Saturday, 24 December 2011

Prof Kitzel's Time Machine Profiles; George W Johnson


~ George W. Johnson (circa 1846~1914) was one of the first major recording stars and certainly the first black recording star as well as being one of the most successful singers of the Victorian era. ..

~ Early life ~ Born a slave between 1846 and 1850 in Virginia, Johnson was raised by a white family who taught him to read and write. His musical training is unknown although he does not seem to have played any actual instruments, he sang minstrel songs as well as being a virtuoso whistler. After the civil war he made his way to New York and New Jersey where he earned a living as a busker in various minstrel and medicine shows becoming a fairly well known figure. ..

~ Recordings ~ When Johnson began recording is unknown but it is rumored that Thomas Edison himself chose Johnson to be one of the first singers to demonstrate his new tin-foil based recording device in 1879 because his clear, staccato baritone could reproduce well on the crude technology. If so these recordings have not survived but when the improved wax gramophones came along a decade later Johnson became much in demand. He recorded "The Whistling Coon" in 1890 for The Metropolitan Phonograph company and then quickly did the same for The New Jersey Phonograph Company, The North American and Edison. The song became the first real hit of the recording era selling for various companies (which would grow to include most of Edison's competitors such as Berliner, Victor, Columbia, Starr and Zonophone) as was common at the time. Due to the crude technology of the day (there were no masters) records were recorded straight to disk five at a time which meant that Johnson would have to sing the same song over again for hours and days in order to make multiple copies. However since he got payed by the song this meant he was able to make a decent living for over a decade singing the same few songs. ..


~ Repertoire
~ The number of songs Johnson actually knew is unknown but he only recorded about a half dozen titles. Besides his first hit he later had even bigger hits with "The Laughing Song" and the " The Laughing Coon". Laughing in rhythm was a fad of the era and "The Laughing Song" (originally written by the white song writer Sam Devere as part of a minstrel show) is believed to have been the first million selling record, being recorded for numerous companies between 1894 and 1910. These records were also popular in Europe and Latin America since there was little language barrier to overcome and there are stories of copies of the "Laughing Song" turning up in (then) remote Africa, China, the Arctic and the South Pacific were they were used by missionaries to break the ice with the locals. In the 1922 documentary film "Nanook of the North" film maker Robert Flaherty is shown playing a copy of the record to charm his Eskimo hosts. For a time Johnson was probably the most heard person in the world along with the opera tenor Enrico Caruso. Johnson also recorded a few other titles including "The Whistling Girl","Listen to the Mockingbird" and "Carving the Duck", copies of which have survived along with at least two others which have not, "The Laughing Darkey" and "Uncle Ned's Dream". Johnson also recorded at least two comedy singles as part of Len Spencer's Minstrel Troupe. Spencer (who was actually white) was a popular leader of his own minstrel troupe as well as booking agent who became a manager for Johnson. Besides his recordings Johnson also continued to appear in vaudeville and minstrel shows in New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey. ..


~ Decline and death ~ By the twentieth century recording technology had improved allowing for master copies to be recorded as well as allowing a greater variety of singers and musicians to record more clearly and these factors along with more sophisticated tastes effectively ended Johnson's recording career. His popularity also suffered from a mysterious scandal involving his being charged the death of his wife in 1899, Spencer and other performing friends rallied around and raised money for his bail and defense and the charges were quickly dropped . Johnson continued to record until 1910 but then went into retirement and the loyal Len Spencer gave him a job as doorman for the Lyceum Theater in New York. Johnson died forgotten in his apartment of unknown natural causes in 1914. ..

~ Surviving recordings ~ Copies of some of Johnson's recordings an both cylinders and disks have survived in various conditions and sound quality, some have turned up on a compilation entitled "Lost Sounds" on Archephone Records, others can be found on archival websites.

George W. Johnson ~ Vocals, Laughing and Whistling w/ various pianists incl/ Edward Issler ..


Monday, 19 December 2011

The Stoopidist Band Mashup Ever

The 1996 book "Rolling Stone's Alt-Rockarama" book of lists and trivia contained a list entitled "100+ Alt-Rock Super groups we hope never happen". This was a list of band name mashups used to creat new stupid band names for ill advised supergroup pairings. Notable examples incuded;

Agnostic Front Line Assembly

Average White Band of Susans

Echo and the Bunnymen Without Hats

Greatful Dead Kennedys

The Husker Doobie Brothers

Iggy Pop Will Eat Itself

Kool and the Gang of Four

Marvin Gaye Bikers on Acid

Peter Murphy's Law

The Scoolly dB's

The Simply Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Soul 2 Soul Asylum

Steely Danzig

Swing Out Sisters of Mercy

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love and Rockets

You get the idea.

Since I love stupid pointless trivia even more than I love stupid pointless band names here are a few of my own suggestions for this stupid pointless list;

The Aero-Smiths

Alien Sex Pistols

Altered Images In Vogue

The Amboy Dukes of the Stratosphere

Anti Black Flag

The Anti-Human League

Atomic 7 Seconds

Balaam and the Comsat Angels

Amy Bauhaus

Aprilwine and Iron

The Beaumarks Inside

The Body Count 5

The Big Bad Livers

The Black Flag of Convieniance

Black Lips Arkansas

Black Sabbath Flag

The Black Sabbath Keys

The Blue Cheer Demons

The Blue Demon Oyster Cult

The Blue Oyster Magoos

Blue Demon Rodeo

Blue Oyster Rodeo

David Bow Wow Wowie

Boy George Micheal

The Bullet Boys Brigade

The Chalk Circle Jerks

The Chocolate Watchband of Susans

Christian Death Angel

Christian Death of Samantha

The Chromosome Cranks

Courtney Love and Rockets

The Cowboy Mouth Junkies

The Cowboy Murder Junkies

The Crowded Housemartins

Curiosity Killed The Stray Cats

The Cutting Crewcuts

Dead Cats Can Fly

Dead Guy Smiley

The Dead Kennedys Can Dance

The Dead Milkmen Can Dance

The Death of Samantha Ronson

Deja Voodoo Glow Skulls

Deja Voodoo Machine

The Del Lords of the New Church

Destroy All Monster Magnets

Dexy's Midnight Run DMC

Dinosaur Jr. Gone Wild

The Dream Syndicate of Sound


The Dropkick Peter Murphys

Emerson, Lake and Robert Palmer

Fifth Durutti Column

The Flamin' Groovie Sideburns

The Flat Duo Jetboys

The Fleshtonie Braxtons

The Florida Razorbacks

Gang of 4 Skins

Gaye Bikers on Scratch Acid

Generation X-Ray Specs

Generation XTC

Gentle Giant Sand

Girlschooly D

The Go-Go Go Betweens

The Grapes of Wrathchild

Great Big Black Sea

Haircutting Crew

Hayseed Dixie Chicks

Richard Hellacopter & The Voidoids

Richard Helmet & The Voidoids

Holy Fuck Rounders

Iron Maiden Wine

Lambchop of God

Latex Generation X

LL Cool J Macias

The Lords of Scratch Acid

L7 Mary Three

The MC5 Star

Machine hHead

Magnetic Fields of The Nephelim

The Meatloaf Puppets

The Men Without Hats They Couldn't Hang


The Mighty Clouds of Joy Division

Mojo Nixon and Skid Row

Modern English Beat

Monster Voodoo Glow Skulls

Motley 2 Live Crue

The Mudhoneycombs

The Murder City Rollers

My Cordelia's Dad is Dead

Nashville Pussy Galore

The New York Toy Dolls

Nine Inch Nails Below Zero

999 Below Zero

999 Inch Nails

999 Pound Hammer

Nine Pound Hammer Below Zero

Pee Wee King Cob Steelie

The Knoxville Girlschool

The Luna-Chixdiggit

Nurse With Sucking Chest Wound

Operation Poison Ivy

Orchestral Maneuvers in The Dark Carnival

Hank Pennywise

Four Platinum Non Blondes

Poison Ivy Idea

Pretty Pink Boy Floyd

Prince and The Deep Purple Revolution

Public Images in Vogue

Puddle of Mudhoney

The Pukka Orchestra Manouvers in the Dark

Raised By Guitar Wolves

The Randypeter Murphys

The Raybeat Farmers

The Real Kids on the Block

Redd Kris Kross

Reel Big Fishbone

Renaldo and the Meatloaf

The Romeo Voidoids

Roomfull of Blue Cheer

Roomfull of Blue Demons

Roomfull of Blue Oyster Cult

Roomfull of Blue Rodeo

Roxx Gang Children

The Roxy Music Machine


The Samhain Roberts Band

Screamin' Lord Baltimore

Screamin' Lord Buckley

Secret Police Affair

Septic Death Angel

Seven Mary Three O'Clock

Sex Gang Children of Bodom

The Shadows of Gladys Knight

Sham 69 Eyes

The Sick Boys Next Door

The Silver Apples in Stereo

The Soft Boys Brigade

The Soft Boys Machine

Sonic Youth Brigade

Southern Culture Club on the Skids

Stray Cats Can Fly

The Subhuman League

Super Furry Animal Collective

System of a Down By Law

The Talking Motorheads

Teenage Head Fanclub

Teenage Headpins

The Thin White Amboy Dukes

The Thin White Dukes of the Stratosphere

They Might be Gentle Giants

They Might Be Giant Sand

The Ten Foot Polecats

The Tragically Hipsway

The Trashmen They Couldn't Hang

The Trashmen Without Hats

Tuuli Live Crew

Twisted Sisters of Mercy

The 2 Live Krewmen

The 2 Live Crewcuts

The 2 Live Cutting Crew

Type O Negative Approach

Type O Negative Trend

Undertones on Tail

Vanilla Ice T

The Velvet Underground Revolver

The Viletony Toni Tones

The Wanda Jackson Five

The White Flag of Convieniance

White Zombie Stripes

The Young Fresh Lions

It took me about a half hour to come up with those, OK make that an hour, or more. So I have no doubt you can come up with more. No fair using the names of bands that are so obscure nobody can tell if you're just making shit up.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

John Cage makes Iron Butterfly look like DRI

You think rock operas are absurdly long? How about free jazz solos? Emerson, Lake and Palmer? John Coltrane? Tangerine Dream? Amateurs all of 'em. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the reigning heavy weight champion (drum roll please); John Cage!

Whatever clever artsy idea you think you had, John Cage has already done it. Probably better too.



World’s longest concert will last 639 years
By Maura Judkis (Washington Post)

You’d be praying for intermission if you attended even just a fraction of the world’s longest concert. Now in its 10th year, “Organ²/ASLSP(As SLow aS Possible),” by avant-garde composer John Cage, is just getting started.
Composer, John Cage rehearses his 12-hour composition "Empty Words" in Hartford, Conn., in 1981. (Anonymous - ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The concert began in 2001 at the former St. Burchard church in Halberstadt, Germany, and is scheduled to conclude in 2640, for a duration of 639 years. Though Cage did not specify a duration for his piece, the length was chosen because the start date for the performance is 639 years after Nicolaus Faber built the first church organ. Other performances of the piece have lasted between 29 and 70 minutes.

The Halberstadt performance, by an automated organ, progresses so slowly that visitors have to wait months for a chord change (for one note change, in 2008, more than 1,000 visitors came to listen). They occur on the fifth of the month, but the next one isn’t scheduled until July 2012. The organ emits a low meditative hum at all times. You can hear it on the ASLSP Web site.

The performance is so slow that the organ it is being played on was not even complete before the music began. Pipes were added to the organ, which keeps the music steady thanks to a machine called a blower that provides a constant stream of air, in 2008.

Supporters can sponsor a note for a year with a donation of 1000 € or more. Those who donate can choose any year through 2640, and will receive a metal plaque with their name and year in the church.

Fans of Cage, such as board chairman of the town’s John Cage Organ Foundation, Rainer Neugebauer, say that the performance is a rebuke of hectic modern life.

“Everything does not need to happen so fast. If something needs a bit longer then it can give us an inner calm that is rare in normal life.”

Update, Nov. 28: There is competition for the world’s longest concert. On Twitter, Mark Polishook alerts Arts Post to Longplayer, a 1,000-year-long musical score that is being played by computers.