Category Archives: Saturday jams

Saturday Jams: Part of the Daily Grind

A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.

(if you want you can ignore the video while you read)

So here we are, another Saturday, another week that’s not quite over yet for me. Of course I’m referring to work, but stay with me! All conventional wisdom tells me to keep my posts positive even though the artist in me has already died and is silently decomposing next to a tree with a wake of vultures lightening the load for the worms. . . or at least, that’s what he would have me believe. He’s been kicking up the melodrama lately by making my Daily Post prompts sound like a mediocre third grader’s daily writing practice, trying to convince me that he’s gone – but I know the truth. He just needs more opportunity to express himself.

Don’t we all have those times? Times when things begin to pile up to the point where you start to wish that you could run your brain through a car wash? What do we do about that?

Conventional wisdom says that music has charms to soothe the savage breast. I’d like to think my hands are good for that, and some Al Greene would be a nice accompaniment; but if we tone down the ‘literal’ just a tad – music is how we deal with adversity, right? Take something that burns your cheeks and make it sound like a party. . . or don’t.

Our first song today comes from Todd Rundgren‘s appropriately named album The Ever Popular Tortured Artist EffectJust let that one sink in. This freedom chant sounds like everyone’s having a good time!

Cover of "Joe Versus the Volcano"
Cover of Joe Versus the Volcano

Here’s one of my favorites: it definitely does not sound like a party, but it’s not something to mope to, either – I first heard this song as the intro to the movie Joe Vs. The Volcano, where Tom Hanks‘ tortured daily grind leads him to a terminal diagnosis, and he is subsequently hired to jump into a volcano to appease the Island Gods of Waponiwu.

Actually, that was a really good movie that I haven’t seen in at least 20 years, and I would kill to watch that again. It had a great cast – not just Tom Hanks but Meg Ryan (as twins!), Abe Vigoda, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and Dan Hedaya (anyone who doesn’t like him hasn’t heard the most awesome line in Clueless: “I have a shotgun and a shovel, and I’m not afraid to use them.”) If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It can be a little tough to get your hands on, but it’s totally worth it. I’m going to order it on DVD from Amazon.

Here’s that intro; this is what I’m talking about. Pay attention to the imagery: the cracks in the sidewalk, the company’s posters, the lone flower that keeps getting stepped on. This movie had a lot more under the hood than most people ever gave it credit for.

Okay, kiddos, that’s all you get for now; I have to run, and then I have to work!


Saturday Jams: The Late-late edition

A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.

Yeah, I’m not going to give you the sob story about how I burned the candle at both ends Friday night, posting this and that for different blog challenges because I had it all laid out in my head. I’m not going to mention how I had to sleep in Saturday morning and then had oh – twenty minutes to get Saturday Jams out? I couldn’t do it, and here’s why: I chose a subject and failed to find any satisfying content.

Really? What a wreck. Then my time ran out, I had to work eight hours, came home, ran, ate dinner, yadda yadda yadda, built a Lego car. You guys – you don’t know any of that, and I’m not telling you. Instead, I’m making a lateral move. I do Saturday Jams, one way or another. Well, if I get hit by a bus . . .

You know what? Let’s jump right into the original pitch. What’s black and blue and red all over? Cajun Louisiana’s hyper-diversified music style: Zydeco. It’s the gulf coast’s own brand of polka, and I have some friends who are going to tell you all about it. You’re not ready for this? Mais non ma cherie, just bust out your washboard and wooden spoons! We’re going to do this whether you’ve got your boots on or not.

Here’s a classical piece, with some commentary at the ending:

One more:

If you’re interested in seeing more singing muppet stuff, I’ve been pinning a bunch of it to my Pinterest board called “Singing Muppets”.

You know what’s really exciting (to me)? The YouTube channel MuppetsStudio posts new content periodically, and the last one mentions that they’re filming a new movie called Muppets Most Wanted. Yaaaaaay! I’m clapping! I hope you all enjoyed your Saturday!

Saturday Jams: Lovin’ that way-back machine!

About a month and a half ago, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.

I was starting off the weekend in an oppressed mood, but something seems to have lightened it up and I’ve changed my plan for Saturday Jams. Never fear, though, I’ll save that for another week – spin it positive when I’m in a mood to do so. After all, one man’s Requiem is another man’s Ode to Joy, right?

So what lightened the mood? Well, I’m glad you asked. The wife went out to see some lady’s clothes because she’s getting rid of them for cheap, leaving my wonderful and sleep-resistant daughter with me. I love trying to entertain my daughter and thirst for the challenge of avoiding a massive fail at that task. Today I decided to put on some big band jazz – bam, bad mood gone. Seriously? Oh yeah. I love it so much, and as we’re listening I’m dancing with her in my arms (normally she might dance on her own but as I sort of indicated already, she was über tired and trying to stay awake) and I’m narrating the music on Pandora with ‘this is this instrument this is that instrument’ and yadda yadda yadda. I’m no expert, but definitely an enthusiast. So get in this way-back machine with me and catch a few of those swingin’ tunes from the big band era, when musicians were so professional they wore suits and played in groups. Don’t worry, I’ll be your tour guide.

Our first selection. . .

is a classic not because everyone knows it; but everyone knows it because it’s just brilliant. Brilliant like brass horns, you might say. The following clip is from a movie called Sun Valley Serenade, from 1941 and features Glenn Miller’s In The Mood.  The uploader was kind enough to include some facts about the “pretty actress” at the end of the clip, but what he doesn’t tell you is that Glenn Miller is in the movie and the clip – he’s the guy up front with the eyeglasses and trombone. Spiffy, huh? He’s a main character in the film, even. The variation the band plays on the ubiquitous track is cool, but I love the original – the hi hats’ swing beat; the call-and-response of the saxophone duet; the flat brass precision of the trumpet solo, the false ending. For that version, click the linked song title above to hear it on Spotify. I tested it and I think you don’t have to have an account to listen to it. If that’s the case, I’ll start using that instead of Soundcloud, whose widgets may have caused the Independence Day mobile access debacle. Let me know if you have any problems playing Spotify links! [Edit: never mind, if you don’t have a Spotify account you probably can’t access them. However, it’s free. Consider joining.]

Our second selection. . .

is another tune you may have heard, it’s got a tribal boom boom boom of the toms; a raucous chorus interspersed with bright, whimsical verses; a delightfully menacing bridge that transports us to the dim, smoky night clubs of yesteryear where people danced frenetically. This is Benny Goodman’s recording of Sing, Sing, Sing – originally titled first Sing, Bing, Sing; then Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) by its writer Louis Prima, who first recorded it in 1936 with lyrics meant for Bing Crosby. The Benny Goodman Orchestra earned the right to change the name after two years of improvisational evolution of the song made their version somewhat unique.

Benny Goodman is the “King of Swing”, irreplaceable as of 1986. Why? He made jazz music respectable, bringing it into the mainstream when his band played Carnegie Hall in ’36. His bands were the beginning for a lot of big-time jazz musicians. He didn’t listen to no segregationists, because music has no color. He was the big kahuna of jazz clarinetists.

To listen to the full 8+ minute version, click the Spotify link on the song name above, or you can watch the video below. I usually like finding actual videos of the artists, but this one is just fun. Who can turn down a montage of dancing comedians?

Our final selection. . .

is a little different. This artist is a personal favorite of mine, and I know plenty about him. He’s got a very interesting history, and I could do an entire post just on him and his achievements. Did you know that electronic music was pioneered by an old tyme jazz musician? Raymond Scott was the Nikola Tesla of jazz, a man whose musical passages were so descriptive, his themes so unique that critics referred to them distastefully as “novelty music”. He was educated in music and yet he got out of the gate and ran wild – his compositions made by ear, his bands free to improvise during development and then required to memorize the finished compositions.

He was so picky about his sound that he began to fiddle with the equipment itself, and proceeded to invent several electronic instruments including the Clavivox and the keyboard theremin. He invented the sequencer. He invented the synthesizer. He started a company called Manhattan Research that made futuristic music that (mostly) found its market in television commercials. He worked with Bob Moog, Berry Gordy, Jean-Jacques Perrey, and Jim Henson. You might recognize his music, however, from Looney Tunes. His tune Powerhouse was made the signature theme for the Cartoon Network, although I don’t know if it still is. We lost him a year after Benny Goodman, in 1987; he died in obscurity of a stroke. That’s just not fair; I think we should remember him.

Here’s a video of his song Oil Gusher so you can see what it looks like to play. This is Steve Bartek and Ego Plum playing, but it’s pretty accurate.

If you have the time, listen to some of these:
Twilight in Turkey
The Toy Trumpet
Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals

Remember: when you’re in the way-back machine, the best stuff is still found outside of the mainstream. 🙂

Saturday Jams: Why So Serious?

I’m just going to have some fun with hip hop this morning. I can’t write knowledgeably about the genre, so instead here are a few of my favorite new school hip hop videos from my childhood. Remember when MTV had real mass appeal?

Fact: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was created in 1983, but it was not really a place until much later; in 1986 they chose Cleveland, Ohio as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and didn’t break ground on the construction of the museum until 1993. In 1995 they dedicated the museum, and in 2009 Run-D.M.C. were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Fact: The Beastie Boys’ breakout album Licensed to Ill was reviewed favorably in Rolling Stone with the headline “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece” and subsequently became the first rap album to hit number one on the Billboard album chart.

One more, because I just can’t forget D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince:

What do you think? Was it a swing and a miss today, or am I just beating myself up?

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Saturday Jams: Drawing a Blank


Yep, so a few weeks into this weekly feature I’ve come up with no idea, no unifying concept for the post. I could blame the fact that I haven’t been running so much lately due to the excessive amounts of holidays and celebrations and hoopla over whatnot and stuff; running gets me all inspired, or maybe it’s the podcasts I listen to while I’m doing it. I could probably blame just being more or less distracted, a lame (nonexistent) brainstorming process, not enough coffee, not enough beer, not quite enough confidence, maybe. . .

But here it is. In my quest for some earworms I found a couple of really cool videos I want you to watch this week. MTV is on TV, and the last time I watched it, it was all rap. That was a long-ish time ago. VH1? Is that still around? Please, someone tell me. So if you just watch a few music videos a week, I invite you to watch these, they’re very cool.

The first one I need to show you is from this album I have been listening to, Night Visions by Imagine Dragons. I don’t know how they get along on the radio because Bismarck doesn’t have really good radio stations – commercial or otherwise – like Detroit does. I tend to listen to NPR more than anything, and that’s how I gauge quality around here. But I understand they’re doing pretty well. The album is solid; it’s one of those that I get because of a couple songs and the thirty-second clips that you can hear on iTunes. What you get from the album is more than you can normally ask for, and I love these. Track 1 is Radioactive, and the lyrics led me to imagine a post-apocalyptic desert inhabited by automatons searching for release; the video, however tells a different but still very neat story. Check this out:

The second I want you to see is from the Decemberists’ album Picaresque. Thanks go to my wife Karisa for telling me about this one; I tried to find an HD version but this one is so old – so very old – from 2006. So you’ll have to do with this one, which frankly isn’t that bad. Anyway, I can’t say anything about this video – it’s hilarous and it says it all for itself:

Once again, thanks for “tuning in”, and feel free to leave comments below.

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Saturday Jams: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

(If the music widget doesn’t appear, refresh your browser!)

So! Just two days ago I’m willing to bet that most of us got together with friends and relatives, drank generous amounts of beer, ate prodigious amounts of charred animal flesh and mayonnaise-bathed boiled potatoes, and enjoyed a fantastic light show when the sun went down; perhaps you made your own contribution to said light show. The idea is that we got together in order to celebrate the hard-fought appropriation of the centre of this beautiful and bountiful landmass which many of us now inhabit – a move that, according to one very tall and wise man, was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

As high-minded as the ideal was, it’s been an interesting 237 years since then; the fledgeling United States of America expanded to fill the territory it now inhabits, displacing and disenfranchising entire populations of indigenous people; then we almost tore ourselves apart over the issue of states’ rights, although American history ostensibly tells that we fought about slavery, which may have at the time served as the red herring it does today; we added first Alaska, then Hawaii the the roll call of states under Federal rule, and we’ve fought countless wars – all in the name of liberty and equality, huzzah! Four Presidents have been assassinated in our history, and the last successful one (with all due respect, of course) actually delayed a watershed event in American musical history by two and a half weeks while the nation mourned. When CBS finally aired its shelved story (shelved after it played in the morning, but not in the evening on November 22) about Beatlemania on December 10, 1963, one girl in Maryland wrote her local radio station asking why they didn’t have music like that in America. The radio station – conveniently located in our nation’s capital – responded enthusiastically, and for the second time the British managed to set fire to America.

The first time was a literal burning of the nation’s capital in 1814 by British forces. This tends to be glossed over in American History class, because it’s the only time our nation has ever been successfully invaded by a military force, led interestingly enough by one Major General Robert Ross. As of today, I am to the best of my knowledge not a time-traveling military commander; I will let you know if that changes.

This event (the musical one) was to be known as the “British Invasion”, and you can blame its popularity with American youth in part on the fact that they were sick of teen idols, and that the invasion came in the wake of a scandal where radio stations and DJs were being paid by record labels to play their music, thereby suppressing competition by outside musicians. The rest of the blame goes to the fact that awesome music was coming by the boatload from England. Here’s a short list of some of the better known ones:

  • The Kinks
  • The Animals
  • The Searchers
  • Mungo Jerry
  • The Status Quo
  • The Foundations
  • David Bowie
  • The Tremoloes
  • The Tornados (A surf band, hello!!!)
  • Donovan
  • The Troggs
  • The Yardbirds
  • The Mindbenders
  • The Move
  • The Marmalade
  • The Zombies

Oh, um, and the Beatles, of course. This total turnaround of historical precedent where it wasn’t everything American but everything British changed the flavor of rock music forever, and unfortunately contributed to the popular demise of instrumental surf music, but we know you can’t keep a good genre down. 🙂

For today’s Saturday Jams, I’ve laid down just a few of my favorites from the British Invasion. Enjoy!

–Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks – other hits include All Day and All of the Night, You Really Got Me, and A Well Respected Man.

–She’s Not There by The Zombies (live performance) – they’re also known for Time of the Season

–The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. This was a big deal; the audience’s behavior was considered astounding at the time. It’s a longer video, but you get both sections of their performance from this first appearance on America’s most popular show at the time, and you get to see how the British Invasion gained so much traction.

Now, please enjoy what’s left of your weekend. On Monday, most of us go back to work!

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Saturday Jams: how to re-make it in the biz

This week, we’re looking at recycled music: song covers. Most – if not all – bands do this at one time or another; they cover songs, essentially re-making them. And the longer we’ve gone without a new iteration of the song, the better – at least in my opinion. After all, who wants to hear a new version of Milli Vanilli’s Baby Don’t Forget My Number every few years? Not I, said the fly! There are benefits to covering songs though, including having an easy go-to for bands that are still starting out, and possibly being even better than the original; of course, that judgement tends to be a matter of opinion. The only way to know for sure is to do it and hope it hits!

Our first song hearkens back to that last known temporal bastion of brotherly love, the soulful 70’s. Earth Wind and Fire recorded their song September at the same time they recorded their 1979 album I Am, but released it as a single in ’78 and not on the album, for some reason – probably because it’s an awesome song. Did I mention that my birthday is in September? September 7. The song mentions the twenty-first night of September, which is divisible by seven, so numerologically, I’m totally there. Week three of Robstravaganza! September hit the top of the R&B chart and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, so they must have known it was solid gold, baby. Pomplamoose, the true indie duo known individually as Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, recognized that as well and covered it in their VideoSongs series, which are as much fun to watch as they are to listen and sing along to:

Our next pick comes from a band that saw it’s heyday in the 90’s ska revival. One-hit-wonder Spiral Starecase’s 1969 Top 100 hit More Today than Yesterday has only been covered commercially a few times, and in 1998 Goldfinger brought back to the fore this wonderful song as a single for the soundtrack of the Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy. The video is nothing special, so feel free to read another post while listening to this gem:

“Love is stronger than thunder” -Milli Vanilli

Saturday Jams: A New Route to the Indies

Today’s Saturday Jams post features two songs by bands I have considered to be indie bands – bands whose music is more or less produced independently of major record labels. It could be self -produced and then released via a major label or the band’s own label. You can start indie and stay inside, or get signed; but indie can also refer solely to the genre of music you’re playing, which sounds ambivalent but is most easily identifiable with folk music, in my estimation.

Or first pick fits that bill.  The Decemberists are an indie folk rock band, but the album that the following track came from – The King is Dead – was released by Capitol records, leaving the question in my mind of whether the term indie is just a genre label for the Decemberists or a legitimate designation of independence. Either way, they’re good and I enjoy their music. My favorite song by The Decemberists is about being a good neighbor and finding your place in the greater and smaller communities; here’s Don’t Carry it All:

Our second song pick comes from the definitely true indie band Foxtails Brigade. They produce and release their own music without major labels, distributing it via iTunes and their website. I prefer their Farmhouse Sessions over their regular albums because the sound is just better, in my own opinion. I’m not sure what the song is about yet, but I like the simple folk instrumentation and staccato vocal lyricism of Don’t Look Down:

Saturday Jams: a new aural tradition?

This morning I responded to blog buddy Andra Watkins’ post – or at least I thought I did but it’s not there now – about my favorite song from the 80’s. I realized I could do something with this and so I think I will start a new aural tradition I will call “Saturday Jams”. Every week I will post a few songs for your consideration. They will be songs I like. I will try to choose stuff that isn’t heard on every street corner but I make no promises. So without further ado, here are my two all-time favorite songs from the 1980’s:

Happy – Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo

This song first caught my attention as the opener to the movie Summer School. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it because it is just great.

Learning to Fly – Pink Floyd

You know, I actually had a lot more to this post but somehow the WordPress app lost it when I posted it, so forget it. We’ll try again next week.