Archive for the ‘Language and music’ Category

On the run in 1972-74

July 15, 2010

Once again, it started with something that turned up on a random iTunes playlist. This time it was the Rolling Stones’ “T**d on the Run” (as the famously modest iTunes listings put it, for fear the printing of turd would damage the minds and morals of the young), from the Exile on Main Street album, released in 1972 and re-released earlier this year. In the intervening years, I’d forgotten about the song; more about it in a moment. But I was immediately struck by its nastiness, and by the possibility that it was a slam on “Band on the Run”, the big hit by (pre-Sir) Paul McCartney and Wings, from the album of the same name. And then there’s Pink Floyd’s “On the Run”, from Dark Side of the Moon, at about the same time. (more…)

I’m all about the wordplay

July 12, 2010

“Song for a Friend” by Jason Mraz came by today on an iTunes random playlist, and I recalled that Mraz was on my iTunes because of suggestions from Nassira Nicola for language-related musical items (performer names, album titles, song titles, lyrics mentioning language-related stuff), among them Mraz’s song “Wordplay”. Here’s the chorus from the song (minus the la-la-la bits):

Now listen closely to the verse I lay
It’s all about the wordplay
The wonderful thing it does
Because, because
I am the wizard of ooh’s and ah’s and fa-la-la’s
Yeah the Mister A to Z
They say I’m all about the wordplay


More from Dick Dative

July 10, 2010

A footnote to my posting on Dick Dative and the Experiencers…

On dating the music: Charles Ulrich has written to say that the recordings were made in 1979 and released in 1980 — 30 years ago, sigh. Charles is able to be so sure about this because he remembers doing research the summer of 1979 in the Pomona College library on the quotations in the lyrics, and distributing the flyer below at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, in Los Angeles that December (which is where I ordered my copy):

(I’ve cropped off the order form, just in case someone might be tempted to send $1.50, plus $.50 for postage and handling, to an address that Charles hasn’t lived at for a very long time.)

Dick Dative and the Experiencers

July 6, 2010

My adventures in Music with Linguist’s Names recently led me — see the comments here — back to Dick Dative and the Experiencers (Charles Ulrich and friends), from the distant past. Ned Deily has now transformed my old 45 rpm vinyl recording into sound files (and cleaned up the sound a good bit), so now you can appreciate them too.

(Ordinarily I don’t post sound files, for fear of life-destroying legal consequences, but in this case there seems to be no copyright, just two songs recorded for fun — on the ad hoc label Allophone Records — for the enjoyment of linguist friends.)

You can hear “Please Mister Postal” (all example sentences certified as genuine, lifted from Paul M. Postal’s writing) by clicking here.

And you can hear “Colorless Green Blues” (based on Chomsky’s famous invented example “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, now over 50 years old) by clicking here.

Rivers of Babylon

June 22, 2010

(A posting inspired by a random iTunes playlist. There will be more.)

What came by was the “Megamix” track from Gay Happening — a mix of five Boney M. songs: Rivers of Babylon, Sunny, Ma Baker, Daddy Cool, Rasputin. Boney M. is a disco band that originated in Germany (with West Indian members) in 1975; “Rivers of Babylon” was their greatest hit.

Gay Happening is also German. It stages “die groesste Party fuer Schwule und Lesben in Deutschland” (according to its website) and also puts out, through Dance Street Records, (re)mix albums, lots of them, from these events, suitable for home use with a few hundred of your sweatiest, most sexed-up friends (or for recollecting, or imagining, the pleasures of gay dance parties in the privacy of your own home). In the U.S., other sources put out collection after collection from gay Circuit Parties (more on the Circuit below). Although I’ve never been to a Circuit Party or a Gay Happening (but put in my disco dancing time in gay clubs in the late 70s), I have a rather large collection of these recordings, most of them freebies from gay magazines and gay porn distributors.

So one of the versions of Boney M.’s “Rivers of Babylon” — there are many — came my way. And though I’ve of course been aware, ever since the Boney M. recording came out in 1978, that there was such a thing, I had somehow never reflected on just how peculiar a disco version of this song is: the song is, after all, a Rastafarian lament for the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, scarcely consonant, I would have thought, with the sex-drenched context of gay disco dancing. It’s like dirty dancing to the pulsing beat of the Ave Maria.


Lame rap

February 16, 2010

… in Dingburg, in this Zippy:

The Oxford comma in lyrics

January 1, 2010

From a January 4 New Yorker piece (abstract here) by Lizzie Widdicombe about the New York band Vampire Weekend, which has a devoted following and also many detractors (“Their aggressive preppiness rubs people the wrong way”, one fan observed):

In the comments sections of music blogs, Vampire Weekend is often cast as a band of rich kids, avatars of bourgeois lameness. For instance: “This is what people who host home decorating shows listen to on the drive to work”; “It’s like the Whiffenpoofs started a ska band.”

The band members say they are surprised to be accused of being so calculating. [Rostam] Batmanglij, the band’s keyboardist and producer, justified their lyrics with the write-what-you-know defense. “I remember when Ezra [Koenig] first played me this song he’d written with the lyrics ‘Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?.’ ” he said. “He had just discovered this Facebook group called Society for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma.”