Archive for the ‘power of music’ Category

Mourning John

December 8, 2010

Thirty years ago tomorrow morning, my Mom gently knocked on my bedroom door. “I have some terrible news,” she said.

Like everyone else, I was stunned at John Lennon’s murder — stunned, then devastated. I wore my black “All You Need Is Love” t-shirt to school that day. And as events unfolded, I watched with millions of others at the vigil outside the Dakota and the images of that twisted being who robbed the world of one of its greatest musical talents.

So today I am determined to focus not on the crime or its perpetrator, but on Lennon’s music instead. I’ll dial up some of my favs — “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day In The Life” and “Grow Old With Me” among them. I hope you do the same.

Hallelujah Chorus flash mob

December 3, 2010

Now THIS flash mob gets me into the Christmas season! Awesome display of the power of unexpected — and beautiful — music.

Photo slideshows drive page-views

November 19, 2010

Here is a fascinating article in Columbia Journalism Review about how photo slideshows drive traffic to news websites.

Not mentioned in the article is the key role that appropriate music can play in a successful slideshow. When a slideshow can be “auto-played,” making the changes congruent with the rhythm of the music is an important technique that can enhance story-telling.

And according to the article, the quality of the slideshow will only grow in importance:

But when even bad slideshows succeed economically, where’s the incentive to make them good? That incentive, eventually, will have to come from advertisers, as they tire of the tricks that their editorial friends are playing on them. Earlier, I noted that advertisers don’t care if dozens of page views are coming from the same user, because their ads are still getting shown. But eventually this will reach a point of diminishing returns. Telling the same person about a new movie a dozen times is not as effective of telling a half-dozen people twice.

Advertisers have an easy way to hold sites accountable: rely on unique visitor, rather than page-view, counts. The page-view metric has become diluted by editorial and business tricks like recirculation tools, landing pages, and slideshows. As Gawker Media owner Nick Denton puts it, “Some page views are worth more than others.” That’s why he now judges his staff and sites’ success on a less-manipulated number: how many people come to visit, not how many pages they visit once they’re there. Denton’s reason for the switch is editorial—he wants more exclusives, and he thinks uniques are a good way to incentivize them. Advertisers should follow suit. Their ads will have greater reach if sites know that it’s unique visitors, not page views, that matter most.

And with that change of mentality will come a switch of strategy. No longer will the worst slideshows be as economically viable. Slideshow quality will rise as sites try to create iconic slideshows that bring in new visitors interested in hearing a story told as only the Internet can. Slideshows will no longer have to be a savior in scourge’s clothing.


Line 6 offers new blog series on home recording

November 5, 2010

Line 6 has started a blog series on home recording. Find part one, about computer recording, here; part two, on microphones, is here.

Line 6 is a well established company best known for its Pod series of guitar amp simulators and recording interfaces. It also produces the Variax line of modeled guitars. I have and use many Line 6 products, which I find offer incredible variety and quality for the money. You can hear Line 6 guitars, modeled amps and effects all over my music.

Johnny Cash’s simple life

November 1, 2010

This to-do list written by Johnny Cash is currently being auctioned, along with many of Cash’s personal items. At the moment, bidding is only at $600. What an item! It speaks volumes about the man.

John Lennon’s voice

October 8, 2010

As odd as it sounds, John Lennon never really liked his own voice.

He constantly pushed Abbey Road’s engineers to modify the sound of one of rock ‘n roll’s greatest instruments. Thus, the Lennon we’re most accustomed to hearing is typically double-tracked (“Eight Days A Week,” “Tell Me Why”) bathed in 50’s style echo (“A Day In The Life,” “Come Together,” “Imagine”) distorted (“I Am The Walrus”) run through a Leslie organ speaker (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or even reversed (“Rain”).

As the story goes, he was so interested in altering the recorded sound of his voice that he once asked if his voice could be directly injected into the tape machine, bypassing the need for a microphone. Producer George Martin told him no problem, so long as a jack plug could be implanted into Lennon’s neck!

Given Lennon’s ambivalence, it is somehow ironic that to celebrate what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday tomorrow, his widow, Yoko Ono, has chosen to remix the album they had just released when he was murdered in December 1980 — Double Fantasy — to focus more attention on Lennon’s voice. (The new mix is accompanied by a remastering of the entire Lennon solo catalog done by the same team at EMI that handled the Beatles’ excellent remasters).

The goal, Ono has said, was to strip away some layers of production to better highlight that voice.

Make no mistake – Lennon had a voice without rival for its emotional power. And his versatility is matched only by his one-time partner, Paul McCartney. Both Beatles were equally effective at blistering rock and tender balladry.

The new release, “Double Fantasy Stripped Down,” demonstrates once again that versatility. And in paring back on the production, some of the songs actually gain power.

“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” one of Lennon’s most tender songs, actually sounds bigger and more expressive in the new treatment. With some of the background instruments and harmony vocals stripped out, the elements that remain — the lead guitar, the “oriental” strums and, of course, the clean, intimate lead vocal — gain prominence.

In “(Just Like) Starting Over,” with the 50’s-style slap-back echo removed, the change in vocal timbre is arresting. In that song — which he dedicates in this version to “Gene and Eddie and Elvis… and Buddy” — the echo seems so closely intertwined with the song’s style that I find I miss it.

By contrast, in “I’m Losing You,” the reduction of such vocal effects tends to bring Lennon’s voice closer to the listener, as if he’s standing in the living room in front of you.

That intimacy is most apparent in “Woman,” where layers of electric guitar and background voices are removed, leaving that vulnerable voice set against shimmering acoustic rhythm guitar and simple bass and drum parts.

Ono has been quoted as saying that the remixing process, which she did with original co-producer Jack Douglas, was painful for her. It’s easy to see why. With that voice closer, seemingly, than ever, it’s impossible not to feel a lump in the throat — especially when Lennon sings such hopeful, future-focused lyrics.

Yes, “Double Fantasy Stripped Down” gains some power from its back-to-basics style. And for many who love Lennon still, that power comes with a measure of pain — even today, thirty years after he left us.

The power of unexpected music

September 15, 2010

Music can be most effective when it is unexpected — as in this seemingly impromptu wedding performance. L’chaim!

Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell on his two loves

September 15, 2010

Here’s a fine little piece by my former colleague at the St. Petersburg Times, Sean Daly, on guitarist/producer extraordinaire Mike Campbell, of the Heartbreakers. Nice work, Sean. In my book Campbell is the all-time master of playing EXACTLY what the song needs — no more, no less.

New details on remastered John Lennon releases

September 1, 2010

EMI has just announced the full track listings and other details for the newly remastered John Lennon albums to be released in October.

EMI will release eight remastered John Lennon solo albums and new titles including Double Fantasy Stripped Down, Power To The People: The Hits, Gimme Some Truth and the John Lennon Signature Box. The Double Fantasy Stripped Down might be the most interesting, with new remixes of each song on Lennon’s 1980 release done by Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas, who co-produced the original album with John. The mixes pare back on the sometimes lush production of the original songs.

Here is a quite moving blog post from Yoko on the remastering/remixing process.

And here’s the text of EMI’s press release with the details on the track listings:

For the first time, Lennon’s classic solo albums and other standout recordings have been digitally remastered from his original mixes. Double Fantasy, 1980’s GRAMMY Award winner for Album of the Year, will be presented with a newly remixed ‘Stripped Down’ version produced by Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas, Lennon’s original co-producers for the album. Some Time In New York City has been restored to include the six ‘Live Jam’ recordings featured on the original album.

The deluxe 11CD and digital John Lennon Signature Box includes 13 previously unreleased home recordings, and Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and Julian Lennon have each written personal essays for the lavish collection.

The cover art for the new titles includes original drawings by Sean Lennon for Double Fantasy Stripped Down, while the cover of 1974’s Walls and Bridges is restored to its original artwork.

John Lennon’s life and music will be specially feted this fall with a variety of commemorative releases and events around the world. Please visit for official announcements and updates.


1. Power To The People

2. Gimme Some Truth

3. Woman

4. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

5. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

6. Cold Turkey

7. Jealous Guy

8. #9 Dream

9. (Just Like) Starting Over

10. Mind Games

11. Watching The Wheels

12. Stand By Me

13. Imagine

14. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

15. Give Peace A Chance



(tracklist same as above)


1. Power To The People

2. Gimme Some Truth

3. Woman

4. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

5. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

6. Cold Turkey

7. Jealous Guy

8. #9 Dream

9. (Just Like) Starting Over

10. Mind Games

11. Watching The Wheels

12. Stand By Me

13. Imagine

14. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

15. Give Peace A Chance


Working Class Hero

1. Working Class Hero

2. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

3. Power To The People

4. God

5. I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die

6. Gimme Some Truth

7. Sunday Bloody Sunday

8. Steel And Glass

9. Meat City

10. I Don’t Wanna Face It

11. Remember

12. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

13. I Found out

14. Isolation

15. Imagine

16. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

17. Give Peace A Chance

18. Only People


1. Mother

2. Hold On

3. You Are Here

4. Well Well Well

5. Oh My Love

6. Oh Yoko!

7. Grow Old With Me

8. Love

9. Jealous Guy

10. Woman

11. Out The Blue

12. Bless You

13. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)

14. My Mummy’s Dead

15. I’m Losing You

16. (Just Like) Starting Over

17. #9 Dream

18. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

Borrowed Time

1. Mind Games

2. Nobody Told Me

3. Cleanup Time

4. Crippled Inside

5. How Do You Sleep?

6. How?

7. Intuition

8. I’m Stepping Out

9. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

10. Old Dirt Road

11. Scared

12. What You Got

13. Cold Turkey

14. New York City

15. Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)

16. Borrowed Time

17. Look At Me

18. Watching The Wheels


1. Be-Bop-A-Lula

2. You Can’t Catch Me

3. Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy

4. Tight A$

5. Ain’t That a Shame

6. Sweet Little Sixteen

7. Do You Wanna Dance

8. Slippin’ and Slidin’

9. Peggy Sue

10. Medley: Bring It On Home/Send Me Some Lovin’

11. Yer Blues (Live)

12. Just Because

13. Boney Moronie

14. Beef Jerky

15. Ya Ya

16. Hound Dog (Live)

17. Stand By Me

18. Here We Go Again


Original Albums [digitally remastered]

– John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

– Imagine

– Some Time In New York City

– Mind Games

– Walls and Bridges

– Rock ‘n’ Roll

– Double Fantasy

– Milk and Honey

Home Tapes

1. Mother

2. Love

3. God

4. I Found Out

5. Nobody Told Me

6. Honey Don’t

7. One Of The Boys

8. India, India

9. Serve Yourself

10. Isolation

11. Remember

12. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

13. I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die


1. Power To The People

2. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

3. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

4. Cold Turkey

5. Move Over Ms. L

6. Give Peace a Chance


John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)

1. Mother

2. Hold On

3. I Found Out

4. Working Class Hero

5. Isolation

6. Remember

7. Love

8. Well Well Well

9. Look At Me

10. God

11. My Mummy’s Dead

Imagine (1971)

1. Imagine

2. Crippled Inside

3. Jealous Guy

4. It’s So Hard

5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die

6. Gimme Some Truth

7. Oh My Love

8. How Do You Sleep?

9. How?

10. Oh Yoko!

Some Time In New York City (1972)


1. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

2. Sisters, O Sisters

3. Attica State

4. Born In a Prison

5. New York City

6. Sunday Bloody Sunday

7. The Luck Of The Irish

8. John Sinclair

9. Angela

10. We’re All Water


1. Cold Turkey (live)

2. Don’t Worry Kyoko (live)

3. Well (Baby Please Don’t Go) (live)

4. Jamrag (live)

5. Scumbag (live)

6. Au (live)

Mind Games (1973)

1. Mind Games

2. Tight A$

3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)

4. One Day (At A Time)

5. Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple)

6. Nutopian International Anthem

7. Intuition

8. Out The Blue

9. Only People

10. I Know (I Know)

11. You Are Here

12. Meat City

Walls and Bridges (1974)

1. Going Down On Love

2. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

3. Old Dirt Road

4. What You Got

5. Bless You

6. Scared

7. #9 Dream

8. Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)

9. Steel And Glass

10. Beef Jerky

11. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)

12. Ya Ya

Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975)

1. Be-Bop-A-Lula

2. Stand By Me

3. Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy

4. You Can’t Catch Me

5. Ain’t That A Shame

6. Do You Wanna Dance

7. Sweet Little Sixteen

8. Slippin’ And Slidin’

9. Peggy Sue

10. Medley: Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’

11. Bony Moronie

12. Ya Ya

13. Just Because

Double Fantasy Stripped Down (2010) / Double Fantasy (1980)

Stripped Down

Original Album, Remastered

1. (Just Like) Starting Over

2. Kiss Kiss Kiss

3. Cleanup Time

4. Give Me Something

5. I’m Losing You

6. I’m Moving On

7. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

8. Watching The Wheels

9. Yes, I’m Your Angel

10. Woman

11. Beautiful Boys

12. Dear Yoko

13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him

14. Hard Times Are Over

Milk and Honey (1984)

1. I’m Stepping Out

2. Sleepless Night

3. I Don’t Wanna Face It

4. Don’t Be Scared

5. Nobody Told Me

6. O’Sanity

7. Borrowed Time

8. Your Hands

9. (Forgive Me) My Little Flower Princess

10. Let Me Count The Ways

11. Grow Old With Me

12. You’re The One

“Scary Mary Poppins” shows how music can change meaning

April 2, 2010

Ok, many of you have probably seen this, but I hadn’t until Brian Storm pointed this out on the Mediastorm blog. It’s a hilarious but telling example of how music (along with some creative visual editing) can totally change the meaning of a piece of work.

This should serve as a humorous warning to those of us who advocate the use of music in nonfiction multimedia: Use with care.