Monday, February 26, 2018

Rocket #32

After the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, the artist-performer-composer-visionary-eccentric Sun Ra become very concerned about the advancement of nuclear technology. As the 70s turned into the 80s and the cold war dragged on, Ra recorded the tune “Nuclear War”—a solemn look at the existential threat of technology and pollution, and perhaps one of the first examples of a “protest rap.” Convinced that he had a hit song on his hands, Ra walked into Columbia Records and pitched it. Columbia however wasn’t won over, concerned about its language and length (8 mins) they would not consider it for a release. It was eventually released on the British Label Y Records, as an obscure 12” single aimed at DJs and never reaching mainstream ears. Fast forward to October 2013, Lady Gaga releases a song called “Venus,” the song contains the sample “Rocket #9 take off to the planet venus”, from electronic duo Zombie Zombie’s cover of Ra’s song “Rocket #9.” Since the hook was penned by Sun Ra that means he has a writing credit for the tune, and so he finally made it into the charts as the song reached #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. I like to think of it as poetic justice for Sun Ra. In 1971, Sun Ra was the artist in residence at the University of California, Berkeley and taught a class called “The Black Man In The Cosmos.” The lectures are very whimsical and lysergic, with words and ideas blurring and bleeding into each other creating Ra’s distinctive poetic cosmic slop. One of the lectures can be found on the excellent Ubu Web along with a collection of other interesting recordings, including a collaboration between him and John Cage And while we are here let’s hear the evolution from Sun Ra’s, “Rocket Number 9,” to the Zombie Zombie cover, to Lady Gaga’s “Venus.” Sun Ra—Rocket Number 9 Zombie Zombie—Rocket Number 9 Lady Gaga—Venus Lastly, here is an awesome clip from the Afrofuturist sci-fi movie, “Space is The Place” featuring Sun Ra. In the clip, Ra is the interviewer at the “outer space employment agency,” and candidates walking in have to engage with Ra and his rhetorical wordplay. Like everything he does, the film is a genius fusion of the happy and the sad, the serious and the mundane, high art, low brow, life & death, comedy and seriousness. In short, the whole of the human experience.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Boston Compass Zach's Facts January 2018 - Kenny Gee That's a lot of Money

What do you think when you think of Kenny G? Smooth soprano sax tones? Beautiful curly hair? One of the first investors in Starbucks? That’s right. Kenny G, real name Kenny Goerlick, was one of the first investors of the now omnipresent coffee chain. He was convinced to invest after meeting founder Howard Schultz before the company went public. He also invented the Frappuccino, or at least partially, claiming that he called Schultz early on recommending they make a sort of milkshake drink. I mean, of course the king of smooth jazz would know something about a smooth blended drink. The G man is also one of the most loved artists in China, with his song “Going Home” played across the country at malls, shops and businesses, to signal the end of operating hours. And he is also a +0.6 handicap golfer—which, for those who don’t know, is really good—and won the Pan-Am tournament in 2001 with Phil Mickelson. Oh, and did I mention? Kenny G is a droner and held the world record for longest continually played note (for 45 minutes and 35 seconds) from 1997-2000. Someone book him a show with La Monte Young!

Here is a funny, if not rather blue music video from the G Man, called “Against. Doctor’s Orders”. If anything, Kenny has a good sense of humor about himself.

Also for kicks, here's a Kenny G Remix I made years ago..... trip out

Drawing is by Christina Giovinco

Monday, December 18, 2017

New Column at the Boston Compass/Hassle

Hey everyone,

I am happy to announce that I am doing a music "factoid" column for the excellent paper the Boston Compass. It is called Zach's Facts. It appears monthly in print as as online. My partner does the illustrations. Here is a the first article, I hope you enjoy!

The brain power of 70’s arena rock guitar players might be stronger than you think. Local rock star, Tom Scholz, known famously as the multi instrumentalist, songwriter and producer of the band Boston, received both his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering from MIT. He is recognized as a pioneer in home recording, as most of Boston’s self-titled multi-platinum first album were recorded in his basement. After Boston’s peak, Scholz went on to start the effects pedal company Rockman.

Not to be outdone is Brian May of Queen, who in 2007 completed his PhD in astrophysics with his thesis “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.” Brian began his studies in the 70’s but had to take a break due to success of Queen, how cool is that?
Link to article here

I am including some supplemental content that isn't on the boston hassle site. Here are two awesome videos of Brian May. It always nice to hear Mr. May talk, he comes across as a very humble man with plenty of interesting things to say about the music he has created.

The first is a guitar instructional video in which you get privy to some of his cool stereo delay tricks (7:40) as well has him talking about his signature guitar that he and his father put together when he was a teenager.

The second is a mini-documentary about the making of Bohemian Rhapsody and it is tremendously eye-opening. Brian gives full credits to Freddie Mercury, and it's incredible to see how the piece comes together. I was amazed to learn that the song was recorded start to finish first with just the bed tracks, drums, bass and Freddie on piano - the crazy vocal harmony middle is already in Mercury's head. The video is wonderful because May has access to the original two inch master tape and you get to hear all the isolated tracks. Truly fascinating if you are studio or recording nerd.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Tarzan and Jane Swimming

Beautifully shot swim scene from Tarzan and his Mate (1934). Apparently it was a controversial scene done before movies were rated.


I want one of these for my room. Thanks to my friend Luren for the tip!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Richard Rutkowski - Sunshine Superman

Sunshine Superman from Richard Rutkowski on Vimeo.

Here's a cool art video by Richard Rutkowski that features the artwork of Christopher Knowles - also the music of Donovan. I really like the scene where the protagonist plays the Simons.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some Psychedelic Ads from the 60's

Terrifying lysergic KFC ad from the 60's

Bizarre acid trek to IHOP