Japanese Kayōkyoku Women, 1960s-70s

Western influences in Japanese pop music can be found starting 100 years ago. Jazz journeyed back over the Pacific on steamers by citizens traveling abroad, first in sheet music form, and then as 78s. It was a woman singer named Sumako Matsui who got it all going, in 1914, with a shellac side called “Katyûsya No Uta” which sold an unheard-of 20,000 copies. It was the beginning of a genre called ryûkôka (‘fashionable songs’). The trend continued into the 1920s as the recording industry matured and began cross-marketing music and cinema, with Chiyako Sato’s title track from the film “Tokyo March” so successful, it caused one critic to worry that “the taste of the citizens of Tokyo will become depraved beyond salvation.” As in the West, patriarchal fears of feminine empowerment were palpable as modernity and capitalism upended traditional gender roles. Japan’s militarist expansion from 1936-45 resulted in the banning of western music, but America’s postwar occupation brought Kasagi Sizuko’s runaway hit “Tôkyô Boogie-Woogie” whose lyrics incorporated words like ukiuki (‘buoyant’) and zukizuki (‘throbbing’) to rhyme with boogie-woogie.

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A Music Video Introduction to the Wide, Weird World of Sparks

There will always be a region of the music world for which any concession to visual flair is considered anathema, where Vans and sensible jeans are the rule. Y’all do y’all, but Sparks will have no truck in that neck of the woods. Ron and Russell Mael — the two weirdo brothers that are group’s only consistent members — are excellent musicians and caustically funny lyricists whose best work spans prog, disco, and post-everything alien pop, but their visual presentation has always been just as integral to the overall package.

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Punks Not Dead, but Maximum Rocknroll Is: A Farewell Letter to the MRR Zine

At the beginning of this year, Maximum Rocknroll announced that their print publication would be ending its 37 year run. The May issue would be its last. When the news broke, many readers of MRR, from the infrequent to the avid, were upset with the magazine’s announcement. MRR was a mainstay of the independent punk scene, and had endured the many ups and downs of punk’s history. MRR had survived the death of its founder Tim Yohannon, punk breaking into the mainstream, the rise of the internet and the many, many times punk was declared dead. MRR was loved, hated, and more often than not treated with indifference because it was just assumed that Maximum Rocknroll would always be around.

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Will Sergeant – a listener’s perspective

It does not happen as often as it used to, but I am sometimes still met with a quizzical face, when I mention that Echo & The Bunnymen are one of my favorite bands. I find this odd, as the band has been a going concern since 1978, recording and releasing albums, growing ever more popular with each release.  Their U.S. popularity hit its height with songs such as “The Killing Moon”, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” & “Lips Like Sugar,” all of which have been featured in television shows and feature films.

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Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes- A Review


Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (2018) is a documentary directed by Swedish filmmaker Sophie Huber telling the story of the legendary Blue Note jazz label from their humble beginnings to present. Huber’s film documents the ambition and inclusion of Blue Note through its German Jewish immigrant founders, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who started Blue Note in New York, in 1939. Blue Note began as an independent jazz label in an era where xenophobia and racism were social norms. The Blue Note story is paramount because it highlights the collaborative relationships between German Jewish immigrants and African American musicians. The film features interviews with legendary jazz musicians, Herbie Hancock, Lou Donaldson and Wayne Shorter plus commentary with contemporary jazz artists, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and Norah Jones. The film also features rare archival footage with John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis and newer recording sessions contrasting the intersectionalities and positionalities between jazz and hip hop with interviews including Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) and Terrace Martin (hip hop producer). Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes is Huber’s second documentary after her debut and critically acclaimed first documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012).

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“He’s Up There With MAD Magazine”: How Ghoulardi, AKA Paul Thomas Anderson’s dad, Helped Create Punk Rock in Cleveland

It’s never been quite enough to correct the mainstream record, but lots of ink has been spilled over the years on how punk rock’s truest, bluest bug juice first bubbled to the surface not in New York or London, but in Cleveland, Ohio, a full couple years before anyone rolled over and told Joey Ramone the news. Cleveland’s under-nurtured early ’70s freak scene was, in this writer’s estimate, punk’s form and spirit at its most undiluted, and almost definitely its furthest off the wall.

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Spy Jazz

Following the end of World War Two, the US moved into an era of prosperity. Dad went to work each day. Mom stayed home and raised the kids. The kids went to school and in the afternoon they studied and played outside. There were new cars, yearly vacations, weekends away, perhaps some extra money to purchase things such as a lakeside house. A lifestyle that appeared picture perfect.

Yet viewed from the inside there were cracks in the facade. Underneath the smiles and waves, there was a growing deep psychological fear of atomic war. The US and Russia were engaged in a nuclear arms race, each country doing their best to have more armed missiles on hand, targeted at their enemy’s most populated cities, should the other side decide to fire their missiles.

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Joe Strummer’s boots

I fell down a Clash rabbit hole in the Oxfam used book store on Byres road in Glasgow last fall. I came across Pat Gilbert’s Passion is a Fashion, which details “The Real Story of the Clash” over almost 400 pages. A sucker for almost any music documentary or biography, I was eager to dig into the history of the icons of my youth. I’ve been stuck in Clash heavy rotation ever since.

Like many in the genre, Gilbert’s mining through the minutiae of recording contracts and studio sessions may only be for the true aficionado — but his telling of the story of the Clash is eminently readable. Perhaps the most lasting impression is just how young the band was at the time they recorded their greatest work — and how naive they were about the commercial industry that tried to shape them, ultimately contributing to their dissolution and demise.

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Bappi Lahiri the Disco King of India

Bappi Lahiri, also known in India as “The Disco King,” was born in Calcutta, West Bengal in 1952, to Bengali classical singers Aparesh Lahiri and Bansari Lahari. An only child, his parents trained him at the age of 3 to play tabla, later in classical music and Shyama Sangeet, which is a genre of devotional songs dedicated to Hindu goddess Shyama, or Kali. Lahiri is related on his mother’s side to Kishore Kumar, who who was a prominent multifaceted Indian film artist, and S. Mukheerjee, who was a producer of Indian films. Lahiri’s educational musical upbringing enabled him to begin his Bollywood career at the age of 19, directing music for Bengali film Daadu (1972) and composing music for his first Hindi film Nanha Shikari (1973). He became established in Bollywood for music composition and also playback singing for Tahir Husain’s Hindi film Zakhmee (1975). Lahiri went on to work on music for popular films, Chalte Chalte (1976) and Surakksha (1979) propelling him to stardom as the youngest musical director in the shortest duration of time (bappilahiri.com).

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