The Lyrics People Know to YMCA

funny graphs - More Songs Need Letters You Can Arm Gesture

Madonna Defends Her Use of Nazi Symbol

Madonna performs during her MDNA  Tour in London.

(Reprinted from the New York Times)

Madonna defended her decision to use a swastika in a video during her current tour, saying it is a fit image for her message about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another.”

The Nazi symbol is superimposed on the forehead of the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen during a video that Madonna has been playing while she sings “Nobody Knows Me” at her concerts during a world tour.  Last week, the far-right party said it would sue Madonna after a concert in Paris and accused her of cynically insulting Ms. Le Pen to gain publicity.

Ms. Le Pen, who placed third in France’s presidential election in April, was one of several famous figures depicted in the video: others included Sarah Palin, President Hu Jintao of China and Pope Benedict XVI.  In February, Ms. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, was found guilty of condoning war crimes after he said the Nazi occupation of France had “not been particularly inhumane.”

Madonna has not changed the video since the National Front threatened to sue her, and it was shown at least three concerts in Britain last week.  Asked about the Nazi imagery by a Brazilian television journalist for a piece that was broadcast over the weekend, the singer said the image was justified because the song concerns intolerance and explores the question of “how much we judge people before knowing them.”

“Music should be about ideas, right?” she said.  “Ideas inspire music.”

The use of the swastika is not the first controversial piece of theater Madonna has employed on her tour to promote “MDNA,” her current album.  On Saturday, she brandished a prop pistol onstage in Edinburgh despite a warning from police not to do so.  And on June 8, she exposed her breast during a show in Istanbul while singing “No Fear.”


I don’t even need to say it, do I? This is part of Madonna’s process–the cycle whereby she gets herself in publications like Rolling Stone and the New York Times once the attention of a (lackluster) new release has died down. She courts controversy, gets it, then justifies what’s offensive by saying something like “music is about ideas”. Does Madonna really impress you these days as someone who is all about ideas? I think it’s much more likely she’s about finding every possible way to maximize her earnings in an era when she’s been overtaken by so many younger, hotter artists–artists whose “ideas”, shallow though they may be, are connecting with young people in a more impactful way.

To quote Marine Le Pen, the politician whose image was superimposed with the swastika: “It’s understandable when aging singers who need publicity go to such extremes. Her songs don’t work anymore.”

In a sense, she’s taking the low road (resorting to shocking and offending people) while appearing to take the high ground (saying she’s concerned about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another”). If she wants to examine such topics, why doesn’t she write a serious treatise on the subject? Why not do a benefit tour with all profits going to organizations that fight such intolerance? Is dance music even the best way to address her deep concerns for the human condition? Do you think about human intolerance and the terrible injustice of racist nationalistic regimes while you’re shaking your ass at a club?

Make no mistake, the only idea that concerns Madonna is the idea that you buy her product.

What is Popspots?

(Reprinted from Open Culture)

By day, Bob Egan is a mild-mannered commercial real estate agent in New York City. By night, and on weekends, he transforms himself into something of a pop culture detective, searching out the locations of famous record album covers and other famous pop images. About a year ago he started a Web site, PopSpotsNYC, to share his findings, and the site has been growing in popularity ever since.

Egan’s fascination with album cover locations began in 1977, when he moved to his first apartment in Greenwich Village and discovered he was only a block away from the place on Jones Street where The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan cover photograph was shot in 1963, which showed Dylan walking arm-in-arm with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, on a cold February day.

“Living in Greenwich Village in the late 70s,” Egan told Open Culture, “I was surrounded by sites I had read about in college: Bleecker and Macdougal, The Bottom Line, the Mudd Club, CBGB’s, etc. I was soaking up information for years later, I guess, because it wasn’t until the mid 90s that I first went into Bleecker Bob’s and asked if they knew where the cover of Blonde on Blonde was shot. When they didn’t know, I said, Well why not find out myself?”

The Blonde on Blonde location remains a mystery, but Egan has tracked down a number of other Dylan cover locations, including Highway 61 Revisited (the front steps of a town house on Gramercy Park West), Another Side of Bob Dylan (the corner of 52nd Street and Broadway), and the single “I Want You” (a warehouse district on Jacob Street that was town down long ago).

The Jacob Street location, also the site of a July 30, 1966 Saturday Evening Post cover of Dylan, was one of the hardest to find. “I searched through every curved street in New York and finally found it online in an old photo from the library,” Egan said. “The entire street, which was next to the Brooklyn Bridge, had been demolished 50 years ago, but I finally clicked on a library image and found myself staring straight into the exact spot Dylan was in the photo. I let out a whoop!”

Egan has found the exact locations of record albums and other famous images of a number of artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Who, and Simon & Garfunkel. The choices reflect his taste in music. “I grew up during the classic rock era,” Egan said. “My ‘musical comfort food’ is Dylan, Van Morrison, Lou Reed, and The Grateful Dead.”

Even though the Grateful Dead was a West Coast group, Egan makes use of online tools like Google Street View and Bing Bird’s Eye to explore locations from his New York home. The 1970 album “Workingman’s Dead” is one of Egan’s current projects. “The Dead photo was supposedly taken next to a bus stop in the Mission District of San Francisco,” said Egan. “I bought a vintage map of the bus route from 1969 from the San Francisco transit museum and searched all the bus routes through the Mission with Street View, but still haven’t found it.”

When we asked Egan what drives his obsession, he said, “I think of it like this: If I went to England and someone asked me if I wanted to see Westminster Abbey or Abbey Road, I’d take Abbey Road.”

Below are several examples of Egan’s detective work. To see more, and to read the story behind each location, visit

The album cover that started it all for Egan was The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featuring Don Hunstein’s photo of Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo walking through snow at the north end of Jones Street, in Greenwich Village.

The location of the cover photo of Dylan’s 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited posed a challenge. Egan always assumed that Daniel Kramer’s photo of Dylan was taken indoors, but he eventually tracked it down to the front steps of a town house on Gramercy Park West that was the home of Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman.

What could be more British than the 1979 cover of The Kids Are Alright, by The Who? Actually, Art Kane’s photo was taken at the little-known Carl Schurz Monument in the Morningside Heights area of New York City. Egan gives directions on how to find the place at his Web site.

Egan found the precise location of Henry Parker’s cover photo for Simon & Garfunkel’s 1965 debut album, Wednesday Mourning 3 A.M.: the lower subway platform at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, for the outbound E and F lines.

Leo Friedman’s cover photograph from the original 1957 cast recording of West Side Story, shows characters Maria (Carol Lawrence) and Tony (Larry Kent) running through the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York. The location was actually one of Egan’s easier discoveries. “How did I find it,” he says on his Web site? “Pretty simple. If you look closely at the garbage can to the left of Maria–the address is right on it! 418 West 56th Street.” (All images courtesy Bob Egan/


Reading this I just kept thinking: …or he could have just asked the photographer.



Songs You May Have Missed #153


The Kooks: “Eskimo Kiss” (2011)

British pop band the Kooks, fronted by Luke Pritchard, make sunny, unabashedly catchy pop tunes that you may have a hard time dispelling once they get inside your head. This one just transports me to a nicer place…

See also:

Songs You May Have Missed #152


Garfunkel & Oates: “Pregnant Woman Are Smug” (2011)

…or if you prefer, a live performance:


It’s true. Oh, it’s damn true.

Songs You May Have Missed #151


Camera Obscura: “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” (2006)


Glasgow’s Camera Obscura revives sounds of 60’s pop to delightful effect, similarly to The School (Songs You May Have Missed #79, Recommended Albums #20) but with less of a lean toward bubblegum girl group sounds and more of the orchestral country pop flavor of Connie Francis and Skeeter Davis. Tracyanne Campbell’s delivery, with just a touch of a Scottish accent, is definitely part of the quirky appeal.

Another example of indie pop plundering the pop gold of past decades and melting it down to make pretty new things.

See also:

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