Recently, I posted mp3s of Side A and Side B of Paul McCartney’s “Ram,” played on 45 RPM instead of 33. Last night, a visitor downloaded Side A and decided to make it sound just as low as it does on 33!
My friend Hunter pointed out that this new version has some odd “stereo imaging” problems, and I agree – it’s a bit warbly. But the little track has been through so much! It was sourced from a dollar-bin record, digitized by going through the 1/8″ headphone jack of my cheap portable turntable into the 1/8″ jack of my old Macintosh laptop, processed a little in Garageband, sent to iTunes, converted to .mp3, downloaded by Mr. Benard, (possibly) converted into .wav or .aiff, pitch-corrected in Audacity, and (possibly) converted back to .mp3. It’s kind of ridiculous!
My roommate, Adam, thinks that this version is way better. Even though it’s got some audio eccentricities, he’s willing to look past those because the lack of chipmunkness in Mr. Benard’s remix helps him to take the track “more seriously.” I think, after a couple of listens and careful consideration, that I agree with him.
But anyway… good job, Internet! This is so cool! Maybe one day Paul will issue an official version that employs studio wizardry to keep fidelity whilst changing both speed and pitch. We can dream.
You probably know that Teddy Roosevelt ascended to the presidency after William McKinley was shot and killed by anarchist Leon Czolgosz while watching a Led Zeppelin concert at the mystical Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York.
Leon Czolgosz, anarchist and president-killer.
Did you know, however, that the assassin’s execution by electrocution was caught on film by Thomas Edison, making it one of the first “moving pictures” in history?
Teddy Roosevelt was at that execution, and you can see him in the film. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the man on the left is Roosevelt. The president wanted to stand in for the executioner, but was not allowed to do so because he was not properly trained in the safety precautions necessary to successfully operate turn-of-the-century electric chairs.
Even though he didn’t get to flip the switch, you can tell from the film that Roosevelt is having quite the “bully” time. After Czolgosz’s death, he’s the one who mockingly checks the corpse’s vital signs and gives a “thumbs up” to Edison:
The execution film was such a wild success that it catapulted Roosevelt into the stratosphere as the world’s first “movie star.” While official duties forced him to decline the offer, he was sought by Warner Bros. for the lead roll in a series of silent shorts based upon the works of Horatio Alger.
Today is Flag Day. One Flag Day, 102 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt bludgeoned someone with a stick because he was blowing his nose on the American flag. Roosevelt did not know the man, who met with the president’s cane because he just happened to be dining near Teddy. He also didn’t apologize to the man (but rather hit him once more) after finding out that he was actually not blowing his nose on the American flag but on a normal handkerchief.
Normally when I write about Teddy Roosevelt, what I write is silly, fictional, or hyperbolic. That’s not the case with this story. This story actually happened, in 1908, when Roosevelt presided over the Executive Branch of these United States.
The reaction to the posting was pretty positive; a few people told me that Ram was one of their favorite records and that hearing it on 45 brought new life to an old friend. Others told me that they hated the original Ram but liked this. Others complained that Paul wasn’t as “serious” as John, told me they were the walrus, and cursed. Still others had no opinion whatsoever.
Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” has been the soundtrack of my last two weeks or so. It is totally the best thing I’ve heard since Young Money’s “Bedrock,” and it’s better on a whole than even that mighty jam.
I had mixed feelings about Gaga before “Alejandro.”
From her first record, I’d heard “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.” “Poker Face” completely sucks – its hook is annoying, and its chorus (“Can’t read my, can’t read my, can’t read my pooooker face”) comes off as a weak bailout rather than a payoff; it’s a stunning example of bad songwriting. “Just Dance,” albeit better constructed, has a reprehensible lyrical theme (I can’t explain why I’m not similarly repulsed by “Tik Tok,” but I guess I’m just a hypocrite). The sounds of those singles were actually improved when they were appropriated by others, as in German singer Cascada’s “Evacuate the Dancefloor.”
“Bad Romance,” the lead single from Gaga’s second record, kicks ass. Upon hearing it on a mixed CD I got from Kyle Mabson, the track’s sheer power began to make warm up to the singer, who had improved drastically as a composer since “Poker Face.” But then came the follow-up single, “Telephone,” an old song Gaga had demoed for Britney Spears and then dug up for an easy hit. While the song definitely has a compelling and catchy chorus, my newly found feelings of goodwill for Gaga were lost as a result of that single’s Kindergarden-stupid lyrics, schmaltzy intro, overblown and unnecessarily vulgar music video, ill-conceived guest appearance by the increasingly-boring Beyoncé, and musical extension of the same autotune-buried hiccupy repetition that marred “Poker Face” so badly.
So I was basically done with Gaga until I started to hear “Alejandro” on the radio. The first time, I was driving on the freeway and I tuned into the song right as the chorus popped – I got stoked because I thought from the word “don’t” and the general timbre of the track that I had tuned into Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around,” a jam I’m always pleased to bump at full volume whenever I encounter it.
After getting over my initial disappointment that I was not listening to Ace of Base, I was able to appreciate what it was that I was actually hearing. After about a week of catching it on KIIS 102.7, I was infatuated. The song is a gorgeous update of Ace of Base, taking that group’s well-articulated adoration of ABBA and propping it up with monstrous 21st-century synthesizers (in contrast to Ace of Base’s “dude in a garage with a Casio” aesthetic). Others have heard shades of Shakira and Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” in “Alejandro,” and those references are also apt.
Yet the Gaga song is more than derivative. Tying her influences together with a cutesy Latin soap opera theme, Gaga hasn’t copied anyone but rather created a loving and humorous pastiche of all these styles in a song that is nonetheless distinctly modern and unique. Despite having such a clear and tangible lineage, “Alejandro” really doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio right now. And I can’t stop listening.
A little over a year ago, the blog Aquarium Drunkard released a record called Ram On LA, a “Los Angeles Music Sampler” that featured bands like Earlimart, the Parson Redheads, and Le Switch covering tracks from Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram. I originally heard about the record from my neighbor Scott, and I appreciate the concept for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Paul is my favorite member of the Beatles, but I don’t think he normally gets the respect he deserves. Thus, I’m glad to see him get a tribute. The other reason I’m down with record is that Ram (at least side A) is one of my favorite albums. It’s cool to realize that I, in my taste at least, keep such illustrious company!
Yet, while Ram is one of my favorite albums, I absolutely never listen to the record as originally intended. I got the mp3s of it once, and I tried to jam to them in the car. I hated them, though – they seemed so listless and lacking in energy.
See, my Ram isn’t like that.
I bought the record in the mid 2000s at Amoeba for a dollar. It was during a phase in my life wherein I bought a whole lot of records at Amoeba for a dollar and didn’t necessarily listen to them until months after the purchase. Ram was one of those records that I bought and shelved for some potential later date.
At the time I was living in a very full house with Pizza!, and we shared vinyl. While I apparently was only nominally interested in Ram, Alex found it on the shelf and decided to give it a spin. The turntable was on 45 when he did, and for some reason he didn’t notice. He accidentally played the record at the faster speed – and loved it!
After falling in love with the fast version of Ram, Alex played it for us. We all agreed that it was incredible. I, personally, was hooked.
I’ve listened to Ram on 45 a whole lot, but I’ve barely listened to it on 33. And while my initial love affair with it was a few years ago, I’ve gotten back into it pretty hard lately. Coincidentally, the other day it was the topic of conversation at a party; fortunately it was a party with a turntable and a copy of Ram. My friend Kyle S said that he had a natural aversion to things that sounded “chipmunky” because of some bad experiences with Christmas records when he was a kid. My buddy Dan C proposed that people in the era of Ram were so drugged-out that slow music appealed to them more, and he used Paul’s own “Helter Skelter” as an example. Both of them really dug Ram when it was played fast. Kyle even said that he wasn’t that interested in listening to the record at 33. I nodded my head to that. Ram on 33 sucks compared to Ram on 45!
Increasing the speed on Ram does, I must admit, “chipmunk” it. But what’s lost in low-end is more than compensated for by the gain in sheer passion, danceability, and drive. Paul and Linda made the record while on vacation on a farm in Scotland, and unsurprisingly it’s a bit sluggish in execution. Perhaps because of that, speeding it up by a few revolutions per minute really doesn’t make it that fast – especially not for me, as a listener almost forty years later with new context and ears for punk rock. The extra kick makes the songs more compelling, I think. There’s an added element of joy in songs like “Dear Boy” (which isn’t particularly happy at all when played at its original speed) and “Smile Away” (a song that is totally, completely, painfully, appallingly, and miserably boring on 33 but has a peculiar and jovial spring in its step on 45).
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is truly and delightfully weird in any incarnation, and it’s even more delightful and weird on 45.
Anyway – after talking about Fast Ram at that party, I decided that I wanted to digitize it. I didn’t want to just listen to it at home, because I love it so much. And after digitizing it, I figured it was a good idea to share it – so here it is.
This is just Side A. I didn’t have time to do Side B, but I’ll do it in a few days if people are interested (NOTE: Side B was uploaded on May 14 and is available here). Honestly, I haven’t listened to Side B that much. But Side A is pretty much my favorite Beatles record… so there you go.
Last night at Pehrspace, my friend Steven presented me with a Justin Timberlake marionette that he had purchased at a thrift store. The marionette was produced in honor of *Nsync’s “No Strings Attached” tour, which is strange because there are definitely strings attached to the doll.
Anyway, Justin and I have become fast friends over the last few hours– in fact, when I tried to leave for work this morning he asked if he could tag along with me. I didn’t really know if his triple-threat singing/dancing/acting skill set would translate well to the office, but he said that he’d be lonely at home and perhaps really annoyed by the whiny cat. I didn’t want him to be miserable, so I figured I’d bring him.
Despite my misgivings, he’s doing great! Justin seems to like this place just as much as I do.
Here’s a snapshot of him being productive:
Getting a bellyrub:
Watching the clock, which is backwards of course because this is a Korean company: