Ending Another Streak @IronMaiden @themandalorian #TV #music #StarWars #IronMaiden #UpTheIrons

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Sundays are lazy days for me. Sometimes I post other people’s work. Sometimes, something silly. Usually both. Well, there’s nothing sillier than this. I post today only because this will become my 200th consecutive daily post. I’ve pulled this shit before, posting just to say that I’m continuing what would become a 374 day streak, but I post this to say my streak is ending. Very meta.

Okay, fine. Because you’re here, I should probably give you a stupid meme. Here’s one.

Nice mashup of two things I love. It’s not as if I had something important to say for most of the 199 before it (short of some of these).

Now it’s time for another break.

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My Favorite Album Cover @IronMaiden #music #IronMaiden #gatekeeping

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A Facebook friend posted about his meeting with Derek Riggs, the creator of Eddie, the character gracing the covers of Iron Maiden’s albums. Despite my efforts to soil that character, Eddie is iconic, as are the album covers generally. Among those covers, Number of the Beast is my favorite, and probably my favorite album cover of all time. Somewhere in Time is more impressive, and (one of my favorite 5 albums) Powerslave is more interesting, but Number of the Beast wins. My reasoning is less about the display and more about the message.

Derek intended no message.

“That particular idea I stole from a comic book that I’d read in the 70s, then I adapted it. I wasn’t trying to create a mood. I was just trying to get the job done in the short time I had.”

I inferred a clear message from it, and it raises a pet peeve of mine. When someone gets admonished for doing something bad, rather than say, “I will be a better person going forward,” they sometimes say something like, “That’s not who I am. That’s not me.”

Well, who the hell was it? It was your body doing that crazy stuff. Is there a gremlin living in your head controlling your every move? This excuse is appropriately along the lines of “the devil made me do it,” and it’s a subtle way to avoid properly owning up for the mistake. No, you did the bad thing. You’re responsible. It is you. We hope it’s not who you want to be, and we hope that you’ll grow out of it, but right now, you’re the asshole, not some unidentified, supernatural manipulator. The album exemplifies this by showing that, while the devil is pulling Eddie’s strings, Eddie is pulling the devil’s strings. The smaller Eddie is what people see, the devil is who Eddie blames, but ultimately Eddie is in control. That’s true for all of us.

Is my interpretation correct? Well, yes, because it’s a subjective perspective. Good art encourages you to think and feel on your own. It doesn’t matter what the artist intended; I read into it what I do, and you read into it what you do. Both of us can like it even if our interpretations are in direct opposition to each other or even to the artist.

In this case, I’m sure most of you took the same message from the art, so there really isn’t much of a dispute. So, I guess the real message of this post is, “Leave your gatekeeping at the door.”

Think about it.

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Inktober for Charity, Day 4: Eddie from Iron Maiden #Inktober #JDRF #StillBrave #music #IronMaiden #UpTheIrons @JDRF @stillbrave @KevinBednarz @ironmaiden

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September’s series of musical selections is officially over! It’s October! Or should I say . . . Inktober?

Do you remember what happened the last time I celebrated Inktober? No? Well, you’re not going to like it. You’re certainly not go to like this one. You see, a friend posted to Facebook a list of Inktober assignments, and being the smartass I am, I’ve taken on (synonym: stolen) those assignments despite my . . . “modest” drawing skills. Look, mine will be funnier, okay? I’d link to his (which are going to be much better), but he protects his tweets. You’ll have to settle for mine.

He’s drawing for a charity by offering his drawings for sale, the proceeds for which go to the Stillbrave Childhood Cancer Foundation. Noble, but my choice of charity is the JDRF. Unfortunately, no one will buy my work, so until their link breaks, you can directly donate here. Or you can donate to Stillbrave. I won’t get angry. Here are the assignments:

I don’t know all of these things.

<< Prior | Next >>

And here is today’s entry.

Day 4: Eddie from Iron Maiden

I don’t go to a lot of concerts, so when I go, it’s because I really want to see that band. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son tour was the first time I’ve ever been on the floor. Soldier Field doesn’t count.

It’s not as if he’s supposed to look good.

Before you laugh, try to remember that it’s for charity. Then laugh.

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Participatory Songs: Music Involving the Crowd @acdc @VanHalen @originalasia @linkinpark @QueenWillRock @Nirvana @jimmybuffett #music #ACDC #VanHalen #Asia #LinkinPark #Queen #Nirvana #JimmyBuffett

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It’s time for another break from gaming posts. This one will last two days.

A random thought popped into my head on my morning commute on March 18 (I’m way ahead on writing posts) when my random music mix spit out AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and Van Halen’s Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love in succession. For lack of an established term, I’m calling them participatory songs. Fans sing along with all sorts of songs, but some songs actively encourage it, giving the crowd cues as to when it’s their time connect with the musician.

Sing Along

The two songs I mentioned above have moments serving as a clear cue for the crowd to sing along in unison. All they have to do is sing one word, “Thunder” and “Hey” respectively, with a particular cadence and repetition. Even the worst singers in the world can handle that.

Another song comes to mind: Wildest Dreams by Asia. Back in the 80s, there was a Friday or Saturday night show that ran concert footage for a different band every week. One week, it was Asia playing in Japan. When they got to the relevant points in the song (I think this is the actual video), the crowd knew exactly what to sing. Why? Because all they had to do was repeat exactly what John Wetton (R.I.P.) had just sang. This was made even easier by the fact that in the studio version of the song, the crowd’s part is intentionally sounds like a crowd shouting rather than a chorus singing. Again, that’s easy for everyone.

Sometimes it’s forced. I have an mp3 of Linkin Park’s In the End live in Mexico City. The singer tells the crowd, “Sing along with Chester [Bennington]!” I guess that works too, but the best songs in this regard don’t require a command. Still, that song demonstrates a benefit to creating a participatory song. By encouraging a particular part for the crowd to play, the majority tend to sit out waiting for their moment. More on why that’s a benefit in a moment.

Playing the Beat

Then there’s another type of song that cues the crowd to make some noise, but not with their voices. Queen’s We Will Rock You immediately comes to mind. Not only is its three-beat hook extremely recognizable, but as it’s such a simple rhythm, it’s easy to perform. The movie, Bohemian Rhapsody was heavily dramatized, taking remarkable liberties with history, but that was discussed as the intended goal of the song, which is certainly believable.

Dance Moves

These two types of songs can screw up the musician’s cadences. For professionals, not so much, but I’ve heard bar-band amateurs actually say, “I hope they don’t start clapping.” As I mentioned with In the End, expressly or implicitly cueing up the crowd keeps them focused and in turn keeps their distracting effect to a minimum. But there’s a third way to involve the crowd that avoids that issue altogether. Enter the third category of songs: Dance moves.

Note: “Dance” is being used very broadly here, but “dance moves” is easier to digest than “bodily movements,” and is, well, less suggestive of digestion.

When people hear that opening guitar riff to Nirvana’s Smells Like Team Spirit, they start stretching, because they know within seconds, they’re going to be getting an aerobic workout. As soon as the rest of the band kicks in, everyone starts jumping. Then there’s Jimmy Buffet’s Fins, a song that analogizes men in a bar to sharks hunting their prey. The crowd uses their hand(s) to simulate a shark’ dorsal fin, leans to the left, leans to the right, and then sways back and forth.

Jimmy attracts . . . an older crowd.

Songs made for audience participation allow the audience to feel connected with the artist, and thus can make a song particularly memorable.

What are you favorite participatory songs?

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Music and Education #music #education

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s a lesson in how to work music into your other classes. First up, geography.

If this were accurate, I’d rather live in Asia.

How about combining music with your English lesson?

I can’t verify any of this.

Health class?

Believe it or not, I’m not a professional teacher.

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My Five Favorite Albums . . . Really Five This Time @rushtheband @StevieNicks @LBuckingham @MickFleetwood @billyjoel @IronMaiden @PhilCollinsFeed @tonybanksmusic @officialmatm #music #Rush #FleetwoodMac #IronMaiden #BillyJoel #Genesis

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I’ve provided my favorite movies, bands, and songs, and now we reach the last in this series: My favorite five albums. This should be the easiest of the posts, so I shouldn’t be such a coward this time. You’ll get your five. Again, however, I’m going to give you my favorite albums by the bands I mentioned previously, but my absolute favorite album of all time isn’t from any of them. Despite my methodology, though, this could very well represent my actual, favorite five albums.

Grace Under Pressure, Rush

R.I.P., Professor.

This is an unusual choice for Rush fans, but in discussing it online with several other fans, I’m definitely not alone. I’m not going to go into this in detail, because it’s a personal matter. I’m simply going to make this vague statement: There was a moment in time when I truly became an independent person. For better or worse, this was a significant moment and a significant development, and Grace Under Pressure was part of my life during that moment of clarity. It’s tough to separate this album from that.

Rumors, Fleetwood Mac

If you’ve read the previous two posts, you knew this was coming. I was raised on this album. It belonged to my older brother, but I could listen to it whenever I wanted, and he bought it at a time when I finally had a choice of what music I heard. I had my own radio, so I could listen to which songs I heard on the radio, and from 1977 forward, I slowly started my modest collection of albums so I could listen to the music I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear it. Despite it not being mine, Rumors was the start of that.

Powerslave, Iron Maiden

As with GUP above, I think I’m making a choice that isn’t very popular among fans of the band. Yes, my favorite Iron Maiden song is on this album, but as with much of our attachment to art, this is about more than the art itself. This is about nostalgia. This was my first Iron Maiden album, and the music on it is solid from start to finish. I’m also a huge fan of the instrumental, Losfer Words, as well as the title track. I’ve spent many hours jamming to these songs on my guitar or bass (though I’ll never win an award for my playing).

The Stranger, Billy Joel

This album combines the positive qualities I’ve referenced throughout this series of posts. While the music is all from a specific genre, it’s diverse within that genre. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is epic. It’s like an Iron Maiden or Rush song in that it has multiple movements, all lyrically tied together, yet clearly distinct from one another musically, producing one hell of an effect. The band has enough members in it to fully fill out the music. The instrumentation doesn’t include merely the traditional guitar, bass, keyboard, and drum set collection, but adds woodwinds and other percussion. Hell, there’s even an accordion in there. Joel is a native New Yorker. He grew up in the ultimate melting pot. This influenced how he collected personnel and wrote his music, and the Stranger is probably the best example of that from his discography. As far as I’m concerned, this was one of my favorite artists at his absolute peak.

My Favorite Album? Drum Roll, Please. Duke, Genesis

Once again, I admit that this is all subjective, but there’s a pseudo-objective reason why Duke is my favorite album. As Duke was being written, you could still say Genesis was going through a transitional phase after the departure of Peter Gabriel. This was their third album after Gabriel left, and second after Steve Hackett left, so Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks were still trying to figure out what they wanted to do, even having considered for a time writing only instrumentals going forward. After finally settling on six songs that comprised the Story of Albert, the band realized they needed more music to fill out the album. Each of the members wrote two more songs. The result was remarkable.

Because the earlier six songs were telling a common story, Duke was strongly coherent. The later six songs mixed things up a bit to keep the album from being monotonous, but those later six songs were still connected to the earlier six, both lyrically and musically. In other words, you had a strongly coherent album of spectacular songs with just enough variety to prevent you from getting bored. The songs themselves represented a stunning bridge between progressive rock and popular music.

Of course, you must like this kind of music for any of this to matter, but that’s why I admit that it’s still a subjective question. In fact, many Genesis fans hate Duke because it tries to be both things, and to them Duke represents to worst of both worlds. Obviously, I believe it represents the best of both worlds. I’ve occasionally said that I’d be happy to pay full price for a concert ticket where Genesis got back together and just played Duke from start to finish. I’d need nothing else.

Subjectively speaking, Duke is my favorite album of all time. YMMV.

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My Five Favorite Songs . . . Sort Of @rushtheband @StevieNicks @LBuckingham @MickFleetwood @billyjoel @IronMaiden @jumonsmapes #music #Rush #FleetwoodMac #IronMaiden #BillyJoel

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Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to do this? Bands were hard, and movies were harder, but songs are impossible. There are just too many deserving of high praise and to which I have a deep, personal connection for me to pick just five, but that’s been the thing for the past two posts. I guess I’ll have to give it a shot. While I have a clear favorite song, what I’m going to have to do is pick my favorite songs by some of my favorite bands. My sanity depends on it. There’s just no way to organize a list that large.

#1: Limelight, Rush

R.I.P., Professor.

As alluded to yesterday, my favorite song comes off of Moving Pictures, and it’s Limelight. I have no connection to the lyrics, as I haven’t even had 15 minutes of fame, but that music kills me every time. I’ve heard that Alex Lifeson believes this to be one of his most emotional solos. For what it’s worth, I agree.

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

Simply beautiful. The version from Fleetwood Mac Live adds in Christine McVie’s keyboards to really fill out the music. I won that album as a middle school dance door prize. It was the second album I ever owned personally, and at the risk of shedding my cowardice, I’ll add that Stevie’s performance of Rhiannon on that live album was one of the most powerful vocal performances ever recorded.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Iron Maiden

Sometimes, white people just want to punch someone. Rime appeals to that instinct, but the lyrics are based on Coleridge’s classic poem of the same name, which certainly doesn’t endorse such behavior. The bass solo always amazed me, but I could probably say that about any of Steve Harris’s bass solos. Like progressive rock bands, Iron Maiden didn’t shy away from epic songs that would never get radio airplay. They wrote what needed to be written and took no short cuts. The result, as expected, was always phenomenal.

Summer Highland Falls, Billy Joel

My favorite Billy Joel song comes off Turnstiles, which isn’t his worst album, but isn’t his best. The album isn’t bad in my opinion — he’s my #4 artist of all time! — but not everything can be the Stranger, ya dig? (Oooo, foreshadowing!) Anyway, I love how the consummate piano player just sits down with his piano and pours out his heart. Sure, he lets the band in for a bit of it, but make no mistake: This is about a guy, his life, and his piano.

Number 5?

By now, you must be getting the picture. To avoid undercutting the concerns of my post on bands, I’m going to cop out yet a third time. No #5 for you!

Yeah, I’m a coward, but let’s do this one more time tomorrow. I promise you’ll get five entries.

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My Five Favorite Bands . . . Sort Of @rushtheband @StevieNicks @LBuckingham @MickFleetwood @billyjoel @IronMaiden @jumonsmapes #music #Rush #FleetwoodMac #IronMaiden #BillyJoel

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Following up from yesterday’s post on my five favorite movies (sort of), I give you my five favorite bands. As this is all subjective, I can’t really justify my view by any objective metric, but I’ll be damned if I won’t try. Music is my favorite art form, so this one should have been tougher, but it turned out to be a little easier.

#1: Rush (tie)

What’s wrong with the people that don’t like Rush? No modern band in history can say that each of its members (or even just three of them) are in the consensus top twenty, of both music professionals and fans, for their respective talents. Geddy Lee and Neil Peart are often seen as the best bass and drum players respectively in modern music, and Alex Lifeson, while never given a #1 ranking, is solidly in the consensus top twenty. The songwriting isn’t silly and formulaic unless it’s the time for that. You can’t help but like what you like, but at the very least, this band deserves your undying respect for their musicianship. I, on the other hand, love this band’s music. I discovered it, and notably what remains my favorite song (q.v.) by any band, in middle school. The music kept coming until relatively recently. Oddly enough, I never particularly liked Tom Sawyer, which was the first song I heard from them.

R.I.P., Professor.

#1: Fleetwood Mac (tie)

Not only does this band get points for talent and songwriting, but they also get some serious nostalgia points. I was raised on Rumors. The fact that they had five members, three of whom were emotionally troubled songwriters, allowed them to produce rich, varied music packed with heart.

Here’s an interesting anecdote. Stevie Nicks wasn’t even two miles from me when she came up with the title to her masterpiece, Silver Springs. At least, that’s what I want to believe. As the linked map shows, I lived in Silver Spring, MD at about two miles from the exit sign that caught her eye and resulted in the name of the song. Rumors came out February 4, 1977, which is almost to the day when we moved out of that house. That’s when my brother bought the Rumors album and Silver Springs started to get some radio airplay as the B-side for Go Your Own Way. This band’s new music kept me going all the way through college. As soon as I was old enough to buy my own albums, I started going backwards through time and learning their older stuff as well, though nothing beats what was produced by the classic band lineup from Rumors, et al.

I also want to re-quote something an author wrote about the Chain.

[C]obbled together by Buckingham at a time when certain people in the band weren’t even speaking to each other . . . “[t]he Chain” is a stark reminder that you’re forever tied to the people you love most, even while they’re betraying you. –Jillian Mapes, https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/stevie-nicks-in-33-songs/

Nothing sums up that song, that album, or my life better than that.

#3: Iron Maiden

I didn’t discover Maiden until freshman year at college, and they hit me like a ton of bricks. I was primarily a bass player, and Steve Harris is one of the best that’s ever picked up the instrument. Bruce Dickinson is no slouch with the microphone either. It’s not just the music, though. One of the handful of concerts I’ve attended was the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son tour in 1988 (not sure if it was the 7/24 or 8/7 show). Along with Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason tour (June 1 of that same year), I was floored by the visuals as well. These remain my two favorite concerts because of how those visuals added to the overall showmanship of the concerts. 1988 was a hell of a year for me, musically speaking at least.

#4: Billy Joel

For the longest time (yes, that’s a pun), Joel was my favorite artist. Sorry, Billy, but you’ve been demoted to #4. What a fall from grace (almost a pun), loser! Seriously though, this guy goes back farther than I can remember. Like the other entries on this list, he was top five the moment I heard his music, and he never left that list. He’s also the only headlining artist I’ve seen live twice. (I saw Black 47 in a small bar in Soho and then again at the Guinness Fleadh, 1999, but no repeats otherwise.) I saw him on the Bridge tour with my sister and then again decades later with my sister and her eldest son.

Number 5?

Sorry, but I’m going to cop out again. I can’t name a fifth band because then I’d be slamming the door on a bunch of bands I’d instinctively call “top 5.” I also won’t even provide an “honorable mentions” list (again) for fear of leaving some deserving bands off that one as well. I challenge you to do better. See if you can limit yourself to just five without feeling dirty.

The lesson here is that there are really just four at the top, and then a bunch of stuff … bunched together beyond that. Or I’m a coward.

To all these musicians, including the ones I didn’t mention, whose music I listen to repeatedly, I sincerely thank you. Technology make life livable; art makes life worth living.

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