This is one of my favorite early songs my son wrote (age 9). The guitar lick is classic rock style. Again, he sang it to me, I played it. He wrote it, baby. He produced it – that opening bit where it goes from small and tinny to full-blown stereophonic splendor is all his idea. Then when it came time to sing, he rocked it hard, so hard – from 2:00 out he’s possessed. It’s not like we ever even thought about Monster Trucks in our house, but he latched onto something in coming up with the lyrics. Is it really about Monster Trucks? Who knows. Who cares. Listen and bleed…
5 years ago, when our son was 9 years old, he became interested in writing music and songs. He was a very good beat-boxer, and a fearless vocalist, but he didn’t know how to play any instruments. That’s where I came in. He would tell me the tempo, help select a drum loop, sing me the guitar and/or keyboard parts and I’d play them until he’d say “yeah, that’s it” and we’d record it. He worked fast – most songs were completed in one or two hours. Once all the tracks were laid down, he would improvise a vocal – usually one take. He had the outline of the lyrics in mind before starting the recording, but never wrote them down, and it was apparent that he was just letting them flow as he sang them. This is one of the quieter songs he wrote:
He also designed and made the cover art for his albums. We did 3 releases together before he decided he wanted to learn how to write music all on his own, and since then he writes all his melodies and arrangements inside the computer. No more Dad 🙁
I grew up not really realizing what the bass does for music. I could hear guitars, pianos, voices, drums. But what happened on the bottom was invisible to my ears. A degree in music later, I kind of got it, but… After a decade of writing for 4 part acapella, I certainly understood the importance of the bass, but still… It’s taken a pretty full lifetime for me to appreciate the glories of all that goes on down under. Watching this fantastic visualization of Motown great James Jamerson bringing bouncy groovalicious life to Stevie Wonder’s hit helps me really ‘get’ what he is doing – rhythmic, melodic, adventurous, witty genius.
Once you’ve heard/watched the video above, listen to Stevie’s original, and see how the bass just dances around (the bass comes in around 15 seconds into the song). Cool, eh?
A bit about James:
“Motown’s tormented genius, James Jamerson is unanimously acclaimed as the first virtuoso of the electric bass. Plagued by alcoholism and emotional problems throughout his career, James has influenced (whether they know it or not) every electric bassist to ever pick up the instrument. Arriving at Motown in 1959, James’ bass playing evolved over the next decade from a traditional root-fifth cocktail style of bass playing into an astonishing new style built upon a flurry of sixteenth-note runs and syncopations, “pushing the envelope” dissonances, and fearless and constant exploration.
A converted upright bass player with bear claw hands, James plucked the strings with only the index finger of his right hand (which he dubbed “The Hook), and effortlessly and routinely pulled off head-turning, technical feats on the ’62 P-Bass he nicknamed “The Funk Machine.” His explosive, earthquake-heavy bass lines have had the entire world dancing and grooving to Motown records for over four decades. But he labored in total obscurity – a condition that ate at him throughout the last years of his life.” (read more at MetaFilter)
“Great Again!” got a whirlwind of postings/repostings via Facebook, BandCamp and SoundCloud, and it’s just been released on Spotify, iTunes, and other heavyweight commercial carriers. It was also featured on the redoubtable Dr. Demento Show 🙂
Since the song’s release, Mr. Trump has gone so much further than was thought possible, and he may well have killed off the idea of irony. Oh my stars…
I’m very busy writing music these days, and will be posting new songs and musical works pretty much every week on Soundcloud. There’ll be something for everyone, even lovers of the ancient outmoded ironic.
This week’s piece is a lovely, mysterious and sad bit of soundtrack, titled “Doubt”. Put it on loop and let it play in the background for a while…
With this year’s resistable rise of Mr. T(rump), I got inspired by the question “What do women see in him?”. Some lyrics soon followed, then a melody, now a recording. The Bandcamp player on the left allows High Fidelity downloads, the Soundcloud player on the right gives Good Enough fidelity – either way allows sharing:
The song hearkens back to the songwriting style of The Bobs, though this time it ain’t acapella. Kind of a Goldfinger-y big band 60’s pop vibe. Old pal Laurie Amat (famed as an avant-gardist, collaborator with The Residents, and singer of overall repute) signed on to be the lead singer, and delivered big-time, with a big, bold, brassy sound. You can share it, post it, download it – it’s yours to keep as our gift to you!
With all the political stormclouds hanging over us, a bit of levity is in order. And some understanding – people seem to want desperately to be saved, in a big way, a romantic way, an impossible way. Their yearnings aren’t wrong, but the object of their affection – This year’s Mr. T – is some kind of awful.
Special big thanks to Dann Fink, Richard Bob Greene, and Joshua Raoul Brody for valuable input/feedback/help in the writing and production of Great Again!
When you listen to and download my music directly on this website, I get paid a better percentage from these direct downloads than from anywhere else on the wonderful wide web. But this website serves only the people who know who I am and how to find me. To get my music out to people in the world who don’t already know me, I rely on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and etc. When people purchase a download from iTunes or other vendors, I get paid pretty nicely (between 60-70% of every dollar).
But when people listen to (stream) my music on Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc., I get paid the tiniest amount imaginable. Most people can’t grasp how tiny the payments are, so I’ll give a few examples:
Spotify – $0.00023 per play – for 2,433 people who listened to “Anna” in a month, I get 55 cents.
YouTube – $0.000026 per play – for 5,293 people who listened to “Anna” in a month, I get 14 cents.
Apple – $0.00013 per play – for 3,039 people who listened to “Anna” in a month, I get 38 cents.
Pandora – $0.000069 per play – for 11,280 people who listened to “Anna” in a month, I get 78 cents.
It takes 385 plays on YouTube for me to earn one penny! Total income from 22,045 people enjoying my song in one month is $1.85. Is it any wonder I recently had to rent out the carriage house on my estate to some scruffy software developers? I used to rent it to fellow musicians, but they can’t afford it anymore.
The world, and the music business in particular, has changed mightily over the last decade. Where do I find new music, where do I listen? I like and use Spotify. I rarely pay for and download music anymore. As a consumer and music lover, I’m loving this whole streaming thing: any song, any time. And if I’m consuming music this way, I can’t expect you, dear reader, or anyone else, to forego such convenient and amazing access to music. But…
The business model is pretty much broken. When people used to download a song, musicians like me would be getting 60 cents. Sell 22,000 downloads and you’ve got $13,200. I could live off that. Shoot, I did! But no one can live off the $1.85 that 22,000 listens brings in.
The answer? I’m not good enough at math and economics to say exactly how to fix it, but when you hear of Pandora and Spotify trying to twist Congress’ arms so they can pay artists less, understand that they’re already paying us virtually nothing. If we tripled the cost of subscriptions (so that, say, Spotify would go from $10 to $30 a month) but they only tripled their payout rate, that would still mean virtual peanuts to me – $1.85 x 3 = $5.55. A sandwich at Subway.
But what if I got a penny for each listen? Surely that’s not asking much. That would mean over $220 a month to me, just for that one song. I would be making at least part of a living again. How much would the listener pay? Assuming the average song is 3 minutes, that means 20 cents an hour. If you listen an hour a day, in a month you’d pay $6. If you like to have music on in the background all the time, 8 hours a day would cost you $1.60, amounting to $48/month.
Now assume that Spotify et al are getting by currently charging $10/month. If the average consumer listens for an hour a day, Spotify can afford to pay out a penny per listen by charging only $6 more. Voracious users might have to sign up for an “all you can hear” account for $50/month. But compare that to just 15 years ago. We heard most of our new music via radio and TV, which pay decent royalties to music creators, and when we heard something we liked we’d go out and buy a CD for $15-18.
Think back to your CD collection – you had a mere fraction of what’s available at the record store. Now, you get the entire contents of a record store any time you want it. It’s amazing! It’d be an amazing bargain at $50/month. A mind blowing bargain at $20/month. But at $10 a month? Somebody somewhere is not getting paid…