JoeMc on 10/30/2009 at 12:24PM
As anyone who lives in the New York area knows, beer gardens have had a startling uptick in popularity in the past few years. Back at the turn of the century, New York had literally hundreds of them, but just a few years ago, there was only one original beer garden left, the Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens. Beer gardens disappeared for many reasons, some legislative (Prohibition), some moralistic (temperance societies), and some psychological (a distaste for German cultural institutions during and after World War I), but the population that they served never did waver in their affection for what made the beer gardens popular in the first place: beer!
Beer has always been second to water as the most popular drink in America. Americans at the turn of the century drank thousands of barrels of beer annually; contemporary Americans drink even more. Since the late 1800s, the beer that most Americans have chosen above all others is one that is still the most popular beer in America today: Budweiser.
Is Budweiser a friend of yours? Listen to the song and read on.
JoeMc on 10/11/2009 at 06:00PM
This year Columbus Day in America and Spain actually falls on the same day, which doesn’t happen as often as you’d think. In Spain, it’s always celebrated on October 12, no matter what day of the week it is, but over here we like to have it on the second Monday in October. We’re a practical people, we Americans; we like our holidays to extend our weekends. Only Jesus gets away with that middle of the week stuff here. Well, Him and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade promoters.
So, some of us get a long weekend out of it. That’s about the biggest impact that Columbus Day has on most Americans. Let’s face it, Columbus Day gets the razz pretty often in terms of holidays worth celebrating. The famous story, the one even tiny schoolkids know by now, is that Cristóbal Colón never really discovered “America” as we know it. He ended up in the West Indies. Personally, I don’t see how we can really hold this against the guy; I mean, as far as I can tell, one person’s bungled stopover is another person’s New World. Ol’ Chris was looking for a new world and there’s no doubt that he found one. It wasn’t the one that suits our national mythology, but I’ll bet it suited him well enough. I mean, hey, it’s the Bahamas!
Okay, so he’s not much of a hero. Lest ye forget, plenty of Spaniards who came in the wake of this brave Italian brought war and pestilence to the native peoples of this hemisphere. They practically set the standard for rubbing ’em out, in fact, a lesson not lost on later colonists. And although there’s that romantic bit about the queen, wasn’t Columbus really just trying to sew up the spice trade routes for Spain for mucho moolah? Yeah, probably. But, hey, how many people do you know who have a national holiday named in their honor? Amerigo Vespucci may have gotten naming rights, but Columbus got the holiday (alas, the United States of Columbia was not to be). There must be something to that old story. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a pretty good story, with the three ships and everything.
John Drew Barrymore tells my favorite version of the Columbus story here. As you can tell from watching this for two minutes, the myth is so embedded in our culture that it’s not only a source of easy satire, but it’s more important than the reality. You have to admit, it’s a great metaphor for all kinds of discovery, not just ones involving patches of real estate. Even if we did limit it to America, it’s not like there aren’t people who are discovering America every day. Sometimes they even literally come from across the ocean, like the fellow in today’s featured FMA MP3.
JoeMc on 10/01/2009 at 03:00PM
Most music fans carry around a mental short list of musicians who, in their minds, are woefully underappreciated not only by the general public but by other music fans. No matter what the genre--folk, metal, hip-hop, or whatever the latest permutation of electronic dance music is called--we can all think of a performer who in our estimation deserves wider name recognition and popularity. I'm no different, and there are plenty of people I can think of who deserve greater cultural regard (some names that spring to mind while I'm sitting here: Tony Hazzard, Tom Rapp, John Kongos, Roy Harper, Tim Hollier....). But today I'd like to single out one particular gentleman from my mental list and tell you why you should care about him.
That man's name is Michael Chapman.
JoeMc on 09/24/2009 at 03:00PM
I don't know about you, but I've often thought about what might happen if I went to the doctor one day and found out that I only had a short time left to live. The question is always the same: Would I do anything different? Would I just do what I usually do, or would I try to do all of the things I never did that I always wanted to do? Maybe I would try to do one good thing for the world, like the fellow in the wonderful Japanese film Ikiru; or, maybe I would just indulge myself in hedonistic pleasure, like some refugee from a Ken Russell film, until I went belly-up out of sheer exhaustion.
I guess the answer to this question would be different for everybody, and I hope I never find out what my answer would be. I hope I'd have at least some of the lust for life that the character in this great song by Arthur Collins does when he finds out the news. Have a listen, and I'll tell you some stuff about Arthur Collins after the jump.
JoeMc on 09/17/2009 at 03:14PM
Plenty of bands from the magical city of Portland have had tracks featured on the FMA in the past year (see here, here, and here), but my current favorite is Explode Into Colors, a trio of young women whose percussion-heavy, post-punky music perks up my ears. Apparently, I'm not all that unique in my enthusiasm; for instance, in the Willamette Week, a local paper, they were voted best new Portland band of 2009, and the New Musical Express thought they were one of the ten best bands at South by Southwest this year. Clearly, they've got a few people in their corner.
Now, I have to admit that I'm not temperamentally inclined to put much stock in "best of this" and "best of that" talk, and I'd rather leave it to folks at other blogs to deal in over-the-top praise and too-cool-for-school backlash. Simply put, I just like the handful of records that this band have put out so far. In fact, they recently put out a pretty good one called "Coffins" b/w "Sharpen the Knife" on M'Ladys Records. Today I'd like to feature the b-side, which is the one I like best.
JoeMc on 09/10/2009 at 02:40PM
Ready for the Sophie Tucker revival?
I sure am!
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran a nice little article on the "Last of the Red Hot Mamas." Check it out here. The occasion for the article was the release of a new CD on Archeophone Records featuring songs Sophie Tucker recorded for Edison in 1910-11 and Okeh in the early 20s. Despite their low fidelity, the recordings show that this vaudeville pro's salty style was in full-flower from the very beginning of her career. Other media outlets in print and on the Internet have since picked up the Times' lead. It's clear: Sophie Tucker's back!
Why this renewed interest in this forgotten icon of the American stage? Read on, as you listen to her theme song, for some thoughts on the phenomenon that was Sophie Tucker.
JoeMc on 09/02/2009 at 08:55AM
Now that the calendar has turned September and Labor Day is coming up, that slightly mournful feeling is kicking in for a lot of people, that feeling of the summer passing away. It's a strange kind of instant nostalgia that happens every year, even when the summer has been as unspectacular as this one has been in the Northeast. Of course, persnickety types like to remind everyone that summer doesn't actually end until late September, but instinctively, the end of summer feels like it's happening now. Whether we're just conditioned by years of schooling to feel the beginning of school as the end of summer, or if it's that the slightly cooler September nights carry a hint of the winter to come, it's hard not to feel a certain wistfulness around this time of the year.
To help you send off summer, then, with the appropriate nostalgic feeling (and a singing saw), here is an MP3 by Sam Moore and Horace Davis called "The Last Rose of Summer." Read more about this fine confection below.
JoeMc on 08/26/2009 at 07:59AM
Of all the new pieces of vinyl to show up in the WFMU "new bin" lately, my favorite may be Harte Records' reissue of Peter Walker's 1966 Vanguard LP Rainy Day Raga. It's a record that is so purely conceived and executed, so total unto itself, that I find it hard to select cuts to play from it. It always feels as if it should be played all at once so that you can become immersed in it, like taking a long, warm audio bath instead of the quick MP3 showers we're always taking these days.
Rainy Day Raga is so perfect that its creator, after releasing one more gem two years later, simply stopped recording. In the past couple of years, though, Peter Walker has become visibly active again, and today's post is a souvenir of that still-ongoing resurgence: an exclusive improvisation from his appearance on Irene Trudel's program in June of last year. Its informal title bears witness to a touching relationship between two folk legends.
TAGGED AS:fingerstyle guitar
JoeMc on 08/20/2009 at 08:06AM
Last weekend, I caught an old flicker that I'd never seen before, and a fairly well-known one, too. It was Run Silent, Run Deep, a 1958 World War II actioner about a submarine on a dangerous mission to take out a Japanese destroyer. I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of war films in general, but I do have a weakness for submarine films. Ever since I saw Das Boot as a teenager (the Citizen Kane of sub movies), I've had a jones for movies that feature a bunch of stressed-out dudes defying death in a floating tin can.
Today's post is sort of a little sub movie in itself. Feel free to listen to it after you watch the trailer for Run Silent, Run Deep here.
JoeMc on 08/13/2009 at 10:27AM
I often write about "old" music in my FMA blog posts, but as Al Jolson once famously said, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Today's post doesn't feature music from 50 or even 100 years ago; no, this time I'd like to take you back about 5000 years.
Today's featured song is a traditional piece for probably the most ancient of Chinese instruments, the guqin (pronounced something like koo-chien). If you need to get into a more tranquil mood today, this ought to do the trick. Maybe you're stuck in an office? Well, imagine yourself at a peaceful lake: Ah, look at the cute little teals (ducks) frolicking in the sand! Listen to the water lapping at the lake's edge! Feel yourself relax into the warm sand under the azure sky. Begin to doze a little, and drift off, cradled in the arms of a benevolent god....
Oh yes, the blog post. Read on, if you're not already blissfully content.