Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Spotify This

It seems like it’s been forever since I started touting Spotify as THE spot to hear music online. It’s like an on demand version of Pandora and Last FM. You can find practically any song you want to there by virtually every artist or group imaginable.

And finally, it’s available in America.

Click here to go to their page to get started.

No, I don’t know how long it takes for them to get you an invitation.

And yes, it’s worth joining!


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Everyone knows how much I love music. A close second on that list is my love for movies. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that whenever some rock band graces the silver (or flat) screen with even twenty seconds of their onstage act, the collision of these two elements from my pop culture radar is almost too much for the trivia nerd inside me to handle.

So I decided to write a post about it.

Here are the ground rules:  1. Bands must be fictitious entities. Real groups don’t count. 2. Bands must perform at least one time during the movie. There is no minimum amount of time needed to qualify. 3. The name of the group needs to be mentioned or seen (on a sign or on a bass drum) in order for it to be legal under the Law of Picetti.

Now that we’re clear on the parameters, here are some Celluloid Rock Stars — at least the ones that I could remember. Enjoy the show! And the post!

Adult Education from She’s Out of Your League.  Pittsburgh’s own Hall & Oates tribute band.  Just don’t call them a cover band.

Steel Dragon from Rock Star. Mega huge heavy metal band that Mark Wahlberg’s character joins as lead singer after fronting…

…Blood Pollution from Rock Star. Steel Dragon tribute band, who coincidentally also hail from Pittsburgh.

Uptown Girl from Step Brothers. The strictly eighties Billy Joel cover group who don’t take kindly to requests from outside their era of specialty.

Prestige Worldwide from Step Brothers. Will Ferrell’s and John C Reilly’s character’s singer and drummer duo that debuted at the effing Catalina Wine Mixer.  And don’t forget about their Boats n Hoes video either.

Spinal Tap from This Is Spinal Tap. With song titles like Big Bottom and Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight, Spinal Tap is the gold standard of fictitious rock bands. I could do an entire blog about the sheer awesomeness of this super group.

Stillwater from Almost Famous. More than a haven for groupies band aides, Stillwater is an amalgam of at least a half-dozen groups from the seventies. Hold me closer Tiny Dancer.

Alice Bowie from Up in Smoke. Who could ever forget the sight and sound of Cheech Marin singing the classic song Earache My Eye while dressed in a pink tutu? Not an impressionable version of me during the mid-eighties, that’s for sure!

Marvin Berry & The Starlighters from Back to the Future. Marty McFly introduced Johnny B Goode to an unsuspecting teenage populace at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.

Otis Day and the Nights from Animal House. The moment Boone uttered “Otis, my man!” to an obviously perplexed lead singer onstage at the bar, we knew that they were a long way from Delta House on the Faber College campus.  Bonus points for recognizing legendary blues guitarist Robert Cray playing bass in the band.

Sex Bob-omb from Scott Pilgrim vs the World. The band at the epicenter of the greatest video game, kung fu, music movie hybrids of the last few years.

The Jerk Offs from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The all-gay band with a straight bass player and a drum machine, The Jerk Offs seem to be perpetually searching for a new name — although they may have settled on one (Fistful of Assholes) late in the film.

Blues Hammer from Ghost World. You can literally see Steve Buscemi’s blood begin to boil when this group is announced as real delta bluesmen.

Aldous Snow and Infant Sorrow from Get Him to the Greek. Usually, a little of Russell Brand goes a long way with me but this film is the exception. Every song is practically a comedic gem, especially The Clap and Furry Walls.

The Blues Brothers from The Blues Brothers. I played the soundtrack album so many times that the song She Caught the Katy sounds funny to me when the song in the movie doesn’t skip like my worn-out record does. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve seen this movie at least one hundred times.

Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate from Coming to America. I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.




Now that I’ve exhausted my list, I cordially invite you post any other ones in the comment section below.

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No Ukes (For Me)

A few weeks ago, Robin and Lindsey were talking about Eddie Vedder’s Ukulele Music while they gave my woefully underworked leg and arm muscles their weekly once-over.

They went on and on about the music so much that the first I did when I got home — after a quick visit to the toilet — was to get on the Eye Gaze and listen to it for myself.

My first stop was to Spotify. Spotify is a lot like Pandora except that you are able to search for and play specific songs — and even entire albums — by practically every recording artist in the world.

I typed Eddie Vedder’s name into the search box and there it was, Ukulele Music in its entirety. Switching from the keyboard screen to the desktop moves screen, I activated the left double mouse click button and blinked on the first track.

Nothing. Except for an error message telling me that these files are unavailable at this time.

To quote Vezzini from The Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!”

I tried again and got the same result.

Annoyed but otherwise undeterred, I maneuvered myself to NPR’s website because at one point during their conversation, Robin had mentioned that she had originally heard about the record on NPR’s airwaves.

It took about ten minutes of digging around but I was able to find not only an article about the album but they also had it set up so that you could give the whole record a listen.

Not needing to be asked twice, I clicked on the First Listen link and waited… Patiently, at first, for it to start playing… Then frantically, as I waited in vain for the volume of the music coming out of the speakers to lower to the level that I had commanded it to onscreen… And finally, desperately, as I was forced to close the window in order to turn off the completely unresponsive audio player.

At this point, I decided to temporarily abandon my ukulele dreams for a couple of days, and instead, went to Amazon and ordered it with a gift card I’d received for my birthday. Thanks, Beusch.

After three consecutive listens in a row upon receiving it in the mail Monday evening, I am not ashamed to admit that I really like this record. Being a huge fan of melody as an integral part of the art form, every one of the sixteen tracks delivers musical sweetness to my ears.

If you are in the market for something new to get into this summer, let me be just one of many who would be suggesting that you purchase Ukulele Music for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

* As I was writing this piece, I went to Spotify in order to get the actual wording of that error message, but a funny thing happened when I double left clicked the first tune, it actually played. Truth be told, I listened to the entire disc two more times while writing this post.

** I also discovered that the audio component on NPR’s  Eddie Vedder page had been removed.

Irony or conspiracy? Discuss.

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Idol Chatter

My intention going into to Season 10 of American Idol was to catch an episode or two just to see what it would be like without Simon at the judges table and then move on to some other program deserving the attention of my eyeballs.  This past season was very forgettable — who the heck won*, anyway — so my brand loyalty was at an all-time low heading into the premiere with the auditions a few weeks back.

But a funny thing happened as I tried to have someone change the channel for me (recall that I am a quadriplegic and am unable to do it on my own):  I really liked what I was seeing for several reasons.

The producers did a good job limiting the number of crappy auditions they showed on tv.  Granted, I drank the William Hung flavored Kool-Aid way back when but that was an example of catching flatulence in a bottle.  Subsequent efforts to repeat that phenomenon have been dominating recent seasons without any success, so personally, I’m pretty happy that they focused more on folks with actual talent.

And speaking of talent, most of these people who made it so far this year have some serious skills as musicians.  I find that I prefer to watch someone perform who has either played with a band or on-stage behind a guitar or as part of a theatrical production as opposed to someone who has only ever sung a tune as the lyrics scroll by on a monitor in some bowling alley lounge.

As far as the absence of Simon Cowell as a judge goes, I assumed that I would be missing his criticisms and harsh commentary but I don’t.  So far, the kinder gentler panel of Season 10 has been entertaining mainly because of Steven Tyler.  It cracks me up when he sings along with the contestants during their performances.  JLo has been more insightful than I imagined she would be and even Randy has toned-down the “Dawg” act to the occasional “Arf Arf” every once in awhile (comparatively speaking of course).

Now that they’ve narrowed the field to the top twenty-four, I am looking forward to seeing what happens performance-wise in the weeks to come.  The singing so far has been pretty darned good — especially that dude from Santa Cruz, the guy that played the upright bass while singing during Hollywood Week, and the woman who reminds me a lot of Rachel from Glee.

However it turns out, the Fox network can count on my ass being in front of the flatscreen week in week out.  Emma’s too, as long as it’s on before her bedtime.  But if one of the Real Housewives is on, that show gets priority, of course, AI goes straight to the DVR.  Happy wife, happy life, you know the drill.

In case you are interested, here is an excellent piece on the top twenty-four contestants.  It breaks each one down very succinctly and in some cases hilariously.

*And for the record, I knew that Lee DeWyze won last year but still …

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The Playlist Made Me Do It

Some posts that find their way to your eyes have been germinating in my mind for minutes hours days weeks fortnights months years before they finally break through the crazy clutter of my thought process and actualize themselves as words on your screen of choice.

And then there are those posts that just seem to materialize into existence by way of circumstance, inspiration, perspiration, medication, or because the Eye Gaze told me to do it.

This post in particular, dear readers and friends, is a combination of both of those methods.  Here’s how:

Back in the days when I could do everything I can’t do any more, a couple of my teacher friends and I decided to start a little three piece rock band at the school where we taught.  Eventually it morphed into a group that included several talented students as well but in the early days, it was just drummer Darrell Sasagawa, guitarist/vocalist Mike Dumbra, and me, the singing bass player who formed the nucleus of the middle school superband named Detention.

We practiced every Friday afternoon for a few hours learning a handful of tunes.  We played a couple of talent shows and on-campus graduation parties but our longest lasting (in terms of songs played) and largest attended (in terms of folks who were forced to listen to us) performance had to be the year we played at the Family Picnic.

The La Entrada Family Picnic is a time-honored tradition at our school that takes place on the campus blacktop during the first month or so of each new school year.  Every student who attends the school — and his or her family — is invited to the two hour shindig for dinner, dessert, and lots of fun, student-centered activities.  A good time is had by all.

Several of Darrell’s fourth graders were Girl Scouts who were trying to raise money for a philanthropic cause.   They asked Detention to play at the picnic and to help them get the word out to the gathered masses of the LE school community about their fundraising endeavor.

They didn’t have to ask us twice.  We were in.

In the practices leading up to the big gig, I vividly recall debating my fellow band mates about whether it was appropriate to sing the lyric of the Weezer song Beverly Hills the way it was written -- "My automobile is a piece of crap" -- or to skip the c word all together for this specific instance. Being the guy singing the song my position was to let it fly, baby.

All the pre-show posturing and proclamations of artistic intent and creative expression did me absolutely no good as I looked out into the audience that had gathered in front of our pseudo stage area and I locked eyes with the Superintendent of the school district. Needless to say, I didn't sing that my car was a piece of crap!

Now, thinking back to the top of this post I told you I would tell you how this post came to be written.  I think I said that the Eye Gaze made me do it.

Well, the actual story has been itching to see the light of day ever since it went down but it was what happened this morning that finally convinced me to put retina to screen.  As I was listening to my 1300+ song playlist on shuffle through the Dynavox while checking my email, the weirdest thing happened:  I heard two of the tunes we used to play in Detention — What I Like About You and I Wanna Be Sedated — back to back.  I was slightly disappointed to hear Lady Gaga rounding out the three song set only because the odds of having Beverly Hills come on randomly after the other two were fairly astronomical in scope.

I figured two out of three was enough of a sign from the Eye Gaze that I started blinking and clicking immediately.

And there you have it.

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The Best of the Most

Lying in bed yesterday morning, wide awake and waiting for Fehmeen to get caffeinated enough to deal with my typical morning routine, my thoughts turned towards my music collection, specifically to the groups and artists who I have at least three or more cds of and if I was forced to choose just one of those discs above the others, which one would it be and, briefly, why.

Here’s what I came up with:

Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by a good margin over Definitely Maybe.  While I will miss tracks like Married with Children and the one about having lasagna, it was an easy decision.

The Beatles – Despite my obsession with the Rubber Soul and Revolver albums, I have to go with Abbey Road, not just for the entire record as a whole but for that amazing 16 minute medley at the end.

Gretchen Wilson – Here for the Party is the big winner because I love the song Redneck Woman (amongst a handful of others).

Ozzy Osbourne – I have to go with Diary of a Madman for sentimental reasons (I loved it as a youth).  That and because Randy Rhoads’ guitar work on that album is flat out incendiary.

Weezer- You’d think that I’d go with either the debut Blue album or their second eponymous record aka the Green album but I have officially dumped out my cup of Hater-ade and I’m taking the much maligned Pinkerton – which is clearly a great record now that I’ve actually given it a chance to grow on me.

Van Halen- It came down to the first or second album and after much internal debate I chose Van Halen II mainly because I’ve listened to their debut too many times in my lifetime already.

Garth Brooks – Ropin’ the Wind almost got the nod thanks to personal faves like Rodeo and Shameless but in the end No Fences won due in part to tunes such as Friends in Low Places, Unanswered Prayers, and The Thunder Rolls.

Tom Waits – Because he is my absolute one hundred percent favorite of all time, the rules don’t necessarily apply to my collection of Tom Waits cds and I get to choose my top five to take with me.  In no particular order:  Heart Attack and Vine, Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones, Mule Variations, and Frank’s Wild Years.

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking is one of my favorite albums of all time so picking it here was a no-brainer.

Jerry Garcia Band – Gotta go with the eponymous double live album recorded at the Warfield in San Francisco in 1990, partially because I may have been there and mostly because it was my first exposure to listening to what Jerry can do to such an iconic catalogue of songs such as The Way You Do the Things You Do, Simple Twist of Fate, Stop that Train, and (one of my personal faves) Tangled Up in Blue.

Steve Earle – Another relatively easy selection for me as I go with Transcendental Blues.  If it came down to picking only one song on this album it would without a doubt be Galway Girl.

Elvis Costello – Although I am the proud owner of four different greatest hits packages in my Declan MacManus esteemed collection, I would have to take the green double disc compilation which spans his entire career that I picked up in London.

Rush – Are you serious?  Did you just meet me yesterday?  I hate that band.

Stone Temple Pilots – Even though I arrived late to the STP party, I’d have to go with Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop for the simple fact that I sometimes enjoy it when bands get out of their comfort zone and expand their signature sound.

Kings of Leon – I will always prefer their Youth and Young Manhood debut album to their subsequent and more popular releases but not for the typical clichéd reason of I was into them before everyone else — although that’s true.  I just like it better.

And then I had to get up or else I could have gone on for days.

How about you?  What are some of your best of your mosts?  Do share.

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Back when I was a wee lad of eleven,  my dad dragged me up to Drum World in San Francisco to attend a drum clinic put on by legendary drummer Louie Bellson.   The joint was jam-packed with percussionists so much so that people were sitting on the floor.   I remember being seated next to a young dude with long hair who was wearing brown corduroy pants.  After the show,  my dad drove to Tower Records,  took me to the J’s of the rock and roll record section,  and pointed out that the guy that sat next to me was Steve Smith,  the drummer from Journey.

Later on that year and for the next few years,  the band and its music became a personal cultural touchstone for me and the direction my life would be heading.   Click here to read about that journey,  I’ll wait right here for you.

Fast forward to last evening following Emma’s shower time.   Every night for about fifteen minutes before she goes to sleep,  Emma and I watch a little tv while she drinks her chocky milk and Fehmeen tubes my Ensure.   As Feh scrolled through the on-screen channel guide,  I let out a grunt when she got to a listing for Journey Live in Manila.   She gave me a smile and pressed enter on the remote.

The concert was good but not great.   They focused too much on their newer material,  imo.   The band did however perform two of my favorite Escape album cuts (Mother, Father and Still They Ride).   The new singer did a nice job reaching those Steve Perry high notes although I believe he landed the job for the simple fact that 5’4″-with-his-seventies-fro Neal Schon could dunk on him in a pickup basketball game.

The best part of the entire concert occurred when they played Open Arms.   Emma was mesmerized by the music.   I think I even saw her mouthing the words as the song ended.   Then they played the more up-tempo tune Separate Ways and the Bug was rocking out to beat the band.  You couldn’t have pried the shit-eating grin off my face with a crowbar.

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Southern Culture on the Skids is the coolest band you’ve never heard of.  I discovered them by accident when I purchased some compilation CD from (of all places) Hot Topic.  It was love at first listen.  I even went to see them in San Francisco several years back.

The obligatory marquee shot.

Not only are their tunes catchy and full of energy, the guitarist absolutely shreds, the bassist lays down a fat groove, and the drummer even stands the whole time that he plays.

My friend Dooms and I scored primo balcony seats.

I love set list pictures.

Click here to get a little SCOTS in your life.

Typed by Marci.

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Outdoors with Jason

Watching Sesame Street with Emma this morning, we saw this video. Hope you like it as much as we did.

Hey Kim M, had you seen that before?

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My Mulligan

If I could have fifteen minutes of my pre-ALS life back, what would I do?  Perhaps a game of catch with my dad.  Or maybe keeping score with my mom at a Giants game.  Or a lively conversation with Fehmeen over a warm-bread salad at Jardiniere would be the ticket.

As tempting as those options would be, I would elect to do something completely selfish with my “Mulligan” time.  I would lock myself in a room with a piano and I would play and sing an abbreviated set of the following four songs:

  1. Wonderwall by Oasis
  2. Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan
  3. Imagine by John Lennon
  4. A Long December by The Counting Crows

I used to perform these tunes — as well as about a hundred others — in my classroom once all of my students had left for the day.  Although you would never mistake my crooning and noodling for an audition for Carnegie Hall, the place that the music took me was much more idyllic–at least in my mind–than any fabled concert hall could ever be.  In the short span of time that it took me to complete the brief set, not only was I able to drift away from the trials and travails of the teaching day, I also allowed myself the opportunity to submerge my spirit into some of the most beautiful music ever composed.

One piano, four songs, and full functionality of my hands, fingers, and voice for fifteen minutes. My Mulligan.

Getting my groove on. Photo courtesy of ALS Boy's private collection.

Typed by Robin.

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