Showing all posts tagged: music

What has happened to cover versions of popular songs?

20 May 2024

Every week, Australian radio station Triple J, invites a band or musician to record a cover of a song, for their Like A Version show. Anything goes here. About two years ago, Sydney based Australian DJ Dave Winnel performed a cover of Africa, by Toto, not the sort of music you’d usually hear on the jays.

While Like A Version recordings are archived on the Triple J website, I’m not sure many are released as singles, where they may, or may not, chart. The idea here is to have a bit of fun.

Cover songs, where one musician records a usually popular song by another recording artist, are an integral part of music history. Many well-known acts launched their careers by recording a cover of someone else’s song. The Rolling Stones first single, for example, from 1963, was a cover of Come On, by Chuck Berry.

But today though, covers are a lost art. Or, covers of popular songs, at least, according to this chart, compiled by American musician and writer, Chris Dalla Riva. The image makes for grim viewing for fans of cover songs. In the last fifteen to twenty years, barely any cover songs — of the popular variety, that is — have made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Surely this is not the end of the road for covers? Read more about Dalla Riva’s findings here.

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Aaron Sorkin penning a sequel to The Social Network in response to January 6

3 May 2024

I squeezed in two screenings of The Social Network — the 2010 film by David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, dramatizing the founding of Facebook — on the day it was released in Australia. I went up to the local cinema the morning it opened, so I could write about it here, then returned to the same cinema for an evening viewing.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m no fan of Facebook itself, but various trailers, and the pre-opening hype, had me excited. Facebook was once a start-up, a small business, and the dramatization of the early days promised to be a doozy. The movie sits in my home library now, and I still look forward to rolling it out once or twice a year.

Even today, I still wait in anticipation for the night-club scene, where Justin Timberlake’s character Sean Parker, utters the line this is our time. The track playing during the scene, Sound Of Violence, by Dennis De Laat, is still on my Spotify favourites playlist.

There’s no two ways: I’m a fan of The Social Network.

And news the other day that the film’s co-screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, was penning a sequel, saw me getting euphoric all over again. But I suspect the sequel, of “some kind”, will strike a far more sombre tone than the original. This because Sorkin believes Facebook played some part in the 2021, January 6 insurrection, in the United States:

Sorkin would not answer why he blamed Facebook for Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol, but he teased: “You’re going to need to buy a movie ticket.” “I’m trying [to write a movie about it],” Sorkin elaborated. “Facebook has been, among other things, tuning its algorithm to promote the most divisive material possible.”

I wonder if the original cast, Jesse Eisenberg (as Mark Zuckerberg), and Andrew Garfield (as Eduardo Saverin), among them, would reprise their earlier roles? It’d make for a great opportunity to catch up with some of the key players, and see what they’re up to nowadays. It might also add a lighter touch to what could otherwise be sullen proceedings.

As such, I see a role for the Winklevoss twins here. They’ve been busy since The Social Network days. In addition to rowing in the 2008 Olympics, they founded a cryptocurrency exchange, and a venture capital company. But that’s not all. They also formed a band, Mars Junction, which they describe as “a hard-hitting rock band”.

Check out this short clip of them performing at a gig about two years ago. Perhaps, in the proposed sequel, it could be imagined the Winklevoss’ had bought a house next door to Zuckerberg’s, and both parties find themselves in conflict again. This time though, over loud Mars Junction band practice sessions that annoy the hell out of Zuckerberg.

Of course, I can’t see that happening, but I can dream. Whatever, I’ll be looking out for the sequel once it is released.

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Pub Choir gather nineteen thousand people to sing Africa by Toto

18 April 2024

From time to time, a few years ago now, I found myself walking passed a bar called The Dock (Facebook page), on Monday evenings. The bar, located in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, was host to something I’d not witnessed at a watering hole before: everyone singing.

And, as far as I could tell, without musical accompaniment. I later learned these sessions were called the Sea Shantys. They were clearly a drawcard for the bar, as every time I went passed at least, there seemed to be standing room only inside.

To the best of my knowledge, given I’ve not been over that way recently, these singalongs still continue, recent pandemic lockdowns notwithstanding.

Short wonder then Australian community organisation Pub Choir, was able to gather close to nineteen thousand people, from all across Australia, to perform a rendition of Africa, the 1982 hit by American band Toto, in August last year. See what you think. It ain’t half bad, if you ask me.

Yep: it’s gonna to take a lot to drag me away from you…

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A tribute to Kurt Cobain by his daughter Frances Bean Cobain

10 April 2024

Thirty-years ago, last Friday, 5 April, Kurt Cobain, American musician, and founder of grunge act Nirvana, died.

It was one of those remember-where-you-were-when-the-news-broke moments. I was sitting on the carpeted stairs of friend’s house, as we listened to a radio report about the tragedy. We could’ve sat in the lounge room, or around the kitchen table, but somehow not being in the same room as the radio, not being in its line of sight, made the news, I don’t know, easier to process.

Or maybe we felt the need to give the clearly upset DJ, who was discussing what happened, space.

To mark the thirtieth anniversary of Cobain’s death, his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who was twenty-months old at the time, published a tribute to her late father on her Instagram page. These are beautiful words, particularly, I thought, this excerpt:

In the last 30 years my ideas around loss have been in a continuous state of metamorphosing. The biggest lesson learned through grieving for almost as long as I’ve been conscious, is that it serves a purpose. The duality of life & death, pain & joy, yin & yang, need to exist along side each other or none of this would have any meaning.

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Only one in five Australian musicians earn a full time income

4 April 2024

The latest Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) survey of the pay and work conditions of Australian musicians makes for grim reading. In particular, the stand-out finding that half of local musos earned less than six thousand dollars last year.

Six thousand dollars.

The adult minimum annual wage in Australia, based on earnings of $882 per week, and assuming payment covers fifty-two weeks of the year, is a shade under forty-six thousand Australian dollars. Only twenty percent of musicians said they made a full time income from their work.

Many musicians needed to work several jobs, often perform at shows unpaid, and seldom receive superannuation payments. In 2022, the NSW Labor party promised to pass laws ensuring musicians performing at publicly funded events, receive a minimum payment of two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.

At least it’s a start, but I think the findings of the MEAA survey make it glaringly obvious: more support is needed for the performing arts in Australia.

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Seen, read, and heard, books, film, TV, and music March 2024

27 March 2024

Long time readers of Kottke have doubtless seen his semi-regular media diet posts, where he writes about the movies and TV shows he’s seen, plus books he’s been reading. Kottke is a voracious consumer of media if those posts are anything to go by.

In comparison, my consumption is far more modest. Maybe it’s because I have a minimum of two to three hours away from screens daily, and/or I spend too much time daydreaming.

Still, dimming the lights during the quiet remains of the day, and taking in a movie or TV show, and afterwards, a book, is always something to look forward to.

Movie poster for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, featuring Chloe Grace Moretz

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a 2018 film directed by Desiree Akhavan, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, as the titular character. After learning Cameron has a girlfriend, her conservative aunt and guardian sends her away for gay “conversion” therapy at a religious institution. I watched this twice, as I found the first viewing unsettling to say the least.

Also unsettling and confronting is Nitram, by Justin Kurzel, which delves into the mind of the person responsible for Australia’s largest mass-shooting in 1996, at Port Arthur, in Tasmania.

Tully, directed by Jason Reitman in 2018, stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, who is struggling to raise a family after the birth of her third child. Reluctantly she hires a night nanny named Tully. Despite some early misgivings about Tully, the two quickly develop a close bond.

Knives Out, made in 2019 by Rian Johnson, sees Daniel Craig playing a James Bond like role that not the least bit James Bond (thankfully). Craig portrays Benoit Blanc, a private investigator, who tries to piece together the apparent suicide of a wealthy family patriarch. If whodunits are your thing, this is not to be missed.

I’ve also found time to look at Nemesis, a documentary produced by the ABC, which looks at the last three Coalition party Prime Ministers of Australia. What can I say? Once a politician, always a politician? And, we may wear the same stripes, but that doesn’t mean we like each other. Even if politics isn’t your thing, this is still fascinating viewing.

I’ve also been tuning into Universe, a documentary by British physicist Brian Cox. There’s no missing the similarities to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, made by Carl Sagan in the early 1980’s. Compared to Cosmos, Universe does plod a little, but Cox’s enthusiasm, indeed joy, for the gargantuan entity we reside in, is nothing short of infectious.

Most people probably know Cox played keyboards in British dance/electronica act D:Ream, and their 1993 track Things can only get better, perhaps remains one of the band’s best known tracks. But you may not know that Cox later conceded the song was misleading and scientifically inaccurate. The universe, despite being a mere baby, is already in an inexorable, albeit protracted, decline. Things are certainly not getting better…

Turning to novels, I’ve recently read Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, by Sydney based author and lawyer Shankari Chandran, which won the 2023 Miles Franklin literary award for Australian fiction. I’m not really into crime fiction, but couldn’t put down The Housemate, by Melbourne writer Sarah Bailey.

Likewise, Funny Ethnics by Shirley Li, set across the west and inner west of Sydney, which I wrote about here last year. I’m currently reading Before You Knew My Name, by Jacqueline Bublitz, a story about two women, one alive, one dead, whose fates become intertwined in New York.

The Triple J Hottest 100 was broadcast two months ago, but I’m still sifting through the countdown for tracks to add to my playlists. At present though I have Paint The Town Red, by Doja Cat, and The Worst Person Alive, by G Flip, on repeat. Also State Violence State Control, by Arnaud Rebotini, which was on the soundtrack for Mark Raso’s 2014 film Copenhagen.

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Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, for book for her fans

25 September 2023

Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, book cover

Book cover of Amy Winehouse: In Her Words.

Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, published by HarperCollins, one for fans of late British musician and singer Amy Winehouse.

Much has been said about Amy Winehouse since her tragic death aged just 27. But who was the real Amy? Amy Winehouse: In Her Words shines a spotlight on her incredible writing talent, her wit, her charm and lust for life. Bringing together Amy’s own never-before-seen journals, handwritten lyrics and family photographs together for the first time, this intimate tribute traces her creative evolution from growing up in North London to global superstardom, and provides a rare insight into the girl who became a legend.

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The conduct of live music fans is just as bad as cinema-goers

25 September 2023

The recent, post pandemic lockdown, sometimes poor behaviour of film-goers has been the subject of some discussion recently. Many of the problems frustrated cinema patrons have reported stem largely from the gratuitous use of smartphones during screenings. It’s enough to make you want to stay at home and stream movies instead.

But bad, inconsiderate, audience conduct is not restricted to cinemas. The attitudes of live music fans likewise leaves much to be desired. Not only are gig-goers refusing to keep their smartphones in their pockets, they’ve also taken to throwing objects at the performers on stage. Both Taylor Swift and Harry Styles have been the target of audience-hurled projectiles, at recent shows.

But being a music show jerk is “on-trend”, says music critic Simon Price, writing for The Guardian:

I’ve been a music journalist since the mid-1980s, and one thing I can say with confidence is that people’s behaviour at gigs has become objectively and observably worse over time. These things used to be self-policing and there was an unwritten code. So, for example, if there’s a moshpit and someone falls, you stop and help them back up. If someone’s shorter than you and you’re blocking their view, you get out of their way. If you absolutely must get nearer to the stage, go round the side instead of barging through the middle. Most of these conventions simply fall under the catch-all rubric of Don’t Be a Selfish Idiot.

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Karaoke, not the whisper, the heart of Lost in Translation

14 September 2023

It’s been twenty years since American filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s second full length feature, Lost in Translation, was released. Pretty much all anyone could talk about at the time was the whisper scene at the end of the film, when Bill Murray’s character, Bob, uttered a comment into the ear of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Charlotte.

Murray’s words were inaudible to viewers of the film, precipitating a flurry of speculation as to what he said. You name it, people have probably argued in support of it.

I still have Lost in Translation in my aging DVD collection, and maybe every year or so, we bring it out for a spin. But the more I see the so-called whisper scene, the more pointless it becomes. Bob clearly says something uplifting to Charlotte. Great. So why keep it hushed up?

As a way of getting people to talk about Lost in Translation? But that seems like overkill, a stunt even. The movie already has numerous talking points. The pairing of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Their character’s respective marriage problems. Why Charlotte’s husband left her languishing in a Tokyo hotel room, while he went gallivanting around Japan, apparently for work.

But Tom Nicholson, writing for Empire Online, suggests that the karaoke scene is perhaps Lost in Translation‘s most poignant:

The karaoke sequence is a much better embodiment of what the movie’s about — a beautiful bit of intimation and suggestion and just enough irony to stop anyone taking what’s said entirely seriously. Every karaoke song choice is a chance to tell your fellow singers something about yourself using other people’s words.

The songs sung in the karaoke scene were Brass in Pocket, originally recorded by The Pretenders, and More Than This, by Roxy Music. Using other people’s words then could make figuring out what Bob whispered to Charlotte a little easier, if you still want to.

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You Already Know, the new single from Jacoténe

10 August 2023

Jacoténe, the Melbourne based Australian soul and pop singer, whose vocals reminds more than a few people of Amy Winehouse, has released a new single, You Already Know. This a year after she won Triple J’s Unearthed High with her song I Need Therapy.

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