The Not-Pop Jukebox
  • Ring of Fire - Various Artists 2016-04-03T11:05:00.002-05:00
    In reposting from five years ago, I keep finding playlists that I created in Grooveshark that have all disappeared into an abyss never to be seen again. They included as many as forty versions of or thematically related songs that I spent hours curating. Ring of Fire was one of the first, and it was blessedly short!

    Happily, the song and its covers have not paled over time. My family still sings it at full volume when shuffle blesses us with a version. Here's hoping the rest of my recreations go as smoothly! Here's the original post and the new video playlist with the addition of the actual original from Anita Carter and a couple of other great burning covers (don't miss DragonForce and don't look for Coldplay--this is the Not-Pop Jukebox, you know).

    I feel that I should start with a disclaimer that I don’t watch American Idol. I do, however, like many of Johnny Cash’s songs and Ring of Fire in particular. It caught my eye that one of the contestants performed a very unusual version of that song last night and the wildly varying opinions led me to watch the video.

    While I wasn’t crazy about the arrangement, the many posts and comments that I read expressing the opinion that Johnny Cash was spinning in his grave made me go looking for even more versions of Ring of Fire. I suspect that The Man in Black would have given the contestant a hearty pat on the back for taking such chances rather than being offended by the unusual interpretation. Of all of the country stars whose songs he could have chosen, I think Cash is the most likely to enjoy such a creative rendition.

    Consider these versions of Ring of Fire, most of which were recorded while Mr. Cash was still alive (and, for the better-known acts, almost certainly with his permission). Try Grace Jones’ reggae-tinged version, Ray Charles’ soulful cover, or Blondie’s punk-country take on it. I’ve included Johnny Cash himself at the end (he's at the beginning, now), for a reminder of how it originally sounded. There’s a bit of nasty language in the Social Distortion cover, so if that will upset you then you may want to skip it.
  • The Chicken - Maceo Parker with Nils Landgren Funk Unit 2016-03-27T20:36:00.000-05:00
    I've posted about the Nils Landgren Funk Unit before and I probably will again. I don't think I've ever waxed adoringly on the funky, jazzy sax prowess of Maceo Parker. As a transition between the two, and as a shining example of why talented people should collaborate, let's have the former playing--nay jamming their faces off--with the latter.

    The Chicken has been around a while. James Brown released it as a B side first but Pee Wee Ellis wrote the thing to begin with. As with so many great songs, musicians picked it up and made it their own over the decades. The bones stay the same but the body of the song changes with every player and each solo along the way. Enjoy!

  • Tubissimo - LaBrassBanda 2016-03-25T14:00:00.000-05:00
    Oh, my darlings, oh do I have something for you today.  I am, you see, in love.  With five German guys.  Don't tell my husband.

    Hyperbole aside, not since I was introduced to Seeed have I geeked out over a new German band this hard. Combine three guys with what appear to be antique brass instruments, a head-banging bassist, and a drummer the drives them through it all and you get LaBrassBanda. One of the band members is listed as "Capt. Yossarian", which makes two literally references in two days if you're following my G+ posts as well! (Yes, blogging in two places about the same things is Catch 22, since you ask. /heavy hint)

    In this video, you get the guys having a great time, some heavy-duty brass goodies, a Bavarian gent playing Tubissimo, a bunch of chair-dance-inspiring solos, and part of a Daft Punk cover. What more could you ask from less that seven well-spent minutes of your life? Now enjoy, dears, while I click the next song and see if I can get all their albums on-line.

Music Pages at Squidoo
  • The Top 10 Best Love Song Duets
    Some of the most romantic songs recorded have been duets, chances for people who, romantically involved or not, enjoy performing together enough to create a love song that touches couples for decades to come. These songs create the perfect mood for weddings, anniversaries, or even a karaoke date. It could take you forever to wade through cheesy and badly-sung duets to create the perfect love song play list for Valentine's Day or a romantic evening. To save you the time, and the musical pain, I've compiled here the ten best love song duets (in reverse order) from the last forty years. You'll find the lyrics, music videos, and a place to sample and purchase each of them included here. Please vote for your favorite love song duet in my poll, as well. If you're looking for winter-themed love duets, try Baby It's Cold Outside and I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. If the duet you love best isn't listed here, drop me a note in the guestbook at the bottom and I'll check it out. You never know if I'll bump it up on my list! In the meantime, check the comments for a lot of great suggestions from other readers.
  • The Top 10 Creepiest Love Songs
    Some of the most popular love songs, if spoken to a lover, would be creepy or downright declarations of stalking. Professing your undying love and devotion shouldn't make your beloved consider a restraining order. Singing a beautiful love song, on the other hand, requires you to exaggerate. Take this lens as a reminder to consider the meaning behind a song before you dedicate it to the one you love. The lyrics might frighten him or her away rather than drawing the two of you closer together, especially if you're pining for your ex-love. On this lens, I'm going to nominate what I think are the Top 10 Creepy Love Songs, from the tenth-creepiest to the most-stalker-appropriate. I'll include the lyrics for each, as well as videos and places to get them, where I can find sources. If you've got a creepier song, let me know. I'll be happy to expand my list! In the meantime, watch out for The Police, Bryan Adams, and Blondie.
  • Mashups: Oldies Meet 80s Meet Top 40 Pop
    DJs take songs and blend them together. Mashup artists are DJs that take that idea three or four steps farther: instead of stopping and starting songs in sync they play them at the same time for a wide variety of effects. Such mashups bring songs to kids in clubs who might otherwise never have heard the oldies and 80s gems that DJs bring into the mix with current pop and dance hits.Also known as bootlegs or booty for short, mashups use the the instrumental track from one song and the vocals from another to create unexpected and dance-able music. Some of the best mixes include classical music or folk music from around the world laid under modern pop or hip hop songs. Others take a classic song from Motown or The Beatles and mash it with classic rock or techno. You never know what you'll find when you're looking for a new mashup!If my word isn't good enough, try this piece from National Public Radio about Adele's Rolling in the Deep and how mashups and remixes made it #1! You can find plenty of mashes at The Not-Pop Jukebox, including my Mashup of the Month series.
One Step Forward: To Better Writing
  • A Letter to Wired Magazine
    Dear Editors:

    You published in your February, 2012 issue a piece titled “Use Your Own Words”. In fact, you chose to make it the first article in the magazine. It is this article with which I would like to take issue.

    The author, Anne Trubek, bemoans the constraints of proper spelling and the constrictions of English grammar. Yet if you re-read the article (as I assume you at least perused it once before it was published) you will see that her argument boils down to “why spell correctly or construct sensible sentences when it inconveniences me?”

    To me, it reads as sheer arrogance. Ms. Trubek advocates throwing away the rules built over hundreds of years simply because using them would require an extra click or two on your “smart” phone or tablet. If such strenuous writing taxes her that terribly perhaps she should make a phone call and communicate orally.

    Had she stuck to her contentions I would, perhaps, not have taken umbrage at her opinion. When I reached the end of the article, however, I found that she had undermined her entire argument that people spell and punctuate in any way they chose. Ms. Trubek wrote, “Standardized spelling enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity.”

    How, then, does throwing out that standardization help to improve communication? While podcasts, videos, and hangouts allow people to correspond orally in unprecedented ways, it is in these media that spelling and punctuation do not matter. (Grammar, naturally, always applies, though the rules relax dramatically in verbal communication.)

    Writing, whether in a text message, on social media, or in an article—on-line or print—demands a higher standard if an author cares at all about being understood. If he or she does not, why write out a message at all?

    Ms. Trubek’s assertion that written and oral communication now share a digital grey area couldn’t be less true: the two words have perfectly serviceable definitions that draw a black-and-white line between them. I notice that the article itself, excepting one exemplar, contained words spelled correctly and punctuation used properly to clarify her meaning.

    Language continually evolves. It’s to be expected and even embraced. But disregarding the inconveniences of existing rules because you’re too rushed or lazy to follow them leads to degradation, not evolution.

    I’d like to see a refutation of her article in a future issue but I presume your publishing of the article to be an intentional stirring of the pot to bring readers to your site. In that respect it was a successful piece, at least.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • Craptacular Grammar Tip: Quotation Marks Gone Wrong
    NOTE: In case you thought I might be unaware, I know that “craptacular” isn’t a word. It seemed to fit the quality of the examples, however. Check back for more posts in this new series!

    Out of curiosity, I clicked a reputable organization’s free “Grammar Tip of the Day” link, to see whether I’d like to subscribe. I found this example and immediately thought that the only reason I’d ask for such a tip each day would be to provide fodder for One Step Forward. Why? At best the tip oversimplifies punctuating with quotation marks. At worst it gets the rule wrong.

    I would perhaps not have reacted so strongly had the first example not been incorrect. If you use quotation marks you should only include the punctuation if what is inside them would stand alone. You do put commas and question marks inside quotation marks for dialogue but not song, movie, and book titles unless the punctuation is part of that title.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that the tip should be rewritten entirely. Were I to be so foolish as to reduce the proper use of quotation marks to a single sentence it would read thus: “Punctuation only belongs inside the closing quotation mark when it is part of the quotation itself.” Don’t bow to “popular opinion”; learn how to use quotation marks correctly!

    Remember that this does not apply to dialogue. In writing the spoken word the punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, though the period does not. Well, it does if it’s followed by another sentence in the same…I should write a post about this. Oh, wait, I did.

    It offends me to see such sloppy advice sent out as “help”. If people unfamiliar with the grammar rules take this and its ilk as gospel it will further erode my ability to teach my children how to speak and write like educated persons. Oh, and you all, my dears.
  • Obligate: Two Words, One Spelling
    I read a book in which the big baddy was an organization called Obligate. The author chose not to explain the reason for that name until halfway through the story, which meant that I did not know how to pronounce it for about two hundred pages. It surprised me how distracting that was.

    If you are scratching your head, wondering what other pronunciation I’m writing about, this post is for you. Obligate does double duty, as both a verb and an adjective. You pronounce the two forms differently, however. When used as a verb, whether it’s compelling someone or committing funds, you say OB-li-gate (with a long A). That’s the form with which most people are familiar.

    However, if you’re a biologist you likely use the word much differently. When referring to an organism that can live only in a particular environment or in a specific role in an ecosystem you call it OB-li-gƏt (with a short A represented by the schwa). The dictionary says you can use the long-A pronunciation of obligate as an alternate but it seems to me that doing so would only create confusion.

    In case you’re curious, the organization in the book used the second definition and thus, when reading to myself, I used the short-A pronunciation of obligate. The rest of the book was much more interesting when I didn’t stop to wonder about that every third page. Think about how your readers will interpret such ambiguous words when you’re naming things in your own writing.

    There! You get both a language and a writing tip in one post, something as dual-purpose as the word obligate itself.
One Thing I Don't Get
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