Yello

Yello is a group that I find endlessly inspiring. Their early musical and video output is an perfect recipe: campy, sleazy, debonair, scary, funny, trashy, and unexpected. Enjoy.

a brief history: Yello is the collaboration between two Swiss Gentlemen, Boris Blank (1952-) and Dieter Meier (1945-). Neither of them is a trained musician. Blank is responsible for the musical output, Meier for lyrics, vocals, management, videos, and presumably art direction. Meier was born to a millionaire industrialist family, has been a successful conceptual artist since the 70’s, a sometimes professional poker player, alternate on the Swiss Olympic golf team, and has a ranch in Argentina. They are the same Yello that made that song “oh yeah” from Ferris Bueller and that Twix commercial, but don’t hold that against them.

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Soft Prog | Experimental and Smooth

One of the joys of record collecting is getting to create new taxonomies of music. Record stores do an passable (albeit subtly racist) job of organizing records so they’re easy to find, but most of them don’t do much to help create new connections and genres of music.

Every time we reorganize our records we create a new system before we start shuffling things around. The joy in the end is discovering cultural associations and musical connections that we didn’t know existed before. Suddenly artists we’d never connected to one another sit side by side on shelves. The gaps in our collection are exposed, and most excitingly, new genres emerge.

A genre I would love to see gain wide acknowledgment is Soft Prog. Soft Prog is (or should be) a cousin of traditional progressive rock, but with a decidedly smooth sensibility. Think about it like this: if there is a bleed on one end of the spectrum from early metal bands (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple) into prog groups (King Crimson, Jethro Tull), then soft prog would be the other end of prog that interfaces with smoother, “light” rock and “easy listening” (The Captain and Tennille or Barry Manilow for example).

As a fan of this wholly contrived genre, I’ve compiled a few examples below. They span from the early 70’s to the early 00’s. I’ll refrain from any amateur musicology that would attempt to articulate the common musical thread and instead let these songs do the work for me. Enjoy. Next up: Avant Soul.

10 CC | I’m not in Love

The Band | Whispering Pines

Roxy Music | Mother of Pearl

Alan Parsons Project | Eye in the Sky

Robert Fripp and Daryl Hall | North Star

Robert Wyatt | Shipbuilding

Sebastien Tellier | Universe

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Cool Lessons | The Ronettes Be My Baby (w/ a little Sam and Dave at the end)

The Ronettes were one of the greatest girl groups of all time. This clip devolves into a sort of hysteria induced collapse. I imagine Ronnie Spector as a preacher in a church of teenage cool who’s being driven by a mass hypnosis machine devised by her mad svengali husband. Its funny to think that parents were scared of rock n roll, because this has clearly taken over these kids minds.

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Wayfaring Stranger | Bill Monroe

Michel and I came across this video yesterday. I was already thinking of doing a bit about how cool Marty Stuart was in Lester Flatts’s Nashville Grass. After seeing this I couldn’t imagine posting any other bluegrass video. Even Lester Flatt was just Bill Monroe’s side man, and Marty was Lester’s side man. As cool as he is, when Marty Stuart is standing on stage with Bill Monroe he’s just a man standing next to an icon. So here’s the original, Mr. Bill Monroe.

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Phyllis Diller | Charles Nelson Reilly

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Throbbing Gristle

Throbbing Gristle are performing in New York tonight. I’m too excited to think about anything else.

Its hard to explain my love of this group.

I don’t think there are many casual Throbbing Gristle fans, I’ve never heard someone say “oh yeah, my friend put one of their songs on a mix. I kind of liked it.” I can’t recall ever hearing a Throbbing Gristle track played in public.

They are role models for me, examples of how people can live (not just perform, but actually live) creatively and uncompromisingly in the face of mainstream/mass culture. Most musicians fall into one of two categories: Performers who are just pretending on stage, and performers who have made enough money to pretend wherever they are. This isn’t the case with TG. They’re just people, but they have made it ok to not be “ordinary” people.

I find it telling that their music hasn’t been successfully co-opted like virtually every one of their contemporaries. I can’t imagine “Hamburger Lady” being used in a commercial or as the stirring soundtrack to a movie. Even though its thirty years old, their music isn’t nostalgic for me, its the music that I want to hear today. Its intellectual, its visceral, its primitive and complex, its smart, vulgar, brutal, and caressing all at once. And I’ll bear witness tonight.

Hot on the Heels of Love

Discipline

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Koko Taylor – Wang Dang Doodle

I grew up listening to the blues. My mom in particular was a serious fan, and Koko Taylor was a favorite in our house. As a kid I had a difficult time imagining the context for this music. Unlike rock and pop, which are culturally ubiquitous, the extent of the varied histories and idioms of the blues haven’t been assimilated as readily. Naturally I had seen pictures of BB King and Buddy guy, but until we moved to Chicago when I was 9 there was no image to accompany Koko Taylor.
Ever since I started to put the pieces together, I had a hard time matching up differences between so many fans of the blues and the performers themselves. How could Eric Clapton see how cool Muddy Waters was and decide that bell bottoms would work for him? Maybe he’d never seen a film. My parents and their friends certainly had nothing in common with this. Little Walter and Koko Taylor are immeasurably cool in this clip, whereas my parents were not.

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Memories are made of this, Veronika Voss

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