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July 31, 2011

  • The Joy Of Easy Listening

    When I was young (in the sixties) my parents weren’t really into music. But we had the radio on all the time. We listened to Easy Listening stations. This naturally drove me crazy. But it also embedded these songs in my head.

    This BBC 4 documentary (below in six parts) is well worth watching if you’ve either never really heard of Easy Listening or if you (as I did) simply dismissed it as irrelevant.

January 8, 2011

December 26, 2007

December 2, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — Siouxsie & The Banshees

    Not all punks were guys. Siouxsie Sioux was part of the Bromley Contingent along with Sid Vicious and Billy Idol and started a band called Siouxsie and The Banshees very early on. At the start I think the band was more a concept — a desire to be in a band rather than a band in fact.

    But after a while they got the hang of it and became on of the few bands to move out of the early punk days and have successful careers as “punk” became “new wave”.

    Hong Kong Garden was always my favourite from the early stuff:


November 10, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Undertones

    Punk for me (I was a teen when it all started) was always very much about my generation. At the time I don’t think I noticed how incredibly young we all were.

    Behold the zit-filled faces of The Undertones, looking like they had to ask their mums if it was okay to go out on a school night to shoot this video for Teenage Kicks:


    And because the Internet is making everything instantly available, here’s footage of the band actually recording the song:

    It’s quite incredible that what is arguably one of the best pop songs ever just happened to be used as an example of how records are made!

    Yes, I do mean it when I say I think Teenage Kicks is one of the “best pop songs ever”. Who can argue with lyrics as unpretentious as this:

    Are teenage dreams so hard to beat
    Everytime she walks down the street
    Another girl in the neighbourhood
    Wish she was mine, she looks so good

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I’m gonna call her on the telephone

    Have her over ‘cos I’m all alone

    I need excitement oh I need it bad

    And its the best, I’ve ever had

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I only saw The Undertones once, opening for The Clash but I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

October 20, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Sex Pistols

    For most people, the Sex Pistols were punk rock. We loved the Pistols but I never connected with them the way I did with The Ramones, or The Clash or even The Buzzcocks. The Pistols were one of the few influential bands of the time that I didn’t see live and I think that always made them a bit more of an abstraction for me. Punk was so much about the live experience it was harder to identify with a band you hadn’t seen live.


    Now we would have seen the Pistols live had they come anywhere near Canada. Malcolm McLaren (“The Manager” as Johnny refers to him) was determined not to do anything by the books and booked the first (and only) US tour in the deep south, playing dive bars and honky tonks rather than hitting the major urban centres that had already established punk scenes.

October 7, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Ramones

    Of all the classic punk songs, I think “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones is probably the most recognized song these days.


    This footage was taken at CBGBs — the New York City dive where many of the NY punks got started.

    I never got to see the Ramones at CBGBs but I was lucky enough to see them very early on at one of Toronto’s most famous dive bars — the El Mocambo.

    The show was absolutely packed but we where there early enough to get a spot directly in front of the stage. So close we could see Joey’s face despite his eternal mop-top and downward glare.

    Johnny dropped a pick at one point and I snapped it up. I’ve still got it in a box in the basement. Johnny knew a thing or two about posterity and was nice enough to have “RAMONES” inscribed on all his picks making for instant memorabilia.

October 1, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Clash

    Dear Young Person:

    If you’re going to understand Punk, there is no better spot to start than “White Riot” by The Clash.

    The Clash didn’t invent Punk but to many they are “The Only Matter That Matters”.

    It was tradition at Clash concerts in the early days that they would end shows with White Riot. Fans would storm the stage, all hell would break lose. While I think you can find better video of The Clash in action, this footage gives you a sense of the frenzy and chaos that was a Clash gig.


    It’s amazing watching Joe Strummer just barely holding things together — at least for a little while.

September 9, 2007

  • Thought

    Every now and then you stumble across an entire sub-culture you had no idea existed.

    Today’s example is care of YouTube where a quick search on “Misheard Lyrics” gets you about 1200 very juvenile (and often very funny) animations of entire songs worth of misheard lyrics.

    Interestingly enough, you don’t really have to know the original song to find these funny.

    Here’s one I particularly liked:


July 24, 2007

  • Thought

    This song it totally stuck in my head right now…


    Sorry if I did the same to you!

August 19, 2005

  • CBC Unplugged

    I still on occasion run into people who laugh at the idea that “the Internet changes everything”. On most occasions I just smile, secure in the knowledge that it does and that someday the last few hold-outs will find something that causes even them to say, “whoa — that changes everything”.

    Sometimes, when feeling generous and up for a debate, I’ll pull out a host of examples of radical change in culture and business. Today I think I may have found a new one to add to the list — CBC Unplugged.

    CBCunplugged.com is a place for listeners to re-connect with their favourite personalities and shows, by way of podcasts that locked-out producers are making. It is not affiliated with the CBC. We all hope to be back at our jobs soon and put your programming on the radio.

    Think about that for a moment. What happens when the CBC decides to lock-out workers? The staff route around the corporation and start putting shows online via podcasts. Brilliant. Kudos to Tod Maffin for shaking things up. I wonder if Dave Winer could have imagined a national broadcaster being disintermediated by that little white on orange rectangle?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 19, 2005.

November 17, 2004

September 4, 2004

  • You Have Bad Taste in Music

    You Have Bad Taste in Music. I don’t know that for a fact, but Eman Laerton is out to convince Hoobastank, Nickelback, Train, Ruben Studdard and Linkin Park fans that they do.

    Even if you don’t have bad taste in music you should visit the site. It is a fine example of the power of low-cost technology to create new forms of communication and entertainment. Eman has used a clever domain name, website, video camera, megaphone, and army helmet (seriously) to make something that is both entertainment and social commentary.

September 2, 2004

  • Thought

    Yesterday Apple launched the Apple iTunes Affiliate Program. I wonder if it will become common practice to turn songs into affiliate links at iTunes in the way many people link to books at amazon.com.

June 10, 2004

  • Dumb Smart Search

    I was just trying out the new version of Napster and when I searched for “China Crisis” I got results that included David Sylvian and Asia albums.

    Why might that be?

    Well, David Sylvian used to be in a band called “Japan” which is close to China and “Asia” is where China is.

    I’m surprised I didn’t get “Dishwalla” as one of the results!

    Napster seems to have some sort of “concept” search algorithms in use that really doesn’t make sense in this context. Given that Napster knows I’m searching for an artist, it seems that there are two approaches to expanding search beyond the original term, “spelling” and “related projects”.

    There are band and artist names that are hard to spell or that you only vaguely remember from youth (was “Hitchin’ A Ride” done by Vanity Fair or Vanity Fare?). In this case implementing something like Google’s “Did you mean…?” feature would be very smart. I want this kind of help so I don’t have to remember how to spell Alanis Morissette (Napster catches typos on her last name).

    If I’m searching for “Tin Machine” it might be useful to offer results for frontman David Bowie as well. “Related Projects” searches could be very helpful particularly when you remember David Byrne singing some song but you don’t realize that it was from a solo album not a Talking Head disc.

    The problem with Napster is a search on Tin Machine produces “Tony McKinney”, “More Machine Than Man”, “Nick Gilder and Time Machine” and (very oddly) “The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem”. These are guesses at possible typos but because they aren’t identified as such it looks like they have a really bad search feature.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. Smart search is dumb if it does not take into account the user’s goal in doing the search in the first place.

    2. Tell the user why you are presenting results that are not expected (“No matches found for Tin Machine. Did you mean…? Artists related to Tin Machine include…”).

    3. Hard code results for very popular searches so you can give really relevant information.

February 11, 2004

  • Thought

    I’m very happy to see that Puretracks has chalked up one million downloads:

    “The move comes as Puretracks — with a catalogue of more than 250,000 tracks — announced that it has crossed the one-million download threshold after roughly four months of operation. By comparison, Apple Computer Corp.’s iTunes service crossed the four-month mark with 10 million downloads, although that service’s U.S. customer base is also roughly 10 times the size of the comparable market in Canada.”

    I would also note that Puretracks has Canada’s higher broadband penetration in its favor and greater proclivity to use file-sharing networks against it. So on the whole, Puretracks is doing at least as well as iTunes all things being equal. And given that they had a previously unknown brand while Apple had 20 years of headstart as a brand, I’d say they are doing pretty darn well.

December 18, 2003

  • Wharton Discusses Online Music Business

    There’s a great [email protected] essay that examines “Which Online Music Service Will Have the Longest Playing Time?”

    I think the article is pretty much spot on in its analysis of the market and its rather buried assertion that Rhapsody (or at least the streaming model) will be the long term winner.

    The article makes one mistake I believe. In discussing consumers’ natural desire to own music instead of subscribing to it, I think the point is missed. I’m pretty sure that the average North American spends more time listening to radio than to CDs. To me this implies that streaming services replace BOTH radio and CD purchases. While most people look at a service like Rhapsody as “Renting CDs” which doesn’t sound that interesting, I think of it as “Having a personal radio station that I control completely”. That does sound interesting. Particular for $10 a month.

    The article also makes a small point about value conscious consumers baulking at subscription fees, but I think that the opposite is true. If you only had $10 to spend on music per month, would you buy ten downloads or subscribe to unlimited access to over 400,000 songs?

November 24, 2003

  • Thought

    The Michael Jackson Official Press Room web site is just about my favourite example of a specific purpose site ever. The site does exactly what it is supposed to do and nothing else. While I in no way condone Jackson’s alleged conduct, his ability to use the web as a communication channel during a personal and business crisis is commendable.

    Compare this site to the dreadfully overproduced corporate site Sony has created for Jackson.

    (via Dave Winer)

October 28, 2003

  • Thought

    PaidContent.org: The Minced Meat Music Pie: RealNetworks’ Sean Ryan:

    “[So if margins are not great, how do you make money?] You make money by subscriptions: it is a better business…it is a continual, annuity business. You bundle a la carte downloads on top of that. You don’t necessarily make money in any of those by themselves; you make money in total. For example, the assets we used to build Rhapsody are the same that power RadioPass, the free music experience, and the upcoming store. So we spread the work of encoding, of creating metadata, of taking credit cards etc across four different services, and then international services. So you start spreading your costs across different yet related products, and two, through distribution and marketing.”

    This is a great interview with lots of insights for those interested in where online music is headed. Anyone who’s used Rhapsody knows that Sean Ryan “gets it”.

September 19, 2003

September 14, 2003

  • Thought

    Church of the Customer: Rip Van Record, Part II:

    “Obviously, the Internet is the best channel to share knowledge; when intellectual capital is shared with multiple online networks, it can spread quickly to others who naturally gravitate toward it. (We call this ‘Napsterizing your knowledge.’) Sharing knowledge is not the end-game; it’s the marketing. The next level is finding value that enthusiasts will pay for. Like Bowie says, performing will become exponentially more important for musicians. We would add that maintaining strong relationships with fans — their customers — has never been more important for artists than it is today.”