Sony Ditches the Walkman… Finally!

14 12 2010

I recently read a funny article announcing the retirement of the Sony Walkman. I’m talking about the original Walkman, as in the portable cassette player. It made it’s debut in 1979 and has been in production ever since. It’s actually quite incredible that it took them this long to pull the plug on it, considering the Discman was released in 1984! You would think that by the time it became cheap enough for the masses to afford (about 1990), it would have killed the Walkman altogether. Now consider that the iPod was officially introduced in 2001. Digital music and the MP3 age was in full swing soon after and yet somehow the folks at Sony still saw a market for the portable cassette player… shocking. Well, here we are nearly 10 years since Steve Jobs changed portable music consumption and Sony has finally succumb.

Check out this funny old TV commercial for one of the first models of the Walkman. It’s pretty great.

You can also read more about the farewell of this obsolete gizmo HERE.





Roger Waters | The Wall [Live 2010]

13 12 2010

This past week I saw Pink Floyd frontman, Roger Waters at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In case you hadn’t already heard, Roger has redesigned his old live production of The Wall since it debuted  30 years ago. If that original 1980 tour was spectacle, this updated version is a spectacular. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Not only has Waters brought it up to date in terms of message and context, but in technology as well. Yes, the concept is similar at the core (build a HUGE wall and knock it down) but this show is produced incredibly well. I have seen 100’s of live performances, and I think this may be the most thrilling of them. Some feat when you consider I’m talking about everything: big venues, small venues and everything in between; rock, jazz, blues, and all the rest; music, theater and even sporting events. Regardless of the magnitude, style, or even medium, this left me completely floored.

When they begin the performance the wall is only partly built, with the band playing just behind it in full view. As the night progresses, the wall is built up brick by brick. As ths goes on, you start to see less and less of the band until they are only viewable through a few missing bricks. And then, like that, they are gone. They continue to play out view and all the while there are amazing projections on the wall, both providing context for the music and creating atmospherics to set the mood. There are even puppets, pyrotechnics and other cool props, all of which just add to the ambiance. The whole experience is really amazing throughout and totally engaging like I’ve never seen before.

By intermission the wall is fully built, with the band still playing from behind it’s cover. As the second set opens they continue the routine, until there is a moment where Roger appears from an odd compartment that unfolds from the wall’s exterior. It’s a “hotel room”, where he sits in an armchair and sings “Nobody’s Home”. True theater and a really cool addition to the performance. Soon after, the band is moved to the front of the wall to “perform” some other more theatrical bits. Then, it’s just Roger out front, with the rest of the band in their positions hidden behind. For various solos and singing parts other members of the band appear 35 feet in the air at the very top of the wall. The guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” is a great moment where they do this. Finally, there is this huge crescendo that is really effectively created using the projections and the mood rather than merely the tempo. At the climax, the wall is toppled to the ground, revealing the band behind.  At which point the band comes out to the forestage bearing only acoustic instruments and play “Outside the Wall”. After a few thanks and some introductions, each member marches of stage one by one until Roger says his final farewell.

The whole thing is mind blowing and unfortunately my account, these photos and any videos will never do it justice. Whether you’re a fan of the music or not, this is a show you MUST see. There are still tour dates available into 2011. I recommend hitting stubhub to see if you can catch it. Quality live footage from the show is rather difficult to find but there are some nice promotional videos that were designed to tease you on the experience. Check out these few. The first 2 provide a solid picture of the show with actual HD footage, there are even a few fan interviews and testimonials too. The third provides some great insight into Roger’s feelings on the music, the show and it’s design. That one, I think, is particularly good.

Now, I purposely avoided all of this stuff online as I wanted to go in totally blind, which is definitely why it was so impactful. However, if you are not going to be able to see it live, you have to check these out to know what the hell this thing is all about.

If you’re going to go ahead and spoil this by sneaking a peek, you might as well watch this footage shot from the audience of “The Trial” into “Outside the Wall”. This piece in particular, gave me goosebumps. It’s the whole thing. The dénouement, if you will. The footage is amateur but you absolutely get a sense of what it’s like. Check it out…





Missing John Lennon

8 12 2010

December 8th 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I often think about what the New York and the world would be like if John were still around. The man would have been a NYC icon and a great one at that. Imagine if he was around to see the booms of the 80’s & 90’s, 9/11 and everything that has transpired since. Crazy.

Here is the famous announcement of his death by Howard Cosell  on ABC’s Monday Night Football. Apparently, there was an ABC reporter who was at Roosevelt Hospital that night for his own injuries and saw Lennon come into the ER. He immediately called his colleagues in the newsroom, who got to the scene right away and broke the story.

I’ve been listening to a lot of John’s solo material lately, and for that matter all The Beatles’ solo work. He has a ton of great songs but not too many from Double Fantasy, the final album he recorded with Yoko after his 5 year hiatus. Nevertheless, this record intrigues me. Not really the music but what it represents for John. It’s a return to recorded music after taking some much needed time to be a good father and husband, something he didn’t do well while with The Beatles. It was essentially the result of this long period of reflection.

Also, there is the fact that his murder, Mark David Chapman, asked Lennon to sign a copy of the LP the night he shot him. Chapman waited outside Lennon’s home, The Dakota, and made the request as he was leaving for the evening. As he’s one to do, John obliged. Later that night, Chapman killed John as he was returning from the studio. I just saw that that exact copy is going up for auction soon. What a weird piece of memorabilia to own. Touched by both Lennon and Chapman on the night of the murder… creepy.

Anyway, here is some cool audio from the recording session for Double Fantasy. This was captured as they were working out one of the album’s biggest hits, “(Just Like) Starting Over”. It displays John’s process, creativity and sense of humor really well.

Here’s a posthumous music video for “(Just Like) Starting Over”…





The Beatles Catalog Available on iTunes

16 11 2010

FINALLY! What does it take to get one of music’s biggest bands available on the iTunes store? Apparently, all you need is love… and A LOT of lawyers. After years of tension and disputes Apple Corp. has finally allowed Apple Inc. to offer The Beatles’ complete catalog of work online. I get it. I do. But after all that concern over Apple Inc. branching out from computer technology to music distribution and possible conflicts of interest, the whole argument seems futile and moot. After all, we know Paul is down with it, as his music is already on iTunes . He even filmed a commercial for them. How long did it really take for the folks at Apple Corp. to realize that iTunes is clearly one of, if not, the biggest digital music distribution channel? I guess after all those years, today is the day of epiphany. Finally. Check out The Beatles on iTunes HERE.

So, at this point you probably already own every album in various mediums and have even digitized it yourself, but for those that have not… this your chance. You can cherry pick your favorite songs or grab the whole album(s). Or, you can just bite the bullet get the entire box set ($149).  Like any major product roll out, this comes with a lot of fanfare. One of the promotion items they are touting is the complete 1964 Washington D.C. performance in HD (well, as hi-def as I’ve seen). This video exists in snippets all over the internet, some of which has been featured here, but this is the complete unedited release. CHECK IT OUT HERE. There are also some other cool videos that you can browse through while on the band’s artist page in the store.

There are a few ads that the ‘Apples’ collaborated on for this launch. They are pretty straightforward and simple but, if you’re a fan, you will enjoy them nevertheless. You can see all 5 ads below:





It’s Johnny’s Birthday

9 10 2010

Today is John Lennon’s birthday. He would have been 70 years old today. I wanted to tack this on to yesterday’s post given this song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” was a part of George Harrison’s 3 disc LP All Things Must Pass but then decided it was best served as it’s own dish. It’s a very simple tune that clocks in under a minute long. Based on Bill Marten and Phil Coulter’s song “Congratulations”, Harrison’s tune was just a little tribute to his friend on his birthday. Enjoy…

Happy B-Day Johnny!





Sneak Peek: Weezer | Hurley

10 08 2010

Have you seen this new album cover for the forthcoming Weezer album, appropriately titled Hurley? It’s a hilarious picture of Lost character, Hurley (actor, Jorge Garcia).

When asked about it by Pitchfork.com, frontman Rivers Cuomo explained the rationale behind this odd choice, “We just wanted to use that picture of Jorge Garcia’s face on the cover. It’s such an amazing album cover, and we didn’t want to have any other words on it, so we just figured everyone was going to call it Hurley, so that’s what we call it.” I can accept that. Given a few of their other albums have just been self-titled and otherwise referred to by their colors (i.e. the green album, the blue album, the red album) this seems like a slight shift in protocol. Hurley comes out on September 14th but they released a single entitled “Memories” early to create a little buzz. Honestly, I like the picture of Jorge more than this song but I’m sure there are fans out there that are excited about it nonetheless. Below is a sneak peek of the new track for those loyal Weezer fans… I know there are still quite a few.

I’m more partial to their old tunes but I suppose they can’t just keep doing that stuff anymore. Anyway, it’s nice to see they still don’t take themselves too seriously. It is actually their sense of humor that I appreciate most about them these days. In fact, I think they might be getting sillier with age. Check out some of their music videos from the last decade+ below and tell me if you agree.

References:

Pitchfork.com Article/Inteview

More info on Weezer

More info on Hurley

Weezer’s Complete Discography





Sir Paul @ The White House

2 08 2010

This past week PBS aired a special entitled: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song In Performance at the White House. It’s a real mouthful but then again, titles were never exactly PBS’ strong suit. The honoree this year was none-other-than Sir Paul McCartney, which should come as no surprise given the man is (literally) the most successful songwriter of all time. There were 2 stats that popped up during the presentation that were pretty astonishing to me. The first was that nearly 200 of his songs reached the charts. The second was more surprising, collectively these songs have spent a total of 32 years on the charts… 32 years! The special itself was pretty cool. It included some performances by Paul, some brief MC work from Jerry Seinfeld, numerous guest performances by other artist who honored Paul by covering his material and, of course, the President presenting Paul with his award. The whole thing can be watched in it’s entirety on the PBS website, which you can find a link to in the ‘references’ section at the bottom of this post. For a quick sneak peek you can find a few of my favorite moments right below.

Here is Jack White performing a great version of the Lennon/McCartney tune “Mother Nature’s Son” from The Beatles (The White Album).

Here is Stevie Wonder doing his amazing cover of yet another Lennon/McCartney collaboration, “We Can Work It Out”. This tune is on Stevie’s album Signed, Sealed, Delivered and in my opinion stands as one of the best interpretations of another artist’s song I’ve ever heard. It does what every cover is intended to do. It honors the original while putting a very unique (and in this case, compelling) spin on it.

This last one is a bit of a montage. It’s starts with Paul himself playing the classic “Michelle”. He gives a very charming introduction that is playfully apologetic to the Commander in Chief for singing such a flirty song to the First Lady. Unfortunately, this song is abbreviated, transitioning into “Eleanor Rigby” and then quickly cutting away to the actual award presentation. This version of the presentation is the long, unedited one. If you watch the version of the PBS site, they edit out some of the typical political rhetoric that usually accompanies such events. That version just sticks to what’s important about this evening: honoring a legend. Nevertheless, should you be curious you can see it all below…

References:

See the entire PBS Special

More info on Paul McCartney

More info on The Gershwin Prize

More info on The Library of Congress

More info on Barack Obama








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