Musical Tuesday – Gallimaufry

With the Dr Who 50th anniversary over the weekend, what could be more appropriate than picking a couple of completely random and unrelated tracks – thus creating a musical gallimaufry* – for this week’s Musical Tuesday?

(well, I could l0ad up the extended 12 inch of Doctorin’ the Tardis, but no one needs that!)

So first up, a catchy little 60’s influenced track from Brooklyn three piece The Essex Green – Don’t Know Why (You Stay)

Despite the cheery tune and soaring harmonies in the chorus the lyrics are a bit grim – but then there are plenty of other great songs like that, so who are we to argue?

Secondly I present a real gallimaufry of a track consisting of a bit of Bach combined with a 12th century student drinking song, played on synth and bagpipes by some insane Germans who’ve chosen to name themselves after a contagious medieval dancing mania. So here is Toccata by Tanzwut (excuse the 40k imagery and terrible spelling, it’s the only decent copy of the song I know of on YouTube)

It sounds scary as hell, but the lyrics (taken from the same source as Carl Orff’s famous Oh Fortuna) pretty much translate as “If you’re not here to drink then get out of our party!”, which is still kind of threatening I suppose, but less so than the treatment might suggest.

OK, I’m done for now. Tune in next week for another two tracks that might have some more effective kind of theme than not having a theme at all.

* I’ve always presumed that Gallifrey – the name of the Doctor’s homeworld – took its inspiration from gallimaufry. Exactly what this says about Time Lord society is up for debate…

Musical Tuesday – Satellites

Sad musical news over the weekend with the death of iconic composer, musician and rock poet Lou Reed. It was a foregone conclusion that I’d feature one of his songs in tribute this week, but I had to think long and hard about which one. The beautiful Perfect Day, which after one listen had me listening obsessively to RTR back in the pre-internet early 90’s in the hopes that they’d play it again so I could find out who it was by? The rocking There She Goes Again that I accidentally downloaded off a less than reputable file sharing service in the freewheeling early 2000’s while looking for the similarly titled song by the La’s, but grew to love anyway? The classic Walk on the Wildside? Something really obscure to prove my musical cred? No. In the end I decided I couldn’t do better than simply posting my favourite Lou Reed song, no matter how overplayed or cliched it may be this week, 1972’s Satellite of Love.

Thanks Lou. We won’t see your like again.

The second song I’m highlighting is another one concerning satellites by another musical magician. In his truncated life, Joe Meek inhabited the space where genius and insanity collide. But by insanity, I don’t mean entertaining whackiness – he  was emotionally and psychologically unstable, moody, irritable, occasionally violent and dangerously paranoid. He was obsessed with death and hung around in graveyards trying to record ghosts, and was convinced that Buddy Holly was talking to him from beyond the grave. Yet despite this, in late 50’s and early 60’s Britain, musicians were lining up to work with him. Why? Because he was the only guy on that side of the Atlantic who could produce records that sounded like they came out of the big American recording studios.

He achieved this by combining obsession with a natural talent for electronics which allowed him to convert his rented London flat into a recording studio. All of it. Every room was riddled with wires, with microphones hanging from the ceilings, and a band who wanted to record would be broken up into the areas and corners as Meek saw fit to best record their sound. With the tracks down he’d tune and mix them on his homemade equipment – often supplementing the recording with what today would be regarded as samples – and come out with something astounding.

He was also a composer – although he couldn’t write musical notation or even sing in tune – and hired session musicians to come in and record his creations. The best known of these is the track I’m featuring today, 1962’s Telstar – inspired by the launch of the world’s first communications satellite Telstar 1 – and recorded by the Tornadoes. It sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard before and was a worldwide hit – reaching number 1 in both the UK and the US.

Sadly, things did not end well for Joe Meek. A lawsuit prevented him from receiving any royalties from Telstar, and the coming of the Beatles changed pop music fashion from lush orchestral arrangements to stripped back drums and guitars. He went into debt, fell deeper into paranoia and depression and finally in 1967 he took his own life and that of his landlady in a murder suicide. Nonetheless he left us with an incredible (and surprisingly vast) legacy of recordings that are still being explored and enjoyed to this day.

So that’s your lot. Tune in next week for more Musical Tuesday!

Musical Tuesdays – Theme Edition

Wow, I’ve actually managed to make a second Musical Tuesday post. Maybe this will last a while after all!

The first song for this week is Christmas Island by Washington State natives Lake. Also known as Island Song, keen eared listeners will recognise it as the end theme from possibly the best cartoon series ever, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake.

Even more keen eared listeners will realise that it’s not quite the same song as the end theme. The Adventure Time version has a whole bunch of altered lyrics – although you don’t get to hear too much of them, as the end credits only run for a verse and a half. If you’re interested in a complete comparison you can track the full version down – think of it as a challenge!

In any case, this version of the song is a sweet, lo-fi ballad with a touch of the 50’s to it, which is A-OK by me.

The second track for this week is another TV ending theme, this one belonging to 80’s sci-fi series Max Headroom. Those too young to remember the 80’s may be unaware of Max and his career trajectory which went from Pepsi spokes-thing to star of a cyberpunk TV series, to interrupting late night Doctor Who reruns with incomprehensible rants about Chuck Swirsky. In any case, I remember the TV series as being a greatly entertaining distopian extravaganza set “20 minutes into the future”.

It would no doubt look pretty dated now, but then Cyberpunk itself is dated. It was the 1980’s idea of what the 21st century would look like (much as Steampunk is the 21st century’s idea of the 19th century’s idea of the 20th century). It got a few things right, but a whole lot more things wrong. Cybernetic limbs for instance are rare, and not terribly good. There certainly is a “net” – but it’s not an exciting virtual reality world made up of vector polygons, it’s a place where people post videos of their cats. Corporations are  not – as yet – in charge of private armies of mercenaries engaging in prolonged gun battles through the city streets. Climate change has mitigated the chance of constant gloomy overcast and pounding rain, and neon signs full of Chinese and Japanese logograms are mostly limited to the areas immediately surrounding Asian restaurants.

But back to the music. This end theme apparently appeared on a only a few episodes, which meant that for years the only way I’ve had to hear it is the scratchy version I recorded straight off the TV onto an audio tape circa 1989 – which features the added bonus of an announcer talking about all the action coming up on a new episode of something called Paradise. But I recently stumbled over a copy that some kind soul has put up on YouTube. So slip on your mirrorshades and chill out to a great piece of 80’s synth that may or may not have been written by that dude from Ultravox.

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