93 Notes in 93 Days

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Songs You May Have Missed #219

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Jimmy Beaumont and The Skyliners: “Where Have They Gone” (1974)

And that reminds me of another Pittsburgh hit, this one released in 1974 and hitting its national chart peak of #100 in March of 1975. In the ‘Burgh however it was in heavy rotation that year.

Jimmy Beaumont and The Skyliners of course were best-known for the Doo Wop classic “Since I Don’t Have You” from back in 1959. It’s been said that Beaumont had the greatest voice of any singer in the early era of Rock ‘n Roll.

He wasn’t going for the high notes on “Where Have They Gone”, but its wistful lyric is beautifully rendered, and it’s one of my absolute favorite songs of the 70’s.

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Songs You May Have Missed #218

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Cellarful of Noise: “Samantha” (1988)

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Here’s a nearly forgotten song that was quite a big local hit in Pittsburgh, though it only charted nationally at #69. It was written and sung by Mark Avsec, who was a member not only of Donnie Iris’ Cruisers but also of Wild Cherry (“Play That Funky Music”).

If this one sounds like a Donnie Iris song, there’s good reason: Avsec co-wrote all of Iris’ biggest hits, including “My Girl”, “Love Is Like a Rock” and “Ah! Leah!”. His other band, Cellarful of Noise, released two albums.

“Samantha” is in my opinion the second-best pop song about an abortion, number one being ELO’s “Livin’ Thing”. (I’d rank Ben Folds’ “Brick” third, ’cause I have to–it’s the only other one I know.)

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Symphony of Science: Education (Auto)Tuned to Young People

The world of science is indeed full of wonders. Would you ever have believed you could buy a 7″ vinyl record of a song by Carl Sagan?

That would be “A Glorious Dawn”, one of 17 or so bits of science-as-entertainment produced so far by a project called Symphony of Science. The songs and their accompanying videos give scientific and philosophical concepts a pseudo-chillwave musical treatment and feature (with the help of our old friend auto-tune) such prominent figures as Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Hawking and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Check out the site for more:

http://www.symphonyofscience.com/

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John Denver at the PMRC Hearings, 1985

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) also known as the “Washington Wives” was formed in 1985 with the purpose of exerting control (“censorship” some said) over the access children had to violent and explicit music by putting warning labels on albums.

Rap music of the time was thought to be a particular threat, with rapper Ice-T specifically accused by Tipper Gore of inciting increased violence against police in Los Angeles.

On September 19, 1985 three musicians stepped to the microphone to testify. They were Dee Snyder (of Twisted Sister), Frank Zappa and…John Denver, who’d had his own music banned in some cities in the early 70’s.

Many on the PMRC committee expected the folk-pop singer to speak in support of their agenda. But instead Denver articulately stated the case against censorship saying, “That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.” (Spoken like an experienced dad)

(Snyder and Zappa were less conciliatory in tone. And Zappa subsequently responded with his Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention album, which featured a parody of the warning label on its cover.)

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“Giving Her Away”: One of the Best Student-Produced Short Films You’ll Ever Watch

This blog will rarely stray from music-related topics, but I consider this a must watch. “Giving Her Away” is a student-produced 9-minute film that won awards in multiple film festivals in 2006. Enjoy, and have a tissue or two nearby.

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Page and Plant Reunite in Exotic Marrakesh, 1994

(Reprinted from Open Culture)

In 1994 Jimmy Page and Robert Plant collaborated on a new musical project for the first time since the death 14 years earlier of Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham. The reunion resulted from an invitation to appear on MTV’s hit series Unplugged. But Page and Plant wanted to steer clear of nostalgia, so they excluded former Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones from the project and named it Unledded.

The resulting album and DVD feature an assortment of Zeppelin songs that were reinterpreted with the help of an Egyptian ensemble, an Indian vocalist and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, but perhaps the most interesting part of the project was a trio of new songs recorded with local musicians in Marrakesh, Morocco. Those performances, one of which is shown here, were the result of a collaboration with traditional musicians of the Gnawa minority, whose sub-Saharan ancestors were brought to Morocco many centuries ago as slaves.

“We’d never met the Gnawa when we went there,” said Plant in a 1994 interview, “but they were very patient, and smiling is a great currency.” Gnawa music is traditionally performed for prayer and healing, and differs from other North African music. “They play a kind of music which is much more akin to the music of the Mississippi Delta than it is to do with Arab music,” Plant said in another interview. “It’s haunting, seductive, and quite alluring.”

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