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Archives for November, 2002

November 19, 2002

Cover me.

Daniel Radosh

Music Club just keeps getting better and better. Here are the results of our session on Cover songs that are better than the original. The only choice that was unanimously panned was Tracy's: Cassandra Wilson's plodding take on Last Train to Clarksville. But there was plenty of sparring all night long. Here's the play by play:

1. Richard Cory — Them. This was my offering. Not a particularly great song no matter who does it, but Van the Man does manage to turn Simon and Garfunkel's useless folk-rock hybrid into a genuine rocker.
2. Turning Japanese — Liz Phair. I wasn't sure about Elizabeth's choice on first listening, but after I got home and played it again with the volume cranked, I was more than convinced.
3. Juanita — Sheryl Crow & Emmylou Harris. In my book, it's hard to top Gram Parsons, especially with Sheryl Crow. But Gina Sue made a pretty good case that the stunning harmonies on this cover more than make up for the less inspired instrumentation.
4. Frying Pan — Evan Dando. Gina's a huge Victoria Williams fan, but everyone agreed she was right about this one. Evan's slow, spare version locates the heart of this ballad.
5. Gloria — Patti Smith. Our first crossover cover. Proof that sometimes the least faithful covers are the most successful. And while the original is certainly a garage classic, Patti's is transcendent. It was actually Anthony's backup song. He first tried to get away with Patti's version of Because the Night — which is, of course, the original, not the cover.
6. Gin and Juice — The Gourds. Before I settled on my song, I discarded a lot of possibilities that, while great covers, and maybe as good as the original, weren't necessarily better. I think Jill's selection falls into that category. And yet, I'm damn glad she picked it, since I'd never heard it, and it sure is terrific. A redneck country version of this Snoop Dogg jam sounds like a gimmick if you haven't heard it, but once you have, it's almost hard to imagine it was ever anything but. As Jill said, this track alone is probably better than all of 8 Mile at bringing out the affinities between black gangsta and white trash. Jill's other argument for her selection: by making the song work in a completely different genre, the cover reveals that Gin and Juice was always great songwriting, not just a great record.
7. The Man Who Sold the World — Nirvana. Ivan was expecting a fight over this one, but he got none. Sure, the original has David Bowie's voice, but its sloppy psychedelic production can't hold a candle to Kurt & Co's acoustic version.
8. ...Baby One More Time — Travis. Anthony and I waged a lonely, futile battle against Karina's choice. Sure, it's a great cover. But the anti-Britney venom implicit in its appearance here is nothing more than snobbery. The original is a perfect bubblegum pop tune. It's certainly at least as good as this cover, which is pretty and basically respectful. But if we couldn't convince them, I'm probably not going to convince you either.
9. I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday — David Bowie. As Francis said, a respectful cover, but with Bowie's voice instead of Morrissey's. No arguments from the rest of us.
10. She Don't Use Jelly — Ben Folds Five. Works so well, Rose didn't even know it was a cover for a long time. We all like the Flaming Lips pop hit. We all like this lounge rendition better.
11. Last Train to Clarksville — Cassandra Wilson. Like I said, jeers all around for Tracy's contention that this dishwater jazz is better than the exuberant original. Though I will note that the same people who minutes before were arguing that Britney Spears' music can't be any good because it's "assembled in a factory" had no problems at all showing love for the Monkees.

So there you have it. I welcome your comments, and suggestions our next theme: Songs by performers whose name (first or last) is the same as the last name of a president. I think we all take that to mean U.S. presidents, but with this crowd, you never know.

November 13, 2002


Daniel Radosh

Wanna try some illegal art? It's free... Carrie has put together a tremendous art exhibition/film festival/CD of works that use copyrighted material without permission. New Yorkers can catch the festivities, including parties, screenings, and a panel discussion with Mark Hosler of Negativland and others, at various locations around town. Here's the screening schedule. And here, for out-of-towners or those too lazy to leave their apartments, are the same films online, including the famous Todd Haynes' Superstar — posted, of course, without permission. The CD of notorious copyright infringing music will be given out at all events. Or you can download it. The videos, art and song are pretty enjoyable in and of themselves, but, If you want to, like, think about all this a little more, the new issue of Stay Free! is devoted to the same subject.

November 7, 2002

Gag Reflex.

Daniel Radosh

This week's New Yorker cartoon issue (which, go figure, has more pages of travel advertorials than cartoons), inspired me to dig up this item from my archives. It originally appeared in Slate in 1999, and in my opinion has aged just fine...

The bad rap on New Yorker cartoons is that they are inscrutable. The more depressing truth is that they are often simply mundane. Try to identify which of the following captions are from urbane New Yorker cartoons and which are from a syndicated strip you wouldn't be caught dead reading, The Lockhorns.

1. "I'd like to read from a prepared statement."
2. "Look, I've denied it--can we move on?"
3. "I think you might qualify for federal disaster relief."
4. "Maybe we should consolidate our finance companies."
5. "What's your exit strategy?"
6. "Why would I want to watch Crossfire? I'm living it!"
7. "Let's focus on what we do best--eating out."
8. "Congratulations--you were the topic on all this week's talk shows."

1. The Lockhorns. Leroy arrives home drunk. In the hypothetical New Yorker version, a husband is caught in bed with another woman.

2. The New Yorker. A husband is caught in bed with another woman. May also have appeared in Playboy.

3. The Lockhorns. Loretta emerges from the beauty parlor. In the New Yorker version, a precocious child surveys her friend's demolished sand castle.

4. The Lockhorns. Loretta pays bills. In the New Yorker version, precocious children play Monopoly. Could have appeared in this week's "Money Issue."

5. The New Yorker. A prisoner addresses his cellmate. In the Lockhorns version, Leroy addresses a friend as their wives drag them to the opera.

6. The Lockhorns. Leroy and Loretta watch television. In the New Yorker version, a cat and dog watch television.

7. The New Yorker. A couple enters a cafe. In the Lockhorns version, Leroy surveys Loretta's home-cooked meal.

8. The Lockhorns. Situation unclear. In the New Yorker version, the situation is also unclear.

November 2, 2002

Bone Up Your Shakespeare: A

Daniel Radosh

Bone Up Your Shakespeare: A Study Guide to the Complete Porno Films of the Bard of Avon. A few months back, a version of this article appeared in Playboy. A much shorter version. Shorter, less informative, and less funny. Here it is the way I originally intended, complete with smutty jokes and gratuitous literary pretension. I learned about the bardcore genre from a Lingua Franca article by Andrew Hearst, who said he wouldn't mind if I did a lighter take on the same subject. WARNING: Contains language of the type you can reasonably expect from review of porno movies, plus a few images that are mild by my standards, but which you may not want on your monitor at the office. Now you know you wanna read it.

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