David Berkeley Hasn’t Forgotten His Fans

As you all know, I’ve been waiting on a record by David Berkeley called The Fire in My Head. For those of you who don’t know, Berkeley is an independent artist who has a bunch of really great records.

I ordered this one back in February, & gave it some time because vinyl most likely makes up a smaller percentage of his sales & is expensive to press. I figured that they probably press the records in batches, so they had to wait until they met the number they press at once. Well, the date the tracking number gave me came & went, & I became a little nervous.

I knew it wasn’t a problem on Berkeley’s end because the record had shipped & the tracking information followed it to my building. I just never received it. No one had seen it; it was just gone.

Jump to May. I was just about to ask Amazon to get my money back, so I could try to reorder it through Berkeley’s site instead, when the man who works in the mail room dropped a package on my desk. It looked like a record. He told me that it had been delivered by one of his colleagues to the wrong Bill, whose last name is vaguely similar to mine. When I opened it, I found that it was what I had been waiting for.

The meaning of this post is to acknowledge David Berkeley & his crew working at his store. See, when I opened the package the packing slip fell out. On it was a nice, handwritten note thanking me for buying the record & for being a fan. They said if I order through his website next time, they’ll be sure to give me some deals.

Whether or not the deals are there for anyone who purchases through his site doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that someone in his camp wrote a note to let a fan know he’s appreciated. This is the way it should be done, but unfortunately, you never see it. Granted, a musician who makes the celebrity list probably can’t do it because if you answer one, you have to answer a million more, but this just makes me appreciate the efforts of a passionate artist trying to make a living. Doing that isn’t an easy thing to do & I guarantee it took his sweat, blood & soul to get where he is. Small gestures like thank you notes make fans realize this & make it easy for them to support his work. I have never had a problem doing that, & this just reinforced it.

So, Mr. Berkeley, in the off chance you stumble upon this tiny corner of the internet which contains a blog about music & life’s little details, thank you to you & your wonderful support staff at your store. Your efforts don’t go unnoticed, I promise.

As for the rest of you, check out David Berkeley. It’s definitely worth your time. If you’re interested, you can buy his albums & other merchandise here.

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Eating Humble Pie: Sucking it Up & Eating… Guts

Hello all!

Humility- it’s a good thing.

Merriam Webster defines humility as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than  other people

If you’re showing humility, you’re being humble, & that brings us to the phrase this week: “Eat your humble pie.” We say this when talking about conceding defeat, without being mad or implying that you’re better than the person who beat you. It basically means being a good sport about losing something.

Wait, wait, wait. Humility isn’t tangible, so why do we eat it & why does it come in pie form?

Well, it’s very interesting, but in order to tell you, I need to send you back to the Fourteenth Century.

Put yourself in Medieval England. You’re poor & you work for the local noble family, in exchange for the right to live on their land. Your days are long & filled with manual labor, & most evenings are spent in your small house, eating your ration of the harvest & whatever else you may have saved or canned. It’s a pretty rough life, but every so often you get to experience a taste of the high life.

From time to time, your landlord opens his manor to everyone living on his land. He’s just gotten back from a hunting trip & wants to celebrate his catch. You get to rub shoulders with the local celebrities for a day, right through dinner. It’ll be a great time, as there’s plenty of food & alcohol & everyone gets to party.

Speaking of dinner, this one’s bound to be awesome. The family’s top chefs are going to cook up the meat & serve it to everyone. What a generous landlord! You watch as an amazing cut is presented to him(He gets the first bite. It’s only fair; it’s his house). Your mouth is watering already; it’s bound to be delicious.

Not so fast. You’re a peasant, remember? Yeah, this is feudalism, which is fueled by social class & status. You’re nothing to this guy & the dinner is just a formality. If he doesn’t invite you, he’ll look badly in front of his rich guests.

So, what’s on your menu? One thing: nombles. These are nothing more than the entrails of the hunted animal, which are cooked & presented to you in a pie. Yeah, that’s right, the lord eats steak, while you eat the bag from the inside of the Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t worry, it’s baked in a sweet flaky crust. Feel better? I didn’t think so.

This is how it went for about one hundred years, & by the Fifteenth century, the word “nombles” had evolved into “umble.” According to James Fratter’s article, “10 Misconceptions About Common Sayings,” nomble pie suffered from what etymologists like to call metanalysis, or rebracketing. This is the breaking down of a word into parts which aren’t quite the same as what was originally intended & it’s all because of pronunciation. Since the uniformity of English wasn’t well known to the peasants, common objects such as “a napron” changed to become what we know as “an apron.” For the same reasons, “a nomble pie” became spelled “an umble pie.” Over time, because of certain English accents which don’t pronounce the letter H, umble’s spelling became humble & stuck. Those dialects which do pronounce H, naturally, well, pronounced it.

So, there it is, folks. It’s a long & complicated evolution of spelling & pronunciation of a phrase which very literally meant, “Let the cool rich people eat their delicious food, while you field workers get to sit in the corner with the scraps.  I’d better not hear you complain about it.” So, the next time feel ashamed about eating your humble pie because you lost an argument, just remember, you could be eating an animal-guts pie. Admitting you’re wrong doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Well, that’s it for today. Now you know; you’re welcome.

 

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Tonight’s Blood Moon: Nothing to Fear

Good morning bologna followers. I hope everyone had a good weekend. I sure did.

 

Let’s kick off this Monday with some science stuff.

Now, before I dive into the article, I feel the need to make a disclaimer, seeing as this is the internet & words can be taken to mean things that weren’t intended: I am in no way knocking any religion in this article. I am merely disproving ideas that certain people are spreading, in what I believe to be an attempt to make money off of the fear of those who believe in a higher power.

That being said, let’s get to it.

Very early tomorrow morning, if you go outside & look at the moon it’ll be a shade of deep red.

“A red moon?” you say.

Yes, a red moon, which many people, including a few Evangelist Christians & astrologers, call “blood moon.” Both groups claim that because there are going to be four of these in the next two years, the end of the world is coming. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re all going to be fine & the absolute worst thing that can happen is that you’ll go outside at an outrageous hour & watch the moon turn a beautiful color. If that’s the worst that can happen, I’d say it’s a pretty sweet deal.

A lunar eclipse. The moon turns red.  Photo credit: Juan lacruz

A lunar eclipse. The moon turns red.
Photo credit: Juan lacruz

The concept of the “blood moon” was coined by Evangelical pastor, John Hagee, while his colleague, Pastor Mark Biltz helped popularize the end of days connection.  “Blood moon” is specifically a term for the four total eclipses which are due in the next two years & these pastors have both widely spread the idea that God is telling us that the world is coming to an end. You can read about Biltz’ theory here (before the end of the article disproves the entire idea). Basically, these two Evangelists cite a Bible verse from the Book of Revelation, which states that the moon will undergo some very similar changes, & that signifies the Apocalypse. After that, the idea just spirals out.

This is the verse, as written in the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood. –Revelation 6:12

Pretty eerie, huh? But wait; there’s more! The first of these lunar eclipses falls on the Jewish holiday, Passover, which is only a week ahead of Christianity’s most important one, Easter. The similarities are so striking that Hagee even wrote an entire book about it. It’s called Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.*

I won’t give astrology too much space here. You know how I feel about that subject. These guys, on the other hand are all screaming things like, “The moon is going to be red!”, “It signifies a dreaded change” & “A red moon lined up with the sun & Earth means misfortune, even though the notion that the positions of the solar system’s bodies in relation to us having any impact on our lives has been scientifically proven wrong, time & time again!” Okay, so I made that last part up, but I still stand by my point.

 

Anyway, In typical US news fashion, the networks picked up on the scent & in their standard ratings-driven form & made a bunch of light-toned reports which, of course, only fueled the end of the world theories. This is why I was impressed with this morning’s Today Show segment on the subject… at first. They gave an overview of what’s actually supposed to happen, which was refreshing. Then, they flushed all their credibility down the toilet after they used a picture of Mars & passed it off as the moon in their info-graphic. Oh, well; they tried. Either way, Carson Daily & crew (a phrase I’ll never take seriously because: TRL) did their best to explain that what will be happening during the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Without further ado, let’s get to the bottom of this.

We’re talking about nothing more than your standard lunar eclipse & because of the positioning & timing, over two years, there will be three more, which will come at regular six month intervals.

What explains the red color?

The moon, Earth & sun will be lined up, with the our planet sitting in between the other two. Sunight directed at the moon must pass through the atmosphere of the earth, & as it does so the gasses which make up our air scatter the scatter most of the wavelengths. Red light is let through. The same idea causes beautiful sunsets & sunrises, as the sun is low on the horizon. Depending on how complete the eclipse is (in some instances, the three bodies aren’t perfectly lined up, causing a partial eclipse), the light reflected off the moon ranges from an orange-red, through a deep “blood” red. The light reflected back from the moon all but disappears during a total eclipse. Look at these pictures from Universe Today’s article, “The Science Behind the ‘Blood Moon Tetrad’ and Why Lunar Eclipses Don’t Mean the End of the World.” Those are four lunar eclipses on four different dates, & every picture has some shade of red light reflected from the lunar surface.

 

What makes this one different than a normal eclipse?

Individually, it is no different, but this brings us to the word “tetrad.” The prefix “tetra” means four, just like the prefix, “tri” means three. In astronomical terms, a tetrad is a series of four lunar eclipses which happen during the span of a relatively short period of time. This one is two years, with each one taking place about six months apart. With the Revelation verse as their proof, they claim that the first red-colored moon will kick off the end of days. The coincidence is pretty striking…

Except when you look at it closely. Then it’s not so striking because tetrads aren’t that uncommon. The same Universe Today article, displays some very useful tables, which show the total number of lunar eclipses & tetrads dating back to the Eleventh Century & as far forward as the Thirtieth. The number of eclipses per century range from fifty-seven, in the Twenty-ninth, to eighty-seven in the Twenty-sixth. As for the actual groups of four, they span from zero in some centuries to as many as eight in others, so none of these things are really that rare in the scheme of things. Oh yeah, & the last one happened just ten years ago.

Phases of a lunar eclipse... ending in the red light reflected off the lunar surface. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user: QHyseni

Phases of a lunar eclipse… ending in the red light reflected off the lunar surface.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user: QHyseni

 

What’s significant about the first eclipse coinciding with Passover?
Actually, nothing. Most people don’t realize that Passover always falls on a full moon. Hey, guess what. Lunar eclipses always occur on full moons too. In fact, since the First Century CE, there have been eight tetrads which fell on Passover & some of these were years when Easter fell on the same day. All of these occurred without any problem.

Of course, in an astrological sense, the moon “turning red” means nothing. Let’s pretend for a second that the scientific data disproving astrology was invalid & that the gravities of the different planets & the forces of their magnetic fields did have significant impacts on our lives. Since an eclipse is just a trick of light, no physical characteristic of the moon changes during the process. No mass is gained, no mass is lost & its orbit remains the same. Its tug on Earth does not change. Astrologers: You have nothing to worry about.

 

All that said, I think that there are a couple of things we can learn two big things from this:

– Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, putting words in God’s mouth is never a good thing.
– Don’t pay attention to astrology. It doesn’t make sense.

So there you have it. Come tomorrow morning & the mornings of October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015 & September 28, 2015, we’re all going to wake up & go about our days. That’s good because I have a ton of records, phrases & sciency things to share with you.

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the day & I’ll see you soon with another post!
Now you know; you’re welcome.

 

*In my opinion, this & many other public doomsday theories are ploys to make money. I don’t believe this book is here to warn people; It’s here to make wads of cash. Come on. The cover looks like a freaking sci-fi novel.

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Hanson: Anthem (2013)

I have a fairly interesting record to talk about today. I’ll get to that in a second, but first:

 

Updates:

David Berkeley: The Fire in My Head (Straw Man): I have no clue what happened to this record. I am going to contact Amazon & see what they say.

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife(Capitol)
I bought this on iTunes a few years back, after the band was brought to my attention by a few different friends. It quickly became one of my favorite albums. When I saw it on vinyl at Newbury Comics a few weeks ago, I had to pick it up.

 

Hanson- Anthem:


Above, I said that I had an interesting album for you & I would imagine many of you have forgotten about these guys. By “these guys,” I mean Hanson. Yes, Hanson, the teenagers who sang, “Mmmbop,” otherwise known as the catchiest song on the planet (All jokes aside, they totally own it. They still play it live & nail it with adult voices & insanely tight three-part harmonies). I know what you’re all thinking. Before you click the “back” button, just read this. It won’t take too long.

Anthem Label

Hanson’s Anthem label with Hanson & 3CG logos

Anyway, in the wake of their ridiculously huge success in the late 90s & a bunch of corporate firings & mergers, they found themselves on Island Def Jam Records (a hip hop label, of all places). Between 1999-2000, while signed with IDJ, Hanson wrote & recorded their second major release, This Time Around.  The label let them record it without to much input from their executives, but made it clear that it wasn’t too keen on the more mature, more classic rock & pop-soul oriented music the band had written. They essentially told Hanson, “Hey, even though you’re older now, you need to keep acting 12, so we can make money,” because Def Jam is a huge label & of course they did.

The album was met with moderate success, but the album didn’t come close to selling the numbers of their first record. After a few weeks, the numbers were crunched, most likely by some high-level accounting executive who had never met Hanson. At any rate, IDJ decided that the band weren’t bringing in enough money & pulled all of the band’s tour funding… right smack-dab in the middle of a massive international tour. Despite this, as a thank you to their loyal fans, Hanson continued to honor their tour dates, despite the fact that Isaac, Taylor & Zac undoubtedly came home with massive holes in their wallets.

Fast forward a year. Both Hanson & the label decided it’s time to give record making another go. Great, right? The band got to write more & the label got to make more money! A win win, fairy-tale ending!

Hold on a second. We’re talking about one of the biggest record companies in the country here, not to mention they were a hip hop label, which, at the time, had no idea how to deal with a rock band.

Beginning in 2001, Hanson presented IDJ with song after song. With each batch of new demos sent to the company, the response from Jeff Fenster* was more or less the same: “You’ve got some good stuff here, but it doesn’t have it.” Three years, ninety rejected original songs, & an incalculable amount of the label’s unarticulated statements as to what “it” was later, an excruciating legal battle took place in order for the band to finally be out of the contract.**

Not too long after, they formed their own record company, 3CG Records. The gamble of their first independent release, Underneath, paid off, reaching number one on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums & number 27 on Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums. Their single, “Penny & Me,” reached no. two on Billbard’s Hot 100 Singles.

Since the release of Underneath, Hanson has put out three more acclaimed records, with Anthem being the latest. It was released on June 18th, 2013, the same day as Stephen Kellogg’s Blunderstone Rookery.

 

Cover Art/ Vinyl Comments:

Anthem's album cover

Anthem’s album cover


Anthem has a pretty straightforward cover, set on a black background. It features Zac, Taylor & Isaac standing next to each other, in the shadows.

The other interesting thing about this record, is that it’s a thirteen song album, but was pressed on two discs of 180 gram vinyl. Each side has three or four tracks. I’ve looked into it & I can’t find any information as to why they do this. The only thing I found was that a lot of modern musicians release their vinyl editions like this.

Anthem's 2 disc set

Anthem’s 2 disc set

My personal theory is that in this day & age, people like to skip from track to track, rather than play an album from start to finish. Having three tracks per side makes it easier for the listener to select the track. They only have to take out one record. I’m not claiming this to be the truth, because in all honesty, I have no idea. I can’t imagine it’s more cost effective. If anyone who reads this knows the real reason, please leave me a comment.

 

Sound:
Hanson has come a long way since their “Mmmbop” & Middle of Nowhere days. They’ve matured greatly from record to record, changing their sound with each new release, but this one takes a much larger leap. Hanson had a rough time making Anthem & all three members have said that the band’s internal tensions were higher than ever & they butt heads quite a bit. As captured in their documentary, Re Made in Americathe band struggled to balance three very different artistic visions for the music. Things came to a boiling point. When the time came to decide whether to call it quits or keep going, they chose the second option, channeling all of the tension into making the best record they could.

That being said, Anthem & its predecessor, Shout it out are two completely different records. They really changed it up, while still retaining Hanson’s signature three-part harmonies & album format. Taylor & Zac take most of the leads, while making sure to leave room for a song sung by oldest brother, Isaac. The tone out of Isaac’s guitar has remained relatively the same, but for the most part, this is where the similarities stop. While Shout it Out his extremely bright, upbeat & piano-driven, Anthem takes a darker turn. The music is much harder & hits you like a punch. The drums pound, the guitar rocks & the piano is buried much deeper in the mix. It’s not quite a sound I expected from them.

The disc itself sounds great. As I said before, it was released on 180 gram vinyl, so it’s durable & less prone to warps. There are a more few pops than I’d like on a brand new record, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Early on, there was a small skip at the beginning of the song, “Juliet,” but that seems to have gone away. There aren’t many other things to say regarding quality.

 

Final Thoughts:
I liked this album a lot, but that comes with a little reservation. It’s definitely Hanson’s most mature work. There’s no question about that, but something about its darker tone seems to slow it down. I still enjoyed it, even though its darker feel tended to slow the pace down a bit.

Key tracks:
“Get the Girl Back”
“Juliet”
“Already home”
“For Your Love”

If you’d like to purchase Anthem in any format, you can do so through Hanson’s website, here.

 

*Fenster was the head of Island Def Jam’s A & R department at the time. I won’t say more because I refuse to give him too much of my time. If you want to know more, you can watch him happily spout on & on about his “musical” & “creative” accomplishments here.

**If you want to learn about Hanson’s battle with IDJ in its entirety, you can download their documentary, Strong Enough to Break, in episodic installments on iTunes, or watch it in the same format here. The film originated as a “making the record” style documentary, but quickly switched gears to become an incredibly detailed documentation of the problems many bands face when dealing with gigantic corporate record labels. You can also buy it on DVD, along with a CD of sixteen unreleased tracks & demos from their merch store.

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Indian Givers: Centuries Old Misunderstandings

Hello, Bologna readers.

This week, I have an expression which has a good amount of historical context to it. It’s an extremely common one & I would be very surprised if any of you hadn’t heard it before. Let’s get to it.

I remember hearing the phrase for the first time from my grandmother, while we were visiting her house on Cape Cod. One of my father’s friends was visiting with his young children & they had brought cookies for dessert. As they were leaving, one of the kids grabbed the box of cookies, not realizing that it’s customary to leave the food you bring to someone’s house as a gift. My dad’s friend explained the custom & my grandmother jokingly called him an Indian giver. Being no more than twelve, I didn’t know the phrase either, so I asked what it meant. She explained that it’s a phrase used to label someone who brings a gift & tries to take it back.

For many English people, the phrase implies a reference to Indians from India & for most North Americans, it implies a reference to the Native population.  Unfortunately for the English, the latter is correct, & the widespread usage has given those populations a reputation as people who take back their gifts. This is a big misunderstanding & can actually be drawn back to the ignorance of European settlers in what is now the United States & Canada. After realizing their mistake, they deliberately spun it to make the Natives look bad, labeled it a lack of civility & used it to justify warring & conquering.

See, many of the Native cultures had group mentalities, which resembled communism. They believed that land belonged to the Earth & that humans were just borrowing it temporarily. This idea extended to property as well. Many items were communally owned, so people also borrowed from & shared with others. Everything was done for the good of the tribe.

There wasn’t any problem with this until the Europeans showed up because they were the exact opposite. Land ownership concrete rules regarding possessions & working for personal gain were cornerstones of their society, so when the two cultures met, there was obviously some friction. Trading was the biggest trigger for those tensions.

Many times, when a trade was made, a member of a tribe would come to request the item back, a perfectly acceptable gesture, according Native culture. The Europeans, having the opposite societal values, didn’t take too kindly to this & begrudgingly did so. Other times, they’d flat out refuse, offending the tribe. Sometimes, a tribal member would come & just take it back, which, of course, offend the settlers. On & on it went like this.

The men on the Lewis & Clark expedition met many Native Americans & in no time, predictably ran into these problems. Because neither side had a concept of cultural understanding, for the most part, the groups didn’t get along. This is where the propaganda comes in. Both Lewis & Clark were angry, & knowing that their journals would be published upon their return, they labeled the natives as, “impertinent and thievish.” Well, the journals were published & word spread. So did public opinion.

The propaganda trip that white settlers took would eventually go as far as to use the word “Indian” to describe something fake or a cheap substitute. Indian tea & Indian corn were cheap substitutes for British goods, & the connotation of the wod. Indian summers, or seemingly random spells of warm weather which come right before the turn of the winter season, take the name from this, as well. The unnatural bouts of summer weather are deceitful & essentially fake summers.

 

Interesting stuff, isn’t it?

Now you know; you’re welcome.

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The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations/Let’s Go Away for Awhile (1966)

Hello everyone, its time to read about a new record! But first:

Updates:
David Berkeley: The Fire in My Head (Straw Man): I still have yet to receive this; I have no idea where it is.

Simon & Garfunkel: Wednesday Morning, 3AM (Columbia): Still no word on this one. Hasn’t been shipped. I guess the guy legitimately can’t find it. I haven’t heard from him since last time, so my guess would be that it’s not coming. Time to find another one! David Berkeley:

 

The Beach Boys- Good Vibrations/Let’s Go Away for Awhile:

photo

“Good Vibrations” Side A, complete with Capitol’s 1960s swirl label

The origins of “Good Vibrations” can be traced back to the childhood of Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys’ songwriter, producer & all around leader. His mother subscribed in the new age belief that all matter gives off energy, or vibrations & that dogs, in particular, are excellent receptors. She told a young Wilson that they tend bark & growl around bad vibrations & act happily & playful around the good ones. Whether he believed in it or not, the notion stuck & he played with the idea for a long time.

Jump to 1966.

Once Pet Sounds was released & met with indifference from the general population, but amazing acclaim from the music community, Wilson decided that he wanted to make an even better album. First, he had to start with a single. Thus, his new project began its extremely long & costly studio process.

“Good Vibrations” is beautifully crafted, with very unique instrumentation. For one, cellos were brought in to add almost a percussive sound to the chorus. Played under the vocals of singer, Mike Love, the quick, sharp triplets drive the song along. Another new addition to popular music was the electro-theremin, or tannerin, which involves turning knobs via an attached slider, to mimic the sound of an actual theremin.*

The recording technique was like the one used for recoding Pet Sounds, but to a much larger extent. The song took over eight months for Wilson to record, rerecord & mix his final product. In addition, multiple studios in five different complexes ran at the same time, with each one recording a different section of the song. It was a tiring process, with songwriter constantly running between studios & figuring out instruments’ arrangements. This multi-studio technique would eventually be adopted by The Beatles to record St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band & The Beatles (White Album).

It was also a costly endeavor, with Capitol Records shelling out $50,000 for the record’s completion. That’s $362,316.36 in today’s money. Remember, those are just recording costs. Promotion & distribution, the most expensive part of record-making, are not figured into the fifty grand. The price was, & still is unheard of.**

Unfortunately, the one place that Wilson didn’t get support was from the rest of The Beach Boys. They had met the idea of making Pet Sounds with a substantial level of ambivalence, so when the album failed to do as well as they’d have liked, they were even more reluctant to record “Good Vibrations” & Smile, the album which it was slated to support in advance. Some members also claimed the song was too long. ***

Ever the classy guy, Wilson never specified which band members opposed the record, but this excerpt Rolling Stone Article, written by David Felton gives a good sense of the opposition which fed the frustration that eventually played a role in his mental breakdown.

DAVID FELTON: Did everybody support what you were trying to do?
BRIAN WILSON: No, not everybody. There was a lot of “Oh you can’t do this, that’s too modern,” or, “That’s going to be too long a record.” I said “No, it’s not going to be too long a record, it’s going to be just right.”
DAVID FELTON: Who resisted you? Your manager? The record company?
BRIAN WILSON: No, people in the group, but I can’t tell ya who. We just had resisting ideas. They didn’t quite understand what this jumping from studio to studio was all about. And they couldn’t conceive of the record as I did. I saw the record as a totality piece.

 

Nonetheless, Wilson convinced his band to record the vocals & release the single, most likely with the, “Well, this is my masterpiece & I don’t see any of you writing anything anyway,” argument. The joke was on the rest of them, though, because “Good Vibrations,” backed with “Let’s Go Away for Awhile,” an instrumental off of Pet Sounds, smashed the charts, landing the number one spot in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Rhodesia, the UK & the US.

photo 2

“Good Vibrations'” Side B, “Let’s Go Away for Awhile”

Visual inspection:
You’ll notice there’s no “Cover Art” section in this post. That’s because in the 1960s, singles normally didn’t come with cover art. Yes, there were picture sleeves, but those were relatively few in numbers. The vast majority of 45s came in regular seven inch paper sleeves, & that’s exactly how I received this one.

photo 1

A 7″ paper sleeve.

When inspecting records, 45s must be treated differently than LPs. Generally, the quality of the vinyl on a single won’t be as good & it’ll have much more wear. Remember, these things only came with two songs, & if it was a number one like this one, chances are, it saw a ton of play. When I looked at my new copy of “Good Vibrations,” it definitely looked loved, but I have no complaints. There are no major gouges or deep scratches on either side. The record has only a few scuffs, which I judged wouldn’t have much impact on the audio quality.

 

Sound:
When mixed properly, seven inch singles are supposed to sound superior to LPs. This is because the record is spinning at 45 RPM instead of 33 1/3. The faster spin of the record causes the recording stylus to cover more space over the same amount of time, meaning the analog audio is much less compressed. However, in the 1960s, there was an unfortunate trade off between quality & consumerism. Old singles were mixed to play on cheaper turntables because the biggest consumers were children & teenagers. Most didn’t own state-of-the-art stereo systems, but instead, had small, portable battery powered players, with internal speakers. I found that the sound was very mixed very flatly, because the engineers in no doubt mixed the music for small, tinny-sounding speakers. When I put it on, there were quite a few pops & hisses, but that’s what you’d expect. The record is forty-eight years old & has been played countless times. I’m not worried about it at all. I think it adds to the listening experience. Despite the loss of audio quality in the mix, the record seems to play louder than any of my albums do. I can hear it play louder when I turn the volume down. I need to do some more research on this, but I’m guessing it’s because the stylus vibrates more intensely with the faster spin.

 

Final Thoughts:
This record was given to me as a gift & I absolutely love it. It’s a song I’ve always wanted on vinyl & now I finally have it. The record is wonderfully complex & I can only continue to praise Brian Wilson for his genius efforts & for his contributions to modern music. If you want to pick up a vinyl copy of “Good Vibrations,” they’re all over eBay & in used record shops. Look carefully & make sure you get something in good shape. There are plenty that aren’t.

 

*They’re cool instruments. Seriously. You play them by waving your hands between two antennae, which changes the pitch & volume. See one in action.

** Take a look at the chart in this NPR article, taken from an episode of the “All Things Considered” radio show, which breaks down the costs of making a Rihanna record. NPR calculated that from brainstorming to promotion & release, it costs $1,078,000 to make a her hit single. Let’s say Rihanna record in 1966. Putting out a single would have cost about $148,700. Now, in order to compare the two recording costs, we need to subtract the cost of promotion, because Brian Wilson’s bill of $50,000 was for recording & musician fees, only. Rihanna’s promotion is about a million dollars in today’s money & in 1966, her promotion would’ve been $138,000. So after making the subtractions, we’re left with $10,800 in 1966 money. That’s about a fifth as much. Still, that’s assuming that Wilson used songwriters & producers. He didn’t; he did those things himself. Except for studio musicians, Capitol didn’t even need spend money to hire outside the company & they still spent FIVE times as much on recording. I’d say they were pretty invested in the project.

***The record’s run time is 3:39, which doesn’t seem too long now, but in those days, it was. Singles were about 1:30 to 2:30. It’s so long that the run-out groove is too short for my tone arm. I have to turn the auto-stop off because the tone arm hits its stop point just before the song starts its fadeout.

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Deadlines: Civil War POW Security

Good Monday morning Bologna readers. I hope you all had a good weekend.

 

Many of us have full-time jobs & with that line of work come many schedules we have to meet, or deadlines. It’s a phrase we use every day, without really thinking about it.

Deadlines may be stressful things to meet these days, but when the phrase was first coined, the stress level (understatement of the century), was much higher & they were things you definitely didn’t want to come in contact with.

Let’s go back to the American Civil War.

Before the war started, methods of holding prisoners of war were varied. Some were kept in actual prisons with real criminals, while others were kept on prison ships, where diseases like smallpox ran rampant. After the outbreak of war, the number of POWs rose very quickly. Almost instantaneously, both the Union & Confederate armies had a gigantic number of captives on their hands, the likes of which had never been seen before. Both armies had to begin thinking of new ways to keep prisoners & so, both sides simultaneously decided to build detainment centers, modeled after the first prisoner of war camp, built around the turn of the Eighteenth Century in England, called Norman Cross.

One of the most notorious prisons was built by the Confederates in Andersonville, Georgia to hold Federal prisoners caught in the Richmond, Virginia area. Even though POW prisons were works in progress at the time & mistreatment was common in many contemporary camps, this one was notorious for its sadism towards the captives it housed, as food was deliberately withheld & the prisoners had to make do with a single stream to use as a shower, kitchen & bathroom. It was designed to house 10,000 prisoners, but would eventually contain three times as much. Unsurprisingly, the place was a disease breeding ground & pool of starvation. I’m not going to post pictures of survivors. They’re not pretty.

Around the edge, fifteen foot walls made of logs were constructed, with guard towers nicknamed “pigeon roosts” positioned every ninety feet or so. About 20 feet from the wooden walls, a fairly shallow trench was dug. In some areas, it was replaced with a short fence, but both served the same purpose. What were these built for? Well, let’s let Walter Bowie, a captain in the Confederate Army explain it through one of his inspection reports, dated May 10, 1864:

On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a… line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot.

AndersonvilleWall

Reconstructed walls of Andersonville, complete with pigeon roosts. Note the small fence. You can also see the most basic of tentsPhoto courtesy of Jud McCranie

Yes, that’s right, guards were positioned in these guard towers & they had orders to shoot & kill any prisoner who crossed this line & regardless of whether it was an accident or not.

What did soldiers come to call this marker? They called it the “deadline.”

The Confederates weren’t the only ones guilty of deplorable POW conditions, & many camps in the North adopted deadlines, as well. This includes the Union Chicago-area prison, Camp Douglas, which because of its detestable treatment of its prisoners, especially during the city’s freezing winters, earned the nickname “The North’s Andersonville.”

The website, Today, I Found Out’s article, “Origin of the ‘Deadline,'” describes the natural evolution from POW security measure to time limit. Before its modern use became widespread, it switched from a literal meaning, to a figurative one. For example, in 1900, a parent might have set a deadline on a child’s behavior at dinner. The child might have been sent from the table, if they misbehaved.

The phrase as we know it came to life in the 1920’s, in the newspaper business. If you cross the deadline to get the paper out, people won’t get the news & you’ll most certainly be fired.

So, there it is, everyone. That’s the morbid origin of the term “deadline.” I hope you have a great rest of the week, & be sure not to cross those deadlines at work.

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