Various writing on music, including reviews, reactions and musings on the experience of music in culture and life. Warning: may contain opinions, and dodgy taste.
May 29, 2010 1
This Eurobingo PDF file contains ten player sheets filled with random Eurovision cliches and phenomena which may be observed during the show broadcast. Simply check off each as they appear – award spot prizes for completing a line, and the first person to complete a whole sheet wins the kitty (or another prize of your choice).
There are also three additional ways to win: before the show begins, add your best guess for each of the quant questions at the bottom of the sheet. Closest wins!
This game has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike license. Feel free to adapt, remix and share it, but please leave attribution intact.
Thanks and happy bing-a-bang-a-bingo!
Feb 27, 2010 1
Part of my tenth blogiversary series.
- Reverse-chronological (unless I was Benjamin Button)
- Permalink (I think Prolific invented or at least named these, didn’t she?)
- Archives (unless I was a librarian)
- Publish (unless I was Rupert Murdoch)
- Blogroll (I don’t have one, though)
- Blogring (remember them?)
- Post (unless I worked for Royal Mail)
- After the jump (unless I worked for the Samaritans)
- Pingbacks (unless I was Brian Eno)
- Plugins (unless I was an automaton sexbot)
Addendum: Things I do not say, even though I have a blog
- Blogosphere, because it’s stupid
- Blog when I mean blogpost because it’s just WRONG
Feb 27, 2010 12
I missed the actual tenth birthday of this blog/me blogging but I can’t let a milestone like that go unmarked, can I?
Originally started as a place to store and share links, this blog gradually became a place to playfully interact with the world, and over time that turned from introspection to exploration of the world, media, experiences and ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of journey with blogs.
I am immensely (unreasonably, perhaps even pathetically) proud of having been blogging for so long. I can say confidently that I was in at the beginning, when all this were fields. I was here before many of you young whippersnappers who have gone on to eclipse me, and blogging, and the web entirely in their success and influence. I don’t put my early involvement down to canny prescience about the way the web was turning so much as an inevitability given my proclivity for tinkering with web things, my early academic and personal interest in communicating online and my inability to shut up. Blogging and me; it was only a matter of time and technology before we found each other.
I was there. I remember the start, and the hype, popularisation, commercialisation and ubiquitisation which followed. I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but my blogging was to introduce me to dozens of interesting people, influence others to start doing it too, cause interesting opportunities (and worrying situations) to develop. Blogging has become part of what I am, what I do. I blog now for the same reasons I did in early 2000: because I can’t not tinker with and publish to the web.
Ten years ago, I was embarrassed to mention having a blog in polite company, because it was so difficult to understand – not just what but why. These days, even both my parents have blogs. It’s not a weird niche oddball geek thing anymore. It’s so normal it’s almost passé. Good.
Oct 24, 2009 5
As part of Quadriga’s Online Communication 2009 conference, I was invited by the organisers to present some reflections about how to communicate with people online, drawn from both personal and professional experiences, in the form of an after-dinner speech. This was a new experience for me: I’ve never done an after-dinner speech before. Lots of presentations, lectures, debates and panels, but nothing in quite this format before, with no visual aid, nestled in between main course and dessert.
Rather than just post my notes, here’s a fully-written up version of what I said, including links to sources, resources, inspirations and further reading. Forgive the slightly odd formatting, with so many paragraphs – it’s structured this way to reflect the emphasis and pauses and topic sections as I spoke.
If anyone wants it, I was thinking about making an audio version available to download, because this is fairly long (about 25 minutes) – let me know if this would be interesting to you. And if you’re interested in me giving this presentation (or one similar) at an event you’re organising, do get in touch.
When I first told my friends I was coming to Amsterdam to speak to a room full of online communication executives, they asked me why I had to fly to Amsterdam to do that. Why do we all need to get together in one room? Couldn’t I just do it by email, maybe in a newsletter or a series of tweets?
Well, maybe – but if that had been the case, I wouldn’t have got to enjoy such a delicious meal and wouldn’t have met so many of you face to face. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that.
Actually, yesterday I asked my Twitter contacts whether there’s anything they’d recommend to a room full of the best and brightest communication professionals in Europe. I got a lot of interesting answers, many of which I’ll draw on later, but I particularly liked this suggestion from a contact who said:
“Just tell them they should promote the juniors for two months and let them run wild over the internet.”
Well, it’s an idea. Not sure it’s the first thing you could do, but still…
When Quadriga were putting together the conference programme, I was asked to present my perspective on online communication from “both sides of the wall” – as a keen online user both personally and professionally.
I’s just like to note that that implies the wall is somehow this insurmountable, divisive thing which is rarely scaled. In fact, the walls are coming down. I think it’s remarkably easy – and getting easier – to hop from one side to the other, and in fact the boundaries are blurring for many of us every day. I count myself as incredibly lucky that my professional life draws on my personal experiences and passions.
As part of that, I have a confession to make.
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Sep 4, 2009 4
The many ways in which the experience of Twitter’s development and growing popularity is very much like the experience of early blogging
The reminder a couple of weeks ago that pioneering blog publishing engine Blogger was launched ten years ago got me thinking.
I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now – since it began with a W – and being involved with something from the beginning, plus passionate (and sometimes despondent) about its potential and usage in the years since means I’ve had a lot of time to watch and think about how it has matured and been used. There are certain things which we can now look back on and consider milestones in the development and maturing of blogging – like how the media responded to it, how people embraced and used it and how it penetrated mainstream web usage over time.
Like blogging (which I started doing in January 2000, and used Blogger to publish my blog from April of that year), I’ve been using Twitter since relatively early on – my earliest update via Twitter was in November 2005. I’d link to it, but
a) it’s in my private/personal account (@megp) and
b) all my archived tweets (pre July 31 2009) have disappeared, as experienced by many others in this thread on the Twitter help forum.
It’s actually that help forum – and the appalling petulant and rude manner in which some users are addressing Twitter staff – which got me thinking more specifically about how, in so many ways, the timeline of the Twitter story mirrors that of Blogger and early blogging. Both have seen similar patterns of early usage and behaviour and adoption by certain functional and social groups, and both have learnt – the hard way, sometimes – about technical and social scaling issues as well as being a playground for emergent behaviours and activities, and all the fun and challenge that comes with that.
This isn’t an attempt to demonstrate that startups and new technologies are subject to many of the same pressures and reception issues – that’s been clearly documented and brilliantly expressed in Gartner’s Hype Curve. Rather, I wanted to explore some of the striking similarities in specific situations, movements and experiences in the early days of both micropublishing and blogging, from the perspective of an early settler and long-term resident of both of these strange and wonderful new(ish) countries.
So here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: it’s a very approximate timeline of the activities, patterns, behaviours and reactions experienced by both Twitter (/micropublishing) and Blogger (/early blogging) during their first few years.
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Jul 29, 2009 Comments Off
Before you do anything else, listen to this:
Richard and the Young Lions – Open Up Your Door
Even if it’s not strictly your kind of music, I defy you not to have shimmied your shoulders a bit, or bobbed your head fractionally, or tapped your feet. Some kinds of music just make people feel like dancing. In fact, I’ve been listening (and deskbopping) to that song on a loop all day since my friend, neighbour and co-conspirator in localised pub quiz glory Dan Maier posted it to Twitter earlier. Good, innit?
Dan’s hosting the fifth birthday of his 13th floor club – a 60s (garage, pop & psych) music event – this Saturday night (1 August 2009) downstairs at the Albany, which is a pub and music venue opposite Great Portland Street tube station.
I don’t know all the details, but it’s about £5 in after 10pm (FREE before) and it goes on until about 2am. It’s only a small venue – maybe 100 people can fit in? – and thankfully it’s dark enough in the club that you can dance without people thinking it’s weird. Unless that’s what you want, of course… In fact, sometimes people dress up specially in keeping with the era, and I understand that this weekend, the the Actionettes will be appearing, which will be awesome.
In case that hasn’t convinced you to make plans to come along on Saturday, I asked Dan to bung me links to some of his favourite tracks, exactly the sort of thing that might be played on the night. Here are a few, with more after the jump…
Cindy & Bert – Der Hund Von Baskerville (1969
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – Hold Tight (1965)
May 16, 2009 2
It’s the Eurovision Song Contest final tonight and, as tradition dictates, we’ll be drinking cocktails and eating ironic snacks with a bunch of other
gluttons for punishment enthusiasts in front of the performance.
I’m not a betting person, but if I were, here’s where I’d be putting my money, in no particular order:
Representing Armenia: Inga & Anush – Jan Jan (Nor Par)
This song means “new dance” – you can see people doing the new dance in the video – and as a result, it’s got exactly the kind of catchy melody, beat and repetitive chorus which makes it the very best/worst kind of earworm.
A warning to you: I listened to this a bunch of times earlier in the week and as a result I’m now entering day five of the earworm. Round and round and round it goes in my head. All day and all night. This is either an indication of its sheer cheesy genius, or that I’m a bit stressed and anything could have the same effect.
In any case, I have a special place in my heart for Armenia, after spending so many years frequenting the Deli-from-helli. On further consideration, perhaps “Nor Par” means “You want butter, lady?”
Ethnic influence: medium
General ability to find the country on a map: low
Meaningless lyrics: medium/high
Overall Eurovisibility: high
Representing Norway: Alexander Rybak – Fairytale
I think this manboy must be in the Norwegian equivalent of High School Musical, because he’s got exactly that kind of wholesome toothsome quality. Mind you, there’s no denying that he can play the fiddle, and he does so with gusto in this ever-so-slightly shouty ukranian-inspired stomper.
Ethnic influence: medium
General ability to find the country on a map: high
Meaningless lyrics: low
Overall Eurovisibility: medium
Representing Portugal: Flor-de-lis – Todas as ruas do amor
This won’t win, but it’s a sweet song, performed by a group of musicians not using a backing track, who can genuinely play (here’s an acoustic version, just to prove it) which isn’t the point but it’s nice to see anyway.
Ethnic influence: high
General ability to find the country on a map: medium
Meaningless lyrics: low
Overall Eurovisibility: low
Representing Iceland: Yohanna – Is it True?
Really quite pedestrian, but it’s got all the makings of a winner because it’s well-written, well performed, not too challenging and memorable. The fact that the singer is hawt won’t go amiss either.
I do wonder whether viewers back home in Iceland will be watching with half a hope that they don’t win, though, because then they’d have to shell out to stage the event next year…
Ethnic influence: low
General ability to find the country on a map: high
Meaningless lyrics: low
Overall Eurovisibility: medium
Representing lots of other countries: A dozen or more songs which sound like below-par eurotechno (Greece, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Finland) or like they’ve been lifted from a musical soundtrack (Malta, UK, Poland)
I wish there were more entries like this, though (from 1979):
Or of course this, the classic:
May 1, 2009 2
I wanted to draw attention to this marvellous article about Twitter by early-era blogger and all round music’n'media maven Tom Ewing.
He’s written the article in a series of tweet-sized chunks, and there’s a lot to ponder on, there. I won’t reproduce the whole thing – you should read it all, in context – but a few of the most brilliant bits (IMO) follow:
There’s a deluge of Twitter hype from media flapmouths. None of them agree on what it’s for, just that it’s wonderful.
Now Twitter’s going mainstream and dipping down the hype curve there’s an equal rush of pieces damning it.
Is it a marketing platform? A news service? A celebrity hangout? A lame Facebook knock-off? A time sink for fools? Yes, yes, yes.
The boring truth is that Twitter is a communications tool, much like blogs or websites. It’s neutral– it simply enables certain effects.
A dip into the “public tweetstream”– the firehosed thoughts of 10 million minds– is indeed a one-way ticket to Moronopolis.
If what you see is idiocy, it’s because you’ve elected to follow idiots. Simple as that.
Depending on how you come at it, Twitter initially seems an idiot’s charter or a deserted echo chamber. The fun is creating your own order.
The good side of Twitter’s license to self-promote: The 140 limit forces you to focus thoughts and directs traffic to where you expand them.
I don’t follow any musicians on Twitter: I prefer my access mediated, ideally by Smash Hits magazine asking what color their socks are.
If musicians are talking about their socks of their own accord it’s not as fun somehow.
But from a musician’s point of view I can see exactly why you’d do it. Aside from being an incorrigible exhibitionist.
Endless disappointment is the cross the early adopter has to bear. As any indie rock fan knows.
Part of the reason I’m addicted is that Twitter reminds me of the internet in the 90s, but in accelerated microcosm.
There’s the same fascination and distrust with mainstream media, the same snobbish defensiveness, the same mix of chaos and excitement.
There’s the same random thrill of stumbling across great content, the same giddy sense that everyone is making it up as they go along.
And just like the old web, in two or three years the way we use Twitter now will seem really gauche and annoying and badly planned.
I think he absolutely nails it. Well said, Tom.
Incidentally, Tom’s Blackbeardblog tumblog is also well worth following if you’re interested in the intersection of social media and market research – full of insight and interesting ideas and links.
(And if you haven’t found it yet, I’ve got a tumblog too – more(ish) which is full of odds and sods and links and pictures and music and stuff)
Mar 17, 2009 Comments Off
The Guardian is running a series in print and online at the moment detailing 1000 songs everyone should hear – it runs until next weekend, and provides thematic lists of songs (e.g. love, breakups, places) selected by critics, along with the stories behind the tracks in many cases. Online, there are links to hear individual tracks on Spotify, too.
But we’ve also added in a little HTML generation widget which means you can go through each list and check a box to say whether you’ve heard (or own) a particular track. You can then click a little button at the end and a tasty chunk of HTML will be produced, ready for copying into your blog CMS of choice, should you so desire. Each link goes to the entry in the data table on the Guardian site.
I’ve been through the first few days’ lists already, and I’ll add the rest as the series progresses.
NB, I’ve done these lists as being about songs I actually own in my music collection, not whether I’ve heard them at all. In cases where I own a version of the song but by a different artist, I’ve said I own it because it’s the track that matters most, I think.
Interestingly, my music collection appears to overlap about a third with what the critics think everyone should hear….
I own 46 from the Guardian.co.uk list of 131
- You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC, 1980)
- Love in an Elevator (Aerosmith, 1989)
- Smile (Lily Allen, 2006)
- When The Sun Goes Down (Arctic Monkeys, 2006)
- Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (The Beatles, 1965)
- Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus (Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, 1969)
- Girls and Boys (Blur, 1994)
- Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine (James Brown, 1970)
- I Want You (Elvis Costello and the Attractions, 1986)
- Come On Eileen (Dexys Midnight Runners, 1982)
- I Touch Myself (Divinyls, 1991)
- I Want You (Bob Dylan, 1966)
- Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan, 1969)
- Stutter (Elastica, 1993)
- Who’s That Girl? (Eurythmics, 1983)
- Stay With Me (The Faces, 1971)
- Relax (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1983)
- Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel, 1986)
- Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye, 1973)
- Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye, 1982)
- I Just Want to Make Love to You (Etta James, 1961)
- Pull Up to the Bumper (Grace Jones, 1981)
- Milkshake (Kelis, 2003)
- Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin, 1969)
- Don’t Come the Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim! (Kirsty MacColl, 1989)
- Justify My Love (Madonna, 1990)
- Fastlove (George Michael, 1996)
- One Minute Man (Missy Elliott, 2001)
- A Case of You (Joni Mitchell, 1971)
- If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night) (Me’Shell Ndegeocello, 1993)
- You Can Leave Your Hat On (Randy Newman, 1972)
- Me and Mrs Jones (Billy Paul, 1972)
- Fuck the Pain Away (Peaches, 2000)
- Roxanne (The Police, 1978)
- Do You Remember the First Time? (Pulp, 1994)
- (Love Is Like a) Heat Wave (Martha and the Vandellas, 1963)
- Let’s Talk About Sex (Salt-n-Pepa, 1990)
- Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Sam and Dave, 1966)
- Reel Around the Fountain (The Smiths, 1984)
- I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges, 1969)
- Animal Nitrate (Suede, 1993)
- Love to Love You Baby (Donna Summer, 1975)
- Wild Thing (Tone Loc, 1989)
- Wild Thing (The Troggs, 1966)
- Desire (U2, 1988)
- Venus in Furs (The Velvet Underground, 1967)
Nov 3, 2008 2
One of the things that has been most fascinating about that there election – aside from the sheer car-crash/negativist nature of the GOP side of things, and the stunning groundswell of positive, infectious enthusiasm from the other side of the fence – has been the way it’s inspired cultural objects in a way I’m not sure we’ve seen before,
Maybe it’s the perfect storm of internet platforms + user creativity + interesting politics (for a change), or any single bit of that equation, but in either case the last 18 months or so has seen an amazing amount of creative effort put into art, graphic design and – especially – music.
Of course, music has played a part in candidates’ campaigns since the Mad Men era, influencing everything from the background plinky-plunky reflective sounds on their ads/party political broadcasts , to what the leaders stride onstage to at the conference/convention (remember Things Can Only Get Better?). Here’s a lovely example of music used in JFK’s campaigns:
It’s interesting to note that – with the polls showing Obama and McCain still vaguely neck and neck(ish) as I write – the overwhelming majority of candidate-inspired songs on YouTube at the moment are about Obama, even though McCain rhymes with so many more things.
Mark of Cain.
Never smoked Mary Jane.
You know, that sort of thing.
But aside from a few choice examples, there’s not a whole lot of folks feting his candidacy in song. In fact, most of the examples I can find on YouTube are mocking him rather mercilessly instead:
- McCain Be Old: He farts dust and is a hunter-gatherer.
- The Angry John McCain Song: If his finger’s on the button I’m afraid that we’ll all die
- John McCain Kicks it Old School
- M.C.Cain Rap: He’s Indiana Jones meets GI Jane
- Insane in the McCain Brain (100 years in Iraq)
- I’m afraid of John McCain: He seems so close to cracking up/what if he blows us all up?
- this one, rather unfortunately based on Clapton’s Cocaine. Not that bright, I guess.
- This rather saccharine attempt which only seems to consist of a chorus
- It’s Rainin’ McCain which seems to use the tactic of replacing random words in the original Weathergirls song with the words “John McCain” (e.g. “I’m going to go out and get myself / absolutely John McCain”) which means it doesn’t even make sense.
- Insane 4 John McCain which appears to be a hymn to the love of the older gent. This may be a parody, but you never know with Republicans.
And some pro-McCain ones, in the interest of balance:
Meanwhile, Barack Obama, despite having a name which defies simple scanning or easy rhyming, has inspired more than his fair share of musical output online, with many, many more positive than negative (*that I could find*).
The really impressive thing, as well the creativity people have put into their work, is the incredible range of musical can cultural styles and references represented. It’s not all parody/rap, and for every one which rags on the Republicans, there are ten which speak about hope and change and real people’s inspirations and dreams. Seeing people being inspired by powerful messages about change, galvanised into action and growing belief in themselves, their country in an inclusive, diverse and hopeful way is inspiring in itself.
Some interesting examples:
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