Norman C. Pickering, Who Refined the Record Player, Dies at 99


(via the New York Times)

by Bruce Weber

…In 1945, Mr. Pickering, who enjoyed listening to records and was frustrated by the sound quality of recordings, developed an improved pickup — that is, the mechanism that includes the phonograph needle, or stylus, and translates the information in the groove of a record into an electrical signal that can be reproduced as sound.

Previous pickups were heavier and more unwieldy; styluses were made of steel, they needed to be replaced frequently, and the weight of the mechanism wore out records after a limited number of plays.

The so-called Pickering pickup (and later, its even more compact iteration, the Pickering cartridge) was introduced just as the favored material for records was shifting from shellac to vinyl, which had a lower playback noise level.

Originally designed for use in broadcast and recording studios, it was a fraction of the size of earlier models, and it replaced the steel of the stylus with a significantly lighter and harder material — sapphire or diamond — which lasted much longer and traced a more feathery path along the record. Because of it, records lasted longer and original sounds were reproduced with less distortion…

Read more:

Recommended Albums #67


Von Hertzen Brothers: New Day Rising (2015)

As prog albums go, this is one “from the heart”.

Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers are at their melodic best on New Day Rising, an ebullient, heartfelt pop prog collection that displays a diversity of musical influence from AC/DC to Pink Floyd.


The band are big fish in little Finland, where they’ve topped album charts and won that country’s Grammy equivalent (2006 Best Rock Album). Neighboring Denmark has embraced them as well. But in this country they are mainly known to fans of progressive rock, some of whom have given this latest effort a tepid reception on the basis of it not being “prog enough” and containing too many songs with love as the theme.

That’s their problem.

The job of this site, I’m happy to say, is simply to identify recommendation-worthy music regardless of genre. So whether the VHB’s have lived up to their “prog” credentials or merely created a very good pop rock album, it’s music worth a vetting if you’re a fan of well-made rock music, which is becoming more of a niche genre every year that rap and bad electronic dance music dominate the stateside charts.

Check out the video for the uplifting and anthemic “Hold Me Up”. While many of the best prog bands can leave you spellbound with great musicianship or epic songs, the Von Hertzens (also known as an impressive live band) clearly demonstrate a charismatic knack that seems to come from not taking it all–or themselves–too seriously.

As drummer Mikko states, “Von Hertzen is German and means ‘from the heart’. That’s what we try to always keep in mind when writing or performing. We feel the music is pretty much useless, if it doesn’t come from our hearts. The point of music, any kind of music, is to create wonderful experiences that are somehow elevating and encouraging. That’s our mission. The music is our instrument”.

Mission accomplished.

Listen to: “Hold Me Up”

Listen to: “Dreams”

Listen to: “The Destitute”

Video of the Week: Adele Goes Undercover as Adele Impersonator


Adele auditions as Jenny, an Adele impersonator, with the help of BBC’s Graham Norton, lots of makeup and a prosthetic chin.

The dialogue between her and the other contestants is priceless…

Impersonator: “Can’t wait for the new album”

Adele: “She’s taking her time”

Another contestant: “Try saying that to her face”

Video of the Week: Nickelblock

Video of the Week: Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ from the BBC, 1971

Neil Young performs “Old Man” on February 23rd, 1971 at the BBC Television Theater on London, prior to its release on 1972’s Harvest album.

The song was written for the caretaker of Broken Arrow Ranch in northern California, which Young purchased in 1970.

Video of the Week: ‘Uptown Funk’ Mashed Up with 66 Old Movies

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and the like are matched up perfectly with Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” in a montage created by Nerdfest UK to promote film preservation charities.

The video was inspired by another which pairs the same song with 100 more contemporary movies:

10 Artists Who Hated Their Biggest Hit


(via Mental Floss)

by Eric van Rheenen

Sinead O’Connor announced earlier this year that she’ll no longer sing “Nothing Compares 2 U” because she doesn’t emotionally identify with the song. O’Connor was hardly the first artist to grow tired of a signature hit.

Read more:

Songs You May Have Missed #557


Julee Cruise: “Friends For Life” (1993)

If Julee Cruise’s voices sounds, well, eerily familiar it’s because she sang on three songs that were featured in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series, as well as one from his 1985 film Blue Velvet.

Soul and Inspiration: The Surprising Stories Behind 15 Classic Songs

(via purple clover)

by John Birmingham

“Mother and Child Reunion,” Paul Simon

simonThe song came to him in the early ’70s. Paul Simon explains: “I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called Mother and Child Reunion. It’s chicken and eggs. And I said, I gotta use that one.”

“I Am the Walrus,” the Beatles


In 1967, John Lennon received a letter from a student at a high school near Liverpool whose professor had assigned his class to analyze Beatles lyrics. That prompted Lennon to write a song that defied analysis—filling it with lines like “crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess” and “elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna,” all summed up by the famous refrain: “goo goo goo joob.”

Read more: “Mother and Child Reunion,” Paul Simon | Stories Behind Classic Songs | Purple Clover (

For the Love of Him–The Sexist 70’s

wing eschheadphones.png

Don’t think for a minute, young fans of rap music, that your favorite gangstas invented sexism, misogyny, and male chauvinism. Thanks to guys like Tom Jones, Mac Davis and R.B. Greaves, we were doing quite nicely in that regard forty years ago.

It was a different time, and if you lived through it you thought nothing of singing along with lyrics like “wish you could come but I don’t need no woman taggin’ along“. Many of these songs survive to this day via heavy radio airplay because…well, they just made sexism so damn catchy! The only difference is you may feel a little self-conscious singing along today.


Mac Davis: “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me”


With lyrics like:

Just keep it friendly girl ’cause I don’t want to leave,
Don’t start clinging to me girl ’cause I can’t breathe


Baby, baby don’t get hooked on me.
‘Cause I’ll just use you then I’ll set you free….

…how could a woman resist the charms of one Mac Davis?


R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria”


R.B. Greaves (nephew of Sam Cooke) finds his wife in the arms of another man, so he dictates a letter to his secretary letting said wife and his lawyer know he’ll be eschewing couples counselling (not to mention any responsibility for the obvious marital problems) and leaving to start a new life. Oh, and p.s. miss secretary: he’s free for dinner tonight if you’re game for a rebound relationship.

What a model of sensitivity he must have been as a husband.


Chairmen Of The Board: “Pay To The Piper”


In light of their 1970 hit “Pay to the Piper” I wonder what kind of office The Chairmen of the Board ran. They probably had a lot of turnover among office secretaries. Sample lyric:

I spend my money on you–every dime
You even told me you had a good time
The night is through and we’re all alone
You said it’s time that you went home
You’ve been wined and dined in front of me
Just how nice must I be?
I played the tune, you dug the beat
Now come on, girl–be nice to me

If you dance to the music, don’t you know
You’ve got to pay to the piper
Ask your mama!

…You say that you haven’t known me long
How much longer will this go on?
Girl, my patience is wearing thin
I wanna be more than just a friend
Girl, I need some love desperately
Stop teasing, girl–take care of me

I think my favorite line is “Ask your mama!” That’s right–the woman who bore you will tell you the score: You were raised to be the plaything of any “gentleman” willing to foot the bill for dinner and a couple bevies. Don’t test his patience! Just…you know, take care of him! Don’t tease a guy by going out to dinner and trying to get to know him, dammit!

And don’t make me tell your father you won’t put out, young lady.


Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose: “Treat Her Like a Lady”

sister rose

Possibly the most unintentionally ironic song ever. Cornelius Brothers and sister Rose espouse gentlemanly treatment of women–but only as a means to the end of manipulation and eventual domination. The song’s title gives the false hope that these guys get it, but lines like “strange as it seems…you can’t treat a woman mean” belie the apparent good intentions. More sample lyrics:

All my friends had to ask me
Somethin’ they didn’t understand
How I get all the women
In the palms of my hand

And I told them, treat her like a lady
The best you can do
You got to treat her like a lady, and she’ll give in to you…

You know a woman is sentimental
And so easy to upset

So make her feel
That she’s for real

And she give you happiness…

So my friend, there you have it
I said it’s the easy simple way
If you fail, uh, ta do this
Don’t blame her if she looks my way

‘Cause I’m gonna treat her like a lady

So affectionately
I’m gonna treat her like a lady
She’ll give into me


Tom Jones: “She’s A Lady”


Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady” must be reprinted in its entirety to be believed. If there were a trophy to award for sexism in a song, Tom’s name would be engraved in perpetuity for this masterpiece of musical condescension:

Well, she’s all you’d ever want
She’s the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner
But she always knows her place
She’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s a winner
She’s a lady
Oh, whoa, whoa, she’s a lady
Talkin’ about that little lady
And the lady is mine

Well, she’s never in the way
Always something nice to say, and what a blessin’
I can leave her on her own
Knowin’ she’s OK alone and there’s no messin’
She’s a lady
Oh, whoa, whoa, she’s a lady
Talkin’ about that little lady
And the lady is mine

Well, she never asks very much
And I don’t refuse her
Always treat her with respect
I never would abuse her
What she’s got is hard to find
And I don’t want to lose her
Help me build a mountain
From a little pile of clay, hey hey hey

Well, she knows what I’m about
She can take what I dish out, and that’s not easy
But she knows me through and through
And she knows just what to do and how to please me
She’s a lady…


Bobbi Martin: “For The Love Of Him”


1970’s women were happy to chime in on the joys and sorrows of living in a man’s world, too. Check out Bobbi Martin, who without a trace of irony instructs fellow members of the weaker sex in the art of behaving like a cocker spaniel:

When he opens the door says I’m home
Beware of the look in his eyes
They tell you the mood he’s in
What kind of day it’s been
For the love of him
Make him your reason for living
Give all the love you can give him
All the love you can…

I’d like to think Eminem’s misogynist rantings will sound as silly forty years from now. It will be a sign we live in a more enlightened world.

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