Saturday, November 13, 2010

CSNY: The Solo Efforts

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was a big supergroup during the 70s. Each musician already had an impressive resume when they got together: David Crosby was freshly fired from the Byrds (he's represented by a donkey on the cover of Notorious Byrd Brothers), Stephen Stills had released three albums with Buffalo Springfield, Graham Nash had had a few hits with the Hollies (remember Bus Stop?), and Neil Young had already been in a few bands and had had success in various forms, including as a member of the already mentioned Buffalo Springfield.

Despite their immediate success with Deja Vu, each member decided to release a solo album (that's what happens when you put together such big egos and overflowing creativity). Today, EasyTV will sample from each solo effort. Whose talent was the most instrumental to CSNY's success?

Stephen Stills probably had the biggest commercial success with his eponymous release, and the big hit, Love the One You're With:

Graham Nash's album, Songs for Beginners, was also very successful. Two singles were released, one that is pretty famous (Chicago), and another one that I only heard very recently (and was the reason for today's post, actually), called Military Madness:

(and that's my contribution to Nov 11!)

There's a very nice tribute to Song for Beginners by members of the Grassroots Records stable (Alela Diane, Mariee Sioux) and some quite prestigious guests (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, the guy from Fleet Foxes, and fellow former Cat Power mailing-list member Greg Weeks). Check it out!

Next, Neil Young. Obviously he released bazillion solo albums, but the one that came out immediately after CSNY in 1970 was After the Gold Rush. That one charted very high too, and the song Only Love Can Break Your Heart even provided a fantastic dance hit for Saint-Etienne in 1990 (a show on the Madchester era maybe coming soon?). But let's hear the other single, When You Dance I Can Really Love, which is just as good:

For some reason, the song reminds me of Cat Power's Free (here comes a gratuitous opportunity to check out some pretty pictures of Chan Marshall):

I'm not saying the songs are similar, but there's something there... What do you think? Or is it only that they're both rhyming "dance" with "chance"?

Anyway... Last but not least, David Crosby released his fantastic If I Could Only Remember My Name that year. Here's one of many gems: now go light a joint, press play and relax. I'll leave you alone now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Postcard from Scotland

I think from time to time I'm going to explore a few of those influential music labels you always hear about but don't really know what they were all about. One example is Postcard Records, who were responsible for launching the "careers" of bands such as Orange Juice, Go Betweens and Aztec Camera in the early 80s. Now with the magic of YouTube, we can listen to the singles that were released back then. So here we go.

So yeah, Go Betweens, huh! Well they only released one single with Postcard, called "I Need Two Heads". Now YouTube didn't have this song, but at EasyTV we care about the welfare and happiness of our viewers, and so thanks to good ol' Mr Vegas, it's now uploaded and available just for you! (EDIT: Breaking News! Mr Vegas went as far as creating an original video for the song! See for yourself below.)

It was worth it, no?

When Edwyn Collins had a relatively big hit in the 90s with "Girl Like U" (a relatively lame song, if you ask me), I thought I'd really hate Orange Juice once I finally got the opportunity to hear them. Boy was I wrong. His voice is perfect for the mix of pop and post-punk sound they had going:

Make sure you check out all the other "Dada with Juice" videos that are posted there.

Another band from Scotland that was promoted by Postcard was Josef K, a band I've mentioned here before, so let's just skip them, and go straight to Aztec Camera, and the single that turned out to be the last single released by Postcard, at least according to Wikipedia:

There were bigger and better things in store for Aztec Camera, including their lovely Spanish Horses. Oh what the heck here it is:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


For whatever reason I found myself singing She Bop by Cyndi Lauper in the shower today (probably because it's yet another song from pivotal 1984), and I wondered what the song was all about (I don't usually pay much attention to pop song lyrics). Well, it turns out it's all about masturbation! The video is also full of funny innuendos. So, here it goes, a post on 80's songs about masturbation! Hope you enjoy—on your own, of course.

Much more obvious is the Divinyls' I Touch Myself. The evil executives at EMI have disabled embedding the YouTube video, so all I've got is a still picture, nothing to touch myself with.

OK, this was all a big ploy to get to this: a great video shot by Takashi Murakami, a contemporary artist who currently has an exhibit at Versailles. The exhibit drew a pretty big protest by right wingers, who didn't like his "smut" exposed in this palace, a symbol of French good taste. The video is a cover of Turning Japanese by Kirsten Dunst, dressed as a very cute manga character (the original is by The Vapors). The song is "believed to euphemistically refer to the face a male makes during the act of masturbation". Watch this, but beware: you might go blind.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Joe Dassin: the Musical!

(with apologies to my 1 or 2 English-speaking readers (and that's at least 50% of my readership!), this post is exceptionally in French. However, feel free to vote for "kitsch" anyway...)

Joe Dassin, une blogomedie musicale kitsch en trois actes

ACTE UN : Paris, fete de fin d'etude chez Ali

UN POTE : Alors, ca fait quoi d'etre docteur ?
ALI : Sans plus, surtout un soulagement !
POTE : Et que reserve l'avenir, docteur ? Chercheur au CNRS ? Prof d'informatique ? Ingenieur dans une start-up ?
ALI : Surement quelque chose dans le genre. Avoir un peu de sous, ca changerait un peu...
NATHALIE (arrivee en cours de conversation) : Oui, mais mOssieur voit les choses en grand ! Dans un mois, le grand depart !
ALI : Eh oui, la France ne veut pas de moi, alors a nous l'Amerique !

***Ali chante "L'Amerique"...

POTE : Comment ca, la France ne veut pas de toi ?
ALI : Ben ouais, j'ai qu'un visa d'etudiant, et je suis alle aussi loin que possible dans les etudes ! Apres pres de 10 ans de vie en France, il va falloir changer a nouveau de vie...
NATHALIE : Ma proposition indecente est toujours en vigueur, on peut toujours arranger un mariage blanc, si tu veux...
ALI (sourire) : Un mariage gris, tu veux dire ? On n'est quand meme pas tout fait des inconnus (la prend dans les bras et l'embrasse) ! Merci encore, mais j'ai une fierte mal placee qui m'empeche de quemander une nationalite. Le Canada me veut, alors j'y vais ! En plus, il parait qu'on est bien paye la-bas...
POTE : Mais bon, tu reviendras quand meme souvent, non ?
ALI : Je ne crois pas, il vaut mieux couper net, sinon on ne peux pas avancer...
AUTRE POTE : On ne te manquera pas ?
ALI: Si surement, mais vous avez vos vies ici et vous m'oublierez vite de toute facon, alors autant que j'essaie d'en faire de meme...

***"Salut les amoureux" (extrait a partir du premier refrain): le depart. Il ferme les valises, il serre Nathalie fort, ils "vont descendre ensemble", la patronne du cafe leur dit "salut les amoureux", ils montent dans un taxi.

***"Les Daltons" en fond : a l'aeroport, surprise des copains, lui disent "bonne vie chez les cow-boys !", avion, arrivee a Toronto, passage dans les rues, les magasins, etc., arrivee dans la chambre d'hotel, solitude ...

ACTE DEUX : Un an plus tard...

Quebec, salle de conf. Ali, finit juste de presenter un papier en tant que prof d'informatique a l'universite de Toronto. Il repond a des questions, quand une jeune femme s'approche...

NATHALIE (blagueuse) : Mais c'est du plagiat tout ca, professeur !
ALI : Nathalie ! qu'est-ce que tu fais ici !
NATHALIE : Je presente aussi un papier, mais je ne suis encore qu'une petite doctorante, moi ! Alors que le keynote de l'estime professeur, ca ne passe pas inapercu ! Mais je te retourne la question : qu'est-ce que tu fais au Quebec, toi qui bosses chez les anglos ?
ALI : Conferencier invite, ca ne se refuse pas, c'est la premiere fois que ca m'arrive ! Etre francophone, ca a du aider... mais ca se fete, ces retrouvailles, on dine ensemble ?
NATHALIE (faux accent quebecois): Tabernacle, bien sur ! Il faudra tout me raconter de ta nouvelle vie !

Diner dans un restau classe, 2 bouteilles de vin vides sur la table...

ALI : ... voila, donc! Professionnellement ca baigne. Il va falloir maintenant me creer un nouveau cercle d'amis, mais c'est plus difficile, je ne suis plus etudiant...
NATHALIE : et pas de copine ?
ALI : non...

Ils se regardent, se font du pied, etc...

Le lendemain matin, chambre d'hotel...

NATHALIE : On se leve, paresseux !

***"Laisse-moi dormir", extrait marmonne par Ali (pas trouve sur YouTube)

ALI: Ouh la, quelle gueule de bois ! Et si on faisait peter la conf ?
NATHALIE : Ouais, je ne presente que demain. Et si on allait se ballader un peu ? L'automne ici c'est magnifique parait-il !
ALI : Ca roule, j'ai ma voiture !

***"L'ete indien" en fond : ils sont dans une barque sur un lac, se font des papouilles d'amoureux etc...

Aeroport de Quebec, Nathalie repart...

NATHALIE : Mais qu'est-ce qu'on a fait ? On est vraiment cons !
ALI (fixe le sol) : Je sais...
NATHALIE (fachee) : Ca va, je connais la rengaine ! Tu veux pas regarder en arriere ! Et tu veux pas que je change ma vie aussi, que je me "sacrifie" pour toi !
ALI : Tu as une bonne vie la-bas... Tu as tes parents, tes amis, ta culture, ta langue... Et moi, je dois encore vivre ici quelques annees, pour obtenir la nationalite...
NATHALIE : T'es un peureux ! Tu refuses le bonheur !
ALI : Tu ne sais pas ce que c'est que de tout abandonner, moi j'ai deja connu ca deux fois.. Je ne le souhaite a personne, et surtout pas a toi !
NATHALIE : C'est ca, casse-toi ! Subis ta vie !

Elle s'en va, et ne se retourne pas...

*** "Ca va pas changer le monde" (chante par Ali)

ACTE TROIS : Dix ans plus tard...

Un appart grand et luxueux, Ali est un peu grisonnant, finit de corriger une copie. il a l'air fatigue et se dirige vers un miroir...

*** "Si tu t'appelles melancolie" (chantee par Ali)

Pendant la chanson, on le voit reserver un vol pour paris, puis on le voit a l'aeroport, montrer son passeport Canadien a l'officier, puis embarquer, avion de nuit, puis descente, Paris...

Il descend de taxi, se dirige vers une maison (la meme qu'au debut?), frappe a la porte, Nathalie ouvre...

*** "Salut" (chantee par Ali)

"fais-moi un bon cafe" (elle le fait, mais a l'air triste et contrariee)

Pendant la chanson, on frappe a la porte, et un bambin arrive (une fille de 8-10 ans), rentre de l'ecole, saute dans les bras de Nathalie...

FILLE : Salut, maman !
NATHALIE : Magali, mon poussin !

Ali et Nathalie se regardent. Ali a compris, "tu n'as plus rien a me dire, je ne suis qu'un souvenir". Il part en finissant la chanson et sans se retourner. (Saura-t-on si c'est son enfant ? Mystere !)

Ses pas le dirigent vers...

*** "Le Jardin du Luxembourg" (duo, chante par Ali et Nathalie qui apparait dans un coin de l'ecran chez elle avec la petite qui court autour).

Pendant la sequence disco de la chanson ("je voulais reussir dans la vie", (6:40)), tous les acteurs du film se mettent en danser en synchro derriere Ali.

FIN. Generique de fin ("ze credits" !):

*** "A toi" (Joe Dassin)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

International Funk!

No, this blog post isn't about the current depressing worldwide environmental or economic situation we're in! It's about late 60's-early 70's music that kicks some serious ass from some pretty exotic places!

Let's ease into it with something from Brasil. Gal Costa is a singer who was part of the Tropicalia movement circa '68 which featured people like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Here's a funky song from the "Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis" album that is pretty much the Tropicalia manifesto:

(She's easy on the eye too...)

Let's now move on to a different continent. Broken Flowers was a movie that introduced many of us to the fantastic charms of 70's Ethiopean Jazz, the kind featured on the Ethiopique label. Mulatu Astatke is probably the figurehead of that musical movement. If you haven't seen the movie (shame on you!), or want to hear what I'm talking about, here's a good one that was featured on that movie soundtrack and should work as a good starting point:

And now to a destination that is just as surprising, as far as funky or fusion arrangements are concerned: Iran. Kourosh Yaghmaei was a pop singer from the 70's who had a hit, Gole Yakh, that even crossed borders at the time. But the song I'm posting here was one I didn't know before and that was featured on the excellent Funk Archaeology series by Egon on NPR Music's web site, specifically the show dedicated to Persian Funk:

That moustache alone made it worth posting it, didn't it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Youthful Indiscretions

Here's some stuff from various musicians before they finally "made it" with another band. It's somewhat encouraging to see that not everyone started out as a genius, and that hard work sometimes really helps!

Let's start with Grace Slick. Jefferson Airplane only really took off (ahem) when she joined them and brought with her a couple of hit singles (you know what they are) that she had initially concocted with a band called the Great Society. So in case you're wondering what the Great Society sounded like, here's a sample:

The great vocals are of course already there (yet she never really influenced anyone except for the girl in Black Mountain, can EasyTV viewers think of anybody else?); as for the song... it's not bad but she did better later.

Moving on... Before Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal became the famous Tears for Fears duo, they were in a band called Graduate (pretty sure it's a reference to the movie, as Roland used to be in a Simon & Garfunkel tribute band; maybe they liked older women?). What did Graduate look and sound like? YouTube once again to the rescue!

Kind of punkish and catchy, but better things would come...

Now here's an exception to the rule: Big in Japan was a late-70s Liverpool band comprised of many members who went on to become famous with their respective bands: Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, KLF, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lightning Seeds, Pink Industry. Yet they weren't bad at all! Here's their subversive tribute to Valerie Solanas, the woman who notoriously shot Andy Warhol and authored the SCUM Manifesto, a.k.a the Society for Cutting Up Men (interesting video):

OK, this band is too good to not give them room for another song. Enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kick Ass!

Just came out of the movies, and am still feeling the rush of the fantastically cathartic Kick Ass! I need to share some its musical goodness with everyone (note: not everything is good in the soundtrack, this is just some of the highlights):

Sparks were a glam-rock duo of brothers with a few relatively minor hits and some unforgettable stage presence. This is probably my favorite song of theirs, and its choice in the Kick Ass soundtrack makes complete sense given its title and its overall feel:

The Dickies were a punk band with a sense of humor. And now I can only smile when I think of the scene in Kick Ass where this song is played.

To finish, I had to explore a little bit to find out what this song was: Zongamin is apparently a Japanese lo-fi electronic musician. Nice tune to dance to:

But don't forget: I can't see you through the screen, but I can kick your ass.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Good Thing This Blog is Not After a Wide Audience...

...because today's post certainly won't have much mass-appeal! In late 70's New York, New Wave was an umbrella term for a group of similarly-minded artists such as Basquiat or Keith Haring, and was musically embodied by typical CBGB's bands such as the Talking Heads and Blondie. A group of radical artists rejected New Wave's mainstream appeal and started the No Wave movement. There may not be a unifying feel to No Wave other than a DIY ethic and a predisposition to simple rhythms and harsh sounds, but the overall effect is one of profound liberation. No Wave influenced early industrial music as well as more recent bands such as the Liars. To quote Richard Wallis from Creem, reviewing their music at the time it came out, "spend a few hours with this record and then everything sounds different".

Perhaps one of the most famous proponents of No Wave is Lydia Lunch, whose early band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks was featured in the No New York compilation, famously produced by Brian Eno. Here's what they sounded like (CAUTION: NOISE. Pascal, feel free to play this to annoy your neighbors):

A pretty obvious influence on Sonic Youth, wouldn't you say? Well, Sonic Youth was also involved in No Wave, so it's not surprising.

Now take Suicide and the Talking Heads, mix them up, add a crazy saxophone and a great deal of noise, and you get James Chance & the Contortions. The video itself has a No Wave feel here:

Another band featured in the No New Wave compilation was Arto Lindsay's DNA:

I'd say there's some krautrock influence behind that, Can in particular.

Are you still reading this? Don't hate me yet? Still want to hear some crazy noise? Here's Mars, another No Wave band, which sounds to me like the missing link between the Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth:

That last one is probably my favorite of the bunch, but it would have been too commercial to start with the best song, right?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

France Gall, The Lost Years?

In the early 60's, France Gall began a very long and successful career as a pop singer. But while most French pop singers were busy singing French versions of American or British hits, France Gall collaborated with many talented French composers and lyricists, including of course Serge Gainsbourg. People mostly know France Gall for those early sixties hits (ranging from a Eurovision winner, a song for kids and all the way to a scandalous double-entendre song about fellatio) and her career revival (thanks to her collaboration with husband Michel Berger) from the mid-seventies all the way to the late eighties.

But perhaps her most interesting period is the one that is also the most obscure: after a few commercial flops, she began in 1966 a relatively successful career in Germany (!). All the while, she recorded in France a few jazzy songs, such as this little gem:

It's 1968, France Gall is finally 21 and no more a minor, and she wants to exercise her freedom (she often disagreed with choices that were made for her by her entourage). She decides to join a few other artists to sign with a brand new record company, La Compagnie. What she records there is a hodge-podge of songs, some experimental, some silly, some just plain bad. But here's one of the "hippie" songs recorded then that I find particularly charming:

And here's a samba she recorded for la Compagnie, with some great orchestration. It kind of makes you feel like you're Peter Sellers and you've been invited to a very high-class party. the YouTube video is a very high-quality edit of vintage pictures:

In 1970, La Compagnie went under, and that was the end of that "free" period. France Gall then tries hard to make a comeback, which keeps failing until she finally meets Michel Berger. But that's another story, and not really an obscure one, so I'll leave it at that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

From the Fringes

I came across a great article on the always excellent Inrocks web site. If you thought the music I post here was obscure, wait till you go read that article and check out the YouTube videos that are on display there!

Just to give you a taste, here's a few that I thought were particularly interesting. It's crazy stuff, sometimes funny, often very psychedelic, but it's also completely free of inhibitions and therefore sincere.

Hasil "Haze" Adkins heard Hank Williams on the radio, and thought he was playing all the instruments by himself, so he decided to go ahead and do the same thing. This prolific one-man band inspired bands such as the Cramps, who famously covered his "She Said". Hasil had a fascination with hot dog and chicken. In fact, he wrote an entire album dedicated to chicken called "Poultry in Motion" (best album title ever?). Here's one of his chicken songs:

Wesley Willis didn't have a good life, and he decided to sing about it. The problem is, he was also schizophrenic and truly ill (he died at the age 40). The song below is probably autobiographical (for the lyrics, go to the YouTube page and click on "more info").

As for the last one, I really am speechless. The old man is apparently a local celebrity in Quebec.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Original and the Good Copies

If there's one adjective that qualifies Kate Bush best, it's got to be "original". But as hard as it is to think of what might have influenced her to come up with such creative output (maybe a mix of Bowie glam and Joni Mitchell folk?), it is very easy to see how much she in turn inspired other female artists. But first let's see what I'm talking about: on YouTube you can find a few rare videos of a Kate Bush TV performance at Efteling (an attraction park in the Netherlands) that I find mesmerizing, all songs from her debut album (and her best in my opinion) The Kick Inside. Here's the album opener, my favorite song:

Something you don't see much these days on TV is performances like these where the TV director works with the artist to create a nice setting and have fun with effects. Efteling was obviously the perfect place to visually accompany the magic of Kate Bush's music. This is particularly evident on Strange Phenomena:

And yes, she did perform Wuthering Heights! Here it is:

Now among the many who were influenced by Kate, many pushed the inspiration almost too far. In the following two cases, I don't mind it one bit: first, Tori Amos, who must be sick and tired of the accusation that she copied her. What do you think?

It's the piano, it's the voice, but it's also the song construction, no?

And here's something even more recent. Pascalito, a loyal viewer of EasyTeeVee, sent me this little gem: a song by French singer Nathalie Simon. You can even tell which Kate Bush albums must have influenced her the most: this song wouldn't have sounded out of place on Hounds of Love.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vic Chesnutt R.I.P. (1964-2009)

Vic Chesnutt was "discovered" by REM's Michael Stipe in the late 80's-early 90's. His desolate acoustic songs provided an interesting counterpoint to the grunge music of that era (kind of like how ambient music goes hand in hand with techno). I guess you could put him in the same group as bands like Smog or Palace (hey, that could be a good idea for a blog post). I was lucky to have attended a concert of his around 1995, when About to Choke was released. I couldn't find any official videos of his music on YouTube, but the following should give you a good idea of what he was all about if you didn't know him, or to reminisce if you did.

This one is an excerpt from a recent album, North Star Deserter. The particular use of re-recording reminds me a lot of early Smog:

Here's a great acoustic version of an old song of his, Supernatural:

Let's finish with a nice grand finale:

Vic died of an overdose. He'll be missed by those of us who use music to lick their wounds.