Always take the music with you

speakers
The item pictured above is an UE ROLL Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker. It’s waterproof, shockproof, and delivers excellent quality sound when connected to a smartphone. Susan bought one from the duty free at Heathrow on our trip last month to the UK.

Last week, Susan and I did a bike ride to the Tel Aviv namal and back. Susan decided that she wanted to have her music with her, so she charged up the device, and stuck it in her backpack. Controlling the sound from her handlebar mounted iPhone, she was able to achieve what she wanted. While some of the music wasn’t to my taste, there was some that caught the mood exactly. For example, we found ourselves singing Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody as we cycled over the bridge at Herzliya Railway Station. There were a couple of other pop classics that we murdered, too! It was great fun. And, as continuing proof of the power of music, it gave an extra boost to our cycling performance.

Susan has used the device quite a bit, and is very satisfied with it. Since her hearing is much better than mine, and she says the sound is good, that’s a decent piece of praise. Worth checking out that piece of kit if you are in the market for a Bluetooth speaker. Incidentally, the guy at Dixons at Heathrow tried to convince Susan to buy the cheaper model. But, this one was the Which? recommendation, and Susan stuck to her guns. My bet is that Dixons have too much stock of the cheaper one.

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Lou Reed and the Wise Child

With Pesach on its way, here’s some alternative reading about one of the themes of the chag. It’s from a 2014 essay by Steven Lee Beeber, on the Fathom site:

When I was writing my book about the Jewish origins of punk, The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s, I referred to Lou Reed as both the Alter Kocker (old fart) Indie Rocker and the Zayde (grandfather) of the movement. I still believe these titles fit the man, but in the wake of his recent death, I have come to see that he is deserving of a third. Like the figure in the Passover Seder that he played annually in public, Reed was the Wise Child. Unlike his brothers, the Wicked Child, the Simple Child, and the One Unable to Ask, he saw both the tragedy and triumph of Jewish history.

It wasn’t always that way.

Read it all, here.  Lou Reed’s Jewish strand is the subject of this 2013 post of mine.

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“I go to parties, sometimes until four…”

So, as I was saying, my record player is now working

joe-walsh-1

The first record on the turntable was Joe Walsh‘s But Seriously Folks, a 1978 release that I bought on a whim, enticed by the bestselling single Life’s been good to me.

Unfortunately, I did not like anything else on the album at the time I bought it and first listened to it, and after almost 40 years nothing has happened to change that. In my defense, this acquisition was at a time when information about a record – especially how it sounded – was thin on the ground. Generally, a decent sounding single was as much as you might know. But after this disaster, I cut back on impulse purchases, and tried to buy only on the basis of recommendations from those people I knew with more extensive musical libraries, and reasonably compatible tastes.

joe-walsh-2-png

The single still sounds good, and accompanying the brilliant guitar work, there are some quirky lyrics:

“I go to parties, sometimes until four
It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.”

I know how he feels.

According to Wikipedia:

The original eight-minute album version of this track was edited down to 4½ minutes for single release and this became Walsh’s biggest solo hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard chart.

It’s a pleasure to listen to the full version of the song. I also note from the Critical Reception part of that article, that I wasn’t the only one who thought that the rest of the album wasn’t as good – accepting, of course, that all musical taste is relative.

This record does not – as some others do – transport me back to a time and place. Probably that’s because it got so little play compared to other albums; it truly was disappointing. At least that one track is worth a spin. Again. And again.

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How to fix a record player

Depending on your perspective, the following is either a story of cultural differences, or my well embedded anal retentive type nature. You decide.

I have not posted anything about my record collection for a while, because my beloved record player wasn’t working. I pressed the button, but the turntable wouldn’t move. I checked the power supply, but I knew that was OK as the turntable light was on. So, I turned it off, then on, then off, then on. No joy. I tried it at 33 RPM and 45 RPM. Still no joy. I unplugged the turntable, and looked at how easy it would be to take it apart. It looked too difficult, and I wasn’t that confident that I would know what to do, even if I did get it open.

So, the record player stayed where it was, broken, and waiting for me to get round to dealing with it. And my record collection stayed unplayed.

It remained like this for months, until Sarah-Lee and Tomer mentioned this hi-fi store in Givatayim by the name of Fuse. It had proper listening rooms to try out audio kit before you buy it, sold and repaired every imaginable piece of audio kit, and seemed to offer a professional, reliable service. More importantly, they said they could fix a Linn turntable.

Aside. I thought that Linn had an Israeli distributor. But when I went to the Linn site and tried out Israel in the Find a shop feature, this is what I got.

My nearest authorized Linn hi-fi store...

My nearest authorized Linn hi-fi store…

I don’t think I’ll be going there in the near future…

Meantime, back in Israel, we arranged a trip out to Givatayim with the record deck. I took it into Fuse. I told the guy serving me what the problem was: the record player is not working. Can you fix it?

He plugged the record player into a power source. He turned it on. You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather – the damn thing was working. The turntable was turning! I protested that it had not been working. I think he believed me. Then, he turned it off. Then, he turned it on. This time it id not work. The turntable stood defiant and still, not moving. Aha. Vindication!

I told him that this was how it was when I tried it at home. I clicked the on button, the light went on, but nothing happened.

At this point, he did something I would never have done: he gently nudged the turntable platter, encouraging it to move. It moved. It worked. He turned it off and on again. Again it refused to move. But once more, he gave it a little nudge, and it was fine. He put a record on to make sure it was working, and it was. He told me that whatever the problem was, it was not worth opening up the delicate insides.

I was astonished. I would never have thought to do anything like give the platter a push. If you turn the damn thing on, it should work without needing a push. Obviously that only applies outside of Israel…

Anyway, I now have a working turntable, and I am back playing my records again. With a nudge…

 

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It was a walk on the wild side for Holly

Holly Woodlawn - Source: Wikimedia

Holly Woodlawn – Source: Wikimedia

I stumbled across the news that Holly Woodlawn – the Holly from Lou Reed’s classic Walk on the Wild Side – died yesterday.

The Guardian has this:

Holly Woodlawn – Warhol superstar, transgender role model and inspiration behind Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side – died on 6 December after battling brain and liver cancer. She was 69.

At 16, Woodlawn, then known as Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl, left home and hitchhiked to New York, a moment captured in Reed’s 1972 track:

“Holly came from Miami FLA/ Hitchhiked her way across the USA/ Plucked her eyebrows on the way/ Shaved her legs and then he was a she …”

The Guardian piece is here, with a good added piece of nostalgia about the whole Walk on the Wild Side crew, here.

That song will live forever, and rightly so. It is an almost perfect concoction, that serves up a super sharp snapshot of a time and place.

All our yesterdays are passing into history, along with the stars, the players, the supporting actors, and the witnesses. Sad. Inevitable, but still sad.

Rest in peace Holly. Rest in peace.

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Rhapsody in black

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

The Scotsman has a timely piece about the 40th anniversary of one of the most significant pieces of pop music of all time:

Why Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody endures 40 years on

It’s difficult to imagine Queen, one of the biggest-selling, most widely known bands ever, struggling with their career.

But, as drummer Roger Taylor recalls, in 1974, three albums in to their career, the band were broke and having problems with their manager, who wasn’t passing on any of the cash they were making.

“We felt like this was make or break, really,” he says, referring to fourth album A Night At The Opera. “This was a last big shot at it.”

Cue John Reid stepping in. He was Elton John’s manager at the time, and freed them of previous commitments to management and record labels, reassuring them they could do whatever they wanted.

“He said, ‘Go away and make the best record you’ve ever made and I will sort out the money side’,” says guitarist Brian May. “I seem to recall he put us on 30 quid a week instead of 20 – and we were made.”

Of course, there’s a little bit more to it than that. The album they went on to make, named after the Marx Brothers film, was indeed the best album of their career, while one of its songs, Bohemian Rhapsody, changed their lives, and popular music forever.

The song is 40 years old this week, although frontman Freddie Mercury had been working on it for much longer.

It seems like yesterday, I heard it for the first time, and remember seeing the video promotion. Wonderful music, and wonderful memories.

Read the whole piece, here.

Watch and listen to the track, here.

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Red letter day of the musical type

Today’s the day FFS released their new album.

ffs

FFS? Franz Ferdinand & Sparks.

The album is brilliant. (But you knew I would say that, didn’t you?) Don’t take just my word for it. See here, and here. And check out the background, here, and here.

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Best music news in years

From the official Sparks website:

Presenting: F F S

FFS: Franz Ferdinand and Sparks Team Up !

10 years after the initial seed was planted by these two iconic bands to join forces in a bold, new creative endeavour, the fruits of this seemingly unlikely musical idea have finally been born. FFS. Franz Ferdinand and Sparks.

The mutual admiration society between Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Bob Hardy, Paul Thomson, Ron Mael and Russell Mael has manifested itself in a striking new album. And without further ado, FFS is upping the ante with the announcement that they will be performing live. FFS: Franz Ferdinand and Sparks together in concert. It’s true.

Check out the teaser trailer here: FFS – The Domino Effect

Ironically, the world tour kicks off in Glasgow. I’ll miss that, but I won’t miss out on the album, for sure.

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Alan Parsons Project

ap1

On Tuesday night, the Alan Parsons Project were in concert in Tel Aviv. It looked like a sellout crowd, and they gave the band a hearty welcome.

From an Israeli perspective, things were spiced up by the appearance of vocalist Aviv Gefen for one number, and Marina Maximilian for another. Guitarist Avi Singolda did a couple of numbers. In addition, the band featured an Israeli bass guitarist for the whole night, If I knew his name, I’d tell you…

Great concert. Two hours of non-stop, guitar led, time travel. Magic!

See video and pictures at the Ynet site, here.

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Sparks’ histrionic humbug

Sparks in London, November 1972; Ron Mael, Jim Mankey, Harley Feinstein, Russell Mael, Earle Mankey

Sparks in London, November 1972; Ron Mael, Jim Mankey, Harley Feinstein, Russell Mael, Earle Mankey. Source: Wikimedia

From the comments below this slightly up itself Guardian review of a Sparks plus orchestra concert, we have this

If a kid today should ask you ‘what does originality in pop music sound like?’ you could always point them to Sparks. Marvellously witty and tuneful and always entertaining, yet sounding unlike any band before them. ‘Kimono my house’ should be up there in any classic album list.

I could not agree more with the commenter. Sparks are my heroes. I hope the concert recording makes it to a commercial release. It sounds, er, different:

If the orchestra enhances the glam pomp of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us, it turns the rest of the record into cinematic set pieces. Here in Heaven reeks of international espionage, Talent Is an Asset becomes an Oktoberfest oom-pah, and Falling in Love With Myself Again could be Julie Andrews at her most narcissistic. And if Thank God It’s Not Christmas was once a rock anthem of histrionic humbug, it’s now a lost theme to The Muppet Christmas Carol, sleighbells, symphonic snowfall and all.

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