Sunday, September 24, 2006

Great moments in rock and roll: the meta-moment

For our purposes, the meta-moment is when a song refers to its own performance (usually in the form of naming its singers). Think of it as an actor breaking the fourth wall, talking to the audience and forcing the audience to remember that the play and the characters are not real.

The Beatles - "Boys"
(1:04): Ringo says, "All right, George!" before the guitar solo.

The Beatles - "Honey Don't"
(1:15): Ringo says, "Aw, rock on George. One time for me."
(2:20): Ringo says, "Aw, rock on George. For Ringo one time."

Pixies - "Tony Theme"
(0:00): This moment was previously featured in the spoken-word episode of Great Moments. Kim Deal says, "This is a song about a superhero named Tony. It's called 'Tony's Theme.'" And so it is. Watch a live performance below:

Radiohead - "My Iron Lung"
(2.47): Thom Yorke sings, "This, this is our new song, just like the last one. A total waste of time, my iron lung." ("My Iron Lung" is Radiohead's follow-up single to "Creep." The electric guitars even quote the infamous crunch from "Creep.")

The Beatles - "Get Back" (rooftop version)
(2:30): During the coda, Paul says, "Get back. You've been out too long Loretta, you've been singing on the roofs again. And that's no good. 'Cause you know your mommy doesn't like that. When she gets angry, she's going to have you arrested." The line makes more sense when you consider that the song was being performed on the roof of the Apple studios just as the police were about to shut it down.

This is a really fun video because we see John playing lead guitar and George having a problem with his amp.

Paul McCartney - "Silly Love Songs"
(0:39): McCartney spends a whole verse justifying this song's existence: "Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that? I'd like to know. 'Cause here I go again: I love you, I love you..."

Jay-Z feat. UGK - "Big Pimpin'"
(1:34 and others): "It's just that Jigga Man, Pimp C, and B-U-N B." This line refers to the three rappers on this song: Jay-Z (Jigga Man), Pimp C and Bun B. Pimp C and Bun B are the two members of the hip-hop duo UGK (short for Underground Kingz).

Gwen Stefani feat. Eve - "Rich Girl"
(2:51): Yet another hip-hop meta-moment. Eve raps, "See Stefani and her L.A.M.B., I rock the Fetish People, you know who I am."

Queen - "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
(1:52): Freddie Mercury sings, "Take a long ride on my motorbike until I'm ready," and the harmonies respond, "Ready Freddie."

The Beatles - "Only A Northern Song"
The whole song is a meta-moment. Wikipedia explains it best:
The lyrics feature Harrison's disparagement of the song itself, concluding each verse with the title phrase "It's only a Northern song", which Harrison has explained as referring both to the band's often-disrespected hometown of Liverpool (northwest of London), and to the Northern Songs publishing company. (Harrison had not yet formed his own publishing company; Northern Songs was Lennon/McCartney's publishing company, for whom Harrison was, at the time, essentially a writer-for-hire). The song is sometimes interpreted as a sarcastic jibe at Lennon/McCartney, mocking the overtly psychedelic lyrics and musical style they employed in many songs during this time, and as a reaction to the often-dismissive attitude bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney held of Harrison's songwriting contributions, with Harrison listlessly singing "It doesn't really matter what chords I play / What words I say or time of day it is / As it's only a Northern song".
Sly and the Family Stone - "Dance To The Music"
(beginning at 0:39):
"All we need is a drummer, for people who only need a beat" (drum solo follows)
"I'm gonna add a little guitar and make it easy to move your feet" (lead guitar comes in)
"I'm gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won't hide" (bass guitar comes in)
"You might like to hear my organ playing 'Ride Sally Ride'" (organ comes in)
"You might like to hear the horns blowin', Cynthia on the throne, yeah!" (horns come in)

The Monkees - "The Monkees Theme"
(1:13 and others) "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees/ And people say we monkey around/ But we're too busy singin'/ To put anybody down."

Despite the fact that the meta-moment is one of Arta's favorite things in the world, The Tonics have yet to use it in one of their songs. The closest we have is Mark singing about his "creative self-hatred" and "I'm a jingle I'm so useless."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Let's Stay Together"

This is Al Green.

"Jaan Pehechaan Ho"

Sung by Mohammed Rafi. This scene is originally from the 1966 Bollywood movie Gumnaam. It is also featured in the opening credits to Ghost World.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Are you trying to follow in the footsteps of Internet phenomenon Clap Your Hands Say Yeah?"

----Hell no. Someone needs to cover up their footprints with some fresh sod. Why are people still listening to this retro dance synth shit with whiny vocals? That's mating the worst of the 80s with the worst of the 90s. Oh yeah, because Pitchfork gave them a 9.0 and said their "garish foyer gives out onto spacious, elegant chambers of clean lines and soft lights."

"But doesn't 'Save The Day' sound a lot like the 80s?"----Yes, but our singer sounds like Morrissey and our beat changes frequently like a Pixies song. Plus, the hot guitar. "Save The Day" is the best of the 80s, in just under three minutes.

"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"

Let's hear some Radiohead.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Be My Baby"

Today's video pick is the Ronettes' "Be My Baby."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Across The Universe"

Neon Phosphor is going to play video deejay for a while, at least until Tonics business picks up. Today we spotlight Fiona Apple's brilliant cover of John Lennon's "Across The Universe."

Monday, September 18, 2006

George Harrison and plagiarism

In 1971, George Harrison was sued for plagiarizing The Chiffon's "He's So Fine" on "My Sweet Lord." You can read all about it here. Neon Phosphor believes the plagiarism charges were unfounded and ridiculous, and even if Harrison did copy the melody, "My Sweet Lord" is a vast improvement over "He's So Fine."

The reason for this post, however, is to show an interesting similarity between Harrison's 1979 hit "Blow Away," and Enya's 1988 hit "Orinoco Flow."

Here's the music video to "Blow Away":

And here's Enya:

"Blow away, blow away, blow away" versus "Sail away, sail away, sail away." Coincidence? Probably.

"Do the Tonics plagiarize?"----See the list below:
  • The opening chords of "Sunday Night" are lifted from Dave Clark Five's "Because"
  • The organ part during the second half of the "Mean Song" verse is from Del Shannon's "Runaway."
  • The "ba ba ba ba" harmonies on "Distance" is based on "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys.
  • "Save The Day" borrows from Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" and The Strokes' "The End Has No End."
  • The beginning of "Get Things Done" is "Embarrassment" by Madness (according to Johnny Cashpoint of
  • The guitar riff on "Lucy" is a modified version of Nirvana's "All Apologies" riff.
  • The inclusion of "Bartleby" rips off Pet Sounds in a conceptual way.
  • The harmonies at the end of "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something" is similar to "Because" on The Beatles' Abbey Road. Also, the descending flute/organ part is a conscious attempt to copy that flourish on the second verse of "God Only Knows."
  • The ooh-la-las on the third verse of "Hamlet" is from The Beatles' "You Won't See Me."
  • The electric piano on "Greenback" is a lot like the one on The Doors' "Riders On The Storm."
  • The verses of "Love Makes People Stupid" rip off the whole genre of flamenco music.
  • "Elegy For Anne Bancroft" rips off "Neon Phosphor" by Sculpted Static.
  • "Thank You" is so completely ripped off Sculpted Static that it is literally the same take of the song that appeared on Sunny Ash.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Pipettes

There is a girl-group in England called The Pipettes. Take a look at their mission statement:
LET US write the histories of pop music (the plural has a certain importance). A history at once oral/aural but not linear or progressive. A history that snakes and twists and turns back on itself, a history of ruptures and wrong-turnings. But let us not start with The Beatles. . . let us start in the year Phil Spector wrote and produced his first hit, "To Know Him Is To Love Him", taking the title from his father's epitaph. Phil Spector, the first Tycoon of Teen, the first Pop Genius, the first person making this crazy new music who was actually of the age of its audience, the first guy with any power in the music industry who actually liked this stuff.
Yes, and their music does sound a lot like The Ronettes. Especially "Feminist Complaints," which you can listen to on their Myspace. It's only 1:53!

The only reservation I have about this group is that they were manufactured. You know, like The Monkees and The Spice Girls. According to Wikipedia, "The promoter Monster Bobby formed the group with the intention of reviving the traditional Phil Spector pop sound and giving it a modern twist. To this end he recruited three frontwomen to be the public face of the group."

Not that there's anything wrong with that, as long as great music gets done. The Monkees, of course, showcased Neil Diamond's excellent songwriting. Most orchestras and drama companies recruit their members.

Whatever they are controlled by, The Pipettes stand for the rewriting of history; they actually acknowledge the existence of pop music before The Beatles. That's commendable.

Unfortunately, their CD is not sold in the United States and it's $30 if you want to get it imported on Amazon.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Age Watch 2006, or "are we falling behind?"

As of today, the oldest Tonic (except for Alek) has lived 23 years, 7 months and 2 days. At this age, here's what some of the greatest artists are doing:
  • Buddy Holly has been dead for more than a year.
  • A few months before committing suicide, Ian Curtis records "Love Will Tear Us Apart" with Joy Division.
  • Morrissey has just formed The Smiths. They are five months away from releasing their first single, "Hand In Glove."
  • Brian Wilson is recording the instrumental tracks for Pet Sounds.
  • John Lennon is filming and recording the soundtrack for A Hard Day's Night.
  • Phil Spector has nearly finished with The Ronettes and is preparing to record "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" with The Righteous Brothers.
  • Eric Clapton is about to release Disraeli Gears with his band Cream.
  • A year before his breakthrough, Jimi Hendrix forms a band in New York and meets Frank Zappa, who introduces Hendrix to the wah-wah pedal.
  • Roger Waters is recording Piper at the Gates of Dawn with the original Pink Floyd lineup with Syd Barrett. He is about seven years away from Dark Side of the Moon.
  • Syd Barrett comes out of retirement to record The Madcap Laughs, his first solo album.
  • Elliott Smith is still playing in Heatmiser, and is a year away from recording his first solo album, Roman Candle.
  • Thom Yorke is five months away from releasing "Creep" with Radiohead.
  • Conor Oberst is busy promoting his breakthrough album, Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, released a year earlier.
  • Lisa Loeb is playing coffeehouses in New York, and has three years to wait until her breakthrough single, "Stay (I Missed You).
  • Kurt Cobain is a year away from recording Nevermind (including "Smells Like Teen Spirit") with Nirvana.
  • Jack White has just finished recording The White Stripes' debut album.
  • Gwen Stefani and No Doubt are two years away from commercial success.
  • Black Francis is recording Doolittle with The Pixies.
  • Stuart Murdoch is still struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome, and is four years away from forming Belle & Sebastian.
  • Debbie Harry has not yet begun her musical career, and is seven years from her debut record with Blondie.
  • Chris Martin (of Coldplay) introduces the world to "Yellow."
  • Jim Morrison and The Doors have hit #1 on the charts with "Light My Fire."
  • Avril Lavigne has not lived that long.
Non-musical artists tend to be a bit slower:
  • Wallace Stevens has just graduated from law school, and he will work the next twenty years at various law firms and insurance firms before publishing his first book of poetry.
  • T. S. Eliot is a Ph.D student in philosophy. He has already composed most of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" but is ten years from composing The Waste Land.
  • Sylvia Plath, a Fulbright scholar at Cambridge, is getting ready to marry fellow poet Ted Hughes. She is four years from publishing her first collection of poetry.
  • James Joyce is teaching English in Austria-Hungary. Dubliners will come in nine years. Ulysses, seventeen years.
  • Vincent van Gogh has quit his job at an art dealer, gotten jilted by a love interest, taken up religion, and gone to England to work at a boarding school. In four years, he will decide to be an artist.
  • Yoko Ono composes "Lighting Piece" ("Light a match and watch till it goes out.") about seven years before Fluxus is organized, and ten years before she meets John Lennon.
  • Andy Warhol is working in the commercial arts industry. In two years, he will self-publish a book called 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. The silkscreens will happen about five years later.
  • Pablo Picasso paints Garçon à la pipe during his "Rose Period."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Great moments in rock and roll: the misleading count-in

Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
The song fades in with a quiet 4/4 beat for a few bars, but the song resets itself on the 'and' beat. That is, count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 1 and 2 and so on.

The Beach Boys - Caroline No
We hear two complete repetitions of the drum pattern (three beats of the high-pitched sound followed by the echoey conga drum), and only two beats into the third repetition, the song begins and resets the counting.

Outkast - Hey Ya
The singer counts in 1-2-3 before the song starts on the next beat. This would be fine if the song were in 3/4, but it is actually in 4/4. Therefore, the song sounds like it has started a beat early.

Radiohead - Sulk
Phil's fill into the song happens on an unexpected beat.

Pixies - Oh My Golly!
I don't even know what time signature the drum intro is in. Unless you've memorized the song, it's pretty difficult to anticipate the start of the song.

Queen - Killer Queen
If you pay attention, you will notice 6 fingersnaps counting into the 4/4 song.

The Smith - This Charming Man
Start counting from the beginning of Johnny Marr's riff and you will find that it counts 15 beats (one beat short of four 4/4 measures) before the song kicks into a 4/4 beat. Is it prog?

The Beatles - Taxman
There are actually two count-ins. The voice in the foreground is counting to a different tempo from the song. Near the end of the intro, we hear a "real" count-in happening in the background.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm back!!!

I'm exhausted from a week of traveling and coming back to find out all the shit that's been happening to my blog and web site. I'm going to say, first of all, I don't hate the band and I didn't blow up the cube.

Secondly, I wasn't out to kill myself, you miserable fuckers. I was going on a long walk. Literally. And where did I go? It's really none of your business, but in the interest of clearing things up, I was on a backpacking trip through Europe. First stop, the wineries of the Czech Republic. I got totally plastered wandering through Moravia's 11,000 hectares of wineyards. Next stop, the wine country surrounding Bordeaux in France. Okay, so I was having such a great time I don't remember anything, but here's the web site. Then, I stumbled into the Père Lachaise in Paris, where Jim Morrison is buried. Over his grave, I downed a bottle of whiskey in his honor. Yes, I got the whiskey from a convenient store, and it was very convenient.

So, yeah. Neon Phosphor had a pretty good time. But then I logged onto the blog at an Internet cafe in Amsterdam, and what do I see? That bastard taking over my blog.

I came back on Friday morning and saw that little shit sitting on my Blogger Dashboard, and he threatens to turn me in for blowing up the cube. The nerve! I was like, I wasn't even there, what the hell are you talking about? Then, the police came and took me in for questioning. I was like, I didn't do anything, I wasn't even there, why don't you ask Pascal 'cause he's the one who probably wanted to frame me? I told the police to go check Pascal's secret hideout, behind the holes in the schedules and the holes in the walls. Sure enough, when they did, they found the weapons of mass destruction: a copy of Photoshop and Dreamweaver that was used to blow up the cube. Then, Pascal confessed to his crime and they put him away.

It turns out he always wanted to be the mighty Tonics publicist and then took advantage of my vacation to pull off his miserable scheme. Yes, we were friends when we were young, but he got jealous when I appeared on Sound Check and he didn't. And when I cashed in bigtime on the sale of my chords to "Anne Bancroft," Pascal got really pissed. But I didn't think he would ever act on his anger.

Well, as he was being escorted to the police van, Pascal had one more thing to say: "It was a great idea! It was a great idea! Was a great idea but never in practice." Indeed.

As they say, it's "back to regular programming" on this blog. Fuck.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Readers have questioned your ability to carry on this blog, particularly because of your lack of humor."

----What readers need to understand is that I take this blog a lot more seriously than my predecessor. I'm not here to waste your time, people. This is going to be a serious blog about serious music. You know how Neon used to bash Pitchfork Media? I never understood why. I think Pitchfork's where you can get the most intelligent reviews from today's best writers. I think I'm doing this blog a favor, actually.

"It has been reported that your musical taste conflicts with the band's."----I don't think that's really a problem. I'm not the one writing the songs, anyway. I like the Tonics' music, especially during their early progressive phase when they were actually creating new sounds and experimenting with forms like the rock opera. They showed great promise back then, and if they go back to their roots, I think they can produce more artistically challenging and satisfying songs.

"You're not a musician, are you?"----No, and I don't see how that impairs my ability to write about music and serve as the Tonics' publicist.

"And I understand you have something against 1960s pop."---I know Neon and several of the Tonics adore "Be My Baby," but I don't particularly care for it. I don't think Phil Spector was an artist; he merely stumbled on a formula that happened to be commercially viable. Similarly, I don't rate Brian Wilson as highly as, say, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. And the Beatles? Overrated. If they weren't singing about girls, they were singing about drugs and sunshine. Did they ever make you think? No.

"Don't you think the readers you inherited from Neon Phosphor will be upset about your views?"----I don't think so.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Will they rebuild the cube?"

----It's too early to tell whether they will rebuild the cube, construct a monument in its place, or leave it as is.

"How are the Tonics taking this?"----The Tonics are naturally upset by the news.

"Your answers, they are so straightforward."----Oh yes, I don't believe in obstructing good journalism. The best publicist is an honest publicist.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Oh dear...

Is Neon Phosphor not only a disgruntled employee, but also a criminal?

Neon had plenty of reasons to blow up the cube: Neon disliked working at the Tonics' press office, especially when he was criticized by members of the Tonics. Neon was disappointed that the Tonics had not yet achieved stardom. On top of that, the Tonics stole Neon's chords and transplanted it in "Elegy For Anne Bancroft."

Ever since "Anne Bancroft," Neon Phosphor has walked around without his chords. It was as if someone ripped out Neon's heart and threw it into the trash can.

One can imagine that, in the last few days, Neon has "slipped back inside/ All alone inside/ Except for the liquor he borrowed."

So desperate to make a point, Neon decided to pack the cube with explosives, and blow it up to smithereens.

There's only one problem: how did Neon get all the explosives in there? On Saturday, the authorities had searched every corner of the building for signs of Neon. They did not find any explosives. The building was then fenced off. Neon could not have gotten in unnoticed. A crowd had gathered there by the time the investigators finished searching the building.

I was personally across the street from the cube at the time of the blast, trying to obtain comments from everyone. Maybe Neon snuck in while we all had our backs turned? It was quite late at night, quite dark...

I wonder if, in the course of my journalism, I had distracted myself and others from noticing that someone was sneaking in a dolly full of explosives. How horrible that would be!

How am I going to sleep tonight!

And Neon! There's a terrorist on the run.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


At around 11pm, an explosion occurred on the Sculpted Static web page. The cube, a longtime symbol of the band, was destroyed in the incident.

No one was inside the cube during the blast. The cube had been fenced off from the public since yesterday. Initial reports indicate there were no injuries. All Tonics staff members have been accounted for.

Only hours ago, investigators had found evidence of recent habitation by Neon Phosphor inside the cube (see article below).

Neon Phosphor leaves a clue

Ever since losing domain-name status earlier this year, the Sculpted Static website has been a ghost town. Today, however, the town was abuzz with activity again as investigators continued their search for the lost Neon Phosphor.

Early this morning, a witness reported seeing a disoriented Neon Phosphor stumbling out of the cube and disappearing into the car.

Sure enough, investigators found evidence that the Tonics' publicist had stayed in the cube overnight. The second floor of the cube had the smell of fresh urine, the investigators reported. More telling is a message on the wall that read, "i piss on this wall -np."

"It is unlike Neon to vandalize our own property, but we take it as a sign that Neon is alive and on the run," said a source close to the band who wished to remain anonymous. "Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that the message was left behind by someone else with the initials NP. But I highly doubt it."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

An exclusive interview with Steven Chow

P: I am Pascal.

SC: what do you want, Pascal the Rascal?

P: The media has speculated that Neon Phosphor may have run away because of an abusive e-mail you sent to Neon on August 27. Would you care to comment?

SC: neon is one of the rudest writers in the world. how can he/she/it, whatever neon is, be hurt by a little memo? neon reads and writes that kind of shit everyday. there are deeper issues at work here. neon probably listened to "Hamlet" one too many times. if that is the case, i take partial responsibility.

P: Do you have any idea where Neon is?

SC: i bet neon's out drinking. but seriously we don't have too many clues.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pascal appointed acting publicist

The Tonics announced today that Pascal will fill in the role of acting publicist, effective immediately.

"Pascal grew thirty by the book, and I am confident that Pascal will grow thirty by the blog," said Mark Williams, guitarist and singer in the Tonics.

Pascal, who joined the band in 2001 as a lyric, has spent much of the last five years living on Sculpted Static's Soundclick page.

"It is not ideal that I should have to accept the position under these circumstances," said Pascal. "But I know this is a job that has to be done, and I feel honored to have been selected. Neon and I go way back. We spent most of our childhood playing around Bm and Em before Neon moved on to more chords. I hope I won't have this job for too long, because like everyone else, I would like to see Neon on the blog again."

Neon Phosphor is missing

The following is a joint statement from the five members of the Tonics:
Neon Phosphor, our publicist, has disappeared.

Neon Phosphor showed up to work yesterday and left a note saying, "I am going for a long walk." Immediately after updating the blog at 11:44 AM Pacific Time, Neon clocked out normally and left the Blogger Dashboard. A Blogger staff member in the parking lot observed Neon driving towards the information superhighway.

Numerous attempts to contact Neon Phosphor via phone, e-mail, and text-messaging have been unsuccessful.

Neon Phosphor joined us as a lyric in summer 2001 and has been our publicist since December 2004. We are very upset and in shock over the news, but we are cooperating with the authorities who are handling this case. We are asking the public for any information that will lead to Neon's safe return.