Category Archives: Most Unwanted Songs

Forty Years of “Trust”

Who trusts who? Trust on CD and LP.

Last week marked the fortieth anniversary of the release of the album Trust by Elvis Costello and The Attractions. It was the last in a string of five remarkable Costello albums produced by Nick Lowe, going back to My Aim is True, his debut. It was a transitional album, one that primarily featured the new wave rock for which he was best known but also foreshadowed the upcoming forays into Country & Western and Popular music that became staples of his broadened repertoire in the 1980s and beyond. And it is personally significant for me as the album that introduced me to Costello and began my enduring appreciation for his work.

The physical media

While I had a passing awareness of Costello in the late 1970s and knew a couple of his songs, back then I thought of him mostly as the angry English guy with the old-fashioned, chunky, black glasses. At the start, I was drawn to Trust not by Costello but by Glenn Tilbrook‘s vocals on the song From a Whisper to a Scream. (I’d been a big fan of Squeeze from the moment I first heard the song If I Didn’t Love You on the radio.) It was July 1981 when I really got into From a Whisper to a Scream, which led me to discovering the rest of Trust, and from there, immersion in Costello’s back catalog. In the summer of 1983, I saw him perform live for the first time, in concert with The Attractions on a Hudson River pier in Manhattan, touring in support of Punch the Clock (confession: not one of my favorite Costello albums). He wore red shoes.

One sign of my affection for Trust is that it’s one of the few albums I own in both LP and CD formats. I think I used to own it on prerecorded cassette, too, but I’m not sure, as I said farewell to my cassette collection several years ago and I can no longer recall everything I purchased in the Columbia House-fueled buying binges of my college years. It remains one of my favorite Costello albums, and while I don’t like all of its songs, several — Clubland, Watch Your Step, Different Finger, Shot With His Own Gun, and yes, From a Whisper to a Scream — fill me with the same joy and energy today that they did when I was a teenager.

Choosing A New Ringtone

I’ve been binge-watching Episodes lately and Matt LeBlanc’s ringtone has inspired me to replace the main one I’ve been using for years.

If you’re the kind of person who isn’t content to stick with the ringtones that your phone manufacturer provides, you know what a consequential choice your ringtone can be. That you select it from millions of possibilities and that it spontaneously and repeatedly shares a piece of yourself with people who are nearby makes it among the most revealing of personal choices. Here’s how I pick one.

The first criterion is that I won’t get tired of hearing it repeatedly. When Windows 3.1 first came out and made multimedia a standard part of the PC experience, one of the first things people did was customize their sound schemes. (Remember the Microsoft SoundBits product line?) As my Windows shutdown sound, I picked Porky Pig stuttering, “That’s all, folks!” It was cute at first, but I was developing system software and restarting Windows fifty times a day. It got old in a hurry.

I also want a sound whose essence can be captured in a few seconds. The point of a ringtone is to alert me that my phone is ringing, so I don’t want to be thinking about — or having people around me wondering — what that strange sound is and what it means. Because it has to be edited to less than thirty seconds and might have to repeat in the middle, it has to be cuttable and loopable.

The above criteria favor shorter, catchier melodies over more complex ones. They also tend to favor instrumentals over vocal tracks, though this can be managed with proper editing. I edit my own ringtones with mp3DirectCut and end up listening to the sound over and over, so I get a sense if it’s going to meet these criteria.

Since the ringtone often plays when you’re not expecting it, it shouldn’t have a jarring opening. I learned this a couple of years ago during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when I experimented with using the New York Rangers goal song as my ringtone. You can listen for yourself, but suffice it to say it begins with the sound of a foghorn and quickly transitions to the musical equivalent of a hockey riot.

While I try not overthink the symbolism of the sound, I do avoid ringtones that might come across as if I’m trying to associate myself with a heroic character. Or songs that are too popular or iconic. For this reason I wouldn’t choose songs like the themes from Batman, Secret Agent, or Mission Impossible, even though sonically they work well.

Finally, and foremost, it has to be a sound that makes me happy when I hear it.

Hearing Two Time repeatedly on Episodes, often to humorous effect, set me in the directions of 1960’s/70’s instrumentals. I listened to a bunch of TV theme songs and also some Herb Alpert tracks. There were a number of good options, but ultimately this one stood out:

We’ll see how long it lasts.

Severe Tire Damn!

Rave: Getting email from Ticketmaster notifying me that They Might Be Giants is [are?] doing an upcoming show in Seattle and tickets are about to go on sale.
Rant: The concert is on a date that I cannot make.
The tickets are $25 with a "Convenience Charge" of $8.55 per ticket.  Some deal.

Everybody’s Got An Angel

I spent a good portion of last week OD’ing on Blue Angel’s eponymous first-and-only album.  Despite the fact that I’ve had the LP forever, I hadn’t listened to it in a long-time and just recently discovered that it has been re-released on CD.
The album itself?  It’s Phil Spector-style pop updated with late ’70’s new wave influences as sung by, well, as sung by Cyndi Lauper.  Listening to the CD reminded me of how much I like the music, and I think I appreciate it more now than I did when it was originally released.
The band was pretty popular around NYC around 1980, including a "Win a Date with Cyndi" contest.  The band didn’t last long after that, and I remember playing the album for my friends, most of whom had a pretty strong (usually negative) reaction to Cyndi’s voice.  The joke was on them when She’s So Unusual was released in 1983 and became a huge hit, due in part to Cyndi’s MTV-friendly makeover.
As an aside, I was amused to discover that there are some eBay-based profiteers who are selling the CD for $5-$10 more than you can buy it directly from the label, under the pretense that it’s "out of print" and "hard to find".

The Face that Sold a Million Records

Every once in a while, usually as part of some work-related get-acquainted exercise, I’m asked the question, "If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be?"  This gets tiresome quickly, especially when people give answers based on how they wish to be perceived: Leonardo DaVinci or Thomas Jefferson, for example.  The last time I did this exercise, I answered "Nicole Brown Simpson", specifically so that I could ask her the identity of her murderer.

I have a new answer: Pattie Boyd, a veritable Helen of Troy of rock music.  Courtesy of being the paramour of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, she apparently inspired numerous songs, foremost among them "Something", "Layla", and "Wonderful Tonight".  She left her first husband (Harrison) for his best friend (Clapton), and yet the friends’ relationship survived.  (To be fair, neither of them were known for being faithful to her.)

I want to know what the fuss is about.  Is Ms. Boyd a magical muse or just in the right place at the right time?

P.S.  If you’re a fan of Harrison’s Beatles-era music, you should check out the Anthology 3 two-disc set.  His demo versions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something" are superior to the better-known Beatles’ versions.

The Magic’s in the Music and the Music’s in Me

Way back in February I wrote about ripping my entire CD collection to my hard disk, part of my joining the 21st century.*

The primary motivation was being able to access my music collection via a digital jukebox:  Easy all-disk access, queueing up tracks from multiple albums, creating playlists, etc.  To this end I purchased a SoundBlaster Wireless Music device.  I still owe a review of device, but the summary is that I would not  recommend it.  The concept is great, specifically, being able to control your digital jukebox from an RF remote with an LCD display, so you neither need to be physically close enough to the base unit to read a tiny display nor need to use a TV set to control the music.  However the implementation is neither reliable nor easy to use.  If anyone knows of better products that provide this functionality, let me know.

Now that I’ve made the transition, I’ve dipped my toe in the water of acquiring music online.**  [Entering Obvious World]  I’m still more comfortable buying CDs; they’re a better value once you pass a certain number of songs, I can play them in all of my cars without burning my own disk, and I often like the packaging, esp. for high-quality reissues.  But I’m buying tracks online when I only want one or two songs from a single artist because there’s no album that is compelling to me. [Leaving Obvious World]  In my head I still think of these tracks as “45’s”.

To date I’ve shared two music lists in this space, one of tracks I’ve purchased online (or downloaded for free when they’ve been made available that way on an artist’s official web site) and the other of tracks I’d like to purchase.  I’ve created these lists primarily for my own convenience, but it does provide insight into my tastes.  In most cases there are only one or two songs by an artist that I have any interest in; how many great Right Said Fred songs do you know?  In a few cases I have other albums by an artist but am missing a particular track (Empty Garden).

Viewers of the lists will undoubtedly conclude, correctly, that my musical tastes congealed somewhere around 1985.  Any other conclusions they reach are likely to be similarly unflattering.

* – No artists or record companies were defrauded by this activity.
** – Ditto.

What Do Christians Know About Christmas Music?

Jim piles on Maureen Dowd’s complaint about Christmas music.  Feh!  Need I remind him that the most popular Christmas song of the 20th century was written by a Jew!

Anyone who complains about Christmas music hasn’t listened to Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You.  Once again, it takes a Jew — and a mentally unbalanced one at that — to teach you goyim the true spirit of the holiday.


Bruce Springsteen was right!

Scientists just confirmed what he has been saying for nearly thirty years.

His real name is George

No, not this clown.

In the age where everything is supposed to be available online, it’s a shame when you find something you want that is neither available online nor purchasable in analog form via an online store.  Case in point:  The song “My Name is Not Merv Griffin” by Gary Muller, which I heard years ago on Dr. Demento‘s radio show.  There is a cover of it available on a CD compilation but it doesn’t have the irrepressible lunacy of the original.

And in a similar vein, the video of one of my favorite Daily Show bits, which I described in detail here, disappeared from their web site a while back.

Happy Birthday Elvis!

No, not that ElvisThis Elvis.

Fifty years old today.  Sheesh.  At least one of us is getting old.