Category Archives: Music

Non Sequitur: Guilty Pleasures (Musical Edition)

Queen is one of those guilty pleasures: a band whose music is great, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I like.

Anonymous, during a recent conversation we had about music.

I don’t have any trouble admitting that I like Queen, personally, but I do hesitate sometimes before revealing that enjoy some other musicians and musical groups, like Ace of Base and (gasp!) Yanni. I also like enough of the music from The Backyardigans, a Nick Jr. show that my young apprentice occasionally watches, that I’ve purchased several songs from their repertoire (ostensibly for my son’s enjoyment, though I listen to them when he’s not around).

Some people consider ABBA a guilty pleasure, but so much of my childhood occurred while “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” were spinning on my dad’s record player that I can’t feel even the slightest bit of embarrassment about enjoying them. ((In my memory, my father owned exactly three distinct categories of LPs: ABBA, Bill Cosby and Country & Western.))

Yanni: Live at the Acropolis
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What makes a guilty pleasure? Why should I (or anyone else, for that matter) feel guilty for enjoying the music of a 70s Scandinavian pop group (or a 90s copycat of a 70s Scandinavian pop group) or a smug, over-coiffed, Greek synthesizer slinger? ((I don’t know that Yanni is actually smug, but he certainly comes across that way. If you’ve ever seen his Live at the Acropolis performance, you may know what I mean.))

Context plays a big part; the music I’ll readily cop to enjoying depends a lot on who I’m talking to and what sort of music we’re discussing. ((Peer pressure: no expiration date.)) Am I likely to mention that I own half a dozen Enya albums when the musical topic is metal groups? Not terribly. ((I may not be likely to mention that I own three Metallica albums, either, as Metallica fans seem to be divided into pre-Load fans and…me.)) That’s not to say I’ll deny owning those Enya albums, mind you—there’s just less of a likelihood they’ll be mentioned in that context than if the genre of the moment is overdubbed, ethereal Irish New Age. ((Which, admittedly, is a fairly specific genre.))

ABBA: Voulez-vous
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There’s also the context of the artist or group itself. ABBA is a product of the early 1970s, and everything about ABBA—from their glam-pop sound to their stage costumes and album covers—is a testament to the time period. There are aspects of every decade in the past half-century that are mocked, from the exaggerated Nuclear Family of the 1950s to Free Love in the 1960s and Big Hair in the 1980s, ((What are the 1990s mocked for, you ask? Mostly Ace of Base and Yanni, I think.)) but I don’t think any decade is shunned with such socio-fashionistic fervor as the 1970s. ((Is there any musical genre more scorned than disco? I think not. Nonetheless, I do enjoy a Bee Gees tune every now and then.))

Then there are individual songs from artists or groups who might not otherwise be considered guilty pleasures. Neil Diamond’s “America” with its bombastic, unabashed patriotism; the saccharine sweetness of “Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots (produced for another Nick Jr. show, Yo Gabba Gabba!); the sappy sentimentality of Marc Cohn’s “Silver Thunderbird”—all songs that tug at my emotions to such a degree that I often struggle to keep the tears down when I listen to them. ((Yes, I’m destined to turn into the sort of father who is moved to tears by long-distance telephone service advertisements on television. I’m told it’s hereditary.))

What else about a genre, group, artist or song might make it a guilty pleasure? What are your personal musical guilty pleasures and why are they guilty?

Do You Hear What I Hear? Contest Winner

Consulting the Wikipedia entry for mondegreen, ((Kudos to Sam Chupp for pointing me to this.)) we find the following:

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony, in a way that yields a new meaning to the phrase.

“He played rubbery with his lips…”

When all is said and done, that phrase may not quite meet the definition of a mondegreen, but it is certainly a profoundly, incredibly incorrect interpretation of a song lyric. Just how profoundly, incredibly incorrect is the interpretation? Well, for starters, I didn’t even get the first word right. Here is the correct lyric:

“You played robbery with insolence…”

…and I played the blues in twelve bars down on Lover’s Lane. The song in question is “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits (as heard on the Brothers in Arms album) and, in my defense, it features plenty of lyrics that a ten-year-old boy would find unusual if not downright impenetrable. That it took me more than twenty years to correct my ten-year-old interpretation is merely a testament to the power of procrastination.

“You must have had a pasty made out of wax.”

I have eaten countless Cornish meat pies—pasties—in the past thirty-odd years; they were a staple of my diet growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the tale of how my Finnish immigrant ancestors came to adopt them is one I won’t go into here. When I was ten I knew that Dire Straits was a British rock band and that the pasty had its roots in the United Kingdom, so it didn’t seem at all unusual to me that Mark Knopfler would sing about wax pasties. Not unusual at all.

“You must’ve had a passkey made out of wax.”

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?There was a grand total of five entries in the contest, though I was sure that once the Fabulous Prize was revealed I’d see a flood of new e-mail. Every entry was correct, so everyone who entered had a 20% chance of winning the Fabulous Prize. Having cast the die ((I realize that I’m using this idiom incorrectly, but the winner was chosen by die roll and “[h]aving rolled the die” doesn’t sound as cool. Plus, misusing the idiom fits with the theme of the contest.)) I am pleased to announce that the winner of the contest is Natalie Metzger. Natalie will soon be receiving a copy of Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. If you didn’t enter the contest for some reason, leave a comment or e-mail me at contest@kjtoo.com to let me know how I could make future contests (if there are any) more enticing.

Contest: Do You Hear What I Hear?

"Unborken" by judemat
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Every once in a while a song winds its way into my brain, a song that I’ve heard dozens of times over the years, a song that I think I know the lyrics to—and then I make the mistake of looking up the lyrics on these here Intertubes and I find that I was not just wrong, but profoundly, incredibly wrong.

That’s just what happened to me yesterday: I found myself humming a tune and I realized that the lyrics I’ve been singing to myself, lo, these many years, are patently ridiculous. A quick lyric search confirmed my fears, as I found I had been singing this song wrong for better than twenty years. ((That’s a hint; this isn’t a Mylie Cyrus song.))

Such a long-running blunder deserves to be corrected in style, so I thought I’d make a game of it; a contest, if you will. My profoundly, incredibly incorrect version of the lyric is below. If you e-mail me the song title, the artist and the correct lyric by 11:59pm EST on Friday, 28 August 2009, your name will be entered into a random drawing to win A Fabulous Prize. ((Prize may not actually be fabulous, depending on your point of view.))

Here’s the profoundly, incredibly incorrect lyric:

“He played rubbery with his lips…”

That’s it. That’s all you get.

[Update: 24 August 2009]

Believe it or not, the profoundly, incredibly incorrect lyric above isn’t alone. When I was but a lad, I heard another line of the song as:

“You must have had a pasty made out of wax.” ((That’s “pasty”, as in Cornish meat pie. Not, you know…the other thing. Hey, the pasty was a staple of my diet growing up. Burlesque and strip clubs, not so much.))

Now I knew that couldn’t be correct, so I looked it up in the album’s liner notes and found the correct lyrics, ((Boy, do I miss liner notes.)) but somehow I managed to overlook the whole “rubbery with his lips” business at that time.

[Update: 26 August 2009]

Some people have told me that they are hesistant to enter the contest because they found the answer after searching on The Googles. There’s no rule prohibiting the use of search engines, and even if there were I’d have no way to enforce it. So, by all means, Google away! The first lyric is so profoundly, incredibly incorrect that I would be shocked (shocked, I tell you) to learn that someone had managed to wrangle the answer out of a Google search. The second lyric, on the other hand…

Oh, and check back tomorrow, when the Fabulous Prize will be revealed.

[Update: 27 August 2009]

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?Is the Fabulous Prize truly Fabulous? That depends on whether you’d like a copy of Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (Deluxe Edition). I know I would, but I’ve only got the one copy and it’s still in the original shrink wrap.

Here’s the skinny on how you could win yourself one (1) prize of potential fabulosity…

Rules and Instructions

  1. The contest is open to U.S. residents only. Sorry, rest of the world, but I’ve gotta pay for shipping and I’m just a poor boy. ((Nobody loves me. This isn’t a hint, by the way.))
  2. Contest entries must be received by 11:59pm EST, Friday, 28 August 2009.
  3. Only e-mail entries will be accepted, and you must use a valid e-mail address. I promise I will not spam you or sell your address; I need it only to inform the winner and get his or her snail mail address.
  4. One entry per person per day.
  5. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter. If you’re under 18, have a parent or guardian enter on your behalf. If you really want to jump through that particular hoop, keep in mind that the song is older than you are.
  6. The subject of your e-mail must be “Incorrect Lyric Contest“.
  7. The entry must include the following:
    1. The name of the song.
    2. The name of the artist.
    3. The correct lyric.
    4. Your name (or pseudonym), which I will use when I announce the winner. Pseudonyms I deem offensive will be disqualified.
  8. Entries must be sent to contest@kjtoo.com.
  9. The winner will be chosen at random from all qualifying, correct entries. Lacking a correct entry, I will select a random winner from those entries I judge most correct. ((Or “least incorrect”.))
  10. The winner will be contacted on or prior to Monday, 31 August 2009.
  11. The winner will be announced on or after Monday, 31 August 2009.

The Fabulous Prize

I have not yet acquired The Fabulous Prize, so I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be, but I can tell you this:

  1. The Fabulous Prize will be new. I’m not going to try to pawn off any of my used crap as a prize. ((Hooray for new crap!))
  2. The monetary value of The Fabulous Prize will be somewhere between 10 and 15 dollars. Fabulous American dollars, naturally.
  3. If you want to get an idea of what might qualify as a prize, take a peek around this blog; you’ll get a pretty good idea of the sort of stuff I would consider Fabulous Prize material: music, movies, books, that sort of thing.
  4. I am not going to feel bad if you win the contest and do not like The Fabulous Prize. If you’re afraid of accidentally winning something you already own or won’t like, your best option is to refrain from entering the contest.

Photo credit:Unborken” by judemat.

First of May 2008

Begone, ye fools and showers! April is no more!

As is my annual tradition, I am posting (some of) the lyrics from Jonathan Coulton’s “First of May”, with the caveat that the remaining lyrics are decidedly adult in nature.

Jonathan CoultonJonathan Coulton is as close to an Internet rock star as one can possibly be. His song “Skullcrusher Mountain” is the official theme of The Secret Lair, and if that isn’t enough to convince you, Coulton’s “Still Alive” appears not only in the wildly popular first-person shooter, Portal, but also in the wildly popular musical madness known as Rock Band.

Yes, he’s an incredibly talented, incredibly funny, incredibly bearded guy, and he wrote a song just for today.

I woke up this morning
I had a scone and a large house blend
Then a little conversation
with my squirrel and chipmunk friends

I said, “I’m sick and tired of winter,
and I wish that it was spring.”
Then a little fella named Robin Red Breast
began to sing.

And he sang,
Ooh-ooh, child
what you think the cold winter’s gonna last forever?
Ooh-ooh, child,
now’s the time for all the people to get together…
outside.

‘Cause it’s the first of May,
first of May…

First of May” by Jonathan Coulton

Whether or not you celebrate today in the spirit that Jonathan intended, do get outside and enjoy the weather, and if you should stumble across someone who is celebrating in the spirit of the song…well, it’s probably best to just avert your eyes.

Musicstuff: Rush in Concert

Snakes & Arrows
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If you were a fan of progressive rock when Rush arrived on the music scene thirty-three years ago, there’s a good chance that a 7:30 concert is going to have you up way past your bedtime. ((Oh, and if that concert is on a Thursday evening and you’ve got to work the following morning, you’re probably better off staying home to watch Baretta reruns and sip a tall, cool glass of Metamucil.)) If, on the other hand, your first real exposure to the Canadian trio was sometime after the Ford ((No, Gerald.)) administration, then you (like me) are likely still a virile young buck with more than enough energy to propel you to eleven o’clock and far beyond.

Thursday night, thousands of Rush fans gave their bedtimes the collective middle finger and descended upon the Blossom Music Center; the elder crowd to have their socks rocked off, the younger generation to have their B0XX0RZ R0XX0R3D down to their S0XX0RS. Cranking out nearly thirty songs that spanned more than three decades of music in just under three hours, Rush definitely brought the rock to Blossom and I find it hard to believe anyone could have walked away unsatisfied. A wee bit deaf, perhaps, but certainly not unsatisfied.

Because I am apparently made of stupid, I left my cell phone in the MVoD on the way to the concert. This was disappointing for several reasons: At the start of the concert I wanted to call my brother, Keven, to gloat a bit; ((He saw the concert when the 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour kicked off in Atlanta, so he’s got no real reason to whine.)) I also wanted to call blob when Rush played “Tom Sawyer”, because I am a jerk; and I wanted to take a few photos of myself and others enjoying the concert. ((I’m especially annoyed at this, because I missed the opportunity to capture Air Guitar Man’s rocking solo.)) Fortunately, I was able to convince another concert-goer to e-mail me a couple of photos he took with his cell phone (a Motorola Razr, I believe). ((Thank you, Chris, for indulging me; the photos you took are at least as good as (and probably better than) anything I would have snapped with my Treo 650.))

Rush in Concert at Blossom
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The show, as I mentioned previously, nearly covered the entirety of Rush’s thirty-three year musical history. Though there were no tunes from their first three albums, they did play “A Passage to Bangkok” from 2112 (1976). There was also a very satisfying sampling of songs from both Permanent Waves (1980) and Moving Pictures (1981), a handful of songs covering 1982 (including the excellent “Subdivisions” from Signals) through 2004, and a whopping nine tracks from Snakes & Arrows. A complete set list can be found on the tour’s Wikipedia entry.

Highlights of the show included Bob and Doug McKenzie introducing “The Larger Bowl” and a hilarious South Park skit featuring Eric Cartman as Geddy Lee that led into a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Tom Sawyer”. Then, of course, there was Neil Peart’s fantastic ten-minute drum solo. I don’t imagine anyone had to convince Neil to do a drum solo, but I suspect the conversation would have gone something like this:

PITCHMAN: Okay, Neil, here’s what we’re thinking: we want to surround you with 250 objects of various shapes and sizes and we want you to pound on them with wooden sticks for about ten minutes. Do you think you can do that?

NEIL PEART: Of course I can do that! I’m Neil Peart, aren’t I?

He most certainly is, ((I believe my words to Rae Lamond on the subject of Neil Peart were something along the lines of “he may be the best drummer in the history of men hitting stuff with sticks”.)) and watching him do his thing on stage was awe-inspiring. I almost felt sorry for Alex Lifeson, who followed Neil’s frenetically fantastic percussion with “Hope”, an acoustic guitar solo. The saving grace for Lifeson is that “Hope” is quite possibly my favorite song from Snakes & Arrows (the second being “The Main Monkey Business”, another instrumental piece) and it was a nice, almost mellow counterpoint to previous 360-plus seconds of unrelenting, ferocious energy.

Rush Concert
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My own stupidity aside, I thought the concert was incredible. I was very pleased and impressed with both the quantity and quality of the songs played (though I would have liked to hear “Red Barchetta” and “Bastille Day”) and also with the energy generated by three guys who are (to quote Geddy) “a million years old”. I have to give props to Schoon (another Chris) for scoring the tickets way back in April of 1997 (((ish) )) and for providing transportation to and from Blossom. Thanks again to the other Chris for sending me the photos, and thanks to Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart for rocking me sockless. Oh, and a special thanks to my brother, Keven, for getting me hooked on Rush at an early age.

First of May (2007)

Has it really been a whole year since I first posted these lyrics? It has? Well, here they are again. Follow the link below for all the lyrics and to download the song. And, hey, watch out for those explicit lyrics.

I woke up this morning
I had a scone and a large house blend
Then a little conversation
with my squirrel and chipmunk friends

I said, “I’m sick and tired of winter,
and I wish that it was spring.”
Then a little fella named Robin Red Breast
began to sing.

And he sang,
Ooh-ooh, child
what you think the cold winter’s gonna last forever?
Ooh-ooh, child,
now’s the time for all the people to get together…
outside.

‘Cause it’s the first of May,
first of May…

— “First of May” by Jonathan Coulton

Now get out there and celebrate!

Music: Dylan Hears a Who

Now here’s something you don’t see (or hear) every day: Seven Dr. Seuss poems — including “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Cat in the Hat” and my second favorite Seuss poem ever, “Too Many Daves” — as Bob Dylan might have performed them in the 1960s.

Not only can you listen to all the songs, you can download a ZIP file containing the individual MP3 files. You can also download jewel case inserts and a CD label. Truly excellent.

Kudos to Eye-Berried Pall (whoever they may be) for creating this and thanks to Jason Penney for linking to it.

Music: Coulton Does Cleveland

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton — who is responsible for songs like “Code Monkey”, “Skullcrusher Mountain”, “First of May” and “Soft Rocked By Me” — will be playing Wilbert’s in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, 30 November.

Also playing that night are Paul and Storm, formerly of the excellent a cappella group, Da Vinci’s Notebook (“Title of the Song”, “Another Irish Drinking Song”, “Enormous Penis”Here come the Google hits!).

If you are in the Cleveland vicinity on 30 November, have dollars numbering ten at your disposal, and enjoy music with a humorous twist, you may want to get yourself to Wilbert’s.

Music: Lordi Brings the Arockalypse to Eurovision

The day of rockoning has arrived: Finnish monster-rock group Lordi won the 51st annual Eurovision Song Contest yesterday (20 May 2006), beating out contestants from thirty-six other European countries and striking down the prophets of false.

If you’ve been living in North America (or under a rock in Europe) for the past fifty years, you may not be familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest. If you are tempted to ask whether it is at all similar to American Idol, you should probably stop watching American Idol. In fact, do that anyway.

Eurovision Song ContestAmerican version coming soon to NBC. is more like the pop music Olympics — in fact, the 2006 finals were held at the Olympic Arena in Athens, Greece — except that there’s only one event, only one entrant (group or individual) from each country, and you don’t have to wait four years for the contest to come around again.

Unlike the Olympics (and, unfortunately, like American Idol), Eurovision winners are ultimately decided by the audience. Viewers in thirty-eight countries (the entrant from Serbia/Montenegro dropped out of the contest but the country was still allowed to vote) had only a ten-minute window to submit their votes via telephone or SMS (cellular text-messaging). When the votes were tallied, Lordi had a total of 292 points, 44 more than first runner-up Dima, who hailed from Russia.

Whether you’ve heard of the contest or not, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with some of Eurovision’s past contestants:

  • Julio Iglesias represented Spain in 1970. He finished 8th with his song, “Gwendolyne.”
  • ABBA won the contest in 1974 with their song, “Waterloo.” That same year, Olivia Newton-John took 4th place with her song, “Long Live Love.”
  • Despite being born in Canada, Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988 and won Eurovision singing “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi”.
  • American expatriates Katrina Leskanich and Vince de la Cruz form half of 1997 Eurovision-winning group Katrina & the Waves.

Finland’s first entry in Eurovision Song Contest was Laila Kinnunen in 1961. Her song, “Valoa Ikkunassa” placed 10th that year but until yesterday, Finland had yet to take home the grand prize.

Lordi - Monsterican Dream (CD)

Apart from being the first Finnish group to win Eurovision, Lordi holds the distinction of being a distinctly “non-Eurovision” winner.I was informed of this by no less than an actual European. The contest has historically been more of a pop music venue, but Lordi, with their melodic monster-rock and fright-mask makeup, definitely breaks the Eurovision mold. The winning song, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” is definitely not representative of recent winners, but has nonetheless been described as “the most rocking Eurovision entry since ABBA’s ‘Waterloo'”.The CD pictured is Lordi’s Monstermerican Dream. Unfortunately, it does not feature “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, which has yet to be released on disc.

Lordi will not rest long on their laurels, however. The group resumes their Bringing the Balls Back to Finland tour on 17 June. Alas, the tour doesn’t stop anywhere near Willoughby, Ohio.