Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rise & Fall of The Great Accordions

By the late Cretaceous Period, the Accordions
were in complete ascendancy.

Everything that moved and many things
didn’t had a mortal enemy
in the Accordion.

Never before or since has Nature
created such a voracious omnivore - one that
could and would consume anything
from raptors to trees to its own young.

This capable predator thrived on land and sea,
and it would dominate life on Earth
for almost 5,000,000 years.

Each new generation grew larger
and more fierce than the one before
until what we know as the Great Accordions
appeared in in eastern Africa and spread to Central Asia.

Some of these magnificent creatures
were as large as doughnut shops.
Their very magnificence, though,
would prove to be their undoing.

The loud, atonal wheezing sound
produced by Bellosaurus Belissima
as they moved could be heard from
nearly a kilometer away… more warning
than most prey needed to escape.

Ultimately, the only food they could catch
was each other, and it is this last desperate orgy
of cannibalism which accounts for their scarcity
in the fossil records.

Extinction was inevitable, and they would fade away
in the blink of an evolutionary eye.

Their day had passed, but new predators
would arise… with powers not based
on solely on size, but on speed, intelligence
and the ability to work together.

It was the dawning of a new era,
which would one day come to be known
as the Age of the Ukelele.


Brian Eno talks money, music & blubber

“I think records were just a little bubble through time
and those who made a living from them for a while
were lucky.

There is no reason why anyone should have made so much
money from selling records except that everything was right
for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner
or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. 

I don’t particularly care that it is, and I like the way things
are going. The record age was just a blip.

It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s
and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded
in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas
came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber.

Sorry mate – history’s moving along.

Recorded music equals whale blubber.
Eventually, something else will replace it.’’

Brian Eno

an oblique strategy


Before Lady Gaga, there was Roy Smeck

 ... and way before rock began to roll,
Roy Smeck was a rock star.

Roy was a multi-instrumentalist, a touring musician,
a movie star, an instrument builder and a technological
innovator pioneering possibilities that would become
industry standards.

He made over 500 recordings, starting with Edison,
and later for Victor, Columbia and Decca.

He became a virtuoso on the guitar, the lap steel,
the banjo and the harmonica, but it would be
another instrument that would take him
to the top of the musical world.

Roy Smeck was a monster on the ukelele.

Born at the turn of the century in Reading, PA,
he became obsessed by music as a kid. His father
taught him everything he knew, which added up
to 3 chords and Roy took it from there.

He started out on the vaudeville circuit,
where over time his live performances
would feature moves that seem familiar to rock and blues
audiences 50 years later, including:

- a variety of dance steps

- flipping the harmonica over with his tongue
  and pretending to swallow it before popping
  it back to his lips.

- play various instruments behind his back
  and on top of his head.

- spinning the ukelele around, blowing across the sound hole,
  plucking the strings with his teeth and tongue, bowing the strings
  like a violin and creating sounds behind the bridge and nut.

- and imitating the sound of fellow star performer
  Bill "Bojangles" Robinson tap dancing, on the ukulele.

Small wonder he was known as "the Wizard of the Strings"
or that his tours would include venues like Radio City Music Hall
in New York, The Steel Pier in Atlantic City and the London Palladium...
and command performances for US president Franklin D. Roosevelt
and King George V of the UK.


In 1926, he invents the rock video appearing in one of the first
sound films ever made by Warner Brothers.

By 1933, he's featured in "His Pastimes" - a revolutionary Paramount
short where the screen was divided into four parts, with Roy playing steel guitar, tenor banjo, ukulele and six-string guitar simultaneously.

It was multi-tracking... ten years before Les Paul.


Somewhere along the way, he saw Sol Hoopii perform.
Hoopii was a native Hawaiian, and is often called
the finest lap steel guitar player in history.

His music had a profound effect on Roy. Hawaiian music
became his obsession. He worked his way deeply into the
music, integrating it into his sound and played a key role 

in celebrating Hawaiian music and bringing it to a larger
audience that exists to this day.


One guitar book calls Roy "the king of the artist models", with good reason.

In the late 1920s, Harmony Company issued the Vita-Uke,
an instrument invented by Roy.

They introduced a Roy Smeck signature line with a Hawaiian guitar
in 1930. Soon, that line would include ukuleles, guitars and banjos.

When the Gibson Guitar Company released its Roy Smeck
Hawaiian acoustic guitar in 1936, it was only the second artist
signature model in their history*. 


Generations of ukulele and banjo players came to know him
as an inspiration and mentor. When he was touring, he often
put on workshops, appeared free at music stores, and held talent
contests for local players.


He wrote instructional books for his
friend Mel Bay's
publishing company and he welcomed younger players
all his life.

During the second world war and later in the Korean War,
Roy toured with USO shows to play for GIs from Greenland
and Iceland to Korea and Japan.

Over time, Roy became better known among musicians
than the public at large. When Yazoo began re-issuing
some of his early work in the 70s, a whole new generation
of acoustic musicians - including Robert Crumb -
were introduced to his work. 


Dr. T. at Mississippi Moan summed it up beautifully...

" he was the fellow who described his ascension
in the music industry thusly:

"I didn't play any better for 1,250 dollars
than for 150 dollars.

Which goes to show that even he truly considered
what he did "playing," no matter how miraculous
it sounded."

want more Smeck?

Roy Smeck at Wikipedia

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How to Start a Band

It's no surprise that many young people - and some not-so-young
people - today want to be in a band. Who doesn't want to be famous,
worshiped, envied, beautiful and rich?

But the road to becoming a celebrity success in popular music
is not easy, so here are some tips on how to get your game on,
beginning with perhaps the most important decision of all-
naming your brand band:

Here's more in-depth perspective
from Scott Meyer at basicinstructions.

Of course, there's more to a brand band than just a name.
Here are some other important issues you need to address:

At some point, you will have to make some music.
There is a t-shirt available that can help...

Given how much competition there is these days for celebrity,
a brief reality check seems in order.
Take special notice of panel 6, as this kind of marketing your band brand
is important for your "street cred".
This phase can last for days, or even weeks.

... and there you go! Good luck on your journey to fame
and fortune, and don't forget to "keep it real".

Here's one last bonus tip to help with that...

Peace out.

Practical Tips for Working Musicians


Don van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart (2)

I'd never just want to do what everybody else did.
I'd be contributing to the sameness of everything.

If you want to be a different fish,
you got to jump out of the school.

I don't even know what sound is, much less what it's for.
It isn't to make money that's for sure. I've never made any.

The way I keep in touch with the world is gingerly,
because the world touches too hard.

When I see a dolphin, I know it's just as smart as I am.

I don't do lullabyes.

I think Shakespeare is really the one.
Words as music and music as words.
Everything he wrote was good,
which is really frightening.

You can tell by the kindness of a dog
how a human should be.

An artist is one who kids himself the most gracefully.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Don van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart

In December of 2010,
the man I always thought of
as the Real Captain America
left the building. 

Captain Beefheart
was a nom de plume used
by the closest thing white rock music ever had
to a true shaman.

A man with more gris-gris than Mac Rebennack,
and more poetry than Jim Morrison,
who was more far out than Mercury
or that other Morrison, or Morrisey.

He spent more of his life living in the desert
and painting than he did being a rock star,
which if you go by sales, he never really was.

mutually useful but volatile.

Typically a Beefheart album might do 50 to 60,000 units.

His sales volumes may have been low, but his demographics
were something else.

His audience included Jerzy Kosinski, Igor Stravinsky,
Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders,
Woody Allen, John Lydon, Joe Strummer, Devo,
PJ Harvey, Pere Ubu...

...and 50 to 60,000 others.

Beefheart was a one-namer before Madonna
could cross the street
by herself.

'all roads lead to coca-cola'

Don van Vliet



I look at her and she looks at me
In her eyes I see the sea
I can't see what she sees in a man like me
She says she loves me

Her eyes
Her eyes
Her eyes are a blue million miles

Her eyes are a blue million miles 
Don van Vliet 1972

Fast goes fast
Slow goes slow
Rich are rich and the po' are po'
Everybody's doing the Low Yo Yo Yo Yo
Everybody's doing it
Deep down everybody knows they should
Do the Low Yo Yo Yo Yo

Low Yo Yo Stuff   Don van Vliet 1972

50 to 60,000 is also about the number of US dollars 
you would need to buy a painting or two of his now.

Funny business, art.

You used me like an ashtray heart
Right from the start
Case of the punks
Another day, another way
Somebody's had too much to think
Open up another case of the punks
Each pillow is touted like a rock
The mother / father figure
Somebody's had too much to think
Send your mother home your navel

Ashtray Heart   
Don van Vliet  1980

i told my mother - she showed it to me not too long ago, 

in this baby book in that horrible palmer penmanship
method of writing that she used...on this old yellow
piece of paper it's written out, that if she would stay
on one side of the room and i would stay on the other,
that we would be friends the rest of our life.

Don van Vliet

i met aldous huxley. i sold him a vacuum cleaner.
i said: 'i assure you, sir, this thing sucks!'. he bought everything in my car. i was selling electrolux vacuum cleaners. i quit right after that - probably some time
before 1959.

Don van Vliet

stars are matter
we are matter
but it doesn't matter.

Don van Vliet

January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010
after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

Don Van Vliet

the Captain Beefheart Radio Station


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