Monday, 31 December 2007

Lyric & their meanings Part 3 Puff the magic Dragon

This continuing story of song lyrics and there meaning in some of the worlds best loved songs.
Are they really as important as you make them out to be?

Puff the Magic Dragon- Peter, Paul & Mary (1963)

This song Puff The Magic Dragon has (unfairly) had a reputation ,built over the years, concerning its relationship with smoking dope, but if anyone looked hard enough they would discover it is just an innocent children’s song.
Back in 1958 Peter Yarrow before he was the Peter from Peter, Paul & Mary , while waiting in a friends room happened upon a short poem left on said friends typewriter The poem was left there by one Leonard Lipton while sitting in the mutual friends room earlier, Leonard as the story goes was feeling vulnerable and depressed now that he was at College and was missing his friends and the less responsible ways of his child hood and wasn’t coping with the pressures of growing up.
He just typed out some verse about the wonders of the imagination of young Yarrow was impressed by what he saw and the sentiment expressed within. He took the note added some extra lyrics and wrote a tune around it.
5 years later Yarrow was on a roll having become huge in folk music circles also becoming instrumental in kick starting Bob Dylan’s career when Peter, Paul & Mary successfully recorded his “Blowin’ In the Wind”
Yarrow tracked down Leonard Lipton and told him that he found his poem and even though he had embellished it and could have gotten away with it he gave Lipton song writing credit. A very honourable thing to do which made Lipton some serious cash.
The marijuana links are probably the same stoner crap that linked H.R Puff’n’stuff with smoking dope gaining popular myth status in the late 60’s and early to mid 70’s.
The song was a very popular children’s song from the start and is still popular with pre school children today, though as a folk standard it is not that popular.

© Shidot Prod. 2005

Monday, 24 December 2007

Jack Marks


Jack Marx was my favourite Blogger on The Age Web site until he was unceremoniously sacked

after a funny piece lampooning Kevin Rudd and the revelation of his visit to a strip club.

Jack is a funny man with a passion for music and looking at the absurd side of things. I will probably link a bit to his previous work because it needs exposure and because I think it’s hilarious.

These are two links to his old Fairfax Blog exposing the similarities between certain songs.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Lyrics & their meaning Part 2- A Whiter Shade of Pale

This continuing story of song lyrics and there meaning in some of the worlds best loved songs.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale(1967) Procol Harum

There are people in this world that think that all decent rock music ceased to be recorded after 1972 (the people who vote for the Grammys come to mind). They take hold of a style or a band and never seem to let go. One band that draws this attention is Procol Harum and in particular their first hit A Whiter Shade of Pale.
In 1967 following the dissolution of his former band pianist/singer Gary Brooker formed a song writing partnership with Keith Reid, who sent him lyrics by post. Included in the first batch (?) were those of A Whiter Shade of Pale (or AWSoP as the enthusiast like to call it), Brooker composed >the music and melody. It took him about half an hour, but it was organist Mathew Fischer and not Brooker who stretched an improvisation based on Bach’s Air on a G string or Sleeper awakes (depending which classical purist you want their opinion on) to create the memorable opening riff.
Brooker had to form Procol Harum as a band proper when AWSoP drifted from pirate radio ships and unexpectedly tore to No.1 Even though the production of the song and an ill-defined mono mix the music and Brooker’s soulful voice stood out. It was lyrics that had every one scratching their head.
Though Keith Reid was song-writing partner to Gary Brooker he was actually considered a standing member being included in all band promotional photographs and interviews. Brooker must have seen some novelty value in him or secretly owed him lots of money. Reid was compulsively morbid and interviews he attended with the band usually ended up with him contributing nothing because he spent all his time gibbering to himself in the corner. Which may just explain those lyrics for AWSoP. When AWSoP was first released Jimi Hendrix in an interview with NME brought attention to the song when he said “ when I first heard it I understood the first verse and that was all. But as you hear it again and again you begin to put things together”. Sadly Jimmi died before he could share that with us. Unlike Stairway to Heaven and American Pie AWSoP doesn’t attract the deep analytical studies the others receive in fanzine and on the Internet. In most articles I read nearly everyone agrees it’s about a pair of medieval lovers breaking up during a coffee break between catching the plague and heading off to the crusades and more often than not finish with the cowardly conclusion ‘find your own interpretation’. Reid's own explanation – “It’s like looking at an abstract painting” is proof enough he just stacked a heap of catchy phrases and stolen medieval lines together.
Reid over the years has become obsessed with his little bit of nonsense revealing in an interview with Shine On in 1977 his disappointment in missing out on additional income. “The phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale’ has been ripped off so much ever since. To this day, every day, I pick up a newspaper and somebody’s using either that phrase or an approximation of it. I feel that I should get some of the credit for introducing something into the English language; it’s been used so often. It seems to me it was just a very powerful statement in so many ways…”
Quite frankly if he hadn’t written it some copywriter would have for an advert for washing powder.
This last remark by Reid is shared by Procol Harum’s devoted fan base who despite not knowing what the phrase ‘whiter shade of pale’ means, other than its literal sense, post examples of its impact on the human race on the bands web site. A visit to is a view into the mind of the obsessed. Any title is accused of ripping off Reid’s contribution to the English language from A Deadly Shade of Gold to A white thought in a white shade and Just another shade of Brown.
All I can say is ‘Hue must be joking’.
The sixties had a lot to offer it’s a shame they couldn’t take this song back.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Lyrics & Their Meaning Part One- MacArthur Park

There is a band from Iceland by the name of Sigur Ros whose music consists of a language called Hopelandic that their singer Jonsi made up.

It consists of sighs, moans, groans and screams. Anything that takes his fancy when trying out a melody line. To most people it would probably sound as if he is singing in his native Icelandic.
To me it’s relevant because it totally dismisses the use of words as an important part of song structure.
Where this is not really relevant, as history has shown us, just check out any classical music piece, not a word anywhere. Neither am I discounting countless songs with heart felt words and stories that would be silly.
I do believe however that sometimes people get lazy and just pop any old shit anywhere and pass it off as relevant.
For the next few posts I am listing some very popular songs and what their song lyrics are supposed to mean or what they represent if anything at all.

MacArthur Park (1968) – Richard Harris

Jimmy Webb is one of the worlds best known songwriters
His songs By the time I get to Phoenix‘ and Galveston have become country rock standards and He is considered along with Paul Williams and Randy Newman as a leader in the Adult contemporary music genre.
So what was he thinking when he wrote MacArthur Park
Musically the song is a soaring production with lush orchestral arrangement, but those lyrics! Webb himself has been quoted as saying the words even make him cringe, when asked to elaborate Webb said “ O.K, it may be far out there, and a bit incomprehensible, but that is what I was trying to get at. I suppose the whole thing was that I wrote the song about the same time in the late1960s when surrealistic lyrics were the order of the day. It was written about the same time as ‘Strawberry Fields’, so it probably seems a bigger deal now than it was back then”.
Web doesn’t make it clear whether he meant the song was about childhood memories (as Strawberry Fields was about) or he liked the food theme. As usual everybody else has an opinion for him. The most popular theory being that the song is a metaphor for lost love. And judging by the description and the era it was written obviously through the eyes of someone off their head on Acid.
Even though at the time of writing MacArthur Park Webb was a hugely successful writer of hits, the band The Association collectively turned down the song as too weird. So Webb offered the song to his friend hard drinking Irish Actor Richard Harris. Webb said the reason he worked with Harris had more to do with hanging out and drinking rather than create great art.
Harris who had just experienced success as Arthur in the lame Hollywood musical Camelot was more a tough guy actor but was looking for different directions and fancied himself a bit of a singer after the role in the movie even though critically he was considered a weak choice for the lead role.
Harris’ choice paid off and the song was a mammoth hit worldwide.
Similar songs around this period may have contributed to its success. Songs like Eloise, Nights in White satin, Out of time and Whiter shade of Pale also selling truckloads of records as the super ballads of the period.
Even though the lyrics themselves are subject to ridicule it didn’t stop Frank Sinatra from covering the song even though he was relentlessly critical of silly song lyrics, which in his opinion ruined the mood of a song.
The music has gone on to be a Muzak classic while the words have been constantly voted in the top ten dumbest lyrics of all time even as recently as 1999, even beating such tough competition as Yummy, yummy, yummy (I got love in my tummy).
Of course we have to mention before he died Richard Harris played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Movies. And his still the best one.

© Shidot Prod. 2003

Thursday, 6 December 2007

WillowWoods Belgrave

Recently I moved to the foothills of the Dandenongs. After living for years on a plateau looking across from the mountains, it was weird looking up at them and instead of a hazy green or shrouded in mist I could count individual trees near the top.
This also meant there was no excuse for driving around them anymore since the summit was a short 20-minute drive.
This opened up a whole new world of discovery for me, and it was a great to explore my new interest with historical and collectable items. There are some absolute gems hidden in that mountain as well as some beautiful picnic spots and it has an overall feel of bohemian charm and a certain hippie throwback feel about it.
The most wondrous gem I discovered was Willow Woods.

Nestled about a kilometre down the road from Puffy Billy in Belgrave, (if you blinked you’d miss it and that would be your loss) Willow Woods is the creative home of Jamin Swaneveld his “Bubble of Reality”, as he likes to call it.


It is here that I come on a week end afternoon with my son and talk about Dragons or Fantasy novels, It’s great to go somewhere and have an enlighten conversation that doesn’t involve religion, politics, current events or even family. We would also marvel at Jamin’s sculptures and woodwork as well as the many other pieces of creative artwork he has draped around his 6 sided cabin next the bubbling brook. Jamin with his laid-back manner and enthusiastic passion for all things mystical or mythical make it hard not to be drawn into his world and be inspired to become involved.

Because of Willow Woods I gained a better understanding of my own abilities and how much I missed making things with my hands and pretty soon I was building my own little reality bubble in the shed at home and shared my sons passion for Lord Of The Rings, where we both worked on models and dioramas from the movie. I‘ve got a lot to thank the move to this part of town, the mountain and Willow Woods for the way I look at things these days.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Who is/was the greatest cartoon band?

The top 5

5. The Groovy Goolies – Even though Drac, Frankie and Boneapart were total disgraces as horror characters they rate because they had a great signature tune Time for a Goollies get together and the song Chic-A-Boom could drive you and anyone within earshot insane because it was so damn annoying .But you had to keep singing it, your probably doing it now!
# No Grammys

4. The Beatles. I know they aren’t technically a cartoon band but as a child I wouldn’t have got into them as early as I did if it wasn’t for the Beatles Cartoon Show and let’s not forget the Yellow Submarine Feature film I still love that movie.
Write your own list here for hits and classic songs.
***** The Beatles only ever won 5 Grammys over their entire career

3. Josie and the Pussy Cats. Growing up I thought they were hot, then they made a movie and they were hotter and had some good tunes.
The Movie did better than the carton peaking at No.16 in the US in 2001
Josie & The Pussycats had a catchy signature tune
#No Grammys

2. Alvin and then Chipmunks. Just because the sounded funny. My friend the Witchdoctor is a classic.
Did you know Alvin, Theodore & Simon had 2 N0.1 US Hits and have been in existence since 1958 and are still appearing in movies as recently as this year (2007 )
** Alvin and the chipmunks won 2 Grammys though they were for engineering rather than the songs.

1.Gorillaz. The best by far. I know they couldn’t have existed even 10 years ago due to the technology thye use but hey, great graphics , great histories, great songs I hope they just getter weirder.
* They have won 1 Grammy but were nominated for 5 in 2006

(Dis)Honorable mention.

BeSharps. Homer, Apu, Skinner ,Barney & Wiggum (who the others did a Pete Best to)
Baby On board.
* The Simpsons often mocks the Grammy Awards. [[Homer Simpson once won a Grammy statue for his barbershop quarter singing with The B Sharps, but threw it away in disgust. A passerby picked it up saying, "Ooooh, an award statue!" When he recognized the statue, he said, "Aww.. It's just a Grammy", and also threw it away.

The Archies. Even though I couldn’t stand Reggie (though Jughead was cool) Sugar Sugar was everywhere in 1969. Did you know the Archies had another 3 Top 40 songs in the US with "Who's Your Baby?," "Bang-Shang-A-Lang," and "Jingle Jangle."
# No Grammy’s

Jackson 5 A typical band cartoon like the Archies ,capitalizing on the bands popularity of the time.
The Jackson had all their hits before this cartoon was made and had a resurgence after some years after the show was cancelled. Of course Michael went onto to huge solo success later.
#No Grammys, even though they had 7 Top 10 hits and were inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of Fame in 1997.

The Impossibles. Super heroes whose alter egos who were a cool rock star trio.
# No Grammys

FingerBang Cartman, Kyle , Kenny , Stan and Randy Marsh (as all good Boy bands have 5 members) break at superstardom. Their career is short lived when Kenny is killed in an Elevator accident reducing their number to 4 members. # South Park have never been nominated for a Grammy but were nominated for best Song Oscar for “Oh Canada”

The Brady Kids Yes they were even a cartoon series, where they formed a band and moved suspiciously like The Archies

The Partridge Family had a short lived cartoon series after it was cancelled titled The Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. This didn’t last long either.

Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids Oh, this was just plain dreadful.

Even though their characters bordered on cartoonish, The Monkees have no place here. They were smart enough not to do a shitty cartoon version.