Podcast 2020.05 The Corona 714

The music in this edition of the Turn Me On, Dead Man podcast doesn’t reflect the current state of our world. These are not songs about pandemics, quarantines or the end of the world. As a matter of fact, most of The Corona 714 is upbeat garage rock, some power pop, and of course, a psychedelic freak-out here and there. Perhaps this is because even though these are all recent releases, the corona virus has changed the world so rapidly. I wonder if “social distancing” will become the new normal, and if we’ll ever go back to interacting with each other the way we did in the world before COVID-19.

The drops in this edition of Turn Me On, Dead Man come from The Conet Project. My obsession with following the number of coronavirus cases, and continually checking to see if we have “flattened the curve” put me in mind of the odd numeric messages captured by The Conet Project.

Dogpile – Peripheral [from Dogpile EP, released Feb. 20, 2020]

Dogpile is the solo project of Connor Davidson, 21, from Toronto. I asked him about his influences and his plans for the future. “My main influences for sounds are Oh Sees, King Gizz, Hendrix, and Funkadelic. I don’t really have any songwriting influences I just play and record whatever’s in my head, and try to incorporate different sounds I love here and there. And for the future I’m just gonna keep writing and recording until I die, or get a real job.”

Gavin Watts – Apple Scruffs (George Harrison) [from One Take Covers, released Feb. 25, 2020]

I asked Gavin Watts about what inspired him to do one-take covers and what led him to choose Apple Scruffs as one of the covers.

I’m typically very meticulous about my albums and the sounds I place within my albums, so this project started as a practice in being less precious and more immediate with my performance and decision making in production (recording to tape, never erasing/editing, mixing in one pass, keeping all the natural/organic flaws, etc). I think these covers are less about getting a ‘good’ take on the first try, but rather, trying to create some sort of immediate feeling in the way the songs are delivered in that exact moment. Additionally, I thought this would be a great way to honor some of my favorite artists (past and present) on their birthdays, thus making it a more cohesive project.
Because Apple Scruffs is one of George’s lesser known gems, I think it allows for a bit more freedom (compared to say, covering a well known Beatles song). The original version is such a solid, minimal song that I thought it would work well in a ‘solo’ one take performance (guitar + vocals). I thought having a heavily effected guitar (vibrato/delay) would create a nice base for the vocal melody, which is really the heart of it all.
Additionally, I just really love what the song is about: his love for those fans (fanatics) who would spend hours (days!) standing in front of Abby Road/Apple, just waiting for a momentary interaction with him. I think this is a touching perspective and really shows the level of empathy George had for everyone (something to strive for). Thus, I thought it would be fitting for me (a fan) to ‘give’ the song back to him.
Some of the future (one take) covered artists include: Bob Dylan, R. Stevie Moore, Neil Halstead (Slowdive), and others.

The Hearses – Carrier Pigeons [released March 17, 2020]

The Psychedelic Suns – Hide From The Sun [from Hide from The Sun, released March 2, 2020]

TMODM: What are your main influences?
Psychedelic Suns: Beatles and Pink Floyd are my main influences! Those bands give me so much inspiration when I face writer’s block. With the latest album there is bit of Tame Impala influences too. It’s one of the best modern bands right now.
TMODM: How have you been affected by the coronavirus?
Psychedleic Suns: Hasn’t effected me too much yet. I’m still going to work normally, but I have bit more time to write new music! I’m bit worried for my parents as they are over 70 years old, so I really hope they don’t get Corona. Cannot even visit them right now for months, so have to call them bit more!

Yellow Sunshine Explosion – Air [from Crossing The Cosmic Void, released March 2, 2020]

The previous two tracks were included on a compilation by the Aumega Project, a psuchedelic net label based in Germany. I corresponded with Sascha, founder of the Aumega Project.
TMODM: What got you to start The Aumega Project?
Aumega Project: I mainly started Aumega Project to bring some really fine Psychedelic tunes to all the music enthusiasts around the world. For that it was very important to me, to be able to offer as many “free download” and “name your price” releases as possible. I also attach great importance to offering the music of well-known and lesser-known artists side by side and a wide range of music. That’s why I also offer a number of psychedelic-inspired genres at Aumega Project. I just hope that people can have a good time with my publications and always find new and interesting artists.
TMODM: Was there a specific release (or set of releases) that set you on this mission?
Aumega Project: Because I’m a very enthusiastic music lover myself, I know a lot of good albums from this area and some of them inspired me to found a label myself. Naming them all would go beyond the scope, but to name a few, I would definitely mention the German Krautrock scene of the sixties and seventies. Bands like Can, Agitation Free, Faust, A.R. and Machines or Brainticket, but of course also a lot of international artists like Aphrodite’s Child, The United States of America, Far East Family Band, White Noise or Magma.
TMODM: How have you been affected by the coronavirus?
Aumega Project: Covid 19 has an impact on Aumega Project because the number of paid downloads has decreased significantly. However, there is currently a download increase in “free download” and “name your price” releases and also in the plays on Bandcamp. I think that’s simply because, people just have more time at the moment to listen to music, but also pay a little attention to their money, which is completely understandable.

Black Heart Death Cult – Sonic Dhoom [released Marh 15, 2020]

Concrete City – Strange Bodies [from “Strange Bodies!”, released Feb. 16, 2020]

I asked Concrete City about their influences and about how COVID-19 had affected them.

Regarding influences:
Probably the biggest influence on our songwriting is 1970s and 1980s post-punk music. We all grew up in that period and that intersection/balancing of punk energy, arty fiddling, and pop aspiration seems to have had an out-sized impact on how we hear things and what we write. Our prior bands–of which there are many–covered a lot of bases: new wave, garage pop, power pop, math-y indie rock, straight ahead punk and hardcore, what used to be called “college rock,” etc. I’m not sure how much of that comes across in Concrete City because we’ve made a conscious decision with this band to strive for some kind of accessibility or approach-ability. On one hand, we talk about the guitar and keyboard sounds on New Order and Joy Division records a lot. On the other hand, we’ve stopped in the middle of mixing sessions to listen to CCR to make sure we aren’t getting too precious. We’re not trying to be clever or obscure with the music. We are committed to beating our hooks to death! If the lyrics are a little strange in a sort of Wire/Mark E Smith/DEVO way, the music and hooks are meant to draw attention away from that. To distract. Confuse?

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:
Yes, absolutely, it is affecting all of us on a daily basis. Baltimore City is not on lockdown yet, but the state of Maryland is already imposing strict controls on behavior. Last I checked, the official limit for public gatherings in non-essential spaces is ten people. As such, live music has effectively ceased. No venues. No shows. No nothing. This is disappointing for us–we want to play shows after all–but it is potentially disastrous for our many friends who work in these venues. A lot of bartenders, security staff, restaurant staff, sound engineers, stage hands, promoters, etc. are out of work with no end in sight. People are scrambling. It’s scary. And us not being able to perform is pretty insignificant compared to all that. I never thought I’d feel nostalgic for playing a show to five people on a Tuesday night in the middle of nowhere, but here we are…

On a positive note, we are continuing to make music even though we can’t get together physically. (In between navigating the complications of our new, forced Work From Home lifestyles, of course. Luckily, we all work in some sector of the information economy–teaching, software, professional associations, graphic arts and illustration–so we are all still working for the time being.) We produce all of our own music, from demo to finished product. Almost all of it starts as simple computer demos and notes we pass around via email, instant messenger, and dropbox. All that ad hoc songwriting is still happening. Since going on near-lockdown, we’ve continued working on mixes from our last full-band recording sessions and have demoed three completely new songs. This is on top of an already tall stack of demos completed before things started shutting down. If our communities can behave ourselves long enough to pull this thing back from ALL CAPS GLOBAL PANIC to something more like an annual flu season, we might get an album out of it. I sure hope so!

“the band whose name is a symbol” – From Dusseldorf to Cologne [from Berserkir Volume I, released January 31, 2020]

New Blue – “Now I Know” [from The Month Autumn, released Feb. 15, 2020]

Aunt Cynthia’s Cabin – Rider In The Desert Sun (Parts I & II) [from Misty Woman, released Feb. 7, 2020]

The Artakees – Rush [from Rush, released Feb. 20, 2020]

Kikagaku Moyo-幾何学模様 – Gypsy Davey [released February 24, 2020]

Jambattista – Walker [from Seeking The Seeker, released Feb. 20, 2020]

The Flower Machine – Through a London Window [from Through a London Window​/​One in a Million, released March 5]

I corresponded with Peter Quinnell of The Flower Machine.
TMODM: First, you’ve been playing psychedelia for some time now. What do you think of the current state of psychedelia? Not just the music, but in the broader social context, as well.
PQ: When we started 15 years ago, playing psychedelic pop was a slightly unusual thing to do in Los Angeles. There were only a few bands doing that at the time. Right now there are some fantastic new psychedelic bands in Los Angeles and elsewhere, which is really encouraging. Doing a single for Hypnotic Bridge Records is a big honor, because that label has really succeeded in pulling together the best bands of the genre…. Especially people like Triptides and The Small Breed, which are some of the best bands in the world at the moment…. far better than anything in the charts by an interstellar mile.
TMODM: How have you been affect by the coronavirus?
PQ: It’s depressing. I just wish everybody the best and I’m doing my part by staying the hell off the streets.

Podcast 2020.04 The Other Side of the Dark Waters

This episode of Turn Me On, Dead Man focuses on recent extended psychedelic tracks, heavy on improvisation. I asked the bands about their creative process, so check out their answers below. The drops in this episode come from Terrence Malick’s 1998 film Thin Red Line.

Dark Fog – “Black Candle/Eldanc Kcalb” [from Psychedelic Landscape released Feb. 22, 2020]

On Dark Fog’s latest album, Psychedelic Landscape, they follow a 4:44 guitar freakout track with the same track played in reverse. Like many of their experimental tracks, this works really well. After noting how prolific Dark Fog has been, I asked Ray Donato about “Black Candle/Eldnac Kcalb,” as well as the band’s creative process.

The idea for ‘Black Candle/Eldnac Kcalb’ came from my appreciation of backwards tracks, this is definitely a traditional form for psych, one of my favorites being the excellent 60’s bubblegum psych band Yellow Balloon who in 1967 released their self titled single ‘Yellow Balloon’ with a b-side called ‘Noollab Wolley’ which was of course yellow balloon played backwards, trippy as hell! The ‘Black Candle/Eldnac Kcalb’ was also inspired by my obsession with repeating numbers (11:11,3:33,etc.) with ‘Black Candle’ clocking in at exactly 4:44, I realized this was the perfect song to flip in reverse as both would be back to back 4:44- and also as ‘Black Candle’ has reverse vocals, ‘Eldnac Kcalb’ would then allow you to hear the vocals forward, for extra effect…

We are quite prolific these days, I’m not sure how that happened except that maybe after all these years of songwriting I know what works for us and lately I’ve also been inspired by the huge psych scenes that have sprung up around the globe, some really excellent stuff coming out nowadays, and I’ve felt the need to keep the intensity going…

My creative process always involves the influence of psychedelics first, reaching for my inner emotions and vibes, often I will have sonic hallucinations of songs that I will then try to interpret to my playing to make what is in my mind come alive. Other times I will be struck with a sort of manic energy that I then play out through the chords and guitar stylings that I have developed over time, often these manic feelings will result in more repetitive grooves and anthemic songs as I am feeling the groove and not using my conscious thoughts at all. Arrangements often come later and involve more thought as to what I want the song to ultimately convey, and often Yt and Drew will also have ideas for arrangements, cues, etc. Most of our songs are mapped out with some sort of skeleton that we then breathe life into, there is often much freedom to improvise, and many songs will be planned to have parts that are completely improvised, and sometimes improvisation will then lead to parts that are then made permanent and repeated. Also, these days I will often map a song on paper, similar to Jazz ‘charts’ and the band will just go for it, having a recording studio in our practice space allows for these ‘improvised’ first and second takes to sometimes be the version that is used on the final LP, as there is often magic that can come from not having a ‘set’ part to try to play ‘properly’ or whatnot.

Melt Plastic Group – “Return of the Turkey (Edit)” released Feb. 27, 2020, an extended version of this track is on Fresh Plastic released Jan. 23, 2020

Dire Wolves (Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band) – “Deep Sunrse Energy” [from I Just Wasn’t Made For These Set Times released Feb. 9, 2020]

Elkhorn – Electric One (Part C) [from The Storm Sessions released on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond on Feb. 7, 2020]

The Spacelords – Spaceflowers [from Spaceflowers released Feb. 21, 2020]

TMODM: What’s your creative process? How much of your material is improvised and how much is mapped out ahead of time?
Spacelords: Usually one of us is coming up with an idea – a guitar melody, a bass line or a drum groove. We jam around this idea, record everything, taking the best parts and develop them. Mostly one idea bears another and after some time we get a basic song structure which will be refined until we’re all satisfied with it. So our titles are all mapped out ahead of time but there are still free parts which can be shorter or longer depending on the mood while performing. All titles from our albums can be easily recognized when we play them live.
TMODM: What are your main influences?
Spacelords: We can’t name a specific band. Of course you can hear the spacerock, psychedelic and stonerrock influences, but we always wanted to create something unique. We think it’s not a good idea to copy or to go into the exact same direction as someone else did before.

Kanaan – Urgent Excursions To The Tundrasphere [from Odense Sessions released Feb. 14, 2020]

TMODM: What’s your creative process? 
Kanaan: The creative process varies a lot from song to song, but we usually meet up and jam, sometimes totally from scratch and sometimes on a riff or a melody, and then we kind of  collectively from there. Improvisation is definitely an important tool for writing the tunes. On our most recent record “Odense Sessions”, all of the tracks are more or less improvised. “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” is loosely based around the two guitar themes you can hear in the first couple minutes – we’ve also used those earlier, on a performance we did in Oslo based on the Swedish science fiction poem “Aniara” (which is also the source for most of the titles on the album – who would guess!). Also, “Of Raging Billows Breaking on the Ground” is based on a couple of stoner rock riffs written by Eskild, our bass player. You could probably say that that particular record, rather than four typical Kanaan compositions,  is more of a document of us playing with Jonas Munk for the first time and jamming in his studio.
TMODM: How much of your material is improvised and how much is mapped out ahead of time?
Kanaan: Most of our songs are composed, but we always leave room for improvisation in some way.. This usually means that we have a set of composed parts, often at either the beginning or the end, and we have some free improvisations somewhere in the middle or between parts. The spontaneity of the improvisations really keeps us alert and attentive – it also keeps the energy of the music really potent. At least that’s what it feels like to us.
TMODM: What are your main influences?
Kanaan: Always a difficult question to answer, as we’re all three inspired by all kinds of music, but we’ll try… The Norwegian jazz rock scene for its great musicians and creativity, German krautrock for its experiments, electronic music and radical mindset and the whole psych/stoner rock scene for the heavy riffs and all the amazing sounds you can get out of a fuzz pedal.

Podcast 2020.03 Somebody’s Controlling The Vibes

Turn Me On, Dead Man podcast 2020.03 – Somebody’s Controlling The Vibes on Mixcloud includes garage rock and psychedelic tracks released (or re-released) from late January to early February. The title of the podcast, as well as the breaks used throughout the hour, are from the outlaw biker/horror movie Werewolves On Wheels [1971].

Capricorn One – Hey Garcon [from Capricorn One].

Capricorn One is a “space-rock odyssey” project Ed Ackerson was working on before he died of pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2019. Ed played in several bands (my favorite being the 27 Various), produced quite a few more and ran Flowers Studio in Minneapolis. A celebration of Ed’s life took place on Feb. 15, 2020 at First Avenue in Minneapolis featuring artist Ed recorded or produced, as well as bands Ed was a part of. Surviving Ed are his wife, Ashley, and four-year-old daughter, Annika. All proceeds from the First Avenue show will benefit the Ed Ackerson Family Fund and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Mouse – Electric Face [from Reverse : Universe]

Mouse is from Durban, South Africa. I asked them about the accompanying quote on their Bandcamp page, “Desolation, global sterilization, reanimation. Into the depths of a black hole. Into the expanse of a new universe.” I asked them if this was some sort of prediction or perhaps a warning. Damon Miles of Mouse replied,

The album is more about what is not said than is. Certainly a warning told through a fantastical lens of space travel & galactic warfare. Within the context of the story & the concept behind it, humans must evacuate earth due to deteriorating living conditions and find something new for themselves, which is where the album picks up. Traversing the black hole brings with it the bizarre transformation to mice beings which then brings upon the unexpected in the expanse of a totally new universe where everything that was known is not and must be reestablished for the last of the human/mice population. An impoverished mice planet ruled by cruel cat-like creatures bent on universal domination in need of liberation. It is a call for action to make something of the new reality they find themselves in, to save what is left & rebuild. The album comments on the nature of human beings as greed for power and control dominates our beautiful yet impoverished planet. With knowledge of the state of today’s climate and the conditions set in motion by the human race, change is necessary. The damage to a certain degree is irreversible and we have been warned to operate from a higher state of being as a collective to build from our mistakes and to live in harmony with nature and our own existence for future generations that are deserving of this. Somethings coming, and we have to let it.

OZO – Lifeship [from Saturn]

OZO is one of Mike Vest’s many projects. I asked him how OZO came about.

TMODM: You’re incredibly prolific and I’m just wondering how you keep it all straight. Do you always have several projects going on at once or do you focus on one thing at a time?

Mike Vest: It depends really. Sometimes I’m recording a few albums back to back. I’m always recording by myself. I like messing around with different recording techniques, plugins and effects. I’m always cracking additional upgrades to logic etc. Think I’ve got 5/10 grands worth of stuff. I only use 20% of it. I’ve got 300 organ presets. Prob. Never use em. Haha. I do a lot of overdubs at my house/studio. Because 11Paranoias and Melting Hand all live in London and I live in Newcastle. I record down there but then work on extra guitar stuff at mine to save money. I can concentrate better at my place etc. I’m always recording Lush Worker, I’m trying to release an LP or do more shows. I’m playing at Chaos Theory’s 10 year celebration @The Dome London, end of this month. I really want to do more Lush Worker albums but I really want to do an LP but no one is interested in either really. Upsetting but it is what it is I guess.

TMODM: How did OZO come about? Now that you’ve recorded Saturn it seems like a natural collaboration, but was that the case? Whose idea was it?

Mike Vest: My idea, always wanted to do something with Karl [D’Silva, from Drunk In Hell] and Graham [Thompson, from Ballpeen]. Seemed like the perfect time. Just got sick of hearing loads of elevator jazz/psych music. I have to admit it was going to be just like a weird rock album that graham and I would do. But got Karl in. He improvised and it was just magic. Graham’s drumming was so good I thought I would have him lead the tracks. Generally on rock albums drums can be in the background. So I thought the best way to have them louder and up front. The answer was free jazz.

TMODM: Who are your main influences?

Mike Vest: Fushitsusha, Globe Unity and life.

Lenny Kaye and The Fleshtones – Lost on Xandu

Rough Trade sold this 7″ on Black Friday, 2019. They explained,

Garage rock connoisseurs may remember the instrumental ‘Lost on Xandu’ from The Fleshtones’ 2011 album Brooklyn Sound Solution for its distinctive guitar work from the hands of the legendary Lenny Kaye. Eight years later, Lenny went back to the instrumental tune and crafted some lyrics that paint the scenery of an outer space landscape, adding his own vocals to the song and turning the track into something completely new. This reimagined version of ‘Lost on Xandu’ with vocals will be available as a limited edition 45 single on cloudy orange vinyl for Black Friday 2019. The vocal version of ‘Lost on Xandu’ is found on the A-side, and the B-side features a dub-style rendition of the track (starring Peter Zaremba as Space Commander) titled ‘Lost on Xandu (Version).’ Neither the vocal version nor dub version of ‘Lost on Xandu’ have been previously available in any format.

Crushing Yellow Sun – The Bomber [from Throwback]

Crushing Yellow Sun describes their music as, “a one man heavy psychedelic sludge project whose influences vary slightly from album to album.” He’s released a steady stream of tracks over the last few months. I asked him what made them decide to release a full-length album. He explained,

My main reason for releasing a full length is that I just figured it was time. I had spent most of the past year releasing one single after another and with the completion of my band’s latest self titled Ep (Dead Panda- to be released March 1st) I found myself with some extra time to concentrate on my own project. “Throwback” collects a lot of singles and some of my favorite CYS tracks together, plus a few new ones. So as the name implies, it’s not all new material, but it’s stuff I thought was worth revisiting.

No Glitter – SUB

I asked Billy Martin about No Glitter, and he described it as “a solo project where I record the songs in my home studio. Chances are there will be a live band playing around Rochester NY this year. I will continually release new music as the year goes on too.”

Van Der Vous – Cuidad Del Sol

Vitor Matos, vocalist and lead guitarist for Van Der Vous, is from Salvador, Brazil, but went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to record “Cuidad del Sol”. I asked him why he went to Argentina.

I have arrived here in 2017, first to learn Spanish and to feel a different country and culture, to feel how it is to live abroad. It was cool initially, because everything was new for me, the culture, the language, the people, it is a different country.
So, still, here in Argentina I released the second album called “Espectro Solar” and another experimentation as a single called “Vanity Lies” that got well in United States because of Danger Mouse playlist, but it is not the kind of sound of the band, you know? It is sad and has strong lyrics, in a good way, it’s a cool song but now similar with the other songs I have.

In 2018 / 2019 we’ve recorded two singles, “Ciudad del Sol” and the unreleased single “Aquelarre” that will be part of our third album that I hope we will release this year.

I am going back soon to my home country Brazil to live for the first time in another state (San Pablo), and I hope to release in Brazil because almost all of the songs will be in Portuguese, and I need to connect again with my fans there and my culture, my country.

So, here in Argentina was a good experience but I can’t stay longer because I miss my cultural connection with my country and I feel that I need to do something with my music to go against the system, the extreme-right president that is putting the country down and I feel that my country is going to be in a really bad situation, so, I don’t want to only watch this but to stay there and use my music and art against the establishment, this president.

That’s one point that I feel that I have to do, the second, is to reconnect with my fans, live.

Lemurian Folk Songs – Logos [from Logos]

Lemurian Folk Songs describe their music as “Processive Rock”. The tracks from Logos were recorded live together with “Ima今” in one take, in the summer of 2019. They include this enigmatic quote from EA: On the General Doctrine of Mantras,

“In order to understand what a mantra is, it is necessary to adopt the perspective that considers all things in function of sound and movement. Everything in the universe is a vibration; this vibration has the living sense of speaking, of expressing the invisible world. It is movement as sounding word and revealing Logos.

Wolf Tape – Wreckage [from II]

This one has really stuck in my head. I love the way the guitar provides a counterpoint to the vocals on this track. I asked them about their influences and future plans for the band. They replied,

We all grew up in our teenage years together obsessing over Green Day, The Flatliners & many other Fat Wreck bands. We like to mix that punk sound with rock n roll like Neil Young & the Beatles but with a heavy, tasty riff like Black Sabbath & Motörhead, just to make a few. We all have professions and work for a living, we play shows when we can and would love to play more! Wolf tapes already working on new songs for a split with a band called Dark Tag.

Dead Sea Apes – Night Lands [from Night Lands]

Dead Sea Apes recorded Night Lands with Nik Rayne of the Myrrors. I asked them if they had any plans to record again with him. They replied,

We don’t have any specific plans to work with Nik again – to be honest there was no plan in the first place, he just happened to be in the UK for a few weeks so we got him to play on two tracks for The Free Territory, and then had a jam together which became the Night Lands album. I’m sure if our paths cross again we’ll have another jam and see what happens but there’s nothing planned at the moment. There’s more info about the album in this preview/interview. This is Nik’s current project.

Without Borders: On Behalf of Refugees

It’s been almost three years since the release of Conspiracy A-Go-Go: 50 Years After the JFK Assassination and Who Breaks a Butterfly upon a Wheel: A Tribute to Pussy Riot, but Turn Me On, Dead Man is back with another Creative Commons compilation. Without Borders: On Behalf of Refugees is a collection garage and psychedelic rock to raise consciousness about the plight of people who have been forcibly displaced.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that more than 65 million people are currently “forcibly displaced,” more even than at the end of World War II. Of this number 21.3 million are classified as refugees, those who have been forced to leave their country because of persecution, war or natural disaster. Those who are displaced within their own countries are classified as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). In many cases IDPs are even worse off, as they are often trapped in war zones and cannot receive aid or protection from international organizations.

The reasons for this record number of forcibly displaced people are that intractable conflicts like Afghanistan have been ongoing for many years, more recent destructive conflicts, such as the war in Syria, are happening with greater frequency, and solutions for these increasing numbers have not kept pace with the flow of refugees. Added to this are people displaced by climate change and disaster. According to the UNHCR, “Displacement linked to climate change is not a future hypothetical – it’s a current reality.”

Many displaced people have been seeking refuge in wealthy countries, but the political rhetoric about refugees has gotten depressingly ugly in those countries. European countries are erecting barriers against refugees and in the recent Brexit and U.S. presidential elections, campaigns have openly expressed nativist xenophobia in opposing the admission of refugees. The fear is that this will elevate the risk of terrorist attacks, but this ignores that many refugees are fleeing terrorism themselves. Increasing barriers have led many refugees to make ever more dangerous routes to their destinations, with over 5000 migrant fatalities so far this year, as the pace of these tragedies continues to increase.

Fortunately, several organizations are working on behalf of displaced people, such as the American Refugee Committee, the International Rescue Committee and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), known as Doctors Without Borders in the English-speaking world. Links are provided below if you’d like to learn more about what these organizations do and to offer your support.

Many thanks to the bands who have contributed tracks to this compilation. All of the songs on Without Borders have been contributed by the artists under an Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs Creative Commons license. Their music gives expression to an alternative vision of a better world.

Médecins Sans Frontières
Doctors Without Borders

American Refugee Committee

International Rescue Committee

All of these organization have received an A or A+ rating from Charity Watch charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

cover photo by Mikael Damkier through Dreamstime.com

Randy California’s Thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven”

Several years ago when I was researching Led Zeppelin’s sources of inspiration, I was looking for any quotes from Randy California about the similarity between “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus,” which was written by Randy California and included on Spirit’s 1968 self-titled debut album–three years ahead of “Stairway to Heaven”. The only reference I found was in an interview with Jeff McLaughlin in the Winter 1997 issue of Listener magazine. McLaughlin interviewed Randy California in late November, 1996, and the magazine was published just before his death in January, 1997. Randy California drowned rescuing his 12-year-old son caught in a rip current swimming in the ocean in Hawaii.

Listener-Winter1997In the interview, Jeff McLaughlin brings up the subject of “Stairway to Heaven” and Randy California makes it clear that he regarded the Led Zeppelin song as “a rip-off”. Randy California didn’t take any legal action against Led Zeppelin but with Zep’s recent reissues and Jake Holmes’s success in having the songwriting credits for “Dazed and Confused” changed, the estate of Randy California has sued Led Zeppelin. The case is about to go to trial.

I’ve corresponded with Jeff McLaughlin a few times as this case has unfolded. Recently I asked him about something I read in the May 4, 2016, Bloomberg article entitled “This Bar-Brawling Lawyer Might Just Take Down Led Zeppelin.” The article states, “Before his death, he had mentioned in interviews how he felt cheated out of credit for the Led Zeppelin song, but he had never acted on it.” I noted the plural “interviews” and asked Jeff McLaughlin if Randy California made any public statements about this issue other than the interview in Listener.  I wanted to know if this was just lazy reporting by Vernon Silver (who referred to Spirit as “a relatively forgotten band” in a 2014 article and as “a long-forgotten band” in this most recent article), or if Randy California been more candid in interviews than I had been aware of. Jeff McLaughlin responded,

My first assessment would be that this is – as you said – somewhat lazy reporting. Randy did not discuss this issue publicly, but there was some common knowledge among Spirit fans and there were references in others’ writings. I don’t recall exactly how much I knew about the Taurus issue when I interviewed Randy, but it was obviously enough to formulate a question. What I do clearly recall, however, is that after the interview was published, I heard from (or read comments from) Spirit fans who were glad that Randy (known for his humility and peaceful nature) finally expressed himself on the issue. In the ensuing years (as you know), references to the infringement by Led Zep have frequently cited that one interview as evidence of Randy’s views. So, it is true that Randy “felt cheated” and that he “never acted on it,” but, from what I know, it’s not true that he broadcast those facts very widely. By the way, in my interview, he did not explain (nor did I ask, which in hindsight, maybe I should have) why he did not take any action. From some of the reporting I’ve seen on this, that is depicted as a weakness in the case, i.e., “If the composer didn’t care about it then, why should we take it seriously now?”

Jeff McLaughlin also sent along an audio clip from his interview with Randy California where they discuss “Taurus”. As McLaughlin explains,

Randy had just finished talking about why Spirit did not play at Woodstock. He dropped the name of Led Zeppelin, which gave me a lead-in to the question about Taurus. In a part of my question that was edited out of the printed version, I refer to it as a “legendary” story and then Randy confirms it. But I feel fairly certain that, if I hadn’t asked about it, he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

Listener: Speaking of Led Zeppelin, the guitar introduction to your 1967 composition, “Taurus,” is a dead ringer for Zeppelin’s introduction to “Stairway to Heaven,” released in 1971. Did they ever acknowledge their artistic debt to you? They must of known “Taurus,” having performed as your warmup band.

California: Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment. It’s an exact… I’d say it was a rip-off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said, “Thank you,” never said, “Can we pay you some money for it?”  It’s kind of a sore point with me.  Maybe some day their conscience will make them do something about it.  I don’t know.  There are funny business dealings between record companies, managers, publishers, and artists.  But when artists do it to other artists, there’s no excuse for that. I’m mad!  [laughs]

Listener: Well, take comfort in the fact that you’re the true author of one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs in rock history.

California: Yeah, right

Despite not taking legal action, I think it’s safe to say Randy California had strong feelings about “Stairway to Heaven” and Jimmy Page’s failure to give credit where credit was due.

Needs More Cowbell and a Higher Death Rate

When you bring up “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, it doesn’t take long before someone interjects “More Cowbell!” because of the Saturday Night Live sketch. I’ll get to that a little later but first I want to look at a different aspect of this song: the demography of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”.  The lyrics of the song include an estimate of 40,000 deaths per day.

40,000 men and women every day
(Like Romeo and Juliet)
40,000 men and women every day
(Redefine Happiness)
Another 40,000 coming every day
(We can be like they are)

So just how accurate is this estimate?  The Census Bureau provides an estimated number of “vital events” (births and deaths) per day worldwide, and the current estimate is 156,676 deaths per day.  They calculated this number by dividing the estimated population of the world, which is about 7.3 billion people, by the crude death rate, which is about 7.8 deaths per 1,000 population per year.  But of course Blue Oyster Cult recorded “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” in 1976.  Using the UNdata, the estimated crude death rate worldwide was 10.6 per 1,000 population from 1975 to 1980, and the population of the world stood at 4,160,185,010 in 1976.  Using these numbers there were about 44.1 million deaths that year, or about 120,486 deaths per day.  So 40,000 deaths per day wasn’t a particularly reliable estimate, but to be fair, it was at least within an order of magnitude, not to mention that “40,000 men and women every day” flows more smoothly than “120,486 men and women every day”.

By the way, just in case you think songwriter Buck Dharma might have been referring only to the United States, the estimated population of the United States in 1976 was 218,035,164 and the crude death rate for the United States was 8.6 per 1,000 population, which meant 1,875,102 deaths that year or about 5,137 deaths per day.  Once again within an order of magnitude, but still way off.

Because of its references to Romeo and Juliet, it’s possible “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” addresses suicide, but the figure “40,000 men and women every day” isn’t even close to the daily number of suicides.  According to the World Health Organization, there were 804,000 suicide deaths in 2012, or about 2,203 each day. That number would have been far lower in 1976 not only because the total population was so much less then but also because according to Wikipedia, the worldwide suicide rate has increased by 60 percent in the last 50 years. The suicide rate in 2012, which was the year the world’s population exceeded 7 billion, was about 11.5 per 100,000 population, so the suicide rate would have been something like 8 per 100,000 population in 1976. Using this rate with the 1976 world population (4.16 billion) means something like 333,000 people committed suicide that year, or about 910 people per day.  That number is, of course, far below “40,000 men and women every day.”

Still with me?  OK, so… MORE COWBELL!  Several years ago Wired published a “More Cowbell” timeline, which could use an update as interest in this meme has remained rather consistent (as measured by Google Trends) though perhaps slowly declining in recent years. Still, you can get a wide variety of “More Cowbell” products. You can get a “More Cowbell” T-shirt, of course (with Gene Frenkle or The Bruce Dickinson), a “More Cowbell” Euro Decal Bumper Sticker or License Plate Frame, a “More Cowbell” necktie, or even a “More Cowbell” Cowbell.

Obama more cowbellA book of career advice called The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money got a “thumbs up” from Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma. The phrase has an entry not only in the Urban Dictionary but also in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, defined as, “an ​extra ​quality that will make something or someone ​better”. Mississippi State set a record for most people playing cowbells simultaneously (5,748), and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have embraced the cowbell, encouraging their fans to, “Ring your cowbells when the following occurs: A Rays pitcher has two strikes against a batter. A Rays player reaches base or scores a run. Prompted by our RaysVision scoreboard.” Rules that are strictly enforced, apparently.

The cowbell sketch has had a definite impact on Blue Oyster Cult‘s career, as Eric Bloom explains in this interview:

The band members are fans of the cowbell sketch. Buck Dharma has made his own “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” Behind the Music parody on his internet reality show, The Dharmas at Home.

You can also download this and subsequent episodes from “The Funhouse” on Buck Dharma’s website.


This is an updated version of a piece I wrote for the old Turn Me On, Dead Man blog in 2010.

Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio is now on Radionomy

A few weeks ago Live365 sent all webcasters a notice that they were terminating service at the end of January. I was certainly disappointed but it wasn’t a complete surprise. Live365 had been struggling even before the increases in royalty rates were to go into effect. Looking back I guess I’m just happy it lasted as long as it did. I had been with Live365 doing Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio for over 15 years. I was a “founding broadcaster,” which earned me a 20% discount on their personal broadcaster rates. Despite its quirks and aging interface I was loyal to Live365 for as long as they were around, and I think would have stuck with them no matter what.

But Live365 has disappeared. Yesterday afternoon I was looking at my listener stats, but when I clicked on one of the links an error message announced that the page I was looking for didn’t exist.

Some time ago I registered with Radionomy but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how to get started and I set it aside. But now with Live365 gone, I took a fresh look at it and decided to give Radionomy a try. It will take a little time to get fully reestablished and figure out all of the functions of the interface, but if you look up Turn Me On, Dead Man on Radionomy you can already hear garage rock, punk and psychedelia playing again. So check out the new Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio on Radionomy.

Interview with ST 37

Austin, Texas, psych band ST 37, currently on tour with Acid Mothers Temple, played at Comet Ping Pong in Washington DC on May 8, 2015. It was a particularly interesting show with opening band Rough Francis. ST 37, worried that their van wouldn’t be able to make the trip, had held a Kickstarter campaign to rent a van for the five-week tour, and I contributed enough to get a T-shirt. In corresponding with the group, I agreed to let them stay with me when they played in DC. ST 37 had contributed a track to Conspiracy A-Go-Go, a compilation of JFK assassination-related tracks I curated for the 50th anniversary of that event, and I wanted to repay them for that. We gathered at my breakfast table the following morning for an interview before they were off to Richmond, Virginia, going, as they pointed out, from the capital of the Union to the capital of the Confederacy on successive days. I talked to ST 37 while we ate a lovely breakfast prepared by Archana, who dazzled us with her culinary prowess.

At this point they are more than two-thirds through their tour. I wish you well on the rest of your tour and a safe return to Austin.

“Paul Is Dead” Clues in “I Am the Walrus”

“I Am the Walrus” is on the Beatles’ 1967 release Magical Mystery Tour. Because of its strange imagery, “I Am the Walrus” has long been closely scrutinized by people looking for clues that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike. To search this song for hidden meanings is rather ironic since, according to Pete Shotton, John Lennon intended to write a song with nonsensical imagery to confound those who looked for significance in every Beatle lyric. After recalling a grotesque song they used to sing as children, John strung together the most ludicrous imagery he could think of. Shotton recalls that after writing the song, “He turned to me, smiling. ‘Let the fuckers work that one out, Pete.'”
Continue reading

Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism? “Trampled Under Foot”

“Trampled Under Foot” was included on the 1975 album Physical Graffiti. By the this time criticisms about Led Zeppelin lifting ideas from African American artists were commonplace, regardless of whether these claims had any substance or not, and Led Zeppelin were clearly aware of their reputation as music thieves. As Physical Graffiti was climbing the charts, Led Zeppelin performed at Earls Court Arena on May 17, 1975. Just before they played “Trampled Under Foot” Robert Plant told the audience that Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” had been the source of inspiration for the song. John Bonham then jokingly accused Robert Plant of stealing the lyrics. Led Zeppelin didn’t appear to have a care in the world at this point, though–plagiarism or otherwise. According to his review of the concert in Melody Maker, Chis Welch asserted, “This was the band firing on all cylinders, at their absolute best”.

John Bonham jokingly accuses Robert Plant of stealing the lyrics to “Trampled Under Foot” at Earls Court Arena, London, May 17, 1975

But did Led Zeppelin really steal the lyrics from “Terraplane Blues”?
Continue reading