Friday, February 24, 2006


The J Marimba Ponies are not small horses, but they are small people - children ages 4-12. And they do indeed play marimbas and other percussion instruments with astonishing speed and skill, considering that the instruments sometimes seem to tower over them. They don't read sheet music, but play from memory such wholesome fare as classical classics and Disney tunes. Check the video for:

"Sabre Dance"

Thanks to Roman for the tip!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Although not as widely used as the theremin, the Novachord was another early electronic instrument often used to creepy effect in sci-fi/horror soundtracks. I first heard the Novachord on one of my favorite '50s exotica records, "Polynesian Percussion," by Lawrence Welk's bandleader George Cates. I figured it was just an electric organ, like the Voxx or Farfisa. It had a fascinatingly sleazy sound that I fell in love with, but rarely heard again. Now I know why. According to, "The Hammond Novachord was first marketed in 1939, and was on the market until 1942. 1069 of them were created before World War II brought an end to production...they are quite rare. It is unknown how many still exist, and of those that do, few of them are operational due to the immense amount of tubes and capacitors, etc. they require. The device weighs five hundred pounds, and is as large as two spinet pianos..."

One brave soul who spent countless hours painstakingly restoring a Novachord was Phil Cirocco, whose "Novachord Restoration Project" page has extensive documentation of his labors as well as many fine mp3s, like this bit of soundtrack music from an episode of the old TV show "Outer Limits":

Harry Lubin: From "Demon With A Glass Hand"

Cirocco's conclusion after completing the project: the Novachord is, in fact, a synthesizer. Lacking the pitch-bending and abstract sound capabilities of Mr. Moog's creation 25 years (!) later, the Novachord thus was played like a conventional keyboard, albeit a somewhat odd-sounding one.

Cirocco's own solo Novachord music takes full advantage of the instrument's unique timbres - his short instrumentals have an Eno-esqe scope and feel that drop the listener into a pleasingly alien landscape.

Phil Cirocco: Improvisation #3

An album is in the works.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


February is Black History Month. And what better way to celebrate then with some more song-poems? Dick Kent sung many song-poem "classics" like the surreal masterpiece "Octopus Woman Please Let Me Go." But here he dons blackface (figuratively speaking) to give a little soul pride to his, ahem, "brothers":

Dick Kent "On Blackness" - Hey, if a song-poem company didn't have any black singers, what are ya gonna do?

Bonnie Graham "He's My Chocolate Baby" - Features the kind of surprising twist that no mainstream performer would have been able to get away with in the '60s.

Thanks to the tipster who pointed out this song-poem mp3-fest here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Had a request for some Rodd Keith songs-poems. Song-poems, as extensivley documented on Phil Milstein's crucial American Song-Poem Music Archive, were lyrics sent in by anyone with the money to have them set to music by "today's top musicians and singers!" And Rodd Keith(aka Rod Rogers, Cleveland Becker, Lindon Bridges, etc) was perhaps the genre's greatest singer/songwriter of lyrics so awkward (or awful) that few mortals would even attempt getting a good song out them, much less actually succeedding. (Since the ASPMA has taken down their mp3s, I'll put up a few.)

Case in point, this well-meaning, if corny mid-'60s social statement that Rodd infuses with noir atmosphere:
Rodd Keith: Los Angeles City Lights
now available on a new Keith collection, "Saucers In The Sky."

From the sublime to the, well, you know...'60s electronics-a-go-go:
Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings: That Martian Jubilee

Tragically, Keith died when he fell (was pushed? jumped?) from an LA freeway overpass on to traffic in 1974. Thanks to his son, saxophonist Ellery Eskelin for preserving his music. And, of course, thanks to the anonymous Middle Americans who forked over the 200 bucks or so to have their doggerel set to music, without which the song-poem phenomenon (or today's post) wouldn't have been possible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


The phrase "jaw-dropping" was invented for things like country legend Willie Nelson's new song. No doubt inspired by the recent hubbub over "Brokeback Mountain," Nelson recorded an apparently sincere ode to gay cowboys, only available from iTunes. Although it had me gasping with startled laughter, Nelson's straightfaced delivery of the startlingly blunt lyrics doesn't sound like the work of a jokester, unless his tounge is so far in cheek it went over my head (now there's an interesting visual). And I thought his reggae album last year was unusual. Wow, keep smokin' Willie!

Willie Nelson: "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other"

I wasn't too surprised to learn that the song was written (back in 1981) by Ned Sublette, for he's a (jolly good) fellow with strange ideas about country music. In 1999, for instance, he released an album called "Cowboy Rhumba," a country/Cuban music fusion.

Ned Sublette: "Ghost Riders In The Sky"

And what's the big deal about "Brokeback Mountain" anyway? Andy Warhol did that scene 35 years ago in "Lonesome Cowboys."

Monday, February 13, 2006


UPDATE 1/12/12 - Now back up online.

Mr Fab's
"VD (Valentines Day) Mix":

A 30 min. narrative mix of '50s spoken word + music records. Featuring Nat King Cole, Ken Nordine, Rod McKuen, Jack Webb, Laurence Harvey, The Shangri-Las, Sal Mineo, Sinatra, and some surreal thrift-store records you haven't heard of.

Don't give 'em flowers and candy again, give 'em VD!

Mr Fab's "VD Mix", that is!

Friday, February 10, 2006


Barry Schrader, a music professor and composer at the California Institute of the Arts (I TOLD you, for short it's "CalArts" NOT "CIA" please) volunteers at a pot-bellied pig rescue center called, er, Little Orphan Hammies. As I noted in December in the sampled-pigs-christmas album post, there was a brief fad in the '90s where it was thought by some that baby pigs would make fun pets. Then those cute little guys turned into monsters weighing hundred of pounds, and were not wanted any more.

Until now!

Duke, an especially musical pig, can be briefly seen here playing a xylophone with a mallet held in his mouth:

"Duke's Tune"

This Los Angeles radio piece explains more, and features Duke's performing, as well as Schrader talking about his own recording made entirely from the melodic material of Duke's performance. Which you can hear here:

Barry Schrader: "Duke's Tune"

It's nice music, no offense Mr. Schrader, but I'd really like to hear/see more of Duke.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


...make lemonade. Or a song that samples the sounds of a computer crashing, as 99 folks did in a contest sponsored by Gizmodo, a "gadgets weblog." A fellow named LO2 crafted a funky break out of the sounds, adding his own funny nerd-core white rapping:

"Crizzash" - "...damn, that's where all my good porn was stizz-ashed!"

Monday, February 06, 2006


The word "cheesy" barely begins to describe this laff-out-loud video of Hoff (aka The New Shatner) doing the goofy '70s bubblegum tune

"Hooked On A Feeling"

...which answers the musical question, "What would a music video look like if it starred a kitschy TV actor, was made by an amateur public-access director, and everyone was on acid?"


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Alright, Just One More Punk-Rock Accordian Post...

Martin White from England sez, "In October 2003 I bought myself a 72-bass piano accordion. Since then I have used it to terrorise the internets with alarming renditions of popular melodies. I take requests." He's posted dozens of unaccompanied under-rehearsed accordian instrumentals, covering everyone from ABBA and Hall and Oates to Nick Cave and Nirvana. And he "covers" Cage's "4'33" " (yuk yuk). This take on the Human League's classic had me chuckling:

"Don't You Want Me" - Throw this over a 2-step drum beat and we've got a new polka standard.

But when he does rehearse he can create wonderful original tunes, like this Robyn Hitchcock-like gem:

"In The Evil Castle" - still just accordian, but with overdubbed vocals this time.

Thanks to the essential Radio Clash podcast for the tip. The latest episode of RadioClash is an all-outsider music marathon, by the way.