After reading a bunch of interviews related to the new Tori Amos album, I created this cheat sheet for music journalists:
Seriously people — get a new angle for your stories. It’s getting old (no pun intended).
In Only Seven Days, otherwise known in our household as the Queen Poconos Song.
We call it that in honor of the commercials for Pocono Mountains tourism that aired endlessly in New York State in the 80s and 90s. There’s something in the melody of In Only Seven Days that reminds me of a jingle from one of those ads. Also, the lyrics are, like, perfect.
There were a lot of these ads, and plenty of them have been ripped off of VHS and uploaded to YouTube. Most of them are for Mount Airy Lodge, a resort hotel.
This is the one I remember best:
Points for a clear message. Even as a tot, I understood: The Poconos will get you laid.
Here’s another one that’s a little bit older:
Only in the 1980s could you make a television ad using nothing but still images and a zoom effect,
According to their Wikipedia entry, the 1980s were the beginning of the end for Mount Airy Lodge. Once known as “America’s premier honeymoon hideaway, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, velvet-swagged canopy beds, and heart-shaped bathtubs,” they experienced a severe downturn when boozy middle-aged couples started going on cruises instead of getting wrinkly in anatomy-shaped jacuzzis. These ads were probably a last-ditch effort to sell the whole resort getaway thing to the yuppie generation.
It didn’t work and, after the property was sold in the 2000s, they demolished what was there and built the new Mount Airy Casino. I checked out their website and it was pretty generic, minus the giant Chippendale’s banner on the front page. Pretty sad.
I guess we’ll always have the commercials.
Thomas Dolby: The Nikola Tesla of 1980s synthesizer music.
Worst band name ever? Best version of this song? Yes and yes.
This is a reference to a phrase I coined — Low Sperm Count Rock (LSCR) — to describe the late period decline/over-commercialism of popular musicians. Whether caused by fame-induced megalomania, born-again Scientology or even just too many years spent in and around Los Angeles, the end result is the same: Coca-Cola endorsements and a gig at the Superbowl Halftime Show. I’m not going to name names…
They’re big boys; they can take it.
And then there are the musician’s musicians — the people who, even after enjoying a period of fame and/or fortune, remain focused on the capital-M Music.
Allan Holdsworth is just such a guy. Idolized by guitar nerds as a creative virtuoso, he’s known for his unique and lyrical guitar playing (reportedly influenced by jazz saxophonists like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker). He’s played with a number of different configurations over the years, the current being a trio with Jimmy Haslip on bass and Virgil Donati on drums. When I heard the tour was coming through Northampton, I got us tickets.
We got to the show a few minutes early and grabbed a booth. A look around revealed a sea of ponytails — many of them gray, all of them attached to men. As someone with two X chromosomes who likes both jazz and progressive rock, I’ve gotten kind of used to living outside the line graph. But it’s really something to think you might be the only girl in an entire club. After much searching I found a table of 3 women, but all were deeply focused on their phones: Girlfriends. I spied their menfolk a few tables over huddled around tall glasses of amber beer.
The opening band was Marbin, which consisted of a saxophonist, guitarist, bass player and drummer. The music was fun and interesting, and incorporated a few klezmer-esque key changes into jazzy grooves (the guitarist and horn player hailed from Israel). They told a funny anecdote about going on tour in the Deep South and playing for a bunch of neo-nazi jazz fusion fans. Really. It was funny.
Maybe you had to be there.
At this point, the guys with the cell phone girlfriends were deep in lustful head-bobbing and foot-tapping.
After a short break, the Holdsworth Band took the stage.
As one of the most modest professional musicians alive, Holdsworth skipped both the loudspeaker announcement thing and the humble-brag self-introduction (mumbling “we’re X band…and uh, we’re gonna play some songs…”) and launched right into the set, which included vibrant re-envisionings of personal faves like Tokyo Dream and Devil Take the Hindmost.
I immediately dug the bass player, Jimmy Haslip. He’s a musician who displays the kind of insane boundless creativity that makes other musicians consider becoming accountants. Even the girlfriends stopped fiddling with their phones and looked up.
Not taken from this concert, but a good demonstration of his playing. Right now you are thinking deeply about becoming a CPA.
I also really, really liked Virgil Donati’s powerful, aggressive percussion style. It added a nice edginess to Holdsworth’s fluid lines. Somewhere towards the end of the show he had a solo that featured so much superfast bass pedal that I suspected he must keep a secret third foot stored under the kit.
Props also have to go out to the audience, who for the most part really behaved themselves. I admit it; I am a serious curmudgeon when it comes to seeing live music. If it were up to me, bouncers would pitch out audience members at the first sign of awkward first date chit-chat, singing along with the band, or excessive “woo-ing.” Concerts are for listening, amiright?
Of course, not everyone agrees with this aesthetic and I’ve come to accept that plenty of people go out to a club to engage in an awkward mating ritual over the din of giant amps. But it’s definitely a special treat when the rest of the audience seems as interested in listening to the band as I am.
The tour’s now in Europe, so if you find yourself on the other side of the pond you should definitely catch a show. And if you can’t, check out this performance from the 2012 NAMM show (featuring keyboardist Dennis Hamm):