28 March 2009


Spread your sails to take in the wind. Happy birthday, Ms B!

The B-52's - mm, shacks and lobsters... My friend Nate and I - not bass player Nate, but the only other person in jazz choir who could sing down in my preferred range - used to sing "Love Shack", except with parts inverted; that is, we'd sing the girls' parts way low and the guys' up there in the clouds, with ridiculous falsetto and all. It was a sight to see. High schoolers are dorks.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive - b-b-b-baby, d-d-dumb = c-c-c-catch-ch-chy = pop-p-p-p-pular. Rock trick #2571416: if you're out of lyrics, stutter.

Bad Brains - I'm not familiar at all, but Les Claypool pointed them out as "real punk rockers" when we were talking a few years ago, and I'll take his word for it.

The Bangles - so we did "Walk Like an Egyptian" in high school pep band...including a verse where winds were supposed to put down their instruments and whistle the melody, just like in the real recording. Epic fail. High schoolers can't whistle a tune, particularly a tune they don't even recognize!

Along that line, I'm completely making this up, but bonus points for inspiring DeVotchKa to include whistling in several of their songs. He is incredible at it, btw, like a true instrument (not making that up). I'm sure they would cite the Bangles as one of their major influences...

Barry White - the subsonic love/soul crooner. I don't think I'll analyze why most people will put a Barry White album on the stereo... Only, Barry = deep, sexy voice + deep, sexy love themes.

(Math nerds: could we factor that to "(deep, sexy)(voice + love themes)"? Are those terms relatively prime? Are spoken languages groups as such under the concatenation operation? Linguistics nerds: would this make it a regular language? [answer there: no sir.])

After trying out for the high school musical freshman year and singing the tryout song "White Christmas" an octave lower than the norm (including that low C in the end, at "and may all your Christ-mases be white"), I picked up "Barry White" as a nickname. It caught on enough that my grandparents got a B-W CD for me for the holiday that year, which is how I know any of his music in the first place. I must say, his voice was absolutely subterranean. I could do it once upon a time, but my voice can't quite cut it since the tracheostomy. Sadface.

The Beastie Boys - my first rap exposure, and still probably my favorites in the genre. They've cranked out many a hit, all loaded with smart, nerdy lyrics: "I'm the king of Boggle, there is none higher \ I gets eleven points off the word 'quagmire'". Better yet, catch their brilliant observations, such as the completely non sequitur "White Castle fries only come in one size", inserted into "Slow and Low" on Licensed to Ill. They're also known for their oddball music videos, from cop show mockery "Sabotage" to giant robots in "Intergalactic" to yelling at a camera in the ground for "So Whatcha Want". Go look stuff up if you need any more background info.

I remember driving around with Tim in the Jeep, listening to the aforementioned Licensed to Ill tape and making cracks about their inarguably clever (or dumb) lines. Good times. This is when I memorized "Paul Revere", and I still know it - "I said howdy, he said hi!" We could have entire conversations with just Beastie quotes... Good times indeed.

I had a difficult time not being an idiot/jerk in several classes in college; one of my professors' names could be abbreviated to "Mike D", and it was all I could do not to make constant cracks and BB references that nobody would follow. Whew, close one.

The Beatles - you know who they are, and my stories are no doubt weak compared to yours. Help!, Revolver, and "The White Album" shaped my childhood and provide more memories by a long shot than any other music, listening to our scratched record say "Rocky Raccoo--into his room"... Though devoid of #1's, Rubber Soul has also been extremely important in my musical history.

Speaking of Beatles chart-toppers, their "1" compilation was the only single-band permanent disc in the van's CD changer. Though there were actually 27 #1 tracks, that CD was an 80min disc filled to the brim; we only had 74min blank discs at the time, though, so to make a copy I could just leave in the car, I had to leave out two tracks... So sorry Yoko, nobody likes you or your ballad with John, and "The Long and Winding Road" wasn't that great either. Thus, I don't know those songs very well, but my friends (mostly Jeff) and I know every single note and cough of their other 5^2 number ones.

Also to Beatles+van credit, they ushered in that vehicle's 100,000 mile landmark. It couldn't have been better - we were in the middle of "Piggies" and watching the odometer, and it went in rhythm even, "clutching forks and knives \ to eat the bacon! [click]" Marvelous.

Moving on, props to Paul for playing lefty basses. Some of us have to be backwards to be good!

Penultimately, you must ask jarmstro about this band. He is an encyclopedia.

Finally, a mini-survey: do you prefer the early Beatles style, their later sound, or something in between? Or, do you hate their entire collection? Sound off in the comments, pretty please!

Beck - delicious grunge and nonsense. You might know "Loser", "Devil's Haircut", "Odelay", or various others. The dad constantly tells me they sound like War (the "Low Rider" people), and indeed they slightly do.

Kudos to Beck for writing songs with utter nonsense for lyrics, landing these songs on the Billboard charts, and then getting everyone to memorize the nonsense. Have you ever paid attention to the words to "Loser"? They're not even sentences. But, the trick is that you know them by heart. Surprise, eres el perdido.

Beyond that, thanks for teaching me some other gangster Spanish, and for making me ask Texans if their trips to Houston are for pants.

Béla Fleck [and the Flecktones] - this is how you shred on the banjo.

Ben Folds - piano rocker, either solo or with ska instrumentation (but most definitely not the ska sound). "Philosophy" was one of the first songs I picked up from the Emily influence, and its intricacies/raw passion are a main reason why I liked him in the first place. He's a bit more sarcastic and a bit less passionate now, but oh well. He writes a lot about downstate Illinois; consider the recent album Way to Normal, named after the town next to Bloomington. Go ahead, math nerds, pile on the "perpendicular" jokes.

Mr. Folds is an awful lot of fun live! He came to IWU (in Bloomington) in the fall of 2004, and it was a blast. He took requests, talked to people in the crowd, poked fun at State Farm (whose HQ is on the outskirts of BloNo); he even did his usual singalong rendition of "Army", splitting the crowd down the middle to sing the sax and trumpet parts in the bridge. What fun.

Extra credit for featuring Cake's John McCrea on "Fred Jones, Part 2", and Regina Spektor on "You Don't Know Me". Duets for everyone!

Ben Harper - recommends that you not come around.

Benny Goodman - jazz/big band clarinet legend. Though I think Louis Prima wrote "Sing, Sing, Sing", Benny is the one who made that song popular. Thus, he can take credit for sparking my interest in jazz band. That drum solo still slays me.

Big and Rich - if I sang someone every Willie Nelson song I knew, we'd be moving on to the next line rather quickly. Nothing wrong with that.

The Big Bopper - he may not have any money, but...but...but...oh baby, you know what he likes. It appears to have nothing to do with personality.

Bill Aper - one of my favorite drummers for rocking hard and weird. Hunt him down solo, with Turf Surgery, etc. on MySpace!

Bill Withers - no need to wonder, for he has quite reiterated that he knows. He needs more sunshine, that's for sure.

Billy Joel - another weirder, more sarcastic keyboardist, and sort of an inspiration for Ben Folds. Everyone knows him for "Piano Man", but I'd rather hear dumber tracks like "Captain Jack" or "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)". We also did "And So It Goes" in high school jazz choir. Anyway, add your stories in the comments, because I'm not the one who knows.

BJ Thomas - get him to rehab, he's hooked on a feeling. Is that a sitar I hear in his version of the song?

Björk - yes, she's weird, her music is cacophonous, her Icelandic accent is somewhere between cute and incomprehensible (doesn't matter because most of the lyrics don't make sense), and she has a swan suit... So, what's not to like? My favorite is "5 Years", which sounds like she's singing and playing Space Invaders. Oh well. Nothing I say will change your opinion of her in either direction. Just remember, she's the hunter. She'll bring back the goods.

Umlaut bonus!

Black Sabbath - a classic rock staple, with ubiquitous hits such as "Paranoid", "Crazy Train", "Iron Man", "War Pigs", and on and on. Extra credit for inspiring an infinitude of covers, and for selling their souls for rock and roll. I'm obviously a novice, but they had to be mentioned.

Blind Illusion - in reverse alphabetical order, we have the final Claypool band of the list. To be honest, they barely qualify as a Les band - he only appeared on occasion, and there are only two or three spots on their album where you can hear a Les-brand bass trick. Rather, they're just eighties thrash metal, and pretty poor thrash at that. Their album is pretty obscure and necessary to complete a Claypool collection, but I'm here to say it's not worth a listen. Sausage and Oysterhead aren't that hot, but at least they're obviously Les; Blind Illusion could be any crummy thrash metal band. I consider it appropriate that I accidentally typed "trash metal" above. Listen to Antipop if you need Les metal.

Blondie - is the name of the band. Oh, the eighties...

Blood, Sweat and Tears - not my favorite oldies group out there, but they did create the excessively catchy "Spinning Wheel", a CHS jazz band classic, as well as the excessively goofy/awkward "And When I Die". Oh well.

Blue Man Group - the famous crew of improv musicians/showmen, known for their impromptu crowd involvement, use of giant PVC pipe constructions as musical instruments, mime-like humor, and duh, painting themselves blue. I recommend finding videos of and articles about them, rather than having me attempt to describe them further.

In my OT sessions in Detroit, we would do what we jokingly called "blue man" therapy. That is, my therapist would put a random assortment of equipment and objects in front of me, and then I was supposed to come up with something creative and challenging to do with the stuff. This is a pretty effective way to come up with OT tasks, and actually conveys the idea behind the Blue Man Group fairly well.

Blue Öyster Cult - needs more cowbell! I can't imagine how sick they are of that SNL joke. Gold star for capital O umlaut.

Bob Dylan - every band in existence since around 1961 has covered a song by Mr. Dylan, the timeless titan of singer/songwriters. For further commentary I once again defer to the jarmstro and his blog, as he has already written volumes on the musician and will hopefully pen (err, keyboard?) volumes more. Bask in his glory.

Bootsy Collins - a founding father of funk bass. Enjoy the wiki-p for detailed background info.

Have I mentioned before that I've gotten to talk to this wonder on the phone? For a few years, my bro Tim lived in Cincinnati. Bootsy is also a Cinci native, and a huge supporter of the Bengals. He performed their theme song, and can often be found around town at promotional events for the team. Tim ended up going to one of their smaller events in his neighborhood, actually hoping to have some Buckethead stuff signed - Bootsy collaborated with Mr. Bucket quite often, appearing on at least two Buckethead albums. So, he went down to the restaurant where the event was being held, and there weren't many people there, so Tim got to hang out with Bootsy for a little while. Bootsy actually got a pretty big kick out of Tim bringing Buckethead albums; most people had just been bringing in football stuff, so seeing such obscure goods caught him by surprise. (I have those autographed albums now, btw)

As I said, there weren't that many people at the moment, so Tim wondered, "hey, can you talk to someone on my phone for me?" Bootsy said sure, so Tim called and said, "John! I have someone who needs to talk to you!" I said, "um, ok...", he put Bootsy on, and we schmoozed for a bit - my phone at the time had a terrible speakerphone, so I couldn't really tell who it was. After a minute or two, I asked who it was, and he dropped his signature "ah, the name is Bootsy, baby"... My jaw hit the floor. How are you supposed to respond to that??


The Box Tops - just received some important mail.

Brahms - ha ha, the original sleep music.

Bread - heartfelt folk rockish stuff...making it that much more ironic that Cake did a deadpan, sarcastic cover of "The Guitar Man". The guitar tricks are cooler in the original, so it's hard for me to choose which version I prefer. You'd think choosing between Bread and Cake would be easy!

Brian Eno - I spend loads of time talking about electronica/ambient artists who are skilled, weird, innovative, or otherwise interesting enough to be worth a listen. Brian Eno is none of these. His most well-known recent work is the "composition" of the startup sound for Windows 95. I recommend microwaving every CD and deleting every Eno mp3 you can find. There are so many better artists out there, even if you're just looking for ambient non-music to break silence. Just back away from the Eno.

Brian Setzer Orchestra - newer big band tunes that are still very true to the old school sound. They even appeared on the pop charts with decidedly not-pop tracks; "Jump, Jive An' Wail" comes to mind (also a prime example of gorgeous twelve-bar blues).

The whole band has some talent, but they are most thoroughly distinguished by their title man/front man/lead singer/virtuoso guitar slinger, Mr. Setzer. He's ridiculous - another one of those miracle workers who can't seem to play a wrong note. These people are so frustrating to the rest of us! His jazz shredding is prominent on all of their tracks; one of the best examples of his virtuosity is their cover of Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk". Wow.

Another worthless piece of minutiae is that he was supposedly obsessive/compulsive about cleanliness, always washing his hands and his axe almost to the point of sterility before playing. If you're that good, Brian, whatever floats your boat.

Bruce Channel - hey, hey Brucey! I want to kno-o-o-ow: is it pronounced "shuh-nell", French-style, or "tcha-nul", like what you flip through on TV?

His one hit was a van classic, as well as another pep band disaster; we'd play through the main part once on our instruments as written, then repeat with everyone dropping their instruments and singing the melody on top of the drums and bass line. Times like those make me glad I switched almost completely to bari sax for pep band.

Bruno Coulais - soundtrack composer for "Les Choristes". Purdy choral chansons, though I find little boys' choirs a bit irritating, and a pretty good French study aide.

Buckethead - virtuoso, at both guitar and oddity. Bucket and mask aside, he's unstoppable on guitar in any genre. In fact, buying a new Bucket album is a difficult task - if you don't have the opportunity to listen first, there's no guarantee whether it will be shreddy (Decoding the Tomb of Bansheebot, Kaleidoscalp), riffy almost classic rockish (Pepper's Ghost), airy lite-rocky (Colma, Electric Tears), pure acoustic mushy (Population Override), or what you're hoping for, which is unfathomably weird (Giant Robot, Monsters and Robots). He can do it all.

Let the bonus points roll. To start, he's collaborated with everyone: Bootsy Collins, Bill Laswell, Serj Tankian, Les Claypool, Travis Dickerson, That 1 Guy... Not to mention the groups Primus, C2B3, Guns 'n' Roses, Praxis, etc. Look at "Buckethead & Friends" for concentrated collaborative efforts, as well as the many I'm skipping.

Ok, I'm pretty much out of time, so I just recommend playing Guitar Hero II and unlocking "Jordan". Guitar Hero and real guitar are hardly comparable, but you should get the idea. eek.

Busta Rhymes - another one of my favorite rappers, for his ever-present humor and wit, as well as his constant about-to-flip-out vocal style. Woo haa! Further, he's hardcore like Quick Draw McGraw (btw, that supposedly rhymes).

One more day!


  1. You know I really wish I would have gone to see Ben Folds when he came to IWU because I really became fond of him after the fact. merr.

    One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs is actually Knockin' on Heaven's Doors, which was obviously popularized by GNR.

    Lastly, I believe I forget to add Michael Buble to the Ms so to the Bs he shall be. He's the modern-day Sinatra and has covered many of Sinatra's songs as well as other crooners......hence why I like him.

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