Bryan Ferry’s Whistle: An Observation on an Aspect of Millennial Culture

You do not have to click on the links to fully appreciate this post. But it may help.


Last weekend, after much awaiting with bated breath by we at the Addison Recorder, Baz Luhrmann’s film version (version being the key word) of The Great Gatsby opened in cinemas. This piece is not about The Great Gatsby as a movie, especially since none of us have seen it, although I will return to the subject before the end. It is about the soundtrack to a degree, for while the soundtrack is on the surface as misguided as the film, there is one thing the music gets right.  For a few minutes, the film’s score gives way to a singer whose suave, languid, sophisticated persona was made for Fitzgerald, and who has in all likelihood inspired many of his fellow Gatsby contributors, including Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey, and even the tuxedo-clad master of ceremonies Jay-Z, with his theatrical, high-art musical stylings—Bryan Ferry.

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Recorded Conversations: New Favorites from 2012

Welcome to “Recorded Conversations,” an occasional feature where all the Addison Recorder editors contribute their thoughts about a question, idea, or prompt. Everyone will chime in, and then we see where the conversation wanders.

Question: To ring in the New Year on the Recorder, we look to our recent past and ask “What new thing (or things) that you discovered in 2012 has become one of your favorites?”

I need to limit myself on this one. When this idea first trickled across my brain it was as an idea for a full-blown article, not a shorter Conversation piece, so my apologies if I try to cram too much in. I have three distinct answers, and I have no idea which would win out above the others, so…I’ll tackle all three!

1. Bluegrass (and bluegrass-inspired) music

She’s from Southern California, but damn if she doesn’t sing like she’s from a coal town in Appalachia.

I’m starting off with this because I don’t think I have ever written about music on the Recorder before. Honestly, it’s just not a medium that gets a lot of deep thought out of me. If I like the music, then grand. If not, well, why annoy myself by listening? I don’t really get far beyond that because my interests are much more tied to narrative and visual forms of expression. Music is a bit too esoteric and pattern-based for my math-hating brain to really embrace as anything but a mood-setter.

However, I spend all day at work in front of a computer, which means I have lots of time to listen to music while my brain is occupied with other things. With the aid of Pandora and Spotify this has meant that I have been noodling around with the musical genres and forms that I like, finding new artists and other albums to fill in my day. Last year, urged on by my pre-existing love for Gillian Welch and the TV show Justified (which is back TONIGHT; gadzooks, I may need to write about that), I delved deeper into the sounds of bluegrass and its associated styles.
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Christmas Is All Around: Highlights and Oddities from the UK Holiday Chart

Here’s one of my cardinal rules, one which comes into great effect during my favorite month of the year, December—it is impossible to watch the movie Love Actually and not feel better about life by the end of the running time. I watch this film every Christmas and am always left in a mix of hysterics and eyes welling up all over, and so many of my friends and family feel the same. Not a bad reaction in America for a movie as thoroughly British in its own way as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classics. It’s that characteristic which I’m using as the jumping-off point for my Christmas contribution to the Addison Recorder, one which fulfills our mission of bringing cultural singularity to your attention, for something not many people may realize is that one of the multiple plots in Love Actually involves a long-standing British holiday tradition.

The most purely fun section of the film, in my humble opinion, is near-forgotten, legend-in-his-own-mind rock star Billy Mack’s (the transcendent Bill Nighy) attempt to get back to the top of the pop charts with his cloying “Christmas Is All Around” single. Throughout the storyline, much is made of how Mack is dueling the real-life boy band Blue to have the number-one single in Britain on Christmas Day itself—which is a point lost on most Americans. We don’t particularly care what song is #1 in Billboard on Christmas week; it’s the same as every other week. But in the United Kingdom, having the #1 song on Christmas is akin to winning a Grammy award for Record of the Year or selling ten million singles and downloads of a song. Whatever song is #1 on Christmas is usually the biggest-selling single in the country that year, and small fortunes are won and lost as people actually wager on what song will take the top spot; not the usual subject for Las Vegas bookmaking.

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A Day at Riot Fest 2012

The most amazing thing about the day may have been how I purchased one of 200 limited edition posters for $10, and, despite being right up against the stage for two separate shows, did not see it get creased or smushed. It now hangs proudly up on my wall.

All of the above speaks a lot to the wonderful time which was had by those at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park last Sunday. With four stages and carnival rides spread out over the athletic grounds on Division next to the very nice garden with the buffalo statues, people had plenty of room to enjoy the music without feeling like sardines in oil. Moreover, the festival was stunningly clean; volunteers spent the day traversing the fields picking up cigarette butts and such, and everyone helped out when somebody lost a wallet or cell phone in the midst of a raging dance party. Even the concessions and souvenirs were—GASP—reasonably priced!

It was an ideal environment for enjoying a very punk-and-indie-geared show. And the thousands of people in Humboldt Park that sunny, not too hot day were so glad to be there. Unlike my experience with Springsteen, there were few middle-aged people and no recognizable hipsters: jeans, goofy T-shirts, and metal and piercings were the order of the day. Indeed, I saw more flesh plugs and tunnels than I’ve ever seen in my life, including two pairs which were twice the size of the ears they adorned. (I’ve seen ones which doubled the size of the ear before but never a triple. The human body is an amazing thing.)

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THE GRUDGE REPORT: Searching for the Pinball Wizard


In an effort to predispose myself towards a somewhat more consistent writing schedule, you may now look forward to my bi-monthly feature, a new column that will be taking a quick, dirty look at a landmark album or movie from the past on a rotating basis. This will be a somewhat more curtailed look than the in-depth analysis that myself and my colleagues at the Recorder have become known for over the past two months, but it will hopefully provide a quick listener’s (or viewer’s) guide to approaching the works of past masters. Owing to a lack of creativity and an overwhelming need to be a smart-ass on my part, this column will be henceforth entitled “The Grudge Report”.

For the record, this is not indicative of any sort of professional criticism on my part. The deep analysis you might expect, having already found it in many other articles within our magazine, will not be here. Nor, however, will this be a simple diatribe or a love totem on my part on the behalf of past masters. It’s best to think of this as simply a Buyer’s Guide to Classic Media, a Purchase or Pass if you will. Those looking for deeper analysis on my part may simply post below and let your feelings be heard.

You may enjoy.

Tommy – The Who (1969)

Ah, Tommy.

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Living With the Dead, or, My Favorite Kind of Necrophilia

The diehard fans now call them “The Days Between,” after a song written during the group’s final years of existence and never recorded in the studio. It was only played live, the only way most people ever wanted to hear their music.

Jerry Garcia would have been 70 this year; he was born August 1, 1942. And he in all likelihood would have been stepping onto a new stage, his feet planted on a Persian carpet, guitar at the ready. But he died seventeen years ago today, August 9, 1995, itself exactly one month after the Grateful Dead encored with their elegiac songs “Black Muddy River” and “Box of Rain” at what was destined to be their final concert, right here in Chicago at Soldier Field.

It was a full house, and that is something which might surprise people of our generation: for the final decade of their existence, the Grateful Dead was one of the only bands in history to be a guaranteed sell-out at any arena and stadium. They couldn’t play smaller concerts; the demand was far too great. In 1991, for instance, they played NINE shows at Madison Square Garden and turned people away. For those who only know the Dead from the skull and roses, the multi-colored Teddy bears, and the classic video for their only top ten single, “Touch of Grey” (which I ate up as a kid every time it was on VH1), their appeal might be hard to understand. Even harder because the Dead are a very foreboding band to get into. It took me a long while.
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“Can You Play ‘Karmic Dream Sequence #1’ Again?” and Other Sentences People Probably Never Said. (Part II of II)

I. “Hey, man, I’m selling my guitar so I can play the electric jug.”


Thinking about the early Bee Gees records reminded me that they were far from the only musicians to decide in 1967 that it was time to step up their ambitions. On both sides of the Atlantic, new and established acts alike could not help but hear the innovation happening around them. It was more than Sgt. Pepper and Revolver: the painstaking beauty of the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, the increasingly elaborate and emotional wordplay of Bob Dylan’s electric albums, and the fearless, avant-garde experimentation of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on Freak Out! all helped to expand the definition of what pop and rock were capable of. And in 1967, there were no nationally-televised prime-time singing competitions, no radio conglomerates; was marketing, but marketing was new and willing to take chances. An artist could push the boundaries and get major-label deals and mainstream exposure.


The results were some terrific albums like those of the Brothers Gibb…and a lot of mediocre and just plain bad material. There’s only so many “electronic masses” and sound collages and electric jug bands a person can absorb without going insane.

Yes, complete with an ELECTRIC FREAKIN’ JUG! See what the guy on the far left is holding? Do you SEE THAT? Who thought this was a good idea?!

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