Tuesday, 19 August 2014

10 Great Songs By Fictional Acts

Music can be inspired by any number of things: works of fiction, non-fiction, movies and even other songs. It can also be a helpful tool to tell a story, or sometimes a fictional story is about a musician or band. Those fantasy bands live in worlds where their songs have climbed the fictional charts...or maybe they've won Grammys in alternate universes. Whether it's a whole band or a solo artist here are 10 Great Songs By Fictional Acts

1. "Baby On Board" - The Be Sharps

Ahh, back when The Simpsons was filled with unstoppable jokes and genuine moments of heart and joy. So many of my generation owe their senses of humour and even portions of their personality to this animated juggernaut. To kick off the fifth season The Simpsons featured an episode parodying the career of The Beatles, with Homer at the helm of a Barbershop quartet. The actual quartet who penned the songs and provided the singing voices were Disneyland's own Dapper Dans. To this day the Dapper Dans still get the odd request for The Be Sharps hit "Baby On Board"....something something Burt Ward!

2. "Dharma Lady" - Geronimo Jackson

If you were a fan of ABC's hit show Lost, you know how packed full of mysteries and hidden gems each episode was. The producers and writers were all on board about keeping the secrets of the show safe and even got involved in some of the smoke screens. Geronimo Jackson were mentioned in one episode in Season 2 of Lost and were only mentioned a few more times throughout the series. The producers swore they were a real band that never really took off. One of their songs, "Dharma Lady" ,was even found on iTunes. It wasn't until after the show had ended that they admitted the band was made up for the show to add some mystique and Hippie-culture around the island-science fair that was the Dharma Initiative. California natives The Donkeys got the credit for performing the song.

3. "Pina Coladaburg" - Coconut Pete

Broken Lizard is a comedy troupe who have made the jump to the big screen with such cult favourites as The Slammin' Salmon, Beerfest and Super Troopers. Their foray into the slasher-flick mix was the ill-received Club Dread released in 2004. It's a shame really as it features Bill Paxton in a hilarious role: the tired, washed out, former gulf & western musician Coconut Pete. An obvious riff on Jimmy Buffett, Coconut Pete's biggest hit was "Pina Coladaburg" a song he claims to have written 7 years before Buffett release d "Margaritaville". In real life Jimmy Buffett was so amused by the homage he asked permission to perform several Coconut Pete tracks on tour.

4. "I Ejaculate Fire" - Dethklok

Dethklok are the fictional death metal group from the Adult Swim cartoon Metalocaplypse. Their style, background and even names are all plays on cliches from the metal world and obvious homages to such groups as Megadeth, Mayhem, and Mastodon. This track "I Ejaculate Fire" is an obvious nod to the Cannibal Corpse song "I Cum Blood". Dethklok have also come to life and have toured songs from the show with various players from the genre's history taking on performing duties.

5. "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" - Spinal Tap

Perhaps the biggest fictional band of all time. This Is Spinal Tap was a 1984 mockumentary that was revolutionary in being one of the first of it's kind, and one of the first major tongue-in-cheek jabs at the rock scene. Spinal Tap was the made up aging, hard rock group looking back on their times as a band and taking a hard look at their current place in rock revelance.  If you've not seen it and consider yourself a fan of music, film and comedy or all three, make this one a priority. The songs aren't bad either.

6. "Soul Man" - The Blues Brothers

Though this song is not an original recording, Jake and Elwood Blues' version of  "Soul Man" peaked in the US at #14. The Blues Brothers first saw the light of the day on Saturday Night Live. Cast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd bonded over their shared love of the blues and would spend nights at a rented hall jamming on old blues tunes with the many musicians who would come and go in the SNL family. A few sketches on SNL and it became clear that the Blues Brothers were a hit. A movie was made in 1980 directed by John Landis as well as several albums. Belushi's death in 1982 put a damper on the Blues Brother's legacy, though Aykroyd continues to make appearances as Elwood Blues to this day.

7. "Mad About Me" - Figrin D'an & The Modal Nodes

George Lucas' classic 1977 film Star Wars was known for it's impressive effects, captivating story and universal appeal. The music in the film was also a notable point of interest. John Williams composed the score of the film though within the confines of the Star Wars universe one of the most memorable songs from one of the movies best scenes is the Catina Band's little ditty "Mad About Me". The song wasn't named until years later, but the alien band in the strange spaceport juke joint was known as Figrin D'an & The Modal Nodes. Next to the Darth Vader's "Imperial March", the Cantina Band's catchy little song, might be the best known song from the Star Wars galaxy.

8. "That Thing You Do" - The Oneders

The Wonders (who were sick of their name being pronounced "Oh-nee-ders", hence the change) were the subject of the 1996 film That Thing You Do! Written, directed and starring Tom Hanks it told the story of many young musical acts of the 50's, 60's and 70's through the fictional 4 piece pop act The Wonders. It dealt with the excitement of having a meteoric rise in the music industry and then the realization that you're only ever known for one song. In this case this film's title song "That Thing You Do" was written by Fountains Of Wayne frontman Adam Schlesinger and the single itself was only released on cassette tape and vinyl.

9. "U + Me = Us (Calculus)" - 2Gether

2Gether were a stab at the resurgence of Boy Bands such as N'Sync, BackStreet Boys and 98 Degrees of the late 90's early 00's. They had the all the archetypal members that every boy band needs to succeed from the "Bad Boy" to the "Cute One" to the "Older Brother Figure". Their television series 2Gether lasted 2 seasons, when Michael Cuccione (the Cute One) succumbed to cancer, the band and show disbanded.

10. "Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?" - Hard Core Logo

Canadians love their Mockumentaries. Fubar, Fubar II and Trailer Park Boys all come to mind as successful Canadian contributions to the genre. In 1996, though, before all those there was Hard Core Logo a fake documentary taking a look at the lives of those within the punk industry. It tells the story of Hard Core Logo a tempermental Canadian punk band's reunion and deconstruction and is actually the film were Toronto band Billy Talent took their name. Though a proper soundtrack was never released, in 1998 a tribute to the songs of Hard Core Logo came out featuring other acts performing the film's famous songs. Hard Core Logo is often viewed as one of the best films to come out of Canada and is highly recommended.

Thanks again for reading!!!

Remember life is a bed of roses...watch out for the pricks!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

10 Great Violent Songs

Great violent songs. Now i'm not encouraging going out and whipping up a fury of uppercuts on people around you. The freedom to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose. Remember that. Always love, but sometimes emotions run red and they run high. That's where a great violent song comes in. Turn it up loud and let that frustration out by banging your head to a song that is singing about what you're feeling inside. Here are 10 Great Violent songs.

1. "The Fight Song" - Marilyn Manson

Controversy champion from the late 90's and 00's, Marilyn Manson is a good place to kick this list off. "The Fight Song" is a high energy anthem for those who feel the world is against them. Since it is a song by Marilyn Manson, many media outlets analyzed it for offensive content and figured it was glorifying the shootings at Columbine. Poppycock, merely grasping at straws, as Manson was simply trying to exemplify that sports can be seen just as violent as anything.

2. "Little Black Backpack" - Stroke 9

Stroke 9 were a Californian band that had it's first major hit in 1999 with "Little Black Backpack". Quite the mouthful. The song is right on that verge between 90's grunge rock and 00's nu-metal and it seems to be about pummeling someone with their girlfriend's napsack. Stroke 9 are probably best known for their only other single the less ambiguous but equally as violent "Kick Some Ass". These guys had some anger issues.

3. "Believer" - Chantal Kreviazuk

Kreviazuk appeared on the Canadian music scene in 1997 with her debut album Under These Rocks & Stones. The album was great and spawned numerous singles. To this day she is known for her songwriting ability, piano playing and distinct voice. She is also one half of a Canadian music power couple since marrying Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida in 1999. So it's easy to forget that she once was so angry that she wrote a song about smashing some guy in the face with her microphone stand.

4. "Stranglehold" - Ted Nugent

Known as one of the best arena-shaking hard rock tracks of all time, "Stranglehold" is perhaps Nugent's best known song. He didn't sing lead on the track though and left that duty to Derek St. Holmes who also played rhythm guitar. Nugent so resented the attention St. Holmes got when this song was performed that he insisted on singing on every hit since. To quote Nugent "There's only one alpha wolf, and that's me".

5."Break Stuff" - Limp Bizkit

Limp Bizkit had a meteoric rise in the late 90's with their album 3 Dollar Bill Y'all. That success would continue into the 2000s with releases Significant Other and to a lesser extent Chocolate Starfish & The Hotdog Flavored Water. I feel kind of odd typing that. Majority of their success was from easily accessible, angry-youth targeted rap metal. "Break Stuff" was a perfect song for a generation that just had no clue what they were doing. This song's big claim to fame came at Woodstock '99 when Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst urged the crowd to let loose during this song. The crowd responded by tearing down barricades, scaling TV towers and creating plenty of meaty headlines for the wary press to broadcast to the world.

6. "Punching In A Dream" - The Naked and Famous

Hailing from Aukland, New Zealand, The Naked and Famous' first hit was 2010's "Punching In A Dream". They've since released their second album and have had their music featured in such shows as The Vampire Diaries, World of Jenks and several video games as well. While the song isn't inherently violent, it still conjures up a violent (and relatable) image of punching in slow motion.

7. "Beat On The Brat" - The Ramones

One of the biggest punk acts to come of New York City was the Ramones. Throw a rock and you'll hit a band that was inspired by them. Living in Queens, a suburb of NYC, Joey Ramone remembers seeing many upper class, snooty women with little pissant kids. The type that you just want to be 'beat on with a baseball bat'. A classic song is born.

8. "Smack My Bitch Up" - The Prodigy

Though The Prodigy maintain that the song's title refers to doing something with vigor and intensity, when you name a song "Smack My Bitch Up" and give it a hot techno beat, it's going to cause a stir. Just like in most cases of a song creating controversy, the "bad press" around "Smack My Bitch Up" actually helped boost the sales of their album The Fat Of The Land and The Prodigy decided to make an equally controversial video to accompany the song.

9. "Fightstarter Karaoke" - Dropkick Murphys

It might be drunken brawling inspired by a night of competitive whiskey shooting, but let's hope the heroes described in this song by The Dropkick Murphys could still pat each other on the back after the fight and share a pint or two.

10. "Cop Killer" - Body Count

Perhaps the most controversial song on this list. Now this list wasn't about controversial songs, though I should do that one of these days, but I felt I should do both ends of the arc on the violent song scale. The front man of Body Count was Ice-T who grew up running with many gangs and got the idea for the song by seeing the police force as his opponent. Not aiming the song towards police in general, but a view point from someone taking an extreme stand against the brutal and unjust cops who felt they were above the law. Obviously when it was released there was a public outcry. Many organizations called for a boycott, Body Count's own label pulled the song from the record in fear of government ramifications and Tipper Gore herself compared the song to Nazi propaganda. Ice T felt the controversy had overshadowed the song's merit and agreed to re-release the album without "Cop Killer" and instead gave it away as a free single. In an interesting twist Ice-T can now be seen on TV's Law & Order SVU playing a detective.

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Sunday, 10 August 2014

10 Great Songs With Random Guest Artists

Being in a band for a prolonged period of time allows someone to make some great friendships and connections from around the music industry. Sure it's a job to these people, but the love of their craft i'm sure still exists within them. So when these musicians get together for a few drinks and start chatting about being on each other's recordings the results of that are often times great. That's how I picture it going down in my head anyway. Here are 10 great songs that feature special guest artists.

1. "Don't Drink The Water" - Dave Matthews Band
Special Guest: Alanis Morrisette

From Dave Matthews Band fantastic album Before These Crowded Streets.  The song is about the slaughter of the Native American people during the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. Listen for Morrisette's trademark vocals at the end of the song, highlighting Matthews' own passionate wail.

2. "Money For Nothing" - Dire Straits
Special Guest: Sting

Perhaps Dire Straits' most well known song "Money For Nothing" features guest vocals by The Police frontman Sting. Sting was visiting the recording studio at the time and was asked to lay down some backing vocals. He was also granted writing credit on the song because near the end of it he can be heard singing "I want my MTV" which he did the tune of his own song 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. Sting was embarrassed that his own Record Company demanded writing credit for the song just so they would receive royalties.

3. "The Widow" - The Mars Volta
Special Guest: Flea

The only song suitable for pop-oriented radio off of  The Mars Volta's Frances The Mute is "The Widow". That is not the only interesting thing about the song though as Flea, bass player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs on the track. He puts down his bass here in favour of a trumpet solo at the peak of the song. In Flea's younger days he was something of a trumpet prodigy. Flea has been known to contribute to many artists' works over the years including Alanis Morrisette, Jewel, Warren Zevon and Tom Waits.

4. "Don't Cry" - Guns n' Roses
Special Guest: Shannon Hoon

Guns N' Roses' juggernaut double album Use Your Illusion I & II had a vast array of musical guests on the tracks. I singled out Shannon Hoon because when he contributed his backing vocals it was before he had made it big with Blind Melon. Shannon's sister at the time was friends with Axl Rose in California and Axl was impressed with Hoon's vocal range. Not only did Axl invite him to sing backup on a few tracks, Hoon was also asked to be in the video for "Don't Cry".

5. "Somebody's Watching Me" - Rockwell
Special Guest: Michael Jackson

I know what you're thinking, who the hell is Rockwell and how did he get the King of Pop to sing on his track? Especially when this was released at the height of Michael's popularity. Well, Rockwell was the son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, so of course he is going to have the means to make a record. Rockwell's sister at the time was married to Jermaine Jackson, Michael's brother. With both those connections he knew if he could get MJ on the track it would be a hit. It was. It hit #2 in 1984. Rockwell did little else after the buzz of this track died down.

6. "The Memory Remains" - Metallica
Special Guest: Marianne Faithful

Metallica has always been known as an iron-clad fortress. It's 4 guys and 4 guys only. No one else in charge or demand of their destiny but themselves. Which is why it is a notable occurrence that in 1997 they invited Marianne Faithful to add vocals to the lead off Reload single "The Memory Remains". Faithful's lines near the end of the song "Say yes...atleast say hello" were Marilyn Monroe's final onscreen words taken from her last movie The Misfits. The song is about an aging Hollywood starlet fading into obscurity and slowly losing her mind.

7. "Tranquilize" - TheKillers
Special Guest: Lou Reed

Sawdust is an album of b-sides, rarities and cover songs released by The Killers in 2007. "Tranquilize" was a song taken from the Sam's Town sessions and features the legendary Lou Reed. Reed has a reputation for being difficult to work with and the band reportedly had a 'respectable fear' of him. It took a day for Lou Reed to warm up to The Killers, but the energy that was created with him being there ended up helping the song considerably.

8. "Province" - TV On The Radio
Special Guest: David Bowie

TV On The Radio is a rock group from Brooklyn, NY. They don't tend to limit themselves to any one style of music, which is a trait I adore in bands in artists. The more i've heard from these guys the more i've enjoyed. Definitely one of my favourite groups at the moment. I'm not quite sure how David Bowie came to be on this track, probably one of those 'ask and ye shall receive' situations.

9. "I Will Buy You A New Life" - Everclear
Special Guest: Rami Jaffee

Rami Jaffee is probably best known for being the keyboard/organ player for The Wallflowers, but he is quite the sought after session musician. He's been on albums by artists like Foo Fighters, Coheed & Cambria, Stone Sour and Soul Asylum. I singled out his contribution to Everclear's "I Will Buy You A New Life" because he also appears in the video for the song. The guy on the accordion.

10. "Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart" - Against Me!
Special Guest: Tegan Quinn

"Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart" was Against Me!'s front woman's song to her wife. Laura Jane Grace was Tom Gabel at the time and was against falling in love. Tegan Quinn (from Tegan and Sara) was brought in to give the song a back and forth. A Conversational feel. Against Me!'s first song to feature a guest vocalist.

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JZ - OUT!!!