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The Sippican Cottage Musical Test dell’Acidità

Everyone likes what they like. They don’t know why they like it. They assemble reasons to explain their affection after the fact. It’s a weird form of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Because things happened in sequence, the first caused the second. With pop music, it’s a sequence of one thing. I like it. Fire up the confirmation bias furnace. Unroll your cart-building plans after the horse steps on your foot. He couldn’t do that if he had a cart in front of him.

I mentioned pop music, but music is no different than any other topic in this regard. Everyone works backwards. It goes something like this:

  • I like it
  • If I like it, it’s good. No way I could like something bad
  • If I like it, there must be a good reason
  • I am wise, so the entity that produced the thing I like must be important
  • Liking important things makes me more important
  • If you do not like what I like, it’s because you’re a philistine

I have never successfully convinced another human that it’s perfectly OK to like dreck. I have pointed out many things that are dreck to persons who liked them, but did not think they were dreck. This always led to one of two reactions, either of which resulted in enmity towards me, not the thing itself:

  •  You’re right, it is dreck. I can’t like dreck, so I can’t like it any more. I hate you for ruining my fun
  • It’s not dreck. [Insert name of person with no talent here] is a genius, and [insert name of magazine here] says so.

The whole mindset leads to 50 year old men telling you that Motorhead is Mozart, and Camille Paglia telling you that Madonna is Moliere.

So, to make things easier, I’ve invented the Sippican Cottage Musical Acid Test:

If you’re from Liverpool, and your composition is played Santuario-di-Madonna-di-San-Luca-skiffle style by five Bolognese men a half a century after you wrote it, you’re on to something with your approach to songwriting. That’s as far as I’ll go.

I’ll Have the Beatles Bolognese With an Insalata Caprese and Seven Beers, Please

All my friends aren’t imaginary, but they are theoretical.

I live in a world of ghosts and shadows. I look for fellow travelers but they all seem to have gotten off already and I think we’re all Bozos on this bus now.  I’ll settle for people I never met and will never meet and shake hands in the electronic ether and be done with it.

Here comes the sun.

Sippican Cottage. Your Home for Bolognese Skiffle

I can never figure out if the world is wonderful or a dreadful bore. Whenever I’m feeling particularly jaded, I usually head on out to the Intertunnels and look for Bolognese Beatles cover bands doing outre versions of Liverpudlian rockabilly songs.

The fellow singing the McCartney part  in this video is Galeazzo Frudua. He taught my son how to sing the harmony parts of All My Loving, although Galeazzo might be surprised to know that.

Galeazzo and his charming coven of friends have been featured here before:
It Won’t Be Long
More Beatles Bolognese
How to Avoid Norwegian Wood Splinters
Hey Giuda

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her constant support of my children’s efforts via the TipJar. It is greatly appreciated]

Paperback Writer, All Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

The Moon Loungers are listed on these here Intertunnels as the “Finest wedding band in Bristol and the South West.” It doesn’t specify the southwest of what, exactly.

Playing at weddings is a tough gig. I’ve done it. I remember, distinctly, one wedding job in Newport, Rhode Island. It was held on the second floor of a converted building on a pier over the ocean. The groom and the best man were musicians, and they played as a duo around Newport at many of the same places we did. I still have a few happy bruises on my person from Salve Regina night down there.

There are always early indications of how any wedding job is going to go. Certain cues that are invisible to a newbie but a billboard for an old hand. In this case, a woman so old that she was inside-out shambled up to us with a walker, looked at me with a glass eye and the guitar player with a milky one, and asked, “What time does the orchestra start?”

The guitar player is a carpenter, and we used to work together building things from time to time. Whenever things were going really badly — if you’d just nailed your foot to the floor; if you’d just cut through a water pipe; if you’d just fallen off a ladder; if the check bounced; if the building inspector showed up and he turned out to be a guy you beat up every day in high school; no matter what — we’d turn to each other and ask in unison, “What time does the orchestra start?”

The groom jumped out the window halfway through our second set, by the way.

So, This Used To Be A Thing

When young people hear late Cretaceous period Bob Dylan gargling participles, or are forced to flip the channel hurriedly when the PBS begging jag starts out with the twitching corpse of Peter, Paul, and Mary, they don’t really have a frame of reference for what’s going on. Folk Music used to be a thing.

Not just a thing. THE thing. John Lennon wrote this song because he wanted to take a stab at the folkie thing. It wasn’t really their bag. It was more like a train running on a parallel track. Liverpudlians had skiffle, their own version of folk music, but Gerry Marsden took care of that. When prospective manager Brian Epstein found the Beatles banging away in the Cavern Club, they were wearing leather clothes like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, and they interrupted their fifties proto-rock covers to have Gerry Marsden sing some scouse ballad while he stood on a packing crate because the microphone stand couldn’t be adjusted. It wasn’t any sort of Rock Island Line festival.

Brian Epstein signed The Silkie because he heard them playing in the Cavern Club when he dragged his Savile Row arse in for a gander at the Beatles. It’s hard to say whether the Beatles or The Silkie did the cover version of Hide Your Love Away. Both versions were recorded at the same time by the same people, more or less. It’s assumed that John Lennon always wanted to be someone other than himself on a given day, and that day he wanted to be Bob Dylan for a spell.

Or so everyone says. I’ve never seen a pop-culture vulture offer any other opinion about this record. They all agree that John Lennon wanted to be Bob Dylan because they have no idea what creative people are like. If they were in the slightest bit creative themselves, they wouldn’t be writing for music magazines. It’s like relying on remoras for advice on how to be a shark. John Lennon was like many people who feel an intense need to compete in whatever arena they find themselves in. It might be passive-aggressive combat, but it’s very real. I get a whiff of Oh Yeah, I got yer folk music right here, Bob in this song. Like Marlon in The Wild One, he’s wondering whattaya got he can rebel against.

The song was given to The Silkie to record, Lennon produced the record, McCartney played the guitar, and George kept time by tapping the top of an acoustic guitar. When it was done, Lennon called Brian Epstein, held the phone up to the speaker in the studio, and told him they had recorded a Number One hit.

The Silkie version made it to a respectable #28 in the UK, and #10 in the US. The Beatles version was part of the Help! soundtrack, which was # 1 nine ways from Sunday. Knowing how that happens is why the Beatles had a manager, I guess.

Preciso Praticar Meu Português. Never Mind. They Speak Beatles

That’s from a show in Brazil called Programa do Jô. It’s something along the lines of the Johnny Carson show. Oops, I mean the Leno Show. Dammit, the Letterman Show or something.

Wait a minute, I have no idea if Letterman is still on the air, either. Whatever. On Programa do Jô, a Chilean waiter serves the guests cocktails and food while they’re on the air. And they have Beatles cover bands that probably don’t have any idea what the words mean in the songs they’re singing.

Hey, you’ve got to guzzle Cabernet!

Hey, you’ve got an ugly fiancee!

Hey, Yul Brynner hides your lunch away!

Hey, read me a book by le Carre!

Hey, you’ve got to give me some sorbet!

As I said, whatever. Most people have no idea what the words are, or what they’re driving at. In most cases, the composer had no idea what they were driving at either. Writing songs is more a knack than a trade. You’re supposed to give the audience a vague feeling one way or the other, and try to concatenate the notes so it can be hummed. That’s about it.

A half-decent folk song is hard to come by these days. These Brazilian coves knew where to look.

Hey Giuda

The world is a wonderful place chock full of interesting people. There are like, twenty-three of them. Maybe twenty-two. Anyway, if you poke around, it’s not 100 percent douchebags downloading navigation apps into their “smartphones” while walking into parking meters.

I’d be hard pressed to recall the last time I saw something truly new. No, really, I mean it. It’s been decades. Everything touted as new is a retread, and generally a degradation of the thing it copies.

Don’t feel bad about the smartphone thing. At least it’s a step up, intellectually, from jingling change in your pocket.

I remember distinctly the first time I saw a workable digital camera, the first time I saw Microsoft Office, the first time I heard the modem blast of dial-up Internet connection, the first time I had a usable cell phone, the first time I got yelled at by Nuvi, and the first time I played Doom. Nothing new has happened since any of that, and everything that’s tried to beat them has been worse. And Justin Bieber is just Frankie Avalon, except I gather Frankie Avalon knew how to sing a little; but I really don’t know, because I’m not that old, and I know I’ll never get so old that I have time to waste listening to either of them.

I like new things. Since there aren’t any, I just look for intriguing versions of old things. A roomful of guys in Bologna singing Beatles songs is intriguing enough, I guess.

[Backstory, previously on Sippican Cottage: It Won’t Be Long , and More Beatles Bolognese]


The Strangers: The Upside-Down Beatles

The Strangers were a pop/rock cover band in Melbourne, Australia in the 60s and 70s. They were the house band for a sorta Australian version of a Hullabaloo/American Bandstand/Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert-kinda thing called The Go!! Show, which shows the early predilection for exclamation mark abuse in the teen set, which would metastasize into full-blown emoticon leprosy when the Intertunnel finally showed up.

This version shows a few thing admirably. It’s an excellent cover, overall, but brings nothing new to the proceedings. Back then, access to music was much more limited, and cover bands had to deliver the payload precisely. Just like the record was the grail. You were stand-ins for the bands.

Nowadays, no one wants to call themselves cover bands, though. They’re tribute bands, and they play just like the record, forevermore. The actual bands that played the songs in the first place get old and become cover bands of themselves, playing at state fairs and whatnot, trying to sound like themselves even thought four out of five original members have died by choking on vomit by the time they play at the Waterfront Concert for Balding Hair Metal Bands.

No one knows whose vomit it was. You can’t dust for vomit.

Maybe It’s Just Me, But I Don’t Think Eleanor Rigby Is Supposed To Sound This Happy

And still, here we are.

Pharrell Williams is notable enough to have his own Wikipedia page. I checked. Ye gods, he’s won seven Grammys.  That seems an awful lot for someone I never heard of. The Beatles only won eight. That’s not a typo. They won a “lifetime achievement” Grammy, too, so nine, depending on how you count them.

I have heard of The Beatles. They seem to have gotten much more mileage out of their meager stash of Grammys.

Look, I Don’t Need Convincing; I Was There. The Seventies Sucked

I’m sitting here wondering whether to use the word “offal,” or the word “awful.” These are the things that keep me up at night. Well, the seventies were. Take your pick.

No one was up at night in the seventies. Well, not so’s you’d notice. You couldn’t buy a gallon of electricity with the proceeds of four misappropriated BEOG grants, so everyone left all their lights off all the time. I don’t know how much time I spent standing on a friend’s darkened porch pressing what I thought was a doorbell, but found out later was just a loose shingle. I’d give up and go home and they’d wonder what happened to me, and ring my phone once and then hang up, because no one could afford a phone call back then, either.  You’d send coded messages to one another by counting phone rings. It limited you to a selection of very few coded messages, because after four rings or so from one of those black Ma Bell rotary wall phones with the four-alarm-fire bells in it, you’d answer it just to shut it up, and ruin the whole procedure.

Drugs were much simpler then, I’ll give you that. Rich people, who were somewhere between imaginary and hunted to extinction during the decade, started doing cocaine. But all that stuff accomplished was keeping you up all night so you could worry about how you were going to pay your rent for the next four months now that you spent it on fifteen-minutes-worth of cocaine.To save money, you could get a tubby girlfriend, and bum diet pills off her, which was pure speed. The pills, not the girlfriend. Those would make you stay up day and night, too, but on a budget, and with the money you saved you could find that guy, usually driving a Datsun B210 with an “Gas, Grass or Ass” front license plate bracket, and buy some Quaaludes from him. Then you could gobble those and reach a sort of equilibrium. You could manage to stay awake through all seven minutes of that video, for instance, but it wouldn’t gouge out your retinas and melt your cerebral cortex like it would if you were stone sober or speeding like state trooper.

What, you mean you’re sober right now? Well, don’t watch the video, then. If you’ve already watched it, I apologize, because some things can’t be unseen — like the elephant pants halfway through that extravaganza, or a picture of the President of the United States in a canoe trying to kill a bunny with a paddle.

If you were of a more traditional mind, say, the kind of person that wore a Whip Inflation Now button unironically, you could just abuse alcohol like a normal person. The drinking age was more informal then. You had to be tall enough to put the coins on the counter at the liquor store. That was about it. And the smokes are for my mother, honest.

By the by, I mentioned irony, but everything in the seventies was done unironically. There were no hipsters, so there was no irony. There was Andy Warhol, but he was acting ironically ironically, so he doesn’t count. Those people in that video meant to do whatever it was they were doing. They did it on purpose. You were supposed to like it, and be entertained by it. No, I’m not joking.

As I started to say earlier, alcohol abuse was your only hope to get through the entire 120 months of Seldom and Gommoron  the seventies brought upon us. All the bars were full of ferns, brass rails, and disco, tube tops and turd curls, but they served liquor. They served liquor like Niagara serves water. They never shut you off in those places, just handed you a toe tag to go with your bar tab. It was glorious. I think.

Note to my readers from the non-distaff side of the ledger: If the seventies come back, you’ll be buying all the drinks for girls in the bars again. No one went halfsies back then, and men were expected to have a job and everything. Anyway, word to the wise: It’s really hard to get rid of the smell of a Sloe Gin Fizz that’s been vomited on the deep shag floormats in your AMC Javelin, so shut her off after five or so.

(as seen at That Eric Alper)

Tag: Beatles

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