Trains are spiritual places for me. A sense of time slowing down while you move through the world at a standstill. I spend a good deal of my train rides listening to music whether I’m doing so while reading a book, gazing out the window, napping or writing a Freeform Portland blog post. So, I did some thinking on songs I strongly associate with trains. Many are literal “train songs,” but there are a number that use trains as a means of speaking to something less tangible.
Vashti Bunyan – “Train Song”
“Traveling north, traveling north to find you…”
Haunting. Best for routes that firstly, move northward, and secondly, are winding, remote and ideally immersed in fog. Don’t spend too much time getting attached to anyone you meet on these sorts of train rides.
When it comes to listening to music, the general populace has a serious case of Led Zeppelin ears.
This is condition brought about by an overexposure to or an overt affection for the band Led Zeppelin, specifically and classic rock radio in general.
It is a condition that manifests itself with great ease, and is years in the making. Sometimes a lifetime happens before it reaches maturity. A lifetime not spent on capitulation or apathy, no. A lifetime in which at some point you slip into acceptance.
How Led Zeppelin Ears Are Contracted
It all started with album sales by the band, Led Zeppelin. Their catalog, especially the first 5 albums, are among the highest selling records of all time. Zep’s music was nearly inescapable, no matter where you grew up or with whom you made friends. The band’s popularity ensured an early pre-teen exposure to their music was all but guaranteed at any social gathering, birthday party, invitation to hang out and go swimming in a pool or make out session.
As if album sales were not enough, radio in the seventies began to subtly change. Freeform-formatted radio stations became more stagnant and more like each other in that decade. Their playlists gave rise to album oriented rock. AOR. a format filled with rock blocks, two for thursdays, 4 in a row afternoons…the result of which meant they played not only singles, but album tracks by bands.
Sounds like a good thing, right?
The problem was these stations playing led Zeppelin ad nauseum. Filling the mass eardrums with rock histrionics, with guitar hero/god flourishes. And then there’s “Stairway To Heaven,” – an anthem that will never ever go away, but yet no one needs to hear again to remember.
Sure, I will admit with AOR, Led Zeppelin was not the only problem…there was plenty of airtime given to Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Boston, Journey, etc. Etc.
But something about led Zeppelin dulled mass senses and made it impossible to judge music with an impartial ear.
I noticed this when I would sometimes get a new record by a band I had at that time just discovered, for instance in 1984, the Chameleons UK. When I played the album among friends, no matter how distinctly unique this band would sound, a friend would find someway somehow to draw comparisons to the string-bending or sustaining guitar sound to Jimmy Page’s style on one or several led Zeppelin tracks.
This due to the fact that overexposure to that music meant there was no other past influence from which to draw experience.
Once you have led Zeppelin ears, all bands will by judged by their music, their style.
Every arpeggiated flourish on the guitar strings becomes a 12-bar blues refrain to the ears of those tainted with only Led Zeppelin’s musical history.
And on the occasion the listener is truly presented with a new music far outside of blues guitar experience…such as “Moody” by ESG…you can tell by the blank look on their faces, there is a white empty space in their eardrums. They have not the tools to understand what they hear.
The cure, of course, is simple to conceive, but hard to execute. One must merely expose themselves to a variety of music. Jazz, African, punk, garage, psych, funk, soul, gospel, soundtracks. There is a world of music out there, a different type or selection for every person round the whole wide world. A world of music for anyone willing to listen. A world of music which can readily accessed via the medium of Radio. Radio provides the joy of music for anyone willing to let down their Led Zeppelin ears and listen, truly listen.
The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen… The desert is beautiful, ” the little prince added. And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams… “What makes the desert beautiful, ” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well… ” I was astonished by a sudden understanding of that mysterious radiation of the sands.
Sibylle Baier never really made an album. The German model and occasional actress was more interested in raising her children than self promotion. And to any fan of underground music, talent over hype is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Baier can be seen in Wim Wenders’ 1973 “Alice In The Cities” and her music can be heard in several other Wender’s productions. But the handful of songs she recorded by herself were all but unheard and forgotten until her son had them published some thirty years later. We can thank Orange Twin Records for the reissue (or in this case, first pressing).
Even today Sibylle shuns the spotlight and thinks it silly that people would pay any attention to her quaint home recordings. Perhaps her aversion to fame has kept the magic quality of these recordings intact.
Her voice somber and soothing, her nylon stringed guitar warm and cozy- if you listen to this record alone and in a quiet place, you can have your own singular hidden treasure experience:
Relying on the internet as often as we do, it is sometimes disconcerting when we come upon a subject for which there is little or no information.
Such is the band, The Disfigurines.
It is a band name I have encountered every now and again, spoken softly by some members of bands I’ve met. The first time was when I was walking on NW Couch street one morning. I met Mick Collins of The Gories and The Dirtbombs. He had just purchased a juice and was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes. I had seen the Dirtbombs perform a year or so prior to this chance encounter, at The Satyricon, and complimented him on the show and his band in general. The conversation drifted towards record collecting and he asked me if I had any recordings by the band, The Disfigurines. I could tell from the look on his face he really was hopeful I would reply in the affirmative, but I had never heard of the band. I shook my head, no. Sorry, never heard of them, I replied. Who are they? Just a band I might have heard of he replied, his head sinking a bit as he turned to walk away.
Weekend Family Music Hour (Alternating Saturdays from 8am to 10am) is co-hosted by DJs Opal and Ayler who are 10 & 8 yrs old. They are supervised by Mom (Karen) & play eclectic music which ranges from ethnic, Miami bass, soul, funk, rock, psych, hip hop, reggae, jazz & folk. In addition to tunes and birthday shout-outs, Opal and Ayler lead discussions on politics, magic and childhood subjects. Continue reading →
Ever consider building your own guitar pedal? It’s actually pretty simple, and with a few simple tools and a lot of patience, you can build a pedal of your very own.
Why Boost, Overdrive, Distortion or Fuzz?
Boost, overdrive, distortion and fuzz circuits are relatively simple and a great way to get introduced to the basic components used in guitar pedals. Some fuzz pedals and simple boosts can have as few as half a dozen components as compared to more complicated circuits like delay, chorus or tremolo. While this post won’t go step by step through a pedal build, it will point you in the right direction and offer some resources to help get you started.
To the uninitiated, here are the differences:
Boost – increases the volume to boost your signal with little clipping (distortion) or compression
Overdrive – softly clips your signal providing slight distortion and compression
Distortion – hard clips your signal giving a distorted sound with lots of compression
Fuzz – square wave clipping of your signal so the sound is fuzzy, buzzy and super compressed
Hello, everybody! It’s been a while since I was subjected to the Billboard Top 10, but as summer is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d expose myself to potentially radioactive pop music to shield you from accidentally having to check it out for yourself.
I do this for you, people. I’m what a real hero looks like.