Transcribing Girlfriend in a Coma by The Smiths

It's been a while since I posted a transcription, so I though that I'd share something that I transcribed a while ago but never got around to posting on my website. With that in mind, today's offering is one of my favorites from back in the 1980s: "Girlfriend in a Coma" by The Smiths. I'll admit, the topic sounds a little creepy, but it's a catchy song that I've loved ever since I first heard it. To be honest, The Smiths released a lot of music in a genre that a friend of mine collectively labeled as "Depression Pop." If you listened to enough of The Smiths' albums, you'd swear that nothing ever goes right for their singer, Morrissey. (Seriously. It's like listening to Eeyore sing.)

One of my favorite guitarists is Johnny Marr, who was the driving force behind The Smiths' unique sound. Marr has a great way of creating layered textures with his guitar sound that is very reminiscent of another favorite guitarist, Matt Slocum. (I might say more about Matt in a post at some other time, but today is all about Marr.)

Without further ado, here's my transcription of "Girlfriend in a Coma."

Here are my notes about this transcription:

  • Probably the biggest omission from my transcription are some really cool volume swells that Marr added as layers to the piece. Those would have been easy to add to the transcription, but I just didn't feel like it.
  • I didn't spend a lot of time trying to dial in the synth sound on the choruses; I'm pretty sure the notes are fairly accurate, but as always - I spent far more time trying to get the guitar parts to sound correct.

As always, this is a free transcription. So if you're upset that I left something out, then it sucks to be you.

NOTE: See https://youtu.be/3GhoWZ5qTwI for the official video for this song.

Hipshot Bass Xtender on a 6-String Bass

I just finished modding my Ibanez 6-string bass with a Bass Xtender from Hipshot Products; having Drop-A tuning at the flip of a switch is great.

I've been using Bass Xtenders on two of my 4-string basses for a while now, and since I play in Drop-D for 99% of the time, modding my basses with these tuning keys have been some of the best investments that I've made for my playing style.

That being said, it took me a while to get around to modding my 6-string, but now that I have, I wonder why it took me so long.

hipshot-bass-xtender-on-a-6-string-bass

Imagine there's no Lennon

I often see people quoting John Lennon's song "Imagine," but I have often wondered - have any of these people really listened to the lyrics to that song? Because it probably represents a worldview that they do not agree with.

Let me explain...

VERSE 1 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

VERSE 1 MEANING:

When Lennon says, "Imagine there's no heaven," he is pushing for the abolition of religion because he was an outspoken atheist and HATED the church. He was infamous for pelting nuns in NYC with water balloons fashioned from condoms and preaching that he was more popular than Jesus.

When Lennon says, "No hell below us," he is dreaming of a life where he can do whatever he wants with no repercussions; e.g. there is no concept of "sin," which he reinforces by saying, "Imagine all the people living for today." This describes Lennon's life as a drug and alcohol addict who routinely cheated on his wife and ignored his children. The definition of hedonism is living for today, and Lennon lived in that mindset, regardless of who suffered for his selfishness.

VERSE 2 LYRICS:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

VERSE 2 MEANING:

There are a few things to consider here:

First of all, it's easy for Lennon to imagine what life would be like if all of the borders suddenly ceased to exist because he lived in a life of luxury surrounded by opulent wealth for which he didn't really have to work. Don't get me wrong, the Beatles were amazing songwriters, but still - consult the lyrics to the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits to see what I mean.

Jumping past that, Lennon reiterates his call for the abolition of religion, which I am sure most of the world would disagree with.

Last, Lennon advocates for peace, but it's probably not your definition of "peace." Throughout his life Lennon shared his views on peace, which isn't just the absence of war, but a continuation of his hedonistic mindset; he wants everyone do lay down their arms and then live for themselves, which is selfish and immature, but that is who Lennon was. (For more on Lennon's warped views of peace, see my "Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?" blog.)

VERSE 3 LYRICS:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

VERSE 3 MEANING:

Once again, this is one of those verses that sounds palatable, until you examine Lennon's personal life. As I said earlier, it's easy for someone surrounded by opulent wealth to wax poetic about what a glorious world it would be if everyone shared everything, because he can afford to buy whatever he wants. If Lennon had set an example of philanthropic endeavors during his lifetime for others to emulate, then perhaps I would give him a little credit here, but he didn't; Lennon was a boorish, womanizing, selfish, drug addict.

That being said, Lennon was a Marxist, and Communism has demonstrated time and again that a society cannot share everything; it just doesn't work, because people are greedy at heart. There is no way that everyone on the planet can share everything because sooner or later someone will want something that someone else has, and then they'll fight. That is inevitable, and Lennon practiced this type of covetousness all the time by sleeping with whomever he pleased - even if it was other people's wives. What's more, Lennon was awful to his own family members; he couldn't even share with them, much less the rest of the world.

CHORUS LYRICS:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

CHORUS MEANING:

So what is Lennon asking you to join? In no uncertain terms, Lennon is asking you to join a cult. His cult. In Lennon's cult of hedonism, everyone lives for themselves, religion is illegal, and he can continue to do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants while everyone else is forced to live by his standards and share everything that they worked hard to earn. While Lennon uses flowery words like "peace" and "brotherhood," make no mistake - Lennon's view of utopia is a heaven on earth for him that would be a living hell on earth for everyone else.

At the end of the day, John Lennon was a deeply flawed and selfish individual who should not be emulated. In his Magnum Opus, "Imagine," Lennon is not really advocating for "peace" or "brotherhood" or any of the other noble ideals that people so often ascribe to him. Instead, Lennon is advocating for everyone on the planet to be just like him; to fill their lives with self-indulgent excesses and to ignore any possible ramifications from their bad lifestyle choices. The people who have followed Lennon's example have helped proliferate decades of drug and alcohol abuse, leaving broken families with emotionally damaged children, and lead to the astronomical rise in STDs and AIDs. All of this is probably why "Imagine" is so popular with Hollywood elites who consistently follow Lennon's example of living for themselves. Nevertheless, neither Lennon nor "Imagine" should be admired; it is a terrible song from a terrible person about a terrible world that was crushed and rebuilt according to Lennon's terrible worldview. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Tucson's Chicago Music Store was an Institution

Tucson's Chicago Music Store recently celebrated its centennial, and I must admit - I have a special place in my heart for that store. Growing up as a young musician in Tucson, I was intimately familiar with it.

tucson-chicago-store-1920s

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I used to visit the Chicago Store all the time and haggle with Joe (who ran the place) over pieces of vintage gear that clearly had no actual value to Joe whatsoever. Joe always seemed cranky, and on one occasion he threw me out of the store when I called him a thief for starting his half of the negotiation far too high and refusing to budge.

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However, on a different day, I had been haggling with Joe for several minutes when he had to take a phone call. After he walked away, his brother, Phil, walked over and explained the following to me: the Chicago Store had already made Joe a rich man (in 1980s money), and Joe didn't actually need the work. Phil continued by saying that Joe simply loved to haggle, and if I was willing to put in the time and give Joe a good fight, I could eventually get a good price.

tucson-chicago-store-2000s

This changed my whole world, and I started to budget several hours per trip to the Chicago Store just in case I found something that was going to require a little more time to negotiate. Over the years I bought a lot of great gear from the Chicago Store, and to this day I still own several items that I bought there. But more than that, I learned how to give Joe a "good fight," and I walked away with dozens of great deals.

tucson-chicago-store-2010s

Joe and I never grew close enough to be friends, of course, because I was never more than a customer to him, but I'd say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had become one of Joe's "regular customers," and he always greeted me with a huge smile every time I entered his store - whether I bought anything at all.

I was terribly saddened when Joe and Phil both passed away several years ago.


POSTSCRIPT:

Here are a few articles about the Chicago Store's and it's future.

RIP Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020)

This news came as an absolute shock when I heard it earlier today: Eddie Van Halen, Hall of Fame Guitarist Who Revolutionized Instrument, Dead at 65.

Like thousands of other guitarists, Eddie Van Halen (EVH) was my first guitar hero. His band, Van Halen, hit the music scene in 1978, which was the same time as I began to play guitar. I spent countless hours learning dozens of Van Halen's songs on the guitar and playing them live at various gigs throughout my younger days.

Eddie-Van-Halen

There are a handful of guitarists who I would say profoundly influenced my life as a musician, and EVH would easily be in my top five. EVH was a true pioneer, and his influence wasn't just on me; I think EVH inspired more guitarists than any other guitarist in history - even more than Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. As far as music in general is concerned, you could probably make the argument that few musicians in all of history have had as profound an impact, both for their instrument and their genre.

EVH's signature solo "Eruption" was the sound that launched a thousand imitators. While some might make the argument that this guitar player or that guitar player played this or that solo better than EVH, the fact remains that - for all intents and purposes - EVH did it first, and he did it better than anyone before him. EVH was a true innovator, whose technical skills and unique approach to the guitar was directly responsible for thousands of other people's careers.

I'm a big fan of Rick Beato's YouTube Channel, and a couple of years ago he created the following video, which describes Eddie's profound influence on guitar playing and rock music better than I could ever do.

EVH struggled with a myriad of health and substance abuse issues for decades, and it was great to hear that he was clean and sober from 2008 onward. But still - I think the years of physical abuse finally took their toll on him, and I was deeply saddened to hear that EVH lost his battle with cancer today at the young age of 65.

As I have grown older, it has been difficult to say goodbye to my childhood heroes. Chris Squire of Yes passed away in 2015, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of ELP both passed away in 2016, and Neil Peart of Rush passed away in January of this year.

Despite the fact that I never met any of these musical influences, I somehow feel like I've lost several close friends. That isn't supposed to happen. Heroes are supposed to ride off into the sunset. They're supposed to be immortal. Heroes aren't supposed to die like ordinary people.

RIP EVH. You will be sorely missed.


POSTSCRIPT:

If I was to pick my top five six guitar influences they would be (in no particular order): Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, David Gilmour, Randy Rhoads, and The Edge. While I have been influenced by dozens of guitarists, I can honestly say that something from each of the guitarists that I listed shows up in my playing almost every time I play the guitar. (For more about that train of thought, see my A Few of My Favorite Guitar Solos post from several years ago.)

A Few Thoughts about Trevor Rabin

Trevor Rabin slowly emerged as one of my favorite guitarists. I first learned of him when he was working with Manfred Mann in the early 1980s. (Thankfully I had missed his debacles with the glam rock band Rabbitt.) When the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" came out in 1983 and became a huge hit, I wondered what the heck Rabin was doing with Yes, and how badly would he ruin the band. However, that feeling evaporated as I heard more of the 90125 album. Oh sure, that particular musical offering was more about creating "pop music" than "progressive rock," but still - Rabin had some SERIOUS musical chops.

Yes

When I saw Yes in 1984 during the Tucson stop of their 90125 tour, Rabin upped his game to a whole new level in my estimation. He completely nailed songs from both catalogs of Yes' music - both the old and the new. In fact, I much preferred Rabin's live versions of classic Yes songs like "And You and I" and "Yours Is No Disgrace" over Steve Howe's live versions. Rabin was far more meticulous than Steve Howe at getting all of the guitar parts right in a live setting. On the other hand, Steve Howe seemed to wander all over the neck in a never-ending stream of musical ramblings on every live Yes recording, which often sounded like he was almost drunk. However, Rabin also added some unique parts of his own to those vintage pieces; I had to admit that Rabin added parts where Howe would never have thought to add them, and in the end I thought Yes' music with Rabin's additions were sometimes better than the originals.

After the Tucson concert had ended, a few friends and I met Yes backstage, and Trevor Rabin was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. After our group of friends had an informal meeting and autograph session with the entire band, most of the band members wanted to climb into their waiting limousines and speed off to their hotel for the night. But Rabin was involved in a great discussion about music with my friend Larry and me, so Rabin waved them off and said he'd catch up with the rest of the band later.

Larry was the drummer for a band that we were both in at the time, and our discussion with Rabin was simply about music - and that's it. Rabin wasn't acting like a rock star, he wasn't basking in the adulation of fans, and we weren't showering him with adoration and compliments. The three of us were talking about guitar effects, and production techniques, and songwriting, and about music in general. In short, this was simply three normal guys having a normal conversation about their favorite subject.

During the course of our discussion, I told Rabin that I thought he was a great replacement for Steve Howe, who was the predominant guitarist for Yes during the 1970s. I immediately sensed that I had touched on a sensitive subject, so I let it drop. However, some years later I was reading an interview with Rabin in a guitar magazine, and he said that the hardest thing for him while he was a member of Yes was constantly being compared with Howe. That's not what I meant to do, and I felt badly that I had been part of that experience for him.

A few years later I joined the US Army, and by the late 1980s I was stationed in Germany. If you've read any of my military-related posts, you'll know that I spent a lot of time out in the woods chasing bad guys. However, when I wasn't working, you would find me curled up with a Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton novel, and quite often I was listening to Trevor Rabin's Can't Look Away album. Once again, it was more of a pop music album, which was different than my general preference for progressive rock. Still, I had this album on cassette, and I nearly played it to death during my tenure there. The following video features the song "Something to Hold Onto" from that album, and it's a great example of just how weird an 80s rock music video could be.

In 1991, I caught Yes on their Union tour in Frankfurt, Germany. During this concert, I saw Rabin save the show when the audio for Howe's guitar dropped out during "And You and I." For some reason, Howe's sound vanished from the mix during the acoustic breakdown in the middle of the song. Rabin had been standing off to the side, but when Howe's guitar disappeared, Rabin jumped over to his pedal board, hit a couple buttons, and came up with a plausible acoustic sound to finish the section, with barely a moment or two of dead time. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I eventually found a video of that show. The camera was predominantly focused on Squire and Anderson so you can't see everything that's happening, but you can hear it. If you watch the following video, you can hear Howe's guitar disappear around the 20-second mark, followed by Rabin's guitar filling in the gap for Howe a second or two later.

Rabin eventually left Yes, and he spent several years writing soundtracks for movies. (IMDB currently lists him with 60 credits as a film composer.) However, in 2012 Rabin released his Jacaranda solo album, where he showed that he still hasn't lost his touch as a guitarist. In addition, the following video shows that he hasn't lost his touch with odd music videos, either.

In what would seem like a rare moment in musical history, the surviving members of Yes put their pasts behind them and teamed up to play a couple of their classic songs when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. (Quick side note: Chris Squire, the longtime bassist of Yes, had recently passed away, and Geddy Lee from Rush filled in for him.) It was nice to see Rabin back with the group, and to be honest - the following video shows that Steve Howe isn't aging well; his guitar chops are starting to fade, and he made several embarrassing mistakes. On the other hand, Rabin looks like he's having a ball, and he seems to have a great musical rapport going on with Geddy Lee. (Hmm. Perhaps the two of them should do a side project together?)

One day, I'd like to meet Trevor Rabin again and apologize for my poor choice of words from when I met him back in 1984. It's a poor excuse, but I was only 18 years old at the time. I honestly meant what I said to be a compliment, and I didn't realize how Rabin would receive that. Who knows? Maybe some day I'll get the chance.


POSTSCRIPT:

On a totally unrelated piece of trivia, the writer and director Joss Whedon is a big fan of Yes, and I recently learned he named his Mutant Enemy Productions company after the acoustic breakdown section of Yes' song "And You and I."

MutantEnemy

The lyrics for that section of the song are:

"Sad preacher nailed upon the colored door of time.
Insane teacher be there, reminded of the rhyme.
There'll be no mutant enemy we shall certify;
Political ends as sad remains will die.
Reach out as forward tastes begin to enter you."

You can store that piece of trivia awesomeness for a rainy day...

Modding Aviom Headphone Jacks

If you've played music in a live setting sometime within the past decade, chances are that you've used some sort of in-ear monitor or personal mixer system. Whereas in the past musicians were forced to compete with each other's sound through floor monitors, these newer in-ear/personal systems allow each musician to control their personal mix, which only they can hear in their headphones. As an added bonus, when you switch to an in-ear monitor system, there is no need for floor monitors, and therefore your stage volume can be significantly reduced. (And if you use direct systems, amplifier modeling, or isolation cabinets, you can remove all of your stage volume for everything except your acoustic instruments.)

Needless to say, these systems are great, and one of the most-popular manufacturers of in-ear monitor systems is Aviom, which makes several different types of personal monitors. Over the years, I have used their A-16 and A-16II personal mixers in a variety of settings. They're a little older by today's standards, but I still see them in use all over the country.

A-16II-front-panel

These Aviom systems work great, but they have one nagging design flaw that I hear about from everyone I know who has used them: the headphone jacks are soldered to the circuit boards, but they're not secured to the case with a nut. As a direct result, the headphone jacks eventually separate from the circuit boards, causing the mixers to lose signal to one or both ears. And this happens a lot.

aviom-mod-01

Thankfully, there's an easy mod that you can perform on your Aviom systems to make up for this design flaw: you can remove the headphone jack from the circuit board, and replace it with a headphone jack that is mounted to the case. This is a pretty simple hack, and it usually takes me around 10 minutes per mixer to swap out the parts. With that in mind, you might want to modify all of your mixers at the same time. (Which is what I chose to do.)

aviom-mod-02

MODIFICATION INSTRUCTIONS

To perform this modification, you'll need:

  • A stereo panel mount jack to replace the old headphone jack
  • A small spool of wire to connect the panel mount jack to the circuit board
  • A small screwdriver to assist with removing buttons
  • A soldering iron, some solder, and basic soldering skills
  • OPTIONAL: Alligator clip wires for testing
  • OPTIONAL: Electrical tape to insulate the circuit board

WARNING: This modification will probably void your warranty. But these personal mixers are old enough that yours probably aren't under warranty anyway. But still, you might want to check.


STEP 1 - Remove all of the knobs and buttons from the front panel. The knobs should pull right off, but sometimes I need to use a small screwdriver to pop off the buttons. (Note: keep track of which buttons came from where, because several of the buttons have different holes that let the LEDs shine through.)

aviom-mod-03

STEP 2 - Remove the screws from the bottom panel, and I've highlighted all of their locations in the image below. The only tricky part about this step is that one of the screws is probably hidden under one of the labels, which is undoubtedly to prevent people from modifying their Avioms and voiding their warranty.

aviom-mod-04

STEP 3 - Open the case and remove the circuit board. Once you have the circuit board removed, you can locate the headphone jack, which I have highlighted in the following image.

aviom-mod-05

STEP 4 - Remove the headphone jack that is mounted to the circuit board. In every situation where I've replaced a headphone jack, I was able to simply pop them off the circuit board without doing any damage, which is probably because the continuous abuse of plugging and unplugging headphones has usually separated the headphone jack from the circuit board already, which is why this mod is necessary. However, if you try to remove the old headphone jack and it doesn't seem to want to move, you should desolder the old jack instead of forcing it.

aviom-mod-06

aviom-mod-07

STEP 5 - Solder wires onto the circuit border in the locations shown in the image below. Pay attention to where the ground, left, and right wires are soldered. As you can see in the image, I use alligator clip wires to test out my soldering before I solder the wires to the new stereo jack.

aviom-mod-08

STEP 6 - Solder the new stereo jack to the wires, then test out the circuit before reassembling the mixer.

aviom-mod-09

STEP 7 - Mount the new stereo jack to the case. While it may not be necessary, I usually place a piece of electrical tape on the circuit board where the jack will be located, and I do this to keep the new headphone jack from coming into contact with the circuit board.

aviom-mod-10

aviom-mod-11

STEP 8 - Secure the circuit board in the case, assemble the two halves of the case back together, and then replace all the screws, knobs, and buttons. (Make sure that you put the buttons back in the same locations where they were before the modification.)


That's all there is to it!

The first mod that you do might take a little bit longer as you get the hang of it, but once that's out of the way, any remaining mods should be quicker.


BONUS TIP:

There is one extra step that you can take in order to improve the stability of your Aviom systems. If you're using the stand adapters that allow you mount your Aviom systems on microphone stands, there's an additional hack that I use which you might want to consider. I plug a right-angle headphone adapter into the Aviom's headphone jack, then I plug a six-foot headphone extension cable into the right-angle adapter, and then I secure the headphone extension cable between the Aviom mixer and the stand adapter so that it cannot be pulled out of the right-angle adapter. This system will prevent the cable from being ripped out of the headphone jack, and if you're using heavy microphone stands, anyone who walks away from the Aviom system with their in-ear headphones will probably yank their headphone cable out of the extension cable.

aviom-mod-12

Christian Progressive Rock is a Small but Necessary Genre

I mean no disrespect to anyone - including my wife - but I personally find the majority of what is called "worship music" within the church to be insufferably boring when heard outside of a formal church service.

99% of the time that music is based around some arrangement of the I ii IV and V chords, with the occasional vi chord to mix things up.

I'd also say that 90% of the time that music has a time signature of 4/4, with another 7% of 3/4, and the remaining 3% being mostly of 6/8.

Adding insult to injury, most of the contemporary "worship" lyrics are utterly pedestrian and predictable. You could take a list of about 100 words from popular "worship songs" and write them on 3x5 cards, then toss them on a table and arrange them in some sort of random order and you'd pretty much have recreated the next Chris Tomlin "hit."

There was a time that I was working on an "Instant Worship" website as a joke, which would have used something akin to a "Mad Libs" type of algorithm to kick out random lyrics with bogus chord charts based on everything I have mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

Suffice it to say, if it were not for prog I would have gone crazy years ago. I accepted Jesus in my late teens in 1984, and I spent years listening to a conglomeration (or conflagration?) of Christian music's "rock music" offerings. Bands like Petra were the powerhouses in that genre, and yet - I had been listening to Rush and Yes and Genesis and a host of prog bands before my salvation; Petra was nowhere near the level of musicianship or complex arranging as secular proggers.

I had heard of Phil Keaggy in the late 70s, but it wasn't until I heard King's X in the early 90s that I thought, "Wow - a Christian band with serious prog skills." (Yes, I know King's X seriously backslid in later years, but in their heyday they were awesome.)

Iona and some other Christian proggers came along later, and several pieces from Iona's catalog definitely hit the mark. Although I know several prog fans who grow quickly tired by their Celtic influence. (Irish music doesn't appeal to everyone. Although I'm of Irish heritage so it works for me.) But still - I often feel that there's an itch that I just can't scratch when I think about Christian music. (Which, by the way, is the only music I buy.)

These days I have been particularly impressed by several of the spin off projects and musicians that are operating with Neal Morse's realm of influence. See the following video for an example of what I mean, although that particular song is more a pop/rock piece than prog until you get to the bridge, but having seen them live, holy cow - amazing musicians.

Some of the projects involving Matt Smith of Theocracy are also great. See the following video for Project Aegis as an example.

With all of that being said, more often than not I find that I cannot kick back and enjoy most of what exists within the banal realms of what Christian music typically has to offer, but I can get totally lost in a great prog piece of music.


UPDATE:

Much of what was written above was extracted from a post that I had made in the Christian Progressive Rock Online Gathering (CPROG) group on Facebook. Someone challenged my statements about Iona, to which I replied:

"Pieces here and there from Iona's catalog definitely hit the mark; that's why I intentionally singled them out. Although I know several prog fans who grow quickly tired by their Celtic influence. (Irish music doesn't appeal to everyone. Although I'm Irish so it works for me.)

However, if you look at the brilliance behind albums like
Fragile from Yes, or Lamb Lies Down on Broadway from Genesis, or Brain Salad Surgery from ELP, or Permanent Waves from Rush, etc., I can think of no albums in their entirety from the Christian Prog genre that approach those masterpieces. Because if they did, they'd also be popular outside of the incredibly tiny genre that is Christian Prog. So to reiterate: Iona is some of the best that Christian Prog has to offer, but overall - the Christian Prog genre is seldom everything that it could (or should) be.

PS - I should add that I have everything that Iona produced, to include their live videos. As far as Iona is concerned, I am quite the fanboy, and one of my regrets is that I never had the chance to see them live."

And then, much to my horror, Dave Baindbridge - one of the musical visionaries behind Iona - posted the following:

Thats' great Robert. Have you heard my albums Celestial Fire, and Veil of Gossamer? Both are more 'progressive' than most of my work with Iona. https://www.musicglue.com/iona/shop/categories/dave-bainbridge

I had to quickly re-read all of my earlier statements to see if I'd insulted Iona in any way... which I probably did. Not by intention, of course, but still... crap.

Sad smile

Yup, there's nothing quite like inadvertently insulting one of your favorite musicians in a public forum to remind yourself that anyone can read what you say.

Gary Numan - Forerunner of the Emo Genre

If you'll indulge me for a moment, I thought it would be fun to look at some music history and give you a laugh at a particular subgenre that used to be enormously popular, why it was important decades later, and where it's at now.

Smile

During the late 70s/early 80s, British New Wave and Synth Pop rose from the ashes of the quickly collapsing British Punk era. For what it's worth - I hated 1970s British Punk. I thought that the bulk of what that genre produced was absolute crap. However, several extremely popular bands emerged out of British Punk's decline; for example: U2, The Police, The Cure, Joy Division, and a host of other artists. Part of what made the British New Wave scene enormously successful was a heavy dependence on an explosion of new synthesizer technologies during the advent of the digital age. These new types of synthesizers were extremely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, but British Synth Pop bands used them differently than their American counterparts. For example, see bands like Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Yazoo, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Erasure, etc.

FWIW - the following Synth Britannia documentary is an excellent expository about the British Synth Pop genre. It's long, but it's amusing, and it's pretty nostalgic for those who listened to British New Wave during its heyday.

However, there was one artist who had a slightly different take than his musical contemporaries, and that was a vocalist named Gary Numan. He had a string of hits, and I will freely admit that his style is probably not most people's cup of tea. That being said, for a good example of Numan when he first hit the music scene in the late 1970s, see the following performance of his "Are Friends Electric" on BBC's "Top of the Pops," which was the TV show that you were invited to play in England when you had "arrived" as a musician. (PS - A lot of British artists became superstars overnight after playing on "Top of the Pops.")

As I said, Numan probably isn't many people's style, but that video is really funny when you think about it from an 80s perspective; the weird costumes, the strange lyrics, Numan's odd voice, and a plethora of synthesizers. And this is where Numan seemed to create his own subgenre that was a departure from his fellow synth-based colleagues, which we liked to refer to as "Science Fiction Rock" at the time, because there was something otherworldly about his approach.

However, recently Numan revealed that he has Asperger syndrome, which makes his success even more amazing. Performances like "Top of the Pops" might have been somewhat easier for Numan, because they were in a tightly controlled environment. Yet Numan was required to tour to sell albums, which makes performances like the following example all the more spectacular when you consider how hard it was for someone with Asperger syndrome to be in front of thousands of people.

I still freely admit that this additional video is probably even less appealing to many people. Although it's interesting, because it shows something that happened at a lot of his shows: he would spontaneously start laughing, but not lose his place. I think I heard Numan laugh on every live recording of him from back in the early 80s. I had always assumed that he was simply enjoying himself as a performer, but now I wonder if it was more of a coping mechanism of Asperger's.

Jumping ahead a few years in the music world, you can see how Numan was the progenitor for the later Emo genres. For example, here is "Are Friends Electric" in 1989, which is ten years after his "Top of the Pops" performance.

And the same song in 2003, which 20+ years later than his TOTP performance.

Note that I am using live versions of the same song simply to illustrate Numan's evolution over the years, and how he was always "Emo" before the industry caught up with him.

A good friend of mine from my late 70s/early 80s high school days just sent me the following video of Numan performing "Are Friends Electric" from a few years ago.

All of that brings us today's world. Numan's music has continued to change over the years, and the following video shows Numan performing "Are Friends Electric" with the Skaparis Orchestra.

I find it admirable that Numan is still performing despite his having Asperger syndrome; although to be honest, his more recent live videos have seemed as though he's a little less socially awkward in front of a crowd. Regardless, it's clear that he's still willing to evolve musically. But if it hadn't been for artists like Numan (and a few artists like him - e.g. Morrissey), we probably wouldn't have had the Emo genre. (That could be good -or- bad, depending on whether you like Emo. Personally, I think it has it's place.)


UPDATE: I mentioned earlier that I wanted to use Numan's performances of "Are Friends Electric" over the past 40 years just to chart how Numan changed and evolved musically, but I think it's worth taking a complete departure and showing some of the cool things that Numan has done more recently; like last year for example. To see what I mean, take a look at the following videos.

 

Personally, I think Emo music with Middle Eastern themes and an orchestra/choir works for Numan. His music is probably not most people's style, of course, and it's not necessarily my style, either. That being said, I still think it's... interesting.


UPDATE: The Synth Britannia documentary was the first video that I shared in this blog post, and I should mention that the program has a section that highlights Numan's importance to the British Synth Pop scene; here is the relevant excerpt from that documentary.

The Awesome Spectacle of Cygnus X-1

Back in my high school days when I was playing in rock bands, we would try to play Rush's Cygnus X-1, because it was nearly impossible to pull off. And it is probably for that reason that Rush didn't play it that often, either.

However, Rush pulled out all the stops on their final R40 tour, and they added this epic piece to their set list. But when the DVD was released sometime later, you couldn't appreciate the full spectacle of just how awesome the lights and lasers were during this instrumental.

The other day I happened to discover someone's cell phone recording from the back of the theater during the R40 show, and I combined it with the DVD's stage footage to create the following picture-in-picture video. (The picture-in-picture overlay kicks in around the 20-second mark.)

For all of the Rush fans out there - enjoy. For all of the non-Rush fans, it's okay - Geddy doesn't sing on this one.

Winking smile