“Hold On” (Donkey Kong Variations)

Oh, my. So, as my regular readers both know, I am a Tom Waits fan. Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan are incredible songwriters; I know personal tastes differ, but if you disagree, you are quite simply wrong. And Mule Variations is a great album, with a taste of all the different facets of a musical life; it has some of my favorite songs ever–which I would elaborate on, but I would go on forever, and that’s not my point.

My point is, somebody (Buddy Peace, is his internet name) also loves that album, and a couple of months ago put out a tribute, “Donkey Kong Variations”, in the 8-bit musical stylings so familiar to video game enthusiasts of a certain age. I am roughly of that age, but was not a gamer, so the Waits/Brennan angle is the hook for me–and Kathleen Brennan herself linked to Buddy Peace’s version of “Hold On”, which is how I found it. “Hold On” was the most successful single (do they still use that term?), so the most likely to be known by those of you who are not necessarily fans… anyway… [Read more...]

America, America

I remember reading a particular issue of Mad Magazine back in the seventies. As it so often did, it included some song and poem parodies, this time on an environmentalist theme. I can recite two of them from memory–one a spot-on Dr. Seuss, and the other a version of the song “America The Beautiful”:

O cancerous, for smoggy skies
For pesticidal grain
Irritated mountains rise
Above an asphalt plain

America, America
Thy sins prepare thy doom
Monoxide clouds shall be thy shrouds
Thy cities be thy tomb!

[Read more...]

Repeat After Me:

So you’ve got a new ambition—it’s to write a gospel song—
They will play it on the radio, and maybe sing along
But your knowledge of the bible isn’t really all that strong
If you’re thinking that’s a problem, I can tell you that you’re wrong!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times! [Read more...]

There Will Be Light

One of the great things about today’s technological infrastructure (well, until the whole thing collapses and we revert to banging rocks together) is that you can have your favorite local radio station somewhere on the opposite side of the planet. Which is the case for me. Which means I get to hear stuff that will likely never make it to American radio (which still exists) or my students’ mp3 players or phones (my other source of new music recommendations).

I liked this one enough to buy it, to support the band. I recommend listening late at night, in some deserted parking lot or seldom-travelled back road. Extra points if you have someone there to dance with.

This Machine

Roots are neat things–they can intertwine in odd ways sometimes. I mentioned a couple of days ago that were it not for Pete Seeger, there would be no Digital Cuttlefish. Seeger’s influence, though, does not take just one direct path–Seeger influenced lots of people who (unintentionally, I assure you) shaped me in turn–Dylan, for instance, and Mojo Nixon, and Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen… sometimes you can see direct influences of these people in a verse I write (in such cases I usually try to apologize to Bob Dylan, for instance), and sometimes it is more subtle.

One such intermediate influence is Roy Zimmerman. He doesn’t know it, but we’ve met, a couple of times, and I have quite a few of his CD’s autographed by him (the others, not yet signed). His facility with wordplay is as inspiring as the ideas thus presented, which is saying something. Anyway, the video below was just sent out via his newsletter–if you aren’t already receiving it, click through to youtube and follow the link to subscribe (I’d link here, but I’m assuming he gets revenues through youtube as well, so give an artist some clicks)–and it is inspired by and dedicated to Pete Seeger. I’d explain the “this machine” reference, but Zimmerman does, and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

My own machine has no strings at all, but (I am reliably told) it is mightier than a sword.