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All Reason.com articles with the "Music" tag.



Published: Fri, 27 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2018 00:54:07 -0400

 



The War on Opioids Probably Helped Kill Prince

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:40:00 -0400

(image) Pop legend Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016, probably because he bought what he thought was Vicodin on the black market. Today officials announced they are closing the investigation into Prince's death and will not be filing any charges because they don't know where he got the pills and found no evidence that any of his associates knew that the "Vicodin" he had been taking was actually fentanyl.

Remarkably, at the same time officials are announcing that there will be no charges over the drugs that actually killed Prince, officials also announced a civil settlement with a doctor who prescribed painkillers to Prince's associates, knowing the drugs would actually go to the musician. Although these were not the drugs that killed Prince, the doctor who helped him get access to painkillers through third parties has agreed to pay $30,000 and subject himself to federal monitoring for two years.

There does not seem to be any acknowledgment that efforts to make it harder for Prince to get his hands on the painkillers to which he became addicted might have caused him to seek black-market substitutes that were much more dangerous. From the story in the Minneapollis Star Tribune:

"Doctors are trusted medical professionals and, in the midst of our opioid crisis, they must be part of the solution," U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker said in a statement announcing the settlement. "As licensed professionals, doctors are held to a high level of accountability in their prescribing practices, especially when it comes to highly addictive painkillers. The U.S. attorney's office and the DEA will not hesitate to take action against healthcare providers who fail to comply with the Controlled Substances Act. We are committed to using every available tool to stem the tide of opioid abuse."

Just today Jacob Sullum noted that opioid-related deaths are rising dramatically even as opioid prescriptions decline. That's partly because lack of access to the drug through doctors is driving people to the black market, where they purchase pain pills of unknown provenance and composition. The circumstances of Prince's death should be a warning to the feds that cracking down on doctors is exactly the wrong way to prevent overdoses.

Also today, previously unseen footage of Prince practicing and performing "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1984, years before he handed it over to Sinead O'Connor, has been released by his estate:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cpGA0azFdCs" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">




These California Kids Got In Trouble for Playing La Migra, a Game Where 'Border Agents' Chase 'Illegal Immigrants'

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 14:20:00 -0400

For decades, high school students have played a game called La Migra in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Benicia, California. It's a mix of cops-and-robbers and tag. Upperclassmen assume the role of border agents (the aforementioned migra) as they look for freshmen and sophomores, who assume the role of immigrants. The "immigrants" get a 10-minute head-start on la migra, who scour the town to find them. Everyone has one giant fiesta. And when the freshmen become seniors, they get to become migra, too! Who can possibly be upset by a game like that? Everyone, it turns out. Fans and friends started tagging me almost immediately on Twitter and Facebook when news broke. The story cropped up on The Drudge Report; local television stations interviewed "concerned parent" Daniel Serna, who compared the game to Nazis chasing Jews and the Klan lynching blacks (the correct historical corollary is the Texas Rangers against Tejanos, pendejo). School administrators sent a letter to Benicia parents vowing to crack down on the game. Meanwhile, the kids who actually played La Migra had no idea what the furor was about—to them, it was just an excuse to run around. My pals expected outrage from me. Instead, most of them got upset at my reaction: "Oh, yeah, I remember that game. It was fun! Kids still play it? Cool!" It's true. My friends and I played La Migra over 30 years ago as second-graders at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Anaheim. And so did my brother, who is 12 years younger than me. Cousins even younger than us played it. So did people older than me. We weren't upper-middle-class white kids like those in Benicia, but rather working-class Mexicans, almost all of us the children of immigrants, many of them undocumented. None of us were triggered; none of us called those who participated "problematic." Hell, we were more offensive than Benicia High: The only safe space for the immigrant team in our game was on the other side of a human wall that you had to break through. And we started the game with someone screaming "¡LA MIGRA!"—you know, just like in real life. We were boys and girls who knew all about the terrors of the Border Patrol—and we were going to have fun at their expense, dammit. The true offense of Benicia's La Migra is something the left doesn't like to acknowledge and the right can't even comprehend. The act of coming to el Norte without papers can be a fun adventure. Just ask my dad and his brothers. They came to the United States repeatedly as mojados ("wetbacks"—their word to describe themselves, not mine) from the 1960s through the 1980s, a Golden Age of illegal immigration. Those were the days when deportation was always imminent yet the state of California documented mojados by giving them drivers licenses and Social Security numbers, as if for a job well done. And the stories they tell! My tíos light up when they recall coyotes they paid, bushes they hid in, identities they assumed, all while evading the migra. My dad, in particular, loves to tell the tale of the first time he entered illegally, in 1968. He travelled in the trunk of a Chevy alongside his cousin and a stranger, while the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" blasted on the stereo (would've been better if it was "Ticket to Ride," amirite?). They each paid a blonde hippie girl from Huntington Beach and her assimilated Mexican-American boyfriend $50 apiece to drive them over the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro. My dad and his brothers make illegal immigration sound like one decades-long Keystone Kops sketch, mixed in with some Three Stooges pratfalls. And it wasn't just them. For decades, Mexican culture hailed illegal immigrants as mythical tricksters who came and went across la frontera with ease, humiliating Uncle Sam every step of the way. There were songs that pointed out Superman was an illegal (don't get mad at my word choice, SJWs, the tune is called "Superman es Ilegal" and the album cover depicts la migra capturing Superman in a phone booth) and that had former undocumented migrants not only getting away [...]



No Scandals in This HBO Elvis Documentary, Just Music

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:55:00 -0400

Elvis Presley: The Searcher. HBO. Saturday, April 14, 8 p.m. If the HBO documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher has a motto, it's a quote from an interview that Tom Petty gave the filmmakers shortly before his death last year: "We should not make the mistake of writing off a great artist by all the clatter that came later." Made with the assistance of the Presley family, the 206-minute The Searcher contains nothing of the tabloid Elvis. If you want to see him shooting out TV sets, watching teenage girls wrestle in their underwear, or chat up the dangers of drugs with President Nixon, this isn't the film for you. Even the benign side of celebrity is missing: There are no scenes of Elvis giving away cars to fans or racing his jet across the country for a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich. Instead, The Searcher zeroes in almost exclusively on Presley's music: where it came from, how he found it, how he synthesized rhythm and blues and country and western—and eventually jazz, gospel, opera and even old Marlene Dietrich records—into something so new that nobody even knew what to call it. Literally: On an old tape from the night Elvis and a pickup band turned a stately bluegrass waltz called "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" into a balls-to-the-wall jam that didn't resemble anything known to human ears, you can hear Sun Records owner Sam Phillips burst into the studio and shout, "That's a pop song now!" The phrase rock and roll wasn't yet part of the world's musical vocabulary. But it would be. "It was in that moment that the world changed," recounts The Band's Robbie Robertson in quiet awe. There are a lot of reasons to love The Searcher, and that tape fragment is a big one. Director Thom Zimny, who has made several well-regarded Bruce Springsteen documentaries, got access to everything in the Graceland archives, from home movies to ancient recordings of radio interviews. They range from lovable oddities, like Elvis' mom Gladys singing gospel songs, to the downright awesome: An old interview with long-dead Ike Turner recollecting the odd little white kid who used to sneak into his shows on Memphis' Beale Street and move his feet frantically to the beat of Turner's blues riffs. Some of those riffs, no doubt, made their way into Elvis' act at some point. The central point of The Searcher was that Elvis was influenced by everything, but imitated nothing. "He can pull in a wide range of genres," says one rock writer interviewed for the documentary. "And they all come out Elvis." There are interviews aplenty in The Searcher, including several with Elvis contemporaries like his longtime guitarist Scotty Moore that were done just before their deaths. (Startling—and, depending on your age, perhaps chilling—fact: Elvis would be well past 80 if he were still alive.) They are at their most insightful in discussing his records – how, exactly, he put them together. (And nearly everyone agrees that, especially in the beginning when all the rules were being made up as they went along, it was Elvis himself doing the producing, regardless of who was credited on the label.) "He didn't want to overproduce anything," says Phillips, whose pioneering Sun label issued Elvis' first two dozen recordings. That's putting it mildly; Sun's tiny studio never had more than two microphones, and rarely brought in a drummer. As Bruce Springsteen perceptively notes, much of the beat in early rock and roll records came not from a percussion section but a slappy, stand-up bass. The one interviewee who offers more personal that musical commentary is Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla, whose affectionate reminiscences are often laced with piquant humor. Just 15 when they started dating, she wryly admits she knew a lot more about the teeny-bopper music of pretty boys like Fabian and Fankie Avalon than her new boyfriends. And her description of listening to her parents dismissing Elvis as "disgusting" as they watched him on TV, not knowing he'd be dating their daughter in little more than a year, is hilarious. But it's al[...]



Beware Censorship by Proxy

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 09:59:00 -0400

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. YouTube is worried you might believe too much of what you see on its website. Amid the clamor for someone, somewhere to do something about "fake news," the company plans to attach "information cues"—excerpts from Wikipedia—to videos that touch on "a list of well-known internet conspiracies." When YouTube, Facebook or Twitter cracks down on some form of expression—conspiracy theories, radical rants, terrorist propaganda—some of the targets inevitably complain that their freedom of speech is under attack. (This feeling of victimhood may be what sent Nasim Aghdam to YouTube headquarters, gun in hand.) There is a strong retort to this: These are private platforms with a right to decide what they publish. It is no more a violation of the First Amendment for YouTube to muzzle a channel it finds offensive than it is for this newspaper to refuse to run a column calling for Minnesota to invade Wisconsin. But what if a private platform suppresses speech because it's afraid the government might otherwise step in? Just as one effective end-run around the Fourth Amendment is to ask private companies for data they slurped up on their own, the First Amendment can be sidestepped when officials pressure the private sector into self-censorship. The end result can be rules more restrictive than the companies would impose on their own—and more intrusive than the government could get away with if it tried to impose them directly. It's happened before. The Supreme Court ruled in 1915 that free-speech protections did not apply to the movies, a decision rightly reversed in 1952. In the interim, the industry opted to stave off federal regulation by establishing a series of self-censorship systems. The most powerful of these was the Production Code, which was created in 1930 but didn't really grow teeth until 1934, when Congress was mulling several bipartisan bills to tone down motion picture content. Hollywood got the message. Under the code, seduction was "never the proper subject for a comedy," plots couldn't involve "sex relationships between the white and black races," and the drug trade "should not be brought to the attention of audiences," among other tight constraints. Some filmmakers found ways to subtly subvert the restrictions. Many others threw up their hands and let their films be bowdlerized. The Federal Communications Commission directly regulates much of what can and cannot be said over the "public" airwaves. But private radio and television networks also have created their own internal Standards and Practices departments that control content, sometimes at absurd levels of caution. (Early network censors objected to terms as mild as "bloody," "bollixed" and "the W.C.") Broadcasters are not eager to offend their audiences, so some version of Standards and Practices would probably exist even without the FCC. But the desire to stay on regulators' and legislators' good side has clearly been at work in those departments' decisions as well. You can tell because the self-imposed rules eased up when federal content controls were relaxed in the 1980s. The comic book industry adopted a Comics Code after the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held a hearing in 1954 on their products' alleged role in fostering crime. The immediate effect was to infantilize the industry, forcing a range of popular horror titles into the dustbin. The "parental advisory" labels affixed to CDs were invented following another Senate circus, the "porn rock" hearings of 1985. The stickers kept some records out of certain stores, and prompted some producers to edit songs or change album lineups to avoid the restrictions. In 1993, another set of Senate hearings inspired a comparable ratings system for video games. Those moves haven't had as much force as the rules adopted by Hollywood and the broadcasters, but that's because the threat of direct federal censorship wasn't as strong. A sort of censorship by proxy[...]



Remy Shows Cardi B Where Her Taxes Go

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 11:50:00 -0400

After Cardi B launched an anti-taxation tirade against Uncle Sam on Instagram, Remy took on the challenge of explaining what's happening with all her money.

'Bodak Yellow' parody written and performed by Remy.

Shot and edited by Austin and Meredith Bragg.


Mastered by Ben Karlstrom. Beat by JEOnTheButtons.
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LYRICS:

Thirty grand for a table
where Ben Carson loves to eat
640 dollars for the
Louboutin of toilet seats

So many whips you'd think
you were watching Fifty Shades of Grey
Plus the seven billion every year
we send to TSA

I don't dance no
I make tummies move
See I don't gotta dance
I make tummies move

800 thousand for the homeless
Not the homeless–monkey drool
Plus 80 million for a hotel
but that hotel is in Kabul

You say you
wanna know where it go?
Let's find out and see
Cardi B

Billion dollars gone
Don't know where it be
It in the club?
That's what happens when you
give to D.C. spenders
As much a chance of getting paid back
as Evan McMullin's vendors

Forty grand for an app
that shows an arrow every time
Ain't seen an app so overvalued
since that time I purchased Vine

Plus billions more that we give
To folks we deem are really smart
For a pyramid that tells you
"Don't forget to eat your carbs!"

Grope your pants and
take your money too
Grope your pants and
take your money too

The tax code is the worst thing scribbled
since Ben Affleck's back tattoo




Cops Will Use Drones to Monitor Traffic at Coachella

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 10:25:00 -0400

(image)

In response to the mass casualty shootings at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas and the Bataclan in Paris, law enforcement and event organizers across the U.S. are considering new steps to secure mass events. As part of that, the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will use drones as part of the event's security protocol.

The drones will not be used to track people or monitor crowds, says Indio Police Sergeant Dan Marshall. Rather the drones will be used to briefly monitor traffic, a top concern of police.

"This year Coachella is so big and expansive that we have outlying intersections that we can't get to rapidly," Marshall told Reason. Drones may help police more easily locate and address traffic backup, but they will not be used to "hover over crowds," he said.

Alex Netto, marketing director of Dronefly, told Reason the company is seeing an "increase in using drones for monitoring public events."

While the secruity precautions at Coachella might not be as Orwellian as TMZ originally reported, security at the event is expected to be strong. According to Marshall, there will be a "large law enforcement presence on the ground," and visual demonstrations will be used to educate concert goers about their surroundings.

"We want people to come here and have a good time and to feel safe," Marshall said. "We want people to get to know the venue and know where the emergency exits are—to know where to go and know how to get out."Coachella is one of the largest music festivals in the U.S. Roughly 198,000 people attended last year.

Police forces across the U.S. have added drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to their surveillance arsenals. According to a report by The Center for Study of the Drone by Bard College, at least 347 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency units in the U.S. have acquired drones. Out of the 347 units, 121 are sheriffs offices and 96 are police departments. According to data Bard gathered from the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 18 states require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using a drone for surveillance or a search. North Dakota is the only state that allows its police force to use weaponized drones.




Any Other Way

Sun, 01 Apr 2018 12:00:00 -0400

(image) In the 1950s and '60s, folk revivalists rediscovered old records, interviewed the musicians who made them, and wove a textured, diverse, and mythic vision of the past. That spirit is alive today at such labels as the Chicago-based Numero Group.

Numero is best known for its Eccentric Soul series, which explores the lost treasures found on forgotten small-time R&B labels. But these pop archeologists' catalog covers many genres, some innately cool (the psychedelic country of Cosmic American Music, the Central American funk of Belize City Boil Up), some so relentlessly uncool that they attain an anti-hip cachet (the mellow '70s sounds of Private Yacht).

Much of the music is best described as "accidentally unique." None of the acts on The 123s of Kid Soul managed to become the Jackson 5—but did the world really need another Jackson 5? Better to have this ground-view glimpse at the children who wanted to be Jacksons but couldn't help sounding like themselves.

In other Numero releases, the performers' uniqueness doesn't slip out accidentally: The artists are too fiercely individual even to try to be anyone else. So it is with Jackie Shane, the transgender '60s soul singer showcased on the recent Any Other Way. The 79-page liner notes relay a life story that starts with a crossdressing kid singing in a Nashville church and then goes on to include a multitude of perhaps-apocryphal sights: carnival shows, Canadian mobsters, a con-man minister, the Holy Ghost manifesting in a nightclub, a chimpanzee trained to pick pockets. As mythic pasts go, this one is irresistible.




Cardi B, Your New Libertarian Hero, Asks: 'Uncle Sam, I Want to Know What You Doing With My Fucking Tax Money!'

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 10:20:00 -0400

Cardi B, a rapper and Instagram celebrity best known for her hit "Bodak Yellow," posted a video on Instagram yesterday where she asks some hard questions about effective tax rates and government spending.

B notes that she is paying a 40 percent tax rate and not getting much for it. She asks for accountability, noting that "when you donate to a kid from a foreign country, they give you updates of what they doing with your donation."

By contrast, B has no idea what Uncle Sam is doing with her "fucking tax money." She speculates about possible uses for government revenues, but points out that "y'all not spending it in no damn prison," because incarcerated African-American men only receive "like two underwears, one jumpsuit for like five months." B wants transparency, demanding "receipts."

The video has been viewed over 4 million times since it was posted late last night.

In her work, B has talked about her experience as an entrepreneur, explaining that after her initial success, "I don't gotta dance, I make money moves."




When a Mash Note to a War Criminal Hit the Top 40

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:59:00 -0400

(image) Today marks the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, in which a group of American soldiers slaughtered hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. You can read more about that grisly episode in Lucy Steigerwald's story on the subject, posted elsewhere on this site today. I just want to highlight something Lucy mentioned in passing as she described the trial of Lt. William Calley, the one man convicted for his role in the crime. Back in the U.S., she writes, "Calley became a twisted sort of folk hero."

It's true. The most infamous of the killers in one of America's most infamous war crimes had a cheering section in the States. No, not everyone: Of course many Americans were revolted by the rapes and murders at My Lai. But then there were the people who told themselves a different story about what had happened. The people who made a gold record and a top 40 hit of a deeply dishonest apologia called the "Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley."

"Battle" was written by Julian Wilson and James Smith, a couple of businessmen from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and it was recorded by a DJ named Terry Nelson at FAME Studios, the legendary birthplace of dozens of soul, pop, and country hits. Tex Ritter was going to release a version of the song too, but the higher-ups at Capitol Records decided that would be a bad idea. ("[I]f we want to glorify a war hero," one executive told Billboard, "let's find someone other than Lt. Calley.") The folks at Plantation Records had no such scruples, and they put out Nelson's recording right after Calley was convicted:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4JoacW7woBY" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

"I'm just another soldier from the shores of U.S.A.," the song's Calley declares, even if "they've made me out a villain, they have stamped me with a brand." The real villains are elsewhere: "While we're fighting in the jungles they were marching in the street/While we're dying in the rice fields they were helping our defeat/While we're facing V.C. bullets they were sounding a retreat." In real life, My Lai was an assault on unarmed civilians. In the song, "We responded to their rifle fire with everything we had."

The rifle fire may be imaginary, but I guess the "everything we had" part was true:

(image)

The record peaked at #37 on the Billboard charts. To hear Casey Kasem introducing it on American Top 40—right after a snappy little number called "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People"—go to the 2:28 mark here. For seven more pro-Calley songs (and one anti-anti-Calley song), go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.




The Death of Liberalism and the Life of Johnny Cash: Sirius XM Radio

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 08:45:00 -0500

(image) Last week Shadi Hamid wrote two pieces well worth reading over at The Atlantic: "The Rise of Anti-Liberalism," and "Bari Weiss and the Left-Wing Infatuation With Taking Offense." I will be talking about both with him today during my 9-12 a.m. ET stint guest-hosting Stand UP! with Pete Dominick on SiriusXM Insight (channel 121). Other guests are scheduled to include:

* Caleb Cage, author of (among other books) I Shot a Man in Reno, who will talk about The Man in Black on what would have been his 86th birthday.

* Mark Whitaker, author of the new Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance.

* Joshua Keating of Slate, who will talk about his piece "Why Soros-Phobia Is a Global Phenomenon."

Please call in at any time: 1-877-974-7487.




Soul of Cash

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

(image) It doesn't matter how many country bros dip into the hip-hop well and rap about dirt-road memories or honky-tonk badonkadonks: In the popular imagination, country music scans as white music. So if I tell you a soul singer has just put out a collection of Johnny Cash songs, a lot of you will imagine a novelty record—something along the lines of a polka-disco album or a Cajun rap.

Resist the thought. Even in the age of Jim Crow, America's ears found ways to evade segregation: Behind those allegedly rigid color lines, generations of black and white musicians have been listening to each other and absorbing the sounds they hear. Brian Owens' fine new album Soul of Cash belongs to a long tradition of country-soul crossovers—a tradition so long, in fact, that more than one of these songs have been covered by other R&B acts in the past.

That's not to say that the new tracks are retreads. Owens' arrangement of "Ring of Fire," with an easygoing guitar playing the notes that Cash assigned to some Mariachi horns, is worlds removed from Ray Charles' explosive take on the tune. And where Slim Harpo turned "Folsom Prison Blues" into something as slow and heavy as the train in the lyrics, Owens speeds the song up; if you don't listen to the words, it sounds almost joyful. The borderland between country and R&B is large, offering plenty of space to explore.




Mark E. Smith, Singer/Lyricist for the British Postpunk Band The Fall, R.I.P.

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 21:36:00 -0500

Mark E. Smith, for over 40 years the sole mainstay and singer/writer for the harsh, edgy, scabrous but teeth-clenchingly catchy British postpunk band The Fall, has died at the age of 60. A fair assessment of his importance and influence for somewhat outsider-y rock can be found at The Stranger. While their music can be an acquired taste, and even this serious fan hasn't managed to seriously process it all in its relentless generosity (over 30 original LPs and many dozen more live and compilation records), his writing was always of special interest to me. His songwriting was so copious and dense and ironic that the vast majority of his fans either didn't notice or didn't care about this element of his work, but Smith and The Fall were the favorite band of my gang of fellow libertarians in college at least partially because of the amusing signs of mocking disdain for modern leftist cant or at the very least an obvious willingness to look on socialism or communism with a disapproving or mocking eye. It was not a theme he hit that often, but especially in the late '80s period when I fell in love with their work, you weren't hearing many bands write songs mocking someone who "tripped up on a discarded banana skin/And on my way down I caught the side of my head/On a protruding brick chip" and decided the experience ought by rights to make him a public charge—however "I was very let down/From the budget I was expecting a one million quid handout/I was very disappointed...I think I'll emigrate to Sweden or Poland/And get looked after properly by government" ("Dog is Life/Jerusalem"). Not many would conclude an absurdist saga about an East German athlete sickened by his dumb brother's habit of revving his car engine beneath their window and filling the room with fumes with the observation that the brother "patriotically volunteered to be sent on a labor beautification course of the countryside northwest of Dresden and never seen again/and never seen again" ("Athlete Cured"). Not many would casually note (in their speed-rap madness classic early single "Totally Wired") that "if I were a communist/a rich man would bail me/the opposite applies," or (in their early punk-country trucker life anthem "Container Drivers") condemn commies as "just part-time workers." In his excellent memoir Renegade Smith summed up a general dislike for a vaguely conceived therapeutic modern state by remembering his days working in a mental institution in the 1970s. "Nowadays reminds me of the late 1970s," he wrote. "All those people who are in power now were student nurses back then....And they're now running the country with that same mentality: give him a computer, give him a few drugs." Smith is the rock songwriter I'd most recommend to fans of scabrous misanthrope British serious humorists such as Kingsley Amis and Auberon Waugh. It was a mentality rare in pop/rock songwriting, and it reached out in its mysterious way to somewhat complementary minds. Smith also had a winningly singular range of topics and concerns that overlapped those into eccentric politics as youth, from conspiracy theories about the deaths of Pope John Paul I ("Hey! Luciani") and John Kennedy ("Oswald Defense Lawyer") to fantasy/time travel epics ("Wings") to tortured looks in the minds of washed-up comic book/sci-fi writers ("How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'") to dozens of examples of gimlet-eyed observations of a far wider range of the curious and strange elements of modern existence than any other rock writer attempted. As he said of his own work, his "songs were more like short stories: unlike every fucker else we didn't just bark out wild generalizations." That simple literary quality made him, especially in comparison with his peers, shine as an individualist hero of sorts. (A fine [...]



In Defense of Musical Ripoffs

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:30:00 -0500

Radiohead is reportedly suing Lana Del Rey because her song "Get Free" sounds a lot like Radiohead's old hit "Creep." As Reason's Ed Krayewski noted earlier this week, Radiohead itself was successfully sued a while back because "Creep" sounds a lot like the Hollies' "The Air I Breathe." I don't think anyone has ever sued the Hollies for "The Air I Breathe," though I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there's a Roy Orbison song somewhere that sounds almost exactly like it. The courts have been getting more strict about this kind of thing recently, with Marvin Gaye's estate winning a case against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over a song that copied the "feel" but not the actual notes of Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." In a better world, the law would be growing more tolerant of this sort of imitation, not more restrictive. Much of the evolution of music is driven by people making tiny tweaks as they slavishly copy each other. A pop world without any plagiarism would be barren indeed. This is most obvious when it comes to musical patterns that have been around too long for anyone to hold a copyright on them. (If someone actually owned the I-IV-V blues progression, he could buy Bill Gates with enough left over to make a down payment on the Moon.) When Jay Miller wrote and Kitty Wells recorded "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," for example, they didn't hide the fact that they were using the exact same melody as Hank Thompson's hit "The Wild Side of Life"; their song, after all, was a direct response to and comment on Thompson's record. But the tune was a lot older than "The Wild Side of Life"—that same series of notes had also been used in "Great Speckled Bird," "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes," and other old country songs. Indeed, the melody goes back to England. A lawsuit would have disappeared into a never-ending search for the original composer. But not every pilfered melody comes from the public domain. Listen to "Express Yourself," a top 5 R&B hit for Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band in 1970. Then listen to Jean Knight singing "Mr. Big Stuff," the #1 soul single of 1971. Seriously: Click the links and listen. They're the same goddamn song. "Mr. Big Stuff" came out less than a year after "Express Yourself," with a completely different set of songwriters credited; and yet nobody sued. Who knows: Maybe there's some older ur-funk record that Knight and Wright were both swiping. If so, Knight kept on swiping it: She recorded several barely-masked rewrites of "Mr. Big Stuff," because why mess with success? Song-clones like that aren't especially unusual, and a good DJ can spend hours seguing from one of them to another. But I'll give you just one more example—probably my favorite one. Here's Lyn Collins, a protégé of James Brown, singing a song called "Me and My Baby": src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Shq07MiCa6Q" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> You know that old South Park joke that if you want to write a Christian pop song, you should just take a love song and change every "baby" to "Jesus"? Here's country star Tom T. Hall seeming to prove the point: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XQldHVUySHM" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> He doesn't quite prove the point, because I think he wrote his song first. Both records came out in 1972, but "Me and Jesus" grazed the bottom of the Billboard charts in May; "Me and My Baby" didn't show up in Billboard til the fall. So this is probably a case of someone changing "Jesus" to "baby," not the other way around. The intro to Collins' record certainly sounds like she had church on her mind. But I'm not going to complain about Collin[...]



Copyright Craziness: Radiohead Claims Lana Del Rey Ripped Off Its Song

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 11:53:00 -0500

Musicians, or their lawyers, have increasingly sensitive ears, leading them to hear strong similarities between what most people would consider different songs. The results could have a chilling effect on creativity.

The latest example: Radiohead is suing singer-songwriter Lana del Rey, she says, for supposed similarities between her recent song "Get Free" and Radiohead's 1990s hit "Creep." The two tracks don't sound very similar to me, but here is a comparison:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cUQ0aNuhR-s" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="340" width="560">

It seems a weaker case even than when the estate of Marvin Gaye sued the creators of "Blurred Lines," claiming the hit 2013 song was a rip off of Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." Those two songs undeniably shared something of a sound, though as Pharrell Williams explained in his testimony, they diverged considerably in the details. That should have been enough for the judge to dismiss the case. Unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of Gaye's estate, awarding it $7.4 million in damages, which Gaye's family has been fighting over ever since.

A few months before that, representatives for Sam Smith and for Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne came to an agreement to share song-writing credits and royalties for Smith's "Stay With Me," which had some resemblances to Petty and Lynne's "I Won't Back Down." Smith claimed never to have heard the older song, but he agreed to settle anyway.

According to del Rey, Radiohead wants "100 percent" of her publishing for the song. She told concertgoers yesterday that she may have to pull the song from future pressings of her album Lust for Life.

Radiohead itself was successfully sued for ripping off a chord progression and a melody from the Hollies' 1972 song "The Air That I Breathe." The song that allegedly borrowed the Hollies' music? None other than "Creep":

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0XbogWA-riU" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="340" width="560">

Maybe it's a small miracle Major Lazer hasn't come after Del Rey for the title. They have a song also called "Get Free" on their 2013 album Free the Universe. Uh oh.




A Special Reason Festivus Airing of the Grievances: Podcast

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 10:00:00 -0500

"I got a lotta problems with you people; now, you're gonna hear about it!" So barked George* Costanza's dad Frank 20 years ago this week, in a classic episode of Seinfeld that introduced the country to Festivus, an alternative and heretofore private December holiday created by Daniel O'Keefe, the father of Seinfeld writer Dan O'Keefe. Now recognized as occurring on December 23, Festivus includes a simple aluminum pole, Feats of Strength (which involves wrestling the head of the household to the ground), and most famously, the Airing of Grievances. It is that last activity which wraps up our special year-in-review Reason Podcast, featuring myself, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Peter Suderman. But SPOILER ALERT: My grievance, originally aimed in the general direction of sellout fiscal conservatives who have ballooned the federal deficit and debt once back in power, turns at the last minute toward Nerdpants Suderman (pictured), who beginning at the 50-minute mark of this podcast decides to direct his Festivus animus at the makers of The Last Jedi for reasons he could not elucidate without IMMEDIATELY SPOILING THE MOVIE FOR ME AND ANYONE LISTENING. His response to a man who A) does not review movies professionally, and B) has young children? "You basically missed the spoilers deadline." The monster. The episode, however, focuses mostly on the big stories of 2017—the elephant in the room, the world's undercovered horrors and triumphs, the transformation of music-delivery systems, the last wheezing gasps of the 20th century, and (obviously) the aliens that will swallow us whole in 2018. Listen up, though cover your ears as necessary: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/372921980%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-RXV9j&color=%23f37021&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> *CORRECTION: The original version of this post referred to Jerry Constanza, because Matt Welch is a bad person who should feel bad. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.[...]