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Staffo's Excellent Song Service

Posted February 20, 2019 into Music by John Birmingham

Douglas Coupland it was who coined the term 'option paralysis'. The tendency when faced with limitless choices to make none at all. He obviously knew music streaming was coming all the way back when he wrote Generation X. I often find myself defaulting to the same old albums and playlists simply because I can't think of what else to do. Voice control systems like Siri and Alexa make it much worse.

That why Andrew Stafford's recent Patreon tweak intrigues me. Andrew is both a music writer and a sports writer. (An odd combo, but an oddly common one too. I can think of a few others I know working both those dodges). He set his Patreon up to write a personal musical memoir – a successful experiment which will see Something To Believe In published by UQP in July this year. This latest tweak is a song recommendation, every Monday morning.

He picks a track and writes it up. There's usually a YouTube link. Simple, but hard. I think it's a brilliant idea, partly because I'm in awe of people who can write about music. I can't. All the years I wrote for Rolling Stone I never once filed an album review or a report from a gig. I have zero fucking clues about how you'd even start. And yet in four or five hundred words every Monday, Stafford writes sharply about the experience of a particular song, and the context from which it comes to us.

His most recent mini essay was about Warren Zevon's 'My Shit's Fucked Up'.

He kindly let me steal the whole thing for you, (but if you dig it you should check out his page over here):

I was tipped off to this Warren Zevon song by the Beasts' cover version. Having listened to the original, frankly - even given their weight of recent experience - they don't get near it. Zevon's performance on Jools Holland (above) is if anything even more devastating. It's not exactly what you'd call an earworm, but it might haunt you to your grave instead.
You've probably heard Warren Zevon, even if you don't think you have. His best-known song, Werewolves Of London, was a hit for him in 1978 and covered by the Grateful Dead, among others. You can find it on his third album, Excitable Boy. The cover of that album makes him look like a new-waver, but he was closer to Neil Young than the Knack, and he didn't particularly want Werewolves, which he thought of as a novelty, to be the first single.
It was no novelty, though. The Go-Betweens and the Apartments taught me about the importance of great opening lines in songs and the first couplet of Werewolves is a pearler: "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walkin' through the streets of SoHo in the rain." Zevon was working a much weirder groove.
Back to this song, though. Zevon knew his way around a tune. His voice on this is crumpled, but the melody - and it's a good one - is fleshed out by the strength of his fingerpicking. Apparently, Zevon had a major phobia of doctors. One day, knowing things weren't quite right, he looked down in the bowl, and didn't like what he saw there.
So this song is an imaginary conversation with Zevon's imaginary doctor. It came out in 2000 on his album Life'll Kill Ya. It wasn't until two years after the album's release that Zevon was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma, and he was dead a year later. You don't need to know any of that, though, to get what this song is about.
See, Zevon's not talking about his shit. Not literally, anyway. He's talking about his phobia and his resistance to change, because he knows that's what's going to get him in the end. If we can't confront the sources of our worst fears, the stuff that lies even deeper within us, we only end up manifesting them in the long run. And that's the fucked-up shit.
In this interview with David Letterman, a long-time friend and supporter of Zevon's, the songwriter reflects on mortality less than a year before his death, offering maybe the most pungent closing line in rock history as a piece of parting wisdom: "Enjoy every sandwich." Welcome to the working week!

I wish I could do this. But we all know I can't. Anyway, again, the page is over here.

4 Responses to ‘Staffo's Excellent Song Service’

Dirk puts forth...

Posted February 21, 2019
Seeing the overwhelming amount of reactions on this post, I think all the Burgers are suffering from it. Free tip for somebody: start a podcast around this subject :)

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted February 21, 2019
You know it's good when you don't even notice how easy it is to read. Although maybe i should have left reading/watching this one till 2028. One teenage girl and another almost teenage girl in the house and the wheels are starting to fall off. I didn't need a reminder of my mortality this morning . . . . . or maybe i did? Means there's an end in sight :)

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Bangar puts forth...

Posted February 21, 2019
I love Warren's work had Rottweiler Blues for a doorbell tune for a while, "Don't knock on my door unless you know my rottweiler's name". I'd certainly suggest Youtube and his ex wife's biography.

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Bangar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 28, 2019
Part 1 of his last appearance on Letterman

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Neuroplasticity and musical taste

Posted September 14, 2018 into Music by John Birmingham

Neuroplasticity is a ten buck word for a simple idea; the brain is designed to keep learning things.

That seems pretty fucking unremarkable. A brain that won't learn new stuff is pretty useless. But it does fly in the face of our very human habit of refusing to learn anything that conflicts with whatever ignorant codswallop we stuffed into the old wrinkly grey head-pudding first.

I'm not specifically thinking about politics here, but rather music.

There's a wealth of anecdata about people giving up on new music from their late twenties. One study of Spotify users nailed the exact age as 33. That research, written up in NME, found that, while teens’ music taste is heavily dominated by popular music, this influence drops steadily through their 20s, before their tastes ‘mature’ (read: turn to stone) in their early 30s. "For the average listener, by their mid-30s, their tastes have matured, and they are who they’re going to be.”

The study also shows that there’s a slight gender gap at play (“Women show a slow and steady decline in pop music listening from 13-49, while men drop precipitously starting from their teens until their early 30s, at which point they encounter the ‘lock-in’ effect”), also stating that becoming a parent “has an equivalent impact on your ‘music relevancy’ as aging about 4 years”.

I'm not gonna put myself out there as a counterpoint. They totally got my number. With tens of millions of songs on the Fruit Company's streaming service, I find myself defaulting again and again to stuff I've listened to before.

I do make an effort. Most weekends I'll flick through the new music playlist and save the tracks that really grab my attention, moing them to a separate playlist that I usually listen to as I drive around in the car.

It's a long list and it's got some great tracks on it now.

But I couldn't tell you the name of the songs or their artists who performed them if my fucking life depended on it.

Even more telling, if I really like a single I'll add the album to my library and give it solid flogging, just like I used to when I could only afford a couple of albums a year.

While I'm actively listening to this discovery, I'm all over it, thinking "Yeah! Look at this guy, listening to new music."

And two weeks later I've usually forgotten to play the new thing and it recedes into the fog of lost memories, only ever to be recalled by accident, usually on shuffle play.

I'm not sure what any of this means but now I think I'm gonna go play some Bachman Turner Overdrive.

5 Responses to ‘Neuroplasticity and musical taste’

Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 15, 2018
I'm not so locked in to the same songs and artists, but definitely the genres of music stays the same. If its heavy and fast then I'm there. If I go see a live band and I engage with them its because they play the genre I like. Like I saw a great band from Wisconsin called Conveyer, The singer, a short super polite American boy, came across like the non Henry Rollins singers from Black Flag. The music was brilliant but it was basically just very well played Hardcore punk, so I was bound to like it. I think you have to work a bit hard at finding new music, I prefer live music, which is great until you go to a Metal camping festival only to be congratulated by young people for being older and going to see Deez Nuts. We were like, 'shut up you little fat punk , we paved the way for you grow a hobo beard and sit in your tent drinking beer all day and not see the bands'

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ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted September 15, 2018
Yeah, they've got my number. The amount of 80's songs shitting up my iPod is ridiculous and I was the Triple M demographic until the sheer bloody repetition drove me away.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to Babymetal which, thanks to the wonders of the Youtube algorithm, led me to Bandmaid and I have been a fan of both groups since then.

Luckily for me Bandmaid have a pretty active release cycle so they usually have a new single/mini-album/full album released before I wear out their last release.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted September 16, 2018
The challenge for me is how to get exposed to new music to try, though watching anime has exposed me to a few artists I wouldn't have known about who I will keep listening to now.

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jason mumbles...

Posted September 17, 2018
Two points:
Music is about more than the music, it's about the time and the place you heard it and the people you were with. Very hard to recreate that feel when you just hear a song somewhere.

Kids. Mine introduce me to new music all the time. When we travel anywhere we play Spotify roulette where they play me a new song and I play them an old one (often one which is the precursor to the song they played me) and we keep swapping.

I would recommend the following: Pierce Brothers, better live but still good recorded, DMAs listen to In the Air.

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted September 19, 2018
Interesting read!! I don't quite fit the mould then, as I am still finding new music all the time. My son also appears to differ to the norm. His 16th birthday present last week was a turntable and 6 records - Queen, Eagles, Cat Stevens, Popular Classicals, Melanie and one other I've forgotten. He loves it and is now on the hunt for more - Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and so on. He doesn't have a single current pop/R&B/HipHop track on his playlist and its quite a big playlist. He loves classic rock and classical music and even better, the school has a rock symphony combining the 2 - he plays the bassoon.

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Kids today and their terrible musical choices. I tells ya

Posted April 18, 2018 into Music by John Birmingham

... Although it’s not so much the music as the box it comes out of. I just sat and suffered through some terrible song Thomas was playing on his iPhone speaker as he cleaned up the kitchen.

It might have been punishment for making him clean up the kitchen, but I think probably not. I’ve noticed both kids, and all their friends seem perfectly comfortable playing their music loud though phone speakers that really weren’t meant for broadcast.

They do this even when there’s a nasty cheap ass Echo a few feet away. It would sound a helluva lot better than that tinny phone, but they go the phone.

I didn’t think taking the time to plug into a stand alone speaker, or hook up to a bluetooth box was an old man thing, but apparently it is. Because of my little problem (I can’t stop buying headphones and speakers) we have an embarrassing number of options for play thru all over the house.

But no. Both kids prefer to just flick on the phone and jack up the volume.

Where have I gone wrong?

12 Responses to ‘Kids today and their terrible musical choices. I tells ya’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted April 18, 2018
Give up on your own children and wait for them to have children. I'm sure they will think you're cool.

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Dirk mumbles...

Posted April 19, 2018
Well there are a few things at play here:

1. Automation: kids nowadays things happen automatically. It starts with feeding, going to and from school, cleaning of cloths etc.

It goes further with internet connectivity and play back. If it ain’t coming out of the box, it’s ment to not come out of the box. And if the wifi doesn’t kick in, well then their gemoungous 4g datapacket kicks in. Hell is to be payed only when when connectivity is somehow not possible. But that tends to happen with genetically implanted implements.

So you need giving them training and grooming. I recommend Pavlov on that subject and, needs be, jumper cables and a car battery.

2. Medical: the human brain is finished about the 21st year of life. Girls are quicker, boys slower. Girls generally speaking have less interest in music though. And boys learn that porn doesn’t need a soundtrack nor a plausible storyline.

3. When I was young, me only looking at a hifi system, was a precursor for grievous bodily harm administered by my old man. Ok I’m spicing that up a bit: he was a great guy, with a lousy taste in music. For your average CIA blacksite, I recommend the complete works of James Last. The war on terror can be over in 6-12 hours.

So to answer your question: where did you go wrong?, I have to respond with the words of the famous philosopher J. Rabbit: I’m not bad, I’m just drawn this way.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted April 19, 2018
Tell me more about these jumper cables and car battery. I am interested in these ideas about parenthood and would like to subscribe to your pamphlet.

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted April 19, 2018
Well for one the use of jumper cables should be in every curriculum:

Dirk would have you know...

Posted April 19, 2018
This video also teaches the inherent dangers of prolonged inbreeding; making this a worthy educational tool.

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jason puts forth...

Posted April 19, 2018
I am old, no doubt about it. Old enough to have a good knowledge of music. So now when my girls play a song to me that isn't quite right i delve into the back catalogue of CDs and play them the band who played that song or style first and who played it better. Sadly my girls now like Hall and Oates and I am mad for My Chemical Romance.

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balri is gonna tell you...

Posted April 19, 2018
My 14yo daughter does exactly the same thing. Despite the iPod dock on the stereo six feet away and the nearby Bluetooth Bose speaker

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 19, 2018
These children will end us.

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Matthew F. mutters...

Posted April 19, 2018
Kids aren't *supposed* to be comprehensible to their parents. If they are actually in step with you on everything, then's the time to worry that you're raising young fogeys.

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 19, 2018
Luckily my youngest tends to use headphones, which has its own issues. His musical tastes vary wildly between death metal, 70s/80s classics, honest to god classics like David Bowie or Led Zep, trashy dance music and Russian Hard the headphones spare me the bits of that list that aren't to my taste. Problem is he is utterly deaf with headphones on and only responds to visual cues or occasional physical cues like a pillow to the head.

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Rob reckons...

Posted April 19, 2018
My kids , rather weirdly , have been telling me to turn down my music for years. Minstry, too loud, Butthole Surfers, too weird, Sepultura, too metal. 'Can you not play Danzig's Twist of Cain again, for the 100th time on your crappy 200 dollar les Paul knockoff Dad ...'

I showed them though, I made them to go to the pub with me and then proceeded to buy them beers, and then I sang 'The ballad of Chasey Lain ' by the Bloodhound Gang, at Karaoke that night.

Kids these days, I tells ya.

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Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted April 23, 2018
Mine use speakers and all 3 have asked for over ear headphones for birthdays etc. I guess this is because the boys listen to classic rock more than anything and genuinely appreciate music. We have rather awesome conversations about music.
The girl has no taste and listens to ever changing popular crap that 10 yo girls listen to and it hurts ALL our ears. The constant refrain is, "Moo, put you headphones on or turn that crap off!" It works.

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BALLS After Dark.88 It's not brain surgery

Posted April 21, 2017 into Music by beeso

In which Beeso and the Doc review classic Rocket Science, new Goldfrapp and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, and get into how Oils ain't oils, politics isn't worth a half eaten bag of chips, vale John Clarke, things that are about 100 metres, Daggumentaries, farnarkling, Goldeneyeing, homeopathy, Beats Mode, spaced jams, the official rapper of white thinkpiece writers on twitter, comeback acts, colour and movement and stupidity. Next week: Spoon, Damien Cowell's Disco Machine and mid-'90s Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes. This, next and last week's albums are on our Spotify playlist (note to self: it's your last week to go back and listen to last week's albums) with our faves of 2017 repping on the After Dark Mixtape.

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BALLS After Dark.87 Everything new is old again

Posted April 12, 2017 into Music by beeso

The Battle Of The 'The' Bands (c. 2002), having a stadium rock attitude on a pub rock budget, writing for clubs, dissecting the Splendour lineup and designing festivals for washed-up Gen X parents. This week we review new albums by Satan Takes A Holiday and Pulled Apart By Horses and a 2001 classic by Groove Armada. Next week: Goldfrapp, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Contact High by Rocket Science (2001). This, last and next week's albums are all on our Spotify playlist.

You can subscribe on your podast player of choice or listen below

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BALLS After Dark.85 Genre be good

Posted March 22, 2017 into Music by beeso

In which Beeso and the Doc discuss why they even have a music podcast, is [genre] dead, the beauty of being Beeso, doing all of the things, making movies, incidental things are incidental, Mashed Banana off your 'nana, action aplenty at the Mr Whippy Grand Prix, double (J) edged swords, unexpected comebacks, no more pop culture for you, contractually obliged mentions of our new podcast feeds, how Discover Weekly's magic algorithm works, music-based social siloing, Jake Hole and the children are our future. This week we reviewed new albums from All Them Witches and Crystal Fairy, with Beeso nominating Decoder Ring's '02 debut as his classic. Next week: Tosca, The Shins and Turbonegro's own After After Dark from 2012. This, next and last week's albums are all on the BALLS After Dark Spotify playlist. Check out our favourite tracks of the year so far on the After Dark Mixtape for 2017. Please subscribe and review us on the pod platform of your choice as we got kicked off iTunes for swearing too much and had to start again. You can listen here as well.

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