Category Archives: music

Testing The Bounds of "Sweet Caroline" Singability

Okay, so every time the Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline” is on, and Neil Diamond sings the words “Sweet Caroline”, you pretty much *have* to sing along with the horns going “BUM! BUM! BUM!” It’s a compulsion. I can’t explain it.

I was wondering how slowing down the song would affect one’s desire to sing along. Here are my findings.

(NOTE: The following are snippets of the song, not the entire song.)

Normal Speed – Completely Irresistible. Don’t bother fighting it.

26% Slower Than Normal – Mostly Irresistible. Oddly stately, regal.

42% Slower Than Normal – Still Pretty Damned Irresistible. A stoner anthem.

57% Slower Than Normal – Not Very Irresistible. I think the pain meds are kicking in.

88% Slower Than Normal – Resistibility Accomplished. That being said, this is a very nice moody piece. And the horns have the gravitas of a tragic Shakespearean death.

Thanks for listening. BUM! BUM! BUM!

Concert Review: The Back Pockets At An Undisclosed Location

So, I saw the Atlanta, GA band The Back Pockets a few months ago at The Hideout. They were the opening band. There were two other bands, their names being Bland Indie Rock and Some People Who Think Singing California Über Alles A Capella Is Amusing. It didn’t matter. I loved The Back Pockets. I had no prior knowledge of them, no expectations, and they blew me away.

I Googled them afterwards and found their blog. I also found their MySpace page, which listed tour dates. I would periodically visit it to see if they were returning to Chicago. Hey, they were coming back here on May 16th. Yes!

I didn’t recognize the bar they were playing at. It was in Logan Square. The bar had a MySpace page, but it didn’t have a proper website. I had never seen a music venue that didn’t have its own website. Hmm.

It turns out it wasn’t a bar. It was this.

It was someone’s house. I hadn’t seen a band play at a house since college. I got to the house and stared at it for a couple minutes. There was a minivan parked on the street that I recognized from the Hideout — it belonged to the Pockets, so I figured I was in the right place. A guy came out and started talking on his cellphone. I politely interrupted him after a couple minutes. I thought I remembered him being in the band. He was! He went in and got one of the people that lived at the house.

She came out and told me yes, the show was at the house, and to come back at 9pm. I went and got a burrito, took a picture of some Sidewalk Liquor, walked for a bit, had a beer, returned.

I didn’t know anyone at the house. They were tattooed and smoked a lot. I sat down in the corner of the basement and waited. For about 45 minutes. Until the show actually started.

The first band was actually a solitary woman who played some organ, but mostly played guitar. She had a pretty voice. The second band I did not dig. By this time I was sweating and overheated. The windows were covered with soundproofing and the small basement room was filled with people.

The Back Pockets were the last to play, but once they started to play, I was glad I had come. They are what I would call artsy-fartsy. They are theatrical. I am being completely complimentary when I say this. They had drawn on a whole bunch of cardboard boxes, and had arranged them around the room. Some of the bandmembers wandered through the audience during the set, sometimes crawling, sometimes dancing erotically, sometimes in costume (for one song, an eerie ostrich with glowing yellow eyes pecked at the crowd), sometimes just knocking into people.

They were brimming with creativity, and passion, and earnestness for good music. I liked them a lot. I hope they can make a living at doing this, because they deserve to.

I bought a CD of theirs after the show for $7. They had hand-painted each CD sleeve. I think mine is very pretty.

Their MySpace page has some music you can stream, but I had trouble playing it. I have uploaded a few tracks for you to hear. I hope you like them.

Support Interesting Music! Support The Back Pockets!

Now It Can Be Told

I was all hush-hush and stuff about why I stopped doing the Green Monkey Music Project, which in retrospect I guess was a little silly.

If you care to read why I stopped, here’s a great post about a former, wonderful community and its sad demise.

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide

I’m *still* bummed out about it. It was a wonderful thing, and revived my interest in new music, old music, everything. It actually motivated me to purchase music, something I hadn’t done since my eldest kids were born.

There was a lot of negative press about this site after its owner/admin was busted, but I think it was a shining example of what the Internet can accomplish — feel free to argue with me, there are many valid arguments to the contrary, I know.

Whatever more I could say about it is already said more eloquently in the linked post.

Here’s To Music, Here’s To Our Piano

We got a piano a few months ago. My sister-in-law had a friend in Oak Park who was looking to unload a piano. Our living room isn’t large, but there was room enough for an upright.

In my youth, I took piano lessons for about ten years (starting around when I was five). After my piano lessons ended I taught myself how to play guitar, had a brief stint at the drums, etc., but still played keyboards in a couple of rock bands.

Since my lessons stopped, I never have really taken the time to keep up my chops on the piano (honestly, it was hard enough for me to practice while I was taking lessons, being the lazy cad that I am). After we got our house, my folks offered to give us the piano that I had practiced on in my youth, but the cost of transporting it from Springfield up to our house discouraged us from taking it.

My sister-in-law’s friend was gracious enough to give us the piano for free, knowing that it was going to a loving home. We ended up just paying the moving costs, then paid to have it tuned and have some sticky keys fixed. The last time we visited my folks, I hauled back a large box of my old sheet music.

I really hadn’t felt posting about the piano until recently. I have recently started digging through some easier pieces that I used to play, and am slowly feeling the cobwebs fall away from my fingers a bit.

I have been practicing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonatina in F, and these practices have been some of the most pleasurable I have ever had.

I’m so excited about playing piano now. I’m so excited about having children, and seeing if they get bitten by the music bug. Our house is echoing with music-playing, and that’s a good thing.

Thank you to my sister-in-law, thank you to her friend, thank you to Mom and Dad.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To My 3000th Visitor, The Internet, And New Friends

The 3000th visitor to “I, Splotchy” was only here briefly, only stopping for 0 (zero) seconds.

Here are the details regarding their location:

Continent: Europe
Country : United Kingdom
State/Region: Slough
City: Perivale
Lat/Long: 51.5333, -0.3167

Here’s that location on Google Maps (click on the image to see something more humanly readable):

I could be wrong, but I believe Slough is the same Slough where the UK version of The Office was supposedly set. Another useless fact from me (someone who has zero concept of geography in England), you’ll see “Hammersmith” near the bottom of the map, which is referenced in a song lyric I posted here.

The thing I found most interesting was where the user was hitting my site from:

A Head Full Of Wishes

A Head Full Of Wishes is a fansite for the bands Galaxie 500, Luna and their offshoots. It’s run by a very nice guy in the UK, Andy Aldrige. Andy (or someone at his site) apparently found my description of a Luna show I saw in St. Louis. They posted a link to this posting of mine, and a few people have clicked through it to see what I have to say about Luna.

The strange thing is, that it was this very same website through which I first made an attempt to interact with people over the Internet whom I did not already know. In the mid-90’s, I signed up for Andy’s Galaxie 500 mailing list, and carried on the geeky kind of conversations one does when obsessed with a subject.

Tonight, I did a bit of research, and was able to dig up messages from me in the newsgroup from 1997, ten(!) years ago.

Some really positive things happened as a result of reaching out to these people. I was able to share in something that I cared about with others — and it so happened that many of these people were pretty damned wonderful.

Andy was gracious, funny, and a fan I would imagine any band would kill for. He worked it out with Luna that he issued a vinyl single for the band, with money out of his own pocket. I think I bought 6 or 7 copies out of the 1000 copies he made, just to give him the support he richly deserved.

Andy’s “Dear Paulina” single:

I don’t doubt that if my wife and I made it out to London that Andy would play the gracious host. I could just sense his goodness and decency from reading his thoughts and observations, and reactions to my own observations.

Through Andy’s Galaxie 500 list, I also met the drummer for Wild Carnation, the band of Brenda Sauter (ex-bass player for The Feelies). He was also a really sweet, good-hearted person. My wife and I went to New York City for the first time in the late 90’s, and he and his wife met us and gave us a whirlwind tour of the city. They took us out to eat at a favorite Mexican restaurant of theirs in Greenwich Village. I still can’t get over how it’s possible to make a connection with people through webpages and email. It’s pretty amazing. Humbling, even.

I sort of lost interest in Luna late in their career, and eventually unsubscribed from Andy’s list, but I still remember the people I met there. It’s so odd that now I am meeting a whole host of new people, whom I’m never met, but on occasion there is still some sort of profound connection when sharing my thoughts with them, and reading the thoughts they share with me.

And now it seems to have come full circle.


Comedy Is Easy, Lyrics Are Hard

UPDATE: As to not make people go insane looking for the answers to the lyrics that have not been identified, I thought I would add the answers, but encoded by ROT13.

This will do a couple things — first, give you a hint as to what the unidentified song is, and second, give you the ability to decode the song/artist if you really want to know what it is.

There’s a ROT13 decoder at the top right of my blog now.


samuraifrog posted a boatload of lyrics to guess, and I got one.

I was unable to get any on the quiz of becca’s (who answered an impossible number of the questions on le frog’s quiz).

So, I thought I would give this a whirl.

The Rules
Put your iTunes (or whatever) on random. Post lyrics from the first songs that play. Post it on your blog & let everyone guess the song & artist. Looking the lyrics up on any search engine is cheating!

1) Gur Cvkvrf – Avzebq’f Fba
One night upon my motorcycle through the desert sped
And smashed my body so that all my friends thought I was dead
My sister held me close and whispered to my bleeding head
“You are the son of a mother fucker”

2) Ybhqba Jnvajevtug VVV – Crbcyr Va Ybir
Movie stars smooching in an old movie
Kid turns away, and says it’s yucky
The kid knows something that the grownups don’t
When the kid grows up after that, the kid won’t

3) Donovan – There Is A Mountain (johnny yen)
Caterpillar sheds his skin
To find the butterfly within

4) Ebola Uvgpupbpx – Genzf Bs Byq Ybaqba
On a clear night you can see
Where the rails used to be
Oh it seems like ancient myth
They once ran to Hammersmith

5) Pnegre Snzvyl – Lbh Qravrq Lbhe Ybir
That was the day when you went away
You broke my heart in the month of May
That little ring I gave to you
Was to show you dear my love was true

6) Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah (samuraifrog)
Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

7) Jnyxre Oebguref – Avgr Syvtugf
There’s no hold
The moving has come through
The danger brushing you
Turns its face into the heat and runs the tunnels
It’s so cold
The dark dug up by dogs
The stitches torn and broke
The raw meat fist you choke
Has hit the bloodlite

8) The Who – Christmas (samuraifrog)
Did you ever see the faces
Of the children, they get so excited.
Waking up on Christmas morning
Hours before the winter sun’s ignited.

9) The Ramones – Rock ‘N Roll High School (samuraifrog)
I just wanna have some kicks
I just wanna get some chicks

10) The Human League – Don’t You Want Me (tim)
I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
That much is true

11) Phegvf Znlsvryq – V Cyna Gb Fgnl N Oryvrire
I met a friend of mine the other day
He said he couldn’t stay
Because the world was going to end
At the end of May
Well, May done passed
And everbody still sittin’ here on their ass
With some talk
They’re now waiting for The Judgment Day

12) George Jones – The Race Is On (mob)
I feel tears wellin’ up cold and deep inside
Like my heart’s sprung a big break
And the stab of loneliness, sharp and painful
That I may never shake
You might say that I was taking it hard
When she wrote me off with a call
But don’t you wager that I’ll hide in sorrow
When I may break right down and bawl

13) Fynqr – Bar Jnl Ubgry
They asked me to sleep on the floor
The people were running galore
They asked for the time to make a number of changes and I let them

14) They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse In Your Soul (samuraifrog)
There’s a picture opposite me
Of my primitive ancestry
Which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free
Though I respect that a lot
I’d be fired if that were my job
After killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts

15) Zbzhf – Nqnz Terra
If my name were Howard
I’d dress up in a cumberbund and fez
If my name were Howard
I’d puff all night on funny cigarettes

If my name were Howard
I’d be terrified of getting sucked buck naked down the drain
Into a damp, dark world of flesh-eating spiders
If my name were Howard
I’d have thought of South Park and be rich as Midas

16) Gur Fuvaf – Erq Enoovgf
And I can’t go into this no more,
It puts too many thorns on my mind,
And the necessary balloon lies a corpse on the floor,
We’ve pissed on far too many sprites,
And they’re all standing up for their rights.

17) The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird (samuraifrog)
Don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word

18) Rick James – Superfreak (tim)
She’s a very kinky girl
The kind you don’t take home to mother

19) Qr Yn Fbhy – Rlr Xabj
May I cut this dance to introduce myself as
The chosen one to speak
Let me lay my hand across yours
And aim a kiss upon your cheek
The name’s Plug Two
And from the soul I bring you
The daisy of your choice
May it be filled with the pleasure principle
In circumference to my voice

20) Harry Belafonte – Jamaica Farewell (samuraifrog)
But I’m sad to say I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town

Strange, Avant-Garde Gifts From My Father

My dad doesn’t like rock music for the most part. Okay, he likes the Beatles. He likes The Four Freshmen, and assorted songs from the 1950’s.

But my dad is passionate about music — 1920’s and 1930’s jazz specifically. Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, etc. During my adolescence, I, for the most part, tried my damnedest not to listen to his music. I find his music much more enjoyable nowadays, but when you’re a gloomy, moody teenager like I was, the last thing you’d want to do is say, “Oh, I like what my folks like.”

Despite having dissimilar tastes, since we were both very passionate about music, we would occasionally lob a volley of a song or two to each other in hopes of making some of sort of connection.

My dad would play the occasional jazz 78 record for me, to mixed results.

I remember playing a pretty solo acoustic guitar song by Yes called “The Clap” for him (No, I have no idea why an effete prog rock band would wish to write a song called “The Clap”).

My dad has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music he cares about. But rock music? I don’t believe he has the equivalent knowledge, or the desire to obtain it — it’s just not his cup of tea.

Over the course of my lifetime, my dad has given me two albums out of the blue. It wasn’t Christmas, it wasn’t a birthday. A couple times during my high school years, my dad just said, “Hey, I picked up this record for you, thought you might like it.”

At the time he gave me these records, I was into The Police, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, that kinda stuff.

I had no idea what freakshow he was giving me.

The Zapped album was a sampler of Frank Zappa’s Bizarre Records that you could get mailed to you if you sent some money in to his label. I don’t believe it was available in stores. My dad picked this up somewhere used.

This compilation was my first introduction to Captain Beefheart — there are two tracks from Trout Mask Replica. A wonderful pop song by Girls Together Outrageously is on there, which is still among my favorite tunes. There is stuff on this LP that I *still* find a little too odd for my tastes (Lord Buckley, anyone?).

The second album my dad got me was even stranger than the first.

It consisted of 42 tracks that …. well, I’ll let it do the explaining.

If you’re wondering, how on Earth could you fit 42 songs on one piece of vinyl? The answer is, you can’t. Each of these tracks was 15-20 seconds long — they were just snippets of songs. Far out, man.

I frequently would recite the small sample of William S. Burroughs on this record (“Stay out of that time flak! All pilots ride Pan Pipes back to base.”) before I even knew who Burroughs was.

So, I just wanted to say, thanks to my dad for putting me on the road to avant garde stuff.

Wait, Wait, I Was Using That

With the introduction of popular culture, and the mass production and consumption of goods, an unfortunate side effect of all this is that many things that you encounter, and have great love and affection for, may become tragically unavailable.

In some cases, as technology advances and we repeatedly trade in one format of a product (videocassettes, vinyl) for another (supposedly) superior format (DVDs, CDs), a lot of very good stuff never makes the leap and stays in its archaic format forever.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who take matters into their own hands and make copies of beloved movies and music, and in some cases share them with the rest of us.

Still, it’s nice to have a slick, pretty product of something that really moves you in some way.

Here’s a short, incomplete list of stuff I wish was still in print.

The Blade: Shellville High School Yearbook
A great yearbook by Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci) of a high school of sheep. Real sheep.

The Shmenge Brothers – The Last Polka – a pseudo-doc on the famous polka duo from SCTV — starring John Candy and Eugene Levy. Probably the funniest thing I have ever seen on the teevee.

Most music that I have been jonesing for I have actually been able to find through my friend Buford T. Lawless, who somehow downloads music from the Internet through something called “bitemorebits”. Buford says he would love to find a copy of the double-LP UK version of Little Figures, by the early 80’s Athens, GA band The Method Actors. Oh, Buford! You and me, both!

Seven Songs Shaking My World

Continuing the chain, the last link being Johnny Yen

List seven songs you’re into right now … no matter what they are. BUT they must be songs you’re presently enjoying.

The New Pornographers – The Bones Of An Idol (from Twin Cinema)
Any song that Neko Case sings in the New Pornographers invariably is their best. When the instruments kick in overdrive after she sings “but something keeps turning us on” it is head-bobbin’ time.

Lou Reed – Halloween Parade (from New York)
This song from his New York album is achingly beautiful, simple and sad, and filled with lots of affection. One of my favorite songs of his, I’d also match it with any songs of the Velvet Underground. It’s that good.

Pylon – This, That (from Chain)
Man, I am digging Pylon. They were contemporaries of R.E.M. way back when in Athens, GA. Not to be confused with some recent band from the UK also calling themselves Pylon. Great guitar, singing, drumming. This just happens to be the Pylon song that is getting the most airplay these days for me.

Donovan – There Is A Mountain (from a Greatest Hits collection)
I heard this song emanating out of the PA speakers in a store called Hobo, which is basically a cheap version of Home Depot. I had never heard it before, but really, really liked it. As soon as I got home I popped some lyrics I was able to make out into a search engine. Minutes later I was grooving out to it. Fantastic song.

The Everly Brothers – Illinois (from Roots)
I really love the Everly Brothers. I immediately went for this song, ’cause I am sucker for all things Illinois. A really pretty song, with nice piano and their great, inimitable voices.

Leonard Cohen – The Captain (from Various Positions)
I love this song, it’s really bouncy. And I love the lyrics, particularly the lines:

“Complain, complain, that’s all you do
Ever since we lost
If it’s not the Crucifixion
Then it’s the Holocaust”

The Magnetic Fields – I Don’t Want To Get Over You (from 69 Love Songs, Vol. 1)
Nice synthy song. Like a lot of Stephin Merritt’s songs, the lyrics are really clever. He drops a nice lyrical bomb at the end.

“Or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus
Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
like I was seventeen
that would be a scream
But I don’t want to get over you”

Consider yourself tagged if you haven’t done this yet.