George Clinton – Atomic Dog

Atomic Dog, from 1982 is an absolute granddaddy of a track by George Clinton, responsible for so many samples(seriously, go look for yourself, it’s a hell of a list), and perhaps his definitive solo track. High squealing keyboards lead to a low, dirtiest of dirty funky basslines and a wonderfully surreal set of lyrics growled by George.

“Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah,
Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah.”

Snoop Dogg actually lost a court case over Who am I (what’s my name) to another rapper who claimed that he’d stolen the way he used that line and said dog. That’s copyright law for you.

“Why must I feel like that?
Why must I chase the cat?
Nothing but the dog in me.”

So simple and almost nursery-rhyme like, and yet also questioning the very nature of both nature, and the male sexual drive all at once.

Look out for George Clinton early on in the video wearing a suit that I can only assume was a cast-off previously owned by Rodney Dangerfield. One of the main features of the video though, is the animation. It’s of a faux dog-based arcade game (the album this comes from was called Computer Games), drawn in a fuzzy almost felt-tip style. I’ve always felt it owed a little debt to the video for Genius of Love by the Tom Tom Club, perhaps I’m lead there by their own tribute to George during the song.

“I’m in heaven,
With the maven of funk mutation,
Clinton’s musicians such as Bootsy Collins,
Raise expectations to a new intention”

Aretha Franklin performs Rock Steady

Aretha Franklin performs Rock Steady live on Soul Train in 1973, episode 55.

Now this is a serious sampletastic record, used heavily in late 80s hip-hop for its vocal breakdown. Here’s just one example, the incenduary Mi Uzi Weighs a Ton by Public Enemy:

That’s where I think I first encountered it. The song itself is effortless upbeat soul by Aretha, pulsating and demanding to be danced to.

Al Green – Love and Happiness – Live

I love an old Soul Train clip, and this is a corker, Love and Happiness by Al Green performed live. This is made by the start: Eyebrow raise, footstomp, go. Only found out the other day that Billy Preston (of “Get Back” by him and The Beatles fame, amongst many other things) played keyboards on both Love and Happiness and Let’s Stay Together. Makes sense, because they sound incredible on both tracks.

The mid-life crisis officially starts NOW.

So I appear to have bought a bass guitar. This is an unexpected development for the year. I wasn’t planning on it at all, although I’d started to have favourable feelings about the idea of trying to learn bass guitar a little while ago after I discovered that I preferred following basslines to lead guitar on Rock Band et al. It was a thought that clearly lingered with me.

And now I’ve gone past 40, and seen the only Olympics I’m ever likely to see in my country, I think my mid-life crisis has started and forced me to buy it. I have planned for said crisis, I’ve thought through the possible routes:

  • Affair – costly, too much organisation
  • Leather trousers – stumpy legs
  • Ponytail – not with my hair. I’m holding back the Hulk Hogan haircut for late 50s
  • Motorbike – costly, I’ll kill myself, q.v. leather trousers
  • Tattoo – this was the one I was planning on doing, I have a design in mind, have done for ages. Think I can handle the pain, all good. Just don’t seem to have got round to it yet

So my brain and my credit card skipped through the plan and went with bass guitar instead. The actual persuading factor was the release of a new game, Rocksmith. It’s the same sort of logic as Rockband, except you have to use an actual guitar or bass, and it’s designed more as guitar tutor through gaming. Exactly the sort of thing I can get behind. Although I’m going to try and do non-game learning and practice too. It arrives tomorrow, and I can’t wait to start.

Bowie on the Internet

Today Jack Schofield tweeted an old article from the Guardian in 1999, Tomorrow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll , where David Bowie talks to Emma Brockes about his recently-discovered love for the internet. It’s a fascinating document of the time for me, a few months before I started working “in the internet” (for want of a better description) and at a point where I was starting to create my own sites more, and think deeper about what could be done online. I think it’s worth looking a little closer at a few lines from the interview, as there are some interesting insights into how Bowie saw things developing at the time.

Something that is very familiar to me is that he started to learn more about the internet when he created his own site, bowieart.com . Just like the early home computer gamers like myself learnt about programming from trying or succeeding in creating our own games, and from inputting code ourselves, I and many others learnt a lot from creating our own sites. There is a bit of a disconnect now with services like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter et al where the creation of content is almost completely separate from the code underneath it. Such a disconnect of course brings them to a much wider audience, but often at the expense of a deeper knowledge of how things work. However when when he talks of “The communication between me and my Web audience has become more intimate than its ever been”, it really sounds a lot like the positive side of the experiences many creators have had with Twitter. Twitter isn’t the invention here, it’s simply that I think it’s made that communication even easier, and open to many more than ever.

What really caught my attention was his understanding then of how the internet could affect music. He talks of how he “would like to see record companies changing their delivery systems so that they could send MP3s (an instant free download) straight to the record stores via an ISDN cable. The stores could then burn the CD for them on site. It would reduce the packaging costs and they would make a fortune out of it”. It’s easy to have a bit of a giggle at this, but I think he actually got it in the main. The point to him I think was that the MP3s were already approaching instant, and also that in some ways, they were valueless, 1s and 0s. As he understood it, the difficulty and the aim for the record companies instead was to find a way of making these “free” files have a value, add packaging, add value. It almost seems weird to him that they could charge for the download alone.

Where he’s absolutely spot on is the remix culture of the web. I’d never really thought of him as part of it, but his personas and reinventions clearly were remix culture, and even his music at times, which he freely admits in the article. And he just gets the issues that came with that and with the increased ability to just steal content

But on the issue of straightforward piracy, I tend to go with the flow. I am not indifferent to it, but I look on it as a lost cause. The way our society constantly breaks down parameters has led to the disintegration of intellectual property. Whether thats a good thing or a bad thing is to an extent irrelevant, without a doubt things in the future are going to be different.

He wasn’t the first person to say these things by any stretch, but it is interesting to see someone in retrospect who mainly got it, as say opposed to a Metallica, or almost every record company. All of whom had to pretty much be dragged kicking and screaming into the next century (again, as he predicts they’d have to be)