among the many Four Seasons YouTube offerings, there’s this–a song missing from the movie, but not from the memories of those with radios on in 1975. Salute.


Here’s everything from the early days–the “classic album” box:

Or skip to the band’s effort at a Sgt. Pepper/Pet Sounds-ish with-it late-60s theme album, “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.” We especially heart-emoji “Idaho”:

And here’s a best-of covering everything in the movie/show:

Sounds Familiar: Chuck Berry v. The Beatles

New post series: Sounds Familiar. Homages, rip-offs, lawsuits, and the songs that have lived to tell. Exhibit A: Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” and some Beatles tune you may know.

From Wikipedia:

In 1973, “Come Together” was the subject of a lawsuit brought against Lennon by Big Seven Music Corp. (owned by Morris Levy) who was the publisher of Chuck Berry‘s “You Can’t Catch Me.” Levy contended that it sounded similar musically to Berry’s original and shared some lyrics (Lennon sang “Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly” and Berry’s had sung “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me”). Before recording, Lennon and McCartney deliberately slowed the song down and added a heavy bass riff in order to make the song more original. After settling out of court, Lennon promised to record three other songs owned by Levy.

The line is at 1:06. It’s not just the lyric, but also the delivery that made it into “Come Together.” Tribute or robbery? Either way, you’d probably have gotten irked if you were Chuck Berry hearing Abbey Road song one, line one for the first time. And greedy if you owned the publishing.

More on what followed–and much more detail–here and here.

This is Grunge

bleachWhat is such-and-such a time/place/scene in music? We’ll ask and answer from time to time. This is a quick ‘n’ easy one: What is grunge? This is grunge: A punk/heavy metal hybrid that emerged in Seattle during the late 1980s. Guitars were sludgy, lyrics typically angst-filled, shirts flannel, and authenticity valued above most else. The 1994 suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain marked the end of the grunge era.

This is what it sounds like, more or less:

Didn’t all hit the top of the pops, but these guys did. Here’re Nirvana at Reading, 1992.

More on grunge:

It’s a Book, It’s a Playlist: Everybody Loves Our Town, by Mark Yarm

everybody loves our townIt’s an oral history of grunge, it’s a playlist. Here are the Mark Yarm’s Seattle grunge essentials (says the book’s Amzn page), dumped into Spotify for your time/space-travelling pleasure.

The author’s complete list, without Spotify holes:

1. Mudhoney “Touch Me I’m Sick”
2. U-Men “They”
3. Green River “Ain’t Nothing to Do”
4. Soundgarden “Nothing to Say”
5. Nirvana “Love Buzz”
6. TAD “Jack”
7. 7 Year Bitch “Lorna”
8. Mother Love Bone “Crown of Thorns”
9. Temple of the Dog “Hunger Strike”
10. Pearl Jam “Even Flow”
11. Alice in Chains “Fear the Voices”
12. Screaming Trees “Nearly Lost You”
13. Melvins “Sky Pup”
14. Candlebox “You”
15. Mudhoney “Overblown”