Arcade Fire, Again

Three years ago, we were blown away by Arcade Fire’s amazing HTML5 experimental “video” for The Wilderness Downtown. You may recall it involved superimposing their video plot on your own hometown, via Google Maps and Google Earth, which sounds way less impressive than it actually was (and is).

Apparently, innovative online content is a core value for Arcade Fire, because what they’re doing with Reflektor is something else again; using your smartphone as a controller, you can affect the video as it plays, but that’s a super-reductive way to describe what’s going on here. Here’s a behind the scenes bit that helps explain what’s happening here. (Now, as then, you need Chrome for this to work.)

The record drops 10/28. Mark your calendars.

It’s Prince’s Birthday

In his honor, take time for at least one of these two amazing vids. Both have been on Heathen before, but they’re both worth a re-look.

First: The short one: this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps is from the all-star tribute to George Harrison on VH1 some years ago. Prince handles the solo duties like the incredible player and amazing showman he’s always been. My favorite part: at the end, when he’s done, he throws his guitar up and struts off the stage.

The guitar never comes down.

Second: I found this a while back on Metafilter. It’s a story covering this video (note: not the link from the Hilobrow story; that one’s been DCMA’d off the net) of Prince and his band from the early 80s. He’s much younger; Wendy and Lisa are with him, and he’s not quite yet the superstar he’d become. That process starts with this performance, because it’s the very first time anyone ever heard Purple Rain.

It’s long. Make time. It’s the man’s birthday, for crying out loud.

Dept. of Whoa.

This 14-year-old girl plays the everliving FUCK out of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.”

This should give new meaning to “plays like a girl.”

Also, it’s good to see that kids today still appreciate the classics. Had I as a 14-year-old tried to learn a piece of music of similar age, by the way, I’d have been kinda out of luck, since 1948 was basically a musical wasteland — rock and roll was years away, and musically interesting rock-specific guitar playing even farther.

It’s odd to consider now, but the middle 1970s were still pretty early in the development of modern popular music — Elvis’ commercial breakout was only 20 years before. If we consider 1957 as the first year of rock-and-roll hegemony on the charts (which may or may not be defensible for more than a blog post), then a Van Halen fan in 1977 has just 20 years of rock to draw from. Plus, the evolution of the form was so dramatic that few folks enjoyed both the hits of the late 1950s and the kind of post-Beatles, post-Hendrix, post-Zeppelin music that came in the next decade.

In 2013, we’re closing in on having SIXTY years of rock and roll to choose from, and even if we dismiss the first decade of essentially playful bits and start at 1967 instead, we have a half century. That’s a big buffet, and it makes it more remarkable that this kid found that first Van Halen record. (I suspect good parenting.)

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have a new record coming out.

You read that right.

Rolling Stone has a little video promo about it that you should watch.

By this point, it should come as no surprise that Martin has a serious music career — he has, after all, won a Grammy for music in addition to the one he got for comedy. However, if you, like me, haven’t seen a picture of Mrs Paul Simon since the 1980s, it may surprise you how little she’s changed. I suspect a portrait in the attic.

Also, it appears this record had its genesis in a dinner party, which suggests there are dinner parties happening that include Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, and Steve Martin. Which is AWESOME.

The record, entitled “Love Has Come For You,” will be released on April 23rd. Mark your calendars.

You know her voice.

Merry Clayton has a voice that will melt steel. You probably don’t know her name, but you know her astonishing backing vocal on Gimme Shelter.

What you also don’t know is that, after the sessions for that record, she miscarried. The Stones were distraught, and gave her a portion of the song royalties. She also recorded her own version, which I strongly recommend you go listen to.

Merry Christmas

February 20 or 21, 1981. The 688 Club in Atlanta, Georgia. R. E. M., opening for Joe “King” Carrasco.

Stipe is a month past his 21st birthday in this footage; Berry, Buck, and Mills aren’t a bunch older. Almost 32 years ago. Sweet Christ.

What’s that? Not enough puppets or claymation in your music videos?

Well, our friends at the Linus Pauling Quartet have you covered:

If this is the sort of thing you enjoy, you should join me at their Module Release Show, 1PM, 15 December, at Cactus Music.

I should note that this release is not an ordinary release party. First, it’s a compilation of live cuts, out of print bits, and other rarities from LP4’s very, very long history. Second, it’s called “Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords,” and packaged as a D&D module complete with character sheets and maps.

I am not making this up. See you there.

Dept. of Things That Could Not Be More Awesome

So (pun intended) Peter Gabriel played the Hollywood Bowl the other night, doing the entirety of the record I made a joke about at the beginning of this sentence.

As you may recall, especially if you’re about my age, that album includes a song from a particularly iconic scene in late-eighties cinema.

With the scene now set, we take you now to the Hollywood Bowl, 2 nights ago, and 23 years after Lloyd and Diane.

(PS: Note also that, apparently, Gabriel himself shared this fan-shot footage on his official Facebook, which is kind of rad all on its own.)

(Also, the video was shot was a consumer-grade camera actually intended for still photography. Miracles and wonders, people.)

Strange things afoot in the music world

Make of these what you will:

Point the First Amanda Palmer’s record entered the Billboard charts at #10. A crowdsourced, Kickstarter record, completely free of label support. Or a label at all, really.

If you are a record label, my guess is that this scares the shit out of you.


Point the Second Running errands at lunch, I flipped over from NPR to a local pop radio station. It was playing Gangnam Style.

It’s 1981 somewhere

Specifically, here, where you can see shockingly high quality footage of a very, very young U2 playing “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” in a Berlin nightclub.

Presumably, West Berlin. Kids, ask your parents.

h/t to (@groovehouse](

Gangnam Style: Explained

Because the Internet is magic, I’m able to point you to this excellent thread at Reddit where a South Korean explains the cultural context of the now-iconic song and video.

Here’s a few bits that may not be clear:

  • Psy is not a one-hit wonder. He’s had a long and varied career despite having it interrupted twice by conscription.
  • While obviously somewhat goofy in presentation, he’s taken seriously from a musical and cultural commentary standpoint.
  • Even the phrase “Oppa Gangnam Style” is pretty loaded with meaning in Korean.

Go read both of juyunkim89’s posts there; this kind of cross-cultural perspective is what we all hoped would happen way more often with a global Internet. It’s pretty damn cool even if it’s just discussing a pop song.

August 3, 1983: Something extraordinary

These are Matthew De Abaitua’s words. They are awesome:

Wendy Melvoin is fresh from high school. She is a wearing a V-necked sleeveless top, and patterned shorts. She is playing the first chords of a new song on her purple guitar, opening chords that she wrote, a circular motif with a chorus effect. Wendy is eighteen-nineteen and she has the high cheekbones and diffident confidence of a Hollywood upbringing. She half-smiles at the faces that crowd close to the low club stage. This is Wendy’s first gig with the new band, and the song she is playing is “Purple Rain,” and nobody in the audience has ever heard “Purple Rain” before because this is the night that Prince and the Revolution record the song.

No, seriously. This video link is the foundation of the take you know and love and have been listening to for almost 30 years. They took it live, from here.

The gig is a benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theater. Prince and the Revolution are taking dance lessons and their tutor suggests the gig as a way of supporting the financially challenged theatre; because Prince is a local lad, born and raised in Minneapolis, a city he will always come back to, he agrees to play.

In 1983, Prince is an international star, thanks to “1999″ and “Little Red Corvette.” He has released five albums in five years, from when he was eighteen years old. He has so many songs he forms other bands like The Time and Vanity 6 to play them. He is an impresario and a producer and he is also only twenty-three, not so far away from the poor black kid who stood outside McDonald’s just to smell the food he couldn’t afford. His instinct for self-reliance, his tendency to be dictatorial, has been blindsided by these two sophisticated young women, Wendy and, on her keyboards, her lover, Lisa; for the first time in his life, he will collaborate in a meaningful way.


The crowd at First Avenue, their faces straining against one another, receive the brief benediction of a wavering spotlight: to them, “Purple Rain” doesn’t sound like any song that Prince has played before: the tight electronic funk, his harsh and weird sex songs, the soul ballads in which he asks for forgiveness — “Purple Rain” is something new, something different. They don’t know how to react. In fact the crowd is so muted that when this recording is prepared for the album, the engineer loops some crowd noise taken from a football game to give it some life.

What do great songs sound like the first time we hear them? Can you remember that feeling? When Bob Dylan heard The Animals’ version of “House of the Rising Sun,” he got out of the car and ran around it again and again he was so excited. The first time you hear a great song is so rare, and it can never be repeated; watching the crowd during this first performance of “Purple Rain,” I see that look on a few faces, a silent shocked awe. On the twenty-seven other recordings of “Purple Rain” on my iPod, the moment the first chord is strummed, the crowd cheer, acknowledging the anthem. They become a congregation, keen to be guided through the Purple Rain, and that has its ecstasies, even if it involves cigarette lighters held aloft, and hands waved in the air. But to hear silence flowing back from the audience, no singalong because they don’t know the words, is to eavesdrop on the shock of the new.

Oh, holy crap just go read the whole thing, and do NOT miss the first link up there — it’s the video.

Via MeFi. This shit, right here, is some quality Internettin’, boys and girls. Enjoy.

PS: The MeFi thread reminded me of this Hall of Fame peformance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and others, which I previously mentioned here. The best part, even over Prince’s amazing solo and the degree of “holy shit” you see on the faces of the other musicians is what comes at the end: Prince finishes his solo, tosses the guitar up into the air, and walks — no, struts — offstage.

The guitar never comes down.

So that’s what he meant

I’ll admit that, for 25 years or more, I had no idea what Pat DiNizio meant in the lyrics to “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” but now that I’ve actually seen a picture of Jeanie Shrimpton, well . . . right there with ya, buddy.

(Here, in this nuturing group, I’ll admit that I also didn’t understand the Stones reference (“…she stood just like Bill Wyman…”) until at least 1988.)