Who's Got the Look?

A long time ago, before the objects in mirrors were closer than they appeared, I was a graphic designer. Music was a big part of the reason why, in the form of posters and album covers.
That's right, albums.

In those olden days, the artwork that came with a recording was 12 inches by 12 inches. It was quite a canvas for an artist to work with and it was quite something to sit and look at when dropping the needle on that latest acquisition.

It was, and still is, another way for music to be beautiful. It's part of one's relationship with the music and the artists who make it. Looking back, it's also an interesting portrait of the evolution of music and style around the world over the last 50 years.

There are people out there who's devotion to both collecting and to sharing their collections has led to the creation of some amazing websites.

There are links to some of those sites at the end of this post. In the meantime, here are a few faves covers and some of the places I've Stumbled into or otherwise found my way to out on the cyber frontier...

the Museum of Bad Album Covers


almost 40 pages, grouped under sub-titles like “Keeping It Unreal” and “Oh no…it’s the Germans”. Should you wish, you can also stream Bad Music Radio to enhance your viewing experience.

You have been warned.


Brazilian album covers from the 60s & 70s. an astounding collection of LPs and singles, sorted by label.


Cover Heaven
”beautiful record covers from the 50s to the 70s




Notes on Tone #17

One of anomolies of the current Death of Music is the fact that revenues, earnings and such for live music remain very strong.

Summers certainly, in North America and Europe, are more than alive with the sound of music, as festivals pop up like… well, mushrooms…

Now, it’s almost as hard to imagine a time when there weren’t a dozen outdoor music events happening within driving range of so many people as it is to imagine a time before that, when people played music and sang in their homes***.

The draw of these events, regardless of genre, is multi-faceted of course but I think part of it is how much better they sound than an MP3.

It holds true all the way down the line, from the ritual of the Stadium show to a the intimacy of a guitar camp. Music has been a central part of human social life since forever.

There used to be a connection between ‘the industry’ and the audience. There were a lot of people involved with The Former Industry- whatever their other failures may or may not have been – loved music as much as anyone else in the audience.

Artists who worked with Ahmet Ertugun, for example, almost always speak of him with immense respect. The same can be said of indies like Chris Strachwitz++.

There was a compete circuit, or circle, if you will, inasmuch as on a good day the artists, the audiences and the people in the Former Industry all loved music.

*** IMHO much of the credit for this goes to folk music festivals. More on that another day.

++ find out more about Mr. Strachwitz and the sonically-unbelievable Arhoolie Label right around here: http://www.arhoolie.com/index.html

if you love music, you'll drool...

but i could be projecting on that...



What is Destroying the Music Industry?

I have my own ideas about what might or might not be be "destroying" the Music Industry, but in this as in other areas of life, when I Don't Know something for sure, I turn to the oracle of our era...


Here are the top fifty results from the day I asked...

What is Destroying the Music Industry?

  1. Pro tools
  2. Music licensing
  3. TV talent shows
  4. An ‘X’ Factor
  5. Hard-core dance floor music
  6. Silicon village hippies
  7. Pink
  8. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)*
  9. From the Inside
  10. Loudness wars
  11. The RIAA
  12. YouTube bands
  13. The RIAA
  14. Apple
  15. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  16. IPod
  17. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  18. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  19. The fast food generation
  20. Technology
  21. The USA
  22. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  23. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  24. Paris Hilton
  25. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  26. Napster return engagement
  27. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  28. The Chill Room The A-Infos Radio Project
  29. IPod
  30. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners **
  31. The Chill Room The A-Infos Radio Projec
  32. Club 9 Per Cent Taiwan
  33. Amplifiers
  34. Neil Lairson (self-nominated)
  35. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  36. The Chill Room The A-Infos Radio Project
  37. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  38. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  39. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  40. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  41. “They”
  42. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  43. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  44. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  45. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  46. Drummers
  47. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  48. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners
  49. The Internet (interview with Sir Elton John)
  50. The RIAA nominated by the Record Store Owners

* these are all references to the same newspaper article, syndicated on different websites.

** again, the same article drawn from a press release by the Record Store Owners of America.



Before the Ipod... Before the Walkman

... people loved music like crazy too. they wanted to hear more music, more often and i think we're the same today.

then too, there were early adopters.

and excitement about increases in storage memory.

there was an appreciation for engineering that made units more portable.

the transistor revolutionized portability.

within a few years, they could be printed on circuit boards,

and here we are today.


Innovation is the Heart of Improvisation

Music is an open source system.

It always has been.

There are some people who think
they should be in control of music.

Fortunately, this is impossible.

Information doesn't want to be free.

It is free.



The Record Industry Association of America

I haven't checked lately to see if if the RIAA has managed to maintain it's position as the most hated corporate body in the US lately... mostly because I don't care.

I don't care if they are number one, or number ten or number ninety-three or if they have fallen off the chart altogether. I don't really care what this gang of thugs says, thinks, spouts, spins, blasphemes or otherwise hurls at people for whom music is not Product but soul food.

I know they are dangerous. I know they have inflicted tremendous damage on artists and other innocents, including people who's only 'crime' was downloading the wrong sequence of ones and zeros.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks they are vile.



Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments For Guitarists

Don van Vliet is an one of the reasons
I believe music and art can change lives,
because he changed mine. The sounds he heard in his head still sizzle my mind on the musical grill decades down the road.

Part Howlin' Wolf, part McLuhan, part Joyce and part head case, he worked with some brilliant musicians over the years who brought his music to life and the world is a better place for it.

He gave up on rock music long ago,
and devoted more time to his visual art.
The demand remains very strong.

If you'd like to get a painting,
word is they start somewhere
around 12 and a half large (US).

You can learn about music and new ways
to approach it for free- by listening to his music,
naturally, and by reading this advice.

He was thinking about guitar players,
but I think much is applicable
to other musical instruments too.
Maybe even to life itself...

Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments For Guitarists

1. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS...That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.

2. YOUR GUITAR IS NOT REALLY A GUITAR...Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

3. PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A BUSH...Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. WALK WITH THE DEVIL...Old delta blues players referred to amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts demons and devils. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. IF YOU'RE GUILTY OF THINKING, YOU'RE OUT...If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. NEVER POINT YOUR GUITAR AT ANYONE...Your instrument has more power than lightning. Just hit a big chord, then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CHURCH KEY...You must carry your key and use it when called upon. That's your part of the bargain. Like One String Sam. He was a Detroit street musician in the fifties who played a homemade instrument. His song "I Need A Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another church key holder is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty making you want to look up her dress to see how he's doing it.

8. DON'T WIPE THE SWEAT OFF YOUR INSTRUMENT...You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE...When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.

10. YOU GOTTA HAVE A HOOD FOR YOUR ENGINE...Wear a hat when you play and keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a wet paper towel around it to make it grow.

No matter how much you know
or you don't about Mr. van Vliet,
you can learn a LOT here...
including where to buy a painting if you like...