25 April, 2016

Thinking of linking

What I've been reading lately:

Refugee on Nauru convicted of attempted suicide to 'deter' others - It's official, we are atrocious.

Why the federal budget is not like a household budget

Labor calls for banking and financial services royal commission

Turnbull might have to ditch the double dissolution

Germaine Greer comes under fire for controversial transgender comments

Next Generation of Banknotes: $5 Banknote Design Revealed

Geelong Council, including mayor Darryn Lyons, set to be sacked

Indigenous Actor Jack Charles Has Been Refused A Cab. Again.

Coal collapse turns 50 as Peabody fails, “clean coal” exposed as myth

This might not be the last act for ousted MP Bronwyn Bishop - oh, I think it will.

Turnbull picks a move on truck drivers, not banks

Fundraiser for Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer to be sponsored by NAB amid banking firestorm

Tumbleweeds roll across the Senate chamber as a double dissolution election looms

In defence of Abbott: for the 'delcons', electoral victory doesn't matter

Labor refers Sophie Mirabella's claims to auditor general over $10m ‘political retribution’

PM out-manoeuvred by Labor

Former member for Indi Sophie Mirabella in spat with current member Cathy McGowan

Mirabella's grubby deal is unacceptable

Palace Theatre to be demolished: VCAT - Vandals!

River on fire in Greens MP's video is natural, not fracking, says CSIRO

Founder of private training empire accused of writing lewd messages on toilet walls

The word most often used to describe the conditions that lead to gun mishaps is nearly always the same: “somehow.”

Five Panama Papers takeaways

Trump Is The Weakest GOP Front-Runner In The Modern Era

Clinton Is Winning The States That Look Like The Democratic Party

NOPD: Fully loaded handgun found inside former Saints player Will Smith's car

LSP responds to attorney's request to take over Will Smith shooting death investigation

Ted Cruz’s college days as a widely hated masturbator have come back to haunt him

Harriet Tubman Ousts Andrew Jackson in Change for a $20

Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill papers over racism

Jack Mehoff Endorses Donald Trump - Still chasing Wayne Kerr's vote.

Learning to Talk About Class

No one would listen to Stephen Fry if he was poor

A ban on state-funded academics using their work to question government policy is to begin on 1 May. It’s either a cock-up or a conspiracy - Want to talk about free speech?

This terrifying Rupert Murdoch quote is possibly the best reason to stay in the EU yet

Meet the snooker superfan who flies 11,000 miles to spend 17 days in Sheffield every year

Email from Victoria Wood

Why DID Paul McCartney marry such a lying money grabber?

Furious French wine makers hijack Spanish tankers, pouring 90,000 bottles down the drain

Artists in Pakistan target drones with giant posters of child victims

Chernobyl’s Silent Exclusion Zone (Except for the Logging)

Remember That Time Prince Kicked Kim Kardashian Off The Stage?

Prince went to small Australian venue Bennetts Lane and asked 'can I have a gig here?'

Brian May Blasts Sacha Baron Cohen Over Freddie Mercury Biopic

David Bowie interview from 1996: 'I have done just about everything that it’s possible to do'

The truth behind that remix of Macca’s ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Dickheads

12 of the best vinyl test records

'I'm in trouble': Messages show 60 Minutes may have rejected fallback escape plan after child snatching

The Fight for the Future of NPR

60 Minutes: Child recovery team 'very upset' Channel Nine left them in Beirut prison, lawyer says - Gee, what's the world coming to when mercenary people smugglers can't trust the media cowboys who bankrolled them?

Is it organic? When lifestyle choices have gone too far

The age of loneliness is killing us

The film making us face the idea disabled people have sex

Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there's no one right way to be a man

Using a Dyson hand dryer is like setting off a viral bomb in a bathroom

Coffee Workers' Concerns Brew Over Chemical's Link To Lung Disease

SQL injection vuln found at Panama Papers firm Mossack Fonseca

Windows 10 system overheating and CPU Core Parking

The Kindle Oasis. A strategic review

The Dismissal: the 'what-could-have-been-live' blog

Dogs in Space, 30 years on – a once maligned film comes of age (contains spoilers)

Jock Scot, performance poet – obituary

Mental health:
People Are Using The Hashtag #WhatYouDontSee To Show What Depression Is Really Like

No, Beyondblue, we do not need more awareness about mental health - This link is not an endorsement.

TfL has made a Shakespearean tube map to mark 400 years since his death
Shakespeare's deleted scenes

I got stupid on me and now I'm wiping it off on you:
Flash of credentials can’t disguise self-interest in taxes letter - Yeah Gerard, because your thinktank doesn't have any conflicts on interests, does it? tl;dr: What makes people think they know so much just because they're experts?

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

23 April, 2016

Seven days of Bowie - bonus tracks

Yes, I've already done the seven-day challenge and I've already cheated by choosing two for the last day, but when I first started this 'blog way back in 1899, the point of it was to do things my way. So here are three choices that almost made it and why:

Tin Machine
As with Never Let Me Down, I am not for one moment suggesting Tin Machine is a work of misunderstood genius. What's great about it is that it was such a breakout!

As mentioned and linked in the previous post, Bowie's plan in the mid-80s was to make as much money as he could and then retire to a tropical island somewhere. But he noticed it wasn't making him happy and Reeves Gabrels suggested to him that maybe he should do what makes him happy.

So yes, Tin Machine was rough and somewhat contrived, although probably no more or less contrived than any of Bowie's other adopted styles. It was as if all the raucous he'd been holding back for almost ten years came blurted out in two albums. These days you'd call it a reboot. And to push the analogy a little too far, rebooting can be messy.

Oh, and they rocked harder than a lot of the poodle metal acts around at the time.

I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday
It wasn't unusual for Bowie to do covers. In fact over half his albums have at least one cover version on them. Obviously being a Morrissey fan, this one is going to interest me but there's a cute circularity to the way this one came about.

Mick Ronson had produced Morrissey's Your Arsenal album, from which the song was taken, the year before. In one of the few insights into the creative process provided in Morrissey's Autobiography, it reveals that it was Ronson's idea to have the outtro of I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday follow the same chromatic run featured in the climax of Rock'n'Roll Suicide. Morrissey and his band were worried that Bowie would sue. Mick gave them a nod and a wink and assured them it wouldn't happen. The subtext? Ronson had written that part all along.

Bowie returned the compliment the following year saying, "It's me doing Morrissey doing me." None of this is to suggest that Bowie wasn't completely taking the piss on this version.

Ashes to Ashes
For the most part, I have tried to avoid obvious classics, but the one really is unavoidable. However, I am going to tell you something about it that you probably haven't heard before.

Bowie wasn't just a magpie in terms of musical styles; he would pinch lyrics and musical phrases from everywhere - not quite going as far as plagiarism but certainly going beyond a passing similarity.

One of the most obvious examples is in All the Madmen and the line, "Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall," which can easily be sung to The Beatles' You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.

For Ashes to Ashes, Bowie dug back even further to another 'sequel' song by none other than Buddy Holly. Peggy Sue Got Married features the lines
You recall a girl that's been in nearly every song
This is what I heard, of course the story could be wrong
Compare to the opening lines of Ashes to Ashes:
Do you remember a guy that's been
In such an early song?
I've heard a rumor from Ground Control
Oh no, don't say it's true
Coincidence? Nup! And there's nothing wrong with that.

Another little bit I love about Ashes to Ashes is for a tragic song, there's still a bit of humour in there. The background voice in the second verse repeats every line including a deadly earnest, "Whoa ooh whoa hoo." It could be Bowie's most perfect song.

That really is all for now - apart from all the others.
Remember, you're not alone!

21 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Part the Last

Never Let Me Down/Shining Star (Makin' My Love)

For most of the 80s, Bowie was more a craftsman than an artist. I'm not saying that's a good or a bad thing, just that that's how it was. He had quite understandably decided it was time he had some seriously big hits. He did so with his own flair of course, but it's clear that commercial considerations were much more to the fore than the were in the 70s.

The reality is that when Never Let Me Down came out, Bowie was taking the money and getting ready to run. That was until Reeves Gabrels shook him and said, 'You're better than this!'

I'm not here to say Never Let Me Down is a work of misunderstood genius. It's not. It's some well-polished pop that is never going to stack up well beside Hunky Dory or Diamond Dogs. And as 80s pop went, it was a bloody sight better than Huey Lewis.

I've chosen these two songs (I couldn't separate them) because they're just... well, joyous! And we all need some joy. I listen to a lot of dark and cynical music but I balance it with some gorgeous pop. And the joy means more when it comes from someone who knows the dark side. Bowie had been through the terrible times and come out okay. Maybe we can too.

And then there's the star motif again.

20 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Fit the Sixth

God Knows I'm Good

Bowie has dropped the mask a few times but the earliest and most moving were on the album that eventually became known as Space Oddity. There is the raw emotional honesty of Letter to Hermione too, but this was the one that I noticed the most.

I have to admit that having read about Bowie's determination for fame before hearing this album, I completely misinterpreted the title of this song at first. Although he was already creating otherworldly personae, the empathy shown for the poor, old and lonely is both surprising and reassuring. Beneath it all, he's a nice guy with concerns that go broader and deeper than the swinging London of the late 1960s. 

19 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Day Five

Dead Man Walking

Earthling is one of my favourite Bowie albums. Although he'd been making music for 30 years by the time it came out, he was still exploring new and contemporary styles. Britpop? Meh, Bowie was there the first time around. The electronica of the mid-90s interested him more.

If it were anyone else, it might seem like a sad attempt to stay relevant but this was always Bowie's method to embrace a genre and bring his own style to it as well. See also, Young Americans - perhaps not authentic Philly Soul, but more than just a pale imitation. He wasn't just going to hire all the hip producers of the day and say "make me sound like that" [coughMadonna].

Likewise, Earthing was not pure drum'n'bass, but Bowie did bring an element of songcraft to the style, so that even with two guitars, the songs still sound great.

18 April, 2016

What privilege looks like

Tracy Grimshaw wrote an anguished piece for The Australian today in defence of her 60 Minutes colleagues who are currently under arrest in Lebanon.

I make no comment on the case and I don’t question for a moment any of Ms Grimshaw’s account of what good people her friends are. I feel for her and I feel for them. I particularly feel for the crew who probably had no input in the story and may not have had a choice in their involvement in it.

The point I have to make is that for anyone who has ever had to wonder, this is what privilege looks like.

Never mind the fact that a tabloid journalist is defending other tabloid journalists. In fairness, Ms Grimshaw declared her lack of objectivity.

Never mind the fact that once again, Australians are behaving the laws of another country don’t apply to us while in that country. 

Never mind the fact that if a Lebanese television network were alleged to have paid people smugglers (remember when they were the bad guys?) to snatch a child of a Sydney street and spirit him out of the country, 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and all their ilk would be baying for blood.

Let’s start with the fact that every person in every jail cell in the world has a friend who says they’re a good person. They don’t all get to say it in a major daily newspaper though.

It’s not news or even notable that someone who is locked up has friends who are worried about them and family who miss them. There is nothing special about that. That just makes them human. Some of them are probably innocent. The 60 Minutes crew may well be innocent. That’s for the Lebanese justice system to decide and it doesn’t matter what you think of Lebanese law, they were in Lebanon so their law applies. Being Australian and a good person doesn’t mean you get treated differently. If you think it does, or should, that’s what privilege looks like.

Seven Days of Bowie - Day Four

In the Heat of the Morning 

Pre-fame Bowie is fascinating on many levels. His Deram label output is kind of similar to Dylan's earliest work in that we hear an artist still trying to work out who he wants to be. Dylan's first couple of albums are part folk troubadour, part next-generation Woody and part stand-up comedy.

Similarly, Bowie experimented with the cheeky-chappy pop of Love You 'Til Tuesday and Can't Help Thinking About Me the pure music-hall nonsense of She's Got Medals  and Uncle Arthur, and then slightly more serious pieces like this.

And like Dylan, he never did decide on a particular direction, he just realised it was better not to put them all on the same album.

Bowie once said that if his early records had been successful, he would probably have ended up in West End musicals. In fact, I can see him playing a pretty good Phantom. It's not that big a step away from Jareth.

After Bowie did hit it big, these tracks were released on dozens of cheap and nasty collections. As skippable as many of the songs were, Bowie must have kept a soft spot for some of them. He attempted to rehabilitate some of the Deram era songs, including this one, on the shelved Toy album.

17 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Day Three

Jump They Say

Another song about madness, 20 years after Aladdin Sane - not that there weren't plenty in between. Again, the narrator empathises with the subject - everyone thinks they know what's best for him but all they really want is to be entertained, even if it's by the subject's suffering. In this sense, it's as much about fame as madness. Aladdin Fame?

The arrangement and mix is fairly contemporary to 1993, yet still manages to be individual with some amazing violining guitar from Reeves Gabrels. It also uses a device just before the fade which I've always been fond of - after reaching a climax, it pulls back to the basic arrangement.

This live version from 1995 also features some brief Mike Garson madness and also note the black and grey diagonal stripes again.

16 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Day Two

Aladdin Sane

Whether Bowie was a true musical and compositional genius is debatable. I am currently half way through reading The Man Who Sold The World, which is a dissection of all Bowie's songs of the 1970s. In truth, it's a bit of an overly-serious slog but parts of it confirm my suspicion that in the early days at least, Bowie wrote his music as much by dictation to his musicians as by direct composition.

Be that as it may (or may not) where he truly excelled was at gathering the best musicians for the job, giving them just the right amount of direction, and then letting them do what they do. There are few better examples of this than Mike Garson's piano on Aladdin Sane.

The song is dark and disturbing enough already, but the two piano solos probably give a better description of mental instability than the words ever could.

Instead, the words focus on the humanity of madness. For all his demons, Aladdin is human and he needs to be loved, just like everybody else does. Although the lyrics are written in a mix of the third and second person, it's never made clear whether the song is about a character or whether the actor is referring to himself in the third person.

As the band fades out, the piano is left getting even darker, using both extremes of the keyboard before hanging on a dissonant chord, and finally an almost comical flourish to tell you things are going to be okay. That wasn't Bowie's doing per se, but he knew enough to give Garson his head and let him do exactly what the song needed.

Bowie's musicians appreciated the trust and space they were given and responded accordingly. Here is an amazing live version Mike Garson posted not long ago:

15 April, 2016

Seven Days of Bowie - Day One

This is one of those facebook "challenges" that goes around. I was invited by a friend to participate and thought that it sounded like an interesting idea. I'm not linking to my facebook here but for the next seven days (or maybe eight) at around this time(ish) I will be posting some of my favourite Bowie songs and why.

Absolute Beginners:
For Day 1, I'm going to start roughly where I started with Bowie, in the mid-80s. There are even hardcore Bowie fans who will tell you that pretty much everything he did between Scary Monsters and Heathen was crap. 
Bal. Der. Dash! 

I was well aware of Bowie by 1986, having heard Let's Dance, Under Pressure, Blue Jean, Changes and the like, but Absolute Beginners really hit me in the face.

I was 14 when it came out so the lyrical themes resonated with a romantic teenager, and the change from Bm to Amaj7 between the 2nd and 3rd lines of the verse was just sublime. It's hard to describe what an amazing sound this was in the age of synth-pop and hair metal.

Another great thing about the song is that it was written to order for a movie and yet stands on its own outside the context of the film. Few film songs can do that.

It was clearly a favourite of Bowie's too. This is a beautiful version with the brilliant Gail Ann Dorsey providing the harmonies. The warmth between them is so touching.

10 April, 2016

Thinking of linking

What I've been reading lately...

Boycott or battle? Medicine’s refugee dilemma

The bipartisan catastrophe that's wasting billions in taxpayer dollars

ANU School of Music struggling to appoint new head

Why Arthur Sinodinos fails the pub test

Malcolm Turnbull's inner circle does not appear to include Scott Morrison

Turnbull's election 'trickery' simply creates a climate of confusion

The end of Tony Abbott and the conservatives

No wrecking, no undermining and no sniping: no kidding, Abbott?

Barnaby Joyce v Tony Windsor: Inside the Battle for New England

Cory Bernardi says activists are faking emails to journalists in his name

Senator Eric Abetz: why dumping me was a big mistake

Taxpayers charged $6 million for Immigration Department telemovie

What's really behind Tony Abbott's Rebel Tour of 2016?

Book review: Niki Savva’s Road to Ruin

Abbott moves in to fill Turnbull’s policy vacuum - "The Prime Minister wants it known that just because we don’t know his economic plan, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. That too-cute-by-half strategy is not serving him, or the country." Hmm... Planet Janet didn't seem perturbed by Tony Abbott taking the same strategy into the election.

Turnbull's cunning double dissolution election ploy

How self-interested senators could hurt Malcolm Turnbull

Jailing fine defaulters punishes poverty

Running on empty - What’s Turnbull going to campaign on?

The conservative crack-up: managing a disintegrating political message

Turnbull and Morrison, From blissful newlyweds to ‘its complicated’

System must work for victims, not against them

PM’s brash tax plan doesn’t cut it

Seriously, is Turnbull trying to lose this election?

Malcolm Turnbull the gambler throws the dice on federalism

Malcolm Turnbull turns his back on schools to our economic peril

Malcolm Turnbull Dumps Income Tax Reform, Gives $3 Billion For Hospitals

Review Into Safe Schools Cost $26,000

Laurie Oakes: A very messy state of play -  thankfully, we still have some journalists with memories that go back further than last month.

How Turnbull walked the COAG tightrope

Cutting the climbing chains at Uluru

Derision not a good look on Scott Morrison

Malcolm Turnbull's $300,000 lunch: Taxpayers slugged for China party

NSW Police officers caught trolling Greens MP Jenny Leong on Facebook with racist and sexist posts

The Coalition’s Delusional Conservatives explained

Responsible Gun Store Owner Prevents Mayhem - more like this please.

An Open Letter to Trump Voters from His Top Strategist-Turned-Defector

The Tea Party laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s rise

The Top Five Supreme Court Nomination Myths

Cruz Spends Easter Trying To Justify Carpet Bombing Civilians

Man shoots doctor before turning the gun on himself near East Jefferson General Hospital - I've been to that hospital and that Wendy's. Just bizarre.

Donald and Melania and Heidi and Ted

Atlantic City casino workers union backs Sanders

21 Questions For Donald Trump

'You know what time it is' Australian students told after exiting car before shooting Tuesday - This is the piece that had all the information from the beginning.

WA university students shot in New Orleans 'drug deal gone wrong'

City gets unwanted global attention after Aussie students shot in Algiers

Fateful night for young Aussies - Look, drug deal or party, it was a bloody stupid thing to do. Don't get in cars with strangers in an unfamiliar place.

Leaked Brexit email claims David Cameron has 'starved' NHS

Ronnie Corbett, 'true great' of British TV comedy, dies aged 85

Turkish people are sharing this cartoon asking where our sympathy was for Istanbul and Ankara

Former ISIS Hostage: 'We Need A New Narrative'

Simpsons star Harry Shearer coming to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Pere Ubu (and Rats On Rafts) – Tufnell Park Dome, London (24th March 2016) – LIVE REVIEW

Jim Russell, New Orleans record impresario

'An absolute masterpiece': Gareth Liddiard, Steve Kilbey and Lindy Morrison on the Triffids' defining album

Freaky formats: The odd-sized records you never knew existed

Why Mike Scott is Richard Curtis's idol

Political currency of hatred too dangerous and divisive to ignore

Written in My Body (trigger warning)

Online critics miss the stories, and the point, in defence of clickbait

Straight news or Fox News? Andrew Bolt's show sends Sky further right on the night

Comic: the long, slow death of Twitter

Latham & Trump: Howling Into The Void

‘You’re An Idiot’: Anti-Muslim Provocateur’s Interview With Shock Jock Backfires

Can you bear it? The confusion of Gerard Henderson

How free range are your eggs?

Microsoft chatbot is taught to swear on Twitter

Microsoft's AI chatbot turned into a genocidal racist - I'm not entirely sure an AI bot programmed to talk like a millennial on social media is flawed if it turns into a racist dick. Maybe it was too good.

Mental health:

Seventy-five half-hours

Aboriginal ochre fingerprinting helping researchers trace ancient Indigenous trade routes

Scientists try to replicate climate denier findings and fail - surprised?

The beauty of maths – in pictures

Exposed: Andrew Wakefield and the MMR-autism fraud

Humour & satire:
I Saw Hamilton So Now I’m Going to Orphan My Son.

Clickbait of the week:
Matching Posing Cats With 1950s Pin-Up Girls

20 PhD Students Dumb Down Their Thesis Just For Us

I got stupid on me...
Farmers renew push to legalise raw milk
but then...
WV lawmakers suffer stomach illness after drinking raw milk to celebrate legalizing raw milk

Maurice Newman claims to be head of business council disbanded by Turnbull

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

02 April, 2016

A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney (2015)

MusiCares is a charity run by the Recording Academy. Each year, in the same week as the Grammy awards, they recognise a Person of the Year with an all-star tribute show. In 2012, that person was Paul McCartney.

As such, the show is very Hollywood – and you can take that any way you like.

It opens with a performance from Cirque du Soleil’s Love, which is less impressive than it really should be away from the custom built room. After that, Paul and band perform Magical Mystery Tour and a shortened version of Junior’s Farm before the guest stars.

For the most part, the covers are more hit than miss. Alicia Keys’ piano version of Blackbird stays just the right side of tasteful. Alison Krauss does a very nice version of No More Lonely Nights with a bluegrass instrumentation. Duane Eddy and Norah Jones are backed by Paul’s band for And I Love her and Oh! Darling respectively. Neil Young and Crazy Horse doing I Saw Her Standing There sounds good on paper but not as good on stage.

Sergio Mendes delivers a very smooth version of The Fool on the Hill. Coldplay’s version of We Can Work It Out is as pleasant and inoffensive as you’d expect. James Taylor bravely tackles Yesterday, the Hamlet’s soliloquy of pop music, backed by Diana Krall. He then backs Krall on For No-one.

The remainder of the show is McCartney’s. This show features the premiere performance of My Valentine before he rejoins the band for Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five, followed by Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End. For the latter, Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl join in and the 3-way guitar solo becomes a 5-way. It clearly wasn’t rehearsed too much as there is some entertaining confusion as to whose turn it is.

Although most of the performances are interesting, with arrangements that are neither too close nor too far from the originals, the overall show is just a little too made-for-tv.

Highlight: Oh! Darling, For No-one, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.
Feature: * * *
Extras: None
Audio: Dolby stereo, Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1