Happy Halloween. Please don’t kill people.

The best music introduced to me in 2017 (so far I optimistically parentheticalize) is Eighth Blackbird, a wonderful ensemble from Chicago.  They played Seattle in June.  Folk singer Bonnie “Prince” Billy joined them to sing some murder ballads.  At one moment, with really complicated contemporary music playing, every person on stage was screaming.  Blood curdling shrieks.


I was in Albuquerque in September, willingly dragged along to see Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn.  They had a murder ballad with dueling banjos.

Narrative songs about killing, I had to ponder.  I knew some.  I found some more for you.


The Beatles had one.  (I’ll re-iterate.  The Beatles trust have exceptional skills at copyright protections.  Tough to find on YT.  This is a rehearsal version.)

Kinda catchy.


The Violent Femmes had one


The Dixie Chicks had a righteous one


Our next song was actually written by Sting, but no one listens to him anymore – he’s too popular.  It’s more appropriate that Johnny Cash sing it for us.


Finally,  I can not find an appropriate example of my Eighth Blackbird memory on YT, but I offer these these:


Happy Halloween.  Please don’t kill people.


© Community Noise 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

HBO’s Vinyl

There I was, roaming around the public library, picking up random whatever and – WAMMO – I pick up a DVD called Vinyl and it turns out Martin Scorsese did a TV show.  Well, I’ve got to watch this!

I watched all 10 episodes in 2 days.

You’ve got to watch this.

It depicts a record label in the transition of rock and roll in the early 1970s – proto-punk bands, disco, glam.

How often does this happen: you hear a new song, and you’re stopped in your tracks.  I mean, literally, you’re walking across the room and something comes on the radio and you stop, turn, and ask aloud to nobody, “What is this?”  It’s what we all want, right?  It’s what we’re listening for.  But how often does that actually happen?  Like this:

The show just keeps giving.  Ten little movies, one after the other, with deep scenes.  Like this: “Everything has a foundation: Shakespeare sonnet, bookcase, Empire fucking State building.”

It is wild.  Great, great TV; and I don’t watch a lot of TV.

Watch how well crafted this scene is … patient … nuanced … I’m shaking my fucking head in wonderment … the racial tension is honest, careful, checking each other out.  Beautiful.

You’ve got to check this out.

From Bohemia to Benaroya in Six Generations: a World Premiere

If you live in Seattle, sorry for the late post; this show is this afternoon (Saturday at 2pm).  However, the story is so interesting, that I hope people can read it and enjoy the history.

From Bohemia to Benaroya in Six Generations: a World Premiere/



A John Cale Primer

It was Songs for Drella.

I’ve been trying to remember how I introduced myself to John Cale.  I’d been listening to Drella, the album that John and Lou Reed put together in memory of Andy Warhol.  I was enamored with the gently harsh sounds, the funny lines, the sweet adieu.   [“There is only one good thing about small town / You know that you want to get out”]


But it was Words for the Dying that set me loose.  This album put together everything I was learning about the academy-trained Cale.  All the pieces came together in my head – avant-garde, punk rock, classical, contemporary, straight-up dirty rock and roll, and a sort of mutant Welsh folk.  Most of this album is setting symphony and choral music to Dylan Thomas poems.  Listen to ”There Was A Saviour Interlude I”.


I think of three things when I think of John Cale.  He is intense.  He is stylistically restless – every album is different, always moving on, trying new things.  He looks nice in his page-boy haircut.  A fourth thing, I really like his deep baritone (?) voice, and it’s that vocal quality that gives so much of his music a comfortable trauma.

My objective is to select a clutch of songs for my reader, to help demonstrate the range of his discography, his inimitable ability to flow between styles and themes.  If I can get you interested, I can set you free.  A lot has already been written about John Cale, and I’m going to dispense with a biography.  I like what Rolling Stone entered into their encyclopedia:

His work shows a fascination with opposites: lyricism and noise, subtlety and bluntness, hypnotic repetition and sudden change.

The Velvet Underground, or course, is famous for Lou Reed: street wise lyrics and New York cool.  But co-founder John Cale brought the musical sensibility: arrangements, aggression, and experimentation.  Cale gave VU the drone.  “Venus in Furs” is a superb example.

Pay attention, if you are not familiar with VU.   There’s an odd, sweeping, sound, that I’m not sure I can identify.  There’s antagonism in the music – that’s all John’s experimentation – and it plays nicely with the antagonism of Lou’s poetry.  His electric viola is a clear contributor to the feel of this song.  If you have a taste for the macabre, you should also listen to Cale’s voice deliver “The Gift”.  (If you do not have a taste for the macabre, have a couple of shots and give it a listen.)

From The Academy in Peril, I want to offer “Legs Larry At Television Center”

The narration, by someone called Legs Larry Smith, is simple production instructions.  I guess we hear this sort of thing all the time.  I’d like to be able to hear the piece without the narration, but I like that it’s left in.  I know nothing about this, but assume the song title and narrated words tell the whole story.

Camera two, cut to two
Lovely, hold that, hold that, hold that
Right, pan in on Ronnie then, come to Ronnie
Watch the cello love, watch the cello
Mind your boom – for blimey’s sake
OK, OK, lovely
A little more rain, a little more rain
Silly cow, smashed his make-up now


John has worked on several soundtracks, including this one, 23 Solo Pieces for La Naissance De L’Amour, consisting entirely of solo piano.  There’s texture, emotion, and thoughtful sounds.  Here’s a sample

I was record shopping with friends once, and bought the Cale compilation, Seducing Down the Door, a Collection 1970-1990.  We went back to their place to listen to what we bought.  After the first CD (it’s a 2-CD set), Pat said, “Wait, I want to see something…” And put a Madonna record on.  It was such a breath of fresh air.  I’d never noticed how intense John Cale was, I’d always just loved his music.  The juxtaposition with Madonna was edifying!  (This is not an endorsement for Madonna.  I can neither confirm nor deny that you should listen to her.)

Heartbreak Hotel demonstrates what he does to rock and roll.  Give him a classic crooner’s love song and Cale breaks it.  It becomes an intense study of emotional pain.


I’ll hazard a guess that any contemporary musician would deal with Lucifer to be so enabled.  Actually, with research, I’ve chosen a live version instead of the studio version.  If I’m going to post YT vides, when I am able, I’d like to give you something to look at besides the album cover.  Plus, serendipity, I think this odd version shows more examples of what I’ve tried to demonstrate for you, dear reader.

There are two particular joys that I’m finding as I continue with this blog.  First is the gained edification; I have to think about why I like a piece of music, and I have to think how to put that into words – and that creates a nice circle of think-write-learn-repeat.  The second unexpected enjoyment is the things I find as I research a piece or a topic that I think I already know pretty well.  And that is the story for my lsat selection in this primer.  In 1963, well before the Velvet Underground, John Cale was on the TV show I’ve Got a Secret.  This is the story of “Vexations”, and at the end, a sample of the score played on piano.

There is so much I have left uncovered.  I counted 15 studio albums, another 6 live albums, and 4 collaborative studio albums (which seams sparse, maybe people have trouble counting).  He has scored movie soundtracks, and assembled compilations for many other movies.  The list of people and bands he has produced is uncountable; his work with Nico, Patti Smith, and The Stooges, to just name 3, is legendary.

Tell me, dear reader, what you’re loving, what I’ve missed, what you’ve found that’s new to you.


© Community Noise 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Help — I need One More Boom Boom

It’s a minor post, but if you’re having trouble with what to listen to tonight, or this weekend, CommunityNoise.blog has your back.

I was noticing a theme; found one more song and then another.  I need a fifth.  Help?  I like song lists of 5.  It’s a nice number.  Boom Boom Boom

1. John Lee Hooker

If the Boom Boom theme had a saint, John Lee would be St. Boom.  He’s street cool, with rhythm and soul and a wily groove in his throat.


2. Murder City Devis

These were a beloved Seattle band sometime in the 1990s, I think I mostly wasn’t living here at the time, and I never liked them.  There’s a particular sub-genre, named or otherwise, of hardcore punk where the voice is all angry tar, like the devil.  I’m not into it.  But THIS song; kills me  Yeah.


3. The Prettiots

I’ve extolled the virtues of this band a few times over the past year.  Funny, clever, good songs.


4. Jennylee

I don’t know anything about this, except I found it and I like it.  A lot.  I’ll tell you this, if you’re lost looking for new Indie rock ‘n’ roll, Rough Trade Records is the place to start.  (Then come back to CommunityNoise.blog)


5.  Somebody out there can help me with #5.  I have a sense.  Maybe it’s that prolific Aussie that types like a mad man.


Whoever cannot help me, shall dance to this song tonight.  I did, and I will again.  We can have a virtual rendezvous.


For Want of Cocktails at the Santa Fe Opera

In April, after publishing the playlist, “Bein’ Good Isn’t Always Easy”, Community Noise was summoned to New Mexico to take in Pink Martini with friends.  PM was joined by the Santa Fe Symphony Strings to play the stunning open-air Santa Fe Opera.

What a show!

The day had been hot and dry; I rushed to get into town, check into a hotel, perform some social duties, and ferry myself, Diane, and Tom up the highway in a rented convertible.  During the performance, I spontaneously started taking notes and writing petite vignettes; pondering the writing of this post.

Pink Martini opened with “Pana cand nu te iubeam” (translated from the Romanian, “Until I loved you”) a song that I know, except Storm Large typically sings it.  On this night we had China Forbes.

I could imagine a cobra rising from a basket, with jazz and salsa soul, dancing a slanky dance.  What street corner could this be?  I’m not sure.  Someplace where East meets West with Cajan food steaming in the midnight air.  It’s a bright night, with a toothless man in a shiny suit selling his wares in the alleyway over there.

An actual cocktail would have fit well right about here; maybe something pink and fluffy with a little umbrella.  Festive.


Pink Martini is a multi-cultural ensemble, incorporating limitless cultures and genres into their music and singing songs in handfuls of different languages.  Besides English, I counted Romanian, French, Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, Japanese, and Croatian.  They asked for a native French speaker, and a willing Frenchman came up to help China sing a song.  They couldn’t find an Arabic speaker, but a young Turkish woman joined them later for a song.  She blew us away; was she a plant?  Dunno.  I suspect she knew the song and sang some karaoke.  Mystery guest could sing and had presence.  Here’s an example; it’s not the same woman and may not even be the same song, but you get the idea:

I wouldn’t normally associate bongo drums with “exotic”, but I noted:

The bongo drums seem to hold everything together – pretty wild for a salsa swing opera ensemble.

The percussion, generally, is more than a rhythm section for PM, it’s a good portion of the band’s soul.

Pianist and founder Thomas Lauderdale explained that Helen Reddy had been a guest a few evenings prior at the Hollywood Bowl; he invited women – all of them – to come up on stage.  Maybe 60 or 70 women joined to sing “I am Woman.”  They wore such proud faces.  I asked Diane what it was like for her to see all those women up there.  “Watching all those women up on stage (and they kept coming and coming!) made me feel stronger and more powerful.  And anytime you get a group of women together, singing and laughing, it’s like one big party that you wish would never end.”  I could not find a clip of PM playing the song, but here’s Helen giving it a swing from back in the day:

Later, a song that I didn’t know; a stiff breeze coming into the opera house, closing my eyes, picturing …

Lightning struck at dusk, storm acoming, after a dusty day of hazy skies and burning heat.  The violinist worked out a somber song, the trumpet man completed the intro without want for breath, and the Croatian sang a sad, sad song.  Melancholy filled the thick night air.

With some research and questionable memory, the song was the Croatian piece, “U Plavu Zoru”, which translates as “At Blue Dawn”.  (Assist from http://www.lyricstranslate.com)

At blue dawn, With a light, there, At my door / You’re coming, You will find; My empty bed / While the train is taking; Me far away

Yikes.  Melancholy is one way to describe that.

Timothy Nishimoto sang “Zundoko-bushi”, including his uncle-celebrating refrain, “Oh, Big One!”.  My notes suggest “Puff the Magic Dragon in Japanese.”  I dunno.  Fun song though.

China Forbes song, “Hey Eugene”, pleases me; a good punk song informed by orchestral and operatic styles, it must be my favorite Pink Martini song.  And they played it for me.

After intermission, I spontaneously quit taking notes.  It’s a good thing, dear reader, you have other things to go do now.  But first, let me know when you’ve seen Pink Martini and what that was like.  Tell me your favorite PM song!


© Community Noise 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.