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Wednesday, 05 November 2014


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One particular fast food restaurant that I used to frequent had the habit of referring to me as a guest and would ask if I would be eating there by referring to their brightly lit "dining room". My comment is "Since I am a guest I guess the food is free today since I don't charge people when they are guests at my house and by the way my dining room is not illuminated with lotsa blinding fluorescent lights".

It's unfortunate that nobody told Dizzy Gillespie to put some more work into the lyrics to the song Salt Peanuts.

Saliferous goobers, perhaps. But salt peanuts? C'mon.

Speaking of retail euphemisms, how about "associate" for "minimum-wage clerk struggling to make ends meet."

Re: "What's wrong with musicians getting together with poets for a little help with the words?"

Well, singer-songwriter Jim Roll didn't collaborate with a poet, but he did collaborate with authors Denis Johnson and Rick Moody on his 2002 album Inhabiting the Ball. Give it a listen, there's some good stuff on it. (Note that I've not actually read anything by those two authors, so I don't have an opinion on their non-music-related work.)

Power of two has worked for me in photographing too.

Re: Rant. You've hit upon the frieswiththatification of retail. It is as if no workers are expected to be able to do anything but follow a script. Is it that way in every business now?

I'm sure we all have our favorite examples of atrocious lyrics.

Not atrocious, but my favourite word which doesn't exist is in the song These Boots Were Made For Walkin' in the line You've been lyin' when you ought to be truthin'.

I like the idea of truthing being the act of telling the truth.

Then sometimes not being English mother tongue has advantages, I tend to listen music with English lyrics without noticing them. With due exceptions, you cannot listen Dylan's "Masters of war" without paying attention to the lyrics right? Once I was chatting with a British friend, stating how we both loved "Selling England by the pound". And then he said "yes, I love it for those beautiful lyrics", and I was shocked, as I realised I had no idea of what he was talking about!

I feel obliged to mention the movie Music and Lyrics in this context. While it's mostly just your standard sappy Hollywood romance (though not a bad one in that genre), it does nicely illustrate the point you're making.

Take yourself to a quiet corner of TOP HQ Mike and sit in a comfortable chair, now ponder some of the real problems in the world such as Ebola,constant war in third world locations, child molestation,hunger etc etc .
Are to starting to get the picture Mike, if you must rant and there is nothing wrong with a good rant but please pick something worth ranting about, have a good day.

Two ... or more.

West Side Story is an American musical with a libretto by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Deaf to lyrics, I am often surprised after years of listening to a piece of popular music to learn what they are.

A good "power of two" example in songwriting would be The Smiths (as I'm sure you're aware, Mike).

Morrissey wrote the lyrics first, effectively as poems, and then Johnny Marr built the music around the words. They consciously modelled their working style on the great songwriting partnerships of the past, particularly Leiber and Stoller.

Music and lyrics are two different things, and the best of each can stand alone.

Shut up and play the piano.

I can neither unsee nor unhear those lyrics now. I have no idea how it will transpire, Mike, but there are deep and inviolable laws in my culture that demand I find a way to wreak my revenge. I hope that will not inconvenience you. Please accept my apologies in advance.

Well, Mike, I confess that I really, really, enjoy J-Pop (Japanese pop music, specifically the subset called anison). And I mostly enjoy it because i don't understand most of the lyrics. (Except for the decorative bits of English used for emphasis.) I mean I do get some of the meaning - usually I'm hearing it in the context of an animated music video, and often there's a subtitle track. But little of that is really necessary to be aware of, except in a vauge, "we are alluding to that" sort of way. (Occasionally the translated lyrics are so spot on and hilariously incisive, that they are worth paying attention to on their own. There's this cheerful little tune about how all men are fools for women...)

I'd like to give you some links to some of the better stuff I listen to, but I'll wait until a little later, since this ipad has a history of losing comments if I load too many tabs.

'Scrambled eggs' was the lyric Paul McCartney used when he first demoed the song to the band in the studio in order to give an idea of the vocal melody. He never intended it as the finished article and, when he had time, he sat down and wrote 'Yesterday'. As far as I know no-one had to slap him around to make him see sense.
The power of the urban myth!
My apologies Mike, if you were just exaggerating for effect but there are some things a Beatles fan just can't let slide.
I just can't, Lord help me!

Apropos Rant-Part One: the checkout kabuki is something I particularly detest. I believe they call it 'upselling' and it results in such idiocy as a clueless clerk trying to sell you an extended service policy on metal bucket. I could go on. And occasionally I do. Just ask my spouse.

Nothing makes me snap my radio off faster than trite lyrics, and my radio seems to be off with increasing frequency these days. I suspect that a 140-character world may be impoverishing us all.

I hadn't thought of it, but the add-on sale ploy is certainly one of reasons I rarely shop at bricks-and-mortar retail, especially electronics and other durable goods. Especially the charity pitches, while I can support many of them, use passive-aggressive guilt as their method.

As for music being ruined by bland or simply bad lyrics, I am always grateful for those artists, whether through singularity or collaboration can weave both together. Currently I have been listening to Jill Barber's Ashes to Ashes. Despite its melancholy message, it is uplifting as I meditate on recent and not-so-recent losses.

If you don't know Jill, I highly recommend her. Maybe start here, with Ashes to Ashes.


Poets don't generally make good lyricists, in my observation, any more than a good poem generally works as a song. In fact, a really good song almost seems to require a really poor line or two, usually driven by the need for a really clunky but singable rhyme.

Take that perfect piece of pop, Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston singing "It Takes Two" (somehow it just sprang to mind). Unimprovable... And yet... A movie seen alone is "a special treat"? Well, maybe, but I never really saw Marvin as the cinephile type.

A song written, as well as performed, as a collaboration, of course.


The Lennon-McCartney example is a good one. Some of my friends - die hard John Lennon fans - insist the artistry and genius was all John. But Lennon tended to be morose and self-indulgent without Paul. McCartney could be pollyannish when writing alone. Together, they were magical and substantial.

Wrote Paul: "It's getting better all the time..."

Fine, but nothing deep.

Adds John: "Can't get no worse..."

Now you've got something to think about.

Although I know you are extremely busy these days...if you can find a spare 2 hours, check out the new film, "Birdman" which portrays the chaos that ensues when a former movie superhero directs a stage adaptation of the Carver novel.

As I was reading your post this morning I was listening to this:
Over The Rhine is a wonderful duet, always poetic and worth listening to.

Nothing new about the whole "sell you something while you're buying something else" shtick. About 20 years ago I got a job as the assistant manager at a Waldens Software store. I knew everything backwards and forwards. I lasted three months through Christmas and then got fired. Why? Because I wouldn't up-sell customers to overpriced software they didn't need. For example, someone would come in thinking they needed Pagemaker when all they really needed was something much less. I could sell them that smaller package and have them come back repeatedly or I could oversell them and only have their custom once after they realized how badly they'd been burned on a over complicated package meant for professional publications.

OTOH, the time there gave me enough money for an Amiga 500, a legal copy of Wordstar 7.0D (that I still have :) & a copy of Aztec C so I did all right by them in the end. After all, I'm still kicking and that company has been gone for many years... ;)

Your rant reminded me of a terrific book which happy to say is still in print.


The book has a picture of Thomas Wolfe standing in front of a crate containing one of his manuscripts and it made me think of Flickr, oops.

It also got me thinking about a great retirement business for someone with chops and some bandwidth at the ready.
How about starting a digital image editing service?

People would send it 1500 of their most worthy masterpieces and for a modest fee it tells them which ten are worth keeping.

Regarding your opening rant... there is an simple solution. Don't shop at the Megacorps.

Sometimes it takes a bit more effort and a bit more money to shop at the mom and pops but it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling along with the item(s) you need.

Of course, I imagine that this is easier to do in rural NH (where I live), when it is a forty five minute drive to the nearest big box store than it is in suburban Milwaukee.

Welcome back, Mike. Missed you.

Try Rihanna's _What's my name_ for insightful and artistically tastefully suggestive lyrics.

Oh wait. The next generation is screwed, aren't they?

I've noticed it, being advertised at when I've bought something. My answer is always no. Just like my approach to cold callers.

Sales assistants telling me to have a nice day and the calling of shops 'stores' annoys me too. Not because it's an Americanism and I live in England, but because the people in charge think that I'm such a lackwit that I can be impressed by these things.

I feel sorry for the shop assistants that are made to spout this rubbish, because we both know they are not sincere but they have no choice.

There you are Mike; I've hone your original rant to a fine edge. Enjoy! : ]

Hi, Mike,

The upsell / add sale model is mandatory at the larger stores. Unfortunately, it works and the smaller stores have taken notice. The big guys often use secret shoppers to evaluate employee performance. I could say a lot about the fucking incompetence and dishonesty of secret shoppers. When you hire someone to look for problems, by golly they tend to find them whether or not they exist.

On the upside, you are there to sell and it works. It can be done in a way that's convivial enough not to be a problem most of the time. But, if you are like me, and you know what you want and you just want to buy it and get out of the retail environment, it can be a pain.

The Handsome Family. Occasionally brilliant, but oftentimes pointless, lyrics, sung by haunting voices over wonderful music.

Well, it's a part of the American individualist mentality. Even our sports teams seem to be made up of individual stars!

Back to your original rant - it's called "up-selling," and I vaguely remember when it took hold - the late 90s? - because the company I worked for, a business-to-business company, not a consumer company, pushed the concept. In the consumer world, I think it took hold so a company could advertise a low price and beat the competition, but they couldn't make money on such a low-priced good or service, so they had to try to "up-sell" you. I too find it disgusting. Sell me what I want at a price that you need to survive and thrive, and we'll all be happy. Wish it were that simple.

And you're right, I'm not a guest. I'm a customer. When you have guests over to your house, you don't charge them for food, drink, or lodging. So if a business calls me a guest, shouldn't I get their product and service for free???

Beautiful songs with horrible lyrics..reminds me of some memorable scenes in "This is Spinal Tap".

The cashiers are aware of being watched, so they have to give the spiels in order to keep their jobs. Believe me, that's their only motivation. Given half a chance, they'd rather chat with the customer than pitch the credit card. Been there, done that (a long while ago).

Not to change the subject, but since you bring up The Atlantic, the "In Focus" section on their web site is one of my go-to places for photography. Admittedly, I lean towards photographs of hot lava and other scenes of natural destruction ;-)

I guess not really understanding the second half of the rant makes commenting more difficult. Frankly the first half was aimed at people, many of whom are working long hours in mind sucking minimum wage jobs who need to adhere to a script, and YOU are the subject of their rant.

Me? I'm a TOP and Mike fan ........ easy there big fella, there are far bigger windmills to tilt at.

Happy Friday!


Sorry I meant to say the second half of your rant hardly qualified as one.
And I screwed up a comma placement in the second half of my low rent rant.


I am almost through Walter Issacson's new book "The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution" which is a wonderful read and repeatedly makes the point that with very rare exception (and unlike the popular image of the lone genius inventor) the work that led to the development of the computer, transistor, microchip, PC, software, the Internet, and the World Wide Web resulted from intense collaboration between people--sometimes many people. In every case, the collaborative whole was far greater then the sum of the individuals involved.

Like you, I usually have a slight chat with a checkout clerk. Sometimes a little longer if there is no line waiting. They are human, treat them that way. My rant is about those folks who keep talking on their cell phone as their purchases are rung in and paid for. To me that is exceptionally rude.

The Beatles were lads from the industrial north of England. Life for males was about being a bloke. The Beatles stood for those of us from the post war generation who were going to jump out of the polite traditions of the past which had been laid on us for generations by the upper class of Downton Abbeyers. Their songs and attitude represented us. Then they started producing rubbish like Yesterday. It might have meant something to the softies but it was a betrayal to us original fans. It reached its peak of going the wrong way when Yoko Ono appeared on the scene.

And I meant to add , except that I had been so annoyed by Yesterday being posted as the Beatles being responsive to the market place, that all they were doing was accepting that commercializations was a part of the World and this is the same as retail sales clerks; support one, you have to support the other. Standard marketing that recognizes that the cost of selling to a new customer is usually at least ten times the cost of selling to an existing customer. Thus, when a sales clerk has a customer in front of him, ready to hand over money, it offers an opportunity for upwelling. Good for them, it is a tough world, they don't get paid much and they need to keep their jobs. Tough bitty, as us old northerners would say to the middle classes who are offended by this. I note Mr. Seidel said this first.
Yesterday was a cry-baby, pessimistic song. It has made me so cross that there is such a move to absorb the Beatles into the poetic middle and upper classes. No way would John Lennon have ever tolerated that. He knew where he was from and whom he represented - the raw, rolled up sleeves, working man.

Robert. There's a difference between feeling betrayed and actually being betrayed.
Pete Best was betrayed in the manner of his replacement by Ringo Starr. He had, after all, once been part of the band.
You, not so much.
Apart from the music they left, they didn't owe their 'original fans' or any of us for that matter, a single damn thing.

[My fault. I need to get a new post up. But no more about the Beatles, okay guys? --Mike]

Slightly OT, but, Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks has, in my opinion, the worst and sappiest lyrics ever written. It is great fun to listen to for that reason. It always cracks me up!

How can you top:

"Goodbye, my friend, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky"

"We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the stars we could reach
Were just starfish on the beach"

Anyway, Google it, it's hilarious.


Teamwork in conception is amazingly overrated. Genius strikes one brain at a time. The next step is realization of the idea and that's where many hands make light work. Spark = 1. Push to market = many.

There was no team in the water with Michael Phelps. There was no team hanging around with Henri Cartier-Bresson as he shot in the streets. There was no team filling in the rough spots on Picasso's canvases. The enthusiasm for "team" comes mostly from our I.T. oriented culture and what it really means is having enough warm brains to iterate an idea or concept over and over again until someone on the "team" gets it right.

I'll say it again, genius and creativity stand alone. Taking the initial sketch out of the artist's hands and building something is different.

Yeah, yeah, I know you have a buddy who swears his great, great, great grandfather filled in all the notes for Mozart after Mozart came up with the basic tune...... right......

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