THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: “Exposed”

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As a 10 year old kid, becoming a double-digit age meant I was making the step up, in life and in music. I already had accumulated a good amount of education through music, but I still had a lot to learn and experience. When CBS/Epic released this, it seemed like the next big thing. I remember seeing ads for this in “Rolling Stone” and as someone who was too small to appreciate Warner Bros’ “Loss Leaders” series of albums you would find on inner sleeves (i.e. 2LP’s of weird and unknown artists for 2 bucks), Exposed came off as my first “loss leader”, as it too was only two dollars. It was a compilation of artists Epic, Columbia, and affiliated artists were promoting at the time, and the record was promoted as being “A Cheap Peek At Today’s Provocative New Rock”. That seemed adventurous, and I was ready to listen and learn.

Before there was such as thing as “80’s rock”, this was just rock. New music, new artists, new attitude: new wave, so hearing about and possibly enjoying Adam & The Ants, Loverboy, Steve Forbert, and The Romantics lead to me wondering of these would become the next big bands of the new decade. When MTV started, some of them would become immensely popular with help from the new cable network, and the first few years of MTV felt like listening to that cool FM radio station on the left of the dial, but with visuals. Ellen Foley was the singer on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell but in video form, her voice was portrayed by vocalist Karla DeVito. Foley would gain a bit more attention for starring in the first season of Night Court as Billie Young, but her role would be phased out and be replaced by Markie Post and her character Christine Sullivan. There are some Night Court fans who feel Foley’s role was much better than that of Post’s. (Coincidentally, when CBS/Epic released a sequel to the Exposed compilation album, called (of course) Exposed II, it would feature two tracks from DeVito.)

Someone in my Facebook timeline had posted a song by Adam & The Ants, which brought me back to Exposed and how much I loved the album. Those who grew up with the influence of MTV or within MTV’s musical power have often asked “do you remember a time before MTV?” and fortunately I did. We didn’t go to the TV to be moved by sound, we went to our stereos, cassette decks, radio, or the record store. While Exposed is meant to publicize the “new rock” of the early 1980’s, no one had any idea about a cable network from New York City and how it would help to break that new rock to a much bigger audience, slightly peeling away the curtain away from the corner of college rock to becoming a sound that was more adventurous than what had come before. This Spotify playlist shows the adventure that once was.

THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: The Police “Ghost In The Machine (JB Deluxe Edition)”

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My good friend Herc of the Herc’s Hideaway blog has been doing some good things with his posts, many of which feature his own Spotify lists, so I decided to borrow his idea and try it out for myself.

Last weekend, I started thinking about a few of my favorite Police songs, one thing lead to another and I started compiling my MP3’s and creating my versions of my favorite albums. The Police were and are one of my favorite bands, and I was lucky enough to see them in February 1984 at the Aloha Stadium on their Synchronicity tour. I always go back and forth on what I feel is my favorite album by The Police, a battle that I enjoy going through because in truth, I don’t have to battle, When I do end up listening to them in different combinations, I sometimes listen to it from a different perspective while other times I discover once again while I love it in the first place.

I decided to create my own Deluxe Edition of their fourth album, 1981’s Ghost In The Machine, which received a huge boost in promotion due to the newly-created MTV. The band’s first two albums was more college radio-friendly, and the songs from those albums we now know and love (a few of which are classic rock radio staples) didn’t get much attention until the release of their third album, 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta. Radio did take kindly to “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and “Don’t Stand So Close TO Me” as they were the album’s two singles, but back then, radio was much more open to playing album tracks, or at least I had radio stations in Honolulu that played each song on the album as if it was Led Zeppelin’s (untitled 4th album) because I certainly remember hearing “Bombs Away”, “Man In A Suitcase”, “Voices In My Head”, “Driven To Tears”, and “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” as if they were hits.

Before MTV, the only place I saw Police videos was on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10. as both “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” went as high as #10 on the Billboard Singles chart. With Ghost In The Machine the group had made a documentary film with musician Jools Holland which featured the group talking about their recording sessions in Montserrat and in between, you would see staged “performances” of the band playing a few of the songs. Instead of the band going out of their way to offer live versions, it would be lip-synched videos but this was cool, since groups who were doing videos at the time were doing the same thing.


As a kid, I thought this was the coolest looking video, as you could see the band performing the song. I’d even make a dumb dance out of the way Sting moves, because I was a dumb ass 11 year old thinking that that type of music should be danced in that fashion. Back then, ska was considered “white man reggae”, and their album Regatta de Blanc even said so, so people initially thought ska was some white man creation. It would be awhile before people realized that ska came before reggae and both were rooted from the same island. Nonetheless, for years when I would hear this song, I would always the accent of the bass and drums completely different, and wondered why the group would switch the page when they started singing “we are spirits in the material world”. It wasn’t until long after the fact that I had heard the first verse of this song on the wrong accent, and that it was the same ska rhythm from the first note. Even now, when I remember to count the rhythm from the first bass note instead of the drums, I catch myself falling back into the song’s proper rhythm.


I liked this song the first time I heard it, but did not realize until a few days ago why I may enjoy it. I love the mood and feel of the song, and when I understood the lyrics and could relate to them from personal experiences, I felt them even more. More on that in a bit.

The video was very cool, as it wasn’t just the band in the recording studio, but had them playing around in the production area, where they were playing with the soundboard to the point where they’re dancing around and on it. But the best part is when they’re outside of the recording studio, playing the song with the local people of Montserrat where drummer Stewart Copeland gets a chance to have local musicians play the steel drums while family and friends dance around. The whole section is silly and goofy, but the part that somehow meant a lot to me was the section of the video where Sting sings a simple “we oh oh/we oh oh” part. Sting is shown hamming it up to the camera with the light blaring brightly, as Copeland is dancing around and guitarist Andy Summers is hanging on to anyone willing to share a dance. But during the “we oh oh” chant, Sting is circling the camera as you see everyone dancing or simply being there to witness the creation of a film. In the background is a man behind him, sitting down by a tree, with shorts and slippers.
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It’s insignificant, but what I saw was a man just relaxing, loving his surroundings, nodding his head and rocking out to the music with a huge smile on his face. It always looked cool, but as I got older, I realized that for me, that’s what the song means to me. That’s what music means to me: just hanging out with friends, chillin’ out, rocking out to yourself without a care in the world. I fele that guy by the tree represented me, not unlike the kid on the stairwell in that Sesame Street performance of Stevie Wonder doing “Superstition” (cue to the 4:09 mark).

On my bucket list: I want to be able to go to that tree or area in Montserrat, sit down and rock out to some music, and have someone click that photo for me. Freedom.

As I was listening to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, I had an epiphany. I realized the steel drum section reminded me a lot of a song that was a personal favorite of my dad’s, Loggins & Messina’s “Vahevala”. It’s a song that I loved enough to where I’d call it my own, and one where I realized my dad had been a fan of ska, reggae, and Caribbean music long before I felt I introduced it to him in 1982. My dad had been giving me hints and lessons all along, and I always identify this song as one where perhaps if my dad was looking for a sense of his own freedom, he would find a way to “sail away” because “you better be back on board by the break of day”. I always knew the steel drums of “Every Little Thing…” was there, but it was like “oh, it has a similar vibe”.

If I put on “Vahevala”, I am locked to the song from beginning to end, anticipating the influence of Indian classical music and John Coltrane in the saxophone duo solo, and just waiting for it to come to its inevitable conclusion. Beautiful.

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“Invisible Sun” was a song that told about the hazards of war, but in Honolulu I wondered what could be an “invisible sun” for it was always there. It would be awhile before I understood the song’s true meaning. While not on the album version, I always liked the video for its extended ending, where the song continues and Sting sings “all I want is to go somewhere… far away from the cold night air…” Then, like now, the invisible sun gives us hope when the whole day’s done.


“Demolition Man” was the “angry” song, and this sounded nothing like what I knew The Police for. I was not aware they had punk rock roots or that Copeland was known as Klark Kent, but this just sounded angry, and in the process, cool. I loved the feedback in the song, and thought it was great when Sting spazzed out to the point where he ends up breaking his microphone stand. The fast-paced editing would eventually become known as an “MTV-style edit” or “MTV edit”, where it wouldn’t concentrate on one thing or scene for any given length of time, it would just have multiple shots and jump cuts that were often be random, but would make for good visuals. MTV didn’t create it, but there was a time when it seemed almost every video on MTV had a section dedicated to that type of quick edits that would lead to headaches for some people, an eyefuck for everyone else. The song and video was just perceived as sinister looking and sounding.


Of course, one can’t talk about “Demolition Man” without speaking about Grace Jones, who actually released the song first before The Police did. The song was released on her album Nightclubbing, seven months before The Police released Ghost In The Machine so there is a generation that may know the song as hers and not theirs. The song would gain a following when her performance from her One Man Show concert film was shown on MTV and USA Network’s Night Flight. Jones had always been the outlandish one but someone who people always had respect for due to her individuality and style. She proclaimed she was the demolition man, but again, as the sample goes, she was a a woman who some had mistaken as a man, and here she was in a French club. A man singing “I Need A Man” to a bunch of men. She fucked with people’s perceptions and did it incredibly well, so as the demolition man (and as you can see, multiple versions of her manly self), she was ready to do damage.


While not released as a single in the U.S., it was cool to see “One World (Not Three)” get a video. While “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “Spirits In The Material World” may not have been obviously ska or reggae influenced for some, “One World (Not Three)” was. It was the band’s way of saying that we all lived in one world, and that we shouldn’t have to complicate things by creating a fictitious “third world” for people who may not live the way we do.


I also loved the intro to “Secret Journey” and for awhile could not figure out how that sound was created until I saw The Police In Montserrat film, where Summers would show how he came up with the sound (click to 3:42 mark). I would realize that that sound had showed up in “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in the part of the song where you’d hear a voice saying “help me, help me”. The idea of someone going into a secret journey seemed interesting, someone who purposely traveled without anyone knowing where he was or his intent. For years, I used to think the lyric said “when you’ve made your secret journey, you will be an old man” (it’s actually “you will be a holy man”), but both are fitting and make sense.

The album would have three officially singles, with “Shambelle”, “Flexible Strategies”, and “Low Life” as their non-LP B-sides. A few were recorded during the sessions while others may have been done the year before, but they’re placed in the playlist below because they are attached to the A-sides that helped give them life. “How Stupid Mr. Bates”, “I Burn For You” and “A Kind Of Loving” were both released in 1982 on the Brimstone & Treacle soundtrack, which also contained a number of Sting originals, slowly paving the way for the solo artist he would become three years later. Together, the addition of six songs help to show what the band were about and going through in 1981, and perhaps may show possible links towards the material they would end up developing for Synchronicity. In fact, “I Burn For You” would sound perfect between “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger”.

Some might think B-sides were a bit of filler or a waste of time, the kind of material that wasn’t placed on the album deliberately. However, Summers was quoted in the Message In A Box liner notes as saying “I always thought the B-sides were the place when we had the chance to loosen up. Some of our best material came up when we jammed – in soundchecks, for example, B-sides can be less conventional, more hardcore.” In fact, listen to “Flexible Strategies”. Copeland called the song nothing more than a request to create a B-side, so they went into the studio, banged this out for 10 minutes and boom, B-side. Copeland called it “a disgrace”, even though its very funky vibe could have easily been enhanced a few years later if Prince and his Madhouse project decided to make it into its own incredible jam. Many artists would love to have a disgrace as cool as this.

Enjoy the album as you know it and listen to the six additional tracks in this digital Deluxe Edition of Ghost In The Machine that, for now, does not exist in the world, material or otherwise.

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(Mahalo nui to Herc of Herc’s Hideaway for the snatching of the format.)

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DUST IT OFF/THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” 45 years later

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How does one begin to talk about one of the most talked about albums in rock’n’roll, and music in general, from one of the biggest and most influential bands ever? Even the first sentence of this article is so grandiose, younger generations might go “right, another celebratory Beatles article. Great.” But there are a few reasons why people continue to celebrate the music of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.


Other albums released on June 1, 1967:
Elvis Presley‘s Double Trouble
David Bowie‘s debut
Both are not celebrated as other albums in their discography.

1967 was also a year that gave us the debut albums by Pink Floyd, The Doors, Grateful Dead, The Amboy Dukes (featuring guitarist Ted Nugent), Big Brother & The Holding Company (featuring vocalist Janis Joplin) and The Velvet Underground & Nico. What was the saying, that maybe only 5000 copies were sold of the first Velvet Underground, but everyone who did formed their own band? If that’s not influence, I don’t know what is. You also had great albums by Jefferson Airplane, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Young Rascals, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones and many more. Yet somehow, if one talks about a few of these album, the trail will lead to Sgt. Pepper. Why does it always have to be so absolute?


  • The Beatles were a pop combo, a boy band that were not meant to last, if some critics and parents had their way. When The Beatles came to the United States in 1964, it came with a promotional push from Capitol Records that did not exist a year before. In fact, when Capitol initially rejected the offer to sign them, they had to be persuaded by Parlophone Records in England to do it, that it would be beneficial for everyone involved. When they did arrive with their “long” hair, they were seen not only as a “British invasion”, but some would say an intrusion. In less than a year, there were countless Beatles tribute records (including one by Bonnie Jo Mason, who would later be known as singer/actress Cher) but also their share of anti-Beatles records. With every hate song, there was a group who looked and sounded like them, even having names that might sound like they were “bugs”. Every other label wanted to cash-in, and did so without a problem. Labels who had signed them but had lost the rights to release new music by them kept on reissuing what they had left, before their license to do so expired. By being a pop combo/boy band, they were in countless teen magazines, and were a group who would license their own merchandise, one of the first to do so. That would lead to companies illegally making their own Beatles memorabilia. It was truly Beatlemania and it seemed for a good 30 month period, not only did the United States go nuts, but the world. While countless artists have falsely claimed to have worldwide status, there’s proof that The Beatles were being heard everywhere. Groups in India, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Japan, and Israel had their own Beatles knock-off bands. There were also countless Beatles fan clubs, and if for some reason being a Beatles fan in your country was considered a disgrace to your culture, you had to do it in secret/hiding.

    Covering a Beatles song was considered good promotion, and artists did not have a problem covering a song or two, releasing it as a non-LP side, or even full albums. Even Capitol Records cashed in by having their house orchestra, The Hollyridge Strings, release many albums filled with nothing but Beatles songs. Having the Union Jack on your cover made you seem hip and cool, and speaking with a fake British accent? Ooh, you were intriguing.

  • When The Beatles performed their last concert on August 29, 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the group felt it was the right type to do so. They had gained an amount of fame in three years that very few artists up to that point had ever accumulated. Rock’n’roll music wasn’t quite 10 years old when The Beatles broke through, and there wasn’t the term “rock band” just yet, or even “rock’n’roll band”. You were a “pop combo”, and The Beatles were the biggest pop combo in the world. But after playing live shows around the world for years, and not being able to hear themselves play over the screaming of fans (there were no pre-amps during those days, just the amplifiers behind them), they felt it was time to try something new. As the story goes, they decided to concentrate on staying in the recording studio and allowing their music to tour for them. Doing live shows was and still remains the bread and butter for most music artists, so for the biggest band to actually say “we had enough, no more live shows” seemed insane. For some, that meant the end of The Beatles was near, the fad was over, and 1967 would result in new fads and trends. Little did anyone know what would happen what the following year would bring.
  • The story from this point on is familiar to most Beatles and music fans. The group releases “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” as a single. Technically a double A-side, but “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the true A-side.

    The song was loved in England, but U.S. audiences thought it was too weird and freaky. On top of that, the song faded out and came back, which freaked out countless radio disc jockeys who would talk over the record when it faded out, only for the group to quickly return. American DJ’s preferred the pop-friendly (and easier to consume [read “not freaky]) “Penny Lane”, and it would reach #1 on the Billboard singles chart. “Strawberry Fields Forever” made it as high as #8.

    As the story goes, “Strawberry Fields Forever” was monumental for many in the world of pop music, allegedly becoming the start of Brian Wilson‘s mental decline when he was creating the Smile album for the Beach Boys. Both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were originally meant to be part of the band’s forthcoming album, which was to be an album with a running theme about childhood. After the success of the single (the picture sleeve for which showed the group sporting new mustaches, a first for the band), they decided to scrap the two songs from the album and move forward.

  • Well, we all know the impact of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that has always been analyzed from the moment the first review was printed. It gained a buzz from various musicians/close friends to The Beatles who were able to obtain test pressings/acetates of the album-to-come. The “summer of love” hadn’t quite sparked yet, but the album has now become a staple when it comes to mentioning the summer of 1967, with many wishing the connection would stop. Reason? There have been many who have said that The Beatles were never really a part of those who celebrated/participated in the summer of love, that it was bands like the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and The Doors whose music was a part of what was in the air, along with the sounds of Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground.

    What Sgt. Pepper also did was somehow change the way pop music was looked at. With a new “wave” in sound came a new look, and with that came a new breed of critics. If pop music was “toss off” music for teens who could buy their 45 rpms and throw it around in their rooms like plates, then what to make of a group who were actually saying “we want you to listen to this album was if it was a concert, as if this was a show being presented to you”? Jazz artists have always recorded albums as if they were bringing you a concert, making sure it started off with something powerful, keeping you interested throughout, and then ending with something that kept you coming back for more. Rock’n’roll artists were slowly changing how albums were programmed and thus heard, but for the most part, a long playing (LP) album was just a coaster with 11 to 14 songs, not really done with much thought other than “we have new music, let’s sell it”. People felt that Sgt. Pepper was an important piece of music, and that it should be treated as “serious art”, and that alone has left many resentful of the album and perhaps The Beatles themselves. Fans loved the rawness of rock’n’roll, the potential of sex, drugs, and dancing the night away. With Sgt. Pepper, things started to get more business-like, a bit more corporate, and that did coincide with record labels also becoming more firm with how they ran their business. In the early 90’s, there was a great garage rock band called The Mummies who would release music on their own label, Pre-B.S.. I had interviewed one of them for a fanzine I did in the 90’s, and I asked about the name of the label. They felt that before the “bullshit” happened in rock’n’roll, the music was a lot better, vibrant, and festive. The Mummies were representatives of the ruthless rock’n’roll, before the bullshit. What did they view as “bullshit”? A certain British group sporting mustaches, which changed the dynamic of what people wanted out of their rock’n’roll. In other words, Sgt. Pepper was an album that sparked the start of bullshit music.

    Can an album that has been celebrated for 45 years be considered “bullshit”? Let’s be realistic: not everything has to be liked. Just because someone is celebrated doesn’t mean everyone has to agree. Again, look at all of the bands that made themselves known for the first time in 1967, all of the great debuts, all of the artists who released new music. 1967 is so much more than Sgt. Pepper and yet it somehow goes back to an album based on a group of musicians that did not exist, but wanted to go on tour in place of the real group that did not. Regardless, the album had done its damage, for better or worse, and the world would never be the same. It would be #1 on the Billboard Album Chart in the U.S. for 15 weeks, and #1 on the UK Album Chart for a massive 27 weeks. Even with no singles released from the album, radio stations would play each song as if it was a single, “forcing” fans to buy the full album. The album was meant to be listened to as a whole in one sitting, like a concert performance, and that would help to change the way music fans listened to their rock’n’roll. For better or worse.

  • The facts on how The Beatles recorded the album with only 4-tracks is a story onto itself. It lead to countless musicians and producers wanting to do the same within the limitations, leading to many innovations in recording studio technology in the next five years. But even if you don’t get technical about the music or the songwriting, why does this album hold up so well? Then again, some will say that out of the more celebrated Beatles albums, this is one that has not aged well. I feel it has aged gracefully and while it can be “of its time”, it too is very timeless. Some of the arrangements are meant to sound like that on purpose, things are deliberate. Sgt. Pepper is meant to represent the youth of The Beatles, and thus the sounds of the 40’s and 50’s were meant to date its sound from day 1. Day 1. The way it was used and mixed, along with sounds of audio tape moving backwards, tablas and sitars, and an orchestra dubbed a few times to create an orgasmic cacophony, was very much due to the expertise of producer Sir George Martin along with Paul McCartney‘s keen ear for arrangements, for as the other Beatles were at home or elsewhere, McCartney was becoming a studio rat wanting to know how the studio worked. Being someone who also loved orchestras, symphonies, and a bit of the experimental and avant-garde, he brought all of these elements into what would become Sgt. Pepper. Some of the things brought in were deliberate, other things were happy accidents, but it ended up creating one of the biggest happy accidents in rock’n’roll.
  • Regardless of what the music is or isn’t, the album continues to be a starting point for fans who want to find out more about its music, influences, and how The Beatles got from “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” to “A Day In The Life”. It also leads them out of The Beatles circle and into every other avenue of music. You don’t even have to be a fan of The Beatles to understand its mystique, you might even hate it, but it has a place in history as the bridge from one level of creativity and awareness to another, something that had not been considered to be something a rock’n’roll artist could or should do. No one cared, rock’n’roll stars were meant to offend and make young girls cry.
  • As for me, perhaps my fascination began with my dad, who was The Beatles fan of my family, but he did not play their records at home. Their music was always on the radio, as if they were new songs, but I grew up in a post-Beatles world. I heard all of the solo material, but as a kid I was also aware that people wanted these four people to reunite and become one. I don’t remember what was the first Beatles song I heard, but one of the first that struck me first and foremost was “Eleanor Rigby”. My dad went to his friend’s apartment for a bit of “smoking” and he had the red 1962-1966 album. I asked if I could borrow it, he wasn’t sure if a 9 year old kid could handle a record, but my dad said “he is okay”. I borrowed it. After a week, I had to return the record but asked if I could borrow it again. He said sure. I still have that album. I’m not sure if it was because I was hearing a rock band doing a song that sounded nothing like rock’n’roll, or if the string played by an eight piece orchestra created something that sparked something in me. I didn’t quite understand who Eleanor Rigby was or her role, or why people were lonely. It wasn’t an emotionally sad song, it just sounded cool, and I think I felt if “Eleanor Rigby” was this cool, what else did these Beatles do.

    They would damage my brain for life. When my mom created my first savings account, I eventually withdrew all of what I had left and bought Beatles 45’s at Music Box Records in downtown Honolulu. It wasn’t just the music that moved me, I wanted to know more and The Beatles became the first group that I became “nerdy” for, wanting to know who did what, how, and why, and every little aspect that I could find at book stores. The reason I became a record collector was the fact that I might be able to find a Beatles 45 with one extra T in their name, and I could sell it for $200 or more. In elementary school, I carried a Beatles discography book (All Together Now) that my friends said looked like I was carrying the bible. I not only wanted to know about the music, but felt I had to know catalog numbers, session people, release dates… if there was a possibility to find something new, something more, I had to know that more. When I found out one of my dad’s best friends had a Ravi Shankar album, I had to borrow that album too. It was the Capitol pressing of Three Ragas, and while I knew that Shankar helped to inspire George Harrison move deeper into Indian music, culture, and spirituality, I started to enjoy Indian classical music on its own merits. Again, one door leads to many doors, and it was never ending.

    Oh, as for my first copy of Sgt. Pepper? My dad gave me money to buy a copy at DJ’s Sound City at Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu, probably for $6.99 or $7.99, late 70’s/early 80’s purple label variation. I was sold. As someone with parents who loved swap meets, I clearly remember going to the Aloha Flea Market and seeing someone with a mono pressing of Sgt. Pepper, which I had known at the age of 11 that it was different from the stereo mix. I asked how much it was, and the guy was selling it for $5. Most swap meet records would go for a dollar or less, but $5? I asked my mom, and she said no. I held the album in my hand, saw that the catalog number was MAS-2653. I knew, from reading my Beatles “bible”, that MAS-2653 was mono, while SMAS-2653 had an S at the beginning to signify Stereo. I wanted it, even though it was just to listen. I couldn’t get it. Years later, I saw another copy of that album at a used record store for $75. I would eventually find a beat up copy of the mono pressing, sans cover, for under a dollar. I’ve heard the mono mixes since then, but still, to be able to just have it, U.S. or UK, doesn’t matter…

  • Looking back, it’s an album that represented a lot in the world of music, and perhaps the world, or at least it became a market in time for what happened back in 1967. I did not exist in 1967, but I know there have been times where I said “if there was a time machine, I’d love to be able to exist in a world right before Sgt. Pepper was released.” As I got older and understood world and cultural politics, I wonder if someone with my racial mixture would be able to explore music in the same way I do in the 21st century. Or would someone like me be considered as exotic as the Nehru jacket or a tabla? All I can do is wonder “what if?”

    Realistically, the album just shows what happens with passion, drive, and creativity can be used for something that was not meant to be celebrated as it is today, 45 years later, but merely as what was to be next for those four kids from Liverpool. Let’s hope it continues to excite and delight people in 2067. For a younger generation who wonder why albums that are 45 years old, by a group who haven’t been together in 42 years, continues to be praised as if it was something sacred: simply open your mind and listen. Forget the hype, forget the myths, and just listen. This was a collection of 13 songs that drove people to delight, because this was a boy band who decided to show that had been grown-up for a long time. Now it was time for everyone else to realize that too. It was by a group who felt they had the world, but wanted to see what happens if they pushed everyone’s limits and expectations, including themselves. That’s the beauty of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For better or worse, it exists. Listen or not.

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  • THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: The Jack Wagner Collection (Disney)

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    No, this is not me revealing my love of all that is Mickey. Goofy, yes, but that’s another story. Also, this is not about actor Jack Wagner. If any of you listen to my podcast, I always end each episode with a different recording about a record giveaway, before the host ends it by saying “this is Jack Wagner in Hollywood.” These recordings are from a series of promotional records Capitol did in the 1960’s called Silver Platter Service, sent to radio and TV stations to play so if someone wanted to take a smoke/pee/food break, they could for about 25 minutes. I had found one of these albums at Goodwill, and as a sucker for anything and everything Capitol, I liked it enough to use it. I was not aware of Wagner’s history outside of these records until I discovered that for a lot of people, he was “the voice of Disneyland”. Wagner was a radio DJ in the 50’s, did a few “stereophonic” presentation records like Bel Canto, before working with Capitol in the 1960’s. By the end of the decade, he eventually found a home with Disney. His voice was used for a number of rides, heard in elevators, and much more. While I am not fascinated with “the magic of” this theme park anymore, I am someone who is with the promotional aspects of everything from music to food, to peel off the illusions created by the hype. I want to know who the wizard is behind the curtain so to speak, to me, that’s where the real passion is. Anyway, as I was looking for a few Silver Platter Service records, I came across this page, which I didn’t know was a Disney tribute page until a few minutes ago. Wagner has about three pages of recordings taken from The Jack Wagner collection. While Wagner died years ago, he was able to purchase a number of tape reels featuring things that normally are never put up for sale. Also, as someone who has always been (and continues to be) fascinated by the power of the old ways of radio, it’s very cool to go through and… this is the kind of stuff I love digging for as well.

    The Jack Wagner Collection (link)

    THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: The power of music


    This video was made to my attention by Primus Luta, who simply said that I would like this video. I had seen the heading, which said “Old Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era”, so I knew I would like it from the start. Once I clicked play, I realized this was part of a much bigger picture.

    This is a rough cut excerpt of a recent documentary called Alive Inside : A Story of Music and Memory, which focuses on those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and what music may be able to offer to them. The topic has been covered in film and other documentaries, and has been something Dr. Oliver Sacks has focused on for many years. In fact, the film Awakenings is based on the book by Dr. Sacks. A few years ago, I read Sacks’ Musicophilia which touched on the influence music has on our lives, not only for those of us who use/work/hear music on a regular basis, but as a means of therapy, and Alive Inside is a more in-depth look at this part of his studies.

    For me, I’ve always had a fear of going crazy and losing my mind. Maybe it comes from being nerdy, and wanting to be able to maintain all of my “perceived” intelligence as I grew older. For years, I think I wanted to be able to tell stories and do research, primarily on music but on whatever. I loved writing, keeping journals, all of that as a kid and while trying to maintain my “smarts” by staying out of trouble, not doing the things I felt would accelerate the loss of ones mind. Sometimes, it has to do with health-related issues and as an overweight man, I look at myself and know I have a long way to go, but I have a daily stationary bike habit, have done a good share of walking and, the point is that while I have pride in talking about the preservation of music, artistry, and sound legacies, I used to neglect myself. A car accident was the rude awakening I needed, and while it’s a struggle, it’s a struggle that I enjoy taking part in, and I don’t want to stop.

    As I watch this video, the thought of not being able to know or remember things scares me, as it should with anyone. Yet with the power of music, a song is able to trigger something in the mind that brings it all back. In Musicophilia, Dr. Sacks talks about how some people who have had no skills in playing music may go through something traumatizing, and as if by magic, the skills to play concertos appears. Or with some people, any and all music sounds like complete noise. Then there are those who hear music and immediately visualize colors. It’s not sound/color association, like with Prince who had once said when he hears Led Zeppelin, he hears them in shades. I know for me, I’ll often make that association from growing up and staring at covers so if I hear “The Rain Song”, I will thing in tones of orange, green, and blue, because of the cover of the album it’s on, Houses Of The Holy. Then again, some songs will sound “brown”, “purple”, or whatever. Music does something, and it’s much more than the entertainment value that we enjoy getting from it.

    My grandfather had suffered a few strokes, to the point where my mom said she wanted to take care of him in his last years. He was unable to move around, he primarily stayed in bed. My grandfather played music every weekend with his friends, and had an extensive collection of Hawaiian music, so my mom would always play Hawaiian music for him all the time. Sometimes he would hum a melody or perhaps mouth a few words, but I always thought that if he listened to the music that made him who he was, it would be healthy for it to fill his consciousness once more. It wasn’t done as a means of being miraculous or trying to confirm studies or anything like that, it was a means to relax and soothe, and at least show him a bit of love that he might not have been able to comprehend through words, or by not being able to communicate as he used to.

    I watch this video, and I’m immediately reminded of my grandfather, and the power of music he had, shared to his kids, and through my mom and dad, passed along to me. I saw a blog entry yesterday on a man who said he loved the fact he should share his love of music with his son. I don’t have kids, but I have a nephew, now 14. He has always been his own man, an only child, and has always liked his own interests, as he should. He loves video games but never got into music as hardcore as I have, but in the last year, it’s as if a light went on and now, he’s listening to a good amount of music. Some of his listening habits come from the music he may hear in video games, or a few songs that are popular today. His hip-hop mentor is Eminem, which irks the shit out of me because of the rappers I grew up admiring. He’s also a huge fan of Mac Miller and I’m thinking well, would my nephew like Slug, Aesop Rock, MC Serch, Rakaa, or whomever. If he’s in the car with me, I’ll put on Quasimoto just to mess with his mind. If he thinks Eminem is great, then I’ll play music by an artist I really like, even though the Quasimoto character is a twisted persona from the mind of Madlib. However, my nephew does like Black Sheep‘s “The Choice Is Yours” and A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Scenario”, so at least I can say I passed that along to him. Yet, a part of me had always wanted to be able to pass along my music interests to someone, other than people who like my reviews and articles. It’s that close connection with music I have that comes from how my family responded to it, it was there all the time. My dad played guitar, Autoharp, ‘ukulele, wash tub bass, harmonica, spoons, whatever. I always had broke drums and bongos because I wanted to play hard but was treating them like Keith Moon would, before I ever knew who Moon or The Who were.

    With this video, I think of this. I hope when I get older, and my mind capacity is not to how it used to be in my younger years, I hope someone will be able to play music for me as a means of compassion and perhaps to wake up my mind for four minutes or so. A caretaker might say “damn, Mr. Book sometimes likes songs that are 20 minutes or more, then he’ll smile with a playlist of songs that are 90 seconds or less. He may in a wheelchair but he’s still playing games.”

    If music continues to make us young at heart, keep on listening and keep on playing.

    (Alive Inside will make its world premiere next week at the Rubin Museum in New York City between Wednesday, April 18th and Saturday, April 21st.)

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    THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Dear Sony Hackers…

  • There was a bit of news this weekend that talked about hackers allegedly tapping into Sony Music‘s database and uncovering a wealth of unreleased Michael Jackson songs. As someone who has been a part of the digital/online realm for 18 years, I thought it was interesting and exciting, but I also questioned a few things about it.

    Various journalists have mentioned that it was Jackson’s “back catalog”, that it was hacked into and now everyone can hear it. If we are to speak in a legal sense, hasn’t MJ’s entire catalog, including the work he did on Motown on his own and with the Jackson 5, been hacked already? You can do a search and find everything MJ has ever released, tap into the link and go. That of course is not why this story is getting attention. The heart of the matter is that what was allegedly stolen includes unreleased material, and that has made music fans hungry for the contents of the files.

    This is what I truly question the most about this hacking story. Are Sony actually making it possible for anyone and everyone to tap into their system for a complete free for all? Why are any digital audio files linked to anyone outside of Sony? Shouldn’t those files be on a hard drive that is completely cut off from the rest of the world, or is there a loophole in the system that makes it possible for anyone and everyone to find out what lurks? If Sony indeed was hacked, why just MJ’s work? Sony owns the entire Columbia Records discography, which goes as far back as 1888 when the label started. Do the quick math, that’s 124 years of sound to tap into. According to their Wikipedia entry, Columbia is “is the oldest brand name in pre-recorded sound”. This is a label that gave the world music by Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, and yet you’re telling me only MJ was of interest?

  • Let’s go back and think about someone with a bootlegging mentality. If you know there’s a demand for an artist’s music, you’re going to find anything and everything to release. Live recordings, private demos, unreleased tracks, whatever. If it’s worthy, you’re going to get it. Put that in your private vaults and find a way to release it, even if there are consequences. Bootleggers exist to fulfill the wants and desires of the diehard music fan who has to hear anything and everything, flaws and all.

    If you’re going to tap into an audio archive like Sony’s, why stop with just Michael Jackson? 50,000 files were said to have been stolen. That doesn’t mean Jackson had 50,000 songs recorded, completed, unfinished, or whatever, it might mean different vocal tracks, background vocals, drums, sound effects, guitars, or pre-sets, sound effects, and filters. Any music producer with a sense of search engine know-how can find any and all of these sound effects and filters for free, and obtaining them will not make anyone magically sound like Jackson, just as finding filters similar to the amps and equipment the Beatles used will not make your music sound like Side 2 of Abbey Road. Are these files of any real value? If not, why bother with those files when you could have tapped into whatever else was lurking on Sony’s hard drive?

    Record labels have been digitally archiving their tape library since the 1980’s, updating files with the latest in digital technology. How something was archived in 1989 is not going to be the same as one did it in 2009. What’s being archived? Master tapes for completed projects, and whatever else might be of interest to the label, basically the “intellectual properly” and “real estate” owned by the company. Many labels used to own their own recording studios, so if an artist made a few albums for label X, that would also include the multitrack tape, anywhere from 4 to 8 track, 16 to 24, 48 to 96, and digital files where there’s no limit on how many elements you want to include. For the most part, these multitracks are never made available to the general public, for it would serve no reason for anyone to hear them. In the last 10 years, as producers request to do remixes, new mixes of songs are created for movies and television, and video games like Rock Band are required to use technology similar to hearing isolated audio tracks for a specific reason, people outside of music junkies are aware of them. Some of them have leaked onto the internet, but with those available on video games, all it takes is someone who knows how to extract the audio, and it’s now possible to make your own mixes of classic songs, or to create your own music from isolated vocals, bass, guitar, drums, and create songs “featuring” someone who has been dead for 40 years, or to make some interesting mash-ups. It also allows a chance for the music fan to strip a song to the isolated element of interest. You just want to hear Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” with just his vocals, the synth bass, and drums? You can do that with a bit of know-how and the right audio program.

  • Bootleggers are the villains of the industry, but are the heroes for music fans. It is also a huge security risk, but then again, didn’t Sony have hacking issues with Playstation 3? For gamers, hacking Sony to obtain audio files that are meant to be private is not a surprise. It leads me to the reason I’m writing this. If it is “that easy” to hack into Sony and obtain things, why stop with Michael Jackson? I’m not advocating anyone to attempt to do this, and who knows, maybe this hacking for MJ tracks is a promotional tactic meant to draw attention to a forthcoming compilation of this unheard material. But, Dear Sony Hackers: if you are planning on tapping into their database again, please try to find the following:

    1) all quadraphonic pressings of albums, both those that were done for vinyl, and the 4.0 mixes released on 8-track. I would also like to have any unreleased quad album mixes or songs that were created but not used.
    2) all radio spots created for albums between 1955-1985.
    3) If any part of Miles Davis’ library is still in your hands, any and all live recordings done for official release, but were canceled.
    4) any and all classical, neo-classical, and minimalist projects you did in the late 60’s/early 70’s but were not released.
    5) any and all live recordings and radio sessions from outside labels, but were sent to Columbia/CBS for mastering, but were “lost” there. Let’s uncover the goods.
    6) dig up everything ever done by Philadelphia International and T-Neck
    7) Is this only exclusive to Sony US? If not, I’d like for someone to tap into the UK, Europe, and Japan databases to find any and all jazz, prog rock, and soundtracks that have not been released since their initial release on vinyl.
    8 ) who owns the Sesame Street masters? Sesame Street did a number of projects for Columbia, and I want anything and everything that has not been released. I want to hear the voices of Big Bird, Oscar The Grouch, Bert & Ernie break out of character so I can hear them swear.
    9) are there any unreleased/unknown material from Def Jam that remain in your hands, after they moved to PolyGram, now Universal? I would assume Def Jam have their vaulted monitored very well, but if not, I would like someone to locate everything that has never been heard: alternates mixed, flubbed vocal tracks, all of it.

    On the top of my list is this:
    10) I would like for someone to tap into the entire database of Earth, Wind & Fire recordings. Full albums, multitracks, radio spots, live performances like the one done for King Biscuit Flower Hour, demos, unreleased tracks, session work done by Tom Tom 84 and Kalimba Productions, I want to hear all of it. Make it happen.

  • It’s amazing how a tape vault can remained solid and locked from the world for decades. Once the contents of those vaults are digitized, one foolish decision to place those files on a hard drive available to the public in a manner that allegedly makes a hacker tap into the system to hear it shows you the holes of an industry that, for some, has been flawed from the start. Labels insist that they are there to protect their properties, and yet this is far worse. No one has to walk into a physical room to find the goodies. It’s just a bit of technical know how and boom: unreleased Michael Jackson music. I’ve said it before: it seems the bootleggers are better at archiving the legacy of an artist than the record label that owns their recordings, or the artist that sometimes isn’t aware of the value of their music, with all of the mistakes. If this story about the MJ recordings being hacked is indeed true, I’m curious to see how it will be distributed, if at all. A bigger question: who’s next? The music industry has no plans on being “open source”, while a younger generation of fans, artists, and producers are using the open source mindset as a lure towards making better money and arguably better music. Is Hollywood next, or are movie directors smart to not place their project footage on an easily accessible hard drive? The night is young.
  • THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Record collector blues (Track 2)

  • The older I get, the more I realize that one of the ways I listen to music is considered “vintage”. It was vintage when records were “dying off” in the mid-1980’s, as the industry kept on finding ways to boost cassette and the then-new CD sales, so this was not a revelation that just popped in my head.
  • I embraced the compact disc early on. In fact, this is the 30th year anniversary of my first look and listen to the compact disc. It had been in Rolling Stone, and the idea of being able to play a disc where you could play both sides of a record or cassette WITHOUT having to flip it over was insane. You don’t have to walk up to your stereo after 15 to 20 minutes, but would this make us music fans lazy as a result? These were the selling points, along with the fact that there was no crackle, as a CD was read like a computer. In 1982, very few people knew or used computers, so this was “space age”, maybe the way people on Star Wars would listen to music.

    My dad was an audiophile wanna-be, in that he wanted the best quality in what and how he listened to music, but was not able to because his paycheck didn’t stretch that far. One day my dad wanted to “test drive” a compact disc player, and back in 1982 it was like going to a car lot. Ir was at the Ward Warehouse shopping center in Honolulu, at an audio store that sold stereos, phonographs, headphones, and all of that. The guy came up and asked if we (well, my dad) wanted help, and he told them we wanted to check out a compact disc. We went into a special room where the speaker system was concentrated within the room, and we could not hear anything going on outside. He popped in this compact disc, which was shiny and silver, and it played classical music. It was loud and bold, and I liked the fact you couldn’t hear crackle or pops from the surface noise because it did not play on the surface, but “read information on a laser”. Again, this was 1982, lasers was Star Wars or what I played on Moon Cresta. First thing I thought was “wow, this is cool but where’s the rock?” There was no rock on compact disc back then, so no luck there. I don’t remember the manufacturer, make, or model of the CD player, but I remember that you could see the disc spinning, and very fast, not the megaslow 33, 45, or what seemed to be the fastest speed at home, 78. My dad was sold, or at least he acted interested, he knew how to play the part so he could get the full show/presentation from the employee. The price was something like $2500. I don’t remember my dad’s expression, but was most likely along the lines of “eh yeah, thank you, now let’s go get a plate lunch at the lunch wagon for $12.” My dad did talk about wanting a CD player, as he always wanted to have a nice listening room. Our house, however, was held up by termite ridden planks of wood so while it looked half-ass, we’d have the best stereo system in the neighborhood. As a sidenote, my dad also wanted some of the first VCR’s on the market, which were also around $2000. Like CD’s, there was very little tapes to buy, play, and watch, the “home video” market had yet to exist, and people were still battling over VHS vs. Beta. The only VHS tapes that seemed to sell were those with X-rated videos, and those were $99 each. As always, my dad wanted the “next level”, and he had heard about the laserdisc player. We went to a store in Kaimuki and again, had the employee give us the presentation. Cost? $2000, and like a record, you had to flip the disc over to watch a full film. My dad was convinced that when we moved to a new place to live, if he had the chance, we would eventually have a nice room for listening and watching with these new gadgets. If my dad was alive today, I’d like to think he would’ve loved DVD’s, Blue-Ray, and FLAC files.

  • I watched the MP3 grow into the “industry killer” it has become, and I love lossless files for listening and archiving. However, I have never stopped buying or listening to records, and when money is good, I’m buying new music on vinyl. It has never been “of the past” for me despite the fact that the mainstream media tends to think of it in nostalgic ways. Yes, it’s old for you because you stopped using it. Yes, it’s “novel” for you because it may be the first time you’ve seen the grooves of a record “pulsate”.

    Does a part of me hold on to records, turntables, and phonographs as a way to hold on to “the good ol’ days”? I have never felt this way, and I am definitely not in denial. There’s something cool about seeing vintage phonographs, especially those that existed long before I was born. I love seeing it, I love finding out about it and doing research, these were the ways people before me were entertained and as big and bulky as they were, they served a purpose.

    Today we don’t need any of these beasts of machines, other than a portable digital player and a computer, whether it’s a laptop, desktop, cell phone, or iPad. A part of me thinks “aaah, it’s a thing of the past, and it’s sad” but the other part thinks “if this technology existed when I was a growing up, I could have saved a lot of money.” I’ve spent foolishly, I’ll admit that, but along with that came the experiences of the old ritual of going somewhere to buy music, and being able to talk to people who do the same, or to listen in on a conversation of people arguing about what they enjoy or hate listening to.

  • As I get older, I always think of what records would be my essentials. I have artists that I feel I can’t live without, and if there comes a time when I have my own music listening room, I know what I’d like to have within it, so I hold on to a few records. I am someone who has a lot of “few”, not as much as my more celebrated record friends, but more than someone who has one box of 45’s. The majority of everything I have in my collection, I can find online, legally or otherwise. Some of what I can’t find, I have to rip myself, and that takes real time, time that I have not set aside yet. There are priorities in life, but there’s always an outlook to find things I take pleasure in, and that’s listening to music, along with searching and finding new music or something from the past I’ve never heard, maybe something I discover for the first time. There lies the dilemma. Time keeps on slipping into the future, and the older I get, the less time I have to enjoy the things I like to do.
  • I love music. I love vinyl and what it represents, and enjoy knowing what it “represented” to people who stopped using it as a source of their entertainment. I’m not going to stop. In the words of singer Erykah Badu, I want to be able to “pack light” as I move slowly towards the great inevitable, and that means parting with things I hold dear. I then have to question what I hold dear if it means something made out of fuel sources and tree pulp. It’s not that kind of love, although it is the information embedded in the grooves and binary code that has been a partial pathway towards what is good about life and the emotions we feel.
  • THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Theme songs (to completion)

    The term “to completion” is used for a lot of things, but its greatest use seems to be of sexual terms. In the porn industry, it is a thing to watch a man work “to completion”. There are some in other sex industries who are paid until their partner comes “to completion”. It’s something done towards finality, but there is a distinct beginning, a duration, and with that an ending. This post is not sexual in nature, so for those offended by such topics, fear not.

  • I don’t remember how it started, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve watched TV shows and want to see the full intro from start to finish so I can hear the song, from start to finish. A theme song is created to create anticipation for the show, and they are made so that people remember them long after the show is over. Of course, that idea might be outdated since when a show is over, you don’t have to wait for a week to hear it again. Some TV theme songs were released as singles, while the label that gave nine inch nails its start, TVT, were called this because they made their money from Tee Vee Toons, a series of compilations dedicated to TV themes. The point is that a good theme may move you to support the show even more, which is good when an episode fails. Some of my all time favorite TV show themes include:
    Hawai’i Five-O
    Kikaida
    The Banana Splits
    Chico & The Man
    Mission:Impossible
    Starsky & Hutch
    S.W.A.T.
    Good Times
    Sanford & Son
    Baretta
    Alice
    The Cosby Show (all seasons)
    Barney Miller
    Hill Street Blues
    Cheers
    Sesame Street
    Zoom
    The Electric Company
    Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids
    Night Court
    WKRP In Cincinatti
    The Simpsons
    Futurama
    Beavis & Butt-Head
    Community
    Parks & Recreation

    Many of the people who made the theme songs above were songwriters and studio musicians who were known for playing in other people’s songs. They were funky and would often have incredible basslines (i.e. Barney Miller) or opening drums (i.e. third season of Hawai’i Five-O.)

    For a few years, the TV industry would stop making theme songs for a few shows and while those shows may have been good, the lack of a quality theme can make them half-assed. I’d discard them.

    Even if I’ve hear the opening theme, sat through the duration of the show, I want to hear the full song during the end credits. When I watch WKRP In Cincinatti, I want to hear the great theme and eventually reach that rocking end until the little kitty meows. You mess me up by interrupting any part of the song, and my day will be completely fucked up. I will not talk with you for the rest of the day, and if you do it three times, I no longer want to be your friend.

    Same with movie credits. When I pay for a movie, I am paying to watch it from the extreme beginning to the extreme end. I want to read some of the credits, I want to see the “Easter egg” that may pop up before the final image, I immerse myself in the complete thrill of the performance that is a movie or TV show. I want to experience it to completion. Soak me in the extras after the experience, but you cut me off to where I’m not hearing the theme song as it was meant to be heard in the context of a show, and I’ll slash you.

    Or something.


    BONUS TRACKS:

  • My favorite intro to the intro of TV shows that aired on KGMB-9, Honolulu:

  • The gospel ending of The Jeffersons, sung by Janet Du’bois, this version featuring the first verse not used in the show.
  • The almighty “funky chimes” ending that followed Sesame Street‘s proper Toots Thielemans ending. At school when the “funky chimes” part came on, the funky kids would dance.

  • THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Star Wars wire

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    As a kid, I wanted to watch Star Wars so bad, and who didn’t? However, when it was shown at the Cinerama Theater, there was a huge line around the block, making it pretty much impossible to… okay, let me take that back. I was 7 or 8, and neither my mom or dad wanted to wait in line, and my uncles and aunties had lives. Yet I eventually saw it almost a year later at the same Cinerama, and it was my grandfather who had taken me. Like everyone else, I loved it when the screen said “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”, and then BOOM!, a huge burst of sound. Everyone hopped, and I liked bits of the movie I remembered. However, I got into it more when it aired on HBO. I eventually saw the next two, remembered when I heard Revenge Of The Jedi was coming out and being angry the title would be changed to Return Of The Jedi. I have not seen the digitized versions of these films, don’t want to. I’ve seen Episodes 1-3 once for each of them, and sorry Star Wars fans but I really have no urge to want to see them again. I’m not as hardcore as many, yet I do understand the fandom. Yet when it comes to the first three (or Episodes 4-6), I’m down.

    Along the way, there would always be a Star Wars documentary or two airing somewhere, and there was one segment I clearly remembered. It was said that the sound effects of some of the guns during battle scenes were created by tapping what I assumed was an electrical wire. Then the documentary showed someone tapping a wire and it made the exact sound. I saw those wires everyday, as they were on my way to and from school, and hear my house. One day, I decided to try it out myself. They always led to utility poles and unlike my father and grandfather, I was not an electrician so I didn’t know if the wire was “live” or not. However, I’ve held on to them and never felt heat or a buzz. I decided to do what I saw in the video. It was the exact sound. I wanted this to be my secret, or at least a secret amongst all of my Star Wars-loving friends, and I would tap the wire whenever I saw one. When I’d go to a park, I would go to any pole or many means of metal such as a jungle gym or chain, and I’d want to hear any sound I could get from me. I’d place my ear to it and *tap* *tap* *tap*, an action that will either make people go “that kid is weird” or “what is he doing?”

    I probably spent less than a week doing this, but I became a bit more aware of the sounds around me, be it natural or human-made. It had nothing to do with music either, although the idea of any sound becoming music was there. It was more about focusing on that sound and hearing it just for the sake of hearing, and comparing it to other sounds. Exploring different sounds made it possible to substitute instruments for something “other than”, just to be interesting when I got into making my own music. I started doing things as “an experiment in the works”, and slowly it would turn into creating songs from other songs through sample-based production. Sound effects were nothing more than what I had heard in cartoons, TV shows, and movies, but to be able to create them yourself? It’s not something everyone did or knew how to do, and that’s another reason I was attracted to it. Plus, as I started to hear my music differently, I was curious as to how some of those sounds in songs were made. If it wasn’t made from an instrument, how was it created? I wanted to investigate.

    Anyway, the wire that I tapped on many years ago is known as a “guy wire”. To Ben Burtt, the sound designer who tapped those wires 35 years ago to help create a part of cinematic history, I thank you.
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    THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Record collector blues (Track 1)

    Records were always a piece of media to listen to the music, at least as a listener who watched the rituals of my parents. When I was given a Close-N-Play as my first phonograph, it was my pride and joy and a means to play the records on my own, on my own time. That’s responsibility and a life changer.

    When I lived at my grandma’s house for awhile, I received an Emerson phonograph for Christmas. Just look at my face. I was cheesed, I was eating it up, I was pretty much saying “how ya like me now?”
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    Most likely this gift to me came about because my grandma didn’t want me to play the music of the devil on her cabinet stereo, but regardless: my parents knew I was the music boy and they treated me well. Sure, it was all plastic, it was essentially a toy phonograph but it was mine. I remember getting an Easter basket from the “Easter bunny” and inside the basket was a bunch of marshmallow bunnies and Kool & The Gang‘s Love & Understanding. I was somehow familiar with “Hollywood Swinging”, and now that I got to hear a “big record”, I found they were similar to groups I were familiar with, such as Parliament and Earth, Wind & Fire. I stared at the cover for a long time as it was a photograph of something I didn’t know just yet. I realized it was an ocean shoreline, and while I did not know how that photo was taken, I loved how it looked.
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    I would learn that it was taken with a fish-eye lens, and for years I had wanted to see all pictures this way. I’d look at our fish tank at home and wonder if fish really saw me in that rounded fashion. My dad was a Volkswagen bug fanatic, so I’d get a hubcap and just stare at myself and the world around me. If I was at a park and went on the swings, if I went upside down, I was able to see the skies in what seemed like a globe. My dad was a fan of surfing magazines, and sometimes I would go through the pages and see surfers going through the tube while the fish-eye lens caught the wave in a full angle. My Uncle David skateboarded throughout Waikiki with his friends, and I knew he would find abandoned pools and ditches so he could be our family’s Tony Alva, and when I looked through his magazines, there’d be a few fish-eyed photos. When I discovered my uncle’s Jimi Hendrix records, one of the albums was Are You Experienced?, specifically the U.S. pressing on Reprise Records which was taken with a fish-eye lens.
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    My mom having a Kodak 110, or seeing an auntie with a Kodac 126, was a normal part of childhood. Everyone had a camera, I thought I’d have one too. I wouldn’t until many years later. I didn’t want to be a photography by trade, but I did like being able to capture images simply for myself. I enjoyed seeing the works of other people, and it was through records and magazine articles that I became a fan of Anton Corbijn and Charles Peterson. I didn’t want just the cool looking film made by Fuji, I also wanted to take photos in black & white, it seemed “professional” looking to me. Maybe I thought “if I take something, maybe it could be used for a magazine article”, but at that point I wasn’t thinking “maybe I can write the articles AND have my photo used as well”. Photography has always been a hobby, and I always wanted to have a fish-eye lens but they were way too expensive, and toy cameras were not something you could easily find in a pre-internet world. In the late 1980’s, the Beastie Boys released a 12″ single called The Love American Style EP and what did I see on the cover but a photo taken with a fish-eye lens. Wow, I hadn’t seen a photo like this in years. When they released Paul’s Boutique, a number of photos used within articles were fish-eyed photos, and the lens was also used in a few of their music videos as well, especially the incredible “Shake Your Rump”.

    At that point, I had to find some fish-eye lenses but they were still very expensive. A few years down the line, Busta Rhymes would use a fish-eye lens for many of his music videos, but he would do them without the black border and for someone reason I always preferred to see the border around the round image. It was cool, but not as cool as how I preferred. It wouldn’t be until I got into my 30’s, when I obtained my first fish-eye lens camera, a toy camera nonetheless made by Lomo. It didn’t require a goofy computer program, and in a time when apps can do anything and everything, the lens stands out on its own. It’s one way for me to take pictures merely as a hobby, in a way that might seem outdated but I enjoy it. (Note: I haven’t used my Lomo in a year or two but I’ll start again this year.)

  • The point behind mentioning all of this is that as I started to pay attention to the pictures and illustrations a bit more, I would learn that records are and can be a complete package. It was part of my learning process on wondering about an album and why they were created in the way they were, and I wanted to know about it from the inside out. I liked a song, I like the way the person sings, loved the guitar solo, got down with the drums and maybe danced or played air drum. Vy looking at records, sitting down and actually reading the liner notes wondering about the roles of a producer, recording engineer, and associated producer, it was part of the educational process.

    Unfortunately, I knew no one who liked music as I do, so I couldn’t exactly ask and say “hey Mr., what does this circle with the c inside of it mean?” In the 4th or 5th grade, when my class would walk to the Honolulu State Library, while all of my friends would borrow mystery book, I wanted to know how those audio cards worked, where you’d run it through a machine and it would say “four plus five… is nine”. I borrowed books on maps, I’d discover newspaper articles through the microfiche articles, I was doing things that I had to ask to do, because we didn’t go to the library to do what I wanted to do. I wanted access to the hidden books, going into sections… I basically wanted more than what the children’s section of the library had to offer. Of course, I borrowed records as well, four or five at a time. I would borrow the series of Sound Effects records released by Elektra, just to be able how they were made. I even ordered a catalog that was listed on the album cover, and I was able to buy the entire series on reel-to-reel. Forget the fact I didn’t have any access to a reel-to-reel, but it was an incentive to ask for more from a record label, because stores and the library didn’t have them easily accessible. If one can write a letter to a record label, I wondered what more could I ask for? Hmmm.

  • When I got into The Beatles at the age of 9, I wanted to know as much as possible, and listen to as much as possible. Hearing the radio special The Beatles: A Day In Their Lives made it possible to hear all of their studio works, a few live songs, and their solo works, and I wanted to hear more, or at least I wanted to have those records. Up until that point, records were nothing more to play to I could listen, look at the pictures, and read the words. One day, my mom told me “you should read this.” It was an article from the newspaper. I was blown away at what I discovered.
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    It was possible to buy records, keep them for awhile, and be able to resell it for more money? Well, not all records, but some. I was a young Beatles fan learning more about their music, and the cover showed the infamous mispress of the band’s “Please Please Me” 45 on Vee Jay, where it was spelled at The Beattles. A record that had a list price of 99 cents or less might be sold for $200, of it was located? The article was written by Honolulu Advertiser columnist Wayne Harada, whom I did know about as he wrote liner notes I would see on Hawaiian album. I did not know there were books on record collecting, and I loved “little records”, this would perfect. Can someone actually make money and maybe a living from finding these pricey items? I asked my mom if I could get the book talked about in the article, and she told me to ask my dad. I did, and one day we went to the book store in Ala Moana Shopping Center to take a look.

    When I did go into book stores, it would always be to the magazines. Skateboarding, surfing, or 16 magazine? 16, the teenybopper mag? Yes, because for a few years, Kiss were treated like Justin Bieber is today, and they were in every issue. It was cool to look at these goofy guys with make-up, I wanted to be a rock’n’roll star just like them. Of course, reading 16 also meant dealing with Scott Baio, John Schneider, and Tom Wopat, along with groups who never caught on like WOWII. As I wanted to know more about music, that meant I would visit the book section, specifically biographies. I was on a mission that day, I was to look for this record collecting book. My dad went to browse through car magazines, and after a few minutes, there it was: the 4th edition of the Rock & Roll 45’s collectors guide by Bruce Hamilton and Jerry Osborne. The book was nothing more but a price guide so one could look up values for certain records, but I would also learn about the importance of the condition of the record. The better the condition, the more I might be able to get for a record. There was a brief introductory chapter on why these records were important, and also how to become a collector. This was all new to me, but the book also listed these records in a unique fashion that I didn’t immediately understand yet, along with photos of the record labels. I had to have this, and the book was obtained that night.

  • I got home and read the introduction immediately. The rest of the book was just one big catalog, or in this case a log as it was not something I could order from. It was a listing of records, in alphabetical order by artist, then by label, and then chronologically by year. I would learn that what these listings offered the reader a “discography”, or a log of records done in a way to keep track of an artist’s musical output. I loved the organization of this discography, and it was then I understand an offer made in the advertising section in the back of Rolling Stone. It was possible for anyone and everyone to order a discography listing of any artist for a fee. No music, just a typewritten note with a listing of records, catalog numbers, record labels, etc. I did once order one, and was disappointed when what I received something that was very half-ass. “I could do better than this” I thought, but didn’t think to actually do anything. The discography was something that was very cool, and as I read through the discographies in the book, going through records by names I were familiar with, but seeing records I had never heard of, I wanted to know more.

    I even made an effort to try to sell records I had found at a swap meet, buying them for 50 cents but selling them for $8 in local “penny saver” freebies you would find at a supermarket. No calls. I’d even make an ad to search for my first record in a want list: The Beatles Christmas Album. Ads were free if it met the word-count limit, and each one did, but I made nothing. Still, this record collecting thing was something I had to know more about. Eventually I would go into record stores that had used sections, such as Froggy’s, Hungry Ear, Mom & Pop’s, and the store where I found my first issue of a record collecting magazine I would eventually become a contributing writer for, Goldmine. Then a new record store opened right across from Tower Records on Ke’eaumoku Street called Jelly’s. They sold books, comic books, and more, but the record section was massive. They had names I was familiar with, but they also had deep import sections, goofy 7″ records by punk bands who I didn’t want to know about (my time in punk would come later), and… while I loved the record stores and department stores with record sections my parents would take me, these used record stores were thrilling because I was looking at records people not only discarded, but it would very much be a “goldmine” if I knew what to look for.

    That’s when the addiction began. It would become a search for records of possible value, but in the process it would turn me into a mixture of record collector and record accumulator. In the process, I was learning and discovering a wide range of music, and how if I liked one artist or album, it may lead to further discoveries that might take me down 10 to 20 different paths. I jumped on the magic bus.

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