Re: The Bowie Conversion


I took the mellow indie rock-ish acoustic one, I have enjoyed it muchly. The accompanying explanation sheet reminded me of High Fidelity, this is a man who takes his mix tapes seriously. Thanks.

Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 12:24 PM
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I didn't get any from you -gg-d because I forgot to ask you about them. However NickS was kind enough to send me some discs by mail. Of these, the 70's compilation is most fine; the 80's compilation I was turned off to by the first song but have resolved to go back and give it a fairer listen, skipping the first song; the "Now and Then" compilation I liked at first listen but have not paid any serious attention to.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 12:34 PM
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The accompanying explanation sheet reminded me of High Fidelity, this is a man who takes his mix tapes seriously.

I feel simultaneously pleased and somewhat defensive about this observation. Probably I have a tendency to take everything too seriously.

I have always struggled to find good ways to write about music so, in putting the notes together, I decided to be completely personal and geeky in my descriptions. If they are amusing and at all informative I am happy.

Jeremy -- I have appreciated your comments in e-mail and you have my completely unnecessary permission to skip any songs you don't like. I will defend that Blondie song (and note that it sounds good turned up loud on a good system where you can hear how they've positioned everything spatially) but I don't insist that anyone agree with me.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 12:51 PM
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for those of us playing along at home (or only qualifying as "irregular commenters") are there playlists describing the discs, so we can snipe accordingly?

Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 12:52 PM
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NickS sent me playlists for all discs -- if he does not show up in a few minutes and do it himself, I will post them here, since I am assuming there is only very limited territorial prerogative associated with being the one to post the track lists.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:00 PM
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Here you go -- stuff in parentheses is from NickS, not me:

70's Pop

1: Sheraton Gibson -- Pete Townsand

2: You Turn Me On (I'm a Radio) -- Joni Mitchell

3: Tequila Sunrise -- The Eagles (I know, I know, but it works in the sequence)

4: Please Call Me, Baby -- Tom Waits

5: Greensburo Woman -- Townes Van Zandt

6: I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight -- Richard & Linda Thompson

7: You Don't Know The Shape I'm In -- The Band

8: Sittin' In The Back Of A Car -- Big Star

9: Get Up, Stand Up -- Peter Tosh

10: Privilege (Set Me Free) -- Patti Smith

11: Sweet Head -- David Bowie

12: Just What I Needed -- The Cars

13: Miracle Man -- Elvis Costello

14: David Watts -- The Jam (The Kinks)

15: Sign In Stranger -- Steely Dan

16: Pablo Picasso -- Johnathan Richman

17: Seventeen -- Janis Ian

18: I'll See You There -- Roberta Flack

19: Maria Bethania -- Caetano Veloso

80's Pop

1: War Child -- Blondie

2: Language Is A Virus -- Laurie Anderson

3: Beautiful World -- Devo

4: King And Queen Of America -- Eurythmics

5: Sha La La -- Ramones

6: Drink Before The War -- Sinead O' Connor

7: Video Killed The Radio Star -- Buggles

8: Cha Cha Loco -- Joe Jackson

9: I Know What I Know -- Paul Simon

10: Lawyers Guns And Money -- Warren Zevon

11: Crackin' Up -- Nick Lowe

12: A New England -- Billy Bragg

13: America Is -- Violent Femmes

14: Take Stuff From Work -- King Missile

15: Swinging Party -- Replacements

16: Under Easy -- Posies

17: Ain't Life A Brook -- Ferron

18: The Deportees Club -- Elvis Costello

19: Just The Motion -- Richard & Linda Thompson

Family Misc

1: City of New Orleans -- Steve Goodman; 1972

2: Tennessee Rag / Beoumont Rag -- Doc Watson & Chet Atkins (trad); 1979

3: Early Morning Rain -- Tony Rice (Gordon Lightfoot); 1986

4: Superbird -- Country Joe and the Fish; 1967

5: Where to Now St Peter? -- Elton John; 1971

6: Real Men -- Joe Jackson; 1982

7: Tokyo -- Bruce Cockburn; 1980

8: Johnny B. Goode -- Peter Tosh (Chuck Berry); 1983

9: Jockey Full of Bourbon -- Tom Waits; ????

10: See-Line Woman -- Nina Simone (trad); 1964

11: Check Out Your Mind -- Curtis Mayfield; 1971

12: Death of a City -- Ken Stringfellow; 2004

13: Everybody's cryin' mercy -- Mose Allison; 1968

14: Love Among the Sailors -- Laurie Anderson; 1994

15: This Old Mandolin -- Michael Smith; 1994

16: Contact in Red Square -- Blondie; 1977

17: Shit From an Old Notebook -- Minutemen; 1984

18: Outside In -- Chris Smithers; 2003

19: Kings of the Western Ocean -- Tony Latimer; 2001

Bowie for Skeptics (Note: I may have messed up the fade-in on Amsterdam. It shouldn't be a problem, but if it bothers you let me know)

1: Five Years -- Bowie

2: London Bye Ta Ta -- Bowie

3: Amsterdam -- Bowie (Brel)

4: Almost Grown -- Bowie (Berry)

5: Kooks -- Bowie

6: Eight Line Poem -- Bowie

7: Life On Mars? -- Bowie

8: Moonage Daydream -- Bowie

9: Hang On To Yourself -- Bowie

10: Suffragette City -- Bowie

11: Ziggy Stardust -- Bowie

12: Starman -- Bowie

13: Speed Of Life -- Bowie (Bowie / Eno)

14: Heroes -- Bowie

15: China Girl -- Bowie (Bowie / Iggy Pop)

16: Blue Jean -- Bowie

17: I've Been Waiting For You -- Bowie (Young)

18: Cactus -- Bowie (Pixies)

19: I'm Afraid Of Americans (Bowie)

Now and Then

1: Shady Grove -- Alec Stone Sweet

2: Black Eye -- Uncle Tupelo

3: Images -- Nina Simone

4: I'm Going To Live That Life -- Joseph Spence

5: Rocking Chair Money -- Hank Williams

6: German Mustard -- Townes Van Zandt

7: Walkin' One And Only -- Stacy Philips & Paul Howard (Dan Hicks)

8: Nothing To It -- Wayne Henderson

9: Famous Flower Of Serving Men -- Martin Carthy

10: Saban The Woodfitter -- Gordon Bok

11: Here's To The Future -- Ken Stringfellow

12: Everything Is Slipping Away -- Clumsy Lovers

13: Blood Of The Wolf -- Hammel On Trial

14: Saturday -- King Missile

15: [intro]

16: We've Only Just Begun -- Curtis Mayfield (Carpenters)

17: ??? (Russian Lullaby -- I need to get name and performer. I have the CD at home but I can't remember)

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:04 PM
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Go for it.

Posted by: nickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:04 PM
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For greater mockery, here's a rough draft of the notes I included with the CDs


Some accompanying notes:

I like music, I don't sing or play an instrument, so I make compilations as a way to engage creatively with music. I don't make that many (there are only 2 or 3 that I've done not included here) but I spend time trying to work on the sequencing as well as the selction of song and many of the songs are selected specifically to make the sequencing work. Because I'm proud of the results I want to share.

My goal is that for every song on the CD that at the point at which you arrive at that song you will be prepared to appreciate the virtues of that song. As an example, my favorite bit of sequencing on any of these CDs is tracks 5-10 on the 70's pop mix (which run, Townes Van Zandt, Richard & Linda Thompson, The Band, Big Star, Peter Tosh, Patti Smith). The Townes Van Zandt is emotional, sincere, lonely, and absorbing. It's followed by Linda Thompson who is just as emotional but more intense. As the set progresses it goes from the emptyness (for lack of a better word) of the Townes Van Zandt to the fullness of the Patti Smith and each step is both musically and emotionally satisfying and builds on the previous step. Taken as a whole I am particularly proud of the sequencing on the 80's pop and Family Misc for different reasons.

My one basic rule is no more than 1 song per artist per disc (with the obvious exception of the Bowie).

I'll e-mail the track listings to anyone who wants them but I think it's better to listen a first time without knowing what you're getting into.

Comments on the individual collections in the order that I made them.

70's Pop: I actually revised the ending of this one significantly to be able to end with Maria Bethania a song that I currently hold in high esteem. This was the first compilation I worked on and I'm still very happy with the first two thirds (even including the Eagles song which is not even close to a favorite song from the 70's but fits the sequencing perfectly at that point). I ran out of energy on the first effort and the ending was a little scattered. I'm not sure I added focus to the close, but hopefully I improved it nonetheless.

80's Pop: This one was less popular with my friends than the 70's Pop but I am equally proud of it. I worked hard to make all of the song transitions as smooth as possible. I like the effect of starting with the Synth-pop and pure pop side of the 80's and then introducing more alternative pop. I note that both Video Killed the Radio Star and Lawyers Guns and Money were actually done in the 70's but I defend their inclusion on thematic grounds.

Family Misc: Done as a family project last Christmas it is the most ecclectic because it draws from the musical tastes of 4 people from 2 generations. I typically describe this collection by noting that it has everything from Chet Atkins to Elton John, to the Minutemen, to Country Joe and the Fish and yet it all works. Hopefully we'll do another one this year.

Bowie For Skeptics: This was done to convince a friend of the merits of David Bowie. It worked. This project also celebrated the fact that I finally got an audiophile CD Recorder.It draws heavily from the Bowie at the Beeb collection which means that almost half the collection is material written prior to Ziggy Stardust.

Now And Then: Done this week specifically in honor of this gathering. Given Ogged's objections to pop I wanted to make one collection that was explicitly not based around mainstream pop. This is almost entirely acoustic and the first half has a variety of pieces that showcase rhythm on the acoustic guitar (and one fabulous a cappela track). I'm not completely happy with the sequencing but the quality of material is consistently high and there are tracks on here that I guarantee you that none of you have heard before.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:09 PM
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Man -- now I feel cheated at having gotten the track listings before the discs! (g) -- I'm glad you did not enforce your listen-to-it-first dictum on me, I have trouble connecting with music without a program or a track listing. (Exceptions are a couple of DJ's on WFMU but I don't listen to a lot of radio for this very reason.)

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:14 PM
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I changed my mind after writing that and tried to send the track listings along after I had mailed the disks.

But Ezra didn't have a chance to print them out so it was unintentionally enforced anyway.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 1:19 PM
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That's awesome, Nick. Not the tracks, but giving so much thought to the track listing. If only more artists did that.

Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 2:19 PM
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Not the tracks, but giving so much thought to the track listing. If only more artists did that.

Who's to say that they don't. Consider to the comments on Rhythm of the Saints here

To get the most out of these tunes, try sequencing them the way Simon intended before the boys in Warners' front office insisted the "hit single" ("The Obvious Child," the record's least interesting track) be given pride of place: 3-6-4-7-8-1-2-9-5-10. See if you don't agree.

Also, the offer is still open so e-mail me if you'd like me to mail you a copy of one (or more) of the collections.

[BTW, lest I come across as a complete stereo geek, I am not a regular reader of stereophile, but that one stuck in my memory]

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 2:44 PM
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"The Obvious Child" is my favorite Paul Simon song.

Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 3:10 PM
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Clearly the stereophile reviewer thinks you're wrong :)

(For a long time John Kim had a line from "The Obvious Child" as his sig and it reminded me of that stereophile review)

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 3:44 PM
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"Who's to say that they don't."

A lot, even most, of them do to some extent, but it's stil not enough. A lot of albums could have been much better. Maybe in the age of the ipod it's less of a concern. Very few Hip hop artists think like that unfortunately.

Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 3:50 PM
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That's incredibly generous. I live in Sweden, though, so I understand if you bail.

Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 4:01 PM
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I'm listening to the "Now and Then" tape now, in a setting more congenial than the previous one to contemplation, and I must say I'm grokking it.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 8:16 PM
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Specifically -- NickS, I have mislaid your e-mail address for the moment -- Who is this Joseph Spence guy? He's just fantastic! What else does he do?

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 8:27 PM
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"Take Stuff From Work" is one of my favorite songs. Also Martin Carthy's FFOS.

I thought I was the only person who ever bought a King Missile disk.

I feel better now.

Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 8:39 PM
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Here's the best description I can find of Joseph Spence. The track that's on Now and Then is from that 1958 field recording.

"When you go out into a new part of the world with a tape recorder to look for music you always dream that someday you might find a new performer who will be so unique and so exciting that their music will have an effect on anybody who hears it. One of the few times it ever happened to me was in our first few weeks in the Fresh Creek Settlement on Andros. We went out one day about noon.... Some men were working on the foundation of a new house, and as we came close to them we could hear guitar music. It was some of the most exuberant, spontaneous, and uninhibited guitar playing we had ever heard, but all we could see was a man in a faded shirt and rumpled khaki trousers sitting on a pile of bricks. I was so sure two guitarists were playing that I went along the path to look on the other side of the wall to see where the other man was sitting. We had just met Joseph Spence.

David -- I'd need to check out how much it would cost to mail to Europe. I've only mailed something abroad once and was surprised how reasonable it was for a letter-size package. If postage is under $3-4 I'm willing to do it but perhaps, following tradition, I should ask you to make a donation to Gary Farber if I do so.

I'm just thinking out loud, e-mail me if you want me to pursue it.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 10:04 PM
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I thought I was the only person who ever bought a King Missile disk.

I was thinking about the list of musicians that appear on more than one disk:

Townes Van Zandt

Curtis Mayfield


King Missile -- "Saturday" on Now and Then is also King Missile

Ken Stringfellow

Richard & Linda Thompson

David Bowie

Nina Simone

It's sort of an odd list but they're in good company.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-28-05 10:11 PM
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Who is that poem by, that Nina Simone recites on the Now & Then tape?

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-29-05 5:53 AM
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And also: could you recommend the best vector for further Joseph Spence listening? He seems to have quite a lot of records. Is one of them or one subset definitive? Original recordings versus compilations? Studio versus live recording?

Posted by: Jeremy Osner | Link to this comment | 12-29-05 7:40 AM
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I only have that Smithsonian Folkways collection which is very solid.

Looking at it looks like that or Good Morning Mr. Walker are the two best choices and I can vouvh for the 1958 recordings.

If you get the other let me know how it is.

I had thought that Nina Simone wrote images but, thanks to google, I see that it was written by William Waring Cuney. Speaking of sequencing that's taken off the Ultimate Nina Simone, a collection put together by Dianne Reeves which has absolutely phenomenal sequencing. For the first 6 tracks in particular each selection is a perfect and startling follow-up to the previous track. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-29-05 10:53 AM
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From the link above, it's interesting to see how compact "No Images" is written as a poem.

NO IMAGES by Waring Cuney

She does not know

Her beauty,

She thinks her brown body

Has no glory.

If she could dance


Under palm trees

And see her image in the river,

She would know.

But there are no palm trees

On the street,

And dish water gives back no images.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-29-05 10:56 AM
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