Sunday, January 27, 2008


The League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots.

Sounds like something out of a comic book, eh? But it's a real, Brooklyn-based organization that create ..."exotic, sculptural musical instruments which integrate robotic technology. LEMUR's philosophy is to build robots that are new types of musical instruments, as opposed to animatronic robots that play existing instruments. LEMUR's growing ensemble includes over 50 robotic instruments."

That odd object you see pictured is the GuitarBot. The four strings can be controlled separately, picking and sliding to create a sound that, indeed, would never be confused with a "real" guitar. Unfortunately, there's only one recording available on their site (and no CDs for sale), and it gets cut off:

Joshua Fried: "EmergencyBot"

To really get an idea of the wonder of these instruments, check out the videos. The vid on the bottom left is a "performance" of George Antheil's 1924 composition "Ballet
Mecanique" using a veritable robot orchestra. I counted at least 14 player pianos alone. "Ballet Mecanique" was originally scored to include airplane propeller, not used here, but player pianos are certainly appropriate for this kind of group - they're among the oldest surviving forms of self-played musical instruments, dating back to the late 1800s, and have been used by avant-pranksters practically ever since.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Heath Ledger? Who!? The real tragedy that rocked my Hollywood was the recent death of Vampira. TV's original horror host, Ed Wood starlet, inspiration for this groovy slab of 1958 rockabilly:


Bobby Bare, whose late '50 rock recordings weren't very commercially successful, but was a fixture on the country charts in the '60s and '70s. I'd say this is his best song, were it not for the fact that he also recorded that Klassic Kountry Kristian football goof "Dropkick Me Jesus (Through The Goalposts Of Life)," a 1976 Grammy nominee!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


"The most offensive album ever made!"

Well, don't know about that, but "Jewface", a various-artists collection of vintage recordings, certainly is one Jewish stereotype after another, many seemingly perpetrated by Jewish performers themselves. These antiques, some dating back to 1905, were part of the ethnic stereotype humor that was wildly popular in the early days of recording. Apart from blackface minstrel shows (hence the album title) there was German, Irish, Italian, you-name-it, all performed with exaggerated accents and broad humor.

Some of these songs, like "When Mose With His Nose Leads The Band," are funny, but not in the way it's creator's intended - it's because they're just so awful! It's hard to believe this was mainstream American entertainment and that times have changed so much. But I don't think too many people will really be offended - it's all so good-natured and innocent, and we can't really judge the past by today's standards. And besides, this is such a fun tune:

Edward Meeker: "I'm A Yiddish Cowboy"

Speaking of offensive, here's an upbeat Ku Klux Klan march that makes the Klan seem like a wholesome patriotic organization mainly concerned with fighting
Communism. Race isn't even mentioned! What a fine upstanding group of young men...

Johnny Rebel: "Stand Up and Be Counted"

Thanks to Spacebrother Greg for the Rebel yell (I don't even want to know where you got it!)

Friday, January 11, 2008


Very sad to read today that Mort Garson has died. As this LA Times article points out, Garson had plenty of mainstream success in the music biz, even co-writing a number one hit in 1963 (Ruby and the Romantics' "Our Day Will Come"), but is primarily remembered today for his bizarre '60s/'70s Moog synth records. There were lots of Moog-sploitation records being cranked out in those days, but what made Mort a strange-music superstar was his refusal to do too many cheezy remake records. Rather, like Dick Hyman and Perrey & Kingsley, he wrote most of his own material. Unlike most Moog-masters who preferred to let their instruments do all the talking, however, he also prominently featured vocalists.

"Electronic Hair Pieces" is the first album of his that I found, for 48 cents in the late '80s (it probably goes for at least 48 dollars now.) Selections from the "Hair" soundtrack done electro-stylee, it's the only Moog remake album of his that I know of. Liner notes by Tommy S

Mort Garson: Walking In Space

I think some of his best songwriting is on the "Wozard of Iz" Wizard of Oz-inspired concept album, with vocals by no less then Nancy Sinatra (recording under another name). The lyrics for this tune are a kind of beatnik anti-conformist spiel, but still relevant to today. This shouldn't work - someone who sounds like they're from the older generation trying to lay a hip rap on the kids could have been squares-ville, daddy. But it rocks.

Mort Garson: "Never Follow The Yellow Green Road"

I have a 45 of his from the soundtrack to Son of Blob (aka Beware! The Blob) that's also all-synths and rinky-dink early drum machines, but punctuated by breakdowns with screaming people, presumably being eaten by that pesky Blob.

The Blobs: Son of Blob

Garson also recorded albums with black-magic themes. I featured Mort's tune "The Unexplained" on the "Disco Sickness" collection I put together for the 365 Project. 1973? If that's not the definition of visionary, I don't know what is.

Mort Garson: "The Unexplained"

One of his albums, "Music For Sensuous Lovers," consisted of two side-long instrumentals featuring a woman's ostensibly erotic moans and groans. In a fittingly strange finale to a career steeped in strangeness, Garson's last album was music intended to be played for your plants. The record, "Plantasia," was given away by a mattress company. Okay...well, it was the '70s...

Mort Garson: Baby's Tears Blues

More Mort: Egg City Radio has six albums available here and here. Office Naps has singles he did with "The Time Zone" and "The Big Game Hunters."

He was writing music 'til the day he died: a suite about San Francisco. Let's hope it gets released.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

O Nightingale!

Stop whatever you're doing, and listen to this song now:

O Nightingale

The uncredited female singer, accompanied only by piano, starts off like Mrs. Miller's evil stepmother. And that would have been good enough right there, but the explosive finale, which suggests Nina Hagen being tortured, is the greatest thing I've heard in ages. It comes to us courtesy of an amazing website called:

Those Unbelievable Believers: The Blessed Sounds of Incredible Christian Song Demos

that is nothing but, as you might have guessed, demos by aspiring songwriters/performers. Crudely produced songs by barely-talented would-be superstars have been clogging record company a&r mailboxes for decades, and this is truly the cream of the crap, er, crop. They're not all Christian songs, tho, like "O Nightingale" and this candidate for Worst Rap Song Of All Time:

"The Safe Sex Is Just a Fantasy Rap"

But all the tunes posted are worth a listen, like the heavily-accented Casio mess "Holy Jerusalem," the ludicrous, almost cartoonishly country-twangin' "Hot Summer Nights," the vocoder in "Come Back, America!" making the singer sound like a bad Barry White impersonator...

Just wish I knew the names of these performers so they could get the credit they deserve.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Hail, Maniacs! Hope y'all had a weird holiday. I sure did - I visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology and bought an album of music made out of cave rock formations. But I'll get to all that later. First some announcements:

I won't be posting as much anymore, once a week probably. When I started this here web-log, there really weren't any other strange-music blogs. There was Basic Hip, which posted vintage vinyl (not necessarily strange), Comfort Stand, a net-label that featured some outsider-music and...that was about it. And now? Well, just check my links. I still think there's a place for M4M, though.

But to make up for the fewer amount of posts, I'll start adding pictures like everyone else. Deal?

I also won't be able to host songs indefinitely. Dodgy mp3 sites have been linking directly to me, generating thousands of hits in a brief period, which lead to my host shutting me down Christmas Eve (er, Merry Christmas to you, too, guys...), which lead to me removing all my mp3s. I'll still re-up tracks by your request, they just won't be up forever.

ANYWAY. The Great StalacPipe Organ, "The World's Largest Musical Instrument," is why we're all here today so let's get to it. Put on your lantern helmet and repel with me down into Luray Caverns, Virginia, where an engineer named Leland Sprinkle noticed that striking the cave's rock formations produced musical tones. So, in 1954, he conceived of an organ with little hammers that strike a hollow rock when the organ's keys are depressed. It's quite musical, though with a limited sonic palette. Rather then the usual pipe organ bombast, the Stalacpipe Organ is quiet, ghostly.
The reverberating splashes of dripping water in the background sounds like sporadic electronic percussion, adding to the ambient feel.

Organist Monte Maxwell recorded a cd in 2001 called "Midnight in the Caverns" full of popular, classical, gospel, and patriotic standards played on the Organ, which you can only get at the Cavern's gift shop. Or at the gift shop of Los Angeles' legendary Museum of Jurassic Technology. The Museum is a must-visit if you're in LA, a moodily-lit series of winding hallways and strange displays that more resembles a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, or even one of P.T Barnum's exhibits, then any modern history or science museum.

Monte Maxwell: "Amazing Grace"

Older recordings can be heard here (the original 365 Project), and Week 15 of Tape Findings.