Machines and Music


(Pictured: still from the 1977 movie Supervan, which spent thousands customizing said van and 98 cents on special effects.)

My Twitter feed occasionally gets bogged down in beer and half-assed philosophizing (not to mention football, which is revving up again so get ready). But I also use it to pass along worthwhile articles I find on my Internet travels, and it’s time for another collection from the last month or so.

—I recently read but didn’t write about Tom Doyle’s Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s, but Jim Booth did, and you should read his review. The book reveals that Wings was aptly named: for much of the 1970s, Paul was making up a life and a career on the fly, often in remarkably naive ways.

—Rebeat Magazine has become one of my regular must-reads. They recently retweeted a 2014 series reviewing a comprehensive box set devoted to the post-Motown career of the production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Start with this list of HDH tunes and navigate to the rest of the articles in the series from there. Rebeat also recently posted a series of articles about a memoir written by Louise Harrison, George’s sister, who has spent much of her life living in central Illinois. Although it’s titled My Kid Brother’s Band, it’s not George’s story nearly as much as it’s hers, which is quite interesting on its own.

—For all the success Elvis Presley achieved, Colonel Tom Parker never stopped viewing him as a carnival attraction that he could use to fleece the rubes. Thus Having Fun With Elvis on Stage, an album made up entirely of between-song banter sans music, released in 1974, and widely considered the worst album this side of Metal Machine Music. Nick Greene of Mental Floss listened to the whole thing so we don’t have to.

—On the anniversary of the King’s death, Michele Catalano wrote about Elvis and her mother.

—Thousands of gallons of ink (and billions of Internet pixels) have been spilled on the importance of Motown and Stax to the history of R&B. Much less has been devoted to Chess, the Chicago label that recorded Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and released “Rocket 88,” sometimes considered the first rock ‘n’ roll record. Annoy your neighbors and satisfy your soul with 10 important Chess singles.

—I spent a couple of days earlier this month at YouTube listening to Disco Purrfection remixes of hits from the 70s and early 80s. Some of them are a little awkward, but many more are interesting re-inventions that give you much more of what you came in the door for, like seven clavinet-heavy minutes of Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently,” a full 12 minutes of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” and the mashup of “Ghostbusters” and “I Want a New Drug” that the world’s been waiting 30 years to hear.

—On another day, I went down a different YouTube rabbit hole and watched a 1977 movie called Supervan, which is the Citizen Kane of movies about the tricked-out van culture of the 1970s, if Citizen Kane were made entirely out of Cheez Whiz. It’s part road movie, part teenage exploitation flick, and part science fiction—the titular van is a George Barris custom job equipped with lasers.

More one-liners:

—These vintage print ads featuring musicians range from odd (Dave Brubeck for Sears appliances) to awesome (Rod Stewart in an ad for boots that are overshadowed by a bizarre sweater/leg-warmer combo).

—At some point in the 1980s, Judas Priest cut a version of the Stylistics’ ethereal 1971 love song “You Are Everything.” It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

—The Billboard Hot 100 celebrated its 57th anniversary earlier this month. Atlas Obscura (a highly recommended site) put together an interesting history.

And I believe that takes us back to the last time we did this. If you’re on Twitter, you should follow me. If you’re not on Twitter, you should be.

One thought on “Machines and Music

  1. Yah Shure

    Several of my cohorts over on the Pat Downey site discovered that the Holland-Dozier-Holland box set, ‘The Complete 45s Collection’ on the Harmless label was fraught with problems. If buying a purported “compete 45s collection” that includes too many needle drops and album versions being passed off as single versions isn’t a concern, have at it. But those who’d bought it on the Downey board felt like they’d been ripped off, big time.

    On another forum, the box set’s compiler had been insisting that the actual single versions were being used and happily answered questions about the box prior to release, but stopped posting altogether the minute someone raised a question about the source tapes Harmless was using.

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