Cool and Strange Music Vol. 2, Number 4

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Thanks for the great letters from all you lucky folks who bought a CD or two from my last review. I do appreciate it.

Also, thanks for the letters of condolence from all of you who alertly read the by-line at the bottom of my previous article. It said, …"He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times…” One nice lady said she felt sorry for me and wished me well. Aw shucks. Don’t worry about me. I wear my being fired from every FM station as a proud badge of honor. If you have ever heard FM radio in Japan, then you’d understand why. It’s bleeding awful. They are all Top 40 stations. Imagine if Clear Channel owned every radio station in your area and that was all you could tune into — FM hell. That’s what FM radio in Japan is like. Every station is not owned by the same company, but they might as well be, they all play the exact same music. If Brittany Spears has a new hit song out, you can bet that every lame-o station in Tokyo is playing it… Sometimes at the very same moment. Can you imagine that? No, don’t even try to — you might get sick. So don’t feel sorry for me. I made the best shows that those loser stations ever had. My shows were consistently number one in ratings. If the people running these stations don’t get it, then that’s their problem (and it is as their problem as ratings have slowly and consistently declined since the inception of FM in Japan in 1979).

Also, I should mention that there are only five FM stations in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. Twenty-seven million people here and we only have 5 lousy stations. There are four just outside of the Tokyo area. I’ve also been fired from all of those too. But hey! Who’s counting, right?

Let’s just say that I’m not corporate schlock material. I want to play good music, new music, something a bit different that’s interesting for people who really like music. I want to play music for people who are sick and tired of the same old thing over and over. I want to play music for people who want to live! People who enjoy adventure! Unfortunately, that’s where the problem always arose for me here. The station drones thought that if a song wasn’t on the Billboard charts, then it couldn’t be any good. I thought, as a general rule, that if a song was on the Billboard charts, then it must be crap. So that’s it. I’m right. They are wrong. Period.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get into some of the crazy and groovy tunes I’ve got for you adventurous folks today!

Ill-Conceived PDQ Bach Anthology — PDQ Bach
List Price: $18.98

One of the stations that fired me was run formerly, quite successfully, by the father. Then the father retired and let his idiot son take over. The son — like someone you all know and love so well — is a total moron. Need I say more? The dad was fairly cool and he and I got along quite well. One day he came into my studio with another gentleman from England and he asked me if a Classical Music station in Tokyo could be profitable. “Of course.” I answered. That’s an easy call, actually. If everyone else is playing Top 40, then it only makes sense to go after a niche market. 8—10% of all record sales in Tokyo are Classical Music. All you need to do is get the word out and capture 100% of that 8—10% and you’d be pretty healthy, I’d imagine. Also, the Classical Music Market would yield some pretty heavy-hitter sponsors: Toyota, Japan Airlines, Honda, etc, — instead of companies that sell pimple pads.

I then went on to play some music for him that I thought fans of Classical Music as well as fans of Pop Music would just love. First up to bat would just have to be PDQ Bach.

In the CD booklet, PDQ claims to be, “The twenty-first of Johann Sebastian Bach’s twenty children.” What can I say about PDQ? I think the guy is genius. He definitely has a great sense of humor too. The music is par excellence! PDQ handles his Classical Music from a totally different perspective than you’ve ever heard before. He introduces each record as if he knows what was going on in the original composers mind, then he twists them and turns them upside down for a rollicking fun and beautifully constructed and performed “masterpiece.” My favorite song is “Classical Rap.” PDQ takes Vivaldi and uses it to rap about the pitfalls of being the world’s greatest Classical rapper.

How about these rap lines:

“I’m doing pretty well for myself right now,
I’m pulling down about $80 thou,
My wife makes $40,
she’s a Vassar grad,
and for a woman,
that ain’t half bad…

So we’re talkin’ 6 figures here,
but I want to make one thing crystal clear,
I have to laugh,
and I have to scoff
at people who think that we’re well off.

Anyone who thinks we’re sittin’ pretty,
doesn’t know what life is like in the big, bad city.

You gotta buy your apartment,
but the mortgage will be
a mere pittance compared to the maintenance fee.

To get a light-bulb changed in the hall
takes 27 men — it’s a union call…”

He then goes on to complain about the costs of tipping the doormen, the cleaning lady, waiters at French restaurants, the valet parking, etc., And don’t forget the membership fees to stuff like the Golf Club, Book-of-the-month, the Monthly Flower Club, the Zoo, etc,… Finally I just crack up at these lines:

“You will never have money,
you can never relax,
with a federal, state, and city income-tax.
And you can’t do your own returns, oh no!
You might end paying what you owe!”

If you like humor and if you like Classical Music; if you think Spike Jones is funny; or if you’d like to wean those kids off the Hit Parade of Hell, then PDQ Bach is as good a bet as you can get!

Harpo in Hi Fi/Harpo at Work — Harpo Marx
List Price: $18.98

According to the FBI dossier on all you LRC readers, I see where just about all of you are Marx Brothers fans. With how incompetent our government is today, I wonder how this all came about? Could it be that you’ve all watched the movie, Duck Soup, one too many times?

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (The Cocoanuts / Animal Crackers / Monkey Business / Horse Feathers / Duck Soup)
List Price: $59.98 On Sale Now: $44.99

Harpo Marx will always be remembered as one of the world’s best-loved and funniest comedians. But that doesn’t take into account that he was also one of the world’s foremost self-taught serious and uniquely tasteful musicians.

This CD is a steal at $18.98. It features Harpo’s first two solo records in full and has Harpo doing renditions of the songs that were the hits of the day as well as a couple of Harpo originals. The sound quality is great and the label, Collector’s Choice, has done a fantastic job of putting this rarity together. Harpo does his renditions of “I Got Rhythm," “My Funny Valentine," and “Autumn Leaves," just to name a few. There are 24 tracks in all and this is the perfect choice for winding down after a tough day at the office. Buy this CD and see a side of Harpo that you probably never knew existed.

Star Wars Trilogy [6 Disc] [Box Set] [Soundtrack] — John Williams
List Price: $59.98 On Sale Now: $47.99

Okay, okay, Star Wars time again, is it? Okay folks, that means your kids (and husband) are going to go Star Wars nuts over Star Wars toys and junk very soon, if they haven’t already. That also means that, this Christmas, you won’t be able to buy anything that they want — isn’t that the way it always is?

Star Wars: Millennium Falcon (Galactic)
Price: $29.99

So old Mike is here to help you out. For you fans of Star Wars “stuff” — toys, figurines, dollies, etc., I recommend the above box set. I believe that as a “collectible” or as a present, this is your best bet. It’s on sale. Six CD’s for $47.99, that’s $7.99 per disk. And it’s in a handsome box, which makes it look presentable as a present — or collectable for yourself. Plus, you get free shipping. What more could you want?

Here’s what has to say:

Given that it’s largely credited with reinventing Hollywood — or at least fostering its overweening box office expectations — it’s hard to imagine that the genesis of George Lucas’ sprawling, multi-billion dollar Star Wars franchise was once considered a risky studio proposition at best. But Lucas himself has wisely singled out the robust, retro-romantic music of composer John Williams as the unlikely artistic linchpin that holds all of the saga’s disparate dramatic, thematic and technical elements firmly together. Boxed together here then are three of the most successful and influential film scores of modern Hollywood, work that draws as much on Williams’ masterful sense of classical music history as it does his own well-studied melodic and arranging instincts. Each of the three double-disc collections here contains all of the music written for Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (and even Alfred Newman’s introductory “Fox Fanfare”), newly upgraded via Direct Stream Digital remastering that adds stunning new presence and clarity to Williams’ rousing, epochal scores. Each chapter also features a lenticular 3-D cover and newly designed fold-out film poster, as well as encoded disc features allowing online access to elaborate new Star Wars screen savers; the ultimate musical compendium of the original Star Wars triptych.

Now, if you just want the music for the new movie only, here’s the link to that. I still think you’d be better off buying the box, though.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith — Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [Soundtrack] — John Williams
List Price: $18.98 On Sale Now: $13.49

The last time I actually went to a movie theater to see a movie was about five years ago. I went to see some Charlie Chaplin silent movies as they were meant to be shown. Before that I saw the Japan premiere of Star Wars Episode One. What a crap movie that was. The best part of the movie was when, in a quiet theater of about 1000 people, the good guy killed the bad guy and I jumped from my seat and yelled, “Woah, yeah!” Everyone just stared at me and my wife told me to shut-up and sit down. Besides that, it was quite an uninteresting and uneventful evening. Even my kids were bored.

The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 1 (Modern Times / The Great Dictator / The Gold Rush / Limelight)
List Price: $79.92 On Sale Now: $63.94

This Pop Movie Culture stuff gets to me. They all go in cycles. First we get the space movies, aliens and invasions included; then we get off onto some silly dinosaur kick; then we go to some dance craze; then it’s back to the alien nonsense again. Recently, the Terrorist Craze has been a pretty popular notion, I gather.

A far as movies and stories go, well, beauty in the eye of the beholder. Instead of paying $17 to wait in line to see a dumb movie, I’d rather wait until the movies come on TV to miss it — I don’t watch TV either. But there have been some really super movie soundtracks that I can highly recommend.

Planet Of The Apes: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack — Also Featuring Music From Escape From The Planet Of The Apes [Soundtrack] — Jerry Goldsmith
List Price: $16.98 On Sale Now: $14.99

The first is the soundtrack from the original Planet Of The Apes movie. Now this was a great soundtrack. The movie? Well,… I remember watching as a kid at a drive-in theater with my mom and dad and I was terrified. The guy in the next car to us was laughing his head off. So I guess the movie had its merits. If you are wondering what is more enjoyable: Charlton Heston in a loincloth or the excellent soundtrack from the movie, then I think you’d better stick with the soundtrack. This movie came out in 1968 and the music is a trip. Jerry Goldsmith composed all the scores and this must have really blew people’s minds when it came out. I highly recommend this superb soundtrack.

Come to think of it, that record jacket looks pretty darned silly too! That’s definitely worth a laugh or two.

Planet of the Apes — DVD (Widescreen 35th Anniversary Edition) (1968)
List Price: $26.98 On Sale Now: $24.28

A Clockwork Orange: Wendy Carlos’s Complete Original Score [Soundtrack] — Wendy Carlos
List Price: $16.98

This is my favorite movie score of all time. It was one of the most eagerly awaited film scores to be released. This was the first completely electronic score to be composed for a major motion picture. Stanley Kubrick could have picked no one better to do the job than Wendy Carlos, either. And think about this, this music is not digital — it was created completely on an old Moog synthesizer. Moog synthesizer’s were analog and could only play one note at a time, that means that this soundtrack must have been a major pain in the you-know-what to record. But here it is in all its glory. Just put on the headphones and relax in the Beethovian world that Carlos created. This album is legendary. One listen and you’ll see why too! And while you are at it, you might want to really get into another world by reading the original Anthony Burgess novel at the same time too.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
List Price: $13.95 On Sale Now: $11.16

So, for you droogies, here’s what Anthony Burgess wrote:

.".. a human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange — meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State. It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.

…I don’t think I have to remind readers what the title means. Clockwork oranges don’t exist, except in the speech of old Londoners. The image was a bizarre one always used for a bizarre thing. “He is as queer as a clockwork orange” meant he was queer to the limit of queerness. It did not primarily denote homosexuality, though a queer, before restricitve legislature came in, was the term used for a member of the inverted fraternity. Europeans who translated the title as Arancia a Orologeria or Orange Mecanique could not understand its Cockney resonance and they assumed that it meant a hand grenade, a cheaper kind of explosive pineapple. I mean it to stand for the application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice and sweetness.”

The first time I ever saw Clockwork Orange was when I was a college student and I walked into another class and they were watching this movie. I thought, “What the heck is going on here?” I sat and watched for a little while. Later, when the film finished, I decided to skip all of my classes for the rest of that day and I sat and watched this timelessly frightening — and sometimes comical — movie at least four times in a row. It still stands as one of my favorite films of all time. And while we’re here, I might as well link you to the DVD:

A Clockwork Orange (1972)
List Price: $19.97 Now On Sale: $14.98

Easy Tempo V.7 [Import] — Various Artists
List Price: $32.49

Don’t let that $32.49 price tag put you off. This is one of the best CD’s I own and I own more than 10,000. In fact, I was surprised when I found this CD listed on Amazon. I had searched for this gem for years before I finally got lucky.

This is by far the best of the Easy Tempo series. It’s a totally fantastic and funk-a-delic collection of Italian B-movie soundtracks from the 1960’s and 70’s. And it’s way groovy, baby. In fact, I know that Austin Powers plays this CD constantly in his car. The songs on this particular album cover the period of 1966 to 1975, but all share a go-go beat and a terrifically sexy undertone. This collection has a cooler "rock" influence than others in the series, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to listen to. You’ll love this fun, but still incredibly easy to fall in love with Lounge music CD.

Austin Powers 3-Pack (International Man of Mystery / The Spy Who Shagged Me / Goldmember)
List Price: $26.97 Now On Sale: $24.27

The album just oozes with Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible) references and catchy riffs borrowed from 1960s rock classics. This album, as is, would be the perfect soundtrack for a swinging international man-of-mystery bachelor pad party — minus the Britanny Spears nonsense — and will definitely make you the coolest kid on your block. Not only is it too cool and great for parties it’s also just fab for tearing off the necktie and winding down with a Martini or a shot or two of Scotch. But beware, if you play this CD too much, the neighbors may think that Hugh Hefner has moved into your pad. Don’t say you weren’t forewarned!

Music From Mission: Impossible (1966—1973 Television Series) [Soundtrack] — Lalo Schifrin
List Price: $11.98

The Complete Mercury Recordings [Original Recording Remastered] — Flatt & Scruggs
List Price: $18.98 Now On Sale: $14.99

Y’all know who these two guys are. They made the theme song for the classic TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies (“The Ballad of Jed Clampett”) and they used to appear on a TV show called, Hee Haw. Is Hee Haw still on TV? Anyway, I don’t care if you claim to not like Country Music or Bluegrass. Nobody dislikes this music. I love it. These two guys can play their instruments as easy and effortlessly as you or I can scratch our heads. And that’s what you’ll be doing if you listen closely to this fabulous record. Just how does a human play that fast and that well? Heck if I know.

This is all of Flatt & Scruggs from the Mercury years and it’s a steal at only $14.99. Until now, this music was only available on various albums or records, but now you can find them all in one place. If you want to hear some real music or turn your long-haired heavy metal playing son onto some mighty fine playing and show him how it’s really done, then this is the record for you! Fantastic for playing while you are stuck in those long rush-hour traffic jams too!

Pickin’ on the Beatles, Vol. 1 & 2 — Pickin’ On
List Price: $19.98

So your kids won’t have an open enough mind to actually sit down and listen to Flatt & Scruggs, eh? Well, that’s a darned shame. Alright, then, let’s go to Plan B. Here’s some of today’s finest young Bluegrass musicians getting together for a hootenanny playing Beatles numbers. And you are darned tootin’ that these good ol’ boys are having a good time and will be getting everyone else into the fun.

Some mighty fine picking and playing of some mighty fine tunes. Shoot, this might even be better than the originals. And I just ain’t whistling Dixie here, either. Try this record out for some great songs done in a way that you could have never imagined. Five stars and a bottle of Moonshine!

Well, that’s it for today. I don’t want to break the bank. Check out all these fine CD’s and DVD’s and, as my North Carolina born dad would say, “I guarn-dam-tee you will be more than satisfied.” And don’t forget, that old gift-giving season is right around the corner and will be here sooner than you think (I’ve finished my Christmas shopping already — no kidding). So what are you waiting for?

Drop me a line and let me know how much you enjoyed today’s selection and gift ideas. Until then, stay Cool & Strange (and groovy), baby!

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, goes on sale in July.

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