My book chapter, “Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music,” appears in: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield: Essays on the TV Series and Town That Are Part of Us All (McFarland, 2019)
On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles (a.k.a., The White Album, 1968), I’ve just listened to the whole album for the first time in years. My first thought is that it’s inconsistent and far too eclectic. It sometimes tries to one-up earlier Beatles’ songs but never really succeeds at that. For example, “Glass Onion” and “Honey Pie” both try way too hard. Similarly, the album is so long and sprawling that it even quotes itself several times, but never in a good, thematically-unifying way. The album also wants to help establish the potential of the individual Beatles’ solo careers, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Don’t Pass Me By” do that pretty well for George Harrison and Ringo Starr. However, even with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Blackbird,” “Julia,” and “Helter Skelter,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney both still arguably have better material elsewhere. Half of the double album could have been (and probably should have been) B-sides. However, they decided not to release any singles from the album (let alone B-sides), in favour of releasing a single of the same period’s “Hey Jude” and the faster, more pop-oriented version of “Revolution”–neither or which is on the more than 93-minute album. It’s hard to imagine that the 50th Anniversary, “Super Deluxe,” special edition of the album comprises up to seven discs of material. Very few people are going to need to hear a “bright new mix,” obscure demos, abandoned versions, and an eventual guitar solo hummed by Paul McCartney. Besides, Revolver (1966) and Abbey Road (1969) are much better albums.
This article begs the question as to what “skim writing” might entail. Academic research and writing seem like an awful lot of trouble, given that it takes a long time to produce with almost no-one encountering it after all that. Also, Malcolm Gladwell and others are just going to reorganize selected parts of it, anyhow. Why not skip the middle man? Why shouldn’t we try to get to “deep digital” parallels to writing and reading?
The Eagles’ 1976 album Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (with 38 million copies sold) has once again supplanted Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller (with 33 million copies sold) as the top-selling album of all time, at least in the US. Who cares?
Amanda Petrusich, in her New Yorker article about the situation, accomplishes very little other than to reveal she finds that the Jackson album “provokes” (without once specifying how or why), whereas the Eagles’ greatest hits collection “placates” (though also somehow imbuing “dread” and/or a “swirling beige inertia”).
Given the existence of Hardcore Punk, Death Metal, New Age, Smooth Jazz, and various other musical genres not explored by Michael Jackson or by the Eagles, I find it extremely difficult to consider either of those artists to be particularly provocative or placating. Also, none of this takes into account the fact that both artists uniquely arrived at their mainstream pop successes by merging other styles. The Eagles combined singer-songwriter and country-rock approaches into a kind of rock super-group aesthetic (and certainly with rather less “major chord ubiquity” after 1975), whereas Jackson combined R&B, urban/dance pop, and rock elements into a compelling amalgam.
Do any of the details about music sales actually matter, though, when tens of millions of people now listen to most of the music they encounter–and frequently without buying anything–on such streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube? Probably not. Could music writers please get around to discussing music in more useful ways? Same answer, unfortunately.
Email greeting from a cell phone provider: “undefined, get ready for back to school … .”
A. That’s Dr. Undefined to you, and B. I really should stop going back to school!
We had another lovely visit to Vicky’s family’s cottage at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York from August 2-14. The vacation included kayaking, a little hiking, swimming, hanging out with ducks, loons, and llamas (!); playing fetch with Dougal, board games (which are some of Gareth’s favourite things), souvenir shopping, barbecues, ice cream, pizza and wings, mini golf, reading, visitors from Utica and Vermont, Emma playing piano at the nearby chapel, and more!
Speaking of the Big Moose Community Chapel, at their annual Bazaar they played recordings of Gordon Lightfoot songs as a warm-up, so I decided maybe we should be allowed to call Adirondack Chairs “Muskoka Chairs” after all!
UPDATED on June 18th, 2018: Under the forthcoming “Progressive” Conservative majority government in Ontario, taxes will basically only be saved by corporations and rich people, the salaries of the CEO and board of directors of now-non-public Hydro One will somehow be magically adjusted (instead of returning the agency to public hands and actually fixing it), and Doug Ford’s first-promised measure as Premier–getting rid of the cap-and-trade environmental measures–pretty much guarantees that the province will end up instead having an actual carbon tax assessed upon it by the federal government. Those are just for starters.
It will not take very long for the Conservative government to find that, in order to save the money it vaguely has in mind, it will also have to make drastic cuts to health, education, infrastructure, other social services, and so on. No “little guy” will benefit from any of that. Research also shows that the PCs, despite their presumed status as financially prudent, seem to have had the worst fiscal/deficit projections from among the three main parties (NDP, Liberal, PC). In addition, Doug Ford is a millionaire businessman who took over a company from his father, did not run the business very well, is intolerant and inelegant, has said and done numerous stupid things, has associated with questionable people (most of whom support him), and has no political experience (at this level). Does that sound familiar? It should!
The PCs got 60% of the seats (76 of 124) with only 40% of the votes, which just provides yet another example that some kind of fairer, run-off or proportional, voting system needs to be implemented in this province and this country. The NDP will now form the official opposition (with 40 seats), and the incumbent Liberals have now lost official party status (with only seven seats). On the other hand, the Green Party of Ontario elected its party leader as its first MPP.
The Season 4 Remix (2018) of Arrested Development stretches the fifteen original, overlapping, character-based episodes (2013) out to twenty-two. It’s so repetitive that it keeps repeating things repeatedly and repeats them all repetitively with no end of the repetition in sight. Given the multiple points of view already present in the originally-released Season 4, they could have just as easily edited it down to eleven episodes, instead of adding more repetition to come up with twenty-two. I get that 22-episode seasons is the industry standard for syndication, etc., but even the cast members are not happy about their work being extended in such a way. It also just seems like an ill-advised ploy to promote the show in advance of the upcoming Season 5 (2018). The whole thing feels like George Sr.’s Steamboat Willie-ing of the purported US-Mexican border wall.
Here’s my bio for a forthcoming book about The Simpsons (McFarland, 2018, edit: actually 2019), in which I have a chapter called “Be Sharp: The Simpsons & Music.” [I also have a semi-related journal article coming out in MUSICultures in 2020.]
Durrell Bowman has a Ph.D. in Musicology (UCLA, 2003), a Certificate in Computer Applications Development (2010), and a Master of Library and Information Science (2018). For about a decade, he developed and taught music history courses as an adjunct or visiting instructor at seven institutions all across North America. He has also worked as a semi-professional choral singer, built websites, and presented numerous conference papers, including several on music in The Simpsons. In addition, he has written books, book chapters, journal articles, media and book reviews, reference entries, and program notes. His books are: Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and Rush and Philosophy: Heart and Mind United (co-editor and three chapters, Open Court Publishing, 2011). He hails from what Homer refers to as “America Junior” and agrees with Marge that “grad students just made a terrible life choice.”